Tuesday, November 30, 2010

greatness knows gentleness

Taking care of babies was second nature to me.

Yellow Ducks

I'm sure I've lost a few brain cells over the past six years, but when I think back now, I seriously cannot remember ever having any question about the way things were supposed to be done. I was proficient with baths, diapers, feeding and the treatment of diaper rash. I knew how to effectively stop a baby from crying. Infact, I was so tuned in to my infants every single need, they very seldom cried. Because of my mothering expertise, I dished out heaps of (solicited) advice to people with singletons, twins, triplets and more.

People would track me down asking for help and I'd cheerfully give it.

I was instinctively good and my babies were perfect.

My babies slept 12 hours through the night when they were only a few months old. They napped and ate and pooped and cooed and rolled around the floor like precious little dolls. I took them out for walks - every day - and then, I'd prop them up in little bouncy chairs and read them books. We listened to classical music and I would dance around the house, with my babies in my arms, and marvel at my greatness as a mother.

These days, I don't feel like the greatest mother, anymore.

Sometimes, when the stars are aligned just right and everyone is getting along well, I'm a maternal beacon of awesomeness. My husband will stare at me in awe, as I coordinate arts and crafts projects and summon our children's help to bake something tasty.

But then. It ALWAYS happens that someone does something and the whole perfect scene that I've worked so hard to create will unravel before my eyes. I try to summon great patience in these situations and sometimes it works. Sometimes, it doesn't.

This past weekend, when Henry ambushed the marshmallow supply, William gave him a full-body tackle. As I was standing in the kitchen, I could hear them running around behind me, and the next thing I know, Henry is sliding in to the kitchen on his face and William is on his back, grabbing at his neck and SCREAMING, "Henry! Spit out the marshmallows!"

Henry is three and just by virtue of being three, he is a pill. It's how three-year-olds are wired.

William is six and by virtue of being the older brother, he was trying to help keep things in order. That's his self-imposed job and he takes it very seriously. William is generally a very docile child, but he knows it's not OK to ambush the marshmallow supply so it's absolutely WRONG that his little brother would dare attempt such a thing.


As William and Henry are sliding in to the kitchen on their faces, the girls are coloring quietly at the kitchen table. But then, sensing that The Crazy is happening, Elizabeth leans over and uses her scissors to slice a picture that Carolyn just drew. This evokes a screaming response from Carolyn, who then stands up and smacks her sister in the head. Both sisters cry, both brothers cry and the mother tries her best to keep her patience in check.

The mother does well.

Yay! Mother!

But the rest of the day was much the same. Fighting. Bickering. General Loudness. Me realizing that these kids are going stir crazy, since they've been in the house for the past week and there's really not much I can do about it because we're all still too sick to pack up and go anywhere.


Finally, I lost my patience a little bit. OK, a lot. But not nearly as badly as I lost my patience a few weeks ago when I dropped by to pick the children up from their "non-parental supervised play date" and they all IGNORED me in my crippled state as I hobbled after them.


How did I handle that situation?

I brought all three kids home, gave them a single swat on their bare bum with my family's Blood Spatula (because my hands were too torn up to spank), and then, I made them sit for 20 minutes in a room, by themselves, while I regained my senses. When they came out, very apologetically, I calmly talked with them about WHY they behaved the way they did, WHY it was wrong, and WHAT we could do better next time. Then, we wrote a letter of thanks to the family that we dropped in the mailbox.

I was surprised how many people suggested that I should have left the children there and let the neighbor take them home. That never crossed my mind for a number of reasons...

First, her daughter had a ballet recital later that afternoon, and I didn't want to encumber her with our children, when they would be leaving in an hour.

Second, there is a big maturity difference between an almost eight-year-old and three newly turned six-year-olds. It's important to me, that either my husband or I be there to supervise that interaction.

Third, these are very nice people, but we just met them.

Fourth, we've had less than five babysitters in our children's entire lives. I don't trust just anyone with our kids. Never have. Never will. At least not until all of my off spring have earned their black belts in martial arts and are proficient with a cell phone.

When I spoke with Charlie about this later, he actually told me that his initial reaction, when our neighbor asked if the children could come over, was NO. But then, he caved under the social pressure when all the kids were jumping around and begging him to go. It turns out, my husband didn't want to disappoint the children or our new neighbor. Also, he's a lot more easy going than I am and doesn't fully possess what I consider a well developed MATERNAL instinct.

Paternal instinct = outdoor play while wearing a short sleeve shirt in November is OK.

Maternal instinct = outdoor play while wearing a long sleeve shirt, sweater, jacket and hat is OK.

Also, even if I had been willing to leave and let the neighbor drive my children home an hour later, they lost that privilege the minute they started to act up. Most importantly, what message am I sending to our children if they throw a fit and I promptly cave to something that I otherwise feel very strongly about?

It's almost as if God thought I needed a sign to justify my "One Of Us Needs To Be With Our Children When They Are At Someone Else's House Rule", because two weeks ago, I attended a play date with just William. Since this was after the play date debacle where Mommy lost her marbles, before we even arrived, I laid out my expectations. I told William that he will have time to play, but when it is time to leave, it is time to leave.

He fully understood.

Less than an hour in to the play date, the two boys start to tumble, the family dog gets riled up and snaps at William and five minutes later, we're packed up and graciously saying goodbye.

I'm just so glad I was there because I could immediately tell William was afraid and ready to leave. If I hadn't been there, I'm certain he would have been too timid to say anything to the boy's parents. And if they had picked up on his anxiety, who is to say they would have called me, straight away?


Four years ago, when I wrote a post about losing my patience, someone left me a comment which essentially read, "Shame on you for not possessing the same control you expect of your children." That comment has really stuck with me, because with time, I've come to believe that it is absolutely correct.

While I do believe that there are certain situations in which a spanking is the fastest way to get a child's attention, I have a hard time believing that it is the correct thing to do. Sure, it's quick and it's easy and it gives the resemblance of assuming control. But striking a child? It just seems so wrong, regardless of what they've done.

But yet, I've done it.

I am definitely not a spankaholic. Very rarely do I spank our children. Infact, I can count on one hand (and one Blood Spatula) the number of times I've spanked them in their entire lives. But, those times are all in the moment of pure anger. Once I have an opportunity to calm down, I can always think of several more sensible and gentle ways to have handled the situation. Unfortunately, when I'm in that stressful and frustrating moment, my senses elude me and I turn in to a raging lunatic that cannot string words together in a cohesive sentence.

As my children grow, I find that I am struggling with maintaining my patience on a daily basis. At the innocent age of six, these children have become experts at targeting my weak spots, pushing my buttons and teaming up to see just how far they can push me to the edge. But as my children grow, I also find that sense doesn't come before age ... and wisdom is often hard.

I am in awe of those fully conscious, non-drugged out people, who are intentionally peaceful and do not yell at or spank their disobedient children. I am also in awe that 29 countries around the world have banned spanking and parents can serve time in JAIL if they hit their child. If I'd been living in one of 22 European countries, there's a good chance me and my Blood Spatula would have been put on trial and I'd be in the lock-up.

(If I May Address The Court Your Honor ... The Blood Spatula isn't really a tool to induce bleeding. It's a regular spatula, used to flip omelets and pancakes and scoop warm cookies off a baking sheet. The tradition of the Blood Spatula has been passed down for generations in my family. It could possibly be traced back to my great grandmother who came to the United States on a boat from Ireland during the 18th century. Or perhaps her mother, that pulled potatoes from a field. What is in the marrow is hard to take out of the bone! I've only used it this one time, Your Honor, because my hands were ripped and torn from falling down in asphalt! Also?! Before I inflicted it upon my naughty, naughty children, I tested it out on my own leg and it hardly hurt at all. It almost ... dare I say ... TICKLED!)

(To which the Judge would undoubtedly reply, "Solitary Confinement! Off to bed, with no dinner for ye, ye cold heartless witch of a mother!!!")


Yesterday, after the tussle between the boys and the girls, I sat the children down and asked for each of them to tell me three things that they love about their sparring partner.


Once everyone had a chance to talk, I continued, "Sometimes, people that we love don't act as kindly as we'd like. And as difficult as it might be for us, we need to be kind, anyway. We need to forgive them and be gentle and do our absolute best to love people especially when they are acting ugly."

William looked at me and said, "Like when you hit me with the Blood Spatula? That was terrible, Mommy, but I love and forgive you for that."

His sisters nodded in agreement and then they all stood up and took turns kissing me on the cheek, while I imagined the countless hours they'd spend in the future, on a therapist's couch.

What kind of role model am I?!

Of course, I love you! But I also want to CHOKE you!


I've already written that last month, my sister mailed me the book, "Positive Discipline" and I read it cover-to-cover. But obviously, I need to read it again, more slowly this time. I need to take notes and discuss it. I need to absorb the message and implement it in to in my every day life. To this end, I'd like to form a little book club, specifically to discuss this book. Hopefully, it'll go better than my knitting club which has been idle for two years and never made it to the cast-off.

To kick this off, I'm giving away two copies of Positive Discipline which will hopefully, give me (and two people who are equally curious) a better road map of how to raise my children in a more positive way. If you're interested in joining me on this quest, leave a comment on this post and I'll randomly select two people by Sunday, December 5.

I'm not the greatest mother that I once was.

Or, that I once believed myself to be.

I definitely need to get that feeling back, again.

Monday, November 29, 2010

next up: frostbite

Charlie bought us matching ice scrapers.


So Cute!!


Next, we should probably invest in some fuzzy mittens!


I wonder, how much longer before the novelty of freezing temperatures will wear off?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

all i want for christmas is a construction crew

It's Sunday night and our house is a disaster.

One might think our house would be GLEAMING, considering I've had the past nine days off of work. But alas, in those nine days, I started a whole fleet of projects ... none of which have been entirely completed.

Also, we celebrated Thanksgiving. My mother and Jim were in town to celebrate with us, but unfortunately, the children were so sick they could only eat Jell-O (served up on the good china).


Since the children were feeling so sick for much of the past week, they were perfectly content to either sleep or lay on a couch watching movies. This gave Charlie and I ample opportunity to continue disassembling every thing as we proceeded with our home "improvement" activities.

(Someone told me it always gets worse before it gets better.)

(Although I'm not sure how much worse it can get.)

(Oh wait yes, I can. PLEASE forget I wrote that, Universe.)


We hung a ceiling fan AND curtains (which still need to be hemmed, item #2,147,247 on the list of things to do) and have folded at least 14 loads of laundry. I'm not sure why there was so much laundry considering the children didn't get out of their pajamas for three days straight?


From the 16 empty paint cans in the basement, I surmise that we also painted a lot. For the most part, we're very happy with our results. Except for the SUNBURST yellow that we've painted above the chair rail in our basement.


On the bottom is Basketry. Not just because we really like the color but also because we had two extra gallons left over and we hate to see it go to waste. Oh, and also, it's non-returnable.


Charlie and I were up painting SUNBURST late Friday night, when the virus that has plagued our children, without warning, struck the both of us - simultaneously.

(But not before I stuck my finger straight through our ceiling. Serves me right for trying to inspect that "black stuff." Hello Mold, Goodbye at least $200!)


We crawled off to bed, pleading with the Good God above to save the both of us from falling sick, just as our children were on the upswing. Our prayers went unanswered. Because by Saturday morning, the kids were feeling great and promptly began climbing the walls while Charlie and I were feeling like death rolled in Behr eggshell.

When we walked down in to the basement to check out our painting results from the night before, we couldn't tell if the reason our eyes hurt so badly and we had a sudden wave of nausea was because of the bug or because of the SUNBURST?

We're now planning to donate the untouched gallons of remaining SUNBURST to Habitat for Humanity. Because you never know if someone might want to paint a room in their home the vibrant color of a radioactive chicken's egg-yolk / severely dehydrated urine?

Have I mentioned that we once painted a room in our home in San Diego bright red?

And another room bright yellow?

And then we painted over both of them, immediately?

I've always loved the color red for a home. I've also always loved the color yellow. But apparently, it takes me spending $40.00 per gallon on several cans of paint and the better part of a day carefully applying those colors to our walls, before I realize I don't love them as much as I think I do. At least not in our home.

We also started to paint the fireplace in our basement. Fortunately, I really do like the look of bricks painted white because there would really be no going back with that one...


If I'd taken a sufficient "before" picture, you'd see that this fireplace was very dull and dirty looking. The plan, here, is that we'll eventually pull out the glass doors and get a wood burning fireplace insert, which will eliminate the smoke turning the white bricks black issue.

But before we do that ... we need to paint over the SUNBURST and finish painting the baseboards. AND THEN, we are planning to replace the 40+ year old carpet and padding, which Charlie started to rip out, today. (While wearing a respirator because I'm sure his family would be worried.)

As my husband tackled the task of pulling up carpet, I started to rearrange the living room. I recognize that it's not very Feng Shui to have a 2,000-pound wall unit sitting in the middle of the doorway, but since it took all four moving men to get that beast in to our house in September, we'll need to hire professional help to move it downstairs.

(But not before we get the new carpet installed.)

(Which means we need to HURRY UP and finish painting.)

(If my blog isn't updated for two weeks, you'll know where I am.)

(Possibly in full traction because I tried to move a 1-ton wall unit by myself.)


This afternoon, we also worked on Elizabeth's STAR OF THE WEEK poster. Since there were two of us (adults) working on this project, the effort only took four hours as opposed to more than eight.


I'm pleased to announce we allowed our child to partake in her school assignment. She colored the picture, helped apply glue stick to one (1) photograph and signed her name on the bottom.


It dawned on me last night, as I was watching HGTV, the reason that I've kicked in to overdrive on the home renovation stuff is because Christmas is right around the corner and there is absolutely NO WAY I can bring another thing in to this house until we organize what's here, already.

But most importantly, we need to get a lot of these projects wrapped up so we can re-focus our attention on our children. Our children who, when Mommy and Daddy are busily painting and unpacking boxes, drag trash cans over to counters, hoist their little three-year-old bodies up, and hastily ambush the cabinets.


Henry's sweet tooth will be sorely disappointed when we once again are honed in to what he is doing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

more campfire chatter - titles

Thanks for all of the great feedback on the flu shots. I hadn't even considered the mist and that is definitely something I'll ask about when the kids go in for their check-up, next month. We try to avoid needles, at all costs since the last time our children went in for their vaccinations, it took four adults to hold down one child. They've been traumatized ever since.

More importantly, I've been traumatized, ever since.

The flu really worries me since I do recall having it and being unable to move for almost a week. The last time I had a vaccination against it, we had three preemies at home. Both Charlie and I went in to receive the shot and within a day, Charlie was totally incapacitated. He told me that the reaction that he had to the inoculation was probably worse than the virus itself, so he was willing to take his chances and would never do it, again.

The children are still very sick, coughing like I've never heard them cough before. They've been up all night, coughing. Despite the Vicks and the cough suppressants and the humidifier running 24/7. They've also had temperatures in the 102 range. While they did have a sudden burst of energy this morning, once I called the school, within an hour they were crashed out and stayed down for the rest of the day. My poor little dears. I'm really sorry to see them feeling so terrible, but certainly used their "downtime" to get a load of things done today.

It's remarkable how efficient you can be when your children are camped out on a couch watching movies for 12 hours, straight.

Alright, throw on a log ... I've got another campfire question. This question surrounds what your children call people, and what children (other than your own) call you?


For example, in San Diego, with the exception of their doctors, the children referred to all adults by their first name. Or, if it was a more formal situation (i.e., Montessori or Sunday school), they referred to the teachers by Ms. or Mr. First Name.

When I was a child, I remember calling adults by their last name. But it never seemed like the thing to do in California. We had one friend - and one friend only - who would insist that their children would call us by our last names. Since titles were an important issue for this family, we requested that our children reciprocate the formality. Which, initially confused the kids because they couldn't understand why the mother AND the father had the same name?

Now, we live in Virginia. And everyone ... every single person we've met ... goes by their last name. The teachers in school. The neighbors. The bus driver. The mailman. I don't mind at all, it's just a noticeable shift in the way that we've been asking our children to address people and how children are now addressing me.

Our children seem to be fine with it, although it can be a little tricky when we meet people with a last name like Horwechezters.

"Mr. Ho... Mr. Hor... Mr. Horwickysister?"


"Uh. Can we just call you Mr. H?"

In all honesty, it's very odd for me to introduce myself to a child by my last name. It definitely seems that once kids start calling you by your last name, you're a bona fide adult. And
since all the children in the neighborhood are calling me Mrs., I swear I've aged at least 30 years. I've got more wrinkles on my face and my hair is turning white.

I suspect this formality is a regional thing.

What's it like where you live?

Or better yet, what do you prefer?

more campfire chatter - flu shots

I haven't yet had an opportunity to sit down and write my post about how I handled the situation with the kids two weeks ago. I've taken this week off of work and have been so busy trying to paint and clean windows and finish getting the house unpacked. Mostly for my family's enjoyment, but also, because my mother and Jim are driving up for Thanksgiving and our house looks like the set for Sanford & Sons.

Two months in to it, and our garage is still full of boxes. But we don't want to put things away until we get things the way that we want them and there is still so much to do, I'm extremely thankful I've got three weeks worth of vacation to use up between now and the end of the year. Maybe I'll finally find the box that holds the children's winter coats.

While we're waiting, I've got several other questions for you that I'll post today, as I've got time.

My first question...

Our children are all home sick today with what I think might be the flu. While we vaccinate our children (and have since birth), we've never vaccinated them for the flu because it seems like there are so many different strains, I really wonder whether or not it was worth their (or mine) pain and suffering dragging FOUR children in for a needle.

Do you get a flu shot?

Do you get a flu shot for your children?

And if your children are running moderate temperatures and coughing like they've got the plague, and you opt to keep them home from school, how difficult is it for you to fight the temptation to put their feverish little bodies in clothes and take them to school, when seconds after you call the attendance line to tell the school that your children will be absent, they perk up and start running around the house like it's Christmas morning?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

come warm your toes and spill the beans

When we made our cross-country move from the land of coastal desert to the land of lush forests, our children were fascinated with all of the sticks. They loooooved to play with sticks. Everywhere we went, they were picking them up and fashioning them as swords or arrows or other agents for impaling themselves of their siblings.

I didn't care much for this stick playing stuff.

I respectfully asked them not to do it.

Kindly at first and then, with increasing frustration.

Because I have a propensity to worry about things, I worry that one of my children will poke their eyes out. And since my cousin is married to a man who actually lost his eye as a child due to a stick incident, this fear is very legitimate for me.

Two days before school started, Elizabeth came running in to the house with a huge gash beneath her eye, that extended to the bridge of her nose. She and her sister had been - you guessed it - playing with sticks and there was an accident. I summoned all of my children and told them, "I'm not sure how to communicate this with you. PLEASE do not play with sticks. We need to be so careful because it very easily could happen that a stick could slip and poke someone's eye out."

While I communicated this message to my children, I knew full well that the chances of it sticking were slim. Pardon the pun.

A few weeks later, a similar incident happened. This time it was Henry with the gash beneath his eye. He had been "accidentally" jabbed by his sister, Carolyn, when they were outside playing.

There was another session with me, chairing the discussion of the dangers associated with stick playing and telling the children, "Guys, if I have to tell you again, I might go a little insane. DO NOT PLAY WITH STICKS and if the temptation is too great and you absolutely MUST pick up a stick, DO NOT POKE SOMEONE ELSE IN THE FACE WITH IT. OK?"

Last month, the day before I was scheduled to fly off somewhere on a business trip, we sat down to have dinner as a family. And when I looked over at William, I noticed that he had a big gash beneath his eye. "William, what happened to your eye?!" I exclaimed. "Well... he looked over at his sister and said, Carolyn tried to poke me in the eye with a stick."

When I looked over at Carolyn, she smirked at me.


She had just taken a bite of her dinner when I told her to go to her room. Five minutes later, when I thought that I had sufficiently pulled myself together to go in and talk with her about this matter, I found her sitting on her bed, smiling. Clearly, whatever message I was trying to convey was being lost and/or she was trying to see just how angry she could get her mother. So instead of flipping out, which I very nearly did, I informed her that she was going straight to bed, without finishing her supper.

This absolutely stunned her and she cried. And I felt a little sense of satisfaction that maybe, just MAYBE, I had gotten through to her, because POKING PEOPLE IN THE FACE WITH STICKS IS WRONG and the fact that you've done it THREE times tells me there is a problem here. You are not going to get attention from me by acting badly. And if you think you are going to get attention from me, I'm going to remove you from the situation and you will get no attention at all whatsoever, goodnight.

I shared a little of this story, last month, on my blog.

And the very next day, I received an e-mail from my mother.

In essence, my mother wanted me to know that it was cruel to send a child to bed without their supper and I need to find a way to be kinder and gentler with my children.

To be perfectly honest, it took me a few days to recover from my mother's note. Partly because I was worried that perhaps I really was a cruel parent and even if not, people might THINK I'm a cruel parent. (For the record, if it was indeed cruel, cruelty works. In six weeks time, no one has attempted to poke anyone else in the face with a stick.) In the midst of all this, my sister called and in all of her wisdom shared with me three things.

1. It's not always easy to keep your cool when raising children.

2. Don't write about things like this on my blog because I'm just opening myself up to criticism.

3. Read this book on Positive Discipline. Then she sent me her copy.

When I received the book, I read it cover to cover and I immediately felt empowered. I started to use some of the tactics. Which, I actually had been using previously, but never knew that I had been using and that they had a name.

Things were going swell and I felt very Zen.

Until ... last week, the day after I tumbled in the parking lot and severely sprained my ankle and ripped open my hands. I had to drive myself to the doctor's office because Charlie needed to be home to pick up the children when they returned from school. After my appointment, I needed to hurry home because Charlie had to run out the door to a dentist appointment.

As I was driving home, my husband called to tell me that one of the neighbors had dropped by, with her seven-year-old daughter, and had invited all three of the triplets to her house for a play date. And because at that point, Charlie and I hadn't fully worked through our "strategy" surrounding play dates, he thought it would be a swell idea for the kids to go over, without one of us in attendance.

When he called to tell me this, I nearly swerved off the road. It was at that very moment, I realized it went against my parental instinct for our children to go on a play date without one of us.

"GO GET THEM" I said.

"What do you mean? They've only been there for 45 minutes!" he exclaimed.

"Listen," I said. "I'm very concerned that 1., we just moved in to the neighborhood and we don't really know these people and I don't feel comfortable with our children at their house, without one of us in attendance. And, 2., they have one child, we have TRIPLETS, and it would be very easy for us to overwhelm them and who knows how they are behaving without us there supervising them?"

The more I spoke, the more frantic I became.

"Charlie! You know what they're like when they go in to a NEW environment! They tend to get a little excited and if they are climbing the walls and swinging from the chandelier pretending they're Tarzan, I wouldn't be surprised. PLEASE. GO GET THEM. RIGHT NOW!" I pleaded.

"Well, Henry just went down for a nap. I can't leave," he explained.

"FINE. I'll get them on my way home."

We hung up. Fifteen minutes later, I pulled in to our neighbor's drive way, hobbled out of the car and slowly limped up to the front steps. An hour is a sufficient amount of time for a play date, I thought as I rang the doorbell and a minute later, our neighbor, an absolutely lovely woman, answered the front door. She was slightly surprised to see me, but I explained that Charlie was leaving for a dentist appointment, Henry was taking a nap, I needed to get home and put my foot up, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

She said that she'd be more than happy to bring them home in another hour or so, but you know me with me all my "issues", I politely declined.

I went to go collect my children who were playing in the basement. They were running about and playing Wii and dressing up new dolls and clearly, having the most fun they've ever had their entire lives. And here comes gimpy Mommy who is audibly groaning with every step.

"I am so glad that you guys are having a fun time," I told my children, "But it's time to go. Daddy is leaving in a few minutes for a dentist appointment, Henry is taking a nap and I really need to put my foot up." Then, I brightly added, "It will be great to get together some other time. Maybe we can invite our neighbors to our house!"

The kids didn't even look in my general direction. They completely ignored me, as I stood there, debating how to get them to put on their shoes and coats and FOLLOW before I collapsed on the floor, crying in pain.

My first attempt was to tell them that they had TWO minutes to finish playing and get ready. When two minutes were up and they were pulling more toys out of the toy box, I told them it was time to go NOW. The kids continued to play. Meanwhile, my neighbor is standing next to me, undoubtedly critiquing every move because, really - how does a handicapped woman with THREE six-year-olds who are clearly disobeying her, handle such a situation?

I did my very best to keep my cool and hope that my head didn't complete a full rotation on my shoulders as I started to count.

"ONE. TWO..." The kids don't even look at me. "THREE" I declare.

Carolyn stands up and shoots me a dirty look. Elizabeth turns her back and keeps playing. I limp over to them and hiss, "We will NOT come back if you do not GET UP AND PUT ON YOUR SHOES. IMMEDIATELY." The girls slowly oblige, while rolling their eyes and sticking out the very tips of their tongues.

SOOOO cute. I could PINCH them they are so adorable.

I limp back to William who is playing the Wii. I bend down to his eye level and firmly place my hand on his arm, "William," I continue, "It's time to go, put this down and put on your shoes, thanks for your cooperation, Little Man."

But! Instead of cooperating, my son turned a few different shades of red and started to scream. My precious son, who I cannot recall ever throwing a public tantrum and is usually very reasonable, started to jump up and down and then (God Help Me) KICKED THE NEIGHBOR'S COUCH while yelling to the whole world that he is NOT LEAVING and HE HAS THE MEANEST MOMMY EVER.

And me, being the meanest mommy ever, leaned down and glaring in to my son's eyes said between clenched teeth, "You think I'm being mean now? JUST WAIT UNTIL WE GET HOME." My face was contorted in to something from a horror show (partly from pain and partly from frustration) as I completely disregarded everything I'd learned about "POSITIVE" discipline.

It took me another three minutes to get my furiously angry children upstairs to the front door. And just as we were walking out the front door, the girls dart out the side door to the garage, jump in the daughter's 4X4 Barbie Mobile, and take off driving out of the garage and across the newly planted flower beds.

I'm absolutely aghast at their behavior and wondering if this my fault because I'm not home with them full time? Lord knows that when I'm home, I run the show like BOOT CAMP and when I say jump, the kids say HOW HIGH LOVELY MOMMY?

Clearly, this is a bad thing as the neighbor runs over and says, "Whoa, Whoa, STOP!" and then she helps them turn the wheel to get the car back in to the garage. At this point, all I can see is red. Not from embarrassment but from ANGER. My children were acting as though they were the spawn of Satan.

I'm finally able to get the kids in to the car. William is scowling. Elizabeth and Carolyn are both frowning. As for me, there might have been venom dripping down the side of my face as I looked over the back seat at them and started to UNLOAD. At first, they start to laugh thinking that I'm acting like a funny crazy nut, but then they see that my eyes are bulging out of my head and the veins in my neck are about to rupture and whoa is that Mommy's esophagus? That's when all three children actually held hands, closed their eyes tightly and evoked in my memory the scene from Toy Story 3, where the toys prepare to meet their demise before falling in to flaming pit of fire.

More and more, I hear about the no-spanking movement. People who are convinced that spanking is bad and harmful to a child and no one who loves and respects a child would EVER spank them. Before I tell you how I handled this, I'd like to hear from my fellow Pioneers as we are gathered here, around this virtual campfire.

Please, share with me what YOU would have done?

I need ALL the details.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

it takes a blogosphere to raise a child

H. Stephen Glenn, wrote as a foreword in Jane Nelsen's book, "Positive Discipline",

"For thousands of years parents and teachers learned the art of raising children through grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and neighbors who lived together under relatively stable circumstances for generations.

When changes became necessary, the value of sharing wisdom and experiences was instinctively understood by the pilgrims and pioneers, who traveled together and settled communities with common values and community goals.

Suddenly, at the end of World War II there was a mass migration from small towns and farm communities in to urban and suburban environments. An entire culture was dislocated due to the combined effects of the Industrial Revolution, GI bill, reaction to the Depression, and technology. The wisdom and support of extended family and long-time friends was lost.

Soon after this dramatic shift to urban communities, nearly eleven million couples began giving birth to an average of 4.2 children each and became urban pioneers crossing a frontier of life-style and technology without networks and support systems to offer an accumulation of wisdom to guide them.

Not knowing they were pioneers, these couples forgot the basic strategy that had enabled other pioneers to successfully colonize a new continent. They forgot that pioneers got together with strangers around the campfire to compare notes on the journey so that everyone didn't have to perish learning the same lessons. Instead of following the wisdom of generations who relied on learning from each other, they became isolated.

Those who did not replace family and community support systems with networks of fellow travelers often covered feelings of inadequacy and lack of knowledge about what to do with a false sense of pride in "handling their own problems." They adopted the belief that people shouldn't discuss family business with strangers. It became important to them to hide their problems and handle them, often very ineffectively, behind closed doors. They traded in wisdom and principles acquired over centuries for books and theories untried and untested.

At the same time, a national fantasy grew up that the only thing between Americans and a generation of perfect, super children, was perfect, super parents. What a shock when many children did not turn out perfectly. The guilt, stress and denial tore people apart.

Parenting, which was once the cumulative work of generations, became a grim, part-time struggle for two or more relatives who did not have much experience in what they were trying to do.

Statistics show that the approximately 4.3 million children born in 1946 overpowered urban schools in 1951. They took the achievement tests in 1963 and reversed a three-hundred-year upward trend. In all areas of achievement, children had been improving up until this time. The children who were born after World War II started a downward trend in crime, teenage pregnancy, clinical depression and suicide. Clearly, our understanding of and resources for raising and education children was compromised by urbanization and technology."

I've been reading this (fantastic) book because ... I have a confession to make.

This whole parenting thing?

I'm figuring it out as I go.

(Shhh. Please, don't tell anyone!!)

Sometimes, my motherly intuition is running strong and I have a good idea of the right thing to do. But as our children are growing, it is becoming a lot more convoluted.

My children were babies just ... well, it seems like just yesterday. And now they're forging friendships and have this whole budding independence thing going on and sometimes, I feel perplexed wondering, "How should I handle all of this?"


By and large, when I'm conflicted with what to do, I'll write down my thoughts and see what I can sort out. Instead of "closing my door" and giving off the impression that I'm a Super Parent who has it all figured out, I'll pose my question to ABSOLUTE STRANGERS that are either forging this new ground with me, or are seasoned veterans having already traveled down the parenting path.

In regards to my last series of posts, it seems that with the comments coming in, something is being lost in translation and I want to circle the wagons.

What I'm writing, is intended to all surround the same issue which pertains to the socialization of my young children, while also, finding my comfort zone.

There are three core issues, as I see them.

1. I am uncomfortable sending ANY of my children to someone's house for a play date without either Charlie or I also in attendance. Why? Because I worry about perverts and guns and a whole lot of other stuff that, as a parent, I should worry about because for Pete's sake, these are my children and they are SIX YEARS OLD.

If we attended a play date at someone else's home, we're not going to hover, but we are going to get comfortable with the parents, with the family, with the environment. We'll be hosting play dates at OUR house, too. Since we feel more comfortable with our children in our space, that's how we've decided we're going to roll on this subject. For now. It may change. When it does, I'm sure I'll write ALL about it.

2. I am NOT opposed to ONE of my children having a friendship and participating in a play date without their siblings. Yes, this WAS a concern for me when Carolyn came skipping off the school bus two weeks ago, and Elizabeth cried the whole way home. But what I've since concluded is that when that time comes that Elizabeth goes to a play date without her sister, or vice versa, it would soften the blow, AT LEAST INITIALLY, to invite a friend over to our home for the other SISTER to play with.

This does not apply to William, nor Henry, because frankly, they don't care.

3. If a birthday party invitation came to William, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to Elizabeth, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to Carolyn, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to Henry, fine. Wow, look at all the combinations here. But wait, there's more!!

If a birthday party invitation came to all three of the triplets but not Henry, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to William and Henry, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to Carolyn and Elizabeth, fine. HOWEVER, if a birthday party invitation came to William and one sister, but excluded the second sister, there is NO way I'd let the kids go. It is at that point, and that point only, OUR TRIPLETS ARE A PACKAGE DEAL.

Why? Because at this stage in their lives, that is cruel to intentionally single one out. If it's the two sisters going to a party, I can easily tell William, "It's a girl thing, there will be a lot of pink, we'll stay home and build dinosaurs out of Legos. Won't that be awesome?" And he'd happily agree.

BUT, if it's a sister and a brother going to a party and the second sister is left out? How do you explain that? If you disagree with my approach and you think it would be an excellent opportunity for my children to learn that sometimes, they might be left out and the world's not fair and they need to toughen their skin, that's COLD.

I'd NEVER drop William and one of his sisters off at a birthday party and tell the second sister, "Sorry Honey. Better luck next time. Maybe if you TRIED HARDER you'd have more friends!" That would CRUSH the spirit of my child and cause more harm than good.


In conclusion:

Do I always take the advice that is offered to me? Absolutely not. But whenever I ask for advice, I am extremely grateful that I am provided with an abundance of things to think about. From there, I will sort through, process, try to hone my intuition, and figure out what sustainable solution will work best for my family.

It was not my intention to offend anyone.

I am definitely not angry.

I am definitely not feeling defensive.

I am definitely figuring this all out as I go.

I am very willing to throw these "important topics" over the fence for discussion.

I am extremely appreciative of the wisdom and suggestions from fellow pioneers.

It really helps when you get things "sorted out" and feel like you have a plan.

I am extremely comfortable in our "new" strategy.

I am hopeful that whomever is similarly navigating this particular phase of socialization with their child, will benefit from this "discussion."


Now, go consume some fuel and gather your strength.

I'm working on another "topic" for discussion tomorrow.

We'll have a virtual campfire and compare notes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

a dozen facts from the old fart

1. It is estimated that as many as 40 million Americans, one in six people, experienced (or will experience) sexual victimization as children.

• 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually victimized before age 18.

• The most common ages of children when sexual abuse occurs are between 8 and 12.

• Child sexual abuse is seldom a one-time occurrence, and lasts and average of 1 to 4 years.

• 75% to 80% of all children assaulted or abused were victimized by someone they knew.

• One of five rape victims is under age 12; 10% of all are under age 5.

• Over 80% of offenders first offended by the age of 30 years.

2. I do not feel comfortable with someone, whom I've never met before, picking up my child and driving them somewhere. Moreover, I do not think that a Monday is the most ideal time for a birthday party. Since Charlie was tied up with other activities, I do not think it is plausible for me to take a day off of work so I can accompany my child to a birthday party at noon on a weekday.

3. I do not think that a parent should feel like they have to participate in EVERY function that their child is invited to. My life will not orbit my child's social life. We will participate in play dates and parties when it is convenient for the family. I'm not at all afraid that in refusing one, two, or perhaps three or more functions in a row, that I will in anyway black list our family from future gatherings. If I do, oh well. We'll probably be moving again in a few years, anyway.

4. Just today, Carolyn and William notified me that they have been invited to a birthday party, but Elizabeth wasn't. Guess what? NONE OF THEM ARE GOING. If it was just William, perhaps. If it was just Carolyn, perhaps. But to me, it is WRONG that two out of three were invited and one was not. And quite frankly, I'm not sure what a parent, who knows of our family situation, was thinking when they sent out the invitation to 2/3 of a kindergarten-aged triplet family? When the children are older, perhaps they'll have a tougher skin to handle this kind of exclusion, but at six years old, they don't. In my opinion (and that's all that really matters in the world of me), it would severely undermine a young child's budding confidence if they were intentionally excluded from a party that their siblings attended. Sorry folks, sometimes, we ARE a package deal.

5. My children will be allowed to go on solo play dates, when the time is right. The time is not yet right and might not be right for a while to come. At the moment, I'm comfortable with the notion of other children coming to OUR house to play, or, if our children attend a play date at some one else's home, either their father or I are with them. The only people I fully trust to be alone with my children are myself, my husband, my mother and my Aunt Grace. Does this make me uptight and overprotective? So be it. I'll proudly don that title. Refer to #1, above.

6. I like to think that I am confident enough in my decisions that if I don't feel comfortable doing something, I'm not going to do it. I do not succumb to social pressure, especially when it comes to my children. I am not all concerned that parents within our children's kindergarten class are going to label us as the "reclusive, overprotective family that never lets their children out of their sight." With time, our children WILL develop their own friendships, and we will help foster that in whatever way we can.

7. Once we get a little more settled and our basement is finished, Charlie and I have every intention of hosting a series of parties, over the course of a quarter, for every student in our children's kindergarten class AND their families. We are anticipating a series of drop-in style gatherings where the kids will have an opportunity to play and we will have an opportunity to meet the parents and size up the origination of the little hooligans that are attending school with our children. (Of course I mean that in the kindest way, possible.)

8. When I was pregnant with our triplets, I joined a triplet support group. As fate would have it, I became friends with three other women, who just so happened to have triplets that were born within three months of my own. Since the time that our children were infants, we routinely got together for play dates, until the day before we moved. Our children have been exposed to children outside of our own family and they will continue to be exposed to children outside of our family.

9. Charlie was the President of the Geology club in college. Two years later, I was the President of the very same Geology club. The reason both my husband and I were the President of this prestigious organization is not because we were outstanding scholars of geological science. Well, actually we were. But more importantly, we were very social and we knew how to throw great parties. Everyone who voted for us was well aware of this critical fact. Just ask my Vice-President, Lorie.

10. Charlie and I were very involved in our community in California and although we have only lived in our new neighborhood for two months, we know every single person on our street. We have baked more than half of them apple crisps. Once we get more apples, we'll bake crisps for the other half. I've volunteered at four school events and have met numerous parents. We have been invited to, and attended, three dinner parties and one block party. We have been invited to, and attended, several churches and are already making plans for ski vacations with our "new friends", next year.

11. When a child is born to parents who stay out until almost midnight on Halloween, mingling with everyone in the neighborhood, they have a significantly decreased risk of social retardation.

12. Even if their mother still tries to carry them around like this.


Monday, November 15, 2010

mom and dad are the reason we have no friends

So. The play date issue?


Here's the latest scoop.

I wrote an e-mail to the mother and told her that I genuinely appreciated the offer of a play date for Carolyn, but the hesitation for me is that: 1) I've never let one of my children go off on a play date by themselves before, especially not to someone's home where I've never met the family; and 2) Carolyn is a triplet and her sister is sad that she was not also invited. This, however, would not necessarily preclude me from allowing Carolyn to go on a play date, it was just something that I needed to sensitively manage to protect young feelings from being hurt.

I stressed that I think it is important for Carolyn to develop her own friendships and I want to foster my children's individuality however best I can. I just need to figure out some way that we don't have a broken-hearted six-year-old at home, while her sister is off having a grand old time. I need to remain extremely cognizant and sensitive to fragile emotions.

The mother wrote me back to tell me that she knew Carolyn was a triplet and she certainly didn't want to hurt Elizabeth's feelings and if it would work better, perhaps Elizabeth could come to the play date, too? As much as I appreciate her gesture, that's not necessarily the solution.

I think a more appropriate solution would be for Elizabeth to host a play date the same time Carolyn is at her play date (which either Charlie or I would attend). And sure, that sounds like a fine idea although it also feels like I'm breaking up the herd and as it turns out, I'm really not ready for this for a number of reasons the chief being this whole socialization thing is A LOT OF WORK and will require much running around and coordination on our part and really, who has time for that kind of thing?

And to think, I thought life was challenging when I had three babies sitting in high chairs that all needed to eat at the same exact time. Boy, those were the EASY days.


Meanwhile, this past Friday, William came home with an invitation to a birthday party for this coming Monday (aka: TODAY.) The party, to which only he from our family was invited, was scheduled for noon at a local pizza parlor. And while this might be a great thing, it poses a number of obstacles when: 1) Only one child is invited; 2) there are four children in the family all of whom LOVE this local pizza parlor; 3) there is only one parent home to shuffle children to and from a play date; 4) birthday party on a Monday at noon?! 5) there is no way we're leaving our child at a party where we've never met the family.

Charlie called the mother to talk with her on Friday and she said that it would be no trouble for her to drive William from school to the party. Perhaps on the surface, this sounds like a fine idea, but again ... we've never met this family. And maybe I'm just a little too uptight but I'm not too keen on some one driving my little boy from school to a weekday party where I, nor my husband, will be in attendance and .... um ... no.

My husband said he didn't think we'd be able to do it, but he'd call the mother back to confirm, one way or the other, in the next day or two. We should have called back right away because we knew that even if we had felt comfortable with William going alone, there was no way Charlie could pick the kids up from school, drop only William off at a party, return home - prepare lunch - feed children - and an hour later - drive back to pick up William, in the midst of Henry's nap time.

But we got side tracked with a million other things, many of which involved me laying on the couch asking for more pain medication. Charlie called the mother first thing this morning, and left her a message that we're very sorry, William cannot attend the party. Maybe next time, or five years from now, when the birthday falls on a Saturday.

An hour later, the school called.

They were calling to confirm that we approved William's classmate's mother picking him up from school and taking him to the birthday party.

Seeing as today was Day 5 for me, I was still laying on the couch with my foot elevated when I heard Charlie exclaim, "NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! IT IS NOT OKAY FOR ANYONE TO PICK MY SON UP FROM SCHOOL! WE DIDN'T CONFIRM! WE NEVER CONFIRMED!"

Apparently, the mother had sent in a list of all the children that had been invited to the party and whom she would be taking to the pizza parlor, after school. William's name was on that list and although we hadn't confirmed, I suspect she just submitted the list as-is. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I'll bet it was just an oversight on her part and certainly not an attempt to be pushy? Unfortunately, whatever the case, this didn't sit well with my husband. Charlie, the man who never gets upset, was flipping out.

He had visions of going to pick the children up from the school bus and William not being there. And then, he was strapped with the worry of where was his son?! and how would he go and retrieve him with three other children in tow?! and what if there had been a car accident?! and who was this person?! and as he was working himself in to a tizzy, I had to tell him, "TAKE A BREATH!"

He was going nuts.

I had to heave myself off the couch and stop him before he called up the mother and said things like, "HOW DARE and WHO THE HECK and YOU HAVE SOME NERVE and DON'T YOU EVER!"


Our poor children. We are completely crushing their social lives and they're not even mid-way through Kindergarten.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

the yard

Way back in July, when we were driving around with our Realtor, scoping out possible homes for our family, we drove up to the home that we would ultimately purchase. And as soon as we pulled in to the driveway, before we even stepped foot in the front door, I had a feeling that this house was the one. All because of the yard.


Our yard is amazing. Our yard is what makes me able to tolerate the outdated kitchen and bathrooms and orange shag carpet. Our yard is what restores me to my senses after a long-day.


Our yard is what makes us so glad to be here. (Notice, Charlie tried to rake the leaves once. He spent four hours and two hours later, you'd never even know he did anything. He hasn't bothered, since.)


Our yard is a children's paradise.


Our back yard slopes down to an an ephemeral creek, which the children will spend hours upon hours playing in, on and around.


Even though it was the heat of summer when we first came to visit this home, I could imagine that our children would be outside sledding down the awesome hill with the first snow.



We're situated on just over an acre of land, and for scale, here's a picture of our play structure in our backyard in California.


And here's our play structure in our backyard, here. I'm thinking of installing a zip line between the house and the big oak tree at the bottom, so if I need to talk to the children, I can just grab hold of the line and zip down there. I always wanted one of those as a kid. I will HAVE one as an adult.


While it's nice to have some elbow room, what we especially appreciate is that our lot backs up to conservation land, so the acreage behind our home will never be developed.


One day last week, we took off, as a family, for a nature hike. Our goal was to track the land back as far as we could go. After "hiking" approximately three miles, the children had reached their maximum hiking capacity. As we walked home, we noticed these stands scattered throughout the forest. There was one less than 10 feet from our property line. We thought that perhaps they were for bird watching?


Our neighbors clued us in that a few years ago, the deer population was so out of control, the County was driving around offering hunting licenses to whomever wanted one. It seems those stands aren't for bird watching. They are for deer hunting.


Considering we've got deer IN OUR BACK YARD, notice the six point buck walking past our swing set ...


Charlie and I have decided that unless our children are wearing bright orange flak jackets with flashing beacons on their heads, they're not allowed outside anymore.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

and i cried wee, wee, wee ... all the way home

The thing about moving in to a new environment, is that eventually ... gradually ... and perhaps without warning, you will start to feel homesick for the place from which you came. It's like a tickle at first. But with time, it will become a more noticeable ache of longing.

It's happened to me when I'm standing in our new house, trying to cook on our 50-year old electric stove, and thoroughly missing our modern stainless steel gas cook top that we left in California. It's happened when I walk around our leave-strewn yard, and remember our meticulously manicured lawn of California. Much like California, we currently live on a street where people take great pride in the condition of their yards. And we will, too.


It's just that right now, our attention has largely been focused on other matters which is why we haven't cut our grass in the two months that we've lived here. Of course, to cut the grass, we need to buy a lawnmower since the one that we owned, we gave to our gardener.

It happened to me one day last week when I picked up some beautiful avocados in the grocery store and then, turned to find some cilantro so I could make guacamole. I searched high and low before stumbling upon a small overpriced pack, that contained two measly sprigs.

Right there, in the grocery store, I audibly gasped when it hit me.


I'm not in the land of year-round awesome produce.

I'm not going to be able to buy massive bundles of cilantro, any old time I want, for $0.50. For that matter, I'm not going to be able to GROW massive bundles of cilantro, in that small sunny spot beneath our bedroom window, any time of the year.

How am I going to make salsa?


It happens to me when I'm driving on the narrow and winding roads to work and comparing them to the spacious freeways of California. I can already imagine that when the first snow falls, I'm going to careen straight in to a ditch.

It happened to me last month when I took Henry to a pediatrician after he crushed his finger under a jar of soup. I'm still not entirely sure how he did this, but as I walked in to our new pediatrician's office, I noticed that in contrast to our bright and modern pediatrician's office of California, this office was small, dim and dated. And the people who worked there didn't flash big smiles of life-long recognition and tell the kids, "WOW, you are growing so big!!"

It happened earlier this week when I had a dentist appointment and got terribly lost on the way there. And it happened again when I took the children to their pediatric dentist appointment and their new dentist, had Elizabeth in tears about how deformed her teeth would be if she kept sucking her thumb. And then, despite Henry's cries, he put one hand on our son's head and one under his chin and SHOVED his mouth together so he could evaluate his bite. Charlie grabbed Henry out of the chair and snapped at the dentist, "That's it, you're DONE!" while I wondered why I hadn't done the same exact thing?

Our pediatric dentist in California was the most wonderful, gentle soul.

She'd never traumatize one of her patients.

Let alone two.

It happens when I want to go to Home Depot and Target. And instead of that outing taking me five minutes from my house, it takes me 20 minutes to get from one store to the next. And then, another 20 minutes to get home. Unless I get stuck in traffic and then it will take me an hour.

Lest anyone think I'm complaining ... we really do love it here.

We really are thankful for the change and for the new experience.

We really are optimistic about all of the things that we are going to see and learn and do.

But we are extremely sensitive to how DIFFERENT things are here. And recently, we've been missing our house in California. We've been missing our doctors and our dentists and our stores and our roads. We've been missing our friends and our neighbors. We've been missing the familiarity of knowing how to get from one place to the next and the shortest distance from A to B. We've been missing that life when our children were not in school and we could take them anywhere and everywhere, whenever.

Yesterday, my homesickness for California came to a head.

Yesterday, after having been up several hours the night before with a sick child, I decided to drive the kids to school since there was no way they'd make the school bus. My plan was to drop them off on the way to work. More specifically, my plan was to drop them off in the "Kiss & Ride" area, which is essentially an area where you pull through, the kids jump out, and you drive off.

But I was driving Charlie's truck. And the door to the backseat, where the children were sitting, is a "suicide door" which cannot be opened unless the passenger door is opened first. So I jumped out of the car and ran around to the side to help let them out. And that's when a woman who was working the "Kiss & Ride" lane came RUNNING at me and yelling, "GET BACK IN THE CAR! GET BACK IN THE CAR! YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO GET OUT OF THE CAR!" and I nodded and said, "OK, I'll get back in the car, I just want to help my kindergartners out because they aren't able to open the door." And she said, "I'll do it! You, get back in the car! HURRY!"

Okay. Now wait a minute.

There were about five cars in front of me, that were still unloading passengers. Those cars hadn't moved. There were about 10 cars behind me, waiting to pull through the Kiss & Ride. While I understand that people aren't supposed to get of their cars, I honestly didn't know that anyone would be there to help my children get out and if I didn't help them, they'd be crawling out the window. And the fact that I did get out, shouldn't have caused such an uproar since there were several cars in front of me that were stopped.

Regardless, as my children were shuffled in to school, I did my best to show that I was expeditiously moving back to the driver's seat, and hey just because I have California plates on my vehicle, I'm keen on what's happening!

Rush! Rush! Rush! I Get It!

So I jogged to the curb, stepped off the curb, took a few steps to the car and the next thing I know, I'm laying FACE DOWN in the broken asphalt. BOOM. Like a ton of bricks I went down.

There was no warning. There was no stumble, no trip, no "Whoa ... I'm going down, brace myself!" One second I'm on my feet, a split second later, I'm on the ground.

This isn't the first time I've fallen in my life. I remember falling plenty of times when I was a kid. But it hurts a lot more when you're older and there's another 100 pounds of mass propelling towards the ground.

Since I was on my way to work, I was very nicely dressed. I had on my favorite Talbots pants, with hose, my shiny Dansko shoes, a silk blouse and my black wool peacoat. In retrospect, I think my foot rolled when I stepped in to a pothole. And instead of jumping up and dusting myself off, I laid there as the pain ricocheted through my entire body.

The Kiss & Ride lady looks over the hood of the car and continues yelling at me, "GET IN YOUR CAR! GET IN YOUR CAR!" And forgive me, Father in Heaven, if my body hadn't been in such an excruciating state, I would have put out her lights. What did she think? That I was laying in the chunked up asphalt taking a nap?! I agonizingly dragged myself in to the driver seat, accelerated out of the Kiss & Ride lane and directly in to a parking space.

That's where I conducted the first assessment of my injuries.

I looked down and could see that my favorite pants were torn all the way through the fabric, through my hose, to my skin which is bleeding. The extremely sensitive palms and the tops of my hands are ripped and gushing blood. My ankle, which I have sprained at least three other times, is throbbing. From the depths of my soul, I start to cry and I can. not. stop.

The pain is unbelievable. Worse perhaps than ... well, any pain that I can remember feeling in my adult life. I reach for my cell phone and call Charlie. After I cry about what has happened and the STUPID POTHOLES, there were no STUPID POT HOLES in SAN DIEGO, my husband tells me that maybe the reason I'm so upset is that this has been a very tough year and everything is coming to the surface?

"NO! That's not it!" I sob, "It's because I've got GRAVEL embedded in my knees, knuckles and chin!" And, well, OK. If I'm being perfectly honest, maybe there has been some stuff simmering under the surface.

Instead of driving to work, I drive home. And that's where I conducted the second assessment of my injuries. Charlie gently helped me to change in to different clothes. We look at my right ankle which had ballooned up to twice the size of my left ankle, was already deeply bruised and painful to the touch. I spent the rest of the day (and night) (and most of today) with my foot iced and palms wrapped in gauze.

Today, I was at the doctor's office where I was diagnosed with a severe sprain AND pink eye. I was issued a tetanus shot for the open wounds on my hands and administered an antibiotic drop for my eyes. I was told to stay off my feet for the next five to seven days and use crutches when walking. I look and feel like a cripple. Which I suppose is only appropriate since 2010 has successfully kicked my posterior from one side of the country to the other.

The good news is, just today, Charlie unpacked the box that held our boo-boo bunny.


Already, I'm feeling better. Although, I could use about 25 more.

Monday, November 08, 2010

kicking in to survival mode

The weather has been getting progressively colder here, in Northern Virginia.


Last week, Charlie flew out to California for a business trip and while he was there, he rented a convertible mustang for a few days. When he returned, early Saturday morning, he had a deep tan and a slightly sunburned nose. Meanwhile, there was frost on our windows and I was wearing a wool sweater and a pair of mittens.

IN the house.


Yes, the heat was on, but not too high, because after setting the thermostat at 70 for much of last week, my hands were so dry, they were cracked and bleeding.

Although we've both lived in colder climates, we've been in California so long that our blood has really thinned. Or at least mine has. William is affected by the cold, as is Elizabeth. Carolyn and Henry think nothing of it and would traipse outside in shorts and t-shirts if we let them.


This past weekend, we bundled up in scarves and hats and gloves and went for a hike in the woods behind our house. Ten minutes in to it, I looked over to see that Henry was wading up to his thighs in the creek. What? HOW? How is it possible that my genetic structure that has an extreme intolerance for discomfort skipped clear over that child?


Here it is, the second week of November, and I'm questioning how I will survive winter which hasn't yet arrived.


Charlie and I had a discussion the other day, when we woke up and the outside temperature was in the low 30's. Actually, it wasn't as much of a discussion as it was a panic session. We talked about contingency plans and emergency supplies. What if we lost power and couldn't heat the house? We definitely need to have a sufficient amount of wood on hand to burn. We need candles! and blankets! and water!


We need dried food and canned food, we need batteries and a hand held radio, we need matches and ... and ... and maybe a generator? Charlie will need to learn how to bow hunt between now and the first snowfall. And then he'll need to learn how to skin a deer so we'll have protein.

Huh. Or, maybe we'll just have a surplus of beans and rice?

As we spoke, I had visions of being trapped in the house for days on end. I imagined wrapping our children in every blanket we own in an effort to keep them warm. I told Charlie that maybe he should consider growing a beard to protect his face, and I'll stop shaving my legs.


Good heavens, in California, we've been through magnitude 7 earthquakes and our neighborhood was evacuated TWICE for wildfires. And yet, we were never as genuinely concerned there for our survival as we've been here. You'd think we were living in a grass hut on the tundra, as opposed to a brick house in the mid-Atlantic that has a durable roof and is fairly well insulated.

In the midst of going totally primal, I've really enjoyed the foliage. Each time I go out, I take my camera and am often snapping off pictures. I've still got California plates on my car, so I'm sure that people think I'm a total nut leaning out the driver side window with my zoom lens.


I'm really a very good driver.

It just looks like I'm on the wrong side of the road.


And here? Well, the sign is upside down. Definitely not me.


The leaves, which were green just a short while ago, are bursting with color before our eyes.


I've seen foliage before, but I've never felt the gobsmacked awe that I do now. There's no doubt, the millions and millions of small leaves each have their own little secret about what magnificent color they will turn in to, as the landscape transforms in to something more beautiful than a picture. Just driving to work, it feels like I'm in the middle of an art masterpiece.


I'm so glad I could take in all this splendor before my eyes froze shut.