Friday, September 24, 2010

The darlin's help a mama out

I have learned many lessons as a mother of four but one of the most challenging aspects has been finding ways to take care of myself. The darlin’s have jumped on the bandwagon and devised a number of ways to give me love and support throughout the day.

They keep me from drying out my delicate skin in the shower by sitting campfire style outside the shower door beckoning me to get out while I speed shave and half wash my hair. I am so glad to have the added benefit of learning not to waste time.
While I am picking out my clothes in the morning, they also take the opportunity to help me make a good and speedy wardrobe decision by grabbing all my shoes to try on and scatter throughout the house. This is their way of saying “mama, get out of that closet before you realize you can't fit into half what you have hanging in there”. Isn’t emotional support the best?
I turn off the radio in the car so I can relax to the "Backseat Boys" performing the untitled one hit wonder "The Sounds Of Not Sharing". This duet is my most played tune but I may soon have the opportunity to be graced with the quartet version once Darlin’ #4 gets hold of Darlin’ #3’s toys. 
The darlin’s like to leave sweet presents around the house to cheer me up as I bustle about. These include sharp toys to step on and piles of clothing rammed into relatively hard-to-reach places as well as the occasional food morsel preserved in a corner. I feel my spirits lift at these random foot massages, stretching exercises, and opportunities for a wholesome dehydrated snack. 
The darlin's especially like to join me when I am hiding out in the “broom closet of an office” we have while trying to take care of all those stacks of things that scream "do me first". The darlin’s have learned that constant streams of whining helps to drown out any of my inner anxieties about getting projects done. What a relief!
The children afford me the opportunity to keep my artistic skills sharp by ramming toys into the walls, running them across furniture and slamming them into doors so I can practice meticulous repair on a variety of surfaces. Isn’t that clever? I so enjoy this particular outlet for my creativity.
They like to help me with the solace I seek as well. They know I am busy and in a constant state of motion, and so, every so often they go bananas and have to be put in their rooms to calm down. I know this is their secret plan to help dear frazzled mama get a little spot of peace and quiet before the folks in the white coats come in and put mama in that thing with the straps and take her to the room with the padded walls. I continually congratulate myself on such kind and self-sacrificing children. 
8. DIET:
The darlin's like to "share" all the pretty things off my plate because they love me so much and worry about my self esteem. Isn't it nice of them to help me diet away the second nine months of pregnancy? I think so. 
In my continual struggle to fit exercise into my routine, my children have invented the “Run From Mama When I Am In Trouble” Game which also includes the bonus weightlifting segment when I get to carry one of the darlin’s to their rooms. This activity has really kept me slim and trim as it is a regular occurrence.
The children perform the always thrilling "Mama's Bed Feels Just Like A Trampoline” Show each night to help me wind down. If we get to go to the ER, then it’s an educational bonus field trip for mama as she gets to talk to the nice DHR lady. 

I find myself reaching for this brass ring daily but let's just say I am not going to compete in the mama hood olympics for peace and quiet anytime soon. If you have a strategy that you can hang your hat on, PLEASE post a comment and share it. This is one mama that needs all the help she can get.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The long kiss goodnight

the first darlin' calming down for bed back in 2004...

Last night we turned out the lights and read books with a flashlight. I am amused at how this gets little wiggly ones to sit still and listen to a book. Darlin' #1 can sound out and read words. He calls it breaking it down. Darlin' #2 can sight read and likes to count out the syllables for you-especially in the big words. Darlin' #3 likes to point out the details on the page that no one else seems to be fully appreciating. Darlin' #4 likes to turn the page and drool. This joint reading is a rarity most of the time. Our darlin's are spoiled rotten and used to getting a stack of books and some private time with a parent until they are all read, favorite lullabyes have been sung (a mama exclusive), nite prayers have been said and a 10-point tuck in checklist has been gone through. Did I forget the part, where they are all rounded up out of bed for one last trip to the potty? And the hour or so later when I go back in there to make sure they are all actually sleeping? Yes, I like to refer to this little routine as "the long kiss goodnight". Naturally all this back and forth, in and out, drives me a bit nuts, but part of it is actually a joy to me. I love to read to my children. I love the security it brings to say a goodnight prayer with each child. I can see the peace that comes over them with feeling that they are a child of God and nothing in the night can harm them. We talk about their special Guardian Angel. We talk about what they will dream about once they close their eyes. I hear everything from the "mushroom house", to tea parties with lollipops, and pterosaur island (that's a flying dinosaur). I usually slip in at least one big question "what was your best part of the day?" and this is really what I have waited for all day long. They are too young to journal what they are grateful for, so we have started it in this way. I have always read that even in the most reserved child the truth slips out at bedtime. It's true. I have also heard the addage never believe that a child doesn't want to talk. That's true too. It's just about the timing. At night, the truth comes out and so do all the celebrations and anxieties of the day. It's a bit difficult for a mother of four to put her hands on each child during a bustling day filled with nursing, dishes, laundry, cooking, and the like but this long kiss goodnight is at least an assurance that I will get to hold each child alone. Alone. While we enjoy being together as a family and the synergy that it brings, this time I can spend with each of them alone is precious. It feels like a camera taking a snapshot that I get to keep long after they don't want to be tucked in anymore. I feel honored to be the one on this side of the lens.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How big are your closets?

I wouldn't say this is a rant, but you might notice a little soapbox action. Coffee assisted reading advised.

I am not a big fan of stuff. What can I say, it piles up and takes away from the lovely things I do have and want to be able to notice. Stuff makes me feel heavier. Stuff makes our kids unappreciative of what they have. Stuff makes me wonder if we got something at the expense of someone else who was really in need. Stuff is the enemy in our house.

Having four darlin's, you get a lot of toys. This goes with the territory. But in truth, let me share what my kids really like. Your time. Your attention. Your affection. A nice chase around the kitchen. A good rolling around in the grass outside. A walk at dusk to check out the critters and the trees and the shadows. My little ones are a bit sheltered. I have been nursing or pregnant for seven years and as a result we haven't been out much. So when my children get out, it's to the bank, to mass, to the grocery and the like. They think of these outings as field trips. I try to encourage the illusion by turning each errand into a learning experience, encouraging curiosity and wonder in what adults have come to consider mundane. I figure in my own little "noggin" that if they can learn to look forward to and enjoy the basics of life, they'll more often than not be a in a state of happiness. Now, I'm not crazy. My children know about toys and they make little wishes for Christmas and their birthdays but we try to keep it reasonable. I try to educate them on the real point of a commercial having a little bit of advertising background myself. I am trying to arm them against the stuff they would otherwise innocently accumulate once the decision really is theirs. Christmas comes but once a year, and it's lovely to get a sweet gift from someone you love, but I feel driven to instill in my darlin's, even at this young age that the gift is Christ. The three gifts were for Him. The best gifts are dinners and get-togethers with family and friends. The most needed gift is something bought and wrapped for the Angel Tree and when they are older, serving a meal at the soup kitchen. We talk a lot about "the budget" with them and how the person who bought that gift used money out of their budget to buy it for them. I want to encourage gratefulness. If I don't start now, the monster that is commercialism will turn them into little ingrates with an insatiable appetite for getting the latest and greatest thing. I want my children to learn to "wait for it" and to learn most of all to appreciate rather than accumulate.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In praise of sisterhood

I remember being out of my mind with joy for my first child, who happened to be a boy, when his brother and partner in crime came along just two years later. We never find out what we're having while I am pregnant so this was an exciting revelation and one that gave me a sense of security. The two boys would always have each other. I know that means someone to get into trouble with and all that roughhousing boys do but more than that, for having a person to go to, who gets you, who knows where you come from, and wants to see you get where you wanna go. I felt a similar thrill when after having our third baby, a delightful girl, we found out on the operating table two years later that darlin' #4 was a girl as well. Sisterhood. Sweet sisterhood. For all that girlfriends can be to each other you need intimately a sister to remind you there is at least one girl out there who is looking out for you and will help you bury the evidence, or if need be the body, after the crime with no questions asked. They will stand with you no matter what you have done and said in the past. It's like all the benefits of friendship with all the security of family-you know the ones you are tied to whether you like it or not. I have just such a sister, not that we've gotten rid of anybody in the creek together.  We are a mere 19 months apart. She is the kind who stays all night long with me at the hospital when I have a baby. She uses her off days to come and visit me and my darlin's. She calls me when I am feeling swallowed up in motherhood and makes me laugh with her craziness. She loves on my darlin's as if they were her own. She is the exact opposite of all my earmarkings as a person and yet we are the same. We know the same path, the same losses, the same traditions. Our bond is not one that depends on the stage of life we are in or how busy our day jobs are. She jokes that one day we will be old and our husbands will be enjoying the pre-cut grass in the afterlife and I'll be pushing her round in the wheelchair and she'll help fish my dentures out of the iced tea pitcher. We joke around with each other, but when push comes to shove, don't you mess with my sister! And, I feel pretty sure, with little provocation, she would hide that body in the creek for me just like I would do for her.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I like this view

This is my favorite angle-the many beautiful still shots etched in my mind from raising my children.

There's the one where you look down onto the down-turned eyelashes of a nursing baby. It makes them look cherubic. This is probably my last tot and this is the last time I will enjoy this sweet view, but as feeble as my memory usually is, this view from my past darlin's during nursing is permanently written in my mind. I like the look of the backs of their heads, wet from the bath, and bundled up to watch a movie on family night with just popped kettle corn. I love to watch the little child hands turning the pages of the book I read while we rock gently in the chair. I like the creases of wrinkles around the chubby leg that will soon streamline out into an unstoppable running appendage. I like the bottom lock in my toddlers' hair, the one that got chopped off the boys after we got the one-millionth compliment on how pretty our boys were! I like the back of the romper and ruffled bloomer as they push up to crawl for the first time only to land quite flatly on their little faces. I love the wide mouthed grin when smiling back at the loving grandparent. I like the sneak peak of my children playing together when I am not supposed to be watching them, the way they comfort each other and give "parental direction". I like the back of my boys' necks with that dovetail of hair that crawls down to a "V". I like the reflection in the mirror of my baby holding onto my shirt while I lay her on my chest as I bustle by doing my work. She is sweet and her tightly-clenched fist is precious. I like the view of my oldest boy coming up the back porch with a small fist of wildflowers in his hand for me. I like the solo performance my second boy will give when he thinks no one is paying attention. I like the four of them crowded around my husband who is as crazy for them as I am all reading a book or playing ticklefish on the rug. I like the tap dance show they give on the wooden board my grandfather cut for them while they watch their favorite movie-Singing in the Rain. I like the profiles of my husband and two boys as they play the violin together. It's like watching the shadow of boys and waiting for the moment when these will become young men. I like the view of my children in the windowsill checking out the family of spiders which have spun their web on the porch. The wide-eyed gaze as they watch them spin their prey is priceless. I love the reflection of my oldest girl in the mirror dressed up as a fairy with a fireman's hat on her head to complete the look. I like watching my baby girl's tiny toes curl round my finger while I caress the bottom of her foot. These are views that will last beyond this year's photo album. I am smitten-with all of them and their fabulous views.

How do you do?

I better write this blog really quick because I am a very short chick and it won't be long before these kiddos are well above my head let alone my knees ;-) Let me introduce myself. I am first and foremost a lover of words. I love communication. I like to chat, like to read, like to listen, love accents, love researching, love love love words. Someone evidently talked to me a bit too much during the infancy trust phase. 
Next, I am Southern. Drippingly so. Like easily spotted outside the Southeastern quadrant. If you want a Southern tradition explained, you just dial me up honey and I'll be happy to give you the 411! I am also a mama. Love her kids and drown herself in motherhood-mama. I have four little darlin's and they are perfect, yes, in every way. Well, maybe not every way, but we'll get to that. I am a retired professional. I miss the skirts and the heels and the initialed briefcase, but I found that I could not properly submerge myself in mama hood with those darn heels on-not that a short girl like me couldn't use a little extra height. I am a wife, of 14 glorious years, to a wonderful "darcy-esque" man. Well maybe not glorious exactly, but we haven't buried each other in the backyard yet and the darlin's are under the illusion that we are perfectly in love in every way. I am also a sister to a nut job. well, she isn't really a nut job but she says the most insanely witty things. Not being a rapid spelling champion, she has invented a code for all her... shall we call them not mixed company words and phrases? Again, wait for the post on that. I am a homeschooling mama. Unable to squeeze out all the cash I poured into my six years of college, I am trying to reach an economy of scale on the investment by torturing my small children, well, maybe not torture, we keep it pretty simple. Look for the post on that. I am a daughter, granddaughter, and for most of my life great-granddaughter. I think this is where I get my sense of history. The value of the past, tradition, manners, rituals. I am just like my father and he's a pretty decent guy, so that worked out well. I am close to my grandparents and they are the reason for all the book-word loving business. I like to sit on a porch swing and enjoy a nice cup of tea and talk about how things were when they were young. So much wisdom is gleaned in these talks. I am like the best friend in the whole world ever. Well, at least I try. OK, most times I fail but again as any Southern girl, I rely upon the kindness of strangers for forgiveness.They say men are what they do and women are what they come from. I don't know about that. I have tried to blaze my own trail except for when I ended up catching my skirt on fire...  I am a short, feminine, conservative, overly-organized, health nut, vitamin-popping, church-going, research-crazed, book-holding, husband loving, darlin' nurturing chick seeking sanity and peace in my daily life. And I hope you find something of interest in my journey.