A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.
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Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Junkie With A Paint Brush

Our annual passes to the High Museum of Art are ending, so for one of our last trips we took the kids to see the Basquiat exhibit. I was pretty excited, not having seen a lot of his work in person.

I've always taken my kids to art musuems. Since they were in strollers or in baby Bjorn strapped to my chest, we've strolled through galleries, from Dali to DaVinci, we have always taken our kids. I think Frank Zappa had it right, although he was referring to age suggestions on toys, that you shouldn't ever assume what a kid can embrace and learn from. They aren't always super into it, that's for sure.


But here is what is great when you've made viewing and talking about art part of your life. When you've done that, made it normal and not something "FANCY" or "BEYOND" what they should ken, you get to have conversations like the one I had late that evening with Louis.
"So I was kind of disappointed in the Basquiat exhibit," he starts out hesitantly.

I was making my bed, and paused for him to come join me on the other side. "How come?" I asked, wondering where this was going.
"It wasn't what I expected," he continued. "It was sort of, junk. I didn't really like it. I don't get how that's art."

"Well, art can be lots of things," I fluff the comforter and invite him to sit down. "After all, the point of a lot of modern art is to break down the idea of what art HAS to be. Sometimes when we're looking at art, what we're looking at is someone challenging us to accept their work, and by doing that to redefine what's beautiful. If nothing else, it makes us think - and talk."
He shrugged. "I don't see what's so interesting in a junkie with a paint brush. I really thought it would be cool, I didn't like it at all."

"It's not like the Dutch masters where you can't believe it's not a photograph," I continued. "Or other schools of art where different kinds of form and discipline were what mattered. His work is just his own, unique to him and his vision. That's kind of what makes it interested.

He got up to get his pajamas, "I liked some other stuff we saw better."

The best part of the entire conversation was that my kid has some very real opinions on art. He's not mature enough to see the bigger vision of the art world but that's ok. He's 13 and he's having thoughts that I love, because it lets us engage on topics that will carry him through the rest of his life.

I'll always remember how much my own mother loved the Dutch masters, and how sad I was that she never got to see them in person as I did. Someday when I'm gone, art will still be on this Earth and he'll be able to share it with the people he loves, and remember what his mother loved. Maybe he'll get to see pieces I never did - and think of me.

I love that he didn't like Basquiat. But he SAW Basquiat. That's what matters to me.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hope Is The Thing


We went last night to the Relay for Life event at the Fairgrounds. It had been a few years since we went to this, but we had such a good time last time and we had nothing going on so we decided why not go check out the fun.

Our Relay for Life event is really amazing. It's the only one I've ever been to, and it's like this incredible festival on steroids. People are singing, and dancing, and celebrating. There are games and gifts and just this undefinable JOY in the air. You see hugs, you see tears, you see people walking around in silly costumes and just exuding their happiness and giving it out to others freely.

What I learned last night is this, while the mood at these events is probably all about the same, I'm not wrong in feeling WONDER at the size and scope of ours. Why? Because...
This thing is the largest in the world. That rather explains A LOT.

What makes it really wonderful is how all of the booths have activities, little games and things for the kids who are too small to understand the "bigger" meaning of the event, but these things still create a positive association for the event that I think is important.
We didn't scratch the surface on the activities that were available to do, for sure. But we are many and it's hard to wrangle us through stuff so I think we did ok.

There were clowns to meet and even Chopper was there, our old friend from the Braves games.

We had some BBQ and hot dogs under a tent with Chinese lanterns and enjoyed the warm southern evening as night fell. It was al fresco tent dining at it's finest.
Yes Charlie is in love with that Coke.

It's such a juxtaposition, to be surrounded by all the luminaries in memory of those who died from the various kinds of cancer but to feel so much happiness. Maybe that's really the point of Relay for Life. It's not just here to remind us to celebrate the lives of those who didn't make it or who are still struggling with cancer, it's also to remind us to celebrate ALL of our lives. Celebrate even on the days that seem crappy. Celebrate when things aren't going the way you want.

I heard someone say, recently, upon hearing that I had four children "Oh - you are so rich." Julia echoed it as we ate our dinner, "We're rich." She was saying this because we had both coke AND cookies with our dinner I think. 

The truth is, we are. We're SO rich. We're filthy rich. We will never have all the money or all the things or the best house or the best car.  But I don't really care about any of that. What I have is the most important stuff in the whole world. 
I woke up today feeling tired and achy and I'd like a nap, on the beach preferably. But since that isn't happening I should also note that I woke up happy, and in love with my family. Life is really good. I feel like I soaked up so much good energy at Relay For Life that I'm good for a long time.
Hope floats. Always.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Until May 6th I was Singular

On May 6th, 1979 my dad and I took Mom to the hospital. We went to the IU Med Center in Indianapolis to check her in for the night. The next morning we were going to have a baby. I remember them checking her in, doing her vitals.

I remember them listening for the baby's heartbeat and not hearing anything. I remember the look on my parent's faces, and the nurse saying it was ok, the baby was probably turned. I remember the dread, thinking we had another baby that had died and my dad becoming gruff and declaring that we'd leave and let them take care of Mom.

Dad took me and dropped me off at Grandmas, and I remember we didn't even get any clothes for school that next day. He just dropped me off and went wherever he went. The rest of my evening was with my Grandma and my Uncle George.


Grandma and I went to the IGA and I always affirm that you didn't really grow up in a small town in the midwest if you haven't shopped at the IGA. She let me pick out whatever I wanted for dinner, from the frozen food section because she wasn't in a cooking mood. This was an amazing treat in my world - and I chose french fries and fish sticks. We also picked up a half gallon of ice milk.

Grandma said it "hafe" instead of HALF. I have no idea what part of the Hoosier accent that was.

I didn't know that my choice of french fries and fish sticks would be my dinner for the next two weeks, but when I was ten I thought it was pretty fun.

We watched 60 Minutes after dinner and then I had to let Grandma wash my feet before I was allowed to slip into the crisply starched white sheets of her bed. I tried not to think about being worried, and Grandma read me "Betsy Ross Girl of Old Philadelphia" which was full of thee's and thy's and I thought it was funny.

I woke up the next day and before noon I had gained a brother.

I was singular in all those years before that day. There had been the girl baby that died, but even she never drew a breath. I was always singular, alone in our family. The oldest grandchild on both sides, I felt doomed to be the ONLY child in our little family. I wanted a boy, and I got my fondest wish.

Mom often told me that, as a child, when she said her prayers at night she'd pray for one of her dolls to become a baby so she could have a sibling. She said she asked her Daddy again and again if they could get another baby. But they were old when they adopted her, plus - it was the war. Babies were plenty during the war. I suppose they didn't think they could get another baby, or perhaps they truly didn't want one.

I just know that it was so important to my mother to give me what she didn't have - a sibling.

I told the story of the baby to my therapist the last time I was there and her response shocked me. She said "Your mother loved you amazingly to go through all that and try again. She really didn't want you to be alone, did she?" I hadn't told her about how Mom had been an only child, nor how she had longed not to be. But she got it, maybe as a woman, maybe from the things I said, about how important it was to my mother for Matt to be in my life.

The days I had in my family up until May 6th 1979 were good. We were three and it was a good, happy life for the most part. But on May 7th it was better. And it was better every day after.







Monday, May 09, 2016

When I Move Away

My six year old is asking me about moving away. She wants to know if when she is an adult if she can move away.

This line of questioning is irritating me, considerably.

I mean, of course she can move away. She will go to college and then probably have a job I hope, some career time, a life of her own before she mets the right girl or guy and settles down for whatever version of adult life she really wants.

She's making a list of the things she's going to take, apparently MY jewelry is going with her. "You aren't taking my jewelry," I said dryly and she's taking inventory of my possessions. "What about if you're dead?" she asks.

I pause and respond that if I'm dead she can have some of my jewelry but she should ask Louis if he wants any of it. "He's a boy he won't want it." I reiterate that she will be required to ask Louis.

She concedes this and returns the the picture of the castle that she's going to move into, when she moves away. She says she's going to have it built special, as she's going to be a real princess when she doesn't live here anymore. With pen in hand, she says "Can you please tell me the number of the moving company? I want to have it handy when the time comes."

Now this is serious. She's making plans.

I told her it was 1-800 Move and she got it pretty close to right I am impressed.

The thing is, I'm nowhere near the neighborhood of ready to consider this. She's making her six year old life plans of castle dwelling and jewelry pilfering and I'm getting choked up because some version of this very thing is ACTUALLY going to happen to me. It's going to happen FOR her and TO me. That sucks a lot, in my opinion.

Except that it doesn't. It's the point of raising humans. You raise them tall and strong and you teach them to think and you send them out in the world to do things. I am struggling with the idea that the last bit is unavoidable, even as much as I know it truly is.

She came back by, with her paper and phone number, and asked me how many suitcases I thought I would need. I asked her what for, and she replied "Well Mommy you have to come live in the castle with me. How can I live somewhere without my Mommy?"

Indeed.


Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Medical Science Is Great Except When It sucks

Several years ago I had a surgical procedure that was an alternative to hysterectomy. When I did it, I was experiencing chaos in my innards in frequency greater than every 28 days and it was terrible. I liked the idea of not having to worry about it monthly, or ever again.

I've written about the fact that it does get a bit frustrating to still have the PMS swings and whatnot but let's face it, there is nothing bad about NOT having your period to trouble you (unless it's something you want hey I'm not here to judge live and let live etc).

It's a pain. Literally. I've always felt like it should have an on and off switch. "I'd like to be able to reproduce now, CLICK - ON." Something like that. Alas no, and since the age of 10 I had cripping horrible monthly cycles. They promised me it was 100% effective, and that it was a perfect alternative to hysterectomy which had it's appeal BIG time.

However, over the past few years I've had this issue - suddenly I'll be just doubled over with this intense pain. Not to be too graphic, it feels like you're about to have the worlds worst butt explosion. But nothing would happen and I would be confused by the pain. Then I realized it was happening in a pattern. OH ABOUT EVERY 28-30 days. Now, one instance of crippling pain became a couple of times a day as time went on, and then I'd spot maybe once or twice.

Not what was advertised.

When I was at my OBGYN last time, I told him about it, and he explained to me that two things were probably going on. I had my procedure done when the process was still very new - so they may have over estimated it's longevity - some people (including me) seem to have the power to heal better than anticipated so our uterus HEALED THYSELF and is now once again working itself back to functioning.

The other thing for me as an individual ist that my uterus had all those little nooks and crannies in it because it's deformed and since they were working blind, it's possible that they missed a spot here or there and that's speeding up my "healing" process. Of course I can always have a hysterectomy if it becomes unbearable.

Today I'm having cramps from hell. Nothing else. Just exquisite, soul ripping cramps that make me quite unhappy that I won't be getting handed a baby at the end of it all. Seriously NOT COOL UTERUS.

This is my "I can't with this." Face. That's how the kids talk. I'm trying to stay hip.

Oh no, I said hip. I failed.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Diamond Birthdays Part Two

We went nontraditional in terms of cake for Miles and Charlie's 12th. They don't much like cake, or don't like it on a regular basis. More often than not they get upset at being asked to eat it, and that's no way to spend your birthday. The husband decided to make chocolate rice krispie treats crusted with M&Ms because hey, at least we know they like M&Ms.
We took them bowling, because we know they like bowling as it's something they do for Special Olympics. We made it a little family bowling party, and since it was a league night the place was hoppin' and fun.
Their favorite bit might have been the food, as we ordered apps and more apps and just ate this and that and the other thing all night, nibbling on junk food in a way that 12 year old boys can only dream of.
It's weird to have kids that you're guessing what they like. At various points that evening they would get aggravated. You want to have a birthday party for them that's special, that they like. But when they can't TELL you want they like, you're just winging it the best you can.
There were definitely some happy times, though. Big smiles and giggles but who knows if this is how they wanted to spend their birthday? I don't have any clue.
I changed diapers a couple of times for my twelve year olds, in the bowling alley bathrooms. Despite that, my two little boys ate lots of treats picked out just for them, drank their weight in Pepsi and bowled their little hearts out. I think they had fun.
It's harder and harder, the older they get. The gap between them and the children who aren't disabled becomes more and more apparent, things will get more and more challenging. It's hard to think about my little tiny boys becoming teenagers. It's hard to imagine them being 12.
But regardless of any of that, my trepidations of them growing but not growing up, their aggravation over the noise, the diapers, the stress of having TWO severely autistic little boys out in public, we six were out for a night out and we had fun.

We ate junk food and there were presents and it was a birthday after all. We six were together and in the end, that's all that we need to make a day perfect.

Happy Birthday to Miles and Charlie, the first living twins ever born in my family. I love you guys so much. You have no idea.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Diamond Birthdays Part One

In the month of April 50% of my family has a birthday.

This is pretty much the month after which we go broke for a while. True story.
As a family of six we do a lot of birthdays at home. We don't live near any family, so usually it's just us and a cake and presents. We'll try to go somewhere fun, do something fun, but we don't do the whole HAVE ALL THE KIN OVER FOR BIRTHDAY thing because well - ours live hundreds of miles away.

We've been lucky to have Aunties Suzie and Debbie here on the rare occasion, but generally it's just US. For that reason when you get to school and finally have lots of friends, we tend to DO IT UP.
The girl chose to have her party at an indoor play land called Everland which is pretty freaking amazing. She'd been there before, as a pre-schooler with her Daddy while I was at work. We invited her whole class and the girl scouts and waited to see what would happen.
To say that she and her friends had a ridiculous time might be the understatement of the universe.

What was great though was getting to see her with other children. Not her family, just children who know her in ways I don't ever get to see - that SCHOOL version of Julia that isn't the home version of Julia but is probably on the path to being the person she'll become in ways I haven't fathomed yet.
It's also sort of enlightening to see how other people react to your child. Watching other children, seeing how THEY see her. I'm not neutral. There is a certain amount of "Oh wow they DO like her" that I think other parents feel too. You want your kids to be liked, you want them to be around people who are good to them. I felt really good seeing them all playing with her so joyfully.

We had a choice, we could have goodie bags and a character present OR skip both. Well goodie bags are just crap no one wants in their house. Small toys that break, stickers that end up where they should not, etc. No parent wants goodie bags. MAKE NOTE YOUNGER PARENTS. NO ONE WANTS THIS.

We decided to have Elsa come out, thinking she would come out and sing Happy Birthday and do a photo op.

WOW were we wrong.
She came out and every little girl in the place LOST THEIR MIND. They started blasting LET IT GO - and while all the little girls belted it out word for word, Elsa grabbed Julia and starts twirling her around the room. At some points she grabs every other girl and also dances and twirls them.

It was possibly one of the most exhuberantly joyful things I have ever seen in person.

Elsa stayed for photo ops afterward - you can see she's a bit exhausted. The girls are completely amazed if you can't tell.
She will never be six again. She will never have another Kindergarten birthday party. It wasn't cheap but I'm so glad we did it. Watching her joy and excitement was worth it.
Every once in a while, I think it's ok for all your dreams to come true. Especially if it's your birthday.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Festival Season Kicks Off

So over a month ago I noticed someone showing "interest" on Facebook in an event called Bear on the Square which takes place up toward the mountains in Dahlonega. I thought it looked kind of cute so I made note of it too, hoping maybe we could go. We love festivals, always have even in the BEFORE KIDS TIME and I'm hoping we really get back to them this year more often.

It's a challenge to take two severely autistic kids out to festivals. First of all there's the diapers - changing diapers in a port-a-potty is almost always impossible as you have to take off their shoes and I think we all know that standing barefoot or in socked feet in a port-a-potty is one of the circles of hell. Plus I think you'll get smallpox doing that, or something like smallpox. We're vaccinated but who wants to risk it?

I didn't know there WAS a bear to meet but we ran right into him when we got there. The kids all thought that was great.

The festival was a pretty damn good one. There were TONS of stringed instruments for sales, and folk crafts - (REAL crafts not stuff done with glue guns made at Michaels). Officially it was an Appalachian Art and Music Festival and it didn't disappoint at all. I kind of wanted to pick up this stringed instrument called a panjo, I am totally going to next time I see one. I have no idea why but it was pretty cool. Next time!

I usually pick up a piece of jewelry at these kind of festivals, and Julia was excited to get to pick up a ring as a souvenir. It's fun to have pieces that not everyone else has. The ring she picked up has the quality of being "purple" in my opinion. She was pretty excited however, so WIN for the almost 6 year old.

Now see this? This is $32 worth of root beer floats.
Festival food is always a crap shoot. Sometimes it's over priced, sometimes it's really reasonable. Sometimes it's amazing and OH WOW SO GOOD and sometimes it's like holy hell what did we just buy and why? Unfortunately this day we chose all the wrong food. ALL the wrong food. These root beer floats were possibly the WORST root beer I have EVER had, flat and warm with cheap ice cream in it. UGH not good. Oh yay we had free refills. We left the mugs behind because we didn't want reminders of this travesty of wasted money in our home.

That was possibly the only real low point however. There was the MOST immaculate port-a-potty in Christendom and I was able to change both twins without fear of plague and flesh eating bacteria being present. So that particular piece of Special Needs Parenting was actually pretty easy yesterday.
While my kids might identify their new balloon animal friends as the best part of their day, I have to say I think it was the music.
The entire place was like the O' Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack on fantastic repeat. If you like that sort of thing (which I do) it was pretty amazing. Every few feet there was another small group of either bluegrass or old timey musicians, playing and singing and it was just lovely. You didn't have to go find a spot at a main stage to hear the music, it was a few feet away while you bought soaps, rings, jellies, etc.

If you don't know the difference between Old Timey music and Bluegress the festival's website has some helpful information for you.

Ok it's funny, you should read it.

Home Depot had a booth set up for kids to do crafts, so our three little guys all made little wagons. It was evident Miles has been to Home Depot frequently with his class, as he grabbed the hammer immediately and went to work. He knew exactly what to do. Charlie wasn't quite as interested and needed a little more help but I think they all liked this part and now various princesses and Tigger have "a sick new ride" according to my oldest.

I'm going to have to have a better DIAPER plan for the summer festivals. Sometimes we just change in the van (not ideal for poop lemme tell you) so I'm going to be thinking on that a lot. I'm not going to let their diapers hold us back from all of the experiences out there for us. They loved the music, and they got new toys to play with and it was an all around great day.
Miles managed not to flip out over dogs, and we left with lots of handcrafted goodies to enjoy. Those two things alone were completely worth the day.

It was a perfect family day out. We need more of these.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

President Carter Wrote Back

If you read the other post, you know that this made us cry ...and why.

Thank you Jimmy Carter. You're an amazing human being.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Thing About Work Travel

I don't actually like to leave my family to travel. I HATE not being surrounded by my chaotic world of children and annoying husband. (He and I annoy the shit out of each other despite how much we love each other. I think that comes from being together so long.) I miss all the things that annoy me about all of them the moment I walk out the door.

It always reminds me of the line from "I Love You To Death" - which goes "I miss him so much, I forget everything I hate about him."

That's how I feel from the moment I step out the door until the moment I return.

Except for the one thing, I love to travel.
It's not the leaving or being alone that I covet, althought there is some value in that sometimes. There is some peace and self recharging that happens at thirty five thousand feet for sure.
I can drink coffee and no one is beside me stealing drinks, which is surely a luxury in this life of mine. I bitch about that a lot, but it annoys the living hell out of me. However, given the option I would always take having small humans to steal my coffee vs. not.
What I love is the sensory experience of being in a new place, or visiting one that isn't home. I want to soak up this new place on the Earth, it's sights and sounds, it's flavors. I want to experience it all.
I think I kind of walk around like a slack jawed tourist, finding amusement in childish things but I don't really care, it's way too much fun just to enjoy everything as it comes to me than to pretend to not.
People totally stared at me taking these pictures. DO NOT CARE.

That's the fun of it.

I do actually have to do work, and as it turns out my job is usually exactly the same I'm just sitting in a different place which is fine, I kind of think that's cool in a modern world sort of way.
But all in all, no matter how much fun I'm having being solo and having adventures I'm missing my humans a lot.

No matter how exotic your foot flush is, there's no place like home.