Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in retro

In preparation for this entry, I flipped back through the archives, re-reading things from this time last year. Back then, my belly was tricked out in pre-birthin' style, as we all eagerly awaited Bobby's arrival and I had enjoyed a fabulous 40th birthday. I'm not sure if we had any grand hopes for 2009, other than the safe arrival of a healthy baby boy... but here's what else we got:

January: Celebrated Tyler's 17th birthday and braced ourselves for sub-zero temps which resulted in the kids having more days off from school then any parent should have to endure.

February/March: Celebrated Sam's 7th birthday and enjoyed counting down to the baby's due date around March 21. Imagine our surprise when the OB told us he wasn't comfortable waiting that long. We chose March 14 as the new date (I loved calling him our "Little Pi Baby"... 3.14... get it?) Then he said choose something sooner. Hello, Sunday, March 1... Bobby's Birthday. Also was fortunate enough to welcome friends and family into town that weekend for a baby shower, and meeting the newest family member the next day. Celebrated Kate's 15th birthday on the 17th with a party here at the house. Looking forward to Sweet 16 in 2010!

April: Celebrated Easter (Orthodox) and marveled at how wonderfully Jeff executes home improvement projects. He would continue to amaze me the remainder of the year with these projects.

May: Enjoyed a lovely Mother's Day. I love that Jeff and I are blessed with six children in this incredible "yours, mine & ours" family. I would change nothing. Ever.

June: Jeff and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. One year down,... and looking forward to countless more. Never imagined a love like this was really out there to find. And I am so grateful to have found it. Also celebrated my nephew's graduation from high school, which led me to realize that, even though he was born at the end of my senior year of college,... I can't possibly be that old. Yet.

July: Was witness to the first ever "Cameron Brothers Fireworks Extravaganza." If you ever want to see Jeff and James regress to, say, 10 years old and giggle themselves silly, give them a bag of fireworks and a fire source. Then stand back. Waaaay back. We also celebrated Jeff and James' 39th birthday this month. (Jeff and I reminisced back to one year earlier when we learned I was pregnant on their birthday. This resulted in a few photographs featuring Jeff wearing a tense, polite smile on the outside, while freaking the hell out on the inside.) A much more jovial party this year, despite my job having been axed mid-month. Yet another lesson on learning to roll with the punches.

August: Jack and Charlie began their first season of PAL football, and proceeded to love every last minute of it. They also celebrated their 10th birthday at the end of the month. Additionally, I celebrated the start of school this month, and we all were happy to see Bobby sprout his first two teeth.

September/October: These eight weeks -- give or take -- were a blur of Jack and Charlie's football games and Tyler and Kates marching band competitions. Spent a lot of time in the car, and kudos to Sam and Bobby for being tolerant and supportive of their older siblings' schedules. Jack and Charlie's football season ended with a tough loss in the championship game. They had a shot at redemption when they were invited to play with the intermediate squad at their championship game. Unfortunately, luck was not on their side and they endured a loss there too.

November: We were fortunate to see great honors bestowed on our kids for their hard work. First, Jack and Charlie were awarded Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, respectively, at their football awards banquet. I may have nearly burst with pride. Next, the Snider Marching Band placed well enough at semi-state to perform at the state competition at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy. Their season ended with an eighth place finish at state. I think I can speak for Jeff when I say we are enormously proud of all the kids' accomplishments and honors, and mostly the hard work they put into their activities. The month ended with Tyler and Kate enjoying a marching band trip out East to march in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day parade. They also visited NYC and had a blast. We missed them over the holiday, but we also traveled East (not quite as far, though) to spend the holiday with my family near Buffalo. While we were there, we took Jack, Charlie, Sam and Bobby to Niagara Falls. A bit cold and misty, but a breathtaking sight nonetheless.

December: With everyone back home from traveling, we prepared for the holiday with our traditional tobogganing trip and enjoyed spending time together. The day we left, Tyler received notification he'd been accepted to Butler University. Then, on Christmas Eve, the mail brought an acceptance letter from Indiana University as well. Talk about two great Christmas gifts!Despite losing power from 7am to noon Christmas Day, it was wonderful. We welcomed family members over for dinner, and--somehow--everything came together beautifully for dinner. I celebrated my 40+1 birthday... with Jeff surprising me with my favorite lunch from Chipotle, a really good book and a crossword-puzzle-a-day calendar. This, I am sure, we BOTH will enjoy throughout 2010.

I noticed we had a lot to celebrate this past year. Sure, we faced challenges and stressful situations, but those aren't even worth mentioning. Looking forward to 2010 being a wonderful year, full of happiness, health and laughter... and wishing that to you and your family as well!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Photo Album-Phase II

Since Jeff and I have been together, we have kicked off the kids' holiday break with a tobogganing trip. It's a favorite tradition we created for our new family. We rent a cabin, bring an assortment of goodies to eat and hit the toboggan run. The track is refrigerated, so there needn't be snow. This photo of Kate, Jeff and cousin Chloe was snapped before I realized my camera settings were all jinky. Sorry guys.

The boys were hanging out with me and Bobby during the first tobogganing session to serve out a punishment for in-car fighting on the drive up to the park. Yes, such behavior from these sweet, angelic faces. Shocking.

Nothing like waking up to a surprise snowfall! And it kept the kids busy as we packed up the cabin to head home.


Sam, on our walk down the path to the lake. Immediately after this was taken, Tyler launched a snowball at him, and thus began a hilarious snowball fight between those two and Chloe.



See? If I were Tyler, I'd have run. I think Sam and Chloe could totally hold their own against him. And, in fact, they did.


View across the lake on a cold, wintry morning.


Had to give some perspective on the toboggan run. The black dot in the left chute is a toboggan coming at us. That hazy black box that looks kind of like a tree house is the top of the tower where the trip begins. It's about five stories high. How do I know this? I counted every last one of the stairs we climbed the night before--as we carried heavy, wooden toboggans. If memory serves, it's something like a quarter mile track, completely iced, allowing for speeds up to 30-40 mph. Our highest speed was 32-34mph, I think. When you drive it in your car, it doesn't seem so fast. Try flying down an icy chute from five stories up at that speed. I promise. It's. Fast.

This is our Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Notice the absence of twinkly lights. This is because at approximately 6:50am, our power went out. It stayed out for the better part of five hours. Five. Hours. We had ourselves an old-fashioned Pioneer Christmas and opened presents by lantern. (Don't let this photo fool you... it was d-a-r-k. The flash on the camera is just doing its job.) Note that the photo is wide enough for you to enjoy a peek at the shelves in the kitchen and our DVDs. I'm sure this is largely due to the fact that when Jeff was taking the photo he couldn't see anything in the viewfinder. Remember? Because it was DARK. I swear there's a really groovy star on the tree (my 40+ year old family star) and gifts underneath, even though you see none of this.

And would this photo montage be complete without a picture of Bobby experiencing his first Christmas? Again, the camera flash did a super job of lighting him; although after about five pictures, we all but begged Jeff to stop for fear of permanently blinding the tyke. Here, he is opening a set of wooden alphabet blocks. Pioneer Christmas, indeed!

Holiday Photo Album-Phase I

The craziness of the holidays is nearly over, and I finally carved out time to download a ton of photos from the past several weeks. I'd chat more, but I want to get two posts in today. Enjoy!


First of only two pictures taken on Thanksgiving Day. Aunt Patty making gravy. And, apparently, shunning the papparazzi.


Second of two photos. Jack being..., well... Jack. This is the child I have to beg and bribe to give me at least one good smile per photo. On Thanksgiving, I just went with what he gave me and counted it as a blessing. Besides, I had already won a battle that day--he's wearing a collared shirt AND jeans, rather than his usual t-shirt and warm-ups.

The lot of us at Niagara Falls the day after Thanksgiving. While others braved crowded, overheated shopping malls, we braved the elements and trekked the short 30 min. from Buffalo to Niagara. Obviously, there was wind (see the wall-o-hair covering half my face?) and some spitting rain, but we all managed to have fun. A lot of walking, but the beautiful scenery of the falls, rapids and such were so worth it!


Of course he's smiling and happy. He was strapped to me in the Baby Bjorn and as we schlepped all over Niagara Falls.



Before we left for home, we got a great photo of all the boys and Great Grandma Evelyn (Baba).


And I couldn't resist posting this one. It's up there with my all-time favorites. The story behind it is that Jeff and I were trying to get a good, smiley photo of Bobby for the Christmas card. Unfortunately, with all his enthusiastic movement, most photos were just a blur of drooling happy baby. I posted this on a Facebook album with the caption, "Laughing so hard you pee your pants isn't such a big deal when you're a baby." Or something like that.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Tis the season...

...to feel stressed.
...to get frazzled.
...to warmly embrace all the craziness that IS my life.

Time check: 11:53pm

The four youngest are asleep upstairs. I am in the kitchen, which appears to have had a cyclone strike it. In the den, two separate video game systems are idling while Tyler, Kate and friends are either walking to or walking home from another friend's house in the neighborhood. (This guy stood them up tonight on "Game Night at the Cameron's" I think. I pity the fool...) Jeff is checking out at Meijer, taking full advantage of their "Santa Bucks" promotion which ends at midnight.

Ordinarily, by this hour, I'd be all snuggled in my bed -- or somehow sleeping in an upright position, wherever I may be. Owing all this chaos to the impending holiday, I will let this breach of bedtime slide. This time.

Tomorrow, Jeff and I will rise with Bobby sometime between 6-7am. The great and powerful Oz of a coffeemaker we own will have a full pot of Starbuck's Verona ready and waiting. There will probably still be homemade play-dough in baggies on the counter. There will also probably still be a vast array of cups and paper plates scattered here and there. And there will definitely be a few crashed out teenagers sprawled out in the den.

As a person who loves organization and having things "just so," the upheaval of things is starting to make me itch a little. But I am breathing deeply... and just letting things BE. I have to be OK with it -- simply because being itchy about it will make me jackass crazy. Quickly.

The day after tomorrow -- Christmas Eve -- my parents will be rolling into town, weather permitting. That part cracks me up... "weather permitting." You know, I almost expect more from two people who lived a majority of their lives in western NY, dealing with lake effect snow/blizzards off Lake Erie and then proceeded to ridicule the drivers in South Carolina for freaking out when it snowed a quarter inch. (Yes, Mom & Dad... I'm talking to YOU. I know you read this blog.) :)

So, now... at 12:16am, all the kids are back. Jeff has returned with a few more Christmas gifts and we need to map our plan of attack for tomorrow.

Fa. La. La. La. La.
La. La.
La.
La.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So, today I had to appear in traffic court. It was a hearing where I had to either admit or deny the validity of my speeding ticket. Regardless of my firm belief that the officer clocked the car in front of me (strikingly similar to our van) yet pulled ME over, I admitted the offense just so I could get the hell out of the courtroom. The presiding judge clearly explained all options available to myself and the other dozen or so folks sitting in his courtroom. As for opting to go to trial for whatever infraction we were charged with, he offered the information, "[The state] does this all day, every day. They are VERY GOOD at what they do." Read: If you're ballsy enough to take your case to trial, you will most likely be squashed by the prosecution, resulting in additional court fees and possibly the maximum fine... which in most cases was about $500. Not one to try and rock the boat, I arranged to pay the fine assessed to me and left.

But first? There was entertainment.

Let me preface this account with a very clear statement: I, in no way, mean to offer disparaging remarks to any person who has autism, their family, friends or acquaintances. I do not mean to make light of this condition, nor do I intend to offend anyone in any way.

So here's what happened... a woman entered the courtroom (LATE! This was her first mistake) with her 10-yr-old-ish son. Clearly there were issues with the boy. He became increasingly disruptive, until the judge politely asked her to take him out in the hallway and he would call her when he got to her case. She complied. Just by looking at her, I made the (correct) assumption that when she got her chance to talk to the judge, there was going to be a show. I was not mistaken. When she was called before the judge, her son was very agitated, and proceeded to not only fidget and play in the chair in which he sat, but continually leaned over and grabbed another woman's belongings, purse, etc. off the adjacent table. I felt so bad for him -- the courtroom is not a place for children, and I couldn't believe his mother was brazen enough to bring him with her. The whole time, the mom kept barking orders at him, trying to get him to sit quietly and behave. At one point, after the boy took his mom's papers and threw them all over the floor, the judge snapped and told her in no uncertain terms that this was not a place she should bring her son.
"Common sense should tell you that," he sternly told her. Then she started to get shitty with the judge. (Second mistake.) Throughout this whole debacle, she kept saying, "I'm sorry,... he's autism." It was pretty apparent there wasn't a shred of sincerity in her voice, either. Plus... "he's autism"? Seriously? Autistic, yes. But unless he has been chosen as the poster boy for the condition, I don't think she can say that. The whole thing just reeked of her bringing him into court to gain some sort of sympathy from the bench. Needless to say, if that was her plan, it didn't work. The judge finished lighting her up with his verbal reprimand, and dismissed her as quickly as he could. As they left the room, the boy waved and said, "Bye-bye!" At this, his mother yanked him by the arm and hissed, "You shouldn't say that. He didn't really want you here." (Oops. Third mistake.)

What do you want to bet the judge made a few extra notes in her case file, hmmm?

You know what's probably going to happen, right? Sometime down the road, this is going to turn into how she was discriminated against in court and kicked out because of her autistic son.

How very sad that she thinks what she did this morning was OK. Sometimes, I really have no idea what goes through parents' minds when they pull stunts like this.

I believe Keanu Reeves' character, Tod, summed it up best in the movie "Parenthood." "You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog or drive a car. Hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any [a**hole] be a father."

True, it specifically says "father," but "mother" will work, too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bah...

I'm not even going to finish the phrase.

Is it not the most pathetic thing when a person is actually too "blah" about the holiday to even utter the complete phrase that basically tells the whole commercialized holiday to suck it? And it isn't that I'm hateful toward the holiday -- just highly unmotivated. Less than enthusiastic. Very "why bother" about the whole kit & caboodle.

Part of it could be due to last week's revelation to the boys about the existence (or lack thereof) of everyone's favorite jolly old elf. Part of it is definitely due to a budget that is giving new meaning to the word "tight."

I find myself wondering why I can't heed the advice I gave Charlie last week, when he was so upset about finding out the truth about Santa.
"Everyone gets so wrapped up in and focuses on shopping and Santa," I said. "But do you remember why we even celebrate Christmas in the first place?"

"It's when Jesus was born," he answered.

"Exactly," I said. "So before you go letting this one thing bring down Christmas for you, just remember why it's celebrated to begin with. Focus on that, and the rest will fall into place for you."

Jeff and I have so many blessings and so many things to be thankful and grateful for... why it's so hard to bring THAT into the spotlight, rather than shopping for gifts I don't know.

But I'm going to try and change it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The end of an era...

At 8:20 this morning, I had in my possession Sam's letter to Santa. He worked so hard on it--because it wasn't just a letter written on normal notebook paper. He crafted (with a little help) a construction paper Christmas tree, which he decorated with tiny Santa hats (also made with a little help from yours truly). In the body of the tree, he wrote his letter, asking for a particular NFL jersey. As I got the envelope for him, he was adamant that HE address it himself... "So Santa really knows it's from me" he said. It was adorable and it made me want to scoop him up in my arms and wallow in the cuteness of it all. After school today, we stopped at the mailbox. I pulled the van up to drop off the letter, but rather than just stopping at the driver's side window, I pulled forward a bit more and hit the button to open the back door--Sam was going to drop this one in on his own. And he did.

By 9:20 this evening, however, he had lost the wide-eyed innocence he possessed earlier in the day. Apparently, while at their dad's house, Sam, Jack and Charlie began asking questions about Santa. And so the cat was let out of the bag, so to speak; now the three of them are that much wiser where the holiday and Santa's gift-giving are concerned. But, if you ask me, I wish they hadn't found out. Not just yet. I knew this day would come, and to be honest, I really thought it would have already happened for Jack and Charlie. But Sam? He's only seven. Make that seven-and-a-half... and I have to say, as I write this, I could just burst into tears. Is it selfish to have wanted just one more year? Especially since I watched him create such a wonderful, creative letter for Santa just last night? I know with Bobby heading into his first Christmas at just 9 months, we're in for many, many years of Christmas magic featuring Santa and his team of tiny reindeer. But for a long time, up until last March, Sam was my "baby." I sometimes feel like he jumped way ahead of things because he wanted so desperately to keep up with his older brothers--like he went straight from Sesame Street to Star Wars. And I have to say... this makes me monumentally sad. Not just knowing how quickly he grew up (and IS growing up), but that this is a huge reminder that he can't stay a little kid forever. None of them can.

I am almost wishing and hoping the Post Office deems Sam's letter "undeliverable," and returns it to us. (I made sure I had the return address clearly written in the upper left corner.) I think I'd like to keep this one, this last one, for a long, long time.

I think with the boys on the "other side" of the Christmas magic now, things will be extra special for Bobby in the coming years. Jack, Charlie and Sam will be able to help pull off special surprises for their little brother, and experience the joy of seeing him wide-eyed with the wonder of the holidays... just as I have done for them for the past 10 years. But I will still miss seeing the magic of Christmas in their eyes.




Monday, December 7, 2009

Toothpicks are next...

All I've wanted today is to go back to sleep for a little while. Right now, I'm about to dig through the cupboard for the box of toothpicks and prop my eyelids open.

It all began this morning, when I dragged myself out of bed sometime between 6 and 6:30am, I looked back at my nice fluffy pillow and sighed. Got everyone up and in the middle of the get-ready-for-school-shuffle, I noticed a dusting of snow on the driveway. How lovely, I thought. Fast forward 25 minutes when we sailed through the second intersection in our neighborhood and "lovely" was the last possible word on my lips for the snow... or the glass-like sheet of ice that was hidden underneath. Driving to school takes 25 minutes at the very most on any given day. Today? It took nearly an entire hour. Wrecks were everywhere and just before reaching school, I heard that a portion of a road in town had actually been closed because it was too hazardous for travel.

And WTH am I doing driving my kids across town to school in such insane conditions? I'd tell you, but the story is long and unbelievable. We'll save that for another time.

Anyway, after making sure the kiddos were on their way to class (a full 30 minutes late, but the secretary said they weren't counting tardies today because of the weather) and I loaded up the baby and myself to venture home. Another hour later, we arrived home where I basically dropped off the baby to Jeff and headed out again to run a few mandatory errands. Finally home again around noon, and all I could think of was perhaps grabbing a nice nap before heading back over to pick up the boys from school. No. Such. Luck. Before I knew it, it was 2pm, and back into the car again I went. Of course, afternoons at our house are generally not conducive to napping (unless your name is Bobby--then, it's your JOB) so I have felt like a walking zombie since about 3:30pm.

An hour and a half left before the boys' bed time. Wish me luck.

I certainly don't mean to be bitching and whining about being tired. I mean,... on any given day, are there really any of us who wouldn't trade just about anything for a nice, leisurely nap? I don't know what it is... maybe I'm fighting off some bug,...maybe I over-did things yesterday when Jeff was at work and I was alpha-parent here with the kids... who knows. Maybe I'm just being a big wuss. Whatever it is, I hope it's cured by a good night of sleep.

On a brighter (and somewhat graphic) note, I got to unwrap the splint I've been wearing since surgery last Wednesday. Someone should've told me that the pain meds were actually meant for use after the splint is removed. Ouch. I seriously don't think my wrist hurt this bad the day of the actual procedure. And before everyone gets all riled up and worried that I've become some kind of Vicodin addict, let me assure every last one of you that is far from the case. Seriously.

The boys were super impressed with the de-bandaging, with which Jeff was willing to assist. The only thing I'm a bit self-conscious about now is the incision closed with five tidy stitches on the inside of my wrist. I have a feeling I'm going to get a few "concerned" looks from well-meaning/nosy strangers. You know the look. The one that says, "Oh-that-poor-woman-must've-tried-the-unspeakable," or "Is-she-really-as-stable-as-she's-trying-to-make-us-believe-she-is?"

I should just look at them, perhaps twitch my eye a time or two and whisper, "All I wanted was a nap..."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

oh, s**t...

This? Is what happens when the main sewer line in your house ends up blocked. This will make your husband call your cell phone 10 times in eight minutes in an absolute panic, telling you to please come home right away because he has to go to Menard's to buy a snake to clear the blocked pipe. And, by the way, no one can use toilets, sinks, showers, etc. until the problem is cleared up.
When the 25-ft. snake he bought doesn't get the job done, you have to call Roto-Rooter ON SATURDAY to come fix the blocked line. This causes much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And when you hear how much it's going to cost to have the Roto-Rooter guy solve this problem on one of the two days a week when you incur off-hour charges, you pretty much watch Christmas swirl down the newly flushable toilet like a... well, you get the picture.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I blame the Vicodin...

Right now, I have three 10-yr-olds and two 7-yr-olds (all boys, by the way) in the den watching "A Christmas Story."


What the hell was I thinking?


Just kidding. We planned this sleep-over night a long while back. I had a grand idea of designating tonight as one of our first holiday treat baking nights, letting the five extra pairs of hands help where they could. At the very least, I'd have five expert treat tasters. Then, I was scheduled for surgery on my wrist this past Wednesday and,... well... once I realized how very incapacitated I would be, plans changed.


I snapped this with my good hand Wednesday afternoon while I took up residence on the den sofa. The problem had been a cyst which had formed just below the area where your thumb meets your wrist. It's the part where nurses will take your pulse. Having a cyst there felt like having a badly sprained wrist. Constantly. And this is my dominant arm... which means I continually hoist my purse and the diaper bag onto my right shoulder. Doing this with what feels like a sprained wrist was less than comfortable. All. The. Time. So, it had to come out.

Now, two days post-procedure, things are OK. I overdid things a bit yesterday, but Jeff was working, so I was alpha-parent in charge of Bobby for 24 hours. I am prohibited from lifting anything greater than 10 pounds. Darling Bobby is well over 10 pounds. In fact, he tipped the pediatrician's scale at 20 lbs., 6 oz. at his check-up today. All day yesterday, I had to be creative and, above all, careful as I lifted him and carried him around. I managed, just shy of assembling a staggering display of ropes and pulleys. But today? Oy vey, am I paying for it. I skipped my pain meds yesterday, opting out of being high as a kite on Vicodin while driving the kids to and from school. Today, however, since Jeff is here, my two little white pills every six hours has been a slice of pain-free heaven.

So, anyway, back to the room full-o-boy I have here. I'd love to say I blame my decision to host this overnight extravaganza on the painkillers. However, as I said, we planned this night a while ago. I feel kinda bad that I'm not going full Betty Crocker and providing a bit of holiday baking fun. But the boys are watching "A Christmas Story," and playing video games. And as luck would have it, Kate and Dylan are here in the kitchen ready to start baking some cookies. How I lucked into an evening of holiday movies AND cookies (that I'm not responsible for baking) I'll never know... but I sure wouldn't trade it for anything.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Roadtrip Recap

Well... we made it.

We survived our trip to New York and back, although there were a few moments in the car when I seriously had my doubts. I was sure someone (and by someone, I mean ME) would end up riding home strapped to the rooftop luggage rack. At least with the wind whistling in my ears, I wouldn't be hearing the seemingly incessant, often obnoxious boy-chatter from the back of the van.

We actually left within 30 minutes of our target time on Wednesday morning. For us? That's phenomenal. The trip over was broken up with a stop after 2.5 hours at my parent's house in Ohio. After a brief stretch and mandatory bathroom break, we were on the road again for the final four-hour stretch to western NY. Seeing my grandmother that night was terrific -- it had been a few years since the boys and I made the trip out East. And this time, she got to meet Jeff and Bobby.

Thursday, we rode over to my aunt's house for the family feast. I was on cloud nine seeing my family, introducing everyone to Jeff, watching their reactions to how Jack, Charlie and Sam had grown, and getting their first look at Bobby. Before we went in the house, however, I briefed Jeff.

"We're a loud bunch," I told him. "There are a lot of us, so when we all get together and everyone's talking, we're always trying to talk over other people... it can get pretty obnoxious." He just smiled.

So, of course, we get inside and walk smack into a wall of noise. Ahhhh... family. The rampant conversation was peppered with lots of laughter, and hugs abounded. It wasn't long before dinner was ready, and we all dug into a wonderful feast. Even Bobby sat on my lap and that little stinker ate nearly my entire helpings of sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. He just kept looking up at me with those clear blue eyes... mouth agape and ringed with bits of orange...how could I resist? And speaking of things hard to resist...I have to mention the pie buffet. At the end of our holiday dinner, we had not just a couple of pumpkin pies to enjoy, but an actual BUFFET of pies to choose from. Three or four pumpkin pies were joined by two apple, a chocolate pudding pie, orange chiffon and... oh, shoot. I know I'm forgetting one, but I forgot nothing when I went to get dessert for Jeff and myself. I assembled a modest slice of each pie, spanning two plates -- a "Pie Sampler" I called it, and was not ashamed to dig in and enjoy every last delicious, whipped-cream-laden bite. (Even though my mom was wide-eyed with disbelief at the pile-o-treats. All I could say was, "This? Is why I run.")

The next day, we took the boys up to Niagara Falls. They hadn't been there in a few years, and none of them really seemed to remember it. They had a good time, and even Bobby enjoyed the scenery as he hung on me in the Baby Bjorn carrier. We had lunch at Hard Rock Cafe, then visited the aquarium. By the end of the afternoon, we'd had our fill of the area, and headed back to the hotel.

We headed back home Saturday morning, after visiting again with my grandma. The trip home seemed like it took forever--largely because Jack & Charlie lost use of their Nintendo DSs for a rule infraction the previous day. Let's just say when two 10-yr-old boys get going with "boy humor" and the Pict-o-chat feature on their DS games, nothing good can come of it.

All in all, though, despite the ride home testing every last nerve Jeff and I had to offer... it was a great few days. I loved seeing my family, and it reminded me how thankful I should always be-- I have, not only my wonderful husband and great kids, but a fantastic extended family as well. Even if it can be almost deafening when we all get together, there's also lots of pie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Giving of the Thanks

The last week has been a blur. Not really sure why, since life around here really hasn't seemed to spin any faster than usual. Regardless, my "me time" on the computer was slim to none, so no posts. :( If it's any consolation, I've written a baker's dozen of them in my head over the past several days. Too bad none of you are mind-readers. You'd have been laughing your asses off if you had. Yes, they were that good.

With Thanksgiving just about here, I have been trying to make a conscious effort to think of things I am thankful for every day. And not just the generic "I'm thankful for my family and friends and our health, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah." Don't get me wrong. I am totally thankful for those things. Really. But sometimes you have to look for the tiny things -- the things that you might otherwise overlook as the days go zipping by. Such as...

I am thankful for car rides with the boys when they aren't arguing or bickerng.

I am very thankful for my wonderful husband, Jeff, who can fix/build/attend to just about anything in the house. (You should see my new laundry area... it's all that and more. And I am not ashamed to admit I am totally charged about a laundry area.)

I am thankful for the timer on the coffee-maker, which makes getting out of bed at 6am on a dark, cold morning just a bit easier to bear, knowing my coffee is made and waiting for me.

I am thankful for the way Jeff and I can catch each other's gaze across the room and connect for that brief second or two. Those moments fill my heart with such a quick burst of joy and love.

I am thankful for infants' Motrin, which eases Bobby's teething pain.

I am thankful for wonderful, irreplaceable friends. You know who you are.

I am thankful for lower gas prices, making our trip to NY to visit family totally do-able on a tight budget.

I am thankful for any time one of the kids remembers to rinse the dish/glass/bowl they were using.

I am thankful for talented, gifted individuals who bring me episodes of my favorite television shows: Grey's Anatomy and The Office. Some weeks those 90 collective minutes are just about the only ones in which I sit and relax. Thank you for your amazing writing.

And, last but certainly not least... I am thankful for each and every person who reads and enjoys this blog. I may not know who you are, or how many people read, but I'm glad you're there.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Silent Night, Holy.. hell is breaking loose

The four youngest children and I were all in the car last night. Jack and Charlie were playing Nintendo DS games, commenting on every last move. Sam was also playing a DS, yet still had it in him to carry on lengthy conversations/arguments with both brothers and myself. Constantly. Bobby fussed and cried the entire time, most likely due to a teething issue.

Somewhere along the way, I decided it would be a great idea to turn on the radio and enjoy some very early holiday music. Yes. Holiday music. There are two local stations that have currently replaced their usual playlist with an endless cavalcade of holiday tunes. One station boasts being "Fort Wayne's First Official Holiday Music Station." Well, naturally... when you begin playing Christmas carols in the first week of November, you're bound to be first.

But I digress...

About two-thirds into our trip, the noise level was nearly deafening. Between the chatter, video games and Bobby's intermittent wailing, I could hardly hear myself think, let alone the song on the radio. But in a rare moment, a pause in the chaos... I nearly laughed out loud when I did hear the song being played:

"Silent Night" sung by the legendary Frank Sinatra.

Dear, sweet, dearly departed Mr. Sinatra... you have obviously never been in my car-full-o-children.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Anticipation Thursday

Who doesn't like having something to look forward to?

No one... that's who.

I am looking forward to the next several days, nearly giddy with anticipation because...
1.) Tonight is possibly just the greatest night for television. The Office, 30 Rock and Grey's Anatomy. Bliss.

2.) I get to go to Indianapolis tomorrow and spend belated birthday time with Shipley. For years, I have made it down to the big city in October to celebrate her birthday. Oh, yes. We whoop it up big time. Usually a nice dinner or lunch somewhere, followed by a trip to Target. Or Kohl's. Or both. To us, this constitutes a great time. I mean, just hanging out and schlepping around with your best friend of 20+ years? What isn't to like?

3.) We are expecting relatives from Illinois on Saturday for Festivus. Yes, we stole that from Frank Costanza on "Seinfeld." But last year we were desperate to get everyone together for the holidays, and schedules weren't jiving with traditional dates. So we picked a weekend that worked for everyone and had "Festivus for the Rest of Us." It was great fun: the exploding pot-o-spaghetti (and the Chicago deep-dish pizza that was promptly ordered afterward), a very special visit from The Unibomber during the guys' poker game, a day at Brookfield Zoo and having the place to ourselves, a lovely window-shopping stroll through Crystal Lake with Stacy and Jenny... just having family together to visit, laugh, chat, laugh, drink good coffee and laugh. Oh, did I mention the laughter? We are a quirky, funny bunch.

4.) Getting the Christmas decorations out Sunday and getting them organized. We have designated the Sunday before Thanksgiving as our chief decorating day. All the kids will be home, and I foresee a big hot pot of something extra-good for dinner that night while we put up the tree. The following week, Tyler and Kate travel out east with the marching band while we are perhaps road tripping to NY for the holiday. How nice it will be to all return home to our beautifully decorated home, ready for Christmas!

All of these things are well worth anticipating. And photos will follow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Long-lost friend

I call myself a writer. Most days, though, I feel like a big, fat fraud. How on earth can I even think of myself as a writer when all I seem to have time for is thinking about writing? Should that be my occupation?

Random person: "Hi! Nice to meet you. What do you do?"

Me: "I'm a thinker."

Random person: ????

At any given moment, I am thinking about how I would write something. Driving the kids to school, cooking dinner, folding laundry... chances are I am mulling over something that has happened or is on my mind and having an internal dialogue on how I would write it -- if I were sitting at the computer. Several years ago I received an AlphaSmart for Christmas. If you know not of what I speak, it's a small, portable keyboard that is powered by a handful of AA batteries. It holds about eight files, and the files can hold an impressive number of words. It is truly a writer's best friend -- unfortunately, mine is currently hiding in a pile of importance somewhere. Yesterday, I spent 90 minutes in the waiting room of a medical building. How lovely it would have been to have whipped out the AlphaSmart and tip-tap-typed my way to writer's bliss! As it stood, I watched Jack read (and finish) a book and Charlie begin (and finish) all of his homework. Sam and I occupied our time by smooshing our green-colored gum up against our teeth, then taking pictures of ourselves with my phone, smiling with "green teeth." (Some might argue where the intellectuals are in the family after that comment, but I say laughter makes time fly a lot faster! Now THAT'S smart!)

Long story short, I am unearthing my trusty AlphaSmart today. I will dust it off, replace batteries and pledge to carry it with me and MAKE myself a writer, damn it. For real.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What's worth 1,000 words?

These pictures, that's what.



This past Sunday we attended Jack and Charlie's football banquet. When awards and trophies were presented, the green squad was up first. I was aware the boys would receive a trophy for JV-North Division Champions--which was very nice.

What I wasn't aware of, was that these boys... the boys who regularly arrived at practice 15 minutes early to run down pass after pass from the coaches, who ran warm-ups and sprints with every ounce of energy they had, who threw themselves heart, soul and spirit into every play of every game this season to the point of tears when they lost their bid for the city championship... these boys were awarded for their effort. Jack was named JV-Green Defensive Back of the Year and Charlie was named JV-Green Offensive Back of the Year.

And, once again, I was a proud Mama Duck. :)

Seeing them awarded and recognized for their efforts went far beyond "hey-you-did-a-great-job-this-season." For me, watching my sons receive the awards from their coach made me realize all their work so far--both on and off the playing field--is coming full circle. For years I've watched them "play football." Now, Jack and Charlie are football players... and I cannot wait for next year. They won't be part of the "new kids" anymore. They will be well-versed in the warm-ups, drills and plays and I hope they will grow into leadership roles for the incoming green squad boys.

Congratulations, Jack and Charlie. You continue to make your family proud! :)




Foul weather is not our friend

So, I may have been a bit hazy on the end of the boys' football season. Their team consists of varsity and junior varsity divisions, with JV split into a green squad and orange squad. Jack and Charlie were on green, as this was their first season with the team. All three levels moved to playoffs, but the green squad's championship hopes were squashed with a devastating loss on October 24. The weather was disgusting -- temps in the 40s, alternating rain/mist and a bitter wind. We arrived at their game a few minutes after kickoff, and proceeded to watch the boys participate in every play through all four quarters. The kids had been out at the field an hour before the game started, so they'd had a head start on being cold and wet. Things didn't get any better, either. By the end of the game, the score was 7-0, and the Raiders were on the losing end. Coach Torres gave the boys a quick talk as varsity took the field for their game. I saw Charlie's face through his helmet facemask--he was crying. My heart immediately broke, and my own eyes filled with tears. This team of 10-yr. olds had given this game everything they had... and it came down to one play that lost it for them. Charlie's fingers were so cold, he couldn't get his helmet unsnapped, and an assistant coach stepped in to help him. They were dismissed, and Jack turned to face me. He, too, was crying. The boys came up to me, and I realized as Charlie threw his arms around me for a hug that his right wrist was wrapped with athletic tape. Apparently on one of the first plays of the game, he'd injured it slightly at the bottom of a pile-up. Jack then informed me he felt like he was going to throw up. I quickly ushered them away from full view of the spectators on the bleachers and tried to further assess the situation. It was a bit frantic, but we eventually got to the car and warmed up. They felt much better--Charlie's wrist was sore, but at least Jack's stomach had settled down. The next day, Coach called to ask how Jack was feeling and how Charlie's wrist was shaping up. I hadn't known that Jack felt unwell the entire game; he wanted to sit out, but the team needed him and he toughed it out. I assured Coach both boys were fine, although nursing the disappointment of losing their chance of playing in the championship game. He had good news, though. Because of their performance on the green squad, the coaching staff asked if they would like to practice and possibly play on the orange squad the following weekend in their championship game. Needless to say, the boys excitedly accepted and planned to extend their season by a few more days. Saturday arrived, and the playing conditions were just as awful as they had been for the game the green squad lost. It had rained a good two days or so prior, and the wind that morning could be felt swaying the van as we drove the interstate over to the game.




Do you see the standing water/mud puddles beyond the banner?

Jack (gray coat) and Charlie (red sweatshirt) on the sidelines as the game gets underway.

And the grassy, uh... muddy field. Charlie on the sidelines later in the game. Where is Jack you wonder? He would be in the locker room... throwing up. We now know that when Jack is mildly hypothermic (a.k.a., really, really, really cold) his body will react by vomiting. Good to know. And that day? The boys were really, really, really cold. Soaking wet and muddy after warm-ups. Yes, I see the irony there. Do you?
In the end, the Raiders couldn't match the Packer's lone touchdown, and they lost 7-0. Again. For Jack and Charlie, this was now two tough losses -- yet they still love the game and play hard no matter what. The only consolation for me was sitting in the stands with Packer fans around us cheering--because some lady next to us constantly yelling "GO PACKERS!" ended up sounding like she was saying "GO PECKERS!" Oh, come on... you would laugh too. And she was borderline obnoxious, so it made it much more funny.

At the end of the game, I just wanted to turn to her and say, "Well, our team may have lost, but at least we aren't a bunch of peckers."




Sunday, November 8, 2009

October 31, 2009

Goal achieved. Proud parent moment: Tyler playing his solo on the jumbotron screen


Waiting for the judging results.At the end of the evening, after seeing 10 fabulous bands perform, the results were tallied. Snider received a respectable 8th place finish. Congratulation to the Snider marching band on a wonderful season! What a wonderful memory for Tyler's senior year. :)



When hard work pays big

Back in early August, Tyler and Kate (and the rest of the Snider HS marching band) began working on their competition show. Even before school began, these kids endured eight hours every day in the school parking lot -- in the often oppressive Indiana heat and humidity. They came home almost every day smelling of sunscreen and wet with sweat... hungry and exhausted. They fell into bed relatively early, only to rise the next morning and arrive at school by 9am. As the school year got underway, their practices were from 3-5pm each day, with extended hours on Thursday evenings. There were performances at football games on Friday nights, only to have to be up and at school before 7am Saturday, putting in hours of practice before departing for out of town competitions. Quite often, they would not return home until well after midnight -- sometimes 1-2am. As all this was going on, the kids were expected to handle classwork, tests and exams without missing a beat.

Their goal? Make it to state and play at Lucas Oil stadium. They narrowly missed going last year. Their fate would be determined on October 24 at semi-state competition in Indianapolis. The top 10 bands would advance to state competition on October 31. The weather in Fort Wayne that morning was less than desirable--cold, rainy, gross. As luck would have it, everything cleared and the kids had a sunny (albeit brisk) afternoon to perform in Indy. They brought it -- and brought it big time.

Kate during performance... she's in the center.

And here is Tyler's solo...

The entire band...

And the trophy for being a top 10 finishing band. On to state! And the added bonus? Both Tyler and Kate finished the first grading period with an A in every subject and on the honor roll.





Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Post-season

Last night marked the end of the boys' football season. The coach informed us of the traditional "fun practice" on the last night, where the team just plays a scrimmage game. Unfortunately, the boys' expectations were NOT met, and last night they proceeded to laundry list the reasons they weren't happy with the game. It became clear that this last hurrah was really a chance for the outgoing varsity players to have some fun and end on a high note -- even if that meant the coaches and refs bent the rules of play a little to give the older boys an advantage. (But really, when you're 12 and playing against 9, 10 and 11 year olds... don't you already have the advantage?)

Today we turn in equipment at the PAL center. I clearly remember the day Jack and Charlie got their equipment, when their eyes literally sparkled with anticipation of the coming season. Today? I predict I will see two boys who have grown in both their love of the sport and skill level. They will take with them memorized plays, the language of which still sounds like jibberish to me. They will take with them the pride in always playing hard and giving their all -- and never, NEVER quitting.

I will take with me the rush of pride and spirit I felt when I saw 8 and 12 out on the field. And a whole bunch of photographs of the same.

Together we will look forward to next year, when they will move up to the JV orange squad. We will anticipate them beginning practices in the sweltering, often-oppressive heat of August, and ending their season at a championship game on a crisp, cool October morning.

Here's to you Jack and Charlie... and the rest of the Raiders. Great job this season. There may not be a trophy with your name on it this year, but go forward and make next year YOUR year!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Snapshots

How many kids does it take to dislodge a football from the neighbor's brilliantly colored tree? Apparently just four. Because the adult who walked over to help (me) was absolutely no help at all.

Sam hard at work carving his pumpkin. While it struck fear into the depths of my soul, I let him use a safety knife to do the dirty work. Yes, even a safety knife makes me uneasy. 'Cause, really? Any implement called a "knife," isn't 100 percent safe to me.

These are the rest of the pumpkin creations. From left, Jack's, Charlie's and Kate's. These were made at James & Jenny's annual pumpkin party last weekend. It's a great party -- you BYOP (bring your own pumpkin) and they provide all sorts of decorations. And food. Lots of delicious food. Unfortunately, Sam had a rough time last weekend and found himself grounded... thus missing the party. Hated to do it, but when you're seven, you don't mouth off to and disrespect your mother. Ever. It all worked out OK, though, because he and I went to pick out his pumpkin Monday and we carved it together. Well, HE carved. I took pictures. And prayed the "safety knife" lived up to its name.






Monday, October 19, 2009

Little life lessons

This past weekend, we took a day-trip to see Tyler and Kate's marching band perform at regionals. One of my oldest and best friends, Maria, (and by "oldest" I mean we've been friends for 27 years) happened to be attending this competition because her daughter is on color guard for another high school. We were so excited to be able to see each other and watch our kids all perform. Unfortunately, her son developed a fever, so she stayed home with him.

The afternoon took a few weird turns, due to weather in the area and seemingly poor planning on behalf of the music association. A wave of rain left the football field too muddy for the bands to use, relegating them to the host school's back parking lot. That left spectators (us) to stand on our choice of adjacent pavement, tennis courts or muddy grass. Damned if the muddy grass had the best view, so that's where we ended up. Pair those tidbits with the fact that the weather also delayed the start time by and hour (due to more impending rain), and there were half-a-gazillion people trying to find parking spots in a relatively small lot, and you've got a potentially volatile situation on your hands.

In the end, it wasn't a bad experience. The second wave of rain held off, we were able to watch Snider give a wonderful performance (including Tyler's trumpet solo) and we got to see the kids right after they finished. Because of the conditions, we didn't stay as long as planned, so that allowed a little more time to visit my brother's family who lives in the area. We picked up pizzas and soda, and pretty much invited ourselves over for a while before heading out on the two-hour drive home.

On the way home, I reflected on the day and realized the little life lessons encountered along the way:

* Always be flexible with your plans. Having a Plan B waiting in the wings helps.
* Gold lame is neither a flattering, nor forgiving fabric. (Special note for color guard costume decision-makers.)
* When the kids have been working hard on their show, almost every day since August 3, enduring outdoor practice in sweltering heat, rain and (most recently) 40 degree weather, you DO NOT get to bitch about standing to watch them perform or getting a little bit of mud on your shoes.
* Often times, the more expensive the car, the more inconsiderate the driver. Not always, but I'm just sayin'.
* Getting teary-eyed with pride at your stepchildren's performance can take you by surprise, and clearly erases the word "step" from the beginning of that word.
* When you invite yourself to someone's house (even family) come bearing gifts -- or at least food.

And, proving that every dark cloud has a silver lining, both our school and Maria's daughter's have advanced to semi-state. This means, while we missed getting together last weekend, we can look forward to seeing each other in Indianapolis this coming weekend.

I love it when Karma smiles on us.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Up, up and away!

You just know this is water-cooler talk across the country today: the "Balloon Boy debacle."

Jack, Charlie and I found ourselves pretty glued to the television as Headline News broadcast every last breaking detail about the situation. They were captivated by such an idea -- a homemade helium-type balloon, big enough to carry away a 6 yr. old. I made mental note to keep Sam in sight for, oh... say, the next 10 years, so these budding geniuses didn't create schematics and send their little brother sailing through the friendly skies above Indiana. Or take a jaunty joy-ride themselves.

Oh, believe me. In my life, it would happen. But they'd go about it a bit differently.

1.) They would hatch their plan and execute it without alerting anyone, including myself and Jeff. We happen to pride ourselves on staying one step ahead of these guys, nipping potential problems in the bud, before things that seem like "such a good idea" turn into disasters. But this project? A giant, shimmery, gas-filled balloon? Yeah, this would be the one they succeed in hiding. Well.

2.) A flight plan would be created. Taking a joy-ride is one thing. Taking a joy-ride with a destination in mind is pure genius when you're 10.

3.) Snacks would be packed. And none of those jinky, vacuum-packed peanuts. There would be a cache of chewy granola bars, cereal and Gatorade. Probably a case of Mtn. Dew, as well, since I won't be there to say "no." And don't forget all that Halloween candy.

4.) Self-defense? A keen arsenal of Nerf guns and foam-rubber darts should do the trick.

5.) Personal DVD players, movies, and Nintendo DS games would be made available for in-flight entertainment. Don't forget the iPods.

6.) Of course, no need to worry about life-threatening crashes or similar worst-case scenarios. They would have everything planned and accounted for... because when you're 10, you have an immediate plan to tackle any situation. And live to tell about it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I left a title off this one simply because I just couldn't think of clever words to sum up the head-banging-against-a-brick-wall frustration called my visit to Target last night with two 10-yr olds.

Jack and Charlie wanted to go out shopping for Halloween costumes. Having amassed a collection of gift cards from past birthdays, I saw a win-win situation here: we go to Target, they get costumes and pay with gift cards... without so much as a swipe of our debit card. See? Win-win.

They had $35 each to spend.

Charlie was the first to choose a costume. As we strolled the aisles, we happened by the back wall display -- a seemingly endless trough filled with bags upon bags of "fun size" candy bars. The boys? Lost. Their. Minds.

Them: "Can we get some?"
Me: (hesitant, but trying to avoid turning into the Sugar Nazi too early) "Ummm, sure."

The boys practically dive head first into said trough, coming up with armloads of bags.

Me: "STOP!"

I explain that in two short weeks, they will be hip-deep in candy. Jack counters with, "So, what's your point?" I suppress the urge to throttle him, and further explain that they really don't need a head start on destroying their body chemistry and depleting their (much needed) immune systems with all that sugar right now. (OK. I went a little Sugar Nazi on them right there.) I talk them down to two bags each. Moving on, Jack finds a costume. Then they both spy little, ugly, useless, rubbery skulls on elastic bands. Of course. So then, Jack, being the ever-talented, budding math whiz quickly calculates his purchases in his head: costume, $17; walking staff with light-up skull on top, $10; two bags of candy, $6; rubbery skull, $2. Perfect. $35 on the nose.

I'm all, "Hang on there cowboy... you have to figure in sales tax." He balks. And by balks, I mean a visible show of disgust, as if I'd just told him I'd fixed chicken beak tacos for dinner. With a side of mealworms.

"I don't wanna pay sales tax!" he laments. Oh, sweet child. Welcome to life.

"Yes, Jack... no one does. But you have to," I say.

"Well.... can't you cover the tax for me?"

"Um, that would be a solid n-o."

Again, he balks, trying to make me feel like the worst mother in the history of the world. Ha. You're going to have to work a little harder, since you've shared that opinion quite a few times over the past decade.

"You could always put a bag of candy back," I say. "That might help."

He is horrified at such a thought. In fact, in the ensuing conversation/debate/argument (which, I'm sure, was enjoyed by all Target patrons within earshot) I explain the seven percent tax, and what it means for the bottom line of his purchase. He finds it necessary to keep wailing about the injustice of how I won't cover a few measly bucks. Of course I could. But by this point, I was rolling with the principle of the situation and teaching a life lesson on spending within a set budget. I mean, grown ups don't pick out groceries willy-nilly, get to the check-out and wheel around to the person in line behind them to say, "I'm a tad short here. Howzabout you cover me?" You stick to your budget. Period.

We finally find a mutually-acceptable agreement that in no way demanded me plunking down MY debit card for his purchase, and him chucking the ugly, rubbery skull back into the bin, and snarling, "Are you happy now?" Pfft. Like I was the one to invent sales tax just to ruin a 10-yr. old's good time.

In the end, they ended up with pretty cool costumes. And a shitload of candy.

You want to talk scary? I've all but debated economic principles with a 10-yr. old. In Target of all places. Bring on Halloween.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sweet dreams are NOT made of this...

So, I haven't really had a memorable dream in a long time. Then, after being up with Bobby around 5am, I decided to sneak in one more hour of sleep, rather than just calling the night over and going downstairs for coffee.

I had one of the worst dreams. Ever.

In it, I was watching Jack and Charlie at football practice. The coach... for some insane reason... lined up the boys for tackling drills, and paired each of them with a member from the varsity squad. These kids look like giants next to my two -- who happen to be two of the smallest on the entire team. (Of course, what they lack in size right now, they totally make up for with heart. They're like the "Rudys" of PAL football. But I digress...) So I'm watching this with a very uneasy feeling. The older boys grab my boys' hands and each pair take off running for the tackling dummy. KA-POW! The older kids shrug off the impact, but my boys are left lying on the ground. Charlie manages to get up, takes off his helmet and starts walking away, but Jack is still and not responding. I leap from the bleachers and have the moment I have always dreaded -- which kid do I go to first if they're BOTH hurt? I glanced over at the trainer and coach attending to Jack and sprint after Charlie. He looks dazed, but relatively coherent. I tell him we need to go check on Jack, who is now conscious, but is completely out of it. I ask him what year it is, and he responds, "1932." Then he proceeds to tell me about how he and his friends are graduating from high school... At that point, I commence freaking out. There's a doctor who "magically" shows up (as people often do in dreams) and tells me to take him home and keep an eye on him. I'm all, "I don't think so. I mean, my child thinks it's 1932!" I begin piecing together any bit of head injury knowledge I have EVER picked up, and realize a brain injury only gets worse before it gets better. I begin obsessing over swelling, brain bleeds and cranial pressure. And I am convinced that Jack will not make it.

Soon after that, I woke up. My first thought is that wave of relief, realizing it had all been a dream. The second thing I realized is that I was crying. Really? Crying in my sleep? Never had that happen before. But oh. my. gosh. What a crazy dream!

About 10 minutes later, I went to the boys' room to make sure they were getting up. Charlie got up and came downstairs with me. I gave him such a tight "good morning" hug, and kissed the top of his head. I contemplated telling him about the dream, then decided against it. They are the most high-spirited, give-it-everything-they-have little guys. They run hard, tackle hard, go for the ball... I wouldn't want either of them to hold back simply because "Mom had a bad dream..." After Jack and Sam joined us downstairs and they were all getting ready for school, I did tell them both about the dream; but I made sure I told them that I love the energy they bring to the field, and I still want them to have fun and play well...

Just. Be. Careful.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Today is my mom's birthday. Ordinarily, I would have sent something... flowers most likely. However, she and my dad are currently on vacation in Myrtle Beach and visiting friends in Sumter, SC.

I'm pretty confident she would have no problem with me revealing her age, which is 72. (And if you cringe when you read this, Mom,... sorry!) My mom has never "looked" or, for that matter, acted her age, and would often amaze friends when they found out her age. That is not to say she is immature -- not by any means. She likes to laugh and have fun; apparently many people assume aging depletes your sense of humor and zest for life. Even if that were true, my mom would be the exception to that rule.

Likewise, my dad has not lost his grip on his sense of humor as he's aged either. Having just turned 66 a few weeks ago, he's still very able to see the lighter side of life.

When I was younger, I'm sure I may have assumed folks in their 60s and 70s would fall anywhere in the range from stodgy to grumpy. For some people, those words are right on the mark; but I am so thankful that my parents are anything but.

So, Happy Birthday, Mom! And a Happy Birthday (again) to you, Dad! I love you both so much, and wish you many, many more years of love, health and happiness.

Friday, October 2, 2009

...and breathe...

I feel like I've been holding my breath for the past two weeks. My dear friend, Stephanie, called two Fridays ago and told me she'd be having major surgery on September 28.

So I prayed.

Whenever she crossed my mind in the days that followed, I prayed a small, silent prayer for a successful surgery and great recovery. This past Monday, the day of surgery, I prayed. Then I found that I was fortunate enough to be in the "loop." I received text updates on the surgery and how well she was doing. Once that was over, the next step was to wait for lab results. Today I received another text with great news. All is well and Stephanie should be recuperating in her own home this weekend.

Stephanie has been a close friend for over 10 years. She was my supervisor at work and continues to be an amazing role model and mentor. Personally, she has been one of my closest friends, whose experience and words of advice/wisdom have been carefully weighed and (in most cases) acted upon. She saw me through my first pregnancy, and predicted I was carrying twins just by looking at me one day. (This came before my OB even ordered a single ultrasound.) She has been a wonderful friend to me and my family.


And now I can breathe easy... knowing she's doing well.

May 2007

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scene: Sam, seven years old, sitting at the table with a bowl of pasta.

Sam: Mom?

Me: Yes, Sam?

Sam: (heavy sigh) I know nothing about women.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And in the end...

... the half-marathon wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I will be totally honest right now and tell you I was crazy nervous Saturday morning. It began Friday night as I got everything organized for the morning. Getting up at 5am and preparing (physically and mentally) for the race AND shooing three boys and the baby out the door demanded organization. And plenty of it. As I mentioned before, this was my first race after having Bobby. Prior to that, I'd run a few half-marathons and a number of 5Ks -- I had the pre-race routine down. Friday night? I found myself randomly remembering odd tidbits of how I used to prep. And I had to pack a diaper bag, too. I felt scattered at best. I made it to bed around 10:30, ensuring at least 6 hours of sleep. I like to have more, but beggars can't be choosers.

Luckily, as 5:30am rolled around, things pretty much went off without a hitch. Got Bobby and Sam dropped off at 6:15am (and I owe a HUGE thank you to close friend Vicki Frank and daughter Michelle, for getting up at such an insane hour on a Saturday to watch them) then Jack, Charlie and I trucked downtown. Those two boys were absolute troopers. They had a football game later that morning, and had to dress in their football uniforms and lug helmets and shoulder pads to my starting corral. We met friends there, and got ready to go. This was the first time the boys had ever been at the start of one of my races. Ever. And it meant the world to me. For years, I've stood waiting for races to begin, watching families chat and laugh with their race participant. Most times, I'd just put in my ear buds and stretch, pretending to mentally prepare, rather than feel very alone in a crowd of thousands. When I ran the Indianapolis 500 mini in 2008, Jeff was there with me, and that was great. I'd been running for three years, and that was the first time I ever had anyone watch me start and be there at the finish line. It even made me cry a little -- with happiness, of course. So, waiting for the gun and looking over at my two mop-topped football players telling me "Good luck, Mom!" and "I love you!" well... that was a little slice of heaven for me.

Jeff was running the half also, having arrived separately with three crewmates from his station. We'd hoped to meet up, but even as I scoured the crowd in our corral, I couldn't find him. I knew he'd finish way before me, and knowing I'd see him at the end of the race gave me such a wonderfully happy feeling.

We began the run, and I was fortunate enough to share most of the first mile with Lindy. Then a few runners wedged between us, and we got separated. I completely lost her when my tiny bladder demanded a trip to the porta-potty. In the first mile. Are you kidding me?!

The first four miles of the race took us directly south of the city. Then we hooked west over the river greenway, past one of our lovely parks and into a beautiful, historic neighborhood with grand homes. And hills. No one told me there'd be hills. OK. So they weren't, like, San Francisco hills -- they were more like inclines. But they still felt like hills... and I wouldn't have been surprised in the least to see a big ol' trolley go whistling past me. Mile 8 felt about six miles long. Soon, we began heading back toward downtown Fort Wayne. The race was to finish at the newly opened ball park and home of the Fort Wayne Tin Caps minor league baseball team. (Yes, that says "Tin Caps." Don't ask. It's a Johnny Appleseed thing.) At mile 10, I was very relieved to see double-digits and realized I only had three miles to go. On any given day, this would be a snap. For me at that point? My hip joints were having a screaming match with my knees. I. Hurt. Bad.

When I finally turned a corner and saw the field lights in the sky, I nearly cried. I'd made it back... not only from the race course, but from my pregnancy-induced hiatus. My training may have been half-baked, but, once again, I'd finished the whole 13.1 miles on my own two feet. Coming up to the stadium, I glanced up to the mezzanine area and saw my dear, wonderful husband watching for me. I could tell immediately he was freezing, having completley cooled down after finishing. I don't remember what he said (because, yes, I was so dazzled by seeing his smile I went a little loopy for a moment) but I remember yelling up to him that I expected a big hug at the finish line.

Two other runners and I ran down the street-level ramp and down onto the ball field. We were to run from the left field corner on the warning track, around to home plate. This is where people "kick it" and finish strong. I didn't immediately sprint -- I looked around, took in the scene of having a stadium full of people watch as we finished the race. Somewhere around first base, I heard another runner coming up on me, and I kicked into a sprint. At that moment, I wasn't lumbering toward the finish line... a 40-yr. old mom, still dealing with a bit of post-baby body issues. In my mind, I was in first place, headed for the finish line at Chicago. Or Boston. Or New York City. And I was the leader, stretching and straining to push hard, lean forward and break through the ribbon.

My official finish time was 2:51. Two hours and 51 minutes. My personal best thus far was something like 2:34 in Indy, when I missed my 2:30 goal by four measly minutes. But I was back, and 2:51 gives me something to work with and shave time from. My new goal is to run the Indy Mini in early May 2010. And I want to finish between 2:15 and 2:30. Or better.

And my dear, wonderful Jeffrey? He finished in 1:49 -- nearly a full hour before me. But that's OK. He waited for me and I got that hug at the finish line.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's go time... well, almost.

The clock is ticking and I am just about freaking out, thank you very much.

STATS
Number of miles: 13.1

Time remaining before the gun goes off: about 21 hours

Number of miles I've logged training: ummm... not as many as I am comfortable with.

Average pace of those I am supposed to run with: approx. 9:30

MY average pace these days: a smidge more than 9:30

Weather forecast: cloudy morning/afternoon sun (Much better than the "T-STORMS" predicted)

Amount of water I will drink today to be uber-hydrated: a whole damn lot

Number of times I will take a walk break: as many as I need, baby

Speaking of babies, number of months since I had Bobby: 6.5

Number of months since I received medical clearance to run following C-Section: about 5

RECAP
I have had five months to get back into pre-baby running shape, and training has been marginal at best. Life sometimes gets in the way like that. But you do what you can. And tomorrow? I am going to take on 13.1 miles through some, shall we say, interesting parts of Fort Wayne. I will do my best and give it everything I have -- but without being stupid and risking injury. I figured that the longest training run I had been able to do before previous half-marathons was a solid five miles, and I did OK. So my training wasn't as strenuous as I'd hoped/planned. I still got out there when I could and did the road work. I will not finish first, but I don't think I'll be last, either. But after the race, as in "cross-the-finish-line-and-grab-a-free-banana-and-let's-go" Jeff and I have to high-tail it out to Jack and Charlie's football game. It's a comeback week for them after a loss last week. I. Cannot. Miss. It. Period. And unless I am rolled into the gutter by fellow runners to wait for the first aid cart, I won't miss it.

For the record, my personal best for a half-marathon is 2:34, which I posted in the 2007 500 Festival Mini in Indianapolis. I tried to break 2:30 in 2008, but failed by a few minutes. I would love to say I hope to achieve this goal tomorrow, but I am just going out there to have fun and see where the numbers fall when my feet cross the finish line.

Because if running isn't fun, what's the point?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Addictions and forgiveness on a rainy Tuesday night

It's been a long day. By 9:30, however, the four youngest of the family were asleep. Or at least in bed. Seeing as how I hadn't eaten much all day, I came downstairs to have a bowl of cereal. Someone in the house picked up a box of Chocolate Chex cereal at the store. Let me just go on record by saying they should just go ahead and print "CRACK" on the box. It's that good. You will enjoy it. You will become addicted to it. My first bowl led to a second bowl. There might have been a third if the second bowl hadn't finished off the last of the cereal.

This is what addiction looks like:



On a completely different note, Sid and I had a run in on Sunday morning. Literally. Jeff and I were scurrying about, trying to pack up the diaper bag and get out the door for church. I rushed into the kitchen to grab a bottle from the refrigerator, and somehow Sid got tangled in my feet. He yowled and hissed. Then he limped under the table and kept hissing at me. It was obvious he was hurt, but he wouldn't let me get near him. I felt so bad. When we returned later, he seemed OK, but I noticed he would run away from me for the rest of the day. Seriously. Imagine my surprise when tonight as I sat in the den watching The Office, enjoying my bowl of chocolate crack and milk, Sid wandered in. He eyeballed the spot on the sofa next to me. He jumped up, edging a little closer every minute or so. Soon, he jumped to the back of the sofa and crept along until one paw could reach my shoulder. Pat, pat, pat. About a minute more, and he was sprawled out behind me, obviously forgetting I had jacked up his leg two days ago.

And this is what forgiveness looks like:




Motivation + new day = success

Today is the day it's going to happen.

A combo donation/resale trip of epic proportions.

For about the last couple of months or so, I have been in the process of weeding out a few closets (including my own... no one being thrown under the bus on this project) in an effort to maximize space and de-clutter. After weeks on the job, I now have a box of my clothes to take to a resale shop, an even bigger box of random stuff to take to Goodwill and an impressive pile of baby/boys' clothes to take to another resale shop. The problem? I've been trying to get this stuff the hell out of my house for two weeks. And every time I designate a day to actually load the car and GO, something else comes up and it doesn't get done.

Yesterday, we seized the opportunity to go fetch a dresser from James and Jenny to put in Jack, Charlie and Sam's new room. They more than needed it. I mean, seriously. I was trying to fit three boys' worth of clothing into a small closet and one drawer apiece. Did. Not. Work. Now, with a slightly bigger dresser, there is a bit more breathing room. (That, and I am sort of re-purging their play clothes/summer clothes as I go. Shhh. Don't tell them.)

So, despite my declarations that yesterday was the long-awaited donation day, once again it didn't transpire.

But today? Despite gloomy skies and intermittent rain? IS the day. I am motivated, have hours ahead of me before picking up the boys at school... I feel a successful day coming on.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Randomness

I realized I've collected some rather odd photos with the intent of sharing them with you. For one reason or another, I never got around to it, so I thought I'd take advantage of a relaxing Sunday evening to catch up. Here goes...




ALONG CAME A SPIDER




A few weeks ago we had a Discovery Channel situation on the front porch. A rather large spider took up residence. I wish I had a photo that could give some frame of reference as to how insanely HUGE this spider really was. The best I can say is that he/she could take up most of the face of a quarter. And maybe have its legs hanging off a little. Its web was about the size of a small pizza. So, it was no wonder that a spider of this size would need a fairly good sized meal -- such as this poor bug who had the misfortune of getting caught in the aforementioned pizza-sized web. The boys and I came home one afternoon to this sight. "Charlotte" (yes, I named it) having a nice snack. We all stood there in silence, never having actually witnessed something like this live and in person. Discovery Channel? Yes. Our own home? Not so much.


The funny/freakish part of taking the photos was that, even though I was using a lens that provides awesome close-ups, I was leaning in quite far to get a good shot of Charlotte and her snack. When I leaned in, she may have had the wrong impression that I was trying to sneak a bite. She reared up on her back legs and waved her front legs at me. Repeatedly. This? Freaked the boys out. They were all, "Mom! Be careful!" I laughed and was touched by their concern -- until one of them said, "What if she jumps on you?!" I have to admit, that thought never crossed my mind. Do spiders jump? Can they jump? I didn't want to stick around and find out. We quickly snapped photos from far away and went in the house for our own afternoon snack.


We realized Charlotte mainly came out in late afternoon/early evening, then went up to the corner of the porch overnight. This information came in handy early one morning when I instinctively went after Sid (the cat) who had snuck out the door as we were loading up for school. In my haste, I ran right through Charlotte's web, taking the lower half out with my head. It was 7:15am, so rather than let go with a scream shrill enough to wake the neighbors as well as the dead, I grabbed the cat and ducked back in the house. In the privacy of our front room, I tore off my sweatshirt, bent over at the waist and began shaking my hair out. I prayed Charlotte hadn't come down for an early morning sit on her web, as I raked my fingers through my hair. Good news! No spider hair accessories that morning!


Then, one day we came out and Charlotte was gone. I mean really gone. As in, she tore up her web and went elsewhere. She may have had enough of me, my picture taking and rampant near-destruction of her home.




SERIOUSLY,... ARE YOU EVEN TRYING?


This one's just so awful. I've got nothing.




TWENTY OR SO YEARS DOWN THE ROAD...

...he may be in the same position in his dorm room. Jeff says he'll be surrounded by books, where he crashed after pulling an all-night study session. Me? I have a slightly different prediction. (And, yes, after taking the photo I gently pried his chubby little legs out from between the spindles.)

YOU PEOPLE ARE KILLIN' ME.


Do you see how much syrup is left in the bottle? Why?! Why does this make it back into the fridge?