Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Well, it appears that the thing de jour is to rant about something current. Bonus points seem to be awarded if it pertains to things feminine. Well, I've never been one to turn down the opportunity to rant so, here's something that's been eating at me for a while.
Motherhood is hard. This really is unnecessary to say. Heck, it's the reason why this blog exists. So yes, we do seem to understand that motherhood is hard. 

And nowhere is this better understood than in online groups of women, well mothers anyway. There's plenty of commiseration, venting and reassurance seeki

ng. Post after post begins "tell me if I'm a bad mom if I......" which of course, being a civilized (mostly) society, results in the mother be reassured that no she's not a bad mom if she feeds her kids cereal for dinner three times in one week. 

I admit I've been comforted by knowing that mothers I respect have hit up the drive thru on the way home. That they've allowed their kids to wear shoes with no socks occasionally. I'm reassured knowing that all moms struggle. Because, I hope, it means I'm not doing to so very badly.

But there's a danger in wanting to constantly be reassured that we're not "bad moms." Maybe, sometimes, out consciences are pricking us for all the right reasons. If we have to seek out comfort, repeatedly, to be reassured that we are indeed doing it right.....maybe we aren't.

I don't know what it is that makes a good mom. Because I know so many of them. And they are all so different. But there are similarities that unite them all. Giving. Extreme giving. Not slash your wrists and bleed all over the floor or the cross or whatever, but genuine giving spurred on by love. Giving your all. And that looks different family to family. But it's there, always. Parents, not just mom but dad too, giving it all to their family. And not even realizing it.

When we love, when we invest fully, we don't realize how much we've given. We just give. So the night of cereal dinners in front of the tv doesn't matter. If that's all we have to give. We give it and we keep on. But if we can give more, we ought to. Because we've brought these little people into our lives. They didn't ask for our drama and our insecurities. They ask for unconditional, constant love. They ask that we love them with our love languages, which is why our families look different.

I know that I am not a "good mom" because I have my son enrolled in speech therapy. I know I'm not a "good mom" because I drive my kids to sports practices. I know I'm not a good mom because I've read my son's IEP. I know I'm not a good mom because I read to my kids.

I'm just a mom.

There are responsibilities we take on when we embrace motherhood. There are obligations we assume. That we raise our children in a balanced, secure and consistent environment.

So sometimes that means we wear yoga pants all week and our kids are three weeks behind in their haircuts. It means that I don't keep up the blog that I loved doing. Because I've given everything I could to my little army of crazy people who are destroying my home as I type.

It's not about what we do, it's about the love with which we do it.

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Mom. I want Santa to bring me a baby sister for Christmas."


"But X-Man, you already have a baby sister."

"YEAH. ME!" Cinco is not amused.

"No, She's not cute. I want a baby sister. Babies are so cute."

"NO!" Cinco feels strongly on the issue. "I AM CUTE! DADDY SAYS!"

"Cinco is not a baby she's a girl. Maybe that bird can bring me a baby sister." Yeah keeping trying kid.

"X-Man, Cinco isn't a baby anymore, you're right. But she will always be your little sister, your baby sister. You don't need another one."

"I want a baby sister!"

"NO! THERE ARE LOTS OF KIDS IN THIS FAMILY AND I AM THE LAST!" Cinco is now kicking her legs rather hysterically. Baby and Baba are both doubled over in their seats in the car. Somehow Cinco's reaction is both ridiculous and totally predictable.

"No. I want a cute baby sister, who is so tiny and cute. And I can hold her." Ah, we're on to something. X-Man's visiting baby cousin is now officially toddling about, and completely uninterested in being held by X-Man.

Meanwhile, Cinco is bordering on hysterical rage. "NO! I AM THE BABY! Daddy wants it that way!" That's probably news to the father figure who was mentioned he would mind another baby or two. Maybe he and X-Man can work something out with Santa. I'm ok not being involved in this go around.



"NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" Cinco is tantruming as completely as her booster seat will allow.

"YES!" At this point it's clear, X-Man is as interested in poking the beast as he is in actually getting the super cute baby sister.

There's a fine line to walk here. One that makes clear to X-Man that Santa is not going to be bringing him a baby sister, with or without the assistance of some weird Rudolph/stork hybrid. And also one that makes it clear to Cinco it's high time she gets a grip.

"Well guys, babies are very special....."

"Yeah like me!"

"Cinco, please don't interrupt Mommy when I'm talking. Babies are special, and they come to families when God wants them to. And that's why your baby sister Cinco is so special, and that's why you are so special. You came to us when it was the right time for you guys. When you were the right thing for our family. Ok?"


"Yes X-Man?"

"I want Santa to bring me a ukulele for Christmas."

I'm not sure that's an improvement.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Celebrate with me! Only ten more days until Cinco and X-Man stop asking me every morning "Is it Christmas yet? Can we open presents? Why not? We want to open presents!!!" Insert hysterical tears here.

From what I can tell, no one is overly impressed with 2016 and everyone is planning on upgrading to a new model year very soon. I certainly fall within this category. It's been a crazy time, there have been moments here and there that I think "oh I should blog this before I forget." But I've become so efficient in my old age, that I forget things without even blogging them.

Not that there haven't been highlights. Like within X-Man's first month of school, first month of any of our children's experience in a school, we'd been to the principal's office twice. Cinco has decided that we aren't all hopping to quite as promptly as she belives we should. I believe her exact words "Everyone needs to do what I want always." Threeanger indeed.

Around Halloween, it was the traditional Kindergarten field trip to a local pumpkin patch. For X-Man's sake, I accompanied him, he's an intense guy and without someone with five years of experience with him, it can be overwhelming for all the parties. We clambered on the bus and took our seats. I attempted a couple of selfies with my boy, remembered that selfies are dumb and settled back. X-Man looked across the aisle and noticed a row full of girls and yelled "hi duys!!!" (he is still working on making his hard g sounds). He caught himself and tried again "Hello ladies!" He threw in three blown kisses for good measure.

It did not escape my notice that he deliberately choose words that he could say clearly, or that he was puting the moves several young ladies at once. I admit that my first thought was "dear lord he will be written up for sexual harrassment three weeks into his time at this school." Truly that seemed par for the course. Two of the girls ignored him and one kept giggling and say "hi" back. I kept a lid on the sauve moves much to her disappointment.

That's my X-Man. Sweet, stubborn, charming and clever. He also has been dealing with several challenges, each of which makes life in today's busy world that much more overwhelming. Recognizing these challenges and determining the best path for him has been a time consuming process. It has also drained me emotionally. Completely. I can't fathom what he goes through daily, physically, mentally and emotionally.

He has been met with scorn and judgment, by those in positions of authority who should have been caring for him. They were quickly to label, but didn't realize what looks like tantrums in toddlers and non verbal children is often actually panic attacks. He is bright boy. Smart enough to know that he is not understood, that he's not fitting into the world as his peers are and people sometimes don't like him.

We started out the academic year in a private preschool. I had discussed with them his challenges and they claimed to be welcoming. Interestingly enough, I never felt comfortable leaving him there. For each of the five days that I did. Day six there was a misunderstanding with his "teacher." X-Man wanted to do something, she wanted him to do something else. I had explained that X-Man can get upset and almost hysterical when he thinks he's not being understood. It takes a couple minutes, but simply getting at his eye level and calmly explain to him that while you understand that he wants to do this, we will be doing that instead. What's essential is simply clarifying to him that you know what he is trying to say and that you are not denying it or ignoring it because you don't understand him, but rather because it's not an option at this time.

X-Man spent four years barely being understood verbally. He had at least two full years of knowing what he wanted to communicate and not being understood. It truly is a trigger for him if he thinks he's not being communicated with. And he panics, which with a non verbal child, often looks like a temper tantrum.

His "teacher" said she was fine with his needs. But it was clear to me that she disliked him from day one. And he told me his teacher didn't like him. Now X-Man is a hand full and a challenge. But he is a sweet loving kid who just wants to do well. He just struggles with processing what well is, and filtering it out of all the other sensory stimuli that overwhelms his brain. I am fine with structure and discipline when it comes to X-Man, he craves it. But I expect compassion as well. He's walking a much steeper mountain than most of us will ever experience. And I expect the adults I pay to assist him in learning to actually attempt to assist him, and not tell me "I think he has problems."  Because honey, we all do.

So that's how X-Man ended up in a specialized kindergarten classroom at our local public
school. It was bumpy as he tested the limits and figured out how serious they all were. But, as I told the father figure, these were people legally required to help him. But they are also very invested in helping him. And help him they have. He bounces out of his classroom every day bellowing "I did a gleat job at school today!" (he can't say his g or r yet)

Getting X-Man all the help he deserves, fighting our insurance to cover it, doing all the exercises at home he's suppose to, takes up most of my time. But when you see a little guy so motivated to improve and trying so hard, it's worth every minute. But those are minutes I don't have for blogging anymore. Hence the radio silence.

And that's fine with me. Because while this takes up so much of my time, it's really not my story. And I feel that it is certainly not my story to tell. X-Man deserves his privacy. I like to encourage others to learn from my mistakes, to seek out the help that is available and to advocate fiercely for their kids. But the details, those are X-Man's. He deserves to be seen for who he is. His challenges are not who he is. The warrior boy who chooses to smile, chooses to joke, chooses to try, deserves to tell his own story. In his own time. In his own words.

Meanwhile, X-Man yelling at me for not driving him to Santa's house....that's a story I'll share. Soon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

X-Man was disinvited from preschool. Well, I don't know if that's really what happened, but an active little boy who already knew his letters and numbers and therefore got bored quickly, wasn't the right fit for a small room in a small preschool. So, he's off to kindergarten where there are four adults to the seven kids. Which is a better ratio than he would get at home.....so ok.

It's been an experience. I was worried about the seven hour school day. It seemed.....excessive. And in X-Man's mind it most certainly was. His teacher is sympathetic. Especially when he melt down onto the floor wailing "I'm so sleepy." So, we're doing the whole half day thing.

Half days are excellent because they give X-Man the opportunity to eat his heart out. Really. His teacher has started to swipe an extra breakfast for him because he is more than happy to join the class and eat breakfast. Again. Because I've made sure to feed him before school. But he goes ahead and eats second breakfast. But only after selecting his hot lunch option. It's not that I'm too lazy to pack a cold lunch for him. It's just that his cold lunch has become his elevensies. And post recess snack. In the four hours that X-Man is not at school, he's probably packing on a pound an hour. Although his teacher says that he is burning it off at a rapid rate. Which sounds quite plausible.

Part of the reason for the school's flexibility is the fact that I drop X-Man off and pick him up every day. A necessary part of this equation would be car keys. And this morning I most certainly could not find them. I had them last night. And they were no where to be found. I searched everywhere. I ripped apart the couch, searched the fridge, where I had put the groceries after coming home last night. I called the father figure, convinced he had taken them inadvertently. Because, he's done that before. Under X-Man's bed...nope. In the pockets of coats I haven't worn in the months....nope. In the dryer.....nope. I sent Baby, Baba and Mac out to search the car. Individually. Baby returned saying that X-Man said that the keys were in the rocket that was on the moon. Which was certainly helpful.

I was holding the phone, getting ready to call the school. It was hard to come up with a delicate way of saying "I lost my car keys....they were right HERE!!!!" But I was working on something as X-Man and Cinco stumbled into the house and announced "here they are!!!" The keys. They were in X-Man's pocket because he wanted to fly to the moon. He had actually explained all of this to Baby when in the car....and she listened as well as well.....my kids do.

We were twenty minutes late.

So even though I haven't been writing. Rest easy......nothing's actually changed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It may have not escape the astute reader's notice that I have not been writing much recently. This is due to many factors. First of all, this blog exists mostly to detail my children's exploits. They have been reigning in the crazy in recent months, dare I say, almost well behaved. Or, which is as plausible, they have determined it is better to be crazy without an audience. Furthermore, it is the summer. I always envision remarkable days of achievement and accomplishment, adventures and memories made. Rather, the summer becomes a long session soccer camps and swimming lessons and soccer tournaments. And the sinking feeling you were supposed to get a lot more done than you have.

X-Man and Cinco have spent the summer in a soccer camp. It was glorious. Mostly because, for the first time ever, X-Man was not only age appropriate behavior-wise, but he was the best. He was the most physically capable, the fastest and the most confident. All of which was to be expected since he was the oldest in the class. However, Cinco was nipping on his heals. She has definitely made the most of her years, quite literally, of hanging out on the soccer sidelines. She's looking like she should have a bright future on the field. She also paid tribute to her Italian heritage by flopping quite a bit.

I didn't think anything of it at first. Cinco fell down, but she's my kid. She's Baby's sister. Falling comes quite naturally. Baby scored a winning goal in a tournament years ago, after running out of her shoe. The ref looked perplexed and as if he thought he should probably blow his whistle, but Baby was on a mission. She scored, much to the chagrin of the opposing team's parents who were certain there was a trick play at work. Rather, it was just poor parenting as Baby explained "My MOM tied my shoes." She hopped back to the ref and held her foot up Cinderella style and then asked him to tie her other one as well. Just in case.

But two weeks into soccer camp, I noticed that Cinco had a strategy to flopping. It happened only if X-Man beat her to something AND (this is an essential element) her coach was near by. Her coach was a young enthusiastic young man who was very concerned each time she hit the ground. He'd help her up  and she'd hold his hand for the next few exercises. If he was paying attention to other students, Cinco would suddenly find herself on the ground. And if he didn't notice, she'd move closer and collapse again. Other girls in the class pick up on this trick as well, collapsing to the group if his hands were holding other students hands.

Eventually, I got annoyed with the whole thing and yelled "You're embarrassing yourself! Get up! X-Man's beating you!" This certainly had the desired effect for Cinco, she popped right up and chased down her brother. Then she stole his ball but at least she did it on both feet. Of course my outburst drew some attention from the other parents. They did not approve of my style. Or my dismissiveness towards any potential injury. But I didn't care. I'm a red blooded American who doesn't fall down and most certainly doesn't raise girls to need boys to pick them up thank you very much.

I was pleased that Mac, Baba and Baby all insisted on coming to watch the soccer camps. It was sweet that after years of being watched, they were all excited to watch X-Man and Cinco. And they did indeed put on a show.

During the course of typing this, I've had to institute the new, and extra cruel rule, of no tea parties on the stairs. Which apparently is the only plausible location for any festivities in the house. I also
nixed the whole cereal and milk at the tea party idea as well. Although honestly, it had moved passed the idea stage and was actually being smuggled to the stairs when I intercepted them. See what I mean about keeping the antics on the down low?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

X-Man and I share a birthday. Of course we do. Because that’s what X-Man does, chooses a challenging way of announcing his existence. For the first four years, my little party crasher didn’t bother me. But this year, around 10pm the night before, I found myself annoyed by…..just everything. Mostly trying to assemble Lego mini machines for a cake that I still needed to bake. 
Followed the next morning with children who chose to air their grievances very loudly. And, the hardest part of all, I had to deal with a super excited little boy who was turning five. So clearly, the solution was to spend the day at a river. Because my children and open water…..how could that go wrong?

And it didn’t….really. It was relaxing and peaceful. It actually helped settled X-Man down. And he had a fantastic day. It cumulated with him hugging me and yelling “I LUFF MY BIRFDAY!!!!” after opening all his gifts.

The father figure took the children shopping for my birthday gifts. It was fun because they each picked things out for me that I loved and I see them in. Apparently as they unloaded their wares before the checker, she asked “Is your mom having a birthday?” So clearly they did quite well.
X-Man too got fun toys. One of his gifts was Candy Land; it was a mild disappointment when he discovered it wasn’t actually a box full of candy. But he recovered. He and Cinco have been playing well with each other.  But I did cringe when I heard X-Man bellow “Give me my color people!!!!”  Referring of course to the tradition Candy Land playing pieces.

It’s a new year so I decided to start working out with the kids. Baby and Baba are serious athletes and need to incorporate some speed and agility training into their routines. So I decided to participate in their new drills. So there were Mac, Baba, Baby and me running up a hill, forward and backwards. Duck walking up a hill, lips not required, bear crawling and frog jumping. Well, I didn’t frog jump. I’ve had five kids. It was not going to happen.

X-Man rolled down the hill repeatedly. Cinco simply sat at the top and every time I jogged up would “Can I watch My Little Pony on your phone?” Mac kept talking, until I pointed out that if you can talk you aren’t working hard enough,

Meanwhile, my legs were shaking. Like fall down shaking. I get that I haven’t been the best about 
working out this summer, although I walk three to four miles during soccer practices, but this seemed absurd. Also, impossible to hide from Baba and Baby, who were sweating but not quivering. I felt just a wee bit judged. Also, I am pretty sure Baba was contemplating how she would drag me to the car, while keeping X-Man and Cinco in check.  She’s a quiet thing but I think she’s been around long enough to know that she should have an emergency plan in place…..always.

I didn’t actually die. But my ego is just a wee bit bruised. I kinda thought I could hang with….MAC at least. Although the boy is on a swim team now. Apparently my fitness level is equal to X-Man. So I too will join in just rolling down the hill. This will probably come as a great relief to Baba. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I wrote this for another site and was recently asked to reshare it.....which I do so happily.

We’ve lived in our house now for over a year. As we wrapped up the renovations, I got to focus on decorating it, making it our home. I had a vision and that vision included family portraits. Our fifth baby was old enough now that she looked like herself, still little, but not so babyish. Above our mantle would hang our family portrait. I knew the pose I wanted, rather artistic. My husband and I would be in the background, our five children in the forefront, the focus of our family.  

About the time that I decided I was ready for family photos, my friend Kristie had a special deal to celebrate her oldest son’s graduation from high school. I love Kristie and don’t see her nearly enough, not to mention she has a spectacular eye for light. So it seemed like a perfect choice to meet up with her and take some lovely family pictures.  The theme of the pictures was basically show up with clean faces. This was accomplished. Yes, my older son had a ripped shirt on. Yes my younger son was missing a button on his shirt, but over all they looked fairly cared for. The sun was shining, although it wasn’t as hot as many of our summer days had been. The breeze was dancing through, giving us all a gentle windswept look.  It seemed ideal, the perfect day.  The perfect day, the perfect setting up until toddlers were added to the mix. In my excitement to have truly special family pictures taken, I forgot that it involved my family. Namely my strong willed three year old and a toddler with the attention span of a gnat. It did not go well.  The odds were never really in our favor. If the three year old cooperated, the baby had to run towards the street. If the baby was sitting still, the three year old had to climb the tree…..right then. And the older children kept laughing at the littles’ antics.

Kristie handled it like the professional she is. Although I’m certain raising her own four, absolutely sweet children, helped. She was patient and understanding. She expressed delight in the absolutely age appropriate behavior of the little ones. She was supportive and helped me see the situation for what it was.  It is where we are in life. We are a family with little ones. Babies and toddlers who throw us for a loop. And they are so cute as the wreak havoc within our plans. And that’s what Kristie captured. Our life, now, frustrating and hectic and oh so beautiful.  It can be challenging to see the beauty in the moment sometimes. Especially when you just want them to sit still for a couple minutes. I had a goal, a vision and it just wasn’t going to come to fruition. And honestly, that’s life right now. My plans often go awry, just yesterday I was peeling screaming children off the bookstore floor. They wanted to sit and stare at the Thomas the Tank Engine toys, I wanted to pick up the book I ordered. But they’re still the size where I can scoop them up. They still can wrap their arms around my neck as they wailing in protest. And there’s something precious about that. It’s a special time, all too brief, just months out a decades long life.

These moments are fleeting. And they are more valuable than can ever be expressed. There, in that moment, I chose to let go of my plans and simply work with what we had. Because that’s what family life is about. Embracing your people, where they are in life, and moving forward. Or sideways, depending on what mood strikes the children in your life. But in order to have peace, to be able to take joy in the moments that come, sometimes unexpectedly, I had to make my plans fit my children, not my children fit my plans. Because these are my moments, my moments to treasure my children, and that means their personalities as expressed by their little toddler wills. Too soon they will grow, grow into well behaved children. Children, who don’t cry because they have to sit on grass, but rather for real pain, true sadness, hurt. And I dread that time. I’m scared for when they hurt for reasons I can’t fix. When I can’t dry their eyes by offering them my bracelet. So I chose to not be frustrated or irritated, at least too much. These are the good times. The happy times. These are my children, good and naughty. They have my heart.  

This reality was made more poignant by the presence of Kristie’s eldest son. He helped with the shoot, chatted comfortably, mostly about  college. He was leaving. Moving upward and onward, as he should. As all children will.  Kristie was so proud of her little boy, now taller than her. And she had every reason to be. And she tried so hard to hide those tears, as her precious little one spread his wings. Wings she formed, wings she nurtured, wings she so wanted to see him use. But it didn’t make it hurt any less.  As I watched the mother and son work together, I glanced over at my own son. He was trying to remove his shoes. Forcefully and with much passion. And I chose to accept and treasure. Because too soon, that little boy would be a man. A man who would take on the world with as much passion as he had for not sitting still in that moment. And that man would leave my side, and quite possibly invite another woman to his side. This will be wonderful when it happens, but it won’t change the fact that his little chubby hand will no longer be in mine.

So I choose to treasure these moments, even the moments of chaos. It's where our family is right now. We'll have the perfect family photos later, at graduations and weddings. When my littles are spreading their wings. I have them for such a brief time, and Kristie captured this brief time perfectly. In all its chaos....and beauty.   

all photos by Catch Me if You Can photography.