Monday, June 4, 2012

Margarita Pool - or just an in-ground trampoline!

My Saint Bernard has had some droopy eye issues the past six months. He’s had three surgeries and several tackings (you might not even want to know what that means!) and eyelashes removed along with the follicles, eye drops, steroids, and many, many trips to our fabulous eye doctor at The Animal Eye Center in Loveland, Colorado. Those early trips were stressful at first because there was a lot of road work at the Windsor exit, and I would sit through the lights to cross over the interstate for about fifteen minutes each way. Since this is already a forty minute drive for me, adding another fifteen with two or three kids in the van and an enormous Saint Bernard, just simply wasn’t fun at all! So I found a different way that consisted of driving through a gorgeous neighborhood. This was a neighborhood filled with large homes, sprawling yards, bodies of water, trails throughout, mailboxes each with an ornate eagle, and sunken trampolines. I had seen a few pictures of in-ground trampolines online, but driving through this neighborhood, I just knew if I couldn’t live there, I’d at least get our family an in-ground trampoline.

 So at the end of March, I started talking about it with my husband who didn’t like the idea at all. I am wife and Mommy, and long story short, I win. And I get to do most of the labor! I started off with finding the area in the yard I could put a 14 foot round hold into the ground without terribly disturbing the integrity of our yard. Once I found that perfect spot, I had to account for the future growth of the pear trees the hole would be near. And then the easy part….draw a 14 foot in diameter circle. So I measured out 17 feet from the trees and pounded in a wooden stake. Simple, right, tie a string to the stake that is 7 feet long and walk in a circle painting an orange circle on the grass…right? After three tries, my 5 year old daughter wrapping the string around her body and three circles painted on the grass, I called a man. I know. I’ll stop there so you can laugh. I felt like such a girl. He came over, changed my string to rope, tied the paint can to the rope, loosely tied the rope to the stake so it wouldn’t wrap around the stake, politely asked my daughter to get out of the circle so it wouldn’t wrap around her either, and walked in a perfect 14 foot circle.
  Next step was removing the grass. Sure, it looks easy, but with school schedules, kids’ schedules, meals, baths, and hugs, it took me about three days to get the grass out of the circle. I will note that is was much easier after we had rain. It seemed to just roll up like carpet once it was wet…but it was heavy! Luckily for me, we live next to a bunch of empty lots, so I was able to toss the grass over our fence and into a field! Once the grass was removed, the next simple task was to remove lots of dirt. Thirty-six inches deep, (we went about the same depth as our trampoline was high, knowing we’d be raising the trampoline frame and adding rock, so ultimately it was about 3 inches above ground) and fourteen feet diameter is a very large hole. Whatever amount of dirt you think you might remove, triple it. If you think you have understood it then, double that. I wasn’t sure just how much we would have, so I decided to build a garden. I thought I use a lot of the dirt in this garden. First I had to remove a lot of river rock, build a brick wall to hold the garden, and then toss the dirt in. Pack it down, the toss more in. Rinse and repeat….and repeat.
  But enough about the garden area….I spent basically the next five to six weeks digging. And digging. Eventually I had to wheel barrow the dirt out the back yard, across the front yard and into the field next door. Now that was a lot of dirt. After doing that for a day, I decided I needed yet another garden area. So I removed another 2 tons of rock from the front walk area and dumped dirt there for a future garden area. After that week, I went back to dumping the dirt into the field. If you think you get how much dirt that is, triple it. Get it now? Double that amount in your mind.
Finally, with a few hours of help from my husband, I learned a few things: One, he works a lot faster than I do, two, the kids seems to need less when he and I are working together, and three, the two of us together manage to move a lot of dirt out of that hole! Once the dirt was gone from the hole and basically level, we built the frame, then placed it on cut cinder blocks, and leveled each block to ensure the frame itself was level. With a rented one man auger, we dug holes for posts, poured QuickCrete in the holes, put in posts for the framed wall. Also, with the Auger, we put two holes in the center of the circle and I dug small trenches from the perimeter to those holes for drainage. In this area, we don't get a lot of rain, but when we do, it can do a lot of damage and pool. We needed to make sure we had good drainage away from the dirt walls around the massive hole.

After the quickcrete was dry, I added landscaping fabric and 1.5 tons of rock. Yep, more moving rock for this Supermom!
 And yes, by this time I was exhausted! I dropped the wheel barrow in the hole once and twice in the yard. After I dropped the last wheel barrow load, my 7 year old daughter and I just sat there throwing rock into the hole from the pile in the yard.
Then the boys came in and built walls to frame the hole. I sat there for about a day and passed over a piece of wood to my husband so he could measure and cut, drill and tack until this wall was built. I don’t think the earth around this trampoline will be going anywhere anytime soon.
Then I dumped a bit of rock behind the wall, and we back filled dirt behind the walls. Tamped it down and poured more dirt down behind the walls.                                                                              We secured the trampoline frame to the wall… just in case, put the mat on and I was the first person to jump! I love it, I haven’t been able to get my kids off of it, and I think it will provide years of fun! We are not quite done yet. Not only do I now have two gardens to plant and set up drip lines, but I also need to build a small berm around the trampoline with new sod so the small space between the wooden wall, frame, and ground are covered. I think after two months of plowing through this project just to get it all done, I may just take my time on all of that. I also have to grass repair to do…who knew a full wheel barrow would cause so much harm?

We did go through a fun journey with our friends, family and neighbors while working on this project.  I think the most popular of 'what could the hole be' guesses was a margarita pool.

We also tried to get CU out here to get some great pictures of the Super Moon.
But the night of the Super Moon we had clouds and then rain....and woke to this the next day...
Once the rain cleared, we tried to make Contact again, but after building it, no one came, 
and no one phoned home.
Then school ended and our oldest daughter knew her birthday was near.  She wants a skateboard!

Finally, I came back to reality and thought about the beginning of this journey and how I was doing it for the kids.  I was exhausted, my husband was working too hard and one day I just didn't feel like digging anymore, so I figured, the kids would like a ball pit just the same!

Now that it's in, I can say two things:
1) I am damn proud of myself.  I had no idea I could do something this big and mostly alone, while managing three children, their schedules, two cats, two gerbils, a fish and of course our wonderful Saint Bernard and his many trips to the eye doctor!
2) This better last a long damn time and my kids better enjoy it, because if they don't I won't let them forget all I did to give it to them! 
Okay...three things.  You can have a landscaper or even general laborers dig your hole. There are also landscapers that will install for you.  But the character I built in my children and the pride in myself was well worth two months of hard work, and I wouldn't have done it any other way!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mommy War

Just last night I was telling my husband that I was at war with motherhood. Parenting blew up in my face yesterday and I was wiping shrapnel off my shoulders and pulling glass out of my hair and eyes all day! For years we used Love and Logic - and guess what- it worked, and it was easy with my girls. Then I had a boy and I forgot how to be empathetic unless my son was sleeping - then I felt all kinds of empathy, but for myself and my lack of sleep for 5 years. He just turned three and now I am finally back on track with Love & Logic. I laugh at myself sometimes when I sing uh-oh, and I feel so empowered when I dish out a consequence and my son understands why it’s happening. Then yesterday he decided to fight back. When it was time to get my daughter from school, he decided he didn’t want to try to go potty. It’s been a rule since he potty trained a month ago – get all your pee-pee out before we get in the car. He wouldn’t go. I decided to allow natural consequences happen if he chooses not to pee before we leave the house. We get to school and he’s playing and building a factory out of large rocks. I thought for a moment tornado must have come through and tossed a factory wall through the air, but I knew it was my son throwing large rocks. While talking to my friend, I knew it would be easier to just say, “Hey, rock factory builder, don’t do that again, okay?” But trying to get back into Love & Logic, instead I walked over and said “Uh-Oh, if we choose to throw rocks, we can’t play with them.” Then I quietly put the remaining rocks in the rock pile and walked away with my son in my arms. Son-0, Mom-1, right? Then he realized he was in my arms and not building a rock factory and decided plucking my throat and sticking his tongue out at me was a great reaction to pulling him away from the rocks. I’m on a roll with loving consequences and I’m loaded with empathy, so without saying much beyond an ‘uh-oh,’ I take him to the car and tell him because he chose to pluck me and stick his tongue out at me, he’ll have to wait in the car (that is just a few feet from where we were standing outside by the way) until his sister is out of school. About three minutes later, his sister and I walk to the car and I’m thinking how great this will be, sure there will be tears, but I’m confident they won’t be mine at least. I get to the car and start off with love and logic choices right away. “Do you want to climb in your car seat or would you like me to put you in your car seat?” I’m so winning! Though sobs and tears, I hear, “I don’t want you to touch me (I’m thinking, uh oh, how sad) because I am wet.” !! Wet? I look at him and his pants are soaked and even worse…his brand new shoes are wet. Yep, the shoes we just bought two days prior because, guess….he peed in the old shoes and I couldn’t get them clean. Sure, they were several months old and he was ready for new shoes, but really they smelled like pee and once they were peed in, they needed to be replaced….you know, so he could pee in new shoes! Son-1, Mom-1 We’ll be okay. I pull the shoes off, take off his pants, get him in the car seat and drive home. Vinegar, Lysol and sunshine fix the shoes, and I’m back to winning. Within minutes of being home and trying to remain calm and empathetic, we get a call from a friend that invites us over to play. Sure, we’d love to. We get ready, get out to the car and I notice his car seat is urine soaked! Thanks to some Tide stain remover, Lysol and some diapers to sit on, we were able to hop in and go play.

Fast forward a few hours later, we decide to head to the movies. You know, I’m not having such an easy day so far, so why not throw in an evening at the theatre - on a school night, during dinner time, with three young children who all expect their own drinks and their own huge box of candy to consume in only an hour and a half – why not? My son follows my lead and pees on the potty before we get in the car. He won’t go before the movie. No big deal. After the movie he says he has to go….but he won’t. I have a potty in my car just for those occasions when he won’t use a public restroom. I almost wish I had one for myself! When we get to the car I remind him of the little potty in the back of the car. He won’t go. Only about five miles from the theater he has to go. Another ten minutes go by and he has to go very badly. I can’t hear Jim Fay in my head telling me a great sing song catch phrase to use filled with love and empathy. I pull off the interstate, take him out of the car to use the little potty and he throws a fit and tells me he wants to hold it until we get home. We drive. Another seven minutes goes by and he says he has to use the little potty. We are about five minutes from home, but I pull into a neighborhood, take him out of the car and put him on the potty where he pees. When I pull up his underwear I notice they are a little wet. “Sorry, Mommy.” I want so bad to lecture him about going before we get into the car…or hey, go on the side of the road if I stop, but I just hugged him. Well, I may have slipped in one, “Maybe we should try to go potty before we get in the car.” “Sorry, Mommy.”

Mommy-1 Son-4,856,478,895

Mommy Losing

Sunday, October 2, 2011

~Post Surgery~

They say it takes a horrific happening to open our eyes to the beauty of life. Many horrific things have happened to people in my life, and I have learned many lessons along the way. I learned as a teen not to drink and drive when Kat died in a car accident after her driving date had been drinking. I learned again as a teen to just say no when I came home from work to hear my father say, “He didn’t make it,” and my uncle say to me, “Ain’t that some shit, Ricky’s dead.” Evidently the powers that be thought maybe I hadn’t learned everything I needed to learn, so Kris was taken from me in a sleeping at the wheel while intoxicated car accident and then Brian was taken from me in his car as well. So now, I hardly drink at all. Sure, I joke about margaritas and beer and we are building a bar large enough for the whole county to belly up each Saturday night, but I really rarely drink. There are other lessons in life though. When I met my husband I was in my mid-twenties and living on caffeine and chocolate; weighing ninety-nine pounds wet as our co-workers used to say. A few years after we met, we got married and had our first baby; he lost his father to ‘complications from diabetes.’ I could go far into those complications, but it would be too depressing and really, the lesson I learned is that I could care better for myself and my new family. Diabetes wasn’t something that ran in my family, so I was na├»ve to all the things it can do to one’s body and how preventable it is. I hope I’ve learned this lesson soon enough to teach my children since it now runs in their family. But speaking of depressing, another lesson I learned recently is to never take a moment for granted. Life is short. But it is what you make it. Chris chose not to make it anymore, leaving behind many people that loved him questioning why he didn’t love us enough to hold on tight and not let go.

A week ago, I was preparing myself for three busy and possibly at times, difficult weeks ahead. Jeff was getting on a plane headed to Chicago, the girls were gearing up for another week at school and we were about to adjust to ‘back to life’ as we call it here, when Jeff is on the road all week. Sunday night I put the kids to bed and started to feel this horrible pain in my upper abdomen. I took a bath, took some melatonin and tried to sleep. A little after 11pm, it woke me; this horrific pain. I tried several things thinking it was heart burn or just tummy issues, but nothing worked. At 2:30am, I called my mother who came to my house and said I needed to go to the ER. Of course my three sleeping children couldn’t go to the ER with me, but I knew I had already woken someone up at 2:30am, I didn’t need to wake more people, did I? My mom got my cell phone and started calling friends. By the time Laura got to my house I couldn’t stand the pain anymore and was almost in hysterics. My girls woke worried about the noises Mommy was making in agony. It took us almost thirty minutes to get to the ER.

When I got there, the ER doctor told me all the tests they were going to run and if they didn’t find anything they would run more until they found it. I’m a healthy 38 year old woman; it can’t be all that serious, right? The EKG was fine; the blood work was fine except my white count was high showing my body was fighting something. The urine test came back fine with no problems. The ultrasounds finally showed some gallstones, but they were way inside my gall bladder where they should be and maybe one day I might have to consider having it removed, but no big deal. So what now? The pain meds started wearing off and I was in pain again. More pain meds, more anti-nausea meds, and more tests. The radiologist comes on shift and sees a large, 2cm, gall stone stuck in the neck on my gall bladder on my ultrasound. The on call radiologist missed it. My ER doc comes in again and says, change of plans, he’s waiting for the surgeon to call back and we need to head to surgery. He did tell me I could probably wait a day or two if I needed my husband, who was in Chicago, to get home, but the pain won’t be going away and it needed to come out. By 1pm, I am headed to surgery. Around noon a narcotics induced migraine hit and the ride in the wheel chair around corners and up elevators was worse that a carnival ride after a twelve pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Finally, I started throwing up bile. Sweet, I know. The shot of Imitrex hadn’t worked after 12 minutes, so they gave me something else and off I went. I don’t know where I was or how long I was there, but I don’t remember leaving the room where I had been throwing up to go to the OR, I don’t really remember much about recovery except hearing nurses say things like, ‘she’s having a hard time waking up.’ The only thing I remember about getting to my room was when the gurney was at the doorway and they asked me to get up and walk. I almost fell down. They helped me into bed, made me suck air from a tube and put an icepack on my stomach. I remember vaguely my mother coming in and telling me she was going to feed her dogs and my dog; none had eaten since dinner the previous day and it was now almost 5pm on Monday evening. I slept. At one point I woke and my husband was standing at my bedside. He’s supposed to be in Chicago and yet he’s here at my bedside. He told me something about the kids and my mom and then I slept. The night is a blur. I remember a nurse coming in around midnight telling me she had been on duty and checking on me for hours but I had been sleeping. I slept. And then I slept more and again and even more. The Tuesday morning nurse brought me coffee because she had heard about my migraine. Maybe she talked to the nurse I was rude to when I commanded she removed the junk I had thrown up from my nose. I don’t know, but bless her, she brought me coffee. I ordered breakfast, my husband and son came into the room and took me home soon after.

Just like that, I lost an organ, not vital, I suppose, but still mine for the past 38 years and then I was home on drugs with my family. By Thursday I had another narcotics induced migraine and quit the narcotics cold turkey and met up with my old friend, Tylenol PM. That got me through the next two days, and here I sit Sunday morning, almost a week later feeling alive again. I am terrified that I won’t be able to care for my children while Jeff is in Chicago this week; I won’t be able to kneel down to give them baths or lift my son to rock him and sing The Zoo Song each night before bed. I’m afraid I’ll lose my patience with them because I still feel weak and tired. But in the end, I feel so incredibly lucky to be here and to have the people I have in my life.

I have lost so many people in my life and I have so much grief I keep inside. I harbor sadness for those things I cannot control. It really takes something like this to show me yet again how incredible life is. I never once wondered if my children were cared for while my mom and I were at the hospital for more than twelve hours and my husband was a thousand miles away. I just knew they were in good hands, with people that care for them. Friends of mine that dropped everything they had going on to care for my family. There are about twelve hours I can’t account for while I was at the hospital. But I was in good hands. People were caring for me; making sure my blood pressure didn’t drop too low, making sure my lungs were filling with air and ensuring infection didn’t get into my body and spread. Sure it cost me an organ, but I put myself in the care of others and they took good care of me. That’s a tough thing to surrender for someone with control anxieties!

Today I write this, on the second day of October, when thousands of people are walking in Denver to fight for a cure for cancer. And I am humbled again. I lost a small organ that will only make me think twice about what I am eating. I didn’t lose my hair, my dignity, my breasts or my life. My own father is fighting cancer and I can say with all certainty, as hard as this last week has been on me, the ER, the surgery, the emotions, the questions, the pain, the recovery, the migraines, the uncertainty, and the loss of control of my own life for those few hours, it is nothing compared to those fighting the fight my dad is fighting.

So today, I ask you to do two things. One, please say thank you to a nurse, EMT, a doctor, or other health care provider. I am amazed at the gifts they have that I do not. And second, please say a prayer for someone you do not know along with those you do know for peace and well being. It is our well being that we tend to take for granted each day.

I can only hope my friends and family know how much I love them and how grateful I am that they were chosen to be in my life. I hope you are surrounded by such wonderfulness in your own life.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Closure or just acceptance

We often speak of closure as if it is a physical act. ‘I’ve closed that door and it will never be opened again.’ But I’ve discovered over the years closure is really just acceptance. I accept this situation for what it is and will be moving on from it, without it or because of it. But I can’t close the door. Maybe I’m going about this closure this all wrong. I know I compartmentalize things in my mind. I have a big box for my family, the to do lists for running our household, getting the kids to appointments, school and ballet on time and with all the appropriate gear needed for each activity. I have a box for my marriage where I store arguments and memories and revisit each day to gather the important things and dump the not so important things in the trash bin. There is a box for my life and inside that box are lots of little boxes. Memories move from one little box to another, mingle, ideas from long ago surface every so often and friends from the past often come floating to a current box resurfacing in my life. I have a big compartment in there that holds the shit I just don’t know what to do with. This is my closure box, but it’s never really closed and I never have closure in the sense that I’ve wiped my hands clean, the memories are just memories and I’ve walked away losing the key to that box. It is in the box that I keep the things I don’t understand or don’t know what to do with. Friends lost and arguments that end friendships for no reason are here. I accept it, but that’s it. My dad’s cancer lives here. My fears are hidden in this box too. This fears that haunt my future and those fears that keep me awake at night thinking of my children and all I may do wrong….or wondering if I am doing right.

I had to open my acceptance box two weeks ago. It was entitled The Closure Room up to that point and it had to be renamed simply Acceptance after another tragedy hit my life and I didn’t know where to file the information and the lack of ability to seek help with closure.
Before I get into that, let me start with twenty years ago. Twenty years ago I started college. I was an artsy theatre major that hung out in the green room and giggled at the top of cat walks while running a show below. One of my first trips into our Green Room I was awed by a voice. I walked in and three guys were playing guitar and harmonizing together. Having recently discovered Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls, I was almost star struck. I stayed for a bit, introduced myself and got to know these three guys. One in particular stood out to me. He had a voice like Micheal Stipe - which us girls swooned over twenty years ago. He had shoulder length spiral curled hair – which girls would die for! And he was nice. He wasn’t a god. He wasn’t Michael Stipe, but I had an instant crush on the guy I just knew I could never have.
That first day he and his friend invited me over to his friend’s house to jump on a trampoline and listen to the two of them play. Years later we would talk about that first day and how I almost blew it. Growing up in a small town with nothing much to do, I immediately said, ‘NO!’ when I thought they had asked me if I was doing anything later. What they had really asked was if I wanted to do anything (with them!) later. Twenty years later, I can still see myself on that trampoline in Seaford, Virginia with a long black skirt with tie dyed edging and knots I had tied to keep it from dragging on the ground. I had taken off my China doll shoes to jump, and I remember being so nervous.

From there our friendship flourished. The three of us would get together most afternoons and play, sing and just hang out. I quickly fell in love. I was in awe every time Chris and I were together. I remember our first kiss and how his hands were shaking because, as he told me later, he’d felt so much love for me from so early on that it terrified him. Our love was beautiful, our lives were ahead of us and we were just happy to have one another. We spent hours walking around William and Mary College and finding the best acoustics in town in the old halls of the school. I remember an evening he told me of a girl that had been murdered where we stood. He told this elaborate story that ended when we got to a bronze statue of a girl on a bench. He told me that was her memorial, and then he grabbed me and held me as I shivered and told me he had made it all up, but it was so cute to see my emotions and I felt for this girl in the story. He was a story teller. He told stories in the songs he wrote. He wrote of pain, emotions, life, and laughter. He wrote of memories and anger of understanding and of acceptance. Our relationship only lasted about two years. I wanted to be married and have a family. He did not.

Over the years we kept in touch and saw each other when we could. My heart always skipped a few beat in his presence. The last time I saw him before I started dating the man who I would later marry; we sat on a beach together playing our guitars. It had been ten years since we first met. I was still in awe in his presence and we both wondered if we could be together again. I lived seventeen hundred miles away and he still didn’t want to be married. We wrote a lot, talked a lot over the phone and accepted that we would always love one another but wouldn’t be with one another.

Forward to today; I have this nagging feeling every morning when I wake. Throughout my day, I’ve feel like I’ve misplaced something, forgotten to do something or can’t quite remember something I need to know. My mind has been looking for closure. Chris is gone. He committed suicide three months ago. I found out two weeks ago. He left behind a wife (yes, he did marry, but only about three years ago) just days before their wedding anniversary, he left behind his music, and he left so many questions. I’ve had dreams about him lately – since I found out, and the romantic human side of me wonders if he knows I’m here thinking of him. The practical side of me wonders why he didn’t come to me three months ago. Why didn’t he call if he needed a friend? I look at the moon and stars each night, the mountains each morning and I wonder what was so horrible in his haunted soul to make him want to leave. Each day I’m reminded of him in some way. I can’t imagine not being here in October when Amy and Emily release their new album. I think of all the great movies and books he’s missing. All the music he never got to write or never got to record.

I can’t have closure on Chris’ death. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around suicide, but I am being to accept it. It is what it is, and that’s all I have. Acceptance. I accept that he isn’t here and I even accept now that is was his choice, but I don’t think I’ll ever have closure.

The first night my husband and I went out I picked up is ID. His name is Jeffrey. When I saw Christopher as his middle name, I knew that we were just meant to be. I know it’s silly, but as I told him that night, the name Christopher has always been with me, from my first boyfriend in sixth grade to Christopher in college and even the one I let get away when I was in my twenties. With Jeff, I was able to say a new name when speaking to my love, but I knew I’d always have a Christopher in my life. Thankfully, my husband has that name and we were able to pass it to our son. There will be times when I just want to call up Chris on the phone – he’s still in my address book – and I’ll cry instead. There will be times I will be sad and can’t explain with any sound reason to my family why, but he’ll be on my mind. I don’t think I will ever understand, but I do accept. And I know if he could speak to my pain, he’d tell me, ‘Just look inside your heart and I’ll be there.’

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Talk to the Paw, Mama!

I know the whole seven dog years to each human year theory, but I think it also changes depending on the breed and size of the dog. Sebastian is about four months old now, so that’s about three years in human years. So I have a six year old that is currently trying to trick the tooth fairy, a four year old that wants everything the six year old has, including loose teeth, a two year old that is finding the freedom of a big boy bed to be pretty cool, even if it’s 3:00am, and to add to the mix, I have a three year old that can sit, lay, fetch of he wishes to, come if he feels like it and basically says, ‘talk to the paw, Mama!’

Sebastian went from this cuddly, fuzzier than anything on earth, sweet, little puppy to this kid like creature that just walks around saying, ‘NO,’ because it’s his new favorite word. Sebastian, Come. NO! Sebastian, COME! HA HA! NO NO NO! As a matter of fact, come now means, better yet, run the other way. That is unless you are my husband. Just as our children have done over the years, our puppy has decided to switch who he needs and chooses to listen to most. For the first several weeks I was the Alpha Male in the house because as a stay at home mom and the maternal being, I was here the most and he was quickly mama’s boy. Then Jeff stopped traveling for a few weeks and now Sebastian has decided Jeff is the Alpha Male after all and the only one worth hearing.

Jeff had to travel for one night earlier this week and Sebastian and I stayed up a little late to mimic Jeff’s schedule a bit. But once I got Sebastian in his crate and settled for the night, he just sat, stared at the bedroom door and cried. And cried. And whined and cried some more. He had just been outside, but I thought maybe he wasn’t done with his outdoor duties; after all, there are still tulips to be eaten. But usually when he has to go out, he circles the crate, lies down and circles again. This time he was just staring at the door and crying.

I’m a mother, so I know the importance of what they call Kangaroo Care. Mothers and fathers hold babies against their naked chest so the baby can feel the warmth, smell their scent and hear their heartbeat; much like a baby kangaroo in a mama’s pouch. Often times when a new mother has to leave her baby, the care giver will hold the baby against their chest so the baby can still hear a heartbeat as they did in the mother’s womb. It also helps to wear a shirt that belongs to the mother or use it for the baby to lie on so the baby still smells their mother’s scent. Earlier that day, Jeff had worked in the basement and had put his t-shirt in the dirty clothes basket. I got his dirty shirt and put it in the crate with the dog that very promptly lie down on the shirt and fell asleep. Our annoying but oh so cute little puppy showed me he is very attached to his Daddy!

Friday, April 8, 2011


We all know if we add the word ‘hood’ to another word, it makes it all the more exciting. Sure, parent is fun, but parenthood is exciting, a neighbor is great, but a neighborhood is eventful. Childhood is a segment of life broken into many other smaller segments, like the toddler stage or that new phrase, the tween era. We don’t have a tween…yet. But we have a six y ear old, a four year old and two toddlers. One walks on four legs and the other just throws a lot of things really utilizing those opposable thumbs. Sebastian, our ten week old Saint Bernard puppy is the one that walks on all fours, pees on anything and eats everything. It’s the furry four legs that keep me from confusing the two because now that I think about it, my son will pee on anything he can take apart first and I still have to stop him from putting things in his mouth every now and then.

I am on my toes daily, gracefully pirouetting from one big mess to the next; or from one potential disaster to a disaster I just missed. But I am sleeping at night, which is a big deal because two weeks ago I was lying in front of a dog crate holding a puppy’s paw to keep his cries from waking my children. Sleep is good. It gives me the energy to chase disasters during the day. I just started sleeping after six years of nightly naps, and I’m pretty sure it’s my new favorite hobby. I’m not a ballerina by any means, but having three kids anyway, I have almost mastered multitasking and staying on my toes.

We’ve only had Sebastian for about two weeks and I constantly hear myself saying no and drop it. Once I said, ‘No, we don’t eat the baby.’ That was the day we signed him up for puppy class! We’re excited to see him learn all kinds of new things and hope it all comes quick! I’m tired of two toddlers; I think it’s time for one of them to grow up. It’s amazing the similarities between the two: They both sleep in some kind of crate looking thing, I have to clean up the poop they both drop, if it’s in sight, it must be okay to pee upon, there is no such thing as a five second rule, three minute rule or three day rule, only nothing last on the floors for three days around here. I know dogs grow so much faster than humans, so I am hoping to get this little guy on speed growth pretty soon so I’m back to only the toddler I birthed.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Welcome home sweet little baby. You are so cute, so sweet, so cuddly and lovable. I will love you forever and ever – or until you keep me up all night long.
We decided in January to get a puppy. The kids have wanted one for a long time and my husband, well; he’s a guy, and I think dogs just further increase manhood, so he’s wanted one longer. Our Saint Bernard was supposed to arrive home on February 14th – just in time to say I love you! I had about three weeks to get the house in order, the kids ready, the cats prepared and all the pre-spring cleaning I could do because I knew it would be at least six weeks before I saw a broom again. On February 4th, we got a phone call from the breeder telling us the puppy had seen the vet, Mom was done nursing and we could get him whenever we wanted.
I wasn’t done nesting! My closets were still filled with clutter that I knew would only grow once we added a dog to the mix. There is logic there, but you’d have to be me to understand it. My husband told me to wait a few days and then go get him, but as he was telling me that, I was telling the breeder we’d be right down to pick him up. I was like a kid in a candy store. “You mean, I can take my enormous lollipop home – TODAY? Squeeeee!!!” So we scrapped our dinner plans we’d had with my mother to celebrate her birthday, and instead, being the loving being she is, she helped us by going to the pet store to buy dog food and dog bowls.
I was taken back to the week before our first daughter was born. You know, that time when you read every magazine and talk to every mother you know to find out what you should pack for the hospital, and instead of taking a few ideas from each person, you are sending your husband out to the store with three pages of things you just know you’ll need from magazines (because you’ll be so bored) to lollipops (because they don’t let you eat – ever) and new underwear because you don’t realize the hospital provides those really neat webbed underwear. I suddenly realized this puppy would need to eat and though he might like Cheerios and fruit snacks, they weren’t the best choice for a pure bred Saint Bernard puppy. But I had no clue what was appropriate. Then I realized I had no place for him to sleep, nothing for him to chew on except small children and I was certain that wasn’t appropriate and then lastly, it hit me that the only thing I knew was that I didn’t know anything. It was like the adoption agency called me the day I said I might be interested in adopting a baby and said, we have one, come and get it. Sure I’ve had dogs before, but I also had parents that took care of all of the extra crap that goes with having a dog. And I’ve never had a dog with children, and I’ve never had a dog in the suburbs, and when do they get neutered, and when will he need his shots, and just how big is big, and oh my gosh, whose idea was this anyway? Breathe, just breathe….
My mom has dogs, so I left the necessities to her and trusted that she wouldn’t come home with fruit snacks and a fish bowl. She didn’t fail me. She even let us borrow her crate. Wait…crate! This is new. My dogs were never crated. We just let them run wild. In fact, I once had a Yorkie that tore up an entire Sunday Denver Post and then made sure it covered every carpeted surface of our apartment. It’s obvious I didn’t know a thing about dogs.
Good grief am I a little high strung or what? Jeff laughs at all the scenarios that go through my head, but it is just how I think.
Once all the issues are figured out, we head to Aurora to get our new puppy. He is the cutest thing ever and all my worries go away. All he needs is a little love, some food and a good home, right? We get him home, which was a feat in itself because he wouldn’t sit still on my lap, and then he hid under Arwen’s bench seat in the back of the van for the rest of the drive. Jeff was so patient when he had to pull over so I could sit in the back and make sure he was safe. When we get home, my mom greets us with food bowls, food and the crate which she sets up for us and trains us in the crate training process. It’s pretty late by the time we are all settled and the kids head to bed after shedding lots of tears about leaving our new Sebastian Bach all alone in a crate in the living room. Little did they know!
By the time Jeff and I were ready for bed, I of course, was not ready to leave the dog. But I also knew moving the crate up and down the stairs each day would be too difficult to manage. So I slept on the floor….in front of the crate….with my hand in the crate and the puppy’s chin on my hand most of the night. There was a span of about two hours that I was able to roll away from him and snooze, but basically, as I did with all of my new babies, I was up all night making him feel secure, loved and worrying about his future – and mine because sleepless nights wasn’t really on my agenda.
After two nights of this, I crashed and left Jeff to lie in front of the crate offering support to the sleeping puppy that was probably laughing at us because he has us beat after only three days. I had no idea having a new puppy was so exhausting. On top of not sleeping at night, I had to take him outside to potty every thirty minutes – in the cold and February snow, keep him from biting the kids with those shark like puppy teeth, and make the cats feel loved. My love was spread pretty thin by day three. On day four, a friend brought us her crate so I could sleep in my room again, and suddenly Sebastian started sleeping through the night….then the toddler phase began.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Food Stamps - a God given right....right? A cell phone too!

I'm well aware of how long food stamps have been in use. I remember seeing them come through my line at a small town grocery store when I was a cashier more than 25 years ago. In the 72 years since its inception, the program is more abused than ever. At its start, the program was meant for surplus foods mainly and then just more than 30 years later, it was meant for any foods that provided an adequate diet. Today it seems to be whatever the person wants (now of course that's a blanked general statement - but it is so because I don't know EVERY person on the program) including unnecessary expensive meats that maybe an average person not on food stamps wouldn’t think of buying weekly to foods that are not part of a ‘obtain{ing} a low-cost nutritionally adequate diet,’ like chips and soda. There was even a time when there was a proposed (and supported) ban on ‘luxury’ food items and imports.
Now the problem lies with the persons that are born and then later die on food stamps or any other tax supported program without trying to make the change in their lives required for growth and self improvement. If your family needed public aide, I do hope you would apply for it, and if you were in need, I do hope you’d be accepted. I also know it’s often more expensive to cancel a cell phone plan than it would be to support your meals with a supplemental program for a few months. However, if let’s say you are 24 years old, have your first or second baby, are on food stamps because you have no job and can’t really even afford to get a job because you can’t afford day care and it’s just better to stay at home and let the taxpayers take care of many of your needs (and believe me, with the cost of going to work itself, I can see how it is a better option for many people) then you don’t need luxury items like cell phone or LCD TVs or satellites or cable. You can find free entertainment at a library or a tax funded local or national park. If your desire is to get a cell phone and big screen TV, then your goal needs to be to get off the tax funded programs and work hard for it. The first thing that needs to happen is to feed your family and provide shelter for them….then comes clothing, last on that long list of responsibilities is entertainment. If in this day and age, you need a cell phone for your safety because, oh let’s say you got a night job or you’re going to school at night to better yourself and well, it’s not always such a safe place anymore and we all know pay phones aren’t on every corner…you could buy a Trac Phone at WalMart for less than $50 and buy minutes as you need them for your safety or to call and check on the safety of your children. But texting your friends and checking your Facebook account is a luxury and not everyone is entitled to that luxury. An iphone, PalmPre, Blackberry or Android is a luxury…plain and simple. If you can’t feed your family and sustain the level of care they need, then luxury items, like cell phones, LV purses and the like should be the first to go.
The food stamp program is used by so many people that need it. And so many people walk away from it every year and vow to never go back. That should be the rule, not the exception. The pursuit of happiness can be as long or as short as you’d like it to be. That is our right…to pursue our dreams..not have them paid for by the people that are working hard to pursue their own.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Puppy Breath

I have three beautiful children that were once gorgeous babies. When they were born I couldn’t imagine loving anything else again nearly as much as I loved each one of them. I loved their little round heads, their little coos, and those new smiles, the first time I saw a tear and even the charts we created with our first to count the times she pooped each day. I loved them when they were clean and when they had spit up on the last outfit they owned and the only shirt I had. My kids came rushing out with little round heads and no flaws that I could see. The nurse took them after our moment together, cleaned them, pricked them, weighed them and brought them back to me. After a few days and a few baby wipe rub downs, they were ready for their first bath. Burt’s Bees, Johnson & Johnson, or Aveeno …at that point I didn’t care what I bathed them with and since I had them all, it may have been different each time. I never used baby powder because I had read somewhere the baby could inhale it into their lungs and frankly I didn’t see the point of white powder all over my floors, towels or changing table. My last two babies we slathered in some type of lotion to help with winter dry skin. Some lotions smelled like lavender and some smelled like lotion. Once my babies were clean, I would hug them just as tight as I did when they were baby dirty. I never sat for hours smelling their little baby heads. I’m not sure I ever actually smelled their heads at all. But I do love them…and those little bald round heads…that smell like Johnson & Johnson lavender baby wash.

Clearly I was missing out on some pleasure that women all over seek if there happens to be a baby near. Every woman that held each of my three children would first sniff their little heads and talk about how much they love that baby smell. At first I wondered if it was leathery like a new car smell. Then I realized I just didn't get it. New baby smelling is a hobby I’ve never quite gotten into. I like looking at new babies and I do like holding them. I love when they wrap their little fingers around one of my fingers. I love making them giggle and I even love the crazy looks they give me when I’m sure they are wondering what the hell I am and why would one woman say so many random things or just stare for so long. But I still haven’t gotten into baby smelling.

As my children have grown older I’ve let the whole baby sniffing phenomenon go. But now we have a puppy. Not only is having a puppy too much like having a newborn baby, but I also have to endure people (women!) asking me if he still has puppy breath and if they can smell his puppy breath. Yeah, sure, take a whiff and you tell me if he has puppy breath. And after you get your nose out of my dog’s mouth, maybe you could explain what the hell puppy breath is to me. I did look it up and evidently it's a sweet smell leftover from the mother's milk and the softer puppy food. I was a nursing mother and I know breast milk is sweet, but I can say after consumed it's no longer sweet. Actually, when my babies were still tiny just about the only time they got baths was when they had spit up mother's milk all over themselves. There is a point where that sweet smell becomes sour and I think that's the point after it's consumed. So I have a hard time believing there is some special pocket of sweet smelling mother's milk in a puppy's mouth. I’m sure I will appreciate that sweet (or so they say) smelling puppy breath once he’s over a year old and has good ol’ dog breath. But really….is smelling a puppy’s breath really all that necessary? I love him. He’s soft, fuzzy, and cuddly and gives the best puppy kisses. The really sloppy ones that almost knock the kids down. I think once he’s a little older I may miss being able to carry him and I might miss his fuzzy puppy fur. But I just don’t think I will ever wonder what happened to his puppy breath. So feel free to come over and sniff my dog’s breath, my kids’ heads and my cats’ butts if you’d like, but please don’t expect me to understand or be able to hold a conversation about the oddity of puppy breath.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Genetic Mutations - my sister and I

So about 30 years ago we were involved in the filming of a documentary. It was about four years or so before the movie was released. It won awards, opened eyes, ended up on TBS when cable was still new and now is available on DVD for the first time. I was excited when I got the email from my sister letting me know it's available for purchase on DVD. It's an interesting movie about the affects of Rocky Flats in Colorado during its years of operation and it's after affects on various life in the surrounding areas. The movie, Dark Circle, is a true documentary. It tells human stories surrounding various nuclear testing and droppings in our history. It also tells the story of a young family, mine, leaving Colorado and the underground plutonium five miles away from their dream home in Arvada. When I was four or five years old, I remember going door to door with my mother asking people if they know what's in their water and soil, if they care what was being manufactured five miles away. I remember the day Chris and Judy pulled up in our driveway in Arvada next to our VW Bug to tape us kids playing on a dirt mound behind out house and interview my mother in her nice 1979 bathing suit while she packed up the stuffed animals in my pink room. I've seen the movie several times. Other than my children, it's really my only claim to fame. My mark. I can say I was in an award winning movie.

Little did I know one day, almost thirty years after filming, my image would show up with my sister's and neighbor's images on a website review of the film. It's a decent…well, truthful review. And on this site are some nice images of the movie. There's the thirty year old Rocky Flats employee with a brain tumor and the image of the affects on livestock. There is also a pictorial of each chapter. A scientist, an aerial photo of the plant and right there on chapter three, titled Genetic Mutations, is a picture of my sister, our neighbor and I playing on that dirt hill. It's taken me all the thirty years to figure out just what happened to me…..yep, it's right there in chapter three of the move Dark Circle, I'm a genetic mutation.