Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Used to Be a Morning Person then I Fell Back to Sleep

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am definitely not a morning person.  I try my best to fake it because we are now at the point where my kids are in school and need to get there relatively on time.  The evolution of my sleep life is something like this.  I was, way back when, at one time, a morning person.  I remember being the first one up after my dad and playing with toys with my younger brother in the family room until my mom and sisters would wake up on Saturday mornings.  That pretty much ended once I hit junior high and found that it was quite refreshing to sleep in on weekends.  In high school, weekend mornings were a great time to catch up on sleep and I attempted to break all sorts of records by sleeping into the afternoon.    In college, I learned that when you’re young you can pull all sorts of crazy hours, can get by on a couple hours of sleep some nights as long as you have a break between classes and can take a nap.  You can thoroughly enjoy all the social aspects of college because you can “catch up” on your sleep on the weekend.  And for my early and mid-twenties, my friends and I pretty much had a great routine perfected where somehow we still drank from the fountain of youth and could go out Wednesday through Saturday nights and were still functioning Thursdays and Fridays during the day at work.  We would also manage to go out Friday night, crash at a friend’s apartment in Arlington, get a couple hazy hours of sleep, roll out of bed or off our friend’s couch or just plain old roll off the blankets that were on the floor and go play in one of our social league soccer games.  We’d grab some sort of super “healthy” brunch or lunch food afterwards, go back to our friend’s apartment and lounge all day, going in and out of naptimes, then get ready to go out again Saturday night.
Now move ahead in time about ten years and you have me in a constant state of sleep deprivation.  While most nights and weeks are not so bad on the sleep-o-meter, every once in a while there will be a week that leaves me in my zany, manic,  I-feel-like-I’m- talking-too- fast, I-need- more-coffee, but-that-will-only- make-the-situation-worse state.  And don’t get me wrong.  I have four, make that five(gotta count my first baby Moxie), wonderful reasons for not getting sleep.  If I didn’t, I would have definitely gone way more bonkers by now. 
A sure-fire way for any bystander to measure just how little sleep I have had the night or week before is to have a conversation with me.  The more nonsensical the conversation, the less sleep I have gotten.  Friday morning was a perfect example of this.  The boys and I were heading to a coffee date with some of the other moms and siblings from Josie’s class.  I called my sister Nikki as we were heading out of our neighborhood.  As we were driving, I passed Jimmy’s preschool director and waved and told Jimmy to wave also.  Nikki said to me: “I thought you were meeting people from Josie’s class.”  My response: “We are, but Jimmy’s preschool is in our driveway so his preschool director was on her way.”  As soon as the sentence came out of my mouth, Nikki and I both burst out laughing.  His preschool is close to our house(2 blocks away), but not actually in our “driveway”.  Another time, about a year or so ago, the kids and I were over at my parents’ house.  I was talking to my mom and sisters in the kitchen and in the middle of the conversation actually said: “Wait a minute!  Who said that? Me?”  I can’t even remember the exact conversation and my sister-in-law may have also been there to witness this insanity, but I can’t remember details either.  These moments humble me and give me a good laugh that lasts long after the annoyance of having to get up in the middle of the night with any or all of my kids.
My techniques to combat lack of sleep or rather having a negative attitude towards it used to be much more reward based and thus not so good for my budget: treating myself to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee on the way to work.  It was an instant gratification method to put me in a positive state before starting my work day.  I also used to hate hate hate having to talk to anyone in the morning before I had about an hour of peace to shower, have a cup of coffee and listen to some radio in the car on the way to work.  Once the kids came that changed because obviously you have to “talk” to people when attempting to get these little creatures moving and ready in the morning.  So starting back when Josie was maybe a little over two and we had her in a Little Kickers class(a mommy/daddy and me soccer program), I started a different technique to get myself and my people motivated and moving in the mornings.  I began singing annoying little diddies that I would make up related to whatever we needed to get to.  Thus “It’s Soccer Saturday in the (insert last name here- keeping this private since blogs are public) House!” rang out and was repeated every Saturday we had soccer.   Since then we have substituted other words for “soccer” like “cleaning”, not quite as fun. I also like to force other horrible renditions of childhood camp or church songs or nursery rhymes upon my family members’ ears(think “This Little Light of Mine”, “Rise and Shine”  “Moxie- do your ears hang low?”).   I used to be able to get Josie and A.J. to sing along, but now they just tune me out.  I even have a greeting that I yell to our neighborhood as I am opening all the curtains in the living room and kitchen and letting Moxie out in the morning.  “Good morning, (insert our neighborhood’s name here- again keeping it private!)!!”- this is said in the same tone of voice and manner that Robin Williams said: “Good Morning, Vietnam!!!” where he held the last syllable extra long and loud. 
These techniques are truly annoying to my little ones and husband I know.  And I swear I have even seen Moxie bury her head under a pillow from time to time.  But for whatever reason, they help me to fake it til I make it which really means Mommy seems like she is in a really great happy mood until the coffee does its trick.  And while I would be mortified if anyone outside of my little family actually witnessed me exercising these techniques, in the confines of my own home, there is no shame.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Holding Cell

A long day and I am putting off my “homework” which is to prepare a paper mache sample for tomorrow’s art class.  After another very sleepless night for over half of the family, I accepted my day’s fate and resigned to take Jimmy to the pediatrician for what was likely another ear infection.  I seriously am starting to think I have some sort of jinx on me that every time A.J. goes out of town on a business trip, one or more of the kids gets sick.  Taking Jimmy also means taking Sawyer and Bart along for the ride.  We made it to the pediatrician’s office still in the window of time for clinic hours.  The assistant at the front desk took pity on me and my plight to not acquire any extra germs in the process of attempting to achieve a healthier status quo for this family.  She said it would be alright if we waited in the teen waiting room instead of the sick room.  Jimmy had not had any fever otherwise I wouldn’t have pleaded my case to be in one of the “well” rooms.  The teen waiting room is about half the size of the other two waiting rooms and has pretty much a direct view through the window in the door across to the nurses’ station.  There is also a carpeted bench that runs along the edges of three sides of the room. Thankfully we were the only ones in this eight by eight holding cell.  We did our usual routine where the boys stayed mild mannered and behaved for all of thirty seconds while I glanced at something on my iPhone and then all hell broke loose.  The boys literally climbed the walls- well benches really and I tried to keep my voice fairly low as I reprimanded them about a thousand times.  They got louder and louder. Sawyer was dancing around in his drunk little frat boy style in his cargo pants.  Jimmy started singing right in Bart’s face.  I tried to stay calm and resist all urges to yank the boys and shake them quiet knowing the nurses would see me and then I would have ended up in a real holding cell. My voice got louder and louder and then by God’s grace some baby getting a shot or strongly disliking his exam began to wail and it canceled out all the chaos of my boys. 
Then Jimmy told me he had to poop.  I lugged Bart in his stroller and Sawyer out into the main hallway to right outside one of the world’s smallest bathrooms.  Due to its tiny size, there was no way we could all fit inside so I left the door cracked for Jimmy to let me know when he was done and I waited against the door in the hall with the other two.  Sawyer was by now pulling a full on WWF performance and hurling his body against the wall at the giant flowers painted on it.  As I am herding him back near me, one of the doctors came walking by to get a chart from the front desk and asked me if I needed any help going so far as to add “I have another five minutes before my first patient arrives.  I can watch the baby for you.”  Clearly we looked like that much of a disaster waiting to happen and thus a liability for him.  In my not enough sleep and definitely not enough coffee mind, it took me about five minutes to figure out how to explain to the doctor politely that I was waiting to wipe my son’s butt.  But thanks for the offer.
One quick exam later with one of the other doctors and we were headed to the pharmacy to get Jimmy’s medicine.  Someone in the marketing department for Safeway sure knows about strategic placement of items in the store.  You have to walk right through the wine and beer section to get to the pharmacy.  I held myself back, but it took a lot of restraint.  In the parking lot, I saw possibly one of the funniest things I have ever seen in terms of bad drivers.  Someone even more eager to get out of there than me gunned their engine not realizing that they were in drive instead of reverse.  She managed to park the front half of her camry over the cement median.  She got out, looked around to see that yes someone did notice that did just happen.  She didn’t make eye contact as she checked her car out.  I was speechless, not knowing if I should ask if she was okay which would surely have embarrassed her more or to just stay quiet.  I stayed quiet, but could not help but watch as she got in her car and gunned it in reverse to get the front half back over the cement median with a large crash.  She hopped out and checked for any damage that was visible, saw that there was none and then sped off.  I did see her engine drop out a block away.  Just kidding.  But I am pretty sure her car was messed up underneath.
Due to our surprise trip to the doctor’s office, I had to cancel a meeting with a contractor about our barn.  Another contractor who we had a call into, got back to me after we were home from the morning’s adventure and ended up coming by to give me a quote.  I had high hopes that this meeting would not go so badly. Sawyer was taking a nap.  Bart had been fed and I managed to get Moxie out in the back yard.  For most of the time, it was calm.  Then after we had gone out back to see the location we are hoping to put the barn shed on, Moxie followed us back in.  And firmly planted her beaky snout in the man’s crotch and refused to move.  Bart reached his point of needing to be held because how dare I put him down for ten minutes.  So I was bouncing him on my lap and trying my best to negotiate prices.  I walked the contractor out front and Jimmy followed.  We chatted about some more ideas and aspects of the pricing.  Jimmy sort of flitted back and forth.  Then I heard the front door open and shut and he came walking towards us and his jeans were undone.  I asked if he had gone potty thinking he had just come from our bathroom.  Jimmy proudly yelled that he had just peed in our bushes with a huge grin on his face.  I muttered an apology to the guy who was cracking up as I swore to him that we weren’t a bunch of rednecks.  Though in reality we are building a barn and my son just peed in our front yard. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Barn Shopping, Random Drives, & Dinosaur Land

So now that A.J. and I have decided we are going to have a multi-purpose mini barn built, we dedicated Saturday to driving out to one of the barn/shed sales places.  The closest one that was open on Saturday was an hour and half away.  Since we had already made this our main plan for the day, I wasn’t worried too much about time or anything until about 11:30 when we were still not out the door and A.J. told me that the place closed at 2:00P.M. on Saturdays.  When I had looked at the website I just quickly gleaned the hours 8-5, but that was Monday thru Friday.  As is typical in my life, I am never fully prepared and the Gray Goose was pretty much on empty.  Add to that, our hungry kids who we had promised drive-through goodness on the way.  To kill two birds with one stone, A.J. grabbed an assortment of chips and drinks when we stopped to get gas.  While we were at the gas station, I called the barn guy who informed me that even if the shop was closed, all of their barns and sheds were open  so that we could at least walk through them.
It was go time and A.J. and I debated the best route of the 3 suggested routes on my iPhone because everyone who lives in Northern Virginia knows that certain roads like 66 tend to be hell on Saturdays.  We went with option 3 of the routes.  Over the course of our life together, A.J. and I have always had a habit of taking random Saturday drives.  We did this a lot more when we were house hunting when Josie was the only kiddo around.  And we don’t take them too often anymore because really there is nothing too relaxing about driving around aimlessly with four kids who are strapped into their seats fighting to get free.  Spring is definitely a great time to take drives out towards the mountains in Virginia.  The weather, at least in the earlier part of the day yesterday, was beautiful.   We drove through a couple very quaint little towns and just as I commented to A.J. what a pretty state Virginia is, we both caught sight of a dilapidated trailor with a crumbled down house next to it.  Oh well…Somehow we overshot one of the roads- navigation systems are great if you know how to use them and if you don’t get sidetracked.  I personally blame it on Dinosaur Land which caused quite a stir in our car when the kids spied it in all its kitschy glory when we were stopped at a red light.
By some miracle, despite one bathroom stop and our detour a bit further west than necessary, we made it to the barn/shed shop with five minutes to spare before the owner was heading out.  This place was like heaven for my three older kids who had been cooped up in the car for over two hours at this point- picture a parking lot with a tiny shed(the main office) in the center surrounded in a crescent formation by about twenty or so other sheds and mini barns that were all unlocked and open for you to roam into and out of.  The gentleman who ran the place was so kind and stayed for almost an extra hour to humor this crazy couple and our four kids.  The kids’ excitement was contagious and as we looked around and explored these sheds and barns, I got even more and more excited that hopefully one of these big bad barns will be ours soon.  Climbing the stairs in the largest model(the one we are hoping to get), brought me back to many childhood memories in my grandpa’s barn in Connecticut.  His barn was much older than this obviously, but I remember climbing up to its second floor to explore with my dad and sisters and brother.  Not even sure my grandpa knew we were up there.  Anyways, the kooky artist in me really believes this barn has good karma and I can’t wait to get ours built!  It is funny because A.J. and I have been researching all different types of shed/sunroom options and while there are definitely more stylish ones out there, we keep coming back to a barn.
While I had this poor salesman cornered to answer all of my million and one questions, A.J. escaped to the port-o-let leaving me and kind salesman with my four goonies.  Oldest three decided to play with the large chunks of gravel.  Not a problem until Josie, my girl with a major league pitcher’s arm and a blind man’s aim, decided to beam a piece of gravel directly at the salesman who had one of the quickest reaction times I have ever seen and ducked as the gravel bounced hard off the shed directly behind us.  He later told me he used to be a state trooper in Maryland.  We made it through the remainder of the barn shopping experience without causing or sustaining any injuries. 
After stuffing down some fast food a town over, we made our way to the afternoon’s reward for good behavior: Dinosaur Land.  This place looks straight out of the fifties or sixties and was essentially a very large gift shop with an entrance to a large yard with about thirty or so enormous dinosaur replicas placed throughout.  Sadly, as soon as we got there, it started pouring rain.  We appeased the kids with toys from the gift shop and old-fashioned candy.  The older couple who ran the place were so friendly and patient with my munchkins.  I look forward to venturing back there for a full on dino exploration with the kids. 
I will end this post on a cheesy note because cheese is good and everyone can use some.  I will forever cherish the memories of this day with my husband and kids.  It had so many unexpected moments of fun and humor like passing a place called Gooney Creek Campground- we must go back.  Days like this one can’t be planned and they also can’t ever be forgotten.  They are the best kind of days.  Random drives together as a family.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Old Lady Perfume & Building a Barn

Earlier this evening, I allowed my oldest 3 kids to destroy an entire large roll of Xmas wrapping paper. Any overworked overtired parent (which is really every parent) can tell you that there are many small sacrifices you make just to have several glorious minutes IN A ROW where your children are completely occupied.  It was well worth the mess to give me some sense of sanity since I knew A.J. was working late. The roll of wrapping paper had made its way up to our main level yesterday via Sawyer who had followed me to the store room when I was gathering supplies for my art class. For an entire day Jimmy kept telling me that this was "the Xmas wrapping paper" and I needed to take it away from Sawyer. That was when it was still wrapped in plastic and Sawyer was really just using it as a weapon/broom/hockey stick.  By tonight the plastic wrap was partly unwound and Jimmy decided to make a "belt" out of a strip of paper.   Add Sawyer to the picture and the paper became more and more unrolled. I knew from the start that this entire roll of wrapping paper would end up in the trash. I embraced the moment and the kids went crazy. My job at that time became ensuring Bart's safety because I was worried he would get stepped on in the tornado of paper and kids. The amusement kept them busy for close to thirty minutes straight. A small victory at the end of another crazy day living the dream.
The first chunk of my morning was spent on the phone attempting to find out information from our county about permits and requirements for building a large shed/barn structure on our back yard.  In addition to that, I attempted to get some rough estimates to the cost of concrete slabs and concrete foundations.  Being that today is Thursday and by now, the week’s sleep deprivation is catching up before my weekend recharge, I am getting a bit punchy.  While some people talk slower when they are overtired, I tend to talk at warp speed when I am super tired and injecting the coffee pretty much straight into my veins.  I did actually ponder what it would be like to just stick my mouth under the keurig, in the style of doing a keg stand, but I don’t even think that would help.   Though if I was upside down it would get some more blood flowing to my brain.  Hmmm.  Maybe I will try that tomorrow morning.  Back to my point.  I essentially googled concrete companies in our area and called each to get estimates.  By the third company I had my whole spiel down and flew through my rambling story only to hear the woman on the other line of the phone say: “Ma’am, we’re a commercial construction company.”  Me, gulping: “Oh sorry…” My bad!  But to my credit, it was amazing I made any sense at all because while I was making these calls, Jimmy and Sawyer were entertaining themselves with the nerf dart guns, shooting them at the ceiling, whining until I peeled the darts down for them.  I was just happy no one took a dart to the eye.
After I finished the calls, I was rushing as always to get the goonies ready to meet my sister Yvette and her daughter Katarina at their mechanic.  The Gray Goose has been making a weird noise, not exactly like the brakes going, but after the guy at Jiffy Lube could find nothing wrong with it yesterday, he still said I might want to get it checked out at a shop where they could actually take the tires off to make sure everything was okay.  I also had the fear that there was now some sort of electrical short thing happening with the brake lights when I would hit the brakes because when A.J. had hit our neighbor’s mailbox, we only had the light fixed so there is still a dent that collects water right by the passenger rear brake lights. 
 Due to my lack of time management skills and my morning on the phone, I resorted to an extra dose of perfume instead of a shower.  Unfortunately I had grabbed an old perfume I haven’t worn in a long time.  After several spritzes, I realized two things: 1.) perfume must have a shelf life and 2.) I smelled like an old lady.  The smelling like an old lady part was later confirmed by my sister.  I later got my second “Ma’am” of the day when the very nice mechanic told me that they could find nothing wrong with the car.  Phew!  The Gray Goose rides on.
In other awesome news for today, A.J. surprised me this afternoon with news that he had gotten us a personal loan to build our two story barn/shed or one story sunroom/whatever- building- we -end –up- with that I will be using for my art studio space.  WOOHOO!  My studio dreams and dreams of teaching classes and having an open studio to combine all my loves of working with people and art are getting that much closer.  Side note we will also be using the space for storage and for A.J. to have some sort of office space or “man hut” space.  A.J. caught me so much by surprise that at first I thought he was just saying he had applied for a loan for us.  When I didn’t seem so enthused, he repeated himself.  If I weren’t so tired, I’d be celebrating with a nice glass of wine right now.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"D" Words

Done, but determined: feeling especially wiped out, but just want to do something for me right now and really want to get a blog in as it helps me clear my head and vent.
Direct: Even though we have been married almost 8 years, I am finally learning to be better about being direct with A.J. about my feelings rather than avoiding things or using one of my all time classic lines “I’m fine.”, “It’s fine.”, “Nevermind, we’ll talk about it later.”  So this morning when I was trying to actually shower before taking Jimmy to school and A.J. called and I couldn’t quite make it to the phone, I rushed to get out and throw a towel around me and call him back expecting it to be some emergency or something.  Nope, he just wanted to tell me in an annoyed tone that Josie was late again, as if it was my fault.  This did not help my morning at all as I was running around to get all three boys fed and out the door and make sure Jimmy had something blue to take in to show and tell for blue day as well as a “blue” picture for his class collage and to make sure he had on some article of blue clothing.  And why did I have to do this all this morning?  Because my four year old son refused to do his homework last night.  High school should be great!  But I am getting way off topic.  The point here is that after my brief, but annoying phone call from my husband and my mad dash to drop Jimmy at preschool, I emailed A.J. to get things off my chest and I actually behaved like a grown up and used all sorts of “I feel” statements or “when you do this, even though you don’t mean such and such, I take it such and such way”.  I even curbed my sarcasm- well maybe I did slide one sarcastic sentence in. 
Discovery:  So being that we live in Northern Virginia and really close to Dulles Airport, the big buzz this morning was of course, the Space Shuttle Discovery.  I hadn’t really given it much thought, but then my mother-in-law came over to watch Sawyer and Bart so I could go to the eye doctor and she was all sorts of excited to get a glimpse of the shuttle.  She was so excited to get out in the yard so as not to miss her chance that she almost forgot to take the baby with her.  Just kidding…sort of.  We had the news on before I was leaving and then it got me a bit more excited about the history of today and reminded me that being in this area, we are in proximity to so much history.  It also reminded me of when I was a kid and how much I loved the movie “Space Camp”.   I had minimal hopes of getting a real view of the shuttle as it was getting more cloudy as I was leaving for my eleven o’clock appointment.  I also knew that I needed to take the back roads to be on time since Route 28 was supposedly a parking lot of gawkers hoping to see a peek of history.  It was somewhat humorous and also kind of neat to see all these people standing outside of their office buildings or on random street corners, eyes towards the sky in the direction of Dulles.  And then as I was waiting to make a left turn at a fairly large intersection, the shuttle came into view.  I managed to snap a quick pic with my phone, but what I wish I had gotten on film was the idiot in the van who slammed his brakes on as he was making the left turn and swerved onto the median and jumped out to get a look at the shuttle barely avoiding being rear ended by about five cars turning behind him.  It was sort of surreal driving on to the doctor’s office with the shuttle in my rearview mirror.  It was also a bit bizarre because there were no other planes in the sky and so many people outside just looking up.  I guess we really are all kids at heart.
Don’t: A word that most parents can tell you is way overused in their house.  At least in mine, it is used over nine hundred ninety nine times a day and it is usually followed up by one of my children’s names.  Many times it is said just as something is happening in hopes of a major catastrophe being avoided.  When said catastrophe ultimately occurs, I move on to another one of my overused “D” words and it isn’t “Darn” though it should be as I am constantly reminded when one of my little darlings repeats it.  Went straight to a major “darn” moment when I found out that Jimmy had used his “cream”- cortisone- to clean our toilet today.  Found this out about five minutes after the fact when I saw a strange film on top of the toilet water.  Upon further investigation, Jimmy explained his new cleaning method. 
Darn Dog quit digging in the dirt!: Moxie has a fondness for digging around and behind our azalea bushes and our hydrangeas.  This afternoon, I had all the kids out back attempting to tire them out with sunshine and every single one of our outdoor toys.  I had left the baby in his bouncy seat for a few minutes while I walked over to where Josie was on our swing set.  Came back to find poor Bart covered in a ton of loose dirt that the d*** dog had kicked up in her quest to dig to the center of the earth.  I screamed at Moxie who leaped away and sprung for the other side of the yard after kicking one last bit of dirt onto Bart.  In addition to the baby being covered, there was a large pile of dirt flung all over the patio.  Jimmy had fun “helping” sweep it up while I shook the baby off. 
Done for the night!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Cousin Cohort & the Crazy Goose Chase

My kids are lucky in that they have grown up and will continue to grow up in the same area as all of their cousins.  The current count of grandkids on my side of the family is 14 and one more due in July.  Here is the spread: Peter, a couple weeks shy of 13; Sofi, almost 11; Annabelle, 8 next month; George, 8 in June; Josie, just turned 6 in January; Ava Clare, just turned 5 in January;  Jimmy, just turned 4 in December; Jay, just turned 4 six days after Jimmy;  Stefan, will be 4 in May;  Sam will be 3 in June; Katarina, 2 and a half;  Sawyer is a month younger than Katarina; Callie, almost 9 months; Bart 5 months; and my sister Nikki’s and her husband’s 4th baby is due in July.  Within this crazy bunch, there are several mini-groups formed basically by the birth order or by personality depending on the day.  While most of the time it is pure chaos, it also makes for a great view into the lives of children and their interactions with one another.  The cousins have grownup seeing each other at least a couple times a week or more and so are almost like siblings at times.  It is fun to watch as their personalities emerge and they learn within this crazy bunch to speak up for themselves and for each other.  Beneath it all, there is a unique bond between all of them.  They have shared so much in their little lives and I look forward to seeing where the future takes all of them.  But most of all, I hope they keep their special cousin cohort no matter where their lives take them.
Yesterday was Josie’s and her older cousins’ last official day off for spring break, excluding the weekend of course.  The preschools which the younger contingent of the cousins attend all follow the public schools’ spring break schedule so they had off last week and had school this week.  The older contingent of cousins had break this week.  Therefore the mom contingent had no breakJ  But in the hopes of not being any more long-winded than I already am, I will get to the point.  My sisters and I decided we should do something special with the kids for this last day off.  My sister-in-law Lindsey opted out for a more relaxing afternoon of making sure her kids took naps- smart woman!  We wanted to do something special that would be fairly cheap or free and something that would work for all ages.  The weather cooperated and we decided to take a cousin fieldtrip to check out a historic mill nearby.  Now I am used to being a spectacle with my own four kids, but we are very obviously a circus when any or all of the cousins are together.  
The kids had a blast checking out the mill and the grounds surrounding it.  The cousins prove that you can have fun anywhere as long as you are all together.  The fieldtrip was minimally educational in that they all sort of learned what a mill is- thanks to my sister Yvette for being the tourguide since apparently we scared everyone else off.  My sister Nikki had brought some crackers to feed the geese.  Normally there are several geese here.  Yesterday there were two- one floating around on the little creek area where the water from the mill empties into and the other was clearly sitting on a nest of eggs in the grasses next to the creek.  We made sure the kids kept away from the goose sitting on the eggs.  Thus, all of the little goonies with the exception of Bart focused their energy and throwing arms on hoisting crackers to the lone goose on the water.  This was going along “swimmingly” without incident- it is purely a miracle none of the kids ended up in the water.  Then, the lone goose who had by now had his fill of crackers decided we were a bit too close to his mate and her eggs for his liking and he bolted up the bank and charged our entire group, hissing and snapping his bill with his neck stretched towards us.  The entire group of us went into panic mode and screamed.  The kids scattered back up towards the millhouse.  Possibly the funniest thing to see was my sister Nikki, largely pregnant, freaking out and pulling a George Costanza shoving her son Sam out of the way so she could run from the goose.  Poor Sam was left closest to the bill-snapping goose and took a goose bite to the butt.  Nikki scurried to rescue Sam and my other sister Yvette attempted to shoe the goose away by frantically waving her sweater at it.  Just as the goose would stop and we’d slow down to take a breath and calm down from laughing so hard, the goose would lurch back into action.  Finally he backed down and the cousins all loved reenacting the great goose chase.  Some men who were landscaping the grounds clearly enjoyed the amusing picture we painted.
We headed up to the little mill store to buy some old-fashioned candy which we had promised to the kids.  The door was locked with a sign to either go back down to the millhouse to get someone who worked there or to call a number from one of our cell phones.  No surprise that our call went unanswered.  We formed a caravan of two kid-packed minivans and a Suburban and headed to Baskin Robbins.  You can fill in the blanks with how this group behaved in the middle of a small ice cream shop.  But it was worth it.  I topped off my day with a scoop of Peanut Butter Chocolate ice cream.    

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The I'm Trying I Swear Prayer & Chreaster Claustrophobia

Despite the fact that A.J. is now home and our life is back to normal, I still am completely sleep deprived.  For good reason- holiday preparations and celebrations with the kiddos and fam.  This was a near perfect Easter.  Egg dying on Saturday at my sister’s house.  Watched “Hop” with our munchkins Saturday night and soon after they and I conked out on the couch, we moved them to their beds and I set about doing the bunny hop.  One of the best reasons to have children is for holidays.  And most holidays involve children getting candy thus parents end up with easy access to the stress relieving powers of chocolate.  And I have found that Reese’s peanut butter cup eggs go very well with coffee- especially when you have about six of them.  Okay maybe more, but I lost count. 
Sunday morning the kids popped up raring to go see what the Easter bunny had brought them and to do our little egg hunt in the living room.  After a candy-filled breakfast, we scurried to get ready for church.  Now this would be no problem if I had actually set shoes out the night before with the kids’ outfits, but of course I hadn’t and there was the usual I can’t find a darn pair to fit the kids, just throw everything around until I find any pair that will fit and look somewhat nice.  Add to this tornado, the running list in my head of items I needed to bring to my sister’s house which we were heading to straight after mass.  And when all hope of being on time is gone, I resort to the prayer I have been saying at least a couple times a week since becoming a parent(usually I am saying this while attempting to make it on time to church).  “I’m trying my best, God. I swear.” And “We’re doing our best.  Someday we will be on time.”  I imagine God to answer me with something like this: “No, Cami, you will probably never be on time, but keep trying” with a smug grin on His face- afterall He made meJ .  So after loading the kids and pretty much every item into the already overflowing Gray Goose, we headed to church leaving the house ten minutes after mass started.  Upon getting a block away, we saw a bunch of other cars heading into the church parking lot.  Could it be that there are other people as late as us?? Then I remembered something that our church does- they moved some of the mass times later than usual.  Sweet Jesus!  Yes, Virginia, there is an Easter Bunny!  We were on time for mass.  On Easter.  We actually got a place to stand in the back.  The last two years we have ended up pretty much outside in the courtyard for both Christmas and Easter masses. 
Hooray!  In every mom’s mind there is this perfect vision of every family member looking super cute and put together in their holiday best making it through mass with only minor interruptions to those around them.  All four kids in Easter outfits- check.  Somewhat occupied- check.  Josie had her Furr Real Bunny and the two middle boys had their Angry Birds which the Easter Bunny brought them and Bart was fast asleep in the stroller.  The older three did a great job for almost the first half of mass.  Then there was a quick descent to Jimmy lying on the floor first using his stuffed Angry Bird for a pillow then actually using the feet of the older gentleman who was standing next to us.  The guy had a great sense of humor about it though and said how cute the kids were.  Sawyer and Jimmy started whacking each other with their Angry Birds.  Then in addition to the gradual fading of my children’s self-control, more and more people filed into the lobby with us.  All of the Christmas/Easter(“Chreaster”) mass-goers.  Sawyer was squatting on the floor by me and began rubbing his hands up and down my leg most likely due to the fact that he was amazed at how smooth it was since I had actually shaved.  Finally A.J. waved the flag of defeat and offered to take the older three outside which should have been a fairly calm transition except that Jimmy refused to walk and made A.J. carry him and they took off with Josie weaving through the crowd to the doors, leaving me standing there helpless holding Bart who had by now woken up and Sawyer who was refusing to get up and starting to cry because he wanted me to hold him.   There I am holding the baby trying to politely bend down in my dress to also grab Sawyer, hoping no one is getting a nice flash of my underwear or untoned butt.   A woman right next to me offered to hold Bart so I could pick Sawyer up explaining that she herself had four kids, she had “been there”.  At first I hesitated, but then I gave in to help which is something I should do way more often.  A.J. came back and hoisted Sawyer away to the courtyard to play.  Leaving me alone with Baby Bart who was happy as long as I was holding him and bouncing him.  He has started to try to chew on anything and everything.  So he was now chewing on my shoulder, not a big deal until about five minutes later when I realized he had spit up the nice chunky cottage cheese-like baby spit up all the way down my arm.  I also realized that the man next to me must have definitely noticed this much sooner than I had.  Nothing like going from feeling somewhat pulled together and looking a touch classier than my usual attire of worn in jeans, t-shirts, and flip-flops to acknowledging that you have baby barf running down your arm.  And even better when you realize you have no burp cloth with you so you just use the baby’s taggly blankie to wipe it up. 
We made it through mass and both of us actually managed to get Communion.  We soaked in the beautiful sunshine as we made our way to the car.  Sawyer made an attempt to jump in front of a car that was going through the parking lot and A.J. grabbed him just in time.  Got to my sister Yvette’s and her husband Nick’s house where I made my peeps pose for some family photos since we were all decked out- not sure we even got one nice one, but what we got was real.  Spent the rest of Easter Sunday enjoying time and lots of food with the fam.  I even had a few moments here and there just to sit and be thankful for how great the day turned out.  Hoping your Easter was a “hoppy” one!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Parenting Pendulum & the Velcro Suit

Rounding the bend of what has felt like the world’s longest week for both me and A.J.  He had better be on a plane right now and I have warned him that during his layover in Boston, he is not to get off the plane and attempt to go to Fenway Park.  I may also have some police escorts meet him at Dulles to ensure that he actually comes straight home.  I don’t care if that would make him look like some sort of felon. 
Yesterday reminded me that every day as a parent is a constant pendulum back and forth of totally awesome moments which bring about super happy reactions, I’m on top of the world, I LOVE my kids and they are perfect.  Then instants later it swings to the totally chaotic, I’ve had enough moments which bring out the not so tactful, not so proud parent, I’m so close to losing it screaming loon in me.  I had a great final day of my mini art camp.  Crazy, but great.  We did sculpture, clay was all over the counter, but it went perfectly.  I had finally given up on the fact that the middle boys would cooperate and stay in the basement with the babysitter and thus set them up with playdoh at their little Ikea table in the living room.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the last little girl was picked up, but I am so excited to grow my “art studio” business and classes. 
The afternoon brought about one more medical visit- as Josie told me she had been sent to the nurse at school to check on her eyes which were looking a bit pink.  Maybe I jumped the gun, but I just wanted to nip anymore infectious disease(if it really was) in the bud.  So straight from school to the pediatrician’s office we went.  I joked to my sister Nikki that I hoped it was one of the docs or nurse practitioners that I knew really well(which is all but the newest doctor and that is like 10 people right there) because I had all the maniacs with me.  Just my luck, it was the newbie.  She was nice enough, but didn’t quite get my crazy mom of four kids warped sense of humor and sarcasm or pleading in my eyes like “would I really be here if I didn’t think it was necessary?”.  Also she only has one kid so someday she’ll get it.  By some miracle, the kids were beyond well behaved for being plunked in an eight by eight cell for Josie’s exam.  No pink eye- thank you, Lord! 
Back home to decompress and took the troops outside to run around.  Living on a corner has its benefits, however, it also enables pretty much all my neighbors to get a running feed of my parenting habits and a nice glimpse into our family.  It does force me to try to tone things down and keep a sort of picture of togetherness.  So we were enjoying the incredible spring evening and I did what I often do and multitasking and calling A.J. to catch up on our days while letting the kids conquer the yard.  Due to the fact that we are both fried from the week and almost every single phone conversation has been interrupted, we managed to start arguing about who had it worse this week(well in a nutshell it was that, but of course there was more to it).  Again, so wishing we weren’t on a corner for all the neighbors to get a glimpse of me arguing on the phone with my husband who is across the country right now as I try to herd the children into the house for dinner and gather the toys under the carport.  Why is it that moments like that, the dog decides to be nice and calm as people are walking by?!  If only she could sense to bark when I am trying to prove my points to A.J. in such a “vocal” manner.  After this tense call, we apologized via texts blah blah blah, gotta love modern technology.  Almost 8P.M. and I gave up, dinner was a gourmet feast of leftover cheese fries from Outback, nuggets for the kids and dog(by default), seven layer dip, and some “hoppy” juice(beer) for me.
Good thing for a little mellowing for mama as the next step was much needed baths for the kids.  Sawyer performs his usual water juggling which ends with me soaked and the floor full of puddles.  I am not quite sure how, our fifty some year old floors have not caved in yet under the bathroom.  Bart decides that he is starving and I feed him while sitting there watching the other three.  He happens to get a mini bath just by being in the room while the other three perform their synchronized bathing routines.  Now onto the drying routine.  This is one area where I miss A.J.’s presence the most.  The assembly line of drying three children requires one parent to be on sprinkler duty waiting with a diaper to wrap Sawyer in immediately and underoos to throw on Jimmy.  Sawyer and Jimmy sprint down the hall tweaking their you-know-whats while shouting “Beep! Beep! Beep!”.  Yes, I will be sure to mention that years down the road to their girlfriends and wives.  Without my counterpart in the living room last night, I watch in horror as Sawyer marks his spot not once, but twice on the living room carpet then takes off from me leaping onto the leather living room couch(don’t worry I wipe it down on a daily basis pretty much).  After cleaning the “spills”,   I head down to the basement with my goons so they can play while I throw the towels into the washer. 
I’ve given up on any bedtime routine this week and Josie only has to make it through a half day before her Spring Break officially begins so let the kids fall asleep on the living room floor and couch while watching the Goodnight Show.  Keep myself awake as best I can because after bathtime Josie decided to pull her other loose tooth and that means the Tooth Fairy needs to make her flight.  Manage to make it to dropoff on time again this morning, but am getting later each morning this week.
So now I am sitting here with the boys who had oreos for breakfast. Don’t judge.  I don’t do it everyday.  I am currently sewing Velcro to one of  A.J.’s pairs of running pants and one of his long sleeve underarmor shirts.  Then I will be attaching the other parts of the Velcro to one outfit of each of the kids.  Upon A.J.’s arrival I will have him change to his Velcro suit and attach Josie to one leg, Jimmy to the other leg, Sawyer on his back, and Bart on his chest.  See you next week, Hunky!  I’m outta here!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Day Two Drove me to Drink

I have decided that one of the best ways to prevent teenage pregnancy would be to have teens spend a week with me...but not any week- it would have to be this week to fully feel the single parent effect. I am pretty positive that the teen pregnancy rates would take a dramatic drop. The day started on a positive note. I made good time getting Josie to school. We sang and car danced to the Victorious soundtrack on the way. Then I made a made dash home to get ready for day one of my mini art camp. That turned out to be a success. Afternoon flowed pretty well. Even managed to get the teen make that college age kid across the street to do us a last minute favor and mow the jungle I mean lawn since the grass was almost waist high on Sawyer- not quite but it was getting bad. Onto the fun part of the evening. Bart decided that he too wanted in on the pink drugs(amoxicillin)and he and I made a visit to a new night time urgent care type place. Thank God the babysitter lives right next door. It was awesome on that it is super new, super clean, we were the only ones there, and the staff were awesome. Loved the doctor and it figures she is a D.O. Not an M.D. Many of my Child Life friends will understand this. Best way to explain is that D.O.s have a more holistic sort of medical training. I think it stands for Doctor of Osteopathy or something like that. Don't get me wrong. I know many awesome M.D.s, but there is just a vibe that most D.O.s have and this lady had it. Hence the reason Bart and I loved her. So after our brief visit we made another jaunt to the pharmacy and grocery store. Based on the items in my cart, one would either come to the conclusion that I am pregnant(NO WAY!) or that I am a stress eater. Ding ding! The Raging Bitch Ale pretty much said it all. By the time I talked to A.J. after I got home, I pretty much was one.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Day One Done & the Moldy Goose

Calling it a day finally.  Once the morning comes, we will be one night closer to A.J. being back home.  Despite my best efforts to exhaust the children on my own by taking them outside for a long time today, they did not pass out on the couch by 8P.M. as planned in my mind.  In fact I am still trying to get Sawyer to give in to the sandman and close his eyes for the night.  Three down so as long as Sawyer stays quiet I don’t care.  A.J. left for the airport at 4A.M. and instantly I went into survival mode.  I actually managed to take a shower late this morning while the baby napped and the other three toned down on their beat downs of each other.  A friend stopped in very briefly to drop off some hand me downs for Jimmy.  I had to restrain myself from jumping in the passenger side of her car and telling her to gun it before the kids realized we were gone. But all in all it was not that bad of a day.  Well not that bad in my mind until my husband picked the perfect time to call me this afternoon and tell me about how neat it is to be surrounded by the snow-capped Rocky Mountains or how he and his coworker were probably going to grab a couple drinks with a friend of the coworker who lives out in Denver.   My day in a nutshell can best be described by this chunk of the afternoon.  Sawyer was finally down for a nap.  I took the other three outside with me to clean out the inside of the Gray Goose.  The urgency of this was due to the fact that on Friday when I was rummaging in my car for something, I found mold growing in the Goose in two specific areas.  One area was the floor by where Josie had puked on our way to Connecticut.  I had doused the area with all sorts of cleaning products right after she got sick, but apparently the moisture along with the general funkiness of my minivan provided the perfect host for the mold to feed on.  Then I found a nice patch of the funky fuzz growing on the floor under the middle console between my two front seats.  Not sure what was spilled there to create such a fine garden of mold, but I am guessing it was either coffee or one of those vanilla milk boxes, most likely the latter.  So I opened all the van doors to air it out as much as possible, made the rounds with trash bags and then went in for the kill with the bleach spray and cleaning wipes.  Bart was secured in Sawyer’s car seat since it is forward facing and I figured that might keep him more content than the infant bucket seat.  The oldest two were intermittently making attempts to dash closer to the street while I screamed all sorts of threats at them. They then decided to explore the car and Josie climbed up high on top of the hood while Jimmy thought it would be fun to honk the horn over and over.   They finally cooperated and stayed within the safety zone, but then began playing with random objects they found in the trunk space of the van.  Jimmy found a back scratcher and began to “scratch” the side of the van.  It was difficult keeping a straight face as I yelled at him to stop because the whole thing was so absurd- the most absurd thing was caring that anything else scraped my already mangled Gray Goose.  So now the smell of the inside of my van evokes many childhood memories of winter swim team and I am trying to remember to allow it to air out some more in the morning before I load all of the kids and they pass out from the fumes.  Why would I want to be away all by myself on some business trip to Denver when I could be home having this much fun?!

The Sunroom Guy, the Ant Man, & the Minute Clinic

So my week has felt like I am on some single-parent challenge episode of “Survivor”.  A.J.’s hours are peaking again- well that word gives one the illusion that they will be getting shorter sometime soon and that is not true.  But there are weeks when the hours get to me more than others.  Enough of that rant though, I am grateful he has a job that he is good at and overall likes and that I can be home with my little monkeys.  This week on top of the long hours, he had to go to Connecticut to pack up his grandmother’s apartment which he found out very last minute.  Thursday night he left and he is currently enroute back here with one of my brothers-in-law who we flew up to Connecticut for the day to help A.J. finish packing up the pod that will be taken to a storage place.  A.J. will get home late tonight then heads out to Denver on an early flight in the morning for the next five days for work.  And in a genius move on my part, this is also the week that I scheduled a mini art camp at my house.  Only the main living room/kitchen area that needs to be kept really clean and the bathroom of course.  I can do this! 
A.J. and I are once again looking for options to expand our space, options that would be a temporary bandaid until we can do the one major addition that is our ultimate goal.  I am also hoping to slowly grow my open studio idea and thus whatever space we are able to add, I am hoping to also use for this purpose.  I can’t explain it completely, just feel that now is the time to get my studio off the ground.  I hope to teach a couple classes from the house/whatever space we come up with and then would love love love to begin my open studio for kids and adults affected by medical illnesses, at least in some small capacity.  So over the past couple weeks, we have been exploring the options from a funky sort of shed converted into a studio to a gazebo that would be able to be used three out of four seasons.  This past Tuesday evening A.J. had scheduled an appointment for a contractor to come out to give us an estimate on a sunroom where our current carport/porch area is.  In a perfect world, A.J. would have been home for this meeting or even arrived a few minutes late.  In our chaotic world, it was me, the four kids, and the crotch sniffing coonhound meeting with this gentleman.  He did actually ask at one point if I wanted to reschedule the meeting for another time when A.J. would be home.  “No, sir, let’s just continue this highly informative little meeting while three of my children climb up my legs or yell in my face and yours and the dog sticks her nose in your private areas”.  A full hour later, all I got was that the sunroom idea is way out of our current budget and my kids were beyond starving for their dinner. 
Thursday brought our quarterly visit from Cameron the Ant Man- yes, we are on a first name basis.  Shockingly the ants usually don’t take up camp in the kitchen or dining areas of our house- based on three sets of sticky fingers, this would be no surprise to me.  Nope, the ants apparently like the bathroom and the well closet in the basement.  They tend to make their debut in the spring as it gets really damp outside.  The night before and the morning of our ant man visit, A.J. and I move furniture and toys and shelves of toys away from the basement wall and I do my best to give the appearance of keeping a semi-clean house.  The boys get super-hyped to see the ant man and his cool truck.  The ant man comes in and I go over the areas in need of bait and spray, he takes care of that and then I herd Moxie back inside while he goes to do the outside treatment.  This time I make sure I have shut the basement door since on one of the ant man’s last visits, I wasn’t paying close attention and Moxie bolted downstairs and by the time I found her she was licking the entire perimeter where he sprayed.   I immediately called the pest control place and was reassured that she had not consumed enough poison to do any damage.  On this visit, the ant man found the nest from where most of the ants seemed to be travelling from to our house.  It happened to be under one of the caps of our gate on the side of our house. WOOHOO!  You’d have thought he had struck gold by how excited I got over the news that the nest had been located and obliterated.
Friday afternoon the boys, Moxie, and I picked Josie up at school and headed to my parents’ house where we were going to have a sleepover and also help watch my sister Nikki’s kids so she could go out with her husband to dinner for her birthday.  Except that after being there for all of ten minutes I felt Jimmy’s head and he seemed really hot.  All four of the kids currently have this cold, cough, runny nose thing, but now Jimmy looked super droopy.  Took his temperature and sure enough 102.4 degrees.  After scrambling as usual to get things figured out, I reloaded the dog and boys and left Josie to have a sleepover with my parents and headed home to quarantine.  This also put yet another cramp in my plans for tonight as I was supposed to head to Josie’s school auction, the auction which I had busted my butt to help with her class’s basket as well as the class craft.  I had accepted that due to having to take care of his grandmother’s stuff, A.J. wouldn’t be able to go.  But I was so looking forward to getting out and hanging out with some grownups and just kicking back.  My sister Yvette and her husband were going to keep the four kids for me.  Now that Jimmy was sick, that option was off the table.  Now to pray that A.J. would somehow get everything done and get home in time so I could at least make an appearance even if that meant getting there a little late. 
After a very sleepLESS night with all three of my buddies and Jimmy complaining about his throat hurting, I decided today that I should probably take Jimmy and Sawyer to one of those Minute Clinics.  Got there and was excited to see that there was no one waiting ahead of us, but then I saw the out to lunch sign on the door and realized we had 20 minutes to kill in CVS before the nurse practitioner would be back.  Twenty minutes of free time by myself would be glorious and I’d probably just browse the magazines or makeup aisle.  Twenty minutes with all three of my boys meant dragging Bart who was in the snap n go stroller along behind the tiny CVS cart which was filled with Jimmy and Sawyer in a noisy caravan around the store.  The contents of my cart by the end of those twenty minutes: paper towels, lots of antibacterial hand soap, 5 boxes of tissues, infant Tylenol, kids’ motrin and cough medicine, one medium sized bouncy ball, one toy train, one nerf gun, a kids’ crafts magazine, and a decorating with flea market finds magazine.   Yep, that is my life.  Turns out that I knew the nurse practitioner from when I worked at the hospital which was awesome because I didn’t feel quite the strong compulsion I usually do to apologize for my little monsters.  Though I am sure the student who was observing the nurse practitioner thought we seemed like some silly circus act.  Three ear infections between the two older boys and one negative rapid strep test later, we headed over to the pharmacy dropoff window.  Sawyer tried to bounce his ball over the dropoff counter and thankfully did not succeed.  He did succeed at bouncing it into the entire rack of reading glasses.  Grabbed the medicine the second it was filled, paid for it, then headed towards the front of the store to stock up on Gatorade and milk and the candy bars, a couple grubby little hands grabbed along the way. 
Fast forward through the medicine administering, medicine charting(no way I could keep track otherwise with four kids and colds and two on antibiotics), hang out around the house afternoon and evening. A long pause in the middle of my blogging to feed the kids and keep them occupied.  A.J. just got back around 10:30 so I spent my Saturday night home with my sick peeps.  Spending some quick bonding time with my Hunky while he packs then will be praying for patience and serenity to get through the week til Thursday when A.J. gets back.  May the force be with me!