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August 2011

Hurricane Irene: before & after

Friday..

I should be sitting outside enjoying this beautiful weather.  It's absolutely gorgeous out there.  82 degrees.  Some little puffy clouds floating by.  Slight breeze.  Birds chirping.  I think one of them just smiled.

Instead, I'm standing here willing my heart to stop racing.  Half of my town is being asked to evacuate because of a crazy mega-hurricane that's coming our way.  Our house is located just west of the evacuation zone so we don't have to leave.  ...yeay?  I don't know.  Part of me thinks packing up all our favorite things and driving out to Hersheypark would be fun.  Even if it rains there, it still involves a lot of chocolate.  Unlike here which involves filling up bathtubs with water and doing other things Just In Case.

That's the part that scares me.  The Just In Case part. I have lived with Mr. Just In Case for as long as I can remember.  Just In and I are in a weird relationship... I do everything he asks because he scares me so badly.  Once I had kids, our relationship got much, much worse.  Now, EVERYthing I do is because of Just In Case.  Why did I put an extra pair of underwear for each kid in my car's glove box? Just In Case.

But this time it's not just a silly little man with a funny name I made up telling me to do stuff... it's the police and my family and the Weather Channel.  And I'm scared.  My son is upstairs sleeping like a baby.  He IS a baby...my baby.   I want to go stare at his angel face while he naps.  My daughter and my husband are out riding bikes together.  I can't help but pray they'll have the same route available next week.

We cleaned up the yard and put away everything that could blow away.  We tucked all the playhouses and large toys into the woodline.  It looks like a little dwarf village out there.  We're charging all our electronic stuff.  I'm getting candles and ice ready. ...and now we wait.

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Sunday..

My heart has finally stopped racing after one helluva weekend.  I am a very thankful mom right now.  There are many many things to be grateful for, and I surely am.  Hurricane Irene scared me much worse than Just In Case ever did.  If she told me to do something, I did it.  No questions.  I heard her thumping outside, so we took the kids and slept in the basement last night.  Thank goodness for tents and glow sticks.  The kids were happy and excited.  "Dad, after dinner it's hurricane time!" 

My son was smily and anxious.  I was anxious, too, but in a completely different way.  Having kids has made me a nervous Nelly.  Roller coasters are no longer fun.  Trying new foods is the extent of adventerous to which I'm willing to go now. 

Anyway, it's over now.  Even though my heart slowed down, my mind is still at top speed thinking about last night's scare.  My kids are champs.  My husband is a champ.  Our house is a champ.  All our trees are champs...well, except one that decided to crash through a fence next to our house.  That one took one for the team.

Yes, our decision to stay home worked out well.  But I'll tell you, trying to fall asleep last night after losing power - holding my kids next to me on both sides - was one of the hardest things I ever tried doing.  To wake up next to them felt like Heaven.  So I then  immediately started praying thanks for all the blessings we were given last night.  Then I prayed for all the people who weren't so fortunate.  And I realized how much Just In Case might be annoying and tedious sometimes, but he made me and my family feel safe.  My old friend Just In Case.  009


You CAN go back

  018 When we were little, we used to dread going to our town's annual Canal Day festival.  It was always so boring with not much for kids to do all day.  We used to walk around all the vendors tents in slow motion waiting for the minute Mom told us we were free.  Then we would take off for home on our bikes- most likely coming back to Canal Day 50 or 60 times with different friends.  I guess it was only boring when we were there with our parents.  We didn't know it at the time, but it really was one of the best days of the year. 

Flash forward 30 years to this past weekend when we brought our own kids.  As it always happens when being nostalgic about big events, everything at Canal Day seemed so small this time.  But in another way, it had grown immensely.  The festival used to be contained within the park.  It had now spilled out onto the street with tents and vendors galore.  I looked to my kids every so often to see if they were having the boring time I used to have.  They were not.  They loved walking through everything with big eyes...stopping to get a lemonade or an Italian ice every once in a while.  They went on the playground with their cousins and climbed the same big rock I used to climb. 

We walked out by the same canal I used to walk by...skipping rocks and exploring the bank for animals.  I showed them the big tree that Daddy climbed up when we first met.  Of course, they wanted to climb it too.  Well, at least until I told them that he fell out, lost his shoe in the water, and had to chase it down the river that day. 

Watching them play with little content smiles made me happy.  Sure, I used to think Canal Day was boring.  It's because I was a kid.  It's because I used to do that stuff every day.  Riding bikes up there with my friends, skipping rocks into the water.  That was our place...our time.  We were the Goonies and exploring the park by the canal was our pirate ship adventure every single day. 

I realize that my kids haven't quite reached the age to find their favorite place yet.  A place they can go with their friends to hang out and just Be.  I was happy to share my place with them so they can see what we did for fun in the "olden days."  I sure hope when they DO find their own spot, it'll be outside with no earphones or video games attached.  Just them and some skipping rocks.


We ride

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I can't believe I almost missed it.  One of the best times of my life and I almost let my tired, lazy self miss it.  When my daughter asked me to go for a bike ride, I said no.  I had already run that morning.  Four and a half miles and I was tired.  Plus, I had to make dinner.  Plus, I just didn't feel like it.  Something about her face, though, made me change my mind.  I don't know what it was...maybe she really WAS ok with my answer and would've been content to play video games till dinner.  But I didn't think that was the case.  That tiny glint of disappointment made me get off my butt and say ok, let's go.

Watching her little legs go like the Roadrunner on her cool Pretty in Pink  immediately brought me out of my funk.  She isn't really competitive (yeah right), but she definitely wanted to be first.   I let her out in front of me.  The whole time we rode on the shoulder of the busy road, she kept talking.  Telling me about a trip to the ice cream shop that she's been thinking of...about her favorite flavor..what teacher she's hoping for this year. 

We got to the high school track and dismounted for a couple laps around on foot.  My noncompetitive daughter and I raced.  I won, but according to my daughter it was because she wasn't ready.  We walked around catching our breath and talking even more.  We went around the outside of the track and found some sort of animal's den.  We wondered together about who lives in there and if the Smurfs could fit in it. I told her about my morning runs and how the deer run with me sometimes.  
Then we got back on our bikes and rode around the school parking lot.  It brought me SO far back in time...when riding bikes was a pastime for me.  "Mom, I'm going out with -(Insert Name Here)- to ride bikes!"  No destination necessary.  Just riding for fun. 

We took the long way home riding through every parking lot and puddle we could find.  Both our shirts were a mess up the back, but well worth the extra OxiClean.  That's all my daughter wanted to do...ride bikes with me.  Why did I ever think to say no?    Sometimes it's hard to fit in fun stuff when real life happens.    We're all tired more than I think we should be.  We all do more than I think we should.  But our kids don't know that.  And if we can make them happy -truly happy, we'll be happy too.  So if she ever asks me again, I say we ride.


Mean at bedtime

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Does everyone get mean at bedtime, or is it just me? When it's time to put the kids to bed, I change from semi-nice mom into a fire breathing dragon lady. I get so incredibly frustrated every single night. I know it's my fault, but still! I don't understand...we have to do the same exact things every night. Not unlike other families, we like to have clean teeth, new underwear, possibly a bath, maybe pajamas if the mood suits...why is it so freaking difficult to complete those tasks? I understand that for the little guy it might be a tad bit more cumbersome to do everything without help.  And because both kids have terrible eczema, we have to add in 2 layers of medicated lotion plus oral antihistamines every night.  It's a lot of work.  But it's the SAME work.  It never changes.

Regardless, it is always pure chaos from the stroke of 7PM til the last light turns off at around 8:20.  It's the longest hour twenty of the day.  We are always forgetting to do something, too.  Usually, we forget to go to the bathroom.  That almost always happens right as I think I'm out of the woods.  The light is off and the bedroom door is just about closed.  That's when the little squeak of a voice says my name one more time..."Mommy, I gotta poop."


Feeling the lemonade love

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Some days more than others I feel extra loved.  Today is one of those days.  Did you ever wake up and just KNOW it's gonna be a good day?  My kids have been bugging me to have a lemonade stand for a while now.  I always gave them the whole "yeah, one day" speech, but figured today was as good a day as any.  So they made up a sign, got the cups and lemonade ready, and we went outside.  I thought for sure it would last maybe an hour...tops.  I didn't even do the breakfast dishes before going out because I assumed I'd be back in well before lunch.  The one thing I did do before going out was post my Facebook status saying that the lemonade stand was a go.

The power of Facebook is amazing.  Just about every neighbor we have came by for a cup.  Our neighbor across the street sat with us helping for a while.  She's 5 and adorable.  Granny came over twice!   Friends from across town rode motorcycles and drove trucks to overpay for a tiny cup of Acme lemonade.  We didn't come inside until after 2PM.  Our lemonade stash completely drained and only 2 plastic cups remain.

Sometimes it's hard to know if you're doing right by your kids.  Or better yet, are you doing right FOR them?  You try your best to make sure they are polite and just plain good.  Everyone does.  But how do you know if it's working?  I still don't really know.  But having this lemonade stand made me see that my kids are surely loved...by my friends, my community, my peeps.  They took time out to show my kids they care about them, and for that I am truly grateful. 

Thank you everyone for coming.  We love you, too.


Toys, toys everywhere...

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I hate toys.  There, I got it out.  Now that it's out there in cyberspace, I'll probably regret it within minutes.  No, probably not.  There are toys everywhere I can see.  I'm starting to think of them as a type of bacteria.  I find them in the oddest of spots.  The bathroom, the kitchen pantry, under my bed.  I can't think of a single spot in my house that doesn't have some type of doll or water gun on it.   Every time I see one out of the corner of my eye, I can't help but turn towards it and gasp.  The Psycho music then plays in my head and I want to throw the thing out the window and run as far away as I can.

I probably wouldn't feel this way if the toys were in these spots purposefully.  Like maybe my kids were in the middle of an intense reenactment of their day at an amusement park and then hastily had to go wash up for dinner.  Then I'd probably step on some squeaky bunny and chuckle like a 50's sitcom mom with my hands on my hips.  "Those silly kids!" with a knowing smile on my face. 

But no, they just pick something up and carry it to a weird destination, get distracted and drop it there.  And it's never a squeaky bunny...it's more likely some type of robot from a future generation that believes spiky outer layers are key to survival.  They are wrong, because when I step on it I almost always pick it up and rip its head clean off.

Why do we have all these toys?  I don't remember buying them.  Right now there is a Woody from Toy Story doll, a Leapster, some strange pink guy with hair, a Wii remote and a Zhu-Zhu Pet creeping up on my left side.  I'm pretty sure they're plotting against me.  The Hullabaloo game on the floor in front of me just gave me the Eye. I swear the toy box just opened a little.  If I see anything that resembles a clown, I'm outta here.


Raise, rinse, repeat...

  002 I am nowhere near close to being done raising my kids and probably never will be.  They are 7 and 3.  We've got a lot of time on our hands and a long road ahead.  It's cool, but what gets me is how often I find myself repeating the same exact thing to them - over and over. Please clear your place.  Please clear your place.  I say that about 3 times per child per meal per day.  I might get it tattooed on my forehead.  I repeat myself so much during the course of the day that I start sounding like Foghorn Leghorn.   Please clear your place, I said, I said!

My little son sometimes gets shortchanged with all this repeating going on.  I assume he knows more than he actually does.  Just because I may have said something a million times, it doesn't mean that he understands.  I forget that it may have taken my daughter a million lessons to learn the same thing.  I also lump the two kids together many times, which I shouldn't do.  I'll collectively ask them to pick up the living room and then get upset when it takes my son 10 minutes to put away one toy.  That's not fair of me!  He's 3.  He's supposed to take his time. I need to step back, realize what I'm upset about and let it go. He needs the repetition to learn.  It's the only way.

When I get frustrated after a long day of repeat repeat repeat, I have to ask God for help. I don't like to ask Him for things for myself, but when I do I ask for patience.  -Patience to teach my son the things his sister knows.  -Patience to repeat things a million times without frustration.

Like I've said before (and will most likely say again), I don't really know what I'm doing most of the time.   As every parent knows, repetition comes with the territory.  It might be frustrating, but it needs to be done.  On the plus side, because we sing the same songs every night before bed, my 3 year old can now sing Do Re Mi word for word.  That alone makes all the repeating worth every breath.


Collecting memories

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Wherever we go, my daughter picks up a rock and keeps it. I think she got that from my mom. I don't mind...it saves me buying a souvenir that will get lost or broken in a couple days. Rocks are easy to pick up, not usually missed by wherever they came from, and can be saved quite easily. My daughter keeps them in a big old grapefruit juice jug. She's had it for a really long time, too. The expiration date on the juice was sometime in 2006. I don't know the exact date...the label is pretty worn. I don't think she could tell you where all the rocks came from. I couldn't either. I can tell you that she cherishes her rocks. She uses them sometimes for hopscotch games and paperweights when she's drawing outside, but otherwise they sit like a bottle-shaped trophy of accomplishment. Even though we might not remember exactly where they once laid, we know they represent happy times. And that bottle is filled to the top.

This evening, we went to the beach near us. It's a bay beach. Just what I needed...nice and calm. No waves. No people. Just me and my kids. I've been worried a lot lately about school coming up for both kids and other silly little things. I just wanted to be. Just be. Not worry. Watch my beautiful children run in the soft sand...get their clothes sopping wet...ride home in just a towel, jump in the shower and get directly into jammies. It was perfect. The wind was blowing west, so the greenheads weren't attacking us. We brought a couple sand toys. We ran in and out of the water, getting our clothes wet. We smiled and laughed and looked out over the bay to Atlantic City.

It was a great escape for me. My mind sometimes carries things too far, and I worry more than I know I should. So going to the beach felt wonderful. When I started feeling my brain slow down, I noticed my son starting to make a little pile of stones. He would happily pick up a new gem and wash it off in the bucket we brought, then show his sister. I didn't think much of it until we brought them home. Now I'm smiling. What I was using as an escape wasn't an escape at all. It was a memory. My kids and I just made a memory together. And my son has now locked that memory into our hearts by picking up those little stones to start his own collection. Those perfect little stones.


What's that you say?

001 Deciphering the stuff my 3 year old son says is fun sometimes. He tries really hard to say things correctly, and I try my best to praise him. But when he says stuff like, "Yeay! The Olive Gardens are coming on!" when he's really talking about the Backyardigans, I find it hard not to bust out laughing in his face. Earlier today, he asked if he could have some grape Big Ugly Chew so he could blow bubbles. The other day he started singing Justin Timberlake's famous top 40 hit "Bring and Set It Back." That one came with a little dance number, too. My all-time favorite saying of his is one he likes to save for those occasions when he's excessively frustrated...Cheese-a-Wheez!

He's 3. He hasn't mastered EVERYthing yet. Needless to say, we get into many Who's On First arguments when he's asking for clarification. One recent argument went like this:

Him: "Is this white, Mom?"

Me: "No, honey, that's blue."

Him: "I KNOW Mom! Cheese-a-wheez! But is it WHITE?"

Me: "Um, Ax, I just told you it's blue."

Him: "Fine, Mom...nevewmind."

It's only when he walked away with his blue shoes on the wrong feet that I realized what he was talking about...


Worry worry worry...

It's August now. School's coming soon for the kids. To my daughter, it's old hat. She can complete a school year with a smile and high marks all while standing on her head. She will do all her homework, go to soccer practice and CCD and still have time to play video games. And she'll budget her own time so she can do just that. She'll still give me a hard time getting up in the morning and never have a clear answer when I ask what she wants for breakfast, but that's small potatoes. I can deal with that. It'll piss me off every single morning, but I'll pay that price for all the return we're getting.

My son will just be starting preschool this year. We decided it would be a good idea when we signed him up, because he needs some social interaction. I have made him into a Mama's Boy and that needs to change before he gets older. I can't help it...he's so stinkin' cute, I just want to do everything for him. And I never want to leave his side. Going to school is going to be tough for him...ok, tough for me. I know I keep referencing The Days of Which We Do Not Speak aka: summer camp, but they've got me in a tizzy. He had SUCH a hard time there. And since we're a little removed from the camp now, I've made it worse in my head. The way I remember it, he sat the entire time in a corner with his arms crossed eyes closed rocking back and forth. I know that didn't really happen, but that's what I picture now. So sending him off to school will be interesting for the both of us. OK, bottom line is this...if he hates it, I need a strategy. Cuz running to his side is not an option. I know the wonderful teachers at the preschool we chose can handle it, and they'll tell me if they can't. I guess I'll just sit in the corner for the first couple days waiting for a call. I'll try not to rock back and forth TOO much.