Thursday, November 1, 2012

It has been so long since I have blogged that I had forgotten my password. Can you say "6th time's the charm?" Hey, at least I got it on the 6th try and I didn't have to have a new one sent. ;-)  First, I was working a lot & didn't make time to blog. Then, my children grew 2 feet and requested that I please not blog about them. A lot has changed (or is changing) though and I can't believe that I haven't documented these last two years very much. It makes me very nostalgic looking over some of my older posts and realizing how little my kids used to be and how little they are not any longer. Kind of reconfirms something for me... I made a fairly big decision and quit my job. There were several motivating factors in this but the final "straw that broke the camels back" was when Dustin told me that he was going to take a job working out of state. Nevermind the fact that as of now he STILL hasn't left & I don't know if he will anymore.

I pretend that being a stay at home mom is a selfless act of love but I secretly suspect that I may be suffering from a touch of narcissism. I strongly feel that if I am not home that my life will fall apart. As if no one could possibly survive / function if I am not available 24/7 to orchestrate. Me & only me. It's ridiculous  but that's my gut "mom instinct" right now. Before this, I was working full time at my day job (pouring my heart & energy into other people's kids until I was all out of patience or "fun-ness" for my own kids)  and taking care of the park as well. Dustin had started a new trucking job working long hours and we were lucky if we saw him for an hour each evening (a very overly tired, grumpy, unfocused hour at that.) Technically, the kids were old enough to take care of themselves overall & we weren't really any busier than most American families. But it still wasn't RIGHT.  Russell started having behavior problems at school. Which may or may not have happened anyway. Eleven is a rough age, but... All of the kids had several missing assignments and were turning in very little homework. My house was a train wreck of a mess 90% of the time. And we were eating yucky, processed foods like frozen pizza & chicken nuggets most of the time. This is not how my gut says I should be raising my family.

I started getting anxiety as Lane got closer & closer to several big milestones (high school, driving, and the really scary one: the age that I was when I got pregnant with him.) And I worried at 3 AM about whether I was around enough to be truly present, to really KNOW what they are doing and who their friends are and to be available for those spontaneous conversations  that they need when they've had a bad day or a great day or are trying to make a tough choice... I decided that we don't have very much time left before they are grown. So many years have just flown by already. I didn't make enough money to make it worth missing the tiny bit of time that we have left & with a few budget tweaks & side jobs we could "make do" and have a stay at home parent to hopefully "finish strong". I'll have DECADES to work while they are adults.

This choice still scares me though. As crazy as it sounds this is one of the rare times that  I am actually thankful that I didn't go to as much college (yet) as I wish I had and therefore don't have an important career to walk away from. If I were making a higher wage or had amazing benefits or something then this choice may not have gone this way. As it is, I feel guilty about not bringing in that paycheck. I wonder if my kids will ever look back on their childhood as adults and appreciate that I spent more time with them than I spent money on them or if they will just resent me for not being able to afford as much material stuff as some of their friends have. I don't enjoy the comments / looks that I get when people ask, "What do you do?" and I tell them that I am a stay at home mom. Thankfully, I am still a park caretaker because that is at least something to respond with to at least delay the eventual "Oh, that must be nice." (said in a "So you're just a big mooch, huh?" tone.)

I know that this lifestyle isn't for everybody. I am just thankful that we can make it work for us right now in this moment. I'm sure the time will come when it doesn't work anymore & then we will make the necessary adjustments, but for now this our "new normal".

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Still The One

I am not romantic. I am realistic, pragmatic, committed. But romantic? not so much. Valentine's Day (with all of its sappy sweet pink & red hearts)annoys me. A lot. As I have said in a previous post, Valentine's Day is just too forced & commercialized and exhausting for my taste. That said, I do believe in love and the longer that I'm married the more that I appreciate it.

I have now been married for almost half of my life. And I kind of sort of want to say that I "couldn't live without him". That saying always irritates me though. People always say it but it's pretty obvious that there's a good chance that they will in fact have to live without the person that they love someday. (Or vice versa.) And it will suck, but 99% of the time you find out that life goes on. So, it's not true. What I will say is that I don't really want to have to live without him.

Our relationship is well past the butterflies in the stomach newlywed phase. We have officially advanced to the comfortable, convenient, and cozy phase which involves mind reading, sentence finishing, and total ability to order perfectly for the other person off of any menu. We know exactly what the other person looks like first thing in the morning, when they have the flu, and which chores we will procrastinate the longest. Although it doesn't sound remotely hot or exciting, it kind of is.

You see, there's a place that you get to when you absolutely know that someone knows all of the worst things about you and yet they choose to love you anyway for some crazy reason. There's a safety and a closeness in that space. All of the sudden, it's not just you against the world but "Us" against the world.

We've endured through the bills, the leaky roofs,the roadside flat tires, and the colicky babies. We've laughed together and cried together and apologized too many times for saying things we wish we could take back. Marriage is about the business of living- living together and making it work. Marriage is far more work than they ever tell you. Or maybe they do tell you but you just don't want to hear it. I don't know. What I do know is that I don't show my husband how much I truly love & appreciate him enough. He's far better at romance than I am.

So... Dustin, I love you! I love you for being my knight in shining armor that shows up when I do something dumb like lock my keys in the car or I run out of gas. And laughing with me more than at me. ;-) I love you for the times that you at least half listen while I talk and talk like I have a caffeine IV drip. I love you for being my jack of all trades that installs dishwashers and remodels bathrooms and rebuilds engines and takes a little project like building me a raised bed for a few plants and turns it into a terraced hillside complete with waterfall and staircase. I've gotten where I just take it for granted that you'll be able to fix something or build something and it's only occasionally that I step back and marvel at how AMAZING it is that you can do all of that! I love you for being the adventurous one that pushes me out of my comfort zone & makes me take life less seriously. I love you for accepting me as I am & that you value what we have. And most of all, I love that you stick around through all of the rain and you're here to enjoy the rainbows with me when they come. Thank you!

I think whatever part of the brain that makes girls get all goofy over roses & conversation hearts is broken in me. I don't like pink and I don't like mushy poetry that rhymes. But I do love "us". Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Let It Be

We're on day eight since we've had school. Me thinks Christmas Break is going to be looonnnggg..... I adore my children. I do. I just wish~ Okay, so I was thinking about it earlier today, and here's the thing: Being all cooped up & restless has made me feel so needy. I feel like I NEED more square feet for starters. But I also feel like I need more stuff, which is ridiculous considering that we've already established that I'm feeling cramped in our current space. Why on earth would I want to further crowd it?! Admittedly, it makes no sense.

The kids are bored though. So bored that we've actually been playing an exceptional amount of board games. So bored that they say they miss school. We don't have cable anymore. I believe that they're actually just about sick of video games. All of our books have been read. So, I find myself wishing we had "more" of something. Some nameless thing that magically makes life more entertaining. And then I realize, I kind of think that maybe we're so restless because we already have too much. We're so spoiled. We're so accustomed to having unlimited entertainment that we don't remember or maybe even know how to just BE.

There's something so magical about the times that we get away from it all. I think that's why I love camping so much. Well, more specifically, backpacking type camping trips. (I'm sorry, but "roughing it" in an RV does NOT count, people!) I love being unplugged from the Internet, the television, the XBOX, the phone. Having no distractions so that I can just take in the blue of the sky and the green of the trees. Notice the slight sound of a frog croaking. The way that a bird swoops down over the water.

I think maybe that's what I'm feeling needy for. I'm craving simplicity & peace. I know that it's not necessarily a reality to have that on a daily basis (especially at this time of the year, sadly) but I think that I'm going to make an effort to try to be entertained a little less and be present a little more. Just what the Dr. ordered?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Of Life And Things...

Since I stink at driving in this icy weather & I haven't blogged for a while, here's my melodramatic post to my children (in case I die tomorrow.)

There are so many things that I want you to know. The reality is that you will hopefully find these things out for yourself through life experience and that when I tell you this it will probably just go in one ear & out the other. But I'm telling you anyway...

#1. No one can make you unhappy. They can sure try, but you have choices. Choose to find the good in every situation and please be self-aware enough to know when it's time to say "Enough" and stand up for what you need. It's your life.

#2. The healthiest way to cure depression is to give. There is always someone out there who has it worse than you. Help them. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, a hospital, or wherever else you know that there is a need. You'll feel better. I promise.

#3. And when you get married... The best person to talk about your marital problems with? Your spouse. Venting is great (and necessary) but you need to go to the person that you have the issue with so that you can fix the problem. Ultimately, sharing all of your private life with your friends will mean that things will end up awkward for everyone involved. Not to mention, do you really want your spouse talking to their buddies about you?

#4. Don't protect those you love from the pain that will heal them. As a mom, I want to protect you from everything, but I know that I can't do that without cheating you in the long run. I don't want you to do that either. Even if it's me that the truth will hurt. No denial. No kid gloves. Just being real & facing whatever comes. Rip that band-aid off, please.

#5. Your life is more than a resume. You can use whatever words you like to describe yourself, but what speaks the loudest is your actions. People will forget a lot of things, but they don't forget the way that you make them feel. Strive to be a person that you would like to be around. Be the best you possible & own it when you fall short of the goal. That's what counts.

#6. Never criticize without working toward a solution. It's easy to point fingers and find fault. Be strong enough to be accepting & forgiving and ditch the negative. Save the criticism for the days that you can positively say, "I have a way to help things get better!"

#7. Find something that you're passionate about and surround yourself with it. You all have your own individual strengths and talents. Pursue your interests and your dreams. Whether that's drawing, or music, or writing, or taking care of animals... Whatever. Do what you love & love what you do.

#8. But... make time for things that are outside of your comfort zone. Your brain (and your body) need to be challenged. Try a new class that a friend is excited about or enter a competition that you're nervous about. Paint a wall a new color that you like but aren't sure about. It's okay to be silly, to make mistakes, and to learn on the fly.

#9. Never forget abuse nor tolerate it again, but do forgive. Holding a grudge is like taking poison and then waiting for the other person to die. So let go & let God. Forgiveness doesn't mean being a door mat. It can be as simple as praying for the other person and hoping that they'll choose a better path for themselves. Forgiveness is NOT having amnesia and enabling people. My wish for you is that you'll be strong enough to recognize when a relationship isn't healthy & that you'll have the courage and wisdom to do what needs to be done in whatever situation that you find yourself in.

#10. I've raised you with the thought in the back of my mind that I'm going to have to let you go someday. You are not my clone, not my only fulfillment, and I am not living vicariously through you. So, go out into the world and be YOURSELF knowing that I am proud of you, that I love you unconditionally, and that you are amazing just the way you are.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Week Hensley Update

I love Safeway. The other day Brooke & I went grocery shopping together & she had the BEST trip thanks to Safeway's stellar customer service. Brooke was already on cloud nine just from simply getting to come along to the store with me sans brothers. Then, the bakery guy asked if she could have a cookie. When she said "thank you" with a twinkle in her eye, he handed her a 2nd cookie with a wink saying, "Don't tell anyone you got two, okay?" In the produce section, she was offered a handful of juicy red grapes & some apple slices. And the checker gave her 4 Hannah Montana stickers. Not to mention the fact that I saved a TON on the bill since they let you load coupons on to your club card online. Love it!

While we were at Safeway, Brooke chose a Valentine's gift for her teacher as well as her brothers' teachers. She was SO proud of her choices & excited to give them to everyone. When we got home & were unloading the groceries, she excitedly thrust the box of chocolates at each boy telling them to put them in their backpacks and "Tell your teacher that they're from BOTH of us." Lane & Russell just shrugged an "okay" and tucked the little heart shaped boxes into said backpacks. Tatton wasn't as agreeable though. He exclaimed, "Chocolates?! Did you forget that my teacher does Weight Watchers? I don't even want to guess the points value for these!"

I'm guessing that Brooke took that to mean that Tatton would not be needing those chocolates after all, because she disappeared in to her room & emerged a little while later with an empty box of chocolates. Which prompted Tatton to shriek, "BROOKE! Why did you eat my teacher's candy?! Just because she is on Weight Watchers doesn't mean she doesn't have cheat days or something! I mean, it's the thought that counts- not the calorie count! Geez-" Poor Brooke ran to her room again.

This time when she came out she had stuffed a handful of Valentine's jolly rancher suckers into the chocolates box & duct taped it up (and wrote Sorry on the duct tape in red sharpie.) She told Tatton very firmly that he had better give those to his teacher (or else.) Tatton told her that she had better watch it because Mrs. H was going to be her teacher in a couple of years & Brooke would never outlive the title of the girl who ate the teacher's chocolate.

Russell had the chance to have some one on one time with me this week too. We had our first annual Surf's Up Mother Son Dance. When I first came home from a PTA meeting with the news that we would be having a dance, the boys weren't too excited. I got the impression that Russell wasn't entirely too old & cool for it like his big brothers seemed to think they were though. So, one afternoon, I took the flyer from his backpack & handed it to him saying, "Russ, I was wondering if you wanted to go on a date with me?" His face got red, he looked at his shoes, and he said, "Umm... Can I get back to you on this?" A few days later, he silently walked up to me, handed me the flyer back and nodded his head yes. Russell does this funny thing when he's super happy. He sucks on his bottom lip to try to control himself from smiling. I don't know why he gets so shy about showing happiness, but he seems to think that emotions are embarassing. So, anyway, I could tell that he was WAY excited and happy because he was doing everything he could to try to hide that smile and the corners of his mouth kept tugging up, threatening to show his teeth no matter how hard he tried to suck on that bottom lip.

As the dance got closer & closer, he started asking and reasking, "What time does it start again?" And on Friday, he was watching the clock like a hawk & anxiously counting down. At 6:45 I was done decorating for the dance & I ran home to pick him up. He stayed right by my side for the first few minutes, but when he saw some friends from his class he said, "Uh- Mom? It's okay if you want to talk to the other moms & stuff." Which I thought was a pretty cute way of asking if he could leave me alone to hang out with his friends. I gave him permission & he went over to try to break dance & do hand stands with Wade & Jacob. He was doing pretty great at spinning around in circles on the floor too until his knees started to get a rug burn & then he was all about going over to get in the snow cone line. It was a terrific evening with my little guy.

All of the kids are growing up so fast! I just love being able to be a part of all of these stages in their lives. Earlier today I had to take Lane shopping because he had outgrown all of his clothes (again.) Watching my "baby" go into the dressing room with his arms loaded up with size 16's is still somewhat shocking. His feet are now officially bigger than mine & his favorite t-shirt that we bought today is black with white Fender guitars all over it because that's the kind of bass guitar that he plays.

Well, that's a view into our world this week... I could actually type a ton more come to think of it, but this has already gotten pretty long. Valentine's week gets busy with this houseful! Have a good one!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tis The Season

It was 10 degrees here in Grays Harbor last night. Our lake is frozen most of the way across into a beautiful glasslike crystal sheet of ice (teasing the children to try to ice skate on it although they are FORBIDDEN to attempt that or even go near it.) We're not used to these record lows around here. Car batteries are refusing to cooperate, tons of people's wells are frozen, and the local economy is getting stimulated as people are forced to buy deicer, antifreeze, and long underwear. Oh yeah, and a lady slept in her car outside of my house last night.

I obviously already knew that there were countless homeless people suffering in this weather. I just made a casual comment to the kids about how I was worried about those people without warm shelter just the other day. None of them were in front of my house though (yet.) Everything's always more personal & real when it's right in your own front yard. This morning, when I got up to get the kids off to school, I noticed a car parked outside. Not a big deal. It happens. A little while later though, the hazard lights came on & I realized that there was somebody in that car. So, I sent Dustin out to see if they needed help. He brought back a lady that was shivering violently. Her lips & fingers purplish-blue. She had a small fleece throw, a lightweight jacket, and a cast on her arm. She had let her car run to stay warm until she had run out of gas.

I set her up with a blanket & hot cocoa while Dustin went to town to get gas for her car. She seemed like a really nice lady. She made conversation with the kids as I hurried around getting them ready for school. The part that really hit me hard wasn't so much that she had to sleep in her car, it was the fact that as I got the kids ready, tears came to her eyes as she repeatedly said, "I used to do this with my kids." Tatton was getting all dressed up for his field trip to The Nutcracker & this lady told him about how she also went on a field trip to The Nutcracker in Seattle with her daughter's class years ago. I was reminded once again of just how much I really have to be thankful for that I so often take for granted. My kids were sitting at our dining room table wolfing down cheerios, hats and gloves at the ready for when they would leave the comfort of our 70 degrees home to board the school bus and go off to a day of learning & enrichment. Our needs were met. We were better than okay, great even.

I've caught myself feeling Scrooge-like & cranky several times over the last few weeks with Dustin laid off as the Holidays approach all too quickly. I keep trying to remember to focus on the Holiday traditions that bring family togetherness instead of stressing about getting every little thing on the kids' monstrous gimme-lists. It's easy to get caught up in the cycle of materialism and greed though. This morning, I remembered something: The best part of the Holidays is giving. I suggest that we all find a way to reach out to others this season.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

When It Just Happens

I love effortless learning. I try to learn that way as often as possible. Who am I kidding? I try to do everything as effortlessly as possible. The shower curtain in my kids' bathroom is a giant world map because when I saw it for sale at Walmart I thought, "Wow- if they're going to be sitting there anyway and they could stare at a map that whole time..." Effortless learning. Today, we were watching the football game. It was the San Francisco 49er's at the Seahawks. Good game too, by the way. The score stayed tied enough of the time to keep me interested. Oh yeah, and the Hawks won. :-) Lane asked, "Why would anyone name a football team something dumb like the 49er's?" Sean said, "They're from San Francisco. You know, like the California Gold Rush." Tatton asked what the name 49er's had to do with the Gold Rush, so I told him to go look it up. A couple of minutes later he said, "Ohh- I get it! 1849. Okay." The beautiful thing is, it didn't end there. Once we had reason to crack open those history books, the domino effect began.

Tatton read aloud about the events of 1849 from Don't Know Much About American History (by Kenneth C. Davis). His eyed were glowing with excitement as he exclaimed, "Oh my gosh! You guys think the economy is bad now! In 1849, there were so many thousands of people flocking to California that their supply & demand was ridiculous! Flour was $800 a barrel, sugar was $400 a barrel, eggs were $3 a piece, and shovels were $100. (This was at a time when skilled workers were making $2 a day!) Hey, guess what? Jeans were invented because a man noticed that miners needed sturdier pants & he invented Levi Strauss. Oh my gosh! Levi's were the first jeans ever invented and I'm wearing a pair of Levi's right now!"

He went on, "Hey guys! Chinatown came about because the Gold Rush brought so many Chinese people across the Pacific to America since there was a war going on over there & lots of people were out of work in China. But life in California, which the Chinese people called "Gold Mountain" wasn't much better than it had been in China. White people who couldn't find gold looked for someone to blame. They often unfairly blamed the Chinese & they were forced to live apart from everyone else & pay extra taxes. They had no rights. Many went home, but those who stayed created "Chinatowns" where they settled. I wonder if we would have Chinese take-out if there hadn't been a Gold Rush in 1849?"

Then he asked Lane this question: "Hey Lane- was the Underground Railroad the first subway system?" Thankfully, Tatton was too excited to allow Lane much time to answer since Lane didn't look like he loved being put on the spot with that question. Tatton answered his own question, "Nope! It sounds like it would be, but it was really a network of houses & other safe places for slaves who were running away to freedom in the northern states & Canada! The California Gold Rush heightened the debate over slavery because so many settlers moved to California so quickly that it had enough people to apply for statehood. The Oregon Territory was considered free, so southerners wanted California to be a slave state. But California's state constitution forbade slavery."

"In the Compromise of 1850, California entered into the Union as a free state. The Compromise also included The Fugitive Slave Law, which made it legal for slave owners to go after & capture runaway slaves who had escaped North. That was the most controversial part of the Compromise. There were people who helped the slaves run away. These people were called 'Conductors.' The most famous 'conductor' of the railroad was Harriet Tubman. $40,000 was offered for her capture! Mom, do you know when Harriet Tubman was born? It has a question mark here for her year of birth."

I remembered that I actually had a Time For Kids Biography called Harriet Tubman A Woman of Courage (by Renee Skelton) on the bookshelf. So, we got it out & started reading about her life. It said that she died in 1913 at the age of 93, so I had the kids do the math & we decided that she must have been born around 1820. We talked about her life being raised as a slave & how good we all have it in comparison. Especially striking were the pictures of the quilts used for code. The kids couldn't believe that it was against the law to teach a slave to read & write. Here we were with 5 books spread in front of us by this point, digging through the written word about people who never had that right. They were ingenious enough to find a way to communicate by sewing patterns into quilts that they would hang out windows or across fences without stirring suspicion though. My kiddos that are all about secret agents & spies thought that was amazing.

By this time, the game was a blood pressure spiking tie at 17 to 17 with only a few minutes left. We had casually covered History, Geography, Civil Rights, done some math and a ton of reading, (with Brooke throwing in synonyms for EVERYTHING due to her new found BFF the Thesaurus- more on that in a future blog) all while noshing on pizza and watching a good ol' Sunday football game. I LOVE days like this. Effortless learning & quality time. That's the stuff.


Don't Know Much About American History, Kenneth C. Davis, 2003

Don't Know Much About The 50 States, Kenneth C. Davis, 2001

National Geographic Our Fifty States, Mark H. Bockenhauer and Stephen F. Cunha, 2004

Building A Nation, Scott Foresman, 2008

Explore and Learn Volume 6 Atlas of the World, The Southwestern Company, 2005

Explore and Learn Volume 4 People in Place and Time, The Southwestern Company, 2005

The California Gold Rush An Interactive History Adventure, Elizabeth Raum, 2008

and of course, Brooke's friend: Webster's New English Language Thesaurus

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Miss Brooke Teaches Those Boys

Today, the fact that our youngest child is clearly the Alpha became a little more obvious. We've known it since she was 2. There's no denying it. Way back then, she could walk up to Russell who was 4 and say, "I want that swing" (that he was using) and he would silently hop off and give it to her. She's always done this. I've alternated between patting her brothers on the back for being so kind to their little sister and telling them that it's okay to stand up for themselves. Brooke will convince them to do things her way no matter what though.

Several months ago, a box full of educational character building tools arrived in the mail. I had signed up for it on a freebies website. I've been meaning to open it and put it to use all this time. However, it's been on the top of a bookshelf in a hallway instead. Yesterday, Brooke got it down and fell in love with it. She played school in her bedroom most of the evening using the colorful posters and white board. Then, this morning the game took a new turn.

Lane and Tatton were fighting over video games as they're likely to be found doing on a rainy Saturday morning. Miss Brooke (as she insisted we call her) arrived on the scene. She taped up her "visual aids" and used a drumstick for a pointer. It sounded something like this for the next couple of HOURS:

Brooke: "Lane, what are some ways that you can manage conflict?"

Lane (mumbling): "Umm- I dunno."

Brooke: "Tatton, don't you think that looking for a compromise might be a good start?"

Tatton: "Yeah."

Brooke: "Lane, what does compromise mean? Give me an example."

Lane: "To like make a deal."

Brooke: "Good, but that wasn't an example. Now class, I'm going to list some ways that we can manage conflict:"

(pointing with her drumstick)

"First, stay cool. Talk it over. Focus on the problem. Look for a compromise. Know when to walk away. Be a leader. Be a friend. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Practice real courage and put your ego aside. Mom, what's an ego?"

It was seriously cute. I was both laughing (in my head) at how seriously she was taking all of this and sort of shocked and amazed at how good she was at it. She really blew my "Boys knock it off!" out of the water! I also want to say to the boys that I'm very proud of them for what good sports they were and how long they let their sister "play school" with them when I'm sure they had other things they would rather be doing than being lectured by a 7 year old. The only less than nice thing they even said was when Brooke handed Russell a "detention slip" for not following "direkshons" and he said, "Oh! Come on! I have to follow your directions and you don't even know how to spell it right?!"

And So It Begins

I've realized that as the cold and impending gloom of the grey skies have set in, so has my need to write. Funny how that works. There's a reason that Seattle (the entire Pacific Northwest really- but Seattle gets all the love) has turned out so many artists. Well, and coffee shops to be fair. For me, it's a tradition and a survival instinct both. Not unlike the squirrels hoarding food away for winter or the geese flying south, once that cold moisture finds it's way to my bones my brain screams to be creative. Or maybe it's been creative all along but I had plenty of serotonin from long sun filled days of activity to quiet the noise. Who knows?
No matter what the reason, I have to say that I have a love hate relationship with this tradition. I have to say that "creating" words isn't really as productive as say, oh, vacuuming is. And at this time, I'm really forcing myself to go through the motions of day to day life. Things still have to get done. So, I do them with as little effort as possible and then I make a mad dash to the computer to research and type. I don't think it's healthy (but very little about winter feels healthy.) I've wondered more than a few times if I shouldn't get a sun lamp or something.
So, anyway... the blog will probably be getting updated more often. Until spring that is... ;-)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Being Thankful

Every once in a while the kids say or do something that makes me think that MAYBE I'm getting through to them. That happened this week with Tatton. Shortly after Lane received his Birthday presents, Tatton came down with a case of the woe-is-me-gimmes (go figure...) It went something like this:

"I don't have ANYTHING! EVERYONE has WAY more than me! Why can't I just have ONE single thing that I want for once?"

Note: This is one of my all time biggest pet peeves as a mother. I simply cannot stand putting in my blood, sweat, and tears just to be met with ungrateful whines and pleas that make it so brutally clear that my all will never be quite good enough. That said... I get it. I do. He's only almost 11 and let's face it- a human. Who of us hasn't thought that the grass just MIGHT be greener on the other side of the fence once or twice? So... I held my tongue (this time.) I simply stared at him as he went off about the injustice.

Then, he paused. The saying "I could see the wheels turning in his head" seems exceptionally appropriate as I felt like I could literally watch his brain switch gears. Seeming to be suddenly aware that he sounded like a big ingrate, he tried a new tactic. It went something like this:

"Okay, I know... I know... I have shelter, and food, and clothing, and education. Oh, and health care. But I mean, besides having my basic needs met... I don't have..."

He stumbled around with that for a few minutes more (going on and on about how ALL of the kids in his class have way more modern technology and way funner toys than we do) as I continued to stare at him in silence. Thankfully, he switched gears again. Just as quickly as his tirade had started, he let out a deep sigh of resignation and said, "I think I'm gonna shut up now." and turned around and walked out looking content as the cat that caught the canary.

I love that his thoughts basically came full circle and I never had to even utter a word. It's so interesting to me actually. The thing is, I have a major problem with the way that we as a society are so "gimme" oriented. I remember several years ago when I was a teenage mom and I felt like I had to bend over backwards to try to achieve enough to allow my children to have a "real" life. Of course, my ideals were unrealistic and when they weren't met, we all survived. Not to mention, learned and grew. That's when I first realized my first mistake: I thought that in order to be a "real" happy family we had to be living the "American Dream" which in my mind was a perfect suburban house with a white picket fence and 2.5 kids that were in every extracurricular activity imaginable and were always perfectly dressed. Only:

A. The concept of an "American Dream" didn't actually make all that much sense when I considered that when you break the words down what you're looking at is America (not the whole world or even all of the developed countries but one lone country that isn't all that popular due to it's known greed and corruption) and Dream (which can be defined as a series of mental images and emotions occurring in the mind; "I had a dream about you last night"
imaginative thoughts indulged in while awake; "he lives in a dream that has nothing to do with reality" have a daydream; indulge in a fantasy ;a state of mind characterized by abstraction and release from reality; "he went about his work as if in a dream" ) So, I was stressing myself out about an imaginative thought that is connected to a lifestyle in one country. My real life was still way better than a lot of other people's and as poor as I felt at times I was definitely better off than most of the people in Africa and Afghanistan just to name a couple of places.

And B. Nothing will ever be enough unless we first appreciate what we have. We all do it. We want that new car so badly. Then, after we've had it for a little while we start looking around at all of the other new vehicles on the road and we don't like our car that much anymore. Don't get me started on how many times I've changed my mind on what color I want my kitchen painted alone. And no matter how long ago you bought your cell phone / computer / gaming system you can bet that something newer and better is in on the horizon sooner than you can call your new crack berry a dinosaur. When will we ever be satisfied unless we stop in our tracks and take stock of how much we actually have to be thankful for?

My point is this: I'm so relieved that even though Tatton got greedy for a moment, I'm so relieved that he caught on to his thought error & corrected it on his own. It gives me hope that MAYBE someday my kids will be able to look back on their childhood with fond memories of family togetherness and special traditions and feel like they were blessed. This parenting thing can get a little scary and it's nice to have hope that I'm not just raising materialistic people who don't know how to be thankful for how good life really is. What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I Wanna Fall In Love

All over again. Our life has just felt so... ordinary lately. Lots of end of the school year activities and events. Brooke's Birthday coming up. Brother-in-law moved in with us. Never-ending laundry & dishes, of course. The park is SLAMMED with people coming to escape the heat with a swim. Fun for them, work for me. I'm ready for our Anniversary. The big One-Three. We usually try to go away for the weekend or something. This year we're talking about going to Victoria, B.C. I can't WAIT! I miss my husband. We feel a little like strangers co-existing in this crazy busy world. I'm dying to just leave the "real world" behind for a couple of days. Only one more month... The count down begins.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Can't A Girl Get A Little Privacy?

This evening I got yelled at in the grocery store by a dermatologist. I've been painting the family business for the last couple of days (and wearing sunblock!) and I've got a lobster-ish look going. My eight year old and I were on the pudding aisle breaking down the cost of buying pudding cups in bulk vs. buying the mix and milk and making it ourselves. This man came along and smiled at me. I thought, "Oh- he thinks it's funny that I'm talking about the cost of pudding at length with a child." Then, he opened his mouth. Turns out I read his expression wrong. His smile was more like a smirk and that smirk was more like a look of disdain (the same look that people have when they feel awkwardly sorry for the homeless person begging for change on the corner and don't know how to react. Or maybe on second thought, the look that they get when the bumbling fool working the drive-thru window at the local fast food restaurant just can't seem to get their order right repeatedly.) He berated me for allowing myself to get burnt and warned me of the evils of UV rays. As usual, I attempted to lighten the situation with humor and joked that I was planning on going to The Relay For Life tonight but might get kicked out by the skin cancer group. He didn't laugh with me though.

The thing is, I'm getting really sick of people sticking their noses where they don't belong. Yes, I get that he was well meaning. He's not the first person this week or even today to be annoying though. Yesterday, I took my son to his bi-weekly therapy session. Interestingly enough, I ran into my long lost aunt that I hadn't seen in a decade. Since there's apparently not much else to do in waiting rooms, she filled me in on the soap opera of the the years of her life that I had missed. Her poor daughter (my sons age) was there for a counseling appointment due to (well, let's say a series of unfortunate events) and had to sit there as her mother told me all the bloody details on her daughter's problems (in front of her.) Then, she turned the table and said, "So, why does he have to see the therapist?" As if I was gonna sit there and spill my child's issues out for everyone in the waiting room. (I only do that sort of embarrassing gossiping on my blog because as we all know blogging is different. ;-)

I realize that I probably make people uncomfortable at times too. It's funny how it's okay for me to dish out TMI, but I get offended by other people's "openness". Let's face it though, nobody likes a dermatologist who brings his work with him to the grocery store or a fellow waiting room attendee who says, "So what are you in for?"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Things I'll Do For $$$- (not for the weak of stomach)

I don't work 9-to-5. That's not the way I make my livin'. Nope, I clean public park bathrooms & empty 42 garbage cans whenever they need it. It's much like mothering. You can't help it if your baby's diaper needs changing at 2 AM. You just power through it. So it is with backed up toilets and vandalism. It doesn't matter if I'm wearing my best high heels and shiny red lipstick to go out on the town with my man. If the bathroom is in trouble, I must come to the rescue. It's sort of hilarious, because I do have a decent head on my shoulders and yet I REALLY, really like this nasty, manual labor stuff. I could have been a doctor... or a lawyer... or a, well anything I set my mind to. I'm scrubbing toilets though. And most days, it suits me.

Of course, there are the occasional times that I really, really, REALLY hate my job. For the first two weeks straight after we opened up the bathrooms for the season (they're locked during the months that freeze to prevent busted pipes) someone was "decorating" the bathrooms with their feces. Yes, feces. They started off small by wiping it all over the toilet seat and wiping with a pair of thermal wool socks then shoving those socks down into the toilet so that it flooded over on to the floor when flushed. That was pretty. Stuff like that happens though, so I just put on some rubber boots and latex gloves and cleaned it up. No big. The next day, they skipped the toilet and left a steaming pile on the floor in front of the toilet though. I was not impressed. Keep in mind that this was back when I had just discovered that I was pregnant.

As the days went on, there were more piles. Always in the same spot. My ten year old son commented, "Whoa! What? Are they taking the All-Bran 10 day challenge or something?!" Unfortunately, it went on like this. Until one day, this person had written "Hi" with their stool sample on the bathroom wall. It totally creeped me out that they were leaving these "presents" for us and now "communicating". Later that night, we went to lock the bathrooms up for the night and there was a 5 gallon bucket in the same spot that the piles had been in filled with a toxic mix of vomit and poop. Poor Dustin had to carry it. We had to figure out what in the heck to even do with it. If it weren't so late at night, I probably would have called the health department for advice on how to dispose of toxic waste. My hubby & I laughed at the absurdity of the things that we have had conversations about since taking this job.

When I found yet another present the next day, I called the Sheriff's department to see what could be done. I was desperately wishing real life played out like CSI and they could just DNA test it. He was intrigued, but he didn't really have a whole lot of advice. He basically said that if it were him, he would just lock the bathrooms up and put a sign on the door saying, "Closed due to ongoing vandalism." We wavered between doing that and leaving them open so that we could finally catch who was doing it. My kids would ask me (eyes sparkling), "Mom? If you walked in on him doing it, would you beat him up?!" They REALLY loved the idea of me (total non-fighter) opening a can on the "bad guy". I told them that I wasn't going to start a fight with a guy who was in the middle of a BM, but that I would totally lock the bathroom gate so that he couldn't get out and call 911. They didn't think that sounded nearly as exciting.

Fortunately, it just stopped as suddenly as it started. I'm not sure why, but I'm thankful. I'm not going to pretend that aside from that issue the job is pretty. Believe me, you don't want to empty 42 garbage cans that have been fermenting in the heat. When I'm done with this job, I may be ready to become some sort of Maggot Specialist (they have those, right?) I bet you that I could qualify as an expert on maggot life stages. Don't get me started on how many people that I have witnessed in the throws of extra marital affairs. I've lived in this SMALL town my entire life. WHY on earth do these people insist on coming to my backyard for this? And why is the average time of day for cheating in a car without tinted windows right when the school bus drives by? I've lost count of how many used condoms and hypodermic needles I've had to pick up & dispose of. And they call parks family places. Ha!

So, why do I do it you ask? Simple. We get paid to live in our house and it allows me to be a stay at home mom a little longer. Not to mention, what would I have had to blog about today and gross you out with otherwise?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Summer Lovin'

At the risk of sounding completely mental, I'm gonna say that I'm really looking forward to summer. Yes, I realize that summer = kids 24/7 and that it wasn't all that long ago that I blogged about spring break killing me. Before that, I blogged about school closures for snow & floods driving me mad. I'm aware of the irony. I'm just so ready to chill out a bit schedule wise though. Take tonight for instance: I began getting the kids into bed at 8:00 PM. At 9:00 PM they were all still awake and whining about the injustice of going to sleep while it was still daylight out. To which the only decent reply that I could come up with was that I'm a horrible, monstrous ogre of a mother that doesn't want them to fall asleep in class. If it were summer vacation, we could have built a fire and roasted some marshmallows for smores instead and just slept in in the morning. At 10:00 PM, the boys had all finally fallen asleep but Brooke had gotten over tired to the point that instead of resting she was bawling that she missed her slide bed. Apparently, it was "the only bed I ever loved." (For those of you not in the know, her slide bed was a loft bed with a metal slide on it that she had outgrown and it took up 75% of her bedroom. We sold it on craiglist to get her a "big girl bed" over a year ago.) Now, it's the bed that got away.
OKay, off subject, I just clicked spellcheck and it's telling me that smores isn't a word. Neither is Craigslist. Is that true? I mean, smores... come on... Well, anyway, I want to go camping. I'd really like to go on a good hike. Washington summers are often gorgeous, 70 degree affairs just perfect for getting out in nature and taking in the insane amount of beautiful green-ness (Now that I know is not a word. No spell check required.) I'm psyched to see the kids run their lemonade stand some more. People are so good. Did you know that they almost always get tipped? I would have never have thought to tip at a lemonade stand. Heck, I'm sort of grossed out at the thought of drinking lemonade that was possibly made by children and would most likely never stop at a random lemonade stand & actually drink the stuff anyway. (Don't drink the Kool-Aid!!!) Hmm... I'm curious if spell check likes the word Kool-Aid or not. Let me see...

Nope. It would take Aid but not Kool. Interesting. Oh, okay... It will accept Koolaid. I could have sworn it was hyphenated.

There are only 24 days of school left. Which means that there are only 26 days until my baby girl turns seven years old. It's hard to believe that my YOUNGEST child is a shoe tying, fluent reading, teeth missing, real life first grader turning second grader. I'm actually kind of not okay with it, but just like all things I tell her not to do, she just keeps getting older even though I tell her to stop. One good thing about having older kids is that our summer vacation IS admittedly less complicated when we can go to the beach and not worry that any of our children will eat the sand or stick random objects up their nose. Having everyone potty trained helps too. My friend Chelsea & I were talking earlier about the logistics of going hiking with an infant. Kelty backpacks are fabulous, but where are you supposed to dispose of diapers when you're in the middle of nowhere? I mean, do you seriously have to pack it in pack it out? Yuck. I don't think we're missing out on anything there.

So, there you have it: the random ramblings of my sleepy mind. I'm dieting & exercising again. My brain is always a little, um, quirky on a diet. Hmm... maybe that's where the jonesing for smores thing came in... So, what are your summer plans?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fairytale Rom-Action

My daughter is going through a medieval phase. Her new favorite hairstyle is to french braid it the night before so that it gets all wavy and then wear it half down with two intertwining braids on the top half. She wears her hair like this with whatever shirt she can find with the puffiest cap sleeves. I think she's trying to channel her inner Gwinevere. The other day we were driving to her 6 month check-up for her ear tubes. Our ENT is over an hour drive away. Brooke talked about fairy tales the whole time.

She announced from the back seat,"When I grow up I am going to be a princess."
She said it just as certainly as if she had said, "I want to be a teacher" or "I want to be a veterinarian."

Boring, logistical grown-up that I am, I responded, "Oh really? Are you going to marry a prince or something?"

Boy, that put a burr under her saddle! "NO!!! I'm NOT going to marry a prince, Mom! I'm just going to grow up to be a princess. A SINGLE princess!" She sat there, arms folded, face scowling.

Perhaps it's the result of having three older brothers, but to Brooke, the mention of her getting married when she grows up always elicits anger. How dare mean mom mention that nasty word!

This all got me thinking about why my mind instantly goes to prince when I think of princess. Maybe my daughter had a good point. Why should she have to have a prince to make her a princess? Was I stereotyping? Being sexist? Why couldn't a girl consider herself a princess without a Prince Charming? After all, it's us princesses that have to kiss the frogs to turn them into princes. Not the other way around.

I realized that in my own (REAL) life, I often think that I need my husband to confirm that I am in fact his queen before I see myself that way. I wondered, "If it weren't for that confirmation, would I still feel worthy?" I thought of the many different ways that we women count on the men in our lives for validation. Would I bother dressing up if I didn't want him to tell me that he thinks I'm pretty? Would my goals be the same if I didn't always have it in the back of my mind that I am HALF of a couple? Where along the line did we decide that we needed someone to "complete" us? (Thanks Jerry McGuire!)

Just this last Valentine's Day, Dustin brought home a rose & a box of Sweethearts for Brooke. This bothered me at first because she was the only one out of our four kids that he brought something home for. When I told him that I was afraid that he would hurt the boys' feelings, he told me that they need to learn that Valentine's is about men pampering women. Just like Brooke needs to learn that as a female, she deserves to be treated a certain way. If little girls grow up to marry men like their daddies, then he wants to treat her like a princess & set the bar high.

As a woman, this made me feel both lucky to have a husband that values women and equally terrified that we would create a monster. I don't want my daughter to have entitlement issues or to just expect to always have a man to take care of her. After all, life is what happens while you're busy planning for other things (John Lennon). We have no idea how her story will play out. I desperately want her to be strong enough to handle whatever comes her way as a SINGLE princess (as she put it.) If she ends up with a fabulous prince charming, then that's just gravy.

Following this line of thought, I got scared that I had been a horrible role model to her. While I still solidly believe that the greatest gift a father can give his children is to truly love their mother, had I somehow (by being a stay-at-home mom that could possibly be a little spoiled by my husband) have communicated to my kids that women NEED to be spoiled? I suddenly felt the urge to prove to them all just how strong I really was. I wanted them to know once and for all that their daddy and I treat each other the way we do because we enjoy being nice to each other, not because we think the other person is weak or incapable of taking care of them self. Sure, I'd RATHER bake cookies while he changes the oil on the car, but do I really want my daughter to think that she doesn't need to know how to do "guy stuff" since her mom never did?

My mind went on like this for a while. Then, I realized something else. Dustin & I haven't always been this nice to each other. Even though we've been married for so long now that it seems like forever ago, the reality is that the first several years of our marriage were TOUGH and we had to learn to treat each other with love and respect. We got married when Dustin was 19 and I was 17. Nineteen year old boys aren't necessarily ready to be good husbands yet. Seventeen year old girls aren't mature enough to be great wives. Dustin doesn't go out of his way to take care of me because that's the way it's always been. It's a dynamic that we created & grew into. Suddenly, I didn't feel so worried anymore, because looking at it from that perspective, I felt more like I'd EARNED my crown as Queen.

Our relationship isn't a fairytale full of romance and white horses. It's maybe 20% romance and more like 80% action to keep the romance alive. I was scared that we were setting our kids up for disappointment by letting them think that there was such a thing as happily ever after in this modern day & age. I'm glad that what they're actually seeing is that you have to work REALLY hard at whatever you do, including love. And I'm okay with letting my daughter think that she can grow up to be a princess (as long as that means she believes that she deserves true happiness and understands that she has the power to slay whatever fire breathing dragons stand in her way by herself.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring Break

Worst. Spring break. EVER.

It should NEVER snow on spring break! There should not be hailstorms. Or high wind warnings. My yard should not be so engorged with water that when I step on the spongy grass, I sink in and am douched with mud and water above my ankles. Spring break should be about trading in winter boots for cute, strappy sandals. My kids should be running around outside & picking daffodils. After they spent 10 minutes outside, I had to make them all hot cocoa. This is not right.

I know that I have officially entered "mom zone" because what I was most excited about going into spring break was organizing stuff. I made this handy dandy chart in which the plan to spring clean something each day was layed out. It was a thing of beauty. Some of it has gotten done. Some more of it has not. My poor, poor children. Here they are on spring break, the weather stinks and the conditions indoors (with mom nagging them to clean out their closet) aren't much better. They don't sound too disappointed when we talk about school starting back up on Monday.

Last night Dustin was flipping through the channels and he paused on a reality show with hundreds of bikini clad college kids partying on some tropical beach. I asked him, "Why does their spring break look funner than ours?" Maybe it's because it's WARM where they are. It's 33 degrees here right now. Brrr-