Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Better Days

We end the year with our usual holiday whirlwind, five Christmas celebrations in nearly that many days and all the other regular chaos that surrounds this time of year. Our big ticket items were Logan’s requested image of Santa and his reindeer (which he amazingly produced for her – no easy feat, I’m sure!), Riley’s Easy Bake Oven and Finn’s Lightening McQueen anything. We all love the Wii, but especially Riley, who can almost guarantee a first round KO every game. Needless to say, this is Mike’s favorite gift of all time.

We had wonderful celebrations at Grammy’s and Nana’s and Grandpa’s and welcomed Granddad and Grandmom to our home just yesterday; something we look forward to each year. Our traditional “night of arrival” trip to Portillo’s and Oberweis was thwarted by the ice cream shop's decision to close early this year - thankfully they'll be open on New Year's Day. We left our mark on Grandpa’s floor, Uncle Dan’s back and I’m sure, both Grammy and Nana’s carpeting, too. We traveled lots of miles locally, and happily, all with carols a-blaring and eyes straining to find that glowing red nose.

Of all the presents and parties and delicious treats, there’s one thing that tops it all for me. My young son, who six months ago provided me with unbelievable blog material on an hourly basis, is really maturing into quite the little person. He is so funny and talking to him at this stage might be one of my favorite holiday memories. Finn gave this mother of three the best gift of all, potty training. With his tiny bottom in Spiderman underpants and his painted big toes (that’s all I would do), he climbs a stool and goes, most of the time, and truly moves our little family into quite uncharted territory.

So into 2009 I go, not changing diapers for the first time in seven years. A new job starts in days for Mike. Lots of beginnings, still more changes. Seems perfect for a new year.

Last night, we stopped to catch this amazing Christmas light display in our neighborhood once more before the very talented and generous homeowner takes it down. It’s all set to music that you tune in on your car radio. One of his songs is “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls, which couldn’t more perfect for New Year’s Eve.

And you asked me what I want this year
and I try to make this kind and clear
just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

'cause I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
and designer love and empty things
just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words and sing out loud
'cause everyone is forgiven now
'cause tonight's the night the world begins again

I need some place simple where we could live
and something only you can give
and that's faith and trust and peace while we're alive

and the one poor child who saved this world
and there's ten million more who probably could
if we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words and sing out loud
'cause everyone is forgiven now
'cause tonight's the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
and somehow stop this endless fight
just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words and sing out loud
'cause everyone is forgiven now
'cause tonight's the night the world begins again

'cause tonight's the night the world begins again

Our wish for all? Better Days. Happy 2009 and very special birthday wishes for Mike!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Finding a New Normal

So many people have called and written to ease the loss of our wonderful friend. We are so grateful. Of all the great poems and quotes, my Aunt Janet supplied a favorite.

We give them the love we can spare and the time we can spare.
In return dogs have given us their absolute all.
It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.
I realized yesterday that I have been at home every day with Harley since I was pregnant with Logan. That's seven years. She instinctively knew how sick I was in those days and would sit at my side and pull me up if I grabbed her collar. She knew what I needed then and so many times when she was my comforter and confidant. When I think of the look in her eyes on Friday, I know she was telling us that it was time. She always found a gentle way to make her needs clear and this time was no exception.
Most of our routines and habits involved her and we are feeling her absence everywhere. We just miss her.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our Sweet Harley Girl


Our hearts are broken.
Yesterday, unexpectedly, we lost our sweet Harley girl. After nearly twelve years of her countless blessings in our lives, something bigger and stronger than us all swept in and insisted on taking her away. For Mike and me, the grief is palpable, like a magnet connecting us as soon as we see the other. For the kids, it’s different for each, but hardest on Logan who just feels so sad. Moments ago, she and Riley woke at 6 am because they were sure they heard Harley’s collar. It was just Mike’s keys.

Throughout our time with this most perfect of companions, we witnesses so many people shy away from her because of her size and looks. So many wondered why we’d bring a rottweiler mix into our lives. Like others in her breed, she was not ever dangerous, just strong and sweet and loving and funny. She liked every animal or person she ever met and only wanted to please. So, we saw so many people learn about her and her breed and realize that she only had goodness to offer us all.

She loved us and our children endlessly. She turned to putty in your hands with the slightest pat. She had patience beyond imagination; patience with the kids, patience with our time away, patience waiting for Mike or me to make time for her.

She loved snow and swimming and rawhide bones. She snored – loudly! She still, at almost twelve, cocked her head like a puppy when we said things like “eat” or “outside” or “ride” or “walk”. When she was younger, she talked to us, but stopped when the kids came on the scene, maybe realizing she was outnumbered. She was graceful and gentle and beautiful and smart like nobody’s business. She woke us at 4 each morning, so today we were up and waiting. She isn’t here.

I know that many religions don’t believe that animals have souls and that they won’t go to heaven. That is not my belief. If I’m going to heaven, which I fully intend to do, it won’t be MY heaven if Harley isn’t there. As a matter of fact, I know she already is. She’s flying across open fields with Maggie, meeting up with long lost Florida pals from the good old days and most of all, not in any pain at all.

How we love our Harley girl. How hard it is to let her go. For all of you who showed her a little sumpin-sumpin with a pet or a kind word, thanks. For those of you who loved her, she felt it and she loved you back. She is missed beyond words.

Goodbye sweet girl.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We Got Elfed!! 2008

I'm not sure what is more funny, Mike's imitation of Dance Fever or Finn doing the splits, but you've got to see it to believe it. I have never seen the kids laugh so hard - what a riot!

Whatever your personal favorite dance move is, consider yourself "elfed"! Now get out there and Elf Yourself!!
video

Thursday, December 4, 2008

MUG

Each morning, for the last thirteen years, I drink my coffee from a left-handed stainless steel coffee mug. It’s the best; it keeps my coffee incredibly hot, for hours, through fifteen pick-up and drop-offs and various errands. I love it and cringe anytime I reach for it on a cold morning and realize I’ve forgotten to run the dishwasher the night before. There has only ever been one problem with my old mug; it’s left-handed and I'm not. I can’t tell you how many mornings I have grumbled about how silly I was to purchase a left-handed one so many years ago.

For some reason, after thirteen years, it finally dawned on me to ask Mike about it.

“I love this mug,” I said. “But I can’t stand that it’s left-handed!”

He of course laughed at me, grabbed the mug and readjusted it. He handed it over, to my right hand, where it fit perfectly. I was in shock.

How was it possible that I endured this minor inconvenience for thirteen years without ever realizing there was a better way? Seeing my mug in a new light poured parallels into the rest of my life something fierce. How many other things could be better? How many other solutions are right there before my eyes going totally unnoticed?

A quote I heard many years ago from – of all people – Dr. Phil, sticks with me. “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” My coffee mug is nothing on the list of life’s grievances, but maybe it is high time I take my own advice. Other areas, like parenting, could certainly benefit from a fresh look, especially at this crazy time of year.

So, with my mug comfortably in hand, I’m setting out to change my world. Isn’t it amazing how one cup of coffee in the morning can make sense out of everything?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm grateful....

For the fact that Finn thinks Sally is Lightening McQueen’s mommy.

For a full lap.

For having my time, my arms and my words mean so much to three little people (and sometimes four, depending on the words!)

For good friends. There is nothing like good friends.

For family that supports, shows up, comes through and makes the best of everything and everything the best.

For the ability to change my mind, my day, myself.

For Riley’s mean groove and need to perform. Even when I think I’ll collapse from another show, she always makes me laugh. Although that might not be her intention…

For the uninterrupted five or ten minutes before I realize that everyone has been playing nicely on their own.

For the wonderful people in my life that encourage my writing and lead me in directions where I almost always find work.

For smart, kind editors and their essential feedback.

For Logan’s insatiable and persistent desire to learn and recant everything she’s learned, verbatim. Her memory is a vault. And her sweetness is second to none.

For my hardworking and handy husband who, among many other talents, can fix or build or rig anything, anytime.

For Riley’s tough cookie attitude and soft gooey center.

For Heroes and Lost and the Office, Law and Order reruns at night and my DVR.

For this funny cowlick on the back of Finn’s head (think Dennis the Menace.)

For the ability to find time, somewhere, in this very busy life, to read.

For all and everything that is Mike.

For the fact that Logan still tells me all about her day, in detail.

For the blessings that God continues to give us and the boundless hope that I have for our future.

For all this and more, I’m truly grateful.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Torture


Torture. This is the word that my six year old chose to use to define her father's and my “assistance” with her recently lost top front tooth! After five of the longest weeks in life, Logan finally lost her front tooth on Wednesday morning with a little help from me. I saw my shot and took it and grabbed that sucker that had been blowing (literally) in the wind of her breath, preventing her from eating or talking and able to do 360 degree turns effortlessly. It was time and after hours of discussion, I talked Logan into a tug and then just kept pulling. (I know, I’m horrible, but it had gotten to the point that she would’ve had to miss school!)

When it was all over, in a split second, Logan became teary-eyed and profusely thanked me saying it didn’t hurt at all – man was I relieved. So now she can eat and sleep and talk without interruption and best of all, I’ll get the toothless Christmas card photo I’ve always dreamed of. Hope you enjoy a sneak peek!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What If?

So I’m a few days late, but I couldn’t let the event go by without mention. Eleven years seems so long ago and so short at the same time; so full of the life with which we’ve packed it. When Mike asked me on Saturday night what my favorite year of our marriage was, I thought for a moment. I could only say “this year!” On the surface, that’s a crazy notion; this has not been an easy year and we are facing more challenges, to say the least. But we are making progress in other areas of our lives that will change things forever. Never before in our time together have we been more in tune with our family’s future, hopeful about what lies ahead and sure about what we each can bring to the table. We are far from perfect, but our years together are leaving us smarter about each other and with the knowledge that we can pretty much handle anything that comes our way.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I wouldn’t have looked over that high school auditorium balcony at fifteen. What would have happened if I didn’t notice him down there? What if we didn’t have Mr. Bradley’s English class together or become good friends that kept in touch through college? What if that seemingly silly school girl crush on a messy-haired, jeep-driving, shredded clothes-wearing young man with the most insane blue eyes I’d ever seen hadn’t festered for all those years? What if we wouldn’t have met again at (of all places) Tracy’s Tavern and known that things were different? What if we would have given up on our long distance romance instead of taking the plunge and moving to Florida on a whim? The thought of what “would be” (or maybe what “wouldn’t be”) is enough to drive me mad.


When I look at the faces of the two people in this photo from a million years ago – thanks to Finn who ransacked a box in my office last week – I see so much that we just didn’t know. (You can tell how old this picture is if you note the HUGE "scrunchi" on my wrist!) But in good times or bad, I’d take my partner time and time again. There is no other person I’d rather ride off into the sunset with, detours and all.

Happy 11th anniversary to the man I love.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Slow down and laugh!

Some things just shouldn’t go unnoticed. That’s why, to my own detriment, I have to get this one down on the books. Our Halloween was jam-packed with no school and loads of activities: the grocery store with all three kids out of total necessity, seeing High School Musical 3, a huge neighbor party with a giant inflatable and all sorts of cool spooky sugary kid stuff (including a slushy machine with “blood” and “plasma” flavored drinks), trick or treating and another neighbor party until the wee hours. It was a kid’s dream come true.

Finn held out longer than expected, but crashed around 8:45. I have an early morning meeting this morning and went home with him while Mike stayed behind with the girls. After running back to the party to snap one picture with all the other adults dressed in costume, I ran back across the street to enjoy Finn’s sleeping silence and the end of my beloved current read, Twilight. I ran, to elongate my time alone at home after such a kid-centric day.

So let me stop here and tell you that I didn’t have night goggles on and that the age of 37 does not arrive with infrared vision. Take note and please beware of those ginormous blow up decorations – they are anchored with ropes and steaks that are apparently much stronger than quadriceps, as well as invisible at night. I flew down the stairs, hit the rope and exploded into the air in a blast of glory. It felt like ten minutes, arms and legs draped in 1960’s hippie costume flying everywhere; John Lennon sunglasses thrown. I landed so hard my head immediately hurt (or was it the martini?) and I was sure I had a gash on my elbow.

I looked around. Not a soul had witnessed this display of grace. All I could think was, “What a shame!” I laughed and limped all the way home, wishing someone could have absorbed this humorous humility. Exhausted by my day and sore from my fall, today I am grateful for humor in my life. If you look hard enough, there is always a reason to laugh! Hope you get a chuckle out of my spill, too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More $$$

Just when you literally utter the words that you might be seeing the light of day in your two year old’s behavior; your four year old socks it to you.

Riley and a pal helped themselves to my OPI nail polish this morning and shattered a bottle, resulting in painted tile and walls and cherry cabinets beyond repair. They wiped it up with the bathroom towels. The pal got two cuts. I wanted to scream, but tried to contain it since we had a friend over (funny how we do that!)

Ten minutes later, Finn broke my new vacuum cleaner.

This rocks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Busy.

Not to belabor something everyone who knows anyone with small kids knows, but I’m busy. Monday was one for the record books.

5:00 Riley wakes up with nightmare, won’t go back to sleep.
5:40 Finn wakes up, won’t go back to sleep.
6:00 Serve breakfast #1
6:45 Shower
7:30 Wake Logan and prepare her “inside out” outfit for spirit week
7:50 Serve breakfast #2
8:15 Take everyone to bus stop to see Logan off.
8:30 Leave with Riley and Finn, pick up carpool pal and drop Riley at school.
9:30 Drop Finn off at school, only to find out that I have forgotten his spirit week and he is the only friend not in PJ’s.
9:45 Go to Logan’s school to re-do bulletin boards for her teacher.
11:00 Rush home to empty dishwasher and clean up breakfast mess.
11:45 pick up Finn.
12:00 pick up Riley.
12:15 Serve lunch.
12:45 Leave for pediatrician appointment for Riley’s left her which she says she “can’t use.”
2:00 Leave pediatrician’s office with a middle ear full of untreatable, non-infected fluid and no drugs.
2:15 Arrive home and quickly pack all gymnastics gear and snacks for the afternoon.
3:00 Arrive at Logan’s school where we have to wait in line for 30 minutes just to be out of line in time to make it to 4 pm gymnastics class.
4:00 Sit for one hour while wrangling Finn during gymnastics class. He completely drenches himself in water fountain, but makes a new pal and plays trucks. I get to sit and chat with two nice moms for almost the whole time.
5:00 Find out the girl I have offered to drive home (whose mom is not present) has gotten into trouble teasing another girl in class. The coaches want to have a talk with her and then want me to inform her mother, who I barely know, of the details.
5:30 Boil pasta. Thank God for pasta.
6:00 Leave for swimming lessons. This is now a big pain since the weather has changed.
6:20 Swimming lessons begin. Finn gets head stuck in railing of viewing deck while we wait.
7:00 Pick up Market Day order at school.
7:30 Help Logan with homework. Thank God Logan is smart!
8:00 Bedtime. Glorious Bedtime.
8:15 Eat cheese and crackers for dinner and watch “Heros”.

How will I ever fill my days when they are grown??

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

Don’t bother calling me. Seriously, we have one phone left that works and the battery is running low. I wonder how parents of two-year-old boys have the opportunity to save money, ever. Yesterday, in a last ditch effort to buy myself a few moments of cooking peace, I filled the sink with bubbles and plastic sharks and measuring cups. I set Finn on a stool and let him at it. It was bliss and I completed an apple crisp full of apples hand picked by us the day before and even prepared dinner so that it would be quickly on the table between gymnastics and swimming.

When Finn moved on to something else, I drained the sink. Squeaky clean and glistening at the bottom was my cordless phone. At first it worked, although water continuously ran down my shoulder while talking, I was able to use it. But by 5 pm death was certain, the phone kept turning itself on and off and dialing different numbers. At 9, Mr. Fixit gave up and just disconnected the battery.

Apparently Finn has a thing for phones. In June he grabbed Grammy’s for a brief moment and it was never seen again. It seems she’s finally given in to the fact that she’ll never find it; so I guess we’ll both be buying new phones this weekend.

I cannot wait to watch this child have his own children someday. Sweet vengeance!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The "S" on my chest.

There is something that I am supposed to remember that I am forgetting. This is the feeling pulsing through my veins on most days. Between the lives of four others and the pseudo career I have created for myself, I feel a bit overwhelmed. Throw in a drug that makes me feel horrible that I just found out I’ll be on for five more weeks and the certain loss of Mike’s job on December 31st and you’ve got one undeniable thing: stress. It’s funny, I’m not paralyzed or freaking out, by my mind feels all scrambled and I can’t remember anything. I feel like a slave to my calendar (even more than usual), just bought a Blackberry to help keep me better organized with work stuff and generally act like a mama hen with her head cut off running her chicks to all their different obligations, left to say “No” when things come up for me to do – only out of pure exhaustion!

There is something to be said for being “Supermom”. I suppose all of us want that title, even if just a little bit. I can admit to you that I’d like to be remembered for doing lots of things well; like being a good wife and mom, daughter and friend and sister, writer and cook, and I want to create and maintain a home that is warm and welcoming and safe and loving. Those are just the basics and that’s enough! When you add the fundraisers and extracurriculars and lessons and eating healthy and doing right by the environment and making sure the dog gets enough love and keeping in touch and following the campaign, it’s no wonder that I’ve been wearing the wrong size bra for a year. Life is complicated.

Maybe the impending upheaval from this job change (and I say “change” because I know that Mike will find something quickly) is just a wake up call. There is so much out of my control right now that all I can do is focus on those basics and make sure there are no major catastrophes along the way. Still, keeping those basics in check is more than a full time job. I know I am not alone; pretty much everyone is in this boat regardless of the specifics. Sometimes I feel like Alicia Keys wrote her song, “Superwoman” just to motivate me, but I quickly remember her words are for all of us gals, just trying to get it done right.
"Superwoman"
Everywhere I'm turning
Nothing seems complete
I stand up and I'm searching
For the better part of me
I hang my head from sorrow
state of humanity
I wear it on my shoulders
Gotta find the strength in me
Cause I am a Superwoman
Yes I am
Yes she is
Even when I'm a mess
I still put on a vest
With an S on my chest
Oh yesI'm a Superwoman
For all the mothers fighting
For better days to come
And all my women,all my women sitting here trying
To come home before the sun
And all my sisters
Coming together
Say yes I will
Yes I can
Cause I am a Superwoman
Yes I am
Yes she is
Even when I'm a mess
I still put on a vest
With an S on my chest
Oh yes
I'm a Superwoman
When I'm breaking down
And I can't be found
And I start to get weak
Cause no one knows
Me underneath these clothes
But I can fly
We can fly, Oh
Cause I am a Superwoman
Yes I am
Yes she is
Even when I'm a mess
I still put on a vest
With an S on my chest
Oh yes
I'm a Superwoman

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

a question.....

Pardon my vulgarity, but I have a question: why must boys stick things into other things?

I just spent twenty minutes fishing 25 clear file tabs out of every crevice of my hard drive while Sleepless in Oswego screamed, "ME WANT THOSE!" at the top of his lungs.

I just need to accept that there are some things I will never understand.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Prednisone Blues

This is not my typical post, but this blog is founded in real life. This is mine right now.

The moment the acrid taste of my nemesis hit my tongue, it all came flooding back. There they were - the memories of year and a half of my worst times in life; all at the front of my mind in an instant. I have avoided this moment for a year, but at my doctor’s urging can do so no longer. I've been promised that I won’t be on it as long or at such a high dose, but I don’t really care. Like a toddler who wants his way, I want mine. And my way does not involve this drug that seems to so easily wreak havoc inside my body. I can spot a prednisone user from a mile away, face growing wider by the day and reddish from the hot flashes with extra weight in all the wrong places. For me, this drug historically carries with it a pounding heart, high blood pressure, kidney stones and other undesirable side effects. All I can do is grit my teeth and bear it and hope that with all its ugliness, there is a part of me that needs this awful foe, an illness that will undoubtedly be healed by finally breaking down and agreeing to it. Things do seem slightly better already; I hope it’s more than wishful thinking on day three. I’ll take two weeks of hell for five more symptom-less ulcerative colitis years any day.

And a Few More...






A Few Wedding Pictures...






Monday, September 29, 2008

Flower Girls

There are days and then there are days. Or maybe I should say, “There are weekends…” As I write this aboard the 737 taking Mike, Logan, Riley and me home from our cousin Laura’s wedding, I am still reeling from a weekend chock full of proud parental moments and treasured memories.

Logan and Riley played their parts well; followed instructions and didn’t miss a beat. They stood at the altar through the whole service without major malfunction or even fidget and, thanks to a very kid-friendly minister, were even asked to sign the marriage certificate for the storybook couple, Laura and Paul. Everything I saw through my tear-filled eyes was perfect and I couldn’t be more proud. There’s certainly something rewarding when like 200 people make it a point to tell you how great your kids are. That doesn’t happen every day!

We ended the night at the reception, which was right out of the movies, dancing to an amazing five-singer Motown ensemble. They were incredible; I felt like was hearing all the classics in person. Man, could they hold some notes! The girls entered the dance floor at the second song and continued until the last, a rock-the-house version of Celebrate. They were beaming and twirling and on cloud nine. As I watched them and thought of how moved I felt during their ceremony entrance, I knew it was only a precursor for what is yet to come. I glanced at the bride and then her parents and had the slightest of clues about all the mixed up emotions of such a big day, but could feel the joy they all felt about the perfection of this most significant of life’s moments.

Riley just interrupted me to tell me, “Mom, I love you and (pause) right when it’s summer, we’re going to the pool, okay?” How lucky I am to have these two beautiful, amazing, unique, roll-with-it, sweet and different-from-each other daughters. How blessed I am to witness them making these memories to last a lifetime. How amazed I am to find out more and more who they are each day. And how glad I am that I don’t have to marry them off, just yet.

But when I do, we must have the flowers from last night. They were phenomenal!

All our love and wishes and gratitude to Laura and Paul!

(Photos to come once we fix a kid-induced camera malfunction.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

life lessons over piggies

Last night I took the girls for their much anticipated and first-ever pedicure. I gave them an idea of what to expect, but it was like a sociological experiment watching the two of them absorb all the happenings around them. Their eyes darted back and forth to the women speaking an unknown language, the Paris Hilton-like snobby twenty-something next to Logan, the mom and her homecoming high schoolers and the kind-hearted African American mom of four, dangling her two-year old daughter in the foot bath while she relaxed. (I can’t imagine bringing Finn in there – ever!)

I won’t go back though, because although I’m not a connoisseur, it was the worst pedicure I’ve ever had. There were smudges all over my skin that I had to remove at home and that just seems silly. More significant though, was the event that took place with poor Logan, who couldn’t have been more excited about this first girly-girl experience.

Soon after sitting in the chair, the seemingly unhappy woman Logan had the unfortunate luck to get, asked her name. When she told her, the woman belted out for the whole shop to hear, “You have a boy’s name?” As Logan’s little face began to fall, the woman turned right to me, “She has a boy’s name?”

“No, she has a girl’s name,” I said.

“No. Logan is boy’s name. It is boy?” this ignoramus responded.

“What? Are you kidding me? She is a girl!” I said.

“No, I always say, “If I have baby boy, I will name him Logan,” she said.

“Look, it is a girl’s name because it is her name and she is a girl, okay?” I fumed. Logan perked up a bit. "It is a name that can go either way!" If my eyes could have burned a hole through her soul, they would have.

As if some force of nature arrived, every other woman in the shop immediately chimed in and raised my daughter's spirit.

“Yes, it’s a girl’s name!” the mom of four announced.

“If you name your son that, he’ll be teased – it’s a girl’s name,” another manicurist laughed.

“It’s a really pretty name!” Riley proudly proclaimed.

And it went on and was brushed over. Logan did great, but I squirmed and shuffled, just aching to get her away from that woman.

On the way home, I asked what they thought about their pedicures. “Awesome!” they both replied.

Then I asked Logan how that whole thing made her feel. “Bad,” she said with tears arriving to prove it.

Riley and I told her how beautiful her name is and I even said how stupid the woman was. I said I’d never go back because of how insensitive that one woman was. I said how great I thought all those other women were. I said I was sorry.

She poured over with energy as she told us how she felt, and ended with this:

“I love my name, because it came from God. He told you and Daddy to give it to me, so it’s perfect.”

She rocks. What a smarty. And I’m thankful for the experience they had of that band of women, strangers, circling Logan to protect her when they were needed. I’m so glad for the glimpse at what an amazing group they are a part of. We might not go back, but we certainly won’t regret it!

Oh, and their piggies turned out pretty cute. Bubble gum pink with heart decals for Logan and bright red with yellow daisies for Riley.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Attachment Disorder

I think I’ll just mark September as Finn’s month. With all that’s been new an exciting in the girls’ lives, you’d think they’d have stolen the show. But no, this third kid refuses to get lost in the shuffle, leaving his mark on every moment of our existence.

Today was his second day of school. It started horribly, with an explosion of tears as soon as I crept into the parking lot. He was hysterical when they pulled him from the car and it was all I could do not to take him back. I am sure there are those who say I’m doing him wrong by sending him there once a week when he doesn’t want to go, but he’s so attached that I feel we need to get his mind on something else. I mean, the kid literally cries outside the bathroom door when I close it. This is a problem. I needed to stick with the school plan, and I did, guiltily.

I couldn’t have been happier when I arrived to find out that although he cried on and off all day, he had long periods of happiness and got so into playing at times that he even ditched his bear, “Whoa Whoa.” He was not crying when I arrived and seemed to be the happiest kid on Earth as he announced, “Mommy, me all done school!!!!”

Fast-forward to 2:30 when we left the house out of necessity, as I was about to lose my mind with this non-napping child. I took Finn and Riley to Claire’s to find a fancy bobby pin for Logan. (Logan and Riley will be flower girls this weekend for Mike’s cousin Laura in North Carolina.) We entered the store and I immediately enlisted the assistance of the sales girl in order to limit my time in this store full of trinkets ripe for destruction.

At one point, she glanced at Finn and said, “Oh, you look like you’ve been crying, have you been crying?” My jaw hits the floor when Mr. Social answers, “Yes, me cry at school.”

“Why?” the girl asked surprised at the conversation skills of my little man.

“Me cry school cuz me need my Mommy,” he answered.

We both laugh, but I realize that this attachment is deeper than I can imagine. The other day I said that Finn is more in love with me that Mike ever was and that I already married him so he’ll have to find his own woman. But I don’t think he has any intention of looking elsewhere these days. He’s all mine for now and most of the time, especially on days with naps, I’ll revel in it.

I promise a post on someone else next time!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

today in Finn's life...

Finn wakes up at 6 am in lieu of normal 7:30. He is starving and insists on immediate food. I give up my shower so he can eat.

Finn is very crabby, does not want to cooperate at all.

After preschool drop-off, Finn insists on getting in the shower with me. He won’t get out for forty minutes.

Finn chases a frog all over the back yard.

Finn spits chewed up raisins all over kitchen table.

Finn spills two soft drinks on floor and booth at Noodles and Company. One is not his drink. He eats entire bowl of penne pasta with one chopstick.

Finn refuses to nap. After an hour, I give up.

Finn is so tired that he is acting drunk. He gets injured over and over again.

Finn grabs Mike’s beard trimmer when I am not looking and removes large chunk of hair off his head.

Finn pumps a gallon of lotion during 30 second phone call and smears it all over bathroom cabinets and shower door.

Finn throws rock on kitchen floor, leaving several marks in the hardwood.

Finn stabs granite countertop with freshly sharpened pencil and finds the one place it will stick.

Finn continues to injure himself repeatedly.

Finn sits on counter eating apples from the fruit bowl.

Finn asks me to pick him up for the 1000th time today. Finn asks for a movie, but refuses to sit and watch it.

Finn has a crazy look in his eyes.

Every time I scold him, Finn asks “Why?” I make note that I must find one of those counter things so that I can click each time he says it and tally how many times a day I actually hear that word.

I beg Daddy to come home early and run out to do some work when he gets there. I drink Starbucks coffee while sitting in my car pirating WiFi from Panera’s parking lot. (Didn’t know Starbucks’ wasn’t available without money on a card and prior online registration – ugh!)

Mommy experiences a few minutes peace.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Finn's Girl

We took Finn (and the whole family) to a little girl’s birthday party on Sunday, a party that happened to be smack dab in the middle of nap time. His naps are wavering, but the hour of sleep he usually gets still does him a world of good. The birthday girl in question is the adorable daughter of Uncle Tom’s girlfriend, so we were going – nap or not!

It was a long, rainy weekend and his mood was already suffering a bit as we entered. It was alright though; we headed straight for the playroom and hid out there. Within twenty minutes though, “Bella” arrived, much to Finn’s chagrin. It was the funniest interaction I’ve seen in a long time – I guess one of the first I’ve seen of Finn as he really starts to play, or not, with other kids on his own.

Bella walked in and up to Finn like they were long lost pals. Six weeks his senior, she got right in his space and belted out a beaming “HI!” After a moment of shocked silence, he shyly turned to me and grumbled with a sweet smile, “Mommy, she’s talking to me!” We all laughed.

It only took a few attempts by Bella to continue the conversation and Finn, who was just fine doing his own boy things, began to grab both sides of his face and repeat, “Don’t talk to me! Stop!” She took this as her cue to really ramp things up and started hugging and kissing him and continually tapping him on the shoulder whenever he was in reach. His push back ensued, literally, but just like the little woman she appears to be, she would not take no for an answer.

I don’t think he even knew what to make of her – his little world is filled with big kids from end to end. I’m so excited to get the little man in school – tomorrow will finally be the day as his hand, foot and mouth outbreak is completely gone. He is over-the-top attached to me – more than ever – but I know we need to do this. It will be so good for him to socialize with other kids his age and start to make some little buddies.

Bella lost interest by mid-party, when she, intentionally or not, sat on my lap. Finn saw this and didn’t like it much at all and entered “I need a nap” behavior full throttle from that point on. She moved on to other things. Smart woman. Maybe he’ll be more interested next year!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lessons Learned

A little time away can be very educational. After three peaceful days with two wonderful friends, there are a few tidbits I’d like to hold onto until my next trip. (Which, if based on past experience, could be in 2011!)

If I leave for a few days, everything will still get done. For as much as I fretted about school and lunch and schedules and routines, there wasn’t even one snafu – everyone survived.

There shouldn’t be any guilt associated with “me time.” The pay off of this time away from my regular gig was so great; it was worth the tears and cries that I had to hear upon leaving. I am a better mom, more patient, more creative, and more relaxed than I’ve been in years, all because of three little days.

When in doubt – buy the smaller size. After hours of outlet mall shopping, I finally submitted to the constant battering of my good friends, who convinced me that I should not be wearing my clothes so big. It’s not that I like the baggy look; I just thought I was buying the right size. Apparently I have to travel a thousand miles to see myself in the mirror. (Or not have three kids with me in the dressing room!)

Travel without an agenda. I don’t think that I have ever had such a relaxed time. With eleven kids between us, Tiffany and Susan and I were looking for the same experience out of our trip and I’m certain we all found it. It was heavenly to do nothing but read, sleep, shop, watch movies and have uninterrupted meals and conversations. For three days, I felt like I could do whatever I wanted and that may be what’s left me the most refreshed of all.

Be prepared for re-entry. Now, I know better than to think it was going to be all daisies and rainbows when I arrived, but reality was still a harsh awakening. I’ve spent the last three days dealing with hand, foot and mouth disease, a continually busting-at-the-seams fall schedule and kids whose behavior might be considered “punishment” for me since I decided to travel. Not only that, but I had an adverse reaction to an antibiotic yesterday morning and ended up throwing up during bus stop time with Finn hanging over me yelling “Yucky Mommy!”, Riley screaming out the window to Logan and all the neighbors that I was puking my guts out and the man working on the drywall in our house wondering what the hell was going on. I received three emails from neighbors asking if I was pregnant. It was out of a sit-com for sure!

So lastly, I need to remember that you don’t get away Scott free. It all evens out in the end and I’d say I’ve gotten pay back for my brief respite. Even still, I’ll do it again and more importantly, plan a time to go somewhere with Mike soon. It was so needed, so appreciated and so good for me – we need that as a couple, too.

Thanks so much to Susan and Tiffany for helping me to feel like me again! I couldn’t have had a better time. Nor can I think of a better subject for my 100th post on this blog. Everyone needs to screw their head on straight every once in awhlile. I'm so greatful that I've got friends, family and a wonderful husband to help do the job.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Her Way




What a busy week and weekend we've had - with the most noteable event being Logan's leap into 1st grade and full day school. Challenged only by the cold that just won't let go of her, she gladly went and loves it. She's not nearly as tired as I thought she'd be.... guess she was undeniably ready!


Two funny stories:


I have been leaving notes in Logan's lunch box every day. One day, while waiting for the bus to take her home, my note blew out of her box and was confiscated by the neighborhood third grade jokster, who promptly began making fun of Logan for my note. She told me that two older neighbor girls quickly got him to stop, and she crumpled the note up and put it in her bag. I asked her if she didn't want me to write them anymore and she said, "No, I do, but could you PLEASE tape them in my lunch box!" Nice to know that she still wants to hear from me and that she weathered the teasing just fine.



On Friday, I bought Logan a pair of shoes while she was at school and gave them to her when she got home. Her reaction was over-the-top, full of "I love you's" and "Thank you's". She finally added, "I love them so much. They are so cool and do you know why?"


"Why?" I asked.


"Because everyone has them!" she exclaimed.


So just as Logan begins to care about brands and style and being like everyone else, I can rest assure that my dormant mom style is still in line with 1st graders on playgrounds everywhere.



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A World Without Walls

The walls have come down. On January 13th, 2002, Mike and our good friend, Mike Strode, put together our crib. All laughs and fun; it was a simple project due to the fact that the only little beings shuffling around actually had paws and were easily convinced to go lie down. Its disassembly was accompanied by struggle, with Finn’s curiosity latching on to every nut, bolt and bar. With much effort, it finally gave way to a new phase in our life. After six and a half years of constant service, two moves, a stint in our bedroom and three trips from newborn to toddler, its mission is complete.

And Finn is in a big boy bed. This has come with its own needlessly unmentionable challenges; I’ll leave them to your imagination.

I suppose it’s fitting that such a big “end of an era” type change should come just days before another so monumental – when Logan hops a school bus and heads off to 1st grade and 8 hours away from home each day for the first time ever. I love that school is about to be in session, I have an addiction to school supplies anyway and I think we all need a little separation to make the heart grow fonder – if you know what I mean. But each time I step near that school lately, I feel a surge of emotion, my eyes flood with tears and like my six year old says at times, I can’t really put into words why I feel this way.

It is a big change and I will miss her terribly, but I want this for her and she is ready for it. Sometimes change, even when you want it, makes you sad. Makes you wish for what you had as you see it morphing into something else. Makes you aware of the times you took this stage of life for granted and wish you had one more day. But I do, I have today and we’ll spend it celebrating just being together without worrying about much else.

Yesterday during Logan’s open house at school, we swung by her kindergarten teacher’s room to say a quick “hello”. She quietly waited in the doorway unassumingly, hoping her teacher would catch her eye. She did and gave her and warm and welcoming greeting. We turned to leave and Logan said, “You know, for some reason I feel like I want Mrs. Engdahl (kindergarten teacher) to be my teacher for all my years of school.”

“Sometimes when things are changing, it feels like it would be easier to keep them the way they were instead of learning a new way,” I said as she shook her head in agreement. “But just think of all the things you’d miss out on if you never tried anything new. Don’t you think the world would be a pretty boring place?”

I think I’ll cling to my own advice as my own walls come down and I make my way into this new era, filled with crib less toddlers and school age kids. It’s certain to be different and bound to be exciting!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This dish is microwave safe.

I will forever regret not taking a photo of the sight of which I am about to write. Sometimes though, your reaction gets the better of you and the moment is gone. I’m sure you will all appreciate that fact, although I think this picture would have spoken volumes about our summer with Finn. He continues to shock me at every turn, becoming more and more a different animal to contend with. I have about four different blog posts bubbling around my mind on him right now as he is a constant source of material. Here’s the latest.

It was 4 pm yesterday (now you know this story is going south.) All afternoon I had been thinking how wonderful it would be to write about the morning we spent at Finn’s new “school” where I walked in hoping he’d pass their maturity evaluation, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that all that meant was that they wanted to know if he’d play without clinging to my side! They gladly accepted him and his shock of summer white hair into their program, promising me at least two hours a week of time with all three kids in school. I was elated; not only about the break, but the program, at a nearby Methodist church, which is staffed with the four warmest, most welcoming women teachers I could have imagined. Logan even wanted to go there!

Fast forward several hours and I am cooking dinner with a group containing four, five, six and seven year old girls upstairs playing house (with Finn tagging along.) I cannot describe the level of pitch that those four ages can reach when screaming, but I can tell you I have never flown up a flight of stairs so fast.

I should back up and say that when searching for Finn’s bear earlier in the morning, I picked up the distinct smell of poop in the playroom. A quick look around produced no source, so I moved on my way, vowing to come back later and figure it out. But the girls found the culprit for me - a nice, compact and somewhat petrified (forgive me) turd, methodically placed and waiting for them in our play kitchen’s microwave. I was speechless.

And I asked him, “Finn, did you put that poop there?”

“Yeah Mommy!” he said excitedly.

“Why did you do that, Finn?” I needed to know.

“Why Mommy?” he asked back innocently.

And there you have it. With no explanation possible, I grabbed some tissue, removed the specimen and with a flush, the smell was gone and the girls stopped screaming. Yes, my mind crossed over the conversations at neighbors’ dinner tables about the poop in the Anderson’s microwave. I wondered what those families would think, likely not getting the whole story from their young girls’ mouths. All I could do was laugh.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Poop is just poop and Finn is definitely curious about it. I hope to never again see it in a microwave and to only see it in toilets soon.

Nothing like filling up the witching hour with some good ‘clean’ fun.

Friday, August 8, 2008

"Up You Mommy!"

Before this little tidbit of toddler hilarity disappears into his preschool years, I felt the need to get it on record. A month or so ago, Finn began saying, “Up You Mommy! Up You Mommy!” every time he wanted to be picked up. Following a typical course of action taken by my children, once Finn sensed the words and the needs succeeded in getting my dander up; he proceeded to do it non-stop.

Now, as the short hand of the clock nears the dreaded number 5, I can’t help but yell back, “No – Up You Finn!” I hate to admit it, but I actually get some pleasure out of letting that vulgarity rip. Usually though, just that one shameful mother-of-the-year comment zaps me back to reality and gets me chuckling at how funny our 5 PM experience really is. Can you imagine if someone was listening in? My MOY award would be replaced with a DCFS citation!

The bottom line is, just like Finn’s perfect little “Yessss!”, “Up You Mommy!” will soon be replaced with another adorable Finnism, only to live on in the corners of my mind and now this journal of our days together. So what if it sounds like he’s cussing me out; he still wants me to hold him tight.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

twister

I was talking on the phone with a friend last night. As I looked to my right out the office window, I saw the blackest, scariest stormy sky that I have ever seen. My friend lives just east of us, so I warned her of its impending arrival. She said, “I know, my husband just said “The end of the world is coming and you’re on the phone!”" We quickly got off and just as I shut down the computer, the sirens went off on TV.

Of course, Mike was outside watching so I yelled to him to come in – my fatal error. As I shuffled the kids and dog into the basement, the drama escalated to full hysteria (not my intention, believe me) and the girls were completely out of control. Finn, on the other hand, was frantically checking out every corner of our unfinished basement, a forbidden wonderland to his basement-virgin eyes. As he tried out every old tricycle and art supply and pulled stored clothes out of plastic bins, the girls screamed.

It was quite a scene – I almost couldn’t help but chuckle in combination with the sadness I felt in witnessing them so truly terrified. They absolutely refused to listen to reason, hollered for the door to be shut, wanted to go get toys and dolls for saving and refused to let go of Harley’s collar for fear that she’d wander back upstairs. We did everything we could, but nothing really worked; they went on like that for 20 minutes, at least.

At one point we went up to check the news again and the tornado warning had moved eastward – we were now just in the middle of a whopper of a storm. In all my 36 years, I have never seen storms like those we see out here. Right about now, many of you are joking under your breath that we live in big sky country. But there must be something to not having mature trees all around and sitting up on a hill – the sky does look so big and we see every single bit of the storms. Once we moved upstairs, donned PJ’s and played Sponge bob; I took a few minutes to watch the real show. The lightening was humbling and constant and everywhere and honestly a little scary, too. It literally took my breath away.

The kids recovered and Finn tried to shed a few fake tears to ward off bedtime, but we eventually got them down. We had now all grown used to the constant rumble of thunder (that is still going on this morning) and the flashes from the windows all around us.

Next time, I’ll think before I’ll yell for Mike. I'll try not to use the word "tornado" ever again. I’ll announce that we’re playing school downstairs. We’ll skip the hysteria all together. Lesson learned.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Where art thou patience?

I came home from vacation with an enlightened outlook and fresh feel for the rest of the summer. But the truth is, these kids have worn me down. Some days, I can’t stop wishing that I would have had them at 20 instead of 30 (not really) because I’d have more stamina for the whole enchilada that is their lives.

There’s no specific problem here, kids will be kids and if you ask them they’ll tell you that they are having the best summer of their lives, hands down. Unfortunately from my standpoint, I can’t agree and it’s bumming me out. They play all day and into the night, they go to the pool and parks and have picnics and took an amazing vacation and at the end of it all, when they come in to take baths and go to bed, I get the worst of them. They are appalled by my suggestions to eat meals (children should live on popsicles alone), are shocked that I expect them to brush their teeth and hair (they will soon be shaved) or bathe, but literally pant with excitement and enthusiasm when the doorbell begins to ring around 8:30 am.

Don’t get the wrong idea and think that I am in here filling my days with me-time; wonderful organizational projects, cleaning my already spotless house or finally getting photos in an album – I’m not. First of all, there’s Finn and second of all, I’m one of only a few stay-at-home mom’s on the block. The kids are (all 18-20 of them) banging down my door for snacks and drinks and sprinklers and toys to be brought outside, every second of the day. They come to me for every dispute and owie in the 19 house radius. I can’t complete a thought, much less a project. When the older ones are making requests, Finn is howling about going outside. Big ogre that I am, I have no desire to follow my two year old around outside when it’s 95 degrees!

I have started researching our days the night before, trying to plan anything to get us out and about and away from the wild pack of kids. They are good kids and I am grateful for all of them and the fact that we live here, but I am tired of handling most of their days on my own. (Most other families have uninvolved parents or moms that work and dads that “watch” them working from home.) No one is really doing anything wrong; it’s just that kids will go where the most attention flows. I have never been so tired at the end of the day. I have never been asked so many battering questions in my life before. They want something from me every single minute and as much as I hate to admit it, I can’t wait for school to start and I wish Finn was going, too.

So I am a terrible person. But maybe not. I am, like I predicted in “See Ya Later May!” yearning for the structure and routine of the school year, itching for a few hours a week to expand this little career of mine and dying for a few minutes of peace where I am not closing doors after people, chasing out flies, cleaning up messes, handing out popsicles and enduring the most summer-tired and unreasonable hours of my children’s days.

Finn is due to be “evaluated for maturity” at a local church’s parents day out program for the fall. Mike laughs. That scares me. I feel a few hours separate – me and all my children – will do us all some good this fall. Lord, grant me patience and forgive me for the hours I’ve spent without it this summer. I need some in a bad way. School starts August 27th.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Okay, one more....

Okay, Riley just walked in and informed me that I missed these....











Lake Gaston 2008 - Final Photos

And the final installment...






Lake Gaston 2008 - More Photos

Here are some more good shots...






Lake Gaston 2008

In a nutshell, this year’s trip to Lake Gaston in North Carolina was a huge success. Logan and Riley water-skied; Logan every single day. All three of them tubed, drove the jet-ski and boat like professionals, searched out new and exciting bugs with their insect field guide, collected rocks and seashells, consumed unfathomable amounts of ice cream and swam until their beautiful peach-colored skin was so prune-y that we thought it would never bounce back.

Finn was an adventurer, not remembering a thing of the two years he’d already vacationed at this glorious place called Serenity. He spent hours in his life jacket and tolerated it all very well, including the full speed face plant down the gravel road when we arrived and the black eye he received the next day. (He was looking good!) He loved the boat and the giant carp and catfish we fed each day. Riley made sure that the fish farthest away always got their fair share and Logan, ever the negotiator, made sure that our kids held snow cones during fish feeding times. The girls were finally given the go ahead to sleep on the top bunks, which they did proudly and uneventfully. Next year, I suppose the three of them will bunk together. All three have a new love for Dr. Pepper, shrimp, spicy pimento cheese and after six years now, what has become an old love for this secluded, magical spot we find ourselves reveling in for a week each summer.

With all the gratitude in the world we send our “thank you’s” to Granddad and Grandmom for making it all possible! We love you! Hope you all enjoy some of our favorite pictures.

PS: I must mention that Finn will never be allowed to fly again. Well… definitely not until next summer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Letter "M"

I have this charm on a simple, black necklace. It’s a silver letter “M” that I saw during a rare outing with Mike at the mall. He totally made fun of me for buying it, but I liked it for some reason and I still do. Jewelry is an afterthought most days for me; I keep my favorites reserved for kid-free nights away from home. But the “M” caught my eye as well as my mind this morning, so I popped it on.

You’d think that after a thirty-six year long relationship with the letter “M”, these thoughts might have occurred to me at some other point in time. They haven’t however and all at once I was taken back by how incredibly interesting the shape of the letter “M” really is and how perfect of a letter it is for me. Just like my true-to-form astrological symbol, the scales of Libra, my “M” seems to be nicely balanced and symmetrical. The high reaching peaks are sharply contrasted by the deep grooves underneath, always leaving plenty of room for ups and downs. And that’s what life has been full of for sure.

Just like my “M”, I have been blessed with joyous highs while also spending some time in the valleys of life. While I may not choose to relive the trying times, I am thankful for each step of my journey. My “M” and I both continue to reach skyward and keep spirits pointing up, mindful of the heights to which we can soar. Those mountains and valleys may not always be ideal, but they sure keep things interesting.

Parenthood, one of my favorite movies of all time, has an interaction between Steve Martin’s character and his grandmother. It goes like this:

Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Gil: Oh?
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

Even as a young kid seeing that movie for the first of many times, I knew the grandma’s point of view made sense to me. For most of us, life is complicated. There are forks in the road, wrenches in the works, great surprises and incredible rewards. There is first love heartache and the cherished memories of realizing you’ve found your soul mate. There is the gratitude that makes hard learned lessons worth every bump and bruise and sweetness in childhood whispers that makes you want it all to last forever.

It’s true that these whispers come from the same little people who huff and puff and scream the word “no” and that your soul mate may occasionally omit “birthday card” from the brain waves. Still, I’ll take the roller coaster - I’ll take the highs and lows of my letter “M”, over the merry-go-round any day.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vision


Each summer, I fill an old wine barrel full of flowers in my backyard. Our Florida one finally bit the dust while we lived in our first home and the current version is still holding up two houses later. Every Mother’s Day, I purchase the same colorful combination of sweet potato vines and geraniums, with a few extra things tucked in here and there. With Miracle Grow and a lot of water, it always turns into a gorgeous, healthy display by the fourth of July.

This year, with a shadier backyard and the discovery of a quaint country drive that leads to the most impressive nursery in the world, my wine barrel posed a challenge. I wasn’t sure what I’d plant there, especially with a yard vacant of a deck or patio. I spent little time thinking about it really, but when my eyes landed on the endless greenhouses of the nursery, I felt inspired.

I bought everything I liked; the most unique and me-pleasing flowers I could find. As I filled my little flat bed, my mind saw the end result take shape. It was going to be the best flower bucket of all! When I reached the cashier, I let her appeal to my weak side for a fleeting moment when she said, “Hmmm. Looks like we have a little bit of everything here, huh...?” For a second, I doubted my selections, but quickly swayed back to the vision in my mind.

Once those plants found their new home, I must admit, it wasn’t initially impressive. More than one person asked, “Whatcha got going on in there, Molly?” I just kept saying, “I’ve got a serious vision for the future and that’s what I’m banking on.” Some people even snickered and said, “Well that’s good!” Once those roots hit the dirt I was invested and concerned with their health and happiness so the negative comments mattered no more. I'm the kind of person that feels bad for the grass we covered up with rocks to make our deck, so to me, I guess every living thing deserves a chance to reach its full potential. I figured a little extra care and some trusty fertilizer would still bring about a beautiful end result.

Last night I was watering my bucket and was all of a sudden taken back. I’ve been getting some comments on it lately; from people who think it’s gorgeous, but I guess I haven’t really stood back to see it. It is nothing shy of fabulous. It has surpassed my wildest dreams of what it may someday be and bloomed into something awesome. All the odd combinations of flowers and greens have bonded, and work together spectacularly.

With scary things in the realm of possibility with the downturn in the housing market and skyrocketing gas prices, as well as what still feels like a summer slump in the writing world, I found my bucket immediately inspiring. It was a reminder of all that I know to be true, all that I want my kids to feel in their hearts as they grow into the world on their own. Anything is possible. All you need is the vision. If you believe in what may be, no matter what people say or life brings, your dreams can still come true.

So I begin my day with renewed vision and courage to wait it out. I can just feel those clients knocking down Mike’s door and see my first mainstream magazine article in print. Although I don’t know when it might happen, “I’ve got a serious vision for the future and that’s what I’m banking on!”

Monday, July 7, 2008

The best weekend ever!

I’m guessing that there are few times in your life as a parent that you get to experience feeling that you are some kind of superstar mom or dad. Somehow, I was graced with that incredible feeling for nearly two straight days this weekend as my kids flew through July 4th, happier than I think I have ever seen them before. It truly was the greatest weekend ever; all I could think every time I looked at them was that there could be no better time or place to be a kid.

A month ago, I began planning our first annual block party on our new street. I hadn’t ever done one before, so I was winging it. We took a laid back approach and everyone jumped in with lots of ideas and offerings. In the end I heard from about 14 of 19 homes that would attend, which I considered a great response! We spent the 4th cooking and getting last minute plans together and then headed down the street for a homespun fireworks display like nothing I have ever seen! We’re talking a serious show – it was unbelievable. What a sane alternative to dragging Finn, hours past bedtime, to a dark park to see the things. All the kids were totally into the festivities and loved every minute. Following the adults’ lead, our parrot Finn, screamed “Back up!” repeatedly to the kids who closed in on the fire starters. It was a great night.

Saturday was really a kid's dream. By 9am, the streets were swarming with the 25+ kids we have in our one small block. They were all super excited and strung out from the night before, anxious to see the open area adjacent to our house transform into a block party. One by one, tables and tents took shape, music began playing, volleyball nets, bean bags and other games were set up and the giant jumpy thing and huge air-filled water slide arrived. It was only topped by the entrance of the snow cone machine and visit from a local fire truck and ambulance – they stayed for an hour, gave tours and passed out trinkets. Really, those 25 kids and others they had invited were truly on cloud nine.

With their bodies covered in tattoos and face paint, they ate and slurped and jumped and slid. They tossed bean bags and danced and rode their bikes through the streets. These little kids, 80% of them under the age of 8, didn’t even have one argument for the whole day. As our family-friendly pooches stretched in the sun and caught the occasional food sacrifice, parents had the chance to meet and talk, for a few uninterrupted minutes. People shared their favorite family culinary specialties, their juice boxes and their time. (I ate a warm gilled tortilla filled with marinated skirt steak and homemade salsa verde that was to die for! Actually, I ate two.)

At some point, when it was still light out, Logan snuck to my side and asked, “Mommy, can we do this every year?”

“Definitely!” I said.

She answered with the most heartfelt “thank you” I’ve ever heard.

By the time dusk arrived, so did our loyal firefly brigade, providing fresh entertainment for everyone. The kids donned their glow necklaces and partied on, until they finally petered out near 10:30. As I tucked their graffiti wearing arms and legs into bed, I vowed to wash them and their sheets first thing in the morning.

But first thing in the morning was different for once, with Logan waking up at 9, Riley at 9:30 and Finn being woken up at 9:45! When I pulled him out of bed, the poor thing, who I twice caught drinking snow cone syrup straight from the pump, proceeded to throw up all over. Then he ate six pancakes, half a bagel and cream cheese and two jugs of milk! I’m thinking it was just his body begging, “No more fun (straight sugar) today please!”

Despite the crabbiness and foot pounding, whining and tantrums that Sunday brought along, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was a success in every sense, but mostly for all of our kids. It’s true that you can’t pick your neighbors and a lot of the kinks are being worked out around here this summer. But it sure says a lot when fourteen families can come together with barely any notice and throw a huge party, with our kids’ fun in mind. I’m all for living in the moment, but I’ve got to side with the kids on this one…. I can’t wait for next year either!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lights at Night

My only regret about last night is that Finn was already asleep when all the magic happened. I can imagine how much he would have loved what Mike, the girls and I experienced just outside in our yard.

In 36 years, I haven’t really seen anything like it: millions and millions of lightening bugs right in our back yard. We back up to trees and brush with corn fields off to one side and it was as if billions of tiny yellow diamonds twinkled in the night right before us. I never knew that there could be so many little neon beings in one place and the girls were just as awestruck. The kids grabbed their bug box and headed out into the darkness with a couple of neighbors. They ran and twirled and jumped and climbed, in order to catch the little guys, literally screaming with excitement at every turn.

It was the essence of childhood, right in front of us. I loved every minute soaking it all in and almost couldn’t bear for it to end. In my heart of hearts, I hope that Logan and Riley remember last night for the rest of their lives. Or maybe it will be like this every summer, with those amazing little twinkles bidding us goodnight each balmy evening. What a cool way to end your day; grateful for the reminder of the tiny space you take up in this big, enchanted world we live in. Part of me believes that it may never be as truly fascinating as last night’s first discovery of the magic beyond our walls, but it will still be pretty spell-binding.

Really, you have to come and see it to believe it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Frog Whisperer


It all started with the weekly cleanouts of our enormous window wells last summer. Each week, we would collect massive amounts of frogs from inside our basement window wells, put them in a bucket and deliver them home to the pond behind our house. The kids got a huge kick out of this; especially when our daily tally would hit numbers like 13 or 14 frogs. I’ve always had tomboy tendencies and one frog at a time is no problem for me, but I’ve got to tell you, thirteen frogs scampering to get out of my hands or catapulting off each other to find freedom from the bucket, kind of grosses me out.

Frog dreams were squashed when we bit the bullet this spring and spent crazy money on the least rewarding home improvement project ever: window well covers. Finn was starting to climb down the ladder inside and I saw an ER trip in my near future. Plus, if you skip a week of frog collection, well, I’m sure you can imagine the disastrous results, visible from inside all basement windows. We had to do it.

So now, my girls lurk around unsuspecting neighbors' window wells, trying to catch a sighting of Toby Toad or Fred the Frog. I’ve caught them running with buckets full from another kid’s house, thrilled with their take and the other kid running behind crying, realizing that they want what they never knew they had. These kids have flipped for frogs, with Logan leading the way.

She’s good at it to, catching some every day, reluctantly taking them to the pond after she’s had enough prodding from me. She holds them and talks to them and makes them nice, temporary homes in buckets full of rocks and water and grass. They’re her pets.

Strangely enough (for frogs, that is) I think they like her, too! They almost seem to seek her out… we can be in a parking lot or even inside her state-of-the-art indoor pool for swimming lessons. Yesterday, she found five while we were leaving the pool building. All frog babies, who she gently picked up and placed in a muddy spot with hopes of each having a good, long life. I called her the “frog whisperer” and it stuck. I couldn’t believe she even understood what I meant, but she instantly loved it and proudly proclaimed the title the whole way home.

Within minutes after arriving home, Logan had another bucket full, including some other poor little rescued bugs that fell into her loving hands. Later, I found the bucket, empty of its previous live contents, sitting on my dryer in the laundry room. When I asked her if there were bugs or frogs in it when she brought it in, she said, “Yes, but I don’t know where they went!”

So, as I watch every step for inch worms, lady bugs and you guessed it - frogs, my question of the day is: How do I get this bug and frog catcher to ditch her relentless fear of spiders?

Kids.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hijacked!!

Don't ever let your camera get confiscated by a 4 and 6 year old with time to burn. These are keepers for sure!!

Autumn in June


The number one thing on my mind when we moved into our new house last summer was planting trees. I am an old house, old neighborhood lover through and through and just couldn't imagine living in the shadeless surroundings of a new subdivision for too long. So we gratefully accepted two trees last fall for housewarming gifts and were thrilled to get them in the ground.


Spring began with the slow realization that our crimson frost birch was not going to make it; the 18 foot tall, beautifully shaped specimen which was planted so late that it had no leaves when we bought it, returned with leaves covering only the bottom third. The garden center where we purchased it replaced it with a very healthy, 12 foot tall river birch with an even prettier shape and we're anxious to watch it grow in our backyard.


The other tree we planted last fall was an autumn blaze maple and by all accounts it couldn't have looked any healthier this spring. Bright green leaves filled every part of each branch and we already noticed growth in just the first year. As soon as that new birch was replaced, I started to notice color on the maple's leaves. And although this picture does not do it justice, our autumn blaze maple is now in full blaze - looking gorgeous, but quite misplaced in the month of June.


As much as I hated to do it, I called the garden guy and asked why this was happening. After making some calls, his answer stinks. It is most likely slowly dying, either due to over watering or being planted in clay (which is what we're sitting on here.) I doubt it's over watering, I've only watered three times this spring. It must be the clay, the water that has nowhere to drain is just rotting the roots. There's nothing we can do.


It's killing me to look out each morning and watch as this big, gorgeous tree gets more and more autumnal-looking. I can't stand that it is slowly meeting it's demise and that I am helpless to save it. The garden guy says there's a chance it may persevere, and I so hope it does. I guess this a probably a good lesson in letting go and not having control of everything. For now, I suppose we'll just celebrate all its beautiful fall foliage and blazin' color.


Fall is my favorite season anyway.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mini Words of Wisdom

Some kids are just so smart. Yesterday morning, I took Riley and Finn on an outing while Logan was attending her acting class. Yes, as she nurtured the “diva within”, I filled the two hours with something that could entertain both a 4 year old and a 2 year old – the park! I felt like a great mom bringing them over and doing something solely for them without the opportunity to get something I needed done on the side. It goes without saying that they were thrilled.

So we went and they cheered and danced all the way from the parking lot to the sidewalk and on to the jungle gyms. I realized that Finn was not next to me at one point and quickly turned around. There he was, backed into and on purpose, a four-inch deep sludge puddle. The mud-line was somewhere above his ankles and no shoe parts were visible. “Yucky Mommy!” he announced proudly.

Now, I can only tell you how happy I was that he was wearing his backup sandals, not because his nice ones required days and days of searching to find his extra-wide size 61/2, not even because he threw one of those nice sandals away and I didn’t catch it in time so I had to purchase another pair, but because just that morning he was wearing the new pair and sprayed the hose all over the nice leather, leaving them a wet mess. So I freaked. This was my second (and final) set of footwear for the little man to wear that day and now every ounce of them was covered in goopy mud.

I huffed and puffed and sighed and said, “I think we need to go home.” And then Riley, who was twirling with happiness moments earlier, looked me right in the eyes, smiled and said, “This just isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.”

“I say that all the time Riley,” I half joked. But then I felt horrible! I pulled those mud-filled clod hoppers off his fat feet and rubbed the shoes and his feet all over the grass until although they were still brown, it was just a thin coat of drying mud. We stayed and played for an hour and I know they appreciated every minute.

Sometimes I wonder why my kids seem to be losing their ability to bounce back from little disappointments here and there like they used to. Sure they’re getting older and feeling the word “no” more and more. But I bet it’s not their age that’s leaving them more disgruntled, it’s seeing their mom not bounce back from all the silly day-to-day stuff like I should. Yes, I need a break and no, I don’t really get one. But a summer helper of sorts is in the works and will hopefully add some adult time into my life.

Instead of shooting out my normal bite-back boomerang response of “This isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be either!” I’ll say it with a smile. This whole stay-at-home-mom thing may not be exactly like I thought it would be, it may not be fun all the time, but it is fun and it is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, my number one career of choice. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.

Sometimes it just takes the quick wit and intuitive understanding of a four year old for me to see it all clearly. Another point for Riley girl.