Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rated PG-4 for Bathroom Humor, Minor in Possession and Mild Insect Violence

The unique opportunity to work from home has provided me rare glimpses into the minds of my children, particularly that of the four-year old, with whom I spend the majority of my time. And usually these occasional slideshows offer far more entertainment than most big-budget films. (A comparison I actually have no grounds to make as, sadly, I've not seen an actual grown-up movie in over three years. And from my perspective ANYTHING would be more entertaining than watching Milo and Otis for the bajillionth time.)

I like to think I run a tight ship around here... diligently steering her clear of the hull-endagering icebergs of questionable TV and prop-busting reefs in the form of Hannah Make-Me-Puke Montana; keeping her precariously afloat upon an ever-more-poluted pre-school sea of bedazzled, skimpy swimwear and hair feathering. And, perhaps I am succeeding at keeping some cultural icons from climbing aboard. But it is becoming increasingly clear to me that somewhere there's a leak. Despite my constant efforts to correct poor grammar and squash crude humor, water's trickling in, and bit by bit, this ship's flaws are being exposed. (Read: she is obviously a direct product of my leadership, and if she spends much more time with me on this little dingy, I'm going to ruin her.)

Evidence of "vessel malfunction" follows:

  • While dressing for bed, swab in question comments, "But, MUH-uuuum! I won't look PWETTY in theesth jammies." My reply, "Why do need to look pretty for bed?" "Becausth, what if we have to get up in the middle of the night? And our housth isth on fire? And then we have to run out, and theesth are the only clothesth I'll wear for the resth of my liiiiiiiiife?" This exchange left me with several questions. Not least among them why she concluded that should she lose her current wardrobe, there will be no replacing it. And in the spirit of tightening the budgetary reigns, I see no reason to quell her passion for clothing conservation. 
  • While indisposed in the Captain's quarters, sailor rudely enters (without so much as a quick throat clearing before opening the door), and pauses two feet from me and my business to briefly flair her nostrils and slightly curl her top lip. After what I can only assume was an assessment of the room's trade winds, she leaves in silence. I later approach her with an intended lesson of "when a bathroom door is closed, you should either knock or wait until the person is finished before just barging in." She replies, "I needed to know what you were doing in there." And then, I kinda had to applaud her, and somewhat forgave her for the violation of privacy when she said, "And make sthure you weren't gunna clog up that pot with too muchth toilet papuh. Besthides, you always thsay we don't keep thsecrets in thisth housth." Both, valid points. We are a household built upon the foundation of no secrets and TP conservation. I just never imagined the two principles would ever become cross-functional. I was too tired to go into a debriefing on "Secret-Keeping Exceptions", under which I believe restroom breaks qualify. 
  • When visiting as a guest in other's homes, if asked what she'd like to drink, she is known to occasionally reply with, "Beer, please, muh'darlin'!" Immediately followed up with hearty, high-pitched giggling. And every time it happens, I continue to respond with surprise and shock, "CLAIRE! Why in the world would you ever say such a thing?!" (And then I give her a wink, and whisper "Just 17 more years.")
  • During the second hour of prodding at the broccoli on her supper plate, she asks, "If I eat this, and then I thwow it up on my plate, do I have to sthtill eat what I thwowed up?" Valid question. My answer, "It will be easier to eat the second time." 
  • After violently stepping on a spider scurrying from a pair of flip-flops she had just put on and examining the remains, the bottom of her shoe millimeters from her furrowed brow, "I hope I thopped histh head off." To which I promptly replied, "Don't end your sentence with a preposition!!"
  • From the backseat of the car, returning home from spending a stupid amount of money on groceries, "Uh oh. Can you huh-wee? I have to poop. No... tinkle... oh no. I think it'sth boaf... UGH!" Again, I felt mildly guilty for not using this as a learning opportunity for the "Secret-Keeping Exceptions" theory... and I would have... had I not been laughing at her obvious anxiety over the realization that she no longer had a grasp on her bodily queues. 
She's an apt little sailor. I just wish she didn't pay so much attention to the captain.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Celebratory Sentiments

The day our oldest was born, the not-yet-to-be-knighted Nomad was all business. I was to be at the hospital early that Tuesday morning, checked in and donning hospital gown by 7 am. It was, due to still murky "complications", a scheduled induction. Or as the Nomad describes, "the morning we ordered up a pizza." We were casually pitched phrases like, "small for gestational age," "possible growth restriction," and "questionable amniotic fluid levels."

As if the uncertainty of first-time parental status wasn't enough in and of itself, we were ensured our deserved dose of anxiety with these last-minute, a la carte variables. And, prior to these discoveries, the nerd in me was determined this baby would be born sans drugs and sans complications - in a dewy meadow, near a babbling brook, as blue birds quietly chirp the news of a new life. (Allow me to insert the collective snort of all the veteran mommas out there.)

Irreverently stated, I was tweaking. The very idea that this baby was supposedly going to make its arrival as casually as a four-cheese pizza - after the long, nausea-filled, sciatica-prone months of baking away - resulted in an internal freakout session. No meadow? No birds? No news of this child's birth heralded by the mythical Sirens floating their exultations over a crystal sea? Holy crap. This wasn't at all my plan.

But, thankfully, my husband calmly took the helm, and after some effort, successfully redirected my mental state. With his sympathetic counseling (i.e. "Seriously, hon, get it together.), and his forward-thinking plan to ensure Dave Matthews was playing in the delivery room without end, our deluxe pie was indeed delivered, quite uneventfully to boot. A sturdy 6 pounds, 2 ounces, and with no confirmed complications. The pizza arrived on time, as ordered.

These years that have followed have been anything but a leisurely lunch on the pizzeria patio. Much like my detailed and unwavering birth plan, my perceptions of what parenting was going to hold for the Nomad and I were squashed more quickly than that child could fill a clean diaper. Navigating these rapids they call parenting has required a sturdy life vest and far more stamina than I had anticipated. And, I'm going to say what I'm not supposed to say, particularly on the anniversary of your first-born's birth: some days have been regretfully hard as hell, and I've selfishly wanted to resign my office of mom, longing for the days of freedom and spontaneity.

And, just because we've made it another year doesn't necessarily quell those blanketed feelings of resentment and anxiety. Every decision I make as a mother is painfully self-scrutinized. What in these past six years could I have done differently? What could I have done better? Where was my sympathy and consolation during those times that I instead employed anger and impatience?

It's days like these - the day we remember the moment we first saw her purple, wrinkled, lizard-skinned perfection - that brings into focus the reality that, yes, celebrate we must. For there is much to celebrate. But there is also much more to learn. I have much to improve upon. Many ways to better my parenting skills and processes. Many ways to better demonstrate to her that even though I am far from motherly perfection, I am honored to have been given the opportunity to improve myself through her. And for that, I'll never be able to pay her back. Six years of fun and failures. And through it all, she continues to smile, and I am blessed to walk into her room yet another morning and say, "Happy Birthday, big girl."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Point of Nomadic Return

I wasn't nervous the day of my wedding. Giddy perhaps, and in desperate need of redirecting circulatory flow to my mid-section by removing my Spanx, but not anxious or nervous or wondering if we were doing the right thing. The thought of "this better last forever" never surfaced, and from the day he put the ring on my finger and asked me to marry him (and then later told me he was going to put the ring in a hotdog and propose to me whilst I chowed down in front of a campfire but then thought better of it), I cannot recall any thoughts of hesitation creeping into my consciousness. I wanted to marry this man within two months of securing our long-distance relationship (although, I never told him that), and was dreaming of a family, a home, road trips, camping, gardening... incessantly talking him into watching mindless chick-flicks every Saturday night on the couch for years on end... long before he was considering a life with me.

Nearly eight years, two kids, several career changes and one intrastate transplant later, that naive, unwavering, this-is-a-sure-thing attitude has undoubtedly been tested more times than either of us would like to admit. Courtship is a blissful whirlwind, jam-packed with highs that you assume will remain undiluted. And at the time, it seems incomprehensible that any doubts could sideline the commitments you've made to one another. But, the reality is, life will laugh in your face, with its hot halitosis humor, and sufficiently shake your solidarity and lead you through a series of introspection and self-questioning.

Thus far, through every Listerine-inducing episode, we've managed to emerge hand-in-hand, and usually more minty-fresh than when we started. However, this whole nomadic gig that he is now undertaking, and doing so with incredible success I must add, has introduced an entirely new level of stinkyness to our commitment-freshening efforts.

The nomad is amazing at what he does. His ability to talk to absolute strangers, quickly build a foundation of understanding with them and thereby knowledgeably advise them on an intangible product of which it is his job to sell blows my mind. (My only experience in sales was in the fourth grade: Girl Scout Cookies. And my pitch went something like, "I'm sure you've already bought cookies, haven't you? And I doubt you want any of these?" I'm sure my troop leader handed over that badge out of pity.) So, seeing how affluent he is at what he does never ceases to amaze me. And, he LIKES it. I mean, this man LIVES to sell. He enjoys meeting new people. (Yuck.) And he nimbly interprets cues and body language, deftly working his subject without aggression. And while taking the next step in his career meant significant travel for him,  for me it meant embracing his passion and desire to provide for his family and willingly accepting that he would sometimes be gone.

And, I can say I accepted it. I can say I understood and that it's just "part of the job." But, the humid, hot-breath reality of it all is that, not-so-deep down, I resent it. I resent the whole thing. The day before he leaves, I feel myself hardening. Stoicism creeps in, and my defenses tighten. "Another trip? Sure, no problem. I'll handle it like always. Be safe. Call me when you get there." (Insert unfeeling hug, short peck, and a superficial attitude of "I gotta run. Laundry to do and lunches to pack.") And no matter how many times we've been through this preliminary routine, I can't seem to swallow down the bitterness that creeps up.

I don't WANT to be a single mom. I don't WANT to be the only caretaker of my children. It's scary knowing you are the only nurse in the ward. And as much as I want to be able to say "We're in this together, we always have been, and we always will be," I can't let go of the unwavering reality that I will never, not ever, be happy when he leaves.

And yet, there he stands, suitcase and business-shirts in hand, hesitant to walk out that door for the week. He has no more appetite to leave us than we have for him to go. What's the advantage? Yes, some well-deserved quiet and a few nights of uninterrupted sleep. But at what price? Five nights in a lonely hotel room, eating alone and subjecting his brain to the anethestic that is crappy reality TV? And, before opening the door to leave, he silently supresses guilt and masks his desire for me to simply hug him like I mean it... for more than two seconds... and to say, "I love you. And I'll miss you. And we'll be fine while you're gone."

I know that's what he wants, because that's what I want. I want to give him the support he deserves, and I want him to know I love him and that I understand he doesn't choose to be away from us. And as ardently as I've tried to embrace this reality with love and squash my resentment, I can't seem to walk away unscathed, and therefore neither can he.

Looking back, do I wish things had turned out differently? Or do I hold fast to those early years together, remembering the commitment we made to each other? A bit of both. But, when it comes down to it, we started down this road together, the nomad and I. And we vowed we'd never turn back. Look back, yes. There are amazing memories back there, after all. And turning around to look over them now and again realigns our perspective, and helps me get through these sometimes lonely days. I cling to them, and hold them dear... until the day the nomad returns, and we continue on our journey... together... as minty-fresh as we can stand.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mr. Bubby's Wild Ride

During his brighter days, Bubby basks on the beach.
I liken the hollow hype of the week of Spring Break to that of New Year's Eve.

Sure, it's easy - desirable even - to join that parade of revelers who truly believe that THIS YEAR it's going to be different. THIS YEAR it will be memorable. And, you're sure, when looking back upon the shenanigans that will ensue, in the spirit of the excitement that was drummed up by the likes of the royal wedding of Charles to Diana and the anxious preparedness exercises required of the Y2K conversion, this was indeed the year that finally lived up to the hype.

But, in the end, it inevitably ends with you drawing a fortune out of your 401k to pay off the pre-pubescent babysitter who sat on your couch all night eating hot wings and watching Housewives of Atlanta, while you defeatedly hang up a ridiculously non-rewearable dress with a new, strategically-plopped guacamole embellishment in the back of your closet.

This entry will serve as a bulleted recap of our past week... the glories of the much anticipated Spring Break.
  • The day before setting off on our Griswold family vacation adventures, our car was returned to us from the shop with the wrong size tire, white-wall out. I had no idea of the seriousness of this error. Wrong size, I get. White-wall out... my husband made it clear he'd rather be seen riding through town in a jester hat atop a burrow than drive the car like that. (At least, now I know what I can get away with. *snicker*)
  • The nomad set off for a business meeting in the big city, and I took the opportunity to take the kids to see their grandparents for a day. Upon our return, I notice a blur of brown in my driver's side mirror. Followed by three seconds of silence... and a high-pitched, blood-curdling, wheeze-interrupted screeching of a child from the backseat. Man Down! The beloved Bubby Bear had made a run for it by way of the rear window. I watched the surreal scene unfold in my rear view mirror. Bubby rolled gingerly to a stop in the right-hand lane. For the tiniest moment I thought, "He looks so peaceful and free. Basking in the sunlight." The choking sobs and mournful repeating of "BuhBEE, BUHbee!" from the back seat only partially shook me from my daydreaming. But the white minivan that clipped Bubby's right side and sent him violently rolling onto the shoulder and nauseatingly out of sight into the ditch along the winding country highway successfully yanked me from my stupor. Hazard lights employed, and many a sheepish smile to the aggravated drivers slowly pulling around while I point to the abyss of the ditch and attempt to mouth "I'm so sorry. My daughter lost her Bubby." (as if they care... get out of the road, lady), the rescue mission was surprisingly successful. He required repeated doses of Shout Advanced and aggressive scrubbing, but the road rash he incurred, for the most part, has healed nicely. 
  • Two days before we leave for our secluded little cabin overlooking an area lake, the American Angler to which I'm wed discovered a hole in the hull of his fishing boat. Oops. 
  • Finally driving to the cabin, and an hour after entering a dry county, the angler and I realize we didn't bring the beer. (This was the low point.)
  • Our first night in the cabin welcomed us with a thunderstorm and quarter-sized hail. (The cabin was fashioned with a tin roof... so quaint).
  • Our first morning in the cabin welcomed us with temperatures below freezing, a low-lying fog that clouded the view and a general grumpiness among the troops. 
  • During our return trip to the cabin from an afternoon visit to a nearby town, winding and steep roads delivered an award-winning case of car sickness to Bubby's owner. It was during this experience that I realized my four-year old doesn't have any teeth. From the looks of what she produced, she chews absolutely nothing before swallowing. Which, in a way, was advantageous for the cleanup crew. Big chunks are easier to scoop up off of the back seat with the metal spatula provided by the cabin's kitchen. (Credit goes to the nomad for his composure, concentration and creativity during the recovery efforts.) And poor Bubby. He yet again endured a deplorable case of situational disrespect. With no washer and dryer, we could only resort to washing him with Great Value dish soap (Mountain Glade scent) and setting him in front of the fire. He held up his head, and we held our noses, as best we could. 
There were some wonderful moments bespeckled amongst the rubble. And, being in a warm loft cabin with a crackling fire, a glass of wine and the family with which you'd stick it out, regardless of the lingering, sour tinge of the smell of noodle vomit, beats your average day of scraping the hardened dishwasher soap out of the little dishwasher door that refuses to open during the wash cycle.

But, it's days like these spent with the ones you love that bring out the undiluted reality that regardless of the hype, you're gunna have your fair share of noodles thrown up all over you. It's how well you scrape them off the back seat that counts.

 Or something like that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Luck of the Irish... If only for a day

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. The obvious solemnity of the holiest of holy days aside - which undoubtedly all Irish-Americans, Catholic or otherwise, recognize, and if you don't, shame on you - it was a pretty great day all around.

I delivered both children safely to school, completely dressed (even though they both adamantly refused to wear green, ignoring my pleas that they'll be tortured by peers with evil pinching and return to me purple with bruises, because, afterall, that was the way it was when I went to school. And dammit it ought ta be that way now. I digress...) and on time. This may seem inconsequential. However, the aftermath of the recent stripping of an hour from my closely-guarded time bank has unfortunately impacted my five-year old most, causing one official tardy and three very close calls. Tardies are serious business, I've come to learn, in Kindergarten. I'm told she'll be taken off the "Watch List" sometime during the Second Grade, assuming there are no additional infractions.

I reconciled with my aforementioned uber-cool big brother and his beautiful, equally as uber-cool wife and their deliciously adorable baby girl over a quiet lunch composed of 98% adult conversation (excepting the Austin Powers references), and was comfortingly absent of any ulcer-inducing drama or embarrassment. I also broke my no-alcohol Lenten fast and savored two delicious pints of a local micro brew. One for me. And one for my Irish homies. 

I returned my library books on time... all jacketed as immaculately as when I checked them out, with no torn pages, missing CDs, and all absent of any additional pre-school illustrations that were not original to the publication.

I did a fair amount of work, even listening in on the dreaded conference call.

Picked up my young scholars on time (but not before being publicly reprimanded by a PTO board member regarding my irresponsible use of the one-way exit to enter the school lot... thus my embarrassment quota for the day was met), and even had the patience and stamina to agree to letting them play on the playground a bit instead of immediately returning home, per the usual routine.

Successfully cooked up my first beer-braised Irish Stew and something those Green Islanders call a Colcannon. And unsuccessfully poured up my first Black and Tan, but successfully drank it down.

The nomad returned from far away lands. Weary though he was from traveling, he quietly cleaned the disaster I left in the kitchen (sadly, no pot of gold to be found for him upon completion) and deloused the mangy children. In so doing, I quietly allowed him full control of the remote, and an entire hour of the History Channel.

All in all, an incredibly luck-filled day.

I can only look forward to the next moderately-observed holiday on the calendar and wonder with anticipation what's in store...

April Fool's Day.

Well, crap.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jesus Cake and Holy Rollers

I made a King Cake for my four-year old's preschool class yesterday. I was told by her teachers it was a huge hit, and seconds were requested by most of her friends. I was also told, by the four-year old that belongs to me, that the proper name for said pastry is "Jesus Cake."

Upon correcting her, she reproached, "No. We will caw it a Jesus Cake. Because it was weow-wee good, and all my friends whuved it. And Jesus is weow-wee good, and I'm pretty shuah all my friends whuve Him too."

Touché. I'll not even attempt to debate that point.

But, apparently, the aforementioned purvayor of pastry pseudonymity didn't get a healthy enough dose of the divine dessert. Judging from what I experienced today -- embarrassment in its purest form, immediately followed by overwhelming feelings of helplessness and parental failure -- I've deduced this child undoubtedly needs more Jesus Cake in her diet. Because if Jesus is "weow-wee" good, my four-year old is "weow-wee, WEOW-wee" bad.

Today, a leisurely lunch and conversation with my very hip, collected and gracious brother was tainted by flailing, crayons thrown to the floor, frustrated table pushing, screaming and a whole heaping helping of steaming hot sass being thrown my way. Even now, I'm not clear what exactly the catalyst was. In my limited research of Piss-Poor Preschool Attitude Syndrome, it seems the symptomatic triggers A) can vary, B) are composed of several chemical reactions, and C) depending on the environment in which the piss-poor attitude is being cultivated, can mysteriously self-produce independent of any and all logical and/or rational factors.

All that stupid metaphorical mumbo-jumbo to say, she freakin' went roller-girl in public with absolutely no intention of breaking. She showed no mercy. And refused to let up. I have a faint memory of something to do with a coloring book page that was torn. From there, it was a blur of the following internal dialogue:

"Crap. Oh Crap." (Eyes shifting quickly around the restaurant to gauge level of interest in the horror scene about to unfold.) "Shiiii... please stop. Oh please, please, stop. Okay. It's gunna be fine." (Attempting to self-soothe by breathing deeply.) "Arghh. This isn't working. I'm the adult. I'M THE ADULT HERE, for God's sake!"

If you're wondering how it ended... I was a teeth-gritting, stoic-faced parent, dragging/quasi-carrying by one underarm, hip and possibly the scruff of the neck/herding my kid through the lunch-crowd while patrons did their best to look away, instead focusing their energy on all the judgment they could muster. One middle-aged woman offered me a "knowing" head tilt and half smile before sheepishly looking at her shoes.

I took her out into the cold and gray March day, sat her on the concrete steps in front of the doors of a local pub (wishing that the young man sweeping under bar stools would pity my plight, and without a word, slide a pint of draft beer out to me) and did the only thing I knew to do. I sat quietly beside her until she settled down.

She's four. I need a manual. Because, as it stands, I haven't the slightest idea how to begin a conversation with her on the unacceptable nature of her behavior, the resulting palpable embarrassment that had by then taken over my appetite, or the unbridled disappointment and helplessness I was feeling as her mother... caretaker... at this point, more like an involuntary participant in some sick parenting game, the intent of which was to force the losing player into a position of complete and unadulterated discomfort and shame.

In desperation and not having anything else at the ready, I thought about telling her all this. Instead, as the wind picked up, I looked at her, and simply said, "You embarrassed me in there. Do you know what it feels like to be embarrassed? It's like when you stand up in the middle of the room, and everyone else is sitting down, looking at you. And your teacher asks you to sing a song, and when you finish, everyone laughs and some of your friends tell you all the things you did wrong, and all the words you messed up and all the ways you may have made yourself look silly. Have you ever felt that way?"




"No. But I'm weow-wee saw-wee you feeoh that way."

So, I've learned a two things today:

1) I must work harder at embarrassing my children. And each time I do, I will openly define the situation as "embarrassment" so that they will understand exactly what it feels like. It is unacceptable to me that I have a human being in my care who claims to have no understanding of this emotion to which I so religiously cling.  I can't recall two days in succession when I've not had a run-in with it. That my children are experiencing anything other than this irritates me. This will change for them. And in so understanding, my opportunities to be entertained have just increased exponentially. (Bwaaaa haa haa haa haa ha ha ha ha... heh heh... ahem...)

2) I have no idea whatsoever what I'm doing as a parent. I need a game plan. Should similar situations play out again, I need to be ready. I've gotta get a better strategy in this parenting roller derby. I took a beating today, and I feel like I may be sore for a while. I found myself helmetless on the rink floor amid a swarm of elbow throws and kicks. But this one... this one will require some thought. Other than swearing to never leave the house, thereby never having to parent in public again... although, this is a viable option... I don't have the answers.

It's days like these that make you think back nostalgically on the pre-kid utopia you once lived. The days before Jesus Cakes, kid-interrupted conversations that take weeks to complete, and the brutal roller girl beatings children can bring.

But, then again, Jesus is "weow-wee, weow-wee" good. And, perhaps, armed with enough of His cake and a sturdy pair of parenting skates, I'll eventually roll through this derby alive.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Softball vs. Sandboxes: In Pursuit of the Average Kid

Character building.
I tore into a new two-week package of Prilosec a few days ago. The ulcer's been steadily churning for a while now, but it wasn't until just recently the bubbling crater required medicinal attention. And, during these times of self-perceived weakness, I tend to look back and reflect upon the goings and comings of my current state and question why I've allowed said factors to consume me... or at least consume my gastro function.

I am very much a controloholic. And when I lose my grip, I feel I've failed. And, often, my children are to blame. Well, indirectly. More clearly stated, I worry, at a nuclear level, about the decisions I make for my kids, and how those decisions are going to affect who they are going to become.

For instance, now in kindergarten, my older daughter brings home flyers and papers and pamphlets and handouts, thrice-daily it seems, touting cheerleading camps, dance workshops, gymnastics tryouts, MathAThons, scouting, soccer, softball, basketball (I find this one particularly amusing to target to the under-3-feet-6-inch demographic), rocket science expo, intro to neurology, "Your Ticket to The Nobel Prize Nomination" seminars, and on and on.

And, I worry. As I toss them habitually into the brown paper recycling bag, I worry that perhaps I'm holding her back. Maybe she really NEEDS these things. After all, SOMEONE obviously deems them not only worthy, but essential, to her and her peers' development. As much I want to say I have every ability to control the variables and experiences in her young life with unwavering confidence, there is a creepy crawly thought that persistently slithers its way to the frontal lobe, and I begin to believe that my skepticism of the over-involved lifestyle will ultimately result in a dark and dismal future for her. What if, by not signing up for every extracurricular within the tri-county area -- successfully triple-booking every weekday and thereby refashioning our weekends into 48 hours of kid-ferrying, crazed-soccer-mom-cutting-off-traffic-in-a-minivan, ulcer-palpitating insanity -- she is missing her every opportunity at greatness? Fame? Success? Nay, dare I say, stardom??


But, then I read something today... a bit of mental Mylanta. And, much like my own, it's just another voice out there in the cyber clutter, but I drank it down: "It’s not the achievement that’s important, but what is learned through successes and failures that creates character."

And so, with that clear validation from such a credible source, I'll continue to cling closely to the hope that I'm not causing long-range damage (to her, anyway... my stomach is clearly irrecoverable). Perhaps successes and failures can indeed be unearthed in simpler, less-stress-inducing outlets when the scholar is a five-year old. And, maybe this lifestyle of swapping ballet recitals for afternoons in the sandbox and trading weeks of selling cookies door-to-door for early Saturday morning fishing ventures will yield an average, ordinary kid who, God-willing, will grow up with a strong understanding of what she likes and doesn't like, of what she believes to be true and false, and of what she herself deems worthy of her pursuits. Either that or she'll be most excellent at sand structures and fish chowders.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Like a Lamb

I opened the windows today.

And, I breathed.

For the first time, in this morale recession they call winter, I breathed. And just as if I were playing the role of that blissfully put-together domestic angel on the set of a dryer sheet commercial (heh, chuckle-worthy thought, no doubt), the floor-length drapes billowed and surrendered to the winds of this first day of March. And subsequently, I surrendered my pessimism and winter cynicism, and implored that, on the wake of those uptopic breezes, the Almighty deliver both far from my reach.

And, again... for the first time in a long time... I have faith it will actually happen. Perhaps this March Lion they speak of is soon to be on the prowl. Perhaps these gentle breezes that signal the promise of spring will themselves be forced to surrender to the storms of more ominous days to come. (Oh, come on. Let's get real. If any of you unfortunate readers have skimmed over even a phrase or two of my previous posts, you'll have to agree that "perhaps" should read "bat down the hatches and prepare for the worst".) But, as long as this new March wind billows and blows, I believe I'll continue to summon the lambish (heh, sheepish) bits of my heart in defense, should that cowardly feline come a knocking.

Here kitty, kitty. Blow wind, blow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How High's The Water, Mama?

Five feet high and rising.

Noooooo. Puh-leeeeze. I wouldn't pretend to falsify our situation in a self-serving attempt to garner sympathy. I do have SOME standards. 

It's actually $296.21 for last month. And after a quick, panic-derived call to the water company, sweet, sweet Annette assured us that this month's bill is substantially more impressive. Even my dear friend and poet of humanity, Johnny Cash, couldn't, I dare say wouldn't, draft prose around such horrifying possibilities. But here it is. In black (like The Man In Black himself) and white invoice form. 

We can make it to the road in a homemade boat

That's if we could get these checks to float
But Annette don't care if our children have no coats, 

Five feet high and risin'

How high's the fever, Papa? 

104.5 and rising.

I remember when Abby, the five-year-old, was an infant. Her pediatrician reminded me, "Anything under 100.4 is a safe and acceptable fever in a child. This helps to fight off infection, and arms the body with yet another tool to rid us the things that make us sick." So, what does 105 do, doc? (As the anxiety-stricken layman rounds up, of course.) Her loving father, in an attempt to help, lay awake in bed and utters, "That's probably frying her brain. You know that, right?"

Well, the hives are gone,
I've lost my bees
She's gotta fever that's makin' her wheeze
Daddy's diagnosis earns him a PhD
104.5 and risin'

How bad's the ulcer, Papa? 

Two Pepcid per hour and rising.

Poor, papa. He loves his children with a unique devotion and tenderness that I have had the privilege to witness beginning the day our oldest was born. And, as much as it pains me to see him worry, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't find his tendency toward catastrophic thinking endearing -- I'd even go so far as to say amusing.

"Fry her brain? Um. Seriously?"

"Beth, I remember being a kid." (Good to know his memories include childhood. Excellent preamble, counselor.) "I'm pretty sure we're supposed to put her in the bathtub with ice water or something. I think that's what my parents did, anyway. Besides, it's not unrealistic to think her brain cells are dying off right now."

I refrained from commentary such as, "Riiiiiiiiight. I think perhaps your parents waited too long to get you in ice water."

In humility, the following morning, I discovered he had actually woken up nearly every hour to monitor her temp. Despite his sagging lids and red eyes, the relief on his face was transparent as he announced, "She's down to 100.4!" Good job, papa.

Hey, come look through the window pane,
The bus is comin', gonna take us to the train
Her temp is down and papa's gut is feelin' no pain,
Spirits are high and risin'

Friday, February 18, 2011

Insults, Injury and the Status Quo

New Year Resolutions. I don't do them. In fact, I resolve very little, be it a page turn of the calendar or otherwise.  

Self-serving disclaimer to follow: I like to think my observational skills are such that, as necessity dictates, I can and will make changes to ensure life improves. Usually, for my offspring more than for myself. I'm rather content in my thirty-odd years of practically drama-free living. As the lead researcher of my own complex character existentialism, I see very little that needs changing (other than the sheets...) and understand, warmly embrace even, my own dependence upon variable-free day-to-day living, and I believe that ultimately results in a fairly constant state of peaceful existence.

However, if the winter onslaught of January and February wasn't enough, the past 72 hours have unfolded themselves, nearly hour by hour, as something of an epiphany for me. And, it seems, not only hour by hour but page turn by page turn, this stoic lead character (I think we'd all agree "heroine" is a bit of a stretch) has slowly come to realize that change, whether welcome or not, will indeed come knocking. And one may choose to open the door, and warmly embrace the arrival of the impromptu house guest. Or, turn the bolt lock with a snap, turn a nose to the air and turn a cold shoulder to the inevitable.

Through the process of this week's preliminary studies, I believe the latter to be detrimental. Seems my penchant for the passe precludes progress. As is evidenced by the following summary of the aforementioned 72-hour cathartic period.

Sunday, my darling, darling nomad of a spouse leaves for work.

Wednesday afternoon, the water meter reader arrives. Child is sleeping. Existentialist is hard at work, answering emails and pondering the frequency of the appearance of pink rings in the toilet bowls. Doorbell rings. (Think campy horror flick. Ding. Doooooooooong. Complete with warped and warbled sound effects. Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.)

"Ma'am? (Ugh. "Ma'am". Basically, a passive insult. Nothing good ever follows a "Ma'am?" It's like when your mom calls, and greets you with "Honey? You got a second?" Ding. Doooooooooong.) "Are you aware you've got a water leak out here leading from the main line?" Internal dialogue: "Why Yes! Dear, sir. Isn't it a thing of beauty? Bubbling up like a fresh natural spring. Peaceful. Wouldn't you agree?"

In reality, this conversation ends with a field trip out to the water box, with a detailed explanation consisting of the following phrases: "200% of your normal usage", "definitely your responsibility to fix", "plumber will need to bust up this sidewalk", "water will be out for days", "may want to contact the city", "you're screwed", "gather up your children and head out", "cash in your 401k", "get your living will in order".

Thursday phone calls ("We've traced the call... it's coming from inside the house.") from both our Home Warranty Company as well as our Homeowner's Insurance Company confirm that such a trifle matter is not covered by any of our policies.

Thursday evening, nomad wanders back to the tribe. Four year old receives an unfortunate and forceful blow to the brow with a metal doorknob. (Palpable irony.) After parental deliberation on severity of said injury, our foursome loads up and heads to the ER. (This experience deserves the solemnity of its own post. I will therefore withhold detailed commentary.) A leisurely four hours later -- wiled away with an oft-replayed downloaded episode of "Yo Gabba Gabba! on the nomad's phone, Ray Charles's Hit the Road, Jack, numbing cream and three sutures -- we head home.

Friday morning, five year old shuffles into nomad and existentialist's room, ablaze with fever and upset stomach, unsure she'll make it to the toilet. Internal dialogue: "Holy Hand Grenade. We have no water. Vomiting kid. No water." Ding. Doooooooooong.

Just as I'm heading to the front door with a screw driver and pliers to forcefully remove the doorbell (what I had at that time concluded as the source of all evil), the Masters of Disaster -- 24-Hour Emergency Plumbing Service arrive. After sucking down the smoke of three cigarettes, while bluntly prodding the sod in question, Mr. Disaster Master confirms, "It's not good."

Currently, we are awaiting a jackhammer to arrive to destroy the sidewalk covering the problem pipe, in so doing, significantly contributing to our neighbors' ever-growing distaste for us. I have decided to not only keep the doorbell functioning, but unlock the front door, open it wide, and freely accept any and all possible arrivals for the unforeseeable future. It is obvious to me, with head in the sand, I've ignorantly evaded change far too long. It has found me. Tracked me down like a thief in the night. Has me zeroed in, and will unrelentingly plop itself upon my front stoop until it believes I have succumbed to my fair share of drama-filled, variable-driven, lifestyle-altering change.

Ding. Doooooooooong.

"Why come on in! Yes. Yes! Of course, have a seat. I'd offer you a glass of water, but I'm fresh out." 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Slow & Sane Wins The Race

Today the high is forecast to be 39 degrees.

And as I watched the sun rise this morning over the blindingly white landscape, a new hope washed over me with every gulp of coffee I chugged. It appears we will indeed survive. Our mental capacities will hold out. This little family has built a foundation of perseverance with copious amounts of snow and an occasional oatmeal cookie washed down with a Samuel Adams Boston Lager. The finish line is in sight, and our four-person relay team will conquer this grueling marathon with strength and full neurofunction.

And as my pulse quickened with excitement, and I began to hear the theme to Chariots of Fire faintly rise in tandem with the sun above the horizon, I found my oldest in the mud room, tying her own snow boots onto the dog's front paws and saying "You ready for this Maddie? Time to go hiking."

Perhaps we didn't make it, after all.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow Me Your Punny Side

Snowco. Snowranged. Snowlirious. Snowmentia.
Let's face it. Too much of anything ultimately results in a plebeian cliche. (Think flannel, residential holiday mailbox flags, Dippin' Dots.) And on any other day, a day on which, oh I don't know, I'd be able to open my front door without 32-foot snow drifts threatening to charge through my foyer and consume my children, I'd scoff at the aforementioned trite, and find bits far more abstruse to ponder upon. However, today is not that day. Today is a day to celebrate the snowverdone plays on words, for some of which, I have many of you to thank. Keep them coming, folks. I've gotta fever. And the only cure, is more snow puns. Here are a few of my favorites, some snowlects, if you will:

Oh...snow you didn't.
Snow much for spring.
Snow way!
A snow's throw away
Snowly cow!
Well, snow me over.
There's snow way out
Snow'cha know??
The point of snow return.
Snow me to the door.
Snow holds barred
Snow me the money.
Snow effin' way!

This snowpocalyptic season itself has indeed become cliche. But my love for a snowtastic double entendre has not. Snow way.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A New Perspective

The latest weather report I've read described the upcoming onslaught as a "whopper of a storm." This has drawn me to several hypotheses.

1. Our local meteorologists have lost it. They're exhausted. Hungry. They've sat slumped in their crappy non-ergonomically correct newsroom chairs, unable to count the number of days they've been in the same shirt and tie. Their muscles in atrophy, they're completely apathetic to the plight of the people. Their eyes have glazed over, unable to focus on predictive computer forecast models. They are as desperate as unequipped and wary nomadic desert wanderers, seeing mirages of utopia-worthy temperate forecasts manifest themselves on their computer screens. "A breezy 74 with sunny skies awaits us tomorrow. Scrape the ice off the grills, people! Trade those snow boots for flip flops, and light the citronella candles. It's gunna be a whopper of a storm!"

2. I'm revising my latest grocery list. Previous to the aforementioned forecast being published, my local grocer was going to receive cash payment for the following:
Frozen Waffles
Peanut Butter
Toilet Paper

I've since decided to replace those items with the following:
2 Cartons of Marlboro Lights (I don't smoke. But given this latest turn of events, I figure it's best to increase all detrimental factors in order to make my misery as short-lived as possible.)

3. I will not retrieve my oldest from school today. They willingly accepted her back this morning, with every understanding that they were responsible for her well-being. She's better off there anyway. (Refer to hypothesis 2.)

In an interesting side note, my husband left yesterday for work. Between the time he arrived to his destination (a luxurious mountain lodge resort in the beautiful Ouachitas) and this morning, my BFF, Mother Nature, handed him three inches of snow and the inability to drive the ten minutes down the mountain to the account he is supposed to be working this week. So, while we at home successfully coax our ulcers out of recession and resist the urge to vomit, we can at least be at peace knowing he's snug as a bug in one of Arkansas's most beautiful natural landscapes, enjoying a crackling fire, a full wait staff and the perspective of an indefinite return.

Cheers, sweetheart.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Thaw. Coronary and Otherwise.

Snow-covered feeders await the day's first customers.
Last night, as I watched the last of yesterday's flakes dance and then disappear into the ginormous powder puff that was once my back yard, I tried determinedly to stifle the rancid case of pessimism that I'd been harboring the past four days. What gives? When did unabashed dread and acute mope-tastic behavior replace winter storm excitement? 

Here's what I believe to be true of the parent psyche relevant to ice, snow and any other manner of winter's wrath: 

Laundry piles up. Hourly. No sooner does one toss that last frayed fabric softener sheet into the trash can and stuff yet another newly-single sock into the rag bag does the next soggy, grimy, smelly round manifest itself. My children seem to be slow on the uptake on this one. You'd think after innumerable rounds of eye rolling, heavy sighing, grinding of teeth and 20-minute lectures on "The Essence of Clothes: Understanding Fabric's Attraction to the Coat Hanger & Dissecting Its Fear of the Floor", they'd learn to at least hide the barely worn clothing in some dark corner of the closet, temporarily sparing themselves yet another earful from me. Long days at home make for long hours in the laundry room. And there's no better catalyst for pessimism than laundry. 

Watching the Aristocats thrice daily impairs mental function. Everybody wants to be a cat? Huh? We're not cat people. Our smelly outdoor Golden Retriever, and her severe lack of intelligence, is right up our ally. And I'm fairly certain she does NOT want to be a cat. Or perhaps she does. It could explain her constant consumption of the neighbor cat's byproducts. Right. Another story for another day. 

Twenty-seven hands of Crazy Eights with a four and a five-year-old result in an inability to properly identify the cards held in one's hand. Jack? No, no, no. That's the "J" card. Queen of Hearts? Try the "Your Highness Sweet Pea" card. And throw out any previous understanding that there is any difference between a six and a nine.

But, after the kids were in bed, (...I make no claims that I bathed them or brushed their teeth. The five-year-old "won" at Crazy Eights, and presented a very convincing argument that winners never get dirty...) I found myself mesmerized by the scene out my window. It wasn't necessarily a bad day. Just a long one. And there was beauty to be found throughout it, if I would have ignored the laundry long enough to see it. Or snuggled on the couch for thirty minutes to watch it. Or realized the hilarity of matching "Super K Crown" cards to enjoy it. 

And in the splendor of today's long-awaited sunshine, as the icicles drip away and the powder puff blanket sinks into the brown grass, the cold pessimism of my winter heart is melting, drop by drop. (Due in no small part to the fact that the kids are sleeping and my husband is attempting to match socks. Bless him.) And perhaps, with enough sunshine - and the school doors reopening - this mental hang up called winter will yet again earn my appreciation for the excitement that it once harbored.

But, then again... maybe I'm just dreaming of spring.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 4. Snowpocalypse.

What follows is the cry for help sent out yesterday: 

Urgent. Send help. The troops are restless. Defying authority. Please notify the general that action must be taken, and soon. The situation is worse than we had originally feared. The troops have taken on a dog, providing it shelter and food within our living quarters. I believe delirium to be the culprit for one soldier in particular, as evidenced by her constant and continual request to change into her dress uniform and "perform a show". The rest of us are doing our best to hide our concern for her mental state, but just yesterday her fellow soldier informed me, "This snow is making me bananas."

The one glimmer of hope are the birds which we are able to see close to the barracks. But even the wildlife runs to safety when our soldier in question runs through the mess hall, towards the window screaming, "BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRDS!!!!!!!"

No end in sight. Our path to the dispatch is still blocked. All roads to the the Root Rendezvous are treacherous. Please advise of our next orders. Something must be done before it's too late.

And in true bureaucratic and tax-payer-funded government fashion, an unsurprising response: 

General Headquarters
Troop 1690-72701

...This is a generated message. Due to blizzard conditions all Headquarters and sub-committee offices regarding solution/consultation situations are closed. If this is an emergency contact your Senator and/or Representative. We feel all troop leaders have been properly trained and are capable of handling any emergency, anyway. Actually we have all managed to avoid any danger to our lives and have temporarily moved our offices to undisclosed (resort) locations. The President considers our role in the defense of the United States such that he has ordered our complete removal from any dangerous situations or difficult decision making.

There has been no return date discussed.

Semper fidelis

My futile retort:

Troop 1690-72701
General Headquarters C/O Carnival Cruise Lines


Please deliver the following message, as it is a matter of national security.

As of 1500 hours, Thursday afternoon, we will be abandoning our assigned post for Operation Subzero Brain Numb. We've made no headway in crossing over enemy lines, and at this point, feel our orders simply cannot be executed. As the officer in charge of the brigade, I've made the executive decision to leave the canine behind. While the troops sleep, I am packing their duffel bags, and with the help of my subordinate, Sergeant Major Allison, will secure our outpost for an indefinite return. It is increasingly clear that leaving the barracks is our only option to regain sanity of the soldiers in question.

At this time, I unfortunately cannot comment on our estimated time of return. Please await further communication on our progress. We will send CCs of this briefing to the tiki bar, masseuse, and hotel concierge to ensure this safely gets to you, and that you are at all times aware of our plight.

To date, there's been no response.

Adding To The Clutter

If you haven't heard, it's snowing. Again.

Yesterday, in a fit of delirium brought on by an extreme case of cabin fever, I composed an email to my parents, in a futile effort to initiate some sort of adult contact.

I posted the communication to my Facebook profile, and some nuts I call friends suggested I start a blog.

So here I am. Yet another noisy voice in the cyber clutter. Undoubtedly, I accept the reality that I will indeed be the only reader. (With the exception of my husband's forced participation.) But the social psychologists of the day (AKA, the aforementioned nuts and the voices in my head) tell me it is through these electronic means of communication that I will surely find some therapeutic value. Or at least, I'll find an excuse to further ignore the fact that my children's lungs haven't processed outside air in the past four days, resulting in inexplicable behaviors.

So, read. Or don't. Whatevs. This is, after all, for me, dammit. As all things, inevitably are.