What a beautiful fall day here in Fort Worth! I'm loving it!
Have I mentioned how much I love fall? Yeah, well I do. A. Lot!
All is well here. Lots of homework and running around for piano lessons, soccer practice, soccer games, boy scouts, girl scouts, and all the other things life entails. It's such a pleasure even when it's a pain in my ass. And let me tell you, it is often a pain in my ass.
How much do I really enjoy it though? Would I consider going back to work? Well, yes, I'd definitely consider it. And I did. Recently. Last week I was offered a full-time job at a law firm in downtown Fort Worth. Although it was offered as a flexible position working on contracts (which I love) and accomodating my family schedule, I still turned it down. I was, of course, ridiculously flattered that this attorney would call and offer me a job. It truly means a lot to me.
Before I received the job offer, I had been playing phone tag with this attorney for a couple days. One afternoon, I was listening to a voicemail from him on speaker phone at home. I didn't really think about it, but Luke was listening to the message and when the message was over he asked, "What was that all about?" I looked up at him, surprised that he had even been paying attention (since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were actively fighting evil on the television). I said, "Well, this attorney owns a law firm and it sounds like he wants me to come work for him and his law firm."
Luke's forehead scrunched up just a little. He didn't say anything, but turned back to the television. I paused, and then decided to ask the question even though I was dreading the answer, "Luke? What do you think? Should I go back to work and being an attorney all the time?"
To my utter shock and surprise, he emphatically responded, "No!"
"Really?!" Truly, I was shocked. If you had asked me, I would have told you that my kids didn't give two shits about having me at home and more present in their lives. I honestly thought they would be just fine -- happy, even -- if I re-employed our amazing nannies to watch them after school. Because, well, let's face it, those girls are way more fun that I am, and way prettier than I am (and for a 9 y.o. boy those things matter).
In my utter bafflement, I paused the reptilian ninjas on the television to get Evie and George's attention. I asked them, "Do you think I should go back to work?" Both confirmed Luke's opinion saying, "No!" while their heads shook back and forth in an exagerated motion from shoulder to shoulder.
I almost teared up. Almost, but not quite. I mean, I still am the cold-blooded attorney I was raised to be in the last dozen years. Just because it turns out that three little kids like having me around, did not mean I was going to be moved to tears. But man, was I close. I still feel a warm feeling in my heart when I think about that moment, when these three kids (with terrible school pictures) told me that they actually like having me around.
You might wonder why I'm so surprised by this, but if you ask Chuck or anyone who has lived with us, you will know that I turn into a crazy, screaming banshee most mornings as I poke, prod, threaten, harangue, jostle, and push my children out of their beds, into their clothes, through breakfast, and out the door. It is a "process". And that's putting it nicely. And the the "process" continues when they get home: snack, homework (the bane of my existence!), dinner, scouts, soccer practice, piano lessons and practice, and every other thing. (I'd really like to add baths into that daily chore list, but I have to admit, as winner of Mother-of-the-Year -- nine years running, I hate giving them baths almost as much as they hate getting them, so baths are definitely not a daily occurrence. I just make sure they aren't the smelly kids in class. I mean, I do have standards, after all.)
Obviously, I'm not exactly a Stepford wife and mother. In fact, there is a huge pile of laundry sitting in the middle of our living room, stacks of dishes piled in the kitchen sink, and papers scattered across the dining room table from our whirl of morning activity.
With all that said, it's apparantly working for us. So, for now, but maybe not forever (because who knows what tomorrow holds), I will continue to be a full-time mother and a part-time attorney. What an amazing blessing I've been given: to have a choice, to be appreciated, to be loved. How thankful I am.
I had the stomach flu the day after my birthday. It sucked. It sucked the life out of me and I was left languishing on my couch for two days. Yuck, yuck, yuck! And, I don't think I mentioned it, but last Monday and Tuesday, Evie had been home sick with a really bad throat infection. I couldn't believe I was living in a den of bacteria and disgustingness.
That weekend, however, I was back at it. We got to enjoy watching sweet Evie kill it on the soccer field. She was fantastic! It was like I flipped a switch. She wasn't afraid of anyone or anything. She got in there and owned that soccer ball, even when facing a much bigger opponent. I seriously had tears in my eyes because I was so proud of her!!! Even the coach declared her the game's MVP. Of course, she had no idea what "MVP" stood for, so I had to explain it to her.
She seemed unimpressed. But, eventually, she figured out that she had an amazing game when all of the other parents came up to her separately to tell her how great she played. She was on fire! So proud!!!
And to make the weekend sweeter, George scored TWO goals too! They earned candy and lots of hugs!
But then, Monday rolled around, which was Columbus day and all three kids had the day off. I thought it was going to be a great day! In fact, I scheduled them to have their flu vaccinations so that we wouldn't have to endure another week of sickness at some point this winter. Unfortunately, George had been complaining that his stomach hurt since Sunday. Of course, being mother-of-the-year, I ignored his paltry cries about his stomach. Until later in the day on Monday when he was writhing on the ground, whining about the pain, and asking to go take a nap. Wearing my other hat --- Nurse/Doctor --- I quickly diagnosed his abdominal pain (see how I used the medical term there?) as constipation. He had no other symptoms after all. I proceeded to treat his symptoms by feeding him apples (the only fruit he will eat) and telling him to drink more water, and then encouraging him to use the restroom.
It didn't help. He continued to complain morning, noon, and night - and especially in the middle of the night. He and I were soooo tired!
And then on Tuesday night he was once again writhing in pain, crying, and had broken out into a sweat. Long story short (or shorter, anyway), I ended up taking G to a pediatric urgent care center where they took an x-ray of his abdomen to confirm constipation. Unfortunately, they said he looked clear, but had identified a possible culprit in his appendix. Well, holy shit. That did not make my week. We were sent home on "Appendix Watch 2013". And, let me tell you, we learned some interesting things about appendicitis symptoms. We were told to watch for high fever, vomiting, and the inability to jump up and down without causing pain in his side. Oooo-kaaaaaay.
The next night was the same and again without any apendicitis symptoms. The only difference was this time Chuck got to witness the crying and writhing, so it was decided that we needed to go see our regular doctor the next day - Dr. Murphy is amazing. You know it's bad, when your own kid asks to go see his doctor. I mean, he would curl up on the floor of the grocery store, or on the sidewalk in front of L & E's school (like in the picture below). It was bad.
So, Thursday morning, George was doubled over holding his stomach announcing, "I am not going to school today" (I had sent him every day that week). It was time to get some answers, so we visited Dr. Murphy (for the third time in a 10 days). He also ordered an x-ray and tested G's blood to see if appendicitis was an issue. After having two additional collegues review the x-ray, George was diagnosed with constipation (in contradiction of our urgent care diagnosis) and appendicitis was officially ruled out. Seriously, I obviously could have stuck with my original diagnosis from Monday. Plus, we went through some unnecessary stress when watching for appendicitis. And on top of that, I discontinued all constipation treatments after the urgent care doctor told me it wasn't an issue. So, in the long run, I probably allowed his diet to compound the situation.
I was so relieved to have a diagnosis and a treatment, until Dr. Murphy handed me a couple pairs of rubber gloves and instructed me to go purchase some Miralax and a Fleet enema. I took a deep breath and repeated in my head, "I love being a mother. I love being a mother. I love being a mother." Then I gratefully accepted the gloves, studied Dr. Murphy's hand-drawn diagram of what was to come and what was expected of me, and I pranced out of the office, holding my head high and my back straight. I could do this. And if I couldn't, then I knew plenty of nurses I could pay to come do this . . .
Turns out the "procedure" was "productive" and no nurses were needed. All I needed were the supplies shown above, plus one constipated little boy, a towel, and a boatload of patience. Best part: I didn't need the gloves! After about an hour, I had my sweet George back in his true form!
It's been clear skies since then!
As a result of this miserable experience, I have discovered that my kids like bran muffins. I thought it was going to be a long shot to convince George to eat these muffins in order to keep things moving, but it turns out he absolutely LOVES them! I don't think they taste that great, but how can I argue with the fact that all three kids are willing to gobble them up?!
So, even though I don't usually share recipes on this blog, I feel compelled to share the recipe for what we are calling, "Movin' Muffins".
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups milk
1 apple, grated (I grate it in the food processor)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tray with PAM and set aside. In a medium sized bowl, mix the self-raising flour, baking powder, wheat bran, brown sugar and cinnamon. In a separate smaller bowl, mix the egg, vegetable oil, milk and apple. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and using a spatula, fold together until all of the ingredients are just wet. Do not overmix or the muffins will be heavy. Using a 1/4 cup measure per muffin, fill the muffin tray. Mix together the topping ingredients and sprinkle a teaspoon of the topping on each muffin. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Viola! Feed your kids. George cried Sunday morning when I told him he had eaten all the muffins. He waited impatiently as I made another batch. Then he ate two as soon as they were cool enough to eat!
It's my birthday!
I started it with a walk through the park with Luke and Evie to "celebrate" Walk to School Day. Just so you know, every day was Walk to School Day when I was growing up. Uphill both ways. In the snow. Darn those kids today. They're so soft and spoiled!
The rest of the day is pretty open. I think I'll splurge with a new book! Hope you all are having a great day!
My oldest son found a little yellow thing on the dining room table yesterday. While I was gathering all the necessary accoutrements for soccer practice he held it up and asked what it was. I squinted at it, continued screwing on the lid of a water bottle, and said with haste and dismissal, "I don't know what it is, honey."
10 minutes later we were in the sexy mini van on the way to Evie's soccer practice when I started hearing moaning sounds coming from Luke in the backseat of he vehicle. "Ughhhh! Eeeewwww."
I popped my gaze onto him through the rear view mirror, concerned that a stomach bug had suddenly hit our family and asked with a panic,"Are you okay? Are you going to throw up?!?" He groaned again but answered that he was not going to throw up and then, yes, he was sure he wasn't going to throw up. (I really don't like, or deal well with, vomit). After concluding that vomit was not imminent, I probed further. He said, "Do you remember that yellow thing I showed you?"
I filtered my memory for the referenced conversation and finally answered, "Yes."
He said, "I was playing with it, and it popped." He groaned again, holding up his fingers with disgust. I was certain he might have been dying.
I scrunched up my forehead in thought and asked, "Does it smell good?" I was thinking it might be a air freshener bead. He moaned again and grunted, "Nooo." All the while he held his fingers up n disgust as the smell penetrated the cab of the minivan.
I was thoroughly confused at that point and asked, "What does it smell like?"
"I don't know", was all he could utter.
When we finally arrived at our destination, I went to the back of the minivan to retrieve the soccer ball and chairs, and I saw him over the back of the chair holding his hands up precariously as if he had just conducted surgery. I leaned forward and said, "Let me smell it." Now, let me digress and assure you that this is the very last thing any mother wants to say to her child. I don't want to smell anything of his, especially something that is already making him groan in disgust. But I leaned forward and took a strong whiff of the stench on his fingers. Let this be a reminder to all of you that in science experiments they encourage you to "waft" the scent. Instead, I took a huge inhalation of what smelled like a dead fish. And suddenly, the entire situation became clear.
Luke had found my fish oil pill and, after squeezing it between his fingers in fascination, he caused its contents to explode on his hands and the backseat of my car. The result is a car and a child who reek of fish. Not fun. Of course the silver lining is a son who bathed himself without prompting last night. It's the little things...
So, I hereby warn you of the fish oil pill: healthy but disgusting.
It's unfortunate that I don't bring up topic more often, but it is fitting to do so at least now and again to remind myself and my family how important the people in our lives are. There are so many friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers - just to name a few - who shape our lives.
My mom is amazing. Yup. That's what I was going to write about. She is an unsung hero. She is the most loving, well-meaning woman you will ever meet. She doesn't always say the right things at the right time. She doesn't always dress to the nines, spend hours applying makeup or thousands on her wardrobe, or keep abreast of all the social graces that other moms exhibit. But this woman is more than that. She's incredible. (And, yes, she's already signed the will, so there's no intent for scoring more of an inheritance).
My mom grew up as an army brat. She traveled extensively following her father's Army career. She was the first born of nine children, gracing this Earth less than a month before Pearl Harbor. During her first few years she was raised by her most lovely mother (Florence) while her father fought the Nazis. He was in the Battle of the Bulge. He was in the Normandy Invasion. He saw more things than I even want to know about. And after the war he continued to serve, taking his lovely family (which grew to 9 children) from state to state and country to country. And as amazing as he was, this isn't about him or my grandmother. Because of all the moves, my mom attended 13 schools in 12 years. One year she attended 3 different schools because of transfers. She even attended school in Germany. Twice. So, if she seems a little chatty, and ready to talk to any stranger, you're right. I mean, how else would you ever have friends if you didn't speak up right away at each new school?
She went on to raise 6 fabulous kids with the last one achieving particular awesomeness! The first 5 were born within 7 years. Can you even imagine?! I seriously can't. I can't. But she did it. And then, when her youngest was 7 and her oldest was 14, she had ME! Best. Surprise. Ever! (At least in my opinion). Six kids is just a ridiculous number, but she loves it and embraced it. She made it work, and loved a husband fully while working inside and outside the home. She even had the courage to move from Michigan to Texas with my father in the early 1980s. (Now that I think about it, maybe she was so used to moving that it wasn't much of a stretch for her, but maybe it was. I mean, she had 6 kids ranging in age from 18 (oldest sister Cathy) to 4 (sweet, lil' ol' me). In between was Joan, Mike, Mary and Tom. Yes, a good Catholic family. And those four were in Junior High and High School. What a commitment to uproot yourself and your children and move away from all of your family to a state where you know no one. But she did it. And my father did it (must give him some credit too!).
Of course, the family had ups and downs and its fair share of struggles - all of which are some one else's stories and not mine to tell. But, after making a home here in Texas - specifically just north of Houston - the worst thing possible happened. When my mother was 48, my father died of a heart attack. Suddenly and without warning. In the middle of the night. There was never any chance of survival. It just happened. It was. It is. And, after so many years, you should know that we have all moved on, healed, and acknowledge that his passing will always be a part of us, but no longer defines our lives. So, no pity or apologies or sympathy are necessary.
Now, if there is one thing my mother can handle, it is death, dying, and a funeral. Don't ask me why this is her thing, but it is. She reads the obituaries religiously. She attends funerals for her friends' relatives even if she's never met that friend's relative. She just wants to be there for that friend during his or her difficult time, even though it seems odd to all of us children. But when her husband died, it was different. It was closer. It was death in her own home. She had never had anyone so close to her die. Her parents were still alive. His parents were still alive. All her siblings were still alive. All of his siblings were still alive. Her father had survived the war. And so, her first experience with a death close to her was the death of her best friend and lover. I don't know how she did it. None of us does. But she pulled it together. I never saw her break down, even though I'm sure she did at some point. I'm not saying she was calm, graceful, and composed, because who can really be all those things when the love of their life dies? But, she handled us all. All 6 kids. She pulled us together. She was strong for us. Now, I must remind you that this is told through the eyes of a child because I was only 12 at the time, but that's how I saw it. That's still how I remember it. And she remembers it like it was yesterday. And if you ask her about it, be prepared for her to launch into a story full of honesty and sometimes shock. She is a woman who holds nothing back. Never has, never will.
The most amazing thing about the event that indelibly affected my life, the lives of my siblings, and most importantly, my mother, is that she didn't sink into darkness or inactivity. She didn't give up. No. She charged forward making a life for us. All the other kids were adults at the time. But I was still a dependent. I may have been a suprise but I was with her for the next 6 years as her companion. We had a special relationship. Still do. She decided to go back to college to get a degree - something she had always wanted to do. We spent our nights together studying. She came to all of my high school events - because she could. We ate dinner together every night, and almost always, it was just the two of us. We vacationed together alone. We spent our summers together in Michigan at her parent's house. We visited my dad's grave together.
We did it all together for six years. So, it was perfectly fitting when she graduated from college the same month I graduated from high school. No one could be prouder of her accomplishments, except maybe my Dad from Heaven. And as if she hadn't accomplished enough, she went on to pass her CPA exam and began working at an oil and gas company in downtown Houston - becoming part of the rat race. She loved it, starting a career in her 50s. What a woman. What. A. Woman!
During the years that followed, she watched the remaining five of her six children marry (my brother Mike is the only one who had my father present at his wedding - lucky guy). She wrapped each newborn grandchild in her arms of love. And she follows their daily lives through Facebook if they allow her. She adores them. She showers them with love and attention. And the rest of us, sort of take her for granted. Sure, she's amazing, but she's still our mom. And she still annoys us just like your mom annoys you with her silly quirks and habits. But the truth is, that on the most basic level, we love her so much and we owe so much of what we are to her and what she has done for us. Sacrificed for us. For example, if she hadn't taken the plunge to move to Texas, not a single one of us would be with our spouses. Not a single one of us would have the careers we have. We have been blessed by her, by our father, by Heaven.
So, on this day, I just want to shout out to her how grateful I am for her. Tell her that my daily teasing and groaning and moaning about this or that, is simply the surface level emotion I'm experiencing, but that she is one of the most important people in my life. Always has been. Always will be.