Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I don't think I have a lot of pet peeves. Maybe the MOG would argue, but that's just because he is the recipient of the few pet peeves I do have, like other people using my toothbrush when theirs is in a suitcase, or people who eat ham and cheese sandwiches in bed. I'm easy like Sunday morning most of the time. At least I  think so. But there are a few things that get under my skin, and they mostly have to do with what I expected life to be like in TWO THOUSAND THIRTEEN.

I was a kid in the 80's, and I got sold a bill of good about the 2000s that was straight up bull hockey. So I have a few complaints to the makers of the future. Let me begin by saying the iPhone is one of the best things to ever happen to mankind and I heartily applaud its inclusion into the future. I do think an iPhone glove would be practical since I always have to hold it in my hand, like some kind of caveman. But basically I just love my phone so much that it would get really tricky if I had to make a Sophie's choice.  I kid. I would almost definitely choose my loved ones.

Some things that I think need to catch up:

Panhandlers and people selling cookies outside Walmart. Let's start by saying I need you to clarify your goal. If your sign just says "Happy Fourth" as you sit by the road in your tattered flannel with your ZZ Top beard fluttering in the wind, I am not likely to hand you some cash, because maybe you're just a free spirit, offering cheer to passersby, and who am I to judge? But also I might not give you cash anyway, because I don't carry cash, because this is Two Thousand Thirteen. Should we equip the homeless with credit card machines and/or Squares or a Paypal account? I don't think that's the thing. But it would be convenient. So maybe not the homeless. But people selling cookies outside Walmart to raise money for "The Holy Blind Mother Charity Ball" or whatever. Also garage sales and everyone else in the world. GET A SQUARE. This is the future, guys.

I had a short rant about vending machines but then I found out that many of them now accept debit cards. My apologies, vending machines. Not all of you require round pieces of metal currency like the Middle Ages. "Alms for the candy, guvn'r?"

Ironing. No. I won't do it, this is the future.

Grocery shopping: I'm not on board with food pellets, I like chewing recognizable food and tasting it and stuff. But the process of acquiring the food hasn't changed much since the Old West. I still have to take the covered wagon to the general store and walk around and put 100lb bags of cornmeal and salt pork over the saddle. I do get to pay with a debit card. So that part would get me burnt at the stake, or to be historically consistent, strung up. Or maybe I'd just have to live way out in the woods and give berries to young women looking for a love potion. Regardless, I wish I could just order groceries on my phone and somebody would bring them over here. I need a ranch hand.

Mail. Specifically government agencies and other inefficient businesses that want you to write things on paper and put them in an enclosure and put a sticker on them and then a truck comes to your house and picks up your paper and drives it somewhere else where it maybe flies on a plane and then another human sorts it, puts it on another truck and a week later, your birthday card, so thoughtful when you mailed it on your mother-in-law's birthday, is a week late. I know it gives jobs to like a billion people, and jobs are great. I totally approve of jobs. It's just I don't care for multi-step, multi-day processes, because, clearly, I have entitlement issues. Maybe because I was SUPPOSED TO HAVE A HOVERCAR AND A ROBOT BUTLER BY NOW AND I'M STILL HAVING TO MAIL CHECKS PLACES LIKE IT'S 1980.

I apologize for internet-yelling. It's just for humor emphasis. Let me close by saying again how much I love my iPhone. It is the wind beneath my wings. It makes me happy when skies are gray. It's my Endless Love. At least until there's an upgrade.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"I'll just turn in early," I told myself, 2 and a half hours before I turned in. The lure of the "second day" is just too much, with its relatively uninterrupted reading and eating food in its entirety, instead of breaking it into 5 pieces and handing it around to people who smell funny and talk really, really loud. So last night was no exception, with the ceremonial slooooow eating of chocolate and reading of substandard fiction.

This morning, they woke, as they always do, exactly 2 hours before I want to be alive. Today Tristan appeared in my room in the buff, au naturel, in his birthday suit, if you catch my drift. "Well," I thought. "He probably won't pee." and then I pulled him up to sleep between us. Moments later Toby came in gagging and falling over because Tristan had left a poopy diaper in his room. So. Time to wake up, I thought.

How I feel.

So I started the VBS prep process, which includes finding so many clothes for so many people. "You should do it the night before!" says you, Susy Helpful, "and also, you should eat wheatgrass!" I won't give you any suggestions in reply, Susy Helpful, because I am walking out my salvation in fear and trembling. Matching clothes, I think. Or at least complementary. Clean. Clean clothes, that mostly fit and don't have any noticeable stains. Man, I think. They're gonna give my kids vouchers for the food pantry or something. "Eat your cereal," I say 1000 times, but no one does because it has almonds and there's mutiny afoot. "Put on your shoes," I say 15,000 times, as Tristan, wearing only a diaper, runs frantic tracks around the house pushing a baby stroller. "Put on your shoes," I say, 12,000 more times, when suddenly I am accosted by a Very Terrible Smell.

An investigation is launched, in which I try to track down the inevitable feces while everyone else screams and gags and does not put on their shoes. Because I clearly have lived a wicked life, I found the offending substance, with my bare foot. And then I learned the Very Terrible Truth. Somehow, and it can only be by demons and devils, fecal matter had left a diaper and landed on the floor. And then, a small pink stroller had driven through it. Over and over and over. In a circle, through the entire downstairs. Over and over again.

"Well," maybe you're saying, "What would Jesus do?" and I'm warning you, Susy. You are on thin ice. Whatever it is Jesus would have done, I did not do that. There was some praying, but it was mostly focused on pleasegoddon'tletmepukepleasegod. The man of God, given the screeching options of wash-the-house or take-kids-to-church, made a quick exit with 2 of my children, who I really hope are wearing pants.

 I'll tell you one thing. That stroller is gone. I washed the humans. I mopped the floor 4 times. I scrubbed and vacuumed the rug. I threw away washcloths and diapers and the mop head and then I put the trash bag out of the house. Bottle of Febreze: empty. Hands, scrubbed raw. But I am not washing that stroller. It is dead to me. 

If anyone is looking for me today, I will be in my big chair in the corner, rocking and humming.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sometimes I let myself think about a world where we don't have any screens in our house. No movies, no Wii, no Facebook. It's usually when I get to the no Facebook part that I break out in hives. The fact is, I created this monster. I introduced them to technology to give myself some space, and now it runs all of us. If we're indoors, then we're looking at screens. All of us. And we are usually indoors. "Well," I rationalize, "this is the way we communicate with the outside world. Just like the housewives of the 40's, hanging out on party lines, right?" "And besides," I tell myself, "my kids are learning how to be Steve Jobs, so..." The fact is, even if both of those things are potentially true, we are consuming for the vast majority of our screen time, and producing very little. 

I miss the pre-social-network days a little bit. I was more lonely, I'm sure, because I don't talk on the phone and few people in my season of life get to do a lot of hanging out with pals, but I know I was more connected to my kids. 

I read these articles, these people who unplugged for a year or months, and I am straight up jealous. I try to imagine what it would be like to do an outing with my kids or a group of friends and not Instagram it, to see a movie and not tell anyone what I thought about it. I wonder what it would be like to not feel the not unpleasant, but nagging obligation, to update my status and let my friends know where I am and what I'm doing. I try to think about how I'd pass my time, and if I'd feel isolated and go nuts. What if I just lived my life by myself, by myself with the people that are with me, I think. It sounds horrifying, lonely and so tempting. It also seems impossible. I live hundreds or thousands of miles away from my family and my lifelong friends, wouldn't I miss knowing the minute details of their lives? Right now I still feel connected to lots of people, because I know those details. What would it be like to lose that connection? "Well," you say, "you could always call them." That's a nice idea, but I've lived with myself my whole life and I know, I'm not going to call them. We'll just slip away from each other. I can't lie to myself about that, it would make a difference.

And the practical things, like mapping restaurants and running businesses and answering emails, how would that fit into an unplugged life? What if my kids are budding app developers and computer gurus of the future, won't they need computers for that? If you came here for answers, I apologize. I've only got questions, and your answers won't work for us. It's a case-by-case thing. 

So I try to make compromises, schedules, just less media, instead of none. Still, the reality that we could almost walk away from it all is there, in the back of my mind. I'm trying to think of a way to dial it way, way back, to turn our attention to art and music and books, and to only use technology for producing, for loving Jesus and people, for using our gifts and talents. I don't know yet how that's going to work, I'm just saying it's in the ol' mind percolator. Stay tuned. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Somewhere in my early high school years, I took one of those personality tests... or maybe like a battery of them, it seems like there were a lot. My mama was doing career counseling and rescue work in the inner city and I read every book anybody ever left lying around, which is one reason I know some very disturbing urban legends that I have spent the last 20 years trying to forget. The thing is, I did all this personality testing and figuring out what color was my parachute and whatnot and determined that I was what was known as a "Sanguine-sanguine", otherwise known as "obnoxious". I was the ultimate extrovert, never met a stranger, etc.

Then I had children.

I think I'm still good in a crowd. I like almost everyone I meet and feel equally comfortable talking to groups and individuals. I can find a laugh in any situation and if I've got an audience, I will keep going waaaay past a reasonable cutoff time and wake up with a hyper hangover. The majority of my time, however, is spent with miniature humans who are relentless conversationalists that see me as a constant source of entertainment as well as a referee and human trampoline. Before my eyes are open, they are talking, asking, whining, and breaking me down. I have never been more fulfilled and exhausted. I get it, this is a blip in time, my time with them and I'm thankful for it. I love them deliberately. But sometimes I really, really want to be somewhere else for a little while.

The poor MOG got kinda tricked, because when we were dating and newlyweds, we were inseparable. We did our grocery shopping together, stood in line at the bank, got jobs at the same companies. And then, somewhere along 3 kids, I started needing a little recharge time, where no one was talking to me or touching me or, you know, in my sight. It perplexes him, because he spends his days with people who consider eye contact non-essential for meaningful relationship and then comes home ready for Extreme Togetherness Time (conversational, get your minds... sheesh) and I am ready for a Motherhood Dash where I take the minivan off a bridge. So I consider it a sign of his true love and attempt at understanding that my big present every year recently has been a 24-hour vacation, all by myself. Last year I never got to use it because of R2's illness, so we scheduled it for this summer.

Thanks to a couple of generous friends, my hotel room and some meals were paid for, which was amazing and left me with some cash for snacks and thrift shops. After eating some substandard Indian food, which was still interesting, I stopped at Target and bought strange mommy-only snacks, like a little shrimp tray and a chocolate bar with beef jerky in it. I moseyed around the library like a senior citizen and then took my books back to the hotel where I laid very, very still in the silence and read. I would never call myself an introvert, but it felt like a human battery-charge, just being so very alone. After a few hours, I struck out in search of some thrifting and tried to walk slowly and remember I had lots of time. Once it got dark I got some Greek food to go and ate it in my room while I watched a funny movie and did my own pedicure to save some cash, which ended up being a Bad Idea. I'll be wearing close-toed shoes for a week or two, I'm just saying. Then I read some more, until midnight when I took Zzzquil and forced myself to sleep in till 9, even though my brain was rioting at 7:30. I did some more reading, watched a sad movie, checked out of the hotel and had guacamole for lunch, because I could. I spent the rest of my time at thrift stores and Half-Price Books and then came home to a happy reunion and a house that was much cleaner than my usual work.

Somebody give the Lord praise, and also my husband.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Boys are very different from girls. I'm gonna go ahead and get all gender stereotypical up in here and y'all can just roll with it. I'm just saying with my sons, there are tears, there are moments of anger and hurt, but they are so brief and, at least so far, pretty easy to resolve. Girls are different. I only have one, so it's not scientific. But I'm right.

It was a rough morning, that day. There was a lot of emotions. In fact, there are always a lot of emotions. There are cities of emotions, with bridges and skyscrapers and pastures with animals and little Emotion Bureaucrats walking around with hard hats and briefcases, pointing wildly from one side to the other, as mountains of emotion shake and avalanche into the oceans of emotion. The bright side is that life is so exciting for her, and there is no one in the world that receives a gift better. The dark side is so, so dramatic and passionate, where angels fear to tread. I feel confident, that pointed in the right direction, this passion is going to make her an amazing artist, in whatever art form she chooses.

The day in question, all of the passion was pointed in the wrong direction, and there was a lot of screaming and wild matted hair and writhing on the floor and making dramatic threats, and also Brynn was screaming a little. I kid. It was all her, doing her imitation of a movie exorcism over some minor infraction and consequence, and me, sitting on the couch trying to be louder than her with my psychologist voice, and failing. Somewhere in between wishing I had a tazer and thinking about just moving her into her bedroom for a week, my brain heard my mouth saying, "Stop this. Get up, you're going to the store with me." Then my brain was like "Whaaaa?" because the last thing I wanted was to take a currently tantrumming child out of my home to audition me for Walmart's Worst Parent competition. Somehow, despite my internal struggle, she ended up cheerfully holding my hand and walking to the car moments later. I tell you what. This one is not going in the parenting book I'm going to write once my kids are old enough that I forget what little kids are like.

Our first stop was to get her a haircut, on the MOG's request. I had been fighting this, because I love the idea of long hair on little girls. The reality of long hair on little girls is less glamour and more conditioner and lollipops stuck in tangles and a lot of "owwwww-ing". She chatted cheerily throughout her whole haircut and I could tell she felt a hundred times better, and I'm enough of a female stereotype that that makes perfect sense to me. As we walked out, I noticed a nail salon and decided to get her a manicure as well. There's no reason... she spent the morning throwing fits and we're on a tight budget. I knew I should do it anyway. She got shy with the nail tech but on the way out she was singing on the sidewalk, "I got a haaaaaaaircut and beautiful naaaaails and I look like a woooooman," and I felt the pleasure of God right there, God enjoying me enjoying my daughter enjoying herself.

I don't know what I'm doing. Parenting is so much guesswork and instinct. I think a key is responding to invitations when they pop up- a moment to connect with my child's heart, even when that would not be my first or even second response.

She sang her way through Walmart and my heart grew three sizes for her, realizing my baby is a little woman and there are places in her heart and mind that only I really understand. This, the pampering side, feels like one tiny facet of the child I'm still, and will always be, learning. Time is rocketing past and I have these days, moments really, to know her heart and hear her. What a gift.

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