Saturday, March 31, 2012

When is My Next Book Club Meeting, Anyway?

Reason #329 for me to have time away from the children:

Driving in the van the other day (really, where else would I be?) a big ol' stink started to fill the car.  I kindly asked Cuckoo if he pooped in his diaper, so I could plan the next stop this van would have to take.  This conversation followed:

Cuckoo:  "No, I not poop."
Me:  "Are you sure?"
Cuckoo:  "No, I not poop."
Cuckoo:  "I pooped out my nose."
Me:  "Come again?"
Cuckoo:  "I pooped out my nose."
(longer pause)
Turken:  "I think he means a booger."

No one can live on bodily function conversations alone.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Freedom Within the Boundaries

I remember a conversation I had with my sister many a year ago, when I only had three children.  We were at a public park, waiting for some fireworks to start.  I was letting the kids run down the empty hill in front of us, where they would get about 75 yards away before they turned around to come back.  One of my sisters was amazed that I let them get that far from me.

I explained to her my firm belief that a parent needs to give her children boundaries, then let them have freedom inside of those boundaries.  Freedom within limits is the best way for them to learn independence, problem solving skills, natural consequences, confidence, and trust.

Because our family has worked on this their entire lives, the boys and I were able to have a day like today.

We spent five hours at McCormick's Creek State Park today. (Buttercup is on her way back from Florida, where she has been living large with a friend's family.)   You know you're going to have a good time when you find a sign like this on your first hiking trail.

I gave the older boys some freedom to explore while I stayed with the little guys.

I'm not saying that it is easy for me to watch my babies walk along a cliff so they can explore the opening to a cave.  But it is not about me.  It is about them learning to be careful but confident.  To learn independence, even while being relieved to know that I am watching their every move.

Funny thing is, even though they were allowed to explore, they kept coming back to help their little brothers learn some independence and confidence, too.  And, of course, to have some plain, old, silly fun.

The little boys had some fun walking in their boots through the water

while the big boys explored around the falls.

But when you're in a creek, the time always comes when you just need to take the shoes off and let your feet feel the squishy creek bottom.

 It was wonderful to watch those big boys come and take the hands of the little ones.  To lead them and help them.  To show them the ropes.  Without a word from me. 

There was a lot of hand-holding today.

When given some freedom, there will inevitably be some scrapes and some missteps.

But those are times when children can learn to figure things out for themselves.  To get themselves out of the predicaments they've gotten themselves into.  Say, perhaps, walking into water deeper than their boots.

Children most certainly take their cues from their parents.  If their parents show confidence in them, the children will feel confident enough to climb mountains.  Or a mountain's worth of stairs.

Of course, the climb will be easier when the child knows there will be some love, cheers and TLC at the top of those mountains.

I just can't stand the thought that Phoenix is closing in on 14.  The years just aren't long enough.

But I have to take solace in the fact that he is a good kid.  He finds joy inside the boundaries set by those in authority.  I pray that he always does.  Because isn't that what we all should do throughout our lives?

God has given us some clear and set boundaries.

And when we find joy inside of those boundaries, unlimited love, cheers, and TLC will be waiting for us.

Have a lovely, joy-filled day! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Perfect, Schmerfect

Apparently, I have used this blog to make myself appear better than I am.  My dad recently chastised me for not writing anything bad about myself.  He wondered why I hadn't written about an incident that occured a year ago.  Well, I wasn't writing on the blog a year ago.  He wasn't satisfied with the fact that I sent out a Christmas card to 80 people telling them about the incident to which he referred.  So, in order to dispel any false images you may have of me, I give you a lovely parenting story that gets brought up with annoying frequency.

It started off as any normal afternoon.  Race home from school, get chores and homework done while scarfing down some food, pack up the car, get everyone in it, and head to practices.

As usual, I had asked everyone if they had gone to the bathroom, as there are no facilities at track practice. 

We drove the 10 minutes to soccer, dropped off two kids, then drove another 20 minutes to get to track.  I was one of the coaches, so we were there to stay.  As I collected my things, I alerted everyone that we had arrived at our final destination and that they needed to stop reading and get their sweet little rear ends out of the car.

I saw one child get out, and the two little ones were making their way to the van door.  I couldn't see Giant. 

"Come on, Giant.  We're here!"

No answer.

"Not funny, Giant!  Let's go!"

No answer.  No little eight year old Giant.

I ran and grabbed Star, who sits in the back seat of our 12 passenger van with Giant, and basically yelled in his face, "Was Giant in the car when we left the house?"

"Um, no.  I don't think he was."

I couldn't even speak I was so astounded by that response. 

I grabbed my phone to see if he had called.  My ancient phone that I had just charged was dead.

I rudely grabbed the phone from a co-coach's hand and called home.

On the first ring, Giant answered with a sweet little, "Mommy?"

I left Star at practice and raced home, where I heard the story.  When I reminded everyone about the lack of facilities, he went to the bathroom.  When he came out, we were gone.  He tried to call, but there was no answer.  He knew I'd figure it out when we got to the track, so he simply watched TV until I called.

On the way back to pick everyone up from their practices, an ambulance went screaming by in the opposite direction.  My dear smart aleck commented, "Huh.  I wonder if another mom forgot her kid at home alone."

Feel better about yourself yet?  If not, you will in a minute.

A full two months later, we were once again headed to soccer.  For the first time, before or since, Turken yells from behind me, "Do we have everyone?"

"Yes, dear.  Phoenix, say hi."







No answer.

"Not funny, Giant.  Tell Turken that you're here."

No answer.  No Giant.

As I reach for my phone, it rings.


"Hi, Darling.  I left the house five minutes ago.  What took you so long to call?"

"I had to get back to the house first."

Yeah.  This time he came out of the house while we were still in the driveway.  He ran after us, waving and hollering, but we didn't see him.  Once we turned onto the street, he walked back to the house to call.

To give you a visual, this is the reenactment photo we included in our Christmas card. 
The moral of the story:  Get in the car when your mother says it is time to go.

Have a lovely, humbling day!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let the Fun Begin!

The big kids are going to be so excited to hear that their most favorite chore is coming back into rotation.

Hubby raced the sun to get the potatoes and lettuce seeds into the ground last night.

As usual, the little boys were instrumental in getting the job done quickly.

Especially when they got to the lettuce seeds. 

I'm sure we're going to have lettuce coming up in all sorts of odd places around the garden this year.

And as the big kids know, once you plant the seeds, the rows will need grass clippings to keep the weeds at bay.

I can almost hear the enthusiastic cheering now.

"He isn't raking!  He's just standing there watching us work!"

"I've raked three piles.  Can I take a break?"

"He won't give me the rake.  I've already wheeled 100 loads of grass to the garden.  It's his turn!"

"This grass is sticking to me!  It itches!"

"It is soooooo hot out here.  Can I pleeeeeaase have a popsicle?"

Ahh.  Good times.

Have a lovely, newly-cut-grass scented day!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Does Anyone Have a Towel I Could Borrow?

Today, we made a mess of epic proportions.  Twelve little kids and four moms had a ball making a complete disaster of my kitchen.  We had planned to do all of this outside, but it went down to 35 degrees for the first time in weeks, so inside we were.

First with cornstarch and water. 

And after that, the kids covered paper, the floor, and especially themselves with paint.

Well, most of them did.

After the mess, the kids thought the clean-up was just as fun.

Well, most of them did.

Have a lovely, messy day!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Forgiveness Changes Everything

I very clearly remember the first time my mom and my stepmom hugged each other.  It was the day after my sister's wedding.  We were all in my mom's kitchen.  My dad, my stepmom, and my two young half-sisters were getting ready to drive back home to Ohio.  As everyone was walking out the door, it happened.  I think they were both a bit shocked at what had just happened.  I know we kids were.  We all just stood there for a moment, speechless.  And then we all just moved on as if nothing even happened.

But something did.  It was the beginning of the real change in our family.

My parents divorced when I was in second grade.  I was the oldest of the four "full" siblings.  Things were fine for several years.  I remember plenty of happy, fun times.  But as we got older, things got rougher.  Lots of anger.  Lots of silence.  When there wasn't lots of arguing.  Between the adults.  Between the kids.  Between adults and kids.  I'm sure plenty of it had to do with the four of us becoming teenagers, and no one really knew what to do with us. 

We grew up.  We moved on to college.  Things got a little better.  Mostly because we weren't on top of each other all of the time.  When we were all together, it was a tense, uncomfortable atmosphere.  Parents on opposite sides of the room.  Kids going between the two.  No one really thrilled to be there.

That's when things could have gone one of two ways.  As we kids got married, we could have easily moved on, only coming home when we really had to.  Or we could have stayed connected.  Making it a point to get together at least a couple of times a year. 

I think we partially owe my sister for the direction we went.  She would get angry if someone missed a family gathering without a good excuse.  And when my sister is angry, you know.  Not a place any one of us wants to be.  So, the parents and siblings got together for family gatherings at least a couple of times a year. 

I got married.  My brother got married.  The ice started to thin.  I think (though I've never asked) that when my mom's husband suddenly passed away, so did the anger.  I think my parents started to realize that there was no point in grudge holding.  When they relaxed, so did we.

My sister got married.  And there was the hug goodbye.

And things really started to change.

This past weekend, we were all gathered at my sister's house in Kentucky to celebrate all of the relatives born in March.  On Saturday night, one of my brothers, my brother-in-law, my mom, my dad, my stepmom, one of my half-sisters, and I sat and played cards for over two hours.  We laughed until our sides hurt.  Until we could hardly breath.  Not one second of tension.

We've come a long way.

To the point where my parents can enjoy their grandchildren.  And their grandchildren can relax and have fun.  They have no idea that things could have been very different.  That their grandparents let time pass, let their anger and hurt go, and let forgiveness in.  

My niece, happy to be seven!

My brother and Cuckoo, having a serious conversation about candy and coloring.

Dad and Stepmom, always taking photos. 

My niece, who shares a birthday with Turken, turned the big 5 years old.

That's my mom holding Turken up to see my sister add the candles to his cake.  Sorry Mom, it's one of two pictures I got of you this weekend.  And you would not want me to post the other one! :)

My youngest brother has no problem using his height advantage to beat the boys (Phoenix and two of my nephews).

Turken stayed back in order to sneek his shots in.

My stepmom had to "save" Cuckoo from the big, mean bull, who is actually scratching an itchy ear on Cuckoo's boot.
Ever heard the song "The Princess Who Saved Herself"?  My niece is that princess.

Taking a walk around my brother's farm. 

My niece who, according to her mother, is most like me.

I got lots more hugs from my nephew!
Fifteen years ago, I couldn't have imagined my parents in the same room without tension.

Forgiveness is such a beautiful gift.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Turken!

We were on our annual vacation with our friends.  We had gone to an amusement park where I rode every rollercoaster and spinny ride available.  We swam.  We rented a boat and went tubing.  So much fun.  Until the last day.  We went into a bakery that had a reputation for being the best around.  And the offerings did look delicious.  I didn't have one, though.  The moment I stepped into the place, I got sick to my stomach and headed out the door.

On our way home from that trip, we stopped at the store to get milk, bread, and a pregnancy test.

Surprise!  Back into the diaper-filled, sleepless nights we go!

People told us that we were crazy to be basically starting over.  Daddy and I knew better.

Your siblings were shocked, to say the least.  Buttercup wanted you to be a boy, as she did not want to share her room.  Phoenix claimed that it didn't matter, as he would be a teenager soon and not be around much to worry about it.  The other two were just plain excited.

You were due to be born on Easter Sunday.  March 23.  Grandma's 60th birthday.  (We couldn't make it to her big party in Ohio, as we were in "Today could be the day" mode.) 

We went to mass, hunted eggs, enjoyed the day at home.  No baby.

Two whole days later (yes, my fifth child, overdue), at around 5am, I was woken by some pain.  Today was to be the day.  I stayed in bed, savoring the last few moments that you would be all mine.  After having four other kids, I knew that the moment you were born, I was going to have to share you.

Daddy got the big kids out of bed and ready for the day.  Your siblings thought for sure they would get a day out of school for this.  However, on the way to the hospital, we dropped off the oldest three at school, and Giant at our friend's house.  She was going to get him to preschool.    Going to school when their mother was on her way to a hospital to give birth to a brother or sister.  They were not happy with us!

We got all squared away, and we started walking.  Round and round the halls we went, trying to get you into this world a tad bit quicker.  It worked this time. 

At 10:15 or so, it was clear that you were wanting to meet us.  I didn't have any pain medication, so the staff was very quick to get me set up.  There was only one problem.  Just like your oldest brother, you were facing up and stuck in there nice and tight.

At this point, I may have gone into a panic.  Visions of forceps and pain clouded my thoughts, and I started yelling, "Get me an epicural now!  I cannot go through that experience again without drugs!"  The doctor (I can't recall his name, seeing as he was just the guy on call.) was a wonderful man and calmed me down right quick.  He said there was one thing we could try to get you facing the right way.  He instructed me to get on my hands and knees.

Okey dokey.

There I was, in my backless gown, baring my bum for the world to see.

It is worth note, this is the one and only delivery in which someone besides Daddy was in the room.  Nana made it to the hospital minutes before I was told to act like a dog and get on all fours. 

As soon as I got into that position, I actually felt you roll.  And you rolled right on out.  Yup, I delivered on my hands and knees.  Everyone was quite shocked by it, really.  The plan was for me to turn back over when/if you rolled.  You had other plans.

There was a bit of an awkward dance at that time.  I really wanted to get my rear end back on the bed and out of everyone's view, but I couldn't, seeing as how you were there and we still had some work/cleaning to do.

Thankfully, as soon as you were born, at 11:33 am, Nana had to rush off to pick Giant up at school.  (She missed most of the awkwardness.)  Giant was the first to hear that you were born, and that you were a boy.  He also got to come visit you before the other kids got out of school.  Maybe that's why the two of you have always paired up.

We called school and were able to tell each of the kids about you.  They in turn announced it to their classes.  They were so excited to meet you!  Even Phoenix.

From the moment you came into this world, you have been a joy.  You rarely cried.  You have thrown maybe 5 tantrums your entire life.  You follow directions to a T without complaint.  You love to giggle and be silly, as long as we're at home.  You are a serious little thinker.  Always coming up with amazing thoughts.  And you love to cuddle.  I love a good cuddle.

As for Phoenix, he adores you.  And even as a teenager, he makes time to play with you.  As do his friends.  You are a rock star when you walk down the hall of school or across a soccer field. 

You are all about solving math problems these days.  The harder the better.  One day I asked, "What is 8 plus 6?"  You answered, "18".  I asked you to do it aloud, so I could hear you figure it out.  "8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 18."  Sweet boy.

You are a very good big brother.  Any time Cuckoo gets nervous, say around a dog or walking in snow, you grab his hand, tell him you will take care of him, and lead him to where he is comfortable.  And because of that, Cuckoo adores you.

On the way home from school Thursday, out of the blue, you asked, "When I am a mom....(pause)... or a dad, who will be the kids?"  The conversation went from there, and you posed other doozies like, "What will my kids' names be?"  "When will I be a girl?"  "When I'm alive and I die, I will be a boy.  Then I'll be a girl." 

I love that you are always thinking.

Every day this week you have counted down the days until you turn four.  This morning you came downstairs to tell me, "There are only two days til my birthday.  After this day there will be one.  And after that day there will be zero!"

All you want for your birthday is a board game (you actually said, "I want a board game."  Did I mention that you are one mean Sorry player.  Not to mention Monopoly, Pet Hunt, and Hi-Ho Cherry-Oh.)  and a party. 

You'll get that and more, my little man.

As for all of those people that said we were crazy to be having another baby?  None of them will admit to it.  No one can imagine a world without you.

Have a lovely weekend!