Saturday, August 29, 2009

Itchy feet and wanderlust in the mid-life wasteland...

"Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living
I don't need to fight
to prove I'm right
I don't need to be forgiven"
From "Baba O'Riley" written by Pete Townshend

It has been a crazy hectic busy week. Always is the right before school starts. School supplies, shoes, clothes...getting the herd used to the idea of a changing schedule. As always, they all seem to have grown at least a foot. Sammy at almost eleven is about five inches shorter than me, and I am five feet five and a half inches tall. Oscar at eight is not too far behind him. Both of them wear size 7 men's. I am going to have some very big boys in a few years. Hopefully by then, they will be willing to carry in the groceries...or better yet-Carry me! Oh I can see it now.."Mom? (they won't call me mama anymore-Sammy is already outgrowing it) can you make me lunch? I'm hungry." I'll just look at them and say "I can't go to the legs are tired...carry me." Oh the fun I'll have!

So many changes happening. My kids are growing up. This year I will have three of the four in school full time, and Zoe in a part time.( pre-school) I have fantasized about this day-when all of them were out of the house..when I could listen to music without one of them yelling "mama! turn that noise down!" when I could clean without someone following behind me and remaking the mess..when I could sit down and just think-my own thoughts. When the background noise was of my own choosing and not of Pokemon or caillou. Oh I am giddy with expectation!

Sigh...I know what's going to happen though. They will get on the bus that first day of school, and I will waltz into the house. I will put on music and start the cleaning..singing at the top of my lungs the whole time. I'll get done in record time because no one is around to interrupt me. There will be no one to ask for snacks or socks, no one asking to be picked up or for a hug. Just silence. I'll start to think..."I wonder how Oscar is doing?..I wonder if Sammy is feeling less stressed..How is Lily handling her first full day?...Zoe should be home in two hours..I hope she isn't too anxious, being away from me for the first time...she is so little..she is uncomfortable in large groups...I wonder if she needs me..and then I'll start to cry.

It's hard watching them grow up. For eleven years I have been the center of a small little universe...that revolved around me. Now their universe has expanded. I am being replaced by friends, school, activities...which is what is supposed to happen. My kids have worked very hard at trying to navigate their way around this world of ours. It has not been easy-but they have done it-because I asked. Now they are doing it because they want to. How incredible is that?
Sometimes it is just so hard getting what you wished for.

I know I still have years of getting snacks and finding books ahead of me. Years of fighting and laughter and hugs. You never do get to stop being a mom. It is just that for the first time, I am sensing the end of a chapter....and the beginning of another. One in which I am not the main focus...and I find that bittersweet. I am awed by all of my herds accomplishments. They are wonderful kids. I just seem to be finding myself at loose ends. I have itchy feet and wanderlust.
There are so many things I still want to do, adventures to be had, dreams to be fulfilled. Only I am finding myself caught in this mid-life wasteland. I am still very much needed at home, but to a much lessor degree. I have too much time on my hands but not enough time to do anything about it.

So on that first day of school, when I am done doing all the necessary things that make our house livable..I am going to sit myself down with a big cup of coffee..maybe do a little writing, do a little dreaming. I have my own next chapter to plan. I am certainly not going to waste my time crying. Besides, I have to dream up ways in which to torment my older kids! Lets see...I'll ask them to carry me because my legs are tired...maybe wake them up in the middle of the night because I'm lonely? I know! I'll throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, right in the entrance, so they will have to carry me kicking and screaming out of the way...oh the possibilities are endless... There is no ending to possibility.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

procrastination makes a house a home

This month marks the fourth year that we have lived in this house. This is the longest I have lived anywhere in thirty years. I can't help it. I have itchy feet...I love to move, to start over, I crave change. Having four kids has put a bit of a damper on all of that. Especially when those kids abhor change of any kind. If it were up to them, we would live in this house forever. Until the end of time. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it..the middle school and high school in this town are not very good. As this is Sammy's last year of elementary appears that we will be moving next summer. That is if we can sell our house.

My house is a pretty New Englander from the outside. On the inside is a very different story. It was built in 1881, we are the third set of owners to inhabit it. Unfortunately, the last owner decided to "remodel" the inside of the house. Who knew there was such a style as "70's Slaughter House" Beautiful tin ceilings covered with drop down panels...and not just any old panels-asbestos panels..with the added allure of Styrofoam faux beams. Not only that-these lovely nine foot ceilings were dropped down to five and a half feet. With yards of electrical wires thrown lovingly behind them-live of course. All of the walls were dramatically covered with brown paneling, and a lovely matching wall to wall carpet covered the entire first floor-kitchen and bath included! Add the marbelesque red vinyl counter tops, and you have the house that crazy decorated.

We have done much to restore it to its original beauty. We did tear out the kitchen-much to Sammy's horror. He thought it was lovely-to which I responded "I saved it all for you in the can have it for your own home one day" Sadly, this made him happy. We removed the carpeting, and painted the paneling..we restored the tin ceilings..and then we just stopped.

Sigh...this always happens. We start off with the best intentions. We see the potential, and can't wait to get started. We plan and scheme, design and dream. We are avid do it yourselfers. Only because we can't afford to have anyone else do it. Otherwise we would be avid contractor hirers.

We have this strange pattern that we follow. We buy a cheap old house (this is our third) with the idea that we will fix it up, sell it, and make enough of a profit to buy a nice house that doesn't need any work. Doesn't seem to be working for us. Not at all.

Every year, Omar gets three weeks worth of vacation time. Every year we plan out each week in great detail. What projects we are going to undertake, what supplies are needed, what we plan to accomplish each day.This happens to have been one of those weeks.

We planned to finally fix the roof, look for an electrician, repaint the dining room and kitchen, install a dishwasher, and make plans for a second bathroom. So far we have had weekend guests, gone to the zoo, an amusement park, the beach, and played in the pool. It is Friday and Omar goes back to work on Monday. Oh well, he does have one more week in October.

I guess it is just a matter of priorities, or procrastination...or a little of both. Right now, our kids need us more. And really, what would you rather do-paint walls or be attacked by goats at the zoo? Yes, I did sustain a minor goat injury at the petting zoo-but that's a story for another day.

The point is, our kids don't notice all the work that needs to be done. Right now, a second bathroom isn't as important to them as spending time with us as a family. I certainly can't complain-I'm just happy that everyone finally uses the bathroom! To them, just being together-laughing, playing, enjoying each others company is what makes our house-home. Regardless of the ugly paneling.

I don't know what adolescence is going to bring, or what the future holds for any of our kids. I do know this-all that we have is this one moment-this brief slice of time...and I'm going to make the most of it. Relish every second. .. leaky roof and all! Because in this one moment-my kids know that they are loved-unconditionally-without question. They know they are home.

Omar and I will get it together as we always do. This is the way it always plays out. We finally finish the house-just in time to sell it. Never really having a chance to enjoy it in all its glory. That's o.k., because as long as we're together we'll always be home.

The other night, I found Omar hanging a toilet paper roll. Something that has needed to be done since we moved in. I laughed and said "I guess we are really going to be moving" he just looked at me-knowingly and said "I guess so". I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting my Oscar...

Every parent over time learns to decipher their children's cries..You know by the volume, the tone..
exactly how fast you need to get to them. Is it a "I fell of my bike and scraped my knee" cry? Or the more serious "My brother hit me in the nose with a snow shovel, and I definitely need to go to the E.R. because my face is gushing blood" cry. Thankfully, I have dealt more with the skinned knee sort of cry. (although the snow shovel incident did indeed happen) In fact, over time, I have gotten pretty good at knowing when to run and when to saunter. Except when it comes to Oscar. Out of all my kids, Oscar has aged me the most.

Oscar loves words. He loves mimicry, and he has quite the imagination. All wonderful things. My problem is, that he gets so caught up in the game that he is playing, he forgets that it is a game. So much that he can and often does convince me at times that he is in dire peril. "HELP MAMA!!! I'M STUCK!" There I go, running frantically.."Where are you!!! I'm coming!" Only to find him lying under one of the dining room chairs, perfectly capable of getting himself out. "Oscar, you scared me! I thought that you were really in can't do that.." "OOPS, sorry Mama..I made a mistake. I was pretending I was Thomas and my tender got stuck." Sigh..I have come to loathe Thomas and all little his tank engine friends..

Oscar has a way with words. He didn't really start speaking in sentences until he was almost six. At eight, his expressive language can be a little confusing. Sometimes I am not always sure what exactly he is trying to tell me. He has a unique way of expressing himself. "Oh no, I don't have a tree for the squirrels!" "What?, what squirrels?" "I need a tree, a tree for the nest!""Oscar, what nest? What squirrels?" "EEEEEEEeeeeeeeee!" and off he runs. I come to find later that he was thinking about an episode of "Clifford the Big Red Dog" I guess it was about homeless squirrels? Aren't there better ways to teach kids about raising social consciousness? But that's just my opinion.

He tries so hard, my curly headed wonder boy. At the store, in the park, in the restroom, if there is a person there, Oscar will introduce himself and our entire family, depending on who is with him. (we are working on the restroom thing) If you are wearing a name-tag, that is an open invitation to Oscar. Yesterday, at the deli counter, a young man by the name of Jim P. happened to be waiting on us. "Hi Jim P., my name is Oscar. This is my brother Sammy, and my sisters Lily and Zoe, and my mom Mrs. Leopold." I won't be surprised if one day he starts giving out our social security numbers as well. I think it is his genuine sincerity that attracts people to him. We have never gotten strange looks, nor has Oscar ever been ignored. He genuinely wants to meet people. He is a joyful boy. So very very funny as well.

Oscar knows how to make me laugh. He has a wonderful sense of humor-and knows just how to use it. If I am in a bad mood, cranky or just overtired, Oscar never fails to get a laugh out of me. There I'll be pacing and muttering to myself..Oscar will look at me and say "MAmaaaaa?""What?".."MAAAAMAaaaaa?" heavy sigh.."WHAT Oscar?!!" " FARMERS NIPPLES! heeheee! Say it mama! Say FARMERS NIPPLES!" "NO! I'm not going to say that!" "What won't you say Mama?" "Farmers nipples" "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...mama said FARMERS NIPPLES! HAHAHAHA!" How can you not laugh?

He got me again the other day. There I was in the kitchen, when I hear "help mama! I'm stuck..only this time it was muffled. I casually looked around, thinking that maybe he was in the closet, or locked in the bathroom. I couldn't fine him. We had talked about places he wasn't allowed to get stuck-like refrigerators, car trunks..I was scared now..I could not find him-and he sounded desperate! I ran out the door...and there he was..he had indeed gotten himself stuck. He had somehow managed to squeeze his body into our cat carrier and couldn't get out. It took a load of patience and some strength, but ten minutes later, we managed to pull him free. "Oscar! please don't ever ever climb inside there again!" "Ooops, sorry Mama...I was just being stuck in a tunnel." sigh...I really don't like Thomas the tank engine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Small time big change

"I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
and gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hovels and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in."
Based on a poem by Robert Fletcher-revised and set to music by Cole Porter

My ten year old is anxious about moving away from home. Yes, at ten, my son is already worried about living on his own. The other night as I was bringing him up to bed, he tried to slip through the "short cut" a broken section of our banister that the kids climb through. He got stuck. "Hey buddy, you're getting too tall to slip through there" "I am not tall I am ten years old" "Yes, but you are a tall ten year old" "No I'm not! I am the size that a ten year old should be" "Sammy, You are almost as tall as me..I thought that you were happy about that" "No..I will never be as tall as you!" sigh.."Buddy, whats going on here...I thought you were happy that you were growing so tall." "I don't want to move out." "WHAT!!! who said anything about moving out?""You did said that when I grew up I would move out and go to college" "Sammy,...buddy, I was talking about when you were older, when you graduated from high school...that maybe you would want to go to're only in the fifth grade..that's a long time from now" "But you said when I grew up!" "Oh Sammy, I didn't just mean physically..I meant when you were done with high school and were ready to move out." The tears start welling up in his beautiful dark green eyes. It is like looking at Bambi..or 'Ol Yeller through the scope of a rifle before they were about to be shot..big liquid pools welling up under incredibly long eyelashes.."I won't ever (hiccup) be ready..." "Oh don't ever have to leave matter what, you always have a home with me and papa" "But will it be for real?"he said while one big fat tear rolls down his cheek.."What do you mean for real...?""Will I still be able to eat dinner with you and have snacks and live in my room..." At this point the fantasy I had of me and Omar holding hands and running on a beach somewhere is slowly fading..only to be replaced by visions of me at eighty five years of age still making snacks, still filling juice cups..all while riding a "rascal". "Yes bud, always for real."

Sammy doesn't not like change...not one bit, and with puberty starting to rear its head, he doesn't have much choice. Change is coming whether he likes it or not. He does his best to try and control it.."Mama, when I go to college, can Oscar come with me?" "We'll see bud, Oscar may have different ideas of what he wants to do".."But we can have bunk beds..and I can bring my castle.." " Well, you can bring your castle...although you might not be interested in it when it is time for college." "I will ALWAYS play with my castle!! ALWAYS! I will never NOT want to play with my castle" "Then bring your castle!" sigh..We have lots of conversations like this..I have learned to just let things go... There is no point in arguing..Sammy will get there in his own time..I know this by looking at all the changes that have happened.

There was a time that I thought I would forever be watching the same episode of the Teletubbies at three in the morning..the one with LaLa and the bunnies..,a time when I thought he was going to eat pizza three times a day for the rest of his life (we are down to twice a week),A time when I thought that he would never talk, use the potty, wear short sleeves in the summer, ride a bike, read, sing at a concert..and so much more. I look back at all those things and think does it really matter WHEN he did those things-or rather, that he did them. He just did it in his own time.

Time is a funny thing. When you are in the middle of a bad stretch, it seems to crawl..and when things are running smoothly it speeds up. I look back on all of Sammy's past struggles, and they seem so insignificant now that we are not in the midst of them. And yes, he still has many challenges ahead of him, but he has worked so hard and come so far. In his own way and at his own pace. He is an incredible boy.

This evening while the kids were riding their bikes up and down the driveway, Sammy came to me and said.."Mamma?...when are you going to let me ride my bike in the street?" "Sammy, you really need to be able to pay attention to cars and the road before I can let you do that" "But I'm almost eleven Mama!" Sigh...I have to laugh at my silliness....There I was thinking "When will you finally grow up!" and at the same time kicking myself wondering "When am I going to LET them grow up?"I guess change isn't always easy for anyone.

I do dream of a day when Omar and I can have some time together. ALONE. When my kids don't need us quite so much. I don't know what the future holds for any of them. The only thing I do know is that they will get there when they get there. Hopefully, I won't be eighty five. But if I am..I'm going to be riding a kick-ass "rascal"..that's for damn sure.