Sunday, June 29, 2008
Because I walked into my living room this weekend to find my couch turned into an army fort.
No one was allowed to watch T.V. for eight hours, while the General conducted military operations from his base.
Ahh, the joys of having boys.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Just a few months ago I saw a disturbing change in our old windows. A wasp family (couple?) had made a nice hive (nest?) in one corner, between the regular glass and the storm window glass. I watched them closely as they grew from two wasps to a full family of about eight.
This window is far away from where the kids play but I still kept my guard up, looking for a reason I should buy the wasp killer at Kmart.
Then Hubby walked in the kitchen the other day and heard buzzing. Upon inspection he found the little wasp nest, tucked in the corner of the window.
"Whoa, cool...it's like the nature channel right here in your kitchen window!"
You know, I hadn't thought of it like that.
Because the wasps are technically behind glass, they can't hurt me. And I get a close up view of their lives as they buzz through their days.
So now, with my new eyes, I have come to love my buzzing friends. I found myself spending more than a couple of minutes today hunched over the counters, trying to figure out what their schedule was for the afternoon.
The most I could gather from my scientific research was that 'buzzing' and 'fighting' were the only events of the day.
So welcome, my new striped friends. Let's live peacefully side by side.
Just don't get any big ideas.
The second you sting one of my kids, I'm on my way to Kmart.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I have a new one to offer. "Give a boy a three dollar pulley from the hardware store and he will play all afternoon..."
Not only did they rig up a pulley swing, but then they hijacked some neighbor girls and convinced them to be the pulling power.
The only logical next step is getting out the metal bat for a quick game of 'brother pinata'.
Don't worry. They were well supervised. Dad actually took this picture as he laughed and played along with them.
Then again, he's nothing but a little boy himself, disguised in a grown- ups body.
I think I remember giving birth to four children. Meaning there should be eight hands, forty fingers, ready to help me make dinner every night.
But somehow, when the cool breeze is bl0wing through the trees and the chains of schoolwork have been flung aside, all those hands, fingers and toes head out the back door to find adventure of a different kind.
And Lego guy and I are left to make dinner all by ourselves.
Friday, June 20, 2008
He is ready and willing to do whatever his country asks, although he would prefer to stay alive doing it. I have grown to love this kid and I know I will become emotional as his ship out date nears. He's like one of my own.
Yet he's not.
I don't have to worry about my sons seeing combat any time soon. They are at least a few years away from making those kinds of choices.
But Daughter's boyfriend's mom is. She is offering up her son for the good of our country, for our freedom.
And I am thankful and grateful.
I don't know if I could have her stoic bravery if my own son, as gentle, kind, and sweet as hers, were on the list.
This is why I got just a bit emotional today at the first grade presentation. It was the day parents come to visit the classroom and hear the songs our little people have been learning at school. Songs like "This land is your land" and "The star spangled banner."
My little guy, just seven, stood up tall and waved his flag, packed in the middle of all his first grade pals. And they belted out their songs.
"She's a grand ole flag, she's a high flyin' flag, and forever in peace may she wave..."
I don't have to see my son off to war any time soon. I get to watch him grow and blossom and learn to love this country he was blessed to be born into. And some day he just may sign up to help defend her. And I will have to deal with it.
But for now he is waving his little flag, singing his sweet songs, and making his mommy thankful that he is safe and free and lives in the home of the brave.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
He strokes her hair, hugs her neck, whispers sweet goodbyes into her ears. And yes, even trades a few kisses with her. Then he walks down the driveway and climbs up onto that big yellow bus. And she is left without him.
All day hanging on the couch, waiting for that bus to return.
Its a bittersweet ritual to watch. I'm just glad I get my kisses in before the dogs.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
A dozen years ago God returned joy to our life.
My mom had died so suddenly and the months after were dark and thick with grief. But a healthy pregnancy came along and slowly, month by month, joy crept back into all the moments of our days.
A dozen years ago a big healthy baby boy dropped into the midwife's hands and let out his first squall. I was so concerned that he might not be healthy my first words were, "why is he purple??" The midwives reassured and within minutes he was tucked into his grateful mommy's arms.
A dozen years ago we brought that sweet baby home to two siblings who tripped over themselves to care for him. Their own real life doll.
A dozen years and six weeks ago that baby got sick. Very sick. We spent day after day in the local hospital, then the children's hospital, waiting for a test that would come back positive and tell us how to cure our boy. There were no answers and hope began to slip away.
A dozen years and eight weeks ago I rocked that baby boy, the one who had brought joy back into my home. In the darkness of a hospital room in the middle of a thunderstorm I wept as we rocked back and forth, his shallow baby breath mixing with the tears that flowed down my face and onto my neck. He was wasting away and there were no answers.
A dozen years and eight weeks ago I wondered, 'will the summer of 96 be the summer we look back on and say, 'that's the summer we lost the baby' or will we tell it in other ways - 'that's the summer that middle boy was sick' ?
I am so thankful we get to celebrate today. Celebrate that a dozen years ago a sweet baby boy came into our family, got very very sick, then was given back to us by very smart doctors who never gave up on him.
I celebrate in my heart on June 16th every year. Not just because it is my son's birthday. But because he is the son I almost didn't get to keep. The son I almost lost two years to the day after I stood by my mother's fresh grave. The son whose name means laughter and who's bright spirit radiates through our house.
I am so thankful. So thankful we got him back. So thankful he grows healthier every year. So thankful God dropped him into our family.
A dozen years ago.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
It took me a few years to realize what we had in our midst. He seemed like a regular guy. Like a good solid guy. 'Just a guy'.
Then things started to happen. We were at Hershey Park a dozen years ago and after the kiddie train ride ended one of the tiny passengers began to have what looked like a seizure. While all the other parents froze and no one knew what to do, my man jumped the fence and dove into the situation.
The child's scarf had caught on the train tracks and as the train moved forward, it was choking her. The tears flowed down my face as I distracted our preschool children and watched over their shoulders as their daddy saved the day.
Then a handful of years ago we were enjoying the holiday concert in a gorgeous Salt Lake City shopping area. It was cold out so we went in to the nearby mega bookstore to warm up. As soon as the children scurried off to the kids department there was a commotion near the front register. A young man had fallen to the floor, again looking like he might be having a seizure.
Not one person came forward to help. Not even the sales clerk working the register right next to him.
No one except my man. In a flash he was kneeling by the man's side, doing basic first aid and asking how he could help. He was eventually doused by bodily fluids as the ill man became sick all over him. But he never wavered. He held the young man's hand until the paramedics arrived.
Then just a few years ago we were on one of the last ski runs of the day and just ahead of my man an energetic college kid took just a bit too much air on a ski jump. He went down practically in pieces.
And guess who was there to hold his broken limbs together while the ski patrol made their way to the scene. Yep, my man.
He sent the kids on down the hill, to find me in the lodge, and he stayed with the kid, holding his hand for comfort and his leg to keep it from coming apart.
Then there are the countless other times he's the only one who stopped to help. The single mom with the blown tire on the side of the road. My man was driving cross country in the heat of summer(in a van with no A/C), with a cat and a rabbit in his possession and he pulled over to help the grateful driver. I only found out because I happened to ask where he got the deep gashes on his knuckles.
Too many stories to tell here. But they add up. Year after year. He's there to help.
All in a day's work.
Sometimes I think he might have missed his calling. Maybe he should have been a paramedic, or a doctor. But he is really good at his day job, which has nothing to do with health care. So I have figured out that he is doing exactly what he has been called to do.
He is walking around the planet disguised as a regular guy. Just a dad. Just a husband. Just a suit at the office. But when someone needs help, he's ready.
He's our undercover super hero. Just do me a favor and don't blow his cover.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
It started when I handed a stack of books to Baby Boy and said, "Could you run these to the bookcase?"
Then I handed a stack of towels to my oldest son and said, "Hey, run these to the closet upstairs real fast."
Instruction number three was to Middle Son. "Sweetie, could you take this stack of mail into the office for me?"
Time passed and I made my way through the house, picking up more clutter along the way.
Then I started finding the treasures.
A strange stack of books spilling off my tiny nightstand. Hmmm....'bookcase' and 'nightstand'...pretty similar, in theory I suppose.
Then I came across a nice large stack of towels in the middle of the ping pong table. Well, it is close to the bathroom closet...although I would guess that anyone coming out of the shower tomorrow morning might prefer the towels be in a little closer proximity. (anyone for nude ping pong?)
Last but not least (or strangest) I found a nice neat pile of mail, centered beautifully on the kitchen table.
I am not sure what happened here. Did their brains hear different words than I said? Or was the listening function not even turned on, only the head nodding function?
Maybe next time I need to realize it's a game. I could offer a reward to the one who gets their item closest to its actual home.
I could call it "Mommy Says". I'm sure the boys will be thrilled to play along.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Trust me, I had scrubbed it. That's as clean as it got. But it worked great for shaving legs and washing the dog.
In just one short weekend we have overhauled this poor shower and are just hours away from being able to use it. Everyone who's ever lived in an old house, please stand up and salute.
(thank you...you can sit down now)
Yeah, I guess I will. But it will take lots and lots of chocolate.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Back in March, when they started hanging out together (it took me awhile to admit to myself they were dating) I worried about two kids in different stages of their lives. He was close to freedom. That magical time after high school when you get to pick for yourself.
She is not even close to that stage. The things she picks for herself are things like when she takes her shower and whether she chooses to do her homework at 3 pm or 11pm. Dad and I still pick curfew times and meal times. She is growing more independent, but she is still living in our house, with two years of high school left, and she is miles away from the independence graduation brings.
So while I was watching them closely, supervising them as much as I could, quizzing him about life goals and morals, this big date was approaching. I never saw it coming.
Until Daughter started saying things like, "what am I going to wear to prom?" and "Prom is going to be so much fun!"
Naive mom that I am I filed those comments under 'regular school dance' comments. It was hubby who pointed out to me that prom is different. Way different. Especially for senior boys who are moving on.
Suddenly I realized there may be expectations and situations that Daughter would not see coming. Even when we talked about it in the days before the dance she rolled her eyes and declared that we "just didn't know how things work today" and "we don't trust her."
And we resisted rolling our eyes back at her and saying, "Ohhh...but we do know, my sweet. We wore tuxes and prom dresses almost two decades ago, but we know..."
We ended our discussion with her on an agree to disagree status. But ultimately Dad and I got to pick curfew and the drivers of any cars she might be riding in.
And it all worked out. Boyfriend looked (and smelled!) stunning, was a perfect gentleman, showed my daughter the time of her life at an over-supervised wing dinger of a dance at the Marriott Hotel. And when I showed up to pick her up at midnight (as her date went on to party with friends) he stepped up and gave me a hug.
"Thanks so much for letting me escort your daughter to my prom."
These were the words he spoke in my ear as we embraced and I patted his back like a mom.
She is my baby girl, my only daughter in this sea of sons. She will always be six in my mind. But that night she was a princess. She was his princess. And he treasured her as such.
I may not be ready for her to grow up but I sure thank God she is doing it so well in spite of me.
(Don't worry, we will shower before Tuesday too. We do have a shower upstairs, although it is very overworked by the six of us.)
We had a miserably hot weekend in New York. We are used to temperatures in the low to mid eighties in June. Not mid nineties. We don't have A/C in our house.
There are only a handful of days in any given summer when the heat is oppressive and I'd rather be able to pay my electricity bill than spend my summer yelling at the kids to 'keep the doors closed 'cause the air's on and it's costing me a fortune!'.
But those miserable days are supposed to come in August. Not in June. Not in the middle of a bathroom re-model.
As the weekend wound down and we navigated through every glitch that was thrown at us, Hubby and I realized that we had gone the whole weekend, through a fairly significant house project, without bickering or snipping at each other.
We don't fight a lot, but house projects can bring out the worst in anyone.
Add in a shower project situated in a space hardly big enough for two people to stand, with a temperature that replicated a sauna, tubes and tubes of liquid nails (that sticks to and stains everything it comes close to touching) and even the Pope could be forgiven for saying an unkind word to his fellow helper.
We decided it was the perfect marriage counseling tool. Forget sitting on comfy couches in air conditioned rooms drinking cold beverages and talking about your feelings. Throw the couple in a tiny bathroom with a gutted shower stall and say, "Have at it!"
Whoever comes out the other side with anything replicating a usable washing area gets the prize. And a refund for their weekend.
After the caulk is done I will post the after pictures. Let me give you a hint...it looks lovely. My bathroom sparkles now. I get to shower without climbing up the stairs and stepping over the soggy towels of four forgetful children. (hey, at least they are showering)
And Hubby and I can look at those shining walls and remember a pretty pleasant two days spent together, wedged in a pretty tight space. Not a bad weekend. Not a bad weekend at all.
Except for the heat, of course.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Are you listening? Do you hear it? Put your ear closer to the computer screen....do you hear it now?
The poor little shower in our downstairs basement was just screaming to have an extreme makeover. This is a picture of his plumbing, after we ripped out the layers of old tile, insulation and ripped up shower board.
By the end of the weekend we should be showering in a brand new enclosure. With handy Hubby leading the project we will be pulling off this project for just about three hundred bucks. Some day we'll do the three thousand dollar remodel. For today we are doing the quicker but still better fix.
How could we ignore it any longer? That poor shower was keeping us awake at night, with his pleas for help.
Need to go now. Time to hand screws to the hubby. Which, by the way, is not half as erotic as it sounds.
After pictures coming soon.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Eventually I did hold it in my hands. After my sister sighed and said, "I think it might be cheaper than therapy..."
She knew we were in for a long road ahead. The five of us ranged in age from 18 to 27 and never dreamed when we celebrated mom's fiftieth birthday that she would never see 51. It happened almost 14 years ago and it has changed us all.
I have read the Motherless Daughters book nearly every year since then. It always makes me cry and usually makes me weep. But it is therapeutic and I can't help but think it is about as effective as therapy. A good cry is very healing.
There are thankfully a few things in the book I didn't have to relate to. I didn't lose my mom when I was a child. I know how deeply it pierced me as an early adult, I can't imagine how awful it would be to lose a mother before you've left her nest.
There was a story in the book about a woman who did survive losing her mom when she was in elementary school. Her father, also devastated by the loss, tried his best but could never catch on to the mom things a young girl needs. Stuff as simple as bringing things to school.
All moms know that it is common for teachers to send home notes requesting items. "Please bring three apples on Tuesday, we'll be making apple cider." or "Everyone needs to bring in three marbles for a game we will be playing on Friday."
This woman spent her elementary school years feeling left out. Her dad never understood the importance of actually sending in the requested items. She was left to beg or borrow to be able to participate.
So now I think of that when I get notes home from school. I don't know the life stories of the kids in my son's first grade class, but there may be a left out-er in his midst. Today they were supposed to bring in a smooth rock, so they could make pet rocks at craft time. I had him take in three, "just in case".
I told him to give the extras to his teacher and if anyone had forgotten theirs, they would be covered. Just a way to look out for each other in this big (sometimes cold) world.
He diligently gathered, then washed and dried, his rock collection. They were tucked in his coat pocket as he left for the bus.
And I got a warm feeling in my heart as we shared the kitchen last night, him working on rocks, me cutting up peppers and onions for dinner. When I told him why I wanted him to take extra he tilted his head and grinned. Then he said the words I know would assure my mom that she taught me well.
"Wow mom...,' he said, 'you always think nice."
Thursday, June 5, 2008
But we lucky folks in New York are still plugging away. Feeling somewhat like the above picture, taken of Baby Boy when we lived in Utah a few years ago. ACKKKK...let it all be over already!
One more week for the teenagers then a week of statewide testing. Three more weeks for the two little guys. They are not released from the grip of school until the 26th of June.
I keep reminding myself it all evens out in the long run. We get two week- long breaks in the middle of the school year, which works out great for family ski trips. And we don't go back to school this year until September 5th.
So in the middle of August, when all my nieces and nephews are packing backpacks and going to bed when the sun is still high in the sky, my kids will still be whooping it up....catching fireflies until way after dark and not even thinking about spelling words or math equations for several more weeks.
But for right now its a bummer. Thank goodness we still have weekends.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
I have become very spoiled by the DVR machine on our TV. It is pretty convenient to pause a show when a tornado of kids comes storming through the house and no volume adjustment can compensate. It is addicting to tape a ten minute section of some show I know will later fascinate my boys, entertain my daughter, or enlighten the hubby. But it becomes scary when you find yourself trying to perform the same functions in other areas of life.
More than once I have reached for the dial on the car radio, intending to rewind what the DJ or forecaster has just said. I was pretty embarrassed by this fact until hubby admitted to me that he does the same thing.
I also find myself reaching for some obscure pause button when too many of my kids are talking at once. Common scenario, the grocery check out line. Daughter is pointing out celebrity pictures on the gossip magazines, fully expecting a comment from mom. Assorted sons are noticing a new brand of candy bar or some fun impulse gadget the store managers have so strategically placed in their line of sight. They also expect a reply from mom, even if its a half hearted, 'Um - hmmmm.'
Then there's that pesky check out girl. She wants to know if I have a store savings card, or coupons, or a preference in my shopping bags. Of course she expects an attentive answer to her inquiries.
And it all just makes me want to dig in my purse, find that magic remote and push the large PAUSE button.
I saw the Adam Sandler movie (Click). I know it would be tempting to pause the things I really don't want to miss. But maybe just for one day?.....
And if I get a pause button, can I have a rewind too? There are just a few precious moments I would love to revisit. Rocking chair baby snuggles. The last weekend I had with my mom (without knowing our time would be coming to an end). Any time I have been in the company of my siblings since we have become adults. The magical night in a red VW rabbit when a handsome man proposed a life together while the snow piled up outside and nearly trapped us in the car. The first day of every single one of my children's lives. The day I learned to ski for the first time, confident on my new titanium leg. Just about every night we shared a fire pit with our best friends in Utah.
It is hard to stop this list.
I promise I would use it wisely. So where can I order one of those nifty DVR remotes for my life?
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
One of the Alzheimer’s residents I work with is named Jeannie. She is short in stature, pudgy around the middle, and not very in touch with the real world. The disease has been aggressive on her brain.
She is one of my favorites for several reasons, the main one being her name. Switch three letters around and she shares my mothers first and last names. Since my mother died right before she turned 50 I will never know if she would have struggled with Alzheimers. When I work with Jeannie I sometimes imagine this is what my mother would have been like as an old woman. And it makes me spend extra minutes and extra hugs on my friend Jeannie.
Jeannie has two priorities in life. Her own mother and blue sweaters. No one can explain why these are the two things her brain has held onto as it struggles not to slip away completely.
She has no idea what day of the week it is. She does not notice the differences in seasons. The large windows in her room display a garden outside, sometimes painted with spring flowers, sometimes smothered in snow. It’s all the same to Jeannie. As long as she has her blue sweaters and knows her mother loves her.
Her body is still very mobile. She sometimes even skips down the hall on days she is feeling well. She is alert and prone to extreme moods, mostly ecstatic jubilance but every now and then heavy sadness will find her. But her language is very limited.
Not that she can’t say all the words she might need to express a thought; it seems to be a conscious choice, limiting her vocabulary to things related only to her mother and her blue sweaters.
And by blue sweaters I don’t mean specific blue sweaters. Thankfully she is not picky. As one wears out, it is easily and painlessly replaced by another. She owns about four at any given time, in all textures and weights. And it seems to have as much to do with the color as it does the garment. She also loves blue shirts and pants and any nurse wearing blue scrubs. But when she speaks she limits herself to sweaters.
A typical morning, as I wake her for a new day:
Me: “Good morning, Jeannie! What a beautiful day! Are you ready to get up now?”
Jeannie (blinking as her eyes adjust to the light): “Yes. There’s my mother. I love my mother.”
She gestures to the large painting on the wall at the end of her bed. The woman who watches over her seems to be in her early twenties, at the turn of the century.
Me: “Let’s get up now. Swing your feet around towards me.”
Jeannie (obediently doing as instructed): “There’s my blue sweater. This is my blue sweater. My mother is beautiful. She’s my blue sweater.”
Me: “Yes, your mother loves you a lot, doesn’t she? Let’s go over here to the bathroom and find some clothes for the day.”
Jeannie: “I love my blue sweater. That’s my mother. She’s beautiful.”
Each sentence is said with conviction and expression, as if she is carrying on a logical conversation with me. Sometimes she even smoothes down the front of her robe, or pats back her hair, as she makes her random statements. Almost as if she means to say something about her appearance and the gibberish is all that comes out.
I wonder sometimes if Jeannie struggled to feel love from her mother. At first I assumed she must have been very close to her mother, to miss her this deeply. Then a co-worker pointed out that sometimes not ever feeling secure in love can make a person very needy. After I found her moaning and crying in her sleep one night, mumbling appeasements to her mother, it seemed more likely there was a deep need for acceptance. Acceptance that never came before her mother left the planet.
The blue sweater thing is still a deep mystery though. What makes a brain forget two loving sons who visit her every day but cling to a concept of a certain colored piece of clothing? What makes a garment priority and allows memories of a full life to slip away?
No matter where it comes from, it is who she is. We love her through her days and nights and hope she finds peace with her mother on the other side. And hope God allows blue sweaters in heaven.
Yesterday Jeannie woke up in a terrible mood. After recovering from an intense illness last month it has become more common for her to be sad or angry. I tried my best to turn her mood around but nothing was working.
We walked out into the hallway and she suddenly stopped. The dark cloud lifted from her face.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” I said.
“Does that John live here?”
She pointed to the door we were about to pass.
“Yes, he does,” I said, “he’s down in the living room right now.”
She lit up. Her shoulders squared as she brushed her hands along the front of her blue sweater.
“He’s my friend,” she announced.
“I’m really glad,” I offered, “why don’t we go down and watch the news with him?”
With a skip in her step she was down the hallway in a flash. As we turned the corner I saw an empty chair right next to said John.
He is a fairly new resident and we all enjoy his bright smile and quick sense of humor. He is much more aware of the world around him and tells long detailed stories about coming to America from Italy when he was a child. He smiled back as I grinned at him from across the room. He had no idea what he was in for.
Jeannie skipped past me and plunked down her blue clad self right next to him. After she scooted her chair even closer to his, her hand ended up on his knee.
John welcomed the affection and grinned back at her.
“She’s sure glad to see you, John,” I said.
He beamed, too sure of himself to be embarrassed.
Not knowing what else to say, Jeannie continued to pat his knee, grinning like a giddy school girl.
As I walked by them a few minutes later, off to check the status of the coffee carafe, I heard her chanting. Gently and affectionately, just a bit louder than a whisper. She was gushing to herself.
“He’s my blue sweater. Yup, he’s my blue sweater. My mother loves me and he is my blue sweater.”
Who says love has to be represented by hearts and curly qs and the color red? Sometimes, just sometime, love comes in a different color. Sometimes love can best be described by something as ordinary as a blue sweater. I think next Valentines Day I will sign the card to my husband, “I love you sweetie. Won’t you be my blue sweater?”
Monday, June 2, 2008
In this crazy house full of teens, pre-teens, all their tall, expressive (loud) friends and one single little guy, there are days I am thankful to find myself at the kitchen sink, rinsing dishes. With my back to the chaos I look out an old broken kitchen window. And for about two weeks now I have been watching the magic of budding baby plants.
This is what I will miss ten years from now - tiny green shoots of an unknown variety thriving in their milk carton condo.
And the best part is, Baby Boy truly believes they will grow into something big and important some day. I have experienced many years of kindergarten and first grade seed projects. None of them have survived.
But I love that no matter what our history, we still have a little person in the house who believes big things can come from very small seeds.
Grow little seedlings. Grow for my boy.