Thursday, October 31, 2013

Channeling My Inner Witch

Many moons ago, I convinced my kids that I am part-witch.

I've relied upon that genetic trait of mine on many instances to shock 'em, amaze 'em, leave 'em in awe, and  I must admit, instill the tiniest bit of worry in my kids.  Because they understand, that due to my witch DNA, I have some crazy witchy skills.

Skills like knowing when they're lying.

Or explaining how I have eyes in the back of my head due to a spell.

Or how I know if they really brushed their teeth or not, even if they try to pull a fast one by wetting the head of the toothbrush head without brushing.

It  is an important element of our household lore, having a Mom who is part-witch.

Part-witch, EXCEPT, on Halloween.

On Halloween I channel my Full Witch.

Kind of like a type of PMS that happens just once a year, it's beyond my control.

Every Halloween morn, I wake up with my Witch Shoes on,

and I wear them all day long.

The kids are always certain to check.

This morning, Miles woke me up and said, "Mama, Mama, I forgot to tell you: I have to bring in a treat for the class party today."

A short while later, you could find me in the kitchen, guzzling coffee and drawing jack-o-lantern faces on Cuties with a Sharpie.

Can you guess which face represented mine?
Hint: It's not a smiley one.

Atticus walked in on my artistic magic. "What's Mom doing?"  he asked Miles.

"Getting my treat ready for school.  I just remembered this morning so I let Mama know before she woke up."

"Are you crazy?!?!" Atticus shrieked. "That lady is FULL witch today!!!"

It was a very cute moment.

If I were cool enough to tag my posts, I would tag this under, 'Cool Sh*t I Do for My Kids.'

Because being a Mom is hard enough, so you might as well pat yourself on the back when you can.

 And on Halloween, I definitely can bring it.  Just look at our early morning visitor, found napping in my antique baby buggy next to my hearth.  I mean, it's like Santa Claus, but creepy, and on Halloween, and he didn't bring toys. 

* * * * * 

Can't have a Halloween Post with pics of the 5FC costumes!

Before I get to the pictures, I should explain my rules about costumes and Halloween at large:

1)  Da Mama doesn't buy costumes at retail stores (on occasion, I may be willing to buy a piece or two from GW Fashions.)

2) Bring your imaginations or stay home.

3) All Bit-'o-Honey's obtained during Trick or Treat are immediately handed over, as legislated by the Mommy Tax Acts of '98, '02, '04, '04 and '05.

4) Eat as much candy as you want Halloween night, but don't wake me up that you have a belly ache.  I'll leave Tums on the bathroom counter because I love you all that much.  Smooches and good night.

After all that, behold!

 The Mad Scientist

 The Dead Cheerleader


A Pretty Little Liar (love how my scary candle photobombed her head!)

Harry Potter sporting Glow in the Dark Glasses

And a Very Pretty Fancy Girl

Hail, Hail the Gang's All Here

Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hurting Hearts

I have found that the hardest part of being a parent is watching your child's heart hurt.

It took me a while to figure it out that this was the hardest part.  I was fortunate to have several years of ignorant bliss.  Not bliss as in everything was easy, but bliss in that what I thought was hard was just a tough phase.  For a while, I thought the hardest thing was the lack of sleep.  Eventually, I begrudgingly accepted the fact that I would likely never sleep again.   Then what was hardest was trying to figure out what a crying child needed when they didn't know what they wanted and I couldn't figure it out either.  Then the child becomes verbal and you realize tantrums are difficult.   Month by month, what was hardest morphed into the next new phase.

Until, one day, I brought a weepy Atticus home from pre-school.  I asked him what was wrong, and he explained that two little girls were being mean to him, having told him that quite simply, they did not like him and they never would.

"They hurt my heart!" he cried.

And that, my friends, nearly did me in.  My heart ached to a degree that took my breath away.  I could comfort with a hug and snuggle.  I could speak loving, encouraging words.  I could offer him possible ways to help fix the issue.

 But, I could not fix his hurting heart.

That is a process one must do completely on one's own.

Watching your children live through hurt, hurts.

Tonight, I was reminded of that time long ago, as I dealt with a boy, a teen and a tween all nursing hurting hearts today.

Each have hurting hearts tonight.  And in turn, I find myself with my own heart aching for each of them.

I walk to the elementary school every afternoon, to greet my lot of youngsters and walk home with them.  Lots of nonstop talking about the day ensues from the moment they greet me on the playground blacktop, all the way to my front step.

Today I noticed Miles was unusually quiet.  Upon asking him how his day was, his answer was short and simple:  "Abdulahi moved away."

That statement hit me with great gravity.  After two years of trying to find some 'nice' kids to hang with, Miles finally seemed to find just that special someone in his friend Abdulahi, a recent arrival to the U.S. from Somalia.

"Moved?  As in away?"

"Yeah.  To Minnesota.  Today was his birthday, and we were going to celebrate it in class.  But Ms. D. came up after lunch and said that his family called the office and said they were moving to Minnesota."

This happens a lot at our school.  The abruptness in which so many of these children move make my head spin and my heart sad for the disruption present in so many of their young lives.  Atticus had made a great friend too, who had moved here from California and was a new student this year.   On Monday, the friend simply did not go to school, because the family moved to Chicago over the weekend.

I could see the tears welling Miles' eyes, and I could feel his heart hurting.  And my heart hurts too, tremendously, for such a young boy who has had so much loss.

Miles expressed worry for his friend and the quick move.  We talked about immigrants, and community, and how Minnesota has a large, supportive community of Somalians.  Larger than Green Bay's.

That seemed to reassure him a bit, his frame of reference for understanding moves and new homes and new culture being so much larger and intuitive than my own.

Still, my heart breaks for my boy, who had finally found happiness in having a nice friend of his own.

After walking the kids home, I went brought Hatfield home from high school, and noticed some of her distress.  A simple inquiry into what was bothering her had her dissolving in tears immediately.   Life is changing, and relationships are changing, and she is hurting over troubles with a dear friend.  Troubles that she had a large part in creating, although I don't think she realized it at the time.

Unfortunately, I remember what it was like to be in middle school and high school, so I understand that we are going to have night's like this, because, unfortunately, I remember my own night's like this.  Yet, it's different too.  Almost more complicated, really.  Living in this age of texting-- when your children say things that they never would say in real life, and when it is so altogether too easy for them to interpret malice into a friend's simple words -- is complicated. 

Helping your teen realize her own poor choices when she herself is not seeing them is--- well, it's an experience. I am not finding it intuitive--at all-- to determine when it is the time to be loving and supportive while letting her figure things out on her own, and when to help her face the reality that she may have made some very poor choices which created this heartache when the she believes it was the other person's fault and everything done to her was injustice.

Because at work (Holy Cow-- I work at a college now!  I do!  And I love it!  I work in Student Judicial Affairs and love love LOVE my job!  But more on that later), I tend to see one of two scenarios factoring into the background every kid I see in the conduct system:  kids who were never taught how to take accountability for their choices, because they were raised to think they are the perfect one, so they think it is everyone else's fault but theirs.  Or, kids who are never taught how to figure out anything on their own because Mom and Dad did it all, resulting in a super needy student so very unprepared for life.

Clearly, I don't want my children to enter adulthood on either end of that spectrum.

"What do you think you could have done differently?" I (gently) asked my daughter.

"I don't know," was the response 9 times out of 10.

So I would offer a scenario, and then say, "what do you think would have happened had you tried that?"

Tonight, that worked.  It got her talking, and thinking.  Opening her mind, and facing some tough realizations about her actions.  After many tears and hugs, I had to attend to the other children.  Yet when I left, she knew she had things to reconsider and work through.

A hurting heart being one of those things.

Silly as it may be, even at times like this, it hurts my heart to see my children hurt.  Even when you know they are growing and learning.   Even when you know these growing pains will help them grow into better people.  Even when you know that it's just the way the world works (teens have been having drama for years.)

Even when you know that it is just a blip on the radar and it's not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last, it still hurts.

My tween had a different sort of situation, but one in which he was hurting nonetheless.  His is a less sticky issue by far, but still, one in which he has to step outside of his comfort zone and learn a different way to effectively communicate his feelings and needs.  For one of the first times, he is having to evaluate a situation, determine why he feels a certain way, and then see if the expectations being placed upon him are helping or hurting him. I feel his anxiety about it, his not wanting to disappoint others, yet his knowing an internal alarm is sounding.   I wish I could absorb it all, but yet, I know this is a great growing moment.

As I type these thoughts, I realize that I have decades of this to come.  I am nearly 40, and I know my dear mother hurts when I hurt.   I think of all the situations that my siblings and myself found ourselves in, and still find ourselves in, and I realize just how much hurt she has had to carry and process along the years.

Holy hell, we were and still are trainwrecks half the time.  How my mother is still standing, I'm not sure.

Maybe I'm too sensitive.  After all, we were blessed in having skipped the middle school drama trauma with Hatfield because of homeschool.  I never really had my chance to toughen up.

The small person who will give me those chances is lying just to my left.  All the while I'm writing, Paloma, curled up in bed next to me, reading while I type away, just announced, "I am so cozy I feel that goodness is attacking me."   

Now, just yesterday, while sitting on the bathroom floor, leaning over the toilet in anticipation of throwing up (Paloma has been very sick with the stomach flu), Paloma wailed:  "Please turn off the music!The radio is distressing me!!!"

Wow.  Attacking Goodness and Distressing Radios, and she's only 8. I have a feeling that no matter what situations my older children may find themselves in, it's gonna be nuthin' compared to what I'm going to see with the Mighty Miss Po.  That girl may be little, but she Thinks Big and Feels Bigger.  This Mama would do best to toughen up for that little one.

(That is, if I haven't died of heart failure when Keenan manages to finagle some kid into letting him drive their motorcycle before he even has a license.  Because I'm pretty sure my boy is working on such a plan every night before he falls asleep  ;)

Monday, October 28, 2013

November is nearly here, so about the book. . .

Last year was year of big changes.  This year has been big, too, but last year was REALLY big.

Last year, I stopped homeschooling (well, all the children except Hatfield, but she was in a really great online public school, so technically she was public schooled, just at home) and sent the small children out the door and around the block to our local school.

Many tears, fears, worries and qualms were dispelled the moment they burst into the door after their first day of class.  They LOVED it.  And they still do.  School has been a great thing, for all of us.

Homeschool was the right thing for us when we did it.  Some of the best memories of my life were while we homeschooled.  I truly believe that it really helped shape our our older kids-- which fortunately trickled down to the younger set-- and it was the right thing at the right time.

But dynamics change, so you assess and adjust.  We did, and have no regrets.

Someday, I'll share the story of what set that HUGE change into motion.  Now THAT is a great story.  It involves a ghost, a medium and a tearful 6 am walk with my dogs on an August morning. Sounds like the start of a joke, but I assure you, it's not.   THAT story will likely leave you convinced that I am either super awesome or super crazy, and well, that story is for another day.

Today, I'm going to write about my book.

Rewind to last September.  I was a Mom Experiencing Freedom for the First Time, since pretty much ever, as I had Hatfield just as I was entering 'serious' adulthood ('serious' adulthood because I was taking it seriously.  Not 'default' adulthood thrust upon me by a birthday.)

So what did I do, come September, when all of my children were away from the home for 6+ hours a day?

Well, first, I slept.  Because, sheesh, for 15 years, I considered a sleep to be exotic.  And, because I was really, truly, freaking T-I-R-E-D.

Then, I watched the first 5 seasons of Burn Notice on Netflix.

Then I slept some more.

Then I watched the first 7 seasons of Bones on Netflix.

Then I knitted a bit.

Then it was Halloween.

Seriously. (Don't judge.  I have 5 kids. I was REALLY tired.)

Seriously, though, you know how you think, Oh, when my kids are in school I'm totally going to paint a bunch of rooms, and clean the basement, and organize my closet, and re-landscape my yard, and work out, and resurface my kitchen cabinets just like I saw on Pinterest?

Yeah, that doesn't happen.  Like ever.

Anywhoo, come the end of October, I thought:  I really should have something to show for my time to myself.  Hmmmmmmmm. . .

And the thought ended there.

UNTIL, I heard about NaNoWriMo.  Courtesy of one of my most REAL LIFE favorite besties, The Accidental Mommy.

(Yes, that is my TOTALLY and SHAMELESSLY wagging my real life friendship with Essie right in your face.  3 years of great friendship has not nullified my complete adoration/slight obsession with her awesomeness.  And you would too if you were me.)

Anyone, the Divine Miss Essie introduced me to National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo

What is NaNoWriMo? you ask.  Is it for me? you ask.

Well, if you want to:
  • Write a novel in a month!
  • Track your progress.
  • Get pep talks and support.
  • Meet fellow writers online and in person.
 then NaNoWriMo is for you.

Last year, a week into November, I decided that NaNoWriMo was for me.  After all, I had a writing degree.  People (okay, my family...OKAY, my Mommy, but she TOTALLY counts because she's awesome AND smart) had always been telling me I should write a book.  And, I had a story kicking around in the cobwebby recesses of my mind for some time (i.e. years), and I wanted to see where I could take it.

So I did it.  I knocked out a 57k word novel in less than a month.  The story was in my head, wrote itself, and was a helluva fun ride.

(I'm from the generation that has to use the word "helluva."  I can't use "hella."  I just can't.  One, I think it sounds stupid.  Two, I don't understand how to use it.  Three, I call it stupid as a way of compensating for not being cool enough to know how to use it.)

I thought, back in February, that I would begin to edit the book.  Because, wubba, it was my first attempt and needed hella editing.

See? I can't pull it off.  Sorry.

It needed a helluva a lot of editing.

However, something else was going on at that time, and that something else was:  A crash course in Novel Structure.



I read about Novel Structure, and plot, and characters, and subplot, and tension, and protagonsists vs. antagonists, and so on and so forth and on and on.

I quickly realized that my first crack at a book was missing. . .oh, pretty much everything.

That's not me being self-defeating (I almost wrote, 'sadist' because a sadist sounds like a self-defeating person, but wow, Thank God for the online thesaurus!  Totally saved myself there.) Or too hard on myself.  It's just me looking at my novel, evaluating it against the checklists, and coming up a weeee bit whole lot short.

And you know what?

It's okay.

It's totally okay that it came up short.  Because, like I said, I had a great time writing it, and because it was in my head for such a long time, it was really cool to see it down on print.

But, it's not something I want to try and fix. The entire process of taking something from my mind that had been there so darn long and putting it down on paper (or computer screen) was extremely cathartic.

The process, itself, regardless of the end result, was enough

In fact, it was exactly what I needed.

But this next Saturday, I'm going to try again.  NaNoWriMo'14, and I want the t-shirt, baby.

With a new story.  One that's much more intricate and developed.  One that has been growing, along with my knowledge and understanding of novel building. One that I began writing early this summer, but then stopped, because creatively, I was stuck.

Yet, something funny happens each fall.  I'm back to walking the kids to school, in the company of my canine companions, and then walking the neighborhood with the pooches.

As I walk, I plot.  I create characters.  I create the story.

And it has taken off.

So I'm going to try again.  And this time, this time I think I just may have something there to share.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Several recent requests by my boy Atticus initiated my recent trips down Memory Lane.  On Monday of this week, school had sent home an All About Me poster. 

Never having been the Scrapbooking Mom or the Photo Album Mom, this Shove-Your-Photos-in-a-Disorganized-Fashion-into-a-Rubbermaid-Tub Mom hiked into the storage room part of our basement (aka The Man House aka The Dungeon aka A Mess), praying that she could locate at least one baby picture per her boy's meager request.

I hit the jackpot.  Boxful after boxful of photos from when my first two babies were just that: babies.  Back when our three-legged beagle Ernie was a spirited pup, his faithful sidekick was a one-eyed German Shepherd named Sissy, and we were still blessed with the presence of my Grandpa Joe and Uncle Gary. 

Many tears were shed.  Happy. Sad. Grateful. Bittersweet.

An hour after descending into basement, and I heard my children upstairs forming a search party for me.  I grabbed a handful of photos and rejoined them.

Paloma spotted a photo of Sissy, and exclaimed, "Oh! When I grow up, I'm totally going to have a Herman Shepherd!"

I love these moments.  And my first thought was:  I should be blogging this

But it was time to pick up Hatfield from tennis.  And then time to bring Atticus to dance.  And then time to bring Atticus home from dance while taking Hatfield to dance.  Or vice versa.  But trust me, by the time it was 9:45 pm, all my children were home and accounted for.

Today is an easier day, schedule-wise.  Today, after school, the children dive into snack time and chore time, so that they can have some play time before dinner time.

There's a lot of "times" in big families.  And this time, at homework time, Atticus requested a photo of he and the Mister for the last remaining spot on his poster.

(Yeah, because you know, I just merely gave life to the kid by pushing him out of my womb before the epidural even took and trust me when I say that you, reader,  you don't want to know what part of me tore in the process, but whatever, I guess just knowing how vital my role was in those early moments of his life is enough to deal with the sting of being snubbed on the All About Me Poster. Uh huh.)

I took to my computer to look up photos of My Man and his Mini-Me, only I could not easily locate one.   After all, it was prime distraction time as it was time for Atticus and Paloma to bicker over who gets to use which music stand for violin practice time.

Instead of searching through file folders, I took to my blog and its search engine.

And I pulled up This Particular Post:

That moment in time came flooding back to me.  I remember that day really well.  But it took the blog to spark my memory.
"Atticus and Paloma, come in here," I called to my bickering duo.  Of course, since it was bickering time, bickering about several subjects ensued along the way from the living room to the kitchen (all 18 steps.) 
"I don't think you two have a clear understanding of just how much Bickering History the two of you share," I informed them.
Their bickering ceased and confusion took its place.
"Shhh, just let me read this."
So I read the story to them, holding back each picture, scrolling only to it when it was the next and only thing in the story, to add to the suspense.
The three of us laughed so hard that we cried.
And I realized it then.  Just how important this Writing Down My Family History Time is.  And that despite Chauffer Time and Dinner Time and Homework Moderator Time and Reading Time and Bath Time and Bed Time and Mister, Pour Me a Glass of Wine Stat! Time, the Time I spend on the blog is Time I can't afford not to spend.
This entire journey goes by so very, very quickly.  And I'm grateful for every account I have written for my family, for their history, for their future. 
So I'm not going to worry about things I have missed (repeated over and over again for the type A-impaired orderly brain.)  I can choose not to feel this crazy, type-A pressure that I haven't done it perfectly, so I just need to go back and catch up by writing about birthdays and parties and events we missed.  
Instead, I can just start now.
And now is a great place to start.  Why?

Because while I'm typing, Paloma, Atticus and Keenan barreled in through the front door from playing football.
"Mom!" Paloma hollered.  "Keenan kicked the ball into the road just as a truck was turning the bend and Atticus saw what happened and said, 'Oh shit!'"
Atticus blushed bright red and said, "I didn't mean to! It just happened."
I held up a hand.  "Listen, it's okay. I say that all the time and I really shouldn't, especially in front of you kids, so I understand that it's something you will pick up along the way.  As long as you aren't using it all the time, and really, by the way, that was a totally appropriate time to use it, I'm okay."

Paloma pipes up:  "And Dad uses it too!  One time I heard him yell "Oh Shit!" and scream from your bedroom.  So I ran to the door and said, "Dad! Are you okay?" And he called back, "Yeah, I was just getting changed out of my work clothes and found a big bug in my underwear!!! '  So don't worry, Atticus, you get it from Mom AND Dad!"
Seriously, if that is not the Universe reaffirming my renewed commitment to blogging again, I don't know what is.