Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not quite the first day of school...

Add another reason to my list of "why I'm NOT the perfect Mom." I have no photos of Elizabeth's first day of kindergarten. None. We didn't even make it to school on time. She was late. Sometimes I feel like apologizing to her, "I'm SO sorry you have me for a Mom!" Despite the numerous times my own incompetence has unfolded at her expense, she adores me. She tells me I'm the best Mama in the whole world with a strong squeezey-hug. And she means it!

So back to the first day of school SNAFU. It wasn't JUST the first day of school. It was my first day at work as a personal trainer. It was Erik's first day out of the country on some big project for work. It was also the first day of Gabe's vomiting and the first day Ava had diarrhea; the first day I had sobbed in a long time.

So the crumbled up, coffee-stained paper with all the kindergarten info on it said drop off was between 11:45 and noon. After pulling up to the school at 11:45 and seeing a deserted ghost town the familiar self-doubt creeped in. I actually drove around the school a bit before parking and going in. I carried the two stinky-sick-kids and had that "I was up all night with both of them" look in my eyes. We rang the school's doorbell and they let us in. I'm certain my genuine confusion and self doubt was obvious as I said/asked, "I'm here to drop Elizabeth off for kindergarten. My understanding is that drop-off is between 11:45 and noon?" Why do I always feel more like a student and less like an adult when inside a Catholic elementary school? The office lady did not make eye contact and said "that was my understanding too but it has somehow been changed to 11:30-11:45." Mild panic mixed with extreme annoyance crept in. So it wasn't totally my fault if even the office lady thought drop off time was later. Who changed it and how did all the other moms know? Where is this kindergarten classroom? I calmed myself down for Eliza's sake and cheerfully walked her to the classroom. She was very nervous walking in and I was so sad I had messed things up for her very first day. I kissed her briefly and said "I'll see you in a little while! Have fun!" and she shot me a frantic "DON'T LEAVE ME!" look with those extremely expressive eyes of hers. I kept that lump in my throat under control as I walked out of the door and towards the exit sign. This isn't how the first day of kindergarten is supposed to go! This is not what she was expecting. I had the camera in my purse. How could I have messed it up so horribly? My thoughts were interrupted by a scratchy little voice on my shoulder "Mama, why is Eliza so scared?" Even Ava could see how the rushed good-bye threw our sensitive Eliza for a loop. "Sometimes it's hard to begin something new." And my thoughts went back to when Eliza made me a new Mom. When I was scared I wasn't good enough to be somebody's Mom. Then I remembered how it felt to hold that warm baby girl for the first time. When she was finally placed in my arms her crying stopped and she nestled in and began to nurse. I cried because she was so perfect, I loved her beyond my hearts capacity, and I finally trusted God's confidence in me. I may not be perfect, but I am hers and she loves me.
But again (and again, and again, and again!)...I am SO, SO sorry I made you late for your very first day!!! UGH!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Family Trip

I am fortunate enough to be the aerobics instructor for a class called "Silver Sensations." It's an exercise class for energetics over the age of 55. The first time I taught them I absolutely hated it. I actually went home and cried. I made my playlist of oldies and planned out a great routine. I wasn't prepared to have 42 (!) people come to the class! A handfull of the participants looked as if they could go run 4 or 5 miles and another handfull were with walkers and on oxygen. Talk about overwhelmed! My nerves were definitely frazzled and within the first 5 minutes I was called down to childcare because my baby had a poop that needed changing. They were not understanding and I got more and more nervous. By the time "Great Balls of Fire" came on I was almost in tears. That was not fun.

Fortunately, I've gotten used to the class and they've gotten used to me. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that we have fallen in love with each other. They bring me in zucchinis from their gardens; I teach them the bachata. They bring in some healthy, cost-friendly recipes; I take them through gentle but rejuvinating stretches (that are osteoporosis safe, of course). A few of them watch their grandchildren once a week and we'll get together for playdates. It's been great for lonely old me...and the spark in their eyes when they see me tells me it's been good for them too. So they were sad when I told them that I have gotten a sub for the class for two weeks. I'm going on vacation. While driving 17hours with three kids (and no husband) might not be what pops into mind when you say "vacation" that's what it is. We're going to visit my family for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. One woman frowned and said "you're not bringing your dog are you?" and she was happy to hear I wasn't. Another woman said "oh dearie, I hope you have a cordless cellular to take with you." And she was happy to hear I did. They are all excited for me to see my family and nervous for me to do the drive myself. Me? I feel just the opposite. The driving is the easy part.

It has been ten months since we've seen my parents...and brothers, and sisters, and nieces, and nephews, and friends. Did I mention I am the youngest of eleven? And of course now that we are all grown it is no longer "just" eleven. Nine of us are married, so that brings it up to 20...add in the 20 (+) offspring and you have 40...my parents are another 2. Suffices to say that no visit is long enough and to say it is emotionally difficult on me would only be scratching the surface. I refuse to accept the role as "that relative" who lives far away and you see once a year; but that is exactly who I am in the family now. Every time I visit, the family dynamics have changed a bit. I see how my sisters are second-mothers to each others' children and I realize that I don't know what that's like. While I am an exciting novelty to the littlest kids, I am not part of their enormous security blanket of aunts. And my own children need a day or two to warm up to the crowd of loud-talkers with this funny Boston accent who are sizing them up "she looks like so-and-so" and "her hair isn't like it looks in pictures!"

I do thank God every night for being blessed with a spot in this amazingly warm and loving (and LARGE) family, but I can't keep the sadness from swelling up in my throat when I have to go back to our life in a part of the country that my family will most-likely never see. As difficult as it is for me to only see everyone in a rushed, cranky, tired visit once a year, I am dreading the day my kids are older and less portable. The day when there are years between visits instead of months.

So I guess the 17hr drive may prove to be quite challenging, but I'm certain it won't be as difficult as adjusting and accepting this "distant relative" role I've found myself in.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Last night I thought about our weather writing assignment as I was driving home after being held hostage in a tornado shelter at my gym for an hour and a half. The thick, humid rain, compounded with the incessant sting of lightning coming from all angles is not something you can fully realize until you have to "brave" it as you run out to your car. I think saying I "braved" it is a little misleading. I "coward" it...or "cowarded" it. While I was 40% certain I wouldn't get hit by lightning I was by no means relaxed in the situation. I wasn't with my kids! All Moms know that mothers know (and do) best, so the thought of a tornado possibly touching down when my babies aren't under my care and protection was more than unnerving. As I pulled into the driveway my husband greeted me at the garage door. I was so relieved to be back home, and it was obvious in his face that he was just as relieved to have me safe and sound with him. The kids were filled with the kind of jittery-excitement that is reserved for toddlers only. They were excited about two things:

1. they were allowed to stay up past their bedtime

2. Gabe muttered a few audible words resembling the "Our Father" with his hands in perfect prayer-postition.

I was blessed with several things last night: safety from the storm (other areas were not so lucky), healthy, happy children snug and safe in their jammies when I got home, a husband who understands the importance of Faith, and the opportunity to watch the little mustard seeds sprouting before my eyes...to name a few!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hello, my name is Gabe.

Happiness to me is twirling my Mom's hair, and sucking my left thumb. It's as simple as that. There isn't a single thing I've confronted in my 19 months on this earth that a good snuggle with Mom's hair and a mouthfull of thumb can't fix...but it's GOT to be the left thumb. Something about my right thumb just doesn't feel right. And yeah I have two older sisters but don't think for a second I'm sharing any laps. I'm the baby and I like it that way. People ask my Mom "is he talking yet" as if I'm not even there. I think Mom is suspicious that maybe I do know how to talk. There have been some emergency situations where I've let words escape. You know...like when my sister Ava goes for my Lightening McQueen car, I can't help yelling "No!" or "Stop!" Mom gets that motherly-knowing look in her eye, but she is totally in denial. She still refers to me as her "one year old" even though I'll be two in a few months. So yeah, I can talk a little bit, but usually I play the role of "baby" quite convincingly. Mom tells me "I want to keep you a baby forever!" and I aim to please. I mean, she is the one who rations out the portions at mealtime--I want to stay on her good side because boy do I love to eat! My Mom tells all sorts of strangers how I outweigh my big sister by three pounds, as if that's some big suprise. Ava hasn't finished a meal since I've been on solids and I eat everything that's within my reach. Sometimes I even eat the dog's food. It's not bad either. Ava doesn't like it when I grab food off her plate. It's pretty easy to push Ava's buttons. Man, is she a live-wire! I don't mind though. I get the biggest kick out of those fits she throws! I just get ahold of one of her baby dolls and throw it....she'll start up, legs kicking, face screaming--oh, it's great. I can hardly breathe I laugh so hard!
Eliza, on the other hand is bigger than I am and I have decided it's in my best interest to keep on her good side. Plus, she is just as bad as Mom with pampering and babying me and I just love that. She'll hold me and snuggle me and, more importantly, share whatever food she has just to keep me sweetly smiling. Yeah, it's a good life...I love eating and around here, I'm fed like clockwork. But, when the going gets rough, nothing comes close to the feeling of my left thumb in my mouth, and my Mom's hair in my right hand. It really eases the stress.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Weather

June 22nd Writing Assignment:Write about the weather and how it makes you feel.
(I am stealing writing assignments from my sister; I'm not sure if that's proper blog-etiquette or not!)

The weather. Ah, the weather. It's always a safety-net topic to end uneasy silence, but I always cringe when someone does that. I'm embarrassed about the obvious message it sends: "I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY." But I am digressing.

How does the weather make me feel? The weather has helped me soar to the highest heights and sink to my lowest depression--and everything in between. Sometimes the warm sun will give me a much needed pat on the back when I'm feeling lonely and other times it's like Mother Nature is flipping me off with a hail storm that nearly shatters my car's windows.

We were married in Wareham, MA in January of 2002. The snowstorm held off until the reception and I adore the romantic backdrop of a snow covered world in my wedding album. The day after our wedding I moved out to San Diego, CA to live with my husband. Now it may seem certifiably insane to complain about the always perfect weather that San Diego has to offer, but it just made the change more drastic for me. I felt like I was bobbing in the wake of all these monumental changes in my life and the 80 degree sunshine in January made me feel even farther away from home than I already was...and I knew there was nothing I could do about it. You can have your perfect weather, California! I want my Dad...and Mom...and brothers, and sisters, and friends...and NORMAL highways! Ah, the freeway is the scariest place in the world for a timid driver!!!

Between my episodes of homesickness, I really loved the fun-loving energy that San Diego's weather gave away. Everybody there was outside, energetic, going to the beach; even the homeless people were content (and WICKED tan)! The carefree attitude of the general area could get a little creepy at times. One night we were enjoying some drinks at an outdoor restaurant. We asked our waitress what they do when it rains. She just smiled and said, "oh Dudes, it doesn't rain!" But it did rain a couple times during the three year period we lived there. My guess is the restaurant staff was so laid back from overdosing on sunshine that they didn't really care.

Then we moved to the Gulf Coast (insert sinister laugh). We were actually excited for some good thunderstorms. Oh, we were so naive. The first "good" storm we got came with a small tornado and colossal hail storm. Did you know that Florida is the state that has the most annual tornadoes per 10,000 sq. miles? Neither did we until after this terrifying storm we weathered in the parking lot of the 'Piggly Wiggly' in our Saturn Vue. Ever heard of hurricane Katrina? While we were fortunate enough to not get hit directly we were on the dirty side of the storm and got some vicious tornadoes thrown our way that night. Suffices to say we left the Gulf Coast wondering how people can actually live there forever...and it was because of the vicious weather they have.

Our next move brought us to America's heartland: Chicago, IL. I thought I knew what cold was; I did grow up in New England after all. We closed on our new home on November 17th. There were many conversations between my husband and I about how great it's going to be to finally enjoy some snow for the Christmas season! Oh boy. I never knew what the other side of zero felt like. The weather was so oppressively cold (did I mention 20 below zero for a WEEK straight?) that we went into what locals call "Midwest hibernation." You don't leave the house unless it's absolutely necessary. That is not easy to do with three children under the age of four, a puppy...AND a living room that you mistakenly painted the most putrid shade of gold: think honey mustard.

Now, in walks Spring. Oh I have NEVER appreciated spring and all her gorgeous glory until I endured that bitter Midwest winter. Neighbors came out of hiding, trees began to bud, the flute-like fluttering of birds filled the floral scented air, and since it was our first spring in this new house, the flowers sprouting up in our yard were like presents! We couldn't wait for them to blossom and let us know what kind of flowers we have! We were ecstatic about reuniting with our beloved friend, the Sun. The weather has never lifted me up so high. No friends? No family? No problem! It's sunny and warm and I can take my puppy for a walk without wondering at what temperature eyeballs freeze! Good to be alive.

So after the honeymoon phase of springtime I start to get a little itchy. No, it's not the mosquitos. This weather...there is something this beautiful weather is doing that is really getting on my nerves. It is reminding me of those gorgeous summer days I knew growing up. I grew up on Cape Cod, went to college in a coastal CT town, lived in San Diego, CA, and then the gulf coast of Florida. How far away is the closest beach? OH NO! So when the sun rises on yet another cloudless sky I can't help but wonder if the weather is mocking me; the gentle breeze whispering "it's a perfect beach day, isn't it? Ha ha ha ha!"

A sunny day can take me back to the lazy San Diego beaches where I learned how to surf, or remind me of those humid air-conditionless nights as a kid in my parent's house. I think I'll always find New England's weather to be what suits me best. And unless we ever get the opportunity to live there again, I bet the weather in all these other places will find a way to make the pains of missing family and friends ache a little more.

****The pictures I added are all taken in our newest home in Illinois. The second picture I took because the winter sky made a mistake and let the sun shine through our window. Everybody was fighting for a spot in the sunshine. It's amazing how much the kids and puppy have changed in a mere7 months!****

Friday, July 11, 2008


20 Things I Love About Summer

1. tank tops

2. flowers

3. cookouts

4. ice cream man

5. sprinkler

6. being tan

7. the beach

8. 4th of July

9. seeing kids out and about on their bikes

10. sundresses

11. going barefoot

12. fruit salad

13. painting my toenails

14. sidewalk chalk

15. baseball

16. visiting family

17. italian ice

18. driving with the windows down

19. sand

20. thunderstorms

20 Things I Hate About Summer

1. sweating

2. bugs

3. strapless bras

4. re-runs

5. mowing the lawn

6. trying to plan dinners that won't make my kitchen too hot

7. trying to find subs for my classes at the gym

8. forgetting about clothes you hung outside until after it rains


That's it. Only eight.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Little Star Just For Me

Sunshiney curls cascade down her shoulders and echo the warmth in her soul.
And the stardust sparkling in her sea-glass eyes is contagious, or so I've been told.
She suprises me often with the depth of her wisdom and the genuine warmth in her heart.
From her gentle manner to her firey passion, she is really and truly a star.
She picks flowers to stash in a secret box she's saving for my winter birthday.
And hides glitter-glue love notes in Dad's overnight bag when work has to keep him away.
So after the world has fallen asleep and moonlight glistens on the sea; my heart swells up thanking God above for this Star he made just for me.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I don't have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude!

There's a unique type of coldness I feel when he gets out of bed in the morning and leaves the covers unfurled.

"Where are you going?" I ask him, slowly turning onto my side---I remember him saying he loves how I look when I lay on my hip.
"Bathroom" he answers without turning around. He loudly itches himself as he turns on the bathroom vent...and successfully flushes all passion down the drain.

Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.

Here's something I journaled one day after taking the girls to the park in Milton, FL. Gabe was just a few months old...I don't think I'll ever forget this moment.

Today as you were eagerly running to your favorite slide at the park you were met with some worrisome company: a two year old boy. His chubby little arms flailed as he yelled "NO!" and tossed sand into your big blue eyes. If you ever become a mother you will know how this tugs at the most sensitive heartstring known to man and not because you got sand in your eyes, but because your feelings were hurt. You are such a fiesty little soul though...refused to show any tears. You froze right in your tracks, blinked, retorted "YOU no!" then quickly ran to my side, hugged my leg and sucked on your little thumb. You didn't want to cry, but I knew tears weren't far behind those enormous blue eyes of yours. Those eyes Ava...oh my God your eyes. Everywhere I go people stop me to talk about how gorgeous your eyes are...the shade of blue, the frame of dark eyelashes...but I know the real beauty of those eyes. The way they get teary when Cinderella's stepsisters tear her dress apart, or how they dance and sparkle whenever your Dad comes home from work, the flash of determination they get when you insist on doing it "ME-self!''...all the ways they express the beautiful things that are uniquely you; my fiesty little girl who is always in a rush. You do everything mach 10...you are always talking, and jumping, and fiddling with toys, and hugging, and laughing--leaving tupperware, sippy cups, and toys in your wake...and you do it all so darn fast. You grow up fast too. How can this sticky, stubborn toddler be that soft, warm newborn I held at the naval hospital just days ago? Okay, two years ago. Wow. This lump in my throat, the tension in my stomach, reminds me that I can't keep you safe and content in my arms anymore. You're not a newborn. Even scarier is the realization that it won't be long until I see pride holding back tears when kids tease you, or leave you out, or break your heart...and I'll wish that you were 23months old again...a time when a few dozen readings of "Goodnight Moon" could fix everything.