Friday, May 30, 2008

Shine On...

I am amazed at a new trend I see happening all around us. Perhaps it's partly due to the warmer weather. Perhaps it's also because Hollywood and the media have tried to play up how "sexy" it is. But, I tend to think it's like the fashion of horizontal stripes: not everyone should wear it.

Men of all ages and all backgrounds are shaving their heads. Some leave a little stubble. Most shave it clean.

Like I said, it does definitely suit some men. Men that are dark and broad and muscular can usually pull it off the best.

I understand some find it more appealing than a big widow's peak or a bald spot in back. And I will hands-down vote that it's more attractive than the "wrap around", where men grow out the front side of their hair long, then wrap it around in a circle to try to conceal missing hair.

Some men would be better to just keep what's left short. Young men, especially, that are very lean and not particularly muscular should heed this advice.

I certainly don't expect men to run out and get wigs. But I think that just shaving it all off is a little rash, too.

In fact, men get away with a lot that is rather unappealing on many of them. For example, is it necessary for us to see a bald man with his shirt off, revealing a hairy back and "man boobs"? Do they have no shame? Do they have no vanity?

Many women wouldn't leave the house without lipstick on. In the more exclusive communities, moms wear baseball hats with highlighted pony tails hanging out the back. Women adore finery, jewelry and beautiful shoes. We would not be caught DEAD in a grungy pair of jeans, no shirt with a hairy back and BALD head, to boot.

I hope this is a trend that is short-lived. However, I have a funny feeling that it's got some life in it. And like the antithesis of the "hair bands" of the 80's, it will keep going until fashion says they just must stop.

"Bald is Beautiful" is not a button I'll likely be wearing anytime soon. Here's hoping that the Mr. Clean/Kojak look "grow out", too.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Days of Whine and Kiddie Meals...

There are many things in life that we consider milestones: walking, talking, going to Kindergarten, graduating High School, graduating college, getting married, having kids, etc.

Personally, we have those milestones, plus others: first kiss, getting our drivers license, getting a car, first job, getting an A in a class in which we thought we would do poorly. We set goals for ourselves, and congratulate ourselves on our accomplishments.

My children have a whole different set of milestones I neither remember having as a child, nor do I understand now. To begin with, my children consider making it to different levels in a hand-held Nintendo DS game system to be a huge accomplishment. I don't even know how to turn the thing on.

My eldest is moving into middle school this coming school year. I can hardly believe it's here. Just yesterday, I was walking him into Kindergarten and struggling with a toddler and a baby carrier through the school doors.

Two of my three kids have braces. They all have their own cd player in their rooms, and have since they were much younger. They all know how to use the phone, and use it way too often. They all have their own e-mail address. The eldest even has a cell phone! (I didn't have a regular land-line phone in my room until I was in 9th grade!)

However, the thing that they are the most hung up on right now is: moving from the kiddie menu to the adult menu when eating out.

Many restaurants have their kids' menu for children 10 and under. Since my eldest has turned eleven, he consistently tells the waiter/waitress that he's "too old" for the kiddie menu.

He could no sooner eat an entire adult portion of anything than fly to the moon. But he is reaching for that milestone that makes him have a bigger menu and no crayons with his meal.

"Can I get a double cheeseburger, mom?" He asks. Then adds, "Did you hear me okay? I think my voice is changing."

The two girls gaze at him with admiration.

Emma reports, "He's too old for children's meals. The menu says, 'Ten and under.' Keith is eleven." Amy sits beside her nodding.

"Keith, are you hungry enough to eat an adult meal?" I ask, almost certain that the answer is no.

"I think so."

"Well, why don't we start with a kids' meal for the smaller portion. Then if you're still hungry, we can get something else."

"He's too big, mommy. It's against the rules," Amy warns with big, round eyes.

"I think it will be okay," I try to assure her.

"Look, mommy," Emma says, pointing to the menu, "It says TEN and under. Keith is ELVEN."

"Uh huh. Do you want me to ask the waitress?" I ask.

"No. Fine. I'll have the kids' meal," Keith pouts, and slumps down into the booth.

"Honey, if you're hungry..."

"No, Mom, it's okay. The kids' meal is just fine," he spits out.

Now I'm stuck. How can I possibly justify spending $5 more dollars on an adult meal he won't eat? And besides that, I try to make it a rule not to give in to pouting. But the girls are looking at me as if I'm trying to rob a bank by getting an eleven year old a meal that says it's for ten and under children.
When did a Happy Meal become a "bad" thing? Five minutes ago they were fighting over the Happy Meal toys. Now they are trying to decide how they like their steak cooked and what dressing they would like on their salads.

"Look," I begin, "I really don't care what you eat, so long as you actually eat it. I don't want you to eat if you aren't hungry, so I encourage you to stop eating when you're full- no matter what's left on your plate. HOWEVER, the fact remains that you are usually full-to-bursting when you finish your Happy Meal. AND you hardly ever even touch your fries, besides that. So, order what you want."

"So, I can get the Double Stacker Cheese and More Burger with Cheese and Catchup only?" he asks, gleefully.

I sigh.

"Yes... But just get the sandwich- not the combo meal."

He smiles victoriously. The girls heave out sighs of relief that we won't be consciously disobeying the menu rules.

"Cool," smiles Keith. "Can I have a LARGE Dr. Pepper to drink, too?"

I glare at him.

"OK, fine. Whatever size comes with it is fine. I'm sure they have refills with the medium," he backs down.

He's "won" because he didn't have point at a picture on a kiddie menu to place his order. His meal didn't come with a toy or crayons. And, as baffling as this excitement is to me, the girls seem to have caught his enthusiasm, and watch jealously as he is served his drink in a cup that isn't Styrofoam with a lid and a straw.

Now, if I could get my children as excited about a full-ride scholarship to college, life would be grand.

But for now, the kids are in awe of passing the kiddie menu age. So for now, that's what we'll celebrate-- hold the fries.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New #1...

On April 26, 2008, I posted an entry titled "Did I Just Say That?" It talked about all the things we say as parents that we never really imagined we would say or that would need to be said.

I had compiled a sort of "Top 10" list, whose #1 was "Honey, why did you try to flush the cat down the toilet?" (Cat was fine, wet & mad.)

Since 4/26, the same child has bumped off the #1 on the list for a whole new quote.

My youngest, who now calls herself Amy (see "A Rose By Any Other Name"), "helped" me clean out my closet. Truth be told, she scavenged my cast-offs, scoring such treasures as old costume jewelry, half-empty bottles of perfume, a pink pair of fuzzy house slippers with black paw prints all over them, and some make up.

Amy is the kind of child who lives life out loud. She has no fear. She makes friends with ANYONE (read: whether they like it or not). She loves anything sparkly. And she loves to be loud.

She was delighted with all of her new-found "stuff," and immediately began decorating herself with all of her loot. Fuzzy slippers looked like pink clown shoes on her little feet. Bracelets, necklaces, clip-on earrings and anklets dripped off of her tiny frame. And she had a cloud of perfume (she tried on all of them at once) that hung almost visibly around her.

But nothing could have prepared me for her little face that had been assaulted with every bit of make up she had acquired. It almost took on a fine-art quality, what with all the bright colors and bold, hap-hazard strokes. Her snaggle-toothed smile was rimmed with a garish red that I couldn't imagine having ever owned. Multi-colored eye shadow became more of a war paint, streaked across her eye lids, forehead, cheeks, chin and down her nose. And eye liner made sweet little hearts on each rosy cheek.

She walked up to me, smiling, holding a pot of glittery shadow.

"Mommy, can I put this here?" she asked, pointing to her eyelids.

"Yes, honey."

"Mommy, can I put this here?" she asked, pointing to her cheeks.

While I couldn't see how she could fit anything else on her face, I answered, "Mmm hmm"

"Mommy," she continued smiling, "can I put it here?" She pointed to her hands.

"Well, yeah, I guess."

Her grin widened. "Can I put it here?" She pointed to her neck.

"Yes, honey," I said, tiring of our question-answer session.

"Mommy, can I put it in my underpants?"


"NO!!!!!!!!" I said, a little too firmly.

"I didn't think so," she said.

"No, no, and no. Glitter eye shadow does NOT go in your underpants!"

"OK," she said, and walked away.

So, my new #1 is:

"Glitter eye shadow does NOT go in your underpants!"

I'd like to think that she will someday be a brilliant, up-standing young lady, who is adored by everyone who meets her. But, these kinds of incidents (which happen with way too much frequency for my comfort) make me worry.

My husband & I have always believed that she will never get caught following the wrong crowd. We've always been more concerned that she would be leading the wrong crowd.

But at least we'll be able to smell her perfume and see her sparkle from miles away...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stop Me Before I Volunteer EVER Again!

Why, oh why, didn't someone just shoot me last summer when I heard myself say, "Sure, we'll direct Vacation Bible School next year. How hard can it be?"

I actually think that this event may be the one thing that finally cures me of volunteering all together. I could never say "no" to any event or request. Partly because I felt guilty. But partly because I got so excited and swept up in the cause and/or the possibilities of the event.

But Vacation Bible School is a whole nother animal. Really.

It's like coordinating a three-ring circle to try to all jump up and scream "Bingo!" at the same time: impossible!

Fortunately, I have the Big Guy on my side, so I'm counting on Him to pull us through. After all, it's His event...

There are so many details... And we chose the "easy" program, that is supposedly "self-led". Hmph. Too bad the supplies aren't "self-bought" and the volunteers aren't "self-trained" and the directors aren't "self-organized."

Either way, two Mondays from now, it will be done. I will be free from the stress of having 70+ children looking at me saying, "Now what do we do?" and 20+ volunteers saying, "Now what do we do?" and a whole congregation saying, "Last year's directors really had this thing so down-pat."

My co-director and I are bff. That makes this whole situation so much more tolerable. Although, I must say I think some of the initial appeal of doing this thing has not really panned out. We had big plans to meet every week over 2-for-1's at Chili's to discuss and organize. To date, we have done that exactly... never.

Instead, we each have our own mini (0r major) panic attacks, which leads to a hysterical phone call. Then one of us will talk the other off our ledge, we try to solve the fire de jour, and move on.

We have already stated for the record that this is a one-time-only appearance. Next year, we will go back to throwing crackers at each other as Snack Goddesses and leave the big important stuff to someone else.

I think we have actually even cured ourselves of ever saying "yes" to anything again. Now, when people start with, "I have a favor/question/proposition/etc." I can say "NO! Not interested. Find someone else. My plate is full. I don't even like you..." and walk away- quickly.

I've also learned to NEVER give suggestions. The minute you say, "You know what would be a great idea?..." you become prime target for carrying out said idea. I've taken that the other way, too, though. With anything I have overseen over the last few years, I've learned that when someone says, "I really wish the board/committee/church/school/etc. would do __________," I say, "I think YOU would be great at that! I'll let them know you are interested." (If nothing else, it shuts them up...)

I'm certain at the end of this experience I will feel blessed to have been used as God's instrument to share His love with so many people. But right now, my stomach hurts, my head hurts, I can't sleep, and I dread every time the phone rings.

This really wasn't what I signed up for... But what ever is???

The Chauffer

Riding in our mini-van today, I felt like our family was actually in a commercial which would air to extol the virtues of the Nissan Quest.

The camera would pan around the cabin, showing the girls watching a Scooby Doo movie with their headsets tuned in to the movie. Then they would scan over to the eldest, who had his i-pod contraption plugged into his ears, playing his imaginary drum set to some rock song that would make my ears bleed. Finally, the camera would register a peaceful, calm mommy and daddy listening to the music of our generation.

There would be some sort of tag line or catch phrase, like "Why shouldn't the trip be fun, too?"

Then they would show my front license plate that actually says, "Mom's Taxi," and we would ride away smiling into the sunset.

Growing up, we would have had more of a tag line or catch phrase that said, "The challenge is just getting there."

My brother and I fought over the radio, the side of the car we would sit on, even the imaginary line down the middle of the back seat. My parents liked to listen to what we fondly now remember as "elevator music," and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't help but sing along. (There is something so fundamentally wrong with big band playing anything by Prince!)

We didn't have dvd players. Instead we played the license plate game, finding all the states we could on the cars we passed. Or the alphabet game, trying to find the letters of the alphabet in order in the beginning of words on billboards, signs, bumper stickers, cars, etc. We sang songs together. (I'm still a little scarred by that...) We played 20 questions for miles.

We never ate in the car; There were hardly any "drive through's" to accommodate such a request. We didn't wear seat belts; The cars hardly had seat belts. As a matter of fact, I remember sleeping on the floorboard of the car and in the rear window of the car on long enough trips.

Of course, the car was cool from the air conditioner. We didn't have central heat and air at home, so the car was pure heaven during the summer vacation.

We could literally pack everything including the kitchen sink in the trunk. And we had room to spare.

We all felt the sting of gas going over $1.00 per gallon. We vowed to carpool and take less car trips. But summer family vacation would never be compromised.

I can't say we "bonded" any more then than we do now. But I will say, there is something that does make you feel connected in having a shared experience- good or bad.

Our mini van makes it feel like we are all on our own vacation. When we get to our destination, we find ways to connect. But the multi-hour drive could lend itself to real conversation. Yet, we choose not to take advantage of that time.

Looking back, the one thing I remember about those long, tedious car rides together was that we were together. Sometimes I wonder if all the gadgetry and modern day luxuries actually rob us of what's important: each other.

We may even compromise this summer and turn everything off... But I'll tell you this: the first peep- and it all goes back on!!!

Cinderella Fingers & Toes

The night before last, my middle child, who now goes by "Emma," and I got on our hands and knees (and stomachs and bottoms) and SCRUBBED the kitchen floor. This was no small feat, considering at some point in the past we had inadvertently taken off the finish of the linolium, leaving behind a yucky, tacky finish which attracted dirt like moths to a flame.

We had buckets of clean water and buckets of "chemical" water. We had about 20 rags we alternated through, so as to always have a clean one. We had scrub brushes and even a razor blade to take off scotch tape from various craft projects that had fallen face down on the floor, and just stayed there.

We scrubbed corners and baseboards and even inside the pantry (ick). We were like archiologists going through the sedament of our family's kitchen, finding playdough spots, paint spots and jelly dabs.

Just to clarify- we did and do sweep and mop our floors on a somewhat regular basis. But, with the finish all but gone, we were basically just stirring around the dirt and getting it wet. So, we spent the better part of our Sunday night trying to get it back to "clean".

Then dear hubby came behind with some sort of sealer that made the floor shine and sealed in all our hard work. We were quite proud.

While "Emma" and I were scrubbing and hubby was mopping, dear "Keith" and "Amy" were playing (aka: fighting) with the Wii. Keith would complain that Amy wasn't doing it "right". Amy would complain that Keith wouldn't let her play. On it went as a background track for our cleaning.

Hubby, Emma and I got very tired of the Wii people whining. They were playing, while we were working. Several times we offered to let them help us. Oh, no. They were fine playing the Wii, thank you.

Afterwards, our floors looked great. In fact, I can't remember them looking better!

The next day, Emma and I rewarded ourselves with a manicure for Emma and a pedicure for me.

I have only ever had one manicure- and never a pedicure. I am so ticklish on my feet, I wasn't sure it would be a pleasurable experience. But with Summer sandals begging to be worn, I needed to have my toes ready to be seen.

Emma chose three colors for her fingers. They soaked her little hands in warm water, then put various solutions on her finger tips and rubbed her hands and arms. She looked quite cozy and pampered.

I chose a fairly neutral color for my toes, still unsure how the whole thing was going to pan out. I put my feet into the warm tub of water that stirred and allowed the fragrant soak to waft up and smell wonderful. The technition came and began taking care of each foot alternately. He tended to each toe, as though it were of the ultimate importance that it in itself should be stunning.

When he began scrubbing off the yucky stuff on the bottom of my feet, I squirmed in my chair. It was not comfortable, as my ticklish nature wouldn't allow me to sit still. The technition graciously laughed along with me, and then moved on to something else.

I glanced over at Emma, who was obviously enjoying her experience. Then the technition began massaging my feet and legs. I have never been able to stand being touched on my legs or feet, due to my ticklishness. But I had relaxed enough that I was able to thoroughly enjoy the whole thing.

He took great care painting each toe with my selected color, until they shown Raspberry Sorbet. Emma looked fairly drunk with pleasure, too.

It was quite the reward for a job well done. I can totally understand people's infatuation with manicures and pedicures. And I also see why manicures and pedicures are considered to be one of the ultimate "girlie pampering" experiences.

I don't know that it will ever be a regular ocurrance, with standing appointment with a favorite technition. But, it will certainly be a fun ocassional activity for very special times.

And, for now, Emma and I feel very much like Cinderella, who after hard work at home, got to sparkle and dazzel at the ball.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name...

When I was growing up, I always dreamed of being a mother. Along with the visions of sweet sighs, soft skin and lots of tiny baby socks, I imagined the name(s) my child(ren) would have.

After I married and we started planning children, I realized two things:

1. Hubby had more of an opinion on the name(s) of the child(ren) than I cared for
2. My married last name did not lend itself to most of the names I had ever imagined

Our last name is French. It's a beautiful name, of which I am very proud. However, the exotic, sophisticated first names I had chosen sounded rather brazen and cheap along side the sir name the child(ren) would have.

For example, I loved names such as Noel, Chloe, Bridgett, Sophia. But with a French last name (we'll use LaFrey for our example), Noel LaFrey, Chloe LaFrey, Bridgett LaFrey and Sophia LaFrey... Well, it merely lacked "Boom Boom" as a middle name to complete the Tennessee-accented, stripper, pole-dancing name that resulted.

Surely, you can see how horrified I was to think of any daughter of mine being named "Bridgett- Boom Boom- LaFrey" Talk about predisposing your child to a certain life????
I also mentioned that Hubby and I had differing opinions on names. After I got over my disappointment of not being able to use any of my favorite names from childhood, my husband managed to veto just about any other name I found appealing.

Caroline, Jillian, Leanna or Campbell, Sumner, Thompson? No, no, no and no, no, no. Fine.

We finally came up with a couple of names we could agree on, and actually settled on a boy name and girl name for each of the three children, as they came. And, I was amazed at how much each child "fit" his or her name, as they grew.

There came the day that my kids and I were eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (without the crust, of course) at the lunch table.

Child number one said, "Mom, how did you come up with our names?"

"Well, daddy and I decided together. Why?"

"I don't like my name," my youngest said, with her nose wrinkled up.

"Really? Why?"

"I want a different name," my middle concurred.

"Well," I began, not realizing how I was setting myself up for such misery later on, "I had actually picked out names for you that daddy wasn't as crazy about. And daddy had some names he liked that I didn't."

"Like what?" my eldest said, so attentive he put down his sandwich.

"Well, I really liked the name Keith for you. And I wanted your middle name to be Albert after my grandfather. Or, I liked Sumner Thompson, after some other relatives."

My eldest considered these for a moment, and let the name "Keith" roll off of his tongue.

"I like Keith. Why didn't you name me that?"

"Daddy didn't like it."

"Well, I do. Call me Keith."

"What about me?" the two younger girls begged.

"Well, I liked Emma Grace for you."

"OOOOhhh. I like that, mommy! Why didn't you name me that?" my middle one asked, sitting with bright eyes on the edge of her chair.

"Well, your uncle made mention of the fact that Emma Grace sounds a lot like Immigrant. I have nothing against immigrants, but children can be mean, and I didn't want you to have that nickname."

"Well, I LOVE Emma Grace," she chirped gleefully. "Call me Emma."

The youngest was tugging at my sleeve at this point, frantic for her name.

"You," I said tapping the end of her nose with my finger, "were going to be Amy Michelle if I had my way."



"Hmmm," she pondered.

Finally, she smiled with approval. "OK. Call me Amy."

I laughed. "I think we need to finish our lunch."

Never did I think that little conversation would go beyond our lunch table. Yet, two years later, my children have become quite smitten with their alter ego names.

To this day, hubby and I find letters and personal items with Keith, Emma and Amy on them. When they play "pretend," they use their "other names" to be super heroes.

They have even begun asking if they can change their names permanently when they get older. I have told them that, technically, they can. But that once you grow up with a name, it is very hard to escape from it, as people identify you that way.

(I still have people (20 years later) who call me by my maiden name. And I still answer to it.)

So, I indulge them in their little game- after all, I started it. But I hope they will eventually come to see the value of their given name. It identifies who they are and whose they are.

But you know what? I love them- no matter what they call themselves! I call them "mine", "special", "precious" and "loved."

Thursday, May 22, 2008


School's last day was yesterday. As the sun set on the day, Summer officially began.

During Summer, we will usher in the absence of real bed times, the flurry of friends sleeping over, and the joy of not adhering to any true schedule. The weather is warm enough for swimming and playing in the sun, but cool enough to not require the administration of oxygen, as in the "dog days" of Summer in Middle Tennessee.

Today my kids are going strawberry picking with my mom and their cousins. Doesn't that just sound like a Norman Rockwell painting? Especially when you can't hear the siblings fighting over baskets, or bragging over who brought in the most strawberries...

I am looking forward to the sound of kids laughing and splashing in the pool while I let the sun warm my face. I love sitting on my parents' screened in porch, a breeze keeping us cool, while we visit. I so enjoy playing putt-putt golf and taking walks in the evening.

I am dreading bathing suits (really, some of them are so small, why bother? Just go naked, for heaven's sake!). I hate shaving my legs EVERY DAY (LOVE black tights in the winter!). And I despise being mosquito bate (the Tennessee state bird).

But, all in all, I am so excited to have it be SUMMER! Just saying it, makes me feel warm and happy! I'm sure in August, I'll be singing a different tune. But for now, it's SUMMER!!!!

The Letters

The day before yesterday I got a package in my mailbox from an old friend. It was a legal-sized manila envelope and it was "fluffy".

This friend is getting married in October, so I thought perhaps he had some really creative wedding invitation (which is so "him" and would not surprise me in the least.)

However, what I found inside has affected me in ways I never could have anticipated. He had written a letter, to approximately 20 people, that explained the contents of his envelope.

Apparently, he had kept all written correspondence from all of his friends from as far back as he began receiving letters. Now, when I say all correspondence, I mean notes passed in class in Junior High all the way up to family Christmas letters.

In his accompanying letter, he explained that he was going through all of his things, in lieu of his upcoming nuptials, and that his rather large collection of notes was something with which he was going to part. And so he sent all the letters back to their original authors.

My envelope full of notes was alarming. I can't remember what I had for breakfast this morning! What would I find in a pile of notes passed in class from my teen-aged self? What do you really have to say at fourteen/seventeen/etc? Obviously, I was not at a loss for words.

What I found amused me, inspired me and made me both sad and proud. First, I found I spent WAY too much time obsessing (to put it mildly) about my "love life" (who I was or wasn't dating, and why). But outside of that, I seemed pretty "normal".

All of my notes asked how my friend was doing, and commented specifically on whatever was happening in his life. Several had apologies for my being self-centered or hurting feelings. I recorded my feelings with a humor I didn't remember having. And I thanked him frequently for his friendship... Not bad for a teen-ager, huh???

Some less inspired observations include:

  1. I should have majored in origami. Most of my notes were folded so intricately, I almost couldn't open them without ripping them. Now I have no idea how I ever folded them to begin with.

  2. The Drama Department part of me somehow believed I would be famous. At least every other note advised him to keep my signature, because someday it would be worth something (still said rather tongue-in-cheek, though).

  3. If I had put all the energy I put into worrying about boys into the Drama Department, I would indeed be famous today. I almost don't recognize the teen-aged me who was so obsessed with boys!

All in all, it was a fun trip down memory lane. And, it gave me some insight into what I will be facing in the not-so-distant future with my own children.

So, thank you, my friend who though so much to keep these letters for such a very long time. What a great gift! It was great to laugh, reflect and remember.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Welcome Home!

So, dear son begs for cell phone until we threaten to not let him speak ever again. Finally, I got a phone "upgrade" (OK, right "upgrade". Let's call it what it is: Bilking the customer out of more money, making them think they got a deal, and then adding another two years on to their contract.) Conveniently, they had a "deal", where we got an additional "free" phone.

Son just about went rabid at the mere thought of owning this precious "free" phone. ("And, look, it plays music, too!") Hubby and I conferred and decided, well, maybe an "extra" phone wouldn't be so bad.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to son going out of town for first trip away. I took comfort in the fact that his cell phone would keep us connected.


First, I never got the first phone call from the child. Ever.

When he finally made contact with me- on the third night away- it was via a text message. I had texted son several times to say, "Hi! Hope you're having fun. We miss you! We love you!"

His return text that he finally got around to simply said, "Night." I supposed that was 11-year old for "Good night, mom. I love you. Boy, we're having a great time, but I'm pooped. Going to bed now. Love you lots!"

So I replied with, "Hey! Having fun? Love you!"

His return text only said, "L8tr"

I know as a parent the "good news" is that he was having so much fun and is so secure with himself and knows without a doubt that we love him- enough so, that he doesn't feel the need to blather on with details about the trip, what he's doing, seeing, or that he even (somewhat) misses us.

But, as a parent, I really was a little pouty that he didn't call or even text (both free Verizon to Verizon!). Well, to be fair, he did text. Twice. But I wouldn't call his texts even conversational. They sounded more like an ex-boyfriend blowing off the clingy, pitiful girl who just couldn't take the hint.

So, when he gets back (tomorrow!!!!), I'll be sure to give him lots of kisses and hugs in front of his friends. I may even bring the baby picture of him with a bare bottom lying on a white fuzzy rug. Maybe next time he'll make more of an effort to contact me so as not to let that happen again.

But probably, I'll just carry his things to the car, and watch as he very sleepily trudges behind me. Then I'll watch my weary, unbathed 11- year-old boy sleep in the car on the way home. Finally, I'll let him sleep, make him breakfast in the morning, give him a hug (without friends witnessing) and want to hear all about his trip.

But mostly, I'll just be glad he's home.

Buenos Noches, Pedro

So many "Girl's Nights" in a row proved to be Pedro's (our male sucker fish) demise.

Somewhere between the "chick flicks" and finger nail polish fumes, we noticed that Pedro was no longer "sucking." In fact, he was actually sort of floating. Hmm. Not good.

I've determined his passing was simply old age. First, he was a sucker fish, and he had PLENTY to suck in his tank. Secondly, I'm certain he didn't die from loneliness, as I believe him to be one of the primary suspects in all of our other fish's deaths.

Actually, I've decided he must have been an old, crotchety sucker fish that tormented all of our other fish. He may have even been a flasher sucker fish, which would explain why some of our little Baptist fish were momentarily stunned and sucked up into the filter.

Either way, Pedro is taking his permanent siesta in that great toilet bowl in the sky now. I'll be so glad to have the fish tank (or the "fish tomb" as we now call it) put away. Really, how many other people do you know that have every fish they've ever gotten define their home as a "watery grave"?

The only thing that could have made Pedro's final passing more ironic would have been if we had some sort of water plant life in the tank that died at the same time. Can one family really have this much "bad luck" with fish???

The girls and I enjoyed a great movie tonight, as Pedro swam towards the light. Then, when I realized the situation, I quickly ushered the girls upstairs, uncertain how they would take the news. Then I used the little fish net and put Guido to rest in his round, swirly coffin (aka: toilet).

I'm sure the girls will wonder tomorrow. But for tonight, I'll let them rest easy, believing all is right with the world. Tomorrow, they can find out the truth that Pedro taught us so well: "Life sucks, and then you die..."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Girl's Night

For the next several nights, we will be having "Girl's Night" at our house. Mommy & the two girls and even the dog are all of the female persuasion. Pedro the sucker fish (whose sex is not really known, just assumed) will be the lone male in a house full of giggles, hair bows, finger nail polish and chocolate.

Daddy & son are out of town until Friday night, and we have taken over!

To begin with, we got "chick flick" movies at the movie store- the kind that make guys break out into hives. Then we went on a mini-shopping spree at Target. Sixty-seven dollars, two outfits and three pairs of shoes later, we were off to dinner. Red Robbin was scrumptious, as always! I'm certain we ate enough to cause our new outfits to groan a little bit, but it was good!

After some homework and other chores at home, we are going to settle into my bed together.

I love my hubby and my son. But to me there is something so special about we three girls snuggled under the covers together. We all smell clean and sweet from baths and the cotton sheets are so soft.

This is the time when we talk about friends at school, why peanut butter is sticky and what is the best way to eat an oreo. The darkness allows for a certain anonymity that the light doesn't provide. In this darkness, a solemn bond of sisterhood lets secrets be whispered and dreams be shared. Giggles are sweeter and tears are wiped away by soft pajama sleeves.

Girl's Night means hugs and kisses that my son only seldom will give anymore. Son says, "Mom, you're so cool!" But the girls say, "I love you, Mommy!"

As the girls get older, I'm sure there will be a time when I am not so cool and cuddling under covers seems dull and boring. But hopefully, that time will make way to a new time and a new friendship, much like I have with my mother.

Mom and I don't have the opportunity to snuggle under covers, but sometimes we share a popcorn bowl and a blanket during a movie on the DVD. And we may not giggle as much, but we still laugh and share and talk on the phone and across the dinner table. Now, beyond mother and daughter, we are also sisters and friends.

Girl's Night is a treasure for me. I even get to have a Girl's Night once a month with my book club girl friends. (No snuggling allowed!) But we eat and drink together and talk (albeit briefly) about a selected book we have all read. We've had bridal showers, baby showers, birthdays and numerous other celebratory occasions. We've also grieved over loss together, shared stories that made us outraged for each other and even worried over a friend whose husband got deployed to Iraq for a year, after being inactive for over thirteen years.

I have girl friends I have known forever who can still make me laugh with, "Remember when?" I have a newer friend (bff) with whom I share an old soul. All are my sisters and I love them.

There will always be a need for men/boys/males. They balance us out. They are the other half of ourselves. They keep calm in a sea of hormones. And they help carry out action for moments of crisis.

But there is something so special about the sisterhood of women/girls/females. And I am forever grateful to have such special daughters to whom I am privileged to pass along the tradition.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Change is a'comin

The end of the school year is approaching fast! We only have seven more school days before summer!

The kids are already bouncing off the walls in sheer anticipation. I am looking forward to releasing some of my responsibilities that will end with the school year. Others, I will greatly miss.

My oldest is going on his first trip away from home without his parents. Sure, he has spent the night with friends. He even went to church camp last summer for a week. But this is a class trip to Georgia. He will be getting on a coach bus with fellow students and parental chaperons and traveling for four days.

I know he can handle it. The question is: can I?

My bff is experiencing the High School graduation of her second son this weekend. Then Monday my youngest graduates from Kindergarten. These two events coinciding have made me realize (again) how quickly time flies.

Every stage of life I've experienced with my children has left me saying, "THIS is my FAVORITE age!" Only to discover that the next age is even better!

I have absolutely LOVED every single minute of being a parent. And even though I am no less of a parent as my children grow up, I become a different kind of parent. I welcome the changes that will allow me to have frank, open discussions with my children. But there will always be a part of me that misses the crayon drawings that say, "I luv yu momi!", and reading the same story before bed over and over and over again, and watching with amazement as they discover some new thing and are awed by it.

I never tire of looking at my children: their hair, the shape of their face, their eye lashes, their freckles, their legs as they grow long, the way their eyes light up when they smile, their laugh. I've spent countless hours trying to memorize them in a particular moment, only to have that moment evolve into another.

I don't mean to seem melancholy at this new stage of life of my children. This time of year just seems to be when events mark the passage into a new time. I rejoice in this time. I look forward to the future. And I treasure all that has been in my heart.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Still Have "It"...

So I was walking through Wal-Mart at 10:00 PM on Sunday, Mother's Day evening. I walked past a young man, and I could feel him looking at me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his eyes travel down and back up- several times.

Part of me was a little alarmed: a strange man looking at me, oh my! But part of me thought: I still have it! Despite the 15 years of marriage, the 20th High School reunion, the three kids I have birthed and begun raising, the yoga pants & tee shirt I was wearing, and the fact that it was 10:00 PM on Mother's Day in Wal-Mart- I still have it!!!!

Why do we always look for that external validation of our self-worth? What is it that makes us feel so much better about ourselves if someone else thinks we're attractive?

In younger years, I would probably not have noticed this young man's glances. I was always looking for young, attractive boy's gazes. This young man did not particularly meet the dating criteria I had established for myself.

But these days, I am more appreciative of compliments from anyone who gives them to me. I'm not in the dating world, where compliments are handed out like candy on Halloween, in hopes of some kind of connection. I'm not in a job where physical attributes are judged closely.

I'm in a world of married couples and kids. Moms will compliment each other on shoes and kids. My family will tell me I look nice. And all of that feels very nice.

But there is still a certain charge that comes from a man that is obviously appreciative of your appearance. Never would I wish to be in that world where the next step is having to have some kind of conversation, like when we dated. And there is a certain kind of stare that can feel a little creepy. But "the look" still gives tingles.

As I tried to gauge the young man in Wal-mart through the corner of my eye, I noticed he kind of looked like he just got out of prison: he had on a ski cap, tattoos on his neck and exposed arms. He had baggy jeans that sagged to show the tops of his boxers, and he had a certain hitch in his step that said, "Yeah, I'm bad..."

His companions were a small, dirty child in the seat of the shopping cart, who had a snotty nose and was blowing snot bubbles, and a woman who looked like she put her finger in an electrical socket and then borrowed some little girl's clothing. Her muffin top rolled over the jeans, which barely contained her. The remainder of the day's make up was still too severe for her pale, round face.

My husband watched ex-prison mate #2584 undress me with his eyes, and then he smirked. When we walked out of ear-shot, I sidled up to him and grinned.

"I still got it," I said, giving him a small victory shake and curled upper lip.

"Oh, you mean that guy who looked at you?" he asked innocently.

"Yeah," I said. "I know he's not George Clooney, but he sure thought I was cute," I added smugly.

My husband cleared his throat and said, "I know what he was thinking."


Without batting an eye, my dear husband said, "He was thinking, 'Wow, the grandmas sure are hotter these days now that I'm out of prison."

I glared at him, punched him in the shoulder, and said flatly, "Thanks, honey. You always know just the thing to say to make me feel beautiful."

"Oh, honey. He wouldn't even know what to do with you!"

Is that supposed to make me feel better???

"Come on," he smiled, "let's go home and I'll make it up to you by giving you a back rub for the rest of your Mother's Day present."

OK. That's a little better.

I guess I'm going to have to tone down the sex appeal a little when I go to Wal-Mart from now on. I really didn't realize I had raised the bar so much by wearing clean clothing and a bra.

Now, if I can just get the same response from HOT guys- on the beach- while I'm wearing my bathing suit... Then I'll really feel good about myself!...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Have a Diet Coke & A Smile

OK- here's what I really need to know: If your liver can give out on you from drinking too much alcohol, what vital organ goes kaput from drinking too much caffeine? And, truly, this is a very valid question. As an official connoisseur of all things caffeine (coffee, soda, chocolate, energy drinks, etc.) I have had enough caffeine to make a lab rat freakin' glow.

When the doctor gives you a survey that asks how many sodas do you drink in a day, and the possible answers are: a) none; b) 1; c) 2 or more, I have to add my own line that says, "If I could figure out how to pump the stuff into my veins and bypass the middle man all together, I would." I have more than 2 diet cokes before lunch!

I'm waiting for a medical study that proves that too much diet coke makes your intestines swell, and that's why I can't lose weight. That might actually encourage me to cut back a little.

But right now, diet coke is one of my few vices. I don't drink alcohol much (I'm a light-weight). I don't smoke (stinky & couldn't afford it). I can't shop too much (have kids). And I can't have little flings on the side (way too tired!).

I somehow believe that since Diet Coke has the word "diet" in it, that drinking it should be adequate dieting behavior. No one ever heard of Exercise Chocolate or Weight Loss Lettuce. If they made that, I might actually be able to work out on a tread mill and get my daily fiber. But "Diet Coke" implies that I should not have to do anything other than drink this diet elixir in order to have a sleek, willowy physique.

I realize deep in my subconscious that it's all a load of bunk and that some marketing team is high-fiving themselves all over the place for getting the public to buy into it. But when I see the Diet Coke commercial with the guy who takes his shirt off, it makes me just that much more of a loyalist.

If they could figure out how to put vitamins & minerals into the stuff and make it into a meal replacement, I could probably live off of it. There's just something about the sweet, cold effervescence that bubbles down your throat...

Someday, I will drink more water- for the sake of my teeth (Have you ever seen the experiment of the tooth in the glass of coke? The tooth disappears...) and because water is much less costly (Back to part of the cigarette argument...). But for now, it is my morning, wake- up coffee, my afternoon tea, my choice of dinner beverage and a great snack in the middle of the day.

So, cheers to you! I raise my glass of Diet Coke & smile!

Career Day

I am amazed I am able to walk without tipping over! My head is so swollen with pride it barely fits through the doorways!

My youngest child had Career Day today. When you ask a group of Kindergartners what they want to be when they grow up, there's no telling what they will say.

One little girl had particularly high aspirations and stated she was going to be a Medical Missionary. Huh. I don't remember knowing that there was such a thing until I was at least in High School.

My precious daughter said she wanted to be a Mommy. I pressed a little, asking, "Do you want to be something else, too? You can be lots of different things AND be a mommy..."

"Nope. Just a mommy. They work really hard!"

So we set to work making sure she had all the appropriate Mommy Gear:

  • Cell Phone

  • Mini Van Keys

  • Calendar (which she said was in her PDA/Cell Phone)

  • Grocery List

  • To Do List

  • Comfortable Shoes

  • Cute, comfortable matching outfit

  • Baby stroller

  • Baby

  • Diaper Bag

  • Sun Glasses

  • Obligatory Ponytail in Hair

  • Water Bottle

  • Snacks

  • Debit Card

Needless to say, she was quite the hit. The Medical Missionary worked on her baby. The Army boy ate her snacks. And the Dance Teacher borrowed her cell phone.

And I- well, I got to take the young, tired "mommy" out for milk shakes after school- even if I could barely get my head through those McDonald's Golden Arches.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fergilicious Down the Drain

In what seems to be an ongoing theme, our fish died and is now residing in that great toilet bowl in the sky. I shouldn't be surprised. First, we can't keep any fish alive other than the sucker fish who cleans up the crap at the bottom of the tank. Secondly, I think the sucker fish (Pedro) had it out for the koi fish (Fergi). He had pretty much deserted his sucking duties and let the whole tank become a swamp.

We really had high hopes for Fergi. We knew she was too big to be sucked up into the filter (as many of her predecessors had done). Instead, we noticed she began trying to gulp air from the top of the water- not usually the best sign for fish who breathe under water.

Yesterday, the kids very unceremoniously scooped her out of the tank & flushed her down the toilet. They are, sadly, so used to this event that there was hardly pause to remember the vibrant, young Fergi, who graced our humble home for less than a week.

Husband did note that Fergi was hardly picky, slurping up left over tank rocks from the bottom. She also used to take in large pieces of fish food, "chew" it up, and then spit it out, and then eat it again. ICK.

The kids have resigned themselves to the fact that Pedro the sucker fish will be the only fish we ever keep for any length of time. They are happy enough with him, and our dog, Dixie.

The youngest is rallying for a guinea pig. So far, she's had no takers in her cause. I, in particular, have awful visions of tapping on a glass tank with a guinea pig already in the stage of rigamortis. You can't flush a guinea pig. Nope. Those things require a full-out funeral. Depending on the severity of the death, it can even require visitation and food.

I'm all about giving the kids responsibility. I believe that kids can learn about relationships and bonding through caring for pets. I also think it's good for the kids to learn about the death of a family pet before having to deal with the death of a family friend or family member.

But I just wonder how much longer we can continue our fish-killing-spree before PETA puts us on a "Most Wanted" list or something. At the very least, I suspect the Wal-Mart employees might start steering us away from the fish and towards the sea monkeys or silk plants.

So, farewell, Fergi. You may be gone, but you are not forgotten. You will always be "Fergilicious" to us- and not in a surrounded-by-lemons-on-a-hot-plate kind of way...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Meter is Running...

How is it that when it is time for me to go to bed, it takes every bit of energy and strength I left in my body just to brush my teeth and climb under the covers? But my darling children went to bed over 30 minutes ago and I can still hear them singing and making kid noises? When did I become "old"???

I don't remember being "old" in college. I was a pro at coming in from a party in time to change clothes and go to class (please, don't tell mom & dad!).

I certainly don't remember being "old" after I got married. Husband and I passed many a night watching reruns while it snowed like crazy outside. Then we got up early, dug out our cars and went to work.

I don't remember being "old" when I was pregnant. I felt full of life, excited and full of hope.

I remember being "tired" when the kids were babies- and rightfully so! I slept no more than 2 1/2 hours at any given time. Then when there was more than one child, I got to contend with several different schedules, too. But I wasn't "old"...

I guess when my oldest went to school was when I started to "age". Suddenly, my time was no longer my own. Child wanted to do after-school activities, play soccer, play baseball, have play dates with friends. I was left- literally- holding the bag. And driving. And driving. And driving...

Today I am an expert juggler. I can juggle three kids schedules, along with a traveling husband, several committee leadership positions, a household, a job and a dog. That's not to say nothing ever drops... It just means I spend a lot of time sweeping up messes, along with juggling!

The license plate on the front of my van reads: Mom's Taxi. How true! It is nothing for me to spend upwards of three - four hours a day in the car transporting children to and from "stuff". And I LOVE it! I love watching the kids' progression in activities & their sheer joy at accomplishment!

But--- It has made me "old". It has made their joyous laughter past 9:00 PM sound shreik-y and loud. It has made their uncontainable excitement for the morning a little much to bare on Saturday at 6:30 AM. It has made "quiet time" mandatory- not as much for them, as for me.

When my time became someone else's, so did my watching, listening and feeling. And every once in a while, I have to turn all that off, and focus once again on ME.

Caregivers are selfless, tireless, angelic individuals who give and give. But we have to have time to renew and recharge.

So, maybe I'm not "old"- maybe I'm just "smarter????" OK- maybe I'm "old" AND "smarter"! Either way, it's past time for me to brush my teeth and fall into bed... I'd better get going if I'm going to make it before I fall asleep on the couch... See you in the car rider lane tomorrow...

The Cats & the Kids

While laying in bed coughing up my right lung this morning, my children wanted to come in and talk to me, kiss on me and show me cartwheels. I was very appreciative of their morning cheerfulness. But, I, being under the weather, became weary of their attention, especially when just last night at bed time they said I was mean because I wouldn't let them sleep with the radio on. (They never would have slept! They would be singing along with the songs until dawn!)

As my husband tried to usher them out so I could try to sleep off the remainder of the cold medicine I took last night, it occurred to me that children are very much like cats. Consider the following:

  1. When you want to cuddle and "pet" them, they scatter and (sometimes) even snarl at you. ("Mom! Quit it! My friends will see you!")

  2. When you have reached the end of you rope and can not bear to hear another word or be touched one more time, the kids/cats suddenly become instantaneously fixated on you, and must touch and talk to you incessantly

  3. They are both distracted by shiny objects

  4. Trying get them to go anywhere in a group is pretty much futile (without a cat carrier)

  5. If you feed them, they will never leave

  6. Neither like to have dress up clothes put on them

  7. Neither will willingly cooperate for pictures

  8. The easier it is to find/have them, the less valuable they are perceived to be (free kittens & unwanted pregnancies)

  9. They are considered property under most of the world's laws

  10. They are both far more likely to participate willingly in an activity they consider to be a game

  11. They are naturally curious

  12. Neither care much for doctors or shots

  13. Both will do just about anything for a "treat"

  14. A box and a ball of yarn will keep them both busy for hours, but the most expensive toys will lay un-opened and un-used

  15. They can only hear you calling for them when they want to

My kids eventually made it to school this morning. And I plodded around the house in search of caffeine and cough drops.

When I finally made it to work I thought, "Wow! I am SO glad we don't have to diaper cats or litter-train kids!" (ICK!)

Peace & be well...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Missing: Instruction Manual

Yesterday, my son (my responsible, eldest child) asked to go to the movies with his friend. I checked out the movie, and said, "Sure." When I dropped him off at his friend's house, the father was unaware of the plans, but said it was nothing to worry about; he was sure the mom was in the loop.

I drove away with the understanding that son would call when movie was done. He did, indeed, call, but asked to stay a little longer and play. It wasn't too late, so I said OK.

The phone call I received from the mom later, was a different story. A) No adult had accompanied the kids to the movies; The 17 year old brother dropped them off. B) She was unaware that the kids had come back to her house; She thought the 17 year old had brought my son home.

I was LIVID! He soooo knew better than to go somewhere without adult supervision! AND he was in someone's house for an unspecified amount of time without using the proper manners to even say hello!

Upon confrontation, son was shocked. In fact, son was remorseful. He didn't know 17 year old wasn't in another movie next door. And he didn't know that the mom didn't know he was at the house.
Son genuinely looked surprized at the revelations, and said,
"I made some bad decisions. I'm very sorry. I will accept whatever punishment you think I deserve."...

Well, THAT totally took the wind out of my sails! I had a full-front attack at the ready! The tri-fecta: 1. No cell phone 2. No wii 3. No sleepovers...

Then, I realize he made an honest mistake.

So, do you punish someone for a "mess up"? Or are punishments reserved for purposeful deception and previously discussed infractions?

If he had clearly violated a known rule, then, yes- an appropriate punishment was in order. But he thought 17 year old was "in charge" and present. And he didn't know the mom and dad were unaware of his presence at home.

If I did something that was a "no no", but didn't know that it was wrong prior to said act, I wouldn't think it was fair to receive a punishment. But, I'm an adult. Son is a child...

Am I being too easy by not bringing down the hammer? Or would I be cruel by punishing for a simple mistake?

I guess it comes down to the child. And I know this child is honest to a fault. And I laid down the ground rules- explicitly. And I know he will respect the ground rules.

So, why do I feel like I'm not owning up to my parental responsibilities by not administering a punishment? Where is that stupid instruction book that was supposed to come with the baby????