Monday, May 23, 2011

Mother of the Year

There are days when I want to throw in the towel.
   After a half hour pleading with my thirteen year old to rewrite a rough draft and therefore pass english, I am sitting on my bed with tears running down my face. This has been the most stressful few months I have ever had as a parent. Is it their age? Or is it MY age? Shouldn't I be handling this better at my age? Shouldn't I be so much more patient and tolerant of the bullshit by now? I feel like I should have the answers but when threatening to go to school with Ian and to basically hold his hand in front of sixty other seventh graders does nothing to move him along, I throw my hands up and am tempted to write the damn essay myself! Or better yet, sit on my bed and cry. After all, when your oldest child tells you that he would have a better life with his father, the best role model he has, the one who has taught him all that he knows, what more can you do but hang your head and cry? It is not his father going without sleep...or crying into his pillow. But somehow, none of this matters. I am always the bad guy. And tonight I don't even know how to handle that.
   I can almost hear Laura saying, "Are you going to let him get away with that?" and it is not her, but me that is mocking myself. I want her to say it so I can have someone to yell at. I need a punching bag. I need a plate to smash. I feel completely helpless as my thirteen year old runs roughshod over me. How do I force this half grown child to do something he is downright refuses to do? I can no longer hold him down and dress him so he matches. I can no longer hide vegetables in his spaghetti sauce and get away with it. I cannot force him to come with me when I take drives and want his company. He slams the door in my face and I can only stand there wondering what happened. I need answers. I need help. I need a straight jacket.
   I feel like I am losing control of my boys. They do not play nice. It is a love/hate relationship with the girls as well. And we are talking love one second and hate the next. The kids were on the trampoline last night and I heard screaming. A wonderful game of sumo wrestling, sounds of laughing that for once put a smile on my face, had turned deadly. Ian held Bella down. She head butted him. He punched her in the thigh. How do I referree a fight I did not see? I can't. I tend Isabella's wounds. I tell Ian to never use violence, to just leave when his little sister bothers him. After all, she weighs almost a hundred pounds less than him.
"But she head butted me! How can you let her get away with that! Whats wrong with you, how can you yell at me and not her? What kind of a mother are you?" He hisses at me.
   And with that, the door slams and he is upstairs. He does not speak to me for the rest of the night. Isabella comes in to the bedroom crying and tells Laura that Ian punched her. When she explains that she had head butted him, Laura says, "I probably would have punched you too..." and then Isabella screams, "Laura wants to punch me!"
   I sigh. Girls are emotional. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. She will not think about the message here. She will only hear that Laura wants to hit her and that is not the message at all. Laura does NOT want to punch Isabella. She just does not want Isabella head butting and wants Bella to know that when she head butts the boys, they will react.
   Every five minutes, there is a fire to put out. Did I torture my parents like this? I must have. My mother said that one day I would have a child JUST LIKE ME and then I would KNOW. I think this is what she meant, but I know for a fact I did not talk to my mother the way my kids talk to me. I would have been picking myself off the floor. I knew the boundaries. I knew respect. I thought my kids would respect me out of love. What ever happened to that plan? It is not all bad. I just find it confusing as hell that one day I can be amazed at how mature they are and the next day wonder where they came from. The very same child can at the same time fill me with pride and fear. He is either a budding psychopath or a budding genius. Or both. I have either done a fantastic job with him...or ruined him totally. Is it normal to doubt myself like this? Are all teenagers so hard to comprehend?
   Tonight, I can do nothing but cry. I need them to be in bed an hour ago. I need to be held. I need to speak an order and have them listen the FIRST time.
   Thank God I have therapy this week because I have to have a therapist just for validation. To be told I actually make good decisions. To hear that I'm NOT just inefficient, stupid, wrong and...hated. I cannot wait for my kids to become parents. They will appreciate so much more then. I know I appreciate my parents more. It all worked out exactly the way they said it would.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Boys will be Boys

I woke up to the sound of the bus as it pulled up in front of our house this morning. I was clutching my cell phone, aka alarm clock, in my hands. I groaned and looked at the time. Serious oversleep. There had to be hell to pay for a night out with other women and a campfire. I knew falling asleep happy was going to have a consequence. Rubbing my eyes, I looked at the white strings wrapped around my wrists like little bracelets. A big, sleepy grin spread over my face. So it was real. Seven strings for seven blessings and each attached by a kindred spirit.
   Stumbling to the stairway door, and half asleep, I holler up to the kids. "Time to get up, bebes, I overslept!" I only hear Ian moan his response and spend the next ten minutes trying to wake up Sage. I wonder if they actually went to bed on time, since my fourteen year old was babysitting in exchange for a new Xbox game.
   "If I have to be up, ya'll have to be", I yell up at the ceiling.
   Sage holds her foot and sticks her lip out. She says that she has been bit by a bug and cannot walk, find clothes or even dress. The pain is too severe, she says, and I want to chuckle when she uses "big" words but I know that she would think I was not taking her seriously.
  I manage to get four of the kids to school only ten minutes late and then i drive Riley to the hospital to have his Holter Monitor taken off. He wore it for twenty-four hours and we should know soon whether or not he is able to take another stimulant or if there is something really wrong. I'm not sure I mind this hyper version of Riley. The Vyvance seemed to make him more irritable, really touchy, almost combative. As much as I want him and he needs to calm down and focus, I would rather have an out of control, sugar strung Riley than a Mr.Hyde.
  Seth rode shot gun. He usually does, since he can help me watch the traffic and look for deer. Lately, my driving just isn't what it could be. I'm surely more paranoid about that than necessary, but hypervigilance has not let me down thus far in regards to keeping my kids safe. Seth is me hedging my bets and I get to teach him how to be a safe, effective, defensive driver while I'm second guessing myself.
   I turned up the radio, a little volume creating a lighter atmosphere in the back seat. All five kids in the truck can be too close for comfort and they all start to pick at each other. Ian takes the brunt of it but instead of silently stewing, like usual, he just talks back. Over everyone. And never lets it end. He can hold a grudge infinitely. I am glad when he stands up for himself but he needs to learn the principal of "time and place".
   When the radio news comes on at the half hour, I reach over to turn it down but stop. I hear my nephews name. He is seventeen. Then another nephew, who is 24 is named. A conspiracey. They were being incredibly stupid and I am instantly ready to cry. Neither of those guys really had a chance. They are a perfect example of how you take a perfect blank slate and then scribble over it and carve on it and strike it with hammers and end up with a barely useful object on your hands. I tried to love Z but it was easy for me to make him swear to not do drugs and promise to not ever get arrested when I was living twenty miles away and not in his house, bearing his load. And my other nephew, he just needed to be loved. He just needed to feel like he was worth something.
   Sitting around the campfire, encouraging each other, laughing until our stomachs hurt and hearing every mother there talk about familiar hopes and fears makes this morning almost ironic. One of my friends has a son who got into major trouble for a minor misdeed. And this kid was not like my nephew at all, this kid has a loving family whose parents have been together since THEY were children. My best friend has five boys and a few of those boys too have had their problems. They grew out of them.
   I began to wonder if it was just natural for boys to do a few stupid, sneaky, possibly illegal things before they became men. And like my campfire sister, some are unlucky enough to get caught every time. I want to watch Seth with xray eyes. I want to shelter him, keep him away from people, homeschool him.
   Living here, in the middle of nowhere, has been good for my boys as they grow. I know what its like fifteen miles away where kids wander town until late at night, every night, and grow so bored that crime is almost the only option there is. I'm sure that some of them can be kept at home but Seth will ride his bike six miles for a haircut. Four miles for a cup of coffee with a girl he has a crush on. Alfred is a little college town and I like to think he just won't get into trouble here. But is it even possible to keep boys out of trouble?
   When I started to get concerned that Seth was a budding psychopath, I asked his psychologist why on earth he was becoming unlike the child I expected him to BE. And he told me that teenagers will just rebel. They will become every polar opposite of their parents. But ninety percent of those kids come out the other side remembering the values that their parents taught them.
   So there is always hope. This is normal. And keep reinforcing what you believe. Some things will remain constant; boys need mattresses that can be pulled off the bed and onto the floor for an on the spot wrestling match. Girls wear their emotions on the sleeves and boys punch each other and then its just OVER. They don't usually keep an argument going. Expect a few punches to fly. Its important to know when to step back and when to let them fight their own battles.
   I don't think any of us can really expect our boys to learn the lessons they have to learn if we keep them locked in the house. I can only hope that I taught my boys well enough that when the time comes to make a stupid decision...they know to weigh the consequences of getting caught. I told them that any deed worth doing means accepting and being willing to take the consequences of the action. I hope that I have allowed them enough natural consequences that they have learned a few life lessons already. When boys see a wet paint sign, it is not enough to keep them from not touching the paint. Even if their buddy touches the paint and gets wet, your boy is going to have to experience the wet paint for himself. Its just how boys are wired. When I see a wet paint sign, I move to the other side of the room. But I'm not a seventeen year old, like my nephew. Or a fourteen year old who has been dared to put the chocolate milk through the bagel toaster at school...and does it because the popular kids asked him to. (like someone else I know) It is easy for me to say I know how it is to be a kid. My world was different and I can admit that. Things ARE different.
   There are certain values that never go out of style. A mother will always love her son, no matter what he has done. My boys sometimes make my head spin. And apparently I need to prepare myself for even more. It's possible that one day one of my boys will get caught doing something stupid and that it will make me question myself and doubt myself. If that day comes, I will make sure that I am the first person he thinks to call when they hand him the phone at the police station. Because I will always have his back.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Time, Space and Jungles

Since stepping outside of my comfort zone is such a great learning tool, a relationship is like orienteering in a rain forest. Love is such dangerous territory. Sometimes it is hard work just to find sunlight on the jungle floor but when you shimmy high enough, the view is breathtaking. Love is so exotic and exhilarating, its highs are so enticing. First kisses are almost addictive. If we could only bottle those first moments, somehow hold onto them and pull them out like a quilt to warm cold feet. For when the instinctual buzz wears off and it is no longer connubial bliss, the daily devotion becomes work.
   I have had to really buck up in this relationship. I went full circle from taking care of myself to demanding my partner becoming a nurturing caregiver and really, somehow she was never meant to be. She is devoted and loving, but not a nursemaid. She likes to know what to expect and asks questions incessantly to stay on top of things. Being on my own, before Laura, meant taking care of myself (so I already know its possible for me to be much stronger than I've thought lately than I am capable of). I became pretty proud of being in charge, and that was fine for awhile considering how hard I had to fight to gain my independence. Hyper vigilance was name of the game and even though I could have defended my position then, to retain that hyper vigilance in the face of a supportive partner who just wants to have a role would only serve to create a barrier between us. It is so easy to go one of two ways, in the extreme of course on both ends, and either be fiercely in control (or trying to be) at all times, or be weak and dependent, searching for stability within someone else, hoping they can solve your issues and take care of you. I've seen both ends of that spectrum and they are both recipes for disaster in any relationship.
   I married my boss. Any arm chair shrink could analyze that one. All I found was instability and someone who needed me more than I thought I needed him. I knew that he was exactly what I said I never wanted but what he was offering was something that I'd never had. I lost my head and I aim to be more clear headed in the future. But love, and its doppelgangers takes no prisoners At that time, it did not serve anyone, even my children, to go looking to me for support. I still had growing to do, and we all do in our twenties. I call Sage my "after 30 baby" and the difference in the way I parent and live my life is pretty extreme. It seems like too many of my lessons were hard earned but apparently I have really embraced the process. I am creating the most amazing experience of all time and if nothing else, it is exciting.
   After that calamity, and the casualties it created, I thought the lesson was to trust no one but myself and to watch my back. I'm still working on the hyper-vigilance, but I have learned to drop my defenses. I have learned to stop comparing this relationship to the last relationship. I have learned that sometimes the issue is all mine and I am projecting my own DRAMAS onto someone who did not help create them.
   Not to mention usually the people around me have their own personal dramas to contend with and quite literally do not need or cannot handle me interfering with or adding to their own pain. If we all recognized each other as pieces of ourselves more often, we would not hurt each other so much. What do any of us need so badly that we would hurt someone else to get it? I am actually glad that I have gone without enough times to know that there is little, on a physical level at least, that I would want or need bad enough to hurt another person to get it. Emotionally, I have hurt other people to feel stable or because I thought they hurt me first or because I thought I should protect myself. I have definitely hurt people I love out of anger and I have been asking myself lately if hurting anyone out of anger ever helped the situation.
   Even if it makes our ego feel better, it only makes things worse on a deeper level. When we hurt someone, we throw that energy at them and between each other. We can't ever take back what we said or did and even when we are forgiven, somewhere that hurtful thing that we did that time is out there. If we remember that the person that got us mad enough to hurt someone did it because they too were hurting, it becomes easier to manage. If we remember that they were hurting and did not have the strength to take the breath first, it makes taking a breath for ourselves possible.
   If everyone has issues, I think it is more true that we tend to bond with people like ourselves and that when we have life experiences in common, we are drawn to each other. People with issues tend to befriend other people with issues. When I was balancing myself, I had to take a period of a couple years on my own to gain the ability to only take on what I could handle. And when I thought I could, really before I even thought I was ready, I began to date. I was not ready to handle another persons issues; not up close and personal, not like that. I am not sure that we are ever fully ready to commit to loving another person day in and day out, forever. I am afraid to tell anyone I will always be there. But I am not afraid to tell Laura that as long as we are growing together, I am in for the ride. She forces me to grow. And I have watched her grow by leaps and bounds and love who she is, was and will be.
   Loving someone as they are, without expectation, is a challenge. As a mother, I love unconditionally but still there is expectation. Or...hope. Yet, my children grow and leave the nest and I hope then that I have taught them how to fly. With Laura, I have no hope of teaching her. I tried, and it was insulting to her and belittling. Trying to change another person is not loving them. Loving someone means loving their annoying little habits as well as the little smile they get on their face when they sleep. It is loving them for the big gestures on good days and for the days of depression that will inevitably come. When the garbage is still in the kitchen and when she comes home early with surprise take-out. When she is speaking to me out of love...and when she is speaking to me in anger. Love is a garden that has to be weeded and mulched and fertilized and watered and tended, tended, tended. Love can be dirty and sad and angry and exhilarating. It's still there when the hair thins and the sex is rare. It is there in the dirty dishwater and the sick children.
   Love bears so much upon itself for being so tender. In three years, I wanted to give up at least a few times. The last time it happened, I was almost positive that I couldn't do it anymore. And I knew that a decision had to be made. Admitting that my issues were getting in the way meant letting go of some things I felt perfectly justified in hanging onto. Was the cost of hanging onto the control worth losing Laura? I was still making progress. My growth had by no means been stunted. I just needed to take a step back to reevaluate. I think taking a retreat every so often is important. I have to get a fix on things, remind myself of my priorities, take time to connect with spirit and if I am on full spin for months at a time, I need to recharge. Space is important. And so is quality time alone. And with those two ingredients, I see years of good things ahead of us.
   What would it be like if I didn't have Laura for comic relief? Laura is the one who leaves me little messages in open magazines, something interesting to read here or there when I am escaping into the bathroom. Laura taught me how to sit quietly by a pond and to drink a cold beer on a hot day and not think it is a bad thing. I have my drivers license because of Laura. And because of Laura, I think I can achieve my dream of having a homestead someday. With Laura, I think about becoming old with someone at my side, instead of scared and alone.
   There are days when loving another person means effort when I can't seem to find the strength. It means a little bit more patience. It means making room in my heart and at my table and in my home. It means sharing my children. And it means I am climbing another summit and feeling the rush of insight again and again for as long as we take this journey together.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Long Johns and Phillies

   Mother nature has been nothing but twisted lately. Which is why at the end of May I am rifling through Laura's underwear drawer searching for long johns so that I can sit in the cold drizzle and watch Riley play baseball. I have been checking my email obsessively over the past hour hoping for a cancellation even though I know this would disappoint my boy because let's just face it, I would rather spend the evening picking slivers out of my eyeballs than sitting in this miserable gray haze pretending I am happy to be there.
   I am just being honest. I cannot imagine I am the only parent who has nothing better to do. I am wickedly thinking of all the ways I can get out of this. I can tell Riley that he has a fever. He did ride the roller coaster this weekend at his chorus field trip even though his doctor strictly forbid him to do so. I can tell him that I got an email from a parent saying the game was cancelled and then when the shit hits the fan tomorrow tell him I am sorry they were mistaken. I could bribe him with a twenty...
   I know that I will do none of these things. Because even when I feel like walking death and a hot bath with epsom salts is something akin to a magic spring appearing in the Sahara, I love my child more than I love myself. And when I see him on deck practicing his swing, I actually get a bit giddy.
   I am not one of those parents who becomes a split personality the moment the game starts. I have seen perfectly put together, professional parents suddenly turn schizophrenic and go batshit on a ref at a basketball game. Parents who forget they are there to encourage their children and suddenly become the coach. Not a nice coach, either. There are parents that I specifically watch for and try to sit as far from as possible. There are groups of parents that are known to just get out of hand as a group, in a sort of mob mentality, during a game. But it's not hard to see how it happens. Nothing has that particular joy like watching your child play sports. There is a yiddish word that describes that utter joy a mother feels, that complete pride, that welling up feeling we get inside us when we are absorbed in our children. We have no word at all like it. Kvelling.
   Even as I am hollering in to Riley that if I get any more frustrated with the loud noises, the random chaos just for the sake of being loud and for no other purpose whatsoever, that I will not want to take him to his game...even as I dread leaving early to stop in at the professor's house to feed her cats, do her dishes and water her plants, I know inside that it will all be worth it and that I won't back out no matter how many times I threaten to do so.
   If Riley meows one more time, or screeches like a harpy, or says the word crap or frick one more time, I may sit in the truck alone for a half hour to put myself together before we leave. I will console myself with the fact that I don't have to cook dinner tonight; I am going to buy them all ballpark hotdogs. This might even get Ian out of his room and to a game to cheer on his little brother. If I have to go then damnit I'm dragging the rest of them with me!
   And with a deep breath, I hitch up my long johns, pour myself a steaming hot cup of joe and grab my keys and a loud cd  before I bolt to the truck.
   If I'm lucky, Riley will forget he has a game and won't even know I'm down there waiting for him. Whose fault will it be then?
   At least I see the comedy. It just might save me in the end.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thumbs Up

Last night, I had a date with my daughters and my partner. We went to Black Eyed Susan's Acoustic Cafe and the folk singer dedicated a song to my daughters. The Wheels on the Bus. Isabella put a five in his tip jar. They were so beautiful and well behaved, experiencing a real cheers with their "real wine glasses" and tasting spinach and artichoke dip for the first time. Such little ladies, the owner complimented them on their fine manners as we paid the check and prepared to leave. He said that he had never seen such well mannered kids and that it must be hard to sit for so long. It was; I had to take Sage for a little stroll when she began to feel too confined. It really was a wonderful time. I love these teaching moments with my daughters. I remind them that someday they will be on their own, dressing and putting on perfume, being escorted by their dates and choosing wines. Watching them grow and change is an honor and it is all mine.
   On the way home, we stopped at the mini mart so that I could buy milk. Real life. As I opened the door,
the perfect pair of Aviator sunglasses caught my eye. I love Laura in big shiny state trooper sunglasses and the kids broke her pair. I grabbed them and continued to the dairy section without breaking stride.
   As I put them on the counter and opened my bag to pay, the cashier looked at me and smiled.
   "Ma'am", he said, "I just want to say that it was so cool the way you just walked in and grabbed those sunglasses like you knew exactly what you wanted. You didn't even stop to think, it's like you had seen them before and today was the day."
   I grinned and blushed. It was a bit silly to hear myself called ma'am and cool in the same sentence.
   "I needed a pair and there they were. That's all that was." I said.
   "Well, that was pretty awesome." he nodded and handed them to me with the receipt.
   I was still grinning when I got into my big, shiny "cool" Dodge Ram a few minutes later.
   That guy had no idea who he was talking to or that I had to little girls whining and exhausted in the truck. He did not know that normally I go months without being told I am awesome. Months? Possibly years. He just became my new best friend.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thank God for Entropy

   If, as they say, "in a tiger's house there are no puppy dog's", then, in a survivor's house, there are no victims. For me, being invincible has all kinds of unintended consequences. I am on a quest to work out the kinks. I compare life to the Appalachian Trail. All of us are hiking the trail and we all began down south in the spring of our lives. At this point, we are all traveling different parts of the trail and we are in all kinds of conditions spiritually. These conditions manifest themselves physically in chronic illness and emotional problems and this never ending feeling of separation that leaves us feeling a giant disconnect from everyone around us. Even tho all of us are connected at the most base of all levels, most of us have forgotten and live lives of lonely and ignorant desperation.
   I find that every time I summit and feel the jubilation of some kind of staggering insight, I soon crash and realize I have so much more to learn and so much room to grow. My spiritual trip is like a drug. It's almost bi-polar. I deliberately walk through hell and love every minute of it because stepping outside my comfort zone is the only sure way to achieve growth. I can't imagine living through my daily life without any sense that there was a higher meaning to all of it.
   This is the "good" in what could otherwise be too much for me to handle. It is the upbeat in an a-minor Wagner piece. It is a purpose and I cannot exist without a purpose. I like to know what to expect. This is not always good, this need to predict the next moment, this craving I have for security. With five children, I have no way to assume what will happen next. I can only assume one thing for sure: chaos. Holy Hell. Bedlam. I can try to manage it and I do a damn good job.But, for sure there is only one thing that I can safely assume that at some point, all hell WILL break out. At which point in time, it is my job to keep my cool and be expected to know what to do at all times. Other mothers know that this is not possible. Not only will I not know what to do at any given moment and just have to shoot from the hip, but I just can't keep my cool all the time. I keep my cool sometimes when the average human being would be losing his shit all over the place. It's true. There was one winter when I did not see another adult for three months. My water pipes froze for four days and I had to melt snow on my wood stove to wash. But I was a walking model of serenity after that three months. And I managed. It should have been something out of The Shining but I always seem to find that strength within myself when it has to be there.
   I know there are others on the trail who can't do this. And I know that my children have not mastered even the simplest of tasks, apparently even "be kind to your neighbor" is too much for them. I will start to have hope for them when they achieve "love your brother" but until then it is my job to constantly reinforce my values. And try to be an example to them and whomever else I might cross paths with. Sometimes it is do as I say not as I do, (no point denying it, my children would denounce my publicly if I tried to lie),but I try to at least teach them consistently. I am trying to help them see that they are on the trail. But that their brothers and sisters are on the trail somewhere too. If you saw someone hiking the Appalachian Trail and they were bleeding, limping, and had no pack, would anyone not willing help them? So it is on our spiritual path. It is not up to us to judge the state of an-others journey but to assist where we are able and when we cannot help to try if we can to not make things worse.
   I am learning to fight for my dignity...but to take criticism gently without feeling the need to defend myself. Once upon a time, I had to learn to defend myself and I had to find my own worth. But there is a time for fighting and a time for letting go. There is a time to love yourself enough and a time to learn how to love others. It is important to trust...but to know when to say no. It is a mistake to not trust at all.
   When you have teenagers living with kindergarteners, it is inevitable that one day your six year old will perform a dance move or sing a lyric that you wish she had never heard. You cringe that your teenager even knows those words. And it is the same with parents and their children. I am learning such important life lessons. The insights I learn every day now sometimes startle me into changes that can't help but affect my family. The poor things, they have to keep up with this and I am not blind to this. Just because I want to bake our bread and watch documentaries every day, does not mean I can expect six other people to suddenly follow me like a bunch of mindless zombies. After all, I raised them to question everything. I am the one who taught them to think for themselves. And Laura is always, obviously, free to tell me to shove it. She, at least, sees the benefit in the choices I am making. If I choose to not argue and am less defensive 90% of the time, her quality of life grows exponentially. But my fourteen year will say things like, " I don't think you should be baking our bread. Store bought bread is healthier because it was genetically engineered in a lab to BE healthy." Thinking for himself, like I taught him. And being taken in by corporate America, just like his Daddy.
   So in the end, I may be winning this Iron Man Marathon but I know better than to celebrate before I cross the finish line. My advice will always be "pace yourself", watch your back, and help the guy on the side of the road. And above all, never quit the race.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


The smell of coffee and cat litter. I am reminded of my two roles as wife and mother, sitting comfortably amidst the clutter of light sabres, water pistols and hats hastily discarded this morning on the way to the bus. I settle in to think with my fingers when the dog barks and I remember that I let him out ten minutes ago. My mind is swiss cheese. I am finding ways around that, like using Seth's old Ipod (as far as I can see the most ingenious invention since the microwave for saving time and effort in a hurry).
   A sigh. A groan. A twinge in my sacroiliac. A sheltie running in circles and grateful to be allowed back inside. If nothing else, my loyal dog is always happy for the small things. In this, we find common ground. We both appreciate short walks around the lawn. I call this walking the property. In my mind, on these jaunts I make all kinds of improvements to the place. I plan beautiful rock gardens, herb gardens, vegetable gardens. I turn our forsaken little barn with the terra cotta roof into a little goat pen. I make a chicken coop in the garage. There are dogwoods and lilac trees and the prettiest flowering crab apples down by the road. I even paint the porch with bright colors. A different color on every beam. A rainbow of colors for the steps. Miko is happy sniffing little patches of daffodil, peppermint and catnip and these small joys fill me with delight also. Watching the sun peep over the hill to the east fills me with calm. We are sandwiched between two hills in a little gully with the railroad tracks. Storms echo between the two hills and the cold settles in for eight or nine months of the year it seems. We get very little direct sun and so far all of my gardening has been in my dreams. This year, I told Laura, we are getting our hands on a rototiller. I am buying a juicer. When the boys were small, I had a garden shaped like a maze filled with little toad houses and surrounded by marigolds. I canned dozens of quarts of tomatoes and sauce and even had a roadside stand to sell it. I miss that. Lately, I have been focusing on feeding the children the most healthy food possible. I forced everyone to watch Food Inc. I think that soon they will be on the bandwagon playing my tune. With the exception of Seth who is his father's son. He will be organizing I Hate Michael Moore rallys as soon as he can drive.
   If planting a seed  makes me happy, than I will plant ten seeds. It is so essential to find happiness wherever I can. I have been told that I am reserved. Laura wonders all the time whether I am happy because I am not a laugh out loud kind of person. I sometimes wish that I was the kind of person who could throw my head back, hold my stomach and laugh until the tears ran but I find that its better for me to maintain a balance. My life is a marathon and I have to pace myself. I have said that to take my life one day at a time is to much. I have to take it one minute at a time. I cannot afford a rollercoaster of emotions. But they do come. I will pace myself and find one day that all of a sudden the emotions just hit me in a flash flood. Everyone needs to watch out when that happens. If I don't meditate, if I don't find those small moments of happiness, if I do not find time for solitude and time for my relationship it happens more often. If I start to think I am alone, instead of hand in hand with spirit, I will get overwhelmed more quickly. I do not have family living anywhere nearby. It is my tribe...and I. Every woman, every where, needs to appreciate the still, small moments of her life.

Pink Sky in the Morning

Five a.m is the highlight of my day. It is the calm before the storm, the pink sky of legend that painters immortalize and sailors take heed of. The rolling foothills of the Alleghenies are covered in mist and I can hear geese flying over the house to nest in the wetlands just across the road. It is peaceful, a few minutes of quiet, of going to the bathroom without a child bursting in with a demand or a complaint, a who did what or a I need this. I sit with a warm cup of and watch the kittens play and at five a.m they actually do look adorable, not just a chore, a responsibility, not another line on my honey-do list.
   When my cell phone alarm starts singing, I nearly jump from our bed. I know that if I do not jump, I will not get up. I want nothing more than to just sleep. Sleep is all I think about. I wake up thinking about sleep and most of the day I wish for it. As I get up, Laura searches for me in the empty space I leave behind and I snuggle my fattest pillow up next to her. It makes me smile. I am overwhelmed but this show of need makes me happy. Most of the time I dream of hands reaching and grabbing and pulling me down. But when Laura reaches for me it is comforting. When I work for Laura she feels loved. "Doing" is Laura's love language. And mothering is an act of love, but the children do not ever feel that I have done enough. I was baking homemade bread last week and as I praised the virtues of making your own bread to Isabella, of knowing the exact ingredients that you feed your family, Seth smirked and decided that he needed to educate me, once again.
   "Store bought bread is better for you. It is actually genetically engineered in a lab to BE healthy." He said. And I really tried to argue this with him but fourteen year olds are never wrong. It was apparently very quickly that I was argueing with my ex husband and I gave up. I was appalled. I was spending hours making bread and every minute that I stood there was a minute spent on my feet in pain. And I was doing this out of love because would it be easier to go spend two dollars on Wonder Bread? Hell Yes! Yet, I was making this bread all of one meal of French Toast just for this boy who wanted nothing to do with it and thought that every thing that I did was inefficient and just plain wrong. He thinks he can do it better and there are days I want to go on strike and give him his shot.
   Unfortunately, in five minutes, the second alarm of the day will go off. Even though I started getting up at five to give Ian a chance to do homework without his siblings upsetting him (yesterday Seth told him that he is sick to death of seeing him in his Sue Sylvester track suits and that was just the beginning), he has chosen lately to sleep in after I wake him. So I spend this time alone and wake him at six thirty with the other four kids. I should look forward to waking them but I know that I will have to really push Sage to just do simple things, like put on underwear and what could be nice will only very rarely really be nice for us. I will make Seth cappuccino, as long as we have it in the house and thank God we do today and that early caffeine addiction will put a smile on his face for a bit this morning. Riley is always unpredictable but is usually just putting his shoes on when everyone else is climbing the steps to the school bus. Isabella has to be treated with kid gloves and is just not a morning person. And Ian. He will sit with his nose in a book and take punch after punch while I encourage him to try hard to fit in as best as he can. We all try to do this as quietly as we can so that we do not wake Laura.
   As soon as they leave today, I will get dressed to work. I do not work often, but occasionally I am able to cater parties for a professor in town. I cook and serve and clean up and it is an all day affair and totally grueling. I usually cannot move for days but we desperately need the money. I did not get the sleep I wanted last night and would love to cancel but the kids have a chorus trip this weekend and I need to do this for them. If only they understood and could make this morning a sun shining, blue skied, birds chirping kind of day.
   Beep Beep Beep Beep....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do Unto Others

     "If you do more for me, I will do more for you." Riley explains to me this morning as I get the five of them ready for school.  "Remember that." He adds. It is seven a.m and as usual I am stumbling around half awake and stiff but pretending to be wide awake and competent. I am not in the mood for negotiating with twelve  n  year old terrorists, even hostiles who have spent the day before laying flat on their backs in the emergency room. I remind him of my whole hearted dedication yesterday. I remind him of the large stuff Melissa and Doug Dachsund that I bought him from the hospital gift shop.
     "You only love me when I'm sick." Riley explains to me. I wonder why I am bothering to explain any of this to him. He must know this. But apparently he needs affirmation. Apparently he thinks that gifts are equivalent to love.  In which case, his Ipod, Xbox360, Laptop, Computer, personal television, trampoline, bicycle, trip to Universal Studios and ETC should have spoken loud and clear. Even so I patiently explain to him that love and money do not go hand in hand. And that I love him every minute, whether he is acting in love or acting in anger. And if this is not love, then heaven's a myth (as the song says.)
     We are waiting for the results of Riley's Echocardiogram. He started having chest pains Sunday afternoon, during the Mother's Day picnic and missed school Monday. I thought that he pulled a muscle playing baseball. But Tuesday, the school nurse called and said that his resting pulse was jumping up to 130 and his pediatrician wanted him to go to the emergency room. The EKG said there was a minor irregularity, a premature beat. By the time we got home, Riley was headed back up the steep slope of the ADHD roller coaster and this morning he is full speed. The doctor wants him to stop taking Vyvance until we know what is happening and after reading about the side effects, I cannot agree more. Apparently, cardiac episodes are a rare but potential very serious side effect.
      Choosing a stimulant for Riley was a hand twisting, brow sweating kind of decision. We only made the choice to medicate Riley after dozens of in school suspensions, a week of being expelled for kicking the gym teacher and many other serious incidents. He is extremely small for his age but he makes up for his size with his mighty rage. Riley has the biggest brown eyes, the longest eyelashes. He has a potential future on Comedy Central but thinks he is worthless. His math papers are scribbled with his own brand of graffiti: Epic Failure, Ugly, Small, Retarded. I never thought he lacked in love, but I wonder now if in the timeline of Riley's life there was not something, somehow that I personally screwed up.
     My therapist says I am remarkably calm considering my life. I have an autistic teenager and an ADHD child with medical problems. My nine year old daughter has discovered hormones in the third grade and my seven year old can't focus her attention for longer than a millisecond. I had to call the police to give my fourteen year old a lecture on respect...and it would have been effective if he had not run off into the woods. Riley got the brunt of that lecture but I don't think it sunk in. I only hope he won't jump me again. I am remarkably calm, until the lights go out. I am remarkably calm until my partner, Laura, tries to criticize me in the simplest of ways. Sometimes Laura takes the punches.
     I tried to teach the children the golden rule. And somehow Riley thought that meant we don't do anything unless others do for us. It's not the kind of spin I was looking for. I want to wrap him up in my arms and run  my fingers through his hair and still smell Johnson's and Johnson's instead of Axe. I want to give him a stuffed dog and have him name it Spot, not Wienee. I want him to come in with breakfast in bed, even if its a ketchup and grape jelly croissant with potato chips sprinkled on top, NOT demand that I wake up at five and cook him a hot pancake breakfast because he is a man now and needs a good meal. I wish that I had another chance to teach him to be kind to others. But since I do not have a time machine I will reinforce my love every day. I do not expect them to be grateful but I don't mother because I expect thanks. I do what I do as an act of love and I will make this my yoga.