TWO HUNDRED FORTY NINE…narrowly escaping a craptastic day part 4

I’ve had enough distance from last Tuesday to laugh about our morning disaster. It was almost a full-blown craptastic day. I am in fact due for one.

I define “craptastic days” as an unbelievable series of events which come together to break down the individual’s psyche. On those days, I am hanging on by the thinnest thread until mentally, I am on a cold cement floor curled into the fetal position. The moment right before the thread completely unravels, something resembling redemption happens. A kid comes to me, gives me kisses, a picture they drew for me, a hug or just randomly tells me they love me and it makes the whole day worth while.

The song ‘Don’t really know me’ by Snowden plays silently in my head the entire day. I knew I was in for it when 10 minutes before Cecilia and I had to leave the house for her therapy sessions, Abby and Phoebe begged to come with me so we could “do school” while in the waiting room. Right. They NEVER want to do school…especially in the waiting room of Cecilia’s therapy.

As Cecilia made a B-line for the upstairs to get her coveted mini mouse doll for the umpteenth time that morning, the two older sisters casually informed me, they, “didn’t have anything to eat for breakfast and…can we stop by the grocery store to pick up some pop-tarts.”

There it was.

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Despite my constant nagging reminding them about pop-tart’s complete lack of nutrients, high sugar content, and their general inability to satiate them…I acquiesced to their tactics.

“Let’s remain calm and maintain some sense of sanity…while minimizing eminent disaster” is the mantra I kept repeating to myself.

I managed to get everyone out the door. Acknowledging the speed limit, we quickly made it down our street. Two stop lights later, I am pulling into the un-named grocery store’s parking lot.

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Knowing I’m on a tight timeline, I am going over in my head the series of events which need to take place

1. I have to QUICKLY run in and grab some generic box of pop-tarts

2. Make it to therapy without going over the speed limit.

Therapy is a 5 minute drive from my house. The grocery store is two minutes away. Ah the benefits of living in the city. So if I have 10 minutes, I should be able to get there within the narrow time frame. Really, how hard can that be?

FLW (famous last words) folks, FLW.

Steps away from the automatic front door, I realize I don’t have my “special” grocery store card. Who cares, right? Just buy the damn thing. I don’t need a discount on $2.99.

So when I answer the cashiers, “Ma’am, do you have your members card” with my, “Oh darn I forgot it” she was scrambling to find a piece of paper and pen to scribble my number down. I repeatedly told her, “It’s ok I don’t need a card for the pop tarts…I’m running late, I have an appointment in like 8 minutes”.  Before I can finish, she seized my computer screen and ran to customer service to “LOOK UP” my phone number while yelling “it’s ok Ma’am, it will just take a second”.

I stood there, red-faced, furious, sweating of course and pissed that we are going to be late for Cecilia’s appointment. Amazingly enough she made it back pretty quickly from the grocery store’s hidden archaic machine just in time to type my ten digit pass code into the computer….and wouldn’t you know it, those pop tarts didn’t qualify for any kind of discount what-so-ever. She looked at me and had the nerve to seize my computer again only to suggest I go and pick out another box of pop tarts that were on sale.

In a rare moment of personal strength, I just looked at her and let my furrowed brow give her the answer she was refusing to hear.

SIDE NOTE: When I was in my undergrad at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, we studied the Alexander vocal technique. As a freshman we were encouraged to carry around famed vocal coach Patsy Rodenburg’s ‘The Need for Words’. It was an integral part of our curriculum and considered to be “the bible” of protecting your voice.

Contrary to my studies at UNCSA, there was no need for words in that moment. Turns out, sometimes a simple blank face will communicate exactly what your inner dialogue is. She nervously smiled and said, “No you probably don’t want to go get another box do you…that’s right…you did say you were in a hurry.”

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Once again, as I’m checking out, the screen flashed its big bold-faced word in size 20.5 font  “COUPONS” with a big green Yes button and an even bigger red NO button. I gently and somewhat sarcastically extended my forefinger on my right hand and pushed the giant “NO” with its  19.5 font.

Of course, you could probably guess what happened next. If your thinking “Oh no, did the printer run out of paper?” You’d be correct.

I mean come on…when my luck goes down hill it plummets into the black abyss. There is no piece of toilet paper gently swaying side to side on an imaginary pillow lined staircase with blue skies in the background. Nope. My toilet paper spontaneously combusts into an enormous fireball and hurdles itself into the cavity of despair.

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“I don’t need my receipt” I gently inform her and wouldn’t you know she comes back with, “Are you sure, It won’t take long I promise”.  “No that’s ok…have a great day!” I yell. Before she can complete her, “Thank you for visiting with us today” I was out the door and waiving like the true derelict I am.

I clumsily shoved myself in the car and chucked the pop tarts in Abby’s general direction.

As I was responsibly pushing 3 miles beyond the city speed limit, I nervously acknowledged the police officers passing me in the opposite lane.

We were in fact 5 minutes late. I was able to sign in, but there was a long line of parents in front of me so I waited for the 15 minutes it took for the line to dissipate. As I approached the desk, the receptionist who jokes with me every single week about how, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks…this new system we are learning is so complicated” picked up the ringing phone and was once again distracted.

I sat back down and waited another 5 minutes. By this time I was completely pissed. Twenty minutes have come and gone and Cecilia is still in the middle of the room dancing to the music in the current commercial on the waiting room tv.

Finally the anger propels me out of my seat and I approach the receptionist who had finally gotten off the phone, and I said, “We were 5 minutes late, I acknowledge that but it has been 20 minutes now and I personally don’t feel we should have to pay for the 30 minutes she didn’t have therapy.”

Bracing herself for battle, she squinted her eyes and said, “Oh no, I think we forgot to call you last week to let you know your OT was on vacation this week.” I calmly smiled and verbally affirmed her goof with a, “Yep, you forgot to call me.” To which she made that face where you stretch your mouth in a downward frown and attempted to offer a sincere apology.

Since CC’s next appointment was in 5 minutes I just decided to continue to wait. We made a trip to the bathroom, washed her hands, and by the time we returned to the waiting room, it was time to send her off to her session. With 30 minutes to spare and KNOWING it always takes a full 15 minutes to pay the bill, I just requested to go ahead and pay for her session at that moment.

Of course the receptionist delivered her usual, “Oh this new system we are implementing is so confusing…I guess you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks can you?” In my head I answer with a confident, “No, you really can’t.” But in reality, I just smile like I usually do and signed the little receipt and calmly set the pen down on the ledge and returned to my seat with the explosion in my brain on standby.

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Obviously we didn’t get any school work completed in the waiting room. By the time I finished paying the bill, Cecilia was five minutes from finishing her session. Luckily, the rest of the day carried on without any major upsets. I almost reached the mental fetal position, but looking back, it didn’t fully qualify for a “craptastic” day. When we arrived home for lunchtime, Phoebe June came to me with a hug and kiss to let me know how much she loves me. Abby voluntarily completed her school work and Cecilia played quietly in her kitchen for a whole hour.

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And just like that, the stress flew out of my body. I narrowly avoided a full-blown craptastic day.

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TWO HUNDRED FORTY SEVEN…the trenches of parenthood

“Good morning sweet pea…I love you too! No you cannot have the Ipad. Please go peepee on the potty…yes I want you to go peepee on the potty…should mommy put you back to bed, cause you aren’t being a good listener right now…very good…thank you for listening…big girls go peepee on the potty…are you a big girl…yes you ARE mommies big girl. Yes I am getting ready to make your cinnamon raisin bagel, just like we do every morning. Cecilia, please be patient…I can’t do everything at once…I am making your bagel, and can you say that magical word that makes mommy happy…oh good girl…yes we say please don’t we? No Daddy went to work remember? Yes daddy works in our basement…yes daddy is downstairs…yes daddy loves you. Here’s your bagel…yes I’m getting your water, please be patient and say that magical word that mommy loves…very good… Thank you. Yes, I will let you have the Ipad, if you’ll let mommy watch some news…thank you. CC, can you please turn it down, it hurts my ears, it’s too loud…yes it’s too loud. No Cecilia, you cannot go upstairs to wake your sisters up…Cecilia, I said NO…No CC!…ok now your sitting in time-out…yes I see that your crying….your in time-out because you didn’t listen to mommy, remember…that’s right, you weren’t listening, you need to listen, mommy and daddy are trying to keep you safe and happy. Yes daddy is downstairs…yes Abby is still sleeping…yes she is upstairs…Yep, Phoebe’s up there too…oh you love Abby…you love Phoebe too don’t you….Of course you do…you can’t forget about Phoebe…do you know who mommy loves….that’s right, Daddy, Abby, Phoebe and CC….no, you cannot go upstairs to wake up your sisters…Cecilia, what did I say. Okay, do you think you’re ready to listen…you can come out of time out now….but only if your going to be a big girl and listen…are you going to listen…I hope so…big girls listen Please turn the Ipad down….turn it down or I will take it away…Excellent, yes, thank you for listening. No Busha is at her house…she is at her house with Grandpa…No Busha isn’t sleeping here, remember, she’s at Grandpa’s house…yes we will got to see Busha and Grandpa very soon. Of course mommy loves Nana…Nana is mommy’s mommy…that’s right she is mommy’s mommy…yes you love Nana too. Yes mommy and daddy love Busha and Grandpa…you cannot have both the ipad and the t.v….no that’s not fair…yes mommy is drinking coffee…hey CC, can you go get a new pair of underpants and put them on without waking your sisters up, please, and thank you…no this is mommy’s coffee…I love you too CC…are you mommy’s girl…yes daddy is downstairs…no, we aren’t taking a bath this morning, you took a bath at Nana’s yesterday remember…no CC, it’s too early for crackers and you just had a bagel. Cecilia, you turned your Ipad up again…Please turn it down…yes, turn it down or mommy gets to take it away…no, it’s too early for crackers remember. Yes I know Uncle JB…What did you say…oh, wow yes, Scout is a sweet dog…I can’t believe you remembered her name…good job…No, remember, this is mommies coffee…Yes, where is Nana…that’s right….Where’s Busha…and Daddy…what about Abby and Phoebe…your so smart…what about Mommy…where is Mommy? Uh Oh, I see a little girl who needs to be TICKELED…tickle tickle tickle…yes yes yes…tickle tickle…ok I’ll stop…uh oh, tickle tickle tickle…oh don’t cry, mommy was just playing…oh the couch hurt your leg, you mean couch, don’t you hurt my big girl CC…mean couch”…

I recorded our dialogue for 45 minutes this morning. It is roughly the same every single day.

Just a glimpse at the first 45 minutes of every morning of my life. Because I know you are just DYING to know.

Sometimes, I can’t believe I am the same person who was once planning on a career in theatre. I don’t know what happened, but I just didn’t want to hear myself talk anymore.

And here I am…talking..talking…talking….ALL THE TIME. It never ends. I mean, this is just a guess, but maybe this repetitive conversation has something to do with the reason I turn my brain off around that 6:30 witching hour. Oh that’s funny, did I write 6:30? Of course I meant 5:30.

Fast forward to this afternoon when I treated the girls to a Wednesday matinee. As usual we were waiting in line and I put Abby in charge of CC. As Abby chased her around the theatre lobby trying to make her listen and stand still, I felt so warm down in my body. All this running around after her takes away from spending time with Abby and Phoebe. Is it too much to ask to be able to go out to a public place and just enjoy being with one another?

I feel like it is sometimes.

Fast forward and somehow, amazingly enough, we made it through the movie. As we are leaving the theater, the shit hits the fan and all cecilia wants to do is run away from Abby and myself, scream when we come near her, hit us, and stiffen her body so I can’t possibly pick her up.

I’m getting all these stares from other families, and the “pouty” lip from adults who clearly pitty us. I don’t want people to see her like this. She’s such a smart little girl but when she acts this way, no one sees that.

I was so deflated and disappointed. I just came home, locked my bedroom door, sat on the edge of my bed and cried. I needed to release that pent-up energy and frustration. As always, after a good honest cry, I felt ready to try again.

I was thinking about how to convey my two conflicting emotions; complete adoration and unconditional love along with frustration and of course anxiety sprinkled in there for extra measure.

My sister-in-law once asked me if it was difficult raising a child with special needs…Cecilia at the time was a mere 3 years old.

She was so tiny, so sweet, funny, still wanted to be carried everywhere…wanted to please me and her daddy…wasn’t really into voicing her own opinion and her protestations manifested themselves in the form of the cutest pouty lip I’ve ever seen.

So, at the time, I answered as honestly as I possibly could, “It’s just like raising any other child…I am not doing anything for her, that I woudn’t do for my other kids.”

I would probably have a different answer today.

In so many ways, it does get easier. For example, she is now all about dressing herself, going number 1 on the potty all on her own, she can now nap without a diaper, she goes to the grocery store with me and pushes her own little tiny cart, randomly tells me she loves me, gives me kisses of her own free will.

She is able to communicate her needs, she can turn on her own music and dance and sing whenever the moment strikes her, as long as it’s within reason, although we frequently discuss how, “early morning is not a good time to blast Joan Jet’s ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me There’ on your iPad” especially at it’s highest decibel and by the way anything at it’s highest decibel is never a good idea…unless of course, it’s mommy’s music, and when I tell her this she makes the correct adjustment per my request.

She can brush her teeth by herself and frequently chooses to do so at various times of the day.

She loves to help with laundry, dishes, and cooking. She loves to help me put the clothes into the wash, dryer and then the clean basket. With the dishes, (because we don’t have a dishwasher) I’ll dry the silverware and she puts them away.

And cooking pancakes is her most favorite Saturday activity.

Her maturity has really allowed her communication and therefore her independence to reach another level. And she likes to talk. A LOT. I love getting to know who she is and how she sees herself fitting into our crazy family dynamic.

There are so many more positives I am confident I am forgetting…but sometimes all the wonderful little nuances to her little being, become overshadowed by the things she still struggles with…

Like playing independantly for more than 10 minutes. Let me restate that, she has trouble playing independantly in a NON-DESTRUCTIVE way for more than 10 minutes. I know why, but it makes it hard when I have two other kids who also want to talk to me about… e v e r y t h i n g.

When we are in the grocery store and she is pushing her own cart, she is awesome for about 15 minutes…and then she begins acting out; running away from me, running into the shelves or other people with her little cart, randomly walking off, not listening when I demand she put ALL of the items back on the shelf after she has either pushed them off or put them all in her cart.

AND of course, and this is a big one, taking advantage of me when I cannot devote all of my attention to her. The word D E S T R U C T I V E just doesn’t seem to cover it. And it’s not always convenient or realistic for me to adjust my time or schedule based on her 15 minute time period.

I feel like I have to keep going about my daily life and she has to learn to adapt or the consequences are a stressful parent/child relationship.

Who wants that?

As soon as she hits a mile stone, we check off a goal on her list and replace it with another one.

So, in a lot of ways, as she gets older it does get easier. And in other ways, it also gets a little more difficult.

Ebb and Flow.

Here is my hope, and I am only basing this on the fact that I have experience with two other children who are becoming mature. I know she has special needs and though it may take her a little bit more time, She will always be able to scaffold her knowledge…and her opportunity for growth is far reaching.

Like every parent, I want what’s best for all of our kids. But more than that, I want a true relationship with her. I don’t need to be her “best friend” but I do hope they all confide in me.

I want to get to a point where we can walk the isles of the grocery store together. Enjoy a movie and popcorn with each other. Walk calmly, side by side in a store. Walk into her therapy waiting room and be able to sit with one another, while waiting for her sessions to begin. I would probably pass out if she actually walked side by side with me in a parking lot, but I would love to do it just the same.

I know one day I will look back and read this post and think to myself, “I should have just relaxed, not been so stressed out, put my trust in time and faith, enjoyed every minute, kissed her little chubby cheeks, scratched her back more, and recognized these moments for what they are…fleeting.” It seems I have to constantly re-learn the lesson that time really will bring answers to my questions and also peace.

I’m working on that.

It’s just hard right now because I’m in what I like to call the “Mattel and Fisher Price Trenches”. I’m right smack in the middle of just trying to make it from one day to the next in a healthy, productive way. One day it will get better. I know it will. I’m just in the middle of the parenting trenches.

TWO HUNDRED FORTY SIX…roosevelt was allergic to frugs…what?

I have one word for you today

Roosevelt

No, not as in FDR or Teddy.

I have discovered a new band that is similar to Beach Fossils. Their song moving on, makes me want to lock myself in a large dark warehouse with a multi-colored magenta disco ball and turn the bass all the way up and just watch the lights play off the walls and floor. I see myself sitting in the center of this empty warehouse on a glow in the dark BLACK Adirondack chair, with a straw hat, and a strawberry daiquiri. No. Scratch that…pinacolada.

And no, before you ask I’m not on LSD. It’s just that good. Just listen to it. If you don’t have a similar feeling, that may be a good indicator that we do not have the same taste in music. Which is fine. I think we would still get along. I like all music.

I am now on a quest to acquire all of Roosevelt’s music. Apparently they’ve been around for a while. Why I haven’t I heard them on my Pandora Beach Fossils station you ask?? Well, let me respond with, “My sentiments exactly!” What the hell are those algorithms for? I’m thumbing up Small Black, Kuyuckas, Wild Cub, Washed Up, Fleet Foxes…I could go on ad nauseum.

One thing is for sure, I’m going to need hearing aids and medicine for the tinnitus I will surely develop listening to my Beats headphones on their loudest decibels. That’s assuming all those damn B52’s and Dave Mathews concerts I attended back in the day didn’t already cause all the damage.

I’m laying here, my eyes are itchy, watery. My nose is stuffed up. This happens every night around the 10:00 hour. Finally after 3 nights of staying up past 10 I’ve come to the realization I must be allergic to 10:00. Just like my allergy to housework . I have Elena, one of my 3 best girlfriends to thank for my late nights…

SIDENOTE: Abby, Phoebe and I have decided we are ready to adopt not one, but TWO baby pugs.

And not just any pugs…this is where my friend Elena comes in….she is going to try to impregnate her pug within the next 10 days. She has a most brilliant plan to throw her little Lupi in a room with a French bulldog for the next week. And hopefully 63 days following their “spiritual” meeting, we will be gifted a boy and girl frug (French Pug).

For the past 3 nights we have been discussing our excitement about being PMILS together. “What’s a “PMIL””, you ask. Why it stands for Puppy-Mother-In-laws. DUH. We are already planning Holidays, Birthdays, weddings…vacations together, grandmother siestas. There are so many events that need to be pre-arranged. It’s exhausting.

The Tennessee Spranger’s are ready. It has taken us a solid 3 years to get to the point where we are ready to open our hearts to a new canine member. We obviously looked at golden retrievers again, but ultimately decided we would not feel comfortable putting a new innocent dog in that position of constantly being compared to the one and only Bear Spranger.

Also, the one lone picture of myself in this blog is taken by my other one of three best girl friends…Mrs Stephanie, who also owns a pug. The signs are all around us. I just need to find out if my third best girlfriend Karla also has a pug she is hiding from us. If not, she probably needs to get one so we can all siesta together.

Oh wow, I’ve got to start adding more planning to the list…

I also see myself roller skating in a giant ware house again with a disco ball (blue and green this time though, not magenta…that’s not a good color for skating Gods) again with the bass blasting and it’s just me and my PMILs in our Bikinis, pig tails, and bubble gum. That’s a much better dream.

TWO HUNDRED FORTY FIVE…little red houses, for you and me

So…

we bought a little red house almost two months ago. Greg and I lovingly refer to it as our sweet humble dump cottage.

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It’s a fixer upper…and we will just leave it at that.

In September Abby and Phoebe had expressed a desire to settle down, find friends, and get involved in activities. I can’t say that I blame them. Traveling the country, while being an incredible experience for the family, can be difficult for young kids during the school months. There were other full-timers homeschooling their kids, but it was few and far between. And the families always seemed to have kids the same age as Abby or Phoebe.  Rarely did we find families with kids both their ages, so someone was always left out.

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For that reason alone, summertime was their favorite time to RV.

When we began our alternative lifestyle, Greg and I always said if anyone ever expressed a desire to stop, we would not be selfish. We vowed to put our own wants aside, no matter what. So when the kids started making their feelings known in September, we were completely out by October.

A total of 18 months living in an RV full-time. Not too shabby. I still can’t believe we did it. Without a doubt, I can say, both Greg and myself could have gone on for who knows how long. But, we made a promise to the family not to be selfish.

Come October, we spent a couple of months in Greg’s parents basement, two months in my mom’s house, 1 month in a beautiful farm home, and now, our sweet humble  cottage.

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So it’s been about 7 months since we re-entered into normal society of schedules and appointments. On the one hand it’s nice to be back. I honestly never thought I would utter the following words, but I actually missed our daily routines of “everyday normal staying in one place” lives.

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On the other hand coming back to a stationary life is difficult. Right about this time last year we were living it up in Telluride, CO and Park City, Utah. I have so many great memories of the kids and I exploring the little towns, stopping for ice cream and souvenirs, talking with the locals about the best hiking places, restaurants, and parks for the whole family. We would get out and walk every day.

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And quite possibly my favorite thing about out west is the simple fact that my husband went to and consequently got off work a whole two hours before his east coast counterparts. I mentioned earlier how refreshing it is to be able to mentally check out of my motherhood duties a whole two hours early everyday. Well just let me take this moment to confirm my previous statements; it is a joy to let someone else take the lead in putting constant limits on our little inmates to ensure their safety, fret over what to cook for dinner, help the oldest child as she goes about her daily breakdown because of ” how much school she has to endure”.

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People please, before you have a coronary, I’m totally joking.

Well, I’m joking about everything but the dinner thing. Finding something to cook which satisfies everyone’s health requirements, taste buds, appetite is definitely not one of my strengths. So Greg getting off work earlier made it super easy for him to plan out the nightly menu.

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But for better or worse I am back to planning dinner menus, keeping everyone safe, and piling on the school work until at least one child ends up in tears at the end of the day. I don’t consider my duties as a homeschooling parent sufficient until at least one child is in tears, on the floor, curled up in the fetal position. Again, just joking.

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All joking aside, I find myself thinking a lot about all of the experiences we had and how they have impacted our lives. Of course I won’t know until years from now…or at least when I get one of my kids’ first therapy bill, just how much damage we caused in order to experience the vagabond lifestyle.

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BUT I can say the one thing I learned about myself (which I instinctively knew already…it just became more apparent) is that I value intimacy over large group settings. Although I can throw down with the best of them at large parties, I prefer one on one interaction. Along with intimate group settings I also found, and this next one is a biggie, I prefer a smaller home for my family.

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Say What??

I loved the confines of the 300 square foot home on wheels just because we were all so close to one another ALL THE TIME. Does that mean I LOVED having ONLY 300 square feet of space?

No.

But I didn’t hate it either.

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 It worked out perfectly for us.

There were times when I was cursing the confines in which we found ourselves. But it gave me a tremendous sense of satisfaction just knowing I can live with much less than I previously thought. I wholeheartedly embraced the philosophy of living with the bare minimum.

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The whole time on the RV allowed me to hone in on these little people we are raising. House work was almost minimal, the kids had chores, learned to cook, wash dishes, sort, wash, dry, fold, and put away their own clothes which in effect too=k loads off my to-do lists…pun intended.

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Looking for a home that would allow us to still be intimate and close with one another without sacrificing the modern amenities (good size yard, centrally located and within walking distance to downtown, good neighborhood, space for everyone but not huge) we’ve become accustomed to proved to be a challenge. So when we came upon the little red house, with oodles of potential, it just seemed like the perfect next step for our little family.

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I will say, when the kids go to bed at night, all in their own rooms, the 1300 square foot cottage seems too big for us. I miss watching them sleep and knowing what they are doing every minute of the day. I’m sure in four months time, I will appreciate the extra 1,000 square feet we find ourselves in. Four months seems to be my magic time frame for getting back into the swing of things. At this time, we are in our two month mark. I’m feeling pretty good right now. I can’t wait to see what four months will give me.

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For now, I’m just going to sip on some lemonade…in my new backyard, watch my kids jump on our brand new trampoline, listen to some John Millencamp sing about little pink houses and day-dream about all the fun things we have planned…

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‘…little pink red houses for you and me’

TWO HUNDRED FORTY FOUR…grocery disas…er…trip

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Trips to the grocery store with the our clan always seem to elicit an array of interesting faces from patrons: sad faces, annoyed faces, concerned faces, contorted faces due to rubber necking, happy to see us faces (although those are far and few between), and scared faces. We probably see the latter most often. Hey, it’s what we’re here for. Most likely it makes them feel great about their lives, their not as “crazy” as they previously thought. Or the more unlikely “Gosh, I should have more kids so I can look the way that Mom looks…so disheveled…but those kids look super happy”. Continue reading

TWO HUNDRED FORTY THREE…alaska sick

I woke up to the vibration of our behemoth vehicle thundering down an unfinished gravel road. I wasn’t sure where we were geographically. Physically I realized I was crammed into Cecilia’s bunk. Abby’s analogy homework pops into my mind in moments like these: wooden chair is to pinched sciatica as bottom bunk is to bulging discs. But giving up the feeling of her little back curled perfectly into my torso with our arms intertwined isn’t something I’m ready to surrender just yet. Plus waking up to a pile of her freshly washed strawberry hair haphazardly twisted into a bun on the top of her head is always a nice way to wake up.

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Once I had my wits about me, I remembered we were leaving Whitefish, YT (Yukon Territory). As my eyes focused on Cecilia’s pink panda pajama pants, I watched her little fingers rise and fall resting on her little tummy. I love watching my little inmates sleep. They are all so peaceful and perfect. They have their whole lives ahead of them and somehow, when I look at their little jaggedly square slightly dirty fingernails, I feel secure as a mom they are using their imaginations and creativity to their fullest capacity.

Basically the only thing as a parent I am certain of.

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We left Homer with heavy hearts and monsoon-like weather on Thursday. It’s better to rip the band aid off  just get up and go rather than to peel it off slowly lingering around looking at everything we will be missing. Abby was making observations all morning long about the dense fog and “Are we sure we want to drive in this kind of weather…it’s raining so hard out and really hard to see with all the fog around” to which Greg replied, “We’ve driven in rain and fog before…we will be extra safe and I know we will be fine.” “She just said out loud what I feel inside”, I remarked. The sideways glance from Greg is an unspoken communication I understand well…his, “I know you don’t want to leave, but this is the plan we’ve mapped out…if we stay, we …” “I know, I know” I answered back with my unspoken glance.

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Leaving the campground, we headed north one last time so I might grab a picture of the ‘Welcome to Homer’ sign. It took a full 30 minutes of crouching down, walking from side to side to try to find the best angle for my sign. As I examined the evidence, one thing was glaringly obvious…I suck at landscape photography. I just keep telling myself to log in those 10,000 hours and my efforts will eventually pay off. At least that’s what Malcolm Gladwell has lead me to believe.

Currently, we are travelling down the infamous HWY 1 (Alkan Highway) through the Yukon Territory. We breezed through customs yesterday and Cecilia managed to charm the pants off the stoic Canadian border guard. She wouldn’t smile at any of us. But when Cecilia came to the window, climbed over Greg and answered the guards questions, “What’s your name” with her confident, “I’m CC” and the guards’ “How old are you” with “I’m six” shooting the guard with her goofy crooked smile, the guard looked at her and tried to withhold a smile, but melted in the palm of her hand. Cecilia then relayed to the guard, “I have a pee pee sticker chart” and “I’m a big girl” the guard responded with an animated, “Wow, you are a big girl” she gave us back our passports and waved us through. It provided Greg and I with a good chuckle for the rest of the 8 hour trip. If those border guards goal is to not smile and remain neutral, she failed…just like the ones who allowed us into Canada. Their all effective, until Cecilia shows up.

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We were going to spend a couple of days in Seward but when we arrived, it was pouring rain. The forecast predicted rain for the next four days. The girls have grown out of their wellies, and we just weren’t really feeling it. Plus, I am excited to see my best girlfriend from college and her family in Minnesota as we make our way to Michigan. Even though we aren’t scheduled to arrive for another couple of weeks, I rationalized that running errands and tying up some loose ends for the RV in Minot (Why not, My not) North Dakota would be a great way to spend the next two weeks.

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Here’s something completely random: When I first heard Kings of Leon back in 2006, I assumed the lead singer was a robust fella who wore button down shirts with fabric gaping open between each button, so his sparse chest and belly hair could get some air. In my mind I just assumed he was kind of greasy and a little dirty with heavy bourbon on his breath. Maybe he had some scratchy corn teeth and always had a cigarette barely hanging onto his lower lip. I always thought of him in month old dirty jeans, well-worn cloudy black combat Doc Martin lace-up boots, along with his ‘devil-may-care’ rock star attitude every time I heard one of their songs.

I maintained this mental picture until Spring of 2014 when I was waiting in the pick-up car line of Abby’s first grade school. I was there early and probably listening to one of their songs on the radio. I googled Kings of Leon…low and behold, Caleb Followill, is neither robust or greasy. My bubble was burst. I still revert back to the picture in my mind, as his voice ABSOLUTELY does not match his face. I want the Milli Vanilli hipster to step aside and reveal the true scratchy vocal lead singer. I was utterly disappointed and desperately wanted him to be this arrogant dirty whale of a man. Until then, I will continue to listen to their overly suggestive lyrics and wailing guitar solos.

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So, we are heading back to the lower 48. I have that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The feeling of my stomach doing somersaults because I’ve left such an incredible place.  Hey if something amazing happens in Homer, Alaska, and I’m not there to witness it, will it still a. happen and b. still be wonderful…even if I’m not there to experience it? Yes, I know the answer and I think that’s why my stomach is doing somersaults. 

I think I am Alaska sick.

 

 

TWO HUNDRED FORTY TWO…my new two favorite words

Homer, Alaska.

 

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“Make sure you visit a grocery store before we head out to Homer because it’s so remote there, they may not have a grocery store. So in other words, shop for the week” Greg warned me before we left Palmer. So naturally I went buck wild and spent a ridiculous amount of money on enough groceries to get us through the week because “Homer isn’t like anything we will ever experience in our lifetime” according to Greg.

 

I was going to be a smart ass and take a picture of the enormous Safeway in town, but let’s just say, the people who live in Homer, Alaska…aren’t “roughing” it as Greg had warned me about. My studious researcher husband claims he was, “misinformed”. “What year was the article you were referring to published?” I ask…to which he responds, “Hey what is that? A Moose??” A successful Subject aversion. I decided to let it go.

 

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The feelings I had when we first visited Bar Harbor, Camden, Rockport, Freeport, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, Maine; Montpelier, Burlington, and Newport, Vermont; Mackinac Island, Michigan; Hatteras, North Carolina; Mt Shasta, CA are equal, if not more intense, to Homer, Alaska.

 

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Once Greg finished work on Friday, we explored the fishing village of Homer. We walked along the docks, loosing ourselves in the hypnotic glossy blue ripples in the pacific, all the life happening in the streets, families meeting up with their friends for dinner, watched fishing tours bring in their latest salmon, Halibut, or trout catch so they could hang them up in the center of town, watching the boats bob up and down on the choppy waters of the docks, observing a little group of teenage girls giggling together as their boy group tags behind rolling their eyes, and individuals walking their loyal canine companions through town.  After yelping the best seafood places, we made our way into Captain Patties Fish House. I would have taken a picture but it had begun to rain…maybe next time.

 

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Trust me when I tell you, if you ever find yourself in Homer, RUN don’t walk, I repeat RUN to Captain Patties.

 

I was thinking about getting their Salmon special, because I love salmon…but Greg usurped me and told me to trust him. He ordered the three-pounder fresh Alaskan King Crab, the price of which was a three digit number for the one dish. Within a fifteen minute time period, our waitress told us to take a look out the window and see if the King Crab their fisherman just caught was to our liking. I wonder what would have happened had I said no. I shutter to think. I looked at the damn thing and couldn’t believe how big it was. We can eat all that? Between the two of us?

 

I’ve seen the romance movies out there where the wife wants to be romanced…wined, dined, dancing, and surprised with flowers, candy, and expensive jewelry, which is perfectly fine. My idea of a romantic date night is a night of amazing food, great music, surrounded by people I love, and a nice cold glass of chardonnay or two…In other words, Friday was my idea of a perfect date night. And adding to the list of things that are romantic to me, we were in Homer, Alaska…eating dinner at a restaurant with a fabulous water view.

 

When my time comes, if I can choose how to exit this world, I choose that night, with those people plus a few more, in that restaurant, with that view, that meal, and that goofy classic easy listening 70’s rock in the background.242 f.jpg242 e.jpg242 g.jpg

 

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I went to bed Friday night feeling all the feels. I thanked Greg for being who he is and allowing me to be who I am, and for everything he does for this family, all the love he gives to his girls, and for being such a great best friend. I ran over to the girls and kissed their chocolate stained faces and told them who much they mean to me and how happy I am that I get to be their mother. Then I don’t know what happened but I must have passed out once my body hit the bed because when I awoke Saturday morning, my ears were ringing, the sun was way to bright, the sound of the toilet flushing almost put me over the edge, and I was still wearing my clothes from the night before along with my puffer vest. Needless to say the gratuitous feeling I had the night before was long gone. Vanished. Into thin air. POOF. See ya later happy girl, run along now!!

 

242 aa.jpg242 y.jpgAfter my second cup of caffeinated coffee that morning Saturday, August 12th, we greeted the morning in Homer with a trip to one of their small inlets. We wanted to give the girls an opportunity to fish in the fishing capital of the world. Just kidding. I made that last part up. But it should be called the fishing capital of the world, if it’s not. The inlet we found leads into Kachamek Bay and boasts of large salmon and another fish which I forgot the name of… because really, to me there is no competing with salmon.

 

6176737168_img_1587What do Homerians do on Saturday mornings you ask? Well, let me tell you, a lot of them can be found at the inlets with their families teaching their little toddlers to bait their own hook, catch, and release fish that are bigger than they are and probably just as heavy.

 

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They also walk up and down the fish markets picking out fresh fish for their party they’ve likely been planning for weeks. I saw two young girls who couldn’t have been more than 10 and 12 wearing their wellies everyone wears their wellies, and shorts cause 58 degrees in Alaska to the natives is a warm day, a box of pizza, and bopping onto their little boat parked in the local marina.

 

242 ah.jpgI saw the whole story playing out in my head: the two young girls whom I pretended were Abby and Phoebe planned a night of co-babysitting little Cecilia while Greg and I had a date night out. They went into town like they do every Friday, to pick up pizza and other goodies, hopped back into their little single motor cold tin fishing boat and headed home so the parents could get an early start.

 

Back to reality, I watched as they nodded hello to Abby, then me, hopped in their boat, untied their lines from the dock cleats, used their little size 5 wellies to kick away from the dock, started their engine, and motored across the bay where the lights from their windows welcomed them home.242 ae.jpg

 

242 ag.jpgIt’s a dangerous sign when I start picturing all of us living in an area. Playing out little scenarios about living on an island not reachable by cars is quite charming. So you have to park on the mainland and use your boat to take you back and forth. Big deal. I could do that. I could totally see Abby and Phoebe taking the boat out to meet up with friends to go fishing and have lunch together at The Little Mermaid Cafe, where we would have a running tab…and somehow, Abby has been putting her friends orders on the Spranger tab too. We didn’t find that last part out until the owner of the cutest cafe you’ve ever seen and yes that’s the real name by the way, called me up and hinted at our oldest child’s generous spirit. Clearly, I can get lost in the deep corridors of dreamworld.

 

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Being in Homer reminds me of the first time I visited Mackinac Island in Michigan, which by the way, had the same effect on me. The island is like 8 miles long and doesn’t allow motorized vehicles of any kind. It has horses and buggies, bicycles…and a fairy if you need something on the mainland. But the cute quaint picture perfect little town just romances me into all the big possibilities of a small existence. I love the idea of small intimate towns. The sense of community is so appealing to me.

 

242 ao.jpgI can see us in the fall starting school on the island. I can teach Kindergarten my absolute favorite grade to teach at the little elementary school so the girls and I get to walk to and from school every day. Greg will come and have lunch with us every Friday…and on the weekends, when we eat out and go to the movies, we say hello to everyone we pass…because when you live on an island that is 8 miles long, there aren’t many people you don’t know.

 

242 ab.jpgI have been in a dreamy haze since I’ve been here in Homer specifically. Beauty in my surroundings has the power to take me to all the places I’ve ever been that have had some kind of hold on me…or transformed me in some special way.

 

242 an.jpgJust like the rest of Alaska, the colors in Homer seem to be more vivid. And forget 50 shades of Grey…here they have 50 Shades of Blue. The ocean is a completely different glassy navy blue color but, it is absolutely clear…cold no doubt, but you can see all the way to the bottom. And in different angles the water can also look green. The sky has about 20 different blues all in the same sky just peeking out from behind the cotton candy clouds. The farther the mountain is away from you, the deeper the blue shade gets. so that takes up about 5 to 10 shades right there. I swear, flowers are more colorful here too. Everything is so crisp and specific. I said to Greg the other day half jokingly that maybe because it’s not sunny all the time, things here don’t really ever fade.242 b.jpgOn our way back to the RV, after our fishing excursion, I was enamoured with my surroundings while CC was singing…something, Abby talking about a wolf sanctuary in FL where the wolves are trained to safely be around people and Phoebe who is talking to the air about unicorns, rainbows and her intense dislike for all things Hannah Montana, Greg was talking about going to a fishing store so he can get the girls better fishing equipment and I’m sitting in the car, floating above my body watching and taking in all the chaos. And then the poking and bickering between the girls in the backseat begins.

 

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What would normally drive me to the brink of insanity, left me completely unphased. Why, you ask? Because it’s sunny, beautiful, chilly and dammit all, we are in HOMER, ALASKA.
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H O M E R

 

 

A L A S K A!