Friday, September 30, 2011

The Best Idea in the World

Lily and I had "the best idea in the world" tonight as we stood in line waiting to pay our admission into the high school Homecoming game. Sister hadn't felt well all afternoon, but made an amazing recovery before game time. But standing there in that line with her, in the fall chill, with her cold hands and her already wet socks, I knew it was not to be. I convinced her her "cold" was going to get colder, that we could very easily step out of that line, come home, make hot cocoa, put on our pj's, paint our nails and watch a movie. And that is just what we did, all the while congratulating ourselves for being so smart and warm and cozy. Gosh, it was such a relief! I had been wearing Luke in my Ergo front carrier, and my back was killing me. And with the busy-ness I've had lately and the time away I have scheduled, home is sweet, indeed!

One thing that isn't sweet is the smell wafting up from the carpet beside me where one of the boys spilled Lily's milk Wednesday night. (I just put two and two together to identify the problem.) Another is a $400 car repair bill I paid this week (but the mechanic tells me I'm very lucky to be alive, so how about that?) And maybe a final is that my girl truly isn't well again. She went to bed with a fever and a bellyache, and I'm scheduled for a minor overnight trip tomorrow and a major cross-country trip later in the week.

And then there's that baby! He's crying again, up for the fourth time in as many hours. Not only is he waking up often, but he wants to be nursed back to sleep every time. I, fourth-time mother, am at a real loss what to do with this kid and his terrible sleep habits. We've tried many things. All I know for sure is that his daddy is going to be very tired and very frustrated with him later this week when I fly the coop for three whole nights.

I am busy, blessed, tired and pressed for time. I'm looking forward to the many events in my life over the next couple of weeks, but looking forward also to nights like these, when my girl and I have the best idea in the world: to enjoy our home on cold nights with creature comforts and special people.

And I'm going to shampoo this floor first thing in the morning... after I wake up every hour or two to nurse this babe back to sleep. For every thing there is a season. This is the season of night nursing and, always, for the best ideas in the world.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unrequited Pecan Pie

My life caught up with me.

There's been a standing offer for a prize for the person who found the source of a "locker room" smell in my house this week. I cleaned, I searched, I concluded it must be the dampness or the wet kitchen towels that had to wait too long to be washed. On Friday, I took to the basement to look for the booster seat Colby needs that I must have sold in a yard sale and found the problem.

The ancient upright deep freeze door had been open for twelve days. Twelve. Days. Ick.

While trying to get out of the house with my brood to head to a get-together at my aunt Shel's, I had asked Max to go in the basement to get a pecan pie out of the freezer. Lily raced ahead and got it herself, with a mad Max trailing and Colby bringing up the rear. In the end, two boys were crying, a girl victorious, and, unbeknownst to all of us, the freezer door had not been shut properly in the fray. (And we didn't even end up needing the pecan pie, so it was all for naught.)

This is where I thank God for my husband, who took care of the entire problem with no assistance from his raw-meat-hating wife. Thank. You. Shrek. I love him for being strong enough to take care of the deer meat, the corn, the things he found that he said must have been in there for the entire eight years or so of our deep freeze ownership. That's all I'm going to say about that.

But I think my thaw came with the deep freeze thaw as well. I'm feeling more human these days. The pall has lifted yet again. I have had an insanely busy weekend, and the next three weeks are nothing but go time.

My plan is to keep my head up, keep my heart in it and get through it. I'm going to pause when I can for hot tea, fall candles, moments of clarity and the people who make my life an incredible, blessed journey.

And I'm going to keep a better eye on not only the open doors in front of me, but the ones that should be closed as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Council of Friends

The last time we were all together... The Bitches, June 2000

I gotta tell you... I'm still looking for the bunnies and butterflies. I am working hard to rearrange some things in my head right now. I don't really want to bear my soul on the issues, and, luckily, I'm a grown up, with free will as you'll remember from last week's post, and I don't have to do so.

But I'm compelled to tell you of a soothing daydream I had today in which I called a council of friends together on my behalf. I laid my options and my heart on the table before them, asked their advice and was supported. And I just might call the council.

Because the worth and the power of truly good friends can't be underestimated. They help us to see the world more clearly, to admit our true feelings even when we haven't admitted them to ourselves. They rise in the brine of those who make up the days of our lives. They become our sisters and brothers, our own personal shrinks, our in-case-of-emergency contacts. Our strength.

My close circle of friends includes both women and men from every era of my life. Some of them don't even know each other. I see some of them on a regular basis and others, only once a year or even more seldom.

While I've gathered amazing friends at different places and at different ages, I came upon a goldmine of sorts my senior year of high school and all throughout my college years. I had the great and unending pleasure of becoming one of a fairly tight group of friends affectionately self-proclaimed as "The Bitches." You might not expect it, but we were four women and four men, and we were nice to each other and nice to others. And I honestly can't remember exactly how we came to be "The Bitches," but we did, and we are to this day.

What I do remember is having the time to meet for coffee, for lunch at the Union, for drinks, for trips home to see each other's parents, for shots, for guitar sessions, for moral support. We had standing dates on Thursday nights for NBC Must-See TV in the late '90s and met every other possible night in between. There were parties, study sessions and "conferences." There were hook-ups, upsets among friends and, eventually, a marriage when Shrek and I made it official in 2002.

I could write a book about those friends, our early days, and the way in which we remain connected, though spread in physical space. (And I might.) And on nights like these, I remember and cherish and celebrate the fact that I really could call any one of them, right now, and use a lifeline that wouldn't count against me in any way. Those friends would answer and would grant me the forgiveness, the favor, the friend I needed.

The idea of convening my council of friends changed my perspective today. It made me turn my head in the other direction, to see what they'd see. And while I still don't have the solutions, I can see the open doors through which I might walk. I know if and when I need that final shove, I'll have some friends to kick me the last few feet in the right direction.

So to my council of friends, near and far, thank you for what you did for me today. My bedtime has whizzed by me yet again, but I've stayed up late to have those conversations with you all, in my heart and in my head, that are worth the late bedtimes, the all-nighters, the rest of my life. Thank you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


One of the funniest things I've seen all weekend: Shrek and his mini-me mowing the lawn

I'm trying to decompress tonight. I'm not sure if my cyclical mental crash was due or if I just got really exhausted with financial worry, but I fell under the wagon this weekend. I'm crawling out. Reaching hand over hand on the wheel spokes. Coming back up.

Things I like: doctors who are open on Sundays, the gorgeous, crispy fall weather, and brand spanking new family photos hung around the house. Things I don't like: empty checking accounts, babies falling off beds, the power of football in dictating my weekends.

My brood is well, my heart unscathed. I'm cautiously optimistic about my week. I'm counting my blessings and snuggling a sick, sweet baby.

I don't have a lot to say, but I wanted to say this: I still believe I'm right where I'm supposed to be, and I still feel as though I'm on the brink of something wonderful.

Come with me?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Be That Person

This post has been writing itself in my head this evening, begging me to share. And if it would please send its first line out, I'd get right on it.

It's something about a stream of consciousness, because that's what this is going to be. I've had a good day off. I ran the preschool carpool this morning and decided to stop in to see Miss Ava, our six-year-old friend and cancer warrior. I teared up as she and Luke carried on a babbling conversation and swapped smiles. I was reminded of life's goodness then and shortly after that when I watched her stand, for the first time in a long time, with the help of a clever contraption during her physical therapy session. It was a gift.

I did all the usual things I do on my days off, which means I busted my *^% around the house, conquering dirt and grime, organizing endless clutter, changing diapers, assessing the fact that food in the cupboards, refrigerator and freezer was scarce. I let dinner prep go, admittedly because I was at a loss for what to make. But I spent that hour surrounded by my kids, helping Lily write a play that she and her friends plan to perform at recess tomorrow, marveling at Max's hours of quiet coloring and drawing and singing today, babying Colby because he's needing his momma right now and nursing nursing nursing Luke, who is well on his way to becoming the giant we think he might be.

I did a lot of thinking while I did a lot of driving to fix the food scarceness problem this evening. At the first grocery store, I was aware of the reactions of others around me as I cheerfully struggled to bag my own groceries with a fussing, uncomfortable baby nestled to my abdomen in a front carrier. I was bouncing and singing and stooping at weird angles to grab cans and other objects and pitching them into bags. Some people ignored me, one woman kept smiling at me knowingly, but nobody offered to help.

Outside the store, I loaded the car, returned the cart to the corral and left my quarter, just like I always do. A happy good-looking man, who I perceived to be well-off, was approaching. He greeted me warmly and told me I'd forgotten my quarter. I told him, no, I was paying karma, and that maybe karma would pay me back sometime. At that, he grabbed my quarter and told me "karma" was paying me back right now, to put it in the baby's piggy bank.

At my second grocery store, I ran into a friend and loyal blog reader no less than five times. (Hi, sweet lady!) I fretted about money, noticed how much of my groceries seemed to be landing in my cart at six-dollar intervals, and stretched Luke's patience.

On the way home, I heard a great story on the radio--ok, I was listening to Delilah--about how a group of strangers, somewhere this very day, all stood in a grocery store line behind a young single mother whose food stamp debit card hadn't yet been loaded. The cashier, who sent in the story, said the woman was embarrassed and starting to reload her cart when the person behind her offered $20 toward the cost, and then the one behind her said she'd give $5 and on and on through the line until the woman's grocery bill had been paid.

And that's what I'm talking about! That's my kind of story, right there!

While we live in a society that encourages us to look out for number one, to get the best parking spot, the best deal, the best salary, we all have free will. I want to be the one who remembers, in spite of my self-occupation with all I have going on, to offer to help the person who needs it bag those groceries, to continue to pay karma that measly quarter every chance I get, and to be the one in line who says, "I will help this distraught person pay for these groceries, which she clearly needs."

I want to be that person, and I hope you do too.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Teaching Moments

Having four kids means I get a physical and mental workout every day, sometimes every minute of every day. I still picture myself in motion. When I think of the dance I do through this life, right now, I imagine I'm something like a spinning top or even the ball in the arcade-style ping ball machine. I'd like to be that graceful ballerina, with more limbs than tasks, beautiful lines, unending mute patience. And sometimes I am, but--let's face it--not very often!

While my legs and eyes are more tired than anything at this moment, I would have to say this weekend offered me more of the mental variety workouts. There were many teachable moments. Like when I had to try to explain why daddy was going to the doctor because we're done having babies, when the kids know it's mommy's body that changes, births and feeds those babies. Or when Lily excitedly and loudly proclaimed in Gabriel Brothers that she "found people from China!!" Or when we saw these beautiful double rainbows on the way home from a family dinner this evening. It was a driving rain kind of thunderstorm, but with the sun as bright as you can imagine. We were all searching for the rainbow and were doubly rewarded for, as I told the kids, "looking for the good thing in the storm."

But I have to say my most challenging teachable moment was trying to properly educate Lily and Max about 9/11 on this somber tenth anniversary. Yes, there were bad guys. About seventeen of them, I thought. They snuck weapons on planes, hijacked them, flew them into the towers and toward the Pentagon. They crashed the planes on purpose, killing everyone on board, killing people in the towers, and then killing even more as the towers fell. Many of those that died were firefighters and police officers helping others to escape. Yes, the bad guys were from other countries, BUT all people from other countries are not bad. Did we get them? Well, we got their leader, not too very long ago. He hid for ten years, but we finally found him. Was I alive when it happened? Oh, yes, I was. And I remember....

I remember a gorgeous sunny day in Columbus. I was sitting at my desk in my cubicle at the zoo, and I heard from a passing coworker that a plane hit the World Trade Center. Being the curious journalist I am, I climbed the stairs to the mezzanine to join others in watching the television coverage, stunned just as they were. The crowd kept growing, and so did the horror. I was twenty-two and scared for my country. I cried when the second plane hit and again when the towers fell. The zoo veterinarian gave me a hug, and I was reminded then, just like I'm reminded now, that no matter our sex, our salary, our situation, we are all Americans.

Those were scary days and, for some of my fellow patriots, the worst of days. Moms, dads, sons, daughters, husband, wives, friends and siblings were lost. Gone then, now and forever.

Some parents are shielding their kids from these images, those days, that terrible true-life story. But not me, man. My five- and seven-year-olds are old enough to know that bad things happen, that everyone is not their friend and that there are things adults can't fix. They are old enough, in their mother's estimation, to begin to learn that we're all in this together. We all feel sadness, we all cry.

They may have grown up a little bit more today. And so did I. But we also grew in love and in appreciation for each other. I won't let this crazy world make me forget to spend those precious minutes on the morning snuggle, to offer my open arms to misbehaving children, to mother up in my role as chief character builder, even when the lessons are hard.

Now, an hour past the bedtime I've decided I really should adopt, I'm signing off. On this tenth anniversary and always, may God bless the USA.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beg, Steal or Borrow

Let's see. Where to start? Busy weekend, a two-year-old with a stomach virus, a ninth anniversary...

I won't go into detail about my weekend, but it was crazy, hectic, fun and stressful. I relied often on the kindness of others, particularly in deference to my children. I got to see a ton of great friends, had my best night this summer around the campfire and witnessed an amazing 30-plus degree change in the weather. This is September in Ohio!

I give the weekend an A. Today? Maybe a B. In spite of a sick toddler and a cranky, teething baby, I rolled with the punches. I remembered both in my gut and in my head that my place is here at home, raising my little people to be good people. I consoled, cleaned and comforted. I'm content.

I spent some time reflecting on my marriage. Today is the ninth anniversary of the day I said "I do," and it has been just like any other day. I specifically instructed Shrek not to send me flowers. We had dinner here, in between four kids needing a million things. He's tired and off to bed, no shared wine or Scrabble tonight, like I thought we might. But it's okay. It's marriage. It ebbs and flows, and, sometimes, you get what you put in. And we had a couple of sweet looks in there that said, "Happy Anniversary, baby.. can you believe the kids we made.... I know you're still the hottie I married..."

When I think about my relationship with my husband and how far we have come, I'm really just amazed at the perspective I've gained in nine short years. I really have grown in the way I think about things, the way I regard my husband, the way I perceive our everyday push and pull. I can't even imagine the perspective changes that occur in people who manage to stay married twenty, thirty, fifty, seventy-five years! God willing, we'll be one of those couples, with enough wisdom to write a book, or at least guide the young people in our lives to see marriage for the gift it is, the burden it can be and the many shades in between.

My advice after nine years? It's worth it. Shop well, marry the best you find, work through the problems, be selfless. It's like life: it isn't always fair, but it's worth it. Beg for forgiveness if you have to, steal kisses whenever possible and borrow the time it takes to make it work.


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