Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Infinite Voices

A friend posted this article on Facebook. It instantly grabbed me. In this time of more change for our family combined with December's introspection and retrospection for me, it feels as if I need a touchstone to ground myself and remind my heart of the things that really matter. So, thanks B, for sending a reminder.

Top Five Regrets of The Dying

For a long time, it's felt as if we've been living in reaction to everything. There's been very little pro action. Choice. Pro active choice. Where did that go? Did I ever really practice that? Perhaps it's time.

To choose the direction in which we desire our life to travel.

To set our priorities and goals for our family and make our choices accordingly.

To remember that this time here is finite. It will end. And when we look back, will it be with a satisfied nod, holding the hand of someone we love?

I set that intention.

And now it's time to wake the kids.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Cardboard Arsenal

Introducing Ari Hood.

He will rob from anyone and check it off his Christmas List.

About a year ago, it proved challenging to meet Ari's ever-changing weaponry needs. His imagination traveled much faster and was much richer than our bank account. That's when we began our "Found Objects" creations. It began with a cardboard pirate sword and construction paper binoculars and moved on to cardboard battle ax heads attached to a toy golf club. Then we made a street hockey stick for Ally out of a plastic saw and a stick (a la Death's Sickle). There were some bat-shaped throwing stars, which now adorn his bedroom walls. Various tries on a bow and arrow...which brings us to today's pictures. We'd been fairly disappointed with the end results of our archery ambitions until Ari found a bow someone had made on the hill by our house. It'd clearly been lying there for a while so I said, "Woo hoo, let's take it home!" A new piece of elastic and several cardboard arrows later and we have Ari Hood.

Those arrows are sharp.

We'll frequently get some looks as we're playing in the neighborhood or heading to the park and I always wonder why...since cardboard weapons, painted faces and superhero costumes are part of our daily round here, I forget that it could be a source of amusement for "normal" people.

And because I'm not feeling witty and segue-ish today, I'm just going to cheaply tack on the below photos.

Ally sporting her new second hand outfit.

Super Ally, Super Max, Green Lantern

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stop Touching Me!

Yes, we have entered that phase. And I am about to lose my mind.

"Ally, get off me!"

"Mooooom, she hit me!"

Ally, sniffling: "Awwwi hit me."

"Aaaaaaeeeeeeee!" Smack.

"Stop! Awwwiiiiii! Me say NO!

Now I know why my parents blew their collective stack in the car with all three of us sniping at each other in the back seat. I am at a total loss of how to deal. So far, this is how I have handled it (in chronological order):

A child under each arm, "Ally, look at Ari's face after you hit him. How does he look? Sad? Ari, how do you feel? When we hit, we hurt, Ally." ...just waiting for her to say Good in response but instead she usually says, "I shaawwy Awwwii, I shaawwy" quickly followed by a too-hard squeeze of some appendage.

I tried the above much-celebrated gem in touchy-feely mom circles about once before abandoning it with my headstrong daughter. I then moved on to:

"Work it out." A gem of my mother's.

When that resulted in absolutely no change in the decibel level, I moved on to:

"Ari, just MOVE away from her. You don't have to be a victim here. Get OFF THE FLOOR!" (My parents will laugh at this one.) Ari's response to this? "I WANT to be here!"


Several variations of the below followed:

"Ally, stop licking your brother."

"Keep your body to yourself."

"Kind words, please!" (This, it seems, to the neighbor children as well.)

"Ari, honey, find your power and say NO. Where's your power? There! Yes! Now say NO! Awesome!" Quickly followed by, "Moooom, she hit me!" as I walked away.

Someone: Aaaaaeeeeeaaah!
Me: What happened?
Ari: It wasn't me.

"She did, huh? Well, you worry about yourself, I'll worry about Ally." Ari, in response, "But I'm being good!"

So, it probably seems to you that we're raising a tattling pansy (the boy) and an abusive bully (the girl). Great. That's what it seems on my end too. Of course, this is on their bad days, which inherently turn into my bad days. Today has been a constant bad day since 6:30 this morning. Sometimes we have golden good days when I can't believe how blessed I am and how wonderful and loving my children are.

But just to drive my point home, this is not one of those days.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Not-so-raw Talent

This is a friend of a friend...Someone please pick her up so I can buy her CD.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Night Muse

"It isn't the things that are happening to us that cause us to suffer, it's what we say to ourselves about the things that are happening."
"The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new."

~Pema Chodron

It's not that I'm suffering.

It's more that this bit of wisdom brought to light, yet again, the knowing that we make our own truth. We attach our own meaning. We develop our own stories. And we can swear by them...or we can release them and be truly free. Liberating, in a way. And terrifying. Because if we let our stories go; the things that bind us and restrict us; the framework through which we look upon the world...if we let it go and see things without the warping of that lens...well then, what might that look like?

Un. Be. Liev. Able.

One guess as to what this is.

That's right.

Yeh. That was my reaction, too.

I walk in to Ally's room after her hour and fifteen minute "nap" and am presented with her proudly extended hands, covered in some brown stuff. My eyes travel to the wall behind her. They drift back to her hands. Return to the wall. To her hands. A quick damage check to her mouth...clean. By the grace of God, she managed to not eat something she's not supposed to.

"What did you do? What?" Mouth agape in disbelief, all I can manage is a whisper. Ally's pride and mile-wide grin are starting to fade. I must have made some strange noises because Ari was drawn to Ally's room out of curiosity.

"What, Mom?" he asks.

All I could manage was a strangled, "Look. At her wall. Hands."

"What is that?" he asks, squinting.

"Poop! It's poop! She painted with her poop!" Finally, my vocabulary returns to me.

Thoroughly grossed out, Ari retreats to his room.

By this time, Ally is beginning to look a little if she's starting to realize that I'm not a fan of her unique choice of medium. And she begins to truly grasp the idea as I gingerly hoist her out of the crib and carry her to the tub repeating, "Ally, we don't do that. NO poop on the walls. No. That's not okay." I strip her down and wash her hands and she begins to cry as if her heart is breaking. While I empathize with her disappointed and confusion, I'm still wondering if I should make a two-year-old clean her own poop off a wall.

Her hands now clean, I move South, fully expecting a big swash of poop up the back of her diaper and all over her shirt. Hm. A little poop on shirt and outside of diaper. NO poop on inside of diaper. What the?! How can that be...? And then realization dawns. She must haven taken it directly from the source as it was coming out. That then begs the question...did she poop expressly for her creative urges today or was it more of an "opportunity knocks" kind of a thing?

Now that the artiste is clean and clothed, we stand together before her mural and have a serious talk to get the point fully embedded. I have a few doubts as to how embedded it could possibly be but send her off to play anyhow and face down The Wall.

Did I mention our walls are textured?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Growing Up

Since turning two a couple weeks ago, Ally has adopted the phrase "Me Too!". And she uses it continuously. So continuously, in fact, that even Ari has memorized the accompanying phrase, "Yes, Ally, you too." It's an interesting thing to quickly a second child catches on to the intricacies of life. How to use the bathroom, turn on lights, set the table, use a stool to get what she needs, water plants, get dressed (and undressed), serve herself, pour pretend tea and make the appropriate teatime conversation. Before she turned two, Ally was already doing most of these things. Meanwhile, my four year old still complains about dressing himself, feeding himself and washing his hands...but that's another blog post.

Yesterday I sat with a friend, the sun warm on our backs as we watched our kids play soccer, and I silently ruminated while we talked about how quickly our children seem to be growing. My quiet contemplation revolved around the maturity I seem to have gained in the past four years of motherhood. And I was surprised. Shocked, in fact. Shocked to realize that I've matured and become a better mother and also shocked that I noticed.

No longer am I longing for them to grow up so I can "get my life back" or so Sascha and I can sleep in on the weekends (although both would be nice someday). Instead, I am acutely aware of the passage of time. Maybe because Ally is my last child and she has now, officially, left the baby stage...and I know I won't get to experience that again until my own children someday have children. Unbelievably, I mourn this. With tears in my eyes, I think of the baby things that are done: the sloppy baby kisses, the first step excitement, the quiet moments of nursing. Two months ago, Ally loved to lay on my belly and rest her face against mine. She doesn't do that anymore.

And then I think of the Ari things that are almost done: mispronounced words, the jokes that don't make any sense, singing songs while sitting on the potty, mismatched clothes and wild hair, the grand ideas, the snuggles, the innocence. Just the other day he made his first angry self-derisive comment, "Fine! I'll just shut up then!" In shock and panic, I wondered, "Where did he get that? Did he get that from me?" We don't talk to each other that way in this house. We just don't. I could attribute it to playground learnings or the Looney Tunes he's been watching lately but the fact remains that he's growing up. This morning, he rolled his eyes at Sascha - in a fun way - but still, it happened. That innocence is slowly dropping away. But then he climbs into bed with us and rubs his nose against ours and I remember that it's still there. They still want their mommy. They still shout "Daddy!" when Sascha walks in the door. It's still there. For now.

Though tender, I am extremely grateful for this realization...for the new awareness I have. It means I'm embracing this time with at least the intention of being fully present during these days of chaos and noise and messes everywhere. It makes me a more patient mother. It makes me really see them when I look into their crystal eyes.

Have you ever stopped to really see a child when you look in their eyes?

Their soul lights up.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Time Keeps Tickin'

My wee one's last day being one...

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Can't Believe You Said That

I was a college undergrad once. That heady time of possibility, knowledge, exposure and freedom without the burden of adult responsibilities. You see yourself in a certain way during this time in your life...increasing sophistication and who will make a difference in the world someday usually in the realms of education or business or industry or the environment. You see yourself wearing well-fitted, attractive business casual nicely coiffed...perhaps some makeup. You speak with conviction and eloquence. You are knowledgeable in your field. You are "successful".

This proceeds for a few years.

And meet "someone". You make some promises. You buy a dress. You make some vows. You get knocked up. The decision to become a stay-at-home parent and raise your own kids with your family's values seems like the best decision in the world. Since you can afford to do this, you do it.

And then things change.

That well-fitted business attire turns to paint-splattered cargo pants, Birkenstocks and a stretchy T claiming Blondes Make Better Lovers. The nicely coiffed hair? Well, yes, I did brush it today. And makeup...huh?

And then there is the change in your speech. Instead of discussing muscle pathology, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or the weather patterns in, say, Bermuda, your lexicon becomes a veritable unwritten language. Fifteen years ago when I was studying public relations by day and attending fraternity parties by night I hadn't the foggiest idea that these words would someday pass my lips. For example...

"Thank you, honey, but I can wipe my own bottom."

"Hands on your belly." (Any parent who uses public bathrooms with a curious toddler knows this one.)

"Don't squish your ears like that...Because they'll stay that way."

"Back away from the potty."

"Because isn't a reason."

"I told you I am NOT OK with you whacking my bottom."

And wait for it....

"Because I'm the mommy. When you're a mommy then you can be in charge."

Or the charming alternate..."Because I said so."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy (6 weeks into the) New Year!

Hello All,

Since this letter is kind of late anyway, I’ll just get right to it :).

This year we celebrated the beginning of Ally’s second year of life and a whole new set of “firsts”. Her first word was “uh oh”. Her first steps had us hanging until she was 16 months of age, at which time she began her specialized head long plunge through life. A tough chick, she’ll cry for 7 seconds over a major facial injury but maintain a 30 minute tantrum over not being able to go outside. Her screams make people shake their heads and bring Ari to tears. She’s commenced the “Me Too!” phase of life and will follow her darling Ari up anything climbable, over any obstacle and into any depth of water. But her kisses and hugs don’t stop and “Daddy” (and “no”) is quickly becoming her favorite word. This is just a small taste of the force that is Ally.

Our Ari turned four this year…though he’s counting the years until he is “17 and can play football with his friends.” I smile at the personal freedom (for me) that dream entails and cringe at what I know he can do with the age of 17. The Ar-man is sort of digging his second year of preschool but frequently reports that it is “boring” and he’d rather stay home with me. I’m not sure what he thinks Ally and I do while he’s gone but “exciting” is not how I’d describe it. Despite the above, he’s learning SO much there, loves his teachers and has begun some good friendships. Other new loves include soccer, Nerf dart guns and dragons…but the unconditional adoration of his little sister hasn’t moved him.

Sascha’s been working his tuckus off this year and had some of his research accepted to present at a professional conference. I strive to get through the weeks with minimal loss of temper and maximum application of love and direction and have finally chosen to embrace my stay-at-home status as a blessing (which is notable for me J).

Two family notes this year…Happily, my brother Andy and his partner Melissa finally got hitched in a beautiful, rain-drenched ceremony this September. We love having Melissa as an official sister and look forward to the razzing that entails. And sadly, our family said goodbye to our Grandpa Schwarz as he took his journey Home this winter. Ari and I travelled together to Iowa to celebrate his life and while it was very hard to say my last goodbyes to a man I adored, it was also good for my soul to be around my extended family again and to hug my Grandma and Grandma Emma Jean. I know we are so very lucky to be a part of this family.

In conclusion, we’d like to share a few things we’ve learned throughout 2010.

1) We like each other a lot more when we’re out of the house.

2) When something isn’t working to your satisfaction, you keep trying.

3) If you don’t know how to do something, find a way to learn it.

4) If Mom is run ragged and doesn’t get a break, nobody in the family will be happy. Ever.

5) Family is everything.

Much love and many blessings to you all in 2011.
May you keep tracking down those dreams.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Some quotable moments from Ari...

After I expressed disappointment over a broken thing:
"Don't worry, Mom. We can fix it with duct tape. Duct tape is absolutely great!"

A random breakfast exchange:
Ari: Thanks for saving my life, Mom.
Me: You're welcome, Ari. When did I do that?
Ari: Because I needed you to.

While verbally running through our day at the breakfast table:
"Get up, eat breakfast, watch TV, go to school, fight some dragons, come home, eat some popcorn."

First joke:
"Who does the chicken talk to? ....Because he has feet! Ha!"

Driving up to the airport:
"While we're waiting for our airplane, we can smoke outside. See that red sign there? That says we can smoke outside. See? Like that guy!

And, (drum roll) some quotable moments from Ally...

Ally is becoming more and more aware of who in our family is not present at any given moment. And when I say "not present" I mean "not in the room". Throughout our day, this is what I will hear:

Ally: Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy (and if I don't respond soon enough) daddy, daddy, Daddy, DAddy, DADdy, DADDy, DADDEEEEEE!

Me: He's at work, sweetie.

Ally: Oh. (beat) Buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye-

Me: Yes, Ally, he went buh-bye.

Silence. And then...

Ally: Awry, awry, awry, awry, awry, awry-

Me: Ari's at school, Ally.

Ally: Oh. (beat) Buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye, buh-bye-

Me: Yes, Ally, he went buh-bye.

Silence. And repeat. Over and over again.

Being Ari...from the un-posted archives

Almost a full year old, this post was found languishing while I was cleaning out some of my files. I'm not sure why I never posted this one because, re-reading it, I found some sweet little memories...some quite reminiscent of "Calvin and Hobbes" moments. So, here we go, from February of 2010.

Some more gems from his "bathroom and body learnings" phase:

While helping Ari back into his pants after using the potty, I stumbled and fell against the open toilet. "Whoa!" I said. Ari assured me, "That's okay Mom! You almost fell in the potty but I gotcha!"
One day, Ari chose to get naked at school (just down to his underwear) and thought that it would be a good group activity, starting with his teacher. "C'mon, get naked with me Ms. Deb'bora!" "Yeah, get naked with me!" Then he proceeded to persuade the girls to "get naked with him". I'm very glad his teachers have a sense of humor.
Ari (walking into my bedroom): Mom, do you have a penis?

Me (without missing a beat): No Ari, I have a vagina.

Ari: Oh. Okay. (and walks out of the room)
Ari had a bout of flatulence one day and after a noted tooting on the couch, he looks over at me and declares, "It's a tooty day, Mom!"

Car Maintenance

Every time we drive past a gas station, Ari feels the need to check in on my fuel and tire air levels. "We should go get some gas in our tires," he cautions. "Do you mean air in our tires and gas in our car?" I ask. He takes a moment. "Oh, yeah. Heh. That. So let's do it."

Subtle Truths

Doing gymnastics on the couch one morning while watching TV, Ari stands on his head. "Look Mom, I'm losing my brain." "I can see that, Ari." I reply.
Wendy (quietly surveying the several sticks and pinecones, miniature pine branch, and now a rock and bouquet of flowers littering adorning the inside of her vehicle): Wow, we sure do have a lot of nature in our car.

Ari: And a lot of God.

Wendy (smiling): Yes Ari, there's a LOT of God in this car.