tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

Archive for the tag “Family”

My Dad’s Legacy

While sick with cancer, my father once expressed concern about how his kids would remember him when he was gone. I think he thought that some of the things we give him a hard time about were the things we were going to remember the most about him after he died. In our family the rule tends to be, if we love you, we give you a hard time. Well my dad has live 69 years and I have known him for almost 40 now which means I’ve had plenty of time to give him a hard time, but those jokes and razzings aren’t the things I’m going to remember most about my dad when he’s gone because there is so much more to him.

I’ll remember my dad traveling for work a lot when I was little and always anxiously waiting for him to get home. He’d bring me treasures like giant pencils or cheap plastic wallets purchased at airport gift shops in exotic locations like Dallas and Denver.

I’ll remember my dad for the times he’d sit on the couch watching Saturday morning cartoons with us. He’d laugh louder at Bugs Bunny’s shenanigans than any of us.

I’ll remember his obsession with cleaning his car. Sometimes he’d let us help him wash it in the driveway on the weekends. Other times he’d let us ride through the local car wash with him, always waiting until we were at the sprayers and then cracking our windows just enough to get us wet. He never failed to get us, even when we knew it as coming. He’d always keep paper towels and Windex in his trunk and before any long car ride he would be sure to pull them out and clean his windows.

I’ll remember him as a fire buff. He was a member of the Boston Sparks Association and was even president at one time. He had a fire scanner blasting in almost every room of the house (it drove my mom nuts). He’d turn the volume way up to listen if there was a fire. If the fire was big enough, he’d race out the door to go to it. Sometimes he’d go with the BSA and bring their canteen truck to serve food and beverages to the fire fighters on the job (if I was lucky, I got to go with him). Other times he’d just go to watch and talk with the people there. It often seemed like my dad would talk to just about anybody. He was like a little kid when it came to the fire department. He even owned an antique fire truck with a couple of friends for several years. I loved it because we got to ride on it in parades. Plus not many kids could say their dad owned a fire truck! I’m sure it was his love for all things fire department that led to my brother becoming a fire fighter and my dad couldn’t be prouder.

I’ll remember my dad’s love for all things Boston, the city in which he grew up in. My dad would take us for special days into the city and teach us about the city’s history. He took us to places like the Boston Tea Party ship, the top of the John Hancock Building, Bunker Hill, Copps Hill, to see Old Iron Side, to walk around Castle Island, and Faneuil Hall. He made me love the city and sparked a keen interest in the revolutionary war. He also took me to my first Red Sox Game at Fenway Park when I was about 3 or 4 years old. Most of my life he had season tickets just behind third base. I spent many summer evenings there with him. We’d always park kind of far away and walk in past the Fens, grab some peanuts from the old singing peanuts and pistachio guy, enjoy some Fenway Franks and a large pretzel inside the park, and he’d tell me about all the players. He taught me that, up until the past decade or so, the one thing you could count on the Red Sox for (and all Boston area sports teams) was to get your hopes up and then let you down hard. He’d get mad when they were losing, changing to channel temporally if we were watching the game on TV at home, but he’d always come back to them.  He took me to Celtics Games too as a kid, back when Bird and Parrish played and their shorts were short. We’d sit a few rows back from the Celtic’s bench and my siblings and I would get all the players’ autographs. Despite my begging, he wouldn’t take me to a Patriot’s game (he said the crowd was too rowdy), but he taught me to love them too. Every Sunday in the fall was dedicated to football. I still remember watching most of the Patriots-Bears Super Bowl in ’86 with my dad. I knew they had lost by my dad’s disappointed shouts echoing up the stairs as I lay in bed trying to sleep.

I’ll remember my dad as the man who was known by everybody. Like I said before, he loved to talk and would talk to just about anybody. He was a member of several social groups including the BSA and the local Rotary Club. Almost every place we went my dad saw someone he knew. At the baseball games he’d always run into several people he knew, having a lobster roll up in Maine he’d run into someone he hadn’t seen in years, even all the way down in Florida at Disney World he’d run into people he knew. I will never forget the time we were parking our car in a parking garage several stories up on our way to a Celtics game, he got out of the car, looked out at the building across the way from us and there, hanging out a window trying to talk on a phone while the smoke alarm was going off in his apartment was a guy my dad knew waving at him. He knew people everywhere!

I’ll remember my dad as the man who worked hard to take care of his family. He worked hard to give us a beautiful house in which we each had our own room and a large beautiful backyard which he spent days every summer mulching. He provided us with family trips to amusement parks, Lake George, Disney World, and even a winter break at a hotel with a pool just so we could swim even though he didn’t know how to. He worked multiple jobs while I was in college to help keep me from having enormous debt in the form of student loans when I finished. He also took on the traditional role of father of the bride, despite it being an outdated custom, and paid for my amazing wedding.

I’ll remember my dad as the doting grandpa we call “Papi.” He might not have the energy to play for very long with the kids, but he loves to watch them play. He will swoop in, grab them, flip them upside-down, and tickle them, and they love it. Whenever he visits he brings them fire shirts to pass along his love for the profession. He’s also notorious for buying his grandkids donuts, even though they don’t need the extra sugar. He just loves to spoil them.

I’ll remember my dad for a lot of things after he is gone; for all the things he taught me, all the things he instilled in me, for all the traits I get from him, for all the things he did with and for me, and for all the love he gave me. So Dad, you don’t have to worry about the legacy you are leaving behind or how we will remember you when you are gone, because you have given us a lifetime of memories and hopefully we will have many more years to make new ones too.


Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the loyalest of them all?

I have four boys, which means my kids have a lot of brothers. Some times they are very loving of each other, but most times they enjoy pushing each other’s buttons and making each other wish they were an only child. Despite all they put each other through, I know that deep down they love each other. Today, however, I think I came to the conclusion that my Middlest child is the most loving and dedicated of all the brothers.

Today was a beautiful day. It felt like summer, so we went to play at the park. Unfortunately it is not yet summer, so after about an hour, we needed to go home and resume weekday during the school year activities. My oldest wasn’t too keen on this idea so I did what I often do in this situation, I packed up and started to leave. I waved goodbye and told my oldest that I hoped he enjoyed his new life living at the park. As I began to walk my other three to the car my 3 year old began to sob. I thought he was upset because we were going home, but then I heard him call his brother’s name. It turned out, he wasn’t upset we were leaving the park, but that we were leaving his brother behind. I tried to explain to him that we weren’t really going to leave him, that he would eventually come, but when I tried to get him into the car, he began bawling and reaching toward the park for his brother. My Middlest was adomant that we could not leave without his oldest brother. It was so sweet and cute, I couldn’t help but hug him and kiss his tears. My five year old, on the other hand, could care less that we were leaving his old brother at the park. In fact, I’m pretty sure he got a little extra skip in his step at the idea of leaving his older brother at the park and him becoming the oldest sibling now.

Luckily for my 3 year old and not so luckily for my 5 year old, my oldest did eventually join us at the car before we left. So no one got left behind and no one got to move up the hierarchy of brothers, but one did show that he is the most loyal of them all.

Ready for a New Year

This has been a tough year for us. It didn’t start off great, a stomach bug ripped through the family twice in the first few weeks, and then it got worse when I landed in the hospital on bed rest at 28 weeks pregnant and delivered my baby at 31 weeks. This year wasn’t all bad but I’m definitely ready to say good bye. Before I do though, I wanted to count my blessings and remind myself that even the darkest hours can bring light, it might just take some time.
Like many of my readers, we sleep-walked through the nightmare that is the NICU. We did 77 days there, though it certainly felt longer, but like my husband remarked today, that nightmare feels so much longer ago than it was (even if I still have some PTSD from it). We took home a struggling baby, still living off a feeding tube and struggling to breathe. We received crushing news that he was probably going to have repeat surgeries for his first year, possibly longer. We dealt with a second hospital stay only two months after bringing him home. We found ourselves in some very dark hours. During those dark hours though, we learned who truly cared for our family (and unfortunately, who couldn’t be bothered with us). We saw the great compassion of strangers and became closer with people we barely knew. I found a renewed sense of God and religion. We also received better news than we could have hoped for.
Now we have a happy, healthy, wonderful baby boy. We feel so blessed. Our struggles were tough, but instead of feeling like we were cursed by all that happened, I feel like it has given me hope and purpose. I discovered multiple preemie support groups on line and I’ve continued to keep in contact with them. I feel like my pain and experience can now help others going through similar situations. I feel like we received so much love and charity in our time of need that I want to pay it forward and make next year not a year of need, but a year of giving.
Looking back at this year and coming out on the other side of everything, I feel blessed. I have four beautiful boys who I love with all my heart. I have a wonderful husband who helped me through this year and I feel closer to for it. My baby made it out of the hospital just in time to enjoy nearly perfect summer weather which allowed us to be outside. We had family outings to zoos, beaches, and parks. We welcomed my all my family for a reunion and enjoyed time together. I witnessed my usually timid 4 year old (now 5) decide to take off his training wheels, hop on his bike, and start riding all by himself. Despite everything this year, we laughed, loved, and enjoyed each other as a family.
This year didn’t start off well and the majority of it sucked, but it also brought hope. So for those of you still living through those struggles, just know that they do eventually end, hopefully in a positive way. However and whenever they end though, you will be stronger for it and hopefully find a higher purpose through your struggles. 2014 wasn’t my family’s year, maybe 2015 won’t be your year, but whatever this year brought and next year brings, count the blessings you do have, enjoy those little moments, and know that there is always hope with the New Year.

Your presences is the true present

Dear Husband of Mine,

It is only a few days until Christmas and you are now on vacation, so I just want to remind you of a few things. First and foremost, you are on vacation from work, not your family and it is the holidays, a time for family, so please be mindful of this.

You have worked so hard the past few months, working long hours, missing meals and bedtimes, working despite being sick or it being your day off. We appreciate all this hard work, but we’ve missed you. We have dealt with you being tied to your phone, answering every email and text and even jumping up in the middle of dinner to log back into work. We worked around your sudden call into work on the boys’ birthday when it was your day off and rearranged our day so you could deal with problems that arose, but now your big project is done and launched and you have a break, so please take that break. Put your phone down, stop checking your emails and texts, don’t even look at newsfeeds or blogs. Let this be the last one you look at, let the message sink in, then put away your electronic devices, and enjoy some time with your family.

The boys have all missed you, they crave your attention. They don’t want you half paying attention, they want you involved. They may not be doing what you want to be doing, but they want you to take an interest and spend some time with them. Our oldest is already 7 and they are all growing so fast. One day you’ll come home and the kids will all be gone. They will be off doing their own things and want nothing to do with us, so savor these moments, don’t waste them and miss out. This time doesn’t last forever, you will miss it when it is gone.

This is the baby’s first Christmas, sure he won’t remember it, but we will and so will his brothers. Think back to 9 months ago, when he was in the NICU, we didn’t know if he would make it to his first Christmas. This could’ve been a sad time, if things hadn’t turned out ok. This Christmas would feel a lot different if we had lost him in our struggles this year. We’ve been through so much this year and now it is almost over, so take some time to reflex on this past year and all that we’ve survived. Take some time for quiet appreciation of all we are blessed to have.

Remember what this time of year is about, family and traditions, giving and loving, and selfless acts of kindness. Your boys look to you to see how they should behave. If you lack the Christmas spirit, they will do the same. Show them all the fun they can have enjoying the simple things. Help us do some baking, wrapping, and celebrating. Watch holiday shows, sing Christmas carols, wear a silly Christmas hat. Show them how important it is to give and not just receive. Put away your yelling, aggravated voice, chose to laugh instead.

Lastly I ask, for the one true gift I want. Please be present this week in all we do. Listen to me and actually hear what I say. Please pay attention, make some memories, and enjoy our beautiful family. We love you and we want you here physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now go put your phone and tablet down and let’s enjoy this holiday.

Your Wife and Children

When vacations go bad: tales of a toxic trip

TMI warning: do not read if you cannot handle human bodily functions.

I need to get the toxins from this last “vacation” out of my system. So as a sit in the bath, trying to wash away the memories of the last few days, I decided that the best way to do that was to put it all out into cyberspace.

With only a week left until we move into our new home, the three boys and I ventured off on a “family vacation.” It was only a family vacation because we were traveling back to our previous habitat in the desert to meet up with family that still live there and more family that were coming in from out of town. Our family, however, was not complete because my husband stayed behind to work and we would not have chosen this location for our vacation had it been a true family vacation. Of course, after the events of the past few days, I’m not sure any of us will choose this location as a vacation destination again.

The trip started off beautifully, a little over a week ago. All three boys behaved nicely on the airplane back to the desert. The fact that the boys behaved so well on our first flight without Dad since the third son was born should have been the first sign that something was amiss and that I would pay later. Upon arriving in the desert, the two youngest and my sinuses instantly flared with allergies that we thought we had left long behind. Our skin began to shrivel and dry as if we were never once accustomed to the desert climate. Noses ran like faucets, throat stung like cacti, and hacking coughs sounded throughout the night like a coyote’s howl. Yet we sallied forth knowing that they were only allergies and could not keep us from the once a year rendezvoused we had with our cousins. Everyone was getting along. Sure there were the usual family squabbles; grandparents becoming overwrought with too many grandchildren in their house at once, siblings razzing siblings, arguments over who had dibs on the next margarita out of the blender; but everything was going well. that’s when the second omen occurred. It snowed in the desert (or at least in all the surrounding towns but where we were). Not quite as biblical as raining frogs, but we’re talking about a place where the slightest bit of rain garners breaking news updates as if it were the hurricane of the century, so snow is kind of a big deal. That’s when I made, what I believe to be, my crucial mistake; we went to the kid pit at the mall. We didn’t stay long, but I forgot to bathe my children in sanitizer when we were finished and then fed them a snack. After that, things took a real turn for the worse.

My kids went to sleep relatively easily (which I should have taken as sign #3), so I thought that I’d actually get to hang out and have drinks with my siblings. By 9:00, my middle child woke up very unhappy. I went into him just in time to move him away from the mattress that his two other brothers slept on before he vomited all over me and himself. I quickly moved him to the bathroom where he vomited more before I could get him near the toilet. I screamed for help, unsure if he got it on either of his brothers or had woken them, and waited an eternity for my befuddled mother to come in to help. Apparently once you get your kids through childhood, you don’t deal much with other people puking and begin to lose that quick response and sense of know-how that parents of young children seem to have. So I began barking orders like a drill Sargent while quietly praying between breaths that it was just food poisoning. Once we thought he was done, I changed both our sets of clothing and brought him out to the greatroom area (living/dining room combo for those of you unfamiliar) and began trying to figure out what to do about sleeping arrangements. That’s about when he projectile vomited all over the floor and us again. My dear old dad didn’t miss a beat, he looked over at the mess and promptly turned up the volume on the crime drama he was watching. Some shuffling of sleeping arrangements was done (thanks to my sister), more silent prayers were said, and I took my two youngest to bed with a puke bucket in hand. A few hours later, we did a similar song and dance. My mom came in to help, this time with her “puking child” wits about her, and for good reason. Apparently she had already dealt with my oldest puking all over himself as he sleep in her room several times. I still secretly held out hope of food poisoning since the two of them shared the same thing for dinner, but even more secretly, I was trying to keep down the possible reality of the situation along with my own dinner. Fast forward several restless and sometimes puke filled hours later to late the next morning. I was roused from my second attempt at sleeping by my middle child spewing strawberries slices in the hallway and my youngest reacting with an incredibly scared shriek. I then receive confirmation that it was not food poisoning. My poor youngest niece had puked in the car on the way to breakfast, while sitting in the restaurant during breakfast, and then again on the way home from breakfast. After another change job, I take my son and the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach back to bed. Fast forward a few more hours and it is my turn with the puke bucket. Back to sleep again and I awake to an empty bed and voices from the next room asking my middle son if he is okay and my niece saying “I think he’s going to puke again.” I scramble to get out of bed as I hear my son puking across the room in what feels more like a museum of things kids shouldn’t touch than a living room. Now where exactly the puke landed, I will not say in case my mother reads this, but I will say thank god for my sister and her powers of cleaning. It is a good thing that my parents are old and therefor slow when they go out to the store (I love you mom). That day was topped of with yet another of the clan following victim to the stomach virus from hell when my oldest niece took to the puke bucket.

The next day we thought we were all on the mend. My oldest niece was still weak, but had stopped puking. So we all headed off to the zoo with multiple strollers for puke weakened children. Sure, not the best idea, but it was our last day in town and we had more family to meet up with. It was a tiring excursion, but no major problems. On the drive home my two youngest fell asleep. When we got to the house, my middle child wanted to continue sleeping, but instead, wandered around the house until after everyone was bathed and then threw up all over us both again. I treaded lightly with him that night, fearful because the next day was our flight home. He ended up being okay, despite a few scary moments, but my nephew then started throwing up, as well as having it come out the other end, all over the bed. Him seemed better by this morning, but then it was my brother-in-laws turn, only hours before a six hour flight with a layover. I don’t think any of us could get out of there fast enough. With only the memory of the last few days, I’m not sure any of us ever want to go back. My middle child is so traumatized that he now associates Nana’s house with throwing up.

By some miracle, we all made it to our final destinations without incident. My sister texted me that they had gotten home okay, but now she was feeling sick. I breathed a sigh of relief that it seemed to be done for at least my family. Ten minutes after my sister’s text, while my husband was at the store, I hear my oldest yell to me from the bathroom “Mom, I pooped myself.” This is when we get the shit cherry on the puke sundae. I go into to find that not only had he pooped his pants, but he must have tried to take his pants off after making this discovery. There was poop everywhere, all over the freshly cleaned bathroom. Not to be overly graphic, but it was in his underwear, on his jeans, his socks, all down his legs, on the floor, and all over the white towel. My stomach was just starting to feel better, but was still a little queasy after lunch today, and this did not help the cause. I began to retch as I attempted to clean it up and end up running for the other bathroom before getting very far. I called my husband frantic, praying that he was close, but he wasn’t close enough. So I ventured in again, trying to come up for air frequent enough that I didn’t puke all over my son. Despite this tactic, I was overtaken again and ran for the other bathroom only to find my 3 year old pooping on that toilet. Luckily I managed to keep myself from puking all over the only other bathroom and my husband finally showed up.

So now the kids are bathed and I am too and I really hope that this is truly over. Hopefully neither one for my parents end up with it and if my sister does get it, it moves quickly. I think we all just need to have a little selective amnesia and forget this toxic trip, or at least the last half of it. I say instead of meeting at my parent’s house for our annual family vacation next year, we take a real vacation and meet at an all inclusive resort where the only reason someone might get sick is from too many drinks, not that that’s any fun when you are parenting, but that’s a story for another time.

The things we teach our kids (but probably shouldn’t)

My four and a half year old was recently introduced to the “why are you hitting yourself?” game, by his father no less. So now he loves to play it with anyone he can, including his six month old brother. His father was also kind enough to introduce him to the term “beanbags.” So now he walks around punching himself in that general area saying “oh, right in the beanbags.” I’m a little concerned that as parents, we are the ones teaching our kids all the things that they shouldn’t do. Isn’t that the job of his friends, or at least his uncle?

Being a family is work worth doing

Being a part of a family isn’t a given, it takes work. Yes, we are all born into families and have relatives of one form or another, but blood bonds alone are not enough to make you part of a family. Being part of a family means being involved, and that takes effort.

I was raised in a tight knit family, at least on my mother’s side. It took my husband a lot of getting used to when he would come to family parties with me. There would be so many of us and we’d all be up in each others’ business.

My husband wasn’t raised this way and neither was my father. My father’s parents didn’t have a lot of family growing up. My parental grandfather was an orphan and my paternal grandmother was a the only child of a single working mom who didn’t have the luxury of spending family time with her daughter. Because of this, my paternal grandparents weren’t sure how to be a family unit. They did the best they could but it was work for them. My dad learned more about the importance of being part of a family from my mom and her family than from his own parents. If being parents was work for my paternal grandparents, being grandparents was even more difficult. After all, they’d done their job, they’d raised two sons to adulthood, and now it was just the two of them again; except it wasn’t. They weren’t really sure what to do with grandkids, so most of the time they just didn’t do anything. Because of this, my siblings and I had little connection to them and we pretty much had to be forced to visit them.
My maternal grandmother was very different from my paternal grandparents. She was very involved in her kids’ lives; almost too involved sometimes. She often stayed with us during the winter and we visited throughout the spring and summer months. I loved going to her house for the weekend. We’d bake fresh blueberry muffins, swim at the beach, go to the play ground, play cards, watch jeopardy or baseball, and top off the day with an ice cream from Kool Kone. As I grew older, I remained connected to my grandmother. Sure she was old, cranky, nosy, and drove me nuts, but I loved her just the same. She taught me how to crotchet, made me love crossword puzzles, and shared stories about my ancestors. When she died I was heartbroken.

What made the difference in how I felt about my grandparents was the amount of work they put into the relationship. My paternal grandparents lived only 15 minutes away yet I hardly saw them. They knew so little about me that they didn’t even buy my gifts for holidays, instead they gave my mom money and asked her to get me something or just gave me a check; which to a young child excited to open one gift on Christmas eve was a real let down. My maternal grandmother lived 45 minutes away yet I saw her almost every holiday and many times in between. My grandmother always picked out her own gifts for me when I was a kid which often times were a little odd, but they showed thought and meant something to me. When my paternal grandparents died, I had so little connection with them that I was sad that my dad had lost his parents, but I didn’t feel like I myself had lost anything.

Being a part of a family is about more than being blood related, it’s about having those experiences and making those connections, which takes work. Being family is about sleep overs and special outings, cheering from the sidelines at a tee ball game, celebrating holidays and special occasions together, sending birthday cards, or even just a quick phone call to see how swim lessons went or how school is going. Without putting in this effort, you aren’t part of a family, you’re just someone who might be compatible with a group of people should you ever need a kidney.

A four year old’s view on life

I love having conversations with my oldest, who is almost four and a half. We have some of the funniest and most interesting conversations. Life from the point of view of a four year old is pretty interesting.

Last night my oldest had a tee ball game (it’s his first year playing) and a lot of times he spends the game sitting or spinning in circles in right field. So I made a deal with him that if he tried really hard and gave his best effort, after each game he’d get a treat. Sometimes it is just some simple Lego time with a parent or playing video games, but last night’s treat was froyo. So after we ate our frozen yogurt, I made him put on his pjs before getting in the car to head home. He loves getting time with mommy all to himself (or almost to himself, the baby was there but he sat quietly in his bucket seat) so this was a real special treat. I was explaining to him how it was important to go right to bed without any problems when we got home or he wouldn’t get to do this again.

“No fooling around like last night.”
“But I just want you near me at night Mommy because I miss you!”
“Miss me when? You are with me all day. You know who misses me, your Dad because he’s at work all day, so when you go to bed it is time for Mommy and Daddy to spend some time together before they go to bed.”
“Well maybe Daddy just shouldn’t work anymore so he can stay home, then he wouldn’t miss you anymore.”

Oh if only the answers in life were that simple. I’m sure my husband would love to not have to work so he could stay home with us, but until we win the lottery, that’s just not an option. I guess that means that my oldest better start playing the lottery.

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