Monday, February 24, 2014

Are You the Glitter or the Glue?

My house is a mess right now. It seems that every room has a pile of stuff to be put away, sorted through, or in some way attended to. Yesterday after the boys' basketball games, I had intentions of cleaning the basement. I could have cleaned Molly's playroom because it looks like a tornado hit it. I could have cleaned the piles of stuff leftover from Timmy's room makeover from last weekend. I could have done laundry, cleaned the laundry room, the kitchen, my desk…you get the idea, the house is a mess. But instead, I laid down on the couch and read a book. 

I'm feeling under the weather. Shannon has been battling a nasty virus and now I can feel the back of my throat starting to get swollen, a few body aches, and a general feeling of I just want to lie down and take a rest. It really does amaze me how quickly things fall into disarray around here when I don't stay on top of everything. 

When I think about it, Chris and I have a traditional marriage…family. He gets up early, goes to work and works hard all day. He is good at what he does, responsible, dedicated, level headed, diplomatic, attentive to details…I'm his biggest fan. But while he is doing his thing, I am doing my thing…position, CEO of the Nealon Corporation. I stay at home. But it is this stay at home mama that checks her emails  for updates to basketball schedules, soccer schedules, dance performances, spring tryouts, school events, classroom updates, tests that are coming up. It is the mama that knows when it is cozy day in fourth grade and tells Molly to pick out which stuffed animal to bring. It is the mama that knows about a field change or time change for practice. It is the mama that knows when the next payment is due for spring soccer or a New York City dance performance. It is the mama that knows when there are school meetings and worries about course selection and making sure her kid isn't overwhelmed with classes that are too hard but also competitive enough for college. It is the mama that has magical eyesight and knows exactly where the syrup is in the pantry even from another room when her kid is standing right in front of it and can't see it. At any given moment there are 12,674 items floating around in a mama's head of things on her to-do list, mental notes she makes, appointments that need to be made, (note to self, make appointment for the dogs to get updated on shots…oh yeah, and Timmy needs an orthodontist appointment) and just "stuff" that needs to be DONE. 

With all this, at times there is a sense of being completely overwhelmed and many times I feel that I am the "bad guy" and Chris gets to be the "good guy" for lack of a better ways of putting it. Because with all this mama responsibility, it is me that makes the kids clean their rooms and makes their beds and do their chores. It is me that knows there is a test coming up and that they need to turn off the TV and go study. It is me that tries to teach them to budget their time between school work and basketball and if you have 11 pages of math homework due by Tuesday and basketball games and spring tryouts then you might have to get up early on a weekend day to get the work done BEFORE basketball. These are all things that they don't want to hear. Yep, mama always seems to be the bearer of bad news.

Now that's not to say that any of this is not important to Chris, it is. He hates when their rooms are a mess or he'll remind me that he his down to his last pair of boxers and that Timmy needs to get caught up on his chores. Chris may not know where basketball practice is, but when he's at a game he's the dad cheering not just for our kids but for all the kids on the team. Chris may not know that Timmy's letter to the Bishop is due this week for Confirmation, but he's the dad that calls up to Ryan who has already put himself to bed and says, "Hey, Ryan there's a funny movie on TV, you want to watch with me?" Chris leaves most mornings before my alarm even goes off and there are many nights that he makes it home just in time to give Molly a good night kiss before she goes to bed. His time is limited and so when he walks in the door, the kids are excited to see him. They are excited to share a funny story of something that happen at school, they are excited to share what happen at practice, they are excited to share a funny video that saw on youtube. The other day, Ryan out of the blue said to me in the car on the way to basketball, "Have you ever noticed that when one person from our family, doesn't matter which one, is missing from the dinner table, things just are not the same, you can tell there is a missing piece." 

As a whole, we work as a family, I am the one that attends to all the nitty gritty details of our everyday life. Chris is the one that adds some fun and laughter into the mix. If you were making a roast, I would be the meat and potatoes but Chris would be the spices and the garnish. He's the one that adds the flavor and flair to our everyday life. But, you can't just eat spices alone, you have to have something to put it on, a meal certainly would be bland without the added spices. You need both, the meat and potatoes, and the spices to make it a good meal. 

But there are times that I want to be the spice, I am tired of always being the bland, dependable meat and potatoes that gives nourishment but adds no flavor or flair. 

So back to yesterday, lying on the couch, reading Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. 

I read both her other books The Middle Place and Lift. All these books are about being a mom. She puts those thoughts down on paper that all us moms think about and as you read it you think, "I know exactly what she's talking about. I have had those same exact thought!" On the book jacket, it says that her own mom used to always say, "Your father is the glitter and I am the glue." And I thought yes, EXACTLY! I am the glue! The glue that keeps everything together, if you didn't have glue everything would just fall apart. But sometimes I want to be the glitter! I want to sparkle! When you look at something sparkly and glittery, no one says, "Oh, look at that glue behind the glitter, you must have some really good glue! You must have used some really strong glue!" Nope, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that. But reality is, you can't have all glitter and no glue. It doesn't work, you have to have glue...and that is me. 

But that doesn't mean that Chris and I can't trade places every once in a while. I don't have to be the glue ALL of the time. When my kids are all grown, and gone and have families of their own, I want them to remember the lessons that I have tried to teach them. I want my voice to be inside their heads. I want them to remember to eat their frog first thing in the morning. I want them to remember that people may not remember their words or their actions but will remember how they made them feel. I want them to go out each day and be the best person possible and that the only person they really need to be better than is the person that they were yesterday.

But I need to be a little less glue and a little more glitter. I want them to remember baking cookies and snow days and family movie nights and snuggling in bed reading and family dinners and catching fireflies and making smores…and…and…and...

Are you the glue or the glitter? I am definitely the glue with not enough glitter.

As I finish writing this, my computer dings letting me know that I have an incoming email. Basketball practice has changed time and location tonight. Fourth grade show date has changed, I think for the third time and the phone just rang and my credit card was just used this past weekend…not by me. Yep, I'm the glue.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Timmy's Room Makeover and a Not So Mundane Valentine's Day

It is Wednesday morning and my kids are at school…on time, no delay. Well, three of them are, one is sick in bed. The last time they had a full day of school was last Wednesday. That has been the theme of this winter. Since Christmas break, we have only had one full week of school with no holidays, no snow days and no delays. One week.

This last storm was a big one. We got 14 inches and if it had hit us earlier in the week, I'm sure we would have used more than just two snow days.

Sometimes we get snow days and I feel like I really didn't take advantage of the day off. But this last storm, I was prepared and I got things accomplished.

Wednesday Night

Thursday Morning 

Night Sledding

Snow Days are for building forts and reading books.

Friday was Valentine's Day and I woke up to a trail of hearts from my littlest one who thinks I'm cool.

Molly and I made cookies and cupcakes and lasagna for dinner. I had planned ahead because of the storm and I had little treats for each of them each in their chair.

But then Saturday came and it was time to work. Timmy and Ryan were sharing a room, until Timmy moved out. He moved into the basement and I didn't make him move back. I guess it was time for him to have his own room. So colors were picked and what was once my guest room, is now a teenage boy's room. 

But even though painting takes a lot of time, I don't mind it so much. I don't like it, but I don't mind it. Chris on the other hand, doesn't like doing household stuff like painting and maintenance. Actually, he hates it. Just a couple of weeks ago, I caught him scotch taping one of our blinds. Ryan was leaning back in a chair, the chair went over with him in it and broke a number of slates of the blind. He's lucky he didn't go through the window. Any way, I just didn't find the time to take it down from the window and make the trip to get it fixed. So one Saturday, Chris was scotch taping the wooden blind together. When I asked him what he was doing, I could hear the frustration in his voice, in me, because the blind had been broken for months and I hadn't fixed it. 

I then got frustrated with him and told him if he wanted it fix, to fix it and not with scotch tape. Sogot the step ladder, I took it down, and I then told him where the blind store was, told him about how much it would cost to replace the broken slates and then Chris dropped it off. No scotch tape. Home repair is just not his thing.

So that is why it means so much more on this Valentine's Day weekend that he helped me get Timmy room put together. I did most of the painting with a little help from Timmy, his first painting job, and it was Chris who put up Timmy's book shelves over his new desk. Chris may use scotch tape for blind repair but he does know how to put up an Elfa System from The Container Store. Every January they go on sale and every January I find something to organize. Chris is an expert and I love him for it because I know he hates putting it up but he does it any way for me.

Trying to figure out the spacing.

The final product. I should have taken picture of the room when it was still a guest room for a real before and after effect, but like I said, Timmy just moved out and there wasn't really a plan to do this.

There is now no excuse for this kid not to get his homework done. No Ryan to distract him and a beautiful work space.

And just incase there was any question as to who's room it was now.

This year Chris and I celebrated our 24th Valentine's Day together. We didn't go out to dinner, we didn't spend it alone.  We actually had two extra kids at the table for dinner that night because the kids had friends over. But it was still a great weekend spent together, side by side getting a job done. To keep in the Valentine's Day spirit while painting,  I played some romance movies on one of the kids portable DVD players. I really didn't watch them, but I could listen to them as I was hunched over on the floor painting trim. My favorites…When Harry Met Sally. My favorite part of this movie, when they show the old couples sitting next to each other talking about how they met. I love stories, and I love listening to all their different stories of how they met…yes, I know it's just a movie. But that seems to be a universal question about couples, "How did you meet?" 

Chris and I met in Stern's department store in New York. He was in men's shoes and I was in women's fragrances just across the aisle. Then he left for college, and then he was back.

My parents met on the Jersey shore. She was with a group of girl friends, he was with his friends and they all left together.

I can't remember the story about how Chris' parents met but I do remember his mom telling me about their first date. He had asked her to get ice cream and as they were sitting in the ice cream parlor eating, when in walked the parents of the boy she was dating. Well after that, she never heard from that boy again.

But even though we love these stories, it is the "after they met" stories that matter most. 

There is another movie, Shall We Dance, that I watched, listened to, as I painted. Richard Gere and Susan Saradan have been married for 19 years, he is an estate and will attorney and has been doing the same thing, year after year. Until one day, he decides to take dance lessons. But he doesn't tell his wife and she then suspects that her husband is having an affair. She hires a detective that tells her that he is just taking dance lessons and it doesn't seem to be anything more. They start talking about marriage and she asks the detective, "Why do people get married?" 

He replies, "Passion?"

And then Susan Saradan says,

"No, because we need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet. What does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything, the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things,…all of it, all the time, everyday you're saying your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. You're life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness."

So, I have been a witness to this life for 24 years and with that, get to be a witness to our children's lives as well. Some days are good, some are bad, some days are snow-filled and some are sunny and 75. So even though I spent this weekend in the basement painting and doing mundane house stuff, I am so blessed to be a witness to it all.

We did book a spring break vacation though on Valentine's Day. I can't wait to be a witness to this beach!

There is another part in the movie when Richard Gere is narrating. He talks about his job as he neatly packages people's lives into a will...assets, debt, which kid gets what painting. He says when all the paperwork is done and everything is initialed and signed on the dotted line, people always ask the question, "Is that it?"

And he then replies, "As far as the paper work, the rest is up to you."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mammograms and Snow Days...Just Waiting to Get the All Clear

It is 10:30 at night and I am sitting at my desk. It is quiet. I came up to my room and found Molly asleep in my bed. She will probably stay there since Chris is staying in Georgetown tonight and we have already gotten the call from Wayde letting us know that there is no school tomorrow, and probably none on Friday as well. The snow is falling outside and we are expecting about a foot...or more. This is our 10th snow day this year. We have been keeping track and the kids have only gone to school for one full week since Christmas with no snow days, delayed openings, or holidays. It has become a running joke that Loudoun County kids don't know what it's like to go to school for five straight full days of school. And Monday is President's Day so that will be another shortened week.

Some moms have had it. They are done with the snow days and just want their kids to be back in a regular routine. Most of the ones I know have younger kids, young kids that need to be supervised, that don't just get up on their own and turn on the TV or do something else to entertain themselves, but kids that wake mommy up at the crack of dawn when the alarm doesn't need to be set and there is no place to go and they could be sleeping in but they don't. But my kids are now older. Snow days are so much more fun when they get older. They really appreciate sleeping in, having an unexpected day to themselves as well as enjoying the slow down of everything that comes with not having to go to soccer or basketball or dance or piano lessons or CCD. Even though this is our 10th snow day, I'm going to enjoy the slowdown once again, even more so than usual.

Let me digress and say that my family has been very blessed with good health. Chris and I are fairly healthy except for occasionally throwing out our bad backs that we both seem to have. But when we decided about 17 years ago (Shannon is about to turn 16) to start a family, we had no problems. I had four uneventful pregnancies and never really got morning sickness. I had four uneventful births and I have four very healthy children, no physical ailments, no developmental delays, no allergies that I need to worry I said, I am blessed and I thank God every night as I lay my head on my pillow. That's not to say that we haven't had our fair share of doctor visits. You know you have visited the ER one to many times when the nurse remembers you from the last time you were there. "I know you, aren't you the family that went on the Disney cruise and he had stitches in his leg at the time?" 

Yep, that's us.

You know you visited the ER one too many times when they call the plastic surgeon because a kid needs stitches on his face and the doctor recognizes the name and knows right away that the kid is going to be sedated because he did the stitches the last time.

But other than these "interruptions" in life, my family has been blessed with good health. I am usually pretty good about keeping them up to date on their annual physicals, dentist appointment, orthodontist appointments, and the occasional physical therapy after a kid has injured one of his or her body parts. But I am not always as good as taken care of myself. I am a mom. I never seem to hesitate to make the appointment for the kids and get them written in my book and making sure everyone one stays in good health, but I do have to admit that I'm usually behind when it comes to myself. When the kids started school in September, one of the things on my to-do list was to take care of myself and I did a pretty good job. I went to the eye doctor and got my new contacts. I made my dentist appointment that I was way overdue and I made my appointment for my annual physical. All was good, I could see crystal clear, my teeth were sparkly and I had a mammogram script in hand from my doctor. But now it was the end of October and before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving, and then I blinked and it was Christmas and then January has been full of snow days and we just never got back into a routine and my script was still sitting on the kitchen counter.

Finally, I got on the schedule last week. My appointment was on Wednesday and of course we were under the threat of an ice storm and another snow day so I changed it to Thursday. Finally, it was the day to eat my frog. There is a Mark Twain quote that I always tell my kids, "Eat your frog first thing in the morning and then the rest of the day will be a piece of cake." I don't always follow my own advise. It only took 5 minutes to sit down and make the appointment and I felt so good finally having an appointment scheduled, but somehow we always find all those other things to do except that one thing that really needs to get done.

So anyway, Thursday came and as I was driving in the car, I thought about my mom who was diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago. I remember going on a ski weekend at my uncle's house. My mom was there and it was a fun weekend. But it was only a few weeks later that she was diagnosed with cancer. Her doctor had found a lump and it was positive. She is fine today, but ever since I turned 40, I get my mammogram. This appointment was probably the fastest one I ever had. I walked right in, there was no wait, I changed and put my gown on, they called me back to the room, squish, squish, squish, squish, "Okay, Mrs. Nealon, your done, have a great day, we'll call you with the results if we find anything." I was out in 20 minutes. Phew, I had eaten my frog.

But then I got a call the next day, Friday afternoon. I could see from the caller ID it was the radiology place. Crap, they usually only call if they "find" something. 

Mrs. Nealon, we saw something "different" on your mammogram when we compared it to all your previous ones, we would like you come back.

It's Friday afternoon and their first available is 1:15 on Tuesday. Now, thankfully, like I said, we are pretty healthy and I haven't had to deal with doctors except for annual physicals and thing like that, but I think that there should be some kind of guideline as to when you call a patient back with news that says, "We found something 'different' and we want you to come back."

You shouldn't make this call on a Friday afternoon when your next available appointment isn't until Tuesday afternoon and this patient has to sit with this news for four days playing the "what if" game in her head. A Monday morning call would have still accomplished the same result with only one day of worry.

Now, I wouldn't characterize myself as being pessimistic, I do try to look at the positive side of things and give people the benefit of the doubt, but I am also a realist and even though Chris said that everything would be fine and my friend told me that she was called back to have a second screening and everything was good, really, you don't know that everything will be fine until the doctor says it.

So Tuesday finally rolls around. Chris met me at the office. We were in and out in about 45 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. 

1:10 - We arrived at the office, checked-in and sat down.

1:15 - I got called to the back, Chris stayed in the waiting room, I changed, put on a gown with the opening in the front and took a seat. This waiting room is a lot nicer than the first one. There are little dressing rooms and the seats are in a circle, soft music is playing in the background, and if you didn't know better, you would think that when your name was called you were going to get a nice relaxing spa treatment instead of getting your boobs squished like pancakes.

1:20 - My name is called. The girl tells me that she is going to do 3-D pictures instead of the standard ones they took last week. It took less than five minutes and then she told me to keep my gown on, go back to the waiting room and the doctor will look at your films. You will either get the all clear OR we will call you back for an ultrasound.

1:21 - Back in the waiting room, texted Chris in the first waiting room that pictures were done and now I was waiting.

1:23 - Checked emails...reminder of parent meeting for rising 9th graders for next year for Timmy. Email about dance line-up for Molly for upcoming performance. (Life doesn't stop because I'm sitting in a gown waiting for the "all clear.")

1:25 - Check Facebook...someone in the neighborhood posted that they saw multiple cop cars and cops with guns drawn and wondered if anyone knew anything about it. Yikes!

1:26 - Chris wants to know if I want him to come and wait with me. I text back, "No, it's a dressing/waiting room, you need to stay put."

1:33 - Check Twitter account. I follow a lot of teachers and librarians and children authors. One mom was giving away a DVD copy of The Jungle Book. I think it was an anniversary edition and you had to comment under the hashtag #junglebookdiamond. What are your bare necessities for life?

So there I was, waiting and waiting...not very long, but at that moment that I was waiting to get the all clear, I was reading all these hashtag comments of moms about their kids, favorite lines of the movie, "forget about your worries or your strife", and I sat there remembering how when Timmy was about three we would call him Mowgli because he used to run around the house on all fours and was unbelievably fast. He was faster on all fours than he was on two feet, and not on his knees, all fours. When we moved him to his new room in the basement just a few weeks ago, we found his two stuffed animals the tiger and the panther from the movie. #barenecessities...What are your bare necessities? Well, my kids, family, time with chest was about to explode...the stress and the anxiety was building.

1:35 - A tall, skinny, young blond girl with a high, sing songy voice came into the waiting room and called my name. She sounded like Barbie in the Toy Story got her voice inside your head? Okay...

Hi, Mrs. Nealon, I'm Jennifer, please follow me.

Another girl was with her, I don't know where we are going because she didn't tell me. Are we going to see the doctor, do we need more pics, are we doing the ultrasound? I don't know, there is no communication even though this girl keeps talking in her sing songy voice with a smile on her face from ear to ear. Finally I asked her if we were doing an ultrasound?

Oh, yes, Mrs. Nealon, this is the ultrasound room. Have you ever had an ultrasound? It doesn't hurt?

Sh*t...the other girl told me I would get the all clear OR they would do further testing with the ultrasound. And now I am standing at the doorway of the ultrasound room listening to this happy, peppy girl and I really just wanted to slap her. There was nothing to be happy or peppy about at this moment! 

I finally stopped her and looked her and asked her,"WHY are we doing an ultrasound? WHAT did the pictures that we just took show? WHAT are we looking for?" All I kept think is that the first girl said, "Wait here and you will either get the all clear OR we will call you back for an ultrasound."

Finally, perky, peppy Jennifer with her Barbie sounding voice said that the pictures looked good, the doctor saw them, but just wanted to do an ultrasound just as an added precaution.

 REALLY!!!! YOU couldn't have started with THAT!!!! 

She did the ultrasound, the doctor came in after and explained everything to me about dense tissue and how breast tissue ages and how if the angle of one picture is off, it can then look "different."

I walked out of the room and texted Chris, "ALL CLEAR!!!!!" and then got dressed.

Note to self: When in a stressful situation, it is better to communicate effectively than it is to cover it up with a sing songy voice and pretend like we are all going to a party.

It is now Thursday afternoon as I finish writing this...too tired to finish last night. So back to the fact that we are on day 10 for snow days and I'm pretty sure tomorrow will be day 11. We got 14 inches of snow and are waiting for Part II of this storm to give us a few more inches on top of what we already have. I know lots of moms are pulling their hair out, they are ready for their kids to be in school on a normal regular basis, but at THIS moment, I'm okay with the extra time with my kiddos. I'm okay that Miss Molly fell asleep in my bed and kept me company while Chris stayed over in Georgetown. I'm okay that we get extra time together.

Whenever a big storm is on it's way, you get the panic of running to the grocery store for bread, milk and toilet paper. I did my grocery store run on Monday but I also got baking ingredients so we could have some sweet treats. I also went to Home Depot to buy paint so Timmy and I could work together to get his room painted. I also stopped by Joann's and picked up the last Project Life kit so I could work on my family albums. I really want to get them done, now more than ever. I take so many pictures of this wonderful life we have, I hate that they are all locked on the computer, they need to be in albums!

So I know people are done with the cold and the wet and the ice and the snow and the days off...but I'm okay with it, because at this moment, I got the All Clear! 

Now, my cul de sac is another story...still waiting for a plow.

And maybe we'll watch The Jungle Book on this Snow Day!

At least my driveway got the all clear because of a great neighbor even if the cul de sac hasn't seen the plow.