My "Not My Kids" Kids

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, Kids, No Whining, Our Kids, Soulful

I talk a lot about our kids. My two sons are from a previous marriage and my husband’s son is also from a previous marriage. And for those wondering, obviously I recognize that my step-son is not “my son” but that doesn’t make me immune to protective and mothering instincts.

I’ve been lucky enough to watch “J” grow, albeit from a distance, over the last eight years, and I confess that I’m completely smitten with him. His quick mind and generous heart are a wonder to behold. I am utterly grateful to have found Chooch, and that we were able to make a path to each other through painful broken marriages. The greatest gift beyond Chooch’s love has been J.

Being 9 when my sister was born, the mothering instinct was nurtured in me as I helped my busy parents care for her and keep the house running while they both worked full-time and went to college. It’s impossible to keep my heart from melting against the uber-cuteness of children with their wide eyes and even wider hearts. I’m sure I appear rude to friends that I tend to greet the kids before the adults, but I just can’t help myself.

All that aside, there is a very special place in my heart for my brother’s kids. While his two sons are his biologically, his daughters are actually step-daughters that have been in our lives since they were about 2 and 4 years old. Fast forward 18 or so years, and it’s just family as we know it. In fact, after his marriage to the girls’ mother ended he didn’t even question whether or not to continue supporting them in his home for a long time before they moved out on their own.

I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve always lived very close to my family, so we’ve always shared holidays with my brother’s family and children. Until recently, this included Easter and Thanksgiving but now primarily means Christmas as relationships and circumstances have evolved over recent years.

This Christmas will be a tough one, as it is the first that I won’t see my beloved nieces. One moved to Montana with her husband and child (Baby J) and is expecting their second child. My other niece moved to Nebraska, where her mother and mother’s family lives. Neither have plans to return to Virginia for Christmas.

I’ve been in denial about not having these two darling spirits at the family dinner, snacking on giant olives or fussing to get huge slices of my cheesecake as they fill me in on the new things in their lives. Yes, I took special time with them before they moved away to teach them to bake the secret family cheesecake recipe for themselves, but it’s not the same. It will be the first Christmas that I can remember in about 18 years that we’ll be apart from them and their crazy ways.

I remain selfishly grateful that it appears as if my oldest nephew will not be starting his military career until after Christmas. I just want one more with him before he goes off into the too-dangerous world. My younger nephew is only six months older than LT so we expect many more family Christmas parties with him. *crosses fingers*

But seeing the boys is complicated now, as they will also visit their mother for a portion of the school break. Coordination is underway for my two boys to be in Virginia before my nephews leave to visit their mother, but it’s not a definite. These four boys have been best friends since birth, and I hate that they will likely only see other other twice a year rather than every other weekend or so.

And, yes. I know these are natural changes. Children grow to adulthood, if you’re lucky, and they go off in the world to make their own lives. I just didn’t expect two of them to do so within a month. But life is about change, and I either have to adapt or wallow in sadness. And I refuse to wallow. Life is far too short for such foolishness.

In trying to embrace the changes, I’m laying plans with a family friend for a spring road trip to visit my nieces, sometime between their birthdays and the birth of my great-niece. I get teary eyed just thinking of having another beautiful girl in the family and can’t wait to meet her. And once the semester ends, I’m going to have the time to take my nephews to lunch or movies or whatever other bribery is necessary to carve some time out of their lives. They are boys, after all.

So I raise my glass of decaf iced tea and toast all the wondrous children that I’ve been lucky enough to watch grow over the years. They are each a constant delight and shocking surprise as they evolve from wee little ones. They may not be mine, but I carry them in my heart just the same.

Happy Holidays! What? Too Early For You?

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Family, Kids, Our Kids, Soulful

For me, the weeks building up to Halloween are like the tantalizing moments when you are doing the slow crawl up on a roller coaster to the first big drop. The holidays are still far off, but visitation is being negotiated and airline tickets are purchased, if needed. The closer you get to it, the anticipation builds as you try to make this year a grander celebration of your love for each other than ever before. At least, that’s how it is for me.

When I see Christmas decorations for sale before Halloween, I know it’s just a matter of time before I hear the first grumblings of “Too soon!” and “FFS, it’s mid-October!”. I get it, and I used to be right there with the crowd, complaining. In recent years, I get a bit of a tingle for that magical time around Christmas that most of my family gathers together, and I get to see my two sons again.

Yes, it’s early. But for those of us that don’t have our children living with us, the holidays can’t start soon enough. (I can only speak from my experience having our beloved baby chicks living far off for amicable reasons. I can’t imagine how it is for those that are separated from their children for other reasons, so won’t address that here.) In the last several weeks, you would have found me wandering the aisles of Christmas cards and decorations without shame.  Bring on the holidays, I say!

Once the dates are negotiated and checking account balances drained, the real planning can begin. I was again basing my decision on whether or not to decorate for Christmas based on when the kids would be here. Since I have them the week before Christmas this year, there shall be decorations and all the appropriate hoopla made. There will be a family holiday party with too much food and too loud laughter that will end far too soon.

Like a roller coaster cresting and dropping for the exciting run, there will be adrenaline, laughter and joy. Then, harshly, the car pulls back into the station. The boys fly back to their dad on Christmas Eve. And I start complaining that the ride was too short and whining that I want to get back in line again.

Even worse, we were unable to afford flying us all out to California to visit my step-son. We knew it was a long shot at best, especially since we were just there in July, but I still hoped for it. With luck, we’ll be able to resume our plan to alternate years in Virginia and California for the holidays. Damn. It’s hard to keep your heart in pieces all over the country.

For those with children in families of all types, shapes and sizes I ask you to hold tight to your kids when they’re little. Because they grow up faster than you’d believe and take bits of you with them when they go. And life is too short, for all of us.

So suck it up, cupcake. Christmas is coming, and some of us have been waiting since July.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Family, Health, Kids, Our Kids

I wasn’t going to post this yet, but decided to after breaking down at the store today. What better way to purge but to write a blog? I did promise myself when I started this that it would be my true journal, if not specific it would at least document the “big” things going on in my life.

And no, there is no great tragedy here. My oldest son, jokingly known as Naughty Bear after a game of the same name, is getting his own place, has a job lined up, and will continue to take a full course load at his school. It’s all great stuff for him, and I could not be more proud or happy for him as he takes more steps into the world as an adult.

The only drawback? He’s moving out of state to the same area where his brother, known here as L.T., lives with his father, step-mother and the kids they’ve had since they married. This puts both of my sons approximately 1100 miles away, while my step-son remains 2600 miles away. This makes me a very sad panda.

He’s decided to move there for the same reason that L.T. moved there a little over a year ago. His younger siblings are growing up, and he’s missing out on experiencing it. This fact was brought home to him when L.T. returned for his summer break and we all marveled at his height and newly deepened voice.  I do not begrudge either of them the experience of deepening their bonds with their younger siblings and father. I’m simply pissed that it has to happen at the sacrifice of my selfish desire to spend time with them.

We’ve talked at length about it, and yes, I’m being extremely supportive positive and helping out where I can find ways to. He’s such a caring young man, and has even confessed that he thinks our relationship is better than ever. Our frank and occasionally uncomfortably honest conversations have bonded us even more closely, as we’ve all expressed. I’m thrilled to have this newly defined bond with him since he moved out after graduation to attend college.  However, it also makes his move extra painful for this selfish and wimpy mom.

After all, he’s my first child, and the first to forever change my heart and the way it loves, as only a child can. Having him nearby was the only thing that got me through the initial pain of L.T. leaving last year. Yes, my husband is an incredibly loving and supportive man, and we joke about our dog Kaylee being our ‘baby girl’, but come on, we’re talking about our babies.

So, if I seem to be struggling in recent and coming weeks, try and bear with me. He’s leaving in about three weeks, right before my birthday, and I’m wearing my Brave Face for him until then. That may crack from time to time with friends, so if I get too maudlin, know that my feelings will not be hurt if you get sick of it. Hells, I get sick of it so why shouldn’t you?

I’ve also started back to college on a very light schedule. I’m taking one online course and one course at the campus. That class was contingent on a discussion with the instructor, and her assurance that she will make allowances for classes that I have to miss due to my illness. She is a fellow migraine sufferer, fully understands my situation and will be flexible with me when I am unable to drive to the campus.

While I’m excited about this step in a new direction, I’m more terrified than anything. I’m scared that having to work around my newly acquired forgetfulness, inability to hold a thought, migraines, fatigue and inability to tolerate (physical and emotional) stressors will cause me to do poorly. The classes aren’t free, after all, and I don’t want to waste our money on failing a class. After long and encouraging discussions with my husband, I’m going for it, and will work hard to do well and maintain the very high GPA that I now hold.

So, that’s most of what’s going on with me. How *you* doin’?

Nutritional Information

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Health, Kids, Weight Loss

I’m exploring new possibilities for weight loss and exercise that I’m able to maintain with what is going on with my health. I’ve been doing South Beach’s Phase 1 for too long, considering how important I feel fruits, vegetables and high grains are to a healthy diet. I still believe in a low glycemic-index eating and continue to avoid white flour, white rice, and white potatoes. I am allowing myself any fruit and vegetable my little heart desires, and after excluding most fruits from my diet for a long time, I find fresh pineapple, apples and grapes to be absolutely heavenly. I am not drinking fruit juices, or eating dried fruits as they are too high in sugar for my goals. I’d generally call what I’m doing South Beach Phase 3, which is the maintenance phase.

While on this path, as well as banishing high fructose corn syrup from my diet, I’ve been looking at a lot of food labels. I’ve also been checking out nutritional information from restaurants since that is where my real problem lies. At this point, I have my “at home” food under control because I don’t buy what I shouldn’t eat. Navigating a menu at a restaurant is treacherous because, except in rare cases, you cannot find calories/fat/sugar information once you’re in the restaurant.

This leads to my newest obsession, which is the nutrition lists prepared by David Zinczenko, with Matt Goulding. They both write for Men’s Life magazine, and Matt is also the co-author of the book “Eat This, Not That” which is why you will find an alternative to the unhealthy item listed. The main link will take you to some very interesting links, and I think the first thing I’ve learned is to never go to a restaurant without a pick list of what is not ridiculously high in calories and sugar. When the Cheesecake Factory lists no fewer than ten single-portion menu items over 2,000 calories. Several more came were only slightly below 2,000. And yes, you can split it and take half home, but that is still over 1,000 calories in one sitting and not an insignificant number. They don’t list their nutritional information on their site, but I was able to find it elsewhere, but I have no idea if it matches their current offerings.

The main site also will show you just how unhealthy some of the foods in our pantries are, such as the “Unhealthiest Juices in America” and “Best and Worst Breakfast Cereals“. Due to the latter, I actually threw a box away straight from my pantry and I’m no dummy when it comes to nutritional information.

The lists don’t require a huge time investment, and are broken out into short bursts of information. As I’ve said many times recently, I’m absolutely shocked at the high level of unhealthy food that has become the standard rather than the indulgence. I’m wondering when corporate America will realize that killing off their customers with fat, sodium and sugar laden foods is detrimental to their bottom line. If they truly wanted to prove the “it’s the customers choice”, then why not put the nutritional information on the menu? Ruby Tuesday’s did it for awhile, but if memory serves this information has been stripped out. Applebee’s provides it for some of their dishes, but I don’t believe for the entire menu.

Yes, it is absolutely the responsibility of the diner for what they put in their mouth and the mouths of their children. That is why I research so much, and try to learn from my mistakes. As someone with heart disease and diabetes on one side of the family, and multi-generational breast cancer on the other, these issues are in my face and cannot be ignored. I worry about those that aren’t faced with these ticking time bombs and may think “Just this one indulgence”, which may be more of a recurring habit on closer inspection.

If it sounds as if this fat girl is trying to preach skinny dining on you, please know that I get the irony. I’m just trying to share the information I’ve found in the hopes of saving you extra time on the treadmill.

Please feel free to comment, as I’m interested in others’ experiences and thoughts.

The Fifth Mother’s Day

Author: Chooch  //  Category: Family, Friends, Kids

The need to write this post came about as I was editing the latest episode of my new podcast, Girls’ Rules. I was yet again awestruck by my luck in meeting such intelligent, eloquent and creative women over the last few years. This isn’t the first time I’ve reflected on this. It was, after all, the impetus for starting the podcast. But this time my thoughts went down another path, one I’ve not truly explored before. I was reminded of something that my friend Paulette said recently, which was that she wished she could have met my Mom because she sounded … (Okay, truth? I have to confess that I was so overwhelmed at Paulette saying this that I don’t remember what she said beyond that.).

It took my breath away, and I was unsteady for a moment in contemplation of Mom’s presence in my current life. Sitting here I feel it again. Is it sadness, gratitude or rage that I’m filled with this time? So many things that Mom has missed out on, not just seeing my current life, but more importantly the birth of her first great-grandchild as well as three of her beloved grandchildren graduating from high school. I celebrate loudly and passionately with my family at these things, but quietly and painfully miss her as these things occur. Luckily, my husband is always willing to lend me his shoulder to cry on and hold me tight until it passes.

But hearing Paulette say that was a different thing entirely. It’s been marinating in the back of my mind since then as I chatted with extraordinary women on the phone, in real life or on the internet.  In recent years, I’ve met women that Mom would have adored. Whether because of their intelligence, creativity, nurturing spirit, raw talent, quick wit, or not-so-secret identity as a force of nature. I know she would have adored them, because she held my best friend of 22 years in her heart as if she were another daughter. When she saw the extraordinary, she appreciated it.

I also know that had she met some of my new friends, and one inspirational male in particular comes to mind, that she would have finally written the book that she always wanted to write. Mom was a creative spirit, and she had many different outlets. She loved to paint and draw and had a true gift for it. She was also a talented writer, but she “never had time” to invest any real time in it. I think it was something she was putting off until retirement, as her work and family kept her so very busy. I imagine that she would have taken up the NaNoWriMo challenge with Chooch and I the last two years, and I know that she would have won both years as she both loved a challenge and thrived on deadlines.

I’d say the place where she always made time for her creativity was her garden. Flowers growing everywhere, for at least three seasons of the year. It was as if she bent nature to be her palette, creating colorful displays for anyone that walked by to see. I equate spring flowers so completely with her, that the first spring after she passed I was inexplicably furious and looked away from any flowers that dared to bloom without her here to appreciate them. Thanks to the unknowing and loving act of a  wonderful sister-in-law, that has passed.  I now look to each spring with great excitement over every flower that displays its’ beauty for the world to enjoy. I look forward to having my own patch of dirt scratched out for me to play in someday.

But I keep coming back to that unwritten book of hers, and I’m left with wondering what she would have written. I found a few hundred words on her hard drive of a story she had started, and I think she was off to a great start on fiction. She also had expressed interest in telling the story of her very colorful and difficult childhood. That’s the story I wish she had written, as it was the one that shaped her into who she was. Remembering some of her stories it would have been a fascinating read, for me at least.

And in case you’re wondering, you would have adored my Mom. She was the purest form of awesome, and her imperfections lent humanity to her otherwise bigger-than-life heart. Happy Mother’s Day, Pocket Mom. All my love, Marshmar.

Superbowl? Was that today?

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Games, Kaylee, Kids, Video, Weight Loss

Neither Chooch or I follow any sports, so the Superbowl has been something we’ve only observed for others. If either of the sons that lived with us was interested, or if we were invited to a party we would certainly watch but not when left to our own devices. Since it’s just the two of us today, we followed our usual protocol of recording it to skip through and watch the commercials and half-time performances and found other things to enjoy.

Chooch walked over to the store to get nacho fixin’s, and that’s all we ended up having for dinner. We settled in and watched Team America: World Police which we had neglected viewing previously. Needless to say, we found it very entertaining even though we were grossed out by the sex scene. Yes, we had been warned, but … wow. I had no idea puppets could do that!

Afterwards, the chocolate cake I was craving and baked was finished and we ate some of that. I’ve been dieting and am ramping up big time tomorrow and so this was kind of my ‘last meal’ of sorts to purge the cravings that have been haunting me. Mission accomplished *burp*

Chooch then headed upstairs to work on a video of Kaylee’s snowy adventures this weekend while I played some PS3 demos I’ve been wanting to try. I gave Peggle and Critter Crunch another try, but for mindless quick games I don’t know that I’ll get any further enjoyment outside of replaying the demos. Critter Crunch is more likely one I would get, simply because I can’t seem to get past that BLASTED level 5! Peggle is too easy, so no point in buying that.

A new game I tried was Bayonetta, and it was the graphics that really sucked me in. I usually prefer puzzle vs. fight games, but this one is really gorgeous. I greatly enjoyed the demo, in spite of the mildly graphic violence simply because the action moves so quickly it’s not gory to me. The most irritating thing for me was trying to ignore the catwalk strut she has. But her shoes, OMG, her shoes! WANT!!! Flashes of nudity as her clothing/hair unwind to do massive damage, but in the demo there was nothing you wouldn’t see on 10pm TV dramas. This may go on my wishlist, but I’m weighing it carefully since I already have so many things to distract me from projects around the house.

My least favorite moments of Superbowl Sunday? Sending a necessary but unpleasant email that would place complications on a friend, and later washing all the filters on my vacuum cleaner. Total frustration at my circumstances on the first, and a major gross-out on the second.

My favorite moments of Superbowl Sunday? A (too brief) visit with Man-Child, and later finding out that OPM already determined that the DC area offices will remain closed tomorrow. Another day with hubby, huzzah! Now we can brace for the snow storm that is currently predicted for Tuesday.  Shoveling is great exercise, at least.