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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Snow Cones

We’re currently in that transition phase.  It takes the boys about a week as we shift gears (either into vacation or back into school) for them to work out the kinks and realize that they’ll be together A LOT so they best get used to the other’s constant existence.  So, that’s where we at.  It’s the first full week of summer vacation and, thankfully, (or not), we don’t have a ton scheduled for right now, so they’re getting a lot of together time. 

One thing that (maybe) helped with this is that Matthew and I left for the weekend.  We left Saturday morning to head to the beach house where my mom and brother were already busy at work.  We met with a real estate agent Saturday afternoon and the house will be on the market by the end of this week.  Sniff sniff.  I’m so sad to see the house go but I know it’s what mom needs to do.  She also has her Bellevue condo on the market. (So, for a couple of weeks, we worked like mad to get that ready.  We’re still Craigslisting, clearing things out and packing for her July 3rd move.) 

We spent Saturday working like crazy just clearing out extra ‘stuff.’  It’s all so overwhelming.  By the end of the day, we had both of our minivans jam-packed with stuff to drop off at Goodwill. I told Matthew that the main reason I brought him was to be my personal child servant.  He thought I was kidding.  Poor kid.  Now, we did allow him some breaks (just to keep it legal) – he and Chris watched the Mariner’s game and even went out and played a little baseball too.  Finally, by 6pm, we were ready to take a much-needed break and go to the pool.

As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw an older gentleman standing next to this crazy tricked out VW bus-turned snowcone truck/stand-deal.  It was covered in bumper stickers. (A couple examples: “Sometimes you’re the bug; sometimes you’re the windshield.” “Buckle up – it’s harder for the aliens to suck you out that way.” And my favorite, “I’m not stressed, you’re just FREAKING ME OUT.”) 

Matthew said, “Ooh! Snow cones! Can I have one?” (These were my exact thoughts too).

“Sorry, kiddo, I don’t have any money,” I said.

“Me neither,” my mom added.

“Maybe they’re free!” Matthew said hopefully.

“Ha! Nothing in life is free,” Mom scoffed.

We got out of the car and slowly started heading towards the pool – exhausted and overwhelmed from our day’s work and the cleaning and packing that awaited us.

“Would you like a free snow cone?” A voice yelled from behind us. 

During these past 7 months (tomorrow) since dad died, there have been many ‘free snow cone’ moments.  I’m thankful that, despite feeling like a complete emotional mess most of the time, I’ve been able to recognize and appreciate these brief breaks.
I wish I could’ve sat on the deck last weekend and enjoyed this view, but part of me didn’t want to.  Sometimes it’s easier just to stay busy.  Just to keep moving.  Dad sure loved this view (who wouldn’t?!) and it’s hard to enjoy it without him.   

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sports Movie

It’s a little embarrassing to admit.  You think I’d know by now I’d know; life’s not a movie.  We don’t tend to experience a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan ending on the top of the Empire State Building.  But I still feel like we should.  The recent fad of flash mobs has given me hope that someday, life will turn into a musical and I won’t be judged for bursting into “the hills are alive” or “the sun’ll come out, tomorrow” (or ‘fill in any other song from nearly any musical’ here).  And, much to my utter joy, at baseball practice a few weeks ago while my little portable ipod stereo played my “pumped up” playlist, a few of the boys started an impromptu dance session when the first notes of “Happy” began.  It gave me so much hope.  This WILL turn out to be a sports movie (and a musical one, at that!), after all, I thought.  Despite all the obstacles, we’ve faced we WILL get our deserved victorious ending.  The underdog always takes the championship in sports movies.  Surely, after all the crap, we’ve put up with – it’s only fair that we take this whole thing.

I even thought: we’d win this whole thing in honor of my dad.  In my own, sad little way, this season was going to lift my spirits.  I thought, well, we deserve to have an awesome, fun season.    

Life is not a sports movie.

We had the deck stacked against us from the very beginning.  It was an uphill battle.  Mike went into the draft ‘blind’ (having been asked to head coach at the last minute).  His only knowledge of the kids was knowing a few that were on our team last year and the one kid that Matthew said was really good (and nice and a kid that Matthew obviously wanted to become friends with).  Mike picked this kid, Nick, for his first draft pick.  Nick was amazing.  At the first practice, we were so impressed and thankful that Matthew was our little talent scout.  But, apparently, Nick’s parents took one look at our sad little team and quit the team and went to a different league.  And that was just the beginning.

So, we were the only team all season with no ‘first draft’ player.  We had the youngest team with several of our kids being 8 year old ‘play-ups’.  (Granted some of our 8 year olds were our best players).  All the other teams had at least two – usually three – second year players. We were the only team with only 1 returning ‘kid pitch’ player (and he was returning because he wasn’t good enough to move up to the next level).  We took a ‘safety hazard’ kid that no one else would take.  Mike was the only coach who let all of our kids try almost all of the positions, whereas most of the other coaches sat their ‘safety hazard’ kids on the bench as much as possible from the very beginning of the season.  Mike was the only coach who would argue an unfair call even if it was in favor of the other team. We were the team scheduled to play top seeded team more than anyone else.  We lost thrice to them, beat them once and tied them once.

Other coaches replaced injured players by recruiting outside kids – kids known to be amazing ballplayers.  We made do with what we’d been given.  (We found out last night that one of the coaches should’ve taken not one, but two of the safety hazard kids, but managed to avoid taking either). Several of the coaches have “been in the league long enough” that they “know” the rules.  Mike had to bring out the rule book at several games pointing out that what they’re doing just isn’t right.  They still got away with it most of the time, arguing so much that they confused and frustrated the umps who finally gave in.  We’ve seen awesome, wonderful people (close friends of ours) turn full-on psycho when arguing calls on the diamond.  It’s just crazy.

We were the lowest seeded team going into the play-offs.  In our first game Saturday, we were able to beat the third seeded team and went on in a double-header against the top seeded team.  We almost had ‘em – ‘til the last inning when they scored two runs more than us.  Last night, we played a team that we’ve managed to beat twice (by a lot!).  We were up by 6 runs when several errors and just lameness made it a tied game.  In the bottom of the six they – as home team – had the winning runner on third base.  Two outs.  The ball was hit to Matthew at second base, he fielded it cleaning, threw perfectly to our catcher who tagged their runner – a couple seconds to late.  Game over.  Season over.  Life ain’t no sports movie.

Sure, we’re proud of what we’ve done with these kids.  They’ve improved so much.  But you can only do so much when the deck is so stacked against you, when the other coaches aren’t following the rules and only care about winning and don’t seem to have the kids’ best interest at heart.  This league has a reputation, and tons and tons of families have left it for nearby leagues.  We’ve stuck with it for four years now, but like many before us, we’ve realized that despite our best efforts there’s too much resistance to change for the better.  The drama, the name-calling, the craziness…well, it just might be time for us to move on too.

Cardinals - Out.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Me 'n toddlers: we don't mix

It’s like I’m a total novice.  I feel like a rookie to parenting.  You’d think after having two kids ‘under my belt’ (so to speak) – or at least having gone through this phase twice already – I’d feel like I know what I’m doing.  I don’t. 

Kayliana is like a whole other level. Sure, she’s our most challenging, but I do have some excuses on why I extra-suck at parenting massive tantrum-throwing toddlers.

1.)   Matthew is our oldest, but was also our ‘easiest’ and most mellow.  He’s challenging in his tendency to be extra emotional and sensitive though.  And yes, he threw tantrums but nothing like Kayli. 

Matthew was our first born which means it was a long time ago that he was a toddler.  He’s also our first born so we had no idea what we were doing.  I once heard it described as “the first born, is like the first pancake in a batch, you figure it’ll turn out ‘OK’ but maybe not as good as the others.  It’s the practice pancake.”  Sorry, kid, but we just tried our best.  Also, Matthew was in his toddler years when I was in the fog of postpartum depression.  After my seven week-stint on hospital bed rest I, sadly, don’t remember much of anything about the next couple of years.  It’s devastating to me that I don’t have clear memories of Zachary as a baby.  It hurts my heart so much.  I’m sure I was also a hot mess in attempting to parent a toddler while dealing with all this and an infant.  So, that’s mom sucks reason #1.
Matthew -- a pretty chill little guy.  He would sit for hours playing with his John Deeres, cars and trucks.
 Don't let their cuteness fool you!

2.)   Zachary, our number two.  Oh dear.  Oh NUMBER TWO.  (Which is how we felt while adjusting to life with two).  Early on, we thought Zach would be our athlete.  He was our energetic, ‘highly spirited’ child.  Even as a newborn 5 pound peanut, he had a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  He still is quite strong willed and occasionally throws an 8 year old’s tantrum that makes toddler tantrums look like child’s play.  He was the kid found dancing a jig on the dining room table and dumping my mug of coffee on my laptop.  He was the one who got his head stuck in the stair banister. 

I’ll admit that as our 2nd born and middle child, Zachary’s definitely had to deal with the stigma of the sandwiched kid.  Much of his toddlerhood was spent with us very actively involved in two major endeavors (and not at all focused on his needs): we were planning and putting on a National Convention for Engaged Encounter and we were going through the process to adopt kid #3.  He got the shaft.  Mom sucks reason #2 for ya.

Never a dull moment with Zach! 

3.)   Ahh, here we are.  We’re in it.  Ms. Kayliana.  I’m sure a little bit of the issue is hearing (while raising two boys), “Oh, girls are SO much easier than boys when they’re little.  They’re less energetic and more reserved.  Girls get harder during the teenage years, of course, but they’re way easier when they’re young.  They sit quietly and play for a long time.  They help clean up, etc.” Hooey Hooey Hooey.  Lies.  Also, being told, “Girls are SO much easier to potty train,” didn’t help expectations.  Again with the lies.  I understand that these are massive generalizations, but when you hear it enough, it’s hard not to anticipate their truth…at least a little.  On top of being our most difficult to potty train, Kayli has also been our worst sleeper by a LONG shot.  She stopped napping way earlier than the boys – she was pretty much done by the age of two.  This makes dealing with her toddleriness even harder because we’re STILL sleep-deprived…and she’s THREE AND A HALF.  I was up with her at 3 o’clock this morning because she had a nightmare, had to go potty (because she refused to go before bed and threw a massive fit about it) and then proceeded to throw a freakin-middle-of-the-night twenty minute tantrum because she didn’t want to go back to sleep in her own bed.

Kayli’s toddlerhood has been marked by two massive life events: we moved right before she turned two and my dad died 11 days after she turned three.  I know it’s understandable that the chaos and stress of these events impacts children.  But when she’s having crazy-insane mega tantrums, peeing on the floor and I’m in tears attempting to deal with it and with life, in general, I can’t help but think “this is my entirely fault” and can’t I just get a break?!  I mean, I know it’s not…completely my doing.  But it’s what life’s brought us.  It’s the life that she’s known and so far, for her, it mostly consists of lameness.  I also think I’ve added to her temperament by ‘giving in’ more.  Letting her watch more TV (thus she’s adding more energy reserves to her tantrum-throwing process).  I’m just trying to ‘make life easier’ for myself, which is typically doing the opposite of what’s best for her.

Also, let’s keep in mind, that she is, by far, our most active.  She’s our athlete.  She’s our two-days-in-a-row-of-stitches-on-the-face; she’s the trip-to-the-ER-on-our-anniversary; she’s our sweet little waking-up-with-a-broken-arm-three-days-after-dad-dies kiddo.  She’s clumsy but in nonstop movement.  So often I say, “Fine if you want to be an adrenal junky and crazy-active, but don’t be all breaky and bad at it!”  Be one or the other: active and awesome or clumsy and cautious.  Kayli is my puppy.  She’s the one that if I don’t get her out for her daily exercise, I shouldn’t expect her to be house-broken!  And, let’s face it, most of the time; I’ve done a piss-poor job of ‘doing’ stuff with her because of how life’s been.  Excuses and the reason why mom sucks with #3.

 We should've known that, walking at 10 months, meant non-stop movin' for this little lady.
 ER trip on our Anniversary: Dislocated elbow (re-dislocated two days later).
 After two days of stitches.  And she's still smiling. 
Notice Kayli's 'bulky' left arm -- cast for 3 weeks for 'mysterious' broken(?!) arm
Good thing we’re done having kids.  I’ve already done enough not-awesome to 3 people!  At least CPS hasn't stopped in and no one's been in Juvie...yet.