Sunday, February 26, 2012

A book I can't part with

Now that I don't have any babies or toddlers or preschoolers, I'm sorting through a lot of stuff that I no longer need. I'm passing on clothes and blankets. I'm sorting through toys. I went through my cabinets last week and realized it's been a long time since anyone used sippy cups, so out they went. One job I should do is to purge the bookshelves in the kid's room. My oldest will turn 18 later this year, so it's a collection of 18 years of books from book clubs or that were Christmas gifts or were ordered from school book sales.

I've got a lot of board books in there. Those are designed for toddlers who frantically flip through books taking out pages along the way. My youngest, at age 6, is long past that stage. He can read a book without putting any rips in it. Yes, there are a few board books I just don't think I can part with. Goodnight Moon. Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? I've been reading them to my kids for years. However, I think my very favorite board book is Wynken, Blynken and Nod. It's probably been a year since I've read it, yet I have the entire thing memorized. I still remember picking it up along with about four or five other Golden Books board versions at the Dollar Store for Easter when my oldest was an infant. I'd estimate that it's been read at least 400 times over the years....probably even more. It was my favorite and for many, many bedtimes it was the first one I'd reach for.

Honestly, reading to them at bedtime isn't a nightly routine anymore. The kids are reading on their own. They are reading chapter books, not board books. Reading is often done at the dining room table after school or while sitting on the couch after dinner. I don't read "to" my kids all that much anymore. But I'm thinking I should start up again. It's a pleasant routine, no matter how old they get. Many times they are reading to me at bedtime, but I've slacked off when it comes to reading to them. So, tonight, I think we'll have to allow for some reading time once they are snuggled into their beds. They can read to me and I'll read to them and I won't even need to look at the words.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feeling thankful for the gift of marriage

Last year my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Over the years, we have thought about grand plans to have a big party and recreate our wedding date with family and friends. I thought about different trips we might take in celebration. But, 20 years and 5 kids in, there's just not piles of cash laying around for big parties or luxurious trips. We had a quiet dinner together at an elegant restaurant and I was delighted to have his company and think back on all the years we've been together and all we've been through in those years. We dated for a little over four years before we were married, too.

Although a more elaborate celebration would have been wonderful, I felt so grateful that I was together with the man I love after two decades of marriage. In the past five years or so, there have been so many couples that I've known that have divorced. Most of them had kids. Some have been marriages that have lasted over three decades that were coming to and end. The shortest one unraveled after less than six months. Some ended with bitter fighting others just kind of faded as the couples grew apart. For the most part, those I know and have talked to who have gone through it have come out of it better off or happier, although getting though it didn't seem bearable. When there have been kids involved, it's been extremely difficult  and heartbreaking all around. And if you ask any kid whose parents divorced, they'll tell you that the divorce had a major impact on their life.

Over the years, I've realized how much work it is. How much dedication it requires. How much sacrifice it entails. I've made mistakes. I've learned. I've grown. I've matured. We both have. We met very young. We were still in high school. We married when I was still in my teens. The odds of such a marriage lasting very long aren't very good. And we've had our share of challenges as every marriage has. We've had good times and bad times. And it's from the bad times that you learn and adapt and appreciate the good times that much more. And it's the good times that make you want to go to sleep each night beside each other and wake up to each other each morning. I'm so happy that after all these years, I still have him as my companion. I'm glad that we still enjoy each other's company. I'm glad he was my first love and I was his. I'm glad that we still make each other laugh. I'm glad that we still feel so much passion for one another. I'm glad we're still friends. And I look foward to another twenty years and beyond as his wife.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

You've been flowered

I got a lovely surprise today. Flowers. Been a long time since I got flowers that I didn't buy myself. My hubby's a good guy, but flowers aren't high on his priority list...especially since I chewed him out one year for spending an obscene amount on a dozen roses. I told him he should have gone to Jewel and gotten a bouquet of two or three for like $5. Guess I shouldn't have complained. I don't get them too often anymore, but when I do, he takes the boys with him and they help him pick some out and he has them sign the card. I love that! And he still goes to a real florist and spends more than I'd approve of.

My mom loves to get flowers. My dad would get flowers for my mom once in a while when we were growing up -- although more along my lines of thinking it was usually a couple stems from the grocery store. He is a retired accountant after all and thriftiness just goes along with it. Once I got to where I was earning my own money by babysitting and doing paper routes, I'd do the same sometimes - grab a single rose or a couple carnations for Mom when I was at the grocery store.

So, anyway. Last week was Valentine's Day and Dad got Mom flowers. He knows she likes them. And he just has this idea in his head that women should get flowers on Valentine's Day or other special occasions or just because. When he learned that my sister didn't get flowers from her boyfriend on Valentine's Day, he called up a local florist and had a gorgeous bouquet of white tulips sent her way. That kind of set off a chain reaction. She posted the pic on Facebook. Well, then her twin wondered why she didn't get flowers. "Didn't your husband get you flowers for Valentine's Day?" He asked. The answer was no. Another guy in the doghouse with Dad and another flower order was on the way. Again, it was a white bouquet. And it was up on Facebook.

Today, I hear a knock on the door and open it to see a delivery guy with flowers...for me!!! I just assumed it was dad sending more flowers, but it was from twin #1 - the one who got the first bouquet. The card said "Happy Tuesday! Love Becky." Wasn't that sweet?

A little while later I get a call from dad. He's asking if I got a delivery. He goes through the whole story of how they ended up there, explaining that the twins hadn't gotten flowers for Valentine's Day and that's why he'd sent them some. Then he asked if I had gotten flowers for Valentine's Day. I told him I hadn't and that my Valentine's gift was going out to lunch. He said that the twins had decided to pay it forward. One sent flowers to me. The other sent flowers to our other sister.

So, all four girls ended up with a beautiful white bouquet. This was mine.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's more important to you than it is to them

Sometimes I get really caught up in something with the kids - like going somewhere. Maybe I'll want to go to the pool, partly because I want to go and partly because I want us to all go. All the kids together with me. Then one will say he doesn't want to go. Then one will whine that he doesn't want to go. Then one will completely ignore me when I say it's time to get ready to go. One will refuse to put on his swim trunks. No one is interested except me. And in times like these, my husband gently reminds me: "It's more important to you than it is to them." I guess it's his way of telling me I'm in a losing battle.

When I hear him say that it makes me step back and look at the situation. If none of them want to go to the pool, why am I making them do it? I'm forcing an unhappy situation. They don't want to give in and I don't want to give in. Sometimes it IS more important to me and once I realize that I'm able to let go of it and not create an environment where I've got a lot of unhappy people, myself included, to deal with.

This past week something happened that was pretty tough for me. Might sound silly to other parents, but it has been REALLY hard for me. It was the week of baseball sign-ups and the boys were resisting signing up. I can't remember the last year I didn't have a son playing baseball. For most of the recent years I've had at least one playing. One year I had four playing -- all in different leagues and would have days where there were actually four games scheduled all in different places at the same time.

Although the driving and the lugging equipment and the concession stand dinners and the juggling practice schedules and the packing the Gatorade and bringing snacks and freezing our tails off during early season games or late season fall ball games has been annoying and hectic, I've honestly enjoyed it. Sure, I know I was quick to complain when I was bundled up in winter gear at 9:30 on a school night and I could see my breath. Or when I had to shuffle from ball field to ball field across town on a Saturday. Or when a make-up game was scheduled on Mother's Day. But, when the season would come to an end, I would honestly miss all the commotion. I'd miss seeing the joy on their faces when they got a hit. Or the fun they'd have goofing around with buddies in the dugout. Or chatting with the other moms in the stands. Or the taste the popcorn on a warm summer day as the sun beats down.

Last year I had two boys playing. I originally signed up three. My oldest had aged out of the league and my then 11-year-old had decided baseball wasn't for him after 3 years of playing. My middle son, who was then nine, had been playing since t-ball. He's not the kind of kid who complains much, so when he does, I really listen. Except this time. When I mentioned sign-ups, he said he wasn't interested in playing baseball again. He'd be moving up from the Pee Wee field to playing with an older bunch of 9 to 12 year olds. He just wasn't that into it, he told me. I didn't listen and I signed him up anyway, telling him that he might end up on a team with his friends. After he was signed up and it was time to go for try-outs, again he told me that he really didn't want to play. Finally, my husband reminded me - "It's more important to you than it is to him." I contacted the league to let them know he wouldn't be playing.

My two youngest (then ages 6 and 7) played last year. One was in the PeeWee League and my youngest played his first year of T-ball. My 7-year-old had played a year of T-ball, then played soccer the next year instead of baseball. Really, soccer seemed to suit him better. He's active and not the type to sit still. Running back and forth on a soccer field seems to be a better fit. But, we went back to baseball. He was excited at the start of the season since his good friend was on his team. His enthusiasm quickly tailed off and it was a miserable few weeks of tears and frustration trying to get him out the door to practices and games that he didn't want to go to. My youngest had a blast at T-ball. He was always eager to get to practice. He had an incredible coach. I got emotional on his final game day. After having five sons play baseball, it was my last time being at a game on the t-ball field. I was sad. I knew I would miss it. But I couldn't wait to see him play the next year on the real field.

A few weeks ago, my youngest came across his bat bag in the garage. He talked so excitedly about baseball. He told me his bag was packed and all he needed was Gatorade to put in it for his next game. I got excited, too.

Then, as it came time for little league sign-ups, I talked it up to all the kids. Zero interest. I knew it was over for the three oldest. And I figured it was probably done for son #4. Either that or it would be another season of enthusiasm the first couples weeks followed by several tortuous weeks of dragging him to practices and games. My youngest, I figured would be the only one who would be all gung-ho about it. Then he told me he didn't want to play baseball at all this year. I just couldn't believe it. I tried to encourage him. I tried to talk him into it. When I thought about it, I realized it was probably more for me than for him that I wanted him to play. I actually even told a white lie one night and said that I had already signed him up because I thought he wanted to play. I figured he'd go along with it and I'd be able to get him signed up without any resistance, but he fought back. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that he didn't want to play.

I was heartbroken. I really was. And that's when I knew it was more important to me than it was to him. I really wanted him to play. I think team sports are a good experience for kids. Or at least they can be. In my own experience, as a child who sucked at all sports, team sports in gym class were miserable. I wanted my kids to have a good experience with it. And baseball is a huge thing for me. I'm from a family of baseball fans. My brothers. My dad. My sister. My nephews. I've grown up as a die-hard Cubs fan. Baseball is a bonding thing. It's been a bonding thing with my oldest son, the only one of my five boys who really LOVES the game like I do and who really wanted to play it. He begged me to sign him up for little league each year. I've had so much fun with him over the years going to Cubs games...or to Sox or Brewers home games...or minor league games...or independent league games...or shopping for baseball cards at the hobby shop...or going to baseball conventions or events...or watching games with him at home on television...and watching him play t-ball, then little league, then Babe Ruth League. I was so sad for him when he didn't make the high school baseball team. I knew he was crushed. The game of baseball was a huge part of is life, like it was for me.

So, here I am with a full season ahead and no boys playing in it. And I'm having a hard time with it. I know there will be benefits. No revolving our family vacations and other activities around baseball schedules. No early morning weekend games. No late night school night games. No practice schedules. No uniforms to wash. No snack schedule. I know there will be lots of other stuff to fill the time. Things that are more important to them than they are to me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I love I love you's

So, this week it was Valentine's Day. I spent the afternoon of the 13th with my husband since he had to work on Valentine's Day. We had planned on going to a 10:10 a.m. show, followed by lunch at a cozy little cafe nearby. Well, I messed up. On Sunday I checked show times, but they were the Sunday show times. When we arrived for the early show on Monday, the schedule had changed. The first showing wasn't until 1:05. So, at just after 10 a.m., there was nothing yet opened for lunch. We were a couple buildings away from Harbor Freight Tools and my husband wanted to run inside to use a coupon he had. So, we wandered around the tool store for a while. Next door to that was the Dollar Store where I grabbed some things for the Valentine's party at the kids' school the next day. When we came out it wasn't yet 11:00 a.m. and we discussed what to do. We figured we'd get some lunch and then try to catch the 1:05 show. Located next to the tool store was Hooters and it was about to open, so we decided to go there. I like the food there even if the whole premise of the place is a wee bit offensive. When we finished lunch it wasn't quite 12:00. We figured since Home Depot was a few buildings away, we'd head in there and look at stuff for the house. We got in there and looked and looked. When I checked the time it was 1:15. We'd missed the start of the show. We headed for home. How did my romantic plans shift to shopping at a tool store and Home Depot and eating lunch at Hooters?

The next day I was at school for the class parties. I made up bingo cards for Valentine Bingo using conversation hearts for chips and we made ice cream sundaes. Later at home, I found this on my computer from my youngest:

And when my teenager got home that night, he handed me this:

He said, "This is for you. Sorry, Adam sat on it." Oh,'s the thought that counts. :)

Getting to know you

I try to carve out one on one time with each of my boys as much as I can. Sometimes it isn't so easy, not just due to lack of hours in the day, but based on cooperation and finding something that they want to do together. Many times one on one time is in the form of running an errand together. Some of the kids are always jumping at it, ready and willing to go to the grocery store, the gas station, the bank or wherever. And then sometimes there are one or two that I can't lure along for anything. Not picking out a Hot Wheels car or cookies if they accompany me to the store. Not a sidetrip to the Dunkin' Doughnuts drive through. Not a stop at Blockbuster to pick out a movie. I don't take it personally. He's a homebody. He likes to hang out at home. He likes to hang out with his brother. Sometimes I just feel like I'm missing out because I don't feel like I know him as well as I know his brothers. Not because he's shy or doesn't open up or anything like that. He's way less on the shy side than a couple of his brothers. He's not afraid to express himself.

This week we've had two outings on our own and I sat beside him in the car happy to have his company. One  was a trip for lunch with Grandpa to my favorite sandwich shop. I looked at the menu figuring out what he might like to eat. Sausage? No. Hamburger? No. BLT? I was thinking no and then was stunned to hear him say that he likes bacon. I felt terrible that I had NO IDEA that he liked bacon. "I never see you eat bacon," I told him. "I like bacon. I just don't eat it because my brother likes it so much." I just felt this kick in the gut like I didn't know my son like I should. How could I not know that he likes bacon? What was I doing that was making he feel like he couldn't eat it? Too many lectures about money and wasting food, maybe. I ordered him a BLT just like he wanted - extra bacon and hold the lettuce and tomato and mayo. Then he took all the bacon off and ate it, leaving the bread. It was a nice outing with him and a day I learned something new about my son.

Sometimes a mess is good news

Somehow I've managed to accumulate a mountain of laundry. You know, with seven people in the house it's easy to do. The three oldest (17, 12 and 10) are in charge of their own laundry. It stays separate in their hampers in their rooms and they wash and it then get it put away (sometimes with some folding help from mom.) So, that really helps out. However, they still dirty towels and sheets and then there's the laundry for the other four of us. Plus, someone had passed on some bags of clothes to us and I had all those to wash.

Anyway, I've been trying to get the 8-year-old started on helping with the laundry. Usually, it's carrying baskets up and down the stairs and transferring the clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. The other day I asked him to throw in a load. He did. Not a full load -- his idea of a load was three pieces of clothing. Anyway, a little while later my teen says, "Mom, you better go downstairs and look. There's bubbles all over the floor."

I went down to take a look and indeed, suds were everywhere. It appeared to be leaking from the door on the front loading washer. Suds oozed out and covered the laundry room floor. Passed on the news to hubby who figured he'd have to go get a new door seal and replace it. The week before I thought I'd seen a little stream drip out and he had it on his to-do list already to check it out. We both figured that the seal had totally given out.

Fast forward a couple hours and I am downstairs cleaning up. I look at the bottle of laundry detergent I had purchased the night before. It was almost empty. Turned out my 8-year-old wasn't quite sure how much to put in or accidentally dumped in way too much. I still haven't gotten him to fess up completely to what happened. I was just relieved that the problem was about 28 ounces of liquid to wash three garments vs. a failed door seal that had to be fixed immediately before any further laundering could be done. I was glad to learn that the mess was due to an accident, not another costly pressing repair that had to be taken care of. I ran another load. No suds, no leak. Thank God it was just a one-time mess!