American Pumpkin Weirdness…A Rant.


Tis the season…when all Americans will look at one of the best vegetables ever invented by God and man, and turn it into a dessert. It must be said by the Australian in me…WTF people?  It’s true, Australians don’t understand this. Iced tea either for that matter, but let’s stick with one cultural confusion at a time.

One of the best things about growing up Australian in the time I did was that Sunday generally meant a roast dinner. All together now,  Yay! Roast leg of lamb or chicken, roast vegetables, gravy…and best of all, Roast Pumpkin! Absolutely perfectly, tender, caramelized pieces of roast Pumpkin. Maybe with a little gravy, but not necessary. Watching my Grandmother shop among varieties like Queensland Blue, Jap and Butternut at the local green grocer back before supermarkets there were the norm. Pumpkin in Australia is a weekly thing. I have yet to see it served at a meal over here. And pumpkin soup has only just entered the American menu relatively recently thanks to uber-chefs like Wolfgang Puck and his ilk.

And lets just address this confusion with names shall we? They were are called Pumpkins. Not winter squash. Pumpkins.  Squash, no matter what the season, is zucchini and patty pan and the like. All discussion on this point ends here for me. Same goes with your highly affected pronunciation of the word “Scone”. It is NOT a long O sound anywhere else in the word. Neither are they triangular. That’s just something they do here to make the bakers job easier. The English Empire, inventors of the things, do not do this. But America, I forgive you. Mostly because the Australians do not know as a country how to pronounce certain words like Monaco…or Vitamin.  But I digress…

Pumpkin, when cut into pieces and roasted in the pan with lamb or chicken until it’s natural sugars form that lovely crust of golden brown on the outside is one of the most delicious things known to man…unless you’re American. Then you have to turn it into a dessert.  Even after all these years, I do not understand pumpkin pie, in the same way that I wouldn’t understand sea bass pie if you offered it to me. Why would you do that?  It was perfect the way it was. Why?  But you’re going to do to me again pumpkin-impaired Americans, aren’t you?  And I’m going to think you’re weird.

…Just like I do when you give me Pennies…but that’s another rant.



Better Late Than Never…


I was pretty unfocused this year. It took me until well after the bread pudding and pumpkin pie was served to get simple and clear about what I was thankful for. So we’re just going to keep it basic.

I’m thankful that this tiny 2lb person

turned into this ever smiling joy

and that this determined little girl

turned into this dearly loved light of my life

and that this struggle for life

turned into this struggle to keep a straight face

I’m thankful that this total surprise

has turned into the easiest smile I have all day

I’m thankful that the white noise of attachment disorder in this fierce child

is clearing away to reveal an exceptional and amazing child to love

I’m thankful that this most unexpected arrival

Has brought a mountain of joy and chaos to our home

I’m also really thankful for all the people who have been my pit crew over the years. Without them, none of the people above would be possible

…And now, time for coffee, which I’m also very thankful for.



Turkeys and Families and Such…


Right. Thanksgiving.  It’s here again.  And I’ve been avoiding it again, while at the same time longing for my own collection of warm thanksgiving memories. But holidays have long been a complicated affair, crossing three and sometimes 4 households as we try and navigate all the complicated dynamics within our extended families. I so often feel that I am the hub for and endless number of spokes. It is dizzying.

I’ll give you all the factors that annually have to be taken into consideration: Our own home, the triplets father’s home (which includes their grandparents and an Uncle), my Mother’s home (which at times has included another Uncle), the Golf Pro’s  family home (their family’s traditional gathering place every Sunday and Holiday), occasionally a rehabilitation facility where Youngest Daughter’s birth mom is getting treatment.

Add to this mix the various times that some of these parties are not talking to each other and the fact that they ALL want to see some of the kids. Being in the middle of this over the past 8 years has been exhausting…and has not ever really allowed us to establish our own holiday traditions. Which I regret. I often wish I was one of those people who was more comfortable getting my own way come hell or high water. But I’m not, so here we are….often so busy trying to accommodate the needs of other family members and perhaps that is why I don’t plan them differently.

This year, watching the Pioneer Woman’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay inspired me to do just one thing.  To swear that I would have a peaceful family Thanksgiving in my home with my kids next year. I concede, that with elderly relatives, it may not be on the actual day, but I will claim a day for my family to be together and strengthen our own bonds instead of spreading ourselves across the greater L.A. area. I don’t expect to never have to do it, I just miss the idea of a holiday with the kids and I at home.

Are we always this owned by our extended family or is it just that I am so very bad at saying no and guarding the need to carve out my own life? Will I remember when my children marry that it will be my turn to take a step back and become the extended family?  I hope so, and I hope that this experience will have made me sensitive to the needs of some future young family.  It’s not that I won’t want to share holidays with them, it’s just that my place will be different and the health of their new family will be best preserved by letting them build their own customs and family holidays without the pressure to keep observing mine. I hope they can count on me for that.

And with 6 kids I wonder too what their holidays will look like. Will they take turns at each others houses? Will they celebrate individually with their families? Will there be rifts and years of misunderstandings?  I suppose it’s all possible, I’m just sorry that I have spent so much of this time in our lives accommodating everyone else rather than teaching them to build traditions for their own families in the future. Hope it’s not too late…



Navel-Gazing


I was thinking about belly buttons this morning. I swear to you that I do not spend excessive amounts of time in contemplation of my navel. A couple of my kids do however. They are overly concerned with their belly buttons in my opinion.

One son has questioned me repeatedly and intensely about why they they look the way they do. He does not care for his and he wants some answers! I have gently suggested that when he is older he could get himself a little belly button plastic surgery and no one would be any the wiser. In saying this, I have NO idea if they offer such a thing, but by then it will be the problem of him and his therapist and I’ll be home free.

His brother exhibits the same dissatisfaction with his little baby button (our name for the device). But one day when he was asking me once again why his looked the way it does, I was a little whacked out in my mental state (it’s a pretty common occurrence).

“Mom, why does it have this line around it?”
“Oh, that’s the line from the stitches where they reattached it.”
“What?!”
“Yours came off once.”
“What?! When?!”
Oh, don’t worry. You were still in the NICU at the time. It was loose and it just popped right off one day. All the nurses and doctors ran in there. They found it and sewed it back on. It was Emergency, Life-Saving Belly Button Reattachment Surgery. You’re ok now.”
Child is kind of clutching his stomach in a paranoid way now and moaning.
“What’s the matter?
Child is now kind of huddled close to me and shedding nervousness.

It’s wrong to do this to my kids I’m sure. But in my defense, they do a lot of things to me that are wrong too. And as I pointed out to my mother when she objected, being raised by me has bent them in exactly the same way, so they’ll be ok.

What?



I am Melvin Udall…


I have been changing diapers now for going on 11 years. That is about 7 years longer than I had originally planned. I have a chance to end that finally. The Baby is 2+ and clearly showing all the signs that he is ready. I actually think he has taken himself potty a couple of times, so, yeah, um ready. But it hasn’t happened yet. He’s ready. The problem lies with me.

To preface my situation, I have been covered in horror that doesn’t deserve details…but I’m going to give some of them anyway because I’m that kind of person. My firstborn son wasn’t home  2 hours when he peed on me. And when I say on…I mean in my mouth, which was baby-talking my love for him at the time.  In moments like that you will thank God for your natural instincts taking over and making you jerk out of the line of fire, because the thinking park of your brain is too busy trying to take in what it happening to it…”Wait. Is he…? No way is this actually happening. NO WAY!”

At least one of them has thrown up in my mouth when I was laying on the floor and giving him flying time. (Really, I have been thrown up on more times than bears thinking about). I have an unspeakable story about one son learning to remove his own diaper. There was the infamous stomach flu of ’01 that swept through the triplets, and oh dear God, did it sweep through them. There was an event during a diaper change that I still need therapy for, and countless times that I have just stepped fully clothed in the shower with a recently exploded child. There was the child who was obsessed with playing in the toilet at a time when his 5 year old siblings routinely left the door to the bathroom open and often didn’t flush. And then there was the trauma of potty training the special needs child that scarred us both due to the weird fears and anxieties of said child when it came to his own bodily functions. I have thrown out virtually brand new clothes because of coordination and product failures.

And spectacularly, there was the time that a sleepy 4 year old child sat straddling my lap at CPK, roused briefly and then hurled repeatedly down the front of my shirt. In a moment of panicked action, I grabbed both sides of the sweat jacket I was wearing and pulled them closed like curtains coming across the stage on the performance from hell.  In a state of shock, I quietly flagged the waitress, rallied the remaining 3 troops and managed to get out of there in under 3 minutes with the meal paid, food boxed up and a mom’s eternal gratitude to the waitress who put my untouched glass of merlot in a go-cup.

With the exception of the waitress, no one around us ever knew what had happened. I had manged to contain the whole event and I considered that a huge win on my part. The Golf Pro was baffled beyond words that I would take that bullet. A win for him would have been not getting thrown up on and the restaurant and diners be damned, but the differences between men and women is another 10,000 posts worth.

Those are by no means a complete list of all the skin-crawling events that I have been subjected to by 6 children and I can’t tell you how many times I have been psychologically saved by the words of a nurse who assured me that “urine is sterile.”  The point is that you’d think I’d be tough as nails when it comes to such events by now. Completely immune to the kind of germ warfare that my children have launched at me. Able to compete with Mike Rowe for the host gig on Dirty Jobs.

But that’s not how it’s worked out. Instead, I have become steadily more and more paranoid about my environment. I fear to touch surfaces (this can include the surfaces of my children) and shudder at even the thought of brushing up against something in the bathroom.  I have become Howard Hughes. And not good-looking, rich, adventurous Howard Hughes. I mean the twitchy, obsessive, surgical glove wearing Howard Hughes.  I could kiss the ring of the person who invented Purel…you know, as long as that ring had just been cleaned in Purel of course.

I cannot bring myself to hang out in bathrooms anymore. Any bathroom, anywhere. Deep down in my own secret psychosis, they all make me think of grossly neglected, back water gas station bathrooms.  Even my own bathroom gives me Charlie Brown head spins if I think about it too long.  And forget about the kids bathroom (recall that I am the mother of sons). You could hose that room down with bleach and pine sol twice a day and I still don’t think I could do it.

I don’t know when this happened to me, but it cannot be denied anymore.  I wonder what’s next? Do I end up like the Jack Nicholson character from “As Good As it Gets,” using a fresh bar of soap every time I wash my hands under scalding hot water?  I fear the day could come.  In the meantime, the child remains in diapers and I bathe in hand sanitizer and have begun changing all my stationary monograms to H.H.



Punked…


That’s what it’s like to live with lots of kids. Ashton Kutcher and his crew have got nothing on these people.  Their plots may not be as elaborate, but they manage to make up for it with their determination, commitment and relentless dedication.

One of their favorite techniques is to ask me a question without having ANY interest at all in the answer. Any. At All.  They get me good on this one. Me being the chronic over-explainer that I am.  And they all do it, even the baby, who has excellent powers of observation.  Seriously, they have already stopped listening before they have even finished asking the question.

…And knowing this, I answer anyway. Often, while I am carefully searching my brain for just the right words to phrase an explanation in a way that is accessible to them and appropriately tailored to their individual developmental level, all the while trying to recall if there have been any recent personal or historical events that I can ground my example in so as to make it more relevant to them and thereby…the Golf Pro will say “You know they’re not listening to you, right?”  Huh? Wha?  And it’s true. They are already engaged in a heady argument about who touched who. Arrrrggggghhhhhhh! I have been Punked. Again.  They are Charlie Brown and I have turned me into a Peanut Parent.   “WHAH WAH WHAH WHAH WHAH WHAH WAH WAH.”  That is the sound of my voice in their head. Who does stuff like that?!

They do. And when they do, it is like living with 6 of the worst college roommates ever…



Why I Love the Game…


Baseball.  I love baseball. I could easily have the Ken Burns documentary on the subject as the soundtrack to my life for long periods.  I don’t watch a lot of it on TV necessarily (I don’t watch a lot of anything, which is how I KNOW I have lots of young children),  but I love the experience of baseball.  It’s spring. It’s childhood. It’s Bull Durham. It’s Field of Dreams and a League of Their Own. Mostly, it’s my father and the last time I remember my own childhood feeling safe and without crises.

Baseball has carried on for me a lost history as I watch my oldest son use the old little league mitt my brother used. Now he too is wrapped up in all my memories of my father, who loved baseball and basketball like it was air and painstakingly showing my brother how to break that mitt in, which was an exotic mystery to me involving mink oil and a ball being rubberbanded into it and then being placed under his mattress.  They are both long gone from me now, but my oldest son’s use of this mitt carries them onward through the history of the game.

Having children has brought me all new things to love about baseball.  Like T-Ball, which is a chaotic and hilarious game played by tiny athletes who demonstrate a cartoonish skill and are  ushered around the field by men who demonstrate the extreme patience of people who could herd cats. But mostly, it has brought me Coaches.

The Coaches rock my world.  They have been a boon to me and my children in ways I could not have predicted.  They have stood in for me when I needed the boys to have a man. Lectured them on homework and responsibility, taught them sportsmanship and how to stick with something that needed work, how to take take correction and think on their feet. They have taught them lessons from the Guy Handbook and how to be part team. And I have enjoyed watching every second of it.

When my first sons were born, there were many things that I knew they would need that I wasn’t sure I could find ways to provide.  I didn’t know when they were babies that these men would be my avenue to exposing them to the kind of character I wanted for them. Now, I get to watch these men being men in the best way possible. Being engaged leaders and mentors. They willingly spend their time instructing, teaching, encouraging and being role models in the most fundamental sense of those words.  And by doing so, they hand down the secrets of the Guy Rule Book.  These are men who understand at the heart of it all that children don’t just grow up by accidentally and they respond to this understanding with active intention. They are leaders by nature, positive and proactive, and my boys learn from this that being a man is about engagement.

I have seen this spirit of mentoring be absorbed down into my boys as they begin to take the first steps into the knowledge of themselves as young men. I hear them emulate the words and phrases of encouragement that they were given towards the younger boys in their home and this has been particularly valuable to me since our boys live across 2 separate families. It has built bridges across one of the most painful and hated divides that exists in our home. The one that echos with the phrase “half-brother”. They have watched their coaches put their younger, special needs brother into the rotation at the practices and their team mates root for him to do well, and this year they have had the chance to attend his games and give back.  To cheer for him in return, as he has done for them over these past few years.  And all this had shown them better how to be the kind of young men and older brothers they will need to be during their lives together.

So, on this journey, I am Moses – destined to chart the course, but never to see the promised land of manhood. And that’s why God made Coaches Virginia…

I see great things in baseball…It’s our game–the American game… It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us….”
~ Walt Whitman (as quoted in Bull Durham)



Social Fail #5496


It happened again last Saturday night.  This time the scene of my spaz was my sons Little League pizza party. Previously, I have demonstrated my social awkwardness at various PTA and school events, kids parties, adult parties and, really, almost everywhere. I think I look normal at these parties, but my behavior is often anything but…

It had taken me a full season of Fall Ball to be able to comfortably exchange any meaningful words with more than 1 or 2 people. This is standard for me, although I have long ago learned the trick of seeming to be comfortable.  At some however,  I usually get scratched just below the surface and all the white noise of my personality leaks out.  Happened again last night. I walked into the pizza place last night and suddenly there I was on the outside again, even though I’m pretty sure that I’m the one that put myself there.  All the team parents began to gather at the long table reserved for our team and as I watched them laugh and chat, every social skill I’d ever pretended to have went south. I went into my sad, inexplicable, weirdsmobile setting and began to circle the periphery of the party shedding discomfort on people. I got the hell out of there fast, grateful to have the excuse that my older boys were stll playing their game and I had to get back. Sigh. Everyone else was looking pretty normal and I’m over there convulsing like some sort of social epileptic. Nice. Somebody please just jam a stick in my mouth please.

My children have long been a shield to me in moments like this and I have caught myself many times actually physically pulling them close around me in moments of social discomfort.  I do this even when confronted with people I know I’d like. Yes, it is probably wrong to use them like this, but I put them in no real danger I assure you. I doubt they realize what I’m really doing…and probably just think “God Mom! Stop hugging me all the time!” (I feel pretty sure that I would make myself the shield if the danger was actually physical you understand. I am their Secret Service and I would totally take a bullet for them…but how likely is that scenario I ask you?)

But there I was, alone and without cover.  Just awkwardly unable to ask if we were supposed to buy our own food or if the team was handling the pizza purchases. Some people have the knack for fitting in…and some people have the knack for being a complete social spaz.  Meet me…



One More Chance…


The Giants won the Series and for most of the rest of the country, baseball ended in the cool air of Fall. But for us, there is one last battle to be fought.  One last game.

About a week and a half ago, The Kid, my 7 year old baseball rookie, got hit by a ball as hard as I’ve ever seen any of my kids hit.  Turned away and took it in the back like he was supposed to, but it dropped him to the ground as both benches of parents gasped, winced and held their breath, and I did one of the harder things the mother of a child playing sports does. I sat in the stands and let someone else triage my child’s injuries.  And then, since that night, I’ve had to do something even harder. Push him uphill past his fear.

In the way of life’s ironies, the child most terrified of getting hit got hit the hardest.  And now my job is to do my level best to not let him be turned away from something he loves because of terror.

He’s had one game since then, been at the plate twice. It was not pretty.  Picture in your head any of the Warner Bros. cartoon characters at the plate while a squadron of B-52’s overhead rained down rockets and bombs and that was my boy at bat.  In between at bats I spent moments separated from my child by a wall of breeze blocks, our hands squeezed through the gap between the dugout and the fence, fingers touching, while he fought back tears and whispered  “Mom, I’m so scared.”  ohmygodohmygodohmygod went my heart, but from my mouth came the needed words, “You can do this. Don’t quit. Just stay in there and give yourself a chance.”  This is not what I want to do. I want to take him in my arms and leave the field immediately…but I don’t.

We’ve got one more game. If I can get him to the plate, two more at bats to confront the fears he has whispered to me all week and try to win back a small measure of confidence.  And my heart will ache as I keep turning him towards the plate and yelling  “Stay in there. Don’t back out.”  He may or may not in the end be a baseball player, despite his current love for the game, but that won’t be the important part. What matters is not quitting because of fear.



A Promise…


I will not give up. I will not be fatigued. I will not walk away.  I will work to the best of my ability to recover your life. Only death will make me fail you.  I will be your rock and anchor your life, a springboard into the future. I will not be exhausted. Nor will I get it right. But I will always come back to try again.

I will not try and be your friend, I will be your mother and I will allow you to dislike me for that sometimes. I will not let you walk all over me or get away with anything. I will be tough on you when you need it. And I will hold you afterwards.

I will let them spend their anger on me and do the best that I can to preserve your relationships with your extended family. I cannot promise I will succeed, but I will try my best.  I will be prepared to answer every hard question you have about the decisions I will make for us this year because there is no one else to make them for you. I will do the things that I sometimes doubt that I can do.

I will still be here when you are doing your homework in high school. And when you graduate. And go to college. And get married. I will choose you first. I will tell you that you were wanted. I will fight for you, just like I have for the past 3 years.  I want to be your Mommy and I will work hard to deserve that title from you.  I will fight for you as hard as you have fought for your very survival.  And I will try and be worthy of your indomitable spirit.

You Are My Daughter…