Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Do, Don't I?


This afternoon when hubby got home from being out of town, we exchanged high-fives in the driveway, and I headed out to my second job. Hubby proceeded to chauffeur the girls to cheer, cut the grass, put away boxes in the den, vacuum and get ready to go back out of town tomorrow.

When I got home from Job #2, I sat down to make a gift for a couple getting married. Anytime I work on such projects, I can't help but reminisce a little bit. It may have been 15 years ago that I walked down the aisle. But in some ways it feels a life time ago, and in some ways it feels like it was just last week (which would require quite a bit of explaining considering we have three children).

As I contemplated what life would be like for this newly married couple, I started thinking about the things I wish I would have known going in to marriage that no one told me. Granted, many of the things are things you just have to learn. Certainly no one could have ever predicted that we would ever have three cars, or that his obsession/compulsion over the yard would make me crazy, or that the "stack" gene that I inherited fair & square would send him over the edge whenever he walked into my closet.

But if I had to put together a brochure on marriage, there are some things that would definitely have to go in. That way, neither of us could say, (as I steal a line from "City Slickers") "This was NOT in the brochure," because it would be.

First of all, I would say this: Marriage can be hard. Now, I know almost all couples fight. But NOTHING compares to that first married fight. And, if you aren't really careful, each subsequent fight can go back and reference that first fight, and all the others you had along the way.

Okay, so you have the fighting thing worked out. That's great! But, you need to know that all bets are null and void once you've said, "I do." In fact, in a lot of ways, it's like starting all over again.

Consider the fact that you probably haven't lived together before. Now, all of their little idiosyncrasies that you got to leave behind when you kissed goodnight are blaring and glaring and up in your face 24/7. Someone once told me that all the things that you consider to be factors as to why you fell in love with this person, will be exactly what drives you crazy once you're married. I couldn't imagine not thinking hubby was hysterical, that his energy was fabulous, that he was the smartest person I knew. Then we got married. Suddenly, hubby really wasn't funny at all. His energy was completely grating first thing in the morning. And, I found out he wasn't really smart. He was faking it!* (*Note: hubby is brilliant, but he apparently can not read directions. Go figure.)

Sales people will tell you that the first sale is always the easiest. It's the retention of your client, making that second, third, fourth, etc., sale that is hard. You have to re-sell yourself every time.

Marriage is the same way. It's easy to walk down the aisle. It's hard to stay married.

I would also include that you have to treat your spouse like a friend. If you wouldn't blow your friend off for dinner to go out with another friend- don't do that to your spouse. If you would want your friend to use some modicum of manners around you, use manners in front of your spouse. Nothing kills the love life like a huge belch and/or gas attack, with hubby looking all satisfied and smug, like he's just won the Super Bowl single handedly. And would it really kill you to use "please" and "thank you"?

Don't use affection as a bargaining tool. You have taken a vow to remain true to your spouse. It was a promise not taken lightly. You would be furious if your spouse went elsewhere just because they wanted to. If you withhold affection from your spouse, you are doing the same thing- just a different side of the same coin.

Granted, there are times that you are just too steamed to feel like looking at your spouse, much less showing an ounce of affection. But, there's a difference between manipulating your spouse purposefully by giving or taking away affection, and not wanting to touch your spouse because you are in the middle of a heated argument.

To go hand in hand with that, arguments should be handled with care. If you spend your time keeping score, being more concerned about winning and being right, bringing up every fight you've ever had, and getting friends and family to chime in on your arguments, you will never resolve your argument. And if you find yourself not wanting to resolve your arguments, that should be a red flag.

Arguments should be about coming to an agreement, compromising, wanting to work together as a team. After all, you are a team. You will never find that to be more true than when you are raising children together. Kids can sense when you aren't working together and will (just naturally) look for ways to divide you to get their way. Hubby and I frequently "side bar" so that we can talk away from the kids and then come back together as a "united front."

Trust me when I say there is TONS more. It would take a novel nothing short of "War & Peace" to scratch the surface. But, brochures are meant to be main points. And I would say that this includes some of the biggies.

Do I ever wonder how in the world I ended up "here"? Oh yeah. I'm sure hubby does, too.

But would I ever want to be on this journey alone? Not a chance. I want my best friend- the one who knows it all about me & loves me anyway- to be by my side.

So, for the couple getting ready to take the plunge- dive deep, remember to use each other as life preservers, and enjoy the swim. Remember, the water's fine. It's the swimmers that have to use safety precautions.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Truth or Fair


Just about any Child Development expert will tell you that two of the pillars of effective child rearing are consistency and follow-through. To a child born first in the family, they can be lumped together into "fair."

As a first born child myself, I can vouch for the fact that every other sentence I said was designed to gauge the fairness of the situation at hand. "That's not fair." "That wouldn't be fair." "She's not fair." "He's not playing fair."

So, it's only natural that my first born, Keith, has this propensity to make sure that both sides line up evenly. And since I am particularly sensitive to his "fair" obsession/compulsion, I try very hard to practice what I preach.

However, Keith's version of "fair" leans far more closely to "advantageous" to Keith. This has led to several rows that ended with me saying something terribly profound, like, "Because I said so. Now go to your room."

This afternoon, I had planned on treating the kids to an early dinner at a restaurant. I smiled back at the three of them, and asked, "Where should we go?"

Now, this was supposed to be a fun thing- a treat- something that we would all enjoy. Instead, this sentence was like opening the cages for hungry lions while a pile of steaks sat in the middle of the den.

"Let's go to Texas Road House," Emma said, excitedly.

"No," Amy whined. "We just went there."

"Yeah, that's not fair," Keith chimed in. "We shouldn't have to go again."

"Okay, where else?" I ventured.

Amy became the spokesperson for ideas:

"McDonald's?"
"No."
"Sonic?"
"No."
"Chick fil a?"
"No."
"Dairy Queen?"
"No." and "Eww. Gross."

Finally Keith stated: "That's not fair: Why does Amy get to pick?"

"Keith, honey, Amy isn't picking; she is suggesting. You all are voting. I've been hearing 'no' so I haven't gone to any of those places. What do you suggest?"

"I don't know. What about--"

Before he could get it out of his mouth, Amy gave a very exaggerated, "NO!"

"Hey! That's not fair. Amy, I didn't do that to you. Mom, she's not being fair."

"Okay. Back to the drawing board... How about, um, O'Charley's?" I suggested.

"No." "Bor-ring." "No way," Keith finished for the group.

"You all sure are being picky!" I said, becoming increasingly annoyed. This was supposed to be FUN! But right now it was anything but!

"Why can't we just go to Texas Road House?" Emma pleaded.

"Uh-uh. No way. There is NO WAY I am eating there," Keith said defiantly.

Fabulous.

"Okay, how about--" was all I got out before World War III erupted in my back seat. All three were singing their own verse of the same song.

Emma was whining, "But I like Texas Road House."

Amy was whining, "No one ever lets me pick. I hate being littlest."

And Keith was rounding out the chorus with, "It's not fair."

I stomped on the break, very nearly propelling Amy into the front seat.

"Okay, okay, we get it, mom," Keith sulked.

I didn't speak a word. I was too mad. How dare they act like such spoiled brats? I had taught them far better than this.

"This is your fault," I heard Keith hiss at Amy.

"Nuh-huh," Amy defended herself. "Emma's the one who kept saying, 'Texas Road House, Texas Road House'."

"My tummy hurts," Emma whined.

I still said nothing. The car got quiet.

Finally Emma said, "I'm sorry, mommy."

"For what?" I asked incredulously.

"For saying Texas Road House."

"Oh, for pity's sake. I'm not upset with you for that, child. I am just tired of listening to you all bicker amongst yourselves. I am certainly not mad at you, Emma! Okay?"

"Okay," Emma said, eyes cast down, still blaming herself.

More silence.

Finally Amy piped up, "Guys, she's giving us 'the silent treatment'."

I still said nothing.

"I just want to go home," Keith pouted.

"Good!" I fumed. "Because I wouldn't take you all out anywhere with me right now. I am so tired of you treating each other in such an ugly way! And you act spoiled fighting over a restaurant. So, stop it now!"

"Uh- mom! That's not fair! It's Amy's fault!" Keith complained.

I pulled the car over to the side of the road and put on my hazards. I turned full around in my seat and looked at each of them. I'm certain steam was rising off my head like smoke off of a fire. The kids looked up, wide-eyed, tight-lipped.

"I think you need to understand something right now," I said in a low, controlled voice. "I am not here to be 'fair'. I am here to be Mommy. And right now, Mommy is extremely unhappy with your whining, fighting and carrying on. We will be going home- NOW."

I pulled the car back on to the road, turned up the radio and said nothing else until we got home.

I ended up calling for pizza. We hadn't had pizza in a long time. And it would save me from cooking.

Keith asked hopefully, pretending to pant with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, "Did you get Papa Johns?"

"No," I replied.

"Oh man, that's not fair. I love Papa Johns," Keith whined.

At this point, I thought if I heard the word "fair" one more time, I might kill someone or slit my wrists or both.

"We're getting Pizza Hut." (Keith cheered.) "And we will eat it, do our homework and piano. Then you all need baths- in water. Then we are going to bed."

"Can we watch TV?" Keith asked.

"No," I replied. Then together we said, "That's not fair."

Keith made a disgusted face at me. I stole his line. Now he had nothing to say.

Finally pizza came and the rest of the evening played itself out. Now I'm in bed and I have to get up early in the morning, which is so "not fair," since I went to bed too late tonight.

Then I go to work, which is "not fair," that I have to actually work to make money.

Then I pick up the kids, which is really "not fair," because I'll have to listen to this same song, different verse, all the way home.

But for now, I'm going to sleep. I trust Keith will have "fair" dreams. I hope I sleep so hard I don't have dreams. I think that would be more than "fair."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Per Chance to Dream...


I awoke with a start. I was actually panting in my bed. It took me a minute to re-orient myself. Two seconds ago I was on the streets of New Orleans frantically searching for my children during Mardi Gras. Now I'm under covers, in bed with a dog against my back.

Whew! It was a dream... But it seemed so real! Real enough that it forced me to throw the covers off of me and pad through the dark into the kids' rooms.

I took a deep breath as I found each one sleeping peacefully, having (hopefully) sweeter dreams than mine. They each weakly protested by rolling over when I kissed their cheeks. It was if they were just too tired to say, "Cut it out, mom! I'm sleeping." But I didn't care. I was just relieved to see them.

My dream was one of those odd, shifting dreams that bounce from place to place, sometimes speeding up and sometimes moving in ultra-slow motion. I cried through the whole dream, but couldn't scream or make a noise. I just wandered and/or ran around crying and begging people to help me find my kids.

Somewhere in the dream I became just lucid enough to wonder how on earth my kids got to New Orleans during Mardi Gras and why in the world they would have been left alone anywhere for any amount of time. Poor hubby was thrown under the bus and put up for blame for the whole thing. When he slurred into my vision in my dream I was furious with him. And, as nightmares go, he was frustratingly calm and unconcerned about the whole thing.

In fact, when I awoke in my bed, I was still angry with him. And traces lingered like perfume for the rest of the day.

I'm sure in real time the whole dream lasted not more than a few minutes. But inside my dream, I was having a full-out panic attack for what seemed like hours. The end provided no relief. Nothing had been resolved. Even the knowledge that it had to be a dream (which I realized close to the end) didn't make the panic and fear lessen.

When it was truly time to get up, I made my way to each child's room with relief, thanksgiving and joy. I gathered them up in my arms and kissed their soft cheeks and smelled their sweet smells. I was so delighted to see that the morning light provided their safety and that we were all home.

The kids, however, were not happy about the intrusion on their sleep. They were peacefully lying in bed, dreaming happy dreams, when suddenly they scooped up and squeezed. Then whatever had them, began making kissing noises all over them and smelling their hair. Each one opened a sleepy, angry eye. "Stop it mom. Five more minutes," they said, trying to squirm out from my arms.

"Nope. Time to get up, sleepyhead," I smiled down at them.

"Come on, mom, just five, please???" they begged.

"Nope. Busy day. Gotta' go. Up and at 'em!"

"Okay," they relinquished. "But, seriously, get off me." They concluded with irritation.

I got up and shot angry glances at hubby in the hallway, leaving him to wonder what he had done that he didn't remember. And the kids shot irritated glances at me for waking them up by squeezing all of the air out of them.

All in all it was a great start to the day (ha). But it did get better from there. And I am going to make sure I don't eat whatever I ate last night ever again. I just don't think I could handle another trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras with the kids...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Go, Team!


There are some things that I am admittedly just too old to do. And yet, with the right provocation, some rules are made to be broken.

The most pointed example I currently have is the Parent's Cheerleading Squad at my daughters' competition cheer gym. I have absolutely no business being anything other than the equipment manager for such a team. However, my vbff was sneaky and signed my name on the list.

Last Thursday night I stood in a line with about nine other parents to learn the Parent's Cheer. I was the only one who could not do a cartwheel. Even the really big girl standing next to me could still do her back-handspring. (Albeit, VERY unattractive!!!!) My characteristically un-athleticism was on display for the whole world to see.

There was also a dance to learn. The parts where we jumped up and down did nothing for my self-esteem, watching my tummy jiggle and my hips spread out waaaaay too far. In a former life, otherwise known as Junior High, I was a pom-pon girl. I have retained my ability to keep time to a beat. But when the girl teaching the dance showed us how we were going to roll on our back, while kicking up our feet, I couldn't decide if I should laugh or cry.

All I could think was, "At least the really big girl jiggles more than I do." Okay, I know that's tacky AND catty. But my self-esteem really needed a little boost.

I did put my foot down when there was discussion about our matching hair bows. I may be wiggly, jiggly, uncoordinated, unlimber and generally unfit for being any kind of cheerleader. But I sure as heck won't be caught dead with a hair bow, to boot. Fortunately, general consensus was that a hair bow was not fitting for a Parent's Squad.

I'm hoping they'll at least put me in the very back. But since I'm just over five feet, the odds are not necessarily in my favor. I figure I'll definitely be a "base" in pyramids (the bottom that holds up the little girls in the air). And maybe, if I'm REALLY lucky, I'll break a foot or an ankle and be relegated back to "audience".

In the meantime, our next practice is this Thursday. I'll try not to embarrass myself too badly. But I really have no promises or even very high hopes of carrying that off. The best I can hope for is that I'll have some illness that causes fever and vomiting...

Go, team...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!


Emma is feeling puny tonight, so I made her sit out of cheer. Hubby said he's sit at home with Keith and Emma while I went to cheer with Amy.
Hubby even suggested we take the BMW. Oooohhhh.....

Amy and I climbed into the zippy little convertible and I revved the engine. It's a stick shift, and it has probably been at least ten years since I've driven a car with a stick shift on any kind of regular basis. So, naturally, I was a little concerned about stalling out on hills, etc.

But, I actually got around quite well, making good turns, shifting the gears easily. I was having fun.

As I coasted to what I thought was a very smooth stop at the end of our exit ramp, Amy piped up, "Do you know how to drive this thing, mom?"

I thought, "Duh, what do you think I've been doing?" But since I'm not a second grader, I said, "Yes, honey. That's what I'm doing now."

"Did daddy say you could drive his car?"

Again with the "Duh," but controlled enough to say, "Sure, sweetie, why wouldn't he?"

"I don't know. You just don't seem to know what to do with this stick thingy," she said, pointing to the gear shift.

I sighed. We were almost there.

"I told Emma that daddy could paint her finger nails while we were gone," Amy offered.

"Oh, that sounds nice."

"Yeah, daddy paints finger nails better than you," she said.

Huh. I don't know that daddy would be particularly proud of that fact- whether it was real or imagined.

"Why's that?" I fished.

"He painted flags on each of my fingers when he painted my nails," she announced with glee.

Again, not so much a proud moment for daddy. I was smirking, but Amy couldn't see my face since it was dark outside.

"What's he going to paint on Emma's fingers?" I baited her for more information.

"I don't know. Maybe flowers, or smiley faces, or- ooohh- maybe princess crowns! Yeah, that would be pretty!"

"Oh, yes," I concurred.

"Are you sure you can drive this, mommy?" she returned back to her earlier line of questioning.

"Yes, darling," I answered tersely.

"I don't think you can," she decided.

"Okay, fine. The next time I get to drive this, you won't be with me. I'll take someone who doesn't complain about my driving." I announced.

Amy back-pedaled quickly, "No, mommy! You drive great! I just meant that this is daddy's car. That's all. You are a great driver! Please can I come with you?"

I really couldn't help myself. "Does daddy really paint nails better than me?"

"No," she said, adding, "I just said that to make him feel good."

"Okay, then you may ride with me," I smiled.

"Goodie!" she chirped. "Thank you, mommy! Thank you, thank you! You are the best mommy ever!"

Yeah, I know. You really can't believe anything she says. But after the car ride, I was happy to hear compliments (contrived or otherwise).

But next time I take the BMW, I'm going by myself...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Warning: You Can OD on Anything...


Oh my. What a sad, sad day.

I think it has finally happened... I have OD'ed on Diet Coke.

It makes me so very unhappy. Diet Coke is my very favorite, (almost) only vice. And I can't even look at it tonight without thinking I might have it come back up.

Was it the caffeine? The acid? The carbonation? The syrup? A combination?

Sigh...

I hope and pray I'll have this out of my system tomorrow morning. Diet Coke is my beverage of choice to get me going in the morning. I can't do coffee, unless it has so much cream, sugar, syrup, etc, in it, that it's really just a sweet milk shake with a splash of coffee. How will I wake up if I can't have Diet Coke?

But right now, my stomach is putting out a huge warning, coupled with an ultimatum: No Diet Coke, or else...

Maybe I ate something else tonight that didn't agree with me, and my tummy is just so sensitive it doesn't want anything??? Nah, I didn't think so, either. 'Cuz, actually, water doesn't sound that bad. Neither does french fries. Or chocolate and peanut butter ice cream... Well, OK, I take back the ice cream.

Maybe it's this blasted headache I've carried around for two days??? Possible...

I guess time will tell...

If I can't have Diet Coke for my morning caffeine injection, I may not be able to blog, because I'll be fighting a coma with every ounce of energy I have in reserve. But, maybe it will be okay.

And I promise, if I am OK tomorrow, I will limit my Diet Coke intake. I suppose 8 - 10 Diet Cokes per day really can not be good for you.

But heaven knows, I will not switch over to "the dark side" and drink Pepsi- no matter what. I am a Diet Coke girl, through and through.

Even if I can't even drink it...

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Compelling Argument for a Vacation


I had to work at my second job this evening, so hubby was "in charge" of homework and bedtime.

When I got home at 9:30 PM, homework was not done, kids were in showers, playing and eating, and definitely NOT in bed. I wonder if hubby had a list to complete that involved power tools, if it would be complete...

Amy was running around in circles in the shower, apparently trying not to get wet. Keith was jamming out to some loud, awful music, which could be heard plainly, even with headphones plugged in his ears. Emma was daydreaming and doodling on a dry erase board.

"Um, why aren't the kids in bed?" I asked, tentatively.

"We just got home," hubby said, never looking up from the television.

"At 9:30? I thought cheer was over at 8:00."

"Yea," hubby said flatly, still not looking up.

"So... What have you been doing since 8:00?"

"You know, we have been doing a lot. The kids are getting ready, you know. Eating. Um, we did some, you know, homework... Hey, have you seen this episode?" he mumbled.

"Honey," I snapped.

"What?" hubby jerked his head up at me.

"What-are-the-kids-doing-up?" I asked.

"They're getting ready for bed," he said with big, innocent eyes.

"Okay. What about homework?"

"What about it?"

"Did-they-do-it?" I asked, my voice rising slightly.

"Um. I guess. Did they have any?"

Deep breaths... "Honey. Amy and Keith had homework. Did they work on it at all?"

"Yeah. Keith said he's done. Amy did hers before she began her shower."

I picked up Amy's homework. It was incomplete and she hadn't written her name on it.

"Honey, did you say Amy finished her homework?" I asked, waving the paper at him.

"I don't know. I guess," he said, eyes glued back on the television.

Deep breaths... "Amy?" I called upstairs.

"What?" hubby asked.

"I need Amy. She didn't finish her homework."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean she didn't finish, and I need her to finish."

"Oh, look! Obama and McCain are in some kind of debate," he observed, looking at the television.

I rolled my eyes at, apparently, no one. Then I stomped upstairs to get the situation under control.

I went into the bathroom. "Amy, please get out and go downstairs to daddy." I turned off the water, handed her a towel, and walked into the bonus room.

"Keith, have you brushed your teeth?"

"No," he answered in the middle of his air guitar solo.

"Please turn off your music and go brush your teeth... Emma, have you brushed your teeth?"

"Yes, ma'am," she said, smiling.

"Good! Thank you! Could you please go on and get in the bed?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Amy came out with her pajamas stuck to her body. Apparently she had not used the towel, and put her clothes on while she was still wet.

Sigh. "Amy, please go brush your teeth and your hair then go downstairs to daddy."

"You want me to brush my teeth with my hair?" she giggled.

Sigh. "Yes, Amy. Please brush your hairy teeth," I said smiling.

She giggled some more as she headed to the bathroom.
"Mom, make her stop!" Keith hollered from the bathroom.

"Stop what?" I asked, as I picked up Keith's wet towel from the floor.

"Stop looking at me. Stop it, Amy! I said, STOP!"

"Amy, please look at yourself in the mirror, brush your teeth and your hair and then go downstairs to daddy," I called.

Keith emerged from the bathroom and huffed minty breath in my face. "All clean," he announced.

"Thank you. Please get in bed."

"Can we watch TV?" Keith asked.

"No. You should have been in bed an hour ago."

"Please? There's a new show on and I want to see it. It's only 30 minutes."

"Did you record it?"
"Yes."

"Then watch it tomorrow... AMY- GO-DOWNSTAIRS."

"Jeez. I'm going, mom. Don't have a cow," she walked quickly to the steps.

"Honey, Amy is coming down to do her homework," I called downstairs.

"Huh?... Oh, Okay... Wait, what homework?"

"HER HOMEWORK SHE HAS NOT FINISHED. PLEASE GET IT OUT OF HER BOOK BAG AND GO OVER IT WITH HER AND HELP HER FINISH."

"What are you doing?" he questioned, obviously unhappy about having to tear away from the TV.

"I AM DOING THE LAUNDRY AND PUTTING KEITH AND EMMA TO BED. THEN I AM TAKING MY SHOWER AND GOING TO BED."

"What about Amy?" he called.

"DO-HER-HOMEWORK-WITH-HER-THEN-PUT-HER-TO-BED... PLEASE..."

"Alright," he called up, unhappy. "Love you," he sang up the stairs.

"ME, TOO, HONEY," I called through gritted teeth.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too common situation in our house in the evening. It's also similar when we are getting ready to go somewhere.

I have to goad everyone along with a tazer gun while they all wander around like they're on a Sunday stroll in the park. By the time we're done, I feel like I need a drink. And the rest of the family honestly can't figure out why I'm stressed.

"What's wrong?" hubby asks, eyebrows raised.

"Trying to get you all to do anything is like herding cats," I complain.

"Why?" he wants to know.

Where do I start? You know what? Never mind. I'm going to bed. I'm going to sleep. They can all wander and roam all night for all I care. Emma may actually get some sleep. Keith and Amy will amuse themselves and distract themselves until dawn, unless I lose my mind and scream at them. Hubby will watch TV- just until I get interested in a show. Then he'll be ready for bed.

But I don't care. Tomorrow I'll make sure Amy's homework got done and that the soap is out of her hair. I'll make sure Keith has lunch money. And I'll give Emma a big hug for not making me want to choke her even once last night.

I'll send hubby off to do his corporate strategizing for the day, wondering how he made it in to the office considering how little help he was last night with the kids. And I'll get dressed and start all over again.

But tonight... tonight I'm going to bed. Tonight I'm going to sleep. And I hope the household will get some sleep, too...

Time in a Bottle

I sometimes wish for more time for my day. But as the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for..."

I had finally gotten to the point that I got my schedule to have a little free time. So do you know what I did? I let myself get talked into doing something that would not only take up that free time, but infringe upon some other obligations already in place.

Why I am I such a glutton for punishment? Couldn't I just be satisfied with some unscheduled time to do things like, oh, clean the house, cook dinner, you know, stuff like that? But, noooo... I have some internal need to commit suicide by volunteerism: to work myself to death.

I'll grant you, they are all very worthy causes. But really, what isn't a worthy cause? Everything tugs at us, making us feel it is the most important thing in life. And no matter how I sort my priorities and tell myself, "NO," my stupid mouth pipes up and says, "Why, sure! It would be my pleasure."

When I was younger I had a superiority complex that caused me to volunteer for things simply because I didn't think anyone else would do it right. I've finally gotten to an age/maturity that I just don't care how it's done, or who does it, just so long as I don't have to do it.

And I get extremely aggravated at the bystanders who pass along comments and/or judgement about how something is done, if they aren't prepared to put their money where their mouth is:

  • You don't like how registration went at school? I think you have some very valid points. Will you please help us next year? No? Then shut up.
  • You think the church should have been painted a different color? Oh, were you on the committee that has been working on this project for months? No? Did you attend a single meeting? No? Did you help paint? No? Then shut up.
  • You don't like the mayor? I hear your concern. Did you vote? No? Then shut up.
I'll grant you, there are times and ways to make suggestions without the intention of executing the suggestion. There are many times that it isn't feasible for a person to help out with the execution. And, as long as the suggestion is put in a professional, helpful way, I have the utmost respect for that individual.

But whiny, angry, bullying, hyper-critical criticism makes my blood boil.

I guess it all goes back to another old saying, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

I'll admit I am solely responsible for getting myself into the activities in which I participate. And, I'll admit that I always have the option of saying no. And sometimes, believe it or not, I do actually exercise that option.

But I have such a strong belief in being part of the solution- not part of the problem, that I do end up with my fingers in far too many pies. I want to make a difference.

Maybe one day I'll be able to put my (literal) money where my mouth is and help fund change instead of being the labor. That would definitely free up my time, while allowing me to help make positive changes.

But for now, my money goes to family obligations- and that's about as far as it can go. So I'll just take a deep breath, re-arrange my schedule for that extra commitment, and charge ahead.

It's okay, though. Because I remember one more old saying: "I'll get plenty of sleep when I'm dead..."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Escape...


When I get frustrated with the world and just want to check out of life for a while, my favorite get-away is Barnes & Noble. There are many forms of retail therapy: clothes shopping, shoe shopping, purse shopping, decor shopping, furniture shopping, make up/skin care shopping, jewelry shopping, gifty shopping, and on and on.

But for me, Barnes & Noble encompasses it all. Magazines, books, movies, games, cd's and various other mediums allow me to shop in a finite space for infinite product. Where else could I compare cars, take two steps and compare hair styles?

I can drift endlessly through the aisles of books. Some books make me realize my life is really not that bad when I compare myself to the characters. Some books make me feel like I have not even scratched the surface of my potential.

But the books I love the most are the ones that let me drift into a whole other world, where I get to be someone else in another time, another place. I can be young, or the matriarchal great-grandmother. I can be a foreign royalty or a simple girl from the farm. But my imagination takes me away.

I don't worry about laundry, about when hubby is in or out of town, what's for dinner, if the dog has been outside. It's my own little "Calgon" commercial, complete with Starbucks coffee.

If I could choose ANY get-away, I would choose to be on a massage table, with a pair of very able hands working out the knots and tension in my back. I have mastered the art of relaxing my body until it feels like it is literally oozing into the table.

But walking through Barnes & Noble is absolutely free. Massage therapy is not.

Both are escapes.

Just talking about wanting to "escape" makes me feel a little guilty. Look at all I have, how blessed I am! Who would want to "escape" my life? Sadly, me. Not all the time. Not most of the time. Just some times- when the money gets tight at the end of the month. When the kids are in particularly crabby, nasty moods. When no one likes what I fix for dinner. When I can't get two minutes alone to go to the bathroom without children screaming for an arbitrator for their latest argument.

I just need to breathe. Just for a little while.

I spend so much of my life trying to be "in control," even when I feel angry or sad enough to warrant crying, I usually can't cry. When I was young I cried over Kodak commercials. Now I've made it through Keith's first week of middle school, first middle school football game, first middle school dance, hubby's lack of participation in all such events (for lack of any nicer way to put it) and the exhaustion of life with not even the first tear tracing down my cheek.

I don't exercise. I would like to. But there never seems to be time. And when there is time, there is frankly no desire. Who wants to huff and puff and get sweaty?

I've had to give up my long-time friend and companion: food. Especially since I don't exercise, it has become imperative that I find another vice besides anything that adds calories to my day. And I don't have the money for any truly expensive habits- good, bad or otherwise.

So I turn to the escapism of Barnes & Noble. I breathe in its unique smell as I walk into the automatically heated/cooled space. I've been there enough that the sales people smile and nod in recognition. Then I wander aimlessly from shelf to shelf, picking up books with pretty pictures or interesting titles, and reading the back jacket. I carry a stack of interesting books around with me until it's time to leave.

Then I sort through my new friends, keeping some, putting back others. I re-read the jacket, look at information about the author, then, savoring all that's left, select just one. The rest will wait for the next visit.

I'll wag the book around with me in the car while dropping off and picking up kids, through the sitting at lessons, during the night when hubby watches unappealing television. I'll loose myself in its pages, catapulted into another place and time.

When I finish the last paragraphs, I sigh contented. It is a bittersweet thing to finish a book. I have to say goodbye to this new friend. But tomorrow, I'll be back at Barnes & Noble to meet another new friend, so I can escape once again...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Slumber Party Shakes


I am so tired tonight.

I have what I call the "Slumber Party Shakes."

When I was growing up, the primary goal of all "slumber parties" was to NOT fall asleep- mostly for fear of all the tricks your friends would play on you if you were the first to fall asleep.

So I became an expert at moving around if I felt tired. I would get a glass of water or ask a friend about some gossip- anything to keep my mind active. Until finally, we would watch with delight as the morning began to streak the sky. We had done it! We had NOT slept!

All the next day I felt like my insides were coming apart. Between outrageous amounts of caffeine and sugar, and literally no sleep, it felt like the very cells in my body were clacking together just to keep me standing upright.

The only cure for slumber party shakes is: sleep.

Recently I have not slept well- or sometimes not at all. Between hubby being out of town, the kids' first full week of school, wrapping up school registration responsibilities, feeling a little ill, stress, etc. (you know, the regular stuff) I've managed to log in just about 4 hours of sleep per night.

Tonight as I was doing the obligatory laundry, cleaning, chores and wishing desperately for some Tylenol PM and a pillow, I heard my kids still chattering happily in the other room. I can hardly stand, I'm so tired. How in the world are they speaking, much less laughing???

(I am forever grateful that God was wise enough to make most of our living processes (like breathing) involuntary. If I had to remember to do all that stuff, too, I would probably be 6 feet under already.)

It's so not fair that the kids should get that much energy! The adults should come with unlimited energy. It's just wrong that they got that super power!

Sure, I have eyes in the back of my head, super hearing and "the sixth mommy sense." But none of that is worth a hill of beans if I can't stay awake to use it.

If I were to make any improvements on the current Mommy Model, I would:

  1. Have the mommy's main source of energy be water and air, since we try so hard to function for so long without food or sleep anyway
  2. Have our bodies chemically able to process chocolate without keeping any calories or fat
  3. Have our bodies become more beautiful with age and child rearing. Meaning a 20 year old college student would look "OK." But a 45-year old mom of 3 would like a goddess
  4. Have all our bodies mass produce serotonin and keep it in storage to keep away mood swings and irritability
  5. Give us 6 more hours in our day (2 to play with the kids; 2 to spend time with hubby; and 2 to spend on ourselves).
  6. A photographic memory so we wouldn't have so many undeveloped rolls of film lying around. And, so I wouldn't have so many photos stored eternally on my digital camera's memory stick or in my computer's hard drive, never to be printed and framed. Instead, we would be able to recall with perfect clarity each breath, each sigh, every "I love you."

I'm sure there are many,many more "super powers" that would not only be helpful, but also even make our families lives easier, too.

For now, I'll just take the anecdote for the kryptonite of "Slumber Party Shakes": sleep.

Tomorrow I'll ponder more super powers. Tonight I'm going to sleep hard enough that I won't even have "super" dreams...

The Tooth Fairy's Last Flight


The Tooth Fairy was gifted Keith's very last baby tooth tonight. Well, I guess you could technically call it a tooth. Keith has been notorious for not wanting to wiggle and/or pull his teeth.
Consequently, he has had several that have dangled dangerously until hubby and I insisted that he pull it out before he went to sleep and choked on it. The last four molars have been eaten away by the permanent teeth. This last tooth was barely a quarter of what it probably should have been. I think it literally just fell out of his head.

Hubby & I should be mourning the loss of his final baby tooth- but we're not. We are cheering wildly because the orthodontist had been pushing for this for the last 6+ months. We were beginning to have visions of him wearing braces through high school, college, his wedding, etc., all because the stupid baby teeth were holding up the works.

I say that the Tooth Fairy was gifted with the tooth, because Keith never put it under his pillow. He very unceremoniously handed it over to hubby in a plastic baggie.

"Here, dad," he said casually.

"What is this?" hubby queried.

"My tooth," Keith said, never pausing to look up.

Hubby turned to me.

"Did you see this?" he asked.

"Wow, I can't believe it stayed in that long... Are you going to give him a dollar?"

Hubby considered this for a minute.

"Nah. If the girls didn't see him put it under the pillow, they won't be looking for the money tomorrow. And I can use it for a diet coke during the Sunday School hour at church."

"There you go again, making such a strong case for Parent of the Year!"

I carefully tucked away the last of Keith's baby teeth and mentally noted that this was yet another milestone in the course of such a very short time. It made me wonder if he would wake up tomorrow and ask hubby to help him shave.

He's still my baby boy. But now he's also becoming my favorite young man.

And, he'll definitely have a wonderful, straight smile (sans baby teeth) when he gets there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Tween Years are Here...


Keith went into 6th grade exactly three days ago. None of our lives will ever be the same.

He has morphed from laid-back, carefree fifth grader into ultra-cool, plugged-in sixth grader in front of my eyes. He's even become more tolerant (publicly) of his sisters. He's just too "cool" to let them get under his skin now.

His vocabulary became much more adult-like, and he continuously makes comments regarding his observations about his onset of "puberty." I see minuscule (at best) changes; he believes he has grown three feet, razor stubble and body hair overnight.

School is new. He changes classes. He thinks that is the most grown-up thing ever... Well, except for his LOCKER! Apparently the locker is the ultimate proof of growing up. It even requires a combination lock, which took several trips to the store to make the exact right decision.

The very latest news to turn my world upside down is that there is a Middle School dance this Friday night. Yes, it is boy/girl. Yes, it is chaperoned. No, I am so not ready for this. Especially when I get the accompanying snippets of conversation when he's on the phone with friends:

"Who are you taking to the dance?... Really?... No, I don't think I want to take her..."

Take who? Where? Surely the parents aren't participating in 6th grade "dating" by driving the girlfriend/boyfriend to and from the dance. Right????

I was a little amused that Keith asked my permission to go- like it was ever a question of whether he could go or not. Of course he can go! The first boy/girl dance is a right of passage. There is nothing in the world like standing in a dimly lit gym with music pumping through a bad speaker system and having all the boys on one side of the room and all the girls on the other.

Then the tension becomes almost unbearable when the DJ has the gall to put on a slow song. The boys shuffle their feet nervously. The girls look at the boys from under their eye lashes. By the end of the night at least one or two girls are in the bathroom crying, and at least one or two boys are wrestling on the front lawn.

Keith asked me if they got to wear whatever they wanted to or if they had to wear "church clothes." It hadn't even occurred to me that he didn't have any experience with boy/girl dances. As soon as he had said the words, "middle school dance," I was thrown back into reverie, and the boy/girl dances I both loved and hated. Of course, we NEVER wore church clothes! We tried to look as "stylish" as you can look in middle school. But since Keith wears a uniform to school, I suppose it was a very reasonable question.

I so want to be a fly on the wall and see Keith's face when that inevitable slow song comes on. I can imagine it now: a mix of fear, shock, panic all trying to mask the underlying excitement of the possibility of being chosen by that special girl... Those are the moments that are the best "mommy moments" ever!

I don't know that you can ever be "ready" as a parent for your child growing up. But I am very grateful for these measurable milestones. It's so easy to have them grow up before your eyes. One blink, and they really have grown overnight. But these rights of passage are not just for the kids, they are for us, too. They give us pause to stop and consider their changes, to remember from where they came, and to dream about where they are going.

Just Add Water...


I don't know if you are aware of it or not, but the earth has witnessed another miracle: Amy was given high praise by her teacher (albeit the second day of school) for her behavior. Wow.

This is the child that I was sure was going to get the entire family invited to leave the whole county school system. And, here she is, giving her teacher (who has extremely high expectations) cause to tell me how impressed she is!

For about five minutes, I felt like I may have actually had this parenting thing down.

Then all of the unruly behavior Amy had not shared at school came tumbling out in a big-ole-roll-around-on-the-floor-kicking-her-feet-screaming-and-crying-hysterically-saying-you-don't-love-me-I-wish-I-was-never-born-I'm-never-talking-to-you-again-why-won't-you-talk-to-me-you-love-Keith-and-Emma-more-mother-of-all-hissy-fits.

I didn't know how in the world to react??? Keith and Emma are so easy to reason with. Amy was screaming, crying and (literally) kicking my car door.

This was a fit I was just going to have to ride out. And the less I reacted, the madder she got. I almost had to pull the car over to make sure she didn't hurt herself or flail across the car and jerk the steering wheel... Almost...

Finally, I pulled into a parking spot and put the car in park. She was sucking in so much air with each sob I was afraid she was going to be sick.

"What-are-we-doing?" she managed to get out, with her chest heaving and her eyes ringed with red.

"We're getting some soap," I replied calmly.

"What-for?" she asked, beginning to level out her breathing just a little bit.

"For you."

"Huh?" she shifted in her seat and wiped her face with the back of her arm.

"I am getting soap for you so that when you are acting ugly like you are right now, I can wash your mouth out with soap."

She eyed me skeptically.

"Really?" she asked, eyes narrowed.

"Yep. Let's go."

"Why do I have to go?" suddenly more interested in this new line of thought than the already-forgotten temper tantrum.

"Because you get to pick out what kind I'll use."

"You mean like a flavor?" she asked, smiling a crooked smile.

"Sort of. They have about a gazillion scents in Bath & Body Works. Surely you can find a scent that will work for you."

"Work for me how?" she asked as she began fingering one of the bottles at her eye-level.

"Well," I explained calmly, "when you are not listening to mommy, and being sassy, or if you are saying ugly things and acting in an ugly way, I'm going to pour a little of this soap out and put it on your tongue."

"What will it taste like?" she asked excitedly.

"I guess it depends on what scent you choose."

"Hmmm," she mused, as she begin to take on her task quite seriously. "Are you going to let me try it?"

"Nope. I'm saving it for when you need it."

"Oh. No fair," she whined.

I just gazed at her, certain she had no idea what I was talking about.

Finally she picked Warm Vanilla Sugar. I think she liked the idea of it having vanilla and sugar, ergo it should be sweet.

I got the travel size so it would fit in my purse and headed up to the counter.

Amy grabbed my hand and skipped along side me.

"You're the best mommy ever!" she beamed.

I was torn between feeling horribly guilty for presumably giving her the wrong impression of the whole soap-in-the-mouth-punishment, and thinking, "Surely she is not this stupid."

For the rest of the day whenever Amy would begin to go down the path of whining/crying/complaining/arguing/etc., I would calmly look at her and ask, "Do we need to go to the bathroom and have me put soap in your mouth?"

She would straighten up as if I had zapped her with a stun gun, "No, ma'am."

Hmmm.

I wonder how long this will take before she loses some of her "respect" for it. I know there will come a day when I will have to follow through and actually put Warm Vanilla Sugar Bath Gel from Bath and Body Works on my child's tongue. That day, I'm sure, will be cause for a blog akin to a transcript from the Jerry Springer show.

But for now, the teacher is still happy. Amy seems to actually enjoy having such strict boundaries from mommy. And I have some extra hand soap in my purse in case some public restroom isn't stocked quite enough.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring??? Maybe if she gets too used to the soap, we'll have to move over to Benadryl shooters... Or up my medication... Or both... Yeah, definitely both.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Ode to a List

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I am a very organized person. Not-withstanding my aversion to housekeeping, I actually get a lot done in an efficient, orderly manner.

One of my favorite places in the world is an office supply store. To walk in and see the reams of unopened paper, the binders, the pencils yet to be sharpened, the calendars and all the other wonders of the office, makes me giddy with delight.

My favorite projects are ones that require me to put things together and organize them. To me, they are like puzzles, with a very satisfactory finish when they are all put together correctly. I love the software program Excel (who doesn't, though, right?). All of the information is categorized into neat little columns, which can be processed to pull any kind of data for which you might be searching.

I am also a Master List Maker. (If that could have been a major in college, I would have so rocked it!) I get such a kick out of checking things off a list. It's almost like the little check marks are rewards for an accomplishment.

Some days if I am having a really hard day, I'll even put simple things on my list, like: fix breakfast, drive to work, check e-mail. That way, even if my tasks are too lengthy to complete that day, I'll have at least been able to say I got something done.

Today is the first day of school for my kids. I envied them as they put on their new clothes, assembled their new back packs and helped pack their lunches in their new lunch boxes. It's a fresh beginning; a new year; a new planner/calendar; new school supplies; and new endless possibilities for lists.

We are also beginning a new Sunday School year at church. My vbff and I are teaching together. While we do manage to be organized individually, I have found that together, sometimes we tend to drift and wander instead of staying to the task at hand (unless, of course, the task is scrabble and a glass of wine). But we both realize this and do our "homework" before we come together to "play".

I don't necessarily know her level of enthusiasm for lists. But she is incredibly organized and has the energy of a three-year-old hyped up on pixie sticks and Jolt.

We do keep sort of a mental running tab on things we would like to do and places we would like to go. I don't know if we have actually ever penned them on paper, though. The next place we are going together is a Girl's Night Out with another of my bff's and one of her other bff's. I have a pretty short list of things I want to do that night: 1. check into hotel; 2. eat dinner; 3. go back and get "ready"; 4. go dancing!!!

I know hubby must marvel at all the scraps of paper lying about the house with different lists on them. But, they keep me (somewhat) focused. They give me a sense of accomplishment. And they give me a quick visual of how to organize my time.

In my life, I would like to:
  1. Keep family first- always
  2. When in question, refer back to #1
  3. Always do some kind of teaching
  4. Continue to always learn new things
  5. Always find ways to be creative
  6. Search out opportunities to help others
  7. Make sure to take care of myself
  8. Always be thankful
I think that's a pretty good list. It's broad enough to encompass so many things. Yet, it is focused enough to show definitive, quantitative results.

Now, I need to sign off of my computer and begin my list for today. It's a little long, since it is the first day of school. But I'm confident I'll complete it with skill and efficiency. And before I go to bed tonight, I'll prepare my next list for tomorrow...


Sunday, August 10, 2008

One Martini, Two Martini...


Hubby and I went on a "date" last night. (Everyone say, "ooooh, ahhhh")

We dressed up to go in his convertible BMW and drive downtown Nashville. I even wore glitter!

Hubby looked me up and down and blurted, "Do you know you have glitter all over you???"

"Yes," I said through clenched teeth. "I thought it looked cute, sexy, young..."

"But do you know how much you have on???"

This time I just glared.

"Did you mean to put that much on???"

I turned on my heel and stomped towards the car.

"What???" he wondered aloud.

We started going fast in his zippy little Beamer. With the top down and the windows up, there was a whirlwind created in the car. Suddenly sparkling glitter swirled around me, as if to prove hubby's point.

"Great. I look like a snow globe," I grumbled. Hubby laughed.

The whole point of our "date" was to celebrate one of our bff's 40th birthday. She, her husband, my husband and I will all turn 40 within about 3 months of each other.

To celebrate, we are going to Marco Island for a four-day get-away. I can not wait!

But we couldn't let her birthday get away! She's the first of us four to make the leap into the next decade.

So we waited at an incredibly loud bar, eating appetizers and drinking margaritas and beer, for she and her hubby to show. She was incredibly surprised and I was already having that happy warm feeling from the margarita.

We decided to move down to a piano bar. The margarita made me feel a little saucy and sexy. The door man at the bar nodded at us politely and let us pass. We found a table and ordered another round and some chips.

Suddenly it hit me: I had yet to be carded.

What a buzz-kill! I looked old enough to be excluded from the normal drink questioning. When did that happen????

I reflected on the fact that there was once a time that I was aggravated by being carded: what a hassle!

There was a time before that that I was nervous presenting my ID to get in to dance. What if they looked too closely and realized I wasn't quite old enough. I wasn't being "bad," after all. I was just dancing (really!).

But tonight I was very much old enough, and apparently looked like it... Bummer...

As I began looking around at the crowd, I realized the girls looked so young. They carefully crafted their hair and their faces. Their clothes were stylish. But I wouldn't have been caught dead in most of them. Their youthful faces and youthful bodies looked anxious, trying to be "cool" but unable to keep completely still, fidgeting and pulling at their hair.

The guys looked like they were Abercrombie and Fitch models/groupies. They smiled and tried to look cool, easily holding a beer bottle and taking a swig every once and a while. They were handsome, yet they looked so young.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me: My bffs and my peers that were my age have children that were the age of these people I was examining. Ergo- "these people" could (technically) be my children.

No wonder I didn't get carded!!! I looked like their mother!
Of course, I thought I looked great: young, put-together. But that was while I was looking at my bff's. When I looked at the kids in the club, I was looking at what "young" really looked like, and, sister, I was NOT it.

Horror and deep depression swept over me. I looked like a mother to these young, attractive people. No matter how stylish I dressed, no matter how I wore my make up or my hair, I looked like their mother. Ugh.

My ego took it hard. It was a complete TKO.

So, I ordered my second chocolate martini (which had followed my two margaritas).

The piano bar began to really pick up. The dueling players were stirring up the crowd and calling up birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. They sang completely off-color songs to the object(s) of their singing. And the crowd (and the participants) laughed and really enjoyed themselves.

The brides and grooms to-be looked young and incredibly nervous. I remembered being that person- about 15 years ago.

Then I looked back thoughtfully over the past 15 years: I have a great husband, great friends, fabulous children, a wonderful home... I LOVE where I am now. No matter how young- or old- I might look, I want to feel like I do now.

Suddenly, the fact that I wasn't carded, and even the fact that our stupid waiter kept calling me "ma'am" didn't bother me nearly as much.

The four of us were having a wonderful time celebrating one of our bff's turning 40. And as I stood at the edge of 40, I marveled at what a fabulous place it is to be.

I celebrated my revelation by ordering my third chocolate martini. We sang along with the dueling pianos. Our bff & I danced and hooted and hollered. She got called up on stage and we cat called to her like it was our job.

We ordered one more round of drinks and hubby showed up with tacky tank tops with the club's name on them to remember the occasion (which our bff & I will be wearing on the beach in Marco Island!).

Know what else? Our bff & I struck up a little conversation with a groom-to-be and his groomsmen. I felt like I was talking to my kids. They did eye us with attraction (as only enough liquor at a bachelor party can provide)- but I couldn't feel it back. My maternal instincts made me want to tell them to get a cab and go back home. It didn't matter that they had cute glasses with noses and a blow up sheep. They were still too young to be looking at someone my age like that!

Hubby cast appreciating glances my way as we came back up to our table. Was it the fourth martini, or was it hubby making me warm like that?

On the way out, the line had formed to get in, and everyone had their ID's ready. The security guard said, "Have a nice evening, ma'am," and nodded at me. I smiled.

Yes, he could have been my child (technically). But I was happy to remember that my children are still too young to care about drinking, clubs, ID's or any of that. They still argue with me because they want to watch a PG-13 movie and they aren't old enough. They still want to be old enough and big enough to sit in the front seat of the car- without a car seat.

They will, someday much too soon, be the kids going in to the club, the bouncers, the singers, the bar tenders. But tonight, they are very young. And I am not. And I am VERY okay with that.

Suddenly, 40 doesn't seem bad at all...