Sunday, February 28, 2010

From The Beginning

I always get sentimental right around my kids' birthdays, recalling the pregnancy and delivery and then all of the birthdays since.  Each of the kids seem to enjoy hearing their individual stories but I've never really documented them in any meaningful manner, so I'll do it here for the whole world to see which I KNOW the kids will thoroughly appreciate.

None of my pregnancies were planned.  Although the timing of each was rather inconvenient, I flat out refuse to call any of them accidents.  The kids know this yet I lovingly refer to them as OOPS, OH NO, and OH SHIT.  They can tell you which one they are.

Today I will highlight my first pregnancy which coincides rather neatly with the birthing story I will post tomorrow to celebrate the child born on March 2nd.  You'll have to wait until May and June for the other ones.  Crazy how I mapped that all out, huh?

I had just completed my junior year in college and still had more than a year of courses and student teaching to complete.  I did a week of classroom observation (at my little brother's school - that was weird) and then left immediately for an extended weekend with my then boyfriend who was stationed in Florida.

It was a great little vacation (clearly).  We took a day trip to St. Augustine which thrilled my history loving self.  He lived with a very hospitable and friendly family in a mobile home.  It was simple living in a simple world and I was very comfortable there, except the cockroaches.  Uh yeah, the place was infested with them.  WAY GROSS.  I have huge issues with roaches and this didn't help AT ALL.

Summer school began and I didn't have so much as a clue that I was pregnant.  When finally the realization struck that it was a possibility I consulted my best friend Vicki and she accompanied me to the clinic for the test.  She was the shoulder I cried on when the test was positive.  She asked what the response was supposed to be - I'm sorry or I'm so happy.  More tears as I laughed, "Both!"  I was happy, but damn, this was huge.  Thank you, Vic, for being there!

Two hundred miles away from home, I made the most frightening call ever to my mom.  I knocked her off her feet as her only response to everything I said was "wow."  She called back a few hours later, clearly the shock had faded and she was back in the driver's seat rattling off information from the insurance company, arranging a doctor appointment at home and making sure I was okay.  That simple phone call has endeared me to my mother forever.  I may bitch about her, but she has my back.  Thanks mom!

The call to babydaddy was even more nerve racking.  He had to be called out of the field and faced a lot of heckling heading for an emergency phone call from his girlfriend - that can only mean one thing, right?  And it did.  He still jokes about my statement, "I'm kinda pregnant."  KIND OF?  Either you are or you aren't.

While I was in Florida we picked out wedding rings, but never set a date.  A date was suddenly picked based on when he could get home on leave - September.

My memories of that summer are mostly about physical discomfort.  I itched.  Later I found out there's some sort of rash related to pregnancy, but none of the doctors I talked to seem to be aware of it.  Head to toe, I itched.  Everyone was convinced I was allergic to something, but we could never pinpoint the source.  Visiting home was wonderful as my mom with long fingernails would scratch my back - absolute heaven.  I also endured all day bouts of morning sickness.  I worked at Taco Bell at the time and smell of the red sauce they use on burritos just turned my stomach inside out.

I also had strong cravings for mashed potatoes.  KFC has the most incredible potatoes and they truly hit the spot.

It was a hot that summer.  Africa hot.  And we didn't have air conditioning.  I snuck outside at night when I couldn't sleep and sat on the front porch, enjoying the cooler temperatures.  It was the first time I ever saw bats as they would circle the street lights.

By September the morning sickness had faded away, but the potato cravings persisted to the bitter end.  I also had a thing for bananas, frequently making banana milk shakes.  Clearly I was needing potasium.  The other craving was gumballs.  Yes, those stupid quarter machine pieces of candy.  I was not above breaking a dollar just so I could get my gumball fix.  I mean I'll stop for one even today, but it was a dying NEED back then.

Much to the dismay of my advisor I opted not to enroll for fall semester, instead I chose to move to Florida and start my life as mother and wife.  I had a lot of tough choices to make that year, ones that had I chose otherwise would have led to a very different life today.  I do sometimes wonder "what if" but I don't regret.

Just days after a big formal wedding pulled together in a matter of months I moved to Florida to start a new life.  We stayed a few days in the roach infested trailer until we could secure our own apartment.  With only a few personal items that little apartment was stark.  Money received at our wedding supplied a TV and bed.  One of his co-workers loaded us up with a couch and coffee table.  It was funny looking to have formal serving pieces laid out on a table made from milk crates, but that's all we had.  It all felt surreal, like we were playing house. 

I began regular OB appointments at the military base, in a true clinic setting, never seeing the same doctor.  That was weird and impersonal.  Fortunately the whole body itching subsided.  I was progressing according to the schedule and that made the variety of doctors and nurses rather happy.

Most of my time was spent in the apartment.  I would lug the laundry back and forth to the apartment laundromat which was increasingly more difficult as my belly grew.  The UPS man became a common face delivering care packages and when the baby was born, he was excited to finally see her.

Thanksgiving was spent with new husband's coworkers at someone's house.  I made my mom's recipe for rolls and it was a big hit.  I came home just before Christmas so I could attend Vicki's wedding as a surprise guest.

Christmas was spent together as newlyweds and we went to the beach where I collected seashells.  It was a cold blustery day, but I was determined to get those shells, many of which I still have today.  A few days later, my mom, stepdad and youngest brother stopped through for a visit on their way to Disney World.

The last two months were agonizingly slow as we made preparations for baby.  We didn't know the sex, but we were prepared for either.  My afternoons were spent watching Days Of Our Lives and ticking off kick counts, a rather busy job as this was one very active fetus.  She grew straining against the confines of my body.  Eventually I was able to define the body parts just under my skin and could chase her foot around, assuring me she was ticklish.  The first thing I did when I got to see her in the hospital was run my finger up her foot, no surprise, she retracted that tiny foot as quick as possible.

Why she hung out in there for so long is beyond me as she was very clearly uncomfortable.  She would rock her head backwards and rub it against my spine - that is a indescribable discomfort especially as other body parts were frequently in the way, leaving me gasping for air.

Overall it was a happy, easy pregnancy.  I spent a whole lot of time rubbing that belly, talking to the unknown entity inside.  She was exposed to wide array of music between me and her father, a lot of laughs, and a whole lot of potatoes and bananas.  That probably explains a lot about her eclectic taste in music, her easy humor and an undying love for mashed potatoes.

Come back tomorrow for the birthing story.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Spring Break Is Just Around The Corner

Last night Ian handed me the lunch menu for March.  First, I haven't seen a lunch menu since September.  Somebody has finally cleaned out his bookbag and I guess he doesn't want to clutter it with new handouts - makes me wonder what else I haven't seen.

But the bigger issue was that an entire week was blocked out for Spring Break.  Holy crap, is it that time again?  So soon?  Wasn't it just New Years Eve?  Hmmmm....

I guess I'll have a little tag along at work for a few days.  I'm sure he'll want to spend a few days of doing nothing - a skill I have cultured quite well in my children.

Spring Break!  Already! 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Banana Milk

We have bananas sitting on the counter.  They are like a beacon BEGGING to be eaten which is good because that's pretty much the reason we bought them.  But I have this routine set with Ian to call and ASK before diving into a food item as his after-school snack - it COULD be sitting there for another purpose.  We also have limits on snacks as this child will gladly graze all day long and never sit for a proper meal.

Today he hoped to toss me for a loop.  "What would banana milk taste like?"  I already know where he's going with this.  Clearly he's spotted the bananas and remembers the totally awesome thing I said the other night about a new way to peel a banana (by the way, thank you to the blogger who posted the link, sorry I forgot already who posted it).  First I speculate that banana milk would probably taste a lot like a melted banana milkshake.  Crap, I didn't sound surprised.  Oh well, he moves on and asks how to open the banana.   I explain the steps, clearly he has a banana in his hand as we're talking.



Then the mother in me kicks back in.  "Make sure you drink all of your milk and eat all of the banana."  I don't care that he's experimenting with his food just as long as he's not wasting it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cool Award

Ooooh!!!  Another first!




Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22, 1988

This is such a big date in my life.  It was my focus for nine long months, my due date. 

I enjoyed being pregnant.  It was amazing that a person was growing inside me.  Unlike my later pregnancies I had no distractions and could spend a lot of time bonding with my growing belly and the alien rolling around inside.  But that last month was pure torture.  I was impatient to finally meet this person who was no longer a stranger to me.

Very impatient.

Her father was impatient too.  We jokingly contrived ways to speed up her arrival, but true to her current personality, Miss Amanda does shit according to her own schedule (file that one under things we learn from our fetuses).

I knew better that babies rarely arrive ON their due dates.  In fact, most babies arrive BEFORE their due date.  By February 1st my bag was packed, the plan mapped out, phone numbers to grandparents written down, I was ready.  And waited.  And waited. And waited.


By February 20th, anxiety, anxiousness, anticipation, and impatience were starting to take their toll.  Add to that my physical discomfort?  Let's just say there's wisdom in the old traditions of "confinement," the hiding of women during their final stages of pregnancy behind closed doors away from the general public.  I was not fit for human consumption.

The night of my due date it was clear I was nowhere near going into labor so my mom took us out to eat.  As we stood in line waiting for a table, two elderly ladies were behind us.  Two things bring out uninvited conversation from old women - babies and pregnant bellies.  So I immediately became their opening line and my mother, the non-stop talker, quickly joined in.

"Oh honey," one chimed, "you've DROPPED!"

To this day, twenty-two years later, I'm still royally pissed about this statement.  How in the FUCK would she know if I dropped or if I was carrying low?  Seriously? 

"When are you due?" she asked like every other stranger on the street has asked for the past forty weeks.

With a glint of evil joy in my eye I said, "today."

I swear both women shit themselves right there.  Their eyes bugged out and then fell to my "dropped" belly.  It was obvious they were taking quick inventory about gathering towels, sheets and boiling water in case their midwifery skills were going to be needed in the next five seconds.

And then my table was ready.  Damn.  No more torturing little old ladies!

I was then confined for the remainder of my days.  That would be another NINE DAYS.  nine.  I was contemplating a do-it-yourself caesarean.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Boys At Play

Even after growing up with two brothers I am still amazed at the physical nature of boys.  It's constant contact of fighting and wrestling, even from the quietest, most sedate of males.  And they don't outgrow it either.  Put two grown men together, long time friends, and their first handshake is a fierce grip threatening to melt into a tumbling pile on the ground right before our eyes.  Brothers are possibly the worst.  They roll and tumble over their mother's livingroom floor, chase each other through the backyard.  I imagine as they age and fall out of shape the running and tumbling will reduce, but I see my brothers, both in their late thirties, with a glint in their eyes of "catch me if you can."

Here is my son, Keith, with my friend's son Tyler, terrorizing our vacation house, Keith displaying his brute strength.  All of the smaller kids were hoisted up and tossed onto couches, no different than when they were frolicking in the ocean just hours earlier.

Picking each other up is the best sort of fun, at least for the boys.  The day Keith could pick up his big sister was a day of triumph.  They each had differing versions, one gloating the other horrified, of how he was able to grab her and threaten to toss her over the railings at school (exactly what a mother wants to hear).  And now Ian, just hair (literally) shorter than his sister, is able to lift her off the ground.

This is not how girls play and this is why mothers stand screeching for their children to pipe down (well, one of many reasons).  We don't understand the inner animal of our male children, the NEED to be physical.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another Thank You

Welcome to all of the new followers!  Wow!  My eternal gratitude to Kelly at Speaking From The Crib for featuring my blog.

Today I am quite childless.  If ever there were an upside to divorce, it's the weekends when the kids are with their dad.  I adore having more than a few hours to myself, freeing me to go out and play without scheduling a babysitter or worrying about being home in time to see if anyone breaks curfew.  It's a nice change in the parenting routine - I highly recommend it for everyone!  Okay, I'm kidding about that,  divorce is dreadful and should be avoided if at all possible. 

So maybe if you know of someone with little ones at home, do them a favor and grab the kids (pre-arranged, I'm not advocating kidnapping) for a weekend.  And for those of you given a kid-free weekend DO NOT waste it on mopping the floor or other housekeeping.  Dive into the bubble bath, run around the house naked, enjoy a romantic dinner with your spouse, go out to a movie, curl up with a good book.  In other words, ENJOY the time.  To do anything else would be as logical as going on vacation to spend the entire week holed up in the hotel calling clients, running reports and everything you would do at your desk at work.

It's not to say I don't love my kids or enjoy having them around.  But a few hours apart is a healthy thing.  Don't dwell on them being away - trust me they will be back before you know it.  And that floor you just mopped to perfection?  Trompled and covered in muddy footprints in five seconds flat. 

Well I was going to apologize for not posting anything today, oops!

Friday, February 19, 2010

OMG I'm a Guest Writer!!!

This is my first time to be invited to write on someone else's blog.  I froze like a deer caught in the headlights - how awesome!  What the hell do I write???

So go to Speaking From The Crib and check it out.  Then bookmark her and read her everyday because she's hilarious.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

All Gussied Up

So many of the pictures of my children are snapped in everyday shots.  They are mostly blue jeans and tshirts sort of kids.  Fortunately littered throughout my collection are times my kids dressed up, sometimes quite willingly.  Beyond the mandated times of weddings and the sporadic dance, my kids have had plenty of other opportunities to dive into the dressier side of their closets.  Much to my delight they have done so quite willingly.

It's not much of a surprise my daughter is drawn to beautiful gowns.  I am surprised how well she pulls it all together - certainly not something she learned from me.  I'll have to blame her aunt.  What I did pass on to my daughter was the knowledge that accumulating pretty gowns doesn't have to break the bank, that with well-timed shopping excursions she can land some ridiculous sales. 

Now the boys, that takes a little more encouragement.  Yet when prom came rolling around, Keith went out on his own and managed a very nice tuxedo.

Like his siblings, Ian has been strongly encouraged to don the dress clothes for more than celebratory occasions.  Lately it has been less of a struggle and when it comes time to shopping for the next size he has been actively involved with very specific opinions.
I even managed to get him out on the dance floor - SCORE!  (And yes, that IS a Southpark tie)

They do make me proud.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Beyond Refrigerator Art

Last time I posted how I keep just about every piece of art my kids produce.  I keep it for posterity but also because I adore little kid art.  As my kids grew their skills improved and their art went beyond mere "kid art".  Both Amanda and Keith opted to take art classes for electives in high school and Keith majored in art in college.  Pieces continue to flow into my possession, but it's a crime to shove them into a rubbermaid tub in the basement.  They deserve to be framed....


After I uploaded these pictures it dawned on me that I have a few 3D pieces as well.  I'll post them at some point.  I'm also missing Ian's work.  Unfortunately I don't have any of his stuff framed.  His work is on display in my office cubicle.  He is drifting away from drawing and more towards industrial art.  Soon I'll be clearing off shelves to make room for his art next to his siblings.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Refrigerator Art

What do you do with your kids' artwork?

I wanted to display it but the volume of paper that kept flowing in from school was just too much to merely clip to the refrigerator.  I've heard of people that cycle it out, throwing away the older pieces.

That breaks my heart.

You could tell my kids had the same art teacher and that teacher used the same projects each year so I would get a lamb with glued on cottonballs from Amanda and then the next year get the same thing from Keith.  And here began my love affair with kid art.  It just fills my heart to walk through an elementary school and see all the variations of the same design.  There is nothing as precious as a kindergartener's rendition of a person with stick legs and arms, a crooked smile, lopsided eyes, purple hair and a blob resembling a dog.  LOVE IT!

It was clear I had budding artists, not because of the quality of their early works.  No, theirs was just as cockeyed as everyone else in their class.  But there was a passion.  They were (are) always found drawing, doodling, and talking incessantly about drawing.  I was not only flooded by art from school, but also from their bedrooms. 

They exceeded the capacity of the refrigerator door and I looked for other options in the house.  In very short time they were capable of completely wallpapering the entire house.  As much as I love kid art, plastering all over my livingroom was pushing it a tad.  I found the stairwell to the basement to be the perfect spot.  Rather unceremoniously I stapled their works to the wall, Amanda on one side and Keith on the other.  When little Ian came along his art was taped to the inside of the basement door.  I couldn't have a fourth child if for no other reason than lacking space for another child's art!

There were rules for handing me a piece of art.  It absolutely MUST have the date and child's name.  I explained that mommy has a horrible memory and I'm not going to be able to remember who drew this beautiful picture when I'm really old.  Like thirty-three.   They understood.  They knew allllll about mommy's bad memory, I can't even remember their names when yelling at them.  So they diligently scribbled their name on the back and tried to write the date as best as possible.

Art that didn't make it to the wall was still kept.  I had a tub in my bedroom for those pieces so I keep them forever.  Yes, I am a die hard pack rat.  And when the day came to move out of the house with the art-filled stairwell, I carefully removed each, some brittle with age, and stored them in rubbermaid tubs.  I have two large tubs of my kids art.  What the hell I'm going to do with it, I have no clue.  But I have it.

You know how unimaginably painful it would be to lose pictures in a fire?  I have that same sentiment about those two tubs of artwork.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Playing In The Snow

If you've been following my snow saga over on my other blog you'll know that we were anticipated to receive a few inches, but mostly got rain.  And it made me sad.

I love the snow.  A lot.

It's hard, though, as a parent to revel too much in the crappy, sloppy mess.  And then there's the whole drama of getting little ones bundled up, to rush outside, only to have them fall down, cry and want to come back in.

And then there's the issue of living in St. Louis.  Have I ever bitched about St. Louis weather before?  No?  Then you haven't been paying attention.  Winter here is cold.  Bitter, ass biting cold (and in six months I will be whining about the dismal, tropic conditions of the impossible summers here - one or the other, folks!)

This means our children own heavy duty winter coats and have a sled buried somewhere in the garage.  And they know that sled exists.  And when snow is predicted they first think of having school called off and then think about that sled.  Nevermind that perfect sledding hills are not abounding on every street corner, that many children have to be driven to such locations and driving conditions in this stupid town are usually unbearable after the drop of the first flake.  Nope, kids are focused on winter fun...

...until they step outside, fall down, find insufficient snow to properly sled, and realize it's really assbiting cold.

And around here, we don't usually get but one, possibly two, storms with any accumulations.  Usually, it's a meager dusting.  If the ground is frozen enough, kids still manage to slide down the hills.

Soon the best part of snow days is getting back inside the house to cups of mouth scalding hot cocoa.  Hey, have you ever made hot cocoa with something other than from packets and hot water?  If you have baking cocoa, read the directions on the box to make it with hot milk.  OMG, totally fabulous.  The stuff you use water with will always taste like... well, something made with a packet of stuff and water.

Between the lack of real snow, the kids fussing, driving conditions, the cold, and a burnt mouth, I'm forced to remember the fun of snow of my childhood in Oregon.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sibling Affection

These would be perfect for Wordless Wednesday.  Nothing needs to be explained.  This is sibling affection at its best - one forcing the issue, the other trying to escape.

Fourteen years later - some things never change.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Good Soaking Bath

Remember when taking a bath was an ADVENTURE?  You may have been coaxed into the tub, but it was a genuine battle to get you out.  Oh the fun of sloshing and swimming, of pretending to be a pirate or a mermaid!

If only we adults could submerge our bodies into pools of deep frothy water filled with floating toys, wouldn't we take a bath every day?

I'm a shower girl.  I'm alllll about a steamy hot shower and singing at the top of my lungs.  If I could fully lay down in a bathtub without bashing my head or tangling my toes on the nozzle, I might still be a tub girl.  I'm not graceful enough to read in the tub and I would surely burn myself if I had candles (don't ask, I really am that talented).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Aggressive Affection

I have two pictures, almost identical but nearly a decade apart.  These have been on my desk in the past and every time I see them I smile.

This is Amanda trying to kiss a friend, a little girl who wasn't so sure about the bearhug and kissy face coming her way.  Amanda was hellbent in her mission and didn't let the little girl get away.  Of course all of the adults found this hilarious.

Here is Ian going after a cousin.  She was more receptive.