Monday, November 29, 2010

home again... (giving thanks)

For Thanksgiving this year, we ruthlessly voted down Grandpa K's desire for a traditional meal and went to Chuck-A-Rama for turkey day. I don't think I would want to do this every year, especially since I love to cook so much, but it. was. awesome! No, it didn't taste like a home cooked meal, but a home cooked meal of Thanksgiving magnitude requires so many days of prep and effort that by the time we sit down to eat, I find myself resenting the turkey. And the food was actually really pretty good! I hadn't set foot in there more than once or twice in the last 20 years and I'm sure the kids and I will be back the next time I feel like I need to unwisely overeat (so many choices! I had everything except turkey...too bad the name is so unfortunate.) After we all washed down our traditional Thanksgiving Tigers Blood Slurpees (yeah, they have those too) we landed at my place, where we spent most of the time making fun of either Jeff or Mak for something. *sigh* good times...

My boys were with their dad for a trip up to Montana to spend Thanksgiving with the grandma there. I missed them like crazy. J was good about checking in for them and having them call (because a 6 and 4 year old are always dying to call mom, right?) I kept Sis home with me and we had a pleasant (if incredibly quiet) time. We missed our 'Bubba's.' Sis would periodically knock on all the closed doors in the house and call for them. We watched a lot of Wiggles until I couldn't stand it anymore and introduced her to Winnie the Pooh. We broke out the Christmas boxes and unpacked all of the play Nativities and she spent hours (yes, hours) rearranging the characters. We did almost no shopping and I didn't leave the house once on Black Friday. Unfortunately, we both got sick. For two nights in a row, I mopped up vomit and kept her upright and with me so she could breathe a little through her congested nose. I rubbed her hair and her back to help her settle. When I came down with the same thing, I camped out on the floor in front of the fire to keep Sis company and get rid of the chills. In between occasionally trying to ride me like a horsey and carefully balancing toys on my face, she would rub my hair and my back and sing/chatter at me in a high sweet voice she usually reserves for her baby cousin. I am pretty melt-able when it comes to my kids anyway, but I admit this about did me in. Girls are so different. My boys are sweet, but their interest would have stopped at the horsey ride :-)

I was ecstatic to get the boys home. This is the longest Bubba has ever been away from me and I am certain that I took it much harder than he did. I sleep best when they are all under my wing and one of my nightly treats is to make a few rounds and do some 'mother gloating' after they are all asleep :-) Sis, whose newborn nickname was mousie because of the squeaks she made now sleeps like one as well. She gathers all her toys and blankets to one big pile in the corner of the crib and sleeps under it. When I straighten her out, I know that she will rub the soles of her feet against the mattress because she always has since she was tiny. I also know she will gather her blanket up next to her face with one hand and tangle the other in her hair because she has always done that too. If she wakes up a little, I always get a little, crooked sleep-drunk smile.

When Bubba is contained, he will sleep with a fist curled up under his chin. But most often I find him draped all over his brother (who sleeps like a log) or halfway off the bed. When I tuck in Junior, he half wakes up and tries to act like he is wide awake but is actually very confused. He gets this from his dad. It always cracks me up to see what kinds of wierd things get passed on along with eye color, etc.

So, everyone is home and it feels so good to have us all sleeping under the same roof again. Call me helicopter mom, but I ache when my kids are gone, and they have to be away from me so much more than I would have ever expected. The first morning home, Junior crawled into my side of the bed before anyone else woke up to get hugs and tell me that he missed me.

Me too, buddy. Welcome back!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

why it is dangerous to show youtube videos to my kids...

My kids have the ability most kids do of watching the same thing over and over again and never, ever getting sick of it. Ask me how many times Junior watched Nemo before he was 2? I have no clue, all I know is that I can still quote the whole show. In honor of the new Harry Potter movie that came out last week, I treated my boys to this little video that always made me snicker. They loved it (not that they have any clue who any of the characters are). They loved it so much, they have done nothing but bug me to play it over and over. I have started handing out showings as a reward and I have had the song in my head for days. It's funny, but just watch it once...maybe twice. Definitely not ten million times and use caution if showing it to your kids or you will end up with a fate like mine :-)

Click Here

Junior likes Dumbledore, I like Harry Potter and Bubba likes (who else?) Voldemort. If I can ever get Bubba on video singing "Snape...Snape...Severus Snape" in the little British accent he uses, I am posting that next!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Groundhog Days

My life is starting to feel a little like the movie Groundhog Day, except without the love interest and a lot more antidepressants.

7:30 a.m. - Wake up with 2 boys crowding my side of the bed. Bubba generally has twisted so that his toes are in my back and Junior generally wants something complicated done or answered (such as "what is light made of?") I allow myself the snooze button twice before Sis' increasing shrieks for attention from her room guilt me enough to go get her. If it is a weekend that I have the kids, I pour them cereal (far earlier than they would ever get up on a school day) turn on a movie and beg them to not to come fighting up the stairs and wake up the baby before I have gotten a few extra minutes. If it is a weekend that they are with J, I wake up at the crack of dawn and either lie there wondering how the kids are doing and why I can't sleep, or I doze and have terribly realistic dreams that act out my worst worries and fears.

A.M. - Wrangle the various kids (both mine and not mine) that I am in charge of all day while Junior goes to school (after the landmine of picking the 'right' shirt. Many that I pull out of the drawer are 'too handsome.') Keep Bubba from picking on Sis, who makes an easy target and reacts really loudly to being bugged.

Afternoon - Junior comes home from school and tells me that it was "kind of ok." Spends the afternoon bossing me around until he gets in trouble enough times that he remembers to be respectful. Work on homework before playing with friends and/or going to J's. Fend off the needy one year old who doesn't need me for anything until the minute I am otherwise occupied. Bubba wants to wrestle and knocks the stuffing out of me more often than not.

Late Afternoon - Extra kids go home. If it is a night that I have the kids, I attempt dinner. Find myself cussing J out a little in my head as I break up fights and peel kids off of me long enough to actually cook something. Try hard not to think about a long evening with just me and the kids before the hour long business of 'getting them into bed.' Try really hard not to picture him returning to his home to spend a quiet evening much like the ones he and I used to pre-kids. Try not to remember the days when he used to walk through our door. If it is a night that he has the kids, I make an effort to cook dinner, but often don't see the point just for myself. Try to take others advice to 'do something for me' but mostly just miss the kids (ironic, no?) and watch the clock for them to come home. Concentrate hard on not picturing them in a different 'family' setting, while I hang out on my own. Concentrate on not hating J for all the accumulated minutes I have to be away from my kids because he wanted to change the stakes mid-game. Steel myself to have the kids come home and refer to the time they spent and worst of all, The DLS. Sometimes I make it to the gym. Most of the time is spent running whatever errands I can, doing laundry and catching up on work. It's feast or famine parenting and it is still not something I am used to.

Evening - Getting kids ready for bed involves a heads up, a second heads up, threats to 'get jammies on now.' Second threats. Chasing Sis to change her bum and get her pajamas on (which is like dressing a cat these days). The kids smell weakness and use it to their advantage. Sis gets kissed, sippy cupped and dumped in bed and both boys decide that they are starving and can't possibly go to bed without cereal, etc. They are master stallers and I am beat by then and they know it. Teeth get brushed, prayers are said and then comes the nightly negotiations of where they will sleep. I generally push for their own beds knowing full well that they will both be getting up at some point in the night and crawling into mine. They prefer going to sleep in my bed and I have been giving in and breaking our old rule just because I don't have the energy to force them into their own beds and know that they always wake up scared no matter how many lights I leave on for them. Junior asks if we can "talk" after prayers. Sometimes he wants to talk about missing his dad and the why's and wherefore's surrounding that subject. Sometimes he wants to talk about things that happened 'when dad still lived here.' Sometimes he wants to talk about school, sometimes he wants to hear stories about something "funny or gross" that happened when I was little or when J was little. Sometimes he wants to know how stars are made :-) Bubba snuggles and I really treasure this time even when I know there are miles to go before I sleep as well. Good night kisses to and from each boy and an application of 'good dream lotion' on their foreheads (clinique's 'Happy.' Junior can read now and I showed him the bottle. It makes you happy, right?) The ritual is the same every night and the boys won't let me skip or hurry any of the steps. I let them control it but I am worn out by the time the lights go out.

Post-bed - I should be excited to be done with the day and able to turn my brain off, but I often can't. It's palpably lonely. It's at this point of the evening that I realize just how little actual adult interaction I have had during the day. I worry about my kids. I worry about how the turn our life has taken will affect them. I worry about whether or not my reactions to these changes are damaging them. I regret not being able to share my worries with the other parent. I worry about the upcoming holidays and having to do all the essentials alone again. I regret that I was married to a man who could split our family like this and feel justified on any level. Most of all, I worry that it will never stop feeling this way. I am tired of facing this trial. The thing about this schedule is that it is not much different from the one I had before the big split. It is just missing that crucial element of sharing it and working toward a future with someone. It's a big deal. I am devoted to being a stay at home mom for my kids as long as I can, but I can't deny missing the adult interaction with someone who had the same cares and interests that used to break up my days. It lent permanence and validation to what I was doing at home knowing that working to raise good kids would mean that we had earned the right to enjoy our grandkids and each other on our own again in the later years. Long, full days and an empty house at night with yet more work to do is getting to be wearing. I get the most joy out of my children, but it is always tempered by the fact that the one who I shared them with is gone and is increasingly on a different page about what is most important for them.

Bedtime for me - Make rounds of the kids. Straighten them out, pull up covers, pat backs and say silent, grateful prayers for all three of them. Move at least one sleeping boy from my bed to the cot set up in my room. Turn down the other side of the blanket for him to inevitably crawl back in in the night. Try really hard not to let myself think about being lonely and missing my old life. Try hard not to think about my husband elsewhere tucked up with someone else. Plead with God for awhile to heal some of my hurts. Read a book until the Ambien kicks in. Cross my fingers that I won't have any dreams.

How do you even begin to move on when so much of your life remains exactly the same?

Monday, November 15, 2010

During October

We were bummed not to make it for our annual hayride/pumpkin field/bbq expedition this year, but between D-land and only having every other weekend to work with, we ran out of days. So, we visited a local place and the boys made me promise on the Great Pumpkin that we would not skip the usual shindig next year.

Grandma and Grandpa K, Aunt Mak & Co. and Uncle Brad came over to eat chicken curry, coconut rice and carve pumpkins.

The boys and I had been talking about hiking the Y for awhile now and we finally got a chance. It was not my favorite hike and it is deceptively steep. The boys were troopers and made it all the way up with a minimum of whining. The Y itself was also pretty steep and although Bubba felt confident that he was invincible, I had visions of having to watch him tumble all the way to the bottom of the mountain. It was kind of nerve wracking. We did get to see a local news helicopter really close up at eye level as it made the rounds of the valley to check traffic. And although the boys get a kick out of pointing at the Y on the mountain and knowing they were there, I don't think we will be back on that particular hike for a few years. Gorgeous view though.

We had a special Halloween dinner (mummy dogs and jello jigglers - I have stopped being optimistic about how much real food my kids will actually eat on Halloween night.)

Junior chose to be a Rabbid this year (character from his favorite video game 'Rabbids Go Home.') The game is about rabbit style creatures who travel to earth in washing machines and run around with shopping carts collecting things to make a pile that they can climb back to the moon. Not that you would ever be able to gather that from his costume. To the uninformed 99% of the population, he just looked like a rabbit with an octopus on his head :-) I think he looked awesome, although I am hoping for something a little more straightforward next year (or at least something I can buy in a store. Junior likes to pick costumes that I have to make.)

Sis was Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch that Stole Christmas (classic version, not the creepy Jim Carrey one...)

Bubba took a break from being Peter Pan to be his nemesis Captain Hook. This boy has always identified with the Disney villains more than the heroes (until his PP phase.) I guess they are more interesting?

Between a trunk or treat at Aunt Mak's ward and trick or treating with J until they dropped (literally, in Bubba's case), we are still working with full trick or treat bags. Now I am itching to get into the Christmas boxes (and for the snow, so I can stop mowing my stupid lawn :-)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So far this week...

Junior has been waking me up in the pre-light/dawn hours to do things like look up pictures of germs on the internet and assemble the cardboard frame for his new basketball team picture. (I consider it an example of my amazing skill that I can do it lying down, with no contacts in, in the dark, while half asleep...) He has been walking home in the freezing cold and sleet with his coat wedged into his backpack because a) he doesn't want to get his coat wet and b) it is too hard to put his backpack on over it.

Bubba has added karate kicks to his 'jumping off of everything in the house' repertoire. It has been two days of pretend fighting him while he dictates my every move like a picky movie director ("now bow mom... kick your leg high and I will run under it...etc. etc.) It always ends with me picking him up and pretending to 'smash' him on the ground while tickling him before he decimates me with a (planned) sneak attack. I'm sore! He startled everyone within a five row radius in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday by loudly asking me what "shit" means. And yes, it was during the Sacrament when everyone is (supposed to be) really quiet.) I couldn't decide whether to die of embarrassment or die laughing. I settled for shushing him, laughing to myself and then came home and put it on Facebook. He has thrown several tantrums because I can beat him in a bubble blowing contest, but to be fair, I did let him beat me in high-ho cherry-o.

Sis has moved on from the babbling 'mamamama' to a full on 'mommy.' Except she says it with a lilt on the end like a question "Mom-my?" She calls for me in her cute little high pitched voice when I'm not in the room and hearing it always melts me a little. Both boys are "bubba" and when they are at J's, she goes around the house knocking on all the closed doors calling for them. And she can jump with both feet now. I think she is a genius.

I have completed six loads of laundry, but haven't folded it yet. My microwave burst into flames last night (description exaggerated for effect) causing me to have to cook things on the stove and in the oven like a peasant. I am using all my willpower to get rid of the flu that is going around, but on the plus side, I don't feel guilty about not getting to the gym. My neighbors across the street and behind me have their Christmas lights in place and now I don't get to feel virtuous anymore for actually getting my Halloween stuff down before Thanksgiving. Bummer.

Is it really only Tuesday?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

because I know you have been breathless with anticipation...

I am surfacing from my pilfered candy sugar coma (specifically mini butterfingers) to update on everything we have done since our trip to Disneyland. I have to say that my second trip driving alone with the kids was quite a bit easier than the first time around last March. This was partly because Sis can eat candy, enjoy DVD's and no longer requires me to stop and mix up formula. Bathroom breaks weren't quite as much of a hassle now that she can walk and although she seems to have a 'thing' against sleeping in the car, she remained her good natured self until about an hour from home on the way back. What did NOT change about traveling alone with kids was the complete strength sapping, soul crushing experience that is checking into a hotel when you don't have someone to leave in the car with the kids. It involves getting everyone out, waiting in line to check in and get a room key while trying to pacify an angry one year old who thought she was going to taste freedom after being in the car for hours only to find herself strapped into a stroller. Bubba wants to swing on the line partitions and seems to consider all the hissed threats from me to stop as worth the risk. He is an expert at sensing when I am in a spot where I will find it much harder to make good on any threats. Junior is a good helper (as usual) but finds it hard to not only be the 'informer' for any of his brother's infractions but also the 'enforcer.' Bubba never takes that well. Because the room is always miles from the registration desk, we have to pile back in the car (absolutely breaking Sis' heart) and drive to the closest spot in the parking garage. Then I have to decide whether or not I can get everything I need in in one trip (including kids). Or, take the kids and one load to the room, extract a promise from Junior that he will die before opening the door to anyone and sprint back for what is needed. What takes 20 minutes with another adult along winds up being an hour when you are on your own. Not fun.

We stayed in Primm, which is just beyond Vegas. I got our hotel room for the low, low price of $16 a night :-) But...we paid for it in the pool door that was right below our window and slammed open and shut all night long and in the roller coaster for the hotel (Vegas, people) that zoomed past the window every 10 minutes or so until midnight. Whatever. It had a lock on the door, towels in the bathroom, two beds and I felt fine about the kids doing some well deserved jumping on them to get the wiggles out. Sis joined in enthusiastically and just as I thought "she is going to fall off right onto her head" and headed to intercept her, that is exactly what she did. Not a tiny head bonk that could be kissed away either. A full on swan dive onto her head! She managed to get her breath, took two big gulps and immediately started throwing up. All over me, all over her, all over her two blankies and all over the floor (which, admittedly, did not look that much worse for having puke on it. $16 a night...) The boys gagged and ran into the bathroom and locked it so they wouldn't have to see puke.

At this point, I am pounding on the door trying to get to the towels, wondering if Sis has a concussion and if I should call 911 or put everyone in the car and head the 20 miles back to Las Vegas to look for an emergency room. After the first chaotic five minutes, Sis stopped throwing up and was entirely absorbed in the sliding door on the shower. The vomiting after such a huge fall concerned me because as badly as my boys have hit their heads, they have thrown up. She wasn't showing any other signs of distress however, so after I got her pediatrician on the phone, we decided to have me keep her awake and watch her for another three hours and head for an ER if she threw up again. Thankfully she didn't, but all I could think was that I couldn't imagine a worse start to a vacation than having to pack my three young children into the car and backtrack to a Las Vegas ER on a Saturday night. Even though she and I had to stay awake until 1 a.m. and I still had to get up once or twice in the night to make sure she hadn't thrown up and was still responsive, I considered myself very lucky. It would have been years before I found that story funny. Also, I try not to do this, because it does no good, but it was experiences like that that had me silently cursing J's name. It is one thing to do hard things and try not to let our lives change too much, but I knew anyway that I shouldn't be having to travel alone with my kids. Nothing like a little emergency to reinforce that knowledge :-)

This is Sis bopping until (almost) dawn. She was in an extremely cheerful mood, as she always is when she is not physically restrained. I have some of my best video (so far) of her chattering away while the boys slept and I stayed awake by playing solitaire and waving to her from across the room. She is wearing Junior's shirt. One of the down sides to being super organized and packing an overnight bag to bring into the hotel while on the road is that you don't have a contingency plan for when one of your children renders their clothing unwearable.

Day two was uneventful (mostly.) As I packed up the stroller to leave the room, I looked around for Sis. I found her in the bathroom quickly and earnestly submerging her favorite blanket into the toilet and plunging it up and down like a washer woman. Gross. Add it to the laundry pile... It was good to roll into Anaheim well before rush hour and check in in time to go swimming.

It's a small world was our first stop and Bubba and Sis LOVED it. 6 year old Cousin Cubby was not the slightest bit interested ('I hate those kids that never stop singing...')

Some of our annual crew (cousins who we have gone with every year since Junior was Sis's age.) Everyone was smiling and looking at the camera at the same time. A Disneyland miracle...

Sis loved the ears. In full disclosure, I probably still would have bought them for her even if she had only kept them on for one picture, but she loved wearing them. She keeps finding them and bringing them to me to put on her. They might not make it to next year's trip. I am proud to say that Junior's mickey ears have returned to DL every year since he was 3 :-)

Halloween at Disneyland is really awesome. One of the new events is Mickey's Halloween Party. The park closes down at six to regular guests and a certain number of tickets are sold for those who want to wear their costumes in and trick or treat at the different stations in the park. It is the only time adults are allowed to wear costumes (and I can see why. The number of skanky Alice in Wonderlands (sp? grammar? too tired to care...) we passed was a little disheartening - where did the innocence go? Another post for another time...) Main Street USA was misty and the regular Disneyland music was replaced with Halloween tunes. Sis took the opportunity to dance in the middle of whatever crowd she could find and then preened and pretended to be shy when people made a fuss over her (but seriously, she was adorable!) Junior was a pirate, Bubba was Peter Pan. Sis is Tinkerbell (loosely :-)

Employees handed out trick or treat bags at the gate and there were candy stations set up all over the park. We made our way around on rides and trick or treated where we could and ended up with an amount of candy (each) that I only dreamed about in my own Halloween days. The evening ended with a fireworks show that completely traumatized Bubba. Its not a Disneyland trip unless I have a shaking, fireworks-fearful child in my arms.

Sis and two year old cousin Gracie were buddies. By the end of the trip, they would high five each other whenever they could. Quite possibly one of the cutest things I have ever seen.

Cooling off before heading back to the hotel for a nap.

Junior had been psyching himself up for weeks to ride the Tower of Terror and this is him right after (can you tell?) I promised him ten dollars if he did it. He went but he swears he will never do it again. Ironically, the physical part of the ride didn't really phase him, but the spooky movie at the beginning made him afraid to go to bed that night. Didn't think of that... Between his 'prize' money and contributions from both Grandpa and Uncle Brad pre-trip, this child had more money to spend than I ever had in one place until I was 16 with a job :-)

Being Peter Pan is serious business

Sis getting to know Chip (or Dale) at the Character Breakfast. For the record, that little event is worth every penny just to avoid most of the character lines around the park. Bubba just wanted to see Captain Hook and Junior just wanted to eat the Mickey shaped waffles he pounds every year. Sis got frustrated if the characters were at other tables. She would pound her fist on the table, wave her hands and chatter for their attention.

Two Princesses!

We took a detour to Bakersfield on the way home to see G-Grandma and G-Grandpa W. It was really fun and a relaxing way to spend some time before the long haul home. Sis went straight to work wrapping G-Grandpa around her finger and G-Grandma spent hours making 'money' out of pipe cleaners with Bubba and finding gold coins in the boys ears. Junior and Bubba liked the idea that they got to sleep in the same room their dad did as a little kid. We enjoyed having them all to ourselves for a day :-)

I had left the return trip open ended so I could decide if and when and where to stop for the night. I ended up choosing to drive the 11 hours straight home. I was not anxious to spend an hour setting up somewhere, and I missed my awesome bed too much. The kids were fantastic and I got to try my very first red bull on the way home. It actually works! The last hour of any trip is always a killer but the kids were champs. We were so glad to walk in the door and so very glad to not arrive home this time to a flood or a crisis of any kind.

This year's trip was...different. And very sad when I passed all the families. I couldn't help but see ghosts of ourselves in every place that held a memory for me (our favorite churro stand, the best spot for the parade every year, rides we loved, the spot where Junior practiced his walking the first time we went as a family...) But it wasn't miserable by any means. As long as I stayed focused on what IS rather than what WAS, it was really, really fun! My sister and her family meet us there every year and I could not have done this trip without them in almost every way. They were determined to make sure me and my little group had a blast even while chasing their own four kids. And we did have fun! Bek arranged for pirate gold to be left for the boys each night and it was exchangeable for souvenirs. Being with other adults also meant I could step away from the stroller for a moment or two when I needed to. They would take the boys with them to breakfast while I packed up for the day, held Sis when I needed both hands and helped track her down every time she tried to escape. When you add a few extra kids and remove one of the usual adults, the logistics get a little more challenging (3 adults to 7 kids this time.) But I wouldn't trade getting to see the cousins interact and having the time to just play with my boys and watch Sis light up at everything around her. Being the one to lift kids in and out and push the double stroller without a break every day had me completely exhausted by bedtime though. I wasn't able to lift the boys high enough to get a good view of the World of Color show and then ended up carrying Bubba out on my shoulders and it just about killed me :-) It was another of those moments when you realize how much of the burden you share as a team. But it was really nice to be making some good memories with the kids even if we all still missed J's usual presence. It feels like so much of life right now is running around and me stretched as thin as I can go and there is always somewhere to be. But not at Disneyland. We ate churros, Monte Cristos and Bengal BBQ and lots of candy. We ran until we dropped and we got up and did it again. Every day was 'yes day' for three full days and I remembered why we do this every year. The boys filled their autograph books and I filled my camera. I missed my annual date in the park with J (we used to trade out babysitting for a night with my sis in order to get some one on one time in the park) but Junior joined me instead to meet up with some friends and ride the 'big kid rides.' It was mostly good memories and good times even if some of it couldn't help but be bittersweet.

This picture is an annual tradition as well. I have us in every phase of our family in front of this sign. I almost skipped it this time, but changed my mind. Life goes on even when we would rather it didn't, right?

Also, no making fun of my hair (or the exhausted expression on my face. If I recall, I had just had to chase down and simultaneously discipline all three kids for three different reasons) :-) Also, it was really hot and fairly humid. Stupid weather. Why did it have to be 90 degrees in mid October? That wasn't part of the plan.

Till next year...where I will mostly likely have Sis in a real princess dress and definitely on a leash.