Robbed

I’m angry. I’m worried. And I want to scream at someone, anyone. I want to shake my fists in the air and shout “FUCK YOU, EPILEPSY.” I want to point a finger and say it’s your fault, or maybe yours, or maybe you over there. But there’s no one to blame, not really. It’s just one of those things. Yeah. Fuck you.

11081380_10204902989031749_715333339806534571_nWhat is one of those things? It’s watching your daughter’s husband carry her like an infant into the house, bearing her total weight in his arms, begging her to “hang on.”

It’s watching her three year-old squat down in front of her, staring at his unresponsive mommy, then look up and at me and his daddy and say, “Mommy dead?”10406689_10202720249749269_9165213114148148499_n

It’s watching Ava outside on the trampoline, not jumping, just sitting there with tears in her eyes, scared to go in the house.

It’s seeing your daughter finally come out of a grand mal in the Emergency Room, crying, and the first thing she says in a tiny, strained voice is “Ava’s party—I need to go to Ava’s party.”

It’s Ava, in her classroom at school on the day of her Easter party, worried why her mommy isn’t there yet.10846410_10203259521950737_3235638873962084950_n

It’s Landon being roused out of bed by his dad to come lay beside his mom when Allen leaves for work. Call 911, he’s instructed, if she starts seizing. He’s only 11. It’s a heavy burden for any kid but he’s the oldest.

It’s Ireland being clingy to mommy after a brief stay in the hospital.10689606_10202813739246448_3036788874787617335_n

It’s seeing pictures of Landon with his best friend and his family snowboarding and wishing it was you, his own family, that he was there with.

10337728_10202124470815168_6976740376654001142_nIt’s having to ask for help from neighbors to get your kids back and forth to school, or can they hitch a ride with so-and-so to church, or maybe to the ballgame.

It’s looking into special phones that a four year-old like Ivy can learn to use to call 911 with a recorded message that says “mother with grand mal seizure, small children in house.” 10689643_10203246598267653_2778571335627677453_n

It’s organizing the daily round of pills. She’s only 31.

It’s the unspoken fear of going anywhere, the what if...

It’s a disease, a condition, a whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it. And it’s a thief. It’s robbing my daughter of memories she’ll never get back; it’s robbing her kids of mommy moments.

And that pisses me off. Fuck you, epilepsy. You’ve knocked us down a couple times, but we get right back up. And we’ll keep getting right back up because we will not be your victim. You will not win this war.1394779_10201464344107775_868260868_n

 

 

It’s okay to be average

Facebook didn’t exist when my kids were little. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t exist when my kids were little. Nor Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter. I don’t remember scheduling “play dates” for my kids. They played with one another and/or the neighborhood kids. I don’t remember anything called Mommy’s Morning Out or any other ‘mommy group’.

Sure, there was always that mom in the neighborhood, or at school, or at church who kids’ poop didn’t stick.  Their kid walked when they were 6 months old! Was potty trained before they were two! Had a three-thousand word vocabulary before their third birthday. Could even read on a second grade level before kindergarten. And were so darn cute, their moms were looking at modeling agencies.

Yeah, if you’re a mother, you’ve probably experienced the mother of all mothers. And not only was it their job to raise the perfect kid, they took on the added responsibility of letting you know what you were doing wrong. In subtle, snarky remarks, of course.

Those moms still exist and, lucky us, social media has made it so easy for them to share their perfect worlds. Their perfect nurseries. Their perfect homemade, organic lunches. Their neatly arranged educational toy bins.

More power to you, perfect mom. But I’d be willing to bet there are a heckuva lot more ‘average’ moms out there than there are perfect.

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Here’s looking at you, kid.

Young mothers these days are putting way too much pressure on themselves. Every mother starts out with the grand goal of being perfect. No one wants to be ‘average’. But sometimes, this little thing called reality, gets in the way. That perfect nursery will have crayon marks on the perfectly painted walls and, unless you’re an odor shaman, will smell like pee or poop. The precious little ones will turn their cute little noses up at the thought of a homemade, organic lunch once they get a taste of cheese doodles and brownies. And those educational toys – just wait until they see a Tonka truck, or gads! – a toy gun. And for those mothers who actually have more than one child, kids fight. A lot. They can be mean little snots. Yes – you’re perfect kid may have a mean streak. Deal with it. And, funny as it seems, the meanest kids usually have the most perfect mothers. So there’s your motivation to bypass perfect and aim to be average.

Average moms have a collection of mismatched tiny socks hidden under couch cushions, behind the bookcase, and stuffed in the toy bins. Sometimes even stuffed inside the toys. Their kids eat cereal for lunch. And sometimes supper. And sometimes on the same day. They eat pizza and hot dogs cut into tiny triangles. And they eat a lot of chicken nuggets. They will have more fun with the box a hundred-dollar toy came in than the toy itself, so save yourself the money.

And if you have more than one, call in reinforcements for the big stuff. I went to the beach last weekend with Nina and Allen. With three toddlers, even the simplest of activities takes some planning. Allen and Landon went with Nina’s dad and half-brother out on the boat one day. Nina and I were going to take the three toddlers and Ava to the pool. Then we realized both of us would have to be in the pool at all times holding one or two kids at the same time. So we settled for going to the beach instead, where we figured the kids could at least play in the sand. After parking, only one problem with that…we had to cross the street to get to the shore. Three toddlers, a seven year-old, two bags of towels, fruit snacks, and sippy cups, and two chairs. meandNina

That was an accomplishment. Here’s to the average mom.

 

 

Traditions be damned

This past weekend we celebrated Easter. There was a time when my kids were small that I dressed them up for the occasion.  Garey wore a tie; Nina suffered through a frilly dress. All for tradition’s sake.

We would have Easter dinner at mom and dad’s. Ham, potato salad and green beans. A dessert or two. Maybe deviled eggs. And the day before, we waited anxiously for the little colored tablet to dissolve in the vinegar so we could dye eggs. So exciting! Sometimes they would use the little wax crayon that came with the dying kit to write their names on their eggs. Fun times. At least I think they were. 20140419_193944

There may have been some tears because an egg was cracked, or I might have fussed because one of the kids spilled one of the cups of dye. But it was a tradition dating back many, many years. Not just for us—for everyone since Paas sold their first dying kit.

It was like leaving cookies for Santa. Dying eggs at Easter was expected. Those parents who didn’t weren’t worthy to be called parents. They were depriving their kids of a tradition.

And what do we do with traditions? We carry them on. Play them forward. Even if we’re left scratching our heads and wondering why we continue to do these things.

So Nina dyed eggs with her kids Saturday night. She asked if I wanted to come help. Sure. We’ll carry on the tradition.

20140419_190826Landon wasn’t too interested so he was in and out. Ava enjoyed helping Ireland, as long as Ireland kept her grimy little hands off Ava’s meticulously dyed, multi-colored eggs. Ivy thought it was the neatest thing EVER! Until Ireland wanted to dye her egg pink, too. Ivy balked because she owns the copyright to pink or something like that. Hissy fit #1. Ireland didn’t understand why she had to dye her egg blue. Casey’s egg was blue. Hissy fit #2.  Ivy didn’t understand the waiting game—the egg has to soak in the color for oh, like, at least 30 seconds. Hissy fit #3.  Casey liked the little metal dipper thingy. But keep in mind we’re still working with him on using a spoon and fork so when he couldn’t get the little dipper to work just right, yeah, go ahead—just reach in there with all the dye and grab that egg. 20140419_190839Oops. That one cracked. Hissy fit #4. So after all the eggs were colored, Ava finds the little wax crayon and wants to know what it is. Ava, the budding artist, writer, songwriter, who will write on anything is devastated. She could have written a whole song on one of those eggs! Or at least her name.

So much for the egg dying tradition. I decided that maybe, instead of picture perfect traditions, our new tradition would be to just give in to the chaos. Just enjoy the ride. One day all these kids will have kids of their own. What’s that old saying? Payback’s hell.20140419_193952

Christmas Miracles & Buttflies

We took the kids to the Country Christmas Train in Denton, NC Friday night. Eight of them. The other one, Jeana, went shopping. Imagine that. A sixteen year old that would rather go shopping. It’s nice to know she’s normal.

But the eight that did go were…well…good. Maybe I should define “good” in our terms.

  • It was very crowded and we didn’t lose a kid. It happens, okay.
  • While we waited in line, they were very content to run in circles. Kept them busy and let them run off some energy. The other kids who were forced to quietly stand next to their parents in line were envious.
  • Only one public announcement of the need to “pee pee” — while the others showed zero interest in checking out the bathrooms in groups of twenty or more.  Because you know, when one needs to go they all need to go.
  • No wailing cries for I want! Can I have? It’s only ten dollars! Sometimes threats do work. Don’t judge.
  • Casey let Uncle Garey hold him the whole time we waited in line to see Santa. The fact Casey let anyone hold him for an extended period of time is a miracle unto itself.

None of the above applies to Ireland. She cried the entire time. Well, she did like the train ride.  She got super excited to see the lights shaped like flowers and yelled out “Buttflies! Buttflies!” We’re assuming she meant butterflies. We’ve made an art form out of smiling at strangers who look on with knitted brows.

Ireland wanted juish. She wanted ookie. She wanted ish — translation apple juice, butter cookie, and Goldfish. She wanted to get down. She wanted to go. She wanted to be held. She wanted to stay. She wanted to go. She wanted to be held.  She wanted down. She wanted juish.

And then it was time to see Santa. She went into the little log cabin okay and had stopped crying and was excited to see the warm fire in the fireplace. And  then she turned around and what to her wandering eyes did appear? The old man in the red suit sitting in a corner.  She may need therapy.

All the other kids were like “Santa! Cool!” Even Casey walked right up and gave Santa a high five. Ireland was screaming in the corner. Totally traumatized.

After the pictures, Santa asked the kids what they wanted him to bring. Ava says “fart putty”. Landon says a “unicorn”. Emma’s list went on so long Santa’s eyes glazed over.

I love those kids.

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The only way we could get Ireland in the picture was for Nina to hold her. And she’s still trying to escape. Back row: Ava and Landon, front row: Ireland, Nina, Casey and Ivy.

 

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Emma, Paisley and Aiden with Santa

 

The fantasy vs. the reality

I love my grandkids. Adore them even. They’re the cutest, smartest, talented, most amazing kids I’ve ever known. I love them to the moon and back a zillion times. I’m certain most grandparents share the same sentiments  about their own grandkids. But I wonder how many are brave enough to admit, although we love them with our entire being, we don’t always like them?

I’m not talking about the grandparents who live a good distance from the little ones. Those grandparents have an excuse for the longing to hold and cuddle and see a snaggle-toothed smile. I’m talking about the ones, like me, who see the little ones on a daily basis. You grow intimately aware of their little quirks. And sometimes, it pains me to say, those little quirks can be downright painful. Annoying. Irritating. Fingernails on a chalkboard.

Shaw Photography Group
Photo courtesy of Shaw Photography Group

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to resemble a Hallmark commercial or a Rockwell painting. All the little grandchildren gathered at Grandma’s feet while she reads The Night Before Christmas to them from her rocking chair. Their upturned gazes are loving; their smiles content as Grandma reads the story while, simultaneously,  lovingly showing the pictures.

Well, the reality is:

It’s hard to read upside down. And when you’re reading to as many different ages as I have to, one of them, if not two, will call you down if you miss a word or skip over a part because it’s impossible to read it from a weird angle. Once they start reading on their own, forget making up the story as you go.

The toddlers have the attention span of gnats. So they’re up and down, up and down, wanting to touch the picture, wandering off, wanting to turn the page before you’re finished with the current page (and remember, the ones who can read call you down if you skip a sentence, or page)

They don’t always get along. Like a lot of the timeForget holding hands and singing Kumbaya. It’s more like pleading “can’t y’all just get along for a minute?” The siblings fight with the siblings. The cousins fight with the cousins. They get huffy. Feelings get hurt. One or two, or three, will start crying and sometimes it gets physical. The good thing about that is my grandkids will know how to defend themselves. They don’t shy away from a fight.

They can screech at ear-damaging decibels. You know those monkeys in zoos? The ones that scream at you with such intensity it can stop your heart? They have nothing on my grandkids. They know not the meaning of “indoor voice.” Five of my nine are Scorpios. They have to have the last word. The screeching can go on until my eye starts twitching.

They don’t like the same food. Which makes lunch time a hit-n-miss. Paisley likes jelly, no peanut butter. Ivy wants cereal five times a day. We have to hide the bananas from Ireland (tummy reasons) or we experience the ear-shattering screeches – see above. Aiden doesn’t like Cheez-its. He likes fruit snacks. But Ivy likes the brand of fruit snacks Aiden has so she doesn’t want hers, she wants his. Back to the screeching. Casey likes to dump whatever is in his bowl (cereal, spaghetti, etc) on his head and wear the empty bowl as a hat. And then look at you as if he’s saying “What? You’re not supposed to wear it on your head?”

497 Barbies and they all want the same one. Back to the screeching. I do believe even if we had 497 of the same Barbie, they’d fight over it. Suck it up. And consider investing in a good set of earplugs.

Shaw Photography Group
Photo courtesy of Shaw Photography Group

They don’t always like one another… but, they do always love one another. They defend one another (when they’re not fighting), they cry to see one another (they love spending the night with one another), and they put their arms around one another when one needs a hug.

All in all, I guess the reality isn’t all that bad. It’s not bad at all.

 

A day at the park

Friday was the last day of summer vacation around here. Kids start back to school tomorrow. So Friday, Nina and I loaded up all the young ones, packed snack bags and juice boxes and headed to the park. Yeah. It takes two vehicles. Five car seats.

But anyway, so we get to the park and unload everyone and the fun begins. Actually it wasn’t that bad with the older ones (Landon, his friend Tyler, Emma, Ava, Paisley) because they don’t need someone to push them on the swings. And even Aiden and Ivy played super well together. No fights. No pouting. A lot of “Iby! Ballo me!” from Aiden and “A – come hera naw!” We’re pretty sure Ivy gets that Cajun accent from her PawPaw David who spent part of his childhood in Cajun country. Of course David doesn’t speak with a Cajun accent and Ivy doesn’t watch Swamp People so who knows.

At one point Aiden grabs my hand and excitedly tells me to come watch. He leads me to the BIG slide. You know the one three stories high encased in a bending, twisting tube? Yeah, that one. Of course my natural thought is that he’s going to slide and I’m going to have a heart attack. But noooo. He climbs up on the end of it and climbs up the slide like a monkey, disappearing inside the tube thingy and then popping out at the top. Yeah. I might have clapped. I’m not sure. You lose thought processing ability after holding your breath so long.

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Fun for All playground at Hagan Stone Park

So, this playground is massive and steel grid-like walkways connect one play station to another. Of course because of the angle of the slides, the walkways angle upwards—slightly. Our poor little Ireland must have thought it was something like 180 degree angle because she was terrified to walk on them. She held onto the handrail until her pudgy little knuckles were white. Bright white. While holding on to the handrail with a death grip, she shuffled her little feet along at a pace similar to a snail’s. Only slower. She was, however, very happy grounded so her day at the park wasn’t a total traumatizing event.

Back to the grid-like walkways. Remember, this playground is massive. There are three walkways that intersect and the center actually forms a triangle. You’re not supposed to play in the triangle. I mean, I didn’t see a sign or anything saying “Stay Out” and apparently neither did Casey.

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Yes. You are seeing right. Casey going where no man has gone before.

So I’m trying to inch Ireland along on the walkway and look over and Casey’s in the center of the triangle. And won’t come out. Nina’s on the side trying to coax him over to the side where she can grab him. He’s having fun running in circles. Nina’s running alongside the outside yelling for him to come to her. He’s running around having fun. I think, I’m not sure, Nina may have dropped to her hands and knees and tried wedging herself under the walkway like her son did. I’m kinda laughing. Okay, I’m about to pee in my hands. And then…I think Nina and I spotted it at the same time…the empty, shriveled up CapriSun on the ground. With the straw sticking out. With random germs  all over it.

Imagine those old slow motion videos where people move at about the same pace as Ireland on an elevated walkway. The outstretched hand, mouth slowly opening shouting “NOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo”

Casey had his mouth washed out with soap before he can even talk.

 

Number Nine is a horder

Granddaughter Ireland (number nine, the baby, the last one – thank God!) has some…strange habits. One being she likes to carry stuff. I’m not talking about the way babies insist on having a cookie for each hand. This goes beyond that.

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Note the wallet and bear in her right hand…

Ireland not only wants a cookie for each hand, she’ll also try and carry a necklace, a bracelet, a shoe, a doll, a toy car, her blanket, Casey’s blanket, a pack of fruit snacks, and her or Ivy’s juice cup (depending on which one actually has juice). Sometimes she’ll add the remote and perhaps a book to the collection.

Of course the simple solution would be to help her put everything in her neat little Dora the Explorer backpack. Not. Either one of two things will happen. 1) she gets this wide-eyed look of sheer horror on her face because you’re taking her stuff, or 2) she carries the backpack in her hand rather than on her back and continues to gather stuff in the other hand like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter.

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Sweet little horder Ireland

Every once in a while Casey will toddle over and take a peek at what all she has in her hands. Again with the look of sheer horror. She can’t defend herself against an oncoming attempt at thievery —both hands are full. Why she’d have to put something down to protect her stuff and she sure as shootin’ ain’t going to do that!

And don’t even try to take the remote from her if it’s her remote holding day. Just suck it up and try to find enjoyment in Team Umizommi or Max & Rudy. Or get up and manually change the channel.  She won’t mind. She has no interest in the function of the remote. She just wants to carry it around.