Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gratitude for the Everyday

Being that I am not a huge fan of Mondays, unless they happen to be a holiday, I have decided to start keeping a gratitude post each week so as to ward off any “cases of the Mondays”(thank you “Office Space”).   I am also a firm believer in showing appreciation for what you are given whether it be large or small.  And I hope that A.J. and I are teaching our children to be thankful little beings because our life is good and we do have so much to be thankful for.
Our morning started out much the way they always do, rushing to get the kids ready and out the door.  Luckily there is a brief period of time between when Josie and A.J. leave the house and when I need to drag the youngest two boys along to drop Jimmy at preschool.  Today the sun was shining and one of my favorite things about our “cozy” little house is that our living room has huge windows in it along one wall and the sun pours in during the first part of the day.  Alright, starting off our day on a positive note- this along with my huge mug of coffee equals perfection(albeit brief perfection). Sawyer and Jimmy are fired up today, they bound to the basement to play for a bit which gives me the chance to share a few glorious minutes in peace just chilling out holding Baby Bart, hugging my little man to me.  Never mind that during that exact five minutes of bonding with the baby, Jimmy and Sawyer were hurling the set of wooden blocks all over the basement- no screaming means no injuries. 
The rest of our day was pretty much the same- just a regular Monday interspersed with all the little glimpses of happiness which I am so grateful for.  Sawyer is our little “beefcake”, all pudgy and still a bit clumsy on his legs(picture a baby Tommy Boy).  He will taunt you with a smile as he performs even the most evil of deeds.  As I tried to get a quick shower in, Sawyer poked his little arms into the stream of water and then proceeded to take his wet hands and “wash” the baby’s feet as Bart sat in his bouncy seat.  Not a big deal except that the baby had footy pjs on.  However, this did keep him occupied while I showered so it was well worth having to change the baby to dry clothes afterwards.
I had about twenty different conversations with my mom and sisters because inevitably there are interruptions and because they are the people I go to when I read bizarre stories on msnbc.com and absolutely have to share them with someone.  A.J. would tell you that we call each other just to let the others know we are still breathing.  I know that deep down he gets it, that these are the ones who keep his wife sane because they get me and the chaos that is my life.
 There is Jimmy’s quirky sense of humor.  He kept playing a video over and over again which he and his cousins had made last week on one of the kids’ iPods.  The video is only about 15 or 20 seconds long of Jimmy shaking his butt to the camera, clad in nothing but his superhero boxer briefs.  Yes, I do realize this is the second time I have talked about “butt videos” on my blog…But my kids remind me that it is the simple things in life that matter and that it feels good to sit back and stop for a moment and laugh at a stupid butt video.  Later in the afternoon while Sawyer was taking his nap, Jimmy laid down next to the baby who was on his play mat on our living room floor.  Poor Baby Bart was greased up with Aquafor all over his chubby little cheeks and head.  I watched from the kitchen as Jimmy styled Bart’s hair in an Alfalfa do.  Jimmy beamed his silly little grin when he was done so proud of his work.
Josie even graced me with the pleasure of conversation about her school day after we picked her up- you know, actual details instead of “I can’t remember”s or “I forget”s.  The ride home included our usual sing along to one of her teeny bopper CDs.  I know that on some level they may be too old for her, but on another level, I am thankful for this cheesy common ground that I have with my daughter who is never so happy as when she is singing along to these songs. And seriously these are tween Disney and Nick soundtracks. 
The witching hours(5-7PM) were very trying today, but I am lucky to have a husband who reads what kind of day it has been on my face and goes into class clown mode to lighten me up.  This evening’s routine included playing some Will Ferrell you tube videos and telling Jimmy that I was never coming back when I took a breather to walk outside to get the mail.  I came back in and Jimmy was very concerned about “where” I was going. 
As the evening wound down, I even got in a quick phone call with my brother Joe about some architecture questions I had in reference to our “someday” addition.  He surprised me with a simple answer to something that had been stumping me…even if he did slip into his professor mode while explaining it.  Joe- you know I love you and am excited that you are going to help us design this addition.  Now to win the lottery or sell one of the children to finance it!
Now I am sitting here on the couch typing away with a sleeping baby on a boppy pillow on my lap and a gassy dog lying next to me- it doesn’t get much better than this!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Divide and Conquer

Well A.J. and I have finally waved the flag of defeat and accepted that we need to go to two separate masses on Sundays if we hope to get anything out of church and to actually hear the priest’s homily.  Prior to this wise decision our past couple years worth of masses were spent primarily standing in the back lobby of our church, trying to keep our children herded into a space measuring about four square feet.  And one thing to note: when I say past couple years of masses, I am using the term loosely as we are never on time and are quite lucky to make it into the church before the gospel is read.  We really are trying, God.  Our hearts are in the right place even if our time management skills are not. 
I swear the ushers recognize our little tribe of maniacs and push a secret panic button to alert the other ushers that we have arrived and that they should all man their stations- one by the holy water, one by the candles, one by the fire extinguisher.   This business of staying quiet and in one spot for our oldest three would usually last for about thirty seconds before one of the animals would break free and give a slight glance back to the other two as if to say “you can’t catch me” and then the other two would be off in hot pursuit of thing one.  A.J. and I would try to keep it together and quietly ask them to stop running which would escalate to eventually grabbing one or all three of them if not casually placing a foot out to “trip stop” them, all the while attempting to keep any and all curses from escaping our lips.  In the nicer weather, A.J. would usually spend much of mass out in front of the church in the courtyard area.  This was not such a bad system until one fateful mass during advent when I watched in horror from inside as Sawyer almost took down the three foot tall camel statue in the outdoor nativity scene.  My children really could tear down or at least tear apart the church in one day if not one hour.
So until our wild beasts can be tamed, we will continue to divide and conquer.  And I will continue to admire the amazingly perfect behavior of the family of five boys that I watch from across the church.  How do those parents keep them so quiet and so still?  And how can I get my hands on some of the tranquilizers that they are clearly giving those boys?!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Werewolf Zombie Dogs, Boxing Matches in the Living Room & Monkey's Birthday

Happy 6th Birthday to my sweet little “Monkey” Josie!  I am so thankful to God for giving you to us and every day you make me more and more proud to be your mommy!
Conveniently, Josie and all of her cousins had the day off of school today which meant last night was the perfect opportunity for the cousins’ sleepover which I have been promising to Josie for months.  I was able to buy some time once Bart arrived and we were adjusting to being a family of 7(gotta count the dog!) and to having an infant in the house again.  But it was now time to suck it up and deliver on my promise.  On my side of the family there are 14 grandchildren ranging in age from Bart(almost 3 months) to my oldest nephew who is almost 13.  Since we all live within a half hour of each other, the kids have grown up seeing their cousins at least once if not several times a week. Due to this cousin closeness, they are almost like siblings in terms of their comfort level with each other.  I envy them that they have this unique little cohort to grow up in since my cousins on my dad’s side lived eight hours from us and we would only see them once a year and my cousins on my mom’s side were older than me. 
So back to the cousins’ sleepover- the troops descended upon the house with my mom, sister Nikki, and sister-in-law Lindsey in the early evening to have pizza and cake.  Unfortunately, my oldest niece was sick so she couldn’t make it and my sister Yvette stayed home with her and two of her younger kids.  I had specifically asked A.J. to bring the cake home in very simple terms in my text:  “Can you pls pick up cake on yr way home?”.   Within the first hour of the kids’ arrival, the chaos sets in which isn’t difficult with this many children in a small amount of space, but at least they are contained this way.  The kids are running back and forth from our basement to Josie’s and Jimmy’s bedroom which is now even more enticing to them as we just got bunk beds.  All of them are armed with Jimmy’s artillery which he received for his birthday and Christmas.  Birthday girl starts to have a meltdown as about five of the little militants are camping out on the top bunk(her bed) and she does not want them there.  I manage to get the crisis calmed and within a couple minutes the kids are yelling because Josie is barricading her door now and won’t let them in.  I pry her from the doorway, explaining that she wanted her cousins to come over, but she starts melting down even more and locks herself in our bathroom.  Nothing I try to say at the moment in my nicest most patient mommy voice persuades her to open the door so I go for the big guns, a steak knife and a butter knife.  No, I wasn’t planning on killing the birthday girl, just getting her out of the bathroom and our old house has the old school locks and we long ago lost the little tool that you can use to unlock them.  Thus my knife system is employed on a fairly regular basis.  Don’t be surprised if when you come to my house, the butter knife looks a bit bent and crooked.  Nana(my mom) helps perk up the birthday girl and things begin running a bit smoother.
A.J.  arrives home and the birthday girl convinces him to let her open her presents a day early.  And we all know that opening them means literally opening every single present, not just from the wrapping paper, but then from its packaging.  And the older your  children get, the tinier the pieces get to any gift they receive.  Cake time- after doing flybys of the children who are upstairs and those in the basement, I go to the kitchen to get the cake set up only to discover that my helpful husband has not actually bought a cake, he bought cake mix and icing.  Deep breaths, go to where he has escaped to and ask him what happened and he thought I wanted the cake mix for when I made the cake for her big birthday party with her cousins and the girls from her class.  Because I am feeling antagonistic by this point, I actually show him the text, ask what was confusing about it.  He mumbles something about a conversation we had on Monday about me making the cake for her party…”No cake tonight, kids!”  They seem to care less even my little drama queen Josie.  My mom, sister, and sister-in-law leave with the littler cousins and A.J. and I are left with 8.  Then the entertainment begins.  My two older kids decide it will be fun to show their cousins our apple t.v.- so they can show them videos they have taken on the ipods on our big t.v.  First up comes a pleasant video Josie took of my butt when I was packing up our things in the hotel room last week and I had no idea about it…In the hotel she kept telling me to come see something.  I kept putting her off since I was scrambling to get everyone’s stuff together before checkout time.  Then  A.J. said “I think you’ll want to see this”. Yep, there on her iPod was a 30 second stretch of my butt in red corduroys.  Just what every woman wants to see when they are a couple months out from having a baby.   But I will be a good sport and am happy to be “the butt” of their jokes if it keeps them occupied…
The night winds down and “Dolphin Tale” soothes them all to sleep.  Thanks to Baby Bart for waking me at 5:30 for a little bonding time over breastfeeding and nebs.  And just as I am getting back to sleep, I hear the girl contingent giggling and waking the boys up.  Awesome!  The morning is filled with lots of chocolate donuts- sadly none for non-dairy me, lots of coffee, and the antics of my kids and nieces and nephews.  Santa’s brilliant gift of three pairs of boxing gloves(thank you, A.J.) provides the perfect tools for boxing matches in our living room between Jimmy and his older boy cousins.  One of my nieces joins in too.  I chug coffee after coffee listening to the random games these kids make up “We’re being werewolf zombie dogs”.   I finally feel that things are quiet enough to lock myself in the bathroom to shower and bring the sleeping baby in his bouncy seat with me.  As I shut the door, I hear the tune of “Safety Dance” with a whole new set of lyrics thanks to my creative nephew “We can fart if we want to…” 
As I mentally wind down in the shower, I remind myself that I need to enjoy the moments of the day.  It is not every day that my daughter turns six and if I can’t beat them, I might as well join them.  An all time favorite quote of mine from “Ferris Bueller” pops in my head: “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wrestling,nebs, and the color purple

To start the blog off on a much more somber tone, please keep A.J.’s grandma in your prayers.  His aunt called and they are rushing Grandma to the hospital and think she may have a pulmonary embolism.
This caps off my very exhausting day.  Now to reflect and find the humor in it…Bart has had a neverending cough pretty much since after Thanksgiving.  Could easily attribute this to the germ hoarders who are constantly petting him, breathing on him, kissing him, especially Sawyer who seems to think kissing the baby requires leaving a puddle of saliva on his scalp.  Back to the pediatrician’s we go for our now “weekly” visit.  Running late, no surprise there.  Surely I look like a hot mess running down the hall of the office building where the peds office is located, pushing the snap-n-go stroller with Bart;  Sawyer and Jimmy running ahead leading the way.  I pray they will stop and go into the correct office.  Arrive, check in and head to the “sick room” which is thankfully empty.  The torture begins.  These office visits where I make the mistake of bringing more than one child make me feel like I am either going to a.) have an anxiety attack b.) freak out and start restraining my children with the hose from the blood pressure cuff in the exam room or c.) run screaming from the office and tell the staff they can just keep the kids, I’ll be at the nearest bar.  Both of the waiting rooms have nice long benches built coming out of the wall that run the full length of the room and are carpeted.  And immediately the circus act begins.  My two clowns(Sawyer and Jimmy) start running back and forth along the one bench.  And they seem to think the louder the better.  I am saved for the moment and a nurse comes to take us back to the exam room.  Ah we are in the purple room, the walls are a nice pale lavender and the chairs and exam table are nice purple vinyl.  Aren’t purple walls supposed to be calming?  Or do they make people crazy?  Based on today’s findings with our two subjects, I’d say it is the latter.  The first nurse gets the scoop on why we are back and then we have to head down the hall to weigh Bart.  Sawyer trots off first but doesn’t stop at the scale, he heads straight for another exam room.  Luckily it is empty, but I have to grab him just as his chubby fingers are reaching around the knob of another room(closed doors=patients having exams).  Back to the purple room we go which is where the entertainment starts.  During our wait to see the nurse practitioner, the boys manage to hold several wrestling matches, at various points they pin each other.  Furniture gets rearranged.  The NP comes in to examine Bart, suddenly the boys are very curious, come right up into her face and sit there saying “it’s okay buddy” to Bart to “help” keep him calm.  Then they’re back to their wrestling match.  They tire of this and begin crawling around the floor making the most bizarre cat noises I have heard.  I try to keep one eye on them, one hand on Bart so he doesn’t roll off the exam table, and attempt to have a coherent conversation with the NP.  She decides we should try a nebulizer treatment and should also get a chest x-ray as a precaution.  She goes out to get one of the nurses to bring the pulse ox and nebs in.   I begin frantically texting and calling my mother-in-law to have her pick Josie up at school because it is clearly going to be a LONG appointment.   By the time the other nurse comes in with the pulse ox and nebs, the boys have flung off their shoes and socks, Jimmy is wearing his socks like gloves(or maybe he is pretending they are some sort of animal paws, who knows).  The nurse has to go out in the hallway to get something, I pray she shuts the door because any open door is a magnet for Sawyer to bolt.  Sure enough she leaves it open.  Deep breaths deep breaths, sweat starting to bead on my forehead.  She comes back before my little escape artist can leave.  Jimmy every so often decides to yell at the top of his lungs which forces me to yell at him to quiet down, but alas, no one is being “mommy’s helper” today.  The nurse gets me set up with the nebulizer with Bart on my lap.  Trying to stay focused as she tells me this will take about ten minutes.  Dear God please don’t leave is what I really want to shout, but all I can do is pretend I have it all under control and smile and say okay.  Gently bouncing Bart with my knee as I keep him content while nebbing him.  Muttering about a million threats at the boys to “calm down!  Sit down! Put that chair down!”  Another nurse pops in- this is Bart’s girlfriend who knows us from the many other times we’ve been seen for this cough.  She chats for a minute, helps turn off the nebulizer and goes to leave and now the boys are lying flat out across the floor- awesome!  Sawyer then decides to sit against the door so she can’t leave.  She asks as politely as she can for him to move and in the end, I have Bart in one arm and reach across and lug Sawyer away from the door.  Jimmy starts up with taunting Sawyer by throwing his shoes under the stroller.  I tell him sternly to knock it off and then he yells “No! You poopie idiot!”  This poor young nurse must just be thinking- I am never having kids!  We survive the rest of the visit and head out to take the elevator down to the lobby to meet my mother-in-law and Josie so I can take Bart to the imaging place in the same building to get his chest x-ray.  I feel like I can maybe start to relax a bit, but then Sawyer books down the hall towards the elevator.  First I think oh he wouldn’t get on it.  But you can never trust this one so I am forced to pick up my pace to full speed, have to eventually take my hand off the stroller and leave Bart and Jimmy to catch Sawyer.  Winning parenting moment of my day occurs as I let go of the stroller(with Bart in it) and am almost at Sawyer I hear the stroller bump into the wall. Grab Sawyer and rush back to baby Bart who miraculously is unscathed.  Note to self: purple is not a calming color!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Whatever you do, don't open that door & other etiquette for a playdate

This post is dedicated to all my neat freak friends and relatives(you know who you are) and to my husband who wishes he married a neat freak;)
On the agenda for today was a playdate with a friend and her daughter that has been rescheduled a couple times due to sick kiddos...And said playdate was taking place at my house which means a frantic morning dedicated to making the house resemble any "normal" house that actually looks somewhat lived in and somewhat neat and clean and not like the usual state of disaster of my house.  While we do live out in the "country" compared to some of you city folk, there have been no twisters around here recently that I can blame the mess on- unless you count Sawyer and Jimmy.  Unfortunately for me, I am neither the "organized" one in the family nor the "neat" one.  And thanks to A.J.'s snarky comment last night that I should "definitely reschedule" the playdate because of how bad the house was looking(side note- we just got back from a trip and yes, there may be several items thrown around and a LOT of laundry piled up and spilling over from those piles), I was not feeling super confident that the house would get to any point near where it could be considered clean by the time our friends came over after Jimmy got out of preschool.  (Other side note, I went out with some girlfriends last night for a much needed dinner away and margarita which was most certainly preferable to cleaning.  And though I had visions of A.J. cleaning the house or at least the dishes in the sink before I got back, it didn't happen).  But then planning out my cleaning schedule in my head, it seemed possible that I might be able to pull it off- had exactly two and a half hours while Jimmy was at school to accomplish at least the main level- okay that means the main level minus two rooms whose doors would remain shut.    This was also allotting time for the interruptions of feeding the baby and keeping Sawyer entertained(hello "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" on demand).  Then in A.J.'s evil plot to foil my good intentions, he left his cell phone at home and being that it is his lifeline, I knew what this meant- me making a side trip to drop the phone off at his office after taking Jimmy to school.  Well, there's one hour gone.  Okay back home, Sawyer and Bart unloaded from the Gray Goose.  Now to start...staring at dustbunnies around the living room under the couch and chairs because Bart has decided he's hungry.  Chat with my oldest sister who reminds me "if people are really your good friends, they won't care what your house looks like" though I imagine my sister is silently thinking to herself, "just take a match to that house!".  Baby fed, race to get the main priorities done- bathroom scrubbed down, trash emptied, beds made.  Miscellaneous dirty clothes from various parts of the house thrown into ever growing laundry pile in A.J.'s and my room.  Carefully push pile into room so the door can be completely shut. As I am doing this, I uncover the belt I had been looking for earlier this morning- score!  Shut Sawyer's door to conceal baskets of clean, yet unfolded laundry along with random boxes that need to be moved to the storage room once there is space in the storage room to do so.  Rush back and forth to basement to take toys down there to the play area.  Sawyer follows in the process, grabs one of Josie's doll strollers, fills it with toys and attempts to drag it up the stairs.  I unload the toys before he can drag the stroller any further up the stairs.  This unleashes the fury that is a Sawyer scorned.  Find a doll to appease him with and bring the stroller upstairs for him.  Start dusting a couple shelves in the living room and of course, Sawyer is fascinated by the duster brush so I let him "help" though I have to steer him away from wiping the now dust covered duster across the kitchen counter.  Drag out the vacuums- yes, there are two vacuums for our one small house(actually they are a set, one upright for regular floors and carpets, then one that you wear with a strap that sort of resembles a Ghostbusters pack for corners and furniture, etc).  I firmly believe that A.J. probably thought that if he made vacuuming fun to me, then it would happen more often.  Yeah right.  As I vacuum I think about a post from the blog Momastery on vacuuming(highly recommend reading it).  The writer and I would surely be close friends based on this one post alone.  Finish vacuuming, drop kick the doll(which Sawyer has now abandoned) to the basement a bit too vigorously and the damn doll knocks over a bunch of toys in the basement.   Stash vacuums away in one of the two closed rooms and load little things 1 &2 into the car to get Jimmy at preschool.
So to all my super neat, super organized friends and family: I admire your clean floors and spick and span houses. But I just get distracted by all the things I would rather be doing and will continue to figure out ways to make it "appear" that I have a moderately clean house.  And when you come over, whatever you do, don't open any closed doors.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why is Jimmy obsessed with "petting" the baby's head and other mind-numbing musings for this Monday

A summary of my day based on the whys:
Why is it that I don’t end up checking my email until we are in the EMPTY parking lot of Jimmy’s preschool to find out that he has a two hour delay this morning?
Why does Sawyer insist on lying flat on our kitchen island(usually when there is hot food nearby)?
Why is it that the family sized box of Kraft mac n cheese never looked so appetizing as right now when I am on a dairy free diet?
Why does Jimmy think that strumming a ukulele and screaming in Bart’s face will help him to stop crying?
Why do both the ant man and the delivery man choose the exact windows of time when I am sitting on the couch with my boobs out feeding Bart to knock at the door?
Why is it that after screaming all sorts of rants and threats at the boys as I load them in the Gray Goose to get Josie, I back out and THEN see my neighbor getting her mail right next to me?(at least she just smiled and waved back )
Why and HOW is it that the full size “mattress” I ordered for the kids’ bunk bed arrived rolled up like a carpet?
Why did Jimmy just come out of the bathroom wearing only his shirt and Scooby Doo boxers with a glowstick necklace around his waist like a belt?

Cheap Red Wine from a Hotel Bar

So the rest of our first night on our jaunt to Connecticut to see A.J.’s grandmother was fairly uneventful.  Really, after someone gets busted with a hooker on your floor, everything else is tame.  We get up early to continue on our way.  Seeing that apparently Hooters does not serve breakfast, A.J. drove through a Dunkin Donuts.  Being in the driver’s seat going through any drive thru with four loud children is enough to put anyone over the edge.  Add to that -one very picky, yet indecisive woman(my mother-in-law) who is pissed that we aren’t at Starbucks, and one wife(me) who is not allowed to have any dairy products right now due to the baby possibly having an allergy to milk, and it makes for one very tense situation.  I think I actually saw sweat dripping down A.J.’s brow, his hands clenched around the steering wheel as he tried to place our order with more and more cars pulling up behind us in line,  and five people barking orders at him from the back.  This brings me to a flashback of one particular road trip in my youth when my father had a similar tense situation at a drive thru.  We had been on one of our trips to Connecticut to see his side of the family.  He got mad at my sister Nikki, beamed a half full coke can to the back of the car which missed her and hit me in the head, spilling everywhere. I’m sure by that point we were all heckling my father so it was most definitely provoked. But the main point of all this rambling is that road trips bring out the best in everyone. 
Later in the day on Friday, after we had been to see A.J.’s grandma, we checked into that night’s hotel(much to A.J.’s dismay there was no Hooters attached to it).  My mother-in-law and I stayed in the hotel room with all four of the children while A.J. went back to the nursing home to spend some one on one time with his grandmother.  By this point the children have been pretty much confined to very small spaces(the Gray Goose and Grandma’s shared room at the nursing home) for the past eight to ten hours, so a hotel room is like a palace to them.  Jimmy strips down to his underwear and starts leaping from one bed across to the other.  Sawyer decides to join in, only being that he is still in that chubby toddler stage, he misses the landing several times.  I’m attempting to breastfeed Bart on one of the beds, praying that the boys stay clear of the baby’s head as they hurl their bodies across the room.  Josie who has now lost interest in her iPod joins in the raucous and now they decide it’d be fun to run back and forth across the room and into the bathroom which has some nice slippery tile floors and leap back across the beds, much in the fashion of an obstacle course.  Bear Grylls should try spending one day with my children…Yelling at each of them to stop has not deterred their very clear efforts to inflict injury upon themselves.  Frustrated and done with them all, I yell “Stop jumping off the beds!  If you get hurt I don’t have a car here and you know what that means, it means we’d have to call an ambulance!”  They stop, it is silent for a fleeting moment before those evil grins spread across their impish faces and they laugh and fling themselves from bed to bed…THREE, yes THREE hours later, A.J. arrives with dinner.  It’s 9PM and cheap red wine from a hotel bar has never tasted so good.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

If last night is any indication...

This is going to be one very long weekend. Currently enroute to CT for A.J.'s Grandma's 106th birthday celebration. No that wasn't a typo. Grandma is amazing & up until December had been living on her own in an apartment. Unfortunately she fell a few times and is now in a rehab/nursing home and will con tinue staying there. So as happens once or twice a year, the Gray Goose is making her voyage up the East Coast. Game plan was to leave at 8 last night and drive to New Jersey, stay in a hotel then finish our trek today. Left at 10- not surprising, with all kids loaded in the car, me wedged between Josie and Jimmy in the backseat, mother-in-law in front so she can talk A.J.'s ear off. Ride up 95 went smoothly, kids slept. Get off NJ Turnpike and after driving back and forth on some random highway, having to take a right turn to go left(what is the reason for that, NJ?), finally arrive at somewhat decent hotel where we've stayed in the past. Though the restaurant connected to the hotel has now become e a Hooters(hmmmmm wonder why A.J. chose this hotel??). A.J. Gets us rooms and he and his mom take the cart of luggage to the rooms. I wait in the car with the kids(oldest 3 all now wide awake and way too excited to be staying in this hotel). Josie who is in the process of learning to read, sees the Hooters sign and starts pronouncing it out loud: "hoo...". Just then a cop car speeds up to the entrance of the hotel(no lightson, but the cop is quickly jumping out and running into the lobby). Two more cop cars zoom in from other direction & those cops rush in after the first guy.. Kids are even more excited now. I am trying to stay calm, lock car doors. But in order to do this I have to turn the engine off because the Gray Goose's sensor locks are very sensitive. A.J. and his mom finally come out and I yell "is it safe?". A.J. says it was just some drunk guy...he later tells me the cops had actually been busting the guy with a prostitute...on our floor.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Coonhound Rides Shotgun

Would have titled today's post "The Coonhound Rides B****" but I am trying to keep some sense of decorum on here.  Today I am meeting with a case worker who is handling some close friends' second adoption.  She has offered to meet me at my parents' house so that my mom can wrangle the boys while I try to sound somewhat sane as a personal reference for our very awesome friends.  Go through the usual rigamoral of our morning and have hit an all time low as I rush to load the car, hair still wet from my shower and realize I have not brushed it yet.  No worries I will brush it in the car at a stop light.  Load the boys in my usual maniacal fashion, screaming at them to "please be helpers!! Mommy has to be on time!"  Now to load our extra passenger for the morning: Moxie, our very sweet and lovable coonhound mix rescue dog.  She was my and A.J.'s first baby.  We adopted her when we were first married and she was a puppy.  Moxie has never liked cars ever since that fateful moment(which A.J. likes to remind me of whenever he gets the chance).  It is a moment I will always regret as a dog mom- I was loading Moxie into my Rav-4 when she was a few months old and quickly rushed to shut the door and then there was the loudest screech- so loud that A.J. claims he could hear it inside our townhouse.  I had shut the dog's tail in the door...Thankfully she was not bleeding and we did not have to take her to the vet, but A.J. liked to continue to play on my mommy guilt over this.  Which led to our debate- my side: a dog's tail is cartilage like a person's ear there are no bones in it, A.J.'s side: a dog's tail definitely has bones in it.  He printed out a diagram of a dog's skeleton to prove me wrong.  And no worries, I never had plans to become a vet anyways.  As my dad would say, "Your sister Yvette is the scientist in the family...you went to art school, Cami!"...So there you go, thus began Moxie's fear of loading and unloading from the car. Back to today's adventure.  All 3 boys are loaded in the Gray Goose.  Leash on the dog who is excited to be outside on a leash until she realizes I am taking her to the car, not on a walk.  Pulling the leash towards the car with Moxie trying to slip her collar off.  Now to load her in the front seat which is where she got moved since Bart's arrival and yet another car seat has taken her spot in the back.   Hoist the 70 pound dog in my arms, instantly regretting the chicken nuggets I fed her for dinner last night as this dog is like a whoopie cushion when she is squeezed- yes, she is one dog whose farts are loud, but just as deadly.  I shove her into the front seat again swearing I need to stop giving her the kids' leftovers as she definitely needs to lose weight.  Make sure the tail is clear of the door, shut door, run to the driver's side and jump in before the dog can climb into my seat which she will do if given enough time(30 seconds).  Look at the car clock freaking out because I have exactly 35 minutes to get to my parents' house which should give me at least a ten minute window before the case worker arrives to interview me.  Fly around Algonkian Parkway which would be a fun ride if I was in a sports car.  The Gray Goose is by no means graceful around curves.  On to the next main road and manage to get behind some wonderful Northern Virginia drivers who love applying the brakes.  Stop short with the dog so many times, she is about to snap off my right arm.  Almost there, only about ten minutes to go.  Thank God for back roads....Ugh behind some old person who is clearly taking the leisurely route.  Orange signs ahead- not looking good.  Watch as the old person almost takes out the construction worker who is clearly holding a STOP sign.  Finally through the construction area and call mom to say I am coming as fast as I can.  I still have a fifteen minute window before my appointment time, no problem I got this.  Mom answers and I ramble that I am almost there just in case the woman arrives before me.  Mom replies in a kind voice: "Yes, she's here".  UGH!  Defeat!  Who in the D.C. area is ever 15 minutes early?? Answer: Not Cami.
All joking aside.  Adoption is an awesome thing.  It brought my brother Joe to my family.  He was the best Christmas present ever! My parents brought him home to us on Christmas Eve when he was just two days old.  Now I am watching my amazing friends as their family continues to grow.  They adopted their son when he was an infant a year and a half ago.  Please help them give him a sibling!  If you know anyone or ever hear of anyone who is placing a baby for adoption, email me and I can connect you with this incredible family who have hearts of gold!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One Hour One Day Work Week Wednesdays

Currently all 4 kids are occupied- Jimmy is napping in the living room, Sawyer is watching Caillou next to him, Josie is already starting the teenage angst period and blasting iCarly music in her room.  And of course Baby Bart is here hanging out on the boppy on my lap.  Trying to type away while I keep my elbow raised so as not to bump his little nose. 
So you are probably sitting thinking to yourself “man, I would kill for such a leisurely work schedule!”  It would allow for so much free time to shop, lounge about, hit the spa….Ah, my friends, sorry to disappoint.  There is no such thing as a one hour job!  But to fully understand my life and my current “job”, you need to know the evolution of Cami’s career.  So here goes(close friends and relatives, sorry to bore you, but you can all use refreshers as to just how many jobs I have held- I like to call it Creative ADD).  Graduated from School of Visual Arts in 1999 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Certificate in Art Therapy(sort of like a minor in).  Then in chronological order I went on to hold each of these jobs, some simultaneously with others:
-taught preschool-aged children with Autism using Applied Behavior Analysis
-worked first as a Program Assistant then as a Program Coordinator in an Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program(sort of like a day treatment program for teens with psych and substance abuse issues, etc.) at a behavioral health center, also helped run Pet Therapy groups and art groups with kids/teens both in the school there and the residential treatment center
-taught art at a Catholic school to grades k through 8
-worked as an Art Counselor at an organization that provides resources/support to patients & families affected by cancer, mainly with their children’s groups and their pediatric patients
-worked as a Child Life Specialist in a large hospital system(first full time, then 3 days a week after Josie was born, then PRN which means fill in, and now am temporarily retired to be home with my kiddos)
**more on what a Child Life Specialist is another day, but for those who are curious, please check out this website: www.childlife.org
-taught children’s art classes at a very cool art space
-painted designs on tin lunch boxes for a friend’s sister’s bow business(didn’t last long, but was grateful for the opportunity)
-started to illustrate a children’s book that a friend has written(don’t give up on me, Liz!  I am ready to finish it!!) This was put on hold once Sawyer surprised us with his debut.
-taught afterschool art classes at my old elementary school
-taught art classes at a large homeschool group in Fairfax
Which brings me to my current one hour job- teaching art to a group of girls who are homeschooled and meet once a week to take my classes and socialize.  Every week, we rotate to a different girl’s house and her mom is the “host” that week.  Usually this is not a problem as there is some sort of pattern we follow.  Though I did show up at the wrong house once last year and all the girls and their moms were at another house ten minutes away…So my Wednesday mornings usually go something like this: spend the morning doing my usual routine of making sure the middle two don’t kill each other or the dog all the while running back and forth to our storage room in the basement gathering my supplies for the day’s project which I load into various bags or my art cart which has made my life much easier.  If I have been really prepared that Wednesday, I will have my lesson plan completely finished and sample done for the girls to look at as well as art books of famous artists’ work to use to incorporate some art history into the lesson.  But anyone who knows me well, knows I thrive on procrastination- and like to work under pressure.  So this is what really happens.  I think up a lesson plan while trying to chug down some coffee, keep brainstorming as I am showering.  Showering which is one of the least relaxing things I can do when I am home with the boys and A.J. is at work and Josie is at school.  Load up the baby in the bouncy seat, bring him in the bathroom with me praying he will sleep the whole 5 minutes I shower.  More prayers as I step in the shower  that Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum will not injure, impale, electrocute, mangle, or in any way, shape or form, harm themselves.  Rush to get dressed and ready so I have enough time to breastfeed the baby before we go.  Praying again that my mother-in-law will be on time to watch Jimmy and Sawyer.  Frantically wipe down the bathroom and vacuum the main level of the house and take out the trash before my mother-in-law arrives.  Bleach is that woman’s best friend and my house is quite possibly the devil to her.  But she is a wonderful grandmother and I am grateful to anyone who willingly watches my boys and does not run screaming.  I throw together today’s outfits for the boys as they jump up and down on the couch in front of our very large windows , Jimmy in nothing but Phineas and Ferb briefs and Sawyer in a very wet diaper.  Mother-in-law arrives and I load up the art supplies, grab Bart and head off.  Usually arrive at that week’s host house either right on time or a few minutes late.  But thankfully I have found that homeschooling moms are some of the most understanding employers ever since they know where I am coming from.  While I do not have the patience for it with my own kids, I admire them for what they are giving their children.  I slow down usually after the first 10 minutes of settling in and starting the class, enjoy some art time with the girls before clean up and rushing to get home to breast feed the baby.  Pull up to the house, walk in and there they are bouncing like maniacs on the couch again lobbing pillows at me and Bart.  Mother-in-law says they were “complete angels” for her.  Well apparently the halos turn to horns the minute the Gray Goose and mom pull in the driveway.
*****A huge thank you to my “Hunky” A.J., my mom, my mother-in-law, my sisters, sister-in-law who all pitch in when necessary so I can keep my toes wet in the fields I love so much! And many thanks to all of you who helped to influence my crazy career path and who have helped me acquire many of these jobs through word of mouth. 

The Gray Goose: A couple years ago my sister dubbed my dinged up minivan the Gray Goose and it stuck, partly because of the alliteration of the name and mostly(at least in my mind) because it shares the same name as a vodka brand despite the different spelling.  Anyone who spends any amount of time in my car would pretty much agree that you could use a stiff drink upon your exit.  There are four main reasons for this: Josie, our just a couple weeks shy of six years old daughter, and our three sons: Jimmy(4 years old), Sawyer(2 years old), and Bart(10 weeks old).  There is an occasional fifth reason: our “first born” Moxie, our 7 and a half year old coonhound mix, but her main crime is really just adding to the funky stench that is already wafting from the car.  I have never admitted to being a good housekeeper, my family would probably love to elaborate on this, but in terms of this car, I have close to given up.
 The exterior: 2004 typical silvery gray Honda Odyssey minivan/mom mobile.  Features that make this one stand out in the crowd: couple nice dents in the front on the driver’s side- reminders of the parking garage at the hospital where I used to work; nice crunch on the back on the passenger side from when A.J. was backing out of our neighbors’ driveway and hit their mailbox…which was connected to a nice thick metal pole which was reinforced by concrete at the base.  At the time since the car was already in fine shape and we could really care less, we only had the crunched in light fixed so the dent above it allows for rain to collect down in the light and form condensation.  The rims on the passenger side look like someone tried to pry them off in a couple places thanks to my poor parallel parking skills.  There are scratches here and there in the paint in no particular fashion.  Remnants of black and red rope on the roof rack from the past few years of carrying Christmas trees home after we cut them down.  I blame this on A.J. being too lazy to cut all the rope off, but secretly I like this as it makes the car easier to spot in a parking lot.   
The interior: As long as there is a nice clear path for the two oldest kids to unload and load when going to or coming from school, then I have done my job.  This also means that the piles of junk(toys, coats, socks, miscellaneous shoes, papers, candy wrappers, empty juice boxes, stray French fries which are god knows how old) must be pushed far enough to the side so that none of the above mentioned items spills out when the teachers open the door for dropoff or pickup.  This junk is really just the seat surroundings.  One must not forget the nice large stroller or two in the trunk space, the pack n play wedged between the front and middle row seats as well as other random things which may be necessary on any of the Gray Goose’s travels(a large sheet of plastic, art supplies for one of the classes I teach, trash bags of hand me downs heading to or from one of the cousins, the tire jack).  The carpet is now a patchwork of stains and matted in bubble gum.  And the Yankee Candle car air freshener just isn’t cutting it.
Loading: After at least an hour or two of preparation in the house, it is time to finally hustle everyone out to the car.  With Bart tucked snugly into his infant seat looped over my arm, balanced out by my diaper bag/purse on the other arm, I am usually yelling at the other three to hurry on out so I can pull the front door shut.  I am thankful for being able to lock it before I shut it, but always have a brief moment of panic that I will have left my keys in the house(which has happened on one painful occasion).  I scramble to get past Jimmy who always takes his leisurely time strolling to the car.  As I am doing this I see Sawyer making a run for what he envisions as freedom and what I see as a bloody mess of him getting hit by a car.  In my rush to grab Sawyer, I accidentally knock Jimmy down with the infant seat(Bart inside).  Jimmy starts screaming and all the while I am yelling like a maniac for Josie to stop Sawyer at all costs.  Josie clearly won’t make it to him so I put the infant seat down on the driveway, fling my bags behind me and manage to grab Sawyer’s chubby arm just a couple inches from the street just before a school bus whizzes by.  Okay so maybe it was more like a few feet, but the overactive mom imagination in me had me seeing visions of ambulances and ERs in my head.  I repeat over and over: “that’s bad!  We don’t do that! You could get hit by a car!”  Sawyer just laughs and mocks me as I wedge his little body into his car seat.  One crisis averted and I realize just how late we are running because we are ALWAYS running late.  Now I am yelling at the other two to get in and get buckled while I go grab the baby and my bags.  Snap baby seat into its base.  Squeeze up into the van to buckle Jimmy into his seat in the back praying that none of my neighbors is watching because I can feel my lowrise jeans doing a poor job of completely covering my butt at the moment.  Ask Josie about a thousand times to PLEASE buckle her seat belt.  Slam the passenger rear door shut, run around the car and jump in. At least two of the kids start yelling or asking something.  “Quiet while I am trying to back up!  We don’t want to get hit!” Although at this point I don’t think that seems so bad…
On the road:  I take a deep breath as we head out of the neighborhood.  Start blasting the music to keep the kids calm.  Currently playing on Gray Goose Radio which is now under the control of Josie, we have soundtracks from iCarly, Victorious, & Big Time Rush.  Sadly I now have favorite songs from each of these.  Even sadder(and my 15 year old music- loving, concert- going self would probably have died at the thought) is the fact that I often listen to these when Josie is not even in the car…and sing along.  The calm is quickly broken by Bart wailing just because he can and because he seems to hate the car.  Other kids start yelling at me to quiet the baby.  Try to reach back and find baby’s pacifier by feel, stretching my arm practically out of the socket.  Contorting my body in such a way as to keep the paci in Bart’s mouth with one hand and steer with the other.  Definitely feel the car veering a little bit here and there.  Sawyer starts kicking the back of my chair, then decides he’d rather take his shoes and socks off and throw them.  Jimmy finds this funny and decides to do the same and a sock comes flying my way.  Bart is refusing the paci and wailing once again.  Josie is screaming for me to turn the music up because she can’t hear with the baby crying. Then she starts yelling that Jimmy won’t stop touching her.  I begin to yell at the boys to stop throwing things and Josie to stop yelling and for them all to “QUIET DOWN! WE’LL BE THERE SOON!”  

Have a Gander...

at  the wacky world of a full time stay-at-home mom(Cami), her four crazy kids(Josie, Jimmy, Sawyer, and Bart), one barking beast(Moxie), and one humorous husband(A.J.).