Friday, June 29, 2012

Meltdown #5,346 and What I Know For Sure (this week)

I've been cutting back on my alcohol, so lately I drink one night a week.  One night I down a bottle of wine or SkinnyGirl something.  Yeah, I basically binge drink one night a week. And just like when I would binge drink in college, I either end up having the greatest night of my life or I cry and apologize for everything.

Last night, after a bottle of tequilla, I had a complete, messy meltdown.  Crying about my guilt about my baby's arm breaking on my watch, my inability to keep all four kids entertained, keep the front yard alive and put oil in the van (ever). 
My dead front yard that I am trying to bring back to life.
Ugh.  It was messy.  Tears. Snot. And a lot of "don't be mad at me's."

It's been an interesting week, that is the truth.  There have been moments when I was cursing my arms-length type of social behavior.  The whole don't get too close to me and you won't find out the whole ugly truth has worked for me, for a long time.  But in a time of crisis, that whole arms length thing feels too distant.

But even I have a village.  The nurses at the hospitals I've been to the past week were so kind.  In the recovery station after JT's bone realighnment, the nurse was a mother of four and made me feel so much better.  "Oh, the fourth one put me over the edge," she shared.  "I was never on time again."  I teared up and thanked her for her honesty.

My in-laws came over and treated the kids to McDonald's and a day of fun and distraction.  I got calls, emails, tweets and text messages of support.  The village, the cast of characters in my movie of life was in full effect.  And it made a difference, that I know for sure.

What Else I Know For Sure (This Week):

It's about to get even messier up in here.  Wade decided it would be a good week to start potty training.  Um, okay, not so sure I agree with his timing, but here we go.
How cute does he look in his big boy undies?
This movie looks good. A movie about a brother and sister hits home because I have a great brother and love our complicated family relationship. 

I am obsessed with blueberries. That's all. Can't get enough.

This version of Bruce Springsteen's song is AMAZING.  Town Country's cover of "I'm On Fire." Listen and love.

I love that my kids get along and don't fight all the time.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hey Babe

Suddenly, one day, there was this thing called parenting. Parenting was serious. Parenting was fierce. Parenting was solemn. Parenting was a participle, like going and doing and crusading and worrying; it was active, it was energetic, it was unrelenting.
                      -Nora Ephron

It's been one of those weeks.  One of those weeks where instead of being surprised when something bad happens, you just kind of nod your head and say "well of course."  

Like yesterday morning when I rushed around getting the kids breakfast (brownies, but it's like a doughnut, right?), getting dressed and cleaning (hiding everything in closests and drawers) for the babysitter who would be there any minute.  I was rushing to get JT to the hospital for a bone realignment procedure (basically pushing the broken arm bone back in place to heal correctly).  The babysitter, the fabulous, amazing and half-asleep Chelsea, who happens to be Tim's cousin and Wade's god mother, arrived to watch the kids.  I raced out the door grabbing JT and his favorite stuffed animal BooBoo, jumped in the van and tried to start it and nothing.  I nodded and said "well of course" and ran inside to ask to borrow Chelsea's car.

With this kind of cloud over our heads, a small medical procedure involving anesthesia didn't seem so small.  The hospital is not a place you want to do the whole nod and "of course" routine.

There's nothing like your child in hospital pjs to put life in perspective.  I pushed the worry, superstition and anxiety down deep and focused on my precious boy.

JT looked pretty adorable in his pjs yesterday morning.  
He's not scared or in pain, just making funny faces.
JT wasn't nervous or worried.  He seemed restless and bored.  He was excited that he got to keep the cool new socks.  And he was making small talk with the nurses as they wheeled his bed away from me.  

As I sat in the waiting room I tried to read a book, drink my coffee, make my to-do list...but I couldn't.  I was overcome with emotion.  My chest felt tight and my breath was coming short and fast.  I grabbed my phone to text an apology to Tim for snapping at him the night before and for worrying so much about, well everything.  No phone service.  I made a mental note, "tell Tim how much I love him, love our kids and love our life before I get too cranky with real day-to-day crap."  

Oh because it's true.  I do love my family.  I do love my life.  

That's why when the elderly gentleman in the stiff red jacket came over to me with his clip board and said "okay, ma'am you can come back and see your son in recovery" I leaped out of my seat. Startled, he said he would escort me back to my boy.

He oh-so-slowly led me back to the farthest corner of the room.  I felt like it had been days since I saw my sweet baby in his adorable hospital pjs and cool new socks.  The man opened the curtain, I took a deep breath and there he was--a scared, confused Asian boy.  His eyes widened.  My eyes widened.  Was this my nod and "of course" moment? Had they lost JT?

"This is not my son," I told the man, who was just a volunteer after all, maybe he lost JT.  

He looked down at his clip board and scratched his head.  "It says here, it's your son," he said defiantly.

"Um, well, it's not," I said laughing nervously.

The boy looked like he was getting ready to make a run for it out the back.

A kind nurse came over and helped resolve the situation.  She calmed the terrified boy and led mine.  There he was, my boy, perusing the toy chest, devouring a popsicle.

"Hey mom," he said casually.

I wanted to climb in the bed and snuggle him and smother him with kisses.  He was safe.  Happy.  Alive.  And still freakin adorable. But I knew he was getting too cool for that.  He didn't even want me to hold his hand coming into the hospital or bring his special stuffed animal.  So instead I casually said "Hey babe."

In honor of Nora Ephron, who passed away this week, here's an amazing song from one of her movie's Heartburn--Carly Simon's "Coming Around Again."  I am so relating to this song right now on so many levels. Not divorce levels, but just how love and life changes; marriage is hard, loving and parenting kids is hard.  
Best line in the song is "I believe in love, what else can I do?"

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Family Movie Night

My goal this summer is to be more intentional with my children and my family.  Honor the good times, make moments special.  Turn simple things into events. Create memories and traditions.

We have always loved watching movies, a lot.  Like a lot, a lot.  But this past weekend we made our family movie night into an event. 

I recently learned about a company called Mommy Bear Media--a great place for family friendly movies.  I was invited to write reviews of some movies this summer.  Movies we get to choose, so it's a really fun assignment. 
A couple weeks ago, my kids fell in love with the classic The Sound of Music, which I couldn't be more thrilled about.  I mean really, how great is it that they go around singing "Favorite Things" and "So Long, Farewell" everywhere? And I mean everywhere.  Even baby Wade sings the "cuckoo" part of the songs.  

Loving that my kids liked a very old classic movie, I picked out another gem from the very old classic vault: Pollyanna

They would fall in love with Hayley Mills, I was just sure of it.  I had visions of the kids and I sitting around playing The Glad Game when life became hard or unfair.  

It all started out so wonderfully.  Early in the day we began with our movie night event planning.  Lucy and I brainstormed ideas and what we needed to do.
Lucy made it clear who all ideas had to be "run by" first before proceeding. "run by: mommy, Lucy and wade + our imagenations."

Then we got to work.
Not everything went exactly how we planned of course.   
It was a scene right out of the movie they were about to watch for the first time.  People coming together to make something happen, to make something better.  We don't have a special screening room and sure our TV isn't flat or extra large, but our movie night was going to be something special.

Was I setting the expectation too high? Probably. Would the kids love the movie I grew up quoting and loving? Maybe.

The stage was set.  We had a movie theater name and sign, a concession stand, a ticket booth and tickets.  

Love the name the kids came up with for the concession stand.
 Here's the thing about old classic movies, they are long.  Thank god we had a pretty stocked concession stand because the kids were antsy through the movie and frequenting the stand for snacks and drinks.

Pollyanna is the story of a young orphan who goes to live with her rich aunt in what just might possibly be the grumpiest town ever.  She melts hearts and changes lives with her kindness and positivity.  But of course, she has a tragic accident and is faced with some harsh realties of her own.  As I watched the movie, admiring Pollyanna's resilience and refreshing honesty, my kids weren't feeling it.  

"She's kind of annoying,"my normally sweet 8-year-old daughter said.  I'm not going to lie, it stung a little.  How could she call Hayley Mills annoying? 

While I enjoyed Pollyanna's "choose joy" message, I wanted more.  Maybe it was because I'd seen it before.  Maybe it was because I'm older and wiser and more compassionate (I'm going with this one).  But I wanted to know exactly why Aunt Polly is so grumpy and afraid to let her guard down. And why she tells Pollyanna not to speak about her recently deceased father.  What's her beef with the dad?  

The movie brought back some very sweet memories for me and introduced my kids to The Glad Game (finding something good in almost any situation), but toward the end I felt like the kids were watching it as a favor to me.  

It is dated.  It is long.  But I can't give Pollyanna a bad review, c'mon that just isn't right.  If I were going to play the Glad Game, I would say it was a wonderful night with the whole family together.  

And since the movie, my kids have been calling each other "scare baby" and "snitch baby" two names Pollyanna uncharacteristically calls people in the movie.  Which my kids thought was hilarious, brings them great joy and isn't too harmful.

Now that we have the theater props, we look forward to the next family movie night.  And I think I will choose something a little more current next time.

Take a look at Mommy Bear Media.  In addition to their website, you can follow up with them on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Very Lucky

Strawberries picked- $1.50 a pound
Two hours in the sunshine w/happy kids that aren't fighting- priceless

That's the tweet I was formulating in my head as the kids and I left the strawberry fields yesterday.

The stifling heat from last week was on temporary leave,it was a perfect day to spend outside. 

The kids had fun filling up their containers, throwing the bad berries as far as they could and of course playing pretend (Lucy was in charge of story lines).  Pretending we were on a farm in the olden days, pretending our horse drawn carriage broke down and we had to walk down the dirt roads back to town, etc.  Everyone was pretty chill, even the baby, Wade.
It was everything good about life you can imagine.  Simple, good, sweet.
There was even a petting zoo.  With a llama!
But I never sent that tweet.  Because in an instant, we went from sweet and good to panic and mayhem.

I turned around for a second to set the 11 pounds of strawberries we picked.  That was the instant.  The instant that JT fell from the dinky wood play structure near the checkout.  I say dinky because JT has jumped off of porches higher than this.  He's dangled and let go of branches higher than this.  I've watched in fear just knowing he would get hurt.  But no, every time he has jumped up and said "mom, I'm fine" and brushed himself off.

This time there was a scream and noiseless crying.  Remember that cry when babies or really small children get hurt and you know it's bad because they are crying and no sound is coming out?  It was that cry.  

"What happened!" I screamed in the most un-calm, un-motherly way imaginable.  "Oh fuck. Oh fuck. He broke his god damn arm. Shit."

Yeah.  It wasn't pretty.  My other kids didn't know what the hell was happening.  They were shook up from their brother's fall and stunned by my language.  I say some pretty horrible swear words in life, but never in front of my kids.  They still think "the s word" is stupid.  

"Why can't you play like normal kids?" I screamed.  "Shit what are we going to do? Oh baby, I'm so sorry."

Then in a very Kramer vs. Kramer  moment I scooped up JT and ran toward the check out.  "Get the baby and the damn berries," I screamed (you better believe we were taking the strawberries).

"Should we call an ambulance?" the kind, but clearly scared (of me) young girl behind the register asked.  

I opted to call my husband and tell him what happened and ask his advice.  "How the hell does someone break their arm berry picking?" he asked agitated.  After the initial agitation, which was really just worry and love, he calmed me down and suggested I drive him to the hospital and he would meet me there.

The other kids were talking to him in the car as I drove like a crazy lady.  He was so pale and in mild shock, just wanting to sleep.  

At the hospital, Tim took the other kids home and I stayed with my baby.  He charmed everyone with his cuteness and sweetness.  We played an hour and a half of Eye Spy, got X-rays and confirmation he did indeed break his arm.  

"You were very lucky," the nurse said to me.  "It could've been worse."

It absolutely could have been worse.  Of course I know that.  Of course I am grateful.  

But rushing my child to the emergency room awoke something in me.  I knew it was there.  But I got to taste it, see a picture of it.  It being fear.  Real fear of what the "could have been worse" could be like.

My babies can break.  My babies can get hurt.  
In an instant life can go from sweet and good to panic and mayhem.

Parenting, loving, letting go, holding on, trusting, recovering, hurting, healing...complete vulnerability.  Ugh.

When I got home I wanted to make brownies and eat the whole pan, maybe have a few glasses of wine.  I headed straight  to the pantry and found nothing.  Then to the refrigerator and found nothing.  So, I grabbed a bag of shredded cheese and started eating fists full of Kraft mild cheddar.  Honestly, I felt a little better.  

The fear/anxiety/vulnerability is always there.  But so is the love/resilience/wonder.

"I can't catch, but at least I can still throw the ball mommy," JT said as he snuggled into his special spot on the couch.  

What's the take away here?  Bad things can happen to the most adorable, sweet children.  Not all moms are equipped to not swear in public in a crisis and should not be judged.  Brownies should be in the house at all times, just in case.  Life is precious, appreciate it.  And we were very lucky, it totally could've been worse.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Need To Pace Myself

Summer slow down? Not my family.

Summer is amazing.  

I love the fact that you can ride your bike down to the park, swing, skip rocks in the river and have a picnic anytime.  Bare feet, extra hours of daylight, sunshine, swimming pools, boat rides, baseball, lemonade stands.  
How cute is their sign?  My kids and the neighbor kids worked hard and made almost $17 at their lemonade stand.  They are saving up to buy wood to build a club house.  
It's all good.

The only problem?  My kids do not get tired.  They keep going and going and going like god damn little Energizer bunnies.  As long as there is daylight, they will keep looking for fun.  And sometimes even when the sun goes down.
How tired does Tim look?  The kids? Not so much.  They keep going and going and going.
Even a quick trip to the grocery store is an exhausting adventure (for me).

I need to pace myself (um, I am the only one sleeping here, the kids were sooooo awake).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Happy Summer and What I Know For Sure (this week)

This past week, we were smack dab in the middle of the mega Midwest heatwave.

Summer came at us in full force.  We found fun ways to beat the heat--Slurpees, Slip n' Slides, swimming, hanging out and stripping in baby pools (of course the baby Wade was the only one stripping, so it's nothing too weird).
Sure, we discovered the air conditioning in our rental house doesn't really work on the second level.  And both our vans have faulty/non-working air conditioners.  And yes, that sucks.

But what I know for sure is that we thank god for our sense of humor and our beloved baby pool every sticky, hot summer day.
Tim beating the heat in the baby pool with a little help from the baby and his water gun.

Here's what else I know for sure (this week):

Writing reviews of cars was a fun experience.  One that taught me a lot about cars and a lot about myself.  Click here to read my final installment for the Patch Drives series.  C'mon it's fun, I worked in Mock Elections (high school style).  And please leave a comment on the Patch site.

I know for sure the the universal language is DANCE. This video is a fabulous example of that truth.  I love this.

Chiropractors are like magicians.  I had my first adjustment this past week for TMJ problems that have plagued me for 20+ years.  Terrified is a good word for how I was feeling imagining the chiropractor twisting my neck and possibly killing me.  But it wasn't that bad and my jaw actually feels better, for real.  Magic.

I'm only a little embarrassed that my hot summer jam is going to be Justin Bieber's "All Around the World."  Give it a chance.  It's fun and I can sing all the words in front of the kids, bonus.  No worries about explaining "passion in my pants" to my 8 year old.  Don't you have a hot summer jam?  Do tell!

Twitter is only getting better.  I reached my goal of 500+ followers and now I'm aiming higher.  Come play with me.  Follow me @AngelaYBlood.

There is no better way to say Happy Summer than a classic Bananarama song, "Cruel Summer."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

6 Days

Six days.  That's all it took for the harsh reality of summer to take hold.  All the plucky optimism (that hope-y, change-y stuff) I was feeling as school closed it's doors for the year is gone. Two particularly hot, sticky days full of bickering children, no routine, one wild 2-year-old we affectionately call "Animal" and a massively messy house--that's what did it.
Here's Animal, I mean baby Wade playing dress up with his siblings in a calmer moment.  Do you love the Harry Potter scarf paired with a shall I had when I was a kid?

"Well, great.  Summer's ruined and I am a horrible mother who can't handle anything."  That was my first thought.  And yeah, I cried a little.  And yelled a little (a lot).

But then I moved on.  I took a few minutes and few deep breaths and realized a couple bad days doesn't equal a ruined summer.  It will be okay.

During my regrouping moment I pulled out a book that I read every summer. It's a good book.  Especially for busy mothers who find themselves feeling overwhelmed, over committed, overstressed and sometimes just over it altogether.  No, it's not a reality star memoir.  It's "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a book your mother or grandmother might have read.

Here's the thing, they probably related way back in 1955 and you will relate today too.  I was first introduced to the book at a moms' group years ago.  A woman told the story about how a copy of the book was kept at her family's lake house, where she read it every summer by the water.  Just like her mother and aunts had read it years earlier.
My copy is very worn in a loved way--pages folded down for quick reference and favorite quotes underlined.  

It's a meditative, calm book discussing the pressures of being a woman and mothering and being married.  A book with passages like this one that I find so utterly relatable:

The shape of my life today starts with a family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York.  I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue.  The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many things, my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my heart and its desires.  I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

She writes about her desire to be at peace with herself and continues:

I want, in fact to borrow from the language of the saints--to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible.  I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense.  By grace I mean an inner harmony...Vague as this definition may be, I believe most people are aware of periods in their lives when they seem to be "in grace" and other periods when they feel "out of grace," even though they may use different words to describe these states.


My summer meltdowns and distractedness will happen once or twice or maybe 120 more times over the next few months.  Only because feeling calm in a house with four kids and my high expectations is nearly impossible.  

But there are of course those "in grace" moments and those are the ones I strive for not just this summer, but always.

Another way I find my way back to being "in grace" and keep on moving on?  Music!

Keeping the post old school, here's one of my favorite songs. Ever.

Ace of Base was right, it is indeed a Beautiful Life. (Not very calming, but fun.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Little Tasmanian Devils

I walked into my living room to find this situation.  No, my home had not been burglarized.  It had been  played in by my children.  

My children who are cute but resemble offspring of the spinning Tasmanian Devil in Looney Tunes.  Leaving destruction and mayhem in their wake.

A storm delayed our plans for the pool yesterday.  So instead my children spun from room to room destroying, I mean playing.  While I frantically tried to keep some sort of order, I didn't get too worked up about it.  They were mostly laughing with each other.  They were mostly getting along.  And that is priceless and so totally worth the mess to me.

That's the great thing about my little devils.  They are easily pleased and entertained.

Once the rain and clouds broke, we went for a walk to the grocery store with a quick stop at the Dollar Store.  The kids loved spending their $2 on junk treasures they very slowly carefully picked out.

Back at home, the kids enjoyed the hell out of ice cold water from a hose and a baby pool.  The baby pool which I have had since my oldest was, well, a baby.  Sure they find new ways to jump off the top of the slide and rig up a mini trampoline to enhance it and make it a little less baby.  

I am amazed at how they manage to still have so much fun with it.

They do have fun together.  Do not be alarmed however, they are normal children.  I broke up two potential fist fights between the older boys, gave the baby a million time outs for spitting on everyone, a baseball was thrown at one child which resulted in a bloody lip, their new favorite insult is to call each other a doofus and there are about five thousand other examples of how normal they are.

But what I love about my kids is at the end of the day they love each other and have fun.  And ask to sleep in the same room slumber party style.

Just in case you forgot what the Looney Tunes "Taz" was like, here you go: