Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Catastro-tree.


Despite my somewhat OCD characteristics, I'm not actually all that big on traditions. I enjoy switching things up from time to time.  I don't like feeling chained to an activity nor arbitrarily assigning sentiment to something just because we did it the last three years in a row. I already commit to WAYYY too many things to add yet another item to my many self-appointed obligations. That being said, I LOVE to cut down our own Christmas tree. Open fields for the boys to run. Seeing the tree up and standing, living, growing in all it's glory. Inspecting each tree, imagining it in our living room, decorated and surrounded by love, gifts, merriment.
We began this tradition before we got married. Before iPhones. Perhaps a photo exists somewhere from that 2006 Christmas. It took on a whole new meaning in 2008, when we searched for a tree with a 4-week old Brock strapped to my chest in the Bjorn. I will never forget that trip. Or any of them, really. The year Curtis was born, it was so cold that we literally cut down the first tree we saw, and turned right back around. To this day, I still think that was our most perfect tree. The year George was born, the weather was gorgeous! We went in nothing but sweaters and jeans. Each year, is unique in some way, memorable, and fun. This year? This year was special too. Real special.

The boys took an exceptionally late nap, we were waiting, and waiting for Mitch, Curtis and George to finally wake up, so we could get to the tree farm before it closed at 5pm. By the time they awoke, we had rounded them all up, changed diapers, shoed, hooded, and coated them all, we were walking out the door at 4:07pm. It's a 36 minute drive. We needed gas. Of course. Matt then stopped by our still-not-sold previous home, to open the garage, there-by interrupt the agent showing the place, to run in and grab the chainsaw battery.

We pull into the tree farm at 4:47pm. As I get the boys out and situated, Matt gets our tree ticket. It's kind of misting, a tid chilly, definitely muddy, and Curtis and George have decided they are terrified of tractors. Mitch is tucked safely away in the wagon, along-side the chainsaw. What!? The baby is by the chainsaw!? Whatever, I don't have time to worry about this hazard. We truck it to a patch of trees. All too small. But perfect for a picture. I insist we take 2 minutes to set up the timer and snap a shot. So we do. Another patch. Too dead. Any further and we will never make it back by 5pm. Then we see it. Not perfect, but it appeared usable. But we ventured on, hoping for better. There were none. We circled back. By this time, all 4 boys were out and about wandering. I rounded them all up, carrying a P'O'd and squirming Mitch (he insists he is a "big boy" now) back to our tree. Mitch and George watched Matt fell the tree with the chainsaw. Mitch, decided the falling tree meant certain death and began crying and pacing in circles.

We dragged the tree to the tractor path, I stowed George, Mitch AND the chainsaw back into the wagon, and we trucked it to the office. Only once we all got to the cashier, did I notice that Mitch was missing a shoe and had an extremely wet foot. Crap. Forget about it. That shoe has been through 4 children, and I think I paid $4 for them at Target in 2009. I'm just leaving it. I pay for the tree. But I know EXACTLY where we cut down the tree, I'm sure that's were it fell off. Damn, OCD. I'm going back out there. I sprint BACK to the tree stump, Matt rounds up the kids. We are the last people at the place. No luck, no shoe. I get back to the van and they are all waiting for me with the receipt and tree stub!! Oops. The employees kindly load the tree on our van. And...I have no cash!! We made them all stay late, and we had NO tip!!!! I promise I am mailing cash, with the date, for the proper people to get a tip.
 Four days later, we bring the tree into the house. It's really crooked. It's huge. It's completely unstable. Matt did A LOT of cursing while trying to get it properly in the stand. As I type, I fear for the life of Berry who is happily sleeping on the couch adjacent to the tree. We did lots of trimming. I am pretty sure we found a huge spider's nest that we chucked out the front door. We should have torched it. The center is filled with dead pine needles, and I don't want to think about what else...probably more spider eggs. *shiver* There is a somewhat large space deficit, that I will attempt to repair with some clever finagling of the lights. Berry thinks the needles and branches are chewable. I bought candy canes, because Brock kept insisting we needed them to decorate the tree, and that's all the boys can think about. They keep touching the package. The tree isn't even up and Curtis is all but trying to hang them!
I am too tired to hang the lights tonight. I mean, the tree is giant. We have 11 foot ceilings. I have to buy more anyway, and Target was OUT of "warm" white lights today. Of course. I fear hanging any "valuable" ornaments on this tree, I'm not sure the karma is so great. I think we shall name it Murphy. Everything about this tree has been rushed, and difficult, and not ideal. Far from ideal. Then again, so has most of 2014. Perhaps, this tree called to us, because it is US. Total chaos. And we love it.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Brock Tom

Brock started Kindergarten on August 20th, 2014. This is a defining moment in the life of a person as well as their parents, or so I am told. I see pictures all over social media, labeled with sentiments of sadness, and tears. I keep waiting for the flood of emotions to arrive and inspire me to pour my heart out. To feel the end of an era has come. That my life is totally changed. That my baby is growing up, never to return. But the draught remains. Maybe it's because he is the oldest, and I have 3 more baby boys at home to keep me occupied while he is gone. Maybe it's because I was never a fulltime, stay at home mom, so his absence through the day is not as palpable. Mostly though, I think it is because Brock needs school. He lives for new experiences, stimulation, education, logic, and structure. Brock is intensely motivated by "if...then" conditions.
Everyday, he comes home with his homework starred. He completes his worksheets. He stays on or in the lines. He earns "shine" tickets for doing good deeds, near daily. This morning, he got dressed entirely on his own, I didn't even ask him to put on his shoes. He has begun to get his own breakfast. When there was a carpool miscommunication and he was stranded at school, he didn't blame anyone, and I could tell, felt partially responsible for not remembering his Wednesday carpool schedule. This is all a big change from my generally anxious and resistant to change eldest son. Though he still insists that he is "scared" to go upstairs by himself, he has become self-sufficient in so many ways. All of these things signify growth. Rubs time and aging in my face. Forces me to accept that my babies will eventually become men, but for now, I will continue to love every phase and not mourn the passing one.

Brock turned six years old last week. If I hadn't already organized an extended family dinner for him, I think he would have done it for himself. He had already asked Mimi to make him a turkey cake. He reminded me, on a daily basis, for the entire month of November, to ask his aunts and uncles to join us for his birthday. You see, Brock is a control freak. He is not nosy, or trying to get all up in everyone's business...he genuinely thinks that his involvement will help the situation. Years ago, we hosted a get-together, and Brock counted the people, then the chairs and came up to me, very concerned stating that we had more people then chairs. I reassured him it was fine, but he couldn't understand, he continued to pace about the house, filled with nervous energy, repeating to me, "but where will everyone sit!?" I believe the phrase, "don't worry about it, Brock" is second only to "I love you" in number of times I have said it to him. Speaking of pacing, my next video collage is a collection of Brock pacing or bouncing anxiously. These are frequently while he is waiting in line. Or watching something dangerous or unpredictable. Or waiting for me to open a package, some candy or other exciting item. One might confuse it with the "pee-pee dance" at times.

Recently, Brock received a binder with some old Pokemon cards in it. He loves this. He carries it with him at all times. He has organized and re-organized these damn cards, no less than 11 times in the last 24 hours. He nearly gave his youngest sibling a concussion for even attempting to touch his beloved cards. Previous to receiving this binder of cards from his aunt, he had never even HEARD of Pokemon.  He has done this before with other equally, or even more insignificant items. In fact, at all times he has some "item of interest" that is in constant rotation, and is revered and loved. One could say he "obsesses". Previous items include but are not even remotely limited to: a plastic pencil sharpener (Mary Lynne), a wide-ruled spiral notebook (Mimi), Tinker toys (Annora)...my baby brain evades me, as I know there is so much more. Sometimes, you can find them under his pillow. Give him an unexpected gift and he loves it. Loves you. Obsesses. Don't get him something that he wanted/expected for his birthday or Christmas (even though he never made it clear he expected said item) and prepare to hear about it forever. He is the most grateful, loving, appreciative, easy to please child that is also impossible to satisfy. He wants more, he wants everything. And I don't just mean stuff. The boy is nothing if not persistent and filled with passion.

As I have said, a million times before, Brock was born "busy". Everyone said so. It is immediately obvious, to anyone who meets him, that Brock has a fire burning in his soul. The wheels are always spinning. His theories and explanations for life, never cease to amaze me, and simply never cease. Tonight, at the dinner table, I was listing sports, asking Curtis which he was going to play. When I rambled past track, Brock perked up and said, "track!? what's that?" I thought to myself, your sport buddy. Your sport. You can be as self driven as you want. You can never stop moving. You can burn energy, lots and lots of energy.

Ultimately, Brock will do whatever he wants. He will make his own decisions. He won't be persuaded by his parents, or teachers, or friends. Brock simply "knows". As a parent, I just hope I am guiding him in the proper way. Helping him to harness his energy and passions. Teaching him to direct it positively. Showing him when to accept things as true and when to push and question, and not give up. I'm not being honest if I don't say that I see myself more in his personality than any of my other children. Which almost makes me worry more about him, makes me question my parenting. What I want most for all of my children is happiness. I hope, despite his desire and drive, he will find joy in every day, for the rest of his life. Like I have.

Happy 6th Birthday to my oldest boy. The one who made me "mom". My tall, brilliant, and beautiful, Brock Tom.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Mitch-A-Palooza

We call Mitch, "the Roly Poly Pup". He earned this name, when he first started crawling. He would crawl, barreling  head first, not ever looking up to make sure the path was clear, to any living thing on the floor. As soon has his huge, hard head made contact, he would roll over and look up at whomever or whatever's lap he landed in, and continue to play. Wrestle. Cuddle. Last night, I watched him attempt to be fully involved in the pillow fight being had between his 3 older brothers. He was literally laughing, with his deep, near grunt-like laugh, as his brothers pushed him away, trying to get him out of the way. Little brothers can be so annoying. When George would get blasted to the ground, Mitch would sprint (toddle) over and jump on top of him, sabotaging his pillow. Though, all the children have begun calling him "the Roly Poly Pup" (except George, who still calls him "baby"), Curtis has come up with another, now probably more accurate, name: "Monster Truck". Which generally should be pronounced with a batman-like tone.
Despite being my largest child, topping the charts on height at 32inches and remaining steadily in the 95th percentile for weight at 25lbs 8 ounces, he is my most lovie. When I get home, he quickly hobbles up to me with his slightly pigeon toed gait, whispering "hi". Which he thinks can only be said while nodding your head up and down and really getting your jaw into it. I scoop him up, and he rests his head on my shoulder. He will do this forever. Generally, forcing me to be the bad guy and finally set him down on the floor to hug and greet my other children.  He mutters "nigh nigh" as we walk up to bed at night, and loves to be swayed for a moment. He babbles himself to sleep every morning, noon and night. Something new sitters have a hard time adjusting to...do I get him? Or not? Is he not tired? Is he sad?

Not everything he does is so sweet, and adorable, though. He does have the voice and volume to match his massive physique. When that child is hungry, or thinks he is about to be fed, he screams. Yes, it's a scream. There is no other way to describe it. Ned Yost, manager of the Royals, got to experience it in line at the grocery, the day before game 6 of the World Series. It's obnoxious. It's loud. Perhaps, that is why he is so huge, we just stuff his face to stop the screaming. Or maybe he knows he is the fourth child of all boys, survival of the fittest, and to get food, you have to be aggressive. While George chooses to silently sneak off and eat, well, EVERYTHING (I mean we are talking soaps, lotions, TUMS, vitamins, candy, paper, glue...) Mitch makes sure everyone knows he is hungry and needs something to eat NOW.
I know, I know, my fourth child turned one, a huge milestone, over a month ago. I also didn't get his final photo with the "12 month onesie". He had it on at the birthday party, but we took no picture of it. (#fourthchildproblems). In my defense, we currently, 6 weeks after moving in, still don't have internet at our new house. Which means, I haven't been able to load any of the photos we did take. At one, Mitch is now a fully, proficient walker, as he started at 10 months. He does start falling and hitting his head on things as he gets tired, but I'm hoping that improves with time. He is trying to drop the morning nap, but is not always successful. He sleeps ok. He is no Curtis or George. Those two would giggle, smile, give a sigh of relief as you laid them down to sleep. As mentioned above, Mitch babbles. He is surprisingly Brock-like and does not want to miss a thing. He laughs a lot, but is not overly smiley. I would pin him as more serious, maybe even skeptical. Again, reminding me more of Brock. He is passionate, and you can see it, when he has fits of banging his mouth against a piece of furniture, repeatedly while being loud. I fear biting may be in our future.

I frequently joke that Mitch is my favorite. He's just been such the perfect addition to our family. I feel his name fits him extremely well. He looks just as I had hoped he would, just like I had envisioned all our offspring to look. George being the least like I would have expected. It's funny, I frequently marvel at the 180 degree, polar opposites that are Brock and Curtis, but George and Mitch seem to be equally as separated, only in very different ways. I love having 4 vastly different personalities living in my home. Watching the relationships evolve and develop. Every birthday, fills me with joy, love, admiration and some satisfaction, that we made it another year. It makes me incredibly thankful for my children's health. (Which is a complete and total understatement. I will never know how to express how truly lucky, privileged, blessed, appreciative, I am of not only this gift of life we have been given, but the thriving, health of each child.)

Happy First Birthday to my baby boy, Mitch!



Friday, October 31, 2014

The Fog.

In looking back through my baby book (aka, this blog) I discovered a very obvious pattern. As my post about Mitch indicates, at 8 weeks of pregnancy, I am on the brink of mental breakdown. I am not functional. I am in pure, day to day. No, minute to minute. Really, breath to breath, survival mode. In fact, for 5.O, I briefly wrote down some thoughts as I went to bed, probably around 8pm, crying on October 7th (2 days before 8 weeks).

First draft, exactly as written:
My Heart is stone.
My belly aches.
I dread sleep, but even more,
Being awake.

I should be happy.
Overjoyed. Celebrating life.
Instead I fear morning, that first
break of light.

Stay tough, smile
Put on your pleasant face.
Because come evening,
Bitterness takes it's place.

Then, it seems, I may or may not write a couple more posts,  mostly complaining, listing symptoms, feeling sorry for myself, until 11 weeks.  A light can be seen. Though I remain in the throws of first trimester symptoms, something changes. Maybe a slight increase in energy. Maybe a slight boost in the functioning of the ol' GI tract. Whatever it is, I even felt good enough to order a GRANDE latte from Starbucks today!!  I went a few weeks totally coffee-free. I am actually excited to spend Halloween with my boys tonight, in our new neighborhood. I had my first OB appointment a couple days ago, and baby had a raging, wonderfully audible heartbeat of 165.
Of course, with everything being so perfectly in line with the previous four pregnancies I can't help but assume I am gestating another fantastic O'Laughlin boy. Though, there does seem to be a spectrum, and I grade it on weight loss (I'm at 10lbs currently)...therefore, in order from most to least torturous pregnancy, the rankings are thus: Brock, 5.O, Curtis and Mitch tied, George. Curtis and Mitch nearly tied in weight as well. And body type. So, perhaps my goal of another baby under 9lbs is possible!!

Anyway, I am just glad to be approaching the end of this trimester. I am overjoyed that I have emerged from the last 5 weeks of my clinical depression. I am ecstatic to meet this guy in May. Though, I would never have picked this spacing for my children. I mean, seriously, 5 kids in 6 years is a bit nuts, I truly love it all. In the words of a 5 year old "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit."  I'm trying my best to abide.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"New Post"

For blogger, I have to click on a button "New Post" to begin writing. Never has that title been more appropriate, as it dawned on me that I have failed to mention A LOT that is new with the O'Laughlin family.

Brock started a NEW school. He is in Kindergarten at St. Ann's. His teacher is a sweet, but stern woman, Mrs. Doran. A perfect fit for Brock, I'm sure. He looks forward to school, everyday. The morning "routine" is still a bit of an issue, as he doesn't like to go anywhere "alone" and periodically insists that I dress him. Attempting to focus on eating breakfast in under 15 minutes with 3 distracting brothers around isn't exactly prime conditions, either. Basically, from 6:50-7:30am is a lot of chaos, drama, redirection, and all around madness, until we all get out the door. And don't even get me started on Tuesday's, when Curtis and George both join in the school readiness rally.

I started a NEW job. It is a private practice, Family medicine position at an outpatient clinic called Sunflower Medical Group. I work Tues-Fri. Yes, you read that correctly. I work only 4 days a week (except for limited Sat/Sun hours every 5 weeks.) I have a 2 hour lunch. I meet new, and generally, wonderful people all day. I am really happy with where I landed and the career path I have chosen.  Not sure how many people can say the same thing. Also, the office is literally 6 minutes from my current home...which brings me to my next New news.

We bought a NEW house. Or rather, a really old house. Built in 1917. It's so old, that the original deed stated that no houses under $10,000 could be built in the neighborhood. Ha. 10k!!?? It's nearer to my old stomping grounds. It's grand. It's got 5 bedrooms, and an oven/stove unit so sophisticated that I will feel wrong cooking Kraft Mac 'n Cheese on it. Like, really wrong. It is move in ready, with plenty of options for future updating. It is growing on me. I don't like that I cannot hear where everyone is, at all times. A lot of stuff is still in boxes. We need furniture, ASAP, but I like to take my time shopping for that kind of stuff. It doesn't "smell" like us yet. Tater has simply decided the house is so big, he no longer needs to come to his name OR go potty outside. Why pee in the cold wet grass when you have 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, a few halls and various other locations to choose from? By the way, anyone what a new dog? Oh wait...we do!!

We have a NEW puppy. We've wanted a big dog for a while. I've tried on more than one occasion to adopt a 1-2 year old, but they were always spoken for by the time I get to the clinic or get a hold of the agency. While in the Ozarks this Summer, I thought, why not check out these shelters, they are probably less "picked over" than the ones in KC. Sure enough, puppies everywhere! We got her back in July, while I was still off work, really no better time then that to potty-train. So our "Heinz 57" mix, Berry, it is. She is incredibly sweet. She is relatively intelligent. Most importantly, she is patient with the boys and eats all their scraps!! It doesn't seem right to have a house full of boys, and no dog to "wrestle" with from time to time.

Lastly, our most recent, and shocking addition, a NEW baby. 5.O coming in May. Everyone seems to think we did this on purpose. Started a new job, moved, got a puppy, then decided to have our 5th kid in less than 6.5 years...NO ONE would choose to do that. Nobody. I mean, not even a looney person. I am no ashamed to admit that this child was a complete and utter shock. We had taken pretty extreme preventative measures to avoid a 5th one (at this time...that extreme measure would probably have been removed in the next year or so), but these things do fail at times. Or simply, disappear, in my case. Though I am the sickest I have been, since maybe Brock, and down about 10lbs due to severe exhaustion and nausea, I am still excited {in denial} about the arrival of number 5. How could you not be? I love me some adorable baby boys!

So, if you need me, I'll be at work, carpooling some kids, cleaning up dog excrement, vomiting, changing diapers, doing laundry, or, what I wish I could do for 90% of the day, lately, sleeping.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Every Minute of Every Day. #firstworldproblems

Close your eyes. Concentrate really hard. Even if you have no experience in these matters, I want you to try and imagine having 4 kids.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5 and working full time.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5, working full time, with a spouse that works full time.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5, working full time, with a spouse that works full time, and 2 dogs and a cat.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5, working full time, with a spouse that works full time, 2 dogs, a cat and trying to pack a house.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5, working full time, with a spouse that works full time, 2 dogs, a cat, trying to pack a house and still feed all the children and get them to school on time.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5, working full time, with a spouse that works full time, 2 dogs, a cat, trying to pack a house, feeding all the children and getting them to school on time, and your nanny going into labor early, so you have to scramble to find care for a week.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5, working full time, with a spouse that works full time, 2 dogs, a cat, trying to pack a house, feeding all the children and getting them to school on time, your nanny going into labor early, so you have to scramble to find care for the same week that you are physically moving to a new house.

Imagine having 4 kids, under the age of 5, working full time, with a spouse that works full time, 2 dogs, a cat, trying to pack a house, feeding all the children and getting them to school on time, your nanny going into labor early, so you have to scramble to find care for the same week that you are physically moving to a new house, then getting in the new house, and your spouse spending all his time preparing the old house for the market, so you are left trying to make the new house functional, all while still providing for and nourishing your 4 children, as well as orientating new sitters to your kids and dysfunctional home, and begging close friends and family for constant help.

On top of all of this. Imagine, if you will, doing all of this while basically having flu-like symptoms of exhaustion and constant, severe nausea 24/7. (AKA: pregnancy).

Monday, September 29, 2014

10 Days.

Flash back to ten Days ago, I arrived home from work, late in the evening. All the children were asleep.  I hung out with Matt, maybe watched some TV, and as we headed up to bed, I heard Mitch begin to cry. Normally, I would let him fuss for a moment, feel him out, see if it's real, or just a fleeting moment of discomfort, but tonight, I went right in to console him. I hadn't seen him all day. I held him, he immediately laid his head on my shoulder as I swayed back and forth. Instantly, I heard his rhythmic, almost a snore, breathing, indicating he had peacefully fallen back to sleep. I hugged him tighter, and swayed some more. I looked at the tropical fish mobile, hanging above his crib. The same one that hung above each of his brothers before him. The same one that is now missing a fish, because they all pull it down as soon as they are tall enough. I think Mitch did it the earliest. The same mobile that was given to me as a gift before I even left for college, from my now, mother-in-law. My eyes are now stinging, because we were moving from this home in which we've built our family.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I hugged my baby, imaging that he might be the last. Fearing I may never experience the pure, beautiful, love of a fresh newborn. The anticipation of pregnancy, wondering what the baby will be, who he will look like, will he be healthy? Watching each child grow, develop personality and hilarious little idiosyncrasies. Wondering who they will be, what will they do, who will they marry? I cry, knowing that I will never get over the amazing path to motherhood, but after 4 kids, you have to start turning from your heart and let reason back in the door. You have to take your entire family's well-being into consideration. Maybe we will have another one. But maybe we won't.

Flash back to eight days ago, I'm at the little Ice Cream Social down the street from my mother's home. I have all the boys. They are watching a magician, jumping in a bouncy house, getting their face painted, eating ice cream. I feel bloated, and slightly irritable. I'm sure I will be getting my monthly visitor, any moment.

Flash back to seven days ago. I step on the scale. I've lost 3 pounds! It's been easy because I've had no appetite to finish my meals. I've also had this weird salty taste in my mouth, but I'm pretty sure it's the Nexium I've been taking for the GERD, or heart palpatations, or whatever it is, I've been having. So I stopped it, maybe it takes a few days to get out of your system.

Flash back to six days ago. It's final. Matt and I are buying a new house! We celebrate by splitting a bottle of "Michelle" champagne. I cannot believe we are actually doing this. New job 2 weeks ago. Four kids. A puppy. A new school year. What better time to move!? Oh well, CHEERS!

Flash back to five days ago. I am making a late night run to Hy-Vee. We have no food in the house. None. As I pull up, I text one of my good friends and say, "I am attributing the now 38 day cycle to the fact that I'm just not regular yet...Not an IUD failure." To which she replies with one, an assumption that I've already taken a pregnancy test, and two, just urging me to do it. I opt out. That's silly, I'm just being paranoid.

Flash back to three days ago. I do not want to get out of bed in the morning. It's Friday. I did not realize how much these full work weeks exhaust me. I've been sleeping so soundly, and having such vivid dreams. That taste in my mouth will not go away, it's making it hard to finish my coffee, and I stopped the Nexium over a week ago. I decide I'll just run home for lunch, I throw away my nearly half full Starbucks cup as I get up to leave the office. Why am I not finishing my coffee? Wait. Why could I not get out of bed this morning? Since when do I just "lose weight without trying"? How many days has it really been since my LMP!? 40. It's really been forty days. I drink too much alcohol to let this mystery go on any longer. I divert from home, stop in Bruce Smith Drugs. Buy some envelopes to mail Mitch's birthday invites, and the cheapest pregnancy test on the shelf. Afterall, this is silly, right? I have an IUD, RIGHT!? I head back to the car. I can't take this at home, with the kids and nanny! I turn into Macy's...

...I leave Macy's texting Matt. Then my OB. Then a couple friends. There were a lot of OMG's, WTF's, "you are kidding me"s, holy shit's, and a couple "congrats" in there. I rush to my OB's office, terrified it's a tubal pregnancy, wondering what to do about the IUD, just generally, in a panic. It was fine. It was all fine. The IUD had fallen out. I tell Matt, and he says, "So you're pregnant. Just as pregnant as you've always been when you are pregnant?" Um, it appears so.

Present: Baby 5.O, May 2015. (Written on September 12th)

Friday, September 5, 2014

A crown experience.

Like most oldest children, mine is a bit anxious about new and different experiences. Through trial and error, we have learned that mostly, it's best to prepare him as much as possible prior to the event. Brock doesn't do surprises. (I've never cared for them much myself, I'm guessing that is par for the course in the whole "control freak" repertoire.) So, after a routine visit to the dentist informed us that Brock had a cavity, so near the root it will require sedation and needs to be done at a different office, the mental preparation began.

We informed Brock that he got to go to a special dentist office. Stressing the "got" part, as if it's a treat, while at the same time, educating him that he needs to brush and floss every night because his teeth are rotting out (his worst fear since age 2, by the way). Then reassuring him that luckily we caught the cavity in time to fix it. We explained that he will have to be picked up early from school, so he will get to hang out in the principal's office until I walk in to get him. By the end of this mental prep process, Curtis thought it so special, he was waking up in the morning, crying, "I want cavities! Why can't I have any cavities, mom? I want cavities like Brock."

On the day of our new appointment, I arrived at St. Ann's, and walked in to find Brock happily sitting in the office. He jumped up, ready to go. Until it dawned on him we were actually leaving...cue tears and sadness about missing gym and music. It would happen that I'd schedule his appointment during 2 of the best "specials" ever!! Sorry Brock, whoops. He started refusing to get in the car, or buckle up, the anxiety building. He was so mad, partly at missing gym, but mostly because this is his reaction to new things. Had we not prepped him, this behavior would be happening as I checked in at the new office.

By the time we arrive, he has calmed down, mostly because I have now bribed him and offered a special treat, anything he likes, if he behaves through the visit. I was under the impression the dental work would be done today. Not the case. This was a simple consultation. After looking at xrays and in the mouth, the dentist informed me that Brock would really be best served with a CROWN!!! Really? Kids get crowns?! On primary teeth? They explained the process, asked about drug allergies, prescribed some Valium and sent us on our way...only to come back in the morning, for the actual procedure, and missing a FULL day of school. Que more preparation about how cool it's going to be to have a silver tooth! Like a robot, or a pirate. He even got to pick out some Gatorade for after the procedure.
The next morning began by practicing swallowing pills. I used some of those candy dots that come on sheets of paper. Brock couldn't do it. He refused to continue trying. Meanwhile, Curtis insisted he get a try and swallowed a dot first try, no problem. Of course he did. Yin and Yang those two. I resorted to crushing the Valium. Brock almost vomited from drinking it and then went into a psychotic fit of rage, running around, crying, screaming, belligerent. I thought this was a sedative!? I would have the child that reacts opposite. We were verging on running late, so I get Brock to the car, and then it hits him:
Would it be wrong to use Valium for Brock on a regular basis? I'm joking! (But would it?)



The procedure continued as planned. Brock picked Powder Puff Girls to watch, he giggled as they gassed him. And giggled. And giggled some more. He let them work in his mouth for over 30 minutes. He never once complained. He finished, picked out his two toys, and left the office, proud of his newly obtained silver tooth, and looking like a hungover rockstar. Which, the way he tolerated all of that...I think he is a true Rockstar.
Through all of this, I couldn't help but wonder how he had even acquired such rotten teeth. He insists on brushing every night, with us to help. He flosses every once in a while, which is A LOT more than I ever did as a kid (because anything is more than never.) We rarely drink sugary drinks, and almost never at night. He does get the occasional dessert, bubble gum, candy, etc. Again, not near the quantity I did as a child. We use fluoride tooth paste, and our water is fluoridated. I was dumbfounded...that is, until Matt, non-chalantly mentions. I had a crown as a kid. Of course he did.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cicada, Bacada, Pitata...

Curtis is not good with names. We've known this for a really long time. It's been a running joke. His pick up line is, "Hey, what's your name?" But now, I believe he is setting the stage for the future. He knows he won't remember names, so if he always asks, maybe people won't know he's actually dead serious. Oh Curtis!! You know my name. Silly. He comes from a long bloodline of Smith men, who, don't remember names. As children, my grandfather would exclaim, "Well hey there Leroy!" everytime we walked through his front door. He does it to my kids. We all loved it, laughed, thought of it as an endearing nickname. Knowing what I know now, I'm pretty sure it's because he had no idea which child we were, maybe didn't even know which son of his we belonged to even. Kind of makes me love my grandfather even more...very clever. I went to grade school with a Kuechler, in fact, she and I were inseparable for a while (and maybe still now), yet my father never once pronounced the name right (Keeth-ler).

Therefore, I don't blame Curtis for calling Dakota, Bakota. Or a cicada a bacada...though it has somehow morphed into pitata. Our puppy, the one we named Berry? He called her "Grape" for  a while. Still slips up every now and then. Pronouns evade him, everything is a "he" for the most part. He has already begun his great grandfather's habit and makes up nick names. Mitch has become Mitchy-boo-boo. He carries his name ineptitude proudly. He confidently calls people, pets, insects, things by the incorrect name. I hope he does this for the rest of his life. It makes it seem more of an adorable characteristic, rather than making him seem ingenuine or, even worse, ignorant.

Perhaps, it was his trouble with names. Perhaps it was his young age. Perhaps it was his lack of encountering anything like it before, but Curtis' confident, yet incorrect name calling provided one of my more entertaining moments in parenting. We were walking around the Loose Park pond. I had seen her coming from afar, and mostly took note because it was 90 degrees that day, and she was wearing the full nun garb, habit and all. As this elderly nun walked past us, Curtis loudly and proudly says, "Mom, is that a witch!?" Oh Curtis.
You know Curtis really likes you, not if he remembers your name, but if he offers you a "princess kiss". It happened one night that Matt was home alone with the boys. Curtis offered him a kiss, which Matt gladly accepted. Curtis proceeded to climb up and kiss Matt directly on the mouth, then began turning his head side to side for a prolonged amount of time. Matt, a bit surprised by the interaction, asked, "What was that, Curtis!?"

"It's a princess kiss, dad." Look out lucky ladies (or gents), you have a pretty intense kiss coming your way.

Curtis is an extrovert. He will likely become a salesman or politician. He is a breed very different from Matt or I, as he does not mind attention or meeting new people, in fact, he thrives on it. On more than one occassion, his infectious smile, his out-going ways, and his love of the ladies, has eased a potentially awkward situation. Such as one of his uncles bringing his "little friend" to Sunday dinner for the first time. 

One afternoon, Curtis came into the front yard, very distraught about the shirt choices I had provided him. He was crying. Contemplating hitting me. Red faced. Angry. Frustrated. Three. You know the type. Then, our neighbors appeared from around the corner, on a leisurely stroll. He spotted them and the transformation was instant. He turned to fave them, huge grin, waving, complete happy composure, "Hi guys!! Whatcha doin?" Unbelievable.

He enjoys music, takes my phone to listen ALL THE TIME. Specifically, the song "Come With Me Now" which he repeats in his incredibly accurate Batman voice. His dance moves are impressive. The boy has muscles, and great control of them. His pirouette is damn near flawless. Sometimes, it feels like he is in constant training for his future. Like he's already adapting skills to cover his poor name recollection. He's perfecting dance moves to attract the ladies. He is putting on that game face to make a sale, or induce confidence from people. I may have underestimated our 2nd child. Perhaps his intelligence does not match that of his brother(s), but his people skills are pretty much perfect.

Admit it, you too, love Curtis. He might even be your favorite.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chess. Not Checkers.

I cannot remember to what it referenced, but a co-worker of mine once said, "life is a game of chess, not checkers". I laughed when I heard this little euphemism, as I have often felt this way; always trying to stay multiple moves ahead of my figurative "opponent"...aka "life". In fact, it's a skill I pride myself in, and usually enjoy. Predicting my "opponent's" next move, trying to trip it up, forcing things to lean my way; a big huge chess game, mine for the manipulating at any given moment. I think some people have a term for this style of thinking: "control freak". Lately though, it feels as though I am playing a constant, challenging, irritating and even futile game of chess with this aspect of life called, child rearing. 

 I can remember the moment my opponent began beating me. I remember it, like it was yesterday. Every detail is burned into my brain. It's a day I reminesce about often, a day that brings a smile to my face, and sometimes even a tear to my eye. This day, is November 23rd, 2008. The day my oldest child was born. You bring that sweet, amazing gift of a child home, and think, "What next? Wait, what have I done!? This is another human. One who's survival is completely dependant on me, and who's success will be largely affected by every one of my decisions. #%*&!" At that moment, you have lost any and all control. You will successfully predict moves, avoid being captured, and perhaps even win a piece or two, but conversely, you will get cornered. There will be moments when you feel it, that rising fear, that feeling of helplessness, defeat: check. 

 For the moment, I am in check. I am in check from so many pieces, for so many reasons, that I am not even 100% sure that we haven't reached checkmate. My opponent has so many players on the board. Each child and their health is a seperate pawn. That's 8. The puppy. That's 9. Kindergarten and all the things that come with it, like carpool, fundraisers, school supplies, uniforms, schedule changes. That's 14. A new job. That's 15. Childcare. That's 16 or 17 or 18 (depending on the given moment and situation). The household, keeping it clean, organized, functional, running, non-vermin infested from the filth of 4 boys plus pets. That brings us somewhere near 20. Sounds to me like life is cheating...there are only supposed to be 16 pieces on each side. Currently, we have 2, the King and Queen. I guess, techinically, we are still in play. And, if I am to be more accurate, we do have a few pawns floating around, mostly in the form of family, that get promoted every once in a while, to become key players. Without them, we would have surely been in checkmate, at least 3 kids ago. 

Last night, after a long day of carpool rejection, I walked in the front door, ready to take on my four boys. I had already decided, no matter their moods, I would not get irritated by them. First, dinner. I step foot in the kitchen, Curtis and George immediately begin crying for gum. They're obsessed. "No, it's dinnertime." As I try to close the pantry door, I feel resistence. I look down to discover Mitch with a death grip on the door. "You!!!? Already!? You're not supposed to obssess about the pantry door and cry when it closes without resulting in a snack. Not yet! YOU ARE A BABY." Strategy change. Must provide appetizer and get children out of kitchen. Chips and guacamole outside on the picnic table it is. Phew, time throw the Costco Chicken Fettucini Alfredo in the oven for 45 minutes, and set the peas out to thaw. As I do this, I'm thinking, next I will feed the dogs while dinner is cooking. I will then get Mitch a snack. I will then blow bubbles with the boys. I will then walk the dog around the yard so she poops outside. I will have left the boys unattended in the yard too long, so I will have to work in a bath. Ok, bath can happen after dinner. Mitch usually poops after dinner, so he will go in first and for only a short time. After he is done, I will run upstairs and gather everyone's underwear and pajama's. When George and Curtis get out of the bath, Brock will go in. The 2 toddlers will watch TV and I will give Mitch his bottle and put him to bed. I will then wash Brock and convince him it is bedtime. While they are walking upstairs, I will let the puppy outside to go pee so she doesn't do this in the house while brushing the kids' teeth and reading the night time story. I will hope George has not grabbed my toothbrush and either chewed on it himself, or worse put it in the toilet, during his briefly unsupervised stent upstairs. Oh, perfect, I went to the dentist today, so my brush isn't up there! But now I need to schedule a 1.5 hour appointment to get a crown on my perma-baby tooth. Why don't I just put my toothbrush up where he can't reach it every night? Wow, that should have happened a long time ago. I will call Matt who is still out of town at some point. After they are all in bed, I will take the puppy out to make sure she poops. I will follow up on carpool emails. I will double check Brock's school supplies. I will load the dishwasher and pick up the house. I will email more people to make sure I have nanny coverage for Kerry's maternity leave. I will reschedule the cleaning lady to come on a day that there aren't 6 kids in my home. Perhaps, I'll blog about the cute and funny things Curtis has been saying lately. 

 Dinner is ready. I make their plates. Brock and Curtis don't want this dinner, they wanted pizza. They saw me put something in the oven and naturally assumed it was pizza. Boy, did I throw them for a loop. Mostly, the above mentioned plan happened. What I didn't foresee, was the dog will have pooped and peed by the time I get downstairs from the baths. My cleaning lady will basically quit because I tried to reschedule her to make her life easier. I will have made no headway on the carpool situation. I will forget, yet again, that my toothbrush is downstairs, and just forgo brushing my teeth for the evening...I left the dentist at 4pm, how dirty could they really be? I will remember that I am missing the "Wet One's" refill wipes for school. Damnit, no idea when I will get those. How did I miss that!? I only went 5 different places to collect his 11 measely school items, and still had to order the 5 boxes of Eight Count Crayola crayons! I do think I have maternity leave covered, so that's good. I need a cleaning lady, this house cannot function without one, cue groveling to my Spanish-speaking maid. Thank goodness, she will come next Thursday. I really need to meet with a financial advisor, because a bigger house would help, right? Right!? 

 I'm tired. I'm unsure of what I even accomplished today. I'm unsure how I will manage to avoid my opponent's ever looming capture of my queen, or worse, king. I really have no idea how my child will get to and from school, will he like it, will he make friends, I wish I could be more available. I really love him. I have enjoyed life so much more since that fateful day that I began losing this chess game. In all of this madness, not once did my actual child cause the stress, or put me in check. Those guys do nothing but make me happy. It's the child-rearing, and the many activites required to enrich and develop these little beings into functional, successful and most importantly, happy individuals that creates the stress. 

 And, lastly, to be clear. Though I intensly prefer winning. I ALWAYS enjoy a good game. I'm still in it, and one of these days, the tides will turn. My opponent's pawns will all make it to the other side of the board, and will be come kings (and perhaps, queen's in the case of Curtis) and begin forming a game of chess for themself. Bear with me, the chess analogy isn't perfect, it's a new style. Break away chess. Until then, check.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Snug as a Bug.

Perhaps it's a weird thing to discuss, or say, but when pregnant with Brock, I told Matt, that I could never love anything as much as I love him. To me, this is logical. I chose Matt. He chose me. We were not forced to be together. Though you create your child, there-by forming an incredible, amazing, loving bond, it is not the same as the husband-wife one. Your kids will grow up and become their own person someday. They will love someone else, more than they love me. It's the circle of life. So, it was with this mentality that I planned, and looked forward to an extended vacation with my one and only, O'Laughlin boy. I imagined these 6 days to be wonderful.  Full of adult conversation. Freedom from the hundreds of obligations that fill my days because of my 4 dependents. Sleeping until I wake up of my own accord. Eating and drinking when and what I want. In essence, a window back into those days "before children".
I quickly learned, there is no such thing as going back to the "before children" days, because, well, those children exist. I think it took more planning and coordination to leave 4 children at home, than is does to take 4 children on vacation.  I am sure my family and nanny were tired of emails, going over the plan and schedule. I had more than one panic attack, and had to have my friend and fellow mother of 4 young boys talk my down from cancelling the trip all-together. I cleaned and stocked the house. Found a puppy sitter. Scheduled activities. Despite all of this, once gone, I had still not fully covered all my bases, minor details had gone unexplained, such as Mitch's eating schedule.

Don't get me wrong. Matt and I had a fabulous time, once he got over his bout of food poisoning and I got over my ruined outfit on day one of vacay. We rented bikes and rode across the Golden Gate Bridge. We enjoyed a sundae with the best hot fudge I've ever experienced from the cafe in Ghirardelli Square. We watched a bartender make at least 20 Irish coffees in less than 60 seconds, and sampled one too. We watched the baby seals play in the water, leaping out only to piss off their elders. We saw people swimming in the bay, viewed Alcatraz from afar, ate at Cioppino's on Fisherman's Wharf, took a selfie at the bottom of Lombard Street, rode a trolley. We stumbled into a restaurant called The Grove, and ate there twice it was so good. We saw people on drugs who saw...well, I'm not real sure what she was seeing. We watched a man take hundreds of dollars from gullible people betting on street games. We visited a winery. Then attended my cousin's beautiful wedding at another winery.

I showered without interruption. I brushed, blow-dried and even straightened my hair. I applied make-up twice in less than 5 days. I did sleep in. I spent wonderful, quality time with my husband. I enjoyed our conversations. But, I missed my little boys, the entire time. It turns out, for all the inconveniences, hard work, time, and energy that those little humans require, they, in turn, fill me with joy. I am now incomplete without them. Despite what I have been telling myself, or perhaps society has been telling me, all along, I don't actually need a break from the full time job of "mom". A nice evening out is more than enough to recharge my engines. I wanted to FaceTime them everyday. I enjoyed texts. I felt horrible, and helpless, and cruel when my baby had a fever and pain from teething. When my 2 year-old woke up and vomited. I felt bad for Matt's cousin who was trying to keep everyone alive, fed and happy. Something that required so much work on her part, but is near effortless for Matt and I, at this point. I know my children inside and out. I know what each cry, laugh, whimper, word, expression means.
I also learned that I don't need nearly as much "quality time" with my husband as I thought. Despite feeling as though we are pulled in a million directions at home, constantly splitting time and duties, Matt and I do a pretty fantastic job of staying close. Though I loved the uninterrupted time with him, it didn't feel necessary, or even new. We get all 4 boys to bed, every night, by 8:30 at the latest. This gives us 2+ hours together, nearly every night. We {I} text all the time. Email. Go on dates, almost weekly. We hang out with friends and family on the reg.
This vacation affirmed everything I have always felt to be true, but doubted because of society's implications. Not everyone needs a vacation from their life. Hard work can be fun, especially when it is for your favorite people in the world. Kids may make things more complicated, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. They also make experiences more enriching. The entire trip, I would find myself viewing things through my children's eyes, wondering what they would think. Next trip, they are coming. And perhaps, a nanny too. The best of both worlds. But as for now, I am home, and my boys are sleeping. Snug as a bug in a rug.

Now, Matt just needs to come home, for all balance restored. I already miss him...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Haters gonna hate.

I've spent so much money on disposable cameras. I have more photo albums than I know what to do with, sprinkled about the house. I have stacks of boxes filled with photograph memorabilia. I have the negatives filed away by date, along with the doubles from years worth of 4x6 prints. I always spent the extra $1 and made double prints. I did this so that I could share the photos. That's right, I SHARED the photos I obsessively, compulsively took with my disposable cameras with my friends and family, and anyone who I thought might enjoy the candid shot I caught of them. I shared photos long before Facebook. I was obsessed to the point of severe anxiety about capturing memorable moments long before smart phones.

I got a fancy, manual camera for Christmas my Freshman year of college. I took a photography class. I shoved a camera in Matt's hands constantly, insisting he take the picture (since he always seemed to get the better shot.) When I got a free moment, I would go through these picture and work on a scrapbook. Here, I could paste ticket stubs and write words to go with these times in my life that I never, ever wanted to forget. I have an entire, antique dresser from my childhood filled with different stickers, cardstock, glue, pens, paints, various newspaper clippings, old greeting cards, and other essential components to a great scrapbook. Matt would love for me to get rid of these things. Not going to happen. I still, fully intend to complete these books, someday. This desk, though...nothing has been added. At least, not in the last 6 years. I have not had to purchase a disposable camera, since college, really. I no longer scrapbook. Yet, I have managed to capture every image, thought, funny moment, and valuable memory in the past few years better than ever before. How?
Digital cameras, laptops, cell phones, smart phones, and most specifically, the iPhone. These wonderful devices have changed my life. For the better. I no longer attend a wedding, worrying how I will carry my camera around, winding up the flash, hoping the shot turns out as intended. I don't spend time driving to the pharmacy dropping off and then back to pick up my prints. Then organizing them, mailing them to people, cataloging them. I truly believe I have regained years of life just from the sheer amount of stress and time reduction that smart phones have provided me.

I hear and read constant shaming of people for time spent on their phones, Facebook, Instagram, all social media. Making statements, like, "be present". As if, there is no way to be present or enjoy the little things in life if you are photographing and sharing them. If this is the case, then I have never been present, or able to experience "the moment". Which, is partly true, when I think about my state of mind back when technology and the digital age was not so prevalent...I was anxious. Stressed. Constantly, thinking about how I was going to take a picture, remember this party, revisit that concert.

I have never been more connected to my friends and family. I have never kept a more up-to-date scrapbook than this very blog. I have never retained more vivid memories, than in the past 5 years. It makes me happy. It makes me love, and value, and enjoy even the simplest walks, meals, moments. Capturing an image of a cute facial expression, awesome outfit, perfect day was not possible before...unless you hauled your clunky camera with you everywhere. I truly feel that I appreciate life, and everything it has to offer, even more now that I am constantly connected to the world.

This technological age is something I hoped for and dreamed of as a youngster. It suits me. My children and family know that I will take photos. My boys understand to just let it happen, then go on their merry way. My siblings make fun of me, constantly. Yet, if I come unarmed with a camera, they are disappointed. They appreciate my neurosis, as they too, now have memories captured that would have slipped away from consciousness so easily. Only to be rehashed if, by some chance, a thought, image, word, moment, smell, triggered that old memory and brought it back to mind.

Perhaps, for some, these devices are a distraction from, instead of an enhancement to life. I'm also, not trying to imply that I have never been posting an Instagram photo, while my children were in the pool or at the park playing. Sure, I ignore them for a moment. But, before phones, did every mother watch, care for, provide for their every child's need at every moment? They never chatted with friends while park or poolside? Read a book? Watched a Soap? Did a crossword? Flipped through a magazine? I don't use my phone during meals. I try not to use it while socializing with friends, but will when everyone else takes a moment for "phone time". Ok, sometimes I kickstart "phone time" but others follow!
All I am trying to say, is that I love my iPhone. I love Instagram. I love Facebook. I love blogging. I love texting; especially, fun, hilarious group texts with close friends. I love flipping through the many images I've captured of the life that I love, at any given moment. While on call one night, a fellow doctor walked behind me and saw what I was flipping through on Instagram, and exclaimed, "Are you looking at your own pictures!?" Umm, duh! Of course I am. There are no pictures I'd rather see than my own pictures of everything I love in life. I am going to continue to photograph, quote, write about, and post the many phenomenal, hilarious, sad, ironic, mundane, beautiful moments in my life. This life I only get to live once. You may think I am totes magotes cray cray. That I am neglecting someone, or something. That I am missing out on life because my nose is plastered in my phone. I think I am making the most of every minute, and enjoying life to its very tip-top fullest.
#hatersgonnahate

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mitchers.

Mitch is all boy. He will wade through the sea of toys, upon toys, upon toys until he stumbles across a car. Even a tiny Matchbox car. He will then fumble awkwardly with his horrid, fine motor skills until he finally gets a "good" grip on the vehicle to move it back and forth and back and forth, take a taste, make some cute baby noises, then back and forth again while blowing raspberries - or, I mean, make very realistic car sounds. If he sees a brother down on the ground, he sprints toward them with his exceptional gross motor skills and tackles them. Poor George, being the smallest brother, doesn't even stand a chance, at least physically, against his monster baby brother. George weighed 26lbs at two years, Mitch weighs 23lbs 8ozs at nine months!! He growls. He screams. I mean, really, really loudly screams. I am tempted to add girlish to the scream description because of the extremely high pitch, but he has somehow made it manly based purely off the shear force behind that voice. Apparently, he got the Smith/Giblin side in volume as well as looks. He has a perpetual bump on his forehead. When on the move, nothing will stop him from his destination, neither wall, nor door, nor stair, nor brother, no chair, nor table, nor wall corner, nor door-jam. The constant bouncing, you know, strengthening his thigh muscles, while standing does not help the head bruise situation either. My future, all-star athlete is in constant training.

When pregnant with this one, I joked I was breeding an Olympian. Something in his movements, the way we saw him kicking on ultrasound, all added together to give me the impression that he is athletic. His behavior and physique on the outside has only confirmed this suspicion. They say the Secretariat ate more than any other race horse ever had, walked early, appeared a champion from day one. This is Mitch. Now that I have finally stopped breastfeeding (nine months, my longest stretch!) I can see how much he is drinking. On top of 3 baby food meals a day, he drinks four 8oz bottles. That is 32ozs!!!!!  He is sad at the end of each one, as if he could eat more. None. Not a single one of my boys, ever, got above 24ozs of milk a day. Until now, of course. Like Secretariat, I think I am going to syndicate The Mitch and start selling shares for a couple hundred thousand a pop, prior to proof of performance. I'm {sort of} kidding.
Despite his many manly mannerisms (say that 6 times fast), my biggest baby is just that, a baby. He loves to be rocked to sleep. If you stopped rocking or patting him, he will try to do his himself; kicking his legs. If you sway and hum, he hums along. He has no "lovey" yet...but I'm thinking he is going to be a Blanky guy...again, following the Smith side trend. He attempts to repeat "what's that?" and says "dada" with purpose. "Mama" for him is following me around crying, squealing and screaming, like a whiny little puppy. Until he gets distracted by a toy car. Especially this green transformer one that says roars, "I drive angry!" When he's not load, he's silent. He speaks with his eyes. His huge, brown, beautiful, engaging eyes. He has no toofs. He loves food, eats anything, has never gagged, yet has no teeth. Truthfully? I love it. Toothless babies are totes adorbs. Never mind that he already weighs more than any of my children did by 1 year, it makes him look so much more infant-like. I don't want him to grow up, turn into a toddler, become like those older three, awful things. (Ok, I like them too, but I LOVE me a baby.) I know it's inevitable, but, at least now, I can come back and remember my little Mitchers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

#morningwalkstoStarbucks

For as long as I have lived in this little Prairie Village home, I have taken regular walks to Starbucks. In the beginning, there were no children. I can hardly remember that time. I don't remember that time. I imagine the walk was relaxing, enjoyable, and easy, but obviously it was meaningless. I have no memory of walking alone to Starbucks. Now, four children later, these walks give me a sense of joy, pride and love. It may seem silly, that such a simple, mundane routine could provoke these emotions, but trust me, there is no such thing as "simple" or "mundane" with four children under age 6.
 Every morning, Brock comes into our bedroom, sometime between 6:30 and 7am. Every morning I tell him it's too early. He doesn't listen. He wakes up this early, every single morning. He then asks if it's "a mommy day"? If I answer yes, the next question that follows is, "can we walk to Starbucks!?" Why, of course. Don't have to ask me twice. By this time, all the children are up. In about 30 minutes, after multiple threats to not go to Starbucks, or not get chocolate milk, we are all out the door. Curtis and Brock on their bikes with their helmets (which Curtis can latch on his own, yet Brock asks me to help him, every time). George and Mitch in the sit 'n stand stroller.

As we depart from the house, the boys race off ahead, stopping at our next door neighbor's bushes. For some reason, this has become a boundary, past which they know not to go without approval from a watching or accompanying adult. We continue on. Brock and Curtis stop at every street. If George has strayed from the stroller to pick a dandelion, or examine a bug, he searches for my hand before crossing the road. The walk proceeds smoothly, yet with multiple interruptions, distractions, discoveries and lots of coaxing and redirection. Like snowflakes or fingerprints, no two morning walks to Starbucks are alike.

When we encounter neighbors, at least one boy waves, if not all, sometimes they even say, "hi". They politely ask to pet every dog. Or, at least, I remind them to politely ask before petting the dog. George usually thinks he wants to pet it as well, but chickens out, every time. We need a big dog. As we approach the destination, I give the boys a pep talk. I tell them to behave, which means, not touching all the merchandise, or people, waiting with me in line, and, above all, listening to me...or else they get no treat of any sort.

Soon, we are inside the cafe. If I haven't heard it at least once on the walk, it's not long after we enter the store, before I hear, "All boys!? You've got your hands full." This is something for which there really is no proper response other than to shrug and smile. I'm not sure what I expect people to say. I'd be fine with, even prefer, no comments. Perhaps, then I could feel like I'm not a spectacle everywhere we go. Without knowing it, the people who make this seemingly harmless statement have made sure that I'm aware of how conspicuous the 5 of us are. The little O'Laughlin parade of boys. It also, somewhat, implies that my hands are too full, therefore, I don't have control of the situation. If I'd have my way, no one would even acknowledge me with my gaggle of boys.

We finally make it through the long, nearly out-the-door line. No porcelain mugs have been broken, to date. No back of coffee opened and spilled. A plastic straw may have had a little mouth on it once or twice, and "secretly" placed back on the shelf...but people wash these before use, right!?  When we get close to the front cooler full of snacks and beverages, the boys all cut in line to grab their chocolate milks. People usually smile, and find this to be cute. Sometimes I hear an "excuse me" - we need to work on that one. I open each wrapper, put in the straw, and seat the 3 boys at the high table, facing the register, all while still holding the baby. They sit and enjoy the milk. I order my drink, and their snack. I divide the cookie or pound cake into 3's, and head over to the counter to get my drink. Normally, I return to find my three boys still happily sitting, and eating. Sometimes they've made a huge mess. Sometimes they've discovered that if you blow hard into the straw, milk squirts back into your face. Mostly, they just want more cookie.

On this particular day, I returned and a middle-aged woman was standing beside them, smiling. I had taken a little longer to return because I made a detour to grab napkins to wipe up some milk off the floor. I stoop down to wipe the milk, and stand back up, again, all while holding the 23 and 1/2 pound baby. This woman looks at me and says (as she points to a table with a man and another woman), "We have just been absolutely charmed by your little family. We have been watching them, and you since you walked through the door. They are so well-behaved, and adorable. They 3 of them just sat there while you ordered and paid. Then you squatted down to wipe up that milk, while holding the baby, as if it were effortless. You seem to have everything under control. I am amazed. And you must have the strongest thighs."

I must have everything under control!!!!??? That was perhaps the nicest compliment I have ever received. She could not have known that "control" is something I strive for, and always have, all of my life. Nor could she have known that I simply do not accept compliments. I don't know how. I rarely feel deserving of them. Even this one, I'm not totally sure I deserve it. These boys have an amazing father. They have a family that surrounds and teaches them manners, how to behave, and loves them no matter what. And, not to forget, the boys themselves are wonderful (as far as little, baby, toddler boys go, anyway.) For once, I appreciate that someone approached me and admitted to gawking at my little "S show", because she seemed to see the intricacies of what had just happened. She looked beyond the spilling milk, the crumbs, the constant touching of other people and things, the required redirection, and saw 4 boys and their mom, simply enjoying some treats together at Starbucks.



Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm a doctor.

Tomorrow is my last day of residency. My last day to work at Truman Medical Center, Lakewood.

I have done a lot of strenuous, difficult things in my life. Things that require not only dedication, but perseverance. I think these last 3 years were the hardest.

I keep a smile on my face. I don't complain. I do my work. Put in orders as I'm told. I act as though it's just life. As though working horrid, long, draining hours taking care of patients who mostly don't care about their own health, let alone what I have to say, and then checking out my every thought and plan to attendings who always add their "two cents" doesn't even bother me in the slightest.

Well, it sucked. I aged A LOT in 3 years. You can see it in my photographs. I showed a co-worker a photo of myself delivering Curtis; she remarked "Look how young you were!" Curtis was 3.25 years old at the time. I've aged. A lot. In 3 years.

The hours. The patients. The attendings. It's all so very necessary in the process to become a good physician.  Trust me. You DO NOT want a doctor who thought residency was "easy". You just don't.

Residency, for me, has been like most of my pregnancies. I know the end result will be awesome. I know it's a right of passage. Something I must do. And as such, just because I am suffering, I will not force those I live with, work with, play with to suffer my misery. Then, at the bitter end, I just can't hold it together any longer. The gig is up. I am done. I see my freedom. As a soon to be private practice doctor. My own boss. I can't pretend anymore. I feel nothing but happiness and excitement to be moving on.

For three years, I pretended to be modest. The constant, "I don't know how you do it" comments, that I brushed off, as if to say, "Oh, it's nothing." Yeah, your damn right you don't know. You have no clue. It was {f-bomb} insane. I was literally on the edge of sanity for 1,095 days. I have a saint for a husband. A saint for a mom. A saint for a Mother-in-law. Father. Father-in-law. Sister. Sister. Brother. Friend. Child. Cousin. You don't know how I did it, because even I don't know! No clue. How I got to where I am, right now, with one day left, is a blur. I just know, I will never, ever repeat it, and recommend the process to no one.

At any given moment, if I truly fell over that edge, I was prepared to give up my career, drown in student loans, and do whatever necessary for the betterment of my family. One might think having 4 children, and actually birthing 2 during residency was a contributing factor to the near-debilitating stress of the pathway to becoming a physician. It wasn't. My family was my refuge. My love. My getaway. No matter how miserable work became, I arrived home to my favorite people. 5 of them. Every. Single. Night. (Except, of course, the nights I didn't actually get to come home.) Those boys are why I remain happy, every day of every week of every year.

A fellow resident once described being the weekend day person on the medicine service as "going to war". He was entirely accurate. There were weekends I lost 7 pounds in the course of 48 hours. Patients "need" your services. Which means nurses "need" your services. And these come from the ER docs who, also, "need" your services. My responsibilities as "mom" to 4 toddlers don't got nuthin' on my responsibilities as "med RIC". We answered page after page, read X-rays, ordered meds, ran codes, delivered babies, restrained belligerent, or insane, or both, patients, listened to endless hearts, lungs, bellies, gave narcotics, withheld narcotics. We pronounced people dead. We SAVED PEOPLE'S LIVES.

The paperwork. Evaluations. Quizzes. Tests. Journals. Lectures. We didn't even get to eat lunch in peace. Just a nice 30 minute break in the middle of the day. To hang out with peers. Nope. Not allowed. You. Must. Work. At all times. Or at least be learning something.

My peers. Truly, the only wonderful thing about the last 3 years. I graduated last Friday with some of my favorite people in the world. Amazing individuals. People who, like me, sucked it up and survived 3 years, with {mostly} a smile on their face. The connection you make with people, when you have all been through the same, traumatic, experience is unbreakable. Like my IU swimming girls, we are bonded, for life. I will miss them terribly. So much so, I nearly cry as write this. We never felt sorry for one another. There was no empathy for our colleague on their 11th admission over night, or the unsuccessful code, or that nurse that won't leave you alone. We'd all had that experience, too. So what? Yet, we all respected one another. We laughed. A lot. Used each other as a sounding board, a resource, an understanding ear, and at times, the only source of encouragement and validation left in our lives. My mom will always tell me, "it's going to be ok". That's what mom's do. But, for the past 3 years, unless I heard it from my fellow resident, I couldn't be sure it was true.

My actual family medicine residency program? The best you can ask for. I had 2 kids. I graduated on time. They made sure of this. They educated us, lectured us, tested our knowledge, forced us to think on our own. There were multiple caring, involved, intelligent attendings, pouring their heart, soul and lives into training new doctors. The program provided us as much "personal time" as a residency can while still responsibly training future physicians. It's not their fault. Residency sucks.

I feel like I should be really proud of my accomplishments. Ecstatic to be finishing. Singing nothing but praises about my last 8 years of training. Afterall, I am finally, a doctor. It's my longest lifetime goal. Don't get me wrong, I cannot wait to build my practice, help educate people about their health, get them well and keep them healthy. I have no regrets, not one, with the path I have chosen in life. I hope to be involved in the lives of many wonderful families. I hope people will come to see me and leave motivated, invigorated and more knowledgable about their well-being. But like any, huge goal, when it's achieved, it's over, and for a brief moment you feel lost. Until, on to the next big thing...the rest of my life. My career. I'm a doctor.

I truly enjoy this vocation. I am thankful for my brain and personality. People ask me all the time, why I became a doctor. In my head, the best, most honest, answer I have? Because I could.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Buying in Bulk

Things I never, ever, imagined I would buy in bulk:
  • KETCHUP.  I could live without this condiment for the rest of my life. I use it when necessary, like on a hot dog, if tomatoes, onion an pickles are unavailable. Or on dry/tasteless fries. My children? Well, it's required for them to eat any meat. Because, besides hotdogs, we tell them that everything else is "chicken". And chicken needs ketchup. Duh. Curtis will dip his fingers in the ketchup and lick his plate clean. George will even dip his carrots in ketchup. It's really, quite gross.
  • RANCH DRESSING. If ketchup doesn't work, there is always ranch. Carrots, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, pizza; you name it. Kids will eat just about anything if they have dip available.
  •  HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE SYRUP. Same story as above, only with milk. It's a lot cheaper and more versatile to turn white milk into chocolate milk with syrup. And, sometimes you just gotta have chocolate milk. Once you go chocolate, you never go back...that doesn't quite sound right?
  • TOOTHBRUSHES. I haven't done this yet, but that is only because I keep forgetting to grab a pack when I am at Costco. A SomeEcard had a saying that went something like this, "If your toddler has been in the bathroom, unattended for more than 2 minutes, you might as well throw away your toothbrush." Truth. George!!!!! If he escapes upstairs, the first place to check is the bathroom, and he always can be found with a toothbrush in his mouth. Guess it's better than a hand in the toilet. I had an overnight call, was gone one, single night, and when I got home in the morning, gone. I didn't even have to throw it away, my toothbrush had simply disappeared. I am currently using a disposable one that I stole from a hotel, probably sometime in college. It's lasted 6 nights. That's a record.
  • CHICKEN BREAST. I have no good reason. I just never imagined it. I used to be against freezing meat. I don't mind it anymore. 
  • SHOES. Oh wait, this isn't the "Things I wish I could buy in bulk" column!? 
  • Strawberries, Gogurt, Apple sauce, eggs.
  •  GUMMY VITAMINS. I mean, I never thought I would be purchasing Vitamins at all, let alone Gummy ones. But since I have them...
I guess when you have children in bulk, you start purchasing foods for them in bulk. So, in hind sight, I should have seen this coming. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

IU Girls Gone Wild: Destin.

The longest amount of time I spent, side by side, with any of these girls, is 3 years {because I was a freshman, and they are all older}. Three measly years. Three out of the four years of the most intense physical, emotional and mental training of our lives. We were swimmers at a Division 1, top 10 NCAA program. Unique to swimming, specifically women's swimming, are the sheer number of hours spent training. We swam in the morning for 2 hours - or, if you were sprint group, played "follow the leader" skipping around the pool deck. We ate. Went to school {napped}. Came back for more training, consisting of running, dry land, weights, jump rope, or other such plyometrics. Then 2-3 hours in the pool. Again. Then, Training Tables at the Stadium for dinner, with all the football players, basketball players and other athletes, probably consuming no less than 2,500 calories in one buffet meal, per night. Wednesdays we slept "in". Sundays we got "off". We got a week or two off of training in the Spring, and again in the late Summer. I would still run a bit, because after a month long taper, and a few days out of the pool, I would begin to get "out of shape". Ha!!!!!! I thought I was getting 'out of shape' after a few days of less than 6 hours of working out! For 12 years of my life, I didn't go more than 10 days without swimming. Ever. Now, after years of medical training, I am flabbergasted than none of us were hospitalized with Rhabdomyolysis. And, I'm not sure that I didn't have a mild case after an hour of box jumps, then a night of dancing to 17th Floor. I literally could not use my calf muscles to walk, let alone push off the wall for flip turns. These ladies went through the same; were the same.

We spent endless hours at the pool together, in the weight room, in the locker room, on buses, a private jet even, the dinner table, the Village Deli, Bloomington Bagel, Nick's, Kilroy's, running through campus in our swim suits. Gross. We didn't even think it was weird. We knew what items each person kept in their locker, how long they had been there. We knew each others favorite foods, TV shows, music, clothes. We weathered more break ups, scandals, love, hate, joy, fear, desire, disappointment, success, and exhaustion in those 3 {4} years, then most people will in a lifetime. Despite a 10 year time lapse since we last spent every waking, and sleeping hour together, we reverted to our 21 year-old selves. Only with a midnight-ish curfew.

Anne and I quickly settled into our comedy routine, where we make things funny by simply repeating them 60-75 times in a slightly different manner each time. Though, Susan makes it pretty easy to laugh, when she excuses herself from our romp in the ocean to "go jump off the sand dune." Anne wades over to me and says, "Ummm, Smitty? Do you see any sand dunes from which you might be able to jump into the ocean?" I scan the area, "no". Anne replies, "Oh. Ok. Because Susan has just informed me that she is going to go jump off the sand dune." I look again, "Nope, unless she means..." I am about to finish my sentence with "...the slight ledge of sand that is the bank, and has more sand below it" but I couldn't, because I see Susan backing up to, indeed, jump off the embankment. Anne and I watched silently as she runs, then jumps with the biggest of smiles, lands, and disappears {aka, falls}. I am still coughing due to the salt water I aspirated from laughing so, so, so incredibly hard. Anne and I cannot even speak for minutes, as we watch the other girls jump to their feet. I can only imagine the view from the lounge chairs, Susan must have seemingly disappeared off a ledge to them! Not to mention that she still swam out to meet Anne and I in the ocean, actively bleeding from her sand burn abrasion...sharks can smell that stuff!  We are all lucky to have survived. Anne and I will laugh about this, regularly, and every time we see Susan, for the rest of our lives. We just will.

Though we immediately reverted back to our college days, and we all seemingly have maintained the same personalities, outlook, demeanor, our lives have changed drastically. The seven of us have experienced so many things in the past 10 years. There are 2 doctors, a PhD, 2 coaches, a big name in USA Swimming, 9 boys - 6 & under, one on the way. Marriages, surgeries, babies, losses, moves, break ups. Truly, as we all sat and talked of where we had landed, we remarked how the saying "if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours right back" remains true. We have only kept in touch via infrequent email, text, social media and even rarer, actual phone call. We reunite about once a year, nearly every year, with a couple years missed in between. So hearing about our lives, in person, was refreshing, eye-opening, and shocking, even, at times.

There is such a large part of me that only these girls understand. Often, and especially now, during my search for a job, I think to myself, you have no idea what kind of person with which you are speaking. You will never find a more committed, devoted, hard-working, loyal, persistent, driven, or happy human, mom, employee, friend, wife, sister, daughter, co-worker. But the IU ladies? They know. We all know. No matter what life hands any one of us, where it takes us, what we may look like to the outside world, in our hearts, we know that not only every single one of us is AMAZING, but that someone else knows it too. And that, feels wonderful.