Ode to “Me-Mowe”

January 7, 2017

Ode to Me-Mowe

(Pronounced like cow, but with an M. that is Cece’s word for Mickey mouse)

Dear Mickey Mouse-

Let me start off by saying I am a big fan. I have been since I was in diapers. You and your crew were my first friends. It is nice that you now spend so much time in my home again. At the risk of being judged by other parents, I am just going to come clean: I let my kids watch a lot of TV. I don’t mean to, but we are all happier people when the TV is on. See, you still bring joy to my life. But you already knew that, you are a smart mouse. I can’t quite figure out why you are still friends with Pete, he is seriously an asshole. But I am sure you have a reason, I won’t doubt you know what you are doing. You, little mouse, have become generation-less. I like how you have become quite musical in this new generation. The hot dog song? And kids eat it up. (pun intended) Anyway, like Goofy trying to remember quite how to say Toodles, I am stumbling over my words. What I really wanted to say was thank you for being there to help out this week.

Continue reading Ode to “Me-Mowe”


December 31, 2016

I am running around the house trying to prepare for another holiday gathering. Presents need to be wrapped bought, and my house is in its normal state of cluttered chaos. Why do they need to dump the toy bins to play with one little thing? Cece has attached herself to my leg and Jackson weaseled a bike in from outside and was running over my foot, again. The girls were just waking up and their faces were glued to some device. I was letting Josh sleep in since he was fresh off two double shifts. I stood there, looking down at my ratty sweat pants tucked into my slipper boots and stopped in the now familiar command: breathe

“Hell of a winter we are having, eh?” An imagined passerby calls out to me smiling at the two toddlers playing around in the back yard. I tell myself they are some how missing the piles of dog poop were buried under the snow then thawed back out. Another thing on my to do list. I sigh as I am oddly reminded of the three-inch layer of dust on my windowsill. Jackson and Cece are battling each other with sticks as the dog darts out of the way. They are probably too young to be playing with those sticks. Oh wait, I stopped giving a shit what people thought especially in the judgment free zone that is my back yard. The trees are shaking in the loneliness that comes about when all your leaves have fallen. The breeze causes a ripple shiver in my shoulder. My watch dings. Breathe. I inhale, my gaze softening on the babies giggling around the yard. I exhale these insignificant moments of my day that I
will most likely forget tomorrow. I just breathe.

Continue reading Breathe

The Answer is in the Dunes

The days after my trip have left me with a mess of maps, notebooks, pictures and memories. As I arrange myself back into everyday, real, adult life, I hold onto a longing for the freedom that is the open road and no plan. My vacation was completely immature; an itch to satisfy curiosity and wake up every day to an adventure. I took my baby,my toddler and two teenage girls away from their comfort zones. I risked tantrums and eye rolls and bickering about who has to lean over the seat to grab the truck Jackson has thrown for the twentieth time. We ran out of everything, diapers, milk, cell phone data, patience, money, batteries, tolerance for camping and even sunny days.
Being back to adult life now, I can only relive the journey by writing about it. There are so many pictures and moments and stories that I am excited to share. We did it. We drove six thousand miles in two weeks with four kids. We are better people because of it. The best place to start? right in the middle.
July 14,2016

We are driving somewhere through Idaho. Potatoes, Napoleon Dynamite. Why do I keep saying Iowa? What do I expect? Even now, I can’t fully describe Idaho. It was everything. Farmlands sprinkled with mountains and corn and windmills. Lava rocks, desert, sand dunes. The landscape has more colors then Sherwin Williams and every hue glows. It was surreal, like the way Dorthy must have felt when she walked out of her house to a world suddenly filled with color.

I looked over my shoulder and the babies were peacefully asleep. Tired out from a morning of swimming and another day of new experiences.  They were snuggled into their car seats in the midst of a snoring contest. The girls are in the way back. Like typical teenagers they have headphones permanently attached to their ears and some electronic attached to their hands. Their faces are fixated on the window. The miracle of Idaho. More wondrous then the appeal of YouTube. More interesting then the feed of Instagram. They stopped to stare. We all did. We couldn’t stop looking. The radio was singing Band of Horses to us.
“But no one is ever gonna love you more than I do. No one’s gonna love you more than I do”

I looked over at Josh driving and held his hand. We were all here, in this moment in complete awe. I knew it was coming. I felt the urge in the back of my throat. Tears. I don’t even know why. The sky, the water, the mountains, the music, my family, the moment. It all hit me. And for the first time in a while, I cried over something good.

“Where are you going on vacation?” random person asks.
“We are going to Oregon. Driving from Ohio. For two weeks.”
The reactions were priceless. Some were more polite (while inner questioning of my sanity)
Driving? Yes. With four kids? Yes. 39 Hours. Each way. Six thousand miles, in two weeks. Where are you going to stay? With friends some nights and some nights we will camp. Some are perplexed. Some are vocal. Some are in awe and some tell me they took a road trip as a kid and it was their most memorable vacation. I hear the voices, and the doubtful ones are the loudest. What were we thinking?
The truth is, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Josh and I had one of those nights where we probably drank too much wine and started fantasizing about this magical family road trip. I became Clark Griswold and started thinking about this adventure to Wally World. (Or in our case Oregon). The writer in me took over. It became this Kerouac meets Hunter S.Thompson meets Harry Potter dream world I cooked up in my head. I don’t know what we were supposed to find driving for days and exploring the Northwestern part of the United States. I knew it was missing. It became boggled up in the stress of our life. For me, the stress has become cumbersome. The kids felt it, and Josh felt it. I could no longer function as adult. I needed a break.
Today, we have comfortable settled into our nomadic, gypsy life. We faced uncertainty and found the flaw in our lax attitude toward planning. We had our Wally World moment (that’s for a whole other story). Today, I found the point of this trip – the journey, the adventure, started to reveal itself.  As I actually see “purple mountains and amber waves of grain” I know that my soul feels this. It is happy to the point of tears and every day we are out on the road is another  brilliant  fucking adventure.

We arrived at Bruneau Dunes State park. It was in the middle of vast farmland and we had been the only car on the road for miles. The landscape opened up and there they were: Sand dunes. I had never seen such massive sand dunes before. There were maybe thirty campsite and enough people there that it wasn’t creepy but not too much for over crowding. The sites were shaded under trees in an otherwise desert area. The dunes outlined the landscape like they were looking over the sites and the land ensuring this was a safe place to be. There was no attendee just a card we filled out that claimed site 21 just for us. As we unloaded our tents, I made a pact that I could run to the top of a dune. no problem. (easier said than done). Olivia was anxious to swim. (her goal everyday). We found a lake and it was what exactly we needed. This was our greatest camping experience. It was the reason we took this trip. After our nightly ritual of cooking hot dogs on a fire followed by S’mores, the girls took Jackson in the tent and he fell asleep nestled between them watching the Lego Movie for the millionth time. (next road trip note: have more than two movies downloaded to tablet). Cece was snuggled in my arms asleep with her thumb in her mouth. I didn’t want to go to bed because it would mean the day was over. Josh and I sat there in our American flag camping chairs with our wine under a clear sky sprinkled with stars and the sound of a coyote howling in the distance. We are halfway between Denver CO and Eugene OR and miles away from everything else we know.

This is Actually Happening

September 26, 2015
This is actually happening.  I mutter to myself yet again today. Jackson takes his pants off and is running. We are in midst of a no-pants rebellion: diaper optional. I watch him climb on the couch-with his “diaper that probably needed changed an hour ago” sag, look at me and fall forward. I have no choice but to jump out of my seat and catch him.  What are you thinking?!  I yell as if that will make him stop. Clearly, it has now become a game. As I play the “jump out of my seat and catch floppy toddler” game over, and over, and over, and over, and over again I start to realize my life has become a series of “this is actually happening” moments. Like a surreal dream; when the hell did I end up here?
Josh: Whats wrong?
Me: (sobbing) I’m pregnant
Josh: That’s awesome!
Me: seriously? Awesome? Four kids. What is wrong with us?
I sat in the all too familiar OBGYN chair. Naked from the waist down with the giant paper towel wrapped around my bottom so that half my unshaven leg is hanging out. I take one look at my stomach, still mushy from having Jackson and think “who the hell would ever want to have sex with this”.  Doctor Amber comes in the room and starts going over the standard pregnancy protocol. Blah, blah, blah- heard it. I think still wondering how I ended up back in this chair. When its time for my ultrasound I wait for her to tell me some reason in which she was mistaken and I wasn’t pregnant. She takes out the giant blue dildo thingy. (sorry that is the only way I can think to describe the ultra sound machine they use in the first few months). I laugh at how Josh and I didn’t realize how exactly it worked after I got pregnant with Jackson. We started making super immature jokes about it and were completely mortified when the doctor gave me the extra invasive ultrasound. Josh isn’t there for this one. We have a one year old at home..and we both somehow didn’t think this pregnancy was real. I look at the monitor and I am confused. “Are those arms? And legs?” I ask Dr. Amber. I remember my first ultrasound from Jackson. He was a blob that we were hoping had a heartbeat. But this was a blob with a head, and appendages. “Yes they are.” She says. “How far along am I?” I ask, not even feeling the slightest bit irresponsible. “About twelve weeks.” She smiles. “This is happening.” I say.  This is actually happening.
Fast forward nine months. I am still living that episode called “greatest moments in disbeleif”. I just step back and watch the chaos unfold. I did the solo parent challenge: taking all four kids somewhere without the help of the other parent. Josh was working and Liv wanted to go to open gym to practice her routine. One hour: I can do this”. I try to convince myself. Two teens, two babies and 1 Mom. May the odds be ever in my favor. I was concerned since Jackson was asleep in the stroller. It was 7 on a Friday night and this 9-5er was exhausted. If he slept too long, it could be a Oh-Toodles at midnight kinda evening followed by Oh-Toodles with the sunrise kinda Saturday morning. Halfway through Liv’s class he was still asleep.
Me: I am going to wake him for a bit. Maybe he can run around this building for a bit
Layla: Don’t do it. he is so bad
Me: But I really want him to sleep later
Layla: It’s a bad idea. I am warning you.
Me: I know. I know. I am going to regret this.

The idea of him sleeping later was worth the risk of letting him out to roam free in a rec center. Right? I handed Cece to Layla. She was mostly asleep. “Hey Buddy.” I say in Jackson’s ear. He smiles and opens his eyes. It took a few minutes to take in all the toddlering that can go on in this building. He eyes the gym mats and yells to be taken out of his stroller. I have now caught the attention of all the other parents. While made of the best intentions and adoration, I often get the “you are so brave; I am so glad I don’t have four kids” smile from other parents. I let him out and let him climb on the gym mats while the instructor isn’t looking. Then she looks over and I flash the “oops..toddler. haha” smile and scoop him up. The rec center has lots of hallways for him to run in. Having middle schoolers around, I have come to be well acquainted with the magical union of toddler and school hallway. Its a living maze and his little legs can’t navigate it fast enough. I direct him toward the hallway. There is a detour I wasn’t expecting: elevator. Why are the buttons so low??? I ask to the air.  He hits the button and the door immediately opens. “Crap!” I say to Layla and run after him. I slide onto the elevator like I am stealing a base. He is really proud of himself now as the door closes. He hits the alarm button. No!! I yell. I hear dispatch interference and dispatch voices. I hear important words like “fire station” “alarm button hit” “I am yelling, “No. I am so sorry. No emergency.” Finally someone addresses me. “hello. What is  your emergency?” the elevator asks me. “I am so sorry, so sorry, no emergency. My son. toddler. Mistake.” I can hear the elevator sign in annoyance as it opens the doors and I get off.  This actually happening. This just happened. I stepped off the elevator as if it didn’t happen.  Jackson started running down the hallway and found an empty basket ball court. I grabbed a ball and started dribbling around him. I even impressed him by (almost) making a free throw. We spent the rest of the time playing chase, dribble, catch and run in the gym.  It was a sweet moment I got to have with him. Mom and son, its so new to me. I have three daughters. One sister. My mom has two sisters and my dad has five…so yeah, lots of girls. Sometimes I wonder if I am bit ill prepared to mother a son. Then we have these organic little moments and I start to understand the dynamic.  Me: Figuring out how to mother a son: this is actually happening. 






September 15, 2015
I have a teenager now. I had planned on writing a post about how challenging life with teenagers can be. They are stinky, lazy, self-centered, eye rolling, oversleeping, food sucking machines. I could go on and on about how suddenly I am afraid to walk I her bedroom in fear that one mess, or pile of our entire collection of dinner plates laying on the floor, will just set me off in a way that I am not prepared for. I could tell a story about how much her life revolves around anime, drawing and not doing any chores with out a preemptive deep sigh.
Layla: Can you please, please buy me those Pokémon socks?
Me: seriously?
Layla: they are only fourteen dollars. Puh-leese?? I am begging you. I will do anything. I promise – as soon as we get home I will clean my room. I will do extra chores, dishes, take out the trash. Anything you want.
Me: How about this. I have to come back to the mall in a few days. You clean your room and do a few extra chores and I will buy you the socks.
Layla: well, I don’t want them that bad

I want to complain about how much she minipulates her little sister to do all her work. As a big sister, i am astounded by the things she has Olivia do for her. She wakes her up, packs her lunch and has even been known to turn a page while lazy girl reads. 
Olivia: Seriously Layla, I do everthing for you. What is going to happen when we are older? I am going to have to come to your house. Clean your rooom. Do your laundry and feed your ten cats. 
While everyday life with a hormonal teenage daughter has been challenging and a constant battle of wits, I cant help but feel overwhelming nostalgia for the part of her I will never get back again. I am talking about that baby she used to be. Layla was always overly grown up, even at eighteen months when she just wanted to draw pictures instead of going outside. But she was always my smart, introverted little girl. While she was at guitar lessons tonight, we took the two little ones for a walk in our old neighborhood. This was the neighborhood that Layla was born in and we lived until she was eleven months. It was our first family home. The little playground at the dead end of the street was the first time she ever felt the tummy tickle that comes from being pushed in a swing.
Everything about Layla’s thirteenth birthday has made me nostalgic. It is because I am so excited for her. Thirteen…the official start to the self-discovery of becoming an adult. She is at the eve of her first date, first kiss and first heartbreak. Soon she will learn to drive and go off to college. She is still in the optimistic half of her life and has a wide-open future. I want to be thirteen again, not for awkwardness or the cliques or the self-consciousness but for the freedom to think that anything is possible.
Layla: I want to be an artist, or a video game designer, or an astronomer. Will I make a lot of money doing any of those things?
Me: if you are worried about making money doing what you love then I have failed as a parent.

Walking through the park tonight brought me to that nostalgic place I needed to be. It brought me out of the self-pity funk I was feeling; the standard “my daughter is old; I am old” pity party I throw myself. It reminded me of the child I was when I had her and the fear I had that I would somehow not be good enough as a parent because I was young, inexperienced and broke. Looking at the landscape that hasn’t changed in the last thirteen years, I am reminded of how far we have come. Me and that sweet baby girl that put a halt on life as I knew it. I hugged her and sang the same verse of “Layla” I do every year. “Like a fool, I fell in love with you; you turned my whole world upside down”. Thank you sweet girl. Thank you.