Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More Tales from the Trenches

See Lilah.

See Lilah in the Emergency Room.

See Lilah in the Emergency Room with a bead stuck up in her nose.

Yes, this was today's adventure. She shoved a bead up her nose (what in the world possesses kids to do the things they do???) and then cried and cried because it hurt and it was stuck. I wasn't exactly sure what to do. I know there is some technique whereby you, the harried parent, can blow it out, but alas, I wasn't sure of the exact method and I was feeling a little panicky. So I called our pediatrician's office and was informed that I would have to take her to the ER to have it removed. I suspected as much. She actually fell asleep in the truck on the way there, which I took as a good sign. When we got there, each medical professional who asked me what we were there for chuckled when I told them. (And, of course, the first thing everyone said before even asking what we were there for was "Oh my goodness, look at that hair!" Her hair precedes her, I tell you.) Apparently this is very common. The doc who finally extricated the subject bead told me that they get at least two or three cases of Child With Foreign Body in Nasal Passage every day. They even have a special instrument designed specifically for removing all manner of Foreign Bodies from said nasal passages: it's a very thin flexible tube which they slip up there past the bead (or what have you), blow a tiny bubble into the end of the tube and then pull it out, along with the Foreign Body. Pretty cool. The whole thing took about three seconds, and Lilah didn't even cry, which surprised me. What did surprise me was the size of that thing when they pulled it out! A pretty little purple rose bead almost the size of a pea, all covered in snot. Nice.

Hopefully we've learned a lesson from this.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Me and My Big Family

I got back from the grocery store a little while ago where I ran into a casual acquaintance in the produce section who made a less than positive remark about the size of my family. I hadn't seen her in some time and she asked me "So how many kids do you have now?" I told her six, to which she replied, "Oh, you poor woman!" What the hell? This is the second instance in the past few days when somebody has made negative comments to me about having a large family. Another casual acquaintance over the weekend was conspiratorily telling me about a family she knows which has seven kids, and how "You just know that the older kids are taking care of the younger kids." I swear she had a smirk as she was telling me this. I don't know, maybe she always talks with a condescending smirk, who knows. But she does know I have six kids! Which brings to mind the question: why the eff was she ripping on large families to me? Was it a passive-aggressive way of telling me what she thinks of the multitude of children in our household? Or was it, as someone else pointed out, perhaps "sour grapes"? Both of these women are mothers of only children, so I completely understand that having a large brood is probably somewhat of a foreign concept to them, but why the negativity?

This is not a new experience for me. People have actually been making the size of my family their business for a long time. I think it all started when I was pregnant with the twins, and upon learning that I was, in fact, expecting twins, people - complete strangers, mind you! - would say things like, "Oh, you poor thing!" and the ever-popular "You're done after this, right?" As if my husband's and my reproductive choices are open for public debate.

People seem to have very strong opinions about other people's childbearing choices - and most people don't seem afraid to voice those opinions. Any more than two or three kids seems to be met with dismay. Imagine what people thought when we went from two to four, and then kept right on going.

And, sadly, I'm ashamed to admit that I find myself explaining to people that "Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I'd end up with six kids!" I have this underlying feeling that I have to assure people that I'm not crazy enough to have set out with such an unreasonable goal. This makes me feel very guilty, because the truth is, even though I didn't initially set out in my childbearing foray to have a whole houseful of kids, I did want each and every one of them, and I was thrilled every time I saw those two pink lines. I feel ashamed that I give a crap what people think.

Having a big family is not for everyone. And there are definitely challenges we deal with that are unique to the abundance of kids we have. Traveling, for instance. Major undertaking. Which is probably why we haven't had a family vacation in . . . ever. We're actually planning a road trip right now, and finding accommodations for all of us isn't easy. And yes, sometimes it feels like the needs and wants are never-ending, and yes, it can be draining and exhausting. Yes, it's true that the kids don't get nearly as much one-on-one time with us as they would were there fewer kids. I'm not convinced this is causing them major emotional damage. Certainly none of them will grow up to be adults who think the world revolves around them. And that's not to say that only children do; it's not a statement about only children at all. I'm just saying that sharing - things, time, attention, everything - is and always has been a way of life for our kids.

Do the older kids help out a lot with the younger kids? This seems to be an assumption a lot of people make, maybe thanks to the Duggars who apparently have a system in which the younger children are paired with an older sibling as soon as they're weaned. (Is this right? I've never watched their show; this is just what people tell me when they're comparing our family to the Duggars. Because we clearly have so much in common with them. Not that I'm judging them. Different strokes, people. That's my point.) Anyway, only in the last year or so have I started having Kevin babysit his younger siblings on occasion, and I pay him for his time because I want him to feel that his time is valued and not taken for granted, I don't want him to resent being made to watch his siblings, and let's face it - a little moolah sweetens the pot considerably. That's about as far as the help goes between the older kids and the younger ones, although I may ask Joey to get Lilah a drink of water, or Lilah to fetch a toy for Finn, and so forth. I don't feel that it should be the older kids' responsibility to look after the younger ones, although we do try to foster an attitude of teamwork around here.

There is an upside to having so many kids, too. There's never a shortage of playmates, and in fact, they keep each other occupied, engaged, and entertained so much so that I believe I may have a little more down time than my friends with fewer kids. Watching the relationships between them blossom is something I wouldn't trade for anything.

Anyway, we take care of our family without help or handouts, so I just don't understand why anyone cares how many kids we have.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Birthday Party Redux

I had forgotten - well, almost forgotten - how much work goes into putting a kid's birthday party together! It's been a while since we've thrown an all-out birthday bash for any of the kids. Yesterday we had a party at home for Joey; he'll turn eight (eight!!) this next Friday. The invites went out a couple weeks ago and we had a great turnout - I believe there were 14 kids in addition to our six. We rented a monster water slide and a snow cone machine (which Kevin and his friend manned, at no charge), we barbecued burgers and dogs and had a water balloon toss/fight. There were no injuries reported, everyone got along, nobody cried, and Finn even went down for a nap, the peach. It was a perfect day with perfect weather, and everyone had a great time.

And here are the photos that tell the tale, starting (in case you can't make it out) with Michael filling water balloons the night before. We filled roughly 100 water balloons; I took the first fifty and still have blisters on my fingers from it. But it was worth it, seeing all those laughing kids!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One of these days, I'll catch up

I seem to recall summer break being a time of laziness and relaxation. So far this summer break, not so much. Seems like it's just been go, go, go, and as a result I am woefully behind on reading my favorite blogs as well as writing on my own. In a nutshell (not that this is earth-shattering stuff, or even stuff anyone might give a crap about; this is really just my compulsion to document stuff):

<> Joey has been in swimming lessons every morning this week, which will continue through next week.
<> I've been cracking down on having the kids do household chores, which is a blog post in the making in my head.
<> I have not yet tackled my goal of trying to become a better photographer, but am still thinking about it all the time.
<> Most of the flowers I planted over spring break are now dead, exactly as I suspected would happen.
<> Both Joey's and Finn's birthdays are coming up. We are having a birthday party for Joey this weekend and I'm a little stressed out about it. Also, I got it in my head that I wanted to create a photo montage of Joey from babyhood to now, so I've been staying up late at night scanning baby pictures into the computer, as we didn't get a digital camera until he was around 2. Also, seeing pictures of myself skinny and several years younger is just depressing.
<> I got an iPad. Which I am typing this from right now. Neener neener.

And now, dinner.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dance, Dance, Dance!

Our weekend was all about dance. The three girls have been taking ballet/tap classes for a few months now. When I initially signed them up, we had the opportunity to sign them up to participate in the spring recital, which I jumped on since I've been waiting, like, my whole life for stuff like this, and which turned out to be a most elaborate production of The Wonderful Land of Oz, and which was today (on Father's Day).

Yesterday was dress rehearsal, which turned out to be a really big deal and which took about half the day. The first order of business was to put full make-up on the girls. Quite an undertaking, seeing that (a) I'm no makeup artist, and (b) they weren't digging the whole process.

Here are my beautiful, fresh-faced little girls: Lilah, Daisy, and Annabelle -

They look like scary Vegas showgirls with all that garish makeup, no? But it's theater, you know, and apparently it's important to lay it on thick so it's visible from the stage,




In costume, waiting backstage for their turns.

Lilah is a Poppy - isn't she the cutest darn poppy you ever did see?

The twins performed in a dance number "He's the Wiz."

These photos and video footage are only from the dress rehearsal, as we weren't allowed to take photos or video during the actual show today. I was blown away by the whole production, though. It was amazing. There were well over 100 kids doing different dance numbers in a 90-minute show, everything from hip-hop to ballet and tap. It was really, really cool.

Dorothy with Toto, the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and TinWoman-

The Wicked Witch-

Lilah is the red poppy standing -

Dorothy and Glinda -

Annabelle and Daisy are the two in the center, closest to the Wizard -

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fingers and Toes

This afternoon I took the girls on their first trip to the nail salon to get their finger- and toenails painted. Very exciting stuff, lemme tell you!

Fancy schmancy!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Kevin is going to N's house today. He was invited to go and hang out at her house with a group of other kids; she apparently has a pool at her house, so they're going to swim and eat pizza. This is not how I had envisioned it. What I had envisioned was that when they finally made concrete plans to hang out, it would be on my turf, where I could keep a good, close eye on things. So I was caught rather off guard yesterday when Kevin asked if he could go to her house. I told him I wanted to talk to her mother before I made a decision, so within a few minutes I was on the phone with N's mother.

She was on a cell phone standing, with N, in line at Disneyland. She introduced herself and I introduced myself, I told her I've been wanting to chat with her and wondered if now was a good time for a candid conversation. It is, she said. So I told her, "I don't know if you're aware of it, but Kevin and N seem to be pretty infatuated with each other." I told her that, although Kevin doesn't know it, I've been reading the emails that pass between him and N, and they're a little on the flirtatious side. She was not aware of this. She said that she's thought about checking up on her daughter's email, but just hadn't. "You beat me to it," is what she said. I assured her that it's nothing bad, and that Kevin is a good kid and N seems like a very sweet girl, but that my concern is that they're at a tricky age: too old for playdates, and not old enough to date, and they're both obviously developing an interest in the opposite sex. I told her that I'm very strict parent and that I keep pretty close tabs on Kevin. She said that she does monitor N's texting, and that she knows N has been wanting to call Kevin on the phone every day and she's told her "No, you're not going to be calling some boy every day." (However, N is in fact calling Kevin every day . . .) Anyway, she assured me that she's a very conscientious parent, too. I told her that I wasn't telling her any of this to get N into trouble, but just that I wanted to make sure that as parents, we're on the same page if our kids are going to be spending time together. I haven't forgotten being thirteen myself, and by that age I was already up to plenty of no good. That's what scares me and what motivates me to keep such close tabs on Kevin.

All in all, the call was very pleasant, and she said that she appreciated that we had an open conversation about what's going on between her daughter and my son. I wonder in hindsight if she now sees me as some high-strung, busy-body mom. On the other hand, it's really not about what another parent thinks of me, it's about looking after my kid and what he's doing. I'd rather be in his business too much at this point than not enough.

So after making sure that there will be adult supervision and a group of kids (and not just the two of them), I gave Kevin the green light to go. I did tell him that since he's going to her house, he's going to have to actually look at her and talk to her though ;)

Monday, June 14, 2010

School's Out For Summer!

That's right, it's official! Today was the last day of school (a Monday, and a minimum day to boot . . . whatever).

True to form, I found myself all tight-throated and misty-eyed when I picked the twins up from school. Crybaby Mama, that's me. I don't know what it is . . . milestones . . . the passing of time . . . knowing that my kids are growing up, slowly but surely. All those moments I can never get back. Did I appreciate them fully? Savor them? It's doubtful. I spend so much time just plodding along, trying to get through it all, and it's only looking back that I feel the big-ness of it all.

I need to work on that.

Also true to form, we are starting summer break off with illness in the house. It started last week with Finn and Lilah, who both had high fevers for two or three days. Finn also vomited for a day and they were both lethargic. Then they recovered and the twins got it (thankfully not until after the kindergarten graduation ceremony, but they did miss school on Friday, which was when their class had their big end-of-the-year picnic/party). Daisy and Annabelle recovered over the weekend, and last night, Joey developed a fever.

But here's the kicker: Joey came into our room at about 5:30 this morning saying his lips felt funny. The whole lower half of his face was swollen to almost grotesque proportions! It was most bizarre. And frightening. I've never seen anything like it and it scared the crap out of me. I was this close to taking him to the ER, but called the after-hours nurse at our pediatrician's office instead and after describing his symptoms to her, she concluded that he's probably having an allergic reaction to the Children's Advil we gave him last night for his fever, and that as long as he doesn't have hives and isn't having any difficulty swallowing or breathing, he should be fine. She said no more Advil, just Tylenol, and Benedryl.

Here's how he looked a couple hours after the first dose of Benedryl:

The swelling went down a tad, but not a whole lot. It's really strange. The picture really doesn't even do it justice - he really doesn't look like himself. Anyway, hopefully the swelling will be gone by tomorrow (hard to believe that one dose of Advil caused this, and that it's taking so long for it to get out of his system).

Needless to say, Joey missed the very last day of school. Poor babe. The kid ADORES school. As in, he thinks school should be all year round.

We did pick up Joey's final report card today, and the girls got theirs as well. Joey's is no surprise. He had a terrific year, and did wonderfully academically, socially, etc. He will be going into GATE this upcoming year, which I think will suit him. We haven't gotten Kevin's report card, as it will be mailed to us, but we were notified last week that he made the Honor Roll.

The girls' report cards surprised me somewhat. Actually, Annabelle's mostly. They are both stellar. The truth is, the letter grades on the kids' report cards usually interest me less than the teachers' comments. What surprises me about Annabelle's report card is that she got "O's" (for outstanding - the highest possible mark) in every behavioral category:

Listens Attentively: O (really?)
Follows classroom, playground, and school rules: O (seriously?)
Works and plays well with others: O (okay, I can buy that . . .)
Accepts and shows respect for authority: O (okay, come on, someone's pulling my leg . . .)
Demonstrates effort: O (okay . . .)
Does neat and careful work: O (really?)
Stays on task and works independently: O (wait a second . . . is this some other child they're talking about?)

And in the Teacher Comment section, her teacher wrote, among other things, "Annabelle is ready for first grade! She has really matured academically and socially. She works above grade level in all areas of the curriculum." (!!) (Emphasis mine) "Annabelle has a bright future ahead of her!" Does she mean one that doesn't include jail? Okay, I kid, I kid. But seriously! This is NOT the Annabelle I know and love. Which just goes to show that kids are different creatures in different settings.

I think the part that surprises me the most is the part about Annabelle working above grade level in all areas. In all honesty, I am a little ashamed to admit, I've always assumed that Annabelle might not be as . . . I hate to say bright . . . but academically inclined, as her sister. Probably because at home, Annabelle is so unruly and uncooperative, and just plain naughty. At home she doesn't demonstrate self-control or self-discipline. At home she's our incorrigible little delinquent (although we only call her this behind her back, I can assure you). I've always had this secret assumption that eventually, that's what will separate Annabelle and Daisy in school - Daisy will be deemed gifted like Joey and Kevin, and Annabelle will be left behind as an academic average (and then I will have to agonize over how to deal with that, which puts a pit in my stomach). Right now, a very different picture is emerging of the girls. Daisy also got a stellar report card, but I will say that in the comments section, there is no mention of Daisy working above grade level, only at grade level. Which is fine! My point is only that I suddenly feel like maybe I don't have my girls figured out as well as I thought I did.

Anyway, so that was kindergarten. There is, of course, much more ahead of them, and much more to discover about them.

So now it's officially summer break. I am looking forward to eleven weeks of being able to stay up into the wee hours devouring some good books, of not having to get up at the crack of dawn and rushing crabby kids to eat, get dressed, and get out the door, of lazy, sunshiny days. I am not looking forward to eleven weeks of trying to keep the kids sufficiently entertained and occupied, or of listening to complaints of boredom, which should be starting any second, according to my watch.

As for summer plans - my personal goals are to crack open those photography books I bought and figure out this camera of mine, and also to finally put together babyhood photo books for Joey, Daisy, Lilah, and Finn (that's quite a lofty goal!). We have swimming lessons and dance on the agenda, including a big production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which all three girls will appear in in all their dance finery this coming weekend, a weekend away for moi with some girlfriends in a few weeks, and a little family getaway in the works.

Happy summer!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mama Mia

It's funny how often I long for peace and quiet, and even solitude, but on the rare occasions I actually get those things, I just feel lonely and a little sad.

Michael took all the kids except Finn on a little day trip today. Just a little drive up the coast to visit family. I opted to stay behind with Finn because . . . well, for a number of reasons, among them that with Finn's current eating and napping requirements, it's just tough to take him off his routine.

The morning was as noisy and chaotic as usual, with the kids bickering and tattling on one another, trying to get everyone dressed and ready to go, cleaning up a mess of spilled coffee in the carpet a la Finn, etc., etc. There came a point, as there usually does, when I swore that if I heard "MOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM!!!" one more time, I would scream.

And then they all paraded out the door, leaving me and Finn behind. Finn and I ran a couple errands, I picked up some Chinese food for lunch for myself, and then came home and put Finn down for his nap. And suddenly, the house seems oddly quiet and lifeless. I am appreciating the peace and solitude, but at the same time, I miss those rascals - and the hubs, too. And I worry. I worry any time Michael leaves with several of the kids, picturing the worst in my mind's eye. All it would take would be some drunk driver to wipe nearly all of my family out. At least if I were with them, we'd all go together . . .

Okay, enough of the morbid thoughts.

I guess I'll do some laundry, curl up with a book for a while, and maybe Finn and I will go for a walk when he gets up from his nap.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Graduates

What a year it's been! And hard to believe how quickly it went.

Last night the twins' kindergarten class had a little graduation ceremony. Songs were sung, cheers were shouted, tears were shed (I can't help it!), and diplomas were given out:

Annabelle and Daisy are the two super cute girls in the middle in the black velvet dresses.

Daisy shaking the principal's hand before collecting her diploma -

Annabelle ran up . . .

. . . and ran back as quick as she could. Not liking the spotlight, that one.

Here they are with their lovely teacher at the after-party.

My two big almost-first-graders -

I remember how scared I was at the beginning of the school year. Are they really ready for kindergarten? With late September birthdays, they didn't even turn 5 until after the school year started. Will Daisy's phobia's cause major problems? Will Annabelle be able to sit still and behave and stay focused? Ahhh, I was beside myself with worry about all of it.

But with the help of a wonderful, patient teacher who, throughout the year, saw only the best in my girls, they did beautifully. Daisy has overcome so many of her fears and phobias - it's hard to believe she's the same little girl. And Annabelle thrived on the structure of a daily school routine. They both learned to read and do simple math, they made friends, and they grew up just a little bit.

And now they're ready to take on the world in first grade.

Learn-As-You-Go Parenting

'Cuz, really, that's what it is, right?

So, the latest (if you're tiring of my recent focus on Kevin and his teenage adventures, skip this, because it's another one about him): Yesterday morning I grounded Kevin for the day from computer usage for mouthing off to me, as he is apt to do more and more these days. Let me just say that we are very strict with his computer usage to begin with. He has to ask to use the computer, and he gets 30 minutes of computer time a day, which has become very precious to him with all this email shit going on. So taking away computer privileges hits him where it hurts. So he got his computer privileges taken away for the day for being disrespectful. Which, of course, he wasn't happy about.

Fast forward to later in the afternoon. I had to go run an errand and left Kevin in charge. It came to my attention that while I was gone, he got on the computer to check his email. I realized this while I was still out and my first reaction was fury. Okay, maybe not fury, but I was pretty pissed off, and ready to go home, grab him by the ear and give him a severe talking-to. He's being dishonest! He's sneaking around behind my back! This is where it all starts! These were the things going through my mind.

I took a few deep breaths and spent the next 20 minutes thinking it through. "Okay, if I go home and storm into the house and let him have it, all he's going to hear is 'Blahblahblahblahblahblahblah.' I need to come up with a better plan," I reasoned with myself.

So I decided to play it cool. Or, at least as cool as I could. And let me just say that this takes quite a bit of effort on my part, as I admittedly have a very short fuse and a loud voice. The twins' kindergarten graduation ceremony was last night (more on that later), and I decided I didn't want to put any kind of damper on that by confronting this situation with Kevin beforehand. So I went home and didn't say a word about it. I was stressed just because we were running short on time and I had to get everyone fed and dressed and out the door for the graduation. Kevin sensed something and asked me a couple times if I was mad at him (guilty conscience much?), and I just said, "No, I'm not mad. Why would I be mad?" I wanted him to worry over it for a while.

So we got through the graduation, came home, got the littles to bed, and then I found Kevin sitting out on the front porch reading a book. I sat down next to him, and right away he got defensive. "What? What did I do wrong?" he asked. So transparent, that boy. I just said, "Right now, you need to be listening and not talking." He shut up. I gave him my little prepared speech that I had been rehearsing in my head all evening. It went something like this:

"You're a good kid, Kev, and I'm really proud of you. I want you to realize, though, that we give you privileges and freedom based on your showing us that you can be trusted. When you show that you can't be trusted, you lose privileges and freedom. I know you got on the computer while I was gone and checked your email-" and at this point his eyes widened and he opened his mouth, and I said, "Please don't deny it, because I'll just lose respect for you then. I know you did it. You lost computer privileges today and you went behind my back and got on the computer anyway, and you hoped that I wouldn't find out, but I did. I'm disappointed. So now, no computer or phone tomorrow. And remember, if you show that you can't be trusted, you lose privileges. If you show that you can be trusted you gain privileges and freedom. Okay?" He just nodded, without saying a word. I hugged him, and went back inside, leaving him to his book and his thoughts.

That went pretty well, I thought. And I felt pretty pleased with myself for handling it calmly and thoughtfully, if I do say so myself.

Of course, this is just the start. I have no doubt that this message of trust will have to be repeated many, many times over the next few years.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mo' Money, Mo' Money, Mo' Money

Okay, where's that from?


I just logged on to write a post about how expensive it is to raise kids, and right there on the front page of MSN is this article: Will Kids Drag You to The Poorhouse? The timing is downright uncanny.

It's lately becoming more and more of a reality in our house, just how much kids cost. When most couples are planning a family - at least in our case (and I have to think that we are not so unusual) - they don't think far beyond the squishy baby phase, the adorable toddler phase, or maybe the precocious preschool age. It's just really difficult to fathom your little ones (especially the ones you haven't even had yet but are just dreaming about) becoming big kids with big, expensive needs and wants.

Here's what I've figured out: babies are cheap, but kids are expensive.

I've prided myself on the thousands of dollars I've saved our family by using cloth diapers on my babies and nixing formula in favor of breastfeeding for, like, forever. The biggest expenses for any of our babies, I would say, have been the two home births which our insurance did not cover and which we paid for out-of-pocket. However, under our insurance plan, hospital births come with a hefty deductible, then there are all the office co-pays, plus gas and parking for all those doctor appointments . . . so really, the difference was negligible. But I digress.

Anyway, so the babes have been fairly inexpensive. But as they get older, there are orthodontics and music lessons and sports and dance and . . . the list goes on. It runs into a lot of moolah. Last night there was an informational meeting at Kevin's school regarding the long-awaited Eighth Grade Washington DC Trip. Kevin will be an eighth grader this next school year, so the time has come. I really had nothing on which to base my ideas of what it would cost except a shot in the dark, and as it turns out, it's going to cost us roughly twice as much as I had unrealistically anticipated. No wonder they had the meeting now - they're giving us nearly a year to pay towards the trip (oh, and he'll be all the way across the country, 3,000 miles away from his parents and family, for eight days. Do you think I'm freaking out a little?)

Don't get me wrong. I'm really glad we're able to provide all these things for our kids - much of it stuff that my parents couldn't afford for me, so it makes it all that much more significant to me.

I just wonder, if people really understood the price tag their kids were going to come with, how it would impact their family planning. It must impact people - I'm sure it's a big reason why some couples decide to have only one child. I wonder if we would have had six if we had really had a grasp on financial reality with regard to raising kids.

Don't even get me started on college and weddings. I'll just say that I see nothing wrong with my kids working their way through college, and taking on some student loans. Scholarships would be nice, too. And weddings? I will be strongly encouraging my kids to elope. I'm not kidding.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wuv, TWUE wuv . . .

Quick, where's that from? First person to correctly identify that phrase wins . . . err, my admiration :)

Anyway, speaking of wuv . . . albeit not twue wuv, but rather puppy wuv, I think I can safely say that Kevin is dealing with his first case of it.

At a district-wide concert last Friday evening in which choir and band members from all the area middle schools performed, we met, face to face, for the first time . . . duh duh DUH . . . "N" of email infamy. We were leaving after the show, descending the steps outside, when I saw a young girl out of the corner of my eye elbow her friend theatrically and gesture towards Kevin. I knew in that split second that it was the woman who would steal my son away the girl who seems to have taken a liking to my boy. I turned around, and there was C, who we know, as I've mentioned, and I said hi to both girls. I introduced myself to N, and shook her hand. I'll just say that visually, she was not at all what I was expecting. She was very friendly and by all appearances a perfectly nice kid. Sadly, Kevin couldn't/wouldn't even look at her. He stood with his back mostly to her and barely mumbled a "hello." It was awkward, and I felt bad for him. I know he was just feeling completely weird because suddenly here's this girl, in the flesh, with whom he's been exchanging all these emails, plus his mom is standing right there. A.W.K.W.A.R.D.

I did have a conversation with Kevin over the weekend, after much thought and agonizing, in which I told him that although I respect his privacy, I think it would be a good idea for me to randomly check his email from time to time, just because I know he's at a delicate age, and I know things can be said in email that might not be said face to face, and it can all get very tricky, and although he's 13, it's still my job to look out for him. He was actually more receptive to this than I thought he would be. I thought he'd be pissed off that I might check his email from time to time, but he actually seemed okay with it. Maybe on some level he feels relieved? Maybe he knows that he might not be ready for all this electronic flirting? Or maybe I'm a fool. That could be.

Anyway, long story short, they've now progressed to talking on the phone. As of yesterday.

Who knows what's going to come of this. Summer break is right around the corner. Not sure what impact that will have. I'm anticipating some . . . developments, though.

Big, big sigh.

The other morning I was getting a pedicure, and as I sat there in the chair, I listened to all these moms around me talking about their kids' upcoming high school graduation ceremonies. And I swear, it was all I could do to hold back the tears. That's going to be us and Kevin in just a few short years. My god. And then what? Then we just turn him loose in the world and trust that he'll be okay? What if we haven't done our job as his parents properly and he's not ready?

It scares me.

Sometimes I would give anything - anything - to have him back in footie pajamas, when he trusted that I had all the answers and would always be able to keep him safe.

Friday, June 4, 2010


For anyone interested who missed the live broadcast last night, you can download a podcast of the radio segment Kevin was on in which he talked about his bullying experience at choicesradio.com. Click on the Podcasts button at the top of the home page, then look for the podcast entitled Bullying dated Friday, June 4, 2010. Kevin did a really great job being interviewed on the radio! And I think the topic is one well worth discussing.

Several people have asked what connection I have with Nicole O'Dell, the host of the program, and how it came to be that Kevin was asked to participate in her radio program. Nicole and I know each other from pregnancy.org, a site that hosts dozens of pregnancy and parenting message boards. She and I were pregnant at the same time, she with triplets (!!) and me with Finn, and we got to know each other on a message board devoted to parents of large families. Nicole, like me, is the mother of six kids. She's an amazing woman and mother who has devoted herself to helping teens through the pitfalls of growing up.

Several people have also asked me what happened to the boy who was bullying Kevin a couple years ago. As far as I know, he never was expelled, but he did disappear suddenly. His younger sister was in Joey's kindergarten class that year and she was suddenly gone from the school as well, so we assumed that the family had moved away. That kid was sort of the "ringleader" of his little group, and when he left the school, his cohorts left Kevin alone for the most part. Still, I remember feeling a lot of relief that we were moving Kevin to a different school the following school year for middle school.

On the show last night, the questions were posed: what makes bullies tick? Why do bullies bully? I'm sure there are all kinds of bully profiles. There have always been, and probably always will be people who can only feel good about themselves if they're making someone else feel bad or small. I think this often stems from a feeling of powerlessness; I think the vast majority of garden-variety childhood bullies are kids who are being mistreated themselves. They're witnessing abusive behavior at home, experiencing it themselves, and/or experiencing it elsewhere in their lives, and they turn their anger on someone they perceive as weaker than themselves in order to attain a feeling of power and control. So in that way, I think it's important to find compassion for childhood bullies. In fact, I've always told my kids that if someone is mean to them, it's important to try extra hard to be nice to that kid because chances are, someone is being mean to them. That said, of course nobody should ever have to tolerate being harassed, pushed around, tormented, and certainly not being beat up. So it's important that kids have trusted adults they can go to with these problems, and it's important that the adults intervene.

But of course the most important thing we, as parents, can do is take a preventative stance by teaching kindness, compassion, and empathy to our kids by example. Telling your kids not to pick on other kids, I think, doesn't go nearly as far as showing them by example how good kindness feels.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Heads Up

Kevin has been asked to be interviewed on the radio! The topic is bullying, which has (finally) become a hot topic that people actually want to do something about, thanks to the sad case of Phoebe Prince. Kevin was involved in a pretty serious bullying situation a couple years ago at school. Here is what I wrote on my (old) blog on Feb. 14, 2008:

"There's also this bullying situation at school with Kevin. He's been the target of a group of bullies for several months now. One of the kids punched him in the side of the head a couple months back and some of the kids who witnessed it thought Kevin may have been unconscious for a few seconds. (He's not sure, he just remembers being dazed.) That kid was supposedly dealt some sort of consequence, but whatever it was, it's confidential. He's left Kevin alone since then (except for chasing after him that same day after school), but another kid in this little gang has continued to verbally harass Kevin, calling him names, threatening him, using all kinds of obscene language towards him, and now it's escalated to the point that this kid made a comic strip depicting himself KILLING Kevin, and he brought it to school and showed it to Kevin. I have been on the phone repeatedly with the principal and have come to the conclusion that he is absolutely useless. All he ever says is "I'll look into the situation and talk to both boys." Blah Blah Blah. Look where talking has gotten us! I called him again yesterday after this comic strip incident and told him, "Something needs to be done about this kid. He's obviously got violent tendencies. Something really bad is going to happen and everyone is going to look back and say, 'Yeah, there were signs . . .' I think this kid should be expelled." You know what the principal's response was? He chuckled and said "Well, now, I can't do that." WHAT?? What the hell can he do then? So, on several other parents' advice, I called the police department and asked them what could be done, and they said that at the elementary school level, matters like this have to be taken up with the principal! The police won't get involved until/unless the kid actually commits a crime. So, let's get this straight: I have a principal who can't or won't seem to do anything to ensure my son's safety at his school, and the police won't get involved until this kid actually HARMS my son. That's just effing great!"

The radio station he is being interviewed on is not local; however, if you're interested, you can listen to the interview live tomorrow, June 3 here:

People can listen live at www.choicesradio.com or they can listen to the podcast later--it'll be available at that same link. OR, they can subscribe to the show podcasts on iTunes at:


Kevin is expected to go on the air between 10:15 - 10:30 p.m. EST.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Social Experiment

A fellow mom from school and I have been engaged in a dialogue about our opposing beliefs with regard to God, Jesus, religion, and the like. We have now made a deal: I have agreed to read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, and she has agreed to read The New Atheism by Victor Stenger. We swapped books at school today when we were both there picking up our girls. Fortunately, we were both laughing; I was worried that it might be an uncomfortable exchange, but so far I think we're both pretty good sports about the whole thing.

Can a devout Christian and an ardent Atheist find common ground and even forge a friendship?

Stay tuned.

Yes, I actually WOULD like a medal.

So how was your weekend? You know, the loooong holiday weekend we just had? Yeah, that one. Did you enjoy a picnic? A barbecue? Perhaps you got away for a couple of days. Me? I was home with all the kids. By. Myself. For three days, and three nights. Michael got on a plane and flew 3,000 miles away, abandoning me went to Florida to visit family.

Okay, it wasn't so bad. Wait, what am I saying? Yeah, it was bad. Or at least moments of it were bad. I mean, really, the ebb and flow of chaos was no different than any other weekend, it's just that I HAD NO BACKUP.


I did accomplish quite a bit. I went for a walk, took the twins to the dentist, colored my hair (shhhh!!), cleaned bathrooms, did laundry, steamed cleaned carpet (have I mentioned that I clean when I'm stressed?), mopped floors, unplugged a toilet clogged with about a half a roll of toilet paper, dealt with a choking incident, sat outside and ate ice cream sandwiches with the kids, went grocery shopping, and took the kids to the park.

So where's my medal?