Monday, December 31, 2012

Don't Stop Believin'

My family was having dinner or rather what masquerades as dinner.Justin was soaking up spilled milk with newspaper because we had run out of paper towels. Jack was crying because he had spilled the milk. Hadley was trying to steal fruit from Cameron's plate while Cameron loudly sang the Barney Theme Song in an attempt to stop Jack from crying. I wondered if she had any songs she could sing for me? I felt like crying. 

Then suddenly, I felt like throwing up as Hadley said to me, "Hey Mom - after dinner, I need to talk to you  - privately."

Christmas had been in full-swing at our house for about a week. The tree was up, the stockings were hung and though we were a mere few days into December, we had already visited Santa twice. Also, our Elf on the Shelf had appeared which made it official - the holidays had began.

Hadley's face appeared serious. I appeared horrified. Hadley had never asked to speak to me privately about anything. My gut told me this was it. Santa was no longer real. She no longer believed. 

After dinner, I consulted Justin.

ME: Oh. My. God. She wants to talk to me privately! This is it. She knows about Santa. What do I tell her?

JUSTIN: What are you talking about? Privately? Who?

ME: Hadley! Did you not hear her - during dinner?

JUSTIN: Is that supposed to be a joke? 

ME: No! She wants to talk to me privately. I think she knows about Santa.

JUSTIN: Well, if she asks, I don't think you should lie to her.

ME: Well then you do it - you talk to her. I don't want to.

JUSTIN: You're going to have to man up here Abbie - if you can't break the news about Santa, how are you ever going to explain the birds and the bees?

ME: I hate you. 

I spent the rest of the evening avoiding Hadley. She'd walk into a room, and I'd duck out. She'd yell out "Hey Mom!" and I'd pretend I didn't hear. If this is any indication of how future sex talks might go, she's going to be featured on Sixteen and Pregnant.

Eventually, she found me hiding in her closet. I hide there a lot as I pretend to put away laundry. Apparently that gig's up.

"Mom" she started.

Oh here we go I thought. This is the end. No more Santa. No more magic. No more eyes filled with wonder on Christmas morning. Her time had passed. I should have watched her more closely last year. I should have bottled her bewildered expressions in my memory as there would be no more of them. 

I took a deep breath. Looked at her tiny face and sighed knowing that these would be the last few moments she would believe. I couldn't lie to her….at least not when asked directly. Telling her the fish sticks are really chicken is totally different. This was totally serious. 

HADLEY: Mom, do you hide Elfie? Sara told me that she found her elf in her Mom's drawer and that her mom hides him every night. Is that true?

Was that it? All that anxiety for that damn elf. I didn't care if she didn't believe in the elf. I hate the elf. It's a pain in the ass. Elfie is is laziest elf ever, because I can never remember to move him. Last year, I had him quit for a week because, quite frankly, the girls were being a-holes, and I was tired. 

ME: What do you think? Do you think I hide Elfie?

HADLEY: Yeah, I do. Tell me the truth.

ME: Yes, I hide Elfie.

HADLEY: You don't do a good job. Sara's mom has Elfie do fun stuff - like toilet paper the tree.

ME: Well, you can hide him for Cameron and Jack if you promise not to tell them you're doing it.

HADLEY: Yes! I'll do it - I'll hide him!

Whew, crisis averted and the elf burden lifted. 

HADLEY: Oh and mom - about Santa….

My eyes grew big…oh no!!!!

HADLEY: So….Santa writes a note puts it in the elf's box and tells parents to move him? 

ME: Yep - that's exactly right. 

She hadn't quite connected the dots and that was all right with me. She still believes. It's a paper-thin belief, but this Christmas, at our house, Santa still exists.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

A belief in a holy birth.
Tiny hands carefully placing cookies for Santa.
Candles raised during Silent Night. 
Little eyes full of wonder and hearts that believe. 

This is Christmas. 
That is what we celebrate. 

Wishing you the merriest of Holidays.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Crib.

Seven years ago, I bought a simple, understated yet pretty cherry-stained pine crib to place my new baby in. Last week, Justin placed the crib in the back of his truck and drove it away… 

Jack's small bedroom had been quite crowded. For many months, it had housed both a twin bed and a crib. Jack wasn't quite ready to make the move from a caged animal to a free-wheeling tyrannical toddler so we had decided to let him make the transition gradually.  

We placed Jack in his new bed a few times but he would tell us, "I go der" while pointing to his crib. Awww. Maybe he wasn't ready. Maybe I had bought him a new bed too soon. I thought maybe I'd just keep him in his crib - at least until he was old enough to vote. 

However, as weeks passed, I knew I held borrowed time. My "baby" would soon be moving out of his crib. My borrowed time collected quickly, and soon Jack's nights in his twin bed far outnumbered his nights in his crib. It came time to let it go. 

Seeing as that I did not want to be featured on Hoarders huddling in a corner holding everything from old baby socks to baby's first banana peel, I decided that having a crib when I no longer had babies seemed ridiculous.The crib was done. There would be no more babies to put in it. At least not any babies of my own. The crib would be going to another family who was expecting. 

As Justin drove the crib away, I felt sad. How would it be over? How could those three babies have grown so quickly? 

Hadley...It was her bed first. I chose it for her. I hung my tired body over the rails and watched her breathe. Terrified, as a new mother, that she would stop breathing if I left her side.

Cameron...She would hug my shoulders as I hunched down next to the crib to say good night. "Ding gong!" she would say, and I'd sing her a goodnight song. 

Jack...He loved his crib more than the girls. Perhaps he took his cues from his sentimental mother, but he never really seemed sure he wanted to leave his baby bed. He'd often hoist his leg up over the rail like he was going to go up and over, but he never made the climb. We, eventually, made this climb for him and moved him to the bed.

Today, Jack seems restless in his big bed. He tosses and turns - trying to make his new bed seem like home. He's trying to find his place. I watch each restless kick on the monitor as I too am unable to sleep feeling as though something has been lost. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rolls, Rice, Jesus and Love

From my little Turkeys...

Jack...A turkey he made at Sunday School. He was proud. So was I. He gobbled. I laughed.

From Hadley....A card she made at school. This is amazing. This fills my heart with gratitude. This is Thanksgiving. 

From Cameron...A Pilgrim. She wrote what she was thankful for across the cap. I think my job with Cameron is done - I think she's pretty much got life figured out. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dear God, It's me Abbie.

I heard a car horn honk in my driveway. My friend had arrived to pick me up. It was time. I walked slowly out the door, feeling every bit as if I were walking the green mile to my death. I was headed to boot camp. Dun, Dun, Dun.

We arrived, and all of the boot campers seemed happy - way too happy. They were laughing and joking around like it was happy hour at the bar. WAIT! Had I missed cocktail hour? What were they so damn happy about? Did they not know that mountain climbers were surely in their near future?

This was no time for jokes. This was time for prayer.

Dear God: Please give me the strength to survive the next hour. Also please strengthen my bladder and restrict my gas. Amen. 

I scoured the room looking for the boot camp sergeant. Having no idea who she might be, I was looking for a real bad-ass. Then there she was - all 80lbs of her. Nothing about her was remotely intimidating. She looked sweet like maybe we could be friends. Then she told me to go weigh myself - ok, forget it, I hate her. 

She then handed me a measuring tape and asked for my measurements. Would that tape work to hang myself? Death seemed preferable to wrapping it around my hips and reading aloud a number. Then to drive the point home  - that I was indeed chubby and needed her help - she had me place my hands around a device that provided her with numbers to officially deem me overweight. 

Dear God: Please help me shrink those numbers. I do not know exactly what they mean but the skinny boot camp sergeant recorded them in my chubby chart. Oh and please help me eliminate the need for a chubby chart. Amen. 

Then it all began.  A blur of leg lifts, jumping jacks, push ups and planks. I remember it starting, but I think I must have slowly lost oxygen as most of it is hard to recall. The boot camp sergeant barked orders at us to go a little faster - to lift the knees a little higher and I admired her bravery. But feared for her safety.

Dear God: Please protect the tiny bootcamp sergeant.  She does seem nice. She's screaming at a bunch of overweight, out-of-breath women and I'm afraid at any moment they might revolt. The sergeant, I fear, is in danger. Oh and I might be dying - so see you soon. 

Then it was over. I had lived. I was proud I had made it through and terrified that I had 6 more weeks to go.

In the days that followed, I lost function in both legs. I had pulled muscles so badly that I was unable to put on my pants without lying down on my bed. I was unable to lift my legs up. I had been greatly wounded in boot camp battle. A purple heart? No thanks, but I would take a Big Mac. 

Dear God: Please help me make it through bootcamp with the use of all of my limbs. Also, if it's not too much to ask, please remove all calories from Big Macs, Bud Lights and chocolate. Amen. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Yesterday, in preparation to scare my children, my 87-year old grandmother dressed herself in a white sheet and covered her face with a semi-transparent white hockey mask.

She then drove across town, parked two blocks away and walked to my house - fully costumed.

She then snuck in the back door and all hell broke loose. I'm quite certain Cameron will never sleep in her own bed again.

She might very well be crazy but if this is what crazy looks like - sign me up. Crazy is so much fun. 

Happy Halloween!

PS. Watch out locals - She's not finished yet. She'll be out on the town tonight - she wants to go 'spook' people. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Boot Camp

Jillian Michaels and I are breaking up. Maybe not forever but for now. She has taken me as far as she can. She has helped me take the baby-weight off, but now I'm stuck. 

I've reached what is known as a weight-loss plateau. Now, in terms of exercise, the idea of a plateau seems nice - it's flat, easy, and serene. If I were running, a plateau would would be my hands-down favorite terrain. However, I'm not running. I'm not doing much of anything. I'm stuck. Going nowhere. My weight-loss has stalled out. I can't lose an ounce. 

So I'm ready to abandon TVs toughest trainer. I'm ready to take serious action. Before the Halloween candy arrives, before the Thanksgiving celebration begins and before the Christmas festivities take up residence on my thighs, I've decided to take get serious. I've enrolled in a 6-week boot camp.

Typing those words - boot camp - makes me nervous.  Really, terrified is a more appropriate word. Just thinking about boot camp leaves me soaking with anxiety produced sweat.

I do not exercise in public - the humiliation risk is too high. I have mean angry fat. My fat, when I jump, slaps against other pieces of fat and produces a flap, flap, flap sound. My own fat mocks me. My fat isn't just fat - it's mean. Flap, flap, flap. 

Also, I am uncoordinated, overweight and have a leaky bladder.

I can almost guarantee the following things will occur: 

1. I'll pee myself

2. I'll trip

3. I'll fart

It is also almost guaranteed that all three of those thing will occur at once. 

In my greatest nightmare, I can not make it through the class, pass out, while peeing and farting. The paramedics then have to be called to pick me up, and my fellow boot campers will tell the them, "we're not sure what happened but we heard a strange flapping sound."

Perhaps boot camp will be like my now defunct Bunco dice game group. We always intended to play the game, however, somehow forgot most nights and ended up drinking and eating appetizers. Maybe I can lure the boot camp crew to abandon exercise for some Bud Lights and some spinach dip? I rock with Bud Lights and spinach dip. Now, while that will not accomplish any fitness goals, I'm pretty sure Bud Light and spinach dip can cleanse any stressed-out soul. 

As if public exercise weren't intimidating enough, this boot camp also requires weekly food logs and weigh-ins.

I won't tell anyone my weight - sometimes I can't even face it myself as I stand backwards on the scale at the doctor's office while they scribble something about needing a psych consult in my chart. Only in the midst of the most harrowing circumstances - child-birth - have I ever revealed my weight to anyone. And that was to the anesthesiologist because he held all the good drugs. In fact, I think I even added a few pounds so he would up the dosage. 

My food log will surely be disappointing to the boot camp sergeants - I hate dieting. Being hungry makes me extremely uncomfortable and well, I'll say it, bitchy. I've tried Weight Watchers twice and both times it nearly ended my marriage as I constantly bit my husband's head off - and then tried to eat it. 

So, yes, clearly I need to break up with Jillian and give this boot camp a go. However, I will begin this 6-week odyssey prepared with the necessary tools: a diaper, gas-x and a marriage counselor.

If my tools fail me, I'll throw it all away for some Bud Light and spinach dip. Flap, flap, flap isn't so bad. Bunco anyone?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Okay With Being Done

Nearly every desperate and completely unoriginal parent (I include myself among them) teaches their children the lesson about jumping off the bridge. You know the story — the one where if all your friends jump off the bridge, you shouldn't follow.  There are a lot of problems with that story, like why are all of your friends suicidal? Was it something you said? However, despite the troubling example, the message is this: be yourself, go your own way and be smart enough not to throw yourself off a bridge.

This lesson has never been so applicable to my life as it is right now. I reiterate the bridge lesson every day in my head. I tell myself over and over "don't jump, don't jump."

You see, six — yes, SIX of my very closest friends are pregnant. Everywhere I turn, I'm hit with a swollen uterus. If pregnancy were a contagious disease, I'm sure I would have caught it by now and I'm quite certain it would have killed me. 

My general baby/pregnancy/labor stats aren't great. Take preeclampsia, for example — I'm two for three on my pregnancies. I'm batting 100% when it comes to gestational diabetes. Out of of three attempts with an epidural during labor, I've had just one success. And on the other end, two of my three children fussed and spit up for months with reflux and colic. As a bonus to all that fun, I gained 40-, 45- and 55-pounds respectively with each pregnancy, a grand total of 140-pounds that I gained and then had to lose. 

Yet, as my friends all plan for their new arrivals I find myself settled in a strange place between envy and relief.

Envy says: Awe, they're going to have a baby. The day the baby is born will be the best day of their lives. It really is so amazing. I want to do that again.

Relief says: Shut the hell up! Labor is awful. Do you remember threatening to jump out hospital window last time? 

Envy says: Babies are so sweet and tiny. I want to sit in the glider and hold another one on my chest as we both fall asleep.

Relief says: You're crazy. That happened, like, maybe once. Your babies don't sleep. They leave you in a half-crazed, semi-delusional state for almost a solid year.

Envy says: I love little baby clothes.

Relief says: That's just more piles of laundry to deal with every, single day.

Envy says: Watching them grow in the first year of life is so amazing. They change so fast and it really is such a miracle to see them become little people.

Relief says: Abbie, you have plenty of little people to care for and most days, let's be honest, you struggle.

In the end, there is only really one conversation that matters and it goes something like this.

Me: Justin, are you sure we're done? Are you sure there isn't just one more pair of little feet missing from this family?

Justin: Are you crazy? Have you seen the pile of shoes by the front door? If we have any more feet in this house, we won't be able to get out of the house  - ever! 

In the end, I know he's right. Someone stab a fork in this uterus — it's done. No really, someone stab me. I don't want to take any chances. 

It's bittersweet knowing there won't be anymore babies to bring home, or any more first words, first steps or first birthdays. But I'm at peace knowing that though I would do it all over again, I don't have to do it one more time. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Be Still My Heart

* I found this in my drafts folder. I forgot to publish it. So - here is it - one year late. That sounds about right. *

Last year, Hadley was apprehensive about starting Kindergarten, and by apprehensive I mean she spent hours and hours sobbing in the days leading up to the first day of school.

My efforts to console and calm her were met with no success.

So I decided I'd have to bribe buy her a nice little back to school gift.
Hadley's Back-To-School Necklace.
She seemed to like it, but when the first day of school arrived, she didn't want to wear it. That was fine with me - I wasn't going to push it.  I would be thrilled to just have her walk through the doors.

I had forgotten about the necklace until recently when Hadley was showing me all of the jewelry in her jewelry box.

Hadley is a hoarder, um, I mean meticulous about her things - so, I was taken aback when her 'Be You' necklace wasn't amongst her treasures. I asked her about it...

ME: Hadley, where is your 'Be You' necklace?

HADLEY: Oh, it's in a drawer.

ME: Why isn't it in your jewelry box? Why don't you ever wear it?

HADLEY: Well, mom, it's uh, kind of embarrassing.

ME: What!?! Why is it embarrassing?

HADLEY: I don't know mom. It just is - its all like 'Be You.'  A necklace that says something? It's weird. 

ME: Oh ok, well you don't have to wear it. It's fine.

Secretly, I was crushed! She didn't just not like my gift - she was embarrassed by it. So embarrassed that she wouldn't even include it amongst her other jewelry - it had gotten shoved in the back of the underwear drawer. Sheesh!

A few weeks later, Hadley was playing with her American Girl Doll and asked me if I could be the teacher.

I said sure. This requires absolutely NO effort on my part. This is one of my favorite games. She spends a significant amount of time readying her doll for school and then "drops her off" with me, the teacher. Hadley then runs off to play while I "teach" the doll.

I set her doll up on the counter and opened up the backpack that Hadley had packed for her to find this: 

Hadley's note to her doll.

Even though her six-year old taste had deemed the necklace all wrong, the message was just right.

It had sunk in. She got it. 

She was sharing the message with her doll as she sent her off to school. Hadley probably figured she'd need some encouragement since she'd be facing such a mean teacher.

Hadley's little note of encouragement to her doll, in turn, encouraged me. The message being: Keep going. Keep trying. You're getting through. In small amounts and in small doses, she's hearing you. 

It was a small victory - but I'll take it and hold onto it and if I lose it, I'll know to check the underwear drawer. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Shining

This summer we took not one but TWO 13 hour drives in the minivan with the children. Why???  Because one 13 hour trek in the minivan wasn't quite enough, so we decided to drive 13 hours in the opposite direction a mere two weeks after our Florida trip to visit our dear friends in Michigan. Dear God. 

When we began our Florida trip, I was shiny-happy mommy. Totally prepared with snacks, boredom busting games and cleaning supplies. This time, having had the shiny knocked right out of me, I told the kids to get in the damn van and we'd get there the "old-fashioned way" by using the DVD player the entire trip. 

We strapped the kids in the car and took off with 13 hours worth of minivan fun ahead of us. About an hour and a half into the trip, we stopped to eat in Martinsville, Indiana.

Now, if you're a faithful reader of this blog, you'll remember that last year on our trip to Michigan, we also stopped in Martinsville and Justin found himself in an undershirt shopping for fireworks.

Well, this year, it was Hadley who was without proper apparel.

As we were tumbling out of the van, I noticed that Hadley didn't have her shoes on. 

I told her to go grab her shoes because she couldn't go inside the KFC without them. It is to be noted that we chose to eat at the KFC because I thought it would please Hadley - the world's pickiest, most horrible eater. This is a hands-down, not-to-be-contested fact. She eats about five foods. It drives me crazy, yet it also drove me to the KFC where I thought since she loved Grandy's, she might like something from its fast-food cousin, KFC.

Anyways, back to the shoes. She looks at me and says, "I didn't wear any shoes."

I respond, "What do you mean you didn't wear any shoes?"

Hadley says, "I didn't put any on."

I explode, "So, you mean to tell me that you got in the van, knowing that we were leaving for a full week and didn't put any shoes on your feet????"

"You didn't tell me to put on my shoes!" she exploded right back. 

This blew my mind. Literally I could feel little pops in my head. I had to walk away from the van, the children, the husband, the KFC. Justin stared after me as I walked towards an open field - then yelled, "Are you coming back? What do we do?"

At seven years old, I thought I didn't have to tell her to wear shoes to leave the house - well, shame on me. This was clearly my fault. I had packed her flip-flops but they were in the car-top carrier - nearly impossible to get to.

I walked back to the van and decided I would carry her inside and set her in a booth while we ordered. 

We got inside and Hadley decided that KFC was nothing like Grandys and she would not be trying anything they had to offer. Shiny-happy mommy now looked something from The Shining:

I was ready to lose it. I was ready to bail. Justin told me to go sit in the van - I needed a time out. Hell, I needed a drink - wish I had stashed that bottle of wine in the glove compartment. 

Yes, our vacation was going well. We were an hour and a half in, I was in time-out jonesing for a drink, Hadley was starving without shoes and Justin was chasing Jack through the KFC. Poor Cameron - pretty sure she's my favorite. 

Yet we soldiered on determined to make it. I had learned a few things since our last trip…mainly about having to pee without waking a sleeping baby. 

On our last trip, if you will recall or perhaps you've tried to forget, I peed in a diaper without success. After posting about my misfortune, a friend suggested to me that next time I just try to pee in a cup. Well, kudos friend, I'll have you know that a cup works much better than a diaper! This, I believe, is progress. Things were looking up. 

We stopped later again to eat at a McDonalds with a Playland, figuring that Hadley would be okay without shoes there.

It was after the McDonalds stop when we stopped again to stretch our legs that our shoe-less curse struck again.

Justin: Where are Jack's shoes?

Me: Didn't you grab them? You carried him out to the car.

Justin: No! I told you to get them - I said, "I'm taking Jack to the car - Abbie grab the shoes."

Me: "No - you said, I'm taking Jack to the car - Abbie I have the shoes."

Fantastic. We now had two children who were on "vacation" without shoes. 

I felt like the damn Beverly Hillbillies. Probably time to class it up a little by peeing in another cup and stashing some liquor in the glove compartment. 
Worry not - A few miles down the road, we found a red dot sale and some shoes.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Party On!

Is it time for this already? Am I that old? Are they that old? Is it really time for me start caring for my crazy elderly parents? Correction - parent - singular.

Late Saturday night, I got a text from a friend with this picture.

Yep - that's my dad. Out on the town on a Saturday night. 

He's wearing goggles. In public. Not a public pool - just public. 

Well, party on Dad. Party On. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Compliment

Most of my Wal-Mart experiences have left me or my children with psychological scars, however this past trip was little different.

I drug the kids there, because I had run out of deoderant on the hottest day of the year. With threatening temperatures of 105, it wasn't the time to risk a bare armpit.

As I was nearing the checkout, I ran into a friend and stopped to chat. 

That's when a really incredible thing happened. A woman, who I did not know, (perhaps in her late 60s, early 70s), came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You look really nice." Then she walked away.

I was completely stunned. I think I muttered thank-you, but I can't be sure. It was a drive-by compliment.

I made my way through the check-out and then loaded my car while my head circulated a million question.

"Was she making fun of me?"

"Was she crazy?"

"Maybe she was senile?"

"Maybe she was blind?"

As all of these questions and doubts swirled about, I realized that perhaps I was the crazy one? Was it that hard for me to accept a compliment? No, it wasn't the compliment. It was the kindness that had me puzzled. 

Such kindness from an absolute stranger really just baffled me. It just seemed unbelievable that someone would go out of their way to make me feel good about myself. I found it remarkable - especially in Wal-Mart - a place where all decency is readily abananded. Can you imagine if everyone in Wal-Mart paid just one other person a compliment? It would be such a different place. 

So, well, kudos to the kind woman who managed to bring her humanity through the doors of Wal-Mart. 

Lady, you really got it going on. 


I later told Justin about my encounter.

ME: Some woman told me I looked nice at Wal-Mart.

JUSTIN: Did she have you confused with someone else?

ME: Nice. Don't you think it would be great if everyone in Wal-Mart paid just one other person a compliment? I think I should start a movement of sorts...

JUSTIN: HELL NO! I think that's the worst thing I've ever heard. I don't want anyone in Wal-Mart to talk to me. Ever.