Thursday, April 29, 2010

Self-portrait via digital photograpy?

My girls attend nursery school at a local church.  It's a tiny church with white stucco and stained glass windows and some lovely, natural landscaping (no perfectly manicured hedges to be found).  Today, I arrived about 15 minutes early for pickup and happened to have my camera along.  Unfortunately, the spectacular dogwood tree that I was trying to capture didn't show up as nicely on the pictures.  Frustrating, but can be downright impossible to put that natural beauty into a picture.

So instead of sharing my less-than-spectacular dogwood shots, I'll share my "self-portrait" with you.

And here's one of that gorgeous window all by itself.  I'd love to see what that looks like from inside the church when the sun is streaming through it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The final piece of the puzzle

She is the baby that almost wasn't.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

When I was pregnant with Alexa, my body protested.  My back, legs, and hips suffered.  At least once a day, I muttered, "I will never do this again.  I'm DONE."

And yet....

Driving home from the hospital, with a less than one week old Alexa in the backseat, I said to Nick, "I don't think we're done."  He wasn't so sure.  His first concern was for my health...I now had 3 c-sections in my history and he was worried that a 4th pregnancy and surgery would be dangerous.

After some discussion and an assurance by our doctor that another pregnancy would be safe, he finally agreed.

Just 9 months after Alexa's birth, a pregnancy test came back positive.  My 4th and final pregnancy made me nauseous, tired, and miserable.  I was in near-constant pain.  I often made the joke that "I said I wanted another baby...I never said I wanted to be PREGNANT again."  In the end, of course, my reward was a tiny bundle of perfection.  Our family was completed on April 26, 2007, when we welcomed Rachel Julia.

Once again, it was love at first sight.  She had squishy, warm cheeks and wisps of brown, silky hair.  She nursed with big, noisy, greedy gulps and we all laughed at her sailor-sized burps.
She has never had a shortage of kisses and love.  Now that she's older, she repays those kisses as often as she can.
Benjamin was smitten.  He happily performed his duties as a Big Brother.  He had an unending supply of patience for her.  She tests his patience quite a bit these days.
 She is happy and sweet and funny and the only one of my kids to go completely bald.
Now she is curly-haired, while the rest are straight.

She is brown-eyed, while the rest are blue.
I'll always be grateful to that little voice in my heart that spoke up.  "Yes, it will be difficult, but it will be worth every minute.  This family isn't done yet."  I listened to that little voice.  And I've never regretted it.
 Happy 3rd Birthday, Princess Rachel.
We all love you...To the moon and back.
And we're so glad you're here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No thank you...I'd rather not shop at "Tarts R Us"

I'd love to meet the people who design clothing for little girls.  Cuz they clearly have never MET a little girl.  They're just taking adult "Fredrick's of Hollywood" clothing and shrinking it to fit the 4T crowd.  Since when is it acceptable to have the words "Perfectly Juicy" written on the back of a little girl's sweatshirt?!

Well, I have news for these daughter is not a hoochie-mama-crack-whore-in-training.  She's an active little 4 year old who doesn't understand the importance of sittin' all lady-like with her legs crossed.

Sometimes, just for kicks, she has a tantrum and rolls around the front lawn.
 Sometimes she plays basketball with her brothers.

She also likes to ride her scooter....climb the swing set ladder.....slide down the twisty slide....hang from the monkey somersaults in the grass.....swing as high as her legs will pump her.....

You get the idea.  She doesn't sit still.  Her clothes need to be comfortable.  And *squeal!* "BEAUTIFUL!"  And all of her various body parts need to be covered up.  (Call me a prude, if you wish.)
After repeatedly wandering around the stores and shaking my head at the silliness of Daisy Duke shorts in a size 2T (cuz really?  nothing's hotter than a diaper peeking out the bottom AND the top of the shorts), I've boiled her wardrobe down to some must-have items.

1 - Any kind of pants or shorts that have an elastic waist and are made of a stretchy fabric.  If they are shorts, they must be long enough to touch her kneecap (bermuda shorts).  Last summer, both girls wore mostly capri and palazzo pants.  I avoid buttons and belts...potty breaks are much quicker and easier if there are no buttons or buckles to fuss with.

2 - Smock-style shirts.  They're longer and more loose than a regular t-shirt, so if she has a growth spurt, she won't grow out of them immediately.  I prefer they be patterned, which is helpful in disguising stains.

3 - Dresses.  Again, it takes awhile to outgrow a stretchy, cotton dress.  With a pair of shorts or leggings under the dress, it just looks like a long shirt.  A sleeveless dress can even be worn all year 'round....simply add a sweater and ankle-length leggings.

She loves these options because they're all comfy and pretty.  If, heaven forbid, I try to put her into a pair of jeans?  Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth!  "I WANNA WEAR STRETCHY PAAAAANTS!"

This is currently my favorite outfit on her:
All of it purchased at Target!  And now that the weather is warming up, I'll swap the long sleeve shirt for a tank top or t-shirt and the socks/sneakers for a pair of sandals.

It's taken a bit of patience, but I think I've finally made peace with some of the Issues that come along with dressing a girl...for now.  Yeah yeah.  I know.  When she becomes a teenager, all of the clothing problems will begin anew.  "You are NOT leaving this house in THAT."  But for now, I'll enjoy my small victory.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to break out the smelling salts for The Husband.  He fainted on the couch sometime after reading the words "crack-whore-in-training."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sunscreen is optional...swimsuit is not (unless you're a duck)

Schedules and routines are my friend.  My very close, personal friend.  It's helpful for the kids and me if we all know what to expect next.

But sometimes....

It's even MORE helpful to enjoy the unexpected.

So yesterday, in the middle of the after-school snacking, homeworking, kitchen cleaning, supper cooking, get everything done before you leave for hockey busyness, we took a timeout to marvel in the unexpected.

This guy paid us a visit:
He found our water-logged pool cover to be quite suitable for an afternoon swim, 
followed by some poolside sun bathing.
  My boys used the opportunity to hone their budding photography skills.
Can you see the tippy-top of Nicholas' head?
He wanted to see how close he could get.
He was probably no more than 2 feet away!
Just before our visitor left, he thanked us for our hospitality.
I couldn't believe he was so polite!
This is the third time we've seen him in our yard, so I'm guessing we'll see him (or her...I'm not sure) again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I'll remember you

It's so hard, sometimes.....this business of missing someone I love.  Like a butterfly, it swoops in from nowhere and whispers in my ear...He's not here.  He never will be.  Then it flies away just as quickly and leaves me blinking back the tears...swallowing the painful lump in my throat.

This man was sitting about 3 rows in front of me at Nicholas' spring concert.  He was clearly someone's Grandpa.

I was taking pictures of the Junior Chorus pouring their hearts into a song.  And my eye wandered from the camera long enough to see This Man....bouncing his leg and tapping his fingers in time with the music.  Such a subtle movement.  Probably noticed only by me.

It flew in.........That's what Dad would do, but he's not here.......and flew back out.

Does this missing ever go away?

Do I want it to?

If I stop missing him...doesn't that mean I've also stopped remembering him?

Shouldn't I be thankful for the tears and the lump in my throat?  After all, they remind me of how much I loved him.  They remind me that he was here and he was important to me.  They remind me that he mattered.

"Don't cry because it's over.
Smile because it happened."
-Dr. Seuss

Yeah.  Thankful.  I guess I'll have to work on that.  I'm just not sure if I'm strong enough.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I can see clearly now

Wow.  You're actually still here?!  And you're still awake?! I'm stunned that I have any non-comatose readers left after the last 3 uber-wordy posts!  Lemme just say that you ROCK and I'm officially your Best Friend Forever.   As your reward, here's a pic from yesterday of the birthday boy in his Official Birthday Crown.  It might be goofy, but Mama Cas requires a Crown picture of every birthday celebrant.  (Even if it calls for some bribing with a cupcake.)
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

You've figured out by now that things are never boring around here at House of Cas, right?

Well, yesterday morning started off like any other.  I had a cold recently, which means I get to spend about an hour of every morning in a coughing fit.  These coughing fits result in me horking up bits of my lungs while the kids sit around and go, "EWW!  That's GROSS!"

(Don'cha wish your girlfriend was hot. like. me?)

So yesterday, as I neared the end of Lung Evacuation:  Day 10, Ben's curiosity finally got the best of him.

Ben:  Mom, what's that stuff you're spitting out?

(In the past, I just used the scientific name "yuckies.")

Me:  Mucous.

Nicholas:  GAH!  That's so GROSS!!

Ben:  !.........!

Me:  (Never one to miss a teaching experience...)  I had a cold and now my lungs are trying to clean themselves out so they can be healthy again.  BUT...people who smoke do this every. single. morning. because their lungs are unhealthy and dirty.  (As Nick walked by, I pounced on him.)  Right, Daddy?!  When YOU were a smoker, you coughed up stuff every morning, RIGHT?!

Ben:  !......!

Nick:  Yes, I did.  Every morning.

Nicholas:  I heard that when you smoke, your lungs turn black.

Me:  Yep.  They're supposed to be pink and clean and healthy.

Up to this point, Rachel and Alexa were listening with fascination, but not commenting.  Alexa finally spoke up.

Alexa:  Are MY lungs pink and clean?  (And she opened her mouth as wide as she could, thinking that I could see her lungs through her throat.)

Me:  (Trying to stop laughing...)  WOW!  Your lungs are SUPER clean and pink!  They look GREAT!

Nicholas raised an eyebrow and looked at me.  He laughed, but said nothing.  He knows how fun it can be to play along with their innocent questions.

Rachel:  What about MY lungs?  (And she opened her mouth wide.)

Me:  WOW!  Yours are so CLEAN!

Rachel:  Are they pink?

Me:  Of course!  They look great!

Ben:  (Always my skeptic....he kept looking at me and Nicholas, trying to figure out if we were joking.)  What about me?  Can you see mine?

Me:  Yes, Ben.  And they look beautiful!  So clean and pink!  Hey, Nicholas....let's take a look at yours.

He stopped snickering long enough to open his mouth wide.

Me:  Holy cow!  Those are SUPER pink and healthy!  Daddy!  Show us your lungs.  (As he opened wide, I gasped for extra drama.)  SEE!  Look at how clean Daddy's lungs are since he doesn't smoke anymore!

They all gathered around to ooh and aah over Daddy's stellar lungs.  And then they checked out mine, which we concluded were pink, but not very clean and healthy right now because I had a cold.

And the best part of this story?  Later in the day, Alexa fell in the driveway and was a bit upset about it.  She walked over to me with her head down.  So, without missing a beat, I said, "Aw.  That hurt a bit, right?  Let me're not bleeding.  I have to check your lungs, though."  She opened her mouth as wide as she could.  "Cool!  You're lungs are fine."

And she went off to play.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Happy 10th, Nicholas James

My sweet baby boy:
First birthday:
Second birthday:
Third birthday:
Fourth birthday:
 Fifth birthday:
6 1/2 Years Old:
7 1/2 Years Old:
8 1/2 Years Old:
9 1/2 Years Old:
A decade passes....
in the blink of an eye.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Happy Birthday, Nicholas.
Every Momma deserves to have a son like you.
We love you.

A decade passes in the blink of an eye...Part 3

Due to a misunderstanding between the nurses and myself, I thought I had to be at the hospital at 6am for a 1pm surgery.  Not wanting to be even ONE second late, we arrived at 5:45, where we were greeted by the admission staff with an odd look.  I'm so sorry, but you didn't have to be here until 11:00.  Turns out, the pre-admission nurse I met with a few days prior had goofed. 

This sucked for so many reasons.

#1 - I could have had a few more hours of sleep tossing and turning and getting up to empty my beleaguered  bladder for the 10th time in one hour.

#2- I could have had another meal.  They won't do surgery unless it's been 8 hours since you last ingested food or beverage (except in cases of emergencies, of course).  So, according to my calculations, I could have been eating all night instead of sleeping tossing and turning and dreaming of long as I stopped at around 5am.  Cuz in case you hadn't heard?  Denying a pregnant woman her food is considered cruel and unusual punishment.  By the time I was walked into the O.R., I was tempted to gnaw off my own leg from hunger. 

#3- We were given the tiniest glimmer of hope that they might get us in early, since we were there already.  I was overly-eager to get the show on the road, so I insisted that we stay and wait.  Could we have gone home?  Sure.  But I was imagining all kinds of bizarre scenarios that would prevent us from getting back to the hospital by 11.  So we stayed.

#4- In a show of solidarity, The Husband didn't eat, either.  By delivery time, he was downright woozy.

#5- A day that had already promised to be very long and tiring would now be painfully long and tiring.  I have photographic evidence of how exhausted we both were.

Eventually, it was our turn. 

Some of it is a blur...some of it is still crystal clear.

My nurses were fantastic.  Explaining every step.  Holding my hand.  Chatting.  Keeping me focused at times.  Keeping me distracted at other times.

Change clothes.  Place the IV.  Do an ultrasound.  Strap on the monitors to watch baby's heart rate.  Drink the nasty medicine.  Answer the questions.  Answer them again. Sign the papers.  Hi!  I'm your anesthesiologist and it will be my job to keep you comfortable and safe during the surgery.  

Okay!  We're ready to go.  I'm going to walk to the O.R. with you and I'll stay with you the whole time.  Let me just slip these booties on you to keep your feet warm.  Daddy, you're going to change into these scrubs and this nurse will bring you down to meet us once Mom is prepped and ready.  Okay?  Do you have any questions?  

She walked with me to the operating room.  And if not for her, I might have had a panic attack right in the hallway.  This was my first surgery of any kind and I hadn't the first clue of what to expect.  She held my arm firmly with one hand and wheeled my IV pole with the other hand.  When I started to shiver, she apologized for the cold.  The O.R. has to be cold, but we have ways to keep you comfortable. 

Sit on the table, legs dangling. 

"Are you shaking because you're cold or because you're scared?"

The shaking was so violent, I could only manage to nod.

"I'm going to sit in front of you and hold your have to arch your back as much as you can.  Curl around your belly."

"I have to clean your back.  This will be very cold, but not painful.  Okay.  You're doing great!  Now this is going to sting for a second but it will go numb very quickly.  Okay.  You're doing great!  Now you shouldn't feel any pain, just my fingers pushing on your spine.'re doing so great....okay....we're done!  Do your legs feel warm and tingly?  Good!  Let's lay you down before you can't move your legs anymore.  You did great!"

There were so many people in the room.  Swirling around each other.  They all had a job to do.  They chatted with each other.  They chatted with me. 

And then I turned my head to see Nick walk in.  Hi.  I'm so glad you're here.  Can you hold my hand?  My hands were strapped down and covered with layers of warmed blankets...the anesthesiologist helped Nick find one.  Are you okay?  Why are you shaking?'re doing great!  How are you?  We're almost there!  Do you know if it's a boy or girl?  Do you have a name picked out?  You're doing fantastic.  It won't be much longer.  Okay, you're going to feel a lot of pressure on your chest.  I have to push down on you and pull the baby out at the same time.  Oooo!  Look at all that hair!  Hold on...suction....okay lots of pressure now.....okayyyyy..... and here he is!!  It's a BOY!  Hello, Nicholas! Hi!  You are just so cute!  Look at those chubby cheeks!

He drew his first breath and wailed.  That indignant, newborn wail.  "Come ON!  I was so comfy in there!"

"Holy cow!  We have a baby boy!"

The nurses cleaned him up, swaddled him, and gave him to Nick.  The anesthesiologist unstrapped my hands so I could touch my son's soft cheek and silky hair.  Nick held him near me so I could kiss his warm forehead.  Is this some kind of dream?  Is he really ours?  We get to take him home with us?  Tears rolled down my cheeks.  He's so beautiful.  And perfect.
We're going to keep you over here in the recovery area to keep an eye on you for a bit.  Once you can move your legs, we'll get you moved up to your room.  You can keep the baby here with you until then.

We stayed might have been an hour or it might have been 10 hours.  We were lost in him...his silky, brown hair, his warm, chubby cheeks, his tiny nose...he was amazing.
 And again, I thought to myself, "How is it possible to love someone this much if I've only just met him?"

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Ten years later, I still don't know the answer to that question.  I also don't know how it's possible that my silky haired little boy became the kind-hearted, lanky, funny, handsome kid who stands before me.  I just know that he was a great beginning for our family.  He made us Momma and Daddy.  And today, he makes us proud.

 Happy 10th Birthday, Nicholas James.
We love the moon and back.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A decade passes in the blink of an eye...Part 2

April 9th, 2000

I remember the day so vividly.  It was our last day as a couple....the following day would make us a family.

We woke up to a freakish snowstorm....the kind that looks really ominous for a couple hours but has completely melted by the end of the day.  And in my overly-hormonal state, I gazed over our backyard and cried.  "It's SNOWING and I don't have a SNOWSUIT for the baby and I'm already a HORRIBLE mother!  What kind of MOM doesn't have a SNOWSUIT for her BABY?!"  Luckily, Nick talked me down from the ledge mumbling something about using lots of blankets to keep the baby warm and that the snow would probably be gone by the time he came home with us.

Yes.  He is a smart guy.  No.  You can't have him.

We had a Christening to attend that day for a friend's baby who had been born in February.  But before we left, I had an uncharacteristic burst of courage....I handed Nick the camera and asked him to take my last belly picture.  Why not, right?  My hair was freshly coiffed and I might have even had some makeup on.  So in my super-duper-stretchy pants and my sport bra, I posed.

Well...."posed" might be an overstatement.  I actually just stood there and tried not to weep uncontrollably over the road map of stretch marks that now covered my abdomen.  (Yes.  I do exaggerate sometimes.  No.  This isn't one of those times.)

I remember.....being at the reception and watching the new parents in awe.  That will be us.  Very soon....  I couldn't take my eyes off them and the tiny pink bundle everyone was fawning over.  I couldn't stop looking at Mr. and Mrs. L and wondering, "What's it like?  How does it feel to be a parent?  Will it be okay?  Will I be good at this?"

I remember.....looking at the cake and laughing with Mrs. L.  She pointed out that someone had spelled the baby's name as "Clara" instead of "Ciara."  And to this day, that's how I remember the correct spelling of her daughter's name.

I remember......being so crippled by carpal tunnel that I couldn't cut my own food.  Nick had to do it for me.  Despite the painful tingling, I was able to hold the fork and feed myself.  But I had to put the fork down between bites to rest my hands.

I remember.....the questions.  Let's face it....carrying around a big baby belly is like giving the world an open invitation for questions.  "Step right up!  Ask anything you want!"  I'm sure we were asked the same questions repeatedly.  How are you feeling?  You look GREAT.  When are you due?  Oh!  You're having the baby tomorrow?!  WOW!  Do you know if it's a boy or girl?  Did you pick a name?  Are you nervous?  Is your mother coming out for a bit to help you?  What hospital will you be at?  

The questions didn't bother me.  Truthfully, I was just happy to be NOT sitting at home counting the hours until delivery!

I remember.....the belly rubs!  Many women I know are disgusted by the way people feel the need to touch a pregnant belly.  I always found it to be sweet.  There's something about that big bump that makes people smile.  Maybe it brings back a memory for them.  Maybe they're silently praying for a healthy baby and a happy Momma.  Maybe for one brief second, they're wishing to relive that time.  Whatever the case may be, I never saw the harm and it never offended me.

I remember....the drive home.  Staring out the car window.  Trying to mentally prepare myself for the next day.  Running my hands over the bump that held my son.  Smiling when he kicked me in response.  I've never even met him.  How can I possibly love him so much already? 

I was excited.  Terrified.  Joyful.  Swollen and uncomfortable.

It was our last day as a Party Of Two.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Part 3 will post tomorrow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A decade passes in the blink of an eye...Part 1

As the winter fades and the sunnier weather warms me, I can't stop thinking back 10 years the time just before our first son was born.  I think back to who I was, what our marriage was like, where we lived, and the adventure we were about to begin.

10 years ago....we were married nearly 4 years.  I was just 26 and The Husband was 31.  We lived in a Barbie-sized, one bedroom apartment that I loved with all my heart.  It had gorgeous hardwood floors, sliding glass doors, a giant backyard, a non-deadbeat landlord, and a perfectly reasonable $700-a-month price tag.  I didn't even mind how small the kitchen was.  And it was.  Small, that is.

As in, "I'm about to open the stove, so you'll have to move yourself to the living room."

As in, "Please don't open the fridge until I get out of here cuz I'll be trapped until you close it again."

As in....when I DID lean over to open the stove, my butt was in the hallway while my torso was in the kitchen.  And this was the. only. way. to do it.

Get the idea?  It was little.  But we both worked all day and slept during the night, so for the 5 hours a day that we were home and conscious, it suited us just fine.  We were happy there...Ruso the cat, Page the dog, Nick the Husband, and me.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

When my first niece was born in 1981, I was 8 years old.  And since I have 5 siblings all close in age, the babies seemed to arrive fast and furious after that point.  When my sister's son was born, I was in 8th babysitting age.  Suffice to say that I had a boatload of childcare experience by the time I graduated from high school.

After I graduated, I moved 1700 miles away to become a live-in nanny.  At that point of my life, I was unsure of...well....nearly everything.  The only thing I was dead sure of?  I was not ready for college.  So I started fresh with a new town, new state, new culture, and my very first job.  That is where I got my first taste of juggling 2 kids and keeping up a household all at the same time.

So by the time Nick and I got married, I was quite the childcare "pro" (which did come back to bite me in the ass at some point).  On paper, it looked like I would be the ideal candidate for motherhood.  It didn't take long after the wedding for me to start the "Let's Have a Baby" campaign.  Luckily, The Husband was far smarter than me and he shut me down with a solid NO....until sometime just before our 3rd anniversary, when he changed his mind.  So we decided to start our, with my oodles of experience, and him, with the patience of a saint.  In the coming years, we would learn that my "experience" meant nothing, but his patience meant everything.  

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

One day in August of 1999, I took the test.  And it came back positive.  And I might have panicked a bit.

Good GRIEF, woman!  What have you DONE to yourself?!  You're PREGNANT!  You're gonna throw up all the time and eat weird things like pickles-and-liver sandwiches and then get FAT and you'll be all waddle-walking and then you'll have to GIVE BIRTH!  AND THEN YOU'LL BE SOMEONE'S MOM!   Is it too late to change my mind???

(For the record, that's how I reacted with ALL of my pregnancies.)

But I was over-the-moon happy, too.  We were going to be a family! 

And the pregnancy was great.  Yes, I drove the porcelain bus...but only a few times.  The biggest nuisance was being nauseous all. the. time.  Yes, I ate weird pasta sauce.  "Hold the pasta, please.  I'll just be having an order of sauce."  And mint-chocolate-chip ice cream.  And oranges....washed down with orange juice.  Yes, in the last trimester I got fat (and LOVED it) and waddled a lot.  Sleeping in bed was so uncomfortable that I spent the last 4 weeks sleeping on the couch every night.  Tiny Boy spent his days head-butting my ribs and tap dancing on my bladder (he was breech).  And hiccuping.  Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln that kid had the hiccups at least 3 times a day.  But it was all okay.  I tolerated the aches and pains and counted the weeks until I could meet my little boy.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

10 years ago....I was waiting.


I wanted to see his face.  I wanted to count his fingers and kiss his toes.  I wanted the aches and pains to go away and I wanted to be a Momma.  I wanted to be his Momma. 

10 years ago...I knew he was likely to be a big boy and I knew that he would arrive via c-section.  This didn't bother me.  I just wanted him to be safe.  His due date was April 17th, but our doctor scheduled his delivery for April 10th.

So we waited....until the day when we would meet him.....10 years ago.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Part 2 will post tomorrow.