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erin

erin

I'm Erin Jo. I'm thinking, writing, dreaming, mothering, loving, living, praising, BLESSED to be Fiona to my Shrek and Mommy to my four amazing kiddos.

dave

dave

Shrek is "like an onion with many layers" but has a heart of gold. He's my husband and my friend, and we just get better all the time.

lily

lily

Lily is my first baby and only girl. She's smart, funny, tall and kind. Keeping up with this girl is a challenge and a joy. She's terrific!

max

max

Max is one part ogre, two parts lover and all boy! Our little man has a temper but gives the best hugs of anyone I know!

colby

colby

Colby is as ornery as he looks. He flirts shamelessly, even with strangers. He's all mouth and curls and the loudest by far.

luke

luke

Luke is the baby of the family, but holds his own. He's happy and adorable. And he's a terrible sleeper. =)

Follow the Course

So long, so sorry. But not, on the other hand. Because I have been very pensive lately, and I’m working on not feeling so guilty for not being perfect at so many things, for not pushing myself to the absolute limit in every facet of my life.

I’ve been busy with my family. There was sickness, and lot of it. There were influenza cases, ear infections, four stomach viruses and, finally, a sinus infection for me. Mommas are usually the last to fall, and that was true for me. I did what I had to do and then succumbed. But no drama! I’m fine. I was a smart little cookie and marched myself right to the doc. Got a whole bottle of horse pills, and I’m feeling much better, thank you!

I’ve also been spending lots of time with my husband. We’re sharing a common addiction, and like the meth that was Breaking Bad in the fall, Sons of Anarchy has reeled us in with a Vise-Grips-like hold. It’s not my cup of tea, or so I would have thought–the violence, the crass language at times, but yep, I’m hook, line and sinker.

And I’ve been spending other quality time with Shrek as well. The guy is gold. The marriage is solid. For this gift alone, I owe the world something. How much?

Because that’s the other thing I’ve been busy doing: thinking about my dreams, my goals, my inner self. She’s tough. She beats me up sometimes, thinking, as I mentioned above, that she needs to be perfect at everything all the time. And I’m not sure where she got that. Certainly, drive and determination are a good thing, but how long can we chase a dream before it chases us? How hard can one be on oneself before being too hard? That is, how long before a goal to work toward becomes a noose around your neck?

I’m not sure yet. What I am sure of is this: I am doing more things right than I am doing wrong. I’m really good at being a wife and a mother, and in those things, I am bettering my part of the world. I am a good friend and sister and daughter. I am really good at a lot of things. And perfection is really, truly only found in the things God makes: newborns, nature, the balminess of an August night.

And so I’ll be gentle with myself. I’ll do the next right thing in front of me. I’ll continue on the path of my life, and I’ll look for the open doors. But I’m also going to chill on the couch with my husband. I’m going to take that nap with my sweet nearly two-year-old baby slumbering peacefully on my chest, his head tucked under my chin. I’m going to write, when and where I can, in all my different outlets.

And I trust that things will become clear to me. That I’ll find my way with peace in my heart and purpose in my actions. I will hear what He is saying, and I’ll follow the course.

All I ever have to be is what You made me
Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan
As You daily recreate me, help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do what I can find
And all I ever have to be is what You made me.

I See You, January

You know that feeling you got when you were eight and the teacher somehow kept not seeing your raised hand every time she looked your way? I’ve recently volunteered (hard) for something. And God, or the Universe, or whoever she is, said no. Not now. You… You must wait.

And then a series of other small things happened, including a really ugly conversation with my husband, several, several instances of vomit involving all four of my children, a pop-up ear infection and incredibly weepy toddlers. And that led to a very clean home.

I know I’ve said it before. I am Erin, daughter of Deborah, daughter of Joanne. When I don’t know what else to do, I clean. Because Lord knows there is always cleaning to be done. All Christmas is packed up, surfaces have been found, windows washed and germs eradicated. (Somewhat. I am not the mom who chases after sick kids with bleach…)

I also shed quite a few tears. Couldn’t blame it on hormones. It was sadness. The kind that makes your heart hurt. And also the kind that reminds you that you’re being silly, that so many others have it worse, and that, yet, it is still okay to cry for yourself and your own hurt.

Lily listened to the reason for part of that hurt and said “Well, it happens.” A couple minutes later, she said, “But I’d feel the same way.” And Luke said, “Mommy? Mommy k?” several times and offered up wet kisses to soothe me. And the others helped out too, reminding me all the way that I was doing something right in raising these caring kids, that I wasn’t, as I once wrote at age 15 or so, “the Coke at the bottom of the can that nobody will drink.”

Luckily, I got my workout in as well, which probably boosted the feel-good endorphins and whatnot, keeping me from complete liquid state. I am officially on a diet after I was asked twice in one week in early December if I was expecting again. (!) NO, no, I am not. So my secret is out. I am NOT expecting. I have a belly. Apparently, bellies on women are no longer allowed? Hence, the diet.

So I hate to be so lame-o, especially after I haven’t posted for so long, but, as Lily said, “It happens.”

The holidays were wonderful. I imbibed on the wine, drank up the time with family, chilled with the children, read a book. I even wrote in my journal once. So hey, all in all, a good haul.

And now, I see you, January. And I’m not backing down. You may have won this bad day, but there’s a lot of spunk in me yet, and I’m going to find myself a way out of some of these bad situations.

For now, I see you. And I raise you clean. My corner of the world is sparking, and soon… soon, I will be too.

A Christmas Message

I started this post on the eve of Christmas Eve, while wrapping, baking cookies and trying to find that one missing present that just had to be here somewhere. I felt peaceful and less busy than I had been and hopeful for the holiday. Friday’s snow was just the thing I needed. It was the final push to get me where I needed to be.

And now, here I sit, on Christmas night, still trying to post this message. I’ve had several wonderful days full of family fun and tradition. The kids all loved their presents and were happy and grateful. It was a winning holiday.

However, I would be remiss not to talk about the families in Connecticut who want nothing more than to have their homes normal again today. I ache for them. I hate that every day, if they get any sleep at all, they wake up and remember that their child is gone forever.

I lost Luke last week. Mom and I were working on a craft project and had all four of my kiddos and my niece underfoot. Luke was on the back porch playing with Max one moment and gone the next. He was GONE. The remaining six of us ran around wildly for what felt like 10 minutes, screaming his name and scanning the landscape. My mom headed out front, to the somewhat busy Main Street and an intersection, while I checked the backyard, the vehicles, the bedrooms upstairs.

I was on my way to the railroad tracks, with my heartbeat thudding in my ears, when I passed Lily, who giggled nervously. I told her it wasn’t funny and to keep looking. She said, “I can hear him, I just can’t see him.” And so I decided to switch directions entirely and follow her young, good ears. A couple of seconds later, I heard “I see him!”

My son, beautiful and fearless at 23 months old, was in one of my neighbor’s backyards, two long lots up the street, playing with a red ball. I scooped him up, squeezing him with relief and remorse and respect for the universe and God and all things holy. I returned to my yard to find Max, sitting on a swing with his head down and alligator tears. I told him it wasn’t his fault, it was mine. And we all recovered in time, but I believe a part of me is forever changed.

And forever changed is definitely how those parents in Connecticut are. We all know the details, the names of the victims. We can all imagine the horror those administrators, teachers and children felt and the way their parents’ worlds must have turned upside down the moment they heard the news.

And while we all feel helpless, I believe there are things we can do. We can teach our children well. We can be grateful for them everyday and tell them so. We can take those extra five minutes to snuggle, to soothe, to breathe in our own.

My wish for all of us is that we live the way we should, with our eyes and hearts and minds and arms wide open, always ready to receive the next human gift in front of us, always on the side of the good guy, always aware of the gift of every single day.

And my wish is that some of those parents had happy moments today, maybe when a sibling cheered about a special gift or when they felt–strongly, I hope–the spirits of those who have gone on.

Merry CHRISTmas.

Living the Dream

I think two weeks is plenty long enough not to blog. And don’t you think these pictures call for a celebration? In the midst of all the craziness, I managed to get my family slightly color-coordinated and in front of the lens of a fantastic photographer on a mild, sunny December Sunday morning. Cue the bells. This is a small miracle.

We mothers. I tell you… We mothers are a terrific, dynamic, amazing, incredible breed. We do it all. We work, we love, we organize, we gather. We plan, we create and we make things happen. We are movers and shakers and dreamers. And we won’t give up. No. Never.

So, wow. My “late summer” mentality turned quickly into an Origami Owl elf hustle. And now? Well, it’s less than two weeks until Christmas. And I have four kids who believe in Santa Claus. And about 60 orders to finish…..

And it feels like it is about the numbers lately, like my mind has been on such overdrive, keeping all the files in the right compartments in all the recesses of my brain…. Because you better believe I’m still working. And kids are still needing their momma, and I’m still married and stoking that fire.

In the past several weeks, I have misplaced my keys (yes, again!), both of my locket necklaces, and both my sets of current eyeglasses. I kid you not. All are still missing. Twice, I have left my house for work without earrings, which drives me crawzy! (A word for when you are feeling especially crazy!) And twice, I have stopped to buy a new pair.

If you come to my house right now, you’ll see that we did manage to get a tree up. (Thank you, seven-pound-four-ounce baby Jesus!) You might slip on that spot of the hardwood floor between the dining room table and the new toy area in the dining room where Colby and Lucas sprayed about half a can of furniture polish while that tree was being finished. And I might ask you to help me look for my glasses (or my lockets or my keys.)

I’ll offer you a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, depending on the hour, or our moods, or our responsibilities. You won’t see those presents under the tree, but you’ll know that they are stuffed in my closet in the most haphazard of ways. You won’t eat a homemade Christmas cookie or kiss under my mistletoe.

But you’ll know that we’re getting there. That our love is so great and so real and so palpable. You’ll know this is the real deal, that we’re family and we’re going to sail through this Christmas with flying colors.

Because Christmas is love and magic and family… And we have so much of all three.

 

** Photos by the ever amazing Kristin Pottmeyer. Check her out at www.kristinmariephoto.com

Channeling Holiday Spirit

Maxwell, Christmas morning 2010

All of the sudden, it’s winter. There is no doubt. My feet are cold, I’m wrapped in a blanket and the furnace is roaring. Baby, it’s cold outside!

I have to admit that I was not really believing it was time for the holidays this time last week. While cruising around Pittsburgh in 60-degree weather, my girlfriend and I kept hearing Christmas music and being very adamant that it was simply “late summer.” I tried to feel Christmasy, but it wasn’t happening. The random house with Christmas lights, including my own, felt wrong. I scoffed at the thought of the goose getting fat.

But then I took a holiday from work, meaning I have been off since Tuesday, drinking up time with family, the Black Friday excitement around me and cheap wine. And now? Oh, it’s Christmas.

Several things have indicated this to me and moved me in the right direction. My family’s Thanksgiving dinner tradition was the usual full course with plenty of extra treats for no less than sixty at a church hall. My annual Olive Garden dinner the next night with the women in my family is tradition too, though, sadly, I missed it this year. In lieu of Black Friday shopping, I made a consolatory–and successful–trip with the older two kids today. And I’ve been filling Origami Owl orders like crazy.

But this will all melt away soon.

Soon, what will remain will be the nut of what is important. I truly believe that we begin and end this life with family, and that family should be the focus at all the points in between. I’m so blessed to have relatives that believe this and share of their time and their lives with me. I believe in inside jokes and silly traditions and shared wine. I believe in honoring memories and making new ones, in passing down our story to the next generation.

And I believe in magic. Because how else can you explain the fact that my nine-year-old daughter still believes in Santa? And that, in a way, I do, too? Because Christmas is a feeling. It’s love and silent snowflakes and giving of ourselves and our talents and our gifts. It’s remembering those less fortunate and remembering Jesus’ birth.

And it’s being with the people that make us who we are, the blood relatives and the friends that may as well be–the people that tell our stories, who populate our lives, who would carry on our legacy if fate insisted.

If you aren’t yet feeling this way, I hope you will be soon. Take a minute (and a parka, hat and gloves) to go stare at the night sky. If you’re lucky, maybe a snowflake will land on your nose. And, maybe, in time, the holiday spirit will glow again in your heart, too.

My Lucky Day

We have a kids’ book we just love in this house. It’s called “My Lucky Day” by Keiko Kasza. It’s a funny, well-written and beautifully illustrated book about the triumph of an underdog: a pig who tricks a fox who wants to eat him into giving him a warm, sudsy bath, a home-cooked meal complete with fresh chocolate chip cookies and a pounding massage.

The fox eventually passes out, exhausted from trying to clean, fatten and tenderize the pig he intended to eat. And the pig gathers his leftover cookies and skips home, happy as a pig in &^%$, as the saying goes, saying, “What a bath! What a meal! What a massage! This must be my lucky day!”

And I thought of that pig today on my way home from Pittsburgh where I enjoyed about 24 hours with a wonderful girlfriend of mine. There was wine, yummy food, great conversation, mani/pedis and shopping. I was relaxed. The kids are all old enough now that no one is needing me to rush home, or to pump milk, or to worry about others having to soothe them in the night. And shopping was fun: I bought things for myself, things for the kids, the business, the hubby, the house. I ran onto more owls than even I could believe. Owls are my new thing, and they are everywhere!

I got home in time to kiss all the kids good night, chat with my best little girlfriend (Lily) about my adventure and catch up with my hubby before he tag-team high-fived me on his way out the door to watch a UFC fight with some buddies.

And I just can’t shake this feeling of gratefulness — it is one of Thanksgiving… and Christmas too. This time of year — in spite of the single parenthood Deer Camp (Beer Camp) brings — is truly my favorite. It’s a time of family, thanks, anticipation and giving. It’s cozy and introspective. It’s a glass of wine, a good meal and a visit with an old, lifelong friend.

Every day isn’t so picturesque for me or for anybody. I am well aware that there are others suffering. My wish for them is that they have a weekend, a day, a moment like this.

This must be my lucky day…

 

Playing Myself

I said something in conversation to my mom on the phone this week that stuck with me. I was telling her how yes, my morning was ok, yes, I voted. While trying to get my photo ID out for the poll worker, I flipped open my wallet and a lot of receipts, checks and cash flew out all over the floor just as my cell phone rang. I stuffed the loot, silenced the phone, voted for the President (who else?) and started my commute to work. 

In retelling this, I told my mom, “You know, I was myself. Basically, everything is normal. Today, I am myself.”

And so I’ve been thinking of my week as a long movie in which I am playing myself. I move pretty quickly through my days, with several reminders to self, to slow down, don’t move too fast, you gotta make the morning last. (Couldn’t resist, Simon and Garfunkel!) But I do believe I’m playing myself.

My lead role this week has required me to mother, to be a jewelry designer, a writer, an event planner, a funeral singer, a baker and an American. There have been times I have had to speak up, and times I have had to bite my tongue to keep from lashing out against nasty comments made by closed minds. I have rushed to work, to appointments, to meetings, to church. I served  wine to a generous millionaire and his lovely wife. I wiped bottoms. I met new people. I called in favors. And I witnessed such grace and beauty in a friend who lost her husband unexpectedly.

I cussed and soothed and yelled and shushed. I took a run/walk with my beautiful nine-year-old trainer. I sat on the stairs with my plate at a family gathering and reveled in all the moments I’d done just that, on the same stairs, throughout my childhood.

I snuggled my kids. I thanked God for a lot of things and prayed for peace for others. I learned some things. I grew in faith.

I played myself. And it was awesome.

We Dance


I wake up to miracles today.

I start this morning snoozing cozily in my bed. My olders are up and half-ready for school. Lily keeps coming in to turn off my snooze for me, carefully updating me with the time every ten minutes. My littles are finally both soundly sleep beside me in my king-size bed. My hubs is off to work, but gave me a snuggle before he went.

I rise to find my girl, completely dressed and rockin’ an “it’s-my-birthday-party-day” outfit, reading a Babysitter’s Club book in her lit closet with the door open. She requests cinnamon toast and hot tea for breakfast, please, and Max says yes, he’d like the same.

The sun rises. We flow effortlessly through school prep: toast, tea, packing lunch, socks, shoes, brushing teeth and hair. Finding coats, packing backpacks, out the door without a single angry word. And, as I close the door, I realize, the two olders are off to school, the two youngers still asleep!

My breakfast is ready. Coffee brewed. I sit down at my clean table and ponder my alone time. I decide to write about miracles. My sis calls on her way to work, and we have an uninterrupted, adult conversation for twenty minutes. I start this post.

And then Colby is up, standing at the top step with his two favorite stuffed doggies, in his slightly fevered, warm-from-sleep squishiness, perking right up in a wide smile at the sight of his two favorite things coming up the stairs to greet him: his momma and his chocolate milk.

We take immediately to the couch, where I snuggle him and start his new favorite DVD: GeoTrax. And we get in about three minutes and forty-five seconds of perfect peace before the baby brother wakes up. So I rise to lift him from my bed, in his syrupy sweet, smelly pajamas. He takes a minute or so to decide to be happy.

We find the sippy for him and join his brother on the couch. I revel in the peace of it all. That sunshine filtering in through the windows and the large storm door window. Being nestled on my couch between my two slightly sick boys with their funky, not-well smelling breath and their warm little bodies. The coffee, the loose plan for the day, the anticipation I feel for the birthday party I’ll throw later in the evening.

And the day unfolds. The laundry doesn’t get very far, but with my mom’s help, I get some things off the to-do list. We pack up orders for my business, straighten house, conquer the dishes and save the littles from themselves.

And life is good.

Especially because I feel as though I made up with my dear husband last night after a fight we never had. Those of you who have been married for a bit might know what I mean. I’d had a fight with him in my head, I suppose. And it finally fizzled out. Found its way into the annals of history where it belonged.

Other things happened too. I can’t put my finger on all of it. And I don’t need to know.

I just need to take this day, this gift of the present, this hope and promise that comes from the beginning of one of my favorite months of the year: the month of one of my favorite holidays, the month of my true Mother’s Day–November 7, the day my first child was born–and the month that truly feels as though it will bring great change and positivity. I just need to take these things and be grateful.

And I can carry on, with days like these like flashlights in my pocket to pull out in the dark times. I can remember that sometimes we wake up to miracles, to blessings we might not even deserve, to the buoyant feeling of hope like a firefly’s wings beating in our hearts.

And we dance.

You Got This

I really like being a woman. Not that I have ever been a man, so I wouldn’t know the difference firsthand. But there’s a lot to like about knowing yourself, owning yourself and being part of a sisterhood of other women who hold one another steady as we’re teetering on the edge of sanity, women who help fill the table when we make time for ourselves, women who help us tell our story.

I’m so blessed to be a part of so many different groups of women. My family is full of them, for starters.

I’ve always been able to find solace in those in who share my DNA. I have a sister too. And that makes me one of the special women who experience that bond like no other. And I’ve got tons of sister-friends who rally, who wine a bit (we’ll feel better), who comment on dreary Facebook updates, text me or even tell me face to face the words, “You got this.”

And I see them share those words with each other in these same ways. And, in this busy world, in our somewhat radical 2012, when women are often the breadwinners, the movers and shakers, the traditional mother hens, the drivers, the do-ers, the center, these words mean so much.

You got this. You can do it. Trust your gut because it’s right. I’ve got your back. 

I know you all know how busy I must be, to let this blog slip to a new post only once a week or so. You know me well enough to know that writing grounds me. You know I must be fifty shades of crazy right now. You’re right.

And I’m trying to decide what the next three to six months look like. What do I need to be doing right now? Is the fact that I had chest pains yesterday a sign? Am I trusting my gut? Have I stopped long enough in the past two months to hear my gut?

I am seriously not sure where I, as a woman, want to be. Do I want to be in the binder? Do I have too many binders? Am I bound? (Get your mind out of the gutters, you Fifty Shades fans!) Seriously. I like the workplace. I like the homestead. I love the motherhood. Can I do it all?

Do I have this?

The truth is that I don’t know just yet. And the truth is, in spite of what our friends might say, we might not always get it. And that’s OK. I think what’s important here is that we believe we got this. And we should certainly be surrounding ourselves with women who tell us that, at the very moment we need to hear it.

You got this. Don’t worry. You rock. 

 

P.S. Sister Kim, we must take more pictures together. And Jessica, you are in so much trouble (with me.) We took our families to the beach together and didn’t get a single photo of the two of us. FAIL!!

Forward

There is so much to write about, but for now, I think I’ll write about how I was a part of history today when I got to see President Barack Obama speak at Ohio University, my alma mater and employer. Obama was the eleventh sitting president to visit campus and the first since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, more than 48 years ago!

And just yesterday I got to see our President debate with Republican candidate Mitt Romney on live television. How nice of him to then bring the show to Athens, no??

I took the afternoon off for the occasion and was in good company. My aunts Shel and Patti and my momma had lunch with me (there was pina colada) before we decided to get in line. The line was longer than I would have ever dreamt it would be. For those of you that might know campus, it started at the famous intersection of Court and Union Streets and snaked its way down the hill all the way to the Ping Center and beyond!  CRAZY!

Once we got moving, things were good. And we cleared Secret Service security with flying colors.

The place was packed, energy was high. Our first location was not so hot. We took turns holding cameras up to try to figure out just where on that wooded green was the podium. We finally ditched that location to find a better one, where I could actually see the President with my naked eye. My camera is not so good, and we weren’t close, so the photo below might be the best actual representation I have as to what I actually saw!

President Obama did not disappoint. We talked change and binders of women and coal and all kinds of other important things. I am so glad I got to see him, though I’m still jealous of my friends who met with him ahead of time and shook his hand! (!!!!)

We were the paparazzi. I love this Charlie’s Angel-esque photo of us. We are standing on unused metal fencing. Not the safest of stages, but a welcome vantage point!

Thanks so much for coming to Athens, President Obama. Come back any old time!!!