Monday, December 12, 2011

For the Love of a Son

I spent the afternoon yesterday at my ex husband's house.  Okay.  Stop reading the line over and over again.  You heard what I said.  I spent the afternoon at my ex husband's house with our two boys, my new daughter, his step-daughter and wife.  I spent the afternoon at my ex husband's house and it was beautiful.

Beautiful--and I am not talking about the decor, although the cottage-like feel was warm and inviting, and the little touches and openness of design made it a welcoming place.  But that isn't the kind of beauty of which I speak.  The kind of beauty I experienced yesterday is hard to put into words, and yet I've been compelled to write about it since I arrived home.  And so, I will try to convey to you dear readers the mystical happening that took place for a brief moment in what sometimes has seemed to be a very long, arduous journey of a contentious, resentful and good old fashioned divorced couple.

Gannan's dog, Vixen, has a special place in his heart.  With all that he has been through, the poor decisions he's made, the animosity, the changes, the pushing of boundaries, that dog's love has been the one constant in his year of upheaval. Although he tries not to show it, Ganny's heart is full of that pooch.  When he comes home, after a brief kiss to his sister, he bee lines it to that black hair ball, lays down on the floor with her and...well...loves all over her.  His most treasured Christmas present from last year was a framed picture of Vixxy's face.  Back then moving to dad's house was still new and his conflicted feelings about it he wore like the buttons on the outside of his shirts.  I will never forget his face as the torn wrapping paper fell to the floor that morning.  The corners of his mouth turned down and his chin tightened.  He swallowed the boulder of emotion that instantly welled up in his throat and nodded a slight nod, as if it was just right.  It was clear at that moment that what he missed the most about our little house on Reservoir Dr. was that sweet, lovable dog.

That's why when Vixen's vet suggested that the fist-sized sore that wouldn't heal on her hip might be cancerous, I instantly worried about Ganny's reaction. Lately he has found a sort of rhythm in his life, a easy sort of groove that he's settled into.  It is clear it seems to me that he is beginning to mature.  While certainly not perfect, some of the "in-your-face" stuff, especially in school, seems to have dissipated.  (Anyone have any wood I can knock on?)  And so I didn't want Vixen's impending death to put a crater in the somewhat smooth road he'd been traveling down.  His father felt the same way and called me to express his concern.  I told him of our plans to put his dog to sleep if she indeed did have cancer, that we didn't want her to suffer.  He again expressed his worry in how that would affect Ganny.  Which, as Gannan's father, was of course expected.  But, I will tell you what he did next was completely and utterly UNexpected...The ex's step daughter, Ashley and her boyfriend, just happen to be newly graduated veterinarians, and he offered his step-daughter's of charge.

So that is how I found myself at his home yesterday afternoon.  Jeff was working.   Aidan helped me lift the feeble dog into my SUV, I strapped Ila into her car seat and admittedly, with trepidation, we were off.  I have mentioned in previous posts my fondness for my sons' stepmother, Jackie, and so it wasn't a surprise to see her kind face coming down the front steps and toward the car to welcome us.  Ganny came out with his step-sister, Dr. Ashley, and her boyfriend, Dr. James.  They immediately went to the rear of the car to retrieve Vixen.  She didn't come easily and I began to consider what I'd do with Ila while I tried to assist in getting the dog out of the car, but just as I was about to strap her back in the car seat, my ex husband came out to help.  He smiled cordially and went straight to the back, whispered sweetly to the dog and reached in to lift her out.  I suppose I stood there staring as someone does when looking upon a new sort of something never seen before.  I suppose that my face had that look many times over the next hour and half.

Ashley set up an area of plastic for Vixen to lay on and dove right into her very thorough work.  Gannan knelt by the dog's head, but it quickly became apparent that help would be needed to keep her still.  Since my job was to keep Ila busy in the small space and distracted from the distress her beloved dog was experiencing, I couldn't be the one to assist in steadying the dog.  (Not to mention that there isn't anyone as squeamish as me and being close to all the cutting and draining and shots and tissue sample removal would have had me fainting and retching all over.)

Once again, surprising me, my sons' father knelt along side of Gannan grasping Vixen firmly but lovingly and assured Gannan at the same time by smiling confidently.  But even that wasn't enough to keep the 80 pound black ball of hair still enough for Dr. Ashley to do the delicate cutting and snipping that she needed to do.  So true to her nature, Jackie joined in to lend her support.   They worked there, the four of them, for quite sometime.  Each gently soothing a very quiet Gannan every once in a while with a reassuring phrase or by telling a joke.  At one point, overwhelmed Gannan ran out the front door, leaving Jackie and Scott with the dog.  Aidan's instinct was to run after him, and just as I was about to tell him "no", Jackie said, "Let him be, Aidan.  When Gannan gets like this it is best to leave him alone."  She said just what I was about to say.  At that moment, my sons' father looked at Jackie in agreement, and I realized that they knew Gannan the way that I knew him, that they loved him the way that I loved him.  That all of this...they did FOR Gannan, and in that moment I experienced overwhelming emotion.  

After the major work was done on the dog, (it turned out to be an abscess not cancer...good news...but the draining and blood will be the death of this weak stomached woman), the boys got tired of holding onto her and so I knelt beside her (on the side without the blood...sheesh) while also trying to keep Ila away from the red river that was running  out of her opened wound.  Jackie did her best to entertain my daughter as well, but she was determined to hug and play with Vixen.  That is until the ex surprised me once again and came out with Natalie, their Teacup Yorkie, for Ila to play with.  Up until that point he had tried extremely hard not to be a casualty of Ila's sheer cuteness.  But it seems he had succumbed to it, even putting her on the kitchen counter to keep her away from Vixen and entertained.  From the living room, holding Vixen, I could see the three of them, Gannan, the ex and Ila enjoying one another and the tiny Teacup Yorkie in my daughter's lap.

Driving home (after the ex placed the dog into my car on a pillow and one of his sheets) it hit all hit me. The surrealism of it, what had just taken place was both cause for joy and massive guilt all rolled into one, and I cried.  I cried the cry of a mother, a mother who may not have always made the right choices when it came to her sons and their father, but one who finally got it.  I cried the cry of a woman who was reminded that the man who she created her two sons with may not be 100% the demon she had made him out to be in her mind perhaps to protect her from admitting her own wrong-doings.  I cried the cry of a mama who experienced for the first time in the 18 years what it felt like to work together with the father of her sons for the good of them.   I cried the cry of a mom who realized how many of those times had slipped through her fingers over the years.      I cried a good and healing cry.

This morning Gannan came to irrigate the cut on Vixen's hip and leg and afterwards I drove him to school.  "Mom, I feel so much better about Vixen," Gannan said relieved.  I answered, "Me too.  It looks like she'll be fine Gan."  And then, "Gan, what did you think about your father yesterday?"
   "What do you mean?"  he asked.
    "Well babe, if you know your dad, you have to be amazed that he dealt so well with all the blood on his floors and all that chaos.  I mean he even played with your little sister."
    "Yeah.  You are right.  He was great." he answered.
     "Do me a favor Gannan will you?  Your dad isn't perfect and lord knows neither am I.  But the next time you get mad at him try and remember what he did for you on Sunday.  Having me in his house, having the mess," (He can be a bit of a--shall we say--neat freak.) "all that chaos he doesn't do well with, but he did it for you.  Try and remember that the next time you get mad at him okay?"
   "Yeah.  Okay mom."  And then..."And mom, you do that too, okay?"  Mentally hanging my head, I replied, "I'll try Gan.  I'll try."

So that's it.  Yesterday I spent the afternoon at my ex husband's house, and it was beautiful.  That doesn't mean that all is forgotten.  It doesn't mean that all is forgiven.  It doesn't mean that I won't drive him crazy.  It doesn't mean that in the future he won't make me curse like a trucker.  What it does mean, is that I am capable, as is he, of parenting our children together...if we can only remember that we do it for the love of a son.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Hallow of Hell!

Before you read today's post, please put on your HAZMAT uniform.  After you read, please DECONTAMINATE and then leave a comment at the bottome of the post underneath the bio!  Oh1  And don't forget the clothespins for your'll need them!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Fantasize While.....Mothering (What did you naughty people THINK I was going to say?)

The other day I ran into an old friend. As we caught up, he and I lamented about the hardships of parenting as many parents do when they get together. I told him tales of my year. "Woe is me." I bemoaned. He told me tales of his year. "Woe is me." he bemoaned. "It's just a stage." he said sympathetically trying to soothe me. "At least he's happy." I said sympathetically trying to soothe him. Each of us knowing that words, although kind, would never be able to alleviate the pain that we both had experienced on account of and for our children over the past few months.

Then, suddenly and resolutely, my friend leaned forward and said, "You are going to think that I am such a wimp. But I am going to tell you this story anyway." I nodded indicating my readiness to listen. To protect his identity (as I didn't get permission to share the story) I will modify the scene he described, but tell you enough so that I can use it as the basis of this post. In a nutshell, when his children were young he built something for them with his own two hands. While building, he imagined all kinds of scenes of how the object would be used and treasured by his children. Alas, his children are now grown and no longer in need of the object, so a few months ago this father disassembled and discarded it. As he was telling this story he revealed that he wept as he took the childhood treasure apart. He wept, wept for the years gone by, wept for the end of an era, but also wept because some of those fantasies about his children that he built up in his mind as readily as he had constructed the childhood object, were now destroyed and in pieces as was the entity that he had just disassembled.

My eyes welled up as he recalled the moment, and the fact that he was a wimp was the farthest thing from my mind. Not a wimp. No. Nowhere near wimpy. He was a parent, as I am and so I understood. I understood. From the instant we meet our children in that stark hospital bed, we dream. We fantasize. We create lives for them, only the best. We imagine our children successful, happy, healthy, wealthy. We dream of the milestones; graduations, off to college, travel, incredible careers, engagements to wonderful partners, grand weddings, grandchildren....blissful fantastic lives (in that order preferably!) We have almost two decades to ponder over these fantasies, to make them bigger, more detailed, more life-like. So it is no surprise when these illusions (or DElusions) don't happen in the exact manner that we hoped for, or worse not in ANY manner that we imagined, it feels like a loss. Hey, we've dreamed these same dreams over and over for days and months and years on end. It stands to reason that we may need some time to adjust.

I am as guilty of this as any parent. For my certifiable genius, I dreamed of an Ivy League education, of discovering a cure for cancer, of contributing to world peace. For my world-class athlete with the infectious smile, I dreamed of the Olympics, of endorsements, of world records and a successful commentator career. And yet neither child has chosen the road I dreamed for them to take--neither child. For child number one, learning is a bore and if it isn't easy...forget it! For child number two, competition is too stressful, therefore he doesn't participate in a sport at all. For both I dreamed that they'd be the ultimate gentlemen carrying bags, opening doors, clearing tables without asking and just oozing respect for the opposite sex--not because it's cool to be romantic, not because chivalry isn't dead, but because respect for those you love is most important. And well...let's just say, they haven't arrived at that realization yet.

What parents forget sometimes is that those children of ours are living, breathing, and thinking. They aren't made of clay molded and shaped in the exact model we imagined. They have their own dreams and desires. They'll choose their own paths, their own styles, their own ways of living...even if it doesn't fit with what we dreamed and desired for them. Therefore I am convinced that it'd be less traumatic and jarring for us if we decided to not be so specific in the fantasies we have about our children. Instead, we'd be less let down if we dreamed simpler dreams for and of them. And so, on this leg of my motherhood journey, I will try to remind myself that instead of imagining that Ila grows up to be a multi-lingual ambassador for world peace, a trusted advisor to the Dalai Lama, or the next Kristin Chenowith (look her up,) I will try to dream that in the future she finds happiness, contentedness, and a pure satisfaction with who she has grown up to be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mama Grizzly (to quote a certain politician) had to be reigned in...otherwise there'd be a skinless waitress walking around. Hilltown Column is up today. Would LOVE comments. You'll find them after my bio on the page. Please share as a status if you find this week's column worthwhile.  Click the link below to be taken to the column! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Solitary Confinement

This week I am working diligently on a query for an agent possibly interested in a book about motherhood. And so, it seems to be a great week to bring out an oldy but a goody. This post resonated with so many moms, and I got bombarded with comments both private and public. Ultimately, in a society of mothers, our problems that take place in our families are ours alone. This is a small slice of what takes place in my house and leaves me feeling helpless. Please read and feel free to comment. Have you ever felt a solitary figure in a sea of mothers and advice? I am with you. Read on!

Lately, I am a lonely mother. I know--even in a world with millions of moms and mom-blogs and mom-circles and mom magazines, even though my closest confidants are parents: I am a solitary figure with solitary problems living in a deep dark solitary vacuum. What about those social networks you ask? Well, amongst 143 friends on my Facebook page only 20 of them aren't parents. (Mostly my former students, others who have made conscious choices NOT to be moms and dads, and one priest.) I suppose I could turn to the remaining 123 friends for parenting companionship and mutual begrudging, but somehow it feels fruitless.

It's a funk I'm in, and I'm not talking about James Brown and George Clinton. I am talking about one heck of a "woe-is-me-black-cloud-over-my-head" funkadelic funk. I just get tired sometimes. I mean, this mother is endless. I once read that women during the Salem Witch Trials would be subjected to something called "pressing" where rocks would be piled on the "witch's" chest one after the other until they confessed out of sheer panic of being crushed under their weight. I think my funk is due to a sort of emotional "pressing" where issue after issue has piled up crushing my mind. Trying to figure out solutions to all the problems that plague my children in various ways is exhausting. How to help one son find confidence and work to his potential, how to squelch one son's seemingly endless conceit, how to keep a son with stitches in tip top shape so he is able to keep up with the varsity cross country team that he has been asked to join, how to not throw one son over the South Glens Falls Bridge the next time he sasses...which will probably happen before I finish this next sentence... not to mention the constant refereeing that takes place every time the boys are in the same room together.

I know that every family has its own set of "stuff." I know I am not alone in that. But is there anyone else out there that just feels beaten every once in awhile from the never ending bag of do-do that seems to be thrown at us mothers constantly and consistently? Take last night for instance...

Aidan was at a party. His curfew is 11:30. But as 11:30 came and went, he didn't show. I texted him three times only for him to ignore them. I called his phone and the phone of the boy with whom he was supposed to get a ride, all to no avail. So at five after midnight, Aidan's step-father went to the house to get him. Ten minutes later as they arrived back at the house...all holy hell broke loose. Let me remind you it was 12:15 AM. But no matter. Aidan comes in to the house blustering about how unfair we are and how embarrassed he was. This blustering is done with Aidan's full voice which of course leads to his little brother waking up and coming out to see what all the fuss is. Once he realizes that his brother is in trouble, he begins to gloat openly. Saying things like, "Mom you won't be able to trust him anymore!" (Parroting a discussion that I had had earlier with Gannan who is the "great exaggerator.") He continues, "That is it! Right mom? No more parties for Aidan. That is what you'd do to me."

Aidan then becomes indignant and much louder at his brother's goading. I now have to deal with the curfew issue and the fighting issue. I send Gannan back to his room, where he waltzes down the hall singing "He's in truuuuubbbllle.. He's in truuuubbbllle" I turn to Aidan who now has slipped out of the kitchen and exits to his bedroom in the finished basement punctuating said move with a fierce slamming of the door. The slamming of the door (OF COURSE) wakes up the baby who begins to wail at the scary noise that jolted her out of her sound sleep. Predictably and understandably, my husband is livid at the commotion caused by my two boys who have now woken up his daughter. A commotion mind you that is still continuing. Gannan is taunting loudly from his bedroom. Aidan is blustering boisterously from his bedroom. Jeff is fuming in the living room. I am trying to sooth a ten month old who clearly would rather have her father-- indicated by a stiff back arch that keeps her as far away from me as humanly possible, the finger pointing to the closed door and the incessant "da da, da da, da da," that is coming from her quivering lips.

Her father, after trying to compose himself, finally comes into the baby's bedroom. She instantly stops the heavy heaving crying she has been doing with me I dare say it???? Well...she smiles...sigh. I leave daddy and daddy's girl to go back to the sanctuary of my bedroom-beaten and battered, angry and anxious, resentful and rageful. An hour later (that's 1:30 AM for those of you keeping a tally on the time) I am still feeling all of these things that come in the form of a mish-mashed rounded heavy ball in the pit of my stomach. If I could categorize the chunks that make up the spherical agony-it would be self-wallowing and jealousy due to the fact that Ila really and truly prefers her dad to me and an absolute fiery fury directed at the boys
who in their need to be contrary and ornery forget that their anger and contentiousness causes chaos and misery to innocent bystanders like a ten month old sleeping baby.

Around 2 AM desperately needing to sleep, I walked to the kitchen for a glass of milk hoping it would bring on the needed zzzzzzz's. I am incredulous at the quiet. Husband sound asleep on the couch in the living room. Ila tucked away in the corner of her crib. Aidan's basement teen palace dark and silent. Gannan's long legs hanging off the side of his bed in sleepy angles. Only me awake with my thoughts, awake with my anger and frustration. A solitary mother bathed in the light of the refrigerator.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Hey Everyone!  Just a quick note to share with you the good news!  Muddled Mother has been nominated for Best All Around Blog for's contest.  I am so excited about this!  Please help promote the blog by voting and sharing the link on your social media websites!  You can vote by clicking on the Parents button above this post.  If you aren't a registered member of the mag, then you'll have to do that first.  I know that is a pain, but please find time in your busy day to vote.  Spread the word!

Thanks so much for your loyal readership Mudders!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Column up Today.

I hadn't seen my son, Gannan, in over 5 weeks.  He had refused.  His year of rebellion still holding strong.  So it was a very big surprise when he called me up one day last week and asked if I'd take him to his brother's play.  Read about how I handled this first meeting by clicking the link below:


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Fantasize While---Mothering! (What did you Naughty People Think I Was Going to Say???)

The other day I ran into an old friend.  As we caught up, he and I lamented about the hardships of parenting as many parents do when they get together.  I told him tales of my year.  "Woe is me."  I bemoaned.  He told me tales of his year.  "Woe is me." he bemoaned.  "It's just a stage."  he said sympathetically trying to soothe me.  "At least he's happy."  I said sympathetically trying to soothe him.  Each of us knowing that words, although kind, would never be able to alleviate the pain that we both had experienced on account of and for our children over the past few months.

Then, suddenly and resolutely, my friend leaned forward and said, "You are going to think that I am such a wimp.  But I am going to tell you this story anyway."  I nodded indicating my readiness to listen.  To protect his identity (as I didn't get permission to share the story) I will modify the scene he described, but tell you enough so that I can use it as the basis of this post.  In a nutshell, when his children were young he built something for them with his own two hands.  While building, he imagined all kinds of scenes of how the object would be used and treasured by his children.  Alas, his children are now grown and no longer in need of the object, so a few months ago this father disassembled and discarded it.  As he was telling this story he revealed that he wept as he took the childhood treasure apart.  He wept, wept for the years gone by, wept for the end of an era, but also wept because some of those fantasies about his children that he built up in his mind as readily as he had constructed the childhood object, were now destroyed and in pieces as was the entity that he had just disassembled. 

My eyes welled up as he recalled the moment, and the fact that he was a wimp was the farthest thing from my mind. Not a wimp.  No.  Nowhere near wimpy.  He was a parent, as I am and so I understood.  I understood.  From the instant we meet our children in that stark hospital bed, we dream.  We fantasize.  We create lives for them, only the best.  We imagine our children successful, happy, healthy, wealthy.  We dream of the milestones; graduations, off to college, travel, incredible careers, engagements to wonderful partners, grand weddings, grandchildren....blissful fantastic lives (in that order preferably!) We have almost two decades to ponder over these fantasies, to make them bigger, more detailed, more life-like.  So it is no surprise when these illusions (or DElusions) don't happen in the exact manner that we hoped for, or worse not in ANY manner that we imagined, it feels like a loss.  Hey, we've dreamed these same dreams over and over for days and months and years on end.  It stands to reason that we may need some time to adjust.

I am as guilty of this as any parent.  For my certifiable genius, I dreamed of an Ivy League education, of discovering a cure for cancer, of contributing to world peace.  For my world-class athlete with the infectious smile, I dreamed of the Olympics, of endorsements, of world records and a successful commentator career. And yet neither child has chosen the road I dreamed for them to take--neither child.  For child number one, learning is a bore and if it isn't easy...forget it!  For child number two, competition is too stressful, therefore he doesn't participate in a sport at all.   For both I dreamed that they'd be the ultimate gentlemen carrying bags, opening doors, clearing tables without asking and just oozing respect for the opposite sex--not because it's cool to be romantic, not because chivalry isn't dead, but because respect for those you love is most important.  And well...let's just say, they haven't arrived at that realization yet.

What parents forget sometimes is that those children of ours are living, breathing, and thinking.  They aren't made of clay molded and shaped in the exact model we imagined.  They have their own dreams and desires.  They'll choose their own paths, their own styles, their own ways of living...even if it doesn't fit with what we dreamed and desired for them.  Therefore I am convinced that it'd be less traumatic and jarring for us if we decided to not be so specific in the fantasies we have about our children.  Instead, we'd be less let down if we dreamed simpler dreams for and of them.  And so, on this leg of my motherhood journey, I will try to remind myself that instead of imagining that Ila grows up to be a multi-lingual ambassador for world peace, a trusted advisor to the Dalai Lama, or the next Kristin Chenowith (look her up,) I will try to dream that in the future she finds happiness, contentedness, and a pure satisfaction with who she has grown up to be. 


Monday, July 11, 2011

A Muddled Mother Moment---#1

So Mudders there are times during the day that things happen to me and I think to myself  "Only my fellow Mudders would get this."  Today's moment was just one of those times.  And so, in response to my great need to tell this story to those who would understand and wince along with me in my deepest humiliation and pain, I decided to start a new feature on the Muddled Mother website.  This feature we are going to call "Muddled Moments."  Today will be installment number one.

So I hurt my back two days after school was out.  It was pretty bad as far as back problems go and  reluctantly I dragged my carcass to a chiropractor.  Much to my surprise and delight, let's just say that the moment I entered the office, I almost felt lucky to have back pain.  No, it wasn't the free lollipops on the counter or the fresh muzak pumping from the speakers.  It wasn't the air conditioning or the cheery receptionists behind the counter.  Nope, what made my first and subsequent appointments worthwhile was that Dr. Talldarkandhandsome would be working on me.  (Hey, I know.  I am married.  But there ANYONE of us who is dead??  We notice.  I mean...come on.  WE notice.  Yes...I am talking to YOU!)  Anyhoo...I thought to myself..."If I am going to have to endure this back pain..I might as well have a dreamy chiropractor to swoon over"

Today, (and if utter humiliation makes you  Run NOW! )  I had a late appointment.  Earlier I went to lunch with friends to a nice establishment.  I dressed for the occasion.  I put on my crisp cotton white skirt with blue flowers.  The shirt that I typically wear with it is a plain blue silk top with capped sleeves.  But it was a hot day, and silk and heat don't mix.  At least not with me.  On hot days, when I wear that top it always ends up getting sweat stains on the back or right along the bra line.  I am always painfully embarrassed when that happens and so I often wear my flesh colored granny girdle panties to soak up the sweat and keep it off my silk shirt.  Mudders, you know the ones I am talking about, the ones where the waist band settles right underneath your bust line.  The high-waisted spandex Spanx that gives your bum a lift and successfully tucks in all that stretched out gut-fat mommies get after having three or more children.  Yes....THOSE flesh colored granny girdle panties!  I know what you are thinking.  "Why doesn't she use powder or wear a tank to prevent sweat for soaking through her shirt?"  And I tried those things--Really!  I did.  But due to a certain medication I take for my heart, I tend to get REALLY sweaty especially on humid days.  And so, in order to wear that smart looking blue silk shirt, I had to resort to wearing the flesh colored granny girdle panties which tends to be a tad bit thicker and more absorbent than a tank and MUCH more effective than powder.  And...All right.  All right....those flesh colored granny girdle panties give me a freshly liposuctioned look as well...I'll admit it.  I just might wear them for THAT reason as well!

So, I've seen Dr. Talldarkandhandome several times.  Each time his routine has been the same.  Lay on my stomach-adjust.  Lay on my sides-adjust.  Lay on my back-adjust.  Finally, I sit in a and chair receive electrode therapy on my tight shoulder muscles.  Very simple.  Very predictable.  No need to disrobe like other doctors' offices.  Harmless.  Therefore right before my appointment this afternoon, when I had a fleeting thought that I should remove the flesh colored granny girdle panties that went up to my ample bust line laying flat underneath my bra, I reassured myself that the routine would disrobing or even a mere pulling up of a shirt had taken place and therefore...I. Was. Safe.

And by now, I am sure you can imagine Mudders that I wasn't safe.  I wasn't safe at all.  Not today.  Not ever again.  Nope.  Today, after I sauntered in with my crisp cotton white skirt and my blue silk shirt.  Today, after I smiled at Dr. Talldarkandhandsome while casually pulling my Jackie O sunglasses up to pull my tousled  hair back.  Today after, laying down on my stomach gracefully feeling oh-so-full-of-myself...Dr. Talldarkandhandsome, before I even knew what was happening, began to lift the bottom of my shirt up saying, "I'd like to do the electrode therapy on the base of your back."  I immediately panicked...I couldn't let him see my flesh colored granny girdle panti---too late.  "What the heck is going on here?"  Dr. Talldarkandhandsome exclaimed.  His hands fumbled around my back...trying to find an end to the "tank" that I must have had tucked into my crisp cotton white and blue flowered skirt.  "It's not a tank."  I said weakly.  "I'll help you."  Then I reached up and pulled at the waist that was lodged under my bra.  He pulled on it a bit and rolled the substantial amount of flesh colored spandex down..pulling and jarring so that he could place the electrode at the base of my back.  A warm surge of embarrassment washed over my entire body-head to toe.  "Oh.  I see."  was all that Dr. Talldarkandhandsome could utter, and then he quietly closed the door.

Dear Mudders, I could have crawled inside a hole inside a hole inside a hole and THAT wouldn't have been far enough.  I was purple.  I was mortified.  I was absolutely abashed.  Doing mental headslap after headslap after mental headslap.  Mudders, I don't let my husband see me in those flesh colored granny girdle panties...and yet...and yet...this beguiling Dr. Talldarkandhandsome had now seen my flesh colored secret and I-could-have-died-wished-I-died-hoped-I-die right there in his office before he returned.

On the drive home, I called one of my besties and fellow Muddled Mother to describe in detail the disgraceful tale. True to her nature (after all she has heard MANY "Logan Stories,") she laughed and soothed in a way that only a thirty year friend can.   How to redeem myself I pondered with her. Was there any possible way?  And dear Mudders, we found a solution.  Tomorrow I am taking myself to our local Victoria's Secret to buy myself a red that can peak out over my jeans or shorts or whatever I wear to the next appointment.  Yes...a red thong...I wonder how that will look with my mommy-gut?  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Getting Baby to Sleep OR A Play By Play Analysis of a Mother's Technique As Told By Jim Nantz (Golf Announcer Extraordinaire)


We're here in the bedroom of one Logan Fisher as she attempts to get her distraught 21 month old asleep.  Currently the toddler is not buying into the regular routine of singing and rocking.  Let's take a look at how Logan handles this setback.  Ahhh, it is the ol' warm milk routine I think.  Yes yes, we can see Logan sling Ila onto her hip and walk the long hall to the kitchen.  She is shushing and cooing and saying all the right things.  Listen.

"Shhhhh Ila.  It's ok.  Everyone is sleeping.  Daddy is sleeping.  Aidan is sleeping.   Elmo is sleeping.  You can have a drink and then Ila is going to go to sleep." 

Well folks, that diatribe seemed to work a bit, because the toddler has reduced her wailing to a slight whimper.  Logan's walking back to her bedroom now.  She sits in her rocking chair.  Her strategy seems to be to combine the regular routine, singing and rocking, with the warm milk.  Keep an eye out to see if this pays off.  

She's seems to be a rocking expert.  But when you've played in this arena for as long as Logan has we must consider her a pro.  That expertise seems to be paying  off.  As you can see, the toddler's eyes are drooping, pacifier is slipping out of her slacked jaw, a tad bit of drool is slipping from the corner of her mouth.  Yes, Ila's telltale twitches seems to be a sign that Logan has succeeded in getting her daughter to sleep.  

But anyone who has competed in this sport, anyone who has played this game knows that GETTING the toddler to sleep is just the first step.  What comes next is nearly impossible even for the most seasoned veteran; standing up, walking AND placing a toddler in her crib WITHOUT waking her up.  Let's see if Fisher is up to the task. 

She shifts her weight to tilt the rocker forward.  Her stance is wide as she uses every muscle in her legs to stand in order to keep her torso completely still so as to not jostle her daughter.  Uh oh, the baby is stirring.  Logan quickly places her hand upon the toddler's head and begins a rhythmic "shhhh shhhh sh. shhhh shhhhh sh."  It worked.  Ila's eyes are still closed.  It seems as if Logan dodged a bullet. 

Like many moms, Ms. Fisher uses the "purposeful walk" method to carry her daughter back to her room.  Her steps are deliberate but smooth.  The rhythmic shushing beats in time with her steps.  They are almost to the finish line.  All that is left is the tricky release of the toddler into her crib.   After taking a deep breath, Logan bends her waist over the side of the crib.  She stands on her toes so that she is able to lower the baby right to the mattress without a thump or bump or jiggle.  Here's where it gets tricky.  Logan must get her arm out from under the baby without the toddler noticing that the warmth and safety of her mother has suddenly disappeared. 

Ah...what a MOVE!  With her left hand, Logan presses Ila's stuffed lamb to her chest to replicate the pressure of being in her mother's arms all while slowly moving her right arm out from under the child.  First her elbow is visible, now her forearm.  Here comes her wrist and fingers.  Yes!  She's done it! The toddler is safely and contentedly in her crib.  Finally, we see a smile of triumph on Logan's face as she turns and.....OH NO!  The dreaded loose and creaky floor board!  How could she have forgotten?  Logan puts her head down.  Her fists clench at her side.  She holds her breath and waits.  The baby stirs.  Yes, she is rolling over now.   Her head pops up....and here comes the wailing!  Score one for the toddler.  

Dejected, Logan sits on the floor next to the crib.  She reaches in and absentmindedly pats her daughter's back.  She looks exhausted, defeated, discouraged.    I have a feeling that she'll be sitting in this position for awhile.  Not much to see here folks.  I'm afraid that the rest of the broadcast would be quite boring, but luckily thanks to "bloggervision science" we have the capability for the first time ever to be able to hear a mother's thoughts, actually read her mind.  I dare say this ought to be entertaining.  Let's listen in. 

"Thank God we put this bean bag in Ila's room.  At least I can lean against it while I try to get her back to sleep.  I wonder if I just lay down on it and keep my hand on her back  that will be enough for her stay calm.   Just move slowly Logan.  No sudden loud noises. Ahhhhh...sweet victory.   Why is it that I am sitting in this room while everyone else is sleeping?  After all I am the one who has to get up in the morning.  Is it irrational of me to feel pissed that my hubby gets to sleep soundly while I sit on this floor trying to get HIS daughter to sleep?  Ok ok....OUR daughter.  But hey...if I am up he should be.  What is that saying...if mama ain't happy....well you know the rest.  I know.  I know.  These are really pissy thoughts.  It's just that I am in desperate need of sleep.  

Speaking of sleeping, let's see if my little one has finally fallen into a deep enough sleep that I can try to escape.  I'll just slowly remove my hand.  Slowly....slowly lifting.  Sh!#!!  Crying again.  Good lord will I ever get to sleep?  Ok...I'll try the shushing again.  Awwww.  She really is so cute.  How can I resist that sweet little voice saying 'mommy' the way she just did.  It really is an amazing feeling being needed as much as she seems to need me.   Now Logan...don't get sucked in by her cuteness.  She needs to learn to sleep on her own.  Awwww but one night of me putting her to sleep won't hurt her.........Or will it?  Am I setting her up for failure by being in here tonight?  What if I am setting a precedence and she now thinks that mommy shushing her to sleep on the floor next to her crib is the only way she'll sleep.  Do I really want to do this nightly.  I mean the bean bag is good for a short time but, my a$$ is killing me right now.  I don't know how anyone could sleep on a floor.   Give me a four star bedroom and high count linens any day.  Okay, I am getting loopy.  It is time for her to sleep on her own." 

(Jim Nantz whispering again.)  Ehem....quite the busy mind that Fisher has....let's watch as she tries once again to make her final move and leave her toddler's room.  Rolling adeptly to avoid the squeaky floor board, Logan gets to her knees while continuously shushing.  She's on her feet now and backing out of the room at a turtle's pace.  Her shushing gets quieter as she gets closer to the door.  With her hand on the knob, she stops the shushing all together.  This is the moment of truth.  Will Ila stay asleep or will she immediately wake due to the sudden silence.  Silently craning her neck, Logan watches her toddler.  Her eyes squeezed, eyebrows raised, mouth pursed, her face oozing hope and need.  She remains in this stance for ten seconds, twenty seconds.  

Ah yes, relief!!   Logan's shoulders lower.  Her hand turns the knob.  She tiptoes through the doorway to the hallway of freedom. Triumph was a hard fight tonight.   Rolling her neck, she pumps her fist into the air, bows to an imaginary audience and heads to bed for a well deserved sleep.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Six Word Memoirs So Bleepin Fun!

The following post was written for Mama Kat's Pretty Much Famous Writing Workshop. The prompt this week was to write a six word memoir...but you all know how wordy I am.  I couldn't just do I'll just say several.  I had a blast doing this!  Do me a favor, leave me your six word memoir as a comment!  I'd LOVE to read them!

Her smile illuminates my darkest corners. 
Slamming doors rolling eyes everyday occurrences.

My heart went with my son.

My best sometimes is not enough.

I'm an irritation to my oldest.

Determination drives even my worst days.

Muscle fatigue but holding her--magnificent. 

This mom often needs patience lessons. 

Family, friends, work, write...blessed life.  

Okay YOU try it.  Leave me a six word memoir by commenting below!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Monkey Hear-Monkey Say: An Apology to My Husband

My toddler has developed this endearing habit in which she poses a question, (Apple juice please?) and then answers it before the adults in charge do with a very emphatic "SURE."  Trust me when I say that this has to be the cutest utterance in the universe.  "Read a book please?  SURE."  "Go outside?  SURE."  "Kiss the boo boo.  SURE."  What made it uber adorable was the fact that this 20 month old knew the word "sure."  The first time she uttered it, my husband and I looked at each other and marveled, "Where in the world did she come up with THAT one?"  We figured it'd be just one of those mysteries of toddler-dom.  That is, however, until I spent the entire weekend with her--just me and Ila all day Saturday and all day Sunday.  It was during this time while making Ila's lunch that she asked for a pepper and I in a very familiar sing-songy tone answered, "SURE."  The exact nature of the answer stopped me in my tracks.  The way my voice sounded was PRECISELY the way that Ila had been saying it, and I knew at that moment that she had not only picked up the word from me but the tone as well.

Okay, I know.  This isn't earth shaking.  Every parent knows that small children will do as you do, think as you think, act as you act, and speak as you speak.  We all KNOW that.  I KNOW that.  But knowing and being cognitively aware of that fact are two different things, as I learned this past week. 

After this occurrence, I vowed to be ever present in the knowledge that Ila will most definitely pick up things from my behavior; the good, the bad, and the very very ugly.  At the same moment that I made this promise to myself, it dawned on my that I HADN'T been cognitively aware, I HADN'T been PRESENT in what I said, what I did and the way I acted when raising my boys...the boys who are now 14 and 17...and have some pretty bad habits when it comes to the way they talk-- ESPECIALLY to their step-father.  Was I partly responsible for this?

Since Gannan has moved out, this lack of respect for his step-father has seemed to change a tad.  (Absence DOES make the heart grow fonder, perhaps?)  But for Aidan, over the past couple of years, the disregard for Jeff, the animosity he harbors, to put it bluntly, the way he treats Jeff (and sometimes me) goes beyond  basic teen sassiness.  His voice can be cutting, down right abusive at times.  He name calls.  He bellows.  He slams.  If questions don't get answered the way he wishes, he snaps.  If he is spoken to at what he deems an inappropriate moment (which, by the way, is every moment of the day) he snipes.  Jeff just simply call his name, and that tone--oh that tone--dripping with sarcasm and irritation rises up out of the teen palace and slaps Jeffrey in the face. My oldest sometimes speaks to Jeff as if his very existence on this Earth annoys every fiber of his being.

Now I am not saying that my oldest shoulders all the blame.  Some of it is due to those raging hormones.  Some of it is due to some poor choices that his step-father made over the years that caused Aidan to lose some of that respect for him.  Some of it is due to mimicking the behavior of OTHER adults in his life, and some of Aidan's behavior stems from the fact that Jeff and he are like fire and ice, oil and water, sardines and ice cream or any other combination that you can think of that just simply doesn't mix well.  However, dear readers, after my discovery this past weekend and my vow of cognition, I started to question if his lack of respect for Jeff had ANYTHING to do with me.

So I set out this week to watch myself closely, to listen carefully to the utterances that left my lips only to torpedo through the air toward Jeff passing through my sons' (and daughter's) ears on the way. And...dear Mudders, can I admit to you that what I heard and witnessed makes me so ashamed of myself?  Let me first preface this with the good news:  I didn't call names. I wasn't abusive.  I didn't slam., and I didn't bellow. (Okay I USED to bellow but for several years have curbed this nasty mommy habit.)  But, dear readers I sniped.  I snapped.  My tone--oh my tone--when speaking to Jeff, it sometimes dripped with slicing sarcasm.  Irritation occasionally poured out of every pore.  And, yes, sadly, sometimes when I spoke to Jeffrey it was like his very existence on this Earth annoyed every fiber of me.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Aidan's tone--oh that tone--is my tone, and I am ashamed.

And so Mudders, this week's blog is meant to represent an apology--no no--to represent apologies.  First, to say to my husband how sorry I am that during moments of frustration or disagreements that I didn't treat him with the dignity that he so immensely deserves.  "My dear you are a human being not a pin cushion.  I am heavyhearted that I sometimes forget that." Secondly, I need to apologize to my sons.  I didn't always model for you how necessary it is to be reverent to all who dwell on this planet, especially loved ones. For that I am truly sorry.  But with this apology, oh sons of mine, comes an urgent plea: to not do as I did, to not say as I said, but to join me in trying to be more aware of how we speak to one another.  Habits are not so easily broken, and so, I will gently remind you to speak with reverence.  I hope you will remind me as well.

Now I ask you  my dear husband and sons,  in the way that our sweet Ila would ask, "Apology accepted?  SURE!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Caution: Prom Can Alter Your Destiny!

 He'll dress in a charcoal gray Calvin Klein tux.  He'll put a wristlet on his sweetheart.  He'll smile for a million and one photos.  He'll stay out all night at an After-Prom party hosted by his high school.  He'll dance and laugh and eat and, yes, he'll probably even smooch his girl.  He'll do everything that all other juniors do to enjoy and experience I did.  But for the last 25 years, (ugh...really--a quarter of a century?) prom meant more to me than its pomp and pageantry.   For 25 years, I have always equated prom to questions and quandaries, to mistakes and miscommunication, to poor choices and paths.

Paths.  So many are available to us when we are young and the world is open.  Author, Steven Redhead, once said "The paths we choose will make us what we are.  There are endless opportunities for change and to alter our course or path through life.  A split second decision can change the course of your life completely, forever."   Paths.  Life's paths--discussed in books and movies alike.  Who could forget Gwenyth Paltrow in that thought provoking existential film, "Sliding Doors?" (If you haven't seen it, stop reading RIGHT NOW and click on your Netfllix icon and order that baby tout suite!  It is a must see!)  In it, Helen, the protagonist, lives two lives simultaneously.  One in which she jumps on a subway home just in time.  The other, in which, she misses the subway.  Fate, destiny, chance and choice intertwine as Helen's two lives unfold.  The audience takes part in a "what if" compare and contrast game that is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Dr. Phil calls these paths "turning points;" moments in our lives when we clearly had choices and those choices directed our destinies in unexpected ways.  He claims that when thinking back most middle aged humans can pinpoint at least 6 of these occurrences in which we traveled down a figurative road when there were oodles of other streets we ALSO could have taken.

For me, when I mine my messy, sometimes maniacal memories, the first turning point, (perhaps the ROOT of all other turning points, ) happened 25 years ago on prom night.  The choice of course was due, in part, to a boy...(after all, what OTHER pressing issues do teenage girls pay attention to?)  It was also made out of spite and feelings of rejection and unwant.  The path taken was clouded by teen angst and heartbreak and the utter DRAMA of being a girl.  But no matter the reasons (so clearly seen today as a 41 year old,) the choice was date a boy that I'd never even noticed or remotely liked-all in the hopes of making another boy jealous.  I am not sure that I ever got the response I wanted from that boy, but the world kept turning and my stubbornness made me trudge down that brambly path I had chosen come Hell or high water.

Sounds like regret doesn't it?  Funny thing there is so much I DON'T regret about that infamous prom path. But that's the thing about choices--they send you down a road that can be full of craters, but also brimming with gorgeous scenery and stops that you wouldn't change for the world.  You see, I ended up marrying that "revenge choice" a few years later.  And while THAT was no picnic, the two sons that came out of that marriage were, I am sure, the reasons for the prom path.  If I hadn't made that choice, I wouldn't have them.  They wouldn't exist.  And while I lament them and their choices quite often here on this blog, I can say with the utmost assurance that life without those two little guys would be empty.  Furthermore, who I am today is in part due to the craters that tripped me up down that particular road.  While traveling that path I learned that I was strong and resilient.  I grew to be self-sufficient.  I learned what is was that I did and did not want out of life.  To put it mildly, I am a different and much more evolved human because I took a path that wasn't necessarily the best one to choose.  So it leaves me questioning?  If it molds and shapes who we are, can there ever REALLY be a poor choice or a bad life path to saunter down?

And so...and so...after journeying down this existential road with you dear Mudders, what can we take from it so that we can impart some wisdom to the children we so love and adore?  Well, we could tell them that choices no matter good or bad, smart or dumb, whether conscious or unconscious will shape their lives in ways that they could never foresee.  We can also teach them that choices will present themselves whether significant or slight all the days of their lives, and when they can, they should try and be present and aware of the possible outcomes when making decisions.  But perhaps most importantly, dear Mudders,  we should let them know that making choices, choosing paths takes forethought and insight, and that with any choice comes a chance for growth and developing a sort of stamina necessary to take us down the next path.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Talking to Your Children About bin Ladin's Death

Mark Twain once said "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure."  It is in that same venue that I write today.  It is an odd feeling isn't it??  Being glad. Rejoicing over someone's death.  Last night, my husband, my seventeen year old and I sat riveted to the television breathing in each word that our President intelligently and gracefully, firmly let flow.  My initial reaction was to clap.  To cheer.  To dance a jig right there in our bedroom. To help organize a parade or a national holiday.  We let out a "whoop!" Jeff and I high-fived each other and I exclaimed, over and over "Obama got Osama!  Obama got Osama!"  Then I noticed, my 17 year old out of the corner of his eye sizing up our reactions, and I was ashamed.  I was sheepish.  Aren't I supposed to be setting an example.  I definitely wasn't doing a good job, was I?  And so I quelled my response.  I subdued my feelings of elation, and rationally began the process of parental thinking.  How must this look to my son?  After all, he was a mere 7 when Bin Ladin's horrific murderous rant occured. He is of course aware of the tragedy.  Several times we've taken our boys to the site, to remember, to give them a sense of history--of patriotism.  But still, to him, it was something that happened once upon a time.  Could he possibly grasp the notion that on the rarest of rare occasion it is more than just all right to take refuge and solace, heck to celebrate like Hell, the demise of evil. Or was it?  My feelings on the topic are definitely...well...dare I say...MUDDLED.

And so...true to my busy mind that sometimes doesn't let me sleep at night with it's constant ruminating, I wondered wide awake what were the lessons that I COULD teach my children about Bin Ladin's death, about the joy people felt, about terrorism, about healing.  By morning, this is what I came up with: 

1.  Patriotism: Watching the throngs of people gather outside the gates of the White House, hearing them sing the National Anthem, listening to the boisterous chants of U.S.A!  U.S.A! gives parents a golden opportunity on a silver platter.  Those images are a sure fire way to teach your children that no matter who we are, what we believe in, or where we stand on issues--we are one country.  We are a country of people who, when the going gets tough, unite to sing the praises of our similarities.  Our commonalities that we believe in, we love and we will fight for our beloved America and its citizens.

2.  Empathy: Let's face it the world is wide but it is a rare child whose viewpoint isn't narrow--based purely on a lack of chances they get to experience that there are others...others who make up the fabric of human kind.  Here is a chance for us to teach our daughters and sons that this man's death provides us an opportunity to think about, to consider the thousands and thousands of family members who had their loved ones stolen from them some ten years ago.  It is a chance for us to help our kids "put themselves in someone else's shoes."  Even the youngest of minds can imagine what it would be like to not  have a daddy or mommy. Teaching our children the art of understanding, the art of TRULY feeling for their fellow humans is an invaluable tool if we ever want to move towards a more utopic society.  Talking about, praying for, remembering those Americans who suffered the loss of someone they loved because of Bin Ladin's evil would be a great place to start.

3. Perseverance Pays  Injustice and evil are inevitable parts of life.  Learning this the hard way is an unfortunate part of growing up. I say, that this life loop hole shouldn't come as surprise to children.  Bad things happen.  I think that it is okay, even necessary, to help our sons and daughters develop an awareness of that as soon as they can.  Part of that teaching, especially in the context of THIS conversation, should be that quite often perseverance and patience will pay off in the long run, and can combat the forces of evil.  In this case it was our brave soldiers and the extraordinary brains of many who over the course of 8 months planned and replanned and gathered intelligence in order to someday reach their goal. 

4.  Hatred Ultimately Destroys It's Host George Washington Carver once said that hatred eventually destroys the hater.  Never has there been a clearer example of this quote than Osama bin Ladin.  The measures that the man took to destroy those that were the objects of his hatred eventually led to his demise.  As parents, this moment in history is as good as any to teach our littlest family members that love gets so much more accomplished than hate.  That treating others...ALL others...with dignity and respect should be a daily affirmation because it is right and good not only for the person receiving the kindness but for the giver. 

5.  Dialogue=Intelligence In light of bin Ladin's death there is bound to be an upswing in those horrific images of 9/11.  It is impossible to shield our children from all those violent images.  So use it for good.  Teach them of the great orators and peaceable humans throughout history.  Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Susan B. Anthony are fantastic personalities that we should use to counteract the idea that violent aggression and war are the ways to get things done.  We could even practice the art of polite negotiation at home. 
"Mom, I want a cookie." 
"Well dear it is 10 minutes until dinner.  You can have some cucumbers."
"Mom, I am not in the mood for cucumbers.  Can I have cheese?"
"Cheese it is!"

The most important message we as parents should emphasize to our children no matter the age is that the grown-ups in their various roles are in charge and that they are safe.  No, we can't REALLY say that with 100% certainty, but children are about absolutes, about black and white, about right and wrong.  Remember when life was that simple?  Remember when fairy tales endings were not only possibilities, but the norm?  Although that feeling is a rarity in adulthood, yesterday we were reminded what it was like when the dragon is slayed and the princess saved.  We were reminded of witches dying because of flying houses, of evil wizards being defeated, of a magical ring finding it's rightful place.  Yesterday, the good guys won and the bad guys lost.  Yesterday was a good day.   

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter with Toddlers. Bah! Humbug!

"She's 19 months old.  Does she really need an Easter basket?  I bought her a new rubber ducky (an obsession of hers) in the shape of a bunny in a basket.  I'll just give it to her when she takes a bath.  She'll love it.  An egg hunt?  Ummm, I am not sure she'll get the concept.  Besides, she isn't old enough for candy and she will just try and eat any coins we put in the eggs.  Why bother?"

Did you hear that?  Did you hear that ginormous hiss of air?  It was the collective gasps of mommies all over the world.  No Easter basket?  No egg hunt?  What kind of mom does that?

My husband would agree with all of those tsk-tsk-tsking mamas, because when I verbalized the above paragraph a day before Easter he looked at me as if I had 17 heads. I know you can't see me, but let me assure you that I don't have 17 heads.  However what I DO have is 17 past Easter experiences with my two children from a previous marriage.  And here's the thing, I have learned a LOT about parenting during those 17 years and I plan on using that knowledge to my advantage this time around. 

One thing I have learned is that when you have little ones, I mean REALLY little ones, say one or two or even close to three, they don't expect visits from magical, mystical, made-up bunnies.  They don't know about the colored eggs that get hunted on this particular Sunday.  They couldn't possibly understand the depth of the reason for the holiday.  They don't even know that Easter is a special day.  To a toddler a day is a day is a day is a day.

So why do we do it? 

Could it be, perhaps, we do it for us because of some strange idea of "must-do's" and "have-to's"  That feeling that as parents we're "supposed" to provide these experiences to even the youngest of our children.  When we're childless, moving towards that urge to procreate, these holiday scenes were what we conjured and imagined.  Sons in caps, plaids, and knickers and daughters in frills and pantaloons or those stockings with the ruffles on their bums, and of course a pair of patent leather Mary Janes.  In our holiday scenarios the kids blissfully tiptoe through a well landscaped yard with daffodils blooming finding hand painted eggs nesting in freshly cut grass. They set them in baskets trimmed with ribbons and lace and at the end of the hunt nibble delicately on a little jelly bean or a chocolate bunny's ear.  But mommies and daddies of toddlers know that isn't how it ever goes.  Ever.

As parents of toddlers, the pomp and circumstance never goes the way we dreamed.  The themed baskets that we worked hours on don't get a second glance or instantly get dumped upside down to the squeals and peels of toddler belly laughs. The Easter egg hunts end in melt downs or never happen at all due to a lack of interest or a lack of understanding the "hide and go seek" concept.  Despite our falsetto exclamations, ("OH MY!  Look at what the Easter Bunny left you!  Do you see those eggs behind the shrubs?  Listen!  Is there something IN the egg?  OH OH!  What do I hear?  What could it BE??") the toddler walks away to pet the dog or becomes engrossed in a blade of green grass that bends and tickles his or her ankle.     We spare them dyes and sugar on a daily basis yet we ply them with both on a particular Sunday morning called Easter, and then wonder out loud why they won't sit still and enjoy the Easter dinner that we spent the entire afternoon preparing. You know what I'm talking about.  Toddlers couldn't care less about the rituals that families carry on to honor their holidays.

But as first time parents, whether young or old, we indulge our mommy and daddy fantasies--trying to play out those idyllic situations.  And true to that, my husband,a first time daddy, in spite of my protests, insisted that our 19 month old daughter go on an egg hunt--filling a half dozen of plastic pink, yellow, orange store bought eggs with fancy stickers.  He insisted on the basket with the shredded poly fibrous green grass.  As I placed the rubber duck, book and marshmallow chick lollipop (bought...again after my husband insisted, and I quote, "It wouldn't be Easter without some kind of candy!" ) in the basket, hubby sighed wistfully and asked if there was a way we could, ehem, "jazz it up and make the basket pretty."  I told him that she wouldn't notice whether or not the basket was, um, jazzy or not.

And true to a toddler's nature, Ila woke up from her nap to a giant basket on the dining room table.  She took one look at the new rubber ducky sitting in the "unjazzy" basket, grabbed hold of it and immediately got down to play with it.  My husband, feeling a bit queasy at the slightest hint that the fantasy may not go his way, tried to engage her by oooing and ahhing over the other items in the basket, but she wasn't having any of it.  Feeling sorry at the dejection I witnessed take over my husband indicated by his slightly slumping shoulders, I took our daughter into the living room (and using my best falsetto voice) I said, "OOOO, Ila.  What do I see?  Did the Easter Bunny hide some eggs for you?  Look here!  Next to the TV!  Why I think there is an egg back there!  What do you think the Easter Bunny put IN these eggs he hid?"  But Ila didn't answer.  She was too busy spinning round and round watching her fancy dress billow out so that we could all see her fancy stockings with the ruffle on her bum.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Can't Fix It

Mothers carry all kinds of remedies in the bottom of their purse.  Bandaids for boo boos.  Life Savers for a cough.  Chap Stick for dry lips.  Wet Ones for dirty faces.  Safety pins to keep buttonless pants closed.  A comb for unruly hair. Soda crackers for rumbly tummies. Even a favorite toy to counteract a tantrum.  Being able to fix what ails our children is a big part of who we are, a large part of our identity.

But I can't fix this.  I can't, and I am so angry.   The rage I feel is all powerful and it could eat me alive if I let it.  What was once diagnosed as torticollis, a simple not-so-threatening neck tilt, has now turned into a full blown rare neurological movement disorder.  My Ila.  My beautiful happy, determined, funny, head strong Ila has a movement disorder that has perplexed my pediatrician and a well-known pediatric neurologist at UVM.

And you know what makes this worse??  What makes this whole thing worse is that the doctor that could possibly diagnose Ila can't see her until July.  July?  Really?  July.  Really?  Really?  I don't know about anyone else but the thought of not knowing definitively until July what is exactly wrong with my daughter is just placing agony on top of excruciating agony.  How can a parent move forward.  How can I make a plan to get her the help that she so desperately needs if I can't get answers.  I can't fix this, but I need to do something.  Without knowledge or a label where do I begin?

(If you aren't in the mood for a stark-raving mad rant, this is where I'd get off this blog ride if I were you.  Otherwise buckle your seat belts.) 

To the doctors of the world:  Please know this: if you are in the business of giving really bad news to parents about their children you must be cognizant that even the brightest of humans need to process information before they can begin to ask pertinent questions, before they can begin evaluating if they want specific procedures, before they can minimally advocate for their beloved child.  And yet....And yet...after the appointment where you drop a bomb in the parents' lap, you are impossible to reach.  When we finally wrap our minds around what you have said to us, we of course have questions.  We begin to rethink agreeing with you on this or that.  We become this rolling, smoking steam locomotive that barrels down the advocacy track.  And yet...and are inexplicably impossible to connect with.  We talk to secretaries and nurses and voice mail machines.  We email and pray and feel the deafening silence of the unringing phone, of the empty email box as if it were a heart attack.  Each day that slips by without answers, without reassurance, without tests and most of all without plans is a day that we feel we lose precious time that we could have been using to help our child someway, somehow. Dear doctors of the world, busy as you are, it is imperative that you take a moment to realize that these patients of yours are the daughters and sons of parents who want to fix what ails them.  Without you, without your availability--we can't.  I can't.   I can't fix it.

OK, so after rereading that rant I may have generalized a tad.  Not all doctors, of course, are that way.  Why just this evening Ila's sweet pediatrician called me to answer some of my more pressing questions, but ONLY because the "specialists" didn't return phone calls, didn't answer emails.  Does there REALLY have to be a correlation between the amount of knowledge a physician has and a lack of availability? It seems to me that it SHOULD be the other way around.  The more a doctor knows the more he or she makes herself available to the neediest patients and their families.

The best doctors available for the hardest cases in the quickest possible time-in a perfect world this is how it'd be.  But unfortunately the world is far from perfect.  It is a place where beautiful little girls face daunting challenges.  It is a place where parents who live solely to give their children what they need run into brick wall after brick wall when trying to do so.  It is a place where sometimes, it seems that sadness reigns supreme.  The world is far from perfect.  In fact, it often seems to be broken, and...I can't fix it.


Friday, April 8, 2011

A Death in the Family

 Can't believe it has been a year.  In honor of our sweet Rudy, a re-post.  

It is bleak in our house today.  Black and somber.  Our eyes are red from the crying that comes spontaneously and without warning.   Like right now as I write this.  You see, our beloved dog, Rudy, had to be put to sleep.  He had stopped moving, stopped caring. In the last few months he seemed to go from "old" to "ancient."

The grief is heavy and comes from so many different places.  As a human, the most basic part of the grief, for me, comes from my love of the dog.  It seems he has always been here, sitting at our feet when we despaired, wiggling his entire being when we were joyous.  But it was his old-man like wisdom that I think I will miss the most.  He just knew...he just knew.  For instance, last summer I was massively pregnant and on bed rest.  There was major construction going on in our house so I had to stay in our claustrophobic master bedroom for days on end.  Bathroom, bedroom, bathroom bedroom, until I thought I'd go stir crazy.  One particular day when I was feeling completely miserable, depressed and very lonely, my bedroom door opened a crack.  I was astonished to see Rudy's head peak around the corner.  He wasn't allowed in our bedroom typically and after living with us for 12 years, rarely even ventured down the hall.  But there he was sitting at the foot of my bed.  Even more astonishing was what happened next.   Despite his arthritic legs and cloudy eyes, Rudy found the energy to bound puppy-like up on to the bed with me.  He nuzzled my chest, harrumphed and sneezed, and didn't leave my side for two days.  He knew.  He just knew.  I needed company and company was what he gave.  The absence of that wisdom, that loyalty, leaves a hole in my heart.

As our day of grieving wore on I found that like the grass, topsoil and sediment dug up in our backyard to make Rudy's final resting place, my grief had layers.  It seemed the deeper the layer the more pain it held, the kind of pain only a parent could identify with.  Worse than the mourning I felt for the death of the dog,  the deeper layers housed the anguish for the devastation that my family was feeling.   As a wife, the mixture of pride and sadness that I have for Jeffrey leaves an incurable ache in my stomach.  Watching him pretend to be strong as he led his precious Rudy to the car for his last ride, seeing him carry Rudy wrapped in the blanket to his grave in our backyard, witnessing him break down as he recalled the moment that Rudy died in his arms-well to put it simply-put a crack in my heart.

But the deepest layer, the worst part of today, tomorrow, perhaps for the long run, was seeing my boys, those macho-never-cry little guys fall apart at the seams.  True to their differences, the way they grieve is night and day.  Aidan cried easily, but rationalized.  He said late last night, "It would be cruel to let him suffer."  His anguish was on the surface and consistent.  In spite of his pain, he was able to think of others as well.   As much as it hurt him, he stood by his step-father's side as he buried Rudy, the dog that bonded them in the beginning of their relationship.  Gannan, on the other hand, had been quiet, absolutely silent since he found out that Rudy would be leaving us.  It wasn't until just before Jeff took him to the vet's that he broke down.  He wailed, begged us not to take him away. His own agony was too much for him to take.  He painfully lamented that he'd never be able to play in the backyard again knowing that Rudy's grave was there.  But in the end, before our dog was buried, Gannan brought his prize possession to me, a second place ribbon that he won at the largest cross country event he ran in this fall.  He said he wanted Rudy to have it, to remember the running they did.  It was at that moment, that my heart gave out under the weight of the grief and instead of a simple crack, it broke into a million pieces.
A very smart, but anonymous person once said, "A mother is a bank where we deposit all our hurts and worries."  Today the mom-account was filled.  Today I found out what all mothers eventually come to know:  when bad things happen, mothers not only have to be able to shoulder their own grief, but they will need to muster extra strength to carry around the sadness that comes from watching their families grieve as well.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ode To Weary Moms of Teens

  The Woes of a Mother with Teenagers
Rolling eyes
And a slamming door
What used to be fun is such a bore.

“Love you mom”
 said once a year
But “Whatever mom!” is loud and clear.

It doesn’t seem possible
                                           That someone could stay
                                               Grumpy and grouchy all week and all day

But my teenage sons
Would find something to bash
Even if handed some serious cash.

It starts in the morning
The teen age huff
In a rage as they leave the car with their stuff.

The auto door clunks
And I feel like a fool
‘cause only the air hears my “Do well in school!”

I remind myself
Every minute after minute
A teen’s mind is full of hormones in it.

The hormones coursing
Makes them irrational--crazy
Unpredictable, surly and of course—plain LAZY

And OH how they eat
Those teen boys of mine.
On the food in the cupboards they constantly dine!
Grocery bills sky high
Pantry full of chips, soda, sweets
Yet daily we hear, “There’s nothing to eat!”

Homework?  Who Cares!
As my boys would surely say
Xbox is important and it gets in the way.

Cleaning done blindly
Overlooking the squalor
Exclaiming, “I’ll do it, if you give me a dollar!”

Relief? Is it coming?
Is it just down the road?
‘Cause the constant worry, I’ll admit is a load.

Life shouldn’t be rushed.
But I’m afraid I’ll erupt!
So adulthood where are you?  Please hurry up!

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to be Hercules!

When we were teens, he was wise beyond his years, hilarious in a Robin Williams-esque manner, and I was totally crushin' on his cosmic intelligence.  Back then it was apparent, even to my shallow teenage mind, that he was a "girl's" guy.  One who GOT our gender and appreciated what made us--well--us.  Last year, through the magic of Facebook, we reconnected and he didn't disappoint.  Now, an assistant professor of cognitive science at Carleton University and the director of the Science of Imagination Laboratory, he was one of the first to encourage me to keep at my fledgling blog.  Through our limited conversations, his various status updates that gushed about his equally talented wife, and comments on my blog, it was infinitely clear that he still is THAT guy who is a lover of women, especially when one day after he read my A Reminder To Move post, he left this comment: "When I have children, I want my wife to be fulfilled.  How much can a husband do to facilitate this?  If a husband gives his wife a whole day, or a weekend, or one night a week off, will she take it?  If she does, can she leave mothering at home and, say, learn to cook Thai food?"

I have mulled over this question for months.  Sometimes the cynic in me laughed at the mere thought that a MAN could do ANYTHING to encourage his wife to follow her dreams. It certainly would be a herculean task. One that would require muscles of the mind.  That cynical voice mocked, "Yeah, how about starting with putting the toilet seat down bub?" But then again, another voice nagged me for weeks on end.  It whispered crazy things like, "What if?" and "Who knows?" and even crazier words like, "If your husband could do anything to encourage you to have a life outside of the family, what would it be?"

Now I am NOT saying that we must look outside ourselves to others to find our happiness.  Nope.  I still contend that if YOU want it YOU must go and get it, mother or not.  However, I am convinced that a supportive spouse or significant other is essential to a mother's independence and growth as a human being.

And so, for you my intuitive friend, Jim, and for men all over the world I have compiled a list of suggestions that you can do, be and say to help the women in your lives be so much more than just the mothers of your children.

1.  First of all--perhaps most importantly--ask about our dreams.  Ask about who we'd be if we could do anything.  Ask where we'd go if we could go anywhere.  Ask what we'd do if we could do anything. And then...and then... LISTEN--really listen to the answer.

2.  Once you've heard the answers, help us devise ways of reaching our goals.  Look up classes.  Help us design ultimate travel itineraries.  Join us in finding the best path to get where we're going.

3.  Whether it is one hour, one day or one week, the time away from our children is the heaviest weight mothers can carry. It will sabotage even the most well planned plan.  Mom guilt is tough, but it just might ease a little if you assure us that our children will be taken care.  No no...not just assure us that they will be taken care of, but that they will be taken care of in the same manner that we'd care for them. I'll let you in on a little secret men-of-the-world, we mothers can be quite egocentric you know.  It is a wonder that the world spins without our okay.    Now, I don't make that admission lightly, but I make it so that you can put it to use.  In order to rid ourselves of "mom guilt" it is essential that we think that our children won't suffer one iota from our absence.  So watch what we do, how we love, scold, support and understand our children, and then use that knowledge to to reassure us that our babies, our toddlers, our preschoolers, our tweens and teens will be just fine without their moms for a little while.  The world still spins while we sleep.

4.  When we return from our night class, our trip away, our girls' dinner, from whatever it is that we have professed as our dreams, our needs, our hopes and goals, don't let us regret it.  Remember that little secret I just let you in on?  All it would take is coming home to a house full of dishes, or a screaming child, or a broken and flooding toilet to send us reeling and saying out loud "See this is why I can't ever leave the house!"  Yeah okay.  We mudders can be martyrs.  Honestly though,  what are we supposed to think when things fall apart in our absence?  How about this, if they DO fall apart, just handle it.

5.  Marriage is a partnership.  Okay stop rolling your eyes. Such a cliche I know.  Blah blah blah...kum bay ya and all that other stuff.  But seriously...make sure you aren't just blowing hot air when you say that well-worn phrase.  A partnership means that both parties are aware of the work involved in raising their families and the responsibilities are equally divided.  If a chores list that splits it down the middle gives you the willies then at least check in with your partner on a weekly basis and be sure that she feels like the load she is bearing is equal and appropriate, and most importantly doable.  Knowing that the "other stuff" will get done, heck, just acknowledging to us that you know there is "other stuff" will be a huge burden lifted.

One of my favorite authors, Simone de Beauvoir once said, "The torment that so many women know, bound hand and foot by love and motherhood, without having forgotten their former dreams."   How tragic that for so many mothers these words ring true.  I used to think that it was just a hardship that mothers had to bear, a righteous sacrifice for the children we love.  But thanks to a question asked by a truly evolved man I am rethinking, reassessing the role of mother.  Perhaps besides being there, it is just as important for us to show our children that in order to be healthy and whole humans we must constantly work toward and never forget our dreams.  And with a husband or significant other who champions us, how could we go wrong?