Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

We survived. Have I mentioned that Halloween isn't my favorite holiday (refer to Halloween 2009)? Despite this, our family was hit with a strange, last minute bout of Halloween fever today which caused us to carve pumpkins, deck out our yard with tombstones and a decaying skeleton emerging from the ground, and outfit the windows with strobe lights and a track of evil sounds to scare the bejeezus out of the li'l trick-or-treaters. The neighborhood was the usual scene of throngs of people fighting their way up and down the sidewalks, but the kids had fun, so there's that. Oh, and gotta love the neighbor who was handing out candy to the kids and Jello shots to the grownups. Now, there's my kind of treat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Even the Christians can't agree. Yes, homosexuality is a sin. No, it's not a sin, it's just the way some people are born. God hates fags. Jesus loves everyone. Jesus is God. The bible says, hate the sin, love the sinner. No, that's not even in the bible, that came from somewhere else. The bible says a man who lays with a man shall be put to death. But that's the Old Testament, so it doesn't count. Well, it sort of counts. Wait, I'm not sure . . .

If even the Christians can't agree, then how are the rest of us supposed to take them seriously with regard to their beliefs?

If the bible is the One Universal Truth, then why is it so damned cryptic and confusing and open to interpretation? One would think that if something were meant to be The One Universal Truth, a guide by which the average person is supposed to live, then it would be crystal clear and devoid of contradictions or ambiguity. It wouldn't be so hard to understand - so hard, in fact, that apparently only scholars and preachers really understand it, and the average Joe has to attend bible study classes in order to try to figure out what it all means (and really, what they're getting in bible study is a spoon-feeding of their particular sect's interpretation of hand-picked bible passages; go to a bible study for a different denomination, and you're likely to get a whole other interpretation). If it were the One Universal Truth, it would not have spawned a thousand different religions. One would think.

Here's another thing: Christian selfishness. I am sick to death of signing onto Facebook and seeing threads, or overhearing conversations at school as I wait for my kids to be let out, centered around requests for prayers for the most selfish, trivial things. And yes, even your husband's job loss, or your daughter's upcoming surgery - even my husband's cancer - are extremely trivial things if one looks at them in the context of a worldview. And isn't that what we should all be doing, looking at things from a worldview, and not just telescoping in on the things immediately surrounding us? If there are people who really and truly believe that there is power in prayer, that there is some All Powerful Entity out there listening and taking an interest in the human race, then shouldn't those people be putting their prayer power to more altruistic use? How about praying for an end to hunger, an end to violence and war, an end to babies dying of horrible diseases, an end to catastrophic "acts of God"?

My theory is that people tend to pray for things that are, in the end, safely in the hands of fellow humans. They pray for new tires for their car, or money to cover Jimmy's braces, or that their dog Spot's broken hind leg heals, or that Susie's surgery goes smoothly, or that mortgage interest rates go down, because really, they know that these are all things potentially controllable by human forces. It's safe to assume that those things will work out, thanks to human involvement (and if they don't, it's all part of God's plan). Does anyone actually pray that there be no more deadly earthquakes or hurricanes? I doubt very many people do, because they probably realize the futility of it, and that just might shake their faith a little.

I know, I sound pissed off, don't I? I guess I am. It's a constant irritant to me, this whole religion thing, this whole god thing. People who live their lives according to some ambiguous book, by principles they can't even fully explain - all in the hopes of scoring enough points to get into Heaven in the afterlife. I mean, if you're going to adhere adamantly to certain principles, at least be able to back them up - the whys and wherefores - in a concise manner. Otherwise, your credibility just goes pretty much to the dogs for me.

And the picking and choosing. The self-proclaimed "Cafeteria Catholics" (and I'm sure there is an equivalent in every religion). If you're just going to go with what works for you and forget the rest, why bother with religion at all? I am here to testify that one can be a good person of high morals and values for its own sake, and not for the sake of any religion.

The afterlife - now there's a golden carrot if I ever saw one. I'm thinking there is no afterlife. And therefore, we should take the utmost care of the here and now. We should be taking care of one another, taking care of the planet, loving and accepting one another, reaching out, accepting. Gosh, just imagine a world like that! Sounds like Paradise, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Standing Up To the Headshrinker, Take II

Well, I hate to leave anyone hanging - I'm sure everyone's been on the edge of their seats wondering what happened last night when I was going to tell my therapist buh-bye.

So, as expected, I had nothing pressing to talk about. So for an hour we just talked about my kids in general terms.

When the hour was up, she pulled out her smart phone, my cue to pull out my own so that we could set the next appointment. I swallowed the lump of nervousness and said, "I'm going to take a break." She said that she was going to suggest this (hmmmm, really? Okay, I'm being cynical. Maybe she really was going to). She did, however, convince me to make an appointment for early December, "just to check in."

Eh, whatever. I can always call and cancel.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Standing Up To the Headshrinker

I'm going to tell my therapist tonight that I'm taking a break.

Okay, so I see a therapist. So what? People seem to be so open about the drugs they take to cope, so why shouldn't I be just as free to cop to my non-pharmacological efforts to deal with life's messiness?

I've been seeing therapists on and off since around the time Kevin was born. When Kevin was a newborn, I joined a little Mommy & Me group for new mothers through the hospital where Kevin was born. We'd meet once a week with our infants and sit around a big table in a conference room, sipping coffee, looking haggard, and talking about the ups and downs of new motherhood. The facilitator of the group picked up on the fact that I was in the throes of some pretty heavy-duty postpartum depression, so I began seeing her privately.

Then there was the guy I saw for a few years, beginning shortly after my dad died, when my first marriage was in its final descent, and continuing through the first year or so of Michael and I being married.

Now there's M. Michael and I actually started seeing her jointly because, in all honesty, the first couple years of our marriage were, shall we say, full of adjustments. I totally credit her with giving us the tools to build a strong foundation and a happy marriage.

I began seeing her on my own this past Spring when I received a certain letter from my estranged mother, which sent me into something of a tailspin.

And now it's been six more months of therapy since then, and I need a break. Obviously, I'm all for therapy - I'm all about self-awareness and growth and endeavoring to heal from the things that wound us. But I'm not in crisis at this point, and I haven't been for a while. That's not to say that I have it all figured out, or that I've grown as much as I ever will. It's just that things are going pretty smoothly at the moment; there is, of course, the daily ups and downs, but I'm doing fine. I don't take it as a good sign when I dread going to see M because I don't really have anything to talk about. I don't take it as a good sign when I sit in her office for an hour and listen to her regale me with stories about her in-laws (whom she loathes) and her grown son, and then hand her a check at the end of the hour.

Last time I saw her, a couple weeks ago, she ended the session in the usual way: "See you in two weeks?" I replied, "Do I need to?" "Every session is an opportunity for growth," she responded. A little cowed by this, I went ahead and made the appointment, feeling kind of resentful about it.

Why do I feel anxious about the prospect of telling her that after tonight, I'm not making another appointment? That I'll call her when I need to? Why am I afraid to stand up to her? It's kind of ironic, isn't it? I mean, I'm supposed to have learned assertiveness, among other things. And I'm not knocking her, I'm really not. She's great, she's helped me a lot.

She likes to tell me that she's been seeing her own therapist every two weeks for fifteen years. Holy shit. I don't know . . .

There is a passage in a book I am currently reading:

"'Psychiatrists seemed to feel anyone could be cured by psychoanalysis if one stuck with it and was cooperative. So one went year after year. One year, two, three, four, five and six.'"

While she's a marriage and family therapist (MFT) and not a psychiatrist, this really struck a nerve with me, and really was the fuel I needed to resolve to tell her tonight that I'm going to stop for now. See, I don't want to be one of those people who continues to go year after year, who begins to believe that they need it year after year. I don't want it to become my crutch, like I can't deal with the ups and downs of life without the constant guidance of a therapist. I think often the best growth comes from just dealing honestly with one's life.

Ack. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How I Was Duped By a Baseball Junkie

Joey is a baseball junkie. It's serious. If he could somehow mainline baseball, I have no doubt that he would.

The funny thing is, he only first picked up a ball and glove this past February. He was determined to play Little League, which he did in the Spring. It was difficult because most of the kids on his team had already played a year of Little League, so Joey was behind most of them in skill level. Sometimes it was painful to watch, because he wanted so much to do well, and overall, he didn't exactly have a stellar first season. Sometimes it made him sad. I think a lot of kids might have thrown in the towel and decided maybe baseball wasn't for them, but Joey was determined and dedicated.

He made baseball his main pastime. Every day over summer break, and every day after school since then (and sometimes before school), Joey's been out in the front yard practicing his batting, his throwing, his catching. Whenever he can, Michael is out there with him, pitching to him, throwing grounders and fly balls for Joey to catch, and catching the fly balls and grounders Joey throws.

Joey has worn out a spot on the front lawn.

It's not just playing baseball, though. It's watching baseball, too. Live games, old games, commentary, replays. He's adopted a true pitcher's form, and he has a beautiful swing, thanks in large part to watching the Big Guys.

The kid is good.

It's funny to listen to Joey and Michael have these very in-depth discussions about baseball - the standings, the teams, the players, batting averages, records, injuries - all of it - and I have to remind myself that Joey's only 8! Michael may as well be talking baseball with an old guy who's been a fan his whole life.

He's playing Little League Winter Ball right now, and what a difference from the Spring season. Joey is now one of the better players among his peers. The other boys often vie to have Joey as a catching partner during warm-ups and practices. And the best part of all of this is just seeing how good it makes him feel about himself - to do well at something he is so passionate about.

He's got stars in his eyes, that's for sure. A few weeks back, he was upset one night, and it came out that, "I'll miss being with my family when I travel all the time when I'm in the major league." Gotta love the boy's confidence.

This morning Joey didn't want to go to school. He's got a very minor cold, barely worth mentioning. But he insisted he didn't feel well and wanted to stay home. Well, Joey's always loved school, to the point that he thinks there should be MORE homework, and that school should run all year round. He's never faked sick before, so I figured he must actually not be feeling well. So I let him stay home.

It wasn't long after we got all the other kids to school that I began to have a sneaking suspicion that Joey's wanting to stay home had something to do with baseball. "Is there a game on today?" I asked him. "Yeah," he said. Aha! But I looked at the baseball schedule and discovered that the game wasn't on until 5:00, so that wasn't it. Before long, though, Joey headed out to the front yard like he always does. "Not so fast," I said. "You're sick, remember?" "But I feel fine now," he said. Uh huh.

We had to run a couple of errands, and there was Joey, running up and down the grocery store aisles, catching imaginary fly balls and announcing the imaginary World Series game he was starring in. As usual. He was fine.

He's going to school tomorrow.

Friday, October 15, 2010

So Much Excitement!

So this afternoon I had a friendish over - my kids call her The Cupcake Girl because she made the cupcakes for the girls' tea party a couple weeks ago - to help her set up a blog to showcase her cake designing talents. She's a young mother of one deliciously cute toddler, and I'm sure that after witnessing my hooligans run wild for a couple hours, she's probably rethinking her plans to expand her family.

Anyhoo, at one point, Annabelle was getting carried away with her antics, as she is wont to do, so I took her into her room to give her a stern talking-to. While in there, she suddenly starts crying hysterically, and I'm thinking, "Great, Cupcake Girl probably thinks I'm in here beating the daylights out of her. " Turns out, Annabelle suddenly, out of the blue, realized that she had a loose tooth! Her very first! She was freaking out about it, and finally, I just had to walk away because Annabelle isn't calming down and the only way to stop her is to disengage. So I come back out and explain to Cupcake Girl that no, I was not beating my child, that she's upset because she just discovered that she has her first loose tooth. Meanwhile, Annabelle has closed herself in the bathroom, and is holding a tissue to her barely-loose tooth, crying, and refusing to come out and eat. "I can't eat dinner!" she wailed. "I can never eat dinner with a loose tooth!" "Honey," I told her, "that tooth isn't going anywhere for a week or two probably, and you can't go a week or two without eating. So come on out and eat." She refused. So I left her in the bathroom.

Not fifteen minutes later, she comes resolutely out of the bathroom and hands me a Dixie cup. Inside? Her tooth! I about fell over. "I had to get it out so I could eat," she explained very seriously to me.

Not long after, I got up from the table for a minute to tend to one of the kids, leaving my plate holding a good-size slice of pepperoni pizza on the table. I come back to the table and find Finn with my pizza in his pudgy hands, going to town on it. He ate the entire slice of pizza, all by himself. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is! While he has been making huge strides transitioning to table foods, I still have to be choosy about textures and consistencies. He's never had pizza! He ate a whole slice of it, all by himself. By himself!

I may swoon from all the excitement!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I was going to get on here and regurgitate. Just upchuck about how awful the afternoon was, how the moment the kids get in the truck after school, it starts - the whining, the complaining, the bickering, the unending demands. I was going to write about how lately the afternoons have been such a battle, how I am feeling completely overrun by the kids, how sometimes it feels like if they sense the slightest chink in my armor, they take full advantage of it. I wanted to say how awful that makes me feel, knowing how much it makes me sound just like my own mother, and how I detest that in myself. I was going to talk about how, after spending two hours repeatedly chasing the girls downstairs where they are supposed to stay when Finn naps because they can't be quiet upstairs, I remembered just in the nick of time that Kevin had an orthodontist appointment, so I rushed all the kids into the truck and made it there by the skin of my teeth, and how we spent an hour sitting out in the truck waiting for Kevin, and how it was non-stop with the kids - whining, and bickering, and not keeping their hands (or their feet) to themselves, and how when Kevin finally came out of the orthodontist office, it was too late to make dinner so we went through a drive-through, which made me feel guilty because I really don't like feeding my kids crap, and how the minute we got to the ordering microphone, Finn started screaming and was inconsolable for the rest of the way home, and how we got stuck in a huge traffic jam with Finn screaming bloody murder and how I felt like I was going to come apart at the seams. I was going to post about how I yelled way too much today and made my kids cry, and how awful it feels to complain about my kids because, after all, I chose this.

I was going to write about all that.

But then, Joey, my wise, tender-hearted 8-year-old boy, asked me to help him print the poem he wrote for school:

Kinda puts things into perspective.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tricks and Treats: Where To Draw the Line?

Now that Halloween is almost upon us and Kevin is fast approaching fourteen (in January), I am giving serious consideration to the question of what is too old for trick-or-treating. Of course he still wants, and plans, to go out trick-or-treating this year, though he's at the age, and has been for a couple of years now, where, rather than canvasing the neighborhood with Mom and Dad, he trolls the neighborhood with a friend, sans supervision. (Holy run-on sentence, Batman!) It's not the lack of supervision that weighs on me, it's just that I've never been a fan of teenagers showing up at my door with their hands out for candy, offering me a surly "Trick or treat" with an accompanying eye-roll (you can actually hear the eye-rolling in their voices, I swear you can!), with nary a costume save for maybe a silly hat. Really, you want a treat for that?

I don't know . . . Halloween - at least the trick-or-treating part - seems like it oughta be reserved for the tykes. You know, say, the twelve-and-under set. Teenagers out trick-or-treating almost seems like taking your teen to the mall at Christmas to pose for pictures on Santa's lap.

Still, Kevin wants to go trick-or-treating again this year. I'll probably let him. At least he's still willing to do actual costumes - that's the least a kid can do if he wants a handout, don't you think? But I'm really thinking this may be the last year for Kevin. Am I being too much of a hardass, a party-pooper? Where do all you other parents stand on this? Share your thoughts, and feel free to answer my poll.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Battening Down the Hatches

There's a storm brewing over here, and we've had a few squalls lately. I'm bracing myself for worse to come.

I'm talking about the fact that I have a teenager on my hands. And I'm here to tell you that teenage girls don't have a monopoly on PMS. Holy shit.

Okay, I don't want to overstate things and make Kevin out to be a problem kid. He's not. He's actually a really great kid in all the ways that count: he's loving and protective of his siblings, he's pretty responsible and is learning a good work ethic, he's a good student, and his values seem to be in place. But his moods? Oh. My. God.

You'd never know it today, because today he's just as pleasant and sociable as can be. But yesterday was awful. I was fighting the urge to throttle him for most of the day. All day he was mopey and sulky and snotty and just looking for an opportunity to have a problem with every little thing. Just walking around with a big stinkin' attitude, making everyone miserable. And it all finally came to a head last night around dinner time and he and I ended up in a screaming match that called up memories of screaming matches I had with my own mother as a teenager. I was never going to be that kind of parent, but there I was, screaming at him to "Get the FUCK in your room!" and him screaming back at me, "I HATE YOU!!"

Ugly. I hate it. Not that he said he hates me - really, I kind of laugh that off. It's textbook, right? He's supposed to say that. And I know he doesn't really hate me - well, maybe in the moment he does, but that's okay. What I hate is that I lost my temper, that he got the best of me, that I exposed my white-trash roots, that I lowered myself to responding in such a completely emotional and non-productive manner. What I hate is the attitude he exhibits more and more lately, and the fact that I have no idea how to deal with it.

My biggest fear is him coming to the conclusion that we're the enemy - Michael and I (he and his dad butt heads plenty, and that opens a whole other can of worms for me). But what do I do? Ignore the bad behavior, and focus on the positive behavior? While I can see that working for younger kids, at almost 14, Kevin seems beyond those kinds of simplistic parenting techniques. Or maybe I'm wrong. Or do I call him out on every wrong move he makes? I know I'm hard on him, I know I expect a lot from him. Am I being unfair in my expectations? Another fear I have is not staying on top of my kids' behavior and losing control of them. Maybe I go overboard?

But what is really unsettling for me is that I just don't know. I don't have the answers. I'm totally winging it here. I went into this whole parenting gig with one main goal: to not be the kind of parent my parents were. Although I am now able to sympathize with a lot of things my mother, in particular, dealt with as a mother, I still see so many wrong turns and bad choices she made that I am determined not to replicate. And yet, to some extent, I'm at a loss as to what to do.

After some cooling-off time last night, I forced myself to go talk calmly with Kevin, because it's important. I told him that I know it's tough being 13, that I remember being 13 and sometimes being in a rotten mood and not even understanding why, and sometimes feeling angry and not even being sure at what or whom. And I apologized for screaming at him, and for what I screamed at him - even though, in all honesty, I didn't feel like apologizing, because he really pissed me off - because I think it's important to model humility. I asked him if he wanted to talk about anything that might be on his mind, and I got a few grunts in response. That's okay. I'm pretty sure he was listening.

Ack. This parenting thing. Not easy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Four Years Old

Four years ago today, Lilah graced our family with her grand entrance in the world. Here is the epic story of my labor and her birth. Our fifth baby, she was the first of my two home births. When I read her birth story now, I clearly see how I brought so much of the misery of a long and protracted labor on myself by being such a control freak and trying to bring about her birth before she was ready. Live and learn! She was nine days late, and I was mighty impatient; she was the only one of all my babies to come after her due date. When I tell her the story of how she didn't want to come out of my belly, she tells me, "I couldn't come out, Mommy. It wasn't my birthday yet!" And such is Lilah: clever and precocious and often surprising us with her astuteness.

While she certainly has her moments and meltdowns, Lilah is probably the most good-natured of all our kids. She's affectionate and sweet, a real charmer, and a total Daddy's girl - she has him wrapped around her little finger.

Lilah was a complete surprise. Michael and I were trying to decide if we were going to go ahead and try for another baby, and had this big, serious discussion about it. The twins were just about 16 months old at the time, and I remember we decided to wait until they turned two to make a decision. Just a week or so later, I found out that I was already pregnant. (I remember going to Target and buying martini glasses for a gathering I was hosting at home that evening, and a pregnancy test. Nice combination! It still makes me laugh.) I cried at first, because although I was seriously leaning towards wanting another baby, I like to plan things - I don't like being taken by surprise. What a wonderful surprise she turned out to be, though!

Happy birthday, my sweet girl.


One Year

Two Years

Three Years

Four Years

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tea Time!

Today was the big day, the day I've been preparing for for the last couple of weeks: a tea party to celebrate Annabelle, Daisy, and Lilah's birthdays.

The invitations went out about three weeks ago (of course I masked our address and phone number before uploading here; can't have everyone showing up at our house now can I?). I invited all the girls from Lilah's preschool class, and all the girls from the twins' first grade class, plus a couple of additional special friends. And honestly, I really thought maybe three or four girls from each of their classes would decide to attend, so that we'd have about a dozen girls. We ended up with TWENTY-SEVEN girls here (including my three)!! I ended up having to rent tables and chairs - this was going to be some party!

And of course I was stressed and worried about how it would go - I've never thrown a shindig like this before. Yesterday was going to be a day crammed with preparing food and tea party accoutrements, but thanks to a freak thunder storm yesterday morning that downed some nearby power lines, our power was out all day yesterday. From 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. I did as much as I could without power, including making finger sandwiches last night by lantern, I kid you not.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. I was up early this morning finishing everything up with Michael's help, and voila, a tea party for twenty-seven girls:

Okay, let me just stop a minute and present an ode to my good friend, Caryl (who happens to be Daisy and Annabelle's first grade teacher, and was Joey's first grade teacher as well). As soon as she heard we were having a tea party, she jumped up waving her arms to help. And let me just say, I never could have pulled this off without her help. She was AMAZING. In addition to coming early to help me set up the food and place settings, she also loaned me teacups and saucers, took charge of keeping all the kids orderly (she is an expert at keeping large groups of kids orderly, after all), she helped serve and washed most of the dishes afterwards. I LOVE YOU, CARYL!!

And while I'm at it, I'd like to send a million thanks out to my friends, Karen and Meghan, too, who also loaned me teacups (I had about a dozen of my own, but did I mention that we had twenty-seven girls here?), and to all the wonderful moms who helped out at the party, too. Thank you, thank you!

I served the leftover sandwiches from the cut-outs to the moms.

Aren't the girls darling? Ohhhhh, I was overdosing on cuteness today!

Me and Caryl. Michael has a knack for getting these really bad candid shots of me. Just had to share.

After lunch, which consisted of finger sandwiches of two varieties - pb & j, and turkey and cheese - fruit-kebobs, bunny crackers, chocolate covered strawberries, and of course tea . . . well, really, raspberry lemonade or apple juice, we decorated picture frames which the girls each took home along with a photo of themselves.

And a group photo :)

And cupcakes! I wish I could say I made these gorgeous cupcakes myself - which, I don't know if you can tell, but had edible glitter and hand-molded chocolates on them in the shapes of flowers and teapots - but I didn't. They were made especially for us by a wonderful aspiring cake designer. So good!

And that was it. The whole party lasted about two hours, and moved right along from one activity to the next. Nobody got bored, everyone got along, the girls all put on their best manners for the occasion, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. It was perfect!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Little Prayer

Hey God,

It's me, Lisa. You may notice that I'm composing this on my iPad. That's because I can't use my computer, because the power is out. Been out most of the day. Ever since your little song and dance this morning - you know, the hellacious thunder storm that sounded like the house was about to crash down around us. Yeah, you got my attention, okay?

So listen. All that atheist stuff? I was kidding! I mean, you can take a joke, right?

Anyway, I was wondering if I could ask you a favor. Make the power come back on. Like, now. Or really soon. Because I'm having this big tea party tomorrow for my girls, you know. Of course you know ... you know, since you're a mind reader and all seeing, blah blah blah (kidding!). So I have all this food here that's going to go bad, plus I have 11,000 cute little finger sandwiches to make, and I really need my fridge back on.

Think of the PR value. You'd get all the credit, you know. People will be saying things like, "Praise the Lord! The power's back on!" And honestly, God? Your image could do with a little improvement, what with all the wars and famine and catastrophic earthquakes and whatnot. This could really be a win-win sitch for me AND you. Think about it.

Oh, and while you're at it? How about you do something about these three zits on my face. I'm 43, God, not 14. Cut me a little slack here, would you? I said I was kidding about all that atheist stuff, okay?

Thanks, big guy.