The other night Baddy looked at me strangely. “What?” I asked as I ran around the house barefoot with three boys asking me questions and following me around like baby ducks.
I was getting us ready for our trip to Telluride where the boys will be competing in their last freestyle event for the season. “Are we going to be with our friends?” Thumper asked concerned that I had procured a writing gig and we were staying at a “Luxury Mountain Resort” instead of a packed condo with all of his friends. “Did you know that an Alaskan Inupiaq Native won the Iditarod?” Feisty-One asked, referring to a project he is working on in school. And then I heard the little, “Mommy, but mommy….,” coming from Hootie-Hoo who really had nothing to say but felt the need to be part of the commotion.
I was thankful that I had that inner peace that Stefan had instilled in me, for otherwise I might possibly be a loose cannon ready to blow. Instead, I was like Julie frickin’ Andrews in The Sound of Music, ready to break out into song. I was thankful for my quirky family and appreciative of the awesome fact that with a 6, 9 and 11 year old, the time was now to enjoy them and not let them drive me mad, for soon that madness would be gone and I will most likely go mad from the lack of it.
One conversation enabled me to let go of things that were troubling me, holding me down in a vice grip, drowning me. Sometimes, if you can, it’s good to walk away from things that are too much of a struggle and return to them later and let things happen on their own accord.
As spring break rounds closer, I have decided that since I will be home all break without any plans, as the rest of my friends jet off to some place warm and far away, I will write for the sake of writing and let the business end lay low.? I’m sure I will have plenty of material and frankly, I have been getting feedback from people close to me, like my Aunt Tutti, that they miss my writing about the? daily nuances.
In fact, I’ll start now by telling you how my office smells like dog and tweenager since we told Thumper that he can no longer have his computer in his room. As a result, he and Muki are slowly taking over my space with dog bones and tween paraphernalia. The two of us on our computers, he skyping all his girlfriends and editing his own freestyle movies and I blogging about it all. It’s all so humorous, if I take the time to think about it, Thumper deciding that the only way he can get out of bed in the morning is if I drag him out and Hootie-Hoo telling me that he doesn’t buckle his seat belt because, “I’m like that,” and little soft spoken Feisty-One blowing us out of the water by making it into the USASA 2011 National Championships and telling us at dinnertime that he has his? first girlfriend.
And now, off we go on another journey, this one not so metaphysical. We can only hope that Baddy and I won’t embarrass our children by letting loose too much and doing Karoke to ACDC. I think I’ll have to leave my cameras in the room, except for the tiny one for it’s no secret, I’m always packing.
[su_heading size=”18″]Facing Aversions and Phobias[/su_heading]
There are no scientific names for the aversion that many of us have to the scraping of metal against metal, fingernails scraping down a chalkboard or biting on a towel. I can barely write about this without clenching my teeth.
There are many theories as to why these noises affect us and the one that I latched on to was from wisegeek.com, “Some believe the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard is similar to an animal’s high-pitched screech indicating danger to the rest of its group. Macaque monkeys, for example, have been known to emit a warning noise of relatively the same pitch and duration of the dreaded fingernails on a chalkboard sound. It has been suggested that humans react to the sound instinctively, creating a “fight or flight” response.”
This all brings me to the other night when I was doing my best to come up for air from my incredibly busy schedule. Between cleaning for house showings, raising a family, social media consulting and blogging, I find I have no time to get organized.
I was sitting at my desk trying to come up for air when I heard a Macaque like scream and my hair stood on end, more than the norm. Tucker has a very loose tooth. It is sticking straight out of his mouth but because of the new tooth growing behind it, it seems to be locked in and Wade has been hovering menacingly over him waiting for that opportunity to yank it out. When I heard the scream, I dropped everything I was doing and ran upstairs to my child’s rescue.
I found Tucker locked in Wade’s embrace with Wade trying to get at Tucker’s tooth with a set of pliers but Tucker would have none of it and had his upper lip tightly wrapped over his teeth. Ok, I’ll admit that the pliers were my idea. Stubborn loose teeth, like stitches and haircuts, have now become an expense I don’t care to spend my latest paycheck on.
Standing there as an observer, I put myself in Tucker’s shoes. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were coddling him and protecting him from anything that could possibly cause him any pain? What had we become? An image from my childhood passed before my eyes with my sister Melanie hitting the shot away from her mouth causing the dentist to inject his own hand with the Novacaine. Kids don’t do pain. If Wade were my dad, there would be no way in hell I would ever let him anywhere near my loose tooth, plyers or not.
Brevitt and Axel came in the room to coach Tucker. Brevitt, who recently had a root canal done from the incredible Dr. Roger Brown, was applying a similar coaching technique on Tucker, only an eleven year old version. “Tucker, you know when you ride your bike and you fall off it into gravel, and the gravel gets inside your wound and then daddy has to scrub the gravel out? Well this won’t hurt any worse than that.” As Brevitt was speaking Tucker did his usual cocking of his head to one side to listen and once the information soaked in, he resumed to screaming. Somebody give me a brown bag to blow in!
This went on for about an hour until Wade got fed up and walked away. That was when Tucker decided that having Wade pull out his tooth was a better choice than going to the dentist and getting shots and so he began to chant that he wanted the tooth to come out. Brevitt and I took over. Now I can tell you that the idea of pulling out a wiggly tooth is about as abrasive an idea as the sound of metal against metal, but I wanted this to be over with. Wade revisited a short while after and found Brevitt and I ready to pass out with our foreheads pressed against each other, clearly not up for the task.
The next morning, I woke up to clean the bathrooms for the showing. It was then that I received the invitation to join Michael Conniff on the Jerry Bovino show. I thought about my latest interview where I froze as my new friend, Lynn Aliya, interviewed me on her show, The Buzz on 82. I had no personality and was like a deer in headlights. You see, another aversion I have is being live in the spotlight. It occurred to me that perhaps if my hair was in order, I might feel more comfortable and so I put down my toilet brush and Lysol to dial 911 to Jerome Marks, Owner of the Hair Salon, Altitude. Jerome gives the best blow out in the West and I raced up to him to rescue me from my silky snarls, as Wade calls them.
Another day in the life over here at Aspen Real Life. And now I’m off to see Jerry and Michael. Wish me luck and pray for me that I don’t get my dreaded stage fright and pass out under the lights.
[su_heading size=”18″]Living in the Moment[/su_heading]
JIIIILLLLIIAAAN, I heard as I maniacally tried to clean the house for a showing. I slowly made my way down the stairs dreading what I was about to find, my adorable mother standing helplessly in a deep puddle of vegetable oil that had slipped out of her hand while trying to make grilled cheese sandwiches for the children.
I, completely depleted from my night out, was not amused and got down on my knees to help her attack the oil spill. The floors will be beautiful when were finished, she sang out in her still very strong British accent, her glasses, sweater and hair dripping oil. We crawled in circles giggling, our bottoms knocking?against each other as we soaked up the oil with endless rolls of paper towels. It’s truly difficult to stay angry at the tree of which you, the apple, fell from.
The night before my oldest sister, Melanie, and I went to see the film, “The Kings Speech”. A spectacular film presented by the Aspen Film Academy Screenings. Melanie, one of my favorite partner’s in crime, was feeling quite ill but we had a full evening ahead of us and she was determined to not let a headache take her down. I insisted that I take her home so that she could be well rested for her long journey back to Boston the next day with her children, she finally relented.
On our way home I stopped at the market to get her coconut milk with electrolytes but she gagged at the thought of the milk that her granola sister had purchased for her. Its not fair, she moaned kicking back the pills for migraines. We had so been looking forward to our night out together where we could jump up and down on the dance floor at Belly Up and act like we were twenty, as we always do when we are together. I was also hoping to introduce her to some of my eligible male Aspen friends.
The second we got into the house she was herself again, the pills bandaging her pain. Her green cat eyes flashed as she announced that she was now fine enough to go out. Oh no you’re not, I said my finger pointing to her bed. She slumped off like a scolded child and Baddy and I drove back up to town.
On our way up we talked about my decision to not write about how The Aspen Times was pouring salt onto my wound, once again, with the new developments in the Madoff fiasco. I refuse to fuel the tabloids with my anger and disappointment, I told him and he agreed, happy that as much as I write about our family life, I never reveal anything too private.
We had our dinner and went to the concert and as I stood there listening to G Love rock it out with Aspen’s local celebrity, John Oates, the tears began to flow. Even in my heightened emotional tequila induced state I recognized that my pain was not localized to my inability to enjoy being with my sister full tilt before she left me or to my fears of things to come but also, more importantly and more resounding, I felt a deep pain for the other people out there who are unable to escape their fears and who are not well enough to seek help.
Just recently I went to the home of a friend of mine who was having a holiday gathering for her two sons and all of their friends. Moving together like one giant amoeba the boys traipsed in and out of the house playing on the Wii and then suddenly jumping and rolling over the furniture in a massive sword fight as we talked about the holidays and life.
Sipping heavily on our Margaritas, the fresh lime juice, tequila and sugar poured down our throats, coating our brains and alleviating our holiday angst. Is Baddy holding up this holiday season? I was asked, a football whizzing by already frazzled hair. I would tell you, if I knew, I responded. This is that time of year where some dont make it, she said matter-of-factly. I inhaled the last of my drink wishing that I could somehow help others through my writing.
My friend reminded me of the fictional story I wrote last October that touched upon the darkness lurking within all of us. The best we can do is to try and live in the moment and appreciate everybody in our lives, I said.
I believe that to be one of my most beautiful assets, the ability to live in the moment, never obsessing over the weight of the future. But often people put me in my place by shattering my nave point of view, pointing out that it is easy to live in the moment when one grows up not needing to think about the future.
With our little ones clinging to our legs and our wallets depleted from holiday shopping, we clinked our glasses, Cheers to the holidays, we sang in unison and slowly made our way out the door and I smiled thinking about my sister and mother who just called five minutes ago wondering why I wasn’t at home getting dinner ready for everybody. “Duty Calls,” I said skipping out into the wet street, the juniper trees a deep velvety green against the darkened sky.
In this new year my #1 resolution is to heed the words in Kahlil Gibran’s quote that I included on my holiday card, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” I will try to give more of myself in this next year, through my writing and through my actions and for today, tonight and the next night, I will live it up in 2010 and I wish for you a healthy, happy New Years Eve!
[su_heading size=”18″]Surviving the Holidays[/su_heading]
This holiday season, with two sisters, our mother, the husbands, eight children, our cousin Peter visiting from Los Angeles and two dogs, the energy should be bottled.
Every year I forget what it’s like to have the kids home from school where the weather makes getting outside with teams of kids far more challenging and my nerves get shot because time is not my own. It’s an adjustment that I am not licensed to handle but this year my sister Melanie is staying with me and our love fest is brewing with nose and foreheads touching at any given moment and silliness abounding, claws retracted.
“Sisters are a beautiful thing, until it turns ugly,” somebody said to me the other day when I told him I would be with my two sisters and all of our children over the holidays. He was right about that but in the past few years, my sisters and I have been working hard on listening to one another without allowing our sensitivities to overrule our practicality and it works, most of the time.
I’m not saying it’s perfect. At any given moment a comment hits a nerve and emotions run the gamut but there is always somebody that tosses the humor in, tempering the foaming boil.
As we walk through the bustling town of Aspen together we feel impenetrable, as if there is an electrical current pulsing all around us. Everything outside the current passes by like a dream.
When I ask the children what their favorite part of the holidays has been they all agree that it’s being all together every day and every night. It’s the same for me. Companionship with the people I love the most, day in, day out. And when the nerves get challenged, I pop a bottle for there is always someone who agrees that the time is now, regardless of what the clock reports.
With Melanie staying with me she helps me to laugh at the insanity of it all. We bustle around the house together, she making the beds and folding the laundry as I cook and make futile attempts at writing, the interruptions too unbearable. When Wade gets home from work she opens my office door and they both chuckle at my roar.
The laughing is deep and real and well needed as tempers explode when a game goes wrong and Tucker, with a vivid imagination, has another melt down screaming out, “I’m going to take you and put you on a big platter and feed you to a monster and he’s going to eat you and you’ll be all alone in his stomach with no family.”
[su_heading size=”18″]A Family Trip to Beaver Creek[/su_heading]
When I was a teenager I was introduced to Beaver Creek by my parents. My father, who was his happiest when shushing and yodeling down ski slopes, loved to ski the wide groomed runs of Beaver Creek, known as North Americas World Cup Mountain.
With a slogan that says, “Beaver Creek, Not Exactly Roughing It,” I felt compelled to follow suit with my father and take my children there. The trip was originally planned for the winter but was canceled due to the boulder that fell in Glenwood Canyon and so we went a few weekends ago instead, on Baddy and my 12th anniversary.
We walked into our spacious three-bedroom condo at The Charter and Thumper, with my memories embedded in his chromosomes, said that it felt like Vermont. He was right too, the condo made you want to hunker down in front of the wood burning fireplace and play card games while drinking hot chocolate. The boys scurried around exploring like little chipmunks. They were elated that they had an upstairs where they could escape from parental supervision, until bedtime came around where Axel snuck quietly into my bed as I lay there reading in my silk negligee, hopeful for an overdue romantic rendezvous with Baddy. “Oh well, such is life,” I thought as I put on my sweats and t-shirt and spooned up to my sweet little boy. Baddy fell asleep with the boys upstairs.
In the morning I was drinking my coffee and gazing out of the window at the leaves of the Aspen Trees shimmering gold, remembering a similar day twelve years ago when I pledged my vows to Baddy, when my little Hootie-Hoo sleepily came down the stairs just like a little Who character out of a Dr. Seuss book. Instead of a teddy bear dangling from his hand, he was holding a coloring book and crayons that he had excitedly pulled out of our welcome bag the night before. He snuggled into my lap and said, “When I woke up I looked all around myself and said ‘what the,'” an expression learned from his older brothers.
When the rest of the crew awoke we descended to The Terrace Restaurant at the hotel for a breakfast buffet. Baddy and I served up a heaping plate of eggs benedict on an English muffin and fresh fruit while the boys poured pre-made batter into the available waffle iron. I tasted their maple syrup to make sure that it wasn’t a horrible imitation, and was transported back to a snow cave in Vermont eating homemade Vermont Maple Syrup snow popsicles with my sisters.
We gathered the boys together and took the chairlift up the mountain to have lunch at the Spruce Saddle Lodge and to play in the fabricated ghost town nestled in the trees.
After lunch we want on a jeep tour with High Mountain Adventure. As we slowly climbed up the jeep road into the high alpine I thought that my particular family would have better enjoyed a tour on mountain bikes, racing on single track through the golden leaves but the children enjoyed the historical stories told by our guide Derek and Baddy got a chance to scope out the Stone Creek Chutes, “Try to get a writing gig in the winter,” he whispered to me as he stared at the plethora of signs warning away novice skiers.
That evening we walked up to the village of Beaver Creek and had a celebratory anniversary dinner at the Italian restaurant, Toscanini. The food was tasty and the casual atmosphere perfect for the children and best of all, it was perfectly situated in front of the ice skating rink. Baddy and I actually dined in peace, enjoying Chef Michael Izbicki’s authentic Italian food while watching the children skate outside. We joined the kids later after a few congratulatory drinks and skated under the open sky. Filled with wine induced bliss, I held hands with the boys and skated around the rink as their father became a champion ice hockey player, in his own mind. Thankfully he didn’t break any bones but he came close. I felt lucky to be ice skating in the Fall and began to mentally plan a voyage to discover all of the other ice skating rinks around the world.
That night as we went to bed exhilarated from a perfect family day I thought about what a wonderful anniversary gift my friends at Beaver Creek had given to me and my family and I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you so that you can make your plans to visit as well some day.
(me in Vail as a teenager, modeling for a student photo shoot)
Falling in Love on Halloween in Aspen
[su_heading size=”18″]The party scene in Aspen makes it difficult to find the man of your dreams, but I did, on Halloween [/su_heading]
One of my closest friends, Patty, had just returned from a trip to Moab all animated, convinced that she had found that guy for me, the guy who was going to save me from all the other guys I had been enduring lately.
He’s funny, he’s gorgeous and he’s very cool, and…mellow, she exclaimed. A man huh? For me? I hadn’t ever had anybody say they had found a man for me before. I had done well with finding the bad boys all by myself in whatever neighborhood I happened to live in, and I was a bit done with that scene. At the time, I was dating a guy who looked very good on paper with an undergrad degree from Harvard and a post grad degree from Columbia University (all boys had to do was say they were Columbia and I was taking my clothes off). He lived in Pacific Heights in San Francisco and had invited me to go to Greece, Turkey and Italy with him, first class.
It all sounded good in theory but I was currently taken and quite done with the drama and the emotion of getting my hopes up high with men who ended up dumping me for the next hot and willing trumpet, and so I stored the idea of it away, leaving it to fate. If we met and things took off, great, if not I was contemplating hightailing it out of this town and moving to San Francisco in the summer.
It was common knowledge amongst the youth in town that Aspen was a place where collegiate grads came to party hard and forget about the stresses of life for a while. It was a place where packs of friends would traipse to Eric’s bar in the hopes of hooking up. Why not? We were free. Free from the pressures of school, free from any parents or authoritarian figure, and free to feel alive. This was NOT the place to meet your eternal significant other. And I was getting older, it was time to take this marriage/baby thing seriously.
As things would turn out, my Pacific Heights guy and I called it quits in Turkey, before we ever made our way over to Italy and it was months later that Patty invited me to a Halloween party that this stud of a guy, Wade, would be at. I tried to force down the rush of excitement that raged through my body, for if I got too excited I would most likely botch up a perfectly good opportunity to impress a new man by being too effervescent and scaring him away, my enthusiasm often overwhelmed the shy ones.
Every Halloween my friend Stephanie and I have shared the tradition of spending a greater part of the evening playing dress up, drinking lots of wine and shooting polaroids. This Halloween was no different. A bottle of wine later we walked out wearing wigs and old Euro clothes from my parents – we were to be Yalenka and Nostrovia from Russia and made a pact to stick with our new personalities and accents throughout the evening, and drink Vodka.
We arrived at the party and there was Patty standing in the kitchen next to a guy who fit the bill to her description. Tall, cute and carrying a very large cardboard ox, and an axe, he was Paul Bunyon. Creative came to mind. I could feel his calm demeanor from miles away and I was in no means calm and so I grabbed Stephanie and raced past the kitchen lest I sabotage any remote chance I may have to impress.
Walking up the stairs towards the bathroom to primp up before we hit the streets to join in on the hedonism of Aspen on Halloween promising anonymity, drugs and sex, I felt a presence behind me. I took a quick glance behind me, and there he was hot on my trail. “Nice Ox,” I wittingly blurted out. He smiled a very shy smile and I launched off to some other world. We reached the top of the stairs and I leaned against the wall waiting for the bathroom. Facing him in the narrow hallway I took in what I could without embarrassing myself, his beautiful square shoulders set into a six foot 2 frame, his smile, his smell. “I’m Jillian,” I said looking up at him with his fake beard painted on his face. “I know,” he replied. I could barely stand the energy that emitted between us and ducked under his arm to slip into the bathroom as soon as the door opened. He was gone when I came out.
When it was time to hit the town the party gathered together and emerged en masse into the cool chilly night to walk to town and join in on the festivities, Wade and I shyly avoiding one another. Later, we all gathered together on a street corner to discuss where we were going to go dancing. I sidled close to Wade, “are you coming dancing with us?” I asked demurely, the autumn breeze cooling the fire in my cheeks. “I think Ill pass on the dancing,” he replied, but I urged him on in to the Paragon, a bar where one might regularly find themselves dancing late into the night, in ski boots, animated porn playing on the screen in the background. We walked to the bar together and cozied in when a friend (we miss you Steve Menscher) dressed in his motorcycle leathers, interrupted our intimacy and dragged me to the dance floor. Wade took that as a sign to leave. Desperately, I looked over the leather arm draped around my shoulder to say goodbye, and I watched him fade to black as he walked out into the night sky, swinging his axe.
[su_heading]Ready for School to Start[/su_heading]
School has begun, for most of us. Should we all should take one deep collaborative breathe and say PHEWWWW?
Actually, I still have Tuck Tuck at home with me until Tuesday when he starts kindergarten. It’s difficult to believe that ten years of being a SAHM and I will no longer have a little companion at home with me but I am not afraid to tell you that I am ready. Yes I feel guilty that I am ready and yes I will miss his smiling face as he follows me around the house asking heavenly questions but I am ready, so ready, to take all that I have worked so hard on in these past few years and turn them into something lucrative, without any interruption. Somebody do something, hold me down or something or, better yet, just shoot me out of that cannon to give me that jump start for it’s all in place; the children’s book/s, the Aspen’s Local Color interviews (which I’m so pumped up about I can hardly breathe), the family travel writing and the memoir, all I need to do is launch it all.
I do love my little weeds though who with every passing moment are becoming easier and more fun to be around. Tucker is asking me such mature questions and is blossoming into quite the charismatic and beautiful little boy but he still is my baby especially when he wakes up in the morning and comes into my office with remnants of babydom still clinging to his sweet baby cheeks. He crawls into my lap wearing his favorite rocket ship pajamas, that are rapidly shrinking on his big boy frame, and I smother him in kisses. He may be growing but he is still little and highly sensitive to his surroundings and if anybody says something to upset or confuse him, his dreamy round owl eyes innocently stare off into space and fill with tears as he tries to process it all. That’s when I start back peddling, fast and I bring all of my creative endeavors to a halt to focus on what is most important to me, and what spurs on all of this creativity in the first place, my boys.
Thumper who got a buzz cut the day before school, by his father, is now almost as tall as my petite Michele standing at a proud 5’1”, and he is a strapping young lad. “Brevitt, I never knew you had such a beautiful head,” I say to him as his beautiful thick locks float to the floor. “And, look at those eyes!” I go on. “Yeah, girlie eyes,” he shyly says back as I stare at his long curly eyelashes that shoot to the moon and his little dimple on his cheek. Breathtaking, truly breathtaking (he trimmed his lashes when he got older by the way and I almost threw up, they never grew back fully).
“Thumper, pinkie swear that you will always stay close to me and never shut me out,” I say to him as we sing to Eminem, the edited version, in the car together. He now sits next to me up front with Muki on his lap. He smiles and nods his head at me, just like his father, and assures me that I have nothing to worry about because he loves me, a lot, and will always stay close to me and we pinky swear on it, when nobody is looking.
And then there’s our little Axel baby who said to me the other day, “Mommy, I’ve been waiting all these years to become eight so that I could join all of the teams and next thing I know I forget to tell you to sign me up for football.” And so I run down to the head coach to beg him to sign my Axel up for football, secretly questioning why it is that I’m begging for football for my precious son. But when Axel scampers off of the field, in his little sand piper way, with the most beautiful smile on his face because he got to hit and be hit I once again see what it is all about…kinda.
I’m off this weekend to get disconnected and go camping but I wanted to ramble a little to let you know that I have not gotten entirely swept away. I’m still here and still wanting to share my stories with you and to thank you for supporting my passion of writing. It really helps me to forge ahead in everything else.
Love ya, see ya…mean it!
Photos by Ghinson
The boys love to go to Cisco Beach on Nantucket Island to surf and see the beautiful people
“Wake up,” I said to the boys on the day of the Nantucket Ozone Classic, a surf competition that was founded in honor of the late David “Ozone” Ozias who died in June of 2001 at the young age of thirty. David seems to have been one of those humble guys who was loved by many and who may have shied away from having a surf competition named after him.
I was in a hurry to get to the beach and be part of the true Nantucket scene with oiled up teens intently watching the surf and cheering in the 120 surfing competitors.
Divisions were divided up based on age, sex and board style and surfers were given a 15 minute block of time to surf and were judged by a panel of local experts.
The swell was the best they had seen in three years, albeit somewhat small, but they were tricky and the surfers had to be selective on what waves to choose to earn high scores.
Below are my photos…oh how I wish I had a longer lens.
The Lifeguards in action running to save somebody from the riptide
I have one of those personalities where I cannot leave the house, regardless of the duration that I am gone, without tying up all the loose ends. What if something happened during my travels and my files weren’t organized, how embarrassing would that be?
I am predictably restless throughout the night before traveling with dreams of clothes and electronics floating through my mind, things I might forget and things that I fear I cannot live without, like the USB cable to my camera and my fuschia Hankie Pankies.
We arrived at Sardy Field early morning and were greeted by Mike Brokeking and Paul Taddune, local heroes who have worked curbside check-in for as long as I can remember. Always charming, cheerful and helpful they greeted me in my panic-stricken state, helping me as I spilled out of the car with luggage and tired children.
At the security check-in we unloaded pockets of change, cell phones and metal toys. Just after the boys had taken off all of their heelies we heard, “Maam. You cannot take those lacrosse sticks on the plane. Please go back to check in.” “Really Mommy?” the kids whined. As we slumped away from the line I heard a baby screaming and the hair rose on my neck. Brevitt leaned against me, slipping his soft hand into mine and whispered, “Mommy, we’re lucky that’s not Tucker.” I smiled at him for reading my mind, “You’re doing it again, invasion of privacy. Get out of my head,” I said shoving him lovingly with my elbow.
“Miiiikkke,” I yelled bursting back out the doors. “What do I do with these sticks?” Whisking the sticks away from me, the problem disappeared. “You are a wonderful asset to this airport,” I said. “I want to interview you,” and he humbly answered something to the tune of, “Oh, I think we’ll let somebody else take the stage on that one.”
In Denver we went to our Chicago gate and ran into good friends who had rented out their house in Aspen for the summer to pay their mortgage. They were heading off to Europe on miles. As they got in line to board the plane my boys began to rumble. Tucker was angry that his brothers were not letting him use the computer. I glanced up from my book in time to see Axel with Tucker in a headlock. Fists started flying. If it weren’t for all of the disgruntled attention we were receiving from our growing audience I would have continued to read and let the boys settle their own dispute. Things took a turn for the worse when I saw computer keys fly off of my laptop. I added to the noise by rumbling into a turbulent storm with no mercy. Suddenly, with Tucker in mid scream, an announcement was made over the loud speaker, “Tucker Livingston, please report to the front desk.” Always the jokers, our friends thought it would be funny to mess with us one last time before they boarded their plane. Very funny, very funny! Have fun leaving me in my not so quiet world of insanity while you board the plane for Italy.
When we got on the plane the Steward came up to little Tucker and hissed at him, demanding to know who let him sit in that exit row seat. “This is where they assigned us,” I said from the row ahead. Placing his hands on his hips he pouted and quite pointedly stated, “Well, children are not allowed to sit in thissss row.” I hadn’t quite simmered down from my last blowup and felt my blood begin to boil again. “Could I please speak with your supervisor?” I asked and he huffed away swinging his hips. About an hour into the flight the Supervisor came, but at that point I was ready to be left alone. “I just wanted to remind you that you are in a ‘service’ industry,” I said and she bent down in all of her perfume and hair sprayed glory and said, “Thank you for making me aware of that.” I wanted to scream but I went inward and closed my eyes willing her to go away and forcing myself to not stick my fingers in my ears to shut her out.
In Chicago we were delayed for two hours and so we lingered at the Oakley store and tried on sunglasses. I so badly wanted to purchase the Hindu Aviator glasses for $160. I mean really, I looked like a badass mother to be sure but I didn’t have the money and even if I did, I couldn’t justify buying a pair of city, unpolarized glasses just to look good, or could I? “Run away,” I told myself. “Run away.”
On our last flight from Chicago to Boston they separated me from the children yet again, placing me next to a Geriatric women who could not get up out of her seat. I was too exhausted to maneuver everybody and so I went to the back of the plane and told them that this was their problem and that they were the ones who needed to settle it, my charm was gone. They waited for everybody to be seated before addressing the situation and then begrudgingly went out to face the task. Have I told you how much I hate airplanes? Even if you got a steal of a price on your tickets, is all this worth it?
Finally we reached Boston and had to stay in a hotel overnight before we continued on our incredibly long journey to Nantucket. Just one more cab ride and a ferry and we would reach our destination the next day, a place well worth the journey.
Photo of Simon Park by Bob Neroni
Courtesy of Liquid Yoga
Yesterday I drove up to Aspen to take a yoga class at one of my favorite studios in town, King Yoga. Since quitting Bikram’s I haven’t been able to keep up my yoga routine and I miss it, the stretching, the meditation and the peace, that we all need so badly.
The classroom was overcrowded and I felt myself retreating. Ever since living in New York City I don’t do very well with crowds and I worried that this was exactly what I was not needing.
Looking over at the man next to me I asked if the studio was always that crowded on Saturday mornings. What a peaceful face he had! He looked at me with his soft, warm, brown eyes and beautiful silky silver hair that was gathered up in a ponytail, loose strands falling around his face, “It’s just grisel for the mist.”
The door opened and in the silhouette of the bright rays of the sun, in walked Simon Park, a guest teacher. I was mesmerized. He was a beautiful, peaceful man, radiating light. In the beginning of class he lead us through eight Oms that filled my body with and energy that brought on tears. Whether it was residue from my cleansing, Simon’s energy or the sadness that I had been experiencing from many of my friends and their struggles or whether it was my own sadness or complete happiness, I couldn’t place it but it was real and flowing.
After an hour and a half of thumping around my mat while watching a true yogi flow effortlessly into beautiful postures we lay down and relaxed into Shavasana. Simon quietly brought us out of our meditation and while he said his words of peace and thanks I began to silently cry again and had to bow my head for he was sitting directly in front of me and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I felt annoying like Julia Roberts playing Liz Gilbert in the movie Eat, Love, Pray, “For God’s sake, get control of yourself,” I said…to myself.
After class I waited for everybody to leave so that I could meet Simon. “I know that this sounds crazy but I have my video camera in the car and I would love to interview you and tap into your incredible energy,” I said and surprisingly he agreed to five minutes of my time before he went off to play in the mountains with a friend.
Simon didn’t say much but what he did say was so simply profound. If we could all live with a little more light, yoga, mediation, caring and love for each other the world would be a much better place to live in, “It’s easy!”
Enjoy the video.
[su_heading]Where to Draw the Line with Kids[/su_heading]
The other morning Hootie-Hoo came downstairs with a handle bar mustache and a goatee drawn in magic marker on his face. “I don’t know how I do that in my sleep Mama,” he innocently stated and I looked over at Brevitt who was giving me his huge mischievous smile. Somehow he had convinced his little brother that he had actually drawn on his own face in his sleep. It was to be our little secret.
Thumper is pushing his boundaries and I am doing all that I can to hang in there and teach him how to listen to authority and to not get himself into trouble. I find that nighttime is our best time to communicate. “Anybody want to take a walk with me and Muki?” I yelled out before stepping off into the dark for a beautiful summer evening walk around the neighborhood. Silence ensued and so I left without my little male companions. Ten minutes later I heard, “Mommmmmmyyy,” and I called out my signature bird cry so that Thumper could run toward my voice. He ran up beside me and quickly grabbed my hand, both afraid of and exhilarated by the evening sky and the shadows lurking in the dark.
Soon after we heard screaming and crying, another one of my children disturbing the hood. “Poor neighbors,” Thumpers squealed with delight. It was Axel who had finished the project that he had been completely engrossed in and had gone into a panic after discovering that he had been left all alone in the house, only he wasn’t alone. Baddy was reading upstairs to Hootie-Hoo before bed and either was ignoring Axel’s screams or somehow did not hear him carrying on. Husbands are talented in that respect, screening out noise disturbances.
Shouting back to Axel from across the neighborhood we directed him to meet us at the fence at the end of the field that we always walk through. Thumper’s anxiety began to set in as he worried about Axel alone in the dark and so we raced faster and faster until we found him, traumatized that he had been abandoned and racing at top speed on his bike pedaling barefoot in his oversized Homer Simpson pajamas. Thumper put his arm around Axel and let him know that all was okay.
In an interview between Consumer Health Interactive correspondent, Blyth Woolston, and Clinical Psychologist Dr. William Pollack, author of Real Boys (1998), Dr. Pollack asserts, “Research shows that if a boy has one adult he can open up to in a shame-free way, one adult who cares about him, that boy is going to be healthier, happier, less likely to be depressed, less likely to be violent, more likely to succeed in school, more likely to be open and caring, to have friendships, to succeed in life. The most important thing is for the boy to know that one adult mentor understands him and will listen — someone who will keep an eye out for him and will provide the time. It seems like such a simple task…”
“Lay down with me Mommy, you need to spend time with me,” Thumper requested the day before he went off to Water Ramp Camp, a program offered through our local Aspen Valley Ski Club.
He was working me. There is such a fine line between sticking to the bedtime routine and taking that precious alone time to connect with your child for as soon as I am in that prostate position exhaustion rapidly sets in and all pent up creativity gets released in my dreams.
“Tickle my back,” he said and as I did a flood of emotions and harbored thoughts flowed from him, “Today you said that I was not growing up to yours and daddy’s expectations and that made me really sad.”
“Thumper, I so did not say that today. I said that in the past year you have been doing your best to defy the requests made to you by your parents and your teachers and that it is important for you to learn how to respect authority.”
How interesting it was that he had processed the information so negatively and differently than I had intended and I was glad that I had a chance to further expound on his need to not push his luck.
We fell asleep with my hand tickling his back and the next day as he climbed into the big, black, ominous van with eleven other boys to head off to camp I was so glad that we had connected the night before. When I climbed in to say goodbye to my tough little boy I said, “I won’t embarrass you in front of your friends and tell you that I love you.” I thought I was so funny but my sweet little boy who holds my hand in the dark did not think so and all I got was a wave and a final glimpse of Thumper with flushed cheeks.
As I drove away I hoped that our previous conversation had some lasting impact. Children need boundaries, especially boys, the question is when to let them stretch them and when to draw the line…and not on Hootie-Hoo’s face.
[su_heading]The Damage We Cause To Our Children[/su_heading]
“She never loved me,” Savannah sadly said to me as we walked through the field of wildflowers. “She would kiss my brothers good night in the rooms next to mine and as I heard her voice reading to them I imagined her caressing their hair. When she finished she would pass right by my door saying good night as she went by. I would cry out to her, ‘Mama, kiss me and love me too,’ but she never came in and I would fall asleep to the deepest pain, a pain that would never heal.”
Ever since I met Savannah I knew that behind her effervescent facade there was a deep loneliness. She was beautiful in a classic, Audrey Hepburn sort of way with great style, thick glossy black hair, mischievous brown eyes and long, thin, shapely legs. Her energy was magnetic and she lived to make the world smile. But her destiny, given to her by her mother, was to live a life searching for the love that she was robbed of as a little girl.
As Axel lay sobbing in bed his pain became my own and I worried about the life wounds I was inflicting upon him. He is a lot like his father, my Axel, quietly absorbing his pain until he can no longer. He is wise like the elephants he adores and he is able to express his sadness in a way that I can understand, learn and change from. “I feel like you don’t love me,” he cried. “You put me in camp all day just so that you can get rid of me. You’re always tired, always mad, always working. When I try to help you all you see is the mess I make. When I make my invention that everybody is impressed by, you scold me for breaking a toy that Grandpa gave me. I feel like I’m living with an Ogre.”
Savannah’s anguish resonated deeply within me and even though Axel had closed up to me and was trying to push me away I embraced him in a hug and held on to him until he calmed down reassuring him that he, his brothers and his father were my sun, my stars and my moon. I explained to him that sometimes the external environment was what caused me to be that Ogre and that I would listen to his eternally wise words and remember to not let the weight of the world enter our house any longer. I also told him that it would really help if he didn’t make such a complete mess wherever he went in the house. Brevitt walked into the room, “Axel, cry into your pillow, you’re so loud and Mommy, you can’t both cry,” he said with his gorgeous smile. “But Axel’s right, I am an Ogre,” I replied in tears.
As Axel’s sobs quieted into silent tears I sang to him my favorite song, “Everything’s Alright,” from the play Jesus Christ Superstar and as he fell asleep I hoped that loving him so completely would indeed make everything alright.
The next day the boys had a lot of play with my new nickname and we laughed all day on our road to recovery. After Lacrosse practice Axel got into the car with the rain pouring outside and I couldn’t help staring at my beautiful boy with his long hair swept to the side to stay out of his eyes, his big, gapped teeth, long eyelashes, smiling eyes and incredibly knowing smile. I apologized to him for my behavior the day before and as he balanced his body like an angel on top of the seat he said, “You know Mama, when you’re mad, you get really mean and you sound like this, “Axxxxellll, you didn’t ussssssssssse the sssssssssssssssssssplattmat!”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his interpretation of his now Medusa mother. I guess I transform into different monsters depending on the moment. I can thank my father for handing down to me all of these wonderful traits but the reality is that I must not place all the blame on my genes and I must take some responsibility for the pain I cause to both myself and my children when I am bad. I need to always remember my friend Savannah and know that we are all fragile and need love and if I am feeling like an Ogre or Medusa or that little girl with the little curl in the middle of her forehead than I need to listen to my children and learn how to stay good when I’m very, very good and quiet when I am feeling the urge to be horrid.
Our friend Tony came over the other day to clean our windows before the Realtors came to preview the house we didn’t want to sell.
It was one of our first beautiful mornings, where the temperature hit the 60s before 9am, and I sat down to face the large stack of bills sitting ominously on my desk.
Glancing outside my window I saw two buck naked swamp monsters flash by. I should go supervise, I thought to myself with an addendum of, being a mother is an incredibly difficult job where we are in a constant state of dealing with an incomprehensible amount of overload and I need to remain sitting.
Unable to continue to concentrate, I raced to get my camera and felt my toes sink into something soft, smooshy and warm. “Shiiiittttt,” I screamed, with Tony as my witness.
“Welcome to my life, I said to Tony who had caught on film the monsters running around. He replied, “Yeah, that’s why I’m not getting a dog, but there is nothing like seeing children completely free at play, and by the way what radio station are we listening to?” I told him, “That music is coming from my iPod, which means that you are also inside my head right now,” and he admitted that he liked the mix which is on the extreme side of eclectic ranging from Pearl Jam to Sidney Bechet.
This house showing thing is no picnic and one thing I am most certain of is that realtors enjoy toying with people by doing things like scheduling a showing the day before the Open House and not showing up. I really want to know what goes behind the logic of “forgetting to cancel”. Are they just thinking to themselves, “She’s a mom, she is always cleaning anyway,” and my retort is a huge NOT!!!!! Cleaning is a complete waste of time when you have children and puppies and I would prefer to be doing about a thousand other things, thank you very much you inconsiderate breed of worthless earthworms. I think I’ll send a fart in your general direction! Of course I’m not talking about all?realtors. Some of my best friends are realtors.
I woke up early to let Muki do her business, get the kids lunch together and clean the house and I was feeling good that I had everything under control until Tucker said, Uh Oh Mommy, and pointed, and the shit went down. Muki had drank too much water from our creek and had deposited wet, smelly squirts everywhere. Gagging, I began attempting to pull the squirt out of the fringe of the carpet and scraping up the mess with a metal spatula while screaming, Waaaaaadddddddeeeee. I neeeeeeed you this morning. Please don’t leave me. And, Booooyyyyyyyyssss, make your own breakfast and lunch this morning, which you should be doing anyway at this point in your livessssss as I am not your frickin’ servant. This goes for you too Hootie-Hoo, and I heard a little reply, “but I don’t know how to make my own lunch.”
As I cleaned up I asked Baddy to get me a bucket and he looked blankly at me asking, “What kind of bucket?” “…. I certainly don’t need a beach bucket or a bucket to throw up in. I need a goddamn bucket to mop the floor with,” that did not go over very well.
I threw lemon oil on the floor and mopped it up as quickly as I could, opened all of the windows and herded the kids into the car, still on schedule, until humbly, I called for Baddy, “ummmm, hi. It’s me. Welll, life can be sooo funny sometimes,” and he laughed at my levity until I told him that the car wouldn’t start and I needed rescuing. Youre shittin’ me, he remarked, and I mentioned that shit seemed to be the theme of the morning.
Finally, we got on the road and as we passed our resident fox with her chocolate pawed kits, I mentioned that this was a good example of how sometimes you just have to let go of the plan and be good about switching tracks and not behave as I just did. The boys agreed whole heartedly. Suddenly a deer bounded across the road directly in front of us. “See,”I said, our luck is turning. If it were a really bad day we would have hit that deer…” Looking for something to know on wood in Vini-Man, where was that trail of wood that was always blanketing the floor? Thumper cheerfully stated, “I feel like we are Texans because, for some reason, I feel that they have bad luck.” ???
Listening to the signs, I am scheduling an appointment with a financial adviser to see if there is any way that we can do some creative financing to hold on to the house for just a bit longer and in the meantime I think that a night out on the town with Baddy is in tall order.
When I first visited the Early Childhood Center, ten years ago, I was amazed at all of the action going on. The energy was a buzz with children painting, cooking homemade applesauce with Linda, chasing after bunnies or zooming cars around on a road that cut through a city built out of blocks.
I said to Thumper, with his extremely high energy and a knack for making very messy wonderful paintings, that I thought we had finally found him the perfect school, his third pre-school in his two years of living.
As he got older, his energy increased but Linda never stopped for a second to complain, always greeting him with sparkly eyes and an all knowing smile, for that is what she thrived off of, the ability to direct a childs energy toward the world of imagination and play.
As the years went by, I began to question her on what kind of academic learning he was getting. She never failed to enlighten me with her knowledge and philosophy that kids learn best through experience. She was always calm, always patient.
Now Hootie-Hoo is walking over the rainbow bridge to take all that he has learned up with him to the big school and into life and I am having a very difficult time accepting that this is the end of a long and wonderful journey. A journey where I absorbed important values and life messages from all of the teachers here who I would list individually if I had the time.
These two rooms down here are magical and nurturing and everything I could ever have dreamed of for my three rambunctious boys. I will miss visiting this safe and wonderful world three times a week and I will miss you Linda for always making sense out of every tantrum and every enigmatic behavioral crossroad.
I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for filling us and our boys with this wonderful sense of self that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives and I thank you Linda for cooking up the most incredible learning center and providing me and all of your teachers with the necessary ingredients to bring out the best in us and our children. I love each and every one of you truly, madly, deeply and I will miss you.
We built our dream house in the peace and serenity of Old Snowmass, designing it to perfectly fit our family and it is sad that we will have to let go.
I got a chill the other evening when I drove into our driveway and noticed that the barn doors were open wide and that the lights had been left on.
Thumper voiced his concern that Baddy was nowhere to be seen even though his car was parked in front of the house looking ominous with its removed hubcaps, Baddy’s mode of pimping out his Subaru.
It was getting dark and the skies opened up to the heavens, yet again, and fear began to set in. I couldn’t stop the cold, dark and deadly images from flashing into my head. What if what I thought I knew of Baddy was really just all a facade and he was not handling all of this pressure as well as I thought he was?
Suddenly he appeared, walking toward us from the field behind our house as if straight out of an English painting. He had been checking on the ditch water. Muki, who was in the middle of eating her dinner, began her territorial barking. The food that she didn’t gag on sprayed across the kitchen floor and the boys and I stared at her in disbelief. Her puppyness is constantly a source of amusement to us.
Tears came to my eyes as Baddy approached in his raincoat and wellies. He came right up to me enveloping me in one of his great big bear hugs, Its so beautiful here, he said and I thought about how sad it is to let go.
The next day I came home to a big, shiny For Sale sign that had been put up by our Realtor and I felt physically ill. I slumped down onto the floor of my favorite porch with Muki on my lap and let loose some tears into her fur as Realtors drove by to check out the new listing. They’ll be no denying, we love this property and cant get ourselves to embrace this change that we must make.
Theres something to be said about living in a basin with snow capped mountains all around and a Monastery up the road radiating peace and good harmony amongst the bears and mountain lions.
The morning after we moved into this house, in March of 2008, eight coyotes played in the sun outside our windows as we ate breakfast.
As the days get warmer, we have noticed a bird that comes out at dusk and dawn. We cant see it but we hear its warlike song and I tease the boys that there is a tribe of Indians still living out in the fields, wearing nothing but loin clothes and a bow and arrow.
Living here in the country we have gone back to our roots just a bit where we drink raw milk from Maisy who grazes in the pasture behind our house and where Hootie-Hoo visits the neighboring chicken coop to coddle a freshly laid egg in his little excited hands.
Many of our neighbors are closely connected to nature and the land. It is a community that somewhat reminds me of my youth spent in Massachusetts where neighbors mostly kept to themselves but when the door was opened it radiated warmth.
Baddy?will miss calling our neighbor Ross to come over late night to gaze with him into the inferno of one of his infamous bonfires and I will miss his wife Michelle who feeds Tucker her deliciously organic food when he runs away from home and ends up in her kitchen.
We will miss Beth and Kent, a wonderful couple who are always traveling or working or playing in their yard together showing us what life can be like when the children are gone. They keep their trampoline up so that they still can hear the sound of children playing in their backyard.
And we will miss Renee, our Swiss neighbor, who delivers to us delicious loaves of chewy European bread from his brothers bakery.
Baddy and I will miss the enormous window in our master bedroom designed to evoke the feeling that we are sleeping outside and Ill miss the long walks and bike rides up the dirt ranch roads where the bucolic fields eliminate my insanity and bring me to a far more peaceful place.
Ill miss watching the boys ski in our backyard on Baddy’s gap jump while the mountain range changes scenes with the weather.
Ill miss drinking coffee on the front porch swing as the sun rises and the rooster crows, the one that replaced the unfortunate ones we were responsible for losing.
Baddy and I worked so hard on this house, designing it to perfectly fit our family and it is sad that we will have to let go of our Stage II dreams of landscaping rocky paths, flower beds, lilac trees and vegetable gardens and turning the barn into a super cool boys place with a pool table and an old red sign saying, Cap & Cork Liquors, Wine and Beer.
This and so much more is what we will miss. If only we didn’t have to let go.
[su_heading size=”18″]Living with Integrity[/su_heading]
When I first met Wade I was drawn to him like a sailor is to the sea. His handsome physique came second to his calm and secure presence that made me feel like I had come home again. When I met his parents, Frank and Barbara, it was no surprise that they too carried this same peaceful demeanor. As the years go by it is plain to see that compassion and kindness course through the veins of many of his family members.
In the past we have visited Frank and Barbara’s house, the house that Wade grew up in, for many a family holiday. We even conceived Brevitt in Wade’s bed that he slept in as a child, is that sacrilegious? During these visits the house has bulged with cousins and friends trickling in to see the boys and to say hello and always in the midst of all the chaos has been Barbara’s father, Jack Pierce McDonald otherwise known as GP, standing there to meet and greet and proudly show off his family.
Every visit I would speak to the boys about making the effort to ask GP to tell them stories from his past so that they could better understand their heritage on their father’s side and learn more of their Great Grandpa who had devoted himself to his country, his family and his work, but the noise level did not bode well with his hearing aide and he would switch it off altogether, making conversation with him close to impossible. In time, I felt very connected to GP through his sparkly smile and his genuine interest in his grandchildren and I began to think that perhaps verbal communication was overrated.
In these past few months, as GP’s body began to fail him, I felt a desperate urge to reach out to him and let him know how much he was admired and loved and so I sent an email to all of his family encouraging them to write down their memories of him. There came an outpouring of response and Barbara and her brother Mac read all the stories to GP throughout the day as they visited with him.
As I sat in solitude reading each new story, one thing rang consistently true, GP was a man of great integrity, a “character,” and a very loving and patient man. He was also a man of few words, as portrayed in Wade’s recapture of a time on the golf course when as a young boy Wade recklessly turned the cart sideways only to be met by GP’s suggestion that perhaps he should take over the wheel.
GP passed away on April 26th at the age of 88 years old and Wade, Tucker, Muki and I drove to Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend his Memorial Service. We spent a nostalgic weekend where Tucker and all of his cousins raced around after Muki as Wade and I reconnected with generations of McDonald’s and their spouses over wine and food. GP’s spirit enveloped us as we traveled down memory lane and the word integrity kept coming up in conversation. What a powerful word to live by and to instill in all of those who love you.
In the early morning light, I took soul filling walks with Muki, Frank and “Old Uncle Jim,” who is not old at all but was dubbed so by Brevitt and Axel lest they get confused with their two Uncle Jim’s. Muki and I raced back and forth through open fields in the parks and I inhaled the Lilacs while absorbing the pale lavender Wisteria and Iris surrounding the sculptures placed outside the Adobe homes and galleries. Soaking in spring, which is taking way too long to emerge in Aspen, I thought about how I was ready to listen to all of the great comments made in my previous posts and move forward with my writing. Life is a precious gift and I don’t care to be bogged down by trivialities.
It is painful for all of us that GP is no longer with us but I have no doubt that his energy and good spirit still lies within all of us and as the years go by we will encourage the boys to follow in their great grandfather’s footsteps and live a life filled with integrity and compassion and I thank GP for giving us this important value to live by.
My oldest sister Melanie-Mouse, of whom I completely adore and admire, did not read my blog for an entire year. But knowing that her life is so much more interesting than mine, I was okay with that. Then something happened, she read my post, A Letter From My Ten Year Old, and she felt the need to go back and read 160 missed posts all at once.
Now Melanie has become an integral part of my blog, commenting on and bringing humor to every post I write, making sure to reveal the truth about who I am lest I not paint the full picture. The best part of it all is that Melanie is doing something that she should have begun years ago but didn’t because she was inhibited by her Dyslexia and her inability to learn how to use spell check. The thing is that Melanie is a great writer, regardless of the misspelled words and grammatical errors, and she is far funnier and more interesting than I could ever aspire to be. She is also encouraging me to break out of my safety zone and be more true to my writing, which begins with this post.
As far as I can remember, Melanie has considered herself the “Black Sheep of the Family,” a label I never quite understood. In my eyes she was a funny, beautiful, smart Princess adored by all. She does fall in love with the worst men on this planet who put the Baa into “Black Sheep” and I want to slap some sense into her when she calls me sobbing on the phone to tell me that she doesn’t understand why she got dumped again by another good for nothing man who loves his beer more than her. Michele and I insist that her next boyfriend must pass inspection by us before she takes another leap into the Underworld.
Melanie called me this morning after a weekend spent with Eddie Veder in New Orleans and I surprised both of us by breaking into tears and spewing out a litany of my despair, “I was horribly cruel to Axel this morning when he put two different colored socks on and dumped his backpack upside down, Wade and I have to put our house on the market, my mother-in-law’s father passed away last week, I drank a bottle of red wine by myself last night while I cut all of the boys hair and I am realizing that friends who I thought cared really don’t give a rats ass about me and I am about to get older on Sunday.” Melanie became my oldest sister again telling me that all would be alright and that all mother’s have mean moments and that it wasn’t good to drink a bottle of wine by myself and that sometimes friends can be completely disappointing and that I shouldn’t have such high expectations and that no matter how old I am she will always be older and that all made me feel a whole lot better.
The thing is, I am quite aware that some people see me as being an over privileged person who deserves this fate and that our situation is so much better than the masses of people who are losing their jobs and their homes but that doesn’t prohibit me from wanting to scream bloody murder and run away from it all.
But I won’t back down and I shan’t have a “pity party”, as one anti-fan once said, even if I can’t make enough money to supplement Wade’s income and stop us from having to sell our dream house and even if I can’t stop people from polluting our world with unforgivable oil spills and even if I can’t stop global warming and cyclones and Tsunami’s and earthquakes and hurricanes and world hunger and poverty and disease and even if I can’t prevent the deaths and the hatred, I can still keep this world from draggin’ me down and I won’t back down.
Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground and I won’t back down
Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I stand my ground and I won’t back down
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground and I won’t back down
No I won’t back down.
There is one thing that I am very adept at and that is leaping into things without cleverly assessing the obstacles that lurk ahead.
For example, the first time I went rollerblading I provided great entertainment for my sister Michele as I launched forward on my blades down a paved mountain road, diving off to the side to save myself from dying only to result in huge gravel encrusted raspberries scrapes.
Then there was the time that my “good friend” Jeff Rogers took me snowboarding for the first time, convincing me that lessons were for “wa wa’s”. I flew down the mountain feeling like a champion until THWAM! And the lights went out. I came to with tears streaming out of my eyes, a slight concussion and a whiplashed neck that to this day gives me pain. One would think that with age would come wisdom but not for this puppy.
Growing up, May was a magical month with cherry blossoms blooming and horsey ride birthday parties but with my son’s passion for Lacrosse, my birthday and Mother’s Day are swept to the wayside to accommodate the weekend Lacrosse Tournaments that are held that same weekend, every year.
Lacrosse was the popular sport of my high school where not a single Wagoneer with wooden paneling would drive by without the bumper sticker, “chicks love our sticks,” plastered to the back. I was a big fan, hanging out on the sidelines with my girlfriends to drool over the shirtless boys practicing after school. Now it is my boys who are playing and I am on the sidelines, this time actually paying attention to the game and cheering them on.
Two years ago, when I found out that Wade couldn’t come to Brevitt’s big Lacrosse Tournament in Denver, I decided to make that treacherous leap and take the three boys to the Tournament by myself, one of the stupidest decisions I have ever made in my life.
My very poor dyslexic navigational skills were in short circuit and I got lost every time we left the hotel. I was in full survival mode without the proper tools to get me by.
The parking lot alone at the Lacrosse fields was treacherous with hundreds of vehicles making abrupt maneuvers to steal a coveted parking spot. Once we parked I had to face the impossible challenge of finding the correct field.
Wade’s parents lived nearby and were my saving grace, guiding me to the field every game. Drenched in a panicked sweat, their dysfunctional daughter-in-law would arrive and dump their enormous sleeping two and a half year old grandson, Tucker, into their laps along with all of the Lacrosse equipment, all the while attempting to unsuccessfully conceal my inefficiencies so that they wouldn’t get too concerned that I was an inadequate wife to their son and mother to their grandsons.
I was in a living hell and getting madder by the minute that my other “friends,” all well seasoned in the routine, chose to not recognize that I needed help. I whirled in like the Tasmanian Devil, teeth nashing, with three disheveled boys. As soon as we would jump into the freezing pool, my lounging, mojito drinking “friends”, whose calmness was beginning to get on my nerves, would begin to round up their kids for the next game, giving me the sign that I should do the same. By the end of the weekend, I promised myself to search for a new set of more caring friends when I returned home.
For the last game, we were later than usual and Brevitt could not find his cup, “it’s this or we go home,” I yelled, ready to commit Hari Kari, and he ran off in tears with the top of my coffee mug tucked into his shorts for protection.
May is here once again and we just returned from our first Tournament away in Grand Junction. Things went a whole lot smoother this time and I was all to happy to no longer be a rookie in the world of kid sports.
Over the weekend, I looked but did not see anybody who needed saving but I’m guessing that most mother’s are far smarter than I and know to stay at home when the odds are so greatly against them.
Pack of Terrain boys on Buttermilk
[su_heading]Being Present on the Good Days[/su_heading]
I made it through the first day of spring break with Bono’s lyrics stuck in my head, like a skipping record, “Some days are better than others.”
The day began when I awoke from a dream where a reporter from the New York Times was interviewing me and asking me about my success as a writer. “How did you do it,” he asked me. “How did you become such a successful writer with three kids in tow?” And I answered, “Not very well.”
I mean really! They say if you multi-task none of your jobs will be done 100% efficiently but I learned early that being a dreamer does not coincide with being a perfectionist and I thrive off of chaos.
This morning I shuffled to my office and began reading and typing with my eyelashes still woven together, my body still warm from slumber. After inhaling a cup of java, which I try not to drink anymore because I become a bundle of dynamite ready to blow, I made a business phone call where I faked professionalism, not very well.
I hung up the phone completely confused and looked at my watch realizing that I was way behind schedule. I would now have to face an angry Brevitt who truly needs to see an enormous paycheck in my hand to better understand why my computer is my ball and chain. He cut me a bit of slack knowing that Tucker was contributing to my lateness and that I can only be as on time as Tucker will allow.
He is quite the adorable little boy, that Tucker, singing and dancing around the house with that sweet little voice, but he tests my patience. It’s not his fault really, he is only five, and absolutely unable to finish a task without getting distracted and turning it into a game.
The trick is, when I need him to get something done so that we can get out of the door I must stay near him, nudging him to stay on course. “Tucker,” I sing as I see him sliding across the floor naked, all but his ski socks, “Did you forget that you were putting your ski clothes on?”
Tucker is not our only challenge. When we got to the slopes we realized that Brevitt’s skis were missing and we had to drive an extra forty minutes to retrieve them, which was quite frustrating, and irritating, until I realized that I too had forgotten something very important, my wallet.
Axel got the giggles in the car as I tried to retain some semblance of sanity by doing some deep breathing. “You sound like Darth Vader,” he said and I began to daydream about slipping over to the dark and evil side.
We got on to the slopes by 12:30, along with the other crack of noon club, and I prayed for deliverance as Tucker whined and the boys sucked down the free coffee loaded with artificial creamer and as many sugar packets as they could open, before I discovered them.
Axel’s ski broke on our first run and I thought that I might very well just become the next “Crazy Heart.”
At lunch, Tucker’s pizza slice flipped face side down on to my ski pants and I told Bono to shut the hell up. Hearing the cashier ask the cute women in front of me how her day was going, I warned him not to ask me that same question. With a smile, he told me that nobody should have a bad day today, being that it was so beautiful outside, and he comped me the slice of pizza. That was all I needed, a great big adorable southern smile and a tiny offering of sympathy.
After skiing we raced to teacher conferences where I soaked in all that the teacher’s were saying about my children who apparently push the rules and think differently than the others.
When we got home I let out my pack to run with the car and I now have uncorked a bottle of Pinot Noir so that I can taste that deliciously dark and warm essence of cherry on my palate and unhinge the day on paper, so to speak.
Hopefully, tomorrow will bring a different tune when I take my posse up to the Glenwood Caverns for some laser tag and alpine sledding.
Some days are dry, some days are leaky
Some days come clean, other days are sneaky.
Some days take less, but most days take more
Some slip through your fingers and on to the floor.
Some days you’re quick, but most days you’re speedy
Some days you use more force than is necessary.
Some days just drop in on us.
Some days are better than others.
Some days it all adds up
And what you’ve got is enough.
Some days are better than others.
Some days are slippy, other days are sloppy;
Some days you can’t stand the sight of a puppy.
Your skin is white, but you think you’re a brother.
Some days are better than others.
Some days you wake up with her complaining.
Some sunny days you wish it was raining.
Some days are sulky, some days have a grin;
And some days have bouncers and won’t let you in.
Some days you hear a voice
Taking you to another place.
Some days are better than others.
Some days are honest, some days are not;
Some days you’re thankful for what you’ve got.
Some days you wake up in the army
And some days it’s the enemy.
Some days are work, most days you’re lazy;
Some days you feel like a bit of a baby
Lookin’ for Jesus and his mother.
Some days are better than others.
Some days you feel ahead;
You’re making sense of what she said.
Some days are better than others.
Some days I hear a voice taking me to another place.
Some days are better then others.
(Views from the cross country ski trail)
Its been a rocky month filled with aches and pains, both mentally and physically but Baddy and I are doing our best to stave off the threatening challenges in our lives. His working hours have increased and I am upping the ante on mine, doing the best I can to hone in on my talents and unabashedly sell my writing to create some extra financial support. My usual humorous and playful attributes are hiding behind my veneer of confidence.
Spring fever is helping to raise our spirits, at least for the boys who are bringing out their lacrosse gear and throwing the ball around in the warm sun, but for Baddy and I, where spring fever invokes a different kind of restlessness, the romance will have to wait until we schedule a weekend away. For now we stop with our eyes half closed to sleepily kiss good morning as we pass each other on the stairway and we continue to have impromptu clandestine meetings in the closet. I miss him and relish every short but sweet interaction, the brush of hands in the kitchen as we fight for the coffee pot and the flirtatious text messages that we send each other during the days.
Sometimes it all gets too much, the stress, the fear of what lurks around the corner, the sorrow for our friends who are struggling worse than we are, but we all forge on.
I do my best to push everything aside and reconnect with the children because they too suffer from the strain of the poor economy and so I went on a school field trip to the Snowmass Cross-Country Ski Center with Feisty-One.
When he got off the school bus and ran toward me with a big smile on his face, his golden hair shining in the sun, all my troubles melted away. It’s always the children who bring rays of sun back to the dark.
He and his two little friends relished having me all to themselves, without any teachers berating them with rules, and they took me on their adventurous tour around the fields, spurting forward with abounding energy and than tossing themselves head first into the snow to cool down.
At the end of our breathtakingly beautiful day with a clear, blue sky and surrounding mountains swathed in a white blanket of snow, Feisty-One and I went off to enjoy our time alone together and I again listened intently to all that he had to say.
“Thumper worries too much. He’s like Mr. Murry Mouse, a skitter, scatter, scurry mouse, a flurry-about-in-a-hurry mouse,” he said referring to Karma Wilsons book, Mr. Murry and Thumbkin. As we shooshed through the sparkling snow we developed solutions to cure Thumper’s high anxiety problem.
That night Feisty-One brought out his guitar to play for us for the first time. We sat and listened, holding back our comments that he was strumming too hard and totally off key and I smiled fueling up for what troubles the next day would bring me. Bring it on, I thought to myself, bring it on!
I saw a man that I know from the children’s school the other day. He was pushing one of those un-maneuverable racecar shopping carts with his two little boys gleefully air driving in the front.
When I commented on how sweet they looked he retorted, “Yeah, they can be sweet sometimes,” and I couldn’t relate more.
He continued to say what everybody says, “boys are high energy when they are young but girls give you hell when they become teenagers.”
“Really,” I said. “My sister’s and I were relatively easy on our parents,” right Melanie, Mommy and Tutti? (If you haven’t noticed yet, my family often comments on my posts)
He went on to say, “Boys just try to kill themselves by being reckless with their bodies, girls don’t listen and do things that can be life altering,” and that made me feel oh so much better.
The other night, Brevitt and I were wrestling together, he in his red footsie pajamas, a popular trend at school. We lay on top of each other laughing as he smooshed my face into “hilarious” positions and a memory of my sister, Michele, flashed into my head. Her now fourteen year old was five and he was lying on top of her soaking in all of her love and it reminded me that I must hold on to this moment for as long as possible because soon, real soon, Brevitt will not feel comfortable with feeling me so close to him. We lay there forever wrapped in each others arms as he told me a whole lot of insightful information about his friends, school and life in general.
The next day I went to my friends house to pick up my boys. They were playing their favorite sport, dodgeball, down in her basement with her two sons. It sounded as if a sacrifice was being performed. When I went down to check on them a speeding ball whizzed by and landed smack into Axel’s face, which didn’t seem to phase him.
I walked upstairs and asked horrified, “Is this how people feel when they visit my house? Stunned and psychologically disturbed by all of the noise and energy? It is no wonder why I don’t have many visitors anymore.”
As she sat there calmly reading the newspaper, she replied, “I love it….or at least, I have learned to embrace it.”
It is true that quite often I reach a breaking point with my boys and need to tell them that, “mommy is closed”. It is my dysfunctional way of getting a brief respite from all of the chaos.
But I will say this, when I am outside with the boys, or when we are indoors and they are being sweet and calm, they are my entertainment and my companions, filling the house with laughter and there is nobody in the world who I would rather be with.
In two to five years from now they will transform into different beings and I will have to connect with them on a different scale. For now though, I’ll embrace them and all of their energy and wrap them into my arms as much as they will allow, when I’m not reprimanding them for riding their bikes down the enormous ski ramp that Wade built in our backyard. Anybody care to share their Xanax with me????
Baddy and I sat down to our Valentine’s Eve dinner and as we sat there with the candles flickering in red seeded glass hurricane lamps, the boys raced around us in circles personifying Tucker Hibbert going for the SnoCross Gold in the X-Games.
As we looked deeply into each other’s exhausted eyes I said, You know, I kinda didn’t do very much for you this year. In fact, you seem to have already found your present, which was a big bag of all green M&Ms that said love all over the bag.
So accustomed to his party girl making a big hullabaloo over every holiday, he looked at me incredulously, Really? he said. Thats it? No card, no nothing?
Me: “Well, I was going to make you these incredible looking little fudge cakes with pieces of after 8 dinner mints in them and then I went to the market to buy you a card and as I read through all of the incredibly boring sentimental trash about love I thought, these people who write these cards are either numb on crystal meth, pitifully dull or don’t have their heart into it, and so I went home with a bag of red paper, glue and glitter with the idea of making a card for you myself and I just haven’t had the chance to make it yet.”
Thankfully he laughed, as he usually does instead of getting upset, I was going to make you a card too. And we began a very funny banter on what we were going to do for each other, but didn’t.
Baddy: “I was going to buy you candy at The Sweet Life candy shop in Snowmass but I knew that you would look at the marshmallow candy hearts and think, why is my husband so clueless? And then I kept hearing the add for pro flowers over the radio and I thought about buying you flowers but knew that Valentines Day is the one day that if I bought you flowers your thought would be, gee thanks for the lack of imagination.”
I thought that he would be elated that I had finally come round to not expecting anything for the big day of love but I was surprised to hear disappointment in his voice, “Really? Not even a card?” he reiterated.
As we nuzzled each other at the dining table and I stroked his stubbly whiskers he said, “Isn’t that all that matters? That we love each other?” and I returned, “For now, yes. But perhaps we should reevaluate next year,” and we took each other’s hands and quickly made our way up to our bedroom while the children happily sat like zombies with their mouths open while watching some horrible movie on our pitifully outdated television set.
Such is life in the real world.
Happy Valentines Day everyone!!!
When my three boys and my husband, Wade, asked where we were going, I told them that we were going to the Wolf Creek Ski Area, a high alpine ski resort that rises up from its 10,300 foot base. A place that proudly boasts 465 natural inches of snowfall a year, the highest snowfall in Colorado.
My excitement waned and my concern began to grow when Wade mapped out the arduous route to southwestern Colorado.Youll probably be sleeping the entire time anyway,” he said and then continued, “Dont get me wrong, I have always wanted to ski Wolf Creek and am up for the powder skiing if you are, I am just gearing myself up for what is ahead, my little Family Travel Writer.” When I replied by? telling him that they had 98 inches of snow as their base at mid mountain, approximately 38 inches more than we had in our mountains here, he jumped up and started packing.
Wade’s prediction was spot on. As he climbed over the passes swerving his way around the deer, fox and elk that were just begging to become road kill along the icy highway, the boys and I slept soundly. We awoke for a pit stop where I promptly smashed my door into his head as he was bending over to help our five year old, Tucker. Needless to say, he preferred me sleeping.
Arriving at the Wyndham Pagosa at 1:00am we were elated to find that not only did we have a full kitchen and fireplace but we also had our own bedroom. The boys occupied the upstairs and we all fell into bed.
Waking up bright and early the next morning we were greeted by a spectacular view out of our window of the San Juan mountains shrouded in snow clouds, and we hustled the boys out of the door. There was un-tracked powder to be had.
Our hosts, Davey Pitcher and his wife Rosanne Haidorfer-Pitcher, had arranged for the boys to be put into their Hot Shots and Wolf Pup ski schools and we did not want to be late for our first ski date of the year.
We pulled up to the parking lot and I was transported back to my youth where I spent the weekends skiing at Stratton, Vermont with my parents. Not only was the resort devoid of ski racks but there also weren’t any hotels or sprawling development cluttering the mountain. It was clear that those who came to this resort, came for the skiing and the snow, and not to lounge in their ski bunny outfits in the ski lodge.
The drop off for the boys was hassle free and the boys happily went off with their ski instructor, Steve, a polite Texas boy whose popularity and good manners did not escape them as he Maamed and Sirred his way around the mountain.
As for Tucker, we worried that his rebellious side would rear its ugly head being that we have been seeing a lot of that lately, but when we walked into the Wolf Pup building he immediately felt the warmth and kindness from the employees and everything went well, despite the fact that we had left his warm ski coat back at Diorio’s South Pizza in Pagosa Springs. They whisked Tucker away treating him like a little prince as they adorned him in a very comfy over-sized coat that they got from the lost and found box. TTFN, I cried blowing him a kiss as I raced out to meet our guide, Lou, who was going to introduce us to the 1,600 skiable acres.
Lets find the vert, Wade said referring to the 1,604 feet of vertical drop that the mountain offered and so we began climbing the steps to hike past the challenging double diamond runs in the Knife Ridge Chutes and continued hiking through the quiet of the trees over to Horseshoe Bowl.
What we enjoyed the most that day was the feeling that we were back country skiing without the worry of avalanches. While Wade launched off of cliffs I explored the fresh tracks on the steep terrain beside him. We skied to the Alberta chairlift and met Terry who was manning Alberta’s Grill, a cleverly located ski by shack that provided sustenance for those hearty skiers who might otherwise forget to eat as they lapped the steeps all day.
We were enjoying seeing the retro fashion and the fossil skis that we had not seen since the eighties. When we mentioned it to Davey, the CEO and Mountain Manager, he informed us of their mission to ensure that the mountain remained family friendly and that everybody who was passionate about skiing could afford a lift ticket.
Above, Wade and Davey
An adult ski ticket is $52.00 a day and $28.00s for children and seniors and they also have fourteen Local Appreciation Days, that offer a $31.00 adult all lift ticket and $18.00 for seniors and children.
Davey told us of the history of the resort that is? celebrating its seventieth year. Wolf Creek Pass began with a group of ski enthusiasts in Alamosa who were interested in skiing and found that Wolf Creek Pass offered all kinds of ski slopes to all kinds of skiers. The San Luis Valley Ski association established a small ski tow and warming cabin, financed by popular subscription and memberships into the club and in 1976, Daveys parents, Kingsbury and Charity Jane Pitcher, took ownership and made improvements to the resort.
As he spoke about the importance of the quality of their home made meals in their mountain restaurants, the integrity of his family was revealed and it wasnt too difficult for us to witness for ourselves the hard work ethics that he and Rosanne had instilled in their four hundred employees, from the lifties who carefully managed every chair, to the ski instructors who went out of their way to help us when we looked lost.
That night we soaked our tired bodies in the multiple therapeutic mineral hot springs pools at The Springs in Pagosa Springs. The boys raced from one pool to the other, testing the varying? temperatures. Wade’s favorite was The Berg which was the hottest at 114 degrees. Tucker and I preferred Serendipity, a mild 103 degrees with a 6ft. waterfall.
On our last day, Davey strapped on his snowboard and Rosanne put on her telemark skis and they took us on a tour of the mountain. “Good thing my instructor taught me balance,” Axel squealed as he and Brevitt chased after Davey to discover all of his secret stashes through the trees.
Axel skis to Brevitt who is the yard sale in the photo
At the end of the day, Tucker who was filled with pride from riding the chairlift all by himself, had? to be peeled off of his ski instructor. We said our goodbyes and loaded up for our drive home with the children making plans to move there for a month.
Tucker rides alone for the first time
Tucker with Buck, otherwise known as Howard or “Normal”, as in NOT
Today, as I write about our experience, I am thankful that we had the opportunity to visit such a wonderful family mountain and the memories of skiing freshies in a friendly resort atmosphere will just have to tide me over until the next storm arrives in Aspen.
*cross-posted at Mile High Mamas and Colorado Ski Country USA
**Mile High Mamas wants to send your family to ski or ride at the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Go here to enter to win four tickets for this season. Contest deadline is February 27, 2010.
Last Friday I put on my ski clothes, as I got the boys ready for school, and my adrenaline was pumping in anticipation of letting loose all of my pent up aggression as I skied through the freshly fallen snow.
If you live in a ski resort, you live for snow, lots and lots of snow. When it doesn’t snow and you’re dealt with bitter cold days without mounds of snow to throw your kids into and built forts with, than tempers begin to brew and foam and people find it best to keep to themselves lest the fists start flying.
“Our good Mommy is back,” the boys declared on our way to school as I blared their favorite radio station, 100.5 Radio Free Aspen, a station that plays the same top ten hip hop songs repeatedly to ensure that you learn every word to Akon’s “Sexy Bitch” by heart. Yes, I know, totally inappropriate but we love music and dancing so what are you going to do?
Picking up the girls down the street, I watched as the little one quietly inserted her thumb into her mouth as her big blue eyes innocently took us all in. Being a fellow thumb sucker, until I was ten, I deeply empathized. I knew that the music was a complete departure to the songs that she was used to listening to on her way to school like, “This land is your land,” and I wondered if it was all too much culture shock for her.
When we arrived at school Axel began to whimper. He had dark rings under his eyes and complained of a tummy ache. I looked into his melt chocolate eyes with long dark lashes and I realized that I could not pump him up on Motrin & Vitamin C and send him on his way, not even with the superb combination of best friends and powder awaiting just fifteen minutes away.
I had to work hard to not show my frustration and resentment that my day had taken a turn but my perceptive little boy knew what was up and I saw him grow sad with the acknowledgment that I was wishing to be elsewhere when all he so desperately needed was my undivided attention.
As the day progressed Axel revealed to me his deepest thoughts and I made a pact to myself to allow these precious moments to happen on a daily basis. I absorbed every detail of his stories, how he got in trouble at school for talking when he was actually defending a student who was being made fun of and how his teacher did not listen to him when he tried to explain and so he just gave up.
We talked about the pain he feels when he hurts himself and he said, “I shake my body until the pain goes away but when somebody hurts my feelings, that is when I cry, even though I don’t want to.” Tears came to my eyes as I listened to my quiet little boy who has learned to keep his thoughts to himself because nobody seems to hear what he has to say.
Axel’s message was clear, I was just as guilty as his teacher’s who fall into the pattern of coexisting without communicating or connecting and I became determined to change that. As my mother always says, these are the best times of my life and I need to appreciate them while they are here.
The boys are growing up quickly and I need to remain present or I will miss many a precious moment and I thank Axel for this reality check, the mountain can wait.
“What’s that smell?”
Walking around Aspen
Yesterday was not such a good day, at least when the boys were around. Brevitt went to sleep the night before with high anxiety over his inability to comprehend his math teacher and woke up feigning illness. I gave him a simple math problem, “Brevitt + no school = higher anxiety,” and lightly smacked his little bottom up the stairs to get dressed.
I have been making a concentrated effort to sleep more and woke up too late to think straight resulting in mass confusion. I herded the boys into the car ten minutes late and left the healthy part of the lunch behind to sit on the counter all day.
After school, Tucker’s preschool teacher said, “We supplemented Tucker’s lunchbox today with something healthy for him,” since all that was in his lunchbox was the processed snacks that I had bought for them when I had a weak moment in the grocery store because I felt badly that they always looked so longingly at their friends lunchboxes.
As for the big boys, they ended up having no lunch at all. For some reason the once a week hot lunch that is served at school, was not served yesterday.
So I came to school to greet hungry boys who did not want to ski, even though I just about killed myself loading the car with their equipment and warm clothes. They immediately began their whining about my “no more sugar” rule. “Never again?” they asked. “Even on special occasions?” “No, NEVER,” I returned. “The sugar fuels Axel’s migraines, Tucker’s temper tantrums and Brevitt’s anxiety so no more giving in to your constant pleas for the evil stuff.”
Life is a roller coaster and I am being tossed about with high emotions and sharp turns as I hurry up and wait to get my book marketed, work on my new business, Aspen Real Life, and love and nurture my three boys, husband, sisters, friends and parents (which includes my in-laws). I won’t even go into the time it takes to connect with my new friends on the internet who have become my support and my comfort. If only I enjoyed being hung upside down in a state of peril.
I should enjoy these crazy times and embrace them knowing that these unbearable moments will soon pass leaving me with the exhilaration that I just made it through another loop by sheer will, determination and positive thinking, “You are good, you will succeed, it is all worth it, even though Axel was in tears last night because he was looking at pictures of you smiling and said that you never smile or laugh anymore.”
And Axel is right. I have aged in this past year in my attempt to create the impossible. I am looking older and more haggard and even have had to get eyeglasses from too much writing on the computer. My muscles are softening and my bottom is flattening out from too much sitting and my energy comes in short spurts but, but, but I believe it is all going to turn around soon. It has to, and in the meantime I have decided to throw three sheets to the wind, which is probably another metaphor that I have messed up but don’t have time to research, and am going to do what I love to do more than anything else in the world, aside from being with my boys. I am going to bring my Taurean self up to the ski slopes and puff out all of my pent up aggression, as I plow through and in and above the powder only concentrating on my next turn and getting to the bottom of the run without stopping…ever!
Brev’s post sticks his list of goals to get Muki?
Everybody and their mother has told me that I must be insane to get a puppy when I already have so much chaos in my life but I disagree. I really can’t imagine raising three boys without ever giving them the opportunity to learn what it is like to take care of something that they can call their own.
The boys have no doubt that their daddy absolutely, unequivocally does not want a furry beast in our house to add to the mayhem and so I have enlisted their help to create a motivational chart of chores where they can record all of their hard earned work with the ultimate goal of raising 250 points, all for the love of Muki.
In providing this opportunity for them to succeed I have discovered the golden key to success. The points can only be obtained if they work collaboratively with each one helping the other to complete their task. They can get as many points as they want in a day and it does not matter what chores they choose and all of the points are based on an honor system. We also came up with a list of bad behavior that will work against them if they get an X.
Already, the boys have completely changed their attitudes and have been working their tails off, so to speak, to convince us that they will work hard once Muki arrives. “Yes mommy,” Axel says whenever I ask him to do something. “Did I just get an X?” Tucker asks after he has a little melt down over getting his shoes on.
The other night Brevitt was up late with me cleaning the kitchen and he said, “I feel so weird that I am helping you so much.” I agreed that it felt strange but wonderful that I had him as a companion to help me around the house.
I’m thinking that if we all whipped our children into shape the future will be filled with conscientious and capable adults who understand the importance of teamwork and helping others.
If a dog is not what you had in mind, find something else that the kids will consider worth working for; a trip somewhere different, a massive sleepover, ice cream for breakfast for a week.
It is true that they are driving us crazy with their complete obsession with the chart but the benefits make up for all of the annoyances.
It was the other night, when I was like the walking dead after only five hours of sleep, that I truly realized that I had tapped into an incredible solution to my daily frustrations.
I told the boys that I needed to go to bed and watched as they bustled around me cleaning up the house before they retired with me. Tucker emerged from the bathroom with his pants down on his ankles and asked, “Which brudder wants to wipe my bottom?” and both Brevitt and Axel ran over to help him and get a point.
Now the most common question is what happens when Muki actually arrives on the scene in the spring? I guess the answer is that I will have to come up with more goals, as giving them an allowance causes fierce competitiveness and more fighting.
We’ll take each step as it comes but for now the house is a whole lot tidier and my workload has decreased significantly, making me a much happier mommy.
It is difficult, where I live, to make the decision to stay home for the day with the children when all of their friends are out enjoying the great outdoors. But after my dream, I decided we needed a day at home.
Children are a mass of energy and when they join together on a project a musical hum fills the room, never quieting, never stopping. To have a day at home meant that I needed to be the conductor for the music, listening to their ideas for play and helping them to create a rhythmic flow.
The day began with Brevitt being caught red handed with a bag of marshmallows hanging out of his mouth that he was attempting to quickly devour for breakfast, before he got caught. I grabbed them out of his sticky hands and project #1 began, building castles and snowmen with toothpicks and marshmallows.
The hum began with each boy moving in his own direction and singing his own song. Axel cries when we call him a Scientist, adamantly stating that he does not want to be associated crazy looking scientists like Einstein. He begins his “non-scientific” experiments by putting marshmallows and chocolate chips in the microwave and then into the freezer. I wonder if all young scientists begin this way, by experimenting with that which is most accessible, hot and cold. Brevitt created a remarkable castle with complicated tiers and wings and Tucker made a snowman. If I disturbed the energy by trying to break away from it, the turbulence would threaten to bring our musical plane down.
When they began licking and unsticking themselves from their project, I began project #2, moving them in front of a large mirror with a DVD player, a costume box and flashlights. We spent a good hour taking turns dressing up and performing skits to music in the dark.
Brevitt went first, dressing up as a girl in a blond wig and a fun Prada dress that I had bought at a sale during my wild days. Ask me what compelled me to buy a short, orange, stretchy nylon Hawaiian dress with orange tassles on the sleeves and bottom and I will tell you that I used to be very fun.
Brevitt gloated at himself in the mirror, caressing his curves and complaining about his hair. My laughter quickly turned to concern as his dance moves became R-rated. I was going to have to do some serious investigating into where he learned those moves.
We all followed Brevitt’s lead putting on the Prada dress and wig. I appreciated Axel’s more innocent Guns n’ Roses style of dancing, which closely resembled his dad when practicing air guitar. Tucker surprised us with his adeptness at copying his big older brother and my concerns returned.
I made the mistake of leaving the room for a few minutes to prepare a snack and out came that high pitched 911 scream from Tucker.
Evidently, Brevitt had told Tucker to close his eyes while convincing Axel to stick a nerd candy up his own bottom. When Tucker opened his eyes he was happy to find the nerd sitting invitingly in front of him and he popped it into his mouth, a moment in time that he will never forget.
Brevitt was becoming argumentative and pouty and so we took a break from the flow. I wrestled him to the floor and began asking questions but his only answer, as he shook his head back and forth, was “I’m the Prince, and I can do whatever I want.” He gets like this every now and then, stuck in a character and totally impossible and I begin to think that he has a few screws loose. I knew if I wanted the day to continue unscathed I had to get to the bottom of his issues.
Me: “What is going on with you? You seem to be very argumentative these days.”
B-Boy: “I feel like I am always getting in trouble for trying to help people.”
Me (repressing the urge to mention that he had just gotten in trouble because he ingeniously had Tucker eat a lethal nerd): “How about I make it one of my New Year’s resolution to pay more attention before getting upset with you?”
B-Boy: “But you always make resolutions and never keep them.”
Me: “Okay, that will be my other resolution, to keep my promises.”
B-Boy: “I feel like running away because I don’t think before I do stupid things.”
At that moment I noticed that he had put the barrel of a wooden toy gun into his mouth. I got very disturbed becoming concerned that I had neglected to see how depressed he truly was. I was about to go online and search for a children’s psychologist when I noticed the skeletal pile of toothpicks that once was Tucker’s marshmallow snowman. Like a fox, Brevitt had eaten all of the marshmallow projects. Concern turned to anger when I realized that Brevitt’s meltdown was sugar induced and so I kicked him out of the house and moved Axel and Tucker on to Project #3, writing a letter to daddy to convince him that we should get a puppy in the spring.
As the day faded into night I saw how a day connecting with my children, through arts & crafts and conversation, was so sorely needed, tantrums and all. We played Rummy Q and ended the night wrapped in each others arms in the TV room watching a crazy VH1 show called Nitrous Circuit, where young men reach their athletic limits by doing stupid things.
On Christmas Day we arrived at my sister Micheles house with the Vini-Man loaded with presents for all the cousins. The kids ran around in their pajamas taking them off throughout the day to plunge into the hot tub and then dive into the snow. It was a wonderful family day until Michele came back from a walk completely disoriented. Her dog,?Loki, one of my best animal pals (named after the God of Mischief), had?ran at her knocking?her feet out from underneath?and she landed on her head.
In a high anxiety state she placed her head in her hands and sat on the steps in front of the wood stove. The children all gathered around her in deep concern. Testing her memory, she pointed to each child and told them their names. We all tried to stay?calm asking?her questions to get a measure of how much she had forgotten. Was it just today or a lifetime of memories gone? Placing?her on the couch we?sat with her for four hours answering her questions. Devon, the oldest of all the grandchildren, remarked on how we were living the same five minutes over and over again. How did it happen? When did it happen? Did I get sick? Did Loki know that he had hurt me? Is this a bad concussion?
When the anxiety started to subside, the humor set in?and when she asked for the umpteenth time,?How did it happen, or did I already ask you that? I feel like Im having a dj vu, I agreed that it was a dj vu kind of day?tentatively asking?if she knew that Devon was a ski racer? She looked at me as if I was crazy. Of course she did. She also knew how to add doubles, until Thumper?got too high with the equations, but that was normal math confusion. She knew all of our ages except hers, but that was normal denial. We would get all excited that her anxiety had subsided and hazy memories were returning when she would have a relapse and forget everything.
To mix things up a bit we brought?her opened Christmas gifts and she would relive them all over again. ooooh, she’d exclaim, blue goggles, cool. Did I see these already? I like this shirt, it looks like something I would buy for myself, did I say that already? Devon and I would glance at each other and smile. Thumper?wasnt sure if it was funny or not and kept dropping himself into her lap. Nikki sweetly would question her mommy?and?India was quiet. At one point Michele looked at Hootie-Hoo?and said, your so little, who are you. There was silence, slight laughter and than concern until Michele laughed and said she was just kidding.
When I said we needed to cancel her sledding party scheduled for the next day she exclaimed, I was having a party? That sounds like so much fun. We finally went home to give her some rest. The comments about missing a fun party followed us out the door. Was I having a great party tomorrow? I cant believe we are not going to have that great party!
I went to sleep laughing and concerned that things could worsen.? How thankful we all are that she did not get sick. Michele is not allowed to scare us like that. She is too adored by everyone. I am thankful that we only got a warning this time. If only I could keep all of my loved ones protected by a big invisible shield.
[su_heading]How to Get Fidgeting Boys to Go to Sleep?[/su_heading]
Thumper put on his favorite song of the week, Let it Rock by Kevin Rudolph, and we bustled about the kitchen cleaning it up before bedtime. Suddenly he breathlessly pointed out the window at a young buck standing outside looking in at us.
“He’s so close, his face is almost smashed against the window,” Thumper said and I told him about a couple who claim that when they play Van Halen all the deer come round the house to peer into the windows. With two points on his antlers the buck looked as though he was about the same maturity level as Thumper in buck years.
“I think he wants to hang out with you and listen to your music,” I said, “and if he goes anywhere near my tulip garden in the spring we will be having Venison stew for dinner (which he and his family did – but for some reason only gobbled down the pretty purple ones).”
After all of the excitement the boys and I gargled our salt water to stop our colds off from getting worse and went upstairs to begin the bed routine. After finally getting everybody to sleep I went downstairs to pump my body up with whole garlic cloves and a good dose of Kick-Ass Immunity Activator by WishGarden to fight off this cold I have. Suddenly by my side was Thumper taking his vitamins and following me around the kitchen.
“Thumper. My love. What are you doing out of bed?” I inquired.
Looking up at me with that smile that melts my heart every time he said, “Mommy, the oldest kid should be able to stay up an hour later than the other kids. It’s my right.”
Mommy: “Well, I just read an article stating that many older male siblings convince their parents that they should go to sleep later than the others and the fact is that they are the ones who need their sleep the most. So off to bed with you.”
Thumper: “But mommy, I can’t sleep because of the full moon.”
Mommy: “Don’t use my line! There is a time when all the boy energy needs to go to rest so that I can have time to regroup.”
And so, I ended up taking him to bed and verbally walking him through our meditation process to calm his fidgeting and allow sleep to take over.
Mommy: “You are on a horse slowly walking through a beautiful safe forest, with your cousins.”
Thumper: “Mommy I don’t like horses and I’d rather be somewhere more fun with my cousins.”
Mommy: “You are in a safe dark tunnel…”
Thumper: “Mommy, that’s boring. Make it a cave.”
Mommy: “Ok, you are in a (*(&#’n) cave and your head is getting very heavy. Let it relax into the pillow.”
Thumper: “Wait, can you start over, I have to itch my butt.”
Mommy: …..“Are you done yet Thumper?”
Thumper: “No, not yet. Okay, I don’t know why my butt was itching me but I think I’m better. Can you start from the beginning?”
Mommy: “Stop milking it Thumper and pleeeeaaaasssseee go to sleep.”
By the time I was finished we were both fast asleep.
I need help here. What do you do to calm your Tween down for sleep?
[su_heading]Taken Down by Thanksgiving[/su_heading]
Last year Thanksgiving dinner was at our house and I fretted over how I was going to successfully turn the incredibly enormous beast of a bird sitting headless before me into a delectable feast. My in-laws took over the helm and saved the day, once again, tenderly basting and rotating the turkey as if it were another grandchild.
This year we were going to my sister Michele’s house for Thanksgiving and it felt good to cook all day without the dreaded turkey looming over my shoulder.
On the drive over to Michele’s I tossed in a speech to the boys reminding them of how thankful we should all be that we lived in the beautiful West with their beloved cousins living a mere fifteen minutes away.
Before I finished my speech of “blah, blah, blah cousins, blah blah blah friends, must be thankful blah, blah, blah”, the fighting began and as the boys reached for each others jugulars Baddy shouted out threats of beating somebody/anybody if the fighting and crying did not stop. I was most thankful for the short car ride to Michele’s house where we would be greeted by my competent older sister who would no doubt find the humor in our dysfunctional ways.
We arrived and Michele was flitting about her house effortlessly with the delicious scents wafting from the oven. The magnificent turkey was almost finished and the table was dressed beautifully with the most gorgeous orange tulips displayed perfectly in the light of the sun bursting through the window.
After an intense game of soccer with snow capped mountains providing the perfect back drop, Michele and I went upstairs to dress for our guests. We laughed at our opposing styles, she dressed in a colorful long cowboy skirt and cashmere sweater and I dressed in a short skirt and camisole with clunky high black boots.
As soon as dinner began I felt the onslaught of muscle spasms from my intense goalie moves on the soccer field and I began to chug the wine to numb the pain. At 7:30pm I slipped upstairs to crawl into the bed that Michele and I had slept in when we were little girls and I fell into a deep alcohol laden sleep.
In the days to follow I was taken down with a food and alcohol hangover, muscle spasms, a tweaked knee, a deep congestive cough and an agonizing inability to find solace in my writing.
I am now suffering severe writer’s block and so if you do not hear from me for a while it is because Thanksgiving took me down!
photo taken by Michele
[su_heading]The High Activity Level of Boys[/su_heading]
I got a call from my neighbor the other day asking me what my mode of operation was with my boys to dispel their frenetic energy on these cold fall days. We commiserated about how the energy of our boys has escalated with the changing weather and how they are reluctant to go outside, leaving us with pent up craziness on all fronts.
Even when eating at the kitchen counter they are unable to stop moving. Usually Hootie-Hoo begins the humming as he happily eats and the other two unconsciously join in. I marvel at how unaware they are of it, the noise, the hum, the fidgeting.
With Thumper now a 10 year old, as he helps me write out a menu for a special dinner we are having I soak up his gracefully tall, slim body which has not yet hit that awkward stage. Memories of him as an expressive, funny, curly headed, naked toddler flashed before me.
His face is becoming more like an adults but his eyes still have the inquisitive, innocent expression from his baby days and every smile and every gesture of love that emanates from his body still warms my soul.
He towers over his brothers often flying off of a piece of furniture to “torture” them, wrestling them to the ground with his sixty-eight pounds of sinewy muscle.
I am waiting for Axel’s big growth spurt but for now he is still little and quietly thoughtful. The other day he commented at the breakfast table that there was something wrong with this life. I wasn’t surprised by this philosophical statement and looked over to hear the rest of his pontification. There he was standing next to a box of Life cereal and was merely commenting on the taste.
I think that I have ruined him lately with my inability to cope with all of his mess. “Yes, mommy,” he replies when I ask him to do something, and then he doesn’t do it. I don’t want him to tread lightly around me with the fear that his boyish ways will stir the disturbing fire that burns within me and spark at every annoying thump or war cry. I must quench that fire.
Hootie-Hoo skips around the house singing and giggling and turning all of my chores into a game, talking incessantly, which makes it difficult to slip off into my own dream world. When he demands an answer from me I tell him that mommy sometimes likes to be quiet and go off to different worlds. He tilts his head sideways to think and replies a few seconds later with, “Mommy, are you going to ever come back to this world?”
Just when I think that I have become numb to all the noise Baddy walks in the door from work yelling out, “Who let the natives out of their cages?”
I remind him that he was once a crazy, loud boy, like his sons, dancing on tables in the classroom and hiding under his sisters bed to scare her at night. He shakes his head and laughs in complete denial.
As a mother of three boys I have no choice but to love and accept their innocence, their playfulness, their youth, their boyhood and fight back the desire to have a peaceful, harmonious home where the buzz is a little softer and the furniture remains in tact.
I will say this, they are most lovable when they are peacefully asleep in their own beds.
[su_heading size=”18″]I am a Mommy Blogger and I am proud, hear me roar![/su_heading]
After my most recent post I was filled with a renewed energy from all of your comments. I was holding on to the criticism that I received from this women thinking that I could make use of it to improve my writing.
The fact is that I have never have dealt with negativity well and her words were taking me down. I couldnt move away from the criticism and I started to climb into my dark, little hole to stay for a while.
When I received all of your positive comments I slowly began to crawl out confirming that positive criticism is much more productive.
Please make sure that you go back to my website to see my replies. Your comments are my important feedback and I respond to every one, even the scathing ones.
Social Networking has proven to be an incredible phenomena for me. Admittedly, in the beginning I hated the entire concept. I wanted to write, not socialize. Who had time for that? But now I see that I was closed minded. Global Technology has opened up an amazing world of new friends and connections, it is my new travel.
When I started writing, I set sail on a spiritual, psychological, physical and emotional journey. To be honest, I had no idea what a blog was I just knew it provided a great vehicle for writing all that I had been storing in my head for so long.
I really hated when people would lump me in with all the other mommy bloggers. I wanted my own individuality with my writing.
No, I would explain, I am a new and aspiring writer trying to make a living as I raise my three boys. I am looking to build a platform and to connect with book and magazine publishers and agents.
My SEO/Renaissance man, sorry Eric I cant move away from that tag, tried to feed it to me lightly. Ok, if youre not a mommy blogger then how would you like to define yourself? I saw his point.
I read that sleeping and dreaming is a time where all of our thoughts from the day get organized in our brains. I find that mommy blogging is a similar process and it is no surprise to me that it has become the latest trend.
Successfully mastering being a mother and a wife is an enormous undertaking and we, as mothers and fathers, have needed to unite for a long time to combine efforts and help provide each other with invaluable information that you can’t get in text books.
I can speak for a large percentage of parents who are in shock at their responsibilities and we have discovered that writing about our issues helps us to analyze our progress as we observe our lives objectively.
When I was on Twitter the other day one of the Celebrity posts asked for some input in to who we would like to read about. I responded, “Move over Paris, Mommy Bloggers are the new Celebrities. We don’t focus on starving ourselves and plumping our lips. We are real and raw and ready to tell everyone a little more about life and many of us are naturally sexy without even trying!”
Every now and then I get a comment on my website that throws me for a loop. I am aware that I am exposing myself to the masses and not everybody is going to appreciate my sense of humor or get my intentions as I write.
It is interesting to me what some people get angry at. Usually what bothers them the most is my over privileged youth or they think I am too preachy or find a superior tone in my voice.
I try my best to take their criticism constructively but I cant help but feel that some people are just looking to find the negative in everything around them.
This one comment that I received after my latest post, “I’m Not as Happy as I Seem”, gave me great cause for reflection:
[su_box title=”Stop the Pity Party”]No offence meant but you need to stop the pity party sooner than later. We get the fact that you were brought up privileged but it seems that may be more of a hindrance than anything. Your misconception that you are special is dragging you down. Get a JOB. JK Rowling was a single mother, worked full time and managed to crank out a little hit called Harry Potter. Go get a job. There is no instant payoff with a blog and if you are as broke as you say-you need money and that is what a job offers. Truly passionate writers do what they have to so that they can write-you are looking for a quick buck in the wrong place. Work on your writing like a craft-it takes years. And get a job.?[/su_box]
I felt the need to share it with you and to get your comments.?Looking back, she was absolutely right about getting a job and I often think of her advice, albeit rudely stated. It is a luxury to be able to stay home and build your passion while mothering your three children, without getting paid at the same time.
What are you thoughts?
Hootie-Hoo stayed home with me yesterday. What is it about children that they fall sick on the days that their mother is planning to take off? I mean really, wheres the sense of humor in that?
When I realized that my most needed day of recovery from my treacherous week was not going to happen I looked up to the Universe and had a little conversation to anybody who would listen, “I really want to know, I’m being serious now, did I do something terribly wrong in my previous life or even in this life that I am unaware of?”
I definitely have made some foolish, selfish moves that could invoke bad karma like leaving Hootie-Hoo sleeping in a car to race in and get a Chai Tea from Starbucks, which I shouldn’t have been spending my money on in the first place. But the temperature was perfect inside the car for a sleeping baby and I was feeling rebellious. When I came out of the store with my frothy, delicious cup of decadence my heart leapt into my throat as I was met by a fleet of policemen with lots of questions. It was no fun trying to convince them that I was actually an incredible mother and not abusive and that all I wanted was a little reward for living a life that was NOT ABOUT ME.
Maybe it was the time that I backed into the parked car forgetting as always about my huge bike rack. In a rush, as always, I left the scene. Never good to crash and dash, is it? But after investigating the rusted dent already there, I was certain it was not me who caused it.
I never did get any answers from the powers that be and so I changed my mindset and spent the day jumping on top of Hottie-Hoo, staring into his incredibly luminous eyes and dark lashes?and making him giggle. When we weren’t rolling around together I resumed? to? the multitude of phone calls I had to make to desperately try to avoid plunging further into debt.
When I received the email that I was invited to go away for a weekend of indulgence with my good friends I bent over and slammed my head against my desk a few times arising with tears of frustration for the lack of money. After all, if I did get a job, all the money would have to go to daycare where somebody I didn’t know would be raising my precious cherub.
I wrote an email that made me feel slightly better and pressed send:
[su_box title= Go Without Me]
I have reached the dark and diaphanous pit of my bank account, and have no money to join you this weekend. ZILCH, NADA, flat out broke like a kinda gimme, buy me , do me kinda broke. I got no bling. I got nothin’ to offer.
Although, spending a weekend with you and yours; spaaing it up, reading,? hiking/running and consuming major amounts of alcohol sounds over the top appealing, I shall have to pass it by and drown at home…alone… in my sorrows.
Every month bankruptsy hovers over us and? I contemplate selling a child to pay our mortgage. It gets more and more difficult to remain positive and I have nothing left to fall back on.
Just as I swore that I would never be one of those moms who talked about bowel movements, I also swore that I would never let money come in between Baddy and my relationship. But life is not black and white and Baddy and I are struggling to hang on to each other and everything that we are responsible for. It was far easier to control conversations about babies than it is to control our spiraling finances.
On the bad days I think about how the best way to save money would be to take Hootie-Hoo out of?those few days of pre-school.?If that happens I cannot possibly write with him at my heels. If I lose my freedom to write than I will most likely lose my sanity and if I lose my sanity than I will lose my husband and if I lose my husband than I will lose my babies who will blame me for everything and if I lose my children than you may as well shove me into a box with a huge weight on it and throw it overboard.
Sometimes I cannot believe how numb I have become to all the negativity that I am confronted with month to month and sometimes I spend my time driving with blurred vision as the tears role down my face. I know that we are not alone in our struggle, everywhere I turn I witness other families struggling and I cry for them as well.
Other times I look at the way the light hits the Autumnal wild grass turning it a beautiful and earthy shade of gold and I marvel at the low lying clouds hugging the mountains in their soft embrace and I get filled with an intense happiness. I still have my husband, my children, my mother, my sisters, my friends and all of our health. I live in a beautiful place, I can rely upon nature to be my Prozac and I have a good sense of humor that I can call upon at any moment to help me through the tough times.
So pfffft, just ignore me, I’m fine actually. It’s just that my friends have told me that I should write a little more about the adversity in my life and not sound so goddamn happy all the time. So there it is. Do with it what you may!
When Brevitt was younger I took him to the grocery store to get marshmallows for camping and before we walked in his eyes widened and he whispered, “WOW, is this the marshmallow store?”
My friend was telling me that her ten year old twins would be staying home and watching her younger boys while she and her husband went out for a quick spell. I told her that I could NEVER trust my ten year old at home without me.
The first thing he would do? Get his brothers to hunt for the marshmallows so that they could eat half of them and blow up the other half in the microwave.
Then they would do the forbidden ten foot jump out of the loft, throw all of their stuffed animals off of the balcony into the living room and build a huge fort made with every sheet from every bed and every cushion from every coach.
If they got tired out they would proceed to the media room to watch bad television while licking their sticky hands.
I would come home to a layer of goo covering all the furniture, carpets and walls. Hopefully, my boys would be unbroken and sitting like zombies on the coach at one with the tv.
Perhaps when he is thirteen I’ll be able to leave him alone but it is very difficult to imagine.
[su_heading]Am I a Goddess?[/su_heading]
Most of us don’t wear pointy, golden brassieres or sexy tight cat suits so it may not be so obvious, but I am convinced that all mothers are either Super Hero’s or Goddesses. As far as Goddesses go, I am no Helen of Troy or Hestia. Let’s just say that I’m more of a cross between Hera and Aphrodite with a little Medusa thrown in.
In the past three months my superhuman powers have reached dangerously high toxic levels as I managed to survive four birthdays, an attempted anniversary celebration and Halloween. Throw in a few child medical emergencies, struggling finances, a bronchial cold that nearly killed me and the full moon, and there you have it, Goddess extraordinaire straight out of Greek Mythology. Like the Goddesses I have accepted my fate laced with imperfections and obstacles that I must overcome.
I read an article in the New York Times that said that screaming is the new spanking and I couldn’t relate more. The boys have a difficult time settling down in the evenings and the crazier they get the louder Wade and I become with our shouting. Yes, I know that yelling at your children is ineffective, most of the time, and only causes them to withdraw but I honestly feel that sometimes they need a little shout for them to actually hear my message.
On a good day I am an Opera singer, hitting a high note and holding it until they stop their monkeying around to curiously find out what the hell is making more noise then they are. On a recent predominantly bad day, I was less attractive in my mode of discipline. I had absolutely had enough of being manipulated by my incredibly obnoxious wild things and so I yelled out, “How much do you think that mommy and daddy will take of this behavior before we decide to move out?”
Let me explain for a moment. The impetus for this comment was the children’s book that I have been reading to the boys at night titled, The Willoughby’s, by Lois Lowry, and the excerpt that I cannot seem to shake is the following:
[su_box title=Quote from the Book The Willoughbys]“Dearest?” “Yes, dearest?” “Do you like our children?” “Oh, no,” Mrs. Willoughby said, “I never have. Especially that tall one. What is his name again?” “Hes’ the one I least like. But the others are awful too. The girl whines incessantly”. “I have a plan,” Mr. Willoughby said, “It’s thoroughly despicable.” “Lovely”, said his wife. “A plan for what?” “To rid us of the children.” “Oh goodness, do we have to walk them into a dark forest? I don’t have the right shoes for that.” “No, this is a better plan. More business like.” “Ooooh, goody. I’m all ears,” she replied with a malevolent smile. [/su_box]I felt badly when all three boys broke down into tears after I said it and I tried to explain my outburst individually to each child. I was stroking my middle child, Axel’s, soft hair and looking down at his sweet face when he asked, “Why would you ever leave us?”
I wanted to jump out of the window of my office for failing so miserably as a mother, but the window is on the first floor of the house and I would feel really silly if I did that, but the point is, why couldn’t I have delivered my message without upsetting them so? I told him that enough was enough and that they needed to give their daddy and I the respect that we deserved as parents and calm down when it was time for bed.
If only I truly were a Goddess, I could cause a mini cyclone as a warning in the midst of their rough housing or maybe I am a Goddess and haven’t fully tapped into it yet. After all, I have been known to be fierce, loving, warrior like, sexual and even narcissistic at times.
So, move over Zeus and make a well deserved seat for me on Mount Olympus and while you’re at it hand me over one of your lightening bolts.
In our gorgeous new home, Baddy had built me a beautiful office with a huge window facing South. It was situated directly next to the kitchen so I could jut in and out preparing meals and writing all in the same breath, in full multi-tasking overload.
Baddy’s office on the other hand, is outside our property in the spooky old barn (he really is a badass). His office consisted of nothing more than a desk and char and a fax maching.
I put my boots on and trudged out through the new snow to send a 137 paged fax to our mortgage company to try and get a refi. Walking into the dark, unheated barn with a meat hook hanging menacingly from the ceiling, I tried not to think of Baddy sardonically threatening to hang me there as a trophy if I continued to push his buttons.
I swirled round and round in his office chair making smoke rings as the cogs in the fax machine began to squeak. As I waited for the fax to be completed, I suddenly felt the hair prickle up on my neck. I wasn’t alone.
I sat there frozen in the chair as the adrenaline pumped through my body. My heart was thumping so hard I thought it may just abruptly stop. Closing my eyes I took a deep breath,
I breathed out a muted “Hello,” the word floating up into the air.
I had communicated with him many times before but had never actually felt his presence.
….and then he spoke, “I knew that you would show up sooner or later.”
I felt a slight warm breeze on my neck and I could hear my heart beating within my own chest. He was directly behind me, enveloping my being with his presence. My impulse to run out of the barn into the blinding white snowstorm was hard to resist but I had been waiting for this moment for so long and I was melting in his presence, unable to resist him.
Closing my eyes again I waited for his words.
‘….why aren’t you scared anymore?”
“I guess I have grown to trust you,” I responded.
“Tell me…why do you feel the need to beat me up when you are sending me a message?” Stinging me with a bee or knocking my head on the corner of the counter?” I asked.
“….Because you are stubborn and it is the only way I know to get my message across to you to stop.”
“I am never certain that it really is you sending the message or just my conscience,” I said.
“Can you tell me something? Can you tell me who you are and why you have chosen me to guide and protect?”
“You already know who I am.”
“Yes, but do I really? I have so many questions to ask you but am afraid to hear the truth.”
“Jillian, you already know all the answers. You just have to believe in yourself, and in me.”
“Can I see you at least?”
“We have been together many times before, in your dreams.”
“I love you, you know,” I said
“Yes, I know,” he replied.
“Jillian, there is something important that I have to tell you before I go.”
“Are you sure I’m ready for it? I mean, maybe I am not cut out for this and am better remaining innocent.”
“Jillian, you are not like the rest.”
Just at that moment the door flung open and Baddy blew in from the cold outdoors. He glanced over at the fax machine and back to my face assuming my paleness was from our financial stress.
I told him that I was waiting for him to save me from myself as he always has done and always will do for me.
I came out of the barn needing to feel the ground beneath my feet. Slowly, slowly I walked back to the house.
[su_heading]The Panic Of Missing A Child[/su_heading]
When your children reach a certain age, the fears that you have when they are little mutate into new fears. The chances of their getting lost are less but the chances of their getting hurt by their own volition are greater. Parents can never let their guard down with their children, regardless of the ages, but some children are easier than others to manage.
All my boys, including Tucker, always stuck close to me like little ducklings. I was never one of those moms that had to leave abruptly to chase after a toddler who was escaping mock force. This is why Wade and I were completely baffled when Tucker disappeared yesterday at the football field .
It didn’t help any that Brevitt, who was the most concerned of all, told me that he saw Tucker with his head down like he was sad and some adult man was helping him.
Taking a deep breath, I raced off on my bike and looped around the surrounding streets, no Tucker. It is difficult to methodically plan out your search when you are on the verge of panicking. I was breathing hard and my heart was racing but for some instinctual reason I managed to keep my panic at bay.
The most difficult decision to make is when to call the police. If Tucker had been kidnapped than immediacy would have been essential and I never would have forgiven myself for waiting to make the call.
Racing to the nearby park something told me to keep going down the path to my friend’s house where Tucker always has play dates, this was the last place I was going to check before dialing 911. I knew that the family was gone in the desert and as I suspected their house was all locked up. I walked to their back patio to check if any doors were unlocked thinking that if Tucker did indeed walk all the way over there he might scout out the place to get inside and play with their toys.
Like a ghost, Tucker appeared inside in front of the window with his secret smile on his face. How did he get in there with all the doors locked? A wash of “what if’s” enveloped me in a thin reality veil. What if I hadn’t walked around the back? What would he have done after getting bored of playing? Would he have walked back to the football field in the dark or sat in the house all alone crying until somebody came home or would he have turned on the television and helped himself to popsicles? What if he really had been kidnapped?
I breathed an incredible sigh of relief and moved on to stage two. I wasn’t sure how to scare him to his senses without permanently causing damage. I decided to tell him the story of how my mother did call the police when I was a child because she forgot that I had told her that I was going to my friend’s house for lunch. I have never forgotten seeing the police car in the distance and as I got closer hearing the police asking the children if they had seen Jillian Wernick. I froze with fear when I realized it was I who was in trouble.
A few months ago I heard about a four year old disappearing from an ice cream shop located adjacent to a river. I couldn’t help but accuse the parents of being negligent with their child, how could they not have noticed that their little boy had wandered away?
My family reflected on how none of us noticed Tucker walking away, I was taking pictures of the team and Wade was busy packing up the car to leave. Last we saw Tucker he was playing football with all of the other kids. Apparently, he got bored and decided to walk over to his friend’s house to play.
Sometimes we need these warnings to keep us on our toes, I’m just extremely thankful that we were lucky this time.
I grew up traveling and crave it like my kids crave candy but because our financial situation hovers over us like a threatening cloud carrying thunderbolts, I must reel myself in and learn to enjoy travel in proximity.
The other day my friend and I left our boys practicing football on the field and walked in the brisk early evening fall air to rendezvous with the other football moms for happy hour. I was feeling a bit like Eeyore, wearing my insecurities on my sleeve and feeling reluctant to say anything lest I reveal my pitiful state. Taking in the energy of the women surrounding me, I let the wine slowly work its magic throughout my body melting away my concerns and my plane began to take off.
These women and I came from different worlds but we all had one significant and mutual similarity, we had ten year old boys practicing football on the field five minutes away from our tipsy sorrows.
My plane landed in their worlds and I spent a wonderful hour enjoying their stories. Jan looked like the innocent Sandra Dee from the movie Grease Lightening, with fair skin, bright big blue eyes and blond hair to her shoulders. She told us how it was difficult at first for her husband from Puerto Rico to adapt to her Mormon family in Utah with a house devoid of alcohol and shaking with shredded carrots embedded in jello mold.
I invited myself to go with her the next time she visited her husband’s gay uncle in his Colonial mansion in Long Island. It’s not exactly the island that I was dreaming of but maybe what I really need is to escape into other people’s worlds instead of being confined in my own.
I figured that going to the desert was more trouble than it was worth, without Wade to help me, so I am in Denver instead. I still feel as though my head is about to blow off but at least I am encountering something different than the norm. Sometimes it is okay to take the path of least resistance.
I’ll fill you in when I get back, or maybe we’ll just keep heading West.
The desert will have to wait.
Many Aspenites escape to Moab with their children in the fall and spring, when the weather is getting colder in Aspen.
My mother answered my phone call and listened intently as I told her that I was going through another low with my writing. I read to her the first line in Leo Tolstoys book, Anna Karenina, Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. I whined to her that I was incapable of creating beautiful prose and that my writing had no depth.
My mother has always believed in my writing and has been my guiding light as she refuels me with her positivity. I take her intellectual praise as the greatest gift since she snubs mediocrity and lives to read. This time her response to my cry for help was not what I expected, Thats wonderful honey. When I asked her to elaborate she explained that she was excited that I had no debt.
It is my mother, my sister and a handful of friends who keep me positive and on track. As I plow through these moments of low self esteem they do not accept failure from me encouraging me to explore my own voice and telling me to enjoy the journey and not focus on the end result. I am always so impressed by their words of undying wisdom, they are the ones who should be writing!
Ahhh the journey. Whenever somebody mentions anything to do with travel I slip into a deep reverie. I have never stayed in one place for this long without taking off somewhere, anywhere, to break up the monotony and my life is truly getting more and more monotonous as I deal with troubled finances and rejection letters.
So I think I’ll take off for the desert tomorrow, just me and the kids. We’ll explore the rocks, soak up the sun, inhale the air and reconnect and hopefully I’ll come home with a renewed interest in my writing.
Can’t go to the desert without getting naked!
[su_heading size=”18″]Enjoy Them While They Are Tweenagers[/su_heading]
This morning I told the boys that I did the dream thing with Baddy again last night.
I had gotten home late from watching the film, An Education, at the Aspen Film Festival and I woke up Baddy so that we could have connection and catch up on our weekends. He had just returned from riding one hundred miles in one day on The White Rim Trail, an intimidating feat. “Wow, where did all this candy come from?” I mumbled, as I drifted off to sleep mid-conversation. “Jillian, your falling asleep on me again,” he laughed waking me up out of my dream. I used to do this to him all the time when we would have late nights together, pre-children.
Thumper told me that in my Book of Dreams it says that when you are dreaming of candy it means that you want to have sex. I started to ask him what exactly he knew about sex but we agreed that it was to early in the morning for that kind of conversation.
Thumpber has entered his “Tween” years and is teetering on the edge of innocence. As I get a glimpse of his teenage years to come I get more and more worried, especially since he closely resembles yours truly. I watch him lewdly dancing about the house to his crazy music that Baddy and I naively turned him on to at an early age and I know that I have a whole lot of work to do before he begins to tune out my words of wisdom. I begin by telling him to tone down his thrusts out of respect for the person that he is dancing with.
So what do you get when you pour Jillian into a boy of this generation who is the oldest in the family instead of the youngest? You get a very sassy, social, highly charged, cheeky pelvic thrusting ten year old with a hot temper.
Luckily he also inherited my father’s good humor and charm and as he does silly things like shoving my ear buds up his nose to see if he can hear the Ipod through his nose, I try to keep my sense of humor. Parenting can be so monotonous at times and I don’t see any harm in getting on their level to appreciate their humor.
When we were driving home the other day Thumper saw a patrol sign on the side of the highway that said, “DUI CRACKDOWN” and he asked me why the sign said, “Do I Crackdown”. I found this an appropriate moment to begin the conversation about responsibility.
I know that the conversation could wait a few years but he has not yet become sullen and introverted and so I feel compelled to feed him life’s lessons now before it is too late.
It is not easy being me but I sure can be entertaining at times. Take last week for example, I baked a cake for Brevitt’s birthday and brought it in to school to enhance the birthday impact. I am infamous for making delicious lopsided cakes but this year I decided to go healthy and try a recipe that I had never made before, first mistake. The cake was made with molasses, oatmeal and applesauce, second mistake. It was cooked to perfection but when I tasted it I got worried. Brevitt called from school to check in and I forewarned him that I would not be bringing in one of those store bought disgusting cakes that leave plastic in your stomach, he moaned in frustration and fear that he would once again be embarrassed by his crazy mom.
I guess it is a blessing that I no longer have the luxury of spending hundreds of dollars to mask my mistakes, frantically zooming to Midland Bakery in Basalt to purchase the perfect cupcakes that a professional baker has made. I improvised and arrived at the school with a healthy cake decorated with high fructose corn syrup frosting and red hots. The cake was devoured and Brevitt learned to trust his mom a little more.
The last time I brought a cake to school I was told by Brevitt’s not so favorite teacher that I was too late and had missed the window to present it to Brevitt’s favorite teacher. Brevitt and his sweet friends gathered around me and made me feel better reassuring me that we can’t all be perfect and that they too have cried over silly things like cake. I stood there with the most delicious chocolate cake in my hands, still warm from the oven, fighting back my tears of frustration. You would think that I would give up on the whole cake endeavor.
The frustrations that I create for myself do not end with cake. A good friend told me the other day that I have discipline issues with my boys. I looked at her as my kids raced around like cowboys and asked, “ya think?”. I didn’t elaborate that it is not just discipline issues that I have trouble with. Thankfully, she is not privy to my arriving to school every morning by the skin of my teeth with smoke coming out of my ears and again at the end of the day with my hair wild and a million unfinished projects left on the back burner.
To be a good disciplinarian one has to be consistent, focused and organized. Not my finest attributes. On a good week, I peacefully go through the cookbooks for lunch and dinner menus and bring the list to the grocery store. Lunches become a cinch and Tucker and I have a wonderful time cooking meals together during the days. Unfortunately, this is not the norm for me.
I really cannot stand that I am always behind the eight ball so this week I decided to make a concentrated effort to get the meals organized and to wake up early enough to factor in my soft addiction to the internet. I heard the obnoxiously loud music go off early this morning followed by my incredibly annoyed husband pulling the alarm clock out of the wall and throwing it across the room, I guess I accidentally set it for 4:30am. Even when I try, I somehow manage to sabotage my efforts.
Some days are better than others!
Spying on Brevitt and his friends as they cruise around town on his birthday, supposedly unsupervised
I am in my seventh month of writing my Blog and similar to Julie Powell, in the movie Julie and Julia, I am trapped in a sea of passion and insecurities as I try to ascertain my purpose and direction.
In all of this self-analysis I have deduced that my writing has become a reflection of my spiritual journey as a wife and a mother. It has helped me to live in the present more completely and spiritually then ever before. Every nuance, every impressionable expression, every tribute to life is divulged through my writing, helping me to grow as an individual.
As I weave the pieces together I better understand how everything in my life is not circumstantial but a culmination of chosen paths and decisions.
Chaos seems to follow me wherever I go which makes it sometimes difficult to see the paths clearly, and so I practice yoga. Just recently I burst into the door of the unbearably quiet yoga room and hurriedly began my Pranayama Breathing trying not to hyperventilate as the teacher quoted the?Dalai Lama, [su_quote]breathe deep and tap directly into the universe for information on life[/su_quote]
As I went from a completely harassed state to deep breathing, my head filled with negative and rebellious Monkey Chatter. I breathed in and looked up to the heavens trying to breathe the energy from the Universe back into my lungs. Anybody out there? I beckoned. Come out come out wherever you are, still nothing.
My inability to reach a meditative state compelled me to take my yoga to a deeper and more spiritual level. I approached the teacher after class, a beautiful, tranquil young man with clear brown eyes, olive skin and silky jet black hair and asked him if I could have a private conversation with him for a spiritual piece I was writing on my blog. It doesnt help that whenever I mention my blog people look at me as if I have three eyes, not a third eye mind you. He suggested that I attend a four hour seminar called, Anatomy of a Yogi, that was occurring in the yoga studio that afternoon.
For the sake of my blog and a quest for spirituality I abandoned my family and went to the seminar. I sat on the floor with seven other people, four of whom were yoga instructors, and listened to the seminar leaders, a married couple named Jaylee and Paul Balch.
Paul had a near-death experience when he was eighteen which compelled him to pursue a greater knowledge of the connection between mind, body and soul. Jaylee, oddly enough, also had a near-death experience a few years ago. She, unlike Paul, had such an incredible experience when she almost died that it was very difficult for her to keep living. In order to heal herself she knew that her mission was now to help others better understand the essence of life.
They began by speaking of the chakra system and how it related to the emotional energetics of the twenty-six postures that we practice in Bikrams yoga.
Time stood still as I sat there listening to two people who were able to take the training that they received from Tibetan and Tao masters and life learned experiences and deliver the information to those of us who were ready to receive it.
Jaylee and Paul were incredible people and I absorbed all of what they had to say but what resonates with me the most is the following:
In order to love and be loved we must try to live in this world with less judgment and expectations of others. It is not easy to let go of our egos and accept and forgive those who hurt us but by trying we are able to reach a higher level of happiness.
Unless we take a respite from our daily lives it is very difficult to connect with our inner peace. Yoga and meditation help us to rid ourselves of emotions that detrimentally affect our well being. When we breathe into a posture and hold it for twenty-seconds we release energy that can reprogram the patterns of our DNA. The movement of the blood and oxygen in our system also releases trapped negative emotions.
Yoga helps allow us to have our own dreams and goals. To give to ourselves so we have something to give back. The trained masters warn to not just accept what we are hearing but to always question, to not have expectations of others and to not take on the responsibility of others.
To practice spirituality is a work in progress for most of us. It is a scientific fact that harboring ill feelings will make you sick and possibly kill you. As Jaylee and Paul said, get value out of bad experiences. Glow and become more worthwhile. Start to have a significant presence and offer more to make a difference.
And so, I go on writing about life and as I blog away my journey becomes more and more defined helping me to better understand the chaos in my life and my role as a writer, a mother, a wife and a friend.
I cannot do the seminar justice in one small post but if you would like to read a well written article about it go to: www.oajnet.com/bikrams/newsletters/…/docs/AnatomyOfAYogi.pdf
Still with me? Read more:
[su_box title=”Training the Mind: Verse 1 WORDS FROM HIS HOLINESS, THE DALAI LAMA”]
One can see that other sentient beings are, in a sense, the true source of our joy, prosperity, and happiness. Basic joys and comforts of life such as food, shelter, clothing, and companionship are all dependent upon other sentient beings, as is fame and renown. Our feelings of comfort and sense of security are dependent upon other people’s perceptions of us and their affection for us.
It is almost as if human affection is the very basis of our existence. Our life cannot start without affection, and our sustenance, proper growth, and so on all depend on it.
In order to achieve a calm mind, the more you have a sense of caring for others, the deeper your satisfaction will be. I think that the very moment you develop a sense of caring, others appear more positive. This is because of your own attitude. On the other hand, if you reject others, they will appear to you in a negative way.
Another thing that is quite clear to me is that the moment you think only of yourself, the focus of your whole mind narrows, and because of this narrow focus uncomfortable things can appear huge and bring you fear and discomfort and a sense of feeling overwhelmed by misery. The moment you think of others with a sense of caring, however, your mind widens. Within that wider angle, your own problems appear to be of no significance, and this makes a big difference. If you have a sense of caring for others, you will manifest a kind of inner strength in spite of your own difficult situations and problems. With this strength, your problems will seem less significant and bothersome. By going beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain inner strength, self-confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm. This is a clear example of how one’s way of thinking can really make a difference.
The thing that we call “mind” is quite peculiar. Sometimes it is very stubborn and very difficult to change. But with continuous effort and with conviction based on reason, our minds are sometimes quite honest. When we really feel that there is some need to change, then our minds can change. Wishing and praying alone will not transform your mind, but with conviction and reason, reason based ultimately on your own experience, you can transform your mind. Time is quite an important factor here, and with time our mental attitudes can certainly change.[/su_box]
[su_box title=”FIVE EASY PRINCIPLES FROM SWAMI VISHUNDEVANANDA: THEY ARE A SYNTHESIS OF THE CLASSICAL YOGA TEACHINGS: “]
1. Proper exercise (Asanas) Enhances the flexibility of the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. The asanas improve circulation, massage the internal organs and improve organ function. A flexible and strong spine enhances blood circulation and keeps the body young and powerful.
2. Proper breathing (Pranayama) Connects the body to its battery, the solar plexus, which is an enormous reservoir of energy. Deep, conscious breathing boosts our daily energy reserves ?stress and many diseases (for example, depression) can be alleviated in this way.
3. Proper relaxation (Savasana) If the body and mind are subjected to constant overload, their performance suffers. A few minutes of physical, mental and spiritual relaxation counteract worry and fatigue more effectively than several hours of uneasy sleep.
4. Proper diet (vegetarian) Is one that is simple, natural and health promoting, and can be easily digested and assimilated by the body. It consists of food products that have the most positive effects on the body and mind, while having the fewest negative effects on the environment and on other creatures.
5. Positive thinking and meditation (Vedanta and Dhyana) Are the keys to peace of mind. By controlling the movements of the mind, we can eliminate negative thought patterns and experience deep inner peace.[/su_box]
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I was on the phone with my friend Gretchen when I heard screaming in the background. Her daughter had gotten pushed into a door knob by her feisty brother. Gretchen multi-tasked well, soothing her child without missing a step in our conversation. The second time her daughter came in screaming I heard thumping and dead silence. Gretchen saw her daughter coming and ran out the door escaping into the yard so that we could finish our conversation. We shared stories of having to shut ourselves in the bathroom to enjoy an adult conversation with a friend and agreed that it was time for the kids to go back to school.
The boys change so much from one summer to the next and I am enjoying that my role as a mother is changing. I am able to play with them more and cater to them less. The only caveat is the closer we become the more they begin to take ownership over me. My time becomes less my own and time with Wade gets more and more monopolized. To share intimate moments together is almost impossible. If we do manage to slip away we will often hear little gremlins trying to pick the lock on the bedroom door to steal their mommy back.
As Americans we tend to over indulge our children. After a summer playing Camp Director, I have decided that next summer will be different. I have done my boys a disservice by mapping out their days. Next summer I will encourage them to explore our neighborhood more and find the frogs and other treasures in the surrounding countryside, just as I did with my sister’s when I was their age. No longer will I take the responsibility of entertaining them every day and no longer will I be following them around the house cleaning up after them. I will establish a routine now that will hopefully help them with the transition back to school.
We will resort back to our chore list, which I never should have let go over the summer. The list helps the children to better understand their responsibilities as members of the family.
Good habits are not easy to establish, but without them children can feel lost. According to Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist, specializing in relationship-based parenting, routines help children feel safe and ready to take on new challenges and developmental tasks.
Dr. Markham says that kids who come from chaotic homes, where belongings are not put away, never learn that life can run more smoothly if things are organized a little. In homes where there is no set time or space to do homework, kids never learn how to sit themselves down to accomplish an unpleasant task. Kids who don’t develop basic self-care routines, from grooming to food, may find it hard to take care of themselves as young adults. Structure allows us to internalize constructive habits. Structure and routines teach kids how to constructively control themselves and their environments. http://parentstoolkit.squarespace.com/structure-routines-kids/
I heard on NPR that the routine of sitting down to dinner every night as a family is more important than reading books to your children. It gives children a sense of security and belonging to know that they will have a time every day where they can be listened to by their parents and where their stories can be shared.
According to the Raising Children Network, research has shown that routines have health benefits: children living in families who maintain regular family routines have fewer respiratory infections, and those they have tend to be shorter. There is still some conjecture about why. It might be that the routines contribute to healthy habits like washing hands which prevent transmission of germs that can cause illness, or that they help protect children against the kind of stress that suppress the immune system.
For those of you who are having a difficult time adjusting to the change, try not to lament that the endless days of summer are coming to an end. Embrace the new school year with open arms knowing that the children are getting the education and structure they need to help guide them through life. Enjoy your new free time and indulge yourself! I know that I will.
About This Post
It’s back-to-school time, and this year Sprite and TwitterMoms have partnered with bloggers like me to share back-to-school tips and tricks, advice, stories and more! Visit Sprite’s back-to-school channel on TwitterMoms to get helpful ideas, learn how to survive the back to school rush, seek out advice from other TwitterMoms and join the conversation. You can learn more about donating your My Coke Rewards Points to support your local school, how to enter for a chance to win some Back to School cash, check out recipes, or even play some fun games. Here’s to a successful and stress-free back to school season from Sprite and TwitterMoms!
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If your hair was bristling on the back of your neck when you read the title of this post don’t worry, you were not alone. I received a catalog in the mail the other day and I started hyperventilating. The front cover had children decked in brand new hip clothes and stylish haircuts and they were running excitedly back to school. No doubt, my boys are excited to move up a grade and be an even bigger “man on campus”, but there is nothing that is more exciting then summer…without school. It feels like it was just yesterday that my boys were singing Alice Cooper’s song, “School’s Out For Summer”.
As I flipped through the catalog, I had an image of the boys returning to school with choppy haircuts, courtesy from their mom, and hand me down threadbare clothes patched together with my, unopened, three year old sewing machine. Boys will be boys, and I have learned to save our money and not buy new clothes that will have holes in the knees after being worn five times. Perhaps we will start a shabby chic trend in grade school.
Thankfully, the calendar reassures me that there is still another twenty one days left before school starts, giving us a little more time to enjoy the summer groove that we have all finally gotten into.
As parents, we are all different in the way we embrace the summer and respectively the way we bring it to a close. June is always a welcome season when the hectic schedule of school and sports finally comes to an end. As the snow melts from the mountain peaks and the air begins to warm, my boys and I quickly shed our winter skin and quickly adapt to the nonchalant swing of summer. We lounge around in our pajamas until the mood compels us to prepare for our action-packed afternoons of swimming, bike riding and hiking. Actually, lounging sounds good in theory but in my family, if the boys don’t get out of the house by 11:00am they will get restless and start destroying the house.
When July arrives, I review the summer activity list that I made during the cold winter months and I begin to transfer the list into my daily planner, lest we should forget our favorites. Summer accelerates into August and high anxiety sets in. My husband tells me that I need to stop panicking about the future and enjoy the present. I try to listen but I know that these days will flash by faster than green grass through a goose. I am determined to have the boys jump off of Strawberry Rock into the refreshingly cold Frying Pan River, take the gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain to hike along the ridge in the wildflowers and listen to the bluegrass music, go fishing and build boats to float down the creek passing through our yard.
My husband is right, I must enjoy each day as it comes and so tonight I will enforce the evening family walk and we will bask in the sun’s warm setting rays before the autumn chill sets in. I will also wake the boys up late at night, wrap them up in blankets and bring them outside to lay under the velvety tapestry of the summer sky and sleepily search for shooting stars.http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/195652main_1.jpg
Many of us have twenty one or more days to mentally prepare ourselves, and our children, for the impending day where we will all have to get back on that strict routine of school, sports, homework, dinner and then the triple B’s; bath, books and bed. But for now, the arrival of August merely provides us with a warning that it is time to dive into summer with a vengeance and enjoy nature’s great offerings before the month of September rolls in. So jump in and enjoy the splash!
About This Post
It’s back-to-school time, and this year Sprite and TwitterMoms have partnered with bloggers like me to share back-to-school tips and tricks, advice, stories and more! Visit Sprite’s back-to-school channel on TwitterMoms to get helpful ideas, learn how to survive the back to school rush, seek out advice from other TwitterMoms and join the conversation. You can learn more about donating your My Coke Rewards Points to support your local school, how to enter for a chance to win some Back to School cash, check out recipes, or even play some fun games. Here’s to a successful and stress-free back to school season from Sprite and TwitterMoms!
[su_heading]Parents Need Children[/su_heading]
I was peacefully sitting at my desk writing when a nagging compulsion to phone my children came over me. I was meeting my in-laws in Vail the next day to retrieve the boys but felt that something was not right. Thumper answered the phone in tears. It appears that his high energy was spinning slightly out of control and Grandpa was laying down the law, thus confirming my belief that my boys can be difficult, no matter who is raising them.
On our last night of romance, Baddy and I decided to watch a movie and the only thing on Pay Per View was Revolutionary Road. Baddy began snoring within the first five minutes. I would have carried him to bed so that I could watch in peace, but his 185 pound dead weight body was no match for me.
The phone rang a few times but when I finally get the chance to sit down to a film nothing can interrupt me. The last time I was watching a film, in the middle of the day, a neighbor came by for trash bags and I made Hootie-Hoo deal with it. I am certain she thought that it was odd that I never came to the door.
When the movie was over I got a phone call from my sister. Like the devoted sister she is, she had been hunting all over for me to tell me that Thumper was in the emergency room with his grandparents in Denver. In her super sleuthing manner, she discovered that I had sent an email to a friend at 8pm, a clue that I was probably home.
Hanging up the phone, I felt sick to my stomach. Thumper had sliced his foot open on a garden divider and needed thirteen stitches. We talked on the phone as the doctor sewed his sutures and Grandpa told stories of pulling out his own stitches when he was younger. Thumper definitely has inherited the badass Livingston gene which is good since in the past three months he has sliced his foot open twice and chipped his tooth. We will be reaching our high deductible in no time.
I rushed to meet my in-laws at the drop off point at a McDonalds off I70. After five days without my little ones I was filled with heart flutters to seen them and there my little gremlins were. I soaked in the sight before entering the scene. For a second, I couldn’t believe that these sprite little boys were mine.
My reverie screeched to a halt when Baddy’s niece sweetly greeted me by telling me that she had barfed all over Vini-man. My smile stayed frozen on my face as the boys lunged over to me and started battling for mommy territory. Axel leaped in for prime real estate on my lap and Hootie-Hoo was desperately attempting to tuck himself under my arm when in hobbled Thumper on crutches. I was met with his beautiful smile that lit up McDonald’s. Was that strapping young man mine?
Feeling indulgent, I let them have Oreo shakes. Consequently, Hootie-Hoo and I spent thirty minutes in the bathroom stall singing and pooping.
Grandma and Grandpa left and immediate chaos ensued, we lost our dreamy Axel, Hootie-Hoo had a meltdown from all the sugar and started chanting that I don’t love him and Thumper was frustrated that he could not keep up with us on his crutches. I kept singing the song by the band, Soul to Soul, “Back to life, back to reality”.
We drove home gagging with the stench and so I put on Lithium, Thumper’s favorite Sirius station, to ward away the pain of reality. I flew onto I-70 with a loud, “yeeeehawwww” and it was then that I had an epiphany that when with my children I feel completely alive, albeit slightly crazy, but totally present. No, I cannot tend to my creative desires at my every whim and yes there is always somebody that needs tending to and the boys are extremely sensitive to me, and often difficult to handle, nevertheless, they are extensions of me and are my life.
We drove home singing loudly and when we went to bed they snuggled as close as they could to me. My three little puppies were home and I felt remarkably alive.
[su_heading]Going on a Date with Your Husband[/su_heading]
I drove over Independence Pass yesterday to hand the boys over to their incredible grandparents who have taken the liberty to take them on a road trip for five days.
For a month now I have been so looking forward to this break, packing my schedule full with dates with Baddy and monumental athletic excursions.
I also cannot wait to hit my computer and write down the stream of consciousness that I have been storing in my brain. Oh to have a quiet office without little gremlins trying to sneak marshmallows in the pantry outside the door.
As I kissed the boys goodbye, my eyes filled with tears. I have grown so attached to spending my every day with them and even though I knew that they were going to have a blast and were in the best of hands, I felt guilty for arranging this week without them. Being a mother is a mixed up, muddled up, messed up world of guilt and pleasure.
When I returned to Aspen, I took a long evening road bike ride up Castle Creek Road to Ashcroft where Baddy and I got married. As I rode, I soaked up the warmth of the sun and the scent of the pine trees that have not yet been devastated by the Pine Beetle. I felt as if I were Frederick, the little mouse who gathered sun rays, colors and words of summer to share with his family during the long winter months.
Baddy rode up on his bike to Aspen and we went out to Lu Lu Wilson for appetizers. Walking in, we basked in the great ambiance of the restaurant with gold painted chairs, animal printed seats and enormous crystal chandeliers. We were transported back to our honeymoon in Italy.
I had just procured my first paid online writing gig and so we celebrated by drinking a Limoncello Martini and sharing remarkably fresh oysters that had just been flown in that morning. The food was divine and I was in heaven.
We reminisced about the first time we drank Limoncello during an intermission for a classical music concert in Ravello, an old beautiful town situated 1,000 feet above the sparkling Amalfi Coast. Someday, I hope to take the boys to Europe in addition to Africa, India, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Pacific Northwest amongst other travels.
After dinner we walked through the town of Aspen and were enveloped by the sweet sound of music everywhere. Town was hopping and had an energy that I had not felt in a long time. We were amazed to see that the Mustang Grille had set up tables directly in the middle of the Hyman Avenue Mall and so we sat down and listened to our friends Randolph Turner, Rob Desoro and Cameron Williams play in their band Jes Crew. One advantage of this poor economy is that tough times have brought quality and creativity back to the town of Aspen.
Walking back to the car we passed an ensemble of musicians from the Aspen Music Festival and School playing their horns in front of Paradise Bakery. We are so lucky to have the students take up residency here in the summers. It is wonderful to hear their music spilling out of the windows as they practice the day away.
In the twenty-one years that I have lived here, I have painfully watched the decline of the small boutiques that have been forced out due to high rents. Last night Aspen felt charming again, not quaint like Ravello or other European towns, but still it held it’s own magic.
Baddy and I went home feeling like newly weds, stress free, satiated and happy. We are lucky to be able to reconnect and share this time together and I try not to think of Grandma and Grandpa falling to their beds in complete exhaustion in the evenings. Tonight, we will visit the Carbondale Mountain Fair and experience the antithesis of Aspen. Ahhh, the life of the leisurely rocks!
As parents we all take short cuts in life, especially when it comes to our vocabulary. The following are five made up words or expressions that are used quite often amongst my husband and I and our peers.
Slam the door
Definition: Having such a clean bowel movement that toilet paper is not necessary
Used in context: Coming out of the woods on a camping trip my sweet little niece, India, announced, Daddy, I slammed the door on that one so I was able to save the toilet paper.
Purpose: A very efficient way to save paper.
Definition: The invisible button on our bottom that is hard wired into our children so that every time we sit down it sends a signal reminding them that they need something.
Used in context: On the same camping trip my friend, Patty, was cooking eggs for the entire child brigade for breakfast as the rest of us relaxed and chatted around the campfire ring. After slaving away she finally sat down to enjoy some adult time. The second she sat down her booty alarm went off sending a message to her daughter Macy, who had been heavily immersed in child play, to announce that she was still hungry and wanted some cereal.
Purpose: What? You always wondered how they knew?
Definition: The wipe that discovers that there is still something left in the bottom.
Used in context: While my four year old was in the bathroom stall he announced to the world that we better be safe and do a pellet wipe before we entered the pool.
Purpose: As a parent you want to teach your child independence but it is always good to do a final wipe with the toddlers to search for any remaining treasures.
8 4 10
Definition: Hate for it to end
Used in context: As my sister’s friend from Atlanta, Holly, waved goodbye to us from the Hyline ferry boat in Nantucket she yelled, in her thick southern accent, “Goodbye, I hate for it to end”. I yelled back, “yeah, 8410 too” and looked to my sister to translate the meaning.
Purpose: My sister and I rarely part without saying “8410”.
Definition: That look that your husband gives you when he wants spontaneous afternoon sex.
Used in context: My husband often appears at an appropriate time when the kids are engaged in an activity and gives me his Sas expression.
Purpose: The less words that are used when slipping off for intimacy, the better.
These past few days in Colorado have been magnificent. On crisp bluebird days like these I always feel like I should be sailing. Even Tucker comments on how the air and the music make him feel like sailing.
When I was little my parents would take my sister’s and I on summer adventures which included a few sailing trips.
My father loved to sail but a sailor he was not. For a while he had a little sailboat that he harbored in Nantucket. Whenever he would try to round up his girls to go out with him we would all cower behind each other. On the one hand, we knew that if we went with him we would be experiencing my father at his best, full of vigor and tremendously positive energy. On the other hand, we were fully aware of the mishaps that were likely to occur.
Regardless, I still crave being out on the ocean on days like these. This is not to say that I don’t fully enjoy being in Colorado biking and hiking and staying outside until the air turns chilly at 9:00pm.
This past week I treated myself to a week off and put the boys into Camp Oginali, the most economical camp in the valley. I dropped the boys off and was about to sprint to my road bike for another journey of freedom in the great outdoors when I looked back and saw Brevitt and Axel shoveling dirt into each other’s faces. I battled with the desire to flee but felt the parental pull. By the time I reached them they were at it full force in the oversized sandbox pummeling each other into oblivion.
As I approached, the parenting classes reeled quickly in my head. I contemplated what my best approach should be with a surrounding audience of teachers and children. “STOP THIS”, I shouted. Whoops, so much for preparation.
I left Brevitt with a warning, “If I don’t get a good report when I pick you up than no Spaceballs for you my friend”. He had been waiting for the movie to arrive by Netflix for days and considered this a serious consequence. I walked away with Axel sobbing and begging for me to take him away from his highly energetic brother.
The guilt wore off approximately two seconds before I got on my bike. My iPod, the sparkling river replete with abounding fly fishermen and the mountain goats were awaiting. What a sense of freedom I felt as I rode away.
I picked them up in the afternoon a mass of happy, dirty little boys and I was ready to dawn my cape and become super mom again.
In the evening I ran into my friend, Gretchen, who was as exhausted as I was. To get her alone time she had been waking up at the crack of dawn to go running. Gretchen told me that sometimes being Julie McCoy was not all that it was cracked up to be. We discussed how all the moms we knew had there own insular camps going on and that it was time to unite and combine efforts.
Summer is by far my favorite time of the year and I truly wish that we had more than three months of it here in Colorado. There is so much to do with the children and even though it takes us all about a month to adapt to the new position of camp counselor and get organized with itineraries, picnic lunches, coolers, friends and sports equipment, once we have it all figured out it can be a wonderful time to reconnect with the children and establish new rules.
Are you lonely or overwhelmed with your children this summer? I would love to hear your thoughts.
[su_heading]Leave the Siblings Behind[/su_heading]
Many of us have discovered that children need time alone with their parents without their siblings vying for attention. Call me overly sensitive or a softy but I have yet to have a day or night out with just one child, other than on Outdoor Ed trips. As soon as I mention the idea I am met with tears and accusatory words, like “abandonment”, are spewed in my direction.
After a recent unexpected day alone with Thumper, I am convinced that children need this time with their parents, especially as they grow older. Yesterday, after dropping the younger boys off at a camp, we decided to take a mile hike up Red Hill in Carbondale. After witnessing how capable he was while backpacking in the Canyonlands I was excited to take our first summer hike in the mountains.
The first half of the hike was everything I could have hoped it would be. He was relishing his time alone with me, pointing out all the rocks and tree stumps that he would have launched off of if had he been on his mountain bike.
I kept feeling his soft, warm hand grasping mine as we hiked up the large hill. I let the heat permeate into my body knowing that I was living on borrowed time with him and that this intimacy would not last forever. Midway, his emotions took a full swing to the dark side. He was hot, tired and hungry and did not want to go up anymore. I had flashbacks from all of our tumultuous adventures back when he was a toddler. The whining got unbearable and I finally told him to zip it.
Thumper, with all of his abounding energy, has been known to plunge into deep despair when things don’t go the way he envisions they will. I told him that he needed to learn how to keep his negative emotions under control or he will have a tough go of it when he reaches puberty and all emotions reach greater depths. From that comment emerged an entirely different discussion.
We reached the top and he crumbled into an emotional mess telling me that he knew I thought he was a fat and lazy boy and that he was stupid and never wanted to do anything. He was in full self-hate mode but I had heard it all before. I told him that sometimes exercising can bring forth unexpected emotions.
Thumper has always been a mixed bag of emotions. I have learned to filter through the drama and get to the heart of the anxiety. We sat at the top of the hike and watched the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers merge together at the confluence. Mount Sopris loomed magnificently in front of us with her peaks still dusted in snow. We talked and talked until Brevitt released every negative thought. He allowed my comments to sink in and after winding down he requested that we stop talking about this deep stuff and find something happy to talk about. We emerged from the hike still holding hands, his mood altered to a much happier state.
In the evening I lay down with him. The full moon has been wreaking havoc on his ability to fall asleep, and has undoubtedly been a contributor to his earlier behavior. I began a relaxing meditative dialogue for him that I had picked up from my yoga instructors, “Relax your head and let your body sink into the bed beneath you. Relax your eyes, your nose, your mouth. Relax your jaw, your teeth, your lips…etc..”. We both fell fast asleep by the time I got to his ankles.
I learned a huge lesson yesterday. Children do desperately need this time alone with their parents so that they can feel safe and unleash all of their harbored emotions and worries. Time does not always allow for this so I am going to have to be strong and make sure that they all get equal solo time with both Wade and I.
If I ever let myself think too deeply I break out in a sweat. What a dauntingly huge responsibility it is to be a parent. The most wounded adults I know are products of bad parenting.
Children do not raise themselves and it takes a lot of work and research to ensure a secure, happy, healthy child. I am glad that Thumper put me back on track and I naively am looking forward to another hike with him tomorrow. I can only hope that most of his baggage will remain at the top of Red Hill and will not rear its ugly head at Hanging Lake.
I was in New York City going to a Twitter conference. It was pouring and I was walking the city streets lost. It was the last day of the conference and I was up on 132nd street and had to get down to the lower East side of Manhattan.
Knowing that nobody can get anywhere in NYC in the pouring rain, unless they walk or take the subway,? I started walking, after three years in the city I had developed Enochlophobia and no longer had the ability? to immerse myself in the chaos of? crowds and congested transportation.
I approached a man for help as I rolled my luggage behind me. He was a tall Afro-American, in his fifties, and his name was George. We instantly took to each other and we walked together for a while in the wind and rain hunting for gargoyles on the beautiful old buildings. I offered him some chicken breasts that I had in my bag so that he could take them? home to his family.
George gave me ideas on how I could get to the airport and we talked about Twitter. He had a Twitter account but he never used it, which I told him is what everybody says to me. I told him that I am always searching for Twitter people that I have met face to face because it can get lonely out there in the Twitter world.
Then I saw my ex boyfriend, Brett, walking toward me in the rain, holding hands with a little boy. He was wearing Khaki shorts, aviator sunglasses, a collared plaid short sleeve shirt with a loosened tie and a Burberry raincoat. His clothes were blowing open in the wind.
I started walking backward looking up at him and calling his name. He didn’t see me at first but finally looked down in amusement. He said hello and told me that he was not Brett. After I explained to him what I was trying to do he directed me to the 42nd street subway which he said would be a straight shot down to my destination. As he walked away, I yelled to him through the wind, “And don’t think I didn’t recognize who you really are.” It was Jim Carey who happens to look a lot like Brett. He turned and smiled and waved.
I decided to walk all the way to the East Village and had to quickly pass a marching Irish Band before I got stuck marching with the bagpipers. I was loving New York City and so glad to be back. Adventure was lurking at every step. I thought that if I couldn’t get back for a few days, then just staying and exploring the city could be a wonderful thing.
Next I entered a subway terminal and descended? the stairs. The long stairwell was pitch black. At the bottom there was a desk with two people standing behind it and long lines of wet New Yorkers. Miraculously it was a check in counter for departing flights. I realized that I had left all of my bags with George and I did not have my E-ticket. I was annoyed but at the same time loving the feeling of freedom of carrying nothing and having nothing. I was also happy that George had my information so that he would not be lost to me forever.
The small redheaded woman sitting behind the desk was a dancer, and crazy. She told me that there was nothing that she could do for me. I stood there feeling as if I was in one of my favorite movies, “After Hours,” and wondered how I was ever going to get home. Her boyfriend, a heroine addict, came down the stairs and flopped himself on a couch. He talked about their wonderful, crazy days filled with sex and heroine. I wrote her a note saying that if she didn’t help me I would report her for heroine abuse.
END OF DREAM (See if you can find the correlations in the dream to my previously written posts. Who needs Freud when one has a blog?)
[su_heading]Taking Care of Chickens[/su_heading]
The other Thumper walked into my office announcing that four of the five chickens that he had been minding for our neighbors were dead, kaput, no longer.
Our neighbors have gone to Hawaii for a month and before they left entrusted my boys to take care of their chickens. Every morning, Thumper and Axel would sleepily come down the stairs and tell me that they were off to collect the eggs. In the small amount of time that my boys were caring for the chickens, I saw a competence and intention that I had not yet seen. Not only did the importance of routine and care come into their lives but they also quickly became short order cooks cooking breakfast for the entire family. I was so grateful that the children were completely embracing this opportunity.
Mike Tyson was the only chicken to survive. She was the fastest and the most difficult to catch and evidently, the smartest. It was horrible calling the family and letting them know that their chickens, raised from eggs, were gone with nothing left but the feathers. How does one replace the love and care that those children gave to their little feathered friends.
As for the boys, Baddy and I are delicately trying to teach them a lesson on responsibility, without devastating them.
Through further investigation we discovered that the boys had been closing the door to the chicken coop but the latch did not work properly. Although it is a huge disappointment to know that the children are not yet ready to be responsible, it did give us a glimpse into the benefits for children of taking care of animals.
The family was most gracious and understanding despite their misfortune. I had already ordered more baby chickens and my neighbor was going to take care of them until the family came home. I promised that when they returned from Hawaii I was going to have them over for an apologetic dinner. I just have to make sure that I remember not to serve chicken.
There is now an empty feeling I have when the kids wake up in the morning. No more incentive for the boys, no more fresh eggs and I miss the rooster crowing in the afternoons.
Maybe this little experience will lead to a chicken coop in our backyard. I think I’ll talk to Baddy about it after he takes a break from preparing our yard for sod. We must take one step at a time.
[su_heading size=”18″]All Parents Need Alone Time[/su_heading]
I was singing like a bird yesterday morning with everything moving like clockwork. It was going to be my first day spent without the children. Coffee was brewing and pancakes were steaming. Axel and Thumper woke up early so that they could get to Mountain Boarding camp on time and Tucker had gone to sleep talking about the Bouncy House that he was going to jump on all the next day. I looked outside and it was sunny for the first time in months and my bike was sitting outside waiting for me to take off on it. It was going to be a perfect day.
I went to wake up sleepy Hootie-Hoo and my singsong day came to a screeching halt. His eyes were glued shut with gook. My mood plunged into deep despair as I told him that it looked like he was going to have to miss his day at camp. The day took a complete 180. The chanting began and my head started spinning, “I want to go to the bouncy house and I’m going to repeat myself all day until I get to go”. I desperately looked at Baddy to fly in, as he usually does, and save the day. “Hootie-Hoo looks fine to me? Doesn’t he to you”, I pleaded. He looked at me with his beautiful, sleepy eyes and apologetically rejected this request for him to save me. I am a freak about health and was the last person to expose other children to my infected boys, but couldn’t I today be evil and ignore the problem? Poor Hootie-Hoo, so disappointed, and poor mommy.
By the end of the day my agitation had grown to a dangerous level. As adorable as Hootie-Hoo was I was in no mood to answer his unwavering banter of questions. Nothing could pull me out of my self-pitying mode even when he said, “Why is that horse all alone in the field? He should giddyonup to the other horses so that he is not lonely”.
I cringed as his demands for me to listen to him increased on our long hour drive to the doctor. My intolerance level was at zero. Why couldn’t I just have one day off? WHY???? Finally I blurted out, “Please Hootie-Hoo, pleasssse stop talking. Sometimes mommy needs to go into her own world and not have to answer questions all day long”. After a few moments of blessed silence his little voice inquired, “Mommy, are you going to ever come back from that world?” I had to think about it for a second.
I am ashamed that I was so annoyed by such a sweet, funny little boy. As a mother you have to learn how to easily switch tracks and accept changing circumstances. Yesterday, I was resentful that I had lost my anticipated day of freedom and little Hootie-Hoo paid for it.
Baddy came home from work and found me in the closest getting ready for yoga. I was met with his mating call, which I returned with, “I’m hormonal, my hair is trying to leave my body because it thinks it belongs in somebody’s nest, my head is about to blow off my body and I’m fat.” He backed off laughing and told me that I was the most beautiful when I felt the most unattractive. How could I run off to yoga after that comment? Easily!
I burst into yoga from the pouring rain, only to see that I had gotten the schedule all mixed up. They were already an hour into class. I was not going home.
I SOS’d my friends and they met me at Cafe Bernard, the most delicious french restaurant in Basalt, for an engaging evening of conversation and red wine. We sat with Bernard, the head chef and owner, and listened to his stories as we dined on his mouth watering sautéed Calamari and perfectly cooked Pomme Frites. It was a divine evening. An end to a magnificently horrible day and I felt fortunate that I was able to reap the benefits of small town living.
As I slipped into bed I reached out for my Baddy and my hand rested on a very soft, silky head of hair…. Hootie-Hoo! I exhaled a deep sigh and fell asleep knowing that tomorrow, hell or high water, I was going to get the day that I so desperately needed.
[su_heading size=”18″]Flash Floods in Moab[/su_heading]
As Brevitt and I emerged from the Canyonlands backpacking trip I had to mentally prepare myself for the next phase of the trip. I had rallied Wade and three other families to come meet us in Moab for more camping, thus appointing myself as the official scout for the perfect camp site. I have always longed to stay extensively in the desert so I was ready to rise to my self-inflicted challenge.
When I finally found the ideal site, I was slightly embarrassed to get out of my flaming Vini-Man. I approached the group of tousled boys gathered at the campsite and coyly asked them if they were staying or leaving. They animatedly told me that it was all mine since they were just lunchin it. It could have gone one way or another and I was thankful that luck was with me for the first time this entire month. Not only did they invite me in but they also protected me from the predatory Jeepers who kept driving past the site like sharks circling a meal. I amused them with stories from the last time Wade and I were camping directly next to a monstrous rock which attracted the Jeepers like an over sized magnet. We overheard comments like, That one just bout made me wanna throw up in my mouth or Duuude, toss me a beer, I need to eliminate my fear. I needed to kick back a beer just to watch. It takes a courageous person to navigate those steep rocks in a Jeep.
I wrestled with my Kelty tent as I set it up in a torrential rain and windstorm offending myself with my own odor, desert du jour. Wade would have been appalled if he had been there to witness his wife moving the tent from one spot to another in a feeble attempt to make it appear as though a professional camper had been there. Finally, sopping wet, stinky and exhausted from the heat, I put rocks in the tent so it would not blow away and went back down to collect Brevitt from the public pool.
We checked into our charming bed and breakfast that Wade had encouraged me to reserve. Know thyself, he warned me. You are not as rugged as you think you are and you will be grateful for a place to shower and a night of clean sheets before you head out again to camp.
I forewarned Brevitt that the Inn did not allow children under the age of ten and that this would be the perfect opportunity to practice his manners. We took showers, jumped on the bed and went to the Peace Tree Caf for dinner. I gagged on my wheat grass shake and Brevitt had a tough time swallowing the melon chunks in his smoothie. I suddenly understood that bumper sticker, “Health Food Sucks”.
On the way back to the Inn Brevitt saw a low rider car blaring music. Look at those freaks mommy, and after pausing to reflect he said, Their car is just like ours. We were laughing at how absurd our family must look sometimes loaded up in Vini-Man with loud music blaring when suddenly Brevitt started running with his legs apart. When I inquired as to what in Gods name he was doing he explained that he had once again overdosed on sugar at the pool and needed to get to the bathroom fast. We ran together to stave off the impending explosion but alas did not quite make it. It was a good thing that we had a bathroom to clean up in. FYI: Brevitt drafted and? signed a release giving me free license to write about him whenever I wish.
After the trauma, we cuddled in bed listening to the pouring rain very thankful that we were safe and sound inside our cozy room. The next day we ate a lovely complimentary breakfast in an intimidating quiet breakfast room. We had a tough time suppressing our desire to talk loudly and make flatulent noises. I pocketed four of the delicious homemade carrot muffins in honor of my grandmother, who had a quirky habit of “borrowing” memorabilia from the nice hotel rooms she frequented in Europe. When they asked me if I cared for a bag, I mumbled that I was fine with them wrapped in a napkin in my pocket book and Brevitt and I ran off hand in hand.
The next day, refreshed and clean, we drove up to our campsite and huddled in the tent to stay out of the rain until Brevitt felt compelled to climb over the rocks and play cowboys and Indians. When I caved in and bought him his first toy gun ever in town, I had no idea that it would incite such creative play. I was almost sorry that I made him wait so long. I had always allowed swords in the house but not guns, go figure? He ran around on the rocks, in the rain, with a handkerchief tied around his mouth shooting at invisible bad guys. I reveled in the fact that he could still become so absorbed in imaginative play.
Night fell upon us and finally the three Coleman Pop Up campers and one Sportsmobile arrived much to our neighboring campers dismay. We crowded into the magnificent camping spot replete with caves for kid exploration and dirt roads for making mountain bike jumps. The kids were also very excited to practice their technical biking skills on the Slick Rock bike trail that was a short drive down the road.
We were happy to get out of the rain and rain it did for the entire weekend. The flash floods and booming nearby lightening only added to the whole experience. As we lay in our camper we watched horrified as a newly formed river rushed under our camper taking with it the picnic table, coolers and everything else in its path. I nervously pointed out to Wade that our Coleman propane light appeared to be a perfect conduit for a lightening bolt and he ran outside to save the day with a bottle of tequila in hand for reinforcement.
We did have relief after each rainstorm when the sun would come out to warm us up and dry out our clothes. The children would race outside to slip and slide in the new river and the parents would start pouring the Margaritas. That night we heard helicopters flying overhead and wondered if it was a “flight for life” victim. We read in the papers later on that a family had climbed a wall to escape several feet of water that had suddenly rushed through the canyon they were in. After the night before I had a clearer vision of how quickly one could get in a dangerous predicament in a flash flood.
The last night we were there I told Wade that I was done with the rain and dirt and that if it rained the next day I was hightailing it out of there. We awoke to a beautiful sunny day and my girlfriends whizzed by me as I hiked my bike on a technical mountain biking trail.? They teased me asking when I had become such a wimp on my bike. I wondered why I picked such crazy friends that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I made a promise to myself that I would get back on my bike when I returned home and become a mountain biking rock star by the end of the summer. Wade, a passionate biker, would be very disappointed in me if I ever tried to give it up.
Warnings of another storm were given to us from the park ranger so we packed up and hit the road. Tucker fell asleep in Vini-Man before I even drove off. Brevitt and Axel, who had a new respect for their daddy after watching him perform on Slick Rock, rode home with him in his Dodge pick up truck and they blared their new favorite XM radio station which played a whole lot of Red Hot Chile Peppers.
I drove quickly away from the impending storm only to realize, twenty minutes later, that the infamous dyslexic location scout had once again driven in the wrong direction. I guess I was so absorbed by NPR that I did not notice that I was heading back to the Canyonlands, or maybe it was subliminal and I secretly wanted to go back for more camping. Reluctantly, I turned around to head into the lightening and pounding rain. I called Wade to let him know that I felt danger abounding and asked him to wait for me so that I could drive behind him in case of flooding. He laughed, not so surprised that I had driven in the wrong directionyet again, and told me that I would be fine. As I drove home I day dreamed about slipping into a hot bubble bath with a good book in hand knowing that the reality would be that only the children would enjoy that luxury. I was looking forward to not having a? Seventh Generation Baby Wipe bath for a while…or at least for one more day before I set off on Axel’s outdoor ed camping trip. Burton and Speke I was not but I was fairly impressed with myself for having made it through my week in the desert unscathed.
Can’t help myself, four year olds are precious!
[su_heading]Hiking Canyonlands with Children[/su_heading]
Desert rocks soaking up the rain
Last week I loaded up Vini-Man with a tent, backpacks and a first aid kit the size of Paris Hilton’s hand bag and took off for the Canyonlands in Utah for Brevitt’s outdoor ed trip. Unfortunately, I needed to take my own car in case Brevitt and I had to bail due to his foot injury and my personal female issues. On the way down I phoned the convoy to tell them that I was taking a quick detour to the doctor to load up on meds. I needed backup to ensure that our adventure did not turn into a game of survival. It occurred to me that any “normal” person would have opted out if afflicted with similar ailments. I wondered if naively leaping into the unknown all my life, without seriously weighing out the consequences, could be considered a positive trait.
Normally, I despise driving and tend to have to slap myself across the face to stay awake. Fortunately, I had just installed XM Satellite radio and listened fascinated to NPR and Oprah Radio for six hours. I was Liza Doolittle waking up to the world around me.
Since becoming a parent, I have developed necessary skills to help me to retain some semblance of sanity in my life. I can listen to numerous conversations at once as well as cook, pay the bills, sweep and talk on the phone all in unison but I have yet to master the art of listening to NPR or reading The New Yorker without getting interrupted by my three monkeys in our zoo we call home.
Driving down to the Canyonlands, Brevitt opted to go with his buddies in Tori’s Ford Explorer and I had no problem encouraging it. Tori was much better suited to handle three rambunctious boys than I was in my sick and emotionally fragile state. I followed behind her marveling at her innovative use of zip ties to hold the panels of her car together.
Six hours later I arrived satiated and filled with interesting topics to share with my fellow backpackers. I felt fortunate that my group consisted of good friends, Chuck and Tori, and their boys, Logan and Cooper, two of Brevitt’s closest friends. I couldn’t be with more efficient parents. Chuck was an experienced boating guide and because he was deathly afraid of hiking through the hot, dry desert without a river nearby he made certain that he was sufficiently equipped with his water filter to pump water out of any swampy puddle we would find. As I eyed Tori’s minimalist approach to packing, I slyly exchanged my beauty supplies and ample changes of clothing for food and kitchen supplies.
I was well aware of my deficiencies as a backpacker and knew that my proficient car camping skills could not be applied to this trip. I had flashbacks of my previous backpacking experience where my good friend Stephanie and I poured Jagermeister into our camelback bladders to help us hike the last two grueling miles up to the campsite where my overzealous sister, Michele, was waiting for us.
I was very impressed with Brevitt as he set up the tent but quickly became slightly embarrassed as I watched him drag his head through the dirt, a strange compulsion he has had since babydom. I reassured our group not to worry about the screws that were missing in Brevitt’s head and I lamented that I should have cut his hair shorter to discourage the gnats from nesting in his mop.
As we packed up our freeze dried food and ate hot dogs for dinner I mentally prepared my body for a week of the alien substances that would be entering my gastrointestinal tract.
The teachers had made a rule that the boys would sleep with each other in one tent and the mothers would sleep together in another. Chuck would sleep alone. It was a great idea in theory but try how they might to be brave, the boys ended up in our tents every night. The second night Brevitt was the first to sneak out of the tent and sleep with me. He thought he heard somebody creepily whisper his name and shot out of the tent shaking from head to foot. Later, Cooper awoke yelling for Brevitt who appeared to have been dragged off by coyotes. He woke up just in time to see Logan leaving the tent. When Logan told him that he was just going for a pee he inquired as to why he had his sleeping bag and pillow tucked under his arms. Snagged!
Backpacking with our small group quickly revealed all of our quirks. I was entertained by Tori’s habit of saying “umhummm” to let us know that even though she was busy multitasking she was still processing every word that we were saying. As for me, I’m certain that my lack of pioneering skills did not go unnoticed by Chuck and Tori.
Nature mercifully saved us from heat stroke providing us with low lying clouds throughout the trip as well as a welcome rainstorm that dusted us off and washed away our electronic habits. It was fascinating and somewhat scary to watch how quickly the torrential rain formed waterfalls and streams where there had been drought five minutes earlier. There is such a fine line between enjoying nature and getting trapped in its dangers.
As I hiked along the trail into the rocks, I thought about how important and rare it was for us to become one with nature. In the mornings I would hike up onto the rocks and try to meditate, a work in progress, and do yoga as the sun rose. Once again I felt like Homer Simpson as I tried to chant Ommm and eliminate the running commentary in my head.
After a breakfast of nuts and bagels we hiked two to five miles a day stopping often for water breaks in the shade. We loaded the boys up with salt and Gatorade to replace the important minerals and electrolytes they were losing in the heat and continued on our journey. In the afternoons we would crawl over the rocks exploring the nooks and crannies and the boys would traumatize the lizards.
As I hiked through the wilderness I inhaled the sweet air and let the spirited presence of Indians and a long time passed ocean soak into my being. I imagined what it was like to survive on the land back then and was thankful that I could eliminate dinosaurs from my list of phobias.
In the early evening of our last night we climbed way up on the rocks where we were rewarded with three hundred and sixty degree views. Everywhere we looked the rock formations changed. One group of rocks looked like they were holding council over the rest of the land. The boys couldn’t help themselves and stripped down to their bare essentials. We resisted the urge to also strip down and watched as they ran like wild beings over the rocks.
Last night I kept waking up in total confusion at my great tent that had beams and a fan at the top. Slowly I would awaken and know that I was not in a tent but in my own, cozy bedroom with two little boys asleep in my bed next to me. I realized that I kept waking up because Brevitt was loudly shouting in my sleep, “Go to the mud – Cool” he would yell. I think that he was also dreaming about still being in the desert with flash floods and lightening booming around us, but that is another story that will be told soon.
It is bittersweet to return home to my computer and cell phone. My addiction to electronics may have been shed quickly when entering the desert but the wonderful aromas and warm breezes of the desert are not as easily shed and will stay with me for a long time.
[su_heading]What Not to Do With a Pregnant Mama[/su_heading]
What Not to Do With a Pregnant Mama? Don’t breathe on her, don’t look at her, do as she says, and everything will be just fine!
The first time we saw our first baby, it was while having an Amnio in the Doctor’s office. “Is that what I think it is” I whispered to Baddy, knowing that the prominently protruding thing sticking out from the tiny fetus could only mean one thing, a little boy.
“YES” “Indeed it is,” the doctor replied, and my heart filled with warmth, and absolute terror! I came from a family of girls and the only thing I knew about that organ was that it could grow and shrink depending on the excitement level. How in hell would I know what to do with a boy?
“Does it look like he’s waving to you?” Baddy asked.
I tried not to freak out that our baby did indeed look like a tiny alien waving to us from the womb.
This was the beginning of a beautiful long ass road trip adventure with our son to be, Thumper.
Having a British mother I have spent many a summer in Europe, and what I have noticed in our travels is that European pregnant women get carte blanche treatment – plus they are always magnificently beautiful.
Being pregnant in America, I felt short changed. Americans almost seemed irritated that somebody could actually weigh over 125 pounds. I was like a ticking time bomb ready to explode at anybody who irritated me.
Being a Masshole, I made a concentrated effort to diffuse that irritated mode of being by driving less and taking the bus more.
BUT always being late didn’t bode well with the timely schedule of RFTA. Arriving late yet again one day I tried to park in the gravel parking lot of the auto body shop near the bus stop. When the owner rudely told me that his lot was not a park and ride and that he made no exceptions to the rule, I pulled off a few doughnuts and sped away with gravel spewing from my tires as he chased after me with his fists in the air. I worried for weeks that he would hunt down my mini-van with flames on it and deflate my tires.
Then there was the time that a man honked aggressively at me for driving too cautiously when entering the grocery parking lot. He parked his car and was very taken aback when he saw a large pregnant women rapidly approaching him.
“What is your problem?” I demanded in my horrendously scary mommy voice. “Move to New York City if you need to lay on your horn in a mountain town parking lot.”
“You’re fucking crazy lady,” he replied.
“Crazy is what crazy does,” I sputtered, the foam expanding in my mouth.
When I was far enough away he yelled that pregnant women should get their licenses revoked and I almost charged back to make him into a permanent parking space by sitting on him and flattening him into the asphalt forever, but thought better of it.
When I told Baddy the story he got concerned, Please don’t end up behind bars, which is what he used to say when I was a hot, gorgeous mess of a girlfriend going out for a night on the town with my girlfriends.
Baddy was actually concerned about a whole lot of things with our first pregnancy. He was concerned that all of his wife’s endearing “idiosyncrasies” had been turned up to a decibel level he didn’t know whether he could endure. He was concerned that his horny wife wouldn’t let his face near her while having sex if he stank at all of the beer he drank the weekend before. He was concerned that he couldn’t touch the amazingly perfect tatas of his dreams lest they explode from fullness. He was concerned that his sexy wife was craving hot fudge sundaes at 7:00am and was getting PHAT. But most of all, he was concerned that the woman he married may be lost forever in a sea of hormones and fangs.
Nevertheless, his new beast of burden of a roommate was carrying his son – and he learned quickly that to have peace in the house, he must deliver the pampering and love every moment (little did he know that this would be practice for the other two pregnancies coming down the road).
And so as Thumper grew in my belly, do did our love – as did our humor and with Baddy calming the storm of emotions, I was able to enjoy the beautiful moments of pregnancy – after the first three months of nausea hell – and every moment of life became that much more precious as we watched our little life grow, and karate kick in my belly.
When I was five months pregnant with Hootie-Hoo, Baddy surprised me by presenting me with a trip to Paris, just the two of us, to celebrate my fortieth birthday and our pregnancy.
Spring in Paris that year brought droves and droves of uninterrupted rain but I was alone with my love and that was all that mattered.
Wanting to bring back memories of a time spent roving the best hotels of Europe as a child, he had arranged for us to spend a few glorious nights at the Hotel Louvre where we ate large breakfasts of croissants and hot chocolate after long, slow leisurely mornings spent lying in bed surrounded by beautiful gold tassels hanging from midnight blue drapes and a “Merci de ne pas dranger” sign hanging from our door.
Holding our little umbrella together we left the hotel, feeling like pregnant royalty, and began our endless walking and exploring. While back at the hotel I’d comb through our Zagat Guide to Paris searching for the best off the beaten track restaurants.
Relishing his naps Baddy was so happy that I would actually lay down with him and together we’d fall into a delicious late afternoon sleep until I would wake up craving a caprese baguette sandwich and sneak out to find the nearest street vendor.
On our last day we had two more places that we both really wanted to visit before we left. We began the discussion of whether we should do my idea and sit in a quintessential French cafe in the rain in the Latin Quarters or his idea and see the Notre Dame Cathedral.
“What would you like to see? I asked him.
Treading carefully he said, “Jillian, we always end up doing what you want, so lets skip the formalities and go where you want.”
“No, I replied. “I insist you tell me what you want,” growing impatient with his constant desire to please me. Where was his backbone anyway?
The conversation went back and forth until he finally gave in and said he wanted to see Notre Dame. And so we went off to the cafe in the Latin Quarters. Pregnant woman always win, even when they try there best not to.
[su_heading size=”18″]Preparing for Canyonlands with Children[/su_heading]
“I’m bleeding mommy,” yelled Thumper as I typed away at my computer. “I’ll be there in a second,” I yelled not quite ready to handle yet another injury. I shot up running when Axel came in a few seconds later and accused me of caring more about my computer than I did about Thumper who was severely injured outside. Indeed, he had sliced a large chunk of skin off on a rock after jumping into the new pond that Baddy had built with his pet Skidster.
Having just taken a First Aid class to prepare myself for our Canyonlands backpacking trip, I stood there frozen. I learned how to dress an open wound but not how to care for an open wound that had occurred in bacteria laden creek water.
I ran for Baddy, who luckily was home, and hovered over his shoulder as he took control. “Everybody remain calm,” he shouted as I annoyingly read the first aid book to him. I was not calm. I was angry with myself for not knowing what to do and didn’t trust that Baddy did either. We have had friends who have just recently gotten very bad infections from wounds and I wanted to make sure that this did not happen to our Thumper.
Baddy scrubbed and dressed the wound but I saw that there was still a tiny particle of dirt lodged in the center and called the doctor for a follow up visit. Baddy was offended but I could not risk infection.
One week later I am taking Thumper to the desert on our school outdoor ed trip and I have no doubt that he and his other two energetic friends will be performing tricks off of every rock that they find. It worries me that I will not be able to dress his wound carefully enough as he fills it with dirt.
Baddy, who has to work, is the more capable one to go backpacking with three nine year old’s in a hot, dirty, waterless desert with ninety six degree temperatures. I have always loved the desert but have become quite spoiled and accustomed to the luxuries of sleeping in the camper that has been loaned to us by our friends who store it on our property. Roughing it was never my specialty but I would never miss this opportunity to share this experience with Thumper. I look forward to reading him stories of the Fremont Indians that lived on the land 400 A.D. to 1350 A.D. as we watch the southwestern colors magically change with the rising and setting of the sun.
Surfing for clever survivor ideas, I came to a video of Bear Grylls urinating on his shirt and wrapping it around his head and mouth to cool down in the hot sun. I was ready to cancel the whole gig immediately. I also can’t stop thinking of Aron Ralston who amputated his arm off with a dull knife to escape from the boulder that had landed on him and trapped him for five days. He was not too far away from where we will be camping.
Things happen in the desert and I can’t help but feel a strong sense of foreboding as I head off with my injured son. I am determined to be sufficiently equipped for snakebites, scorpion stings, infection, more open wounds, heat stroke, dehydration, starvation and mental dementia. I may have to include a hidden flask of forbidden tequila to calm my fears.
I am grateful that my two very efficient friends will be accompanying me on this trip. I know that they are already laughing at my trepidation and think I am over reacting. Arriving with my fifty pound bulging backpack filled with all the necessary tools to assuage my fears will most definitely open the door to a barrage of well intentioned pokes as we trek the well trodden trails.
[su_heading size=”18″]Analyzing Children’s Dreams[/su_heading]
Axel did not like our discussion before he went to sleep. He is socially so different from Brevitt and is quite content hanging with his one best friend and his family. I tried to teach him how to be sympathetic and friendlier to the other children who look up to him and ask for playdates with him daily. He started crying telling me that I couldn’t force him to play with people he didn’t want to. Frustrated and exhausted I didn’t have the energy to play this one out. He is not easy to get back on track once he gets upset.
The next morning he told me about his dream: The two of us were eating lots of chocolate together and I was pregnant with a cake in my stomach. Axel told me that the cake was getting sick from all of the chocolate and something was wrong. The cake baby swooshed out and had an ear for a nose.
[su_heading size=”18″]A Mother’s Love for Her Children[/su_heading]
Picking up the boys from school yesterday was different than usual. I watched lovingly as my little weeds emerged from school with backpacks on and friends abreast. They ran up to me smiling and giving me hugs. Excitedly they shoved their homemade birthday cards into my face. I told them to wait for Baddy and give them to me on my birthday or Mother’s Day, which unfortunately arrive back to back, but they were bubbling over with enthusiasm and couldn’t wait so I accepted their toiled over cards and hand-made beaded jewelry, my heart full with love.
I guess they are trainable after all. They made their cards last night when I was at the school preparing for my outdoor ed trip to Canyonlands with Brevitt and his buddies. Three days roughing it in the desert with three boys and three parents. The show “Survivor” comes to mind when I think of myself pumping and filtering our drinking water collected from a hole in a rock.
Before picking them up from school I treated myself to yoga and then a haircut. Looking like a friendly witch from the North with foil in my hair, I played with her one year old, Remington, a preciously sweet delicate flower of a little girl with clean clothes, a fuzzy head of hair and delicious smelling skin, reflecting her mother’s doting love. In the middle of drinking her mother’s milk, Remi would pop off the nipple and back bend to smile at me with her arms splayed out behind her, reminding me of my three babies who were all huge and total characters.
I left there reveling over the bond between a mother and her children and think of my children, on a good day, with complete and unconditional love. When the love is returned I am filled to the brim with warmth and satisfaction.
My love for my mother is differently the same. I may at times be the most difficult, obstinate daughter in the world with high expectations of her but my love for her is endless. Memories of her singsong British voice fill me with happiness and security. She is hopeless on the computer and her phone skills are not much better but her advice and insight is invaluable. Every accomplishment that I have ever made in my life has been encouraged, guided and celebrated by her. Before I call her I know that the chances of actually getting to her and keeping her on the line are slim. I will hear her answer the phone and then the fumbling will take place, “Hello…hello?…Jillian?….” and ends with “Oh Bugga, I lost her”, with me all the while on the other line saying, “Don’t hang up, I’m here, I’m here.” On the times that I do reach her, she is usually having tea with somebody important, or being guided on a private tour through the Metropolitan Museum or some other cultural institution.
My mother is the most loving, tolerant, generous person I have ever met. When she does not have her nose in a book or in the newspaper she is flitting about to museums and Classical concerts. She is the most informative person in the world and I cannot make a cultural decision without her input.
It was always a dream of my sister’s and I to build an English style cottage for her on one of our properties. She would have her independence but the children could be a part of her everyday life bringing her fresh eggs with toast and marmalade for breakfast and helping her in the garden.
Spring in Massachusetts is a far cry from spring in Aspen. Growing up I would open my eyes to flowers and a gift placed on my little night stand by my mother. I would spend the day playing in the warm sun in the cherry blossom trees, knowing that the day was all mine. In the evenings I would play SPUD outside with my sisters and we would enjoy the warm night air until our mother rang the dinner bell.
Back to reality, May in Aspen is not so majestic. As usual, the weatherman predicts 51 degree temps and high precipitation for this weekend. My children are cleaning the kitchen and allowing me to write for my birthday. They keep bringing me presents and placing them on top of my piles of papers on my desk. I am determined to have the weekend I deserve. The way I see it, having my special days in unison should allow me treatment fit for a queen. But as I sit here writing I can hear Tucker doing his morning routine of wailing for me and me alone to kiss him and help him to get out of bed. The children are arguing with daddy outside my office door interrupting my train of thought and no breakfast has been brought to me.
Life goes on as usual and I must lower my expectations. I suppose each year, with proper training, it may slowly sink in to my family that I deserve more. This year I will try to lovingly accept their minute tokens of affection while I passively take the time I need to feel special.
I would write more but it sounds as if I need to feed the animals in my zoo that I call home.
** PS – all that training has led to once again, getting double nothing! Oh well. I guess being loved is all that really matters (May 2018).
Every two to three years, I experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. During the rest of my existence, I consider myself a fairly easy-going, fun loving person. When there is an incredibly difficult task to do, I usually either procrastinate or decide it is not worth my effort. Realizing my priorities in life, I usually choose the family over my insane projects. But when I have my neurotic binges, I am not to be reckoned with. My whole world falls to the wayside. No friends, no family, no exercise, no showers. Just give me coffee and I am embedded in attacking the task at hand.
Hootie-Hoo hit four and my latent creative desires have been emerging full throttle. I have no control over them. Baddy came home, exhausted from dealing with the pain from his cracked scapula, hoping to find me as he usually does on Fridays, on my second glass of wine. But alas there was no spread of crackers, cheese and pepper jelly. The hearth was cold, and his wife was fuzzy, not from wine but from having been in website hell. He remarked that the scene looked exactly as it did when he left eight hours earlier in the morning. There I was, wearing the same headset, waiting the expectant six minutes for a web-site technician to try and walk me out of my misery. He laughed and commented that he could see how this was how it was going to be now. Hello honey, glad your home, just talking to my Publicist. He was ready for a fun evening spent lounging with the children in front of the fire, maybe next Friday!
Poor Baddy, the week he cracked his scapula and needed intense nurturing just happened to also be the week I decided to take my writing online. I should have heeded the warnings. When your server says that they have technicians on 24/7 it means that you will be entrenched in hell, devils and all, trying to design your own web-site for 24/7. Dont even try calling those technicians at the witching hours, it will be the closest you get to talking to “the other side”. Shrouded in cigarette smoke, wearing eau de Cafe, their skin an opalescent green they will smoothly convince you that everything will be ok, as long as you sell your soul to the internet. They repeat everything you say and leave you with long, impending sighs. Just get me on the right track and eventually I should be able to figure out the *&*%in program by myself, one would hope.
I contemplate my options. I could start from scratch and erase the past one hundred hours of pain I have endured or I could hire a website designer for a mere few thousand dollars. Ill keep plowing forward. I must remember that my goal is to make money, not to plunge us into further debt. When I call for the umpteenth time, I am grateful to receive a real technician on the other end of the line. I tell him to look at my past calling record and treat me with kid gloves. Ouch, he comments. I see that you really have been having a rough time. You called, waited the usual six minutes, got disconnected, called again and six minutes later got connected to billing instead of technical support, they put you on hold for another six minutes and now you have me. What can I do for you? You can take me out to the pasture and put a gun to my head, is what you can do. I have been trying to create my website by myself for five days. Three of those days I have slept a maximum of four hours obsessively trying to get website savvy. Give me an expert!
My friend suggested that I take a web-site design course at the local college. Others have suggested that I can now start teaching web design. The pitiful truth is that I am no closer to understanding the HTML or CSS language than I was five days ago. My brain is not made for technical knowledge. It is amazing that I can replace the windshield washer fluid in my Vini-Man. There are other people much better designed for designing than me, I just wish that they would focus on what they are supposed to be designing and stop reading those geeky manuals!!!
[su_heading size=”18″]Mom Health Food[/su_heading]
When the boys were younger, my sisters had a grand ole time making fun of their “granola, health-nut” little sister. I never bought candy or cookies unless they were made with natural ingredients. Living in the country has made it even easier to live naturally. I love knowing the cow, Maisy, who produces our raw milk for us. We visit her weekly at the ranch behind our house. Our fresh eggs come from our neighbors chicken coops. I’m thinking of purchasing a goat, we’ll name him Goatee, after all of Wade’s shaving experiments.
The family is not so keen on living like Little House on the Prairie. Wade thinks his coffee tastes too much like an animal. It does not ease his mind when I tell him that in the winter Maisy’s diet changes as she switches from munching on grass to the less appealing hay bales. The kids are beginning to refuse to eat anything that isn’t white. “These pancakes have that natural stuff in it”, they proclaim as they push their quinoa pancakes aside.
They beg to have play dates at their friends houses where the poor parents watch astonished as the boys raid their pantries shoving Lucky Charms and root beer into their little mouths. They return home in sugar comas, bloated and wan, and accuse me of never ever feeding them cheese dogs or corn dogs for dinner. I feel victimized and am beginning to cave in. Who am I to deprive my kids of the good stuff that I grew up on. Our cabinets were filled with Yodels and Ring Dings. I think I still have the plastics from those delicious desserts clinging to my insides.
My focus and my battle today is not what to feed my children but how am I going to feed my children. My friends and I have all smartened up and started a BYOF club when we ski with the kids on weekends. No more $5.00 lifesavers or $50.00 lunches spent in the mountain restaurants. Instead we smuggle in our overloaded backpacks and break all the rules made for us poor folk.
The food aisle at Walmart is where I hang out now instead of the toy aisle. My sister’s have changed their tune and are admonishing me for giving in. I inform them that I make up for the junk food with my famous smoothies. The kids hardly notice that they are loaded up with fish oil, wheat germ and Emer’gen-C. They will even drink the veggie juices we make together with my Jack Lalane Power Juicer.
I do have regrets when I visit the pantries of my Organic friends like Pam and Shannon who are extremely healthy with their kids. They drink pomegranite smoothies and almond shakes for dessert. Their cabinets in their kitchen are custom made for bulk, including twenty-five pound bags of almonds.
A bear broke into their house one day but left soon after in complete disappointment. He was sure not to visit again. What was the point? All the food stored in their cabinets was the same that he could find for himself in the forest. Trying to not waste food, Pam insisted that they keep the nuts that the bear had been nosing around in. Shannon finally put his foot down and threw them away after biting into a long, thick bear hair.
In the spring my plan is to build a new vegetable garden with the children. Maybe I’ll even invest in a green house. I have just brought home all the compost books from the library. Why not bring it all on; new dog, garden, compost. Wade walks into the house and looks in total fear at all the library books strewn about the floor. I assure him that all will be fine.
Rising to a snow storm, I sluggishly forced myself out of bed keeping my eyes half closed as I crawled on all fours into the bathroom. The full moon had as usual tilted me on my axis and I was up all night writing. Sometimes the full moon has me waking the boys to run outside naked at midnight amongst the silhouetted mountains, other times it would be best if somebody took me out to the woods far, far away and left me with a good book, a pen and a ream of paper, my music and a wood burning stove to keep me warm…oh, and wine and cheese, and a cashmere blanket…and some hot stud who finds my insanity sexy.
It was going to be the perfect powder day for the masses who have moved here for a day like today, but not for those of us who had little children with quads yet developed for billowing snow pillows. Nine inches to me with little kids meant enduring in the gondola line overly hyperactive, gortex-laden, childless “boy-men”, reminding me of my sordid past, as I wait to hand the torch (and the kids) over to Baddy. I envisioned myself in the gondola line singing lalalalala into the ears of my boys as these self-proclaimed “mountain men living to to ski and skiing to live,” share their enthusiasm for all the pow pow, “BRAAAAHHHH”…. “DUUUUDE, FUUCKKK!!!!”
Baddy was however, chomping at the bit to meld in with all of the testosterone injected energy and plunge into the untracked powder. His plan? Laps in powder until wife and kids show up and then take over so mommy can get some. He didn’t seem to notice me lurking in the shadows with hair larger than usual, fangs extracted. My thoughts growled desires for him to take the boys with him. Maybe, if I stood still long enough focusing on these thoughts, they would enter his brain as if they were his own and he would sweep up his pups and save them from the she-wolf, but his mind was elsewhere and he was not going to let anything darken his lit up interior and off he galloped into the storm, leaving me heaving and despondent, froth foaming between my lips.
When yet another loud sword-bearing rowdy boy was dropped off later in the morning, I poked my head out of my office from where I was writing. “Don’t worry,” I assured the dad, “I will get out of my pj’s and take the boys skiing”. He looked at me with a glimpse of recognition that perhaps his boy was not safe but clouded by the 9″s of snow on his brain, high-tailed it out the door.
I somehow gathered myself together and loaded up the boys and all of our equipment into Vini-Man. The youngest, still biologically connected to his mother’s moods, was being extremely sensitive and needy, melting into a puddle at any beastly sign emitting from his monster of a mother and asking for hugs. But beasts are not inclined to hug when their fangs are out while wrestling and getting banged up with the attempt to load unyielding ski equipment and so he ran off to the sound of “mother fucking fuck fuck” gurgling from the depths of the mom-beast.
I found him lying on his back in his freshly laundered ski clothes, smack dab in the middle of a cold, wet, mud splatch. Looking up at me with those luminous hootie-hoo eyes he said, “hi mother fucking fuck fuck”. We are all going to damage our kids in one way or another – that moment was not the denouement, there were surely more to come.
I finally managed to get the boys all into the gondola line when I realized that my ski ticket was no longer valid. Too late, the boys were already on the lift. I turned around and in disbelief saw Baddy quietly standing there watching the whole debacle. “You’re on” I said and slunk away. With icicles hanging from his beard Baddy took the torch and ran with it. I plugged in my ipod and began my skin up the mountain slowly shedding my furry burden of an exterior.
An hour and a half later I returned to the family apologizing for being psycho mom and my bad behavior was shoved under lock and key. The boys forgave me and climbed into my lap.
Tonight, I will try my best to get a good night’s sleep and not let the moon wreak havoc on my temperate again. Hopefully, I will not wake up to a pile of bones laying next to me and human hair betwixt my teeth.
[su_heading]Dreaming About A Lecherous Husband[/su_heading]
I may not go out much any more but I sure do have fun when I am in a dream state. The only problem is that I dream that Baddy is also having tons of fun, without me. He is consistently lecherous, doesn’t love me any more and smugly tells me about all of his conquests. It is ironic that I create this world because he is so loyal and true to me in real life. He endures all of my moods and is the only one who can make me laugh at myself when my hair is Medusa style and I am ready to blow up the world. When I wake up mad at him he knows right away that he is in trouble. “Dam”, he exclaims “it’s so not fair that I am such a philanderer and I am not even privy to it.”
So what is my problem? I guess I’m deeply insecure and should see a shrink but have no money and definitely no time.
My dreams can be so disturbing that they wake me up. The last time this happened I dreamt that Baddy and I went to a beach in the early evening with a group of young surfers in a place similar to Sayulita, Mexico. We sat down in the warm tropical breeze and watched the huge beautiful waves. We were partying and having fun.
Suddenly, I was in the trickest bar in the world, walking alone through rooms that were open to the outside tropics. Each room had a different theme with great music and drinks to match. The first room was sexy and all black with purple lights and I was wearing a white mesh t-shirt with white boot legged jeans. Outside were stone steps that climbed down to the sea and people were sitting everywhere dangling their feet in the warm water and laughing. I began flirting with some Argentine boys. They liked me and wanted me to go off with them. My chief admirer was gorgeous but he had a really long mullet. He wanted to know if I liked him and I told him “yeah, all but the mullet.” I hurt his feelings so badly that there was no returning and he faded out.
Baddy faded in and came up from the beach with his buddies. In my dreams Wade is always so cute and the life of the party. A very drunk, small, dark eyed, dark haired, mysterious Argentine girl came in behind him. She was not beautiful but magnetizing with an amazing body. She was wearing a thin tight fitting t-shirt and a big wide belt. Her jet black hair was tied back in a pony tail with a wide headband. She came up from behind Baddy, wrapped her arms around him and told him she loved him. He looked back and smiled. I jumped up to defend what was mine telling her that he loved me and than I picked her up from her armpits and threw her out of the window. Her male friends were hanging out at the bottom of the fire escape and they thankfully caught her. I walked inside, slightly embarrassed, and felt Wade’s eyes piercing into me. In a flash an Argentine menacingly approached me with a fork and put it under my eye. He told me that the girl was his friend and demanded to know why I threw her out of the window? “Lo ciento, perdonna me”, I pleaded, “she was trying to take my Baddy away from me. He is my love”. I feel like crying just writing about it months later.
In my next dream Baddy informed me that he had met somebody else. I asked him if anything had happened. He told me that she wouldn’t let him do anything because he was married and he thought that was bogus. He went on to tell me that he called and called her and when there was no response, he went over to her house. She was sick but still climbed on top of him. I told him that I was going to divorce him and that he would not get any of my Madoff money. I kept telling myself that I was dreaming, that Baddy would not do that to me. I woke up and realized that it was not a dream. How could I ever trust men again?
I was now in Nantucket and couldn’t find the restaurant where my family was waiting for me. I had grown up in Nantucket but was still always lost on the cobblestone streets in the fog. I walked down the stairs to the restaurant and all my friends were there. I was miserable, ready to die. Did they all know? My family was sitting at a round table and I sat next to Baddy. He acted untainted by my misery. He ignored me and had a big smile on his face because he was now in love with somebody else. When I finally did wake up I wondered if maybe I should stop using my Progesterone cream!
Last night I dreamt that all bloggers gain twenty pounds from sitting at their desks all day writing. I wondered if it was worth it and contemplated giving it up.
My writing is really getting the best of me. I have become obsessive and realize that I have started something that I cannot finish, ever. Poor Baddy is not getting any attention at the moment unless I am dreaming. I get exasperated with him that he can’t finish cooking the dinner, clean up and put the boys to bed by himself. What makes things worse is that the boys all want mommy. I am so popular with my family but at the moment don’t desire all the attention. I feel like I am trapped in a William Wharton novel and slipping over to the dream side.
If we teach our children to reason with one another through rational thought and discussion instead of fists and harsh words we are providing them with valuable skills to help them to survive.
Raising our three boys ages 4, 7 & 9, has given me a completely different perspective on the perplexities of life. I was born the youngest of three girls and boys have always been my distraction and my muse. Can this be the explanation as to why I ended up with three boys of my own? I admit that I appreciate the quirky jokes that life plays on me but this one seems somehow…illogical. Yes, I am sporty, young at heart and very playful but I sometimes wonder if I have the proper constitution to watch as they live their lives to the ultimate degree.
Accepting that boys love to hurl themselves off of great heights is not an easy task for any mother. I try my best to instill life’s learned lessons into their heads in order to keep them alive. The boys are excited to join the Freestyle team next year and I can’t help but wonder how I will ever be able to be proud of them as they catch air on the enormous jumps, some which are built for the X-Games. It is a mental challenge to allow them to just be boys. I have had to learn from Baddy to not be a helicopter parent but my nerves are not as calm as they use to be. It is a fear of his that he will come home one day and find a note stating that I have flown off like the irresponsible Mayze in Horton Hatches the Egg, never to return.
Just the other day Thumper and I sat on his bed, his beautiful, velvety green eyes filling with tears. Feisty-One hates me, he said all depressed. I couldnt express to him how my life long goal is to raise safe, happy, healthy, intelligent, caring children who will always love each other and protect each other from harm. Every tear that dropped made my heart ache. Instead, I became the voice of reason explaining to him why his younger brother was retaliating and teaching him how to prevent further upsets.
Would that I could always take each child to a private place to discuss their troubles and help them to better understand lifes dilemmas but I have learned that letting children resolve their conflicts without interference by a parent is an important aspect of parenting. It is all about letting go while still being there. If they are not trying to destroy each other physically and there is no blood being shed, than I try to stay out of it.
Life is unpredictable and time and patience are not always on our side. It is impossible to stay? consistent in a house filled with flatulent, hip hopping, highly energetic boys. Occasionally music is the tool I use to lure them away from fighting with each other. Maybe this is why my boys are so in to music and dancing.
The children have accepted that their parents are not always equipped with sound reasoning and I know that they appreciate the times where they are able to escape the sit down chat. I certainly cannot reply upon Baddy in the morning. He is catatonic and not capable of thinking logically until his full pot of coffee has triggered his brain to function. In return, he does not look to me for assistance when I am hormonally challenged or when the clock hits 5:00pm, on any given evening.
The time out theory never has worked for us but I have experienced deep moments of regret when observing friends who have clearly mastered this practice. A few Saturdays back, we went with our friends to a candy store after skiing. One of the teenagers became self-appointed mayor of the candy line and created a bartering system that ended up in total chaos. His mother sternly told him to take a time out. He looked at her and pleaded silently for her not to do this to him in public. In complete disbelief I watched him as he slouched his head between his shoulders and shuffled off to some dark, secret place to reflect upon his wrongdoing. I realized that I had misjudged this alien theory but recognized that my window to train my kids with this useful tool was now firmly shut.
Usually our method of communication works wonders on our children completely changing aggressive behavior. But sometimes Baddy and I are at our wits end and feel completely defeated. As in the time when I picked the boys up from school and took them up to Aspen for an afternoon of scootering and ice cream. That evening the boys were more zany than usual, a tough feat. Time Out, I yelled. They stopped what they were doing and looked at me with large innocent eyes inquiring as to where the football game was playing. Go to your rooms, the whole lot of you, I demanded. They continued on their tirade in total defiance.
Nothing we could do or say could stop our Tasmanian devils from launching off of every piece of furniture and landing on top of each other in hysterical fits of giggles. As Baddy picked them up by their ears I swore to him that I would never again give the children ice cream after 4:00pm. We shouted out threats and warned them that if they did not stop terrorizing each other Baddy would personally go out and make it so they would never see the ice cream man again.
As parents, we all battle with the issue of time. More often than not we are giving our children the short end of the stick by shouting out demands to shape up or ship out. Unfortunately, we are not super heroes and can only do our best in any given situation. Baddy loves to use Dr. Evils zip it method where every time they open their mouths to say something he interrupts saying, shhhuuut or zipppppt until they forget what they were whining about.
As they grow up, the boys are learning how to get what they want by applying our logic. Their ability to manipulate and provide stronger evidence to support their issue at hand gets more and more impressive.
We cannot always be the voice of reason or bring humor into the equation but one thing is for certain, if we teach our children to reason with one another through rational thought and discussion instead of fists and harsh words we are providing them with valuable skills to help them to survive.
[su_heading]Maximize Child Time Before They Leave You[/su_heading]
Hugging and kissing my boys good night at the end of the day, I soak up their scent and the warmness of their ever changing bodies. Thumper begs me to stay with him until he falls asleep. With all the horrible images he has stored in his mind from the newspapers, he is afraid of somebody bombing our house. The creaks in the house do not help any. He asks me to tell him a story from when I was younger. It can be scary or funny, it’s my choice. It disturbs me that out of all the stories that have happened to me in my life I can only remember a selected few. He tells me
to put my “healing hands” on his head and scratch his back. I love him so much I want to cry.
If only I could have more individual time with each of them. They need this undivided love so much. I am hanging on for dear life to their cherished innocence and love for me. It is flying by way to fast. If I don’t establish a closeness with them now, than what kind of relationship will we have when they are moody teenagers? I have been forewarned that boys leave their mothers for a while when they hit puberty. They are silent and introverted. The mothers that warn me of this assure me that it doesn’t matter how close you are with them now. Boys will feel the need to distance themselves from their mother’s in order to grow up in the world. When this happens, I want them to go away knowing that we have a special relationship that they will always need to return to.
I lay awake at night thinking about when they were fumbling little toddlers. I would throw the ball at them and they would look at me with a big smile with their arms stretched out. When the ball would hit them in the head or land at their feet they would look at me and ask, “What happened mommy?” I can’t believe it now, but I couldn’t wait for them to be old enough to actually catch and throw the ball.
Thumper at nine is now learning all about football and watching it with his daddy, and I love that bonding. This is it!! This is part of what raising children is about – Having a 9, 7 and 4 year old. We are in the throws of FAMILY. The boys still want us around. Still love going on adventures with us – scratch that, once they are actually on the adventure with us they are happy but to get them in on the plan is a major whiny experience.
So, what I am trying to say? Growing up I always had daydreams of playing and laughing in a field with my children and my husband and then having a picnic and playing board games. Well, here I am…there, and hanging on to it with every breath because I know that it will all be over soon and I am beginning to panic.
I don’t want another life. I like this life where my children are my being. Even though I am ignoring Hootie-Hoo so that I can write, I still like to know that they are here, with me, forever!! With this panic comes the realization that there are so many wonderful things out there to explore with the boys and I have not even begun to tap into them yet. I have little companions to go on walks in the woods with, snowshoe, explore ski trails with, etc… I need to get on it!
[su_heading size=”18″]Putting Flames on My Mini-Van[/su_heading]
Baddy woke me up one morning when we were living in our condo, and told me that a Cottonwood Tree had fallen on our mini-van. My first question was, “Are the flames ok?”
When I was pregnant with our third child, Hootie-Hoo, I had to trade in my Toyota Fore-Runner for a mini-van to accommodate my impending larger family. It was a difficult decision for me to make. My father had a BMW fetish and that is what I grew up driving in. I tested all of the hybrid vehicles desperately trying to purchase a more environmental car but they were all to small for my needs. I envisioned the frustrations I would have to endure when I was trying to load up all the gear. As it was, I was constantly cursing at life as I loaded and than unloaded the cumbersome gear and I only had two boys.
I decided upon the mini-van because it had the most room and the best mileage over all the SUV’s. When we decided to go off the beaten track and needed higher clearance, we would have to cram in Wade’s Dodge pickup truck instead. Prior to leaving for our favorite summer spot, ready to pop, I made all the arrangements to pimp up my mini-van. If I was going to be like every other mom in America, I insisted that the van should have some style. Wade insisted that we play down the flames and have the decals be blue instead of orange. I begrudgingly agreed. Three days before Tucker was born an article came out in the New York Times that featured a mom pregnant with twins who also had flame decals placed on her mini-van.
I insisted that Baddy contact her for me. I imagined that we would become good friends. It never happened.
We drove our new baby home from the hospital in our new van with sparkling flames on the side. I am not one for chotzky nicknames but the van has a personality of it’s own and has thus been dubbed “Vini-Man”.
Vini-Man has lots of fans amongst the Latinos and younger drivers. I take advantage of it’s appeal when I am racing to pick up the boys and need to cut into the traffic lane. When the boys are in Vini-Man with me they love to drive slowly through town, windows open, blaring music and singing,”Life is a highway, and I’m going to drive it all day long”.
I was in Bikram’s yoga once and a friend whispered to me in the middle of Shavasanah. I thought she was complimenting me on my practice but when she repeated herself, so that I could hear, she was saying that her kids saw our van go by and yelled, “There goes that flaming van with the Livingston’s in it”. We love to drive around town at the height of the season when all the Aspen glitz is strutting around in their high heel shoes and fur coats. We feel that it is our duty to let them see a glimpse of what the down valley folk look like.
Vini-Man was beginning to stink recently and the fan was making a clicking noise, so I brought it in to the shop. The report was that a mouse had crawled in through the undercarriage and died in the fan. It’s poor little feet were hitting the fan’s motor and that was what was making the clicking noise. Who would have thought?
Occasionally, I will glance over to a car next to me and notice a group of adorable, rugged, young mountain boys smiling at me. I forget what I am driving for a moment and fantasize that they are checking me out. “I still got it”, I say to myself giving them my glamor smile. Than my bubble deflates as I realize that what they are admiring is not me but Vini-Man.
Vini-Man is beginning to fall apart on me. At this point we cannot afford to purchase another car and an environmental car to meet my needs has yet come out in the market . Luckily, I have become quite attached and would feel naked without the flames. We are going to milk every mile and hold on to Vini-Man for as long as we can, which hopefully is longer than I think.
[su_heading size=”18″]I Saw The Tooth Fairy[/su_heading]
The other night Axel’s tooth fell out, or rather, Wade yanked it out as usual. This family is not for
the weak hearted. When the children hurt themselves they scream louder when they see their Daddy approaching. Both Wade and his father have the ability to handle pain and they expect the same tolerance from their wives and their offspring
I was so tired that night but forced myself to place the tooth under Axel’s pillow before I fell asleep. I was up late quietly writing on my computer when I heard a soft, velvety whoosh outside my door. The hair rose on the back of my neck and I shuttered at the thought of what it might be. As I very quietly climbed the
stairs I laughed at myself for believing in the impossible. Living with children had really gotten to my head.
Before I reached the top of the stairs something small and irredescent flashed by me. Standing there frozen my suspicions were confirmed. Unable to breathe I stood awash in her colors as she fluttered her wings
hovering in the entrance of each of the boys’ room looking for Axel. She would remain motionless, all but her wings, and then suddenly dart to the next room.
Finding Axel she softly landed on the carpet and there she rose to full height smiling as she watched
him sleeping. I watched her as she extended her long thin fingers to search for the tooth under the pillow. Axel’s head must have been right on it because she seemed to have difficulties reaching it. She carefully picked up a corner of the pillow and slipped a present underneath. At that moment she startled and
suddenly her face was directly in front of mine looking into my eyes with the most beautiful emerald green eyes I had ever seen. We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity and than she shot out of
the room and down the stairs. Looking down I noticed shimmering dust all over my pajamas.
The next day Axel excitedly flew down the stairs with a paddle racket with a ball attached. In all the excitement, he noticed that his tooth was still under his pillow.
Seeing the tooth fairy has changed my perspective on the world. I can’t go outside at night anymore or
enter a forest without knowing that I am not alone. I keep listening intently in the hopes of hearing the sound of her fluttering wings again and I look for her everywhere.
I hope that she did not get punished for being seen by a human. If I could say something to her I would
thank her for confirming my belief in magic and for giving me the ability to see that there is so much more to life than I had ever imagined.
[su_heading size=”18″]Living with Boys [/su_heading]
The boys worship their dad and follow his lead as he clears 720’s off of every precipice. Or rather, Thumper clears it most of the time. Axel perseveres in manic attempts to clear it and Hootie-Hoo jumps off making all the appropriate sound effects. We travel from BMX park to ski terrain parks replete with full face helmets and pads for every sport. When we are home we are all hip hopping around the house while Thumper Dj’s. Baddy is the lead singer of
their raucous air guitar band. I keep 911 on speed dial.
People often say that Baddy has a certain Will Farrell appeal. This helps in the humor department. The other night, while trying to commandeer the boys to get ready for bed, I threw a book at him titled, “How to Redirect Children’s Behavior.” He commented that he didn’t need to read no stinkin’ book and proceeded to dramatize all he had learned from my painful parenting classes. In a split second he had the boys dancing behind him, giggling and performing the bedtime routine, no problem. It is unfortunate that I have to suffer, alone, the audible groans and apologies I hear when it is my turn to announce, “Hi, I’m Jillian, a mother of three boys”. But I don’t need apologies. I love my boys!
Currently, Hootie-Hoo is the one who keeps us on our toes. Quickly, his boyhood is escalating at all levels. He is always rock and rolling and following me around the house asking me questions about life; “Are real snakes stuffed like toy snakes? Why do they call it a tummyegg? (tummyache), where’s my banero? (bow and arrow).” He also redundantly inquires as to when we will be blasting off again to visit Grandma in an airplane? I have not yet decided what he was in his previous life, maybe my father.
[su_heading size=”18″]Getting Chicken Eggs From a Neighbor [/su_heading]
Tonight at dinner I asked my family to take note that I was actually wearing a short sleeved shirt without a sweater on. It probably was the first time since the last warm day in the Fall that I was not wearing my old three ply cashmere sweater and my hat and gloves at the dinner table. My boys, including Wade, looked at me as if I were crazy, shook their heads and continued their conversation about 360’s, ramps, jumps and music.
The head shaking by Wade is a very common reaction to me, his wife, and now the boys are following suit. Yesterday morning I woke him up to tell him that I had to run out to get eggs to finish making the pancakes. I rattled off the list of things that needed to get done before my return, none of which registered, and ran out in my pajamas to get some hand picked eggs from our neighbors. Raw milk and fresh eggs all in our backyard, what more could one ask for.
I entered the door to the breezeway of the house, which did not quite fit with the directions I received from the sleepy man on the phone but it was early morning and my mind was not yet fully awake. When I continued on into the garage and saw that there was no fridge I knew that I had indeed just entered the wrong house. I scared myself when I saw my reflection in the garage window. My hair was breaking out of the big pile I had lumped on top of my head and I looked like some insane mother on the make, in her pajamas. It was like a bizarre Pink Panther film.
[su_heading size=”18″]Staying Balanced as a Mother[/su_heading]
This morning Baddy and I laughed, cried and spat at each other, and the kids, in the one hour we had together before we shoved everybody into the car to go to school. Oh to be able to afford the $1,000 per kid school bus.
This behavior is indicative of a strange phenomenon that occurs before my birthday every year. It used to be that I felt in sync with the world and everything seemed to magically flow together setting my new year?off with a tremendously, positive, embracing bang. Something has changed in the past few years and I am hoping that age has nothing to do with it.
Nowadays, approximately one month before my birthday, the chaos in the Universe descends upon me full force throwing major obstacles in my path. My life becomes very disconnected and I cannot trust my intuitive navigational tools.
It is true that I place a lot of value in our biological connection to nature and the universe. It would make sense that there is some kind of cosmic shift when one reaches the annual date of when they were born. I just am not used to feeling as though I am wearing a wetsuit inside out and backwards with two left shoes filled with water to guide me.
This year I am determined to fight this onslaught of dysfunction. I am eating beets and spinach and hitting the yoga hard. I have even started a meditation practice. But with children it is never easy to stay in control of a steady flow and balance. I can only try my best as I whirl into yoga after maniacally cleaning the house, getting the kids dressed, preparing snacks and loading the car for pick up after school.
I burst into the yoga studio five minutes late, which is very characteristic of me, and cause complete disruption in the yoga room making everybody move their mats around to fit me in. I smile and mutter my apologies to all of my fellow yoga diehard friends. After class I ask my yoga instructor and friends if they think that moving from completely frenetic energy to Pranayama breathing could possibly do me in. They all agree that the reason we go to yoga is to break down that energy and reach a place of calmness and peace.
Commiserating with friends helps. We reassure one another that we all are facing the? same struggles in our daily lives and that we all have to endure needy, screaming kids as well as husbands at times. We look to each other for validation and therapy. We share our profound wisdom and experience helping each other to know that we are not alone in the world. We all must endure the ennui that is part of our job description. We master the science of learning how to fit in our personal time so that we are ready to give our families our undivided attention. It is common to hear comments like, My husband thinks that by flushing the toilet he is contributing to the housekeeping chores.
Last night I got into bed and looked over at the pile of books waiting to be read. The New Yorker came first to keep me educated and in the loop, next came an autobiography of a child survivor of the Holocaust. A story that parallels the lives of many of my late relatives. Lastly, to help fill my mind with positive ideals as I slept, I started The Art of Achievement by Tom Morris, a new friend on Twitter.
I fell asleep with a well-rounded read of politics, humanity and philosophy and woke up challenging life. Bring it, I thought, because those people and obstacles that are doing their best to bring me down, are my tools to help me to rise like the Phoenix and become a stronger being.
8.5 miles and six hours later, after hiking through spectacular meadows of wildflowers with forty pound backpacks on our backs, we could not wait to plunge into the natural Conundrum hot springs pool and soothe our aching joints, but upon arrival our excitement waned as we came upon what seemed like happy hour had made it to the hot springs. The pool was overflowing with happy, naked, nature-loving people.
Baddy was ready to strip down and cannonball it into the center and be the life of the party, when I muttered under my breath that I wasn’t into public displays of nakedness due to my large melon breasts, and was too embarrassed to be the only one NOT naked.
Being the happy go lucky guy that he is he found a smaller pool down below and we slid into the hot water, our bodies quickly melting into the soothing natural spa.
I was elated to have the pool to ourselves, until two forest nymphs appeared out of nowhere and undressed directly in front of Baddy.
I didn’t need my glasses to know that the one who was moaning while parading around the pool with her breasts pertly protruding above the water, had an amazing figure.
Baddy was too afraid to look at her lest his jealous girlfriend react vehemently. When he? mentioned to me that he had left his camera by his backpack the forest nymph volunteered to get out of the water like Bo Derek in the movie Ten and fetch it for him. Wait a minute, Baddy never used his camera! I was out of there. Forcing back his innate instincts to jump all over this magical opportunity and leave me to my woes, he reluctantly followed me out of the pool.
As I stormed away I overheard the nymphs exclaim, “How cute was that guy?”
Baddy kept silent as I fed his deepest fantasies, creating a scenario of what would have happened had I not been on this camping trip with him.
Later when I had cooled down he joked that his muscles needed another good soak and not to wait up.
[su_heading size=”18″]Getting Children Up in the Mornings[/su_heading]
In order to start the day without chaos, I wake up early enough to get the children’s breakfast and lunch made.
It is so quiet. So unbelievably quiet. I’ll just fit in a few minutes of time to myself, before making the meals. Next thing I know it is 7:00am and the tornado is about to hit.
QUICK…wake up the kids, get them dressed, find the socks, get them fed. Why did I stubbornly use that time for myself? Tomorrow I will wake up at 5:00am, an hour earlier. Baddy sleepily arises absorbed in his own quiet fog. I am very aware that although his body is moving he is not necessarily awake yet. I very patiently wait for him to drink his pot of coffee before I begin a conversation. I must be gentle and quiet so as not to disturb my sleepy morning bear of a man. “So I’ve been thinking…, ” I begin when I think he is ready for me, and immediately get accused of being to “on” in the mornings.
I leave him to visit each room to wake up the boys, singing, “Wake up, wake up, everybody wake up,” or “Morning has Broken”, bursting into Brevitt’s room to open the shade and let the sun shine in. Sometimes I do little skits with their Ugly Dolls, rapping Brevitt to awaken, “yo, yo you lazy head, it’s time to get out of your way to comfortable bed,” and then I’d get the gift I was waiting for, Brev’s beautiful smile, his hair sticking out in every which way.
Axel is handled much more delicately. If I don’t wake him slowly with lots of kisses and low light, than he starts lashing out with his Scorpion tail demanding me out of his room. That tail is something I try to stay clear of at all costs.
Sometimes I have my assistants. Whomever wakes up first has the assignment of gently waking the other sleepers. When Tucker crawls into Brevitt’s bed and sings the wake up song to him Brev opens his eyes and tackles him for a good hour.
This is what having children is all about. The interaction and love that occurs between them is so very precious. I nurture that love with all my might and try to teach them how to respect and admire each other and not be jealous.
I am always in awe of how boys wake up with abounding energy and carry it with them until the moment sleep descends upon them. Even in his sleep, Brevitt continues the fidgeting, kicking and sleeping horizontally across the bed, which prohibits us from wanting him in our bed anymore, but we can’t help but love to feel his warm nine year old body snuggling up to us when he does still into our bed. If we fall asleep like that I inevitably am abruptly awoken either by his foot smooshed against my face or by his calling out sports plays in his dreams.
The boys love it when Dad doesn’t get up on school mornings. They see it as payback time for all the morning that he has insensitively yanked the blankets off of them and honked the bike horn in their ears to get them out of bed. I hand them the bike horn and in they march to noisily wake him up. What could be better than receiving the green light to make noise first thing in the morning?
I wouldn’t say that we made it home from visiting Grandma in Florida without incident. The fact that we made it home at all is very significant. The turbulence was brutal and I was reduced to an absolute useless mess while my boys searched for land through the airplane windows. I saw the sun again and realized that we had gained altitude. What the???? The pilot announced that it was too windy to land anywhere, not Vail, not Denver, not Steamboat so we were just going to hover at 40,000′ up in limbo. Greaaaattt. I had been through this before, nothing worse than hovering when three boys have to pee and the seatbelt sign is on.
Walking back to our seats I looked at all the innocent and beautiful children and parents on the flight and felt miserable for the people who had died in airplane crashes. I hate flying! We tried to land again and plunged down into the black storm clouds. I thought about Baddy and tried to force out the image of his hearing the news that his entire family was gone. I thought about my mother and how much I loved her and needed to express that to her. I thought about my boys and how I needed to watch them grow up.
[su_heading size=”18″]Watching Children Grow Into Daredevils[/su_heading]
Wednesday’s are Baddy’s evening to be full on testosterone with his friends. In the wintertime they race up mountains on skins as the sky shows off it’s magnificent sunset, skiing down with headlamps on. In the summer they mountain bike through ridiculously difficult mountain terrain, usually clocking something outrageous like 40 miles and 4K vert. It is amazing that they don’t get more hurt as they compete with one another in their speed both uphill and down, and show off their technical abilities. It is a spectacular site to watch the eighteen or so men ride in on their bikes at night with a blanket of black enveloping them. Baddy lives for these evenings that end with a meal, beer and lots of comradery. I sometimes wish that I could be a fly on the wall to watch the difference in Baddy’s character when he is with his friends, but than I think about it and realize that it’s probably best to let my ignorance stay blissful.
[su_heading size=”18″]Fighting Depression as a Mother[/su_heading]
When life gets you down from environmental stresses, it’s not always easy as a mother to fight off depression and be there for our children.
Yesterday, in my miserable sorry assed state, I reflected upon how I had been running my life lately.
My biggest struggle in all of our financial adjustments has been cutting out extra-curricular activities for the boys. What I realized is that I have to develop my new role as mom/camp counselor or it is going to be a very long summer.
After picking up the boys from school I screeched to a halt below their school road, parked vini-man and took the boys on a hike. Having been met by such resistance to anything lately, I was surprised that they were actually excited to go exploring with me. They have not been enthusiastic about doing anything unless they have their friends with them.
We hiked up to a scree field and they had a blast climbing all over the rocks, getting filthy. They engaged in the activity of splitting rocks to see if they could find any jewels inside. Axel has always had the keen ability to find very cool treasures in the wilderness like the time he pulled out of a Snowmass creek a brown polished stone that we recognized as being a gizzard stone from a vegetarian dinosaur. How cool is it that dinosaurs treaded right where we were standing millions of years ago? What’s even cooler is that we now have the Snowmass Mammoth Discovery Center to interpret what we find.
When they asked me why there was volcanic rock everywhere in the scree field I took an educated guess and talked about how the volcanic rock from deep in the earth had been disturbed by the slide, ending by telling them what I always tell them, “Let’s look it up online when we get home”. If only I had an Iphone to give them accurate answers to all of their questions. Than again, I prefer to be disconnected from the electronic world when I am with my children.
When Thumper scared himself by thinking he found a hibernating bear in a little cave, he came running toward me, fear on his face, tripping over his wet, untied, high top sneakers. He was certain that he saw something breathing and wanted to leave before we got attacked. Axel, not so easily convinced, crept up and looked in. “It’s just a rock,” he stated reassuringly.
After our hike we went to the market. Last time we were in the market Thumper had a really hard time. The first thing he managed to do was to accidentally fall against a pyramid display and end up with a heap of cans in his lap. Next he picked up a six pack of glass Orangina sodas and the cardboard broke. As the bottles went crashing to the floor we heard over the loud speaker, “Clean up in aisle 13”. At that point he looked at me and started to cry. He was so frustrated that he was doing everything wrong and told me that he needed to get out of there. I couldn’t really blame him. I looked up and saw a friend of mine in a fit of giggles, she had witnessed everything and was getting a real kick out of spying on me and my boys. I was glad that we had been such a source of amusement for her in such a mundane place.
This time at the market things went a lot smoother, apart from when they lost all of my quarters in a candy vending machine. It is so annoying that markets strategically place vending machines in the front of their facilities to tempt our children. I looked at my three dirty, shaggy boys in their tattered clothes and unkempt hair and demanded that they get their money back. I refuse to do their dirty work for them anymore. The sooner they learn how to function on their own in the real world the better. They shyly approached the customer desk and asked for their money back. The woman was horrible to them but gave them what they asked for. Another lesson learned on how not to waste money.
In the market I had a real awakening. My children were growing up and I was no longer enduring frustration and anxiety when entering a large public place. No more lost children, tantrums or bathroom visits. They took care of themselves and each other now. When I forgot my environmental bags they ran to the car to get them for me conscientiously avoiding cars. I recognized that my hard earned efforts were coming to fruition as I observed my big, responsible, charming, albeit shaggy, boys help me out in the market, without being asked.
At the end of the day I happily collapsed into sleep at a reasonable hour. This morning I pounced out of bed like Catwoman. Sometimes a melancholy day can truly work wonders on your constitution.
[su_heading size=”18″]Boys Need to Be Trained By Their Mothers[/su_heading]
Convinced that children are directly related to the swine family. All my life I knew I wanted to have kids but was so unaware that what that really meant was that I would turn into the modern, female version of, Sisyphus. My huge boulder is the endless loads of laundry and the hill I must climb is the pigsty I am always cleaning. Parenting classes have helped me to understand that I am doing my children a disservice by cleaning up their mess for them. I will let them decide who will be their maker. Boot camp drill Sergeant, Jillian with whistle and clipboard in hand or toy gun slinging cowgirl, Jillian with chaps and a lassoing rope?
January 1st I decided to stop doing everything for the boys and teach them how to clean up after themselves. I am doing their future wives a favor. Once again, I sit the children down and discuss the new rules of “Team Livingston”. I dig deep to be effective and tell them that if they want a dog they must show me that they are responsible enough to handle one.
The chore chart resurfaces. It comes and goes depending on my motivation to actually follow-through on it. Parenting classes have taught me to be fun and make a game out of everything. What they don’t factor in is mommy’s cycles. Day 8 I am the most fun and funniest mommy on the planet. The kids remember why they adore me. Each day brings less patience and less games. About day 15 I am losing my ability to sing, “clean up, clean up, everybody clean up”. Day 25 the kids learn to stay out of my way. They see that my fangs are out and I am frothing at the mouth. If it is a full moon they might even see me crouched down on all fours ready to leap.
Why is it that boys are such natural slobs? It is so easy for them to pee and yet they somehow get urine everywhere. I see their good aim as they write their names in the snow, a habit formed by Baddy who loves to pee off of the deck. Why can’t they aim like that into the toilet? While cleaning the toilets I hesitantly look up and there it is..the yellow spot on the ceiling!
Axel is comically the absent professor. Absorbed in all of his projects he leaves a trail of messy trash wherever he goes. Shavings from wood and crayons are found directly adjacent to the splat mat, glue guns are left on and in threatening positions, potions are found in the freezer, rocks are everywhere. When I see Axel eating with his cousins at the table without a place mat I say, “Axel, know thyself! He gives me that sweet, knowing smile and I return it. We are working on communicating and listening better to one another. Every day I tell myself not to yell at Axel. How could I yell at that sweet, wise old soul? EASILY! “AXXXEEELLLL, why are you putting your shoes on with only one sock on? Why is there a mound of sugar next to the sugar bowl? Why are your clothes all over the floor? Snap out of your dream world and get ready for school!”.
Being in tune with my frustrations, Thumper has started to help me out a lot more. He has taken over Baddy’s role in the house when he is gone and as great as it is I have to constantly remind him that I am the only one who needs to yell at his brothers. If it is day 8, I get the giggles and tell him to stop standing by my side repeating my orders. Day 25 I tell him that I am about to strangle my parrot standing next to me.
The dog ploy is working and I am in total denial that this means we are getting a dog. Whenever the dog is mentioned Baddy’s eyes glaze over. He was never enthusiastic about having three kids and now I am throwing a dog into the equation? He truly thinks that I am slowly dripping over to the other not so quite right side. Hopefully he will still love all of us once Muki enters the scene and destroys his labor of love. Urine on the ceiling will not be our only challenge.
[su_heading size=”18″]Teaching Your Children Table Manners[/su_heading]
I stopped taking my kids to restaurants for a while after our traumatic experience when fine dining in Florida. My mother and I took the boys out to a little French restaurant at six pm. After a day of organizing beach activities we were ready to treat ourselves to a nice meal and be waited upon by a well trained staff. We justified our decadence by incorporating a lesson on table manners while we were eating.
Florida is an anomaly. Unless one can endure the typical “family restaurant” it is best to forgo the desired pampering and stay at home. The restaurant was filled with ancient couples who had smartened up and stopped visiting their grandchildren long ago. I am certain that when the grandchildren came to visit them they were told to stay at the hotel across the causeway.
As soon as we walked in to the restaurant I scanned the ornery crowd and knew we were doomed. There was not one taker who would be charmed by my adorable brood. No smiles, no cooing, not even at sweet big, blue eyed, two year old Tucker. Than things went South. The boys got restless and I had forgotten to bring my tool belt of games to play with while waiting to be served. Grandma Nicky and I sent the kids outside and told them to go play in the parking lot before a possie started.
When the boys proceeded to smash their faces into the restaurant windows, two biddies who were giving us the evil eye from the start, approached our table. They launched into a tyrant of accusations which they concluded by admonishing us for taking our children out to dinner without proper training. Grandma Nicky, who was the antithesis of these old bats, was ready for battle. “Trained at what?”, she pompously inquired in her stately British accent.
After the women left, the wait staff came over to our table and asked us if everything was alright. We apologized for the behavior of our offspring. They soothed us by informing us that those woman were regulars who complained about everything from the temperature in the air to the size of their lettuce leaves. My mother gave me license to do her in if she ever became old and crotchety like that. It is more likely that I will get there before she ever does.
[su_heading]Our Baby’s Flight for Life[/su_heading]
Taking a flight for life from Aspen to Denver when our middle child was 12 days old was one of the biggest scares of our lives. Now I just picked him up from pre-college at California College of the Arts, and our little Axel-Baby is the epitome of health and rising success.
When Axel’s older brother, Brevitt, was two, Baddy and I left him with his grandparents and took a trip to Maui to escape our daily chaos.
Upon arriving at the Outriggers Resort in Wailea, we were told by new friends we met that Hawaii is known for either embracing you or spitting you out. We were wholeheartedly and thoroughly embraced from the moment I stepped out on our balcony to surprisingly see a spout of water shoot out from the sea below me. We had no idea that February was the month that Humpback Whales migrate to Hawaii to mate and give birth to their calves. From then on we became excellent spotters, spoiled with displays of grandeur from young and adult whales playing and breaching, almost as if they were performing solely for our own amusement.
Being the adventurous kind, we wanted to get more immersed in Hawaii’s wonders, and so we rented a kayak to take to the sea. The man renting out the kayaks walked us through the instructions, explaining the water and warning us about the difficulties of getting out beyond the rocks and the waves, “but you guys are from Aspen, your strong and athletic, you’ll have no problem,” he said, pumping us up with his words, which was just what I needed to hear since the whole time he was talking I couldn’t escape the visions in mind from Open Water. A movie I never even saw, but nevertheless forever damaged just by what I knew.
We got into the boat and as we started to row my gaze fixed on Baddy’s strong biceps and I began to admire what a stud he was, wondering how I had managed to land such a competent and rugged man. Next thing I knew we were washing up against the forewarned rocks along the shore. The instructor came running over to us to save us from capsizing and dragged us back to the shore to start again. Baddy began impersonating a tourist, in a white tank top, fresh off the bus and we could not stop laughing at ourselves.
When we finally did make it out to sea, all became quiet and calm. We were away from everything, just the two of us paddling alongside a beautiful island in the tropics, when suddenly I looked down to see an enormous shadow passing beneath us. We watched mesmerized as the whale slowly passed beneath our boat. “Jump in and swim with it,” I quietly yelled out, more to myself than to Wade, but numbified we watched and soaked in the enormous magnitude of nature so beautifully going about her own business.
As we continued on our explorations, Maui continued to amaze us with exotic flowers, fruits and colors, like none we’d ever seen out in the wild; Bougainvillea growing everywhere, mangoes ready for picking trees, Eucalyptus trees that softened when I squeezed them, as if they were breathing with me. To no surprise to anyone, the romance of our “disney world’ vacation led to the conception of Axel, Hollywood style, under a waterfall we discovered in the heart of a tropical forest.
On November 4th, 2001, Axel Grey Livingston was born. Named by Baddy after Axel Rose from Guns and Roses, and Axel Merckx the famous Belgian bike racer.
On the birthing table deep in labor, I questioned the name – it seemed so harsh for a sweet, new baby, but Baddy was adamant that Axel was far superior a name to my choice of Sebastian. He insisted that Sebastian would grow up with a skip in his step and flowers in his hair, whereas Axel would be a rock star in life (turns out he was right).
When Axel was twelve days old he got a cold and I called the doctor in concern. “He just doesn’t seem himself,” I said to the nurse on the phone. Her rude questioning of his age again implied she questioned my instincts and she dismissed me. The doctor told me to do the saline rinse and all would be fine, but he was wrong and Axel’s condition worsened, ending him up in the hospital with an oxygen tank over his head.
When we were waiting to see what the diagnosis was, another doctor came into the room to give Axel a Nebulizer treatment (which, by the way increases the heart rate). When I questioned why he was getting this treatment, the doctor looked at me dumbfounded, excused himself and hurried out of the room. It turned out that the treatment was meant for the child in the room next door. Soon after, I was watching the heart monitor and saw that Axels heart rate had jumped from 142 to 280. I called the nurse in and she stared at the screen. “Do something,” I yelled.
Turns out mama-bear did know her baby after all (trust your instincts). Axel had SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia), which meant that his heart’s electrical system wasn’t working correctly.
Immediately, Axel was put into an incubator and rolled onto a Flight For Life jet which took off straight up into the sky and flew us to the Children’s Hospital in Denver.
It all felt like a dream as I sat on the jet next to my baby who seemed to be fighting for his life. Life stood still as we lifted straight up into the air and flew weightless in the sky. The second we landed the panic set in again.
Baddy drove down to meet us and we lived in the hospital for four days, capturing a glimpse of what life is like for parents who need to drop their lives and their families to stay with their sick children for months on end in the hospital.
I pumped my breast milk in between the feedings so that I could sleep for five hours in the tiny closet-like room we were given to parents with children at high risk.
Those precious hours of sleep would be disrupted by my strong and steadfast Baddy quietly sobbing after visiting Axel. Wrapping my arms around him he broke down, How can such a little person survive with his heart pounding so fast?
The days that we spent in the hospital felt like an eternity as we waited for Axel to get put on Dijoxin to make his heart beat stronger and with a more regular rhythm.
We were numb with despair, running on automatic, when a friend popped her head in, carrying behind her an enormous garbage bag filled with presents for Brevitt and I. She and her children had spent days individually wrapping each gift, and as Brevitt and I unwrapped each token of love, I saw how the compassion of others can truly help to heal.
When finally we were told that Axel could be brought home as long as he stayed connected to an oxygen tank, we excitedly packed up to leave and resume our lives.
Back home we did what we could to bring comfort and security back to Axel’s life. He had been completely traumatized by vagal maneuvers; placing an icepack on his face or sticking a thin device down his throat to create a physiological response that believe it or not switches the electrical current back to normal.
We did what we could to start anew and bring him as much love and comfort as we could muster. Thumper fell in love with his little brother and held his little hands all day.
Axel, A.K.A Feisty-One, has since grown out of his condition but I am certain that all of that poking and prodding on him as a baby has left a permanent imprint of a distrust of doctors and hospitals on his psyche and he lives with that subtle fear that the SVT can return at any moment. But for now? He is a rockstar determined to live as strong and healthily as he possibly can.