Thursday, August 27, 2009

Marriage

My husband showed me a great article last week. I am posting it here to remind myself of what I want my marriage to be like. We have been together for 15 years; married for 7. We have been through death, life and taxes. We have survived. But times will get tougher and I hope this article reminds me what is truly important in marriage.


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Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear

By LAURA A. MUNSON
Published: July 31, 2009

Originally published in The New York Times

LET’S say you have what you believe to be a healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in your 20s — gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros when you were single and skinny — have for the most part come true.

Two decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing.

Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”

But wait. This isn’t the divorce story you think it is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him. And what can happen as a result.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Going Green

Lainy Ann received one of those Fisher-price digital cameras for kids a few Christmases ago. It did not have the desired effect of keeping her from using my camera. In fact, after a few weeks it was quickly discarded under a bed, only to be found a few months later and deposited to the bottom of the toy drawer. The kids weren't fooled by this less than stellar camera or its bright pink and rounded dimensions. Nope, they wanted *my* camera.

But we made good use of it. Once afternoon daddy performed surgery on the camera. He gathered all the children at the table and dissected it. He explained the buttons, the battery, the lens, etc. I'm not sure, but I think the kids may have had more fun taking it apart than using it. Rest assured the camera is still floating around here somewhere. I think Lainy Ann is using it as a case to store her barrettes.






[caption id="attachment_416" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Dismantling the pink camera"]Dismantling the pink camera[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_417" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Examining the different parts"]Examining the different parts[/caption]

Thanks, Mom.

A few times a year my mother volunteers to watch the kids overnight. Its quite a to-do at her house. The kids get to sleep on the sofa-sleeper, eat popcorn in bed and stay up late watching movies. Then in the morning she makes them Mickey Mouse pancakes and they take a walk and get a smoothie. She brings them home around naptime and they often sleep for 2 or more hours. She really wears them out.

This is a three-fold treat for me. First of all I get a kid-free night and morning where I can sleep through the night AND sleep as late as I want in the morning. Honestly, this only happens about 3 times a year, so it is a welcome event.

Second, she brings the kids home EXHAUSTED. They have had so much fun and excitement that they take a long nap, so although technically they are in my home around noon, they sleep so long that Caskey and I can stretch our free-time into another movie or even a nap for ourselves.

But the sweetest aspect of my mother's generosity is intangible. My mother is exhausted. My mom will spend the next several days, up to a week even, talking about how worn out she is and how much work it is to parent 4 kids. She tells me stories that she thinks will astound and shock me, nope, that's just a day in the life of being a mom to 4 kids. She tells me the kids didn't go to sleep until 10 pm, but they got up at 5 am. Yup. I know. She tells me about trying to corral the children on a walk up the hill, across, the street and then trying to convince the 3 older kids to share a smoothie. uh huh, been there. Then she tells me how messy her house is and it will take her days to get things in order. Yes, mom. That's why my house looks the way it does. I have to clean while the kids are still here.

So, thanks mom for taking the kids for me. It was great sleeping in until 10:30, putting a glass of water down and not having someone else spill it or drink it. It was nice being able to shower without someone banging on the door. But the understanding of my everyday life is the best gift of all. Mom, next time I snap at you or the kids, remember those 20 hours you had with the kids. *That* is why I am a bit frazzled and why taking a long shower is so decadent.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Train Trip - SUCCESS

Over 2 years ago my best friend and I set off to go on a train trip to celebrate the twin's anniversary. It was a total bust. I still wanted desperately to take the children on a quick train trip. Today we made another go at it.

I looked at the dozens of stops all over Southern California, looking at minute maps and trying to figure out where would be the best stop that would allow us plenty of activities that were within walking distance. We ended up choosing Camarillo, CA. It would allow us about an hour on the train (going through several tunnels and right next to the airport).

I was able to easily purchase the tickets online at www.amtrak.com. Glendale has a metrolink ticket station that automatically prints out the tickets for you. I was pleased to see that because it saved me $15 in shipping fees.

We arrived early to print our tickets and ensure we didn't miss the train. Just as we were getting ready to get on the platform a freight train came roaring through the station. There is no more appropriate word than 'roaring'. I could feel the vibrations in my chest and felt like a child myself as I heard the whooo whoooing of the horn. It was amazing. But short lived as I realized Alexander was visibly shaking out of fear and William was trying to hide behind the stroller. It all backfired as our much quieter passenger train arrived. William only saw similarities between the two trains and I had to literally drag him kicking and screaming onto the train. 30 minutes into the train he would still cry if I wasn't physically touching him. *sigh* I always feel like such a horrible mother because I force him to do things he is obviously scared of, but at the end of the day he only remembers what a great time he had on our newest adventure.

We departed from Glendale, CA and traveled north on the Pacific Surfliner line. There were stops about every 15 minutes as we headed north which kept the children from getting too bored. Fortunately, my mom partner in crime, P, had the foresight to bring crayons. The kids stayed busy with snacks and coloring. They mostly switched seats and ooohed and aaahed out the window.

We arrived in Camarillo about 30 minutes later than planned. The train platform is in the middle of a quaint town. Its a really nice area. We walked the 4 blocks to Dizdar Park (be aware there are no bathroom facilities at this park, either use the train before departure or stop in at one of the many storefronts along the way). This park was very nice, with lots of shade and a nice play structure for the kids. Alexander crawled around in the sand, while the boys dug in the dirt in the hopes of digging so deep that the 60 foot tree would fall over.

For lunch we walked a few more blocks down Ventura Boulevard to Olas Mex Grill. It was very yummy and the perfect family environment for a group of 2 moms, 6 kids and 2 strollers. There were many restaurants along the way including Bandits Grill and a Mongolian BBQ. I also noticed quite a few restaurants across the 101 freeway as well, so there was lots to choose from.

We managed to get back to the train platform on time. The train was on time too - an extra bonus! The train stewards were the same ones who rode up with us and they were happy to listen to our stories of travel and how our day turned out. They were also very helpful and accommodating in getting the strollers on and off the train and even the children. One of the men even remarked that he was happy to see that William seemed to be enjoying the trip a lot more as we headed southbound.

I would highly recommend this as a day trip for the preschool-group who loves trains so much. We had a really great time and I would say it is far less taxing than a trip to Disneyland.

[caption id="attachment_397" align="alignnone" width="306" caption="In front of the train in Camarillo"]In front of the train in Camarillo[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_399" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="William is still a bit apprehensive"]William is still a bit apprehensive[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_400" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Enjoying the tunnels"]Enjoying the tunnels[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_403" align="alignnone" width="270" caption="William zonked out on the way back. Who can blame him, he walked about 20 blocks and played hard at the park."]William zonked out on the way back.  Who can blame him, he walked about 20 blocks and played hard at the park.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_404" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Alexander spent his time \'reading\' on the floor or walking (not cruising) back and forth between the seats."]Alexander spent his time 'reading' on the floor or walking (not cruising) back and forth between the seats.[/caption]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Speech

Today was our very last Speech Therapy session. As I teared up thinking about how much we have been through in the last 18 months I was reminded about some of the naivety of friends and family in connection to William's speech delay. I thought this might be a good opportunity to clear it up.

The most common comment I get from people is "my cousin's child (or some other distantly known child) didn't speak until she was 4 and she is fine". While I am very happy for this unknown child, therapists and doctors are learning more every day about speech delays. Did you know that 25% of all children have a speech delay with no known cause/reason? But early intervention is imperative, which is probably why there is an entire state run department called "Early Intervention". If caught early children can make a full recovery before school starts. If left undiagnosed it can affect other areas including social development and academic success.

I have also heard, "Einstein didn't speak until he was 5 and he just started in sentences". This is completely unconfirmed. Just for kicks let's assume that its true. Then that's really fabulous for Einstein. But Einstein was a genius. While I like to believe my children are brilliant I do not believe they are genuises. Even so, why would I sit by knowing he isn't developing on target and just hope and wish he will catch up. There are services available for all children who need help. It hurts nothing to have a simple evaluation done.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Palm Springs

I know most people think we make rash decisions and are crazy. But who cares! I have fun and so do the kids. Well, a few weeks ago we decided to take an impromptu day trip to Palm Springs to try out our new 'Big Van'. Since it was 110* in the heat of July we took the Aerial Tram to the top of the mountain where it was a cool 75*. The kids hiked and explored, then we had dinner and headed home.

[caption id="attachment_377" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="The interior of the Big Van"]The interior of the Big Van[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_384" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Posing in front of the old tram cars"]Posing in front of the old tram cars[/caption]

Sports

If you know my family at all you know we don't 'do' sports. We don't have a team we root for. We don't buy the NFL package in the fall. Honestly, half the time I can't even remember what season it is. I follow local sports just so I know if there will be some sort of parade that will affect traffic and our commute.

I have enrolled the kids in sports-type activities mostly to keep them active. Lainy Ann has taken swim, gymnastics and ballet. Connor has taken a sports class that teaches skills for lots of different sports in a non-competitive way. But now that William is part of our family and has an opinion on things, well, its been a big change.

William loves sports. I don't know where he got this love from since he wasn't really exposed to organized sports. Instead of sleeping with a stuffed animal he sleeps with a soccer ball or racquet. At the store he begs for a new ball. When the boys need a new shirt he begs for a 'soccer-shirt' which is defined as any shirt with numbers on it. He will spend 30 minutes in the kitchen kicking his foam soccer ball into a goal. With each goal he makes he yells, "score!" He has a cheap plastic tennis racquet that he will use to hit a ball over and over and over again. He has some good skills for a child so young.

So I set off to find a class for a 2 year old. I finally found one for 3-4 year olds and asked them to let William in the class even though he wasn't quite 3 yet. I was afraid he would be left behind since he was the youngest child there. But he sat with rapt attention and was on task each time. He is, admittedly, the slowest child in the group, which makes sense because his legs are the shortest, but he can really hold his own.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sleep-Monster

To some degree all my children have hated to sleep. I blame my husband and his "sleep-disease" as he likes to call it. I figure it just an excuse to stay up late and sleep in every morning. But nonetheless, Alexander is the newest child to fight the sleep-monster. It actually looks like he is wrestling with an imaginary monster. For the last 6 weeks he has refused to nap. He hasn't given up his naps, he desperately needs those, he has refused to sleep. I have tried all the tricks; CIO, nursing, keeping it quiet, dark, giving him a pacifier, toys, etc.

The only thing that works is driving him around. But even then he yells and fights sleep to the very end. Its actually quiet comical as he yells and screams and suddenly its quiet. He will crash mid-scream. Of course once he is asleep in his car seat he won't transfer to his crib. So I am relegated to sitting in the car reading a book while he gets his nap. Its a good thing I like to listen to talk radio.

At night it is slightly better, he will often nurse to sleep and then transfer to the crib. But about 3 nights a week he will refuse to sleep at night too. Since the other children are already sleeping in bed my stand-by trick of driving him around in the car isn't an option. I do a combination of letting him cry in the crib and wear himself out and letting him play in the living room. He crawls and crawls and plays, then stops to rest his head for about 10 seconds and then he gets up and crawls some more. Eventually he tires out and falls asleep in random places on the floor. Most recently he has fallen asleep on my feet, at the top of the stairs, and once on the bed while his head hung off the side, he was safe though, I had a hold of his ankle.

[caption id="attachment_364" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Notice the remote, he was playing with it shortly before he crashed. He is also sleeping next to the gate so I can\'t go anywhere."]Notice the remote, he was playing with it shortly before he crashed.  He is also sleeping next to the gate so I can't go anywhere.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_365" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="Another victim of the sleep-monster"]Another victim of the sleep-monster[/caption]