Almost Wordless Wednesday

…Because let’s be honest, ‘wordless’ isn’t really my thing.

Flock of  birds at Talampaya National Park La Rioja Cuyo

Photo credit: HarvestHeart

I live on a street that seems to me a southern version of San Franscisco, with its tight row houses and steep, sloping sidewalks. Addison loves to sit on her scooter and fly down the hill in front of our house because it feels dangerous and because I have repeatedly told her not to. 

Once my sister asked her, “Addison, how many times do you think you’ve ridden that scooter down this big hill?”

Thinking, she looked up to the sky, where a flock of birds blazed a path almost as rapid as hers. “As many times as there are birds in the sky,” she said.

We should all do the things we love as often.

Attack of the Pretty Police

 

Robert Palmer Girls
Caution: Mixed metaphors ahead.

Addison is changing. And I don’t like it one bit.

My once supremely confident, creative, take-no-trash little Alpha dog – the one who seemed to eat life up she loved it so – has become doubtful and disillusioned. Among her first grade peers, her big bark and wildly wagging tail have all but disappeared, replaced by a disconcerting deference to the ‘popular’ girls.

The seeds of insecurity were sewn in kindergarten, when it became clear over the course of the year that the girls – five year olds – were beginning to classify each other as pretty and…not. Popularity was subsequently determined by where you fell on that excruciatingly superficial and subjective scale.

As usual, the Pretty Police prevailed:

I can’t wear that…everyone will think I look stupid.

 Madison says my eyes are squinty when I smile.

 So-and-so says my ears stick out too far.

 Really?!  First of all, there is nothing wrong with Alpha’s ears except her propensity for using them selectively when I am speaking to her. And secondly, as a species our ears tend to protrude from our heads in order to gather sound, so that we can hear.

Honestly, it took every ounce of restraint I had not to summon up Kristen and Demi, just to make a particular point:

Kristen Stewart

See? Beautiful AND sticky-outy ears.

But that would’ve been immature. And I am a model of maturity. Ask anyone (who has known me less than a year).

Demi Moore

"Bite it, Princess Perfect Ears. -- Love, Demi"

Anyway, four months into the new school year and the seeds have taken seemingly firm root, sprouting insidious weeds that I’m afraid will smother too many of the things that make Addison a fairly magnificent specimen to behold.

Hopefully sometime before the hormones strike their hefty blow, my Alpha dog will rediscover her inner nonconformist…the one who was once so often heard to say, “That’s stupid. I’m not doing it.”

In the meantime, those of us who love her will pull on our gardening gloves, drag the hoes out of the shed, and settle in for some serious weeding.

True Confessions Friday

Last month I wrote about Guilt. And how I have a lot of it. I was all freaked out about posting the piece because I have this infuriating need to be liked and approved of, which I am pretty sure drives He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named INSANE. But I did it anyway. Because, well, why the hell not? At some point a person has to LIVE, for God-freakin-sake. Throw caution to the wind and care in the can, because what is life if all you do is obsess over whether people LIKE you?  (For the record, this bravado flies directly in the face of the way I live my life on a daily basis. I’m thinking I must have missed a pill or two that week.) 

In any case, I posted it. And the damn thing got picked up on ‘Freshly Pressed.’  So.  So, what? you say.  Well, SO… even though I’ve been wanting to further unburden my oft-troubled soul of all the things I feel bad about from week to week — because it is, in some freakish way, cathartic for me — I’ve developed an irksome case of performance anxiety. 

Seriously, I don’t have that many more good stories about Catholic school. It was a generally positive experience, which makes me more than a little bitter when I consider how much material I really should have gotten out of those four years. I never even got my hands smacked with a ruler. Not once. Sister Marianne did staple my shirt shut on one occasion, but that is a digression for another day. 

Guilt. Performance anxiety. Confessions. Yes…that’s why I logged in. So rather than never again have the opportunity to virtually offload my many domestic transgressions, I am instituting the first-ever “Time to Make the Brownies” weekly tradition:

True Confessions Friday. Because Guilt isn't just for Mondays, anymore...

As a rule, I’m not a fan of bloggy games. They seem like a lot of work to me. But we’re going to pretend this one is really fun. Mostly because I said so. 

This Week’s Seven Deadly Sins (aka, Stuff I feel bad about):

  1. My complete inability to cook even ONE healthy meal for the offsprings’ consumption while their creator was out-of-town on business.  Yes, we ate out. Every. Single. Night.  If you listen closely, you can hear their cholesterol rising from the depths of my bedroom.
  2. Allowing aforementioned offspring to be the last two remaining souls at summer camp for reasons I cannot even remember but am positive did not warrant the undue stress of feeling forgotten by the only parent within a 500 mile radius.
  3. Failure to complete the lone-requested Father’s Day gift — a mammoth, three-year picture project that was initiated exclusively out of a deep-seated desire for shiny new photo albums — DESPITE being awarded four full days of complete solitude last week and another four husband-free days this week. I am so screwed. Bad wife. Bad, BAD wife!
  4. Continuing to sort dirty clothes into elaborately-classified piles in the downstairs guest room, but not actually do a single load of laundry.  Just to give myself the satisfaction of seeing empty hampers in all the other bedrooms.
  5. Neglecting to write checks, draft inspiring notes and mail cards for second cousins’ high school graduations in two different states, despite telling the spouse this task has already been crossed off his exceptionally comprehensive ‘To Do’ list.
  6. Unjustly administering the ‘I don’t care if you don’t want to eat it or don’t want to do it or you think it’s not fair. There are starving children in Africa and scared children in L.A. who go to bed listening to gunshots ring outside their windows, so be grateful for what you have and when I tell you to do something, just do it” lecture, out of nothing more than garden-variety frustration over screeching siblings who chose to ignore repeated requests to help pick up the avalanche of possessions sprinkled about my family room.
  7. For responding to the oldest child’s cry for help with, “If this is a joke, I am so going to spank your butt.” (In my defense, he was crying wolf from underneath the porch in an attempt to get my attention during the one phone call I’ve made to my mother in their presence in the last three weeks.  Still, I’m pretty sure threats of physical violence result in immediate disqualification for the ‘Mother of the Year’ award.)

There. I feel better already.  Thank you for your support.  Hopefully soon, I’ll figure out if WordPress enables the function that will allow you to link to my post with a cute little icon that provides a direct path back to your own ‘True Confessions Friday.’ 

In the meantime, feel free to unburden yourself in the Comments section. And if you know a good priest who can provide Friday afternoon absolution, send me his contact information. I seriously doubt my Craig’s List ad is going to attract the right candidate for this activity.

First in Flight

 

Boy pretending to fly

“Why are we stopping here?”

I look at my son in the rearview mirror.  Mint chocolate chip ice cream is tracking a path down his chin, subtracting a good four years from his age. 

“I need milk and creamer,” I sigh.  It is the end of one of those weekends. The kind that wears on you like a long-sleeved t-shirt on a suddenly, unseasonably warm spring day.  And the weight of activity and obligation has knocked me flat, bothered and exhausted. 

“I’ll be so glad when you’re 10,” I tell him, slipping the car into park under the awning in front of the grocery store.  An eyebrow shoots up over his sweating cone.

“Why?” he asks.

“Because,” I say, “then I’ll be able to dole out some cash and have you go get creamer and milk.  It’ll be fantastic.”

The car (for once) is blissfully silent except for the sound of the ‘Fearless’ Ms. Swift..Hey Stephen, I could give you fifty reasons…And I’m almost finished psyching myself up for the quick in-and-out for my must-have morning crutch, when I hear:

“I think I can do it.”

The solemnity with which this line is delivered almost makes me laugh out loud.  I look back at him with an amused smile.  “You think so, huh?”

“Yeah.  I do.  Seriously.  I know where the milk is,” he says.  “I have to get the organic kind — 1 percent.  And I have to check the expiration date for the farthest one out.  Dad told me.  And the creamer, it’s just right there next to the milk, right?”

“Well yeah,” I say.  All of a sudden I feel like I’ve walked slam into a MOMENT…like the ones that used to come in frequent and ferocious waves when the kids were babies.  When ‘firsts’ crashed on top of each other at such a pace that it was hard to keep the shutter snapping fast enough to capture them all.

“Are you sure?  I mean, do you really think you can do it?” 

“Yeah, Mom. I know I can.”  (I’m ‘Mom’ now.  Just in the last two weeks.  It’s a moniker that makes me feel like I should be trading Rainbows and tank tops for Keds and popped-collar polos.)

“Well, OK.  Here’s some money.  Go straight in, get the stuff and come right back out.  If you’re in there more than 10 minutes, I’m going to come looking for you.”

“Got it,” he says.

As I watch him jog off towards the doors of the grocery store, already working the casual swagger of a much older and cooler boy, I fight back small swells of irrational panic. I mentally take in the parking lot.  The people coming and going.  Cars, trucks and vans that could hold something or someone suspect.  Finally, after a thorough casing of the joint, I reach an uneasy peace.

The child is not entering an enemy POW camp rife with hostile, apron-donning terrorists, I think.  You have a clear view of both entrances.  If anyone tries to hustle, shuffle or outright drag that baby out the door, you can just run them over with the car.  No problem.  You’ve got this.

“I hope Griffin is OK,” says Addison from the perfect and precious safety of her booster seat.  Her voice startles the absolute crap out of me.  My oldest child has been gone for six minutes and in my pscyho-Mommy obssessing, I’ve somehow managed to forget that she is even there.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.  Not in my whole life.  An 8-year-old boy going into the store all by himself.”  She sounds both awed and only slightly unsure that my next move might be to send her around the corner to McDonald’s to pick me up a Big Mac.

“I suppose, if he doesn’t come out in like, 15 hours, we’ll just have to go in and get him,” she says.  And that finally cracks my shell of low-grade anxiety, making me laugh.

“Actually,” I say turning to look at her, “I think we’ll give him two more minutes and then go in and fish him out.”  She seems almost as relieved as I am at the prospect.  Finally, a plan that makes sense. 

It’s been 11 minutes.  I’m just about to park for real, when I see him.  Running through the sliding doors, bag in hand, face flushed, and looking like he just scaled the summit of Everest.  Victory.  Growth.  Creamer. 

I am proud and surprised and inexplicably sad. This moment is small, but oh-so-big in its bittersweetness. And as I pull away from the store, Addison softly twangs a little tune she belted out in white cap and gown at her preschool graduation only 48 hours earlier:

1, 2, 3…like a bird I sing.
You’ve given me,
the most beautiful set of  wings. 
I’m so glad you’re here today,
Cause tomorrow I might have to go and fly away.
Fly away…fly away…

Finding my religion

Some women claim they do not pray.  These women are childless.  Because I’m here to tell you, buy a couple shots for 90% of the mothers in this world, and they will cop to clawing open the little red box under the bed that bears the words, “In case of emergency, break glass, grab rosary, apologize for being an idiot and pray like hell.”

When you are a carefree and rebellious youth unfettered by the responsibilities of family life, it’s fine and dandy to go around questioning your religious convictions and popping off about how you may or may not believe in a Higher Being.  But kids have a knack for bringing you to your knees early and often, y’all. 

I’m not sure if fathers pray.  My experience is that the just-fix-it gender prefers to take the ‘keep your own counsel, go with your gut and cuss a lot‘ approach to parenting.  But I think mothers are different.  Yes, we trust our guts.  We also trust medical professionals, writers impersonating child-rearing experts and really old deli ladies who claim to have successful offspring.  We’re hard-wired to look beyond ourselves in search of answers.  Call it an innate desire to get this whole Mommy thing exactly right.  Or a natural affinity for being attuned to the metaphysical workings of the universe.  Take your pick.  I’m good either way.

As I so subtly suggested in an earlier post this week, I was raised Catholic.  Not the real kind.  My mother favored the ‘Damn, I’m so busy I can barely keep my head on straight, but this is important, and you people need some kind of solid foundation to make a decision about religion, and I need back up on the whole no-lying-stealing-premarital sex thing, so for Christ’s sake we’re at least going to church on Christmas and Easter‘ version of Catholicism.  I can relate. 

My point is, I prayed before becoming a mother.  God and I chatted on a semi-regular basis.  About tests I didn’t study for, acne I didn’t like and boys I did.  And because I clocked enough time in Catholic school to know that God quits tuning into your channel if all you do is gripe, I tried hard to be grateful.  “God, Vanilla Ice is a hot mess. I am so glad I’m not a rapper. Thank you.

But since I set sail on the Good Ship MomNPop, God and I have been getting together a lot more frequently.  Like daily.  In the early years, my prayers took on the appearance of frantic pleading.  “Please God, just give me four straight hours of sleep.  I can do anything on four hours.  I swear.” 

If I was particularly desperate but concerned that the Big Guy might be too busy with other things — like you know, war in the Middle East or hostile pockets of frustrated Hari Krishnas assaulting travelers with wilted flowers — I’d try to back-door my request, just to get it on the list for later. 

Sweet Mother of God, the kid is biting.  PEOPLE.  He’s on the verge of being expelled from daycare, and if that happens, I’m going to have to quit my job and stay at home.  I don’t think I can do it.  I’m not like those mothers.  They’re strong.  They have better gag reflexes for the whole ‘rinsing out the crappy underwear in the toilet’ thing.  I’m sure Jesus wasn’t a biter, but could you just help me out here? I NEED to work.”

Over the years, my relationship with all beings holy has evolved.  I still pray frequently.  Out of gratitude, relief, frustration, and blind rage that I fear may lead me to lease the little people out to young, unmarried couples who are blasé about birth control.  But today, there are a lot more every day invocations.

“Good God in Heaven, is there even a possibility that you could flush this poop down the toilet after you use it?  This is unsanitary.  And it’s grossing me out!” (Yes, we’re still in the ‘poopy’ portion of the program.)

So help me God if you touch your brother one more time, we will strap you to the roof until we get to Grandma’s house. I am not even kidding.

I swear to the Sweet Virgin Mary, if I come in this room one more time and find a mix of clean and dirty clothes scattered about the floor like a modern art display, I will stop doing laundry.  Forever.  You can go to school in your underwear.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph help me.  PLEASE just…[insert one] brush your teeth/go to bed/get up/get dressed/eat your breakfast/stop getting those red lights and letters on your weekly conduct report…”  Yeah, that list kind of goes on and on.

Overall, the Powers that Be have been good to me.  But I am starting to think I’ve got to be a bit more judicious with the invocations.  Or they’ll shift their focus back to Britney and Lindsay.  Because you know, those girls are a hot mess too.

A letter to my daughter

Me and my girl

Me and my girl

Addison takes a lot of flak from the common folk in our house for her diva-like behavior and natural aptitude for dictatorship.  But really, there’s so much more to her than a proclivity towards reigning supreme over the world around her.   

I recently came across a letter I wrote to her three years ago, on the eve of a vacation the rest of the family was taking to Colorado.  We were leaving Addison in the capable hands of Grandma.  But being a mother that can go from skinned-knee to amputation-worthy staff infection in less than 60 seconds, I was worried.  What if…I mean just what IF something happened?  How would this (then) 18 month old baby know how it felt to love her?  

I know it’s crazy.  But hey, that’s how I roll.  So I did the only thing I could do short of cancelling the flight and peeling my husband down off the ceiling:  I wrote.  

Reading it now, I realize that every word is as true today as it was three years ago.  So in honor of Mother’s Day and the very special relationships women have with each other everywhere, I wanted to post it.   

Random, semi-associated thought:  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could extend to ourselves the love, acceptance and generosity of spirit that we all feel for our daughters?  What kind of women would we be?  And what kind women would we raise?   They are important questions worth considering.  Happy Day to all you Mom’s out there…   

Addison, age 1

Baby girl,  

Mommy, Daddy, and Griffin are leaving for Colorado today.  We’ll be gone for a whole week.  That seems like such a long time to be away from you.  But Grandma has volunteered to be here with you so that you can stay on a schedule and not get sick on the plane.  You’ll probably never read this letter because I’m sure we’ll all come home safe and be together with you again, but there are some things I want you to know, just in case.  

You are beautiful. I put this first not because it’s the most notable thing about you, or because it’s the most important, but because women (yes, all women) have a tendency to wonder about this throughout their lives.  People stop me all the time to admire you and tell me just how lovely you are.  

Addison, age 2

 You have countless exquisite physical attributes, but you have been especially blessed with what your daycare teachers fondly refer to as ‘junk in the trunk.’  Who knows if you’ll keep that gorgeous booty, or just walk it off and become a skinny mini like your brother.  But remember, attractiveness isn’t just about what you see in the mirror.  It’s about what’s on the inside.  Whatever your body looks like in 15, 20 or 30 years, I hope you find a way to see the beauty that others will undoubtedly always see in you.  You are the total package, baby.  Listen to Mama, I’ve learned a few things over the years. 

Addison, age 3

 Addison, you are my wild thing — free, spontaneous, outspoken, funny and loving.  From the moment you were born, you knew what you liked and didn’t like…wanted and didn’t want.  You eat life up, you love it so.  Trust your instincts and you will always be OK.   

And another thing…have as many experiences as you can in life.  Try everything at least once. (OK…almost everything…we’ll talk more about this later.)  Don’t waste your time worrying or trying to do everything exactly right.   Happiness is not a place you end up someday, it’s a series of choices that you make.  You can start making the choice to be happy any time you want.  

Finally, you need to know that loving you and your brother and being your mother is the most wonderful, important thing I have ever done in my life.  The two of you…you take my breath away.  Nothing in my power would ever keep me away from you.  You are a miracle.  I loved you the moment I first saw you, all pink and covered in gunk.  Even if you can’t see me, I will always be with you, watching over you and loving you.  Be good, sweet girl.   

Hugs & kisses,  

Mommy  

Addison, age 4

Getting your game on: An NFL primer for new fathers

If at any point in the last 24-48 hours you found yourself narrowly avoiding a collision with a formula can (or breast pump) moving at mach speed past your head, you are a new father.  Congratulations!  Welcome to the miraculous and joy-filled game of Parenthood. 

Please note: The NFL (National Father’s League) does not sponsor, endorse or condone training camp for rookies, so strap on your pads and prepare for orientation on living the dream, dude. 

Understand the environment.  In all probability, conditioning to reach your current state of athletic prowess has involved extensive participation in this or other sports (e.g, dating and/or marriage).  You are no doubt versed in the basic tenets of the game.  But this is prime time, buddy, and let me clue you in:  you aren’t in Cornhusker country anymore.  You are standing on a field in a stadium filled with no fewer than two dozen screaming fans and an enraged quarterback who is, make no mistake, also the head coach.  They will turn on you in a second if you drop the ball.  

Acknowledge your fear, and find a way to make it work for you. For new players, the transition from the relative-predictability of college ball (marriage) to the pros (family life) can evoke a full range of complex and often overlapping emotions.  Yes, feelings.  Get used them, they’re going to be hanging around for awhile.   Chief among these feelings is fear.  Particularly during the first game.  When the ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in, be prepared to man up or suffer the wrath of a particularly terrifying defensive lineman known as ‘The Mother-in-Law.’ 

Pregame analysis.  Before we get to the good stuff — the stuff that will keep you upright and intaking air until the end of the game — allow us to address a few concerns: 

  • The QB’s ‘weight issue’:  Sure, the chick throwing the passes is carrying a little extra weight due to over-excessive, off-season binge eating.  But with proper support and encouragement from you, she can and will snap back into some semblance of her prime form. If she does not, make like Michael Vick and LIE. Convincingly. 
  • The ball (your baby) is crucial to the game, but you can’t play without a team.  Let me reiterate:  Quarterbacks need receivers every bit as much as they need the ball.  However, balls (in this particular instance) are small, helpless and require 24/7 care. Transforming yourself into a like being will not get you the same level of attention or adoration.  It will get you smothered with a stack of rancid jocks.

Getting your game on.  This is the important part, so put down the Blackberry and beer and pay attention.   The handy nuggets below represent the new game plan.  Get on board, and you will be the guy catching the game-winning pass with two seconds left to go in the Super Bowl of Domestic Bliss.  Trust me, the crowd will go wild. 

1.   When the ball is delivered onto the field, act impressed.  Your team leader has labored anywhere from 8 to 24 hours to deliver a bright, shiny, perfect new football in order for you to get your game on.  The least you can do is act impressed.  Shed a tear, for God’s sake.  Or at least look like you’re fighting one back.  Tell her she’s beautiful.  Or that you can’t believe the team was lucky enough to have scouted and effectively drafted an athlete with such grace and cut-throat competitive instincts. (See also: push presents.  Quarterbacks like shiny stuff. Especially on Mother’s Day.) 

Mother's Day is Sunday, May 9. Yes, this Sunday. Dust off your credit card, Daddy.

You can thank us for this public service announcement later.

2.  Know your role.  The economy has hit everyone hard.  Fans are dispersed all over the country and just can’t support the game like they used to.  So we’re gonna need you to pick up a little slack.  This does not mean you get to assume the role of head coach.  When you pass a football through your urethra, you can call the shots, my friend.  Until then, know that in addition to kicking and receiving, you get to be head cheerleader (cute skirt not included), custodian and head concession cook.  That’s right…I said COOK.  This involves gathering ingredients and heating them to a temperature that kills bacteria.  If you are unfamiliar with how to execute this activity, call your mother.  Or take a class.  The days of some cute, tight-t-shirt-wearing desperate housewife waiting for you at the table with a hot meal are over.  At least for now. 

3.  Anticipate the routes.  Your Quarterback does not need ‘help.’  (No matter what her current hormone levels may indicate.)  She needs a TEAM PLAYER.  Cheerful compliance is a good thing.  But to win, you’ve got to anticipate the plays.  Ask questions.  And when you’re on the way to practice, call and see if she needs anything.  Like formula.  Or lunch.  Or Valium.  Execute effectively here and… 

4.  You…could…go…ALL…THE…WAY!  Yes, if you play hard and adhere to the game plan outlined above you will eventually score.  Again.  Someday.  Just remember, the rules of this game are different.  On your mad dash to the end zone, don’t forget to secure the ball.  Preferably into a high chair with a chocolate-frosted brownie or on the couch with an action-packed episode of Spongebob.  The ball’s attention span is short, so keep in mind that you may only have 11-16 minutes to undertake the entire process from the time the Quarterback calls the play until you’re doing your ultra-cool Super Bowl shuffle.  Pay attention.  Act quickly.  And don’t even THINK about uttering the word ‘nightie’ or assessing the pattern of hair growth on the QB’s legs.   That’s not even a little bit funny.

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