Saturday, March 31, 2012

What if there had been a Francesca?

Last night I fell asleep on the sofa. And I stayed there all night. It's been a long time since I've done that. Hubby was sleeping in at the firehouse, so after the kids were in bed, I snuggled up on the sofa with a blanket and put in my ear buds and started playing the Hunger Games audio book. Since I'd seen the movie that afternoon, I wanted to go back and compare it to the book. I scrolled through to find the point at which I'd stopped reading the book -- around chapter 4 -- to pick up there, but I gave up and just listened. And before I knew it I was out.

I woke up a few times, too groggy to get up and go to my own bed. So, there I stayed, waking every now and then and covering my eyes to block the light. But, apparently I fell into a deep enough sleep for some intense dreaming. When I woke up, I was having a really weird dream. I was in the postpartum area at the hospital - as a patient. I'd just given quintuplets!!!!

There were three boys and two girls. I didn't stay long and was soon heading home. I don't remember even seeing the boy babies, but one girl was very quiet and mellow. I said I wanted to name her Bailey. I always liked that name. The other girl was immediately. She was supposed to just be a few days old, but was constantly smiling and holding her head up. She had a head full of light brown hair, sparkling eyes and a cute little nose. My sister-in-law held her up in this cute pink flowery sleeper and said she thought we should call her Francesca. I agreed. She and my sister were the only ones that would talk to me and who were happy. Everyone else was very hostile and angry that we'd had more kids. The boys were outside hunting for Easter eggs. And then I woke up.

I have crazy dreams quite often. I remember at one time reading something saying that when you have a vivid dream, it is related to something you thought of or talked about during the previous day. I'm not sure if I thought of anything that day that would make that dream make sense, but I've read a few blogs and articles lately that talked about the guilt of wanting a child of the same sex (a mom wanting a daughter, a dad wanting a son) and another about mourning a child you'd never have (again, written by a mom wanting a daughter) and   I've just seen a couple other posts on that topic lately.

I have all boys. I love them with all my heart, but the more I see such articles and posts, I realize it's not uncommon to feel a little sad at not having a daughter. We are done having kids. There will never be a daughter. That's life. That's the way it is. I still love mothering sons. But I admit I still get a weird little twinge when I see prom dresses on display or a little girl getting her nails done. Sometimes I feel like that should be me shopping with my daughter.

As a child, I never envisioned my life without a daughter in it. I grew up with sisters. I had nieces that I hung out with and babysat. I was so familiar with little girls. I was good at being around little girls. I wanted to be around little girls. I was supposed to have one of my own. But, I didn't. And I won't. I wouldn't trade my little guys for anything. Once you have a child, you can't imagine what life would be without them. Sometimes I just wonder how different life might be...if I'd been a mom to a little girl like me.

The conference and my crazy day ahead

Well, a couple weeks ago we (my three sisters and I) got together for our sisters weekend, but one of my sisters and I also attended a conference. I've been intending to post something on it, but I even when I think of a topic I want to write about on this blog, I put if off because I feel like I need the time to get really in-depth on the topic. I guess I should get that out of my head. When I put an entry in for my food blog, it's rarely long. Sometimes it's just a picture and a sentence or two. I can do the same here. There are no rules. There aren't blog police who are going to show up and say, "Sorry, ma'am, you're under 500-words. Add some details and re-submit it." That's what's nice about blogging, you write what you feel like writing, not what an editor assigned to you.

And sometimes I think I'll jot down a few things and before I know it I've poured out 10 paragraphs. I don't have a lot of time's my day to do photos in the nursery at the hospital today and I just got a text from my co-worker that there were 11 babies born yesterday when she left at 6 p.m. and a couple carried over from the previous day. On average, we spend an hour in each room, so if there were no more babies born after she left and there are no babies going home in neo-natal today and I photo all 13, I'll be there until about 11 p.m.!!!! So, I have a CRAZY day ahead.

Also, I haven't posted on the conference because my desk is in a bit of disarray and I have no idea where I put my notes from the day!! I'll just post this pic of our keynote speakers, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. I really enjoyed their talk, which did include a lot of great parenting advice. I haven't watched her show much, but it always saddens me how hostile people are toward her. Why can't we just live our lives and not judge others for their choices? So, she has a lot of children. They are loved and they are taken care of. I've come across more than a few professional welfare mothers -- four or six or eight kids, each from a different father, and being supported entirely by the welfare system and proud of it. It's unfortunate to see this, but it's a situation where perhaps a bit of criticism can be justified for poor choices made. Although the Duggar's lifestyle is extreme and not what the majority of parents would choose, their kids seem to have all of their basic needs met -- of food and shelter and love -- and then some. Ok, I'm done, and I've rambled on more than I planned. I'll go look for those notes and get off to work.

I was pretty close. Row 2 and we sat in on two sessions with the Duggars.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The mad scramble

I'm in one of these last minute chicken-with-my-head-cut off phases. Have I mentioned I'm doing another book? And I agreed to a May deadline for it for some reason. Oh, yeah, because if I got everything in by the end of May, there would be a good chance the book would be available before Christmas.

Anyway, I know that May is my busiest month of the year and April is not far behind. It's field trip season at school. There's Spring Break. There's Easter. There's not one, but three kids with birthdays. There are annual projects in clubs/organizations I'm involved in and end of the year banquets. There are spring musicals at school and soon picnics and end of year activities. Oh, and my oldest graduates from high school in May. And at my part-time job, one girl resigned and they need extra help. I really don't know what I was thinking when I took this on, but I'm here now and there's no turning back. And sometimes I need that looming deadline to give me that push to get moving.

So, the final layout of the book and all materials are due in May. But, next week my cover materials are due. I'm running into problems and the project is becoming way more involved than I expected. Way more work.Way more time. Had I known then what I know now, I'm not sure I would have taken it on. Or at least not for a deadline in May.

For the cover, I need to submit 20 images. Well, getting the images scanned to the exact specifications has been much more difficult than I anticipated. It took a lot of trial and error to get to the right format. Some were saved in the wrong format or the incorrect size and I'm doing a lot of work from scratch. For some of the images, I'm saving them at 600% the original size to make sure they are usable for the publisher. Then it takes like a half-hour to complete a scan because it's so large. Tonight my computer went haywire in mid-scan and shut down. And I've had a couple dozen images provided to me that I'm told are not usable due to size or format and now I'm stuck scrambling to find enough that I can send off that meet the publisher's requirements. I rarely drink...but this project may have me reaching for a cocktail or two by next week's deadline.

Aside from these scanning headaches, I'm enjoying diving into the rest of it. It's for a publisher of local histories and I'm compiling a list of individuals to write brief biographies on. It's fascinating to learn about others' lives, especially those lived long ago. I shall check back soon when I come out of this scanning cave I'm in....or when someone finds me curled up in the fetal position in the corner. But I don't give up that easily. On to the next scan!

P.S. I tried to upload a cute photo of a high school teacher circa 1920 or's not the right format for this blog. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Give them a hug

So, recently I read a post on a FB friend's wall. He has a brother who I believe has cancer. His status that day: "If you have siblings, give them a hug. If you have more than one child, let them know how important they are to one another." Good advice.

I feel really lucky to have 5 siblings. Whenever someone hears "six kids," they seem to automatically think "Brady Bunch." But, our family has four girls and two boys. And there's almost 20 years from oldest to youngest.   The first three are close in age. Then there's a 13 year gap, then there were three more. The last two are twins.

The four girls got together recently. One of the twins and I decided to go to a conference on mothering called Hearts at Home. It's a faith-based organization in her area that holds an annual conference to encourage and nurture moms in their rewarding, yet difficult and exhausting roles. Jen and I had a great time at the conference. Becky and Pam hung out at the pool and in the hotel room while we were gone. That evening we met up for dinner at a Japanese steakhouse in Bloomington. We all love Japanese food. In fact, we went to a similar place for our last girl's night out. Somehow a lot of our sister time is spent eating. But...when you are a mom it's always a treat to go have a meal and not to have to cut up meat for anyone but yourself. :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

There's no time like sister time

So, last week us gals had our much anticipated sister's weekend. We try to do it once a year and started the tradition about four years ago. One year it was a B & B/spa weekend, another it was dinner and a sleepover at my sister's place and another year it was two nights at another sister's place for the St. Charles (IL) Sisters Weekend arranged by the area's chamber or tourism council. This year we headed down near my sis Jen's place in central Illinois. She and I planned on going to the Hearts at Home conference  on the ISU campus and the other two sisters came down to hang out at the hotel and have some fun. We were there two nights and it's always so much fun to be around them.

So, I'll break up our weekend into a couple posts. Our first day, I was the last to arrive in the late afternoon. My three sisters were hanging out in the lobby and we chatted and tried to decide what to do for dinner. We finally decided on Famous Dave's BBQ. Good choice. Doesn't that look delish?

We're a fun bunch. And we love to fact Becky, the blond one below, and I write a food blog. Have you seen it? If not, check it out at Jen is on the left. Okay, I know it's hard to believe, but those two are twins. They really are!

And this is my big sis, Pam. The best big sis anyone could ever ask for. Love them all so much and am thankful for our fun weekend together!

Back at the hotel, we talked and giggled. We all sat on the beds with electronic devices...phones and iPads. And we ate some more. :) Jen brought these awesome cookies made by a friend of hers.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You don't fight at all, do you?

So, the other day I posted that my middle guy, age 10, was home sick from school. Yesterday he was still sick. Today he wasn't getting any better, so it was off to the pediatrician to see what was going on. I expected strep throat since he often has strep when he complains of a bad sore throat. Well, not this time. Now it's bronchitis. Poor thing.

His 8-year-old brother was complaining of a sore throat this morning. So, he was also home from school and was also with us at the doctor's office. Once we got into the exam room, I strategically positioned myself in the middle on the bench seats so that the two wouldn't be touching in any way or have any reason to quarrel about anything. They were doing pretty good. Until the doctor came in.

Along the way, in his string of questions about appetite and if he was sleeping ok and if his ears hurt, he asked a question that opened up a can of worms. He said, "You guys don't ever fight, do you?" Well, what followed was something like this:

8-year-old: No.
10-year-old: Not really.
8yo: Well, sometimes.
10yo: We only fight when he starts it.
8yo: No, I don't.
10yo: You start it by making annoying noises.
8yo: No, I don't. You start it.
10yo: How do I start it? You're the annoying one.
8yo: But it's because you yell at me.
10yo: I yell at you because you're annoying.
8yo: I am not annoying.
10yo: Oh, shut up.
8yo: No, you.
10yo: No, you.
8yo: No.
10yo: No, you're the one who's annoying.

I looked at the doctor. "I guess you got your answer."

Monday, March 19, 2012

A day at the beach

So, today I had to go out to Porter, Indiana to take some pictures to accompany and article I'm writing. Since it was 80 degrees and I was right down the street from the Indiana Dunes, I couldn't help but stop. I don't think I've been to that state park since I was a kid. I think I was about 11 and went with some family friends. I fell asleep on a blanket on the beach and went home with the worst sunburn I'd ever had. And still groggy when we returned home, I fell and then scraped up my sunburned skin. Ouch!

My middle boy stayed home from school today. He had a bad cough and a sore throat. He's prone to strep. I hope that's not what's wrong. Figured it was best to keep him home from school. When it was time for me to leave, I asked if he wanted to go along. He'd been lying on the sofa all morning and I thought it would be good for him to get out for a little fresh air. With a little urging, he came along and said he'd just hang out in the car since he didn't feel good.

Once we got there, he didn't want to get out of the car, but he finally did. And then he ran and tried to hide so I wouldn't take his picture.

A little sand in the shoes. :)

Guess he had a little fun, after all.

Love the old Beach House from 1929.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Listen to Your Mother

So, last Sunday I went to an audition. It was about a 45-minute drive out to the Memorial Opera House for it. Sounds crazy to say that. I've never been on stage for anything. In fact, I auditioned for this show last year. Here's the blog I posted after that audition - I didn't make it.

The show is called Listen to Your Mother. It's a national show with readings from mom writers about motherhood. I watched last year's show online. It was amazing!!! Here's a link to some past LTYM readings -

Anyway, I knew that auditions were coming up and just kept trying to talk myself out of it. Things are busy right now. Like really busy. I'm in the midst of completing another book with a May deadline with the publisher. That's in addition to all my other regular writing deadlines. I've been working more shifts than usual at the hospital. It's the busy season for a club I'm in where I'm coordinating an essay contest and a dinner for about 120 veterans and their guests. There are school field trips coming up. Three of my kids have birthdays in the coming weeks. And my oldest is graduating from high school in May. I have a lot on my plate. I surely didn't need to add one more thing to the mix.

Then a couple weeks ago I saw a reminder posting about auditions on the producer's Facebook Page. "What the heck?" I thought to myself. I'd give it one more try. I sat down and tried to write a new piece. I gave up. I used the same one I used to audition last year. The audition was short and sweet. I went in. I read my 4 1/2 minute piece and chatting or anything. I was up and out the door. Did not really think I had a chance.

As I came out from the audition, a friend was waiting. She's a FB friend that I'd actually never met face to face. Her husband and I used to write for the same newspaper and I "met" her that way. When she was pregnant with her now 2-year-old, I got the closest guess on the baby pool and she sent me a cute candle holder that I still use often. She also auditioned last year. We both decided kind of last minute to audition this year and it just happened that our audition times were one right after the other. So, we were excited to get to meet in person finally and went out for lunch afterward. She is such a sweetheart and I was blown away when she said she'd run 7 miles that morning and was training for an upcoming 1/2 marathon. We were hoping perhaps we'd both be cast and then we'd get to see a little more of each other.

A few days after the audition, I saw a FB posting on my wall that said that the cast had been announced. "Oh, well," I thought to myself. "Guess I didn't make it again." I clicked on the link and scrolled down to see if my friend's name was there. It wasn't. Mine was! I guess I'd been sent an e-mail to let me know I'd made it, but it was to the account I don't check every day, so I missed it. I'm grateful and excited that I made the cut. I'm sad my friend didn't.

So, I now have another thing on my plate, but it's a good thing. I'm looking forward to being part of this show with a group of extraordinary moms dispensing motherly advice. Here's the post with the entire cast:

And tickets are now on sale!

How do you know when it's love?

Well, this past week has been kind of a whirlwind and I'll post more on it in the coming days - there was an audition, lunch with a friend, lunch with my dad, work, missing a dentist appointment (ooopps!!), finding out I'd made the show I auditioned for, my third grader's aversion to doing homework (three nights in a row!!!), guilt and anxiety in heading out of town for a couple days, getting out of town with my three awesome sisters, going to a wonderful conference, having dinner and laughs with my sisters, coming home refreshed.

But freshest in my mind right now is going to a lovely St. Patty's Day wedding reception last night. The groom is a co-worker of my husband's and the bride is a friend of mine who is in a volunteer organization with me. The groom is also in the Band of Brothers Pipes and Drums band and I totally expected to see him in his kilt and hear lots of bagpipe playing. But, he was in a tux...and they both looked incredible and happy.

Before dinner, the best man, who was the brother of the groom, did his toast. He announced that he wanted to read a little "proverb." He began reading and one of the guys at our table, also a firefighter and husband of a friend, started to chuckle. "This is Van Halen!" he said. Somehow - although once I went back and listened to the song I remembered it - I wasn't immediately familiar with the lyrics and I think many in the crowd weren't. They just listened to the wise words and applauded the happy couple.

How do I know when it's love?I can't tell you but it lasts foreverOh, how does it feel when it's love?It's just somethin' you feel together When it's love
You look at every face in a crowdSome shine and some keep you guessin'Waiting for someone to come into focusAnd teach you your final love lesson
How do I know when it's love?I can't tell you but it lasts foreverOh, how does it feel when it's love?It's just something you feel togetherWhen it's love

I listened to the toast, grasping the hand of my husband. The arguement we'd had that afternoon melted away. Later we slow danced together, him grabbing my behind as he typically does when we slow dance at weddings. :) Then they played our song (Unchained Melody)...the one that we first danced to as husband and wife twenty years ago. Van Halen got it right. It's just something you feel together.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

He could have been an Elwood

My firstborn turned 5-years-old just five days after he became a big brother. He was very excited all along the way. And I remember him giving his input as we contemplated names. We knew we were having a boy. At the time there was a cartoon on television with little bears, I believe, named "Peanut" and "Butter." My son decided the new baby should be named "Butter." I quickly shot that down, although I let him know how much I appreciated his suggestion.

Not too long after that, we caught one of my very favorite movies of all time on television, The Blues Brothers. I carefully screened it, changing the channel in between the musical scenes. He loved the ending performances and for days afterwards would walk around the house singing Cab Calloway's Minnie the Moocher. I'd hear "Hi-Di-Hi-Di-Hi-Di-Ho," coming from the other room constantly. From that day on, he had a new name for his soon-to-be-born baby brother: Elwood.

For months, the baby in my tummy was referred to as Elwood, even though we knew there was no way we'd give him that name. It was just our little inside joke, but by the time he was born, it really had grown on me and I admit, I did almost consider using it as a middle name.

I recently told that story to our second son, who is now 12. He seemed genuinely disappointed that he didn't get named after one of the Blues Brothers. :)

(P.S. Enjoy this little video of Cab Calloway...for some reason I could only find one with the intro. not in English, but the song is.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dear sons: Look beyond the flaws

Letter #16

Dear Sons:

Been a while since I added one of these letters. The other day one of you was criticizing your brother. Your dad took the teachable moment to relay a lesson not to look for what others are doing wrong and not to tell them about every little thing they do wrong.

I'm going to add to it by saying that in everyone you meet there is some kind of flaw. No one is perfect. There is an imperfection of some sort to everyone. Sometimes it's visible. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's staring you in the face and very obvious, but if you take time to look beyond it or give that person another chance you might be surprised.

Sometimes it's frustrating to see flaws in others that you think should be corrected. Sometimes it's not your job to fix it. It's theirs. Sometimes you need to step back and give them a chance to correct it. Jumping in to fix someone else's problem can sometimes cause them further problems.

What one person sees as a flaw, can be a beautiful thing to someone else. I remember that there was a time when I was younger that I was extremely shy. I wasn't that way with close friends, but around others I was quiet as a mouse just waiting to be acknowledged or talked to. It was a lonely way to be and I eventually outgrew it.

I remember once being at a friend's house and her older sister was very outgoing and very blunt and sometimes just downright mean. She told her sister she shouldn't hang out with me because of my shyness and that I was dragging her down. I remember how hurt I was. But, being the shy one, I just sat there and didn't say a word. Later I cried my eyes out. Luckily that friend didn't take her sister's advice. She knew I was fun to be with when we weren't in a big crowd and she didn't mind trying to engage me in the group when I was being quiet and unsure. Her sister saw my quiet personality as a flaw and she didn't like it. She saw that flaw and still wanted to be my friend.

When I met your dad I was still in a pretty shy phase. He met me and liked me right away, even though I wasn't very talkative. He liked that I smiled a lot. He was the opposite of shy and we got along great. The more I got to know him, the less shy I was. I was glad he was patient and wanted to be around me despite my flaw. He took it kind of as a challenge to get me to open up more.

You'll encounter a lot of people with various flaws or disabilities in your lifetime. Don't judge them based on those. Get to know them a little more and see what more there is to the person besides that flaw that you noticed so easily. Chances are there's a flaw about you that others have overlooked, too. Don't be too hard on others or on yourself.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Running errands is nice opportunity for one-on-one time

This week, I've had a lot of errands to run. Post office, grocery store, FedEx, library, Good Will, Walgreen's, more grocery shopping. When the kids are home, I always like to invite one to come along. Stops are often much quicker by myself, but I love to have that opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with the boys. Having five of them, they are always competing for attention and I like to give them undivided attention any chance I can get. I love our conversations in the car or listening to them sing along to a song on the radio or being the beneficiary of their kindness as they open doors and carry things for me.

Not too far off in the future, I know these little trips will end. Just like so many other phases of motherhood that I have enjoyed have come to an end -- middle of the night feedings, rocking them to sleep, smelling their clean little baby-shampoo scented heads, pushing them in strollers, watching them nap in car seats, carrying them on my hip, spooning applesauce into their mouths. So much of my mothering is done, but so much still lies ahead. And I'll enjoy it while I can, one trip to the grocery store at a time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I can read with my eyes shut

Yesterday, my youngest, age 6, pulled out his Accelerated Reader books. He shows me the title of one by Dr. Seuss - "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut." I immediately flashed back to when his older brother would read that book to me. He memorized it and then would close his eyes as he recited it, trying to convince me that he really was reading with his eyes shut.

So, what do you think this one does? Opens up to page one, scans it quickly and closes his eyes. "I can read in red. I can read in blue. I can read in pickle color, too," he calls out. "Betcha didn't know I could read with my eyes shut?" he says. :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

It feels like vampire teeth

Yesterday, my youngest had a dentist appointment. He loves to go to the dentist. He's been going since age three. Twice a year. For a cleaning and a fluoride treatment and a complimentary toothbrush and a goodie from the treasure chest. He hasn't learned to fear the dentist like some adults who have had a number of bad dentist experiences, like root canals and extractions.

But yesterday wasn't a routine cleaning. He was there for his first filling. Actually, for his first fillings. Two. I was nervous going in. I knew what was coming. He didn't. I've always been conflicted about how much to tell the kids in advance when something like this was coming. In a way, you want them to know what's coming and what to expect. In another way, you don't want them to know what's coming and have it cause them fear and anxiety. I've done it both ways. Years ago, I'd tell the kids before we went to the doctor visit that shots were coming. It works with some kids. With others it doesn't. 

With one kid, I can say, you're going to get some shots today, but it will just be two and it will be quick and when it's over the nurse will give you a sucker. Then there's no complaint or anything. They go with the flow. With another kid, I can say that shots are coming and it instills terror in them. I can't get them out the door and I can't get them into the doctor's office without a big ordeal. So, what's a parent to do?

Well, I told him he had a cavity and we were going to the dentist so that he could fix it. Kind of middle ground. He knew it would be something out of the ordinary. He didn't know it would involve Novocaine shots or a drill. 

As usual he was eager to go in. The dentist came out right away as he was in the numbing process and told me how amazed he was that he didn't even flinch. At the end, the assistant came out to tell me how well he did and the dentist followed. The he came out with a big swollen cheek. He kind of had a bewildered look on his face as if he was thinking "I didn't know that was coming up. You duped me." But, he was excited to get to pick out three things from the treasure chest. And he even seemed genuinely excited about the experience. He was fascinated with his numbed face. "I can't feel my mouth," he said. Then "I guess it feels like my mouth is getting a massage." Then, "Hey, feel my face." Then, "It feels weird. I think I feel like I have vampire teeth." 

He was a trooper. He took it way better than I expected. But...he has one more to go on the other side. This time he'll know what's coming.