Mommy Soup

How soup for 7 really works.

Still here

It’s been over a year since my last post.  I really wanted to keep writing, but I could feel myself heading down a sad, dark path.  I actually wrote 2 drafts (1 a year ago and 1 6 months ago), but they were so sad that I didn’t want to publish them.  The first was about how sad I was at the 1 year anniversary of arriving in Virginia.  The 2nd was explaining how much darker things had gotten.

I don’t really want to get into all the details, but there was a disagreement between my mother-in-law and myself around that 1 year mark.  It caused a major split in our family that still hasn’t been repaired.  Shortly thereafter, I had a final falling out with a not-quite-friend.  While I suggested we just be civil with each other (since we shared a massive amount of mutual friends), she listed off all the things wrong with me and said she never wanted to be anywhere near me again.  That was fine with me, but one of the things she said was that all of our mutual friends didn’t actually like me.  Shortly thereafter, all of our mutual friends (save one) stopped talking to me for 4 months.  It turned out that it was just a coincidence, but it was pretty devastating to be abandoned by everyone in the state all at the same time.

The whole thing made me very guarded about relationships, but it also served as a turning point.  I spent the 1st year here trying desperately to blend in (and failing miserably).  Once it seemed that everyone disliked me, I decided that I’d rather they dislike me for the real me.  I mean, it seems like a lot of work to try and be someone you’re not just to please other people who aren’t pleased with you anyway!  I went back to my crazy hair colors and outspoken personality.  I stopped filtering myself (though, I still try to never intentionally be mean to people).  Slowly, my friends started to come back.  To be honest, though, I don’t trust many of those friendships.  Before last fall, I would have considered 20 to 30 people my friends here.  Now, I’m pretty happy to consider 5 or 6 my friends (with an even smaller group my “ride or die” ladies).

The hardest part was trying to keep it all together for the kids.  They’re very smart and highly perceptive, so they knew things were weird.  Friends who used to visit no longer came around.  Family stopped inviting us to things.  It was awkward, but they got through it.  Actually, it served as a good lesson in being able to find joy without large groups of people.  It made the kids more willing to play with new people at parks instead of sticking to their little group of friends.  Seeing me be me again also seemed to make it easier for them to be themselves again, too.  Their personalities returned and flourished.  They’ve also become more understanding about people who are different.  Hilariously, it means that they’re more tolerant about the mainstream beliefs of Virginia that are so foreign to us.

We’ve now been here for 2 years.  I think we can all agree that the experiment of living in Ant’s hometown has come to an end.  We’re looking forward to the next chapter of life, which will include the excitement of moving back across the country.  And with that, I return to writing.  🙂


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Upgrading or just Upsizing

We live in a a very “Keeping up with the Jones’s” type of society. People waiting in line for hours for the newest iPhone and beating each other up over Black Friday sales. If you listen to the ads on tv, we’re all just upgrading. What could be wrong with that? Newer is better, right?

But how much stuff do we actually need?  When Ant and I bought our first house, I had no idea how I was ever going to fill it.  There seemed like so much empty space.  We had the barest of the things we needed and the house just felt so sterile.  It needed stuff.

It looked empty.

It looked empty.

I mean, my 3 little kids were happy.  It was a comfortable place to be and we could play a lot of things inside in all that open space, but it didn’t feel all that “homey” for me.  The more kids we had, the more things we accumulated.  Not because we needed them, but because people thought we did.  Those wide open spaces seemed to call to everyone who came over, crying out for things.  Furniture, clothes, toys, pots and pans…we just got more and more.

See?  Lot's more stuff.

See? Lot’s more stuff.

When we found out that we’d be moving, I was in the process of downsizing our stuff.  We donated boxes and bags of stuff.  We gave away furniture, too.  Still, we moved across the country with a lot of stuff.  11,600 pounds worth, to be exact, and we were missing a bunch.  And people still feel compelled to give us more.  I think it’s because we have a bunch of kids.  Or maybe because we’re still relatively young.  People figure that, with this many members to our household, more things are always needed.

The truth is we have too much of everything.  For the last few months, I’ve been getting rid of things.  We returned a dinning room set to my mother in law (we had 3) and have so far donated 25 bags of clothes and shoes.  We’re throwing away 2 full size couches (leaving us with 1 we like best) and getting rid of extra coffee tables.  And you know what?  The house doesn’t look empty.  Even with the things we’re taking out, the house isn’t empty looking.  It’s clear that a vibrant and active family lives here.  In fact, it looks more vibrant because we’re no longer physically weighed down by all out stuff.

Our goal is to eventually build our own house.  We have lots of ideas on what we’d like (a living roof, greenhouses and composting systems, grey water recycling…) and a lot of it has to do with having fewer things and more life.  My husband and I have even managed to agree on square footage somewhere between the house we left in California (too small and too little property) and the house we have in Virginia (too big with unfarmable property).  A place where it’ll be easy and comfortable to spend as much time outside as in.

Technological advances are making it easier to do more things in smaller spaces.  Why, then, do we feel like we need more stuff and bigger places to put it?  I’ll never trade my physical books for a Kindle, but there’s really no reason for me to have 14 pots.  I physically can’t cook that many things at once!  And no one, not even a family with 5 kids, needs 100 stuffed animals.  It may sound incredibly cheesy, but I’m still going to say it; Downsizing our stuff feels like a major upgrade on our lives.

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Go Out and Play!

Last Saturday was another rainy day here. Not really a surprise, as it has rained (however briefly) almost every day for the last month. This time was different, though. This time it was on a Saturday. The local mom Facebook group I’m in was full of people complaining about the weather and bemoaning their misfortune at being stuck inside with their children all day. Someone asked, “What are you guys doing today to keep your cooped up kids entertained?” There were lots of suggestions. Movie day. Family house cleaning. Indoor arts and crafts. I chimed in with, “We’re going puddle hunting!”

I always seem to be the weird one. Everyone else in that group is from here or has at least lived here for awhile. They know the weather. Rain wasn’t a surprise for them. Why were they all staying inside? It was 80 degrees and gorgeous. No lightening, so nothing to be afraid of. It was gorgeous and wet. Why not go out and play in it? I mean, they’re not going to melt and mud washes off.

Think back to when you were a kid.  Did your parents force you to stay inside on rainy days or did they send you out with a raincoat and boots?  For me, it was the later.  I love jumping in puddles and catching the rain in my mouth.  And now that I’ve written that, it sounds like what people do in the snow.  But I didn’t have snow.  I had rain, so I played in that.  Is that the difference?  Do people not play in the rain because it’s less fun than snow?

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History Lessons

I feel like posting this on September 11 is important.  The internet is blanketed with pictures saying, “Never Forget.”  I don’t think we should ever forget history.  I certainly won’t forget where I was or what was happening 13 years ago, but what about the history with a few more years on it?  Aren’t those just as worthy of remembrance?  I live in a place with a lot of history.  The most obvious history here is the Civil War.  I mean, there was a Battle of Lynchburg, for goodness sake, and there are Civil War Trail hiking paths everywhere around me.  But what about what happens after that?  How do people move forward without forgetting the truth of what happened?

I’ve talked before a little bit about my family’s background and how few generations I am away from slavery.  What I haven’t really talked about is my parents’ perspectives on that.  My dad is super intelligent, but he views history through the lens of world events.  He’d rather talk about the big picture and keep it as impersonal as possible.  Mom is the opposite.  She’s not real big on dates of battles, but on the people in those battles.  My dad likes broad strokes, while my mom likes individual stories.  Imagine growing up in that family!

Anyway, my mom’s love of personal stories took her down the path of working on our family’s genealogy.  For my mom’s side of the family, this is relatively easy.  She loved digging through archives and finding more and more branches of the family tree. is a goldmine for people like my mom.  It doesn’t hurt that 1 generation behind her is the Hopkins family (yes, that Hopkins family).  When you’re family is written into US history books, finding out who married who isn’t a huge challenge.  After years of reading birth records and visiting sites through out the northeastern section of North America, my mom has managed to trace the family back and forth over the Atlantic and through a few different name spellings on both her mother’s and father’s sides of the family tree.

Then she turned to my dad’s side of the family.  This presented a bigger challenge to her, but I’m not sure she really knew what she was getting herself into.  You see, with her family, there are hospital birth records or baptism records going back forever.  That’s not really the case with a black family from the South.  You have to physically find people and ask questions.  So, she asked my grandmother Drumright.  But personal history is incredibly painful to a black woman raised by freed slaves.  What do you ask without being completely insensitive?  “So, do you know the name of the plantation your uncle was sold to?”  Yeah…no.  My grandmother hated talking about all that.  It was painful.  I mean, how do you reflect and reminiscence about a time when your family was sold like property?  My mom did manage to squeeze a few details out over years of conversations, but not any conclusive dialogue.  She learned that the middle name my dad knew of for his mom was wrong and that she’d been born to a very young mother who had never raised her.  My mom also got some vague names and locations.  Things like “small town outside Danville” and the name “Black Walnut.”

Okay, a jumping off point.  My mom started looking for a small former village near Danville, Virginia called Black Walnut.  Here’s the part where the painful history of the American South comes into focus:  Google “Black Walnut, Virginia” and you get this.  It’s not a town.  It’s a “Historic Plantation House.”  Yeah, the town my grandmother knew was the home of the last family that owned them.  Go read that WikiPedia article about the place and pay attention.  Looks like a really complete history of the area, right?  It even has the inheritances of each family member along the way.  What an awesome history of the family!  But wait…my family isn’t the Sims family.  That’s not my family tree.

That's a receipt given to the owner for his slaves drafted into the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

That’s a receipt given to the owner for his slaves drafted into the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

That’s my family.  Actually, I don’t know if that’s my family.  You see, my family is the human cattle bought and sold between the plantations of the South.  Do you think plantation owners kept track of who the genetic family members of their cows were when they sold them?  Do you think they kept written records and tracked them?  Nope, because they were just merchandise.  When you go back 140 years, my family becomes that cattle.  For all intents and purposes, my family tree ends with my Great Great Grandparents.  The ones who were freed from slavery.  The ones who raised my grandmother.  That’s it.

Now go back and read that article again.  This time, don’t look at the Sims family.  Look at the “Negros,” bought and sold and passed from generation to generation the way you’d inherit a watch.  That’s my family.  Think about the deep wounds that leaves behind.  Think about the fear that breeds.  After the Civil War, most of those freed blacks didn’t know where to go.  They became indentured servants to the family that owned them.  They kept living in those slave quarters, though now they were paid a small stipend and expected to pay rent.  They lived with other freed slaves, who were still just as afraid of those white people as before. “Freedom” didn’t really mean anything because the people didn’t change.

At the end of this month, I’m going to the last place my family called home before fleeing the South. My grandmother moved to New York City and didn’t even want to be buried in the South. The fact that I married a boy from Lynchburg, Virginia when she’d fought to get away from this state wasn’t ironic to her. It was terrifying. She’d probably be upset with me for going to this plantation. For her, there would be no historical value to that place. It holds nothing but fear and pain and shame for generations of my family. But I’m going. I’m taking my children and walking that land with my head held high. I’ll take photographs and search the archives. I’ll wander through any cemetery I can find, looking for familiar names. And I will tell my children the truth of why we’re there.

And I’ll probably cry.

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Not Enough To Do

I have a pretty busy life.  Not really a surprise when you do a little simple math.  Having 5 kids takes a lot of time.  Add in homeschooling them.  Keep the house from falling down around us.  Oh, and start a manufacturing business from home to celebrate the birth of your 5th child.  ‘Cause, you know, you’ll get bored otherwise.  I told my husband last night that I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t have something to do.  

He suggested that I do nothing and worry about nothing for 1 hour.

Not helpful and not happening.

Anyway, in the interest of cramming even more stuff into my already packed day, I’ve become the co-leader of a babywearing playgroup.  To go along with that, I’m the co-administrator to the Facebook group for that.  One of the admins and I then decided it’d be fun to try a different carry each day.  If we’re doing something like that, why not write about it, right?  So…we started a blog.  Oh, and a Facebook community page to go along with that.  

I invite you to check out my other blog, too.  I’m also working on another post here at MommySoup.  It’ll be a little intense, as I’m going to talk about my ethnic background a little.  Not in a scary way, but in a “I Just found out that the ‘former town’ my grandparents were from was actually a plantation” kind of way.  Not surprisingly, it’s lead to a little bit of self reflection.

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Homeschooling: It’s Really Not That Hard

I’m often met with crazy stares and “ohh”s and “ahh”s when I tell people that my kids are homeschooled.  Everyone seems to think that it’s really hard and insanely time consuming.  Given the way my friends bemoan the start of summer and celebrate the beginning of the next school year, I guess I can see why it seems so hard.  And lots of homeschool parents seem to enjoy the special status afforded those brave enough to do it.

But as a homeschool mom, I have a confession:  It’s really not all that hard.

True, I don’t do the typical curriculum homeschooling that others do, but my kids do have to sit down to do some stuff.  It’s just that we’ve found creative ways to do it.  Instead of doing endless pages of addition and subtraction work, we make it a little more fun.

Case in point:  This was a math class

Case in point: This was a math class

See that?  Totally fun!  Life was my favorite game growing up and we use it for math work.  I actually make them figure out how much money they owe the bank and how much the bank owes them.  At the end of the game, they have to work with me to add up how much everyone has.  It’s awesome!

At this point, I know that some of you conventional teachers are freaking out.  Don’t worry; they do have handwriting practice and reading.  It’s just that we’ve decided to make it a little more fun.  There are literally times where my 5 year old says to me, “Mommy, can I do more school work?”  And Dimitrios has taken on his mom’s habit of bringing a book everywhere we go.  They ask questions about everything and actually enjoy the process of learning.  Who am I to stop that?

Yes, there are some times where I just want them to stop asking me questions.  I mean, don’t we all have times like that?  But I’m also so proud that they even want the answers.  When I’m tired and don’t want to do anything, they’re self starters.  It may not be as rigorous a day, but they still learn stuff on those days.

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July’s Family Art Project : Ice Dyed Wrap

My family is big on art. We all like to paint and sculpt stuff because, well, it’s fun! There are a million little creative projects we do everyday, but we also try to do at least one all consuming full family project. Last month, it was to make our first Osnaburg Ice Dyed baby wrap. We had so much fun that my kids have requested that September’s project be making and dyeing doll wraps for everyone.

Before we made this, I had about 3 wraps each in sizes 4, 5, and 6.  I only had 2 7s, though, and really wanted another one (they leave enough fabric to wrap a toddler and turn what’s left into something pretty and shirt-like).  For those who don’t know, a size 7 is about 5.2 meters of fabric.  No, you’re not reading that wrong.  It’s literally huge.  But think about it; you’re attaching another person to your body with enough layers of support to keep them safely and comfortable on you.  Yes, I can do that with a much smaller piece of fabric (and do quite often), but sometimes it’s fun to have lots of designs happening with doing it.

Any who, giant piece of Osnaburg fabric.  Osnaburg fabric, for those who don’t know, is a strong woven cotton fabric.  It’s used in things like home furnishings because it’s pretty light but very strong.  You know that fancy table cloth you have that felt like cardboard when you first got it but feels super soft now that you’ve had it a year and washed it 20 times?  It’s a woven cotton fabric.  We took 8 yards of that and washed and dried it about 3 times just to get any crap off it and any shrinking it might do done.  Then we ironed the whole thing.  After it was all flat, I measured and cut the ends at an angle, making tails.

See?  Tail cut at an angle.

See? Tail cut at an angle.

That picture also shows the “glue resist” we did.  Basically, you use glue to create a design on the fabric.  Where the glue is, the dye won’t be.  Got it?  We did hearts on the tails, a tree in the middle, and crescent moons halfway between each of those.  We also did a little swirly pattern across the bottom.  Oh, but before we did all that, I cut and ripped across the full length of the fabric to make it the width (the short bit top to bottom) that I wanted it.  Most wraps are 28″ to 32″ wide.  I then hemmed the whole thing with a super strong cotton thread.  I used cotton instead of polyester because I wanted it to dye with the rest of the fabric.

Still following?  Good.  Next came the fun part.  After all that glue had dried, we did a quick soak in soda ash.  Before that could dry at all, we scrunched the fabric up and set it on a grate inside a plastic container.  We were going to do an ice dye, so we dumped a ton of ice on the wrap and then sprinkled dry dye on top.  The kids got to pick the colors and, after I put down the first layer, they even got to sprinkle it around.

There's  a wrap under there!

There’s a wrap under there!

All that was left was to leave it to soak through for 24 hours.  We picked up the whole container and moved it to our back deck.  Mind you, this is July.  We knew that the ice would probably melt off really quickly, especially since we put some plastic wrap over the top to keep the whole project secure.  We kept some extra ice to dump on top later.  It was really fun to watch the ice start to melt and the color start the leach through.  It starts to make a giant, rainbow-y puddle at the bottom of the bucket.  You can actually let the wrap sit in that while it’s dying, but ours was kinda suspended.

This is what it looked like after 12 hours.

This is what it looked like after 12 hours.

Now, here is where things went a little off from our original plans.  When we dumped another layer of ice on top (just to help rinse through), we decided to leave the plastic wrap off.  There’s another school of dying who do something called a “rain dye.”  It’s very similar in set up to what you do with an ice dye, but you remove ice from the equation and dump the powder dye directly on your stuff and leave it outside through a rain storm that you think will last at least an hour.  About 3 hours after we’d added more ice (and it had mostly melted in the mid day heat of a Southern July), a storm started to roll in.  We could either bring the whole bucket in (heavy with dyed water) or leave it out through the storm.  The kids decided that it’d be cooler if we left it in the rain.  They were so right!

Actively being rained on.

Actively being rained on.

We had a great time watching as more color streaked down the inside of the bucket and splattered in the sides!  The kids made me promise that I’d rescue the wrap if lightening got closer, but the storm never got that intense.  It rained for about 2 hours and then the sun came out (I still don’t understand the weather here) and we went out to see how the wrap had handled it.  Honestly, we couldn’t tell in the bucket.  It looked like a great big pile of really cool colors.  Had the resists worked?  Was it dyed everywhere?  Was it a massive failure?  We had no idea!

This is either a ball of awesome or a pile of crap...

This is either a ball of awesome or a pile of crap…

Time to hose is off.  You gotta get any unabsorbed dye off with cold water before you start throwing this in the washing machine.  We rinsed and rinsed and rinsed.  Then we squeezed it all out as best we could.  When it comes to a wrap, you don’t really want to baby it.  You want to “beat it up” because that’s what makes the fabric soften.  Like I said before, this thing felt like cardboard when we bought it because the fabric is used for upholstery.  You know how your new couch feels stiff but eventually softens up?  Same exact thing.

Plus, this is just fun to do.

I know Theron is in a disposable.  Don’t judge; I didn’t want to get dye on a cloth diaper!

After all that, we laid it out to dry in the sun.  Gotta say, it was looking pretty cool.  Still super stuff and the glue resist wasn’t perfect, but the colors kept looking better as the day went by.  It was cool to get this bright shock of color out of the window all day.  The kids were already arguing over who was going to go up in it first.  Nothing like a 7 year old arguing with a 2 year old over who mommy is going to carry around.

Once we were sure all of the gunk was off the wrap, we started washing it.  We ran it through cold water in the washing machine 3 times and then switched to hot for 2 more cycles.  We actually did way more washing that I think we really needed to, but we wanted to make sure.  You’re basically just making sure that any excess dye is gone and then making sure it’s set in the fabric.  Our favorite place to break in rough wraps (and my favorite place in all of Virginia) is Piney River.  We go up there and splash around in the water, wash stuff in the mini rapids, and beat up wraps along the rocks.  That’s what we did with this wrap, too.  Don’t worry; by the time we took it to the river, there wasn’t anything left in it that shouldn’t be in nature.

Not "serious" rapids.

Not “serious” rapids.

Yes, we go in this river in our clothes.  A lot.  I’ve made some of my jeans super soft here and we often drive home with all the kids in completely different clothes than what they got there in.  Or wrapped in the many towels we’ve learned to keep in the car.

Obligatory "kids in the river" picture.

Obligatory “kids in the river” picture.

While we were working it in the river, the colors really started to brighten.  It’s kinda like the more we beat on it, the more the colors started to marble.

033 028 031

We took it home and ran it through the dryer with our dryer balls one last time.  Then we ironed it again, just to make sure.  That’s when I decided that I loved it.  🙂

Like a nebula...

Like a nebula…

The colors were just so pretty after the heat had left it’s final mark on them.  Because it was way less expensive than any I’ve ever bought, this wrap is kinda my “beater” wrap, meaning I take it places where it might get the crap kicked out of it.  I’ve used it to visit the farmer’s market on a rainy day.  It got it’s biggest work out by being the wrap I took down to the beach on vacation.  The only way Theron would get in the ocean was if she was in this wrap.  Yes, I wore the wrap in water.  It got soaked, used as a beach blanket, covered in sand, and dried on a line in major wind.  And it thrived.

I don’t have many pictures of me actually using the wrap because we’re always doing stuff when I use it.  I’ve got selfies galore of all my other wraps, but this is my “doing stuff” wrap and I never seem to think to stop for a picture with it.  My kids call it the rainbow wrap.  🙂  Maybe you’ll spot it at work in some of my future posts…


Asking For Help

I’m probably the last person who should be writing about asking for help.  Ask any of my friends or family; they’ll tell you that getting me to ask for help is more difficult than giving a cat a bath.  And it’s not because I was raised thinking that there was anything wrong with it.  My mom taught us kids to work hard for everything in our lives, but she also expressed that there was no shame in needing help.  

When my mom was a single mother to my sister, she used government aid.  She’s not ashamed of that fact.  Actually, it’s one of the things that she likes to tell people.  She used that help to take care of her child on her own while putting herself through college so that she’d never need the government to help her again.  That’s exactly why government social programs exist; to help people through rough times.  My mom also took “family leave” after the births of my children so that she’d be available at a moment’s notice to come help me.  Testament to my inability to take help, I actually made her cry by refusing to call her over to help me after I became a mom of 3.  She thought I was upset with her, but it was just me being determined to do everything on my own.

Fast forward to now.  I’ve lived in Virginia for almost 9 months.  In that time, I’ve asked my mother in law to help me with the kids (by taking one to gymnastics while I waited for the fireplace repairman to show up before a blizzard) one time.  Poor woman probably thinks I don’t like her, but it all goes back to my hardcore refusal to ask for help.  With my kids, I justify it by telling myself that I decided to have them and so everything about them is my ultimate responsibility.  That same mindset extends to everything.  I decided to buy those clothes for my family, so I’m the only one who does laundry.  I unpacked the stuff in this house, so I’m the one responsible for keeping it in order.  I opened a diaper store, so it’s my job to do everything related to it with no help.  

Writing it out, that looks insane.  I swear, I’m not a control freak.  I don’t do this because I think that I’m the only one who can.  It’s because I feel like I’m the only one who should do it all.  

You know what?  Maybe I am crazy.  Asking for help isn’t a bad thing.  No one can do everything all the time.  Spreading yourself too thin means that no area of your life is getting your full focus.  While I’m trying to be everything for everyone, I run out of time to be anything for myself.  And if I’m putting off taking care of myself, how I can I be giving my all to others?

Admitting that you can’t do it all is hard, but I’m slowly learning to ask for help.  I’m still really bad catastrophically terrible at it, but I’m trying.  What I’m finding so far is that other people really like helping (unless they’re douche bags, in which case, why do you want their help?).  I always like helping others because it made me feel like I was making a difference in their life.  It’s actually pretty selfish of me to not help others to get that same feeling.

So, come on over!  I’m sure I could use your help with something around this madhouse.  🙂

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Oh, drinking…

One of the more snide comments while out and about with all 5 kids is something like, “You must drink a lot.”  I’m not even going to begin to go into how rude that is or what it says about the people saying it to me, but I do want to point out the practicality of drinking when you have any kids.

First of all, with the exception of the last 6 months, I have been pregnant, breastfeeding, or both for the last 9 years!  Clearly, drinking while pregnant is frowned upon and I’ve had 5 full term pregnancies.  That’s about 4 1/2 years where drinking is completely off limits.  Yes, you can drink while breastfeeding, but why would I?  Drinking too much causes dehydration which leads to headaches and body aches…a hangover.  I have a life long problem with dehydration, so I literally have a small hangover every morning that I have a breastfeeding baby.  Why would I want to make that any worse?

Second, do the math on what I just said in that last paragraph.  I’ve been pregnant, nursing, or both for the better part of the last 9 years.  I recently turned 30.  Yup, I’ve been a baby factory pretty much since I turned 21.  And my husband is 18 months younger than me.  So in that brief time between when I turned 21 and when I started making people, it wasn’t like I could go bar hopping with my boyfriend/husband.  Heck, he wasn’t old enough to drink at our 3rd wedding!

But we sure were cute!

But we sure were cute!

We already had a baby by then.  A sweet, precious little baby who woke up at dawn from the day she was born.  Needless to say, getting drunk wasn’t a real high priority.

I also have this deep seated, slightly irrational fear that something horrible will happen to my children after I’ve had a few drinks and I won’t be able to take care of them or get them to a hospital.  I know that’s highly unlikely, but it freaks me out enough to have no interest in drinking.  And even if I drank a few shots and nothing happened, what about the next morning?  Baring the likelihood of a catastrophic hangover, I’m still going to be tired.  And I don’t just have 1 child that wakes up at dawn; I have 5.  And they’re loud.  5 very loud, very well rested children talking at me in elevated voices less than 5 hours after I’ve been making friends with Jose Cuervo is not my idea of a good time.

I have lots of mom friends who have a few drinks from time to time.  I don’t think any less of them.  I’m actually a little jealous of their ability to not have a total freak out about it and relax.  And while the people in the store offering me a bottle of wine to “deal with” my 5 kids probably mine well, it’s just never going to happen.

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4th of July

People who meet me seem to think that my family and family life are a bit Norman Rockwell.  I honestly can’t figure out why.  I mean, my kids are really sweet in general.  They’re polite and intelligent.  People compliment me on them often because they’re really good kids.  My husband and I aren’t gushy affectionate, but we like each other most of the time and I guess it shows.  People are always making comments about how obvious it is that we’re in love.  I’m never really sure what that means (we don’t make out in public, or anything), but I assume that it’s a good thing.

We are very not perfect, though.  Let me shatter that “perfect” image for you guys real quick.

As any guest of my home can attest to, my house is not in perfect order. I’ve said before that my house often looks like some sort of natural disaster has occurred recently.  It’s not dirty, but it’s not a museum.  My home is lived in by a bunch of small tornadoes and it shows.  I learned 3 kids ago that keeping my house pristine would only happen at the sake of my sanity and what little sleep I get.

Speaking of the walking natural disasters…yes, my kids can be very sweet.  But let me remind you that they are still kids.  They have bad minutes, bad hours, and bad days.  You get to see them being nice, but sometimes they are terrors!

Persephone, for example.  Everyone who meets her talks about how loving and protective she is.  She always wants to help everyone.  She wants to be the leader.  Unfortunately, that sometimes means she wants to lead them in a mutiny against their parents…she’ll make a great politician.  Dimitrios is my karma.  He can be so creative and intelligent, but he is also stubborn and sarcastic.  Lucius is a whole other type of kid.  He’s so precious, but he’s also so very trying.  Theron is fiercely independent, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

And then there is Calandra.  As I write this, she has thrown herself across the couch and is refusing to get up because it’s bedtime and she wants water.  “But I’m tired!  I mean, thirsty!  And my legs don’t work!”  Yeah, that’s Callie.  She’s the favorite among everyone who meets us.  She’s cute and precocious and intelligent and adorable in the same way Shirley Temple was.  She’s also the reason my husband decided that we didn’t need anymore children, or at least a multi year break before anymore.  She’ll twirl and giggle her way into your heart, and then shriek at you like a howler monkey.  She’ll run up to you and kiss you…then throw a plate at you because it isn’t the color she wanted.  And she’s strong…

My husband and I aren’t perfect, either.  Sometimes, we drive each other completely insane.  For example, I love meeting new people and being stopped for discussions while out and about.  My husband would rather stab himself to death with a spoon than go out into a group of people he doesn’t know.  While he suggests I get to know people in Lynchburg in an “organic, just-bumped-into-each-other” way, he walks through any crowd of potential friends with a vaguely hostile look on his face.  And he’s 6′ 5″.  He’d make a great body guard, but I want people to talk to me.  To be fair, I bug him, too.  I’m not big on what I see as complaining, which means I’ll hold things in until I’m about to burst.  My husband, despite his best efforts, isn’t a mind reader and hates that I don’t tell him when things are upsetting me.  (My mom has actually had the same complaint my whole life, so it’s clearly a character flaw on my part.)

I don’t think I’d ever want to be perfect.  That sounds so boring.  I like that my husband and I can argue.  It makes it that much better when we agree on stuff.  And I like that my kids feel comfortable enough at home to be wild hooligans when they’re upset.  They know that we’ll still love them even if they’re being little shits at the moment (though I’d never call them that to their faces).  The fact that no one in this family freaks out about the little things is awesome!  Imagine how tense my house would be if everything and everyone always had to be perfect?  That would suck!  Plus, I feel like it makes all of us better.  I mean, it’s real life; things are not perfect.  Sometimes, mommy gets mad.  Sometimes, Dimitrios picks a fight with Lucius (and often losses).  Sometimes, Calandra and Theron have tag team meltdowns and none of us want to talk to them.  But we all work through it in the end.

Even though I don’t want to be perfect, I really should finish unpacking.  Seriously, I’ve got boxes here I haven’t unpacked in 4 moves…


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