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.

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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.

And the Oscar for Best Actress in a Drama goes to…

I lost Addison at the soccer game on Monday night.  For 20 minutes.  And try as I might to find the funny in that, I’m really just not there yet.

You know what parents always say, “I just looked away for a minute.”  Well, it was definitely a minute.  Or less.  One second she was standing at the fence behind me with a little friend, and the next she was gone.  After calmly scanning the field and checking all the standard hiding places (e.g., the bathroom), there was absolutely no sign of her.  I started trolling the school’s campus, calling for her and wondering where that little girl had gotten to.  But as the minutes ticked by and every new spot turned up empty. I started to get hysterical.  This could not be happening.  Not. On. My. Watch.

Two fabulous fathers posing as baseball coaches saw me near the playground.  I suppose the look of abject terror clued them in.  “You lose somebody? We’re on it.” Cell phones clicked open and pickup trucks moved out to canvas the grounds.  God love a small town where everyone knows everyone.

Ultimately, we did find her.  And I got to have my Lifetime movie moment.  You know the one where I finally see her and drop to my knees sobbing to gather her in my arms?  Truly, I expect a call from the Academy within 72 hours.

It turns out, she had gone to the far side of the soccer field into the trees with her friend.  According to Addison, she was being held under duress by the 6-year-old.  When the other girl’s mother finally located them, she couldn’t see me.  So she (correctly) found her father on the soccer field and copped a post-game bag of Goldfish and a juice box.

I guess I’m still a little embarrassed about calling in the Calvary and letting Crazy Mommy come out to play.  But really, there’s nothing more horrifying than the realization that your baby could be gone.  For good. 

Quote of the night from the big brother:

“Addison, if somebody is trying to make you go away from Mommy or Daddy, you’ve got to fight, yell, kick and scream.  It’s better to be safe than nice every time.”

That child…I swear to God, he takes it all into his 8-year-old brain and turns it into his own personal life vest.  Here’s hoping he’s always just around the corner to keep his risk-taker of a sister from diving off the side of the ship.

I’ve got a grip on Guilt…A nice tight one.

Wicked Witch of the West (aka Guilt)

Guilt is a witch.  Yes, generally I like to keep things light and tidy around here, but honest-to-southern-dust, there is no other word for her.  She is a certifiable, pointy-hat-wearing, broomstick driving, warty-faced stalker.  And I oughta know. 

I first met Guilt when I was 7 years old, at a party thrown by Irish nuns in the basement of Sacred Heart Cathedral.  The theme for this little soiree was ‘Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.’  There was no wine (which frankly, I found odd), but there were definitely streamers.  And talk of white veils and shiny shoes, so I was totally in. 

At the time, framed by the glow of candlelit tissue paper pom-poms, Guilt seemed grating but relatively harmless. I mean, she called a lot during my teens and 20s, but when the chips were down, I could ignore her. 

Until I became a mother. 

Now Guilt is the naggiest little 3-year-old on the planet, chatting incessantly in my ear and lurking around every corner with a spray can full of industrial-strength ‘you suck.’   I’m not looking for pity.  Or the number for the suicide hotline.  I’m just trying to set the stage for a fun-filled, and oh-by-goddess (hopefully) interactive episode of ‘True Confessions.’   

Haven’t you ever wished you had some nice virtual friend to whom you could spill your parental guts?  Well, here’s your chance.  I’ll go first.  And if at the end, you could just do that little crossy thing with your hand and tell me to go in peace, I’d appreciate it.  I’m parochially-programmed to believe anyone that even remotely acts like they’ve got God on speed dial. 

So here we go…I’d like to start you off easy with something like, “I feel guilty for using the pretty, personalized return address labels from St. Jude’s without sending any money help cure kids with cancer,” but we’ve got eight years worth of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it before one of us gets distracted. 

Stay with me until the end and I promise to be the Almighty Absolver for you too.  I’m really good at it.  We used to role play in the church basement.

10 Things I Am REALLY Sorry About:

  1. My inability to control a raging case of postpartum Tourette’s Syndrome that may or may not have had me nose-to-nose with a 10-week-old infant, frantically screeching, “What the @*$% do you WANT from me?!”  (Go on, say you never did it.  I won’t believe you.  Actually, I probably would. And it would make me feel worse. Which is just what Guilt wants.  Hag.)
  2. Seriously considering and maybe even writing more than one eBay listing to sell cute, but almost constantly wailing babies to the highest bidder. 
  3. Calling my mother to tell her that “I know why people shake their babies.”  (The first three months are hard, people.)
  4. Many failed attempts at self-editing that have resulted in requests for small people to “put a sock in it.” (See #1 for more info on how this got started.)
  5. Dropping my son off at school 2 minutes late.  For the 26th time this year.  Yes, I have issues with promptness.  Sister Marianne would tell me that not correcting this behavior indicates a lack of genuine remorse, which therefore means I cannot be forgiven.  Nuns are total hard-asses.
  6. Pulling dirty soccer jerseys out of the hamper, conducting cursory spot removal and passing them off as clean.  I’m fairly certain that while this does not constitute a direct breach of the 9th Commandment, it’s still a lot like lying.
  7. Agreeing with ‘someone’ that their cough could…might even definitely be… some awful cold that can only be cured by a half-dose of Benadryl.  Even when I know it’s not true.  Just to get the little person to go to BED, already!!  (Please do not call Child Services, this only happened once.  Three times, tops.  But ‘someone’ survived just fine and probably got the first three good nights of sleep she’s had since birth.  In her own bed.)
  8. ‘Misplacing’ one child or the other for anywhere from 5 seconds to 15 minutes at a stretch at Sears, Target, the water park and the soccer field.  Those little suckers are quick, I tell you.
  9. Agreeing with the youngest child that perhaps a new family is in order.  And offering my services to help her find one.  Tonight.  NOT after a healthy dinner and a good night’s sleep.
  10. Backing over my oldest child with the SUV and maiming him for life on my way to get him at the bus stop.  No, not really.  But I think about it every time I leave the driveway to pick him up.  And for a split-second the guilt, fear and heartbreak are so rawly present that it kind of seems real.  (How’s THAT for taking maternal guilt and paranoia to all new heights?)

There.  I feel much better.  Your turn.  (WAIT!  You did do the crossy thing with your hand, right?  Because I already said like five Hail Marys and one especially sincere Act of Contrition.)

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