TWO HUNDRED FORTY ONE…6 year assessment

Cecilia Rae

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 It took me forty years to make it to Alaska and just a few weeks ago we celebrated Cecilia’s 6th birthday in Fairbanks.

For her birthday we took her to the kid friendly Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. We spent a couple of hours watching her run around enticing her sisters to chase her up the stairs, down the slide, and through the small plastic tunnels. We pushed her on the toddler swings and she jumped over cracks in the sidewalk until she finally sauntered over to us and asked for, “Book time mommy?” which is CC talk for “I’m ready for a nap now”. For dinner, we let the girls do CC’s favorite activity of making pizza bagels for dinner, followed by cupcakes, ice cream, and of course presents. Just a typical birthday.

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I’ve been taking stock of our lives lately and trying to really absorb who we all are in this time in our life. We are closing in on the end of yet another year. Once we pass July 29th, her birthday, we round the corner to all the holidays and birthdays that follow. It’s inevitable decent on our roller coaster-like existence.

As of today, Tuesday the 7th of August 2017, this is where Cecilia is in her life…

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She wears her heart on her sleeve. When it’s raining outside and we are playing alligator in the RV AND I’m on the floor growling and acting like a wild…alligator, she backs herself into a corner and begins to cry. On a normal day if we make a ‘mean’ or ‘scary’ face in her general direction, it automatically brings tears to her eyes. Of course, we all immediately stop what we’re doing and come to her rescue.

But that’s not to say she is sweet and sensitive all the time. She most definitely has her days and issues just like any toddler. If you’re sitting near her during mealtime and attempt to swipe a cracker or other form of carbohydrate, prepare yourself for both a verbal and physical assault. And let me tell you, for a six-year-old, her slaps will leave a mark.

With that being said, if she hurts you on accident, be ready for some serious hug time and a good fifteen minute period of her looking into your eyes, while holding your face in her tiny little hands, and a litany of apologetic, “I’m so sorry Mommy…are you ok…I love you mommy, I’m so sorry…my poor sweetie, you didn’t deserve that” rhetoric. She embodies sincerity and empathy. If I didn’t know and wanted to learn how to issue an authentic apology, I would observe Cecilia for a day.

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She will follow you around just waiting for you to bestow a “job” on her and when she completes the job, will bask in the glory if you brag about how well she did. And when she calls attention to others in the room so they can observe her hard work in action, the smile it brings her when you notice, is worth everything.

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She loves reading books with someone who appreciates a good cuddle. And if you’re laying down with her and you see her little hand stretching out to touch your eye, just allow her to run her forefinger on your lashes. She won’t poke you in the eye, she just wants to touch your lashes.

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She listens better and follows direction better if it’s given outside among the grass, trees, wind, and clouds. She loves loves loves to swim.

As soon as she opens her eyes in the morning, she hops out of bed with a happy heart ready to bestow kisses on the first person she sees. She thrives on routine. If she sees you crying, she will part the ocean to come and give you comfort. If she feels she is competing for your attention, she will up the cuteness factor tenfold. When she dances she loves to swing her little hips back and forth. When it’s nighttime before we put her pajamas on, she does this thing where she grabs the strands of hair that have fallen in the front with both hands and tosses them behind her back. Totally cute. And she does it every time. Such a girly girl.

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She loves to play with play-doh. Her favorite thing to eat for breakfast is cinnamon raisin bagels. Her favorite lunch is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And don’t even think about skipping Friday night pizza time where she competes with her sisters for winning one of the coveted three categories for best pizza: 1. most creative pizza 2. most yummiest pizza 3. funniest looking pizza. She needed help with her pizza in the beginning, but will swipe your hand away if you come anywhere near her pizza today. She is perfecting her pizza-making craft and she doesn’t want any help from those who don’t share her vision.

 She wants to be independent in the grocery store and walk alongside the cart, but she will just up and wander away if you aren’t paying attention.

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She gives two physical signs when she’s tired. The first of which involves putting her thumb in her mouth and raising her other hand to her face so she can touch her eyelashes. The second is when she clicks her jaw open and makes a yawning sound. If we’re in public it’s particularly intriguing to strangers who will openly stare at her and then turn to me with a look of, “why are you taking her out of the house?” To which I smile at them and give her a kiss and engage her in conversation.

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You know the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? Cecilia does. She makes use of that phrase when asking for…damn near anything. If you’re not on her timeline be  prepared for, “Mommy, I want ice water please…Ice water please, Mommy…Mommy, water with ice please…Mommy…Mommy, please ice water…Can I have water with ice please” and on and on it goes until she has her plastic cup with lid and straw in her little hands. She will check to make sure the ice is in there as well….so if you think you might get something past her watchful eye, think again.

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Her baby years are long gone. With all of our children, I cherished those years where our days were filled with cuddling, nursing, staring into each others eyes, and celebrating the tiniest of milestones. My words cannot pay homage to the absolute joy I feel as a mother. It is without a doubt the hardest job I’ve ever had: meal planning, clothes washing, house cleaning, school prep, are they getting enough sleep questions, when was the last time one of them had a good bowel movement, the constant worry deep within about whether I am good enough, am I doing enough, will they be happy and productive members of society, do they feel good about themselves, are they kind to others, are they getting enough outside time, how much is this lifestyle choice going to cost them in therapy bills when they reach adulthood, are they polite, are Abby and Phoebe getting enough one on one time with me or their daddy, do I spend too much time with Cecilia, have they all bathed, do they feel safe, do they know they are loved…the list goes on.

On the other hand, it is without a doubt the best most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

My mom asked me one time when I was pregnant with Phoebe, “Are you ever afraid that you won’t love the second one as much as the first one?” I didn’t even think about it…the answer was as clear to me then as it is today, “I have so much love to give…I love being a mother and I can’t wait to have more babies.”

Of course that goes back to the time when we were convinced we would have around five kids. Even though we face tough days and have days where we are constantly looking at the clock only to find three minutes has crawled by, I wouldn’t change our lives for anything. There’s no one else I want to be, there’s no place else I want to be, and there’s no one else I would want to be with. I feel so happy, thankful, and overwhelmed with gratitude.

241 b.jpgUsually around this time of year, right before our roller coaster reaches the summit and inches over the little hill for the final descent to the new year, I become a gooey mess. It all starts with this little girls birthday.

TWO HUNDRED THIRTY SEVEN….don’t mess with me, I’m ebbing

Today almost became the day, where I remove the tops from our jeep, turned up the bass and blasted the Foo Fighters on the car stereo, bought a pack of Marlboro Lights from the closest gas station, put my favorite baseball cap on, and drove 45 miles north from Minot (pronounced ‘my not’), North Dakota until I reached Canada.

ALONE.

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Yes, I envisioned myself running away from home. It happens once a year, where my sanity is taken to the edge of a Grand Canyonesque drop and dangled off to the side of its highest peak. I don’t smoke, but today I contemplated starting. Just a big fat inhale of nothing but carcinogenic badness and an exhale of Abby’s constant pleads for taking the summer off from school, Phoebe’s inability to concentrate on the most basic task, and Cecilia’s blatant and defiant deafness to my voice…it seemed like running away with my jeep, the tops off, music blaring, cigarette in hand was the better alternative.

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But then Greg would be all alone with the inmates (as I always LOVINGLY refer to my wonderful children). If I could have my druthers, we would be running away together. And in this day-mare (like a nightmare and a daydream all rolled into one) our kids are seen in the last scene relaxing on the ground outside and bragging, “Wow, that was hard! I thought they were never going to leave. Ugh, they put up with so much…my kids will never do this to me!!!” and then they raise their chocolate milks to one another and eat their favorite peanut butter with pickle sandwiches.

The scene ends and lights fade to black.

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Today was one of those days where I question my decision to not only home school, but live with all five family members in a 300 square foot mini-assylum-on-wheels. What was I thinking? I’m looking in our pathetic manufactured in Thailand bathroom mirror (that distorts my face…and not in a good way) watching myself age rapidly and not even recognizing the person looking back at me.

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After a shit (pardon my french) morning, I thought we could all use a little break, breath of fresh air, a minute or two in nature to recalibrate our rhythms. Oh, who are we kidding, Mommy needed to recalibrate her sanity. I am referring to myself in 3rd person. I had hopes of taking the kids to the park and taking pictures with my old friend, TANK (aka my Canon) in an effort to bring us all some much-needed peace. Nature always brings me to a good frame of mind.

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NOT TODAY.

No cooperation from anyone what-so-ever.

The evidence is all around…every picture.

I was on the verge of a Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford moment, in the infamous ‘no more wire coat hangers’ scene in the 1981 classic film Mommy Dearest, when I waved my white flag of surrender high in the air.

  I  brought Cecilia back, set her up at the table with some goldfish crackers, ice water, and her fully charged iPad. I needed a break. I isolated myself in my bedroom, laid down on the bed, cried, and had myself a 30 minute pity party. And within 30 minutes, I was perfectly fine.

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Cecilia came into the bedroom, climbed on the bed, sat down on my lower back and bounced up and down for a while, then laid down beside me, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Mommy, I need more water, ice, and fishies.” As aggravated and frustrated as I was with all three of our inamtes, they are so damn funny.

Such is life.

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Ebb and Flow.

Clearly I’m ebbing right now…I am anxiously awaiting the flow.

TWO HUNDRED THIRTY FIVE…I blame it on the kerosene

After Greg and I got married, we lived together at his rental property in good old Chuckey, Tennessee. In the winters (because of the humidity) the cold would permeate every fiber of my being…and because of the lack of central heat/AC, I begged Greg to buy  something that would allow the apartment to reach an inhabitable 68 degrees. The 48 degree apartment just wasn’t cutting it for me. So one day, after work, he came home with a brand new kerosene heater.

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Here’s a little side note: when I was a little girl, around 8 years old, I burnt the skin off my chin from touching a kerosene heater…with my chin. Hmm, did I need to write that? It was probably understood I burnt the skin on my chin because I touched it with…well…not my hands.

I’m not sure why I thouched a heater with my chin…I must have been bending over to pick something up or look over the heater in search of something…Surely I knew better than to touch a heater with any part of my skin.

Surely (don’t call me Shirley)

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Back to our very humble dwellings in rural Tennessee…

So, one night Greg brought the kerosene heater home and despite my mixed emotions, I could not deny the warmth it radiated through the entire apartment. Let’s just say it was more than conducive to my extraordinarily high Standard of living. As the winter months went on and the temperature dipped into the low 30’s, we would snuggle up on the couch in the evenings for an episode of Law and Order or City Confidential.

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It was around those bitter months where we noticed we were falling asleep on the couch, mid-episode. Highly uncharacteristic of us. At first I assumed we were just falling asleep because we were so in love and cozy and that’s what you do in the winter months.

After a couple of weeks of that routine: watching tv and falling asleep together on our couch, I started thinking about the way I felt when I woke up. I was kind of groggy and not really my “normal self” after taking a short nap. Finally, after a few dead brain cells, it dawned on me, we might be blacking out because of the fumes being dispersed from the heater.

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When I broached the subject with Greg he agreed his “wake up symptoms” weren’t exactly normal. We then agreed to get rid of the damn thing. Good riddance brain burner. After we rid our apartment of the kerosene Heater, we no longer “cat-napped” on the couch in the evening during our shows. Case solved!

Fast forward all the way to today and the loss of brain cells could be the reason for…well just about every a skewed decision I’ve ever made since those fateful winter months in 2004. It’s all the kerosene gas pushing me to make poor decisions and not poor judgment as an individual. Shew. I’m glad I solved that case. Jerry Orback would be proud.

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I wonder if the decision I made yesterday to leave an entire bag of groceries (the important ((I need this stuff)) reason I came to the grocery store in the first place) full of perishable items behind in the self check-out line of the Cortez, Colorado Wal-Mart,  could also be linked to the kerosene fumes. What is the statute of limitations on blaming a single incident (kerosene gas) for our current life choices?

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Is thirteen years within the acceptable time frame?

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Alas, this is all just fallacy, lest you think I’m being serious.

Although, I often find myself visualizing the fully functioning brain and then it’s dwarfed kerosene counterpart of today. I’m sure all those helium balloons I inhaled as a child aren’t helping me now either. Is it the reason for my juvenile sense of humor and equally juvenile choices in life?

Rhetorical question.

Don’t answer that!

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Now I must go back to Wal-Mart to purchase whole milk (the ridiculously expensive organic kind), yogurt, cheese sticks, and of course, sticks of butter I left behind on yesterday’s jaunt.

Happy Wednesday evening friends!

TWO HUNDRED TWENTY THREE…We won the lotto

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As of February 10, 2017 we have officially been full-time RV’ers for 32 weeks which ultimately translates into 224 days, and 5, 376 hours. We are still in the desert…But we recently ran into a bit of luck at a casino. Yes you read that correctly. I said casino. I know what some of you may jump to right away, “Oh wow, they won a boatload of cash”. Alas, we did in fact win the lottery, in a big big way. Yes my friends, I am proud and happy to say the Cliffs Castle Casino located…somewhere in Arizona…awarded us with a whopping …

…Hang on, I have to back up a bit…

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As I stated previously, we have been full-time RV’ers for 8 months and a week. Before we started this crazy journey, we had a loyal babysitter twice a week for 4 years. It was the same beautiful, smart, kind-hearted girl named Amanda. We all loved her. We had her twice a week. Did I say that already? It’s a hard pill to swallow going from twice a week babysitter for 4 years to 8 months of no date night to speak of.

A couple of nights ago, Greg and I were having a conversation about how we would just be so grateful for one night alone together. Just dinner, drinks, and conversation without interruption.

…which brings me back to our major lotto winnings last night…

We drove to this tiny little town in Arizona to visit Montezuma’s Castle. It was a cold rainy day and we spent something like 2 hours walking around the grounds and learning about the fascinating lives of the Hopi Tribe.

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Since we were only staying one night, we decided to  boon-dock in a vacant parking lot just below the casino. Greg read somewhere about a kid arcade or something they boasted of. It was around 2 in the afternoon and Cecilia was asking for a snack. So we agreed he would take Abby and Phoebe to this arcade or toy store, whatever it was…while I stayed back with Cecilia.

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I dropped Greg and the girls off and headed back to the RV with CC. We had just gotten inside our humble abode…Cecilia had asked to go to the potty (YEAH!), I took off my shoes, made myself a warm cup of tea, turned on the news, and prepped a small snack. Cecilia and I had just cozied up on the couch when my phone lit up. It was a text from Greg, which I ignored at first.

I was about to enjoy my first sip of warm tea and noticed my phone was lighting up again. “OK, something might have happened to him or one of the girls, even though I just left them 10 minutes ago”. I checked the message and it read,”Dude, get back up here now! Bring CC with you! They have a giant play center for the kids….BABYSITTERS!!! We can have some time ALONE!!!”

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I jumped up from the couch, threw my tea in the sink, put CC in a new pair of socks and shoes and bolted out the door. “HELL YES!!!” I said to myself.

Thus winning the best prize I could have asked for in that moment.

Together Greg and I checked CC in and practically ran to the nearest bar where we talked non-stop and uninterrupted I might add, for 2 whole hours.

We peeked in on the kids twice. Both times they were all playing with friends and climbing this awesome giant jungle gym of nets, running around carefree, and dancing with the music. We didn’t feel guilty at all when we decided to have a 2 hour dinner at a nice steakhouse in the casino.

It was so refreshing. I felt so relaxed knowing the kids were having a great time, running around, using their gross motor muscles, and playing with other kids their age.

Suffice it to say, I was not surprised when I awoke this morning feeling completely refreshed and rejuvenated. I am ready to begin again. Last night we definitely won the lotto…hit the jackpot…experienced a full house…had a royal flush…and any other term you can think of…

…great food, great music, great company, great conversation…and a blissful 4 hours alone.

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Feeling appreciative today folks. 

I’m one lucky lady. 

ONE HUNDRED SIX…and the UEL award

What is it with our kids wanting to hang out with us all the time?

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Yesterday was a busy day of getting things back in order, laundry, school, grocery shopping, and taking the kids to the pool. Of course laundry and grocery shopping entail a lot more than their names imply.

They were with me all day Tuesday driving through Yosemite, I dragged them all over town yesterday for errands and ingredients for dinner. As usual, we ate dinner as a family, took a nice evening stroll around the campground, watched the girls ride their bicycles and roller blades around. Seriously, don’t they ever just want to be alone together…playing with dolls or something? I know the answer to that question…but why can’t they feel that way when I feel that way? Why can’t our desires for a little alone time coincide with one another?

Not to mention trying to find solace in a 300 square foot rectangle is as impossible as trying to find sunlight in a cave.

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Greg and I both wanted to do a little work last night, so when we returned from our evening stroll, we tag-teamed it: I began washing the dishes and Greg set the girls up in our bedroom for a movie. Thirty minutes later, we both sat down and began to work. It was nice and quiet…for all of 15 minutes. Then Abby and Cecilia came thundering into the room plopping down on the floor beside us playing, screaming, and giggling while one is tickling the other. Followed by Phoebe strolling in, seemingly in the middle of a conversation about her love of the color purple. She went on to let me know her feelings on pink, blue, red and green…which took around 30 minutes before I realized what was happening..they are usurping my me time!

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NO!

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I politely asked Abby to go back to our bedroom and find a movie they want to watch, preferably something Cecilia also wants to watch. I looked Phoebe June straight in the eyes and told her, “I love this conversation we you are having, but could we you continue it later…like maybe tomorrow?” And as if I was completely invisible, they all just kept on going about their business. Phoebe went on to tell me about her Mr. Purple Blankie and her feelings on girl colors versus boy colors. CC was stomping around the living room trying to “run away” from Abby who was chasing her.

My brain was hurting with its current inability to process the information my eyes were taking in. “Doesn’t anyone listen to me?” flashed through my mind and I saw the color red.

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Thank God Greg knows me as well as he does; before I said anything, he looked at me, laughed and said, “stay there, I got this”. He herded everyone out for a 2nd time and I assume he set them up with another movie. I had high hopes this movie would be more effective than the previous one in holding their attentiion. But 3 minutes later, Cecilia comes out to retrieve Puppy from the toy bag, flops his I used to be Greg’s puppy when he was a little boy so I barely have any stuffing left in my droopy puppy body on the floor and starts pressing his chest repeatedly towards the floor. It looked as if she was performing CPR. “What are they watching in there?” I asked Greg. He smiled, gave me his headphones, turned on Tycho’s ‘Awake’ for me, and just like that, I floated back to my own little cloud.

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 …I could live in this corner, this beautiful bright blue corner with it’s perfectly placed decorative tiles…

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I know one day, I will regret this contemptuous feeling I sometimes have when the girls just want to be around us all the time. No doubt there will come a time when I will want to be with one or all of them, years from now, but they won’t have time for me…they will be so busy with their own extremely important lives. I’ve heard it all before. But for now I need some peace and quiet.

A glass of wine would also be nice, but I drank the last drop on election night.

Water it is.

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It’s Friday now. We are going to try this again tonight, with a much better, more well thought out plan of the best way to capture their attention. A good hour of alone time, a solid night’s sleep, a shower in the morning, and a nice early morning walk should put me back together again and make everything right as rain. At which time we the girls and I will recommence our relentless daily schedule of being with one another all day/night long…carrying on important conversations about the various colors of the rainbow, if and where unicorns exist, when to start our Christmas list letter to Santa, and whatever else pops into their little big minds.

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I am mentally prepared for the moment when the parenting gods have their private messengers descend on earth to hand out the UEL (Understanding, Empathetic, and Loving) Parenting Award to all the amazing moms and dads out there. When the UEL messengers reach in their bags, for mine, and they come out empty handed and embarrassed, I will understand. I am prepared. Last night, I was willing to take that chink in my rusty parenting armor if it means an hour of peace and quiet!

206bb (1 of 1).jpgHappy Friday and wish me luck!

TWO HUNDRED THREE…missing our furry side

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What do you do when your 9 year-old wants a puppy for her birthday…but your not quite ready? You gently explain, “Daddy and I are not quite ready to fill those big holes in your hearts just yet. The day will come…just be patient. I love you. Pick another gift.” Playing the mean mom today. Continue reading