R.I.P. Baths

My life is a loop, like that movie Groundhog Day.  Every day.  But I’m not complaining, not one bit.  I like schedules.  I like knowing what is around the corner, over the hill, beyond the bend.  Weekdays during the school year?  Wake up, get Kids C and D on the bus. Kids A and B soon follow.  Sometimes Kid E goes to pre-school and I have to try very hard to keep myself out of trouble.  They come home at the same time, we run the seasonal sports schedule, have dinner, clean up, give the boys baths and everyone goes to bed.  Wake up.  Do it all over again.

Every once in a while when I get to be somewhere by myself I wonder how it got to be Summer/ Fall/ Winter/ Spring again so fast.  Then things get shaken up once more when we start a new schedule and I panic that some glitch will require me to be in three places at one time (physically impossible… I’ve tried), but somehow it all works out and we manage.  It may be little, insignificant day-to-day stuff, but the end of it seems to be making me more emotional than usual.

In the past as one kid would move out of a developmental stage, there was always another one right behind her or him.  We were never really done with things.  I was always having another baby.  Our crib has been assembled and disassembled more times than I can count (probably more times than recommended by the manufacturer – I even think I remember stripping the screws and needing to replace them).

As Kid E gets older and outgrows things and moves on to something else, I always feel like I should have some sort of ceremony or at least acknowledgement of the end of these things I will never do again.  When he was done with breastfeeding or diapers or naps I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know exactly what to do. (Honestly, when he gave up naps I just wanted to cry all the time, but that’s not really what I’m talking about).

So I just decided that it was a part of life and I donated my pump and got rid of the Pull-Ups and moved on to whatever pressing issue was waiting to be dealt with next.  Most recently the boys asked me to put up a shower rod and curtain in their bathroom so they could take showers instead of baths.  Kid D is certainly big enough to shower on his own now, but it was just easier to draw one bath and throw both of them in it at night for a quick hose down.  For some reason the end of baths is just tugging at my heartstrings.

Thinking about why brings me back to Kids A, B, and C taking baths as little girls. It seems like a lifetime ago… those pink wash cloths and Malibu Barbies and shampoo bubble hair-dos.  Bath time was often tedious, but it really was such a sweet ritual to be able to spend time with all three of them lined up in a row in the tub and tell each other about our days.  The girls would always ask questions about everything… sometimes profound, but mostly just silly.

I remember one time in the Pepto pink bathroom that one of the girls – most likely Kid B – asked a question about female body parts.  I always have answered those questions with age-appropriate honesty, using the correct names for things whenever possible (instead of the tee-tee, gucci, and ba-jingo that I grew up calling girl parts).  When I answered her, she thought I said “Cha-China” (she was in a Montessori preschool at the time, so the little smarty-pants knew her geography).  She then countered that Cha-China was an odd name for it and insisted that she was going to call it her Ja-Japan.  Thank goodness that didn’t last long.  Weird kid.

I guess I am just so moved by the end of these little things because it is the sum of all of the tiny parts that makes up our lives on the whole.  Mine is whizzing by and a break-neck speed and I want it to slow down. All of my kids are getting older and, while I look forward to each new stage and the experiences that come with them, I want to enjoy the ones we are in just a little while longer.  All of our kids are still just babies with little people issues.  The passing of time means that they will just get bigger and bigger issues come along with that.  I don’t want them to deal with college and love and drugs and sex and jobs and real life just yet.

If you have little kids, this might as well be a unicorn

So today I am taking all of our bath toys and putting them out with the trash and recycling.  Maybe I’ll hum “Taps” while I do it, or maybe I won’t because something new will come up in the meantime that demands my immediate attention.  Or maybe I’ll go in the master bathroom and draw a bubble bath, light some candles, and turn on some spa-like relaxation music and get into the tub myself.

Except that as soon as I do that, everybody will suddenly want to take baths again.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Memorial Day

The town I grew up in holds the best small town Memorial Day parade.  Even after I moved a few towns over and had my own family, I still took them back to Absecon every year for the wonderful experience that is their Memorial Day parade.  They traditionally start at the American Legion Post 28 and work their way down New Jersey Avenue, then they turn onto Route 9 and head up to Veterans Memorial Park.  The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9462 then hold a Memorial Service in the park.  It is thoughtful and reverent and a wonderful tribute year after year.  The park is filled with veterans and their families and friends.  Generations gather together to pay tribute and remember those who have served our country.  They deliver speeches filled with words like bravery, sacrifice, heroes, honor and patriotism.  They end the tribute every year with a gun salute.  It always moves me and makes me proud to be even a little part of it.

My uncle, Lance Corporal Gary Fredrick Paarz, H CO, 2ND BN, 7TH MARINES, 1ST MARDIV, III MAF, was one of the many who died during his service to our country during the Vietnam War.  Because he also grew up in Absecon, his name is on the memorial in Veterans Park.  He was my dad’s older brother by less than sixteen months.  I never met my Uncle Gary (he died before I was born), but I have heard many stories about him over the years.  He was fun and funny and full of life.  I can’t imagine losing a child or a sibling, but I do know that his family is so proud of his service.

Pop Pop at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Another source of pride for me is that I get watch my grandfather, Henry Singleton Speed, Torpedoman Second Class, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, march in the parade.  Actually, he’s in his eighties now, so it is more like he rides in a classic military vehicle or a convertible, but he is in the parade nonetheless.  Afterwards, we go with him to the V.F.W., where he previously served 15 years as Quartermaster, to hang out and eat barbecue.  He served for almost four years on two ships… a DE-181 and a DD-808 everywhere from the Atlantic Ocean (both North and South) to the Pacific Ocean.  His family is also very proud of his service.

There are so many people who have similar stories… those who have served and those who are serving, those who have died in battle and those who now carry the title of veterans.  We owe them all our gratitude for their bravery.  It is on this day that we gather each year and stop to remember those who chose a path that can be difficult and dangerous and certainly requires sacrifice by them and their families.  And to them all we should give respect and thanks.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. gave a speech on Memorial Day 1884 in Keene, New Hampshire, to the Grand Army of the Republic in which he said, “I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other-not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth–but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories…But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories.”

He continued, “So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall-at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.”

So please take time to remember all of the service men and women today, as well as their families.  Thank and shake the hands of the ones you see and pray for those you don’t.  And in their honor, believe in something and want it with all your might.  “So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching.”

Gardening Highs and Lows

Apparently my food gardening thumb is anything but green.  I have tried over the years to grow vegetables in a garden.  I mean, I grew up in the freakin’ Garden State.  I love fresh vegetables.  In our first house here in Atlanta, Sheepdog built me a beautiful raised garden bed that was twelve feet by twelve feet and I did acidity tests on the weird red clay dirt and I read all the way through Walter Reeves’ Guide to Gardening in Georgia and I tried to grow lettuce and carrots and cucumbers and zucchini and green beans and tomatoes.  I made pretty rows with labels and I talked to the seedlings and I watered them and I loved them.  Nothing but the beans survived.  But I had ginormous green beans out the wazoo, even after giving bags upon bags to neighbors.  So I froze them and we had beans every night for about a year.  Now I hate green beans.

A couple of years ago I tried to grow a deck garden with planters at the house we live in now but I wasn’t so successful.  Apparently this house is an anomaly that always faces the high-noon, hot sun on all four sides for more than six hours a day.   I think it rotates or something, on all three axises.  Whatever the cause, I can’t grow a food garden because everything gets fried in this hideous Hotlanta summer heat, and shade does not even matter because even on cloudy days you step outside even at eight in the morning and you can watch as living things just spontaneously combust around you.  We must live less than a mile from the sun.

The thing on the left needs a little more of the thing on the right

It actually is more efficient to grow and cook your peppers at the same time

Nevertheless, as is the case in most areas of my life, I follow the rules of insanity (doing the same things over and over again, while expecting a different outcome each time).  Except that I always tweak the plan so that this time I will get it right.  And this year I will beat the heat and find a spot that will allow them to thrive!  So today I will head out to a local garden center and pick up some plants and seedlings and I will plant them and talk to them and water them and love them.  I will enjoy working the soil with my hands and adding just the right amount of nutrients and tenderly repotting the tiny little plants one at a time and lovingly making each one a label that indicates my hopes for what they will be when they grow up.

And one day very soon I will step outside and see that my beautiful and lovingly cared for little deck garden has been completely fried like a drive-thru order at Popeye’s.  And I’ll have to once again go to the grocery store to get my lettuce and cucumbers and peppers and tomatoes.  And I’ll vow to try again next year, finally with just the right changes that will result in bountiful produce from our backyard.  And when you find a bag of ginormous green beans on your doorstep, you will know that I have finally succeeded.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Some (nick)names in today’s post have been changed in order to keep the peace in my house.

This is a reminder to the daddies to say "I love you" to your daughters every day

Yesterday afternoon somebody‘s boyfriend came over to “study.”  I went down to the basement freezer to get some chicken for dinner and I caught them kissing.  So I yelled, “Fire!” and then sent Kids D and E down there to annoy them/ make sure I don’t become a grandma just yet until dinnertime.

I think back to when I was “going out” with boys in middle school.  My mom and dad always wanted to know where we were going (dorks!).  Maybe we would talk on the phone, but usually they would come to my locker after school or walk me to my school bus.  We would write notes to each other and pass them in class or in the hallways.  It really was innocent enough.  Then I thought about my boyfriends in high school and how I would have them come over while I was babysitting my little sisters and we would make out and my right eye started twitching again and I got all sweaty and threw up a little in my mouth.  I am not ready for any of this.

Because times they are a-changin’ and my kids are growing up and I know that we are just on the cusp of “real” love and real broken hearts and real decisions that can affect their lives in so many ways.  Did I teach them clearly enough that Edward and Bella’s relationship was obsessive and overly dependent and not a healthy connection?  Do the girls really understand that boys think about sex all the time and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, while very poorly acted, is not so far from reality?  Have I talked to them openly enough about sexuality and morality that they will make good decisions and not end up starring in an episode of 16 and Pregnant?  Am I successfully doing these things on an ongoing basis?  Will they come to me and Sheepdog if they have questions or fears or if they need guidance or advice?  Did Sheepdog spend enough time with the girls so that they don’t go looking for attention from inappropriate boys?  These are some of the things that keep me up at night.

I hope that we continue to face new situations as they happen with reasonableness and humor and understanding.  I remember my father-in-law calling the back room of their house the Petting Room when Sheepdog’s little sister was a teenager.  It’s not that he was encouraging them.  In fact, I think he was doing just the opposite by putting all of his cards on the table.  He was reminding everyone that he knew how teenagers think with their tingly parts, and then he randomly checked on them in there to make sure that everyone was keeping their tingly parts to themselves.

After her boyfriend went home I asked somebody if she had a fun afternoon.  She smiled and said that she had a really great day.  Then she thanked me for being pretty cool about walking in on them kissing.  So I let myself breathe a sigh of relief about just this one of many situations to come.

And then I made a mental note to NEVER have any of my daughters babysit while they have boyfriends in high school.  Just in case.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I Am Not The Biggest Loser… or Am I?

Hot Mama check in!

On this morning after the finale of the whatever-th season of the show, I am sad to report that I am, in fact, not The Biggest Loser.  I didn’t completely win over your hearts with my hard work, charm and cunning game play during my transformation from giant, lost, aimless person who once upon a time had to sleep with scuba gear, into a svelte, appropriately muscular bombshell whose legs are now so thin that they do not touch and the stage lights shine all the way through them and even hideous bike tights look good on me.  I did not have an emotional reveal when Jillian broke me down with her repeated screams in my face that I was lazy or dumb and would never amount to anything if I didn’t follow through on something.  I did not train to box like Sylvester Stallone did in Rocky IV, in a barn using only railroad ties and farm equipment.  I did not fall off of the back of a treadmill and then have to endure watching the clip in slow motion along with a Ka-Boom! sound effect over and over on promos for the show throughout the season.  No, none of that happened to me.

But I did watch the show.  And I did occasionally eat cookies while watching (don’t we all?).  One time I think I ate a cupcake or two, which made me feel all bad-ass and rebellious.  I wondered if trainer Bob had a girlfriend or a boyfriend or both (no matter to me… just wondering).  And I was conflicted by Jillian’s angry motivation techniques and weirded out by her forced facial expressions.  And I decided that I didn’t, then I did, then I again didn’t like the two new trainers.  And that Allison looked tired all season, so maybe she’s pregnant again.  Imagine the stress of losing your post-baby weight while working on that show!  And I also felt bad for not working out enough and for not feeding my family with all-natural, whole foods all the time.  I mean how do people do it?

I have struggled with my weight throughout my adult life.  I was active and fit as a kid and maintained that all the way through high school.  I was residually muscular and fit through most of college, but years of a steady diet of cheap beer and 2 a.m. cheese steaks will eventually take a toll.  My wedding dress (aside from the hideous 80’s New Jersey mafia princess theme) was not a size to cry over, but I certainly wasn’t wearing the tag on the outside to brag about it.  I had Kid A almost three years later and took pregnancy as a license to do my best impersonation of the Michelin Man.  Over the years (and after the pregnancies) I would go up and down on the scale, which (I know) is the worst possible thing for your body.

I have read so many books and tried so many things… Stop the Insanity, The Cabbage Soup Diet, Atkins, gym memberships, body typing, yoga, boot camps, P90X, personal trainers, food diaries, juicers, Weight Watchers, Windsor Pilates.  I won’t ever take “magic” diet pills, but if there is some sort of well-produced infomercial that shows me how eating tree bark or jumping up and down on a trampoline every day will help me lose weight, then you can probably count me in!  It is absolutely no wonder that the diet and exercise industry is a kajillion-dollar one.  A few years ago I finally figured out that my body was not meant to be stick-figure thin, and that wacko diets and crazy exercise routines did not lead to long-term weight loss and overall good health.  Duh, right?  It is easier said than done.

Nevertheless, I keep on fighting the good fight.  I got frustrated recently when, shortly after turning forty, I was working out more than ever and eating fairly well, but I kept gaining weight.  Are you kidding me?  This just sucks.  So now I am following my doctor’s advice to cut out carbs temporarily and keep on working out.  He made me stand up and gave me the once-over.  Then he said that my body did a very good job of distributing my weight evenly.  Then he added, “On the plus side, if you ever had to endure a temporary famine, you would certainly make it through.”  Nice.

Keep my eyes on the prize and my hands on the plow.  That is what I want my kids to see me doing instead of some kooky food plan or unrealistic workout routine.  And I know that they are always watching and learning from me.  I’ll keep cutting up fresh veggies and serving fish for dinner, but sometimes we will have pizza or mexi-food or cupcakes.  And today I am going back on the treadmill, both literally and figuratively.  I may never be mistaken for a runway model, but someday soon I could be a big loser.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Wrangling the Entropy, Tip #3

Science geeks and Stetson-wearers rejoice!  Let’s get busy wrangling some entropy and saving ourselves from the inevitable chaos of family paperwork.

Tip #3 – In and Out (no this is not a sex tip, you pervs)

  1. Designate Your “In” Bin.  Mine is a simple 2-tiered letter sized sorting bin on the desk in our family office.  If you come to my house and you need to me to do, see, approve or pay anything, then your best bet is to put it in my “In” bin.  Permission slips, report cards, party invitations, bills, notes, etc. all go in there and I review them and then take the appropriate action.  Usually I review the “in” bin on Sunday afternoons (for the surprise “I need it on Monday” stuff) and most weekdays so I won’t overlook something important.  Make your “in” bin easily accessible and make sure everyone knows where it is.
  2. Give Everyone Else an “Out” Bin.  This part is derived from Newton’s Second Law of Motion.  What goes in must come out.  When you have done, seen, signed, approved or paid the things that others dropped into your “in” bin, you then must hand off to the appropriate party by putting into their “out” bin.  They can then take these things back to school or sports or wherever they need to go.  Make sure to teach them to look in their “out” bin every day as well, so nothing gets left behind.
Equal and opposite reaction feels pretty good, right? 

All or Nothing

This Week (Argh!)

Next Week (Ahhh!)

It really does work out to be all or nothing, doesn’t it?  This last week of school is just insanely busy.  Then next week starts summer vacation and there will be (relatively) nothing on our schedule.  I’ll bet that by mid-week next week at least some of the kids (and maybe me too) will have started the “I’m bored!” chant.

Today we all have our heads spinning.  I got almost no sleep last night, at least nothing in a consecutive chunk.  Everybody has at least one project, one deadline, one thing that requires our immediate attention.  Except Kid E, and he is sick.  Sick as a dog, because that’s how All or Nothing works.

I just wanted to let you know that I get overwhelmed sometimes too.  Today is one of those times.  Today I feel like I have to do it all…so for you, I’ve got nothing.  And I’m sorry.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…