Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Picking Pumpkins

It turns out that during the holiday season, getting out of bed isn't quite enough! We are a family of many traditions, thanks to me and my insane sense of how I want certain celebrations to feel. I'm determined to carry on with as many of the same traditions as I can this year, even minus a key player. If I do, maybe next year they won't feel so strange. This time last year, I was so sick with my pregnancy through Christmas that many of my plans were shelved until this year when I hoped to do full justice to them. I have a feeling most of those plans will remain on the shelf for another year at least, but we will carry on with the basics. At this time of year, that means our annual trip to the local pumpkin patch. We went with our friends the Bradshaws and finished the evening up with dinner at our favorite BBQ place.

Doesn't Sis just look so excited to be on her first pumpkin picking trip?

It was much colder than it has been in previous years. Thanks to Brit for the extra blanket. I should get points docked off my good mommy card for coming so unprepared.

Beautiful Britny and Gorgeous Gracey (twin 1) - I can be cheesy because I am also being complimentary.

On our way to the pumpkin field. Bubba wanted so badly to be brave, but had a death grip on my arm. We all made it without falling off (this time anyway. I assume that with three kids and only two arms, it will happen eventually. It's good to be prepared).

cute little Gabe (twin 2). Those twins are troopers. They have gone on more fun adventures in their first year of life than I have in my three decades thanks to a summer stay in Alaska.

Junior found his pumpkin right away, which was great because I am the one who had to carry it to the tractor one handed :-)

The Bradshaws went a little further afield.

Little Will (not to be confused with 'Big' Will the cousin)

Josh (or 'Dosh' as both boys refer to him)

Junior is all about staging pictures these days. This is two boys "stuck" in the pumpkin vines.

Bubba next to his pick (I steered them toward pumpkins with stems so I could carry them).

Yes, as a matter of fact, we did color pumpkins again this year (I told you what my excuse last year was and you know what it is this year. No excuses in 2010). Except I took my laziness one notch lower this year and didn't even use paint. I busted out the mega pack of colored sharpies. Don't worry, Grandpa K, who is a master pumpkin carver came earlier in the week to show them how it's done and they also carved pumpkins with J.
Next up: Making a ghost costume for Junior (it sounds like it should be easy, but my son has very specific ideas about how things should match the picture in his head.) We'll see how it goes. It's ironic that of the hundreds of Halloween costumes we combed through, there is no ghost costume to be found. That's just sad. Maybe they stopped getting manufactured around the time people decided that "trunk-or-treat" was a good idea.

Need a Laugh?

I have been known to go back to this video multiple times this summer when I have needed a quick laugh or a pick me up. All little girls dance, but my niece EJ takes it to a whole new level. Check out the video at the end of my sister's post and I dare you not to smile (I think it will be obvious which dancing little girl is the one that makes me laugh, but just in case, she is the one with the pony tail and white shirt...)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Learn to be lonely

What can I do for you?

I hear this phrase so often these days and I never take for granted that the asker means what they say. I just wish there was something. I am not entirely without the need for help, but I know that the battle is mine from here on out. I have had more offers of babysitting than I know what to do with, but if anything, I have too much free time on my hands these days. It's feast or famine kid-wise. It's a reminder of my new life when they are gone with their dad and also one when they are here. Neither option is ideal.

I spent enough years being single to know that I was okay on my own if I chose not to get married. However, what I would have done as a single woman is different than my options as a single mommy. I thought I had my future in the bag and was content with that future, but it's been wiped clean and I am back to square one (except with children to care for as well) and I have never been so terrified of the future in my life. My children are the best reason for me to put one foot in front of the other and I will continue to do it, but there is no doubt that single parent loneliness is unlike any other kind. Once you have felt like part of a team, it is difficult to go back to being alone. I understand why parents are supposed to come as pairs. Although I definitely miss someone on hand to help with the day to day nuts and bolts of the actual raising of these kids, what I miss far more is someone to share the joy of them. A dozen times a day, I find myself mentally filing away a funny comment from or observation about the kids only to remember with all the gentleness of a sledgehammer that I have no partner to tell. I have finally trained myself to stop reaching for the phone to text the random kid-isms to the one person who would care most to hear them. I have kind and patient family members and friends who listen to me throughout the day but it does not bring the same satisfaction as sharing a "parent moment." Sis's day to day changes are observed only by me and I don't really like the fact that I am the only adult in the world that she instantly lights up for. She should know her daddy that well too. And she never will.

I'm hoping that I can master being lonely. I hope I can learn to not mind going to bed and waking up alone. I hope that in time, the 5-7 o'clock hour can come and pass without me thinking that most everywhere else, families are going to be watching the door for dad's (and moms, mak...) to walk through them. I hope that I can go through a weekend and want to go out with friends without the downer at the end of the night of realizing that everyone else is going home to somebody. Good friends and family are a wonderful distraction, but don't quite take the place of that one person who is supposed to love you best. I hope that I can go to the store or any other public place and see all the complete families and not feel jealous of them and regretful that I did not appreciate enough what I had when I had it, and stupid that I somehow lost it (in that order). I hope that soon it will not rip at my heart to hear one of my boys casually say something about "when dad comes home." I hope that someday I can forgive myself for being part, even in an innocent way, of giving my children no memories of a unified nuclear family. All they will ever remember is this. I hope I can handle the guilt if they grow up and do something to fracture their own families. I hope that I can soon not feel like being a single mom is painted all over me and that people can tell when they look at me that for whatever reason, I was unable to "hang on to my man". It had never occurred to me to have anything but enormous respect for others who raised their children as a single parent, but I am finding that I am embarrassed to be one myself.

(And I am embarrassed that I feel that way. It's not an emotion that I expected).

I have been told by many that I have a "beautiful life" ahead of me and I am hanging onto that idea like a life raft, but I have to admit I have yet to see land in sight. It has been suggested by some that I will look back and feel like I "dodged a bullet" in hindsight, but it's ironic how much it feels like I am the one who has been shot down. I don't feel like I dodged anything and can't imagine feeling that this is for the best. All I can do is make the best of it.

Despite this, I know positive steps are being taken even if I can't feel the effect of them yet. There needs to come a day when getting out of bed is not a victory, but routine. There needs to come a day when I think about my old life a lot less than I do. There needs to come a day when the kids stop asking about their dad daily and we all accept that he has truly moved on. There needs to come a day when it is not so painful to breathe. There definitely needs to come a time when I am at peace with my life no matter what it is and when I can imagine a different daddy/companion in our home. I am moving forward under the assumption that every time I put one foot in front of the other I am that much closer to that day.

I've been thrown into the deep end of a sink or swim situation and I intend to swim like there is a fabulous tomorrow. However, I am acutely aware that this is a solo swim. I may take advantage of a life preserver now and then, but I won't get anywhere if I don't do the kicking. To everyone that has helped carry me this far, please don't be offended if I refuse your life preserver. Just know that I have to see how far I can go. And that I refuse to sink. And that I am not too proud to ask for help.

Swimming or stepping, I am taking it on faith that I will get there because the people who tell me so love me and I trust them. I am giving hard weeks like this one up to God because I have felt my burden lift when I needed it most. It's still a struggle, but not one that will break me as long as I keep doing what I'm doing.

There is every hope that tomorrow will be the day that things start to feel better.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apple anyone?


Anyone besides Bubba, that is...

Update: I lectured Bubba and threw the yucky ones away and refilled the bowl with five new apples. Within hours, the basket was empty and five apples with one or two bites out of them were scattered around the house. When I asked Bubba, he casually told me "I can do what I want!" After three years of telling him he can't, I'm surprised he still thinks so.

My Good Mama Chart

Today Junior came upstairs while I was getting ready and informed me that I am getting a good mama chart. I will get stickers when I do things that are good (he has a big helper chart and Bubba has a potty chart and they get to go pick something out at the dollar store when they fill it up.)

Me: What kinds of things do I need to do to get stickers?

Junior: Um, just good stuff. What are you doing now?

Me: Putting on my make-up.

Junior: Great!! You get a sticker! What color do you want?

Me: Pink

Junior: Actually, lets give you two.

Me: Great! What do I get when I fill my chart up?

Junior: You get to go pick something out at the store.

Me: Do you have money?

Junior: Um...Can I borrow your wallet for a minute?


(Good luck finding anything in there...) :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Overheard...

Junior and Bubba are playing pirates.

Junior suggests that they "run" somewhere.

Bubba gives his brother "the eye" and witheringly says:

"Pirates DONT run, they swashbuckle!"


Now you know :-)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Triggers

The killer about dealing with a situation like this is that you never know when something is going to emotionally derail you. I have whole days where I feel like I am on an even keel and then "our song" comes on the radio or you realize that your shopping list has changed to accommodate the missing person in the house. Or when you realize something that never had significance before now does in the worst way. This weekend was fairly draining for me as J took the boys to visit his mom in Montana. The trip north is one we have taken as a family for more than eight years. It is also the place where, after he took me up there to meet his mom while we were dating, we both realized that we were in for the long haul and loved the feeling of a future together. I still have the love letter he wrote me after that trip and if I needed anymore torture this weekend, I would take it out and read it to remind myself of what we once had.

But I didn't. I already know what it says.

So, I have always had a special place in my heart for that little Montana town and the idea of never going back as a family hurts. What hurts even worse is that he will continue taking future trips without me, probably to introduce new girlfriends.

So, I thought I was already "triggered" for the weekend and was being careful to stay away from country songs and my friend Britny has been screening any trigger potential chick flicks. While cleaning files off the computer, I came across one from when I decided to get digital with my journal entries. Based on his time line for the affair, I wrote these entries shortly after his first "encounter." They all said things like "he feels more distant" and "He swears he doesn't love me less, but it feels like something has changed." At the time, I chalked it up to post baby weight or stress from work/school, or "I am probably being super sensitive right now". At no point did I assume he had given himself elsewhere. Silly me.

The good news? I am NOT crazy. His take throughout this situation has been to try to convince me that I am basically an idiot and would not be able to tell the difference between being loved for real and someone who was faking it. I remember what it felt like to really be loved, even if I haven't really felt it for years. There was a difference between "before" and "after" regardless of how much he tries to assure me that that he was just a "very good faker" throughout our relationship. I love/loved that man, but do not have that much confidence in his acting abilities regardless of what he chooses to remember. I never did believe his version, but finding the entries helped confirm it for me. He got lost. Looking back through my own memories and our written correspondence I can almost see it happening and I want to go back in time and warn old me to help him. I did not realize at the time how serious his issues were. I do now. He still doesn't.

I learned through therapy that when something like this happens, you often realize that in hindsight, whether you knew about "it" or not, you still knew on some level that something wasn't right. I knew. I also know that it was not always like that. As an emotionally healthy individual, I have far more confidence in my own ability to know when something is genuine (even if there are issues and secrets brought into it). I have confidence in my ability to remember things accurately. He has many reasons to want our past to be bad, I never did. I have less confidence in any version of events from the individual who is morally compromised and has carried a heavy load of guilt for so many years. I can't imagine carrying that and not trying to "make it okay" even subconsciously.

The bad news? I was vividly reminded through loving descriptions of my boy who was still so little just how long it has been since we have genuinely "had that lovin' feeling.' How long it has been since I have been his girl. In a way, his version would be easier to handle overall because it would allow me to hate him. My version forces me to grieve for him and miss the man who used to love me. The man who told me years before we ever thought of dating that we were a great personality match. the man who told me that he "could be his most real self with me" and that I was his best friend. The man who told me that he 'scorned to change his state with Kings.' My version forces me to continue to be shocked at the emotionless man who refused to look me in the eye when he said that he did "love me in many ways and on many levels, but we are not a match..."Daily, I miss the man he was before he chose to damage his soul so thoroughly.

The other bad news? It doesn't matter how accurate I feel I am about our past. His story is his reality and the good times are mine alone to remember unless/until he gets to a healthier place in his future. He would probably call this denial or self preservation. He can go ahead and call it that if he wants. I'm saying what I am saying with a clear concience and with honesty. That's MY story and I'm sticking to it. Every relationship hits snags. Ours obviously did. But we did have "it" once. I know that for sure.

I would never have married him otherwise.

There is a quote on the wall of the therapist's office that has made me cry for months. It says "every child deserves to be preceded by a love story." My memories have changed and I hate that. It feels like opening a water damaged photo album. All the pictures are still there, still the same, just not as bright and beautiful. But they are MY memories and I was happy when they were made. I have begun writing them down for our kids to read someday. It's therapeutic because once they are on paper, I feel like I can let them go a little. My little ones may never care, but in case they do, I want them to know our marriage was more than secrets, wrong doing, sadness and betrayal that led to the fracturing of their childhood. Even through my hardest times, I loved my marriage and I loved my husband and I have wonderful, loving memories that "precede" all three of them. They will know my version and if they want to, they will read every love letter and they can judge for themselves. If it helps them at all, regardless of what they may hear from him in the future, they WILL know that their mother loved their father with all her heart, and that they are not the result of a relationship that was doomed. Our path now might be dictated by the choices of another, but I can give them reassurance that we began in the right place.

Maybe it will help.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Mother of Invention...

Baby JS - March 2004
What do you do when you are a poor college age couple with your first child and you don't have a swing to soothe him to sleep? (the other option was J bracing his hand against a chair and swing the carrier with the other arm.) Note the difference in swinging arrangements between child one and child three (two posts down...) To be fair though, Junior won't have to share a car with his siblings for a few years.


I think being a mom now requires far less actual imagination...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A call for info...

Part of the reinventing me process involves actually taking action on skills and hobbies I have wanted to improve. I am thinking about getting myself and early Christmas present and upgrading my camera beyond the average point and shoot. Anyone out there have any ideas of a good beginner camera body that is fairly idiot proof and can be upgraded (lenses, etc.) as I learn? I know for a fact that some of you out there happen to be amazing photographers...

See! Great subject matter, crummy camera!


Give a girl a hand!

On a day like today...

video

I wish I had an adult sized one of these. I'm sure I would feel better :-)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good Luck & I'm Sorry

Have you ever had a friend that you had such a bond with that you can be apart for months or even years at a time, and then when you see each other, feel like you picked up right where you left off. I have quite a few of those, but most notably my room mates from my freshman year at USU. When word broke of my new situation, they galvanized and planned a long overdue emergency roomie reunion. There was way too much food and we stayed up far too late, but it was the second time I have genuinely laughed all summer long. It felt great.

For some reason, they don't make balloons that convey more specific sentiments in a situation like this. I could suggest a few, but cannot print them here and also could not feel okay about my children playing with balloons that said such things :-) All three kids have had a blast with the balloons and they are still bobbing around the house.

Amber, Karen, Amanda and Sarah. We missed Liz who was out of town :-(


And what do you know? I DID get an award for getting out of bed every day. Contact Karen for yours...
THEN (1996)
Girls of Greaves Hall #234
(Liz, Amber, Sarah, Karen, Me, Amanda)

And NOW

(just in case you are wondering, back in the day we always took pictures sitting on the back of the couch for some reason. We just thought we would keep with tradition :-)

As we always do, we ended the evening saying how we should do this sort of thing more often (even when it is not an "emergency" situation). Everyone seems so much the same to me that it seems very surreal that we all have children ranging from 9 years old to 4 months old. That much time can't possibly have passed can it?


Thanks Ladies! Love you...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why I run instead of drink

I have had several people who have been through a similar experience tell me that the evenings and nights are the worst part of the "getting through it" process.

They weren't kidding.

Back in the days when this was a home of tag team parenting, we would wrestle the kids through dinner and stories and the begging for just one more Max and Ruby episode and tooth brushing and prayers and lights off....and then we would high five each other and settle down to our choice of activity for the evening. We would talk about the kids and work, our mutual dislike of the Obama campaign and administration or whatever was recently on the news. We had our usual shows that we would watch and laugh together over. Or sometimes we would separate and do our own thing. But I always knew he was there as a back up to being bored or lonely and I enjoyed his presence in the house and next to me at night and I assumed that he saw me the same way. It's just not the same to lead the kids through the bedtime routine and turn out the light and face silence in the house. Silence in the bedroom where we watched our shows. In the kitchen where we would chat while cleaning up. In the basement where I would hear the clang and clash of weights when he would go downstairs to work out. Now the silence is so loud that it does nothing but shriek reminders at me that I am now a single parent, a scorned woman, an unwilling half of a failed marriage.

I have very little time to think much during the day. I spend time with the kids and answer all of Junior's insane questions thoughtfully. Play with Sis and reassure myself through her absolute delight to see me that, for a time at least, I am someones very favorite. I try to draw out Bubba who has taken to retreating to a corner to play with his toys and not talk to anyone instead of chattering and jumping off of all the available furniture like he used to. I clean like a mad woman, hoping that an orderly environment will help me feel more order in a world that is increasingly spinning out of my control. But once those lights go out, even my beloved books are not enough distraction to keep me from thinking about all the humiliation, sadness, anger and frustration that now pervades my world. I can't help but think about J and "her"and whether they are together and how he has tried to replace me in all respects. And how he doesn't seem to miss me or be bothered by any of this.

And it hurts so much I can barely breathe.

I have never had my heart broken before and this is all very new to me. I can see how alcoholics are made. Why people become drug addicts. And what drives people to become cutters. Take the pain away or put it elsewhere where you can control it. It's very tempting. But I decided to run instead. Now, I am not much of a runner. I have slight asthma issues when I run and have avoided it pretty much since college, but we have a handy treadmill in the basement and a stereo with loud speakers. I crank both of them up and go. Running until my legs are jelly and my chest hurts feels worlds better than the constant icy pricks of humiliation and anger. If I run long enough, it helps aid the sleeping pills that never quite work entirely in keeping me out and dreamless all night. In addition, it is progress I can control and it has been months since I felt like I had control over anything important. A side benefit is that I just might get my rockin' college legs back (and I thought I had fat knees then...)

In the last week, I have stepped it up a notch and created a CD of non-trigger running music (no Aerosmith unfortunately - we had free floor seats to one of their concerts five years ago...). That's serious, right? A CD dedicated just to running (I feel so hardcore :-) Saying the words along in my head as I run is a good way to keep any rogue images or thoughts at bay. My goal and my hope (along with a 10K next year!) is to get my heart and my body to a point where I am running to feel good instead of to stop feeling so so bad. Maybe I will even get to a point where I will not feel like I have to save my exercising for such a ridiculous time of the day.

I'd like my comfortable evenings back, please.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On a lighter note...

My boys can be lured into temporary goodness by letting them play with my digital camera. Even though they have their own kid version, they still prefer mine, and all of the pictures are "hilarious, mom!" They just like to flip through them. So, to gain a little peace the other night as well as start my goal to get out from behind the camera more often (go, trauma diet, go!!) we took some silly pictures of all of us and it turns out that my arms aren't quite long enough to catch us all in the shot. These were voted by the boys as favorites:



This is when Junior was the photographer. Not too bad for a five year old. Almost centered and everything.


This was taken mere seconds before Sis got a death grip on a handful of hair and refused to let go until we agreed to put the camera away and put her to bed....

This is the look that happens when mom says it is time to stop taking pictures and get our jammies on. You can't see Junior because he was over on the stairs throwing his own personal tantrum. I declined to record that. He will probably be thankful someday (and I would also like to forget it as well).


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Choices

It's amazing how quickly your life can change. How quickly someone, whom you would have sworn you knew every heartbeat of, has become a stranger. How quickly you can go from being a wife, a companion and part of a team to being a single parent struggling to figure out how you got there in the first place. I feel like Dorothy when she landed in OZ, except instead of everything turning technicolor and beautiful it's kind of the opposite. I thought I knew my life and I thought I knew my future. I don't now and it's scary.

Awhile ago, during a meeting with my stake president, I was playing the "why me" game a little. My world had fallen apart when my little girl was less than a week old, my husband was someone I could no longer trust or count on, and I felt like my lot was more than I deserved or could handle. Amid the reassurances that "I was doing everything I could do" I could get no comfort. What did it matter what I was doing if the end result was in another person's hands? The answer I got from the SP hit me in an unexpected way and I was glad I had gotten that counsel early on in my struggle. He said "You cannot control what anyone else does, but you can control how you act." In theory, this advice was nothing earth shaking or new, but it made me determine how I wanted to emerge from this situation come what may. Although I am human and had moments of saying things I later regretted as well as moments when I allowed anger and bitterness to control my actions, I can look back and know that I handled the last four months with dignity while I hoped and prayed that the worst case scenario would not happen. And that is some comfort. Unfortunately, worst case scenario did happen and my husband of eight years, companion of ten and friend of fifteen has moved on without me and that brings out emotions that I can't even name. I'm now finding myself looking down the barrel of many years of loneliness, hurt, confusion for me and my kids, and general trials as I tread water and try not to give into the damage being "left behind" can do.

There is a voice in me that tells me that getting angry and bitter will hurt a lot less than feeling the full sadness of the frozen, aching hole he has left behind. But I'm making a choice to continue listening to the quieter voice that reminds me that I can govern my reactions with dignity and I will be a better woman for it no matter how much sad and sorrow I have to wade through to get to the other side of this. I'm reassured by many who know that there is still a bright future in store for me although believing that at this point is a lot like being unable to see the forest for the trees. I'll put my trust in those that know and love me and will move ahead secure in the knowledge that although I don't want this life and definitely did not ask for it, I can trust my own sense of what is right.

Every day is a challenge right now and getting out of bed is difficult enough that I wonder why no one has given me an award yet for doing it multiple days in a row. But I will put one foot in front of the other fueled by what I know. I know that I am backed up by the prayers and support of amazing family and friends. I know that my children love me and that I am doing the best I can for them even when I feel like they are getting a raw deal. I know I do not want to be bitter and hate the father of my children. I know that this situation, as bad as it is, could be much worse. And I know that I am worth a million of "Her".

Most of all, I know that God is on my side. I would not want to fight this fight without him. I know I want to continue being the person I have been for the last few months and I want to be able to justify the faith that everyone who has supported me so far seems to have in me. So I keep breathing and I keep getting up (most days anyway!) and I be twice as much the mom that my little cubs might have otherwise gotten. I pray daily for strength and confidence.

And I hope.