Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Value of TV?

I have loved television my whole life.  TV was my babysitter before it was the cool thing to do.

But even from a young age I was a sophisticated television lover.  While my friends were enjoying "Captain Kangaroo," I was tuned into really cutting edge shows like "One Life To Live" and "All My Children" and prime time dramas such as "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Dallas." 

I wasn't alone, although they may not admit how much they loved 80s television.  My sister and I would create elaborate Barbie storylines based on shows we saw.  For example, Barbie was moonlighting as a hooker and her john (a generic un-Ken, sometimes played by the Donny Osmond doll) was helping her keep her secret from Ken (loosely based on the Karen/Marco/Dr. Larry storyline on One Life To Live circa maybe 1979?).  And in first grade when we were learning how to write letters (an ancient art form) my best friend and I wrote and mailed letters to Katherine Bach, the talented actress who played Daisy Duke on "The Dukes of Hazzard."

  • Is it wrong that while other kids were wondering what summer camp they were going to, I was wondering who really did shoot JR on Dallas?
  • Is it wrong that I dreamed of one day living at Southfork and having a family barbecue like the Ewings?
  • Is it wrong that I used to pretend I was the raunchy dancer on Solid Gold?
Ok, maybe that last one is wrong.

Maybe all of it is wrong.  As I hover over my children, I try to "protect" them from all of the junk on tv.  I won't let them watch what we call "teenager shows."  Those shows consist of "Wizards of Waverly Place" on Disney and mostly anything on Nickelodeon.  

Not sure why I am so strict.  I think mostly it is because my kids are total jerks to me after they watch those shows.

I don't know if I was ever a jerk to my parents after watching, what I like to call, the sophisticated shows of the eighties.  I mean I never thought my parents were stupid like Hannah Montana does.  I wasn't thinking about my parents at all.  I was practicing what my over-the-shoulder intro look would be if I was ever on "The Love Boat."  Remember those?  I mean who hasn't practiced their show intro look? Right?

As soap operas are beginning to phase out I am really nervous.  Television is changing.  I learned so much about life from soaps.  Lessons like lying is never a good idea...the truth always comes out; characters, I mean people, are very forgiving; there ARE super couples; and you may be recast, but it is never as good as the original.

There is still good TV out there and I am still watching the sophisticated programming.  Now I am into "The Real Housewives" of anywhere, because I believe editing IS storytelling.  And I am anxiously awaiting the premiere of "The Closer."  

And of course I will be so missing "Mad Men" this summer.  

TV was my babysitter and maybe sadly my best friend for a lot of my growing up.  As television changes, so am I.  But I believe there is value, even in some of the not-so-sophisticated programming.  

I just have to figure out what value there is for my kids and how sophisticated I want them to be.

You can't tell me there is no value in the brilliantly written show Mad Men.  For adults of course.

Classic Clips:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Don't over think it

"Get off your brother." 
10 times
"Stop hitting."  
15 times
5 times
"Get down, that's not a jungle gym."     
4 times
"You are all going to have to take a nap."
8 times
"Be nice."   
20 times
"I don't know."    
50 times
572,345 times

I started counting yesterday.  Counting how many times I said certain phrases.  Pretty interesting results.  As I reflect on the results I wonder why do I even say "jungle gym?"  I don't think the kids know what I am talking about.  And I think "be nice" loses its effect when I yell it through gritted teeth and clenched jaws.

Digging a little deeper I realize that I need to quit saying "no" so much.  When Peyton was 2 years old I stopped working full-time.  I had never really raised my voice or had to discipline him much.  But the longer I stayed home with him, that changed.  At one point I was saying "no" so much and raising my voice I realized I would've requested to have me fired if it was a day care.  I vowed to change and as you can tell by my informal study above, I hold true to my vows.

Another thing that struck me with this counting exercise was how many times I say "I don't know."  I don't claim to know a lot, but 50 seems high even for me.  I believe it has to do more with what types of questions and how many a mother gets in any given day.  Yesterday while dealing with a situation with one of the kids I hear this...."where's my water bottle?," "what time is it?," why are their clouds?," "does Jesus have a dad?" and "why do we have eyebrows?"  All in a matter of 2 minutes.  I think I yelled "be nice, I don't know and stop hitting" in response.  See how the numbers may be off?

In the middle of all that, there are the moments when we do have important talks and connections.  Talks about faith, values and how the world works.  And sometimes I do have a few answers.

I may not know a lot, but I do know about food, especially sweet food.  They all seem to be catching on to that.

And in the words of the great Tina Fey, don't over think it!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Crappy Garden

"When you have a Garden, you have a Future and when you have a Future, you are Alive," Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Now you know I am a quote person.  I have been collecting them for years, stashing them in drawers and books.  Creating walls to display my favorites.  When I read the quote above I felt inspired and is finally time to grow a garden I told myself.

Sadly, I have been telling myself that same thing over and over.  I enthusiastically plant flowers every year and even some vegetable plants.  But by July almost everything is dead or eaten by wild animals.  And living across the street from a busy park, we have some very aggressive wild animals. 

I always thought gardening was like cooking, if you can read a recipe you can cook, bake, whatever.  

But I now believe, it is a gift.  
One that I do not possess.  
This year's vegetable garden, looking like it has for the last five years.
My mother is completely crazy, but she has the gift.  She forgets to take care of herself, but yet amazingly she has the most beautiful flowers.  The haze from her constant smoking makes me feel like I should put an oxygen mask on when I visit.  But yet, she can make plants grow inside!  That is another topic, well, both are--the crazy mother and indoor plants--but I thought they were worth mentioning.

Watching my mother continually have beautiful flowers year after year since I was little, I just assumed I would inherit that gardening gift.  But no, I got her depression and anxiety.  

So, here I am depressed with a crappy garden.  But wait, I know another quote (one of my favorites on my bathroom wall of words) that inspires me.

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." 
-Shug Avery, in "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

Notice? Appreciate? Be aware of the true beauty of the world?  
I can do THAT!

Even if it is a farmer's market and not a field.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Play ball

We are obsessed with baseball.  

I am a sports fan and a competitive person by nature, but Tim and I really started caring about baseball after our oldest son began playing tee ball.  Peyton was a serious, quiet boy (still is).  Being a person who is overemotional and lacks control, no one usually has to guess how I am feeling.  Peyton on the other hand is stoic, serious, thoughtful and reserved, I am often unsure what he is feeling.  

Peyton's first team, 2007

That first season of tee-ball Peyton didn't talk to anyone--he seriously sat on the bench and didn't speak while the other kids where dumping water bottles, climbing the fence and goofing around.  I felt bad for him and even encouraged climbing on the fence.  After I asked him if he was happy I expected him to tell me that he was miserable.  He looked at me with his very serious face and said, "I love it."  Really?  Okay.

When the season was done I thought well, that's it, onto try the next sport.  But Peyton didn't move on.  He was in the backyard hitting balls everyday.  He began following the Detroit Tigers and knew the stats like he was preparing for an anchor job at ESPN.  He and his dad went to his first Tigers game and he refused to leave until the game was over.  Sat in his seat and watched every pitch.

His love was and is intense.

For a the next couple of seasons I would complain to friends that he just didn't seem joyful.  I asked for advice about how to get him to talk more, laugh more, be goofier.  One friend asked me, "is it bothering him?"  I hadn't really thought about that....I just thought about how I felt.  

His lack of jumping up and down and yelling "I am so loving this!" still makes me uncomfortable.  But it doesn't mean he isn't happy, it just means he is different than me.  It has been a real lesson in parenting, and just basic human nature, about accepting how people express themselves.

Baseball taught me that.  

Baseball also taught me that playing catch with my kids is a great way to connect and talk.  

Baseball gave me a tool to reach my kids, understand them better and even get to play with them more.

This year Peyton started a travel baseball team, which is a whole other beast, but again he is loving it.  Peyton is not jumping around, giggling and roughhousing with his teammates.  He still doesn't talk that much, but he is happy.  

So that is how it started, but of course we took it to a ridiculous level.  
This is our backyard, which is now all baseball diamond.

And watching his games I feel like Steve Martin in Parenthood.  Bottom line because it matters so much to him, it matters so much to me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A storm is coming

But here is the rest of the story....

One week into summer and we are surviving, but some of us are going crazy.  Guess who?

Today was a long day that involved lots of downtime (not always my favorite kind of day). The kids played outside and the boys wrestled, they watched a couple shows and the boys wrestled, they read their library books and the boys wrestled.  Are you getting the theme?  What is so great about wrestling, boys?  

Their father taught them to tap out, I guess it is some sort of wrestling move like a surrender.  So they will hold each other down until they tag out.  My boys will beat the crap out of each other and then get mad at me for separating them.  Telling me, "he didn't tap out!"  This is something I do not understand at all.  I found myself yelling "I will not feel sorry for you when you get hurt."  That doesn't seem like something the person in charge is supposed to say.  

Lucy, the only other girl in the house stays out of the fray for the most part.  But every now and then she can't help herself and will pile on with the boys.

Today she and JT spent a lot of time playing make believe.  

(One of the good things about having a lot of kids is that when two aren't getting along you can switch them up.  Peyton and JT are sick of each other, I just tell JT and Lucy to go play.  It works out quite nicely.  My friends who have two children and say they fight all the time, I tell them the answer is to have another child!)  

All this downtime was good for the kids, but it made me crazy.  As we were hurrying to get ready for a baseball game there was a storm brewing....and not just outside.  I could feel myself starting to lose it.  I fed the kids dinner, got everyone ready, checked a thousand times hoping the game would be canceled due to the impending storms.  No call.  So, I crammed the kids in the minivan and headed to the game.  

The air was unstable.  The traffic was bad.  The kids were picking on each other.  A storm was coming.

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot of the field it started to rain a bit.  I was meeting my husband at the field and he wasn't there yet.  Did I mention the minivan's air conditioning is broken?  The rain was starting to come in the windows so put them up.  It was hot and getting hotter.  The air was heavy.  The baby started to cry.  Lucy had to go to the bathroom.  JT was worried about the possible lightning.  My pulse was getting faster and faster.  A storm was coming.

I sent my son off to sit with his team and wait for further instructions from the coach.  The rain came down harder.  Just then I see a white Knight pulling into the parking lot...I had never been so glad to see the custom van until it passed us.  As much as that mini-bus can zip it did right on past us.  I called my husband and asked why he wasn't parking by us and he said "you parked too far away."  I hung up.  Not mature, but necessary.  

It had been 20 minutes, but I felt like I had been on a tarmac in one of those planes with no air, no food and screaming babies!  I couldn't take it anymore!

I cursed my husband.  I cursed baseball.  I cursed the fact that someone's ego was a little too big to drive the air conditioned custom van.  

I was tapping out.  I was surrendering.  Giving up.  Crying uncle.  I was done.

The game was finally cancelled due to weather.  We all went home and I put on a movie for the kids gave them loads of popcorn and lemonade and checked out.

One week in and we are surviving.

Words matter damn it

I believe words matter.  
As a parent I strive to use good, reinforcing words.  Encouraging words.  Sweet words.  Of course I strive to do that, but sometimes get off track. My five-year-old didn't really talk until he was 3 and has had almost three years of speech therapy.  But wouldn't you know he could clearly say "damn it" before he could say most other words.

My kids love it when I say bad words.  We are pretty strict at my house and the bad word list includes words like stupid, hate, of course the obvious ultra bad swear words and even words that I just don't like, such as, butt.  When I slip up and say a bad word like "hate" they giggle with glee and the little ones will repeat it at least 25 times in a row for fun.

Feeling all the pressure, I went for back up with the words.     We headed on a bike ride to the library yesterday to get some books with lots of good words.

The kids made their selections which included a wide variety of interests.

I love that Peyton got out a book about The Who.  Too funny.

But because it seems lately they only listen when I do say a bad word, I have more back up.  I started what I call my Wall of Words which includes words I love.  And it is in the bathroom where all the kids will read it and the words will make an imprint on their little brains.
This is just a part of the wall.

Some of the quotes I typed, other quotes I just held onto from places like a church service in Pittsburgh or a ditto from college.  That's right because copies were called dittos way back when I was in college.  Not only do these words make me happy, but I truly hope they are expressing my thoughts on life without me having to sit my kids down and tell them. 

Included in the quotes are words of wisdom from "The Color Purple," Walt Disney, Ozzy Osbourne and the Bible.
One of my favorites was hanging on the wall of my grandmother's house it says:
"Happiness is not having everything you want, it is wanting everything you have."
It stuck with me.

This was printed on our program at our wedding:

I am hopeful this effort will make an impact on my kids and make up for when I, for lack of better words, f#*k up.

Monday, June 20, 2011

This is how we roll...

You know you are big family when this is your ride.

Never really in a million years did I picture myself tooling around town in what my kids lovingly call our "custom van."  My in-laws sold it to us last week and gave us a beyond generous deal.  It actually works out really nicely--all the baseball equipment fits in the back, the kids can spread out and the kids fighting in the back are so FAR back I can't hear them.

It is strange that my minivan is now our small family car.  It is strange to be driving a vehicle that seems just a bit smaller than my house.  Seriously.  But it works.

When we decided to have our third child people raised their eyebrows and said "oh, good for you" or "you're brave."  Followed by laughter.  We didn't know that many people with three kids.  

When we decided to have our fourth child people raised their eyebrows and didn't say anything.  Maybe it was because as I mentioned our house isn't much bigger than a custom van.  Maybe it was because it was at the height of the recession.  Maybe it was because Octo-mom was all over the news.  But people didn't say anything.

Now when I go out with all the kids people say "you're a saint" which I believe is code for "you're crazy."  I hear "are they all yours?" and "you've got your hands full" at least twice a day.  

Sometimes I feel like I am crazy, but it works.  Tim and I said we wanted 10 years of toddlers in the house and we have had that.  But honestly we didn't really think about what all those years of teenagers would look like.

Our little house is jam packed full of lots of noise, it is never clean, toys are everywhere.  It is also jam packed with so much music, laughter and love.  It works.
And way in the back of the van they aren't always fighting.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

I am married to a very good man. He is an even better father.  That is one of the reasons I fell in love with him when we were dating--he was so good to my little 7-year-old brother.  
I could see what he would be like as a dad.  
And he proved my instincts right.
  • He is storyteller, coach, Sunday school teacher, mentor, playmate and more.

  • He is the guy at all the parties that is playing and watching all the kids. 
  • He is the guy that isn't afraid to play Barbies with his daughter in the middle of the baseball tournament.

  • He is the guy that switches jobs to be home more with his kids.

He is the guy my four kids are so lucky to have as a dad.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Roller Coaster

Yesterday was the last day of school for the older kids in the house.  As I mentioned I was already feeling a bit anxious.  But I set my worries aside and was going to make it the best last day of school ever.  It is tradition in our house to make a "Happy Summer" cake and blast the music from "High School Musical 2" when they come into the house.

This year my oldest, Peyton, was NOT into it.  He rolled his eyes, walked over to the cake and said "why is the cake so thin?."  He then proceeded to flop onto the couch in true teenager style and turned on the tv.  

He is going into fourth grade next fall not junior high!  

Standing there with the video camera watching the scene unfold I felt like an idiot.  This is tradition!  This is stuff fun, involved, stay-at-home moms do!

Then I got mad.  I yelled.  I said things that I shouldn't have.  I yelled things I shouldn't have.  Sent everyone to their rooms and ended up in the kitchen by myself, feeling like not such a good, involved mom.

I became da-da-da-daaaaa, martyr mom.  Didn't they know how many fun things I planned?  Who doesn't want a Happy Summer Cake? Which I was shoveling into my mouth.  I was a fat, bitter, martyr mom. 

Then I saw the the third grade portfolio that Peyton brought home, the poetry book he wrote, the math book...and it hit me.  I am so kindergarten.   He loved that tradition when he was little, but he was growing up.  

Peyton and I had a long talk.  I was very honest about how I don't know how to parent a pre-tween and a toddler.  I asked for his patience and then we looked through his portfolio together.

So as we proceed with the next 80 days I will readjust my expectations of myself and my kids.  It will be a roller coaster for all of us.

Although this is what my house was like this morning....seriously?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pudding and Nerves

I totally believe it is my job to teach my children to appreciate chocolate pudding.  And Wade gets it.

Entertaining a toddler with pudding, I can handle it.
Entertaining four kids all summer long, I don't know what to do!

Tomorrow is the last day of school and I am a bundle of nerves.  What will Friday morning be like when they all look to me and say "what are we going to do?"  Terrified.

If only older kids were as simple as pudding and a couple of matchbox cars.  
It could be a long summer....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My fingers are crossed!

Writing this blog is like the first time I went to therapy.  

I thought, no I knew, I had so much to say.  But when I sat on the couch to spill my guts to my new therapist there was silence.  I stared at her and when she asked how I was I said "oh just fine, how are you?"

Now that I have finally started a blog and have a blank screen to type out all the stuff I think, no I know, I want to get out of my head and heart....there is blankness.

I feel as silly now as I did 20 years ago with my therapist.  I was afraid she would judge me.  What am I afraid of now?   That my computer will judge me?  Seeing as how no one on earth knows I am starting a blog and therefore no one will read this.

Now I am laughing.  Okay, I am just going to pretend I am Carrie Bradshaw...the early years sitting in her apartment typing her heart out while chain smoking.  Didn't we all want to be her?  

I am going to jump into this blog-o-sphere with my fingers crossed.  Inspired not only by Carrie Bradshaw but also by my brave 7-year-old daughter.  

Last fall she was standing on top of a very high playground structure.  I told her she better not jump and that it wasn't safe, she might get hurt.  She replied "I might not."  And with that she closed her eyes, crossed her fingers and jumped.  After sticking her landing she turned to me and said "see, told ya."

A little bratty? yes.  A little gutsy? yes.  

So here it goes. I am jumping with my fingers crossed.
Maybe I will have something to say. And maybe I will have someone that reads it.