Speaking of Wood…

Speaking of wood, Kid D is about due for The Talk.  Yes, I mean THE Talk.  He is in the third grade.  Too young, you say?  Seriously, have you ridden on a public school bus?  Have you watched a rerun of Friends on television?  Have you heard of a little thing called the internet?

S-E-X is everywhere.  And it has basically been motor boating my son since he was born.  He just wasn’t aware that boobs could be used as anything but food or a soft pillow until now.  And he has questions… I can see them trying to escape from his little boy mouth.  Mostly I see them now when I am showering and he lingers for a fraction of a second too long in my bathroom.  Then he leaves quickly, muttering, “…nevermind…”  because his little boy brain doesn’t yet know the words he wants to use for the things he wants to ask.  And his body will be changing soon and his friends will be saying things.  And I don’t want him to feel like he is an alien growing a fifth limb.

"Erections sometimes don't know when they're not wanted." - from "What's Happening to Me, " written by Peter Mayle and illustrated by Arthur Robins

“Erections sometimes don’t know when they’re not wanted.” – from “What’s Happening to Me, ” written by Peter Mayle and illustrated by Arthur Robins

I have several options about how I can handle this.  I can leave some brochures and books on his nightstand for him to peruse at his leisure.  But that seems so isolating and scary, and likely the pages would get stuck together before long.  I could ignore the issue and let him find out on his own, in a more organic way.  But what if he gets the wrong information or has questions or it freaks him out?  At that point, he likely won’t feel comfortable enough to come to me with questions because I never approached him with the facts in the first place.  Then sex becomes a dirty little secret in our house.  And those are NOT feelings that I want my kids to associate with sex, ever (well, the dirty part can be acceptable, but that’s a much more advanced lesson for later).

I learned about sex in a combination of all of the ways listed above.  I regularly organized my mom’s walk-in-closet (honestly, she had a ton of clothes that always ended up on the floor, and it gave me tremendous peace to fold them or hang them back up), and she conveniently left a copy of “What’s Happening to Me?” on a shelf for me to “find” when I was about eleven or twelve.  Little did she know that my cousin, now a lesbian for what that’s worth, had told me all about the nitty gritty when I was at her house for a sleepover.  I was nine.  Any other facts about body development or intercourse or STDs trickled in over the years via sex education classes, Seventeen magazine quizzes, and my friend McWorm, who explained to me in the 7th grade that Dexy’s Midnight Runners most definitely did not want Eileen to hurry up.

Taking what I learned from my own experiences, I went into my own parenting wasteland wishing to make a complete 180 when it came to talking to and teaching my kids about sex.  I’m not judging my parents for not talking to me.  I know firsthand how hard it is to have The Talk, for both the parents AND the kids.  And honestly, my parents didn’t get The Talk from their parents either.  So the dirty little secret is all they knew.  But I was adamant that I would try to make it, if not easy, than at least a smidge easier for my kids to talk to me about all things related to sex.  I would start being open when they were very young and we could build trust from there.  I thought it was a good plan.

When the girls were little, I drove a minivan.  A silver Mazda MPV, pre-sliding doors, but it was still super convenient for the car seat-toting set.  It was also the place where we had some of our best sex talks when they were young.  I was laying the groundwork.  For example:

One morning on the way to carpool, Kid A, who was in 1st grade at the time, asked what I’d be doing while she and her sisters were in school all day.  I took a deep breath and said that I had a doctor’s appointment.

“A well visit, Mommy?  Do you have to get a shot?” asked a very curious Kid B, who was in preschool.  She was used to her own pediatrician.

“Um, no, actually.  I am going to a mommy doctor called an OB/GYN.”  I steadied my nerves and looked straight ahead at the road (talks in the car were most awesome because there was never any eye contact involved).  “The OB stands for ‘obstetrician,’ and that’s a doctor who delivers babies.  I am not pregnant, so I’m not going for that.”

“Whew,” said a smartass Kid A, “‘Cause you’re usually pregnant a lot.”

“No, I am not pregnant right now.  So I am going for the GYN part – the ‘gynecologist…’ ”  I took a very deep breath.  “…and that is a doctor who takes care of your vagina.”

If the girls had brake pedals, we would have skidded out right there in the middle of the road.

“Whaaaaaaaaaat?” squealed both of the older kids.  Kid C toddler-giggled at their reaction.

“There is a doctor just for your your cha-china?”  More giggles from the backseat.

“Yes, ” I answered, determined to be calm and cool and all NBD about sex.  “He will check my weight and my blood pressure and ask me medical questions and do a check to make sure my vagina is all healthy and good. ”

“Well, that’s just like a well visit, Mommy, ” Kid A pointed out.

I was so proud for being straightforward and honest and open about sex with my daughters.  They understood.  I was making progress.  Change is good!  And then Kid B broke me.

“But what about if you make a stinker out of your vagina when the doctor is checking you.  What happens then, Mommy?  If you make a stinker?  Out of your vagina?”

I slammed on the brakes at that point, both figuratively on the conversation and literally on the minivan.  Fortunately, we had just pulled in to the school drop off.  “Have a good day, girls!”  I fake-smiled and waved and completely ignored the final, utterly unnerving question about S-E-X.  I was actually shaking in my seat.  Where was that kid from?

Kids are evil.  They are ornery.  Kids are put on this earth to pulverize their parents’ best intentions into dust particles and then throw them into our faces.  Groundwork, shmoundwork.

Now that I think about it, I’ll wait just a little while longer before I give Kid D The Talk.  He can learn about S-E-X like everybody else, the old-fashioned way… from a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

I mean to do some random things… wash my car, clean out the storage room in the basement, send a wedding present to the couple who Sheepdog knows but I don’t, and who has now been married for well over a year – maybe even two or three.  I think they just had a baby.  I guess I should add “send a baby gift” to the list now too.  For whatever reason, I am just not inspired to do these things.  Ugh.  Thinking about it makes me feel like a slacker and a little icky, so I just put it off until later.  Much later.

But when it comes to my blog, I am motivated to write about things as they are happening in my life.  It goes nicely with my intention for “This Is How I Do It” to be a sort of memory keeper for me and my family.  If it is out of order or if too much time passes between the actual event and the time I press “Publish,” then it just seems wrong to me.  I don’t mean “untrue or fake,” because I don’t make up the stuff I write about here.   Maybe I mean it makes me feel like a slacker and a little icky, like the things on the never-ending, random to-do list.  But lets instead call it “less genuine and organic.”  Yes, that is exactly what it feels like.  Nevertheless, I’m finding out that sometimes it is necessary to break my own rules…

There is a milestone that I meant to address at the end of the school year, but it got pushed aside when Braden died.

(Quick side note:  Man, I really miss that kid.  I continue to struggle with understanding his sickness and his untimely passing.  I waffle back and forth between believing that life is precious and meaningful and I should soak everything in like a desperate sponge, or thinking that it is all a random crapshoot, so why bother?  Fortunately, I loiter most often on the former side of that fence.  There are several songs that remind me of him and they move me to sobbing tears when I let myself listen.  I really want to argue with him about the NFL trades (like Welker to the Broncos and Tebow to the Patriots) and the IRS scandal, and Edward Snowden, and Egypt, and Turkey, and Trayvon Martin, and the list goes on and on and on.  I wish I could talk to him or text him.  But that is no longer possible.  Sigh.)


In May, Kid E finished his last year of pre-school.  They did a ceremony back in April with songs and dances and a picnic in the park to mark the special occasion.  They did it early because his school had two GA pre-K classes and both lead teachers were pregnant and due sometime during the month of May.  Both of them delivered their beautiful babies before classes were out for summer, so substitutes came in to finish out the year.  They were very nice teachers and the kids still learned and had fun, but the end result was that the last day of school was kind of  “meh.”  With everything else that was happening in the last two weeks of May this year, I let the last day of pre-school pass without much fanfare.  Stuff happens, right?

But it is too bright of a highlight to let it slip by unacknowledged.

Starting with Carol and ending with Miss Bethany, my kids had some of the most awesome pre-school teachers on the planet.  They loved them like they were their own children.  Even on the days when I could not have been happier to get them out of my sight drop them off at school.  Especially on those days, and that is something I am very thankful for.  These teachers taught my kids so many things, but they also taught me as well.  And I’m talking about the important stuff here…



I don’t care how cute those heathens look… this drop off deserves the Dance of Joy!

Carol taught Kid A how to be an outside kid.  She loaded up four or five kids a day and strollered them down to All-Wars Memorial Park, where they ran and jumped and played, until they collapsed in heaps and napped for hours.  Carol taught me the importance of regulating my kid’s day naps so that she would actually go to bed at night.  She also potty trained Kid A for me.  The first lesson was necessary for me to learn, but the second was just plain awesomeness.  Carol also taught me the importance of a margarita after the kids are in bed (her husband rented out the big machines for parties as a side business), which I found to be invaluable advice over the years.  Cheers to Carol!

Rosemary taught Kid B how to soothe herself to sleep when she was almost a year old.  Up until then, Sheepdog and I traded nights of sleep… he would get one, then I would get one.  It was a special time in our lives (and by that I mean e-special-ly SUCKY).  Kid B did not go to sleep unless someone was bouncing her, even during the day.  I don’t know if she had colic or we spoiled her, or what, but it was just plain awful.  And then like an angel from heaven, Rosemary came into our lives, and Kid B started sleeping through the night.  And it turned out she wasn’t a horrible devil-kid.  Rosemary also potty trained Kid B.  I did nothing but drop her off at pre-school and then I would pick up a non-diaper-wearing kid at the end of the day.  So I guess Rosemary taught me that, even after having two kids, you still may not know how to do the basic stuff, like get them to sleep or potty train them.  She also talked me off of the ledge when I was completely desperate and sleep-deprived and wanted to sell Kid B on e-Bay.  I really owe her a debt of gratitude for that one.

Kid C had the least amount of pre-school teachers because I had stopped working after I had her.  Following the adage of quality over quantity, the one that stands out the most in my mind is Miss Cora.  She was from a faraway land and said Kid C’s name in the most awesome way, with about seven more syllables than it actually has.  She taught Kid C about letting her freak flag fly.  Up until then, I had been butting heads with that kid about absolutely everything, mainly because she had/ has a very different way of doing things than I was used to.  Kid C took Cora’s lessons to heart and really started being her true self without reservation, which is a little bit crazy and a lot of bit different.  And somehow, they both showed me that it was okay for me to let it happen too.  It was a very good lesson for all of us.  Oh, and Cora also taught me that when a kid swallows a button during quiet time because her friend dared her to, don’t freak out because it will be just fine and probably just come out in her poop.  Another good lesson.

Miss Carla taught Kid D how to read.  In pre-school!  She was a seasoned veteran when it came to teaching kids (and their parents) all sorts of things, but the timing was just right (he was ready; she was so very patient) for her to instill a love of books and reading that continues with him to this day.  And even after four years I was still adjusting to having a kid with a penis, so Carla’s incredible patience was a well-timed example that I definitely needed in my life right then.  That patience also came in handy when I had to eventually potty-train the last kid.  I guess I had to learn sometime, right?

Kid E started pre-school early, especially given that I was a full-time SAHM.  But he would just follow me around all day, staring at me, muttering, “Where my brudder?”  So, I loaded up his backpack and his lunchbox and sent him out the door when he was barely two.  He had the most awesome teachers… every single one was fabulous.  Miss Lori, Miss Judy and Miss Tina (You’re Not Ugly) at Little Creek, and then Miss Waldy, Miss Robin, Miss Bethany and Miss Erica at Open Arms, just to name a few.  They taught him so many things, but they all taught me that teachers do sometimes have favorites, and it is pretty damn awesome when it is your kid.

Yes, the pre-school years have finally come to an end for my kids.  They were filled with some amazing experiences, and some crappy ones as well (lice letters, anyone?), but overall I can say that pre-school has left an indelible mark on both me and my kids forever and ever.  And for that I am very grateful.

This is a mark that I left on one of the schools when I may or may not have backed my truck into a No Parking sign.

…and this is the mark that I allegedly left on one of the schools when I may or may not have backed my truck into a No Parking sign.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Summer Update – One Down…

… two to go.  Months, that is.  Seriously.  This is insane!  Have you looked at the calendar?  It is June 24th already!!!

Today we are officially one full month into our summer vacation.  And we have been doing lots of summery things… staying up too late to catch lightning bugs or looking for the super moon, grilling everything we get our hands on, enjoying the summer brews, spending our afternoons running through the sprinkler and swimming at the pool.  But, at the same time, we have also been adhering to quite a full schedule, which does not seem the least bit summery to me.

Kid A just left yesterday for four weeks in the Governor’s Honors Program.  She already traveled to the beach and New York City with friends for a week.  Kid B just returned from five days at goalkeeper camp, and she is in the final week of a three-week-long summer bridge program (so she can get her driver’s permit this Fall).  Oh, and she is signed up for another soccer camp at the high school during the evenings this week.  And remember that we drove to Alabama for that regional soccer tournament as well.  Kid C earned a promotion to dancing en pointe, so she hasn’t stopped her twice weekly classes.  And last week she attended a summer intensive dance program from 10AM – 4PM every single day.  That’s nuts, right?  How did this become our relaxed, summer schedule?

In the past, I would put my foot down and we didn’t do camps or activities or much of anything in the summertime.  We just watched movies, read books and hung out at the neighborhood pool.  Then we would spend a glorious week at the beach.  I soaked it up like the summer sun, because doing nothing can be quite fabulous.  And I truly believe it is therapeutic and necessary, especially because it seems as if we do all of the things during the regular school year.  But, as the kids have gotten older, things have changed and we don’t seem to get as much down time, even throughout the months of June, July, and August.  Sports and school and their social lives have all gotten so much more intense.  Out of necessity and albeit grudgingly, I have adjusted.

But the boys are a different story.  They are still young and I can get away with keeping their summer schedules blankety-blank, just as I like it.  While the older three are off practicing for college and soccering and dancing, the boys and I are doing a whole lot of summertime nada.  Kid D has been playing real and virtual ball (all of the kinds) outside and inside and Kid E learned/ is still learning how to swim on his own.  It has been really fun, even the “I’m bored!” parts.  But then they both got super complain-y all of a sudden.  It took me a while before I realized they might be sick.  In the summertime.  Who does that?

So then I had to add a doctor’s visit to the calendar, but fortunately the doctor figured out that both of them were being so whiny because they had sinus infections.  Or maybe allergies.  Whatever… please just fix them.  So the doctor sent us to the pharmacy to treat both possibilities simultaneously.

We had to wait for our order, so I made my way to the foot care section (I needed toe spacers for Kid C’s newly acquired foot pain obsession due to dancing atop her toes… that’s crazy difficult, y’all!), and the boys followed me there.  This year Kid E also learned/ is still learning how to read.  Conveniently, the feminine products share real estate in the foot care aisle (I was not aware that the vagina bone’s connected to the foot bone.  Mental note to discuss a more logical store organization with CVS.)  While I was determining which gel product would best keep my baby from getting bunions, I hear Kid E yelling to me from just a yard away.

“Mom, what are max pads?”

I completely and blatantly ignore him.

“Mom!  I mean, what are MAX-eye pads?  What are they, Mom, huh?  What are they for?  Max-EYE pads.”  He started getting louder.

“Nothing.  They are for nothing you need to know about, ” I whisper.  I’m so not in the mood for this.  I would so much rather be feet in the sand, face toward the sun right now.

Kid D is all of a sudden interested in this conversation too.  “No!  They are not max-eye pads, they are maxi pads!  See, it says ‘maxi pads,’ not ‘max-eye’ pads.  Mom, what are maxi pads?  Look at how big the package is!  What are they, Mom?  This box is huge!”

I hear all of the people in the pharmacy snickering as I navigate this minefield.  Thanks for the solidarity, sisters.  I guess I’m on my own.

“They are grown up lady woman things that you do not need to know about today.  Put them back on the shelf now and stop yelling, please.”

Kid E becomes incredulous.  “I just want to know what they are for!  Just tell me what the max-eye pads are for, Mom!  I just want to know!  Tell me!  Tell me, please!”  More blatant laughter from the traitors in the pharmacy.

Simpler summer times… no schedules, no camps and no boys asking questions about girls getting their periods

I quickly calculate that I have two choices here.  I can go for shock and awe, or I can distract.  And although I consider myself one of the hardcore members of the fan club for the former, I have not yet gotten my full summer recharge and I am not up for speeches and questions about tampons versus pads.  So, I opt for the lazy choice – the latter.  I chose a complete and utter cop-out.

“Hey, didn’t I see water guns at the front near the gum?  Why don’t you boys go pick out some squirters and we can play with them once you feel better.”

Fortunately, they run off without any more questions and I am spared continued awkwardness for the moment.

I do, however, plan to look into summer camps for these boys as soon as possible.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

A Mother of a Holiday

“That’s it!”

“I have had ENOUGH!”

“I am not going to put up with you ingrates any more!”

“If I have to say it one more time, my head will explode!”

“OK, I’m done.  You have broken me.  Are you happy now?”

So, it’s been fun at our house the past few days.  Please, sense my extreme sarcasm.  I have said all of the above, or comparable paraphrases, at least once in the past 24 hours.  I don’t know if it is a full moon rising or shark week right around the corner, or what, but I am a right angry mother.

Kid D has been home sick all week.  It is not his fault that he is sick, but for-the-love-of-all-things-holy, why do boys have to be so freaking needy when they are sick?  It is a cough and some mild puking.  It’s nothing to get in a kerfluffle about.  I realize that the whining is a genetic male defect, and I know that you’re bored, but please let me sit on the toilet without you knocking on the door so you can tell me that Craig Kimbrel had his 100th save against the Giants last night, and he’s the second youngest pitcher in the MLB to do it, and you’re hungry for something but you just don’t know what.

And Kid E has decided to stop sleeping through the night again.  For no reason.  He says he gets lonely.  I’m too tired to even come up with a response to that.  The broken sleep thing kills me.  There is not enough coffee in the world (especially when Sheepdog and Kid A take the very last K-cups in the house) to fix me right the next day.

And the girls are in full-on battle mode with each other.  Kid C came to me and complained that Kid B is a tyrant.  They share a bathroom, and Kid B has apparently set forth some rules that Kid C does not necessarily agree with.  They fight over time limits in there, closed doors and lights.  This morning Kid C was straightening her hair in the dark so as to not awaken the Kraken.  They fight about who left what in the shower.  And Kid A and Kid B constantly fight over clothes (clothes that NONE of them ever put away after I have lovingly washed, folded and delivered to their rooms each week, even after I have reminded them daily).  I tell them they have to learn to figure it out on their own, otherwise they will get eaten alive in a sorority house or in the workplace with dudes or on the playground with the other mommies when they grow up.  Stand up for yourself, but be kind and thoughtful to the people around you at the same time.  But nobody listens to me.

Until I have had enough.  Then they all had better lend an ear.

It got so bad with Kid A that I gave her a Come to Jesus in the kitchen when she got home yesterday.  She has had a really rough year, but enough is enough.  Enough with the disrespect.  She is dismissive to the other kids and rude to me, unless she wants something.  Her phone, laptop and car are all up on the block for repossession if things don’t improve ASAP.  She is never home and when she is, she is usually disagreeable.  To a degree she is “just being a teenager,” but there are some behaviors that are simply not acceptable.  So the rest of the kids got dressed down last night or this morning as well.

Did I mention that Sheepdog is in California for work and some biking?

Motherhood is hard.  There are no instructions or rules, so you just have to make stuff up as you roll along.  And not only do I second guess some of my decisions, but everybody else around me does as well (don’t worry… I most likely judge you right back).

Also, motherhood never ends.  You have to do it when you are sick, or tired, or sick and tired.  You have to do it on weekdays and holidays (even the federal ones).  Sometimes you have to do it when you husband is on a business trip, or crappier yet – sometimes moms have to do it all alone.

This is getting really negative.  I need to make a U-turn.

There are also a ton of rewarding things about motherhood.  I can’t articulate any of them right now, but deep down I know that there are a lot of great reasons to purposely choose motherhood as your life sentence.  There really are.  I swear.

OK, not such a great effort, so I’m heading back to my rant.

Do you know what I really hate?  I hate Mother’s Day.

There, I said it.

I hate all of the commercialism, the flowers (dead in a few days) and the cards ($5.99 for folded paper, really?) and the candy (did you not see me struggling to work out every day this week?).  I hate the stress of coming up with the perfect gifts to let my mom or mother-in-law know just how much they mean to me.  I hate that dads and kids are forced to create a perfect day for moms on this randomly designated Sunday in May, because it rarely rises to meet the mark – for the dads, the kids or the moms.  I hate that my annual trip out of town over the second Sunday in May (Mother’s Day – Run Away and No, He Didn’t!), got canceled again due to scheduling conflicts.


So, here’s what I propose.  Get rid of Mother’s Day.  It is too much pressure on everybody involved.  Nobody has a relationship with their mother that is simple enough to be tied up with wrapping paper and a bow, and everyone involved knows it.  Just make sure to tell your mom (and any mom, for that matter) how great you think she is, whenever the thought strikes you.  You don’t have to save it for any particular day.  Crappy jewelry turns green or goes out of style; a compliment is forever.

And maybe you could also put away your clothes, stay in your own bed, don’t talk back, and be nice to your sister.  Oh, and get well soon, Kid D.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

A Not So Awesome Surprise

Last Friday morning, just before the unholy hour of six, ante meridian, Sheepdog’s alarm started buzzing.  He dutifully crawled out of our warm bed and got up to get dressed and ready for work.  As I am wont to do, I immediately moved to the center of our king-sized bed, splayed my body out spread-eagle and started to drift back into unconsciousness for a few more minutes (dare I pray for sixty?) of glorious extra sleep.

But I dare not, because Kid E (as he is wont to do) sought me out very shortly thereafter.  Fortunately, he is little enough that he is still soft and cuddly and doesn’t yet have horrible dragon breath in the morning.  So I stayed in the middle spot, while he crawled in next to me and we curled up together in the bed.

When Sheepdog was done getting dressed, he came out into our still pitch-black bedroom.  I could not see him, but it was clear that he was in the room (Sheepdog is a boy and boys do not possess ninja stealth).

I whispered aloud, “Before you leave, you should come over to my side of the bed.  There is a pretty awesome surprise waiting for you.”

Kid E heard me and hugged me tightly.  We were co-conspirators in giving his Daddy a much-coveted kid hug before he set off for a tedious day in the salt mines.

“I’ll be right back!” Sheepdog whispered back at me as he hurried back into the bathroom.  I heard him gargling and brushing his teeth.  Uh oh, we’re going to have one unhappy camper if he thinks he’s getting some.

While Sheepdog was practicing good oral hygiene and possibly planning on a morning quickie, Kid E began to physically vibrate with his own anticipation.  He wiggled and squirmed and kicked his feet under the covers.

Finally, when he could not stand the excitement one second longer, Kid E exclaimed, “I CAN…NOT…WAIT TO SEE WHAT THE SURPRISE IS!”

Well, shucks, kid.  Seems like you and Sheepdog may be a little disappointed this morning.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Better get used to it kid... life can be full of disappointments.

Better get used to it kid… life can be full of disappointments.

Happy 2013!

Hello, friends!  Oh, how I have missed you all.  And I have missed writing my stories, but you know the drill… December is a big, fat, hairy beast.  And it defeats me every single year.  It is my white whale (Call me Five Baby Mama).

I did my best to make our holidays uncomplicated, yet memorable.  Full of quality family time, but not so much that we feel the need to move to a deserted island with no forwarding address afterwards.  I did the planning and decorating and shopping and wrapping and delivering in small increments all month long so I wouldn’t be stuck down in the basement at 2AM on December 24th with nothing but scotch tape holding my eyelids open while I tried to assemble some crazy plastic contraption with more parts than there are letters in the Chinese alphabet.  But December still got the best of me.

The kids started getting sick back at Thanksgiving.  I have hand-outs from our pediatrician with the following titles… the stomach flu, croup, infectious mononucleosis, and pneumonia.  Fortunately, there was no cross-contamination and everyone got their own special disease.  Trust me, that did not happen by accident!  And they were all sick at different times, so the “sickiness” seemed to last forever.  A big shout-out to Kid B for staying healthy!

Then came December 14th and my heart broke so hard and loud that I felt it on the outside of my body.  I don’t normally watch the news because it feeds my anxieties in a very unhealthy way, but no one could escape the horror story.  My tears did not stop falling.  They still haven’t.

Then came Christmas Eve and our new family tradition of Chick-Fil-A and peppermint milkshakes, and our old traditions of Sheepdog re-telling the story of Jesus’ birth and me reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and putting out a note and cookies for Santa.  Our Christmas morning was full of smiles and hugs and Skype and wrapping paper and joyful noises.  We are very, very, very blessed.

Kid A asked Santa for a vintage typewriter for Christmas.  The Big Guy delivered an awesome one with keys en Espanol

Kid A asked Santa for a vintage typewriter for Christmas. The Big Guy delivered an awesome one with keys en Espanol.  Click, Clack, Moo (egg nog).

Then, since I couldn’t manage to get out of it, we had Christmas dinner for thirty people at our house.  No, I’m not kidding.  We had to find thirty places for thirty heineys to sit and eat.  And we managed to pull it off!  So on the night of December 25th, Sue, Tom, Bonnie, Joe, Tooker, Josh, Stacy, Ellie, Braden, Molly, Abby, Cal, Cam, Keri, Charlie, Foster, Luke, Nora, Rob, Kelli, Wilson, Phoebe, Mallory, Quincy, Brandon, Becky, Brady, Cooper and Eden all listened (most without giggling, although Brandon always fails at this) as Reverend Bob gave the blessing.  Then we sat down and ate together and laughed and shared stories and memories and made some new ones too.

And speaking of holiday memories… one of my biggest projects this December came in the form of a request from my dad.

Many, many years ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, he fell deeply in love with a girl named Sue Speed.  He loved her so much that he asked her to marry him when they were just nineteen years old.  And being a dumb boy, he did it in a fairly unplanned, unromantic way… in the backseat of a car, with his pregnant teenage sister and her baby daddy up front driving.  In the middle of the Cardiff Circle.  Luckily, Sue Speed loved him back so much that she said YES anyway, and they have been together ever since.

But my dad has always regretted not having proposed with more style (partly because my mom tells him he should).  So, this Christmas he had my cousin Ashley design my mom a fabulous new ring, with both old stones and new ones too, and he asked for his daughters’ help in planning a new and improved proposal that would knock her socks off.  And we did it.  We gathered together as many old (and some new) pictures of our family’s Christmas memories and I put together a DVD that showed them off and then featured our Top 10, with Number 1 being the lame proposal (which we so fabulously re-created using Rob and Kelli as “Uncle Bobby” and “Aunt Janice”), and at the end my dad turned to the camera and asked for a re-do.

We played the DVD on Christmas Day when all thirty of us were gathered together and at the end my dad walked over to my mom and re-proposed.  He got down on one knee and talked about everlasting love and still getting excited to see her when he was driving home from work every day and it was sweet and romantic and my mom thought he was nuts.  Luckily, she still loves him back so much that she accepted once again.

So, here for your viewing pleasure is the fruit of my labor and a peek into our crazy family antics…

And then I recorded the new proposal…

I am so proud to be a part of this big, goofball family.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Here’s to happiness and health in the new year.  Wish me luck in 2013…

Perfectly Imperfect

In sixth grade my locker was right next to Donna’s.  She was (and I’m sure still is) a very nice girl.  She was blond and had a good group of friends and never did anything weird or goofy that could have earned her a link to an urban myth or any unfortunate nicknames (which really is key to middle school survival).  Yet, despite her successfully unremarkable charter through the rocky tween years, I will likely never forget her.

That is because almost every single day, while I was simultaneously praying that I might finally get my boobies and remember my locker combination (36-24-36…for both), she would tell me that I was perfect.  Perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect.  

Gag me with a spoon.

I was defensive and I never knew how to respond  to that.  Just like everyone else, I knew I was far from perfect.  I had goofy braces and glasses and an unruly cowlick and my Jordache jeans were waaaaaay too tight (damn the thighs, even back then).  I was fighting with my mom, my little sisters were a pain in my butt, my dad was always at work, and my extended family was the stuff that they make reality shows about before they even had reality shows.  I liked a boy who didn’t like me back, and the one who did like me was called “Booger.”  I was growing too tall, too quickly and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay on the gymnastics team much longer.  Algebra was getting hard for me to follow without a lot of effort.  I certainly felt flawed.  But when I told Donna that she was wrong, she would not listen.

Fast forward thirty years.

I was at our neighborhood pool on Sunday with Kids D and E.  They were starting to drive me bonkers in the house, so I decided – for their safety and my sanity – we should get out.  It was a beautiful, hot day, but not many people were in the water.  The boys had fun swimming.  I had fun catching up with friends.  I chatted with my next-door neighbor for a bit.  A little later on, the football house mom (“If You Have to Poop, Go Home,” posted on April 27, 2011) came down with her son.  We were discussing our kids and I was complaining about mine and you can guess what she said to me.

“Hmmm.  I always thought your kids were perfect.”  Perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect.

Gag me with a spoon and call me Criss Angel.

I guess I am still defensive, but now I know what to say.  My kids are far from perfect.  I am far from perfect.  And my life is definitely not perfect.

Sheepdog was gone way more than he was home this summer, and single-parenting five kids is the pits.  I resented him a whole bunch this summer.  And I was passive-aggressive about it.

Kid A has apparently reached the highest level of enlightenment and is not stingy in sharing her extensive knowledge, especially with regard to mistakes I make while parenting.  She even wrote me a note about it.  I was very happy when she left for two weeks of camp.

Kid B had a texting relationship with a boy that, when subjected to an impromptu spot-check by mom, went from “OK, innocent-enough” to “Reading-this-is-gonna-make-me-blow-chunks-right-here-on-the-boardwalk.”  I have subsequently given her the title of My Kid Most Likely to Sext in hopes that it deters her.  Also, she can no longer send or receive photos on her phone (just in case).

Kid C continues to live life on a completely different planet, leaving behind a trail of glitter and other scraps from her latest craft projects.  And sometimes just one shoe.  Oh yeah, and it takes her no less than two whole hours to shave her legs in the shower; our water bill is going to be astronomical.

Kid D has now added martial arts to his sports obsessions.  Just from watching a new TV show he has decided that he can successfully karate chop a block of wood.  In fact, he can not.  He also still can not tie his sneakers.  Do they even make velcro shoes for adults?

Kid E was allowed to watch “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and now he walks around saying things like, “You better red-neck-ognize!” and “Mamma might eat Glitzy.  She done ett ’bout e’ery thang else!” in a perfect southern drawl.  I threatened to send him back to speech therapy if he did not stop.

As for me, I am hormonal and cynical and I have very poor fashion sense and I continue to curse way too much.  Sometimes I pee a little when I cough really hard.  I occasionally yell at my family like a complete psycho.  I get mad at Sheepdog when he is gone and then again when he comes home.  I am making up every excuse in the book as to why we can not have Kid E’s birthday at the jumping place like he really wants because I absolutely hate that place.  I alienated a carpool mom by saying she was late.  Oh, and I have on at least one occasion pretended to have my period for a few days longer that I really did so I didn’t have to have sex.  Really, I am thankful for a husband who finds me attractive, but who wants to have sex every flipping day?

It still surprises me when people call me perfect, but it no longer makes me feel weird.  It no longer makes me micro-examine my flaws or overcompensate for my imperfections.  I am comfortable in my skin and I know that I am trying my best.  I’m making it up as I go along, day by day… just like you and just like everybody else.  I try to learn new things and grow as a person and to do things better the next time around, but I realize that I will never get everything right no matter how long I may live.

No, we are not perfect.  Not me, not my husband, not my kids.  I guess we are closer to perfection than some, farther away than many others, and about the same as most.  But I like to think we are pretty happy despite all of our imperfections.

And that’s why the tagline to this blog has always been, “a front row seat to my perfectly imperfect life.”  Sorry, Donna.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Opening the Floodgates

The summer before Kid E turned two years old I started to worry.  He did not talk very much at all.  And with all of the very vocal people already in this house he seemed to get lost in the shuffle.  Often his siblings would just answer for him or bring him toys until they brought what he wanted.  When I looked into it some more I realized that he was way behind in his speech development, so as each day passed I began to fret more and more that there was something wrong with him.  Speech was definitely not his go-to form of communication.  He would much rather point and grunt at the things he wanted.  He also did this sing-songy gibberish thing with lots of inflection.  It was kind of cool and sounded pretty, but I still knew that something about my baby was way off.

Fortunately, my sisters told me that Georgia has a program called “Babies Can’t Wait,” which facilitates testing and early intervention for children under age three who are exhibiting developmental delays.  I contacted the Fulton County coordinator for Babies Can’t Wait and was able to get Kid E scheduled for testing shortly after his second birthday.  The test results confirmed that his expressive communication skills (how he interacted with others) were horribly low (4th percentile), but his auditory comprehension skills (what he understood) were above average.  The therapist classified him with a severe expressive language disorder, but she also said in her report that he showed favorable chances for improved communicative functioning through speech therapy two times a week.  His file was submitted for processing.  So we waited.

By mid-October I hadn’t heard back from anyone, so I called again.  I was told we were on a list.  Apparently the babies CAN and WILL wait.  Fortunately for Kid E, we had the means to take him to private speech therapy, so I set about the task of applying for a spot in several local, highly recommended therapy programs.  You would think I was applying for a conceal and carry permit with the amount of paperwork that was involved in signing a kid up for speech therapy.  And they asked me all kinds of crazy questions too.

Have any shocks or unusual stress during pregnancy?  Um, yes.  I was shocked that I was pregnant.  AGAIN.
What was the child’s birth weight?  Did I mention he was my 5th baby?  I do not remember what he weighed.  I would check his baby book, but I never got around to doing one.  I’ll guess about 7-ish pounds.
Apgar scores?  1 minute _____  5 minutes _____  You’re kidding, right?  I don’t even remember how much the kid weighed.
Age when child: Began babbling _____ First word spoken (what was it?) _____ Using two-word phrases (age they started) _____ Feeds self with fingers _____ Feeds self with spoon _____ Feeds self with fork _____ Drinks from open cup _____ Rolled over _____ Sat without assistance _____ Crawled _____ Walked _____ Jumped with two feet _____ Toilet trained _____ Ride a tricycle/ bicycle _____  OK, So now we have successfully established that I am a horrible mother who did not keep track of most or any of these milestones and my son will probably grow up hating me and needing more therapy because of it.  Thanks.
What typically calms/ soothes your child?  Thumb sucking.  And even though you didn’t ask, what soothes me after a long day of not being able to communicate effectively with this child is a big bottle of wine.  Please allow him to come to your facility for speech therapy.  Pretty please.  I am begging.

So we were accepted and soon we started going in for therapy twice a week.  I would sit in the waiting room and the therapist would take Kid E back to some magical place where they performed voodoo rituals or some other magical wizardry of the speech therapy variety, because Kid E began to talk almost immediately.  And talk and talk and talk.  It was like the floodgates had been opened.  His therapist was so good at what she did and he responded so well to her treatments that they kicked us out after the New Year.  Fast forward to present day and the kid does not ever shut up.  And I am incredibly grateful, forevermore.

Floodgates at the Lake Sinclair Dam in Milledgeville, Georgia

I definitely pay more attention to his developmental milestones now.  I even paid attention when I had a parent/ teacher conference for his preschool at the mid-year mark.  When it was over I reported to Sheepdog what we discussed.  I read to him from the evaluation.

Kid E “is sweet and agreeable and able to grasp new concepts, especially mathematical ones.  He shows less confidence outside on the playground, but he also shows a determination to master new skills, like climbing.  He is positive and willing to try new things.  At this time he seems more comfortable speaking to adults than his peers.”

I told Sheepdog that I had laughed out loud during the conference about that last comment because I thought it was a good thing.  What?  Most little kids are annoying when you talk to them.  I also mentioned that the teacher said in passing that Kid E still has trouble saying words that start with an “s,” followed by a consonant.  It is apparently fairly common for four-year-olds, but given his history of previous speech issues, I have decided to keep a close eye (ear) on him in this regard.

I have started playing a little game in the car while we drive to and from school.  It is a guessing game.  One person thinks of a word and gives some clues about it and the other person has to guess that word.  Kid E loves playing games in the car so he was all for it.  But I fear that he has already figured out that this game is a form of speech therapy, as I always use “s”-followed-by-a-consonant words when it is my turn.

Me:  “I have a word.  It is one of your favorite dinners.  It has long, stringy noodles and it is covered in tomato sauce and sometimes you eat it with meatballs.”

Kid E:  He sighs at me.  “Pasghetti.”

Me:  “That’s right, but you said it backwards.  Repeat after me.  First say ‘spaghetti,’  then say, ‘sssss.’  ‘Paghetti.’  ‘Sssss.’  ‘Paghetti.’  ‘Spaghetti!’  That’s right!  Excellent!”

Me:  “OK, I am thinking of another word.  It means ‘to knock over or to topple, especially something liquid or slippery… like a drink or the beans.'”

Kid E:  Nothing.  He has already caught on to my speech therapy trick, and he wants nothing to do with it.

Me:  “Let’s forget about the beans.  What is it called when you tip over your drink at dinnertime and it goes all over the table?  That is a big…”

Kid E:  Deliberately, he looks at me in the rear-view mirror and answers with all of the clarity and articulation he can muster, “Flood.”

Game over.  That kid is wicked smart.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Nothing But Socks and Underwear

I know that I have been a little obsessed with sleep lately, but that is mostly because I was not getting a whole lot of it.  I liken it to the forbidden fruit.  Great, now I’m craving apples and a nap.  Fortunately, things seem to be moving in the right direction for us in the sleep department.  Finally.

As you know, I had tried almost everything to get Kid E to stay in bed.  His most recent major complaint was that the night “is a very, very, very long time” and he was “getting bored with it.”  Whenever I took the positive reinforcement route and said that I just knew he was going to have a good night, he would assure me that he planned to “try (his) best,” which of course was code for “see you at 3 a.m.”  This kid plays dirty and is wicked smart, so I finally decided that I was going to have to fight fire with fire.

I played the Santa Claus card.

Inspiration hit me last week when the Target Holiday Toy Sale catalog arrived in the mail.  Kid E started going through it page by page and he told me he wanted everything.  Except for the pink pages because, apparently, he is a very manly four-year-old.  He pointed to each and every boy toy in the book and said, “…and I want this and this and this.  OH!  And I want this too.  This is so so so cool.”  Even when I pointed out that we had one of the toys, just in a different color (not pink), he insisted that he needed it.  He was already becoming brainwashed by commercials and catalogs.

I started to remind him that Christmas is supposed to be about giving and not just gimme! gimme! gimme! and then I had a brilliant idea.

I mean, really, what kid is going to take the chance?

“That’s a great wish list that you’ve got going there so far.  We’ll have to be sure to write it all down and send it in a letter to Santa at the North Pole,” I began.  I noticed his eyes lighting up so I sold it even harder,”… and we can ask him about his reindeer and the elves and if he is ready for his long trip on Christmas Eve.  And then we can tell him how big you are getting and how good you have been lately.  We can tell him that you have been sleeping through the night and…”

Kid E’s face fell.  I knew that I had him.  I just had to bring it on home.

“Oh no,” I said.  “That won’t work, will it?  Since you keep getting out of bed, either at bedtime or in the middle of the night, we can’t really tell Santa that you have been very good this year, can we?  And do you know what Santa brings for little kids who aren’t very good?  No toys.  No games.  No treats.”

Kid E had heard something from someone before.  “Coal.  Santa brings coal to bad kids, right?” he said with despair.

I had told the older kids the coal story for years.  I even have a bag of coal that I keep in with the Christmas decorations so they run across it every year when we break out the boxes.  The story goes that Sheepdog was really bad one year (he was eighteen and the dummy went out and got an earring and a tattoo), so Santa brought him nothing but coal that Christmas.  The moral of that story: don’t be an idiot teenager.  But I was now dealing with a toddler and I needed more firepower.

I held a steady face and continued, “Sometimes Santa does not even bring coal.  Sometimes for the bad little kids he brings just socks.  Socks and underwear.  And not even the fun underwear with Nemo or Buzz Lightyear or skulls and crossbones on them.  He just brings tighty whiteys and tube socks.  And they’re not even wrapped.”

When I looked into Kid E’s horrified, big eyes, I saw fear like I have never seen before.  I had a twinge of guilt for causing him such panic, but I quickly remembered that he had brought it upon himself and I was slowly turning into a zombie.  The madness had to end.  I needed to sleep through the night.

Now, every night after Sheepdog reads him a book and tucks him into his comfy bed, I tiptoe in to kiss him and say goodnight and before I leave the room I whisper softly, “Socks and underpants, little man.  Stay in bed.  I love you.”

Mmm-mmm-mmm, this is a very good apple.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was also a Monday, so it was laundry day, grocery shopping day and Kid A had an interview in midtown at 7PM, so she and Sheepdog were not home for dinner.  Best birthday ever, you say?  Wait… it gets better.

The day started around 12:15AM when Kid E moseyed into our bedroom and asked to cuddle with me.  As I took him by the hand and led him back to his own room, I cursed him silently for waking me.  This back-and-forth routine continued over the next three hours.  The silent cursing did not last long.  Every time I would start to fall asleep again, Kid E would tap me on the shoulder.  By the hundredth time I felt like I was being tortured.  On one trip back to his bed I told him congratulations on giving me the worst birthday present ever.

His confused response was, “But I didn’t even get you a present.”

If somebody is up during the night I always try my best not to disturb Sheepdog, because he has to get up early and go to a real job.  By 3:45AM I was exhausted, infuriated, desperate, and on the verge of tears.  I no longer cared about Sheepdog and his stupid job.  So the next time Kid E came in I ignored him.  Sheepdog finally heard him (“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom…”  Seriously, how does the man NOT wake up?) and he jumped out of bed.

“WHAT?” whisper-yelled Sheepdog.

“I have to pee,” said Kid E, very matter-of-factly, with a hint of “What would you have me do…urinate in my bed?  I’m no savage!”  So Sheepdog took him to the bathroom and then back to his room.  At last, the kid was sleepy enough to stay in there.

“Happy Birthday, ” Sheepdog whispered to me when he came back.  “I’m sorry you’ve had a crappy night.”

“I’m thinking of moving out,” was my very serious response.  I don’t remember if I dreamed over the next three hours, but if I did it was probably about locking myself behind multiple doors with heavy deadbolts.

I wish for world peace. And for skinny thighs.

I woke up later to Kid D screaming that his stomach hurt as he was running past me into my bathroom.  “I don’t feel so good,” he sighed as he crawled in bed next to me.  I didn’t even care if he had washed his hands first.

As I was zombie-walking down the hall to put Kid C onto the elementary school bus, I realized that Kid B had overslept and she would need a ride to school.  This keeps getting better.

Actually, it did get better.  Kids A, B and C went off to school.  Kid D felt fine, so I dropped him off as well when I was taking Kid E to preschool.  Then I went home and collapsed until I decided to make my own birthday cupcakes for dinner.

Sleep is a funny thing.  I am a girl who needs a good nine hours, so I rarely hit my mark.  I make up for it by sleeping in on the weekends (Shout out! Sheepdog for helping me do that) and taking occasional naps.  You’d think I would be used to interrupted rest after having five babies, but I never adjusted.  The cumulative effect of sixteen years of sleep deprivation has left an indelible mark on my personality.  I’m meaner and even more sarcastic.  I have even been known to growl on occasion.  I have to use more under eye concealer.  It is not a good thing.

It is a good thing that Kid E has some sixth sense thing happening, because he was one more sleepless night away from being put up for auction on eBay.  Last night he went to bed without incident and then slept through the entire night.  I am a different person today than I was yesterday.

Today I feel like I can take on the world.  Today I feel like I am a Disney Princess and everyone around me is a singing animal.  Today I am She-Ra, Princess of Power.  Today I feel like Wonder Woman and Laura Croft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all rolled into one, except not all fit and and wearing some sexy ass-kicking costume because I’ve just been too tired to work out lately.

But today I have the energy to fix that!  I’m gonna go work out right now.  Then I’ll probably take a nap, because who knows what tonight will hold.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…