Monday, April 28, 2014

If I had to change the oil

Warning: This might come across a skoosh maudlin when I am building up to my point, but it's not supposed to be.  DO NOT READ THIS AS MAUDLIN.  Thanks!

Every so often, the boy and I stumble into a talk about gender roles in our household.  I think that I've come out of the gender closet and admitted this before, but, unfortunately, our household is usually your typical American household as far as gender roles go.  That is, it appears to be that way.  I make the food...I run the vaccuum...I dust every now and again when I am trying to avoid doing something else less fun...I get the groceries.  The boy mows the yard...the boy "brings home the regular paycheck" (gag)...the boy makes the clothes dirty...the boy washes the car.  I'm kinda choking on my own embarrassment as I read that because it definitely gives off the impression that we align ourselves into traditional roles that are (we believe) pretty darn archaic. 

But I'm only throwing out a couple of points there to set this up.  I was making dinner and the boy was changing the oil on the lawn mower in preparation for last night's inevitable first yard mowing of the year.  That's as traditional as it comes, right?  Well...the boy walks in with a bit of a swagger and does a little bit of proverbial chest thumping as he proudly declared that he vanquished that lawn mower and finally (after 8 years) figured out how to change the oil the correct way (i.e. the way that the manual says to do it) rather than some curse-inducing jerry-rigged way that he has always otherwise done.  When I, ever so lovingly, called him out on his pseudo-manliness, his I-am-man-hear-me-change-oil-roar, he laughingly remarked something to the effect of "Well, if I wasn't here, what would you do about it [changing the oil]?"  We all know the answer here, don't we?  I wouldn't do anything.  I wouldn't even think of it until something happened to the dumb thing and I was left with a smoking machine and half mowed lawn (and grass stained tennis shoes...I always forget that happens). 

I do think of this basic scenario every so often.  What if he or I wasn't around?  What would the other person do in order to handle all of the basic day-to-day STUFF that someone must do?  As I finished up my batch of whatever, I enjoyed a moment of speculation.  It went something like this.

6:30 a.m.: The boy finds himself in the kitchen with 2 small fry who are talking over each other as he tries to scramble eggs and make toast for everyone, who all want something righththisverysecond. 
6:45 a.m.: The boy would realize that there are no clean knives because he didn't start the dishwasher last night after collapsing from exhaustion the moment he shut the doors of two girls' rooms.  When faced with the overwhelming sound of silence after a harried two hours of dinner-crazy play-bath-bed, you forget such trivialities as cleanliness.  He uses the back of a fork as a knife instead and then realizes that he doesn't have anyone's lunches ready either.  He starts to growl.
6:57 a.m.: Everyone has a hastily constructed PB & J because he wouldn't think to buy something like almond butter to switch things up a little on the monotony front.  There are some sort of vegetable in everyone's lunch bag, probably carrot sticks (again).  Yogurt, undoubtedly (easy).  Cheese sticks (maybe if he noticed them at the store this week).  Apples (washed, but uncut...doesn't have the time).  Everyone has food, though it is nothing grand or un-boring.  It's very boring.  It's like this just about every day.
7:13 a.m.: Feeling his blood pressure rise, he manages to herd the littles out the door.  There have been some tears by now, so he's looking forward to the relief of only having to deal with 100 teenagers all day.  It's pretty much always easier.
5:12 p.m.: Dinner time is coming.  The boy is laying on the floor while two pinballs bounce all over him.  This is such a golden activity.  The kids get their necessary contact with the big people, and the big people can all but fall asleep, so long as kids don't land on your throat (which hurts).j
5:32 p.m.: The boy looks at his watch and realizes it's dinner time.  Drat.
5:33 p.m.: The boy stands with his head in the refrigerator staring.  For minutes on end.  The door, just open and whatnot.
5:42 p.m.: The boy found frozen vegetables and started making pasta with sauce.  A decent solution.  Acceptable.  But the dishwasher has still not been run.  Problems always arise.

I randomly chose to document his day, knowing that mine would be no better if I had to think on behalf of both partners.  I'd be paying all sorts of bills for handymen/people who fix things to come make things right.  So even though his stomach does add some weight to the weekly grocery bill, he definitely earns his keep fixing light switches and interpreting labels on over the counter medicines.  And I have his back knowing the fine line between the right amount and too much salt in food as well as what, exactly, a Swiffer is.

Last thought: I realized in hindsight that I made a couple of typos in the last post.  Thanks for your understanding and not chastising me publicly.  In my line of work, you always feel the need to be hyper-vigilant of mistakes such as those because people just love to point out the mistakes of those who are supposed to know better.  I'd be lowering my grade for those, absolutely.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stolen moments as required

This week has bit the big one.  Yesterday, we signed the paperwork opting out of the purchase agreement for the house that we were pursuing due to unresolvable inspection issues.  It didn't go well breaking the news to the sellers, though was it a surprise?  It shouldn't have been.  The frustrations here are NOT that we aren't buying this house, which on paper is exactly what we have been looking for for about 4 years.  It is NOT that we are not moving out of this cramped box of a place.  It IS about how the blame seems to be (unfairly in our minds) directed at us and at my out-of-town-but-why-does-that-matter?-realtor dad who was helping us, and most significantly at ourselves for feeling like failures, seemingly unable to do what grown-ups are supposed to do: provide a comfortable place to live for your family.  It's beyond frustrating when you feel like you work and work and work through hellish hours and guilt and separation in order able to afford nothing. 

It's also been a week where the kid-lets, for whatever reason, are feeding my frustrations at epic rates of return.  There has been far, far too much bouncing off of the walls hyperactivity and random screaming (oldest) combined with far, far too much shrill screeching (youngest).  Some day, I'll write a post on the d-e-v-o-t-i-o-n that my youngest has for me, an attachment that has never been a remote possibility with the oldest, which I mostly adore but also let it get to me (refer to the aforementioned shrill, SHRILL, screeching coupled with the "cramped box of a place" that we live in).  My nerves are cracklin' this week.  I actually put myself in time-out twice today.  Twice.  I've also said some iteration of "No, don't do that...STOP" fifty times or more as well.  I'm working on that.  I'm no farther along in this parenting thing than my kids are in their maturation as well.  Sometimes, we help each other (When she senses that one of us is going to lose it, our oldest loudly starts singing a Daniel Tiger classic: "When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to, two, three, four!"  It actually helps.  Thanks, Daniel Tiger.). 

However, throughout all of this mundane, everyone-has-timess-like-these, weeks, this news story has been on my mind quite a bit.  Stole moments.  I admit that stories like this pull at my deepest feelings of empathy and sadness more so than they did prior to having kids.  It's not that I wouldn't have felt badly before having a child, but since, it is ever so easy to slip from "grieving dad loses 2 1/2-year old daughter" to "I could lose my daughter in an instant."  And the reaction that this couple assumed to this absolutely unthinkable event gives me hope for humanity.  Truly, these are parents who are using the hope that they had for their own child, which is now impossible, to live on in the hope of another child.  They are passing many of the good things that they had assumed about their daughter's present and future on to another child, perhaps to one who does not have such security, perhaps to one who has little to look forward to.  What an extraordinary story.  Despite the screeching and at times constant annoyances, I have found myself consciously dawdling over a few extra hugs and have searched out a few more smiles this week, even if what preceded it was nothing that you would ever share in a parenting manual.  Stolen moments are pure joy for a child who needs a parent, but they are also nothing short of a lifesaving, sanity-saving moment for a parent who needs to remember that what seems so solid and firm in her lap is not guaranteed.    

Monday, April 21, 2014

Intentional bread Lenten pledge

I know that you all all one of you have been biting your fingernails alllll morning, checking in checking in checking in about how our family's Lenten season went.  I actuality, here's a quick recap since my day-to-day happenings are not likely to be fresh on anyone's minds (ever). 

*We committed to make our own daily bread throughout Lent.
*This did not include cereal (though it could have).
*This did include bread-y items like crackers.

Frankly, this was the most purposeful, introspective Lenten season that I can remember.  I'm not so much one for "giving up" things during Lent just because that's what you're supposed to do (says society in general).  However, I do believe in the tenet that this is a season of austerity and intention, which does go well with a meaningful, individualized "giving up" action, even if the act isn't actually doing without but simply a change in behavior, which is more along the course of action for our family.

Do let it be known that this was not intended to be an act of helping my family "eat better" or "be healthier" or (ugh) "diet."  No, no.  We can do that any time of the year, and every so often, we do make a small change in our life that we believe is more in keeping with how we want to be and be in communication with others, and very literally speaking, with our Earth. 

Simply put, here are some thoughts that made the most impact with me not only for myself but in observation of the other three in the house.

*I adore making bread in any guise.  What I thought in advance might be an intentional chore that would border on problematic at times was never that.  There was, every time, an awareness of the chore rather than an element of drudgery or annoyance about it.  To this end, I think we did well.
*I missed the animal crackers and the loaves of French bread that I nearly always have on hand because that goes so well with soup, which we have often--at least once a week if not more.  I appreciated this "loss" from my normal routine, however.  It almost daily reminded me to seek patience and prudence over instant gratification and surplus.
*My girls never questioned the switch about the bread.  That surprised me, actually. 

Overall, I'm happy to report that our Lenten act was successful insofar as it achieved what we hoped it would.  Perhaps it's fitting that I made a rich, creamy batch of lemon kolaches as part of our family's Easter celebration yesterday.  Our oldest has alternately referred to them as "those round, yellow things" and "kolachos," and they were a sweet bit of bread to enjoy. 

As a last thought, I'll leave you with a happy visual.  Leo, our diabetic furball, is currently chasing his tail on our bed behind me.  He's turned into Mr. Frisky these last few weeks now that his blood sugar is back in line where it should be.  His time may be coming soon, but every day now, he is sharing with us a renewed joy and moments of unadulterated pleasure.  I'm a softie for the animals, I know, but the happiness in his eyes is so, so worth it.   

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Searching for leprechaun gold and unicorns

Well, it's a bare feet and sunglasses kind of day.  Luckily, I have a couple of little ones who think it's grand to do all of the running so long as they can flop and squeal on Mama every so often.  I call that a "win-win."  They run about and generally act crazy in a controlled environment (namely, a fenced in yard instead of a walled in house), and I bask in the sun on soft, spring grass like a cat. 

That was the happy prelude to what I really got on here to write about.  I've been wanting to take a break and write something for several days now, but often when I sit down to do so my mind either goes blank or feels all negative negative negative, neither of which I generally want to share on here.  Who wants to read any of that?  That's not a rhetorical question because there's definitely an answer, of course: No one does. 

Still, every so often there's a bit of frustration that bounces around my general psyche, and today is the day that I'm going to share this with the inter-web-world.  We are pretty steadfast in teaching the mantra "Everyone is different.  Everyone is special.  You are no better than others.  And that's all okay."  We're down with this ideology in our everyday lives but also mindful of preparing our kid(s) in a manner of ways for life after pre-school when things get real

My frustration stems not from anything to do with the wee babes, though, but rather how this affects my own life.  I'm something of a fish not so much out of water but an hermit crab's aquarium.  A tank is a tank, you might say.  Why does it matter whether you live here or there?  Well, it matters a lot.  My talents and areas of interest are decidedly unnecessary and obsolete in the place where we live.  And it's been rough trying to reconcile that with the life that the boy has created for himself insofar as he is right where he needs to be, doing what he needs to be doing.  How does one compromise that?  Either one half of the equation is always happy and the other half isn't or there has to be a complete life overhaul. 

So we're in the process of essentially buying a new house, and the frustration of this, for me, manifested itself readily last night.  I was talking through some inspection/renegotiation issues with the boy as we expected when I got the old "What's wrong?  Your eyes are watering" comment.  (Does anyone else's significant other ask this as discreetly?  "Your eyes are watering."  Well, then.  That's calling a cabbage a rose if ever I've heard it.)  I know that in my previous post I wrote how "zen" I felt about the house-moving-change situation, and most of the time, it does feel like that.  But then there are those times when the "zen" actually feels more like "prisoner to a situation."  Regardless, I'm still sure that this whole situation has happened for a reason, one which we are meant to act on purposefully, but the frustration doesn't dissipate because of this certainty.  We're definitely in the "You don't need want it" stage with our youngest, and this translates to me just as much.  Here's the bold, bald truth: We don't need this house.  We want it.  And it keeps us here, indefinitely.  And I have a stark, blank future being here.  That's about the scariest, most frustratingly un-plannable thing in my life.  At some point, I should learn from the past and work to let go of that insatiable need to plan.  We certainly didn't move out of this present house after 3 years (it's been 8).  We certainly didn't leave this place after a year or two (it's been 9).  We certainly didn't move away straight out of college (unless by "move away" you mean back to your boy's hometown instead of the east coast). 

So the last 9 years have been an ongoing lesson in patience (largely) and learning how to cope.  Apparently, I haven't figured these out yet, else I feel we would surely be called elsewhere.  We're still here, likely going to continue being here, and will remain here until later.  That's the plan.  This will be a new way of thinking! 

In the meantime, I'm utterly unqualified for living in a blue collar town what with a Masters in English Literature and all.  Whenever I figure out how to get paid just for talking about  books, then I will definitely share.  I have a feeling that this job is just around the corner, over by where the leprechaun hides his gold at the end of the rainbow.  Right beside the unicorns. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

In like a lion, out like Opening Day

Well, it's baseball season again, and for that, I am ever so thankful.  These are the best 7 months of the year, wouldn't you agree?  I'm glad that I can't hear you right now, otherwise, I'd have to talk some sense into you.  Just go ahead and agree with me, my lemming friends.  And for those of you who, shockingly, don't share my fascination with this beautiful game, there are only 158 more games this year.  You have plenty of time to find some peanuts and Cracker Jack and then just e-n-j-o-y the game. 

I'm not just here to profess my love of America's pastime, however.  No,'s about to become even more fascinating.  Our Leo is kicking his Diabetes to the curb, my friends.  Yes, I get it.  He's just a cat.  But again I say, he's also a breathing animal with the ability to feel pain and display emotion.  I don't care if he's one of those little crabs with a painted shell.  He's given me a little bit of positive energy of late.  I just took a video of him chasing his tail like some frisky kitten, but my videos always play upside down, which makes him look like he's chasing his tail on the ceiling, and I thought for now I will spare you all hypothetical readers this weirdness.  (By the way, does anyone know why my iPad does this?)

Oh, and we decided where to send our oldest to kindergarten next year (undoubtedly, that is if I remember, I will be writing about this later).  And that led to us deciding that if we're going to be in this area for the indefinite future (i.e. no job(s) elsewhere yet...teaching jobs are usually only up for grabs at the end of the school year, which has required another round of I-shall-learn-patience-if-it-kills-me) and if our kid(s) are going to be going to school in a certain school district, then we should probably live in that school district at some point.  So we accidentally found a house that is pretty much everything we've been looking for: 2-story, right school district, 4 beds, 2 1/2 baths (that extra 1/2 bath will be a dream come true, I kid you not), decent yard, decent kitchen, and not insanely expensive or right beside a meth house.  And in the spirit of "patience," we found the house five days ago, have walked through it twice, and are making an offer on it tonight.  The best part is that I am 100% OKAY if we do not get this house and I'm 100% OKAY if we do.  I feel very zen about it all, that what will happen will happen, and either way has it's fair share of challenges.  Either way, life will happen, and we will be okay.  Granted, we might lose a few financial pounds in the process, but who doesn't need to lose a little weight these days?

Here's to good things and resolution happening.  There can be no coincidence that this all has come down right when baseball has started again.  It truly is the harbinger of good, good things.