Monday, December 14, 2009

Meandering my way through the holidays

It is December 14. 11 days until Christmas. To say I am "behind the eight ball" is to put a very mild spin on the situation.

And oddly enough, for the first time that I can remember, the pressure of running behind is really getting to me. Don't misunderstand - I run behind on a regular basis, and it OFTEN gets to me -- but being short on time at the holidays? Big deal!

But for some reason, it IS a big deal to me this year. I can feel the pressure in my chest. Ugh.

The tree is up, the lights are on, and about 1/3 of the ornaments are on the tree. The yard has been decorated since late November, thanks to Rob, and various decorations are showing themselves around the house. So I am not a complete putz. Nevertheless, I do feel quite putz-like.

All of that being said, I adore Christmas. The music, the movies, the houses lit up within an inch of their lives along neighborhood streets, the gift-hunting, the gift-giving, the food, the parties --- most specifically, the Christmas party Rob and I throw each year at our house. It is a source of angst and ridiculous amount of preparation squished into the 24 hours BEFORE the party, but it invariably turns out to be a grand ole time!

At any rate, the pressure of Christmas is currently mixed in with every other week phone calls with my siblings regarding my father's estate. And perhaps that is the source of the weight that is settling on my chest every damn day. It is an awful thing to discuss the distribution of the parts and parcels of a person's life. And it gets harder when we discover that out of the seven kids, more than one of us (of course) find particular parts and parcels to be equally important and therefore must find a way to decide who gets what.

Trust me, it is ridiculously unpleasant.

Now I must move forward in my holiday quest to figure what ELSE I have neglected to do/find/call/write or pay...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Keep Moving Forward

My father passed away at the end of September. And I find that the long-held and often given advice of "give it time, it will get better" is true, but that the advice rides shotgun with the Dorothy Parker line of "What fresh hell is this?" at any given moment when I abruptly remember that he is no longer with us.

To add to the scenario, he was our kiddos' last surviving grandparent. It is a downright off-putting feeling to lose that last pillar of strength - not a safety net so much as a source of help, advice, silent support...and while I know that at 44, I am most certainly an adult entirely on my own, it always gave me stability, knowing that my dad was around to talk to. As if you are steadily leaning on someone that is hundred of miles away.

That being said, we are now entering the holiday season, which leads to the question of how to establish new traditions that pay tribute to former traditions that are now no longer able to be celebrated. So we are looking forward to having our "own" holidays, but also are sort of dreading the feeling of nothing being how it used to be.

So, in the midst of all this, we are working, cleaning, washing, sweeping, mowing, laundering, learning, crying, laughing, fighting, driving, eating, shopping, touring, living -- and remembering that it really is our job, our obligation, to "keep moving forward", as Walt Disney said.

We keep moving forward, with the past in our pockets, close to our hearts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Choosing children

I was thinking recently about what makes a person decide to have children, and what makes a person decide not to have children. I have always said that I can appreciate the decision to not have children - I mean, obviously, you would save a great deal of money, and time, and stress. It does not take a genius to see that as an adult, your life would certainly be your own to a greater extent, and that your career could take a greater role. Heck, your marriage, if you chose to go that route, could even gain, I suppose, by having a greater amount of time to spend on one another.

One day last week, though, I was watching one of my younger kiddos sleep. He happened to be right next to me, sleeping in bed with my husband and I, early in the morning. This is not a baby or a toddler - this is a 7 year old, very nearly 8 - yet nevertheless, looking at his face, I found myself overcome with a feeling of...I'm not sure I know how to describe it.

I looked at him, and all in one moment I again (because I have felt this before) recognized that this human being was mine, in a way nothing else ever will be, and that his face and his hair and his long fingers are all a result of two people who love him so entirely and completely. And I felt that overpowering pull of protectiveness, possessiveness, pride - all of those things that make a parent a parent. That pull that made me reach out and lay my hand on his face, and stare at him as if he was about to disappear. Looking at him and knowing him.

THAT - that feeling I am completely failing to describe entirely appropriately? THAT is one of many reasons I count my blessings that I have children.

I do not want to go through my life - my particular life - without having that. Without knowing I don't have that. I realize that with all things being relative, a person who chose not to have children would not realize he/she was missing that feeling. It is impossible to miss what you don't know you are missing. BUT - I know, because I have made another decision, that I would not want to live without having THAT feeling knit into my very self.

All of my boys bring out that emotion at varying times, and I try to at least for a second capture that feeling when it comes and swats me in the face.

I capture it so that when I am hollering at the pack to tone down their voices, and when I am reminding everyone to throw dirty clothes down the laundry chute instead of on the nearest floor, and when I am making the fourth trip of the day to or from a football field, school or grocery....I can always reach around and remember that yes, I did choose this life, and that in spite of the daily insanity and the fraying of the nerves --- I am so damn glad this is the life I chose.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Catch-Up

I wonder how many times it is considered kosher to say you are still "catching up" to summertime and its endless ability to make mush out of a previously scheduled life.

It is nearly criminal for me to complain at the moment, however, as it is a lovely 83 degrees here in northern Virginia, and it is sunny and not all too humid. Furthermore, I'm sitting on my screened-in porch, with two children outside playing and two elder children inside playing (Xbox, anyone?), and it is the first semblance of peace I have had all day.

I get limited feedback to my blog, but I hope to someday gain insight as to how other parents feel about certain issues. I find myself wound pretty tight about very few things, but boy, the ones that get me going are ones I cannot get over. Some issues I question:

1. Use of candy in school as motivation and/or reward. I don't consider myself an antique, but I can say that candy was never distributed by a teacher in any of the schools I went to. I have to be frank and say that I do "get" why teachers might rely on candy, but I don't have any appreciation for it.

2. Are sports camps now a requirement for a kiddo to be considered a "serious" athlete? Summer is just one specialty sport camp after another for some kids I know, and I have no problem admitting that I don't get it.

3. If my eldest (14 y/o) is to be believed, I am in a class by myself in not permitting him to see "R" movies without heavy parental involvement (as in I or my husband see the movie first or view it with him). Honestly, this has come up at least 4 times already this summer, and I know he is being factual about some of his pals, but c'mon - explain why any 14 y/o should be allowed to see "Bruno" or "The Hangover"?

I've seen "The Hangover", and its level of raunch made me regretful of the $$$ spent to see it!

I'll stop there - feedback would be greatly appreciated, though. Those are things I find myself thinking about, and they are nuts I just can't crack.

Final note for today: stumbled upon an old fave candy at Cracker Barrel this weekend: Tootsie Pop Drops. Anyone else remember these? "The Tootsie Pop Without The Stick". Can't tell you the last time I found these - a small thing that made me extraordinarily happy.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Swimming to the top

I feel very much as if I have been bumbling about under the surface of the water, thinking I was breathing air when in fact, I was sucking in water. Not drowning, but definitely not in the light of day.

Life has gotten the better of us in the past few weeks. It is so easy to get caught up in the very "dailiness" of life, particularly Monday through Friday. And then the weekends become a blur of catching up on chores, sleep, food, family - and then, just like that, Monday arrives and the hamster wheel begins spinning again.

Summer is rapidly approaching - my clan of boys begin their summer on June 16. It actually marks a rather interesting segue in our lives. My eldest will be leaving middle school and readying to enter high school in the fall. That will result in having one or more children in each branch of the school system - two in elementary, one in middle, and one in high school. That has all the makings of an adventure. Add to that: all four in football, other extracurriculars, added studies for the eldest, possible junior Navy ROTC, and you know - life in general - and September will be nothing if not "interesting".

But for now, it is the last day of May, and we have 12 days of this school year remaining. I have work that has been my pleasure to do for the last six weeks (new job that began April 20), work I find simultaneously interesting and educational, with a little bit of frustration with "the system" thrown in. And that is not a bad mix. Working from home is proving to be an excellent option for me, in spite of the sometime distraction from my tasks in the shape of household chores and family members who want my attention. But again - it is not a bad mix.

I am compiling a list of most excellent children's books and a couple of mighty fine items I highly recommend for your family. Believe me when I say that with four boys, my husband and myself, we do manage to find a way to "test drive" various items. Our findings are exceedingly reality based, trust me on that.

But for now, it is a Sunday morning, and I have two dogs that are looking beseechingly at me to take them outside. And offspring eating Captain Crunch on the couch, which is technically a no-no (not the cereal, but the dining on the couch). Breakfast for the rest of the clan remains a hope, as well - perhaps my husband will deliver on THAT one. We can only hope.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Biden, Sparkplugs and Change

It has been a rather intense week in our household, and although I am relieved to have the weekend upon us, I think I will feel better once we come up with a solution to the hand we were dealt this week.

However - to recap the going-ons that made this week altogether unique:

1. We attended the Congressional Fire Services Institute's National Fire & Emergency Services Dinner last night at the Washington Hilton. I have attended before, and I have heard (then) Senator Joe Biden speak before, but oddly enough, when a senator become Vice-President, it is amazing how much difference a title makes. There were more than 2000 people in attendance, and when the Vice-President spoke, there was not one word being spoken by anyone other than him.

That being said, the entire time he was speaking, there were cellphones and cameras raised all over the room, snapping pictures and recording the sound of his voice. It was rather comical, actually, seeing the evident respect and admiration for him while watching men in full dress uniforms try to peer into their phone's screens to be sure they have the right shot.

2. Also this week brought a significant change to our household in that I will be taking on a new job later this month. Changing over from working for a locality to working for the state should prove interesting and challenging, to say the least. One major perk: I will be able to work from a home office, and while that presents challenges of its own, it will offer flexibility that our family of six desperately requires.

3. Last, our family truckster, which is six years olds and was recently paid off, spit out another sparkplug (this made five in the last 15 months), but this time, the sparkplug stripped the chamber. What this means to you and me is this:
Choose from the following 3 options:
  1. spend $3XXX for a new cylinder head
  2. spend $7XXX for a new engine
  3. or go into auto loan debt all over again with a new car

Sometimes having choices does not necessarily mean any one of those choices is GOOD.

Anyone with any knowledge of the apparently known problem of 1995-2003 Ford 5.4 liter Triton engines spitting out sparkplugs, please feel free to leave me a comment with any potentially helpful advice!

Lastly, I am reading a book worth recommending: American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld. I will put up a link to Amazon later, but for now - I highly recommend it as a not-so-lightweight read. Excellent writing by an author I already liked.

Now I get to go find out just how much option 3 from above will really cost us...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Slow on the uptake

Sometimes technology and I completely click. Other times - not so much. I just spend a truly inordinate amount of time compiling the charming list of book titles in the left column of this site. I am positive it is not supposed to be as difficult as I made it. But there you are.

The books listed in "The Reading List" are ones my kiddos have heartily approved. Part of my goal for this weblog is to advance the cause of children's literature, and one way of doing that is showing titles that my family of six has found to be particularly engaging, fun to look at, touching or just plain a great read.

So please view at will, and be aware that it will change as our library grows. In general, if a book is on that list, we likely already own it. In hardback. Because I just cannot seem to help myself.

That being said, though, I am a HUGE advocate of public libraries, and oftentimes, a book is checked out a multitude of times from the library (a good example is the Mo Willems' "The Pigeon Finds/Eats/Gets..." series) prior to being added to the permanent library.

And oddly enough, almost 100% of my grown-up reading list is from the library. Apparently I reserve the book purchases for those under the age of....well, under my age.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Put your thinking caps on

Two items I ran across on the web today have me thinking.

1. The first is a story about the cable channel named PBS Sprout.

If you are not familiar with it, just think "All PBS, all the time". Well, make that all PBS children's programming, all the time. Literally - it runs 24/7. A charming little show is on in the evening hours called (aptly) The Good Night Show. It seems to be built around the idea that a slower pace of programming with a host to guide the viewer along might be conducive to sleepy-time. Well, because so many American parents have apparently become a bit dependent on the show, now a whole contingent of parents are saying "PBS, stop showing this progam, because now my children are STAYING UP TOO LATE watching it".

I have to be honest and say I had one, singular reaction to this story:
If you don't like your kiddo watching t.v. at bedtime, find that switch that turned the t.v. on and reverse the process. Turn. It. Off.

But no - instead, a vocal group of parents is requesting that the show be taken off the air. "Advocates for children" are stating that Sprout is exploiting the trust of parents by the mere fact they have a show designed - by all appearances - to be sleep-provoking.
My children do not have t.v.s in their bedrooms, and they do not watch t.v. while going to sleep (unless they happen to nod off during an episode of "Big Love" -- I jest, I jest). So this is not a problem I can readily identify with. However - if any one has an argument to make in favor of removing a harmless t.v. show rather than simply shutting the blasted t.v. off - please be my guest and make it. I'd love to shoot arrows through it. Again, just kidding - but honestly, I cannot see a justification for this argument. Am I being thick-headed?

2. I subscribe to Google Reader, and one of the blogs/sites I follow is "Metrodad". I ran across one of his posts today, and perhaps as a result of having been on this parenting road for the last 14+ years, I found myself absolutely howling with laughter at his responses to many parenting questions he states folks shoot his way. See for yourself:

I particularly like the idea of encouraging newly minted married couples who believe they are ready for a kiddo to get a puppy first. I do just that - folks who say "Oh, we just cannot wait to start a family!" after having been married for 15 minutes are prime candidates for me to say "You know, a puppy is a great way to gradually accustom yourself to what life is like with an infant - up to a point". And usually that point comes when the new parent realizes that the baby cannot be put into a crate like a puppy - at least, not in any states I know of...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Findings 3/16/09

Stumbled upon websites, books and bits of information:

1. Eric Carle, an all-time favorite author of ours, has a blog. Did you know? It was news to me.
Read what the author of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" has to say here:

2. For anyone who loves smooth round river/ocean rocks, check these out-- made of renewable bamboo. I am wishing I had a bowl of them, waiting to sift through my hands:

3. Children's book recommendation for today: The Happy Hocky Family, by Lane Smith.
A book with visual and story appeal, this is an ongoing favorite in our house. It is on great manilla-looking paper, with illustrations that you almost feel like you could at least dream of drawing, and snapshot stories of the Hocky Family, including Mr/Mrs. Hocky, Baby Hocky, Henry and Holly Hocky, and Newton - the cat.

Introductions are in order

Greetings from my corner of the world. My corner is in northern Virginia, although I have also lived in corners in Missouri (St. Louis/Kansas City/Columbia), Ohio (Cincinnati area), and Colorado (Castle Rock) prior to this corner.

I have thoughts and issues and topics I believe to be worth discussing, and I got tired of hearing my own responses to my own ideas - so now the ideas have a new home. I like to think of things having homes. Around my house, things have places they live. So the kids ask "Where does the spatula live?" instead of "Where does the spatula go?"

Of course, that scenario requires the kids to a) be able to identify a spatula, and b) be in a position where said child would actually be displaying responsibility in terms of putting things away. I'll have to do a quick mental review to see if these things happen with any degree of regularity in my house.

Answer? Not often enough, thank you very much.

I am a parent - and also a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a pet owner, and a friend. Doesn't everyone have a multitude of roles to play? But it is funny how the "parent" role impacts every thing else, more than any other role. There is no getting away from it once you have kiddos. It is a permanent role, a permanent connection, and a permanent source of amusement, irritation and emotion. And frustration. And humor. 

You get the idea.

So off we go.