Saturday, October 27, 2012

My October Surprise. Heh, Not Really

I'm writing blog posts in my head. That's how I know I'm overdue.  'Cept, the format is all changed up and I don't know what I'm doing anymore.  I think old people who refuse to learn the internet or get cell phones are actually on to something. I feel like you need a PhD to stay on top of all the changes in technology.

I am enjoying where my kids are at in life.  I really wish life was a little more slowed down for me so I could enjoy them more and get a handle on some things, but on the other hand, I'm so excited to be earning a Masters degree, and learning what I am learning.  My experience in this program is turning out to be life-changing and while that makes it very difficult for me, I am loving the benefits of my hard work and actually even love the hard work. Most days. Also, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I have so much to learn before I reach that light, but it's nice to see an end to this crazy schedule.

Presently we are waiting to hear from PA schools for J.  We have a good backup plan if he doesn't get in this round.  We have no idea what kinds of things hold more weight than others. He's pretty well-rounded in all the requirements and above average in most, but we'll see!  It's kind of exciting to both be working toward higher degrees and positive changes in our lives.  J has enjoyed the "science-y" classes he's had to take, and they've been a challenge as well.  Between him regularly telling me things like the breakdown of DNA or the make up of other molecules and Bo incessantly talking about the presidential race, I spend a lot of time feeling particularly brilliant in my own home.  It's all good. They don't know how to reflect meaning like a boss, so there!

I feel like AJ has gotten the shaft on life documentation.  So naturally, I'll need to make up for that. Brace yourself, here come the baby stories. I will keep the poop and spit up stories to a minimum. Maybe.

She is ten months now. I just noticed within the last week or two, her actively trying to engage and initiate "conversation" or play. I love seeing all the little developmental things...well, develop!  We taught her the sign for "milk" when she was 6 months old. I did it to work up to when she was 9-10 months and she could then say it back (what the books say to do).  She started using it within a week.  I was shocked, but it was awesome to have that communication barrier removed so early.  Only problem is, she now will ONLY do that sign and it means whatever she wants it to.  Much like Bo's sign for "more" meant whatever he wanted, but mostly candy.

Today the neighbor girl came over and AJ was delighted to see her and immediately started moving her lips (without sound) and making hand motions that seemed to be a combination of "milk, more, and popcorn popping on the apricot tree".  She just really wanted to engage so she pulled out all the stops.

We have a four seasons room that we've dubbed the "fun room". It has toys, books, a computer, and a futon.  AJ has taught herself to climb up on the futon, which is terribly cute. Then she can alllllllllmost reach the computer which she tries desperately to do every 5 minutes.  She can reach a small shelf which for some reason makes her feel awesome.  She climbs up and yells, sings, tears things apart, and slaps wildly at the keyboard she can't quite reach.  She actually reminds me a lot of my nephew Thomas when she does this.  It's this tiny little human acting like king of the world that's so darling.

Since she's showed some interest in the toilet recently, we've started potty training. It hasn't really worked out well, but I KNOW she's interested because she's constantly crawling to the toilet and trying to eat toilet paper.

Danyo is enjoying an "extra year" at home with us.  I've noticed when I tell people "yes he's five but we kept him out a year" that a lot of them kind of try to make me feel better about having a stupid five year old.  It's really kind of sweet, but it's also funny. I have no embarrassment about keeping Danyo out an extra year. I sometimes regret putting Bo in, even though academically if he was still in 3rd grade he'd probably be dying. Danyo is learning to schmooze even better, working at keeping his temper under control, and perpetually charming the socks off of all of us.  He's just so dang cute.  This morning he sat on the edge of my bed, hanging his head down dejectedly, with one arm wrapped around a giant teddy bear named Teddy (he gets ridiculously creative with his animals names, we have a "Beary" and a "Hoppy" and a "Chocolate Moosey") and his other hand clutching his blankie, "I just wanted to snuggle with you the whole night.  I just want to snuggle right now too."  How do you say no to that?  I don't. He is my kryptonite. In more ways than one.

One of the very cute and sweet things I've noticed Avee doing lately...well, a little background first.  My schedule is ridiculous right now. I'm gone a lot but also come and go a lot.  Sometimes I'll rush home for a stolen 45 minutes to snuggle the baby and nurse her and hear about the kids' days.  Or I'll have a more lax day with appointments and obligations scattered throughout the day.  Usually when I have to get to class, I'm rushing because I think I can travel in the blink of an eye and that there's never any traffic to contend with, so I never budget enough time.  The last few times I've been rushing to get out the door, Avee has filled my water bottle with ice water, put my bag by the door, and last week, grabbed a wonton off the table for me to eat, since I didn't have time to eat dinner with the family.  It's so nurturing and thoughtful and pro-active.  There is so much about this girl that I adore.  I think both J and I just kind of stand back in wonderment that she is ours. I know a lot of people get to enjoy this feeling with their children. It's a good feeling.

I'm learning to not harp on Bo so much. It's so crazy, even though I KNOW it's not helpful or could be damaging, and that I have more unrealistic expectations of him because he's my oldest, I sometimes simply can't stop myself.  I've been trying really hard to be conscious of this and reign it in a bit.  His latest is to say, "I thought you said..." about EVERYTHING and it will be what he thought I should have said, or what he hoped I'd said, or what his lack of attention led him to do and he fills in the blank. It drives me NUTS.  I should just let it go and say, "no, what I actually said was..." but instead I just want to whack him over the head with a plastic bat. He's developing an even better sense of humor and that's fun to watch. He watches these goofy sketches on Youtube, usually grown men acting goofy in public, and then he imitates them. Like this:  I don't have the patience to watch the videos myself, but when he imitates them, it almost always makes me laugh out loud.  He's obsessed with the election and even when playing with AJ he says things like, "Hi sweet baby, do you wanna talk about the financial crisis, huh sweet baby, huh?"  It's pretty entertaining. He's only kind of trying to be funny, mostly he's just saying what's on his mind.

He has written letters to Ohio and Wisconsin to try and persuade them to vote for Romney.  If you've been reading this blog for a few years, you'll remember that last election the obsession was with Obama.  He has taken this obsession much further since his little mind is capable of understanding more.  His teacher has decided to let them have a mock election on the election day and Bo has taken it upon himself to convince the Obama people to vote Romney and address their concerns one by one.  He's also determined he'll give a speech on election day, his teacher doesn't know this yet.

Excerpt from his letter to the states....oh dear, I just read it. I can't take an excerpt, it's too funny to slice up.

Dear citizens of the following states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, And Wisconsin
If Gov. Mitt Romney wins the election in November 2012, we will have lower taxes, and build the keystone pipeline. The keystone pipeline is a pipe that will start in Canada and end in the U.S., and Canada putts oil through the pipeline and we buy it, and if we don’t build this pipeline they will just build a pipe into the Atlantic ocean, and another countries BOATS will pick it up and we will just have to drill it on our own. And yes we all know what lower taxes means. But why have we had higher taxes under the Obama administration?  Well you’re probably thinking- well NO we HAVE’NT had higher taxes. Well we’re kids and kids don’t pay taxes so that’s weird to say that taxes aren’t lower when YOU don’t PAY taxes. And don’t say that we should have higher taxes because you want to vote for Obama, that’s a bunch of baloney let’s just keep it simple and say  that taxes are bad and just leave it at that. So, the reason we have had higher taxes is because WE KEEP ON PRINTING MONEY!!!! Well you’re’ looking at me like- what? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Well let me take it apart for you, the more money you print, the less money is worth. Now you think I’m talking even crazier! Well think of it as golden rocks.  Imagine there are 4 golden rocks in the world. Would those 4 golden rocks be rare? Now imagine there is a factory that makes golden rocks and gives them out to people. Now the factory made 4 MILLION more rocks. Would those rocks be rare anymore? Same with money, the more money we print, the less it’s worth, like those golden rocks. Now you probably understand that its stupid thinking that barrack Obama has been printing money so WE could have MORE money. So, let’s get to the higher taxes part. If we are printing our sweet precious money, but actually are killing our sweet precious money, the dollar gets more worthless and worthless and worthless. And remember WE have to pay taxes to the federal government, which buys STUFF, if the dollar is getting worthless to them, and then WE have to pay more money to THEM because THEY need more MONEY to run our country. So if the dollar isn’t that worthless, then we don’t have to pay more money to them, we’re paying the same amount of money as if the dollar IS worthless. So when barrack Obama say’s ‘I want higher taxes’, he means ‘I’ve been printing billions and billions of dollars, and I need higher taxes so I can run our country.’ Oh, and one more thing-

I’m ben and I study politics.
Vote for mitt Romney.

I love that the kid knows about inflation and the Keystone pipeline better than most adults, and yet can't seem to remember that first names are capitalized. 

Oh, I almost forgot my most favorite quote of the week. "Dad, can you fact check my homework?"
J is so much better about keeping a straight face than I am. Unless it's addressing four-year-old Avee's act of stealing a bean bag from her preschool by way of her underwear. Then he's useless.

Well, this is probably already much too long for most of my closest friends to read. I feel like I should include some pictures or something.  I'll go round some up.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Swearing, Take 3

This afternoon I overheard Danyo say, "Sweet Jesus!"  I quickly reprimanded him. We've been talking to him a LOT this week about what's appropriate to say and what's not.  I used all three of his names and said pretty sharply, "I don't ever want to hear that again, doyouunderstandme!?"  He nodded as he stood still.  I saw a little sadness cross his face. I felt bad for speaking so harshly, sometimes he just gets sensitive to that kind of thing. Other times---not so much.  Then he looked up at me, kind of perplexed and said, "But I thought it was funny?"  I felt pretty crummy doing that to my 5 year old. I leaned down and told him I was sorry for yelling at him so sharply, especially if he thought it was funny, but that I didn't really want him saying things like that. He agreed and ran off to play.

As it turns out....
The other night while I was at class, Avee put dish soap in the dishwasher instead of detergent, and it bubbled out all over the place. Everyone surrounded the machine, staring at the bubbles, and Danyo exclaimed, "Sweet Jesus!"  Apparently the timing was perfect and everyone laughed.  So, he was right. It was funny, once.

These moments tend to stop me in my tracks.  I get caught up in the correcting, corralling, coercing, that I forget to stop and recognize the sweet child that is getting the brunt of all my "mother of the year" actions.  I want to remember his face, and speak more softly, explain more readily, ask questions before getting loud.

In my defense, that boy has been trying out lots of colorful words for size this week.  The fact that he uses words we don't say around here, in perfect context, is both funny and troubling.  Good thing he's my third---we just sort of address it, expect to hear it a few more times while it runs it course, and carry on.  It doesn't help to have the older two giggling hysterically though.

I've said more than once, it's rare that J is funny "on his own".  Most of the time he makes me laugh, he's quoting a movie.  The other day, we were addressing Danyo's choice of words that particular day. He had exclaimed, "Holy sh__" while playing on the itouch, and "Shut the hell up" to Avee, totally casually because she was talking louder than he thought she should.  I am shamelessly airing our dirty laundry. Mostly because I can. Also because it's not really ours. He hasn't heard those words from us.  Pretty sure it's Paper Mario videos on Youtube thankyouverymuch. I put the kabosh on that!

Anyway, as we are sitting across from sweet little Danyo, we tell him there are words we just don't use.  He's listening and seems readily convinced, and I think we are winding down when I hear J say, "So, there are words we just don't say, and those words are...."  It took me long enough for it to register that J paused for a long time and couldn't believe I hadn't already burst out laughing.  J did a funny and I missed it!  I am still proud though.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Depression Is a Liar

After my mom died, a sneaky little depression crept up on me and probably not so subtly turned me into someone I'm not. Because I had a newborn baby, it wasn't easy for some "typical" symptoms to play out---I simply couldn't lay in bed all day, as much as I wanted to. (I came as close to as I could though, some days!)
Two of the main symptoms I suffered from were impatience with my children (and probably J, but this is about the children!) and withdrawal from pretty much everyone and everything. I didn't enjoy social interactions---which pretty much can sum up who I am, otherwise. Conversation was laborious and many invitations went by the wayside because it just felt like too much. I was acutely aware of the impatience with my kids, I have always truly delighted in them. I wasn't enjoying them at all. This broke my heart.

The thing about depression is, it didn't knock on my door and announce its arrival. It sneaked in and infiltrated my thoughts and activities and desires and general way of being. It told me a slow poke kid who has been a slow poke for 9 years, needed to be yelled at because that would solve the problem. It didn't bother telling me that yelling at a 9 year old for not tying his shoes fast enough never feels good, it just kept encouraging me to do so. It told me that reading to my five year old would be painful and suck the life out of me. It didn't tell me that despite his sad eyes and reluctant willingness to let it go, I would still see his sorrow and the rejection; and that it would hurt my heart, but convinced me to stick to my guns on being uninvolved.

It told me my kids were loud, annoying, persistently wanting attention, spoiled, obnoxious, naughty and not worth my efforts. It told me to just "show up" but not do anything more---they wouldn't care or notice. Depression is a liar, and I even kind of knew it. But the magical blanket it throws over you, keeps you from reacting and ignoring the lies it tells.

Then a friend intervened. She took a risk. I could have told her to go suck eggs, and that was a valid fear she had, since she'd seen me in action for several months. But I didn't. I felt like someone had handed me a map in a maze I was trying to navigate, without knowing I was in a maze. "Hey, maybe you are in over your head and need some help, that's what it looks like from here." It was followed by love and encouragement from J and validated by a professor who had seen the decline between one class last year and another class this summer.  Meeting with my doctor was mildly terrifying.  This is the field I am going to be working in, I will probably have to encourage a lot of people to take this step, so it's good for me to experience this.  I was surprised by my fear.  My OB is a darling teency little midwife--she delivered AJ.  Anyone who can survive the hyperventilating drama queen I was during delivery, has my respect. :)  She was kind and gentle and reassuring.  I felt stupid for about 3 seconds and it swept away when she met my tears with quiet support and compassion.

I'm better. I'm myself again. The thing I missed the most, was enjoying my children. I missed being made to giggle throughout the day. I missed enjoying their perspective on things. I missed loving their need for me.

I actually sat down to write about how Avee made me laugh 3 times in the span of about 10 minutes and that I love how effortlessly she can make me laugh. There is no task, no obstacle, no challenge, that girl is presented with where she thinks for a second, "I can't do that." It simply doesn't enter her head.

Our Tuesday mornings are dreaded. Both J and I have to be somewhere at 8 am. The kids don't have to be at school until 8:30, so that cuts about 45 minutes out of our usual routine, combined with getting ourselves up and out the door and the two younger kids to a babysitter. We've only done it once so far and I hate it. Yesterday I told Avee what the hot lunch was (knowing she didn't prefer it) and said, "I'm sorry, we just don't have time to make a lunch, do your best eating the hot lunch."

I left the kitchen and when I came back two minutes later she had emptied yesterday's lunch, was cleaning out the lunchbox in the sink, and had applesauce out of the fridge ready to fill a tupperware with it. She was not taking no as an answer. She wasn't whining and complaining in an effort to take no as an answer, she simply was fixing the problem herself. She even managed to get J to help her and make her sandwich while she did the rest.

But today, today she was cracking me up. I was doing her hair and heard Bo sing a phrase from the Four Non Blondes song "What's Up". So, I started belting out the rest..."and I step outside and I take deep breath and.... I scream from the top of my lungs, What's goin' on? And I say hey, hey, hey, WHAT'S GOIN' ON!?!?!"  I take the "scream from the top of my lungs" part pretty literally. Bo was sort of frozen in place, wondering why I knew some He-Man song and I said, "I used to LOVE that song!" Avee, standing below me, holding her head perfectly still says, "Apparently you still do." She isn't really ever trying to be funny when she says stuff like that, but it always makes us laugh. 

Then on the way to school, five minutes later I said, "I put your glasses in your backpack, be sure to wear them." To which she responded, "Mom, I thought we talked about this and I thought you understood!" I laughed at her scolding words. Her glasses are for reading and computer, close-up work. She was wearing them all the time and it wasn't working for her. When I asked the eye doctor why, she explained that they are just for close up work. I apparently forgot to explain that to Avee. 

As I dropped them off I happen to glance over as Avee's walking away and see she's wearing her arm brace from when she broke her wrist last Spring and couldn't get it casted right away. I laughed out loud. The little malingerer...I called her back. She turned around inquisitively when I called her name. I held up my wrist and tapped it with my other hand. Her little impish grin flashed across her face and she dramatically slunk down in a defeated pose. She pulled it off as she ran back to the car and as she flung it through the window she said, "It was wohth a twy!" Yeah, depression took that joy from me---but with the help of modern medicine and an amazing counselor, mama done got it back!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Birthday

I looooooooooove my birthday. I love it like I'm 7 years old and think the world is mine on that day. I think it should be a national holiday, where everyone pays tribute to me for....existing. I love the sound of "July 21st", I love seeing 7-21. I LOVE my birthday.

However, as I have grown and matured, I have realized that perhaps that is a juvenile view and that not everyone feels like I do. I turned 27 three weeks after I got married. I worked up my first "married birthday" that nothing short of a visit from the Queen of England would top. Poor J didn't have a chance with the expectations I had worked up in my mind.

It was a Sunday, which in and of itself was lame. :) J got up early and made me a cake as well as breakfast. He made dinner, and he doted on me. I simpered in bed that night about how he didn't get me anything. J's eyes bulged and his hands swept around the room, motioning to the mountains of wedding presents lining the walls in our apartment---"our house is FULL of presents, what more could you possibly want!?"

He was so, so right. I was so, so a brat. Being able to let me put that kind of ridiculousness behind me is one of the many reasons I love J. He didn't attribute that to who I was. I remembered my mom's advice when I was turning 22 on my mission (I mean, really---how much fun could you have one a mission!?). She said, "Don't have expectations and you won't be disappointed." This is great advice. I keep it in the back of my head for a lot of situations. I took it to heart. In fact, I took it so much to heart, that when I opened a cupboard in our kitchen the day before my birthday and saw a huge stash of cupcakes, my roommate was SURE I had found her out, but I just thought she was cheating on our diet. To this day, she's convinced I knew, and to this day, I maintain that I was oblivious.

The morning of my 22nd birthday we had a song practice and so 150 of us met at 7 in the morning in the tabernacle, sitting in the seats where the tabernacle choir performed. I showed up at probably 6:59 and 59 seconds, because almost everyone was there, and because I'm always late. As I walked up the steps, the entire group started singing Happy Birthday. THAT was awesome. Then my friends threw me a surprise party at like 8:15 am. Cupcakes for breakfast. It was an awesome day. It was made most memorable by the silky green nightie my mom sent me. Her explanation for sending me that, as my mother, while on my mission was: It was Victoria Secret AND it was my color. Of course you send your 22 year old daughter a nightie then.

Anyway, I turned...old yesterday. The number appalls me. I don't know why, it just does. J and I have been ridiculously busy, basically tag-teaming it with children, studying, and bare minimum for household chores. We just have to get through this month, and that's what we've been doing. I have barely thought of my birthday.

J staged an intervention. He wrote to my friends that he always thought it was sad in the TV show "Intervention" that all the loved ones sat around reading heartfelt letters, telling the person how they felt AFTER they'd become an addict. Why not express those things as a celebration? So, many of my friends did. It is the single most wonderful gift I can imagine. Friends telling me how much they love me. And in creative ways to boot! I don't think I've laughed and smiled this much in YEEEAAAAAARRRRRRS.

My friend Michelle came over after all the festivities had died down and I had read all the great posts on my FB wall. She wrote me a backwards letter. I had to hold it up to the light to read it. She's crazy and clever like that. Her daughter wrote me a letter and was equally as crazy in her presentation. I can't think of clever stuff like that, so I always appreciate it.

I don't mean to play favorites, but her husband wrote me a book. It is a brilliant masterpiece, complete with illustrations, which he produced in under 10 minutes. I want to record it here, but it needs a little background. No matter how stupid I have to look....

A couple of years ago James and I took our kids to the children's museum. I was wandering around looking at some of the displays and watching the kids. There was a chicken display talking about how many eggs a chicken lays, that the hair on the chicken's head determine the color of the eggs, etc, etc. It was interesting to me, but something stumped me. I couldn't figure out why these chickens would lay eggs, if there was no rooster. I was in my early to mid thirties and didn't know about chickens and eggs. I have moments like this. They are probably "blonde moments" but, you know, I'm not blonde.

So I, an intelligent, articulate, confident, woman, walked up to James and say loudly in front of his 11 year old daughter, "Where do chickens eggs come from, if there's no rooster?" I was completely confident this was a reasonable question for a smart, mother of three to be asking. James' eyebrows shot up and his head sort of tilted to the side, almost as if he was trying to determine my angle---if this was a joke, a well played one. After about 30 seconds of me standing there expectantly, obviously not joking, he looked around and then kind of turned his body to shield his 11 year old from either my stupidity or the content of the conversation that would ensue. Or both.

He slowly and deliberately said, "Well, you know, you have eggs that don't get fertilized that get released every month, right?"

I suddenly realized what I had done and my face flushed red and I backed away and then burst out laughing, and then we laughed for probably a solid 10 minutes. He texted his wife (who worked at the same place as J) and told her what I'd done. She found J and let him know what a discreet genius he was married to. We have laughed about it several times since.

Last night, he wrote me a book/card covering the basics. I won't be able to share the amazing illustrations, but the writing will suffice for your enjoyment.

The Chicken -OR- the Egg? Written and illustrated by: Dr. James _______

Dear Angela,
Now that you are 29 I think it's a good time to tell you a few things. I'm sure you know about bird and the bees - and how they do what they please, but what about chickens?

(A lovely diagram of a chicken, complete with phonetic pronunciation of "hen")
Some chickens are girls and they have special parts that do special things. To tell you the truth not much is known about the female species.

(Another lovely diagram of the rooster)
Notice the male of the species. Head strong, cock sure - he walks around with a comb on his head, bops his head whenever he walks and if he wore pants the would be sagging--no doubt.

(Then the hen and rooster interact)
"Hey baby, I can see you're not wearing anything under that frock. Would you like to come back to my nest?" (the rooster is smiling)

Then they kiss and make baby chickens called chicken nuggets. So if anyone asks you how you like your eggs in the morning--you say unfertilized!!!! Happy Birthday

Educational AND entertaining. Just how I like to learn. :)

My husband is awesome. I doubt he could top this birthday gift. :) He doesn't have to.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

This Post Is Listed In The DSM-IV Under "ADD"

I just laid down with AJ to snuggle her to sleep. I've sleep trained, just can't do it with this one. She's my last and just too deliciously cute to put down.

I realized I turn into Super Woman, the moment I lay down. This is how it works. I start thinking about how Avee wants cooking classes and I can't find any in the area for kids. So I decide that I can teach her. I'll start with rice, tonight I'll teach her how to cook rice. Then my mind takes off. I will look up how to teach a 7 year old to cook, and a dozen appropriate recipes. And I'll sew us each matching aprons and teach her each week. By 8, she'll be a professional.

There's a pile of laundry on the floor within my line of view. My mind takes off again. I'm going to take care of that laundry, take that other pile of stuff up to attic finally. The sheets need changing too, I'll change ours and the kids'! As soon as AJ is asleep and I can get up. I'll vacuum the whole upstairs too. Oh yeah, and that pile of clothes to go to Goodwill, I'll finally get that into a bag and in the car. Then I'll start downstairs, the bathrooms, the dishes....

I do this with working out too. I'm going to get up and go for a walk, then I'll come back and do the treadmill. Then I'll make a big healthy salad for dinner. And when I'm laying down, my kids LOVE salad for dinner. They thank me for it.

It's ridiculous how amazing I can make myself be in my head. Then I stand up and it's ALL GONE. I can't recall even a portion of it. I bend down and pick up a binkie and sigh at the effort of this task, and at how overwhelming everything that needs to be done is. I go downstairs, walk past my textbooks that need reading and turn on Netflix. I tell the kids to leave me alone for just 15 minutes. For the 15th time that day.

Also, when the heck did my greatest fantasy become a clean house and a good workout? That's ridiculous. I realized my life was lame and my future bleak when a few months ago I stared into the mirror, dreaming about a defined jawline. No that there is excitin'!

Bo has a friend over right now. When we went to pick him up, his unbelievably adorable 5 year old sister trailed behind him with an absolutely pathetic expression. She had to come over too. She's a chubby little thing and I just want to put her in my pocket and keep her. So, just now she got on the elliptical. I was going to kick her off, like I do all other kids, but I just didn't. She got off about 30 seconds later. She went into the other room, got our Ipod, came back and plugged it into the ellipitical, which I have never done and didn't know was possible, selected music on the Ipod and started exercising to "Killin' Time" by Clint Black. "Eye of the Tiger" came on after and she yelled, "ROCKYYYYYYYY!" and started singing along. All while still working out on the elliptical. Bo tried to "help" her and stubbed his toe and unplugged the ipod within 8 seconds. I picked up the ipod and she grabbed it and said, "I tan dit it." Seriously, a chubby, techno-savvy, exercising 5 year old with a speech impediment, singing Eye of the Tiger. Does it get any cuter?

Today at lunch there were, as per usual, 4 different conversations going on at once. I heard Bo over most of it say, "I put my hot dog in the freezer to cool down, and it was barking when I took it out." He had to explain it to Avee, she thought it was great. I thought it was brilliant. He really does have a good sense of humor. Most of the time he expresses it he's being naughty and I try not to laugh. Not very successfully though.

Mostly I want my kids to understand that if someone else has to be the butt of your joke, it isn't funny. Those were the kind of jokes I told forEVER and people always laughed. I was a senior in college and teasing someone relentlessly, everyone thought it was funny, except the butt of my jokes. My roommate and good friend said, "She's not really mean..." It stopped me COLD in my tracks. It was a good lesson. In my defense, I can take it, just as much as I dished. But that wasn't fair of me to assume everyone could or should.

Don't get me wrong. I make fun of my friends relentlessly. Like my friend who needs symmetry if you touch one side of her body. She has to touch the other side. That just begs for teasing. I can entertain myself for hours with that one. Or my my friends that are OCD about their clean homes, and are friends with me, who takes slovenly to a whole new level...
Until someone convinces me that's mean-spirited too, Imma keep doing it.

I'm halfway through our month of hell. J is at school Monday and Wednesday all day, I am in school Tuesday and Thursday all day. We have to get a babysitter on T/Th because Jay has class every day from 9:30-2:30, then again M and W. Then he goes to sleep late Friday afternoon, to start his weekend of graveyard shift at the hospital. He handles it like a stud. I know if I was doing what he's doing, there would be MUCH more complaining. He never complains. Except when I don't make the kids do their chores. He complains about that.

Studying time is rare and hard to manage. That's why I'm writing on my blog when I should be studying.

Last night after J went to work something fell over in the attic. I had a coronary. I HATE being alone in the house, then knock something over in the attic and I'm done fer. I called J at work, which I've never done before. His 25 year old co-worker managed to call me "Sweetie" 8 times in less than 3 minutes. Impressive, no? By the time J called back I had rigged a shovel up against the attic door, and put Avee in my bed. (The attic door is in her room). I was totally cool by then. Mmm-hmmm.

Being a mom has made me neurotic. If someone breaks into our house when J's gone, I know who to grab first and which closet to hide in. The upstairs phone is always charged. If the house catches on fire, I know who to grab first and three escape routes depending on where the fire is. I've worried a lot and finally determined that I will have to slap Bo if there is a middle of the night emergency. I can't wake that boy up for ANYTHING. I also know how to get us all unbuckled and to safety if we're on a bridge that collapses. AJ has kind of messed with my plan and my reaction time, but we'll get there. In the meantime, we will not cross the bridge as a family. :) I had no idea that it was having kids that made people neurotic. My mom wasn't like this though. In fact, my mom was a total disservice to me with pretty much anything child related. Pregnancy, recovery, child-rearing, disciplining, teaching...she made it all seem very easy.

Hey, wanna know why this post is so long and random? I'm supposed to be studying. Plus, I'm pretty sure I have a diagnosable case of ADD. Diagnosable is apparently not a word.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Real Reason My House Is Never Clean

I see a picture on the mantle I keep meaning to hang. Pull it down, it's covered in dust. Go get paper towel to clean it off. See I'm at the end of my paper towel roll. Go downstairs to grab a couple of rolls, see the cans of soup still on the floor from last shopping trip. Start loading them on the shelf. Step on shovel, and remember looking for it two days ago in the garage but it wasn't there. Take the shovel to the garage and see the freezer left open by naughty popsicle-sneaking kids. Notice stray popsicles and 2 year old chimichangas are thawed out at the bottom of the freezer so I decide now is as good a time as any to clean out the freezer. Clear out about 3 things, get popsicle juice all over my arms, go to the yard to hose it off. See the flowers are wilting and garden looks dry, set up sprinkler for yard. Kids see sprinkler and beg to get wet. Help find missing swimsuit bottoms, and say for the 43rd time, "Yes you have to wear something, you can't go naked through the sprinkler." Spend ten minutes looking for sunscreen. Find it in the fridge, in the gogurt box, apply sunscreen. Get it in at least three eyes and survive the whining and griping. Barely. Stand in the middle of the yard wondering where I was and what I was doing. Go inside, in case that helps me remember. See picture sitting on counter, dirty. Remember the vinegar in the garage, go to the garage to get it, freezer door still open because of absent-minded, non-popsicle-stealing, mom. Close freezer on half finished cleaning job, grab vinegar. Remember I want vinegar up in the laundry room as well. Take bottle up there. Take load out of the dryer, notice the load in the washing machine smells worse than it went in, because it's been a couple of days. Restart load. Notice the soap dispenser is all cruddy and has soap build up. Go grab a washcloth from bathroom, there are none. Remember bucket downstairs has dirty rags in it, run downstairs to bring them up, to wash with the vinegar I just took up there, see there are a couple more dirty rags in the sink. Go to throw them in the bucket and realize one rag has at least one more cleaning job left in it. Get down on hands and knees to work on a spot on the floor. Newly mobile infant makes her way to me, slobbery, giggling and full of delight with her mobility. She must have my face in her mouth, my hair in her hands, her feet on my shoulders. And then she is hungry.

Husband comes home to messy house, me in my pajamas, wet kids, no plans for dinner, and I'm sitting in the recliner nearly comatose with a sleeping baby in my lap, watching Drop Dead Diva on Netflix.

I don't know how I got there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 22nd

My first little butternut squash bruiser of a baby turned 9 yesterday. That boy fills us with pride almost every day. He's such a good, good, boy. I'm kind of hard on him and I keep trying to stop, but haven't been too successful. When I drop the need to see perfection in him, we enjoy each other so much.

He had several friends over and had a low-key party. I had no intention of giving him a party but that slick guy worked one out of me. He is easy to please, and that makes it more fun to please. They played a few water games, jumped on the trampoline, ate pizza, watched a movie/puttered around and then went home. It was low stress for us, and thoroughly enjoyable for all of them.

AJ also turned 5 months
yesterday. I left my camera in Missouri over Spring Brea
k so I don't have a good camera and with a wiggly baby, it is hard to get a good shot.

I kept my mind busy yesterday, which is a problem for me, but a well-honed coping mechanism as well.

A year ago my mom was here, the picture of health....beautiful, vibrant, lovely, full of life. She spoke at Bo's baptism and stole the show. She jumped on the trampoline with the kids. We hunkered down in the basement for TWO DIFFERENT tornado warnings. The kids read "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" with her and J's parents. J's mom laughed and laughed and laughed and my mom loved watching her friend laugh so much, and her grandchildren enjoying our unfinished, stinky, no-good-place-to-sit basement.

I was standing in the kitchen cutting watermelon and my mom went out the back door alone to jump on the trampoline. She had a nagging cough and it worried her. She knew it was a tumor pressing on her neck, but she'd had the tumor for 40 years. She noticed that she hadn't coughed much at my house, so she thought maybe the bouncing on the trampoline helped. 75 years old, she went outside to jump on the trampoline. She was alone and lost her footing and really hurt her leg. She came back inside about 10 minutes later and when I looked up she said, "I am not the same person who just went outside 10 minutes ago." She had really hurt herself, but she always downplayed her own suffering.

My mom was neurotic about privacy and imposing on people. My in-laws stayed downstairs on our guest bed and my mom stayed upstairs in Avee's room. She and my father-in-law had hatched a plan to notify one or the other that they were ready to go in the morning. The plan had to avoid waking anyone else, AND allow for each to have their privacy. They got up and left before dawn, we said goodnight the night before. I wish I had hugged her before she left. There was no way to know I would never see her again in the "perfect health" she was in that weekend. When I got up in the morning, there was an empty box on the landing of the stairs. I wondered aloud where it had come from and J informed me of "the plan" he overheard them devising. One of them was to either throw the box up the stairs or down the stairs when he or she was ready, so not to impose on one another's privacy, and to not wake the rest of us. We laughed as we looked at the random box on the landing. That was so my mom.

Last year Bo just had one friend from school over for his birthday. We invited our good friends over, and he had my mom and Jay's parents as well. His friend brought a card, no gift and I'm sure Bo was very curious about what was inside the card. He always got a card from my parents, and a generous gift of money. Bo wasn't sure if friends gave cash too!

So, when he was opening his gifts, he reached for the card that he thought was from Isaac. Only, it was the one from my parents. I will regret for a very long time that I was not videoing this moment. Bo excitedly opened a card that he thought was from another 8 year old boy and read aloud, "To a darling grandson we love so much..." Bo stared at the card, turned it over for the "joke" turned it back, looked up slowly at Isaac and was completely befuddled. Isaac said, "Don't look at me, I didn't give you that!" We laughed so hard when we all realized what Bo had been thinking.

I had so many memorable times with my mom, so many long talks, so many quiet moments, so many, many, moments over the years---and I can't help but feel sorrow that I didn't cherish every moment of her last visit. If only I had known.

I miss her like crazy. I miss her voice and when I hear it (I have a message on my machine), she's so alive. This business of her being gone is far far away. I stopped having dreams about her for a while, but they are back. She's moving fast, she's busy, she's got her finger on the pulse of my life, she's loving, supporting, encouraging, listening, applauding. I miss that in real life, desperately.

I was holding AJ yesterday, looking her over, cherishing her existence, loving every ounce of her squishy, snuggly, perfect little self. In my mind I heard my mom commenting on her. I long for that. I want to know what she thinks. Does she have my sister's coloring, my brother's temperament? Does she think she's a lot like Avee at this age? Does she see a tenacity or a tenderness that I might be overlooking in the everyday business of caring for her? Am I taking things for granted? Am I giving Danyo enough attention? Am I worrying too much about things that don't matter?

She'd always say, "I just did dumb dumb stuff in my 30's. You're so much smarter, so much calmer, so much more confident." I need to hear those words. I know them inside and out because she said them often. But I want to hear her say them.

So yeah. There's that.

Having Bo's friends over, I saw a lot of the personality traits he's picked up, and from whom. They aren't bad traits, they just sort of came out of nowhere, but now I get it. One of his friends had written some kind of creed on how to be awesome. One of the items was "have a catch phrase--my catch phrase is 'bow-chicka-wow-wow', and I'm awesome." Well, I'm certain this little guy doesn't know the origins of that "phrase". He does have older siblings though. Well, of course Bo has picked it up. On a paper he worked on in class he was supposed to draw a picture of someone having success and someone failing (or something to that effect). The failing person had a word bubble that said, "I'm doooooooomed" and the success person's said...yep, you guessed it, "Bow-chicka-wow-wow." Knowing that he just sort of is copying off of his friends, I haven't thought much about it.

Until today. Danyo pulled a piece of candy out of his gift bag and yelled, "Bound chicken wow-wow! I can't WAIT to say that to Emma when she gets back!"

Yeah. Might have to have a talk with him about that. Although, bound chicken is all kinds of awesome. His very own catch phrase.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Things are going well for us here in Iowa. I finished another semester successfully, and given the events of the past few months, that was questionable at times. I am so relieved to be done. Part of me wishes I could do the semester again, a little more plugged in, but I'm glad to have it behind me. I should have taken the semester off, and it was a difficult decision, but I need to be done by next May so that J can start his program, wherever that might be. I have about 7 weeks off from classes and two weeks in, it's everything I hoped it could be and more.

I don't feel less busy, but my house and kids are getting more attention. That makes me happy. A couple of weeks ago Danyo was hounding me to take him on a bike ride. Every time he'd ask, J would stand behind him, shaking his head with warning. Finally J confided, "He's totally crazy on his bike, don't do it." Usually we throw him in the bike trailer with AJ. He can ride a bike without training wheels (it's every bit as cute as you think it might be) so he really wants to ride with the big kids. I finally relented. One morning I strapped AJ into the bike trailer (it's precarious at best, she can't sit up just yet) and set out with Danyo on his bike.

He is crazy. He weaves and peddles like a mad man and I think he looks down a lot at his feet, so no consideration for what's 5, 3, 2 feet in front of him. I spent the entire ride "reminding" and "coaching" him to slow down, watch where he was going, stop weaving, get out of the middle of the road, move over for the other bikes, etc, etc. It was kind of funny. I had the time, and I had been warned, so I was okay with it all. But I see now why J was always shaking his head!

Some of you may not know that Danyo got glasses in February. I set all the kids up for an appointment on a whim, actually. Avee had complained of not being able to see things and headaches, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to get them all checked. I was in Missouri with my mom and had only taken AJ with me on this trip. I got a text from J, "It's a good thing you set up these appointments, Danyo is freaking blind!" I am definitely prone to exaggerated speech, and perhaps I've rubbed off on J, but turns out, he is practically blind in one eye. The optometrist was hopeful we could strengthen it, so his good eye is patched. It's ridiculously cute. He also has taken to putting on the patch himself, which is a whole 'nother level of cute and funny. He looks like this...

You'll notice the patch also covers his nose and comes quite close to covering his other eye. That's my boy!! It's working, his vision has gotten much better in the bad eye, so we keep patching.

Anyway, as we were riding to the park to meet up with friends, I thought that all things considered, Danyo was pretty amazing. 4 years old, 3 mile ride, 2 wheels, 1 eye. That's impressive!

I sat down to blog because I was reading through a composition notebook Bo just brought home and I started laughing so hard, tears were streaming. Bo's work often gets a hearty chuckle out of me, but this one hit my funny bone.The notebook is from his science club. I remember him telling me how they were testing the strength of paper towels by putting washers on them and seeing how many a particular brand could hold, when wet.This is what he'd written: "Exparament: Step 1 wett the papter towels Step 2 put warshers on...I realized as I read it that his teacher very much has the midwest accent and I couldn't stop laughing. He knew they were called washers, but when she was talking, he wrote what he heard her say. I will truly cherish this notebook as the treasure of our Iowa lives that it is.

Last night, Avee was jumping on the trampoline with Danyo and another 4-year-old friend. They found a moth and Avee helped it up and set it free. I actually don't know what they are, but there are THOUSANDS of them flying around right now. Maybe there are moths, I just don't know why there are so many so suddenly. Anyway, she found another one right after that was dead. I wanted to say "good riddance" but didn't because she was so caught up in it.

Unbeknownst to me, she gathered Danyo and his friend and went into the playroom and planned a funeral for the moth. She got each child to contribute a "eulogistic" sentence, and combined, they had a lovely eulogy for the moth they never knew, 15 minutes before.
She put each child's initial after the sentence they contributed. At the end, it was a joint effort, so there were two initials. I love this girl.

I have more stuff, but don't want to run out the attention span of some of my readers. :)

Off to prepare for Bo's 9th birthday. 9 years ago today, I woke up with a back ache. My mom had to tell me I was in labor. Oh what I've learned in those 9 years!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Breakfast Conversation

During breakfast I said to Avee, "You get your cast off in a week!"
Danyo said, "To-mah-woh?"
Me: No, in a week.
Danyo: To-mah-woh?
Me: No, in a wee--. Oh, a week is 7 days. So, in 7 days.
Danyo: Oh. Then, not to-mah-woh?
Me: Nope. Oh yeah! It's also your birthday in a month Bo!
Danyo: To-mah-woh?
Me: No, in a month.
Danyo: To-mah-woh?

I laughed, so then all the kids laughed, probably not even sure why I was laughing. Danyo, chuckling like a jovial old man, and shaking his head, knew exactly why, "I don't know what a month means."

Last week we went to a new little frozen yogurt shop to check it out. Avee and Danyo sat in these chairs that were big round balls almost, with a small flat area on the bottom to hold it steady and a small flat area on top to sit. Halfway through our stay, Danyo toppled out of the chair. It was really loud and made quite a spectacle. Avee would have rushed over and hid her face in my side, cried, rejected her ice cream, and wanted to leave right away. Bo would have blushed bright red, scooped up ice cream off the floor to finish, and quietly walked away, leaving a toppled chair. I would have been mortified.

Danyo, flat on his back, legs stuck up in the air, held up by the toppled ball-chair, held his ice cream up to safety and with crooked glasses and a charming smile exclaimed, "It's a great day for falling!" He swung his legs around, propped up the chair and went back to eating like nothing had happened. I couldn't have felt more proud. That was my 4 year old boy!

Right now he's running his dirty little hands up and down my face, a race between the two hands. I guess I'm done.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On My Mind

In June of 2011 my mom had a terrible pain in her abdomen. She called my sister at 1:30 in the morning. My sister mentioned to me the next day, "I knew it was bad if she called me in the middle of the night, Thomas was sick and I know she'd never have called if it wasn't unbearable." This is a woman who birthed 5 children at home. 'Nuff said.

That next day there were several phone calls back and forth between my sister and I. "It's the gall bladder..." "Waiting for a CT scan..." "Doctor is coming in 10 minutes..."

Around noon I called my sister to check in. She was obviously upset when she answered and said she couldn't talk before she quickly hung up. I sat in a chair, staring at the phone, my heart waiting to resume it's normal pace. I hated that conversation. I knew something was wrong and it could be a zillion things. I hated not knowing. So I sent my sister a text, "if you can't say it on the phone, please text it". She wrote back, "Not good. Tumors everywhere. Abdomen, liver, lungs."

The tears fell uncontrollably. I cried for the next 3 hours straight. We talked a few times in the next couple of hours, but neither of us were really in good shape to talk. The doctor said it could be 10 months or 10 years---it was up to her. The pain was a tumor pressing on her liver. But it was only one tumor of several. She had probably been sick for quite some time. I sent several texts to my sister asking about my mom. How did she respond, how did she feel, how did she look, was she scared, was she crying, was she in pain....I was desperate for any news about my mom.

They had trouble controlling her pain and so she didn't leave for two more days. Around noon on Friday, I remember seeing her number show up on my caller id and I excitedly answered the phone. She immediately said with forced seriousness, "I have been at death's door!!" I burst out laughing. Hearing my mom act dramatic in a time when she had every right to be was a welcomed distraction. She immediately protested my laughter, "Why won't anyone let me have my moment!?!?", she whined with exaggeration. She began her usual fast-paced recounting of everything, jumping from the jello to the radiologist, to the darling doctor's ethnicity and where he'd been on vacation, to the cost of medications, to the art on the walls in her room. It was always hard to keep up with her pace. For me, always. If I complained, she'd put it right back on me, "If you can't keep up, it's not my problem, it's yours". I wonder now if anyone else had the nerve to complain at her pace---I know I wasn't the only one who had trouble keeping up!

8 days later her sister, and dearest friend in the world, passed away. We knew it was coming, but the blow was insurmountable for my mom. She was devastated and felt completely abandoned. It had only been 9 months since her younger brother had passed away from a similar diagnosis.

It was too much and she sank into a deep, deep depression. I suspect only people who know depression intimately can know what this did to her. The Mom who called to see if Bo had slept better last night, or if the torn sash on Avee's dress had been repaired, or if Danyo would like a little stuffed turtle she'd seen at the store---was gone. Getting out of bed, eating, basic, perfunctory conversation was more than she could do most days. It was heartbreaking to witness. It was bigger than any of us. I realized how selfish I had been in my relationship with her, when I struggled to be a good friend and daughter for her during a time when she couldn't give back. Her voice had no lilt. This sorrow had engulfed her.

My mom was no stranger to sorrow and pain. Even tragedy had played a role in her life. She was not weak, by any standard.

She had a couple of "good" days throughout those months, it was about 3 and a half months total, and it felt like a lifetime. One of those good days was when most of my family was in town to visit. A kind of gathering that hadn't happened in a long time. My sister had rented out a pool for the evening, and my mom made an appearance. She was talkative and funny. At one point in the evening I caught her almost dumping her bottle of water down my front. Somehow I prevented it by "catching" the mischievous look and the slight movement of her water bottle. She caught me unaware about 20 minutes later, pouring half the bottle down the front of my swimsuit. I stared at her incredulously and she said, "Your boobs are huge---they were just asking for it."

My mom has ALWAYS been the picture of propriety and pose my entire life. She has been classy and proper, and never forgot the ways of a lady; a way of being that you don't see much of any more. I could NOT believe my ears when she said that to me. It really made me laugh.

She was always funny---but the sassy seemed to be a relatively new development. When she came out of her depression in early October, I got to see even more of it, and I have to say---it was awesome.

She had moved in with my sister in August, who cared for her so perfectly, in so many ways.

My mom enjoyed about 4-5 weeks of feeling pretty good. Almost feeling perfect. Then her physical health started to decline pretty rapidly. My sister said she could gauge on how my mom was on whether or not she emptied the dishwasher. My mom was a work horse and it took a LOT for her to not try and do something. She started having more frequent "Non-dishwashing days". About a week before Christmas she moved back home.

New Years Day, she went to church. That was also the first thing to return when her spirits improved. She loved going to church. That afternoon, she called my sister to take her to the hospital, as her pain was more than she could bear.

At the hospital they found that her oxygen levels were really low. With oxygen and her pain controlled, she was in good shape. She was in the hospital nearly a week with several really "up" days and some really really "down" days. Sometimes both, in one day.

I was here, 350 miles away, desperate to go see her. I wanted her to see AJ, but I was struggling with my recovery from the delivery and waiting until it would be okay to travel. We left the day after AJ's two week check-up.

I remember sitting in the hospital room, watching my mom hold AJ. I saw her eyes checking her over, looking for signs of the generations before, a grandmother's nose, a great-aunt's chin. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that AJ got to be in her grandma's arms at least once in this life. I knew she wouldn't grow up having the gift of this remarkable woman as a part of her every day life, but I would always be able to say, your grandma held you, loved you, kissed you, and celebrated your birth with all of us.

Here's the thing about the process of dying that I didn't know. It's a completely maddening roller coaster; and the anxiety of not knowing if today's the day, or if there will be 100 more days, is emotionally exhausting.

My mom was a little slower and her coloring not exactly right. She had to take more frequent pauses to catch her breath and the oxygen tube across her face was a constant reminder that things would never be as they were again. Her ability to gab and love for it was alive and well. I sat and listened to her recount her week, pontificate on the meaning of love and the journey of marriage. She told me about her wonderful nurse, and visits from different people throughout the week. I joked with her that she got cancer every time I had a baby girl. She threw her head back and laughed.

She come home later that evening and was checked into hospice care within a couple of hours. My sister sat with the hospice nurse and learned of the process and helped with paper work and answering and asking questions. My parent's home was alive and full of grandchildren and I worked to keep the crowd from interrupting the hospice nurse's visit. I felt an awful pit in my stomach the entire night, realizing the finality and the time frame that was inevitably place on going into hospice care.

As I sit here recounting these events, I see my mom so clearly. Alive, full of life. Visibly, her health is compromised, but her spirit is healthy, and the struggle for breath or ever-present pain are just hindrances to her that she will work around. She shuffled around the front part of the house in her big fluffy hot pink robe, stepping over the oxygen tube, tugging it closer as she sneaked into the kitchen to wash a few dishes. She laughed at my younger brother's references to her oxygen tube as a "short leash." I love my mom's laugh. For as long as I can remember the sound of it has been one of the best sounds in the world. She'd tip her head back almost as if to gain momentum for her laugh. It was breathless even before she struggled with enough oxygen. I loved her laugh.

There was always sort of an awkwardness about the oxygen tube that trailed from my mom's body. Its presence was a reminder none of us wanted. It was also a welcomed assistance to her struggle for air. One night, sitting around the kitchen table my younger brother acknowledged the long tube that my mom had just stepped over, after doing some dishes, to sit at the table with us. "We finally have mom on a short leash," he mentioned sort of offhandedly. We all kind of chuckled, humor a welcomed diversion, but not entirely sure we could or wanted to joke about such things. Then he added, "She can do the dishes and she can get ready for church...but she can't go to church." We all burst out laughing. I loved watching my mom's head tip back as she laughed and laughed and laughed. It was a perfect moment in time for me. David, always pushing the envelope. My mom, always loving a good joke, and her children that made them.

More later....

Friday, April 6, 2012

La La La-la, Danyo's World

Danyo. Our resident four year old. There should be a recorder on him at all times. I remember feeling this way about every other thing that came out of Bo's mouth at this age. And Avee's.

Just in the last two days, these are some of my favorites:

* Friend: It's my toy frog, Pink.
Danyo: Well, my grandma gave me a cute little bunny and then she died.
Me: Oh yeah, where is that bunny?
Danyo: Oh, he's upstairs on my bed, laying on his tummy. It's okay, he can breathe. He's a stuffed animal anyway.

Danyo loves stuffed animals. LOVES them. Before my mom passed away, I was cleaning out an area of her room (she had treasures stashed everywhere) for her and asking her where she wanted stuff to go. I unearthed a darling little floppy-eared bunny. It is about 8 inches big. I held it up to her with a somewhat scolding expression--why on earth is she buying stuffed animals and stashing them? She shrugged unapologetically and said, "I just come across really cute ones and I can't pass them up, so I get them to give to someone later--you can take it." I told her Danyo would probably love it, but that I wanted her to give it to him. I handed her the bunny and went to get Danyo. When I came back with him, the bunny was nowhere to be found. My mom was sitting upright in her bed and motioned for Danyo to come closer. She started talking to him and as she spoke, she pulled back some blankets/sheets that were bunched up near her. She revealed one of the bunny's ears. As she continued to talk, she slowly peeled back more covers to reveal more of the bunny bit by bit, until finally the entire bunny. Danyo was delighted. I was just so impressed that even in a little act like giving him a bunny, she made it fun and unique and memorable. I want to be more like that. Danyo carried that bunny nonstop for about two weeks straight.

*Later, Bo brought up the time I'd told my mom that Bo had learned his multiplication facts and she said to him, "Quick, what's 9 times 3!?" Bo was laughing about that. I immediately felt sad, that is the very kind of thing I will miss so much. Danyo must have spotted the sadness on my face (he is very attuned to that kind of thing) because he kind of shrugged and said consolingly, "It's a good thing we have another grandma." I heard my mom laughing at that one. :)

*This morning as I was getting dressed, AJ was laying on my bed sucking madly on her hand (she's my only child to do this and she does it a LOT). I had just fed her, but Danyo was convinced he was the expert on the matter. He kept saying she was hungry. As I was about to leave the room I heard him say, "Just give her the boob already!"

Not gonna lie. It's a little unsettling to hear a four year old say something like that. It was mostly funny though.

*This morning we had a battle of wills. Danyo's mildly (read:insanely) addicted to electronic usage right now. Video games, computer, tv, ipod. He could fill an entire day with these things and never stop to eat. So, I've been trying to subtly limit it. No computer until he's dressed and eaten breakfast. Then I do more sneaky things like, "I can't set you up on the computer right now, you'll have to wait a bit, until Dad can..." Well this morning that didn't fly. He got ticked. And he has a bad temper. So he actually lost computer privileges for the morning. It got ugly before it got better. He threatened to never be my friend again and everything.

So later, he was trying to convince J to buy him Mario Party 9. "It only costs one hundred and seven dollars I sink..."

J wasn't falling for his cuteness and kept telling him we had plenty of games already.

"I'll be your best friend Da-a-a-ad"

We laughed and I asked Danyo who his best friend was anyway. He answered, without skipping a beat, "Everyone except Dad! Unless he buys me that game!"

I love the way he rolls.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Here and There

True story: Friday night as I was coming home with all kids (while J slept in preparation for his weekend 3rd shift job), the daunting task of the bedtime routine for three kids in addition to a possibly nursing/crying/clingy 3 month old, overwhelmed me. AJ is a really good baby. The other three really go to bed quite easily---all things considered. But I was tired and just wanted it to be magically done.

So, I said to them, "Tomorrow is Saturday. Saturday can be a fun and lazy day for you of playing, jumping on the trampoline, playing on the computer, watching movies OR it can be a day full of chores while we clean the house and get everything put back in the fun room. You get to decide. If you go straight inside, brush your teeth and go to bed, it will be a fun day. If you dilly-dally, whine, don't go to bed, come downstairs 5 times each, it will be a chore day."

I didn't see one single kid for the rest of the night within 6 minutes of being home. It was beautiful. I have a trick up my sleeve for future reference and I'm SO using it.

We have been having quite a bit of work done on our house. We're excited about what's being done, but the mess, and the shifting, and the pounding on the outside, and the work men coming and going and milling about---it gets old really fast. I can't imagine being very pleasant if this were more long term. We had to empty out our sunroom "fun room" completely, two book shelves, a queen bed, a toy shelf, a file cabinet and a couple of rubbermaids, so they could scrape all the paint (lead) and repaint it. Only, the painter didn't show for two days after it was emptied. Then it was the weekend, then he came and looked briefly and left again. Then he started working, worked a couple of hours and left. A one day job turned into over a week a for us, with all that stuff all over our house. It was annoying. But now it's done, and I had it painted a light turquoise (I didn't realize I'd get to pick a new color!) and it gets lots of mixed reactions. It's bright and fun, and kind of loud and doesn't match the rest of the house. Sort of like me! :)

Since we spent most of yesterday putting things back and reorganizing, and I decided to paint Avee's room for her birthday present, yesterday the kids snacked all day and I suddenly realized they needed food at about 7:15 pm. I ran to Little Caesar's and got them a pizza.

This morning I got this gem from Bo: "Mom, do you think Little Caesar's is closed on the Ides of March?"

I looked at him funny and said, "Uhh, no, it's not." I was about to add, "Nobody is closed on that day, it's not a holiday or even a day people really think about as different from other days...." when he said, "Well, it would be funny if they were closed---wouldn't it?"

I believe that's one of the first times his humor has been over my head, initially. I couldn't be more proud.

Well, AJ is sitting happily on my lap, drooling and trying to get her gums on my space bar, sitting in her own...well, she needs a diaper change. So I better get to it.

If you live nearby and need a baby fix, you should come visit. This girl is to die for. Plus, she laughed for me for the first time yesterday. Avee and I were like drug-crazed lunatics trying to get more out of her. She doesn't really know she can do it yet, it was kind of an accident and it was the BEST SOUND EVER.

Since I wasn't blogging much, I should document---she's been smiling since she was 7 weeks. Beautiful, enchanting, one little dimple smile....ahhhh. But the laugh. Oh the laugh!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In Which I Engage In Cathartic Behaviors

Grieving sucks. There's no preparation for it. There's no getting around it. There's no warning for when sorrow is going to sneak up and sucker punch me in the face. There's no expression I can make, no words I can say, no possible way to convey the rawness I feel inside. I get up, I get dressed (sometimes), I love on my baby, I make lunches for my kids, I sign planners, I do my homework, I put gas in the car, I answer the phone, I laugh at jokes (most of the time), my life goes on---on the outside. Inside, it's a bit of a train wreck.

I talk to people who have no idea how soundly my world has been rocked and inside I feel like I'm screaming, "Don't you know!?!?!?!" I have two friends here who've both lost their mothers, quite early in their lives. I feel like I'm too young to have lost my mom---they were definitely too young. You need your mom on your wedding day, and when your children are born, and when you make your first roast dinner for your husband and when your baby gets her first tooth. You need your mom when you have your first big fight with your husband so she can tell you to suck it up and get over yourself; or that you're right, he is a big McJerky Stupidhead, but you chose him, and you'll love him more than you did yesterday---tomorrow. You need your mom to tell you what a great mother you are and how much she adores your children. They didn't get that.

I at least got that. But what I feel right now---they get it. Even when I can't say what I feel, they see it, they know it, they've lived it. I hate having this in common with them. When I am anywhere in close proximity of either of them, my guard is down. I know they can see beyond the "I'm good, thanks for asking" and the composure I manage to maintain most days. There is a strange comfort in knowing someone understands---fully. The words I can't say, the feelings I can't describe, the bottomless well of emotion I can't seem to get past.

The day after my mom died, I sat and read her journal of the last 10 years from cover to cover. It felt like I was talking to her and I couldn't bring myself to stop. It was obsessive and slightly irresponsible since there was so much to do, and I had a newborn child to tend to. I couldn't stop. Reading it made me realize how grateful I am for this blog and the documentation of so much. It made me realize that I want/need to do it more regularly. I've always kind of prided myself on "keeping it real" with this blog. I also find enjoyment in expressing myself or relaying stories in a way that they are enjoyable to read.

I've been hesitant to blog because I feel overwhelmed by the task of "keeping it real". I don't even like what's real right now, why would I blog about it for others to read? I also get annoyed when people belabor what they are going through so much that you want to stab yourself with a fork. Like, the pregnant person who is nine months pregnant for 2 years. Or the person who gets two stitches in their little toe and you'd think they donated a kidney--three times. You know what I'm talking about. Sorry if you are one of these people and I've offended you. :) You should know though, I'm not the only person it annoys. It annoys EVERY.ONE.

When I was pregnant with baby AJ, those who were around me in real life, felt my every pain. But on the world wide webs, lots of people said, "Wow that was a fast pregnancy" and I smiled with satisfaction every time. Good.

But, I can't ignore this and I can't gloss over it, and I suspect if I can blog regularly like I hope to, there will be lots and lots of posts about it. I miss my mom. I'm heartbroken that she's not a phone call away. Or that AJ won't grow up having conversations with her. Or that Danyo won't really remember her. Or that Avee won't get to see and recognize where she got her fashionista/accessorizing tendencies. I cry just thinking about how I won't get to hear her and Bo talk endlessly on whatever topic Bo is fixated on right then. I won't get to hear her tell me what a great husband J is, or how funny/smart/cute/sassy my kids are, or get an email response to one of my blog posts, an email that is run amok with ellipses---her own personal substitution for punctuation and capitalizing.

I think of the void in my siblings lives. We all loved her and she was a vital part of each of our lives.

So, let me apologize in advance if my sorrow at her passing permeates my posts for a long long time. I look forward to the day when waking from my dreams about her alive and well don't feel like a cruel trick. I know I will always miss her, but I have hope for that which feels so hard right now, to someday be manageable. I'm only apologizing if it does end up being a lot because I do want to maintain my standard of keeping it real, and well---perhaps reading about my broken heart isn't really how you wanted to spend 5 minutes of your blog reading time. Oh, okay, let's be honest---when do I ever post something that only takes five minutes to read?

This is kind of a sad and depressing post, but I actually feel a lot better than when I started. Thanks, man.

Today my little Avee Sue turned 7. Last night I was looking at her face and noticed her jawline was becoming more defined and her face skinnier, losing the last traces of baby fat. I'm excited to see what she is growing into. So far, she hasn't disappointed one single bit. I love that girl---she is a prize to behold. And she is mine, mine, mine. :)

Tonight we came home from having dinner and cake with our friends. Since J and I both came to our friend's from school, we drove home two seperate cars. I sat in the car for about 2 minutes after we got home and read and responded to a text. I'll be damned if all three of those kids didn't climb into J's little rice grinder car and crawl all over me making demands and asking five hundred and eleventy questions. TWO MINUTES. That is all I needed. I yelled at all of them, stopped short of calling them names, and kicked them out. When I got out of the car 20 seconds later, they were all sitting on the cement blocks-pillars, whatever thingies--of the porch, waiting for me. Danyo was crowding Avee on "her block" and Bo was smart enough to stay on the other side of the porch from that tired mess. As I got closer I saw Avee was crying. She has a mean, guilt-inducing, silent, instantly red-puffy-eyed cry. It's brilliant. She is sensitive and I can hurt her feelings so easily. I can threaten dismemberment when she won't eat or take a bath, and she'll shrug and blow me off. But if I speak harshly or act annoyed, I break her heart. She is good for me to remember to watch my tongue and be patient. She's also fairly quick to forgive. Most of the time. When I asked her what was wrong she turned her head slowly to point her glare at Bo, and then at me. We all burst out laughing.

I do love that girl.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cheryl B Smith

My mama passed away on Friday, February 24th. I hate those words. I thought that I would hate the date, but I don't. She was so beautiful and there was a profound hush of peace throughout the house after she died. The date is the day she wasn't suffering anymore. For that, I am grateful.

I'm trying to embrace whatever emotion I have in an effort to feel this fully. I hadn't realize how actively I have avoided so much, until this last week with her.
I didn't want to see her suffering. I didn't want to see her body diminish. I didn't want to see her "gone", just a shell of who she was. I didn't want to see her after she died.

I saw all of that, and I'm still standing. I'm a little ashamed that I wasn't willing to see it through in the first place. The change after she died still just blows me away. She looked so incredibly beautiful. It felt like a gift to be able to see her that way at last.

I am so grateful for this blog and some of the memories it holds of my mom. I had my blog posts emailed to her for probably the last 2-3 years and she would often email a response to me after reading one of my posts. I read through several of those emails last night. She was always cheering me on, or giving sympathy for whatever I was dealing with, in those emails.

I have so much I hope to document and pontificate on, soon. For now, there's work to be done.

I turned the comments off on my last post because I struggle with feeling like I'm having a pity party. I know that wasn't very nice of me though. I'm leaving comments on, but I have a request in the comments. If you would like to leave one, leave a favorite story of my mom or a memory of her, if you know her in person. I love reading what people are writing on Facebook, or have told me in person. Her children have known well what an incredible woman she was in her life, but I don't think we'll ever tire of hearing about it from others.

I am going to cut and paste part of an old blog post from November of 2006, the first year I blogged. One of my favorite posts about my mom....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


As a child, in my home, being funny was the prize to be won. Being the funniest was the ultimate goal. There are some VERY funny people in my family. It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I realized we got every ounce of our "Smith Humor" from my mother. My dad can't even tell a scripted joke to save his soul. And sometimes he'll try a pun and laugh and laugh before he can say it and when he does, you wish desperately that you could have gone the rest of your life never hearing it, it's so bad. One of the funniest things my brothers have done, is imitate my father telling a joke. Now, THAT'S funny. My mom was my mom. She wasn't funny. She was the one who told us to get to bed, do our homework, take out the trash, not go out of the house in dirty underwear, how no one likes an know-it-all, etc. It wasn't in her job description to be funny. So, I never noticed.

Well, a couple of days ago my friend Epsi sent me an email that made me laugh heartily. Of course, I immediately forwarded it to a dozen more people, as though I were the creative genius behind it.


The responses I have gotten have all made me laugh.


And then my mother. She's 71. Shouldn't she have a diminished capacity by now? Of any kind? I mean, she can still peel and chop a carrot faster than I can do the same with a cuisanart. She can whip through 17 loads of laundry in one day and make it look like she barely handwashed some delicates and hung them to dry. She can find anything you need at any time for any purpose. Usually in her purse or tied to a string in her kitchen. She can make a pair of SAS shoes, hot pink pants, hot pink turtle neck with purple cardigan, and 3 chained eyeglasses around her neck look way cuter than I could ever try to be.

Above all, she's still the cleverest of them all.

Her response to my email:

I made the mistake of telling my mom on the phone, "Your response took the cake, Mom." She gloated aloud and then bragged to my sister who was sitting nearby. I heard my sister swear and I knew my mom was in gloaters gloating heaven because she didn't even scold her.
But I will. S, watch your mouth. At least you have potential for when you're 71.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How It Is

I've been wanting/needing to post for some time now. I feel so much cognitive dissonance just in thinking about what to write. Life is hard right now. Part of me wants to blog about it, another part of me wants to guard it and keep it out of the spotlight. I don't want sympathy or pity or anything along those lines, so that deters me from writing. But I pride myself on keeping it real on this blog, and I love having the real documentation of my life. So, the result is conflicted silence. :)

Most of the things that really matter are just fine. I still have an awesome husband and great marriage, our kids are happy, healthy, thriving, and still make us laugh every day. We have a roof over our heads. We have good supportive friends. We actually are really quite blessed in our lives. But it is hard.

School is hard for me right now. I'm not used to struggling academically. I am being pushed and stretched and stripped of any arrogance I may have had going into the program. I think this is necessary and I'm glad for it ultimately, but it's painful right now.

My sister said to me the other day "You just never realize how much work a new baby is until they are here. Even if you've done it before." A. Men. I knew adding another child to the mix was going to be more work. I'm in grad school, I have three other children, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Then she came along and she's such a good little baby; a good sleeper and not high maintenance when she's awake. How hard could it be?

It's about time management, at which I am lousy. And it's about the unpredictable nature of a newborn. I can't regulate when she's going to be hungry or sleep for long periods of time. I had forgotten how getting out the door with yourself takes 90 seconds and getting out the door with a baby takes 3 hours.

I'm interrupting this pity party for a sweet commercial break. Danyo just "rolled" up behind me and kissed my shoulder and said hi. He's pretty much the cutest thing that ever happened to me. He recently got glasses and has to wear a patch to strengthen a very weak, mostly blind eye. It's ridiculous how off-the-cute-charts he is now. I had to take a picture...
Am I right or am I right?

The biggest thing that has been on my heart and mind and consumes my every free thought and moment, and sometimes even un-free ones---is my mom.

In June she went to the hospital for a pain in her abdomen/side and they found several tumors throughout her body. They were advanced enough and numerous enough that her doctor said chemo wasn't really an option. She wouldn't have taken that option even if it was.

The following six months were spent experiencing a lot of things we never had before. My mom's a very private person so I want to honor that, even though most of the time it drove me crazy. Part of her "need" for privacy was driven by her belief that people didn't really care that much ("they have their own lives to lead"). If those are the kinds of things we discover in heaven, that woman is gonna pass out when she realizes how many, MANY people love her, and how much.

There were a couple of good months with my mom at the end of last year. She was more hilarious than ever and it felt like it could go on forever.

She went to church on New Years Day. She knew it would be the last time she'd be able to do that. She had a lot of pain and was getting considerably weaker. The woman should win an Oscar for her acting skills. No one at church even knew she was sick. That night my sister had to take her to the hospital, where she stayed for a week. She had to go on oxygen and a steady stream of morphine. These two things have steadily increased over the weeks since then, as her strength and overall health have drastically declined.

When I'm with my mom I feel so grateful for the life I've had as her daughter. I can't even put words to how blessed I have been to call her "Mom". She is an angel. She is kind, she is selfless, she is funnier than anyone I know, she is smart, she is hard-working, she takes the time to smell the roses. She watches a soap opera religiously, even though TV wasn't allowed in our home when I was a child. She still mends things for her adult daughters who should be mending our own children's clothes at this point. She has cans, bags, pens, scissors, tape, string, superglue, eyeglass repair kits, extra checkers, spare stuffed animals, scarves, sunflower seeds, and soy lecithin within arms reach, should you need any.

She is lovely through and through.

And she is dying. For some reason, that statement is hard for some people to hear or know. I guess I understand it, but I don't really understand some of the reactions to it. As if by saying it, I'm making it more likely to happen. As if by acknowledging it, I'm removing the chance of some miraculous recovery.

We've known since June it was coming to this. My heart broke in two in June. Some days it felt mended when I could sit with my mom and talk like nothing had changed. I could even feel at peace or accepting of it when she would say, "I'm not afraid of death, I wasn't ready seven years ago, but I've lived a lot since then and if it's my time, it's my time."

When I sit next to her bed and she is pale and weak and struggling for breath, my heart aches for her suffering. When tears slip down her cheek because she just doesn't want to go, I cry with her. She worries about her grandchildren, she worries about the 76 year old mentally disabled woman she is the guardian for, she worries about my dad.

In this scenario, I just want her to be at peace and be able to go. She wasn't made for lying in a bed, barely able to even swallow water.

Then, in my dreams at night, I see her as I've known her my whole life. Her hair done perfectly, bright pink lipstick, makeup done impeccably. She's dressed, and smiling, and talking animatedly with her hands. She says something sassy with a completely straight face, and I'm completely taken in by the reality of it. It's the waking up that is a nightmare.

I don't know how to process this. I can't even think about life without her---that is a hurdle I'm not willing to face just yet.

Right now my sister is caring for her 24/7. She has been at my mom's side since the diagnosis in June. I'm not saying that figuratively either. She has stepped in and given my mom the care that she needed before any of us even knew she needed it. There are no words to describe the love and selflessness my sister has shown for the last 8 months. I know it is spent on no better person and I'm grateful every day that my mom has her.

She meets my mom with her wit, she catches her before she falls, she tenderly pulls her through the sorrow, she confidently assures her through the doubts, she beats back the pain, she scolds, comforts, laughs, teases, pushes, encourages, and loves, every second of the day. If this was a person's only job and they were getting paid for it, they couldn't do as well as my sister. She amazes me.

So yeah, that's where I'm at in life. Now that I've put this out there, I feel like I can blog more honestly. If write about something crazy my kids have done, or something hilarious, I won't feel like a hypocrite who acts like nothing is wrong and life is always happy and funny. I'll just be remembering the beautiful distractions that my children are.

Maybe if you are lucky I'll even get back to making fun of the general public.