No Matter What

I’ve been thinking about to write all day, and no words would come to my mind. Instead, I watched you. When you crawled into bed with us at 5:30 and sang “Happy birthday to myself…” When I came downstairs, you were giggling with your dad over a plate of chocolate chip pancakes. When you stood at the front door with your backpack on, 20 minutes before you had to catch the bus, because you couldn’t wait to tell all your friends it was your birthday.

I watched you run down the street after school with your birthday cupcake necklace flapping in the breeze. I watched as you biked out front, with a huge grin on your face; a feeling of freedom. I watched as you told the neighbors that you’re six today.

I watched as you were helpful with the yard work. When I was mowing the lawn, you pulled weeds. When I carried the deck furniture around, you carried the cushions.

I watched you act like a big kid.

I had planned on telling you all the reasons why I love you. I planned on saying that when you’re around, I’m very happy. That your bright blue eyes make me feel alive. That when you curl up on my lap, I breathe in the scent of your hair, and count the days I have left to do that.

Today you turned six, and every time I pick you up, I wonder if it’s my last time.

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You call me Mama, and I wonder, how much longer until it’s just mom?

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Every time you stand outside and sing a song about whatever’s on your mind, I wonder, when will you think that’s silly?

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You’re six.

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You help me cook meals.

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You dream super big.

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You always take safety into account.

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You always look after Audrey.

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Always.

FullSizeRenderNot too long ago, you were just my little man. The guy who slept all the time, never made a peep, was super calm, danced a lot, and was just the kid all moms dream of having because you were so mild mannered.

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Even when you made your sister cry.

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But now you’re six.

My advice to you, on your sixth year, is always be proud of your accomplishments. Don’t worry about what the kids around you do, especially your sisters. You’re not them. You’re you. I like who you are, very much.

I like that you go at your own pace. You’re okay with taking your time. You have no need to rush.

But some day, someone is going to make you feel like your accomplishments aren’t enough. That you need to do or be better than who you are. You may get a feeling in the bottom of your stomach that makes you feel sad. I know that feeling. But when I feel it, I remind myself that I’m me. I am only in control of myself. You are you. And you can’t control how others feel about you, but you can certainly control how you feel about yourself or others. Never forget that. If you don’t like the way you’re behaving, change it.

But that doesn’t mean, that if someone says they don’t like how you’re behaving, you get to ignore them. Please remember to keep an open mind and question your motives from time to time.

Don’t ever be unkind.

My favorite thing about you, Luca, is that you listen. That’s a very rare quality, to be able to truly listen without judgement. It’s also a very important quality to have.

Time will pass, and the day will come where I can’t pick you up anymore and give you super big hugs, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t still try.

A few months ago I asked you if you’ll always love me, no matter what, even if you’re mad at me, and you looked at me with your perfect blue eyes and said, “Mama, I will always love you. No matter what.”

Happy birthday.

bend and not break

I don’t like to talk about my kid’s personal struggles, because I know that some day, they’ll care enough to read these things, or perhaps a person in school, and I don’t want to ever post something that could hurt them. Now that Claire is 7 and Luca is nearly 6, I ask their permission before I post anything about them on Facebook, be it a photo or a funny quote. The way I look at it, I’d want that same courtesy if I was growing up in the age of social media.

As a kid, I grew up with a columnist for a mother at a local paper, and she would sometimes write columns that centered around me. She always, always, had me read it before she even sent it to her editor. I don’t know how many times I’d walk into school with a teacher waving her column in my face saying how amazing of a write my mother was. And then the inevitable, “I had no idea about that part of your life…” like, for example, when I got my belly button pierced at 16. But, again, this was published with my permission.

I asked Claire if it was okay to share some of the things that’s been going on with her, and she said she didn’t mind. I told her exactly what I’d say, and she said, “Mom, I’m confident in who I am.”

I’ve briefly mentioned here before about Claire’s struggles with anxiety. I often worried that I broke her, that the way I was raising her was causing her issues. I mean, how many times do we hear the jokes about kids in therapy talking about their mothers. It’s always about your mother.

As the school year progressed, her anxiety increased, and I thought it was because she was having a hard time in school.

It was completely the opposite, it seems. She was tested for accelerated reading, and passed. So she was put into a different reading class where she was doing 2nd grade vocabulary lessons, comprehension, and reading chapter books, complete with comprehension tests. She was doing well, until all of a sudden, her anxiety kicked up again, and her scores started lacking. I reached out to her teacher and she said, “She’s doing great, but when tests happen, she rushes.”

If I had a dime for every time I told Claire to slow down, I’d have my kitchen paid for.

I told Claire, ‘Be the last kid to turn in your test. Promise me.”

She did. She aced it. Test after test.

Her anxiety lessened.

Last month I got a letter in the mail requesting Claire be tested for the gifted program. Her teacher had mentioned back in October that she was thinking she should be tested before year end, and I had been dreading this. It’s hard to explain, but when you have a kid with anxiety over failure, would you want to test them into something that A.) they may fail before they even make it in or B.) get in, and then stress over the work?

I talked at length with her teacher, her guidance counselor, her TKD instructor…anyone who sees her often enough to know her character, and asked point blank if they’d have her test.

The results were pretty unanimous that Claire is incredibly bright, and could benefit from the program. Apparently the program isn’t more ‘work’ rather it’s fun and gets like minded kids in the same room to do logic puzzles and things they’re good at, but also test their limits in a good way.

As my friend Jen said, “You never know. When I was in gifted, I found my people. Maybe she will find hers, too.”

She starts her two part testing on Thursday, and I told her that it’s going to be fun, and she agrees. She’s excited. I’ve also told her that if she doesn’t make it in, it’s OK. She admitted she would be disappointed, but also said she will be okay if that’s the case.

Last week, I got a letter from the school stating that Claire’s academic scores show she’s above average and they want to test her to skip 2nd grade math and subsequently be in 3rd grade math next year.

When Claire was in kindergarten, I was told that this is nearly impossible to do, skip grades in math. And, again, I thought she was just bright for a first grader in math. But half way through the school year, her teacher told me she was pulling her out of mainstream and having her and two other students do math one on one with her. (Another reason why I love her teacher.) Being as it’s been a long time since I was in first grade, I thought the homework she brought home was pretty standard. She’d bring home math where she was borrowing in subtraction, adding up to a million, carrying numbers…you know. Math. I figure when they start throwing in x=y, then that’s some hardcore stuff.

Then one day she brought home a paper with fractions on it and in pen on top was written: “This is 3rd grade math. We’re going slow. Only do page one.”

What the what?

Claire did it like I asked her to add 2 + 2. It’s…it’s hard to explain when you have a kid who does work so effortlessly, to realize that what they’re doing isn’t really at the grade level they’re in. So when I got this letter, I took a photo and immediately sent it to Matt, who thought, “Yup, this is about right.” I was taken aback. He always knew her math skills were good, I just never really caught on. I realized that all the homework she had been doing wasn’t what the other kids in class were doing, because her teacher, being the amazing educator she is, sent home homework based on each child’s skills.

So again, I’m here hoping my child doesn’t break. That I’m doing right by her, by allowing her to be tested for these things. I wasn’t a smart kid in school. I wasn’t in gifted. I was in talented, which I called the B-team. I also think I was in it due to sheer pity. I was a B/C average student. I often believe that I could have been smarter if I could have understood what I read, and if my brain wasn’t so wonky. But this isn’t about me.

I know this is wrong to say, but I always hoped for average kids. Mostly, because I don’t know what it’s like to be that intelligent. I don’t know the feelings and anxiety that comes with it. But, as I’m coming to find, anxiety and intelligence go hand in hand. Claire isn’t a perfectionist. She isn’t type A. She’s just a smart kid who is having a hard time coming to terms with being smart.

I worried that I made mistakes. Me misreading things as annoying, rather as super intuitive. That when she’d ask questions it wasn’t simply because she wanted to talk, but more that she honest to god wanted answers.

For example, a few months ago, in accelerated reading, they learned about the Komodo Dragon. And so today, at the zoo on her school field trip, she made sure she got to see one, because she studied it. She wanted to talk to it and really understand it. To make sure that what she read was true, and that made her so happy.

At the halfway point of school, her teacher said, “I want to push Claire a little bit…just enough to get her to bend.”

Bend she has, and I should know her well enough to know that she will bend, but not break.

I know everyone thinks their kid is smart, because they are. But this kid is so bright, and it’s scary for her.

I know that now. So I’m with her, and we will see it through.

A Runner’s High

I look at running races like a physical fitness test for me. I often wonder, that if I had the time or drive to really train for a race, how fast could I be? Two weekends ago, I ran a half marathon. This is my third year doing this particular race, after previously doing the full, and every year, it’s owned me. Everyone who has ever run Pittsburgh will tell you what a beast of a course it is. Even the elites who come here from all over the world say they underestimate Pittsburgh. It’s not so much the steepness of the hills, it’s the sheer volume of them. Every bridge is an incline, and we run over five. We go from being down at river level, to way above, where, if you’re afraid of heights, don’t look down.

I like to believe that I’m in pretty good overall physical shape. That said, I didn’t have much in the way of expectations for this race. I was running it solo, without a watch or GPS. I didn’t have anyone around me I knew. Frankly, I was more focused on Matt reaching his goals while running the full.

The way I looked at it, I ran the 10 miler in November keeping a 9:12 pace, I could probably do about that for a half marathon. That would put me in around the same finish as the previous year, 2:04.

I prepared the way I always do: got adjusted at the chiropractor, got my knees and IT band taped, drank water, ate the right things, and got enough sleep. My friend at the chiropractor’s office gave me this supplement that she called Runner’s Crack, and told me to take it every few miles.

So yah, I totally doped during the race.

Kidding, kidding.

But this stuff was amazing. Absolutely incredible. And it’s legal to use in the Olympics, so there’s that.

Anyhow, I had a great race. I ran most of it on the sidewalks where I could, because the first several miles were incredibly congested. I started in the second corral, and was passing more than being passed, so that felt really great. The hills didn’t feel like they slowed me down, the crowds amped me up, and every few miles I took a DMG supplement and felt great. I kept my head up, I read signs, I gave out high fives. At mile 6, my dad handed me a CLO sippy cup with some red wine in it. It tasted delicious. It was maybe a half a glass, and as I was running up the West End Bridge, a guy came up behind me and said, “This is a great day for a run!” I said, “It’s even better with wine!” He said, “Stop. Is that wine?” “Heck yes it is, want some?”

So I shared my wine with a super nice guy who was running his first half marathon after losing 140 pounds. I saw him at the very end of the race, when I was waiting for Matt to finish, and I said, “Did that wine help?” And he gave me a big sweaty hug and said, “Girl, you know it did!”

At mile 8, there was a sign that said, “Press here for power!” so I did and I actually felt better. The guy who handed out orange slices in the South Side was my hero, because it was getting hot, and that tasted so good.

At mile 11, I took a shot of ice cold beer, and powered up the steepest hill of the race.

For the last mile, I sprinted. According to the time clocks that I saw, my last mile was 7 minutes. I would agree. My feet had wings and I was flying. Something told me to do it, and I knew I could, so I did.

When I crossed the finish, I quick pulled out my phone and pulled up the Marathon app, and saw my finish time: 1:59:10.

My very first sub 2 hour marathon. At Pittsburgh, the hardest of all half marathons.

I was in a racing slump for quite some time. Three years ago, when I did the half, I was miserable. Every step I took was torture. I didn’t want to be there. Same for the 10 miler two years ago. Last year’s half was pretty good, because I ran with my friend Jen, but it still hurt.

Last November, I ran the 10 miler and it felt better. I finally felt like I was back into enjoying running. And now, after this half marathon, I feel like I remembered why I love running so much. Because I do.

So much, so, that I signed up for another half in July. I’m such a sucker. But it’s flat, and it’s on Presque Isle, so it’s scenic, and it’ll be nice and quiet. I’m really looking forward to it.

I have goals of becoming a running coach for kids. I figure if I say it out loud, I’ll be more driven to get it done. But, all honesty, I see myself becoming a cross country coach of sorts. I’ve been volunteering with the kids’ running club for two years now, and I just love to teach kids that running is more than an all out sprint. They see me outside of the club and shout, “Mrs. C! I see you!” (Mrs. C, for Cassie, not Conti. It was our compromise since they can’t just call me Miss Cassie.) I’ve worked with the third grade (now fourth grade) and just love them. While I know I could work with Claire or Luca’s grade, I don’t for two reasons: 1.) I’d have a hard time choosing which grade and 2.) they always have plenty of people willing to help with them. No one wants the older kids, and that’s a shame since they’re the most fun and eager to learn.

Who would have thought I’d enjoy working with kids so much? Especially since I say all the time how much I don’t like other people’s kids and I’m half serious when I say it. But man, something’s changed, and I can really relate to them, and they’re receptive to me, which is really cool, so I’m super happy.

Long story short, I’m so thankful to be in the shape I’m in, so that I can feel good doing things that are physically challenging. I’m so glad that I have worked as hard as I have, and haven’t quit just because it burns a little. That I can push others to strive to be stronger and better, and most of all, so that I can show my kids that exercise is not a thing you have to do, but rather, something you want to do.

A follow up to the flood

Look, I’m not a negative person by nature, and I do try to keep things positive, because let’s face it, one of my life mottos is to grin and bear it when things get tough, but I’m over today.

Something people tell me often is that I’m a super mom.

I am not.

And sometimes, when I’m doing something un-supermom like, I feel even more guilty for that.

There are times when I’m doing or saying something, that my mind kind of comes away from my body and I think, “Why are you saying that? Why can’t you stop?” as I see my kid’s face crumble before my eyes. And I know I shouldn’t say that. I know I should breathe and count to ten. I know I should do better. But in the moment; in that moment, I cannot.

Then I think about how my kids will talk to their future spouses about how mom was crazy and used to yell at them over stupid stuff.

Right now I’m not in control. For those that know me, know that I am a control freak. I’m the first to admit it. I wasn’t as a kid, and really not so much until I had kids. Something in me snapped and I had to be on top of the situation, all the time. I’m not OCD, I just feel like if I’m the one in charge, it gets done right.

I’m not in charge, because I have holes everywhere. I’m not in charge because I can’t make dinners like I used to. I’m not in control because Claire has softball that conflicts with my work schedule and I have to arrange for her to get there.  I’m not in control because the water ruined my TV and surround sound so I can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, like I do every Thursday night.

I’m not in control because the garbage disposal decided to come loose and kick out the pipes and I’m so tired right now that my brain can’t even begin to figure out what is wrong with it to fix it.

I’m not in control because my brain isn’t letting me focus, because when I’m tired, everything looks wrong. For example, I just looked at the word does for the longest time because I swear it’s spelled wrong, but NOPE, MacBook says it’s correct. My brain won’t even let me be in control. Talk about a major dis.

I just need to get this all out now, because in the morning I’ll be fine and the hate fire I’m feeling right now will be gone.

Thursdays have been my Achilles heel for a while now, and it’ll be this way for another few weeks. Once June rolls around, it’ll be gravy train, and I’ll be back to normal, but right now there’s too many things, and I’m not a patient enough person to do it with a smile.

It just so happens that Thursdays coincide with water issues, and I’m just not a fan.

A lot of times, when I get this frustrated and overwhelmed, people will recommend I get help at home. I’m glad that people are concerned for me, because that is super comforting, but alas, it’s really not the issue.

It’s me. It’s just my control issues. My need to have things done on my time; My issues with patience. I’m a work in progress, and I had been doing a good job, until the whole house flooded and it went downhill. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this frustrated. But today when the sink started leaking everywhere and Claire said, “Uh, is that supposed to happen?” and I was on my hands and knees looking for the source of the problem, covered in sink contents, I lost it. I cleaned it up the best I could, but when I saw that I had burned my sweet potatoes, I slammed the wooden spoon on the stove a few times, causing Claire to cry.

And I felt horrible.

But tell me, that’s human, right? That’s not something a babysitter could help. That’s not something that a person, at the end of a very busy day, would handle with a smile and a laugh, right? Because we were already past bedtime, Audrey was mad at her dinner, Mae was whining about something, and the cats were at my feet, because I hadn’t fed them yet, and Beau just ate his own poop outside.

We all have our own problems. Maybe by reading my rant, your problem won’t sound so bad, or maybe it’ll sound familiar. I’m just frustrated with today, frustrated that this kind of stuff always happens when Matt travels, and frustrated that I can’t handle life with more grace.

I feel better already.

What the water took away

A few weeks ago, the water supply hose to the toilet disconnected while Matt and I were both away. When Matt got home before me, he called and simply said, “We’ve got a mess here.”

I instantly worried thinking Beau had an accident, since a severe thunderstorm had just rolled through and his thundershirt wasn’t here yet. 

   

When I got home, I found poor Beau covered in water and the house was raining. 

  
We’ve been working with an amazing restoration company that came out within two hours of us calling, to begin the drying process, but what we learned in the coming days, unfortunately, was that it was too late. 

A little water can cause a lot of damage. For us, it started in the master bathroom on the second floor and found every single route to the ground. Along the way it went through our heat vents, between walls and through my kitchen cabinets. My brand new basement is now ruined, my kitchen cabinets have been ripped apart to the bulkhead, and there are countless holes cut into the drywall throughout my house. 

  
I can’t even go into the basement anymore, save for the mud room, because it’s just too sad. 

Our insurance guy was amazing. Friendly, kind, reassuring. He took an evaluation of everything given to him from both the restoration company and his own personal walk through and sent us his estimate of costs to bring the house back to normal. 

  
In the car on the way to the airport to visit Jessica, Matt handed me a thick bunch of papers and on the front page was a cover letter from our insurance guy saying we were approved for every bit of damage except for the water supply hose that caused the damage. 

It was a lot of money. 

So aside from the holes in the walls and missing cabinets, the hardwoods are ruined, the carpet in the basement is ruined, the subfloor is ruined. My laptop was rained on, my area rug smells like wet dog, and my ninja blender isn’t working the same. 

  
We were reimbursed for all of that. 

They even have a 25 dollar reimbursement listed to “remove and reset toilet paper holder.” 

I want that job. 

The problem is, we were just a year away from renovating our kitchen. So now we get to live with an exposed bulkhead and some wires. 

Also, we have no working oven. Only stove top. 

I know that these are all things, but having a house with four kids, three cats, and  two dogs is hard. Trying to make dinner is hard. It’s hard when Beau tries to stuff himself between the walls because he wants to get to me right away when I come home. 

  
It’s hard when you don’t have a space you dropped money on to complete and now no one can use it because the carpet’s been pulled back and there’s exposed tack strips. It’s hard when you had all these plans and now you are rushed to make a decision. Is it the right one? Will I like it? Do we have enough money? 

  

  
Just the other day, our tv and surround sound stopped working. It’s right by the water damage and it was explained to me that the humidity probably did it. 

And we tried to counter the humidity by using giant industrial dehumidifiers that only stressed Beau out to the point I thought he was dying. 

  
So it really did no good at all. 

As of right now, we’re looking at a kitchen and master bath remodel on top of the incredibly long  list of what needs to be fixed because of the water. 

Because that’s exactly what I wanted on my plate right now. But why would I have them rip up the vinyl flooring and replace the subfloor and live on that until we saved enough? Why would I have them rip up and replace the hardwood in my bedroom when we were going to expand our bathroom which may change the footprint anyhow? 

  
When the leak first happened, I honestly thought I’d just get my house painted. 

Boy was I wrong. 

Tuesday Mornings

Last week I was asked by one of the gyms I work at, if I could start a new spin class at their Fox Chapel location on Tuesday mornings. I had recently told her I couldn’t teach the class she offered me on Saturday mornings, so I figured I’d take the time to honestly consider, because I hate saying no, and I do love to teach.

So I took pause, and smiled, because, this is exactly what I’ve wanted. To be wanted and trusted to start more classes at gyms I teach at. They have dozens of instructors, but she asked me. That’s a good sign that I’m doing well for myself.

I told her I’d think about it, because that’s another pretty big obligation. A lot of dragging of children to places for one hour and a few dollars, when you get right down to it.

It was spring break, and I like to view that as a preview of what’s to come at summer time. Read: annoying.

Yesterday, I kindly turned down the class for two very good reasons:

1.) Bringing four kids to gyms six classes a week is enough at this point.
2.) I love my Tuesday mornings.

I currently teach six classes a week, in four days. Granted, this is only my scheduled classes, as I sub a lot, too. Last week alone, I taught 9 classes.

A typical schedule for me looks like this:

Monday: BodyPump at 9:30, RPM at 5.
Tuesday: RPM at 6.
Wednesday: BodyPump at 9:10.
Thursday: BodyPump at 8:30 and BodyPump at 5:30.

Now don’t get all, “That’s too much to do in one day,” on me. I know my limits and I really enjoy it. I lighten up weights on Monday and Thursday mornings, and I’m fine. FINE. Promise.

The point is, last week, I added in yoga after pump on Monday, spinning after pump on Thursday and Friday morning I filled in for pump, too. On spring break. With four kids. The kids, however, loved it. They love our gym adventures. It was me, having to physically bring them, and prod them along to get ready, because Mama’s on a schedule, that drove me nuts.

So I said thanks, but no thanks. Until my boss’s knee heals and I rid of my Thursday morning pump class that I’m covering for him, I can’t be adding in anything else. Right now, a typical Thursday morning is insane. I go from leaving the house at 7:45, teaching from 8:30-9:30 then Mae has dance class at 10. Which would be easy if I was at the gym near my house, but alas, I’m in a town that’s 20 minutes away. And the gym is huge and it takes five minutes alone just to walk from the daycare to the parking lot. Let’s just say, saying “I’m sorry we’re late again,” has become a common phrase when Mae’s entering dance class during morning stretch. Her teacher doesn’t care, but if you know me, even being 5 minutes early is late in my world.

Tuesday mornings are great, because the girls get to play in the basement and pretend that they’re big kids, all independent. Right now they’re playing what sounds like a princess game of sorts and Barbies. I get to sit upstairs at the counter with my morning smoothie and do what I want.

When it’s nicer out, we go for walks and mini adventures. That’s the day I take them to museums or the zoo. We don’t have anywhere to be until nap time, and even then, we can push it back, because a later nap and a later wake up is fine, given we can be out the door by 5:30 for the gym.

Tuesdays mornings are kind of freeing. It’s the one day a week where I have nowhere to be, nothing to do, no one to please. I can handle the bills, the laundry, the cleaning, and not have to rush. Or I can sit in my chair with a game of sudoku and a cup of tea and just be. The girls love their play time, I love my free time.

Everyone needs a Tuesday morning.

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I’d also like to take a moment to sincerely thank everyone who ordered items from the Amazon.com wishlist or donated directly to SPAAR. We truly appreciate it, very much. So, thank you!

Senior animals are worth fighting for

Oh, I’ve been keeping a big huge secret for quite some time now. Mostly, because it wasn’t my secret to tell. But now that it’s officially a thing, with all the papers filed, and t’s crossed and Facebook has been notified, I can now share here.

My friends started an animal rescue.

Not just any animal rescue, mind you, but one specifically for senior animals.

Those of you who know me, know how much I love my Sadie-dog and Beau. While, we didn’t adopt Sadie as a senior, we did with Beau, and it was the best decision we made in 2014. At ten, we opened our home to him, and with a little work, patience and persistence, he’s the perfect family dog.

So let me tell you about it. It’s called SPAAR, or Senior Pet and Animal Rescue. Our tag line is, senior animals are worth fighting for. Because they really are.

There’s an odd stigma that comes with adopting a senior animal. When we adopted Beau we got mostly positive remarks, but there were a few people with comments such as, “Won’t you worry about expenses?” “That will be hard to get attached to him, then have him die so soon.” “Aren’t you worried about him not being able to learn how to fit into your family?”

Legitimate concerns, for sure. I get that. But, I say this: Beau didn’t choose to be 10 and surrendered to a shelter. He didn’t ask to be looking for a place to retire. He certainly didn’t do anything wrong to bring him there. There are a million reasons why animals are surrendered to shelters every day. Senior animals shouldn’t have to spend a single day in that situation.

So SPAAR’s job is to help senior animals, by taking them out of the shelter life, and put into a foster home. We will still promote them as a shelter would, using Pet Finder and the like, but they will be in the comfort of someone’s home, getting all kinds of attention until their forever home becomes a reality.

SPAAR will also offer assistance, in time, to help senior animals stay in a family’s home. Jen, the cofounder of SPAAR decided that had to be a thing when SPAAR was created, because she was in that very situation. Her dog, Ferdinand, who is a very sweet, kind pitbull, found himself pretty sick, with thousands of dollars in medical fees to boot. She realized that sometimes people need help, and it’s okay to get it. Friends and family helped pull money together and now Ferd is happy and healthy.

Because of this, she started Ferdinand’s Fund.The mission of Ferdinand’s Fund is to provide the resources owners of senior pets need to keep them in their homes. Medical bills, vet visits, food, and medication are only a few of the items that this fund covers.

So what’s all this mean? It means big things are happening. I get to be a part of it, too, as Manager of Social Media. I, of course, still have loyalties to the Animal Rescue League, and that will never change. They still have my heart and all those amazing dogs I get to run with. I can’t really run with the senior dogs in foster care, now can I?

What do I need from you? Support. Even if it’s just a “Oh my gosh, this is so awesome!” or “Yay! Senior pets rule!” I’ll also take checks, too. Because we really do need donations, as this is a 100% donor funded rescue.

Want to help? We need supplies and have set up an Amazon.com wishlist for it. We need volunteers. We need fosters.

Sadie has always been my girl. Since before marriage, and mortgages, and babies, there was Sadie. She’s my world. But, Beau has given us so much happiness, too. I couldn’t imagine him not being in our lives, even if it may only be for a short time. Plus, he sleeps all the time, anyhow, so he’s kind of the perfect dog.

And not to forget, but we also have our senior cat, Lila Monster who will be 10 this year. She’s the happiest cat who likes to flop on anyone willing to pet her.

So yay! That’s my good news. SPAAR! Because senior animals are worth fighting for!

Do you hear me mom? I’m sorry.

My personal parenting motto is “Do not raise assholes.”

Well, assholes they have been.

It started Saturday night when I started having flu like symptoms. Full body aches, chills, the whole bit. It was lovely. Sunday morning came, and I had to run with a few dogs, because I promised I would. There is someone in search of a dog that runs well, and the volunteer in contact with her asked if I could test a few out to give her an idea of a dog that’s good running partner. And before you think, Well, why doesn’t she just come try running with a dog! Some dogs are NOT good jogging partners, and when you begin to run, they can sometimes become amped up and begin leash biting and become a little hard to handle. That is not what you want to send a prospective adopter out to discover. Most dogs are great running companions, but I’d feel terrible if she got one that just isn’t down for running.

And well, since I was out that way, why not get the grocery shopping done?

It’s not new news that I’m a stubborn person. Plus, it hurt to sit still. When I’d move, I felt better. Well, better than when I stood still. So when I parked the cart back at the return, I had to give myself a pep talk to be able to sit still on the fifteen minute drive home.

I spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself and trying despirately to stay warm.

Matt flew out for New Orleans Monday morning. The kids were fully aware that I felt awful, and Mae and Audrey were on their best behaviors as I slogged through our regular Monday routines.

It really began after dinner when I asked Luca to take a shower, and he said, “No.”

A common phrase around here is, “Do you get to tell me no?”

The answer should be, “No, I don’t, Mom.”

His was, “Yes I do.”

Strike two, little dude.

I was more patient than usual, because he’s getting over strep throat, so he sat and sulked on the stairs, as the girls were in the tub and I folded laundry. He then said, “I want to take a shower.”

I told him, “Too bad, buddy. It’s too late now. It’s bed time. Get dressed.”

“No.”

“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way,” I said as I plucked him up and plopped him down in his room, as he kicked and screamed.

Then I closed his door and finished the laundry.

Audrey then began to splash in the tub and started telling me no, since, you know, why not? Luca can.

So I plucked her up out of the tub and plopped her butt down in her room, and closed the door. I sat there in the hallway, with crying children coming from two rooms, just shaking my head.

I got them all ready for bed, and even got smiles out of all of the kids before I turned off their lights. I collapsed into the couch,and I promised myself tomorrow would be better.

It wasn’t.

Luca didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. He didn’t want to eat breakfast. He didn’t want to get dressed.

So lucky me got to dress my almost six year old, keep my mouth shut when all I wanted to do was tell him how I really felt about his attitude, and kick his butt off to school.

Tuesday night was met with more resistance and at that point, I figured, if I can’t beat them, join them, right? So Luca decided to tell me that, no, he wasn’t going to clean up his room. So after I took the shirt off his back, (don’t judge, it works and it’s my house,) he went up to his room to clean up his train set. Audrey, who was also grumpy and screaming no, got to join him.

I closed the door, and got to listen to Luca say, “AUDREY! Stop crying!” “NOOOOOO!” “AUDRREEEEEEEYYY!”

And it was awesome.

When we got home from the gym, he was on a better behavior, and even got himself ready for bed without me having to ask. I figured, yay! We’re over this mood.

Nope.

If you ever wanted to know how many days it takes to break me, it’s three. It took three days, but the kids broke me. I asked Claire and Luca to take the garbage and recycling to the curb, and at first they both complained, but Claire, seeing the desperation in my eyes, put on her shoes and coat and acquiesced. Luca stood at the top of the stairs, looking towards the basement and refused to move.

That was it. That was all it took. I went downstairs, found his shoes and shoved them on his feet. I asked him again. He did not move. So when Claire came back in from bringing the recycling to the curb, she found me standing in the kitchen crying. Luca, was still standing in the hallway, doing nothing.

“I try not to complain, guys, but I’m done. Do you guys know how hard it is for me when your dad travels? Do you know how hard it is to do all the things I do in a normal day, let alone, being sick, alone, and with kids who are being jerks? Do you know? Did you even once stop and think, my words hurt. By my not doing what mom asks, it’s making her job harder, and doesn’t solve anything? Did you even once apologize for your poor behavior over the past three days? Did you once even think that it would be nice to say, “Let me help you with that, mom. Let me put the dishes away. Or let me vacuum. Or let me put my clothes away without you asking.” Because I keep asking and telling you to do things and you tell me no. You’ve purposely been rude to me and it hurts. My feelings are hurt and I’m sad.”

Luca stood there, looking me right in the eyes, and said, “I’m sorry, Mom.”

Then he walked over, hugged me, and said, “Do you hear me, Mom? I’m sorry.”

Tomorrow will be better.

Tales of a Mostly SAHM

On Tuesday, Luca had a physical at school. With all the issues with Highmark and UPMC (our doctors are UPMC, our insurance is Highmark) I figured it was so much easier just to have the school physician give him the required physical. The doctor turned out to be someone I know very well, a resident at the time when I worked at St. Margaret. A fantastic doctor. It was a very nice surprise to see him. When we saw each other, we both smiled and he asked, “How long have you been away from St. Margaret? We sure miss you there.”

It’s a standard question, one I get a lot. I’ve been out of practice for going on a year and a half. I, of course, made that decision when I was working only one day a week, a Saturday, and Matt and I realized that it wasn’t for anything but pride at that point. I wasn’t making enough money to sustain anything. All my paychecks went to savings or school clothes shopping or to pay extra on the car. I was missing time with Matt and the kids together.

When Matt’s in town, he leaves the house around 8:30, to see the kids off to school and hang out with the girls, then gets home sometime around 7 or later. The kids are in bed between 7:30 and 8. It’s just not enough time for him, and I get that.

I had to ask myself, why? Why am I missing out on time with my family together, which clearly is a rarity?

The answer was, because I like being a nurse. I liked being good at something that wasn’t just a good mom. But mostly, it was because I have always had a job, since I was 12. Always. I’ve never gone longer than a few weeks without a job. It’s all I’ve known, for 18 years. At first it was liberating. I could do whatever I wanted to, not having to worry about having to be anywhere. Then it set in. I don’t have to be anywhere. Where is my worth?

Early this morning, after seeing Matt off for a client meeting, I sat in the quiet of the house and read an article that may make me stop saying I’m just a stay at home mom. That for Matt, it allows him to do his job, without worrying about anything else, so we can live the life we have. Moreover, it may make me feel less like a glorified nanny.

“And suddenly, when I read those words, it all made sense. Well, of course, it would be a luxury to the spouse who works out of the home to have a partner who stays at home with the children. Someone who is always there to take care of the inevitable days of sickness, arrange the doctor’s appointments, make sure the cupboards are stocked, and heck, to ensure that no one steals the FedEx package off of the porch. And then — goodness! — to have someone to save you the worry of sending your kids into the world, someone to always be there to kiss a scraped knee and take care of the potty training and maybe even have a hot meal waiting for you when you come home?”

Part of that last sentence kind of rubs me the wrong way, however. Kids will grow up just fine, even if a parent doesn’t stay at home with them. In fact, some may be better off for it. I know, coming from a single mom who worked a lot, you learn to be more self sufficient than if you have a parent at home doing everything for you. Not that all stay at home parents do everything for their kids, but I’m pretty sure more gets done. My personal parenting style is to be more hands off, in that, I make my kids do chores, clean up, and be independent. Some afternoons I’m here, but I’m not, if you know what I mean. I make them figure it out. Work out their sibling squabbles, find their own missing library books, and guide themselves through their homework.

Yesterday, I had a reminder of what it was like when I worked part time. I had a class at 5:30, but Luca was red. Like, his face was red and he had a rash all over his trunk. At his physical, the doctor noted that his tonsils were really big, but since he had no symptoms, there was no reason to worry.

Of course, the next day he came home from school crying when I’d even just touch his skin. Everything hurt, and he even threw up. I may be out of nursing practice, but I know strep when I’m looking right at it.

It was too late to cancel my class, and my neighbor was sitting with the kids until Matt got home to relieve her so she could go to a choir concert. My neighbor, who is a nurse anesthetist,  took one look at Luca and said, “Yah, he should get to the doctors.”

So on my way to my class, I called the doctors and was able to get him a 6:40 appointment. I also had the Volvo. There was no way for Matt to take all four kids in his Jeep, so then I began the scramble to try to find someone who could sit with the kids so Luca could get to the doctors.

There I stood, pacing, outside of Club One, calling every neighbor I could, then every nearby friend, then, I took a chance and tried my friend Kevin, who lives in the city and had never met my littlest kids, even though we’ve been friends since I was six. He could hear my panic, and left right away.

In that moment, I was reminded of how stressful it was when one of my kids were sick and I was at work, Matt was at work, and we had to arrange for someone to get them to the doctor. I was also reminded of the fact that I have some pretty awesome friends.

Of course, Kevin became best friends with Mae, and he even said she’s just like he imagined her to be.

Point is, I’m okay with being just a stay at home mom. I’m okay with making sure that my kids get to their activities and their appointments. I’m okay with doing laundry and cooking dinner. I’m okay with reading the same book over and over and over.

Okay, so I’m not that okay with it. But I’m feeling a bit more fine with my decision.

I’m also happy that I have a job that allows me to bring my kids. I get to work out for free. I get to relieve my stress while someone else watches my kids. It’s kind of the perfect setup.

When my kids are all in school, I can get a job again.

“I realized, for the first time ever, that I didn’t have anything to prove. That I had been working so hard to work from home and always have it spotless and do all my educational activities with the kids because it was my job and I’d better darn do a good job of it if my husband had to work, that I never stopped to consider that my being home with our children could actually be a gift to my husband.”

All this time, I’ve been feeling like I’ve had to prove myself worthy. As if this isn’t a job, rather an excuse to not have a real job. It’s so hard to describe the struggle I have in my mind over it. I can’t buy those shoes, I don’t make any money. I can’t plan vacation, I didn’t save for it. I shouldn’t ask for an afternoon alone, because I didn’t earn it.

One day I will get over it. One day.

 

Team Baby Turns Two

Hey Soupie.

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So here we are. Another year older.

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Did you know that you remind me of your brother, because you love your blanket and your thumb?

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But you also remind me of your sister because you love to dress up and sing Let It Go.

15772_10152509499443791_8546243398694731414_n

And you also like superheroes and magic and imagination, like your other sister?
10881710_10152683431838791_2319086170355807763_nI remember thinking, three kids is good. I like three kids. I can handle three kids.

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But then, here you are, my fourth, my baby, and we’re doing alright.

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Your big sister, Mae, never acted like the baby. But you? You have it down to a science. You know the fine art of, “Up, peese, mama!” and “I sit, mama!” and “Cheese stick, peese, mama!”

Have I mentioned you love your mama?

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There’s always that time that comes, where babies can’t get enough of their dads, and they’re over their moms, but you, dear one, have not had that happen yet.

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You spent the entire time at the beach with me. Sitting on me, laying on me, splashing in the surf with me.

Did you want your Grandma? Nope. Did you want your dad? Nope. Did you want your Papa? Heck no.

Mama.

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I guess that’s okay. At the time it was really annoying, I’m not going to lie, but looking back, you are my last baby, and you were my surprise baby, and even more than all that, you were my miracle baby. So I’m okay with holding you a little extra, because, honestly, I almost never got to hold you at all.10367572_10152301025658791_5989418407606963898_n

So you take that knowledge and run with it, making dinner with me, brushing my teeth with me, planking with me.

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And even putting on your own makeup.

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Let me tell you a quick story. Your brother, Luca, is very quiet. He’s the sweetest boy ever, but it’s hard to know that when he’s so shy. The day you were born, and he came to see you at the hospital…I can’t even describe it. Audrey, he looked at you, begged to hold you, and that was it.
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You guys have been inseparable since.

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I would often worry that you’d be left out, what with being the youngest. So far, it hasn’t happened. 10432111_10152332362288791_2031503442917478432_n

You’re kind of everyone’s favorite.10478527_10152616704438791_2473720437621752978_n

You like to copy your sister.10624957_10152421330528791_2252123437331451944_n

You’ve already started to give me looks.10641276_10152451460713791_898035875302779323_n

You love your dog.10665696_10152492572798791_9157231106050389341_n

When you’re not teething, you’re generally such a joy to be around.
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You are already super independent.10950696_10152770109468791_5651299440669556488_n

And we all love you.

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Very much.10671353_10152593504643791_7307428003359000693_n

To my sweet baby on your second birthday: I love you. You have grown faster than any of your siblings, and I really wish you’d stop. I could sit here and write out all the ways you make me happy, but to sum it up to, I look at your smile, and there it is. That’s how you make me happy. By being alive. By being here. By being the miracle I never knew I needed.

In your two short years, you’ve brought me so much joy, so much happiness. They say you never miss something if you never had it, but, Audrey, if you never were, I would miss you so much. I don’t really know what else to say.

Always be patient. Always be kind. Always love your mama.

Love,

Mama

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