Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wrestling a Tornado

Every day I wrestle a tornado, cuddle a cactus, and dance with a dragon;  I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Cuddlers vs. the Pricklies

I don't want to shock you too early in the morning, but it turns out my children are not the same person.  Don't worry, it's a common misconception about large families. It's just easier to lump them into one massive personality of "Charlotte's kids" and deal with them uniformly.  My parenting would be greatly simplified if I was allowed the same luxury, but I've yet to brainwash them into a  hive mentality (seriously, you'd think my constant inability to call them by the right name would have worked, but, alas, it has not).

Anyway, some of my little minions, I mean angels, are cuddlers like their father.  They crawl into my lap and comfortably settle for the duration of my patience.  Others share my "why are you touching me?" personality, answering attempts to cuddle with prickly resistance.

For years dividing the cuddlers from the wigglers was as natural as divvying up the chocolate: some is milk, some is dark.  Sure I prefer milk and my husband takes the dark, but we've learned to share.  Some kids wanted/needed more physical contact that others.

An exception to the rule

And then there came my Joseph.  I've called him before a tornado in a bottle.  His five year old body is strong and incapable of sitting still.  Trying to hold him on your lap is likely to result in accidental bruises as he wiggles, tosses, and jerks away.  Obviously a noncuddler.

And yet?

He began to develop a bit of a tantrum talent.  I've never given into tantrums and, so, never had much of a problem with them.  Joseph, however, was quickly becoming an expert.  His screeching often leading to more aggressive acting out.

I was at a loss.  I observed, I pondered, I prayed, I experimented.  One day, out of the blue, in a moment of rare clarity, I realized he needed more physical contact.  Unlike the other noncuddling kids, his constant motion wasn't about not wanting to be held, it was just an inability to hold still.

Well, who would'a thought?

So I tried to hold him more often.  Not an easy task.  That child is HARD to hold.  He wiggles and I'm always guarding against an elbow to my eye or heal to my shin.  But, within a week of trying, the tantrums receded.  He started seeking me out throughout the day for hugs or a few minutes on my lap or just a quick peck on the cheek.  He still hasn't calmed down for the cuddles, I've just learned to dodge the unintentional attacks.  That child is a dark chocolate disguised in every way as milk.

So every day I wrestle a tornado, cuddle a cactus, and dance with a dragon; I wouldn't have it any other way.

What about you, have you ever had a child who needed the exact opposite of what they're body language was telling you?

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My beautiful blogger today is Mike from Is this Mike on?  It's nice to see parenthood sometimes from the perspective of the father.  Beneath all his tales is the undercurrent of a man trying to do what is best for his wife and children.  He shows this with a mixture of humor, nostalgia, hope, and experience.  Although, if he makes me cry in a post again, I may have to go punch his lights out (Just kidding, Mike!  Keep the tears coming.  I dare you.)

I know I missed the last two posts with Beautiful blogger, but Christine was on my list to add, so let's count the last post as a beautiful blogger award to her!  Thanks again Christine.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where in the world is Charlotte today?

I'm in the blogosphere today, I'm just not at my place.  I'm visiting my friend Christine at Coffees and Commutes.  Click on over to read my guest post "It is harder, I just don't always notice" and then tell me what you think. 

Christine and I met on twitter and I saw her around, but one day we just clicked.  {I just realized in cyber world that has a double meaning.  I guess we clicked (over with our mice & hit it off).}  I've enjoyed her blog ever since.  She writes about her life as a mother of two who just returned to work.  She also writes about finding her place here in this life, and does so with grace and eloquence. 

Thanks for inviting me over, Christine!  Why don't you head on over and introduce yourself, too?

And yes, it's true just as you'll find way too often in my house and my head, today on my blog the lights are on but nobody's home!

I've turned off comments here so you can leave them there.  If you're dying to talk to me anyway, just send me off an email (see that "contact" tab up above?  That's what it's for.)

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Choosing our battles in the Hormone Wars.

We realize we're in a battle field

Getting ready for a lovely Sunday afternoon walk escalated quickly last weekend into a scream fest between my two oldest children.  Seems one decided the only acceptable bike helmet was her brother's and the other decided (after not wearing said helmet for a year or so) he absolutely had to wear it, too.  Peter and I watched, perplexed, and I asked him if my memory was shot or hadn't they both been wearing our helmets forever?  He assured me my memory is indeed shot, but I was correct in this instance. 

As we began walking down the street I asked him, "What, pray tell,  is wrong with them?!?" 

(Yes, I do speak sometimes as though I belong in a different century)

"Don't you know, yet?  The Hormone Wars have begun.  Estrogen makes her overly sensitive and testosterone makes him a territory protecting maniac and a bit of a confrontation junky. 

(I cleaned his response up a bit, there was some mention of hair growing in unmentionable places)

My husband is a wise man.  Hormone driven battles explain why those two have recently started fighting all the time! In that moment of clarity I saw the next 20 or so years of my life.  It would help if I wasn't also still a participant in the Hormone Wars from time to time.  We estrogen driven soldiers like to eat our own, don't we?

The battle is over, but the repercussions are not

The battle ended with a BRAND NEW not INEXPENSIVE bike left for dead at the end of our driveway.  I will let you decide if it was "dropped" or "pushed" as I wasn't there and both claims came from unreliable sources.  My daughter stomped inside to fume and my son decided he didn't want to ride a bike after all and joined the rest of the family on foot.

When we finished the 3/4 miles around the block, the BRAND NEW not INEXPENSIVE bike was still at the end of our driveway, laying there (lying there?) as a symbol of the devastation possible during the Hormone Wars.  This despite the fact that I had emphatically reminded my daughter, and made her repeat it back to me,  that she was to never, ever, under any circumstances to leave her BRAND NEW not INEXPENSIVE bike unattended outside.

I quickly captured it as a prisoner of war, stashing it on the side of the house, and going inside to tell her to put her bike away.   Unfortunately she found her "stolen" bike before taking my suggestion to run around the block looking for the thief.

(Hey, we parents have to find entertainment wherever we can.)

Punishment Ensues

So there we sat, my irritated daughter on one couch, my husband and I on the other.  As the hider of the bike I had instigated punishment and it is an unspoken understanding that the punishment instigator gets first rights in deciding punishment.  While she listened, this is the conversation my sweetheart and I had (please remember the remark about my memory being shot, this is the best approximation of the conversation that I can come up with):

"So, what are you going to do with her?"

"I haven't decided yet, any ideas you're particularly fond of at the moment?"

"The way I see it, there are two things that need punished, right?  Not going on the family walk and leaving the bike out."

"I was leaning towards making her cook dinner.  You know, serve the family since she abandoned us on the walk, plus I don't want to cook. What dinners are left on our menu for the week?"

At this point she breaks in with "Chicken and rice.  I know that was on the list this week and hasn't been made yet."

"Alright, Elise you have to cook chicken and rice for dinner tonight."

"Is that all you got!?!"  You're getting lazy in your old age."

"You mean you don't think making her do one of her favorite things (cooking) with one of her favorite meals (chicken and rice) is punishment enough?  All right, let me think."

(We are all struggling to keep straight faces.)

"I was thinking about grounding her from her bike, but that would be counterproductive.  We bought the bike so that she could use it for exercise.  No sense in punishing her by taking away something we want her to do.  What's your thoughts?"

"I was leaning toward grounding the bike, but you're reasoning is sound.  It can't be that."

"I know, let's punish her by making her ride her bike!  Since she didn't join us on a walk around the block today, she must ride her bike two times around the block every day for a week."

"Maybe 10 times."

"10?!?  That's over 7 miles.  How 'bout four times?"


"Three.  Elise, you have to go around the block on your bike 3 times everyday for a week."

"Unless it's raining." 

(Remembering we live in New England)

            "Or snowing."

"You should be punished for mentioning snow."

All's well that ends well

Granted, the punishments were not severe, not even really punishments.  But in the process:

  • We got our Hormone War wounded daughter to smile.  
  • I didn't have to make dinner. 
  • She is going out on her bike everyday (and her combatant participant is being "forced" to accompany her for safety).  
  • We made our point: family walks are not exactly optional and leaving the bike out will not be tolerated (this was her one and only warning, we made it clear the next time it really will be GONE).
  • Not to mention showing her that her parents are a unified front and our punishments are based on some sort of thought process and not randomly pulled from the air (most of the time)

In the Hormone Wars, we sometimes have to choose our battles.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I only give you snapshots

A quick snapshot of my life

As I stand at the stove stirring dinner, the late afternoon sunlight flooding the kitchen, and I smile at my children's activities: 

  • Elise creates a picture. The digits of pi meander across her page in changing colors and shapes so they look like a slice of pie.  
  • Ryan is deep into composing another song, he just finished "Life in the ER" and is now making "Afternoon Computer Time". 
  • Ethan dances around the house with the black foam cylinders he reclaimed from the outside garbage can, calling out all the things he is going to make with them.  
  • Kirsti fills out a reading log.  She is reading Sea of Monsters, not too shabby for the second grade.
  • Joseph and Matthew giggle as they play a game of catch with a bouncy ball.

This snapshot of my children is perfect, beautiful. They are creative, intelligent, wonderful.

It is a true portrait.

But let's shift the camera and take another picture, within moments of the first.

I dump a jar of spagehetti sauce into a pan, surrounded by a kitchen I didn't have time to clean today (and possibly yesterday).

  • Elise has left a huge mess of papers and pens all over the table, right before dinner (again).
  • Ryan bangs on the piano, the careful set notes now replaced by nonsensical (and loud) noise.
  • A villainous laugh escapes from Ethan as he swings his foam cylinder and chases a screaming Kirsti.
  • Joseph and Matthew have decided to see which they can break faster with balls: their noses, their legs, or my ceramic pots.

This is another snapshot of my children.  Exasperating, loud, messy.

It is a true portrait.

The Moral?

Funny thing about life...

It isn't a snapshot; a portrayal of life at any given moment can never give the whole story.  Two incompatible portraits, both true.  I wouldn't be lying if I showed you either one.

Some people only display one sort of life's snapshots for others.  Although it is all I see of them, I know better than to assume it is the only type they ever see.


My beautiful blogger today is East of Eden (her pseudonym and blog name).  I met her of Mormon Mommy Blogs and added her as a friend on twitter (@theatomicmom).  From her love of history to her conservative politics to her adjustment to becoming a stay at home mother, I relate to her very well.  One of those people you meet who seem to be eerily like yourself, just living a very different life somewhere else.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just call me Chicken Little.

I hope I don't induce wide spread panic, but I feel it my responsibility to warn you:  

I wouldn't be sounding this alarm unless I held unrefutable proof.   (You might want to sit down to prevent swooning in your distress.)

You see, yesterday I went to put on a shirt retrieved from the back of my closet . . . and I couldn't button it.  It woudn't even reach in the middle.  Not only that, the pants I put on were much tighter than they used to be.  I came to the only obvious conclusion: Our entire world is shrinking around me.  My clothing has simply gotten smaller than it used to be.

I have more proof!  This shrinking world phenomena explains another oddity in my life.  You see somehow a couple hours of each day have disappeared.  There just used to be more time! Until my realization yesterday, I couldn't figure out why.  But now I know: a shrunken world!  Its decreased size has obviously resulted in faster rotation and shorter days.* 
In other completely unrelated news, I've decided to spend less time sitting in front of the computer.

I decided this on my way to spend a couple hours, well, sitting and eating at Panera Bread with my friends.  I'm sure that should help.  No really.

* My geekiness feels a need to explain a little more:  Think of an ice figure skater pulling in her arms while spinning, her rotation speeds up.  It is called conservation of angular momentum.  If you didn't know of my overly odd love of physics before, I guess you do now.  Yes, I spent time finding a web site to explain this even though no one cares.  You're welcome.


Today's beautiful blogger is Nobody from Nobody Called Today. Not only does she have one of my most favorite online names ever (just think of the jokes), she has mastered the art of funny and kid speak.  The antics she writes about with her 3 kids make my children seem almost tame, and that, my friends, is hard to do.

Talk about a shrinking world, we used to be in the same Primary (aka Children's Sunday School) at church when my mother was the chorister.  When I asked my parents if they remembered her, it turns out my father was also their family's home teacher.  Go figure.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Birthday Cake . . . The Rest of the Story

I'd asked Elise for a couple weeks what she wanted for a birthday cake.  I've noticed my kids are getting more daring with their cake ideas, and knew I would need time to make whatever she choose.  So far I've been able to make whatever they've thought up, but Elise took the cake (HaHa!) when she finally chose her design.  I really shouldn't let them watch Cake Boss anymore.

She wanted a topsy turvey cake.  That was by far more difficult than anything I'd yet attempted, so I started googling.  I spent at least 2-3 hours looking up the right way to make the cake, how to make a box cake mix dense enough to carve, and the best way to make a smooth frosting (since I am not ready to try fondant yet).  Then I bought the supplies: 3 cake mixes (with the dense rich recipe made it more like 6 mixes) and 3.5 batches of frosting (2 lbs powdered sugar each), 2 cake pans each of three sizes.

And then I started baking.  9 layers baked, frozen, stacked, carved, frosted, re-frozen, stacked again, frozen again, frosted again and then decorated.  I made it early (just in case I couldn't do it and needed an alternative cake).Oh hubris, I even took pictures as I went.  I knew from the beginning it would be either spectacular or spectacularly disastrous and thought the documented journey would be fun either way. 

It was spectacular!  Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm the next cake decorating diva.  What I mean is that it was the hardest cake I'd ever made and it turned out better than I expected.  Elise loved it, I loved it, and that made it spectacular.

Without further ado, here is the cake:

And here is how it looked the next morning:
(2 days before I needed it)

I guess the boxed cake with extra dense additions wasn't strong enough.  Or I moved it too often trying to get pictures, or I should have kept it frozen until we ate it.  You can see the dowel sticks stuck in for support.  They failed.

This is the first time I've had a cake that was both spectacular and a spectacular disaster.

I'm thinking I might smack the candles on top of the mess and still use it (no friends party just our family).  What do you think?

I can't believe I forgot to do the beautiful blogger last post!  The next person on my list is Jane at Seagull Fountain.  Jane writes beautifully and thoughtfully.  She is able to give her opinions directly without being offensive (I don't always agree with her but never feel attacked), probably because her ideas are always so well thought out.  Her writing is a wonderful mix of the angst and joy involved in motherhood and life in general.  She also twitters as @SeagullFountain

I must confess I have extra love for her blog because she was my first.  That's right, back when I was checking friend's side bars trying to find long lost friends I clicked over to her blog.  Back then I would usually move on if I didn't know the person, but her writing drew me in and I read and read.  I found I was always searching for her blog on that side bar to check for new postings and finally added her to google reader.  About 6 months later I finally had the courage to comment on her blog. I still get excited to open google reader and see that she has posted.  I'm excited to meet her in May.

Please note I am not some sycophant stalker, I just believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Friday, March 5, 2010

This week has joined the last 13 years of my life.

What do you mean it's Friday?  I know it can't be Friday because this was the week I was going to get caught up on everything.  Since I'm not caught up, surely it is yet to be the end of the week.  Besides next week my oldest becomes an official teenager, and I know that must still be light years away.  Right.  Right?  RIGHT?!?

Please don't tell me I don't look old enough to have a teenager because what I desperately need is to feel old enough to have one.  I don't need reminders right now that I'm on the young end of the mothering spectrum.  For this week only I will accept "you seem very old for your age" as an acceptable compliment.

But that is a tangent.  I didn't mean to ramble about becoming the mother of a teenager, I meant to ramble about where my week went.  It started out well enough, but things kept getting in the way.  For instance, when Elise finally decided on a birthday cake she choose a topsy turvey design, which has been quite labor intensive and knocked a couple hours of planned productivity out of the last two days (and the next two, probably).  But then again, she seemed to think I was capable and I'm trying hard to not disappoint.

And somehow it is back to that darn birthday staring me in the face.  I am not freaking out, I promise.  I'm not.  It's not that some magic switch is getting turned next week.  (There is a magic teenage girl switch, but that was flipped over a year ago, so no suspense left on that.)  I mean to make this post about my last week.

It's just that the week somehow disappeared on me.  I keep thinking of things I did, but they were actually from two weeks ago.  I'm beginning to wonder if I actaully participated in this week at all. Maybe I hibernated.  But I know that's not possible because my house is relatively clean ("relatively" being the KEY word) and my kids are dressed, fed, and still alive.  I know I did all my regular weekly activities.  But somehow the week has just spun past me and I'm left at the end wondering where it went.

Then again the last 13 years have spun past me and I'm beginning to wonder where they all went, too.  Long past are the days of cuddling and reading Mr Brown Can Moo.  I can shut my eyes and see that little girl, my first, learning to walk and talk, going to kindergarten and learning to read, looking up to me to see if I'm watching.  I'm watching, I'm taking it in.  I know because I have it here to ponder in my heart.

As near as I can tell, these last years with her will go even faster than the first.  There is no way to slow down now. I know I didn't believe anyone who told me the days wouldn't last, that I would miss them someday, because the days seemed plenty long then.  But guess what?  They were right.  That eternity was momentary.

But that is NOT what I want to talk about tonight.  I want to talk about what I've done this last week.  But as I sit down to write, I can't seem to think what I've done.  It's almost as though something else is on my mind.  And I'm finding it hard to see what I'm typing through the tear filled eyes anyway, so I'm going to go see what Elise is doing.  Because I want to enjoy this time.  I now know I'll miss it when it's gone.

Monday, March 1, 2010

You couldn't know unless you met me for reals

I'm Going to the CBC!I recently signed up to go to a blogging conference being held in Utah at the end of May.  Initially I didn't even consider going, but then I realized I was scared to go.  I've never met someone in real life whom I first knew online.  The thought of doing it freaked me out.  I'm tired of letting my timidity control my decisions, so I bought a ticket last month.  You could say I double dog dared myself and lost (won?) the bet.

I'm still scared out of my skin (I would rather be scared out of 10 pounds, especially before I meet a whole bunch of people for the first time), but, as my husband so aptly pointed out, there has to be other socially shy people out there in blog land who are attending.  So I am carrying forward with my plans.

But there are some problems, reasons I chickened out of meeting anyone when I was in Utah last March for my grandmother's funeral.  I am just not sure how I'm going to react to people I sort of know intimately and sort of don't know at all.  Will I be shy?  Overly familiar?  Ignored?  What if I am nothing like what people are expecting?

So when Steph at The Daily Blarg awarded me with the Beautiful blogger award, I knew what I needed to do.  I would tell you the to7 things you wouldn't know about me if you only know me by my typing.  Then maybe there won't be any shocking revelations if you ever meet my flash and blood self (or if I lose the flesh and blood and am just haunting you):

(1) I have two possible reactions when meeting people.  I either get the deer-in-the-headlights look, which unfortunately (I've heard) makes me look stuck up or I become the queen of TMI.  In short, I have no pleasant introductory small talk skills.  I've kinda sorta learned how to compensate by faking it, but I'm convinced it still doesn't seem natural (and if I'm really nervous I forget to fake it a revert to one of my normal reactions).

(2) My laugh?  It is a full blown wicked witch cackle.  And the sound of it carries.  I can't help it, it's genetic. Growing up,  I could tell when my aunts were over because I could here the laughter at least 10 blocks away.

(3) I have been accused of sounding like a text book when I talk, especially if it's something I'm passionate about.  It is the unfortunate result of reading more than I talked growing up.  My mom is always making fun of me for using words with too many syllables in them.

(4) I look 3 months pregnant, but I'm NOT, so don't think I'm just not telling people yet.  My uterus gave up after the 6th kid in a decade.

(5) I am pretty hard to offend, but might be considered a bit blunt.  I think the two are related; I can't judge the appropriateness of a question/statement just by asking if it would hurt my feelings.   The golden rule doesn't apply when you don't mind something most people would.

(6) I have no fashion sense or (7) ability to do hair.  So don't expect glamorous.
So if you see me looking all snobby, please know I'm really scared stiff.  And if I am overly familiar, please forgive me.  And if I'm sitting alone like a total loser, maybe you could stop and say hi?  Thanks.

The rules of the award are that I list 7 things about myself, link to the blog that awarded me and list 15 blogs I've recently found.  I thought it would be boring to do it all at once, so I'm going to list the blogs one at a time at the end of my posts.  Thought I would start with the giver of the award.

I met Steph as @sahans on twitter and she is hilarious!!  Her blog, the Daily Blarg, covers such topics as the top made for TV products and the adventures of Blogdog.  Occasionally she debates heavy hitting topics like the existence of unicorns.  She always makes me smile.

Thanks for the reward Steph, even if you're going out of town so I don't get to meet you in May.