Thursday, August 16, 2012

A New Normal is Coming

Today marks the last day of the old normal for our family.  Tonight I attend my first leg of a 3-day orientation for Savannah Law School.  Some of my friends know I took the LSAT back in June, hoping to earn a score high enough to clench a full scholarship to become a member of SLS's inaugural class (which I did).  Those closest to me have also listened to me agonize for months over this decision.  It's just not like me to make any decisions lightly, and my tendency to over think (and worry) complicates matters.  Is this the right time?  Do I even want to be a lawyer?  How will I stand being away from my kids so much?  Do I even want to be a lawyer?  Will I find the time to read my assignments and keep up with the material?  Do I even want to be a lawyer?

I think it's clear what my main dilemma has been.  The answer is that I don't know.  I don't know with 100 percent certainty that I want to be a lawyer.  What I do know is that the life we had before is no longer a luxury available to me.  The coveted role of stay-at-home mom was partially left behind when I returned to the classroom part-time last year.  I know I love the way things are right now.  I get to be in a classroom (one of my favorite places to be) and spend a great majority of my time with my kids (no brainer).  There are many times, however, that I curse our lack of disposable income and wish I had the luxury of getting a haircut or buying my kids' school clothes in one fell swoop.  How funny I used to think pedicures and highlights were basic necessities of life. 

So, here's the thing.  I'm choosing to take advantage of an incredible opportunity to try a new adventure without a big, fat student loan.  I've got a husband who fully supports me and three little boys who think it's super cool Mommy is going to law school (Scout just wanted me to read her a Ninjago book when I sat down to tell them).  I know that I'm interested in helping people, that I love the scientific aspects of medical malpractice and personal injury cases (where I imagine for now that my ultimate career will head), and that deep down, I'm kind of a nerd. 

No, I'm never going to sit riveted to NPR (gag!) or have passionate discussions on politics (blech).  Like I said, I'm kind of a nerd.  I do love a challenge.  I love to unlock the puzzles the law often presents.  So I think it's worth a shot.  I can always change my mind if I need to, but I tend to throw myself full force into anything I do.  I'm hoping I love it tremendously and that in four years, my newfound, fulfilling career offers my family financial stability and college funds for the Joneslets.  How cool is it that I get to go to school in such a great city, too?  And at night, of all things.  I'll be a frazzled mess, but I get to stay in my classroom and retain my coveted role of mommy.  If I can really get my act together, I might even still find time to run. 

Our family will be adjusting to my absence three nights a week in the midst of a new school year and continued play therapy sessions.  The change will definitely be a challenge.  I'm nervous but in some ways excited to have a plan.  When you've walked around with your stomach in knots for three years, a plan is at least action.  Action rather than worry has been a long time coming on my part.  Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Have I Forgotten How to Have Fun?

It occurs to me my little blog, which is usually laced with humor, has grown a bit darker as I document our family struggles. This shift was certainly never my intention, but I did choose to call it "Life on the Seesaw" for a reason. Sometimes parenting is hilarious and a series of "up" experiences, and other times it is a struggle to remain afloat and aware of who you are. Right now we're on the down end of the seesaw, but I am trying to remember to smile and laugh at our experiences in the midst of it all.

Honestly, remembering to smile has been a struggle lately, and many days I feel overwhelmed and unsure which end is up. As any parent knows, life doesn't stop because there is a problem or crisis. Though we are seeking help for Hudson, we still have the weight of every day life, which means laundry, dishes, meals to cook, toys to pick up, work, cars that don't work, too much month at the end of the money, and three other kids who have emotional and physical needs. Jason says one day we'll look back and crack jokes about having to jump start the van's battery every day (no lie--we really have to do this), and I like to think we'll look back on this decision to get help and think it was a turning point in our family.

Last night we attempted to take the kids out for Mexican food, and the effects of our journey on all of them has never been more apparent. We started with Lawson hitting us and throwing a tantrum because he couldn't sit in my lap as we waited for a table. When we finally sat down, Scout refused to keep the lid on her cup and ultimately spilled her water all over the floor. I then had to take Lawson to the restroom for a "come to Jesus meeting", and by the time I got back, Scout was in full diva mode. I returned to the table from walking her around only to have her screech "I hate you!" at the top of her voice. When the food finally reached us, I spilled a glass of ice water in my lap, and that event marked the end of my rope. I swear I heard the entire restaurant cheer when we finally walked out--with Scout screaming the entire way to the door and throwing herself on the floor just in front of it and demanding to be carried.

As we headed home, we explained to the boys everyone was going to bed a bit early, but when we walked through the door, we discovered Libby the Farting Dog had gotten into the trash and strewn it all over the playroom. I sent all the kids to bed immediately so that we could clean it up, which sent Camden into a tailspin. We finally got him settled down around 11:00, but not before he had gone into full hysterics.

Today was no better. All three boys had a melt-down before lunch. Lawson and Camden believe Hudson hates them, Hudson hates me, Scout hates everyone, and Lawson thinks Jason and I hate him. Basically, the underlying theme of the house is "hate". Hudson was scheduled for a play therapy appointment today, and I showed up with all four kids in tow. Jason met us at the office, and when I poured my heart out to his therapist, she changed our appointment to an emergency family appointment. We now have a strategy in place and an appointment with all three boys next week. I'm so thankful for someone who sees my family is in crisis and takes action to arm us with the tools we need to make it better. So far the "fine" (losing a toy for every hit, ugly name, or declaration of hate) that has been implemented has netted me ten toys among each of the kids. I wonder how long it will take them to catch on.

Maybe months from now I will look back on this week and on last night's experience at Jalapeno's and laugh. For now, I'm going to avoid dining in public like the plague.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day by Day

I've decided it's going to have to be okay for me to have a bad day.  I think it's the only way I'm going to make it through all of this without having a mental breakdown.  I've put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to be positive, determined, strong, and consistent, but the reality of the situation is that sometimes it's just hard to do that every single day. 

Today I'm giving myself permission to feel overwhelmed. To feel afraid. To feel frustrated. To cry. To worry about how in the world I'm going to find the tenacity to work, go to school, parent four children effectively, and find some sliver of time for my husband and for myself when we have limited financial resources and no family near to help.  In a nutshell, I'm scared.  Hudson's challenges, needless to say, are not the only stress factors in our life, but they're going to have to be pretty forefront right now.

I put my head down on the stairs at Hudson's feet today and cried as he was wrapping up a verbal onslaught against me and a fierce physical altercation with his bedroom door.  I know it makes me weak--and it probably undermines the stability and security I'm working so hard to give him--but in that moment, I felt so lost and overcome that it just happened.  I wonder how many days I'll have like this and how evident it will be to all of my kids even when I'm putting on my bravest face and sunniest voice.  Most of all I worry how my slip-ups will impact them.  It's just the beginning, and I have to believe it's going to get easier.  I miss my family support system more than ever right now, but I've just got to come to grips with the fact that it's on us to make this work and make it work well.  Please continue to cheer for us and pray for us, especially on days like today.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The First Step Forward

Today Jason and I took Hudson on what we decided was a date.  We're fairly certain it's the first time since Hudson was a toddler we have hung out together sans siblings.  We stopped by Daddy's office to pick something up, headed to the play therapist's office, and then celebrated a great visit with her with a little lunch.  All in all, it seemed easier than I thought it would be.  I guess asking for help really is the hardest part. 

We're starting out slowly with opportunities for Hudson to build a trusting relationship with his therapist.  We wished we could have had a bird's eye view into his time in the play therapy room, but we did hear him yelling (the silly kind of yelling) and laughing.  At one point I turned to Jason and remarked the therapist might think we're full of crap since he seems so happy and comfortable with her.  From what I gather from our first meeting, she is kind, invested, empathetic, and insightful.  She feels people in Hudson's life should invest the time to understand how he works, but she also knows he will have to learn to deal with life when it doesn't provide this ideal social construct. 

ADHD has for the most part been taken off the list of possibilities, and sensory integration disorder has been put on the list.  Right now the goal is to teach him some coping mechanisms, and I'm just fine with that.  Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement for all of our family members.  My faith is stronger than ever that life, in all of its beauty and possibility, is holding the door open for our little man to step through in his own way and in his own time.      

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Aftermath

I can honestly say I had no idea what kind of response I would get when I opened up about our journey with Hudson.  I don't know if I'm just desensitized to the situation because I've faced it for so long or if I'm so aware of how lucky we are to have only this one challenge that I didn't realize how our story would impact people.  Either way, I was caught off guard by the overwhelming amount of people who reached out to us, encouraged us, committed to pray for us, and opened up about their own personal experiences.  I'm genuinely touched and grateful while maintaining a "deer in headlights" degree of surprise. 

Our first appointment with the counselor is tomorrow, and I'm now excited about moving forward in a positive direction.  She is a licensed play therapist and a retired special education teacher, and I feel like she is a great starting point for us.  Strategies that work are especially important to us, but I think a diagnosis is particularly important to me, whether it's anxiety or ADHD or Asperger's or any other possibility.  I have always put a great deal of stock in the field of psychology, and the mind itself is one of the most fascinating components of human nature.  If the body is sick, treating the particular ailment rather than stabbing at the dark with guesses is essential, and the same philosophy should be applied to the mind.  I'm not seeking a label for my son, but I am seeking a direction and an opportunity to arm myself with information so that we can help him in the most effective way possible. 

Thank you for the insights many of you offered me in disclosing your experiences with your own children.  I feel more open minded now and more willing to face whatever direction we are sent.  Our goals include acting as advocates for Hudson and achieving a greater degree of stability and positive energy in our household.  In many ways I feel like Hudson's challenges are a lesson in tolerance for Camden, Lawson, and Scout and a chance for us to learn to make sure each of our children feels special and nurtured.  Further, I hope our kids will learn empathy and acceptance for other kids who face various challenges. 

In all honesty the most powerful needs I feel right now are to arm Hudson with coping skills for every day life, to give him confidence and a healthy perspective of himself and the world around him, and to surround him with friends who look past his debilitating introverted nature and see the silly, loyal kid he is.  I always feel an irrational need to protect him from those who choose to overlook opportunities to connect with him because it doesn't come as easily as it normally would with other children.  I've tried very hard to help family members and friends find ways to reach out to him, and I'm so thankful they have put in the extra time to adjust their interactions to fit Hudson's social needs.  I'm also so grateful for his elementary school's counselor and administration because I know they are rooting for us to find the answers we need and willing to work with us to help Hudson reach his potential for success in school. 

Like any kid Hudson has good days and bad days.  The past two days have been such good days that I'm almost willing to overlook the fact that Scout is twirling around in a tutu singing "stupid butt" because she heard it from her older brothers.  Today it's back to the reality of making our situation work for our family as a whole and laughing at all the funny moments we're treated with throughout the day.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your support and for the love you have shown us.  I look forward to speaking to and/or corresponding with those of you who reached out to us over the coming months.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Moving Forward Into Scary Territory

Today I spoke to a counselor about our son, Hudson, and we're taking steps to see her in the next few days.  Everything I've poured my heart out to my girlfriends and parents about has suddenly become much more heavy and real.  I'm nervous about taking this step when I feel like I should be relieved and excited to finally talk to someone who seems to grasp the gravity of our situation and who genuinely wants to help.  Someone who might actually help me become a better mom all around, not just a better mom to Hudson.  Why then do I feel like such a failure instead?

After years of working around symptoms of everything from social anxiety disorder to Asperbergers, I'm completely at a loss.  My descriptions to the counselor are all over the place, but the underlying theme is helplessness.  I'm almost numb to Hudson's declarations that he hates me, and unfortunately, he is perceptive of this fact.  His angry words have manifested into a game of sorts, where he dishes out various insults throughout the day to figure out what does and does not impact me. 

Two nights ago, I listened from the kitchen as he screamed at his father, called him a coward and an idiot, and then retreated to his room in a torrent of rage and physical violence (inflicted on his bedroom door, not on his family).  We never really know what to anticipate as triggers to his behavior and often watch as our sweet, quirky, sensitive kid morphs into a monster even he himself despises within a matter of seconds.  The fits go as quickly as they come, and Hudson is often left sobbing in frustration at his inability to control his emotions.

Whether your child's pain is physical or emotional, the effect is just as debilitating.  When my children hurt, I hurt.  After I launched my latest campaign against Hudson's cruel verbal tirade (spending the day in his room until he learns to speak respectfully), I walked away to calm down.  I stepped into the garage to turn out the lights and was stopped in my tracks by my child's heartbreaking sobs.  His room sits right above the garage, and the pain in his crying was unmistakable. 

I crept slowly up the stairs and listened outside his door as he sang to himself (still choking on sobs) and then talked quietly to himself about what a bad boy he is.   Never in all of his six years have we ever told him he is a bad boy.  This conclusion is one he's drawn himself based on what our actions and handling of his situation are saying to him.  My heart aches knowing he sees himself this way instead of the beautiful, enigmatic little man I see.  He recently told me he was never going to be able to stop having outbursts because he was only six years old and didn't know what to do.  All of his actions once the fits have passed are saying what he lacks the maturity to say.  "Mom and Dad, I feel helpless.  Please do whatever you can to help me say what I need to say." 

My husband discovered a line in a book he had given after the birth of one of our children and left it lying on the bed that night for me to find.  The line was "I need you to love me the most when I don't seem to love you at all."  My husband is my true parent-partner, and his subtle, gentle reminder gave me the push I needed to call in reinforcements.  Even though I'm human enough to wish I could have figured out the right answer for myself, Hudson's health and happiness far outweigh any egocentric notions I'm holding on to.  I do know that God created and loves my wonderful Hudson, and he chose me and Jason to be his parents for a reason.  Until the counselor tells me to do something different, I will respond to every outburst with a hug and an "I love you."

We're going on a journey into the unknown, and we're going to need lots of prayers and encouragement as we move forward.  Today the counselor threw out the word "emotional and behavior disorder."  I cringed as I flashed back to my first year teaching resource classes with students enduring varying degrees of EBD.  Many of those closest to me know about the challenges we've faced with Hudson, but this step is different.  I will try to open myself up a bit more in the hopes that what we face and find will be helpful to other parents.  Writing about it will hopefully help me, too, since my feelings of confusion always seem less muddy once I've written them out.  Often the solution to a problem reveals itself to me in my writing, or anger and pain ease just in the process of letting my emotions flow through my fingers as they scramble across the keyboard. 

Go on this journey with us, but please understand that mocking the field of child psychology when you don't understand it or smugly assuming what Hudson needs is old fashioned corporal punishment will raise my hackles and defenses quickly.  If there is anything my years as a mom and as a teacher have taught me, it's that you can't presume to know the answer to someone's problems if you've never walked a mile in their shoes.  It's age old advice Atticus Finch relied upon, and it's good enough for me.  After trying in vain to find the right solution, I'm putting my faith in someone who has insight into Hudson's mind and training in how to help him that I lack. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Toy Story Effect

Yesterday I got to sit down with all of my kids and enjoy Toy Story 3.  Although we've easily watched it twenty times before, the movie always holds our attention from start to finish.  Camden watches me carefully to gauge when the tears start, and with each viewing, it happens earlier and earlier.  This time I made it until the moment Andy's mom walks into his room and sees it bare for the first time.  When she mutters "I wish I could always be with you," the waterworks really cranked up.  I imagine myself as the mom from the commercial that shows her jumping in front of dodge balls as they are hurled at her child during P.E.  I could totally be that mom.

One day they will go off to college.  It will come sooner than I'm ready and faster than I realize.  I'm already torn over my feelings for my kids' growing independence.  Camden can now function fairly independently, picking out his own clothes and dressing himself and taking big kid showers.  Bath time was always time to connect with the kids one-on-one, and now I've lost that with him.  I know it's important for their development to learn to do things for themselves, though, and Hudson has now become my little project.  I'm teaching him how to wash his hair thoroughly and stepping aside to let him bathe himself while I sit by and give suggestions.  I've tried to make it kind of funny with lines like "don't forget your undercarriage" or "make sure you get the twig and berries."  Hudson tends to be my most resistant to letting go of me, so making him laugh detracts from his protests and complaints. 

Lawson will soon follow (and often does if he and Hudson are in the same room).  Scout apparently was born an old soul with a very defined sense of self because it's been months since I was allowed to pick out her clothes or assist her with any kind of attire related tasks.  I do enjoy watching her become a helpless diva when she's with her daddy, though, and I respond to his hapless looks of frustration with smug satisfaction, considering I brought up three Mama's boys. 

My Aunt Dottie has two grown boys, and she tells me she has loved their teenage and young adult years.  Considering how much I loved teaching my middle and high schoolers, I hope I'll feel the same way.  Despite the fact that they'll need me less for physical tasks, I hope they will turn to me for help with their emotional needs.  My relationship with my parents was very real, and I especially told my dad everything even when it hurt him to hear it.  My goal is to foster the same kind of honesty and hope for the best. 

My empty nest years will come like a snowball.  The boys will head to college one after the next (ouch says my bank account), and Scout will follow a mere three years later.  I'll probably cling to her with such unabashed attachment that she will hit the ground running the second her college acceptance letters arrive.  In the meantime I'll try to stop sniffling quietly every time Camden mutters I embarrass him (seriously, isn't seven a little young for that?) and remember to be thankful for the times I can't sit down and eat my dinner because my kids are too small to reach the cabinet full of cups or dip a second helping from the stove without a stool to stand on.  Pretty soon they'll live hours away like I do from my parents, and I'll be grateful simply to hear their voices on the other end of the phone line.  That reminds me.  I need to call my parents.

P.S.  This is almost embarrassing to ask, but does anyone else feel guilty when they toss their kids' old toys?  It's like I can imagine them crying dramatically like Barbie does when she's on her way to Sunnyside Daycare. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's Family Dinner, Darn It!

I really wanted to use an expletive in the title, but my innate "prose politeness" somehow prevents me from following through with it.  I've just gotten up from another comical yet disastrous Jones family dinner, and I'm reeling with multiple emotions, namely disgust, frustration, and bemusement.

Every evening I fight many factors to accomplish the impossible task of sitting six Joneses down in the same space for longer than fifteen minutes. I consider myself a well-informed parent, and I've read many times that experts believe children not only learn social skills at the dinner table, but they also have more positive connections when they endure regular family meals.  I sometimes allow myself to wonder what an "expert" might take away from one of our meals, but then the shuddering starts and I have to nix my visions.

Tonight's debacle revolved around spaghetti.  The trick is to lure my husband into the kitchen and hand him plates I scoop and prepare to each child's liking and then pray he doesn't call the pigs to slop before I can get our plates fixed.  Tonight was an epic fail.  By the time I sat myself down, our oldest had ingested his entire plate of food in an action that can only be accurately  described as "scarfing."  It was almost revolting to watch, but I found myself marveling at his speed.  I couldn't look away and froze, plate in hand, for a solid two seconds while a multitude of fleeting thoughts raced through my head. 

"Man, there goes my chance to sit down.  He's going to ask for seconds the moment my butt hits the chair.  I wonder if he'll have a stomach ache later.  His second helping is going to be wasted because halfway in, his brain will catch up to his stomach to tell him he is full.  Stupidly slow hypothalamus.  Why is Jason waiting on me to hand him a bowl and water?  What is this?  1955?  Wow, look at Hudson go.  He's really eating, too.  Crap, Lawson sat at Camden's spot at the table.  Now he has the large helping but a tiny appetite.  No wonder Camden finished so fast.  Man, I'm hungry."

This internal dialogue ran its course within seconds, and as predicted, Camden asked for seconds the moment I sat down.  As soon as I handed him his plate and tried to sit down again, Hudson asked for seconds.  As I sat down a third time, Camden said he was done (with half a plate of spaghetti left) and asked to be excused.  Around this time, I got the crazy eyes.

"No!  You may not be excused.  We will sit for a family meal and talk.  Yep, talk."

It's connection time, baby.  Topic:  If you conquered the universe, what would you do?  Ah, clever, Molly.  You are so good.  The first sign of trouble came when one child said he would kill everyone and allow aliens to take over the planet.  Cue internal dialogue:

"Kill?!  What, is he a sociopath?  Why is Jason stuffing his face and acting like he didn't hear that?  Why are the other two boys laughing so hard?  Crap, Scout just rubbed spaghetti in her hair.  Whoops, I know that look.  She's got to pee (as she slides deftly off her chair and bolts from the room).  Hmm, how do I handle this?" 

The shocking response (delivered in typical boy fashion) elicited a reprimand from me on appropriate dinner conversation (and conversation in general), and I made a second attempt at finding a successful conversation starter. 

If you had $100, what would you buy?  Brilliant.  Camden would buy a rocket ship.  Little does he know that little purchase will be made of paper mache at that price, but I admire his lofty goal.  Lawson would buy a house with a pool in the front yard AND back yard, and Hudson would.....wait.  Did Jason seriously just get up in the middle of our conversation and lie down on the couch? 

This act led to a reprimand about setting an example (better known as nagging) followed by protests that he's tired and his head hurts, but all I saw was an opportunity for shameless manipulation and guilt trips as I listened to the boys yelling hysterically and trying to top each other with ridiculous scenarios and purchases.  Poor Hubs.  No doubt his head hurt.  I managed to chase down a rogue Lawson and Hudson down and drag them back to the table and then pulled Lawson out from under the table where he was undoubtedly feeding our crafty dog.  I then lectured the boys on the importance of respecting others when they talked and using appropriate words and volume levels at the table so that their poor daddy could bear to sit and have a meal with them.  Jason looked fittingly overwhelmed, which earned him brownie points.  

"Okay, Mom."

"Tomorrow, we have FAMILY DINNER.  A proper family dinner. Does everyone understand?"

(Imagine the stern mommy stare.)

"Yes, Mom."

"Now, what do you say when you would like to leave the table?"

In unison, "I enjoyed it, Mom.  May I be excused?"

Sigh. "Yes."

Cue obnoxious "Pokemon" theme song and three little boys singing contentedly along.  Imagine a jaded but determined mommy eating a cold dinner alone at the table.  Wash, rinse, repeat. I'll do it all over again tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Middle Child Syndrome to the Tenth Power

I am nearing the end of my rope and teetering on the edge of helplessness when it comes to dealing with my second child's emotionality. Let me preface this post by saying that while I appreciate all the parenting critiques and suggestions that will follow your reading it, we have tried almost all of it--charts, positive reinforcement, time out, spankings, rationalizing, you name it. Our kid is not spoiled, we are not ineffective parents, and going back to the good ol' days when an ass whipping solved all of life's problems is not the answer. If that were true, I wouldn't be sitting here agonizing over what to do and using my blog as an outlet for worry and frustration.

Our son is an introverted middle child who lacks confidence, the ability to read some of life's social cues, and a healthy outlet for processing and dealing with his emotions. After meeting with his teacher and the school counselor this year, I'm confident he has finally learned to reign in some of his behaviors in the classroom. He even made his second good friend this year. The flipside to this coin is that he vomits up all the anxiety he's internalized during the day all over me within minutes of coming home from school. Now that school is out, I thought things would get better. Instead, I brace myself for screaming tantrums and verbal outbursts every time I decline a request or we transition from one activity to the next.  I'm not sure how much more "I hate yous" I can take.

As I type this, he has confined himself upstairs to his room and refuses to participate in family activities. His behavior is beginning to drive a wedge between the two social relationships I can count on in his life, which are the ones he has with his brothers. They are playing together beautifully and picking up right where the gap the absence of my middle child leaves off. In turn, my reclusive, emotionally fraught son retreats further within himself and abandons coping skills he's built up over the school year. He feels left out, but he doesn't know how to pick up and move on from anger so that he can interact with his brothers in an engaging, playful way. This vicious cycle has been repeating itself day after day. 

He's come so far in so many ways. He started out agonizing and worrying over leaving me and going to Montessori school every day when he was two and a half. In pre-k I had to move him from one program to a smaller, quieter environment because he was a complete sobbing, reclusive mess for weeks at the first school he attended. He smiles at adults he knows, gives hugs to grandparents, and makes eye contact when he meets new people now. But he also destroys his room in fits of rage and launches into uncontrollable tirades when calm turns to chaos. He's the kid playing by himself when the other seven kids at the playdate are screaming and running around upstairs.

I'm the mom who loves her kid so much it hurts and at the same time can't even enjoy his presence because our situation makes me so unhappy. Our next move is a play therapist who comes with glowing reviews. I'm investing all of my hopes for my son's emtional well being (and mine) in her very capable hands. We need people to cheer us on and support us on this journey as we search for help in a matter that is beyond our area of expertise. I think my kid has potential to impact the world in a powerful way if I can just figure out how to equip him with the tools he needs to navigate this tricky journey we call everyday life.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Look Back

Hello to my little blog, which I've so grossly neglected over the past few months. The eve of my ninth anniversary seems a very appropriate time to delve in again because looking back on the years with my husband always stirs feelings of pride and strength that have carried me through times of both difficulty and joy. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I think about the two of us working so hard to build our family, a job that began with us freaking out on my 26th birthday as we stared at a pregnancy test. We had only been married for six months, and we were simultaneously excited and terrified.

When we saw a positive the second time, I was excited, and Jason was terrified. I remember watching him in amusement as he tore through the instructions to verify the results. We were aiming for two kids 18 months apart, so I think the 15 month age difference we were facing seemed a bit daunting for him.

The third go-round was a complete surprise--not mapped out like the first two. I flung the positive test at my husband and subsequently flung myself onto the couch and burst into tears. Ugh. Nine more months of grouchiness, hormones, and sore boobs after only a four-month reprieve. Jason was calm and collected, which was great considering I continued to cry for five months.

Our three boys are incredible and worth every day of nausea, every grumpy exchange between two exhausted parents, and every agonizing hour of labor. Having the three of them so close together has provided us with a built-in adventure. We're generally ready for anything, and most of the time, we try to be present enough to laugh and eye roll in all the right places. One of the early best parts of having three boys in three years was enduring everyone's awed stares when I went anywhere, usually pushing a double stroller with two toddlers and carrying an infant in the baby Bjorn.

Today the best parts are being unfazed by chaos and having ready-to-go play dates in our own home. Adding our daughter to the mix caused some apprehension, but she has proven to be just the right mix of spark and sweetness to wrap her three brothers around her cute little fingers. She's given Jason adoration the boys reserved for me, and she's given me quadruple the love. Each child is so different, and learning to appreciate and anticipate their individuality keeps me on my toes.

 Through it all Jason and I have faced every happy time, content time, and dark time together. Sometimes we have done so harmoniously, and sometimes we have failed epically in providing a peaceful, conflict free environment for the kids. I've never worried that either of us is going anywhere, though, and I've never worried that trials don't lead to a better understanding of each other and our marriage. He's my hot tamale attorney; a fantastic dad; a driven worker; an unfailing supporter in my endeavors; a quiet enigma of wit, intellect, and inner beauty.

He's my best friend and the person God intended to stand beside me. I'll never doubt his capacity to impact the world around him in the kind, unassuming way he has, and I'll never stop feeling completely crazy about him. We're nine years into our legacy of love, and all I can think about is how rich my life is because I share it with him. Happy anniversary to my husband. I love you!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

No One Said It Would Be Easy

Many times when I back away from my blog, it's because I'm drowning in frustration and unable to keep my head above the waters of sanity long enough to find humor in my situation. Yes, I am confessing that I, annoyingly perky girl, fall off the wagon of optimism sometimes, and lately it's been more often than I've been willing to admit to myself.

I wish as children we could possess the foresight to understand the job our parents had (and have for all of their lives) is absolutely, unequivocally the hardest job in the world. It's a lifelong commitment of joy, laughter, snuggles, excruciatingly strong love, stress, chaos, frustration, and the best and worst life can bring out in people, coexisting in a strange hodge podge of time that passes so fleetingly it takes your breath away. For a mother (and I suspect for a father, too), it's an endless cycle of self-doubt, attempts to make the right call, and hugs and kisses to soothe anything from stomach viruses to skinned knees to mornings gone hopelessly awry.

This morning a devoted mother I've never even met but who has touched my life so deeply will bury her seven-year-old son. I've followed her blog for two years now, and her child's name has topped our kids' prayer list every morning. This mother has lived with an unshakable faith in God and in her son, and their story has impacted so many people. Her child's death has really shaken me, and I find myself even more painfully anxious and regretful about my capabilities as a mom. How can I lose my patience with my own seven-year-old so often when this mom doesn't have the luxury of hearing her little man's voice each day? If I had to choose Camden's sass and dramatics over silence, the choice goes without saying. Yet understanding what's really important and finding a way to overlook the daily stresses of life are sometimes mutually exclusive.

My ability to see the big picture is often clouded by the pop-up showers of worry. Am I bringing up little slobs because our house in such a state of disarray? Am I teaching them to disengage from the world because they see me on the computer checking email or Facebook? Am I telling them that what they have to say doesn't matter because I don't have the ability to sit and listen to an endless dissertation on Pokemon? Am I condemning them to a mountain of therapy bills because I'm such a mess myself?

My only hope is that my efforts to show them I love them and appreciate their individual personalities outweigh the times I fall short. It's hard not to worry your commitment to your children gets lost in translation when you're exhausted and overwhelmed. There are four of them looking to me to validate them and build them up as human beings, and sometimes it's just really hard to do when I can't remember the last time my house was clean or when I had more than six hours of sleep.

For all of the parents out there who carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, just know you're not alone. We all endure self-doubt and guilt. My guess is, however, that we also all muster the strength and energy soothe sick babies and hose spaghetti puke out of our vans even when we are too worn down to form coherent thoughts. We hold sick toddlers in our laps while we type or fold clothes. We say "I love you" as much as possible, and we find the courage to apologize when we make mistakes. We reiterate to our kids that our love isn't based upon how often they themselves fall short, either. It's unconditional. Then we try to remind ourselves that the love they feel for us works the same way.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beachin' It

Yesterday was our first beach day of the season. It went as well as could be expected. I received a phone call from my better half, who was already on Tybee, around 10:30 a.m. urging me to gather the three troops who were with me and come meet him and our oldest. Of course, gathering the troops means something entirely different to me than it does to him; thus, our first day back on Tybee went a little something like this (c'mon!).

10:30-10:45--allow children to watch the remainder of their show while I dig for swimsuits. Break up two fights and mop up my daughter's pee puddle, which is on the living room carpet next to her potty. Apparently my strategy to bring the potty to her is an epic fail.

10:45-11:30--battle with two of four children to actually put down the Wii and TV remotes, put on a swimsuit, and brush the fur off of their teeth. Sit in what remains of pee puddle when trying to dress boys.

11:30-12:30--battle with Scout over which lovely bathing suit to wear and how best to coordinate beach cover and swim shoes. Dig for ponytail holders and marvel when she decides to keep her pigtails up. Search for cooler and pray it isn't growing mold. Brace myself (unnecessarily) to lose consciousness from stench when I open lid. Add sandwich fixings minus one important item--bread. Call hubby and ask him to get bread. Then text hubby and ask him to buy cheap sunglasses.

12:45--yell at hubby in stress induced frustration when he questions what is taking me so long. Dig up crappy snacks for hungry kids and try to wrestle everyone to the van and into booster and car seats.

1:00--head to Tybee and call hubby repeatedly and wonder why I am getting no answer. Fight back PMS tantrum and frustration as I get closer to Tybee with no designated plan for meeting up with hubby and firstborn child.

1:30--make third loop around the island while hubby nonchalantly purchases sunglasses.

1:45--pull my van into hubby's killer parking spot, grab bread from him, and proceed to make sandwiches to eat in the van while he searches for a new spot.

2:00-2:30 p.m.--start unloading beach chairs, cooler, buckets, shovels, Hotwheels cars, towels, camera, Pooh Bear, and the kitchen sink and witness two trucks full of rednecks on Spring Break fight over a parking spot. A nearby EMS responder walks over to intervene just as winner of the Biggest Redneck contest, heretofore known as "blue pickup truck driver," tries to run his truck over the curb and into the back of close runner up to Biggest Redneck , aka "red pickup truck driver and drunk bare chested passenger." Begin to suspect I've been teleported to Panama City Beach instead of Tybee Island.

2:30-2:45 p.m.--settle into a pretty nice spot on the beach only to discover Camden is already chest deep in the freezing cold ocean. Wade in after him and suffer mild hypothermia as a result of my quest. Change Scout's poopy swim diaper and walk back to boardwalk to toss nasty mess. Encounter many drunk girls who don't believe in using sunscreen, most of whom have glittery belly button rings and unfortunately placed tattoos on their lower torsoes. Laugh to myself as I imagine saggy post-baby tats and stretched body jewelry scars.

3:00 p.m.--pop open a 25-ounce can of Mike's Hard Lemonade, a very much appreciated peace offering from hubby. Joined by friend and his daughter. Friend apparently enjoys hypothermia and plays with our boys in the ocean while sweet daughter plays with Scout.

3:30 p.m.--cold, wet rain begins to fall. Notice two of four children have blue lips, and one has uncontrollable shivers, which I interpret as actual sign of hypothermia. Pack all of our stuff and slowly struggle to get back to the van, sulking that we won't get our money's worth of our paid parking, which does not expire until 5:50 p.m.

3:40--return Jason to his truck and stop at fishing pier so that I can pee in the smelliest, most disgusting public restroom I've seen since celebrating my 21st birthday at skanky karaoke bar.

4:45 p.m.--pull back into driveway after sitting in traffic for an hour to travel all of twelve miles.

And we can't wait to do it all again next time!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Fine Art of the Family Photo

Ah, the joy of taking a picture with all of our children and achieving the ultimate victory of No Photoshop Required. Just kidding. There's no such thing as No Photoshop Required when you have four kids who absolutely loathe having their picture taken. As a result, I have almost no pictures of all four kids together and only one picture of all six of us together. Even that one required the mad Photoshop skills of friends who are photographers. (Thank you, Jimmy Fulcher and Heidi Schardine.) Here it is. The lighting is still poor, but all the kids look happy and calm. What a great facade.

Here we are pre-Photoshop. Clearly my friends are miracle workers.

Still, I persist in my quest for perfect family pictures to add to this slim collection at every photo op our life presents. The result has been a collection of pictures that make me laugh till I pee whenever I look at them. Let's face it. It doesn't take much for a mom of four to pee when she laughs. Maybe it would be funnier if my pictures cause someone who didn't carry four watermelons in five years to laugh until she pees. Please update me if such a feat is accomplished simply by viewing our photos.

Today we celebrated Lawson's 5th birthday six weeks late with a very small gathering of his classmates. We walked away without one picture we could use in a frame or photo book, but the rejects are totally worth sifting through. My friend Lori served as photographer, and she deleted a couple of gems before I explained how I love the duds just as much as the perfect pictures. Without further delay, here is a collection of high quality Jones family photos past and present for your viewing pleasure.

Scout is so happy to be taking a picture with her family.

Easter 2011 Train Wreck
My personal favorite.
Christmas 2010
I must have that green hat!
Wait! Just a few more shots, guys!
Actually, I take back what I said earlier about only having one gem of a family photo. This last one is absolutely precious to me. It was the first picture I ever took of my our kids as four instead of three.

My beautiful babies. Scout was thirteen days old.

Pictures are priceless, and the collection I have is so important to me because it's completely representative of real life. A life full of tantrums, laughs, inappropriate comments and gestures, and loads of desperate attempts by Mom to just get one shot that I feel Grandma will cherish forever. I know they hate it now, but one day I hope they can look back and be thankful I was so annoyingly persistent.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We are the People of Wal Mart

I bet there is nothing Wal Mart greeters love more than a mom with kids, especially when she's got three doorstep boys and a toddler wearing her bathing suit. That's right, people. A bathing suit. Like the underage spring breakers in Panama City who think it's cool to peruse through Wally World in nothing but skanky cutoffs and a triangle top. Okay, well maybe not that bad, but you get my drift. My daughter exercised her right to be a free spirit and wore a one piece and "sparkly shoes" (pink sequined Mary Janes) to Wal Mart sans Pull Up, hence the trip to Wal Mart in the first place.

On the four minute drive from the elementary school carpool line to Wal Mart, I felt like I did a sufficient job prepping the kids for our mission. What do we need? Soap and Pull Ups, Drill Sergeant! The first five minutes of our trip were largely uneventful. Scout and Camden were slightly distracted by the point of purchase sunglasses display, but it was nothing I couldn't handle. As we neared the Pull Up aisle, I swore I could almost see the imaginary band of angels crooning to my children as they walked up on a seven foot high stack of bean bag chairs covered with the likes of Spongebob and Lightening McQueen. Seriously, what are doing to me, Wal Mart? Hudson and Lawson hopped right up on a chair sitting on the outskirts of the display, and I thought I'd roll with the moment and take a little photo. Look how cute they are.

Moments later, all four sat down, and I thought, "Oh, how cute would it be to have a picture of all of them together?" That's right. I broke a cardinal rule of motherhood. Never ever break out a camera like an amateur Wal Mart mommy on a touristy shopping trip. I had a mission, people, and I detoured from said mission. The cuteness sucked me in, and before I knew it, Scout was scratching and pushing Hudson off her chair, and Camden and Lawson were barking out which version of the chair they wanted. The highlight was Scout pushing the stack in anger and the slow motion domino effect that sent multiple chairs toppling to the floor.

A passerby in a Memorial Hospital polo shirt did offer to help me stack them back, but her unsmiling face said what her kind gesture did not--that I was a train wreck mommy who let her kids destroy property at the local Wal Mart. Ugh. Guilty as judged. When all character chairs were secured, we walked twenty feet away to the Pull Ups where the employee stocking shelves watched in silence as Hudson and Lawson exchanged blows and Hudson flung his Power Ranger under the shelf. He then crawled all over the nasty floor and reached under the shelf to retrieve it (yak!). Suddenly I found myself wondering if soap really is absolutely necessary for good hygiene.

On the way to the soap aisle, Scout took off running, her tiny fanny cheeks shining because her suit had ridden up while I was carrying her. For the next eternity four minutes, the boys and I stood in the middle of the aisle trying to pinpoint her exact location based on the volume of her giggles and the pitter patter of her sparkly shoes. Cue sneering employee, and you have another spectacular high moment of my shopping trip. I retrieved my daughter and resorted to holding Hudson's hand in order to prevent him from revisiting his nasty little exploration of the nether regions of Wal Mart's shelves. Hudson's world is often a deliciously silly little mind concoction, and I swear if I didn't have to maintain my front of being a responsible adult, I'd like to visit it sometimes just for fun. But I digress.

I'll spare you the details of the frustration I suffered in the ten remaining minutes it took for us to exit the store. They can be summed up quickly by saying Hudson filled his arms with ten bottles of hand soap rather than agreeing to carry the 3-pack of Ivory I had to dig out from behind all of the pricier soaps on the shelf, Camden kept running back and forth to the snack aisle for random items like Goldfish and fruit chews when he was supposed to be carrying the Capri Suns and then laughing hysterically when I told him to put his loot back, and Lawson was violently assaulted by a rogue box of Kool Aid Jammers.

My silence as we exited the store instilled more fear in my children than an angry lecture could ever do, and as we pulled out of the store parking lot, I said these simple words. You.Will.Write.Sentences.
I got my sentences (justice!) and some very sincere apologies. Our next trip to any store is likely to be just as disastrous, and I'm just going to have to learn to live with sneers and open mouthed stares from innocent bystanders. I've got three boys. Three. I mean, there's no real hope for my life to be anything but hilariously chaotic, and the fact that Scout relishes an opportunity to make her brothers laugh just makes it all the more diabolical. Judge me if you want, random strangers. I wouldn't trade them for any amount of normal.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bunk Bed Scavenger Hunt

Last night our family had an adventure. We set out at 7:00 p.m. in search of a bunk bed that would allow the boys to share a room this summer. Considering the fact that there is a possibility I'm out of my mind for thinking this little experiment will work, I really did NOT want to invest much money in the endeavor. My first day perusing craigslist led me to a little gem of a post that read "twin over full metal bunk bed with mattress for $60 OBO."

Well, the OBO sold me on the followup because it gave me an in to offer fifty bucks for what would cost me a great deal more in a store. After some a conversation revealing the poor woman selling the bed had FOUR BOYS (God bless her), we made some carefully orchestrated plans to meet. Said plans, of course, went completely awry because that's just how we Joneses roll. First we needed Jason's truck, then we needed cash, then we needed Sonic, then we needed to make four phone calls to the seller to figure out how the heck we ended up forty-five minutes off course from Ft. Stewart. Then best of all, we needed to pull over in the line to get through the gates on base to confer with the military police about why we don't carry copies of current insurance cards in our vehicles (because they look it up in a nice, fancy little computer database now). Sigh.

By the time we rolled up to base housing, two kids were asleep, one was screaming that his feet itched, and the other was relentlessly throwing Pooh in the floor and crying for me to pick it up (guess who). Hudson was wearing wet shorts because his water spilled all over him early into the trip, Scout's water exploded when she tossed it on the floor, and the car was covered in honey mustard from the popcorn chicken. Ew.

The end result is a happy one, though. We arrived home at 11:00 p.m. with a bunk bed and full size mattress (free of pee and puke stains, mind you) for fifty bucks. The kids were definitely a little reluctant to get out of bed this morning, but I bet they'll agree with me that it's all worth it when they're climbing into (hopefully not jumping off of) their new bed. If the deal is right, the effort is worth it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Blame Game

Please tell me why there is an epidemic of husbands who go out of their way to do some really incredibly helpful things around the house (which we of course express our appreciation for) and then become total monsters demanding recognition for their contributions and/or suddenly crowning themselves Kings of Clean? Said Kings then rule their unwitting subjects with overly controlling innuendos and hypercritical, inaccurate declarations.

Um, excuse me? Did you forget who cooked the meal you ate tonight? Did you forget who suffered through our oldest child's foul after school antics and homework avoidance tantrum techniques? Who made school lunches today or made sure the school uniforms were washed and dried for this morning? In what parallel universe are you suddenly the only one who contributes?

Ah, The Blame Game strikes again. It's so easy to get sucked into this vortex of conflict where the board looks something like the game of Life and the playing pieces look like four kids, two jobs, tons of laundry, tired cranky tantrums, Cub Scout meetings, Daylight Savings Time, a pile of Trio blocks, and a huge chunk of paychecks that may as well be made out directly to the grocery store when it's all said and done.

It's life, and we play dual roles in it. On the one hand, we are spouses, and on the other hand, we are parents. Sometimes these two roles work together in perfect harmony, and you can ride the wave of peace and fulfillment like a boogie boarder showing off his effortless moves. Other times, the roles are not only competing, but they're just downright conflicting. If I give my best to the kids right now to ensure everything gets done in time to get them in bed early, then I can't clean as much, and all of my husband's efforts this weekend are harder to see. However, if I pay a little less attention to my kids, delay baths and bedtime so that I can sweep the floor and pick up the playroom, the kids get in bed later and continue the vicious cycle of DST induced crankiness.

The effort to stop pointing fingers and work as partners is harder to do when the adults in this whole game are also tired, stressed about work, and feeling like the road to a good night's sleep looks long and bumpy. Thus the volcano erupts, and we experience infuriating frustration and a stubborn unwillingness to see where the other person is coming from.

Neither partner in our little union is perfect. I'm emotional and passionate and borderline, sometimes across the borderline, controlling. I will let you know exactly how I'm feeling when I'm feeling it and not always in the most calm, rational way I would like to. Sometimes I fight like a little redneck girl, but I'll always come to a resolution as humbly and apologetic as I can. I think the trick in a marriage is understanding how the other person communicates and trying our best to figure out how to mesh our own methods with another's. Sometimes we need to meet in the middle, and sometimes we just need to try out another person's tactic, despite how foreign it may feel.

Tonight I've got three babies fed and bathed and ready to crawl under the covers. My hope is to accomplish the goal of getting them into bed early AND sweeping the floor, maybe even before my partner in crime gets home from Cub Scouts with the fourth dirty and cranky kid. The good thing we have going in our marriage is that even though no one on the planet can make me as angry as he does, there is also no one else on this planet who touches my heart the way he does. Understanding that little tidbit brings me joy even in my anger. For that, Jason Jones, you can be King of Clean just for today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Days are Long, but the Years are Short

I once read this little quote on a friend's Facebook page. It seems like a contradiction, but the reality and truth in the statement always give me pause when I think of it in terms of motherhood. We get one shot at this gig, and I have a mind just analytical enough to spend too much time debating whether or not I'm spending it the right way and making the early years of my kids' lives special enough for them to avoid years of teenage angst.

The fact of the matter is that the years are short. Every day we get is a gift, but it's all too easy to lose sight of that fact when things like exhaustion, school pictures, basketball practice, fights over the Wii remote, and the Pinewood Derby race get in the way of a stress-free, reflective, giggles and rainbows kind of existence.

This week the kink in my armor was crippling homesickness. I found myself transfixed by worry and sadness that my children are five hours from grandparents and cousins. The friendships I shared with my cousins and the closeness I had with my grandparents are two of the greatest gifts of my childhood, and it suddenly became very important to me that I'm too far from home to logistically make these gifts a reality for my own kids on a daily or even monthly basis. Each day I woke up thinking of a particular aspect of home. One day it was Ms. Marni's Preschool where Hudson and Lawson went the year before we moved to Savannah. Another day it was our land and the back deck of our house that overlooked a beautiful field.

Last night we went to the YMCA for a basketball game played by adorable, feisty five and six year old boys. I talked and laughed with other moms, snagged a copy of Breaking Dawn from my friend Barbara (woo hoo!), and cheered for my little scrappers on the court. We then took our gaggle of kids to one of the local churches on the island for an authentic low country boil and oyster roast. The kids ran and played, we stuffed our face with shrimp and homemade desserts, and I cracked up with my MOPS friends.

The night was a reminder that God has us right where He wants us right now. The sense of community I feel on Wilmington Island is sometimes even stronger than what I feel in my own hometown. Jason has a job he loves and so do I. Much the same way I loved Ms. Marni's Preschool, WIPP has become an integral part of our family's lives, and every day I wake up excited to spend the first half of my day with my adorable students.

My friends are my family here. They take care of me when the bottom drops out in a multitude of ways, like when five out of six Joneses get the pukies or I need ski gear for a one day trip to Snow Mountain. They listen when I cry and laugh with me when I'm happy. They eat Mexican food with me to make up for a crappy day, and they watch my kids for free for me to celebrate milestones with my husband or to go to the parent-teacher conference I forgot about. They even spend an hour out of their day trying to help me break into my van with a coat hanger so that I don't have to call the locksmith again.

I really believe few places on Earth are like Wilmington Island. For now I'll just have to focus on finding ways to go home to Carrollton to visit more often. I continue to be humbled and thankful for the blessings we have and for the fact that my kids are happy, something that matters more to me than anything else. They may grow up farther from grandparents and cousins than I did, but their childhood experiences in Savannah are rich beyond measure so far.   

Friday, February 17, 2012

The No Yelling Rule

Three weeks ago I took it upon myself to institute a no yelling rule in the house. The rule is primarily geared to combat angry yelling, but we are applying it to all forms of yelling, including annoying screaming (seriously, I only want to hear ear piercing screeches if you're injured or being kidnapped) and inappropriately loud talking (guilty of doing it and guilty of passing the gene on to Camden). I had to back track a bit the day after I made this decree upon the house and explain to my husband why I felt it was important and to ask that we help hold each other accountable. Generally I talk to him about these things beforehand, but my impulsive nature got the best of me, leaving me to roll with it or face losing my credibility.

Thankfully, the rule is working out. The first week was very tough, and I seriously considered just carrying around a recording of me reiterating "remember, there is no yelling in the house." I easily said it at least a hundred times in seven days, and because of the no yelling rule, I of course had to say it in my calmest voice. Hudson is throwing a tantrum for the fourth time in thirty minutes? Calm Mommy. Jason has been in the shower for forty minutes while I herd cats, I mean kids. Calm wife. I step on a Lego and embed it into my foot? Cursing under my breath Mommy.

But now something is starting to happen in my house, in my family, in my marriage. All the chaos is still there. We've got four kids, come on. But the volume and the undertone are starting to shift. It comes more naturally for me to approach conflict with the kids calmly, and an apology to my husband is more freely given. I get more eye contact from the boys when we discuss choices and consequences. It doesn't mean the anger isn't there. They still get to feel what they feel. They just have to choose a better way of expressing it.

I told a friend my theory was that if we spoke without yelling long enough, the calm voice would become habit. My hope is to change the dynamic of my family. If we're yelling, I want it to be because we are outside playing and laughing or trying to hear each other over the crashing waves at Tybee. I don't want the "normal" my kids grow up with to be yelling.

On Valentine's Day, Jason and sat on the couch together after the kids went to bed, he sifting through files for the next day and me catching up on DVR shows. At one point he fell asleep with his head in my lap. It was not a particularly exciting night, but it was perfect. Throughout the day we reminded each other of the no yelling rule, and sometimes we tag teamed to give the other person a breather. I didn't get defensive when he held me accountable, which is huge. I'm starting to feel like I'm one half of true parent partners, which is something I think all kids desperately need. I'm not saying this journey won't be challenging, but I feel like we can stick to it. I believe it's working for all six of us and not just for the kids. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Great, It's Going to be THAT Kind of Day

This morning I woke up feeling smug about the status of Operation Get Four Kids Out the Door. The smugness should have been my first bad omen. No mom of four should ever get cocky. Lunches had been prepared the night before, clothes had been put in the dryer, and I was out of bed well before seven. I was showered, dressed, and having coffee by 7:30. Babies were loaded in the car by 8:30. Excellent. My keys were....nowhere to be found.

A frantic search ensued for the next fifteen minutes as our kids watched. The boys were strapped into the back of Dad's truck, and Scout was tucked away behind my driver's seat. They were surprisingly well behaved as we scrambled to retrace my steps from the night before. My phone was dead, so at a certain point, I had to stop, look up my work number (oh the common skills we have lost due to technology--I can't even memorize a phone number anymore), and call to let my coworkers know I had lost my keys.

Woo, I bet they were surprised to hear Molly, who is always on top of things and has it all together, couldn't find her keys. I warned my colleague I was likely going to end up riding my bike to school and kindly requested everyone refrain from poking fun at me, despite the fact that I'm just such an easy target.

At 8:59 (now nine minutes late for work), I gave up. I had sent Jason on with the boys ten minutes earlier. I changed out of my boots since biking two miles in boots is difficult and retrieved a warm coat for Scout to wear inside the bike trailer. I raised the garage door, and as I started to pull my bike out, I happened to look down and see my keys on the ground under the van. Apparently I dropped them there in the dark the night before when I hauled a sleeping Scout in from the car.

Thankful I didn't have to ride my bike to work, I took the four minute car ride to work and shamefully skulked inside right as the school day began. The students must have sensed my fragile state because they were absolute angels. I even had lunch with a great friend, was first in carpool line to pick up the boys, and scored Dolphin Tale at the Redbox kiosk. The day was looking up again.

Of course, it was capped off by Scout crapping up her back and my locking the keys in the van for the fourth time in two months, but hey, my life is the best comedic material I've got. Boredom isn't part of my vocabulary, and my own little brand of frazzled mom adventures make for one fun ride.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

If Your Sink Makes You Gag, It's Time to Load the Dishwasher

Yesterday I was at the end of a tough week, and I knew I was losing my grip on what I like to call "In Control Molly." Last Monday we instituted a No Yelling policy in the house that goes across the board. It started with no yelling for Mommy and Daddy but segued to include the kids by Wednesday. As a result, I have had to maintain a calm demeanor 24/7 until it becomes habit.

When Camden yelled in my face, I had to gently remind him of the new policy. When Hudson giggled as I redirected him, I had to try not to lose my cool over his lack of interest in following the rules. When Lawson demanded something to drink with a loud, disrespectful tone....yep, you guessed it. Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce, hold hubby accountable, be held accountable by hubby in return. The first week has gone as well as I could have hoped, but it has been exhausting. When Camden and Hudson chose to ignore me when I asked them to stop wrestling on Thursday, I lost hold of my control and burst into tears. It was time for a break, which meant it was time for a clean house.

To be honest I would almost rather cry when redirecting my kids than try to clean my house in the state that it was in yesterday. No one should have to fight the urge to gag as much as I had to yesterday when simply loading the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. There was one dish cloth casualty, and our bedroom ended up being the new home base for the clean yet unfolded laundry. My bedroom is now officially my least favorite room in the house. Clearly that's a challenge for another day. The three and a half hours I got to sit and talk with my husband over dinner last night while my sweet friend Brittany and her beau watched my little ones made all of the gagging and frantic vacuuming of dog hair tumbleweeds worth it.

I think our impromptu date night was important for two reasons. One, because every couple should find a way to connect as people and not just as parents. You fell in love before you were responsible for little people, and it's nice to remember who your partner is other than Dad or Mom. Two, because every parent needs to realize it's okay to need a break from your kids. I was a wreck on Thursday, and part of it was guilt over needing a break from my kids. However, I guarantee you my babies are much happier today because Mom isn't an emotional train wreck simply because she had a few hours to regroup.

There is no job more important to me than being a mom. Sometimes being a mom is about taking care of myself and connecting with my husband, and sometimes being a mom is about spending time with my kids and finding new and exciting ways to connect as a family. Every component is important to the delicate art of balance. Now I'm off to bathe some kids and venture off on an exciting journey to a magical land called Wal Mart. See you soon!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

To My Husband on His 39th Birthday

Today my kids and I are celebrating the birth of a man who I'm not even sure truly grasps just how wonderful he is. He is the love of my life and my husband, Mr. Jason Jones. When we began dating almost eleven years ago, I knew I was in trouble. He was everything I was looking for and COMPLETELY unprepared for. Sure, I'd had a girlish crush on him since I was fifteen, but this was something totally different. I was twenty-three, fresh off an excruciating breakup, and ready to sow a few wild oats in the big city of Atlanta before I gave a second thought to things like marriage and family.

For almost a year, I put him through the ringer, first refusing to date him exclusively and then backing away every time I felt we were getting too serious. I even sulked when he took a job at a law firm in Roswell, and we ultimately ended up living in Atlanta at the same time in apartment complexes that were next door to each other.

When waiting for him to show up for a double date with my best friend and her boyfriend, I warned them not to get too attached to him.

"We're not going to end up being some fabulous foursome," I believe were my exact words.

Those were words I would ultimately have to eat when we got married two years later with both my best friend and her boyfriend turned husband in our wedding party. That day as I stood looking into Jason's big brown eyes, I wondered what I had been so afraid of and counted my blessings he waited for me to come around.

He is the joy of my life, and he has given me four of the most amazing blessings alive. I'm not saying every day is easy--far from it. In fact, every day we have to wake up ready to greet the challenges and stress of four kids, two working parents, a dog, a cat, and a house that is normally screaming for a good vacuuming. We have to work at our marriage and take time to remember who we are as a couple without our kids around. You see, we're two different people, and we don't always see eye to eye on things like the most efficient way to get out the door in the morning, who washes the most clothes, and whose turn it is to put Scout back in the bed.

What I do know is that at the end of the day, he is the one I want to cuddle with to regroup for tomorrow. He's the one I want to run with on a pretty day. He's the one I want to crack up laughing with when we New Girl is on. He's the one I want to talk to about the sweet little Jones kid stories that pop up throughout the day. He's even the one I want to pick a fight with when I'm grumpy because I know he's a worthy adversary.

He's my partner, my friend, and the perfect quiet balance to my Too Much Information approach to life. I love that he's a wonderful father and that he holds me accountable. Even though he drives me nuts sometimes, I love that I am the lucky one who gets to know all the annoying and endearing nuances about him. What a privilege to know someone on the level that we know each other and how lucky I feel that he lets me into his world the way he does.

For his birthday, I'd like to promise him that I will do a better job helping him make up the bed at night, especially since he loathes the feather bed I insist I need for my back. I promise to try and use my big kid words during a disagreement and respect his requests for space when he needs it. I promise to feed the dog more often and to ask for his keys to lock the front door before he climbs under the covers and gets comfortable. I promise to keep believing in his innate goodness and to support him in his endeavors. Most of all, I promise to love him unconditionally for the rest of my life and to wake up each morning ready to take on every day God brings our way. Happy birthday, Jason!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waxing Poetic on Brown Rice and Noodles--Tales of Restless Mommy

You know when you've been sick but you're starting to get hungry again? Only nothing sounds remotely appetizing because it all reminds you that you just got over a wicked bout of the hurlies? That's where I'm at today. Even Hudson's cupcakes look revolting. I'm home bound again since Scout ran a fever all night, and I really feel like the three day post-puke mark (so gross--I'm sorry. I have no shame.) should be a point where I can sit down to a nice cup of coffee or a plate of nachos. Instead everything sounds disgusting. I had noodles for dinner last night, and I'm whipping up a nice bag of brown rice for lunch today. Yum.

The house still looks like a train derailed inside it. The laundry boggles my mind every day, but I know I've more than covered that topic on this forum. I really want to complete at least one task today so that I can feel like I accomplished something in my four-day absence from work. Wouldn't it be nice if we all headed off to where we need to be in the morning and left a clean, shiny house behind? Ahhh...allow me to daydream for a moment. Instead I'm typing away at this computer because I have motherhood induced ADD and a pipe dream to become a writer. Maybe it's the rain outside. It gets me all jumpy. Time to wrap this up and organize some Legos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm Just Along for the Ride

This afternoon marked a pinnacle in my latest adventure in motherhood. I have officially reached the point where I can laugh and joke about the series of events over the past five days. This milestone is a big deal because I'm quickly learning to laugh at my life as it's happening rather than when I'm looking back on it. Last Friday we began a fun ride when Camden woke up in the wee hours of the morning vomiting. He later tested positive for strep throat at the pediatrician's office, leaving his doctor hopeful that the hurling was from the strep.

Well, that diagnosis was contradicted on Sunday when Lawson ralphed in the van on the way to get Hudson's birthday gift. We pulled over and dashed into Rite Aid to get wipes, Lysol, paper towels, and Febreeze. Jason started feeling queasy at that point, so while he fought back the hurlies, I dismantled Lawson's seat and proceeded to scrub and disinfect for the next 45 minutes. We were almost home when Jason lost his battle.

When I finally got everyone home and got Lawson in the bath, Jason quarantined himself in our bedroom, and I proceeded to get Lawson cleaned up. This little feat involved two more vomiting incidents and an especially fun episode where I got projectile pooed on. Twice. When I finally got the boys settled in, I started feeling queasy myself. Scout apparently didn't get the memo and refused to go to sleep because she couldn't see her daddy. I finally resorted to putting her on the couch with me, but when I woke up at 2:30 a.m., she had migrated into our room and curled up next to Jason. Clearly I knew what I could anticipate with her in the next 48 hours after that.

For most of the duration of my illness, I lingered in what I like to call Puke Purgatory, in which the person remains in a state of disgusting nausea without the relief of throwing up. It reminded me of the five months of debilitating nausea I endured when I was pregnant with Scout--which reminds me that I really need to call that urologist. Anywho...Jason assured me, having thrown up no less than ten times that night himself, that the relief that came with the act was completely overrated.

We spent the whole of yesterday catching fleeting moments of sleep and breaking up fights. Well, Jason got to break up the majority of the fights since I couldn't get out of bed until 2:00 in the afternoon. We woke up optimistic today and started bathing some seriously stinky boys, which is right around the time Scout started throwing up.

Apparently our little sunshine really hates to puke. Every time I held the little barf bowl to her head when she started retching, she shoved it away and whined "I don't want to!" There were many times throughout the day she won the battle of wills with the barfies. She would gag and then declare "I'm okay."

At 3:25, I took a chance and loaded her in the car to go get the kids. She hadn't thrown up in a few hours, and very few people have room for three extra kids (who are all still in boosters) in their mommy mobiles. I got her in the car smoothly, but when I turned the key in the ignition, I heard the increasingly familiar click of a dead battery. Epic. I put in a call to the school to have the boys sent to the front office so that I could wait for my rocking mommy friend Margie to come over and let me borrow a little juice from her battery. Let me just tell you as a side note that I can now jump a battery in less than two minutes without any input from my husband or father. And it's not my alternator; it's a crappy Wal Mart battery that is reading a marginal charge. Clearly we need to get that resolved as soon as possible. But I digress.

The moment I put my car in park at the boys' school, Scout projectile vomited Gatorade all over herself and her car seat. I didn't even miss a beat during Round 2 of "Let's Throw up in Mommy's Van" and simply wiped her down and stripped her. Kudos to the school secretary, who walked my boys out to the bus lane to load up in the van when I called back to explain what happened.

Car seat number two is now dismantled, Scout is bathed and sleeping, the kids have finished homework, Camden is reading, Lawson is playing a computer game, and Hudson is the last man standing. Now we wait. What a feat it will be if he escapes this powerful cootie germ that is taking down Jones family members one by one. If he wakes up hurling tomorrow, it will be the first time all six family members (plus my friend Meghan's son) have been taken out in one fell swoop. Tonight I'll work on birthday cupcakes for Hudsy, who has offered up little complaint despite having had the lamest sixth birthday ever. If he hasn't thrown up by Thursday (the 48 hour mark since Scout got sick), then I hope I feel well enough to eat one of his cupcakes to celebrate.    

That Natalie Merchant song "These are the Days" keeps playing over and over in my head because despite all the throw up and poop shoots, these are the days. I figured out a long time ago (and relearned it last summer when we had our lice epidemic) that this is the good stuff that you'll laugh about later. When Jason and I are surrounded at Christmas by our four grown kids and their own families, I hope we laugh till we cry telling stories like these. I hope my own children experience these same challenges one day because this is the good stuff. I mean, it's nasty stuff, but it's still good.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hudson Takes on the World

Today Hudson is six years old. Many of you who have followed my blog since its inception have likely read anxious posts detailing my agonizing decision to take him out of one pre-k program and place him in another and my worries over his going to kindergarten. Hudson is the least adaptable of all of my children. He is noticeably more introverted than his brother Camden and more anxious than his brother Lawson. Until last year, he had great difficulty making strong social connections. When we moved here, he cried for months over missing his one acquaintance from preschool, a child whose last name I never even learned.

I credit WIPP a great deal for changing Hudson's life and building his confidence level. He made his first friend, Dodge, who to this day still tops his list of besties, and thrived in the safe environment of Julie Reese and Lindy Horton's classroom. Last spring at kindergarten orientation, all the progress he made evaporated when he panicked and ran when the kids were divided into different groups and sent with individual teachers. He knew no one, and I saw his old anxieties surge to the surface. I had to chase down Camden's kindergarten teacher and plea with her to take Hudson into her group. He was familiar with her, so she was the only teacher he would agree to walk with.

I was very blessed that Hudson was placed in Mrs. Sheppard's (Camden's former teacher) room and even more blessed that Dodge ended up in the same class. Hudson struggled at first, earning straight faces and two frowny faces as he adjusted to the schedules and rules of class. Eventually I began to receive positive feedback from Mrs. Sheppard, and Hudson began talking about other classmates besides Dodge.

One afternoon he came home and announced he made a new friend. According to Hudson, the little boy didn't have a friend in class, and Hudson felt like it was important for him to become his first friend. They play together often now. When another boy was moved into his class a month into the school year, Hudson was wary because this little man had long been friends with Dodge. The first day was disappointing to Hudson because he felt like the new boy wasn't interested in being his friend, but each day got a little better. Soon Hudson considered Dodge's friend his friend as well.

When a situation arose where this little boy was laughed at by his classmates for a particular behavior, Hudson came home very upset over the incident. He told me very emphatically that he and Dodge did not laugh with the other students, and he was very disappointed in the friends who did. The little boy's mother mentioned the incident to me the following week and expressed how thankful her son was that Hudson not only did not laugh, but was angered by the behavior of those who did. I was so proud to be his mom in that moment.   

I realize I have a child who is sensitive to his environment. He has always been this way. He needs the right situation to feel comfortable and to thrive. He needs the right teacher who can balance attending to his needs and letting him know he is loved without pushing him before he is ready. This year I have realized I also have a child who is sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. He is naturally empathetic, a gift I find extraordinary in children.

My heart melts when I see the progress he has made. He was a child who was once incapable of looking an adult in the eyes and who isolated himself from the group, sometimes giving in to the grief and weight of his separation anxiety. To see him gain confidence and make new social connections is a wonderful blessing. He will always be quirky and different, but I think that makes him even more interesting.

So today I celebrate my complicated, beautiful, introspective, empathetic, giggly, silly six-year-old boy who brightens my life. Happy birthday, Hudson Robert Jones!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Today was our first regular day after the winter break, and we made it through the morning by the skin of our teeth....wait, that's a figure of speech, right? Jason would probably call that one of my "Bowdonisms" in honor of the small town from which half of my family hales. Anyway, our pitfall today was a little complication called mismatched socks. I think I could write and produce a hilarious satire on the Mystery of the Missing Sock. I always start with a complete set of matching pairs, and then somehow, I end up with a white wicker basket full of socks with no mates. The dryer has to be stashing them somewhere in an effort to drive me crazy. I bet that pesky appliance cracks up about it with the washing machine whenever I'm not home.

When I came tearing through the house at 2:45 to change into my T-shirt and tennis shoes before darting back out to Wal Mart and then carpool line, I was dismayed at the state of the house. I'm just going to have to accept that as long as I'm working, the house isn't going to look the way I want it to. I've got a good grip on the dirty laundry right now, but to be honest, the clean laundry waiting to be folded is staging a coup. I'm going to try my best to hold the tiny whitey tighties at bay until Saturday, when I plan to clean and fold like a crazy woman in order to get ready for Hudson's 6th birthday on Sunday.

Tomorrow will be Day 2 of sleep deprivation and two minutes showers before work in an effort to make it out the door on time. I really should be making sandwiches right now, but instead I opted for blogging. I'm sure I'll regret that decision around 8:15 tomorrow morning. Thank goodness it's a short week.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Just a Regular Day

There hasn't been anything extraordinary about the past two days with my family. In some ways I think it's what makes the last two days of Christmas vacation so spectacularly lazy and fun. Yesterday we stayed in our pajamas all day long. I literally had to change out of my pajamas from the night before and change into clean ones to climb into bed.

The kids and Jason played Mario Slugger on the Wii, and I unearthed pictures from the boys' infancy and toddlerhood that we didn't know we had. It was so much fun to look back on the photos and watch videos of baby Lawson and tiny Camden and Hudson. I was humbled by how quickly time has passed and sad to realize it's passing by with Scout just as quickly.

On the other hand, I relished the moments with my big boys, and their growing independence is both exciting and sad. I know it will be hard for me when they don't need me as much, but I sense an underlying trust and friendship that is building between us that is both hilarious and touching. Tonight I sat in the bathroom floor laughing so hard I couldn't breathe because my mini-dork forgot to take his socks off before he stepped in the tub and then laughed so hard at himself he farted. It felt so good to let the opportunity to tell him to pay attention to what he's doing pass and just laugh at his dripping wet sock and look of stunned amusement when he picked his foot up out of the water. The fart was just the icing on the cake as it reverberated off the porcelain tub. Ordinarily I would tell him to use his manners, but not this time. The moment was too fun and too genuine to be marred with lectures. I let myself be a kid for a moment and shared a great moment with my son.

I also cut all three boys' hair tonight, and it gave me a few minutes of solo time with each of them. They are so different in their own ways, but there is a genuine passion and a silly zeal for life that unites them. Hudson insisted I tie the cover I used to protect his neck from stray hair around him like a cape, and he bounded around his room like a superhero when I was done. Lawson danced and giggled his way through every snip and then launched himself back into the tub to wash off the "itchies." Camden fretted I was cutting his hair too short until he caught a glimpse in the mirror to check my handiwork. He didn't even get upset when I nicked him with the scissors, and he went so far as to laugh at the joke I made at my own expense.

Sometimes I can laugh with my boys and take pride in the patience I muster in caring for them. Sometimes the pack mentality takes control of them, and I find myself yelling in frustration to deaf little ears who are too far engrossed in goofy wrestling matches to realize I'm even talking. These are the moments I might have to walk away to be able to deal with the situation the right way or when I try and seek out Scout for a cuddle to remind me they are only little once.

Jason and I go back to work tomorrow, and the kids go back to school on Wednesday. As the week grows increasingly hectic, I hope I can hold onto the perspective I have right now to carry me through the stressful moments. My goal is to slow down and see life through their eyes even when our demanding schedule dictates every moment of our lives. Happy New Year to you all, my cohorts in this adventure we call parenting.