Heads, hearts and helmets

No brilliant person’s words of wisdom, no fantastically written book, even no astute observations on my part could have ever prepared me for what would happen to my heart when I had children.

What it would feel like to hear tears down the street, to not worry too much because daddy was nearby and to go running down our little lane only to be waved back to the house by the daddy carrying the middlest one who obviously had met much pavement at a very high speed on his bike.  The blood pumping strong I run back toward the house and do what he told me to do “turn around and get all the first aid ready”.  The word “all” makes me start to worry much.  I clear the counter in an instant and realize our bandage supply is meager, it is the end of summer after all.

The pain in his voice as he’s carried in the door makes my insides shudder.  I never knew I would know all the different sounds of ‘boy’ and that only a few would make me feel like this.  His helmet is still on and we gently take it off (we don’t play the “what if he hadn’t had it on?” mind game now, but it comes later).  He is writhing and I want to just hold him but I have to assess the scope of it all.  The impact was obviously head first and then the whole left side.  I see deep open sores on his side and he is holding it so tight, I think spleen? and keep taking mental notes on everything while trying to play calm mommy.  Left elbow maybe broken, lots of blood and road rash abrasions.

We make the decision to head to the ER.  Too many variables not to go.  And he is getting foggy.  Not responding normally to us.  So we pack up and go.

The drive from our new place to the ER that we know and love seems like an eternity.  I pull over on the side of the freeway because he isn’t answering me.  I tug on his foot and he talks back but I know we aren’t in good shape.

As soon as they see him they bump him to the top of the line and send him straight back and there is a doctor there before we are even on the bed.  He is sharp and kind and takes the very best care of my boy.  When he gives me choices on what to do and I waffle and wish my hubby was here to help me decide, he offers to call him right then and there and talk with him in the room with me and we figure it all out together.

The only reason we probably had choices and didn’t head straight away for a CAT scan was because he had his helmet on.  More than once, he said “with that kind of impact, if he had not had that helmet on, this outcome could have been very different”.  As it was he still had a concussion.  And he was badly beat up from his body meeting the road at that speed.

The first hour he is so out of sorts and I wonder how this is going to turn out and would he be okay?  He is in and out of it.  Completely not his normal self.  My mom keeps me grounded and keeps talking to me and we talk to him and we watch and wait.  For several hours.

He finally turns a corner and we go home on strict limitations to his activity and super close watch on his demeanor.  We wake him all night every two hours to make sure he can wake up.  In the morning, the pain of waking up completely undoes him and in doing so undoes this mama too.  He is nauseous and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g hurts him to tears.  He can’t moved from curled up on the couch.  It breaks my heart.

Dressing wounds also makes my list of “things I did not expect to learn to do”.  But I do it because that is what a mother does.  And it honestly hurts me physically to have to pull gauze out of open spaces of skin that want to grow new into the bandages.

I spend a RIDICULOUS $60 on bandages, bandaids, non-stick gauze and my kitchen counter looks like a Red Cross clinic.  Never again will you find me out of stock when it comes to these necessities.

The days pass and two nights I hardly sleep.  I keep rehearsing our conversation and spilling over with thankfulness that it went down the way it did…

Me:  “I sometimes felt like the dorky mom always making my kids wear helmets, when the neighbor kids mom’s don’t make them wear theirs’.”

ER doctor:  “Well, if you hadn’t done that though, you might not be heading home right now.  Things could have very differently.”

Me:  “Sign me up for dorky mom.  Any day of the week then.”

I can hardly eat anything for several days after.  All the sores and pain and trauma leave me sick to my own stomach even though I’m not the one injured.  But it feels like I am.  And that’s what else no one could make you understand before you are a mother.  When your child’s heart or body is broken, it actually feels like it is you who is broken and sometimes even I think we feel worse than they do.  The whole phenomena is something I’ll never wrap my mind around and forever be thankful for.  The way these little people grow my heart is totally beyond me.

7 year old smarts

As we were getting ready for a quick lunch picnic after morning school work, Audrey came barreling into the kitchen screaming and holding her eye.  She was holding a bottle of bug spray and trying to tell me through sobbing that she sprayed it at herself.  I picked her up and got a washcloth and Rylee grabbed the bottle.

“Don’t worry mom, it’s organic!”  she said delightfully, as if that would surely stop the hysterical tears.

I kept washing the eye out and she kept reading “Non toxic, safe for the entire family, all natural” she stated over the noise.

It took quite a while to recover and poor Audrey’s little eye was red and watery for a long time.  But I did have to laugh inside.  I can see a new catch phrase in our home developing….

Family canning

Caleb cut beans for almost 3 hours today.  With his mama.  At the kitchen counter.  The boy loves doing meaningful work.  He was literally happier than I’ve seen him in a long time.  He thrives on making a valued contribution.  It was a delight to hang out with him.

Audrey and Rylee owned the tomato situation last night.  35 pounds done in just a couple hours thanks to the fantabulous teamwork that took place.  Truly some of our best family times are spent in the kitchen together.

I can barely move at this point but we’ve had a great time canning so far.  I didn’t realize how tired I was or how pregnant I am until I broke down sobbing over a chicken nugget at the dinner table last night!

Many hands may make light work.  They also make a mess.  And memories too…

Our summer bounty

This year we’ve attempted to grow:

green beans

lettuce

tomatoes (4 kinds)

cucumbers

potatoes

strawberries

zucchini

carrots

snap peas

blueberries

So far:

snap peas gave 3 good harvests then promptly died when we went camping

carrots take FOREVER to grow!

green beans are just coming on – but WOW they are good

tomatoes require sun – this is the NW – it’s in short supply this year

lettuce – several heads harvested and new ones coming on

zucchini has been enjoyed by the slugs and not us so far

strawberries were good and gone fast…same with blueberries

cucumbers may never arrive

potatoes – no one’s had the courage to go digging in the potato sack – no clue what’s in there

but we’re having fun with our tiny garden and that’s kind of the idea!

Favorite friday night dinner

It’s almost embarrassing to post this because it truly is one of the most no-brainer meals I make.  But it is a huge hit every time so I can’t help but share.  It’s the perfect meal for a busy day, for feeding a crowd or when you don’t want to heat up the house using your oven in summer.   We had a fun filled day at the beach today (forgot the sunscreen, first sunburn of the summer) and I knew we’d be tired when we got home.  So before we left I threw a 5 pound bone in pork shoulder roast into the crockpot.

We enjoyed the sand and sun with friends and it was hard to peel the kids away from it all.  We came home, rested and then enjoyed the simplest of meals together.  Here’s how it goes:

Buy a pork roast (or three) when they go on sale – my large chunk of meat cost under $5

Place the whole roast into the crockpot on LOW  in the morning, pour 1 can or bottle of root beer over the meat.

Yes, really just root beer that’s all.

Let it cook all day.  Take it out at dinner time.  Pull meat apart and drain juice from crockpot.  Put meat back in and cover with BBQ sauce of your choice.  Stubs is my standby favorite brand but sometimes I make my own from this recipe.

I cannot explain what the root beer does to the meat.  I can only testify to its extreme goodness.  I do only use natural root beer, which is made with spices and cane sugar instead of pure high fructose corn syrup like regular soda.  I don’t know if it makes a difference.  But when my husband asks for thirds every time we have it, I just make it the same way every time.  And a 5 pound roast would feed at least 10 average eaters.  For us, it is two entire meals, I always freeze the other half for a rainy day.

We tend to just eat a protein and raw or steamed veggies and fruit for dinner so we added fresh corn and cantaloupe tonight.  Easy peasy yum!

And for the record, little girls slathered in coconut oil for their sunburn are perfectly yummy too-works better than aloe vera!

Blueberries on a cloudy day

We awoke to ominous August skies but embarked on our blueberry-picking regardless.  Raising kids in the Pacific Northwest we have a very high tolerance for outdoor activities in less than lovely weather.  I have taken the kids to pick berries every year since they were born and my goodness can those kids work hard!  We even pick raspberries at the same farm my mom took me to when I was just 6 weeks old.

With all the lack of sunshine this summer, our berries are way behind schedule but blueberry farms are finally ready for picking.  On the drive there, Caleb said:

I never noticed how fast the clouds move!  I know it doesn’t look good but I have hope that the white clouds are going to chase the dark clouds away and it won’t rain on us while we pick.

As we filled our buckets we felt a few sprinkles but we all settled in and picked for an hour and a half.  Audrey ate all her berries.  Kyler rested a lot.  But Rylee picked almost 5 pounds and Caleb topped his bucket with 7 pounds!  Our combined 22 pounds will provide many winter smoothies when produce costs a lot and isn’t so fresh.  But today as we picked we drooled over the blueberry crisp that we’ll make tonight and the muffins we will bake up for breakfast tomorrow.  Rylee explained to me:

So dad earns the money that we use to buy the blueberries then with the berries we buy with that money we’ll make him blueberry dessert tonight and it will be like he got his money back, it works out so great!

I grinned and agreed, after me gone for 4 days I’m pretty sure he thinks it works out ‘so great’.

Lentil Taco Night

For many reasons, I’ve been working on making one meatless dinner a week.  And I’ve also been painstakingly trying to incorporate more beans and legumes into our diet.  They pack such a nutritional punch and are so cheap!  This recipe has become a staple and it is a welcome substitution for a greasy bowl of ground beef taco meat.  It looks similar in color, tastes as good or better and a handful of lentils costs less than a dollar.  For toppings, they are required to have a bit of everything healthy.  That means shredded carrots, olives, avocado, fresh tomato or lettuce.  Then they can add sour cream or cheese if they like.

Lentil Tacos

1 cup finely chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp oil
1 cup dried lentils
1 T chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Toppings: salsa, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, sour cream or avocado

In a skillet, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender.  Add lentils, chili powder, cumin and oregano.  Cook and stir 1 minute.  Add broth, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 25 minutes or till lentils are tender.  Uncover, cook 5-10 minutes until mixture is thickened.  Mash lentils slightly if desired.  I stir some salsa in at this point.  Then serve in tortillas or taco shells.

Move more, eat less

Those four little words are my husbands oh-so-brief directions for weight loss.  He many times has joked he could write a book and it would have only two chapters.  One about moving more and one about eating less.

If only it were that simple right?

This coming from a man who has weighed the same for 12 years since the day he graduated from high school.

This spoken to the wife who has borne his four children in 6 years and seen fluctuations in weight that make her head spin.  And her knees hurt.  And her skin permanently marred with stretch-mark-scars. And her energy wane when she needs it more than ever.  And her moods far too susceptible to the woes of sugar highs (and lows!).

I had an epiphany in late January.

No one was going to make time for me to exercise, but me.

No one was going to learn self control and hold back from eating sweets every single day, except me.

No one else was responsible for how crummy I felt.

Sure I had a list a mile long of why I couldn’t do those things.  But in the end, it was just excuses.  Excuses for eating poorly, even while feeding my children (relatively) healthy food most days.  Excuses for napping instead of exercising even though I knew getting moving would bring more energy.  I could find no one to blame it on but myself.

I didn’t have a pity party or anything.  Just pulled up my bootstraps and moved on.  I had done weight watchers in the past and knew the basic guidelines and practiced them.  Writing down all my foods took just a few minutes a day but made me far more aware of what was going in.

I also quit eating seconds for the most part.  I was amazed that I didn’t really need as much food as I wanted.  If I take more of anything, it’s broccoli instead of pasta and bread is no long a staple at our table.  Instead of feeling deprived and cheated, I just feel like I’m in control.  And I haven’t felt that way in my relationship with food for….ever?  If I choose poorly, I feel crummy.  If I choose well, the reward isn’t a box of cookies.  It is that I feel better inside, like things are working better.  I am certain they are.

After s-l-o-w-l-y losing a few pounds just changing that, and joking with my husband about his ‘move more’ theory, I added in the moving.  I tried to get to the gym but it is nearly impossible with our lifestyle.  Remember my review of the infomercial exercise DVD that (hilariously) remains my most read post ever?

Since I’d paid a pretty penny for that DVD back in September, I thought I ought to bust it out again…and this time actually use it.   Use it I did and though there is still a great deal of ‘firming up’ to be had, after a few weeks I felt so different.  So much stronger.  More limber.  And the best part for sure was that I found myself chasing my kids around the park without feeling like passing out.  The scale is moving in the right direction even if there are still nearly 25 pounds to find a new home for.

And while I can’t fit (nor am I crazy enough to even possess) any jeans from high school like my hubby still can, I have enjoyed fitting into my old Lucky Jeans from a couple years back that I adored too much to toss even when they couldn’t get buttoned.

This month of 5 family birthdays (mine included), Mother’s Day and our anniversary is certainly slowing down progress.  But at least I know what to do to keep on track…move more, eat less.

I guess it is kind of simple after all.

Mother sense?

If ever I would say a mother sometimes just has a sixth sense (what it’s for I don’t know, it changes depending on what’s needed!), I’d say that yesterday I had ‘it’.  In the afternoon I was trying to figure how many months the kids had been healthy.  As in no flu, throwing up or seriously bad colds or coughs.  I think I got back to October (when the kids all got the swine flu) – anyways being that it’s winter it’s been a very long stretch and I’m very thankful.  I wondered if them having the swine flu (instead of getting immunized against it) built up their immune system…but I won’t open that can of worms today.  I thought back to March of last year when I wrote the Just Heard Vomit Edition and wondered if March would bring the flu again.

Well, I guess I knocked on wood.

After some late night texting with a friend and then staying up for a chat with my husband, it was closer to midnight when my head hit the pillow.  By 2 AM Audrey was awake with diarrhea in her sleep.  She wouldn’t go back into her bed so she snuggled in with us.  Then around 4 AM I heard “Mama!”  in a panicked, shaky voice and since Audrey was sleeping on me, Chris ran but as he walked in the room he heard:

“It’s too late, you’re too late – I throw uped” from Caleb.

I sprinted for the kitchen for a bowl (isn’t it amazing how fast you can move in those moments?).  But didn’t make it back for round 2.  As I hand over the bowl and start stripping the bed, now I’m hearing a quiet little voice “Mama, ope”.  Audrey has woken and climbed out of our bed and is standing behind the shut door asking for it to be opened.  She wanders out and wants in on the action.

Now 5 out of 6 are awake.  Good times.

I marvel at what a routine we have even though we only do this once or twice a year.  We don’t even talk we just work, do what we do…pull out the sick bed mattress, make a new bed there for Caleb, start the wash, get a wet washcloth, etc.  By 4:30 Caleb is snuggled into a clean bed on our floor, Chris is up and ready to go to the gym (not even joking about that, he really was!) and Audrey and I are tucked back in my bed.

Caleb whispers to me “Mama, did you know my tummy is hurting?”

I smile and kiss his head.  “Yes, I did know that.”

He asks “Can you lay with me?”

I think, well you do smell like vomit but… “Yes, just for a minute.”

It took an hour for the adrenaline to wear off.  Sleep came, a very tiny bit of it in between helping Caleb a few more times.  But it was good.

Skinny jeans for the not-quite-skinny

The full circle of fashion is sometimes quite amusing.

It was 15 years ago that skinny (then called ‘tapered’) jeans were cool.  It was convenient that I was skinny then so they worked out okay for me.

Four babies and a fair bit of baby weight later…I should have figured that skinny jeans probably are not in the cards for me.

However, a few months ago after my husband surprised me with Uggs one Saturday afternoon, I thought I ought to give them a try.  The boots were so cute but under jeans you couldn’t see their flair.    I came home with a pair that I thought looked as decent as any and wore them for the past few months.

I’m not sure why but something possessed me to ask my sweet husband a few days ago this simple question…

Do these jeans look good on me?”

Now, honestly I wanted a truthful answer.  It may seem loaded but from my end it wasn’t.

But the poor guy, I could see him take a deep breath in and he carefully responded in a calm and cool voice –

“Why do you ask me these questions?  What am I supposed to say?”

I see panic in his face but I myself am truly not worked up, just trying to sort through the issue of these jeans that has been bothering me.  Really, should they be shelved or shouldn’t they?  So I prod a bit further…

“Do you think I look good in these jeans is what I’m asking?  Do you like them on me?”

He pauses and ponders and I feel now a little bit guilty for causing such a to-do about a pair of jeans but clearly, there is more to the issue here than jeans-at least that is I’m sure what he’s thinking at this point.  This is his oh-so-diplomatic response to the woman he loves –

“I like you.  And you like those jeans.”

So there was my answer.  I smiled at him and put the jeans away.

It’s taken 10 years but we can finally have a conversation about my clothing and how it looks and not suffer from a day or two long cold-shoulder or high blood pressure or any other significant trauma.

I remind myself that I know well and good how much he loves me and that it doesn’t hinge on what jeans I wear.  I don’t give myself permission to be irrational and make a big fuss about his answer.

Why we (most) women tend to make it so difficult and ask such ‘hard’ questions of the ones we love, I’ll never know.  But for me at least, actually wanting an honest opinion instead of wanting to have the truth stretched into something that made me feel better is one of  my secrets to increased marital bliss.