Friday, January 30, 2015

My memory bank

Memories are slippery little buggers.  The memory that is mine cannot be yours.  Just as my understanding of what chocolate tastes like and what purple looks like is mine and mine alone, my memories are non-transferable.  What a blessing the ability to remember is.

1.  I started memory journals with each of our girls before they were born.  Some day, I'll hand them over to their owners.  I will never have vast riches of this world to give them, nor do I want to.  But I want them to know that when they were 18-months old, they first learned to peddle their tricycle or that they loved pre-school.  I don't trust myself to be able to either convey that wealth of information spontaneously in the future.  And, frankly, I'm trying to hoard these bits of memory for myself as well.  I enjoy a good moment of melancholy now and again.

2.  Tomorrow, I'm going to visit my maternal grandmother all by myself for the very first time.  She only lives about two hours away from me now, but I've never been to her house when no other family members have been visiting as well.  I've been requested to delete her voice mail and answering machine messages so that people can get through to her.  I hope to maybe convince her to let me help her clean out her freezer.  I'm guessing that there will be another couple of odd bits to work on around her house.  I'm planning on taking some food to leave with her--some pillowy soft maple cinnamon rolls, homemade marshmallows and rich hot chocolate, extra cookies out of my freezer, and maybe even some soup.  I want to taker her on any errands that she needs to do, even if it's just finding a table by a window at the Arby's and meandering through Pamida.  I don't know how long I'll stay tomorrow.  I don't even know what we'll talk about for a couple of hours.  She doesn't see or hear well anymore, but I'm tellling you, her mind is sharp.  She still has that going for her even if other things aren't in as good of working order as they used to be.  I hope to make this something of a bi-monthly visit.  And at what cost...some gas and time on the road with me, myself and a book on tape?  There are some memories to be tapped here.

3.  I'm not much of a texter 'cause, really, it gets real old real fast to text yourself.  I have a couple of good, kindly people who don't mind if I pop onto their phones now and again.  Most of my thumb tag goes toward the boy: "Don't forget to feed the cats" (this doesn't guarantee anything, but it seems to help though its borderline naggish), "Where are you?" and "Are you still at school?  If so, can you stop and get something for me on the way home?" are all likely texts that I send him.  The best ones, though, are those random blurbs about funny and sweet things the girls say or do.  While grocery shopping with me this morning, #2 (i.e. "baby kitty" as she calls herself a lot lately) looked up at me in the middle of the cereal aisle and asked "How did God make you?"  Well, the same as you, my girl.  A text is perfect to record that quick second and send it on so that the boy can feel that melty feeling in his heart unexpectedly in the middle of his day.  And a recent favorite was when "baby kitty" was put to the task of picking up her blocks, which she had spread willy-nilly around the living room.  She was doing the job mumbling some amount of noise to herself.  In the next room, I finally stopped to listen to what she was saying and picked up a woeful pattern of "It's hard's hard's hard wooooooork" over and over again.  But she's two, so the word "work" doesn't have the flat, midwestern "wurk" sound yet but is a true "or" blend in the middle of the word.  It's delicious.  And allow me to wax poetic for just a moment about her warbly version of "Precious Lord, Take My Hand."  I mean, if you were the boy and you got a random text saying "She's singing 'Precious Lord' again...sigh," wouldn't that just be a memory worth receiving?

4.  I got to visit #1's Kindergarten classroom yesterday and talk about what it's like teaching high school/college with them.  They were both shockingly attentive and shockingly engrossed in my outfit.  I'm not mincing words here when I say that I took careful consideration into what I should wear when presenting in front of 5 and 6-year olds, but still, I scored cool points with my daughter by wearing a plain purple sweater, a long silver necklace, and black ballet flats.  Just think that style points I really could have earned if only they had been close enough to notice my leopard print socks!  And then my part was done, and I followed the troops out as they were dispersing for a requisite bathroom break.  I was turning left and they were turning right when one certain little person in a long-sleeved, white t-shirt, jeans and light-up sneakers took a quick detour to give me a hug.  Then she held up those chapped little lips for a quick smooch, and ahh...I feel a little weepy just thinking about that.  How many times am I going to get that kind of love in front of her friends?  Probably not often.  What a great memory to hold onto when she would rather jut her chin out at me in defiance rather than offer a kiss?

5.  It seems that plans are going to fall in place for a week-long trip to California this summer that has been 10 years in the planning.  Actually, the plan was a week in Hawaii for the past 9 1/2 years, but then I am what I am and that is someone who adores California.  So I said "Maybe..." and the boy said "Okay."  Just us, a rental car, a few deplorably expensive B&B overnight stays, and the Pacific Coast Highway.  I'm suggesting Europe for our 20th year anniversary trip, and the boy has already signed on to that venture as well (snaps to that!).  I think right now that we're desperately low as a couple on those memories of just us.  It's been too long since we've given our couplehood enough time, and it seems like perhaps, this trip just might happen.  It really just might.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

On a date with myself

Friendly people.  It is the 22nd of January (I think--I lose track of the numbers sometimes), and I'm just now cashing in on my date with myself.  It took 3 Thursdays to get to this moment, and it feels oh so, so excellent.

Aside--someone's in my chair again.  This time it's actually a couple of fellows, and they're pretty permanently attached to my spot, it appears.  I found a snifty little space heater spot by the big windows so I can both get a rotating bit of heat and watch cold people shuffle by out-o-doors.  Win-win for a no-win situation.

And I ate a cupcake.  'Cause it's a date with myself.  And I'm a big spender on dates.

Not really.  The cupcake was free since it's my birthday month.  I'm actually more of a cleverly disguised thrifty non-big spender on dates.  I love me for that.

The date almost took a turn for the sad worst of times when it took about 30+ minutes for my laptop to get over its morning grumpies and wake up.  Sometimes, I bring someone else on the date with me as an awkward 3rd wheel.

If I wasn't dating myself, I wouldn't be getting any dates lately.  It's been a few months since the boy and I have ditched the kids (sitter-style, not literally...) and escaped for an uninterrupted bite to eat.  Which is when we either talk about kids or money.  We're nothing if not romantic.  And I still wolf my food down as if poised for the next kid-calamity.  Then I look up and realize that I'm done with everything on my plate and the boy is still like "Hmm, I wonder if I will enjoy my meal because I've only taken one bite."  So I eat some of his food, too.  Share and share alike, just don't try to eat my food.  I kid.

You know what gets me about going out to eat with the boy?  He's ever so polite about sharing, something like "May I have a bite of your delicious something or other?  I will wait patiently until you answer before I tentatively reach across the table and take a delicate bite off of the side."  We've been together for 13 years, and he hasn't figure this out yet.  Just take a bite, dangit.  I do, unabashedly.  I know that he's going to share with me.  He knows that I'm going to share with him.  We often (always) plan accordingly to get coordinating meals that we're both interested in so as to share with each other.  We're not at a tea party, boy. 

See what I'm doing here?  I'm on a date with myself, and I'm talking about the boy (and my kids).  It could very well be that I'm something of an underwhelming date. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

See, I'm not the only one...

Exhibit A that I'm not the only one:  someone else publicly critiques a beloved children's book

Once upon a time, I offered up some thoughts on Curious George and some problems, admittedly outdated, therein.  I'd find it for you, but instead, I'll take a teacher's approach and encourage you on your own search & rescue mission (I wrote it sometime in the second half of 2011, I believe).  Talk about a children's literature series based on the Other and submission. 

I also just read a completely random blogger's take on why it is so hard to make "Mommy friends," except that what it boiled down to was that she was dismayed at how much she hated this unexpected new dimension of friendship that she had entered and how she clung to her established friends rather than encouraged new friendships.  It really wasn't about how hard it is to make those so-called "Mommy friends" and rather more of a whiny bit about this-is-so-haarrrd-and-I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-myself.  At least, that's what I took away from the piece.  I entered it with high hopes: Ah!  Someone can teach me the ways of the adult world!


Plus, her perspective was overtly New York-ish, which seems to me as quite a different approach to daily living than a Midwest perspective.  I couldn't wholly relate.  Frankly, if I happened to cross paths with a mom in a library story time group who also happens to write for the Times, I rather believe that I would find myself to be a blathering waste of communicative potential.  I might even just try to snuggle with her, if only to have her skill set permeate some amount of my pores. 

Drastic measures.

My fellow mommy chatter tends to center on benign cultural mush.  Frozen, anyone?  Please...let it go (pun intended, but of course).

Surely, surely, I'm not the only one who craves some adult conversation from adults I come in contact with who also happen to be parents.  Where are the others who likewise find a significant amount of humor and interest in picking apart the bits and details of our children's favorite classics? 

Book club, anyone?  Next month, we'll be discussing the existential aspect of Clifford, the big red dog.  But please, do your reading first.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Social lives of the small and peniless

Dear reader, do you know what happens when your child becomes part of a classroom?  Social activities blossom as if by magic.  Social activities of which I feel that I have no basis of understanding.  Social activities that are beyond my understanding.

Sleepovers at 5 years old.

Notes sent home in your daughter's folder from a classmate friend's mom saying "Call me!"

The option to sign your child up on what amounts to the "all-social-activities calendar." 

Color me jaw dropped.  I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this.  So much of my adult life and parenting life comes from a basic recollection of how it was when I was a kid.  And I can't fathom this amount of social-ness for a 5-year old.  Social-ness with kids and their families that I don't know or know well. 

Dear, dear reader...I need help.  A parental intervention, if you will.

Please, fill me in on the standards of parenting a child who has friends.  Educate me on the ways of five-year olds and their social circles.  Explain it all to me, for I feel that I am not ready.  I feel that I am unprepared. 

I don't know how to gracefully tread the social waters of meeting new families and allowing my child to spend time at others' houses without me around.  My intent here is non-judging, but the boy and I have boundaries that we are not comfortable crossing, and those can make for difficult conversations that can easily be misinterpreted, I'm sure. 

I'm giving myself a lot of talkings-to as of late.  My soul is being searched.  And, there's some amount of practicing in front of the mirror about how to say yes.  (Not literally.)

And when in doubt, I find that diverting the kid's attention with the lure of a trip to Chuck E Cheese works well, also.  Now, someone pass me a paper bag, remind me to take deep breaths, and pat my shoulder as you repeat this thought:  It's okay.  You're doing the best that you know how, which is something. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Snuggles with the muggles

Remember this little boy?  Leo.  He's every bit as soft as he looks.  He loves belly rubs, sunny spots on the floor and his food.  He generally doesn't like...little people. 

But lately, he's been mellowing.  Or something.  He's almost chums with that person who has a cheeky sense of style beyond my understanding and who likes to hug gorillas.  Obviously, she's an animal lover. The gorilla is positively purring, no?

This little person, however, hereafter called mini me, is still not really his best buddy.  Relationships are nothing if not a work in progress. 

Since I haven't talked about him enough, let me refresh your memory.  Leo is our diabetic furball, and he has recently been given a health report that definitely included the word "perfect."  As in his blood sugar is "perfect."  As in, the few hundred we've thrown his way have truly saved his life.  And he loves us.  Some of us.

Today is day 8 (e-i-g-h-t) of either a 2-hour delay or no-school, and while I certainly appreciate the safety-first approach, it's only the 2nd week of January.  The winter is just starting.  This just bites.

What doesn't bite is that I got to take mini me out for a free lunch yesterday while the others were at school, and I got to take Leo's-new-buddy out for doughnuts & coffee this morning with friends while mini me was at pre-school.  All is well with that scenario. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The feet of the matter

My feet got some love today, in just about the most fabulous way possible: a foot message followed up by a pedicure at a please-put-on-this-robe day spa.  My feet are my love language; a foot rub is worth more than its weight in gold.  Knowing this, the boy hired out a professional to do what he does so well and rub my feet as a significant part of my once a year bevy of presents (no's just how it is for those of us with birthdays right around Christmas).  And boy did the boy pick a good spot for my treat-yo-self morning.  At some point, I was lying there thinking "I must write about this...I want to remember this."  So in the spirit of my morning, I invite you to light something lavender-y smelling and sip hot tea from a delicate china cup.  This was my sensory feast. what is probably one of my most very favorite restaurants.  French food.  Delicious coffee (chocolate fudge with cream...3 cups...wanted more).  Broken yolk breakfast sandwich on sourdough with a perfectly smushy avocado and toothsome, meaty bacon.  Fresh fruit--not previously frozen.  A book and a booth.  Ideal.

A perfect winter sunrise.  Delicate pinks and frosty blues.  Icy white snow.  Visually appealing.  Bone chillingly cold.

An unassuming storefront in a strip mall for a luxe day spa.  But otherwise surrounded by a chi-chi community where even the McDonald's is brick. 

Me, dressed as best I can but knowingly unable to compete with aforesaid upscale community.  In the end, doesn't matter.  What's your shoe size?  Wear these spa sandals?  Stash your things in this locker.  No cell phones.  Put on this robe. (Yes, we know you're only here for your feet.  Still...)  Absolutely, you can take your book with you. (Sarah Winters, The Little Stranger.  Wilkie Collins anyone?  Nods to Great Expectations.)

Here's the quiet room.  Relax on one of our cushy couches, lounges or armchairs.  Enjoy hot tea.  Would you like some cucumber scented water?  Yes.  Yes, please.

Reflexology message?  Are you sure that's all you want?  No.  I'm getting a pedicure as well.  Ah...good choice.  Face mask?  Blanket?  No, I want to be awake so I can enjoy this.  Comfortable?  Oh, yes.

What color of polish for your pedicure?  This line of square bottles is vegan and practically heals typhoid.  The taller bottles are not quite as healthful but will still enable you to run a full marathon after you leave.  Either one is a good choice.  Yes.  Please.

Allow me to explain the innumerable options for the message chair while your feet soak in perfectly warm, jetted water.  Enjoy while I sprinkle this pixie dust around the room.  Allow me to use the organic sugar scrub because, frankly, I wasn't sure how to tell you this without hurting your feelings, but your feet are in wretched shape.  No charge.  I will use twinkle magic on them to make them feel like butter.  Smooth, melty butter.  Be careful when you walk after this.  Your feet might still be slippery from my voodoo.

Sparkly blue toenails.  Adorb-a-licious.

Here we are back at the quiet room.  Stay here as long as you would like.  (Does this mean I can move in?)  But stay for at least ten minutes to allow your tootsies to properly dry.  No problem.  More hot tea and snacks.  More squashy chairs and amiable solidarity with other women who are also waiting for their various services.  No one is talking to me or, even better, scrabbling around like a tipsy one is pushing off of me using their elbow in my throat.  Let's pretend that my nails need to dry for an hour or two. 

What kind of black magic is this that enables my feet to still feel as if they are wrapped in hot towels, as if they are melty smooth and delicious, even after re-entry into the normal, frigid world?  Perfect, perfect black magic. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reality at 32 years

I have another blessing to add to my list of good things that happen when you have children:  You don't have to get excited about your birthday because a little person will do it for you.  It's contagious and a good thing.

Truth be told, I was feeling pretty meh about my upcoming birthday, nothing terrible and nothing great.  Reality shifts, which is neither unexpected nor problematic.  There's not a lot to look forward to simply by notching another year on ye old belt of life.  You get some cake (which you probably make yourself or buy yourself) and some ice cream (again, on your grocery tab).  You get to go to work or stay home--nothing special just the usual.  You inevitably have to state your birthday some time either right before or right after the day to the pharmacist or whomever, which seems pretty obvious to you that IT'S MY BIRTHDAY! but then again, you kind of hope that the pharmacy tech or the cashier recognizes that IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY! and say something to you.  They might.  Probably not.  And that's okay either way.  It's fairly gauche to walk around with a "Birthday Girl!" sticker on your shirt throughout the day, and you certainly don't get a birthday pencil from your boss.  So if you want anyone in your normal day-to-day to notice your BIG DAY, you have to be kind of subtle about it.  "Oh, your cousin has the same birthday as I do next week...I'm not sure what I'm doing that night since I might be celebrating my birthday." 

But kids are anti-subtle.  They'll announce to the world that "Mommy has a birthday next week!" and "My mommy is going to be 32 soon."  It's an acceptable form of paparazzi for average folk who could use a little dose of that in their lives.  Kids will talk about your upcoming birthday every day for a week prior.  They'll have to be muzzled outside your bedroom door lest they wake you up too soon in their utter excitement to present your breakfast in bed.  They'll sing to you at least 3 times.  They'll give you bonus hugs...lots of them.  They'll call you their favorite mommy in the whole wide world while strangling you.  They'll even be willing to help you pick out what kind of ice cream you want, if you plan ahead. 

In short, they will absolutely take another same-old day and turn it into a snazzy little gift of their own making.  They'll insist on coming with you to the library even though you had intended to gift yourself the luxury of a child-free venture.  They'll dribble copious amounts of crumbs around while telling you this is the greatest cupcake ever (that they helped to make).  They'll even decide that the day is too exciting to take a nap, blessing you with some cranky child time all for you. 

There is nothing like a child to make your birthday feel like her own, which we all know is a very, very exciting thing.  So the reality is that even though you might be searching for the owner's manual for your chest freezer which is suddenly not keeping your birthday ice cream as rock solid as you prefer while trying to eat lunch, there are a lot of kid smiles that make the day pretty sparkly.  That's a pretty snazzy gift, indeed.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

my Mama Purse

I am emphatically NOT a purse girl.  I certainly can't tell the difference between a Gucci and a knock-off, and at no point in my life have I ever lusted after any bit of leather costing triple digits (or more...).  Am I breaking your heart, gentle reader?  Are you weeping silent pity tears for me yet?  No?  Well, then.  Wait until I double down on the shock value: I'm not a shoes girl either.  Egads, is she even a girl??!??  

The proverbial "girly girl" stuff isn't much my schtick, and for all of my grown-up years, I've been as minimalist as possible with the whole purse ensemble.  My preference has always been keys & wallet (maybe my phone if I remember) and go.  Hit the door running.  But I often forget my chapstick when I do this, and it's hard to fit a pen in my wallet.  Plus, where am I going to stash a snack or three?  Begrudgingly, I carry a purse because the flip side is more annoying.  But for years, my compromise has been a nifty little cross-body hipster number that's just about my perfect size for one person's stuff.

Then I had more than one person.  Two more, in fact. 

That nifty little hipster doesn't stand up well to the rigors of a pared down diaper bag.  Or a couple of water bottles.  Or the absolutely-necessary-until-I-get-into-the-store-and-now-you-must-hold-it-for-me stuffed animal.

For a few years, I basically ditched the purse completely in favor of our diaper bag backpack (which, friends, I highly recommend...highly).  But that's sooo last year.  We moved beyond our diaper & wipe toting days about 6 months ago, and new times call for new measures.

Well.  I bought a purse.  A real one.  And it's h-u-g-e.  AND, I adore it beyond anything reasonable.  I can fit SO...MUCH...STUFF in there! 

*2 water bottles for the small fry & 1 water bottle for me
*several chapsticks
*a couple of pens
*the weekly grocery store/craft store ads
*hand sanitizer
*random notes to myself
*not just one but two toddler activities (a Sunday morning favorite)
*a small notebook where I keep notes like what medicines our tots are allergic too 'cause there's just about nothing more embarrassing than looking your pediatrician in the eye and saying "I don't remember" when he asks you what meds your kid can't have, which really comes across as "I'm not really that into my kid, not enough to try to remember what meds will give them serious hives, so just go ahead and let's play roulette with their health."
*my glasses case, with or without my glasses
*an iPad, no prob
*plus a book
*plus a magazine
*plus a newspaper (like if you're getting your oil changed...come prepared for a wait, eh?)

...and that's just the inside & what I can remember off of the top of my head...

The outside has 4 glooorrriousssss pockets that are ideal (that's "ideal" for those of you not familiar with Spanish) for my own snack-y needs.  Which are serious. 

Do we need an emergency barrette because our youngest likes to fling them about the car?  No probs.  I'm sure I have one in a pocket somewhere.  Do we need to run by the bank?  Ah, yes...I do have the checkbook with me.  Oy vey.  The oldest hooligan likes to waltz through muddy water.  I can undoubtedly find a clean bit of clothing for her to wear. 

I have it covered now.  I'm loving my Mama Purse.  And, it didn't cost three digits.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Peace like a river

I'm going to start this new year by answering what I'm sure is the most pressing question that is keeping you all awake at night: Did she or didn't she?  Yes, she did.  Our oldest finally connected the dots and stopped me mid-toothbrushing to ask the question that has securely positioned her in the realm of mid-childhood, leaving behind one of the last vestiges of her baby/toddlerhood.  "You're really Santa, aren't you?"  Oh, child.  I love you so for your smile when you asked, your lack of shocked sensibilities, and your understanding that there is a difference between fiction and reality.  She asked, I answered, and we continued her bedtime preparations without any further interruption.  It was that easy. 

I'm sitting here getting back to what calms my soul, pecking away at a keyboard and wondering why I don't make time to do this more often.  Perhaps that will be my resolve for this year.  I heard the thought recently that if you write 1 page a day, in 1 year's time, you have an entire novel.  One page a day seems like nothing, an inconsequential requirement in my daily routine.  While I'm not pounding out a book this year (I don't think?), 1 page a day is still an attainable goal for any measure of writing.  There's some amount of thrill that will undoubtedly come when you see the pages pile up and have a tangible something to hold onto in order to measure your time and days that have already passed from the beginning of a new measure of time, a new year. 

The boy took the girls for a while this morning, and I have a quiet house, just the way I most like it with some morning sun filtering in.  I find myself typing this a bit slowly as well, in part because it's just a bit of nothing strung together but also because it's a delicious little cupcake that landed on my desk this morning, and I want to savor the taste for a while. 

I have a couple of new class sessions to prepare for, a baby shower to put together, and the last bit of a book all on my radar.  I taught with a friend for a while who as a new, single teacher out in Colorado had a limited income, as I suggest most young professionals do.  During a lunchtime conversation one day, he was talking about his time in Denver and how he used to buy some cheap seats to watch the Rockies play.  It was one of those off-handed pieces of advice that stuck with me: Pay yourself first.  And here I am this morning--banking some of my daily allotment of time for my soul's reserve.  I've been up for over 2 hours, so I don't feel as if I'm starting the day, but a brief pause before the next order of business is a good thing.

If only for this moment, I have peace like a river, I have peace like a river, I have peace like a river in my soul...  It's something, and right now, I'll take it.