Saturday, September 20, 2008

Leaving three behind for four

You went to sleep three and woke up four. In those twelve hours that passed, it's as though we really did move forward a year. You seemed older, more independent and less mine. Able to fix your own hair, convinced you no longer need a nap and completely aware you are now four.

Every day you slip further from me and closer to the world outside, but last night it was as though you gained your footing and ran even further ahead in your journey. The confidence you've found in yourself is reassuring, yet frightening. The self reliance you've acquired is comforting, yet saddening. The ironies of your maturing are everywhere.

While I anxiously await to see what lies ahead for you ... what talents you'll develop, what friends you'll choose, what career path you'll follow; I also want you to stay just the way you are ... able to do so many things for yourself, while still needing me.

This growing up is a series of trade-offs. Loosing a bit of the itty bitty girl for a girl who is more aware and asks more difficult questions. Teaching you the rights from the wrongs while everywhere around you lies influences you now have the mind to interpret and process for yourself. Wanting to keep you safe and to myself, but your need to reach out and experience more of the world.

Trading innocence for experience, trading days for memories, trading three for four.

Four going on fourteen

When you wake up and you're four ... you know, really big ... you spend the day doing things like:

Crossing your legs while opening your birthday gift from your much younger, less sophisticated sister.

Lounging on your new Taylor Swift pillow that's just as fancy as you are.

Admiring what a pretty baby you were and how your mother cried after giving birth to you because she was so lucky to have been given such a princess.

Taking phone calls from birthday well wishers. Yes, cell phone calls trump the nap you talked yourself out of because you're four.

Relishing yet another pair of shoes. A fashionista never has enough.

Extinguishing the big "4" candle on your birthday cake.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A fragile life's lessons

Last Sunday's unprecedented wind storm, left hundreds of thousands in the Greater Cincinnati area bitching about Duke Energy, bemoaning their lost telephone service and complaining about closed schools. I, too, whined about the power outage and the loss of my washing machine availability and lack of fresh-brewed coffee. Forty seven hours with no lights was anything but a vacation with four children.

However, in comparison to the devastation the wind brought to two local families, the rest of us had nothing to complain about. A young couple was killed in an unimaginable accident while participating in a fundraising motorcycle ride. The father of one of the victims is Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett who I had the pleasure of working with in the past.

He is a man of the highest caliber. Someone who really cares about those around him, who holds his friends in the highest regard and would do anything to help anyone in need. He's a man unlike many others I've known. He's someone I'll always remember, despite the time that passes.

I cannot fathom the debilitating effect the loss of his daughter has had, and will continue to have on him. It sickens me to think of his pain, and the turmoil his inability to undo the tragedy will certainly take on him. Making the incident even more unbearable is that his only grandchild is now left parentless.

The only comfort I've been able to find in the whole mess is knowing that infant baby girl still has him. He's a man who will spend every day he has left imparting in her a sense of who her parents were. They'll have each other.

Their tragedy has left me wondering what would come of our four children if something were to happen to both of us. Sure, in the hypothetical, everyone says they'd love to have them; but really, we're not talking one or two kids here. The responsibility they require is scary (even for me sometimes). Four kids, the rest of their lives. That's a lot to ask of anyone.

While we've no plan for the "what-ifs" concerning our children. I have spent the last several days pondering what I'd want whoever might assume responsibility for them to teach them, from me. So here's my list so far, for whoever might need it.

  • Work hard. Regardless of the work you do, whether it glamorous or mundane, do it to the best of your ability. No slacking.

  • Girls ... don't buy cheap bras or sheets, neither will be comfortable. Save your pennies for the really good ones.

  • Trace ... when the day comes and you're 16 and packing a driver's license, don't drive like an idiot. Your friends might think it's cool to squeal tires, rev the engine and drive like a maniac. It's not. Just don't do it.

  • Get an education. In a life where so many things can be taken from you, this is something that can't. Don't pass up any opportunity you receive to further your education.

  • Be involved in your political process. Vote (and maybe even know a little about what you're voting). It takes five minutes once or twice a year. You can't possibly be too busy ... lazy maybe, busy ... no.

  • Don't judge a book by its cover. That lady with no makeup, messy hair and clothes you'd wear around the house might be one who would give you the very shirt off her back. The other lady with the manicured hands, fancy car and designer clothes might pretend not to notice you in a situation of need.

  • Sex ... for my girls. Someone please teach my girls about sex. And I don't just mean the mechanics of the physical act. I'm talking ovulation, intimacy, periods, birth control, sharing, conception, love, child rearing, nurturing and everything else pertaining to it. Teach it early, and teach it often.

  • Sex ... for my son. Someone please teach my son to keep it in his pants. Control, and the ability to maintain sense over impulse. I'm not asking for a 25 year old virgin here, just some consideration for what could come from an impulsive act. If he wants to do it tonight, think about if for two more and then act. Men seem to reap years of regret from an impulsive sexual decision. Just think about it for longer than two seconds before whipping it out.

  • Love. Love. Love. Love. Please teach them I love them more than they'll ever comprehend. Maybe, they'll begin to understand a bit when they have their own children.

  • Optimism. Instill in each of them that despite what troubles may come their way, there's always someone out there who has it worse. While you might be lamenting your completely dumped refrigerator from that wind storm, there are families who've lost much, much more.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Big and little Steeler madness

Terrible towels were waving, fingers were orange and jerseys were sported as the crazy Steeler crew in our house kicked off the 2008 football season.

And while he'd never admit it, I'm of the belief that Jason enjoyed seeing Trace in his new Steeler jersey more than he did watching the game. I'm now wondering if I stocked the kitchen with chips and Cheetos, had the (root)beer chilling and exited quietly, if they'd even know I was gone for a few hours.

Note: For anyone even wondering, no, we do not serve minors. An empty (plastic) beer bottle is a thrilling acquisition when you're 1 1/2 years old, though.

P.S. Today I'm thankful for:

  • Trace's new little boy haircut (and the fact that he sat still for the clippers used in the process).
  • that it's only her grapes that Alysse bounces across and off of the table while giggling.
  • Alivia's beauty - inside and out.
  • Alena's understanding and occasional use of manners.
  • a Steeler dad who asks to have his picture taken with his resident groupies.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My sincerest apologies, Jon and Kate

Let this serve as my official, public apology to Jon and Kate Gosselin.

For those unfamiliar, Jon and Kate Gosselin and their eight children are the stars of TLC's Jon and Kate + 8. The couple allows the world a peek inside their home while raising eight children ... twins and sextuplets.

Since Trace and Alysse were born, I can't count the number of people who have asked, "Do you watch Jon and Kate + 8?"

"No." Not much time for TV watching in my world (at least without laundry folding too).

However, late last winter when flipping on the television one night, the show happened to be airing. I watched out of curiosity, having had so many people mention it.

I was disturbed. The kind of disturbed the lasts for days, lingering on my mind, leaving me unsettled.

Why don't they try to alleviate some of the whining? Are all of the kids never content at the same time? Isn't there any better way? Is it really possible to take all that bellyaching in stride and just roll with it? These questions ran through my head for days. Maybe even weeks.

Ahh, and then came spring. It brought to our home emerging personalities, babies gaining greater independence and the pure whining chaos I had witnessed on that episode of Jon and Kate + 8. I was living my punishment for having cast judgement on those poor, unsuspecting parents.

The bickering, complaining and tantrums that had taken place in their home had moved into ours. Making my punishment worse, was the knowledge I was barely surviving despite having only half the number of whiners they do. I began to realize the chaos and bickering in their house was actually quite controlled, and to be admired.

In the past couple of months, I've managed to watch more episodes. Truth be told, I could be a Jon and Kate addict if I had the time. In the dozen shows I've now seen, I've come to appreciate their ability to deal with the madness that comes with having eight children under one roof. And actually, see many similarities between their family and ours (a shortage of four children not being one of them).

What I hadn't truly experienced when watching that first episode was the emergence of little personalities and the meshing of them that occurs in a family. It's hard. Sometimes really hard. Made even harder when there are young siblings and multiples involved. Independence being sought, conflicting points of view, growing egos, expanding curiosities and relationships in need of nurturing.

Being on the flip side of the last six months' journey in my own life, I'd now be disturbed to turn on the TV and watch a Jon and Kate + 8 episode that didn't involve conflict and crying. I now get it. I've learned.

That said, I'm sorry Jon and Kate, for ever having doubted you are doing a wonderful job managing what some days is a near impossible task. Parenting is a challenge, and gets exponentially more challenging with the addition of each child. You are to be commended for sharing your sometimes messy, most times loud, always entertaining lives with us.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

School days, school days

Alena's first day of preschool, version 4.0, was today. Today put her one year closer to the big K (kindergarten).

Alena was so looking forward to returning to school, and eager to start the year with Miss Mandy (let's face it, Aunt Mandy, the name already ups the teacher's popularity with her).

She started the day with pancakes and cereal ... her request; was quick to get dressed; and grabbed her Hello Kitty school bag she had picked out herself in preparation for the school year.

Making the switch from last year's Tuesday/Thursday routine to the Monday/Wednesday/Friday program to help our household scheduling, left her knowing only one other girl from her three-year-old class (most of her other friends from last year are attending Tuesday/Thursday/Friday), but this didn't seem to be an issue with her. She's got lots of new friends to make.

Alena with her drop-off/pick-up entourage.

When we picked her up, she was grinning from ear to ear. She had a terrific time, and quickly told me how she hadn't been bossy with her teachers. While we weren't aware we needed to remind her not to "boss" her teachers, she does get reminded frequently not to "boss" Alivia. Good work, nonetheless.

Note: For anyone wondering, Alivia too will soon be starting preschool. Because of the September 30 birth date deadline and the fact that she is still only two, the YMCA has agreed to allow her to enter the three-year-old program once she turns three. So stay tuned ... she'll be having her first day of school at the beginning of November.

P.S. Today I'm thankful for:
  • our proximity to the East Butler County YMCA and the facility's preschool program. When taking Alena to school, I'm always confident she'll be well cared for, exposed to new things and happy.
  • babies who give each other goodnight kisses. I've seen it dozens and dozens of times, but it still warms my heart each night when Trace and Alysse plant one on each other.
  • Alivia's understanding beyond her age that she too will get to go to school soon.
  • a husband who awaits a phone call from Alena to hear about her first day of school.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


The noses seem to fit, don't they? All four think the novelties are great. How simple. How entertaining.

P.S. Today I'm thankful for:

  • kids to play with.
  • Alivia's interest in caring for her stuffed animals while playing house/mom.
  • Alena's eagerness to begin another year of preschool.
  • the wonderful little boy Trace is quickly becoming.
  • the sight of Alysse in cowboy boots.
  • a husband who clears the dinner table.