Friday, February 27, 2009

Domestic Fantasy

You've heard of Romantic Fantasy. You know, every little girl's idea that one day she will grow up and marry Prince Charming and live Happily Ever After. Well, before I got married and started a family, I suffered from a delusion called "Domestic Fantasy."

I imagined that I would be the Caroline Ingalls of the 21st Century. I would stay at home with my children, of course. I would plant the garden with a baby on my hip while the older children cheerfully helped with the hoeing. I would make simple yet wonderful meals from scratch, and they would be the best meals my husband and children would ever eat. NEVER would I stoop to cooking from a box! I would make most of my children's clothing with my trusty sewing machine. My children would always be well-groomed, polite and obedient.

Forgive me for rolling on the floor laughing.

It's not that I didn't want to do those things for my family. I have actually attempted several times to be Super Mom.

I DO plant a garden in the spring. And I usually enjoy the hard work of gardening until the cute little sprouts shoot up. The kids usually find it enjoyable up until this point too. "Oh, look at the cute little pea plant. It's so sweet, so tiny, so fragile. Let's water it very carefully so we don't hurt it." A month later, out of the very same mouths, comes "Why do I have to water the stupid peas? I hate peas! No one ever eats peas!" That last part of the tantrum - the part about no one ever eating the peas - is usually true because, after several days of the whining, I give up asking them to water the peas. Then I myself begin to forget to water the peas. So, by the time they are ripe, I usually harvest about 13 peas, all of which I eat by myself as I pull them off the plant. I do have to wonder if it's worth the time and effort when, for the price of a pack of seeds, I can buy a 1/2 lb. of sugar snap peas at the grocery store.

Beans are another story. I can go without watering them for 5 weeks and they are still growing up over the roof of the house and creeping into the neighbor's yard and under their deck, even occasionally entwining their cats who sneak under the deck to find some respite from the summer heat. But the problem with beans is that I don't usually notice them until they've become the size of a zucchini. At that point the only thing I can do is to let them rot into the ground and hope that they will make next year's soil more fertile.

So what if gardening wasn't my forte? I've always been a good cook. I learned to cook when I was 9 years old and I learned from the best - my mom.

I had tons of great recipes and I couldn't wait to use them for my family. The only problem was that my husband is the pickiest eater on earth. When he was single, he could do his weekly grocery shopping and check out in the express lane. I had to drastically revise my recipe repertoire.
But when the kids came along, I knew I would have a brood to cook for. However, I ran out of time, energy and desire by the time my first child was 3 days old. Hamburger Helper was starting to look pretty good. A meal that takes 20-30 minutes, start to finish, with only about 3 minutes of actual human involvement - sounds like a dream to any tired mom.

Now that my kids are older and I have a little bit of energy back, I'm once again attempting to make more healthy, "from scratch" meals. Occasionally I will come across a cooking show on TV and I will stop to see if I can get any new and useful tips. Usually the cook is deeply involved in a complex process sounding something like a doctoral dissertation, all the while saying helpful things like "This is SUCH an easy recipe and you can make it with ingredients you have in your pantry." This is provided you even have a pantry, which I don't, and if you have things like expeller-pressed grapeseed oil on hand.

I'm grateful that as my children grow up, they are becoming more adventurous eaters, so I can try out new recipes or old favorites on them. My husband, on the other hand - the guy who insists that pickles qualify as a vegetable - will probably never change.

When I had my picture of domestic bliss all planned out, sewing was by far the most preposterous idea I had.

I once sewed an outfit from scratch. I was about 10 and it was a 4-H project. I could choose any pattern and fabric I wanted and my 4H leader would teach me how to create an outfit I could actually wear. I chose a shorts outfit and bright green terry cloth - very fashionable for 1980. I have to say I did quite well, cutting the pattern to my size, pinning the fabric together, and sewing it into a creation that I was proud to wear for about 3 1/2 summers. After that, the charm wore off. I haven't enjoyed sewing since. Maybe I'm still scarred by the fact that my mother had to hide the beloved shorts outfit from me and smuggle it out to the burning barrel to get me to stop wearing it, based on the fact that it fit me more like a bathing suit - an obscene bathing suit - than shorts and a top. Perhaps I have a deep-seated fear that if I ever make anything again and have any affinity for it, my mother - even though she lives 400 miles away - will sneak into my closet and torch it.

I think a more realistic explanation is that I just hate sewing. When my husband and I were first married, he bought me a really nice sewing machine (at my request - it wasn't one of those bone-headed I-wanted-diamond-earrings-and-he-gave-me-a-sewing-machine gifts). I used it a few times. I bought a book illustrating how to create your own home d├ęcor - curtains, pillows, etc. It turned out to be much too detailed for my tastes - meaning the instructions were more complicated than "Go to your nearest Kohls store and purchase matching curtains and throw pillows." So I eventually gave the book away as a gift to some other unsuspecting newlywed. As far as making clothes, I really had been quite delusional, because after I started actually having children, I lacked the alertness to complete a simple task such as getting my own clothes on, let alone working a contraption with parts that move faster than a moving car and are sharp enough to be used for brain surgery.

Mending, of course, is essential in any home that contains children. So, I do have a mending basket, and anything that needs to be mended is put into the basket until I can get to it. My procedure for dealing with the mending basket is this: I put a piece of clothing into it until the owner of the clothing either forgets about it or outgrows it. Problem solved. If it happens to be something I paid a lot of money for (which doesn't happen often as I do most of my shopping at thrift stores, yard sales, and the occasional hidden dumpster), I may attempt a more complicated approach, using heat 'N' bond or sometimes even staples.

Duct tape has merit too.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hangin' Out with the Kiddos

So, I'm sitting here on my bed ready to do some serious blogging. In walks Faith. For some curious reason, she decided to slather some lotion on my leg.

"Hey, that feels good. Will you rub it all over my leg?"

So, she did one leg and then the other, with only a few odd comments like, "You should shave more often," and "Your legs smell like rotten pop." (Seriously.)

Soon, Evan wanted to join in, so I gave him the job of massaging my feet with the lotion - a job my husband wouldn't do if I paid him. Evan did a pretty good job, if you consider using about 3 quarts of lotion on my feet a good job.

Ahhh, this was turning out to be a nice and relaxing evening. A 4- and a 6-year-old, massaging their mother with complete naivete, like it was a treat for them. But then Faith caught on.

She even said, "Mom, we sit here and do all this for you and you do nothing!" Never mind the fact that I DID serve them ALL their meals in the living room while they watched TV. All day. (It was a sick day, remember.) And while they were recuperating all day, I cleaned the kitchen and dining room, did all the dishes and a few loads of laundry, and I even managed to squeeze in a nap (uh, wait. . .that last part probably doesn't help my case very much).

But I didn't say anything to Little Miss Smarty Pants. I just grabbed a blob of lotion and started on her feet, while Evan was still doing mine. Then she piped up one more time, "Hey, you're getting your feet massaged and I'm getting mine massaged, but who's doing Evan's?"

"Sssh. Don't say anything. Maybe he won't notice."

Bad News / Good News

So, the bad news is that my 2 oldest daughters have a fever and some coughing, sore throat, headache, etc. (I'm thinking influenza - we never got flu shots.) Faith is tired out and Evan has had erratic sleep, so we're all taking it slow today with the living room infirmary set up for the sickos. Their treat for sick days is that they get to watch movies all day and get waited on, hand and foot. So far, they've taken advantage of it to the hilt:

"Could I please have some tea? But bring me the water, tea bag and sugar, separately."

"I would just like some water with plenty of ice and a twist of lemon, please."

"I like my tea spicy. You have to leave the tea bag in long enough and add just enough sugar."

"Would you please get my pillow and blanket from upstairs and pull out the footrest on the couch?"

Yep, they know how to play it up. And of course, I'm happy to oblige. There's no one like Mommy when you're sick and need TLC.

Here's my bizarre confession (the "good" news): I like days like this. No, I do not like to see my children sick. I'm just thankful for the break in the busyness of life. Sickness usually means all of our obligations are cancelled. Being a homebody, I love not having to go anywhere.

I guess, too, in some way, it makes me feel most like a mom, when all my children are home and I can still meet all of their needs in a concrete way.

As time goes by, my children will need me less and less. I'm cherishing today, when I still get to be a Mommy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Poison Control

Had to call Poison Control yesterday. That makes once for each child, so hopefully that's it for the rest of their childhood.

All of my girls take 3 vitamins / supplements a day (doctor recommended/approved). I have pill boxes divided into days for each one of the girls so I can keep track of them. I had the day's pills on the counter for Faith, my 6-year-old, and I told her to get some juice and take them.

I went back to helping Joy with science when Faith said, "Mom, I didn't take the ones for Sunday or Monday this week." I told her it was OK and just to take the ones for today. About 5 minutes later, she appeared at my side with orange juice streaming down her big smiley face as she announced, "I took yesterday's too."

I was mildly alarmed and told her she shouldn't have taken two days' worth, and then she confessed she had taken Sunday's as well!

I said, "Faith, you can't take all those vitamins at once!" To which Faith responded, "I didn't. I took them one at a time." (I still can't believe that little thing swallowed 9 pills!)

Since her multi-vitamin contains iron, I called Poison Control to make sure she hadn't taken a toxic dose. To my relief, she hadn't.

She was sufficiently freaked out at the possibility of having to go to the ER that I'm sure she will never do that again!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More On Depression

Or that title could be "Moron Depression", depending on how you think of me. (Sorry, but I really enjoy word plays like that!)

I will now attempt to break out of the somber mood I began with my post about depression yesterday. But I will attempt to not be TOO giddy, lest you think that my doctor missed half of the "manic-depressive" diagnosis. (I do wonder sometimes. . . .)

What I would love to do here is offer a full synopsis of my entire struggle with depression, complete with all of the factors in my life that have contributed to it, and the many steps that I'm taking to overcome it. But even that "synopsis" would seem more like a novel. I don't like reading l-o-n-g posts, so I'll try not to write one!

The long and short of it is that I am doing MUCH better than I was early on in parenthood. I am so incredibly thankful to the Lord because He has really set me free from a lot of erroneous patterns of thinking and lies of the evil one. He has put people in my path to help me, encourage me, pray for me, and love me. (My husband is a SAINT!) And I'm thankful for modern medical treatment. Although I don't want to rely solely on drugs, the anti-depressant I'm taking has leveled out my mood enough so that I can really focus on the things I need to do to get better.

I don't want to leave this so short, but I know that my struggle with depression is not entirely over. I suspect I will be able to go into more detail with further posts, as the Lord leads me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Depression

I am a happily married, homeschooling, Jesus loving girl. Ever since I was young, all I wanted was to get married and raise a family. I never really wanted to have a career.

When I got married and started having babies, all my dreams were fulfilled. Yet the past 10 years of my life have been the hardest I've ever known. That doesn't mean they haven't been joyful, amazing and rewarding as well - they have in so many profound ways. It's just that, well, as much as I wanted to be a mother, I was totally unprepared for it. There is nothing that makes you come face-to-face with your own selfishness quite the way motherhood does.

So I wasn't very far into my parenthood journey when I realized that I was completely inadequate. And that made me feel guilty, as if I had to be perfect for my daughter and I just wasn't measuring up. As I dealt with those feelings, along came baby #2 and #3, each 21 months apart. Then a little over 2 years later, #4 was born. Some people can handle 4 children in 6 years. I couldn't. I was mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally drained. I had hit rock bottom.

I LOVED my children. And I HATED myself for not being enough for them. I cried so much because I wished my kids could have a better mom than me. In some sick, twisted way, I took it out on them. I was a very crabby, angry, irritable and depressed mom for several years of my children's young lives.

Blessed be God, my husband knew I needed some help. He confided in our daughter's Godfather, who is also a wonderful Catholic doctor, Dr. P. He simply said, "It sounds like she's depressed." So, we went to our own doctor, Dr. D., to get his take on it and he agreed.

After several tries on different medications, I finally ended up with one that worked. And our entire family also ended up switching to Dr. P. for a variety of reasons. A major factor was that he was able to explain to me what happens with depression so that I could understand it wasn't my fault or that I just wasn't trying hard enough.

So, this just scratches the surface of my parenting experience. I plan to write quite a bit more on this topic. I think it's important for people to know how to recognize depression. I also want to help remove some of the stigma attached to it.

It doesn't mean I will no longer inject humor into my posts. Along with the Lord, and my amazing family and friends, humor is my lifeline!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

OUCH!

I'm walking gingerly today, but I'm not nearly as bad as yesterday. I was hobbling through the house, barely able to do so without yelling, "OW!" with every step. Getting up and down the stairs required me to cling for dear life to the railing, like a frail old lady. My back hurt, my shins hurt, my butt hurt, and my thighs. . . .Oh my goodness, they were painful to the touch.

So, what on earth caused this agony? My ridiculous decision to start running. Yes, me! A runner. The idea seems ludicrous, even to me, but I've been contemplating it for a while now. Actually, craving is a better word. I've had this inexplicable desire to run for quite some time, and it only took me a year and a half to work up the courage to start.

Of course, I had to find a way to ease into it without injuring myself. (This, for the woman who, in college, ended up in a cervical collar from an injury sustained while getting out of bed - seriously!) So I did a search on the web and came across a site called Cool Running (http://www.coolrunning.com/), and found their beginner's workout, called "The Couch to 5K Running Plan" (http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml).

It's a very reasonable workout designed to help you gradually build up your strength and endurance over 8 weeks (or more if you need to take it more slowly). I began with 2 children at my side - partly because they really wanted to come and I KNEW they could keep up with me, and partly because I would feel less embarrassed with kids accompanying me. That way, if I had a really hard time, I could just call out to the kids, in a voice loud enough for the neighbors to hear, "OK, honey, if you're too tired, we can stop!" It turns out, 15 minutes into the 20-minute workout, I went staggering back into the house, with the kids yelling after me, "Mom, why are you quitting?" So much for saving face.

So, I think I got one of the best workouts of my life, as evidenced by a kind of soreness I haven't felt since I pushed a baby out of my body.

I can only pray and hope I will have the physical AND mental fortitude to continue on this journey I've begun. I HAVE to - mainly so my children won't humiliate me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I guess I'm boring

I'm still trying to figure out how to write a blog. So I was searching the web for tips and came across this article by Brian Ford at Newsvine, entitled "How to Write a Blog that People Actually Want to Read: http://brianford.newsvine.com/_news/2008/03/11/1358974-how-to-write-a-blog-that-people-actually-want-to-read#comments.

I'm a Mom, so I guess that rules out interestingness right away. OK, so that's not what he's saying. He even make s a nice little note at the bottom saying that he wasn't necessarily picking on Moms. He asks if all Moms could possibly be this boring and arrives at the conclusion that we probably aren't.

Find a niche, he says. Be interesting, he says. Ignite controversy, he says. Piss people off, he says.

All right, so I'm brainstorming. . . . ways to be interesting


ways to be "controversial"


ways to be "edgy"


OMG, I barely have the brain power to type. But I AM writing a blog, so I guess I'd better work a little harder.


Let's start with, "I'm a Christian." That should be enough to piss of a pretty huge segment of liberal-dom. Or better yet, "I'm a Roman Catholic." Where are the scathing comments? And, while I'm at it, "Yes, I am pro-life." And even, "Why, yes, I do think premarital sex is sin and that ANYONE WHO EVER DOES IT WILL BE DAMNED TO HELL!" LOL, I just embellished that last part. Because if that was the Truth, I would be damned to hell. (I didn't embellish the part about it being sin, which it is, if you believe in the Judeo-Christian God and the words He inspired to be written in the Holy Bible. However, I know that the damned to hell part isn't true, because there is a way out of any sin - His Name is JESUS!)


Obviously, I'm still kind of working on the random part. It's the way my robbed-of-brain-cells-by-multiple-pregnancies mind works. I'll try to rein it in so my reader (I'm hoping to make that plural soon) might have some idea of what she is in for when I create a new post. I'll try to stick to the main focus of this blog. . . as soon as I figure out what it is.


So, yeah, I'm a Mom, and I think I'm pretty interesting. So does my husband when he's had a few beers. (If you know my husband, you should be rolling on the floor laughing right now.)


In all honesty, I do appreciate Mr. Brian Ford's article. My sarcasm throughout this post has been due to the fact that I am feeling quite humbled by the task before me - to create a blog that people will actually want to READ! That, and I forgot to take my meds today.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Chronic Sleep Deficit

Yippee! It's morning! I can hardly wait to get started!

Yeah, right. I haven't had a decent night's sleep in 10 years. No wonder I'm depressed. All of my children, ages 4 to 9, still occasionally make their way into my room in the night. But Evan, the youngest, is a permanent resident, or so he thinks. He usually goes to sleep in his own room, but the first time he wakes up, he stealthily makes his way into my bed. He is very good at going undetected for quite some time. He comes in quietly, slowly until he's at my bedside. If there is no response from me, he lays his head on the bed next to me. If I still haven't noticed him, he puts a hand up on the bed, and then very slowly, a leg. No sign of life from Mom, and he quietly rolls the rest of his body up and lies motionless on the very edge of the bed. I have to give him credit because it's quite a skill. I don't usually notice him until he has fallen back to sleep and managed to take over 1/2 the bed. I will be smashed up against my husband, who will wake up and say, "Is someone in our bed?" The bed hog strikes again.

When I attempt to put him back in his bed or on the floor, he sometimes goes without a fight, but sometimes he freaks out. Multiply this by 2 or 3 times in a night, and add at least one other sibling, and that equals ONE TIRED MOMMY!

You'd think after 10 years, I'd have become accustomed to less sleep. Quite the opposite, actually. I'm very selfish about sleep. I take naps regularly as I'm still trying to recapture lost snooze time from 2003.

So begins my day and my week. I'll survive, with a lot of God's grace and a lot of God's gift to Moms - coffee!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day.

It also happens to be a Saturday, which is usually my day to sleep in. Not this morning. My children came in at an obscene hour and climbed all over me, saying, "Happy Valentine's Day, Mommy!" I couldn't be entirely angry with them, so I said, "Happy Valentine's Day. Now get out." So, they went off to play their Saturday morning video games. A while later, at a slightly less obscene hour, my 4-year-old wandered back in and started mauling me with hugs and kisses. He is such a lover-boy, and I usually appreciate his sweet little whispers into my ear. EXCEPT when I'm trying to sleep. I politely tried to turn him away several times until finally he said, "Mommy, I want some breakfast." I told him to go and ask Daddy. He went away for a few more minutes, only to come back to announce, "Mommy, I pooped in my pullup." Groan. . . .You'd think he'd bring me chocolate on Valentine's Day, not fudge.

Then came round 2, 3, and 4 - each of my older children successively came in, wondering how long I was going to sleep, when I was going to get up, and what I could get them for breakfast. My kids all somehow think that Dad's food-getting ability is rendered useless when I'm trying to sleep or do some other useful thing, despite the fact that he regularly makes brunch on the weekends and that he prepares spaghetti once a week.

So, I finally gave in and staggered downstairs some time between 9:30 and 10. My entire family KNOWS that the first thing I have to do is to get my coffee. I don't serve breakfast, I don't get dressed, I don't even answer questions without my coffee. Evan, the afore-mentioned 4-year-old, doesn't always comply with this rule, so he once again pointed out that he had pooped in his pullup. . .on accident. I ignored him, and as soon as I had coffee in hand, Hope, my 9-year-old, gathered everyone into the living room for a surprise. She ceremoniously handed out all of her Valentines to the family, and we had to open them and read them aloud, one by one.

While appreciating her thoughtfulness, I was still grumbling on the inside about the prospect of having to deal with a stinky pullup before I got to really enjoy my coffee. My ever-astute husband (actually, he's not very astute - it's more like he's just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding what I want after 12 years of marriage and my grumpiness) offered to clean up Mr. Poopy-pants. Sigh. . . I was finally enjoying my coffee.

Well, I was actually thinking about all that the day would entail - getting the house cleaned, getting groceries, and trying to make Valentine's Day somewhat special for my husband and children. I was also mildly annoyed that my husband could spend the whole day relaxing while I still had to go about my work. I didn't necessarily want or need him to do anything. . .I was just jealous that he has the luxury of actually relaxing on the weekends. (Yes, I'm working on this - he works hard too!)

I'm not sure why I was so crabby today. I'm not even close to PMS. But the day began to brighten when my husband called a sitter so we could go out and get lunch together. . . .AND get groceries. Fine with me - I really enjoy doing anything with my hubby. . . .and without my kids.

After our lunch date, we came home and gave our children Valentines and little hearts full of M&M's. As they thanked us, I was thinking, "Now they won't bug me for a while." An added bonus was that the babysitter had gotten the children to clean up their rooms while we were gone!

We told the kids to watch a movie and eat their treats while we took a "nap" (wink, wink).

Not such a bad Valentine's Day after all.