Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wow~ Look what I made! Four beautiful children... and I had to throw that photo of Maeve by herself in since she looks a bit sullen in the group shots. I can only imagine what the fifth would look like.... maybe with some kind of photo technology they could combine the four faces to create the fifth.

I'll never know, will I...

Things are a little more under control here right now. It's hard for me to admit this, because the last thing I want to come across as is an anal retentive neat freak, but I do feel so much better about myself when my physical space is under control. The past few days have been good ones in terms of me getting everybody's things organized. I only have a few baskets of laundry, some already folded, the toys are mostly away, and I even got to make the beds today. Small potatoes, but somehow I feel more in control of things when everything is organized. It seems insane that something like too much laundry could send me into such a tailspin but I think that when I'm managing so many people when I start to feel out of control, the landslide happens fast and I get overwhelmed.

Thank you for all your words of support from my last post. Before I wrote that post, I was composing it in my head and almost started it off by saying, "I am not _____", and would have filled in the blank with another very popular blogging mom of many, whose posts paint beautiful portraits of long sunny days spent joyfully crafting and canning homegrown vegetables while the diapers dry on the line. And then I found, deep in the depths of her archives, a disclaimer which stated that her blog (obviously) chose to focus on those sunny moments, and of course she had her moments of complete insanity. I felt better reading that, more authentic myself, and it made me want to just dump the dark reality on the pages that I was typing on to just get it out there: because yes, this blog does focus on the sunny, but it started with the darkest of the dark, so it's okay for me to go there.

I'm glad the days are mostly sunny now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I am almost in a pit. But not quite.
I could use a few things right now.
A housekeeper.
A laundress.
A therapist.
A few long hours with some good girlfriends.
A big, cheesy pizza.
More wine than what I just drank with my 8 ginger cookies, fresh out of the oven.

Maybe a vacation?

So sometimes, the glass is seeming to be always half full. I remember only a month or 6 weeks ago crowing to Greg over and over again, I'm just so HAPPY. I'm just so PLEASED and THRILLED and DELIGHTED about our family! I was over the moon when I folded laundry, laughing to myself at the teeny little undershirts and Ariel underpants and dirty socks that still smelled like Liam's Keen sandals even after a trip through the wash. I joyfully prepared meals, giddy at the prospect of the six of us gathered around our beautiful cherry dining table, imagining the laughter and such that would ensue. The days were sunshiny and warm.

Aww.... and now?

The blackout really almost did me in, personally, because the house that saved us from the last 4 days without electricity had no laundry facilities. Of course the power went out with full baskets for everyone, so I came home to a trashed house that reeked of smoke and old, stale food, and 9 days worth of laundry for 6 people. There were about 10 bags to be unpacked, no groceries, and life just carried on. It was end of term for Greg, I had some meetings, and I am personally a little wiped.

So I'm basically complaining right now, but the real truth of it is that the kids (well, a few of them...) have been challenging lately. And it's much easier to write when things are rosy and glowing. My image of perfection, Miss Fiona Clementine, has turned TWO. Can you believe it? This, of course, warrants its own post singing her praises, but much to my astonishment, even Fiona has begun to be two. TWO. Like, as in, testing me from time to time, not always complying immediately and without question to everything I ask of her, skipping her nap, saying NO, and all those things. She's cutting teeth and demanding to nurse non-stop (which is difficult as of course I must think of little Maeve, who depends on the milk for her very life!) and has essentially turned from a child who brought nothing but joy and sunshine to... well, more of a regular kid. I suppose it had to happen. But it's a little melancholy for me.
And then there's Aoife. Poor Aoife. We had her parent conference yesterday and at school, she's just amazing. Happy, adjusted, enthusiastic. All the kids love her, she loves all the kids. She's learned to read and is writing volumes and loves math. She can sing a round and play the piano and organize a game with a group of 10. She is cooperative and attentive and lovely.
And the minute she steps out of the car to the driveway, she melts like the wicked witch of the west.
(is this a good argument for homeschooling, or what? but I LOVE my kids school so much, and so do they...)
The poor little girl is so exhausted and she just can't cope. I can't go into detail, I have to protect my little girl and her life shouldn't be splayed out here for all to read. But it's hard for her, and it's very hard for us. And I feel like the life has been sucked out of me from it. It's very, very hard, and almost relentless. I know I've been very lucky, I've been parenting for 7 and a half years and I really haven't struggled at all yet with a child in any phase. But my ass is being kicked right now good and hard, folks, and I could use a hand. (hence the cry for the therapist).
Liam is a rock star. He's learned to knit and is on his 7th project since September. Last week he read the 4th Harry Potter in 5 days. He hugs me good and hard and snuggles me.
Not that I'm comparing, but I'm so grateful to have someone who is so solid right now.
And Mae mae, she's butter and cream, laughing and babbling "mamamam" and rolling all over the place. But, that being said, she is a baby, and babies are hard work. And I suffer from some guilt of course from wanting to give her more than I have time to give her with three older children. She's always happy, though, which should be my gauge.
This is almost a rant, hardly a post. But it's the only way I can be here, and given that I don't have a therapist, I have to tell someone.
Things are a little hard right now. Hard and soft and everything all wrapped up. This month of Thanksgiving has me feeling desperate pretty often; desperate for some kind of time to feel myself think and to be an independent agent for even five minutes, desperate for someone to help me pick up the pieces, desperate for my kids to just settle down and love each other and themselves and me.... I want August back in my lap, the beauty and freedom of warmth and heat and schedule-less joy. I want piles of laundry that sit on the back porch and not in my upstairs bathroom to mock me when I brush my teeth. I want all the toys out on the porch and the rest of the house clutter-free and empty. I want laughing, screaming, hilarious children pouring in and out of my front door. I want OUT with the car and IN with the lake.
It's only November.
(but it is dark, dark, dark....)
I also know that part of what is hard right now is that I don't recharge, ever. Maeve is almost six months old and I really haven't had any time to myself since she was born. I haven't sewed anything (except Liam's octopus costume) and I haven't gone out with a friend and I haven't hosted anything interesting. I haven't done anything without at least one kid in tow. I'm so addicted to my children and I love them so much, but I almost need to find myself in all of this crazy chaos.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


written on November 2nd, 2011

We would have laughed at the forecast for snow on Saturday night, except that already last Thursday the rainy afternoon turned to big, slushy flakes on the windshield on our way up to the library. By Friday morning there was a thin layer of snow on our ripe cherry tomatoes and covering the roses in the garden, and the children were joyously swiping what little snow there was off of the leaves and licking it delightedly as we prepared to leave for school.
So we heard it might snow, and groaned-- we'd had snow until April last spring, and it seems almost a cruel joke that after such a long, seemingly never ending winter last year, that the dreaded season should arrive on our doorstep only a few days after the flip-flops went downstairs to the basement to wait for spring. Indeed, it was only a little over two weeks ago that I had my ceremonial last swim of the season, running as fast as I could across the sand at my parents' beach and thundering into the icy water up to my knees and diving forward, feeling the water bite me as I swam underwater for 30 feet or so before realizing that the lake was, sadly, no longer swimmable. And now this?
But by 2 PM, suddenly, huge, giant, sloppy flakes began pouring out of the sky. Within minutes the ground was blanketed; within an hour, we had inches to shovel off the walk. It was steady for the afternoon, and the forecast of power outages when snowstorm meets trees that haven't yet shed their leaves began to ring true as the lights flickered and went out at 2, and then resumed but went out again at 4. But by 5 they were back on, and I jacked the heat up to 74 just in case. We rolled fresh pasta and made a fresh tomato, red pepper, and fennel sausage sauce, and filled a few soup pots with water along with our five gallon jug we'd bought to be prepared for Hurricane Irene . We ate two full meals per person with our friend Sara, who was with us for the night, and tucked into bed, flushed from the heat and the wine and the incredibly huge amount of food we'd consumed.
At about 11, I heard the white noise cut out, and the night lights went out. Fiona began to cry and Greg rigged her little sailboat night-light cover over a flashlight, and we all went back to sleep. It wasn't until morning that I remembered how cold the house would get, as I wiggled into wool socks and gaped at the snowbanks that had formed under our gutters. The world was absolutely painted in thick, white snow-- huge, thick layers of it on every leaf, branch, twig, and bush. Everything seemed to have melted, as branches hung heavy to the ground. Our little apple tree that had finally given us 26 beautiful golden russet apples this year looked like a tiny lump on our lawn. The cherry tree was sweeping the driveway. The rose bushes had disappeared. In all, almost a foot of snow had fallen. And it wasn't even Halloween.
So we lit a fire, and we launched into the day of snow removal and tree revival. Liam joyously leapt around the yard whacking limbs and bushes with his hockey stick, freeing them from the weight of the damp, heavy snow. Greg went up and down our long driveway with his snowblower, clearing the way, and neighbors came up and down periodically to check in and discuss damage and the power outage. It seemed the power was out pretty widely, but we weren't sure. By afternoon I was feeling hungry and cold and tired of it all so we all piled into the van and took a trip into town, just to see if there would be anyplace we could get a hot meal. We swung by the bigger town, and it was dark and vacant, the traffic lights all out, cars everywhere snaking through town doing just what we were doing: looking for warm food and somewhere to be. We turned east and headed into the next, smaller town, and happened to spot someone coming out of a darkened pizza parlor. They had their gas ovens fired up and some candles lighting their work area and we had a hot lunch, huddled around the greasy table in the dim light while Fiona ran around the table in delight. (with her 6 PM bedtime she hasn't logged very many hours in a restaurant!) Then we headed over to the grocery store where, to our surprise, they were open and running on limited power from a generator. The refrigerator sections were mostly cleared out to bigger fridges in the back to save energy and many cases were covered over with insulated cloths, but we were able to get bagels, fruit, and a box of super-softee donuts (the kind that're powdered, cinnamon, and plain) as a kind of snow-day bonus.
Back to the homestead we trundled, with our bags and the sun shining in the windows and the trees dripping melted snow on the tree-limb and power-line strewn streets. We came in quickly, to try to keep the heat in the house, and lit a fire in the fireplace to cuddle around, and got out the games. We moved the dining room table over, and we waited.
We waited, and waited, and although it was only late October the temperature outside was cold and inside the temperature dropped down, and down. That night when we went to bed it was still around 50 upstairs, so we dragged mattresses into our room and all slept together for body heat. We slept well under huge duvets (well if you try not to include the 4 or 9 times Fiona woke up crying, desperate to be nursed in the freezing cold) and when morning came (it was Monday) the world was still closed, our valley still almost completely without power, and our house was really cold.
It was one more day and night of mostly the same, three days in total of our house getting colder, and colder, and colder. Luckily, we'd anticipated the outage and filled our 5 gallon water jug with fresh water and we do have the river to fill buckets with for flushing toilets and such. Our camp stove was set up on the porch beside the coolers of food from our fridge, it was a bit like camping.
Except that it wasn't camping, and it was really cold, and the babies weren't sleeping well. And it was getting dirty in our house from all the boots, and we couldn't wash ourselves, and what would we do when the deep freeze started to thaw?
Thankfully, on the morning of the third day, power was restored to my in-laws house, only 3 miles from us. They were out of town so we moved right in, taking clothing for one day at a time, shuttling between the houses for four more days as we waited patiently for the crews to make it to our road, where our power line lay limply like a dead snake along the side of our road.
So then, on Friday, November 4th, our power returned, and the kids got on their costumes and participated in rescheduled Halloween....

and we were thankful, thankful, thankful to come home to a nice, warm house.