Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wake up call

One morning last week, I woke up and realized that there were no more babies in this house. I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle, waking up from an extended, deep sleep and seeing the world changed around me.

For the past 11 years, we've had a baby or toddler in the house. We've changed thousands of diapers and woken up countless times for mid-night feedings. Not to mention all the other duties, stresses, responsibilities, and joys that come with a baby.

I looked out the front door on Wednesday morning, and saw this:

Grant was headed down the walkway to jump into the car for his ride to school. Somehow, the bald little baby who was born just yesterday (it seems) turned into a boy. A real boy.

A boy who dresses himself for school.

A boy who rides the school bus on field trips.

A boy who goes potty unassisted.

A boy who feeds himself.

A boy who entertains himself and can communicate his needs and carry on an entertaining and attentive conversation.

A boy who sleeps through the night. (Most of the time)

A boy who now only rarely wants to be held. And almost never wants kisses.

It is a strange feeling to know that the baby stage of our family is officially over. It makes me feel old. Like somehow not having a baby anymore has aged me into a middle-age person instead of a young mom. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

While I know that at some point, everyone has to be done having babies, there's a part of me that aches to go through it all over again. I miss the newness of life, so perfectly perfect and full of wonder. I miss being so solely needed and being the one responsible for the sustaining of life of a tiny, helpless being.

But then, just when I consider begging and pleading Steve to try for one more, that same four year old, who at times is so grown up, reverts to his near-forgotten baby ways, and throws a fit like this:

And in that moment, I am content to be moving on to the next stage of life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Great American Cover-up

The mural on our staircase wall has been the "elephant in the room" (actually, it's much bigger than an elephant) since we bought the house.

I'll never forget the first time we saw the house. Olivia was at a friend's house. Steve and I walked through the front door with the boys, and there it was. Larger than life. Naked statues. Kissing. With a leopard watching from above.

(The view from the front door/entry)

(The view from above)

Jack's reaction was priceless. He took one look and said "Ewwwwwww—that's so gross!"

It's been almost 6 months since we moved in. While the mural bothered me a bit at first, I then sort of forgot about it. I can one possibly forget about a 16' wide painting up the staircase I climb numerous times every day? But it's true. I just sort of put it out of my mind. That is, until someone came to visit. They'd take one look at the wall and then look down at their feet or fidget with semi-embarrassment. I always found myself jumping to explain..."It wasn't exactly our taste or style, but we knew that it had been an incredibly costly addition to the house, and we felt a little guilty about not loving it and wanting to keep it as part of our decor, yada yada yada." So, the mural stayed, and we just figured when the time was right, we'd know what to do.

In the 6 months since we've been here, we've also had issues with the boys being frightened in the house. Jack was afraid to get out of bed in the night. If Grant was left upstairs, or downstairs for that matter, by himself, he would freak out screaming that he was scared. No amount of reassurance seemed to help.

Last Friday night, we were discussing our weekend plans. A birthday party for Saturday morning had been cancelled due to the weather, and although we had a Halloween party Saturday evening, our day was wide open. Steve asked Jack "What do you think we should do tomorrow?" Jack's response was immediate "Can we paint over the mural?"

That did it. Saturday morning, we woke up early and headed to the paint store. On our way, we took a detour to the donut store for one of these:

When we got home, we gave the kids some Sharpies and let them go to town on the wall before we got to work. This is likely the only time in their life that they'll be allowed, let alone encouraged, to tag a wall.

A heavy coat of primer went on first.

A few hours later, the final coat of paint went on.

As Grant was supervising the paint job, he said "Now I won't be scared anymore". Steve and I really had no idea that the boys were so bothered by what to us was just a bit of tacky art.

It's amazing what a couple of coats of paint can do. We still need to figure out something to put on the wall (or some things) to break up the vastness of it.

In the meantime, the boys are adjusting superbly to the blank slate. Grant actually carried his laundry basket upstairs today. By himself. And didn't shed a single tear.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Days of the dead...

Halloween came and went without much fanfare this year.

We decorated the yard a bit more than in year's past. It looked good.

My favorite inside decoration was the spider I made a few weeks ago. I added some web candle holders to the table as well.

When it came to costumes, I took the easy route. I had a discount coupon for an online costume shop, and let Jack and Olivia pick what they wanted.

Olivia chose a "tween" version of Alice in Wonderland. It was actually pretty cute.

Jack chose a cheap plastic getup.

Grant didn't get a choice when it came to his costume. I had a hand-me-down firefighter costume that Jack wore when he was 4. No sense in buying a new one, right?

He really wanted to be Wolverine or Harry Potter. So I drew a lightning bolt "scar" on his forehead, and told him he was Harry Potter pretending to be a firefighter. It worked like a charm.

(He looks thrilled, doesn't he?)

The kids enjoyed their annual Halloween celebration at school. They wore their costumes and participated in the parade through town.

Olivia marched with the band.

On Halloween morning, I woke up with strep throat. I wanted to die. Literally.

We had not yet carved pumpkins. We hadn't even bought pumpkins (except for the little one Grant got on his field trip to the pumpkin patch). Steve took the boys to the (fake) patch at the fairgrounds, and came home with one of the last pickings of the season.

The kids walked with Steve around the neighborhood begging for candy, while I stayed home and answered the door. 4 times. That's right, we only had 4 groups of trick-or-treaters. And I was armed with 10 pounds of candy, expecting the little goblins to come in droves.

I'm still on the couch, 4 days later. The DVR is empty. I've moved on to On Demand. The only benefit of not being able to swallow is I haven't even been tempted to touch these:

or this:

or this.

Here's hoping I'm back among the living soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Exercising my civic responsibility

I've been a registered voter for almost 20 years. I distinctly remember the first presidential election I voted in, when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. I took the first few elections very seriously, really learning as much as I could about the issues and candidates. Then, life sort of got in the way and I became a bit complacent. My votes ended up being for those whose names sounded the best, or whose titles seemed to give them experience and expertise to fulfill an elected position.

This year, however, my feelings about voting changed. There has been a hotly contested school board election in the small town where our children attend school. Two seats are up for grabs in a three-person panel. Four candidates are running. The two incumbents have done great things for the school, bringing it from country bumpkin to a strong academic status. But in a small town, there is also the chance for a few disgruntled folks to really stir things up. Rumors and untruths have been circulating among residents, only a few of which have students at the school. These rumors and misinformation led two community members to put their name in the hat for a seat on the board, and their platforms are such that the school stands a good chance of being literally dismantled if they win.

On paper, these two candidates appear highly qualified. One is a former principal/superintendent of the school, serving more than 16 years as the leader of this one-school district. The other is a former school board member and high powered executive.

The most frustrating part for me, is that because we live just outside the city limits, we are unable to vote in this election. Only 15% of the students in the school reside in town, the remaining 85% of the students come from neighboring cities and school districts. But only residents of the town where the school is located have voting privileges.

As I've watched the campaigning over the last couple of months and seen how important it is to make a fact-based decision, my need to be an informed voter grew. When it came time to cast our votes, Steve and I took the time to read candidate statements and both sides of issues and propositions. I was a bit surprised...some of my initial thoughts on who I would vote for changed as I read about the candidates' experience and priorities.

Now it's time to sit back and watch the votes come in. I'm anxious to see the local results as well as statewide results. Above all, I'm anxiously waiting on the school board election, which has the potential to drastically impact the environment in which my children spend most of their days. And I sincerely hope that all 700+/- voters in the small town will take the same initiative as I did, and not base their votes on appearances or the sound of a name, but will dig a little deeper and vote on what is best for the school.