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There are days when I truly believe that I will go crazy. Snap like a twig. Like a dry, brittle, drought-stricken twig. Yesterday was one of those days.

The kids were all wound up from a weekend jam-packed with things going on. Grant’s birthday party was Friday night. They played with their friends all day on Saturday. I had a friend come over with her daughter on Saturday night. They had another birthday party Sunday morning. Grant played football that afternoon and then there was the more “friend” time after that. Constant activity which quickly led to constant mouthiness.

The neighborhood Preteen Male Syndicate (PMS) was meeting for another afternoon of hijinx-planning when I stepped out into the garage and could not believe what I saw. (Well, I can believe it. I just didn’t want to.) Total devastation. There were about four or five totes that usually held various odds and ends in them, contents strewn all over the garage. The large garbage bag full of packing peanuts that I save for shipments out of state was empty and the floor of the garage looked like January after a blizzard. A Garage Armageddon with ragged, dirty stuffed animals, various hotwheel tracks, shelving pieces, nerf guns and packing peanuts thrown every where. After spitting out some speech about the importance of respect and gratitude, I was able to get the boys to start cleaning up the mess. I stepped back inside for 10 seconds (I think Mia had stopped up a toilet or something) came back out to the garage to find the boys back on their skateboards/bikes/scooters with the garage completely uncleaned.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not on my watch buddy. I sent the non-resident offenders home, which lead to loud shrieking of how evil of a mother I am. Resident offenders were sent to their rooms. Groundings threatened, swear words shrieked and over-all loud nastiness. And I do mean LOUD! I’m sure the barbeque at the church down the street loved to hear what a good mother I am. I decided that everyone needed to calm down and had each child take a shower.

It was quiet for 3.5 minutes. I walked into the boys’ room and every piece of clothing that was in their dressers was on the floor. I walked into the bathroom. There were three toy dolphins, a few kitchen utensils, my (now empty) cotton-scented sugar scrub tube and a broken ceramic vase lying amid the goop of the now-freed sugar scrub on the bottom of the bathtub. There were three completely soaked towels on the floor. Two pairs of dirty boy underwear and five or six wet/dirty/stinky articles of clothing from the girl. Bright blue toothpaste (with sprinkles :)) smeared all over the sink and mirror.

I completely lost it. Loud voices. Sore throat. Slammed doors. Early bedtimes. It hadn’t even been an hour from our conversation about respect and watching out for other people’s things and just “not living like a total pig”. It was if they had never heard me.

At all. After a nice quiet morning (“Rise and Shine!”), I came back into the kitchen this morning to find two bowls of Fruit Loops spilled all over the table, the floor and the female child. (I had been outside picking up the dead half of a rabbit that was a gift from the German Shepard. Lovely.) (BTW, after an evening of searching, I still haven’t found the other half.)

Now I know children are messy. I am messy. If you’ve read any other entries in this blog, you know how much I hate to clean. Life is too short to be cleaning all of the time. Plus, when you’re working a 9+ hour day (factor in commute time) plus activities, plus errands, there really is only so much time in a day. I am perfectly fine with a certain level of messiness. A few toys on the floor? No problem. A board game left out overnight? No big deal. Dirty dishes still in the sink? They can wait a few hours.

But the levels of mess that these kids were committing were no where near normal childhood messes. They were epic, over-the-top, gratuitous messes. Unnecessary filth. Monstrous chaos.Who uses one of their mother’s high heel shoes to smash cereal on the counter top and then try to kill their brother with it? Who needs to take every article of dirty clothes out of the hamper and make a reading nook “nest?”

Worn out, I walked into work this morning desperate to find out a way to teach these children respect and to not lose my cool when dealing with them and the inevitable messes. And I remembered my dear, sweet cousin Margie. (She’s one of those Reynolds’ cousins I have talked about in the past.)

When Grant was about 18 months old, Grant had taken one of those bottles of diaper rash ointment and smeared it all over his body. Head to toe. He was like a little naked greased-up Casper the ghost. I tried washing him off, but do you realize that diaper rash ointment by design, was created to be waterproof? Freaking out and not knowing how to take care of the situation, I called up Margie. The first thing she asked me was, “So, did you take a picture?” Brilliant!

Taking the time to find the camera can break up any tension and turn what could be an explosive situation (sometimes literally) into a photo-op. And a lot of times that is what I really get mad about. No one ever witnesses the insanity of my life. Here I am in the house alone with these children, slowly going insane and with one or two clicks of the camera, I can have proof of what they are doing to me.  See? I’m not going nuts. Someone shaved the dog. I have proof!

Armed with this little lightbulb, I now have a new approach to parenting. The kids will be doing a lot more picking up the house in the next few weeks. (Maybe if they see what a pain in the rear it is to clean it, they won’t be as apt to mess it up. Fingers crossed.) And I’ll be blogging a lot more. Some days it might only be pictures. And that’s okay. I just need a witness.

Just a Number

So I’ve got a big birthday coming up and I don’t know how I feel about it. Part of me is excited and the other part wants to throw up. I am going to be 40. And I know there are so many people older than I am and 40 is the new 20 and blah, blah, blah blah. But 40 is old. 40 is middle-aged. I am on the downhill slide to death. Uff dah that sounds grizzly.

But then I’ve had so many people tell me that their 40s were their favorite decade. That is the decade when you really step into your power. It’s when you have the opportunity to make the best business decisions. You have experience, plus connections which can lead to explosive business opportunities. When you’re in your 40s you still have energy. You have all of the wisdom that you gained after making all of those stupid mistakes in your 20s and 30s. You’ve gotten a system down (more or less) for parenting. You got a great network of friends. You’re established in your career. Power.

But things are starting to sag. Physically. I’ve never been a thin woman, but parts of my body that I used to be proud of for their semi-in-shapeness are not even close any more. My ankles hurt a little bit when I walk and my back gets sore from sitting all day. And the gray hair! I came across an article today about saving money while dying your hair. One of the women that commented after the article suggested that we should not even try to cover our grays and embrace them and all that aging has to offer. She’s nuts.

I’m only 40. If I let my grays show, I’d look like a grandma. And yes, I do realize that I could be 40 and a grandma. (Just typing these word out is making me wince, you realize. It’s one thing to think you might be getting old. It’s another to actually put your fears down in writing.) But I am not giving up entirely.

Sure it would be easy to just give in. Eat what ever I wanted. Drink my wine. Eat the nachos. And the donuts and the pasta with the rich sauces. (I should not blog when I’m hungry.) Stop dying my hair and wearing make-up. Wear comfy clothes and wait to die. But as tempting as that sounds, I’m not ready. Because I don’t feel old.

And that’s what other people say about turning 40. You’re only as old as you feel. Well…I feel 28. I still listen to contemporary music. I’m into Rhianna and Lady Antebellum and just the other day I had the rock band Jet (not to be confused with the late 80s R&B/pop group) blaring from my minivan speakers. (Well, Deanna, you say, Jet was popular 8 years ago. What are you, old?) I can still rock out. Look out when I get my Muse on. And I get the Black Eyed Peas cranking when I’m cleaning the kitchen. The kids are mortified when I dance around like I’m a Solid Gold dancer (I keep aging myself, don’t I?)

While I am nowhere close to dating again, I do notice guys when I bop around town. The problem is that most of the guys I am attracted to are all about the age I was the last time I was single. And that is pretty creepy. I now know why the whole “cougar” phenomenon exists and can empathize with “Dirty Old Men.” It’s not necessarily because they want to take advantage of a younger (more impressionable) woman, it’s because they simply cannot come to grips mentally with the fact that they are old farts. It’s tough.

But then I’m not an old fart. I’m not ready to give in. Seriously. I feel like there is a whole lot more for me to accomplish. I’ve got big goals and dreams. I want to run a marathon. I want to vacation in Greece. I want to drive a pink Cadillac. I just need to get a move on to accomplish those goals.

Which leads me to a cool thing that happened at the grocery store the other night. I stopped by one that I usually don’t frequent to buy a bottle of wine and the clerk asked for my ID. Seriously. And he was visibly shocked when he looked at the date. Yeah, it says 1971, buddy. My body feels likes it’s 40, my brain thinks like it’s 29, but my skin looks like it’s ageless! (Thank you Mary Kay cosmetics! –shameless self-promoting plug.) Now onto the Cadillac!

That’s Nuts

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I’ve decided there is no such thing as summer. There’s just baseball. Good thing I love baseball.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, or have children yourself, you are familiar with the “Wham, bam, Thank You Ma’am” speed of life. Today I called ahead to the house to have the babysitter have Grant get his uniform on for his 6pm game. I would be home at 5:10 and the coach likes them at the game 45 minutes early (and I will tell you that it is longer than a 5 minute drive.) (And don’t even get me started about the trip to the eye doctors to fix his broken glasses.)

Of course, I get home and Grant is not dressed, but making himself a bowl of ice cream. So I whisk him upstairs and scramble to find all of his gear. Luckily, we had a 3-day weekend, so I was able to cram in some cleaning and a little bit of laundry and his uniform was clean and waiting for us. I also cleaned his…athletic undergarments and its funny-shaped accessory.

We were rushing to get dressed. He was wriggling on his shirt. I was trying to figure out how to put the slightly curved, triangular-shaped protective thingamabob in his shorts. Which end goes up? (They really should put arrows on those things.) How the heck does this thing work?

And Grant says to me, “What Mom, you didn’t wear a nut cup when you played softball?” (The one whole season I played.)

“Nope,” I explained. “Girls don’t wear nut cups.”

The look on his face was priceless.  “You mean they make them suffer?” he said. Shock, mixed with sadness for the fairer sex.

Yes, honey. For the rest of our lives.

Rock Star

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The crack of the bat. The ball hitting the glove. The crunch of the seeds. It is baseball season once again in the Capital City.

We’ve actually spent a majority of our lives sitting on the sidelines of my oldest son’s athletic pursuits. Spencer and Mia are usually the tag-alongs while we watch Grant hit, slide, shoot and score in a whatever sport he could get his hands on. I convinced Spencer, my middle one, to try baseball one last time before giving it up forever. (Sniffle.) And he had practice tonight.

So Spencer went off with his team, trying to get all excited about a sport that doesn’t involve a wii remote. Grant and Mia ran over to the playground to play with the other tag-along siblings. Which by the way, were all 3-5 year old little girls. About eight of them. Grant, my almost 10-year old, and eight 3-5 year old little girls.

The sound of pleasure, mixed with terror, at a decibel and pitch unknown to any musical scale, that is what we would hear as he flopped his lanky not-quite-teenage body on the end of the teeter totter, sending the pigtailed little sissies flying up in the air.

“You’re so scary!” “Ahhhhh!!!” “Do it AGAIN!” they would scream as he would chase after them imitating a monster-eating zombie all over the playground. He’d push them higher and higher on the swings, much higher than they could get on their own and so much faster. Now they all had older brothers. But those dorks were their older brothers. This older brother was cool. Exciting. A Rock Star.

Grant was eating it up. To these little girls he was like Elvis, Mick Jagger and Justin Bieber rolled into one. He was so great with these little girls, showing them the right amount of excitement and danger, but looking out for their best interests at the same time. A complete opposite of the way he is at home, where he would just as soon use your arm as a test subject for some strange science experiment involving Windex, Pop Rocks, and peanut butter.

And that’s when it hit me, the answer to making the world a better place: We all just need to treat each other like Rock Stars. That’s all everyone really wants anyway. It’s not the cars or the gadgets or the diamonds and pearls. All people really want is for someone to think that they are kind of cool. Everyone wants to feel important.

So my advice is (if you want to help me try this experiment that doesn’t involve household cleaners and small explosive candy), go up to someone today or tomorrow and compliment them. Tell them how important they are to you. Let them know that they are really awesome at something. Let them know that they excite and inspire you. And then, ask for their autograph.

The Dogs and the Gift

“Well, you gave him a good home and a good life and that’s all they really want.”

I heard the vet talking to the patient ahead of me today at the clinic. I was bringing in my two dogs, Rosie and Lacey for their regular visit. Rosie is a big black German Shepard/Border Collie mix that we rescued from the Capital Humane Society almost 7 years ago. She’s old (about 9 now), lazy and pretty chunky. The only time she gets up from her comfy spot on the carpet is to eat or to go. Lacey is a 4 year old West Highland Terrier with a lot of energy and smart naughty skills. And my dogs love to test me.

We got Rosie when we moved into our new house. At that point in time, it was just Chris and I and the boys. I felt like we needed another female presence in the house, so we went to the shelter. She came up to us and offered us her belly and we knew we had to take her home. (I found out I was pregnant with Mia the next day.) Rosie is not good with other dogs. She gets nervous and wants to protect us from them. I think its the herding breed instincts in her. Protect the flock. When the kids have friends over and they play “Light Saber Duel,” she goes nuts. She is so afraid that someone will hurt one of her sheep.

We got Lacey from Chris’ boss about two years ago. She just loves to bark. And she has the most ear-piercing loud arf you’ve ever heard. She’ll bark at anything with fur or feathers and is just dying to “have at it” and rip its head off. Once a possum moved into the neighbors yard. I have never heard such a frustrated yelp of desire. (Okay yes, that sounds clumsy, but that was exactly what it sounded like.) She wanted sooooo badly to kill that possum. To taste its sweaty, dirty possum-y body in her mouth and to shake it until it couldn’t fake it. Arf!

Since Chris has been gone, these two furry “children” are what lets me sleep at night. Knowing that they are so protective of us. Knowing that they will alert us to danger. That they will fight tooth and paw to keep me and the kids safe. I love my dogs.

And I hate my dogs. Once I returned to work they started to rebel. One morning I found an obvious yellow stain on the carpeted floor in the t.v. room. Not knowing which dog it was, I cleaned it up only to find a fresh stain the next day. We tried putting one dog in her kennel. New stain. We put the offending dog in the garage. Another new stain. And then we figured it out. They were marking on top of each other. Lacey would go and then Rosie in her “one-updog” mentality would have to go on top of where Lacey just went. Of course, her aim isn’t good. So in any case, you can imagine……my carpets are getting pretty much ruined.

I think I have figured out a solution, however. I didn’t want to keep the dogs in their kennel all day and I have been opposed to shock collars my whole life. I love animals and do not want them to be injured in anyway. But Chris got one of those area sound and shock collars.  It emits a sound when the dog gets too close to an area that we want them to avoid and then gives them a small shock. Sound first, then the shock. Both of my dogs are smart cookies and it took them only one quick shock to associate the sound with the ouch and they have avoided the “indoor” bathroom area of the living room for weeks.

Today they had their vet appointment. I took the collars off the dogs and got them in the van. Both dogs are nervous to be in a car. I would be too. How can they possibly understand the concept of movement when you are standing still? Lacey was all over the seats looking out the windows at the scenery rushing by. Rosie was quivering like a big fat hairy baby next to me.

We got to the vets office and they were going crazy. Smelling everywhere. Ohhhh!!!!! The smells! I could only imagine that a trip to the vets office would be like going to some hotspot night club. Smelling the chihuahuas, the Labradors, the hounds, the dachshunds, the poodles…. they couldn’t get their sniffers full….

And then I heard the vet talking to the man before me. I couldn’t see him and it took a second before I knew exactly what the vet meant by “You gave him a good life.” The man had come to the vet with his beloved pet and now he was going home. Alone. The man was in his 50’s. Older and established. His eyes met mine as he was walking out the door. They were filled with tears. I don’t think I have ever seen a man his age cry before. My heart was breaking for him.

I could only imagine the car ride home. Alone. Walking into his house to give his wife the news. Looking at the water and food bowls knowing that he didn’t need to fill them tonight. Or tomorrow. Or ever again. Watching t.v. and not having that soft fur to stroke mindlessly while the news of the day blared from the screen. Barbecuing in the back yard with no quick little furry blur to eat up any fallen hot dogs. Walking around the block without something tugging on its leash trying to get you to go faster, or trying to get you to stay just a few more minutes because this hydrant smells oh-so interesting. Going to sleep that night without that feeling of safety and security provided by the four-legged, foul-breathed guardian angel that sleeps at the foot of your bed.

So, I bought my girls an extra bone. Stocked up on their Frontline and heartworm medicine and came home. I went back to work for the afternoon more appreciative about the world we live in. How God gives us little gifts everywhere we go. How our world has been made so perfectly for us. He not only gave us each other, but He gave us wonderful creatures who love us as much as we love them.

After I picked up the kids from school, I pulled into my driveway and saw my canine girls with their tails wagging wildly at the window. Barking with excitement and so happy that we were home. I dropped to my knees to hug them and kiss them and let them know how great it was to be back. To let them know how much I loved them. Only to feel a strange dampness on my knees. Hmm.

It looks like my girls gave me a little gift of their own.

The Bridge and The Apple

The ability to read = Freedom. I just realized a few days ago, that I don’t have to read the subtitles at movies any more for Grant and Spencer. They can read. Mia can sound stuff out, but not fast enough for a movie scene. Not yet anyway. So my kids do a lot of reading and asking questions.

We were driving around today and were waiting at a stop light on the corner of 70th and Vine right next to a church called The Bridge.

“What’s that Mom? Why do they call it The Bridge? It doesn’t look like a bridge, it looks like a building.”

I’m sure with more thought, I could have explained that that is a place people can go to feel connected to God and Heaven, much like a bridge connects people to where they want to go. That would have been the smart answer, but remember I’m in marketing.

“Well, I think they called it that because some people don’t like to go to Church,” I emphasised this last line. (I’ve been trying to get them to go to Mass with me and it’s like a battlefield. Bribes don’t even work anymore.) “So, the Church people thought if they named it something different, maybe more people would come and get the benefits of going and hearing the message.”

“The Bridge?” Grant said, thinking of other things The Bridge sounded like. “So do they think they’re going to a bar?”

The apple does not fall far from the marketing tree. And of course that got my creative juices flowing…to name a church after a nightclub: The Little Lambs Lounge? Galilean Grill? Trinity Pub? Heavenly Angels Honky Tonk? Disciples Discotheque? Saints and Saloons?

There probably already is a Garden of Eden, but I don’t think that’s probably a place to hear a good message. Or get an apple.