Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Remain

I have to admit that I haven't been feeling very "bloggy" lately. While this isn't expected, it's also not a surprise. When there are so many irons in the fire, it's understandable that one might just glide right off the page at some point. This happens often, but I remain.

I have been off on vacation all week, and I am living every moment of it. Some of my favorite times are early morning, as my children all rise. I welcome them to my bed to snuggle for awhile before that first trek down the steps. The K-cup is my reward at that point, and our days lazily unfold. Today, two of the five children I spent my day with (mine plus my lovely niece, Julia) met their daddy at the door in pajamas when he arrived home from work at 5 p.m. Besides the fact that this is living, this is right, Daddy said, and it's true, "It means less laundry!"

I am a homebody. I can keep myself pretty happy and fulfilled with the constant cleaning, cooking, dishes, laundry. I am in that happy stage of motherhood where I occasionally sit down to nurse that beautiful baby on the couch. I have a perspective I couldn't have dreamed to find years ago.

I also have blessings beyond belief--most of them in human form. I have spent many evenings and days with my extended family this holiday. There have been mouth-watering meals, too many snacks, lots of funny conversations and board game shenanigans that caused me to smile and laugh so hard that my cheeks hurt. Again, I say, this is living, this is the way it should be.

And so, who needs to blog at a time like this? I'm going to keep living it up the next four days. And, by living it up, I mean changing dirty diapers, breaking up fights among my children, washing my dishes by hand three times a day, but also enjoying that shopping trip with my mom, welcoming dear friends to my home for games and drinks and festivities, joining extended family to ring in the new year and loving on my amazing hubby and kiddos.

My vacations don't take me to the beach or Europe or on a Carribbean cruise. They simply take me to a simpler life at home: one where I'm not calling in favors to care for my children, not being a slave to the clock to hit my targets, not worrying about a million details that won't matter in a week, let alone in a year, a decade, a lifetime.

Nope. My vacations are of the less extravagant variety. They show me what matters, what is real, what is right.

They prove to me that, in spite of it all, I remain.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

So This Is Christmas

Merry Christmas! We've had another blessed holiday around here, save for a couple of babies with strep throat and some other selected, but small, crises.

It was a good time, and I'm still orienting myself to this very day and hour (is it true that 2011 is nearly over?!?), trying to get all the technological devices we got for Christmas functioning, and eating WAY too many lovely holiday sweets.

And it's still Christmas in my mind . . . But my eyes are crossing. So here's a family photo and a promise to blog again soon!! And a toast, if I may, to more food, family, laughter and love!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can't Wait

My mind is a melting pot. I have so many random thoughts right now that there is no way I'll nail this post. It's Christmas, mild weather, sick babies and contacts that feel as though they have been glued to my eyeballs. It's a house that's clean enough, gifts that are ready enough and laundry that is done enough.

I'm elfed out, I think.

It is kind of neat to sit back and relax for so many days ahead of Christmas. Not months ahead, mind you, but just days. That's a good, happy medium. And I'm so glad I created that cushion of time because I spent most of today nursing and carrying Luke, who is feeling quite crummy with a fever virus of some kind. From the looks of it, Colby has a touch of it too.

So my last day of work for 2011 that was supposed to be tomorrow might instead turn into yesterday. The fresh pine swag I still wanted to create for my banister may just have its day next year. And there's no reason why I can't tuck tissue paper into those stockings to help fill them out.

Oh, and the weather? I'm still hoping for those snow flurries. But whatever the weather, the state of this family's health, the true filling of those stockings, in less than four short days, we'll celebrate Christ's birth. I'll be a hot mess trying to get all six of us in church finery on Christmas eve. I will be throwing ingredients into my basket for the family party. I'll be up late with the hubby getting the place just so for Santa's arrival after helping the kids set out cookies and milk for the big man and carrots for his eight reindeer.

And then, short hours later, I'll be scrambling to ready the cameras, turn on the Christmas morning music and, maybe, even get a creamy cup of coffe in my hands before the magic begins.

And I can't wait.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

All is Calm

An old snap of Lily, who is more excited about the snow than I am!

Dude, why is it always 11 p.m.?

Not really, but I can't seem to stop at night. I'm always doing "one more thing," no matter what time of year it is and what day it is. I had an amazingly productive and enjoyable day off yesterday and a more relaxing and family-oriented day today. Next up is church and a huge family Christmas party tomorrow. I love this time of year.

And I love this moment...

This one, right here. My beautiful live tree winking at me from across the room; my handsome hubby snoozing on the loveseat and some dumb movie on TV (ok, that could be improved); four kids dreaming of presents, binkies, milk, whatever it is that makes each of them happy; and the thinnest, sparkliest, most beautiful dusting of snow covering the earth, the trees, the roofs and decks outside. FINALLY!

There are so many out there who don't have this. And I hurt for them.

I hurt for those who are lonely (which is different from being alone), for those who are abused in all its many vicious forms, for those who are hungry for food, for comfort, for friends.

I'm not so idealistic that I don't realize this thin blanket of snow is a thin blanket sucking the body heat out of those who desperately need that body heat to survive outside when shelter is hard to find. I know there are some out there who not only don't call their relatives friends, but don't call on them at all. I know there are parents hurting for lost children, parents who would give anything to have that chance to smooth the brow of their sleeping son or daughter just once more. There are neglected and abused children who don't know that the world is bigger than the hell that is their homes.

And for all of them, I pray. I wish them all this moment, or one very similar: A moment where all is calm and all is bright.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What We Carry

I have to say, I am feeling a little rough.

The sore throat, yeah, and a stuffiness in both ears. But it's more the hormones, I think. Out of whack! And yet I'm pushing myself through it. Only eleven sleeps 'til Christmas! And I do have a lot to do, but I'm trying to do it in a slow, enjoy-the-ride kind of way. I'm hoping this loveliness doesn't all end in a mad acceleration to complete the race. But my gut says slow and steady, and, after all this time, I've learned to trust my gut.

So it hurts to yawn, and I'm yawning. I think I'll let the pictures tell the stories tonight. But first, I want to tell you that I was watching a kids Christmas show--with my kids, of course--and I heard the following line, which has been with me all week in spite of the urgent last-chance sale emails, the lack of my outdoor Christmas decorations, the realization that we may not see a flake of snow before or on Christmas.....

"Christmas is what we carry in our hearts."

It isn't the gifts, the holiday bling, the car with the red bow on top. It's love, family, friends, memories. It's Jesus, faith and hope.

Christmas is the look on our believing eight-year-old's face as Santa climbed aboard our car of the Santa Train....

Monday, December 12, 2011

Joyful, Joyful

This photo of Colby on the Santa Train in Nelsonville sums up the Christmas joy we all felt this past weekend. It was busy busy busy! Lucas is doing so well after getting his tubes. I am very happy to report we have seen more smiles, better balance and MUCH longer stretches of sleep. Thank you, baby Jesus!!!

But my throat is raw, eyes are bloodshot, body yearning for bed. So this quick picture of Colby and brief update are all you get! Maybe, if we're lucky, "Parenthood" will be on tomorrow night, and I can catch up then.

And visions of sugarplums danced in their heads....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Weekend Kickoff

Aww, little man!! This photo was taken this morn after a very fitful night. Poor Lukey's face was wet with tears, slobber, snot, what have you. He is not well. And wow, are we tired!

Alas, this night threatens to be worse, and I must hit the sheets. Tubes are scheduled, thank goodness. I only hope little man is well enough to actually get them. No nursing after midnight per the doctor's orders. So the whole house just might be up for a rockin' party later.

Once we get through this tube business, we're going to have the best Christmas-y weekend: gingerbread party, tree hunting, tree decorating, church, family choir practice, "kitty-chasm" (Max's pronunciation of Catechism), and the Santa Train! I feel like a kid again.

Now, if I could just get this Elf on the Shelf to actually help out...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Elf and All Kinds of Magic

It's that time of year. The magic is starting to happen around here. We have a new tradition. His name is Alexander McGee, and he is an elf. He has already brought great joy and mischief in three short days, and we look forward to having him as a wacky, exciting houseguest through Christmas.

What will Alexander do next? If I only knew!

I am in a much better place than I was the last time I posted. I got that break I needed. While it wasn't nearly long enough, it was enough. I haven't been sleeping enough, either, but I've been on mother pilot for some time now, and I am doing just fine.

I've worked hard this past week to get a jump on shopping and other holiday prep. Nineteen days out, I feel pretty good. I think I'll be able to stay out of stores most of those 19 days, which is awesome. Except for having to work (boo), I'll be able to stay home, bake those cookies, deck these halls, rear these children and enjoy the spirit of the season.

I think I'm also going to read this sweet letter a couple more times....

Is it me, or is this December just roaring along? I'm half expecting a friend to call and invite me to a swim party somewhere. This weather is crazy, and it has me confused. My subconscious is blinking hard and fast, and I'm hoping to feel on the right page soon!

While I'm doing that, I thought I'd share some more snaps from the crazy, blessed long weekend that was Thanksgiving...

A beautiful baby....

A beautiful family... (missing a crying Lily and featuring Shrek in full game face)

And last, but not least, a beautiful bride, a beautiful friendship, a beautiful memory!

Stay gold, my friends. And happy festivus!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Learning Everyday

It's been a very long week with some really ugly moments, but some beautiful ones too. I am very tired, very impatient for some time to myself and very happy that I'm not normally on my own with the kids, as I was most of this week. Ah, Deer Camp. You slay me.

I haven't written because I've been too busy/too tired/too mad at various times. I've been thinking of whole posts in my head and ditching them. There are some things I just don't want to write here.

But I can say this: my husband is teaching me such lessons in patience. My children are half of him. There are some amazing attributes and some not-so-amazing attributes. Max has been showing his Shrek ancestry in big ways. Why, just tonight, as all of his other siblings were busy or sleeping, he refused my offer to snuggle with him, pooh-poohed my choice of Christmas book for his bedtime story and was generally bullish after I told him he couldn't turn on the TV.

This is a shout out. I'm alive and well. I'm resilient. I'm a Deer Camp widow. And I'm aching to be in my bed.

Just gotta drag the five-year-old up to bed from the loveseat, where he passed out much like his daddy probably would have, had he been home to do it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This Side of the Mountain

I have so much to talk about, but I am beat. So instead of posting all the gorgeous photos of holiday visits with family and friends and my best girlfriend's wedding, I'm going to simply post this one. This is a photo of my four kiddos with the newest kid on the block, Mr. Quinten Henry. The future is bright!

Shrek has deserted us once again for Beer, I mean, Deer Camp. The six of us, in all combinations, traveled in many different directions over the past four days. So my house was a bit trashed, and the kids were tired and fussy like their momma. So today, I happily took my planned vacation day, kept Max home from school and got to it. It was a long day, but the house has recovered and somehow turned from fall to Christmas, or at least the hint of it, along the way. (Shout out to my mom for her perfect timing in whisking away most of my kids for most of the afternoon!)

Bedtime was ugly. As I carefully climbed down the stairs after the last kiss goodnight, I thought about voiding the whole experience from my memory. Within minutes though, I was feeling much better. A better perspective emerged. And I realized that while the climb wasn't easy, I was happy to say I was on the other side of the mountain.

I've been helping my cousin with her early nursing relationship with her new babe, and I'm happy to say everyone is thriving. At her baby shower, my sis and I admired all the new baby items in their adorably modern prints and sleek designs. I looked at her and said, "You know, this is all really nice, but we're done with it now," and we shared a ruthless high five. I know they say raising children goes fast. And it does. But sometimes it's good be be on this side of the mountain.

I guess that is my overwhelming feeling right now. It's been a busy fall, and I've been pressed in all sorts of ways. Now, nearing December Eve and in anticipation of the year's biggest holiday, I'm ready to slide down, to slow down, to enjoy.

It was a long climb, but I'm on the downhill now, and the walk looks pretty good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thirty Notes of Thanksgiving

Luke would like to thank his big brother for sharing his lollipop....

I love thank-you notes. I like getting them well enough, but mostly, I like giving them. So it was not a completely selfless idea for me to do a project I'm calling Thirty Notes of Thanksgiving.

The idea bloomed in my brain earlier this month as Facebookers everywhere started populating their daily updates with statements of gratitude as part of a thirty-day Thanksgiving. I didn't want to follow the crowd, but one day, the thought came to me that I could surely think of thirty people to thank, who have made a positive difference in my life this year, for whom I am thankful.

And so, on a trip to town last week, I bought a box of fifty beautiful thank-you notes. Over the course of three or four sittings, I wrote one to our pediatrician, the awesome custodian at work, several of my aunts near and far, to the people whom I call coworkers that keep me sane, to the old college friend who sent Lucas pajamas nine months ago when his birth announcement went out, and to the kind men at Huddle Tire, who take care of me and my trusty green Honda van when Shrek can't. I wrote one to my sister, my mom, the members of my village that help me raise my children. I wrote to three bloggers who have had a tremendous impact on me. (Shout out CJane, NieNie and Ani!) I put some in the mail, sneaked some into office mailboxes, purses and locked janitorial supply closets. I handed some straight to the blessings in human form.

It was fun. It was empowering. It was something I didn't have to do that I really enjoyed doing.

So tonight, on Thanksgiving Eve, I'm writing one last note to all of you. Thank you. Thank you for reading my thoughts and beliefs when I get a chance to harness them into this blog. Thank you for playing the roles you play in my life.

In a month or so, I'm going to be asking for help from all of you. It won't be hard, I promise. But I thank you now for the help you'll give.

May Thanksgiving, one of the most loving, comfortable days of the year, bring you peace, family or friends who may as well be and good food. May we all put our problems aside and remember to be thankful for the many blessings we receive.

Oh, and dear Lord, thank you so much for this healthy little butterball of a cousin born this evening. Sweet baby Quinten, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. And boy, did you ever luck out in the family department!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kid Party

As perfect as these photos make last night's bedtime look, it wasn't so pretty in actual life. Daddy had gone back to work, the baby wasn't going down without a fight, and I was just trying to get the snack and pajamas part of the process under way. The toothache I've been drugging all week was making me more than a little grumpy. Truth be known, I was exhausted and mirthless before the final kid finally gave in.

So there is my disclaimer. Many times in this Facebook/blogosphere/online world, we don't see the truth of each other's lives. Who wants to admit they yelled until their throat hurt, as I often do? But it's life. It's the good, the bad and the ugly, and it's a blessing.

Hot cocoa, cinnamon grahams, apple slices, siblings. Reading books by flashlight. It's the stuff of childhood. It's a kid party on a Thursday night.

And while you might not see Colby right away in the photo below, he's there, on the right side of the frame, squinting into the flashlight he's shining into his own eye.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Warrior

This little man is a trooper. He's had double ear infections for about 8 weeks now, and, other than his poor sleeping habits, you wouldn't know it. We have tried three different antibiotics in this time, and the verdict is in: we're headed for tubes. And as soon as possible. Like maybe this week or next.

All I know is if the kid can smile this brilliantly with all that going on, it's going to be even more amazing when he feels 100% well.

I'm doing well. November is a quick one, eh? Seems it was just beginning a moment ago, and now we're halfway through!

I just love this time of year. I'm taking advantage of the energy I feel. In the past week and a half, I've organized, ordered and received 733 photo prints from the last 8 months of life with four kiddos. I've sorted the kids' shoes. (This task should be in caps and boldface for how essential it had become.) I've organized the photos for my fourth pregnancy scrapbook and envisioned zipping through it in a session or two. I've reviewed and critiqued the first proof of a new design and theme for this very blog. I've been able to spend time at work catching up on things that had been neglected during the event-heavy October. I've gotten a nice leap on Christmas shopping. And I've spent truly quality time with each of my four children and my husband. If I can do all that in two weeks, I must be in pretty good shape.

Oh yeah, and I started an arm workout for my best friend's wedding... which is in ten days. Think it'll help? Ha! I'm also writing my maid of honor speech in my head, which is a great way to start something you really care about writing.

And, finally, I'm working on my own little Thanksgiving project. I'll tell you more about that one next time! Keep reading.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Exhaustion

We took four kids to the Zoo today. (The picture above might be my favorite.)

I had a 6:45 a.m. wake up call courtesy of the baby, who also woke me no less than three or four times last night. Traveled 240 miles roundtrip to zoo. Packed four sippy cups, two bottles, snacks, two extra outfits, tissues, sunscreen, diapers, cameras, jackets, hats and more. Saw lots of wildlife.

I am exhausted. But happy. Good night!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Better People

I had a fantastic weekend with my birthday girl and my family at the center. I lived in the moment, I celebrated my blessings. I saw the good in all things.

In doing all of this, I was struck by the fact that my little girl has grown into a wonderful person. She's funny and kind. She writes in a journal almost constantly. She draws, better than her momma. She says please and thank you. And she's adorable.

At one point, she wanted me to write in my journal while she wrote in hers. I was trying to nurse a fussy baby to sleep and led her on and on to believe I'd write in my journal with her, but--oops--fell asleep myself. But before I did, she was finding my place in my journal, and we came across a note in her writing. It was found by Daddy in August on the living room floor, and I taped it into my journal for all time. We read it together: "I snuk a book from my mom's closet. It is a high school musical Book. She was maybe saving It for my Birthday But to Bad I Have It."

And we laughed and laughed.... "Too bad, I have it!" she laughed.

It appears my girl has learned how to laugh at herself. And, while that might not seem monumental, it is. It took me a long time to not take myself too seriously. And sometimes I still have trouble with that.

Another thing happened this past week that got me thinking. I was in the basement, putting away clothes, looking for others in sizes and seasons I knew existed, and I ran upon a Pandora's box. It was a tote full of memories, mostly from my teenage and college years, but also an 8th birthday card from my Grandma and Grandpa Strahler, a letter from me ("Two-Ton Tony") to my dear Grandpa ("64-Ton Tony"), my First Communion Bible and all sorts of other precious things.

And that box grabbed me by the heart and wouldn't let go. I stood and read and cried and remembered for more than an hour. My knees begged me to give up but my heart gave in to the memories. In that box was a smaller box of letters from my father during a very pivotal part of my life. Reading them was like reading them for the first time. They were wise and sad and full of humility. And it reminded me of a driving force in my life, a hand that shaped me. There were lines of advice in there, in my dad's somewhat backward way and script, that showed me that, in spite of our differences, we both want the same thing: for our children to be better than we were.

These two events together tell me it's true: I've been saying, and others say it too, that I want a better life for my children than the one I've had. But instead, I think maybe I want my children to be better people. The life, the house, the wallet, those are all details. But If I can have a hand in making better people than I am, now that's something. Those better people will weather whatever they must. They'll shine up their places in this world, and they'll find a better way.

Here's to birthdays, to this day, eight years ago, when I became nearly everything I wanted to be. Here's to raising better people.

And to my mini-me, who spiked a fever on her birthday: Feel better, girlie. I love you!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Present

Ah, the crux of life. I'm so awed by the many moods, the many seasons, the many emotions of life. More than anything, I'm awed by the blessings, all around, everyday. We get so busy and so stressed that we allow the edges of our lives to blur, and we lose sight of the blessings. But they remain.

Tonight, I'm catching up Luke's baby memory book. I'm dreaming of sifting through the glossiness of new photo prints, which I hope to actually be doing within the month or so. I'm marveling in the fact that our four babes, of varying ages, are upstairs, snugly sleeping in the safety and warmth of their beds. I spend so much time thinking of the spacious house we don't have, the backyard we need, the expanse of land I would love to set a home on, that I lose sight of what we do have: a warm, cozy house full of love. I'm proud of the house we built....

We have food too. And toys galore. Oh my, the toys! We could play all day, and often, we do. I've begun my Christmas shopping, and I'm encouraging the kids to think of the five gifts or so they REALLY want, as opposed to the products they're brainwashed into thinking they need every time a toy commercial comes on television. Even Colby has become accustomed to seeking out my face to say, binky hanging and drool falling, "I 'unt dat."

But first, a birthday. My little woman is having friends over after school tomorrow. They will take in playtime, Jukebox pizza, self-built ice cream sundaes and "Dolphin Tale" at a nearby theater. Miss Lily has carefully selected the treats and assembled the treat bags. She has grown more and more excited each day. And this weekend is about her and her birthday, with a family party and then her actual birthday on tap as well. I'm planning to dial down and enjoy it with her: my little helper girl, who makes me laugh and carry on in in ways good and bad. She is precious, and she is growing way too fast. The next time she offers me a place at her table, whatever the activity, I promise, right now, I'm going to take it.

Her brothers also carry on and continue to grow in all kinds of ways. I'm realizing how my busy-ness and my stress robs me of the awareness to see how fast, in fact, time actually is passing. I, on a whim, looked at an old photo album tonight from 2007 and 2008. I had two babies back then.

The work of my everyday life bogs me down, makes me complacent and, sometimes, even mean. But I'm going to resolve, again, to slow down, to cuddle, to savor, to write down the things I never want to forget in my journal, a baby book, this blog. I'm going to print those photos and put them in albums that I'll pull out in a couple of years to remember these days. But, even more, I'm going to squeeze and love and mug on those four little people in all their physical, present glory. I'm going to live more in the now, and not so much in the tomorrow.

Today is a gift. That's why they call it the present.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On the Exhale

Well, I am still catching my breath. I thought I'd post a little photo essay tonight to show what we've been up to the past week or so.

Busy? Why yes, but in the best way. Still trying to land on my feet. More soon!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Something More

We're full throttle into Halloween weekend around here. The pirate, Power Ranger, dinosaur and Mickey Mouse are all ready to go. I, Spider Girl, have a full slate of events scheduled this weekend, not only of the Halloween variety but of the wedding and baby variety as well. Joe Dirt is still out from last night's partying with the boys.

The pumpkins are carved; school parties are done. Now all that is left is a special family kid Halloween party and Trick-or-Treat. But along with that comes the opportunity to be something else, something more or something different.

And, after we're done with all of this, we get to enjoy November, a beautiful girl's 8th birthday and a gracious Thanksgiving celebration of blessings, family and food. And, oh yeah, after that it's a month of family, good food, shopping, friends, and some of the best days of the year at Christmas.

So it's no wonder that we love this time of year! Here's to fall and family and friendships and the act of weaving fun into everything. (Photos to come.)

Be safe out there tonight. Be yourself, but be something different, something more.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wine and the Written Word

This is one of those nights that confirms I made the right decision when I vowed not to make any major changes in the first year of having four children. My hormones are trying to square dance inside of me while my (im)patience tries to scrub the floor. And that fickle thing called hope is nowhere in sight.

I've got a glass of questionably old wine and the idea that I should be writing in my journal instead of typing on my laptop. There is a lot to be said for wine and the written word. Why, if I had the time, I'd sink myself into a bubble bath too. Sounds good in theory, right? But the water gets so cold, and I'm afraid I'll spill the wine or the bath on the paper.

I think I've got a case of the Mondays. And that's ok.

I had a teacher in high school that was incredibly quotable. He was grumpy and opinionated, and he favored students of one sex over the other. I was always up for a fight with him, but I respected him as well. The quote coming back to me tonight: "It won't be long until you want jingle bells; you gotta have jingle bells." It was about depression and coming out of it--somehow finding that thing to save you from yourself.

And so maybe that bath isn't a bad idea. Maybe that stroke of cursive "y" on fine paper with a roller-gel pen is what I need. If I'm really true to myself, I'll do the bare minimum and get to bed. I was up and up and up nursing a baby and smoothing back Lily's hair as her pneumonia cough haunted her slumber. This valley is very likely the result of the fact that I'm very tired and have been for a very long time.

A friend at work who has been feeling oppressed for many months was decidedly hopeful today. I saw her champion smile for the first time in a long time, and it made me smile too. I told her I'd borrow that smile and that hope, if she'd share them with me, and she agreed.

So tonight I borrow. I sip the wine and practice the written word. And tomorrow will be better. Because I'm blessed. And because, no matter the flood, hope floats.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Positive Change

Sometimes it feels like I'll never blog again. I've had an eight-day hiatus here, maybe my longest yet, but it isn't for lack of trying. The baby, beautiful boy that he is, is having trouble finding his happy place in the crib at bedtime. He's down, he's up, he's down, he's up, he's hungry, he's down, on and on... By the time I get him to sleep, I'm spent and half-asleep myself.

I think the hardest thing about my motherhood right now is feeling so behind all the time in spite of the fact that I'm always busy. I'm working, I'm thinking, I'm sidestepping disasters, and I'm trying to preserve my sanity. But I'm terribly behind on photo prints, scrapbooks, baby books and other things. I look at Luke and see that he's nearly nine months old and I wonder if I'm going to remember his babyhood at all. And I know his baby book looks bare compared to the others.

I still have hope that I'm going to catch up with all of this in true Erin fashion. I am pretty sure that I will; I just don't know when. Or with what resources. But it'll happen.

* * * * * *

I would be remiss not to write a brief statement tonight on how I'm feeling about the tragic loss of 50 exotic animals up near Zanesville, Ohio, about 50 miles from where I live. For those of you who might not know the story, see MSNBC.

I'm an exotic animal lover. I used to work at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and it was a magical place. During my relatively short stint there, I climbed into a pen with a Red River hog to interview its keeper, I got to pet the bridge of the nose of a male giraffe named Tsavo and I fed an elephant a "monkey biscuit" (no monkey involved). I had some amazing experiences. And I got to know some tremendous professional animal keepers who I'm sure are in deep mourning tonight.

The loss of animal life is terrible, but I'm in support of Sheriff Matt Lutz and his team for handing the situation with competence, urgency and confidence. The scene in Muskingum County could have been so much worse.

We can all state our opinions, conflicting though they may be, and attack one another for our differences. We can post the grisly, powerful image of the dead animals that escaped the scene and is now plastered all over Facebook. And we can think of the ways in which it might have gone down differently.

But, really, the only thing that makes a bit of sense is to take this tragedy and affect change in the way exotic animals are kept by individuals on private farms in Ohio. We can work together to influence positive change for both humans and animals in a state where, obviously, anything goes. We can be part of the citizenry that stands up for all beating hearts, whether they be human or animal, and for a better tomorrow.

Let's move forward from the horror of this day to make sure this never happens again. Not here. Not anywhere.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Forest

Colby and his buddy Brooklyn enjoy some downtime.

Earlier tonight I was feeling like the worst mother ever. I was home for less than an hour between working late and heading off to a league volleyball game. None of the kids were happy to see me go, especially Miss Lily, who was told weeks ago that she could come with me to watch me play a late game.

The time never seems right. This week she's recovering from pneumonia, and I knew I wouldn't be home until at least 9:30 p.m., a bit late when there are three days left in the school week.

It is hard to describe the guilt that comes with motherhood, especially motherhood times four. I decided to do this ten-week session of league volleyball for me. While I am enjoying it, I am learning that putting the oxygen mask on myself first, so to speak, also comes with pain.

I really do hate these times when I'm running like a crazy chicken with my head cut off. I know I am not alone in this, although sometimes it feels that way. There are millions of mothers out there trying to balance this crazy life and learning that, oh yes, it's true, that sometimes fatherhood really is motherhood without the guilt (and a million other things.)

As I drove alone to the game tonight, I found some solace on my iPod. I clicked on an oldie -- Bread's "Anthology" -- and it brought back memories of hours and hours spent "sitting on the wall" during my teenage years alone in my bedroom. I had the highest vertical jump in the history of my high school volleyball coach's tenure at the time. Every night I honed it by sitting on the wall and strengthening my quad muscles, sometimes for an hour at a time. Those days taught me tolerance and discipline. I learned a ton of albums, wrote in my journal, chatted on the phone.

Tonight, I got my $*^ kicked on the volleyball court. In spite of it, I left the gym feeling amazing. I had a great workout, an hour of physical play, good teammates.

And daddy handled bedtime, set the trash to the curb, and greeted me with a smile.

The worst mother in the world is feeling better, as one might suspect. Tomorrow is another day, another chance to get this right. If I can just keep giving my kids the right tools, they'll be stronger. There will be days when they have to go it alone, with mommy at work, on a trip, at a ballgame. But they'll be fine. And I'll give them kisses and cuddles every chance I get.

Balance is a beautiful thing. It's precious and it's rare. I just have to remind myself, often, to see the forest and not the trees.

Monday, October 10, 2011


In prepping Max for my cross-country trek, he was most fascinated by the idea of my flying on an airplane and wanted me to take pictures of the clouds. You got it, babe.

I had an amazing trip to Denver, Colorado. All of those fit, beautiful people out there are right: Denver is worth it! I didn't even have a chance to get into the mountains, but I know God treads there, in that beautiful city.

I did get to stay at a drop-dead gorgeous hotel. I met up with an old friend. I ate like a queen. I drank wine with some really successful, really genuine people. I visited with my "godbrother," and put that special time with him like a penny in my pocket.

It was amazing.

And, oh yeah, it was a work trip. The events went well, the meeting was productive. It was a pat on the back, a push to do more, do better, do right.

I called home to talk to the kids several times. They were in good hands, and I was so busy and gone for such a short time that I didn't long for them. Lily had been diagnosed with walking pneumonia the very afternoon I was slated to leave. My mom swooped in to help with her, and I am so grateful. Dave did an amazing job, and I came back to happy kids and a clean house.

When I left Denver, it was 34 degrees and snowing. Three hours later, I was welcomed by sunshine and 80 degrees in Columbus. Coming home was also a transition of the heart.

I am back to wiping noses, pushing swings, folding laundry, and playing chauffer. I'm back where I have found my place among my sweet family, my reasons.

The trip was a blessing, but it's a blessing to be home to this little man and his siblings as well.

Have a great week, everyone!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...