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Monday, April 16, 2012

Dominating and Intimidating

Last week was the kids' spring break.  We kinda took it easy and just relaxed...we busted our butts all year long so this past week was a week to regroup, refocus and head into the final nine weeks of school feeling refreshed.

We did do a couple of things here and there.  I took Claire to the movies.  The boys went after day after day of fishing.  And in the end, they were mostly happy with hanging out and relaxing.

Lucas' only request was to go to King's Dominion.  He wanted to dominate The Dominator and be intimidated by the Intimidator.  Two of the biggest, baddest, scariest roller coasters and Lucas was determined to ride them both.  I let him invite a friend to come along.  I decided it would be awesome to just hang out with Claire so I didn't even give her the option of finding a friend to tag along.  The four of us loaded up and headed up I-95 to conquer the amusement park.

But I learned a couple of things about myself and the kids while we were at King's Dominion with the three kids.

1.  The best thing to do is to let the boys go off by themselves...they'll have a much better time.

2.  Theme park food is expensive.

3.  I used to think I was only afraid of two things in life but now I think I can add that I'm pretty sure I'm  afraid of heights.

4.  I like hanging out with Claire.

5.  Claire is definitely afraid of heights and big roller coasters.  Can't you tell by the look on her face as we are standing in line for The Dominator??

6.  The little rides are not so bad...Claire and I had a blast playing Ghost Busters on the Boo Blaster.

7.  My feet and legs hurt at the end of the day from all of the walking.

8.  Amusement parks are a good way to wear everyone out.

9.  I'd go back in a heartbeat.  There are other rides I want to try and conquer ~ I want to get over my fear of heights!!

10.  Claire has no desire to get a season pass or get over her fear of heights...Lucas however is all over it!  He is my fearless one and he'll be the one to go back as many times as I'll let him.

Alright, so maybe Claire and I didn't dominate or intimidate anything but what we lacked in courage, Lucas more than made up for with his bravery.  He dominated the twists, turns and loops of The Dominator and he didn't allow The Indimidator to intimidate him...God love him because it scares the shit outta me with its 300 foot drop at 85 degrees...I think I'll keep being intimidated by that one!!

Oh, for the love of my children....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Things I Don't Need

Today, Stan announced that he bought an emergency first aid kit.  OK, I thought to myself...I've bought a number of these over the years ~ not sure how exactly this one's gonna be any different.  But he went on to explain to me, exactly how this one is different.

This one, Stan tells Zach, with pride tinging every word, has bandages (check ~ we've got those), emergency ponchos (those too), an emergency blanket (yep), a magnesium fire starter (OK, you've got me there) AND, Stan adds, with relish, four Snickers Bars (he's got me there too!).  I can't, for the life of me figure out why, on God's green earth, I would ever need those last two items.  Stan says they are there if we ever get stranded anywhere.  To that, I answer...I'll never need to worry about being stranded somewhere because I'm not one to go looking to get lost.  The most lost I think I would ever get would be from one hotel to another.  The wilderness and I do not go hand in hand.

For those of you who don't know me well, you have to understand that I grew up camping.  I started camping life in a pop up trailer, which morphed into a tow behind trailer and then when we moved from Colorado to Virginia my parents bought a motor-home.  We traveled up and down the East Coast in the beast.  We moved my brother to college in Colorado in our home on wheels.  We outran tornados in Kansas while "safely" ensconced in our mobile home.  We camped all over Colorado after we left Virginia and moved to Kansas.  And every time we camped my dad would hook up our tiny, black and white television and declare to all of us that "this is roughing it."  By the time I was in high school my parents finally put all pretenses of being the outdoorsy types to rest and bought a condo in the mountains of Colorado, thus ending any "love affair" I had with camping.  I say "love affair" because, really and truly, I'm not a nature girl.  Spiders scare the shit out of me.  I love my showers and private bathroom facilities.  I like having a hairdryer and curling iron at my disposal and I hate being dirty (I like being sweaty from a good workout ~ but dirty...NO!)  So, while I grew up camping in the great outdoors, it is not a place I relish going back to...get me a condo on the beach or in the mountains but to just say "Let's go camping.  I have the emergency pack," it's really and truly something I can live without experiencing.

To prove his point, that his emergency pack works, Stan and Zach went out to the backyard and started a fire in the fire pit...just because they could.  Zach was duly impressed ~ the magnesium fire starter worked its magic.

It was as we were leaving that Zach noticed the five gallon outdoor shower on the back of Stan's truck, it was full of water and warming in the sun.  As Zach passed it and ran his hand over it he said "OK, now I'm starting to get a little nervous.  Where the heck does Dad think he is taking us that we would need an outdoor shower?"  And I just had to think to myself "Nowhere that I would go.  He's just bought a bunch of things I don't need."  Maybe the kids will want to use them with him but judging Zach's reaction to seeing the shower thingy I have to say, he doesn't seem too interested whatever adventure Stan has planned.  Maybe Lucas or Claire will be more adventurous and head off to the great outdoors to experience whatever nature has to offer.

So, Stan now has all sorts of new toys to play with but they are all things I don't need...unless the world comes to an end ~ but even then, where will four Snickers Bars get us?  They'll just get us into a world of hurt as we try to divvy up four bars between the five of us.  The rain ponchos may come in handy as well as the blanket but other than that I can't see any of us, save Stan, using his new emergency kit in the foreseeable future.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sometimes That Child Drives Me To REALLY Want To Drink!

Today, as Claire and I were standing in the middle of the kitchen, she was holding the key to her expander and asking me who was going to turn it for her when we leave for Ireland.  I told her that one of the boys could do it, or her grandparents.  I went on to say "When your gap gets big enough, like mine was, you'll be able to turn it yourself.  I did and it was easy."  The look on her face was beyond horrified and her eyes immediately welled up with tears.  "You mean, I am going to get a gap like you had?"

Her tears were starting to come as I felt the laughter rising in my chest.  "Of COURSE, you are going to get a gap...that's what an expander does.  It expands your mouth so you have more room for your teeth."  Then her tears burst forth and she wailed "I don't want to have a gap like you did!!" 

I could barely contain my laughter, but at the same time I really wanted to bang my head against a brick wall as I was slurping down a glass of something alcoholic (does that make me an alcoholic??  I sure hope not, but even if it does, I don't care....I really wanted something to drink!).  Here, I flash back on my months and months of looking like something plucked off of the cover of "Hillbilly Weekly" or a Hockey Mom run amok and Claire is worried about a little gap!  My patience knows bounds and this was it!  I'm an adult, for heaven's sake and I made it through the humiliation of the months with the gap.  I suffered through, and made it to the other side.  

Claire said she didn't remember the boys ever having gaps.  "I'm sure they did," I assured her.  But I know for a fact that they never cried at the mere thought of having said gap.  And while I was mortified at the ever widening gap in my own mouth, I still had to greet the world each morning and face the world with my wicked, gap toothed smile.  There were moments where I tried hard to cover my mouth and didn't want anyone to see what was going on in mouth but for the most part I just had to own it...own the gap.  

As I tried hard to rein in my laughter, I told Claire this is the time in her life when she's gonna have to learn to laugh at herself or she will spend the next 20 months hiding in the house, in tears.  And by that time I truly will be an alcoholic because my patience will be long gone trying to console a girl who sometimes drives me to really want a drink!  But I did reassure her that if it's really that bad we'll get her a third front tooth like I got to cover up the 1/2 inch gap in the front of my mouth.  Then she'll look really special...three front teeth standing next to her mama who has a perpetual drink in her hand!  

Oh, for the love of my children....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Welcome To My World, Brace Face

Today, Claire joined me on the dark side.  Today, I can call my darling, little, baby girl "Brace Face."  And I say it with the utmost affection because I understand.

As I watched Claire sitting in the chair getting the brackets bonded to her teeth and watching the other patients troop in and out of the orthodontist's office I had to wonder who really joined whom?  As I watched the kids parading in and out of the various chairs lining the office I thought to myself, I am the one who really joined the dark side.  I am the one who invaded the world that is a right of passage here in the good ol' USofA.  I am the oddity.

But I'm glad I am.  Claire was none too happy when she sat up with her mouth full of all sorts of foreign objects in her mouth and drooling so badly she couldn't contain it.  I know how she feels.  I've been there in recent history.  I wasn't quite as cranky as she was when I sat up and my mouth was so full of things and wires are junk but I wasn't exactly ready to do back flips either.  I understand.  I am the one who ran interference for Claire when we got home and the boys were badgering her to smile, open her mouth and get her picture taken.  I had a leg up on them...I got to see her hardware, got a smile and badgered her into a picture already but I got all of those things because she knows how much I understand.

It's uncomfortable, hard to eat, miserable and painful but in the end the four of us who have suffered through our Brace Face stages with Dr. White will have all have big, giant smiles to show for it!  I'm just glad I can be here to welcome sweet, little Claire Bear into the world of Brace Faces.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Things I Don't Miss

Yesterday's blog was all about nostalgia and what I miss about having little ones.  Today is all about reality and what I don't miss about little ones....

1.  I don't miss diaper bags and dragging around the gear that comes with babies.  Now it's morphed into hockey, dance and swim bags but the kids are responsible for hauling their own gear around now.

2.  I don't miss the structure and strictness of nap schedules.  If the kids are tired now they sleep where they are or they go to bed.  There are no more cranky toddlers.

3.  I don't miss cranky toddlers, period!

4.  I don't miss finding Cheerios all over the place.  Now I find all kinds of other things but no more Cheerios.

5.  I don't miss dirty hands smearing things all over the walls, furniture, me.  Now I can tell them to go wash their hands and they will, mostly, comply.

6.  I don't miss pushing a stroller around or lugging it in and out of cars.

7.  I don't miss spelling words so the kids don't understand.  If I need to talk to somebody about something I don't want the kids to know about, I have to make concerted effort to do so but I don't have to resort to spelling words.

8.  I don't miss the lawn being littered with abandoned toys.  Now it's the garage that's full of all of the kids' abandoned toys.

9.  I don't miss counting to three.  I always wondered what I was going to do when I got to three anyway.

10.  I don't miss changing diapers ~ AT ALL!  I am SOOOO glad I'm only responsible for one bottom again!

11.  I don't miss being puked on.  I don't miss spit up on my shoes, clothes, in my hair or in my mouth (yes, a baby ~ not one of my own~ puked right into my mouth when I was a brand new mama).

12.  I don't miss cribs, pack and plays or high chairs.

13.  I don't miss car seats and strapping in a screaming, bucking baby.  I always felt like I was torturing my babies when I had to use superhuman strength to restrain them long enough to get the harnesses to click.

14.  I don't miss wiping drool and snot off dirty faces.

15.  I don't miss the excruciating pain that came with a newborn learning how to latch on when every nerve ending in my boob would catch fire and spread through my entire body.

So today, I focused on the present and enjoyed the stage where my kiddos are right now because while I can look back on their days of being little with nostalgia the reality is while babies are sometimes sweet-smelling and lovable they are a lot of work.  The reality is focusing on the present is the only way to fully embrace the day to day joy of being a mama.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Monday, April 9, 2012

Things I Miss

A long time ago, in a land far away I used to wish for the day when I could say "You know what I miss about living in Germany?"  I couldn't wait to come home, back to the good ol' USA.  I didn't do well, living overseas at the time.  I wanted to be home, on American soil raising our kiddos.  I didn't appreciate what opportunity we were given at the time...I just wished fervently to come home.

Now, there are many things I can think of that I miss about living in Germany and there are time when I truly wish I could go back to living a simple life in our German village of Bad Kissengen.  But those thoughts aren't what brought me to this day and this title.  No. It was yesterday's Easter Mass that brought me to this title.

Yesterday, nostalgia reigned supreme.  Yesterday I watched as the little ones came pouring into Church in their Easter best and yesterday I realized what I miss about little ones...

1. I miss Claire in a pretty Easter dress with frilly socks.

2. I miss dressing the boys alike.

3.  I miss hiding Easter baskets in the house, leaving a trail of jelly beans behind for the kids to follow to their baskets loaded with candy and small gifts.

4.  I miss baby giggles.

5. I miss little girls who get so excited that they have the same dress and can't wait for everyone to see them together.

6. I miss being taller than my kiddos.

7.  I miss the fear and elation on the kids' faces when they experienced a roller coaster ride for the first or second time.

8.  I miss chocolate smeared faces on first birthdays.

9.  I miss having a dog ~ watching Claire snuggle up to our old girl and seeing the joy on the boys' faces as they played with the younger of our two golden retrievers.

10.  I miss Easter egg hunts.

11.  I miss "Princess" Claire.

12.  I even miss the little girl who cried, shrieked and hated the hula skirt we brought back from Hawaii.

13.  I miss walking the kids to the bus stop.

14.  I miss all of the grand kids fitting on one couch together.

 15.  I miss sunshiny little girls with big bows in her hair and sparkly little boys with brilliant smiles on their faces.

Today is a day for nostalgia.  Looking back and trying to hold on to the memories.  Tomorrow I will work on holding on to the present...for the love of my children....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Getting Angry

I just spent the past two hours angry and I'm not really sure, deep down, why so I need to write it down...flesh it out, own it and then dispose of it.

I don't like being angry.  I spent too much time in my past being angry and it's a giant time suck.  Nothing productive happens when you spend precious time being angry.  Those years taught me the best way to deal with anger is to get it out and get over it.

Here's the story...

Zach wants to try out for a different hockey team next year.  He's been itching to try something different, something maybe a little bit bigger and more challenging for a while but we talked him into staying with his current team for this last season.  For the upcoming season, we are open to helping him see if there's something more out there for him in the hockey rink.  This year we are ready to see him try something bigger so he can do the best he can to follow his dream of playing hockey in West Point.  It's his dream and all we can do is give him the opportunities to reach for the stars.

This afternoon, one of my hockey mom friends, Heather, texted me to let me know there was one last conditioning session before tryouts start on Wednesday.  It was a little last minute and I knew Zach had lacrosse practice until 6:30 but if we hurried and I had dinner waiting for him, we just might make it.  So, I went to work arranging the pieces of the puzzle so they fit just perfectly.  I filled out the registration form for the hockey team.  I wrote Zach's bio.  I made sure I had my schedule down so I could shoot right from lacrosse practice to the rink across town and then back up to my side of town to pick up Claire's carpool from swim.  I checked with Stan to make sure he could swing by the rink to get Zach after conditioning.  Everything was a go.  Thumbs up...until I called Zach.

I've never heard Zach waver when it comes to hockey.  Usually, he's all fired up to get on the ice.  Usually, he chomps at the bit with all things hockey.

Today, he said "I really don't want to go."  And then he wasn't there anymore.  The line was dead and I knew he was headed into practice so there was no chance of catching him again before the end of lacrosse.  But I was irritated.  This is what told us he wants.  He said he wants to play for this team.  So why doesn't he want to go to conditioning with them and make a good impression on the coach?  He was recruited to play for this team last year but this year is a different story.  This year, the competition is going to be stiff.  This year, he needs to make a good impression, if this is what he really wants.

On the fairly decent chance that Zach changed his mind and really did want to go to conditioning,  I made sure his hockey bag and sticks are in the car and I headed to Wawa to pick up his favorite ~ Philly Cheesesteak.  I turned the car toward school to pick him up at the time practice usually ends and that's when I find out practice ended a half an hour early and he's been at school this whole time shooting around with some of his team.

My blood begins to simmer.  I spent my afternoon rearranging schedules and working my tail off to help Zach follow his dream and here he's been goofing off with his team.  He did the whole "avoidance" thing with call when practice ended early...didn't answer his phone when I called at the regular practice time end...made me come in search of.  And when I found him, my blood went from a slow simmer to a rolling boil...I was mad!

So to ease my frustration, I did what any sane, mama from the Far West End of Richmond would do...I stuffed my face with sushi and headed out shoe shopping.  And then I did what I really needed to do...focused on my irritation and worked at getting over it.

I didn't know why I was so stinking mad at this man-child who has so many grown up ideas and dreams and aspirations.  Why was I mad?  What was the trigger?  Was it that his phone disconnected and I had no idea whether he was going to change his mind?  Was it because he could have gotten there on time if he had called as soon as practice was done?  Or was it because it looks like he didn't care about all of the time and energy I spent getting things put together so he can chase his dream?

Maybe that last question is the one I need to focus on.  It's the one that revolves, mostly, around me and what I put into getting him ready for this conditioning session.  I am the one who made the arrangements, did the paperwork, made sure to get him his favorite sandwich from Wawa.  I went out of my way to help him and I didn't get the response I expected.

It's all about setting expectations and I set mine way too high for Zach.  I expected him to be excited to get back on the ice but what I forgot is that he is still a 16 year old boy.  He just spent a full day at school.  He had two hours of lacrosse practice.  And I threw this at him at the last possible second.  In all of this, I expected him to be ready to rock and roll.  I didn't take into account the fact that he is trying hard to be a man but he still has so many child-like tendencies.  He wants to be grown up, a little, but he's not yet there. I need to be the one to be the grown-up and I wasn't.  I set my expectations at a level which expected Zach to be a grown-up but yet I didn't set those expectations for myself.  UGH!

I wrote most of this last night and now today in the lightness of the morning, I can see my anger for what it was....misdirected irritation at all of the work I put into something to help Zach further himself. I didn't have a chance to talk to him last night.  By the time I got home from picking Claire up from swim practice Zach was already sleeping.  So this morning we chatted.  He does want to try out for this team.  He just didn't have it in him yesterday to make a good impression on skates.  Lesson learned...ask questions first so you have less of a reason for getting angry.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Little Fiery

Last night I got just a little worked up.  It doesn't happen as often as it used to.  And perhaps, it doesn't happen as often as it should.

When I was in high school, into college and even when Stan and I were first married and he was in the army I used to get worked up about all the real and perceived injustices.  A couple of examples...random locker checks in high school.  Oh, HELL NO, I remember thinking to myself, and probably saying out loud. That would be a gross violation of unlawful search and seizure.  Or in college, while studying journalism under one particular professor, being forced to take out  any and all references referring to my dad's military background.  What the hell, I thought?  This is supposed to be a major where we are supposed to protect freedom of speech and I am being forced to take that part out of my writing?  WOW!  And then on into early married life when I became a "dependent" according to the military...OH, HELL NO, I am NOT a dependent, I remember vehemently stating to a poor, little private who was just trying to do his job.  But the fires were lit and I couldn't, or wouldn't, back down.

In the intervening years the fire that lights behind my eyes when I feel something passionately has been tempered.  For the most part, I don't get overly involved in political discussions. I steer clear of religious issues.I don't want to talk about my views on abortion.  I would rather stay in neutral.

Until last night...

As soon as the statement "It's just disgusting there's a movie out there that glorifies kids killing each other" crossed my mother's lips I felt the tip of the match touch the strike plate on the matchbox.  When she went on to tell me how she thought the movie "The Hunger Games" was horrendous and awful and vile and disgusting, the match went from resting on the strike plate to flying across it, igniting behind my eyes and I knew.  I knew it was time to get just a little fiery.

My mother has not read the book "The Hunger Games" nor has she seen the movie.  She has no idea, none whatsoever, what it's about except for what she has been told or heard about on TV.  So I got a little worked up.  

I went on to tell my mother why she was dead wrong about the movie and the book, as Stan said "Well, I'm just gonna head outside.'  He left kitchen as fast as he could.  (He doesn't like being around fiery me.) I've seen the movie with Claire and I went on to read the book so I could understand it better.  I know what it's about and it's not about glorifying kids killing each other.

My mom went on to tell me how she learned what little she knew about the TV and hearing other's discussions about it.  And I have to say that made me kind of judge something on what others tell you about it.  Her statements reeked of censorship and intolerance.  Two things I am not good at ignoring.

Claire and I went on to explain the real meaning of the book, as we saw it.  I told my mother I saw it as very Hilter-esque ~ a society so controlled and a fearful of its leaders.  As I was explaining that point I looked Claire and saw her nodding her head, vigorously, in agreement.  Claire made several of her own points about the book and the movie; talking about the character's feelings, fears and what motivated them.

My mother did make one good point during our heated discussion.  She said that kids should not be left to read this on their own.  And she is right.  It's a topic that deserves discussion.  I'm more than glad I went to the movie with Claire and I'm even more glad I read the book so I can discuss it with Claire.

I think it's vitally important to be "in the know" when it comes to what is popular for our kids.  I read all seven "Harry Potters" so I could be prepared when the kids read them (they never did and I have to confess that I not only liked them, I loved this one is more than a little selfish)  I listen to their music so I know what's going on in their world of music.  In doing that I've learned to understand why it is that Zach has tremendous respect for Eminem.  I get it.  I want to make sure I understand their world just a little so I can help them navigate a little better.  I don't want to censor it or be intolerant of their world ~ I want to understand it.

Remember in high school when we were all assigned books that could be considered just a little outside of the realm of "normal" and could have easily ended up tossed aside, aka censored?  "Animal Farm," "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" and  "Fahrenheit 451" are just three examples of books I read in high school and I think about the censorship that could have happened with those three books. They are books that make you stop and think.  They are thought provoking and discussion igniting books. So for me, it's important too, to not only stay up on pop culture with the kids but also what they are reading in school.  There are time I've read (or re-read) the books their English teachers assign, just so I know what's going on and can help them if there's a question, a concern or and idea that needs to be fleshed out.  I've read "The Count of Monte Cristo," "Great Expectations," and "The Red Badge of Courage," right along with them so we can discuss, knowledgeably.  I don't want the kids to ever have to worry about books being censored by me or school.  I want them to feel free to explore knowledge.

I need my kiddos to understand that censoring anything without knowledge is never a good thing.  I want them to see that it's OK to get a little fiery every now and again.  I want them to want to stand up against intolerance and censorship. I'm glad Claire was here to help explain to my  mom that it's not a good idea to judge a book by its cover.  I'm glad my fiery-ness made an appearance last night.  It means it's still there and ready to come out when needed.

Oh, for the love of my children...