The Mirror

“What should we get mom for her birthday?” Jeff asked as he drove, Hayden and I to the restaurant to celebrate Hayden’s 9th birthday.

“I don’t know?” Hayden said from the back seat.

“Well, what does mom like?” Jeff asked

I looked up in the rear facing mirror at Hayden and waited for the answer. This was going to be good.

“A new phone,” Hayden said with a smile. “Mom really likes her phone, we should get her a new one.”

Jeff snickered and Hayden beamed for making Jeff laugh but those words hit me right in the heart. They stung deep. I tried to smile and brush them off as Jeff asked Hayden what else I liked.

“Maybe some coffee or new sunglasses, mom is always wearing her sunglasses even when it’s not sunny…” Hayden rambled on. I couldn’t focus on the conversation because in my head, I was beating myself up.

I know he didn’t mean to hurt me. I know he was just being honest and it’s true. I do love my phone and it’s usually always in my hand. But I suddenly wondered, is that all he sees of me? Does he think I want to be on my phone more than with him?

My kids are excellent mirrors.

They seem to have no problem finding my flaws and reflecting them back at me. Every little ugly thing about myself, they magnify. I see it and it stings. It’s like a constant reminder that I had no idea what I am doing as a mom. They don’t do this on purpose, it’s just a fact.

I am a yeller.

I feel like I’m struggling to be heard. The noise of life is all around and to cut the chaos, I yell. It’s also my stress release. I’m like a pressure cooker ready to burst and to release that pressure so that I can focus, I yell. I yell at my kids and during some conversations my throat is raw afterwards.

“I just don’t know how to parent without yelling,” I lamented to my mom as we sat and ate lunch. “And that means I’m raising children who yell at each other, yell at me.”

She looked thoughtfully at me and then because she is my mother and still after 30 plus years of being a mother is at times insecure, she asked, “Was I a yeller? Did you get that from me?”

I didn’t mean to be her mirror and reflect her flaw but because I am her child, I did.

A smile spread across my face, “I don’t remember you yelling.”

We got quiet and both took bites of food, kind of both seemingly pondering motherhood.

She was the first to break the silence, “Say, you didn’t tell me that you made a crafty tail-mix snack for Hayden to take to school as his birthday treat.”

“Well, I didn’t think it was that big of deal,” I said as I took another bite.

“When Hayden was at my house, he went on and on about how the two of you worked together, pouring all sorts of treats into a big bowl, stirring it up and then putting it in little bags that he decorated with Halloween stickers. He was so proud that he got to make this treat with his mom and then give it to his friends,” she said. “From what he told me,  you made like 30 little bags. Wow.”

I looked at her as a single tear rolled down my cheek and I released the breath I didn’t know I was holdinhg.

“H-h-he said all that?” I asked, my voice getting caught in my throat.

“Yes,” she nodded.

I couldn’t help the second tear that rolled down my face.

“That was a bad day,” I began. “We had gymnastics that night. And homework to get done before going and then I added this project…. all I remember was yelling at them to stop stealing pieces of candy and to stop sneezing on the bowl.”

“Well, all he remembers is that you took the time to make an extra special treat and that you did it together,” my mom said.

I wiped the tears from my cheeks.

“It really wasn’t that big of deal,” I shrugged, trying to lessen the situation.

My mom reached over the table, took my hand and looked me right in the eyes, “Yes, sweetie. It was… to Hayden.”

And that’s when I realized, he didn’t remember the yelling either.

 

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Quiet at the Dinner Table

A lot of times when we sit down to eat dinner, I am just quiet.

There is no real reason. I just don’t feel like talking. I think it’s because sitting down to dinner is my signal that we are in the home stretch. The witching hour is drawing to a close and bedtime is around the corner. It’s time for c0-parenting and mostly importantly, it’s probably the first time that I sat down in hours.

I just want to be quiet, be still, eat. And by doing this, I am open to listen.

I hear things like, “Yuck. I am not going to eat this.”

“This is gross. It can’t be food.”

“Is there any bessert?”

But every now and again I hear,  “Thanks for making the food, mom.”

My heart just melts. It doesn’t matter that the one who said it said it because the others were complaining about the food and he is trying to stay on my good side. He said it and I’ll take it.

I look around the table and the people sitting there, the people most important to me in the world and sometimes I get overwhelmed. There is this feeling that washes over me that I can’t explain. It steals my breath so that I couldn’t talk if I wanted too.

I study each person, really looking at them. I remember who they were when they were small and see who they are now.

I don’t feel worthy.

I yell. I scream. I cuss.

I focus on my own needs sometimes more then theirs.

I don’t want to read a bedtime story.

I don’t want to look at this one quick thing.

I fail.

And I do it over and over again.

I constantly question, ‘am I enough?”

But then one of them will catch my eye and smile at me or come over and put their arms around me in a  hug. They don’t know it but it’s in those moments that they save me. They reaffirm that I am enough, that I am what they need most.

children around the dinner table

I can’t help but smile at them. Their chatter makes me laugh. Especially the conversations from the littlest ones while they discuss the drama that is kindergarten.

“I like it when Ava kisses me,” Quinn says with a sheepish grin.

“Ew. Gross. How can you like that” Jake answers with a disgusted tone. “Girls are yucky.”

“No they are not,” Quinn defends himself, “Girls are pretty and I like it when they kiss me. Like when Ava does and Olivia and Kelly.”

I want to say something, tell them there is plenty of time for kissing girls, tell them that 5 is not the age to be worried about kissing but I stay quiet. I just listen.

“My teacher says that kissing is just for your family,” Claire announces, proud to tell of her classroom.

“But I can’t help it if the girls are always kissing me. I want them too. I don’t want to tell them no,” Quinn says exasperated.

“You could run away,” Jake adds.

“No. No. Don’t do that,” Claire adds, “Girls don’t like it when you run away from them. Just marry them instead.”

I can’t hold it in anymore and I laugh. I laugh until my sides ache and I’m gasping for breath. On one hand they are so young and have no idea but on the other hand, they know exactly how it works.

“You all should eat now,” I say when I can breathe again. “We can discuss who you are going to marry another time.”

There is a silence that falls around the table, only the sounds of chewing with the occasional burp and giggle.

“I don’t want to kiss any girls,” Jake says, breaking the stillness of the room.

“You don’t have too,” Hayden says speaking up for the first time. “because maybe you will can kiss a boy. You can’t help who you love or want to kiss.”

I can’t help but smile and my sweet insightful son. He’s right. He has no idea why, to him is just that simple. Love is love.

And that is why I listen. They are so young but so wise. They see the world as pure and beautiful.

I’m supposed to be their teacher but each day, if I can forget how the ride my last nerve and sometimes cause me to wish for a padded cell in the loony bin, they teach me something.

And that is why I’m quiet at the dinner table.

Watching Soap Operas

hospital archway

My mom has been sick, so sick that she landed herself in the hospital but not the hospital that I work at, a different one.

For the past couple of days, my life has consisted of working at a hospital, going home, going to another hospital, going back home and so on and so forth. Add in school functions, a carnival, kids, vomiting cats and a husband and you will know why I am beyond exhausted.

The good news is, she is getting better and should be coming home soon. Praise, Jesus.

One of the days last week, I was not needed at my hospital so I took the opportunity to go and sit with my mom. When someone you love it sick, it’s just good to be there. And since I had planned to spend the day is a hospital, I didn’t mind because at least at the hospital my mom was at, no one expected me to clean up their poop or start an IV.

My mom would sleep on and off between doses of pain medication and I just sat at her bedside. As the morning hours turned into early afternoon, my mom found the remote and clicked on the TV.

I looked up from my book to see what she had chosen to watch.

“Really, you are going to watch the Spanish channel?” I asked, “Did you learn to speak Spanish and not tell me?”

“Sometimes, I just like to listen to them speak,” she said with a sigh.

I giggled and patted her hand as she turned her attention back to the TV and then soon her breathing stilled like someone sleeping. I poured myself into my book as a heated conversation from the TV filled the room in Spanish.

As is the custom in a hospital, as soon as my mom was a sleep, someone came into her room to check on her and ask her the same questions the person before asked. She woke with a start and dutifully answered.

“Oh,” she said once the doctor had left, “I can watch my Soaps.”

She clicked the numbers on the remote and the channel changed as I was transported back in time.

I suddenly remembered when I was sick. I was maybe 8 or 9  and I had the stomach flu. I couldn’t go to school and had to stay home. Being that my mom worked full time, she didn’t always get to stay home with me when I was sick. She would usually get a grandma or a babysitter or take us to the neighbors house but this time, mom stayed home.

Precisely at 12:30pm, my mom walked into the living room and cuddled up with me on the couch. She scooped me up in her lap and clicked on her soaps. Together, we watched. For the next hour, I was in my mom’s arms. My stomach didn’t seem to hurt as much and I felt my body healing.

I didn’t really understand what was going on in the show but I liked it because my mom like it. It made me feel grown up and special to share something she liked. It was a time when nothing else mattered, nothing else was more important than just us being together.

Watching soaps became something special my mom and I shared together. As I got older, we would sometimes play hookie from school or work just to spend the day watching soaps. My sister would often join and it was just the girls wrapped up in the ridiculous world of soap operas.

I couldn’t help but smile at my memory and then realized that something similar was happening now. The soaps were on again and it was me who was holding her while she was sick. I was helping her feel better just being with her.

“Hey, I remember her,” I said looking up from my book, “Wow, I can’t believe she is still on the show.”

“Yeah, I know.” my mom said, “She’s been on for about 30 years and boy, does it show. You’d think she could get some work done.”

I laughed at my mom’s uncharacteristic snark.

“You know what’s crazy,” my mom began, “They have a baby one week and then the next week send that baby off to boarding school and then the next week they come back as a full grown adult while all the other characters are still living the same day.”

I laughed out loud at her observation.

“I know. That is so ridiculous.” I said, “Are they still using the same story line?”

My mom nodded, “Yes, someone who has been dead for twenty years has come back to life, someone slept with her sister’s husband and someone is having a baby but doesn’t know who the father is but it might be an alien.”

I laughed out loud again as my mom drifted back into her drug induced sleep. I left the soap opera on in the back ground and turned back to reading my book.

We were together, one feeling sick and the other just being there and  in the background was the Soap Opera… and that’s all that mattered.

My ‘New’ Motherhood

At dinner yesterday, I had a moment. It was one of those moments where I wanted to say, “Oh, I’m so verklempt.” But I wasn’t really sure how to explain that to the children so I just kept it to myself.

As we ate dinner and each of the children tried to out talk each other with stories of their day, I looked around. I really looked at each one of these people that I love so deeply it’s hard to put into words.

Jake wanting so desperately to make everyone laugh.

Claire wanting to be right.

Hayden trying to act so much older than eight.

Quinn speaking up but not quite loud enough to be heard by all.

I leaned back in my chair and I held my chest. There was a dull ache in my heart and a small tear in my eye. I can’t really explain why but I was just so over come. Each child is just so different but there is something about them that is so similar. They are a part of me and Jeff and sometimes that just blows me away.

I look at them and I see Jeff’s hairline on the boys and his ears. I see my eyes on Claire and my nose on Hayden. I can’t believe that I made them. These precious beings are mine… but for how much longer.

There is a shift that is happening, a change in how I am their mother. I can only assume that at some point every mother goes through this. There comes a time when your children need you less.

It’s the on going process of letting go and frankly, it sucks.

The first five years of life and very mommy centered. They were the center of my world and I of theirs. They needed me for so many things, my every waking thought, and even some dreams, were about them. The worries of is my baby eating enough, pooping enough, reaching the right development marker. They needed me to tell them when to eat and when to sleep. They needed me to dress them and get toys for them.

Not that I knew exactly what I was doing but I had a system and it worked. I knew how to be the mom of babies and toddlers and then one day that changed.

And here sitting around the dinner table are kids, big kids. Kids that will in just a few years be tweens and then teens and then God willing, if they don’t set themselves on fire or run into a tree, adults.

No more am I needed for every little things. They are older, they want to do things on their own. They have opinions and want a say in what happens to them.  They no longer want me to track their every bowl movement.

To be honest, I feel very lost and have since September when I put all 4 of my babies on the bus heading to school. I feel like I am going through a mini ‘Empty Nest’ syndrome. Every day from 8 to 4, I struggle with how to be a mother.

There are no diapers to change, bottles to make or battles over nap time. I am left with only me.  Being a mom to triplets and their big brother became my identity. And in that process, I lost who I was. I lost Jen. And without two babies in her arms and a toddler on the floor and another baby crying in the bouncy seat, I don’t know her.

I am still the mother of triplets and their big brother. But now I have the chance to be that and more.

What does that mean?

I have no idea. That is the part I struggle with. The part that I am still trying to figure out and comes to terms with. And I realized recently that probably about the time I do, it will be summer vacation and my time will probably once again be centered around the kids and their every want.

Without really realizing it, I entered this new phase of motherhood. Instead of dealing with diaper rash and leaky sippy cups, I am now left with how to deal with being the parent of the child who starts a food fight in the lunch room and having the son who wants to kiss all the girls.

This happened when I wasn’t looking and instead of embracing it and facing it, I’ve been holding onto the past. I’ve been wishing for the years of toddlers. I’ve been hoping that some smarty pants scientist will perfect time travel so I can go back to the familiar world of three infants and a toddler.

That’s what I know. That’s what what I’m comfortable with. Everything else scares the shit out of me.

There are times, I feel like I am loosing my mind.  I am seriously complaining about having more time for myself?

Yes and no. This is not just about having more free time and time for myself. This about a change in my life, a change in my family dynamic and a change in how I am a mother. This is entering a new phase. This learning how to parent older children so that they don’t turn out to be serial killers. This is about rediscovering who I am, my dreams, my talents.

This is my new motherhood, and scary or not, I’m knee deep in it so I better figure it out.

Being What… Thankful?!

As I scrolled through my news feed on Facebook, I read post after post of people listing things they were thankful for.

This had been happening day after day, post after post… I just didn’t get it. Why were people suddenly listing all they were thankful for?

I shrugged it off and continued on but I couldn’t shake the feeling like I was missing something big. But I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

Time past, I carried on with our normal schedule and then Jeff said to me, “You know since you will be working on Thursday, how about I take the kids to a local soup kitchen and we help serve a meal?”

My heart swelled at this wonderful notion that my husband was trying to teach our children. And it was then that all the synapses in my brain began to fire correctly and I realized, it’s  Thanksgiving.

Oh my word, Thanksgiving!?!

It all made sense why those around me were being thankful, they were taking time from their busy lives to be thankful and share that with other to help them be thankful too. I had totally missed the train.

Well, it’s never to late to be thankful for…

mashed potatoes

TV

giggling kids

wine

double stuff Oreos

cell phones

family

text messages

twitter

wine

jammies

high heels

chocolate

friends

friends having babies that I can hold and snuggle but not wake up int the middle of the night with

my body pillow named Legolas

movies

tissues

fake eyelashes

daughters

sons

butt jokes

the moment the kids get on the bus after the crazy rush each morning

sex

sleep

mothers

wine

laughter

skinny jeans

ballet flats

crisp blue skies

a man who make me laugh and married me

home

sisters and brothers

books

computers

good stories that make me laugh, cry and tingle

tears that make the good times even better

hugs

kisses

Internet

minivans

celery and it’s negative calories

medication

hot showers

absence making the heart grow founder

video games

oranges

fuzzy socks

morning coffee

blogging, readers,  feeling special and so so much more.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

A Mother’s Life After the Kids Go Back to School

Two weeks ago, my life completely changed.

I knew that this change was coming and I was really excited about it.

But now, after living with this for a couple of weeks, I realize that I have been effected in ways that I never thought possible.

The change that happened in my life… well, I am now an empty nester.

Ok, fine not really because my children didn’t all grow up to be adults over the summer and leave my house for good but because of school they do leave my house for a most of the day, leaving me with an empty nest.

Of course, my nest  fills up again at 4pm but that is besides the point.

I am now a mother of 4 school aged children who leave me to my own devices from 8am to 4pm every single day.

Now before you all throw stones at me and wish that you could be in my shoes, I am going to stop and say that I am not complaining about this.

It’s nice to be alone. It’s wonderful not have to rush through a shower because someone is putting peanut butter on the cat. It’s fabulous to be able to have a phone conversation without someone screaming in the background like their arm is being pulled off. And it’s heaven to be able to sit down and read a book without rereading the same sentence over and over because I had to get up 12 times to get someone juice.

No, I am not complaining.

It’s just that after being (semi… semi because I work part time) full time mom for 8 years, all this ‘me time’ is a bit overwhelming.

I feel a little lost. I find myself pouring sippy cups just because and not flushing the toilet because well, that’s how am I used to seeing the toilets… full of shit.

And I need to blare music through the house because the silence makes me uncomfortable.

Yes, the idea of being home all the time without kids is wonderful but the reality, well, that is a little scary. And I now understand why some woman decided to have another baby after all their kids are in school or at the very least get a puppy. When you are used to the non-stop chaos of children and then it suddenly ends because of school… talk about your mental breakdown.

But this is my life now.

My kids need to go to school because I am not going to school them at home and I have to get used to being by myself. I am not going to lie, the first few days of this were rough and I spent time trying to make the kids think they were sick so that one of them could be home with me.

“Oh honey, that hang nail is pretty bad. I think you better stay home today,” I would say.

Thankfully, my kids are smart and they would just run and get a bandaid and all was well.

I am getting used to being home alone. The days are filling up and I am finding other moms in my same situation and we are doing lunch. I am a lady of doing lunch. I can write without being distracted and I even decided to signed up for a humor writing class.

This is a time for me. I can once again put time and energy into my dreams. I can breath life into old passions and pursue new ones. The world is my oyster, as long as I am at the bus stop buy 4pm to get the kids, there is nothing I can’t do.

I know it sounds silly but somehow, I convinced myself that I was done being a mother when I had all my kids in school. I realized that is far from the truth. I am still a mother, I will always be a mother. It’s just that my mothering is changing and in a lot of ways becoming more complicated.

But the big question is still out there… what do I do all day?

Well, nothing is set is stone and it’s a little different each day.

Honestly, I am still trying to figure it out and I have yet to tackle that project list I have been making for last few years.

But here is a glimpse at my typical day (in no real order).

1. “Hi, I’m Mom! And I will be your short order cook.”

2. Ah, look… cats in a box… so cute!

3. Looking  fabulous while driving

4. Walk by pile of toys and think, “Man, someone needs to clean that up”

5. Watching my most favorite show of all time… “Charmed” with Twitter and coffee

6. “Huh, I wonder if these dog costumes would fit my cats. Cats love being dressed up.”

7. Dinner making and laundry

8. Making shadows puppets while walking

9. Playing ‘Mom Taxi’

So if  you are new to this ‘all kids in school’… how are you filling your time? And don’t say cleaning because I am not cleaning. Never have, never will.

This post if part of Writer’s Workshop

I Probably Need Some Kind of Therapy

I had a dream the other night that I just can’t seem to shake.

I remember it vividly and it brought up some things from my past that I had neatly tucked into a little box to be forgotten.

In my dream I was at a frat party, which in itself is a very weird thing since when I was actually in college, I was the farthest thing from a party girl.

I was a ‘good girl’… meaning I kept to my studies. My assignments were completed weeks in advance. I got up and made it to all my 8am classes… on time. And I only made out with my boyfriend on the weekends.

Anyway at the party, I was the it girl! The guys wanted me and the girls hated me.

Jim aka John Krasinski from ‘The Office’ was there in my dream.

Oh and Jeff was there but true to life when we first met at a party, I didn’t give him the time of day… until later.

Now, Jim was really into me. He wanted me something awful and just about the time things were about to get hot and heavy with us, my best friend from high school showed up to tell me that she was pregnant with twins and one of the babies was hanging out of her vagina.

“You have to help me!” she pleaded with me.

Just like I did back in high school, I jumped to her side… leaving a half naked Jim in my bed and delivered her baby but only one because only other twin that was not ready to come out. She, apparently, still needed to be pregnant.

Now, in order for you to understand this dream a little better and know why I am left unsettled, let me explain some things.

Growing up, I didn’t have very many friends. I enjoyed playing by myself or with a little boy cousin of mine more than the other girls in my class. It wasn’t until about second grade when two girls asked me to push them on the tire swing that I realized I should have girl friends to play ‘House’ and ‘Barbies’ with.

I wanted nothing more than to make these girls happy, I did whatever they asked. Shoot, there was a time that I wouldn’t even pee with out their permission.

These two girls became my friends and for many years, they three of us were inseparable.  It wasn’t until late middle school when the dynamic changed.

And looking back, things didn’t really change but I became more aware of what kind of relationship we had.

As our little group of three began to grow, I realized that I was not invited over to hang out with them as much. And if I was, it was because they needed something from me.

Homework project needs to be completed… Jenny will do it.

Bake sale cookies need to be made… Jenny will do it.

Boyfriend needs to be broken up with… yup, Jenny will do that too.

The more time that past,  the more I realized that they girls weren’t my friends. I also realized that no one in our school knew me for me. I was known as Sally and Betty’s friend. In high school society, I was nothing without them.  Heck, I didn’t know me without them.

During my sophomore year in high school, as I listened to Sally cry about how this guy didn’t ask her out and then when I tried to tell her about my ‘broken heart’ because Bob returned my note I passed him in class, checking the NO box… meaning he didn’t like me and she hushed me to talk to someone else… I truly saw our friendship for what it was.

It was then that I decided to leave my familiar high school and all my ‘friends’ and go to a different school.

I wanted a new start, a chance to be Jen and not Sally and Betty’s friend.

I told Sally and Betty of my plans and my reason for why but they didn’t get it.  Even so, promises were made to keep in touch.  We would call each other and hang out on the weekends.

Well, the phone calls never came and never once were plans made to hang out.

I put forth an effort to keep in touch but my efforts were never rewarded.

The years went by and nothing.

But being the eternal optimist that I am, I still held out hope that they would seek me out. And right about high school graduation time, I ran into Sally. I was so happy to see her, I wanted to do a back flip. My heart leapt for joy when she said, “sure, I’ll come to your graduation party.”

But on the night of my party, she never came.

I never saw her again.

And then, now almost 15 years after high school, I am dreaming about her.

Our relationship still haunts me.

I want so badly so close this chapter on my life and for many years, I thought I did. I have wonderful people in my life… true friends that love me for the person I am and not what I can do for them.  Friends who are truly there for me when I need them.

So why can’t I put this relationship to rest? Why do I still care so much?

It’s just that I want to know what happened. I want to know why I didn’t mean as much to her and she meant to me. I want to know if she was hurt by me leaving? I want to know what her life is like now. I want to know if she would like the person I have become.

I simply want to know if she ever thinks about me?

And I have to wonder, why did my subconscious put her in my dream?

Is it true that there is a reason that a person ‘pops’ into your head?

If so… why her? Why now?

My dream ended with Jim begging me come to bed with him and Sally begging me to stay with her and take care of her baby for her so she could go out on a date with someone.

The choice was just as obvious as it was back then.

I told Sally to get a life.

I told Jim to stop cheating on Pam.

And I walked towards Jeff.