How can you SAY that?

What a day it’s been. First off, I have to tell you all that I failed at my latest attempt to quit smoking. Yeah, yeah, bad me, but that’s not what this post is about. This is about my complete and total frustration with the situation I am in with my mother in law.

She is very demanding, she keeps track of when she sees the kids and will hold it against me during each and every phone call, which is why I sometimes (accidentally) don’t get to the phone in time to answer before voice mail picks up. Ooops!
We are busy, with three boys, sleepovers, school projects, dentists, orthodontists, nursing school, etc. it leaves very little spare time. Yet she doesn’t understand why I can’t spend a day driving the kids out to her house on the weekends! I have offered to have her come over for dinner, explaining that her coming to our house is much easier to arrange then an outing to a museum two hours away. Her reasoning for not wanting to come to our house is because we live on a mountain and the “curves are quite scary” and she’s too nervous to make the drive up here more than once in a while. This is why she makes me meet her in the grocery store parking lot (at the bottom of the hill) anytime she wants to “give” me something such as a newspaper clipping or a box of sugar cookies for the kids.  She complains to my husband every chance she has and tells him that she hopes “he can straighten things out” when he gets home, meaning bring the boys to see her.

The boys don’t want to go to her house any more than I want to drive out there because she has difficulty dealing with all of them at once. She only had one child and has no idea how to handle three brothers who can a bit rowdy sometimes.
OK, so here’s what happened. Last night I had to go to class. C babysits his brothers; he is very good about it and he thinks he is completely in charge. What he doesn’t know is that my brother (who lives 2 minutes down the road) is pretty much “on call” and will do drive by’s or drop in’s periodically just to make sure things are going smoothly.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the mother in law taking advantage of my school schedule to call and harass the kids.

When I got home last night I got an earful from Z and B. They told me how she repeatedly asked them who they liked better her or their other grandmother.

Which of their brothers were their favorites.

Which uncle bought them the most gifts.

And last but not least; who they loved more, me or DH!

Yeah! I couldn’t believe it either. Who DOES that?

The boys refused to answer and apparently my 9 y/o told her that they were “inappropriate questions” and he “doesn’t have a favorite because we are all family”. So mature, I’m so proud of him.

After this conversation I went looking for C and found him asleep in his room. Strange! This kid NEVER goes to bed early. I figured maybe he didn’t feel well and let him sleep.

Today I find out that he was really upset by the conversation that he had with his grandmother and was so worried about the idea that he was disappointing his father and that when he came home he was going to force him to spend weekends with her; that he went to bed early. That’s really saying something.

I talked to my brother about it and he said he wouldn’t be able to keep his mouth shut. He said he’s tempted to call her himself and give her an earful because you can’t do that to kids. You can’t call them after consuming enough alcohol to intoxicate a football team and ask ridiculous questions and threaten them with “you just wait until your father comes home”. Their FATHER would NEVER force them to put up with this and if he had any idea what she did/said to them he’d probably handle it himself.

I’m just so over this situation with her. I have tried to be mature, I’ve tried to compromise with her but she wants it her way or no way. The thing is she probably won’t even remember the conversation with the kids so talking to her about it does no good. The sad part is that the kids WILL remember and she thinks it’s ME brainwashing them. HA! I don’t have to say a word, she does all the damage herself.

I just don’t want her making the kids feel bad about hurting their father or letting him down because that is not even close to being the case. He, of all people, knows how she is and would NEVER put her before his children’s feelings. He’s too good of a father.

OK, enough of my ranting for tonight.

>Answering the Difficult Questions

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I have had so many ideas for posts over the past few days but I haven’t had time to sit down and actually write so of course, as always, the ideas got twisted in my head and disappeared.
I guess the underlying theme with everything that is going on is the fact that we are approximately 3/4 of the way through this deployment. We are on the downhill finally and it feels so good but at the same time we still have about a quarter of the deployment left to get through. Sometimes it feels like Homecoming is so close I can taste it, while other times I sit here saying “we still have X number of months LEFT“??????
We were in the truck today driving home and B asked me how long until Dad comes home. I told him not too much longer but that we don’t know exactly. He asked me to guess, so I responded with the best answer I could come up with that didn’t sound like too long but didn’t get his hopes up only to be let down. His reaction caught me off guard. He said “why does he have to be gone so long, I miss him, I just want him to come home now”.
For the most part our kids are used to him being gone; deployments, training, even his civilian job had him away on travel. The kids don’t know any other life and it probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if they didn’t have to constantly explain it to their friends. The boys don’t normally ask me to give them specific dates, typically they are OK with an answer such as “he will be home before so-and-so’s birthday” or “we are hoping he will be home before this holiday”.
Tonight was different, B needed something more definite. He needed to know exactly how long he had to wait and I couldn’t give that to him. It is so up in the air (as it always is with the military) that I can’t even begin to speculate on a homecoming MONTH!
I decided to tell him how many days it’s been since he left. I thought that hearing that number might make him feel better. I then told him that when I get sad and miss him I try to think of all the things I want to do BEFORE he comes home; that way I can look at it as “I only have X number of days to complete this task”. He asked me to be more specific so I gave him my goals for the remainder of the deployment.
1. Learn how to make a Topsy Turvy Cake with fondant icing.
 – the practice cake will be used at Bro #2’s baby shower and the real one will be for DH’s bday. This is an example I pulled off the Internet. I will be sure to blog about the baking experience as it is sure to be quite a fiasco.
2. Complete/Pass my OB/Peds semester of nursing school.
 – after this semester I only have one left before I graduate with my RN. Then it’s off to the BSN program.
3. Exercise more and lose more weight.
4. Organize all of DH’s clothes and give him back his side of the closet.
 – I have taken over the entire closet and most of his clothes have ended up in boxes and shoved into the back of C’s closet.
I explained to him that I have a lot to do in a short amount of time and if I think of it like that it doesn’t seem so bad. He then asked me what his goals should be. We came up with quite a few ideas but narrowed it down to a more “do-able” size. His list was a little more fun than mine.
1. Learn to count to ten in Spanish.
2. Organize all of his toys in his closet so he has a separate bin for each activity i.e. Lego’s, art supplies, etc.
3. Get to level 30 on Farmville
 – yes, he does have a Facebook account but he only uses it to play Farmville and post pictures for his Dad. 
4. Grow an inch taller.
5. Get 15 A’s on spelling tests, vocab tests or math tests.
After discussing all this he seems to be feeling better. It’s just so hard to see the kids struggle to handle a deployment because I know how hard it is as an adult and time moves even slower for kids.
How do you all handle these questions from your kids?
How honest/vague are you about length of time?
Are there any goals you can think of that would be fun for all of us to try to achieve before homecoming?
I was thinking of making a Family Goal; something we can all work on together but I can’t come up with any ideas that will interest all of them. What the 14 y/o wants may not be what the 9 y/o thinks is fun and the 12 y/o is just plain hard to please.

>Appreciating what I have

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I had another clinical in the school system today. It was an average day; a couple G-tube feedings, a bunch of tummy aches, a very VERY young girl menstruating already (I can’t imagine getting it at that age, I was practically still sleeping in a crib at her age), and a few asthmatics.
The thing is, (and I know I’ve talked about this before but it’s such an emotional experience I have to get it off my chest) everytime I go into this school I see these kids with these stories that just make me wish I could make it all better for them. I see kids with developmental delays which is sad in and of itself, but when I read in their files that the mother used excessive amounts of illegal substances during pregnancy; it just makes my heart break. Children who were born addicted to a substance and will spend the rest of their lives fighting health ailments stemming from that exposure…. all I can think is “how can a mother do that”?
And it’s not just the medical issues; the poverty that some of these children live in is something I am so incredibly grateful that my kids and I have never experienced. It can’t be assumed that these kids have eaten breakfast that morning; and it’s not because they chose not too (like one of my kids tends to do if I don’t FORCE him to eat) but because there is not enough food in their home.
Then there are the social issues. The swearing, the disrespect, the complete disregard for rules. Not all of the kids are like this, but the kids who do display this behavior astound me. Have you ever heard a 5 y/o say the “F” word???? I hadn’t until I began this clinical. It is shocking the way some of these kids talk to their teachers.
Each Thursday I come home and it doesn’t matter how messy the house is or how much homework we all have to complete in just a couple of hours; the only thing I can think of is how perfect my three kids are. I am so lucky to have three perfectly healthy boys. I am lucky to have a husband who will do anything to protect us and provide for us; we may not be rolling in money but we have food on the table and health insurance, we live in a town that has an exceptional school district, etc. My boys are sweet, well mannered and as if they weren’t already perfect enough… handsome!
I really am lucky, and now I need to go prove my love for them by washing their dirty laundry.

>Cyber Bullying

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I am taking a class in school that is required for graduation. The class is computer literacy and it teaches us how to use a computer with an emphasis on Microsoft Office.The irony is that this course is an online class!
If nothing else it is an easy A to bring up my GPA, I spend about an hour and a half per week on it which isn’t bad at all. The discussion board is my favorite part, the teacher gives us interesting topics to discuss. We are a couple weeks in and I thought it would be fun to share some of the topics and my initial response. I would love to hear all of your responses/reactions even if they differ from my opinions. I promise, I won’t jump down your throat if you don’t agree with me, haha.
The first topic was “Cyber Bullying”.
The recent story of Tyler Clementi of Rutgers University is very tragic and has legal and punitive consequences for the offenders. There are similar stories of cyber-bullying all over the internet. What they did is considered a 3rd degree crime and they could receive up to three years in prison. For example, Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, MA was bullied on Facebook before and after her suicide.

My questions to all of you:
Do you think the law has caught up with technology?

Do you think the punishment fits the crime?

Do you think the punishment is enough?

How do we protect our kids in this technical age?
My response was:
 
The element of anonymity that the Internet gives these kids enables them to take bullying to to a whole different level. They are hiding behind a screen. They may not even know the person they are bullying; so they will probably never see the hurt they caused. Therefore they may not feel remorse, and that will allow them to justify doing it again to the same kid or another.

I am going to give you a bit of history here to help me prove my point. I really feel cyber bullying is one of the most dangerous forms of bullying.
 I have three kids, they have grown up on different military bases. They went to school with other military brats. When Dad’s orders came up we packed up and moved; the schools were used to the constant transition taking place in the classrooms. That is one thing I can say for military kids; they are some of the most accepting kids I have met. At every new school my kids were welcomed with questions about the different duty stations and countries they’ve been too. It was always a contest to see which student had attended the most schools in his life. This was normal for us.
 Then we moved to CT.
 Each one of my three sons has come home multiple times either in tears or quiet or angry. I have come to recognize the look. My kids have been bullied. Each of them in a different way. My oldest; for wanting to join the army. The middle son for not printing his letters the same way as the others (VA taught them a different method of printing) and the youngest for having a picture of his Dad on his cell phone. In addition, they are the new kids. We have been here three years and yet they are STILL called the new kids because all the rest of the kids grew up here.

In the beginning, my youngest was ostracized. In 2nd grade he wasn’t included, picked last, told that he wasn’t allowed to sit with anyone on the bus. This was a form of bullying too. They made him feel like he wasn’t good enough to be their friends. It has gotten better, slowly.

The middle son began getting bullied his 2nd year here, in the 5th grade. It was verbal; he was called names that he didn’t even understand. In fact, honestly, I don’t know if he repeated them wrong or if they really were that strange, but I don’t even know what some of them meant.

My oldest has been hit, tripped, stabbed with a pencil; his issues were more physical. I have gone to the school with each of them, the younger schools didn’t do much besides talk to the classes. But the middle school did something that I thought was pretty amazing.

He had been coming home from school for about a week and every time the bus pulled up I heard yelling. After a couple days, I asked him why do the kids yell so much on the bus. He replied “they always cheer when I get off the bus, they are happy that I’m leaving”. I was shocked, I didn’t believe him at first. So the next day I listened and sure enough, the bus was quiet as it pulled up but as soon as he stepped off the bus the cheering began. His head was down and he just walked up the driveway. I was in tears as I called the school and told them what happened.
I received a phone call the very next morning from the principal.

That afternoon C came home with a stack of hand made cards. Each student in the 6th grade had hand written an apology to him. The kids who were a part of the bullying apologized and the kids who did not take part apologized for not reporting it. He has had some minor issues with a kid here and there, but nothing major since then.
My point in telling these stories is that in all three instances the bullying has stopped or at the very least slowed down quite a bit. The kids were held accountable for their actions. In the case of the middle school, even the kids who didn’t take part in it were showed how they were just as wrong because they ALLOWED it to go on. They saw the pain they were causing and have since stopped. Chase now has friends and doesn’t mind going to school every day. That is a big change.

I am lucky that my kids have not entered the social networking stage yet because I can only imagine how ruthless and mean the kids will be if there are no repercussions for their actions (or if they don’t THINK there will be repercussions). Maybe the kids stopped being mean to my kids to avoid getting in trouble rather than because they realized they were wrong. I don’t care, whatever their reason, they stopped. What is stopping them online? Nothing. That scares me.

>Gettin’ Right Back Into It

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So, R&R is in full swing. The boys and I are really enjoying having him home. It’s funny how we can get right back into our groove within 24 hours. We actually argued today about whether or not we should chop the ice on the driveway or let the rock salt melt it. We then settled the argument with a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Actually, it’s a variation of that. We call it Odds or Evens. Very similar concept. We’ve used Odds or Evens to settle disputes since we were teenagers. OK, I am way off topic here, hang on while I get myself back on track.
AHEM.
As I was saying, we are back to our routine. Every Christmas Eve around 1600 he starts to get a little grumpy. He’ll start mumbling about not wanting to stay up all night wrapping and bringing the toys from storage. The first couple years were rough because he is SO not a night person. Over time we have learned to compromise and we’ve come to a happy medium. So, today, right on time, he yawns and says “so, you haven’t wrapped ANYTHING yet”? I laughed and told him to go take a nap. He looked at me and I could see the excitement in his eyes. I don’t know if he thought this year would be different because he’s on R&R or what, but he knew he better go before I changed my mind. He’s sleeping now and I will wake him up around midnight or so. Then we’ll go to Bro #1’s house where we have stashed all the goods. We will show up with coffee in hand and wrap until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer. Then we will drive home and unload everything under the tree, giggling about the annual prank we will pull (still don’t know what this year will be but we’ll figure it out at some point after we’ve hit that delirious point tonight). Then we will go to bed.
I am letting the boys stay up late tonight. The later they stay up the later they will sleep which is a very good thing for me. One good thing about the kids getting older is that they seem to wake up later and later every year. One Christmas the boys woke up as we were coming up the stairs. We had just set up the presents and we were exhausted; it was about 0330. We heard the baby moving in the crib and we hoped so much that he would go back to sleep. That was not to be though, the toddlers woke up about 10 minutes later and we began our Christmas day at 0400. That was a very longgggg day. Last year I think they slept until 0800, I’m hoping for 0830 this year. We’ll see.
This is a pic of us yesterday, we had just pulled up to Sam’s Club and I insisted that we take a picture so I could change my Facebook profile pic (yeah, I’m a dork like that).

I am about to go make breakfast. I found this recipe for a breakfast casserole online a couple months ago. I figured it would be perfect for Christmas Day because I can prepare it the night before, throw it in the oven while the kids are opening presents and it will be done when they are. This way I don’t have to deal with making breakfast and cleaning up all the dishes before getting started on Christmas Dinner; which I am hosting. Anyway, if it comes out decent enough I will put it up for you all to try.
We are getting to the rough part of the night, I’m tired and I want nothing more than to go crawl into bed beside my husband but I know if I do neither of us will get up. What makes it worse is that I started off the day tired. See, I’m dog-sitting for Bro #2 and his mutt started barking at 0330. I got up, took it out, it ran around for 20 minutes but apparently didn’t have to go anymore since it had relieved itself in the living room. DH was so good, he helped me clean up; oh it’s so nice to have help. We tried going back to bed but the dog barked for a good half hour after that. I am SO not a dog person.
So, I’m off to clean the kitchen from the cookie baking and prepare breakfast for tomorrow. See you all later and I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

>Update on Christmas Preparations

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Christmas is fast approaching and I am so far from ready I don’t even know if I will be ready for NEXT Christmas in 2011! I have ordered the majority of Santa’s stuff in the past 24 hours (thank you Amazon Prime shipping) although I haven’t kept track of who’s getting what so it is very possible that the gifts are uneven. That will pose a problem, of course but I won’t know until Christmas Eve when I start opening the boxes to wrap.
I bought the boys boots online last week. I was very excited to find exactly what everyone wanted at decent prices WITH free shipping. Z wanted “Fry Cook Boots”, the boys have referred to them as such for years; I think it started with a Spongebob TV show they saw. Somehow the name stuck and now at 12 years old he still calls them that. It’s kinda cute. The thing is, they are so ugly I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted that they are the only boots that don’t get snow inside his socks when he’s playing outside. I gave in and bought him these:

When they arrived he was so excited. He put them on and immediately put his fingers through the side of the boot. A giant hole about 4 inches wide just below the logo. Great! I absolutely HATE returning online purchases. I went online to request an exchange and find that they are out of stock! Z refuses to get regular boots, so he’s going without until they restock.
My oldest, C, has the biggest feet I have ever seen. Really. At 12 years of age he was wearing a size 13 shoe, and now at 14 he’s outgrown all sizes sold in stores and we know have to shop online for his shoes. In September I bought him a pair of sneakers (14EE). He hasn’t been complaining about them so I assumed they fit. I bought his boots in a 14.5EE. Oops! He tried them on and his poor toes were scrunched at the end! So those are going back as well. Can you believe he just turned 14 and he’s wearing a size 15EE shoe??? This is ridiculous, if he doesn’t stop growing soon I’m going to have to buy a house with cathedral ceilings!
Luckily, B’s boots are fine. I managed to get to the post office today to return the boots and waited in line for almost an hour!
Bro #2 stopped by last night with his girlfriend. I never really figured out why. They called and said they were on their way (they live 40 minutes away). Why they drove all the way out here on a Sunday night is beyond me. They hung out while I baked Christmas cookies then they left. Weird. While he was here he asked me why I let the kids play with the paint in the bathroom after he had painted it. I said I didn’t. He told me that all the paint all over the floor, toilet, tub and sink wasn’t from him so the boys must have done it. I laughed and said ok, I didn’t want to start an argument. He then said that if he were me he’d be upset that they painted on my new shower curtain. I told him that that shower curtain wasn’t that new and that it has been up for a couple months. He said that it wasn’t there when he was painting. I said that it most certainly was and his girlfriend sided with him saying that she would have recognized it if it had been there. Something so silly, but it bugged me that they were so wrong. I finally realized that he was denying it because he didn’t want anyone to think he had been the one to get paint all over the new curtain. To be honest though, the curtain doesn’t bother me. I can buy another $10 curtain. The dark blue paint on my white toilet, sink, tub and floor is what bothers me. Whatever, all I can say is don’t hire my brother to paint your bathroom unless you like the splattered, fingerpaint look.
So, I’ve decided to make cookie baskets for each member of my family for Christmas. I am making all different types of cookies, I bought these little baskets at the dollar store today and red plastic wrap. I’m going to tie the plastic with green ribbons and attach notecards with their names in it. I’m excited to do this. I’ve been practicing with different recipes and I’ve found quite a few that came out pretty good.
I’m determined to make this a good Christmas. Despite the haphazard way in which I have been purchasing gifts for the kids I hope that it all turns out ok. I think they’ll be happy. I have gotten them all everything they asked for and then some so hopefully nobody will be disappointed.
OK, well, that’s what I’ve been up to. I am now off to clean my bedroom and put new sheets on all the beds.

>A bit of advice for my sons

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Everyone has a story. Everyone has made mistakes. Everyone has had the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and maybe one of the mistakes they made was NOT learning from a previous mistake. Some are huge and  life altering others are small and ultimately insignificant such as what to have for dinner. Either way, we all will inevitably learn not to order the steak at Denny’s or drink a large glass of iced tea just before jumping into the car for a three hour drive.
Passing on that knowledge to loved ones is something we do to protect them. We don’t want to see our kids make a bad decision and have to live with the consequences so we tell them our story. We tell them WHY it isn’t a smart idea to paint their bedroom red with black racing stripes, we advise them to choose friends based on mutual likes and dislikes rather than popularity, we try to teach them these things so they won’t have to live through the nightmare of trying to paint over a red and black bedroom. We don’t want them to find out the hard way that their “friends” weren’t really friends at all. We give them advice hoping that they will take it and learn from OUR mistakes rather than making their own.
There is a saying; “a good scare is worth more to a man than good advice” ~Edgar Watson Howe.
Somehow a story is less meaningful than going through it. People don’t typically learn from stories.
AN EXAMPLE

I tell a friend to always lock her front door when she goes to bed.
She understands that this is great advice.
She might even do it most nights.
But what about that night when she heads upstairs, gets all comfy in bed and then realizes the door is unlocked? Maybe she’ll just roll over and think “what’s going to happen”?
At 3am, she is startled awake by the sound of her front door creaking open.
That panic she feels, the fear she has will not soon be forgotten. She will always remember to lock her front door from then on, right?
She learned the hard way and doesn’t want anyone else to have to learn the same way. Now SHE has advice to give based on her own mistakes.
Some advice is harder to take than others. For instance, how many of us have had someone advise us to “ask for help when you need it, don’t go through the deployment alone”? OK, now how many of us have actually taken this advice and asked for help?
 
How many people told me to “study hard” when I was in high school? Did I listen? Unfortunately, no.
 
What about the little old lady at the pharmacy who tells everyone that drinking her morning cocktail of egg yolks, fish oil and coconut is what keeps her feeling young? Any one of us might just smile politely and walk away, never even considering the possibility that she might be on to something. What if she holds the secret recipe to the fountain of youth? Far fetched, sure, but you get my point.
So, today I have decided to compile a list of things I want to pass on to my kids. In a perfect world I would tell them each tidbit of wisdom and they would listen intently and follow each to a “T”. In reality, though, I will have to watch each of them make the same mistakes I did and hopefully they will only have to make them once before learning the wisdom buried inside.
Seriously boys, if you take my advice you will save yourselves a lot of stress. Please trust me?
“Be nice to your brothers, they will be your best friends when you grow up”
This is advice that my father passed down to me.
“Don’t stress about the holidays; sometimes the biggest disaster winds up being the most memorable and will bring laughs for years to come”
A few things come to mind when I say this.
1. The year your father was deployed and you all found every single present in B’s closet. It was Christmas Eve and you boys had opened every gift.
2. What about the year Z put the turkey in the freezer the night before Thanksgiving leaving us with 20 pounds of frozen bird at 10am on Thanksgiving day.
“Be nice to each other’s girlfriends. You don’t have to like her but you do have to be nice to her”
The potential that she will be your sister in law is always there and, whether you think it’s a good fit or not, it will only put tension between you and your brother if he feels like you don’t like his girlfriend/wfie.
“Fake it ’till you make it”
This advice came from Grammie. Initially she was trying to help me gain the confidence to get through Nursing School but I have since found that it is good advice to use throughout life. Having confidence is going to make every situation better; trust me!
 
“Forgive easily”
This pertains to family and close friends only!
Don’t make people jump through hoops for your forgiveness. One day it may be YOU who needs forgiveness. An apology is nice, but actions speak louder than words so don’t hold out for specific words “I apologize for ___”. The stronger the relationship the less you need the formalities anyway.
“Don’t take advantage of family”
On the flip side of the above bit of advice, don’t ever take advantage of your relationship with your brothers. You know they will always be there for you; letting them know how much you appreciate it every once in a while can go a long way. 
 
I know I will think of more as soon as I post this, but for now these are the important things.

>Guest Blogging

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 For the first time in my Blogger Career Blogger Lifetime? Blogging Phase? For the first time since I started blogging (there we go) I have been asked to be a Guest Blogger. How exciting is this. Sarah, over at G.I. Joe’s Wife is enjoying a much needed R+R with her husband but she has not forgotten about us. Nope, she has lined up two weeks worth of guest bloggers to fill her blog with. I am lucky enough to be one of them. Thanks so much Sarah!
When I went to her blog to admire see my post I realized the pictures weren’t showing up. That kind of makes the post a bit less interesting it’s about Christmas photos, so you kinda have to see the pics. Anyway, I reposted here but don’t forget to go over to G.I. Joe’s Wife’s Blog and check out all the other super, fantastic, great, beautiful, smart, caring, insightful, witty bloggers there.
First off, I’d like to thank GI Joe’s Wife for having me as a Guest Blogger today. I am Just Another Milspouse and this is my first time as a guest. I am just SUPER excited that she chose me for today. Thank you, Sarah, YOU ROCK! So here is a story about our worst Christmas card photo ever!
Every year I see those beautiful Christmas cards with the smiling kids all facing the camera. I have wanted to send out cards like that every year, but I don’t live in a fantasy land. I didn’t have delusions of MY toddlers/infants being able to smile quietly for portraits. So, I planned to wait until they were older. Last year was that year. I was determined. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted; and I marched in there with my three boys following obediently with threats of “no dessert for a week if you act up”.
It’s funny how The Giggles work. Once you start, it’s oh so hard to stop. I understand this. I still get The Giggles when I’m over tired or when I’m hanging out with my brothers. Despite understanding this, I still get frustrated when The Giggles start at inopportune times such as a portrait session.
This is one of the first shots we got. The photographer laughed so hard while I cringed with the fear of how the rest of the session was going to go. At least she had a sense of humor though.

After a few more shots with bunny ears, tongues sticking out, blinking eyes and someone’s foot; the photographer decided to go a different route. She told the kids to play with their toys as if they were playing on Christmas morning. This came out ok, but not really what I was looking for.

I finally got my picture. After over an hour in that studio. C (the tall one) had just kicked B (the small one in green) in the back so his smile is more of a painful forced smile but hey, it works right?
So, I’m sitting at the computer picking out the Christmas cards to send out this year when the photographer comes over and tells me that she absolutely LOVES the first picture. “It captures their personalities” she said.
Long story short; I wound up putting THAT picture on my Christmas cards. Can you believe it? I must be nuts. At least my family had a good laugh out of it. The grandparents, not so much. I promised myself I would get it right for 2010, but for 2009 our Christmas cards were something most parents would CRINGE at.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
May all your Christmas portraits come out perfect!

>My Day Spent With Murphy

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Have you ever had a day that went so completely wrong that it was almost comical? Well, AFTER the day is over it becomes comical, it isn’t at ALL funny when you’re going through it.
Last night as I was trying to fall asleep (my inability to sleep lately is really starting to tick me off) I was thinking about my next blog post. I realized that the last few posts have been a bit on the negative side. I’ve been complaining about things and just venting. I had decided that today’s post would be focusing on the positive aspects of this point in my life. Almost like a belated Thanksgiving post.
Yeah, that was the plan.
That was NOT what Murphy had planned for me today. No Siree, he decided that he was going to flex his muscles and show me who’s in charge.

MURPHY’S LAW:
It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion, such as the production of a magical effect for the first time in public, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Whether we must attribute this to the malignity of matter or to the total depravity of inanimate things, whether the exciting cause is hurry, worry, or what not, the fact remains.

Ready for a run down of my day? We’ll start last night, yeah, that will give you the total picture.
Last night Z reminded all of us that December was his favorite month and that he fully intended to celebrate the arrival of December in a way that we will all be forced to join in. He then went to bed leaving us all to wonder what his mysterious warning could have implied. I went to bed at a semi-normal time last night and of course tossed and turned as I do many nights lately. I finally fell asleep around 0300.

I slept like a log. 
Until 0500 when Christams Carols began BLASTING through my house.
Z’s idea of “celebrating December” was to turn up the speakers as loud as they could possibly go as early as he could possibly get up.
So, my day began with a headache but that’s ok. I suppose it was a sweet thing that I will remember to tell his wife about when he’s older. I promise you Z, I will  embarass you!
Anyway, B begged me to drive him to school this morning. I agreed to do it despite having class this morning because I know how much he hates the hour long bus ride. As we are walking out the door he asks if he can have a Capri Sun for the ride to school. I said yes, he happily sat there drinking his juice on the way to school until we were about a block away. Somehow, the damn pouch spontaneously exploded; spraying juice EVERYWHERE. How does that even happen?  I have no idea, all I know is that he and I BOTH needed new shirts. I started to yell, but as I turned to look at him his look of shock put me in my place and I instead yelled at the Capri Sun for “throwing up on me”.
He laughed.
I drove home.
We changed.
He was late to school.
I was behind schedule.
Oh and my van was almost out of gas.
Now I would only have time to make ONE stop on my way to class. I needed gas, but I also needed coffee (thanks Z) but the gas station with a Dunkin Donuts has expensive gas and I didn’t have time to get coffee AND drive to the cheap gas station. So, I paid an arm and a leg for gas this morning, but I got my coffee.
So, I am on my way to school and the weather starts to get bad. It’s raining and now the wind is starting to gust. It’s pushing me all over the road forcing me to drive slower than I would like. I make it to school with about 2 minutes to get all my stuff and get to the 3rd floor. Parking lot is packed. I park WAYYYYYY in the back in the middle of a friggin’ puddle the size of Lake Erie. With my backpack on my back, purse on my arm, coffee in one hand and an umbrella in the other I half run/half walk across the parking lot SPLASHING through the puddles; completely submerging my new shoes in water. That’s when a gust of wind comes, blows my umbrella inside out and knocks me over. I literally FELL into the car next to me. Thank goodness it was not a new car; I would have felt REALLY bad if I had scratched someone’s car. I didn’t hit the ground (thank you Volvo) but my coffee didn’t survive. At that point I was very happy to have chosen black jeans this morning; but I was also not looking forward to sitting through a 4 hour lecture in wet pants.
I arrive to class and find the door locked. I find my classmates sitting in the 3rd floor lobby. After waiting for a half hour, we learn that the teacher cancelled class but had forgotten to inform the students. Nice, huh? The week before an exam. So, I head back across Lake Erie this time without an umbrella because I got mad and threw it in the dumpster (what the hell am I going to do with an inside out umbrella anyway?), throw my backpack in the van and start heading home. I’m a little peeved by this though because just yesterday my Doctor’s office called me with a referral to a vascular surgeon. They were booked through mid December except for a cancellation today. I had to refuse today’s appointment because of class, but if I had known class was cancelled I could have taken that appointment and gotten this whole surgery thing taken care of.
OK, so, it’s 1100 and I decide that I should go to Best Buy to pick up the xBox Santa is bringing. I call my bro’s girlfriend to make sure that I can drop it off at their place. I think I mentioned before that everything I have bought so far has been found so from here on out, all gifts are being stored at my Bro’s condo. So the girlfriend says she will be home about 1530. No problem, I had a conference with Z’s teacher at 1430 I told her I would drop it off after that.
I buy the xbox.
Come home.
Realize that I have nothing for dinner tonight.
Yell at my husband for something really stupid when he calls.
Apologize for yelling.
Yell again because I am not convinced he listened to my apology.
Apologize again.
Leave for conference.
The conference goes well, Z is doing fairly well in school. Motivation is an issue but his report card is good. I get out of there and head over to the Bro’s condo. I got there at 1520, so I sit in the parking lot and wait for the girlfriend to show up. (My bro works 3rd shift so he’s home; but sleeping and I don’t want to wake him up). I sit there watching the rain and wind out of my windshield. Now it’s 1530.
1545
1605 – I call her, no answer
1625
Finally at 1640 I start worrying about the kids. They are at home, C is babysitting but I know they are getting hungry and I need to get their homework started. Oh crap! No dinner. McDonalds it is. I call the kids but they don’t answer the phone (unfortunately, this is not an uncommon thing; none of them like to answer the phone and they always assume one of the others will answer it). So, I leave. I’m a bit ticked off that I just sat in the parking lot for almost an hour and a half. 80 minutes that could have been spent doing something usefull like cleaning the house, studying, kid homework, grocery shopping. I kept thinking that as soon as I left she would arrive. I should have left after the first 10 minutes.
I’m pulling into the drive thru when the girlfriend calls; rather than apologizing to me she tells me that she “was at the gym and totally lost track of time, you know when you just get in the zone and lose track of everything”? Ha, yeah, sure I do, like when there aren’t enough hours in the day and I have to decide between washing my hair that day and folding the three loads of laundry sitting on the couch. Yeah, sure, I know what it’s like to lose track of time because I don’t have any to spare. So, wasting 80 minutes in YOUR PARKING LOT WAS NOT COOL!!!!! This is what I wanted to say, instead I told her it was ok, no harm done. Boy, did I eat my words on that one, but I digress.
With 3 Large Value Meals on the passenger seat I am now on my way home, passing through an intersection with a green light when a car comes SCREECHING to a halt with his bumper about 2 feet from my driver’s door. I swerved, hit a curb, knocked my van out of alignment BAD and knocked over one of the sodas. Heart still pounding I turn onto the road that leads up the mountain to my house. About a block from my street I see traffic being turned around. OK, bout face, turn up the next street. Nope, blocked. I go all the way down the mountain, cross to the other side in the next town over.
Not going that way either. What the heck is going on here? The only other way home is going up and around to the other side of mountain via the highway. At this point I’m getting a little upset. I call the boys again. No answer. I call each of their cell phones, and get no answer. Now I’m not feeling good. I am ready to cry. I can’t get home, and I can’t get in touch with the  kids. I start letting it ring constantly and calling back when I get the voicemail. FINALLY, they answer. The home phone isn’t working because the power is out, and the cell phones don’t have reception unless they stand in the doorway. They had been trying to answer the phone but without the wireless router working the phones have no service. I told them I was going to be home as soon as I could, I had to go around the mountain. Of course, I get to the other side and who do I meet???

My good friend, the traffic blocker.
This guy tells me that some trees went down and there are power lines all over the roads. There is one more route I can take and it’s a dirt road, but at this point, if they have it blocked off I have decided that I am just going to leave the van on the road and walk home. Thankfully, it is not blocked. I drive home in the pitch blackness. I pull into the driveway and carry in the cold burgers and fries. The boys greet me with smiles and hugs. They had taken all the flashlights in the house and had put them on various surfaces in the house. There was one in the bathroom, three in the kitchen, a big one sat in the center of the living room on the floor and mini lights were scattered everywhere. They each were armed with no less than four lights a piece. There were flashlights hanging from their necks, looped through belt loops, stuffed in their socks, etc. Every single one of them was on. It was brighter in the house than it normally is when the power is on! I gave them all HUGE hugs and told them the story of my drive home as we turned off most of the lights to conserve batteries. We then played Pictionary by candlelight.
As soon as I was home I felt better. As difficult as the day had been it culminated in such a stressful event that the simple act of coming home and getting a hug from my boys made me happier than anything in the world. It’s funny how that works. For every up there is a down, one of the philosophers that I studied years ago talked about how our postive and negative emotions are experienced in equal extremes. In simple terms he explained that if a person feels a sadness of -5 he can therefore feel happiness of +5. Theoretically, the more unhappy a person is the happier they can potentially be. It sounds strange at first but he believed that the trying times in our lives are necessary to truly value the happy times.
I got nothing accomplished today, I drove around the state most of the day for cancelled classes, absent minded family members, and downed power lines. Mr. Murphy was with me the entire time however that last part of the day; when I was just trying to get home to my kids was by far the worst part but it’s also what made the remainder of the evening so good. If I had been able to come straight home after getting their burgers I never would have played that game of Pictionary with them because the power would have been on and I would have been working on my Clinical Packet for school. If that tree hadn’t gone down, I would have walked in the door 2 hours earlier and said “hi, how was school” to each one. But that tree DID go down, so while I was driving around upset and on the verge of tears, the boys were having a good time playing with flashlights. When I got home instead of just saying “hi” I got a big strong hug from each one. My care plan is not finished and I have just spent entirely too long writing this post, but I don’t want to forget this. I needed to get it down, because if I don’t I won’t remember how good it felt to play Pictionary with them on a school night when I had so many other things to do.
Murphy, I know I complain about you and I was not happy that you insisted on hanging out with me all day today, but looking back, I suppose I am glad you did. Your presence today made me appreciate the simple things tonight. Now, please go away!

>How much money have you wasted on Christmas?

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I was just reading a post over at Wife on a Roller Coaster about Christmas presents and it made me think of past years in my house. The gifts that we spent entirely too much money on and weren’t played with. See, we want our kids to be happy; and we know that money and material things don’t buy happiness, but it’s so easy to spend the money on the kids because watching their faces light up on Christmas morning is the best feeling in the world. The one argument I like listening to is when they are fighting over who had the best Christmas. THAT makes it worthwhile… or so I thought.
Ten years ago C was obsessed with Thomas the Train. We knew he would love to have a set because he always played with the one that was set up at Toys R Us. Finances were tight, and we couldn’t afford the set at Toys R Us, so we went on eBay and found it (brand new) for $500. It came in a giant box shaped like Thomas. Of course, he was excited, he played with it for a couple days and it wound up in the corner of his bedroom. Did you read that??? A couple of DAYS!!! $500 was a lot of money to us back then, heck, it’s a lot of money NOW!
Two years ago Santa brought Z a cell phone, a nice one; the Alias 2! Sure he was happy to get a cell phone but a couple months later he started hounding us for a Droid which didn’t end well. I gave in a couple months ago but it turned out that Droid reception was terrible and I had to trade it for a Blackberry which just proved how spoiled he truly is because he refuses to use the Blackberry “because it’s not a Droid”. RRRR 
Last year B got a microscope that looked like a giant eyeball. It wirelessly transmitted the picture to the TV. Cool huh? Well, he looked at some grains of salt, and then it went into the toy box never to be used again. There was also an artist’s easel that came with paint, markers, crayons, pencils and rolls of paper. The tray got stepped on after it was buried under wrapping paper and broke. $60 down the drain. I think they may have used the markers, but I’m not entirely sure about that. Oh yeah, there was the RC helicopter that crashed on the first flight and got stuffed in the attic ($200). I could go on, but it’s just more of the same.
Every year we try to outdo the year before. It wasn’t a conscious thing, but I recently realized that is exactly what we do. I had bought a few things already, but they’ve been found so I have nothing so far. Thinking about what Santa is going to bring is just stressing me out because I’m tired of wasting money on things that they don’t play with.
I was thinking about the purpose of Christmas and how it’s not about the presents. I want my kids to know this and I think they do but I’m not 100% certain anymore. One of these years I want Santa to bring them money with a note that says that they can spend it on whatever they want but it CANNOT BE FOR THEMSELVES. They can buy gifts for anyone they want, spend what they want, but it cannot benefit them at all. I think this is a good idea. Of course I will make sure that they all get an equal amount of presents by pushing them in certain directions if need be but I think this could help them think of Christmas as more of a time of giving rather than the day they get a bunch of gifts for themselves.
Maybe this is something that we’ll have to do once they all stop believing in Santa. I don’t know, maybe it’s a stupid idea, I just want to try something different because what we do year after year doesn’t seem to be working so well.
I’m curious, do any of you have stories of gifts that weren’t as popular as you thought they’d be?