Monday, March 26, 2012

The Bartism, Barbecue, and the Inefficiency of Motherhood

The Bartism, Barbecue and the Inefficiency of Motherhood
Yesterday afternoon, we finally had Bart’s baptism(dubbed the Bartism by one of my brothers-in-law and one of my nieces).  Murphy’s law always seems to apply in this family.  The original date for the baptism was a couple weeks ago when it was a beyond gorgeous warm, sunny spring weekend.  That day began with Jimmy barfing on our bed in the middle of the night thus postponing the Bartism.  This weekend was a nice dreary drizzly Saturday which put a damper on keeping things 1, 2, and 3 outside most of the weekend enabling me to manage the mess and clean up for yesterday.  So Sunday morning was a major scramble with me superstressed to get the house as good as it would get.  I gave in and resorted to locking a couple bedroom doors. God provided and the sun came out allowing the majority of the maniacs(I mean kids) to play outside for the party afterwards.  It is really ridiculous that I stress so much over the pre-party prep.  The house got cleaned in time and everyone had a good time, myself included so why worry.
There were four other babies being baptized along with Bart yesterday afternoon at our church.  Luckily they all had pretty big crowds of family/friends with them so that our crazy loud, large family blended in for once.  Thanks to modern technology aka the iPod, my older children and their cousins behaved quite well throughout the ceremony.  Bart gave his signal of excitement over officially joining the church with a loud fart right before the final “Amen”.  One of my main concerns during the ceremony was that Bart would have a huge blowout since he had not pooped in a couple days.  Seems like the way my life goes, once I put the antiqued baptism outfit on him(the same one that has been worn by me and my siblings as well as all of our children), Bart would perform his own sort of christening.  I held the matching blanket around Bart’s legs the entire ceremony and because of being over-prepared, Bart cooperated.  He also remained quite happy the entire time.  I felt both sorry for the mom whose baby began wailing mid-ceremony as well as extremely grateful that my baby was happy as a chubby little clam.  Picture taking after the ceremony wasn’t quite the success it used to be when I just had one baby to manage and a few cousins.  Sawyer threw a tantrum and then just layed on the steps by the altar.  Josie almost knocked the giant baptismal candle over.  We got several shots, not sure any are good, but they do clearly illustrate our family’s chaotic nature.  Thank you, Nikki, for being my photographer for the day!
The afterparty for any of our kiddos’ baptisms has always been pretty standard- the whole family on both sides comes back to our house for a tasty barbecue feast and cake.  Due to the size our family has grown to, we now end up ordering a meal that is actually called “the Whole Hog” and then add some extra slabs of ribs.  For the men in the family, this is always the highlight of the baptism.  One of my brothers-in-law even said we should have more kids just so he could enjoy some more barbecue.  If you are local to the D.C. area, Carolina Brothers Pit Barbeque in Ashburn is awesome, check ‘em out, they don’t disappoint!  Also huge thanks to my mom and sister Yvette for manning the kitchen much of the party!  And thanks to Sandi, Todd, and Eva for a last minute ice and beer run!  It is great to have family on both sides who get that after having four kids in six years we will probably never be fully prepared ever again and they just step in and help wherever it is needed.
I love being around our families and seeing how much fun the kids all have together, but there is just something about the post party peace that is completely perfect to me.  Just back to me and my Hunky and my little peeps after a whirlwind of celebrating another milestone.  Sawyer managed to sleep through the entire party so he decided to wake up at 6:30 just as everyone was getting ready to leave.  He and Josie helped me clean up the bikes, trikes, bats, balls, and popup tunnels that were scattered all over the yard.   A.J. had the other two boys inside and Jimmy fell asleep on the couch, wiped out from the day’s events.  Cleanup was easy, maybe not so environmentally friendly based on the amount of trash awaiting trash day tomorrow.  I had a few quiet moments just to breathe before the hustle and bustle of the week began.
On to other topics, my husband A.J. has decided to take it upon himself to be my new efficiency expert/consultant.  All you moms out there(and perhaps some of you stay at home dads) understand that efficient mother is really an oxymoron.  And it becomes an even more laughable term the more children you add.  A couple Saturdays ago, A.J. told me that the big reason I was inefficient was that I had been on the phone nine times before 2PM.  Nevermind that I was in constant motion during most of those calls. The real reasons for my “inefficiency” are things 1, 2, 3, and 4.  These “things” bring every possible variable into any given situation.  And even when they are not the direct cause for my inefficiency, they technically caused my crazy sleep deprived state and thus really are to blame.  Case in point is today’s Cami-genius move of the day.  Game plan for the afternoon was to pick Jimmy up from preschool then drive through Chik-fil-a and then let Sawyer and Jimmy eat their lunch in the car in the parking lot while I fed Bart and chowed down my own lunch.  Then we would head into Walmart to grab some groceries and the items this house always runs out of: milk, diapers, and wipes.  After waiting in the drive through line and finally pulling around to the window, I reach into my beatup black tattered free-gift-from-the-hospital diaper bag for my wallet and then it dawns on me that I had switched my wallet to a real purse the other day when I went by myself to get my hair cut.  But hoping that by some miracle I had switched it back I began to madly throw every single item out of the bag onto the front seat of the Gray Goose. I hurry to tell the girl working the window that I have to go home to get my wallet and then will be right back to pay and get the food.  This young girl obviously knows my life better than I thought and took pity on me and said to just bring the money back later and handed me our bag of food and drinks.  She is my hero of the day.  I speed back home the three miles or so to our house, get the wallet and make our way back to the drive through because there is no way I am taking the boys into the restaurant especially not since it has an indoor play area and also because this has got to be one of the heaviest trafficked Chik-fil-as at lunch time in Northern Virginia.  So I enjoy my lunch as we go back through the line and tell the guy at the ordering speaker that I was the “crazy frazzled mom who forgot her wallet” and profusely thank him and the other woman for being so understanding.  I drive around and pay then head to the Walmart parking lot to feed Bart.  By now Jimmy has fallen asleep.  Sawyer finishes his lunch then hops around the car excited to be freed from his carseat while I feed the baby.  Nothing more relaxing than breatfeeding a baby in the front seat with the hooter hider wrap around me, trying to finish my lunch and prevent my two year old from leaping out the passenger side door.  Forget efficiency, I’d settle for sanity.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wild Life, Busted Lips, Sidewalk Chalk, Rice Cereal, & Loose Teeth

The title pretty much speaks for itself.  It was a busy- in- a- good- kind- of- way, lots of outside time, sidewalk chalk and soak in the spring weather kind of day.  One of the reasons we love our neighborhood is because it is a bit different.  There is no homeowners’ association to deal with and there is a very eclectic bunch of people living back in this tucked in neighborhood that is flanked by a creek that feeds the Potomac River on one side and a calmer section of the river on the other side.  While our little house doesn’t directly back up to either of these, we are only a block from the creek and a five minute walk to the river.  It is a very outdoorsy sort of neighborhood and there are several neighbors who have horses.  We pass one of the horse farms every time we come or go from the house.  Through the years we have actually never met the owners though we feed the horses on walks and we have even given the horses nicknames since we don’t know their real names.  Peanut Butter is a light tan brown, peanut buttery color.  Brownie is a deep blackish brown shade.  So the other day as Josie, Bart, and I passed the horse farm on our way to church, Peanut Butter gave us quite a scare.  He was lying on his side and quite frankly looked dead.  Despite my limited knowledge of horses, I know from talking to friends who ride, that horses often sleep standing up.  Not always though.  So after Josie and I were convinced that our friend Peanut Butter was dead, I jerked the car into reverse and was ready to jump out, Josie pointed out that his ears were twitching a little.  I then saw his snout wiggle a bit.  O.K. on our way again, praying that the horse wasn’t actually having some sort of seizure.  No worries, he was perfectly fine walking around later when we came back home.
A couple neighbors even have goats and chickens.  Then there is the rogue rooster.  I am not exactly sure who he belongs to, but I have almost run into him(literally) a handful of times.  He always darts out into the street right before a sharp curve in the road then takes his jolly time crossing and proceeds into a cluster of woods.  This morning the boys and I were driving back from Jimmy’s preschool when this crazy bird started his strut right in the path of my Gray Goose.  Thank God my brakes are still in good shape. 
Again we spent most of the afternoon outside.  Sawyer managed to take a swing(the actual seat part) to the lips and luckily was wearing a red shirt so no concerns over how to get that blood out.  The kids christened the patio with its first chalk drawings of the year.  More worm habitats were created though I am not sure how many worms survived the pokes and prods of the kids’ weaponry.  Jimmy used his new batting glove to handle the worms.  Josie had no qualms grabbing the squirmy worms right up barehanded.
Dinnertime found my three little helpers and me feeding Bart his first serving of cereal.  Josie helped document it with my iPhone, even capturing Jimmy’s tantrum in the first few minutes because he wanted to be the first to feed Bart.  Bart loves to eat so enjoyed obliging his overeager siblings. 
I was hoping for a fairly smooth transition from dinner to bathtime to bedtime since A.J. was working his usual long hours and none of the middle boys had naps. And it was actually happening.  Until Miss Josie decided to smack herself in the mouth intentionally to help further loosen her two bottom teeth.  They have been loose, but were still a few days of wiggling away from coming out.  I was on the phone with my sister Nikki when Josie popped into the kitchen with a bloody mouth and started bawling.  For whatever reason, she didn’t think this would hurt.  Now the one tooth actually needed to be pulled because it was dangling.  I rushed to get off the phone and then had to work to grip this slippery tiny tooth.  It turned out to be a much more traumatic event than I had hoped for my baby girl’s first loose tooth.  A.J. arrived moments later to the chaos of Josie sobbing over her tooth and my wild boys reenergized from their bath and brief rest on the living room floor.  My drama queen calmed down and proudly called her grandparents to share her big news.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dunkin Donuts, Brown Bear, St. Joseph & Sawyer the Destroyer

Trying to do a catch up blog is hard and even more difficult at the moment since I am blogging on the back porch with the kids hurling giant bouncey balls back and forth.  But it is too beautiful to stay cooped up inside despite piles of laundry and taxes waiting for my attention.  And there is the little fact that I spent most of the afternoon hunting for a large ziplock of receipts from art supplies for my classes last year to no avail.  Ugh!  So I am doing what I find much less stressful, avoiding!
The last few days were smooshed between two very cute “Catholic school girl” bookends.  Friday was Josie’s kindergarten Noah’s ark program- a cute little play about Noah arranged alphabetically.  Then today is the feast of St. Joseph and Josie got to take up the gifts at the school mass.  The in-between of these bookends was a gorgeous weather weekend spent mostly outside with the kids or working on Josie’s Brown Bear project with her. Think along the lines of a Flat Stanley project, just substitute the class’s stuffed teddy bear.  Brown Bear spends a weekend with each student in the class and then Monday he/she brings in a poster and story about his/her weekend with Brown Bear.  Super cute and lots of fun for the kid, but a bit of work for the parents.  My weekend equation was this: beautiful Spring weather + Brown Bear project assigned to us on Friday= happy kids + happy parents + messy house(oh well!).  But in the grand scheme of things messy house<happiness.  So I think I have my math all down and my priorities in order.
Josie hopped into the car with Brown Bear Friday afternoon and a couple minutes later says she REALLY has to go to the bathroom, poop and she can’t hold it for the 15 minute ride home.  She also refuses to let me just pull back around to the school building so she could go back in to use that bathroom.  Thanks to the early bits of rush hour popping up and us hitting every single light in the first mile away from the school, Josie began freaking out.  Which of course leads me to freak out and try to rack my brains thinking of the easiest place to stop that wouldn’t require me to take all 3 boys out of the car with us.  In the past I have actually stopped by A.J.’s office for this very reason with Jimmy.  However, we were already heading further away from his office and Friday afternoons he is usually stuck in some meeting.  Now if she just had to pee, I might have actually tried to rig up some sort of container for her to pee in in the car and just pulled into a parking lot- yes, that is how painful it is to me to have to unload all boys from their carseats.   Well as luck would have it, we pass right by a Dunkin Donuts.  Alright, race to unload all the kids in the rain now and hustle them into the Dunkin Donuts’ restroom.  And once you become a parent, all modesty goes out the window.  Seeing as we were the only ones in the place and I was shoving the kids straight to the bathroom and because the Dunkin Donuts is a fairly quiet place on a Friday afternoon, I am sure the guy working there knew exactly why I had sprinted the kids into the place.  And because all potty- trained boys or recently potty-trained boys have to mark their territory much like boy dogs, Jimmy decides he needs to go as well. Twenty minutes and two dozen donuts later, we were loading into the car.  Perfect opportunity for Josie’s first picture with Brown Bear- in the car eating a donut.  I am used to our little rugrats being a spectacle in most public places, but now I am actually adding to the public’s curiosity by standing next to the open door of the Gray Goose snapping pictures of my kids eating donuts. 
To be fair to the teacher, I actually did like this “little” weekend project.  Mostly because it gave me some bonding time with my Joser.  Okay Bart was often along for the ride too.  Saturday while A.J. did yardwork, I snapped several photos of Josie and the boys and Brown Bear.  Sunday, Josie, Brown Bear, Bart, and I headed to mass together then Staples to get a posterboard for her project.  Between Josie’s breaks to go revel in the beautiful weather, we put together her project and poster.  I can’t wait til she is fully spelling on her own or at least gets the hang of spellcheck- ha ha!  I was really practicing my patience helping her spell out her paragraph.  Might have gotten her to bed a little late, but it was so great to see how proud Josie was of her project.  Wild boys one and two had a day of fun with daddy in the yard.  This came back to haunt us and you will soon see why.
The weekend weather caused our little house to get quite toasty so we put the a.c. on.  Yesterday while I was printing Josie’s pictures out, I noticed it felt like our normally powerful a.c. was not quite keeping it cool.  Three hours later, A.J. came running in the house yelling “who stuck the flag in the air conditioner?!”  The flag he was referring to was one from our little neon safety people.  It is a bright orange flag on a thin metal stick that is about three feet long.  We immediately knew who the culprit was: Sawyer the Destroyer.  A.J. was running in a panic back and forth to the a.c. unit.  Yelling for me to turn the a.c. off then waiting, praying for the fan to go back on.  No luck.  Well, Sawyer’s damage control angels were working overtime.   A brief ten minute break and the a.c. worked when we tried it again.  One crisis averted and at least eight thousand dollars saved from our credit cards. 
Today was a mad dash of getting Jimmy to preschool and then making it to Josie’s school mass with the other babes in tow.  St. Joseph was watching over us because we made it to Jimmy’s preschool at 9:01.  The director just about had a heart attack when she saw us coming in at the “normal time”.  Smooth coasting as we drove to the church.  In the pew with a few minutes to spare and Bart cooperated and fell asleep in the car.  Just to entertain Sawyer for at least the first half of mass.  A.J. and my mother-in-law were there to help as well.  And you know what? Sawyer behaved.  Well at least long enough for me to watch Josie take the gifts up and get some photos of her.  Sawyer did try to run up the aisle after Josie and the other kids who were taking the gifts to the priest, but I kept a death grip on him and then took him out to the lobby when it was least noticeable.  He danced around the lobby and dipped his entire hand in the holy water and then slicked his hair back with it.  A friend from high school who teaches at Josie’s school commented that Sawyer was definitely “going to be your party boy”.  No doubt!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Occupational Hazards & Paying Remembrance

Thank God for the inventor of the Keurig!  Last week our seven and a half year old coffee maker, a wedding present, finally gave in to the pressure of being in a house with a coffee loving maniac like myself.  Gathered up a twenty percent off coupon and managed to find a gift card we had for Bed, Bath and Beyond and sent A.J. on his way.  Alas, we are the proud owners of a Keurig.  It is awesome and might actually be contributing to my bad coffee habits, but I am in love!
My usual Wednesday chaos was even more so yesterday due to the fact that my mother-in-law was sick(most likely due to the fact that she was here watching our kiddos Saturday night in what I thought was a break from Germfest 2012).   I had to drop the two middle boys at my sister’s house so she and my mom could watch them while I taught my art class.  Then Bart and I, along with one of my students who I drive to and from class each week, headed off to today’s house.  For those who haven’t read past blog entries of mine, the group of girls I teach are homeschooled and so each week we alternate to a different one of their houses.  Well in the past I have ended up on one occasion at the wrong girl’s house.  This week’s stroke of genius was that I could not remember the exact address of the house.  So there we are in the Gray Goose and I am trying to determine which house was the correct one.  This very incident should clearly illustrate to all new home developers in this area that you really need to change things up a bit.  Street upon street of similar looking houses does not help me.  I ended up having to call one of the moms whose daughter is in my class, not the mom who was hosting today because I don’t have her phone number programmed in my phone, but next time I will.  I will also remember the red door!!!  And the bay window- all subtle distinctions.  Oh and maybe I will remember the house number as well.
I spent most of my day either driving to or from my sister’s house or hanging out with three or all four of my kids there.  My sister and my mom later had the task of keeping all four of the kids for me so that I could go to a memorial service.  Thank you, Yvette and Mom!!! It meant a lot to me!  Much of my pre-mommy life and some years of my post-mommy life have revolved around working in hospitals.  Starting with one of my internships for my art therapy program in college, I fell in love with working in hospitals and above all with working with people in hospital settings.  It is such a weird concept for some people to wrap their mind around, but I know any of you who have worked in a hospital or still do, can relate.  Unfortunately working in a hospital brings about one very painful occupational hazard and that is having to say goodbye to some pretty awesome patients that you worked with. 
I weaved the Gray Goose through the backroads of Vienna to avoid the major annoyance that is Tysons Corner where the Beltway and toll road and metro construction collide.  Hop on the Beltway near Gallows and it was smoothsailing to the destination.  Making good time until I was around the corner from where the service was and cars were starting to pour out and have to park along this very main road.  I ended up parking in a neighborhood of townhouses a couple blocks away and booked it up the side of this main road, praying that no car would hit me and also that my slightly tight(thank you baby weight!) black pants would not split down the seam of my butt as I was running to make it into the service.  All the while I am thinking, what a testament to this awesome kid’s life(well really young man as he was an adult now!) and to his family.  The service was bittersweet- every bit of it was a reflection of who this kid was.  Everyone who spoke managed to truly capture his essence.  He was a character.  He was really one of a kind.  He had a smile and laugh that still warm my heart to think about.  He was so clever and had a hilarious sarcastic wit about him.  He loved his family. He loved his life and he was just so HAPPY.   I had the privilege of meeting him ten years ago when he was first diagnosed.  Through my work at a cancer support program and then with the Child Life department at the hospital he was treated at, I was able to keep in touch with him and his family through the years.  My work path hadn’t crossed him or his family’s path in a long time, but I found out about him dying and wanted to show support to his incredible family.  I hate the term paying respect- it sounds so formal.  I have decided I like “paying remembrance” better.  Because that is really what you do at any sort of memorial- you remember a person.  You show the family you remembered him and them.  You share stories and memories of that person and how special they were and always will be.  It was heartbreakingly beautiful to see how his siblings have grown because in hospital work like in so many settings of “people” work you get to know families as well.  His parents are still the amazingly strong couple and parents they always were.  I was so glad I could see them after the service and hug them and let them know how much I loved their kiddo.  They love their kids more than life and you can just feel it.  Which is why it was so much harder seeing them again in light of the fact that I now have my own kids.  This family met me before I was even engaged to A.J.  There is so much time and history there.  Despite how sad I felt yesterday and still feel, I know they will get through it and that it will be hard, but they are tough and resilient and will carry each other through.  And based on how many people were packed into the service, have a world of support hugging around them. 
There was one very bright part of the day and that was getting to see another young woman and her mom who I had worked with the same years I first worked with this young man- sounds so funny to call her that as she was a cute spunky teen when I met her.  That bubbly teen beat incredible odds and is now a grown woman, married with a beautiful baby of her own.  Getting to talk to her and her mom and give them huge hugs that say more than any words can, those are the tangibles that get me by.  She told me about getting to see this young guy the night before he died and how he talked to her about Lady Gaga.  He was always so funny like that, up on all the current events and never missing a beat.
I don’t mean for this post to sound like a downer.  It shouldn’t.  I just want people to realize that all those hospital staff(Child Life Specialists, nurses, doctors, techs, secretaries, hospital housekeeping, food services, the coffee cart people in the lobby), they remember you and your children.  They remember you whether you were there just for a brief emergency room visit for your child to get stitches or whether your child has been in and out of the hospital his/her entire life.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Non-Guilty Moments of Calm

So I am seeing the light at the end of a long stinky kid puke filled tunnel. After our super long funeral weekend, last week became a nice long blur of a house full of germs.  And for those of you close to me, you know that despite the fact that I am not the neatest person in the world, I am a big time germaphobe.  Bring on the bleach!  After a very brief reprieve on Saturday night in which A.J. and I were able to escape for three solid hours counting travel time for drinks with some of the kindergarten parents from Josie's class, the germs returned or rather were tossed up all over our bed in the middle of the night(thank you, Jimmy).  Poor kiddo- he was sick as a dog...which I really don't understand the phrase of, and at the moment the dog is the only one in this house who has not been sick in the past week and a half.  Well unless you count the fact that the vet thinks the dog has a thyroid problem and Moxie has been getting blood tests to check for that.
Bart's baptism was supposed to be Sunday afternoon so that immediately got cancelled thankfully because by Sunday afternoon, the funk had passed on to A.J.  This actually worked out partly in my favor because Monday morning was looking like a logistical nightmare for me.  I had made the mistake of scheduling Bart's 4 month check up at 9:30.  I would never be on time if Jimmy had been well enough to go to school.  The thought of having to schlep all three boys to the appointment and wait in the sick room(because I would have felt really guilty taking Jimmy in the well waiting room) made me think I would rather have a needle stuck in my eye than bring home any other sicknesses.  That would have been sure to happen based on my wild boys' need to touch everything and scale every surface of a room.  Most likely Sawyer would have licked at least one surface as well.  Painful odds to work with.  With A. J. home, even in his almost comatose state on the couch, I could leave things 1 & 2, drop Josie at school then head with Bart to the pediatricians' office.  Which is exactly what I did.  Thankful for the almost holiday-like traffic(most likely due to the time change) which allowed me to be on time to drop Josie off.  Then to the peds office a short ways past her school.  Enjoyed the perfect morning sunshine, more adult radio(nothing too bad, just morning talk shows I can't have on anymore in my older kids' presence), coffee in the travel mug.  Arrived early for the appointment so hung out in the Gray Goose finished my coffee and fed Bart.  I headed up to the peds' office EARLY with Bart.  Sat in the well waiting room and just breathed and smiled at other parents and oohed and aahed over a 5 day old baby girl, her parents' first.  Smiled partly because she was so tiny and adorable, mostly because I am thankful to be where I am and can remember so well when A.J. and I were those parents with our new baby girl in the waiting room.  I texted my oldest sister that this was the most relaxed I had been in the past two weeks and it was true.
Spent much of the afternoon yesterday outside.  Also opened every window of the house to continue operation germs be gone.  It was a perfect spring weather sort of day, a day that I don't mind my little house so much because we have such a big yard.  The boys were all over, kicking balls around, riding bikes and trikes.  Then there is this fun new game they have.  Some background info is needed to explain this to full amusing effect.  We live on one of the busier corners in our neighborhood where there is a four way stop.  This stop is often the vain of my existence- people have various reactions to it, none of which is to actually stop- slow down just enough, speed up as you approach the stop and blow on through, or just casually run it.  The other day one of these older guys ran it and  then when a school bus driver said something to him, he cursed her out.  Truly a lovely neighborhood I swear!  So to appease me somewhat A.J. bought two of those neon yellow kid cutouts with red hats and orange flags to put out near our driveway when I have the kids out front.  Well I still just choose to stay outback and the kids ride their bikes on the carport and patio.  The neon kids are now yet another toy for the kids to punt around, sometimes quite literally.  Yesterday Jimmy chose to hurl them off the top of our swing set from the platform that is a little clubhouse at the top of the slide.  Sawyer chose to place one at the bottom of the slide and knock it over time and again as he came down the slide.  Some parents might say I am encouraging this violence.  I say, they need to get their energy out and as long as they are just beating on the plastic dummies rather than each other, no harm done.

After we picked Josie up, back out to the yard, we went.  I was really hoping to minimize their exposure to A.J. and his germs.  Jimmy decided to make up another fun game using the rope that hangs from the top of the playset next to the platform where the slide starts.  He tied the end of the rope around his waist.  Note that the other end of the rope is secured to the top of the playset.  He stood at the top of the slide and then you can guess where this is going- hurled his body down the slide as I looked up to see this unfolding.  I was on the phone with one of my best friends and ran screaming towards the slide for Jimmy to stop.  No major injury- thank you, God!  My husband unfortunately also witnessed this and said to me: "how are the kids any safer with you out here??"  Because I had just been saying to him a few minutes earlier that they needed an adult outside with them, not just watching from the kitchen window.
 Josie decided yesterday would be the day to take the training wheels off her bike.  So we did and then I spent the next hour helping her back and forth on the patio.  She was a bit nervous at first and kept letting go with one hand and the bike would jerk to the other side and she'd abandon ship.  We ended up deciding to just focus on her making it further in a straight path, we'll conquer turns a different day.  In order to maximize a straight path, she would start on the patio and continue on in the yard.  This system was genius the first couple times...until she ran straight into the bottom of the slide and somehow ended up with a large red mark on her side.  I may have also been screaming from the porch to "watch out for the slide!".  My poor Monkey was done for the day after that.

So today's non-guilty moment of calm was spent with my two littlest guys sitting on the bench outside at the gas station soaking up the awesome morning sun while the Gray Goose got her safety inspection.  Despite the fact that the Goose is so dinged up, she continues to pass the test and is still street legal.  I am thankful the guys at our local gas station are friendly and just smile as I get out of the car and struggle to unload Sawyer from his car seat and then grab Bart's seat out of its base, praying that the various empty bottles, cups, papers, and other car clutter stay in place and don't all come crashing out.  The guys pay no attention to the fact that my car is crammed full of car seats and clutter.  I am also thankful that the safety test does not include some sort of interior space inspection.  After our trip up and back from Connecticut last weekend, the Goose's interior is scary enough to be declared condemned.
Wishing you calm moments where you just have a chance to sit back and breathe and you can't feel any tinge of guilt because you have to be at that exact place at that exact moment, waiting to check one more thing off your list!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Toddler Interpreter Needed, Backporch Vodka, and BTR

Spring is in the air and this week and this house are getting back on track despite the state of chaos it may look like.  The plague that has been making the rounds seems to be sticking with Sawyer who thankfully just has a fever and a case of looking like a droopy dog, not much else.  I will take fever over vomit any day.  I did feel at a loss this morning when my little Soybean kept repeatedly asking me through his pacifier clenched-upon teeth for something that started out sounding like “slippery” or “strawberry”.  We had about twenty minutes of Jimmy and I trying to decipher this toddler gibberish before resorting to calling A.J. on the speaker phone which just further angered Sawyer.  And most likely angered A.J. who hopefully was not with a client or in a meeting.  A couple minutes later, after cursing myself for never learning or teaching my kids baby sign as well as pleading with Sawyer to point at whatever it was that he wanted, I realized he wanted to watch “Sharkboy”, short for “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl” on the DVR.  One crisis resolved and on to the rest of the morning. 
Since the weather is incredible right now and this house needs a good airing out and bon voyage party to any and all germs, I went about opening all the windows.  What a wonderful cross breeze until I realized that when I moved our honking mongo sectional couch out of the way to open the two low windows in our living room(which has large picture windows across one side), I unearthed a colony of dust bunnies who had taken up residence under the couch and were now taking flight around the living room.  Rush to close the windows and grab the two vacuum cleaners since we now have the upright and the Ghostbuster-like back pack.  Prior to the full on vacuuming I had to deal with all the random items which also had hibernated under the couch(nativity figures, legos, an old bottle of Sawyer’s, multiple socks, many toy parts, and a couple pairs of Jimmy’s underoos- don’t ask it was all very frightening!).  Sort all this junk, tossed a bunch of it, go about vacuuming.  Can’t tell if it is me finishing off this virus, the heat of the house, or the hormones from my post baby body, but I am sweating buckets.  Adding to this agony are my helpers- again, shouldn’t three people vacuuming be some sort of formula like this: amount of work or time it takes to do work divided by three.  Somehow, my wild boys multiply my work load and way more than twice over. 
Thursdays are supposed to be my afternoon with my mother’s helper- our next door neighbor who babysits for us.  I have hired her to help on Thursdays for a couple hours in the hopes of accomplishing at least one task a week- ha ha!  Last week we were leaving for Grandma’s funeral so that got cancelled.  The week before was cancelled because the babysitter had the flu and this week I had to cancel because of my sick Sawyer.  All this in house time and all these germs and by germs I mean children, screamed for some outside time.  So after we picked Josie up, we took advantage of the awesome weather.  The boys ran amok as usual.  Moxie, the dog is truly in her element in the spring.  This dog was born to bark and chase people.  A winning combo for anyone who lives in a house on a corner with a fenced in yard that is over half an acre.  Nice weather brings more and more people out.  They have all learned mostly to ignore our crazy pooch, some even shout hello to her as they move as quickly as possible to get past our yard.  Then there are the random pairs of dogs- we have two pairs in this neighborhood- who walk themselves.  No kidding, no owners in sight.  These dogs know their routes and unfortunately they all include our street.  They at least have the smarts to keep moving past our yard.  One of the times I actually wish we had a home owners association.
The afternoon is just about perfect…then my six year old with the sixteen year old ‘tude gets cranky that she can’t have our neighbor who is her age over(I am trying to prevent this plague from moving to any more people).  After some pouting she heads inside to watch t.v.  I go about cleaning up our patio area.  Which is when I discover the potatoes in a pot.  Potatoes that are now close to becoming vodka.  Potatoes that my mother-in-law brought over for Thanksgiving dinner, but due to a major miscommunication with A.J. had about ten pounds too many.  Thanks, Honey, for cleaning those up!  Doesn’t he know that the outside is his domain?!   Go grab a trash bag and deal with the liquefied potatoes- yuck!
End up inside a while later and spent a little bonding time with my blue-eyed Monkey watching one of her favorite shows “Good Luck Charlie”.  Sad thing is that I actually laughed at quite a bit of it.  Even sadder still is realizing some similarities A.J. and I have to the parents.  Where did the time go?  I used to relate to the kids on the shows or even the young singletons.  Now I am watching my daughter’s shows comparing myself to the parents and dreaming about having my house decorated as cool and kid friendly as theirs.  And being that it is Lent and I am confessing, I also might have been blasting Josie’s Big Time Rush cd with the windows of the Gray Goose down when I pulled into the carpool line.  And it felt great!                                 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sump Pumps, Cha Cha Hats, Funerals, & Sawyer in a Grotto

Well let’s just say I am waiting for March to turn around.  We were supposed to leave last Thursday around noon for Connecticut for all of A.J.’s grandma’s funeral services last weekend.  Thursday morning, I smelled a burning smell in the basement and our sump pump was making a strange loud noise and was running constantly.  Thankfully a plumber was able to come out pretty quickly.  And thankfully I had time to color my hair before he arrived.  Yes, I know with all the packing I should have been doing at that moment, there I was coloring my hair and for a funeral no less.  My roots really needed it!  Plumber showed up a short time later and turns out that something or rather “several things” were stuck under the float mechanism causing the sump pump not to register correctly and shut off so it was running continuously.  Grateful to find out that what was supposed to be a five hundred dollar replacement turned out to be a much smaller fee for some simple fixes.  A.J. got home in decent time which means only a couple hours later than he had planned.  Now just waiting for the mother-in-law so we could head out and honestly I was still packing at this point.  A.J. was feeling a bit tense about the weekend and wanting to beat D.C. rush hour and get on the road and was a bit aggravated because he had supposedly told his mom to come to our house at noon so she could help wrangle kids while I finished packing.  Her arrival around 3 and her disclosure that she had been at the salon getting her face waxed didn’t help his mood.  Oh well.  So finally around 3:30 we were off.  But it was not to last.  Either due to the curving back roads we were taking to get to the Beltway from our house or due to a stomach bug, Josie puked all over the back seat and partially over my mother-in-law’s lap.  Twenty minutes into our trip and back home we went.  Ironically I had been texting my sister a couple minutes before Josie got sick that our trip was a bit tense already and that Josie was saying her stomach hurt and all I needed was for her to barf all over the back seat.  A true case of be careful what you wish for.
Fast forward through going back home, cleaning up the stinky Gray Goose’s seats and floor, running some laundry and eating a quick subway dinner.  FYI pillow pets can go in the washing machine- just not the dryer.  We waited out traffic and started out again around 7PM and got into the hotel in Connecticut around 2:30A.M.  Kids were hyper and bouncing around til 4:30A.M. 
Friday we had the viewing which was family only at first.  I am a firm believer in being up front and honest with kids when someone has died.  They usually handle death much better than adults expect.  Overall the kids did just fine.  We went up by the open casket and said some prayers.  Sawyer just kept saying “Grandma sleeping!”.  Jimmy set up his army men and kept occupied with that.  Sawyer was doing sprints across the room into the hall which would have been okay if there hadn’t been another viewing at the same time next to us.  So off to the mall I went with the four kids.  It really wasn’t so bad because at this point I had fairly low expectations of taking them by myself to a mall that we didn’t know.  We must have spent about a half hour in the gift shop area of Rain Forest CafĂ© which my kids had never been to before and were therefore quite fascinated with the whole thing.  Of course everyone had to pick out a toy, but they were much deserved by this point.  As a joke I grabbed something called a cha cha hat for A.J. which is basically an inflatable frog head that fits around your head like a hat.  We needed something to lighten the mood and this was perfect.  We drove through a McDonald’s on the way back to the hotel to get the kids some dinner.  Crossing the parking lot to get back into the hotel, I was rushing the kids along and of course Josie wipes out and skinned her knee since she was wearing a dress and tights which didn’t provide enough padding to prevent this.  Manage to keep her fairly calm getting back up to our room where we set up a little picnic for the kids and sent A.J. pictures of ourselves in the cha cha hat to his cell phone.  The rest of the night was fairly uneventful.

Saturday morning up bright and early to get ready for the funeral and eat breakfast down in the hotel before we left.  Josie had about a half hour meltdown that she was not going to wear tights and she could not walk at the funeral due to her knee injury.  Along came the tears and blotchy red face and all I am thinking is she needs to get it together because she is supposed to be taking the gifts up at the funeral mass with A.J. It is really a blur, but somehow we got her into the tights and calmed down.  Now add the pouring rain to the fun of our day.  Guess we should be thankful it wasn’t ice and snow.  The beginning of any funeral mass for those who aren’t familiar is the procession down the aisle of the church.  The pallbearers help wheel the casket which is covered with a drape followed by the immediate family of the deceased.  So picture this motley crew following behind Grandma’s casket: Josie holding A.J.’s aunt’s hand, A.J. carrying Sawyer and holding Jimmy’s hand.  Jimmy was also holding my mother-in-law’s hand.  Then I was in the very back holding Bart in his infant seat with the diaper bag draped over my other arm.  Bart was tucked snuggly under several toys and a burp cloth.  I could not have felt more awkward.  Then we get seated smack in the front row which is the usual for the family, but my children rarely even sit inside our church for masses, the cry room or the back lobby are our hot spots.  Jimmy and Sawyer are immediately drawn to the kneelers as well as the narrow table that is right in front of our pew leaning against it.  At one point Sawyer starts to climb and is halfway lying on this table.  I peel him back and decide to get the iPods out in hopes they will keep my wild boys quiet.  This trick worked well for a brief time until Sawyer saw A.J. go up to the lectern to give the eulogy.  He was yelling “Daddy!” and trying to run up to join A.J.  And of course this meant I took Sawyer to the back of the church for the eulogy.  Turns out Josie and A.J. did not have to take the gifts up before Communion as they were already up at the alter so our morning’s tights and walking debacle were all for naught.  After the funeral mass and the graveside service and burial, we went out to eat at a restaurant in the same town as the cemetery.  I wound up sitting by A.J.’s aunt who downed 3 Cosmos to my one.  Pretty sad being drunk under the table by an 87 year old! But I can say it was one of the best Cosmos I have ever had. 
On Sunday, before we were making our way back home, we had to stop at A.J.’s aunt’s house.  Before that we were trying to make it to mass closer to her house.  Well in our typical fashion, we took forever checking out of the hotel and getting the car packed.  We made it to mass with 15 minutes left.  I think God knows we were doing our best at this point.  Now this church is a beautiful old Italian Catholic church in Waterbury- Our Lady of Lourdes.  We have been there a couple times before and it has a replica of the grotto at Lourdes where Mary appeared.  This replica is built under the main alter of the church with stairs running down to it and a statue of Mary and a sort of prayer wishing well in front of Mary.  Every time we have gone to this church we go down to see the grotto after mass.  So we kept with our routine and headed down to the grotto.  There are ropes cordoning off the area where the statue of Mary and the replica of Lourdes was.  We give each of the kids change to throw into the fountain and I am busy digging in my wallet to get some for Jimmy when A.J. yelled: “Jesus Christ!  Get him!” and I look and sure enough there is Sawyer on the other side of the ropes dancing around the grotto dangerously close to the fountain.  I fumble to make my way behind the ropes and grab him as he is running away from me, taunting me with his impish grin and giggles.  The group of people at the top of the stairs by the grotto(which included three priests) all tried their best to ignore this spectacle and A.J.’s most unfortunate church outburst.  Amazingly no lightning bolts came down and struck Sawyer so clearly God has a great sense of humor too. 

Now we are back and this stomach bug has made its way through most of the house.  Ready for March to slow down to a lamb's lull and get back on track.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wednesday Evening Walks through Walgreens

By the time I ended up wandering the aisles of Walgreens this evening, I was done.  Done from a crazy exhausting week and really just done from a wacky and weird Wednesday.  My morning started out with the usual buckets of coffee, extra for the dreary weather we are having and some bonding time with my boys.  And as usual all hell manages to break loose five minutes before I am supposed to be leaving the house to teach.  I was gathering my many art bags together to load into the car when A.J. called and asked if everything was o.k.  I was thinking he was referring to the multiple texts and emails I left him asking if he needed me to make hotel reservations for this weekend when we go to Connecticut for his grandmother’s funeral.  I just thought he hadn’t bothered to read them though there was more urgency in his voice.  He then told me that he had received an alert for our county about police investigating a “suspicious device” on OUR street.  I run around like a lunatic to all the windows and sure enough, nothing.  No flashing lights, no sirens.  Before I can finish talking to him, my cell phone rings.  A close friend who also got the alert whose kids happen to be down the street at the same preschool Jimmy goes to.  I am silently thankful Jimmy is only in the two day program and it is one of his days off.  This friend hasn’t heard anything from the school. Friend is also relieved to confirm that it was not anything caused by my wild boysJ  We agree to keep each other posted.  I barely hang up the phone when another friend calls who had also gotten the alert.  And all the while all I can think is how my mother-in-law is on her way here and will surely see something and freak out.  The woman is a wonderful grandmother, but does have a bit of a “worrier” in her.  And this is the morning she watches the boys.  She arrives and tells me that our street is blocked at the other end.  We are in an older neighborhood with houses that are more spread out and our street makes a large u and intersects with a couple of the other main streets in the neighborhood.  As I load my car, my mother-in-law locks the door behind me each trip I make.  She asks what she should do if she sees anything strange and I say call the police of course.  As I head out of my neighborhood I pass the police blockade, but can not get an answer as to what is going on due to the pouring rain.   I go to pick up one of the little girls in my class who rides with me each week.  While she is getting in my car, I hear sirens from the fire station that is by her house, the same fire station that covers my neighborhood.  Make a couple more frantic calls and no one has heard anything.  Oh well, off to class we go. 
Arrive to the house I am teaching at today and decompress by telling this entire crazy saga to the mother whose house it is.  I don’t think I could sound any crazier.  Class goes well and thankfully I do not receive any more calls of panic from family or friends.  After class I drop the little girl off at her house and Bart and I head to pick up A.J.’s suits from the drycleaners.  Bart is snuggled up inside his infant car seat which has one of those fabric zip up covers over the whole thing with only a cut out area for his head.  I park his seat down by the counter with him facing me.  Give the woman my phone number so she can retrieve our clothes.  Only thing is this woman keeps peeking over the counter.  I thought she was just trying to catch a glimpse of the baby until she asks me to put it on the counter.  Then I realize that she thinks I am dropping clothes off and that Bart in his seat is actually a sack of clothes.  I laugh and explain that it is the baby and that I am “picking up”.  Now if it had been Sawyer with me, I might have seriously considered leaving him to be cleaned.  Afterall he has been nicknamed “Pigpen” by my sister. 
The afternoon concludes with me and the boys and the dog picking Josie up from school and heading to my parents.  We had to drop the dog off for the weekend since we are leaving tomorrow and we ended up staying for dinner.  After dinner, mom kept the kids so I could run to Walgreens to grab some makeup and other random items I needed.  Walgreens and really any store for a mom when she does not have any kids with her can become a really strange abyss of information overload and way too many choices.  Normally I have at least two kids in tow and decisions on makeup or shampoo or hair coloring are made as quickly as possible based somewhat on price, but more often than not based on brands I am already familiar with.  Decisions also are made in haste due to whatever dangerous situations one of the kids is putting him or herself into.  There is not much room for browsing.  Tonight, however, I could browse all by myself.  I think I may have finally gotten the correct shade of foundation, but probably won’t even use it.  And as so often happens, I get so overwhelmed with all the choices and the list in my head of what I need and the ongoing list in the back of my head of items that I will buy when I have the time i.e. when no children are with me.  The fluorescent lights, the long day, the cranky mood all are not helping me to be very productive or efficient at all.  And the cranky mood was also not helped by the random awkward guy who kept managing to be in my way whichever aisle I went to and then stood way too close when I was checking out.  Dude, I had all sorts of spicy Chinese food for dinner and no after dinner mints, step back!!
Bart wailed for the half hour ride from my parents’ house back to our house.  This can not be a good sign for our easily eight to nine hour car ride to Connecticut tomorrow with all of us crammed in the Gray Goose. We got home and A.J. tells me that Connecticut is supposed to be getting six to eight inches of snow on Saturday, the day of Grandma’s funeral and graveside service.  Pack the sleds and shovels, kids!