16 December 2010

Blocked

I have come here to post, to write, to ramble, and I find that I can't.  Over and over, I have started to write something and before I can string together a couple of coherent sentences, I just throw up my hands and hit 'delete.' 

I always have something to say.  I always have an opinion on things.  I always want to write, too.

But, just lately, I find that I can't.  And it bugs me.  Like, really bugs me.

I've never had writer's block before.  I've never wanted to write, and found that I couldn't. 

So, I still haven't come up with anything good, but I'm hitting 'post' this time and not 'delete.' 

To all of my readers, and you know who you are (all three or four of you!), I wish you a very safe, happy and blessed holiday season.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

11 November 2010

Thank you

Today is Veterans' Day.  I want to take a moment to say thank you. 

Thank you to all the veterans who have served and sacrificed and worked long hours in awful places, so that I can sit comfortably in my house and watch my children play safely in my front yard.  Even though that wasn't the reason you did what you did, that's the result and for that I'm grateful.  You may not consider yourself a hero, but I do. 

Thank you to the families of veterans who have given up so much precious time with their fathers, husbands, daughters, sisters, wives, sons, and brothers, spent long hours on your knees in church or by your bedside, praying for the safe return of your loved ones, and waited by the phone or computer for the phone calls and emails that come as often as they can but are never quite enough.

Thank you to the kids who are this very moment packing for basic training, the kids who, in spite of the reservations their families and friends must have given the state of the world we're living in, are answering their nation's call.  Thank you to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines you will all become in a few short months. 

Thank you to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.  "Thank you" isn't even nearly enough...your loss will be felt forever and there is nothing that can give enough comfort to a mother or father, wife or husband, son or daughter who has said goodbye for the last time. 

This morning, I spent some time at my kids' school helping put on a Veterans' Day presentation.  Along with several other moms, I gave some of my time to help the kids learn about what a veteran does, and why it's important to say "Thank You."  I don't know a single vet (and I know a fair amount) who really wants to be made a huge deal over.   I don't know many who would call themselves a "hero."  Most would say, "I was just doing my job."  No one expects or even really wants the ticker tape parades and all the hoopla.  But it sure is nice when someone says, "Thank you for what you do." 

I think of one the most important things we can do is to teach our children about the value of service, of giving something back, of contributing to something bigger than yourself.  Our children are not only our own futures, but the future of this country.  Saying "Thank you" takes no time at all, and it doesn't cost anything at all, but the dividends are tremendous. 

So for this one day, no politics, no points to be made, no agendas.  Just....thank you. 

04 November 2010

Seriously, is it worth it?

Good Lord.  I'm posting maybe twice a month lately, and it's because of school.  It feels like I have zero time for anything besides school.  These are my last two quarters, and it is HARD.  I finally reached the place where all my man-cubs are in their own school all day, and I thought I'd have time.  More time.  I have one afternoon and two whole days a week off from school, and silly me, I thought that would be, you know, free time.  Heh. 

I cannot adequately express how many pages of reading (and subsequently, writing) I am required to do every week for three history classes.  Hundreds of pages every day.  Literally.  Not only do I have to read them all, I have to analyze them in the context of the geopolitical situation, AND remember it all well enough to discuss it intelligently the next day, or the day after that.  Maybe I'm not cut out for college after all.  Oy vey. 

In one of my classes, we received a sound scolding today for not doing the reading.  The professor did not raise her voice or call us names, but she made her disappointment perfectly clear.  She sent us home to read, with the promise of a quiz at our next class meeting.  On top of the quiz we were already having.  When she said, 'you need to go home and read' and dismissed us a half hour early, I felt like I'd been naughty, and sent to bed without dinner.  But I was grateful all the same, to get out of 30 minutes of class time.

I know it's ridiculous to even entertain the idea of quitting school.  I'm less than two quarters from my degree.  But right now, I'm wondering if it's worth it.  I'm giving up a lot of time with my family, a lot of sleep, and my stress level is through the roof.  I told Captain America the other day, "I've come to a realization and I don't like it, but it is what it is.  I am useless to this family until the end of March, when winter quarter is over and I will be finished taking undergrad classes.  Useless."  He is totally supportive and awesome but I hate this not being present at home business.  I'm here but I'm not.  And when I am here, I'm busy writing for my freelance gig (deadline Monday!) or organizing a Veterans' Day event at the kids' school (which I do NOT begrudge and I do enjoy, it's just a lot of work).

And here's the really crazy part....I'm considering (or at least, I was till this quarter) grad school.  I think maybe it's this one professor and her class that has me feeling so bad.  She barrels through lectures, she's kind of soft spoken and I'm hearing-challenged, AND she clicks through her power points so fast, I can barely read them, let alone process and/or write down notes.  She has high expectations and I am just not meeting them.  She keeps saying things like, 'this is a 500-level class so we have to up the ante...' but my 600-level professor is perfectly happy keeping things a little more relaxed.  I'm learning just as much, if not more, from him, but he's not tightening the screws every time the class meets.

But in spite of feeling so maxed out, today was really a good day.  I was afraid that, due to overnight guests in my bed keeping me awake till all hours, it was going to be a rough one but it's a funny thing....I said a little prayer and asked for help to get through my day (Captain America is somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying a nice walk in the sunshine and sleeping in, by himself.  Not that I'm jealous) and I did.  The boys sailed through getting ready for school and were even ready to go 5 minutes before I asked them to be.  No muss, no fuss.  This doesn't happen on the days I don't take the time to ask God for help. 

Note to self....maybe you should think about asking for help every day, not just the crappy ones.  Hmm. 

So, I'll be going to morning prayer with the boys at school tomorrow.  To remind myself that it's ok, and necessary to ask for help. And also because the middle man-cub is participating in a skit.  Dressed like George Washington.  White wig and all.  I sense a photo op. 

15 October 2010

The Kids Are Alright Part II

It took me a little longer than I'd have liked but that's how my life goes.

I finished The Kids Are Alright yesterday morning at about 1:00.  Wow.  As I started to write in my previous post, this book is just wonderfully written.  I love that all the Welch kids take turns writing chapters.  I almost hate to call them chapters, since they're mostly just a few paragraphs, maybe a page or two, but they are always significant.  In any case, it's how the reader gets to know each of the Welches in turn, and in their own words.  Each of them has their own distinctive voice and their own way with words.  Liz and Diana have become professional writers and I'm not at all surprised.

I'm finding myself relating most to Diana, the baby of the Welch family, since I myself am the baby of my family.  Not that I faced the kind of heartbreaks that the Welch kids did, but I also lost one parent very young and had the other parent just check out on me. I spent my growing-up years with people other than my family, not sure how I got there or what would happen to me. And ultimately it was my sisters who helped me find my way. 

This story is just a powerful testament to love and to family and to the ties that bind.  No matter how far-flung the Welch siblings were, they always loved each other and took care of one another the best way they knew how.  Amanda, who seemed so angry and didn't want any part of "family bullshit" like vacations together, turned out to be a pretty darn good mom to her younger brother and sisters and never gave up on any of them. She had the most time with her mom, but she had to learn so much on the fly.  Liz loved fiercely and was always ready to drop everything when she was needed.  Dan drifted toward adulthood and real life aimlessly but he had two guiding lights to keep him from going off the edge of a cliff.  I feel especially for Dan, because he was the only boy in the family and he didn't have anyone to help him learn what it means to be a man, a partner, a husband, a father.  Diana, well, God love her, I feel a real kinship with her.  I would argue that she drew the short straw for being the baby and being the one who had to work the hardest at understanding what was happening.

I wrote out this whole long post, and when I read it before I hit 'post' it occurred to me that it sounded like a book report.  Which really doesn't do it justice at all.  Let me try again. 

What I really want to say about this book, is that it touched me deeply.  I felt drawn in, like I was one of them.  I laughed with them and I cried with them.  Dan broke my heart when he didn't think anyone gave a crap about how much acid he was dropping.  I wanted to just wrap Diana up in my arms and take her home with me when Nancy told her that she was ugly and no one wanted her around. Amanda wanted and tried to just forget everything and party her way through life, and I just wanted to slap her a high five reading about how she started to get it, about how important her siblings were to her, and when she creates new holiday traditions with them.  And I love that Liz pursued her own life and studied abroad and yet was still always there for the others.  What a phenomenal family. Just...wow.

And at the end, there is hope and forgiveness.  As much as they had stacked up against them, the Welches keep on keepin' on, and refused to give up or give in. As much as they've all struggled to find their way, they have all come out ahead. Marriage, careers, and the ultimate expression of hope, children. 


Yeah, the kids are alright.

11 October 2010

The Kids Are Alright

Oh look. Another month and a half gone. 

Fall quarter is in full swing for me, and you know what that means.  For a history major, it means tons and tons and TONS of reading.  Which is why I'm still trying desperately to find time to finish The Kids Are Alright.  I started it at least ten times, during the few moments I could steal to read something for pleasure rather than for an obligation, always dozing off before I got past page 5.  Not because the book is boring or dull....it isn't.  Not because the story isn't compelling and heart-wrenching and phenomenally written....it is.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am  only about halfway through the book.  But what I've read so far, is why I read so much of it in one afternoon.  I found myself with some time today and picked it up (again) and honestly couldn't put it down.  I'm blowing off a book on Hitler (which, to a history major with a serious love for military history, is a bit like turning down a hit on the ol' crack pipe) to finish it tonight.

It's the story of four siblings, the Welch family, written in turn by each of them.  Each chapter heading is the name of the sibling that wrote those particular pages.  It's the story of their father's sudden and kind of mysterious death, and their mother's illness that came on the heels of it.  It is about how they each experienced these life altering and world shattering events, as children. 

Each of them has their own very distinctive voice, and it didn't take me long to figure out who was writing, even without the chapter headings.  Amanda is the oldest and she sounds angry.  She is MAD.  Maybe she's not now, but then....whoo.  Liz is ironic and articulate, and it doesn't surprise me to read on the back cover that she is a writer.  Dan is kind of sarcastic and blunt and doesn't mince his words.  And Diana is the baby.  She seems kind of bewildered at all that is going on around her.  She can't influence any of it and must just go along for the ride.  They're all heartbroken and devastated by their father's death and angered by their mother's inability to deal with it.  It's funny and sad and touching and messy and real. 

I love it.  I am invested in the players...do you call them characters when they are real people?...and I want to know more.  So, I'm going to go finish the book, so I can finish writing about it. 

06 September 2010

Oh look

I did it again, let more than two weeks slip by without typing one coherent sentence.

It's Labor Day, a day of rest for those who labor. It's also the day after my middle man-cub's 8th birthday. I feel a little melancholy today, and although I've never been a mom who gets weepy at the thought of her babies growing up, birthdays certainly indicate that time does indeed march on. He's kind of in between, he's not a little kid anymore, but he's not quite a big kid yet. He's a textbook middle child, going with the flow and low maintenance in so many ways, yet always seeming to be afraid he'll be left out or forgotten.  If one of his brothers get praised for something, Larry chimes in, "What about me?  I did that too!" Or if someone gets scolded for something, he pipes up, "That wasn't me!  I didn't do that!"

He's all boy, in almost every way, even down to being kind of a mama's boy but only when his friends aren't looking.  This picture isn't current, by any means, but it's one of my top two or three favorites of him.  He's walking into the surf, for the very first time, holding his big brother's hand.  It's just my favorite.


Happy birthday big dude.

So, noticing the passage of time today.  And sad about hearing of the rough patch in a marriage of two people who are very dear to me.  I'm hoping and praying that the power of love and the power of forgiveness can and will overcome the power of anger and the power of hurt feelings.  The only thing I can do to help them is to pray for them, and be here to listen if they need or want me to.  It doesn't feel right to sit by silently when people I care about are suffering, but at the same time, they are the only ones who can fix the issue.  It's not mine to fix.  But it still makes me sad, and at the same time, it makes me feel grateful for the people in my life who are willing to overlook my faults, forgive my mistakes and love me in spite of them.

15 August 2010

Where did the summer go?

First there was Vacation Bible School, then there was basketball camp. Then there was another basketball camp, and then football camp. Oh yes, and then there was zoo camp, and a few blessedly un-busy quiet days on a lake in Maine.

Here we are, the 15th of August, and summer break is officially over. The little people are not quite back to school yet, but we've done our school-supply shopping (including a special car box of Kleenex for me as my baby goes off to all-day school), packed backpacks, and we've pushed back bedtime and started force-marching a little earlier in the morning in preparation. But the real reason I know summer is over?

Sports practices have started.

Yep, one kid has two soccer practices each week, in addition to two nights at the karate studio. Another kid has four (count 'em, FOUR) football practices each week, and the other kid gets a whole lot of time either watching his brothers do stuff or riding in the car to and from. And did I mention that my husband travels for work? A lot? Like half of every month?

This is when I know that Hillary was right and it truly does take a village, to get my kids to and from all their stuff. In fairness, we signed up the one dude for soccer before he chose karate, and we're all about honoring our commitments here (as well as not wasting the money already spent on the sign-up fee). But fortunately, once school starts in a couple weeks, the soccer practices go away, and he'll only have games. Soccer season is over mid October, depending on how they do in the tournament. Football drops one practice, but that still means three practices and a game each week. Football season is also over mid October. And thankfully we have friends to carpool with for all the activities.

I had a mini meltdown yesterday over the chaos my life has become. Some people thrive on chaos, and having a million things to do and a million places to go all the time. I'm honestly not one of them. I like being busy, having a reason to get up and get moving every day and getting things accomplished, but crazybusy makes me, well, crazy.

Thank God for good friends, truly. My good friend listened to me patiently, gave me a hug and told me that she loved me, and then she arranged my week for me.

Mondays are especially tricky right now, given my involvement with a women's retreat group at church. Because that takes me totally out of the loop, when one kid has to be at karate, the other has to be at football and the other just needs to be corralled. Captain America has been home a lot lately, but he's going flying tonight and I'm a leetle nervous. I lean on him pretty hard when he's home and he's fantastic about doing (more than) his fair share of driving, laundry and dishes.

But I can't, I WON'T, give up my time with my girls and my God on Monday nights. I need it. It feeds me in a way that being a good and dutiful mother and wife does not and cannot. What I guess I do need is to learn better time management skills, and to put limits on what I (and my kids) can reasonably do.

How did a post about summer being over turn into a post about my scheduling needs? That's how I roll.

29 June 2010

Somewhere in the in-between

I've been reading several books lately, at the same time. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, so let me explain a little more.

One I'm reading, called A Postcard from the Volcano, is historical fiction. It's a serious book, with heavy and thought-provoking themes. It's about Germany and all its historical and political angst between WWI and WWII. It could be required reading for a college history course. I love it. But, I can't read it in bed, because when I am reading in bed, I usually make it for about 15 minutes before I doze off. Reading something like this requires more brain power and it also requires me to not be asleep. So I'm moving through it more slowly, saving it for when I have time during the day (not often) so I can really concentrate and follow it.

These other two books I'm reading inspired the title for my post.

I'm re-reading Eclipse, because the movie is coming out this week, and I'm going to go see it with one of my Twi-Mom friends, and call me whatever you will, I love that dang Twilight series. It's overly angst-y (I like that word today) and dramatic and all high-school-girl-swoony-romantic, but I can't help myself. I love it. Yes, I know I'm a good 20, maybe 25 years older than the target audience. I get that I probably look silly waiting in line for tickets to Eclipse. Whatever. Even my single-digit-age boy children laugh at me for my not-so-secret obsession. Again, whatever. I'm Team Edward, all the way.

And I'm also reading a book called Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is the author of Eat, Pray, Love, and Committed is the follow-up of sorts to that story. In a nutshell, the author, having been through a gut-wrenching divorce and having sworn off the institution of marriage, finds herself in a relationship with a man who is a citizen of another country. He has also been through a horrible, gut-wrenching divorce and they are perfectly matched in their desire to A) be with one another and B) not be joined in holy matrimony. They lead this multi-continental life together, staying in many places for a time, but never too long, until one day their jig is up and his American visa is revoked. So, they either have to live somewhere besides America or get married, making him a citizen. For this couple with their horror of marriage, it's quite a quandary.

Now, to be fair, I'm still in the early part of the book, and so I don't know yet how it turns out. Right now, I'm reading through the author's historical research on the institution of marriage, and what it actually means in other cultures. And it ain't all that romantic. Or holy. In fact, it sounds like a rather cynical view of marriage, where it's all about survival (safety in numbers) or power (arranged marriages to keep rich landowners rich). And there are lots of Biblical references to Jesus and His apostles instructing men not to get involved with women at all, to remain celibate and follow Him, and ONLY get married as a last resort if one simply could not follow the higher path.

So, on the one hand, there is a book written for teenage girls, idealizing and romanticizing the notion of being together for all eternity and how loving the right boy (and giving up your whole identity and free will to him) will complete you as a person. In this book in the series, Edward and Bella decide to seal their fates together and get married. Bella does have some reservations about getting married at 18, but the overall theme is still the same, that loving (marrying) the right boy makes everything ok.

And on the other hand is a book that starts out with the quote, "Plant an expectation, and reap a disappointment." With joined gold wedding bands as the cover art and a title like Committed. Cynical, I tell you!

A contradiction of sorts, yes?

I didn't choose to read these two together purposely, but I find it an amusing coincidence. In my admittedly limited experience of relationships and marriage, I have found the truth of the matter to be somewhere in the in-between of the two extremes illustrated in my summer reading. Sometimes I expect a whole lot of my spouse and my marriage...I expect him to just know when I'm having a bad day, and I expect him to somehow make it better. I expect fulfillment and happiness from being a wife and a mother (among other things). And it just flat pisses me off when things don't work out that way. Making me feel somewhat, dare I say it, cynical.

My husband is a good guy and a great dad, whom I would choose over and over again. But is he perfect? Can he magically make my bad day all better? Can he read my mind and soothe every anxiety and fear I harbor? No. To me, the more relevant question is, should he be expected to? I also have to answer that with no.

What do these books tell us about our society, our expectations, our relationships? Are they reflective of real truths, or are they just one woman's ideas?

And what are the odds that I'd pick up these two at the same time?!

04 June 2010

Everybody's doing it

Apparently, it's "post your most embarrassing moment" week in blog-world.

Everybody's doing it.

Hmmmm, so many to choose from....there was the time I had gone into my office, shortly after the birth of my first child, to show him off. Now mind you, I worked in a flying squadron in the Air Force. Perhaps not the most baby-friendly environment one could think of. My boss was Lt. Col D, a tall, solid-built pilot with a booming voice that, with his Georgia accent, sounded remarkably like Foghorn Leghorn. Lt Col D was out of his office for a meeting (super top secret code for "at the golf course") and the baby needed to eat. I closed myself into his office after securing promises of privacy and interference-running for the following 20 minutes or so, from the folks who worked right outside his office. Not twenty seconds into nursing the baby, Lt Col P flings the door open, hollering, "Hey Bill!" scaring the crap out of me, the baby and then also himself. Thanks for running interference for me, guys. Just a couple of weeks before that, I had been just one of the guys in a flight suit in the squadron. I think we both came away from that incident scarred. I still have a hard time looking him in the eye.

Or perhaps the time I was with one of my darling offspring in a public restroom. Said offspring was in the process of potty training at the time of the incident. I sat down to, um, do my business, and as I finished, said offspring cheered me, saying, "Good job Mommy! I KNEW you could do it!" Hmm, wonder where he heard that before?

Maybe it's the time I had tried to take all three of my lovely children to Mass by myself, when Captain America was away on a trip. Ages of lovely children were 8, 6 and 3. The 8 and 6 year olds were ok, but the 3 year old was having none of it. He refused to take his winter coat off, which was fine. But then he needed to lay down on the kneelers, and as I tried to pick him up with that coat on, I ended up poking him with my thumb. Hard. During a quiet, reflective moment of the Mass, my child had a quiet and reflective screaming fit: "OWW!! MOMMY! You poked me! That really hurt! Why did you poke me?!" I didn't mean to poke him but after his outburst, during which every single person in church was staring at us, I would have gladly poked him on purpose. Hard.


There are many to choose from, and I don't know if I can definitively say which one was the most embarrassing.

Oh, you didn't think I was going to pull out the really good stuff, did you? I have so many ways in which I have embarrassed myself that I could talk for a couple of days without getting to the good stuff. How much time do you have? ;)

A sign, perhaps?

I've been reading a few blogs lately, here and here and here, that have got me thinking. They've all recently had posts in the last few days about writing: finding time for writing, dreaming of writing, writing about writing.

I'm not always very consistent with writing, but I love to write. Some say I'm pretty good at it. I have, on occasion, gotten paid to do it. I've got stuff to say.

But the thing is, what I have to say, the stories I have to tell, I haven't written down. Yet.

Why? Heh.

It's this little thing I like to call, life. I'm a mom. I have kids who need, demand and deserve my attention. I'm a student. And it's important to me to dedicate myself to my studies. Thankfully they're almost over for the time being, but they're not over yet. I'm a USAF reservist, and my commander expects things from me, and rightly so. He expects me to fulfill my obligations, to show up and do my job (writing!) and all of the other things that come with the uniform. All kinds of extra requirements that would be a whole other post. Maybe someday. Oh, and I also have a house to keep somewhat cleaned up, clothes that need washed and put away, a refrigerator that I must fill with food now and then, and a husband who, heaven knows why, wants to spend time with me and also deserves my attention. Friends I'd like to see and talk to once in a while. You see where I'm going with this.

Hmm. Where did I fit writing in again?

But, I have stuff to say. A story to tell. If God has given me a gift, I'd like to think it is the written word. I have snippets of stories I've written, that are part of the whole. Some pieces are my own experiences and some belong to others. I have a couple of people I trust to read my unvarnished, un-proofread work, raw and emotional, sometimes funny and insightful, but all me, my heart and soul. They tell me what I have so far is good and it's compelling. Keep working at it, this is good, they say. I just need to find the time. But there's more.

I want desperately to tell my story, to see my words in print.

But I'm afraid too. I understand that publishing is a tough, tough business to break into. I am not sure my skin is thick enough yet. I'm afraid of telling this story that means so much to me, and nobody cares.

I'll get over those fears, I know. Even the best authors have been rejected a gazillion times. So, I'll be in good company, if I ever get the thing done and sent off to someone who might possibly want to consider putting my heart and soul between a front cover and a back cover.

I had to get up in the middle of this post to take the dog out, take a kid's temperature who seems to be coming down with something and on way to get the Tylenol, discovered the ice-maker hemorrhaging water onto the kitchen floor. And Captain America is somewhere between LA and Salt Lake City. Where he is of no use to me in this situation ;)

See what I mean about life?

26 May 2010

Psyching myself up and psyching myself out

I went running again today, still not having fully committed to the idea of a full marathon, not out loud anyway. I ran about 3.5 miles, which is not a "long" run for me. It's a good distance, enough to be challenging but not enough to be a long run. But I had a hard time today. It was hot at noon, I hadn't really fueled up very well before I went out and I was a little dehydrated.

All valid reasons why one might struggle a little bit during a run, and all excuses that are covering up the real reasons I'm having a hard time running lately.

I have run half marathons and 10ks before, and I've trained both well and poorly for them. I know how hard it is to keep picking 'em up and putting 'em down after 13 miles. I've finished 13.1 miles feeling great and I've also crawled across the finish line gasping and wheezing, praying for, well, not death, but at least unconsciousness.

But I haven't done it for 26.2 miles. I'm not sure if it's the actual number that is freaking me out, or if it is the knowledge of how tough running half that distance is to start with. But I am a little freaked out, in any case.

There is a race in October in a nearby city, that coincides with a milestone birthday for me (40th!)that I've been contemplating running. I've even said it out loud once or twice in a very tentative hesitant voice, that I might do it, that I'm sitting on the fence about it. How cool would it be to run my first full marathon 4 days before I turn 40? That would totally underscore the fact that I am in much better shape than I was when I was 20, I am way happier than I was when I was 20, I'm wiser, better educated, more comfortable in my own skin, have more money and I look better too. That 40 isn't the beginning of the end, it's just a beginning.

There is a big part of me that knows I can do it. I can train and I can fuel my body properly, I have an iPod with 4 days worth of music and I have a loud cheering section, and I can totally do it.

But I'm scared. I'm scared of 26.2.

So as I was mentally working through some aches and pains today on my measly 3.5 run, I was also thinking in the back of my head, if it's this hard to get through 3.5 today, how in the name of Zeus am I going to be able to talk myself through 26.2? I wasn't sure if I should listen to my body (which was a little achy and stiff today) or power through the pain (a la Jillian Michaels screaming and cursing at myself). Was my achiness and the accompanying desire to stop running an indication of hesitation and lack of commitment (mental psych-out) or was it real physical discomfort that I should back away from before I push myself to a real injury?

This is why I listen to an iPod when I run....it's scary and far too unnecessarily complicated in my head.

13 May 2010

Didn't I Feed You Yesterday?

is absolutely hilarious.

It's a new book by a mom named Laura Bennett, who lives in NYC and has six children. She was on America's Next Top Designer, a reality show that is a competition revolving around designing clothes. I'm slightly lacking in the fashion sense department (ok, more than slightly, Mrs always-wearing-a-tshirt-jeans-or-capris-and-flipflops) and I've never seen the show, but now I want to, just to listen to Laura's life wisdom. I got to borrow the book from my cool blogger-mom friend Marianne.

The book tells it like it is, honest and real and hysterically funny. Those moms who go on Oprah to proclaim how glorious every moment of every day is with three kids under the age of six would probably not find much in it to relate to, but the rest of us do. Moms who need a glass of wine with dinner everynight, moms whose kids learn how to operate the remote and the DVD player well before the age of 5, moms who are lucky to find clean socks for the little people by Friday morning. Notice I didn't say clean matchingsocks. Just clean. Mostly.

I adore my children, I truly do. I love them more than my next breath, and more than my new Barnes & Noble nook (totally awesome, I have to say). But there are some days I would gladly sell them to the first band of traveling gypsies I meet. They challenge me every day and they test my patience (God did not bless me abundantly with the stuff) and they make me grow. Growing hurts sometimes.

But anyway, back to the book. It made me laugh so hard I cried, and it made me nod my head in sympathy. While Laura and her family live a life I can't really comprehend from Smalltown, USA, I can totally understand the balancing act she has to perform. I don't have such gorgeous shoes or an aptly named weekend getaway home ("Dairy Air"...still makes me laugh!), but I do have kids as well as my own life. Moms do not cease to be independent people with interests and desires of their own, once they birth another human being. I may not have a thriving high powered career, but I am a college student, a sometime writer (mostly a blog, papers for school and the occasional freelance article) who wishes she was an actual author of actual books, and a military reservist. I have lots of interests that have little or nothing to do with my kids, or the care and feeding of said kids. And, I'm still a good mom.

I can relate to Laura in another way, being the only woman in a house full of men. I'm not uncomfortable with it, but I do feel sort of outnumbered and outgunned. It's only me and the dog.

I'm digressing again. Marianne, thanks a million for lending me your copy!

Go get your own copy. Seriously. Laughter is the best medicine and we all take ourselves a little too seriously sometimes. If you don't love it, I'll buy your copy.

07 May 2010

Judgment, I mean, Mother's Day

I had this whole long post written out and it was all about politics. Then I decided to deep-six it, because it raised my blood pressure. And I don't want to raise my blood pressure, on Friday, especially the Friday before Mother's Day.

Ahh, Mother's Day.

This day, all by itself, manages to stir some debate, by its very existence.

The first thing I want to say is, I'm giving a big shout-out to all my favorite moms. Grandmas, aunts who act like moms, adoptive moms, sisters who act like moms, stepmoms, mothers-in-law, grandmas raising their grandchildren, step-mothers-in-law...all of us who love and care for the children in our lives, big or small, deserve a great big high five. You also deserve a weekend trip to Vegas but I'm working with what I've got here.

I've read some blog postings and online debates this week about Mother's Day, and it surprises me the things people will argue over and judge others on. One blog posed the seemingly harmless question, "What is the worst Mother's Day gift you ever got?," which led to moms judging each other for "making it all about the gifts." And the implicit judgment in "the only thing that is important to me on Mother's Day is spending time with my family," as if someone who admitted having gotten a gift they didn't like was a bad person. And my personal favorite, "Moms, don't be sucked into the commercial consumerism! Mother's Day isn't about the presents!" All these moms wanted to do was gripe and kvetch a little bit, and they got verbally smacked. If we can't gripe to our people, ie, other moms who've been there, I ask you, who can we gripe to?

Of course Mother's Day isn't about the gifts. No one ever said it was.

But come on. Moms work hard, all the time. Day and night. Whether your work takes you outside of your home or not, whether you have one child or ten, we all work hard to take care of our families. It's nice when someone says, "Thanks Mom," or "Thanks for all you do, honey." And because husbands, ie, men, are not generally known (sorry guys! I know some of you are good at this!) for their ability to articulate their appreciation with pretty words, they do it in the form of gifts, or flowers, or chocolate.

My husband is good at gifts; I'll give credit where it's due. He's also teaching the dudes about the value of a thoughtful gift. Not a crazy expensive gift, not a shiny, wrapped-up-in-a-blue-Tiffany-box kind of gift, not even something that necessarily comes from a store or a salon, but something that the recipient would truly like. For example, Larry, my middle-born man-cub, is not overly affectionate or given to vocal expressions of love. He'd rather just give me a noogie and call it a day. So it really means something when he says "I love you Mom," without me saying it first. It means something that he takes time out of his busy day of Pokemon cards and football to make a card. My oldest (who is not technically mine since I didn't give birth to him but I claim him just the same) is an adult, a married man and an Army officer stationed half the world away. But he still sends a card and calls to say "I love you." And that means the world to me too. Captain America has taught them that.

Sometimes, dads don't choose so wisely. Or they buy something they themselves would like to have, but then pass it off as a gift for their wives. (and you know who you are!) And heaven forbid that a mom actually looks forward to a little appreciation or acknowledgment! Don't we all want to be appreciated? Is that so awful? Can we not see past the actual object to see the gesture, and the feeling behind it?

You don't see dads picking on each other because they look forward to getting some new grill tools, or a new lens for their camera, or some shiny new chrome for their motorcycles when Father's Day rolls around. Let's go easy on each other, moms, aren't we supposed to be on the same side? Aren't we supposed to have each others' backs? I don't know about you, but I depend on my girlfriends, who are moms and sometimes the moms of my kids' friends. I NEED them! All of their views and opinions and feelings and choices are not the same as mine. That's WHY I love them and need them!

And one more thing....a divine shout-out to my own mom, who is no longer with us, but who I love and miss every day. You may not have been here in my life for very long physically, but who you are is who I am. And they say I look like you too. Love you Mama.

30 April 2010

Maybe not ready after all

Last week, I took Curly to what will be his school in the fall. He's my baby, my little mini-me. He is the funniest kid, who says the funniest things. I love getting to spend my afternoons and Fridays with him, while his older brothers, Moe and Larry, are at school. I thought I was looking forward to Curly heading off to the big K, and moving into the next phase of motherhood completely. Stepping into the school years with both feet.

But as I watched him run excitedly down the hall toward the K classroom, with Mrs. K (appropriately enough) while I sat in the meeting room with the other K parents and the principal, it hit me that maybe I'm not quite as ready as I thought I was. Oh, sure, it sounds lovely to have the WHOLE DAY to myself to finally sort out whatever is in those boxes in the back of the basement, to go running whenever I feel like it instead of when I can fit it in, to actually keep up with laundry and grocery shopping, to spend a whole afternoon on the deck reading a book.

But....Curly is my buddy. We hang out. We talk. We watch Veggie Tales and we build Lego space ships and race cars. We go to the mall sometimes for Auntie Anne's pretzels and lunch in the food court, or to Barnes and Noble to share a chocolate chip cookie and play with the trains in the kids' section.

He went in for the assessment that measures his readiness to begin kindergarten. Does he know his phone number and his address? Can he write his name? Does he know the difference between upper case and lower case? Can he hop on one foot and play catch? Does he interact with other kids easily?

He's way ready, Mrs. K assures me. A bright and funny boy. His preschool teachers assure me he's well ready and will have no problem transitioning to all-day school.

I've never been the type of mom to bemoan and mourn the passing of stages. I know some moms who are sad at their children's birthday parties because it all went too fast. I know some moms who, at every milestone, have said something like, "Stop growing up so fast!" And let me be clear, I'm not knocking them or being critical at all. That's just not my style.

I loved the baby years, as hard as they were sometimes, and there is nothing that can ever beat the smell of a newborn fresh out of the bath. I stayed awake to watch them breathe. I marveled watching their eyelashes grow in, and treasured every single gummy grin. I counted every tooth and cheered the first steps. But I didn't cry because they were growing up too fast. I didn't cry putting Moe and Larry onto the bus for the first time. I loved watching them be nervous about it, and do it anyway, that sense of accomplishment they got from just doing it anyway.

I have really been enjoying watching them change from babies who I adored cuddling and feeding and carrying, to boys who can run with me, who I can kick a soccer ball with or throw a football with, and who can reason and have a conversation about why the leaves change color or why our flag is important and why we should show respect. I am so digging watching them turn into the people they are growing up to be. It's pretty amazing.

But still. Curly is my baby.

And while he's raring to go, ready to spread his little wings and fly off to kindergarten with circle time and snack time and weekly Mass and rest time in the afternoons, it's a little harder for me this time.

It's not quite time yet. He hasn't finished preschool and we still have the whole summer to play. But I also have the sense of something coming to an end, of days being numbered.

His readiness is no longer in question.

But, I think mine might be.

19 April 2010

Admitting you need help--and getting it

I may have mentioned before that my son, who is now ten (and whose comment as a three year old inspired the name of my blog :) ) is a unique child. Complicated, in the words of the school psychologist. We had a meeting this morning and it was a really good meeting. It lasted for an hour and a half, and I just felt good when I left.

Moe has been diagnosed with ADHD, and shows significant signs of Asperger's Syndrome, as well as some OCD-type traits, but not enough to warrant an actual clinical diagnosis of either. Aside from the ADHD, about which there is no question, he doesn't really fit neatly into any particular category. He takes medication for the ADHD and up until recently he had been seeing a psychologist on a somewhat regular basis. The problem with the psychologist is that she is on the other side of the city, and has limited after school hours. So, it's a good 45 minutes, one way, an hour wait while he sees her, and 45 minutes on the way home. After school. In traffic. With two other kids. It's been difficult to stay in a regular pattern and over last summer and the beginning of this school year, we've just stopped going.

You know how when you have a cold, you try to take it easy for a couple of days? Maybe you call in sick, or ask your neighbor to walk your kids to the bus stop? Take medicine and try to get a little extra rest? You do that for a day or two (or three) and when you start to feel better, you stop doing those extra things. I've sort of regarded our interventions for Moe in the same way. Things had been going pretty well, and so we kind of slacked off doing the things he needs, in order to cope with his challenges.

Bad idea.

He needs help, and he's going to continue to need help. Just because he's managing to get through his days doesn't mean his needs are any less. I realized that this morning while I was talking to Dr. B. I've sort of harbored this suspicion that maybe I let him watch too much Sesame Street when he was a baby, or that I shouldn't have had those glasses of wine when I was first pregnant with him and didn't know it. Like it's somehow something I did or didn't do, that saddled him with these special needs.

I'm really hard on him sometimes too....I have high expectations of my kids and I don't apologize for that. But sometimes I wonder if I'm too hard, especially on him. At the same time, I don't want to let him off the hook....just because he has ADHD, that doesn't mean he gets a free pass for bad behavior that goes uncorrected.

We had a really bad weekend in terms of unacceptable behavior and I hate to admit it....but I need help. He needs help. It feels a bit like I've failed him, as his mom, that I can't help him on my own, that we need to call in the experts.

We're all so conditioned to disdain needing help and looking or being weak, not able to handle things on our own. I hate saying publicly that sometimes I can't handle my kid's behavior, or that I just don't know what to do to help him. But it is what it is, and we both need a little help. Sometimes I forget how difficult it is for him.

He's a fantastic kid, very bright with an incredibly vivid imagination. He is sweet and caring and affectionate. And, man, does he know his animals. He wants to be a conservationist when he grows up....he told me this in first grade. He doesn't want to get married, because, in his words, it will make more room in his house for the animals he wants to rescue. Just a great kid.

I don't want my frustration with my own inability to help him learn to behave in socially acceptable ways, to squash that beauty in him.

14 April 2010

Semantics

So, it's been a pretty busy couple of weeks.

Lent and Easter are over now. I'm kind of glad to see the end of this Lent, because I fell down and broke the Lenten promises so very many times, and I'm glad to have a break from feeling like a loser. It was a tough Lent in that sense, for me, this year.

The kiddies just went back to school after Spring Break, and Curly was especially unhappy to go back. He was lucky enough to get two weeks this year, since he's in preschool, which had their Spring Break the week before Moe's and Larry's break. And since we had planned to go out of town for that break, he got them both. Lucky him. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth over breakfast. But, everyone's back where they belong....Capt America is back to flying the friendly skies, the kids are at school, and I'm at my computer desk. All's right with the world.

I have had occasion this week to really examine some sides of myself that I'm not so proud of. When I married Capt America, I instantly became of a mother of sorts. The worst sort, the evil stepmother (insert wicked cackle here). It's been a good ride, so far, almost 14 years later. Like any ride, there have been ups and downs. We had a major down recently, with my stepdaughter, as in the kind where she hasn't directly addressed me since January. She's not really talking to her dad either. I really hope and pray that changes. But for the most part, I'd have to say I've been blessed in the bonus kids department.

And just for the record, I really hate using a qualifier....I don't view them differently than the children I carried and gave birth to, why do I need to call them a different name? Kids? Stepkids? No difference to me. Truly. I get that they already have a mom, and it's not me. But I still maintain that I've been an integral part of their lives and participated, however indirectly, in their growing up experience. I have loved them the best way I knew how, and tried to be a positive influence. We met when I was 23 and they were 11 and 9. I have never intentionally tried to take their mom's place, or be anything to them other than a good friend. I'm afraid if I don't use the "step," they will think I'm trying to take over and be their mom, and if I do, I'm distancing myself from them. I've never gotten a straight answer out of either of them as to how they feel about it. I'm pretty sure I know how their mom feels about it, and about me. If I were to end up in the position, through one means or another, of a single mom, and had to share my children with another woman, I'd like to think I'd be grateful if she loved them and was good to them. Maybe I wouldn't though, you never really know how you'll handle something until you're right there in it.

In any case, suffice it to say that there is some tension between the parental figures in my story. Last week was a big occasion in the oldest one's life...a couple of big occasions actually. B received his commission in the US Army, making him a full-fledged officer, a Second Lieutenant. Very big stuff. AND, he got married. Ran off to Vegas to make things legal before his wife (still sounds kind of weird!) must be away for extended period of time. We knew that they were going to do this, and there is a big church wedding in the works, upon her triumphant return. And I thought I was ok with all of it.

As it turns out, I'm not. They had said all along, they only wanted it to be the two of them, no family, they wanted family to come to the big church deal. At the very last minute, they changed their minds. There was no possible way for any of us, whether just Capt America or the whole family, to get out to Vegas on 24 hours notice. They said, don't come, so we made other plans.

But his mom was able to get out there.

And I'm jealous.

Let me be clear, I don't want to be there instead of his mom, heaven knows she's his mother, of course she should be there....I just want to be there too. I wanted to watch them promise forever. Oh, I know, I'll get to see it in church (where it belongs, but I digress...again), but still. That jealous and insecure part of me has really been making a lot of noise over this. In my heart, I know that B's mom is wrong when she says that B and L don't like me very much but they put up with me because she raised polite and considerate kids, and for their dad's sake. In my head, though, there are times that doubt gets a toehold.

B and I have been close. We got off to a rough start, I'll grant, but after that, we have grown close. He calls and texts me, he says "I love you" to me, and he says it first as often as I say it first. He told me before he told Capt America, his dad, that he was getting married.

I'm pretty bummed out that I didn't get to go to his wedding. And frankly, I'm a little put out that he gave us 24 hours notice, and was upset and disappointed we couldn't make it. Especially since he knew we had been planning to come until he told us not to. But, it's over and done, and let's face it, I'm a grown up. I'll get past it. I am already halfway there....I love writing things down, it gets it out of my head and off my chest.

So....am I now a mother-in-law, or a step-mother-in-law? It's a matter of ceramics.

No, semantics. That was supposed to be a joke.

No pun intended, I don't want to step on anyone's toes, but I have a feeling that no matter how I refer to myself in this context, it's going to get under someone's skin. But there is nothing that will keep me from their *real* wedding, in church, and watching them promise each other forever, all over again. And I'll be there in any capacity he wants me to be.

01 April 2010

Seth Godin

I stumbled upon his blog by clicking the link in someone else's blog (I LOVE how the blog world works like that!) and today's post is really, really good.

It's about rationality and irrationality. There is a definite negative connotation to the word "irrational" but Seth explains, very simply, why irrational isn't always bad.

It just really struck a chord with me today, so I'm passing it along.

I'm an irrational person. And I am ok with that :)

UPDATE: Well, I tried to insert a link but if I type out the URL, it doesn't show up as clickable, and if I insert the link using the "link" button, it looks clickable but "isn't valid" according to the pop-up box. So, maybe it's lame, but Seth's blog is on my blog list to the right of the screen. I KNOW that link works.

And now I must take the tutorial that shows me how to do that.

30 March 2010

Running

I love running.

I know, that probably sounds weird.

But I do, I love running. I forgot that for awhile, but I finally, FINALLY, just remembered. And man, did it feel good.

Last fall, I ran a half marathon, my second, and really enjoyed it. I felt great the whole way, which was a substantial improvement over how I felt during my first half marathon, which felt like hell on earth. Why I did it again, I'm not sure, but the second time around was much, much better.

Which got me thinking. Because I am who I am, accomplishing a goal is fantastic. And then, I start looking for the next mountain to climb. So, I ran a couple of half marathons, along with a variety of other, shorter races, improving the experience along the way, and it got me thinking, what's next? And the only logical answer to that question is, a full marathon. The thing I said I'd never do.

Let this be a lesson in saying "never."

Because now I'm seriously considering my first marathon this year. In my head, I've already committed to it, but out loud, not so much yet. I have it on good authority that there is a race every October, held in Columbus, which is just a hop, skip and a jump up the road, and also where I grew up and where most of my family still lives. This marathon is alleged to be a flat course, and a well organized event that makes a really good first marathon. And, I have a milestone birthday coming up in October. What better way to commemorate a big milestone birthday, than trying not to collapse after voluntarily running for 26.2 miles?

Running is a mental game, and my mind can talk me into, or out of, a lot of things. So I'm already psyching myself up and and psyching myself out. Speaking of psych issues, running is wonderful therapy. And I'm really in need of some lately. I recently lost someone who was close to me, suddenly and violently. I've got some dealing to do, and putting miles on expensive shoes with TobyMac and the Newsboys blaring in my ears is a pretty decent start.

So I went out today, in the glorious sunshine, for my first run in about six months. And man, did it feel good.

25 March 2010

Coffee, glorious coffee

I love coffee. Love. It.

I talked to a friend the other day who mentioned that she had given up coffee for Lent, and I recoiled in genuine horror. Seriously?! She's a much better woman (and Catholic) than I. I mean, I get that giving something up for Lent is supposed to be hard, a true sacrifice, but wow. That takes it to another level. I was truly impressed. Please, God, don't ask me to give up coffee next year.

Go ahead and laugh, but one of the my Lenten promises was to give up impulse and emotional shopping. Yeah, it's a crutch for me. Who doesn't love a shiny new lip gloss when you're having a bad day? Or maybe taking 15 extra minutes to cruise the sale rack at Target, just because I deserve a little pick me up? I've worked hard, dangit! I should treat myself to a little something.

Hello, my name is Julie, and I'm a shopaholic. It's been two weeks since my last confession.

Anyway, I digress. I have not been sleeping so well lately, due partly to stress, and due partly to I don't know what, but I can't seem to stay asleep at night. I fall asleep fairly easily, but staying asleep....not so much. So my first inclination was to stop drinking coffee after about 2-3pm. So far, it's not helping a whole lot. I really don't want to take anything medicinal, like Benadryl (always works so well with my kids!) or Tylenol PM or even something like Ambien or Lunesta. But lacking solid sleep at night, I get up each morning to worship at the altar of Mr. Coffee.

I wonder if it matters that, since I've cut back on caffeine later in the day, that I've upped my morning intake by, oh, about three times. I never was very good at math.

A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do, to stay awake and semi-coherent till bedtime, right?

18 March 2010

Speechless

Doesn't happen to me very often. I always have something to say, an opinion, a wisecrack, a comment.

I've logged in several times to post and find that I am.....speechless.

I posted a little while back about the bubble I live in, a small midwestern town that is not entirely sure if it is a suburb of a larger city or still a farming community. Where people know each other and kids grow up together and parents watch out for any child, whether it's their kid or not. It's one of those towns where nothing bad happens.

Except last week, it did.

The bubble was burst, the peace shattered. It's hard to even think the words, let alone type or say them out loud. How do you explain to your kids that they are safe, and you will take care of them, when you yourself don't feel safe? How do you tell a child who just lost his mother, in a horrific manner, that he is loved and protected and safe? Said child is practically one of my children, having been best friends with my oldest man-cub almost since birth, literally. He looked at me with confused eyes and said, "Who's going to be my mom now?" and it ripped my heart out. Because I don't have an answer for him. No matter what happens or who is in and out of his life, she. Was. His. Mother. She's not replaceable. Not to him.

He has many people, family members and friends, surrounding him and loving him and who would do anything to take care of him. He'll be ok. But he doesn't know that yet.

And his little brother, who witnessed things most of us only ever see in movies...I worry about him. He is also surrounded by people who love him and who will do their very best to take care of him. He'll also be ok. But he doesn't know it yet either.

I have come to see that food = love. People have been bringing food, driving by and throwing mountains of food at us. People bring food when something good happens and they bring it when something bad happens. No matter what is going on, you still gotta eat. Food is comfort. Food = love.

No one ever saw it coming. She was a good person with a good heart, and she was doing the best she knew how to do, and she didn't deserve it. She was my friend. I'm sad for the senseless loss. I'm sad that her boys have to finish growing up without her. I'll get angry eventually, I know. But I'm not even angry at him. It scared me, that he'd been to my house, MY HOUSE, a million times. I never even heard him raise his voice.

Mostly I'm just sad. I have people surrounding me who love me and who want to help, somehow. And I'll be ok.

But I don't know that yet.

07 March 2010

Resolution

That hopefully-not-permanently-broken-but-damaged-nonetheless relationship I was mourning a few posts back?

Yeah, broken. Hopefully not forever, but that's not my call.

It's my stepdaughter. I don't know how to fix it. I have done everything I know how to do, and she's chosen to move out and walk away. Not only that, she didn't tell us herself. She asked her mom to email her dad (my hubs) and tell him that she didn't want to live with us anymore, and she'd be coming to get her stuff.....sometime.

She's 25. There are a lot of issues. Mostly the fact that she simply needs to grow up, and she needs to stop being let off the hook. Her parents need to stop enabling childlike behavior and give her a push, out of the nest to go fly. There's more, but that is a lot of it right there.

She's 25 and living in my house (well, she was living in my house), and she played the "You're not my mother" card on me, because I dared to call her on some behavior that I didn't like. Perfectly within my rights to do. But that was almost six weeks ago, and since then, she has yet to acknowledge my efforts to communicate, let alone acknowledge my continued existence.

I think she fully means to cut me out completely. In fact, I believe she already has. What is really killing me, is that by doing that, she's cutting her little brothers out too. And they don't deserve it. They adore her and worship the ground she walks on, and she simply cut them off. Because she's mad at me. They don't understand why she isn't coming back and why she doesn't want to see them.

It's sad, really. I don't like it. At all. But I can't control her, or how she feels, or influence the situation. It's like I already ceased to exist for her. And I don't think she will talk to me, for a long time, if ever. She's really good at the silent treatment. I've let her know I am here and I want to be her friend, six ways to Sunday. But you can't make someone like you, or want to be your friend. I keep learning this, over and over.

Giving it up to God and entrusting her to His care. Can't do much else. Hope with me, though, that she finds what she is looking for. She has a choice, and only she can make it: sit in her room and sulk because life hasn't turned out quite like she'd hoped so far, or she can play the hand she's got. It's kind of the same choice we all have, when you think about it.

I hope she decides to live her life instead of letting life happen to her. Peace be with you, L.

01 March 2010

Does denomination matter?

I'm Catholic. I'll just start with that. I wasn't raised in the faith but I converted in my teen years.

I live in this wonderful little bubble of a small mid-western town, where I'm friends with the parents of my kids' friends, and for the most part we all go to the same church and school. Yeah, school and church are the same building....not necessarily the same thing, but the same building. We all play sports, celebrate baptisms and birthdays, do room mom duties, take Communion and watch our kids take their First Communion in the same place, with roughly the same group of people. It's a wonderful, safe, happy, little bubble we live in. I like my bubble. What's not to love? A tight-knit community of believers who you know will look out for your children when you aren't there? Who will run your kid to soccer practice or who will come and tell you when your kid is the instigator of bad language that is being used on the playground at recess? I don't particularly care for Hillary Clinton, but this is my "village."

Which is why it's so strange to me, to run across people who don't like my bubble. Or, more specifically, who don't like my faith. And say so.

It's Lent. Which means fasting and giving things up, or adding in extra prayer time or service to the needy in some way, all in an effort to prepare our hearts for the resurrection of Christ. His sacrifice was so much greater than any that we could ever give, but this is our human way of walking with Him, during this time. It's the 40 days He spent in the desert, being tempted by Satan and fasting. So it seems appropriate that we should spend 40 days being tempted by worldly desires and fasting, in our effort to walk with Him, yes?

I am part of an online community of believers, of which Catholic believers make up a teenytiny percentage, judging from the tone and the content of other users' comments. So the question was posed today, "What are your thoughts on taking the month of March for fasting from something or giving something up to prepare our hearts for Christ's resurrection?" Most people mentioned things they wanted to give up or things they wanted to change in their lives. But one woman wrote "I don't know why people only think about this at Easter. We should always be preparing our hearts and letting Christ shine through us. It almost sounds like human traditions from the catholic church (she didn't capitalize, but I would have). I'm not saying we shouldn't do these things, but it shouldn't just be reserved just for Easter time."

"Human" traditions? Really, when you get down to it, isn't all church tradition "human" tradition? Yes, it's divinely inspired, but we're all human, aren't we? Even the Pope is a human. My parish priest, who is my spiritual authority and who I take my questions to, is a human. The Bible is divinely inspired but it's written by humans. In fact, I think I heard something in the news a few months ago that there was some movement to try to re-write the Bible to bring it more in line with current times!

Is it just me or is there a kind of negative tone to the woman's post? It really bothered me! I responded to her post with my best diplomacy, and drew the connection to Jesus' days in the desert (which I'm sure she knows about) and how the time of Lent is special and deserving of extra attention, but yes, of course we should always be striving to be more like Jesus. I ended with "There are many, many more things that bind us together than separate us, as Christians."

I've been learning a lot about Lent and about my faith this year, and I am more and more convinced that I'm home. Not being raised in the Catholic faith, and learning Church teachings as a teen and an adult, I've had a lot of trouble getting my head around the whole "one true faith" thing. That sounds as if Heaven is only going to be populated with Catholics, and I just don't know about that. But Catholicism is the one true faith, in the sense that all the other Christian denominations have grown out of it. Have they all gone astray? Are all the Methodists (or Lutherans, or Baptists, or Assemblies of God or Russian Orthodox or...) going to Hell? That I can't say. I do know that no denomination can throw stones at another for sins committed; we've all got poster children for bad behavior. That's not about denomination, that's about human-ness, and making mistakes.

Why must we draw those lines? Are we all worshipping different Gods? Doesn't He love us all?

She didn't come out and say, "Ooooh you're Catholic! A pox on you!" But it sure sounded like she was passing judgment on the Church, and that really didn't sit right with me. I don't want to go on a "nondenominational" Christian website and start arguing doctrine and dogma but I don't want to see my church criticized for its traditions either, especially when her church is a descendant of my church.

Thoughts? Opinions? Anyone care to help me work through this, or see it from another perspective?

22 February 2010

A fresh perspective

I think I'm just about done feeling sorry for myself over the hopefully-not-permanently-broken-but-damaged-nonetheless relationship I was talking about a few days ago. I guess I just needed to get it all out, and now I'm pretty much feeling even-keeled, and "c'est la vie" and even kind of grown-up about it. This poor girl has a lot of issues that have nothing to do with me and while I can support her and pray for her and leave the door open and the light on for her, she is really the only one who can choose to knock. So I feel content in the knowledge that I have done everything I can, and the rest is up to....not me. The potential loss of the relationship is still sad, but it's not something I control. Let go and let God.

Back to my regularly scheduled, school-age-boy, not-enough-time-in-the-day, my-husband-is-gone-again-driven chaos.

Today was a day about keeping things in perspective. I was feeling kind of frazzled and rushed most of the day, because as usual, I had tried to cram too many things into too short a time period. I had a meeting at work at the somewhat local military base (45 minute drive, one way). Then Curly had a birthday party to go to this afternoon, for which I had neglected to buy a gift. Then pick up Moe and Larry at school, get their homework done and hustle them to a friend's house who was kind enough to watch them for me while I went to school. Oh yeah....read two chapters of one book and nine of another, and write a coherent paper. Which I of course had had plenty of time to do, but kept putting off.

I sent the hubster to the store to get a pink and princess-y gift for the birthday girl....he's so good at that! He picked out the perfect thing and was (rightfully) very pleased with himself. I went to my meeting and flew by the seat of my pants for the rest of the day, getting the paper written and the chapters at least skimmed. I really should have finished college when the boys were younger. Or when the last one goes off to all-day school. Or some other, more convenient time.

While I was at my meeting with my friend and co-worker Chris, I was whining just a little bit about how hectic my weekend had been and how hectic the week was going to be with Hubster gone from last Thursday till Wednesday night. Wah. Poor me. A a total of seven days, with one of those nights spent at home (he came home Sunday and left again on Monday). Chris told me about his flying schedule for March, which includes sixteen days straight, away from home.

Hmm. Well. 7 days isn't sounding so bad.

There are times that his schedule...well, it just sucks. No other way to put it. And as the dudes are getting older and into more stuff, it gets harder to get them all to their activities when it's just me. But there are loads of other times when his schedule rocks. Like when he gets to go in Curly's preschool class and be the "parent reader" for the week. Or when he gets up and puts my coffee on, and starts getting the dudes moving so I can sleep in for an extra half-hour (OK, an extra hour). Or when he picks up Curly from school mid-day and takes him out for a Daddy and little dude lunch and playdate, partly because he wants to and partly because I need a quiet house to write an article or a paper for school. When he works, he goes away for a few days at a time. But when he's off, he's home and no one from the office is calling, and he doesn't bring any work home, ever. It's a little crazy but it's ours.

In any case, I've hit my mental reset button, and I've got a fresh perspective on my troubled relationship, on M's crazy work schedule, and life is good.

Got to remember to count those blessings. As I was walking through the most frustrating parts of my day, I thanked God for them, because having frustrating moments is better than having no moments, and I repeated to myself "attitude of gratitude." So maybe a few times, it was through gritted teeth, since I gave up yelling for Lent, but it's progress. I must have looked like a crazy woman, walking through the parking garage at school talking to myself, but I felt better.

12 February 2010

It hurts

to try so hard to have a relationship with someone who so obviously does not want to have one.

I've been trying very hard to have a relationship with someone....trying to be there and be helpful....trying to do the right thing.....trying to just be a friend to a particular person. Who clearly does not want it.

I've kept trying because I thought it was the right thing to do, for myself, for that person and for other people in my life. I've kept trying because that is what you do when you love someone. You never regret trying, but you might very well regret it if you don't.

But I think I'm at the point where I have to acknowledge that this person is a grown-up capable of making their own decisions, and they choose....not me. That really hurts.

But saying it out loud, really getting it, is a relief, in a way. Kind of like ripping the band-aid off. I don't know what else I could possibly have done to make things work, and now I'm going to....stop trying. The door will always be open, but they're going to have to come knocking.

You know why I keep banging my head against a brick wall? Because it feels good when I stop.

10 February 2010

He never ceases to amaze me

Funny thing how God works.

Our furnace went out sometime during the night. I didn't notice, not right away, because I have flannel sheets that I was wrapped up in. Last night I noticed a faint burny smell in the bedroom, but Matt deduced that he had replaced the light bulb in the ceiling fan fixture with the wrong bulb, turned it off and the smell went away. Mystery solved.

This morning, he came in to get the space heater, as I was waking up. He said, "The furnace is out." I said, "WHAT?" He said, "The furnace is out." I said, "WHAT?" We did this a couple more times. I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly. The furnace CAN'T go out; we're in the middle of a big storm. Surely the furnace is not that cruel.

But the AirTron rescue guy was already on his way. Long story short, the blower motor crashed. Big time. Hard broke. To the tune of $900. (please, feel free to click the ads on the sidebar).

Here's the funny part. The oldest offspring, who is away at Army Officer Candidate School, called and said that the quickie Vegas wedding he's been planning (there is a whole story there....there is going to be a proper wedding later, after the deployment neither of them is willing go through unmarried) is turning into a circus, with too many people, so they were thinking of having it just be the two of them, rather than a group of family that keeps growing and growing. We had been planning on going, all of us. Tickets were going be expensive but I wouldn't miss even the quickie wedding before the real wedding for the world. When he called, he said, "You know, maybe the wedding should just be me and the girl. I hate to say it but maybe it's best if everyone just waits till the big wedding later on."

Funny how we saved about $1500 on airline tickets just before we needed to spend $900 on the furnace.

Just sayin.

09 February 2010

I think I'm glad....

to be back from my vacation. I went with my very good friend on a cruise last week. Not just any cruise, but the K-LOVE Friends and Family cruise.

If you don't know, K-LOVE is a radio station that plays contemporary Christian music. Sounds remarkably like pop or rock music, only with a Christian message. They have this cruise every year, and invite several bands to play on the ship. So, the cruise is basically a floating week-long concert. We went to Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean's private island, and Nassau. Wonderful, relaxing trip. Good company, great music, met some new friends, and a great surprise....I love the show The Biggest Loser. Sean Algaier, from Season 8, was on the boat too, and he led sunrise workouts every day. I HATE getting up early. But I did, just to work out with him. Plus it just felt good to work out. Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio (who is about one of the best speakers I've ever heard), the (new) Newsboys, Tenth Avenue North, MercyMe, Downhere, 33 Miles, Fireflight, Big Daddy Weave.....man, it just rocked.

So, a successful vacation. Sun, sand, music, sleep.

And snow. We came home to snow. Lots of it.

But on the upside, they offered a "liberal reschedule" for UTA. I was supposed to get in Friday night and then go to work Saturday morning, which would have been brutal, but a small price to pay. Nice bonus that I could reschedule my drill weekend, with no repercussions. Woot!

This week has mostly been about the snow. Monday was a pretty normal day, but today was a snow day, and tomorrow has already been called. We don't have it nearly as bad as they do further east, we don't have feet and feet of snow, but we've got enough. Moe, Larry and Curly were thrilled to get to have a Wii tournament today (we have a rule about video games on school days)and Larry and Curly spent most of the afternoon outside "helping" Dad fix the snow blower. Till they were frozen. And still got mad when it was time to come in.

So....what to do tomorrow? Guess we'll do more of the same. I'm really starting to notice the difference when they'd rather play and hang out with their friends than hang out with me. I guess I thought I'd have a little more time before that became my reality. I know they still like hanging out with Mom and Dad, but I was really looking forward to just doing stuff together today....playing video games, watching a movie in a pile on the family room floor, reading, stuff like that. But the doorbell rang in the late morning, and Larry's friend came over, and that was that.

I was so glad to get home. I loved my trip...I am usually juggling a fair amount of things, between the kids and their school/activities, my school and work, and just life in general. It's not that I never get time to myself or the opportunity to do something for myself, but I really miss traveling sometimes. And even when I'm "supposed" to be taking it easy at home, there is always something that captures my attention, that I feel like I should be doing (like folding laundry) so that it makes it harder to completely detach, at home. That's one of my things with my darling husband....sometimes I'm insanely jealous of how he gets to pack a suitcase several times each month and just take off. I used to do that. Before the kids, of course. And I don't think I'd want to do it as much as he does, anymore. But just once in a while, I want to. Just go away for a couple days.

So, yeah, loved the trip. Loved calling him, and saying, "Oh I just checked into my hotel room....ooohhhh, yeah, it's a nice room, look at that view!" Even though the view was a half-empty parking lot. It was just nice to have a turn at that. But getting back....was so much sweeter than being away. There really is nothing like the pure and unvarnished adoration of a child. A kid who flings himself at you, full-bore, screaming at the top of his lungs, "MOM! I MISSED YOU! I"M SO GLAD YOU'RE BACK!"

Not much can top that. In fact, I can't think of a single thing. Sometimes I feel like I should be doing so much more, with my time, with my life. And when I look at my kids, I wonder, what else could I possibly do that would mean more? Really?

Now, if I could just find some way to make the laundry disappear.....

28 January 2010

It's been a rough day

And it's only 12:30. I've got the whole rest of it to go.

Started out bad when kids again dragged their feet til Screaming Mom rose to the surface. I dig the whole ScreamFree thing, but some days it just ain't happening around here. They piddle around and drag their feet until we have to leave in 10 minutes and then it's an EMERGENCY. But MOM! I haven't eaten breakfast! I'm not DRESSED!

Um, yeah. I noticed that.

But these are not kids who are getting ready for their first day of school, and maybe they're not familiar with the routine yet.

No sooner did I get home from dropping all the kids, dressed and fed, off at school, than the older boys' school called and the oldest dude had thrown up. Can I please come get him?

So off I go, in the middle of a conversation with a really good friend, who I called for a verbal hug. In addition to the lateness issue, there has been some other drama going on round here this week, in relation to the adult child who has been living with us. 'Nother story for another day. Suffice it to say, I was feeling really crappy this morning. Bad parent, bad person, deserving of all that is evil in this world. But her verbal hug was just what I needed.

He and I sit on the couch and watch cartoons for a while, and he is sick a couple more times. The dog needs to go out, so I put her on her tie-out in the backyard, thinking she could use a little play time and the ground is frozen (so I thought) so she wont' be too dirty from digging. When it's time to pick up the little dude from school, I leave Moe on the couch under a warm blanket and go get the dog.

Covered. In. Frozen. Mud.

How did she DO that? Never mind, it doesn't matter, because the end result is still that I need to clean her up. Ugh.

Tie her in the garage, go and get the little guy. Must run warm water in the tub so she can be readmitted to the interior of the house. Walk in the door to run bath, and Moe is hunched over the garbage can in the family room, getting sick again and crying, "Thank God you're back Mom!"

Dog acts as though bath is Chinese water torture and glares at me with death in her eyes the whole bath. Tries to jump out three or four times. Finally stare her down and get her to cooperate, and Moe comes upstairs naked from the waist down, his stomach bug having moved in a different direction, that the poor child was unprepared for. I tell him to toss his dirty clothes into the laundry room and try to get him in the shower. Which he hates. Give up and settle for bullying the dog.

Dry dog off, get her to see things from my point of view, and go back downstairs. Now must find and fix lunch for Curly, who is not sick to his stomach. Then, do the pile of laundry that has magically appeared, find time to work out and get the endorphin rush that will make all of this go away, and do homework so that I can relax and enjoy my vacation next week.

Why do these things happen the day that Dad leaves?

On the bright side, I did get a new laptop this week. My last one died suddenly and my wonderful tech geek husband found a great price on a groovy MacBook. I think the Apple/Mac transition is complete.

I hate to admit it but

I'm an Apple geek.

Shh. Don't tell anyone.

25 January 2010

I miss

Having a best best friend. Like in junior high. Someone you could call 14 times in one day and they wouldn't get tired of you. OK, maybe not 14 times every day.

But still.

Oh, I have tons of acquaintances. People that, if I call them or see them at church or school, seem genuinely pleased to hear from me or see me. But our phone is not exactly ringing off the hook here at home. We're not turning back s flood of invitations.

And I'm just feeling sorry for myself today, for some reason. I'm a social person, I like to be busy doing things, seeing people, out and about. And that hasn't been happening much lately and it's bothering me. For some reason.

Anyway.

On another note, I had drill this past weekend and I heard something that has really given me something to think about. I thought I knew where I was going with this history degree, and that I loved my job in the reserve as a historian. I do love what I do, in theory at least. I love history and I love the task of documenting things and writing things down so that people will know what we did, what we accomplished. That is so important!

But at the same time, it sure doesn't feel like anyone gives a crap about my work. Unless the history is late...then when the commander and the MAJCOM is breathing down our necks, yeah. But otherwise, no one seems to care all that much. And, I am in a position to never get promoted again.

The way manning works in my unit, there is one historian authorized in my office. That would be Cathy. And she'd have to leave and vacate the position for me to slide into it and be promotable. It's a MSgt slot and she's a SMSgt while I am a lowly TSgt. I get it. But I'm what is called an overage, and as such, I'm an extra person. Extra people should quit complaining and be glad they have a job. It can be pulled out from under you at any time. In theory, anyway. There have been people in overage slots for years and years and they never get pulled. But, it could happen. Extra people also can't get promoted. Even if they deserve it. I get that about being an overage. I've pissed and moaned about it often enough, I get it. If I love what I do, it shouldn't matter to me about what rank I hold. Right?

Except that it does.

So anyway, at Commanders' Call yesterday, the recruiters got up to give a presentation, and I would never have thought of myself as recruiter material, and maybe I'm not, but there are some really good things about it: it's an AGR tour (basically, it's active duty) for 4 years (a FULL-TIME job!), there's a position that covers the area where I live so I could possibly work right here in town, AND the best part....I could do four years, retire at the end of those four years, and get an active duty retirement. That's huge. I would start collecting my retirement immediately instead of waiting until I'm 60.

I've got a call in to the guy here in town to find out more.

Why is that stripe all of a sudden so important to me? Why am I allowing that stripe to define the character of my service, the worth of my almost 20 years in uniform? I don't know, but it sure feels like it matters a lot right now.

20 January 2010

Good news

I'm happy and relieved that Scott Brown won in Massachusetts last night. No one, but no one could have predicted this a month ago.

In the news, all the pundits and analysts are saying that it's a referendum on Barack Obama, and his administration, or a referendum on health care. I'm not so sure.

In my humble opinion, I don't think it's so much about President Obama (although I'm sure there's a segment of the voters who would disagree and say that it was very much about him) but overall, I think people are sick and tired of the president telling them how it's going to be, and not letting them express their opinions. People were sick of George Bush shoving his foreign policy down our throats whether we liked it or not, and now people are tired of Barack Obama doing that very same thing. He has said over and over, in many different ways, that come hell or high water, there WILL be a health care bill passed. Nancy Pelosi has said the same thing. Weren't they listening last summer, when all the representatives and senators came home and held all those town hall meetings? People don't want reform like this.

And before anyone gets their dander up and assumes that I am some heartless, soulless pig of a Republican who wants to see people die for lack of health care, let me disabuse you of that notion. It's not that I object to health care. I object to the way they're going about it. First of all, health care in and of itself IS NOT A RIGHT. Let me be clear.

IT.IS.NOT.A.RIGHT.

It is a commodity, which you can choose to purchase, or not. Now, I will agree that ACCESS to that commodity should be equal. I can get onboard with that. Everyone ought to be able to buy good, reasonably priced health care insurance for themselves and their families. Beyond that, get the government the hell out of my health care decision. Don't force me to buy it, or limit my options.

If politicians are serious about real health care reform, they need to have an open discussion about tort reform. Gajillion dollar settlements for hangnails are a huge part of how we got to this place, where premiums are astronomically high. Yes, I'm exaggerating to make a point. But hear me out. An honest mistake by your doctor should not entitle you to a million-dollar payout. When mistakes are made, and they will be, everyone runs straight to the lawyer. In some cases, I can see this...if the mistake that the doctor makes is serious enough to create more health problems that will cost more money, then absolutely, reparations have to be made. A patient can't be expected to suck up the costs incurred by a doctor's mistake.

HOWEVER, comma, not every mistake rises to that level. I read a story about a woman who won a multi million dollar payout from an insurance company, because her doctor misdiagnosed her with breast cancer. She chose to have both of her breasts removed as a preventive measure. Then they discovered that the doctor was wrong, so she sued him for millions, and won. Tell me how having $73 million dollars makes up for that mistake. Really? The doctor (or the insurance company) can pay for reconstructive surgery, sure. But what purpose does it serve to bankrupt him? And what about the fallout, that affects others? Like making premiums go sky high. Now everyone has to pay for that award. And it's like a ripple effect...a couple of crazy-high awards like that, and the company has to raise premiums to stay in business.

My OBGYN told me, when I was preparing to download my third, that he was considering quitting delivering babies, because he just couldn't afford malpractice insurance. His malpractice premiums went up 300% in one year. He also told me that an OBGYN can be sued anytime until the child is 18, and that OBGYNs can expect to be sued an average of three times during his/her career, whether the suit is warranted or not. Even if the suit is frivolous, it still costs money to settle it and make it go away. Where do you think the money comes from? Not to mention, if a doctor gets sued, it makes people leery of going to him....they think he's not a good doctor.

Another thing they'd bring up if they were serious about reform is allowing consumers to shop and buy insurance across state lines. Let the companies compete for business, and costs will go down. That's simple Econ 101.

Another thing I object to, is lifting the restrictions on using federal money to fund abortions for poor women. And if there were to be a public health care option that covered abortion, we'd all pay for them. I object to that with all of my being. Abortion is legal in this country. OK. But if that is your choice, YOU pay for it. I don't want any part of anyone's abortion, not paying for it, not supporting it, not encouraging or advocating it.

The health care debacle has enough problems to keep Congress busy for years. You're not going to please all of the people, all of the time. THAT, my friends, is what Scott Brown's victory last night is all about. A bunch of people who are NOT PLEASED. And when they decide to get together and do something about it, look out, Washington. Stop being so arrogant as to assume you know what's best. Listen to the people, your constituents...you know, the people you WORK FOR. The people who HIRED YOU to do a job. That old line made famous by moms everywhere...I brought you into this world, I can take you right back out, holds true here.

It will be very interesting indeed to see how things will play out in Washington now that the Democrats have lost their trump card, the filibuster-proof majority. Now you're going to have to play nice with the Republicans. You can't just ram legislation through, without consulting or considering the other half of the country.

ahem. I'll be putting my soapbox away now.

19 January 2010

No magic wand

The Geeks over at Geek Squad delivered some bad news this morning. Or good news, depending on how one chooses to look at it. My laptop COULD cost anywhere from $50-$350 to fix. And it will cost almost $100 just to send it out for repair, since they don't do power supply issues in the store. And if it's a motherboard issue, the cost is going to go up again. So, no magic wand, no cheap fix.

If I want a working laptop, I'm apparently going to have to buy one. The question is, how many computers are really necessary in one house? Do I really NEED a laptop? Not really. Oh sure, it's really nice to have one. But can I justify the purchase price, knowing full well I don't NEED it? Hmmm.

But if one wanted to be an optimist and look at the silver lining, it's a chance to buy a shiny new toy :) And I like shiny new toys as much as the next girl.

I'm hoping for some good news out of Massachusetts tonight. I'm surprised by how on-pins-and-needles I am. I don't live anywhere near Massachusetts and I only know 1 person who lives there. But man, I'm worked up. I just don't know how much more of Barack Obama and his far-left agenda this country can take before we just crack. I mean, absolutely running off the edge of a cliff. I hope that Scott Brown wins and can slow the freight train down. Michelle Obama may be proud of her country for the first time, but I'll tell you what....I'm SCARED of my country, and for my country, for the first time.

The polls close in three minutes...I'm off to watch the returns.

18 January 2010

Blue Monday

I read on my friend Martin's Facebook page that today is supposedly called "Blue Monday." I don't think I've ever heard of this, except in a song lyric, but it sure seems to fit. According the wisdom of Facebook surfers, it's called Blue Monday, because the holidays are over, most of the New Year's resolution are broken (see?! THIS is why I don't make them! HATE feeling like a failure!) and some stuff like that, that I don't remember. Just facing the rest of winter with nothing else to look forward to.

I'm not blue because the holidays are over. I don't think so. I'm not blue because of broken resolutions. Remember? I don't make resolutions.

But still....I'm blue. And I'm not sure why. I've been feeling a major funk for several days now, and I can't put my finger on the cause. The spousal unit is home, so it's not that I'm missing him or feeling overly stressed with kid duties. The kids are perfectly normal, it's not them. I had a break from school today (thank you Martin Luther King, Jr! For a lot more than a day off but that's another story for another day) so I don't think it's school. A big milestone birthday is coming up this year but not for a long time. That can't be it.

I think I have a deadline this week but I haven't heard from my editor despite sending a couple of emails, so.....not quite sure how to handle that. I'll submit the story and hope for the best, I guess.

I guess maybe it is just the rest of winter with not much to look forward to. I'm tired of school in general, and not feeling excited and motivated about it, which I usually am. I'm just tired of working at things, and not feeling like I have a dang thing to show for it.

Lessons in patience and perseverance. I am forever praying for patience. Well, I've found that when I do that, God usually gives me opportunities to practice being patient, and hone those skills. That wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but you know, it's like I tell my kids, you get what you get and you don't throw a fit. Maybe I'm not praying for the right thing...maybe I need to pray for a new outlook, a new attitude. I mean, really, when I count my blessings, there are a lot of them. A lot.

So I'll have a glass of wine, and slog through a few more chapters of Machiavelli for my history class. I've stuck it out this long, what's four and a half more quarters?

Oh, and my laptop died tonight. Just went black. Hoping the Geek Squad can wave a magic wand and make it all better.

07 January 2010

The mom I am

I had the strangest train of thought today. I was in the kitchen doing the dishes and musing over the conversations that went on this morning. It's a snow day and we've been up watching the weather and school closing list since pretty early, so there've been several conversations to muse over.

My oldest spud is not one to try new things. Or new foods. Or new ways of eating old foods. Or anything new in general. He's recently been living on the edge by eating his breakfast cereal with a spoon and milk, rather than eating it dry, with his hands, and drinking milk separately. This is a departure for him, and not a small one. I told him after breakfast today, that I was proud of him for trying a new way of eating his cereal, since I knew that it was hard for him to try new things. It was funny, he lit up like a Christmas tree. Just from the few simple words I said. That I was proud of him, and that I understood something about him.

As I was doing the dishes, I don't know why I had this thought, but it occurred to me that in March it will be 5 years that my dad has been gone. He died when the littlest spud was a tiny baby and I was still on meds for postpartum depression. My father, for better or for worse, is the most significant influence on my parenting. My sister runs a very close second. But they are polar opposites. My sister taught me how to love unconditionally and without limits, and how to have fun with my kids. My dad, well, let's just leave it with, he taught me what not to do, how not to be. And in that bass-ackwards way, he had a big role in shaping the mom I am. The mom who tells her kid that she's proud of him over something as silly as how he eats his cereal.

My sister has always told me, love them beyond reason, and praise them to the skies when they've earned it, but don't be afraid to scold and even yell when they've earned that. Speak to them with respect, apologize to them when you screw up, and let them know you understand who they are. And love them. Then love them some more. My dad actually, literally, rolled his eyes at me one day when I told him that some days all I did was sit on the couch with my first newborn baby, and hold him, because I was so in awe of him, and I didn't want to put him down.

I am by no means an expert, or a perfect mom who handles every situation well. I yell far more than I would like to admit, and I get impatient far more than I wish I did. I can be sarcastic, yes, even to an almost-ten-year-old, and sometimes I don't listen as well as I expect them to.

But I also tell them I'm proud of them. And I tell them I love them, many times each day. I hope, at the end of the day, it all balances out.