Sunday, February 28, 2010

Yet more evidence that I have way too much time on my hands on the weekends

I have not done much cooking in the last 8 months or so. In the first place, there is usually just me to eat meals and I haven't had the greatest appetite. My boys eat nothing but eggs, mac and cheese, ham sandwiches or steak (because that is 'Dad's favorite food.") I usually find myself making them whatever they will eat and just pick at stuff on the side. When I do cook, I have found that I am only ever craving one thing: Curry! Anyone who has been to dinner at my house recently will probably remember that that is also the only thing that has been served. I make a big batch of whichever curry recipe I am craving most and it lasts for my meals for the next several days. After about 5 months of only ever thinking the same thing over and over sounded good, I wondered if there was a reason. I remember hearing that pregnant women often crave things their body needs at the moment and thought there might be a parallel. Because I am a research nerd, I hit the internet and it turns out that the turmeric in curry is a natural antidepressant. I have most definitely been craving antidepressants! In addition, it is supposed to soothe the digestive system, and I have had constant stomachaches since I got this new stress in my life. It's crazy how your body can tell you what it needs. I am going to listen better the next time it's telling me I am wanting chocolate and diet coke.

In the spirit of eating happy, I thought I would share my favorites with you so you too can legitimately use food to self medicate!

Chicken Satay
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves -sliced lengthwise


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, curry powder, garlic and hot pepper sauce. Place the chicken breasts in the marinade and refrigerate. Let the chicken marinate at least 2 hours, overnight is best.
  2. Preheat a grill to high heat.
  3. Grill until done, brushing each side with the marinade as you turn the chicken.

Curry Coconut Chicken (my ultimate comfort recipe)

If you happen to have a cooking range on your outside grill, it is a good idea to cook this one outside to keep your house from smelling like curry for days. Also, this meal is is a good food storage recipe as long as you substitute canned chicken for fresh.


  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed, diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar


  1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil and curry powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat for two minutes. Stir in onions and garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add chicken, tossing lightly to coat with curry oil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear.
  3. Pour coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar into the pan, and stir to combine. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

Cinnamon Curry Chicken Soup

This one is technically an HCG recipe, which makes it fairly light on ingredients. Add veggies as you will...

  • 3 Chicken Breasts, cubed.
  • One diced onion
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • salt/pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes

Friday, February 26, 2010

almost worth the trouble

What do people do with large furniture boxes when they don't have kids who want to decorate and move into them? The boys had so much fun making forts this afternoon that it almost made up for the fact that I have to figure out how to dispose of two enormous boxes.

This picture of Sis is unrelated. She didn't get to build a fort, but she did figure out the points of entry for the gate I put up and spends a lot of time hanging around them, hoping to slip past me. She is undoubtedly trying to dive head first down the stairs like the boys did when they were little. I also just think she is gorgeous and I like to show her off.

A lot!

Speaking of unrelated news, I have managed to kill off both the hermit crabs that Junior got for his birthday. They did so little, he still hasn't noticed. He has however, begun begging for a Venus Fly Trap. He draws pictures about them, asks questions, wants to look them up on the internet and requests tooth brush stories that involve them (seriously). So, knowing Junior and his level of obsession once he gets his teeth into something, I know this subject is not going anywhere soon. As much I don't really want a carnivorous plant around the house, I have a healthy respect for the inquiring mind and am considering getting him one. There is a good chance that he will lose interest after he sees that the plant doesn't lunge to grab insects out of mid-air or chomp them with its "teeth." I have little doubt that when it comes down to it, I will have no trouble killing it off like I have with the rest of my household plants. If anyone has any insight or experience with bug eating plants, speak now (please!) I suppose I could always replace the boring hermit crabs!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baby Steps

This week has been a flat out failure. On the one hand, I am getting the laundry and dishes done (kind of), kids are getting dressed and fed and I am usually showered before noon. However, I have been in a rotten mood. I have been a less than present mom and haven't been able to seem to pull out of it. Junior has been on an extra 'dad-kick' for the last few weeks, which is great except that all we get to talk about is what day it is and how many more days, hours, minutes etc. until he can be with dad. I know where it is coming from and I know he misses J, but to be honest, I'm having a harder time competing with the "all dad, all the time" attention they get when they are with him. I'm grateful that he is so focused on them on his visitation days, but it makes normal parenting at home so much harder. Following every visit is some amount of 'behavior boot camp.' To be fair, J doesn't let the kids get away with anything discipline-wise, but being with him is still such a weekly novelty to them, home just doesn't compare and Junior has done his best to make sure I know it. This week, I have had a hard time not being irritated at having to be "no fun." Last night I received a strongly worded (phonetically spelled) letter on my pillow from Junior that informed me that when I got after him earlier in the day, it hurt his feelings. It about broke my heart as well as my resolve to get out of bed this morning. Bubba, in an extreme shift to the opposite direction, has gotten very clingy with me and worries if he has to be away from me for long. I made all his worst nightmares come true last night when I accidentally left him in the dark garage. I thought he went into the house with Junior when he had actually climbed into the front seat and I didn't see him. I closed the car doors, carried the baby in and turned off the light. A few minutes later, I heard terrified screams coming from the garage. He had finally found the door handle in the dark and made his way out of the car, but was too scared to go further. He was inconsolable for quite awhile and quick to point out that it was just like his dreams, which all involve being left alone by me or J in the dark. I felt like mother of the year. It has really been a 'mom-fail' week and I feel so much extra guilt now when I know they are getting less than my best. I know about the statistics that in the long run I am more likely to have a healthy relationship with my kids, but the short run stuff really bites sometimes. It's easy to feel like a failure all around.

Another particular struggle for me this week is my tendency to worry about things that are way too far ahead (something I have been strongly encouraged not to do in therapy) and freaking myself out. I'm angry that when J walked out the door he took with him the one chance I had at having a marriage and children that were not fragmented by custody issues and visitation schedules. He promised me forever and only gave me eight years. Eight years and three children and enough baggage to make moving on incredibly difficult. Over the last decade, I have been grateful more than once that I was through with dating. Now, I either have the choice to be alone, or sort through the amazing amount of emotional garbage involved in trusting anyone again. It sounds hard and exhausting and I can't seem to quit worrying about it even when I tell myself that it is pointless. It's weeks like this that make me feel like I am going to be some level of miserable forever because I have already forgotten how it felt to have the 'normal' problems of life. Eight years ago, I took a chance on a man I loved to always put our family first. It backfired and now I am facing being "back out there" and I'm really angry about that. So, this whole week has been a mental hissy fit and I have taken lots of naps just to try to turn my brain off. Somewhere out there, I imagine God is rubbing his forehead and muttering "I really wish she would grow out of this phase." (Incidentally, I think terrible twos/threes just might be a divine form of payback, but that's another post for another time...)

We had a speaker on Sunday who told a story about a wife whose husband fell critically ill shortly after they were married. As he became terminal and the end was close, she spent one night at his bedside crying out loud to God to fix this, to give her a miracle, to heal her husband. It was her barely conscious, pain wracked husband who stopped her and asked her to "just pray that he could sleep through the night." I noted this story but it didn't particularly speak to me at the time. That might have been because I was pinning down a newly mobile Sis, while threatening Bubba with a time out if he didn't stop the fit he was throwing (knowing very well I couldn't back up that threat unless I dragged the other two kids out of Sacrament meeting as well). But I remembered the story tonight as I was on the treadmill. I had taken a running hiatus for the last month or two, but got back on it tonight hoping that exercise would lift some of my extra depression this week. I forgot how good running has been for me. It reminds me to breathe deeply. I spend so much of my time mentally crouching down and waiting for the next blow to fall, that I find myself forgetting to do many of the basics like taking full breaths.

I told myself I would just start with a mile. A mile was something I knew I could do and I gave myself permission to stop there if I needed to. As I ran, I found I could go a little further and a little further. One mile stretched into three and I feel certain that setting the small goal and going further did more for me than if I had overwhelmed myself by determining to go that far and knowing that I would feel like a failure if I didn't hit my goal. Around mile #2, Sunday's story popped into my mind and it felt like being mentally smacked upside the head. Sometimes it is enough just to hope to get through the night. It's ok to start with just a mile. If you can go further, great. If not, it is still a step along the road. Shooting for the stars is well and good when you are in a healthy mental state, but when you are scared, sad, tired, frustrated or broken, baby steps are not only ok, they are a triumph. I won't get credit for getting out of bed and showered before noon forever, but I need to try to give myself credit for what I CAN do right now, not what I think I SHOULD do (or used to do).

My world was an ordered place and now it is not. I am not a neat freak, but I really like to plan. I like to know what is coming up and what to expect. So, this situation is harder for me than I could ever imagine. My future is a blank. I have already seen so much 'worst case scenario' that I have a hard time being confident in anything except that there are more trials ahead. I don't trust the good stuff yet. Anything could happen and that terrifies me. But I know I can't waste my limited energy worrying about what is five years ahead. I thought I knew five years ago where I would (basically) be today and look how my plans have changed. Losing control is terrifying but there is something comforting in feeling like I can let the scary future go and just concentrate on that next step. Concentrate on getting through one more night. I have to worry less about the road I have been put on and just focus on which way I'm going, what the next step is and how I am going to go about taking it.

So, getting through tonight is the next thing on my agenda. If I can stay asleep the whole night, I will see that for the triumph it is. If not, I will know my feet are still pointed in the right direction and I am only ever required to take it one step at a time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This little piggy has piggies!

Sis's newborn hair never did fall out, so now she has all these long pieces and new hair growing underneath. It's been funky looking for a little while, but I can't bring myself to cut it and wouldn't have a clue where to start. I was playing with it yesterday and we ended up with two little piggie tails. As you can see, they stand straight up and look more like antennae than hair, but the boys got a huge kick out of it, so I left it in. J even took her out in public looking like this :-) Today, Junior wanted to have her hair in one pony tail on the top a la Pebbles Flintstone. It made her look like she came straight from Whoville.

Since she needs all four appendages to crawl and to shake the bars of 'baby prison' (or as I prefer to think of it, her own 'gated community') she has learned to pop things in her mouth to bring them along. I tried hard to get this headband out of her mouth, but no dice. I finally conceded. She deserved to win that one.

Junior and Bubba 'helping' with her Who-style hairdo. Have you ever seen a look that more plainly begged for help?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

habits my kids wont allow me to break

As a parent, has anyone ever developed a quirk or habit that your children grew to love (and you quickly grew to hate?) I have lots in my limited experience as a parent and some we have grown out of and some we have not. I have acquired a new one though. Tooth brush stories. One night I told a story to Bubba as I was helping him brush his teeth to get him to hold still and then Junior wanted one. And then they both wanted one the next night, and the next and at the rate of enthusiasm I am getting, I expect to have to do this until they leave for college. On the one hand, it is a good thing because they don't let me get lazy and skip tooth brushing, but on the other hand, I am a miserable story teller. Truly miserable. I remember long ago when I lived with my sister, I would help put her two year old to bed sometimes. On one occasion, we sat in the dark and I tried to make up a story to tell her. It went so badly that I finally ended up starting over with "A long time ago, God made the earth and when he did that he put animals on it. He put lions and tigers and whales and fish and etc. etc. etc." She finally fell asleep out of sheer boredom. I thought I might grow into story telling as a parent, but I still stink at it. We have been doing this for weeks and I have yet to get by a single night without having to make up something dumb. I'm not even sure why they still ask. I guess it is because I give what they consider a gem every now and then. I can tell when I am below par though because as Junior drifts off afterward toward his room, he will say "remember that really good one you told about how the gummy bear grew big and ate me?" or "I really liked the one about the sugar bugs (plaque) on my teeth and they had hammers and made holes until I brushed them away..." I suppose even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally.

Bubba is far less discerning. Mostly I just have to make up something about him growing wings or turning into a monkey (not far off these days). But I panic a little every time we troop upstairs to attend to our dental needs. You have no idea of the amount of pressure! Once I tried to make a really boring story more interesting by singing it, but even Bubba wasn't fooled. Junior smiled gamely and tentatively asked "can we do a different one?" J is a fantastic story teller. I do not have his talent, but I would be thrilled if one of the kids inherited it because when I am old and crazy, I am going to make them tell stories to me in order to make me brush my teeth.

Sometimes, when we have had a rough day, I try to weave a moral into it, such as the benefits of listening to your mother or not hitting your brother. But I'm finding that mostly they just want fictional versions of them being chased or eaten by something and I am running out of plots. I could recycle the same few for Bubba for awhile, but Junior is more astute than that.

Clearly my kids realize what a sucker I am. I remember how long the 'putting Bubba to bed' song and dance lasted and realize with no small amount of horror that I could be doing this for years!! I can be animated, but not that imaginative. My creative talents are purely impressionistic. So if anyone has any plot ideas for two minute stories, let me know. They must be thrilling, there must be some element of magic or danger and they must feature a boy named either Junior or Bubba. Try not to make them too funny though, because I have had toothpaste spit on me more than once as a reward for my humor. Thanks.
Even Sis knows how to work me. I usually carry her to the kitchen with me to prepare her bottle in the middle of the night and one night she was particularly fussy. I rocked her back and forth on my hip to soothe her while we waited for the tap water to run warm (far too long a process in this house. You would think our water heater was a block away.) She liked it so much, she has insisted on it every night since. If I don't, she kicks her legs with far more enthusiasm than I can handle in the middle of the night and while under the influence of Ambien. Every night sees me swaying back and forth in the kitchen like a drunkard at 3 a.m. while she squeals and I try to keep my balance. Like I said...sucker!

So my kids work me like crazy. They know the effect of a sincere look and a heartfelt "please?" (or in Sis's case, the effectiveness of being kicked into submission). I suppose it could be worse. They could be hitting me up for money. Although I am pretty close to offering that instead of stories these days. I am getting that desperate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Perchance to dream...?

I had a dream last night. It was not a good one, but they seldom are these days. In my dream, I had just my boys and we needed to get from one city to the next. A flood was coming and we had to cross roads that would suddenly get washed out by walls of water. We had to cross suspension bridges where the cables would start to twist and snap free. I was terrified and I wasn't sure how I would get myself, much less my children to safety. I wish I could say something in the dream resolved itself, but all I can tell you is that by the time I woke up to the pitter patter of little Bubba feet on his nightly foray into my room, none of us had been lost yet. I also remember being fervently grateful that I did not have to worry about getting my baby to safety along with my boys. Wherever she was in my subconscious, I knew she was okay.

Although I have not done any of those things, the dream and the feelings associated felt awfully familiar. It seems like the most unfair thing to go through a nightmare in my waking hours only to fall asleep and be tormented there too. I have had a lot of these kinds of dreams over the last eight months. I recall during the first nightmarish days of my crisis, while I was still desperately trying to hold my family together, I dreamed of being washed away by water down into a big drainpipe. At the last minute I caught myself on the edge, just enough to keep myself from going under but not enough to pull myself out. I felt like right then I had a choice. I could hold on for an indeterminate amount of time and hope for help. Or I could simply let go. Let it all go and just wash away. I remember deciding to hang on, but I was still horrified at the sheer temptation to give up. It was not an easy decision, dream or not.

Bubba always goes to sleep in his own bed and wakes up in mine. Without fail, at some point in the night, he wakes up afraid and makes his way into my room to crawl in on the "boy side." Half the time I wake up in the morning there without having heard him come in. Other times, he needs to wake me up and be reassured through being held that he is okay. He tells me he is scared.

I know how he feels.

"Does the idea of being physically responsible for the safety of all of us ever freak you out?" I asked J once after I had watched one too many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. As I expected, it did not. He was brave about that kind of thing. Having been the victims of a home invasion early in our early marriage, I knew it could happen again. I remember thinking at the time that I was glad that if someone did so, it would not be me going after them with a baseball bat. Ironically, the bat now resides under my side of the bed (along with my cell phone on the bedside table) and the burden of keeping our home safe rests with me. This realization has prompted more than one nightmare.

I feel so inadequate and my dream last night was very apt. I have had this dream before, just different scenarios. Getting me and my children to "safety" feels like a task I am not sure I can do on my own. I know what I need to do, I know what my choice is and I know that others have successfully done it before me. But I also know that I am starting from a damaged place and I don't get any do-overs. It was daunting being a parent before, but helping heal my children and myself and get us all safely beyond this crisis feels about as scary as getting my children safely beyond the "flood."

I had no real idea how this would affect us. I had no idea I would have to watch my children change and become, by turns, fearful or obstinate or violent or depressed or just shut down depending on how they are choosing to cope at the time. And the worst part is that I can't always reach them. All I can consistently do is be as safe a place as I can. As in my dream, I remain grateful in a way that my youngest is beyond being hurt in the ways that the boys are. This will always be her world. As young as they are, my boys know it isn't as theirs should be. They know the difference. I am dedicated to doing whatever my kids need to get through this, and aside from the obvious solution, J is too. But some days it doesn't feel like any of us are making any headway. I know I need to be as consistent as possible for them, but that is easier said than done by 5 p.m. and all I want is the cavalry to show up and I still have bedtime to get through. Some signs of distress are painfully obvious and other times it is hard to pick out what is them just being kids and what is a result of fear and confusion. I am doing my research and addressing the obvious things, but I am also afraid of missing the more subtle things, or doing it "wrong." What I want is what is best for them, but how do I know? Is it better to keep to our same routine for stability on a week like this where a trip has kept J from them for a whole week? Or do I allow extra time with him out of "my time" because they need to see their dad? Every day I'm reminded that parenting was never meant to be a one person job. That's probably why it requires two people to make it happen :-) Also, not to put too fine a point on it, parenting like this sucks. It really does. And I know that now at least, my kids don't prefer being parented this way either. I want them to feel safe. I want them to feel secure. I want them to know they are loved. I don't have confidence right now that they feel any of these things for sure at the moment.

And selfishly, I miss the feeling that I am something other than a mom. My children are everything to me, but after a day of giving, soothing, loving and mothering, I put them in bed and have a hard time being able to nurture any of the other aspects of "me." I love being a mom and I would never trade it, but I loved being a wife too and I miss it. Maybe that's why a few nights ago, my subconscious gave me the one good dream I can remember having since last May. In it, J had been gone on a long trip and had just returned. We lounged around on the floor trading things that we had been saving up to tell each other during our time apart. That was it. There was nothing remarkable about it but it was so comfortable in its familiarity. I miss my husband every day, but just as much, I miss living with my friend. As could be expected, it was not fun to wake up from that one, but in a weird way it felt like a break. It felt like going back to a time when I was more than a one dimensional mommy figure getting through the day solely for my children. I could be grateful for that small tender mercy among the more anguished workings of my brain. It's amazing the little things you find you miss. I think I may have taken them for granted much of the time.

My resolve is to try to be more in the moment with my kids. They deserve for me to do more than go through the motions. Some days, I admit, I find that is all I can do and I end the day feeling horribly guilty. But I have no desire to look back and only remember how painful this time was. Junior will only be six once and Bubba three and a half, etc. etc. I have enough regret from all of this bestowed on me to last my lifetime. I'm just terrified of looking back and feeling like I did anything to fail my children when they needed me. Young as they are, I don't expect that this will ruin their lives, but I am alarmed at how they are reacting to the events of the last six months. It hurts to see them hurt. I know that statistically, this situation has the potential to affect how they handle and react in their own future relationships. Come hell or high water (and after last night's dream we have now encountered both :-) we are weathering out this storm together whether we like it or not. I know I won't sleep well until my boys start to. I doubt I will stop having nightmares before they do. I suppose all I can do is hold their hands tightly and get them safely across the bridge and then worry about the next step.

Wish me luck...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh, for the love...

I have always loved Valentines Day regardless of my dating/marital status. I don't care if it is a made up holiday in order to get us to buy stuff. There are worse things than a day dedicated to showing a little extra love, commericalized or not. I love the pink and red, I love the chocolate and I love the flowers. I was thrilled to have a school kid this year to help with Valentines to pass out. Some years we celebrated it more than others and ironically, this is admittedly a pretty rough year for me Valentines-wise, but it is not my worst one. That honor goes to several years ago when I made king crab legs and cheese fondue for J and we both ended up puking most of the night. Super sexy!!

Today had great potential to put me into one big emotional temper tantrum and I am too tired for that, so I made a rule for myself. No moping, no dwelling on happier Valentine's Days past and no wishing for what is no possible right now. I got a fantastic day off yesterday and I decided that today needed to be all about the kids. Since I have boys, I get that a lot of the stuff I do for holidays is going to be lost on them, but it's more for me anyway. I get a kick out of it. Since J isn't around to share this stuff with anymore, I'm sharing it with all of you!

Before church, we were all excited to see flowers show up at the door from my cute brother Jeff (I didn't post a picture, because they haven't opened yet. they are going to be gorgeous in a day or so). They joined the pink roses from my mom and dad/boys. Junior was interested in the flowers and wanted to talk about what a flower's enemies are (I told him the main ones are little boys. He liked that.) He was also pleased to tell me that 'Dad told him that what flowers love, absolutely love, more than anything else in the whole world is poop.' I'm guessing it was some discussion about fertilizer, but Junior probably stopped listening at the word poop. Lovely!

After church, we had a Valentine's Day themed meal with (what else) red food. The trusty Bradshaw family was supposed to join us, but they had babies that weren't quite out from being under the weather, so we dined alone (but they were missed. Especially since I have way too many jello jigglers left over :-)

The menu included spaghetti, strawberries, strawberry jello jigglers, strawberry Sunny-D and bread with raspberry honey butter ( I know it looks like cookies but it's not. What kind of mom do you think I am? We might have cookies for breakfast when they are around, but not dinner!)

For all my effort, Bubba ended up eating plain noodles and cheese and a strawberry and Junior only ate his meatballs and then finished off Bubba's. Whatever!

I can always count on Sis to be a good eater.

She was incredibly enthusiastic about the jello.

Valentines day has never come and gone (since Junior could wield a knife with frosting) without sugar cookies. No point in starting now. Besides, we need something for breakfast in the morning.

Each of the boys made me a cookie (and then made me eat it while they watched. I think I am good on sugar for awhile.)

I have to point out the beautiful cake plate my dad gave me. I decided to start collecting them and he is an enthusiastic supporter. The only two I own so far are from him although I did get a cool vintage one off of ebay for my sister's birthday last year that I am still kind of coveting. 'Tis better to give, right? Right. The jeweled picture frames were engineered by J and created by the boys last week.

The holiday this year has been...different, but I am okay. I reflected tonight as I cleaned up cookie decorating detritus, turned off the Veggietales video that has been watched over and over this evening, put away a dinner that no one really ate and smelled my beautiful flowers that today I am more ok than I expected to be. Not because all the crummy stuff isn't still there, but because for today I chose not to acknowledge it. I just tossed a tired, clean, lotiony smelling baby into her bed and every two minutes or so, one of my boys hollers down "I love you mom" (more as a sleep stalling tactic than overwhelming affection, I'm afraid.) I have good things in my life. I haven't lost everything.

I did not spend this Valentines Day the way I thought I would last year, but in getting back to my original joy in the holiday, the absence of a significant other in my life doesn't take away the fact that I still love and feel loved by others on it.

I may not have everything I want and some days that is harder to bear than others. But for now anyway, I have everything I need. And sometimes that's enough.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thank You Fairy Godmother!!

Every damsel in distress needs a fairy godmother and mine so happens to be my sister Bek. She has been my rock for many months now. She knows me, knows my triggers and has this uncanny ability to talk me off the ledge and turn my pumpkins into a coach when I find myself overwhelmed that the ugly stepsister (or whatever) is taking my place at the ball. She knew this weekend would be hard for me since my original plans had to get scrapped (long story) and planned a suprise distraction for both me and Britny in the form of a spa day.

I loved it!

In the past, J has tried to get me to try spa type things, but I always thought a massage would be too wierd, my ticklish feet couldn't handle a pedicure etc. etc. I had no idea what I was missing. It was blissful and relaxing and so much more needed than I even knew. It was so nice to relax guilt-free without feeling like there was something else I should be doing. We ate chocolate strawberries and sugar cookies and sipped ice water with orange slices and gossiped. The only thing that would have made it better would have been the presence of the Fairy Godmother herself. Grandma came up to watch kids and I came home to pink roses picked out by my boys as well as several other little Valentines surprises. I have a great family. Thank you bek, for the countless hours you spend on the phone with me, thank you for the many, many words of wisdom, thank you for letting me pick you to be one of my go-to people, thank you for introducing me to the wonder of pedicures and facials! Someday I will find a way to repay you for all you do for me. Someday I want to be someone's Bek.

In an unrelated item, I thought I would share with you all the Valentines Junior made yesterday. These were supposed to go to the Grandparents but we decided not to send them after all.

What can I say? He's 6...

(in case you are confused, yes, the people are taunting 'Valentine Guy' causing him to go on a rampage)

This one? I have no idea...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Letters to Nowhere

I have a file on my computer. It is getting filled up with angry/sad letters to J. He will never receive these letters but sometimes it is therapeutic to pretend I am able to give him a verbal smack upside the head. I would actually do it if I thought it would do any good, but I am trying to be done doing him good. I tried my best. Now I am trying to focus on doing me and my children good. Tonight I wrote a letter that started out angry and ended up sad. Addressing him in such strong terms (even in letters he will never see) still feels strange because we were not a couple that fought. Aside from the small spats and disagreements, I don't ever recall yelling at him until the day he made the decision to leave his family behind. Most of these letters contain pretty much what I said to him that day with a few additions. Some things bear repeating, I guess. Yes, I cussed more than once and the letter included an awful lot of "why's?" because try as I might, I still am struggling to figure out how I got here and why it has to be like this. For the majority of my marriage, I would have bet my oldest child that my husband would not leave us no matter what mistakes were made. I trusted a little too blindly. I still feel like I am in shock every morning when I wake up. Slowly throughout the day, I get a little more accustomed to the idea if not accepting of it and I rarely go to bed without a burdened soul. It's like having your heart break every day all over again. I am really anxious for the day that doesn't happen.

It seems like there is always something to get through. The Christmas season is something I don't ever want to think about again, January had a few pitfalls, and I have been dreading Valentine's day weekend with all my heart for months. Every year for the last 9 years, (with the exception of last year) J has given me roses. I will miss them this year. I will miss the giver even more.

Tonight found me sitting on the kitchen floor in tears (don't stress mom and dad. I'm ok, just grieving. I'm told I am supposed to :-) Every few days, things catch up to me and I just need to stop in my tracks and cry. Last week was Junior's birthday and it happened to fall on a J visitation day. I had suggested a week or two before that we do something together with him so we could both enjoy his day and so he wouldn't have to worry about us (which he does. I overrode my own grievances and had J join us for both Halloween and Christmas Day so the boys could share it with him and Junior often references how cool it was to have dad "in our house" on those days). Needless to say, the day came, J threw a party for him and 'mom' was not invited. Having dropped Junior off at school that morning at 8:30, I did not get to see him on his big day until 9 p.m. I will admit I miss J, but I am not dying to be around him since it's fairly humiliating for me. But I was disappointed to miss Junior's entire birthday. It was even more depressing to remember that none of this was my choice or the kids choice but we get to be the ones who suffer. My son didn't get to see his mom on his birthday. My oldest is 6 and my youngest is 8 months old. It will be this way for the next 17 years and 4 months.

And I have absolutely no control over that.

I only get to control how I act and sometimes it is the hardest thing to override what I want to do or what would feel satisfying (i.e. excluding J from seeing the kids on "my" holidays). My standard is what the kids need and right now they need to see their dad as much as possible to be able to feel secure. I still feel like even if we are now separate units, they need to know that we are united for them. I will continue to do that. But I am not going to pretend that it is not hard and I am not going to pretend that it doesn't really hurt when that intention is not reciprocated. I still haven't reconciled that the one who once loved me most is now doing the exact opposite. I haven't reconciled that my children don't have a father who put them first. For some reason, I want to continue to believe that he is just going through a selfish phase. Every day is a little more disillusioning.

I spent the day helping a friend whose 18 month old (girl/boy) twins were admitted to the hospital with respiratory problems. Considering this friend has devoted almost as much time to me as her own children over the last 6 months, I was absolutely thrilled to be of service to her (and I just so happened to have a kid free day!) Both babies know me pretty well by now and although I wasn't as good as mom, each let me cuddle and love on them while the other one was getting poked and prodded (they had a really rough day). When their dad made it to the hospital, little Gracey lit up and lunged for her daddy. She put her tired head on his shoulder and relaxed in a way I hadn't seen her do yet. She is a daddy's girl and I am always touched when I see her relationship with him. However, it always inevitably follows that I am sad for my own little girl. J loves her. It's obvious when he looks at her. She will love him, but she will never run to meet him at the door after work like the boys always did. She will run to open the door to him twice a week and every other weekend. He will not be there to intimidate her Prom date or take her on impromptu daddy/daughter dates or tuck her in at night or be a constant example in her life. Someone else might be doing those things for her by then, but not her dad. He has chosen to view her growing up and the boys growing up with a limit even though I know he loves them. It hurts that that is acceptable. It will never feel acceptable to me. And it still doesn't make sense.

So, tonight was a night that I held it in until the kids were asleep. Then I cried. Then I wrote a strongly worded letter to J telling him (again) just how all this makes me feel and put it in the file. And I felt a little better. Not a lot, but at least I was done crying for the night. My therapist references my grieving process often. I know I have a ways to go. I know this because I have not even gotten to the point where I can imagine living without this pain or where I can imagine that living without J will not be painful. Part of me is scared to be without it because having the pain be gone means I have to accept that the life I have been building for the last decade, and that I wanted so much, is over and done. My children's one shot at a united family would be gone. The only man I have ever fallen in love with, my best friend and a huge part of my past, will be really, truly gone. A quarter of my life will have led to this (and being honest? I am not a huge fan of this life.) I will have to accept that at least for awhile, I am financially dependent on a man who no longer loves me and who will only consider me a financial burden. It's humiliating even if it is right and necessary. I have to accept that I now share my children with a man I don't know anymore and that for the rest of their childhoods, it will be this back and forth schedule that I hate. It's a lot to let go of and a lot to accept.

So, for today, I am back on my feet. I carry the grief of all these things we are losing every day but it doesn't always overwhelm me. Some days, some weeks, some minutes are worse than others. One foot in front of the other and one day at a time has never felt more uphill. But I am trying to keep space in my heart for the hope of gaining something back for us. Something I can't even see right now. I trust that God compensates. I really do. But I am not done grieving. Letting go is not a simple as it may seem even when someone has hurt you. There are a lot of gray areas of compartmentalize. There has definitely been some bad in my marriage, but if there also wasn't a lot of good, this wouldn't be so difficult. If there wasn't so much good too, I never would have believed that we would have a shot to fix things. I will never believe that this marriage could not have been saved with work. But again, it was not my choice. The letters I write will not go anywhere. Ever. That's a good thing (if I may say so, you do not ever want to get an angry letter from me. I'm pretty good at them. A talent I never knew I had :-) But it helps to say it even if he doesn't hear it.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

This is my brain on drugs!

We have all been sick. Nothing big, just annoying body aches and sniffles that keep us up at night (and keeps me wiping three noses besides my own. Blech!) A few nights ago, I treated myself to Nyquil to help me sleep. Of course, Sis who had slept almost the entire night before when I lay awake sniffling and coughing, woke up at least four times. On the fourth trip in to her room, I narrowly missed walking into the door jamb. Rather than pick her up and carry her with me to make a bottle, like I usually do, I opted to not risk her life and left her howling in her crib. I unscrewed the lid on her bottle and measured out the formula while I waited for the water to run warm. We have the Ventaire bottles that also unscrew on the bottom and at some point, I had taken both the top and the bottom off the bottle without realizing it.

Three scoops of formula in and fill it with water. It took me a minute to realize that the bottle wasn't filling up. With frustration that increased with the shrieks coming from up the stairs, I realized that I had taken the bottom off of the bottle. My solution? Put three more scoops of formula in and try filling it up again. When I realized again that the bottom was off the bottle, I think I cussed and probably called myself some name or other. What kind of idiot does that twice? In went three more scoops before I remembered yet again that if I wanted to make an actual bottle to feed the drama queen, who was at that moment shrieking at a level that suggested I was 'ruining her life,' I needed to put the bottom of the darn thing on. Not just recognize that it was off. I found and reattached the bottom (when did I take that off? when?) and finally made a successful bottle on the fourth try. I stumbled back upstairs to Sis who actually whimpered with relief when sustenance came into view (as though she had not had a bottle two hours before...) and all was quiet again. When I came down the next morning, it took me a minute to register why there was spilled formula all over the counter and in the sink. I was on the verge of rounding up the usual suspects (ok, suspect (singular) Bubba is the only one who would make a mess like that) when I remembered. Oh yes. Right.

The next night, I figured I would still take medicine, but I would be ready with prepped bottles that were neatly lined up on the counter. It was a good idea, but falling down the stairs did plenty to wake me up on that particular trip. Bruised hip, bruised ego and wrenched shoulder as I valiantly tried to catch myself on the banister. Can you all picture it? Good.

So, no more Nyquil for me until my children are old enough to not need my assistance in the night. I'm off the sauce. Drugs ruin lives people! And around here, they ruin perfectly good formula.

Let this be a lesson to you all. Learn from my mistakes. Don't drive, operate machinery, mix baby formula or attempt to walk down stairs while under the influence.

It's just not worth it...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

For My Boy

Dear JS,

Six years ago today at 3:29 in the afternoon, you finally arrived, looking so much like your daddy that we decided to give you his name (and then just call you by your middle one :-). I still remember holding you in my arms and wondering why I spent so many months wondering what you would look like because, of course, you were you. So familiar. You were our dream come true and we couldn't keep our eyes off of you. You were 8 lbs. 12 oz. and every nurse that picked you up talked about how big you were, but you felt tiny to us. I was delighted that you got your daddy's eyes (and so sorry that you got my ears :-) Dad said you were the prettiest baby in the nursery. You made squeaky sounds with every breath that went out and we thought it was adorable (it was slightly less adorable when we had to move you to your own room three weeks later because you were so noisy in your sleep). We couldn't believe they let us take you home. You were ours, ours, ours!

I never minded getting up with you in the night. You were so good natured that it took you awhile to cry. I would hear you "talking" and get you from your crib in the dark. As we walked into the light of the front room, your eyes would be wide open and you would be trying earnestly to get both fists in your mouth at the same time with loud smacking noises. I would wrap us both in a blanket in the rocking chair and those quiet, cuddly nights are now some of my most precious early memories of you. We often wondered through your first year when parenting would start to get hard because you were so easy going.

We adored you from the start. You were such a happy boy (with the exception of 'The Great Tantrum Phase' you had at around 16 months. No one who knew you then will ever forget it :-) We all emerged though, and you were back to your sunny self. No day was complete with out one of us saying "Man, I love this kid..." or without dad remarking that you were "painfully adorable/cute."

1st Birthday - Feb 2005

Summer - 2005

You have always been so incredibly smart. From the minute you could grip a crayon, you have been "curring" (coloring) and I have folders full of your drawing and painting projects. It took you awhile to accept that baby brother was here to stay, but the minute you did, you became his best friend (and worst enemy at times). I am so proud that you are the oldest for your brother and sister to look up to. You have been very patient with us as we work on figuring out how to be parents.
Christmas - 2006

Spring - 2007

Nothing is more fun for you than getting to be silly. You always look for reasons to laugh and make others laugh. Half the time, I think you are headed for the 'stage.'
This is what you get when you mess with Dad - Summer 2007

You have such a tender heart and make a lot of sweet gestures. Since you were two, there has not been a spring/summer go by that you do not bring me flowers from the yard everyday. You are so pleased when you are praised. There is a sweet humility about you that I hope never, ever leaves you. You seem to naturally be kind and sweet, but surprise us all the time with your level of toughness in many areas.
So sad he "didn't get to fight Captain Hook" on the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland - Spring 2008


You are a curious boy. You love to ask questions and love even more to teach me about things. You have already learned that the answer to life's many questions can be found on the Internet and at least once a day we are looking up pictures of something you have questions about (honestly, what did parents of curious kids do before the internet?)

First Day of Preschool - February 2009

JS and Sis - July 2009

You have a very loyal heart. Not even your old buddy Raffi has ever been completely forgotten. You got to take birthday money to the store and bought a present for Bubba as well as yourself and you always save a part of whatever treat you get at school for your brother or your dad (not me yet, hmmm). You "save" Sis multiple times a day from going anywhere near the outlets in the living room (even though she would have no clue what to do with one if she was allowed to go anywhere near). And spend a lot of time entertaining her and trying to make her laugh. In return, she adores you. Bubba wants to do whatever you do and go where you go. You give lots of hugs and 'I love you's' and I don't think a day has gone by since you learned to write that I haven't gotten a love note of some kind.

January - 2010

Junior saved the seed from the apple he ate. He wants to plant an apple tree in the yard and use the fruit for the apple recipe based restaurant he wants to start in our kitchen. It will be called "Apple Shackel"
January - 2010

You make me proud. You make me want to be a better Mama because you deserve the best of everything. You have always been a joy and an 'old soul.' Dad and I are amazingly blessed that you are our boy and always will be. Your brother and sister are lucky to have you be part of their lives. You are kind brother and an amazing son and I am grateful/amazed every day that I get to be your mom. We love you.

Happy 6th Birthday!

Monday, February 1, 2010

This time last year...

I'm a big "this time last year" person (if you hadn't noticed) and it is something I have done as long as I can remember. It's one of the things that makes my situation so hard. I'm a 'rememberer' and it's been less than six months that I have been doing this gig all on my own (eight since Ground Zero). It sucks to think of what we were doing as a family at any point the year before. It all feels so different now. Because I have Sis, I am torn between wishing the time would go by faster to speed that healing that everyone promises me it will bring, and wishing it would slow down a little because my baby is growing too fast. Part of me really wants to hit the year mark so I can start being glad that I am not where I was "this time last year." I have to believe that it can all get better.

All day I have been thinking about how this time last year I was on the first day of a cruise to Mexico with 40+ members of J's family (courtesy of my amazing in-laws). I had planned, made lists, prepared, packed, worked late (just one more article...) and thought endlessly about sand and sun for weeks and months beforehand. We were finally there. Customs cleared, bags unpacked, beds jumped on. It felt like such a huge relief after preparing for so long (and that is small potatoes to the work ma and pa-in-law put in to get such a big group organized.). I can still remember how lucky I felt to be at the start of a fun trip with my little family and how much I looked forward to a break from the regular routine with J. I was six months pregnant (and we knew a little girl was on the way) but I was feeling good. I didn't fear the future. In fact, I was looking forward to it. For the moment, all was right with my world. I felt like we were on the verge of 'getting it all together' in many ways.

It was an amazing trip. It really was. The boys still talk about things they did "on the big boat." Tonight as the boys and I looked over the pictures I took, I had to review a few of my favorites in honor of one of the best vacations I ever had and our last genuinely fun time as a family. The day after we arrived home, all hell broke loose both with J's work and in ways I didn't get to see until later. The months following were mostly a game of damage control and keeping up and being more and more pregnant. I thought I would rest after the baby came :-)

Junior swears he saw a sea lion. Maybe he did...

My handsome date (he has grown so much in the last year).

Bubba is just cool! Always has been.

Cabo San Lucas - Great Grandpa and Junior looking at the Carnival Pride from the beach (my favorite picture of the entire trip.)

As dressy as I could get with my limited maternity wardrobe. This picture probably would have been better if we had all been looking at the same camera!

I looked at these pictures and I missed that "me." Ignorance sometimes really is bliss and although the situation I was in couldn't have lasted forever, I miss that heady feeling of optimism for my future. The feeling of thinking we could tackle anything because we were a "we." It's been almost exactly eight months since I felt anything but fear and sadness and uncertainty. And I have been "I" for just long enough to start forgetting how it felt to be "we" in the everyday things, but not long enough to not miss it in the very core of my soul on a million levels.

I have every hope that no matter what my situation is, by February 1st 2011, I will have gotten that feeling back.

Just watch me...