Friday, 8/29/14

2 days down, 178 to go

This is where I’m supposed to tell you how the kids went back to school and I was busy making it one of the BEST DAYS EVAH because, hello?, it’s a new school year.

First day of fifth grade (aka last first day of elementary school)

First day of fifth grade (aka last first day of elementary school)

I want to make an announcement right now that I don’t remember one thing my mom did for us on the first day of school when I was growing up. I’m sure she did plenty of things to help us get ready – like buy us school supplies, do laundry so our new clothes were ready, pack our lunches and throw some cereal in a bowl with a splash of milk. But there were no celebrations and certainly no treats for surviving six hours in a classroom of 20 others students expounding on what they did with their summer vacations. When we left to walk up the road to our bus stop, she probably spent the next 20 minutes cleaning the kitchen while my younger sister ate the rest of our cereal that we didn’t have time to finish (yes, she frequently went around the table eating the leftover soggy cereal. I give you permission to throw up in your mouth.).

First day of third grade

First day of third grade

She most certainly did not wake up and make us a special breakfast. Nor did she snap one “first day of XX grade” picture complete with homemade sign and coordinating outfits. Nor did she go to breakfast with friends. She most likely continued her regularly scheduled housework, happy that for the first time in 11 weeks, she could throw in a load of laundry, clean a bathroom, and vacuum the living room without having to yell at us to shut the door and put our shoes away. And it would only be 9 o’clock in the morning.

Bus stop gang

Bus stop gang

So instead of telling you that Natalie and Ainsley LOVED their first two days, I’m going to tell you what I did.

Day one: I walked back from the bus stop (where I did take a few pictures), got into my car, and drove directly to a bistro where I enjoyed a third(?) annual back-to-school breakfast with 2 friends (and my two children still at home with me).  I then proceeded to do a quick grocery shop to get spaghetti sauce and grapes before heading home to play a game with Ryan. I then talked to a friend for the rest of the day while Ryan moved on to watching videos and my daughter napped or played at my feet, because quite frankly I can’t remember a day in the last 2 months where I was able to finish a conversation or have one without shooing kids out of the room or wiping someone’s  else’s snot. I had some catching up to do.

She's teething, can you tell?

She’s teething, can you tell?

Day two: I cleaned the kitchen, played Sequence Jr with Ryan, did some laundry, went shopping at HomeGoods and took the kids to the park. When I got back from playing, I made lunch for me and the two babes at home. We ate. Piper fell asleep for her afternoon nap and Ryan wanted to watch videos. I remembered how nice it was outside.

I decided to read a book in the sunshine… in a bikini. It occurred to me that sunbathing in September is a little unorthodox, but I justified it by reminding myself September is still three days away, which means it’s still August. And sunbathing in August is totally normal.

I don’t usually wear a bikini because a) I haven’t been able to get comfortable with people I know seeing me in essentially my underclothing and b) I don’t want my teenage girls wearing a bikini so I must model a one-piece all while they’re growing up and c) who really wants to see a 37-year old mom-of-four in a bikini. However, I OWN a bikini in the off chance that my husband and I might find ourselves on a vacation by ourselves in a remote area without other swimmers. Don’t laugh. It’s happened. It just hasn’t happened in a loooong time. Like since Ainsley was 18 months. So, yes, my bikini harkens back to 2008. But that’s okay with me since I’m not showing it to anyone anytime soon! But I digress.

I sat in a sunny part of my yard, in a spot that conveniently cannot be seen by any neighbors or from the road so my bikini body was safe from peering eyes. I thought I’d spent the next hour or so relaxing without a care in the world. I was half right. I did spend a quiet hour relaxing but I also spent an exorbitant amount of time brushing large black ants off my legs and back. Contrary to popular belief ants show up whether there’s a picnic or not.

So it was me, my book, and a bunch of black ants. And for a few minutes Ryan who ventured out to see what I was doing. I was concerned he might wonder why my bathing suit was missing a few sections…. but it didn’t seem to faze him much. He was too distracted by the fact I was wearing a bathing suit at all without water in the nearby vicinity. He has three sisters so I’m guessing he’ll figure it out one of these days.

At the park.

At the park.

Looks like this school year is shaping up to be a good one for me. Can’t wait to see what I do with the second week of school.

Saturday, 8/23/14

Two steps forward

I remain silent in this space due to time not commitment. Although one would be hardpressed to convince me they are committed to something if they can’t find the time to do it. So I eat my words. I long to journal here, to converse, to process, but the days are long with four kids in tow. I take two steps forward and one back each day it seems. My anger is less, but I can’t tell if that’s because these hobbits of mine make me forget or if it really is dissipating.

I’m speaking with trusted friend – a mentor of sorts who has walked with me the last five or more years, and have had more conversations with myself than ever – so many arguments in my head… so many things never spoken – but somehow even allowing myself the freedom to think things I normally set aside brings freedom. I feel lighter in some ways and am unsure if it’s the talking to a friend who is ever so wise, or those private conversations with myself (including prayers to God – since my private conversations somehow always end up in a conversation with the Almighty), but something, something is moving.

Through those conversations I have found my voice. MY voice. Not the voice of another telling me my feelings are invalid or unimportant or worthless. I am validating myself. Sounds so new-agey, so mystic, but the truth is, it’s necessary and empowers me to believe in myself, not in a confident way – - I’ve always known I could do anything I set my mind to – more in a “I have value” way. That I am WORTHY of a reaction to that which was done to me. That the little girl who was swept aside and under-prioritized is WORTHY of prioritization. That things that were done are not okay. That it’s okay to rock the boat… okay to rock it so hard that it may tip over on its head.. that capsized is the healthiest place for this particular boat to be.

My voice matters.  Not for recompense, but for acknowledgment.

Some say it’s healing to go back and speak with those who have wronged you… just to have a voice. I’m finding it healing to allow myself a voice within myself. I feel like I’m talking in circles and not making sense. What I’m trying to say is that because others didn’t value me enough to react to my experiences in the past I think I actually believed them… believed there was no reason to stand up for myself or make my voice be heard with those who so easily dismiss(ed) me. Just the act of acknowledging myself has been healing. I’m not even sure if I need anyone else to hear me at this point. I’m happy with hearing myself (maybe later I will deal with others).

There’s a learning curve to finding your voice – a difference with being loud and being heard. I hear myself being harsh with the kids and my husband longing to just stick up for who I am…. I hope my kids don’t remember this part of the process. Hopefully some day soon I’ll come out on the other side of the curve with more grace, yet still believing I am important enough to sit at the table, to join the discussion, not for the sake of others but for my own. Until then, I’m leaning in to the curve.

Monday, 8/18/14

A tale of two summers

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us… Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This summer has been such a complex contradiction. In some ways so laid back… less traveling, less visitors, fewer expectations, more help (thanks to a local college girl!). In others ways… so difficult. I turn 37 at the end of this week. I’ve learned more about myself in the last 6 months than I ever have. Things that caught me off guard and have me reeling a little. You can only spend so much time sweeping things (in my case, emotions – and even more specifically, anger) under the rug before one day you simply trip on them.

I’m flat on my face.

I’m dealing with things – big things – things that should’ve been dealt with long ago. Long before children, long before marriage. And because I haven’t, they affect both. I’m starting there and working my way forward. Not sure how pretty this is going to be.

I’m also not sure how much is appropriate for this space, but it started in the spring when the Lord graciously showed me the fear I was living with. I thought only my daughter dealt with fear and anxiety. Ha! Nothing like having a human mirror to finally show you your reflection. While our fears are different, we both live with it.

With the realization of fear and the determination to cast it off, I uncovered a mess – one that needs cleaned up. After recovering from my post-partum Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde personality, I had about a month of bliss, before having split personalities again. Happiness and practicalness floating on the surface, with depths of grief and anger lying just underneath.

Some of that is because the distraction of four children will put a damper on any emotion other than the will to survive… I get that. The three oldest spent some time at their grandparents’ a few weeks ago and I had plans for cleaning, organizing, writing and reading. Instead I spent several days staring at the walls. But they are back and the minutiae of every day has taken over. I’m a little afraid of the return of school – it will be quieter and I’ll have more time to think. I’m also looking forward to it a little though – as I have swept things under the rug for far to long. It is time. My hope is this time next year I’ll be in completely better spot – a healthier place – where I can stop being happy for everyone else and be happy for me. Until then, I ask for your grace, your understanding, and your friendship.

Saturday, 8/16/14

RIP Bubbles

Another one bites the dust.

It was a deadly winter for the hamster (who was replaced on Ainsley’s birthday), and a deadly summer for the fish (who may or may not be replaced). Bubbles was with us almost three years, about the lifespan of a Beta in captivity. He was Natalie’s… can you tell?





They buried him beside Chubby under the big oak tree.

Friday, 8/15/14

Jack in the ‘Burgh

This man.


Took me to see this man.


The moment he walked on stage was so surreal. I highly respect Jack White’s musical talent and creativity. If you’ve never heard of him, don’t just listen to one song – you won’t get the right feel. He’s extremely eclectic – definitely rock n roll, sometimes hard, sometimes not, and sometimes even with a touch of blue grass or classical. It’s just hard to tell what’s going to come out of his mind. His concert was all about the music – not about entertainment. It was just him and the crowd (and the band).

Standing in the rain was totally worth it. Thanks, hon.

Thursday, 8/14/14

This is why.

I sit here in the high heat, sweaty and hot, even in the shade. Two little girls call to me from the pool, one to watch, the other beckoning me to play. A little boy tugs on my arm begging me to hold him in the water where he is too short to touch the bottom and obviously too old to play in the baby pool. For we all know the baby pool is for babies and a five-year old is NOT a baby.  Meanwhile, a cranky infant cries as if she is melting, unconsolable on my breast. It’s the middle of her naptime and she is anything but asleep.

I wonder what in the heck I was thinking when I thought bringing four kids of differing ages to the pool was a good idea.  Four kids of the same age, heck yeah, doable. Totally doable. And sometimes even fun. Four kids ranging from tween to infant? Not so much.

I look with envy at my friends – the ones who are my age – sipping their water and watching their kids play happily in the pool. Their kids are either just reaching the stage where playing with their mom is totally uncool, or the age where they’re enjoying the freedom that floating around in a lifevest affords them. Apparently (and usually thankfully) all my kids still think I’m cool.

About the time I want to cry she does this….


The girl who clung to the side of the pool for the last 3 years, the one who fought so hard NOT to be on the swim team, the girl who was mad at me for weeks that she had to go to the pool. This is the same one. Or not….. she isn’t the same. She’s free from fear. The fear that had her clinging, and hanging, and crying. She broke through to the other side and is having the time of her life.

And it dawned on me. This is why. This is why I drag four kids of varying ages to the pool. This is why I’m a hot, sweaty mess… trying not to be embarrassed or jealous as I watch all the moms who seem to have it together so much more than I do.



Wednesday, 8/13/14

Piper – 8 Months

Tah-dah…. Piper is crawling! She was so close to crawling in her seventh month but saved it for the very beginning of her eighth. She experimented one or two days getting up on her knees. I looked at Henry one morning while she was playing on our bedroom floor and said, “She’s going to crawl any day now.”  She chose that very moment to rock up on her knees and crawl four paces. Whut? Whut? Henry and I just looked at each other and laughed at how quickly my prediction came true. And then we went to Vegas.


She’s also eating some great foods. And sleeping more consistently at night, although not as consistent as her mommy would like. *Yawn*


The girls are having a great time dressing her up and playing with her as she is becoming more social and interactive. She sees them coming and flirts and coos at them. She’s really working this being the baby of the family thing.


With crawling around, we’ve taken to baby proofing the house. She’s putting everything in her mouth and drooling up a storm. Teeth are certainly on their way, I’m sure of it.


One of her favorite activities is playing in the bath. I let her play while I get ready in the mornings and she splashes around with glee.


She really couldn’t be any sweeter (well, unless she suddenly started taking a bottle and sleeping through the night!)

Friday, 8/1/14

Backyard Therapy.

I’d like to preface this by saying I’m a little bit weird. I’m not sure why I feel the need to say this since once you read the post it’ll be absolutely clear.

I’ll get straight to the point.  When I smell things like honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass it’s like my insides take a deep breath. I don’t how to describe it any other way. My shoulders relax, my heart rate slows (even if just for a moment), and I might even start to smile. I used to think this was normal. Now I’m not so sure.

But it’s true. There’s something about nature that really soothes me.  You might remember when I was grieving for my grandfather I headed for the woods.  Like Thoreau, nature does me good.


I’m pretty sure I was meant to be a farmer. I love working in the sun and the feeling of dirt in my fingers. Earthworms get me excited. Enough said.

I’m pretty sure I was not meant to be an animal farmer. While I do love cows and think they look very docile, I do NOT like smelling them.  Nor do I like cleaning up poop. Ask me how I know. I’ll give you a hint: I have four children.


However, the vision of neatly planted rows of growing corn or sprouting beans makes me smile. I’ve been known to eat a green bean straight from the vine or open up some peas and throw them back as if I were a college student taking my first shot. Peas on the rocks.  Green beans shaken not stirred. Cherry tomatoes straight up.  These are my forms of intoxication. Yep, pretty sure I was meant to grow food.  And so I do. In my own little way, in my own little corner of the world.



Wednesday, 7/23/14


We don’t do big birthday parties for our kids every year. And even when we have them, they’re at home and are not over the top at all…  so when Natalie asked me if she could throw Ainsley a surprise birthday party I had to mentally take a deep breath and recalibrate.

Natalie’s totally competent at planning parties so I knew I wouldn’t have to do too much, and I know it’s good for her confidence to plan another one successfully. And who can say no to making another kid feel special? Nevermind that we’d be coming off of two weeks of hosting families with five or more children or that I’m having a hard enough time keeping up with just maintaining.

Natalie and a little girl down the street planned for a month and I finally got on board two weeks out when I finally sent out text-message-invitations. About a week before the scheduled date, Ainsley asked if she could have a birthday party. She told me the names of the girls she wanted and specified she wanted a penguin party. Luckily, we’d invited almost all the right girls but we quickly switched from a jungle to penguin theme.  The little girl who was helping invited Ainsley and Ryan (and Natalie, who politely declined) over for a play date for the 2 hrs preceding the party. As soon as they left, Natalie and I switched into high gear. She started making lemonade and decorating.


I started icing the cake that I’d baked the night before. I’ve never iced a cake so fast in my life!


Since Ainsley thought she was having a party on her birthday (which is really tomorrow), the girls made this game together earlier in the week. All Natalie and I had to do was tape it to the wall.


We did simple decorations in shades of blue and white.


And stuck a penguin in the middle of the table (I couldn’t find any penguin decorations at the local stores – - at least not the fun, little kid ones. There were plenty of Pittsburgh Penguin hockey decorations!)


Natalie made place cards with fish cutouts.


Her friends all arrived and hid in various places near the door. And then the moment came…. I could see her running up the walk from her playdate.


When she came in she saw me standing there with the camera and was very confused.


And then her friends jumped out and said surprise!


Natalie got them going right away on games while I cooked the pizza.


Henry ended up coming home early  - another surprise! He helped with pin the beak on the penguin.

IMG_8415 IMG_8417

After dinner, the girls were excited to watch Ainsley open presents.



Ainsley had so much fun with her friends and Natalie felt so great making the day special for her sister. We celebrate her actual 8th birthday tomorrow. It’s hard to believe my second baby is already 8.

Monday, 7/21/14

Piper – 7 months

Piper turned 7 months on July 4th. Still smiley and happy, she continues to grow and develop. She’s giving us such joy.


She still doesn’t take a bottle so Henry and I are spending a lot of quality time with her on our dates!


And here she is with me at the dentist.


She’s tagged along to plenty of swim team practices and meets.


She even visited Niagara Falls and Chicago!



Probably the biggest development this month is that Piper is sitting up. I was starting to feel bad that she wasn’t sitting up yet and even mentioned it to a few people (whisper – Piper isn’t sitting up yet and she’s almost 7 months – gasp!)  I resolved to work on it…. the first time I plopped her down she was a little wobbly but just sat and looked at me. After 3 days she was a pro…. I guess I waited a little long to have her start trying!  Or better yet – I waited just long enough that I didn’t have to prop her up on pillows and set her back up every 5 minutes!  Anywho – - she’s sitting up now. This is her about the first time she sat up. Not kidding.



Piper – 7 months (picture by Dottie Ward)