cancer, death, finding myself, kids, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, mother, mother loss, Mother's Day, pain, Uncategorized

A Motherless Daughter on Mother’s Day

People always say… you can put this behind you and you can move on to something better. Well, what happens when you just can’t? I mean, what happens when you slowly stop thinking about it and then you can’t remember when the last time you heard it… but it then comes back full on haunting you, at least for one day. There is a legacy to these things that stays with you for a long time, maybe forever… It bubbles up. It revisits you like a dream that continually reoccurs until it is just knit into who you are. You expect it and embrace it.

Whether I can put “all this” behind me remains to be seen, what is fact is that “all that” from the past keeps haunting me. I mean, days like Mother’s Day come and draw me into the past. It is without fail that I am thrown back to so many things. No matter how many breakfasts in bed or smudgy Mother’s Day cards I get, will never push it out of front and center on Mother’s Day. It makes me realize that there is so much that I have never dealt with. Never dealt with feels of loss and abandonment that sting and hurt and seriously won’t go away. I hope that at some point they can meld into just who I am, become just a stitch, and not be the entire fabric of my life.

I have never made it a secret with you all how tough things have been lately. I have made it no secret that life before “all this” was sometimes very difficult. Maybe today, the day that always haunts me, is the day that I put it out on the table and make it more real than it ever has been. By sharing it, maybe I can finally accept and let all the good memories back in, instead of those that haunt. In getting ready to write this, I can feel my mother wrapping her arms around my shoulders from behind. A bear hug that I always “know” as her being there, that she is pushing me forward into this thing… so here I go.

I have so many memories of my mother. So many wonderful memories, that always get over shadowed by the others. I am going to give you “another” in hopes that it will truly fade away, so that I can love other Mother’s Days and not dread them like I do.

My mother valiantly fought cancer for just over ten months. I remember strength from her. I remember her beauty and who she was, but what I most remember are moments from the last days of her life. Quite sad if you really think about it. She had her whole lifetime, almost half of mine, at that point, and I remember the sad and terrible parts.

In my Mother’s last few days, she was in the hospital under the direction of doctor’s to mediate her pain with morphine. It was no secret that she was not going to leave the hospital. Perhaps at the time, I didn’t totally believe it. I was living in hospital scrubs because there was no going back to the house. I guess it never truly sunk in that it was because there was a moment that was coming that I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t miss.

My mom had been lying in bed for days. Days of quiet that was not like her. She talked. She laughed. She lit up the room. Now she was the center, but really just an accessory around all of us. It is in these moments that my memory always drifts on Mother’s Day.

My Mom’s face was ashen and her mouth hung open. She didn’t look like herself. I couldn’t stand another minute looking at her. I needed her makeup. When I had packed a bag for her… I packed her makeup bag. She would have never have left the house without lipstick or blush.

It wasn’t even an option of whether I would make up her face. She would have wanted it that way.  I carefully applied her makeup as she would have wanted it. To give her the dignity that she deserved.

She was less ashen after, but the pallid color of her skin still came through. It was a mask of what was going on. It wasn’t until days later when the makeup had started to fade that the mask would come off.

She hadn’t responded to talk for days. No squeeze of the hand, no blinks, nothing. Her body was giving out.

I had taken to calling her “Mama” which was odd. I had never used that name for her. I had talked and talked to her with no response, but with Mama at the beginning of each sentence. Maybe it was because the mask was starting to slip off and to me, she was started to look and act like another person.

Her lips were so dry. They were cracked. They looked so sore. We had been directed by the hospital staff to use these sponges on long sticks to wet her lips, to wet her mouth that had long since dried out from breathing for days straight like that.

I dipped the swab into the small paper cup full of water. When I pulled it out the sponge at the tip was soaked through and dripped back into the cup with the excess. I squeezed a bit out with my fingertips. No worry about germs. It wouldn’t matter. Every time I squeeze the suds from my sponge in my own sink while doing dishes, I remember this moment.

There were others around us, but for me, it was like I was in a vortex and nothing else existed but me and that instant. I wiped around her lips and started for the inside of her mouth. In that moment she closed her mouth and swallowed. The struggle of it was so painful to see. No! She was strong! She was a rock! She couldn’t be working so hard to do something so small as to swallow.

To see her lifeless body perform a basic task made me know she was still in there.   The sadness I felt wasn’t from the fact that it was so hard for her to do such a thing though. It was because she was still in there. She was holding on. She hadn’t totally given up. In her last days, she was holding on because we hadn’t asked her to let go. I hadn’t asked her.

That’s what moms do. They never give up. They never stop until their kids ask them to stop. They do what’s best even if it is excruciatingly hard.

I did finally ask her to let go. “Mama, it’s ok. You can go. Please just let go. We will be ok. I will be ok.” She did. She let go in the early hours of the next morning.

That’s why Mother’s Day is so hard for me. I see that moment all day every Mother’s Day, every day. I don’t think back to her last moments on this Earth, but I do remember that moment.

It doesn’t matter if I am a good mom. It doesn’t matter that I won’t let go until they ask me to. All that matters for me on Mother’s Day, is that she wouldn’t. I had that. What I still need to remember though is that the bear hugs that I feel mean that she still won’t ever totally let go. Ever. She will always be here. Holding me. Loving me. Pushing me forward through every moment. Supporting me in those really tough ones and enjoying the really good ones. There will be really good ones. She will be there.

Maybe that moment is meant to stick to me. Maybe I need to look at it in a new light to move on from it. I will always be there for my children and she will always be there for me. That is what I need to celebrate on this day. The reality of that. Maybe then I can enjoy the runny eggs and wilted flowers..

 

 

finding myself, home, kids, mindfulness, moving on, self worth, sticky floors, Uncategorized

Moms Have Messy Floors and Messy Lives

My house is a constantly evolving mess. It’s everywhere. My kids have numerous chores that they begrudgingly do, but it is still a hot mess.

Class papers threaten to multiply and take over every flat surface in my house (I attempt to combine them so that there is only one large stack every couple of hours). There are dirty socks that coat my floors, stripped off in sock balls and thrown down wherever they are taken off. Cups half full of water sit everywhere in my house, making me wonder how many each child uses a day. Toilet seats always sport sprinkles and there is never a day where gloops of toothpaste aren’t cemented to each sink throughout the house. Dirty dishes? I’ve got them ten fold, even after we have mostly switched to paper plates!

Some days, I tackle the clutter but then the underlying dirtiness shines through. There is insidious dirt that lives at my sliding door, dragged in from the outside, deposited on the hardwoods and then spread by stocking feet throughout the house. One minute vacuumed, the next a hopeless of mess of backyard debris. The slider is our link to the backyard, even though I had another door installed off the mudroom with the intention of it being the outside egress, the slider gets all the attention.

It’s a constant battle with nature, the tendency for things to go towards chaos. The threatening of nature always trying to return to its primitive state.

Maybe this is why I watch so many home improvement shows with there updated and serene spaces. I understand that they are “made for TV” houses. That fact is not lost on me. They are completely staged. Once the show is over, the furniture and nick nacks are removed and the families move in, their mismatched possessions take over and from there disorder ensues. There is something about those houses, though, that is so clean and stripped of mess, with so much promise for an ordered life. I can just imagine what it would be like to live in those spaces, anxiety and stress lowered.

My house is a tragic mess lately. Two months ago, I switched our house cleaners from every other week to once a month. Last month, I stopped the cleaners all together. Quite honestly, cleaners are expensive and they were just too much for my budget. Imagine cleaning your house but then multiply the number of people in your house by two to three, add one shedding dog and any number of child playmates. At any time, our small house could be harboring 5-9 kids, all with their own appropriate age toy mess and food crumbs. The sheer number of kids and friends is something that I would never want to give up. Don’t get me wrong, I love their craziness. Cleaning up after kids though, is a full time job. Cleaning up after all of my kids is a high paced marathon with absolutely no finish line. Someone once said that cleaning with kids is like trying to “brush your teeth while eating an Oreo.” So true.

Lately, it seems like I am trying even harder, but still getting nowhere in the battle.   My home reflects my state of mind. Right now, my house is out of control and a mess, just like my life. It’s like a tornado and it sucks to live in it. I can fix it up with the illusion of “put away-ness”, but if you look closely, stuff is hidden in dark closets here, always ready to spill out.

This morning as I was cleaning up my umpteenth dirty dock I got to thinking about the sayings “Excuse the mess. My children are making memories” and my other favorite, “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens and happy kids”. I think that I use these sayings as a scapegoat for my inability to keep a tidy house. First and foremost though, let me get this straight with all of you… I have never had a clean oven. Let’s get that out of the way before I continue. That would be a monumental effort that I am certain I will never get too. My oven regularly sets off the fire alarm with the amount of burn off smoke. True, I have sticky floors because I have so many kids and I just can’t get it all done. Kids spill and in my case, stick stickers to the floor. My kitchen is always messy because I am constantly cycling through meals so that breakfast dishes always get pushed to lunch meal cleanup and then often stretching out until dinner pickup.  It makes me wonder why the open floor plan was such a great… It’s open and people can see the dirty dishes! The piles of laundry are a consequence of at least twelve outfits a day being stripped off onto the floor. Sometimes, I feel like I have become the Old Lady Who Lived In a Shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

I hope that I am really not the only one who hides piles of stuff and that we all have sticky floors because we are just really messy. If not, I am pulling out a skeleton in the closet that I am just dirty. I’m guessing, although I can’t be sure, that we are all in the same boat. So why do we stress about getting it clean??!! Why does an unexpected ringing of the door bell strike fear in my heart?

June Cleaver always seemed to have such a clean house. She found time, when not preparing the perfect meal, to sit and enjoy a book (not a trashy tabloid) in a nice armchair with her ankles crossed. She always had on her adorable dress, neatly pressed, and heals, swathed in a lovely apron. The door bell would ring and she would strip out of that apron, poof her perfectly done hair and answer the door with a smile, always ready to bring out a hospitable tray with refreshments. If there was such a thing as a messy bun and yoga pants, do you think that she really would have worn them?!

Ready for this statement though? It might shatter your reality.  Is it possible that it’s all an illusion.  An illusion we (women), buy into even if it’s at an unconscious level? Is it even possible to attain that picturesque life? Maybe I am perpetuating the myth to my children that women can keep a clean house and teach my kids to read before they are two. Can I really always look perfectly put together and never get frazzled? Will my children feel the same when they are grown?

I can get over the not-so perfect clothing I choose or the dust bunnies that are getting bigger each day. My biggest issue is whether my kids are actually happy and if we are making any memories other than them watching TV and doing homework. I wield TV like a treat, an expert babysitter. When not cleaning, I am driving them to their seventeen activities each afternoon and evening? What happened to family board game night and playing pass in the yard? Sometimes, we get outside and they ride bikes or draw with chalk. More likely than not, if I am “participating” in any of these activities, it is in a chair with a glass of wine in my hands, pretending to watch them.  True, I had five kids and this is what I signed up for, but does that mean that I am still working towards making them happy or providing a clean organized house?

I feel guilty that I am not making those great memories with them. Their lives are not easy these days. Try as I might, to shield them from high emotions and changes, they are just as scared of the unknown as I am. I want to give them the order of a tidy house that I/they need to lower their anxiety levels. I want them to feel like even though the world is spinning out of control, at least they have a clean place to live and a pair of beloved pants in the drawer.  Is this what they really need, now or ever? I am wondering if providing this life for them is coming at the cost of not making memories that involve great times with mom.

Maybe cleaning has become just a scapegoat for not spending time, too. There are days when I am so sad or angry that I just don’t want to play. I want to hide at the kitchen sink and wash endless amounts of dishes so that I don’t have to have to play another round of imaginary doctor. “Please play with me?” “Not now, Brody, I have to finish the laundry.” Isn’t this selfish? A big chunk of me feels it is.

I think it really all comes back to the fact that I am beating myself up for not living up to all that I feel like I should be, something I have always done but now in increasing levels since my separation. Weighing on my mind… my marriage is a big fail, so I am a big fail. Not only am I not keeping up in the marriage department, but I am failing on the mom and house cleaning level. I am just failing.

Somebody let me off the hook! Give me the magic pill to take the guilt away and let me realize that, just maybe, I am good enough just the way that I am. Tell me that I am doing the best that I can with the circumstances being what they are. Tell me that someday it will get better, easier. Would hearing it all from you make me feel any better? Probably not.  Sorry.

In reality, all that really needs to happen, is that I need to let myself off the hook.  The biggest problem in this situation is that I am searching for the validation from a place that I really shouldn’t be looking for it, everyone else. Validation needs to lie in me, a belief about myself. It’s all about self worth. Well, there it is. Maybe that is why I am finding peace and relief in this blog. It is making me feel like I can share and be okay with who I am and how I think. I’m out there and people aren’t judging me harshly (at least not to my face) for what I am writing. It’s helping me gain that worth in myself that I really feel like I have always been missing.

In the end, I need to realize that I am doing the best that I can, in this moment. That maybe tomorrow, things will be cleaner and I will find that time to fit in that board game… and just maybe, I need to find a way to get a larger junk closet to hide all the mess!

distraction, finding myself, kids, lists, moving on, self love, self worth, Uncategorized

The Push Me List – 50 Things in 534 Days

I am a list maker. I make copious lists. It has served as a running joke in my house for as long as I can remember doing it. “Better get out the list or you will never remember!” We are leaving for a trip. “Mom, when are you going to make you big list… ha ha ha!” I just shrug and laugh along with them. Secretly thinking, “How about you try packing for 6 people!” Truth is, my family would be lost without them.

There are some things that you should know about my lists. They are as follows:

Ink color is very important. I have to write them in blue pen. I am not comfortable with any other color and my house is flooded with blue pens. Seeing writing in black pen is like hearing nails scraping on a chalkboard for me. I will throw out any color pens that don’t hold the proper color.

Currently, I also have to write my lists on white printer paper. I cannot write on just one. They have to be stacked to provide the perfect cushion for the writing implement. If I can write on the back of a used printer paper, all the better. In the past, I had a composition notebook to keep my lists on. Composition was perfect, no perforated pages that could, by accident, tear out or wire bindings that could get bent. I have to be able to fold the covers over at some point because I don’t like to have a notebook open with two pages showing at a time. If you really break in a composition notebook, you can do that. My lists could run on forever, as long as there was a page to turn, but after years, I found my lists too overwhelming in a notebook. I had endless space and the lists became too long. White printer paper is finite and with a used back, I can’t turn it over and keep writing. Ah, self regulation. I am so smart!

Font, well, with the composition notebook, it was all bubbly cursive quickly scribbled onto the lines. Oh, and the lines had to be WIDE RULED. Printer paper is different… it has to be neat large handwriting, spaced large enough so that if I have to squeeze something in, I can write smaller between the lines. Oh, and each list item must be written parallel to each other… Slanting lines of text drives me nuts.

Now that I have revealed one of my biggest neuroses, I should explore the bigger question… Why do I do it? Why do I write lists? First and foremost, I swear that I have lost more than my fair share of brain cells to Mommy Brain. I am not pregnant, though I have been for a large portion of my life. Like during pregnancy, I forget words during a conversation, put the milk in the pantry and yes… I misplace my lists. I talked with my doctor because I was concerned! Something is wrong with me!!! My daughter laughed and said, “You have five kids. That’s a lot.” Quite honestly, making sure that teeth are brushed, stomachs are full and underwear is changed can be a challenge in the morning… I’ll let you figure out if I’m talking about the kids or myself. I think the act of writing it on paper is putting order into an otherwise very chaotic life. The ship won’t run smoothly unless there is a list.

So, the point of this blog post… (“Get to it, you’re saying!) I am going to push myself with a list, a different type of list. I am writing it on the computer so there isn’t white printer paper. WAY out of my comfort zone. I am not writing it with, dare I say it, blue pen in my straight round print. I have to type it. GOOD GOLLY. I can’t scribble in the margins or watch it every moment to make sure I have gotten done what needs to get done and then crossing off the completed! I am really pushing myself. I am going to look at it each week and decide what is doable for that time period or what I can start working on.

What is this list, you ask??? I want to come up with a to-do list that asks me to do the things that seem impossible or things that I feel like I will never get to in my lifetime. I have learned from my Mom, that life is very short and some things shouldn’t be put off until a diagnosis. I have put myself off for a long time.

I have been busy focusing on other people: kids, my husband, and even fundraising. I have lost all of my own dreams and wishes. My to-do lists are the only things that bring me satisfaction, but it is the satisfaction of getting things done. To keep finding some source of happiness, I have to add more and more things to the to-do list. I could come up with endless amounts of things to put on it.

Wow… that is what it has come to. That’s what makes me happy, to get things done. What does that say about my feelings of self-worth? I have put changing light bulbs in front of myself. Where did I go? What is even sadder is that I don’t find happiness in my own interests. In fact, when I have “alone” time, I’ll pass on it, in order to fold laundry or do returns. I just don’t know what to do with myself.

The list. In order to find myself again, my list asks me to do things that I loved in the past. Maybe I’ll discover myself in there. She must still exist! Some of the items on my list are mundane things but some are far larger and will take some serious effort and planning to accomplish. I am going to sit down each week and schedule myself and the list in. I deserve to be on that to-do list. I am giving myself a time limit, 534 days or a year in a half, to accomplish it. I am asking you to keep me accountable. Don’t let me down here!

MY LIST

  1. Keep a house plant alive for a month (I can grow anything outside but indoors is another story… which is why I love fake houseplants so much!)
  2. Write my blog post six times in a row, every Monday. (If I skip, I have to start over.)
  3. Shower EVERY DAY for a month. Shocking, I know but a girl has to have goals.
  4. Visit the cemetery and towns where my family originated in Canada, preferably with my children.
  5. Run a 5K.
  6. Go to a movie alone. Eat popcorn and sip on wine in a travel coffee mug.
  7. Go for a drive (alone) with the windows wide open (gasp… no AC for the kids) and my hair down. I must sing songs, in appropriate songs of my choosing, at the top of my lungs.
  8. Learn to make merengue cookies.
  9. Go on a horse drawn sleigh ride in the snow with warm blankets and hot cocoa. I haven’t figured out how to carry that cocoa warm and contained… I only like mugs for warm drinks.
  10. Go for a day hike, alone.
  11. Learn to use my DSLR camera on a setting other than automatic.
  12. Put all of my 2012 photos in an album. (I have put all the previous printed years in albums already! Please note… The last 4 plus years are not included in this item.  They were never printed and I have given up them.  Best to start with 2018!)
  13. Go to bed at 9:00 pm every night for a week, leaving 30 minutes for reading… OK, 45 minutes. I can’t go to bed without reading afterall!
  14. Make donuts.
  15. Do a 1500 piece puzzle (used to love doing puzzles).
  16. Take myself on a date to a restaurant and eat alone at the bar. I can talk to strangers near me. I love to strike up conversations with complete strangers…
  17. Go on a girl’s weekend.
  18. Learn how to make homemade buffalo mozzarella and do it.
  19. Try foot reflexology.
  20. Have mole mapping done by a dermatologist.
  21. Become proficient with the sewing machine and make a valance for my downstairs bathroom.
  22. Build a sofa table.
  23. Send a care package to a college baby sitter.
  24. Send a letter to someone and tell him or her how important they are to me.
  25. Make gnocchi.
  26. See a concert.
  27. Read 15 books in 6 months, 2 of which have to be classics I have never read before.
  28. Hike Mt. Washington.
  29. Order pan seared scallops at a seafood restaurant. I normally opt for chicken or burgers (not cooked on the same grill as the fish because the “fishy” taste can be transferred. I inherited a seafood aversion from my mother and my grandmother before her…
  30. Say the rosary.
  31. Use ancestry.com to map the Polish side of my family, all the way back to their immigration from Poland.
  32. Go away for 2 nights to a place I have never been, alone.
  33. Have genetic testing done.
  34. Go to the Brimfield Fair and buy myself some Fireking and Lu Ray.  My Mom and I used to go to flea markets to buy these things when I was a kid.
  35. Make a cheesecake.
  36. Do not use my phone in the car for 2 days.
  37. Play Scrabble, even if it’s by myself.
  38. Actually start the event business that I have wanted to do for years and have one paying client.
  39. Eat lunch, seated on a placemat with a napkin, for a week. The couch does not count as a seat and the TV must not be on.
  40. Go two weeks without ordering take out.
  41. Take a roadtrip with the kids to Charleston, SC.
  42. Research the lost family recipe for “wapshi” (a made up family recipe) and make it…
  43. Have a yard sale.
  44. Grow a cut flower garden.
  45. Visit a salt therapy room.
  46. Go camping… in a tent.
  47. Find and research a new recipe each week.
  48. Drive to Big G’s in Winslow, ME and have a Cindy Blodgett sandwich.
  49. Walk the Freedom Trail.
  50. Play a round of golf (I used to play all the time but stopped after Conor was born… yes, 12 years ago…)
  51. Oh, and one more… finish this list for myself!!!

Off I go on this journey! Putting myself at the top of the list, or for that matter, even on it, is going to be tough, especially since the “writing” portion has already been torture. I’ll let you know how it goes!

home, kids, lice, Uncategorized

The Dreaded Letter…

Boom!  I got the letter, the dreaded letter.  It is the letter that instills complete dread in every mother out there… the lice letter from the school nurse.

It always starts the same,

“A student in your child’s class has lice.”

They then proceed to tell you “not to worry”.  OK, I never did worry until… we got lice.  Worry is an understatement of what I go through when we get that letter, which by the way, they send home in a sealed envelope.  It’s as if they know that if any other parent with a child in another class might have seen that letter leave the school with your child, sheer panic would ensue the town.  Every mother of a previous lice infected head would quarantine there child, because, quite honestly, missing weeks of school would be preferable to getting lice!

When I get “the letter” I break out in sweats and I start to pace and panic.  If I had been told ebola was present in the class, I would feel better.  I get a little hysterical.

My first act after the bomb hits, is to immediately question my child.  Who was the infected kid?  This often takes some investigative work.  Very often, they don’t know.  This normally gives me a sense of relief because it means it wasn’t an immediate friend who they could have easily picked it up from.  The threat remains though… it could be a kid they sat next to in class.  Who was absent?  When were they absent?  How long were they out?  They could have shared a hat or some other item that would allow that louse to transfer to my child, who may, within 8 hours, have it crawling through their hair, feeding.  Within 8 hours, that bug or its babies could have transferred themselves to another child in the house and Boom! again, the whole house is infected.

The protection phase then begins:

First, hair washing STOPS IMMEDIATELY.  I don’t care if they have just sweated for two hours and the hair is wet… it stays.  Besides, extra dirty hair means extra protection.  Grease slick or not, they are going to school looking filthy but with a major protective shield from infection.  Major embarrassment is again, preferable to getting lice.  We avoid infection at any cost here.

You better believe that hair is TIGHTLY pulled back when returning to school.  I mean the type of pulled back where their eyebrows threaten to reach up into their hair line.  A pony followed by a tight braid is key.  No loose hairs can be out there, as they are a port of call for the bugs.

Finally, the MOST IMPORTANT step, hair spray and gel are thickly applied.  Now I know that most people swear by the pretty lice spray that you can get at the store with witch hazel in it.  Let me tell you… its definitely not 100% effective.  The special lice experts have informed me, that a huge barrier is the only protection that keeps those bad guys away.  We go big here.  Not only does it provide protection, but it keeps the flyaways from flying away during the day.

Once the threat has passed, we can go back to washing hair and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Why the intense reaction?  Let me go back in time to one of the worst weeks of my life…

School got out.  Aah!  No more rides to sports and activities.  First week of vacation and its time to relax and hit the couch for a week in pajamas and unwind.  The kids don’t want to go anywhere and I am on board with that idea.

Maddy had been complaining about an itchy head for a week but naively, as a mom who had never dealt with infection, I failed to look for the bugs.  I wasn’t even quite sure I would recognize them but I had decided that we wouldn’t ever get lice.  Lice was for other families.  I assumed, again… wrongly… that it was just a dry scalp.  See, my kids take after me and suffer from dry flaky scalp.

My head was itchy at the time as well… but again… dry scalp.  Time to break out the tar shampoo and rid myself of the itch.  Funny thing was it wasn’t really working very well. Oh, well! Must be really dry or something!

Enter knowledgeable babysitter.  I was happily browsing the aisles of Target when she calls.

“Maddy has lice…”

“No, babysitter, that is impossible.  Are you sure?”

“Yes, they are crawling. Oh, and Piper looks like she has them too, but I couldn’t be sure.”

I gagged.  Gagged right there in Target and my own scalp kicked up the itch.  (In fact, my scalp is getting itchy right now just thinking about it.) It was like the flashbacks in movies where the character puts all the signs together that the murderer was actually their husband… they had ignored the signs, not believing the truth… it wasn’t fathomable.  Well, I had ignored the signs, but they all had pointed to lice.

I actually pushed the cart as fast as I could, running behind it, to the lice aisle.  There was a woman there who was very helpful, from a distance.  She clearly had suffered the dreaded lice infestation and wasn’t gonna get too close.  I literally grabbed every shampoo and comb available on the market and threw them in the cart, hoping to stop the spread to the rest of the kids.  Let me tell you that these products are NOT cheap.  Thank God that it was only two kids and maybe me.  Wrong again.

I immediately buzzed Brody and Conor, IMMEDIATELY.  Obviously not down to the skin.  I really didn’t trust my use of the clipper.  Phew, buzzing meant nothing could get into their hair.

After hearing horror stories from friends who had gone down this road, I decided to just call in the experts.  We hired a nit picker.  She showed up at our house, a beautiful girl.  I had pictured her in my head as this gross Nanny McPhee type of woman.  My first thought was why? Why would anyone want to do this?  She explained that, first, she needed the money and second, she liked picking them.  Apparently, it was like popping a zit for her.  She loved it.

 

Maddy and Piper were confirmed cases.  I sat down and sure enough, I had it.  The kids started getting competitive over who had it worse… fighting to be the worst case!  Maddy took first prize, with visible bites, and I came a close second.  Piper was in third.  It took 2.5 hours to pick our heads, one strand at a time.  We were covered in olive oil, which she swore suffocated the bugs.

The nit picker thought it was wise to just check the rest of the kids.  Sure, why not.  They didn’t have it.

2.5 hours later, all kids and myself were confirmed, even the boys.  Well, our regular weekend sitter, Kelly, should probably be checked… She drove up and I died of guilt when she was confirmed.  Dan came home, and yes, even with a short buzz cut, he had lice.  8 cases of lice and a HUGE bill to have the initial lice picked.

What you don’t realize, if you are a newbie, is that after the first picking, eggs are still left in the hair and then they can hatch and release the next wave of lice.  She explained that we would need to put a large amount of olive oil in the hair each night and comb each strand again, then we would need to cover their heads with bags to sleep in.  In the morning, we would need to use large, and I mean large, amounts of Dawn dish soap, comb it through each strand with the lice comb again and then let them shower and shampoo.  We would need to do this for a week.  Now, the upside to this method, she said, was that we wouldn’t have to wash sheets etc, because the lice wouldn’t jump (oh, yeah, did I mention that they can jump) from the sheets to our hair.  They wouldn’t go near the olive oil and our hair was encased in bags anyway.  Bedsides, there was a large re-infestation rate with those chemicals that other people put on their heads.  We only had to do this for a week, every night and morning.  OK, doable.

NO, NOT DOABLE.  When you have 5 kids, 4 with super thick hair, this takes HOURS both morning and night.  I would start combing at night while some kids were eating.  45 minutes a head… times 5 kids.  That is almost 4 hours of PICKING LICE.  My arms ached and we quickly finished bottles of olive oil.  After everyone had been put to bed, it was finally my turn.  I would start on my head at 10:00 and finish around 11.  Talk about exhaustion.

The next morning, the process would begin again… Each kid was covered in Dawn dish soap and scrubbed followed by a thorough combing.  Another 45 minutes per child.  Then it was my turn.  See you later morning.  By lunch time, I fed them and we were given 3 hours of blissful relaxation… while I continued to try to do the rest of the house duties.

Then it was back to the drawing board.  I realized that out of my 24 hour days, I was spending almost 10 hours picking lice.  I am not joking.  10 hours. By day 3, I was in tears morning and night.  It was horrible.  We resorted to nothing but pizza delivery for those three days.  We ate it for dinner, then for lunch the next day.  I knew I would never be able to keep this up.

I ended up breaking down completely in a pile of utter dismay.

The buck stopped there.  I would agree to wash all the sheets, all the towels, all the blankets, all the couch cushions, all the pillows, all the stuffed animals… all of it, if I didn’t have to pick anymore bugs or spend anymore time oiling and dish soaping anyone’s hair.  I broke out the big guns… give me the f*ing chemicals.

Two days later and two treatments later, we were free.  I would pull back the blankets and there were dead lice on the sheets.

It took 3 weeks to wash all the piles of stuff that needed to get washed, putting the two loads of wash a day that I normally do, on the back burner.  The clothes were now piling up.  Then I needed to run the sheets again to be free of lice, eggs, whatever…

It didn’t matter.  We were in the clear.  The lice was gone.  I swore… I WOULD DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO NEVER, EVER HAVE LICE IN THE HOUSE EVER AGAIN!

So, do I freak out about the lice letter? … Heck, yeah!  I will have a child in the school system for the next 20 years.  Short of a vaccine… they will always be out there, ready to infect my kids, my house and take over my life.

Who’s head’s itchy now???!!!

kids, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, moving on, Uncategorized, valentine's day

Happy Day-After-Valentine’s Day

 

Today, I opened my eyes and breathed a sigh of relief.  It was officially the day after Valentine’s Day. I had made it through my first “alone” Valentine’s Day, and I have never been so relieved!  Today had to be a better day than yesterday. It was a new day without the constant reminder of things lost.

I have never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day always makes me feel lackluster annoyance for it and its traditions.  The little cards that the kids exchange are irritating and have to be stealthily thrown out over the next couple of days.  I have never loved roses, always preferring tulips. I can’t stand the fact that most restaurants have a set menu that always contains a bunch of weird ingredients. I am not a fan of those Forrest Gump boxes of chocolate.  You just never know what you’re gonna get.   I also have always felt underwhelmed by this holiday. For me, it hasn’t ever been full of romantic gestures. I think most women have felt the same way from time to time. Maybe that’s why we all roll our eyes when Valentine’s Day creeps up on the calendar.   It never becomes the masterpiece that we have all at one point envisioned in our minds.

With no valentine this year, I have realized it is all of the sentimental and sappy thoughts that do count.  It’s all of those silly little sappy things that make you realize you are cared for. People think about you and how special you are to them.  They may forget until the last minute to get you a card, but they race to CVS and grab the last lonely card on the rack.  They take the time to do something for you.

Well, let me tell you, I would have given anything for a card, a sticky note, anything that made me feel somewhat thought of yesterday. Piper asked if I was sad because “no one loved me anymore”. It triggered all the loneliness and deep sadness I’ve been grappling with.

Truth be told, I did get something for Valentine’s Day. What did I get for Valentine’s Day? I got … a poop. No, you did not misread that… I got a poop.  Two, actually.

One was Brody’s first potty poop.  It was a huge victory for me, the possible end to almost 12 years of non-stop diaper changes.  I can’t say I felt special but I was overjoyed at the prospect of a diaper free future. He could have stopped there. End of story… yeah!

No such luck. It was the second one that pretty much sealed the deal on Valentine’s Day and made me ready to drown in a bottle of red wine.  It didn’t quite make it to the potty.  Good thing he didn’t have on a pull up or underwear.  Oh, no.  That would have made life too easy!!! I thought that I was blessed because he was quietly playing under the coffee table. I was so wrong… He was avoiding me and my super human poop senses. He had gone right in his pants, and then smeared it down his thighs with his hands.  On the way to the bathroom, it shimmied down his pant leg onto the floor.  Just what I always wanted.  A poop on the floor for Valentine’s Day. This may sound overly dramatic, but at this point, on this day, that is exactly how I felt.

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Brody hiding from the inevitable poop change.

Now as a mom of five kids, I have seen and had contact with quite a bit of sh*t. It didn’t shock me.  Crap happens.  You wipe it up and then you move on. But this one just added insult to injury.  I was raw.  The poop broke me.  I sat on the floor looking at it and said “Happy f*cking Valentine’s Day.”

By the end of the day, I was ready to call it quits. I was bone tired. Tired of moving, thinking, fixing, feeling and just existing. I went to bed and the rest of the dreaded day was a memory.

This morning I woke up and I took a deep breath.

It brought mindfulness back to me. I needed to rethink Valentine’s Day.  What I needed to do was assess why yesterday was so bad, beyond the obvious.

Breathing in and out this morning, I realized I needed think about whom I should be getting love from. Should they be the people who make me think I am lovable?

Spending Valentine’s Day alone makes you think that in some way, you are less lovable because you don’t have anyone. True or not, those feelings are very real for those of us that are alone. So who do I get love from… if not from another person? Who will make me feel lovable? Then it dawned on me in that moment of early morning breathing. I am the one that needs to give myself love. It doesn’t have to come from someone else. I AM ENOUGH.

It can be so hard to think of yourself with complete self love, but if I can’t love myself, how can I openly love everything else in my life? I need to believe that I am special, that I am beautiful, that I am strong.  It isn’t good enough tot hear it from other people. I have to believe it! I need to convince myself that I am enough.

So how do I get there???!!! How do I love myself? I know people are born with this confidence skill but I really don’t think I got the gene. I appear confident but I am usually overwhelmed by self-doubt. I really need to stop putting myself last and pleasing others. Just for today, I decided to I work on being happy, about myself, about the amazing life that I have been given. I started by getting out of bed.

I took a shower, a long one until the water ran cold and left goose bumps all over me. I got dressed, carefully picking an outfit and then I put on make up, not for everyone else to see, but for me.  I even matched my bra to my underwear… I gave myself the time to make my bed and flip the shades up. It all made me smile and feel success. A small victory in a long fight to reprogram and love myself and not value my worth by the love others give to me. I’ve got to start with small deeds and just a little bit of self-care.

So for me, the Day-After-Valentine’s Day will be my new holiday.  Screw Valentine’s Day. I don’t need to have the fantasized grand gestures. Every year on February 15, I’m going to wake up and celebrate the growing love that I have for myself… and hopefully pick up less poop.

kids, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, moving on, moving out, sorrow, Uncategorized

A Child’s Hand

What is it about a little child, a little hand, that is so soothing.  It isn’t a big strong hand.  It holds no promise of protection or guidance.  It isn’t a hand that will hold you forever in its palm.  It will leave you as small hands always must do.  It is small and light, yet there is still something that is so soothing about its touch.  It is a knowing touch even if it knows nothing about your sorrow.

This morning was a difficult morning, full of change and new routines.  In short it hurt, all of us.  It was empty and quiet.  There was no rush to separate and live independently for those school hours.  We wanted to stay together and just love.  The fighting and sibling jabs that normally mark our mornings were gone.  They just knew that they needed to love each other and be there, even if they were all going to different places for the day.

I struggled to maintain composure and fulfill those morning activities that needed to be done for the kids.  They need me no matter my state. They needed breakfast, real breakfast, not just a quickly thrown together bowl of cereal slid across the table.  They needed sustenance, eggs, toast, fruit.  They needed lunches packed and water bottles filled.  Yes, this morning, even WANTS were NEEDS.  They needed me to give them reassuring looks and tons of love and smiles, even if the smiles hurt so badly.  That is what they need today and always as we navigate this unknown.  They need to hear and see that things will be OK.  They need to understand that we cannot know what will come but no matter what, it will be OK.

It feels like a lie.  At this time, the unknown is scary, even if I have to tell them that wonderful things lie in our future, our OK future.  Fake it until you make it, right. I keep thinking that if I say it enough, that it will magically come true, that wonderful things are to come.

As I finally got them out the door with smiles and waves, I broke.  Waterfalls of tears and held back pain.  I am really good at pasting on a smile when I am out in the world interacting with people.  I can hide it from others, but in my household world, that smile is tougher to find.  I try to hide my pain from The Littles.  They also need to know that things will be OK even if they don’t understand the magnitude of this morning and the eerie silence.  They still can laugh and joke around with each other.  They can play with abandon and enjoy each moment of this new day.  Well, today, of all days when I needed to show them how OK things are, I couldn’t hide it any longer.  It was there.  I feel guilt for that, but there it is.  When you just can’t fake it anymore, you just can’t fake it.

Piper in all her sassiness, who struggles to not have attitude when talking to anyone, climbed up in my lap and took my hand.  She rested her head on my shoulder and stayed there.  No wiggles.  No eager body that wanted to move and get back to play.  Her little hand calmed me instantly, so small.  It knew nothing of the pain but knew that it needed to be there.  It only wanted to comfort.  For all of their oblivious behavior, they do know.  They sense our strength and they know our weakness.  They understand in their own way, that we are human.  They seem to lose this as they age, but for these precious years, they know. See in a child’s bubble, everything will be OK.  It has to.  Each day is a new wonderful experience to look forward to and not fear.  That little hand holds so much promise that you can’t not think that tomorrow will be better and that the future will hold wonderful things.  The kitchen may be a mess and the future may be completely unknown, but somehow, it will contain unknown wonderful things.  I have to trust in that child’s love and excitement.  Things will be OK, no matter where they take me.

crazy morning, kids, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, Uncategorized

The Morning Butler

Some weeks are tough to find a moment of mindfulness and I am back to my old tricks of anticipating the very next disaster and need.  Naughty Mommy.  It sends me into a nasty tail spin and never seems to end up with a good result.  Well, it was one of those mornings today.  Ugh.  Hate that.  The mornings where you feel like there are so many requests that you wish you could clone yourself.

With five kids, everyone seems to want things, especially first thing in the morning.  We are talking 6am here, people.  Its still dark out.  I have been up since 5:30 to shower and put on clothes, because lets face it, if I don’t it will be a yoga pant day and I will not shower.  Not the rut I need to be in.

Now, wanting things and needing things are two entirely different situations which kids, bless their little naive hearts, do not seem to comprehend.  I fulfill wants and, I have to admit as an enabler in the situation, I fulfill most needs.  Shame on me.

Actual morning conversation with Taylor:

Taylor: “Mom, I need you to curl my pony tail.  I made it really high today to look like MaryEllen.”

Well, being the nutty person that I am, I briefly thought about how I was going to juggle the rest of the morning rush AND figure out how to curl her pony tail, which of course, would have to be perfect.  Enter a moment of clarity…

Me: “Needs are things you NEED to survive, Taylor. Having me curl your pony tail so that it looks like your American Girl Doll who represents the 50s is not one of those things. You do not need to have it done.  You want to have it done.  Wants are things that you don’t have to have to survive.”

Seriously, the look on her face was priceless.  Confusion was plastered there.

The wants of so many kids can be overwhelming in the morning.  I am sure it is a race for many Moms and Dads to deal with it.  It is stressful and tiring.  With five kids, its like taking on the Ironman, except not in Hawaii, on an empty stomach after swimming to the island from California.

Conor is first out the door, and like a first born, he is a stress case but gets all his morning crap done, relatively quickly and of course perfectly.  I admit that getting him to brush his teeth seems to not be a priority for him, but I have to let that one go in order to survive my morning. He eats while walking to school and his lunch is all set up for him to pack.  (Yes, I pack lunches.  No, not at night.  By the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is pack lunch.  I used to have them pack, but lets face it, I can’t have them packing only  chips and cookies.) I guess he has figured that if he really wants to only give himself twenty minutes to get out the door in order to sleep in, he needs to move fast.  Bless this child who really asks for nothing, except for a hug and snuggle, which I am always happy to give.

Maddy is happy and relaxed every time she strolls down the stairs, thumb in mouth and monkey happily rubbing against her nose.  She waits patiently at the table for breakfast.  She is a ticking time bomb. It is after that that things start to get complicated.  She is IMPOSSIBLE to get up the stairs to get dressed.  She has a favorite chair that she sits and watches the commotion going on around her.  I guess its like watching a train wreck, so I can’t necessarily fault her.  By the time I get her upstairs, picking clothes is a disaster.  Not those pants.  They don’t feel right.  Those pants are too hot.  Those pants aren’t sporty enough.  Ugh!  Put on the freaking clothes and lets go.  This often breaks down to me threatening to take some activity away if she doesn’t get dressed.

Bro and Piper are small, I get that, but the morning WANTS are huge.  “I want toast” in the most ear splitting whine you have ever heard.  Enter image of me putting toast in.  Wrong jam.  I want strawberry, not grape.  I don’t want toast.  Can I have oatmeal?  I want oatmeal.”  I make the oatmeal.  Oatmeal sits on the table, uneaten for two hours and then gets tossed.  9:00 am rolls around.  “I’m hungry.”  As for NEEDS, Brody is potty training.  When he says he needs to go… you go, or have to fix the mess, which quite honestly sets me back in time.  To the point where I sometimes think I might just throw him back in diapers and potty train him at six.  Potty must be dumped, washed, disinfected.  Hands must be washed.  Piper wants to follow.  I need to walk her to the bathroom, watch her get on the toilet and then stand outside the closed door until she screams to have me “WIPE MY VAGINA!”

Tay is a walking disaster.  She comes down confused and disoriented, like a bear coming out of its cave after 4 months of hibernating.  The blessing is that she gets herself dressed before she enters the kitchen, although I am highly suspicious of whether her underwear gets changed.  Good thing she showers at night.  I know she changes it then.  She fumbles through breakfast and then doesn’t seem to move from the table, oblivious to the ticking clock.  She has to be directed through the entire morning process.  AAAHHH! Even then, after she walks out the door, she leaves a mess in her wake.  We call it the Taylor Bomb.  It is well known in this house.  Coats and hats are every where and her homework, which I swear we put in her binder the night before is on the table.

IF you have made it this far through this post, you will want a payoff for it…

Well, here it is.

I hear Maddy and Taylor on the porch this morning.  They are both finding coats and shoes.  “Mommy, I CAN’T find my shoes!  I NEED you to find them!!!” Taylor responds, “Maddy, she isn’t your butler and you don’t NEED to have her find your shoes.  You WANT her to.  You will survive.  Now, find them yourself.”

There it is.  Bliss.  Moment of silence for someone sticking up for me and my plight.  I have gotten through to her and hopefully Maddy, too. I have done something right in this morning of disaster.  The rest of my life will be carefree and glorious.  My children will now be the picture of independence.  I smile.  Someone throw me a party.  Calm rolls over me. Can you feel my happiness?

Well, it was nice, but reality had to step back in.  “MOM, I NEED YOU TO FILL UP MY WATER BOTTLE AND PUT IN MY BOW!” Oh, well.  I had that one moment.

Lindsay