Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Three Moms...

I have 3 moms. This was completely unintentional on my part, I assure you. But there it is, and there they are. They have some things in common (such as me for a daughter, I suppose) and lots more that is different. Here's my shot at describing them.

Mom #1: my birth mom. Apparently we met, but my being only hours old, not much of a memory sticks with me. I learned from non-identifying information from the adoption agency that she was 19, of Albanian descent, and didn't know she was pregnant. That last one kind of strikes me as funny. See, I've been pregnant a few times and I can't imagine not knowing...once my bladder shrunk to the size of a walnut and some foreign object was punching my rib cage...I'd have to guess that something was up. But, she says she didn't know. And since I, too, have a remarkable ability to see things as I wish them to be rather than as they are, I can only figure that denial can be inherited.

Mom #2: This is the mom I grew up with until she died when I was 18. From her I learned that sometimes, even if you want to be a good parent, your own mess can get in the way. And you can leave a huge legacy of things you really never meant to if you aren't careful. Sometimes I feel so far behind the learning curve of people who had less traumatic childhoods than I did, and I hate that I never feel good enough because of what was drilled into me as a child. But you know what? I wouldn't care half as much about what kind of parent I was were it not for my need to make sure that my kids weren't handicapped in the same ways. So any measure of a good parent I become, I owe to that and to her. I also owe a huge debt to her for the compassionate nature I have, and my fearlessness of ill, disabled, and elderly people. Were it not for her, I would never have this keen desire to reach out to those kinds of people, and that desire has brought me great happiness.

Mom #3: This is the mom who came along when I was a young mother myself, and took me in. She and her whole family just embraced me and loved me and included me. I am the "adopted" daughter, and I find that interesting considering my previous history. It seems as though I am meant to be drawn in, as opposed to born into. From this mom I have gained so much insight and wisdom...I have found a woman who has walked many of the same roads I have and can warn me of where the curves and dead ends are. She is a grandmother to my children, a mom who calls just to see how I am doing, and someone who knows when to let me complain and when to help me make changes. I cannot imagine I would have learned anywhere near as much as I have so far if I didn't have her love and acceptance.

As I think of each mom, I am struck by the parts of me that have been formed because of my association with them. I'm both grateful and a little sad that none of these relationships have lasted all through my life so far. There is comfort in looking at someone and knowing they have known you since you were little. But then, there is an independence and ability to stand on your own two feet when you have no one like that to turn to.

In the end, I am who I am. In no small measure, that is because of my three moms.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I've been thinking about friendship.

I went out to breakfast a little bit ago with my best friend from high school. We live in the same neighborhood, and two of our children are school mates. But that is where any parallels end.

We are pretty different in our life choices. She is an education professional [a principal, no less! When did people our age get to be people in CHARGE of stuff??] ; I am a stay at home/sometimes homeschooling mom. I got married in my teens, she got her Masters. She is a social worker background die hard Democrat; I am a right leaning traditionalist who weighs my religious beliefs against any political position. In fact, she and I accidentally ran into each other at the voting booths this past election. Upon making eye contact, we started laughing and said, "Oh, good. Now we can cancel each other out!"

And yet, 20 years after we first became friends, I still find myself sitting across a table from her at Village Inn, laughing and talking and loving every minute of it.

There is something unbelieveably comfortable about our friendship. And no matter how much time passes in between visits, we pick right back up and have that same easy cadence with one another. I have been thinking that, perhaps, it is our differences that make our friendship so strong. There is a bedrock of acceptance that I find lacking in some of my friendships with people who are more similar to me. Maybe some friendships get so built on how alike two people are, that any shift by either person becomes a threat to whatever common bond the friendship was born under.

When two people who are very different become friends, there is an immediate understanding that this is not a friendship based on seeing oneself in each other...but on seeing things through different eyes. Eyes that like you, respect you, but don't always prioritize life the same way you do.

It's wonderful and comforting in ways I never could have imagined.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tag, I'm it, Part II...

TXMommy tagged whoever felt like it to do this meme. I feel like it.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate. But it has to be really good, like grown up hot chocolate. No Swiss Miss for me, thanks.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa wraps the one present he gives to the kids, in paper with his face all over it. He also stuffs the stockings and leaves them under the tree.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White. I like a country, simple Christmas look.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, we never have! Hmmmmm...

5. When do you put your decorations up? Usually the day after Thanksgiving, depending on my hubby's shift schedule.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Excluding dessert is just wrong. Ummm....Ham and au gratin potatoes

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Spending Christmas one year with my dad's mom and stepdad. They lived near Chicago and I had never been to that area, and I just thought everything about where they lived was cool.

8. How and When did you learn the truth about Santa? It must have been early, because I really don't remember.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We let the kids open one. Usually something boring like pjs.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Lots of different things. We have the little ornaments that the kids have made or been given, and we have ornaments left from when my hubby was a child. Sadly, I have nothing of the ornaments from when I was a child. Then we have a tin star on top, and cream ribbon bows, and gold bead garland.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? I love it as long as I don't have to go anywhere.

12. Can you ice skate? NO, I only ever went ice skating once. I remember it hurt my ankles!

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I had one of my daughters on Christmas Eve. It was a lovely, lovely time.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? It isn't the MOST important, but I really, truly love to find or make a gift for someone I love, something that I know they will love and enjoy.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Baklava made by Greek women. I have converted SO many people who didn't think they liked baklava. Uh huh. You just need to taste REAL baklava, made by my sisters, mom, and me in my mother's kitchen.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? We have a progressive dinner with my family that is really fun. I also love the feeling of sitting under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve...all is quiet and the presents are out and I always feel so overly and completely blessed.

17. What tops your tree? A tin star that has white lights inside of it. It is a new addition, since our old one died last year.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving. Like I mentioned, it really brings me the most fun and happiness.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I have tons. Music is a HUGE part of my life. I even collect carolers that I display at Christmas time. I'd say my few most favorites are, "Good King Wenseslas" "Still, Still, Still" "Away In A Manger" "Some Children See Him".

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sometimes, the Circle Of Life just sucks...

My hubby's grandma, or my "grandmother-in-love" as she likes to say, has to move.

She's lived on the same street in Yonkers, NY--just a burrough over from her birthplace, the Bronx--for close to 30 years. She and her husband moved into the current apartment (which is actually a home, divided into one apartment per floor) in 1987, just up the street a few houses from where they had resided before. Her husband died in that apartment, less than a year later. It's the home that we have always come to when we visited NYC. It's the spot we always picture her in when we call her to check in. It is filled with her Hummels, her photographs of my children, her wonderful Grandma smell, and her spirit.

And now, she is leaving. The house is being sold, and the current trend is for new owners to come in and restore the house to its original single family dwelling. So she must leave that place and find another. And Grandma is not well. She suffers with chronic pain and limited mobility now, her 91 year old body finally deciding to act its age, after years of it behaving a good 20-30 years younger. So, when she leaves this home, it won't be for another place filled with her things. It will be for a place where she can have "assisted living".

My heart aches for her in a way that I couldn't have imagined. To have to leave all that she has spent her life gathering...all that she feels comforted by and that reminds her of the times and people she loves. Grandma Peg has always been fiercely independent. When she was in her early 80's, I asked her once what she did to fill her time. She stated without a hint of getting the humor in it: "I drive old people to their doctors appointments."

There is just no way to soften the blow of this for her. We live half a country away, and even if we were close by, there is just no fixing this. All we can do is pray and hope that she will find some comfort in the situation. She is a wonderful, lovely, and very sad lady right now.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bad mommy day...

This was my husband's drill weekend for Army Reserves. Mommy doesn't like drill weekend. Daddy is gone and the kids always decide to see if they can make the veins in Mommy's neck turn blue and poke out as she "whispers" to them in church.

We got to church late (see: drill weekend), and because there are so many of us, there was no place to sit inside the chapel. So we're crowded on the couch in the foyer and I am alternately chasing after little ones and giving the stink eye to the big ones for not helping. I was NOT in a loving, kind, patient, motherly type of mood. I was in a "will you sit down and stop touching each other and NO you cannot eat that and for the love of Pete I will clock each and every one of you if you don't start behaving" mood.

Then, because God is just that cruel, the gentleman that teaches an early morning scripture study class I attend walks by. He has never met my family before, so he stops and wants to visit and say hello. Trying to be friendly and engage my kids, he says: "So, how is she for a mom??"

They. All. Just. Sat. There.

Like deers in the headlights. Fake little smiles plastered on their faces. You know, the look like when you take a huge bite of something repugnant and then the cook wants your honest opinion on whether or not you liked it??

Finally my 9 year old piped up: "She's....goooood???"

Oh, yeah. You heard me right. HE PHRASED IT AS A QUESTION.

Bad, bad mommy day.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why don't you come with me, little girl...

...on a magic carpet ride. (if you don't know what song that lyric is from and don't instantly start singing it in your head, well, then, I just feel sorry for you.)

I won a prize. Carpet. 630 sq. feet of it. Seriously! You have to know my family to appreciate the utter shifting of the balance of power in the universe that my winning this has caused.

We don't win stuff. It just doesn't happen. Okay, yes, there has been the odd talent show or cake decorating contest (Most Patriotic, thank you very much) but those were based on SOME measure of merit. We don't EVER win things that you just sign up for and then are randomly plucked from obscurity to get a prize.

In fact, there is a running joke in our family. Our kids will see some thing on TV saying to "Sign up to win the brand new QRY!!! You could be the Grand Prize Winner!!" and they will start getting excited, saying, "Dad, we should totally enter that contest!! We could win a new QRY!!"

"We aren't going to win a new QRY."
"But, why??"
"What is your last name?"
"Uh huh. Well, _____s don't win contests."

I cannot even tell you how many times that conversation has gone on in our house.

But now, the streak is broken. And just in time for the family who was looking sadly at their not-yet-finished basement and wondering how to get everything they needed to finish it. And we're talking, how to get the rest of the drywall and paint, let alone nice carpeting for the 600 sq foot floors. That's right, 600 sq feet.

Magic carpet ride, indeed.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tag, I'm it...

Ketchup Queen, one of my favorite virtual people, has tagged me for a MeMe. I love that she thought of me. I love her devotion to ketchup, my favorite condiment. But, mostly, I love that doing this MeMe is keeping me from folding my laundry.

1. What's the scariest movie you've ever seen?

When I was little, it was The Ten Commandments. I seriously had nightmares for several days after seeing that movie in the theaters. I was just sure that the Angel of Death was going to come into our house in the night and kill my brother, because he was the firstborn. (yeah, I was a little dramatic)

As an adult, I really don't go to scary movies. (maybe PTSD over 10 commandments) but I did see "What Lies Beneath" and I gripped my hubby's arm HARD the whole time.

2. What was your favorite Halloween Costume from childhood, and adulthood?

From childhood: I once dressed as a gypsy and won a school contest. (back in the day when you had Halloween parties at school) Also, one time my brother and I got these "old people" masks and dressed as old people. We stopped at one home with a very elderly couple and the woman invited us in saying, "Oh, it's so nice to see some folks OUR age out tonight!" We thought that was Sooooooo cool. I love older folks. I should blog about that sometime.

Adulthood: Once I dressed up as every man's nightmare. I had on a green facial mask, a tattered robe, curlers, a remote control in my pocket, a box of chocolates, and gossip magazines.

3. If you had an unlimited budget, what would your Fantasy Costume be for this Halloween?

I would love to dress our entire family in costume as different characters from the Wizard of Oz. I would be Glinda, the Good Witch. Because, after all, Halloween is about becoming someone you are not.

4. When was the last time you went Trick Or Treating?

Ok. Confession time. I don't really like Halloween. It is strictly in a "have-to-get-7-children-in-costumes-and-out-the-door-and-sometimes-it-snows-that-day-and-that-is-lots-of-walking-which-usually-means-carrying-a-toddler-or-three-most-the-way-home" kind of way.
So, all my siblings and I bring their kids over to Grandma and Papou's house for chili and donuts, and then Daddy takes all our little ones out to trick or treat while I get to stay back in the warmth of my mom's house and chat with whoever didn't want to go out there, either.

5. What's your favorite Halloween Candy?

I love 100Grand bars, and Reeses cups. I also love candy corn very, very much.

6. Tell us about a scary nightmare you had.

I have nightmares all the time. Usually someone is trying to shoot me. I am generally driving, and keep thinking to myself that if I can just duck and drive away fast enough, I will be okay. I also "play dead" in dreams where people are trying to kill me. I don't know what this all means, nor am I certain I wish to know.

7. What is your Supernatural Fear?

I'm good with the supernatural. It's the here and now reality that scares the crap out of me.

8. What is your Creepy-Crawlie Fear?

Snakes. Oh. I am so scared of them that I didn't even want to write the word.

9. Tell us about a time when you saw a ghost, or heard something go Bump in the night.

I have never had any ghosts in white sheets, doors shutting, books moving kind of things happen. My experiences with the spirit world have been much different.

10. Would you ever stay in a real Haunted House overnight?

Maybe. Would my kids have to be elsewhere?

11. Are you a traditionalist (just a face) Jack O'Lantern Carver, or do you get really creative with your pumpkins?

I am a traditionalist, but we usually buy the kids those little cutting kits for fancy shapes. You know, the ones where the kids all get hyper because they want to carve out their pumpkin RIGHT NOW not pull out all the stupid seeds and where they fight because of course 2 or more kids will want to do the same design and where the kids get bored about 3 minutes into the project and whine to go outside and play so Dad ends up finishing all of them?? Yeah, we get those.

12. How much do you decorate your home for Halloween?

I have a shelf above my wall coat rack in my entry way that I decorate for each month. So I decorate about 2 1/2 feet's worth.

13. What do you want on your Tombstone?

"...and her children shall rise up and call her blessed."

And I tag TxMommy to do this meme.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Moms don't get to be sick...

This is one of those unwritten rules they don't tell you about when you are pregnant with your first child. They just figure that you'll find it out soon enough.

And you do. You find it out, big time.

Just because moms don't get to BE sick doesn't mean moms don't get to FEEL sick. Oh, no. You go right on ahead and feel like you just got hit with a MAC truck, Mommy...but there are still dishes to be washed and laundry to be folded and dinner to be cooked.

I used to feel comforted when my hubby would say, "It's OK, sweetie...don't worry about the house, just go upstairs and rest until you feel better." Uh huh. What that really means is "you rest and when you feel better, everything will still be right here...where you left it...and perhaps even a whole lot worse than you left it." Nothing can force me out of bed quicker than the thought that the longer I lay there, the more work I will have waiting for me once I get up.

And I love the little pep talks we moms get when we're sick. From the toddlers we hear wonderfully tender remarks like, "Mommy, are you in there?" while poking Mommy's eyes open. "I need a peanut butter sammitch." From the husbands we receive the loving advice, "You'll feel better if you get up and vacuum something." Tears build in our eyes as our teenagers come home from school and empathetically inquire: "What's up with you? Can you drive me over to Jessica's?" Ah, family. Nobody cares about you like they do.

So moms don't get to be sick. And you learn to live with it. Just like all the other "mom" things you learn to live with. Like afterbirth pains, longer boobs, and finding crayons in the wash. Like having "company" when going to the bathroom, Radio Disney on your car stereo, and spending 15 minutes getting your kids bundled up so they can go outside for 45 seconds and then come in soaked and needing hot chocolate.

It's what moms learn to live with, but fortunately the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

When you can't do what you're known for doing...

My almost 14 year old son broke his arm a few weeks ago.

It was his first football game of the season. And his last, as it turns out. He was starting quarterback, last year's MVP, and spent all summer in football training camps. And after one bad fall, he's done until next year.

So I've been worried. Not about his arm--after a scary couple of hours in an ambulance and emergency room, we knew his arm would heal just fine. I've been worried about his spirit.

See, my son is an athlete. Everything in his life is geared around playing sports. And he is pretty good at it, which earns him respect and a place as a leader among his peers. His focus all through fall is football. All spring it's baseball. And in between, he plays basketball just for fun. What about school, you say? Well, it's what he does to fill in time before the next practice or game. And he keeps his grades at acceptable levels so mom and dad will drive him to those practices and games. To my son, in many ways sports isn't just what he does, it is who he is.

What will he do when he can't do what he is known for doing? Like I said, I was worried.

You know my favorite times as a parent? It's when you step back and watch your child and they completely and utterly amaze you. Without so much as a hint of advice from Dad and I on how to handle himself about things, this young man has taken this situation on with the same calm confidence he used on the football and baseball fields. He attends every game, and cheers his team on. He tries to go to the practices, as well, and helps out the coaches. He has focused on scouting with a renewed determination to get his Eagle by the time he turns 16. He has even stepped up his focus on school, becoming interested in doing as well as he can, not just in doing enough to get by.

He aches at what he is missing out on, though. I see it in his face as we drive home from a game that he didn't play in. I see it in the way he kind of "hovers" around the house each afternoon when, with no practices to rush to or plays to memorize, he finds himself with too much time on his hands. But even with that, I see in him a resolve. An understanding and an acceptance. He might get down, but then he will jump up and get moving again. I wish I could say that he got that from me.

I remembered yesterday what I said to him as he was in the ER waiting to be seen by the orthopedic surgeon. He had mentioned his concern at not being able to play anymore. I said, "Spencer, I love who you are. And football has nothing to do with it."

It was true then, and even more so now.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

You so lucky...

Yesterday I waited in our pediatric dentist's office for my 7 year old to get a tooth pulled. As I did, my almost one year old toddled around the waiting room, showing off his newly acquired walking skills for Mommy. As I waited, an older Asian woman came in with her grandchildren, and she immediately engaged me in conversation.

She asked me how old my baby was, his name, those kinds of things. Then she asked me if I had "the 2". Assuming, I suppose, that I had the baby and then a child in with the dentist. So, I hesitated and gave the dreaded, truthful answer. "We have 7."

And then, something lovely happened. Her eyes lit up and she cooed! " so lucky!" She told me that she had 8 children: 6 boys, 2 girls. She asked me about mine: what ages, what genders, are they helpful, do they keep me busy, do I get to be a homemaker. She asked about my husband: what does he do, is he home a lot, does he help out, does he like having lots of children. And after every response, she replied enthusiastically, "Ooohh, you so lucky!!"

Well, I have to come right out and say that prior to this conversation with my chatty little Asian friend, I wasn't feeling so lucky. I was in the 5th day of the 30 day suckfest that is September, and had spent most of the day in one dental office or another with children who didn't want to be there anymore than I did. I was feeling a lot of things, folks...but lucky wasn't one of them.

I probably didn't speak with her for more than 10 minutes...but that sweet lady turned my heart around right then. I really AM so lucky. Blessed out the ying yang, and too stupid in that moment to see it. I had to have a stranger point it out to me.

Thank you, stranger.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On being weird...

"I'm weird."
"'re quirky. Quirky and weird are...two very different things."
--Runaway Bride

I am weird. There, I said it.

It's not that I ever tried to be weird; in fact, quite the opposite. All I ever aspired to in life was normalcy. (perhaps that is weird in and of itself!) But, I have found myself making a mental list of things I do or think that are just at home in the weird category.

For instance:

--When adjusting the television volume, I must have it on an even number. 16 or 18 is fine--17 or 19 is not. If 17 is the perfect volume at the time, I will still lower or raise it and have it too loud or too soft. Sacrifices must be made.

--I think that if I never buy a 12- or 15- seater passenger van that I can pretend I don't have 7 children and therefore retain a level of "coolness" while driving. (You know, because my filthy, white, almost-10-year-old mini-van with the "Troopers wear safety belts" license plate cover just screeeeeeams cool)

--I find myself deliberately buying odd numbers of canned goods when shopping. Look--I realize this flys in the face of my "even number only" T.V. volume thing, but in my defense: this is a complicated system, folks.

--I blow a kiss to the roof of my car and shout "Mazel tov!" when running a yellow light. (this I blame on a high school boyfriend)

--I think that "away" uniforms in football look wimpy. Therefore, I have reached the following conclusion: when they lose on the road, it's not that they don't have home field advantage. It's that they look wimpy and the other team thinks they can take them. For real.

--I have to ask my husband how old I am. This is completely understandable in the context that age is a number and numbers involve counting and counting is math and I stink at math.

--If my house is clean when a guest enters my home, I no longer care if it stays clean. They have seen it clean, and they recognize that since it was clean when they got there and now it no longer is, it is somehow their fault and not mine.

--I have to have reading material wherever I go. Bathroom, driving the kids around, doctors appointment, eating, going to a party. I have actually made myself late for things looking for something to read for if I got there early. Oh, yeah. I am just that good.

Well, I have decided to embrace my weirdness. And I invite all to do the same. Glory in your collection of eccentricities! Heaven knows somebody should.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Woman's Touch...

I've always believed that a house was the reflection of the woman who lives there. I think that the way a home is decorated and kept says volumes about what is important to the woman who claims that space as hers. How she feels about herself and those she loves; what she finds beautiful; what matters to her--it is all there within those four walls. And it doesn't seem to matter who else shares that house with her...there will be glimpses of others but the heart of that house really will be the heart of that woman.

Never was this more clear to me than this week.

We helped our dear friend say goodbye to his wife yesterday. She died this week after a long illness. And we have tried, as best as we can, to help him and his family through this painful time. When I first was told that Christie was gone, I didn't really think about much beyond the grief that her husband and 8 year old son were feeling. It didn't really occur to me what I would miss about her.

Then I walked into her home.

Suddenly I was surrounded with memories of Christie. The detailed conversation about her paint treatment on one wall; the laughing and joking in her backyard eating area; her rambunctious dogs scaling the backs of her sofas while she rolled her eyes and explained they believed they were cats.

And it wasn't just memories; it was how the house just was her. Christie. Warm, stylish, centered on family. There was the wall; the one that she patiently added photograph after photograph to until it was filled from top to bottom with the smiling faces of family and friends. Her kitchen; organized and filled with every thing she needed to be hostess to her friends. Every nook and cranny filled with something interesting to look at.

In high school, whenever I saw Christie I felt compelled to watch her. I wanted to see what she was doing and what she was wearing...she had such charisma. And I found myself feeling that again, standing there in her home. I wanted to see it all and soak it all in and just enjoy what she had put together. So I did.

After being in Christie's home, knowing she would never return, I have had cause to evaluate my own home and the legacy that lives there. I hope that when I leave this life, that my home really will be filled with me. I hope that one day, people who didn't even spend much time with me could come to my home and understand who I was. Like I was able to do with Christie. I wasn't her close friend, but being in her home...I could feel her and know her in a powerful way.

And I am grateful for that. And so I go away with her example, and I will do as she did--live my life and keep my home with my very own touch.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Listen, Kid: I'll tell you when you can think for yourself...

One of the least amusing challenges in parenting is when your children figure out that they can make up their own minds. I mean, really--how dare they? We've been doing a perfectly fine job of handling that for them. (with the exception of the time we thought we'd save money by cutting their hair ourselves, what was that?)

It starts with the day they find out that if they want to, they can refuse to wear the clothes you'd like them to. Then, its pretty much war--unless your mommy fantasies included your sweet toddler girl wearing a flowered skirt with an entirely different type of flowered blouse and bright green (a green which does not exist in nature, let alone on her skirt or blouse) snow boots. Or unless, deep in your heart, you really truly hoped that your little man's outfit of choice would be cowboy boots...and a smile.

Then it moves into a lot of other arenas having to do with what they like and don't like; who they choose to be friends with; and what they are going to do with their time.

I had some ideas. They weren't big ideas, but they were my ideas about what my kids would like, and do, and be. In a cruel streak of divine humor, my kids have exactly NO desire to even HEAR my ideas--let alone embrace them. Dang it.

"You should really think about cutting your hair, like in a bob, it'd be so cute if..."
"I don't see why you don't try out for the debate club, I mean really--all that good arguing skill just being wasted on your parents..."
"Honey, please, could you just wear this outfit, there are going to be pictures taken and people there I want to think well of me..."
"Why don't you spend more time with the little Jones boy? He seems so sweet and polite..."
"You know, when I was [insert age] I would have LOVED to have the chance to..."

But, no. The little buggers seem to be determined to to find their own way, make their own mistakes, and decide for themselves what things are of value to them. And really, when you get down to it, that is really what we should want for them. To find their own way. To discover where their hearts are, to learn what they are passionate about and what makes them happy. There are a million different ways--all fine and all legal--for a child to live their life. But I think sometimes as parents we are so afraid that their choices may bring regret that we push a little too hard for them to be what we want. And really, what we want for them is what we want for ourselves. Maybe, instead, we should become who we want to be and let our children do the same.

As we raise our children we do the best we can to instill in them the things we hold most precious. We can teach them and train them and hope it sticks. But in the end, it should be as a wise prophet once said, "we teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Toddlers & Teenagers...

There is very little difference between a toddler and a teenager, I've decided. And since I currently have more than one of both, I feel fairly qualified to make this claim.

They both:

...function under the assumption that the world revolves around them.
...scream and cry if they don't get their way.
...hate whatever is put in front of them at the dinner table.
...want to wear clothes that make no sense whatsoever.
...speak in a dialect that takes great patience to understand.
...never think anything was their fault.
...tell you they hate you when they are mad.
...NEED to have control of the T.V.
...can't sit still in church unless they are sleeping.
...try to get behind the wheel of a car in spite of the clear and present danger of them doing so.
...expect to have their needs and wants RIGHT NOW.
...spend too much time in the bathroom.
...believe life is not fair.
...make messes that they figure their mom was born to clean up.
...are at their sweetest when they are asleep.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The vocal stylings of.....Pooh Bear?

Music is as a part of me as breathing. I don't just enjoy music, I need it.

So it would follow that I enjoy watching programs about music, and the people who make it. Anyway, that's my excuse for the fact that I have been watching the third installment of MTV's 'Making the Band.'

Now, admittedly, as I watch this reality show about 5 girls, chosen by Puff Daddy/P Diddy/Diddy/Puffy Combs, I have to ignore a lot of things I don't like. While the girls themselves seem quite sweet, the clothes they wear (such as they are), their choreography (handled by the insanely talented Laurie Ann Gibson), and the lyrics to their records (usually NOT written by them) all personify the adage that Diddy himself unflinchingly states in one of the first episodes: "Sex Sells."

In my interest in understanding what it really takes in 2006 to become an artist or group, I ignore much of this. My real curiosity is with the music. The hows and whys and whats of when a record gets made. I enjoy learning about the process.

So I was really looking forward to the show as it began to follow these girls into the studio. But the more I watched, the more it became clear to me that what these girls do in the studio is exactly what they are told.

They walk into the booth after a quick run through with the producer. For one of the first records, the producer was a giant of a man named "Pooh Bear". Mr. Bear cues the music track, and the girl in the booth will sing a line or two. Then, Mr. Bear will sing it to her the way he wants it sung, and tell her to do it again. This will happen over and over again until he has her down singing it with exactly the tone, timing, annunciation, vibrato, and pitch he wants it in.

So, I ask myself: is this the "artist's" record? Is this the group "expressing themselves"? I've come to the conclusion that in today's music world--at least in the pop genre--the record belongs to the producer. The artist is merely a featured guest.

Now, I am not saying that Pooh Bear and his contemporaries aren't talented. I'm not saying they don't know how to put together a song that sounds great and will be a hit, either. They absolutely know what they are doing, and have the resumes to prove it. But whether or not the record is a hit seems to have very little to do with who is singing it. It's also the reason why so often when I turn on the radio, I have no idea who is singing something because it sounds so very similar to everybody else.

And as a music lover, I gotta say--I feel a little bit cheated.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ready or not...

Yesterday morning I was sneaking a few more minutes of sleep before getting up and engaging in the dreaded and torturous ritual I like to call "getting 7 children ready for church when you actually care about what they go to church looking like".

As I dozed, thinking about whether or not I had done a load of whites the night before and would I or would I not HAVE clean underwear for all, I heard my little boy fussing at the bottom of the stairs. He's close to 10 months, and is the cutest thing ever--next to my other kids, of course; and yours, should you be reading and also have children. :)

He kept fussing and babbling intermittently, and I kept intermittently saying, "Ok, honey--just a minute!" Until his babbles and whimpers sounded far closer than I knew they should for a child at the BOTTOM of the stairs. I jumped up from my bed to see my little man crawling to me with a very satisfied look on his face. My stomach lurched as I thought of his little never-even-tried-the-first-step-before body making it's wobbly, inexperienced way up to mommy and daddy's room. I said a silent thank you to those overworked guardian angels that hang out at our house, and held him close.

I went on with my morning, finding tights here and scriptures there, but I couldn't shake the feeling that a parent always gets when their child does something the parent didn't know they were capable of yet. That sinking reminder that we don't get to decide when they are ready to try something new. That out of control feeling. That "but the world is so big and my child is so small" feeling.

As we rushed out the door to make it to service, my 2 year old daughter was shoeless and frantic, trying to get my attention. "But Mommy!! I not ready!!"

Me neither, sweetie. Me neither.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A few words to my 14 year old former self…

Finding someone to love you shouldn’t be the only thing you care about, it’d be better if you just learned to love yourself.
You really will regret waiting for everything to be perfect before you are willing to try things.
You’re not going to marry the leader singer of Duran Duran….sorry.
That body you hate? It’s beautiful. You’re gonna miss it.
What’s happening in your family doesn’t have anything to do with God.
In fact, God really isn’t any happier about what’s going on than you are.

Take better care of your teeth.
You think you are not having kids. Not only are you going to have kids, you’re going to have SEVEN. You heard me.
Give yourself, and everyone around you, a break.

You’re going to wish you’d been quiet a lot more than you’ll wish you’d been able to say everything you were thinking. Oh, boy are you going to wish that.
Life really can be full of wonderfulness. It’s okay to shake off the dust from the bad stuff and just be happy. And, yes, Miss Smarty Pants, ‘wonderfulness’ is so a word.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Heart trouble...

I haven’t been feeling well, and it turns out I have heart trouble. Well, no trouble from the heart murmur I have had since my childhood. My blood pressure is fine, too--right where it ought to be. The actual organ seems to run fine, actually.
It’s just that while I’ve been pondering on the reasons why I haven’t felt well lately, it occurred to me that somewhere along the line, my heart has hardened up. Now, I am not talking about the arteries-are-clogged-gotta-go-for-unclogging-surgery kind of hardened.
I’m talking about the kind of hardened where my first reaction when a neighbor needs my help isn’t a willingness to do what I can, but irritation at a schedule interrupted. The kind where, when my children need me, I don’t get that maternal pull to serve, but instead I feel annoyed and put upon. The kind of hardened where, when my husband reaches out for me, I allow my own thoughts and problems to crowd him out. The kind where every single thing I should be grateful for is instead some kind of burden.
The scriptures talk about hearts being hard, or cold. A lot. Perhaps that’s because it tends to be a problem for some of us. The scriptures are good for figuring out things like that, I’ve found.
So…I’ve got some softening up to do.
And, like so many other things in life, it will happen when I stop being so dang preoccupied with myself. To soften my heart, I have to be more concerned with what others need than with what I need. It has to matter to me that the people around me feel loved and cared for—that they know they are valuable. They should understand that they mean more to me than any schedule or temporary task. It needs to be that my actions show that my heart is softened towards them…that my heart is centered on what I can give, not what I can get.
Heart trouble really is the worst kind of trouble there is. And I can’t wait to start feeling better. Something tells me everyone around me will start feeling better, too.

Monday, July 03, 2006

It's not the band aid, really....

I yelled at my 16 year old daughter yesterday.

Heavy sigh. There goes my mother of the year award. Again.

See, she had fallen, and inflicted a pretty nasty gash on her leg. And well....she wouldn't let me put a band aid on it. And that infuriated me. I know, I know, but let me explain.

I'm a mom. More importantly, I am her mom. And what is a mom's job? To fix things.
To kiss boo-boos and put on a band aid and to "make it all better."

But she is a 16 and half year old young woman now, and there is a whole lot I can't fix for her. I can't fix it when she likes a boy sooooooo much--and he doesn't like her back. I can't fix it when her friends leave her out, or hurt her feelings. I can't fix it when she struggles with her advanced classes in school. (believe me, I can't, especially math) I can't fix it when she feels uncomfortable in her own skin. I can't fix it when, in a house full of family, she feels lonely.

It hurts to know that my kisses can't mend her bruised heart, although I offer them anyway. It stings to realize that I don't have a band aid for the boo-boos to her spirit. I am her mother, and I can love her and pray for her and worry about her. I can ache for her and tell her that I understand. I can hold her when she'll let me. I can help her and comfort her and give her advice when she'll hear it. I can do all those things and yet, there is so much in her life right now that I cannot make "all better."

The opportunity to mother her that way doesn't come along as often as it used to, and frankly, I miss it. I miss being the mommy who can "make it all better" for her.

I guess that's what I was really yelling about.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

For me, a loaded question...

I have a hard time answering this question:

"How many kids do you have?"

Now, I can add. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. I have 7. Four boys, 3 girls. And it's not like my memory is that bad, I don't generally forget that little tidbit of information. It's just that...well, for me, that question is a loaded one. If I answer that question, generally 2 things happen that I am not really happy with:

1) I become "the woman with the 7 kids." From that moment on, that is how I am defined. I walk into a PTO meeting, a book group, the grocery store--and that is my introduction. "This is happymommy, she's the one with 7 kids!!!" Now, I adore my children and had each and every one of them because I wanted to, so I don't mind being defined as their mother; however, I mind being defined ONLY as their mother. I am a complex, multi-faceted woman, people!! Come on!

2) I become sort of unapproachable to moms with less children than me. I have had so many conversations with other moms that start out, "I know you probably think I am just silly for having this problem..." as though, because I have 7 children, I have never had a problem. Excuse me? I was having a nice little conversation with an aquaintance at church while we nursed our babies one Sunday in the mother's lounge. She was talking to me about some struggles she was having, and I was just enjoying listening to her. Suddenly, she gets a horrified look on her face and says, "Oh, like I can EVEN complain to YOU! I must sound so whiny and stupid to you!!" Nope. You just sound like a fellow mommy.

So, now you know why I hestitate to answer that question. It changes things.