Sunday, October 31, 2010

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

A funny thing happened on the way to the grocery store, I realized that I was making the trip alone. 

This was a foreign feeling to me.  It was so strange to be inside a store, free to think and look around.  Free to consider prices, ingredients, and potential menu items. 

There was no demand to plow forward up and down aisles, maniacally grabbing any and all items that appear to be on sale. I will generally select anything in my path advertised as a buy one, get one free sale.  This is, of course, how my family came to own not one but TWO hand-operated flour sifters.

During a typical shopping trip I imagine that an aerial mapping of my shopping patterns would resemble the arrival and departure routes of a major metropolitan airport.  I weave in and out of aisles, my only goal to stay as close to the middle as possible, thus minimizing the ability of the children to add any assortment of unneeded items to the basket. 

I have been known to get to the checkout to find a can of artichoke hearts, a box of salt-free crackers, and it is not unheard of for me to unknowingly aid and abet my little shoplifters in the smuggle of check-out aisle goodies carried out to the car unpaid. 

On this particular day however, none of this happened. 

I. was. alone.

I walked, no correction, I strolled through the grocery store on this Sunday morning.  I saw things with a new perspective.  There I was standing in front of a wall of cereal with all the time in the world to ponder caloric content, sugar, salt, fat per serving. 

I wandered over to the cleaning aisle only to find thousands of choices for carpet stain removal.  After spending a significant amount determining the price point value versus the environmental impact of said cleaning products I realized that all this freedom may not be a good thing. 

Did you know that the cashiers will sometimes talk to you as you check out?  I had no idea.  I am usually busy hurling items to be purchased onto the conveyor belt, trying desperately to remember...something????...important?????....what was it????? 

Did you know that the baggers give you a choice?  Paper or plastic?  I have never been given a choice, I rarely even have a bagger.  They are usually scared away by my brood of screaming, squawking children. 

Did you know that there are shoppers who bring their own bags?  Neatly folded reusable bags individually stored in one main bag.  Who are these people?? Oh yeah...they are the people who shop without children. 

I learned a few things from my adventure in solo grocery shopping. 

I learned that without unruly children to propel you forward you will likely spend too much time in the grocery store.  Without unruly children to remind you that you are "never actually going to cook" you will definitely spend too much money on perishable food items that will surely spoil after being placed in the crisper drawer that will become their final resting place.  Without unruly children to use you as a jungle gym, climbing up and down onto your head, in and out of the cart, you will not break a sweat and therefore the trip will not constitute 40 minutes of cardio. 

I also learned that I missed seeing Curly's face smiling up at me from the "bucket seat" and I missed hearing "Pete & Repeat" giggle uncontrollably as they sing silly renditions of nursery rhymes.  I missed the chaos and I missed the company. 

And I also still forgot the milk.

My First Guest Post!

Today I have the honor of being a guest post at one of my favorite blogs, Scary Mommy.  Please check out my post and her FABULOUS blog! 

Happy Halloween!

The Fallout of Sanity: Fear, Faith and Fitful Sleep

The "what if's" came to the door in my mind, knocking politely at first.  I ignored them in the hope that they would go away, but they are more persistent than that.  The knocking became pounding, that turned to shoulder ramming body thumps, splintering the frame of the door in my mind, too powerful to be contained by the deadbolt. 

The door flew open and they were upon me, crawling about my brain, fear slithering its way into my heart. 

I lie awake, stricken, paralyzed by the thoughts of what could have been.  Surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people at the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington DC, a place where I chose to bring my children, to give them an experience like no other.

I had not considered the kidnappers, the terrorists, the reckless drivers, the people with evil intentions and nothing to lose lying in wait to steal my babies.  These thoughts haunt me in the wee hours.

I hear a door down the hall, the familiar turn of the knob and gentle thud of door against wall.  Our middle son shuffles into our room, Puppy in tow, no swish of diaper pants, he is a big boy now.  He appears at my bedside and I gratefully pull his skinny body into bed, relieved to have him so close. 

I wrap myself around him, breathing deeply the smell of his neck, nuzzling his ears, feeling the length of his little body, counting his toes. 

He murmurs groggily through a "puppy-sucking" thumb, "Mmmy, I tryin to sweep."

Yes sir. 

I wait in the darkness for my youngest who will come next and my oldest who will come finally.  It is not until they are all in the safety of our bed that sleep will find me. 

I might just keep them here, forever.  Big, strong Daddy to protect us and Jersey and Penny, our dogs, to warn us of danger.  Here I can keep all of the scary things away from them.  Not since they lived inside me did I have the ability to do that. 

I consider for a time that we may never leave this bed again, but that would be crazy.  That would be giving into the fear and that is not a message I want to send to my children.

So...I will take comfort in the knowledge that nothing did happen, we all made it safely home.  I will do my best to keep the fear at bay, to have faith in the quest for sanity that drove us to the rally in the first place. 

"Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow."  Anonymous.

Good night.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Definition of Sanity

My husband and I are often called crazy.
We fell in love at first sight.  It’s crazy to fall in love at first sight.
It’s crazy to move in together after four months and get engaged after eight.  We met in June, moved in together in October and were engaged by February.
It’s crazy to have 3 kids, 4 houses, 5 dogs in five years.
We did it.  All of it.  We are crazy.

So when my love said to me, why don’t we take the three kids and go to the “Rally to Restore Sanity” in DC it didn’t seem crazy.  It just felt right.

Today we traveled to our nation’s capital, our family of five.  Equipped with a stroller, granola bars, and an adventurous spirit.  We were dressed in layers and ready for anything.  No idea what to expect and no real game plan, just a Google map, a metro schedule and an extended supply of diapers. 

We didn't know if we would make it to the rally.  We didn't know if how it would all play out. 
This was a once in a lifetime experience for my children because I will NOT be doing this again.  We saw the best of people and at times, we saw the worst.

The best, in the lovely staff writer from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who not only tolerated my children as they danced and played around, plumes of dust and straw billowing out from each footfall, but also offered to take our family photo and help us capture the magic of the day. 

We were all "rallied out" about half-way through and before the full-on meltdowns began, my husband and I decided to make haste and attempt to return to our car. 

One problem...well....150,000 problems...

It was a LONG road for us from our awesome location just behind the second set of jumbo-trons to the International Trade Center where we had parked.  We had to drive the stroller against the crowd and while most people were wonderful and understanding, we saw a bit of the worst that the rally had to offer.  

We were greeted with scorn by some, "A stroller?  Is that really necessary." And we had our fair share of "judgers" too.  I can't say I blame them, I mean what kind of crazy people take three kids to a rally?

What I do know is that today, standing amidst the throngs of people, showing the little people in my life how to be a part of something really big, seemed totally sane to me. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Partnership? Partnership.

My husband is a period.  I am a question mark.

My husband is vacuum lines and streak free windows.  I am candy wrappers stuffed into couch cushions and socks lost under the bed covers.  

He is clean laundry, unfolded.  
I am clean laundry folded but un-put-away.

He is car keys hanging on the designated hook; bills filed neatly and paid on time.  I am the contents of my purse spilled over the kitchen counter, seeking the keys four minutes before I have to leave.  I am cash stuffed into pants pockets and forgotten until the next wearing.

He is things "put away" on shelves that nobody can reach; tater tots, served proudly as hor dourves.  I am organizational bins and baskets, clearly labeled, and sensibly located; party bowls on theme, appetizers galore.

He is present at all events with not a photo to show for it and fingers too big to fashion a two year-old ponytail.  I am candid photographs of any and all significant moments uploaded in a timely manner; patiently styled braids in Rapunzel Barbie's hair.

He is 2 miles run on speed 7, I am 6 miles at speed 4.5. 

When I first saw him I knew.  A feeling so sure that it was unsettling.  I knew I would never again be the same.  A change in the gravitational pull of my world.  A shift, as something new became the center of my life. I have had this feeling a few times since that day, three times to be exact. 

There are some things that I don't question.  I just take for granted that they are as they were intended to be.  We are one of those things.

My husband is a declaration.  I am a question.
But together are an exclamation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I have a dream...

As my feet pound the treadmill, with each step I think of something else I need to do.  I add items to my mental task list and then consider when, how I will accomplish each thing.  Being a working mother, I constantly look for ways to squeeze more productivity out of each moment.

I dream of a shower mounted laptop so I could write lesson plans (blog) while soaping my hair.  I imagine a way to sort photos and organize scrapbooking materials while running.  If only I rode the subway, or had a driver, I would accomplish so much more during my 40 minute commute to work.

There are so many times during the day when I think about what else I could/ should/ would be doing.  How I could more efficiently be spending my time.  This robs me of the ability to be fully present at any time.  This is a terrible way to live. 

Last night as my husband and I attempted to multi-task our marriage, discussing financial issues and careless decision making while carrying out bath time routines, it occurred to me that I was missing out on the one thing that TRULY mattered.  The reason that we both work and try to make responsible financial decisions is our family, our children.  We want to provide only the best things for our children.  I saw with new clarity that the best thing for the kids is to have Mommy and Daddy be fully present and focused only on them, even if it is only for a small period of the day. 

I made a decision that was slightly unpopular with my partner, I told him to table the discussion until after the kids were in bed.  While it is slightly true that the topic of said tabled discussion was MY careless spending and I was happy NOT to be talking about it, I was honoring my maternal instincts, doing what I felt was right. 

I sat on the floor and began to brush Barbie's hair.  I helped my daughter put her babies to bed until a mountain of blankets on the floor in her closet.  I read books with my middle monkey and talked about his upcoming field trip to the retirement home for Trick-or-Treating. 

meanwhile in a room across the way, my husband and oldest son bonded over Nintendo DS and Super Mario Brothers.  They chatted about new levels and cheat codes that can be found on-line.  They talked about his extremely loose tooth and weighed out the benefits of pulling vs. waiting. 

I enjoyed my 30 minute time chunk more than a pint of Ben & Jerrry's.  I savored each second and soaked it in.  If you could save time in a bottle, these would be the moments I'd choose.

I wish I could say that after the kids were tucked snugly in their beds that my husband and I had a meaningful and heartfelt discussion where both parties honored the rules of give and take.  I wish I could say that I listened thoughtfully to his talking points and responded with open and honest feedback.  I wish I could say that, but I can't.

What I can say, is that after the kids went to bed, I had a mental meltdown, the result of which was the contents of my overstuffed pocket book strewn across the living room floor in an attempt to showcase how unorganized I am.  I felt, during this tirade that he needed to see some proof, as if proof isn't all around him.  On the overflowing dresser in our bedroom, in my disgusting and dirty car, all over my desk in the office, stacks of photos tipped and scattered, textbooks resting on the dining room table. 

Of course, my messiness is folly for whole different post.  I'll end today saying this, if I only did one thing right, which is most likely the case, I spent 30 uninterrupted minutes with the loves of my life, and for now, that will have to be good enough.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Building with Blocks

My oldest son sits down with his brand new art supplies, gifts from his recent birthday.  Crayons, markers, paper, paint spread out across the kitchen table.  He loves to draw, to write, to create.  He is preparing for quite a session, to allow his creative juices to flow. 

He stares at the blank page.  I watch his face as the doubt starts to creep across. 

"I don't know how to start."  He says, mournfully.

Don't I know the feeling.

I have been blocked for days.  Unable to put the tangle of ideas, thoughts, and words down into any semblance of order.  The feeling nagging me, following me around like a giant shadowy figure. 

"Just start to draw something." My husband says cheerfully. "You can't do it wrong. Whatever you draw will be great." 

Spoken with the logic of a person who understands mathematics and can read maps.  A person who doesn't carefully consider the ramifications of each creative endeavor.  Unless you have experienced this kind of "block" you can never understand it.

The anxiety that can be created and compounded by the prospect of a blank canvas.  The curse of experiencing critical acclaim, accolades from audience who you will attempt to impress again, always with the worry that you will not again be quite as successful.  The feeling that your last creative work was your best. 

This is the feeling that haunts me now. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Puzzle

Today my oldest son turns six. 

Six...years...old...  This is an age that now requires TWO hands to show. 

His birthday always makes me reflect on how far we have come. 
Before we became "parents" we were just people. People who fell in love. At a graduation party.  In New Jersey.   

People who lived in an old warehouse apartment with spiral steps.  People who woke up at 3a.m. and ate Doritos while watching episodes of "Friends" on DVD. 

My husband has always known that he wanted to be a father, long before he considered being a husband.  He rejoiced at the notion of our surprise pregnancy in a way that not all fathers do. He loved our son naturally, without any reservation. 

I had a different reaction to the news.  I cried.  Not tears of joy, tears of terror.  I was terrified.  Sure, I had said that I wanted to have children, but those were hypothetical children.  The kind that came after five years of marriage.  The kind that give you a reason to send a holiday card and get family portraits.  I hadn't really considered "actual" children. 

Actual children put dirt in the DVD player and colored on the fresh living room paint with bars of soap.  Actual children wore their clothes backwards on purpose and told teachers at school that you cooked spaghetti on the toilet. 

What I knew of actual children you could fit into a thimble.  I was a high school business teacher, what was I going to do, show this baby a PowerPoint?  Teach the child the principles of Business Law? 

I love to tell the story of how I first met my husband.  How the world faded away and the only thing I saw was his face.  How I knew, from the moment that I laid eyes upon him that I was going to be his wife.  I knew that he was going to be my family. 

In the early days when my maternal instincts were still incubating but the baby was not, it was my connection to my husband that kept me tethered.  It was the knowledge, from the core of my being, that he was the puzzle piece that made me complete.  I relied heavily on his connection with our son hoping that I would connect by proxy.  I trusted him when he said eventually I would catch up. 

And catch up I did. 

Before we were this family of five, my husband and I were a family of two.  We were just two kids, two broken people milling around the world, each with a bag of assorted puzzle pieces, trying to put ourselves back together, and when we did, we made this amazing kid. And then another.  And then another. 

Sometimes, when I get overwhelmed with all of the demands of life as a full-time working mom, wife, pet owner, sister, daughter, neighbor, compassionate person, etc...I feel like things are falling apart and the puzzle is coming undone.  

The my better half reminds me that together, the five of us, are a WHOLE lot of amazing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Case of Drowning

He whips by the doorway and down the hallway, slim as a minute, big hazel eyes twinkling with some scheme he has devised.  He is followed by a curly, blonde angel in footy pajamas who is carrying a pillow pet larger than herself and her juice cup.  Blankie is tucked safely under one arm, showcasing her premature ability to carry multiple things up the stairs at once, a genetic talent that she has gotten from me.

My husband and I are seated on our bed in the middle of a talk.  The type of talk you have with your partner when one of you is caught in a rip current of life. It is unusual to find myself in the position of proffering the life vest.  I am generally the one struggling to keep my head above water and he the strong, brave lifeguard who scoops me from the sea.  But this evening, I am the one who needs to save him. 

In the past when in this role of person saving drown victim I have done one of two things: 
a.  dive in, confident in my ability to keep us afloat only to end up exhausted and flailing along side of him - in this scenario we both drown in a sea of frustration and misunderstanding.

b.  hurl various floatation devices in the form of "solutions" and watch helplessly as one by one he declines each for reasons that make no sense to me, eventually will resort to scenario (a.) see above.
It hasn't occurred to me that there is a third option until this evening. 
c.  talk the drowning victim through the fear, the result of which is the realization that he knows how to save himself.  
He just needed to remember to relax and allow the current to take you where it will, swim parallel to the shore, knowing that eventually you will reach the sand. 

I am in the thick of option (c.) when when our middle child swings back through, peeking his head into the open doorway and says, "I'm going to go read Avery a book in my closet."  He is armed with two Halloween flashlights and a book that a college graduate would struggle to read.  Thick as thieves these two. 

"Sounds good."  I laugh, and look at my husband, my partner, my love. I think I see him release, let go and start to drift in the waves of stress and anger that surround him about his work.  I think that perhaps I have done it - I have helped save my drowning partner and watch him begin to float back to safety.

I look at the clock and know that this rescue has been a family affair.  Not in that the sense that the children offered advice or acted as sounding boards, but just in the fact that they gave us time.   We have been talking for almost an hour and nobody had popped in to demand juice, or report a grievance about a sibling.  There was no shrieking about missing "puppies" or poopy diapers, just three children playing peacefully.

I know that there will be many times in the future when one or the other is struggling again, in need of rescue.  Right now, however, I take solace in the knowledge that we are a family of five, all on the same team, fighting the good fight each in our own way and for today, that's enough.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Isn't It All Worth It?

I sit behind my desk, defeated.  Today...they won.  I am worn out, beat down, out of steam.

I have staples holding up the hem of my maternity pants.  Yes, you read correctly, maternity pants.  No, I am not pregnant, in fact my youngest child is just this side of 2.5 years old, but nevertheless, here I am. 

I have chosen these pants because save for the slight size differential (emphasis on slight) my maternity clothes are much nicer than my "regular" clothes.  I am relegated to wearing these particular pants because our new Professional Dress Code Policy does not allow for "capri pants" which essentially eliminated 93% of my wardrobe.  This addendum to the dress code left me with one - yes one - appropriately fitting pair of pants - and as I am not currently wearing a size of pants that I will even commit to writing, I refuse to buy new pants and I am. 

I have a pounding headache that starts on the inside rim of my eye socket and drills straight up through my brain.  The only known cure is leaving this place, but I still have 35 minutes. 

Mercifully, the bell has rung and students scatter from the room, for it is "Club Day."  A nice opportunity for students to socialize, interact and complete assorted assignments missed during the rare and even infrequent missed day of school.  This is how it reads on paper.

In reality, this period is an opportunity for students to further appall and disgust me with their foul language and gross gestures in the hallways.  A chance for them b!tch and whine, moan and complain about how this school sucks because of our stupid rules.

Rules like, if you are currently failing a class (or three) you must see instructor of failing class during club time for additional help.   Rules like, if you have missed four of the last five school days you are not eligible to play basketball during clubs.  Preposterous. 

What these students don't recognize, can't fathom is that this is the last time that anyone, outside of family,  will really give a care about them and their success. 

We, the teachers, are here because of them.  Because we want them to become productive members of society that understand why, regardless of how nice your report on the survey results of professional development looks, it is unacceptable to bite your classmates. Why you are not allowed to french kiss your boyfriend in front of the classroom door.  Why, when there are chairs available in a business meeting, one should not choose to sit on the floor and "spread out."

These are concepts that my six year-old grasps very well, but not my 17 year-old students. 

And this is why - today -  I.    Hate.    My.    Job.

And why, buried under stacks of paperwork, grading, and test results that mean more to me than they do to the students, I know that I have to come back tomorrow and do it again.  And again.  And again.

I won't make a difference in all of them but if I can just reach one...then isn't it all worth it?

Little Boundaries

My therapist says I need to work on boundaries. 

"Okay," I say, "Is there some kind of book I can get for that?" 

Always the eager student I seek instruction manuals, detailed directives that will take me directly to where I want to go. 

"Yes." She says in her even, soothing tone, "There is a book called Boundaries."

I mention this interaction with my mother at some later point, explaining that it is the lack of "boundaries" in my life that has seemingly lead me astray.  My mother, ever the problem solver, logs onto that very evening and purchases one copy of Boundaries, stating that if as a parent she failed to give me boundaries, the least she could do was buy them for me.

My mother is like that.  The most selfless person that I know. 
A week later the package from Amazon arrives in the mail and after opening the protective mailer, out tumbles the smallest book I have ever seen. 

We laugh until we cry about the tiny book.  We joke that she didn't want me to be overwhelmed, so she got me "little Boundaries." 

My mother is like this too.  From the school of "laughter is the best medicine," finding humor in every situation.  She doesn't dwell on hurt or anger, life is too short.  She moves on to the funny.  That is where she finds her healing.  And so will I.

I haven't even attempted to read the book, I don't know if I need to.  Knowing that my mom supports me in my journey to cure what ails me is powerful enough.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Things you should know BEFORE an MRI...

(let me preface this by saying I AM FINE!!!)

"Take the last elevator down the hall and press B for basement."

"Thank you." I say cheerfully, but turn to my husband in mock horror and whisper, "she's sending us to the basement?!?!?"

We round the corner and exchange nervous smiles while waiting for the elevator.  Unlike most people, hospitals do not make me nervous, quite the opposite actually.  I feel safe in a hospital.  I like to know that there are hundreds of people who know how to function in a crisis situation milling around the halls. 

I have had good luck in hospitals, delivering three healthy babies with no complications.  This hospital reminds me of friendly nurses and helpful food service staff, always willing to sneak an extra slice of chocolate cake for my husband. 

On this particular October morning, however, I am nervous because my husband and I are at the hospital for my MRI. 

My nervousness is only complicated when an armed security guard enters the elevator and gives us a once-over with a high-arching eyebrow.   This look seems to say, "What are you two doing on a Saturday morning going to the basement of a hospital?"  I want to answer him, "This is a valid question, I'd love to know."

We follow the signs to the MRI waiting room and find a dark room.  There is nobody in the office, nobody anywhere. 

I find the lack of general hustle and bustle quite disconcerting.  If I hadn't been received, confirmed and instructed by the woman in Patient Registration to come to this basement office I would begin wondering if I did have the correct time, date and location.  Just as I was getting ready to head back upstairs, a young man wearing scrubs came around the corner.

This kid looked to me as if he just rolled out of bed, which is perfectly acceptable if you are 22 years old and working at The Gap but in this case he was going to be inserting me and my pelvis into a steel tube and I would have preferred a slightly older technician.  But ce la vie.

I ask him if the office is open and he says that it is only open for certain special circumstances.  This answer sends my freak-out-o-meter through the roof since the details of the questionable test result that necessitate this MRI have been sketchy at best.

"Where is your pain?" he asks me. 

"Umm...nowhere."  I answer.

"It says here that this is a pelvic pain rule out." he reads off the chart.

"Well... I have some shin splints from a tough run the other day but no pain in my pelvis, sorry."

I make jokes when I'm nervous.

The kid shrugs his shoulders and mumbles something about coming to Changing Room 2.  I look at my husband and he smiles reassuringly.  I give him a quick kiss and then report as instructed.

In the "Changing Room" the tech comes in and tells me to take everything off except sock and underwear, lose the bra, keep your shirt and put these pants on. 

I hold up the oompaloompa sized pants and stifle a laugh.  It is not a fashion show I remind myself. 

Things they don't tell you about an MRI; you should wear socks. 

I did not have socks on, instead chose to wear my "fake Ugg's" and had to choose to tip toe across the hospital floor in bare feet or to rock my boots to the MRI. 

I chose the boots, thank God, because the second thing they don't tell you about an MRI; its flipping cold in there. 

The kid tells me to lay on the table and with a series of questions I painfully pull out the information about what exactly is about to happen.  After he answers the fifth or sixth question he says, "Is this your first MRI?" 

"No genius, I'm quizzing you to see what you know..." I think this but opt not to say it out loud, factoring in that he is going to control how long I stay in the scary tube. 

He asks me about music choices, I think for a moment that he is making conversation but quickly piece together that the big machine makes noise and they give you music to listen to instead. 

I politely tell him "thanks, but no thanks"  I have three kids, you see, under the age of six and 120 decibels of jack hammer noise is the stuff that naps are made of.  He shrugs again, he doesn't get my humor, and hands me two spongy ear plugs.  I put the plugs into my ears and can no longer hear his mumbles, just see his mouth moving. 

He hands me a "panic button" and without any further instruction as to why I might need this or what would happen when I push it, he leaves the room, sealing the door behind him.  

It makes me wonder what exactly they are doing that requires me to be in a sealed room and him to be safely outside of said room? 

For the better part of an hour I lay completely still inside the steel tube listening to the echoed hammering of the machine.  I drift in and out of consciousness and write post upon post of mental blogs.  When he pulls me out of the tube at the end he seems surprised that I could sleep. I start to make a joke but think better of it, knowing my wit and humor will be wasted on him. 

I have no idea what the results of the MRI will be, I choose to believe that they will be unremarkable and just a scare for nothing, but one thing is for sure, if nothing else questionable test results are good for blogs.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Note to Self

If you want to find out the following:

a.  who reads your blog
b.  who reads your blog carefully
c.  who loves you

then simply create a post that mentions a questionable pap smear result.

"For my part, I am going to be proactive and relish the wonderful little things in life without having to go through the scare.  I am going to connect with my kids and bond with my husband, take time to pet my dogs."


Nothing puts things into perspective like a questionable pap smear result. 

You are no longer too busy to read a book to your two-year old. 

The intricacies of Mike Tyson's Punch Out for the Wii are fascinating when explained by your soon-to-be six year old. 

The task of drawing shapes on index cards to be cut out by your four-year-old who needs to become "more proficient with scissors" is suddenly savored.

You stop half listening to your loved ones and you engage completely.  You are living in the moment, taking in every second because you have been reminded quite harshly that there are no guarantees of a tomorrow.

In the coming days there will be MRI's scheduled, CT Scans, and panels of blood work.  There are unanswered questions and fruitless Google searches desperately seeking some kind of assurance for worries that have yet to be given a name.

Why does it take something scary, something overwhelming, something like the "C-word" to make you appreciate everything you have?

I guess that is the stuff of country songs and inspirational Oprah shows.

For my part, I am going to be proactive and relish the wonderful little things in life without having to go through the scare.  I am going to connect with my kids and bond with my husband, take time to pet my dogs.

I am going to gain some perspective about what really matters.

Right after I finish this blog, get myself another cup of coffee, and write the Exam for my first period students.  Then I need to get a shower and find something to wear.  Man, I have nothing that fits.  I need to lose weight.  My closet is a mess.  Crap - I forgot to send the Direct TV complaint letter.  I have to get stamps.  Do they sell stamps at Turkey Hill?  Maybe I'll get my coffee there and get some stamps.  Boys!!!  Why are you wrestling in my bed?  You are going to wake your sister!  Be careful not to spill my co.......CRAP - My coffee!!!!! I needed that coffee.  Ughhhh.  What a mess.  I have to go get something to clean this up.  I think there was something I was going to do? Can't remember...something about enjoying my life....oh well.  No time now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cheese Flavored Chapstick

Hustling down the hallway this morning past groggy teenage students, barely awake as they meander into the high school, I reach into the pocket of my coat in the hopes of finding a chapstick.  I keep chapsticks everywhere and pretend that when applied, they make a person look, if not glamorous, then at least alive.

I feel something plastic and squishy and think to myself, "Ooooh!  Even better than chapstick, it's a lip gloss!! Gonna be a good day!" 

I pull the object out of my pocket as I near the main office.  I look down, fully prepared to apply the lip gloss and realize I am holding a warm, squishy cheese stick. 

Now, there are two things you must know before I go any further. 

First, I don't regularly wear coats.  Secondly, this particular brand of cheese stick has not been available in my house since sometime last year.  It is a testament to both food preservatives and plastic casing that this cheese stick was still intact and free of stench.

 I realize too late that I am now "that crazy teacher" standing in the main hallway of the high school, holding a cheese stick and laughing hysterically, students walk by me, shaking thier heads.   I put the cheese stick back in my pocket and continue walking - it wasn't a tube of lip gloss, but it sure did make my day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Easier Said Than Done

"Mommy, what are you going to be for Halloween?" my middle son inquires sweetly from inside his penguin cosutme.

Hmmmm....good question. 

How about 30lbs. lighter, a woman with willpower, independently weathy, Angelina Jolie???

He looks at me expectantly, waiting for my answer.  "I think I'll be a cat."  I finally say.

Satisfied with this answer, he scampers off to galavant with Minnie Mouse and her Zombie friend.  I am left to wonder, "What AM I going to be this year???"

I want to be more organized, thinner and a distance runner.  I want to be a more effective teacher and keep all of my grades updated on a weekly basis.  I want to be a more present parent and a more supportive spouse.  I want to spend money responsibly, eat more healthfully and finally kick my Diet Pepsi habit.

The list is long and I can get overwhelmed just thinking about it.  Where do you even begin?

In my head I hear my mother in her cheerful and matter-of-fact way, "How do you eat an elephant?" 
"One bite at a time." 

And that, is easier said than done.

The Best Laid Plans of Commitment and Clown Fish

4:00am - Oh no...Not a chance Nemo.
4:09am - Listen you smug little Clown Fish - I said, "NO!"

4:18am - 4:27am - 4:36am

For the entirety of the four o'clock hour I continue to deliver blows to the head of the friendly little fish perched on the night stand, making a mental note that we need a grown up alarm clock. 

I have a cloudy recollection of a woman who intended to run 4 miles in the morning.  I can vaguely picture her carefully laying out her running clothes and sneakers. 

That woman set this alarm.  Fool.

You see, as a result of my new late night coffee habit and my current obsession with writing, I accidentally stayed up until midnight.  This would probably not have been a problem except that we had a thunderstorm of epic proportions hit the area last night.  With each booming thunderclap and subsequent series of lightening flashes my mind began to race, anxiety creeping in from all sides. 

What about the scarecrows that we had spent so much time arranging, would they be ruined?  Would this be the storm that finally caused a leak in our roof?  We have no emergency fund, we don't make enough money, how can we afford to pay for the repairs??? What if, what if, what if?

It was this thunderstorm that prompted a certain curly blond beauty to quietly pack up her favorite things, including her brand new "Pillow Pet" and "Princess Belle Doll" and of course, "blankie" and head over to Mommy & Daddy's room. 

Maybe she was worried about the roof repairs too.

This may not seem so remarkable except that we were unaware that she could open the bedroom door until last night.

So, when I heard the familiar click of a door opening down the hallway, I looked to the doorway and waited to see whose silhouette would appear, Tall Boy or Skinny Man?

Imagine my surprise when I saw it was my two-year old, with all of her lovies, calmly walking to our room.  She crossed the threshold and without hesitation hurled each of her guys into our bed and then climbed in herself. 

There was no discussion, no tears, just a very willful little lady who had decided she was not going to be sleeping alone this evening. 

I wanted to laugh out loud but instead I just snuggled my baby girl and listened to the storm rage on outside.
She may have been seeking comfort from the storm, but it seems to me, as I fell into a peaceful, dreamless sleep that it worked out the other way around.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Series of Moments

There are some days that you know will stay with you for the rest of your life.  Today was one of those days.

In my experience, I have found that these kinds of days creep up on you, grab you from behind. 

When you are planned and scheduled, routine and regular, you can miss these days.  But today I didn't miss a thing. 

Our trip to the local "Punk-man Patch" was impromptu and wonderful.  The weather was beautiful and the children were excited.  It was perfect. 

Not the scheduled perfection that is often found in the organized trips and daily routine of life.  This was something different.  Something special, like bare feet in October.  Something unplanned, unknown, unexpected.  

The kids played and laughed and squealed.  I took deep breaths, taking in the smells of fall.  I locked eyes with my husband across the hay bale slide and smiled.   We did good.

We left the Pumpkin Patch and headed to my parents house where, it was decided on our way over, we would make a scarecrow. 

I will always remember pulling up to the house.  It was part of the perfection.  Familiar and welcoming.  The brilliant sunflower wreath on the door and the fresh flowers in the living room window.  Freshly mowed lawn and the open garage door, beckoning us inside. 

My children scrambled out of the van, running to see Grammy and Bapa.  My husband and I took our time walking up the drive, appreciating my parents new fence. 

My mom greeted us in the garage with a hug.  I breathed her in.  She always smells like clean sheets and sunscreen.  Then my dad came next to say hello.  He is a big guy, whose hugs make me feel like I am eight years old.  He smells of old spice.

I see my parents all the time, but I don't always see them this way.  I don't slow down and take it all in.  I am too often in a rush.  In a hurry to communicate the details of the upcoming scheduled events; dates, times, places and favors.  Can you watch the kids? Can drop this at Goodwill? Can you pick up some milk?  Can you listen to me rant but not get offended when I cut you off at the end????

We set about making our scarecrows.  Cobbled creations made of outgrown outfits and fallen leaves.  My husband starts to rake the leaves and the kids jump with wild abandon into the piles.  It looks like something from a movie, but it is my life.  My middle child grabs a pair of swimming goggles and dives back in.  It is crazy and wonderful. 

We create three perfect little scarecrows, one for each.  My husband finishes raking all the leaves and drags them to the curb. 

My mom calls out that dinner is finished and we scurry to the porch, starving after all the leaf raking and scarecrow making. 

She serves us pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob.  There is crusty Italian bread, fresh from the market and pumpkin pie for desert.  We eat heartily, murmuring delightedly our approval with full mouths. 

I commit it all to memory, it is seared into my brain.  This new image takes it's place next to the memory of sitting on the suspension bridge with my Dad, listening to the sounds of nature, and sitting in the living room talking to my Mom into the wee hours of the night. 

Today was a perfect day. 

Just a series of moments, one after another, that made me remember why I believe in God.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

60 Minute Pumice

I scurry around my house trying to tidy and straighten. I need to make sure every thing is just so, in it's place.  I want my home to appear a certain way. Casually hectic, busy but in an organized way.  I try to give the impression of a woman with a lot on her plate but who has act together.  A woman that I wish that I was.  A woman I will never be.

I have seen this image of relaxed perfection with my own two eyes, in Pottery Barn catalogs and paper towel commercials.  The woman with the clean khaki's and the fresh cup of coffee.  She has never thrown a crayon at her four-year-old in frustration.  She has never opened her crisper drawer and thrown away 20lbs. of rotten vegetables. She never has to change her button down blouse because she spilled salsa all over the front. 

This woman, this ideal of motherhood is always is the back of my mind, and I will never measure up.

I was preparing for a visit from my high school best friend.  The friend who knew me when.  When I thought I was fat, when I wanted to be liked, when I was emotional and dramatic and chemically unbalanced. 

I guess not much has changed. 

This friend of mine is one of those people who could see straight through to the best of me.  She knows when I am being true to myself, and she can identify when I am misdirected.  She reconnects me to my authentic self, she always has. 

My friend lives 3000 miles away.  She lives a life very different than mine.  One without kids, or husbands, without soccer schedules, and diapers.  A life with freedoms that I can only begin to imagine.

But none of this matters. 

I am in the middle of putting an apple crisp in the oven, to make sure the house smells good, when I remember that it doesn't matter.  This friendship is not like that. 

With this I take a breath. I retrieve a scrapbook of memories of our friendship and settle on the sofa to tell my children stories about two girls who met when they were only 12 years old.  My kids are mesmerized. 

My friend is visiting PA for three days.  By my calculations that is 4320 minutes, of which she spent 60 minutes visiting me.  This makes me feel honored and flattered and very special. 

When she arrives with her handsome beau they are greeted at the door by my children.  My kids have stayed up just to meet her.  They want to meet the girl in mommy's book.  The book featuring pictures, letters, cards and drawings, mementos of a remarkable friendship.  They want to meet the friend who knew me when they were just a twinkle in my eye. 

As soon as I see her I remember instantly why we stay connected.  I know that whether it is miles or milestones that separate us, we will always have a bond. 

I am thankful, as always, for my beautiful children and my incredible husband, but tonight when I count my blessings, dear friend, I will count you twice.

My Calendar Mocks Me

I sit on a sofa with multi-colored dry erase markers and a magnetic refrigerator calendar that promises to revolutionize my life. 

I confrence with my husband about what dinners should be served on what nights.  Which ingredients we will need to purchase to deliver healthy and well balanced meals to our children.  We discuss the chores, the appointments, birthdays, family events, and the workout schedule that we intend to follow, delving into great detail about exactly how much time will be required for each item.

The calendar is a colorful representation of a five person family who has their act together.

With every moment accounted for, how could we go wrong?

Unfortunately as the week goes on and the well thought out meals are replaced by frozen pizza and french fries, the workout appointments are abandoned for snooze button sleep - the calendar mocks me. 

Calling out to me from the side of the fridge, "Hey you, look what you aren't doing, look how unorganized you are, look what a bad mother, cook, wife, and friend you are!"

Thankfully for me, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser really does work.

With a few swipes the calendar is silenced until next Sunday. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Never Run with a Cell Phone

The text message reads "F-ck this, come get me." 

I am currently three miles into my six mile run and I am out of gas.  I am DONE and thankfully I have brought my phone with me and my husband is at home. 

I stagger forward, attempting to text and "run" at the same time wishing that a car would accidentally plow into me, allowing me to stop. 

My "thinking brain" knows that I can stop, but my "running brain" says, "don't you DARE."

I am currently not a fan of my running brain which incidentally sounds a lot like my celebrity training, Nike Pacing, fantastically fit and enthusiastic cousin, Kenley, who at this very moment is most likely on mile 17 for the second time today and is the reason for my pursuit of the half-marathon....I digress.

Usually my running brain is powerful enough to see me through to my goal but today was unaware that I brought my cell phone.  Fooled you running brain.

Note to self - when attempting a 6 mile run - always run in the privacy of your own treadmill. 

The sheer humiliation of having to be picked up on the side of the road, red faced and sweaty, gasping for breath was awful.  Having run past the houses with children playing in the yards and parents raking the leaves, waving and smiling.  "Look Mommy!  Look at the healthy, in-shape lady running!"

I dread driving back through. I hang my head in shame, as the parents shield their children's eyes.  "Don't look at the lady, she has no will power.  It could be contagious."

There is a slim chance that perhaps this isn't really how the last part went down but I believe it to be true. 

And the moral of this story is...never run with a cell phone.

The Sound of Silence

I think when I clean.   Since this is both physically and mentally taxing I try not to do it very often.   Occasionally, however, circumstances are such that it can not be avoided.  Today was one of those occasions.

I woke up this morning to the strangest sound.  The sound of silence.

No obnoxious bleeting coming from the Finding Nemo alarm clock.  No children sqwaking about the injustice of being made to wear "handsome clothes."  No wailing about a missing "blankie."  Nothing.  Silence. 

This silence is brought to us by New Jersey.   -   New Jersey, providing childless weekends since 2004. 

My sisters-in-law, both intelligent adults, both successful in their respective careers, both stone cold crazy for arranging to take ALL THREE children for the ENTIRE weekend. 

I love my crazy in-laws. I am facing a choice of running 6 miles or cleaning the house.  Glancing at my dresser where the piles of clothing have gotten so large that I can no longer see the mirror I opt to clean. 

It is here, surrounded by various cleaning products, methodically wiping down the soap scummy bathroom that I begin to think about creating a TV show, writing a book, starting a scrapbooking business.

My mind races through images of TLC reality show pitches and a variety of book titles.  I see myself in an cozy home office in a pair of clean khaki pants having found the answer to our financial worries.
The TLC reality show -would feature our life - just two parents, a few children and thier struggle to not order pizza.  I think we would delvelop quite a following.

The book would be about my life, as a mother, a teacher, a wife and a friend.  I charm audiences with my relateable stories of life, love, and living in a suburban town. 

And then my husband calls from the family room, "I have a movie on pause, wanna watch it?"

"I'll be right down." I yell, abandoning my cleaning.

I'll write the book/ pitch the show/ create the business plan later...but right now I am a childless woman on a Saturday morning on her way to watch a movie.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Seven Stages of Bedtime

I love bedtime.

After we work our way through the seven stages and we have finally reached Acceptance, I love bedtime.

It begins somewhere in the neighborhood of 7:47pm.  The announcement is made to the children that we will be heading up to bed at the next commercial. This information is met with Shock and Disbelief.  WHY???  WHY???
"It's only seven-four-seven?!?!?!?  We don't go to be until eight-one-three?!?!?!?!"

Actually, you go to bed at eight-zero-zero but...whatever.

Then there are tears, demands, yelling and usually at least one threat of "throw up."  (We take the last one VERY seriously these days)

Finally, FINALLY, after about one-three minutes, we have reached Acceptance. 

I provide a "piggy bank" for one and sometimes two of the children.  The logistics are tricky but the results are solid. 

We arrive upstairs and children are deposited in their own beds.  Diapers are changed, plastic bed protectors are adjusted and stranded "guys" are rescued from the crack between the bed and the wall. 

And then it is time for "snuggles." 

My oldest son requests nightly that I tell him what to dream about.  This is given the clever name, "Dream About" and involves an itinerary of three or four fun things that will be happening in the coming weeks.  Items can include but are not limited to, birthday, beach vacation, Santa visit and trips to Mom Mom's house.  The ending to the "dream about" is always the same and signals that he should release death grip around my neck, "dream about ice cream." 

My middle son receives a more traditional snuggle that features routine phrases.  I nuzzle into his neck behind his ear with my nose and breath very deeply and very slowly.  I take about 5 to 7 breaths to fully complete his nightly request of, "The snuggle is first and make it a slow one." 

I kiss him on each eye and then the nose.  I walk to the door at which point I must turn around and say, "I will dream about you." 

If you forget this last bit, and believe me I have, the result is a WAILING child and the need to "start over."

My baby girl gets a slightly different arrangement at bedtime.  She gets a book.  Every night. Because she is the baby and she is spoiled.  (I'm fine with it.)\

She is nestled into her great big bed,surrounded by pink and green pillows, her blond curls splayed out around her.  She bats her giant brown eyes and very sweetly says, "Read a book." 

I go to the book basket and select a standard favorite, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

"Nooooooooooo!!!!" she shrieks, "I want Love You."

Isnt' this fun.

But...sadly, she usually gets her way. 

I don't know if it is her sheer volume or my lack of resources to fight her after a long day, or maybe it is her beautiful brown eyes fringed in long dark lashes that get it done, but the result is the same. 

I retrieve her chosen book and snuggle beside her in the big bed.  I read the book and thank God that she is here.  That she is healthy.  I thank God for all the blessings of my life. 

And then she pokes me in the eye because I usually fall asleep.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

De Ja Vu

It's been a rough week for the carpet. 

My oldest son runs into our bedroom and yells, "Mommy, I'm throwing up!" 

Yes.  You certainly are.  Something beige by the looks of it.  Thank God for that.

There are a few things that you must know about my oldest son.  He will be six years old in two weeks.  He is smart as a whip.  He has two volumes, loud and megaphone. 

Yesterday, which seems like 100 years ago, when the middle child was ill, the prospect of staying home with him was, in a word, delightful.  Our middle son is content with sitting still, on your lap, sucking his "puppy" for countless hours.  He will snuggle and watch "The Today Show" without protest.  He will even giggle quietly as Jon Stewart flails around mocking the "Tea Partiers," all while nestled in the crook of your arm.  He is the perfect sick kid. 

Our oldest son is NOT conducive to illness.  He can sit still for approximately 37 seconds before demanding some kind of engaging entertainment.  He will tell you, at 100 decibels, that "This is a GROWN-UP show and it is NOT APPROPRIATE for kids."  He never actually sleeps.  Ever.  Just lulls into some semi-conscious state that seems like sleep but if called upon can be awake - immediately - in full control of all faculties.
He will have a fever of 109 and vommit every 20 mins, but mid puke will be asking you how the "flush" works on the toilet.  He never seems sick, he never slows down, will NEVER STOP TALKING.  He is the WORST sick kid.

My terrible sick kid climbs into bed with me.  His raging fever makes him like a little heater, which is strangely comforting.  He snuggles close to me and I feel content becuase I NEVER get to be this close to him.

He talks at volume 100 like a little adult.  Including himself in the discussion about which parent will call off for tomorrow.  He would prefer that it be Dad. Dad will play Wii.  But only if sick kids are allowed to play Wii.  Mom, are sick kids allowed to play Wii?  Or do sick kids need to stay in bed for the whole day?  What time can sick kids get out of bed?  Can sick kids be on the couch or does it have to be a bed?  Can sick kids play Wii in bed?  What if the sick kid can't sleep?  Can the sick kid read or do they have to keep their eyes closed?  How long until the sick goes away?  ....and so on...and so on....and so on.

Until finally my sainted husband, the chosen parent called in for sick kid duty, takes him out of the bedroom. 

I lay awake in the darkness and smile.  Tomorrow night, it will be de ja vu all over again.  After all, I have THREE kids.

I count my blessings, one, two, three.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Partnership & Evil Oreos

You hear it and you are running, half-way there before you are actually awake.  "Mommy! MOMMY!"

You enter consciousness with a blurry memory of what is happening right now, as if it is a dream, but it is real.    You arrive and shake off the sleep. 

"Mommy! I'm gonna throw..."

And then it arrives.  The jolt to your senses.  You are carrying a child, not exactly sure which one.  You are running to a bathroom but can't remember where it is located.  You are almost there just as said child spews forth...Evil Oreos.

Why did the builder choose beige carpet?   Why did the soccer mom choose Oreos?    Why did Nabisco make chocolate cookies black?  Because they hate you.

And there it is - the reason that there are two of you. 

One to remove the messy pajamas, comfort the sick child, retrieve the necessary "puppy."  One to change the bed sheets, clean the carpet stains, start the endless stream of laundry that will ensue. 

One to redress the sick child, secure the trashcan that will sit bedside, feel for the impending fever.  One to comfort the sibling of the sick child, assure him that "sicko" will not be having fun during his sleepover stay in Mommy & Daddy's bed, one to hold your hand when you crawl back in bed with sicko knowing that it is going to be a long night.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Worst.

I stand in my closet.  I stare at the assortment of clothes.  Long sleeve, short sleeve, sweaters, cardigans, pants, skirts, capris.  And nothing, not one thing fits. 

I remember a girl who used to fit in all of it.  A girl who was too small for most of it.  A girl who used to complain that she was "fat."

I'd like to smack her.

This is the worst way to start a day.  Staring at so many clothes, and knowing that the only thing that fits is the jewelry. 

I wonder what it is that happens everyday between the agony of the closet drill and the late afternoon binge that allows me to forget how HORRIBLE I feel as I stand in my closet.

I don't understand the disconnect.  I am an intelligent person who is knowledgeable about food, calories, exercise and nutrition.  Yet there I am, again and again, standing in front of the food pantry at 4 pm - shoveling empty calories into my gullet.  And there I am, standing in my closet, on the verge of tears knowing that nothing will fit. 

Why can't I break this cycle? 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pursuit of the Perfect Saturday

It's 7:25 A.M. - I open my eyes on my own, as opposed to having them pryed open by tiny fingers. 

It's gonna be a good day. 

I slowly stretch myself awake and sit up.  I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth by myself

It's gonna be a good day.

I come downstairs to my immaculately clean house to see my two-year old daughter standing on a chair helping her father make eggs and Canadian bacon.  Coffee is brewed, waiting for me.  The boys are in the basement playing.

It's gonna be a good day.

Over breakfast of home-made Egg McMuffins it is decided that we will go to the gym, workout and then take the kids swimming.

The kids have a blast swimming and we stop at Chik-fil-A to grab lunch. Everyone is appropriately full and exhausted.  We arrive home and tuck all three children in for naps. 

As I settle onto the couch with one weeks worth of "The Daily Show" episodes and materials to give myself a pedicure I think to myself, "Does it get any better than this?"

I am midway through this reverie when my husband rounds the corner and says, "I feel like I should be doing something." 


Go to the gym.  Check.  Spend quality time with kids.  Check.  Clean the house, mow the lawn, conquer the world.   Check, check, check.

Every Saturday, he is wondering what else he should be doing.  What is it with this man???? Why does he need to constantly be busy????  What is so wrong with sitting down every now and then????

How do you find contentment when you are both seeking different things?

When you find an answer...get back to me.  In the meantime I'll be enjoying my "good day."

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Waiting...

As I sit here at my desk checking my e-mail for the one-hundred millionth time today, it suddenly hits me.  I am just like my kids.  Like my own children & my students.  I am just a kid, waiting for someone to give me feedback, acknowledgement, credit.

I spend the last 40 minutes of the school day, phoning it in as it were.  Half listening to the students, begrudingly leaving my desk to answer questions and telling them that I will "assess" their work when I grade it this weekend.  Not on principal, but just because I am waiting to see if my mom has read my blog.  And if my husband read my blog.  And if sister read my blog.

And if they did, what did they think? 

I want feedback. I want to call my mom.  I want to know what she thought.

And so do the students, so do my children, so does my husband, and mother and sister.

I see suddenly that while I am waiting to be appreciated and commended or simply acknowledged, so is everyone else and sometimes they come first.

So.  I feel like I understand a little better now why my son so DESPERATELY wants me to come see him win the race at "Rainbow Road" while playing Wii.  Why my students want me to "look at" their PowerPoint project when it is only half-way finished.  Why my husband wants me to appreciate the skill involved in scoring a goal in an MLS soccer game.  Why my mom wants me to know exactly how much money was saved in her latest bargain hunt. 

We ALL want to be acknowledged by the people we love and care about.  We want to show them, impress them, amaze them.

So.  Starting now I am going to make more of an effort to appreciate and commend the accomplishments of those I love and care about, even the small ones.  I am going to pay closer attention to the things that they want me to see.  I am going to be more engaged. 

Right after I call my mom. 

The Story of One Reluctant Mother

A friend of mine just found out she is newly pregnant - after YEARS of trying.  This wonderful news & her story of seeing the positive pregnancy test for the first time took me back to the February morning in 2004 when I first learned that I was going to be a mother. 

I remember standing on "Poopy Hill," the name we used to refer to the tiny patch of grass outside of our warehouse apartment, waiting patiently (or not so patiently....) for my dog, Jersey to relieve herself.  It was cold and raining and I felt like, well, shit.  I was suddenly hit with a wave of dizziness.  The kind that rocks you back and you have to reach out to steady yourself.  It was at that moment that I knew that I was pregnant. 

We hadn't been trying.  Quite the opposite.  We were 12 months into a 16 month engagement, the culmination of which was a "BIG WHITE WEDDING" that promised to rival the nuptuals of Prince Charles & Princess Dianna, at least in our families. 

I had made the decision approximately one month earlier to stop using oral contraceptives so that I could "lose weight" for the wedding.  How is that for irony?

With this in mind we were extremely, EXTREMELY careful, save for one fateful morning.  A perfect storm of circumstances that convinced me that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. 

My husband's new job featured a "split-work week" giving him Wednesdays off.  On this particular Wednesday I had recieved the early morning phone call all teachers love to get, "We have a two-hour delay."  Since we were both home, and awake, well... anyway....let's get back to "Poopy Hill."
So there I am, rocked with the realization that I think I am pregnant.  Completely clueless as to what this might actually mean.  And terrified. 

I went about my morning, arriving to work on time but completely preoccupied.  It became necessary for me to confirm.  Immediately. 

I went to the Principal and told him that I was feeling ill.  I arranged lessons for the rest of my classes and drove straight to K-Mart, purchasing one pregnancy test, a Valentines Day card and a Butterfinger for my love. 

I went back to our apartment and headed to the bathroom.  I convinced myself that I was overreacting to the dizzy spell and felt sure that this was a "false alarm." I peed on the stick and placed it on the counter.  I finished my business and then stood to look at the test. 

OH MY GOD.  Is that two lines?  NO. I can't be two lines.  I can't be. Yes.  It is. OH MY GOD.

I called my sister.  Four years younger, 20 to my 24, a college sophomore, but in situations like this, she is my life-line.

She'll know what to do. 

"Take another test."
"I don't have another test."
"Who buys one pregnancy test?!?!?!"
"They are expensive."
"Go buy another and call me back."

I drive back to K-Mart.  Now I am freaking out.  I am FREAKING OUT. 

I buy three tests and race home.


OH MY GOD.  I'm Pregnant.  I am hysterical - I am shaking - I am terrified.  I call Frank, my husband.

"Wow...That's amazing - are you sure?  Wow! Are you crying?  Why are you crying?"

I sob, "...but the wedding, the dress, my parents, Fr. Snyder, Oh MY GOD, how can I tell Fr. Snyder???"

I call my sister.  She's on her way.  From Maryland to Pennsylvania skipping classes, missing work. 

I call my gynocologist's office and say meekly, "I think I am pregnant."  The receptionist placed me on hold and I waited to speak to a nurse, someone knowledgeable, someone who would know what to do. 

When the nurse finally answered she asked me flatly, "What was the date of your last menstral period?"
"I'm not sure."  Suprised that she would need to know this information.
"What makes you think you are pregnant?"
"I took a test. Three tests."  I started to cry
"I don't understand." She said in response to my tears,  "Is this baby unwanted?"

What a loaded question. 

In that second I realized that my life was going to go in a different direction.  One that I had not really anticipated. 

I replied softly, "Never unwanted.  Just unexpected."

And with that, I became a mom.