Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where's that Christmas spirit?

I confess to have not caught the Christmas spirit this year- yet. I keep hoping it will magically appear but nothing yet.

I think I'm granted a pass this year. The craziness of the past few months has caught up with me and I really don't have much energy or motivation right now. I still have boxes to unpack so the thought of bringing out MORE boxes to decorate for Christmas just sends my delicate balance of survival into a tail spin. But the fact is that its not just me here and I have some children who are really into Christmas so I'm doing what I can when I can muster up the energy.

I haven't put up a Christmas tree yet. I feel like I should be attending some 12 step program meeting introducing myself:

"Hi, I'm Denise. It's December 18th and I haven't put up my Christmas tree."

I my own defense I do have an excuse-- I couldn't find it. It sounds like a really "convenient" excuse but it is true! Of course I must be honest here, that hasn't been the entire reason. The first 2 weeks after Thanksgiving "Because I don't want to" was a good enough excuse. But as Christmas began approaching at lightening speed it somehow started to lose its strength. It was then I began to search for the tree. But never fear! Just when you thought that I had completely ruined Christmas for my children I came through, well almost. Yesterday I made one last ditch effort to dig through my remaining storage unit. I finally found the tree buried in the back corner underneath a couple of bags of throw pillows; it was just too heavy to get out by myself and I really couldn't see Jenna, the four year old, and the sleeping baby offering much muscular support. But today is a new day and I have 2 strapping young lads at my disposal!

When you think about Christmas the tree is right up there at the top but for children what's underneath is even higher on the priority list. But hey, doesn't Santa have that covered? Well nevermind, nothing to worry about...

By Sunday it was quite apparent that I was a scrooge. No tree, no presents, yep total scrooge. So what's the best way to jump right into the Christmas spirit a week before Christmas? A shopping trip at the mall. With 3 children. Yay!!!!

For some bizzare reason I actually had high hopes for our shopping excursion. Julia had to be at a birthday party by 5:00 but other than that the day was free. I told the girls I would even take Ross, who was off that day, and them to an actual resturant for lunch. This was announced around 10:00 am but there were conditions to going. They had to pick up several areas of the house first. There's a whole other back story there, but we'll just say we didn't leave until 1:30-- without Ross who was still sleeping. I was somewhat discouraged over our lost time but still hopeful. And then we got to the mall.

A cold front came through and the mall parking lot was packed so we had to walk farther than 50 feet to the entrance. Jenna was whinning the entire way that she was cold. Then Julia had to go to the bathroom. I forgot the diaper bag in the car. By now its after 2:00 so I told them that we had to eat at the food court. They picked McDonalds and I had no cash and with the huge crowd I wasn't standing in 2 long lines. By 2:45 we finally began shopping. What was I thinking? I had a huge stroller and a baby who wouldn't stay in it, trying to get into packed stores with aisles that were too small to begin with. Throw in 2 bickering sisters and you've got a very fun afternoon. By 4:30 I was practically running for the exit or was I running from the girls who had just argued over who got to push the button in the elevator? Doesn't matter, I just needed out!

So I'm not ready for Christmas yet. But hey! I think I just heard that Christmas was cancelled this year due to lack of interest.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wow! What a life!

As any observant person can see, its been awhile since my last post! Trust me I haven't spent the last few months laying on a beach or anything even remotely relaxing.

Someday I will make my Vietnam adoption story public but for now we'll have to leave it with the conclusion: I have a new daughter Emma Linh.

Emma is a very sweet mostly happy baby who loves her bottle. She just turned 5 months old on Monday. Her brothers and sisters adore her but lately she really prefers her mommy. However, Jenna is the one person who can make her laugh out loud. When she smiles sometimes she gets this great big smile and tilts back her head but no sound comes out. But Jenna is the one person who can get a giggle out of her.

Emma has decided to follow one tradition of being a Swank girl-- being a Drama Queen. Ten days after coming home from Vietnam Emma decided our new house was too boring and wanted to check out Children's Hospital. What was supposed to be a one night observation for RSV turned into a ten day stay, 5 of which were in ICU on a ventilator. But we're home now and she's doing quite well except that her GI system seems to have gone crazy. Lots of gas, massive spitting up, some days constipation some days the opposite. Emma has officially earned the title Head Drama Queen.

As mentioned above we are now in our new house. Trace and Ross were in charge of moving all of our worldly possessions from storage into the house and they did very good job! I was in Vietnam calling them every hour checking on their progress. Of course when I came home I was greeted by mountains of boxes some of which have been unpacked, some have been taken to the basement and some are still hanging around my entryway and dining room waiting for my attention.

I have wanted to post here several times since coming home but thought that I should "backfill" first. I hope to start sharing our craziness soon. And believe me, if anything its gotten crazier!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Future Doctor Jenna?

A couple of weeks ago while Jenna and I were lounging in the suite, Jenna was actually entertaining herself and not using me in her improv theater (the dogs on the other hand were not so lucky.) I was on the computer and she came up to me and asked me:

"What does my tummy look like inside?"

Lucky for her anatomy was one of my favorite classes so I began to describe the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines and she looked a little lost. So I asked her if she wanted to see what the inside looked like. She got very excited over this.

A simple Google search provided many diagrams, photos and charts and Jenna and I spent the next 30 minutes going over what was in our body and what it did. It was one of those rare, golden moments when you think you have actually taught your child something.

Fast forward to last night when Jenna, Ross and I were going to McAlisters for dinner. Julia was at a friend's house. Out of the blue Jenna asks:

"What does the inside of my bottom look like?"

Say what????? After a bit more prompting I determined that she wanted to know how things were connected inside. Whew! I thought it might be time for a more detailed "boys are different" talk than our more generic conversations. I asked her if she had an area of interest?

"I know my poopy comes out of my big hole. What is it like inside?"

I reminded her of the esophagus, stomach and intestines but this time explained the role of the small and large intestines in a little more detail. I also used the words rectum and anus. Big mistake. The word anus is quite humorous to a 4 year old.

By the time we entered McAlisters, the conversation was dropped but after we sat at our table and were eating Jenna coughed and asked:

"What pipe does your food go in when it goes down the wrong pipe?"

I reminded her of the esophagus, which we had discussed last night, but also reminded her of the trachea which connected to her lungs. I told her about the epiglottis and how it flaps open and closed and sometimes it doesn't close in time and food or drink get down and makes you cough and cough. She was silent for a moment seemly taking it all in and then announced in a very loud voice heard throughout the restaurant:

"Your poopy comes out your anus!"

Many thoughts went through my mind: I'm so proud! How many people heard that? What will her teachers think on Monday when she spouts her new found wisdom at school? And finally:

Maybe she'll be a proctologist.


I'm sure many of you thought that I exaggerated how Jenna sleeps in bed. Lucky for me when I finished writing my blog and went to bed and this is what I found.

Notice that Julia and Jenna are on their own side. Also notice that Jenna has her feet on the pillow but now the dog has taken my spot!

Here is a picture of Jenna and the dogs. Jenna thinks that Calli, the Pekinese has "evil eyes." I suggested it was because it looks like she has her in a choke hold. Fifi, the Yorkie, appears to be licking her nose. What an incredible display of photography skill!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

All I ask for is a good night's sleep!

Sleep's not something that a new parent of a 3 month old is going to get much of. Especially a single parent. Knowing this I would like to stock pile my rest. I really don't know if that is possible; I've gone through the majority of my life sleep deprived so this is somewhat of a guess. But as I've "aged gracefully" I have discovered a new found appreciation for sleep. So for some reason I had hoped to spend the last week or so before my trip to get Ella to get some really good nights of sleep because who knows when I will get more than 5 hours of consective sleep again? My other children seem to plan otherwise.

For the past 31 days (but hey who's counting?) I've been sharing a king size bed with my two girls. Its not like sharing my bed with my children is a new concept. Until last spring I had a queen sized bed and found that 3-4 nights out of the week first Julia would come down in the middle of the night and then Jenna. Always in this order. You would think it would be the opposite but as long as the 4 year old wakes up and there's someone older than her in the bed then she's good. Apparently, it doesn't work in reverse order. Since Julia needs someone older than her that leaves 2 options: a brother in a stinky room who kicks or mom. Who would you pick? Finally I gave up and bought a king size bed.

Having them sleep with me so frequently finally lead me to create some rules.

Rule #1: Jenna must NEVER sleep directly next to me.

An unconscious Jenna has no idea which way is up. I have found her with her feet on her pillow, laying across the bottom of the bed, with her feet in my face, with her body draped across mine. If it is only Jenna and I in the bed then there is a pillow between us. I know this sounds cold but I believe in self preservation.

Rule #2: Only on rare occasions can they start out in my bed.

I like to stay up late watching TV. I'm like a kid that needs to be told to go to bed. Having children in your bed when your watching TV after 9:00 usually means the children don't go to sleep. Doesn't work. What also doesn't work is watching TV shows and movies not appropriate for children while you children are in your bed. Enough said.

Rule #3: No one sleeps on my pillow.

If they start out on my pillow this only encourages them break rule #4:

Rule #4: Stay out of my personal space.

Breaking Rule #3 is an engraved invitation to invade my personal space and having a well intact personal space has become a necessity to a good night's sleep for me. This is the very reason I seem to be so tired lately. (Because it sure couldn't be the stress!) My children are not respecting my personal space.

I've tried to enforce the rules but its next to impossible in the suite. First of all it is only one room. And even though I am suffering without my daily fulfillment of HGTV and Food Network I have found a substitute. (Hey, life is a vacuum and if there is a void it will be filled--like with the Discovery Channel. It could be worse; at least its educational, entertaining and not one of the 6 ESPN channels although Dirty Jobs can be pretty gross sometimes.) So it obvious that Rule #2 is a goner. But I still have strictly enforced Rule #1 and Rule #3 and tried but often fail with Rule #4.

My children start out in their rightful places. Jenna on the edge, Julia in the middle and me on the opposite edge. But the last few night have found my girls leaving their boundaries and encroaching on mine. Two nights ago I literally got out of bed around midnight and took this picture to prove to them that they were out of control!

I had already "repositioned" my children twice. I wanted to prove to them the next morning that they sprawling into places they didn't belong. Here the culprit is actually Julia but often its Jenna who has turned sideways forcing Julia onto my space.

Although my ultimate weight goal is to actually fit into that very narrow space on Julia's left, I'm not quite there yet.

Lest you think two nights ago was a fluke, this is the photo I took this morning after I got out of bed. Notice that Julia is breaking not only Rule #4 but also Rule #3. Also notice the dog in the the lower right corner. Yes the dogs have joined us too. It is now truly a family bed.
Tonight I'm thinking about sleeping in the car.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I AM my sister's keeper!

This morning the girls were getting ready for school and I was getting ready to go to Bible study. Because I was trying to get myself ready to be seen by the public I didn't have my usual observation viewpoint of the girls progress.

Jenna, as always, woke up asking "Do I have to go to school?" When she heard that the answer was yes she declared that she wasn't going to get dressed. I calmly told her that was fine and she could just go to school in her nightgown.

As I continued to get ready in the bathroom I would look out and Jenna would still be laying on the bed in her nightgown. "Jenna, you better get dressed. The kids will think you look silly in your nightgown!"

The struggle occurs on many days. I recognize it for what it is, Jenna is trying to assert some control over a situation that she knows is inevitable. Most days I let her. I don't usually pull out the Mommy Mean Voice until its about 5 minutes before we head out the door. (Ok maybe a little sooner.) Most days she actually does get dressed on her own. But today Julia was, amazingly enough, ready early with time on her hands. Time on a child's hands can only mean trouble.

"Jenna get dressed."


"Jenna I said to get dressed right now and you better get dressed!"

"I don't want to."

"Its doesn't matter if you want to or not you have to go to school so you better get dressed!"

"You're not the boss of me!" (How is it that all children know this line? Is there a Children's Retort Handbook that I am unaware of?)

Julia is now quite frustrated and is about to become physical so I step in. The first thing I think is "Wow, maybe she has been listening to me for the last 10 years because that discussion sounded a lot like something I would have said!" The second thought was I'm really not in the mood for a fight this early. I haven't even had my Starbucks yet. I told Julia that I would take care of Jenna and that she needed to make sure that she was really ready for school.

Then the thought occurred to me: Why do older siblings always assume that they have authority over the younger ones? And its not just Julia, Ross does it too.

Take this past Saturday night. But we should really back up to Friday night. On Friday my ear began to hurt like the dickens. Not the inside but the outer, upper edge of my ear. By Friday night my ear looked like a freshly boiled lobster-- bright red and very swollen. I had no idea what was wrong with it but knew it looked nasty. By Saturday morning I knew I had to have some healthcare professional look at it. One Minute Clinic trip, followed by an ER trip (Minute clinic turned me away), one shot of antibiotic in the booty and 3 prescriptions later I discovered that I had a skin infection also known as cellulitis. It was pretty bad and was starting to spread down my neck so it was a good thing that I went when I did.

Ok, all of this to tell you that I felt like doodoo on Saturday. The ER PA even gave me a prescription for Hydrocodone and I took one and slept the afternoon away. Ross kept the girls in his room so I could get some rest. By evening I was hungry and in need of comfort food but where to go? Cracker Barrel! I felt bad and was feeling the after effects of the pain pill so it was obvious to kids that mom wasn't at the top of her game.

Jenna began to get a little rowdy and Ross gritted his teeth and said "Jenna, Mommy doesn't feel good and you better stop or see those rocking chairs out there? I'm going to take you out there and spank your bottom." Say what???? Physical punishment is not our usual method of choice. Let me assure you that Ross would make an excellent malevolent dictator.

Now Jenna is crying and Ross was getting madder and I finally said while I appreciated the effort on his part, it wasn't really helping any. Just everyone please be quiet and let me enjoy my 2000 calorie country fried steak dinner in peace!
What is this, you ask??? Yes, it is my ear. Why in the world did I take a picture of my ear??? Well, it was 11:00 at night and I couldn't see it! It was killing me and there wasn't enough light so I thought if I could take a picture with the flash I could see what was wrong with it. Unfortunately, I forgot to switch the focus to close up, or maybe fortunate for you! By the time I woke up Saturday morning it was twice as nasty!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My Ella Joy

I have in my profile that I am waiting for my precious Ella Joy. I have just found out today that I will probably leave SOONER to get her than I thought. Consequently, I am going crazy!!! I am closing on a house, living in a hotel and leaving the country for 3 weeks! And this is all happening within 2 weeks! The timing of it all truly stinks but I wouldn't change a thing, except that maybe my builder finished my house 5 weeks sooner!

But when I look at this precious baby I just can't a minute longer than necessary to go get her!

It looks like I will be closing on my house on a Wednesday. The movers show up on a Thursday to bring my stuff out of storage and around 3:00 I'm headed to the airport to bring home my daughter! Why do these things always happen to me?

So if I'm quiet for the next few weeks its because I'm overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done to

1)close my house and sort out all those details

2) make arrangements for all deliveries to my house and installations of appliances, etc while I am gone

3) prepare for a 3 week trip to Vietnam to get a baby which means I have many things to take for a baby (the smaller the size the more things they need!)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My fun filled morning

You must think I live a life of luxury living in the suite. And I can see how you would think that. But I'm the same as everyone else. I have responsibilities. I have commitments. I have 3 children to keep me humble.

So what is a typical morning for me? I have decided to share the first 3 hours of my day in the following photojournalism style. Some of the photos are kind of rough, kind of edgy, just like my life. ( I should really sell boots at this blog and maybe I could make some money!) When I'm nominated for a Pulitzer you can say you saw it here first!

Today my morning started at 6:17 a.m. with a phone call from Ross in the room next door. I was so excited, well as excited as I could be just waking up from a semi-deep sleep. Ross is very hard to get up in the morning and I always have to call him at 6:30 to make sure he's wake. I thought "Wow, he's already up and calling me to let me know." I really WAS out of it!

Instead he tells me in his best low and raspy voice "Mom, I don't feel good."

Ross missed school one day last week with an intestinal virus. This being just the 3rd week of school it wasn't going to look good with another absence! "What's wrong?"

"My throat hurts and my stomach hurts and I have a headache."

"Do you have a fever?"

"I don't think so."

"Then I want you to try to go to school."

Ten minutes later Ross text messages me that he just threw up. I guess he's really not going to school.

I was really tired so I dozed off and woke up about 7:10. Not good. Jenna goes to school today so I have to hurry to get us out the door by 8:00. First I have to walk the dogs. When I get back run to the computer to check my email. I confess, I am addicted to my computer. But I really did have an excuse today! I was waiting for an important paper for my adoption which actually was waiting in my inbox! Of course, I had to print it out; email my travelmates seeing if they got theirs; scan my other emails. Oh no! Its 7:40!

I wake Julia up and she starts freaking out. You have to understand that Julia is not a morning person. Nor is she a glass half full person. Combine the two in the morning and its a fun ride. She looks at the clock and instant tears.

"I don't have enough time! I'll never get my contacts in on time! I don't know what to wear! I hate these shoes! I hate my hair today! Jenna's looking at me!"

I think you get the picture. I'm happy to report that she did get dressed, contacts in and was ready to head out the door by 8:05. And her sister was dressed and ready too.

{Julia putting in her contacts. I've really been impressed with her. She just got them last week and is doing really well. It is only taking her about 5 minutes to get them instead of the 10 it took last week}

Part 2 of my day: The Road Trip

Now its time to take the show on the road. Since my dogs are couped up in the suite we usually take them with us in the morning. We all head out the door and into the car.

{The dogs and Jenna are already in the car. Julia is the last one to get in. Notice the trash at the bottom of the car threatening to spill out. Alas, this is the topic for tomorrow's post!}

{Julia has woke up, got her contacts in, tamed her hair and her mood has improved as she jams to her High School Musical 2 CD. Note that her backpack is at the ready on her lap. This took several days of training!}

{And she's out! And dogs aren't jumping out with her! Things are looking up!}

Now I confessed one of my addictions above, my computer. I'm about to confess another:

Julia's dropped off at 8:25 and Jenna can't be dropped off until 9:00 and the school's are only 7 minutes apart. What else am I going to do? Time to feed my addiction.

{Waiting in line at Starbucks. Can you find me?}

{Time to order. You think they would know my drink by now!}

{Next we're off to the post office to check our PO box. Jenna likes to unlock it. Such a big girl!}

{That's my pretty girl!}

We usually end up waiting at her preschool for about 5-10 minutes before she can be dropped off. We fill the time listening to what else? High School Musical 2. By the time the teacher shows up to take Jenna inside she's convinced herself and tried to convince me that she shouldn't go to school. After I pry her hands off the driver's seat headrest and drag her out of the car she goes into the building with her teacher.
Whew! I'm ready for a nap!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

An imagination is a terrible thing to waste

Luckily for me our three day weekend was over and 2 of my 3 children went to school today! But that meant that Jenna, the 4 year old, got to stay home. And by home I mean "home suite home."

My older children would wile the day away with their faces glued to the television (as evidenced by the previous post showing the aftermath of the tv viewing) but Jenna can entertain herself. Actually that statement is not entirely true. She can entertain herself by writing, directing and producing her own mini plays that include me in her cast. Like a true artiste she does not like to take direction nor suggestion from outside sources. Her works are truly her own and if you know what's good for you you follow along.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on the day or my mood) her plays follow the same plot but have a revolving cast of characters. Some days we play Ariel and Eric, or Belle and the Beast or Princess and Prince but today we played High School Musical According to Jenna. Jenna is always Gabrielle and I am always Zacefron. No, that was not a typo. The part is not Zac Efron nor Troy, as would actually be correct to the original script. Believe me, I have tried to point this out! According to Jenna its Zacefron.

Jenna is a forgiving director in that I can usually get away with multi-tasking while playing my part. (Trust me multi-tasking is both my blessing and my curse) On this day I was sorting baby clothes while fulfilling my role. Jenna feeds me my lines and as long as I get them pretty close I'm OK. Here's a sample script:

Jenna: You call Gabrielle and say you will pick me up at 8:00

Me: Ring ring. Hello Gabrielle? Can I pick you up at 8:00?

Jenna: Oh, hi Zacefron, sure.

(Exciting stuff! I hope the writers for HSM3 are goggling this -- Jenna will be a rich girl!)

Not bad you say, pretty mindless stuff. True, true but try doing this all day long and by all day I mean ALL DAY!

Next we mix things up. Jenna goes into the bathroom which is now Gabrielle's house and Zacefron has to come to her house and bring her gifts. This involves me wrapping up multiple items in various baby blankets, burp rags, etc. But not only do I, excuse me Zacefron, give gifts but I get to sing too! (It IS a musical!)

Me: (knock on door) Gabrielle, I have a present for you! (Then I break out into the "mad song" Bet on it)

Me: Bet on it, bet on it, bet on it, bet on it...

Jenna: (Opens door) Oh, hi Zacefron. Thanks for my present. (takes present and closes door)

Repeat 4-5 times.

Welcome to my world.

By 2:00 I'm desperate for the Disney Channel. But then, I guess that's what me got here!

Here is Gabrielle (portrayed by Jenna) making a date with Zacefron in her "home." Note the presents (diapers spread out) and the wrapping (receiving blanket on the floor.)
Note #2: The above blanket was washed immediately after use.

Editorial note: In yesterday's post I wrote that if the girls had been playing Survivorman then one of them might have eaten the other one. It is with sincere apology that I retract that statement. The man on Surviorman has never resorted to cannibalism on his show. So my children were safe but I'm not so sure about the dogs!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Just what the world needs-- another blog!

You didn't ask for it but you got it-- another blog! Follow along the busy life of my four kids, soon to be five! However, I think its really fair to say 3 kids and soon to be 4 because my oldest is away at college and he's not in our daily lives in spite of my desperate attempts to make him involved with my multiple UNANSWERED phone calls!

How did I come up with the title? It seems to be my motto. "There's always room for one more." We have one dog and the kids want another. My answer " I guess there's room for one more."

"Mom can Anna sleep over?" There's room for one more.

"Wanna bring my nephew on our road trip/vacation?" There's room for one more.

"Mom, can we have a gerbil?" Even good natured mom's have to draw the line somewhere. NO!

But lately, I haven't been saying that. In fact I'm trying to figure how to pass my children out to other people. We sold our home and moved out on August 14 and moved into a hotel room, excuse me, suite. If math is not your strong suit or you can't be bothered looking at the date that this was written, we moved in 21 days ago. But hey, who's counting???? Heheheheh... Our suite has been a tight, uh I mean cozy, place with a 16 (just turned 17 today) y/o boy, and two girls 10 and 4. Did I mention the two dogs??? In 400 sq feet? Day after day after day after day? I became so desperate on Day 12 that I finally checked out the room next door to move Ross , the 16 y/o-- sorry 17 y/0, into. As I was helping move his things (I think he brought his entire wardrobe with him) into his new bachelor pad I stopped and said "What's wrong with this picture? Shouldn't I be getting the room all alone???" Although the title of my blog and my motto is "always room for one more" that doesn't mean that I make room for more by letting my 3 children stay in a room alone and wipe each other out. So like a good mother, I sacrificed myself for the safety of my children.

You have to understand, I am a loving, usually patient mother who can tolerate a lot. But Mother Teresa would take to the bottle here! Last week I was talking on the phone with my friend Mindy, my travel mate in my upcoming adoption trip. I was headed out the door with the two girls and all of a sudden Jenna, the 4 y/o wants to get into the car on Julia's side, the 10 y/o. Julia is unhappy with Jenna and decides this is not an option and begins to slam said door closed as little sister is trying to climb in. In response I scream "Julia Marie you're going to hurt your sister!" Luckily, I stopped her in time and saved Jenna's life. Mindy, listening to all of this said "You have to get out of that hotel! That's the second time I have heard you yell at them since you moved there and I never heard you yell at them before."

Yesterday, I finally caught, I mean got a hold of, Trace my son at college. Poor boy was doing laundry and had nothing better to do than talk to his mother. While we were on the phone he asked "What is all that noise?"

"That's your sisters."

"What are they doing?"

"They're fighting. They're playing Ultimate Fighter."

Silence. Then "What???"

"Well, with no Disney Channel and no Nickelodeon Channel all they have is Discovery Channel and 6 ESPN channels. Better to play Ultimate Fighter rather than Survivorman. One of them would end up eating the other one."

Of course, then there really WOULD be room for one more...

My darlings trying to pin each other.

And the 4 year old wins!