Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I guess I must have glossed over the term 'helicopter parent' that's being used quite often recently. I assumed I knew what it meant and dismissed it without looking very much further into it.

And then I was accused of being one, in jest of course, but still...

I delved into finding out what it really meant. The term was first used in 1969 in a parenting book by Dr. Haim Ginott as a term coined by teenagers who felt their parents would hover over them like a helicopter. The more I got into it the more I felt my type of parenting was being maligned in all of the articles I was reading about helicopter parenting. Now it's obvious from anybody that knows me that my type or parenting is not as severe and smothering as what is described in definitions of helicopter parenting. So maybe I'm more of a Goodyear blimp mother....floating well within reaching distance but still floating, not helicoptering.

But I also became cognizant that I have a real problem letting my children face consequences, be it because they forgot their lunch or a school folder with assignments...or like in Olivia's case her coat, which she loses several times each year. I am always there to swoop in and clean up their forgetfulness or laziness or absent mindedness because I don't want them to face the consequences. I'm afraid of them being hurt...of hurting.

I also am right there to pick up spills, clean wounds, help with chores...things that maybe my children should be learning to do on their own. But I fear their tears, fear that they will think I'm a bad mother, fear that they won't trust me anymore.

These are obvious all my problems, my issues...but as a mother of four children how do you separate You from Them?

Very, very carefully.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I Have a Gift

What does it feel like to bring another human being into this world?

I have a gift. A very special gift that was somehow given to me by happenstance and irony. Me, the older sister, tired of babies and children, has been a purveyor of life. 

One child, my first, came free from my body after a long and exhausting debacle. Not long compared to some others hard fought battles but long enough for my small and battered 20 year old body. When I saw her for the first time I was in a daze. She was so small and dark. I barely recognized her as coming from my body. My last two siblings were big and pink and blonde. Rosey was small, thin and covered in a layer of dark hair, as dark as the hair on her tiny black head. Who was this child? And how did I create her? I wasn't so much worried or enraptured as I was very, very tired. Within the next few days she became my best friend, my confident, my baby with the old soul. 

One was so anxious to come into this world that she tore through me like a bullet. She left me injured and ripped and bloody. The most blood I had ever seen in my life. And when they let me hold her she was aware and huge in my arms searching to suckle off of me. Her long fingers and new nails dug into my skin. She looked like a newly recruited marine with a devastatingly short blonde crew cut. The nurses told me she was an unprecedented almost two feet long. And she was born with dark, incredibly brown eyes. 

My third child came at the end of my relationship with her father. I knew it was over and he did not. Not that he cared in that moment and honestly neither did I. The doctor made her come with medications and wires and hoses. I had never really knew pain until she needed to come out of my body. Nurses and doctors were around us worried. She wouldn't come out. I had begged my doctor not to have a c-section. I had seen my mother walloped by the effects of surgery and couldn't go down that same path. Rather than attempt a breach birth my doctor and a local midwife attempted to turn her. And it was painful. Worse than any pain I had ever felt and probably will ever feel. Hands in me and on me all pushing and pulling. 12 hours later I looked into her face and my mom and I named her on the spot. Maxine Jane. Covered in vernix she was smooshed, wrinkled and mottled by dark red birth marks. They put her on my chest and let me wipe away the layers of thick goo. But she didn't nurse.  My momma held me and we cried together in silent sobs. I had given birth to a child that didn't need me but needed me all the same. Ironically after the first few days and into the next almost two years of her life she did nothing but nurse and often refused to eat any solid foods. 

My last child came in a pretty ordinary way. Yes, it was different compared to his sisters arrivals, but Jeremiah and I had decided early into my labor with him that we would accept the medication that had been forced onto me after 20 hours of labor with Max. After the initial nervousness surrounding the epidural administration Jeremiah and I spent six hours relaxing and hugging and kissing and sleeping. And when Elijah started to come into this world we were all surprised. I had been on my side talking to Jeremiah when all of the sudden I knew the baby was leaving my body, "Oh babe. Look quick. The baby is coming!" And he had enough presence of mind to call for a nurse who had the presence of mind to call our doc who was asleep in a lounge. 

Elijah was born without stirrups or medical intervention on the bed between my legs. I was able to reach down and touch him before they took him away. Jeremiah was so overwhelmed he almost wasn't able to cut the umbilical cord. We both kept staring at Elijah's blue feet and haltingly asking, "Is he OK? Is that normal?" The nurses and doctor didn't seem concerned. My mother walked into the room and was so relieved because she saw me delivering the after birth and thought I was delivering the baby. And then in a movement that goes down in infamy Elijah grabbed at the oxygen tubes and ripped them free. The hissing alerted my mom to her grandson. The nurses all gathered around the scale and weighed him in at an almost record breaking 10 pounds 14 ounces. Almost, but not quite the biggest natural birth at our hometown hospital.

I have a supernatural, incredibly frightening and huge gift. Like a super heroine, but delicate and easy to break, I have done wildly unlikely things.

And I see the result of my labors every single day in three sets of varying shades of brown eyes and one green, almost hazel set. Who knows, life is so incredible and surprising...they might turn another shade of brown yet. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

She's Leaving Home

When my sister was little she seemed consistently pissed off. She seemed to me to be always pouting, moody, sleepy, competitive.  And I was joyous, buoyant, flighty and hyper. Put those huge differences in personality plus our seven year age difference and we were sure to never get along. 

I know all about sisters. My mom has three that she is extremely close with and although not as close my dad has two sisters. And my grandma had had no less than five or six. I never paid attention enough to keep count. But from a young age I felt I would never be close with my sister. Kate and I were as different as night and day and as a teenager and a young woman I didn't give her the time of day.

But then my grandma got sick. I never knew I needed my siblings so much until I actually really needed them and they needed me to support each other through the worst time of our lives. 

And that's when I fell in love with Kate. She knew how awkward and uncomfortable I had become as an adult and we were suddenly totally transparent with each other. She forced me to come out of my shell and helped me to leave hermit mode and have some semblance of an adult life outside of my role as a mother and I vowed to her I would be there for her as I should have always been. 

The last three years of my life have been fuller because of her and her friendship. Her dimpled smile is contagious. Her loyalty makes me proud to be her sister. Our conversation makes me wish I had spent more time with her when we were children and younger adults. 

And now she's moving eight hours away from me. I've been as supportive as I could possibly be and am totally cognizant of the fact we will always be close but still I will miss her. I will miss her hugs and our random shopping trips. I will miss being able to convey my thoughts and feelings with one glance her way. I will miss watching movies with her and I will miss more than anything laying lazily with her in the sun basking as much in the warmth of the day as on her adorable dimpled smile. 

All of the memes and sayings are truer than true, when you have a sister you have a friend for life. My true friend, a woman who knows my heart, shares my history and genetics and knows everything about everything I've ever done. 

And she's leaving home...and me.


Friday, May 29, 2015

23 Questions about Me by Olive, Maxine Jane and Elijah

A high school friend of mine posted this on Facebook and I thought it would be fun to do with my youngest three children:
Without ANY prompting, ask your child these questions and write down EXACTLY what they say. It is a great way to find out what they really think. 

I got a kick out of some of their answers. Elijah doesn't like being put on the spot so he refrained from answering a lot of the questions. I came away feeling pretty good about me as a mom from their eyes. I also know now that Olivia is a jerk.
Olivia age 13 
Maxine Jane age 10 
Elijah age 7

1) What is something mom always says to you? –
Olivia: Clean your room.
Maxine: Stay outside until you dry off.

2) What makes mom happy?
Maxine: Me! Playing with Blueberry.
Elijah: Being with her children.

3) What makes mom sad?
Maxine: Liv and I fighting.
Elijah: Watching a sad Disney movie.
Olivia: When she has to work on her day off.

4) How does mommy make you laugh?
Maxine: Making old jokes.
Olivia: You’re not funny.

5) What was your mom like when she was a child?
Maxine: I have no idea.
Olivia: Ditto.

6) How old is your mom? –
Olivia: Old.

7) How tall is your mom?
Maxine: 5’3”. I’m actually right? I just guessed.
Olivia: 3’2”

8) What is her favorite thing to do? –
Maxine: Cuddle with us and with Blueberry.
Elijah: Exactly what Max said.

9) What does your mom do when you're not around?
Maxine: Exercise, work, sleep.
Olivia: Killing her enemies.

10) If your mom becomes famous what will it be for?
Olivia: Being the shortest woman on earth. I mean, being a famous author.
Maxine: Being a cuddle buddy.
Elijah: The woman who thinks she’s 16 because she blogs on her phone.

11) What is your mom really good at?
Max: Making bunnies!
Olivia: Playing the ukulele.
Elijah: Drawing pictures maybe?  

12) What is your mom not very good at?
Elijah: Playing on the trampoline because it makes her dizzy.
Maxine: Playing in the water because she always has her phone on her.
Olivia: Running.
Maxine: What? That’s not really nice.
Olivia: Have you ever seen her run?

13) What does your mom do for a job?
Maxine: Typing.
Elijah: Work on the computer.
Olivia: Transcription and research.

14) What is your mom’s favorite food? –
Maxine: Sushi.
Olivia: I got nothing.
Elijah: I got nothing too.

15) What makes you proud of your mom?
Olivia: Absolutely nothing.
Maxine: That’s not funny Olivia.
Elijah: Yes, that’s not funny.
Maxine: That she works all day for us and puts up with Olivia.
Elijah: Making food for us every day. Every day breakfast, lunch and dinner.

16) If your mom were a character, who would she be?
Maxine: The elephant from Tarzan. “Are you sure that water is sanitary? It looks questionable to me.”
Elijah: Princess Peach!
Olivia: The mom from Tangled.
Maxine: You’re a jerk Olivia.

17) What do you and your mom do together?
Maxine: Play outside together with Blueberry and you watch TV with us and play games.
Olivia: We do memes together.
Elijah: Watch movies together.

18) How are you and your mom the same?
Olivia: We both like music
Maxine: We both have the same hair color
Elijah: We both have hazel eyes, right?
Max: No!
Elijah: Ok, we both have brown hair.
Maxine: You’re copying off of me. 
19) How are you and your mom different?
Elijah: This is really confusing
Maxine: You don’t like to play in water
Elijah: You don’t like cold water.
Olivia: You play instruments and I don’t

20) How do you know your mom loves you?
Maxine: You feed us and care for us.
Elijah: When we’re sick you care for us.
Olivia: You don’t leave us in the middle of the forest like Hansel and Gretel

21) What does your mom like most about Jeremiah? –
Olivia: His hair.
Maxine: How he is a cat lover. Can’t hug every cat.
Olivia: His sense of humor. The fact that he likes to skateboard.
Max: He likes you, that’s why. You like him because he like you. 

22) Where is your moms favorite place to go?
Elijah: Sushi.
Olivia: Nowhere. She wants to stay at home.
Max: You like when we went to North Carolina on a vacation

23) How old was your mom when you were born? –
Elijah: There’s so many of us, how are we supposed to know this?
Olivia: How old are you right now?
Maxine: 24! I win!

Thursday, May 28, 2015


I'm allergic to bees. It's a constant fear of mine and I waited with trepidation while three of my four children were stung with no ill effect other than the usual sting and slight swelling. Elijah, my youngest is allergic to penicillin, like me, and has never been stung by a bee...I cringe every time I see one around him.

They say allergies aren't hereditary but my Pappy is allergic to pencillin and bees, Elijah's paternal grandfather is as well and so am I. Regardless of what the self sure medical professionals say I would say that there is probably a good chance Elijah is too.

My two reactions to bee stings have wound me up in the hospital and have been harrowing and horrible. Despite this I'm quite cavalier about the whole issue. My mind always tells me that I've already been stung twice, what are the chances it would happen again? 

This past weekend I was working at a local state park at a farm market and it was a beautiful day. Sunny and warm and yes, the area was teeming with bees. But for some reason especially bumblebees. I had made some comments about being allergic to the woman who was working at the market with me and how I never remember to bring my epi-pen with me ever like the hapless forgetful fool that I am.

Just as we were joking about how we were sure someone there would be better prepared than me and have an epi-pen I swatted bumblebee from my general area and sat down in a chair...directly onto another bumblebee. I felt the buzzing under my left thigh and then the painful sting. I sat up immediately with shock, rubbing at the back of my leg and the alarm spread over me.

"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!" I looked with panicked eyes at my co-worker and she looked pale. I started pacing and inwardly taking stock of how my throat felt, how I was breathing. The pain spreading through my leg was pretty bad and I knew that couldn't be a good sign. Practically shaking my co-worker quietly yelled out, "Does anyone have an epi-pen! Benadryl? First aid kit?!" her voice wavering.

I was surprised when my throat still hadn't closed up but I did feel the familiar swelling on each side of my neck and a tickling in my throat.

A woman at a table a little bit from us noticed our frenzy and came over to us. She announced herself as a nurse and asked if she could help. I told her I was stung by a bumblebee and she calmly said, "Are you allergic to bumblebees?" I told her that I hadn't been stung by a bumblebee before but had been stung twice by honey bees with an anaphylactic reaction. She looked relieved and told me that the two aren't definitely interchangeable, that someone could be allergic to honey bees and not bumblebees and vice-versa. I paced for a little bit longer and the horrible squeezing in my throat never came.

The back inside of my left thigh was burning and angry though. I went into the bathroom and stared in shock at the softball sized thick welt forming around the sting. I was shocked at how hot it felt rubbing against my other thigh. Needless to say I was afraid the stinger was somehow still in my leg and wet paper towels to swab at the welt.

After three days of applying hydrocortisone and calamine lotion the swelling finally went away but left a large, raised oval on my skin that a week later still stings. 

I filled all of my epi-pen refills at my dad's pharmacy the next day after being stung. I stowed some away in my change purse, my glove compartment, Jeremiah's glove compartment and replaced the ancient ones at my parents' house.

I won't be so cavalier about my allergies anymore. I also will always look before I sit down forever...or until my mind starts telling me I'm invincible again.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Drifting, Floating and Crying.

And on the river things are different. The water makes me feel stronger, more alive and maybe more capable. The sun makes me golden, true, intense and lazy all at once. 

Today Kate and I sat in a three person tube for hours. I leaned back and dipped my hair in the water over and over and once or twice we freaked out over a spider or a bug that found its way into our raft. The sun was perfectly baking us and the river was incredibly cold and daunting, the current was swift. 

It was lovely and intensely wonderful. I spend so much time just loving being with Kate it's hard to believe that most of my life I didn't really like her all that much. 

We talked about dogs and the kids and our lives and I told her about how I have been feeling lately. A mix of happy and unhappy and comfortable, unsure and uncomfortable, anxious. She didn't say anything for a really long time and I started to think she was annoyed with me. Finally she said, "well what are you going to do about it?" 

And I said, "Well at some point I made a decision and that's all there is. I am a mother to four children, a daughter to two and a sister to four and I am just that. Just that Kate. And it's final." 

"Oh," she said "that's too bad." 

And then Gordon jumped off the boat and we were soaked with cold clear water. He climbed into the raft further soaking us. 

"What are you girls talking about!!???" 

"Nothing. We are just happy to be together and here." 

I put my head into my sisters chest and cried and cried. When I lifted my head we didn't say a word. She put her arm around me and we just were. My little sister comforting me in the sun and the water and the bright gleaming world. 

It was a beautiful day. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Each Day, Each Day, Each Day

Sometimes I think I'm not going to be able to handle this anymore, this life, these huge responsibilities, these unending struggles.

Sometimes I think, god, what a drama queen, things aren't so bad.

Other times I think how is it possible I'm so blessed, look at the sky and at my family's beautiful faces and insides and wow, every day is a gift.

Yesterday Elijah got off the bus with a scowl on his face and red eyes. He didn't say anything on our walk home. He handed his book bag to me as he usually did but didn't laugh when I put it on my back, obviously too small for me. He didn't "Aw Mom! Stop!" when I ruffled his hair and told him how much I missed him during the day. Obviously something was bugging him.

We got into the house and he sat down at the table and started to get his homework out. He got a pencil and started at it without my prodding and pressing him to start. Under different circumstances I would have been pleased. But I knew something was wrong. I felt myself hoping that it was something trivial and not serious.

I had been really excited for him to come home from school and had a small plate of chocolate covered pretzels and a glass of cashew milk sitting in the fridge chilling for him to snack on while doing his homework. While he was writing and thinking I brought it out and put it in front of him. His eyes met mine finally and tears streamed down his freckled cheeks, red rims around his beautiful hazel eyes.

"Oh MOM!" He sobbed. I held him and after a few minutes he pushed me from him. Too tough for me.

"What's going on Lijah? Did something happen in school?" I sat close to him, preparing myself for something wretched.

"I am the hungry caterpillar PROP for the end of school musical! I was THE Little Elf for the Christmas one but I'm just a PROP for this one. And I told her I wanted to be a puppy or a cat and she made me a PROP. That's not what I want to be." He looked at me now with less grief and more anger. I sifted through my parental options here. One the far end of the spectrum, one that I barely considered was calling his teacher and telling her how he felt about having a different part in the musical. I decided against that almost immediately.

I decided to go with this approach, "Well baby, the teacher picked you for the biggest part in the Christmas play so she probably wanted to give someone else a chance to have a bigger role in this musical. You'll still have fun being the Caterpillar."

He wasn't biting. "But I'm not even the Caterpillar because I don't have ANY LINES."

"It will be OK Lijah. There will be a ton of other plays you'll be in and someday you'll try out for them and be able to pick your parts! Right now the teacher is just trying to make everything fair for everyone." I'm trying here, folks.

He seems to get it a little bit. Gets out of his grump mood and finally lifts his head, becomes aware of his surroundings, scowl leaves his face, deep wrinkles leave his brow. "Thanks Momma. I love chocolate pretzels."

"I love you Elijah."

"I love you more Mom."

So in those moments everything was OK, the clouds parted and the sun warmed our hearts and put our minds at ease.

Are these moments enough for me or you or anyone? Can they sustain us through the rest of our days?

I hope so.