Wednesday, April 16, 2014

guitar wife: I'll listen from the car

As a rock and roll girlfriend, I used to follow my man into Guitar Center or Xtreme Music Mporium or Shady Grove Retirement Center for Vintage Claptons, whatever. We went to music stores and I'd find some drum throne or amplifier without too many dials to sit on, and I would perch in the LOUD ZONE and listen to excerpts from Metallica, Nirvana and sometimes Kent Henry. 

It's not comfortable sitting in a guitar store when you are not a guitar player. People have loud conversations about pearl inlays and humbucker pickups and I would mostly wonder if there is any food in the forecast and also how to sit on an amplifier in a skirt, because as a girlfriend, you still wear skirts on dates. No one talks to girlfriends at the guitar store, not even other girlfriends, because there would be no point in talking, since you are in the LOUD ZONE.

"THIS ONE," he would say over the neighboring 14 year old shredding to selected chords from Stairway to Heaven, "THIS ONE, THE ACTION IS TOO HIGH. I THINK MAYBE I SHOULD LOOK AT.." and then wander off. I'd try to shimmy down from the Marshall stack without flashing anybody, and eventually find him deep in conversation with a guy wearing shiny dress shoes, slacks and a tie while sporting a waist-length matted blonde ponytail. As a girlfriend, I would stand there while he, nodding like "yeah, I play too," and not worrying about how much a guitar cost, because we were 16 years old and we had minimum wage jobs so clearly we could buy guitars. 

I think I still did the rock and roll girlfriend thing for a while as a wife, but once there were kids, I was like, "I've got this kid, see?" and I would stay in the car. Hopefully we don't get a tally of our time usage on That Great Day, but if we do I hope the Lord will chastise the MOG for the approximately 10 years of my life spent in the parking lot of Guitar Center and Ye Elite Guitar Shoppes. 

Listen, his music pays the bills, and I acknowledge the necessity of the proper tools for his craft. It's just that somewhere in the 20 years of music and so.many.children, I think I might have reached saturation and can no longer discern the crunchy grittiness or twangy rattle that I used to. "Yeah," I say, "get that one. It's green." 

A few weeks ago, on a particularly arduous quest for the Perfect Guitar, the children and I accompanied the Maestro into a store. Chaos ensued, and after about 20 minutes of chasing them through various secret doors and under billion-dollar pianos, I decided to once again retreat to the car.  Salesmen with face tattoos and navy 3-piece suits breathed a sigh of relief. 

Seasons, seasons. I figure I've got 5 years before I have to be the Band Mom and re-enter the fray. At least I can wear pants this time. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

internet, color my hair: an e-salon review

I started coloring my hair in junior high. Back then it was just red, always red. All the heroines in the stories I wrote were redheads, redheads with violet eyes, because, realism. Then I discovered blonde and I alternated blondes and reds for years and years. My dad ran his own business and so we were either fabulously wealthy or facing eviction every month, so my mom did my hair at home. She called her kitchen salon "LaVonda Jean's".

Sometimes I went to school with hair that was more green than blonde, more pink than red. Luckily I'm a fairly confident type and still thought I looked cute as a greenhead. She kept doing my hair for years and then I moved away to Kansas City and have been experimenting with box colors ever since, except for several glorious months a friend hairstylist was making me blondish.

The thing with box color is, it's rough on hair. My hair is pretty cooperative and tends to take color well, etc, but shades vary from one brand to another and box color tends to be pretty flat, without dimension. 

So I read about E-salon and how you can custom-design your colors and they'll ship it to you, etc. They're running a promotion now and so I jumped in and ordered a kit. The site is pretty basic, letting you choose skin tone, real hair color, desired hair color, etc. Once you've built a whole profile they put your color together and ship it. It comes in an adorable box with your name on each item. They send a brush in case you want to do a bowl and brush mixture, but I'm used to the squeeze bottles so I went that route. 

If you've ever done color, you know you mix the color with the developer and shake it up. This kit has 2 colors and 2 developers, one that is the basic color and the second is the gloss. My main color was soft black and the gloss was red. I got a little confused in the process, even though there are detailed instructions. You are supposed to put the first mixture on the roots for 15 minutes and then the gloss on the rest, specifically the ends, for 10 minutes. I put the first bottle on and got paranoid about am I reading it wrong and I'm going to have black roots and red middle hair and so I put the black all over, which I think was wrong.

There are two steps, stain blocking cream and two sets of gloves, but I still managed to dye my arms and forehead and also my bathroom looked a lot like a crime scene. I don't know if it was the extra step or what but I got dye all over the place. I expect, knowing that, that next time I'll be able to contain the carnage with planning. 

In the end, the color is really nice. My hair texture feels unchanged, which is different than the plasticky Barbie hair I usually have post-color, and the color is really strong and shiny. I don't really have the red tone I expected, but that's my fault for not using the gloss correctly. 

So overall I recommend this stuff if you can't afford a salon. To me, it is an alternative to box color, but would feel complicated for someone who normally has their hair color done for them. Once the promotion is over I think it'll run about 20 bucks, and totally worth it.

I apologize for the "traditional selfie" nature of this photograph. I needed to show you the color, but I never meant to look fabulous. Accident. 

disclaimer about my brain

I think a basic rule of blogging is not talking about blogging. It's one of those meta-fight-club things where the blogger never really references the medium of blogging. Listen, guys, I didn't make it in fight club and I didn't sign anything at blogger club, so I'll talk about it. I'm in a slump.

It's not like there's nothing happening. Life is happening, my kids continue to be hilarious and I'd like to think I'm growing as a person. Somehow none of that is making it into the brain space that is writing. Every time I think about putting life into words, something freezes up and I feel stuck. I don't know if I need an exorcism or a vacation, but I'm working on it. Writing this, celebrating and mourning our shared experiences, it's too much a part of me to stop doing. 

And that is why after nearly a month, I am back, writing about hair color. Because it's in my brain and it's not stuck. Consider it priming the pump for better stories.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Your Honor, your pants are on backwards

When you're a young parent... and by young, I mean new to parenting, not that I'm writing this post specifically to the 14 year old moms out there, even though you guys can totes read this but shouldn't you be studying? Anyway, when you're a rookie parent you are constantly trying to find the lines, where you're supposed to be, where the kid is supposed to be. Every other parent, every parenting book and article and blog hits you square in the uterus. You lie awake at night, questioning every decision.

And everybody else is figuring out parenting, too, and they have developed rabid convictions that may or may not outlast the toddler years. "Oh, sure," they say, "pierce your daughters ears. Now, I didn't, because I'm not into infant mutilation, but you know, whatever." You lose your fingernails over an articles about children who become serial killers, most likely because of an exclusively chicken nuggets and applesauce diet for six months of their third year. After some time, you get pretty used to your kids and you figure out what will most likely keep them quiet in public and relatively happy, and you take and toss parenting advice as you gain confidence in your own intuition.

It's just when you reach this level of comfort and maturity that you start hearing a sinister new voice. "Man, you sure are stressed out a lot." "Most moms play with their kids outside." "Do you have a baby in your tummy?" Your terror rises as you realize the voices are coming from inside the house. 

These children, who you have voluntarily brought into your home, clothed and fed, have now turned on you with a wary eye. "Other kids," they say snootily, "have Doritos for their snack." "Other kids have fruit leather." There's no use trying to reason with them, but I try. "Look," I say, pointing to their cheery neon packages of petroleum based fruit-extract-flavored gummy snacks, "these are your favorite, and they're only 4 dollars for a box of 25,000!" They are skeptical.

"When you yelled at me," they say, "it made me feel like you were angry that I poured the whole container of cat litter in the vent." I try to put on my psychologist voice. "I wasn't yelling," I explain, thinking of how to word it so it sounds the best when they repeat it to a social worker, "I was just talking loudly because it seemed like no one could hear me."

Today Brynn found a 30-second timer and followed me around, timing my tasks. All of the sudden I was overcome with the inefficiency of my peanut butter sandwich making process. "How fast are you going?" they ask, while I'm speeding down the freeway. "The speed limit is 65, mom, how fast are you going? Do you want another ticket, mom?"

The scariest part of it is, their discernment is dead-on, most of the time. I live with tiny prophets in Spiderman undies, so nowhere is safe. I'm either gonna have to clean up my act or get better at lying. And they ask me why I'm stressed....

Thursday, March 13, 2014

walk the line: thankfulness

I try to walk a line here, like Johnny Cash... well, not so much like Johnny Cash. But I try to walk a line between finding humor in chaos without actually complaining about chaos. 

The thing is, there were several years when having a healthy baby seemed like an impossibility. I had had R2 at 24 weeks, and then had the twins, and lost the twins at 24 weeks, and no one had any answers for me. Those were the hardest years of my life, wanting more kids, but wanting to be healthy and wanting them to be healthy. It all seemed out of reach. 

In time, and with incredibly hard work and a ton of grace from God for the work, I gained the family I had prayed for, dreamed about. I live in the reality of answered prayers every day, and even if those answers came differently than I wanted at the time, now I can say I have exactly what I wanted. 

In the waiting, though, I learned how very, very hard it is to wait. I learned how painful it is when someone takes the impossible dream of your heart for granted. I remember crying about people complaining about their children, about their pregnancies,. There was nothing I wanted more than to be in their position. "I will never," I told myself, "be ungrateful when I have children." 

Like all "never" promises, I have failed in that many times. It's still a goal, though, to remember- to not let that feeling of longing and heartache get too far away from me. I have friends who are still in the waiting, and the last thing I want to do is hurt you with a careless approach to the great gift I have been given. 

In all the months of bedrest with Toby, and physical and emotional fight that kept me on my side, pumped full of drugs and prayer, my continual thought was, "If this gets a take-home baby, it is all worth it." That was my driving thought. Any cost, any effort, worth it. And it was. 

All of the hospitals, the bedrests, the adoption fees, my poor body, the sleepless nights of their infancy and even now, the moments of terror when Parenting 101 fails me, I would give it all a thousand times to have these ones. 

If you're waiting, I know that it is hard. I pray that you are given the desires of your heart. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cat-astrophe, or how we killed the sun

The most alarming thing has happened. Our cats have begun exhibiting the most cat-like of behaviors. I say "begun". They actually began at birth and have never ceased. It's just that their tendency to be cat-like, combined with there being two of them, has piled up the catlikness until has overwhelmed the humanity.

Back when we got the first cat, and then when we tried to give away the first cat, and then again when we got the second cat (what is happening??!!), I made a deal with a couple of the small people around here, about feeding said cat(s) and changing the litter box. In retrospect, it was probably shortsighted of me to expect any kind of follow-through on the deal, since these are the same people who would gladly wear the same outfit for a month and eat Doritos off the floor. These same people cannot keep two matching shoes for an 8 hour period without losing one, but only one. These same people are shocked to tears every day by the arrival of bedtime, every day. It might have been shortsighted.

And the problem with a litter box is, when it is not taken care of, then it takes over. The cats say, "Oh, right, so this is too much work? How about we make your whole house a litter box? How you like them apples?" The thing is, we hate them apples. We hate them so, so much. At the top of the hater list is the Man of God, who is Sensitive to Smells with capital S's.

So the other half of my marriage had been pretty vocal about the cat situation for some weeks and finally I said, "Fine, fine. Just get rid of the cats. Do whatever." He turned immediately to the backseats of the minivan, where small children were singing happy songs about sunshine and Jesus, and he told them we were getting rid of the cats.

The sun left, and the rain came. Storms, torrential flooding, the earth opened up and swallowed the minivan and we plunged into the volcanic center where lava was spewing everywhere and all of the demons of hell were banging on the windows. Down we went, deeper still.

"How can you do this?" Brynn screamed, "Misa's just a kitten! She's like Tristan!" and everyone else was crying and screaming with tears filling up the van, french fries floating everywhere. With one sentence we had turned the Minivan of Cheer into the Hearse-ride to Hades.

$80.00 later, two stunned and confused adults found themselves at the checkout counter at Petco, with a fancy litter box and a scratching post and some various other cat accessories, while small people danced and sang happy little ditties about God and cats and laughter. Maybe we blacked out?  I still don't know what happened.

We still have total control of the situation.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Doctor, doctor, gimme the news site

This one time, when I was 7, I went to a roller-skating party with my church/school friends and I was skating with ease and grace speed, and I wiped out and broke my arm. I don't remember it clearly, it's probably blocked along with a lot of other painful memories like the time my brother blew up all my off-brand Barbies by putting Black Cat firecrackers inside their cheap plastic forms... In retrospect, that memory is not suppressed. I'm gonna need a minute.

But I wiped out and my arm was broken, and after a significant amount of time, a parental figure came to pick me up and told me to walk it off. I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but it was my dad and it was ILL of him. Rumor had it, in the childhood household, that I was a drama queen and a bit of a hypochondriac and thus, injuries were taken with a grain of salt. Days later, when my arm was massive and purple and immovable, it was determined that I was not full of it and if you don't think I still feel vindicated, then you maybe don't know me at all. 

Then I met the boy who would become my husband and, while I would not call him a drama queen to his face (today), I will say that he is very in touch with both his spiritual state and his physical state, and, more specifically, what is malfunctioning in his physical state. We got married and then we grew up and somehow I developed the walk-it-off mentality of my forefather and foremother. 

As a result, I tend to ignore whatever seems wonky, like that I've been tired all the time, or that I'm achy and irritable and not pregnant, but thank you for asking, until none of us could stand it and we decided to get healthy(er). So we've started a slow-but-steady campaign of trying to improve our diet. 

Something I ate caused an allergic reaction, with hives and swelling and pain, etc, and so I made my once-a-year trip to urgent care. The decoy doctor came in first, as is customary, and did my pre-interview, and then I realized that I have everything. Seriously, have you answered these questions? I have everything. All of it.  Not at this precise moment, but, you know, sometimes. And when someone is asking you if you have blurry vision, it kind of seems like maybe it's a little blurry, right now? IS IT BLURRY right NOW? No, okay, not right now. Whew. 

Walk-in-urgent-care docs are a bit of a breed. Look, if you know one or ARE one, then I'm sure you or they are the total exception to the rule. I'm just saying, when I go, it's generally because I want to pay money to have a professional tell me that Google was right and I should take some Benadryl. Also, he tells me, maybe I should lay off the fast food and eat a normal diet. "Google it", he says, "recommended diet". I'm thinking about becoming an urgent care doctor, myself, because I have MAD Google skillz. 

After that, he told me to go to a physician, and I was like, wiggy-what, because I thought I just DID, but then he said he is not licensed to take my blood. (Is it just me, or do you also hear "take my blood" in a Dracula voice with a muaHAHA?) And he also said I am anemic, and to get some iron at Walmart. So there you go. I'm gonna take some iron and get some diseases from WebMd, see ya later.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dying in a winter wonderland

You might have missed this, but I'm from Texas. Where I come from, we have some sense when it comes to cold weather. If it's hot, no problem, because it is always hot. Put a tarp in your truckbed and make yourself a nice pool. But cold, cold to Texans is like a big sign that says "Y'ALL GO ON BACK IN THE HOUSE." It was never that much of an issue when I lived at home, because it was only cold like 3 days a year, and by cold I mean 40 degrees. Occasionally we would get ice or a snow flurry and the mayor would come out and put the keys to the city in a coffin and we'd all get back in where it's warm until the horror passed, and then there was a resurrection ceremony where the mayor unlocked the donut shop...

All that to say, now I live somewhere that has several very cold months and occasionally real snow and I am smart enough, given my upbringing, to stay inside the house like a reasonable person, for months at a time. Yesterday I deviated from that pattern and paid the price. 

I was driving around on my own, knocking out a meeting and errands, and I tell you, I was feeling okay about it all. I made it up the Icy Hill of Shame in front of my house, and then I barely slid at the stop signs and then I did my errands successfully and THEN my GPS told me go this way and I went that way and it was a dead end driveway in front of an abandoned house full of large rats and homeless murderers. "No problem," I thought, "I'll just pull a quick u-y and the murderers won't even have time to get their axes." Except, snow. "No," I thought, "no no no no no. I refuse to be stuck. I refuse to be a dumb girl stuck in the dumb snow in front of a scary house when it's getting dark." Despite my pep talk, I was stuck. I tried reversing up to the flatter part of the yard, and that worked, but then there was still a hill of snow and no matter how I tried I was not getting over it. "What would a dumb girl do in this scenario?" I thought. "She would cry and then call a boy."  So that's what I did, and also I thought a lot about when the murderers would emerge, since it was still dusk and technically daylight. 

Look, I'm very independent. I handle stuff. I get er done. I never, ever cry and call a boy. Except this one time, with the chipmunk... but I digress. The Man of God was very alarmed by me crying and set out immediately to find me, except I was still following the Dumb Girl Model and sent him a location pin to some other location, so that I had more time to think about my feelings and also to Google how to get unstuck, which brought up the question is my tailpipe in the snow and am I getting dizzy right now because I'm totally carbon monoxiding myself but my tailpipe was not in the snow, because the snow is not anywhere near that high.

After a time, and a time and a half time he showed up and verified that I was, indeed, stuck. We practiced the art of marital discussion, where I expressed my truth about what would and would not get the car unstuck, and he tried very hard not to express what my truth has already done to our car. 

It grew darker and darker, as days are prone to do, and he tried pushing the van from behind while I spun the tires and yelled "It's not working" out the window and he would yell (because of the distance, see) "It would work if you would do it right" and then I'd gun it some more but every time we would just get in another snowdrift. After a while, he came and sat in the car with me and we considered a Romeo and Juliet but ultimately decided to call Roadside Assistance, who put us on a crackly muzak hold for 15 minutes while we tried the same things again.

Eventually we came upon using our floor mat in front of the tires and made a little headway, and then a little more, and then eventually out of the snowdrift and out onto the creepy abandoned driveway road. We then hung up on an inspired accordion version of "We Are The Champions".

 True story: I was totally Disney-princessed and the prince saved me.

My one regret is that I didn't take a single picture, even while sitting in front of the Grandview Haunted House of Dogs and Terror for over an hour. I assure you, though, it happened. And now I will return to the wisdom of my ancestors and never go outside in the snow again. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

grocery shopping while parents: the end of days

Inside the house, four children are daunting. They come into the world young, spirited, and full of ideas. The trouble is, we have already been here for years, decades, eons. We are already tired when they get here, and then they don't sleep for years and years, so by the time it gets to the really tricky parts like making dinner and tending to their eternal souls, we don't have a lot of fight left in us.

Outside the house, four children are indomitable. Out in the public view, the parents are always aware that we are one slip-up away from losing control and becoming the subjects of small, unreasonable dictators. Our greatest asset is that, for now, they don't know their own strength.

I've been dealing with some pretty major fatigue in general, so I've been doing partial grocery trips, just picking up essentials like ice cream and Coca-Cola. A couple of nights ago, the Man of God decided to go with me, along with our offspring, to have a dinner out and then tackle Walmart as a unit.

I did a little prep, and set up Team Daddy and Team Mommy grocery lists.  Some people in my marriage were concerned about the length of the Team Daddy list and required visual confirmation that the Team Mommy list was equally long. In reality, the Team Daddy list had been adjusted to allow for Toby walking 200 feet behind while reading a book. That book was almost purchased for $9.98 before a parental conference revealed that neither parent had authorized such a purchase, and it was snatched away and refunded in a storm of pleading and explanation.

Team Mommy had the two younger kids, Tristan, who mostly said, "Can I get out now? Please can I get out? I need to touch the cereal, I need to touch the chicken eggs" and Brynn, who had dressed in full cowgirl regalia and greeted every stern Midwesterner with a "Howdy, pardner." I'd say she got about 90% blank faces and 10% confusion, but she was unmoved, already riding her horse to the spaghetti sauce. Cowgirls don't need your approval, Missouri.

Listen, the team leader of Team Daddy held up admirably. I had strongly suggested he follow the list precisely, since there have been occasions when, being sent to the store for milk and eggs, he comes back with 4 kinds of colored cereal and Easy Cheese, but maybe not so much milk and eggs. His team got all but 2 or 3 items, and I had known those were a long shot. Oh, and they also bought a massive inflated chair, so that balanced the force.

The whole project took a couple of hours. We left for home a half-hour after their bedtime. "Where are we going now??" they said, so hopefully. Team Mommy and Daddy were unified in our response of "Nowhere, ever again."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Potty Train: let me off

I bet, before the Fall, kids just automatically knew how to use the toilet. "That's absurd!" you say, "there weren't toilets in the Garden of Eden!" and maybe you're right. But neither one of us know for sure, so, checkmate. Or something.

Look, I hate potty humor, potty talk in general. If it were up to me, topics relating to elimination would just be one of those sacred things you talk to your doctor or midwife or shaman about, and the rest of the time it is just mysterious, ethereal, the magic of waste. Like the way I explain childbirth to my children, because clearly I am a concerned and involved parent. "God makes the baby grow inside the mommy," I say, mysteriously, "and then the doctor helps get the baby out." And then they ask more questions and I give everyone candy and firecrackers and that changes the subject.

I know, I know. Reproduction is such a magical part of life and I need to share it with my children. I will, you know. I'm gonna find a video where Elmo breaks it down. "This is the fallopian tube ha ha ha! Let's ask a baby about the uterus!"

But back to my original topic: I don't want to talk about poop. Well, then, maybe you're saying, just don't. The thing is, that's like half my life, people and animals pooping and me coping with it. If I skipped this topic, I would just go silent for months.

The parenting books tell you lots of things, and, like diets and exercise and building a fortune, if you just went down the checklist and did every detail, it would probably work. The trouble is, details are hard.

I potty train children like I'm reading the instruction manual in a tunnel and only have intermittent light. "...start ... during stressful times ...Consistency ...not successful... panic about accidents..."

Sometimes I buy musical dancing potty seats that applaud and bags of candy and stickers and prizes, sometimes I just strip the kid down and try cold turkey and then the whole campaign derails and I put the kid back in a diaper and decide to try again in a year. I keep hoping I'm gonna land a kid who just figures it out by themselves, like I've heard about in fairy tales and on babycenter.

In the meantime, you can re-read my Laws of Moses to Mothers of Toddlers and pray for my soul, and also for my floor.


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