Sunday, November 30, 2008

Things Really Aren't That Bad

I spend a lot of time, though not as much as I should, writing this blog. Much of it is dedicated to all of the crazy ups and downs that come with being a parent. I am blessed to have three times the craziness to write about. My life is a complete mess sometimes. My house is a zoo most days. I have vomit and snot stains on more of my clothes than I care to admit. All my underwear have holes in them. I haven't had a decent haircut in 3 years. Sometimes I am so distracted that I wonder if my posts even make any sense. And, as you may have seen in some of my previous posts, I have been known to not so shamelessly leave the house in various stages of disarray.

And I freely admit all of these things to you on any given day. And you read about it. And you respond to it. You post comments, and send emails, and you tell me that you understand, that you commiserate, and that you care. I can't tell you what that means to me. I am so grateful to all of you.It is not easy to put your own shortcomings out for the world to see. To make a joke about the chaos of your life. But I can not tell you how freeing the experience of writing this blog has been for me. Nor can I express how grateful I am to everyone who has taken the time from their own chaos to read about mine.

With the holidays coming up, and the very likely possibility of me moving over then next month, I may not have as much time to post as I normally do. However, I hope that you will continue to read here, while in typical mommy fashion, I continue to do dumb things everyday and prepare my children for a lifetime of therapy visits.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saying Goodbye

So, after four years of living in the great state of Texas, we are finally moving home to Canada. It looks like the song "I'll be home for Christmas" really rings true for us this year. And while I have been longing to go home for a while, it's a little bittersweet really.

The boys have made some really great friends here, and it seems so cruel to pull them out of school half way through the year. And then moving during the holidays is going to mean that this is a VERY modest Christmas for them. Plus, this is truly the only home Ryker knows.

But then I remember the great things: the boys will be close to their cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. I will too, be near my mom, siblings, nephews -- something I've been sorely missing.

Not really sure where I'm going with this post, and I know that is so not typical of this blog. But I'm really at a loss for what to say. There's a lot I will miss, but I'm so happy to be going home.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Thursday Thirteen

In honor of today being Thanksgiving here in the USA, I am going to list 13 things that I am thankful for.

1. God (and by extension Freedom of Religion) Because with out Him nothing is possible, but with Him nothing is impossible.

2. My children. Three of the absolute most wonderful boys a mother could ask for.

3. My husband, who is my best friend, my confidante, my sounding board and my protector.

4. My parents without whose love, guidance and patience, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

5. My friends -- girls who I swear are more like sisters to me than friends. People I know I can share, laugh and cry with about anything under the sun

6. Music -- it is such a huge part and a great influence in my life. How truly dreary this world would be without music.

7. My relatively good health and my recent desire to keep myself that way

8. My talents.....which I thank God every day for giving me and allowing me to share

9. My grandmother -- who although she passed away 9 years ago, is still a very strong influence in my life. She was an amazing, wonderful, strong woman. I only hope I can live to be half the woman she was.

10. My freedom -- to live, love, worship, think and BE any way I chose.

11. The power of forgiveness, repentance and the plan of salvation.

12. Technology, which allows me to keep in touch and reaquaint myself with family and friends who are not nearby.

13. Hope -- for without it there is no drive to achieve my dreams

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The (In)Humanity of Motherhood

Most of you know that my boys are no longer babies. These days, those tentative baby steps toward independance have become giant clumsy strides and the comfort of "someday" has turned into the realization of "all too soon". But despite that, I'm really, for the most part, enjoying the freedom of having semi-independant children.

I don't feel anything except relief when I see a young mother pushing a 400lb. stroller and carrying a diaper bag the size of a small frigidaire. I don't miss planning my life around naptimes. I do not remember those late night feedings with fondess.But I do miss certain things.

There was a time when my boys thought I was the cat's meow. They thought I had all the answers. And not just any answers...the right ones. They thought I could save the world. They thought I was invincible, immortal, omnipotent. I liked being adored. I did not like slipping back into the ill-fitting skin of ordinary. And now, I find, that my children can humble me without the slightest bit of effort or even, sometimes, awareness.

The other day, Drew and I were in the car running an errand. He was fiddling with my iPod to find a song by Chris Daughtry, for whom he has developed quite an affinity. Out of nowhere he asked, "You think he's hot, don't you?"

Why lie? I thought.

"Yep." I said.

He snorted.

"What???" I demanded

"Mom. He is SO out of your league."

I made a strangled sound of outrage. "Dude. That hurts."

"You're a MOM" he said emphatically, "You're not supposed to be hot."

"Hey. I? Am hot. I can get guys."

He snorted again and added an eyeroll to emphasize his point. "Yeah. Guys like DAD".

Gee, that's all right. I didn't need my self-esteem anyway. No really, I was done with it, seeing as how I was apparently rendered asexual by your birth.

Moms of toddlers...cherish their admiration. Because one day, your sweet, adoring child will look at you with embarassment, pity and chagrin. They will push you away, and then return; remorseful, hungering, confused. They will need you, and they will need you to let go. And you will never know at any given moment, which is the right thing to do. Inevitably, you will choose wrong, and find yourself hitting a glowering wall of resentment.

And sometimes, they will say horribly insensitive things without knowing how it twists like a knife in your guts, making you gasp with regret and longing for the person you thought you were; the person who can't exist in the same time and space as mother-you.

Do I really want to go back to the desperate, consuming symbiosis of infancy and toddlerhood? No. I really don't. I just want autonomy to hurt a little less. But I know that it can't and so I arm myself against the emotional arrows so carelessly slung by my children.

Someday, when my sons whisper their secrets to another woman, and walk through life with their hearts clutched tightly in the fist of their own child, perhaps they will see me for the woman I was underneath the motherhood. Mabye they will find a small measure of understanding for the joys and the heartaches of raising them and surrendering myself.

Until then, I exist in a weird sort of sexual limbo. Neither lover nor woman, but only mother. But that's okay. I'd rather be stripped of my sexuality than suffer my children to witness my nakedness, literal and figurative. I'd hate for them to see my funbags and my undercheeks on the cover of every gossip rag when we go to the grocery store. Can you imagine what Pamela Anderson's kids live with?

Then again, I don't suppose they dispute her ability to bag Chris Daughtry.

Oh, the humanity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Wisdom of Floyd

The boys and I are huge YouTube fans. We love to browse for funny or interesting videos. Like any new internet venue, it's quickly becoming overrun with spammers and teenyboppers, er..I mean...tweenagers...but you can still find just about anything you could possibly think of...Schweatty balls, men in knee breeches, and nostalgia galore.

Last night after dinner, we were gathered around my computer watching our latest "can't stop singing that song" music videos. Mine was "1234", a choice that was not looked upon with favor by my boys. Andrew chose "Thanks for the Memories", a tune to which we all knew the words, and bobbed our heads in unison. When it was Randall's turn to choose, he asked to see the video for a song he had heard on the radio, but he didn't know the name, only the artist. Pink Floyd.

"How does it go?" I asked. "We don't need no education. We don't need no sound control" he sang. Then he quoted what was inarguably his favorite line in the whole song loudly, and with great gusto. "HEY TEACHERS! LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE!!"

I couldn't help but smile. If ever there was an anthem written for Randall, that would be it. I pulled it up and played it for them. And then the questions started. "Why are their faces like that?" "Why are they going to school in a factory?""Why are they jumping into a meatgrinder?""Why is he hitting that kid? Teachers can't do that!""Why are they breaking their desks?"

Pffftttttt. I tried to formulate a response that would satisfy their curiosity without overwhelming them with a lot of details they couldn't process or understand. I paused the video and launched into what I hoped was an accurate and straightforward explanation. " see...this whole video is just one big social commentary." I lost Randall right there, but Andrew looked intrigued."Really? About what?" he asked.

"Well, different people have different interpretations. Some people think the it's a metaphor for a tryannical government that wants to deny the people free will and the right to voice dissent.""Hmmmmm." he said. He still looked interested, so I gathered he was following me."Other people think it's about a society that values conformity rather than individuality, and how it encourages people to follow blindly rather than thinking for themselves. How it's completing squelching any inclination or desire to be different."

Randall piped in to ask once again why their faces were like that. "The masks hide their identity so that nothing about them is distinguishable from the others. It obliterates their humanity. They become, just "another brick in the wall". Randall didn't get it. At 8, he's still very literal minded. "Are their faces all burnt or something?" Andrew rolled his eyes. "Their faces aren't burnt, duh. Mom just told you why they're wearing masks.""I don't get it." he said, clearly nonplussed about it. "Honey...if you look at the bricks in a wall...are they different from one another? If you took the bricks out of the wall, and mixed them all up in a pile, would you know which one was which? I saw the realization hit his eyes. "OOOOHHHHHHHH! The KIDS are the BRICKS. They're mad because they don't want to be all the same. They have ideas and stuff." "YES!!" I exclaimed, startling him a little. "But it could be just about kids who don't like school, couldn't it?""

Sure. It could. Sometimes, a songwriter wants the the listener to interpret the lyrics in their own way." "I think it's about that." "Then it is."He looked extraordinarily pleased with himself. And so, in a manner that I'm sure Pink Floyd never really intended, (unless the pop culture academics are wrong and it really is about a kid who hates school) "Another Brick in the Wall" became Randall's ode to academic disillusionment and malcontent. For became something different. It became a really salient example of the undeniable power of such a medium. It appealed to him and impressed him.

"Damn" he said quietly. I gave him my best displeased mother look. "Sorry Mom. But geez....that's just.....brilliant."I assure you, he was in reference to the song lyrics and their metaphorical prowess, not my philosophical grandstanding. He got it. That's really cool. But it's also kind of bittersweet, because it seems like just yesterday that I had to explain to him why we don't eat boogers.

And I know that it won't always be so easy to answer his questions or impress him with my insight. Pink Floyd = Cake Walk. God help me when he wants to discuss Nietsche or Proust.

Disclaimer: The above conversation with Randall has been abridged in order to preserve the sanity of the reader. Let's just say, the kid knows how to pummel a dead horse with remarkable efficacy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Today I am going to share 13 tips with you. You will probably wonder how you ever lived without knowing about these before.

1. Peel a banana from the bottom and you won’t have to pick the little “stringy things” off of it. That’s how the primates do it.

2. Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

3. Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

4. Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

5. For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.

6. Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.

7. To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.

8. Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold.

9. Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy microwaved pizza.

10. When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

11. To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

12. Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.

13. To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn’t hurt the plant and the squirrels won’t come near it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our Own Worst Critic

So, lately I've noticed the scale dwindling in numbers after climbing back up in the early part of the fall. This summer while I was up in Canada I lost almost 15 pounds. It was awesome.....until I came home and gained it all back. Well lately, the stress of our life, and not hving the money to eat out everyday, I'm back down another 9 pounds again. I should be happy right?

Sigh, I guess I really am a woman. After this latest "victory" on the scale, I stripped and stood in front of the bathroom mirror with a tape measure, trying not to notice that the phalanx of glaring lights illuminated every blemish, ripple and roll. I stared down at my toes to avoid looking at my midsection, and sighed in resignation as the dialogue of scathing self-criticism commenced.

Me: Holy Crap, we have some wide-ass feet.

Myself: Hm. I don't believe we have ever seen anybody else with perfectly square feet.

I: Somebody should call Guiness.

Me: We probably shouldn't paint our toes that particular shade of coral, then.

Myself: It does sort of draw the eye downward, doesn't it?

I: Well at least that takes the focus off of our knee bulges.

Me: Those are hereditary!

Myself: Nods

I: Hereditarily FAT.
Me: I'm really more concerned about our saddlebags.

Myself: We were just born curvy.

I (incredulously): Those aren't saddlebags, those are freaking foot lockers. You could store rations for an entire platoon in those things.

Me: least our stomach doesn't look too bad...considering.

Myself: Noooooo, but it could use a little toning.

I: Ladies...navels are not supposed to be FLUTED.

Me: It's not FLUTED! It's just a little...tired.

Myself: Girls, girls, it looks fine. At least it's still an innie, that's something, right?

I: Sure, if you think that makes up for the fact that it's three inches lower than it used to be.

Me: Well, it doesn't matter, nobody sees it anyway. And hey...the girls still look pretty good for our age.

Myself: Yes, they really do.

I: You two do realize that headlights are supposed to point straight ahead, don't you?

Me: Well they do...mostly.

Myself: Except when we sit down.

I: Or stand up. Or bend over. When the headlights on the car point different directions like that Husband takes it in for an adjustment.

Me: You think we need an adjustment?

Myself: Like surgery?

I: No, certainly not. We're perfectly okay with wall-eyed nips, right?

Me: Well, we do prefer to age gracefully.

Myself: Right. We believe in women looking like real women.

I: Real women with fluted navels and wall-eyed nips. I'm sure it will be all the rage soon. Hef oughta be calling any minute now.

Me: Why do you always have to be so negati....HOLY FREAKING COW what is that?!?

Myself: It appears to be a whisker.

I: Why are you freaking out? We've been dealing with chin hairs since we turned 30.

Me: Yes, but that one is like FOUR inches long! How could you let us walk around like that??

Myself: It's not really four inches long. Maybe two.

I: chin hair does not a beard make.

Me: Where is that damn TWEEZERS?? I swear if Ryker used it to fish legos out of the toilet again I'm going to wring his neck.

Myself: Here it is. Remember? We were plucking our eyebrows in the bathtub.

I: While we're at it, maybe we should do some maintenance on those nose hairs.

Me: Oh geez...not nose hair. Anything but nose hair.

Myself: Well, it's really only one nose hair. That shows.

I: It only shows when someone is looking straight up our nose. Get a grip.

Me: Well....I think we're being entirely too hard on ourself. Husband loves us unconditionally and he still thinks we are beautiful.

Myself: Yes, he does. We are very lucky.

I: Husband is blinded by love.

Me: He is not. He likes real women.

Myself: That's right. He doesn't like skinny plasticized women.

I: Riiiiiiight, he prefers fat kneed women with fluted navels and nipples askew. He's found his ideal woman, then hasn't he?

Me: Well, I guess the only thing left to check out is the caboose.

Myself, I (in unison): NO!

Myself: weeps gently

I: Really, haven't we had enough indignity for one day?

Me: Yes, I suppose so. It's not going anywhere.

I: Ain't that the truth.

Me: See...there you go again being negative.

I: I'm not being negative. I'm being realistic.

Me: Negative.

I: Realistic.

Me: Negative.

I: Rea-

Myself (still weeping): ENOUGH!! For the love of GOD enough! Don't you know what you're doing to us!!

Me: I think we need a drink.

Myself: I think we need chocolate.

I: I think we need to get laid.

Me: Veto. That requires getting naked.

Myself: I have to agree. We're demoralized enough right now.

I: Alright, alright. How about a pint of Rocky Road?

Me, Myself: Now you're talking.

I stepped away from the mirror wondering why I see nothing but imperfection when confronted by my reflection. I am confident in my worth as a thinker, a writer, a problem solver, a manager and a mother (for the most part). Why then do I judge my physical self so harshly? Why do I hold myself to an impossible standard? Why do I care so much? And then I thought...I am really in no mood for all this introspective bullshit. I'm going to go have some of that ice cream.

And I did.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Worth Wondering

People who read my blog with any sort of regularity sometimes say..."Wow, you've lived a really interesting/extraordinary/unusual life!" Yes, I have. But so have you. And so has the mailman. And the grocery store clerk. And that guy who puts weed killer on my lawn. And the homeless man begging at the on-ramp to I75. And the librarian who makes polite chit chat with me about the books that I check out.

My life is no more or less interesting than a thousand other lives out there. There is extraordinary in the ordinary. There is beauty in the mundane. There is nobility in the prosaic. There is heroism in mediocrity. We just have to open our eyes and see it.

I've always been a people watcher. It's my favorite pastime. I notice things about them and I invent entire lifestories based on insignificant details, such as a battered wristwatch on the arm of an otherwise expensively dressed man (It was his father's, whom he never knew, because he was killed in WWII when his plane was shot down. The watch was the only thing recovered).

And who's to say these fabulous things aren't true? It's not impossible. And chances are that something even more profound and wonderful than my imaginings lies within the real lifestory. Because life and the people who live it are that intereseting. Really. Online, as in real life, I have a very small, intimate circle of friends. And both of these circles contain people with amazing life stories, unimaginable courage and perserverence, and unshakable conviction when it comes to their principles, their beliefs and their passion. So have I just won the cool people and amazing friends lottery? Well, I'd like to think so. My friends are pretty special people. But the fact is...EVERYONE has something and is something worth celebrating.

That grungy guy panhandling on the Interstate could be a Vietnam vet. Maybe he saved an entire platoon from extermination, except one guy. Maybe he had to hide in the jungle and eat centipedes for a year before he was rescued and returned to his home. Maybe he still has nightmares about that one guy and wakes up screaming and that's why he can't hold a job. Maybe he's just now beginning to believe he is safe. Maybe that nondescript cashier at the grocery store has seventeen adopted children. Maybe the Mailman runs a soup kitchen in his spare time. Maybe that guy who puts weed killer on my lawn risked his life to smuggle an entire village across the border so they could have a better life. Maybe that unassuming librarian is a whip cracking Dominatrix when the sun goes down. You just never know.

So the next time you're tempted to think of my life as extraordinary because of the things that I've written about, just take a look at your own. Take a look at the people in it. Look beneath the surface and find the extraordinary. It's there. I guarantee it. Wonder about people. Because they're almost all worth wondering about.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Filed under "I Hate That"

I've been a Mom for about 12 years now, and I understand that kids are programmed to test limits, explore boundaries, and try things on for size. Most of the time, I accept this with the kind of resignation that comes from beating one's head against a metaphorical brick wall. Eventually one learns that brick is unyielding because it is brick, and that the end result of repeated blunt force trauma to the maternal psyche is one heck of an emotional headache.

So I roll with the punches. I answer questions that I've answered a thousand times before. I resist the urge to say "Because I SAID so" or "Because I'm your mother, THAT'S why". I try to encourage cooperation by respecting their need to feel that they have some control over their own lives. I give them options. I pick my battles. But sometimes, I just want my kids to do what I say, when I say, how I say. Yesterday was one of those days.

It has been an insanely busy and incredibly stressful day. We left the house at 8:00 am and when we finally arrived home, we were both emotionally and physically exhausted. We headed into the bedroom to change into lounging clothes, both sighing as we peeled the damp and binding denim from our middle aged bodies. We collapsed upon the bed and commenced a half-hearted debate about who was going to cook supper, knowing full well that we would most likely be prevailing upon one of the many wonderful establisments that will bring food and drink to our doorstep. The boys had been instructed to remove their filthy, sweaty clothes and hit the shower.

But kids have this kind of sixth sense that enables them to discern exactly when parents are incabable of enforcing a given directive. They know when we are enfeebled by life. They busily employed every tactic known to them in purposeful avoidance of said directive. Husband and I rolled our eyes at one another, but neither of us made a move to rise and deal with the situation. When the harmless dilly dallying turned to bickering over who would shower first, (a matter of great import, given the ferocity to which this argument escalated) I sighed, my lassitude turning to irritation. So without moving a muscle, I slipped into the barking efficiency of a drill sergeant. That is to say, I attempted to effect a response with the only faculty I was able to summon at the moment. "BOYS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Quit bickering this instant!! Randall...YOU go FIRST! You have TEN MINUTES to wash up and get out! DO NOT WASH YOUR HAIR WITH SOAP! DO NOT LEAVE THE SHAMPOO BOTTLE OPEN ON THE BOTTOM OF THE TUB! DO NOT LEAVE THE SOAP IN THE DRAIN! HANG UP YOUR TOWEL! DO NOT LEAVE YOUR UNDERWEAR ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR! Andrew, stay OUT of the bathrooom until it YOUR turn!!"

I turned to husband with a self-satisfied air, only to find him smirking at me. "What?" I asked. He opened his mouth and with perfect intonation that left no doubt as to whom he was impersonating, bawled,"RESPECT MAH AUTHORI-TAH!!"And darn him...I laughed. And he laughed. And I laughed even harder because he is such a dork that he doesn't even keep it to himself when he thinks he has said something very funny or clever. He has no problem letting everyone know he cracks himself right the Hell up. So pretty soon we were both laughing so hard we could hardly breathe and my irritation was gone.

He totally killed my bitch vibe.

I hate that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Okay, so I know I'm a day late.............

For some reason, I've been a day behind all week. So, I know it's Friday, but here is this weeks Thursday Thirteen:

Thirteen Things That Bother Me (LOL -- You can tell I'm sick today)

1. When people don't use blinkers.

2. Putting on make-up while driving. (I am not talking about freshening up your lipstick, although that is probably not too safe either, but about full make-up application) People who read or eat while driving bother me too.

3. When people turn right on red while I am trying to turn left into the same lane and I have a left turn light.

4. When shopping carts are left in the parking places.

5. When people carelessly take up more than one space. (I promise the other day someone had pulled through to the front space so they were "backed in" to their space and managed to take up 4 spots. I kid you not, why didn't I take a pic???)

6. When someone drives in the left lane at slow speeds.

7. When customer service people do other things while checking me out.

8. When people are rude to customer service or wait staff. (The second is not smart, I worked as a waitress long enough to know that you should not be mean to the last person to see your food before you do. Please note that I never did anything gross to anyone's food, I don't have it in me but there are plenty of people who do.)

9. When people are habitually late for no other reason than they can't leave on time. My time is as important as yours! (Grrr…..hubby is bad for this one)

10. When someone does not thank you for holding the door open for them.

11. When someone does not wave or nod or some form of kind gesture when I let them over in my lane or stop so they can pull onto the road in front of me...Must be a Canadian thing.

12. When people do not respond to the RSVP or please reply or Regrets of an invitation.

13. When people think that they are entitled (this one is probably a Thursday Thirteen of it's own but I will leave it at that for now.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dear Poptart Singers:

I'm not really a fan, but I am familiar with your work. In most cases, I find you pleasant enough to listen to. However, I do have a small request to make. Respectfully, if you cannot sing in that key, reach that note, remember those words, or otherwise perform Christmas Carols exactly as they were written and as they have been performed for decades, and in some cases, centuries....DON'T MAKE A CHRISTMAS ALBUM.

I am a traditionalist, you see, as are, I believe, most folks when it comes to Christmas carols. I do not believe these songs are improved by dubious vocal acrobatics, impressive though they undoubtedly are to your masses of adoring tone deaf fans. I do not believe that speaking, shouting or shrieking the lyrics to these songs is "innovative". Let me do you a kindness and clue you in to the fact that you are not fooling anyone by changing the arrangement or the key. We are quite aware that the "fresh new spin" you put on our beloved carols is to disguise the fact that your voice is not up to the task of performing them. Not that there is any shame in that. O Holy Night is an incredibly difficult piece to perform. Only people with true ability and competent instruction can pull it off, and let's just be honest...that eliminates about 98% of contemporary artists.

For an example of near perfect execution, please listen to John Berry sing O Holy Night. Really, his entire Christmas repertoire is flawless.

THAT is how to sing a Christmas Carol. Those little bumps on your skin? Those are goosepimples. Thank You,


A woman who is typically completely moved by Christmas carols and who is not amused when they are bastardized by adolescent Poptarts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Dreams May Come

The night before last, my eleven year old had a horrible nightmare. He appeared at my bedside and simply waited for me to become aware of him. It only took a moment. We mothers have finely honed spidey sense that is uniquely adapted to intuiting the distress of our offspring.

"What's wrong, babe?" I asked in a mumbling sleep slur. "I had a bad dream." It was a statement, not a plea. Because eleven year olds are actuely aware that they are eleven years old. He stood there, pale and trembling. He hadn't done that in a very long time. "Do you want to sleep with me?" He climbed in without a word. When he was in the bed, he slowly, shyly backed his behind up to mine. And it was enough. He slept.

We've all had those nightmares that are so real that they cannot be banished by merely waking haven't we? Even as adults, those dreams haunt a person. They compel us to seek out the company of others. To turn on lights. To check under beds and inside closets. To keep away from windows. To avoid turning our back on a darkened room. Recently Ryker had been sick with a really bad cold and RSV-like symptoms (you know.....wheezy breathing, gurgling sounds in his sleep), and I had a horrible dream that he drowned. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach didn't leave me for a week and I was hyper vigilant to the point of being obsessive. I couldn't touch him enough. I needed to assure myself that he was still there. The terror, the grief, the feel of his cold limp little body in my arms as I begged nameless faceless people not to take him from was so very real. I just couldn't shake it.

Another time, after hearing a news story about a toddler lost in the woods, who ultimately died after wandering in circles so long the feetie pajamas he had on were worn through, I repeatedly dreamt about being lost myself. *I* was that toddler, crying for my Mommy, wondering why she didn't come. I was so cold, so alone. That was probably five years ago, but I still remember the stark terror of that dream. I can remember the chill in my bones and the feel of the snow underneath my torn and bleeding feet.

As a child, I'm sure I had many nightmares, but there are a few that stand out for their vividness. One involved the bathtub drain. I was old enough when I had this dream to realize I was way too big to be sucked down the drain. But the dream was so very real that I couldn't bring myself to take a bath. Instead I showered standing as far as I possibly could from the drain. I was also old enough to realize that was unbelievably silly. Ashamed, I never told anyone. But I showered that way for quite some time.

Last night, Drew resisted going into his room. He did his homework at the kitchen table instead of at his desk. He asked to use my computer, instead of using his own. I wondered what was going on, but frankly, I haven't completely figured out this almost a teenager but sometimes still a kid phase yet, and so I left it alone. I had forgotten the nightmare. But he hadn't. It was still haunting him. When it was time for bed, he reluctantly and sheepishly admitted that he didn't want to go in his room. Now, Andrew tends to be a bit melodramatic, so Husband looked at me with his brows raised. "Go get in my bed" I said. Husband's brows raised a millimeter higher. But as an adult who still can't bear to sleep with the closet door open, I am sympathetic to the fears that plague the child in all of us in those lonely hours between dark and dawn. And I never underestimate the power of a dream. The relief on is face was a testament to that power. "He had a nigthmare" I said. Husband shrugged.

This morning, Drew said simply, "Thanks Mom." Sometimes, parenting is really hard. And sometimes, it's almost ridiculously easy. A safe place to sleep...the comfort of Mom, who is, of course invinceable, and can certainly banish any foe, real or imagined with just her...Momness...

I can do that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Legacy Revealed

I am a Mom of boys. This suits me just fine, as I have little patience for female histrionics, melodrama and backbiting whether it be from girls or grown women. But I cried when it was revealed that my oldest child was a boy. As a 20 yr old female, I felt completely at ease with the thought of mothering girl children, but I was gripped by the fear that I would be woefully inept at raising a boy.

That fear evaporated of course, the moment he was laid on my breast, tiny and squalling. I would learn. Years later it's funny to reflect on that. I can't imagine life with girls. We do pretty well my men and me. But because of gender differences, it's hard to see myself in my boy children and sometimes it makes me feel a little sad. I would have liked a girl to remind myself of me. I would have loved to hear people say that she is the spitting and image of me, as they say about my youngest son and my husband. Or that she is a little Mommy like I was at that age. Or that she can't keep her nose out of a book. For that reason, I really miss the girl child that I will never have.

Late the other night as I sat in front of the computer bleary eyed; really too tired to write, but determined to take advantage of the rare moment of absolute peace and quiet, my oldest son stole down the steps and timidly called out to me. "Mom?"I was annoyed at having my solitude disrupted. With ill-concealed impatience, I snapped at him. "WHAT??"

There was a moment of silence, during which I assume, he was contemplating whether it was prudent to continue. "Ummmm, Mom, I can't sleep. Can I come down and talk to you?" I softened a little. I've been an insomniac for years and I can relate to the torture of lying in bed unable to sleep; body willing, but mind awhirl. "Come on down and tell me about it." I called.

He traipsed down the stairs and appeared before me squinting in the lamplight, blonde hair sticking up in riotous disarrary. I pulled him onto my lap, ignoring the fact that at 11 yrs old he is almost as tall as I am and his legs dangled nearly to the floor. Since we were alone, his dignity was not affronted and he did not resist, but settled against me with satisfying bonelessness.

"What is it Drew?" I asked as I tried to smooth the peaks and whorls in his hair. He sighed heavily, and replied, "Well...I've been thinking about my story...."He's been working dilligently for weeks on a very detailed story chronicling the adventures of a valiant Knight and his evil nemesis. "I keep thinking of things I want to write and I'm afraid I won't remember them in the morning. I feel like I want to write them down right now. I'll never be able to sleep if I don't."

In that moment, I saw myself in my son. I felt connected to him. I saw that some part of me would live on. I imagined a nameless faceless young descendant far in the future, earnestly scribbling his or her first story, being told..."You know...your great great grandmother Erin always wanted to be a writer." I hugged him hard enough to make him grunt, and said, "Go work on your story. You have 30 minutes."

He grinned and scampered off, mindful of every second. And when I tucked him in thirty minutes later, his eyes drifted quickly shut, his mind at ease; divested of the words that burgeon within him unbidden.

That's my boy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Customer Disservice

As most women do, I spend an inordinate amount of time in retail venues of one sort or another. There is food, clothing, entertainment and edification to be procured, and as the household steward, it falls to me to provide them. My role has led to a startling observation regarding customer service, which is, quite simply…nobody cares, least of all the managers who are charged with the running of these establishments.

At the grocery store, I am met at the checkout by a sullen gaze and stony silence which is broken only to bark out a total. My eggs are packed beneath a pound of flour and a bottle of Juicy Juice. My bread is sandwiched (pun intended) between canned goods, and my chips are ground into greasy smithereens by a box of laundry detergent. And nothing, but nothing is quite so maddening as arriving home to find that a small much needed item is missing from the bags, but not the receipt. I have taken to packing and carrying my own groceries and will forcefully discourage baggers from approaching with a malevolent glare. Groceries are too expensive these days to risk such destruction and it galls me to have to tip someone who has blithely mangled my cantaloupe.

And what about clothing stores? I remember the days when salesladies would gladly fetch a hopefully smaller size, suggest a matching top or accessory, and offer honest, but kind opinions. Nowadays they simply lurk in the aisles, glancing around balefully; watching with eagle eyes as you enter the dressing room, but not venturing near enough that one might mistakenly assume they are there to offer assistance.

What is to blame for this decline in industry standards? I think it is the industry itself, which has become like the discount warehouse stores we frequent so gleefully. There is anything one would ever want in every size, shape and color one could possibly want it, but no window dressing, no amenities. The pride that once came from ownership is now swallowed up by the corporate bottom line. Customer service takes a backseat to profit margins and fiscal concerns.

I live in a large Metropolitan area. The phrase “urban sprawl” is woefully inadequate to describe the relentless development that occurs here. In such a place, mom and pop businesses are hard to find. When I find one, I patronize it with single minded loyalty as my own personal screw you to big business. I am under no illusion as to the impact this will have on, um, Bigger Better and Cheaper Mart, but it makes me feel marginally better about the state of things.

I like being called by name. And I don’t mean in that I just read it off your credit card way. I like being thanked for my business. I like it when a store owner or clerk recommends an item because they remember me and they remember what I like, not because the computer gave them an itemized list of my last 47 purchases. Is that really so much to ask when I am handing over a disconcertingly large percentage of our hard earned money? I don’t think so, but apparently Bigger Better and Cheaper Mart does.

Still, I suppose Bigger Better and Cheaper Mart serves it’s purpose. I guess those who drop out of high school because they got the head cheerleader pregnant have to work somewhere. And I suppose that all those children in Columbia would just be out on the streets doing something shiftless like…playing if they weren’t working in sweat shops turning out more affordable crap for the American consumer. And who would clear all that irksome forestation that clutters the landscape with unsightly greenness if not for places like Bigger Better and Cheaper Mart? Yes sir, they are an important cog in the Capitalist wheel. And hey, who needs meaningless pleasantries when you can get your heart’s desire for $9.99 or less?

Friday, November 7, 2008

In Support of Soccer Moms

I have something that I would like to say to those who sneer at so called Soccer Moms and Coach Dads, and who imply that encouraging and supporting our kids in these pursuits is nothing more than a means of achieving personal glory by forcing our kids to fulfill the dreams of our own disappointing youth.

Screw You.

Yep. You heard me. The only reason I can think of for a person to villify parents who take an active role in their kids' sports activities, or any activity for that matter is to justify their own disinterest in doing so.

As the Mom of boys, I get involved in martial arts, soccer and basketball because it's their "thing", and because there is no hope they they will ever be interested in retail therapy or anything that involves setting foot inside a beauty salon. There are some non-sporting activities that we enjoy together, and I cherish them. But libraries and museums simply don't hold as much appeal for them as a freshly chalked soccer field, or the sound of a basetball being dribbled against the hardwood. Whether I like it or not, these sports are where it's at right now. If I want to spend time with my boys, I have to take an interest in boy stuff. It's really that simple.

And I learned that when my boys were young and I tried valiantly to provide them with gender balanced playthings. The Queasy Bake Oven sat unused until my son realized that you can melt crayons and plastic soldiers in it. The gender neutral (read: not pink) kitchen set was upended and used as a citadel. The disturbingly asexual "friends" that I bought for them often ended up as prisoners of war, and were treated accordingly. And play-doh, more often than not, was launched, shot, or catapulted from various makeshift weaponry. The vacuum was a hit for a while, until the motor broke. Silent, it was nothing more than a glorified broom, and therefore, exceedingly uninteresting. I tried. But nature clearly outweighs nurture in the case of my boys, regardless of how desperately consistently the nurturing was applied.

Now, if someone can explain to me how encouraging, supporting, and becoming involved with an activity that gets my kids outdoors, away from television and video games, and which has been shown to reduce the risk of substance abuse and criminal activity is a BAD thing...I'm all ears. But if you're just going to spout a bunch of ignorant drivel about misspent youth and glory unrealized, you'll have to pardon me if I put my fingers in my ears and sing "Kiss Off" at the top of my lungs. But you know, it doesn't have to be sports. It could be anything. Find your kid's passion and then help them live it, breathe it, dream it. And let them know that whatever that dream is, you will be there to help him or her achieve it. Make them think you believe with all your heart and soul that they could be the next Mumenshantz. Let them know you give a darn about the finer points of competitive soap carving or interpretive clog dancing. I want my kids to look back one day and realize that I was at every game. Every match. Every whatever. That I sold hotdogs in the rain and washed cars in 40 degree weather so their team/troupe/band could go the playoffs or whatever it is that represents the pinnacle of achievement and prowess for their activity of choice.

It matters. And if you think it doesn't, you're fooling yourself.

That is all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Confessions to My Mother

1.Without looking in the mirror, I can tell when my face has an expression exactly like yours.

2. You are the bravest person I ever met.

3. Every piece of your advice that I've rejected I've now given to someone else.

4. The inside of my bathroom drawer looks exactly like the inside of your bathroom drawer.

5. You were right about the eyebrow-plucking thing.

6. You were right about "what's his [their] name."

7. When something great or terrible happens to me, you aren't always the first person I tell, but your always the first person I think of.

8. Nothing anyone has ever said to me matches the power of one look from you.

9. I wish I could live one day over with you when I was five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years old.

10. The fact that you have such a good relationship with God has always made me feel safe.

11. Even though you know me better than anyone in the world, I still clean the house before you come as though I were trying to impress a complete stranger.

12. I love that you never ask what happened to the hundreds of articles of clothing that we spent thousands of hours choosing, altering, trying on, discussing, and coordinating.

13. Your twenty-four-hour motherly hotline means more to me than Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, Caller ID, and voice mail combined.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So, do I inhale or exhale?

This morning when Drew woke up, his eyes half open and still sleepy, snuggled under the covers, he quietly asked in his groggy morning voice, "Did Obama win?"When I told him the outcome, he sat up, made a fist and said, as if it was his own triumph, "YES!"

That's the tone I want to be able to savor as we move forward from the eight years of disappointment and worry this country has been through, eight years of deception and greed, eight years of losing ourselves.We've survived one of the longest and most emotionally taxing elections in memory. And I want to feel that elation that my son showed this morning, but I'm still hesitant. Not because I have any more reservations about Barack Obama, but because I have reservations about us as a country.
We did something truly amazing last night -- something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, and I don't just mean the election of the first African-American President.I didn't think, given the state of divisive politics, personal attacks and gamesmanship that had become the status quo of our political world, that I would ever see red and blue truly become purple. But last night, as the states were being turned colors on the news network's maps, the red and the blue did begin to blend together. And although I am not an American, and may not live in this country much longer, I started to weep. I feared for my children growing up in a country where it had become accepted practice to attack politicians' families, to mock people's education and intellect, and to believe it was alright to say and do whatever it took to win a vote, regardless of the consequences, be they tangible or moral.
This morning, for the first time in many years, I have hope that this nation is on the road to recovering its political soul. I'm not letting Barack Obama off the hook. I will be there making sure that our new administration takes seriously the issues of equal pay for equal work, that it makes sure that our sons and daughters have quality day care and health care and that, on some level, we acknowledge that we are our brothers' keepers.
If we have learned nothing else from the last eight years, it should be this -- if we continue to allow our government to throw its hands up and say "It's not our responsibility," we are doomed.Thank goodness doom is not the feeling I have this morning, just joy tinged with a little pragmatism. Because the words and the spirit of being one country again are wonderful, but the work that needs to start today to keep that going will be hard and frustrating at times.This morning, I can exhale because voters stood up to the politics of deception and division and sent a clear message -- we are done with that. I can inhale because there is fresh political air blowing today. And its breeze feels wonderful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Sometimes, I feel like a big fat loser in the Mom department.

This week has been one from hell, with hubbys business folding and not knowing if we're going to be able to sell things off to have enought money to ride it out until the school year is over.....or if we will have to pull the boys out of school at Christmas break and head back up to Canada. I am stressed and anxious and my patience with the boys has worn thin. The bickering and tattling make me want to put my fingers in my ears and chant LALALALALALALALA...I can't HEEEEEARRRR yoooooooooo!" Some behavior issues with my youngest have me worried and frustrated and conflicted.

Their father has been away for hours at a time trying to get deals closed and equipment sold off, and sometimes doesn't even see the kids at all before they go to bed at night. I'm getting a taste of what single motherhood is like, with none of the benefits. The result of all this is that I've been a grouchy, impatient shrew of a woman this week. I've complained about my kids to anyone who will listen and I've carped at them about one thing after another. If bitchiness was an illness, I would require an IV drip of nice. Yes, that bad.

Today I found out that two people I know are facing the possible loss of their children; one due to leukemia, another due to an AVM in her brain. Another acquaintance was recently told that her baby has died in utero at 20 weeks. And -- wow -- how I want to take it all back. All I can think about is the fact that if one of my children died tomorrow, their last memories of their mother would be pretty dismal.

I'm sorry boys. I love you like nobody's business and my life would be so very empty without you. I would be destroyed if anything happened to you.

Hug your children today. Tell them that you love them. Apologize if you need to. I did.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Failing our Children

(This is a long might want to grab a cup of coffee or a Diet Coke. Or, you could just skip it. It's just a bunch of rambling about one of my pet issues. But if you have kids who will one day be publicly educated, I implore you to read on.)\

Last week was conference week at Randall's school. I did not expect to get a glowing report on him, though he is exceptionally bright. Yes, I know every parent thinks that their progeny is the next Steven Hawking, but I actually have documentation to substantiate my claim. And yes, that sounds just as pretentious when I say it out loud.

But my children think "outside the box". They learn and process through experimentation, manipulation and sensory stimulation. They are extremely creative and hunger for visual and tactile sustenance. Public school does not know what to do with my children, and so, they are compartmentalized within the very narrow definition of "gifted" and farmed out a couple days a week to harried accelerated learning specialists who have too many students and not enough resources. The rest of the time, they must fend for themselves; technicolor thinkers in a black and white world.

During my second grader's conference, the very timeworn issue of "lack of focus" came up, as it always does. The teacher, who is actually exceptionally well suited to her job and infinitely more patient with my child than I am, slid a worksheet accross the table with lips pursed and waited expectantly for me to comment. The front of the sheet you see, was utterly pristine. There was not one pencil mark upon it. The back however, was completely covered in graphite...a riot of shapes and shading that upon closer insepction revealed a very detailed and richly embellished medieval battle scene. This is how my darling 8 year old spent the morning, while his classmates dilligently filled in the blanks on their worksheets. The problem then was not lack of focus, but that which my son chose to focus on.

Randall has art instruction once a week, and obviously, this is not enough to slake my child's thirst. He was simply seeking another outlet for his creative energy, worksheets be damned. Anyway, it was quite clear that she expected me to be as outraged by this as she was. Try as I might, I simply could not summon the kind of indignation that I knew any conscientious mother would should be feeling. Here is why:

Since the dawn of time, man has used the arts to communicate, to create a tapestry of the human experience, and to give meaning to his existence. In the ancient world, a civilization possessed of a strong artistic culture was thought to have a citizenry superior in intellect and inventiveness.Unfortunately, as our world becomes more technologically oriented, with great scientific advances and medical marvels, emphasis on and interest in the arts has waned to the point of being deemed almost inconsequential. Sadly, only 36% of American students receive the recommended minimum of one hour per week of art instruction, despite the fact that the benefits of arts education are well documented.

Numerous studies have shown that a comprehensive arts education helps children:

Learn more effectively in all areas of the school curriculum, including math and science.

Experience greater understanding of what they learn

Score higher on all aspects of the SAT.

Acheive higher levels of academic success in college.

According to research by Professor Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University, young people who practice the arts are:

Four times more likely to win an academic award

Eight times more likely to receive a community service award

Three times more likely to win a school attendance award

Four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair.

Public schools are failing our children. As funding becomes increasingly scarce, and more and more emphasis is placed on standardized testing, our children are becoming one dimensional and creatively stunted. Classroom learning is tailored to those who are "normal" or "average", and those who fall above or below that designation are left to swim against the current in the vain hope of making it to shore. They either dog paddle in place, placidy treading water and waiting for their peers to catch up, or they are dragged beneath the waves and held there while the rest of the school swims effortlessly by.

Parents, wake up. Other developed nations are surpassing us at every level of education. Their children are more well-rounded, more intuitive, more able to compete in a global marketplace because they are provided with artistic, literary, musical and theatrical instruction as part of their everyday curriculum. If we don't take a page from their book, our kids will soon be absent from the pages of history. If we cut physical education programs, our kids get fat. If we cut enrichment programs, our kids get flat. It's really very simple.

(Yes, I got a bit long winded. Forgive me. It's one of my passions and it's important.)

Easy Ways To Be Happy

In the monotony of daily life, chasing after happiness can seem like an endless, really big project. And sometimes, it is. But sometime...