30 May 2010

Looking for Heaven?

I went on the Kindergarten field trip on Friday. On the bus ride home, I had the privilege of sitting next to a charming little boy who told me that he was going to throw up. I got a bag for him and hoped for the best. He would give me periodic updates.

"I haven't thrown up yet. But I will!"

Then he noticed that the bus was going in the same direction his family takes to his house, so he got very excited that the entire class seemed to be on their way to visit his family. I told him we were all coming over for dinner.

He asked me if I would hold the bag for him while and after he threw up. I assured him that I would be there for him when and if the time came. And that he would not have to ride home holding a bag of barf.

We got closer to the school, and finally went a different way from his house, and he said: "I live over there, next to Heaven." I looked up in the direction he was pointing, and there was a cemetery there. "I get to walk through Heaven sometimes!"

Beautiful.

And it reminded me of my own son, when he was a little tiny guy, and a conversation we had about heaven. I have posted this story before, in September of 2007, but I wanted to post it again, to remind myself of the wisdom of children.

Enjoy.

* * *


A story.

A few years ago, the family dog passed away. Chelsea was, quite simply, the most wonderful dog in the world, and we all loved her dearly. At the time, we had three children, and I was great with child #4. Telling the kids was the hardest part, of course; the 5 year old took it the hardest...he immediately burst into tears and had many questions about why and how and when and where. The 4 year old was matter of fact. "That's OK; we'll see her in heaven." End of story. The two year old...well, she was two, so if it wasn't about her, she wasn't interested.

A few weeks later, I was walking up the hill to pick up the 5 year old from Kindergarten. I was walking with my four year old, hand in hand, enjoying a rare moment with just him. We weren't talking about anything, just walking. Out of the blue, he says to me, "Mom, I know where Chelsea is." And when I asked him where, he just put his hand over his heart. And I said something like, "Yes, honey, she's in our hearts." Pause. Quiet walking. And then my son: "Heaven is us."

I come back to this story frequently. It brought me up short and made me see my son with new eyes, realizing that he hears and listens and makes connections and understands the world so much more than I know. I try to remember that he, and all of my kids, and all children, have the ability to be open to the world and to know beautiful truths like that one.

We were all children once. We once knew exactly where -- and who -- heaven is. And if we are lucky, we get to have children to remind us.

* * *

29 May 2010

Advice Every New Parent Really Needs to Hear

People usually need to make a few life adjustments when they become parents. We have to change our language, perhaps, maybe drink a little less, probably watch more tame television. Rick and I have done all of those to greater and lesser degrees. But a few things have slipped by. So, in the interest of sharing what I have learned from experience, I offer this little nugget to all of you new parents out there.

If you, in your pre-child life, referred to kiwi as camel nuts or gorilla testicles, it would be wise NOT to bring these phrases into your home filled with small ears. Otherwise, you'll be at a huge soccer tournament, with mobs of people you do not know, or do not know well, and your five year old will come up to you gnawing on a kiwi, and she will announce, loudly and with a big smile:

"Mmmmmm, I LOVE gorilla testicles!"

Heed my words, people. If you do not, you will want to die of shame.

* * *

27 May 2010

Really?

I just saw a commercial for Stouffer's frozen italian lasagna dinner thing. The tag line of the ad was "MADE WITH REAL INGREDIENTS."

Really? Is this how far we've fallen? Using actual food is something to brag about? How sad is that?

I swear, our culture is unsustainable. We will crumble like the Roman Empire. It will take longer, what with all the preservatives we consume.

* * *

And YES, I am watching TV in the middle of the day. A mindless distraction while I am actually working, preparing a newsletter mailing. So in a way, I am being paid to watch TV in the middle of the day. Find me some real food, and I'm all set.

* * *

26 May 2010

Step Off, Lady

I took my girls with me to the local courthouse today to pay a traffic fine. Remember, today is the day I'm trying to remember to breathe and not yell.

So there I was, in a very unadorned municipal office, standing in a long line of weary people unhappy to fork over their hard earned cash, hoping my girls would act at least partially civilized. And pretty much, I'd say they were precisely partially civilized. The other part was sort of Animal Kingdom-ish, but it wasn't the worst display I've ever seen.

When you have small children in a long line, in a boring office with nothing interesting to look at, they tend to get a little squirrely. Mind did. But they also occupied themselves by making up their own game having something to do with jumping over the linoleum squares, stepping on acceptable squares, avoiding squares of death, etc. Then they started playing tag, which was a little much. I did my best to stop them, and I was mostly successful, but they were defiant with me. They tried to evade my gaze and my capture, and when I finally did get them to come over to me, they were pushy and squirmy and not listening particularly well. I was kind of annoyed and embarrassed, but I was also trying to remind myself that they weren't screaming, they weren't being mean to each other or anyone else, and their behavior wasn't that bad.

There was another little girl in line with her mom, right in front of us. This little girl was quiet, and wouldn't leave her mom's side. Tallulah tried engaging her a little, but the girl wasn't interested, and I called Tallulah away. The other girl was definitely more compliant than my children; when she was swinging the rope divider-thingee too much, her mother told her sternly to stop, and stop she did.

It was a long wait. When it was almost our turn, my mind was occupied by weighing the girls' good behavior against their bad behavior, and concluding that while it wasn't great, it wasn't awful, and at least I stayed calm. I had worked hard not to let myself get to that sweaty frustrated place with them, because like sharks, those girls can smell a mother on the verge of losing control and go in for the kill. It can be tough to figure out when to step in, when to let things go, and what's more important: having a relatively fight-free afternoon or lowering the boom and making everyone miserable. I was thankful that I was next in line; soon I could take my pretty good, slightly evil girls home.

One of my fellow line members apparently did not concur with my assessment. By this point, the girls were sitting against a wall, quietly, just a few feet away from the other little girl, who was also sitting quietly waiting for her mom. A grandmotherly-looking woman in line leaned towards the three girls and said to the one who was not mine: "How old are you sweetheart?" The girl answered four. Then the woman said: "Well, you are a very well-behaved little girl, you know that? You are very well behaved, dear!" My girls looked at her like "Yeah, and she's bored stiff."

Then, as the mother of the little girl turned to go, the woman in line said to her: "Your little girl is very well mannered, you should be proud!" The mother said "Thank you, I try." To which, the woman in line who was really starting to annoy me said: "I can tell you do, dear; not everyone does, but I can sure tell that you do. More people should try! Good for you."

I guess that just proves the old adage: If you don't have anything nice to say, triangulate.

That's just what I need on a day when I'm trying to "be the change." Judgement and snarkiness from a stranger. It's a cold world out there, people. I hope that busy-body grandmother has a sweater and I hope she doesn't live in a glass house.

Hmph.

* * *

Trying

I am tired of being a nagging mom. I am sick of hearing myself say to my kids: "Not now, I'm too tired." I'm tired of yelling. I'm tired of listening to my kids yell at each other. I'm weary of feeling like the tail is wagging the dog around here, and the dog is a big grump anyway.

So. I am trying to do things differently today. Two kids home sick...I'm feeling under the weather myself...one toddler-from-hell wreaking havoc wherever she goes. Everyone freaking out at the slightest provocation.

And still. I am trying to go gently through the day, taking time to explain things to the kids when they fight. Taking the time to find tape for the 5 year old, even though I'm writing a blog about trying to be patient and good, and would rather tell her that I can't right now. Trying to approach Mt. Washmore with the right mix of fortitude, efficiency and flexibility. Trying to do the impossible.

I think that's really the job description of motherhood: Get up in the morning and accomplish the impossible.

I just want to arrive at 8pm tonight -- hell, I'll take 4pm -- without feeling like I've been beat up, chewed up, spit out, run through the spin cycle, pushed through a wash board, and mocked by inanimate objects like my laundry pile, my dish pile, my paper piles. Everyone needs to experience success to keep them motivated and engaged in the task at hand: I need some success in the worst way.

I want to be the change I wish to see in my own family, but I don't know how to begin. The only ideas I have are to remind myself to breathe deeply and to drink water instead of another cup of coffee.

Help.

* * *

24 May 2010

Curse You, Bruno

I stopped by a local Rubio's for lunch on Friday. Little did I know they were serving humble pie for lunch.

At a center table sat three little girls and a woman. One of the girls, looked around 5, was being really cute and funny, and dancing around in an adorable fashion. She would waltz over to the napkins, grab a few, turn back, take a crazy bow, and then waltz back to her seat. She did a little Vanna White thing with the salsa display. She did jazz hands at the drink counter. It was super cute.

I was thoroughly entertained, and she knew it. She totally hammed things up for my benefit, and I was duly charmed, as were a handful of other patrons. But then, she morphed into a Solid Gold dancer, and began dancing like she was on a catwalk instead of circus platform. It was bizarre. Clearly, I thought to myself, this girl watches too much TV. She dances a little too "old" for her age.

That was nothing, however, compared to her younger sister. The littlest girl of the bunch, upon seeing her older sister shake her groove thing, jumped into the fray. She hopped out of her seat and started gyrating around, moving her hands up and down the sides of her body. She even lifted her shirt and rubbed her own chest, swiveling her hips to and fro the entire time, with a sly little look on her face.

It was kind of horrifying. One wonders, when seeing something like this, what these young girls have been exposed to, what their too young eyes have seen. What would you think, upon seeing this?

Well, being as how I was the woman at the table, and the three little girls were with me (my two youngest, plus a friend of my 5 year old), I was thinking this would be a good time for the floor to open up and swallow me whole.

I went from being all blissed out, heart swelling with cuteness and love while watching Elizabeth entertain our closest tablemates with her antics, to feeling the hot blush of utter embarrassment while watching Lady E and Little T get down.

Had I seen some other mother's children behaving that way, I'm sure I would have had all kinds of self-righteous opinions about their parenting, or lack thereof. What kind of mother exposes their kids to anything that would teach them such sexy dance moves? This is what I get for allowing Dancing With the Stars into my home.

It is kind of an anomaly: we hardly let the kids watch anything at all, yet we dutifully tune in to (and record, for our kid who practices soccer late on Monday nights) DWTS. It has gotten a little raunchier over the past few seasons; there used to be far less sexual inuendo. But then, with Pamela Anderson on the show like this season ("Mom, she scares me." -- one of my sons), it was bound to go in that direction.

So class, the lesson for today is: Don't judge another parent if all you see is a snapshot of their life with their kids. You might think, had you been in Rubio's last Friday, that I am a pole dancer who brings my kids to work with me. You might think I encourage them to shake it, baby. You might think I am letting them grow up way too fast.

None of those things is true anymore. If it can happen to me (crushing embarrassment), it can happen to you too. Watch out. You never know when your kids are going to make you look like an idiot.

And if you are not already sucked into the oddly addictive, uniquely American cultural phenomena called Dancing With the Stars, stay away. For the sake of your children and any future embarrassment they might cause you, stay far, far away.

* * *

Coffee, Stat!

You know you really, really need a cup of coffee when you repeatedly press the OFF button on the coffee maker, getting more and more panicky each time, wondering why the damn thing isn't working and cursing the fate of having a broken coffee machine.

If ever I needed proof that there is mercy in the world, my accidentally hitting the ON button in my frenzied pushing of the OFF button was it.

Boy, did I feel silly. But I'm caffienated now, so I don't care.

* * *

21 May 2010

Look What I Found

On the day of our annual garden tour, my 9-year old son set up an art stand. He drew pictures, put them in frames, and sold them for a couple of bucks each. Here is a picture of one of his creations:


(If you'd like your very own Cenzo original to hang on your wall,
I can hook you up. I have an in.)

By about mid-day, he was carrying around a small wad of money. Not putting it in his pocket, or storing it somewhere safe, just carrying it around with him. I told him multiple times to put it somewhere, but he wouldn't listen. He liked that little wad of cash, and wouldn't part with it.

At one point, a garden visitor came up and handed me a clump of dollars: "I just found this on your lawn..."

That was the first of three times he lost his money. The kindness of a stranger helped him that first time. Luck helped the second time. The third time, it was getting late in the evening, the tour was long since over, and we were enjoying a fire in the back yard with a friend, exhausted from the day. The kids were climbing a tree and generally being nutty. All was well.

Until Cenzo lost his cash. It could have been anywhere. He had been all over the garden, including up in the tree, which hangs over into our neighbor's backyard. For all we knew, he could have dropped it into their yard while he was in the tree. His dad looked with him for awhile. Then I took a shot, combing through shrubs, peering into flower beds, aware that the sun was setting and we would be in darkness soon. No luck.

He was beside himself. He is saving up for an ipod touch, and every little bit counts, and the exhilaration he felt upon earning this money ($12!) had placed him high enough that the crash was killing him. He was nearly inconsolable, and not much help in the search because he was so devastated.

Meanwhile, my 5 year old, surveying the scene, was feeling very bad for her big brother. She had operated a cookie stand at the sale, and made a little bit of money too, around 4 or 5 dollars (cookies were only .25 cents!). She crept up to my side and asked me if she could give her brother her money. Touched by her offer, I assured her that she was extremely sweet but that we would find his money and she should keep her own. This is very in character for her: she is always noticing someone else's angst and making little offerings to ease the pain. She didn't want to take no for an answer, and kept asking me if she could give him her money. Finally, I told her she could give him ONE dollar, and I hugged her and thanked her and counted my blessings that I get to be her mom.

He refused to take it. He was "in the zone," beyond mad, feeling like an idiot, the very picture of misery. He wouldn't even give her the slightest bit of gratitude or recognition.

She disappeared, and I thought she had moved on to other, more appreciative audiences or at least to something more fun.

By this time, we were sitting in the kitchen, son and I, trying to strategize how we would redouble the search efforts in the morning. He was fiercely pissed off.

A few minutes later, Lady E appeared at my shoulder and whispered in my ear:

Mommy, I just went up to Cenzo's bed to put my dollar on his pillow for him to find later, and look what I found.

There, in her hand, was his grubby wad of cash.

Perhaps love heals all wounds; perhaps generosity heals a few, too. Thanks, Lady E.

* * *

20 May 2010

Hims Makes Stuff

Mommy, am I going to die someday?

Well, what do you think?

Yeah, I will. When I a old lady.

Mommy, who made dis? (indicating car seat)

Hmmm...I'm not sure who made that, honey.

Proly God made it. Cuz hims makes stuff. Hims makes arms, and chests, and legs, and faces, and lips, and knees, and hair, and smiles, and feet and socks. To read this properly, you have to say aaaaaaaaaaaarms and cheeeeeeeeeeeeeests, and leeeeeeeeeeeegs. Draw out the words to really hear her voice.

Yeah, God probably made it.

When I die, I'll be sad because I won't see my mommy that I love so much. But I see her now! I love her and I smile at her!

Mommy, rember when you got me? You goed to the zoo and saw the yiddle monkey in the cage and asked the zookeepuh if you could take the yiddle monkey home? An he let you?

Or the other one? I was in a egg, under a rock, and you came and picked up the rock and the egg started to crack...???

And you were inside the egg?

YEAH!

And I got to take you home?

YEAH! (gleeful laughter)

Yes, I remember all of that and more, honey. You really listen to your brothers and sisters, don't you?

YEAH! Day told me all of dat!


I love you too, honey.

* * *

18 May 2010

Apologies, Mr. Frost

Stopping By My Living Room on a Regular Evening

Whose shoes these are I do not care
Their stink and steam do fill the air;
They’ve been here for a week or more
Kicked beneath the comfy chair.

There are backpacks thrown behind the door
And cheerios stuck right to the floor.
Is that a banana, for the love of God?
This disarray is the stuff of lore.

My three year old must think it odd
To see me hone my staff and rod
When spying books and dishes--UGH!
And towels and clothing stained with sod.

She gives her blankey a tighter hug
To warn siblings of the coming thug.
She sees the quaking in my gait
And tries to hide beneath the rug.

It’s chaos that I truly hate.
But with children, chaos is my fate.
The laundry's always in a heap.
The order always little and late.

The mess is scary, dark and deep.
But I have a house to clear and keep.
And heads will roll before I sleep
And heads will roll before I sleep.

* * *

My inspiration.

* * *

17 May 2010

Pathetic, But Effective

When the first four of my children were all under school age, their TV time was severely limited. They didn't watch any regular "shows," and the TV was never on during the day. They watched a handful of movies over and over and over again, but didn't really know any better and were quite happy in their ignorance.

Enter Child #5. She came of TV-watching age in a household that had discovered I Carly and Sponge Bob, that was deep into Dora and Diego and Max and Ruby. She skipped right over Sesame Street and goes directly for full length movies starring the Teen Idol Du Jour and featuring lots of teeny-bopper behavior. This is perhaps why she once called me "smokin' hot," talks to her stuffed monkey about all her boyfriends, and shakes what her mama gave her with a little too much verve.

She watches too much television. My fault. I let her. I can't stop myself. I resolve to keep the TV off, but I crumble too quickly and before I know it, Miss Spider, Carly, Dora, and Lyndsey Lohan (think Freaky Friday) are taking over my living room. Guiltily, I dash around doing laundry, or returning emails, or weeding the garden, trying not to listen the screams of her dying brain cells as they give up the ghost.

It has to stop and today is the day. We are firmly committed to having a NO TELEVISION DAY today.

But I know myself, and myself is weak. So I did the only logical thing. I disconnected the cable cord and told her the TV is broken. She keeps asking me if it's fixed yet; it's easier to lie to her than to tell her that she is not allowed to watch anything. We've already made it to 10am without Diego.

Pathetic. But Effective.

* * *

16 May 2010

A Tender Moment It Was Not, but a Cherished One, Nonetheless

We have largely cleared our bed of small people, at least between the hours of 9pm and 5am. After 5am, it's sort of a free for all.

This morning, the three year old climbed in for a snu- snu- snu- snuggle. (Sound familiar, D'bee?) It's so nice to lie with her, exchange little eskimo kisses, and whisper sillinesses to each other, until she wakes up a little and starts jumping up and down on top of me.

This morning, pre-jumping, we were enjoying that drowsy, just-woke-up state, and staring lovingly at each other's faces, with about three inches between us.

Her: "Mommy, why do have stripes on you?"

Me: "I'm not wearing stripes, honey; these are flowers."

Her: "But why do you have stripes?"

Me: (The thought occurs to me that she's talking wrinkles. I say nothing. I start fantasizing about the children she will one day have, and the grief they will cause her.)

Her, giving me her best Whoa Lady, This Is Not What I Signed Up For look: "I don wanna live with a old lady. I want a mommy in my house."

I defy you to find any parenting book that tells you what to say to that. I said the lame thing: "I'll always be cursed to be your mommy, no matter how old I get."

What kind of child reprimands her mother for wrinkly skin? My kind, I guess."

* * *

It's later than we think, isn't it? I used to subscribe to a parenting philosophy in which the central tenant was: If you don't have the energy to ____________ today, wait: there's always tomorrow. Into that blank could go any number of things to do: potty train...turn off the TV...make a decent dinner...fold that 11th load of laundry...find the Simple Green...put the dishes away...explain fractions. You get the idea. Which is not to say that I continually put things off, just that I tried to be less than militant about certain fundamentals of child rearing and house keeping.

But that little mantra only holds up in Baby Mode, which, I think has been established, I am no longer in. The wrinkles on my face, and the fact that my youngest child is pointing them out to me in complete, if not grammatically correct, sentences belie the fact that tomorrows are not infinite. The potty needs to be mastered. The family needs to eat a hearty salad. The kid needs to understand fractions. And the momma needs to dig in and do some hard work to turn these lumps of clay into people whom other people enjoy being around.

I keep coming back to the reality that I am entering a new phase of parenting, one that has less to do with babies and more to do with people who are increasingly interacting with the world. Everyone says that things get easier when you move out of the baby phase. And everyone says it gets harder too. Yet another of those confounding contradictions of parenting.

I feel myself on the brink of a transition, with one foot firmly in the land of babies and toddlers while my other foot and both of my hands are busy in the land of kids and tweens. Teenagers are just around the bend. I know that different things are expected of me now than a few years ago, and I'm curious how I will meet those expectations. Will I have the patience to explain the world to my young charges? Will I have the courage to follow them where they lead, and to help them navigate the waters they choose to swim in? Will I grow up in the process of helping them grow up?

I hope so. I sure would like to arrive somewhere ages and ages hence, look back on this time and be proud of the wrinkles I have earned. And I'd like Tallulah to be proud of them, too.

* * *

13 May 2010

Get Back In That Taco!

My daughter wet the bed last night, due to a wardrobe malfunction, a.k.a., a poorly-placed diaper. She stumbled upstairs, where I changed her in the dark, stuck a shirt of mine on her and tossed her unceremoniously in my place. I grabbed a pillow and spent the next few precious hours of sleep under a meager blanket on the couch.

Combine those events with this day being one of the WORST pms-related symptom days I have had in many, many moons, and you get one colossally difficult day. Each month, I get to spin the wheel. Sometimes, no symptoms at all. Other times, symptoms that turn me into a completely non-functioning person, except for the rage function, which goes into overdrive. Between the blinding headaches, the weakness in my arms and legs, the pains in my muscles, the tearful tendencies, the impatience, the lightning-fast rage response and the wanting to crawl out of my own skin, it can be simply awful.

(Actually, today I sort of felt like I had a little window into what it must be like to be clinically crazy, a state in which the chemicals take over and you have very little control over what you do with the surge. I wonder if that's what it's like, except with less awareness? Or maybe the awareness is there, which would probably make a person even more nuts, knowing and not being able to do anything about it...Either way, my compassion for crazy people increased exponentially today.)

Tonight, the girls had ice cream for dinner. Well, that and toast on delicious farmers' market bread we got yesterday and lemonade. In my defense, I took them out for lunch after school and they ate bigger meals than usual, so I don't think anyone was deprived. And I couldn't move off of the couch...and Lola can scoop ice cream...so it was a win-win for everyone. The boys and their dad are at a soccer field.

My head hurt so badly tonight that even talking made the pain reverberate through my teeth and shoot backwards to the nape of my neck. This is AFTER taking three motrin pills and hoping for the best, which did not come.

All of this is excuse and reason for the fact that I did not change the sheets on my daughter's bed today and didn't realize it until she was just about to tumble head first into bed for the night. I grabbed her, quick, and tumbled her onto the floor instead. Nice save, mom! But there I was, too tired to even contemplate digging out clean sheets when I was *this close* to bedtime. So instead, I stripped the sheets off, and folded her comforter in half like a sleeping bag and had her climb right in. She thought this was kind of a fun way to sleep.

Even closer to bedtime bliss now, I returned to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, because the big glass of red wine I really wanted would have probably turned me into Sybil. I started poking around on email and facebook, when a disgruntled five year old emerged from her room: "HOW COME SHE GETS TO BE A TACO AND I DON'T?"

So I have just returned from their bedroom after making another comforter taco for the older girl, so she does not feel dissed by her mother. And proving that all bad days do come to an end, the evening closes with a cup of tea in my hand, a nice facebook chat with a friend, and these words wafting from the girls' room:

Bob Dylan, if you want a banana, you have to get back in the taco!"

File that under Words We Never Thought Would Go Together.

* * *

12 May 2010

Cringe

My son is one of the Commissioners of Religion at his school. Basically, this means that he and the other Commissioner lead the school's daily prayer at the Morning Assembly. It's quite nice to hear him each morning stumbling over strange words, or mumbling through the Lord's Prayer, or proclaiming a prayer with confidence, depending on how much sleep he got the night before or whether he ate more than a few bites of toast that morning. I'm usually one of the parents who walks everyone into school and hangs out until the student body president says "You're all dismissed, have a nice day" and the kids file into their classrooms. The younger ones turn to catch my eye and blow me kisses. The older ones studiously ignore me.

But with the busy-ness of our lives this Spring, instead of walking up to the school each morning, I've been pulling up to the drop off zone, slowing down to 5 mph, opening the side door of the van and tapping the brakes several times until they all sort of fall out in a heap on the sidewalk. By the time their arms and legs are straightened out, I have floored it down the hill and am off to the next task at hand. I have not had time to stop and enjoy the Morning Assembly.

But I have had plenty of time to stress out my kids.

Like the other day when none of them got up in a timely fashion AND I overslept myself AND I couldn't find my keys at the last minute AND I ended up thrashing around the house in tears of frustration that we were going to be late AGAIN and that every moment I couldn't find my keys meant another moment before the sweet relief of dropping everyone off where they needed to be. There were tears and yelling and lots of frustrated, frenzied activity. It got fairly ugly. It was one of those mornings when the silence of having them suddenly out of the car was more of a reproach than a relief: Well, you screwed that one up, mom. Now you'll have to wait 7 hours before you can assess the damage.

The kids missed Morning Assembly that day: we were almost 15 minutes late to school.

But they were on time the next day; I pulled up to school, dropped them off, and drove quickly away to get things done. I missed my son's very special morning prayer.

I got the full report later from a friend: "We prayed for you this morning."

Really? Who's we?

That would be the whole school, when Sam offered the following, for all of the students, teachers and attending parents to take into their hearts and their hands clasped in prayer: "For mothers, so that they forgive themselves when they oversleep."

I'm so glad I missed that one. I don't think the school has ever had a parent perish from embarrassment right there on the school yard, and I'm not keen on being the first.

* * *

At least he's thinking about me. And there's no denying that I can use all the prayers I can get. So thank you, son and school community, for interceding on my behalf and sending up a little prayer for me. Or for those mothers in general who oversleep from time to time. Maybe he didn't mean me.

* * *

10 May 2010

Happy Mothers Day, Mom

I didn't call my mom on Mothers Day. How lame, right? Very lame.

But she just ordered cookies from my son for his soccer team's fundraiser, so I managed to send her an email...and realized while I was writing it that I had failed to mark the day. So I wrote her a quick, impromptu HMD message, which, it turns out, was as heartfelt as anything I could have spent more time and money composing, or communicating with a gift. So I thought I would post it here. It's brief, but truer words were never typed. Mom, so that this message lives in public and in some kind of posterity, I hereby post my Mother's Day Greeting to you, complete with cookie sale minutiae:

OK. We are turning in money tomorrow, so you can make the check out to me, and I'll add your $15 to our total.

Thanks!

By the way, I failed to call you on Mothers Day, can you believe it? So here is my kind of lame, belated Happy Mothers Day to you. I can't tell you how much I appreciate everything you've done for me, and for Katy and Tony. I do understand it a little bit more everyday, as I raise these kids. You are a miracle worker, you know. I think you often reside in the shadow of your charismatic husband, but I wanted you to know that I see you and what you've done for our family as big and bright and beautiful. I love you! Thank you for raising me right. My kids have you to thank for the good things I do for them.

:) Monica


To all of you moms out there, here's wishing that every single day you feel the love and appreciation of your families. We are contributing the most valuable thing ever to the world: people. Without us, the engines of commerce and community would grind to a halt, medical research would wither on the vine, the World Cup soccer ball would lay motionless on the South African pitch. Without us, the halls of Congress would be silent, as would all the world's instruments. Without us, simple acts of kindness would go undone and great acts of generosity would too. Without us, we would not be.

Same goes for dads, by the way. But for this week, let's all be glad that Mothers do what they do.

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Baby Mode Has Been Good To Me

I am too tired to clean my kitchen.

It's only 7pm. If I were more industrious, or more organized, or more motivated, or more better, I'm sure I could do it. But I can't. Does that make me a terrible housewifely person?

I know, with certainty, that I will go to bed tonight with a dirty kitchen, because I can't get myself to care enough to either clean it or make anyone else clean it.

I do, however, find that I have enough energy to turn my wrist just so, such that the red wine flows directly into my glass, which is already 1/4 full.

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It occurred to me today that I need to catch up with my kids. For 11.5 years now, I've been in baby mode, and I've taken full advantage of the slack afforded to mothers with babies. I've watched my friends with kids who are all out of diapers and headed into school, or well into school, and I've always thought: "Well, I'm sure I'll be as together as they are when I'm not in baby mode anymore." Baby mode means you get a pass on a few things, like leaving the house looking decent, bringing cupcakes to the preschool party, and soliciting friends for your oldest kids' team fundraiser. Baby mode means the house doesn't need to be too organized, it's OK to dive through laundry baskets to look for socks, and you are excused for not returning phone calls in a timely manner. Baby mode gets you through, as well it should.

But my "baby" is three and a half. She's nearly potty trained (good to go on #1, making me pull my hair out with #2), so I don't travel with a diaper bag anymore. She doesn't take naps, so no excuse for lazy afternoons anymore. She doesn't use a stroller anymore, so no excuse for not running quickly to point A or point B with my huge, cumbersome double stroller. She is extremely physically capable, there are very few things she cannot do on her own.

I don't actually have a baby anymore.

At some point, I have to stop taking the Baby Mode Pass, and join the rest of the mothers struggling to get those cupcakes to class and those socks put away in the sock drawers. Someday soon, there will be no excuse for letting the kitchen stay messy overnight or letting the phone go unanswered.

I figure, I get some extension on Baby Mode for having so many offspring, but even that will start to wear thin soon.

So, I guess it's time for me to rejoin the ranks of Regular Mothers, who are doing the lion's share of the work, raising all those children who are not babies. As a wise friend of mine once said, re-entry is a bitch. Give me time, people. I'll get there as soon as I can.

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07 May 2010

Boldly Going

Today, I am attempting the impossible.

I am stepping into the abyss, taking on the dark side, engaging the forces of chaos.

I will go forth and conquer, and I will not falter.

Today, I am going to help my kids clean their rooms without losing my mind or my voice.

Wish me luck; it's never been done before. If I am successful, I shall mark the calendar and celebrate the anniversary of this day every year with much dancing and rejoicing.

I will not yell. I will not yell. I will not yell. I will not yell. I will not yell.

Five vows for not yelling. Five, because I got five, and also because five is a Fibonacci number. I'm invoking the natural order of things to keep myself from yelling.

Today, I will be one mother, cleaning two rooms, with three cups of coffee on board, for five children; I will serve dinner for eight people (MIL is visiting), I will break up thirteen arguments, I will kiss my kids twenty-one times. Each. I will remind myself to breathe thirty-four times.

And I will not yell.

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04 May 2010

Random Rants and Reflections

The garden tour is over. Which has left a great void in my brain, which I have filled in the last few days with a startling number of rants and reflections. I share some of them with you, so that I don't become a facebook embarrassment with too many "from left field" status updates.

Random #1: Today, a mom friend of mine was telling me about her morning getting the kids to school, and about how she had not managed to pack her girls' lunch and so had to buy the "hot lunch" du jour. Actually, Tuesday is the only day at our school that we can buy "same day" hot lunch: the other hot lunch days require a pre-order. Whenever a Tuesday rolls around and I'm not ready for lunches, I rejoice. She commented to me that she had to buy the school lunches today because she's "the loser mom who didn't have stuff for lunches." I've called myself this same thing before, for some reason or other, usually having to do with my perception that I am failing at some essential element of motherhood that all the other mothers are accomplishing with ease. But hearing my dear friend say it really struck me. We should strike that phrase -- loser mom -- from our vocabularies. It's the little things that break us down, that erode our confidence and our ability to parent our kids with gusto. It's the little things that make us feel outcast and incompetent among Uber Moms. Here's my realization: There are no Uber Moms. There are just all of us, trying to do our best and mostly doing a damn good job, pouring our blood, sweat, tears, heart, soul, energy, creativity, best thinking, hardest problem-solving skills, and time into creating people. So to my friend, to myself, and to anyone else out there who needs to hear it: Give yourself a break. Practice being aware of how hard you work and how much you do for the sake of your family. Stop comparing yourself to others, especially to the mom who packed nutritious lunches for her kids today. Who knows, maybe she whacked her daughter upside the head with the full lunch box? Or maybe she dressed her kids in dirty socks (the horror!) or forgot to return a permission slip. And maybe she's looking at you, bringing the grapes (washed, even!), juice and doughnuts into your daughter's class for her birthday, and calling herself a loser mom because she's comparing herself to you. The phrase "Loser Mom" is hereby banished from the Kingdom of Motherhood.

Random #2: I miss my Graves Disease. Let me tell ya', if you're gonna have a disease, and you happen to be a mom with very young children and you are looking for new ways to pack more hours in the day, then this is the disease you want. I lost weight, never needed to sleep, had boundless energy, and could eat an amazing amount of food. In fact, most of my days were organized around what and when I was going to eat next. It was awesome. I once ate an entire box of these cookies in one sitting. I so wish I could do that again. OK, the constant shaking was annoying, but I was willing to put up with that for the sake of the other benefits symptoms. Alas, I ended up on medication, which took care of the whole situation, but not before I enjoyed a good four months of eating with abandon and never needing to sleep. Apparently, Graves Disease brought on by delivering a baby -- thereby making the hormones go all wonky -- can be beaten back into submission by getting pregnant again, which I did. Here's hoping it comes back. It's either that or meth, and I like my teeth.

Random #3: OK, Kerri, I need a little more help with the whole be in the moment in my messy house thing. I have a 1st Communion party to prepare for this weekend and a house with chaos of epic proportions. Yeah, yeah, the people will come to help us celebrate, but damnit, I want a clean house! I want some order, some floor space, some room to breathe, and a place to put down my ever-lovin' cup of coffee. I don't so much want the Fort That Love Built as the House In Which Everyone Does What I Want Them To Do Pronto and What I Want is SOME CLEAN. Yeah. So. If anyone has any advice about how I can get through the next three days and land on Saturday with a clean, inviting house that was achieved without screaming or tantrums (theirs or mine), please enlighten me. I want me some order and I don't feel like being all zen about it. Results, people. That's what I want.

Random #4: My kid is a genius. He discovered, all on his own, that if you burp into a glass soda bottle, you can create a really cool echo. Gifted and Talented kids: move over. There's a new game in town. He also discovered the phrase "I hit pay dirt!" today and has been using it all afternoon and evening, rarely if ever in the right context, but making me laugh every time. He's a keeper.

Random #5: I thought life would slow down after the garden tour. I was wrong. Many, many things have rushed in to fill the void, although not one of them was a hamster, thank God. :)

Say good night, Gracie.

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