A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.

Monday, February 23, 2015

It Feels Like Home

I have posted from the FERNBANK so many times. We haven't been back in literally years though, we are estimating three years as Julia was a baby. It was one of the first places we ever went when we moved to Atlanta. It's a place we've been over and over, just marveling at the huge beasts within and our place in a world that once held them.
Yesterday was a tasting event that was paired with the special exhibit called POISON. The foods that were being offered are all things that are poison in too great a quantity. Louis and the husband ventured to try something from the Iberian Pig (I'm not sure what was poison on it? Capers? Tomato?) and we all joined in for the sea salt brownies from another place. I mean come on, brownies, duh.
The dude in the picture is slaying me. I'm not sure what he's staring at, the kids aren't being bad, maybe he's horrified we're giving our kids sugar. No - HIS KID HAS ONE TOO. So, I don't know.

The poison exhibit was amazing, gorgeous and interesting.
It featured poisons from various cultures, and poisons from fairy tales, and how they work vs. what people think they did at the time. Plus there were great exhibits explaining how too much of something is good and too much of something is poison. 
They had great interactive activities where the kids could solve mysteries of poison too which they loved. Well, they like pushing buttons anyway.
Plus there were fairy wings to wear. I'm not sure what that had to do with poison though, but yay fairy wings right?
Do fairies poison people? That would be jerkish of them as they have magic and stuff too. This little fairy put on a puppet show. 

It felt good to get out and be ourselves again, we haven't done for a while. We hit an early breakfast and then spent a couple of hours at one of our favorite places, the Fernbank. It felt like home, I'm glad we'll be going back more.
I found this picture from one of our first visits, possibly our first, in 2007.
That's Miles, and was so so long ago. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Home vs. HOME

I'm intensely sentimental about the flat place I was raised. I love the endless skies, the fields of corn and soybeans. The drab grey winters are the norm, and I wasn't disappointed in the cars covered with salt (I had forgotten about this) or the general OH GOD THIS IS COLD of Indiana in January. I'm comfortable there, it's like walking back into your tribe. The whipping wind across the fields, the general blah of the weather don't seem to impact anyone - everyone just goes along with life. That's the midwestern way. You make do and go on. It's not too cold, life still has to happen. I enjoyed the week I was there, despite the stress of the fact that we weren't really there for a social trip. My son was fascinated by the way my brother knew so many people, and even people I didn't know I often knew what family we were talking about. That's how it is in places were families settled 100 years ago or more and stayed put.

In Georgia there are probably places like that, but I don't know any of them. I was also reminded that despite the swaddling comfort of the place, I always wanted to get away. I wanted to see other places, be a different person. I succeeded on the first but decided against the latter. I am who I am because of the weird climate & the social norms of the Midwest - and I'm ok with that. Scalding hot summers and blizzards in the winter made me who I am apparently.

What's undeniable is that the place I call home now looks more like this. In fact, this is about 2 miles from my actual home.
That's the oldest standing house in the county, and the forest wraps around behind my own home. The rolling hills and landscaped chocked full of Georgia pines soothe me and make me feel settled now. This is where my coffee cup from the Dali museum waits, complete with a chip in the perfect spot to take a drink. 

My humans are here, the ones whose breathing I often listen to in the night. I can rest for real while I'm here. I sleep harder and I wake easier in this air. 

I miss home. But I love home.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Ups And Downs of Being The Adult

The other night, in the early AM I woke up to the sound of my husband sniffing the air. He was milling around upstairs, sniffing and sniffing. He opened the attic as I watched from my warm, cozy bed, sniffed up there and then closed it again. I knew right then I didn't want to know what was amiss but I also realized I was awake and had to ask.

He told me he smelled a fire, but couldn't find anything ON fire. We felt the walls. We felt the side attic. It was stronger here vs. there. But it was strongest OUTSIDE. We went outside and looked around. Before I awoke he had checked the sides of the house and looked up, nothing. There wasn't really SMOKE outside but maybe it could've been said to be foggy. It was also 5 am, a time when Atlanta CAN be foggy so that wasn't necessarily indicative of anything.

Back inside we looked out back toward the forest, nothing. There was the definitive smell of burning wood, quite strong. If you've ever smelled a house burning, wood burning is only part of the smell. Because of paints and chemicals it's an insanely BAD smell when a house is burning. This smell reminded me of the time I woke up in Kentucky wondering what was all this smoke outside, and it turned out that the forest, 100 miles away was burning. It smelled like an amazing fire in your fireplace.

At this point we were baffled, what do you do? We don't see a fire. Nothing in our house seems to be burning. There's no smoke outside.

Right about then we wondered when the adults were going to arrive with the answers.

I think that's the rub. While it's great being able to stay up till 4 am and eat whatever you want, the downside is that being an actual adult means that both of those things have consequences way worse than getting grounded. I WISH THE CONSEQUENCES OF ANYTHING WERE GETTING GROUNDED.

Being the adult means my little brother and I have to have real conversations about my dad, the what if's that I at least had hoped we had a few more conversations. His heart is better. But he's confused in ways that are troubling. I know everyone ends up taking care of their parents in one way or another, and that's the circle and I am totally embracing it but I also want to scream because I wasn't ready and I'm sure he wasn't either.

The other thing that happens when you suddenly realize you can never leave the adults table again is that you start to realize who is there with you, and for me it's nice to have my brother there. He and my SIL are faced with the day to day of the work where my dad's recovering is concerned and I know I feel better knowing that while we might not have experience on this path, being on it with the people you trust is better than being there alone.

So the natural order of things is in place, my husband and I made the decision that we know nothing is on fire, but someone has a fire in their fireplace nearby and so I go to bed (but he stays up just in case). My brother or SIL and I talk daily or at least text, discussing our dad's progress and how things are going and what are the next steps. We ask questions, lots of questions.

We're the adults, nobody is going can ground us. And that's too damn bad.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Back To Life

I arrived home Monday night via plane, train and automobile (thanks Cheryl) and walked back into so called normal life with a quick step.
Louis was excited to ride the train but the stress of the previous week caught up somewhere about Five Points station and even that kid started to nod off.
Back to juggling the autism vs. the typical started up day two, as Charlie took a liking to a pretty ribbon that came with some Hello Kitty towels my Mom had gotten Julia. Julia wanted it, she was going to have  Snow White go mountain climbing with it.
Parentingwise it was an easy call, Charlie had it first. You were playing with something else. Charlie doesn't have to quit playing with that JUST because you decided you want it. But then there were tears. There were reasons. "But it's MINE. Grandma got those towels for ME."
I too had reasons. "Julia," I asked. "What does CHARLIE like to play with?" She answered "Strings." So then I asked, "And you have a whole house FULL of toys that you like to play with, right?" And then she agrees that this is true but climbs up onto my lap to sob because that string is the only thing she could ever possibly want to play with.
There were tears and sobbing and cuddles until she forgot about it and went on to play with something else.

I'm glad I don't remember how incredibly hard it is to be four. I feel like my boss might give me the side eye if I cried like that every time something didn't go my way.

Monday, February 02, 2015

With a Little Help From My Friends

Tuesday morning last week I got a text from my brother, dad had gone to the hospital with chest pains. As the hours rolled by the details emerged.Heart attack. Multiple blockages. He couldn't find the way into the hospital so he drove to the police station. He went to Mcdonalds on his way to the hospital to get a coke (this is my family we go to McDonalds on the way to the hospital, that's how we roll). Open heart surgery, bypass - TOMORROW was what they said. I desperately needed to get home.
One of my best friends at work gave me his frequent flyer points and Lou & I packed up and flew home.
They postponed the surgery out till today. In the interim we've begun what I feared, the downward slide people take in the hospital. At first it was that they discovered he has a broken back, he had a bad fall on Sunday before his heart attack (or related to a different cardiac event maybe even). In said fall he fractured T9. Since then he's had MRI, multiple CT, developed a fever, we've learned he has respiratory disease, they are now testing him for flu and he's in isolation.
It's like EVERY time we go something bad is new.
They tried to stand him UP for his X-Ray and his BP skyrocketed.

I'm a little frustrated because as of yesterday, they'd moved his surgery AGAIN - now it's tomorrow. When this started it was OMG WE HAVE TO DO THIS NOW and now it's like meh we can wait.

The positives are that my brother and I like his surgeon and we feel confident in her.
The hard parts have been his confusion and his cognitive gaps. He didn't understand more than once why he couldn't come home with us. He kept telling them to pack up his food because he was going home. He also hasn't ever really had much more than a blood test, so he's not a very good patient. He is confused about time, forgetting we are there sometimes, and also other little details like how many children he has.

The number of things to worry about almost seems to escalate every time we walk in the door but I'm going to have to believe they've done this before at Methodist hospital and I'll trust them. Dad's health was bad to start with so I guess none of it should come as a terrible surprise.

The best parts have been waking up with my mom here, and watching TV with my Mom like we always used to do, even though she watches crazy shows like Dr Pol. (Seriously I've never watched someone go shoulder deep in cow's butts so frequently in my life).

I got to enjoy some of the best parts of small town America, like eating at the old diner downtown where I grew up.

I told my brother that when I was a kid, that place was a joke. It was the sort of "LOL YOU ATE WHERE?" sort of place. Now it's been rehabbed and i
t's lovely and the food was amazing.

I was lucky that I was able to spend time with my old friends visiting and laughing and feeling like life was normal for a few hours.

I got to spend the next day with my best friend Christa and our day was long and amazing even if we spent a lot of it sitting in Starbucks. 

It was the best day at Starbucks ever! And we went back to the diner for tenderloin sandwiches. Hoosier Tenderloins look like THIS:
Dad's surgery is moved to Tuesday and we fly home today. Life is marching on I guess. And that's just how it is.

But it finally started snowing here this morning, which was met with a lot of joy as you can imagine.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Life Without The Net And Other Privileged Whining

We went nearly a solid week without internet and cable while we waiting for our service to be switched to a less douchebaggy company than the one that rhymes with "boo hearse". In a week you have a lot of time to realize how much time you spend on the internet.
You realize that there IS a way to get TV shows without a cable box, and it involves exposed co-ax, aluminum foil and pie plates. It's not ideal. After some modifications though, we actually could get about 50 channels. Not bad for actually free.
I watched a bit of Flying Nun and cringed at the lack of PC - the Korean girl named Kim Chi ...REALLY? You couldn't even give her a better name than that? But still I was kind of giddy to watch the Flying Nun since I'm pretty sure I haven't seen it in 40 years.

We introduced my oldest son to our Kids in the Hall DVD collection and he suddenly realizes what half the stuff we say ALL THE TIME means. (Onions is all I eat). And we broke out some old "little kid" staples from the boys toddler days, such as Teletubbies DVDs which the twins still loved.

We were watching one of those DVDs when a little segment came on with some children in South Africa who were doing the wash. They stomped the clothes around in the soapy water, scrubbing them and getting them nice and clean, then they ran to get a bucket of fresh water for rinsing. They laughed and giggled as they rinsed the clothes and played in the water at the same time. That's when the oldest boy pipes up, "Mom that's so sad. How can they be happy?"

I knew what he meant, but let him talk , "Look how poor they are Mom. That's so sad."

"Are they happy?" I asked him He said he thought that they were. "Are they healthy and safe?" He said he thought they seemed so. I noted their mother was nearby, "She's right there letting them help, but she's not left them alone - so they seem well loved right?" He agrees.

"So why is it sad?" I asked him He answered because they were doing their wash in buckets.

I asked again why that means they are sad. I noted that they seemed pretty happy. He agreed but then looked confused, "How can they be happy when they are that poor?"

"Children very often don't know they're poor, especially when they live the same way as everyone else around them. THINGS don't make people happy, not real happiness." I told him.

He thought about that. "I guess you're right, I miss not having internet and cable but we've still had fun and stuff these days."


But I'll admit this, there is a part of me that wishes I COULD get that mom a washing machine, and the electricity to run it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How a Mom of Four Works Out

First of all you have to move the rocking horse, Hug Me Elmo and sundry Hot Wheels out of the way. Next I ask the twelve year old to work the PS4 so I can use the DVD. Turn on the work out I want to do, and begin. It goes like this.

  • Oldest son gets out trumpet and begins to play.
  • Instructor gives slow motion jab - cross motions
  • Miles runs up behind me and grabs my butt
  • Begin working out, shake off Miles and try to shut out background noise
  • Hear Julia say "I hate that sound that trumpet IS TOO LOUD"
  • Ignore, focus, step step jab step step jab
  • Louis says "Mom I can't focus, Charlie is pooping."
  • Ignore, Cross punch, cross, punch
  • Julia starts whining about the noise - I yell at everyone to leave me alone and promise to deal with Charlie in 18 minutes
  • Step Step kick jab step step kick jab
  • Julia brings her crayons and coloring books to the living room angrily
  • I announce that everyone who isn't Charlie has to leave the living room now 
  • Side kick jab side kick jab
  • Julia arrives back in the living room and puts two q-tips in her ears to protest the noise
  • Hook, Jab, Hook, Jab, Hook jab, Back Kick, Side Kick
  • Oh god did she just say Capoeira? Step step back step step back jab...
  • Hook Jab Step Step Hook Jab Step Step
  • "Mom, are you dance fighting?"
  • No
  • "Is there such a thing as dance fighting?"
I don't even know...
Oh, apparently there is.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sunny Days at Cold Lakes

We actually live quite close to a really lovely lake. We never go. I feel like we should go up there more, it's about 15 minutes away and it's amazing. The sun came out this past weekend and it wasn't a single digit temperature so we decided to go exploring a bit.
The kids all seem to do better when we get out of the house. Being in the house stagnates us, we get cranky and annoyed with one another. Yet with the same company in the fresh air we're like different, happier people.
Miles had become a fan of all jackets that have hoods. He loves to have his hood up even when it's not particularly necessary. However it was quite windy, so he was really better prepared than most of us for the icy air blowing in off the lake.
We stopped by the water for a snack of beef jerky and ridiculous gas station pastries (BIG TEXAS I do LOVE YOU!) and just spent some time just...BEING. I love the sound of air whooshing through the big Georgia pines.
We saw the dam which we hadn't really taken in before, and drove over it. Louis obviously thought that was awesome. Ok I did too. The twins love taking walks even when they don't, it seems to relax them even though Charlie will fuss if we walk for too long. Mostly he wants to pick up sticks and crumble them in a world where no one bothers him about it. Nature walks are the perfect place for that.
And as for us, I think sometimes we just like to walk and watch our children discover the world. Some days that's as good as it gets.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Innate Sexism of Four Year Olds

Well, we're not Brad and Angelina but I think we've tried really hard NOT to be the sexist parents, forcing boy toy and girl toy rules, or who can wear what etc. Julia carries a purse full of Hot Wheels. Louis was the Wicked Witch of the West for Halloween when he was three. He had a baby doll and a baby stroller for it. Julia loves trains. In fact, we've never drawn those lines but let them gravitate toward whatever toys and things they were interested in. Mostly boys were interested in boy toys and the girl was interested in girl toys. Sometimes not. Miles still loves dolls.
Lately the girl has been telling us what's for girls and what's for boys. She's using GIRL toys and GIRL stuff to taunt her brother "You play with girl toys."
This isn't a behavior she's learned here. Nor anywhere else because she only plays with her brothers so, where? Is this a home grown insult? Do girls just naturally know where to sting a man in his pride?
At first we addressed this behavior explaining it intelligently, "We don't say that, there are not girl toys nor boy toys - toys are for everyone." But she doesn't seem to be stopping. She sees a commercial for something and shows me which one she wants, because it's for girls. 
I think I had a moment of clarity with this situation this morning, there was a commercial for some stupid stuffed animal that lights up, plays songs, holds your pajamas and does your yard work and she tells me she wants the unicorn, "Because unicorns are for girls." So I gently responded, "But everyone can love unicorns. Boys can love unicorns." Her answer was, "But they are my favorite."

So I asked her if she meant that unicorns are for HER? She laughed and said "Of course silly!" 

I think she's defining what she likes, rather than making sweeping declarations of what defines her sex. She's telling us what defines JULIA. She still carries cars in her purse, and has dinosaurs eat her princesses. But she's figuring out who she is, and what it means to be the little girl she is. 

We didn't really go through this with the boys, maybe it's a girl thing. Maybe it's a Julia thing. I'm not sure. What I do know is, I'd like one of those unicorns too. Because unicorns are for MOMS.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Scones Or Thick Cookies

I've seen some recipes floating around for making scones out of cake mix for a few months. I got this bright idea of making some for Christmas breakfast and picked up a red velvet/green velvet combo cake mix from the grocery before the holiday.
Then life happened and I didn't do it.
I finally made them this past weekend and the jury is sort of OUT on this. I liked them and thought they were good. The husband thinks they were just thick cookies. I do agree that they're not as...dense or something, as traditional scones. So how's it work?
I modded this recipe for mine following the baking instructions but not using sprinkles etc.
The mixing bit was fine, I followed it to the exact instructions and did in fact get a dough I could roll into a dough and then press flat.
It is, however, some of the tackiest dough I've ever touched. It's like velcro. You touch it, you're one with it. Also red dye and green dye stain. Prepare yourself for that bit and be ready to work fast. I used a butter knife to make my wedges which didn't look quite perfect but I thought were good enough.
Mostly wedge shaped as you can see. And these would've been festive for Christmas breakfast wouldn't they? I'm such a dork. I have to do better next year.
I felt like they came out really well, however. Mostly scone shaped, and possibly a bit fluffier than I anticipated but that's because of the baking powder in the cake mix obviously. And not a hardship to me.
Because these are chocolate, despite their color, we opted for our traditional butter cream icing. I had said we'd drizzle them with icing. I got some help and perhaps drizzle was just a suggestion.

I'm not sure if they are scones or just thick cookies. Or are scones simply thick cookies anyway? Regardless, I thought they were good. I took some to work, people at work thought they were good.

Verdict? Good.