Friday, February 5, 2016

Five on Friday: Recent Times I've Been Grateful for Being a SAHM

Right when I'm amping up my search for (paying) work, I keep having experiences that make me so glad and grateful that I'm a stay-at-home-Mom (thanks Daddy O). Like:

1.  When I was able to help a friend in a big way. She is such a wonderful friend--it made me incredibly happy to have the time to help her out.

2. Having time to do be involved in causes I believe in like  the recent MLK Day of Community Service and an upcoming One Billion Rising flash mob.

3. Being able to take it easy (for a few hours at least!) and take a good solid nap when I have a cold and had a terrible night of sleep.

4. Now that I don't have to try to get everything done during 2.5 preschool hours, I can do some chores around the house and let the temperature warm up a little before going out for my jog. I am NOT a naturally born athlete at all (I still can't believe I own sneakers quite frankly) but I have really come to appreciate and even enjoy (!!) my time alone outside exercising. But I still hate the cold.

5. Seeing my kindergarten girl's face light up when I walk into her class to be a parent volunteer.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

You Can't Scare Me Anymore

 *This essay also appears in an anthology of twenty-six essays entitled My Brush With Death*

 It used to be I didn’t know what fear was. I grew up here in the country, occasionally scaring myself out of bed with a boogieman nightmare but otherwise perfectly comfortable with sporadically locked doors and windows left wide open all night.

It was a nice way to grow up.

So when I feel afraid now, it really bothers me. It’s not frequent, and usually only if I’m alone at night, laying in bed and making the dreadful mistake of letting my imagination turn the normalcy of an old house creaking into the certainty of an intruder sneaking his way up the stairs.

When I tell my husband how scared I sometimes feel, he tells me that there are times that he’s frightened as well.  “Yeah, but I never felt like this before,” I tell him. Friends of mine that are mothers confide that they also feel scared; it seems that becoming a parent brings out fatalistic visions in all of us.  Yet still I think, “but I was never scared before.  He did this to me.”

A few weeks after a stranger broke into my college apartment and stayed two hours raping and threatening me, I watched a scary movie for some reason. In it, a male attacker surprised his female victim in a public restroom. It resulted in me being terrified of public bathrooms. I went from knowing no fear to knowing absolute terror. I would find myself alone in a public bathroom and would hear a noise outside of the stall and then become instantly paralyzed in horror. More than once I had to muster up my dwindling courage just to leave the stall, more than once I cried near the sinks when I realized I was alone and safe.

I didn’t really tell any of my friends about that public bathroom fear, which is weird since I talked with them about every other aspect of my healing process. During it all I wondered how would I know when I was completely healed? Initially I thought it’d be when I could sleep alone without any drugs to knock me out. Once I mastered that I modified it to be, “it’ll be when I can be alone at night and not be terrified.” Finally I thought it’d be when I could make it through the day without thinking about it at all, which seemed thoroughly impossible, especially since people kept telling me it’d be the first thing I’d think about in the morning and the last thing I’d think about at night for the rest of my life.


Now I find myself on a monthly basis standing before the Shop Rite pharmacist who waits patiently while I try desperately to remember what year one of my children was born in so I can get their vitamin refill.

I have five children now. It takes me a minute, okay? Sometimes there’s some math involved. It’s never been my forte.

These kids. These, did I mention—five?--kids. They keep me inspired, entertained, engaged and . . . exhausted. They keep my brain too tired, too filled with birthdates, play dates and school project due dates to have room in there to spend time regularly thinking about something rather unpleasant that happened to me twenty years ago.

That fear I had of being in the bathroom alone? These kids guarantee that I never actually get to go to the bathroom by myself.  Thanks, guys. And these days if I am alone with them at night and hear our old house creak; now I focus on them. I know that if there is an intruder, I won’t let him hurt my kids. My concerns for myself fly out the window as I find my courage (and the wooden baseball bat my husband keeps near the bed). Thinking of protecting them completely emboldens me and I know I would gladly put my life on the line to save theirs.

Because when the lives of my kids are even potentially put in danger, that adrenaline-fueled courage evicts any fear that might be sneaking in. It used to be that the single most terrifying moment in my existence was when my bedroom door slowly opened and a face I had never seen before peeked through. But fifteen years later I stood on my deck and watched my two-year-old and eight-year-old sons slide into our pond on an icy February day. Frantically I ran to the pond and willingly jumped in, never feeling an ounce of cold or fear. That moment of seeing them slide into the icy water definitively took over as the most frightening moment of my life.

Up until now I’ve tried hard to avoid those corny “Mom” expressions that are plastered on mugs and bumper stickers. But after writing this, I’m thinking of appropriating one for my own purposes: You can’t scare me. I have kids.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Five on Friday: Jobs I DIDN'T have

Well all five kids have been in full day school for five months now and no part-time job has materialized for me. Hmm.

Time to try a little harder! I started with asking friends on Facebook yesterday for any leads and I just got off the phone with someone about a very interesting position they're looking to fill. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime back over here at one of my many non-paying jobs of blogging, I had no idea what to do for my weekly list. Oh, I know! I'll write about some of the crazy jobs I have had in the past! Oh wait. I already did that once.

How about jobs I DIDN'T have? Okay!

1. What did I grow up saying I wanted to be? A Mom. Okay well I did that. I also said an artist and a teacher. (Technically I do make art and teach all the time but I wouldn't say I'm an artist or a teacher really.)

2. Broadway star.

3. For a little while there I thought a midwife could be a great job for me but then I realized even though I love Mamas and babies and am fascinated by childbirth, I'm not really interesting in biology at all. So. There went that.

4. Waitress! How did I get through college without ever waitressing? 

5. Anything at all with my Spanish degree. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Five on Friday: Highlights from the MLK Day of Community Service

Did you participate in a Day of Service in your area on Monday? I know they're not available everywhere, which is why I started my own thirteen years ago. That first one was in my dining room with about ten attendees. The most recent one? Well, take a look . . . 

1. I didn't do a headcount and I'm terrible at guesstimating but we definitely had well over 100 people. (At one of our tables where participants were making dog toys for the animal shelter, a supply run was needed fifteen minutes in!!) I love that this is something that my Mom and I plan together and that we get help running  from my Dad, my husband, my kids, my nieces and nephews, my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law.

2. We recently were able to reconnect with one of my adopted kids' biological family members who happens to be in the Army right now. This year instead of sending our letters to soldiers sent off to strangers, we sent them right to his Infantry Division. I hope they get a kick out of this one:

3. I've had a lot of the same activities year after year so this year I was really glad to have some new things to do and new helpers, too. This local Girl Scout ran this table for me, leading the public in making paper pinwheels to send to Syrian refugee children. Not only is a kid-made toy sent to kids a sweet idea, the Bezos Family Foundation is donating $2 to the International Rescue Committee's Healing Classrooms program for every pinwheel mailed in. You can do this at home, too: Healing Classrooms Challenge

4. Another project you can do at home is always a hit with the younger participants. Go to Color A Smile's website and download coloring pages. Have your young artists color them and then mail them in. They'll go to nursing homes, hospitals, troops overseas, etc.

5.  We also had donations brought in. 605 pounds of food (lots of "sturdy perishables" like oranges, apples, potatoes, onions as they are often lacking and we specifically requested), $425 in cash/supermarket gift cards for the food pantry and 40 bags of dog and cat food for the animal shelter.

I'm refilled with hope for humanity and am already scheming on how I can make next year's event even better!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Five on Friday: They've Left Their Mark

 A few months ago I saw a call for submissions for a 100-word story. I decided to accept the challenge and write about a "ghost" story from our house:

“I see a girl on the stairs,” my young daughter said. “Where?” I asked, “School?”  “At home! She has old fashioned hair.” My interest was piqued. My imagination went wild. Our house was 200 years old; maybe it was haunted! Believers always say that ghosts reveal themselves to children first! “Do you want to see her?” she asked and then she led me to the stairs and showed me . . . paint chipped off the kick plate that looked like a girl’s silhouette. 

Years later my husband repainted the stairs but I’ll always remember our “ghost” that lived there.

 So you can see it was less of a ghost story and more of a combination of an everything is broken or filthy all the time* story  and an imaginations run wild story. Our ghost girl may be gone now that the stairs have been repainted but as I look around I can see plenty of other ways our children are leaving their marks:

1. You know what this is? A brand new pillow. As in BRAND new. Not from the thrift shop, not homemade with thrift shop fabric. Purchased from a real store and not on clearance. Do you know how old is? About two weeks old. Do you know what that is on it? Chocolate pudding.

Why we can't have nice things
2. Last week my son dented the WALL with his HEAD. This is the same child that dented my locket with his head when he was a baby so I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised.

Can you see it? The indentation from my baby's head?
It makes me wonder what's next

 3. Under the middle row of my car there is a thin, hard, orange substance. I believe it is flubber, circa 2007.

4. There is a mystery spot on the dining room ceiling which I always believed to be from one of those giant sticky hands that you're supposed to throw onto windows. Last night the kids told me it was actually play-dough, yellow to be specific.

5. I am pretty sure the number of grey hairs I've acquired in the past five years rival those you've gotten in the past seven, Mr. President. Just one more service my children provide.

*See last week's Five on Friday list

Friday, January 8, 2016

Five on Friday: What's It Like Having Five Kids?

Yes, I've seen this. It's been shared on my page multiple times.
Four kids. Pfft. Amateur.

Just kidding, after three or four it's pretty much all the same.
But what's it really like having five kids?

1. Fucking tomato sauce all over the ceiling. Wait, that's not fair to use on this list, that's totally possible with just one kid. Or a drunk uncle or something. Let's start again:

1. Everything is broken all the time. Also, it's filthy.

2. Our perceptions of size, volume and normal supermarket bills are irreparably skewed.

3. If friends come over for or unexpectedly stay for dinner, even if it's a family of seven like ours, it doesn't seem like that much more cooking/food somehow.

4. As we discovered after putting on an expensive addition that included adding a bathroom to the two we already had: THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A TIME YOU HAVE TO WAIT TO POOP.
(Also, remember the worst toilet in Scotland from Trainspotting? The toilet shared by five kids totally rivals it.)

5. These things are adorable and ridiculous:

Friday, January 1, 2016

Five on Friday: The Kids' Resolutions

13-year-old G: "Well I already resolved a few years ago not to make any more resolutions so I don't have to do anything with this project."
Me: "I absolutely respect that so just write that down for me, maybe draw a picture."
G: "Why?"
Me: "Because it's actually more of a time capsule than anything else."
G: "Fine."

Here's what he and his siblings came up with, youngest to oldest:

1. My kindergarten girl is getting pretty good at writing but I'm not entirely sure what this says (and she wasn't either). It has something to do with starting each morning with a hug.

 2. Z, age 7, wants to learn to do big jumps on the dirt bike (and give Mommy some more beautiful grey streaks in the process).

3. E, age 9, had trouble deciding. 

4. This is what G came up with. I hope he has kids one day. 

5. B, age 15. I might steal a few of hers for myself:

Friday, December 25, 2015

Five on Friday: Christmas Edition

Highlights so far:

1. "I didn't get Legos, I got ketchup." --Z, who then happily opened a ketchup packet and sucked out the contents.

2. G kept stressing that he really wanted cash for Christmas. Santa has a sense of humor.

3. "Can I have more gum? I lost mine when I was in the tub." --A, who did NOT get more gum. Yet.

4. My nutty family gave me this HUGE box that was filled with a lot of--um, packing material?--and then a tiny little awesome handmade pendant.

5. That surprise that B, G and E were working? A joint drawing of Daddy-O and me. B drew the left third, G did the center and E did the right.