I’m suffering from epidemic, panic-inducing, freak out fit overload. I’ve jumped on board with the new ice age when I was younger, the earth getting colder and colder, now global warming, Y2K, the anthrax scare, bird flu, and now swine flu. There’s always something new and more interesting to panic about, and I’m just worn out with it. I think, at 35, I’ve hit my life time limit on the amount of things that I can freak out about. I just no longer care. I think it’s horrible for all the people who have died from it, and I certainly don’t mean to minimize the suffering of those affected. That being said, I HIGHLY doubt that my life will be affected by this, and would prefer it if everyone would just stop talking about it.

In other news – Jessie started out unbelievably miserable this morning, insisting that she wasn’t going to school… and I quoted my little song at her “Jessie, remember, we believe that happiness is something WE create – so you can decide right now to have a good morning or a really crappy one, but either way, when Daddy leaves this morning, you’re going with him.” And she pulled it together, got herself under control, got dressed, had a nice breakfast and all was lovely.

I’m experimenting with snapfish and there’s the potential that my pictures are, even as I type, winging around the internet. But I haven’t gotten a confirmation e-mail yet, so I probably screwed it up somehow. Sad…

Sure, it’s a line from a county music song, but it works for me. Last weekend, I took Jess to see the Hannah Montana movie (LOVED IT – I know, I’m a total dork), and we were singing to the radio on the way down there. There’s a band, Sugarland, and they have one song called “Baby Girl” and Jessie loved it, so when this other song by them came on, I turned it up loud for her. I think it’s called something like “Gotta be something more” but I could be making that up. One line that stuck in her little head was “Some believe in destiny, and some believe in fate, but I believe that happiness is something we create” and she sang it off and on for the rest of the day.

My girl has some intense emotions – and it’s always easier for her to see the down side than the positive. It’s so frustrating at times, I watch her make her life SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT, not just for her, but for everyone around her by her stubborn insistence that she’s having the ‘baddest day ever’ or ‘the most horrible night in the world.’

But ever since last weekend, everytime she starts to sink down into the misery, I just remind her that she’s got the choice, and we believe that happiness is something we create – and IT WORKS. Second day in a row, she’s bounced out the door with smile on her face for school. I love it.

Sam and Jordyn are so incredibly adorable together. They’ve been playing in there, by themselves, with literally no interaction with me, for well over an hour. I’m not even sure what they are doing, exactly, it’s some sort of fantasy game, Sam’s the Dad, Jordyn is the Mom, and they dress up in raincoats (wrapping themselves in my quilts) and move from corner to corner in the room. They’ve scattered, I think, every little toy I own, every little piece of plastic food, every truck and baby doll that exist here, all over the place – but I’m so proud of them. They’re only two and a half – and so creative and GOOD at playing together.

How I spent my spring vacation…

This is Jess at Elm Park.

Here’s (from the left) Jessica, my step daughters Lilli and Sarah, and my friend’s daughter Glennys at the Museum of Science.

Here are the girls on the subway into Boston. How cute is that??

This was early in the morning, with Hostess little donuts for breakfast. Note the powdered sugar all over Sammy’s face.

My little Samilicious – best part of the whole trip was the train ride.

This is Glennys, my niece Isabella and Jess enjoying the sunshine.

Gotta say, it was a proud moment for me. When my beloved and cherished daughter hurled those words at me.

So it’s a gorgeous day, and I pack up my cherubs (Lilli (10) Sarah (8) Jessica (6) Harrison and Sam (both two) up to go down to Cricket Park. Which isn’t a park at all, and in reality is called Elm Street Community School, but it’s very close, with a huge fenced in field and parts of it are paved. We brought bubbles, two baby dolls with their carriages, chalk and a big wagon to lug it all in. Today’s gorgeous – but wicked windy, so after about 10 minutes, I was ready to go. I soldiered on, because everyone was having fun, the boys were running and running and blowing bubbles and just hollering into the wind, and the girls were drawing these elaborate hop scotch games.

One of my time honored techniques for parenting is what I like to call bribery. Although it’s not really bribery, more of a distraction. I wanted them to get going, because I was cold and it was lunch time, so I suggested that we all stop at the little store and I’d get a big bag of potato chips to go with the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. At which point, four of the five kids screamed with joy, and one started sobbing uncontrollably. Turns out that Jess doesn’t LIKE potato chips (news to me, as she’s been eating them since she was about six months old) and really wanted Doritos. I was not amused – total spoiled brat behavior, no way was she going to get her way, so I sent her to go stand against the wall for a time out. This proved to be stunningly inefficient, as she calmed down enough to walk back over to me, but started wailing again as she pointed out how much she doesn’t want potato chips and nothing will do except for Doritos.

Now I’m just mad, because really? Is she that entitled that she feels okay throwing back a generous offer of junk food and flipping out because she’s not getting the exact brand of chips she wants. No WAY am I getting this child what she wants, but I had to follow thru for the other kids. So off we went to the store, with her screaming and sobbing the whole way. We went into the store, bought chips, walked all the way home, screaming and sobbing. I’m ignoring her, except for when I paused briefly to tell her that I found her behavior to be throughly unacceptable and she would be going directly to her room until she could apologize. We finally get home, I get everyone inside, and Jess sits down on the bottom step, says she’s never, never ever coming home again because I’m the meanest mother in the whole world. I ignore her and go inside anyway. She came in, and I immediately pointed to the bedroom. She screams as loud as she could, stomps into the bedroom. Comes out ten minutes later, sobbing and hyperventilating. I say to her in the gentlest, kindest of voices, “are you ready to apologize for your behavior?” She looked at me and said “You need to apologize to ME!” You guessed it, back to her room she went.

She did finally come out and apologize and gracefully accepted some potato chips with her lunch. Score one point for me.

Jessie decided she wanted a bike. Her bestest friend Glennys has one, and her heart was broken into a million pieces because she didn’t have one. So I, the good mother, go out the next day, searching for one. I had to go to two different stores, then buy the helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, the whole thing. Now she’s got a gorgeous purple bike, matching accessories – and she’s desperate to ride it. And of course, it rained for the past two days. I finally get her outside today (with my 10 year old stepdaughter pushing one carriage with a toddler, me shoving two more in my double stroller, and my poor other stepdaughter is assigned to assist Jess. As she rides. With training wheels.

She’s terrified of it. Thinks she’s up too high, it goes too fast, she begged me not to make her (make her – like she hadn’t sobbed to get the bike in the first place) ride it. I’m ill amused. And planning on taking her alone down to the nearest park for a couple of hours, bribing her with ice cream and chocolate if she’ll just be brave enough to give it a shot.

This is what my daughter said to me, as an excuse for being wretched to a friend of her’s who had come over to play. Not that the excuse was actually accepted, she stayed in her room until she cried herself to sleep, because no matter how popular you are, you still don’t get to be mean.

Jess is such a distinct personality. She’s very clear on her likes and dislikes and too many people is one of her major pet peeves. She’d rather have one good friend then fifteen kind of good friends. And her major objection to apologizing for being mean was that then the poor little girl would like her again, and she doesn’t want to be liked.

I don’t know what to do with that. I mean, I know what to do with that, and we’ll be writing an apology card later on this morning, and I’ll harp on it until she gets the message that no matter how she’s feeling, it’s never okay to be unkind. But as for figuring out the dilemma of being too popular… that’s going to take some more thought. Jess needs to figure out a way to navigate the social system, she’ll need to learn techniques for saying “I don’t want to play right now, no offense intended” or “I would rather be alone for a bit, if you don’t mind” as opposed to “hell no, I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” It’s an odd problem to have – I was at the library last night, and there are all kinds of books to help your child be liked, how to handle bullies, how to make them popular – but none for the poor parent who has a child who claims that the popularity she has is an incredible burden and feels as though her only recourse is to be as hostile and unfriendly as possible in hopes that everyone will back off and leave her alone.

Or rather, riding in cars with my husband… I realized this weekend that I rarely listen to the radio if I’m in the car with my husband. Alone, or with the kids, I listen to it as loud as possible. Singing loudly and off key to boot. But with Marc in the car, we don’t. And it’s not just that we don’t really like the same music, because we both like classic rock, it’s because that’s enforced alone time (because we’re the only ones in the front seat) and that used to be the time that we got to talk, to hang out. And now, of course, it’s mostly just me yelling at the kids to please settle down, or stop yelling – there’s not as much joy in it as it used to be. Marc is very focused on the road, forgets to talk unless I prompt him, and I’m worn out from wrestling four kids into the car and shouting back for them to please, for the love of God, stop hitting each other, or stop yelling, etc. If I’m not referee-ing them, I’m mostly just slumped up against the window, vegging out or thinking about what I have to do next.

Not sure if I should try to reclaim the driving “date time” or just start turning the radio on more… that way at least I’d get to sing, and maybe if the music was loud enough, I wouldn’t be able to hear the yelling from the backseat.

I have a fantabulous mother. Seriously. She had me when she was twenty two, and by the time she was twenty nine, she had my brothers, my little sister, and an ex husband who was a disaster. I can only say that he was probably a worse ex than he was a husband, no child support, dashing in and out of our lives, train wreck of a parent. But my mother raised all four of us on her own, she’s amazing and wonderful and kind and giving and one of the few people who thinks that everything I do and everything I think is right and good and exactly as it should be. She gives new meaning to the term unconditional love, she’s my biggest fan, my most ardent supporter and I’ll never, ever, no matter how much I try, ever be able to tell her how much I love and respect her.

That being said – she makes me crazy. She can’t say no. Ever. If you ever need something, just call my mom – she’ll do it. Watch your kids, drive all over creation to run your errands, sit by your bedside if you’re sick, cook you dinner, loan you money, make herself sick with exhaustion and stress just to make your life easier.

I’m very much like her. We look alike, I grew up constantly being told how much I was like her. We have big brown eyes, long legs, fuzzy brown hair and healthy fear of heights. I was her lieutenant growing up, I kept track of my younger siblings, I picked up whatever she dropped, metaphorically speaking. I was her back up, the one that everyone else counted on. For a long time, I had children very late (as far as my family was concerned – I was 28, with eight nieces and nephews before I had Jess). And spent so much of my life being just like my mother… and I stopped.

I don’t jump when anyone says jump anymore. I don’t leap to help, I don’t put off my needs to accomodate someone else’s. I say yes when I want to, when I can, but don’t confuse when I want to with when I can’t come up with a good enough reason to say no. I have my own children, and my own life, and as much as I love my family – I know that I am as important, my wants and needs, my husband’s wants/needs and most importantly, my kids’ wants and needs are far more important than anything else I could come up with. Is that selfish? Yeah, I know it is. But I’m okay with it. I freely admit that I’m a crappy sister/daughter/friend (see post from a few weeks ago). But I don’t want to be in my mid-fifties, running errands for everyone else, and putting myself last all the time. That might make me less wonderful than my mom, but I think it makes me happier as well.