Friday, November 23, 2012

There are moments in life where you have to take a step back and take stock of your life. "Am I happy?" you ask. "Am I bored?" "Do I need more excitement?" These questions generally lead to more questions, and end whenever I tire of them. Sometimes they spur change, other times I convince myself that I am being hormonal or unstable and have a little chocolate instead of taking up knitting potholders for the homeless. But last week, some friends and I had the thought that it would be fun to go to some Thanksgiving sales, technically some kind of Black Thursday, since they were last night and not the morning ones. I jumped at the opportunity. Because, clearly, I need something to do. 

But here's the kicker. We're a week from the end of the month. Do you know what that means? This is the rice and beans week, that's what it means.  This is the toilet-paper-from-Dollar-Tree week, that's what it means. What it means is, even if the store had a sale that was like BUY A TV FOR 5 DOLLARS, I'd be like, "Ehhh...." So I signed on for an all-nighter purely for the fun of it, and also for people watching. Especially for people watching, because people be crazy. Plus, I don't need that much sleep, so the few times that my friends (who do need sleep) have a crazy idea like, let's go see a midnight movie or stand in a stampede lane, I'm like, sign me up! 

We stood in the cold outside Target, in a line of a few hundred. It got progressively colder and I was having some trouble texting because my fingers were stiff. It was SO HARD, y'all, but I am not made of weak stuff, so I persevered. I realize this: most people who stand in line at night outside a Target have a plan, and they wear running shoes and they have a ferocious look in their eyes. If I wanted to, I probably coulda got a couple sermon illustrations out of it, but I was pretty busy talking. When the doors opened, people were running and getting carts and I was wandering aimlessly around and becoming an object of derision. When you are whatever I am, and some woman with a 50 inch television in a cart almost runs you down while you are standing innocently in an aisle, watching people, then you apologize. That was my job, apologizing with my back brain while cataloging humanity with my primary brain. It was super fun, and I'm being serious. I had a blast. 

Later we drove to an outdoor mall and waited in the car whilst people lined up outside various stores. Once it got pretty close to midnight we went and joined our fellow materialistic consumer sheep and totally got free gift cards, which rocked. 

Got home around 2 am, 30 dollars richer. That's what I'm talking about, y'all. I beat the system. Next time, I hope that my ship has come in, so I can beat the system emotionally but totally buy the stuff. Next time! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I don't think I really have it in me to be the matriarch of a clan anytime soon. Of course, by clan, I mean a large family, with branches extending hither and yon, and not a Klan, which I plan on never being a matriarch of. "Hey!" you say, "You can't end a sentence with OF!" Watch me, grammar nazi, because I just did. (I might get some interesting google hits from this first paragraph.)

I'm mostly talking about holidays, although matriarchs matriarch all year round. But today I'm talking about holidays, because I'm sad and I'm homesick and I think I can cheer myself up by talking about holidays. Now, my mama is good at being a matriarch. You could just google that word but I'll tell you, since you're so busy sitting on the couch. The matriarch is the Mama Boss, that's what. Now, I am the baby of the family, the last of 5 kids. That gives me permanent baby status, even though I have 4 children of my own. Nobody in my family will ever expect me to cook the turkey. Even if some kind of gender specific bomb took out all the other women, my brothers would have one of their girlfriends or groupies cook the turkey, because I am too little. My brothers would bring Dr. Pepper in a Walgreens sack and some girlfriend-type, hopefully a domestic one, would bring a bird and something with green beans.

I don't fight it. Since I started living 700 miles away from all family, a couple of times I have had to be the Boss Lady at a Thanksgiving celebration collection of college students and band members and ex-band members and people who walked by at the right time. There was one year that I tried to cook a turkey, but it stressed me out. So I end up delegating it and then I make ham. It's not as easy as you think, you have to put it in the roasting pan and turn the oven on. It's complicated.

This will be the 3rd year in a row that we aren't going back to Texas for Thanksgiving, and Christmas is iffy (darn you, Dave Ramsey). Luckily, this year we're celebrating with a group of friends, most of whom are either the oldest child or the only child, and I am making pies. It's not the same, but it'll be good. I'm thankful for families that we love, across the miles, and for firstborn friends, who get stuff done.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I don't write about diet and exercise, unless I am mocking it. It's really a hard topic to make amusing. Plus nobody likes to read about somebody doing something hard to improve their life, because that kinda stuff is stressful. At least, I never read that kind of thing. But I'm gonna write about it, I guess. The good news for you is, everything in my life ends up being at least a little bit funny, and so you might still enjoy the ride.

I guess I'm in a phase in life where I feel the need to make some changes, to meet some challenges. I think I'm at a healthy sort of discontent. Which is new, you know, because usually I'm pretty happy with my life and my lazy meandering through existence. I'm all about smelling the roses, as long as those roses are indoors and not affiliated with any dirt or bugs.

Last year I had a little health scare, in which I thought I was dying but had a kidney stone and in the process found out that I had some buildup in my heart, at the age of 33. My initial feeling was terror, and helplessness, like, "Oh, I'm gonna die like my dad. I have 20 years to live and there's nothing I can do about it." Do you know that feeling? I'm trapped in this pace and this diet and these habits and I can't break out.

But I did, I started working out and getting stronger and feeling like maybe I have some control over my life expectancy. That gave me an idea; maybe I'm not as helpless as I feel. Maybe I can be diligent at homeschooling my kids, get consistent with keeping my house clean, even break out of my fast-food habits.

I hesitate to even write about this stuff, because it's so infomercial-y. The good news is, I'm not selling anything. I'm just trying to get a grip on my life and my time.

I'm gonna write about this more in upcoming blogs, but I'm excited about this 12 month challenge I'm putting myself through soon; from December 2012-2013 I will be abstaining from fast food. I plan on blogging once a week about my progress and celebrating every month-milestone. If I were a real documentarian, I'd go to the doctor now and get some stats to compare at the end of 2013, but I don't want to spend the money. I might do it. I might go to some kind of discount clinic and get some deets for comparison's sake. Maybe.

I'm gonna try to make this fun for me and you, so stay tuned.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I live in reality. When you have a 13 year old that is not potty-trained, there is little glamour in life. I’ve heard that it’s common to fantasize about another life, but I really don’t. I just fantasize about my same life with more money.

If I were obscenely wealthy, I would buy things that I need, from the SkyMall catalog.  At least I think I would. I don’t know, because right now, I don’t mean to brag, but I could totally buy name-brand Kleenex if I wanted to. That’s the kinda money we’re talking about. But I don’t, I never buy real Kleenex because I’m going to blow my nose on it and it seems absurd to spend the extra 30 cents or whatever it is. So I might freeze up and have to buy the GreatValuejet instead of the Learjet. I’d be buying all my Prada at the resale store and still trying to reuse baggies, which never works.

But maybe if it just got crazy and I had more money than I could figure out to do with, rooms of money like Scrooge McDuck, I’d totally do deep stuff like saving orphans and buying can openers for the homeless and stuff, but then I’d have to buy some of the very practical items featured in SkyMall.

Like a 6 foot lifelike medieval knight statue. If you don’t want that, we’re through. I’d just put him in the dining room, over in the corner, and not mention him. A bargain at $650.00.

Or these rechargeable heated slippers. For approximately $140 I could have uncomfortably warm heated indoor shoes that one of my children would carry into the backyard and bury with an avocado seed, for a “guacamole tree”.

I’m gonna stop now, because I’m uninspired and also, I have to go buy some groceries. But rest assured, I’m thinking of more stuff that I need.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two years ago today, we spent the day in a hospital with the family that had chosen us to raise their son. We had sat through ultrasounds together, laughed over Chinese food and had met at the hospital late one night the previous week for a false alarm. This was the day, though, we all knew it. It was an emotional day, moving from laughing together to sitting quietly in the tension of the moment.

She had considered an abortion, she told us, but quickly decided she wanted her baby to be adopted instead. They sat with friends and family and looked through adoptive family profiles and unanimously chose us, because, they said, we seemed like real people, like we didn’t have it all together. I will always be grateful for what must be our obvious flaws, because they brought our son to us. :D

We walked the hospital, we ate together, and then once her epidural kicked in, she called for us to come and sit in her room. We made her laugh, we talked about music, about movies, about the baby. When his arrival was imminent, we waited in the hallway, tense, excited, trying to hold lightly to a baby that was ours but not ours, not yet. After an eternity, we heard him cry, and we cried too. He was precious, perfect, and we knew her heart was breaking.

Minutes later they wheeled him out to the NICU for his heart to be monitored, and they took a minute to let us see him. His grandmother asked the nurse to hand him to me, and in a second, in a single second, I was a mommy again and he was my baby. “These are the parents,” she told the staff, in an act of generosity that is beyond my understanding.

The next two days were a whirlwind of emotion, being family together, knowing these were their final hours with him. They had a relinquishment ceremony where they read blessings over Tristan and handed him to us, and we gave her an engraved necklace and a poem I had written, and again, we cried together.

People ask us why they didn’t raise him, and they had their reasons, some that I know and some I never will. I can say with total confidence that it wasn’t for a lack of love. They made a choice and they made it for him, to give him the kind of family they wanted him to have, despite it breaking their hearts. Over the last two years, we’ve met at parks and restaurants, exchanging texts and emails, and they have told us that seeing him with us reassures  them that they made the right choice, that they’re so thankful for us.

Today, my 2 year old woke up singing, and I am thankful. I am unbelievably thankful for a young woman and her loved ones who chose life for this beautiful little one, my singer. Happy birthday, Tristan! You are so loved. 

photo credit Shelley Paulson

Friday, November 9, 2012

I rarely give myself public goals, because, in short, I hate accountability. I'm trying to think of some disclaimer that makes that okay, but really, I hate it. I especially hate failing at my goals, and having an audience makes that so much worse. So I'm not committing to anything here today. I'm just thinking, that's all.

Here's the deal. I eat a disgusting amount of fast food. Not all at once, as I am generally only able to ingest a half-cheeseburger and 1/3 of the box of fries before somebody falls out of the chair or has to go to the bathroom or, worse, already went to the bathroom. But  cumulatively, over a year, a disgusting amount of fast food. Jamie Oliver would be piling cheeseburgers all over my house, that's what I'm saying.

I've been working out for 3-5 days a week for like 6 months now, and I still eat fast food at least twice a week. Calorically, I'm like, hey, who cares, because I'm burning calories like a beast, but nutritionally I'm starting to feel a little hypocritical. Even while I'm thoroughly enjoying the delicious burn of a Coca-Cola, I find myself thinking, "This is poison, I'm drinking poison," which almost interferes with my celebration. Almost. 

I know this stuff is bad for me, and it's bad for my kids. So I'm thinking about trying an experiment: 1 year without fast food. I'm thinking I could still go sometimes, much less often, and get something for the kids, let them play at the indoor playground, but I go cold turkey. In the meantime, I learn how to do social time without fast food, I learn how to cook the majority of our meals at home, and I take steps toward a healthier diet, in general. 

I don't know if I'll do it. If I do, I'll blog about it, that's for sure. How do you do lunch playdates, go on roadtrips, deal with night's you're exhausted and there's no groceries? WHAT ABOUT THE CINNABONS? 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Yeah, they're cornrows. Jealous? 
I'm not really much of a mall-goer. I hate paying full price for anything, and all the stores are dark and loud and, while I hate paying full price for something, paying 3x full price makes me physically ill. I'll be queasy for days if I try to wear some gillion dollar shirt. And you're all like, well, that is because you are old. But I was like this when I was a teenager. Many a Saturday was spent at the mall with my friends, trying to keep the Ronald Reagan quotes to a minimum, and not buying anything.

Not that it showed. I was always extremely fashionable, thanks to our tendency to shop almost exclusively at Goodwill and The Fire Sale. My mom kept the resale industry in business back then, and so I dressed like an upwardly mobile young executive during my "civilian" time. The majority of the time I was wearing a uniform, a plaid pleated skirt and button-down white oxford. I think you've got the picture. All hot, all the time.

I was originally writing this blog about how much I love Cinnabon, I don't even know what has happened. It's like I have no control over this keyboard, which is communicating directly with the awkwardest parts of my brain. In high school, I got this boyfriend, maybe you know him? Back then, he was the highest rated salesman at Service Merchandise, which I don't even think is a thing anymore, and you have to ask yourself, was it because of the name? I mean, what does it say? We sell service? If I remember right, they sold everything, jewelry, home appliances, and electronics, which is where the MOG really shone. He could sell a Laserdisc like nobody's business.

So he had cash and he loved the mall and my parents were pretty sure that nobody got pregnant and dropped out while shopping at the mall, so it was one of our favorite locations for all day dates. He'd buy overpriced stuff and I'd eat Cinnabons. It was great.

Somewhere in between Nirvana and Avril Lavigne, Cinnabon started shutting down. I mourned it like a lost loved one. Sometimes I'd drive an hour to Deerbrook Mall, because I wanted to be mugged while eating a cinnamon roll. Eventually they were only at Schlotzky's and the airport, but they were all wrong. Listen, people, this is important information.

It all comes together, because today, as I was thrift-shop-hopping in search of workout pants that don't make me think of Sally Field, I saw a billboard advertising Cinnabons at Burger King. EXACTLY LIKE AN OPEN VISION OR SOME WONDERFUL HEAVENLY REVELATION. I obeyed. And it was awesome. Kinda makes me want to bust out my Seventy-Sevens album and find those ABC pants.

*this post was not sponsored in any way by Cinnabon, but if they wanted to give it a shot, I'm totally down. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I try, in general, to avoid conflict. Wait, no I don't. I intervene in conflict every hour of every day of my life, because there are civil wars on a continual basis in my living room. It's a good thing we don't arm children in the United States, because the level of emotion that can be generated by one sibling's elbow being in another sibling's space is excessive, okay? It's intense. Sometimes they get angry enough to sling some serious mud. "You... you... YOU JOKERPANTS!"...pause... CHAOS, EMOTION, FIREWORKS. And then I have to wade in and be all Jimmy Carter, like "Let's talk it out, guys."

Anyway, with the exception of abortion, I don't talk a ton of politics on the ol' blog here, because a) I don't want to hear from all the RON PAUL CONSTITUTION 30 YEARS INTEGRITY CHEMTRAILS crowd, which includes some great friends that I love, and b) because I just don't feel like having debate and negative emotion over here, this is a happy place, unless it's one of those days I talk about death and you all cry.

But everybody knows I'm a conservative and I am staunchly pro-life and I voted for MittRominy and so on. So I really hoped he'd win, for a number of reasons with the primary one being abortion. But he didn't, and that's the electoral process and I love this country and maybe I'm a Pollyanna, but I think we'll be okay. I mean, it was a loss for prolifers, in a major way, but there are still checks and balances and public opinion moving in a prolife direction. I just don't think the end of the world starts today.

I'm still proud to be an American, and I still believe that we're the greatest nation in the world. Maybe I'm wrong, and if the apocalypse happens tomorrow, you can come over here and I'll be all embarrassed and probably dead from chemtrails and you can be like I told you so. Until then, I'm going to try to see the bright side.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We try to vote in all the smaller elections, you know, City Cupholder and Local Bridge Inspector and stuff. And those are, like all elections, on some Tuesday sometime and it's usually just us and a table full of election officials who look like they've been bussed in from Silver Sneakers over at the YMCA. They are always totally delighted to see us, because it's lonely at the top. And then we vote and Toby reads over my shoulder and comments loudly on my choices, but it doesn't matter because there's no one there.

I knew today would be busier, although I didn't expect lines out the door like some of you had. The little church/gym we vote in is never packed. I had the usual stern Car Talk, "Now. We're going in this place, and there might not be any other kids, it is a quiet place. So I'm gonna need you to turn your hyperness down to 0." Toby makes no promises. Very quickly, I became aware of another, much greater concern.

The voter in front of us was a little person. I don't know the PC term, I'm probably going to offend someone. The guy was less than 3 feet tall and over 60 years old. He was the smallest human adult I have ever seen, and somehow very bald and very hairy. It was one of those moments, where I just stood very, very still and hoped that somehow my very curious and loud children would not notice him. Look, we have a special needs kid in our family. They are totally unphased by people in wheelchairs, with oxygen, the severely disabled, etc. But this, a small grownup, I knew. And then they started in. "Aww," Brynn said in a stage whisper, "so cute!" It was a terrible stage whisper. Or effective, if one wanted to whisper to an audience from a stage. Toby had a couple of questions too, and I tried to just shut it down using only my face. It only took us 5 minutes to get through the line, but it felt like an hour.

Finally we got our ballot and went over to our station, where MittRominy and Burrock Obama were discussed at some length, and Toby expressed some real reservations about Ryan, because this was the first he had heard of the guy, and what if we wanted a different Vice President? And then he had some questions about ballot procedures, because, ideally, he would like to have the President announced before bedtime. I gave a microsecond of thought to throwing in the electoral college and hanging chads and whatnot, but who has time for that? Plus there were a lot of other people voting, and sometimes I get the feeling that not everyone thinks my kids are so hilarious and awesome and situationally appropriate. Crazy, I know.

And then my ballot was rejected because I messed up one circle and I had to get another ballot and there was a lot of talk among the younger crowd about me getting to vote twice, which made me feel even more like I was trying to pull a fast one in a Catholic gym with my diversion team of Clarklings. And the MOG ran into some snag with his registration and had to shuffle around from station to station getting things notarized while Tristan and Brynn climbed the bleachers and made enemies.

But it's done, it's done and now we wait. I was thinking about letting Toby stay up to see the results, but I just don't think I'm smart enough to handle it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My friend Brooke always has these ideas, like:

and I'm always like, "Ehhhhhhh, let's just go to McDonald's, no, wait, I'm tired. They're so tired and I'm loud. No, that's not it, hang on." And we both have a lot of kids, relatively speaking, and she's fearless and full of ideas. So anyway, she cooked up this trip to an Amish town or village and so we went. It took 2 hours to get there, and Toby passed the time by driving Brynn to the end of her fuse, which is a really short trip. Coincidentally, he arrived at the end of my fuse about the same time, and I pray that time will ease his pain.

We arrived in Yoderville, aka, Jamesport and I had my doubts. I have a hangup about fundamentalist types with calm children, they intimidate me greatly. I don't want to wear a bun and call my husband "Mister Clark" or anything, but sometimes I think those really extreme Southern Baptists and Mennonite and Amish are on to something with parenting. Somehow, and I don't understand it, their kids are capable of being quiet. It's like a Christmas miracle, all the time. My kids aren't even quiet when they're asleep.

And they were loud. For the most part no one gave us a second glance, because they are schooled in looking calm and kind, I suspect. In reality, my kids were probably pretty good, but because of my wannabe-fundamentalist-neurosis, I felt like the before portion of a commercial for ADD medication. I was playing the role of the harried soccermom in a snot-streaked hoodie. They played the youth of America, and they played it flawlessly.

In the grocery market, I kept making eye contact with delicate Amishwomen who were probably somewhere near my age, and they seemed fascinated with my kids, which could have been for a number of reasons. 1) Jamesport is evidently a hotspot among the senior citizen set, and the only kids anywhere were mine and Brooke's. 2) they were all in the basket, like those 8 year olds in the stroller. You know what I mean. There's a time to get the kid out of the stroller. 3) they were being hellacious, trying to reach an agreement on which bag of "Traditional Amish Candy"* to buy while Tristan worked his snatch-n-grab magic on, well, everything and then screamed his grief to the skies when he was thwarted. By the end, I think I was sweating. I'm starting to think I might have an equal intimidation factor when it comes to dour senior citizens.

I enjoyed the scenery and the shops and the food, but next time I might do my homeschool field trip sans homeschoolers. I guess they had a good time, though. On the way home Toby weighed the pros and cons of being Amish and decided to remain Englisch, because of electricity and whatnot.

Side tangent: I think, if I was Amish and I decided to go rogue, I'd do all kinds of robberies and carjackings and whatnot, because no one would suspect an Amish gal. In fact, even if someone said, "I was carjacked by a woman in a kapp! She had a black dress and sensible shoes!", people would assume that it was somebody masquerading as an Amishwoman, or they'd just go combing the countryside for women in that outfit, and I think you get where I'm going here... The trick would be using my carjacking profits in some discreet way, like some kind of offshore bank account that I handled online, through an internet connection I scored somewhere. I can tell myself from experience that this is a unlikely scenario, because I couldn't even get the Edge network out there in God's country, which was devastating, since I had things I needed to Instagram.

*candy corn. not Amish. or traditional.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Part of being a parent is taking your kids to events that are fun for them. I personally like to stay inside my house, but I fear their therapy sessions someday. Actually, I fear their therapy sessions in general, because when does a parent ever walk away scott-free when their offspring is being therapized? Yeah, exactly. Every dadgum psychopath in history might have had a lovely mom, but that's not what the news said. "Psychopath Kept Indoors Excessively As Child," the headline reads. "Ax-Murderer Recounts Being Told 'Life Isn't Fair.'" "'She Never Cut The Crusts Off My Sandwich,' Says The Subway Slasher." I could keep going with these, but the punctuating is getting on my nerves. And regardless, I could totally nail parenting and they'd still blame me someday because who can live up to that kind of Parenting Paragon? WHO? 

So I take them to stuff. Tomorrow we're going to some kind of Amish village, and I will try very hard to extract some laughs from that for you, but I figure it will mostly be sober Yoders, unless I can find somebody in their rumspringa to interview about their dalliances with Englischers and whatnot. Might buy some cheese. Exciting stuff, this.

Now, last night was Halloween, and, being fairly churchy, I opted to take my kids to a Harvest Family Fun and Fall Time Celebration For the Ages Festival, or something. Initially I thought they were required to wear Biblical costumes and, being a rule-keeper of sorts, I tossed around some ideas with the MOG and then settled on Daniel and some friendly lions. My life is a comedy of errors, and piecing together these lions from thrift store costumes and yarn and hot glue and wigs (which I ended up not using) and face paint was challenging, all right? It challenged me. Lucky for me, my kids are still small and they thought they looked GREAT and even wanted to be entered in the costume contest, which we would have only won with the sympathy vote.

We did it. Tristan sat in the stroller as long as he had something extremely sticky to eat, and, considering that I had squeezed him into an abusively small hand-me-down lion suit, it was a good call to not let him try to walk. The other kids did ring toss and clothespin fishing and all the other sorts of things you do at this sort of thing, and I hung out and ate their candy. After 4 or 5 years, we went out to the outdoor part of the festivities and they jumped in bouncy houses and then Brynn found out about the pony rides and I am rapidly learning to do whatever Brynn wants. She almost has me trained. Toby pulled what is probably the best thing he's ever done and waited in line and got hot dogs for us. I'm starting to think these little people might be useful someday. But then, Brynn desperately had to use the potty, and so I ended up scarfing my hot dog in the ladies room. I didn't even think about it until some of the other waiting moms offered their sympathy, "You just gotta eat while you can," they said, averting their eyes as ketchup ran down my arm and into Tristan's hair, blending seamlessly into the clumped face paint and chunks of melted chocolate.

I should wrap this up, because I bet the MOG quit reading several paragraphs ago. "It's too long!" says the guy who watched an entire season of Lost in one day. It was a fun night, it was an exhausting night. I think they had a really great time, and I will continue thinking that until I am confronted in a therapy session 20 years from now.
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