Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Too Hot for National Blog

I contribute on a monthly basis to a national blog for Mothers & More. You can find out about M & M at I submitted the following blog entry for this month, but they voted not to post it. I can understand why and I (mostly) agree with their opinion. I am of the mindset, however, that censorship can be very dangerous. To that end, here is what they vetoed:

I was raised in an evangelically (born-again) Christian home. As such, I had very definite ideas about abortion. I considered myself Pro-Life, I wore a shirt that said “It’s a Child, Not a Choice,” etc. I was subjected to horror stories about botched abortions (sometimes pictures were included). I believed (and still do) that life begins at conception. I still consider myself an evangelical Christian; I attend church regularly and am active within my congregation. My beliefs have not changed, but my views on abortion have.

I am the mother of three small children, all of whom I will tell you were also conscious choices. I chose (on all three occasions) to conceive my children. I find “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” to be inadequate labels. I find them polarizing and over-simplified. Growing up, I assumed that anyone who was Pro-Choice wanted to kill babies willy-nilly. At 34, I understand that is not the case at all. I could go on a tirade about how the Right has adopted the Pro-Life cause just to say that the Left is the de facto Babykiller Party, but I won’t. I don’t like the idea that babies are being aborted.

I do, however, think that women should be allowed the choice. Women who came before me worked to give me the chance to vote, to own property, etc. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been granted. I firmly believe, though, that this is a man’s world. Men don’t know the first thing about being a woman. Older, wealthy, white men with fabulous health benefits are not the best people to decide about whether or not I should be able to terminate my pregnancy.

Let me be clear. Even on days when I find poop on the ceiling in my kids’ bedroom, I can’t imagine not wanting them. My heart mourns for every child that doesn’t get a chance to go to dance class or see the ocean. Our family has struggled just paying for the birth of my youngest child. This is with my husband being employed and having health benefits. I cannot fathom, though, choosing to end my son’s life. I have friends who have had abortions and their hearts are still broken. I also know friends struggling with infertility who will lambast me for writing this, saying that there are so many families that want to adopt these children. That may be, but ultimately women need to choose what’s right for them, not what’s right for older, wealthy white men.

This blog entry may offend some readers; that is not my intention.  I hope it sparks some good discussions. A girlfriend of mine had a bumper sticker once that read “Keep Abortions Legal, Safe, and Rare.” I couldn’t agree more.      

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fun Times

Brian's surgery last week went well. He is recovering nicely, but still cannot help at all around the house. I haven't been the easiest to live with, as the stress from taking care of everyone's every need and wind-down from the fear and anxiety has been making me bitchy. I am glad to say the mass they removed was not cancerous, yay! His sutures come out on Friday, so he should be able to start helping again after that.

Meanwhile, I woke up this morning to discover that Bekah had pink eye. No dance class obviously. Had to cart all three off the doctor and then wait a half hour (in the van) at the pharmacy for the eye drops. Sent Jeremy to AWANA, but when I looked at his eyes before bed, they were starting to not look great. Ugh. No preschool for him tomorrow unless his eyes are much improved. This means my role of mommy as cruise director goes on for the whole day.

Bekah did make up for it a bit today. She found one of my measuring cups that is black and plastic and hit Jeremy over the head with it. I immediately recognized that she was being Rapunzel. I asked her about it and she gave me a shy smile and said yes. While viewing the movie, she stood on her chair (at the appropriate moment) and said "I have a dream." It was very cute.

Doug is upsetting me. He refuses to roll over and hates tummy time. He seems somewhat interested in sitting up, but mostly he wants to play in his exersaucer. But I guess I wouldn't be earning my pay if I wasn't worried about one of my kids, right?

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I imagine he wouldn't be too surprised to see me, jawline clenched, fists with white knuckles at my side. He would enter the office with no hesitation; seeing me out of the corner of his eye, he would gesture towards a chair. I shake my head, hearing the sound of teeth grinding in my ears. I know he sees the steam rising from my skin as it does from a volcano, long dormant, that's about to erupt. He is the villager warning the town to flee; he understands, as no one else does, how lava and ash can wipe clean a landscape. The words spew before he can even sit down. Sulfur burns my tongue as it rolls by, the smell of anger and hatred. I pace back and forth in front of him, demanding answers. I want answers to questions, I want to see his forecast.

I imagine he is internally grinning but keeps his face somber. He nods from time to time, acknowledging what I'm saying. He is there at the moment of eruption, sees the lava spill over for others, sees it heading for relationships, for those I love. He scoops them up, one by one, so that they are spared the burns and pain of my vitriol. His skin blisters and heals for each person he scoops up, as the flow of lava and ash quickens. My words are sometimes even too heavy for me. My thoughts back up as the insults and anger refuse to budge from my tongue. I spit at him, watch it tumble down his face. I can't speak fast enough to empty the queue; sentences run together.

As with the volcano, it must eventually stop; my words start to slow. Sulfur and ash are replaced with sorrow, dark and heavy. The words are vaporous, hard to understand. He keeps nodding. He sits mute because he knows this has been building; he sits mute because he knows he is just supposed to listen. My shoulders start shaking as tiny rivulets of tears turn into tsunamis. He saw the water receding and knows a wave is coming to engulf the shore. He deciphers my words through my broken sobs. He comes to sit next to me without making a sound. He offers me Kleenex but doesn't discourage the tears.

The anger that has spewed forth is now turned in on myself. I loathe the decisions and indecisions I have made. I loathe the resentments and fears I carry as extra pounds. I have failed almost everywhere. I have hurt many with my words. My eyes are puffy, my body aching from the expectations that weigh me down. I am not surprised that the worst damage has been done to me. I am not shocked to find that the picture of myself that I carry around doesn't match the one hanging on the wall of his office. I see Dorian Gray in my picture, old and shriveled and evil-looking; his is a collage of my smiles, my successes, my failures. It's a mosaic, but as I step further away from it, I am at my most joyful, my most happy. He goes to the picture and starts removing the difficulties, struggles, trials. I can see the picture get blurry, unfinished; a Monet painting seen through a dirty lens. He replaces all that I despise, all from which I wish to escape. The picture snaps into focus.

I imagine that's why I call him Abba. He transforms that which I find ugliest into beauty. He calms the waters, quiets the volcanoes and allows me the space I need to express that which others would find disturbing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Under the Rug

My mom is a pack rat; my dad is not. My mom has religiously saved everything with any significance to it--my baby book's binding fell apart long ago. My dad is a neat freak. I won't say he doesn't have a certain level of clutter that follows him, but he has fits of cleaning and throws away anything my mom hasn't hidden away. To this day, my mom is kind of a mess. She and my dad live in a modest 4-bedroom home. They occupy the master suite, my mom uses one of the rooms for her office, my dad uses one for his office and there is a room for guests (really, it's the Saint's bedroom, but he won't be back until August). My mom and dad have a cleaning lady that comes every other week. My mom is not someone who enjoys cleaning; my grandmother and I share the cleaning gene, but it skipped a generation. Since I had Jeremy, toys and books and baby equipment have slowly taken over some parts of their house. (If I don't say this and my mom ever reads this, she will be quick to point this out as a reason for the clutter.)

I have tried to help my mom get organized. There are blinds on the windows in her office. Clipped to many of the blinds are slips of paper containing important phone numbers, claim information and other flotsam. I spent an afternoon compiling all of the phone numbers onto one sheet of paper and clipping it to the linen display board she has. Within a matter of months, I noticed papers starting to reappear. She claims there is a method to her madness, that she can find anything she needs in the chaos. For the most part, I agree with her. There is growth, though; up until about 2 years ago, she had clothes in her walk-in closet (my dad has no space in it), the closet in her office and the closet in the Saint's bedroom. I dogged her for months about getting rid of some of her clothes. She would not say that the nagging worked, but she has downsized her wardrobe quite a bit. 

The contrast to this picture is that, growing up, when company came over the house was required to be spotless. I never, ever understood why. I was guilty of being messy, of leaving food wrappers lying around and generally being a slob (ask my college roommates). I got that there shouldn't be food left lying around and that we should wipe the counters down, but I never understood the frenzy with which she would clean the house. Entropy being what it was, it would stay clean for a while but slowly settle back into being slightly grimy and messy. 

Before I had kids, I employed this same frenzy to cleaning my house before guests arrived. My husband didn't understand it, either. I would literally stay up until all hours of the night before hosting a playgroup. I had to clear that never-ending pile of paperwork that sits perched precariously on top of my microwave. I couldn't let anyone see that there are five bags of bread, each with just one heel in it, sitting on top of my refrigerator. God forbid anyone would notice the grime baked onto the burners of my stove. I would clean until my back ached and my eyes were bleary with sleepiness. Even after having kids, I have been guilty of staying up way past when I should just to make sure the house is spotless for impending guests.

There is also a ritual that occurs at the beginning of play dates. I greet everyone and welcome them into my home. I preempt their questions; rather than let them notice the bits of wallpaper still stuck to the backsplash, I tell them about the hideous border that used to be there. I apologize for how beat up my couches are. I offer drinks, Diet Coke or water (the only things we ever have to drink at my house) and then apologize for not having more to offer. At lunchtime, I offer the other kids absolutely everything in my refrigerator. It's part of my lineage that would not allow someone to walk away from my house hungry. I apologize for the dog hair that coats every surface in my home, for the smell of the guinea pigs' cage, etc.

Unfortunately, when I employed this frenzy to cleaning, it was understandable that I didn't have people over all that often. I was having a conversation about this with a friend not too long ago. I confessed that I could care less what other people's houses look like. If I am going to spend time with them and their children, I am most likely bringing my children. That automatically means I will be leaving their house messier than when I arrived. If I am going to see a friend and watch a movie with her after her kids have gone to bed, I am going to plant my butt firmly in the most comfortable chair I can find. I am not going to inspect her bathroom to see if there are rings in the bowl. I will not be checking the expiration date on any food in her refrigerator.

I have also never had a mother (or anyone, really), do this to me. So I finally decided that I don't care what my house looks like. I am not a stay-at-home-housekeeper, I am a stay-at-home-mom. My first priority (and the first priority of all of my other SAHM friends) has to be the kids. Yes, I need to make sure there are no roaches, rodents, maggots, etc., living in my home. I do keep the kitchen (mostly) cleaned. About every other week, I attack the piles of paperwork perching precariously about the kitchen. They become like magpie nests, full of everything from junk mail to errant birthday/holiday cards to artwork from preschool. I carefully deconstruct the nests, throwing out what's not important, putting away what is, etc. I vacuum up crumbs and dog hair pretty regularly. The laundry gets done, although sometimes it takes two days to a week to be put away. Beyond that, I've stopped worrying. Sure, I still get in a tizzy from time to time. My computer has been acting wonky and I'm trying to get someone out to take a look at it. I started cleaning the office this evening, but I can guarantee that it won't be spotless by the time Mr. Computer Man comes to visit. 

I don't know why we all seem so obsessed with presenting the best version of our house and selves to one another. I have spoken with other mom friends who have confessed all sorts of things. I will admit that Doug, my youngest, doesn't get bathed as regularly as Bekah and Jeremy. There was even a day last summer when the kids needed a bath. We went to the splash pad after naps and the kids ran around, getting soaking wet. We changed them to go home and Brian asked me slyly, "does this count for baths?" I answered in the affirmative and yet this is the first public confession of that deed! We have all gone to the grocery store with our kids in various stages of dress, with mismatched socks, hair matted down with baby food, hair not brushed, our hair not done, teeth not brushed, etc.

I do my best to let my foibles shine through. So far, that's worked pretty well for me. People find me authentic and I think they are more at ease around me. My kids are good at clearing their dishes (at other people's houses more than ours) and cleaning up after themselves. I have also learned that people all have different definitions of "messy." Last week, I was at a girlfriend's house for a play date. We had met at a park and then headed over to her house. The three of us moms sat at her counter, eating lunch. She apologized for the huge mess. Sabrina and I looked at each other and then inspected her kitchen; we were not able to see the mess she saw. She pointed to two breakfast dishes, food still on them, sitting on her counter. I literally laughed out loud. I told her not to worry about it. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

(In)Securities Fraud

If you asked someone about me, they would tell you I'm pretty self-confident. Kind, compassionate, empathetic. That's because I keep the whimpering, third-grade version of myself hidden very well. I have never been great at forming relationships; I especially sucked at it when I was in grade school. I never quite got the nuances of female-female relationships. I had a biting sense of humor, but I was unable to take any of the barbs I handed out like leaflets. I have only recently developed a sense of humor about myself. It was a long, hard road to be able to laugh the hardest at the mistakes I made. But I digress.

By middle school, I had started to carve out some friendships here and there. In eighth grade, I wasn't popular, but I ran with the most popular girl. I became and stayed her friend because I was willing to break up with her boyfriends for her. Not something about which I'm proud, but it helped me survive the awkward years. Unfortunately, in the middle of eighth grade we moved. I was supposed to have gone to Streamwood High, home of the Sabres. The friends I knew and had grown close to were going to Streamwood High. It was not to be; I graduated as a Maroon, an alum of Elgin High. My freshman year was the absolute worst. I was outspoken about religious matters and I might as well have built a barbed-wire fence around myself. Nobody wanted to hang out with me. I felt isolated and alienated. Even the few times I tried to reach out to people, it was awkward.

There was a bright spot; my biology class. I struck up a friendship with these guys, Devon and Chris. Nice, nice guys. I developed a crush on Devon and things seemed to be going pretty well. We went to Turnabout dance together and had a blast. It was, by far, one of my best high school memories. I, of course, mucked the whole thing up (but we'll talk about that on another day). 

But female relationships eluded me my entire high school career. I couldn't find any group that I could join. As it turned out, I was a nerd but not nerdy enough to join the smart kids. I swam, but wasn't really good enough to hang with the swimmers. I didn't drink or do drugs, so those guys were out. I wasn't a gangbanger, so I didn't fit there. In my junior and senior years, I got very involved with creative writing. In that world, it turns out I was pretty cool. I still didn't form any friendships, but at least it was my refuge from the bullies.

I sprinted toward college. I figured that I would find my niche. My ego got in the way of me being very successful academically, but it was then that I started forming female friendships. There was still an immaturity to how I dealt with women, but I was making efforts. I thought that I had to lavish people with gifts to be my friend. This would have worked, had it not been for the fact that money management was never my strong suit.

Some of the women I met at college are still my friends today. Facebook has done wonders to extend the shelf-life of some of the friendships, but these are women that came to my wedding and baby shower. I may not see them all the time, but these are women I consider confidants and miss a lot. I have not been perfect in these friendships. Immaturity in relationships comes out as temper tantrums. My college friends have seen the worst of it. I am not proud of how I've acted with these women and this blog is not an amends to them. They simply happened upon me in my nascent stages of friendship-building.

Over the past 11 years or so, I've honed my craft. I am now able to do some small talk, even though I don't prefer it. I have a good memory for details. My temper is not as bad as it used to be, although new friends have seen flare-ups of my temper. By new, I mean in the past seven years. More recently, I have been able to keep the flares down. The trade-off has been increased anxiety and insecurity. I have reverted to the more timid version of myself, questioning every communique. The world of technology hasn't done me any favors, as reading tone and intent through e-mails, Facebook and text messages is nearly impossible. 

My circle of close friends has seen some turnover in recent years. There are various reasons for that, and I am not at liberty to discuss all of them. What I've carved out now is a nice inner circle. It's quite a rag-tag group of women. They are all wonderful. They have come through for me in some very tight situations. I think they would all say, though, that I'm a fairly confident person. Luckily, I've got them all fooled.

Monday, January 30, 2012

On the Mend

I am sitting here, eyes burning, trying to write just to stay in the habit of writing. Yesterday was a very rough day. I was still recovering from the stomach bug, while at the same time starting to feel achy and yucky. We were also on a death watch for one of the guinea pigs, Leather. She ended up passing away while we were away at Bekah's party. Guinea pigs are interesting in that they don't like to pass away while they're around their friends. I have had multiple piggies who have held on until I've removed them from their cage. Upon being placed in a different environment, they pass away in short time. In any case, we have had two other piggies (Laverne and Shirley) pass away since we moved in. Cagney and Lacey are still with us. When Laverne passed last year, we told Jeremy that she went to help her grandma in South America. Brian and I decided that Jeremy was too young to deal with the subject of death. Our hope was that this simple explanation would serve to answer any questions he might have.

What we underestimated was his memory. A year later and Jeremy is still asking about Laverne. "Where did she go, Mommy," he'll ask me. He also asks me about the "white one," Shirley, who passed when he was only like 20 months old. I mean, really. So now I am anxious about him realizing that Leather is no longer with us. It would seem ludicrous to think that this sick grandma pig needs three girls to help her convalesce. The guinea pigs no longer have the cache that they used to. Frankly, I think that the girls are quite happy being left alone. The friendliest ones we had have now passed (Laverne and Leather). I am not feeling well enough to deal with this, so I'm hoping it will come up in a few days.

Bekah's party was a huge success. We paid more than we had expected, but Pump it Up really handled it so well. I knew I was still not feeling great when just seeing the kids jump up and down made me feel nauseated. As the evening progressed, my achy and tired feeling did, too. Luckily, I felt well enough to participate and it was just a treat and a hoot to see Bekah enjoy herself. Jeremy struggled, though. He wasn't happy that he didn't get any gifts and then threw a fit that I hadn't made him a goody bag. By God's grace, Billy forgot his so I was able to at least let him hold it. Again, though, he was a step ahead. He knew it wasn't his name written on the outside. My dad proved to be a big help in dealing with Jeremy's emotions. He was holding Jeremy at one point and told him that he could have his birthday party at Pump it Up. Jeremy responded, "yeah, and I will get birthday presents and Bekah won't be able to open any of them, hah hah hah." (The hah hah hah was in the style of an evil villain.)

When we got home, I really started feeling awful. I had the worst chills. I couldn't get warm to save my life. I took my temperature but had no fever. I slept fitfully through most of Mission: Impossible and awoke during Quantum of Solace. At that point, I took my temperature and it was up to 101. I was burning up, dizzy, the whole nine. I went in to nurse Doug and then came out, still feeling awful. My throat felt like I was swallowing knives. I finally got the fever to break, but then I was sweating like crazy and couldn't get comfortable. I slept even more fitfully and woke up feeling worse. I was able to find someone to watch Jeremy and Bekah, then headed off to the doctor. My temperature there was 103.8 (under the armpit, so add a degree to that). I texted Brian, asking him to come home.

I have not been able to get more than a couple of hours of sleep over the past 48 hours. I am sitting here, sweating. I can't manage to get comfortable anywhere. My stomach is churning from the antibiotics and ibuprofen. I wish that I could fast forward through this. The worst part is that it's likely I'll have to have my tonsils out. My doctor is concerned because I've had strep twice in the past six months.

While all of this has been happening, I'm mourning the death of my friend, 27-year-old Remi. She was found by her parents yesterday morning. There is an autopsy, but the reality is that it was an alcohol-related death. I am a member of a 12-step program, which is where I met her. I had known her for about 4 years. She was 100 pounds and nothing, a worrywart and a lover of McFlurrys. I have not completely processed her death. I am grateful for my sobriety. I am grateful that my parents didn't have to find me like that. I miss her sense of humor, her predilection for multiple types of mascara, her melodrama and her baking. I keep hoping that this is all a bad dream, that she is still holed up in her townhome in Mundelein. She loved to go to Goodwill with her mom. She gave me a bunch of magnets for Bekah and Jeremy to play with-they still play with them to this day. She was so beautiful and everyone loved her. I am sad that she died the way she did; I can't blame myself because she did have the solution but didn't apply it. I am not sure why some are taken so long before they should be.

All of this happening at once has been a lot to handle. I wish I could get comfortable enough to sleep, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. I am grateful for so much today and hopeful that the antibiotics will begin to do their work before too long.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The 12th Hour

I had every intention of writing about my value as a SAHM relative to the cost of me staying at home. Unfortunately, I was struck with a violent stomach bug last night. I barely got any sleep because I was making multiple trips to the bathroom. Now it's like 16 hours until Bekah's birthday party and I'm cutting out Dora and Boots. I still have so much work to do, but I am sure that it will all be great. I wish the whole thing didn't cost so much money, but I love my baby girl. She is so excited about this party that I think her head may just explode. That is why I wear old clothes and never see movies in the theater at night; I want every single possible dollar to be put toward making Dora birthday parties happen. I will rant and rave about the system more tomorrow night. I have so much more cutting to do.....