Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September Eve

The months are sliding by, bleeding into one another in shades of color, amazing me with their quickness. I am aware of changing seasons, lengthening limbs and growing minds. I'm torn between being appreciative and satisfied with what I have and with believing I must dream and want for more.

I'm fine.

Here's a rare snap of me and my babies. I use the term with endearment. It does not escape me that my babies are growing up. One day, God willing, they will all be taller than me.

I'll be their little momma. I'll be wrinkled, peaceful and happy. Maybe I'll be a best-selling author. I'll mentor whoever lets me. In short, I'll be me, but to borrow from the PBS slogan, I'll "be more."

Tonight, on this September eve, at this moment in time, I am sated. This day has been full; I have lived it well. My children are all asleep, my hubby is watching a strange, artsy movie on TV (but in the kitchen now for his snack), and I'm running my typical communication headquarters from my cozy corner of the couch with a hot cocoa on deck. As Lucas grows up a little, I am starting to incorporate more of the nonessential but enjoyable activities into my everyday life. I am tying on my running shoes everyday, whether I run, walk on my lunch break, or simply wear them on marathon grocery shopping trips with two babies assisting. It's the reminder I need to make an effort to move in the right ways to feel better. After I post this blog, I'm going to see about getting some long-overdue prints ordered. I'm going to remember to kiss my husband more.

And I'm going to get to bed, ASAP, I promise. Ha. I won't get enough sleep tonight, just as I haven't for many, many nights running. But September will come all the same. And then it will go. And the months will file past in turn. I'll be here through them all, loving and nurturing and thinking and dreaming and writing and walking and living.

Happy September Eve.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bunnies and Butterflies

It's hard to stay on an even keel in this world. Our human emotions can take us so many places, both welcome and unwelcome. We face each day not really knowing what it will bring, but pursuing it anyway because there is no alternative.

I'm becoming even more in tune to the slight--and not so slight--dips in my mood, my energy, my ability to kick it every day. That is remarkable to me: that I am able to discern those slight changes, that I am able to be aware at all of my own self in the spinning, harried ballet that is my motherhood.

I told you last week that I loved fall. And that's true. But it's always been a hard season for my marriage. I sometimes think Shrek's love for the Steelers equals his love for me. And that can be on a good day in the fall. Let's not even start on deer season and the many hunting seasons for every small creature. (Run, rabbits, gather the squirrels and the snipes and get moving...)

On my worst of days, I'm miserable. Womanhood and motherhood team up to pound me into the ground in turn. I'm frazzled, short-fused, unproductive, poor. On my best of days, I'm remembering my reasons, taking life in stride, feeling challenged but triumphant.

Today, I'm all of these things. The weekend is winding down. I'm nearly ready for the b%#*& that is Monday morning. I'm up too late, unshowered, behind on so many things, but maintaining. I'm remembering how I got to see a very special little girl meet her new furry little friend at a birthday party Friday night; how I cleaned, within an inch of its life, my upstairs on Saturday morning; how I rocked my $2 yard sale dress at a wedding that night; how I managed to upright myself and four children and dress all in respectable church clothes all by myself to attend Mass this morn; how I laid on a blanket and looked up at the clouds with my babies at Lake Tweet this afternoon; how I soaked up a visit with my sis, my mom and seven children at my sister's new place; and how I rolled with all the punches. There were about a million details in all of that. It was, it is, my life.

An amazing thing happened tonight. All four of my children were in bed. The sun was still up. I had the urge to go on a run. And my running shoes were actually here at the house, and not in the camper where they've been hibernating most of the summer. I tied those laces, grabbed my iPod, hit the sidewalk and ran. I'm every bit as unfit as I thought I was, but it isn't as bad as it could be. There's an athlete living inside of me, of that, I have no doubt. The madonna has been taking precedence, but it just might be time for the athlete to rise, if only a little.

I ran. I walked. Alternated the two. I planned to wear better underwear next time and to lose the dangly earrings. It was nice. And life-affirming. And necessary.

And, of course, when I got back, I paid for it. The baby had been up, screaming off and on for fifteen minutes. But momma got him back to sleep, rocked the sit-ups, conquered the dishes, had to ask for help on the morning prep and got it.

Tomorrow is another day. It's imminent, welcomed, unknown. I'm not going to wait for the other shoe to drop, but instead force it to land in the right direction.

Here's to hoping the melancholy will be gone, to be replaced, as Lily sometimes says, with "bunnies and butterflies," or, in adult-speak, happiness.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Golden Rule

So last night was our annual Back-to-School Feast. This year's theme: "The Golden Rule, Treat Others As You Want to Be Treated." I admit I put some time, with Lily's help, into preparation for the event, getting the table just so, making some gorgeous paper decorations to complement the whole deal, making dinner and a double-layer, double-chocolate cake. Before you go calling me Martha Stewart, I'd like to also disclose that piles of clean laundry, in plain sight around the folding area of the easy chair in the living room, got to attend the party too. They are still there tonight, and guess what? No matter. Life goes on.

I got the idea last year for a back-to-school feast from a fellow blogger, and I am really digging it. I am happy to host these super kids to a meal in their honor every year before school begins. I like the idea of creating traditions that mean something, but, more than that, I like the idea of sending them off with a theme for the year. Last year's theme? "Do Your Best."

I was tempted this year by "Drink It Up" or "Stay Thirsty" in an attempt to remind them to enjoy themselves, but kids are naturally good at that. (It is we adults that need to be reminded.) In the end, the Golden Rule kept coming to mind. This world is getting harder and harder everyday. While I want my kids to do well, I also really want them to display a spirit of generosity and inclusiveness among their classmates. In a time where emphasis on manners often slips by the wayside, I want my kids (and by my, I mean mine and my sister's) to "treat others the way they want to be treated."

The party was a hit! Baked spaghetti, garlic bread, yummy cake, a marshmallow/toothpick craft and great company all played a part in another successful school sendoff.

Tomorrow, Lily and Julia enter second grade, and Jud takes on kindergarten. Maxwell will enjoy his second day of St. John's Preschool. There's an excitement in the air that can only come with fall. The slate is clean and ready.

Here's to happy, healthy kids, another year of growing in knowledge and love.

If they keep on learning, they'll never grow old.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Right Where I Need to Be

Ahhh, life. I'm happy, busy, stressed, tired, loved and blessed... usually all at once. I am holding on to my reasons, my job, my blog, my dreams. I trust that I am exactly where I need to be.

Where I needed to be this past weekend was Lake Tweet. And the Waterford Fair. And, on Friday, saying goodbye to a cousin gone too soon.

Summer is ending. This weekend marks the back-to-school part of our annual happenings. I'm ready. It was a good summer, but I'm always happy to welcome fall. We still camp, we still have those rare days when we're all in the house, bored with each other or ready to pull our hair out with the housework. Those things are part of my summer too, and part of my life. And I'll still do these things, no matter the season.

Fall brings cooler temps, crisp air, the apple and leaves scents I love. The mums, the Octoberfest, Halloween, the celebration of the birth of my first babe, Thanksgiving. Yes. I will admit it, as if it isn't already known: I'm in love with fall. With the feeling of promise that "back-to-school" brings and the anticipation of the winter holidays.

It will all be here soon enough. But tonight, let's take another look at summer. All photos from Lake Tweet!

Stay tuned, as I'm scheming and planning for tomorrow night's second annual "Back-to-School Feast" and hoping to pull off another sweet sendoff for the kiddos.

Now, I need to get where I need to be: in my bed with my hubby with all my chicks safely sleeping in our nest.

Monday, August 15, 2011

High School, Remembered

I'm feeling a blast from the past tonight. I spent some time this past weekend with about ten of my classmates from my graduating class. We were the class of '96 at Waterford High. And, it ended up being true, "We never had it all together, but together we had it all." I remember leading the committee on the class motto and not knowing if that really fit when we chose it. We were a competitive, female-heavy, oddball kind of class, and I knew some mushy quote just wasn't going to work. When this quote came up, I made peace with it, thinking, "Well, we do have all kinds in this class, we've got it all." And, fifteen years later, it's still true.

It was great to see some of those faces I used to see everyday. There were a ton of memories, and I was surprised by how much of it I had forgotten. My favorites were from Mr. Nowell's chemistry lab. He was an older teacher who truly liked us and had a penchant for saying hilarious things like "Baker, are you masticating latex derivatives?" (chewing gum) and "Stollar, quit jerking me around!"

Gosh, those were long days. When you're a teenager, the hours in class drag on forever. It seems you'll never grow up, you'll never get to call the shots. You'll forever be a subpar citizen, with chores and curfews and pimples.

But you do grow up. Those days help to prepare you for the other trials and tribulations you might face. And, for me, they weren't all bad. There were "big sisters" in volleyball who decorated my locker on big game days, a crew of boy friends who taught me the fine art of slingshot (that's us, above, showing a little leg after graduation), and parents who supported me in all kinds of ways.

So the class reunion was a good thing. And maybe it got me in the right frame of mind for the sad news I got today. A dear cousin of mine was killed in an occupational accident. He was the epitome of a good guy, and my memories of him during our high school days abound.

They say only the good die young, and if that's the case, it's a wonder he made it this far. I'm telling you, this was one of the truly phenomenal good-time guys. He had a heart of gold and a smile that made you believe he'd just gotten away with the wildest stunt, which was often true.

I don't think I can find a picture of him from those days, the way I remember him best. I just spent nearly an hour, to no avail, looking for a photo from the night we had a '70s dance at the school, where one of my best memories of him took place. That was a good night for me and my cousin-friend. He paid me a compliment that night that made a big difference in my life. It was a nod of confidence in the best way, and I can still appreciate the "aha!" moment it created for me, the way it clicked it my head that I was worthy and that I did have something to offer.

And those moments, at the age I was then, were and still are absolutely priceless. So, rest in peace, my friend. You'll always be among my memories and those of others from the worst of days, the best of days, that were "high school."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Goodnight Blues

Sometimes you just can't get a good picture....

Wow, am I feeling low tonight... I had hoped to title this post a little more positively - maybe after a glass of wine - but then that last thing happened, and it all went to hell. I am so tired of trying to do it all. I don't know what the answer is anymore, how to keep this working motherhood ship from going over the edge and into the falls. There are so many dynamics. It's not even the details anymore. It's that the major components aren't even in place to keep the whole gig from sliding down the drain.

I got home from work today to a house where everything was wrong. There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the kids tonight, and a daddy working late to boot. They are all four bathed and sleeping now, and I'm too despondent to even feel a sense of accomplishment.

Mama said there'd be days like these.... only she didn't. Conventional wisdom tells you there will, but I really can't recall my mom ever telling me this.

Women have been mothering for centuries. There have always been challenges. I think the set of challenges today's mothers face can't come even close to the worst of times for mothers through the ages. We've got so many modern conveniences that make the sheer work of motherhood so much easier than it used to be. But we've got too much technology, too much desire for perfection, too much of a role society expects us to fill.

Working motherhood is for the birds. There are good days at work, good days at home and a whole lot of terrible days, where nothing jives, no one is happy and momma's candle is burnt all the way down on both ends.

I don't know what the answers are for me, but I'm not going to give up on finding them. I'm holding on to the few smiles I can remember tonight, the few moments where I wasn't feeling clobbered by the messy house, the mosquito I can't seem to find but who won't stop finding me, the kids that were acting out the way that I feel. And I'm hoping those kids, bad though they were, forget the yelling and grumpiness that was their mother.

I'm hoping I'll be back next time in a much better place. In the meantime, if you know of an awesome sitter who wants to watch my kiddos while I do the work "thang," give me a yell. 'Cause on top of everything else, the perfect one I had lined up just fell through. (And, of course, I understand. Our plates are ours to fill, and we can only guess at our limits.)

So goodnight, moon. Goodnight, you. Goodnight, overwhelmed. Goodnight blues.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Never Grow Up

It's a constant theme, and yet I keep learning it. It's not that I forget, really, but somehow, I have to be reminded. These days are precious. There will always be dirt, but these kids won't always be little.

We had a great weekend of camping with friends at Wolf Run. There were way more kids than adults, so, of course, it wasn't always relaxing. But there were a lot of hands and a lot of eyes, and it worked out beautifully. The food was great, the company was fantastic, and memories were made!

I've been thinking about seasons--not so much the seasons of the year, but the seasons of life. Dave and I, and the other amazing couples and single parents with whom we spent the weekend, are in the season of young parenthood. There are times you can't imagine ever getting out this season. While it is nice to feel needed, it's also a bit suffocating at times. As hard as it is to believe, these days will end. The kids will grow up faster than we ever expected, and it will be time for a new season.

So while the weekend was full of the busywork of caring for children, it was enjoyable and right. I had a couple moments of decompression, mostly later at night, when the kiddos were in bed and my mind wasn't racing to keep tabs on four little people. One of those moments was thanks to my dear friend, Traci, whose beautiful reason is pictured above. My girl has pipes like you wouldn't believe. She pulled out a song Saturday night that has been right under my nose for nearly a year. "Never Grow Up" by Taylor Swift. If you haven't yet really listened to it, you should.

Oh, darling, don't you ever grow up,
Don't you ever grow up, just stay this little.
Oh, darling, don't you ever grow up,
Don't you ever grow up, it could stay this simple.

You and I both know I am still fighting to find that balance in my life. To accept the past (all of it), to enjoy today, to not worry about the future. I'm consciously trying to keep money in its place -- not just in my wallet, but out of the realm of worry, out of the realm of utter importance. I'm always seeking that balance between work and home, and struggling with the 45 miles I drive between them.

But there are images like these, not art by any means, but snapshots of my most important little people, smiling and enjoying life, that remind me, that ground me. When this season of summer is over, I'll pack up and welcome fall, knowing summer will come around again, and that hopefully, I'll be here to see it along with the players of my life.

But when this season of my life is over, I won't see it again. I'll likely never be this tired again. I'll never be this needed again. And, more than anything, I may never been this blessed again.

I have to admit, in spite of the worries, I'm glad to have grown up. I've spent my whole life being an old soul, which is probably why motherhood suits me so well. And, of course, I want my kids, all of the kids in my weekend, to grow up. Please get to grow up.

But not yet. Ride your bikes in the 90-degree heat until your Daddy agrees to trade you his gel seat for your hard pink one. (True story.) Eat nothing but hot dogs if you want. You'll be fine doing that for a couple of days. Share string cheese with your adorable little friends.

And let's just keep this as simple as we can. You've all the time in the world to worry about the woes of life, real and imagined.

Please, for now, darlings, just don't ever grow up...


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