Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Half-ass

I have a confession to make. I am a half-ass kind of girl.  Not with everything, but enough to make into a list.  So I have compiled a list of all the things I half-ass (it's not a complete list as I didn't finish it).

MY BLOG  I love to write.  I like humor.  A year and a half ago, I envisioned combining these two loves into a blog that my family and friends would enjoy reading.  I would passionately update it every week with hilarious, insightful and sometimes touching essays on motherhood and life in general.  My writing skills would improve and I would captivate so many readers that I would become the must-read blogger of the year.  It was going to be that great.

UPDATE  I haven't written or even logged onto My Grass Is Purple since September.  It  has become like an embarrassing one-night stand.  It felt so right when the lights were off, but now I can't quite remember how we met, or why I left with its sweatshirt, or what I saw in it in the first place. 

LAUNDRY  I hate laundry.  I despise laundry.  I've mentioned this before but I feel it's worth repeating.  I loathe laundry.  However, every 4 months like clock-work, I come up with a plan to make laundry MANAGEABLE and FUN!  My motivation for this plan typically stems out of a sad little tantrum thrown by me, in the laundry room, and typically after a mound of dirty, pee-stained kid jammy pants, old cheese sticks and a spider or two fall onto my head.  But, right after this happens I become irrationally motivated to change my old laundry habits.  I put the baskets back on the shelves and am ridiculously determined to SORT my laundry into those handy baskets.  Then my brilliant plan is to do ONE load of laundry every day.  Upon hearing the buzzer on the dryer of the ONE load, I will immediately fold them and then (drum roll, please) PUT THE LAUNDRY AWAY into appropriate drawers, closets and baskets. 

UPDATE  Laundry is a practice best left to people with a solid inner peace, Olympic-style mediation skills, and a healthy diet.  I hate laundry. 

PINTEREST  I really don't understand this one at all.  But, I was invited to join and who isn't excited to be invited to join something, anything really.  When I got my invitation I felt how the girl in line for the hot new night club must feel when the bouncer eyes her and says, "Come on in, you'll do."  I immediately planned to find out what Pinterest was all about and master it.  I would pin everything cool and become known among the Pinterest crowd as the must-re-pin-pinner of the week.  I was going to rock it. 

UPDATE  Strangers are following my pin.  I have only pinned one thing.  I want to seem cool and stylish and appear as though I effortlessly pin forward-thinking ideas for room decorations, tree skirts and handbags that complete outfits.  But the Internet is so big.  People are commenting on the one thing I pinned and it's a stupid spaceship, rocket desk lamp thing.   How do I get uninvited? 

SEX AFTER 9 PM  Around 1 PM on a non mood-swingy PMS or Post PMS day, or a day where I had a really big lunch, and after a workout when I feel in shape and super duper sexy, I begin fantasizing of some evening fun with my husband.  I immediately text him my sexy plan and woo him with promises of marital bliss.  Babe.  Tonight.   Put kids to bed.  Have a drink together.  You and me.  Sexy fun.

UPDATE  It's just that 9:00 is so late.  After I text, the tick tock of the clock becomes loud and ominous.  I'm a spur of the moment, last-minute kind of girl.  This feels like a deadline and suddenly my mind becomes filled with all the things I have to do tomorrow...get up, make coffee, get kids to school, other stuff, and piles of laundry. And what if I feel bloated by then?  And isn't American Idol on tonight? And I'd rather shower now than later.  So  I will text back a new plan.   Babe.  Now. 

AND FINALLY, THE THING I HALF-ASS THE MOST AND TOPS MY LIST OF HALF-ASSEDNESS










Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chickens

Every six months I voluntarily open my mouth and allow my teeth and gums to be scraped, scrutinized, prodded, and sometimes photographed. I believe that the health of your teeth is largely due to genetics. My sister's teeth often fell victim to cavities. But my brother and I, who didn't brush our teeth any more than Jen, share three cavities between us. Luck of the draw, I say.

However, over the years I must admit a certain amount of smugness developed from my undeniable ability to defend my teeth against cavity bugs. I mean...from my hereditary luck. I would bask in the awe of my friends every time I could slip into a conversation that I had not one cavity, or as the years went by just one, or now at 37 only two. Then I would add that whole bit about it just being genetic luck while silently assuring myself that my toothbrush and I were yin and yang, Bo and Duke, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

And so I diligently scheduled my dentist appointments every six months since it was like turning in a paper that I'd already marked with an A. It just made me feel good.

About ten years ago, I started going to a new dentist. We'll call him Dr. Dentist. And with Dr. Dentist my run of "A's" was over. Along with my self-esteem.

At first everything was business as usual. During my first few visits I heard the expected, "Melissa, your teeth just look great! Such healthy teeth! There's nothing I can do for you!"

And then one cold winter day. My dental hygienist had just finished up and Dr. Dentist came in to take a look. I settled back in my chair prepared for the usual.

"Melissa! Your teeth are just so healthy. Just really great, those teeth! But, Melissa..." As he paused I stared wide-eyed at him. What more could he possibly have to say? "...have you ever considered braces?"

No, I had never considered braces. My teeth weren't terrible, but if I'm being honest, they weren't anywhere near being straight. Both my brother and sister had had braces as kids, but I did not. Maybe it's because my parents thought I was tough and could handle crooked teeth? I'd never really thought about it and honestly didn't think they were that bad.

And only two cavities...that had to count for something, right?

Dr. Dentist did not share my view. Over the next several years, Dr. Dentist ended every visit like this, "Melissa! Your teeth just look amazing. So healthy! There's nothing I can do for you. But Melissa....have you ever considered braces?"

On these same visits I'd also hear, "So you live in Bailey, right? All...the...way...out...in Bailey. You know, I almost bought a practice out there."

And as the years went by, "You know Melissa, you're not too old for braces. They have Invisilign now. Nobody would ever know. My wife had her teeth straightened when she was 40. Never too late."

But I assured myself that I wasn't so vain. So my teeth were a little crooked? That made me real, right? Until...

"Melissa! Really great teeth. So healthy! You know, you could hold on to those much longer if you considered braces. Have you ever considered braces? It's never too late, you know. Preventative care, really."

Hold the phone. Preventative care? I could lose my teeth earlier because they're crooked? I'm all about preventative care...I think. I excercise. That's super preventative, right? Why shouldn't I do the same thing for my teeth?

And on that day I surprised Dr. Dentist by saying, "Please, Dr. Dentist, tell me more about braces. I am interested!" I think Dr. Dentist nearly fell on the floor.

And so my Invisilign adventure began. I spent the next three and a half years straigtening my teeth. But straighten they did. And every visit to Dr. Dentist was met with a proud nod.

Today. My teeth are straight. I only wear a nighttime retainer to keep them that way. And I will hopefully hold on to these babies for the rest of my life. So last Tuesday I went in for my regular six month check-up. It's "A" time again. Straight teeth, still just two cavities. Could Dr. Dentist be more proud of me? I'm probably like his star pupil or something.

"Melissa! Your teeth just look great. Really, just so healthy! And straight!" I settle back in the chair. Ahh, things are back to normal at last.

"Did you drive all the way from Bailey today? Wow, Bailey! That's really out there. You're really in the mountains. How do you like living in Bailey?"

"Well, Dr. Dentist. You live in the mountains, too," I say with a small laugh as I point out the obvious.

He chuckles. "W-elll...kinda. But you really live in the mountains. You know, I almost bought a practice out there. Almost. I was really young then. But, you know," and here he gives me a conspiratorial look, "I just wasn't sure if maybe I would be paid in chickens, or something like that." He laughs loudly behind his mask.

Ok, whatever, make fun of where I live. Let's just get to the part where my teeth get that "A" I've been waiting for.

"Anyway, Melissa. Your teeth just look great today. Really healthy. But, Melissa....(aw crappity, crap, crap!)...have you ever considered whitening your teeth?"

"Um, not really. I did try once with some store bought kind, but it didn't really work."

He scrutinizes my teeth, scrapes one thoughtfully, polishes another with his gloved finger, then says compassionately, "Well, Melissa. It might take you two, three even four times to get them white."

Cavity smugness...obliterated. I give up.

"Okay, Dr. Dentist, I'll have them whitened. Do you take chickens?"










...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ten Years

Ten years ago I was waking up with a terrible hangover. The night before my best friend had gotten married. It was the last wedding of our small group of friends and we all celebrated like it was our own. My head hurt, my eyes were glued together and all I could remember was that I needed to catch a flight home that day. So I hurriedly packed my bag, yanked a brush through my next-day wedding hair, tried to scrape the mascara from my eyelashes and ran out the door to meet Sean.

I got back to Denver late that night and was up early on September 10 to get to work. That evening, I spoke to my friends and we laughed about our weekend, replayed the bridesmaid's dance number for the bride and groom, and promised to talk again soon.

The next morning I made coffee and began my 45 minute commute to work. While the early sun shined through my windows the always calm voices of NPR were giving me the morning news. And then everything changed.

First the reports out of New York. When the first plane struck, we had a few minutes to believe it was a mechanical malfunction gone nightmarishly wrong. Nothing more than a terrible, terrible accident. But as I listened in horror another plane torpedoed into the second tower. I sat alone in my car, surrounded by morning rush-hour traffic, feeling alone, angry and indescribably sad.

Then the Pentagon. And then Pensylvania.

When I was a child my parents could recall every detail of their day when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I only remembered it from video, pictures and in the memories of others. But they remembered what they ate, what they wore, who they talked to and where they stood at the moment they found out.

That is September 11 for me and everyone else who has shared in the memory of that day. Along with my co-workers, friends, family and strangers I cried for the terror of the men, women and children on the planes and in the buildings. I mourn for every person who lost a loved one that terrible morning. We all shared in the grief. But too many carried the burden of surviving it and moving on.

I was in New York this past spring with those same college girl friends. We are all married now with 12 children between us. While in New York we went to Ground Zero and visited St. Paul's Chapel. I walked around the 200 year-old church grounds and gazed through the beautiful trees and ancient gravestones to where the towers once stood. While the city lay stunned and hurting, this small chapel and so many volunteers provided shelter, comfort, relief, and love to the rescue workers and victims of that day. I stood in the cemetery and cried as though it had just happened.

Sunday is September 11 and it will have been 10 years since that day. But I remember it as clearly now as if it happened yesterday.

Did that day change me? Did that day change you? I know that it forever shifted my view of the world and my place in it. I am relieved that ten years have passed because we can allow time to blur the shock and horror of that day, but it will never be forgotten.

Today I wished my dear friend a Happy Anniversary and smiled as I recalled the wedding, my friends, the dancing, and all the laughter of the evening. There is so much good in our world. So on September 11, I will pray for peace. Peace for those hurting, peace for those who remember, peace for so many still angry.





.....

Monday, August 29, 2011

I want to hug J Lo

I watch American Idol. Surprised? Probably not. I'm pretty sure I fit one or two of the following audience demographics:

1. A 6 to 15 year old girl.

2. A mom, probably with girls who are between the ages of 0 and 15.

3. Someone who thinks they can sing but really can't.

Oh. And I also read the Twilight series, twice, and have seen each of the movies multiple times. But that fits the same demographic. Surprised? Probably not.

But my point is American Idol. I'm a fan. And with the judge changes this year I'm an even bigger fan. They are so nice. It's like one big lovefest.

And that lovefest is led by "she loves all contestants" Jennifer Lopez. So I have a confession to make. I have a girl crush on J Lo. Not the team switching kinda crush. The I-really-think-we'd-make-great-friends kinda crush.

I used to think that Angelina Jolie and I were going to be great friends one day. But reality hit home on that one. Other than being moms and thinking Brad Pitt is hot, we really don't have that much in common. So I've moved on. To Jenny From The Block.

But now she and Marc Anthony are getting a divorce. "This was a difficult decision," she told People Magazine. "We have come to amicable conclusions on all matters."

What? But you danced while he sang on American Idol! How could this happen so suddenly? That's okay, I'm your friend and I can support you on this.

But then I find out that she might not even come back as a judge on American Idol. In fact, I felt blindsided when I heard her say on BBC Radio, "I don't know. I haven't been forced to make a decision and I'm glad about that because honestly I'm very on the fence about it."

On the fence or On The Floor, J Lo? Which is it? Because if I'm being honest, I feel a bit used. I was ready to move on from American Idol and then you breezed in with your sweetness, honesty and really amazing hair and make-up and I stayed on for another season.

I'm beginning to think we don't have that much in common either.

So now I must find another Hollywood mom actress/singer/model to be my friend. You know, I've always felt a connection to Heidi Klum. She wears great shoes and I love a pair of great shoes.


...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rusty Nails

Something happened the other day.  Something that made me see my life through someone else's eyes.  

And oh crap, it wasn't pretty.

My neighbor came over to introduce me to her sweet little granddaughter.  Now, I don't live in a typical suburban, covenant controlled, landscaped neighborhood.  I live in a mountain neighborhood.  And when I say "neighborhood" what I mean is a collection of roads, some paved, most not, with houses.  And when I say neighbor, I mean the people I see once every few months if we happen to meet at the mailbox.

But I had run into Judy earlier in the week and she suggested we introduce my three kids to her granddaughter the next time she was up visiting from Denver.   In fact, her son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter would be up visiting the following Thursday.  Would that work?

Absolutely, I said.  Then I promptly forgot.

Judy called that Thursday.  Is now a good time to bring Alana over?

I looked around at the Mt. Everest size piles of clean and dirty laundry - who really knew what was clean at this point.  I gazed sadly at the floor turned faux shag carpet from the accumulation of dog hair and a sharp decrease of vacuuming behavior.  I couldn't even picture what the bathrooms looked like.

Yes!  I said brightly.  This is a great time.  Let's meet outside.  No way I was inviting them inside.  Outside I could pretend I was the owner of a meticulously clean and organized home that smelled like cinnamon and fir trees and not stale pee and unwashed dog.

As the kids and I walk outside, I glance quickly at them and breathe a thankful sigh.  They appear to be recently bathed, are fully dressed, which is literally amazing since my kids have started their own nudist colony, and even have shoes on.  It's a good day.

So I saunter confidently down the driveway to meet Judy and her family.  How very suburban of me, I think.  But as we are walking, my kids get distracted by a rock and before I know it they have overturned the rock and discovered a colony of little black ants.  

"Do these black ants bite, Mommy?"

"I don't think so, babe," I say half listening, focused instead on the family walking towards us and feeling quite smug as I think of my immaculate house and well-groomed children.

Then I hear giggles.  Slightly hysterical giggles.  I look towards the giggling.  And there, on their knees by the overturned rock are all three of my children.  Covered in ants.  Little black ants crawling all over their hands, arms, back, feet and legs.  My stomach turns slightly but then I envision how progressive I must look.  I am a cool, mountain mom who encourages her children to "experience" the world around them.  A progressive mom who (for all they know since we're outside) also has a spotless, straight from a magazine home.

Then I start to panic as I see the look of queasy horror on the face of Judy's adorable and very pregnant daughter-in- law.

I grab the kids and start swatting off the ants.  At least they still look clean.  "Hey kids, say hello to Alana!" I skillfully redirect.  "Let's show her the play set!"

When we get to the play set, I quickly look around and notice a number of inside items my kids have randomly relocated outside. A sock. A spoon. A nightgown. Underwear. I attempt to nonchalantly kick the items underneath the nearest chair and soon discover that this sweet couple does in fact live in one of those beautifully maintained, covenant controlled or die neigborhoods with the same length driveways and matching mailboxes.

This does not look good.

The girls jump on the swings and start swinging maniacally. The play set begins to creak and the higher they pump the more the entire structure sways dangerously. Our craigslist purchase looks tired, haggard and well past its expiration date. Again, I try to divert their attention away from my failings as a yard caretaker and play set fixer by asking her when the baby is due. Suddenly it occurs to me that it is 3:00 in the afternoon and I don't recall looking in a mirror all day. A quick hand to my hair suggests that perhaps I haven't washed it in a while either. I have been training for a triathlon and I did have a race that evening but still....oh, and I was also wearing my pajamas. Really though, some days, what's the point of getting dressed? Pajamas are just so comfy.

This couple did look very nice though. Clean and showered. Wow. Their daughter's hair actually shined in the sunlight. As I mentally determined to start showering more often and to get dressed before noon I hear,

"Mo-mmy!! Look what I found!"

"What's that, Ella?"

Ella stops swinging, lifts her hand up high to show off her find and says, "Another RUSTY nail!"

Aw, give me a break.







...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pink Ribbons

I have a friend.

A friend who is a daughter.

A friend who is a wife.

A friend who is a mom.

A friend who is a breast cancer survivor.

A friend who is a triathlete.

She is all these things and so much more. But she is not defined by breast cancer. She defines surviving breast cancer.

Ten years ago, when she was beginning her career, her marriage, at just 26 years old, Taryn felt a lump. It's probably nothing, she was told. You're too young.

I think everyone in her life remembers the day we got the news that it was cancer. But Taryn is strong. She is brave. And she faces most things in her life head on with realism, humor, and lots and lots of honesty.

One day I called her after a round of chemotherapy. "How are you feeling?" I asked delicately.

And in her most Taryn-like response she tells me, "I feel like I just got eaten by a bear and then shit off a cliff."

That is just one of the things I love about Taryn. You ask for the truth, you get the truth.

But she got through chemo and radiation and began the process of moving away from cancer and on with her life. And one of the challenges she decided to face was completing her first triathlon.

Why?  Many of us wondered.

Because I can, was her response.

And she did. Every summer, Taryn has completed a triathlon, sometimes two in one summer.  She has participated during pregnancies, while nursing and even when she had three little ones demanding her  attention. 

And still some ask, Why?

Because I can, she says.

At Tri for the Cure in 2010.




These days, breast cancer is not a taboo subject.  We talk about it.  We encourage each other to check ourselves.  We support the cause by walking, running, swimming, biking, giving.  We are affected by it personally through a friend or loved one or ourselves.  But sometimes a cause can become so well-known that its significance becomes lost. 











This summer we get to write 10 years, baby!!
And then you see a group of women in bright pink swim caps standing together on a boat ramp, the early morning sun glinting on the water, feet submerged, pulses racing, arms swinging, anxious to begin the race.  The importance of the event and the cause becomes clear again.  Some of these women, like Taryn, are years away from hearing the news, some have just learned, and others are at the end of rounds of treatment.  But all of them are standing there, getting ready to swim, then bike, then run...for a reason.


Because they can.  

This past Sunday, Taryn celebrated her 36th birthday.  And on July 12, just two weeks after her birthday, and 10 years after beating and surviving breast cancer, Taryn will participate in her first ever Olympic distance triathlon.

Taryn will laugh at me for saying this and think I'm ridiculous, but I think she's one of the bravest people I know.  Why?  Because she lives her life.  She isn't afraid to try something that probably scares the shit out of her.  Because, as she has said, how often do you get to do something for the first time?

I'm blessed to have you in my life, Taryn.  You make me laugh.  You make me try harder.  You make me lighten up when I get too serious.  And you remind me that the race is not about the finish line.  It's about getting to the finish line.  And all the experiences, challenges and fun we have along the way.



  



.....

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cousin Eddie

Summer in the mountains arrives s...l...o...w...l...y.  It seems to take forever. Then one day you realize that you've been wearing shorts more than jeans, even at night and voila! You know that summer has arrived. And with the arrival of summer comes camping.

Before kids, Max and I used to backpack and tent camp. And when I say "used to backpack and tent camp" what I mean to say is we went backpacking up a really, really steep mountainous incline once. It was fun but the lack of an ice cold beer at the end was kind of a mood killer. And once we even tent camped when Ella was a baby. It was okay but something about sleeping on the ground with babies and toddlers just killed the "camping is so fun and relaxing" spark.

So when Keira was born we knew it was our moment to sell out. You guessed it...it was time to enjoy the Rocky Mountains in a glorified tent-on-wheels. A pop-up.

With a new baby and a toddler, we didn't want to spend a huge amount on our new camping digs. We were budget conscious and just a little bit cheap. After a brief search of craigslist, we found our mobile dream mountain home.  A 1972 Starcraft camper for a whopping $500. It was older than us, had a floral pattern on the cushions that rivaled any Carol Brady dress, and was only slightly more expensive than the doll-size camper that comes with the "I love camping" American Doll. It was just our style.


This camper had been well cared for by its previous owners. Like a handsome older man, all of our camper's important parts were intact and functioning. And much like a young, energetic woman dating a handsome older man, we broke him. During our inaugural camping trip, the canvas which had survived through presidents, recessions, the Cold War, and the entire seasons of Seinfeld and Friends ripped in three separate places. Zippers which had zipped without fail for the previous 30 plus years suddenly became disabled and useless. Screens that had served past occupants well by denying mosquitoes, flies and bees access to the inner sanctum tore without warning.

After applying copious amounts of duct tape to all his tender places and affixing a large blue tarp upon the entire right side of the camper when threatened by a downpour, we stepped back, gazed lovingly at our camper and realized that the only right thing to do was to call him...

Cousin Eddie.  You know, Cousin Eddie?  That friendly, slightly embarrassing second cousin?  The one who dresses inappropriately, belches loudly, has little to no social skills, and shows up uninvited on your front door for a "visit?"

Clark: So, when did you get the tenement on wheels? 

Eddie: Oh, that uh, that there's an RV. Yeah, yeah, I borrowed it off a buddy of mine. 
He took my house, I took the RV. It's a good looking vehicle, ain't it?
 
Clark: Yeah, it looks so nice parked in the driveway. 

   Eddie: Yeah, it sure does. But, don't you go falling in love with it now, 
because, we're taking it with us when we leave here next month. 


And so our family camping adventures began.  We might not be the prettiest camper on the mountains (not pretty at all actually), but Cousin Eddie has served us well for over 5 years now.  He pops up on demand, the heater continues to keep us warm at night, the hail-damaged roof stays in the upright position at all times - even during an intense wind storm and most importantly the five of us sleep comfortably and warmly all night long.  

So now, every spring we hear the kids ask,

"Mommy and Daddy, we really miss Cousin Eddie....is it summer yet?"



Oh, yeah, it is. 







.........

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ode to Sam

I initially posted this back in January and am re-posting it today to honor our sweet furry family member, Sam, for one last time.  Last Wednesday night, Sam began having severe seizures all through the night.  By the following morning he couldn't even walk and we had to make the decision to let him go.  We are absolutely heartbroken.  He was 13 years old and he was a loving, sweet and loyal member of our family.  We love you Sam!!
 

You feed me when I'm hungry,
You keep water in my dish,
You let me sleep on anything,
Or in any place I wish.

You sometimes let me lick your hands,
Or even lick your face,
Despite the fact I've licked myself
In every private place.

You taught me how to come when called,
You taught me how to sit,
You always let me go outside
So I can take a ...........stroll.

I've been with you through oh, so much,
Through laughter and through tears,
I hope you live to be a hundred......
(that's 700 in doggy years!).

Author Unknown 

Yesterday morning.  
"Wo-of!"  Sam's low, hoarse bark begging to be let out.  It's early.  Like, dark early.  I stumble blindly to the door kicking legos, pull-ups, matchbox cars and pillow pets (damn you, gremlin-like spawning pillow pets!) out of my way.  

As I reach the door, squish!  I step, no, I should say I gave my foot a bath, in dog vomit.  Blah!!  The dog has thrown up...again.  In his defense, at least this time he aimed and succeeded at vomiting on the tile instead of the carpet.  Score for Sam! 

This February, Sam will be 13 years old.  Just to impress you with my quick thinking math abilities, that's 91 in dog years.  Sam is 100% purebred mutt.  If he were a wine, he'd be a 2 Buck Chuck - blended from unidentified and really cheap grapes but in the end just what you want.  

Eleven years ago as a starry-eyed newly wed, I went to the shelter to"just look" at the available dogs.  Now, Max did not grow up with animals in his home, while my house was a revolving door for dogs, cats, parakeets, fish, rabbits, hamsters and turtles.  We had been living in our newly purchased home for just a few months and it felt empty.  Homes come with dogs, right?  Well this one didn't and I needed to fix that.  So, while I had no intention of adopting a dog without my beloved husband's knowledge and input, I figured it really couldn't hurt to "just look."

Here's the problem.

I'm a ridiculous softy when it comes to homeless, lost, and/or abandoned animals.  It quite literally breaks my heart.  If I see an animal far from home I will stop at nothing to ensure its safe return to the loving family who is most certainly torn apart by the absence of their beloved pet.  Unfortunately, this has led me to once (possibly twice) save a dog from its own front yard.  In my defense, it was very heavily wooded and the dog kept following me.     

Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog;
but you're never friendless ever, if you have a dog.

Douglas Mallock 


That day at the shelter, I wondered around reading the descriptions of Buddy, Toby, Rover and Fido.  Each description assured me that this was the dog for me.  I was trying hard not to make eye contact with any of the dogs for fear that I would 
        1.) begin to sob uncontrollably and then be admitted myself 
        2.) adopt every dog in sight and live the rest of my life alone while I 
             bitterly morphed into Cruella De ville 
        3.) actually have to make a CHOICE as to which dog I wanted to bring         
             home thereby sentencing the rest of the dogs to premature death

Somehow, I met just one pup's eyes.  Sam.  And that was it.  I looked at him and he looked at me with these big, brown, gentle eyes.  His description said, "loving dog, family couldn't keep him, needs good home."  This was our dog. 

I talk to him when I'm lonesome like;
And I'm sure he understands.

When he looks at me so attentively,

And gently licks my hands;

Then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes,

But I never say naught thereat.

For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes,

But never a friend like that. 

W. Dayton Wedgefarth 

I did not bring Sam home that day.  Instead, I called Max and told him to stop by the shelter on his way home from the airport the next morning.  "Check out Sam, and see what you think."  Around 1 PM that day my phone rings at work.  It's Max.  He's in the lobby.  He has the dog.  

I run down the stairs and out to the parking lot to our car.  There is Max.  He's pale.  Kinda sweating.  And looking really annoyed.  He tells me that when I told him to "take a look at the dog" what I really meant was "adopt the dog immediately".  (He's not wrong.)  Unfortunately, as soon as Max starts the car and drives away from the shelter...Sam throws up...in the car...a lot. 

Since that day, Sam has been far from a perfect dog.  He has had accidents in the house, vomited more times then we can count, chewed gates, molding, and doors to pieces, and cost us large amounts of money in his health care and Motel 6 hotel bills.  There was even the time he dragged me down the side of a mountain and into our friend's hot tub in pursuit of a squirrel.  But none of that matters.

The dog barks backward without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.
Robert Frost

Sam is family.  He has watched us as we have navigated through the "what the hells" of pregnancy, newborns, and sleep deprivation.  He has been there when the kids were sick in the middle of the night.  He's gone for walks with me and the stroller skillfully avoiding tail entanglement with the wheels.  He has been nothing but our faithful companion during our childbearing years when, with the birth of each child, he gracefully took a step back.

So, yesterday morning.

My foot. Sam's vomit. Max silently cleans it up. We turn to Sam who looks at us with those gentle, brown eyes.  He's skinny these days.  It takes him a few attempts to get up from his pillow.  He moves slow, careful, like he navigates each step.  We go to him.  Pet his head, rub his ears.  Tell him he's a good boy.  And hope we have given him as much as he has so unselfishly given us.




....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The slow death of consistency and good parenting

Before I had my first baby, I had loads of theories about how to raise a child.  And I was super confident in those theories and how I would expertly apply them to my role as a parent.

I would boldly proclaim, "Children need consistency.  You just have to be consistent with your expectations.  You either pay the piper now or later.  So consistency is the key!"  I would often state this whilst standing on some sort of transparent soap box.

Watching Super Nanny only made me more obnoxious.  How could these parents not see how inconsistent they were being with their children?  No bedtime?  No rules?  No consequences for bad behavior? No sticker charts?  I didn't even have my first baby and I already knew more than these hardened parents of multiple children.

I was confident.  I was smug.  I already new the biggest secret to successful parenting.  And I was going to rock as a parent.

I love how life has a way of humbling us to teach the real lessons. 

When Ella was born, I read Baby Wise and intended to have a sleeping-through-the-night baby in just a few short weeks.  And because we were parents to just one baby whose every breath, movement and fart had our ever loving attention, she was sleeping through the night and in her own bed by 7 weeks old.

Pat, pat.  See, I would think to myself, it's all because we are consistent.  It probably had nothing to do with the fact that she would have done this all on her own anyway. 

Now when Keira came along, I was slightly more interested in my own sleep so she slept in our bed for the first 5 months of her life.  But that was just a blip, I assured myself.

In other areas, I was confident.   For example, when one of the girls didn't listen, I would patiently give a warning, then put the repeat offender in time-out. For Ella and Keira it worked like a charm.  Especially for Ella who was born to please.  

And when we would get together with our friends who had two run-around-in-circles-throwing-things-and-nearly-breaking-every-bone-in-their-bodies boys, I would look at the girls quietly coloring or putting a puzzle together while sitting down and think to myself, consistency really is the key.   

Pat, pat.  

And then Sawyer was born.  A boy.  A passionate, stubborn, only take yes for an answer boy.  A boy who at just 2 weeks of age threw his first full-blown temper tantrum, while swaddled, complete with foot stamping and if he could have spoken, talking back and probably cursing.  And all because I had requested that he take a nap. 


So Sawyer slept with us, in our bed and usually nursing all through the night for the first 9 months of his life.  And until the age of 3, we had spent most every night trying to convince him to stay in his bed when it's bedtime. Okay, so night-time consistency was out the window.  But I still had all my daytime tricks.  

Time-out, for example.  The sure fire solution to making your child repentant.  Or sticker charts, because what child doesn't love stickers?

Sadly, he never got the memo about staying put in time-out so he could deeply reflect on the actions that got him there.  I could not get Sawyer to sit on the time-out spot on the stairs for any length of time.  So I moved his spot to outside the bathroom door.  And I began locking myself in the bathroom.  He really hated that. 

He ate the stickers from the charts or flushed them down the toilet.  Since the charts never made a dent in his behavior anyway, I figured it really wasn't worth the effort and/or possible toxins from the stickers.

So here I am.  On the other side of consistency.  Sawyer is now 3 and I had convinced myself that when this day came, I would suddenly have a little boy who when I said, "No, Sawyer, please don't touch that" in my ultra calm, I-have-it-together mom voice, he would say, "okay, mommy."  

This really doesn't ever happen unless he just doesn't care.  And I lost my ultra calm mom voice years ago.  I actually think he might be allergic to the word, "No."  Oh, and also the words, "Not now, later or maybe." 

Don't get me wrong.  Sawyer is one sweet, big-hearted little boy just brimming with a charming personality.  He's got all the potential.  It's just the "accepting the things he's not allowed to do" that is the problem.  

Last week, we went to the pool for swim lessons where Sawyer has to wait for an hour during the girl's lessons before his begin.  I spend most of this time pleading, threatening, cajoling Sawyer to sit quietly and play with his cars.  He spends the majority of this time evading, tantruming, running or attempting to drown himself.  

So this time, I bribed him.  I told Sawyer that if he played quietly with his cars at the pool, I would pay him 25 cents for listening to me.  He did and I paid up.

Is this wrong?  To pay your kid to listen?  Am I teaching him the value of money instead of the value of listening and being good for its own sake?  WAIT!  Don't answer that.  I really don't want to know. Because, yesterday it also worked at the grocery store and I felt blissful, serene and once again in control.  

Different personalities call for different strategies.  I have learned so much from Sawyer.  Never judge others.  Don't be a smug parent.  Having one child cannot be compared to having a third.  Sometimes you have to do things for the good of the whole as opposed to the good of one person.  If you pay your kids for good behavior, you can also fine them for bad behavior.  And the biggest....boys are different from girls.  Really different.  Sawyer may be my biggest parenting challenge now, but I have no illusions that the girls will be the most challenging when they turn 13.  Ugh.

I don't have the answers.  I am probably making loads of mistakes.  I can be consistent but I am also inconsistent, quite frequently.  I have no doubt Super Nanny would give me her most disappointed British look. 

But I try...I try really, really hard.  




....
 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This is not my life

I'm going to New York City tomorrow.  A weekend with my college roommates and life-long friends.  The four of us.  No kids.  Just a beautiful place to stay and a city full of things to do.

This is not my life.  I assure you.  When we vacation, it usually involves a trip to Ohio, crying, whining, and fighting kids and a very long plane ride or cross-country road trip.  And sometimes a dog.   

But apparently, 2011 is just my year.  London, iPad 2, NYC....I guess next year I will go completely gray, break my other foot, watch my laugh lines become actual wrinkles, have to put up with the children calling me gimpy gran, and Max will be relocated to Kansas (not that there's anything wrong with Kansas.)

So I will enjoy the last bit of "This is not my life" and have some fun in the city with my girls.  Do you have these kind of friends?  The ones you have known longer than your husband?  The ones who knew you when you were a political science major and still liked you after every election?  The ones who came to Appalachian Poverty awareness rallies at 8AM on a rainy Saturday morning just to support your cause?  (Even when what they really needed was to be sleeping it off.)  

This will sound completely corny, but there was something magical about our years spent pursuing higher education together.  I'd love to say it had something to do with our academic amazingness, or study groups, or the library, or creating something very scholarly and groundbreaking, or anything like that.  But no.  No offense ladies.  We were all good students but it was something else entirely.

It was Athens, Tiffin Hall, the Dr., running, Halloween, step class, Friday nights, 1705, the gorilla, football ga...I mean watching the Marching Band perform, jello shots, Memorial Weekends, Grand Canyon spring break trip and not talking for 36 hours straight, Jeff Hill, Palmer Fest, food with our initials on it, Aztec shower curtain, exam week, Thursday nights, Cat's Eye, The Front Room, "It's me Franco!" Saturday mornings, laughing together, crying together, and gold bricks. 


We may not see each other every day, talk regularly, or keep up with the details of each others lives the way we used to, but there was something about those years that have stayed with me since.  A closeness that time, distance and lack of regular communication will never touch. 

This weekend will be fun.  To be honest, the four of us could literally have fun in a cardboard box.  All we do is laugh anyway when we are together.  It doesn't matter where.  And while I would totally be willing to hangout with them in a cardboard box in Kansas just to see them, I'm not-so-secretly thrilled that it will be in New York instead. 




....


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Coded Surprise

My blog has become like my journal.  My "daily" journal where I record all sorts of adorable, you must write that down things the kids have done, said or written in permanent marker on a window sill.

The journal where each entry begins with, "Wow, the last time I wrote in this I was still pregnant with my first baby."  I have the best intentions when it comes to the written word.  It's my follow-through that apparently never developed past a 2nd grade level. 

And now my blog is falling prey to my grade school inconsistencies.  But, I think all of that is about to change.  Ooohh, that sounded quite lofty.  I mean to say, it might change.  I think.  At least, I'm really optimistic that with a certain package I hope to receive in the next week, I will try really, really hard to keep up with my weekly posts. 

Here's the story.  It's my birthday on Thursday.  Woo-hoo for birthdays!  And Tuesday night I received a text message from my husband at 10:30 PM.  He's away on a business trip.

Check your e-mail.

Okay.  I run downstairs to check my e-mail.  What is he e-mailing me about that he couldn't just call me about?  Will he be traveling on business indefinitely?  Does he actually hate my new haircut?  Does he know about those cute tank tops I secretly keep buying every time I go to Costco?

Waiting for me in my inbox I see:
Subject:  Happy Birthday & Mother's Day

Inside this message is a code.  Perhaps you will find it, perhaps you will not.  All we can say is that we love you and appreciate everything you do for us.  Decipher the code and you will find your gift; it does not ship for one to two weeks.  

If you have already figured out what my gift was, please stop reading as I don't think we have anything in common.  For those of you still left, here's what happened.

"Hey babe.  I got your e-mail.  So, can you give me a hint?"

"No. You can figure it out.  It's all in the e-mail.  It's easy."

Does this man, who I have known for 17 years, know me at all?  I am not a code-decipher kinda girl.  I will take the most simple, straightforward puzzle and turn it into a complicated, tangled mess in my head.  These things just get under my skin and drive me batty.  For obvious reasons, I did not sleep well that night as the coded e-mail went round and round my head.  During one waking dream I fancied myself as a female Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.  I just let the words float around my head hoping they would suddenly fall into place, spelling out my gift.

That didn't happen.  So 7:30 AM, yesterday morning.  The kids need to go to school.  They need to eat breakfast.  Someone needs to brush their hair.  But all I can think about is that blasted e-mail and all the words.  It was maddening.  So I brushed off one hungry kid and called my mom.

"Help me, mom."  I pester her for help until the hungry sounds of my kids prompt her to hang-up the phone so I will feed them.

I ask one of my hungry children, "Hey sweetie!  Do you know what Daddy got Mommy for her birthday?"

Without even pausing, my 5-year-old looks me straight in the eye and says, "He got you a trophy of a running girl."  We are in serious trouble with that girl.  Making up answers is just way too easy for her. 

I stare at the e-mail, willing it to tell me anything.  It doesn't.  It says the same thing over and over again.  I send a text to Max,

7:29 AM   
Losing my mind.  Hint on how to decipher please, pretty please?

         Negative.  You can figure it out.

7:30 AM  
I'm not that smart, you meany. 

8:15 AM  
If I guess right, will u tell me?

        Yes, if you can decipher, it will be obvious. 

9:09 AM  
I'm going crazy. 

         LOL

My mom and sister have already advised me to give it a break and come back to it later. Since that is never going to happen, I am thrilled when my friend Heidi comes over for a visit.  A fresh set of eyes is surely all I need to crack this code. 

12:35 PM
Is this a clue that only I would recognize?

         No.  The clue is something we all did in grade school and it involved the 50 states.  Once you figure out what the grade school exercise was, then look at the e-mail again.

The 50 states?  Maybe a song we learned to memorize the states?  So I Google "grade school song to learn states" and spend 20 minutes singing the e-mail to the tune of Do Your Ears Hang Low?  Still nada.

As Heidi is studying the e-mail, I say brilliantly, "Maybe Max meant that song we learned in grade school about how a bill turns into a law!"

Heidi suddenly blurts out, "Capitals!"

"Right!" I agree excitedly.  "The bill goes to the Capitol, or something like that, so that means...."  I stop abruptly as I have no idea what that could possibly mean to the code.  But Heidi is furiously writing down letters,

I........P......A......IPA is not a word.  I know that much.  Too bad, she really seemed to be onto something.

I.......P.......A........D

Heidi jumps up and screams, "You're getting an iPad!  You're getting an iPad!!"

Just like a girl, I start jumping up and down, clap my hands and hug Heidi, all at the same time.  "Aaaack!!  I'm getting an iPad!  I'm getting an iPad!!"

It was a total girly girl moment.  You would have thought I was Kate Middleton on the day Prince William proposed.

But, it wasn't Prince William.  It was Max.  It was my almost birthday and almost Mother's Day.  It was a code decipher surprise thing.  And it was AWESOME!! 


      

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

26,000

When I taught my kids to count, we started with 1 then slowly worked our way up to 10.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!

It was always a big deal to get to 10.  Ten is a big number, double digits and all.  And as we cruised past 10 to all the other double digits, every number was significant.  I can still remember when each of my little ones would reach 20 for the first time.  At their young age, 20 was an even bigger number.  A number so full of other numbers it was too hard to understand what it really meant to be 20.    

In the aftermath of the tsunami, I feel like one of my kids learning to count.  Over 26,000 lives gone.  In a terrifying instant.  Thousands more hurt or lost forever.

26,000.

Who counts to 26,000?  Can I understand the significance of that number?  I hear it on the news.  I see the terrible destruction in the horrifying footage.  I know what it feels like when someone you love dies.

But 26,000 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends....strangers.  All at once. 

I have been trying to write this damn post for two weeks.  And I can't get any further.  I want to express with words how affected I've been by the tsunami and so much heartache in Japan.  And I can't.  I want to be profound, deep, and insightful.  I've been trying to write something with a conclusion, something with a point. 

But as a dear friend pointed out to me today, there is no way to wrap this up in neat little post.  It is heart-breaking, ugly, terrifying, unthinkable. 

Maybe all I want is to acknowledge those lives.  Acknowledge the loss.  I don't want to be hardened by the news and move on to the next current event, forgetting what happened to the Japanese people. 

So I think my point is this.  Take a moment.  Think about the communities lost.  Honor the people whose lives were taken so abruptly.  For those left behind still searching for someone they love.  If you can, give.  If you can't, just remember, even if just for a moment.  Have a moment of silence with your kids.  Pray that those who survived are given the strength to move forward.

And hug fiercely those you love.



....

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Store? London? Same difference

I'm pretty sure my kids think I'm at the store. 

On the Friday I left for London, I was ready for a dramatic good-bye.  I had been preparing for this moment.  Would they throw themselves on me, taking hold of each leg and an arm to prevent me from leaving?  Would their tears make me rip up my paperless e-ticket, throw my arms around them and tearfully admit that I'll never leave them?

After all, the trip was a big deal for our family.  Mommy was taking a two week vacation.  How would everyone deal with the fallout from this ground-breaking event?  We are a team.  We plan our days around each other.  And while I was gallivanting around London, I just knew their little hearts would be broken, feel abandoned...where was Mommy to tuck them in at night?  Where was mommy to read a story?  Where was mommy?

I was relieved when I left that morning because they were so strong.  They gave me enthusiastic hugs, wet kisses, and shouted loud "I love yous" while I was driving away.  As the car turned a corner I marvelled at the strength and resilience of children while I broke down and cried like a baby. 

But I knew the phone calls would be tough.  I got on the phone with my youngest who has been attached to my hip since he was a baby.  I steeled myself to sound strong and remind him of how much fun he was having with Mika and Pop. 

"Hiiiiiii Mommmmmy!!"

"Hi, baby boy.  I miss you.  I love you soo much." I'm sure this was difficult for him. 

"Hiiii Mommmmmy!!"

"Hi, buddy.  I really miss you.  Are you having a good time with Mika and Pop?"  I shouldn't have asked a question that would only remind him of my absence. 

"Hiii Mommmmy!!!"

"Hi back.  I miss you so much, little man."

"Where are you, Mommy?"

Here it is.  Answer with a strong mommy voice.  "I'm in London bud, remember?" 

There was a short pause.  Poor guy.

"BYYYEEEE MOMMMYY!!"

Oh, okay.  That went better than expected.  It's not like I want him to be sad. It's good that he can be flexible.  This means good parenting, right?

Yesterday, we got on Skype and video called each other.  Their sweet faces drove home the reality of how far away I am.

My oldest gives me a list of the things she's done since arriving at Mika and Pops.  "That's great, honey. I'm so happy you're having a good time."

"We are mommy, we really are.  And today we are going swimming!!"

Knowing how often I have to change our plans for some reason or another I say gently, "That sounds like fun, but remember that sometimes plans can change."

She smiles and says knowingly, "Well, Mommy.  Mika's plans never change."

She's not wrong.  Mika has a knack for sticking to a plan.  I, on the other hand, do change our plans around a lot.  But it sounded like she missed me and my crazy plan-changing habit, right?

My baby girl gets on the video call and we chat for a bit.  This separation would be challenging for her as lately she always breaks down in tears when her daddy leaves for a business trip.

So I focus on the positive bit about coming home soon and say, "I love you and can't wait to see you in a few days, honey!"

"Sure, mommy.  Or maybe we can just Skpe.  So, Skype ya later!!"

Perhaps it's not the kids who have been most affected by my absence.   It's me.  I miss my role more than my role misses me.  Because what I do best is not making great breakfasts, helping with homework, making beds or even reading a story.  What I do best, what Max does best, is to love our kids.  They are assured in our love.  So that when we cannot be right by their sides, they are more than okay.  They are happy and having fun. 

So even though I am thousands of miles away, to them it just feels like I went to the store. 




...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sleeping in London


Big Ben, Kids!

I've crossed the pond*.

(*please see below for american translations)

Solo.

Before the guilt of my decision comes slamming down I will say this first. 

I have had constant companions, wee yins by my side, attached to my hip, and glommed to my front, for the past 6 1/2 years.  I have cross-country road tripped with our bairns, travelled by planes and autos, been delayed for hours in dirty airports, and taken toilet stops for potty-training little ones in shady gas stations with a single light bulb swaying precariously above a dark shunkie.


A sunny day out with my sister,
the Scotsman and the sleeping babe
Haven't I earned one teeny, weeny trip to see my newly arrived, precious bundle of a niece?  A sweet baby girl who just happens to live in North London with my sister and Scottish brother-in-law?  Och-aye.

And so I spent the majority of last week battling the guilt of abandoning my kids for two weeks for the excitement of exploring an amazing city with my sister.  Granted, in the years since my first was born, I have only traveled away from them twice, each for three nights.  So after the thrill of purchasing my airline tickets, updating my passport and shopping only for essential items from The Buckle, the reality of what I was about to do sunk in.



I was not going to see my kiddos for 16 days and nights.  No bedtime stories, goodnight kisses, hugs to heal a hurt, help to end a fight, small hand to hold, precious nose to tweak.  I questioned my decision.  Could I really do this?  Would I just become a sobbing, childless mess?  Would I break down at the sight of another child with their mother?  Would holding my niece wrack me with guilt?

Could she be more adorable?
I'll tell you the answer although it doesn't make me sound good.

Yes I could do this.  And, no I'm not a mess.

I have slept through each night of my journey since Saturday night.  I have experienced no jet lag.  I have slept blissfull nights of sleep.  Brilliant nights of sleep.  Gorgeous nights of sleep.  And when my body and mind have had enough sleep, I awake each morning by simply opening my eyes, stretching, and langoriously climbing out of bed, making coffee and then drinking that coffee while it is still hot.

And I've had dinners out, eating at my own pace and leaving when I'm ready.  (My niece is a truly amazing, chill baby who was apparently born to please her parents and make their life easier.)  I'm exploring London by foot and enjoying absolutely every minute of my visit.

But my sister reminds me that it doesn't mean I don't miss or love my kids.  She's right.  I do miss them. Terribly.  In fact, I packed up that part of myself and put it in my internal carry-on until I can return to them.  Otherwise, I probably would be a mess. 

But, to all you moms out there.  It's good to have a break.  You deserve a break.  Even if it's just one night of sleep uninterrupted.  Or a night out with a friend or husband.  I will return home next week from holiday more refreshed then I have been for years.  Ready to jump back into my starring role as mom.

Sleeping, eating and drinking hot coffee is a reminder of the easy, relaxed days before our kid invasion, but it's not a substitute for all the moments since.  All the amazing sweet memories we have made with our brood. Laughing together at Daddy's monkey face, playing Blue 42 tackle, building a lego city, taking our first family hike that ended with loads of crying and a bloody knee, and even the road trips.

So, my guilt is gone.   Because taking time for myself is not a selfish thing.  It is only selfish if it's meant to make me happier in spite of all those I love.  I am happy.  I am content.

      
       But crikey, the sleep is gorgeous.     


Translations for the Americans 
Pond: the opposite of a stagnant pool of water, the Atlantic Ocean to be precise
Wee yin:  a small person, like a child or just something your brother-in-law calls you and it makes you feel like a small person all young and sweet
Bairns:  small children
Toilet:  as in "Excuse me but where are your bathrooms?"
Shunkie:  Scottish slang for disgusting public toilet
Och-aye:  Scottish for "Right", "Absolutely" Or "Yes, Melissa you really do deserve this trip, it's okay"
Abandoning:  dramatic way to say I'm leaving them with their loving father and doting granparents
The Buckle:  a store you must visit if you love jeans and want a personal shopper
Brilliant/Gorgeous:  An English way to say awesome or cool but sounds way cooler and
less surfer-like
Holiday/Hospital:  Same meaning, just said without the pesky use of "my" or "the"
Kid Invasion:  Not a British saying at all, just an obvious play on the American description of Beetlemania as in the "British Invasion"
Crikey:  A really fun way to say something

...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hippopotamus vs. The Bathing Suit

Children may be small, think fecal matter is fun to squish, and laugh hysterically at loud toots, but...sometimes they can be wise beyond their years and offer sage advice far beyond their vertical stature.

It's true. And often times, those insightful moments can be the most humbling few seconds of my day.

I am not a perfect mom. 


I get frustrated with small things.  
Spilled milk. 
Lost socks. 
Small feet that move slowly.  

Angry with learning moments. 
Fighting. 
Whining. 
Crying. 

I am an average mom. 
Laundry piles high above my head. 
I clean inconsistently. 
Some days I let the kids watch way too much TV. 
I seek out alone time when it would be an ideal chance to be with my little ones. 

I sweat the small stuff. 
I cry in front of my kids. 
I yell when I shouldn't.  
I can feel helpless, ineffective, a failure.  

I do one thing really well.  I love my kids.  I adore my kids.  But they are not perfect either.  Who wants to be perfect anyway?  It's our imperfections, our ability to recognize our flaws, that makes us real.  It makes us humble.  It makes us better....better moms, dads, kids, people.

When I have a "could have been a better mommy" moment, I say I'm sorry.  I swallow my pride, go to my kids, hold their hands and say, "I'm sorry. I should have tried to use my patience.  Just like I ask you to do.  I'll try harder next time."  And they say, "Mommy, you don't have to be sorry.  You are a great mommy, the best mommy.  We love you so much." 

Their capacity to love and to forgive is breathtaking. 

Yesterday, Max and I took the kids swimming.  It was one of those family days.  The kind that build memories.  We had just submerged ourselves into the lukewarm indoor pool water.  It was cold.  Indoor pools always are.  My 4-year-old baby girl immediately says, "I have to poop."  Of course.

I take her hand and we climb out of the water and shake, shiver and chatter our way to the locker rooms.  I help her pull down her suit and we wait while she quickly does her business.  I am so cold.  I just want to get back in the pool and continue making family memories.  So, I try to hurry it up by quickly pulling her suit back on.

Unfortunately, wet bathing suits do not go back on "quickly."  It is a slow, laborious process of inching the suit back on. And the cheaper the suit, the longer it takes. 

My patience begins to slip. Maybe it's that time of the month.  Or the fact that my blood is freezing in my veins.  Or the fact that my precious middle child is the one who is never in a hurry. The one who often counteracts my attempts at hurrying her by swinging on door knobs when we're late for the bus, or changing her shoes, shirt and hairstyle when everyone else is waiting in the car. 

I start to yank the suit back in place and exasperated say, "This is so hard!"

She looks up at me with her beautiful, brown eyes.  "You are so right, Mommy.  This is really hard.  But not as hard as picking up two hippopotamuses."

I stop my fruitless tugging.  She is so right.  Really, not much in life is harder than picking up two hippopotamuses.  I hug her fiercely.  Tell her I love her.  Then gently begin pulling the suit back in place, like I would a pair of nylons.  It really wasn't that difficult.

Hand in hand, we walk back to the pool, shaking, shivering and chattering.  And filled up the rest of our day with the kind of memories that make up a family.


...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Due Diligence and the Ski Lift

I recently found myself on a ski lift.  It was a Friday and I had been given a rare gift.  My mom had graciously offered to watch my two youngest so I could enjoy a day of skiing.

Just me.  And a friend.  No children.  Instead of driving our sticky, gooey, smelly mom-mobiles, my friend picked me up in her sporty little jeep.

We loaded our skis, kissed the kids goodbye, felt a momentary pang of guilt (not really, but it makes me sound better if I did) and set off for the slopes.  We talked the whole way without a single interruption of....

"Mommy, he's annoying me!" 
or 
"Take your fingers out of my nose." 
or 
"Gross!  Is that poop?" 
or 
"I'm hungry." 
or 
"Are we there yet?"

It was heaven.  And that was just the car ride.

So there I am on the lift sitting next to my friend and another skier who had joined us from the single's line.  We begin the friendly banter that usually happens on a lift.  Perhaps it's because you're dangling many feet above a slippery slope in a lawn chair, or the fact that you can't feel your lips so you figure talking will help, but we exchanged the usual pleasantries with our new buddy.

"Beautiful day isn't it?" he says to us.

"You bet!" I say enthusiastically, still on my mom-vacation high.  "We are so lucky to live here and to be able to enjoy the mountains like this.  It's just great!"

"Are you from around here?" he inquires politely.

"We're from Bailey," I answer and wait for the usual response of Bailey? Where's Bailey?

"BAILEY!" he says enthusiastically.  "I've been there once.  Huh, Bailey! That's pretty far out there."

The conversation lags for a minute as our lift friend digests this curve-ball of a discovery.  I know what he's thinking.  Who actually lives in Bailey?  Is there even a grocery store in Bailey?

"So what do you do out in Bailey?  Do you both teach...or something?" Our incredulous confidante asks.

And here it is.  The answer I have struggled with since June 2006.  The dreaded stay-at-home mom answer.  I have never been able to simply say, "I'm a stay-at-home mom!  That's what I do!"  I usually feel the need to blurt out that before my current occupation of rearing the future, I had a job as a fundraiser and before that completed my masters and before that went to college.

And then I just sound like a pompous jerk.  The problem is that I never intended to abandon my career goals and stay at home to raise the kids.  I'd always wanted children but I wasn't worried about the nitty gritty details of how they would be raised.  I was going to graduate and save the world or at the very least, use my education and be really successful.

But when the babies came along it just seemed like the right thing to do.  I couldn't bear the thought of not spending these precious years with each teeny, tiny, swaddled infant that came along.  It was not always an easy decision to live with.  In the early years, it felt like I had abandoned my education and career in favor of spit-up, potty talk, seclusion, laundry, dishes, fights, tears, and just a dash of hormonal craziness.

As the years have passed and my youngest is now three, the fog has cleared enough for me to gain a bit of perspective.  I look terrible on a resume.

But I have a theory.  When I am ready to return to work, I will make an ideal employee.  And not just me.  I believe that most stay-at-home moms who return to the workforce are ideal candidates.  While I may not have attended the latest training in my former field, stayed ahead of the technology curve or know when it's appropriate to Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, text, IM, video chat, get LinkedIn, or just make a phone call, I have developed an acute sense of self-awareness.

Moms are moderators, peace-makers, cheerleaders, confidantes.  We are accounting, HR, program coordinators, support staff, and co-COO.  We have to make hard and fast decisions that affect those around us.  We know where we excel and we are only too aware of when we fail, but we do both with a sense of pride and humility.  When the going gets tough, we can't quit. (Although I was fired once by a 5-year-old.)  We push through the most challenging of times and bask in successes always with an eye on how we can do things better.

We work well in a team.  We can say no.  And we are always learning and willing to try new approaches if the old one doesn't work.   

With this revelation, I have finally overcome my hesitancy to answer the dreaded, "What do you do?" question.  The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue, and my skis are just itching to hop off this lift and navigate down the mountain.  So, I turn to my new snow chum and answer with conviction,

"I am a stay-at-home mom.  What do you do?"  There.  I said it.  That felt really good.  It doesn't matter the title, I am a competent, smart, capable woman who will one day be a true asset to the work force.   

"Oh, well I'm a consultant," he says with vigor.  "My focus is working with companies to make sure they do their due diligence...."  Here he pauses and gives me a questioning look.  I wait expectantly and give him the universal "go on" nod.

"Do you know what due diligence means?" He asks rather slowly, placing emphasis on each syllable.

Right.  Guess I should have mentioned my college education. 

      

 ....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cold Season Mothering


Health Alert:  If you have had a winter void of snot, juicy coughs, runny eyes, fevers, etc. etc. etc., please do not make the following statement out loud, "We've been really healthy this winter.  Maybe it's all the vitamins we're taking, but we just don't seem to catch any of the crud going around."

Upon making this statement, germ central will sound the Code Green alert and send a platoon of militant, disease laden germs your way.

Case in point:  We just spent a lovely ski weekend at a condo with two other couples and eight children.  Many of the children were hacking like life-long smokers.  My friend said, "Our kids have those rotten colds that are going around.  Take this vitamin and hopefully you won't get it too."

I confidently declined the vitamin while smugly saying, "We've been really healthy this winter.  Maybe it's all the vitamins we're taking, but we just don't seem to catch any of the crud going around."

Payback's a bitch.

I had a LASIK follow-up appointment yesterday.  So I went, with two of my hacking, dazed-looking children in tow.  When I first walked in, a few of the waiting seniors gave me the "what precious, well-behaved children you have" look.  And they really were...precious AND behaved!  Of course, this strange behavior could be attributed to the fact that the ibuprofen had worn off causing their fevers to spike, which in turn made their painful ear infections painful again.  They were just quietly miserable. 

I took them to the chairs farthest from anything breathing.  They sat down and began to play quietly.  For a blissful moment, I appeared to be a mother in complete control of her children.  I could just imagine what the sweet, white-haired grandma who admired us from afar was thinking.  She was probably wondering why her daughter, Jan, wasn't more like me.  Jan always allowed her young ones to run around screaming and throwing disgraceful public tantrums.

At that moment, it felt really good to be compared to Jan.  But, as all seemingly perfect mom moments must end, mine soon did.

In unison, both children started coughing.  A loud, wet, endless cough.  You could actually  hear the contagious droplets being expelled with each juicy hack.  And not just once.  It was like the Hallelujah Chorus of coughs.  They started out coughing beautifully together.  Soon it became a coughing harmony.  If I hadn't been so horrified, I might have been impressed with how wonderfully they complemented one other. 

I tried the "dutiful mother determined to mentor her children on public health issues" tract.  "Children," I said calmly and in one of those really high, daycare provider voices.  "If you have to cough, please use your sneeze catchers."  And then I demonstrated by delicately "ah, ahing" into the crook of my arm.

The children looked up at me, eyes streaming, noses red and running, the snot collecting in the dimples on their chins.  They looked around them, apparently realizing for the first time that they were in a waiting room filled with people.  Then, as if their moves had been choreographed, they stood up, faced the room of sweet-faced vision-deficient people and (very loudly),

coughed and spewed,
              coughed and spewed,
                            coughed and spewed.

I could hear quiet gasps of horror from those sitting closest.  The squeak of chairs rang loudly as they were frantically relocated from ground zero. 

Immediately, Jan's judgmental mother shot me the "why aren't you at home with your sick and disgusting kids instead of out in public infecting poor, innocent, healthy souls" look.  Sweet grandmas can say a lot with just one look. 

Fortunately, at that moment I hear, "Melissa, we're ready for you."  I grab my two coughing and spewing kids and shuffle quickly to the exam room.
  
The moral of this story:  
If your kids are sick and you need to go out in public where people will judge you, tell everyone you're the nanny. 


....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Parenting Alert!!! Honesty is not always appropriate for children

"Mommy, did you know that when babies are born they have blood all over their eyes?"

I paused, put down the Junie B., First Grader book I was reading with a theater-worthy performance, to glance nervously at my 6 1/2 year-old daughter.  It was bedtime.  We read stories, talk about our day, say our prayers and kiss goodnight. And sometimes discuss the big questions in life.

"Where did you hear that, sweet pea?"  I ask, fingers crossed, hoping that by this time she has forgotten what she said.  Kids do that, you know.  There have been many times when I'm in the middle of an amazing answer to a big question, when I notice their eyes have glazed over.  That's when they look at me and say something like, "I really love everything green.  Please stop talking now, Mommy."

But not this time.  She was sitting there expectantly, waiting patiently for an answer. 



"Well, maybe honey.  But when you were born the doctor cleaned you right up and by the time I held you in my arms you were blood-free."





There.  That should satisfy her for now.  Pat, pat.

"How do babies get born anyway?"

Crappity, crap crap.   I have two options here:




1. I can spin a tale about that long-beaked slightly creepy stork who delivers babies wrapped precariously in pink or blue blankets.  But has any child in the history of children really believed that one?  Santa, I get.  But a flippin' bird?  Delivering babies? 


2. Or I can tell her the G rated truth.  In fact, a friend of mine had just recently shared that when her kids ask the big life questions, she just tells them the truth.  That is so 1970's cool.  I consider this option and already feel like that groovy parent who can always be counted on to give their kids the real "skinny on the deal."



So I take a deep breath and begin, "Remember the scar on my tummy?"  She hesitantly nods her head.  "That is how you came out of mommy.  It's called a c-section."

"Okay.  But did I climb out?"   

Oh boy.  I start to get fidgety.  Time for honesty parenting. I take another deep breath and begin. "All right, here's how it happened.  The doctor takes a scalpel, which is like a really sharp knife, and cut open my stomach.  Then he reached in, pulled you out, wiped you off and handed you to me.  It was one of the best moments of my life." I finish with a nostalgic smile on my face.

I turn to my little girl.  It was really wonderful to share something so real yet touching with her.  But she is staring back at me, eyes wide open, chin trembling, mouth open in a silent horror movie scream.

I frantically begin back-pedaling. "Oh, baby.  Wait a minute.  You think it hurts, don't you?" Tears are beginning to fall from her once-innocent blue eyes.  I take that as yes.

"It doesn't hurt at all," I assure her confidently.  "You see, before they took you out they gave mommy loads of drugs that made me feel numb and super happy.  I couldn't feel a thing.  But...ah...don't do drugs."

Impressive parenting talk.  Pat, pat.  I was just totally real and truthful with my daughter AND I advised her on the downside of drugs.  

"Mommy," she says in a trembling, tear-filled voice. "I don't want to have babies, ever, ever, ever. Can we ask God for me to never, ever, ever have a baby?"

No, no, no.  This is going so wrong.  I've just gone from loving, truthful parent to demon bringer of horrific news and I've just convinced my daughter to never have a child.  I'm actually terrible at this. They should really make people pass a test before they become parents. 

We sit there in silence for a bit as I hold her.  Then she says in a small voice, "Is the knife actually very soft?"

Screw honesty.  "Absolutely.  Very soft."

"Is the knife more like rubber?"

"Definitely.  Just like rubber....and you know what else?  On the day you were born, a big beautiful stork flew you to our house in a pink blanket and safely delivered you to mommy and daddy."

And now that her world had been set straight again, she happily snuggled closer to me and as she was falling asleep she mumbled, "That's what I thought in the first place.  You can be so silly, Mommy."


....