Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stretch Marks

Don't worry, I'm not including a photo of my stretch marks.  I figure no photo is better than any photo of that.

Last week I went to a Mother's Blessing for my friend Mindy, who is ready to birth her twins any day now.  In case you've never heard of a Mother's Blessing (I hadn't), it's similar to a baby shower, but for the mom.  And instead of cute games and gifts, the guests bring poems or thoughts about pregnancy/labor/motherhood and symbolic beads or charms to add to a bracelet for the mother-to-be.  In many ways, it was a spiritual event where we friends encouraged Mindy and each other in the journey of motherhood.

Luckily for me, another friend of mine, Charlotte, had posted some thoughts on her blog earlier this month that I felt were helpful for a mom-to-be as well as moms-in-action.  I read her thoughts at the Mother's Blessing.  I won't copy her entire post here, but I highly recommend that you read it at this link; it provides some context for the rest of my post.

I've spent much of this summer feeling like I'm being pulled in too many directions.  Just as my preggo friend has worried about losing herself to the twins' schedule and her body to their growth, I've wondered if I'm losing myself as I serve my family.  Charlotte described perfectly what I've been feeling about my own self stretching to meet the demands of back-to-school children and a husband who takes on too many projects and who is married to a wife (me) who takes on too many projects plus one.  Will the essence of "me" be swallowed up in being a wife and mother?

This paragraph from "Memories for Later" (emphasis added) touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes:

"I think my poor little soul might be getting some stretch marks.  I can't possibly fit in anything else, and yet more comes and I stretch a little more to hold it.  But the marks are showing and my resolve threatens to rip wide open.  I know I will never be quite the same.  But when I worry about what will be left of me, I try to remember that what now appears too much will eventually be a faded memory.  I will be left with the proud marks of a mother who's paid her price.

And maybe those marks will sparkle silver someday.  It seems to do so in the older mothers I admire."

 #s 1 and 2 off to catch the bus to high school.  Only four more years.  Yikes!
Taking the long view helps, because, like the end of pregnancy, I can practically count down the months I have left with my precious children before they leave the safety of my home to grow as young adults.  That day is coming too soon.  Motherhood will never leave me quite the same as when I began, and I look forward to that!  Raising children has forced me to change for the better.  And when I have graduated from the school of raising children and my silver hair matches my silvery stretch marks, I will have many years to develop my individual interests again.  The me at that point will be more interesting for the stretch marks I'm adding to my soul now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The First 2 1/2 Hours

Now I know how neurotic I am.

I spent the first 90 minutes of school vacation zonking out with no alarm set, which was well deserved because I woke up at 3:45 a.m. today...for no apparent reason.

After 90 minutes, I bolted awake to a sitting position with my heart racing!  "There must be someone I should be picking up or dropping off, or somewhere I'm supposed to be, or something I'm supposed to be doing!" I thought.  With heart still racing and hands shaking, I double checked my new exterior brain--the calendar on my Smartphone--and no, there was nothing until #3's ortho appointment, for which I had set a reminder.

After a few deep breaths, I was comatose again for the next 60 minutes, during which time I caught up on all the dreams I had missed at 4:00 a.m., and which I will not bother to bore you with.

Clearly, I can't trust myself when I give myself the day--or just five hours--off.  I need a real vacation.

14 Years in the Making

This day has finally arrived!  

We've had a faltering start to school this year.  It's been so busy around here that I even only managed to capture a back-to-school photo of one of my children.  (Actually it was a back-home-from-the-first-day-of-school photo.  Note the dirt on her tights.  She must have had fun on the playground.)  Isn't #4 sweet?

Back to the point: school vacation has started!  You read that right.  Summer vacation is for the kids.  School vacation is for me!  The three youngest started school one week ago.  On the fourth day of school, my fifth grader threatened my school vacation plans by staying home sick.  Yesterday the two oldest went to a half-day orientation to high school while my niece and I worked on her scrapbook.  But today is the day!  The house is quiet and will remain so for six more hours.  School vacation is IN!

For the past couple of years, I've looked forward to August 2012 when I would start putting the house in order, catching up our financial records, and maybe even stay on top of a part-time job or two.  Now that the day has arrived, am I going to tackle the piles of canning dishes I created two days ago?  Sort the stacks of hand-me-downs that have accumulated?  File some receipts or argue with the health insurance until they cover our doctor check-ups?  All of those are so tempting.  But no.  I am celebrating this momentous day of having all five children in school all day by taking a nap and reading a book.

Oh yeah.  I still have to check my fifth grader out for an orthodontist appointment, teach two piano lessons, and make dinner for a new mom.  But at least I have a few hours of me time for the first time in a long time!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Plastic, please

Yes, I usually ask for plastic bags at the grocery store so I can recycle them and imagine them turning into a lovely park bench.  But that's not what I'm talking about here.

Last September, Kent won a cake stand and other cake accessories at a Corporate Alliance auction.  It was all so cute that I immediately hid the stand, forks, and candles in an almost-never-touched cupboard in our furnace room.  You see, nice things don't last long in our household.

For example, I was hesitant a few years ago when my parents offered to go in on the cost of some new couches for us.  They thought the faded, stained leather sectional with the baggy cushions and unraveling stitching needed to be replaced.  I agreed; but I feared for the new furniture.  Would it be able to withstand my children's childhoods without also quickly becoming faded, stained, and worn out before its time?  I didn't think so.  I was right.  (But it's still nice to have comfortable couches, and the microfiber does withstand the stains better.)

Today I hosted a birthday lunch for a friend of mine.  (Happy 30-something Diana!)  I used the gift card that also came in the auction to buy a darling cake, and decided the cake accessories should make an appearance.  The children would be gone, so the glass cake stand had a higher chance of survival.

It's just too bad that I put it "away" in the kitchen instead of the furnace room.  The kids came home.

I handled #2's unsolicited confession quite well.  Probably because I knew the stand was doomed the moment I brought it home eleven months ago.

The icing on the cake, so to speak, was #1's accident while moving dishes into the sink an hour later.

Notice the missing spout.  This pitcher is was the only nice beverage container I own(ed).  I loved it's simple yet elegant lines.  It lasted 19.5 months because I kept it hidden in another out-of-reach cupboard.  It now resides in the garbage can.

So much for nice stuff...for now.  The reason for this post is not to complain--after all, I'm thankful to have kids around, even if they ruin my stuff--but rather, to make a record for future use.  In the next decade,  when #1 and #2 are opening their wedding gifts, I'll just confiscate everything glass.  This way they won't even have to think about taking care of nice things while also taking care of their future children.  It's for their own good, as well as the good of my future grandchildren.

And when you get a wedding announcement from one of my kids--many years in the future--just remember that "they" want a cake stand and a pitcher.  I'll even send you a thank you card.  Oh, and you can wrap something from Tupperware for them, too.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Goodbye Little Friend

Today we said goodbye to one of our resident outdoor cats, Tiger.  Many of you have told us for awhile that it needed to be done, and we knew it was time to free her from her old, painful body.  Still, it was surprisingly hard to watch her pass from life to death.  All of us shed some tears.  My poor, tenderhearted boy cried on and off for the rest of the day, and #3 got quite emotional when we told our favorite memories of Tiger at bedtime.

Tiger was one of the cats that came with the house.  She showed up one day about 13 years ago.  She was likely someone's pet that was abandoned in the field next to our house.  The previous owners never fed or watered the two cats that hung around, but when we bought the house 9 years ago, I let the cats sleep in the garage during the winter as a thank you for catching mice.  When Tiger started getting too old to mouse, I began leaving food outside.  The children all consider our feral animals to be their pets, and Tiger has always gone along with that.  She let them carry her around in baskets, dress her up like a baby, and sneak her into their rooms at night.  (They only got away with that a few times until once when Tiger was shut into #1's room and peed on the floor.  Then they all agreed outside was a better place for animals.)

A few children had special bonds with the kitty.  As soon as we moved in, #1 named Tiger and claimed her as her own personal cat.  #4 was born shortly after we moved, and Tiger decided to be the baby's companion.  If ever I brought #4 outside to watch me work in the yard from her baby carrier, Tiger would climb in and drape herself across the baby's legs like a warm, soft blanket.  Or she would be sure to stay by #4's side as the baby grew more mobile.  She put up with a lot of "affection" from #4.

Our niece, Eve, also loved Tiger dearly.  The picture above was taken on a night that we were babysitting.  Eve didn't want to go to bed with our children, but wanted to wait up for her parents.  I let her watch a movie in the family room while she waited.  When they came, we found that Eve, like her cousins, had sneaked the cat inside and dressed her up a bit. Tiger's necklace matches Eve's socks!)  It was fitting that we let Tiger go during Eve's visit this summer from England.

Living outside under our pine trees was a problem for Tiger's long hair because the pine needles would get matted into the fur.  I took Tiger to the vet several years ago when her mats were getting bad.  The vet guessed at the cat's age based on her teeth.  At the time, Tiger was about seven years old, and the vet was surprised that an outdoor cat had lived that long.  After eight more years, our granny cat was more than 100 in cat years, and probably would have kept hanging on.  But it was time to release her from the oily matted fur that was too thick to even cut, the arthritis that made it difficult for her to follow the shady napping spots on our deck, and the recent infection that resulted from having her ear torn by another animal.  It was time.  But we are still sad.  Goodbye sweet, little Tiger.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Inside the Minds of the White House: Part 3

Apparently, Kent and I not only passed on our dreaming tendencies to our children, they also inherited our propensity for doing things in a businesslike manner.

In June, #s 1, 2, and 3 held a minor celebration in their bedroom.  Hearing the cheering, I came in as future attorney (#1) handed over $1 to future entrepreneur (#3), with future CFO (#2) witnessing the transaction.  When I asked what was going on, they explained that #3 had earned her first dollar from a deal they had worked out in April.  They then handed me a contract they had all drafted and signed!  (Click on the contract to see it larger.  I've blocked out their full names, but just know that all three are mentioned, with the agreement being all about #3.)

The fine print that they forgot to add is that #3 is to be paid in increments of dollars.  So June was the first--and so far the only--time she had earned enough to be paid.  (I'm pretty sure she should look into other business opportunities besides keeping anything in her room clean.)