31 January 2012

Five's Post

Five wanted you to see his Alien Conquest LEGOs. He got both these sets for Christmas. He constructed the Alien Mothership immediately, but waited to open the Earth Defense HQ until this past weekend.

When Five begins a LEGO project, he doesn't stop working until it's finished. His parents find this amazing for several reasons:

1. Five is color-blind. Or, in Two's words, suffers from CDS, or "Color Discretion Syndrome." Two is also color-blind, so he invented a cool acronym to describe it. We weren't surprised by Five's diagnosis, because he's always colored his humans green.

If you've ever flipped through a LEGO construction manual, you know they are all about shading. Half the pieces are grey or black. We are mightily impressed that Five succeeds in differentiating between the two.

2. Five is a jabber-jaw, a Chatty Cathy, a motor-mouth. Yesterday he told me that if he is able to sit quietly in the bus line all week, he'll earn twenty points. Then next week he'll get to sit at the cafeteria table and draw cartoons with Tony while they wait for the bus! The bus monitor, a fifth-grade girl, created this contest. I don't know her, but I like her because she's already figured out you catch more bees with honey than vinegar. She has a future in Special Education.

Despite his propensity to blather, Five is absolutely silent when he's building. Now, if only he would take a little longer to finish each set...ah, what a wonderful world it would be.

3. Five is the Captain's son. Three is almost a carbon copy of his father, except taller now, so we call him "Brown Captain." Five is "White Captain," because he's like an x-rayed version of him--same bone structure, just a lot paler.

The Captain cannot build LEGOs. I don't want to say he lacks spatial skills, because he can pack a trunk like nobody's business. But he is incapable of interpreting  the LEGO manuals. He's always been a better leader than follower.

So, yesterday when Five showed me his Earth Defense HQ set, complete with Mobile Command truck, mini spaceship, and alien figures, I took a picture. I wanted to send it to his grandmother, so she, too, could be impressed.

"You should put this on your blog, " he said.

I wasn't aware he even knew about the blog. I'm still not convinced he knows what it's about.

"I think I've already written about your LEGOs on the blog," I said.

"But not these, Mom. These are really impressive. I mean, look inside the truck! You should definitely put these on your blog today, and then tomorrow you can go back to writing about whatever it is you write about."

Apparently, he does understand the blog.

Now I've got nothing for tomorrow.

27 January 2012

The Soundtrack to My Life

I visited London Mabel's place the other day, and heard a beautiful song. You all know I love lyrics, but an instrumental is intriguing. It's a blank canvas, waiting for us to imbue it with our memories, or yearnings.

I just celebrated one year of blogging, so I was brave and went back and read the first few posts. Then I stopped. I'm too busy living this year to revisit the last. But it was interesting to cruise through "Lyrics and Failures," just to see what music was playing in my head.

If my life were a movie, this is what it would sound like right now. We are in a challenging period, and I am often weary. But on good days, that makes me want to fight harder. Or angrily play the guitar. If I knew how to play the guitar.

After a few months of this phase, I would like some peace. And although this song was written for trapped miners, it captures the harmony and graceful purpose I hope is waiting at the end of the tunnel.

In my hopeful projections for the next six months, we accomplish our individual goals.  In a multi-layered crescendo of bouncy cheerfulness, we achieve personal and collective success! Much like this Snow Patrol song.

Fingers crossed! Except during guitar lessons.

What are you listening to these days?

22 January 2012

And Then There Were Two

Today is Two's birthday.  His birthday is twelve days after Three's, even though I only managed to get around to writing about Three last Wednesday. One holds the title for Most Dramatic Birth, but Two gets an Honorable Mention.

As I stated in the previous post, Macy's conducts its annual inventory in January. I was 37 weeks pregnant when they took the count. There was a blizzard approaching our area, so there was some concern that the drop in barometric pressure would trigger labor. The Captain was stuck in New York when the weather came, but my brother was living with us at the time. He had a big ass truck, (not as fancy as the one he just bought--I have total truck envy) and the hospital was literally two minutes from our house, so I felt confident we could make it. I crossed my legs and prayed. It worked. Two stayed put, and the Captain made it through inventory.

My sister Kate was home at the time, staying with my mother. She was visiting us on the twenty-second, and we talked about going to the mall. I was at the point where I wanted to walk the baby out of me. We got busy doing other things, and the day slipped away. She left around 7:00, and made me promise I wouldn't go to the mall alone. Well...

So I went to the mall to look at birth announcements in a card store. I squatted down to reach the lowest shelf, and Two curled up against my spine and kicked me with all his might, like a cop busting down a perp's door. My water broke.

Holy shit!

Thankfully, the store was right near an escalator, and my car was parked just outside the doors. I moved as quickly as a could, given the fact that I was 39 weeks pregnant and leaking. I got in my Volkswagen Fox and headed home. Volkswagen no longer sells the Fox in America, and for good reason. It was a no-frills, manual everything, four-speed shift sedan. And I hesitate to say sedan. But it was safe. Because that is always the Captain's priority.

 I got in my German tank and drove. I was already having contractions, which made it difficult to shift gears on the manual transmission. The mall is eight minutes from my house. When I got to the traffic light outside my town, my contractions were already less than five minutes apart.

Holy shit!

I didn't have a cell phone in 1996, so there was no way to alert the Captain. I flung open the front door and found him in his flannels, setting up our VCR to record "Murder One," a thoroughly entertaining show that lost its way after Season Two.

"What's going on, " he asked.

"I'm having the baby," I answered.

"What do you mean, you're having the baby?"

"I'm in labor, and he's coming fast. Meet me in the bathroom with a towel and the phone!"

I called my obstetrician, a new guy that I didn't really like, and gave him the particulars. He was very sanguine about the whole affair.

"But your last birth took ten hours."

"Yes. But this is different."

"Well head over to hospital, and I'll get there as soon as I can."

I beat him there. When the nurses checked me in, I asked one of them if I could have anything for the pain. She looked at me with her beautiful hazel eyes, and said, "Honey, you're having the baby." They started looking around the ward to see if a doctor was available. My original OB was waiting on one of her patients, so she came to coach me. If I'd only pushed a little sooner, she would have been the one to catch Two. But dammit, my doctor arrived and took over. (I did get to switch back to her for all subsequent births, however, so yay!)

Two arrived in this world 159 minutes after my water broke in the Hallmark Store. He weighed seven pounds, fourteen ounces, five pounds of which was cranium. We called him Anvil Head. The whole experience left me feeling super-powerful, like I could accomplish anything.

Which is probably how we ended up with Three.

This is what the Captain and I commonly refer to as our "first family." One, Three, and Two.

Followed four years later by our "second family," Five and Four.

This concludes a year of recounting the births of the pack. Tomorrow I celebrate one year of writing The Lone Woman Diaries. Thank you for sharing it with me!

18 January 2012

Three's A Charm

I forgot about Three. His birthday came and went, and I didn't share any of the details of his birth. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have something to say about that. So let me correct my error, and regale you with the story of my second January baby.

All of my children arrived before they were due. I think this had more to do with me than them, because I was never willing to wait for complete gestation. This may be hard to believe, but I can be somewhat non-compliant. By the time I got to thirty-seven weeks with each pregnancy, I was over it. I would begin actively lobbying my obstetrician for help in moving things along. If you have been pregnant, you know how uncomfortable one can be in that last month. Uncomfortable enough to allow manual manipulation of one's cervix. Yes, it is as horrid as you imagine.

There was a problem with timing Three's birth. Macy's takes its inventory in January. I had managed to keep Two inside me long enough to allow a proper count, but I didn't hold out the same hope for Three. Furthermore, the weather in January can be fickle. Two had been born right after a blizzard, so I worried the Captain might be trapped in New York when Three made his debut.

All my worries were for naught. I went into labor on a drizzly afternoon, and after timing my contractions I called my mom for a ride to the hospital. The nurses hooked me up to the monitors and confirmed that I was in labor. I stayed that way for hours. Evening rolled in, and a decision needed to be made about sending me home. When I reminded the nurses that my previous delivery had been precipitous, they agreed to let me stay overnight. They gave me a sleep aid, I rolled onto my right side, and I passed out.

On the morning of January tenth, my doctor started a drip with a bit of Pitocin, I got an epidural, and a few hours later Three joined our family. He was my largest baby, at eight pounds and three ounces, and of course he was beautiful.

Last week I went downstairs to wake him for school. I smothered him with birthday kisses, and he became conscious enough to ask me what time he was born.

"I don't know," I answered. "A few of you were born around eleven a.m., and a bunch of you arrived closer to two in the afternoon. I do remember, however, that I got a fantastic night of sleep the day before you were born."

Three stretched, and uttered the phrase that only he would think.

"You're welcome."


Late morning addendum: I woke up today and read all the news about the SOPA strike, which is an Internet based movement designed to raise awareness about a new bill that threatens us all. Read about it here: http://sopastrike.com/strike/.  If you enjoy The Lone Woman Diaries, where I routinely print the lyrics to songs, and sometimes even the videos, please sign the online petition. I don't know about you, but I like my freedom.

11 January 2012

This is All I Ever Wanted

I walked outside yesterday and stepped on a box. The UPS man had left a package right below my door. I was running to catch a school bus, so I kicked it aside before I realized what it might contain.  I grabbed it on my way to the van and shook it, like my brother does on Christmas morning, as he annoyingly attempts to divine the contents of each wrapped gift.

My new Snow Patrol album is here! I pre-ordered it in November, and waited two whole months for it to arrive. Okay, it's really a CD, although nowadays one can buy actual vinyl, which I have considered as an homage to my college days. Then I could hug and caress the chunky cardboard sleeve like a teenage girl. Alas, I no longer own a turntable. Nor am I a teenager. So I bought the smaller, shinier version and pressed it to my chest before loading it into my van's single disc CD player.

I heart Snow Patrol.

In general, I love music, but I get extra swoony about lyrics. I don't know what it is about Gary Lightbody's writing that touches me so; in fact I don't even like all his songs. I remember hating "Chasing Cars," which is really the one that put them on the map. But I heard "Open Your Eyes," as it played over the final scene of "The Black Donnelly's" pilot, and I went on a mad search to find out who sang it. I've been hooked ever since.

These are the lyrics to my new favorite song. I cried the first time I heard it, because it made me think about all I am grateful for, and what I would wish for if given the chance.

Not to be published. Not to move to Montana. Not more money.

Healthy, long lives for my children. No disabilities. Someone to love them, beyond me.

This is all I ever wanted from life.


A hand upon my forehead/The joke and then the laugh/Waking up in your arms/A place to call my own.

This is all I ever wanted from life/This is all I ever wanted from life.

Ireland in the world cup/Either north or south/The Fanclub on your jukebox/The birds and yes the bees.

This is all I ever wanted from life/This is all I ever wanted from life.

Words of reassurance/But only if they're true/Just some simple kindess/No vengeance from the gods.

This is all I ever wanted from life/This is all I ever wanted from life.

To share what I've been given/Some kids eventually/And be for them what I've had/A father like my dad.

This is all I ever wanted from life/This is all I ever wanted from life.

What would you ask for?

I chose this version because it was recorded at a Portland radio station, near our friend Julie.

10 January 2012

News From the Front

We are about one week into the renovation. We are still in the discussion and revision phase. It's not unlike when the Captain and I hired an architect to draw plans for an addition on our old house. We gave him our specifications and he came back with his vision, which was over budget and much more extensive than we had planned. It was as if he hadn't heard us at all.

Two is the architect.

Despite much talk about how we are here to help him achieve what he wants, he's not motivated. He's dismissive and surly about any change at all, because he thinks he can figure it all out on his own.
It's sad, really, because he's adrift but doesn't care enough to embrace the changes.

That's unfair; I think he's disappointed in his grades, and probably depressed. But getting him to open up about what he's feeling is like pulling your foot from a snap trap. It's painful and futile.

But it appears Two would rather gnaw off his own leg than accept our help, mostly because he views it as punishment.  I have begun limiting his distractions, and his response has been junkie-worthy. When I ask for his phone, it's like I've ripped the crack pipe out of his hands. When he comes home today and sees I've taken his computer keyboard, I expect righteous indignation.

And yes, I do see the irony in asking him to disconnect from his on-line world, when I spend a fair amount of my day on the Internet. But I've graduated from high school, gone to college, failed out, gone back, graduated with honors, and made a life. I've earned the right to fritter it away.

I wasn't actually expecting any more progress than we've made this early in the game. It's a war of attrition at this point. Or at least a staring contest.

I refuse to blink.

06 January 2012

The Year of Living Vigilantly

We are renovating the House of Penii. There were some minor cosmetic flaws that weren't fixed in a timely fashion, and now they've become full-fledged structural issues.

You know that over the past month or so I've been Deep Thinking. I am 47. My primary job is Mother. My second job is Writer, and my part-time job is Wife. I would also add Taxi Driver, but I think it's included in my "Motherhood: A Binding Agreement"  under "Supplemental Duties." There's a lot of fine print in that contract, and I'm sure I missed a few key points.

All of my jobs keep me mentally and physically busy. So much so, I am often paralyzed by the daunting pace, the sheer busy-ness of it all. Which means I end up sucking at all of it. So, I gave myself a year-end job review, and decided change was needed. Thus, The Year of Vigilance. The idea is that our focus, as a family, will be on individual and collective success.

We have several areas in which to work to achieve our goals.

Right now, One is legally considered an adult, but could never survive on his own. I am overdue in taking the necessary steps to ensure his safety and independence.

Two is failing classes, and digging a GPA hole that he will be lucky to claw out of before he must apply to colleges. He has no time management skills, and a distorted interpretation of reality that is the purview of all teenagers.

Three is perfectly content with his sub-par grades, because he has never worked to his potential. He will be eaten alive next year in his regional high school of 1600 students. The teachers will barely notice him, or care if he is struggling.

Four has had great success at his school. He is working on recognizing what frustrates him, and learning to recover his day if he hits a bad patch. But he is still most content watching television or playing video games. He is overweight, and will negotiate for snacks all day. Luckily, he'll eat a lot of fruit, but those are still carbs, baby.

Five is...Five. His previous issues with anxiety seem to have abated, and he's really enjoying second grade. I have to work on his need to buy everything in the LEGO catalog, but he's the youngest, so theoretically he should be the easiest to re-train. Ha!

Speaking of buying everything--I have to stop. I could make a lot of excuses for my Target, Costco, and Walmart bills (it's food/clothing/most of it's not for me...) but the truth is, I'm the one holding the credit card. I have to be the one to say "No." This will also be a good lesson for my children, two of whom went with me to Target the other night. Three was shocked at the total bill and looked at me like, "Um, are you going to be able to pay that?" And that cart really was just food and two pairs of jeans. Oh wait, and slippers and collectible baseball cards for his birthday. See what I mean?

We're all out of shape. The Captain and I spend half our lives in chairs. This is not healthy. Our children would lie around in front of screens all day long if we let them. And I've let them, because I don't always notice, or I ignore it because I'm busy.

But I haven't been busy writing. Mostly I've been reading. I scan and read blogs, I write my own every now and then, but I haven't been working on the book. I can't claim to be even a part-time Writer if I don't write. So I have made a realistic promise of one hour a day writing only "Big Sky".

As you can see, there are a lot of areas to spruce up. I wanted to demolish some, but the Captain suggested that I bite off only what I can chew (hmmm-an idea for my eating habits!), so as to avoid large-scale rioting. My kids have Airsoft guns and they're not afraid to use them, so it seemed prudent to ease into some of the changes. There's already been push-back, which is tiring but expected.

Today, as the Captain was leaving  I was screaming at one of the teens to hurry up.

"They're killing me," I said.

"Don't let them," he answered. "You're ten times stronger than they are. Just revert back to your teenage self and you'll win."

It's true. I was a challenging, defiant, stubborn pain in the ass, all the way into my twenties. After that, I was a gem. (Yes, Mom and Captain, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) I can tap into that again.