Monday, July 30, 2012

wild hairs and marital constraints

Sometimes inspiration hits me, and, like most things that hit, it is sudden and unexpected. I mean, some hits are expected, like when the macho guys in junior high tell you to hit them as hard as you can and then they try to bow up and take the hit, but it still hurt. You can tell. But in relation to my house, or any crafty thing, usually inspiration hits suddenly, and if I have a couple bucks, I am off to Lowes to buy not enough paint or whatever I need, because I live in denial, and one can should be adequate.

The MOG is a hopeful guy, and he keeps hoping that my new commitment to fitness or my random wild swings into domesticity will pay off in that I will suddenly care deeply about cleaning the house. It never works out, in fact, generally it makes the house a little more crazy while I move furniture and paint a wall or change doorknobs or whatever. I think, I really believe that he still thinks some kind of genetic disposition to scrubbing will kick in. I feel pretty confident that I will never a) look forward to cleaning or b) voluntarily go camping. But who knows, I don't even recognize myself these days.

So I have decided to paint the sunroom. I want to turn it into a magical cheerful homeschool room with educational posters and small tables and globes and bookshelves and one.million.books, and he is totally on board with "my" plan to make a convertible homeschool room that also looks totally adult and can host home groups. What is it with this guy that he has a basement studio AND an office and also wants the sunroom? How can a man who is home approximately 10 hours a week even USE three rooms?

Usually I get these ideas when he's out of town and I just do what I want and he comes home and looks shifty-eyed at my upgrades but it stands, because I'm cute and he doesn't want to redo it. This time I just had to take the bull by the horns, because he's not going anywhere. So I've just been going for it and he comes in and looks horrified and then he goes back to camp and then he begs me for the love of all that is holy to wait and let him help because my methods are so avant garde and he hates art. But he has these hangups about not painting when the house is dirty, and I have these hangups about cleaning the house when I have an IDEA, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Can this marriage be saved?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

brothers

We got started a little late today, which grates on my soul. I hate being rushed, and I despise being late, so I generally overcompensate, wake up too early and then sit in the parking lot of my destination for 15 minutes, so that I'll walk in only 10 minutes early. The MOG has a different philosophy on time, and it is one of our frequent loving and earnest marital discussion topics. 

Anyway. Today was the start of the last VBS of the summer, and I spruced up the 2 who would actually be out of my eyesight for the day and phoned it in on the other 2. My logic was I could put clean clothes on them when they got home. Except this time, the registration desk asked if R2 would be staying, which was not something I had thought of. One of the hard things about R2 is he is aware that everyone else is going somewhere fun but not aware enough to participate, generally. So I explained that and they said they had a couple of other special kids, and by this point, R2 was jumping wildly because he caught their drift, and so I left him, in his grungy too-big jeans and with a little leftover cereal on his face. You know that kid, that special needs kid, that looks like nobody bathes him, like maybe he's just escaped Ms. Hannigan's orphanage and is running wild? Kind of like that, dadgummit.

I told the teacher that he should just stay with Toby. "If he's with his brother," I said, "he'll do fine." Toby took it to heart, promising that Richy would be his shadow, and they moseyed over to the sanctuary and sat on a pew near the back. I was worried that Toby would be separated from his class, would miss out on the group activities, and I worried that R2 would cry, or that the teachers would be afraid of him, the way that people are sometimes. But I took my baby and went home. At lunch I came back up and found Toby and Richy sitting at a table with 2 teachers, and when I walked up to them R2 started signing "All done, all done," and so I asked him 100 times if he wanted to stay or go, and he wanted to go. So we came home for an hour or 2 and then went back to get the others. When we returned, Toby was deep in the mix, dancing and doing hand motions. 

On the way home, I told Toby that R2 would probably stay home the other days. "I want you to have fun," I told him, "And I think maybe you have to focus too much on taking care of Richy, so maybe he'll just stay with me tomorrow." Toby paused for a second, and I was expecting him to agree, but he said, "No! I want him there, he's my brother! I like helping him." 

And there's something in my heart that's breaking, because this is his reality, and he loves his brother. He will probably never have the confusing emotions I have, with loving R2 and being proud of him and still, slightly embarrassed and overly aware of other people's response to him, all the mental juggling I do to explain him, to accommodate him, to try to find a safe place- for Toby, it's his brother, and he likes helping him. Simple. 

I don't know if I'll send him back. But I'm proud of my boys today. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Life isn't fair

Now maybe you'd never know it, because of the swan I am now, but I was kind of an awkward kid. Lots of skinny arms and legs (well, the standard number, but long and gangly) and stick-straight hair and slightly prominent ears. The ears, along with the pointed chin and small eyes earned me the nickname "Mouse" as a kid. Between that and the total lack of athletic skill and surplus of geeky child braininess, sometimes I think it's surprising I'm not more screwed up.

"You will get more beautiful," my mom would assure me. "You're going to be one of those exotic beauties." I'm still waiting on that whole thing. She's supposedly prophetic, my mama. Anyway, I never wanted to be exotic, I lived in a smallish town in Texas. Exotic was looked upon with a degree of suspicion. I just wanted to have a tan and big hair and I wanted blue eyes. I wanted to look like one of those kids on Toddlers & Tiaras, that's what I wanted.


(Sidenote: I recently googled "How to tan a ginger" and discovered that freckly folks like myself actually have 500 times the melanin of you olive-types. Scientists are working on a cure to our pasty whiteness. So get ready, I'mma be a 90 year old bronze woman someday) 


Being a kid is hard. I mean, on one hand, you've got somebody washing all your clothes and making you sandwiches, giving you aspirin, buying all your possessions and groceries. (also see: being a man) On the other hand, you have to live everything for the first time, and while there's a lot of fun to be had, there's also so many painful experiences, so much growing into your skin.

Painful experiences and onions give you character, which nobody wants. Eventually, though, you figure out that character is more important than happiness, which you get, anyway. I mean, happiness is a byproduct of a meaningful life. So now I've got these kids and I know all this stuff is going to come up. And now that I have all this perspective, I'll probably do like my parents and say, "Well.... life isn't fair."

And even while I'm saying it, I'll know it grates on them, it doesn't ease the pain, it doesn't make looking like a mouse any easier. Yet. But someday, it will make more sense.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

vanity, mediocrity and the internet

You know, I coulda sworn that Louisa May Alcott said "A woman with a sense of humor could never be vain," but I can't find it anywhere on the internet. Maybe it was somebody else, but again, the Google doesn't bring up any quote like that. For that reason, I will claim it as my own, and now Google will credit me with the quote of some famous literary feminist, who would probably find my Republican housewife ways to be distasteful. No matter, I said it. A woman with a sense of humor could never really be vain.

I've built a little bit of a reputation over here about being a slacker. I make people feel better, they say. It's nice to have some honesty about motherhood, they say. And hey, I'm all about honesty. Well, to a degree. I still kick the diapers out of the frame before I instagram, so....

I'm just being a tad introspective here. So I was thinking about how I feel so much more comfortable sharing my failures than my successes. I mean, if I made a cake and I totally KILLED it, in a positive sense, that would be way less fun than, for example, my Rainbow Cake. Or like, when someone is amazing at lots of things, it makes me a little bit eye-rolly and rebellious because I can't do all that stuff, or I don't want to do the work to do it. You know what I mean?

token introspective pic
And I know there's a whole fake world out there, with social media and lies. So we're all a little skeptical. So I think I swing to the other side of the pendulum and only talk about things that don't seem like even remotely false or vain. Like eating. I never, or rarely, talk about when I try to eat good. I went a week without a Coke and ate meat and veggies. For a week. Nary a photo. But then when I jump blindly into a pit of brownies and queso, I'm all like, check me out! What is that?

Something about being a goof-off is way easier than trying. Nobody cool wants to seem too earnest. I mean, I was SO that kid with my hand always raised because I had the answer, and then around 3rd grade I figured out overachieving was frowned upon and took my permanent role as the jester with a secret side of genius. I feel conflicted about that, on one hand I hate that mediocrity is celebrated while exceptionalism is frowned on, because philosophically I disagree with that. On the other hand, I think people should not take themselves so seriously, seriously. Seriously.

Anyway. It's not like I'm going to wrap up here with a punch. I'll just fade out slowly without making a solid point, because I'm still thinking about all this. And besides, solid points are so earnest.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

bad day

There should really be an "opt-out" on some days. Just, you know, you wake up and stub your toe and you can only find one of each shoe and you just know what kind of day it is and you skip it. But no, the day dawns, with its smirky little sunny face and its promises of minor disasters and all you got is Joel Osteen reminding you to look at the bright side, which you can't see, because it is jelly-side down on the kitchen floor. "I'm not going to say this is a bad day," you say, in denial. "It will get better." 

It might not. It's probably some kind of natural law, that a day, when headed in the wrong direction, will continue to move in the wrong direction until you fall into a sweaty and distracted sleep, many hours later. It almost seems like it would make more sense just to embrace it. Slam your own foot in the door, deliberately drop the dinner plates on the floor, go to the pediatrician's office on the wrong day on purpose. 

It starts to get funny, after a while, or maybe you get a little punch-drunk, I don't know. Anyway, I've had a bad day, and I might have cake for dinner, or take up drinking. 

Cause I can't fight this bad day anymore. 
I've forgotten what the kids are fighting for. 
Now there's macaroni on the floor, 
Laws keeping me indoor(s), 
Baby, I can't fight this bad day anymore. 


Thursday, July 12, 2012

brunch: or why I should be medicated

In many places in the world, my family is considered large. Like Target, for example. "Wow!" they'll say, as they fill the conveyor belt with fresh spinach and wine bottles, "You have got your hands full!" And I do, you know, but it's not that big of a deal. I mean, I have lots of friends with 7 kids and more, so I'm over my head but aware that I might not die from having another 2 or 3 crumbcrunchers. I think the most stressful part of having more kids than arms is getting through a parking lot. We form kind of a human chain and I coach everyone to hang on tight so they won't get smashed. They are slightly morbid, this bunch, because of my warning wording. "Don't leave that door open," they tell the AC repairman. "If our baby brother gets in that door, he will fall down the basement stairs and get dead." On one hand, I feel like I should dial it back. On the other hand, nobody leaves the basement door open. So.

But there is a feeling of liberation when I'm out with only a percentage of the whole. So when 2/4 went to VBS, I thought, hey! I should run the roads, and go paint the town a nice soft pink. A couple of us decided to go to brunch, you know, with just our littlest kids. "It'll be fun!" we thought. "A chance to talk without interruption!"

This is a classic example of Mommy Insanity. Another example is thinking you can grocery shop before lunch or during naptime with kids. "But it worked once!" you whine. Yeah, that was the mercy of God. Don't try Him again. Or thinking, "The 2 year old will probably be fine at the late movie!" No, no he will not. And people will HATE him, and especially you. Don't be crazy.

So we all printed out coupons for a free entree and then we piled in, and suddenly we realized that our LITE crew was still child-heavy. 4 moms, 6 kids. Little ones. And at IHOP(ancakes), as you may know, speed and customer service are top priority. We sat there and fed the babies crayons, sugar packets, napkins, and so on, and the grateful little ones stood up in their high chairs and threw forks and hung backward over the table and climbed under the table to peruse the gum collection and poked each other in the eyes and loudly demanded that we LOOK AT THEM LOOK RIGHT NOW because we would much rather see them snort a straw wrapper than to talk to each other.

And all of the senior citizens were trying not to look, you know, just trying to play it cool and snarf their Senior Rooty without being accosted by a sugar bowl or anything. Part of Mommy Insanity is trying to carry on as normal. Imagine if you were being taken up in a bathtub, into a tornado. And all around debris is flying  and people are screaming, buildings ripping apart and you're swirling around wildly, and you just kept smiling and sipping your tea. Like that. We kept talking, with the occasional frantic dive across the table as a tot attempted a kamikaze move.

The thing about IHOP(ancakes) is, if you wait long enough, eventually someone will bring you something to eat. It might not be hot, or what you ordered, but it will be food, basically. Maybe pancakes, 6 inch diameter pancakes on a 5 inch diameter plate, but edible, because by this point, you are giving serious thought to putting a little syrup on the dessert menu.

In the end, it was a little crazy. But even in the whirlwind with the screeching and the laughing and getting kicked a couple dozen times and having to eat my food off of Tristan's plate since he was eating everything off mine, it was refreshing to laugh with a couple of friends inside the vortex.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

tattoos and regrets

My middle kids are in Vacation Bible School this week, learning from Lutherans, which should be good. Last year they learned from the Church of Christ and last month they were at some kinda Fellowship which I figure used to be Assembly of God. Takes all kinds, y'all, and we all love Jesus, so I figure some cross-pollination is healthy. (see what I did there, with cross?)

Anyway, every day they send them home with a paper bag full of religious propaganda, which is great because they learn Bible stories and so on. Today, though, Toby lost his bag and then he found it, sans most of its items. Did some miniature Lutheran steal his VBS swag? I'm not asking these questions. Brynn was loftily superior with her bag of pamphlets and a fake tattoo.

All the way home, she demanded that I put the tattoo on her. Now, Brynn is bright. She's very smart. But sometimes, on the practicals of motor vehicle safety, she's a little slow. Honey, if you're reading this as a moody teenager, you're not slow now. You weren't even slow when I wrote this. Just because you routinely request in a panicked and shrill voice that I fix your nail polish whilst rocketing down the freeway at 75 miles an hour, or wail about how thirsty you are and you.need.water.now while I am changing lanes in a thunderstorm and Tristan is crying, that does not make you slow. I apologize.

Once we got home, I pointed Tristan in the direction of the house and then unbuckled people and carried bags and sippy cups and unlocked the door and kind of kicked at small people until they went in the door and then came inside and dropped all the bags and answered a few questions about the universe. After a moment, I noticed Brynn was still in the car and discovered that a) she lost the tattoo and b) she was no less emotional than at any other point in her small female life. They found it eventually and she demanded that I put it on her, right away, so I did.

Once it was wet and we counted down the 30 seconds, I removed the paper backing and she stared down at her new ink. It took about another 30 seconds before she flipped out and started screaming. "It HURTS!" she wailed. "It hurts so BAD! Take it off!" I tried explaining that it was just a picture, the same as marker, and she kept up with the histrionics. Imagine waking up from a bender to discover that you have a full-color Winnie the Pooh tattoo on your neck, and also your leg has been amputated. It was like that.

I considered, during the screaming, a potential skin sensitivity to the chemicals in the tat. I tried a bandaid first, to determine the bull-hockey factor, and sure enough, it fixed it. Completely. Lordy. If we can get this much drama out of a Lutheran tattoo, what am I in for?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

another one bites the dust

Toby tried to be a man about it, but he's 6. How much of a man can you be? All I know is he was running around like a madman at the playground, probably forcing everyone around him to participate in a life-size version of Sonic the Hedgehog, and I was parenting from the covered picnic area, which mainly includes chatting with my mommy pals and occasionally making wild dashes into the parking lot to retrieve Fugitive Tristan. My strategy is to run faster than him and grab him by one arm while he dangles and wails. Then I drag him back to the approved location. You have probably seen this maneuver in Wal-Marts around the country.

But at some point during this talk-panic-dash-yank-console routine, Toby came to me with a trembling lower lip, holding back tears using his considerable masculinity. The story that unfolded was harrowing. Evidently, a vicious gang of bloodthirsty 7 and 8 year old girls had deliberately and violently launched a grasshopper at him. You can imagine my horror, which I displayed by laughing, because I was so horrified, and then I cleaned up my act and tried to be nurturing and stuff. One of the perpetrators belonged to my pal Brooke, and after she did some interrogation, the report was modified to say that the grasshopper had actually gone rogue and jumped out of their sweet and unsuspecting hands. Toby seemed satisfied with this story and returned to the play area, shaken but not broken.

About 10 minutes later, half of my children were crying about various things, which is always my cue to throw people in the stroller and run for the van before ALL of the children are crying, and so we moved that direction. In the transition Brynn made a new friend, because any time I am moving rapidly toward a destination, my kids find some sort of lengthy diversion. Somehow, Brynn was given a grasshopper of her very own. In one of my peripheral kid-counting sweeps, I noticed she had something cupped in her hands, which was her new pet "Grassy" that she was going to bring to our house and take care of and love him forever. I did some fairly complicated anthropomorphics, explaining that Grassy's family and friends were here, and we should put him back in the grass here, so he could have Thanksgiving with his family and see his kids, because he loves it here, at this park.

It was a magical moment, and she lovingly released him into the grass, telling him "Go find your family, boy!" Grassy chose to hop on the pavement instead, and Toby, strolling late onto the scene, immediately stomped on him and squished him into the concrete.

We all stood for a second, shocked and silenced by the random and violent act, and then Brynn started screaming and then Toby started crying and then Tristan was getting nervous and I had to throw them all in the car and try to do all the necessary therapy in a different location, away from the dismembered corpse of ol' Grassy. Toby apologized, kind of. "I didn't know he was a pet," he explained. "I just thought he was a normal old grasshopper."   Brynn wailed uncontrollably, "Ohhh, I miss Grassy. GRASSY! GRAAAAAASSY!" It was an uncomfortable scene, all of us waiting for the AC to kick in, listening to the depths of her grief, and Toby, struggling under the weight of his shame.

It's complicated, family. I just hope, in time, that we can all heal from this tragedy and forgive each other.

Monday, July 2, 2012

there's a man in my house. maybe.

The MOG has been leading this junior high summer camp for, I don't know, like a month or something (in reality, it has probably been 2 weeks), and it has been an adjustment for us. It's complicated. He could leave for weeks and I'd know exactly what to do. No laying around singing, "How am I supposed to live with-out you?" or "All BY myseeeelf", just you know, "Hakuna Matata" and a lot of McDonald's. Because when a man is gone, he's gone. That much you know. If you cook macaroni for dinner, no one will show up looking for real food. If a chipmunk gets loose in your house, you will die alone. It's predictable. And it gets lonely, but you just do the work and get through it. Or, he's here and I know he'll be here for weeks, eating the food and sleeping in my bed. Predictable.

But this, this is different. The camp is a mile away. He's here in the morning, sometimes, and then gone, and then spontaneously back. It's like having a manager that drops in at your house at random. Because, and this might come as a shock to some work-out-of-the-home dads, but we kind of let things go to heck during the daytime. I mean, somebody spills a box of Great Value Cheese Flavored Square Crackers™ on the floor and maybe I don't run screaming for the broom, because something will clean them up fairly quickly, and maybe I don't need to ask questions. Or maybe I bring up a load of laundry, retrieve the requested lion costume, sans barf, and then let the rest of the clean clothes take a break on the couch. What's the hurry? Is the dresser lonely? Is the Queen dropping by? Maybe it's 11:00 and the baby is wandering around in just a sagging diaper while I read a novel and eat some trail mix. Whose business is this? To quote everyone on Facebook ever who is doing something they should not be doing and then getting cyber-busted, "Hey! Judge Not! It says it in the Bible you say you love so much. LOL."

So the drop in, with the cheery, "Whatcha workin on?" Do you want to know? Because I am finding out if Tom Cruise's marriage was a SHAM right now, and next I thought I might watch a video of a cat that smiles like a person... Is that what you were looking for?

And the food. I mean, I like the guy a lot. I've been married to him half my life, we have a magnificent crop of children, it's all good. Don't feel like you need to notify the prayer chain. But I basically feed my children these things when he's on the road: pizza, mac and cheese, sandwiches. Repeat. And then when they go to "quiet" time or bed, I eat mommy stuff, like a couple of shrimp and a half an avocado. And something chocolate. When he's home, like, not on the road, then I do better, with meals that need a big plate, and a fork. But this- he might be home at 2 in the morning, or at 5:30 in the evening, neither of which are designated meal times. He doesn't complain, he just stands in the kitchen, kind of whimpering, and then drinks a breakfast shake. The guilt, it would get to me, if I let it.

And then in the evening, I do baths. Well, maybe. Or I scrub wildly and randomly with Great Value Unscented Diaper Wipes™ and then send them to their rooms, smelling like spaghetti, urine and chemical baby powder. Then I clean the kitchen and pick up all the apple cores and the toys and such and then I collapse on the couch with another mommy meal, like an apple with peanut butter and a bunch of cheese squares, and I find something on Netflix that has a woman's face in the center, looking quirky, with 2 guys standing in the background, indicating an amusing love triangle, and then I watch that. But then sometimes he shows up, because this camp thing is confusing and he can come home sometimes, and there he is, snarfing my apples and making untoward suggestions.

It's just confusing, that's all. I've tried to explain it to him it's just because he is dead to me when he goes on tour, and that I just go into survival mode and do work, but that doesn't seem to reassure him. Mysterious. I think I'll figure it out by the time camp is over and everything changes again.

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