Thursday, December 8, 2016

Because, 5 kids.

I remember seeing my mother as she would get dressed, and noticing that her underwear had holes in it. My mother, who also had five children. I remember even asking her once why she didn't just get new underwear? (Which I now realize means that I was following her around in her closet, the bathroom, her bedroom. She probably just wanted to get dressed for the day in peace, and here I am, being a little @$$hole, asking her a question that only further solidifies her annoyance at the situation. Trapped by small humans.) She kind of laughed, one of those, "ha, you don't have the time for me to explain nor the capacity to understand, and it's all basically because of you, but thanks for asking" kind of laughs, and abbreviated the response to the frequent parent default of: "because." I didn't get it. Underwear isn't overly expensive. I knew we had the money. I'd seen it in a lot of stores. It really seemed affordable and readily available, so why is she still in tattered old undies!?

I get it now. Boy, do I. Get. It.

I am down to my final 2 bras. If you can even call them that. The elastic is shot. The wires completely warped, and totally threatening to poke through at any given moment. This is not for lack of trying. I have purchased 4 bras in the past couple months. 2 simply don't fit right, and the other 2 broke in some way, shape or form, during the first or second wear. I'm not altogether sure those ones fit either, anyway. I hate all my underwear, and am probably throwing a pair away weekly, because I decided I would never wear underwear with holes. Half of it doesn't fit either. So...any day now, I will either be going commando or doing my own laundry daily. We can ALL guess which one of those is more likely...

Why would I purchase a bra or underwear that doesn't fit, you might ask?

Because, 5 kids.

I'll start with the obvious. Having 5 kids, means 5 pregnancies. Means 5 times breastfeeding. Means 5 times, during which my size has shifted significantly in less than a year. So, yeah, I have no *$%#ing clue what size I am. To this day, I don't even know. And I may never know, because I'm still losing weight (hopefully). In all honesty, I'm not real confident that I even HAVE a "size". And if I DID, let's say, actually have a size, how on earth would I go about finding that out? With 5 kids? Because I know your thoughts here: Hey, Erin, you can actually "find out" your "size" by going into a store that sells these type of items and trying THEM ON. Done. Right?

Absolutely, wrong. There is no way, on God's green earth, I am inviting ANY one of those children into a teeny, tiny dressing room, while I try on bras or underwear. Not happening. This would be disastrous and mentally scarring for ALL those involved. Not to mention that 4/5's of my brood are boys. So, any bra purchasing, shopping or trying on, must be done alone. Can anyone venture a guess as to how frequently I get out shopping? ALONE!? It happens. A few times a week, for 20-30 minutes while I dash to Target over lunch to buy my son a basketball for his first practice tonight. While I buy items for the homeless for their school stewardship's. While I get food so they can have a lunch, or breakfast because this morning when the nanny walked in and opened the fridge to get them breakfast, she jokingly (but for reals) said, "pickin's are slim". Some weekends, I might even get a couple hours. But in those 2 hours, I visit 5 stores gathering the many needs for my family of 7, and items much higher on the priority list than an undergarment that no one sees, except for me. Well, and my kids, you know, when they won't leave me alone while I am try to get dressed in peace. And, maybe my husband, but, well...TMI.

I have so much to do on these alone-shopping miracles that the thought of wasting 30 minutes to pick out some under garments, get in a dressing room, undress completely and try them on is absolutely THE LAST thing I feel like doing. So, what do I do? I find a bra, I guess my size. I stand in the isle stretching it over my shirt on my chest to see if the cup size seems right, and I say, meh, this should work. I take it home. I wear it for a day. It hurts. It breaks.

I'm back to square one.

Perhaps, one of these days, I will make it a priority. Until then, everyday, when I'm putting on my pathetic bra, and my extremely worn underwear, I'll continue to think of my mother.  And how I know now EXACTLY why she wore underwear with holes in it.

Because, 5 kids.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

16 months. (Posted Late)

While the boys were all downstairs watching a movie, I snuck away to give Diana a bath. I can probably count on two hands the number of times I've bathed her alone. She actually got to play at her leisure, relaxed and happy. Normally, you can tell she's on edge because of all her maniac brothers swirling around her. I let her linger in the tub much longer than I normally would. By the time I took her out, her lips were a little blue and her lips quivering. I took her down to the changing table and got her in some warm PJs. I then sat her in my lap to trim her nails and comb her hair. She sat stone still, yet at ease, the entire time I was combing. She seem to even enjoy it. In my previous experience, she would run away the instant she saw the comb in hand. I combed her hair for longer than I normally would. When I finally finished she didn't seem to want to go anywhere. So, I just sat with Diana on my lap, in her room. Just the two of us. She laid her head on my chest. She never fidgeted or tried to do anything but sit with me. She was simply content.

It's like she knew that just hours earlier I had packed away the last of her size 3 shoes. Like she knew that I was struggling to deal with her aging. Becoming a toddler, growing out of her clothes. Like she knew that I had a tough day dealing with knowing she's my last. I teared up a little and hugged her tighter and sat there for a lot longer. For the first time, in a long time, I felt just completely at ease. My baby Xanax. Perhaps, it's OK she's the last. Perhaps, I'll get these sneak attack precious moments for the rest of our lives together. I'm sure they will evolve into something else, as I don't see my 20 year old daughter enjoying me bathing and combing her hair, but we could do pedicures together. Needlepoint with a glass of wine. Maybe, I'll get to sit with her infant someday. I know that I have loved every phase of life so far, so, life beyond pregnancy, infant and toddlers will be wonderful. But I just love them so.

Diana, in physique, started out like George. Big cheeked, soft, pudgy, so squishy. Slowly, she has evolved to become more Brock-like, only not quite so tall. I am not sure she will ever grow out of size 3 diapers. Her hair gets longer and thicker by the day. Her little personality continues to resemble most closely her brother Curtis. Who also happens to be her best friend in the family. Her big helper, guardian, and buddy. This personality is one full of smiles. Smiles for me, and smiles for strangers.

If I had to choose the single-most unique thing about her versus her brothers (and I think it's strictly because she's a girl) it's her communication skills. She both positively gestures and says "ya" if she wants something, and does the same for "no" if she doesn't. It's accurate, every time. The boys NEVER did this. I think they were all 3 before they ever uttered a "yes". They had "no" down, and otherwise, they just enjoyed the constant opportunity to throw a temper tantrum because I'm not giving them the thing that I don't know they want. Barring exhaustion or extreme hunger, she even has the ability to wait patiently for me to get these items for her (another distinction from the 4 before her.) It's quite impressive. She seems to think before in, she has yet to fall off a chair, bed, table (yeah, I don't know why she'd be on a table either), stool, slide, stairs.

Diana had a 1st birthday party. It was a tea party. It was beautiful, elegant, extravagant. So many lovely and perfect flower arrangements, with tea cups for everyone, and tea pots for the arrangements. It was well-attended with a photo booth too. But, as things typically go for a fifth child, I'd imagine, I've yet to document it. I don't think I've even loaded the pictures from the photo booth. In fact, I don't even have the pictures from her baptism well over a year ago! Where she wore my baptismal gown, unlike her brothers who all wore Matt's. Except Mitch, I think we got him his own, seeing as he was too big. Diana's go-with-the flow, laid back personality will serve her well as a 5th. She honestly has no choice.

If you turn on music, she will dance. She will smile, and twirl. She will shove her brothers away. She likes to be bossy with them, and she likes to have the stage. Though she be but little, she be nosey. As in, she wants to be EVERYTHING. She will eat anything. Though, she has been known to refuse the heel of the bread loaf. How do they all know this is less desirable!? She is also extremely possessive of her food (again, I'd imagine this isn't unusual for a 5th.) Once, as I opened for her the last yogurt from the fridge, Mitch asked if he could havea  yogurt. Diana became insane, repeating "no, mine" over and over, grabbing the yogurt from me as if it were the last in the world and we were all to starve soon. She loves salsa. Will eat bowls of it, like soup. Her tongue will hang out of her mouth, due to the spice, and she will keep going, even after the mid-meal, momentary screaming and crying due to the heat in her mouth.

She likes to choose her own bows. And shoes. And socks. Luckily, she still leaves the outfits to me (though I imagine this is changing any day now.) She can repeat most any word, and also thinks she talks in sentences (shhh...don't tell her, but it's complete jibberish.) She will sing "bing bong bing bong" when she hears iton the movie Inside Out while riding in the van. If you start a sentence with "Who...." she will consistently be the first one to respond with an emphatic "ME!!" often long before the rest of the sentence it uttered. I believe the first time she did this Matt had said, "Who clogged the toilet!?" She loves her blankies, 2 of them, they're really soft. She loves her Jelly Cat bunny and a paci. She goes right to bed when put down and wakes up sometime about 12 hours later, and that's all there is to say about that...for the past 12 months (or more #sorrynotsorry.)

I mean, all around, I'm not sure you can ask for a better baby. A cuter baby. A happier baby. So, none of you all can blame me for kind of being sad about no more. Then again, I am thrilled I get to end on SUCH a high note. My little Diana Bede. Stay happy, little girl, and be strong.

Monday, November 7, 2016


15 minutes. This is the typical amount of time allotted for any single follow-up or acute type appointment in Primary Care. 30 minute spots are reserved for new or complicated appointments. Now, I just want that to sink in for a minute. I want everyone to sit down and think real hard for a moment, about how much they can get done in 15 minutes.

How long does it take you to unload and load the dishwasher? How organized, nearby and accessible are your cabinets? If your house is like mine, half the cabinet doors have locks on them, so there's that obstacle as well. Are all the dishes already rinsed off and in the sink? Or do you need to walk about the house gathering them? Do some need to soak? Some need scraping? Does it always take the same amount of time? Is every unload and loading of the dishwasher the same? Or are some meals harder to clean up after, requiring a bit more time and effort?

Tonight, when I asked the 26th patient I'd seen today, a patient I have never met, mind you, if they had any allergies to antibiotics, they crassly replied, "It's in my chart."  This comment doesn't shock me, as I hear it near daily in some shape or form, but it does piss me off. Every. Single. Time. Now, let me preface this to say that I have very consciously chosen not to bring a computer in with me when I see patients. I cannot focus on the patient when I have that thing in front of me. Period. So, I am unable to reference patient charts while in the room. This sort of response to my simple and straight forward question, that every patient should reflexively be able to respond to in an instant, absolutely encompasses ALL that is lacking in patient education and awareness of how a doctor and the office where in they work, functions.

Oh. It's in your chart!? Silly me. How did I miss that? It's only one column of a chart with no less than 15 columns. And having met you for the first time, to discuss your one urgent problem, in less than 15 minutes, how on earth, have I not managed to memorize your ENTIRE chart? I must be a completely negligent and idiotic doctor. I must be incompetent. How rude and irresponsible of me to not know your entire life, inside and out. To not know every med you've ever taken, every surgery you've had. What you've tried previously for your high blood pressure. That you've had an xray of this same knee before.

If you have guests and they offer to help you clean up after dinner, when they ask, "Where does this spatula belong?" Do you reply, "In the kitchen." If you do, you're an asshole. Unless, of course, your kitchen literally has one drawer. Otherwise, they need to open every cabinet door and every drawer until they find where each item belongs, when you could have simply guided them.

Somewhere along the way, people have gotten the impression that doctors have super powers. That we can read and interpret hundreds of pages of "past medical records" in minutes. How far into a novel do you get in 15 minutes? That's just reading it. That's not discussing it, giving it a grade, then writing a review about it. Which is what seems to be expected of us at nearly every visit. We get nasty messages and reviews when disability paperwork doesn't get faxed in a timely manner. When their calls aren't returned same day.

We are supposed to see patients. Document about it. Send in medications. Order labs. Interpret labs. Call patients. Fill out their work physical forms. They're sports release forms. Send in their proof of vaccinations. Refer them to specialists. Talk to pharmacists. Re-explain problems to loved ones. Schedule them. And people wonder why they feel like "they only see their doctor for 2 minutes." Because they do!! That's all there is time for. Literally. It's math. There are only so many minutes in the day. There is no time left to talk to the patient, get to know them, actually listen and enjoy patient interactions. There is simply no way to live up to patient expectations in the current climate.

I'll be the first to admit, I love the people side of patient care. I spend way too much time in the room. I like to problem-solve with the patient and include them in the decisions about their health. I like to educate them. I force them to tell me names of meds and allergies, because I think it's important they know these things. But, you know what? All of this takes time. A lot of it. So, if I am in the room talking to you, that means that something else is getting pushed down the totem pole. For me, it's paperwork. Anything paperwork. Your short-term disability papers, your letter to your employer, it's going to take a while, because I am inside a patient's room, talking to them. Connecting. If your labs are normal, you likely won't hear about it for a couple days. To trade off, if you're scan comes back showing cancer, I have personally called the oncologist already, I've set up your appointment, I've made all the plans for you and I am on the phone calling you immediately.

Trust me, I know everything is important to each patient. Even normal labs. If it could be any different way, I would do it. But it can't. We all have priorities and we all have the same number of minutes in a day. So, quit making snide remarks to your doctor. Quit having super-human expectations of your physician. Take charge of your health, and if you haven't gotten the call back that you wanted, keep calling. But don't be mad that you've called us 3 times to ask if the MRI has been scheduled, and we've already told you once that insurance hasn't responded yet.

Just stop for a moment, and really think about 15 minutes. You might start to appreciate all that we get done, and perhaps even be amazed. Maybe you will be more prepared and thankful during those minutes you have face-to-face with your doctor. Maybe you will forgive those moments where they ask redundant questions about allergies or previous medications. Maybe you will take ownership of your own health and drop forms off earlier than the day they're due. Request refills a week in advance. Schedule follow-ups more regularly. Maybe you will make, what is currently a very rushed and somewhat stressful interaction, a completely functional and enjoyable one.

I mean, a doctor can only hope.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

NOT an Excuse.

At some point during my early teenage years, my parents arrived home with a new Ford Explorer. I loved that car the very instant I saw it in the driveway. Maybe because it was green, I don't know. All I know is, I thought it was perfect. I am sure I had seen one before, but I simply had no opinion on the car, whatsoever. But now? Now it was my favorite! The very next day, I rode in it with my mother to run errands. At our first stop, what did we park aside? Another Ford Explorer. I couldn't believe my eyes. What were the odds!? Slowly, as we drove around that day, I started to see them everywhere. They were literally EVERYWHERE. This almost disappointed me, here I was, thinking we had something, new and special and amazing, but, really, it was everywhere. I just hadn't noticed it. In one instant. One experience. One moment. I had sensationalized the most insignificant, common vehicle to every grace our roads (at that time), all because my parents simply brought it home to our driveway.

This. This is what the media is doing every single day. They are choosing to draw our attention to certain things, phrase them in certain ways, all to sensationalize something that is likely extremely trivial and mundane. Because, who wants to see and hear about the boring, everyday Explorer?

I am marginally disappointed with the Olympics media coverage, but gargantuanly disappointed with the "lay persons" response to it.  Most of these announcers and reporters are tried and true. They are good people, with good hearts. I challenge any one of us to get on air and speak constantly and interestingly while remaining 100% PC. It's not possible. You will slip. You will phrase something incorrectly. You WILL offend someone. We can all find slip ups, things to be offended about, Explorer's...if that's where we've turned our attention. I absolutely don't want to downplay real issues that exist in our society, but I also find it extremely exhausting that we are trying to find Rosa Parks at every single bus stop. The way history tells it, she actively pursued civil rights. This was her passion. She chose to be involved in multiple organizations and movements. She searched for the right moment and seized the opportunity to change a societal norm, in a fantastic and necessary way.  These are athletes. And sports announcers. Not societal revolutionaries.

As you may (or may not) have noticed, it is actually less frequent than you'd expect for the team captain of each sport to be the most decorated athlete. It is hard to concentrate, train day in and day out, be guided by your passion and drive in a sport, while also being a motivational speaker and exemplary human. As an elite athlete myself, I remember constantly being reminded by our coaches not to wear our warm ups or any team apparel when going out to the bars (which was also adamantly discouraged from doing, and that any belligerent behavior, no matter our apparel is not condoned nor tolerated in any capacity.) We were reminded regularly that, though we may not want the attention, we will get it. That it's our responsibility to represent the most upstanding and morally correct human behavior at all times. My high school coach held me back from Senior Nationals one Summer, because, though I did not have one single sip of alcohol, I was guilty by association. I followed my friends, I didn't speak up, I did not behave at the level appropriate for an "athlete of my caliber" as they say. I'm not sure I have ever been so heart broken, one of the toughest lessons I have ever learned, and I'm not sure I ever completely agreed with the severity of that punishment. But I had to suck it up and learn that, as Uncle Ben so famously taught us, "with great power comes great responsibility". And, just as Peter Parker made a few mistakes before he knew what to do with himself. And, at moments, was angry with the "gift" he'd been given and the responsibility that landed on his shoulders. He too, had to learn to deal with his mistakes. Wouldn't you rather do this privately, and not under the scrutiny of all the world?

Ryan Lochte, being a 12-time Olympic medalist, SHOULD be more responsible, and make better choices, and be aware of what he is saying on National television. We ALL know that, I know that he has been taught this, time and again. He's not a child, he SHOULD have known better. But, as many people do, he made a mistake. There are so many comments out there with disgruntled people, about how Lochte's behavior overshadowed* other Olympic gold medalists time to shine. This didn't need to happen. We all could have let the Rio law enforcement and the Olympic committee handle it. We could have just let Gabby Douglas choose to salute the flag however she wished. We could have enjoyed amazing athletes, men, women, black, white, brown and watched them perform feats never to be seen again without suddenly turning our focus to sexist and racist comments. Somehow. Social media made one of my favorite things in the world to experience and watch, into a torturous, "he said, she said" gossip, speculation fest. I simply want to enjoy what's left of the Olympics. I would love to recount the amazing moments, and try to quit rehashing the questionable ones. I would love to identify the great things that people said and did, not the slip ups. The poor choices. The regrettable moments of a bunch of superstars who know they are in the lime-light (didn't ask for it) but still struggle to stay on that rigid moral path, that apparently ALL the rest of America has no problem following.

(OK, maybe sometimes we like a little bit of the lime-light: I was the IU record-holder of most NCAA All-American Honors at one point (with 13). Record hold in the 100 fly briefly, as well. Ahh. The good ol' days.)

By the way, if you ask the athletes, there is no such thing media "overshadowing". With a few exceptions, these people are simply trying to be the best within themselves. The Olympic dream is not to be on TV, but to be THE BEST at something. Competitors of this caliber are not proving things to you, they are proving things to themselves. They are reaping the rewards of decades of self-control as well as intensely hard focus and training.  As the first American female to win gold in wrestling, Helen Maroulis, says: “I didn’t come here to win a gold medal for the media attention, I didn’t come here to win a gold medal in order to find something within myself or some peace within myself. I found that self-worth before I stepped on the mat. I think that’s why I won the gold medal."

So please. For just one moment forget you had ever been presented with that Explorer. Relax. Marvel. Enjoy watching the phenomenal capabilities of the human body, and try to let the less than perfect moments that exist in all of nature take a back seat.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Whole Working Mom Thing

I plopped down on the couch with my laptop and a heavy sigh. I needed to, yet again, annoy all the mom's in Brock's grade with a group email, begging for help. Brock needed a new ride home from school on Mondays. I know these women are busy. I know they feel like nothing but cab drivers. I know the one extra kid, one extra stop, just one more thing to worry about, can be A LOT. Besides the emotions I feel for these women that I am bombarding, I have my own feelings to contend with every time I ask for help. A huge part of my identity is that fact that I can "do it all": career, mom, marriage, household. So, the fact that I cannot manage to simply get my own child (or any of my children for that matter), to and from school, completely on my own? It's a dagger. A dagger through my independence, confidence, pride; straight to my heart. And finally, perhaps the most painful part of the whole process: rejection.

Back when Brock started Kindergarten, I started asking around about carpool the April/May before the school year. I thought I was on top of my game. Turns out, EVERYONE had already made arrangements! Most of these women know each other well. Talk at drop off and pick up, in the classroom when they are helping out, in the lunchroom when they are volunteering, grabbing coffee, running girl/boy scouts. I work during all of these socializing opportunities. There seemed to be no one left. The willing people weren't able and the able people weren't willing. They didn't know me. They were overwhelmed. My location wasn't convenient. I know there were a multitude of reasons why people couldn't or wouldn't take on the task. Not the least of which, that it's a huge commitment! I understood all the reasons, but that didn't change that every single "I don't have room", "I'm already carpooling with so & so", or just simple lack of response felt like failure.

I once told one of my best mom friends (who resided in Florida at the time), that in all of my life, in all of my endeavors, I have never felt like more of a failure, nor more "out of place" than with the "school moms". Starting school was an absolute shock. I feel I need to be clear here. First: No one was unfriendly. The 2 school communities I have been part of, are amazing, warm, wonderful. I honestly couldn't ask anything more from them. I write this with the understanding that this is just the "nature of the beast". One of the inherent obstacles of working full time, sending kids to a private school (no public transportation) and also having 5 kids (my nanny doesn't have a vehicle that can tote them all around, and someone's always napping.)  Second: I know a lot of other mom's work. But, if I have a hard time meeting and talking to the much more present SAHM moms, then I am most certainly never going to run into the working ones! So, I am not saying, I am the only one who has ever been in this position. Millions of women are out there, with the same struggles, feelings, frustrations.

Agh, frustration. So, here I am, about to send this email. That 'sigh' I mentioned? It contained every word of what I have written above. I did it though. I hit "send" and braced myself for the onslaught of absolutely unintentional "rejection" from all of these amazing, busy, tapped out women. (I also want to mention that, yes, I truly send these emails to only the moms. Even though society has changed, and there are a lot of working moms and some SAHD's, there are still a relatively low number of men that "run the household". So, whether the men are carpooling or not, it's still the wife running the schedule, and she would be the one volunteer her husband if she could. Generalizations for the sake of simplicity.)

I continued on my computer for a moment, came back to my email, and there was a response. It had only been 4 minutes, obviously, this was a "no" email. It was from a mom I had not really "formally" met. Someone who I might not have necessarily recognized out in public, out of context. I think we had connected via Facebook due to having children in the same class, and that was the extent of our friendship.

Her response? An emphatic, "I can help!"

What? Did she read the email? She doesn't even know where I live. I cannot believe this. I sighed again, only this was a sigh of joy, disbelief and most of all, relief.

I sent her my address. I told Brock who he'd be going home with, and they took care of the rest. He rode home with her for weeks before I finally met her, face to face, at a recent 1st grade party. I walked up to her and greeted her with a hug, and thanked her. She said, "Oh, Brock is great, really entertaining. And I recently quit my corporate office job to work from home. So, I've done the whole working mom thing." It would be extremely awkward of me to cry in that moment, but I nearly could have. Someone who just understood. Someone who had felt all those feels that I described above. She had probably hoped many times before for someone to do, exactly what she did for me.

This is not an isolated incident. Another mom, who I'd met first on our tour of Visitation has been my rock. She took Brock home for the entire year, AT LEAST 2 days a week, and up to 4. She never made me feel guilty. Or like it was an exhausting chore. Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever had someone make me feel bad for it, it's a guilt I put on myself. I love hearing their stories from these daily rides home. I'm so impressed by these women, willing to give their time, energy (and, let's be honest, sanity) to help a sister out.

I actually wrote this months and months ago. We are about to embark on a new school year. Brock will be in 2nd grade. I've already established rides for him and Curtis (I think). Some new moms have come into play. I'm starting to actually feel comfortable with the arrangements. I'm starting to feel like I kind of fit in with the "school moms". All transitions are hard, I get this. But it's amazing the simple things others can do to make them so much smoother.  So. Thank you, Moms everywhere of every kind. Keep up the good work.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Survival Guide to Road Trips (With 5 under the age of 8).

Snackeez. What!? Those stupid "As seen on TV" cup things? Yes. Those stupid "As seen on TV" cup things. The kids loved them. I bought these over a year ago and have used them twice. Only on road trips. This preserves BOTH the novelty as well as the overall condition of the product. Though, admittedly, George's didn't make it the full 36 hours in the car #chewsonstraw #destroyseverythinghegetshishandson. Added perks: they aren't see through, so the kids could not complain about the low amount of liquid* placed in the cup. And there is only so much room for the snack part; meaning, only so much that could get spilled on the floor. Win-win. Win. Win. And win.

*Liquid consumption is to be kept at an all time low. If they say they are thirsty. Tell them they are not. If they insist they are thirsty, and begin to cry, continue to tell them they are not, until their whining starts to disturb and/or influence their siblings**. Then, and only then, place 2-3 ounces of water in their Snackeez. Or, in George's case, hand him the tail end of your water.

**Which reminds me. If any of your children even so much as starts to mention the words: bathroom, pee, potty. etc. STOP them!! Immediately. Having to evacuate your bladder is highly infectious. In fact, if you hear the words, "I have to" just yell "NO!!!" (Or SHHH. Or Don't you dare say it. Or Hold it. Or I swear to god if you say that out loud we are leaving you at the next stop. Ok, maybe not that harsh. But you can consider it, up to you.) Don't even let them finish. Even if it's not restroom related, they don't "have to" do anything. You're on a road trip. They're stuck in a car. Rest my case. Just no.

PS. I chose to list first a food related item because if you've ever thought to yourself "if they say I'm hungry one more time, I'm taking them all to the fire station" when spending a full day at home. You will think this again. Within an hour on the road. 

All the electronic devices. We have 2 Leapsters, an iPad, and a Kindle. I made sure those suckers were fully charged, new batteries, etc. I considered loading a few new games, but didn't get around to it...would have helped, maybe, but not vital. If they are bored enough, anything is fun. Note: if this isn't an obvious Road-trip-with-children life hack for you, then I advise you NOT TAKE A ROAD TRIP.

All the activity books. Big ones work, but easier to carry around, store (and throw away) are some of the smaller packs you can find these days. Some even come with the stickers and crayons all packaged in tidy little zip lock bag. They don't stay like this. The crayons get everywhere, as do the stickers, and the trash. Why can't they just keep the booklet in one piece? Is it is really necessary to tear out each page? Bite a few corners off? Spit it at your brother? WHY!?  Warning: Crayons melt at extreme heat. Well, maybe not even extreme. Warning: Crayons melt at mildly elevated temperatures. Do with that information what you may. Note: If, for their entire lives, you have not insistently and firmly repeated "Stickers are only for paper or clothing". Even when they simply catch site of the things. Then I'd reconsider supplying the 3rd row of a minivan with them. Unless, of course, you enjoy using a razor blade to scrape stickers off windows. Or find the random splattering of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles about your car appealing. Then by all means, sticker 'em up.

PS: We also have some of those magnadoodles and an Etch-A-Sketch. Also great options.

Afternoon departure. Leave after lunch, if at all possible. Kids are inherently most active in the morning. They tend to do a lot of their business (you know, like #2) in the morning. They are hungry. Thirsty. Antsy. Both days that we attempted to leave before 9am, we stopped nearly every hour for various reasons. It's infuriating. A good run at the park, swim at the pool, walk around the block, is extremely helpful to gear them up for a long drive. All three of our 5 hour stints happened between 1pm-6pm. Most of the kids, even the non-nappers, dozed off for a brief period of time in that post lunch daze. Note: It is important to have a driver equipped to stave off their own mid-afternoon rut. Lucky for us, I don't get tired.

Chick-Fil-A. Cleanest "play place". Cleanest bathrooms. Decent food options. Most kids like it.

Car cooler. We filled a soft cooler with adult and child drinks. Grapes. Carrots. String Cheese. Salami. High protein. Liked by all. Relatively not messy. This came in very handy when we found an awesome rest stop with a Rocket and chose to go there instead of Mickey D's or "Chick-fer-lay" as my children call it. We enjoyed the sites. Ate some lunch. Headed back on the road.

Snacks. Choose wisely. Again, opt for non-crumbly things. Veggie straws are A LOT less messy than any sort of chips or crackers. Some cereals are a good option as well. SUCKERS! All the suckers. This provides extended satisfaction. Well, only if your children are lickers, not biters. Also, like the stickers, if you have not instilled the wrath of god into them about keeping them in their mouth and not wiping them about, or dropping the sticks everywhere and trained them to keep the wrapper if they get sick of them...maybe suckers aren't the right option for you. In fact, I think I'll retract the sucker suggestion #CURTIS #mypigpen #suckertrasheverywhere

Movies. Bring along their obvious favorites. You know, the ones they could watch 2-3 times in one sitting. Every. Single. Day. Which are currently Wall-E, Minions and Big Hero 6 for us. But also purchase or borrow a couple new ones. I bought Open Seasons 1, 2 & 3 at Wal-mart, all in one box, for $5. The first Open Season has now been added to my previous list of 3, especially for Mitch, who giggles periodically throughout the film always followed up by "that funny". WIN! I also purchased a set of 4 including both Happy Feet's and both Cat's & Dog's. No major objections, but not overly thrilled either. Note: this assumes you are traveling in a vehicle with DVD capabilities. If you are not, then I highly advise that you NOT TAKE A ROAD TRIP.

Raffi. I know this signifies that I am a product of the 80's, but, hands down, it's the best kid's music ever. My boys love it. Every song. I never get objections. For some reason, blasting Raffi, as the kids all became bored with movies, electronics, stickers, general destruction of the interior of the van but there seemed no real good reason to stop (as I don't think sanity is quite important enough to pull over) worked like a charm. The children also found it extremely amusing when we {the parents} would sing along in various styles, voices and volumes. Particularly, opera-voice to In My Garden.

Books. Easy enough. Brief amusement. Probably will become better as they age.

Toys. Diana loved the toys. Especially ones that made noise. Everyone else, probably could have done without.

Delay Gratification. A road trip is measured in minutes. Not miles. If your kids asks you for a sucker, they asked you at the exact moment they had an urge for it. They didn't wait. They didn't think, "Oh, a sucker sounds good right now, but I just had one 4 minutes ago, so perhaps I should wait an hour to ask for another one, because typically mommy doesn't even give more than one sucker in one day, so 4 minutes might be pushing it." Nope. They ask. Then ask again. And again. I found pointing to the clock and telling them what time to watch for (even though only 1.5 of them can tell any sort of "time") really helped decrease frequency in which request/whining occurred. This also helps prolong the effectiveness of said reward. Note: if you have never used this technique in your parenting prior to your road trip, I would not choose a 9-hour enclosed car ride to be the moment you start. In fact, I would probably advise you begin training and reschedule your road trip to a later date. There ya go! First step in delayed gratification training, done.

Packing. Do this deliberately. If you are stopping over during your drive. Pack just a one night bag for you and the kids, place it on top of the rest of the stuff. Just try to be smart. Ok? If this is a real struggle for you, I encourage you to NOT TAKE A ROAD TRIP.

Manage Expectations. If you and your significant other haven't been dreading the trip, moaning about it, saying such things as "this is going to be the worst 7 days of our lives" or "why the $%#& are we doing this" or "should we see about medicating ourselves for this" for AT LEAST the two weeks prior to departure, then do NOT TAKE THE ROAD TRIP. You should mentally {and medically} prepare yourself for catastrophes such as: vomiting in the car. Peeing in the car. Pooping of pants. Crying. Whining. Crying. Yelling. Hitting*. Screaming (and I mean, ear-piercing, momentarily deafening screeches - usually produced by your large, introverted, mostly silent child #Mitchplease.) Crying. Whining. Yelling. Hitting...yeah, I know I already said this, just trying to drive my point home here. Not saying all of these things will happen. Maybe some of you have little Angel babies. Who would never bother one another, let alone their parents. But we don't. Ours are needy little things, that seem to feel the sole purpose of their existence is to bother those surrounding them at all times. Close proximity makes this exponentially worse. My expectations of this trip were so utterly rock bottom, that, when you compare what I envisioned might happen to what ACTUALLY happened, I might describe this road trip as a HUGE SUCCESS. Would perhaps insert the words: fun, enjoyable, entertaining and/or amusing into my description of the experience. Amazing what a little dose of absolute pessimism** will do fer ya.

*Please, for the love, consider heavily the car seat arrangement. Do not place your two mostly highly tempered and volatile children next to one another. Do not place the babies aside one another either, as that leaves exactly no one to help hand them food, toys, their lovies, etc. This significantly lowers the amount of hitting. As for it's effects on yelling, whining or screaming, YTBD.

**Do not discuss said pessimism near children. Build up*** the trip. Make it sound like the most wonderful event to happen in their little lives. But, be absolutely sure to ALWAYS say, "after 2 days in the car" (or whatever your time in vehicle is) when referring to the positive part of the trip (thus why this falls under the "Managing Expectations" umbrella.) For us, we simply mentioned the beach, as they had never been. They should have nothing but visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, or whatever.

***But don't build it up too early. Eff. Please DO NOT mention it a month, or even 2 weeks in advance!! This results in the constant need to point out the calendar. Count out the days or "number of sleeps". Mention over and over and over and over and over and over again that it's not for weeks. Please do not make this fatal mistake. Unless repeating yourself to the point of wanting to gauge out your eyeballs is something enjoyable for you. Then, by all means, mention the trip the day you first start to plan it...even better! Right!? Then you can give vague answers, that end up changing, thereby confusing the children and adding to their incessant questioning. Wait? It was in May, but now it's in June? Is that Christmas time?

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Accept that your vehicle will be dirty and your children irritable.

Use the quiet times to talk to your spouse. (I swear we conducted our own couple's therapy sessions.)

Enjoy the chaos.

Cherish the memories.

Then. It's over.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Let's Talk about Sex, Baby.

I saw a preteen in clinic the other day. She was going into 6th grade. When I examine this age-group, I like to keep things light. Cheerful. Safe. Interesting. I ask questions, even with the parents in the room, about everything. I ask them as if it's totally normal to bring up questions of grades, schoolwork, friends, safety, peer pressure, alcohol, drugs, puberty and yes, even sex. I almost always bring up the more stereotypically "awkward" subjects by first assessing the patient's level of knowledge or experience, and open it with this simple question: "Have you had health or sex education at school yet?"

YET. I always use that word, as, silly me,  I thought it was standard in ALL school curriculum to teach children/teens about not only their bodies, but one of the MOST BASIC of all human interactions: intercourse. You know. Procreation. How a species survives. One of our most primitive and natural instincts. One's sex drive is so vital to human existence that it is one of the 4 major groups we use, as physicians, to assess quality of life. When meeting a patient for the first time and/or screening for things such as Major Depression I ask about these basic things: Appetite, Sleep, Mood and Libido. (Admittedly, with some well-adjusted, healthy seeming adults, I will just inquire into one or two of these categories and leave it at that, but only sometimes.)

So, I proceed with my usual exam with this patient, and I ask her my usual question. She sat there somewhat silently, so I looked to her mother, who was shaking her head, as if to say "no". I responded, "oh really? I thought most schools did this in 5th grade, but maybe it's 6th." The mom continues to shake her head. No? "They don't teach sexual education at ## #####." I'm fairly certain my jaw dropped to the floor. I'm still looking at the patient, and I ask, "Did they teach you about the menstrual cycle, or periods?" While continuing to avoid eye contact by looking down, I hear a rather meager, "no, they don't teach us anything to do with that kind of stuff". I ask if she and her girlfriends have talked about it. Still a no!! This visit continues, I give some education, ask some questions. Talk to both the mom and daughter, trying to keep communication lines very open, make it clear to her mother that she needs to be sure and continue this education at home, and that the daughter should feel comfortable to go to her mother, me or a teacher if she has any questions or concerns. I print some materials for them both to read and discharge them on their way.

What just happened? Why would this be cut out of a curriculum? I don't care your religious beliefs, there is no way to remove procreation from the equation.  Our bodies were created for it. Girls start bleeding. Boys...well, I have four boys, I really don't want to think about what happens to boys. But I HAVE to!!! My boys ask me questions all the time, and though I mostly keep it scientific, they are getting honest, real answers with true anatomical names. I am educating them. Preparing them for life, a happy life, a realistic life...and hopefully, an open, honest and respectful one.

I don't just answer questions about their boy parts either. I put them to bed at the same time every night. When they try to fight this, I explain (futile as it may be) how important sleep is to their little growing bodies and huge growing brains. When I offer food to them, I try to help them understand healthy choices. No, my kids don't get a fruit and vegetable every single day, or probably even week for that matter. I think we just had pepperoni pizza for the fourth night in a row tonight, but, yes, I still talk about nutrition when the opportunity arises. When they are having a tough day, or a melt down, I try to bring awareness and validation to their feelings, so hopefully, in the future they can deal with their anger or sadness appropriately...and not like a 2 year old. (By the way, 2 year olds were NOT meant to be 40lbs. Makes picking them up or forcing them in a car seat A LOT harder.)

What I'm saying, is it's not just about sex. Kids need to learn about life. Everyday. We are cultivating their future attitudes and decisions towards VITAL human needs. And by we, I mean adults. It doesn't have to be mom and dad. It can be aunt, friend, teacher, coach, doctor. I am slightly enraged that an entire generation of children that have gone through this school (and I'm certain it's not the only one) will secretively discuss sex amongst their peers. Will feel so insecure when they have their first menstrual cycle. Will have been led to believe that sex is a taboo subject that should not be freely and openly discussed. Will think that something as vital to the human existence {experience} as sleep is to be ignored, shushed, brushed under the rug, left to those much less qualified to teach. I can't help but wonder what kind of sex education a male college student got from his school, parents, peers, that led him to rape an unconscious woman? Insomnia leads directly to psychosis. Lack of dietary eduction leads to obesity or other major health concerns. What does ignorance of sexual drive lead to...? I can't help but wonder.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Easter Tantrum

From the gate, Easter was difficult this year. Matt traveled to France and Belgium (which got bombed by terrorist the day before we was set to ride the train into Brussels) the week of Easter, planning to fly into St. Louis the Saturday before to meet us. This means, I played single mom (with A LOT of help from my sisters, moms and nanny) and worked full time, with a broken garbage disposal and an insane work schedule for the week leading up to Easter Sunday. I woke up EXHAUSTED Saturday morning. It's extremely rare for me to actually feel physically tired, but, wow. Eight days, with five kids, alone, even with help, is rough. Period. So, my expectations for the weekend were relatively low, and despite this, for whatever reason, I totally forget, from year to year, how awful Easter really is for families with toddlers.

But think about it for a minute. We fill eggs and baskets with chocolate and jelly beans and chocolate and suckers and chocolate. They hunt for eggs, fueled by sugar, with no interest in "real food". Our parents, family, relatives and friends just have jars upon dishes of candy sitting around the house. We pump them full of this candy. We give them gifts. Then we force them into nice clothing. We take them to church where they are supposed to be both quiet and still, while they are still buzzing on a sugar high (and perhaps heading downhill.) We then want a picture because they are so stinky winky adorable in their Easter clothing, and this must happen before brunch, because, well, if it doesn't, the outfits aren't so cute anymore. We do this year after year.

I couldn't really put my finger on why Easter seems so much more tumultuous, and tantrum-filled than Christmas, but then again, I never really tried. Until today. We go to mass on Christmas Eve. They all have their adorable outfits for evening mass after a full day of good food and naps. We then open gifts and eat mounds of candy in our pajamas the next morning. We leave them in their jammies and let them just play. All day. No obligations. No fancy, smile at the camera, type pictures. Just good ol' candid fun.

I guess I really wanted to figure out what went wrong this year, because we drove all the way to St. Louis. (By we, I mean me getting all 5 kids packed and ready alone. There was a point on Saturday morning that I was not sure we were actually going to be able to make it out of the house. Not my finest moment. It never would have happened if my Mother-in-law hadn't taken them the night before to let me pack, and then rode up with us that morning. I think she was also played an integral role in helping me get out of my speeding ticket, from the woman cop, state trooper...oops.) I had all their clothing set out, as well as my own dress. I had time to shower. I got us all ready (Matt helping minimally, but he's in charge of the family Easter egg hunt AND had returned from France/Belgium the night before. His father helping bathe Mitch who had a blow out right before dressing change.) We could have made it to 10:30 mass, but, when it came to it, neither of us could stand to put ourselves through the torture. We had 5 wild children. It would be a sweaty, anxiety provoking hour or so of just corralling and shushing our children. So, we accepted the Catholic guilt, and just skipped it. Which, prompted me to assess the situation and try to figure out what we could have done to make it go differently.

First. No more candy in the eggs or Easter basket (except their Laura Littles' Chocolate Bunny, of course). The stuff sitting around is ENOUGH.

Second. Real breakfast. Eggs. Bacon. Yogurt. The works.

Third. As early a mass as possible. Maybe even save baskets and egg hunt for after.

Fourth. Maybe pictures after mass, before the potential hunt (if it gets moved). Then they are free to play as they please for the day.

Yup. I think that's it.

Despite all of this, it was a truly Happy Easter, filled with joy, blessings, family and love...with a few melt-downs in between.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The War on Laundry

I am not proud of the way I acted. I'm not proud of screaming at Mitch so loud, the baby started crying because she'd never heard her mother make noises that frightening. I'm not proud of how abruptIy and roughly I shoved Mitch out of the closet. It bothers me, the amount of effort it took to compose myself enough to walk up to my sobbing 2 year old, squat down to his level, look him in the eye, speak in a civil tone and "discuss" his behavior. It ended in a "sorry" and a hug. But I was livid.
You see, in less than 90 seconds, Mitch managed to undo what took at least 6+ hours of hard work and effort: my laundry. 

I have been waging a war on laundry for months. Years. Well, really, ever since the 2nd child came along. I hate sorting and folding clothes. I don't care who you are, you can only do it so fast. It's a time sucker. It takes hours out of my week that I could otherwise spend doing, oh, I don't know; ANYTHING else!!!! Building a marble run with my kids. Making a home-cooked meal for the 3rd or 4th time in my life. Painting a room in the house. Crafting with my kids. Going for a walk. Relaxing. 

I've become so bitter about laundry, that I have gotten rid of 3 trash bags full of it in the past week. I figured, if I went all out, got it all sorted, folded, organized, maybe I could stay on top of it easier. I moved it all into my closet. 

My system was going great. I've dressed cute all week. I had reduced the time spent getting dressed in the morning by half!! No more walking between closet, laundry room, bedroom, back to closet just to assemble my outfit for the day. It was so, so beautiful. 

Then. Tonight. While I was washing my hands, after changing Diana, he did it. Mitch walked in my closet and pulled EVERY. SINGLE. Piece of clothing off of my shelves. He pulled shoes off the rack. He destroyed so much. He broke my spirit. I'm not sure I can ever face the laundry again. Mine, or the kid's. 

So, next time you see me, if you're questioning my style sense. Or the children appear disheveled. You know why. I've simply given up. You win, laundry. You win.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Big City. Small Town.

The other day, while examining a patient, he mentioned the name of a specialist he had recently visited, to which I responded, "Oh yes! I know him really well. In fact, he's a friend of mine." The foreign born patient, most recently from New York, kind of laughed to himself, and in his lovely accent said, "Oh yes, I forget that everyone in this town seems to know one another."

Though, the connection in this instance, isn't surprising at all, as I was the referring doctor, the observation from the patient remains significant. And true. And what I love most about my town.

Yesterday, my second born, requested we go to the "burrito place with red sprite". He was talking about Ninfa's. A quite literal, hole in the wall, family owned and operated, tiny little, as authentic as they come Mexican food restaurant that serves warm, fresh, handmade, melt-in your mouth tortillas instead of the "traditional" chips and salsa. These are the "burritos" to which Curtis referred, and the "red Sprite"? Strawberry Fanta. Seeing as I have a 2 hour lunch break on Fridays, how could I resist the opportunity?

Eventually, I texted my mother and sister, and informed them of my lunch plans. To which, my sister replied, "Ha! Mom and I were just talking about that and she said, don't say anything to Erin until we know what time..." Thus. Had I not texted them, there is a really good chance we would have run into one another at this place anyway! Which, I forgot to mention, is no where near our neighborhood. I also forgot to mention, that the owners of this establishment had children who attended Matt's grade school. So, we kind of know them. Which is why we even know of the spot. Which I then introduced to my mother, who has a special affinity for tiny dives with amazing food.

 As we lunched, a few women walked in, and my mom remarked, "Oh how funny, I went to high school with a couple of those ladies." Small town is right! Then, not a moment later, who walks in? My mother-in-law. She was meeting these ladies for lunch. Curtis pops up and runs over to give his surprised Mimi a hug (and ask her to play on her phone.) What should have been a quick little lunch date with my 2nd child, turned into a family affair, and mini reunion of sorts. I left lunch all warm, and fuzzy, and full. Really full. Full of incredible food. Full of love for my family. Full of love for my city, and my life, and where I have landed.

Born and raised in Kansas City, I have lived in the same 6 mile radius for my entire life, with the exception of 5 years. I have moved exactly 6 times. Ever. Three of those instances occurred in those 5 years of college and post-grad work. I went away to Indiana for under grad, mostly because of swimming, but, I would have been fine staying near home. Though, I sometimes wonder if I am missing out on some beautiful part of life because of my extreme lack of wanderlust, I am mostly thankful that my family chose to establish themselves here. In Kansas City. Maybe, had I been born elsewhere, I wouldn't have such a content feeling about my city. Had I been born elsewhere, I definitely wouldn't dine out at the most seemingly obscure of places and run into 10 people that I know, let alone are my relatives.

I know the world is filled with all different types of people. To some, this small town living sounds appalling, and awful. I assume they feel trapped. Suffocated. Stymied. Missing some larger opportunity lurking for them, out there, in the great unknown. I am not sure what makes one full of adventure and the desire to uproot. To me, more possibilities and opportunities await me here, in my village full of people I know, who know me. It's who you know not what you know, right? Perhaps, there are 7 degrees of separation for humans throughout the WORLD, but in Kansas City, there are only 2 degrees.  Knowing that I can enjoy a meal, a moment, a conversation, face to face, with a friend or loved one, at nearly any time of any day? I love it. It makes me feel comfortable. Important. Supported. At ease. Loved. And home.

I will never claim to understand the meaning of life, yet, I can't help but think, living in the right place helps you discover it. I will never insist that Kansas City is the place for you. But, thank you, God/universe/random chance for dumping me here. In this wonderfully large city of opportunity, and this small town of comfort and familiarity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I have a question.

Scratch that. A few questions. Ok A LOT of questions. Like:

At what age do they stop crying!? Because at nearly 7 years, Brock still cries, probably EVERY DAY. Curtis every day, a few times even. George, about the same as Curtis. Mitch, every 2-3 hours, or every hour of you count his scream. And Diana. Well, she's a baby.

When do they stop the candy obsession? My sister recently mentioned that she had forgotten she even had candy sitting out at her apartment until my 2 oldest boys walked in...she has a 10 year old, so I guess by then?

When do they stop getting into shit. Like everything. I mean, NOTHING is safe. Not even junk mail. My children's particular favorites seem to be dirt/mud, puzzles/board games, legos, art supplies and food. With the occasional medication or hazardous substance attempt.

I feel like my husband is relatively well potty-trained. He seems to get 97% of his urine in the toilet, and lifts the lid, and whatnot. At what point in his life did he become completely self-sufficient in the bathroom? Even this morning, Brock somehow managed to get poop on the toilet seat, and urinated, almost completely, outside the toilet.

When do they become able to put themselves to bed? I fantasize about that moment where I am sitting on the couch, my 5 children happily playing quietly around me, I look at the clock and it says 8:00pm, so I say, "Everyone go to bed." Then, they all get up without complaint, put away whatever entertainment device seemed to be occupying their attention, come give me a kiss and hug, say, "goodnight, mom. Love you." Then proceed to walk upstairs, brush their teeth, and go to bed. OK. I know. That NEVER happens. Not even when they're grown. But, that's why I termed it a fantasy.

When will people not get up because they got seated near us at a restaurant? (Yes. OMG. That really happened, for the first time ever the other night.) In our defense, they were seated at the exact moment that Diana grabbed a water glass and poured it into Matt's lap as well as the car seat, and George was about to throw a fit about Mitch eating his french fry, so I jumped up and pulled George out of the establishment (again, a first for us.) Otherwise, the meal went smoothly, if I do say so myself. In fact, the booth behind us complimented us on our beautiful and well-behaved family. So, I guess I change my question, when will dining out with the whole family become an enjoyable experience for everyone?

When does the antagonizing stop? Haha. Ok, I am kidding about this one. Obviously, never. Still one of my favorite things to do to my siblings. And mom. And husband...

When can I leave them all home alone? Will that ever be a good idea?

When will they just do their homework? On their own? Without prompting?

When will they do their own laundry? Well, at this point, I'd just take them being able to get one shirt without unfolding and emptying their entire dresser drawer. I mean, damnit. That takes a lot of time and effort for clothes to get washed, sorted, folded and put away!!!!!!!!!! And. When will they stop stripping randomly throughout the day, creating more laundry than necessary? Will they ever stop tearing holes in the knees of their jeans? I don't anymore, so I guess it stops at some point.

When will I stop thinking they are so cute, that I want to squeeze them to death? Or stop wanting another one?

Will the questions ever end? I don't think I want them to...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Epic Family Photos.

Back in 2010, I was determined to get a unique family photo. I wanted it to be "real" and almost have a "dark" feel to it. I wanted it fairly obviously photoshopped. I really wanted this photo just for myself, something that I felt really captured "us". I tried to describe this photo to Matt. I tried to find examples of what I was even talking about...none of which really existed in the exact form I was looking. But he seemed to understand what I was describing, and said, I know just the photographer to do this, Chris Mullins. So he talked to Chris, and we scheduled a day to do it.

The result blew us (and Chris, I think) away. We were astounded and in love. Every single tiny detail in that photo was US!! The dogs, the cat, the kids, the smiles, the mess. I found that photo to be the most beautiful, perfect image I had ever seen. So, naturally, I had to share it. We wanted the photo to be untouched, no writing on it. I also wanted to send it to a lot of people. Therefore, we opted for a simple postcard at Christmas. I am not the most "green" person, but when I see the opportunity to send 200 cards, minus 200 envelopes, I take that opportunity.

This postcard has become somewhat "famous" in my tiny world. There are expectations out there. People want to know what our next card will be, sometimes offering ideas. When Chris walked in to photograph our 2014 version, he said, "Hey guys. Another year, another baby!" As I was pregnant with #5 at the time. For a brief moment, I had almost come to dread the creation of our yearly Christmas card, as I feel the pressure to out-do the previous years. Then, I think about the first one. 2010. How excited I was to just take a family photo, a photo that captures "us", for us to keep forever. And share for fun. So, I got over the expectations. I got over my own need to compete, and always go the extra mile, and the perfectionism. I decided, you know what? I have been dying for a family photo at the tree farm we have visited for 9 years now to cut down our tree.

And, here my friends, you have it. The 2015 version of Us.
And it's perfect.







Friday, January 1, 2016

The Happiest 6 Months.

Back in September, I flew to and from Chicago with Diana. She was 4 months old. On our flight home, the entire plane had boarded when someone noticed the overhead bins to be falling off the wall. We all de-planed. We had no idea when or if it would get fixed. If we had to wait for a new plane. When we would depart. If we would have to move to a new gate. And my stroller was already checked. The woman sitting next to me had purposefully chosen to sit by me and my smiling, friendly baby. Diana had already made friends with most the plane as she smiled to each and every person the entire walk down the isle to our seat. She has this effect on people.

 Now, one might be intimidated. Anxious. Nervous. Concerned. Worried. Or any combo of the aforementioned when it comes to just flying with a baby, let alone an unknown delay. To be certain, I would have been with ANY of the prior 4 children. But Diana? Nope. Not even the slightest bit concerned. With every one of the boys I had at least one moment (or a few in Brock and George's case) where it took quite a bit of effort to console them. So much effort that I was sweating. That I was panicked. That I set them down and left the room, so as not to shake them. That I handed them off to Matt after an hour and said, "here, it's your turn." This really only needs to happen once, for you to be somewhat apprehensive of the event ever occurring again. Therefore, a flight alone, with any of the boys, would have given me a moment of hesitance. But Diana?

Diana has NEVER had one of these moments. She. Is. The single-most consolable baby there ever was. Of all time. Ever. Not once, have I felt that little iota of panic. Not once, have I wanted to pass her off because of crying or discomfort. In fact, when she starts to get upset, my mother has more then once said, "Really? That's all ya got?" I am even going to go one step further, to say: not only does she not get overly sad or angry or upset, but she is happy. All the time. To everyone.

We all got off and hung around the gate, waiting for information. We were delayed almost 4 hours. By the time we were boarding again, Diana had a following and multiple offers to be row-mates. You see, she never cried. Not once. Why would she? She was being held the entire time. She had nearly one hundred people looking at her and smiling at her and talking to her. She loves people. I always feel like the general attitude is somewhat negative when it comes to a baby on a plane. Not this baby. I'm writing this almost 3 months later, and nothing has changed.

I have no hesitance leaving her with sitters. I often wonder if she is eating enough, because she never seems upset or hungry. She lets me put bows in her hair. She let's her brothers hold her. Unfortunately, she finds those fools hilarious. She wants in on the action, yet is fine as a bystander. She truly seems content, at all times. When it's bed time, I feed her, walk upstairs and lay her in her bed. Then she falls asleep calmly, only to wake up 10+ hours later, well after her brothers, with quiet coo's (and sometimes an arm or leg hanging out of the crip with her pacifier on the floor). It's bizarre and almost unnatural how easy she is. Or, as my sister has lovingly started to call her, "a dud".

Since day one, I have described her as practically perfect in every way. I just don't think there's any disputing it. In fact, she is directly on the 50th percentile line in both weight and length, and has been for EVERY doctor's visit! She is 7 months, and only sitting. She is content to sit. Her 4 predecessors were crawling everywhere by now, climbing, getting into everything. You hand her a toy, and she accepts it gladly. She transfers it hand to hand with her little thumbs curled into her palm, which is technically a developmental delay (that we are getting assessed) but for the time being, remains an adorable and endearing trait.
I hope she continues to have those happy eyes, and infectious smile for all of her life. She will make it places, have friends, and likely be successful in life, despite her apparent, absolute lack of drive. Though, admittedly, our most competitive child, Curtis, began as a content, ridiculously smiley little guy as who knows. For now, I will enjoy Di-nee-na, NeeNee, Nina, D and her laid back nature, dress her in coordinating outfits, kiss her, and remain blissfully rested.

We Moved.

We moved just over one year ago. We moved to the neighborhood of our dreams. The perfect size plot and home for our growing family. A huge and positive move forward for us. From the outside, it seemed exciting, new, fun, everything I had ever wanted. From the inside, it was misery. Looking back 15 months, I think I might rank moving, as the worst experience of my life, to date.

On a Sunday in May of 2014, with an extremely RARE moment of Matt and I aloneness, we stumbled upon an open house. I was finishing residency in a couple months, we had 4 boys in a tiny Cape Cod that suited us for now, but would require lots of work to make it ideal for us in just a few short years. So we thought, why not start viewing the market now? Start seeing our options for our price range? Of course, we instantly fell in love. The house met nearly every qualification I had in my head (upstairs laundry, 2 car attached garage, open floor plan, master suite with walk in closet, 5 bedrooms, updated kitchen, maintained elements of the 100-year old home charm) PLUS the price was right. Unheard of in that area.

Without much further ado, we set out to see about obtaining a loan. Nightmare. Word to the wise, check your credit score at some point between college and graduating residency...turns out little outstanding debt (like $2 at the public library) start to add up, big time. Matt spent countless hours, and I drove all the way to and from Topeka, with all the children, to try and get things on the up and up...we still fell 2 points short of the goal credit score. The house was out of reach. There is simply no way we could list, show and sell our Prairie Village home while we both continued to work full time, and the house was full of children.

We moved on, and mostly forgot about the home as well as the idea of moving anytime soon. Until, in July, the owners reached out to us because they "felt we belonged in the home", with information on a bank that might offer a Doctor's loan. And, they did! Before we knew it, we were negotiating and buying a house. By the time it was all said and done, we had a contract in August, with a close date of September 29th. Sounds scrumptiously serendipitous, wonderful. Perfect.

Now, what I am failing to mention in this summary of how we came to live at 6022 Belleview Avenue, is ALL of the rest of life that is happening in conjunction with the home-buying saga. In June, I was frantically trying to finish all my requirements for residency graduation at the end of the month. I had not signed a contract yet for a job. So, I also was busy getting applications sent, interviewing and compiling info and creating a schedule for my temporary job. The week of graduation, I found the perfect job, and signed a contract to start September 1st. I worked random days through July and August. My oldest started Kindergarten, at a school just 3 blocks away from our OLD house, 11 minutes drive from the new one. Then, after working my new job for 1 week, I found out I was pregnant with our fifth child.

Before I knew it, I was 4 weeks into a new job, 8 weeks pregnant (aka: miserable and worthless), and packing up our home to move all of our stuff as quickly as possible into the new home, so we could prep, list and sell our old house before the dead of Winter (the housing market down time). I remember multiple days of shaking from exhaustion. Matt worked tirelessly at the old house to paint, tidy up and perform multiple little handyman tasks.  He was at the PV house all weekends and evenings. I've never seen him so tired.

Meanwhile, I was at the new house, unpacking boxes, caring for 4 children, first trimester pregnant, trying to learn the ins and outs of a completely unfamiliar space. This was not home. Our old house was no longer home. We were in some kind of limbo land, where no space felt friendly, or inviting, or comfortable, or warm, or relaxing. Our entire life was unsettled and stressful. New job, new home, pressure to sell old home, no money, new pregnancy, new school schedule. On top of all this, the one piece that hadn't changed, my rock, our nanny would be going on maternity leave in October, so I had those arrangements to make. Thank goodness Matt had a nice, steady day job. I will never take for-granted, the wonderful feeling of security a home offers. Whether it's too big or too small, or dirty or clean, old or new, it's home.

Matt's parents helped immensely. My mother and siblings were around almost daily, helping me organize and unpack. Driving children too and from school. My head was never above water, but somehow, with the help of my entire community, I was able to bob up and down, with brief moments to gasp in some air. I was frustrated with so many things. Even things a minimal as waking up in the middle of the night, getting out of my mattress on the floor to go to the bathroom seemed to thrust horrific reminders in my face at just how foreign a place I was in, where was the damn light switch!? The new dishwasher was supposedly more high tech, but nearly impossible to load logically. Our giant oven and stove range wreaked of gas if you used the right side. Outlets are scarce and poorly placed. The stairs had a giant open space death trap on the first landing...that remains to this day, and I'm really not sure how or why no one has plunged off the side, but I'm not going to question it. The yard? It's oddly shaped. There's no fence. There is no great solution as to where to add a fence. For 15 months, we have been personally walking the dogs outside to go to the bathroom. I still miss opening a door and letting them run free, without a worry.

I missed walking through my front door, into our cute, well decorated and painted living room. I had grown to love the giant crack in our front door, and our non-working doorknob. I knew where not to step to avoid making creaking sounds on the hard woods. My bathroom was like an in home spa, the shower perfect.  The little galley kitchen drove me crazy, everyday, but, it had helped store and prepare food for my family for so many years. Each room had a purpose, design and order. We could pick up and clean the house in less than 45 minutes if needed. For so many months, I remained somewhat bitter about our seemingly "hasty" decision to move. We simply did not need that in our lives at that time. We kind of still don't. And, there are still moments have to remind myself that we did it because opportunity knocked.

Though finally, this Christmas, it became evident, things had finally shifted somewhere along the way. I felt good about how my home looked for the Holidays. I was actually excited to invite people over for our 10th Annual Sweater Party. While giving a home tour, I was walking backwards, and right as the person started to warn me there was a drop in the floor, I automatically and subconsciously adjusted my step, because I knew the floor. As I continued the tour, I simply accepted that rooms were not fully purposed, picked up, unpacked, painted. I walked through the backdoor on Christmas day, into our awkward entryway, carrying all of our gifts from our 3 family events, and did not feel that overwhelming panic about where to put everything.
Though, I am still trying to arrange furniture in the new home. Only 2 rooms have been painted. So many pictures and painting sit around, unhung. Boxes remain unpacked. There is still no organization of the children's toys. I realized, I was at peace with it all. I stroll throughout the house, flipping light switches without a second thought. I am not exactly sure WHEN I will find the time to accomplish these simple tasks, but I know that, eventually I will. I know that it will likely never feel "finished" because, after 9 years in our "old house", I know it sure never did. All I do know, it that this big, square, abundantly windowed yellow house, is HOME.