Friday, April 30, 2010

(My version of) TGIF, Happy Hour!

The week has ended, thank goodness. Between a mountain of paperwork, papers to be graded, students drama, the field trip and my motherly responsibilities, I was really looking forward to this afternoon. This afternoon, when I would peel out of the teacher's parking lot, without a care in the world, if you don't count my three children, my spouse and the mountain of laundry that awaits.

But I have a confession to make. I was a bad mommy earlier this week.

In one of his many early morning rendezvous', Joshua awoke on Tuesday with crusty eyes. Only one explanation for this phenomenon: pink eye. Pink eye in schools is the modern day equivalent of the plague in the Middle Ages. No one wants a child that you even have a suspicion of pink eye. So, the drama started early that morning.

Me: I think Joshua has pink eye.

John: What are you talking about? He looks fine. (I think I detected recognition and a quick turn to denial.)

Me: I can't stay home. I have....(here is where I delineated all the things that would surely cause the school, if not the entire school district, to shut down for the day if I failed to show up.)

And this is where we proceeded to play the grown up version of Rocks, Paper, Scissors. I won. There were negotiations and compromises to be made. In the end, we had a plan. In the mean time, I had old eye drops.

I know many of you are wondering how I could diagnose and prescribe without an actual medical degree. If you have more than one child, you can skip to the next paragraph. You know what golden nugget of information I am going to pass on to the newbie's. If you don't, I will only tell you that the fear of going into a pediatrician's office is a magical thing. You will do just about anything not to have to go to the doctor's office, where, inevitably and without fail, you will pick something else up. That will cause yet ANOTHER visit, and so it goes. That is the real reason doctor's offices are always packed with miserable, sick children and even more miserable and broke parents.

I had been to the pediatrician's office on Saturday, for a well visit. My stomach trembled with fear. My husband scoffed at the idea that you could actually pick up something while you were there for a well visit. If you are keeping count: Mommy: 2, Daddy: 0.

So, yes. I had some drops from December. They were not expired. And I most surely opened up my son's eyes, and I put those drops in and marched my body to work. And for a couple of days, my medical band aid worked.

Until this morning.

Yesterday, Joshua had a runny nose when I picked him up from school. As my children seem to have inherited every unattractive trait that has been carried through in a recessive gene for centuries in my family, I naturally attributed this new malady to allergies.

This morning, in his nocturnal travels, Joshua came into our room, carrying his blanket and an accompanying cough. Again, no problem, I thought. He has post nasal drip. (Who needs an MD from Johns Hopkins, right?).

But the time of reckoning was at hand.

In all my years teaching and mothering, I have never seen a fit to the degree, magnitude or length that all of a sudden came upon my child. After assuring myself, and my husband, that there was nothing actually wrong with him, like a fever, I left for work.

And I prayed.

This afternoon, after a thorough ass-kicking, courtesy of long division with remainders, I got a call from school. Joshua apparently had coughed his way through naptime and was running a low grade fever. I felt slightly ashamed of myself, and didn't know whether to be happy or sad that the phone call had come at the end of the day.

I finally caved and called the pediatrician's office. It seemed that my TGIF Happy Hour was going to be spent in parental hell AKA the sick waiting room at the pediatrician's office. The ensuing phone call did little to quell my feelings of guilt.

How long has he had the symptoms?

You mean, the ones I passed off as pink eye or the ones that made the school call me today?

Fortunately, the doctor understood and seemed impressed with my mad diagnosing skills. He prescribed more potent drops (I hope they don't melt his eyeballs), antibiotics and a cough medicine with albuterol for the "slight" wheezing he could hear in Josh's lungs.

Way to go, Dr. Mom!

And for those of you who are not familiar with albuterol, it is the toddler version of crack. It makes kids super agitated. It is so potent, our local national pharmacy will not dispense it.

So yeah, not only did I have to go to the pediatrician's office, I now had to go to the corner family owned crack house, I mean pharmacy, to get the goods. Did I also mention that every imaginable waste of money toy is stocked right under the counter where you leave your prescription and wait for your stuff?

Good times. Know what the pharmacist's advice was as I was leaving with the cough medicine (and an overpriced junky toy for each child, Catholic guilt ups the score for the kids...)? "Don't give it to him right before bedtime. It might rile him up."

Thanks Dr. G! Daddy: 0, Mommy: 3, Kids: 1,000,000!

On the bright side, the kids were incredibly well behaved at the doctor's office AND the pharmacy. I also went to the local national pharmacy to leave off the other prescriptions (really, just because I had to get my stuff didn't mean I was going to leave everything AND get gauged!) and I even got to go to the fancy gourmet market without nary a fight between the children.

I know Joshua will be okay. He will bounce back just fine. The older boys will continue to be amazed that they scored overpriced pharmacy toys WITHOUT EVEN ASKING FOR THEM! Daddy will thank his lucky stars that he was spared the fate of the pediatrician's office on a late Friday afternoon.

And Mommy?

Mommy really wants to be looking at her second, EMPTY Cosmopolitan glass...

Not on this Friday night, though...

April 30, 2010 Friday Follow: A Celebration of Followers


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Letting them out of the cage...

Today was our class field trip. While this made sound like a fabulous idea; letting children go out of school for a day to learn about different topics and have fun with each other, I assure you that planning or surviving the field trip is no fun if you are the teacher.

When I taught Kindergarten (goodness, that sounds like I was in a Vietnamese prison camp!), I LOATHED field trips. There were several reasons for this, but I will be succinct.

First, the kids always assumed that the rules only applied only to the four walls that made our classroom and school. WRONG. They also assumed that if their mom, dad, grandmother, Jesus Christ was in their midst, the rules would not apply. WRONG.

Then, there was the whole logistics of the field trip. Would they be contained, say, in a children's theatre, glued to their sit for an hour or so, or would we be at Metro Zoo (hell on Earth, I assure you) running after children who were also wearing our school colors.

Worst of all are the bus rides to and from the field trip. When I was pregnant with Matthew, I sat in the back of a school bus early on in my second trimester. In a flash of what would come during labor, I thought I was going to die. The bus driver had obviously bought their license at Kmart, was trying to outrun every other car on the road, had no fear of taking sharp turns on curved, elevated highways in a school bus, and surely had never had the shock absorbers in the back of the twenty five year old bus replaced...How Matthew stayed in my uterus and did not drop out in a pothole hit is definitely an act of God.

But truly, while this may seem bad, it is not the worst part of field trips. The worst is parents acting badly. I am sure you have witnessed this at school functions. The mother who will not sit down while taking pictures of precious Susie, even after the preschool director is ready to tackle her in the Church aisle. Or the parent that brings chocolate covered peanuts for a treat, when the teacher has begged to keep all peanut products out of the thirty mile radius of her classroom because of Johnny's anaphylaxis reaction and the location of that handy Epi-pen. Parents behaving badly on field trips is bad news. It is a power struggle and one that parents in my class have never won.

But you understand why the kids act like they do. You gain perspective, but not in a fun way.

That being said, today's field trip went very smooth. Except that it might have been nice to have an extra bus so that my class would not have been split up. The movie, Disney's Oceans, was phenomenal. However, it would have been nice to have skipped the running commentary of the two nine years olds from another class had sitting behind me.


Lunch was at a local park. The kids brought towels and their lunches and it was great to see them interact with one another, free of the restrictions of the classroom and school. The parent that went with us was super. Secret strategy: I was lucky enough to pull the name of a parent who is a teacher! SCORE!

As I watched my kids play and talk, I was surprised at how fast the school year seems to have gone by. In a few weeks, I will be dismissing these children for the last time. They are confident, happy, intelligent children. I will miss them.

**********************************************

After school, Matt and Andrew had Chess practice. They are very into Chess and compete for the school (I know, my kids are weird, but then again, so are their parents). I had a friend's daughters with me. I am currently the teacher for the younger one, I had the older one last year. We went to pick up Joshua at school and he looked at me, puzzled, as I walked up to the front entrance and he stood in the playground.

Usually, when I go to pick up Joshua, he comes running with arms flung open, ready to give me a hug and a kiss. Today, he ran under a piece of playground equipment and would not get out. He kept muttering, " I want my brothers, I want my brothers" as he glanced at the girls.

I was confused. I thought he would get a kick of being fawned over by the girls and get a chance to perfect his ladies' man routine.

And then, it hit me.

In his young little mind, he must have thought that Matt and Andrew's day must have been REALLY bad.

Because they had turned into girls.

I tried so hard to not laugh all the way back to the school to pick the boys up. I still had the girls with me. They were cooing and giggling at how cute he was.

But he did not truly smile until he saw his two older brothers, got to hug them, and he saw that there had been no evil, mistaken transformation.

And then, the ladies' man was in full swing!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

The Happy 101 Award!


A big THANK YOU to Jessica at Adventures of a Wife and Mommy for this really thought provoking award!


In order to accept the Happy 101 award, I must share with you all 10 things that make me happy and pick 10 sites that make me happy as well!

These are 10 things that make me happy:

1. My husband. He is my best friend and really, someone who I really enjoy sharing my life with. I am so lucky to have found him nineteen(!) years ago. It has been quite a ride, but I love that we have shared half of our lives together! There isn't a special moment that he hasn't been there to share it with me.

2. My sons. Each of them has enriched my life in a myriad of ways. They each have made me grow (and not just around the waist, either!) and push myself out of my comfort zone. Because of them, I made myself learn how to swim at age 33, have held a live snake, go to football games (and enjoy them), go to car shows to drool over V-6 engines, and can still catch grasshoppers.

3. My relationship with my sister. Truly, she is my best friend. She is the most kind, loving person I know. Her generous heart and infectious laugh are always a source of comfort and pride. As she has gotten older and become a mother as well, our bond has only gotten stronger. I shudder to think of what my life would have been like if she had not been my sister, and yet, I know deep in my heart that we would have become best friends anyway!

4. My in-laws. All of them! My husband's family has blessed me in so many ways. John's parents are the most wonderful parents. They have always treated me as though I was their own daughter, and that has always touched my heart. I often pray that I will have the same wisdom they have shown over the years as they were raising John and his brother, Bill.

Bill and his wife, Susan, are people that I really miss not having live closer to us. We make an effort to vacation together once a year, or, at the very least, see each other as often as we can. But I think that the E girls (mom and daughters in law) need to get away (like to New York or Chicago!) for a weekend, soon! What do you say girls?

My sister's husband's family is just as loving and encompassing. My boys, through marriage, have so many aunts and uncles to love and share in their childhood. I wonder if they know what a blessing it is to have a family, and more importantly, to cherish them and the moments that we get to share with them. I love them so!

5. My nieces. Alexandra and Allison are the proverbial cupcakes of our family. They are precious girls: an incredible gift to us. In many ways, they remind me of my sister and I when we were very young. They already know that Tia will shower them with love and understanding and I can't wait until they get older and we can take girls only trips. I am proud of the mother my sister has become, and there isn't a thing I wouldn't do for those beautiful pieces of my heart.

6. My job. I know, not too many people really enjoy what they do for a living. But I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life. When I look out into that classroom and at those eager faces, I know I am right where I belong. Sure, I fantasize about being some high powered attorney or the advertising phenomenon I could have been, but none of those other jobs would have given me so much joy.

7. My friends. There are many categories for these. Old friends, work friends, school friends, parent organization friends, church friends, blogging friends, friends of friends. Regardless of their description, they are important. They each offer something unique to my life. Their opinions, jokes, experiences, stories, advice, perspectives and mostly, their friendship, keep this lady smiling and supported.

8. Cooking. As soon as the school bell announces the end of the school year, I turn into a kitchen fiend. I try out all kinds of stuff for the grown-ups and travel through our taste buds. The kids don't appreciate the fine points of international cuisine, and honestly, that's just fine with us. We won't have to share until they catch on!

9. Traveling. I LOVE to go exploring to new places and find the nuances of the city, where important history has taken place, the restaurants with the best food (which, BTW, are usually holes in the wall's, but the food, heavenly, I assure you!). One of the best trips John and I have ever taken was to New Orleans two years ago. I re-read Anne Rice's The Witching Hour and traced the steps of the Mayfair Family through the French Quarter, the Garden District, etc. and visited the house Anne Rice wrote the book in! I know, I am a nerd!

10. Reading. As a child, I would read anything that I could get my hands on, even the cereal box, my love for words is so great. Today, I am so happy if I am engrossed in a rich story, with all kinds of twists and turns. Because, for a little bit, I am transported out of me. I am in a foreign country, experiencing their culture, someone's else's life. Very voyeuristic, but very enlightening.

There are quite a few blogs that I follow. But there is something about the ones that I choose that always provide me with a sense of satisfaction, whether it is a giggle, or a deeply thought provoking post that will change the way that I perceive something from now on.

Here they are:

1. Liz at ...but then I had kids. Liz is a coworker (and friend) who first ventured out into the blogging world over a year ago. Her perspective of motherhood is simplistic and honest. If you have never visited her blog, you must.

2. Kitch at The Kitchen Witch. This woman is hysterical, but her recipes are nothing to laugh about. This is seriously good stuff. And once in a while, she will draw on her bartending experience and whip out an intoxicating drink...No holds barred, in the kitchen or out.

3. Becca at Drama for Mama. Becca's focus on her children and her life always make me look inside of myself, to question my reasoning, to bring out the best in me. Her anecdotes of mothering two is honest, real, and funny.

4. Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla. Life with a teenage boy is good blog fodder. She keeps it real, makes you laugh, and you take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

5. ck at Bad Mommy Moments. If you have never read her blog, stop what you are doing right now, and click on the link. Seriously. Why are you still reading this?

6. Kristen at Motherese. Thought-provoking, honest blogging about parenting. Her latest project, besides finding her style, is to have us thinking about raising happy children. Check her out soon!

7. Jen and Sarah at Momalom. Fearless, funny, sister bloggers who are gathering up bloggers for their Five For Ten Event that is fast approaching.

8. Nap at Naptime Writing. Her descriptions of motherhood, pregnancy and delivery of Butter are a riot.

9. Betsy at The Zen Mama's Blog. Finding Zen leads to happiness and seemingly easier approaches to parenting. A must read!

10. JennyMac at Let's have a cocktail. Seriously funny stuff. JennyMac's adventures are legendary!

May your heart be warmed with those things that make you smile!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Um, ok?

My friend Liz at ...but then I had kids, has bestowed on me the Plastic Joy Award. Sounds innocent enough, right? Except that it's a little frisky and depicts something that I think two plastic dolls should never be photographed doing...Behold, the evidence...





Now, before you get all judgmental (and if I can stop blushing!) the rules of the award requires some thought. You can let your imagination run wild, but you must name five characters with whom you would like to, um, practice show and tell with. The rules clearly state that they are characters, not celebrities, because that just too easy, really.  (You know, so you feel a little intellectual instead of just entirely primal.)

So here goes.



1. Will Shakespeare in Shakespeare In Love. The man was a literary, if not wordy, genius. And seeing him in his youth, thoroughly besotted with Lady Viola just made me melt. As this version tells it, he is married and fickle in love, and has a horrid case of writer's block. His humor, and tenderness are incredibly beguiling. In those last moments together, his pain is palpable. I love how his love for her fuels some of the world's most beautifully written words. He can unwrap me anytime...



2. Danny Ocean in Ocean's Eleven. He is a conniving con man. He is slick. He has to prove that he is still good at what he does. What gets me swooning is how he convinces all the other ten to play along, if only to vindicate himself in the eyes of his lady love. That mixture of cockiness, humor and incredible planning and thinking ahead of the game? Who wouldn't want a piece of that?



3. Maximus in Gladiator. He is a faithful General to the Emperor. He has no political aspirations, his only wish is to return to his family and the life he has left behind. He is made a slave when he refuses to recognize the new murderous Emperor. He is irrevocably broken at the news of the murder of his family. The depth at which he feels love and hate is unparallel and intoxicating. Who would not want this man vindicating her, and joining her in the afterlife? Sensitive. Rough. Quite a combo.



4. Eddie Thomas in America's Sweethearts. His life is in the toilet when he discovers his wife (and costar) is screwing around with the other costar. Rehab and meditation do little to offer relief. He encounters his former sister in law and the epiphany comes. I married the wrong sister. A little too close to Hollywood, but really, he is sensitive and can laugh at himself. I like a little side of crazy...



5. Professor Henry Jones, Jr. in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Quiet, knowledgeable university professor by day. Bad ass with a whip on vacation...Questions anyone?

So now comes the fun part. Once you are tagged, you must come up with your own list of five characters and tag another five bloggers.

Get to it:

ck at Bad Mommy Moments.

Becca at Drama for Mama

Jessica at Adventures of a wife and mom

Linda at Bar Mitzvahilla

Nap at Naptime Writing

I am looking forward to reading about these ladies' Show and Tell selections!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Forgiveness

Why does one word bring so much baggage? Why does this necessary part of humanity get lost amongst pride and inability to vocalize it?

As children, it is a hard concept to grasp. Matthew, my oldest son, seemed to be permanently mute when it came to saying he was sorry for an inappropriate action or word. Andrew had the most difficult time of all, and finally learned the lesson when he began preschool at age 2 and did not like when children bit him as often as he bit them. Joshua was quicker to jump on the bandwagon, perhaps it was seeing two older siblings express the words to each other and others.

As adults, we all know someone who is as stubborn as my former two year old biter. Regardless of what wrong they have committed, the words never flow like the excuses for the hurtful behavior. There is always an instigator, there is always an argument, there is never redemption.

I don't know why this strikes a such a chord with me lately. Perhaps it is the bitter taste on my tongue when I witness the frailty of humanity, when someone is so outside of their right mind that seeking forgiveness is unthinkable. Or, how some are so eager to apologize and seek redemption, that it shames when that I am not always that eager to soothe my own soul.

But what keeps us from forgiving and being forgiven? Are our egos so grand that we cannot be reminded of the frailties that make us human? The pill is not so bitter that we cannot do it, and really, the relief we feel when we are truly forgiven is all encompassing, especially when we have wronged another by accident, not knowing how our words can be such sharp knives that can so easily hurt those we love.

As my children get older, I wonder how our relationship will develop as they need me less for survival. As my own relationship with my surviving parent teeters between being a caregiver and daughter; it has always been hard to set boundaries and be comfortable with them. I imagine it is part of growing older, seeing your parents get weaker in mind and body.

I watch how many lives are affected when true forgiveness occurs, or when it doesn't. And more than redemption, forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. Carrying around resentment and anger requires more energy than I am willing to give up for such negativity. Freedom comes when you are no longer bound by the things that prevent you from being all that you can be.

Please don't misunderstand. I can hold a grudge like nobody's business. But what good comes of it? It darkens the edges of what makes us good. All I am left with is a feeling of heaviness, unhappiness and the grudge. Not good friends to be around, I assure you.

You might wonder why the solemn topic. I guess, all too often, we dismiss hurtful behavior as being justified. But there is nothing worse than seeing someone trapped in a prison of their own doing, and then refusing to take responsibility.

Happiness is not necessarily having everything your heart desires. It is about being true to yourself. A being true to yourself requires examining your actions. Are you truthful without being hurtful? Are you as forgiving to others as you want others to be with you?

Happiness comes from a heart light with no emotional baggage. It comes from freeing yourself from those things that weigh down your spirit.

As for me, I practice forgiveness as often as I receive (or would like to).

Forgiveness to others who have wronged me in some way, whether intentional or not.

And mostly, to myself.

For making mistakes in my mothering, for my frailties as a human being.

And it makes my spirit light.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Renewed

This morning, for the first time in a very long time, I woke up at 9:30 a.m. I went to bed fairly early, did not have any nightly visitors, did not have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, was not awakened by my dear husband's wicked snoring episodes.

I laid my head down on the pillow, snuggled into the plush mattress and closed my eyes. Nature and the exhaustion I have been feeling for a while now took care of the rest.

And my perspective this morning? Bright. Alert. Maybe even positive and optimistic.

After a night of rest, things seem clear, unobstructed.

Much of motherhood is this way. We work, we mother, we nurture, we cook and clean, organize and hug, wipe counters, butts and noses. But rarely, do we rest. Rarely, we succumb to the intoxicating elixir of sleep; wholly, intentionally, decisively.

Although our bodies certainly appreciate the replenishing, our minds desperately need it as well. All too often, we are foggy brained. We cannot remember tasks that must be completed, grocery lists, birthdays, anniversaries, meetings for spouses or parent teacher organizations. We are short tempered and just plain grouchy. Not at all the mothers we anticipated being when we were expecting our firstborns.

No one tells you that you will be this tired, most of the time. Sure, you hear, "you'd better sleep all you can now." But, you know you cannot bank sleep like you are socking away a small amount for a fabulous pair of shoes. There is no storing up to use for later.

But there are moments that seem to magically restore us. Your baby's first smile (even if it is gas induced), the first time you hear "Mama," when you get a love letter from your spouse, a small whispered thank you when you have been understanding and reflective instead of angry and reactive to a misbehaving child.

And we are capable of renewing ourselves, if we choose to. Mothers are people too. We need to be silly, unleashed, unrestricted at times. We do more with less on a daily basis. Think of the rewards when we do more with more. More time, more energy, more imagination. The possibilities are endless.

This morning, my sons were in a little bit of shock that I had slept so late. My two older boys can recognize when I am operating at a minimum. They encourage me to just sit and read, or catnap, if I can. Joshua does not. He is still too young to realize how much he requires of me physically. Yet, he has a compassionate heart. "Sowee mommy," when he has clumsily stepped on my toes, when he has spilled something.

That heartfelt apology goes a long way for this tired mom. Perhaps not as much as a good stretch of uninterrupted slumber, but enough to get me through the rest of the day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's Friday night...

It's Friday night, and it has been one heck of a week. Between funerals, bad news, long days at work, family responsibilities and exhaustion, I am so ready for the weekend...and my soft, warm, comfy bed...

No cooking tonight. Just beer, chicken wings and my favorite guys.

And these few words for those who are so faithful.

Perhaps tomorrow; some inspiration, more words, less exhaustion.

This is the life of a working mom...

April 23, 2010 Friday Follow: A celebration of followers

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Missing you...

Today was Take Your Child To Work Day. My husband called me excitedly about a week and a half ago, wondering if he could bring the boys to work and we agreed that it would be a great experience for both of them. This morning, drop-off's were reversed and the day began.


It was a weird day in many ways. First, I dropped off Joshua, much later than usual. I did not have the two older boys with me. Although they are usually too asleep with their eyes open to be of much conversation (further proof that they are truly my children!), I missed having the warmth of their bodies accompanying me to work. There was hardly any traffic this morning, because the mothers and fathers of our metropolis had probably made arrangements with their bosses to come in a little later. Because I had no additional drop off's, I arrived early to work. And there were no children to greet me.

I typically have Physical Education first thing in the morning. My co-teacher and I have an "arrangement" of sorts with the P.E. coaches. Rather than haul the children and all their stuff up the stairs and try to beat the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance to make it to P.E. on time, the children just stay in their lines outside, are on time to class, and then we pick them up afterwards. Genius, I assure you. But this morning, we were expecting one student. And she was not there.

While we were the envy of just about every teacher in the school building, I felt more than a little out of sorts. It's not that I had planned to do anything extraordinary today and the plans had to be put on hold. It was just odd to be at school, on a school day, with no one to teach or watch.

Don't get me wrong. I caught up with paperwork and testing of other unfortunate students that had to be there today. But something was amiss.

At lunchtime, I usually see Matthew in the cafeteria, where we exchange a headshake and wink. Nothing. After school, I pick up Andrew from aftercare, when he jabbers about his day and whines about having to do homework. Nothing.

Silence on the way home; save for Bon Jovi, remnants of this weekend's concert, blaring on the stereo. It did little to put me back in normal mode. I had an appointment that I had to keep this early evening, so I really didn't have too much time to do anything wild like go window shopping by myself. I did manage to go to the nutritional supplement store and pick up a handful of supplements designed to help me move my tired arse in gear. This trip is usually rounded out by two elementary aged boys who whine and complain about having to be there, each other, and the homework that must be completed upon the arrival home.

It was the most quiet experience by far today.

As I paid for my purchases, I thought of when this silence is more of a permanent thing. Because the boys will be older and have their own activities to concern themselves with. When they are older and are perhaps living away at school. My heart ached.

I picked up Joshua. As I held his hand in the parking lot, I asked about his day. I waited for him to ask me where his brothers were. He never did. I think he was glad he didn't have to share me this afternoon.

I often wonder how each of my boys will see themselves outside of their relationship with their brothers.

Will Matthew always see himself as the older, more responsible one? Will he ever let go and just be silly, allow himself mistakes and forgive himself for them?

How will Andrew define himself when he is the oldest brother living at home? Will he ever break loose of the conflict within himself, being neither the oldest nor the youngest? Will he find his place in the world, making his own way and not living in his older brother's shadow?

How will Joshua react when he is the last one at home? Will he feel abandoned by his brothers and wishing he didn't have both of his parents' undivided attention? Will he learn to find his own voice in the cacophony of noise that permanently resides in our home?

How will John and I react and adjust to each bird leaving our nest? What would we do with all the time that is now consumed with parenting and chores? How will we choose to define ourselves and live the remainder of our lives without the constant responsibility of "raising" three sons?

All these questions floated around in my head as I drove home. Joshua easily found something to entertain himself with when we arrived, thankfully not Dora and the darned Star Catcher episode on On-Demand.

I thought of my own relationship with my younger sister. I still view her as someone that needs protecting, even though she is a grown woman, with children of her own. I have a hard time confiding big time stuff to her, mainly because I cannot stand to see her worry any more than she has to. And yet, she is a constant source of comfort. She is a friend in the truest sense of the word. And she completes such big portions of my life, as she knows me in ways that my dearest husband and children will never know. She has seen my evolution; knows my past because she lived it alongside me.

I wonder if my boys, in their own way, will have this gift in each other. I hope that they can support each other and love each other in similar ways.

All these thoughts brought on by a day of learning outside of the classroom. As I rushed out of the house for the appointment, Joshua asked me why I was leaving.

"Because I have something to take care of. But Daddy will be here, and your brothers. I'll only be gone a little bit," I said.

He scowled a little, then hugged me. "I want you here with me," he said.

The boys came home then. "I missed you so, Mom," exclaimed Matthew. "Hey Mommy. Did you have a good day?" asked Andrew.

As I looked around at my boys, I knew that the answers to all those questions would be answered in their own time. My heart was full.

Because I missed my boys today.

And because they missed me...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Life in the cry lane...

It has been a hectic few days, alas, the reason behind my lack of daily posts. Every day, I would longingly look at the computer, as it sat abandoned in the family room, awaiting our joyful reunion.

The weekend's festivities took a nose-dive when Joshua decided that he was going to be up half the night on Friday into Saturday. I had an early appointment for Andrew, so needless to say, I spent Saturday walking around like a zombie. I canceled our dinner plans with friends, mainly because I did not think I could stay awake long enough to make the 8 p.m. dinner reservations. However, even when you go to sleep at 10 p.m., you can never really catch up with sleep once you have been robbed.


Sunday was pretty much more of the same, but add rain to boot. John and I had purchased the Bon Jovi tickets as a birthday present for my sister. We had been looking forward to the concert for MONTHS...and here was the day of, I had babysitting AND a new outfit, and all I wanted was to crawl under the covers and wake up refreshed, renewed and 5 years younger...I know, delusional. I was still dragging my arse, so tired that I wanted to cry.

My mood improved slightly with a purchase of fabulous clogs and once I saw my sister and I dressed up and ready to go, I felt better. Nice Italian dinner at our favorite place, a bottle of wine shared with my favorite two people in the world (besides my children, and only when I have had a decent night's sleep) and a pre-concert beer in the parking lot of the arena (mostly because I REFUSED to spend $8 on a beer at the concert) and, voila, I was seventeen again, with 20 years experience. The concert was magnificent, the crowd was largely suburban mothers who had gotten gussied up and were ready to relive their youth, albeit if only for a few hours. Sound familiar?



What surprised me was the magnitude of my tiredness the next morning. Apparently, even if you are young at heart, your body need not follow in suit. Every bone in my body ached. My throat was incapable of make any sound resembling words. Did I mention I am sleep deprived?

But, as they say, there is no rest for the weary. I had a wake to attend on Monday night. I heard some incredibly awful news regarding the twin daughter of some very good friends. And I was so tired, I could literally hang my head and cry.

Their little girl, who is just a few months shy of her third birthday, just had a brain tumor removed. They are hopeful that chemotherapy will work, if it is indeed malignant. News like that puts everything into perspective. It makes you hold your children a little longer and tighter. It tests your resistance as a parent. Are you a sprinter, or a marathon runner? If you are so inclined, please keep them all in your prayers...

Today, in my endless coming and goings, I went to pick up the boys at Church, where they receive religious education in the Catholic faith. This is when Joshua decides, on a weekly basis, to lose it. And I don't mean quietly or with dignity. I mean, full-fledged, three year old temper tantrum, with stomping of the feet, the constant changing of decibels and pitch in the screams and the indecision of "I want it/I don't want it." Of course, he is not deterred by all the other parents that are also waiting for their children to be dismissed. This, apparently fuels him, as he wants to make sure his audience gets the best he can give. I so wanted to be in the comfort of my own home, or, at the very least, join my youngest son in the screaming and stomping. I think it would have made me feel better.

You see, no one tells you that having children makes you want to cry, in good times and in bad. In the good times, the tears are joyful ones. They come from knowing that perhaps, you are not messing up your child too much; they are tears of pride, of happiness.

When things go wrong: you have a particularly frustrating parenting day, you have overreacted and unintentionally hurt your child's feelings, you hear devastating news that you are powerless against. It is those times that the tears are the hardest to bear, because they seem to mock you. Mock your inability to hold it together, your inability to protect your child from the awful things that seem to lurk and surprise at the most inopportune times.

So, what do you do? We cannot spend the rest of our adult lives in tears. It is not practical and it certainly does not improve your chances for a smooth complexion in your later years. All you can do is take the leap of faith and hope like hell there is some kind of cushion when you hit the ground running.

We mothers are not perfect. I make no apologies for the fact that from the day I decided I wanted to become a mother, I have stumbled, fallen, learned and surprised myself and others in my capacity to make light of the things I can, and tackle the bigger problems with as much grace as I can muster.

I don't dare judge others. I do not know the circumstances that account for their reality. All I can offer another mother is a shoulder to cry on, an funny story to make her laugh, or, at the very least; the name and number of a pediatric specialist.

No, ladies, I am not meant to spend my life in the cry lane, although looking at the pictures from the weekend, I certainly have enough reason to cry. The diet begins in earnest on Sunday, as well as a renewed effort to get my chunky arse back to the gym. I may not be crying now, but I will be soon if I don't do something about the arms and the area where my waist used to sit....

Friday, April 16, 2010

Subliminal messages

This afternoon, I was on a mission. As unbelievable as the following will sound, I actually have TWO adults-only evenings planned for this weekend. One is dinner with a group of friends tomorrow night. The other is the Bon Jovi concert on Sunday night with my husband and sister. I know. I am living on the edge.

Thinking of Kristen at Motherese and her quest to purge her closet and find her style, I had my marching orders. Although I know my style (somewhere among Gap, Banana Republic, The Limited and Ann Taylor, with a few funky, kind of trendy gems), I hardly ever go shopping anymore. I find it frustrating, expensive and hard to find similar aforementioned styles at knock off prices, because I have three kids, you know? And they are usually shopping with me, which is decidedly not fun; for them or for me.

However, I have not a thing to wear. I have tons of stuff, but nothing that is appropriate for a nice evening out and a good, old-fashioned rock concert. So, after work and picking up Joshua, I headed out to the mall with a $40 budget for both evenings combined and three children to boot. I decided to hit Forever 21, a definitely trendy store for young women.

How do I know this?

Because there is no way to maneuver two walking children and a stroller and a big ass handbag (with all kinds of survival mode stuff) through the dang store. I know. I've tried. Several, several, several times. I must be a glutton for punishment.

It must be mentioned that Forever 21 means just that. There is no one in there over the age of twenty five. Except for me. And my three boys, whose ages combined do not equal 21, but are decidedly not the fashion accessory or shopping companion of any twenty one year old. And my sister. With her two girls in the double stroller. Definitely not twenty one.

The place is buzzing with girls ('cause that's what they are). It is Friday night.

These people have hot dates to dress up for.

I have a hot date with the washer and dryer when I get home. After I feed and bathe and/or supervise bath time. I know. You are just breathless with excitement.

But I digress. I start trying to look around the store. I can't get through the mob. There is no stroller courtesy. People don't look down to see that there are children that are going to be trampled on or get stuck on clothing racks. There is no room to move.

But I stay the course, and try to find something appropriate for the occasion, my age, and the ongoing problem areas formally known as my breasts and where my waist used to be. Did I also mention I have a $40 budget and three hungry children who are starting to snarl at one another because they haven't eaten in hours?

I find success at the clearance rack, where these cheap, poorly made clothes are further marked down to ridiculous prices (maybe they seem cheaper to me, because I actually earn my money, instead of asking my mom for the money, like the rest of this particular demographic does). I found a cute shirt for $8.99. Further scrounging produced a tank top for $3.50 and a pretty blouse for tomorrow night for $17. I decided to splurge and purchase a very pretty, funky necklace that I could use for both for $9. So I spent $42 but have some pretty blouses that will survive the trend or barely survive laundering past the fourth wash, whichever comes first.

What was fascinating to me was visiting the Ann Taylor Loft across the way. Wide, spacious aisles gleamed for me as I easily walked between racks, laden with ridiculously expensive clothing (maybe they seem expensive, because I actually earn my money, instead of using my rich husband's credit card, like the rest of this particular demographic does. Oh wait, I don't have a rich husband). I am met with stroller etiquette. I encounter courteous sales people who will offer totally biased opinions so that I purchase the stuff that is not in the clearance racks.

If I partake of the buying experience offered there, there is no question that I will leave with a very age appropriate outfit, and that I will be in deep debt when it is all over. Needless to say, I glided right back out through their very neat, courteous, adequately spaced aisles and right on out the door.

Subliminal messages in both establishments, don' t you think?

Cheap, trendy will cost you in headaches and replacements of the garments themselves: trying to get in and out of the store, your ego taking a pretty good beating surrounded by children who are barely old enough to drive, let alone vote, trying to find something age appropriate and the realization that not only are you not Forever 21 (even though you may feel it in your heart), but you are so far in age from 21, that you are nearer to doubling it.

Or the alternative: classic and elegant, a store catered to more adult tastes, albeit expensive tastes, no age issues, mainly because you are on the younger end of the spectrum of that particular demographic, perfect fit and clothing made of lasting quality. All that, plus wide gleaming aisles for double strollers...and hefty price tags, even on clearance.

I think I am still somewhere in between. No longer a girl, not yet a (middle aged) woman. Kind of a tween, if you will. Couldn't we have a combination of Forever 21 and Ann Taylor, a love child, if you will? Where you could find age appropriate, cute clothing that would accommodate the areas formally known as my breasts and where my waist used to be? Where you are greeted with wide aisles that would accommodate my stroller and two walking children? And have helpful salespeople that would tell you that your arse is too big for those pants? Is it too much to ask?

The bright side? My older boys did not laugh hysterically when I asked them what I thought about the shirts. My sister and I ( and the five kids) got to go shopping for a whole 45 minutes before the Witching Hour. And the whole experience today did not drive me to drink and sob over my lost youth, but I did partake of a milkshake.

Because I could afford it. How's that for a subliminal message?

***I promise to post pictures of said get-up's by Monday, if I don't deem myself looking too ridiculous.

April 16, 2010 Friday Follow: A Celebration of Followers

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's over...

Cartoon by Chan Lowe/SunSentinel.com


After many weeks of angst and a ton of activist activity, Governor Charlie Crist held a press conference midday and ended the speculation of what he was going to do with Senate Bill 6. Amid the cheers of my students and my own tears, I could barely contain myself when I heard him say that he was going to veto the bill; effectively killing any possibility that the State's House of Representatives and Senators would take up reworking the bill before the Legislative Session comes to an end in two weeks.

After weeks of helping organize some activities and participating in more than a few (with my children to boot), I was grateful for this mess happening in the first place. Without it, I would have not had an incredible teaching opportunity to explore law making with my third grade students. I would not have had the ability to explain how the three branches of state government interacted (or could have, in this case) in creating and enforcing new laws.

My students learned first-hand what goes into fighting for something you believe in. They saw hundreds of teachers take a personal or sick day to protest in the streets of Miami earlier this week. They asked why I had come to work. I told them that I felt that my place that day was with them; teaching them, seizing the moment, if you will, to teach about staying true to your responsibilities, to your convictions, and doing what you think is right. (P.S. I admired the teachers that did this; what they felt was right, and in no way judge their actions as right or wrong. What makes it a big deal is that a "sickout" has not happened in Florida since the late 1960's, when teachers gave up the right to strike.)

My students learned that wrongs need to be righted. Sometimes, when all the right components come together, those wrongs are righted. Other times, they are not. But you need to do all that you can, when you can, so that you have comfort in knowing that you left no stone unturned.

Yesterday and today, a few of them made their own little posters out of construction paper, and pinned them to their shirts. I was overcome with emotion, watching my little sprouting activists blossom before my very eyes. That action demonstrated that they had indeed learned the lesson. They told me had they had urged their parents to call and email the Governor. They were excited to share what they had done; the discussions they had with their parents. They were filled with questions.

As I watched the news conference this afternoon, I felt the goose bumps rise on my arms. Sure, I was anxious for what it would mean for me as a professional, but I was more concerned to what it would do to my students, those sitting in my room this year, and those who will sit in my room in the years to come. I thought of how these little souls already lived in such stressed out times. How they turn on each other in adolescence; vicious, enraged, lost, because their childhood is plagued with circumstances beyond their control, and this would be one more thing on the list. How would this do anything to help them be heard? How was this going to impact the futures that are yet to be written?

In one fell swoop, when I heard that he would be vetoing the bill, my heart overflowed with gratitude for this man. If he did it for political gain or because he understood the lasting impact this would have on our state's schoolchildren, I cannot say. But, for me, he seemed to speak from a place of thought and conviction. He stood up and did what he thought was right. I looked around my classroom, those beautiful, innocent, bright faces, lit up by happiness. How can I describe the feeling that washed over me, knowing that there was nowhere else I wanted to be, than here with them, to hear this news?

They watched me, curiously, I suppose; as my eyes filled with tears. "Why are you crying, Mrs. E.?" they asked. "Because that's what girls do when they are happy," I answered.

As the afternoon wore on, we wrote thank you letters to the Governor. I emailed teachers to get a group together tomorrow morning, to stand and thank our parents and community for rising to the occasion.

Afterwards, I distributed report cards. I thought of each student when they began the year, how timid and anxious they had been as a whole. I thought of how much progress they have made over the year. I thought of some who have overcome seemingly insurmountable circumstances and just flourished. I thought of how no test on Earth could measure what these kids had accomplished over the course of a school year. I see that my goals for them are within sight. And now, they can set goals of their own. They are ready to move on.

Today, my students learned that were there is unity in a belief, there is strength. That if your heart is in the right place, you can right a wrong. That if you speak clearly and intelligently, you will be heard.

I have never been prouder to be a teacher.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Four simple things

It doesn't take much to make me happy. The simplest, most spontaneous actions are the ones that make my soul resonate with happiness.

Here are today's samplings:

Andrew slipped his hand into mine when I picked him up from aftercare, as he happily jabbered about his day.

Joshua quietly slipped his hand in mine as we went into a store, just he and I.

Matthew leaned his head against my shoulder, as we stood alone in the garage, while we waited for his father to come and take him to his tennis lesson.

Daddy walked into the door this evening with a smile on his face.

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All too often, we are waiting for the big, elaborate gesture that leaves you feeling kind of empty after all is said and done.

Every once and a while, I like the big brouhaha. 

My ego needs the fuss and frills.

But mostly, I like the smorgasbord of daily life.

And today's feast was good.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bathroom Break

As a teacher, one of the simple joys of life that we are deprived of is being able to use the restroom when you need to. I know, it seems incomprehensible, yet, any teacher will tell you that they learn to train their bladder to go when they have lunch, or when they have a special area scheduled. When we are off on break, our bodies go all out of whack, and we actually FORGET to go to the bathroom.

When you are a mother, you never get to go the bathroom by yourself. You learn to nurse while sitting on the john, because, sometimes, you just have to go and you can't hear your newborn cry a second longer and waste the milk let down while you are, you know, going.

Or, how about the little fingers that wiggle under the door as you hide for the few seconds it takes to go?  Or, when they finally figure out how to open the door and waltz in, oblivious that you are heeding nature's call?  Or, the best of all, toilet training when you lack the necessary biological equipment to do a thorough job.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the bathroom holds all kinds of surprises and little horrors when we become parents.

But no greater indignity exists to any mother than having to use the restroom in public. With your kids. Who are boys. In the women's restroom.

Hubby was returning later this evening from his work travels. I had a Parent Teacher Organization meeting this evening. Luckily, we have babysitting available at these meetings so, the kids being there was not a problem. Feeding time at the zoo was held at a local burger joint that rewards good report cards with a free kids meal. SCORE! So we eat, and we head out to the meeting. Great, right?

Um, wrong. I had to go. BAD. And I had the kids with me. Lucky dog, you say. Wait. It gets better.

When I have had the unfortunate episodes of actually having to empty my bladder in public places and without the benefit of another adult, my boys and I have a simple enough system. When they were younger, and in less number, I would slip them inside the stall with me. Difficult, but do-able. Three boys aged 9, 7, and 3? Not so much.

So now, the system involves elaborate placement of feet pointing into the stall where I am, ahem, doing my business and I have tabs on everyone.

I prayed that there would be no one in the hallway in the preschool as I lugged all the meeting materials, the children and their accessories, and held my bladder. I ran into the building, only to discover two teachers talking in the hallway, waiting for the parents to show.

" Uh-oh...this is going to be a little harder," I think.

I smile, say hello and tell them I just need to duck into the bathroom. I unceremoniously dump my purse and stuff, and haul the children into the bathroom. Line them up outside the stall, paper the toilet seat, and proceed.

The conversation outside involves all kinds of silly things that boys talk about. I keep noticing that Joshua's feet are nowhere that I can see them.

Joshua finally becomes audible and eventually, I get a foot visual.

Then, the inevitable. "Mom, why does it smell so bad in here all of a sudden?" says my normally bright nine year old.

Have you ever just wanted to just fall into a toilet out of shame? Don't have any children yet?

How I managed to finish my business and walk out of there with any remaining dignity (and ignore my child's comments while not strangling him) is something that I will never know.

How those two teachers kept a straight face when I walked out is another story. One is a mother of a teenage boy. The other works with kids all day. We are kindred spirits, I guess.

And bathroom breaks are sacred among teachers, even if they are off the clock.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Letter to the 21 year old version of myself...

Dear Maria,

I know that you think you've got it all figured out. Things are coming up roses, as they should. Your crappy childhood and adolescence have earned you the right to be happy. But, before you get so blindsided by happily ever after, there are some things you need to know, that will help transition you into adulthood, 'cause you have no idea how it's going to go down.

1. This is the best you are ever going to look. You will spend the entirety of your wedding and reception tugging on the too loose wedding gown that you swear you love right now. The moment John slips the wedding band on your finger and it sits there for a month, your weight will balloon instantly and you won't really recover any dignity until after you have your second child and you are thirty. Hope you have enjoyed the good metabolism while you had it.

P.S. You really need to do something about the eyebrows NOW. Thick and wide only looks good on Brooke Shields, in the early nineties. We will not discuss the upper lip right now. It needs to GO. NOW. Seriously, you are not fooling anyone with the bleach. Seriously. You look great and it will be a while until you look better.

2. You think you are tired now. You are not. I know, the projects and finals at school are kicking your butt. You work on your internship, go to class and then work a part time job after that. But you are not as tired as you think you are. Have some fun! You have no idea how much free time you have RIGHT NOW. And you will not have that kind of time again until your third child starts college (I hope!) Go out. Go dancing. Pick up a photography class (trust me, this will come in handy with all the kids you are going to have), pursue other interests besides reading (although that's good, too). Call some girlfriends and take a trip somewhere. Live a little recklessly. Have some good stories to tell. You're going to need them. Don't worry about the money so much. When you finally have some money to enjoy, you will be too tied down to responsibilities that can't wait.

3. Have an even smaller wedding than you are planning and go away to some great place for your honeymoon. I know that Disney World sounds very romantic right now, but trust me, you are going to wish you had spent more money on feeding your soul instead of the thirty people you stopped hanging around with once you fed them at your reception. Think big: Europe, the Mediterranean, Mexico, the big American cities like Chicago or New York. Again, forget about being fiscally responsible. When you have the money to do it, you won't be able to. And if you do, (because you will) you will be too worried about the kids.

4. Don't worry so much about the stuff you can't change. You are aging yourself unnecessarily. You are stressing yourself out to the point it will take a very long time to recover. This is a particularly hard lesson for you to learn, so don't be too hard on yourself. You are good at fixing things, but you cannot fix everything. Get over it. There is someone to take care of it, and He also created the world in six days. And He even took the seventh day off.

There will be lots you won't be able to fix. Broken relationships, broken people, sickness, death and thousands of other things. Lighten up.

The only one you can fix is yourself. So do it when you think you need it. The only thing that you can change about a situation is how you react to it. Food for thought.

5. Your hair needs work. Stop being stingy, get yourself a decent hairdresser and some good shampoo and conditioner. Embrace your waves, but tame them. You will be okay. Trust me when I say that the worst is over. I mean, really, what was worse than your sophomore school picture?

6. WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN! You are WHITE. YOU DO NOT TAN! You will have huge chunks of precancerous stuff taken out of your back and arms. It will not be fun. Plus, the sun makes you older faster. Don't help out Mother Nature. That bitch needs to back the hell off for a while.

7. Don't react too negatively to people who decide to have plastic surgery. Did I mention Mother Nature and her high jinks? Plus, after nine months of hell and three cesarean sections, all you will want Santa to leave you under the tree (besides silent toys with no small pieces for your children) is a tummy tuck, breast lift and liposuction...No need for me to explain this in detail right now. You will understand at once, when you see yourself after having your first son. It's too bad that this epiphany comes right after childbirth and during post partum depression. You will be okay. Don't cry too hard, remember it will bring more wrinkles...

8. If you are thinking of masking the waist problem, just buy a bigger size. Don't even think about Spanx or any of its ugly Cuban cousins: the fajas. I truly believe that sadistic people design these inefficient torture devices that only push your fat to some other nameless place. Plus, if you ever ignore this advice and decide to wear one, don't even think about going to the bathroom. If you can roll it down, it will NOT come back up. Trust me.

9. Stop reading Calvin and Hobbes. You know how you always say that you want a kid just like Calvin. Well, you get Calvin AND Hobbes in the deal. I can't figure out how Joshua fits in, but it will come to me.

10. Pick your battles with your husband. You knew what you were getting into. Think back to all those times you thought the things that piss you off now were endearing. Because you thought they were. Gravity will continue to function, so either bend over and pick up the dirty clothes or leave them there. Arguing is not a magic wand. Ignoring is.

Please don't be frightened. You will have the life you always dreamed of. You are happy. You are married to your best friend and your children are all the blessings (and headaches) you thought that they would be.

These are just merely suggestions that you should have put into play YEARS ago. They would have saved a ton of headaches and you would not have been so anxious all the time.

Enjoy your twenties and early thirties. It goes by way faster than you think.

Maria

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easy like Sunday morning...

Sunday. A day of rest. And for me, today was just that. For the first time in about two years, I slept until after 9 am. I took a nap for about an hour this afternoon.

In between, errands, groceries and laundry, feeding of children, picking up the ever messy house. But it was a quiet Sunday. A rainy day that forced us inside and to be reflective.

For most of us, we are forever on the hamster wheel. Running and going nowhere at the same time. Different clothes, same day, repeated over and over again.

Most days, I can handle it. It is what my life has become, and my children, my family, give me enough happy moments to keep me from falling apart. But there are days when I see the fraying ends. When I am irritable, tired, unable to get myself moving and upbeat, because the monotony, the endless chores weigh upon me too heavily.

I welcome days like today. Although John had to go into work to tie up some loose ends, I was happy to be with just the boys. To map out our mission for today, to get in and out of the stores with epic efficiency. To be able to see them unwind a bit.

The rain helped with the unwinding. Rain renews. It forces you to slow down a bit, and take stock of where you are, where you are going. The rain helped wash away some of my anxiety today. The anxiety that sits in wait, of all things that are unknown and I cannot control. It helped give me some perspective today, and confirm my reasoning for the way I choose to live my life, honorably and with honesty.

John will be out of town for the next couple of days, so I will be on single mom patrol. Waking up at the crack of dawn, herding children to get ready for school, have breakfast, teeth brushed, and get them out the door and where they are supposed to be.

I pray that the coming week will bring back some stability to the teachers of this state. As we wait for the Governor to make up his mind, I pray that all of us have the wisdom and gentleness of spirit to continue to do what we love, and that the public recognizes that. That our Governor sees how this will impact hundreds of thousands of people, mainly children, whose futures depend on the countless men and women who step into classrooms every day, determined to make a difference.

I hope some of today's rain and reflection touches each of us this coming week; so that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday can be a little easier for everyone.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Running to stand still...

This week, as many that have come before it, has been one filled with great joy (the celebrations of two babies birthdays!) and sorrows (the passing of BAD legislation). Sometimes, when you are an adult, you take the sweet with the sour, I guess...

Hubby and I had plans to take the kids to the county fair last week during Spring Break, but alas, we had the vacation souvenir to contend with. So, in order to use our ride passes that had cost a pretty penny, we settled on going last night.

Yeah, the thing about the Youth Fair is that it becomes the cesspool of humanity after a certain time, usually around the time that people with families head on out and the young people show up. And by young people, I mean teenaged children who like to dress and act like thugs. So, like much of this week, I was running to stand still.

I was running from home to school to drop Andrew, take Joshua to school, then Matthew to the orthodontist (his appliances are finally in! Let the games begin!) and then run back to work, where I rushed through the day, only to run to pick up Joshua, run home and get everyone ready, rush through traffic to just stand in line. To get in, to get on rides, to get food, to go. Waiting in a car queue, to get out on the road, to go home.

While we were there, we met up with people we have not seen, in some cases, for the better part of 15 years; a lifetime ago. Of the people we saw, some have divorced, some are pursuing new career opportunities, some have new babies. And John and I? We are running to stand still.

*************************

Not every day is like this. Not every moment feels rushed and lacking in importance. But yesterday, it was like the classic U2 song, Running to Stand Still.

You got to cry without weeping

Talk without speaking

Scream without raising your voice...

Our House of Representatives voted for the bill that has had me so upset for the better part of three weeks and it now sits on the Governor's desk; waiting to be signed into law or to be vetoed.

I feel much like the lyrics above. I feel utterly defeated and yet, I refuse to give up hope. Perhaps that is why I have stayed in the teaching profession for so long. I refuse to believe that people don't have good intentions, that we are here for a purpose.

As a mother, how many times have we cried without weeping, talked without speaking, screamed without raising our voices?

As I got dinner ready earlier this evening, I asked John to put on U2's The Joshua Tree. I have always found the songs on that album to be extremely comforting, especially when I am feeling out of sorts. And for some particular reason, I just needed to hear that song today.

Because, on many days, we are caught between the past and the present. Our present includes every major decision we have made in the past. Our children are living proof of it, our homes, our marriages, the relationships we have with others.

And while the calendar may show the days changing, some things remain the same. The commitments to our families, our responsibilities as adults, parents, community members.

And so she woke

From where she was lying still

Said we got to do something about where we're going

Step on a steam train

Step out of the driving rain

Maybe run from the darkness in the night...

She is running to stand still.

***Although Running to Stand Still was originally written about a heroin addicted couple living in Dublin, it came to describe the squalor and desperation of their situation. However, many fans, including myself, never knew that the song was about drug addiction. For me, it brought thoughts of overcoming insurmountable odds. For more information regarding the origins of the song, please click here.

***P.S. John and I are the BIGGEST U2 fans. Last fall, we went to see them in Boston, and we have tickets for when they come to town in July. I discovered them when I was 10 and have been hooked ever since...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

They say it's your birthday...

Our week-long birthday extravaganza has officially come to an end tonight. Our precious Andrew turned 7 today...In many ways, it seems like a lifetime ago.

After the difficult time we had conceiving Matthew, we decided to get a jump start with Baby #2. We knew that it would be hard having to kids fairly close in age if it went quicker than it did with Matthew, but we also didn't want to risk it taking too long after waiting too long.

What I didn't expect was losing my father that summer. And finding out I was pregnant with Andrew just a month later. Or the terrible morning sickness that sent me to the emergency room several times during the first trimester.

I also didn't think I could love my second baby the way I loved my first. I didn't know yet what a mother's heart is capable of.

When we went to the sonogram, Matthew and John high-fived each other; another member of the boys' only club. Me, my knees went a little weak. I was glad I was laying down as my mind went crazy thinking. Another boy. Another healthy baby boy.

As the delivery date neared, I worried about leaving Matthew behind for the few days I would be in the hospital. I worried about how things would go in the operating room. More importantly, I worried about how Matthew would react to this brand new little boy who was going to demand a lot of his mother.

That morning, as I prepared to go to the hospital, I hugged my first born as I eyes filled with tears: tears of joy, love, fear, hope, sadness. Because I had a mother's heart.


And when my OB/GYN wished Andrew a happy birthday as she fished him out of my womb; my heart overflowed with emotion. When I saw my precious, healthy, baby boy, I knew that I loved him as much as Matthew. I just knew how much my heart needed this new life.


My Andrew is a series of contradictions, and I love that about him. He is the sweetest thing, and has a sixth sense relating to me. He knows what to say, what to do, when I am not feeling my usual cheerful sense. He can crack me up like no other, and there is a silent understanding between us.

And, as an added bonus, he is the spitting image of my dad, who never met him.

As for my irrational fears regarding Matthew's reaction to his new brother? Completely unfounded. When he met his brother and held him for the first time (picture, if you will, a 30 month old baby holding a newborn), Andrew started to whimper. He quickly said to his brother, "Don't worry, Baby Andrew, we'll find your mommy." So lucky to have had the video camera in hand, on and recording to hear those precious words.


Andrew's toddler years were hard on all of us. Any time I would broach the subject of a third child, John would silently point to Andrew and I would retreat.

But when Andrew left behind the terrible twos AND threes, he emerged a different child. Insightful, introspective, thoughtful, kind.

Happy birthday, Andrew! Seven is lucky and we are SO lucky to have you to call our own. Thank you for helping me break out of my comfort zone. Thank you for showing me that is always an abundance of love in my heart for all of you. And most importantly, thank you for always being who you are, regardless of anyone's reaction. You are my inspiration in helping me be true to myself. Besides, it's nice to have another brown eyed person in the house...I love you, baby!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

After the loving...

After the thrill of Joshua's birthday, there was today; a kind of rest between birthday celebrations in our house.

Andrew will turn 7 tomorrow, and will receive his own birthday post, thank you very much.

But after all that loving yesterday, we had a cranky "fwee" year old today. No shirt met approval, not breakfast choice was satisfactory, and the shininess of three began to very quickly fade this morning. Too much excitement and cake does not make a happy child.

But last night, after everyone was corralled to bed, Joshua came out, in his hand me down pajamas, and laid out on the couch. I quickly went to get a shower myself and get my pajamas on so that I could snuggle with him on the couch.

By the time I got out, he was sound asleep, those beautiful lashes to perfectly curled on those luscious cheeks that are slightly tanned from the sun's brief appearance during our Beach weekend. My heart melted.

This mother held her so big baby boy last night. She tried to accommodate that changing toddler body, with long, strong, sprouting legs and arms, and nestled that sweet head on her chest. Feeling the warmth of his body as she held him tight; knowing that soon, the quickly changing physical attributes of this child will make this very act impossible.

After the loving of a birthday, there is the everyday. The everyday holds its own gifts; the gift of the extraordinary ordinary. It is better than the birthday cake bloat and hangover. It is better than all the birthday gifts that your child can physically open.

It is better because it is 364 days of the best loving there is...the everyday, worm your way into your heart and soul, take your breath away loving...

And there is NOTHING better than that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The day our family was made complete...

Today, my youngest little love turns three. I cannot imagine that so much time has passed. I am so relieved that we have broken the two year curse of bad stuff on his birthday. I am overjoyed at his very existence.

The truly amazing thing to me is that Matthew was not even this age when Andrew was born. And now, my youngest is truly awake to the world around him; able to verbalize his likes and dislikes, his excitement and his experiences. He is truly awe inspiring.

Joshua was born on Good Friday. I spent the day in labor and cleaning out the boys' closet. I did not bother to call the doctor until I had a good 4 hours of labor under my belt. I was scheduled for my cesarean on the following Wednesday, but he would not wait. Perhaps he sensed that Mama was over being pregnant for the third time and was so anxious to meet him. After a shower for myself , Hubby and the two older boys, we were off to the hospital, ready to rock and roll. I was ready for everything, except the spinal...not so much fun. But the moment I saw him over the blue surgical sheet, I fell in love, hard. And apparently, so did he. His little hand held on to that blue surgical sheet as the doctor held him up for us to behold and my beloved OB/GYN almost dropped him back inside the womb!



As for the yearly curse on his birthday, it started on his first birthday. He got the chicken pox. He was COVERED! My niece was just a few weeks old. He was quarantined. Then Matthew got them. And I prayed to the heavens and all the saints that I would be spared Andrew's contraction of the pox. Blessedly, God took pity on me and decided two with the pox was enough for one mother.

Last year, he fell on his front teeth three days before his second birthday at the barber shop and ended up in the emergency room. My sister's second baby shower was the following day. We were leaving for Disney the day after that. We ended up searching for a pediatric dentist, getting an emergency appointment for x-rays and then heading for Disney, all on his birthday.

With our track record, I was more than a little nervous this year. A few weeks ago, I had every intention of wrapping him up in bubble wrap for the next week until his birthday passed. I said many a little prayer and held my breath. All day today, I have glanced at my cell phone, wondering when the phone call from school would come. Again, we lucked out. After I picked him up from school, we went to the supermarket and picked out the cutest birthday cake ever, a little frog, ready to pounce on good times.



You see, for someone like me, these three boys are walking miracles. And Joshua, the greatest miracle of all. No fertility drugs to conceive him. No neurological disorders in spite of delayed gross motor skill development. No speech issues despite a lapse in speech development due to improvement in gross motor skill development. No brain tumor in spite of numerous photographs clearly showing white spots in his eyes.

Three years and many prayers answered later, I feel as though I can exhale just a bit. I understand how precious life is, what a gift to behold each day is. This gift is not wasted on me.

Three years ago tonight, our family was made complete. I am grateful that my son was born into our family, that he helped complete this labor of love his father and I started. Because, I cannot imagine what our lives would be like if not for him; his joyous, infectious smile and laughter, his running commentary, those big, expressive hazel eyes that could melt the polar caps.

To my Joshua, you are a beautiful reminder of God's love. You have made me look inside myself to become the mother you deserve to have. I love you with all my heart.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's never enough...

Today is the last day of Spring Break. Tomorrow, we head back to the rat race of the last nine weeks of school. The promise of sunny, lazy days filled with fun and relaxation is over, and the new light at the end of the tunnel beckons...

But somehow, the week off has done nothing to offer this weary body some rest. I feel as though I have been trudging along. No amount of vitamin supplements or rest is ever enough for me to feel as though I can keep up.

There is a simple explanation for this. I am a mother. Of three boys.

I live a full life. I am constantly pulled into a zillion directions.

And I am tired. All the time.

There is not much I miss from my old life, the one I had before the kids. The thing I miss the most is sleep.

Rich, intoxicating sleep. The kind that would envelope me on late Friday afternoons, linger through late Sunday mornings. With no one to have to care for, I could give in to it, with wild abandon.

These days, even when I am off from school, there is no wild abandon. There is no getting enough.

I find it so ironic that now, when I need it the most, I cannot have it. Not the way I need it.

Sure, like an addict looking for their next hit, I might take a cat nap by my in law's pool. Only to be awakened by a blast of water from a super soaker water gun.

I might be able to sneak off to sleep an hour early. But the littlest love might wander into my slumber nest, sticking me the rest of the night with his elbows and knees.

So, it is another week. The start of another grading period. So much that needs to be done, so much to divert my attention from the things I would like to be able to do.

Nine weeks from freedom. Nine weeks from being able to stay up late and wake up later. Nine weeks from planning endless summer days with my guys.

Because no matter how much I try to cram into our Spring Break, it is never enough to see my boys laugh with delight, growing strong and tall in the South Florida sun.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Not enough time...

Have you ever thought that there is never enough time to be with the ones that you love the most? That there are days when you would like to just stop time; linger in the moment that you are in, with those you make you feel the most whole you could ever be?

Today, when I was with my sons, I wanted to stop time. I did not want them to age another second. I wanted to hold on to them, just as they were at that particular moment.

It's not that we were doing anything particularly special when the urge seized me. Just an ordinary day, running errands in the morning, doing normal stuff. But there was something about that moment; the three of them in such perfection, such sweetness, that I could have been lost in that moment forever.

Later on during the day, I cleaned out clothes that no longer fit the boys. As I discarded items that had been handed down the line, my heart ached. I remembered buying the jacket that Matthew wore to the hospital when we brought home Andrew from the hospital. And now, Joshua has outgrown it. I literally caught my breath. As tears formed I thought, "Has that much time really passed?"

It's is very easy to be caught in the day to day reality. In that reality, we really don't see the passage of time. It's when we are doing something as routine as clearing out outgrown clothing, especially those that have been passed down from sibling to sibling, that the reality grips us.

Tonight, we skipped Good Friday services, much like the year Joshua was born, since it is kind of difficult to be in the operating room having a cesarean section and hearing the Good News at the same time. But as I sat and read the Gospel of Matthew to my sons, I took a mental picture of my greatest loves. I tried to memorize, as much as I could, every expression, every detail that I could absorb to hold on to today. To this moment. To my boys.

And my heart was full. I cannot stop the hands of time. It would deprive me of other magnificent moments with these exceptional people. It would stop them from becoming the people that they are destined to be.

And truly, I cannot wait to see how their stories develop. What they will decide to do with their lives, who they will be most like, how their interests will grow and blossom.

And even though I cannot make time stop, in my heart, I try to slow it down some. To savor the moments that bubble into beautiful memories; relish in the moments when their love for John and I overshadow whatever worry we may have in tomorrow.

Because there is never enough time.

Wishing each of you a joyous Easter!

April 2, 2010 Friday Follow: A Celebration of Followers


MckLinky Blog Hop

Thursday, April 1, 2010

To everything there is a season...and a time for every purpose under heaven

With Lent almost officially over and Easter quickly approaching, I have been giving a lot of thought to changes. As a Catholic, Lent is an important season of reflection. Of looking within ourselves, finding things within our lives and selves that we should journey towards remedying.

While traditionally Catholics give up something during Lent as a sign of self sacrifice, I decided this year that I was going to attempt to rediscover my purpose under heaven. Quite a lofty goal, but one that can be terrifying, especially to someone who has always played by the "rules."

As a child, I did what I was told, never really questioning, just accepting. As an adolescent, I did not rebel. There was no dark Goth phase. I was a "good" girl. I earned good grades, did the right things, was responsible, made safe choices. I was a coward.

I have been the image that was reflected of me; living in the shadow of someone else's preconception of who I should be, at any given moment of my life, until I got married. Because when I took that step into adulthood, I felt the courage and support to really begin my own journey with a loving spouse.

I began to take risks, safe ones, but risks nonetheless. I learned to listen to my inner voice, the one that belonged to me. And blessedly, my husband was supportive. If I wanted to continue to teach at the poor, immigrant school, then that's what I should do. You want to go to Graduate School, go.

But I did not really find my voice until I became a mother. The lioness was unleashed.

It is funny, how when we are children, we want to be older. We want to be able to do what we want, when we want, and how we want. As adults, we often think back to "better" days, when we were younger, had less responsibility.

And if we find ourselves in this holding pattern; yearning for tomorrow and holding on to yesterday, we rarely live in the present.

John Lennon sang of "life is what happens when you are busy making other plans." For a lot of people, this is true. We find ourselves in a monotony of daily life, trying to escape it for a few days or a week break, only to go back to it and make more plans for the next "break."

For me, I don't think back and yearn. I think about my journey. What my season is...what my purpose is. And I think that I could not be the person I am today without all the experiences that have brought me to this moment.

The season of Spring brings life back into the Earth. It is no small coincidence that Christians celebrate Easter at such a powerful time of year. The Earth is coming back from the death of winter. We shed our coats, our extra layers, the ones that confine us. Jews celebrate Passover, symbolizing their Exodus out of Egypt, freeing them from slavery.

And right now, my purpose is to free myself of those things that keep me from being the person I was meant to be. The anxiety, the self doubt, the questions, the history that keeps me enslaved, preventing me from living in the present, in this season. Just as the Earth comes back to life, I am beginning to come out of my cocoon, morphing into the person that was always there, waiting.

So, yes, I still make plans. I remember our family's history and wonderful memories so far, but I don't not hide in their shadow anymore.

I do not let other's perceptions of me shape me into someone I cannot and do not desire to be. I am who I am, take it or leave it.

Because who I am isn't too bad. In fact, I am a work in progress, as is everyone else.

In this season, forgiveness gives us freedom. We forgive others; sometimes all too quickly, sometimes for all the wrong reasons. But do we ever forgive ourselves for the wrongs we do to ourselves? For the unintentional wrongs to the ones we love? Do we free ourselves to live as we should; free of the things that imprison us within our own souls?

Because sometimes, absolution does not necessarily come inside a confessional. It comes from within ourselves. It is a gift that we give to ourselves.

As Lent comes to it's symbolic end this weekend, I think back to my Lenten offering this year. I wonder if I have made any progress. In some ways I have. I let go of the things I cannot change. I don't beat myself up for making mistakes, I find it counterproductive.

Instead, I am trying to enjoy the life I am living between the "big" plans. Definitely a time to embrace. Turn, turn, turn.