Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pre-decking the Halls

Well, Merry Christmas! It only took me a week to get the three or four evergreen garland swags outside my house properly connected and lit up. This is still less time that it took my neighbor across the street to deck his halls in seven million lights. I and reasonably sure you can see his house from space. Every year, the outdoor lights (such as they are) make me swear I will not be doing them the following year and every year, my boys get all excited about the go-getter neighbors who have their lights up by Halloween and bug me relentlessly about decorating our house. I figure that someday I will make THEM do it, while I sit inside with a book and hot chocolate (and Sis does the dishes). That's how it works with older kids, right?

Last night, he decorated the inside of the house and put up the kids tree for Family Home Evening. The kids tree evolved from the year that we bought a real tree, which shrivelled up and died about 6 minutes after we had it fully decorated. By a week before Christmas, it shed dry needles at the vibration of anyone walking by and threatened to burst into flames when we plugged the lights in. It was too close to Christmas to justify another tree and too far away to just deal with it. So, I bought a cheap little white tree in its place, which then became the kid tree. Each one gets their box of ornaments and they get to decorate however they want.

This is why most of the ornaments are concentrated on the lower branches and Bubbas karate belt is acting as tinsel. They boys were not satisfied with the amount of ornaments they each had collected, so they tossed a few toys in there as well.

Such as Monkey

And Belle

Sis didn't want to put anything at all on the tree. Nor did she want her brothers to. We witnessed the first of the Christmas season tantrums. They aren't any different than the tantrums from the rest of the year, but they are generally accompanied by the soft blur of Christmas lights and the knowledge that there is egg nog in the fridge. Makes them extra special, you know? ;-)

After we put scrooge to bed, Junior requested paper so they could make their Christmas lists, while eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate and watching a Spongebob Christmas special.

And then he asked me to make sure I took pictures of it all, so he could remember it. I think he definitely has inherited my supreme sentimental junkie tendencies. As soon as I am done here, I'm going to draft an apology letter to his future wife.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful Thanksgiving

We are so full! My sister and mom pull together a good feast. I asked the kids what we are particularly grateful for this Thanksgiving. There were many things, but these came to the top of the list.

Junior: 'My family and that my friend Josh gets to spend the night.'

Bubba: 'Dinosaur Chicken Nuggets'

Sis: 'Meow'

Me: That I was smart enough to stay in my comfy bed instead of getting pepper sprayed like the black friday crowd out in front of Toys'R'Us. Also, Junior's new cartoon: "Raffi and the Banana Muffin.' (Raffi is his stuffed giraffe and the banana muffin is Raffi's conscience who guides him in his many adventures.'

Happy Thanksgiving! Safe travels...

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I realized last night that next month will be a year since the final mediation to solidify the divorce decree.

It has been...a really long year, and I haven't written much about it beyond kid stuff. Mostly because I just have not been able to find the words. I cannot adequately describe how devastating it feels to attend your own divorce mediation two days before Christmas and sign that paper knowing it is the end.

The end.

The very end of the family that was your greatest treasure and that your best efforts couldn't save. I couldn't bring myself to relive just how it felt to drive home while pulling over multiple times to cry, knowing that the person who caused it all is likely celebrating. I would love to forget how it felt to want nothing more than to crawl into bed and disappear forever, but instead force myself to brave the holiday crowds because Santa still needed stocking stuffers. Writing wasn't an option because it took all my energy to face another Christmas (the second of many) as a single mom, keep up the usual traditions and show a happy face to my kids. I learned the hard way that even if you think you are prepared for something, the reality can still hit you like a freight train when it actually happens.

There have been no words to illustrate how it really feels to get the news that the divorce is finalized and then get the text (yes, a text) a week later that your barely-ex husband has officially made his long time mistress the stepmother of your children. The feelings of betrayal and humiliation connected to that are endless and overwhelming and (unfortunately) still constant. There is nothing I have ever experienced that is harder than handing my kids over every week to spend time with the woman who was a sneaky third wheel during my pregnancies with all three. Having her be part of my children's "family" ignites every protective instinct I have because I don't trust her. What is worse than feeling that way? Not being able to do a damn thing about it. What is worse than that? Knowing that my job is to make sure my kids feel comfortable loving all the people in their lives. Even her. Some things just plain suck, but I do it because I love my kids far more than I hate her.

Ironically, with the exception of some events and elements regarding the day Sis was born, I rarely dwell on my ex's affair during my marriage. In so many respects, I have moved beyond the many details and forgiven him for them. They don't keep me up at night anymore. It's the choice he made to leave and everything since that keeps raking over my raw emotions and reopens wounds. He brought cancer into our family and then married us all to it and we are dragged along in the wake of his decisions trying to find footing. Particularly as long as our children are little, I don't get the luxury of distancing myself from what often feels like emotional torture. I am just trying to get used to it, but for now, it is still a constant ache in my chest.

Time with my little guys is going by so fast. I begrudge the time they have to divide between two homes. I begrudge moments the DLS gets with them that she doesn't deserve and that I have to miss out on. My heart sinks every single time the kids drive away with their dad because every part of me shrieks that I don't want this for my kids or for me. It still digs pieces out of me to hear about their time away from me with a world of people, some of whom I have never met and will never know. My heart breaks every time he misses a 'moment' with the kids and again when I know that I did (Sis took her first steps at his house.) I have a daughter who I have almost no memories of parenting together with him (and it was a lonely, bewildering, self conscious pregnancy as he became increasingly distant and disinterested.) Because of this divide, being married and half of an 'us' feels like a dream or another lifetime. Most days I feel like I have always been a single mom. At the same time, the memory and comfort of happier days with my best friend is ingrained in me enough to miss it like an arm. Like an amputated limb, I suspect that you never actually stop missing it as much as learn to live with and accept it.

There aren't enough words in the world to describe how badly I want to shed this burden and wake up each day without it being the first thing on my mind. I have as many active steps as I can this year to try to do just that (another post for another time.) More than anything else, I wish I could just choose to never have to see him again. I wish I could treat our demise like a bad break up and store away the good memories, work my way through the bad and eventually wish him well wherever he is. After the last few years, I wish I could have him be no part of my life and I have no doubt that he feels the same. This path of triggers, pitfalls, painful reminders and humiliating new elements seems much harder, especially since we have to see each other weekly and I think it is important for our kids to see us interact amicably. I haven't missed the irony that the person who was once my most comfortable place is now the opposite. That always makes me sad. I wish I didn't have to hear 'her' name in my home, or casual (painful) details from the kids about the life they live, or wonder how much longer I am going to be bearing the brunt of his choices with limited options. Unfortunately, what would be comforting for me right now would be the opposite for my kids and ultimately, I would far rather that I be the one to suffer. While I might daydream about being free of my connections to him, I don't really want that for my kids sake. At the end of the day, I am glad that he is there for them as much as he is but, I often wish I could at least see the light at the end of the tunnel for me.

I do have my moments here and there of pure, warm comfort that wraps around my anxious mind and I am startled by the unfamiliar emotion that everything will be fine. It's a snippet of the overwhelming contentment I had when I cradled my baby girl the night she was born, thought about my three boys and genuinely felt "now I have everything I ever want." I was under no illusions that there weren't rough times ahead because something was clearly wrong, but ultimately I was comforted that we were a family and we had everything we would ever need to make it. Not making it was never even on my radar. Someday, I want that feeling back and the glimpses I get keep me keeping on. I adore my children and treasure my time with them. They make even the worst days bearable.

When I write posts like this, I sometimes feel like I should wrap it up with a reason why everything will be fine or defend my reasons for still going to bed most nights with such a burdened heart. But, sometimes things just are what they are and keeping from a destructive path that might numb temporarily is the best you can do. Some days, weeks or years are going to be incredibly difficult for different reasons and there is something to be said for acknowledging that, feeling it, concentrating on digging out and not letting the junk define you(while counting your blessings and hoping for better times of course :-) This is where I am now. I know that my goal is to get to where I can keep the good and make peace with the bad, but it's a bummer that horrible experiences don't have an expiration date. Enduring isn't as hard as enduring well and enduring well is an even bigger challenge when you don't know how long you will have to do it. :-)'Fake it til you make it' plays a big role in my life these days. I am grateful for the people in my life that let me put that facade aside when I need to and let me just 'be.'

I had hoped for a less stressful year, but I can't say that I will be sorry to see 2011 close. But, my issues aside, how stinking cute have my kids been this year, right? Plenty more where that came from :-)

Fingers crossed for 2012. Thank you to everyone for your love and support and encourangement this year. You know who you are.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yet Another Good Cause

Several of my blogging friends have been asked to help promote a campaign for LDS Philanthropies and LDS Business College to raise money for single parents attending a 2 year program. As a single mom who is minutes away from jumping back into the school scene myself (although at a different establishment) I can personally appreciate anything that makes the process easier or less of a financial drain. I know I am extremely grateful for the programs and policies put into place to help me succeed.

The goal is to raise enough money in November for 4 full tuition scholarships. Do it in the spirit of the season. Do it for the struggling single mother or father you know. Do it because the people who will use it are so much more in need of a boost than you could possibly comprehend. If you want to know that your donation is needed and appreciated, then this is the one for you.

If you are a blogger, follow the link on my sidebar, download the widget and pass on the word.

LDS Business College Single Parent Scholarship Fund

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October (the one with all the pictures because I have been too busy/lazy to upload them until now...)

October is my favorite month because it combines my favorite season and my favorite holiday. But it is always a busy one for us. We have our yearly traditions to check off the list, but these days they have to be scheduled on one of my weekends or days with the kids which adds to the hectic pace. But, I am proud to say that we managed it all and I think the kiddos had fun (and if they didn't, then I deleted the pictures ;-)

One of our first stops is always the pumpkin patch and hayride (by our old house) followed by BBQ at a place my kids love because they are served little cups of green jello with their food. This year, along with Britny and the crew, Michelle W joined us with her two sweet girls. Thank goodness she brought a camera because mine ran out of batteries the minute we got there and we all know that if you didn't take pictures of it, it didn't happen :-)

True to tradition, Junior picked out the greenest, most misshapen, mushiest, ugliest pumpkin in the field and had to be directed toward one he could actually carve. Bubba picked the one furthest from the tractor and Sis just wanted to help carry hers.

Cornbelly's, the local pumpkin maze and play area was next on the list and honestly, I could have played there all day (and we might have if it hadn't been so cold).

Life sized lincoln logs, bouncy houses, pumpkin cannons (which scared Sis almost to death), pig races, slides, corn mazes and kettle corn.....it was our first time there, but it will make our list every year we live in this state. It was that awesome!

In between all this, Junior found the time to sacrifice the body every week at Jr. Jazz Basketball. His specialty was diving for the ball regardless of floor burns and bruised knees. There is a good chance I have him in the wrong sport :-) He has improved a lot over last year though, and likes it enough that he asked to play in the Spring as well (which is huge for him!) He got to end on a high note when he scored the last basket in the last few seconds of the last game.

Pumpkin Carving, doughnuts and hot chocolate with our favorite neighbors.

Despite the fact that Bubba doesn't have an ounce of fat on him, he remains oblivious to the cold. Despite the fact that Sis lost her pants along the way, her fat legs keep her well insulated.

Uncle Jeff, who lives in Japan, likes to send funny things to the kids like ninja shaped cookie cutters and fake mustaches, which were a huge hit! Bubba and his BFF Q took their mustache wearing very seriously.

When the Bradshaws joined us for the weekend, it turned into a 'fun mustache party' as was suggested on the packaging. Who knew? The two 60 inch diameter Mrs. Fields cookies Britny brought with her only added to the awesomeness (and hyper-activity) of the coolest kids party ever. For the record, I never look at this group of kids without wondering how in the world we have 7 kids between us and why in the name of everything holy do we ever try to take them all anywhere? One of these days we are going to be pleasantly surprised at how easy an outing is, but it hasn't happened yet. It doesn't help that I have no second pair of hands and hers has been in Alaska for work for the last five months. 2 against 7 is never great odds, but you also have to factor in our sheer awesomeness...

I haven't dressed up for Halloween in over a decade, but the boys kept asking me what I was going to be. So, I was a witch for Sis' black kitty. I hope they enjoyed it because it probably won't happen again.

Halloween Dinner (who am I kidding, no one in this house eats anything but candy on the big day.) Good mommy rules dictate that I at least offer it though.

Indiana Jones, Black Cat (who HATED her costume until I put 'make-up' on her face) and a Ninja

We did a few streets in the area until Sis got tired and I took her home, while Grandpa kept going with the boys (who wimped out long before their old grandpa did!) Sis really liked helping me pass out candy except she flat out refused to part with any of the lollipops in the bowl. Those she carefully placed in her own bag.

Learning the finer points of sorting and trading the loot from Grandpa.

Happy Halloween!