Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Halloween Night That Screwed Me Up Forever

           I am the middle child in a family of four.  I am one year and two days behind an older sister, three years and 2 days in front of a younger brother and almost ten years ahead of a baby sister.  My older sister is the First Born of the Family, my Brother is the Only Boy of the family, and my little sister, is the Baby of the Family.  That leaves me, right in the Middle, second child, second girl with two parents in one large family.
            Being part of a large family certainly has its perks.  There is always someone to play with, or should I say, fight with.  You never have to engage yourself in one man hide and seek, and everything comes in multiple sets, even spankings.
            And the whole birth order thing has merit as well.  I can see it even in my own kids.  I would be interested to see if my kids were the same if I switched the order in which they were born or if the change would actually take place in me as the parent. I think that perhaps it was not birth order that led to this particular moment in history that I would like to share, but instead it was more of the parental erosion that occurs when you have multiple children.  Parental erosion involves the wear and tear that occurs from having each consecutive child.  It is what happens to you, the feeling of being washed away, piece by piece, every working brain cell slipping slowly from your body along with any common sense that went with it.   Until finally, what was once a very intelligent, beautiful, self sufficient, well meaning adult is reduced to a blubbering fool with your shirt on inside out, trying to wrangle children through the grocery store.    
             And sure enough in the midst of one of your blubbering episodes, you find yourself guilty of walking into that "one moment" in your parenting journey that you won't ever forget because every time it is mentioned you cringe with the knowledge that maybe "that" was THE moment where you screwed up your kid forever.     My mom and dad had their moment with me at the tender age of four.
           I would set the stage for you but we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, so it is a perfect reference for "my moment".  It was Halloween, time to dress up!  My sister was outfitted as a witch (complete with a broom mind you), my brother was Superman (notice the up front placement in the picture and take note of the "superhero" connotation given to him at such a young age), and then there's me.  Yep.  I'm the ghost.  No fancy costume for the middle kid, just a white sheet complete with a "noose" pumpkin necklace to secure my lovely attire, and no shoes.  Couldn't be sure if I actually put on any shoes or not.  Wouldn't be surprised if that was a no too.  Yep - there I am.  Oh wait, do you notice anything else STRANGE about my costume?   No?  LOOK CLOSER!!!!!!   Got it yet?  No?  OPEN YOUR EYES!!!!  Not yet?  Still can't SEEEEEEE it?  Well, don't worry because I can't either, considering I don't have any EYE HOLES!!!!!!!!  And yes, they left me like that.  Sent me out without eye holes.  Sad part is that they gave the glasses to the witch and not to the eyeless ghost.  I even remember tripping over my sheet at one point and losing all of my candy all over someone's front porch.  Oh, the scarring of a four year old middle child....
              Truth is, I would hardly say that I am scarred.  In fact in my warped and crazy mind, I kind of think I turned out just fine.  Even if I was blind for a while.  :)  My reaction runs more along these lines - I GET IT NOW.  I understand what it means to have three kids under the age of 5.  I know what it is like to try and balance children and a husband and a household and a job and, and, and.....  I know what it means to be tired.  I know what it means to live on one income, to cut coupons, to be thrifty, to have to say no.  I know what it means to be so swept up in the whirlwind of life that sometimes you forget.  You forget to cut eye holes out for your kids.  Uniforms are worn dirty because there has been no time for washing, papers don't get signed, cards don't get sent, you can't remember if spelling homework got done or not, houses are never truly clean, and birthdays are celebrated three times instead of one because schedules just don't match up.
               I get it, Mom and Dad.  And I for that, I am grateful.  Grateful for "my moment" as well as many other significant moments in my childhood.  Those moments that have shaped me into the well rounded adult that I claim to be today.  It is these moments that have stayed with me.  The ones that pass so quickly but seem to live in our minds forever.  The moments we laugh about now as adults and pass on to our children.                      
            I even think, secretly, we as adults hope that we too may be so lucky as to have the opportunity to screw up with our own kids.  To teach them that we as parents are not perfect but human.  To teach them that no matter what happens in our life, there is always time to get it right the next time.  To teach them the art of failure and of trying again.  Lessons that we all learn and thrive from.  Lessons that shape us into confident, functioning, contributing members of society hopefully only to be reduced once again to blubbering idiots, shuffling children through the grocery store.
            So thanks Mom and Dad.  Thanks for screwing me up.  I hope to pass it on.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The End of An Era...Ok, Not Really But It Sounded Good.

        Tomorrow I will go back to work.  No, let me rephrase that, tomorrow I will start getting paid again.  Work is something I am already very familiar with.  The work I have been doing runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  In sickness and in health, in good times and bad, there it is.  Rain, snow, sleet, hail, dark, light, dusk, dawn, doesn't matter when it comes to my job.  Where I go, they go.  Where I stay they stay.  We are like salt and pepper shakers, we come as a set.  I am a stay at home mom.
          It is not a job cut out for everyone and yet I know many people that would give anything to do it if they had the opportunity.  For seven years I have had the opportunity to be at home with my kids.  There is no amount of money that I would take for those seven years.  It was worth every last unearned penny.  So it is with mixed emotions that I return to the workforce tomorrow.
           There is excitement over this new adventure in my life:
* A chance to be able to teach again, which is something I LOVE but at the same time, teach in a new nontraditional way than I am used to.
*A chance for regular adult conversation on a daily basis.  You don't realize how very important this is until you are without it.
*An office, yep, my own space.  And there is a closet in there too.  I can go in, shut the door and there I am alone with myself, my thoughts, my work.  I don't know what it is like to be alone much.  When you become a mother you sign away all rights to privacy, beginning with that very first ultrasound (and those that have had children know exactly what I am talking about on that one!)  No more showers alone, bathroom breaks are a family affair, dinner is expected to be prepared with a baby on your hip and a toddler hanging on your legs.  So yes, the thought of my own space is thrilling to me.
*A paycheck.  I don't think I realized how much we have been doing without until the opportunity to "do with" came back up.  Today I bought paper towels, real, soft, soak up Lake Michigan if you needed it to, paper towels.  What a difference a few dollars can make.  
*Comfort in knowing I am where my kids are and will be.  The whole reason I became a teacher was because I thought it allowed me to be a mom too.  I wanted to be accessible to my children.  I want to be on their schedule and be able to be involved in what they are doing.  My new job puts me at their school.  They can ride to and from school with me instead of spending an hour and twenty minutes on the bus one way.  The look on B's face was worth a thousand words when I told him I was coming to his school.  He is so excited and so very proud.
             There is also apprehension:
*Am I taking away from my girls by not staying out with them, by putting them in someone else's care?
*Am I going to miss some monumental moment in my children's lives?
*Can I balance my job, my family, my home all at the same time without something falling apart?
*Do I even remember how to do this job and can I do it well?
              Truth is, I don't know.  I don't think any working mom knows the answer to these questions.  We just have to trust that it will be what it will be and that in the end, God is in control.  It has always been in God's control, on His time, in His way, in His will.  I have always known God has a plan for me and for my children.  I trust that this is part of that plan and the timing is perfect, even if it was not what I had in mind.  My prayer is that I will trust Him and know that I am not giving up my role as mom, no matter how much it feels like that, I am just learning to stretch, to grow, to challenge myself as a mom, as a woman, as a wife, as a teacher, as me.    Me...she's been incognito for a while now.  Ready for me again, and hoping this is my opportunity to remember exactly who that is.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Don't Let The Cat In...

            My Kaycie Lou is quite the character, full of personality, stubborn, opinionated, hot headed, and absolutely hilarious.  She does nothing half-way and is not afraid to let you know how she really feels about a situation.  Dinner has always been drama for Little Red.  If it is not eggs, fruit, or milk, she does not want it and refuses to eat it.  And because I am not much of a cook, much less a short order one, she is offered the same things we are having.  I try to have some compassion and fix something she will like but probably 4 out of 7 nights she goes to bed with little to no dinner.  As you can see, she is not starving.
             We have tried everything, bribery, force feeding, tears (on my part and hers), counting, airplanes, disguising food, trickery, you name it, I've done it.  Not proud of some of our lower moments but most parents are experts on feelings of desperation just not so much experts on dealing properly with that desperation which is where our latest encounter comes in.
              Our house at the beach had a nice array of stray cats that came along with it.  There were probably 8-10 of them skirting around between the houses and my mom would make sure that their food and water bowls were full twice a day.  They would not come near us but occasionally would run by or stop for a peek in the window.
                One afternoon the big kids and I went with my dad on the boat which left Kaycie and her dad, along with my sister's family, brother's family, and my mom at the house.   While having dinner Kaycie again chose this moment to have a battle of wills with her father over her dinner.  This was not helped by the fact that my niece, Paisley is also a temperamental eater and that she and Kaycie were as thick as thieves for the week.  In one of those moments of desperation my hubby says to all the kids, "You had better eat or I'm going to let the cats come in and they are going to get your food."  Kaycie, eyes opened wide, frozen with her hands by her side, shouted, "SOMEBODY FEED ME!!!!"
               Now you may be thinking, "That is just mean!  You have scarred that child for life!  Yada, yada, yada..."  But hear this, since we have returned from the beach she has successfully managed to eat three dinners with the rest of the family.  All of those dinners have included vegetables!  Those vegetables have not been easy for her and they do come with lots of sputtering, gagging, and crinkled noses but she has gotten them down, which is something to be said.  And when she has started to balk, my hubby will knock on the bottom of the kitchen table and give a low, "Meeeeeoooooooowwwwww."  It works every time.  She's getting some veggies in her and I've stopped feeling like I will lose my mind at dinnertime.  And since I am going to get to keep my mind, I'm even willing to pay for her therapy over losing hers because of the desperate measures of her mom and dad.  "Meeeeoooowwww."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Forty Years and Counting

       Today my mom and dad will celebrate forty years of wedded bliss...ok well maybe bliss is not the right word, how about wedded life, wedded togetherness, wedded reality.  Truth be told, how can you summarize forty years of life together in one word?  I can't even wrap my head around forty years, it is more than my lifetime.  And how do you even begin to write about two people and the life that they have made together in forty years?  Two people who do not fit the mold of "perfectly perfect for each other" and in some ways are complete and utter opposites.  Two very different personalities that somehow, someway, just work.
        In truth I am sure the last forty years have not been all bliss, nor easy, nor fun.  I know this to be true, I have been around for almost 35 of these forty years.  But despite the ups, downs, rights, lefts, twists and turns that are a normal and functioning part of my parents' marriage, there is a deeper underlying theme that has held them fast for forty years and counting.  That theme is family. We are a family.  It began with two and has grown to seventeen and counting.  However it is not our numbers that make us a family.  It is our actions and reactions that define us.  It is those snapshots in our lives that were instituted by our mother and father that have shaped us into this larger multi faceted functioning group.
        It is a first date at Fairystone Park, it is a young Juanita hiding in the dorm closet of a young Joe only to be discovered by a visiting set of parents, it is a home in Maryland and a move back to Martinsville, VA.  It is a baby who, 1 year and 2 days later, is followed by another baby, who 3 years and 2 days later is followed by yet another baby.  It is a four year old ghost at Halloween with no eye holes, it is a 9 year old daughter frantically searching the house for a purse that was hanging on her arm the entire time.  It is Saturday nights spent with Granny watching Dallas and Hee Haw so that mom and dad could go on a date.  It is a little brother with his own set of my little ponies, and a "surprise" pregnancy at the age of 35.  It is not getting your own room until you are fifteen years old.  It is being woken up at 7:15 every morning with the shades being pulled and a sing song "Riisssseee and Shiiiiinnneee", it is an obligatory stop at the clinic (approx. 4 miles from our house) for a well deserved spanking before we left on any vacation, and an 8 hour ride in the car with a red coat over your head.  It is a clinic dance party in our basement. It is a little sister nicknamed "Muskrat".  It is becoming a "band family" complete with a 6 year old mascot.  It is waking up an eight year old girl at 2am to go with you to treat a horse for colic.  It is taking an hour and a half to wash the dishes because we simply hated them that much, plus the fact that we were too busy pretending to be cafeteria workers serving lunch slop. 
          It is more fights than I can count, and less spankings than we probably deserved.  It is letting four kids go and do and fail and try again.  It is an unending supply of encouragement mixed with some good ol' fashioned discipline and expectations.  It is love, lots and lots of love.  It is watching your children go from 4 in number to 5, then 6, then 7, and finally 8.  It is a second opportunity to raise kids the way that you've always wanted to with the addition of seven grandchildren.  It is closing your clinic for your grandson's first birthday party.   It is finally getting not one but TWO more redheads! It is four different families driving 100+ miles and then sitting for three hours to watch a little blond bombshell perform a gymnastics routine that lasts approximately 3 minutes.  It is all we know, what we do, how we behave.  It is who we are.  And it is this way because on June 17, 1972, Joe and Juanita said "I do" and that is exactly what they did. 
             Thank you mama and daddy for this fully dysfunctional, extremely loving and devoted, hilarious, well rounded, stick like glue family that you have created.  I am so blessed and so proud to be a part of the legacy that you are weaving.  Your love, support, and guidance have gotten us here and my prayer is that we, as couples as well as families are able to take what you have shown us and make it our own.  I love you more than you will ever know and will spend my life in gratitude for the decisions, sacrifices, and choices that you have made that have brought me to where I am today.  Of one thing I am sure, I may not be able to describe your forty years together in one word but I have no doubt as to how I would describe you as the leaders of our family.  You are the best of the best.  All my love - Ang

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Leave Them Behind

        We were invited to a wedding this past weekend.  The wedding of a "4 year old child" that I was resident babysitter to for about 4 years of my life as a teenager.  She is not a child anymore, which is strangely odd considering I have not aged at all. :)  The service was beautiful and as I sat and watched them commit themselves to each other, I was reminded of my own commitment that I made 14 years ago.   A commitment to choose to love someone for the rest of my life.  Someone with no blood ties, a complete stranger really, nothing linking me to him but the vows that we made on that day. 
          Love for  a spouse is so different than the love you have for your children.  I love my kids, adore them, would lay down my life for them, no questions asked, no second thoughts.  They are my flesh, my blood, my soul, my spirit, you get the point.  But my husband has none of these connections to me.  I chose him and he chose me, that's the only tie we have.  It is for this very reason that sometimes I choose to leave my children behind. 
             In my quest to teach my children what it means to love someone and to know someone, I have to constantly be aware of my relationship with the man I have chosen to be my husband. Let's face it, who wants wake up in 20 years to a house with no children and a man that you hardly know. And though it may be unimaginable that our children will one day leave us behind, ultimately as a parent, our goal should be that they will grow up, they will make a life for themselves, they will LET GO! (Someone remind me that I said this in about 11 years when B is graduating high school...)
           With the aid of our family and some friends we were able to enjoy about 60 hours of adult conversation, adult meals, adult beverages, adult activities, on adult time,   Do you know how precious that time is in a house that revolves around three small beings?  We reconnected, we enjoyed each other, we sat in the car and rode in glorious silence, we laughed, we danced, we picked random places on the GPS to visit, we saw old friends, we held hands, we even stole the occasional kiss without hearing a resounding chorus of "Eeeeeewwwww, ggggrrrooooosssss!", we recharged our batteries and renewed our commitment not only to ourselves but to our children as well.  And an eight hour car trip one way was not the dread fest I was thinking it would be, it was actually quite enjoyable! 
                So in conclusion, I want to say thank you to the people that make it possible for me to recharge my relationship with my husband.  We truly appreciate the support of my mom, my in laws, my niece, and my dear friends for taking on our children for a few days while we enjoyed each other.  And to anyone out there that has not "tried it", I encourage you to make a plan for yourself and your spouse.  Leave your children behind and rediscover why you chose each other in the first place even if it is just for a half hour at McDonald's with a cup of coffee.  The only rule you need to follow is, "No Happy Meals Allowed!"  Enjoy yourself, enjoy your spouse, return a better wife, a better woman, a better mom. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Start of a Storyteller

      I am a storyteller.  I always have been.  I can tell a story on just about anything, myself, my neighbor, my friends, my family.  I mean, come on, that B.S. hanging on my wall didn't earn itself!  Perhaps it is my middle child nature of craving attention and combating the "poor me, nobody pays attention to me, I am so unloved..." syndrome that people seem to peg on those of us that were fortunate enough to be born in the middle.  I'm not saying I have this syndrome, I have a wonderful family and a fabulous childhood and would hardly classify myself as someone lacking in attention since I hear my name being said at least 1,432 times everyday.  But maybe, somewhere in my psyche there it is, hiding, prompting me to seek attention at whatever the cost.  But whatever, let's see if I can't redirect myself to the story I was hoping to tell and save the middle child comparisons for another day. 
       When I was in elementary school, probably somewhere around the third grade, I participated in a writing contest.  We were supposed to write about a time that we cared for someone who was in need.   The winner would get a plush Care Bear.  Do you know how much I loved the Care Bears?  I needed that Care Bear!   The problem was that I couldn't think of anything that was caring enough to win a Care Bear.  And of course when you are under pressure to perform the only things that pop into your head are all the terrible things that you have done to your siblings, not any of the good stuff.  Let's be honest, nobody ever remembers the good stuff anyways, they may remember that overall you were a pretty "good" kid but when it comes to particulars, they don't really believe the story you concocted about saving that dog from the oncoming train but they sure can recall every second of the time you and your older sister locked your little brother out of the house in his underwear. 
       So there I was desperately trying to rack my brain about a time that I was caring to someone, anyone, anything, didn't matter as long as I won that Care Bear.  Then it hit me!  If you can't think of something, just make it up!!  Genius I say!!  Who would ever know, right?  Then I could really come up with something really cool and win the Care Bear and if the opportunity ever arose to actually act out my caring feet, I certainly wouldn't let it pass me by!  Hence the made up story about me helping out my sister who had stage fright before her big performance was born (which looking back was pretty lame if that was the best I could do at making something up). 
           But I guess God wanted to teach me a lesson in humility about the whole thing because  guess what?!  I WON!!  Now anyone who has ever fabricated a story knows that somehow, someway, life is going to pop you in the jaw for your fabrication.  My pop came in the form of having the "privilege" of getting my picture in the newspaper for my caring act, holding my Care Bear.  Oh, how a picture speaks 1,000 words.  My face was screaming  "I LIIIEEEEEDDDDD!!!!!  I'm sorry!!!!!  But I can't tell the truth now because in my eight year old head I just know they would revoke my Care Bear and have to print a retraction in the paper about the third grader that lied about being caring, which would in turn RUIN my family and all that they have worked so hard to acheive!"  (I've also always been a little overdramatic if you couldn't tell.)  So here you go, this is my confession, my retraction, my public apology.  My sister has never had stage fright before a performance in a play and I have never given her a caring pep talk to get her through it.  Whew!!!  It feels good to get that off my chest!!  You don't know what it is like to harbor such a secret for 20 something years!
          Lucky for me, the Lord seems to, for whatever reason, find value in my sense of humor  because it was at this point in my life that I discovered how much I truly enjoyed telling stories, be them true or false.  This page is my effort to expand those stories and share them with others.  I hope they will make you chuckle or at least leave you with something more than which you began.   Luckily for everyone, my story subjects are plentiful and the stories they render are usually so good that no fabrications are needed!  Otherwise, you may find out that I once actually won the lottery but donated all of the winnings to your medical fund because you were, in fact, in jeopardy of dying from a very rare allergic reaction to a Japanese variety of Poison Sumac. :)