Friday, June 28, 2013

Our exploits into the Best Summer Ever continue. Today, we went bowling. Now, you might think to yourself, "Right, bowling. Luckily bowling alleys are meticulously clean, well-lit and child friendly!" If you think that, then you have a) never been to a bowling alley or b) repressed many painful memories or c) lost memories from some sort of secondhand smoke inhalation brain injury, maybe in a bowling alley or d) I could keep going forever. I mean it. I could make up about 5000 reasons why you don't know that bowling alleys are horrifying petri dishes with 40 watt light bulbs and old men with very long hair. I could do that. But I won't, because it seems like maybe I was planning to talk about something else before this digression. Ah yes. Bowling with my children.

We signed up for a program called Kids Bowl Free, and immediately got the coupons for 2 free games a week, or maybe even a DAY... it's a lot of coupons. We also got hit up a couple of times to pay a smallish fee to join the parents up too, but the husb is off being a suit for the teen camp and I don't bowl so much, because I am truly, amazingly bad at it and also bowling balls are horrifying and the only thing worse than thrift-store-hands is bowling-ball-hands. Just talking about it makes me need some hyssop or something. And I'm not any kind of germaphobe. Germaphobes would be sent to hang out with me for shock therapy. Still. Bowling balls.

The shoe rental was somewhere around $3 each, in case you actually believed this was free bowling. Still. Free-ish. They started strong, with bumpers and even a dragon shaped ramp to direct the ball, but you can only take turns rolling a ball so many times before you need to make a mad dash around the building, disturbing the 11 am bar crowd and getting a side eye from Roz. Roz is not her name, but it shall ever be her name.

I kept Tristan on the leash the whole time and still lost him on multiple occasions, and would find him bowling somewhere else. He's a maverick, I guess. When Toby was that age, he was horrified by warning signs with graphics like chopped fingers or broken bodies by diving boards. "I will never put my fingers in there," he'd say, and then he never would.  Not so much Tristan. I think he considers Caution signs as some kind of dare. You never get used to the panicked dive to stop a kid from mutilation, even if you spend all day protecting said kid from mutilation. Oh, and he licked the chairs. Because OF COURSE HE DID. My friend Mari came along with her  kids, and I don't think her 2 year old got in the ball return or threw the ball backwards even once. In fact, I think there was considerably less serious-mom-voicing going on over there at all, just, you know, bowling.

I'm looking at this summer, and it's just so real to me that I have a handful of summers at my disposal, and then they'll be doing something somewhere else, without me, and I'll be stalking them on the internet and using my serious mom voice on text messages. This is a year to make memories. All these experiences cost a little more than I expect, and they make me sweat, and they're tiring and complicated. Honestly, though, seeing them celebrate knocking down 3 whole pins and then talking about "next time" all the way home... I think I'm on the right track. Onward, summer days.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Most nights I hit 7:30 like a chunky kid cannonballing into a pool. I lay down with my laptop and take turns eating things and yelling random vague threats about what happens to people who don't sleep. Sometimes I refold the laundry baskets instead of putting them away and watch all the movies I wasn't allowed to watch back in 6th grade before I got married. 

It is in those moments, as I lay in a sweaty haze, overwhelmed at the thought of being responsible for 4 souls and increasingly aware of my crushing inadequacy and diminishing physical and mental strength, that I ask myself, “Hey, why not get a cat?” This is the part in the movie where you realize that Mama don’t just have a bad cough and start worrying about what kinda stepmama Daddy might foist on the brood.

These kids here have been clamoring for a pet ever since I accidentally poached their Betta. (who knew water temp was so important?) The thing is, the MOG and I are not really animal people. In fact, we’re almost anti-animal. Our primary objections have to do with the upkeep and, very specifically, their defecation. We already have humans defecating at random and horrible intervals and locations around here and the thought of bringing another species into the fun is not, well, fun. Also the Man of God was responsible for the burial (not the demise) of a number of animals during his childhood and as such, has hardened his heart to animalkind.

Somehow, the deterioration of my brain that began with the birth of my first child and continues to this day has led us to this point, when we decided, despite all the odds, to get a cat. In my defense, I’ve been thinking about it for a while and we’ve even done some informal polling around the house about cats vs. dogs. In the end, an animal that requires fairly little interaction and no outdoor trips was the animal for us. “Why not get a hamster?” you ask, and to me that sounds exactly like, “Why not get Ebola?”

So we got a tiny little kitten for free from the internet (thanks, internet!) and she pooped around the house for a few days and refused to eat the cheap food but has settled into her rightful place as Feline Ruler of the Home now, with her bejeweled collar and Fancy Feast. She has been the center of attention and the cause of countless fights, but in the evening she chooses to go and curl up with her tormentors and sleep, so I think it’s a bit of a mutual admiration society. As for me and the MOG, I wanted a lazy cat to come hang out with me while I read, and she nails that role. The MOG keeps telling me he has no affection for her, but this is what is commonly known as a “lie”. 

Animal lovers who might not perceive my affection through my snark: we all really like this cat and she has had excellent care. Fear not. 

This might sound like the beginning of a horrific tale of why you should never give animals away on the internet, but I don’t know. I almost think that we will grow old with this kitty, that she’ll be a fixture through years of family photos and maybe die when the kids are grown. Or maybe it will be some short-lived semi-terrible story. Time will tell, but so far, so good. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I took my kids to the movies yesterday. Next time maybe I’ll just take them along for some kind of invasive elective surgery. Maybe I’ll get a bad sunburn first. That would be more fun. 

We went a few weeks ago, I thought, and except for that pooping-pants-episode (BY A KID) and the subsequent bathroom garbage can wailing funeral for the undies involved, and the arriving 20 minutes into the movie, it was relatively painless. I did not bank on going to a movie that other people wanted to attend. We got there early and it was already full, filled with slightly hostile Overland Park mommies who had their precious Madelyns and Emmets holding entire rows hostage while they picked up pretzel and hummus cups and organic apple juices. Brynn and Toby hauled the increasingly enormous popcorn and Coke while I dragged a sulking Tristan on his leash and tried to keep R2 from faceplanting in the dark. Around and around we went, like a sick merry-go-round of rejection and frustration. Desperate, I moved everyone back to the foyer and let them eat popcorn while I tried to convince a 25 year old high school student with a badge to find us seats, since we paid dollars to sit in chairs. He suggested we split up, and I almost told him that was a great plan since clearly my 7 year old is ready to live on his own now, but instead I squeezed all 5 of us into 2 chairs and tried not to be a human grenade. Eventually he found one seat in front of us and I sent the independent ones up there, which meant they immediately turned to hang over the seat and request popcorn and candy and I realized I was being sifted.

I offered vague threats and left everybody but Tristan in there and found a manager, and then another manager and got seats at a later showing, and even upgraded to the 3D, which was great except a) I had to remove everyone from our ideal situation and b) we had to kill an hour, which is easier said than done when you have a special needs kid who has been ready to see this movie since the sun broke over the horizon. Yesterday. We walked around Target so I could practice saying no a lot of times and then it was time to go back, but our snacks (being held for us at the counter) had been thrown away.

It wasn’t so much that I wanted to cry. I was too tired to cry, and besides, I had used all my liquid with the nervous sweating. We were given free snacks, which weren’t free since I paid for the first ones and then we went to the screen but they were cleaning it, and cleaning it and cleaning it, so we had to stand outside for another 15 minutes. Some kids would get bored but mine improvised and alternated punching each other and crashing into the elderly. Tristan just sat on the floor and drank Coke, which is something I don’t let kids have, but my parenting day was over.

Finally, finally we made it in and found seats. Everybody sat down and I was almost going to breathe when Brynn tried to swipe some Coke and dropped it in a sticky fountain of horror everywhere. Sit down, maybe you’re saying. For Pete’s sake, woman, let it go. Let me explain. In the 2 and a half hours we had spent roaming like the devil, I had not had a single kernel of popcorn nor sip of God’s nectar, and I needed it. I needed it. I left them all there, except Tristan, and got a refill, prepared to fight to the death should I be questioned. Upon returning to our seats, where all of the children were intact, I realized Tristan had lost a shoe, but I didn’t care anymore. By that point Tristan could have been naked and I would have just handed him the M&Ms and averted my eyes.

I think the movie was good. Mostly I just liked the part where I sat in the darkness for a while. In the last 30 minutes Tristan told me, “I go home,” and spent the remainder of time trying to escape the theater, except for that part where he laid down on top of the spilled Coke and played with the ice and I acted like I didn’t see.

On the way home, everyone but me talked about how it was the best day ever, so I think I pulled it off. I might never be the same, but nobody knows but me, and you people, unless the screaming and rocking tips them off. Fingers crossed! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

this post originally ran in August 2012. Click the link to read the whole post. 


Now, having been justified by not punching anyone during dinner and acting like civilized human beings for at least 3 hours, you have been given this gift, to sleep in the fort behind the couch. And this gift was not of you, lest you should boast, but of the kindness of your mother, who hopes you will sleep past 7 am.

And your mother demonstrates this great love for you, in that she brings all the pillows downstairs and piles them up and threatens you in a very kind voice not to wake up your siblings who were not so justified.

... click here to read the rest!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You might be wondering about my fitness journey. I'm wondering about it myself. Ultimately, I think it comes down to my only being able to be good at one thing at a time. The last 2 weeks I have been the Best Mom Ever, which goes hand in hand with the Slightly Chunky Mom. I am going to attempt to coordinate the world of Fun with the world of Fitness so I can be that Hot Mom at the spray park, but so far, no go. I'm still working out and videoing, just not as thoroughly or frequently. The vlogs will return, soon. 

I made a kinda-goal this summer, to find one inexpensive and fun thing to do every week. I have ulterior motives, in that I feel a lot less like punching a kid when we're out doing something fun. (Disclaimer: I have never punched a kid.) Last week I overdid the fun a little, maybe, with a movie date, a zoo debacle, fishing at a friend's house, and other things that I can't remember because it was so hot and loud for days and days. Most of these events are solo parented, as the MOG has entered the black hole of Teen Camp and will not be spotted again until August.

Today we went to the Curious George Exhibit at the Crown Center, and I'm gonna give you a straight-up review. (Disclaimer 2: I am not sponsored or paid by Crown Center. I'm also not above it. Crown Center, shoot me a text.)

The thing I was most concerned about was the parking and walking part, but the parking garage was easy to find and navigate, although I parked on a floor with stairs and had to fold up the stroller and hike a flight while keeping Tristan in bounds with the sound of my Stern Voice. My posse ranges from age 14 with a developmental age of 2, to 7, 6, and 2.5.  We strolled Crown Center for a while, taking pictures and window shopping. It's pretty wide open and easy to track a kid, even when they are running way ahead of the 2-lines-in-front-of-me boundary. We stopped in the Crayola Store and they drew for a while before we browsed the rest of the store. I was trying to do a really low-budget trip, so we didn't buy anything but there was a lot to look at and interesting displays.

The Curious George exhibit was on the 1st floor, in the back corner of the building, which is nice, because even a dedicated runner would have to evade a parent for several minutes to get near an exit door. The exhibit is in a relatively small space but it's packed with interesting stuff. All of my kids were captivated for the 1+hours we stayed. Tristan was most interested in the old telephone. He was using it as a command station and all the other kids at the exhibit would make way for him. I lost track of him multiple times but was able to spot him every time before I even got to the stomach dropping portion of finding a 2 year old in a public place.

There were several stations that played with light and shadows, projecting patterns on the wall, altering shadows and doing shadow puppets. There were also 2 stations where you could use wind to move things. The station where you could spin pinwheels using high-powered fans was R2's favorite. He was so excited to see the cause and effect. Toby spent a long time trying to build a windmill out of Tinkertoys but eventually gave up and found a station where you turned a dial to move giant blocks along a conveyor system. All 4 of my kids loved that one, and took turns without being prompted, just because there were several things you could do there. They also had benches with books, a grocery store with a cashier station, and countless little areas to explore. I think I could take them back and they would have just as much fun.

Once they were done, we found a happy spot by the windows to eat our lunch. Crown Center has tons of restaurants (and they smelled awesome) but the seating is set up for people to be able to eat pretty much anywhere, regardless of whether your food came from home or a restaurant. We ate our sandwiches and the candy we bought at the Candy Store (about $9 a pound, each of my kids chose a handful of candy and we got out for about $5). I had hoped to go to Fritz's for dessert, but it was getting too close to naptime and Tristan was starting his let's-get-mom-arrested act, so we strolled across the street to the Sno Cone stand instead and (I know it's so much sugar, that's why it's the best.summer.ever.) they got to pour in their own syrup, which was the apocalypse.

Curious George exhibit: Free
Parking: 3 hours free w/ validation
Candy Shop: $5ish
Sno Cones: $6 (we split 2)
Total cost: less than $15. Win. 

Next week: "Free" bowling! Stay tuned.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I spent my first 20 years bouncing from Charismatic church to Christian school, to a Christian home, to a revival youth ministry to a revival road ministry. Somewhere along the way I got tired of hype. Don't misunderstand me, it's not all hype. But there was hype in me, some kind of tendency to pray louder and make more rules to try to gain God's favor, or more honestly, to get God to obey me. And this wild, beautiful BIG God is not very obedient. He is good, He is love, but He doesn't take orders.

So when my world collapsed and I was left fatherless, with a severely disabled child and 2 other children that I watched suffer and die, all the rules and my holy heritage held little comfort. I found myself clinging to the life raft that was the love of God, with all the other tenets of my faith floating by me like debris. Many of those "sure things" sank in that storm, and the ones that stayed afloat are all tethered to His great, great love.

Some of it was right to shed. I don't make a lot of judgment calls these days, I am more likely to give someone the benefit of the doubt. I am more compassionate and more relaxed. I have gray areas, some that are compromise and some that are healthy questions. I am more aware of suffering, more aware of the damage an ignorant "faith" can cause to the injured. I am less sure of what God will do, and more sure of who He is.

"Do you trust Him?" people will ask me, usually people who are adrift in those same seas of pain. I tell them I do, I trust Him to be good, in the deepest way that anyone could ever be good. I trust Him to be present. I trust Him to be enough to get through the grief. I do not trust Him to do what I expect Him to do, or to give me the outcome I really want. Maybe He will, I say. That's why I ask Him. But if He doesn't, then I know He knows how sad and angry that makes me, how I wish I could hit Him and scream at Him, take out my rage and my helplessness on Him. I also know He is not afraid of my anger or my pain, He is not angry because I am broken and afraid. He is the ultimate Father, absorbing my blows and my questions and standing solid and secure. When the storm is over and I am spent, He is the same, solid and secure, my safest place.

I've been resting for a long time, healing. I'm realizing now that the time is coming, or is here, or has been here for a long time, time for me to let my brokenness become more of a backdrop and less of a shell that protects me. I'm a cynic. I'm a cynic that laughs at things I truly believe in, like that God still speaks, that He still heals, that the Gospel matters. Somewhere I stopped laughing at "human videos" and started being embarrassed of Jesus. I don't know how, yet, to embrace an authentic and loving Christianity, free from hype, while still being vulnerable to the truths that are essential. 

I don't know, I don't know how. I'm just taking a step to say I don't want to be jaded anymore. I don't want to be critical of the "church". I don't want to be afraid of commitment. I don't want to actively resist being a leader because of my mistakes and my wounds. Somehow, I want to use all of it and come out being solid and secure and safe. I guess I'll start by talking to Somebody who knows.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My dear, dear, precious children:

There was a time when I begged God for you, with tears and the smallest faith that you would ever be real. Now I beg God that you would please, please, for the love of Him, go to sleep.

It's not that I don't love hanging out with you, I do! When the sun is up and I have lots of energy, almost half as much energy as you. I love to google answers to your questions and answer as many of them as I can before my brain short-circuits and I am forced to retreat, hands raised in surrender to your overwhelming curiosity. Sometimes, though, when the sun has been down for hours and hours, and you just keep pooping and stopping by my room for leisurely chats, I don't feel maybe as much like talking. In those moments, hours full of moments, I feel more like throwing Rage Grenades and making screeching emotional statements about what is your motivation because you are breaking me.

It might not be super clear to you, but by 10 or 11 pm, I am half the woman I was at 7 pm. I'm like some kind of morning glory that just wilts away in the moonlight. Like a morning glory that binge-watches Netflix and eats Oreos, and for some absurd reason, I do not wish to share my Oreos with you in the deep of the night. Go to sleep. Dear.

In retrospect, maybe we should have just built a ball pit instead of bedrooms with bunk beds, because the beds are the least likely place that you will sleep, in that weak moment when you quit hitting your sister long enough to fall asleep in a pile of toys in the corner. Listen, I respect your passion. You're all about justice, I get that. I'm just saying that maybe after a certain time, you might think about lying down and reading a book, maybe catch a little shuteye, instead of screaming into the hallway about who is threatening to hit whom and who muttered "tupid mom", because right now Mommy might not even intervene if you used the real bad words you learned from that Mario chat board. Mommy might just hand you a cigarette and walk away, right this minute, if it meant that maybe it would be quiet for more than 15 seconds.

In closing, you could not be more loved than you are. You are the absolute joy of my heart, the light of my life. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. Now help me out with a SECOND best thing and go to sleep. Please. Please. 


Monday, June 10, 2013

My quests for fitness and the closest thing to a Tex-mex restaurant continue. On the fitness front, had a difficult time working out last week because I was so busy eating birthday cake and doughnuts. I have literally no doubt that someone has worked eating doughnuts into a fitness routine, but since I am really hoping to live long enough to get the Senior Rooty at IHOP(ancakes), I will do no more than googling it, immediately after I finish this sentence. As I suspected, that is a thing.

Today I did water aerobics fitness, which was way more amusing than I expected. But that's for next week's vlog. I hope you people aren't expecting some kind of finite results, because I think the scale is in the basement and I don't have a measuring tape. I can tell you this much, my red jeans still have me in an Anaconda Squeeze, so I have not yet achieved good-enoughness, from a gut standpoint. I think I have good-enoughness as a general emotional or self-esteem whaddyacallit.

Without further ado, week 3:

Friday, June 7, 2013

(disclaimer: these are some of the very few pictures we have of our twins alive and I wanted to share them with you.)

Today our boys would be 9. We celebrate their brief lives and the great, great impact they have had on our lives. 


How many? they ask
and I hold you in my mind
like a dream, like a secret prize
In the shadows of my heart
you age
through a veil, through a glass
you are alive
my daydreams keep time
losing teeth, climbing trees, sweaty sleeping blonde heads
always with me
in the shadows of my heart
And I am so rich
with my arms overflowing
laughter all around me
laughter in me
but always 
the laughter beyond me

the week we found out there were two

Evan and Rees born June 7th, 2004, died June 9th, 2004.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I think there's probably some kind of chemical surge, maybe some chemtrail or something that pops up this time of year and makes adult women temporarily delusional. "I think I'll buy a new swimsuit this year!" they think, like that's a thing you can just do. 

Let's just put aside for the moment the fact that we live in a godless culture where we wear chonies out in public like some kind of reenactment of a party at Xerxes' place. Some day, maybe I will weigh all that and become some kind of swimwear abolitionist, but for now I'm just gonna strive for slightly above average American modesty standards.

When I was a kid, I just wore whatever, and then I was a teenager and I wore whatever was the absolute dorkiest possible option, because of both my dorkiness and the craftiness of my parents. I spent my weeks ensconced in yards and yards of pleated plaid and my weekends in Tweety Bird one pieces, waaaay past the acceptable Tweety Bird age of acceptability. Maybe because of these aggressive efforts, I managed to stay unmarried until the age of 17.

I'm gonna tell you something you might find depressing, 16-18 year olds. This is probably the best you're ever gonna look, godless-western-culturewise. You'll get smarter so you might have better hair and makeup someday, but your cellulite factor is at an all-time and unrepeatable low. Don't take it too hard, you're going to like yourself a lot better in 10 years, but you will want some fabric over your "problem areas" which are approximately from 6 inches above your kneecaps to about 3 inches below your chin. Just plan on covering all that up.

Somewhere out there, probably with the White Pants family, there are evidently women above their teens who have perfect swimsuit bodies. I only know about them because of Pinterest. (Sorry for any personal friends who thought I was referring to you) All of the stores that people like me go to have a million of suits for the White Pant crowd, and so we, the rest of us, go and try them on and then we cry a lot and eat nacho cheese from the can. I can't say I understand  the dynamic of "My body is disgusting, give me more food to eat for my body," but I participate.

Maybe I'll just become a burkini crusader, or start some feminist campaign against the oversexualization of our gender. Or maybe I'll buy a swimsuit with a long skirt and some big purple flowers and me and my mama can take mother/daughter pictures. See, lots of options.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I'm going to be unapologetically sentimental today. 4 months ago we did not expect our son to be alive today. We made tentative plans to celebrate his birthday in April, just so that he could have one last celebration before he left us. This morning he came in my room in his sister's flowered fedora, carrying the streamers we'll put up later, and his joy is contagious. It's his birthday, and that's all that's on the agenda today. 

He's been a miracle every day of his life, but today is infinitely sweet. You don't pass through the valley of the shadow of death unchanged. We're all moving a little slower and laughing more. His remaining health and behavioral issues are still frustrating and exhausting, but every interaction carries a new weight and meaning. We're so unimaginably thankful to God for this gift of time. 

Today, despite all the odds, Richy is 14. Let's party. 

(if you're new here, R2's birth story, and R2's illness and recovery

Monday, June 3, 2013

As I am/was scrolling through old posts to see which ones sound like they belong in a book that I will someday write, I came across this one and wanted to throw it out here again, because these posts are kind of like children to me, and this sentence is getting ridiculous so I'm gonna cut it short.

Without further ado, Admonitions to the Children of Clark:

If the room is made dirty, who then shall clean it? For you say, "It was not I who dirtied the room!" Yea, even with marker stains on your hands you say these things, even when the wall testifies against you. It is not to me to clean the room, for I am your mother, and indeed, you should obey my commandments, lest a curse fall upon you, the curse of being grounded from PBS kids.

to read the rest of this entry, click HERE. 
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