Monday, June 28, 2010

Getting busy (in search of knock offs)

This weekend was the weekend. Older two boys at Grandma and Granddaddy's.

Mommy and Daddy getting busy...

...getting rooms cleared out, furniture moved, rearranged, purchased, lugged home and assembled.

All to surprise the boys that rock our world.

But of course, we hit road bumps. Like damaged, still in the package sofas. Discard collecting agencies that don't collect furniture or do collect furniture but aren't open.

Other, more mundane road bumps: neck pain, back pain, furniture dropped on toes, cuts, bruises, strained arms and legs...all kinds of shizz.

After all is said and done, rearranged and assembled, comes the decorating. For boys. Whose idea of decorating is hand drawn Quidditch fields in frames. Seriously. (And for those of you scratching your heads at Quidditch, it is Harry Potter's signature sport, which does not exist for Muggles, who are non magical people...)

Mom wants to rebel and turn at least one little corner of her world into a snapshot of a Pottery Barn catalog. Except, I haven't lost my mind yet. Seriously, $80, clearance price, for a fabulous surfboard shaped corkboard? Seriously.

Where is the Pottery Barn knock off, people? Every store on Earth has a knock off, no?

Which got me thinking...movers and decorators are not necessarily an overpriced luxury.

People with kids and bad backs (because of the kids) need their services.

If only they had knock offs....Oh wait, that's what we are, aren't we?

Friday, June 25, 2010

!!!-Intentional Happiness for the week of June 25, 2010

I am scrambling to find some !!! around these parts this week, but apparently, the yuck seems to help you find !!! when you need it the most.

1. My sister and her hubby are celebrating their five year anniversary today! It was a beautiful day for a wedding and my sister was breathtaking! I didn't look too bad myself!

2. Joshua apologized for his behavior yesterday. It was a really adorable "But I's weally, weally sowee, Mommy..."

3. I started cleaning out my closet...Operative word being started...

4. Spending Father's Day with my father in law and presenting him with his annual, picture of the grandkids t-shirt!!

5. Joshua swimming about three feet, underwater, with flippers at his second, big boy lesson !!!

6. Matthew giving me several unsolicited, real hugs over the course of the week !!!!

7. Andrew's giggle throughout Toy Story 3 !!!!

8. Watching Toy Story 3 with my guys !!! And remembering that their childhood will go by way too fast!!!

9. Clean bill of skin health from the dermatologist until the next 6 months!!! No excavating at said appointment, triple !!!!

10. Getting some sun on my pasty skin!!!

11. Being able to keep my arse off the bike seat at Wednesday's spinning class !!!!

12.  All the supportive comments relating to my little Pity Party I had for myself yesterday.  It's nice to know that I was not alone...!!!

Love the !!!? Check out Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments for a brand new community where we celebrate the !!! of the everyday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Table for one at the Pity Party

Oh, people, it has been quite a week. Between the Money Pit, my three year old's constant vacillation between "I want to/I don't want to" and the older two boys constant fighting and bickering, I think I would like to be in a nice, quiet padded room.

Sure, I am off from school. I am down one full time job. But honestly, there have been a couple of times this week when I have snuck off to the closet for a quiet, desperate sob.

This is why we aren't cool as parents.

Perhaps it is my own fault. Because I planned for doctor's appointments this week, anticipating that it would basically suck, but after the week was over, no more constraints from the appointments. Because I went to clean up that darned apartment to FINALLY get it rented and I found yet more water where there wasn't supposed to be any. Maybe it's because my three year old can't make up his mind one way or the other about anything. Maybe it's because I am tired of running interference with the older two.

Regardless of whatever the cause, I am tired. Drained. Frustrated. Angry. Sad. Anxious. Fed up.

Whenever Joshua pulls the standard "But I don't want to," I want to jump up and down like Rumplestilskin and have a holy fit. I don't want to deal with a house in need of repairs. I don't want to hear my children fighting. I don't want to spend day in and day out cleaning after people, waiting for Joshua to use the potty, waiting for the plumber that doesn't show up, the realtor who won't call, the messes that don't get cleaned up.

And don't even ask what it is I do want, because right now, I don't even know.

But I do know what I don't want.

I don't want to feel this tired, this frustrated right now. I don't want to holler at my children because they won't listen to me. I don't want to send Joshua to the potty, only to find him standing in front of it, his pants drenched in urine.

There is no magical wrap up here today. No wise words of lessons learned.

Just one tired, frazzled mother of three boys, sitting at a table for one at the Pity Party.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A defining moment (and not in a good way)

A few days ago, Linda from Bar Mitzvahzilla bestowed upon my The Oh My Blog Award. Thank you, Linda, for thinking of me, and apparently knowing that I have a endless supply of embarrassing stories.

The story that I am about to write about is one that I think clearly demonstrates what happens to your brain when you have children. While the effects may not be as detrimental as when you do, say, crack, they are still pretty much in the WTF reaction arena.

Just a little prior important information that every reader should know before I undertake telling this woeful tale. I used to be pretty darn smart. The kind of person who would devour a good book in a 24 hour period, was in the Honor Society, completed a four year degree in 3 years, working part time and doing all kinds of internships and volunteer work. I was so smart, I beat out a large amount of people vying for a full scholarship for my Master's Degree. I was smart.

Then I had kids.

The morning of this particular day started pretty typically. It was August of 2004. Matthew was just shy of turning four and Andrew was one. To say that my hands were full was an understatement at the time.

We were also in the midst of what seemed a thousand different things. My husband had just started the job he is currently in. I had just accepted a teaching position at the school where I teach now. Matthew was going to start preschool in the fall...So much was on my mind.

My husband and I had come back from a weekend trip to the beach alone a couple of weeks prior. I guess the combination of sleep, no pants dancing and refreshing libations proved to be a bad one, as my husband had a car accident the day we got back and totally wrecked his car. Thankfully, John and our dog were not hurt. Good times.

As it turns out, we had to replace the car. Which was a nightmare, because all we really wanted was to get the old one, the PAID for one, fixed and back on the road. The insurance company politely ignored us and wrote us a check for the value of the now dead, paid for, car.

The search for a new car was on and John had decided on his choice, and finagled the price that we were comfortable with. I had gone to the school credit union and arranged for the loan. We were now waiting for the dealership to find us the car that John wanted. We were a couple of days away from all of this mess to be behind us, except for the car payments.

As is a summer tradition, I often take the boys to have lunch with Daddy a few times over the course of my time off. The boys seemed to enjoy getting to see where Daddy works and John would get a welcome break from all that engineering stuff.

And so, on that day, we went to have lunch with Daddy. John's office is located at a service plaza on our state's largest toll road. We dropped Daddy back off at work in the Operations building, and I decided to stop for gas before going home.

I pulled up to the pump, swiped my credit card, and put the nozzle with no difficulty into my Nissan Quest. I started to plan what I would do when I got home. I was moving all my teaching stuff out of my garage and into my new school the next morning.

As the pump did its job, I thought of packing up the car when I got home, to shave some time off the crazy, morning rush.

And then, I remembered.

I remembered I had not picked the cheap gas. And to my horror, I saw the word DIESEL in huge, bright orange letters across where regular unleaded, mid grade unleaded and super unleaded should have been.

Frantically, I looked at where the amount of money is displayed. It was just a couple of dollars. I quickly pulled the nozzle out of the car, with shaking hands and an overwhelming desire to just lay down and sob.

In my desperate mind, I thought, "It's just a little bit. I bet it won't make a difference."

And I started my car.

I saw all of you wince out there.

I tried to call my husband. He didn't pick up.

I put the car in drive, and pulled out of the gas bay and onto the toll road, thinking I was headed home.

I was going in the opposite direction.

In the meantime, I kept calling John, who finally picked up.

"I did a bad thing," I said, sobbing.

"But you just left," he said.

And then I explained.

"DON'T START THE CAR!" he yelled into the phone.

"It's too late...I am on the road," I cried.

And then, in telling him the next exit, he realized I was going in the wrong direction.

At that precise moment, as I spoke with him, my car started doing things that are typical of when you put diesel in a regular unleaded fuel car. It sputtered, it stalled. And I was on that fast highway with my two precious boys in the car.

I was able to get off the highway and my car finally died in the middle of a left turn into a business park. Luckily, a young man pushed it into the parking lot, out of the busy road.

I was a mess. And my boys were scared.

My poor husband rushed out of his office and began to search for me. Because I had no idea where I was, and I had to explain to my babies that we were all right.

John finally got there and called a tow truck and a local Nissan dealership to make sure that they could handle the job. I am sure that the guys at the shop all had a good laugh over the nitwit who put diesel in the car and ran it 'cause it was only a little bit.

The worst part was the look on the tow truck driver's face as he hauled my van onto the flatbed. He kept looking at John and then to me, probably wondering how this man ended up with this woman.

As we emptied out our van and attempted to put two car seats in the back of John's mom's 1991 Nissan 240, two door hatchback, I wondered how I had managed to screw things up so badly. Here we were, all four of us, along with car seats, a stroller, a diaper bag and all the papers from my glove compartment cramped up in this little car. We had this one little borrowed car for the two of us. I needed to move into my new classroom, in a new school. We had to buy a new car, and were probably going to have to buy another one we surely could not afford.

I started to cry again as the rain poured down in the muggy, mosquito infested humidity.

And my dear husband wiped my tears, told me it was going to be okay and drove us off in circus clown car fashion.

The REALLY embarrassing part came when we went to pick up John's new car. Matthew had insisted in coming with us and we obliged. It had been one hell of a week, and frankly, neither of us were in the mood to deal with a whining three year old.

As the man hands over the keys to John's car, Matthew exclaims, "My mommy put diesel in her car and drove it! I think the car is broken now."

As I looked for the ground beneath me to just open up and swallow me whole, the man, never missing a beat, handed John his business card, should we need his services sooner rather than later.

The good news: We did not have to replace the van, just the fuel tank, the fuel injection system, all the pistons, etc. The price tag was a hefty $1900. It might have been cheaper to just replace the car.

I had to wait over a month and a half to get my car back. When the day finally arrived and I went to get it, the mechanic was almost afraid to hand me the keys. He was sure I would be back.

The funniest thing was how Matthew would tremble every single time we pulled into a gas station for a good year after this happened. He would calmly remind me not to put diesel in the car.

Now that I come to think of it, I think perhaps that's why Matthew learned to read so quickly. So he could divert disaster from happening again!

I have told this story countless times over the course of six years. Where this once was so humiliating to me, I cannot tell you how much laughter this has caused me since then. No mistake is too big after this, right?

I'd like to pass The Oh My Blog award to the following bloggers, all of whom I think may have some fun with this one:

Jen and Sarah at Momalom

The rules of the Award are:

1. Get really excited that you got the coolest award EVER!

2. Choose ONE of the following options of accepting the OMB award:

(a) Get really drunk and blog for 15 minutes straight, or for as long as you can focus.

(b) Write about your most embarrassing moment.

(c) Write a “Soundtrack of your childhood” post.

(d) Make your next blog a ‘vlog’/video blog. Basically, you’re talking to the camera about whatever.

(e) Take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning, before you do anything else (hair, make up,

etc) and post it.

3. Pass the award on to at least three, but preferably more, awesome bloggers as yourself.

Don’t forget to tell them.

Have fun, ladies...

Friday, June 18, 2010

The man in my life...

Although I am surrounded and drowning in the amount of testosterone that permeates my home, there is one guy in particular that still floats my boat. And today is his birthday.

On the year he was born, he was a belated Father's Day present to my dear father in law. It should have been a sign that he is rarely on time, but always where he is supposed to be.

My love had a particularly stressful day today. As is typical in South Florida, it is pouring rain. He made a mad dash for take-out, we will settle in for the evening, just he and I, and the gloriously rambunctious boys we have brought into this world.

With the help of a couple of cocktails and delicious food, the cares of the world will hopefully melt away. We will concentrate on the magnificent twenty birthdays we have shared together, alone and with our crowd.

Later on this weekend, we will share in celebrating the marvelous man who provides so much love to our boys. Who is an exemplary father, a splendid granddaddy, and just about the nicest man I know, aside from the son I married and his equally wonderful sibling. We will miss those who cannot be with us, due to distance or passages.

I wish everyone a wonderful Father's Day with the men who made us mothers and bring us so much joy and laughter on a daily basis.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

!!!-Intentional Happiness for the week of June 18, 2010

1. Sticking with the new fitness regime...I love the feeling of accomplishment and strength that comes from overcoming excuses, fear and pain.

2. Hubby's birthday tomorrow. The world is much more full of !!! because of him.

3. One week into full blown potty training. Biggest !!! of the week came today in a double whammy: Joshua was in the potty when I picked him up from the gym nursery, AND he held it while he napped for a couple of hours while I shopped! WOO HOO!

4. Cleaned out and donated TONS of junk from the nursery/playroom/Matthew's new room !!!

5. Found awesome deals at the outlets, but restrained myself from major league purchases until I clean out my closet.

6. Saw the inside of the Coach outlet storeroom. So pretty, and what an intoxicating smell of brand new, expensive leather. !!!

7. Spending the last week with my guys...priceless.

8. Unexpected, extra money in today's paycheck!!!!

9. Dinner out with Hubby on Saturday night. And a pretty new dress to wear !!!!

10. Staying in on a rainy night, with my guys!!!

Love the !!!? Check out Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments for a brand new community where we celebrate the !!! of the everyday!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Can Hoarders and Purgers live in harmony?

I am a Purger. I like to live as clutter-free as I possibly can, even though I have three boys who seemed to have come forth from the womb with closets full of stuff. Every few months, I start getting an itch to clean out closets, the garage, the kitchen cabinets, the bathroom cabinets, etc. Nothing in the world makes me happier than to see the floor in rooms, in closets, and the garage.

I, however, married a Hoarder. From a long line of Hoarders.

My husband likes to keep every last little thing, in the hopes that one day it will be useful again, or because so and so gave it to him. Using that incredible logic, our once near empty house now has closets and a garage busting at the seams. There is crap everywhere, in all kinds of disarray, without rhyme or reason.

While this used to drive me insane when we first got married, I have learned to respect his need to keep stuff. That is not to say that I don't hold on to some mementos of my own; my wedding dress, cards and letters from my sweetheart, my children's artwork from preschool (which, by the way, makes a lovely bathroom display). But I don't keep everything.

In order to illustrate this meeting (and marrying) of extremes, in one of my purging frenzies when John and I had been married just about six months, I decided to clean out the downstairs closet. In the enormous amount of stuff that was in there, I found a full trash bag. I was on my way out to the garbage can to dump it when my husband starts running after me, desperately waving his hands and yelling at me to stop. The prized contents of that black trash bag was his CD box collection (that someday would be worth a lot of money, if he could only part with it). I looked at him in disbelief and compromised that he could keep part of it: the part that fit into a cardboard box.

Crisis averted, but not for long. You see, my husband collects a lot of stuff. I think that particular bit of information should have been disclosed prior to the priest officiating over our wedding vows, but it is a little late now. Somehow, keeping something like his Calculus notebook from high school brings him some kind of joy.

I often wonder if he has kept me as long as he has because he REALLY loves me, or if he just can't bring himself to walk away...I don't want to find out, though.

He has gotten better over the course of fourteen years. Compromise has reigned supreme. And we have been respectful of each other. There are times I turn a blind eye. And to his credit, John has adjusted well to the twice a year "this house is a mess" purge.

But sometimes, the need to purge is just too great. There is so much stuff, and not enough places to keep it, and keep it organized. Many friends over the years have suggested that I just dump the loot when he is at work. "He'll never know," they have stated. But I would know. I wouldn't want my things tossed in the trash without a tearful good bye from me. I respect his need to keep what he likes. But everything has their limit. And our house has reached its capacity limit.

And there are too many people. It seems that much like green eyes, intelligence and allergies, my children have inherited the hoarding gene too. When you have three of a kind, the natural thing to do is to save clothing, toys, and books along with big ticket baby paraphernalia. But Joshua is three. The hardest thing I have ever done is give away the double stroller, all the teensy baby clothes that I had kept for so long. But I did it. To make room for the new, the now, the present.

My project this summer is to move Matthew into his own room, dismantle the guest room into a playroom/boy cave, and redesign the room that Andrew and Joshua will now share by themselves. That takes a lot of clearing out and getting rid of stuff. Matthew started trembling at the sound of cleaning out three weeks ago.

"But what will happen to all the old stuff?" he asked.

I explained that what toys were appropriate and in good condition would be donated to Joshua's school, the remainder in good condition would go to Goodwill, the rest, the trash.

He didn't seem too convinced. Just like Daddy.

And then I explained that in life, there are times when we need to discard the stuff that is not useful and keeps us from improving our lives. Bad habits, like eating junky food and sitting on the couch, should be tossed. Eating healthy foods and engaging in exercise should replace the bad. "Mommy is trying to be healthy. She is getting up early to go to an early exercise class to lose some weight and be strong, " I said.

I think that got his attention. Just like Daddy.

Of course, there are things that should never be discarded. The kindness of others. The elders in a family, with their stories, wisdom and love. Photographs and letters. Priceless heirlooms that help define where a family has been, has chronicled their evolution from the past into the present and into the future.

I think that is John's hesitation. He thinks that by keeping everything, perhaps we can make time stand still and keep our boys at the delicious age they are at. That we can keep ourselves from aging too much. That by eliminating some of the stuff, somehow, the precious stuff will be lost too.

But I like to think that we will have all the memories our hearts can hold, that photographs can document, that video can help us reminisce. We will have each other; he and I, our children, their wives, someday; their children.

In the meantime, the clutter will ebb and flow. He will slowly hoard and I will gently purge. To make room for the new, to make room for the truly special. For the here and now.

And really, to keep us from having mountains of junk inside and outside of our house, covered in blue tarp and with cameras rolling to capture for all of the States to see as it is all put on display.

'Cause, at the rate we are going, we are about five years from that...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A heart to heart...

The saying goes that the apple doesn't fall to far from the tree. In my case, my middle son not only looks like me, but apparently, suffers from the same "what-if's" that have afflicted his mother her entire life.

The older boys have been attending Vacation Bible School at the church where Joshua attends school throughout the year. This has been a long standing tradition each summer and it allows me a little alone time with Joshua while they are gone. Yesterday was the first day and it will continue for the remainder of the week. Although the theme is High Seas Expedition, it was not all smooth sailing today for Andrew.

It seems that amongst the many activities that the children participate in during the few hours they are there, singing and dancing is one of Andrew's least favorite. And apparently, it was enough to send him over the edge and to tears.

When I went to pick them up, Andrew's leader pulled me aside and told me he had gotten very upset, but couldn't really tell me why. I was concerned. Andrew is all about the drama at home, but he puts up a good front when he is away from home. I decided against talking to him right away, and opted to speak to him before he went to bed.

Of my three sons, Andrew is the most sentimental. He is very hard on himself and tries not to disappoint his father and I if he can help it. That is not to say that the desire to please his parents deters him from arguing with his brothers, but he is easily embarrassed if he thinks that he has not done his best at school or in extra-curricular activities.

Andrew is also incredibly self conscious. He likes to goof around, but he does not like to be the center of attention. Particularly if he thinks he is not good at something. And apparently, he doesn't think he is good at singing and dancing to a VBS song and dance DVD.

When I sat to talk with him, I told him the story of a little girl who always thought she was dumb, didn't think she could do anything right, and all too often, that worry about doing the wrong thing took the joy out of just about everything, along with her self esteem. I explained that even though this little girl wasn't necessarily dumb when dealing with math and science, her intense worry and dislike for those things MADE her perform poorly. Andrew listened intently with wide eyes. Then, the big reveal. That little girl was none other than Mommy.

"Mommy, you worried about stuff, too?" asked my little boy.

"I still worry, but not so much. I try to do the best I can, and it has to be enough. That is all that I can do," I replied.

He seemed to ponder this point for a moment. Then he asked, "But what if they laugh at me?"

"Then you have two options, sugar. You can either feel awful because someone is laughing, or you can join them. And I guarantee you that if you laugh, you will feel better," I said.

We talked a little more. It seemed as though my little boy was holding a lot inside. And I was grateful for the opportunity to let him unload all that worry.

He worries that he is not good at certain things. He worries what people think. I wonder how much worry is genetically linked. Because my heart broke listening to my little boy. Because I felt as though I was talking to a much younger version of myself. And I wondered if I can help him overcome this anxiety, before it consumes the best years of his life, like it did me.

After a few pointers of what to do when he got nervous, he smiled and snuggled as we talked about all the things he is good at. And how much I love him. And how proud his father and I are of him, simply because he is our son, and he never disappoints us.

My little boy beamed.

Today, as he walked into the church with his still small hand tightly enclosing my own, he seemed to walk with a renewed purpose. He seemed to be okay.

When I went to pick him up, he still hadn't danced and sung, but he seemed okay with it. He smiled when he said goodbye to his group and his teacher. No tears. No worries.

But I know better.

The self doubts will linger, but hopefully, not forever. He will find self solace in his own way, in his own time.

And I will be there.

To hold his hand, to offer support, to help him in any way I can.

Because I am helping my son grow some mighty strong roots that will hold him upright throughout his life.

And because I want him to spread his wings and soar as I never did when I was younger, but am so desperately trying to do now.

I know him.

He is my own apple from my tree.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Adventures in Potty Training: Part 3

It is time. I cannot justify spending another penny on them and if I were to add up every cent I have spent on them over TEN years, I could have a closet full of Banana Republic clothes AND fabulous shoes to match.

Alas, the time has come.

Joshua has started full blown potty training.

My mother in law, God bless her heart, helped him get a jump start last week while I was still at work. And she used our dearly departed Granny's secret weapon for potty training: leaving a slight trickle of water going on the faucet and slightly closing the door. And for all you naysayers , the woman raised FIVE children in poverty and using cloth diapers (YECH!), with an incredible sense of humor. For you environmentalists, what's a little water running when I am surely responsible for at least one landfill full of disgusting, non-biodegradable diapers.

TEN years, folks.

The running water is a drop in the bucket, literally.

So, Joshua performed admirably with Pull Ups while Grandma was in the house. When Grandma evacuated the premises on Friday afternoon, Saturday was a no go.

But Sunday began a new week.

And new awareness.

I decided to be bold and trade the Pull Ups ('cause dagnabit, those suckers are EXPENSIVE, too!) and dressed Joshua in big boy briefs. And bribed with M&M's. And put him on the potty every hour, on the hour.

And he rose to the occasion.

He even pooped on the potty.  Twice!

And today was no different. When I got back from my 5:30 a.m. spinning class (yes, I am well aware that I am on summer break, however, my waistline needs my immediate attention), I got a desperately needed shower. And then, we went potty.

And he did.

He went to take his brothers to Vacation Bible School in big boy briefs with no accidents. We went to run an errand right after, no accidents. In fact, he spent the better part of today in briefs. When we went out to get Daddy's Father's Day present, he wore a Pull Up. And after a two hour trip and a short nap, the rocket was still there.

The rocket was still there in transferring him from the stroller to the car. He went potty again. And then, he said the words I had been waiting to hear.

"Mama, I need to poop in the potty."

Music to my ears, I tell you.

He sat. He pooped. Mama did a crazy version of the potty dance and song.

And Mama doled out M&M's.

M&M's for keeping the rocket on the Pull Up. For going potty. For pooping in the potty.

And my little boy?

He smiled his delicious smile.

And taught me once again to never underestimate him.

Or myself.

And somewhere, on a big, fluffy cloud, Granny is smiling down at us. Grateful she no longer has to potty train anyone.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

You lift me up...

Last night, I went out with my sister and two former co-workers who are just about the best friends anyone could ask for. We had been planning this much needed escape from reality for weeks, as we are all busy with families, friends, work and other commitments.

We had decided that we would watch Sex and the City 2. We decided that we would have dinner. We had decided that we would put some effort into our appearance for our outing. J researched options, and we finally settled on our local CineBistro, where you pick your seats in the theatre, select from a wide variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts. And an extensive drink menu.

Just getting ready was an uplifting experience. Getting to dress up, put on girly makeup and accessorize was fun and put me in the mood for a great time. I drove over to my sister's and for the first time in two years, the place was quiet. No little girls running around, yelling, screaming or crying. We waited for our friends and caught up without children interrupting. It was weird, but wonderful.

When our friends joined us, we were on our way. We had enough time to catch up, boost our morale, share our worries and joys. And I wondered, why is it that we don't do this more often?

I truly enjoyed the atmosphere, the dinner, the movie. Especially the movie. Because we can all relate. We all have girlfriends that carry us through our scariest moments, share the journey we are on, provide us encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, someone to share our happiness with.

Especially poignant for me was the scene when Charlotte and Miranda have a heart to heart as Samantha readies herself for her date and Carrie is out. For any of us mothers, we know how hard it is to admit to ourselves that motherhood is not at all what we envisioned when we were planning a nursery. And regardless of what your station in life is, how well off you are economically, none of us know what we are doing.

For the longest time, I have seen several posts from some of my favorite bloggers trying to increase their support system. While I always thought that I had a huge village, it seems as though it has been shrinking, or perhaps, it was never as big as I thought it was.

But in the last few months I have put myself out there. I have asked for help, I have opened up, tried not to be so anxious in social settings. I have pushed my own boundaries and have begun to test limits, physically and emotionally. It has been scary at times.

And I feel better for it.

It is hard to do when you grew up isolated, alone and without many opportunities (or parental encouragement) as a child to make new friends. Add to that the need to feel safe and not venture out too much out of the boundaries, and you can see where I can get a teensy bit anxious in some social settings.

In reality, we all want acceptance of some sort. We need it from our parents, our spouses, our friends. We think nothing of encouraging our children, yet, when we are confronted with the same opportunities, we shy away from them, make excuses of how busy we really are, of why we can't.

But for the first time in a long time, I have said yes when it would be easier to say no. I have begun to solidify acquaintances in hopes of creating lasting friendships. And in saying yes, I have begun to eradicate my anxieties and self doubts. I am slowly becoming the me I want to be.

Last night, with my friends, and in watching the movie, my belief in people needing others was reaffirmed. Humans are social creatures. We can live alone, but our best memories are embedded deeply within our souls when we share experiences with those who love us and whom we love.

And no matter who you are, a fictional character or a stay at home mom, far from family, we are all uplifted by each other's company.

We all need validation, even if it's over drinks.

Especially when you get to dress up and have your dinner brought to you...

Friday, June 11, 2010

!!! for June 11, 2010

There was so much !!! going on this week , it could make your head spin. If you are curious to find out more about !!!, check out Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments for all the details.

1. My birthday. Thirty seven years of ups and down, but a lot of living, a lot of lessons learned, and much !!! in birthday wishes, both in person and of the electronic kind.

2. The end of the year party for my class. Such !!! in the air! Those 32 little people just blew me away this year, and truly stole my heart.

3. THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!! WOO-HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4. Chatting poolside with co-workers on Wednesday, surrounded and impossibly outnumbered by all our children who were also in attendance. What a great !!! to be able to be friends with those we share so much of our day with.

5. Dinner out with my hubby last night. Red wine, calamari, and having an actual conversation without someone whining that someone else is breathing on them. GOOD TIMES!

6. Turning in my classroom key this morning. There is no bigger !!! for a teacher than turning in that key. It means 10 weeks of !!! with my boys.

7. Seeing my youngest niece walk today. She started last week, but I had not seen her do it yet. But more than witnessing that feat, rejoicing at the expression on that beautiful, chubby, little face.

8. Lunch with some of my favorite people today. Chatting, exchanging motherhood stories while sipping on margaritas; frozen, no salt for me. !!! all the way!

9. The Girl's Night Out planned for tomorrow evening. These fabulous ladies' company always means !!!. And we are going to see Sex and the City 2. Double !!!

10. Ten weeks with no deadlines, no lesson plans, no testing or faculty meetings. Ten weeks of enjoying my children's smiles, activities and every free activity that I can get them into. !!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When "No" means "Yes" or How to keep your spouse guessing...

As many of you know, I have recently embraced physical exercise again. After my Pilates class last week, I felt inspired to try something new on Sunday.

And try something new, I did.

I decided to try Spinning.

For those of you not familiar with Spinning, it basically resembles about 20 gerbils on their own stationary bicycles, pedaling ferociously and in different positions, with differing intensities, in a supreme effort to lose weight.

It is not a pretty sight.

I cannot tell you what exactly made me decide that this was a good idea, but I vaguely recall a engaging conversation with my husband, and some words in the neighborhood of "Don't take the class, you might hurt yourself."

Now, I know that these words, however well intentioned, were not hurtful. But, damn if he doesn't know how to push my buttons after 19 years. So what did Maria do?

She walked into the Spinning class with her trusty neighbor (who is a Spinning junkie, for real) and got herself and the bike adjusted, strapped in, and began warming up.

In the row in front of me, was a 250 pound woman, with confidence to spare.

Class began. The music was pumping. And I held on. I pedaled. I sweated. I glanced at the clock looming ominously red, overhead. But I could not lift my behind off the seat.

I changed the tension, and try to stand. I quickly found out that you must REALLY jack up the tension in order to lift your arse off the seat and not eat the floor in the process. I found a little more success, but not enough. Throughout the hour, I did manage to try to lift my behind, but it was certainly harder than it looked.

And ahead of me, my 250 pound sister made it look easy.

I can't tell you how I survived that hour. But dagnamit, I will not walk away from a dare. And my poor husband saying those words to me were equivalent to the triple dog dare in A Christmas Story.

Of course, I had different problems after the completion of the class. Mainly, how to walk without looking like a cripple. And how to sit on a chair without wanting a visit from the Grim Reaper. I also looked like I had walked into a shower, fully clothed.

All in the name of burning anywhere from 700 to 1000 calories in that hour. Totally justifies the amount of humiliation and pain, right?

My neighbor looked at me with a look of amazement and doubt that she was dealing with a completely sane person. And slight admiration. She could not believe that I hung on, pedaled with intensity and determination for an hour, and was still upright.

My husband was astounded. And worried. Guessing.

Was I crazy? Did I feel okay?

I am a little bit crazy. I have never walked away from a challenge, real or perceived.

I felt okay, for the moment. But I had a sneaking suspicion that I would soon be in the need of some pharmaceuticals. Pronto.

And later on that night, as I stood in the hot shower, wincing in pain, I described what I felt like.

He laughed his hearty laugh.

And it was almost worth it.

What will make it worth it will be when I can do that class without sitting when I should be lifting. When I see the excess weight drop. When I am as strong physically as I feel mentally.

The pain did not do enough to deter me. I called my neighbor yesterday. We will be trying the 5:30 AM Spinning class at least twice a week during the summer.

No more excuses.

Just putting your money where your mouth is.

Just saying...

That and my twenty year high school reunion in a year.

I have time, right?

Monday, June 7, 2010

365 days older...

Unlike most of the population under the age of 25, I am not entirely thrilled when my birthday rolls around. For me, the lack of enthusiasm does not stem from being a year older and all the physical changes another 365 days bring. It is more about taking stock of what has transpired throughout those 365 days. And sometimes, that can be disappointing. And in many years past, it seemed that way.

This year, the review was truly unexpected.

Birthdays are milestones. For children, it means getting a year closer to some seemingly unattainable goal. Whether it is starting school, finishing school, getting a driver's license, being of legal age or finally being able to have a drink, every passing year comes with celebration of another milestone reached. But as we get older, the milestones come in goals attained, whether personal or professional, that have little to do with the calendar and everything to do with effort, consistency and persistence. And every birthday that comes and goes without reaching a goal is one that reminds us of where we are falling short.

When I was very little, birthdays seemed like the most fabulous thing ever. A day all about you. Presents, cake, a new outfit, pictures taken to document the passage of time. As I grew older and understood the realities of the situations that surrounded me, the anniversary of my birth was something I shied away from, mostly because I did not want the attention, the hoopla. I wanted to blend into the background. And what had once been a big deal wasn't a big deal anymore.

And for as long as I remember, it has rained on my birthday. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot; but always, rain.

And then, I started dating my husband. And he is of the firm belief that EVERYBODY deserves a day that is all about them. And every year, for the last 19 birthdays, he has always made sure that it has been so. Whether it is dinner out at a special place, a quiet celebration at home or a short beach-y trip, he has made some sort of production.

Over me.

And all throughout these last 19 years, I have squirmed uncomfortably at the introductory notes of Happy Birthday.

And always carried an umbrella.

That is not to say that birthdays are not a big deal at our house. The rules that I have applied to myself do not apply to the boys, or anyone else, for that matter. Their days are extraordinary. The fanfare, the lead up, the culmination. I relish in planning and celebrating the lives that are so enmeshed in my own, the ones that truly make my days brighter, happier. Celebrating the people whom I so love.

Which leads me to today.

It is impossible to ignore a birthday when your children reach a certain age. They pull you out of your comfort zone, urge you to BE the person you want them to think you are. And when you are a teacher and your students catch wind of when your big day is, they go into detective mode.

Today was my birthday.

On a Monday.

During the last week of school.

I awoke next to the love of my life and in between us, the not-quite-as-small body of my youngest. My husband murmured a loving, "Happy birthday" and began the week. My older boys came in, sheepishly after they awoke to wish me a happy birthday. My youngest, with fire in his eyes, declared I needed "a froggie birthday cake for you's birthday, Momma."

The common dread of this day began to fade as quickly as raindrops on a hot roof.

This year, I was fortunate enough to be at school with my wonderful students, uplifted by their joy that I am here, I am their teacher, and that I am loved by them all.

This morning, last year's students called the media center, asked to speak to me, and serenaded me with a fabulous rendition of Happy Birthday. Not to be outmatched or out-sung, this year's group was in cahoots with my co-teacher, who staged a surprise party, complete with cake. My students wrote me the most beautiful letters any teacher could receive; ones that I will cherish for a lifetime.

Coworkers and electronic greetings buzzed around for the duration of the day. And I did not wince once.

The evening was rounded out by an invitation-only awards ceremony, where my sons were honored for their academic achievements. And again, I was surrounded by former, current and soon-to-be students, all full of happiness.

But more than all of that, what has made the biggest difference in today is a small change within myself that began a couple of years ago.

The small realization that we are given a certain amount of time on this Earth. We can choose to make it count, or count it down.

For a long time, I was counting down. Not in horrid, dark ways.

But in ways that made me sad. That kept me from the happiness that is mine for the taking.

And then one day, I woke up. Literally and figuratively.

And since then, I try my best to make the days count.

In my home. With my family. With my friends, old and new. With my students.

Within my heart.

I have let go of fear, challenged myself in ways I never dreamed possible, and in many occasions, put on my big girl panties and spoken up for what is right.

Because that's what it takes to make the days count.

So, although thirty seven is not exactly a landmark "age" birthday, it is extremely significant.

In many ways.

But, the one that struck me the hardest was that even though torrential rain was predicted for today, not a single drop fell.

Even though I had my umbrella.

How's that for breaking with tradition?

Friday, June 4, 2010

!!! for June 4, 2010

1. I am now 3 days away from the promised land...SUMMER VACATION...and while I realize that I will soon be pulling my hair out, I will only be responsible for my children, not anyone else' least for three months!

2. Joshua, upon being picked up from school this afternoon, said, "Momma, I missed you. I knew you would come back." Sweetest. Words. Ever.

3. An ice cold, light beer. Right as I came in from work. AAHHH!

4. Hubby picking up our takeout from our favorite Thai place. Reason #546,988 why I love this man.

5. The ache all over from last night's Pilates has made me feel alive.

Love the !!!? Check out Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments for a brand new community where we celebrate the !!! of the everyday!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Breathe in, breathe out...

After way too much time away from the gym, I recently snagged a really good deal and switched and FINALLY went today for the first time. I was excited to go, mainly because my neighbor is a member there and a exercise fanatic, so I know she will drag my pathetic ass more often than I will want.

Last night, as we made plans for the logistics, we decided on a Pilates class. Now, I am no exercise guru, but I thought that it would be easier than a traditional aerobics class and FOR SURE easier than a spinning class, especially after a self-imposed sabbatical from any exercise.

Hey, I hear you guys giggling out there. Not nice to make fun of the out of shape, have no idea what Pilates really entails lady. Not nice at all.

We got there early, and my neighbor showed me around. We decided to do some cardio work while we waited for the hour long class to start. By the end of 15 minutes on the treadmill, I was out of breath and determined not to let myself go so long between strenuous exercise again.

I saw our instructor walk in. A small older woman. Seemed like she couldn't do much damage.

She kicked my ass.

But I was proud of myself. I didn't cry out in pain when I made my body do all those twisty moves. I didn't walk out when I was made to hold a squat for WAY longer than it would take me to pee. And I didn't hobble too much when I walked out AFTER the class was over.

But I did wish I had taken some aspirin before heading out to the gym this evening.

That being said, after a stressful couple of weeks and the endless anticipation for the end of the school year to come (just 3 more student days after tomorrow, but who's counting, right?), I totally needed to focus on how I can make my body as strong as my mind. I totally needed to see what I could do when faced with a physical challenge.

I totally needed to focus on just breathing.

I did it. I breathed in, I breathed out.

When I inhaled, I felt the strength within myself. That which helps me rise to challenges, keeps me going in seemingly helpless situations, maintains me in a relatively positive state of mind and spirit.

When I exhaled, I felt the weakness in me leave the confines of my body. All that makes me anxious, preoccupied, distant, sad, angry and frustrated. All that keeps me from functioning at my full potential.

When you are focused on breathing, there is no time for nonsense. You are doing something that is vital to your existence. Instinctive, primal, necessary.

It was just the reminder I needed today. And when I hobbled out of the exercise studio like a cripple, I felt free of what the anxiety and stress had done to my body prior to this class. I felt loose, relaxed, deliciously tired and achy.

And it was good!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Watching paint dry...

Do you remember being in school?

Do you remember the breathless anticipation of the end of the school year?

Do you remember how the clock would not move?

Welcome to my day today. A day of endless waiting. A day of the clock remaining stuck at the same time, the whole day.

And if it was painful for my students, it was excruciating for me. Because in that endless waiting for the hands of the clock to move, I was also waiting for documents, lists of instructions, a hurry up and wait kind of situation that did nothing to help pass the time.

And the only thing that would have helped would have been to have had that endless list of tasks to be completed. It would have kept me busy.

Too busy to constantly check the clock.

Too busy to be reminded of how painfully boring it is to sit and watch a clock.

Or to watch paint dry.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I have had plenty of time to think over the last few days off (from wage earning professional work versus no payment but plenty of bartering mommymommymommy work) and John and I have been discussing changes around the house.

Okay, I have been talking, John has been nodding in agreement. He is a wise man who will not disagree unless someone's life is in danger, it is going to cost a ton of money, or he is going to be required to exert superhuman strength in completing the task.

Our problem at hand is that we have three children. Giggle if you must, but it presents a myriad of issues when trying to house said children and their stuff in our humble abode. In my thinking, it is easier to throw out stuff and rearrange the home we currently have than to try to sell it, pack up all our stuff and try to find something within our price range. Also, did I mention that I have 8 years left on my mortgage. Yeah, I ain't moving.

Luckily, we have enough rooms for each of the boys to have their own room. I am against it. My sister and I shared a room, and although there were times when we fought like cats and dogs, there was something very comforting about being able to talk with someone until you drifted to sleep. The boys have shared a room since it was feasible to do so. Joshua joined them almost two years ago, and it is sweet to hear them talk to each other. However, I cannot squeeze three twin sized beds into that room. The bunk beds have been useful, but there is no way on Earth I will be able to put another bed in there.

So, after much thought and deliberation, I decided that Matthew will get to have his own room, and Andrew and Joshua will share the room they all sleep in now. Before you start to complain about Andrew getting the short end of the stick, he will be providing creative input to his room AND the boy cave(AKA playroom) that John and I will create for them. Pretty sweet deal for the two older ones, no? Too bad for Joshua. If he wanted input, he needs to potty in the toilet. Consistently.

My relaxing weekend was spent arranging and rearranging furniture in my head, budgeting the amount of money I am willing to spend on all three rooms, and lugging children to the Mecca of cheap furniture: IKEA. Because I am pretty much a miser when I know whatever I bring home will be trashed by the termites disguised as the children I birthed.

The most interesting thing about this whole thing has been the reaction of my two older boys. They were both pretty much in awe that I was willing to split them, although I am not happy about it. Andrew was so excited to have a say in the whole affair and not to have had to whine to get the opportunity to say what he thinks. Matthew feels like a big boy in that he will have his own space.

But the most surprising change is within me. That I am willing to go out on this limb which makes me so uncomfortable.

After reading all those Five for Ten entries on Yes, I have a newfound respect for it. For how it makes me feel. For the joy it brings my boys. For the empowerment it brings to all involved: those who say it, those it affects.

There are so many times that I say no; out of habit or fear. Matthew will turn 10 this fall. He really wanted a cell phone. He really wanted an iTouch. Not happening.

But this unsolicited yes has brought empowerment.

For Matthew, it will mean having his own space that he gets to decorate (with EXTENSIVE help from the resident interior designer, Mom). It will become his haven. Everyone needs one of those. It was a compromise that we both could live with, even though he had no idea that this would be my counter-offer to his electronic dreams.

For Andrew, he will get to decide and be listened to . He will also become the older brother in a room. He will be able to see his ideas come to fruition. Everyone needs to see that when they are young. Although it is unsettling to him to get the top bunk, it will be something to prove to himself. The reward will be to enjoy moving up the ladder, and enjoying the shared space he will help create for himself and his brothers.

For Joshua, although he is too young, he will learn that everyone in this house has a voice worth listening to. As he gets older, he will internalize how each member of this family has the responsibility to listen to others and value the opinions of others. He will learn the art of compromise.

For me, it means letting go of the nursery that my sister so lovingly decorated for my first born son.

(Middle Nutbrown Hare shown here, circa 2004)

It is time to see Little Nutbrown Hare go.

Because Big Nutbrown Hare is on his way...

And the change is good.