Spare Time

Sheepdog has a hard time sitting still.  I feel that he was born with some horrific “can’t relax” gene.  He still complains of being tired all of the time and that he feels run down and exhausted, yet he rarely listens when I wisely advise, “take a nap, dummy.”  Naps are the best part of parenting as far as I’m concerned.  They are the diamonds of Minecraft.  My precious.

But, back to Sheepdog.  The man is unable to just be.  I tease him all the time about his lack of quietude, yet I secretly find his buzz intoxicating.  I don’t want to be him, mind you.  But I am thrilled that he is on my team.  And he’s fun to watch.

This summer, my mom and dad gave Sheepdog a GoPro helmet camera.  I do not think in the history of things created that there could be a more appropriate gift.  Sheepdog is even more excitable than usual because of it.

Snake Creek Gap Sign

He has already begun filling his dance card with mountain and road bike races throughout 2015.  His first mountain bike race was the Snake Creek Gap 34-miler, which he completed last Saturday, January 3, in the cold and pouring rain in just over five hours.  He was so muddy at the end that the ladies who give out chili to the riders afterwards asked him to pose for pictures because they had never seen anyone so filthy and caked in mud.*

And because he can’t sit still, Sheepdog came home from the race and promptly made a movie about it.

I told you he is fun to watch.  How about those thighs, huh?

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

* Reminder to have Sheepdog build an outdoor shower in his spare time

Come What May

It was a cold, gray, January day.  All of the other kids were in school as it was a Thursday, but Kid A had checked herself out early.  It was her 18th birthday, so she could do that now.  She climbed into her newly-leased electric car and turned on her iPod.  The passionate and emotional voices of Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman spilled from the sound system.  The words blasted her ears and bombarded her heart.  The song lasted the exact length of time it took her to drive from parking lot to parking lot.  She took it as a sign, like a cardinal at the window or unexplained feathers.

Sheepdog and I arrived together.  We held hands as we walked into the waiting room.  I noticed a giant eel slithering inside a 75-gallon fish tank before I even saw Kid A in the corner.  The building smelled faintly of rubbing alcohol and burning things.  We all hugged and walked over to meet with her guy.  She gave him a piece of paper that had been folded and unfolded and looked at so many times that it had the worn feel of soft leather.  They spoke to one another in the language of creative people.  Then he scanned her paper into the computer and pulled it up on the big screen.  A lone sob escaped from my throat before I could pull it back.

Seeing his familiar handwriting up there, larger than life, I was caught completely off guard.  But seeing it a few hours later, permanently inked onto the slight wrist of my oldest child, it actually felt good.  After all she had seen and experienced and lived through the past few years, it felt right.  Well, as right as a tattoo can possibly be.

"I will love you until my dying day."

“I will love you until my dying day.”

His life story will always be a part of hers.  He left his mark on her heart.  Now his handwriting is marked on her forever as well.

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Today is the first anniversary of Braden’s death.  One whole year has gone by.  An entire year of holidays, and birthdays, and Mondays.  One whole year passed of experiences, and change, and growth.  One whole year of the regular and mundane too.  One whole year of memories made without Braden.  I feel like that is one of the worst parts.

I have thought of him so much over the past year.  Sometimes I think of him intentionally, like when I plant flowers in his memory.  I talk to him as I’m doing the work, updating him with new funny stories as well as the regular day-to-day stuff that’s been going on.  And when these plants inevitably die, I think of him again because I know he is playing a twisted joke on me.  All of my other plants thrive.  It’s just the ones that I tell him are “his” that end up brown and crispy.  I like to think that Braden enjoys our conversations so much that he is just making sure that I’ll keep checking in with him.  So I guess I’ll keep buying him new plants.  And I’m good with that.

Other times he pops into my consciousness accidentally, like when I recently came across the milk shake recipe for cancer patients that I used to make for him when his stomach could tolerate them.  It was made with protein powder and coffee and chocolate sauce and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.  It always made me so happy when he would finish one, because he was losing so much weight and what else packs on the pounds but the best ice cream on the planet?  I also find him popping into my head when I’m listening to music in the car, wondering if he got to hear that really great song before he died.  Or was he around for that game?  Or did he get to see that movie?  Or look at that blood moon?  As more and more time passes, the answer is almost always ‘no.’  Not while he was here with us on earth.

So, to officially and reverently mark the passage of one whole year without Braden, Sheepdog and the kids and I went on a short hike up the Indian Seats Trail at Sawnee Mountain this past Sunday.  When we reached the top, we found some rocks off the beaten path and we sat together as a family.  We overlooked the valley below and Sheepdog said some nice words and reminded us that Braden is happy and healthy now and we shouldn’t ask for anything more than that.  He also reminded us to be thankful for our own health and happiness and to make each day mean something.  Some of us spoke about happy memories and fun times with Braden.  Some of us weren’t able to speak at all.

There was a placard up by the Indian Seats that said mountaintops are considered sacred by Native Americans because they bring us closer to Father Sky.  I don’t know about that, but I certainly felt closer to my God and to Braden that day.  It was sacred and it was good.  Well, as good as it can be when somebody is taken away before we are ready for it.

Wish me luck for tomorrow… come what may.

Who Is In Control Here?

Tuesday ended up being one of those days.  It started off per usual (fighting with Kid E over wearing a winter coat as he headed out the door into, um… what’s that word… WINTER!) and then I did a deceptive little workout called “Isometrix” (I felt almost nothing while I was doing it.  I didn’t even break a sweat, really.  Then, throughout the day and night, I started to totally feel very painful things in places that I forgot I had…).  By midday, I had done my chores, my workout, and I even showered and ran an errand.  I was just about to wonder “What will I do,” when I got an email regarding an urgent request to completely redo the program for a ballet that Kid A and Kid C are performing in this weekend.

It was just me and another mom who make up the Program Committee, so I spent the next few hours mocking up a new one, and then I edited and sent it out for review.  It was a crazy afternoon of paying attention to small details of the program, all while fielding questions about homework, whether so-and-so could come over to play or Kid D could go to his house, responding to requests to make snacks and what was for dinner, as well as getting Kid C to focus and get ready for ballet class on time (Kid A was driving her right after she got home from her tutoring job), and then driving Kid B to her boyfriend’s basketball game before picking Kid D up from his playdate (on time, because last time I almost left him over there…seriously).  Oh, and we were out of milk and stupid Aunt Flo just knocked on my door three days early.

When Sheepdog got home that night, my head was spinning.  He could tell just by looking at me.  I was speaking at high volume and with excessive speed.  I moved about the kitchen like I had eight arms.  I was still doing too many things at one time, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to gear down.  I even predicted the full moon before the sun went down.  So Sheepdog reminded me to take some deep breaths… like a million of them.  I did, and I felt better.  The wine helped too.

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I had prepared a delicious dinner with my octopus arms and everybody who was home sat down to eat together.  During dinner I announced to everyone  – despite the craziness of the day – I felt like I passed the test.  It had been hard, and my body and mind ached all over, but I had kicked one of those days in its bootie.  Yay, me!  I won this day!  Yesterday was not so good, and who knows about tomorrow, but I felt like I won this day!  On this day, I was in control.

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling really strong after a great night’s sleep.  I got in another fantastic workout (this one was not sneaky at all… it was quite forthright in its delivery of pain and sweat), showered, and went over to my neighbor’s house to hear about her new business.  I met some interesting women over there, and I ended up having a really good time.  I came home, ate a healthy lunch, and soon the boys were bounding off of the school bus and into the house.

Kid D was sitting at the kitchen table doing homework, and Kid E was eating (something other than a peanut butter sandwich… Hallelujah! for another small victory in the food wars) when my cell phone rang.  Caller ID said it was one of my friends from the neighborhood.  Our daughters play soccer on the same team and we do a ton of carpooling and soccer travel together.

As soon as I answered I heard the fear and panic and tears in her voice.  She was driving home from work early because her house was on fire.  She had no idea what would be waiting for her when she arrived.  None of the people in her family were home at the time, but she didn’t think that they were able to get her two dogs out in time.

Oh my goodness.  What can I do?  What can I do?  What can I do?

I was scheduled to pick up the girls after high school soccer conditioning later that afternoon.  She asked me to give her some warning when we were on our way so she could prepare her teenage daughter for the devastating news.  Her boyfriend ended up coming to get her before practice ended because word of the fire had started to spread on social media and they didn’t want her to find out that way, but I, like so many people in our neighborhood and the surrounding communities, have spent the time since I heard the news praying for the family and wondering “what if…”

My head had gone right back to spinning.

Fully aware of my life-long fear about house fires, Sheepdog texted me the next morning and asked how well I had slept.

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That Sheepdog sure is a smart one.

So I’m taking deep breaths, and praying for my friends and about my fears, and I am (trying to) let it go.  And tonight at dinner – despite the craziness of the day or not – I am going to announce to everyone at the table that I am not in control, and that’s even better than what I said before.

Our amazing neighborhood has put together several ways to help our friends in their time of need.  Please pray for them, but you can also help in other ways if you are so inclined.  Email me for further information at tihidiblog@gmail.com.  Rest in peace Layla and Bella.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

10-4, Master Yoda

Sick kids.  Last-minute Christmas panic.  More sick kids.  Angry, grouchy people everywhere.  Now I’m starting to feel sick.  Everybody wants something from me.  Full moon coinciding with another especially wicked and unholy round of PMS.  Sheepdog is sleeping with one eye open, just in case.

But I refuse to let it bring me down.  I am going to enjoy the crap out of this Christmas season, dammit, no matter what it takes.  There ARE good things happening all around me.  Sometimes I just have to look extra hard in order to find them.

Kid E finally caught a version of whatever ick it was that landed Kid D in the emergency room last week for IV fluids and some anti-nausea medicine.  Fortunately, he didn’t have it nearly as bad, but he was home from school and laying on the couch this week, wrenching my plans to get stuff done during the countdown to Christmas.  And, since he is a kid-in-training, who follows and copies almost everything his older brother does down to the last dangerous couch flip, he, too, asked to have a walkie-talkie by his side so he could call me whenever he “needed” something during his convalescence.

I set him up for success… he was tucked in and his pillow was fluffed, with fluids, toys, and all of his electronics within reach.  Plus, I had queued up Star Wars V in the Blu-ray.  I was crossing my fingers that he didn’t feel the need to use the dreaded walkie talkie.

Star Wars is a fairly recent obsession for Kid E, although he has dabbled a bit in the past.  The original trilogy comes on TV every year during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so I always record it.  As a result, the kids have seen IV, V, and VI at least a time or two.  Eventually, I just bought the DVDs.  Back in 1977, Star Wars IV was the very first movie I ever saw in the theater (just a seven-year-old me and my seven-year-old date, Kevin Mc), and I immediately fell in love (with the movie, not the boy).  We played Star Wars for hours upon hours.  I am fan for life.  Of Star Wars.  I haven’t seen Kevin Mc since my wedding to Sheepdog in 1993.  I wonder what he’s doing now.

Anyway… Sheepdog shares my love of the franchise, but being much more cerebral than I, he tends to lean more toward analyzing the movies rather than re-enacting the scenes with toys.  Here’s the gist of Sheepdog’s thoughts on Star Wars… Anakin Skywalker’s choice to join the Emperor/ Darth Sidious and the rest of the bad guys as Darth Vader the Sith Lord is a metaphor for the struggles that an alcoholic faces on a daily basis.  Yoda even warned him, “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”  It is a very compelling theory and I’m sure he would talk about it in depth with anyone who is interested.  Me? I really like the toys.

Fortunately for me, my kids really like the toys too.  Especially Kid E.

"Truly wonderful the mind of a child is," Yoda agrees.

“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” – Master Yoda

So, sick Kid E is all set and I ask one last time (sure it is) if he needs anything before I go do stuff.  He shakes his head and gets to the movie watching.

I settled into my chores and was on a roll in no time.  I couldn’t run errands, but I could tackle the things that were waiting for me around the house, and there was quite a lengthy list.  But I was finally getting stuff done.  I was on fire!

Then it started.  Blip, went the walkie talkie.

“Mom!?!”

Blip.

I took a deep breath and responded on the handheld unit, even though he was in the very next room and I could hear him yelling at me through the open door.

Blip.

“I’m here, honey.”

Blip.

Blip.

“Mom!  They are in the swamp, Mom!  R2-D2 went missing for a while, but Luke found him and they are in the swamp now, Mom!”

Blip.

OK.  So, he doesn’t need anything, but I am still going to get a play-by-play of the movie.  Whether I like it or not.

Blip.

“Mom?”

Blip.

“Did you hear me?” he yelled from the other room.  His hand had fallen off the button before he was done annoying me talking.  I took another deep breath.

Blip.

“10-4.  I did hear you, sweet boy.  Thank you for telling me what was happening on a movie I have seen no less than one hundred times.”

Blip.

Blip.

Static.  Blip.  His sweaty hand must have slipped again, because whatever diatribe he had next came from the next room, not through the walkie talkie.  Ugh.  I got up to go talk to him face to face.  He was still explaining something when I sat down next to him.

“You know, you have to hold down that button the whole time you are speaking, not just when you start.” I said to my little, sick boy, who I noticed was buried under his blanket on the couch, surrounded by toys and all of his gear.  And this time I really looked at him… his face was pale and he had circles under his eyes.  His color was off, too.  He was trying so hard to get better, mostly because he knew how much stuff I had to get done before next Wednesday.  I had certainly said it enough times.

Well, crap.

I told him I’d be right back.  I went into my office and turned off my computer.  I put away my files and turned off the lights.  I was done for the day.  Nothing else was important.

I went back into the living room and I climbed under the blanket with my little, sick boy and we cuddled as we watched the rest of the movie.

"You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack." - Master Yoda

“You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace.  Passive.  A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” – Master Yoda

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Whiplash

“Mom!  I can’t find my North Face jacket.  I think I left it in North Carolina.”

“Mom, my elf didn’t do anything last night.”

“(via text) We need to discuss 2014.  Let’s talk tonight.”

“Stacy, I swear to God, if you don’t get me your Christmas lists right now, I’m gonna make you buy all your own shit.”

It is December.  The smell of fried turkey may still linger in the garage, but Thanksgiving 2013 is already a distant memory.

It is December: put up tree and decorate house http://www.amazon.com buy Sheepdog some egg nog design Christmas cards remind kids of real reason for the season ask them for wish lists Nutcracker end of season team party ding-dong (www.amazon.com delivery) make and refrigerate cookie dough watch “Love, Actually” design photo calendars for family presents class party money collection for bus drivers buy Sheepdog more egg nog ask kids for better wish lists (no, you may not ask for cash) http://www.amazon.com go to stores for things not available on amazon label and stamp and mail Christmas cards decorate gingerbread houses money collection for teachers buy dress for Sheepdog’s law firm’s holiday party buy snowman tablecloths and small water bottles and help with wintry craft at another class party watch “Elf” ding-dong (another http://www.amazon.com delivery) wrap presents Toys for Tots go see Santa get hair cut and colored need to buy Sheepdog more nog go to Sheepdog’s law firm’s holiday party bake cookies drive around to look at lights wrap presents hide presents http://www.amazon.com because there is not an even distribution of presents watch “Rudolph” cousins pollyanna party unwrap presents pack suitcases pack presents pack Christmas socks (that’s what Kid E calls our stockings) ding-dong (whew – glad that last delivery made it in time!) wrap presents hide presents make more cookies because we tore through the first batch Christmas Eve remind kids (again) of real reason for the season visit family deliver presents Christmas Magic wake up early run down stairs make strong coffee open presents open more presents finish off second batch of cookies and egg nog while sitting in sea of crinkled wrapping paper plastic toys electronics and happy faces.  Count our many, many blessings.  Whew.

Stress over Christmas bonus

Don’t forget to stress over the Christmas bonus

It is December.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Crash and Burn Upon Reentry

I am officially back, both in the real world and here in This Is How I Do It-world.  Great trip.  Fun times.  Incredible experiences that gave me a little of the travel bug.  But for now there will be no more exciting travel-around-the-globe stories that are posted two weeks out because I didn’t have internet (gasp!) when they occurred.  I am back to real-time, this-crazy-shit-happened-yesterday posts.

It is very easy for me to leave behind my roles as  Mrs. Sheepdog/ Five Baby Mama any time I go on a trip like I just did.  Right up until the moment I walk out the door, I am making schedules and washing laundry and planning meals and rides and doctor’s appointments.  But the second I pull out of my driveway, I let go.  I figure that I have done my best at preparing for coverage in my absence, and at that point I no longer have control over what happens.  I just let it all go and really enjoy every second of being away.

It’s the reentry that is usually so much harder.

The other day Sheepdog and I were in the kitchen discussing the kids (ours) and the state of the union (also ours).

Sheepdog confessed, “I don’t like where we are right now.”

Ugh.  You’re killing me, husband.

Sheepdog and I are fine.  We really and truly are.  Even he admitted it later.  I promise that I’m not ignoring any problems or issues so that Sheepdog is going to turn to a sympathetic boob-job at his office for comfort.  It is simply that he is not getting enough of my time right now.  It’s also likely that I’m not giving him enough of my vagina right now (I am hormonal and tired, people; I’m not a sex machine), but mostly he just wants my undivided attention.

But these pesky kids are demanding my attention even more loudly.

How in the world did two weeks away lead to so much craziness?

I won’t bore you with the details, but every single one of our kids has something happening in their lives right this moment that requires my immediate attention.  Nobody is sick or in a major crisis or anything, but there are things happening that I need to deal with, or they could get out of control.  It’s pre-crisis management time.

And I’m doing my job as best I can.  But it is definitely stressing me out.  And making me a little snippy.

To make things worse, my home phone rings about six times a day.  Every single call begins with a pause… and then comes the “exciting news” about a painter/ home improvement/ security company that will be in my neighborhood and would like to tell me all about what they can do to make my life better.  I’ve started to ask them point-blank if they can cure teenage depression, or stop a 3rd grader from calling my kid a “fucker” during playground kickball, or cure cancer… easy stuff like that.  Usually they hang up on me.

One day last week I was wound way up in the throes of crazy.  It was after school and I was emailing a teacher, making dinner, supervising homework, and trying to get somebody dressed and ready for baseball.  We had to be out the door in less than ten minutes and I had at least thirty minutes left of shit to do.

Kid A came home from 121 Reach (high schoolers tutoring middle schoolers) to pick up Kid C because both of them have ballet at the same time.  Even though I told her to be ready by 5PM, she wasn’t.  I was standing half in the kitchen/ half in the garage yelling at her for being inconsiderate, holding a spoon covered in red sauce (I was making lasagna).  Kid A had gone back to her car in a teenage huff because she was definitely going to be late now.  Another sales call came through on the house phone.  The boys were running around the yard throwing a football, but nobody had their shoes on or put their gear in the car, like I asked them to do.  Kid B was moping around the house in the middle of it all.

Next thing I know, an inconspicuous white minivan pulls up to my driveway.  I don’t recognize the car or the driver.  I automatically presume that it is a cleaning service or a painter about to put rocks or tape on my newly painted mailbox and I scream at her from the garage, “DO NOT PUT ANYTHING IN THAT MAILBOX!” in an admittedly scary, I-am-so-about-to-lose-it-on-you tone.

The woman looks at me quizzically.  Then she says innocently and apologetically, “I was just dropping off an invitation for my daughter’s birthday…”

Well, didn’t I feel like a complete and absolute jackass?

I dismissed the tardy Kid C to Kid A’s car, shook my head and took a very deep breath.  I apologized as best I could to the innocent bystander.  “I’m sure you’re going to totally want to have my kid come to your party now!”  She laughed nervously, said, “No worries” and waved goodbye.

Turns out, I agree with Sheepdog.  “I don’t like where we are right now.”

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Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Oops… I Did it Again

No, I didn’t get a speeding ticket on the drive home.

No, Sheepdog didn’t knock me up.

And no, I didn’t get in trouble for saying anything ornery or inappropriate (well, no more than usual).

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Oops, I Did it Again

But yes, I did go to the eye doctor yesterday and have another follow up exam to my PRK last November.  My vision has improved incredibly… I don’t have to wear glasses or contacts anymore because I can see everything almost perfectly.  Except not.  My distance vision is still a little blurry.  I used to be a negative 6.5 in both eyes.  Now I’m less than minus one.  But this is me we are talking about and when I do something, I do it all the way.  So guess what.  I opted to have him tweak my dominant eye.  That way I get perfect close-up vision in my left eye and perfect distance vision in my right eye.  Like the Terminator.

Oh yes, I had laser eye surgery again yesterday.  Sitting in the doctor’s office, signing away rights to life and limb, I started to have deja vu and I got all sweaty and I almost backed out because I remembered all too clearly how bad it was before.  And let me tell you that it hurts just as much as when I had it done the first time.  It feels like somebody took tiny shards of glass or grains of sand and sprinkled them on my eyeball, then closed my eyelid and rubbed it all around for a bit.  Water is leaking out of my eye so much that I slept in a pool of my own tears last night.  Sunlight is intolerable, so I picked up an eye patch to keep as much light out as possible (I couldn’t use a patch last go-round because I had both eyes done at once).  Combined with my peeling face from the idiot sunburn I earned over the weekend, I am quite a sight to behold today.

Are you ready kids?  Aye, aye, Cap'n!

Are you ready kids? Aye, aye, Cap’n!

Sheepdog is being awesome and working from home so that he can do whatever driving needs to be done over the next couple of days.  Pain makes me short on patience and short of temper, so the kids are having a grand, old time with me around.  But, hopefully, this will be a fast recovery and the very last time I have to get lazed in the eyeball.

I am hanging in there and tolerating the pain because I know it will get better soon, and the results will be worthwhile.  But I really hope that this one takes because I really do not want to have this surgery ever, ever again.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…