Wednesday, December 9

Oh, Lucy.

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep I was stuck in that frame of mind where odd thoughts pop up out of nowhere when all you really want to do is zone out for eight hours.

Sometimes those thoughts range from attacking the boys mountain of laundry that needs folded in the morning or finalizing those pesky holiday cards, or any other annoying trivial mom-related thing I need to accomplish upon waking to my bright eyed little boys.

But you know what, it wasn't about that at all. It was dreaming of what's to come in three months... my first little niece, Lucy.

My brother and his fantastic wife are expecting their first baby sometime in March, early March for Colleen's sake. And like any expected baby brings, there has been much anticipation over meeting her. In the past, I never got sucked into the excitement because I guess sometimes I found it difficult to bubble with enthusiasm over someone I haven't met.

But, now, I can't wait. And, even more, I can't wait for Josh and Colleen to meet her.

There is something completely indescribable about meeting your child for the first time. And all of the other first moments that follow. Will Josh fumble around cutting the umbilical cord because he's so stifled with unexpected tears and jitters? Will Colleen take the scissors out of Josh's hands and do it herself? Yes and probably yes. She is a strong independent woman who will make an amazing mom, and I know Josh will be right there with her earning his much deserving title of daddy.

When Mason was born, two months later Josh met him for the first time with Colleen over Christmas. While Colleen's maternal instincts kicked into gear, Josh and Mason kind of stared at each other one bobbling head eyeing the other not really certain what to make of the situation. But the months that followed their visit, I remember hearing the excited phone calls to our house asking about Mason. He laughed at my stories asking regularly about the stages and milestones of each nephew. The way they've shown love to my kids is more than I could have expected, and show so much eagerness and excitement over being an Aunt and Uncle. Together I see the keen instincts that are about to debut when they meet their little girl.

Half of a country stands between our homes as they are Austin-ians and Long Horn aficionados in the great state of Texas. While their town is UH-mazing it brings me some sadness I can't see up close how Lucy grows. But in the light of skype and digital photography I know we'll keep up.

And even though distance will keep us from experiencing those small moments together as family, I share in the joy in knowing what they'll be feeling for Lucy. Her cry that belongs to them. Buckling her up in the car for her first ride home from the hospital. That crazy first night home that never seems to begin or end. I will share in my fair share of sympathy for the inevitable sleep deprivation. Once the whirlwind stops after a few weeks [er months] I can't wait to hear about how tears came to their eyes as they checked on her sleeping before they went to bed for the night and they couldn't believe how damn lucky they are to have such a happy, healthy, beautiful baby girl of their own.

I am delighted to shop for a girly Adidas warm-up too, and maybe a cute dress or two, and I will abstain from over abundance of pink. But mostly, right now I can't wait for Josh and Col to join the parenting ranks, the bittersweet but nonetheless amazing club to which they are forever indebted. And absolutely, to meet Lucy-- I can hardly wait.

Sunday, November 29

Stop the clock, please. No, really. Stop it.

One huge overindulgent poultry feast complete and here I sit. I've spent the last few weeks gathering up the necessities for a Stewart-esque Thanksgiving appeal for my home and have quite frankly not had the time to write.

I guess that's partially true. I have a bunch of recipes I'd like to post and I really was embarrassingly busy making my own centerpieces out of recycled goods for a green approach to decor, bordering on the line of questioning my own sanity it was taking way too blasted long.

But really, I think- I know- a part of me has been avoiding the idea of writing like the plague of all cliches. Every night I go to sleep ignoring my journals beside my bed, and every day I see the computer I avoid blogger for no other reason than absolute denial of the pace life seems to travel these days.

Every school year begins the chaos of celebrations around our house. From the beginning of October, every two weeks is a birthday or a holiday which finally ceases after New Year's Day. Right now, I'm avoiding the day my baby turns two which is quickly approaching in two weeks, now that Thanksgiving is behind us.

There are times when I grip the reality my kids are growing up and I accept it with a decent amount of grace bestowed upon me. Now, however, is not one of those times. I'm fighting off baby fever daily, but as I've mentioned before I feel our days as parents of infants are long gone.

Peyton turns two ten days before Christmas. He was an indecisive, stubborn little guy who could not choose quick enough for my liking whether or not he was ready to meet me- not that I blame him. I was in and out of triage at the hospital a lousy three times before the fourth admission finally was the charm. From that day until now I sometimes feel like Peyton stood in the shadow of his big brother and sister. I was consumed with the responsibilities of mothering a not-so-toddler-14-month old and a teenager, so this lil' newborn was very alien to me. I think somewhere inside he knew he'd melt my heart sooner or later.

For a long time I struggled with that uncertainty a new child brings to the picture, questioning whether or not I could possibly love this new baby as much as I did my other. Falling in love with him did not happen over night as it did for me with Mason. But it did. Eventually, and I can't tell you the moment but now I see him becoming his own little person with his white blond straight hair that sticks in every which direction haphazardly, the way in which the subtle roundness of his cheeks match the tiny curve of his nose, his bright blue green eyes adorned with curled eyelashes, and the subconscious habit of grabbing my finger clasped in his hand while he sits on my lap sucking his other thumb.

And he's finally standing up to Mason sneaking in a sucker punch or two to his brother's rib cage when my eyes are diverted from him. At times his incessant need to verbalize everything gives me no sense of solace in a day, but just when my patience is maxed out he utters one of his favorite things to say: "Hold you!" with his arms outstretched to me.

Up he'll climb onto my lap with his blue "bankie" and his stuffed black lab puppy. He gravitates toward me in ways that Mason never did, and of course it made it quite simple for me fall so deeply in love with him. He's quick, feisty, ill-tempered, and yet gentle enough to sit on my lap playing with individual locks of my curly hair for 17 minutes yesterday. I sneak into my sons' bedroom every night and while they drift off into dreams I etch in my brain the way my angelic devils look at peace and how Peyton still sleeps the way both boys did as babies.

The way he tucks his little arms under his belly and scoots his butt up into the air just oozes innocence I sometimes forget when they're pulling out each other's hair by the root fighting over who gets to play with the fire truck.

So I guess two sounds mighty old to me but truly is just the beginning of the sand dropping in the metaphorical hour glass. So cheers to that little bit of sand that's dropped for you dear Peyton, so for all the 723 days that passed us by I'll just tuck them away for now, and hold on tight until they too are just other faded memories of yesterday.

Tuesday, November 10

Uh-uh, no he didn't.

In a recent effort to dumbfound their parents, both Mason and Peyton have picked up the pace a bit in the world defining toddlers.

Last week I sadly regretted leaving Peyton for five minutes too long while I threw the wash into the dryer downstairs as he remained seated in his chair at the kitchen table. Jason always warns me that Peyton is a Jason-in-the-making kind of kid. My husband, who was not your run of the mill little boy, turned every one of his parents' hairs gray by the time he turned 18 months. No, no, I say-- Peyton has a smile that will melt you in 2.8 seconds if you ask him if the whelt on his big brother's back came from his tiny little fist.

So back from the laundry room I came, and there was that little smile again. He already has his gig down pat. As I slowly walked up the steps I peered at his heartbreaking smile and I swore he batted his eyelashes a few times, something he may have learned from his father. Sitting between his tiny hands was my mug. Full of coffee. That he retrieved off of the table with his disproportionately long arms, also something he inherited from dad. Good for basketball. Bad for reaching anything without his name on it.

"Maaaaaamee! Yook it's cooopee!"

No, buddy, you finished that mug of coffee. Bone dry it was. All that remained of my Peppermint Mocha Cream with a touch of Columbian fresh ground coffee was the trace amount on Peyton's upper lip. He was a little wind-up toy well past lunch. Lesson from Peyton: keep ALL beverages at unattainable heights until he has entered into college.

The second mini-lesson was merely a vicarious experience through Jason a day later. Thank God.

Mason, the potty training guru of the house has become, well, stagnant in his porcelin throne degree. The process is difficult for all parties involved, it goes without saying. Often by evening hours Jason takes reign of the duties if you will.

Not surprisingly, Mason was reluctant that evening and so Jason took the wee one upstairs. I secretly smiled at the bickering I heard overhead thankful that I was not in the potty tantrum whirlwind at that moment. More screaming from Mason resisting. More retorting back from Jason. He tried calming Mason. He tried raising his voice. Rewards. He conceded to stay in the bathroom all night if need be.

Then, "MASON, what are you doing?!" More crying. Then silence. Toilet flushed. Out scampered Mason's little feet so fast I'm certain he left a trail of smoke in his path downstairs to me. It reminded me of the same fearful expression I would see on my dog's face when he did something like, oh I don't know, pee on the carpet.

Jason came thundering down the steps next muttering something under the paper towel he was blotting upon his face.

"Huh?" I asked.

"Pee! He peed on me! No I mean he really peed on me," almost as if I couldn't understand just exactly what that entailed he continued. "I said 'Relax Mason,' and he leaned back on the seat, screaming and crying, and out came the pee. On my clothes, on the floor, and as I yelled at him in response it... it went in... my... mouth!" Lesson from Mason: face masks may be an upcoming trend for swine flu prevention, but also for deflecting the offshoot of my wayward potty trainer.

Lesson three: never doubt what a toddler can consume or what they can regrettably serve.

Sunday, October 18

Eyeing the bigger picture

Can I just say I have moments where I actually pity myself? Can moms do that?

I mean, I'm past the covered-in-puke motherhood stage of raising infants where the cycle of feeding baby, changing baby and putting baby to sleep occur an exhausting twelve times a day. I've moved onto the toddler stage, which is tiring in a different state of mind where it's absolutely downright expected to play "158 Questions" fifteen times a day. With each child.

So can I have reflection of self pity? I have three healthy kids. I have a doting husband who is a good man, and a compassionate father. I can stay home with my kids. I have a house, food in my pantry, running water, and heat occupying the rooms barricading us from the too early wintry weather. In all those senses I am beyond fortunate and should not feel jealous or envious of the business woman walking downtown in her fashionable shift dress, posh knee high boots, and oversized hobo bag. Doing something important. By herself.

Yesterday was my moment of glory. Grocery shopping. By myself. In a stained sweater. With a frizzy rat's nest of a hair 'do, and a walking coat two sizes too big now. "Must be nice to be by yourself today, huh?" said the deli clerk who noticed I was missing the obnoxious toddlers, and husband who normally pushed the cart.

Clarity struck me. Where did that fashionista of a business woman go that I knew three years ago? This -grocery shopping- is now my important something.

At times, being a mom makes me feel like my brain is rapidly shrinking. I tire of wearing the same jeans day after day with the same shirts I bought on clearance two years ago at Marshall's. My hair always looks... scattered... to match my mind.

Yesterday, I got Justine ready for her first high school Homecoming. She came into our bedroom, and peeked into my closet. "Can I see your red stilettos? Not to wear, I mean, they just look so fun! I want to see if they fit me yet." A part of me twitched inside. Yes, I thought, you probably would have somewhere fun to wear these. Sure enough, they fit her perfectly and I envisioned her wearing them out to dinner with girlfriends or something like that. Maybe not. She's fifteen. And they're 3.5" spiked heel stilettos.

"Don't worry, Steph," she said noting my wistful expression. "You'll find something to wear them to soon. Something will come up, I'm sure!"


Like I said, I know it sounds dreadfully petty. But no matter how much important "stuff" I know I'm doing every day with my kids, don't you think it's difficult to stifle the notion that somehow I want to feel I'm doing something important too.... selfishly enough, something important to me? When I say that last part, my voice shrinks a bit and becomes small.

Becoming a mom is amazing on numerous levels; I've lost track of the benefits being at home brings our family. Staying at home vs. working are personal to each family and for us the former works better than the latter. But with each decision we make, there are gains and sacrifices.

It goes without saying that, at times, I think -no- I know moms are too proud to admit they miss having an identity a part from their kids. Because of the above- they have so many overwhelmingly wonderful blessings that should not be taken for granted, so why complain about the voice inside that wishes she had somewhere to wear that cute belted boho dress that she saw at TJ Maxx yesterday? So she doesn't complain, but the more she looks into the mirror every night after her shower, she begins to wonder if pieces of her identity wash away little by little down the drain.

And truthfully, it has less to do with the boho dress, and more with what I would do or where I would go looking so glam. And I guess this is why women started at home businesses and thrived in the spotlight of Mary Kay and Tupperware. It opened up professionalism in the home while still offering the possibility to be with kids at the same time. Somehow, there are moments when Mason and Peyton aren't yelling as they sprint seventeen times across the basement carpet and I can actually quietly think to myself, and I wonder what I would be doing if I weren't at home at this moment?

So if I could, would I trade it?

Perspective, along with my mind, is something I have lost over the past few years. Because on the flip side, I look down the road four years and it's a glaring reminder that right now it's just a different season of my life, as I reflected during a dinner out with friends last week. And it becomes obvious that I need to make the best out of now. Right now.

When I'm tearfully waving good bye to Mason going to first grade, Peyton starting kindergarten, and Justine stepping through the doors of college how am I going to reflect on my time I spent home with them? Will I be painted with regret for not enjoying them totally and completely in the time I spent during their early years?

Enjoy it now. That has become my mantra of sorts. Although I know there will NOT be a bystander considering me a business fashionista in passing as I walk with a stroller downtown, at the very least I have two sons in tote who fill my heart with more pleasure. Sometimes the small opinions matter more, I realize while I'm looking disheveled in the kitchen pouring myself a cup of coffee to open my eye lids one more quarter of an inch. Wearing my pjs with dried oatmeal pasted to my camisole strap, my oldest little boss looks at me over his cup of milk and says with wonderment, "Mommy, you're boo-ti-fool."

Guess I don't need those stilettos after all. They can wait.

Saturday, October 10

Two years, 364 days

I've been mustering the strength for about a week now to come to grips that Mason's days of being referred to as two are numbered.

Here it is. His last day, as I promised him this morning.

There are moments in my life, as a mom now, when a milestone takes place or a birthday arrives seemingly out of the blue and I'm forced to acknowledge the notion that life speeds quickly out of our control when we want it to slow to enjoy the simplicity a bit longer.

Three years ago I sat right now uncomfortably awaiting my first epidural. I had been in labor since 11 am that morning, and wouldn't meet Mason until 3:22 am the following day.

Sometimes I feel like I've been a mom forever but it's only been three short years. How strange it feels that my life has spun on its side a hundred times over in those 1,094 days. What was life before motherhood? It was predictable. It was extra sleep time on Saturday mornings. It was planning my dinners at a whim in the grocery store, and if I couldn't summon the energy to cook Tuesday through Friday- I didn't. I wasn't putting out fires every hour on the hour between two unruly toddlers. I had no gray hairs in sight.

And then he happened. Mason Paul. His pink pudgy skin, tiny button nose, and rosy cheeks to match his plump baby lips was all it took for my heart to just double over in size. His cries stood out over the other twelve babies in the hospital nursery and the newborn cry was mine to respond, and I couldn't wait. He belonged to me, his heart forever a part of mine, and my life was forever changed.

I absolutely miss Mason being a baby. Have another? Not likely. It's my babies being babies that I miss and surely always will. But I also love the stages they're in now. In honor of Mason I absolutely love listening to him talk passionately about every object somehow relating to trucks. His swing, his bed, the IKEA chairs in the basement-- they are all trucks, big big trucks. And when he says anything in reference to a truck, his small voice drops an octave sounding too masculine for a toddler. But in his mind, he's growing up to become a man every day, another step closer.

He tells me about every other day that when he's soon fifteen he's going to be on the football team. He's going to become a firefighter or a teacher like Daddy and someday he's going to go to the big big school like his older sister- and again his voice oddly becomes purposely and unnaturally deep. Incessantly, he fixes things that needn't be fixed but still insists the chairs are broken, the pipes need tightened or the screws in his tricycle are loose. His tools in nature are twigs, and he can honestly decipher among the 57 twigs of debris in our yard which one exactly he played with yesterday afternoon. And off he goes into the dirt pit of the jungle gym making power drill noises with his mouth telling me he's fixing the broken house.

And it is a chapter book I continue to write by the hour with my kids that truly causes me to question how exactly I ever considered my life fulfilling before the gray hairs, a small cosmetic infraction, of motherhood bestowed upon me. After all, that is just a minor problem, and nothing that can't be covered quite simply with a box of Clairol.

But this book of motherhood, could obviously not exist without my boys.

And so, with that, I tip my hat and my heart to you Mason. Happy Birthday little man.

I love you to the moon, over to the sun around the stars and back.

Wednesday, September 30

Bring on the chowda... a la butternut squash

Ok. So I know I have been fairly inadequate in keeping this blog humming. I'm in a blog lull, so I'm throwing out a recipe I created for the fall. Not to sound conceited, but it is so delicious. Tested and approved by parents, the in laws, and the tough toddler crowd of the house this chowder is packed full of flavor. My only regret is that I didn't take a picture.

In any case, this was inspired in part by Emeril Lagasse who created a Winter Squash Chowder, but I thought it lacked some flavor [like I have any validation in the fine cuisine department]. So I focused solely on the butternut variety, added carrots and celery and extra herbs.

Butternut Squash Chowder
Serves: 4-6
1/2 cup chopped bacon
1 cup sliced leeks, rinsed and drained in colander
1 cup diced red-skin potatoes
1 cup carrots, sliced thin [or shredded]
3 celery stalks, sliced thin
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup cream
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

In a large soup pot cook bacon slowly to render fat. When bacon is crisp and brown remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain; set aside for garnish.
In bacon fat saute leeks for 3 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, celery, and squash. Cook, stirring, 5-10 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. I used my immersion blender at this point to thicken the soup a bit, but that's purely optional.
Add cream and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in bacon bits. To serve, spoon into hollowed-out squash or warmed tureen with crusty sourdough bread.

Bon appetit!

Monday, September 14

Confessions of a stay at home drama queen

Maybe Jason is right.

Maybe I just have way too much time on my hands to just... think. I've always thought of myself as an analytical person, and I would be ashamed of myself if I weren't candidly honest that YES I have always thought way too much, analyzed far too often, and scrutinized the details of my life for as long as I can remember.

Exhibit A would be the collection of ten journals paging through my life since second grade when all I could account for was recess flirting episodes with Jordan. Exhibit B would be the dozen parenting books I've accumulated over the past three years that I don't think my mom acquired in 30 years of raising me and my brother. I guess my hyperanalytical tendencies also reveal my English major in college when I was down right expected to pick everything apart into deep thought.

So what is it this time?

Embarrassingly enough, again it is the damn vampire saga that has its grips on me. Was. Yes, Twilight, books one through four. Over the summer I submersed myself in the writings out of pure curiosity, and was engaged enough to read it at a painstakingly fast pace that emptied my ibprofen bottle to aleviate headaches resulted from reading four-hundred pages a day.

Why then? Why now? I'm addicted to what some have noted as girl porn. Hilarious, right?

Well allow this romance novel phene to elaborate. I was halfway through the third novel this past week when I found myself stealing time away from the kids stacking blocks or going-to-school-to-visit-daddy pretend play so I could return to Edward Cullen's monologues to Bella Swan declaring his chivalrous idealizations.

"You see, Bella, I was always that boy. In my world, I was already a man. I wasn't looking for love-- no, I was far too eager to be a soldier for that; I thought nothing but the idealized glory of the war that they were selling prospective draftees then-- but if I had found... I was going to say if I had found someone, but that won't do. If i had found you, there isn't a doubt in my mind how I would have proceeded. I was that boy who would have-- as soon as I discovered that you were what I was looking for-- gotten down on one knee and endeavored to secure your hand. I would have wanted you for eternity, even when the word didn't have quite the same connotations."

Sigh. Reading this completely fictitious literature from an idyllic character such as Edward Cullen left me phening for more. A modern day Romeo. While reading through this my stepdaughter made mention, as she did this summer, that she and her friends didn't want to date in high school unless the guy was a glimmer of Edward. I was stunned for a moment and absorbed her thought. Edward is the quintessential romantic man comprised of countless alluring attributes so hey, why not pass up the normal warped high school boy until Mr. Edward comes along? Perhaps she had a point.

On the other hand is there a self destructing prophecy here? Are young women deluding themselves with "something with no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate desire” which is what pornography simply is according to the Webster’s dictionary definition? Except the difference here is women are being misled by female escapism, vicariously seeking a romantic fairy tale of our own when in reality fairy tales are fictional. Purely. Are women setting themselves up for failure searching for a new standard of the ideal man?

I'd be lying if I said I wan't stunned by the idea of Edward. I am certainly not alone [as you sit there shaking your head at the computer screen in disagreement]. Really-- there are Facebook pages devoted to people who have unrealistic expections of relationships now as a result of becoming addicted to Twilight [I write that as if FB is quantifying anything]! I mean, this is female escapism on a completely different level, and it's one thing to obscure my own mind with hopes that Jason would one day recite lines of Romeo and Juliet as easily as he normally would recount the first five plays of Penn State's last football game. But he is not Edward and he would not watch R&J with me nor have the knowledge to whisper the lines to me like Edward, a la New Moon. And that's okay... because Jason is a real live man and most men I know don't suck blood either, so I'm fine with that.

I'm not proclaiming chivalry is dead but I am trying to reign in my thoughts a bit about the reality of expectations in relationships, and maybe trying to unveil them to my stepdaughter too.

Okay maybe more to myself.

Just as soon as I finish Breaking Dawn.

Monday, August 31

Can't get no satisfaction.

No not in terms of the Mick Jagger reference, but more in terms of kids. And the sketchy debate surrounding them with regard to vaccinations.

Since Friday, Jason and I eagerly awaited for the Dateline investigation "A Dose of Controversy" airing last night over the long-held debate of vaccinations and their relationship to the rise of Autism.

In short I felt NBC did a botch job on uncovering answers to links, should there be any between the two. The interview was set mostly between Matt Lauer and a doctor from the UK, Dr. Wakefield, who made claims in the nineties that the MMR vaccination had some type of impact on children more suseptable to developing autism. I felt they focused too heavily on the skeptical investigative journalist, also from the UK, Brian Deer who has uncovered ethical claims about the doctor over the past decade. There was little discussion over vaccine safety, ingredients, the Vaccine Court or anything else relevant really.

When Jason raised his daughter, Justine, as an infant of the nineties the biggest parental fear was SIDS. It was blasted through the media waves and it brought back those same fears for him when our oldest son, Mason, came home from the hospital. It took all of his willpower to let the baby sleep in peace and often times crouched into Mason's crib inches from his face to feel the air exhaling quietly from his tiny button nose. When Mason turned three months young, an infant a month younger than him tragically died of SIDS next door to us at our neighbor's daycare. Yes it was terrifying and bewildering; it pulled my heart out of my chest and summoned empathetic pain in my soul for my caregiving neighbor and the bereaving parents.

A year later Mason summoned a similar terrifying bewildering heart breaking pain in us too. See, for most parents today, as I earlier mentioned, SIDS is not the worry. It doesn't have its own awareness month, and you often fail to see magnetic ribbons proclaiming its non-profit organization on the bumpers of cars on the road. There really aren't marches in support of the cause of SIDS.

It's autism that lives in the tiny part of a parents' mind hopeful that someday we won't look at our kids and see that light dim in his eyes. It was me and Jason, who at every vaccination appointment since January 2008, feared and loathed the needles. Immensely.

Mason turned 15 months on January 11, 2008. On the 14th, he received the MMR vaccine while I winced by his side. He toughed out the shot screaming momentarily and the days that followed resumed his usual boisterous self. The Friday following his shot, he was slightly feverish and lacked energy. Saturday the 19th of January, he woke up with a fever, crying, which was unusual for him and I gave him some Tylenol. By lunch his fever reduced minimally to 100, and the day went on administering fever reducing meds. Before bed, he felt like he was burning up, and his fever rose to 103. More Tylenol. Cool bath. Bedtime.

I called the doctor at our family practice and left a message with their after hours assistant. With no response I waited and skimmed through some parenting books looking for answers. Like when the hell I'm supposed to take him to the ER if nothing changes here. No more than 90 minutes after I gave Mason Tylenol he was up screaming. Jason went back to the boys room and Mason was absolutely hysterical, like I've never heard him. His body was limp. His coloring bordered on a literal definition of beet red. I retrieved our digital ear thermometer and it read 105.9 degrees.

I panicked and with my hands shaking I called our doctor again and demanded to speak to some body immediately as we readied to drive to the hospital. I next phoned my parents who sped to our house in two minutes flat in their pjs to care for our newborn Peyton who was only 6 weeks old. A minute later a very presumptuous doctor called back and barked at us to take him to the ER as we were heading out the door, like I even questioned it.

For the first time in our marriage I failed to nag Jason for driving 65 in a 40 zone, and for the three red lights he sailed through as I watched Mason's eyes slowly roll back and forth in the carseat behind me, moaning in pain. I quietly wondered in my mind if children died from fevers as high as his.

The ER staff took us in quickly at the sight of Mason and when the nurse calmly talked to us about his condition, her tone changed with the thermometer inserted into Mason's rectum continued to climb past 106. Suddenly I heard STAT called over the phone and four nurses rushed us to an examination room. They brought in a concoction of Tylenol and Motrin to reduce the fever immediately. We stayed in there for four hours watching the Animal Planet on the TV while people shuffled in and around us swabbing his throat, drawing blood, gathering phlegm samples from his nose and stopping short before the catheter was needed for a urine sample.

A frustrated doctor talked to us after the results of all of Mason's tests revealed: nothing.

"Well he DID have the MMR shot on Monday," I suggested, exasperated.

"No, no, that shot wouldn't have any reaction, really," he quickly retorted.

A few months later when I noticed a stagnant development if not a regression in Mason's speech, Jason and I began digging deeper. For anything. And we stumbled upon a great degree of research suggesting a relationship between the Austism Spectrum Disorder and the MMR shot in conjunction with the other 36+ shots given to most children the their first two years of life. Why the hell wouldn't there be some type of profound affect when all of these chemicals are injected into tiny, vulnerable bodies that even 10 years ago were not required?

And why and how would my very healthy son, acquire a fever of 106, bordering on seizures without ANY other symptom to show for it, nor a diagnotic cause? I later read months after our ER trip that Mason was in the .03% who can obtain the possible seizure inducing fevers post-MMR vaccine. Fortunately he netted no seizure but it sure as hell made me question the methodology of the vaccination schedule and the safety of my children.

Mason's not autisic. And I'd like to say we really dodged the bullet.

I'm not clinging to a man like Dr. Wakefield, as suggested by his critics, because he's standing up for parents of autisic children who have no one else who listens to their outcries about vaccines. As he emphatically stressed last night in the interview his concern is about the safety of the children, and that if so many children are affected after any shot then perhaps it's something worth investigating.

My God, have a witch hunt for all the parents out there questioning the CDC, the AAP and all of the other government backed groups also in tie with Big Pharma of America! How dare parents of the US question their legitamacy for the safety of their kids!

But, wait, I think I have a parental doctrine around the house somewhere spouting off something about that.

Yes, here it is: my kids' safety is my job.

post edit note: on the advice of Jason, yes we do continue vaccinating our children and will not be responsible for any outbreaks of whooping cough in the Greater Phila Area. Also, he insists he only dismissed one red light en route to the ER.

Sunday, August 23

Family vacation. An ultimate oxymoron.

Hold off on plunging tomatoes at my head or stoning me to a state of unconsciousness. I have very fond memories of my family vacations as a kid, but in hindsight it is from the perspective of a child and I have a new found perspective of being a parent. Of toddlers. And a very hormonal teenager. All of whom I love.

But now I need a vacation.

It was a week of beautiful weather. I scored a bronzey tan which I'm totally gloating about like I'm a 13 year old pool rat again trying to gain bragging rights to a summer tan before going back to school. And I caught some sweet waves. On my body board. Conceal the snide laughs; I haven't tested the surfboard on Jersey waves for God's sake.

Our family of five ventured to a gigundous beach house shared with my parents, my in laws, my grandma and my youngest teenage cousin who contributed to keeping the balance among the teenage population. I cooked four fantastic Rachael Ray meals that will be added to the bangin' foodie list. But it was beyond exhausting on many parts, mostly because of the kids. I've realized how much energy is put into them even more so on vacation because as a parent I want them to enjoy the aura of the beach as much as I do.

I want them to point to every obnoxious advertisement being flown overhead by the puddle jumper planes, the military jets that rip past us, the tug boat too close to shore, the sand crab pinching my toe, and the dolphins jumping beyond the waves. But they don't yet, so I act as the motherly tour guide for the majority of the time. Sorry folks, it's tiresome. Especially if your kids want nothing to do with the above and really only want to eat piles of sand by the fistful causing ungodly sights and stenches in their Pampers, thank you very much.

Add to that: a week of spoiling, limited structure and discipline and you have yourself a picture of childhood anarchy.

I was sad to see the week end mostly because through it all we had a great time, but Jason and I were eager to get home. Half way through the trip home we were busy crooning along to Bob Schneider, Barenaked Ladies, and Dave Matthews incessantly when our SUV began sputtering on the Schuylkill Express outside of Philly. It's not our vehicle, but was graciously borrowed from Jason's oldest brother. The Yukon died in transit on the Schuylkill three times before we literally stopped 500 yards before the Conshohocken exit.

A lot of things went through my mind at that point, mostly all of them referring to dangerous statistics about highway fatalities to stranded vehicles. Every tractor trailer that passed in a blur of motion sent chills down my spine as its sheer power sent our 7-passenger vehicle rocking subtly. The view out my window led to a steep hill bordering Amtrak lines. I am a catastrophic thinker, and all I kept seeing in my mind were headlines about a family's vacation ending tragically on the Schuylkill.

I began retracting the thoughts I had about my kids. The "seriously isn't it bedtime for you kids, yet?" thoughts. I still do regret thinking them. Well most of them anyway. The teenager's request for a pink bra, no I'm sorry a Victoria's Secret PINK bra, was still not happening during day two of vacation and will not happen now either, mind you, and I don't regret the internal expletive thoughts I had after that little proposal. And I don't regret my reaction to my toddlers' baffling stunt where they managed to score dad's electric shaver out of the wall, shave off pieces of each other's hair, dismantle the mechanism, all in about ten minutes after I put them to bed for naptime on day three of vacation.

But all of the other grumblings I said under my breath out of exhaustion... yea those I totally regret.

And I still need that vacation. As if it were in question.

Thursday, July 30

Lost in translation. And then found, again.

Prior to motherhood I used to think it was borderline ridiculous when I overheard families in public deciphering toddler speak as if it were as eloquent as my literature professor second semester Junior year in college.

Does it ever strike anyone else how indeterminable kids can sometimes sound when they are learning to speak? But to the child's parent[s] it's no sweat off the back to understand that Maddie just wanted to have her Elmo cup and some grapes please. Wow, that mom needs to get out more I would think with pity.

Now I am the resident toddler interpreter.

Prior to summer when Jason arrived home after a day of teaching and coaching, the kids eagerly wanted to talk to him; and it was fairly normal if not expected for him to look at them cross-eyed, shrug, and then look to me for a translation.

As the school year began to wind down I excitedly told him, "Just think: before the end of the second week you're home, you will be able to decode the babblings of the toddler ramblings."

How exciting!

I was looking forward to have some peace in knowing that someone else could spring to his feet when Peyton said "Buh buh" at the kitchen table while pointing to his cup, and could then get Peyton his milk. Buh and cup sound nothing alike, I realize. But tiny utterances that somehow I managed to decode these past three years, I was looking forward to Jason understanding too.

Then about a month ago we were getting the boys ready for bed. Each of us takes one of the boys and preps him for bathtime, then assists with the last chug of milk for the day, scrubbing the teeth, and a nighttime story. That night, Jason had Peyton, my mommy's-boy-until-daddy-came-home-this-summer boy.

"Listen to this, honey," Jason urged me while holding Peyton in his arms before tucking him in for the night. Jason leaned in and whispered something in his ear.

"Yah yew," Peyton said beaming at me.

"What's yellow, buddy?" I asked curious. Yellow is the new blue, his former favorite color. Every single object is yellow even if you tell him 57 times it was red with absolute certainty.

Another whisper in Peyton's ear.

"Mommy, yah yew," he said again smiling.

"Thank you?" I asked shrugging my shoulders in question. "For what, sweetie?" Yellow and thank you sound so much the same. Okay not really, but when he says it there is a subtle distinction between the two. I must have missed it the first time.

Jason smiled at Peyton and looked at him in the eyes and then over at me, still confused. I was beginning to feel out of place in my own job as a mom.

"I love you, Peyton," Jason said softly.

"Yah yew, Da-doo," he returned with a smile stretched across his face and gleaming at me looking for approval.

My first "I love you," and I was lost in freakin' translation. I conceded to squealing and showered him with kisses for a solid 45 seconds.

Jason earned his linguistics badge this summer, and though I missed the boat on a few occassions like the above, every now and then I have a moment when I'm reminded I still understand the kids. Pretty well.

Because this morning as Jason got the boys up to start the day, I heard Peyton following Jason from their room to the kitchen.

"Dodo! Dodo!"

"Yes, Peyton, daddy is here."

A minute later, "Mew, mew! Meeeew!"

"A cow? What cow, Peyton?"

I smiled to myself knowing that Peyton's first request was for his favorite stuffed animal dog that sleeps at his crib side "guarding" him nightly.

And the second remark was asking for his favorite book, Goodnight Moon. One that I happen to love reading to him. Maybe a little rusty, but I still haven't lost my touch. For now.

Tuesday, July 14

Oh, to be 14. Or pregnant. Just not both. Or either really.

I don't know why it is that when you become pregnant for the first time that suddenly any tiny tid bit of personal information regarding the little peanut growing in your uterus becomes public domain.

Cart blanche on Twenty Questions? Can you really see yourself asking a woman in the grocery store, who is by no means pregnant, how much weight she's gained in the past forty weeks? Put a prosthetic belly under her shirt and suddenly the gloves come off.

No, I am totally not with-child. Not in the least. I'm loving the idea of sporting a bikini for the summer even if it does invite questions like, "Aren't you, like, Justine's stepmom?" Teenager for "Are you stoned out of your mind? Where do you get off thinking you can wear anything besides a moo moo to the pool? Enter motherhood, exit mid-drift revealing clothing."

Over the past few days I've exchanged conversations with people who were thinking of becoming pregnant, and so were curious about my two-fold journey down that lane. How much weight did I pack on? How did I manage to get my little darlings to sleep through the night without having to stuff a pillow over their face? Did I swell up like a balloon at the end of my pregnancy? What kind of birth did I have? Did I tear? Drugs, did I use them? [Yes, quite heavily as a matter of fact.]

But I think it's the most absurd yet equally amazing thing that pregnancy and kids can truly tear down the walls of ambiguity, and break out the sentiments of brutal honesty. When you enter into pregnancy, you become a part of this secret society of motherhood where you realize you all go through similar journeys to bear children, your hearts bleed the same as you experience heartache together, and likewise can totally relate to the necessity of scrutinizing your child's poop for about the first four years from infancy to toddler. Unbelievable.

Then I sit next to one of these grown up babies at the pool yesterday. A clan of teenagers, in fact. Something I fear and loathe my boys to become. Worse yet: something my boys will like.

As the valley girl clique readied to sunbathe beside me, I stumbled through Sense & Sensibility, while one of the five vixens bared her bikini body for all the rest to see. I didn't look up. Their squeals pierced my ears and made me burn my eyes deeper into Austen's novel even though I cannot get past the nineteenth century lingo.

"OOOOOOOooohmigod. Seeeery-us-leeeee, your boobs look huge!"
Eh, what?

"I know, right? Aren't they uuuuh-may-zing?!"

Then I revert in my mind back to the cart blanche mode, that I also inherited since having children. And I realize that she's not pregnant and so I can't ask her a brutally honest question like, "Sweetheart, if you only knew where your leopard print bikini, 32DD boobs, navel ring, and naivete are going to take you in life you would be so inclined to keep your nose in the books instead of the help wanted ads for the adult film industry, right?"

No, no. She's something far different than a pregnant woman. She's a teenager, and unfortunately she's quite the opposite. Her demeanor invites all the questions like the former, but she however is more cunning and will deliver no answer.

Saturday, July 11

Hello, [salad] lover

Ok. So even though all I really want to do is continue my rambling of why Edward Cullen is an amazing, chivalrous, quintessential romantic who I wish could just hook up a few pointers to my husband now and then [and possibly recite some lines from any four of the Twilight books to yours truly] I will digress. Cool off a bit... and just munch on some salad.

Not as much fun, BUT this salad is bangin' if there ever were such a description of rabbit food. It has a little kick, a whole lotta gah-lic, and it's healthy so you don't have to feel guilty licking out the bowl. Not that I do that.

I cannot take credit for this Rachael Ray creation, but it's still my go-to salad and being that it's summer and I miss Austin Texas yet again, cheers to this fine Caesar.

Tex-Mex Grilled Chicken Caesar [serves 4]
2 T chili powder
1 teas. Ground cumin
½ cup EVOO
1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
5 garlic cloves, 1 clove cracked from skin, 4 cloves finely chopped
3 cups cubed sourdough bread (half around loaf)
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 anchovy fillets, drained, finely chopped
½ teas. Crushed red pepper flakes
1 ripe avocado
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 T Dijon mustard
2 teas. Worcestershire sauce
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
Coarse black pepper
2 large romaine lettuce hearts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and preheat a grill pan or outdoor grill on high.

In a shallow dish, combine 1 T chili powder, the cumin, 2 t of the EVOO and some salt. Add the chicken cutlets and coat in the seasoning. Transfer the cutlets to the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and slice into very thin strips.

While the chicken is grilling, rub the inside of a salad bowl with the cracked clove of garlic. Set aside. Then place the cubed bread in a clean bowl with the garlic clove and drizzle about 3 T of EVOO and the remaining T of chili powder over the cubed bread. Toss with about ½ cup of the grated cheese and toss to coat thoroughly. Spread the croutons evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden, 10 to 15 minutes.

To make the dressing, place the remaining ¼ cup of EVOO in a small pan with the anchovies, red pepper flakes, and the finely chopped garlic. Stir together over very low heat until the anchovies melt. Remove from the heat and cool.

To prepare the avocado, cut all around the circumference of the ripe avocado, lengthwise and down to the pit. Twist and separate the halved fruit. Remove the pit, scoop the flesh out in one piece from both halves, and cut into bite-size pieces.

In the bottom of the reserved salad bowl, combine the lime zest and juice, mustard, Worcestershire, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the cooled EVOO with the anchovies and garlic. Add the romaine to the bowl, followed by the croutons, avocado, and the remaining ½ cup grated cheese. Toss the salad to coat, adjust the salt and pepper, and top with sliced chicken.

Like I said... bangin'.

Tuesday, June 30

Enjoying the ride

Delayed as ever, I decided to take up the offer to join the Twilight band wagon and began reading the saga series last week.

I've never read Harry Potter or other mythical series like Lord of the Rings or Percy Jackson. I just don't really "do" fantasy-like books. Nothing personal against J.K. Rowling, but I'm just more acclimated with tragic drama and romance to really take up the idea of fiction beyond my imagination [or reality for that matter].

So why not read on some vampires and werewolves, right?

I'm currently finishing the third novel, Eclipse, in the saga series which should indicate that it's suspended my disbelief in fantasy fiction having any deeming qualities.

I have one confession, however, but I'll get to that later.

As I mentioned I am a fan of romance and usually reread one of my Nicholas Sparks novels and become indulged in the twisted fate of a couple who fall in love and likely ends in tragedy. I'll admit that some end happily, but mostly always end tragically; regardless, I read these tear jerkers repeatedly with the same result. Another trip to Costco's to replenish the tissue supply in our house. So why do I do that?

I asked myself the same questions about the Twilight series, but the question was phrased more like... why do I like this stuff?!

My step-daughter is also a pretty big fan of the series, being that all I've read is borrowed from her Twilight shelf of her bookcase. She'll be fifteen this Fall. When I was her age, I definitely focused on falling in love and looked for it everywhere, to put things mildly. I don't know that her thinking is quite as warped as mine was. I suspect she wonders what the love fall is all about too.

She forwarned me the second book in the series was a bore to her before I started the book this weekend. I finished it on Sunday and realized her boredom was due to the absense of details pertaining to the passion of falling in love that are exemplified in book one and three. I'm sure it's all over the final book as well, I just haven't reached that point yet. Without saying it, she too was drawn to the acute details of the two people falling in love-- the sheer physical, emotional and mental states that are completely overpowered by nature. Perhaps that intrigued her in a way of not having experienced that euphoria, the same way I would have viewed it at fifteen.

Enter: confession. At twenty-seven, I still look at it similarly, but in a way of nostalgia.

In a way of totally and completely missing it.

We lucky ones who have made a journey in our life and managed to fall helplessly, sometimes blindly, in love can remember the unbelievable array of emotions resulted from that first trip.

I was well into college when I realized that I was helplessly in love with a coach, yes my coach I met the last three months of my senior high school year, who I kept in contact with after graduating. I remember the visits to my dorm, our dinners out to local restaurants and the electricity that seemed to flow from him to me, and how the cheeks on my face would blush instantly when I thought about being around him. To say I had butterflies in my stomach with or without him in my proximity was a vast understatement and just one of the many physical results I felt after crashing head over heels in love.

I remember the first time he kissed me and how it literally left me breathless. When he returned to his home after that visit I remember replaying that kiss in my memory leaving me without oxygen again and again.

Poetic conversations, and lofty ideas of what the future could hold. I repeatedly thought of these words endlessly over in my mind during the time we spent a part. When I wasn't with him, I was completely out of myself and loathed the idea of feeling incomplete. Without any reservations I was overpowered by the notion that he was the one I would spend the rest of my life with, unquestionably.

The journey of falling in love is a profound, albeit an amazing experience too. I feel dismayed right now as I'm staggering through these vampire novels because it acknowledges that the high of falling in love is a temporary state, something I obviously knew before now. At the time, you feel compelled the emotions could last forever, and when it fades I think it's safe to say you miss it. Being in love is quite different and soon follows "the fall". The former almost always requires a commitment of faith and unlike the latter is not necessarily an amazing act of nature.

Regardless of the literature that gets me to relive those early days of our relationship, to be able to recount and revisit that experience vicariously through fictionalized characters, even vampires dare I say, is totally worth it.

Sunday, June 21

Surrendering to the daybed

In the past month I've managed to do very little for myself, in terms for writing. Ob-viously.

Jason and I did manage to throw a cocktail party Friday night. So every last nook and cranny of the house was investigated, fixed, touched up with paint, six scoops of mulch spread around the house, and our square foot garden appropriately decorated with flag stones. Just so... ya know... his friends don't think we're sloppy home owning parents of some toddlers and a teenager with oodles of free time that is not spent on our humble abode.

That was fun and I intend to post some delish recipes I tested at a later time.

Right now I sit here a bit more stable minded than I was eight days ago. It started a few days before that too. Suddenly my oldest son, Mason, discovered that hurdling over the crib railing was incredibly similar to that of the bathtub, a new trick he recently mastered. Lo and behold my future Army grunt began sneaking out of his crib and tiptoeing over to the basket of stuffed animals only to create plush chaos all throughout the room until he burst out laughing at the madness.

It's just a phase, I told myself the next day, as I wiped the mulch off of my hands, when my stepdaughter came out to tell me Mason just came downstairs to visit after he was seemingly napping. No naps for the next two days. I was going out of my mind. Finally on Saturday I conceded to the idea of converting his crib. Being a crib railing hurdler was one thing, but him forgoing an afternoon nap was just about as awesome as beating my head against a brick wall.

The rest of Saturday, since he wasn't napping Mason helped me spread mulch which meant really that he picked up every last piece in front of him and directed his new favorite question to me, "Mommy, what's that?" In between repeated questions I repeated to him that tonight was the last night he would sleep in a crib. Tomorrow, I continued, you'll be in a big boy bed.

I took pictures that evening. He looked so proud standing beside those crib rails. He stood off to the side a bit and propped one foot on the rail and it reminded me of the stupid soccer poses we would do as kids when it was picture night with our feet posed on top of the ball. He defeated that crib, and I succumbed to letting go of it.

That night, I wept in the shower, on Jason's shoulder, and also on Mason's baby quilt that was temporarily stored in our bedroom hanging on the extra pack in play. I wrote in Mason's journal and as the tears stained the pages my mind retraced back three years when my Dad and Jason put together the new glistening cherry crib. Now, teeth marks remain literally everywhere and it looks "lived in". But that's what I love about it.

Sometimes I feel guilty that a larger portion of this blog site is dedicated to the realization of Mason growing up, and not collectively shared between the boys. An entry struck me sometime back in December which is entirely about Peyton, but somehow because Mason is my first babe, I seem to get choked up quite easily because I am letting go of him first while somehow still holding onto Peyton. Or maybe I just know that some day way too soon Peyton will also become a crib hurdler so I'm preserving the tears for a later date.

When I step outside of myself to reflect on this, it is obviously just a crib. But it's more than that. It's a close to a chapter. He's growing up. I know that time marches on and is most certainly one of the only constant factors in life, but it still leaves me a bit misty-eyed and my heart aches a little. Okay really misty-eyed, and my heart aches a lot.

But if there is a silver lining in any of this, it's that right now-- he's napping.

Thursday, May 28

Identity in check

For as long as I can remember writing has been my outlet, my private time, a moment to reflect and sort my thoughts.

It's therapeutic. At times it is poetic, and others it is just plain psychobabble. But it's there for me whenever I need to use it which has always been a comfort, and since I've been home with the munchkins I've found moments of solace when I'm able to retrace through steps of time transforming into a person of another moment as I reflect on my journals, all eleven of them to date.

I picked up my tenth journal a week ago and thumbed through pages documenting my pregnancy with Mason and shortly after he was born. It was a pile of endearing transcrptions about the newfound love I had for my first child. Suddenly when he was about four months old the newness and wonderment tapered off.

Maybe it was post-holiday blues. Maybe it was the encroaching Spring track season when I knew Jason would be gone for 60+ hours a week. Maybe it was both.

Maybe I was also beginning to struggle with a new identity. Women don't talk about how hard that is- to go from professional extraordinaire to diaper changing guru. It is a change. To go from water cooler talk to goo-goo-ga-ga one sided conversation is equally different.

Sometime in February 2007 I honed in on an urge to reconnect with old friends. So me and Google became good partners and I managed to track down a few. I was home with a baby who I loved so unconditionally, yet I felt so alone in every sense. I yearned for connections, and starved for good conversation that so lacked in my daily life.

"Yet more than finding these connections [with old friends], I desperately yearn more than anything to find myself," I wrote.

Those words made me ache inside because although I know it's something I still struggle with, I'm doing much better. But that initial shock of... loss, I suppose, was a feat to overcome. I have since acknowledged this identity issue in the same regard as an ongoing acne problem. It's there. It's not very attractive, but it comes and goes as it pleases. I know it's an inherant problem that constantly remains. I just deal with it.

I reconnected with friends.
I became a huge fan of Rachael Ray cooking. And that's a delicious reward itself.
I took up the position of chief landscaper at my house.
I dove into books. Good ones. Not parenting magazines. Good plot thickening books.
I gave birth to this here blog.
I succumbed to the relaxation of power yoga.
I commit to my 5am gym compadres five days a week.
I take pride in being the photographer of the family.
I enrolled in an art class at our local musuem.

Just last week, I picked up my brand new pack of charcoals and put my fears aside that this new sketch would NOT turn into a stick drawing of my kids but something decent. After two mediocre attempts I got something down that was workable and I went with it. Unforgiving and challenging, charcoal is something that is truly difficult to work with but when I finished this morning it felt amazing.

Do I still struggle with who in the hell I am? Absolutely. I shared drinks with some good friends from high school last month and one of my fellow moms shared a quote with us about just this topic.

"Motherhood brings as much joy as ever, but it still
brings boredom, exhaustion, and sorrow too. Nothing else ever will make you as happy or as sad, as proud or as tired. For nothing is quite as hard as helping a person develop his own individuality
especially while you struggle to keep your own." [Marguerite Kelly & Elia Parsons]
Whatever length of time it is before you arrive at the conclusion that you don't know who you are anymore besides Mom, I can say that finding some well-deserved time for you is both priceless but necessary.

It might keep things in check for some of you, but for me it's been a saving grace.
Your husband and your kids will thank you for it. And more importantly you'll thank yourself.

Tuesday, May 26

Just in case you forgot

I am a Jon & Kate Plus 8 naysayer.

Most of the time when a friend asks if I watch it, I groan. I have three of those things I call offspring and so no, I steer away from shows devoted to the chaos "they" bring after they are in bed.

But yes, I have seen the above show. Sometimes in desperation I watched for a mere two minutes until Kate mouthed off to her husband or snapped at her kids then passed a knowing eye-roll to the camera crew. I avoid it because they've created a brand out of their family. Don't misunderstand that I just have a vengence for Jon & Kate, because I also scrutinize the Duggar's and other crazy Octomom type charades blasted over the vicious channels of media these days.

But last night I shamefully sat on my chair watching the overly publicized season opener of Jon & Kate Plus 8 which may have been the kiss of death for the show. And rightfully so.

The parents are just like me and Jason. No, well, not really. I just mean that they are a mom and a dad trying to raise their kids who are just numerically beyond the norms of society. And they've been taped by a camera crew, coached by a producer, and assisted by publicists but otherwise they are just parents.

And so to people like me, who mostly live under a rock when it comes to reality television, I understood in advance that there was some type of speculation of adultery going on off-camera as I watched last night while they danced around "the topic". If you've shopped at a grocery store in the past six months you could not have avoided their pictures plastered across the tabloids in the check out aisle. It was out of the question to avoid this topic on their own show.

I watched the train wreck as their premiere went from happy-awkward children's birthday party to estranged Barbara Walters style interviews focusing on each parent separately who discussed their point of view on the demise of their marriage currently dissolving before American family room TVs.

At one point, Kate pondered how their marriage got to this point, and how to fix it. You've got to be kidding me.

This is what gets me. As a mom and a wife, I completely understand how things can get skewed in a marriage making life at home a bit uneasy. I totally get that.

But to be baffled after signing over the privacy of your life to mainstream media that one day it crumbles at your feet? This is basic decision making 101. Pros and cons weigh our every day decisions, and if it was an afterthought that maybe turning family into celebrity may be a hefty con then at least while you're tumbling down hill in a hurry with your marriage and kids in the crux of the fall make a daunting escape to salvage what you may.

Before having kids I think we are all misled a bit. Friends and family promise you that the parenting gig is a priceless but difficult one. It's exhausting, but if you knew now what you knew then you would still do it all over again. And so I know that the peaks, valleys and mountains that me and Jason have faced already is only a picture of what's to come in our hopefully long journey together. But those are quasi-normal difficulties without the added influx of fame, money and media overexposure in our lives.

But I certainly hope and damn near expect that if a decision we made as a couple began to unravel our family I would make a graceful exit. Pronto.

It comes down to our priorities. Like I said, I know things get clouded when you're parenting. But turn off the damn cameras and focus on your family. My heart bleeds for these kids who are in the center of this mess. It's a sick twist in irony to see how a show that began because of the multiples, all eight of them, are now going to ultimately suffer as a result of it.

And any parent no matter how clouded their vision can plainly see that.

Thursday, May 14

Don't step on my toes

"Maaaa-meeee! Watch me slide all by myself!"

Little blond curls blurred in between the railings and feet in motion paced over the grid lined stairs to the top of a winding slide at the park behind our house. Looking for my eyes, Mason yelled for me again.

"Mommy, are you coming?"

I snuck around the side of the slide out of his eye sight and I jumped up in the air where he quickly looked over, his eyes lit up and he began squealing in laughter.

His laugh has always been one of my most favorite attributes, and when it's a genuine giggle, his cheeks round like apples causing his blue eyes to squint just so. Like most parents, I am susceptible to a fit of laughter when I hear him, and it's a sound that I love.

I continue playing this age appropriate peek-a-boo game with him each time his laughter getting louder and more intense. I hide and bang on the slide which he finds amusing and hilarious that a thunderous sound is coming from his mom without the slightest idea where I would appear.

While I continued this game with him, suddenly everything around me was slowing in motion as my mind flooded with two and a half years of memories. The laugh, his sparkling eyes. My little boy standing before me who is quickly becoming the master of the playground seems like only yesterday showered me with the same contagious laughter at four months of age laying under his hippo play gym while I played a more traditional peek-a-boo for the same amusement. I was befuddled. Stunned. The laughter remains but my God he has grown up.

A knot briefly formed in my throat and I quickly chased it away by just absorbing the moment of fun exploring with Mason and discovering new levels of our relationship. It becomes obvious that my kids continue to reinforce the simple notion that motherhood is a priceless yet bittersweet journey; it is joy and love, but it is sadness and heartache.

Finally after another minute or so Mason takes a plunge down the slide and proudly sits at the bottom. When I offer a hand to help his feet reach the mulch he reminds me, "No, Mommy. I can do it by myself."

Sorry to impede, little man. Sometimes I just try to ignore how quickly you're growing up.

Tuesday, May 12

The trivial Mother's Day confession

I wish I could inject some humor into today's writing.
But it's not here.

I haven't, in fact, been here for a bit. This spring has been hectic in the most modest of terms. I have a love-hate relationship with this season as it is finally an end to cabin fever, but it also resumes to the craziest time of year because Jason is a track coach and spends 86% of the week away from home which I realize is still less than some.

With the toddler boys and a teenage lady of the house it makes my world spin on its side a little longer. Coincidentally I also find that I tend to appreciate my kids much less these three months out of the year which only furthers my bittersweet sentiments toward spring.

To add to this Jason has been going through a whirlwind of sorts too. Nine years ago, he met various doctors and underwent second opinions of a diagnosis doctors conceived was Multiple Sclerosis.

Jason at his very core, is an intense athlete and exudes the physique of an Olympic runner, in my very bias opinion. He's very inward about his diagnosis, and rarely talks about it to people mostly because I think he wants to avoid the very stereotype associated with MS-- disability. After trying two different medicines over the past nine years and without any physical episodes since the original in 2000 and his MRIs only showing improvement we decided to speak with a neurologist closely focused on MS instead of a doctor dealing with a dozen different neurological ailments.

The search to find someone at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital was not difficult. So about a month and a half ago we set out on a new journey with a doctor who is on the cutting edge and directing the neurology department at UPenn. His resident who spoke with us for 45 minutes even seemed to allude to a misdiagnosis.

"Most people I see in here are female, or unfortunately overweight. You seem to miss both of those characteristics, I see," he said making light of the situation.

We even spoke with Jason's doctor for another half an hour but his feelings seemed to be more realistic I suppose. "Your father has MS, too, correct?" he said grimly. We nodded in agreement and he resumed to order more MRIs, an eye scan, and a lumbar puncture [LP] which Jason never opted to do nine years ago which also happens to be the most critical diagnostic test used in pinpointing MS. I could see Jason cringe in his seat squirming at the thought of a nine inch needle entering his spine.

What Jason feared most ended up happening... probably in most senses of what he imagined being the worst. He never complains. He never appears to be scared of anything. He leads the optimistic conversation in our home and in his classroom, yet I knew he was scared of the possible migraines to follow the LP. He was in the 3% who earned the god-awful migraines that tapered off after two weeks.

I never wavered in my support. For the first time in years I mowed the lawn- several times, in fact. With a freaking reel push mower. On a half acre. After a week of rain. Complaints were out of question when I would think of what Jason was going through. The boys were out of control as we were stuck inside while all the rain in our backyards kept them caged, and with Jason in such pain he had no "Daddy Energy" for them either and I come nowhere close to that level. I have a new found respect for single moms who do it all and do it well. Because I was exhausted.

Then last week we met with the neurologist who confirmed the second fear.
"You still have MS, Jason."
I don't think I remember so much of the smaller details of that conversation. Eye scan was great. MRIs showed growth in lesion quantities in the brain and the spine. The LP was positive for MS.

"But isn't there a benign MS," I retorted. "Because I've read about this new category of MS," just in case he missed that on the latest Google searches.
"Jason hasn't relapsed in nine years, so couldn't stay in remission--"

"His MS is active. His brain is just keeping up with the growth and he doesn't show the physical affects of it," the doctor said cutting me off.

The hour and a half drive home was pretty quiet. I'm pretty sure that those words were chilling to me. They burned in my mind as we drove home. What does this mean? It means he is back on the shots and continues training and fighting it like hell. Because it means he doesn't know if and when it will show up again and if it does how strong it will be or if it will go away quite as easily as it did nine years ago.

That night I retold the facts of the appointment to family repeatedly as Jason tried to relax for the night probably running the months' events over in his mind without mentioning it to me.

A few days later I was looking forward to a day. Selfishly enough I was looking forward to Mother's Day. I'm a believer in age old selfish events like my birthday and new indulgent ones celebrating my new found love of being a mom.

The embarrassed part of me admits now how hurt I was when I walked out to the kitchen on Sunday only to find two cards from my kids. They were sweet and endearing, and Jason printed pictures on the outside of the envelopes which I carefully opened with a steak knife for safekeeping. I secretly hoped that my card from Jason was hiding somewhere in the house with a bouquet of flowers or something. As the day wore on, it became more obvious it just wasn't happening.

It was a huge conflict of emotions. A part of me felt so hurt that I didn't even get a "Hey, Wifey, I love you for all that you do and what you've been through with me this past month and all those before... and for everything you do at home 24/7. Oh and enjoy the wildflowers too."
The other part was thinking, "You idiot, how can you expect that? Your husband is in a tornado right now! You can't be in the forefront of his world, when he doesn't even know what end is up."

So there, I admit it. I was swindled by Hallmark, 1-800-Flowers, and the five-star hotel down the road a bit who hosts a lavish Mother's Day brunch. So when the kids napped, I painted our bathroom with Jason and then I prepared the grilled feast I was serving to my in-laws for the occasion. A drained mother I was, and I felt resentful for it. Our evening ended on a more dramatic note than I had hoped as all of my emotions guiltily surfaced. It was what it was.

But this husband of mine is the same one who took inspiration from my favorite book, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, for Christmas this year and built me my very own art easel, purchased some canvas, a set of brushes, and oil-based paints. He also accompanied all of this with the movie.

So he gets a free pass for this Mother's Day because I know it was certainly out of character for him to bypass a holiday attributed to his hormonal emotionally-charged wife. In the end, I realize to appreciate what I have as he suggested. To him, he meant the cards with my kids' pictures printed on the envelopes.

To me, I realize that I've been given much more in these past five years of marriage, and much more than what could be wrapped up in a holiday. He's okay, right now. I certainly hope the MS continues to avoid being physically present in my husband's nervous system, but for the nine years it abstained from harming him and the many more years I hope it continues in that same manner... that I've realized, is exactly what we need.

Wednesday, April 29

When the binky, blankie, or irreplaceable monkey are MIA

It was bound to happen eventually.

I was doomed the moment his sister handed her mint condition stuffed animal to Mason that I knew I would eventually one day regret condoning the gift.

It was from his sister, the one whose name he could utter before "Ma-Ma". [Okay, so it was abbreviated, and simply is just "Dee". But regardless, Justine could give Mason a used Kleenex and he would probably sit it up on his dresser with other eclectic treasures.] And to my previous point it was his favorite animal: a monkey.

So it went, for the past nine months, his "comfort blanket" is his one and only monkey, so affectionately called Monkey. He's two and a half. Seriously, what would you expect? Before he decided on Monkey, it was "Ooooh oooh" in imitation of the animal's sound, then it moved up to "Mun" and now is officially Monkey. His fur is matted, with excessive saliva from Mason's eternally wet thumb he sucks, or it becomes his portable and reusable tissue. Most of all it is his go-to buddy.

He pretends with him, he tells me daily that "Monkey is funny, Mommy!" as he sits there playing with the animal beating itself in the head. I realize his sense of humor is sick, but his father is the type of person who will laugh until he's wheezing at the guy on "America's Funniest Home Videos" who just unexpectedly received a blow to the family jewels by his son aimlessly swinging the Louisville slugger intended for the pinata.

Oh well. So yes, Mason is attached to his Monkey and clings to him throughout most of the day. And in nine months Monkey hasn't been misplaced for more than five minutes. I remember my own animal as a child, my lambie [which by no means resembles anything close to a baaaa-ing creature]. It is so mangled and is probably crawling with some distant virus strain destined to sicken my family should I ever take it out of storage. [Lamb flu beware!] But this critter was lost on a weekly basis by yours truly, and to avoid that I've been pretty anal in where we keep Monkey to avoid heartbreak.

Lunch time arrives today. I am ready to kick up my feet, and I know the homestretch is in sight with the boys quickly approaching their afternoon snooze. I glance around quickly looking for his stuffed primate and fail to locate it. Our home is a rancher. It is 1500 square feet at best. The toddler duo are permitted to frolic in about half of that. Monkey is MIA. Emergency lock down.

When a screaming fit ensued after I put Mason in his crib without his BFF, I shut the door while he screamed "Monkey" repeatedly at the top of his lungs. I cursed at myself for being an unfit parent and continued looking under every cushion, behind every curtain, and even in the toilet. To no luck avail I looked outside too. Something clicked, and I realized that maybe it was left at Target this morning as I happily perused the isles in search of some gym duds to replace ones I currently wear that are nearly half my age. [Sick and yet also sad.] Worse than leaving him at Target certainly picked up by a monkeyknapper by this point, I recalled when I worked many moons ago I had a knack for leaving random items on the roof of my car when I loaded my gear in the mornings.

I had terrible visions of monkey's appendages being torn apart by the passing steady traffic beyond our driveway if I managed to leave him on the Jetta roof. I briefly contemplated scouring the road and digressed to going inside once more to look. Blasted scatterbrained mom!

Kicking myself in the ass the whole way into the house I envisioned some way of making it up to him. I didn't care about the cost... just to make up for my ill intentions in lieu of losing his best friend.

As I sulked into the house ready to scan Amazon for their monkey stock pile, I spotted his beloved in a glass cabinet where I store extra diapers.

Oh glory be, I never thought I'd be so happy to see that snot-ball of a primate in all my life, and if there were room to do cartwheels [and had he the know-how] Mason would have done five in a row when I brought that lil' bugger back into his arms.

BUT, I still plan to check out Amazon for the day I really do accidentally plunge the little furball into oncoming traffic.