Saturday, December 18, 2010

Growing Up Is Hard To Do

I hesitate to put this out in the universe, but I think a corner has been rounded in my household. Mathilda is indeed sleeping in her crib for the fourth night in a row. She has fallen asleep on her own these four nights, with very few tears involved. I read to her and Lucy (Mathilda stays safely across the room from me as I read), put on a movie for them (I know, I know ~ terrible habit! but it works so I'm sticking with it), put Mathilda in the crib while carefully avoiding eye contact (because if she looks me in the eye, it'll be all over, I just know it!), and turn off the light. Then as I'm heading down the stairs she calls out "buh-bye" and that's that. The trauma has been incredibly minimal.

I've been waiting for this momentous occasion. Yet...I'm kind of sad about it. My baby is growing up. She suddenly doesn't need me as much as she did last week. There's no going back. A little part of me just wants to crawl in bed and cry because, well, I've done this before and I know in the blink of an eye this baby of mine is going to be coming home from school and telling me she has a boyfriend (in 4th grade?! WTH?!) and I'm going to look at her and suddenly get a glimpse of what she'll look like when she's 18. She'll make her own sandwiches, tie her own shoes, and modestly close her bedroom door when she's changing her clothes. 

I have four beautiful, healthy children and really, I'm good with that. Truthfully I always wanted to have four kids. And I think I'm teetering on a fine line between slightly lingering sanity and utter chaotic mayhem. But...every stage Mathilda passes is sort of heartbreaking. I miss the baby days. And soon I'll be missing the toddler days. And knowing I'm never going to go through it again (because I'm not) is hard.

(wait, let me dry my tears)

On the other setting their own alarms, waking up on their own, and fixing their own cereal in the morning is nice. So is kids getting in the van on their own and buckling their own seat belts, not to mention answering the phone, feeding the dog, taking their own showers, and changing the channel on the t.v. As my kids gain independence one step at a time, my life gets a little easier. I enjoy and appreciate that. But I also cherish each stage and yearn for the Wonder Twin power to freeze time every now and again.

Many years ago, back in 7th or 8th grade, one of my friends wrote a story that I've never forgotten.  I can't remember the name of it (there's a good chance the class compilation it was published in is still in my mom's basement...) but it was about bottling up memories, special times in our lives, and being able to open the bottles and re-live those moments any time we choose. Like bathing in the essence of your wedding day, smelling and hearing and seeing and feeling everything you experienced at that moment. Can you imagine? In my mind, that is what heaven is like. I have no idea how my friend knew the poignancy of what she wrote at that age, when life seemed to span on for an eternity and stalling time was the last thing I would have wanted to do because I was forever anticipating the next thing, whatever that was. I don't know if you're reading this, Jen Beckmann, but if you are, thank you for that story (among many other things).

All my babies are growing up, and it is bittersweet. I miss who they were, enjoy who they've become, and joyfully look forward to what's to come.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Days and Other Stuff

So far this week my kids have enjoyed two snow days, and it's only Tuesday! I have loved having them home, but they really do need to go back to school so I can finish my Christmas shopping. Well, the small portion of my Christmas shopping that is not done via at least. I think I might be done with Amazon actually(maybe one more order...) since it's getting close to the Christmas delivery cut-off with the free shipping. I love Amazon. I tell everyone they should do their Christmas shopping on this glorious one stop shopping conglomerate website. They have, like, everything. Free shipping, no tax, heaven.

Today we spent hours working on making Christmas gifts for teachers and friends and building one of those Star Wars Lego things that have about seven thousand pages of instructions. I meant to get some baking done too, but that didn't happen. But I could get started on that now, since all the kids are up in bed. Yes, that's right, all the kids. Mathilda went to bed with the other kids and is at this moment sleeping in her crib! But by now I am smart and experienced enough to know that she will wake up pathetically wailing just as soon as I get involved with a project. In fact, she probably just received a subliminal message from the internet or something informing her that it's time to make a liar of her mom.

"I'm not sleeping! BAAAAA! How could you think that? I was just lying here waiting for you to get busy with something so I could start screaming and not let you accomplish anything! It's what I do!"

Yes, that is what she does. But that's not all! She also likes to take all the diapers out of the box several times a day, take as much food out of the pantry as she can reach, dump out my purse, draw in books (a fun new hobby!), pull ornaments off the Christmas tree, roll around on the floor in clean clothes before I vacuum (we have a black shedding dog people!), and so much more. Like refusing to nap. Then she ends up falling asleep in the high chair at dinner time, or today she fell asleep while standing up and looking at her current favorite book, Old McDonald. She also doesn't actually like me to read to her, but she loves, loves, loves books. She brings them to me all the time like she wants me to read to her, but then as soon as I take the book from her and start reading, she starts screaming, grabs the book and runs off with it. I can't wait until this child can talk so she can finally let me know what all the fuss was about.

Anyway, snow days are nice, but there is that knowledge in the back of my mind regarding what actually caused the snow days. As in snow. And in this case, also frigid cold temperatures and icy roads. Yuck. I am really not looking forward to leaving the house tomorrow morning. But at least I have a remote start for my van, so I can get it all toasty before we get in it. Of course, I probably forgot to leave the heat on last time I drove since I just cannot seem to remember to do that.


I think I need to make one of those paper chain countdown things, counting down the days until Spring. I need a visual reminder that there will not be snow and slush and ice and freezing cold blechy weather forever and ever, because that is kind of what it feels like right now.

For now I will make an effort to focus on things I'm looking forward to. Like meeting a friend for hot chocolate on Thursday morning, and seeing Lucy's preschool Christmas program on Friday morning. And snuggling on the couch with my new, super soft and awesomely cozy blanket I recently received as a gift from a relative I've never met via a family Christmas gift exchange (yep, definitely ridiculously blessed). Which is what I think I'm going to go do right now, while I'm waiting for Mathilda to wake up and remind me that, duh, she doesn't sleep in her crib.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

They Make It Look So Easy On TV

So, we spent Thanksgiving in Florida, visiting my brother-in-law. By the end of our trip, I was feeling well enough to eat almost normally. The dentist said my one tooth just got pushed up into my gums when I fell on my face, and it may never come back down. He took x-rays and reassured me that my teeth are not in danger of falling out, although there is no way of knowing whether or not they will darken in color at some time in the future, and nothing to do to prevent it. Now they are almost back to normal, although a bit more crooked and uneven than they used to be and there is still a bit of numbness in my nose. I can't yet bite into an apple, but my teeth haven't fallen out, which was my greatest fear. Maybe someday getting braces for myself will become a priority and I can have straight, dreamy teeth.

But anyway, yeah we went to Florida. It was a pretty short trip, since I've developed a bit of a complex about getting those threatening letters from school about truancy court blah blah blah and I only let the kids miss one full day and one half day of school. Gosh those letters are so annoying. But we packed a lot into our five days. We saw the movie "Tangled" (loved it!), spent a stupendous 13 hours at the Magic Kingdom (so much fun), cooked a big Thanksgiving dinner, wandered around downtown Orlando for an afternoon, and drove to Cocoa Beach for a day so the kids could swim in the ocean, even though it was freezing (around 72 degrees) and even raining a little. Lucy was the first to get out, as she told me a "giant wave was approaching" and she got lots of water in her face. 

We totally lucked out with airport security, both ways, and nobody groped us or tried to force us to radiate our bodies while they laughed at our underwear choices in private. Mathilda mostly (maybe I should say somewhat) liked the plane ride, and was even yelling WHEE! during take off. But throughout the trip she started getting sick and coughing a lot. By the time we were flying home, she was coughing a whole lot and feeling pretty lousy (I'm guessing, she didn't actually express to us in words). She also was putting her feet on the seat in front of her. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot I could do about that, she was sitting in her car seat and her feet just kind of went there. An 18-month old doesn't tend to listen very well when you tell her repeatedly to stop kicking the seat. And she cried a little bit. There was a family of three sitting in front of us. At first the mom was sitting in front of Mathilda, but then she wised up and made her kid switch seats with her. The father was sitting in the aisle seat, in front of Bethany, and every time Mathilda had a coughing fit or cried at all, he would whip his head around and glare at me. It was very apparent, Chris noticed it from across the aisle. Sorry dude, not sure what you wanted me to do. It was a short flight, man up. Glad your kid (who was about 10) is perfect, someone should really give you a medal for that. He's probably never been sick, either. And just for the record, my other three children were model passengers. I was a wee bit irritated by the time we landed back in Detroit.  But I'm over it now, really.

The thing is, on the morning of the day we left Florida, something really tragic happened that I just can't shake. My brother-in-law's neighbor and good friend died. But he didn't just die, which would have been sad and depressing enough. I don't think I want to get into details here, but it was a very violent and horrible situation, which he was 100% responsible for. What I can't quite get past is that this guy went to the movies with us and sat next to my daughter. He came over the day we had Thanksgiving dinner and had dessert with us. We saw him several times. He talked to my kids. And then he did this terrible thing. I can't believe we let him around our kids. But we didn't know, and he seemed so normal. Yet we're parents, shouldn't we know when someone is going to completely crack and is perhaps not someone who should be around kids? Honestly it's a little freaky to know someone can look and talk and act normal, even while on the inside they're plotting some horrific event. On television or in movies, people do crazy violent things all the time. They seem to have no qualms about it. It looks so easy and ordinary. But in real life, these senseless acts ruin lives. Real lives.

There's just no making sense of some things, no matter how hard you try.

Christmas is creeping up right around the corner, but I haven't found my holiday spirit quite just yet. It's in there somewhere, I know it is. I really just want to go spend the holidays in Hawaii or something, which I've been saying for years. Santa is global after all. Speaking of which, living a lie is mentally draining and inconvenient. Especially as related to shopping. Oh the things we do for our kids.

One thing I am into this holiday season is eggnog milk shakes. Yum-my! The kids are hooked too. They may not be low-fat/low-cal, but I'm not going there. Calcium is good for you! And protein! Therefore it follows that this frozen deliciousness must be good for you too.

Mathilda is my constant companion and she loves to talk to everyone, everywhere. What she mostly says is "hi" and "bye", while executing the perfect princess wave. And she smiles so big with her sweet dimples, so everyone mostly has to stop and talk to her too. I never know if I should answer for her when strangers ask her questions that she is clearly not capable of answering. So sometimes I do, and sometimes I just smile and move on.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting Back to Being Thankful

I've been sidetracked from my thankfulness the last couple days. Two nights ago I started feeling cruddy, so I went to bed early. Before long I woke up knowing I was about to get sick, so I got up to go to the bathroom and...woke up on the floor a minute later. Chris heard me fall and came to help me, and yes I (thank God) made it to the bathroom in time. Unfortunately passing out from a standing position, with no one around to catch you, well it ain't pretty. One tooth went through my bottom lip, and I must have fallen on the right side of my face because my top teeth all shifted over from that direction. And my face is swollen and sore and sort of numb, I have a fat lip, a scabbed up knee, a scraped and swollen hand, and a bruised shoulder. Chris is afraid for me to go out in public because he thinks people will suspect him of beating me. I look like a hillbilly with my teeth all crooked. Chris called the dentist, who said my teeth will probably go back in place when the swelling goes down. I have, of course, been freaking myself out thinking about what will happen if they don't. There would probably be a lot fewer freaking out thoughts going through my mind if I had dental insurance. So come Monday morning, if the teeth are still looking pretty mangled, I'll be calling the dentist. But I'm not sure what he's going to be able to do about it, especially since we are leaving for Florida on Tuesday. And the fun thing about that is I can't chew, so I'm not so super excited about going on vacation and not being able to  eat. I love to eat on vacation. The other fun thing about that is I haven't even started packing yet. I've been pretty much laying around and playing games on Facebook, trying to make sure my kids avoid all my sore spots when they are climbing all over me, and Christmas shopping. 

So what I'm going to do is dissect this situation and find the good in it. Because I'm trying to be thankful and all. 

First of all, I am so thankful I didn't get hurt worse. I have a very small bedroom and fell right between my dresser and the foot board of my bed, so it could have been much uglier. I could have knocked my teeth right out, or wound up with a concussion or worse. So the damage I incurred was minimal, compared with what it could have easily been.

Second of all, I've experienced an outpouring of love from my friends and family. Knowing I'm loved makes me feel all warm and tingly inside. I've had lots of phone calls, sympathetic posts on Facebook, and offers of help. Chris and the kids have been so sweet too. Bethany put a sign up on the fridge that says, "Do Not Bother Mom Unless the House is on Fire."

Then there is the matter of the aforementioned Christmas shopping. I'm feeling pretty good about the fact that I got more than half of the kids' shopping done (all online), and before vacation to boot. I know some procrastination-lacking people have been done since July, but that's not how I roll. Having this much done this early is a big accomplishment for me, and I'm hoping to get even more done this week, so when we get back from Florida I can concentrate more on enjoying the holiday season, and less on shopping.

When things get totally crazy and I start trying to get maybe too much done than is humanly possible, my body has a way of shutting me down for some mandatory rest time. So okay, point taken body, I've had my rest. Hopefully I'll be feeling almost back to normal by tomorrow so I can start getting myself and five other people ready for vacation. In the meantime, I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I am Thankful for Creative Minds

Ideas precede reality. Someone, in his or her creative mind, thought of all the things we enjoy and take for granted today, which no one would have thought possible 500 years ago, or 100 years ago, or maybe even 10 years ago. Everything is born of an imagining.

Mostly, people just go along with whatever is handed to them. We accept the world at face value. We enjoy the end results of the hard work of people we don't even really think about or acknowledge. But behind this netbook I'm typing on, behind the wireless internet connection that is going to facilitate putting this post into the cyber world, behind this recliner I'm sitting on, behind the delicious Orea cookie I just ate...behind all these things and everything else surrounding me in my life was a person with an idea. That person had the foresight and the fortitude to believe in an idea that could change the way the rest of us live.

Creativity is so much more than books, movies, art and music. Although I love and enjoy all of these aspects of creativity, the whole world around us is really the result of the imaginations of people who brought their ideas alive to the benefit of everyone else. Maybe God imagined this world into existence; the trees and flowers and animals and mountains and oceans and snow and everything else that happens and grows and is without our human help, planning, and invention.

We all have creative minds, how much we use them varies. I am thankful for those who take matters into their own hands, using their imaginations to shape the world and create new, better, reinvented, beautiful, useful, tasty, comfortable, and safe _____________ (fill in the blank). 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spies in the Family

We have some junior spies in the family on a (not so) top-secret mission: Operation Mommy Investigation. Basically it goes like this: they sneak around the house and I pretend not to see them. They have a hide-out where they do most of their covert investigating. The hide-out is behind my recliner, while I'm sitting in it. I happen to turn my head at the right moment, they sneak back there while I'm reading or whatever, and then they sit there and giggle. Or they start making "mysterious" noises, and I start complaining loudly about the mice which seem to have invaded our home, or threatening to call the police on our neighbors who are making such a terrible racket. Then I remark, to myself because no one is listening, that I think I'll close my eyes for a minute and take a rest. That's their cue to exit the hide-out unseen by their subject. Even Mathilda likes to play along, hiding in the curtains and revealing herself every 10 seconds or so while laughing hysterically. Later on the spies will let me in on their mission, incredulous that they are so fantastically good at sleuthing that I never even knew (!) they were behind my chair, or under the dining room table, or  sneaking past me as I made dinner or did laundry.


Mathilda has begun to take up climbing as a hobby quite earnestly. I haven't yet found her on the dining room table (I don't think she's thought of it) or on the kitchen counters (she's trying), but couches, chairs, coffee tables and toilets are all part of the game. Of course there's no way of knowing if she could climb her way out of her crib because she never sleeps in it. I remember before I had kids and I just knew I was never going to let a child of mine sleep in my bed. Yeah, those were the days when I knew everything there was to know about being a parent without actually being a parent. Reality sort of has a way of asserting itself.

I am Thankful for Generous Souls

In my life, I am blessed with abundance. It's almost ridiculous, really; practically embarrassing, or at least maybe it should be.

My uncle will stop at a store near my house, see that mac 'n cheese is on sale, and bring over a case because he knows my kids love it. Chris's mom and step-dad recently used up their frequent flyer miles to get tickets for all six of us to fly to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my brother-in-law. A friend cleaned out her closet and brought me loads of awesome hand-me-downs in my size that she thought I might like (she was right!).  My mom takes all of my kids shopping for shoes at least a couple times a year. I admired my aunt's bicycle, and she told me I could have it. Another aunt got a new sewing machine and passed her old one on to me (in perfect working order!). Yet another aunt used up part of her employee clothing allowance to send boxes of name brand clothes and accessories to my kids and I (brand new! with tags!).

On and on it goes in an almost dizzying whirl. I am incredibly thankful for the generous souls who do, and have done, so much to enhance my life. Giving makes the world a nicer place, both for the recipient and the giver.

Of course, the material aspect of giving is just one facet. I am also eternally grateful to those who have babysat my kids, taken care of our dog when we're on vacation, cooked a meal for my family when I needed help, baked me cookies just because I have an infamous sweet tooth, or been there to listen to me ramble and vent and support me during times of stress.

Beyond me and my own personal little corner of the universe, there are those wonderfully unselfish people who endlessly give of themselves to make the world a nicer place for lots of people (not just me). My grandparents were such people. They each had their passions and they poured themselves selflessly into them. In return they expected nothing. They didn't brag about spending every Wednesday night for 25 years working BINGO for a local Catholic school, or spending hours visiting seniors at a nearby nursing home. They saw a need, something they could provide, and they just did it. 

I have an old friend from high school who brings to mind the altruistic giving I witnessed in my grandparents. His name is Mike DeWaele and he helps run a seriously awesome place in Kalamazoo, Michigan called The Peace House. He lives there with his family and friends, in a not so great neighborhood, trying to make the world a brighter place for the local residents. The group provides a safe place for kids to hang out, hosts neighborhood parties and events, tutors kids after school, shares a community-built play scape and on-site garden, and advocates peaceful living. They depend upon donations to operate, but have no plans to seek non-profit status because they do what they do as neighbors and friends. They saw a need, and decided to dedicate their lives to helping to fill it. I am so thankful there are people like this in the world! I haven't seen Mike in many years, but I greatly admire what he does, and if I'm ever in Kalamazoo I'm definitely going to check out The Peace House for myself.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I am Thankful for Me Time

What I'm calling "me time" lately is really a pathetic stand in. Yesterday I went to a baby shower and my girls were not invited. Alleluia! Maybe I was particularly relieved because I also went to a baby shower last weekend, and all of my girls were invited to that one. And it was a two hour drive each way. Yikes. So yesterday I was kind of giddy to leave the house alone. I hitched a ride with my mother-in-law and her two nieces. The ride was an hour each way, and we could actually talk because there was not a movie playing and obliterating all possible conversation. Or kids asking for food one after the other non-stop, or complaining of car sickness or boredom. Or a toddler screaming because she was absolutely exhausted but stubbornly refused to take a nap. Yeah, especially that. 

Chris's aunt and uncle were hosting the shower, and I knew that they would hook us up with some really good food. They did not disappoint.  Plus they have a killer house which I was excited to see for the first time (it has an elevator! a real elevator! you would think I had never been in one!). And I got to catch up with Chris's cousins, some of whom I hadn't seen in quite awhile. So it was a very nice time for a baby shower. 

A few nights ago I had a preschool board meeting. No kids allowed - yee haw! I can count on these once a month. There is always good food, and I really enjoy the company of my fellow board members.

I do realize how sad it is that my "me time" consists of baby showers and preschool board meetings.  But I've got to grab it when I can. And I truly am thankful for any little bit I get. Talking with grown-ups, especially while not being interrupted, is just refreshingly wonderful. Being able to concentrate on something I'm interested in is so decadent. Most of my time happens when the kids are all in bed, or when I just have Mathilda with me and she is sleeping in the van. I love to sit in my van in the preschool parking lot while Lucy is in school and Mathilda is sleeping in the back seat. I bring a book and my journal, maybe make a few phone calls or sip on a yummy caffeinated beverage.  It is absolutely divine.

I'm also lucky enough to have a mother-in-law who is not afraid to take all four kids over night once in awhile. Those are good nights. The best part is being able to sleep all night, which is a real rarity for me. No one wakes me up in the morning and I don't have to fix breakfast for anyone but me. Sublime.

I so adore my children, and spending time with them is my most favorite thing in the whole big wide world. But sometimes a mama just needs to attend to her own needs so she is then better equipped to handle those of the little people. Everyone needs a reminder now and then that she does exist outside the realm of mothering. A morning to sleep in. An hour to read a book in silence. A few minutes to concentrate on a phone call with a friend. A meal and lots of laughs shared with friends.These are moments I treasure, and I am so thankful when I have the opportunity to enjoy one.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I am Thankful for the Privilege of Being a Mother

Nine years, two months, and 23 days ago my oldest child was born and I was blessed with the privilege of becoming a mother. 

I had no idea what I was doing. I still don't. I'm learning as I go along. Sure I knew some basic stuff; I had babysat plenty, read books, gone to classes, talked to friends with kids of their own. Of course I thought I knew a lot.

What I know now is that each child is completely and wonderfully unique. Nothing can truly prepare anyone for becoming a parent except, well, becoming a parent. Love expands...and expands...and expands.

And most of all, there is no greater privilege than being a parent. Rearranging my priorities is a privilege. Being responsible for the well-being of my children is a privilege. Putting their needs before my own is a privilege. Being the lucky recipient of so much sweet, innocent love; with all the hugs, kisses, and cuddles that go along with it, is a privilege. Tending to tears and hurt feelings, being the secret holder of dreams and fears, being utterly trusted and looked up to - these are all part of the parenting privilege package too.

I am lucky, so very lucky. To be interrupted every time I try to make a phone call, talk to Chris, read something, or pretty much attempt to do anything. To have mounds of little laundry to wash, shoes to trip over, crumbs to vacuum, food to prepare, diapers to change, and noses to wipe. To have homework to check, chores to assign, boundaries to set, and advice to give (wanted and not).To be the guardian of four individuals as they make their way from infancy to adulthood; doing my best to keep them happy, healthy, and safe as they fumble and triumph toward independence and self-discovery. The pleasure and the privilege is mine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I am Thankful for Unconditional Love

What I'm most thankful for today is unconditional love, mainly because I have been a wicked crab to my poor kids. I've just been having one of those days when everything kind of rubs me the wrong way. When I'm irritable, the ones I love the most suffer the most. Thankfully, my sweeties are so forgiving and they love me no matter what.

Of course, likewise goes for them. I'm thankful I love them unconditionally. Especially when Mattie purposely dumps the dog's water all over the kitchen floor, empties half a box of crackers out (and stomps on them maniacally), and looks at me with that "so whatcha gonna do about it, huh?" look on her sweet little face. Or when Lucy screams at Connor to get out of her room ~NOW!~ and never ever come back, because he's making it STINKY! And when Connor interferes with Lucy's imaginative play, ruining her fun by refusing to play along with whatever she is make-believing at the moment. Or when Bethany rolls her eyes and talks to me like I'm the most ignorant fool ever to walk the earth.

Yes, unconditional love has saved them more than once. I am thankful they know I love them unconditionally, so they can save all their worst behavior for me, because I'll still love them no matter how fervently they test my limits. I'm happy to get the short end if it means they behave themselves for others, especially when Chris and I aren't around. And I'm thankful that even though I try to give them the best of myself every day, sometimes I slip; and when I do, they are waiting without question to accept my apology and keep on loving me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I am Thankful for This Moment

Today I'm thankful for this moment. I'm sitting in my van, waiting for Lucy while she is in speech class. Mathilda is napping in the backseat. The windows are down on this warm November afternoon, I'm listening to the radio, sucking on a Tootsie Pop and writing this.

But all of those details are secondary.

The real point is that whatever I may be doing from one moment to the next, this present moment is really all I have. The past is gone, and it is as I remember it, whether that happens to be accurate or not. The future is uncertain, as much for me as anyone else. Only in this moment can I take control of how I choose to spend my time and how I choose to feel about it, and how I choose to react to everything else - the stuff I can't control.

Every single moment in this life is a gift, a blessing, something for which to be thankful. Certain moments may not feel like blessings, but it's all in the interpretation. Sometimes it might take a long time to realize a particular moment was a blessing. Sometimes we have to get through some really ugly stuff in order to appreciate the good stuff.

I try to remain cognizant of living in the moment every single day, and I am thankful for those times when I succeed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why I'm Thankful for Winter

This is totally counter-intuitive, and I'm really stretching my gratitude muscles here, because what I really feel like doing is creating a list of a million and one reasons whey I absolutely loathe winter. But here goes.

  • The groceries stay cold in the car. It sounds like a little thing, but how nice to be able to run an errand or two or pick the kids up from school after grocery shopping without worrying about the milk spoiling.
  • Hot chocolate, which is maybe my favorite drink ever. It warms you up inside and it's chocolate, therefore it is perfect. 
  • Christmas. There are so many reasons to love Christmas. I love shopping, spending lots of time with my family, homemade gifts from my kids, baking, getting Christmas cards in the mail (bonus if they contain pictures and/or annual letters!), and the music. It is the most wonderful time of the year, after summer of course.
  • The preschool holiday program. And I am completely confident that Lucy will happily participate this year, and that she won't stand with her peers scowling and crossing her arms, whispering (loudly) that she is not going to sing this one either at the start of each new song, and that maybe she will even smile and not insist on clinging to me throughout the entire performance.But even if it doesn't go quite as I imagine, I will nonetheless love every second of it.
  • Bethany is in her school choir this year, and will be doing a holiday performance as well. 
  • Snow days, because if it must snow, it's very kind of Mother Nature to snow enough so at least I don't have to drive my kids to school in it.
  • Playing with my kids in the snow, which truthfully I only like to do once or twice each winter. I'm going to try to enjoy it a little more often this winter.
  • Sweaters, tights, and boots, and otherwise feeling like I have a whole new wardrobe when I pack up my summer stuff and take out my winter clothes.
  • Celebrating birthdays; first my mom, then Chris, me, and Connor.
  • Theater season. I love the theater, and if I'm lucky I might get to see a show or two each season.
  • Going somewhere warm while everyone is freezing their booties off at home. Yes, I realize my admitting this will probably result in Florida experiencing an unprecedented cold spell on our next visit. 
  • When it first snows, and everything is blanketed in a clean, white, sparkly beauty. The world seems so quiet and peaceful.
  • Having nowhere to go, just sitting in my nice cozy house and watching the snow fall. Preferably with a good book, or a cuddly kid on my lap, or with something baking and making the whole house smell delicious.  
Well that was less painless than I thought. Maybe winter isn't so bad after all.

It's November, and I'm Thankful

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm going to (really try to) write about something I'm thankful for every day from now until Turkey Day. Actually, I try to do this daily in my gratitude journal, but I'll be going into a bit more detail here on my blog than I normally do in my journal. And if anyone wants to shareI'd love to know what you are thankful for.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Should I Be Worried?

Connor is the best kid. Seriously, other people talk about how wild their boys are: destructive, rambunctious, and so on. But Connor has been mellow and even tempered since birth. He's never been much of a complainer, he never even complained when he was teething as a baby. I remember once being shocked to find that he was cutting four teeth - I had no idea because he didn't make a single peep about it. He is sweet, generous, helpful, and he loves to create violent comic books.

Yep, everyone else can gloat because while their boys were busy starting fires in the garage and cutting their sister's Barbie clothes to shreds, our son was busily plotting his future as a serial killer, complete with bloody pumpkins and Justin Bieber jumping out of a helicopter onto a bed of metal spikes.

That's our boy.

I love his idea for Nightmare on Elmo Street, starring Freddie Forker (with forks for claws, get it? hahahaha), which he shared with me on the way home from school and plans on creating this weekend.

Actually I think my son has an epic sense of humor, especially for a 7-year old. I love that he has a series of shark comics and his friends at school anxiously await the newest edition. I love that he explains his jokes to Chris and I like we are a couple of simpletons and then laughs hilariously at himself.

No, I'm not worried. I'm a proud mama.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why I Love Detroit. No, Seriously.

I was born and mostly raised in Detroit. Well, okay, not quite in Detroit, but near Detroit. I was actually born in Grosse Pointe and raised in Harper Woods, Clinton Township, and various areas of California and Arizona. Detroit is grimy and imperfect, but I have a fierce love for the city.

My love began as a youngster whose family was not opposed to spending afternoons on Belle Isle, with close relations who actually did live in the city, with family stories of the Detroit of many years ago, with field trips downtown. Here are just a few reasons why I love Detroit.

  • My great-grandpa lived in Detroit when I was very young, in the house his parents built when they moved here from Germany in the 1800's, the house my grandpa grew up in, across the street from the house my grandparents lived in when they first married. Sometimes I still drive by and have a look at the old place on Harding (truthfully, it's been awhile), standing amongst the shells of its burnt out neighbors. I remember my great-grandpa pushing a manual lawn mower in the backyard, and my grandpa telling me stories of how he and his friends used to smash Tiffany lamps in the alley with their baseball bats.
  • Feeding deer on Belle Isle. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to do this anymore.
  • The Belle Isle Zoo, which sadly closed its doors before my oldest was born. 
  • The aquarium on Belle Isle, which also sadly closed its doors years ago, although my two oldest did get to visit a few times. Rumor mill purports that it may re-open some day...let's hope.
  • The conservatory on Belle Isle, a place I still visit every year with my kids because it is beautiful and I love it, and it's free, which is also quite important to me. And when we are there we also visit the (free) nature center, and the really cool playground. We have even been known to take swan boat rides.
  • The very fact of Belle Isle's existence. Okay, I really love Belle Isle, and that such an awesome place exists right in the midst of the Motor City.
  • My grandparents took my cousins and I for a tour of the salt mines when we were kids. Something else I'm pretty sure you can't do anymore. My grandpa lifted a hard hat for me, which is likely still in a box in my mom's basement. He wasn't like a clepto or anything, he simply sometimes felt justified in taking things he maybe felt he had paid for with the price of admission.
  • My Uncle Herb took my cousins and I to see Sesame Street Live at Cobo when I was a kid, and it was seriously so much fun.
  • My grandpa used to take me to Tigers games at the old Tiger Stadium, sometimes even on school nights, and it felt pretty cool to get to stay out late and brag to my friends the next day.
  • My beloved aunt lived, and still lives, in a green brick house in Detroit which was one of my favorite places to be as a kid. 
  • The DIA, which I first visited with my 3rd grade class. I loved it then and I love it now. One of my favorite pictures of Bethany and Connor when they were really little was taken at the DIA.
  • The Detroit Historical Museum, which I also first visited with my 3rd grade class (thank you Miss Rose!). I am long overdue for a visit, since my two youngest have never been there, and I know they would love to see the streets of Old Detroit.
  • The Detroit Science Center, which I first visited with my friend and her mom many years ago. Another worthy kid friendly destination in the city.
  • Greektown, especially Astoria Pastry Shop. I love the street artists and musicians and the food and the people watching and the scenery.
  • The People Mover. It's super cheap (50 cents to stay on as long as you like, kids are free), the kids love it, and it's a great way to get around and see the sites from above. 
  • The Detroit RiverFront, which became one of my favorite Detroit destinations this past summer. People are walking around with their families, riding bikes, jogging, doing cartwheels on the grass (that would be my daughter...), and in general enjoying the best of what Detroit has to offer. There is a carousel, with all the seats being animals indigenous to Michigan, concessions, benches overlooking the Detroit River, boat tours (Diamond Jack's river tours), the Ren Cen with the fantastic fountain outside for the kids to play in on a hot day, and Coach Insignia on the inside, for special occasion dinners with a view like none other, and Hart Plaza, that deserted urban wasteland that is really cool but for some reason no one seems to want to hang out there. I have heard tell that the plan is for the RiverFront to eventually lead all the way to Belle Isle. 
  • Both of my in-law's and my father grew up in Detroit. Chris's parents actually met while ice skating at Belle Isle (yes, I'm back to Belle Isle). While they are no longer married, if not for that fated union our family would not be here as it is today.
  • Faygo pop (all you people from other parts of the world, to me soda is a nasty substance used in mixed drinks and has nothing whatsoever to do with the delicious sweetness of Red Pop or Rock 'n Rye).
  • Eastern Market, another place I visited with my grandparents as a child. I have yet to take my children there, shame on me.
  • Three of my children were born in Detroit, at a pretty awesome hospital, nearby my awesome ob/gyn's office, also in Detroit.
  • During the early years of our marriage, Chris and I lived in a sweet little one bedroom house in Detroit. I have many happy memories of this place, like the time someone was being beat to death in the street in front of our house and by the time the police arrived the culprits (and the body - dead or alive?) were long gone and the police officers didn't so much as get out of their cars to investigate, and how our mailman used to hang out at the corner bar, in uniform, with his mail truck parked outside. But since I'm writing about what I love about the city, I will just say these were happy times for us.
  • I went to Wayne State University with one of my best friends in the world, and going to college there got me driving on the expressway for the first time. And we have some good Getting Lost In the City stories.
  • Its proximity to Canada. Yeah, it's pretty neat that I can cross a bridge or go through a scary underwater tunnel and wind up in a foreign country. Way cool.
  • That one can take Jefferson Avenue, a street that goes through my very own city, all the way downtown.
  • The Fisher Theater, The Masonic Temple, The Detroit Opera House, and The Fox Theater. I love me some theater (and some Sesame Street Live), and these gorgeous venues are just heaven on earth for me.
  • That there are still plenty of things I haven't done in Detroit that I really want to do and share with my kids. 
This is definitely an incomplete list. I know some people are afraid to venture into the city, and there are some valid  reasons for this. Sure there is a lot of crime (like any big city), lots of scary looking neighborhoods, and not nearly enough signage to help visitors find stuff. Detroit is kind of for insiders, and it has no business being as such, since the city really needs people to love it. Well I love it, warts and all.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Ode to Wayne Dyer

Wayne Dyer, I love you. I love you and your book, The Power of Intention,so much, in fact, that I almost (almost) don't mind that the library is charging me top dollar to replace this book for water damage, for which I'm pretty sure I'm not responsible, in order to retain my beloved library privileges. The reason I almost (I did say almost) don't mind is because they are letting me keep the book. Plus the book was in my house at the same time as my four Mega Mess Makers, so I suppose I have to accept the remote possibility that perhaps I could maybe be responsible for the damage. In any case, I've let it go and am happily welcoming the book to my collection..

Your inspiring words of wisdom, your quotable passages, your unsinkable positive attitude...I love it all. I admire your strongly-held beliefs, and I look forward to frequently re-reading and referencing my newly acquired Wayne Dyer masterpiece.

Thank you, Mr. Dyer, for your prolific writing career. And thanks to my ability to suck it up and pay up, I will soon be checking more of your books out of the library for my reading and self-improvement pleasure.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

I loved reading Eat,Pray,Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Watching the movie, well, not so much.

Yes the book had its moments that kind of lost me...I don't really have the attention span or patience for lots and lots of descriptive details. But the message I just loved ~ finding yourself, finding balance in your life, following the serendipitous signs that the universe sends you. Reading it was a treat. It was how I could imagine a single, formerly married, childless, fantasy version of myself.

I thought the book would translate well to film, and I do like Julia Roberts. I was excited to watch the movie version. But it just kind of fell flat for me. It seemed like the writers were trying really hard to stay true to the book, which ended up falling on the awkward side of the chopping block. The transitions from one country to the next were particularly rocky. For someone who has never read the book, I think this would be a bit confusing.

The beautiful backgrounds were definitely a huge plus. And I didn't hate the movie. I think Julia Roberts played a good Elizabeth Gilbert. But on the whole, it was just "eh" for me.

Preparing for Hibernation

I'm pretty sure the little old lady who lives in a gingerbread cottage in the woods is sending me subliminal messages. I don't see any other possible explanation for my recent need to eat, like, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. She wants to fatten me up and EAT ME!

That's my suspicion at least.

The other possibility is that I'm really a bear living under the delusion that I'm human, and I'm getting ready to hibernate for the winter. Which wouldn't be so bad since I really hate winter.

But I digress.

The Halloween candy really really really does not help. And I seem to be operating under some kind of weird reasoning that it is better to consume all the Halloween candy in about three days time, and then there will be no more Halloween candy to tempt me. Cause that makes a whole lot of sense.

I am just plain famished all the time. And what bad timing, because simultaneously I have temporarily lost my verve for working out. In fact, I've been slacking horribly. One would think an upcoming trip to Florida would be enough to keep me on track, but what the heck, we're just going to Orlando. There will be no lounging on beaches in bikinis. Just hanging out at commercialized theme parks, which means I will be getting plenty of exercise. Which means I'm good.

I feel so much better now.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Moment to Myself

I was laughing on the inside as I typed the title of this post.

On the way home from picking Bethany  and Connor up from school today, Mathilda fell asleep. She's been sniffly and run down, and not sleeping well, so when we got home I decided to sit in the van with her for a little while to let her sleep. I settled in to read my book in peace and quiet. I stayed out there for less than 30 minutes, during which time I was interrupted by three kids on numerous occasions, for example:

"Can I have a piece of Halloween candy?" (yes, ONE piece)

"I'm having cheese and crackers after my candy." (go for it)

"Can you open this box?" (yes, with a little finagling)

" Can I play with the Leap Pad?" (if you can find it, knock yourself out)

"Look at this book I got at school!" (great, very cool)

This is just but a very short and typical episode in my life. If I am going to the bathroom, at least one little person needs me rightthisveryminute. If I'm trying to read, it's time for someone to tell me about their day in minute-to-minute detail. If I'm on the phone, there is a crisis that needs my attention so desperately that all learned manners can be justifiably ignored. These crises, by the way, do not generally involve loss of limb or raging fire.

Despite the constant interruptions and the definite lack of moments to myself, and although I do sometimes get a teensy bit annoyed, the truth is I cherish the fact that my kids want to be around me, and that they want to talk to me and tell me every little thing. Before I ever had kids, I hoped I would be the kind of mom whose children clamored all over her constantly. I am, and they do. And I hope it never ends.

Of course, a moment to myself every now and again would be a sweet bonus.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Mattie Chronicles

Monday, October 25, 2010: While I am preparing dinner in the kitchen, Mattie is peacefully entertaining herself in the family room. Um, scratch that. Upon closer observation, it is revealed that La Petite Destruct-o has actually removed about half the wipes from the brand new package, and they are now strewn about the family room. Put the kids to work cleaning every surface imaginable with said wipes, because so help me they will not be wasted! Kids had fun, lemonade out of lemons - check.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010: After wipes fiasco yesterday, I decide that little miss just needs to be included more in what the rest of us are doing. On the agenda for today - making Halloween decorations with Lucy. Mattie is in the high chair, at the table with us, and armed with farm animal markers specifically designed for toddlers. This is going to be fun! Engrossed in a project, I am called to attention by Lucy's scream of horror as she notes that Mattie has cute chunky marker in her mouth. More accurately, she is sucking marker juice out of  Patty Cake Purple. Face, lips, and tongue are purple. Markers are washable, and pretty sure they're not poisonous; all is well in the world. Crayons fair no better, and little bits get stuck in teeth.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Picture a supermarket, let's call it Food Mart. As you look around, you are disappointed because there isn't much to choose from, and what you see doesn't look great. You are utterly underwhelmed. However, you're hungry, your family likes to eat, and your cupboards are getting pretty bare. You really need to shop, and this is the only place in town.

You head over to the produce department. There is a man standing behind a counter, the liaison between you and the fruits and veggies. He is there to help you, but first he requires your driver's license. For some reason, handing your identification to this man feels kind of shameful, as if he is a police officer pulling you over for a traffic violation. Although it doesn't feel quite right, you hand over the I.D. without question, automatically resigned that there is no other way. You start telling this man what you want. When you ask for bananas, he hands you a basket with three bananas in it. They're spotted and bruised; definitely not what you'd choose for yourself. And you have four kids for goodness sake - three bananas is not enough! Yet you say nothing; you simply accept the basket, which is really cute, and put it in your cart. The same thing happens with everything you want; the man consistently hands over poor quality produce, and he never gives you as much as you'd like. Somehow, the cute baskets make you feel a little better, which makes no sense! Who cares about the outer packaging when what's inside a)isn't enough, and b)is not quality? When you're done shopping in the produce department, you wait for the man to return your driver's license, but he doesn't. Though it feels strangely illicit, you reach back and retrieve it yourself.

By the time you get to the check-out, your basket is sort of full, but there really isn't enough and it's not really what you want. As you unload your cart, you feel dissatisfied, but you continue with the transaction. You're hungry and your family likes to eat, after all.

The lack of selection in the Food Mart is a metaphor for your perceived lack of options in your life. The man is an authority figure, your self-conscious, deciding for you what you deserve and what you are permitted to have. You hand yourself to him willingly when you give him your I.D. This is you telling him has permission to run your show. The cute little baskets represent your outer self and your physical surroundings. They don't look half bad, so perhaps it's best not to upset the status-quo, not to argue with the subconscious man. But you do manage to bravely reclaim yourself when you snatch your driver's license back from him - there is hope! Yet you continue with the transaction, thereby accepting your slim pickings and taking what you can get.

Now imagine instead that you are walking into a huge, gleaming clean supermarket, let's call it Super Food Emporium. There before you is aisle after aisle of every food you can imagine, and many you've never heard of. Everything looks so good, so fresh, so delectable! You start filling your cart, but there are so many lovely things you want, everything barely fits. In fact, you have to get a second cart. Everywhere you turn there are friendly, smiling store clerks standing by to help you, and encouraging you to try everything that looks good to you. You are filled with happiness and gratitude because shopping here is such fun!

If you had a choice between shopping at Food Mart or shopping at the Super Food Emporium, the best decision would be obvious, a total no-brainer. You do have a choice. Choose the better store, and bask in the endless array of options and opportunities available to you. Choose well, and accept guidance from positive influences along the way. This is your life. The only thing stopping you from having, doing, learning, and experiencing anything you can imagine is you. Step out of your own way.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer, Summer

It's my favorite time of year. The kids are out of school and the weather is warm; what could be better? Since our year of no organized activities starts now, I'm even happier. Nonetheless, we have already been quite busy.We're into the second week of vacation, and so far we have been occupied with two dance recitals, various play dates (Chris hates that term), sleepovers, and trips to parks, plus a few days up north.

Our trip up north was pretty low key and lots of fun. The kids and I went to Rogers City with Linda, and stayed at Linda's sister Donna's house. We spent plenty of time just hanging out, and did some fun local tourist-y stuff. The kids have a great time doing really simple things, like playing with Donna's dogs and going to the thrift shop in town. Even the tourist stuff felt easy and laid back, and bonus - everything we did was free. We climbed a lighthouse, saw the remains of a shipwreck on the beach, went to a little museum in town, went to nearby Ocqueoc Falls, and hung out at the beach. The best thing may have been visiting Donna's son Joe's farm, where he let each of the kids take a turn driving his tractor. Even though it sounds like a lot, it really was pleasant and slow-paced.

There are so many things I want to do with the kids, yet I don't want to overwhelm us and spend the summer rushing around . With four kids that might be inevitable, though I am fighting it. I'm kind of torn, like usual. I want a serene summer, yet I want to do a million things. So I'm just trying to slow down and not over-schedule. Part of the reason we decided to put a halt to activities is so the kids can enjoy being at home more often, and summertime is a perfect time to start. One problem is that as Bethany and Connor get older, they want to spend a lot of time with their friends. I remember what that was like, so I try to accommodate them as best I can without making life too crazy.

As much as I yearn to see everything, everywhere, all the time, Michigan is truly a lovely state with so much to offer. I loved exploring in the Roger's City area, which I can hardly believe we've never done before. We've only ever been there for a wedding and in the winter for Christmas parties. Soon we'll be going on another Michigan up north vacation, this time with my mom. I'm looking forward to seeing some more of my home state, as un-exotic as that may be.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Occam's Razor

How many times in the past year did I find myself driving around and wondering what I could do to reduce chaotic stress in my life? With four kids, is that even possible? A fleeting thought would run through my mind, one I thought I could not even entertain. What if....oh no, never mind,  I could never do that. But it kept resurfacing until finally I decided, to heck with it. We are going to simplify our lives and eliminate all extra-curricular activities for one year. Since I'm the one who does 95% (at least) of the family shuttle service, I made up my mind before I mentioned it to Chris. He was on board immediately. At dinner we told the kids: no more Brownies, no more soccer, no more dance, no new activities. The only thing we are keeping is catechism, which is no big deal since it's walking distance and never requires additional commitments (ie, extra practices, field trips, boat loads of money). They said...okay, whatever. The world did  not end. I'm pretty sure they won't be deprived of anything life-shattering. I am so looking forward to a year of no crazy running around after school. If the kids would like to return to an activity each once the year is up, we'll probably let them. The school year is almost over, and we have one lingering soccer picnic, a few dance classes/rehearsals, and two days of dance recitals.Then freeeeeeeeeedom!

The funny thing is, whenever I mention our brilliant plan to anyone, I get a sort of weird reaction. I have the feeling people think I'm nuts for stepping out of the self-imposed junior rat race. Is it really that abnormal to abstain from extracurricular activities at the elementary level, that it renders people silent when I bring it up? I can't quite tell what that's all about. Now that I've embraced the idea, I am envisioning more time at home, and a calmer and less hectic atmosphere. I think I can actually breathe easier. While I do think activities can be great for kids, I also firmly believe our kids will benefit from this experiment.

In other news, Mathilda is a full-fledged walking toddler now. She is so dang cute toddling around the house. Not so cute tearing everything out of any cupboard or drawer she can reach...She has also been saying some "baby" a lot, including "me a baby", "yeah baby", and "not bad baby." "Dance" and "pizza" are a couple other words she has recently added to her vocabulary.

Last week I accompanied Connor on a field trip to Stoney Creek. We had a great time hiking around and having a guided tour of the nature center by an aging wannabe hippie named Mark from the park. He seriously made up crazy weird songs about everything (to the beat of old classic tunes - lots of Beatles) and made the kids sing after him.

Today I went on a field trip with Bethany's class to downtown Detroit. We took a Diamond Jack boat ride on the Detroit River, which was really nice. The weather was just gorgeous. After our ride, we walked along the River Walk to the Ren Cen. The kids got wet in the fountains before we went inside, had a guided tour and took the elevator to the top (72 floors). I told Bethany I thought it was funny that when I was in 3rd grade I also went on a field trip to the Ren Cen and took the elevator to the top. Bethany was invited to a friend's house after school which totally made her day.

Tomorrow is field day at Violet, then the kids have 2 1/2 days next week. We have quite a bit planned for the summer and I am looking forward to getting on with it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mission: Abort?

I hate to admit it, but the 21-day no complaining challenge sort of went out the window. At first, I think I was being too strict regarding what constitutes complaining. Maybe making a valid observation isn't the same as complaining. Also, sometimes complaining is a necessary evil. I need to think a little more about how I want to define complaining for these purposes, and start fresh. In the meantime, I have continued to wear the rubber band around my wrist as a reminder to shut my mouth when I feel the complaints about to escape my lips. The whole mission was not a total bust; I have become more conscious of my negativity, attitude, and crabbiness. Since I didn't start out being a big complainer in the first place, I think it would be more beneficial in my case to strive to be more positive and to not let bad moods transform me into a bitch.

The kids are on Spring Break. I'm so happy to have them home for the next week. I wonder how many times in a week the idea of homeschooling goes through my head. School is great and all, but sometimes I just think it would be awesome to have my kids with me and learning things in a more non-conventional way. I'm not sure I could ever be that organized or patient, but I digress.  A few friends and I thought we'd start the break out with a fun day at the zoo yesterday. Unfortunately, the gorgeous weather we've been having gave everyone else the same idea too. When we got off the freeway and started seeing signs about the zoo parking lot being full, we knew we were in trouble. So we met up at a nearby parking lot and ended up deciding not to torture ourselves. We agreed the experience would not be much fun while fighting crowds and trying to keep our large group together. Instead we headed for a park in the area and let the kids run around for a couple hours. It was not the day we had planned, but the kids got to be outside with their friends on an unseasonably warm April afternoon, and I'd call that a lovely day.

My kids are so lucky. That seems to be a recurrent theme in my blogging, but it is just something that has been on my mind lately. My childhood was so quiet and lonesome. I had friends and cousins, and I did get to do a lot of cool stuff, but for the most part I was responsible for entertaining myself. I don't think it is a good idea for parents to constantly entertain their kids, and I don't feel that Chris and I do that, but our kids are fortunate that they have each other, and that I am friends with many of their friends' parents. I know we are building lifelong memories for our kids when we all get together to dye Easter eggs (as we did on Thursday afternoon) or spend the afternoon at a park. They have this group that they spend so much time with, they really have the opportunity to get to know each other and be comfortable with each other. And of course there is the added benefit for me that I have a group of friends to hang out with, and we always have an excuse to get together. I am lucky too!

Connor had his first soccer practice Friday evening. Two girls from his class are on his team, as well as a boy Connor knows from one of the other first grade classes. I like his coach. Connor did pretty well too. I'm happy he decided he wants to play soccer again. We all went to watch him practice. On the way there, Lucy and Mathilda fell asleep in the van holding hands. I wish I had had my camera, it was so darn cute!

Bethany has been wanting to do nothing but somersaults (flips as she says) and cartwheels. Connor has been on a Lego kick. Mathilda has been pulling herself up to stand more and more. She has slept at least part of the night in the crib a few times this week. Tonight she is sleeping in the play pen, but that's okay, I'll take it. If she sleeps at least a few hours without me every night, I am a happy mama. Lucy says the funniest things all the time. The other day we were at Linda's and Linda was giving me some Easter decorations. Lucy was thinking decorations meant Christmas, so she asked me about when Christmas will be here. When I told her not for a long time she said, "wait, I'm so confused!". The funny thing about Lucy is that she says really big words and they are almost always used correctly.  She told Linda the other day, while looking at herself in the mirror, that she looked "totally awesome - like a teenager". But I am afraid she has some seasonal allergies, she has been sneezing and blowing her nose like crazy (as well as the other kids, but she seems particularly affected). I hope she feels better to enjoy some Easter treats.                                                                                                                                                                   

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 2 -Complete!

I have made it almost 2 full days into my 21- day challenge. Not complaining is a little more difficult than I at first imagined. Hopefully I can keep it going, and not have to slide back down to day zero yet again. I am finding that I am much more conscious of my words before they come out of my mouth, but still thinking complaints fairly often. At least I am not spreading the negativity when I don't let the words escape, but I need to work a bit on changing my way of thinking all together. I don't think I am a terribly bad complainer under normal circumstances, but everyone has room for improvement. And maybe my challenge will serve as an example for certain members of my household.

Yesterday marked a momentous occasion in my life: I got contact lenses for the first time! I am not sure what has kept me from trying them for so long. Before Chris and I were married, I remember that I had an appointment to be fitted for contacts, but for some reason I canceled and never did anything else about it until now. I think it has been a combination of the cost factor and my sometimes reluctance/fear of doing new things. I have been increasingly sick of wearing glasses, and really, how I look in glasses. Eventually I do want the laser surgery, and maybe sometime in the next couple years we can find the money for it. But in the meantime, I am very excited to have become a contact lens wearer! I had to put them in at the store, which was much more challenging than I thought. It is going to take some practice for sure. Yesterday I wore them for four hours, today for six hours, and I will gradually move up to 14 hours a day. Today it did not take me quite as long to put them in. The sensation is a little odd, but they are not really uncomfortable at all. I feel sort of out of sorts when wearing them - I am so accustomed to my glasses. I did also order new glasses and sunglasses, and I'm excited about that too. For the past almost two months I have been wearing broken glasses, not to mention that these glasses have never really fit me properly, and I've had them for three years. Amazing what I will put up with for long periods of time! I am happy I actually did something for myself, especially something I have been wanting to do for quite some time now.

Today I did something else I've been wanting to do for ages - went back to the gym! I dropped my little girls off at Linda's and met my lovely friend Cathy. We walked and talked and did some weights and I loved every moment. I hope it is the beginning of a good thing, because I definitely feel the need to get back into regular workouts. Exercising with a friend is so much more fun than doing it alone. Cathy mentioned we should do a half marathon together, which I think is a fabulous idea, despite the fact that I have never been a runner. I know I can do it if I train properly. I love exciting changes. This is a good time of year for me. I usually feel motivated and happy during the spring, which is so nice after a dreary winter of wanting to hide under the covers and hibernate. I'm in the mood to get things done and shake things up a little.

Chris and I are talking about going on a trip, just the two of us, for our anniversary this summer. We are not sure where, the main requirement is that it is very warm. A couple places we have been considering are Puerto Rico and Las Vegas. I don't have a valid passport, and I'm not sure I trust that I would definitely have one by July, so we haven't been looking much at places that require a passport. We both want to go to Vegas, but I know it would be wicked hot that time of year, without benefit of refreshing ocean breezes. However, we could go to the Grand Canyon from there, which is something I have been wanting to do forever. Puerto Rico, on the other hand, would be nice and tropical, and I have also been wanting to go there for a long time; in fact, it was my first choice for our honeymoon (although I l-o-v-e-d Jamaica!). Plus we could visit the rainforest, which is right up my alley. We will have to see what kind of deals we can find for both destinations and take it from there. I am excited to think we could actually be going on a real vacation alone together. There is also the part of me that thinks nothing is worth doing without my kids. I know that is weird, and that couple time would be extremely awesome and beneficial to us, but I always want to share everything with my kids. I think I'll get over it though!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Know I Can Do This!

Today I slipped early in the day and complained about Chris leaving the radio on so loud in the van that I could hear it in the house when I started the van with the remote start. But I did great the rest of the day, and I know I am capable of getting through 21 days with no complaining. Tomorrow will be better!

This morning I had an eye exam, including an exam for contact lenses. I will be going back tomorrow morning - sans children - to partake in the contact lens class, and then I will be sent home with a pair of trial contacts. Because I cannot imagine a world without glasses, I am also ordering new glasses. I'm really excited about this, I've been wanting to try contacts for a long time.

When I was at Target a couple days ago, I bought Mathilda her first toothbrush and baby toothpaste. She loves having her teeth brushed! She smiles and laughs at herself in the mirror. Lucy is continuing her long stretch of wearing princess dresses almost 24/7. The last couple days she has been impersonating Princess Analiese from "Princess and the Pauper". A couple days ago, when I took the girls to school with me for my weekly volunteer work, she wore her Ariel dress and received lots of attention for it. Everytime someone mentioned what a beautiful princess she was, her reply was, "actually I am Lucy Margaret." I absolutely L-O-V-E that Lucy wants to wear a princess dress everywhere. Three is such a fun age. She is sassy as can be, but coupled with sweet and silly beyond measure. Bethany is reading Twilight. I think it is a bit old for her, but I will be impressed if she finishes. If she wants to take on a book of that length, I am not going to discourage her. I should probably re-read it along with her. As she goes along, I have been trying to get her to discuss it with me somewhat and to stop and ask questions when she doesn't understand something. Connor went to dinner with mom tonight while the girls and I were at dance. He will be starting soccer again next month, which I am both looking forward to and dreading. I hope the weather warms up considerably by then.

I have been reading quite a bit of the soul travelers 3 blog, which I have been following off and on for years. The Soul Travelers 3 are a family of three from California who sold their home a few years ago and started living a nomadic life. They bought an RV in Europe and do quite a bit of overland traveling with that, including lots of camping, and spend five months of the year renting a home in Spain. I love reading about all their wonderful adventures, and dream of living like that. It would be exponentially more challenging with four kids versus one, but still rewarding and lovely I think. They say they have no plans on stopping anytime soon, and seem to be genuinely loving their lifestyle. I know it is far-fetched and Chris would never go for it, but I would love to try living like that for awhile. I would want to wait a few years, at least until Mathilda is out of diapers. Sometimes I just feel very strongly that I want to live life differently. Perhaps moving frequently as a child set the tone for me, and nudged me toward wanderlust. I am torn as to which is better: change or stability. I remember being envious of the kids who had known each other since kindergarten and lived in the same house their whole lives. But at the same time, looking back as an adult, I am very grateful for the opportunities I had growing up and the traveling experiences. It is mind boggling to think how different life is for my children than it was for me. They have two parents and each other, first and foremost. They have only moved once, which, paired with switching schools was traumatic enough for Bethany. They have their own beds. They have so much stuff. I would be thrilled to travel through the U.S. for a month or two, but I dream of more exotic locales as well.

For now I will make do with whatever small trip we can muster up here and there. I am semi-planning a small trip for Spring Break. There are a couple problems. The first issue is that Chris is starting a new job and still uncertain whether he will be working during that time. If he does have to work, Linda has said she will be happy to come along with the kids and me. A family trip is what I really want, but I deeply appreciate Linda hanging around and making herself available until the last minute, and know we would have a great time together. The other situation is money. I have several savings bonds I will be cashing in to finance this little voyage, but I may have to go downtown in the next couple days to get a copy of my marriage license, since the bonds are in my maiden name. As far as other trips in the near future, mom and I will do something with the kids this summer. We also have a trip planned to Caseville again. Chris and I are considering using part of our tax return to take a trip, just the two of us. We will be celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary in July, and a get-away together would be a nice way to commemorate this special occasion. These little trips keep me going and satiate my need to explore for the time being.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keep Trying...

Well I'm back to day zero on my no-complaint challenge. I slipped up again, this time by commenting that "Yo Gabba Gabba" is the most annoying show. But all in all I have definitely been more conscious of my negativity, and even my thought processes.

I am going to pick up a copy of "The Four Day Work Week" soon, it sounds quite intriguing. This Tim Ferriss guy sounds like he has some interesting ideas.

In other news, the so-called "Obamacare" has passed. Many people are vehemently opposed to it. I think probably it's mostly the people who already have health insurance who are so against it. I look forward to seeing how the situation pans out. This could be historic on the same level as the beginning of Social Security, or Medicaid/Medicare. At the post office on Saturday people were even standing outside with "Impeach Obama" signs, which were, by the way, emblazoned with Hitlerized pictures of Obama. Hmmm...really? George W. was/is a complete and utter moron (I think that is more of an observation or statement of fact rather than a complaint), and I don't remember being accosted with "Impeach Bush" signs at any time.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stop Complaining!

I stumbled across another blog today, written by Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week. As I was browsing the site, I found a great post about changing your attitude, the-21-day-no-complaint-experiment. The basic premise is a challenge to stop complaining for 21 days. During this time, you wear a bracelet or rubber band on one wrist, and every time you slip up, you switch the bracelet or rubber band to the other wrist and start all over again. I decided to try this challenge for myself. Today was meant to be my first day, but I aleady slipped (I muttered about the nasty weather we are having today), so it looks like tomorrow will be my new first day. I am interested to see how this goes. As a general rule, I try not to complain too much, but I could definitely use some improvement. I will continue to blog about my progress.

We had a busy weekend, full of birthday parties and time with friends and family. I am feeling truly blessed at the moment. My friends are awesome and  Chris and I have had a string of good luck that has been truly burden-lifting. I am so thankful for all that I have, especially the people in my life.

In other news, my kids never fail to make me smile and fill me with pride and laughter. Friday afternoon Linda and I took Lucy and Mathilda to lunch at Coney Island. When we were paying the bill, Lucy was offered a balloon. She said "No thank  you. I am a grown up and I'm married already." Also, she was wearing her Belle dress. She wore it everywhere we went Friday and Saturday. Sunday she switched to her Ariel dress, which she is wearing again today. I love taking her errands while she is wearing a princess dress and crown. This kid could not get much cuter. Yesterday, Mathilda pulled herself up to standing for the first time. She was quite proud of herself. Connor has been improving greatly in his Lego-building skills. He can now follow the directions and put most of his Lego stuff together on his own. Bethany continues to be a huge help to me. Every single day she does so much with Mathilda and in general is just incredibly helpful. Yesterday she wrote a few songs on the computer. After school today she told me she wants to start writing a book.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Funny Girls

This morning on the way to school, "Hot Stuff" came on the radio and I turned it up really loud. Mathilda was going wild! She really loves music. Bethany & Connor were cracking up. I couldn't see her since her seat is facing backwards, but they said she was dancing and doing the robot. I could see her car seat bouncing a little. When Chris plays drums or piano she bounces around wildly. While she is in her exersaucer, she goes bananas yelling and bouncing - with or without music. She has the deepest chuckle, it reminds me quite a bit of Connor when he was younger. Tickling her is such fun, she laughs so loudly.  I have even caught her tickling her own feet and laughing out loud! She is saying "mama" and "dada" quite regularly, and she has been heard saying "baby", "Lulu", and "ta-da". And last night she slept in the pack in play until 6 a.m.! This is a huge accomplishment for her.

Sometimes Lucy says the most amusing things. This morning she saw me sprinkling some Benefiber in my cereal and she said, "what on earth is that?".  Last week I was getting her bedtime movie ready for her, and asked if she wanted to watch Little Einsteins. Her response was, "I'm not sure I'm interested in Little Einsteins right now." When she is angry with me she sometimes tells me I'm "ruining her life". Lately she has been talking about Caseville often and asking me when we are going back. There are so many more I wish I could remember right now. She is such a funny little three year old.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Playing Hooky

Bethany had a pretty special day today. Her Meema had an extra ticket to an Irish music concert at Orchestra Hall this morning, and asked if Bethany might be allowed to miss school to go. She hasn't had too  many absences this year, so we agreed. Last night she slept over and Meema took her shopping at Macy's. She was so excited about all her new clothes, she had to call and tell me about everything before bed. The concert included Irish dancing, which is pretty neat since Bethany is currently taking Irish dance lessons. I think she felt very grown up, going to the symphony and then to lunch while everyone else was at school. And she looked so cute when she came home, wearing one of her new outfits. I am so grateful that my kids have such awesome opportunities to do cool things!

When Bethany came home, it was time for her kid pick dinner. Every Thursday, the kids take turn choosing what we have for dinner. The only real rule is it has to be something we cook - no carry out. She chose Chinese food. Due to time constraints, we went with frozen Chinese food purchased from Kroger, but it was all really yummy and generated some interesting conversation about Chinese culture. After dinner, I dropped Bethany off at Lakeshore High School for a Girl Scout swimming event.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Memories and Sleep Deprivation...All in the Name of F-U-N!

Oh, what a weekend we just had. We started the weekend with a bittersweet sleepover. Bethany's best friend is moving over 2000 miles away, and we were blessed with the opportunity to have her over just days before the big move. While Bethany was ecstatic to spend some time with her BFF, she was devastated when the time came for her friend's father to pick her up. The family is hoping to return to Michigan in the near future; in the meantime, Bethany will have her first real pen pal. Memories of my own 2000-mile move in the third grade have come flooding back to me. It's funny how our past lies dormant inside us until something happens to make us remember.

Like Bethany's friend, we moved rather abruptly. Also like her family, we could only take what would fit in our car; the rest went into storage. And another similarity - we moved in with my grandparents, just as her family will be doing. I was eight years old. We were living in Arizona with my mom's boyfriend. As it turned out, the boyfriend, who was also from Michigan, was a fugitive. The law caught up with him and hauled him back to Jackson State. For whatever reason, my mom decided to follow him. I think she was afraid she wouldn't be able to make rent on her own. She was so happy living in Arizona. What might have happened had she decided to stay on without him? She would have saved herself years of heartache with the boyfriend. But I might not be here, with my beautiful family, had we not returned to Michigan when we did.

I don't clearly remember whether I was upset about moving back to Michigan. My mom's brother Kevin and his then-girlfriend-later-wife-now-ex wife took the bus to Arizona so they could drive us across the country. He and my mom took many of our belongings to the flea market to sell before the trip. I remember my babysitter, Vicki, coming over to see us off. I remember a long, hot, uncomfortably crowded car ride, and even sleeping in the car at least one night. With four of us in the car, we couldn't have had much stuff with us. I don't know if I had any toys at all. How odd to think that I had essentially nothing in the way of material things. I did, however, have a pet hamster who made the journey with us. I vividly recall being very self-conscious about starting a new school well into the year. To make matters worse, my uncle's dog bit my face and I had nasty stitches for my first day. My mom and I shared a twin bed in my grandparents' spare bedroom until the boyfriend was released from prison. I think the whole prison thing was pretty embarassing, and I was careful not to share that information with anyone. At that point, the three of us moved into a rental house together. This meant yet another new school. After going about a year without our stuff, we finally had a truck deliver our belongings from storage. I remember standing outside and watching that truck coming to the house, and being disappointed that there was even less stuff in it than I had thought. We were poor as always and my mom had to take out a loan to pay for the delivery.  It has been a long while since I've thought much about that time of my life.

Aside from Bethany's sleepover and my little trip down memory lane, we celebrated Connor's birthday over the weekend. My boy is now seven years old, which is utterly unbelievable. So we cleaned like crazy to prepare for his birthday party on Saturday afternoon, which included both family and friends. Four friends stayed the night. I was not expecting this to be a problem, as Bethany has had that many girls sleep over and they caused us no grief whatsoever. But these boys did not want to go to sleep. They had fun, which is the most important thing, especially because Connor had been looking forward to his birthday sleepover for months, but did they ever wear us out. Lucy also came down with a bad cold that day, and did I mention it was spring forward for daylight savings time too? Sunday was rough.  I think my body will be catching up for awhile.