Dec 19, 2015

Finding What I Wasn't Looking For..............

Sorry it's been so long, for the few of you who follow this blog.  It's been quite a year, and I will probably blog about it in the future, but not today. 

Today we made a mad dash to the garage to look for Christmas tins. I've been busier than I normally like to be for a while now, and haven't done much in the way of Christmas other than buying and throwing stuff in Wal Mart bags  wrapping presents.  Oh, and I put up the wreath.  That's it.  That's been my preparation.  I kind of miss putting up the ornaments, but I just got them out and looked at them last weekend and was satisfied.  We don't have room for a tree other than the little one with lights that I did not bring in from the garage today.  I've been sick.  And tired.  Sick and tired, and  that it is no doubt part of why what happened next hit me so hard.

During the search, My Youngest Baby found his Christmas stocking.  Joy registered on his face followed immediately by concern if not fear when he realized it was dirty.  He turned to me and held it out, asking if it would be all right with fear and hesitancy in his eyes.  I told him that it would, and that I would wash it.  He seemed relieved that it would be all right, and then pressed me as to whether or not I was going to hang up their stockings this year.  These stockings were knitted by my children's great-great aunt Ada and are the only stockings they have ever hung up.  There it was, a bit bedraggled but waiting for us.  It knew we would come.  We have never failed it, not one single time.

I said "Of course I am!" and managed not to cry until I got to the privacy of my bathroom and there I had my own little grieving session. 

This is the twin's last year at home, as far as I know.  They are 18, and will graduate in 5 short months and go out into the world and have wonderful lives, which is all very well and good.  I want them to!  I swear!!  


I will be lucky to ever have them at home again, like it used to be.......

I know this because this is not my first rodeo.  I know this because the last year and a half has been defined by change and upheaval and wondering what the future holds.  I know this because getting my four children together at the same time has already become a pretty nice trick.  I know this because to live is to change, those are pretty much the rules of the game.

What I did not know was how much it meant to him (my last, the one that needed the most for the longest, the one who has bloomed into a young man at ease with himself) that his stocking was put up.  Still, like it used to be.  Like it always has been.  On the outside he looks like a man, but inside my little boy still exists, peeking out at me on occasion.  How I miss that child.

If you live long enough, and I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, you will realize that eventually Christmas becomes a crap shoot, emotionally speaking.  It can be as bitter as it is sweet.  Lots of your memories will be of people who you love just as much, but have already passed, and the ache can be borne, must be borne, but the ache is added to.  Almost every year, it gets added to.  Another thing that has become clear to me in this last year or so is that I have reached the age where I am going to keep losing people.  It inevitably happens, and don't we all know this?  In our minds?  Yes, of course!  But there will come a day, eventually, when it dawns on you that you need to get used to it.  There is not even an "if you can" attached to that thought.  It's kind of brutal, but fear not, you will be pretty numb and it won't hurt that much.  You will be "resolute".
  1.                                   admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.

Okay, your goal will be to be "resolute".  Good luck.  It's a tricky little dance but the steps will come to you when you need them the most.  May you dance right through it.  

My thoughts of late have been heavily filled with memories of my children when they were little.  Crystal clear in my mind, right down to how their necks smelled like........ and how they felt against my chest as I held them close to me and kissed them there......... what they looked like asleep............... and funny things they said.  I guess it's my way of soaking in this last year before the nest is empty.  I don't know who I would be without them, and I needed this reminder.  On my "cry-y" days, as I call them, I despair that the mother they remember is the one who "nagged" them about their room, or a job, and they never remember, or can even know how much I loved them, sacrificed everything, cleaned and nursed and coached and sometimes scared other people to death in defense of them.  Basically I have felt like I've been left alone with my memories, but only on the "cry-y days".  Those days are not my favorite, but they come and they must be dealt with.  I deal with them in the bathroom, and just say I'm tired when they notice my eyes.  This song sums it up perfectly.  

I thought my kids were too old for Christmas, one of the worst things I think I've ever done as a mother.  Don't I know the most important thing you can do in the world is NOT to change?  Yes!  I know this!  (One of the worst things about being a mother is when the Voice In Your Head lectures you and you have no good excuse, so instead of trying to defend your worthless self, you just vow to do better in the future.  But you know the kids will always remember the time you DIDN'T!!   The struggle is REAL!)

The last year there have been things I was forced to change, but nothing that really bothered me.  I just walked on.  Some of the best advice I ever got in life was not actually advice about life, it was about golf.  It applies both places equally well, and that advice was this:  Advance the ball.  Do not stand there, anxiously plotting on how to hit that ball a mile (is that a long way for golf?  I don't even know.) and make sure it rolls within 3 feet of a little hole.  Just step up there, breathe through it and advance the damn ball.  One stroke at a time.  It's not really that big of a deal.

So today, instead of filling the Christmas tins we were looking for with cookies and candies,  as I had planned, I washed and hung up the stockings we were not looking for but found just in time.  My heart was pierced and I adjusted and advanced the ball.  I brought that stocking in and washed it on the delicate cycle.  I hung up both my baby's stockings by the chimney, with infinite care.  It might be the last time I ever get to do that while they are home.  Like it used to be.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas  from our house(es) to yours.  I wish you traditions and everything as close to the same as you are lucky enough to have this year.  Treasure it as you should, and may the bathroom be empty on your cry-y days.  

Aug 7, 2015

For My Babies, On Your 18th Birthday.................

Today my Babies turn 18.  Wow.  That went quick.  If I had a dime for every time someone told me that when I was drowning in children, and up every hour of the night, I could afford car insurance for them.  True story.  I didn't believe it then, but I'm here to testify: it did.  It did go fast.  And that's not all.......I'm going to miss it.  I have been missing it for several years, to tell the truth.  They are pretty self sufficient these days.

Photo by Patsy Holt.  Concept also by Patsy Holt.  Isn't she a genius?

The day they were born was a disaster in every sense of the word.  I was bleeding out, internally, and so were my babies.  They were afraid to put me out, and made me sign a waiver saying I understood that I might die if they just knocked me out.  This struck me as funny, even then.  I *was* dying.  I signed the paper and enjoyed one last laugh.  Or so I thought.  I'd love to see the signature I put on that release.

When I woke up, some woman, who I could not really see because I didn't have my contacts in, talked for a long time.  I think she was telling me that my babies had both been born legally dead and all the complications we were now facing.......  I processed none of this.

When she was done I had two questions: Where are my babies?  What did I have?

I could tell by her expression (what I could see of it) that I had not passed some sort of test.  I was in no mood to care.  Near death experiences embolden you to stick with first things first, I guess.  They showed me Polaroids of my babies, weighing 7.3 and 6.4 but too white, with blue lips and lifeless looking.  This did not phase me a bit, but I was beginning to catch on.  I insisted on being wheeled through the NICU on a gurney to see them.  They lived, but no one knew how long they would hang on or what problems may have to be dealt with in the future.  Added to this was the fact that my twins were across the room from each other.  This was unacceptable, and I wondered what kind of people were in charge of taking care of not only my babies, but any babies at all!  I got that changed in a hurry, let me tell you.  Never be afraid to speak up, especially in a hospital.  They get paid for a quiet environment and will work to maintain one.  What they were thinking is beyond me.  That's all I have to say about that.
This was a turning point in my life.  I did not know what to even pray for.  In the end I prayed for the strength and wisdom to survive this.  That prayer has been answered faithfully every day since.  Thy Will Be Done is easy to say, much harder to accept.  Blind faith is something no one should be without, and it will come to you when you need it most.  Just believe.

Twins should be kept together at all times.  They don't know anything else.  And if some hospital thinks anything different?  Stand your ground and insist.  Embrace your power.  You will win.
When you find out you are going to have twins, it can be a big shock.  Take heart.  That shock is just training, and you are going to grow to the point where you are pretty much un-shockable.  Think of it as training for special ops.  You have started a roller coaster ride and you are going on it.  Yelling that you did not know it was a roller coaster ride will only make it seem longer and annoy the other passengers.  Sit down, strap yourself in, and enjoy it.  You'll thank me for this advice some day.

New roles for everybody!  One of you is still the oldest, but one of you is no longer the youngest.  It's okay, Beautiful Redhead, you are still the only girl.  You are going to enjoy that, eventually.

So, we had to hang around the hospital for 3 weeks, with an 8 year old boy and a 5 year old girl.  We ate lots of popsicles!  And the babies lived!  My kids got a lot of attention, albeit in hospital lounges and cafeterias.  We tried not to contemplate baby funerals, but I could see that very question circling in their eyes.  Whatever tomorrow brought would be worried about tomorrow, and our days were spent making the most of every moment we had together.  I have often wondered how much that time affected my older kids and hope that it affected them in the most positive way possible.  Real life can be rough or smooth, but can only be gotten through one day at a time.

Notice how discreetly nursing can be done?  No need to whip out your boobs, ladies.  Of course you can, but I would just never do that.  It's just not how I roll.
That 8 year old boy gained so much self confidence that I was astounded, eventually growing up to be my Rock Star.  The 5 year old girl had a bit more of a transition, giving up her "baby of the family" status, but quickly got on board when she realized she would get to be in charge of something.  Finally!  This seemed to be an answer to her prayers, but I always knew she would be a Beautiful Redhead, and indeed she is, able to hear screaming babies without blinking an eye.  It was always hard to upset her, but screaming babies just made her more mellow.  She has always been pure joy.

"What time is it? " 6.  "6 in the morning or 6 in the evening?"  What difference does that make?

Our days changed.  The pace slowed down but I was always up, it seemed.  I felt a lot of the time that I should be doing other things.  My "to-do" list in my head was always there, mocking me, and getting longer.  I learned to let a lot of stuff go.  Small stuff, mostly, at first.  For instance, I never really cared about dust, but I did care about other people seeing mine.  Stuff like that went first.  Eventually things like "having a nice car" and plucking my own eyebrows went, too.  Left somewhere along the roadside like so many disposable diapers.  I am learning to pick some of them back up, but only occasionally.  Once you make the change, you rarely go back.  I don't even want to go back there.  It just doesn't matter anymore to me now.
By the end almost everything was gone except "keep kids alive" and "pay bills" .  I do not regret this part at all.

"Yeah, they're twins.  Yeah, they're cute."
Now my days were largely spent with making sure everyone being dressed, even if only in pajamas.  In fact, "pajama days" became a big thing at my house.  They still are my children's favorite days and I only hope that they never realize they were born out of pure exhaustion.  At first I felt kind of bad about them, but I grew to be proud of them.  Many days were spent just tending to the basics of life, and "outfits that fit, or even make sense", were not on my list of the basics of life.  I have no regrets in this area either.

They sucked the same two fingers, but on opposite hands.  I worried needlessly about buck teeth.

We had more important things to worry about.  Like bears.  Each twin had a bear, and the bears could not be lost, even for a moment.  Our kingdom could not run without the bears.  We learned to treasure sleeping babies on our chests.  Or anywhere, really.  Sleeping babies.......mmmmmmmm.  Is there anything better?  No one could tell them apart but us, and everyone always wanted to know if they were identical.  We did not know.  Due to the emergency birth it was impossible to tell and we thought it was easy to tell them apart even though no one else ever could.  And what difference did that make anyway?  Was it needed for our survival that day?  Nope.  We still do not know, or care, or see what difference it makes.  We can still tell them apart and few others ever can.  That's our life.  One thing I do find hilarious is that now the Rock Star's Wife, our own Rockette, is often confused when she sees them out of the corner of her eye.  She can't tell if it's her husband or one of the twins.  Never fear Rockette, they will all do your bidding.  Just be careful who you grab to kiss.  Or not.  It will make for interesting stories in later years.  hahaha

We got very creative keeping the babies safe.  I blocked off the stairs with baby gates, and the babies promptly learned to crawl through the banisters.  I blocked off the banisters by staple-gunning shower liners from the bottom of the stair treads to the top of the bannister.  It looked a little strange and did not go with my decoration "theme".  But I let that go, too.  Again, no regrets.  In fact, I laugh to think that I ever had a decoration "theme" to begin with.  Let Martha Stewart reign in that land.  It seems to make her happy and she can have it!

They eventually slid down the stairs like otters; I thought would kill them.  Still they lived, without any broken ribs.
There were days when I fished half eaten bugs out of baby's mouths, despaired that they would die of poisoning, and almost set the house on fire cleaning out the wood stove because I sucked the ashes up with the vacuum cleaner and didn't have time to change the bag, or realize that there were burning ashes inside it.

 That was only 1 day.

Once I almost left the house without a baby because it was asleep and everybody forgot about him.  But I did learn to hunt down bats, and kill them without hesitation just because they might scare my kids.  I realized that I had spent a lot of my previous life concerned with things that did not matter a bit in the grand scheme of things.

So I started just concentrating on the grand scheme.  All the little stuff worked it's way off my list, plus I began to understand why men got into hunting.  There is definitely a thrill to that chase, especially when you are chasing a bat in your house, and killing it makes you feel very powerful indeed.  All in all, I'm for it and think it holds important lessons you may not understand until a time in the future, but you'll be glad you learned them then.  Trust me on this.

People were always saying "I don't know how you do it!" like I was special.  I was not.  I was a mother, and mother's just do it.  They have no choice, which probably makes it look even more special, but from the inside they are just marking things off their "to-do" list.  There list may be different from yours.  Their list contains such items as "Check babies mouths for 1/2 eaten insects" and "count kids in car before you leave the house", or even "look at self in mirror before you leave the house".  Still, it's just a list and it must be conquered.  I'm not even going to mention how many items on your list will have something to do with poop.  You'll figure it out when it's time.  You will learn many multitudes of things to do with digestion in all it's glorious phases and have to remind yourself not to talk that way at the table.

Happy Birthday Bro.  Let's have a cake fight.
Time passed.  Before long the twins were throwing their food on the floor like champs and the new carpeting had a new pattern from juice stains spilled, nay, sprinkled from tippy cups.  I just rearranged the furniture until I realized it would be better to have areas of concentrated stains and areas of just clean carpet. This led to odd furniture arrangements that I totally lied about and blamed on the kids making forts, with a straight face . I was not questioned further and I sold that house, wished the new owners good luck with stain removal, and a business card from a reliable source for installation and purchase of new carpet.

I didn't care about carpet.  My babies were growing, laughing, crawling, and smart!  Too smart, on most days, but that was a blessing!  I still didn't know what would happen in the future but I had learned to take one day at a time, and to roll with the punches.

Some baby rabbits, about to be loved to death.  Literally.  RIP baby rabbits.
I found two babies not to be much more trouble or time consuming than one.  It is hard not to compare them, but I got better at it.  The way they worked together was amazing to me, with one twin being more dominant and figuring things out, then somehow communicating this to the other twin and getting them to do it.  Classic distraction.  I think I might have learned it from them, and they were pro's at it by the age of 2.

I learned to fear silence, in the few moments I tore my attention away to, say, put away the clean dishes.  I should have let the dishes go.  During one particular silence I went to check on the twins playing outside, in a fenced yard.  I was sure they were fine but I couldn't see them, so I had to check.  This time I was greeted by them playing in the mud.  I didn't even sweat it.

We're playing in the mud, Mom!!  I can see that!  Indeed you are!
I did eventually take off the clothes they were wearing so I could hose them off and during that time, they just kept playing.  From these boys I learned to be calm and carry on, and not blink an eye when someone flew past without a stitch of clothes on.

Alrighty, then, just give me your clothes and carry on, my sons!

It was easy, considering this was just mud.  Mud is clean compared to the first time this had happened to me. That time I had found the them putting things in the stool and then fishing them out and eating them.  Is that the most disgusting thing?  It still has top honors in my life.  Hopefully it will keep it's place of honor because if there is something worse than that, I don't want to know what it might be.

Yep.  They did that.  And they lived.  The blue stuff under the one on the right?  No clue at all.
Our days were ruled by these twins.  But I was not the only one they ruled.  Oh no, they ruled us ALL.  I had a lot of good help, all along the way.  People who loved me, and those babies, and took time to get to know the differences between them.  People who gave their attention and help, and became a part of our lives without even thinking it over.  We had so much fun, even on the bad days.
We had so many catastrophes that my kids stopped getting caught up in the catastrophes and had contests for solutions instead.  To this day they will remain calm when everyone else is obsessing over details that seldom matter.  Growing up in a large family is a gift that is self-sustaining.  I always wanted 3 or 4 kids, but I had decided one boy and one girl was perfect.  I am so glad that I got to have 4, now.   I would have had 10 more if I could have. That might be a lie, but metaphorically speaking, it is the truth. I took the economical route and just started raising other people's when I got the chance.  It has worked out very well.

This face ruled all our lives for several years.  My Youngest Baby.  He made us dance like monkeys.  .....and we danced, like a wave on the ocean......we danced and danced and danced.
The Youngest Baby, the one who had more trouble getting started, turned out to have a will that simply would not be denied.  You could not get anything past this kid.  He was born "street smart", and I feared he was smarter than me.  Years of buying 2 exactly alike things only to have him decide one was better, and his brother, the Oldest Baby, buying into this, this.............ILLUSION.  It drove me nuts!   But look at that face!  These days I can almost cry when I remember what it was like to scoop him us and kiss his neck and have him tell me his outrageous stories that were total lies.  I would do it all again.  He used to say, every night, "love ya ta-marra, mom".  It's one of my most treasured memories.  I'll always love you tomorrow, too, babe.

And this face, mmmmmm.  He never made us dance.  He was our little snuggler, and would sit with us for hours.  He is also the one we had to drag through KCI airport on top of his winter coat at 2 am because we couldn't get him to wake up.  We made it work, fearful of being turned in for neglect.
The Oldest Baby, on the other hand, was easy going and calm.  Gullible, too, sadly.....when it came to his brother.  It took me years to show him that he could have another toy, or another color of vitamin, and live a happy life.  He finally caught on but until then he was dancing right along with the rest of us.  I found it exhausting but also very funny and it kept me thin.  He had a speech impediment as a small child, and once toddled up to me with his bear and his blanky and I lay on the couch, threw back my covers and announced "I'm gonna FWEEP with my MOMMY", sending us all into peals of laughter and then wanting to know what was so funny.  You can still sleep with me anytime, kid, even though it makes you smile uncomfortably to hear me say that now.  Muahahahahahahahaha.  I remember the days when you used to beg to sleep with me every night!  The day he looked at his brother and said, in a tired tone "Oh, please, Airnon......" (that was how he pronounced "Aaron" for several years)  I knew life was going to be easier from that point on.  He was no longer buying into the illusion.

Look at how the tree is decorated.  hahaha
We had our challenges, but we just met them.  Notice there are no decorations on the bottom half of the Christmas tree in the picture above?  This was progress!  The year before we put the tree inside the play pen.  I don't know if they even still make play pens, but their uses were legion.

They made us laugh every single day.  Some times it was hard to explain why we were laughing and some times it wasn't.
I'm sorry, OK boys?  But I won't say which one this is, and who can ever resist a baby butt?
Potty training, which was never my strong suite, took 4 years with the twins.  Because they were boys?  Because I suck at potty training?  I don't know, I guess it was just my karma or something, but I paid the dues.  I PAID THEM IN BLOOD.  I was so proud when I got them to pee outside at 2 and then spent the next two years embarrassed because they peed outside ANYWHERE, ALL THE TIME, EVEN ON MAIN STREET DURING PARADES, and convinced that every time they pooped their pants, they were doing it ON PURPOSE because they were getting even for something.  I never could pin down what. In the end I just had to wait them out.  I can still change diapers on the fly, traveling at sonic speeds through distances that do not bear examination.  It's an odd skill, I will admit, but there you have it.   Sometimes you just have to tip the guy who picks up your trash.  Especially when you run a daycare despite the fact that you can't even get your own kids potty trained.  Especially in the summer.  Garbage men do make good money, and they earn it, let me tell you.  I think we should probably pause and thank God for garbage men right now.

Brothers.  There is no substitute.
 One year I am ashamed to say that when I found out on Sunday evening that my Youngest Baby was supposed to be a knight in a play the next day, I just sent two rolls of aluminum foil to school with him, told him to "wrap it everywhere" and called it good.  I did not have time for that crap.  And I don't think anybody else did, either.  "Ain't got time fo that" wasn't even a saying yet, but it would have fit perfectly.  I dearly wish I would have said it to a packed auditorium before a Bell Game, but alas, I did not.  I regret that.  It was the time of noticing that we spent our time and energy on stupid stuff that did not matter in the world, but not wanting to be the first to say it.  I don't miss those days, and they were a waste of time anyway.

Yeah, they're twins.  I wish they would take a nap.  Sigh.
The Beautiful Redhead found being the only girl really fun, especially after the twins got older.  In fact, she never saw the guy checking her out when we took the float trip the year she was 20.  She never saw My Oldest Baby, who in 3rd grade chose to label himself as a "middle child", give the guy checking her out a direct look, a nod of his head, and an "How ya doin" that clearly said "Get away from that girl, or suffer the consequences".  He was as big as a 20 year old at the time.  She never saw the poor guy scuttle off, afraid of her 16 year old brother, either.  But that all happened.  It was hilarious and I enjoyed it very, very much.  He never said a word to her about it.  It was just a day in the life of a brother, I guess.

Influencing a new generation.  They are well prepared.
Now they are 18.  They are starting their senior year.  What does the future hold?  Still unknown.  What is known is that they have many people who love them, who showed up and taught them what they needed to know, even when the lessons were hard.  I think they are well prepared and this world is very lucky to have them in it.

Need a ride?  Hop in.

I know I'm their mother, but I've known it all along.  I am so thankful for the lessons they have taught me.  Also, the father's day cards are a nice touch, boys.  ;)  But let us not forget the angels that have always been there.  Never forget them.  Never forget to be them, when you need to.  It all comes back around.

Whatever happens, I know that you will do well.  I love you more than you will know until you have kids of your own.  I can't wait for that to happen, of course, but there is plenty of time.  And if I should somehow miss your kids?  Know that I am there, inside you, always, and that you will do fine because you were well prepared by a woman who knew what was really important and never looked away for more than a few seconds. ( Just because she really needed to go to the bathroom.)  

Here's to the next 18 years.  Don't worry.  We will handle it just like we've handled everything else.  Laughing all the way and taking one day at a time.

May 19, 2015

These Days of Wine and Roses...........

School is almost out, graduations are happening everywhere, and the roses are blooming in abundance.  Last weekend we took a mini vacation to see My Fourth Son graduate.  It was good to be back and visit everyone.  We even took the dogs.

Da boyz

My Fourth Son.  When I met him he rode a bicycle and educated me on the reasons why Mongoose was the only brand of bike he would ride.  He is a young man and an old soul, and I love him like my own.

Cousins.....nothing like cousins.......

It's party time.  Note the change of costume.  My Oldest Baby picked the perfect outfit for anything to happen, I must say.  He is the one with the paint covered shorts on.  Make a note of that.

My Oldest Baby and I shared a bonding experience when we got stuck on the side of the road on our way home.  Jack was riding with him in the truck, proudly sitting in the middle with his ears flying back in the breeze of all the open windows.  Shadow was riding with me in her royal carriage of (the allergic alternative to Down) featherbeds with the entire back of the car to herself.  I have about mastered the art of driving, watching traffic ahead, and simultaneously making sure my children are following me.  When they drive badly, though, things tend to go downhill.

When I noticed My Oldest Baby weaving, I slowed down, as did he.  But then he was leaning down, Jack had disappeared, and I was asking, out loud, with some very bad language, what was going on.  Shadow was looking at me with an expression that clearly said "I don't know what your problem is, but I had nothing to do with it.  I'm just laying here minding my own business."   That was about the time he straight up crossed the center line and all I said was "That is IT!" and pulled over to the side of the road.  

It had rained, a lot, the night before.  Storms had moved across the entire state.  When My Oldest Son pulled over behind me, the right front wheel dropped into the ditch, the entire truck settled in for what looked to be a good long nap, my son's head dropped forward in defeat, and both dogs were standing up, tails wagging, ready for their next adventure.  I was happy nothing too bad had happend.  Being stuck is not too bad.  It's happened to me more than once, and being stuck is not a huge problem in this world.

We examined the situation, decided to use one of the (allergic alternative to Down) featherbeds as traction, and then proceeded to rock that truck back and forth, getting what looked to me more stuck with each pass.  Mud was flying front and back, alternatively, and Jack's mind was blown as he tried to stay out of the floor board because the noise of the wheels spinning scared him.  I'm trying to sooth him as I wonder how exactly you blow a transmition, because I'm thinking that will be the next thing that happens to us.  About that time we were rescued by a man name of Mike, who stopped, had a chain, and opened with a joke about a Dodge pulling out a GMC.  He was a great and kind man, gently explaining that there was no good place to attach the chain, and if we were all right with losing a bumper, he would try to gently guide the truck out of the ditch.  We were ok with that, and we got the truck out of the ditch without losing a bumper.  So thank you Mike!  We forgot to take a picture, but My Youngest Baby was now covered in mud from head to toe, and I am pretty sure I have more gray hairs than before that day.  The good news is that my constant harping on what can happen when you "just drop a wheel off the shoulder" has gained some serious street cred and the kids have stopped rolling their eyes when I quiz them about various mechanical aspects before they leave on trips.  Have you checked your oil?  Tire pressure?  Spare?  Do you have a blanket?  Water?  Something to eat?  Extra clothes?  Extra boots?  Gloves?  Map?  Poison Ivy Lotion?  Allergy pills?  You get the drift.  Kids seem to think mothers enjoy asking these questions.  That is not true.  In truth it is exhausting, and should we forget something it is sure to be our fault because we forgot to ask.  It's not fair at all and sometimes a kid needs to be stuck and covered with mud along a semi-busy highway before they start to realize that there is a point to being harangued by their mother after all.  Extra points to you if you can manage to be WITH your child when this happens.  Those memories don't just make themselves, ya know.

At this point it was decided that both dogs would ride with me, as Jack was apparently the reason for all the weaving.  Within the next half hour I inadvertantly rolled poor Jack's head up in the back window, and then did some weaving of my own as I frantically punched buttons trying to free him before he choked to death.  If it's not one thing it's another, don't you find that to be true?  After that, poor Jack seemed not to be hurt except for his feelings, and curled up in a ball in the very back, facing away from me.  I felt terrible, but we made it home safe and sound.  It brought to mind this post, in which Kelsey asked if it was worse to text and drive or parent and drive.  My answer is PARENT AND DRIVE, Kels!  You can turn your phone off, after all.  Not so with children or pets.

After that I could settle down, and in thinking about how good it was to see everyone, and to see the boys there to share that time with their friends, it brought this poem to mind, by Ernest Dowson:

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for awhile, then closes
Within a dream.

With all the roses blooming and all the love and joy around, it seemed only fitting to make some Rose Petal Jam, so I did.  The recipe is within the link, and I highly recommend it. It is absolutely wonderful, as well as beautiful, and it doesn't take much time to do, either, once you pinch the white parts out of your petals.  For me, spending awhile touching rose petals and sorting them out was my favorite part except for hearing the lids pop.

A warm bath for you, my pretties.......

See how pretty they are just in the pan?  Blogger is having issues with me uploading pictures today, so I can't show you what they look like after this, but they will lose their color.  Do not worry, it will come back as soon as you add the lemon juice.

Eye appeal, check.

This is the finished product.  It tastes as good as it looks, and how could you not take advantage of all those petals, just sitting their waiting for a practical purpose to their lives?  They aren't just pretty faces, ya know.  They have worth that goes way beyond that.

I'm listening to more lids pop right now, having been up late with dearly beloved friends, some of which spent the night, and up early this morning getting them all sent off for their days.  I'm good like that.

Just some of the boys er, men in my life.  Some have been in my life longer than others. Okay, ONE.  Some are new.  All are cherished, 3 of them since the day they were born.  Guess which 3.

Next I am going to see about using the rose petals to make jelly, and you can find that recipe here.  For the price of the sugar and some lemons, why not?  And next spring I am going to try to catch the Violets in time, too, as this recipe works for several edible flowers listed at the bottom of that post.

They are not long, these days of wine and roses...........The jam and jelly that I am making during these days will be my handmade gift this year.  I hope it has been infused with all the love our family has seen and commemorated this weekend.  The memories these boys share with us, their parents, span what I hope they always remember as the best years of their lives.  Those years have certainly been some of the best years of my own.  Thank you, boys, for all the nights no one slept, the empty cans of chewing tobacco, the 16,000 firecracker stunt, the firsts, the lasts, the list of foods I make that are, according to you, "the best", and the yet to happen.   Make the most of every day you have and you will always have a good life, even when you are stuck on the side of the road.  I will try to be with you when that happens, but you really don't need me, at least for that, any more.  There will be other things, no doubt, and we will get through those too.  Never doubt it.  Knock 'em dead, kid, you graduate, you.  The world is lucky to have you.

May 11, 2015

Mother's Day..........

I had a special present for Mother's Day this year, when The Beautiful Redhead called and said she was coming Friday night and spending the entire weekend.

She asked me what I wanted for a present when she got here, as she is the designated "present buyer" for such occasions.  This is what being an only daughter often means in a family of boys.  I made it clear that the only present I wanted or needed, I already had.  Time spent with grown children is the rarest of gifts, and I had already hit the mother lode.

The Beautiful Redhead has grown up. My little girl has grown into a smart, capable, gorgeous woman.  She comes from a long line of these.

Pictured here are Clara Hamilton, Forrest's 2nd wife and step mother (although she was never considered anything but "mother", Helen Hamilton Hooker (my  mother's mother), and Geri Hamilton, first wife of Dobby (Wayne).

This has always been one of my favorite pictures of Big Grandma.  It was taken in the basement of the Methodist Church in Browning, Mo., I believe after my mother's wedding in 1960.  See the suds on Clara's hands?  These fine ladies were cleaning up after and someone grabbed a camera and instead of making duck faces or sticking out their tongues, they grabbed a broom and posed.  They knew that life involved a lot of hard work but that was no reason they could not still have fun together.  In fact, that is how memories are made.

It will always break my heart that these wonderful women did not get to know her.  It seems so wrong and unfair.  I also know, though, that what is born in the blood will come out in the bone, and that they are within her.  When she wonders where her strength comes from, this is part of the answer, and they will never let her down.  When things go wrong and she feels like crying, but laughs instead and redoubles her efforts, and that is just as it should be.    

My second Christmas, at Big Grandma's house.  Mom was expecting my brother, Superman, in May of the next year.  

I am at the age where I can see all our paths through life and what was discarded and kept along the way.  I realized that The Beautiful Redhead has already made many wise decisions sorting through her life and wondered which memories would always be with her.  I also realized that whatever path she takes from now on, she is capable of handling it.  It came as a bittersweet realization. 

Do you ever look at your children and wonder how many things they will never remember that you will never forget?  I spend what seems like a lot of time doing just that.  I think that they might not remember with their minds, but they will always remember with thier souls, whether they ever put it together in their minds or not. Children grow up and all those tedious mothering moments have a huge payoff.  The only trick is, you won't get to see the results for 20 to 25 years.  The first part of those years seems to take forever, but the last part seems to happen very fast.  It's a phenomena that really has to be experienced before it can truly be believed, but I highly recommend it.

Mom and I at my first wedding.  She was 42, I was 18.  

I continued wondering about the grandchildren she will give me.  I did not bring it up, though.  We are just past the stage where she confidently states that she is never having kids, and I don't want to push it.  heh heh.   I am sure they will be outstanding little people, at any rate, should any of them decide to show up.  ;)

Mostly, though, I just basked in the fact that she was in my house.  Superman and Wonder Woman came over Saturday night and I so enjoyed watching she and her uncle sample different kinds of beers, getting more jolly by the hour.  It hit me that she was a grown up woman several times and all I could do was just accept this fact.  I don't know why it keeps surprising me, but it does.

She and the twins went to church with me on Mother's Day, and I told her how much it meant to me to have an hour each week where I can sit with my arm casually around the boys and just be with them.  I know they will leave home soon and I am happy for them but..........well, it is just another step that will take them (possibly) farther away from me, physically.  But in their hearts?  They will never be far away, this is my greatest hope, and all the moments that lead up to that time will be cherished.  By me.  Understand that they are still rolling their eyes and telling me to calm down, but this will pass as soon as they are out their on their own.  This is not my first rodeo in this area and I will be there when they call, or better yet, come back home.

We observed together how much they have grown up and I saw her weighing and measuring their progress like any good older sister and my heart was full to overflowing.  She learned it from me, but it was handed down through generations and each of us are just links in a great chain that flows unbroken through time.  This is a great comfort to me.  Also, she wore The Locket, which always makes me so happy, and I wore my mother's wedding ring, which I never go anywhere without.  The only sad moment came when the only good picture I have taken in years did not get saved on her phone.  I think I will just hire someone to take actual pictures of all of us.  I am not happy with this new digital picture phase we are going through.  Too undependable.  I'm gonna take it back to old school, for old school never lets me down.

Included in our weekend shenanigans were finding two grass snakes taking cover in the corner flashing of the house ("you just STOOD THERE, mom!")  which I guess I will have to hunt down and relocate, an introduction to the best neighbors on earth, who have raised a baby squirrel to teenage years but whom did not decide to make an appearance, a trip to Wal Mart on a Friday night which was......interesting to say the least, and visits with other extended family that she does not get to see very often but loves very much.  That's all I can tell you.  If you want to know more about  our shenanigans, you have to show up for them, and then you will have to keep the secret too.  :D

We both missed our Charli-girl, and spent a lot of time looking through pictures and videos.  This was The Rockette's first Mother's Day and The Rock Star had planned her a relaxing day at home without having to go anywhere.  Personally, I highly approved of this gift, as that has always been one of my favorite things on earth. I think it worked, because The Rockette sounded very relaxed and happy when we spoke on the phone.

At a basketball game, already cheering.  The big question is whether she will be a Mizzou or KU fan.  This is new for our family, but we are trying our best to be open minded.  It's a sports thing........and a KC

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.  Everything I could have hoped for.  If you are a person who agonizes over what flowers to send your mom, and if you were to ask for my advice, just go home instead.  Spend some time with the people who raised you.  You can find wildflowers all along the roads, just pick some of those if you must. Your mom values your presence above any other gift.

Oh, and the Creme Brulee French Toast?  It's a keeper!  We served it with raspberries and it was perfect.  I declared it our new breakfast whenever we are able to be together from here on out, and The Beautiful Redhead discovered the challenges of foodie photography.

You want to try this.  Trust me.

May 9, 2015

Mother's Day Weekend so far........

My daughter is here for the weekend.  Yes, The Beautiful Redhead herself is in the HOUSE!

So far, only myself and My Oldest Baby have showered, the Overnight Creme Brulee French Toast is ready and waiting in the fridge, and My Oldest Baby has warmed up something called Buffalo Wings Pepperoni Rolls for breakfast, because he just can't wait.

I have my favorite old T shirt and a pair of the boys' old shorts on, with an ELASTIC band, that's right.  I did not shave my legs, either.  We are planning some shenanigans, good meals, working on the flower beds, and general lazy laying around.

We are also going through old pictures and trying to get them somehow scanned into a place I can download them with my limited technical "skillz".

I have no idea when that might be coming.  You know me.  *shrugs*

and in other news, the devil's members continue to rise.  I tend to think they are probably poisonous.  Ugh.

The stump with the transplanted Lambshire around it and an unwelcome guest rearing it's ugly head.  The first one wilted.  You can see the remains at the 4 o'clock position in this picture.

Get thee behind me, satan.  Is that an insult to poisonous mushrooms?  I'm not even sure.........

May 6, 2015

Treasures and Terrors.......

A few things...........

You know the saying about how "a watched pot never boils"?  True, also, with seeds.  I have placed the Sweet Pea along the fence, where it holds it's own but is not twining up the fence yet.  When The Beautiful Redhead was about 3, I called her "sweet pea" one evening and she looked at me very seriously, then wrinkled her adorable little brow and asked "Did you just call me sweet pee?  Thus began her floral and faunal education.

The Four O'Clock's have been springing forth and the Astors have their heads above aground, but there they just sit.  I clipped back some Panseys to make them bush out.  The Lavendar, well, I don't even want to talk about the Lavendar.  It's apparently not my thing.  Yet.  In fact, I am a little bit mad at Lavendar and sorely disppointed in my Lavendar specifically.  It could not care any less.  Oh, well.  Same goes for the Lily of the Valley, although I continue to watch hopefully, fool that I am.  How it can be so hard to get something that will take over started is, at present, the great mystery of my life.  Which reminds me, I have a very good life.

Digging around in the dirt of an old stump that I am going to plant Lambshire all around, I found this.

It about scared me to death, and, call me what you will, my first thought was "devil's, ahem, member".  I don't know if it's supposed to be a mushroom or if it's some kind of fungus or what, but I left it alone to find out.  Because I like to live without a safety net, I guess.  And I also am contemplating what my first thought reveals about the way my mind works, but that is another post, my dears. Anyway, if you know what this is, let me know.  My nightmares will thank you.

As if to make up for it, this afternoon I found this.  I just bent down to pull up a thistle and there it was, waiting for me.

This took me back to what seems, in retrospect, to have been many afternoons spent with my mother on a blanket in the yard.  I cannot be sure if we did that kind of thing all the time or I just remember the one time we found a four leaf clover.  Either way, my mother carried that four leaf clover in her wallet till the end of her days on earth.  It brought her back to me in a way that is becoming quite familiar.  When I planted the Morning Glory seeds along the fence she was with me.  I clearly remember the first time she planted them, and how excited she was when they came up, and it happened down here.

Part of her legacy to me is the fact that I am putting in lots of flowers, both perrenial and wild.  She loved the wildflowers, as I do, and I have spent many days recently slowly walking through my yard and transplanting the great variety into the beds.  Wild Phlox, Daiseys, Bachelor's Buttons, and Four O'Clocks will line the driveway and house. 

 Iris will bloom along the ditch in front on the street.  Just about any kind of flower you can imagine that grows wild will make bigger and bigger beds until there is hopefully little left to mow.

At least, that is my plan.  Next year, just more.  Maybe move 'em around a bit, but basically just let nature take over.  I plan to just pull it out and give other people starts every year.

Also available is plenty of ground cover, in the form of vines, including Trumpet Vine galore.  I planted a couple of Willow trees, along with Honeysuckle and a Wasillia Bush from Janine.  I don't know if I spelled that right but either I did or spellcheck doesn't know the difference either.  This is what the world has come to.

We will see what happens.  Despite the appearance of the Devil's member, we will just focus on the four leaf clover.

Apr 27, 2015

Tiny Dancers......

When my oldest pretend grandchild, Abigail, was about 3, she went through a phase where she was crazy about ballerinas.  I can remember her getting so excited every time she saw a ballerina doll that she would exclaim, "Mimi!  LOOK!  A balWEENa!"  I still, to this day, sometimes pronounce it "balweena", just because it was so cute.  Needless to say, there was a year or two there where everyone bought her ballerina dolls, and she has quite a collection.

Those days are gone, now, but yesterday we got to see our very own 'balweena' at her recital.  The 'balweena' dream stuck with my Abigail long enough for her to get to give us a performance.  The cuteness is hard to put into words. 
Getting ready

Would you believe that her mother had somehow, miraculously, found the ever elusive red lipstick?  I must admit, that red lipstick is just the thing if you are going to be performing on stage.  Seeing her with eye makeup almost made me cry, she is growing up so fast and she looks so much like her beautiful mother.

I laughed instead of cried though, when Rosie requested make up also and her mother declared that she must wait until kindergarten to wear makeup "like all the other girls".  This cracked us all up and had the two little ones looking at the grownup women and wondering what was so funny.  It's hard to explain to small children how much the world has changed.  I kind of doubt they would believe it anyway.

The cuteness..........I can't...........

I watched her walk into the auditorium with her robe hanging unevenly due to the tutu, and blinked back tears.  She was just a little nervous, but looking forward to her performance.

Anything anyone might need is packed in those bags.  That momma has it goin' on, yo.

Her mother, my bonus daughter, had worked all morning to get everything together and ready and despite the fact that she is carrying another baby, she never slowed down or forgot a single thing.  

Bright lights, maybe a little too bright........

Unlike myself, who had forgotten to bring my camera.  I used my phone, and this was the only shot I got of her on stage.  She is the one on the far left, and she did a wonderful job.

Rosie watches from the audience.

Those ballerinas had the entire audience mesmerized.  Even the 2 year old's were good, with all that bling on the stage Rosie was captivated.  She will have a performance of her own coming up, and can I just say that when the little ones come out you can hear the entire auditorium sigh?  Seriously, all the little ones have to do to get applause is follow a bigger ballerina across the stage like so many ducklings, and you just melt.  That is all they really have to do, just stand there with tutu's, and the world is their oyster.  

Pink sweetheart roses, perfection.

After the performance we gave our ballerina her roses.  Just look at that posture!  She already looks like a dancer, don't you think?

A real ballerina, living the dream.

I did not mention that her lipstick was gone.  She would have wanted to reapply and her mother would have killed me.  I like her lips better natural anyway.  

As far as other performances go, she said she didn't want to dance anymore.  Her mother told her that she had to pick one activity to be involved in and next she wants to do gymnastics.  I am unclear on whether gymnasts wear lipstick......I'm thinking not, so it might get 'lost' for good this time.

I guess she figures she has lived the 'balweena' dream and now it's on to new dreams.  It's getting a little hard to keep up, to be frank.  Six year old's move pretty fast, but whatever is next, I will be there, cheering and supporting and being so grateful this child came into the world and my life.  It seems like a lot longer than 6 years ago......can't wait to see what the next 6 hold.