Pet Pickles

 

It seems crazy sometimes, surreal, even, how no matter how stressful and awful circumstances are there can always be laughter. These days, laughter is much needed. My oldest son has been struggling with POTS (Postular Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and very often feels terrible. It kind of depends on the day–some days he wants to crawl in my my lap and just wants me to comfort him (which would be difficult considering he is a 6 foot 14 year old!) and other days, I am the enemy who doesn’t understand what he is going through. It creates strain, to say the least.

Living with five children creates a bit of constant unknown as a given…..I wish I could say I had these perfectly behaved, predictable children, but that would be…well, boring! Even though my youngest is 2, she does not sleep through the night. My husband likes to make fun of me for, if the house is oddly quiet and I happen to be sitting a comfortable position, I pass out like I was hit by a truck. But the other night, I managed to stay up with him until 2 am working on our taxes. Not much of a husband/wife bonding night, but we got it done. In the morning, my oldest had to be driven in to school early for a math compeition he was going to and I somehow rolled out of bed, blindly downed coffee until I could see through the blur and delivered him to the school. I got back to the house just in time to meet Teagen, our 3 (soon to be 4) year old coming down the stairs. She muttered a good morning as I went past her up the stairs and headed down for her morning cartoons. I passed her bedroom and glanced in when something caught my eye. I stopped and squinted–the sun was just coming up and the light was dim in the room she shares with her sisters. I impulsively took another step towards her room. I could see a half dozen or so oblong shaped objects on Teagen’s bed. My first thought…’did she seriously crap on her bed!? Why would she crap on her bed?’ I squint and shake my head some more–I must just be tired–squint some more….definitely something there. Crap. I vaguely recalled she was still wearing her diaper when I passed her on the stairs and dismiss her as the guilty party. Teagen shares her bed with her little sister Aiden so my mind flitted to the next possible culprit, all the while, I am afraid to step any closer to the bed and continue to squint at the offending turds (are those seriously turds on my daughters’ bed!?). It couldn’t have been Aiden–she came to our bed, as she usually does, at some point after I went to bed and I know she still had her diaper on. Well, what the hell……the cat. That fucking cat. Are those seriously king size cat turds on the bed? Those are some pretty big fricking cat turds.  If the cat actually shit on my kids’ bed he is out the door. Why would he do that? He has never done that before…..I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and muster the courage to walk over to the bed and take a closer look and confusion takes over. Pickles. A bunch of slightly dried, wrinkly green/brown pickles. What….the….hell? Oddly, as confusing at it was to see a pile of pickles on the bed, it is Teagen so there is a certain amount of dismissal when it comes to her odd little mind. My husband happened to be passing by the room and I found it irresistable not to call him over and have him look at the bed as well. The narrowing of his blue eyes when they landed on the bed and saw the offending turd shapes quickly followed by the obvious disgusting conclusion and repulsion and the apprehension as I can no longer hold in my laughter and encourage him to touch one!

Teagen has established a history in her 3 short years of being ridiculously practical in her theories of why she does what she does. Wacking off all her hair was of course, just because it bugged her and she was quite confident in her hair cutting skills. The bald spots have filled in, finally. It honestly didn’t even occur to me to ask her why she had pickles in her bed until my sister asked me what she said. It’s Teagen–who knows? So I did ask her. She knew she wasn’t supposed to have food in their room so she smuggled a bowl of pickles into the room right before bed time. She carefully hid them while I tucked them in and said goodnight, turning off the light. She quite happily munched her pickles in the dark until the bowl spilled, spilling pickle juice all over her sheet and cold pickles all over. Being the smart, committed bugger she is, she knew turning the light on would alert her older sister, drawing attention to herself and of course, my attention to what the commotion was. So of course, it only makes sense that she slept all night with her little pet pickles, the only complaint being that they were cold, at first! How much I love each of my children and their ability to make me shake my head in wonder as to how their little brains work! It makes the dark days bright and is the constant reminder of how God has blessed us in ways we don’t understand.

Ouch…..hello truth

We got our homeschooling supplies today. Can honestly say I found it a little hard to breath unpacking all the books, work books, reading material. I better not let them down! But thank goodness children have a way of bringing every irrational thought completely down to earth.

I was washing my 7 year old, Piper’s, hair (yes, I still closely supervise baths for all the little ones, lest the crust behind their ears begins to build) and she asked me a very simple question- ‘Mom, when can we all go swimming together?’ I replied with a very non-committal, oh, some time, we’ll go, typical response for a parent wishing to avoid making a concrete plan. She then asked my why I never go swimming with them and I briefly debated skimming over that as well. Too much truth? Being too evasive? I opted for brutal, uncomfortable truth. At this point, I just don’t feel comfortable in a swimsuit. Her childish perspective was as always, very practical. ‘Mom, why don’t you just get one of those swimsuits that look like pants? Then people won’t think you’re fat.’  AHHH! I see! Cause seeing all 5 feet 7 inches of me being the only one at the pool wearing a whole body suit wouldn’t draw attention to my extra 60 lbs at all! I keep trying to gear up for the motivation to start a diet, get on the exercise bandwagon….Lord knows I have at least 5 reasons as to why I should! So why is it so hard? Even after all this time it still stung just a little to hear my daughter acknowledge that she thinks of me as fat, has accepted it, and decided the best course of action is to cover it up and get on with living! And believe me, she wasn’t being rude or disrespectful….only being perfectly honest. I know all the things I need to be doing…..so why is it so hard to put them into action? If I can give 110% to my children’t education being a success, why can’t I do this little thing for myself? Why is it so much harder to focus on oneself? Readily, I find myself preferring to think about their schedule and the challenges we will have than my own struggle to put down the fork and get on the treadmill. A clear aversion to a subject that is host to many failures. Is it possible to save a little effort for me? I guess I’ll find out! Or I will be suffering the indignity of having to post a picture of myself wearing a bodysuit at the pool with my children…..

I like the gray…..

Do you ever have the realization that you don’t really know that much about yourself? Perhaps it is a midlife crisis. One’s teenage years are so dramatic–everything is a big deal. So many life altering decisions in prepearation for the long awaited adulthood. And then it comes….ADULTHOOD. Issues that you theorized about in high school are very real and much more difficult to navigate. People get hurt. People get mad at you. You get mad at other people. I very much like the gray. It’s like that old shitty sweatshirt you never get rid of covered with stains, tattered sleeves and worn out spots but you love the way it feels, like a security blanket. It’s so comfortable. Why does everything have to be so black and white? Why do I have to take one side or the other? Why do I have to have an opinion that will make one person mad, the other dissappointed, and yet another scoff at my lack of backbone?

Here’s the problem. Children. I want strong, confident children. The realization that I could no longer avoid religion came crashing down when my first born questioned why he had to be good. ‘Because I said so’ was just so weak. And inadequate. Because I want you to go to heaven one day. Because I want you to be a strong moral character. I want you to know Jesus in your heart. I want you to be saved even if I doubt my own ability to be saved. With a Catholic mother and a father who claimed to be athiest, religion has been a little confusing. But I can’t be gray for my children. I had to decide.

Today I started homeschooling my two children. My 7 year old did well in school but this year really struggled with 2nd grade math. Her teacher kept saying she lacked confidence, which blew me away. This is the girl that doesn’t want to get off the stage at her piano recital. Who on the fly sang a solo in front of the entire church. Confidence?! We had so many conversations, her and I. She felt like she was just falling further and further behind. And she wanted to do well! I was unprepared for the passionate response. Everyone had an opinion. Everyone knew what was best for our children. I had no idea people would be so upset. She is my kid, after all. It was incredibly uncomfortable for a person who didn’t like to be in the spotlight at her own wedding. But for someone who is secretly slightly uncomfortable, still, admitting I believe in God, He always has a way of intervening that leaves little doubt. About to call it quits after the first couple hours because I couldn’t get my crap printer to print, the UPS showed up at my door with a brand new printer from the homeschool program. Three days before any of the other supplies are supposed to get here. And then after submitting my daughter’s math assessment, despite reaasureance from the public school that she was ‘on track’ and would be fine by the end of the year, it was decided that she needed to start at the beginning of 2nd grade and repeat the entire first semester in math. That’s it. I am no longer in the gray. That was confirmation of my fears and worries and validation that she needed intervention lest she become another child not left behind, and that I am doing right be here as her mother. The uncomfortable feeling of being judged by other’s no longer matters.

It is hard to look in the mirror and be left with a feeling of…..lacking. The gray has been my comfortable home for a long time. It is a place of non-decisions….safe emotion…..devoid of real commitment. But for my children, if I want to be the mother of my heart, I have to leave the gray behind. I have to address all those horrible passion filled issues that were just theoretical in high school. And I have to choose. Choose not to be a wall flower. Choose to stand behind my decisions. And that’s so scary cause even though I know that’s what I need to do for myself and my children, I still like the gray….

Love the crazy

The other day, we had an admittedly awful, hateful day. I don’t know if all parents struggle with those ups and downs–I would imagine they do but I don’t hear about it all that often, like it is admitting some kind of dark failure. I think it is kind of sad people aren’t more open about their struggles, especially in today’s society of ridiculous expectations, instant gratification and unrealistic perceptions as to what family life should be. Maybe the divorce rate in this country would be lower if people understood marriage is a roller coaster ride and it’s not the immediate lows they need to be thinking about, it’s the lifetime of highs. You can remind me of that next time I want to kill my husband! I do know there is no way I would still be married if not for the brutally honest advice of my oldest sister who ripped the Cinderella book right out of my hands and cracked me upside the head with it. Family and marriage is WORK–non-stop, grueling, relentless work. And the good days may come a little fewer than the rotten ones but it is like God sent a ray of sunshine straight to me to remind me of my purpose, my love and my devotion for our crazy little family with our warped sense of humor.

It started with our 3 1/2 year old, whom is the spit and fire of the five children, laying on my husband’s bare chest and cuddling with him while he watched tv. She kept poking at his nipples, pinching them, and he kept swatting her hand away and telling her to stop, it hurt when she pinched. She then tells him, very matter of fact, “Your nipples aren’t stupid……but they are pointless.” I thought my husband was going to cry he was laughing so hard! You will get to know her over time and see that there is no exaggeration in the stories about her–of all the children, she probably scares the crap out of me the most. She is fearless, fierce, shrewdly intelligent and will be four in April. Thinking of trying to harness her energy and focus it in a positive direction makes me hyperventilate just a little, although I will do my best never to let her see my bluff–that I actually don’t know what I am doing!

My two year old is definitely the baby. She blinds her grandma’s with her sweetness but she also has the baby of the family’s talent for being bossy, demanding, and a bit manipulative. I have been casually working on potty training her for some time now as she early on developed an unfortunate habit when dealing with potty habits. With a family this big, potty humor is unfortunately ever present as it is a rather big part of our day, every day. The first time made me scream and the other kids laughed hysterically. I hear her calling ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ and go to her and she holds out her hand to give me something. I reach out my hand to take it from her and just in the nick of time, realize what it is and pull back my hand with a shriek as a large turd falls to the floor. She hasn’t been able to fool me since, as I am always wary any time she tries to ‘gift’ me with anything, although when I was at the Mayo with our oldest, I heard from my mother who was watching the little girls while we were gone, that Mom was ‘gifted’, much to her disgust! Anyway, I was laying on our bed with my hubby, talking about our day and the little one was laying on the bed with us. Despite her sweet appearences, she has the ass of an old man and with her legs in the air, interrupted our conversation with a horrifying, absurdly long old man fart, immediately resulting in my husband bolting from the bed and tears falling from my eyes as I laugh uncontrollably. As we are fleeing from our room, she starts laughing and saying ‘I’m poopin’! I’m poopin’ in your bed!’ Teasing is a huge part of our family dynamic and obviously our kids have picked up on this from birth. My husband replies by telling her ‘I’m gonna go poop in your bed!’ She of course, sobers up immediately, as if this were an actual possibility and sits up and yells ‘No! Don’t poop in my bed!’. So she chases him from our room and he runs into hers and jumps up onto the twin bed, and, committed to it now, pulls his pants down (leaving boxers in tact, of course) just enough to give the desired illusion, and squats on her bed, making the most horrible facial expressions of one being constipated with a turd the size of a bowling ball. Baby girl of course is PISSED and screaming at him to stop pooping on her bed! The absurdity of it all had me on my knees laughing till it just hurt too much and I am quite certain I will never get the image of my husband squatting like that on his daughter’s bed out of my head. She followed him downstairs chewing him out all the way and at the bottom of the stairs, he hands her a plastic Wal-mart bag and tells her she better go get the turd off her bed. She actually took it and grumbled all the way back up the stairs and spent the next few minutes searching her blankets for her dad’s little gift!

I am almost afraid to find out if we are that weirdly different from other families. I only know it works for us and makes those rough days non exisitent for the moment and makes me love the crazy. Possibly only the crazy that we will understand. The crazy that is ours.

Angst

Grace…….when I think of the word, ‘smooth’ comes to mind. Easily flowing. Even orderly. I know there is a deeper meaning to the word as well. But I would settle for a little superficial grace! We got back this week from a second trip with my oldest son to the Mayo Clinic. One we couldn’t afford to begin with, but somehow we scraped up enough to pay for parking and very little else. It was well worth it, of course, and I would do it again and make the five hour trip on my bicycle if necessary. He was diagnosed with Postular Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, which, thankfully, the Mayo Clinic is only one and five places in the nation that treat it. Too bad they can’t treat teenage douchey-ness. That should be a syndrome, too! Now I know he is 14, he is having unexpected health problems, and of course, horomones. I am aware I don’t have it ‘that bad’ as he is usually a decent kid. Tonight isn’t one of them. And neither was yesterday. It’s like a kick in the gut. It makes me angry. It makes me question my parenting. The time we parents spend in complete agony trying to make sure we are doing right by our children is endless. And it goes completely unrecognized or appreciated. Until when? I know I didn’t recognize any of it until I was about 23. It stinks. I didn’t want to have that relationshipe with my kids. I never wanted them to doubt my support, love and devotion. And I don’t think they do, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Five children in and I am questioning whether or not I am fit to be a parent! Too late, I know. And I am sure tomorrow will be better….right? But tonight will be a sleepless night where I question what I should have done, could have done differently and wonder how it could affect him down the road. In the morning, I will have to put aside my hurt feelings and pretend the harsh words, or stink eyes didn’t make a dent in my mom armor and make them do their chores like every Saturday. Tomorrow I will pretend indifference and carry on because this isn’t a job I can quit. And I am too broke to be a closet drunk. Ah, what I wouldnt’ give for a little grace in my life!

Can take the girl out of the country but….maybe she should stay there

So it is pretty standard for me, anyway, to have mini mishaps at every turn. I don’t know if it was necessarily due to how we were raised (family with five children, dairy farm). But I have NEVER been able to pull off that classy, sophisticated persona full of grace…..kind of hard to when I am less than graceful and a little socially challenged!

The last week has been a horrible, gut-wrenching, anxiety filled week. My oldest son (14) goes to the Mayo Clinic tomorrow for some tests. Long story short, a lung spot was seen on an x-ray and he has been losing weight, felt terrible and been in general very miserable. The doctors where we live told him it was ‘probably’ in his head, which sends a mother who actually knows her child, sees him suffering, right over the edge. So here we are, 5 hours from home, $90 in our pocket, a hotel room my amazing brother-in-law is paying for and driving my mother’s car. But let me back up a little…

Packing up four children 7 and under to stay at my mother-in-law’s house was no small feat. The Mayo told us we could be here for 1 day or 3 or more. My husband had no clue how fast the hamsters were running in my head last night–all he knows is he has to work and things are being taken care of (by the same magical fairy that does all the dishes and laundry). Trying to anticipate their needs, trying to make sure everyone had clean underwear…..and of course leaving my own packing for 5 minutes before we left this morning. I never leave my children….and I don’t want you to think I feel deprived by that in any way. That is the way I WANT it. Admittedly, there are times where I need space but it is an hour here or there. The combined anxiety of whether or not they will behave for my mother-in-law and the fact that I won’t be there tonight or tomorrow morning, plus worrying about my poor boy tomorrow….kind of makes my head want to explode!

But there I go, rattling on again! So we live in the country, small towns, you get the idea. I go down to the Twin Cities once or twice a year to visit my 2nd oldest sister or maybe a few times a year we will go to Fargo. So driving on freeways is not exactly my comfort zone, and certainly weaving in and out of traffic is not! I am not an aggressive driver, having the dillusion that other drivers will appreciate my politeness. They don’t….it’s more like they sense you are the weak one in the herd! I can’t complain too much about the traffic. Most of the way down I followed a big semi hauling giant straw bales. He was kind of like a big bull paving the way for me! The part where I really start to lose some class and sophistication is when we stopped to grab lunch at McDonald’s. I hate that place. Or rather, my ass hates that place. Something happened at some point in my life and I just do no digest fast food all that well. I swear I do not eat it all that often and every time I do, I think, ‘maybe it won’t bother me this time…’. Wrong. Very, very wrong. About an hour went by before the cramping started. Little beads of sweat popping out on my forehead as I am clenching the stearing wheel and my knee bouncing up and down faster and faster like it’s going to help. After a while, my son began to realize something was seriously wrong when I could no longer hold the gas in. ‘MOM! What’s wrong with you!?!’ I wish I could tell him. And what could I do? Grit my teeth, feel the blood leave my face as another round of cramping started and try not to shart myself. At this point, the ditch is looking favorable. I was almost frantic when the stupid navigator made us miss the right exit for our hotel. My son is now holding his nose out the window and begging to just stop anywhere. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I stopped at a gas station about 4 blocks away from our hotel and did the stiff-legged trot in there. I had another momentary panic when I thought both stalls where occuppied, thank God, no, but as I am hastily pulling down my pants realize there is some poor innocent sitting mere feet from me. I grit my teeth and sweat some more until she leaves. I won’t go into detail but let’s just say it was horrifying relief and thankfully, not witnessed by anyone. Freakin’ McDonald’s. I hate you and your nasty ass exploding food. That I will probably eat again at some point in time. But not for a while. My son is complaining the car still smells. There is not alot to say. We make it the four blocks to the hotel and check into our room. I start unpacking and realize I packed 2 shirts and NO PANTS. I am wearing some ugly athletic pants, thinking comfort for a long drive. I meticulously packed each of my five children but don’t even bring pants for myself!? Good Lord, please let this poor little country girl go back to the country where she belongs. I will try for grace and sophistication another day, I guess!

So….so broke

This is a bit of a rant. On a subject I kind of feel is supposed to be kept private. I feel incredibly conflicted as I am writing this. I know we are not the most unfortunate family on earth. I know there are others in much worse positions. I try very hard to be grateful every day for what we have. I don’t care about being rich–I really dont. I just don’t want to STRUGGLE so hard! As a niave teenager, I remember clearly thinking that I didn’t know what was wrong with my parents…..you work, you get paid, you have money, right? HAHA! If only it was that easy. So why is it that it seems some people succeed while others scrape by? Does it simply boil down to money management? Is it that much of an asset to have that silver tongue? The right look? The right people? And if that is the case, does that mean we will never be out of the hole no matter how hard we try? I feel guilty about money always being such a central part of our lives–the Bible says to worship no other and I gotta be honest, while it isn’t worship persay, money is always a constant on the mind. I feel like we are always chasing it and it is just beyond our grasp. All encompassing–the first worry you have when you wake up in the morning and the last worry you have as you close your eyes at night.  Perhaps it is an illusion I have created for myself that only if we had more financial stability, we wouldn’t have to think about it as much.

Most of the time, I can convince myself we will be ok. We get in a hole, we climb out. Fall into another hole, climb out. Yesterday I had one of those moments where I had to lock myself in the bathroom away from the kids and have a good bawl. I wanted so VERY badly not to be exactly what I am right now. Having to rely handouts from my parents or relatives, the good will of others to scrape by. I know I am not the only person in this situation but why does it FEEL like that? Why does it feel so isolating and shameful? Cause it is. I am ashamed. My husband works so hard. I do daycare from our home so I can still take care of our little ones–we couldn’t afford daycare for them anyway. We don’t spend money on frivolties. There is no money to spend. We have no credit cards. We have tried to be responsible and careful with our money. And we have so, so very little to show for it. It is sad and depressing and this is a moment of weakness in which I am expressing my frustration…exasperation….desperation. I don’t voice this to my husband because he would interpret this as me thinking he is a failure and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I don’t really expect a response to this…after all, who wants to admit failings? It kind of sucks. But I feel a sense of freedom at the end of this as well. It’s kind of like exorcising a black cloud of negativity. In the end, what else can we do but keep persevering? Giving up is not an option so I guess we will just keep looking for those little rays of sunshine to poke through the black cloud.