Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Diplomas and doughnuts

Alena was among the East Butler County YMCA's graduating three-year-old preschool class last Thursday. It was a celebration of her first school experience which we all enjoyed. Below are some highlights of the morning.

A raucous crowd: Here's the larger part of Alena's cheering crew before the big ceremony.

Apple of her eye: Alena with her teachers, Miss Jen and Miss Tabatha. They were both wonderful to her and made her introduction to school positive.

The grads: While not organized (or looking for that matter), all eleven graduates are accounted for here. I loved that the class was made up of a diverse group of peers.

Congrats: Alena cheers for one of her classmates. Each child was called forward to accept a diploma and goodie bag.

Great keepsake material: The graduates each wore a hat they had made, topped with their names.

Glazed and amused: Alivia tried the mortar board on for size and thought the doughnuts were the best part of the morning (she ate TWO).

The natural vs. the unnatural

There's nothing that could convince me otherwise. It's simply unnatural for a child to be taken from its mother. While there are thousands of reasons a mother/child separation may occur, it's just not nature's intended way. Of this, I'm quite certain. A mother's instinct to protect and care for a child is one of humanity's most fundamental characteristics.

There's something else I'm absolutely sure about. It's totally natural for a mother to go to any lengths to make her hurting child well. Whether it's a bandaid that's not really needed or a procedure far more complex than tubes in little ears, a mother will beg, plead and persuade who ever to do whatever is needed to heal her child. This quality is one which is gained the instant a mother learns she's a mother.

So placed in a circumstance where the natural and unnatural collide, which will prevail?

The natural.

As much as I would have rather ripped my heart from my chest and handed it over to strangers dressed in scrubs, it was Alysse they wanted. And knowing it was her best chance for feeling well, the natural triumphed. I handed her over.

While the tears most certainly sealed the unnatural fate, the ultimate outcome a 15-month old who now hears her own voice correctly for the first time in who knows how long, and new "words" coming from her sweet mouth that had yet to be heard by anyone. Naturally, that sounds wonderful.

P.S. Today, I'm thankful for:

  • The moment my baby was back in my arms.
  • A mother who knows what having four children is like.
  • Trace's love for being outdoors.
  • Alena's passionate nature.
  • Alivia's new found assertion in letting us know when she's talking and someone has interrupted her.
  • A husband who has strength when mine is not so strong.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

'Til we meet again

My sweet Alysse:

In one week we'll meet again. I'm counting the days. You'll feel better, I promise. Our reacquaintance will be long overdue and an incredible opportunity.

Days of feeling poorly have turned into months, and one prescription for antibiotics to cure the ear infection(s) have turned into a pharmacist who knows you by name.

It doesn't seem fair your feistiness has been replaced with irritability and your sweetness depleted by pain. A spitfire squelched by little ears that just won't get better and stay that way.

While not the ideal circumstance, if the procedure to place tiny tubes in your ears will improve your quality of life and provide a reprieve from doctor visits and medicine taking, it's an inconvenience well worth it.

With any luck, it will result in a chance for days during which you feel well, energized and spunky. You can be you. Not the out-of-sorts, uncomfortable little body your sick ears have produced.

Also, I selfishly yearn for a chance to rid my heart of the constant tug that you hurt, and doing all I can still isn't enough to make that wretched hurt go away. Some days I can simply look at your small face and know you don't feel well.

You'll need to be brave and know we're doing what seems the most logical means by which to end the months you've spent aching. Soon it will be over and we'll meet once again. The new you. This time hurt-free, happy and hell-on-wheels. I can't wait.

Love, Mom

P.S. Today I'm thankful for:

  • Our children having everything they need.
  • Trace's smooth dance moves.
  • Alivia's brilliant mind.
  • One of the "Best Doctors in America" to perform Alysse's surgery.
  • Alena's outgoing personality.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Scenes like these have been rare around our house during the past four weeks or so. In the place of HotWheels and laughter or stethoscopes and sharing have been tantrums, hitting and chaos. Chaos even beyond our norm.

I have two standard responses to the "Boy, you sure have your hands full," comment that we can't avoid being the target of every time we leave the house (Alena can confirm that "People tell Mom that all the time."). There's the smile and "Yes, but they really are good kids," option or the "It really isn't is bad as you might think" reply.

The past few weeks, however, really have been THAT bad, and then some. Thinking back to a year ago, even with two infants and two toddlers to care for, I don't remember being so exhausted, frustrated and utterly defeated as I have recently felt.

The first couple of rough weeks were a seesaw between frustration and hope ... eventually this too would pass and we'd be back to our crazy, but manageable way of life. Next came the this-can't-last-much-longer pleads for mercy. And finally, last week I found myself hoping each night that the next day wouldn't be the one on which I was committed.

Seriously. I wasn't sure how much more screaming, fighting and whining I could endure. I didn't know how much more I could take.

However, the clouds have started to lift (or so I hope). Today saw several spans of three and a half or four minutes of peaceful play fall over the house and the cacophony of arguments and crying subside.

Here's hoping this is a new chapter that will quickly replace the memory of the past few weeks. Let's hope this harmony decides to settle in and stay awhile.

P.S. Today I'm thankful for:

  • Alysse's enormous heart.
  • Alivia's fascination with birds and her interest in all things alive.
  • Alena's new-found ability to keep her hands to herself (and the refrigerator sticker chart that has helped her turn the corner).
  • Trace's ability to say "Mommy" and his use of it three thousand times a day.
  • The five-person wrestling match Jason's homecoming brings with it each afternoon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New coaster, carousel adventures

A few pictures of our Kings Island outing Friday. Alivia has already asked several times when we're going back. I'm guessing that means they had fun.

Here we come. Alivia and Alena were both behind the wheel.

Look Mom, no hands. My little pixie on her first roller coaster ride. Yes, she was a fan.

Holding on. Alena shared two rides on the roller coaster with dad. Apparently one turn wasn't enough.

Yes, I'm grinning. Alysse loved her ride on the carousel. She didn't want it to end.

You tell me. I'm not sure who's having the most fun here.

The yellow ride. The scrambler, known as the yellow ride to Alena, was the biggest hit of the day.

Amusing snooze. Several hours at an amusement park wears out even the most energetic. A quick snooze and they were ready for more action.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The house that we built

I'm proud of the house we built.
It's stronger than sticks, stones and steel.
It's not a big place sittin' up high on some hill.
A lot of things will come and go, but love never will.

Five years ago Jason and I would have celebrated an occasion like a wedding anniversary enjoying an expensive dinner, sharing an extravagant dessert and sleeping in the following morning. That was before we had four kids, hardly ever a moment of silence and hadn't eaten a dinner without both in at least six months. Let's not even discuss the sleeping in thing.

Now the money we would have spent on that dinner is dropped on junk food at Kings Island. The silence we sometimes crave more than anything else in the world comes in 45 second bursts. And again, let's not discuss the sleeping in thing.

However, amongst the fingers sticky from cotton candy, high-pitched squeals and cries of "Mom, Alena Grace pinched me," I don't believe there's anything either of us would change.

Even in the very worst of times, we recognize the larger purpose in what we're doing. And yes, sometimes it takes one of us to remind the other what that is. But in the very best of times, we count each blessing and attempt to soak up the most minute details found in our children.

Five years ago "us" meant only two. Five years ago there weren't swings to push, little feet zipping across the floor or baby hands to hold. Five years ago, we would have looked forward to that dinner. Today, we know there's so much more to look forward to.

P.S. Today I am thankful for:

  • Our new fence that keeps everyone safely in the backyard.
  • Alivia's literal interpretation of Dr. Seuss's "Hop on Pop."
  • Alysse's wonderfully infectious laugh.
  • Nestling my nose in Trace's neck to plant a kiss and, in return, getting a whiff of dad's aftershave.
  • The knowledge that Alena's stubborn moods and defiance mean she's gaining her own independence.
  • A husband who can still laugh at one of my smart ass comments after five years.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I couldn't be more proud

Remember those petunias in Styrofoam cups or homemade planters you'd bring home from school for Mother's Day? For the first time, I was the recipient, not the bearer of such Mother's Day gifting.

In honor of this weekend's holiday, Alena's preschool class invited mothers to share "Muffins with Mom" time this morning. Having looked forward to a little Alena/muffin time all week, I was the first mom at the classroom door at 10:30 a.m.

Miss Jen kicked off the special event leading the class in singing "Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee." The little voices and enthusiastic hand motions were priceless.

She then read each child's "My Mom" list of questions they had worked on earlier in the week. My mom is __________ old. My mom is _____ feet tall. My mom's favorite color is ____________. These were the questions posed to each student about his or her mother. Listening proved to be quite amusing.

Alena sat patiently waiting her turn through about half of the stack. She then couldn't help herself any longer and popped out of her seat saying she wanted to be next. Standing next to Miss Jen as she read Alena's paper, I learned I was 20 years old, am two feet tall and my favorite food is peas (yes, I do like peas). Alena then presented me with the paper and a pink petunia.

Better than the petunia, though, was the great big hug and mile-wide smile she also shared. While I managed to keep them from streaming down my face, I couldn't stop the tears from welling up in my eyes. She's so smart, so beautiful and getting so big. She's giving pink petunias, after all.

P.S. Today I'm thankful for:

  • Being Alena's "best mommy."
  • Trace's teaching me a new way to play ... cars, crashes and laughter at a good, heartfelt "kaboom" sound effect.
  • Alysse's adventure seeking.
  • A few uninterrupted minutes in the rocking chair with Alivia.
  • A daddy who puts his children first.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Wicked ...

and I'm not talking about the musical here. Wicked is the best description for the week we've just survived.

The reason for all the wickedness? I'm not sure. The whining, defiance, fighting and fits started Monday morning, and kept rolling from there. We did have a few glimmers of hope, when I thought "this too has passed," only to be confronted with another wave of incessant, unavoidable whining or an all-out screaming episode I'm sure had the neighbors talking.

I can't place all the wicked blame on my lovies. Admittedly, I had my fair share of wickedness too ... having four kids all in varying states of moodiness can do that to you.

I raised my voice more in the last week than I probably had in the last two months. I was moved to tears twice out of nothing but pure exhaustion and frustration. I even let loose a "God damn" which they've never heard come across my lips (which I later apologized for and explained was wrong once a cooler head was regained). I'm not proud.

While it was a week I'd sooner forget than relive, it was a lesson in our ability to stick it out and muddle through, remembering this too really shall pass and maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Most important, though, while at our very lowest, each day still held a gem or two that made all the wickedness worth tolerating. Even with tear-filled eyes at the end of the day, I could still recall something that had made the day worthwhile ... something I was grateful for.

To that end, I've vowed, no matter how wicked any day is, I'll take a minute or two before bidding it farewell to reflect on those little moments that make it all worthwhile. Because, really, at the end of the day I have a whole lot more to be thankful for than I have to complain about.

On that note, today I am thankful for:

  • The Pixie's appreciation of Poison's "Your Mama Don't Dance."
  • Alysse's love of all things chocolate.
  • Alena's enjoyment of her pseudo mint juleps (ginger ale with a mint spring).
  • Trace's perfect little kisses.
  • A husband who knows when I'm at the end of my rope and loves me anyway.