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Letting Go

3 Aug

Whine: I’m feeling a little lost today. I have more to do than I am humanly capable of and I keep waiting for the movie-style montage where I just knock it all out, complete with a motivational soundtrack.

Cheese: I found some chocolate mini donuts and locked myself in my bedroom to eat them. Thank God for Hostess and Kwikset.

The sweet gum tree in our front yard is dead. Last year’s heat bonanza combined with some benign neglect on our part sealed its fate. Early this spring, a few optimistic tendrils ventured out from the middle of the branches, but by the time we returned from vacation, we knew it was time to do the humane thing and take it down.

So we’ve got a guy coming next week to do the deed. He came by the other day to make arrangements. Unfortunately, Big Sis caught wind of what was going down and immediately registered her displeasure. She spent the better part of an hour running through the stages of grief. Bargaining, blame, violent and random bursts of hysteria.

I sat and tried to talk her through it all. At one point, she looked at me and with a plaintive tone befitting an overacted made-for-tv movie, asked, “Mom, why is letting go so hard?”

The irony of the whole episode was that by the time the man comes to cut down the tree that stands in front of our house, we won’t even live here anymore.

Because we’re moving.

When?

Today. Next week. In a few months. It’s complicated.

We’re moving into Kiki and Papa’s house this weekend, clearing all our stuff out next week and putting it in storage. Then Mr. Dad’s brother and his buddies will move in and we’ll look for a house and move in. Hopefully.

It seems cattywumpus and overwrought, but it’s actually a pretty good set up for us. We get to keep our house and the boys will pay us rent and we’ll take our time finding a house that will fit this three-ring circus a little better.

Except we are now at the stage of the game where I actually have to deal with the fact that it’s happening. Which means facing two things I really, really hate: packing and saying goodbye.

I’ve been cycling through my own stages of grief. Bargaining, blame, violent and random bursts of hysteria. (I wonder where she gets it from?) I got in my custom-made shower yesterday and couldn’t distinguish between the water and my tears, sobbing, “This will be the last shower I ever take in here.”

Mr. Dad is completely befuddled by the whole thing. He keeps trying to tell me that this is what we decided to do because it’s for the best and that everything is going to be just fine. Which is when I tell him that I KNOW that because this whole thing was my idea but it doesn’t stop me from crying hysterically through the (last) bedtime stories and goodnight kisses.

“They’re just feelings,” I tell him, “and they have to come out. ”

“Feelings?” he asks blankly.

It’s a good thing he’s so handsome.

So I got to thinking about why all these tears were ekeing out at odd and inopportune moments and I realized that the letting go thing isn’t so straightforward.

First, there’s the sadness of saying goodbye to the house where I brought all my babies home to. This house has been our only home as a family. And it’s hard to picture making new memories anywhere else.  Not to mention saying goodbye to my neighbor and her sweet little girl, who my kids love with the love of a celebrity stalker, waiting at the window for her car to pull up in the driveway.

Second, there’s the fear that this is the worst idea in the history of ideas. (Which is saying something since someone invented the Pajama Jean.) I mean, we love this little house. What if there’s no other house that we ever like and/or agree on? Or what if there is and it’s more than 1.2 miles away from our relatives? How will I ever borrow sugar/cake pans/spare ovens if we’re so far away?

Third, and this is where it gets really difficult, I found myself with a whole slew of regrets. All the dinner parties I didn’t host because my house was never clean. All the announcements from Brother Bear’s birth that I just found, addressed and sealed but not mailed. All the times I let the kids’ brains turn to jelly in front of the tv instead of making more memories because I was just overwhelmed by it all.

And I think that not having a new house to visualize is actually good. Because instead of projecting a “better, more productive, more organized future” onto a new space, I have to come to terms with the reality of the life I’ve lived in this house the last nine years. Let’s just say that most of it wouldn’t be featured on Pinterest.

So what is the measure of my house the last nine years? Is it my junky medicine cabinet filled with expired Baby Tylenol? (The contents of which conveniently just got relocated to a sink full of water today by Brother Bear.) Is it the closet full of unfinished craft projects? Is it nine years of constantly battling my raging disorganization and pack of occasionally-feral children who couldn’t find a dresser drawer if their lives depended on it?

It is. Because that was part of our life.  We played here. We made gigantic disastrous messes here. We came up with some of our worst ideas here. We lived here.

And I hope that in the process of moving and unpacking (and my kids getting older and less destructive) that we find our ways of living  to be more conducive to civilized company. But I also know that wherever we go, I want our house to be lived in, loved in, wrestled and tickled in, created it, fought in, read in, and been together-ed in. And so I guess I’m not too worried, because if they’re going with me, I think we’ll be fine.

Kitchen Floor Campout

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The Swim Test

26 May

Whine: School is out for the summer. I am now the mother of a first grader, which is frightening on so many levels.

Cheese: There’s a whole summer ahead of me, plenty of time to face reality. Later.

Yesterday was our First Day of Summer Vacation. Wahoo! Except I spent the morning wandering aimlessly around the house and the afternoon losing Brother Bear over and over again at Chuck-E-Cheese. So I asked for a do-over and we tried again today with much greater success.

Today we headed to our local YMCA and its pool. When we walked in there was a group of senior citizens on the side of the pool doing, you guessed it, the Y-M-C-A.  Apparently the Silver Sneakers class decided to exercise poolside today. I was so tempted to go over and join them, but I wasn’t brave enough to do the Zumba in my swim suit.

Brother Bear and I alternated between walking the perimeter of the swim area and stopping back at our lawn chair for snacks. Which suits me just fine as I prefer not to actually get wet at the pool. Don’t get me wrong, I love to swim, but I spend most of my time shuttling people back and forth to the restroom, so I prefer to stay dry.

Lil’ Sis stayed in the shallows and practiced her ‘moves’. Watching her brought me back to my early swim days, where I felt like a ballerina and a mermaid and an acrobat all rolled into one.

I made five trips to and from the restroom with various children, then foiled Brother Bear’s attempt to climb up the stairs to the water slide and passed him off to Mr. Dad, kicking and screaming.

Big Sis begged me to come to the deep end with her and “catch” her while she jumped in. She’d jump in and I’d turn my head to avoid to the splash. Then she’d doggy paddle over to the side and wait for me to push her soggy seat up onto the ledge so she could jump in again. I tried to make her get up by herself, but she turned all spaghetti legs on me every time, so I just kept pushing her up there.

But then the lifeguard blew his whistle to invite anyone who wanted to take the Swim Test to come over. You have to pass the Swim Test in order to use the water slide or to swim in the deep end without an adult. Sophie marched right over and sat down with the other Swim Testers. No fear. No doubt that she could swim.

The lifeguard said you had to swim or dog paddle the length of the pool, then tread water while he asked you some questions. I watched as all the other, older, taller kids easily made their way down and hopped out of the pool. Big Sis sat on the stairs waiting her turn. Then he called her and she flopped in the water and started paddling.

My eyes were locked on that little pink puppy. I wasn’t worried she’d drown–the lifeguard was right at her shoulder. I just didn’t know if she could actually make it the whole way. I wasn’t sure that her shaky dog paddle could get her that far. I held my breath when she stopped mid-way, hoping she wouldn’t stop or give up. But she got her breath and kept on paddling along.

But then she had to tread water, and I’m pretty sure she had no idea what that meant. But there she was, kicking her feet and keeping herself up as the lifeguard asked her questions. I walked over to her. And he’s looking at her, waiting for her and I realize that in order to pass the Swim Test she’s going to have to get out of the pool. By herself.

Crap.

She throws an arm up there and heaves her body, only to slide right back in the water. Next, she hoists her knee up on the side and hangs there a second before realizing she can’t quite get the rest of her body to join her. I’m standing there, helpless, just waiting to see if she’s up to the task. She tries a couple more times. All the other kids have passed their swim test, so both lifeguards are standing there now, watching her. The other lifeguard says “Look. Do it this way. Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee.” So I squat down and repeat the mantra “Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee. Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee.”

And I’m squatting there, watching her, not being able to get through to her how it’s done and memory after memory flash back to me. Of Big Sis not being able to climb up the stairs to the slide while all her friends are scaling walls and furniture, not to mention the stairs. Of having to push, convince and cajole her into trying to pedal a tricycle. Of the struggle of these motor-skill milestones and how I hope she’s not going to be the one who can’t keep up.

And there she is in the pool, still trying to get out. I tell her that if she wants to stop and try another day, that it’s fine, but that she won’t pass the Swim Test today. And she’s tired and there’s been no breakthrough, so she scooches over to the stair and hops out.

I tell her we’ll have to work on it this summer, and not to worry because she’ll get it if she practices enough. But honestly I’m having visions of pushing that polka-dotted bottom up out of the pool about 200 times before she figures it out. Which is OK, but that might be a lot of Swim Tests to not pass.

So we go back to the deep end where (since she didn’t get her Swim Test Wristband) I am instructed to always be within arms-reach of her. And she jumps in, with gusto. And of course, she splashes me in the face. As I wipe the drops off my face, I watch her swim to the side of the pool.

And then in one fluid motion I see: Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee. She’s standing up beside the pool.

I yell to the lifeguard. I want him to see that she did it. He comes over and looks at her, but indicates that it doesn’t count since it wasn’t during the Swim Test. And I want to look at him like he’s crazy, because I don’t care about the stupid Swim Test. I only want him to know, want someone to know, that after all that wriggling and slipping and struggling, that my girl got out of the pool. Just like that.

And now she’s snoring on the couch next to me, completely wiped out from her moment of triumph.

It’s gonna be an awesome summer.

There is no Off-Season for Me

16 Jan

Whine: Mr. Dad has taken over the TV yet again to watch a Really Big Game. Which happens to be Really Big Game #4,238 of our marriage. That’s a lot of Really Big Games. And I’ll tell you a secret, we don’t win them all. Which is why I’m skilled in the arts of both CPR and Tai Chi. (Ok, not Tai Chi, but that would be cool.)

Cheese: We have been married long enough (4,238 Really Big Games, to be exact) that Mr. Dad knows he has to be super-dad for a little while before he transforms into a mindless sports-watching machine. So I enjoyed listening to a rowdy game of hide-and-seek from the other side of a locked bedroom door.

This post is dedicated to that brave and selfless group of women known as Sports Widows. These women weather the ups and downs of every sports season with grace and  aplomb. Sports Widows earn their name from the endless evenings and Saturday mornings and Sunday nights and random Wednesday afternoons they spend holding down the fort alone so their husbands can follow their dreams of watching other people play sports.

Are you curious about your status as a Sports Widow? Read the signs and symptoms below to discover if you, too, belong to that most-honored group.

You might be a Sports Widow if…

…there’s a line in your budget labeled ‘Sporting Events’ and it’s larger than the line labeled ‘Shoes and Clothes.’

…the only time you’ve heard your husband threaten to ‘rip somebody’s head off’ was in regards to a made-up sport.

…your best chance for seeing your husband would be to catch him in a crowd shot on the TV.

…you can use the ESPN ticker like a Weather Channel for your husband’s moods.

…your supply of commemorative plastic cups outnumbers both your casual and formal drinking glasses.

…getting ‘dressed up’ for your husband means changing out of his team jersey t-shirt and into his team polo or oxford.

…after a particularly hard loss, people who are not fans of the team or sport call with their condolences.

…in your husband’s opinion, the Sports Hug is the only legitimate man-hug.

…you’ve only ever seen your husband Sports Cry.

…when your alma mater plays your husband’s you root for his team because it makes life easier. For both of you.

…you feel very guilty, but you wish the team would lose in Round 1 of the playoffs so you could have your husband back. (At least until the next sport starts up.)

…your husband spent part of your wedding reception listening to a football game.*

…your husband spends more time writing a trash talk post for his fantasy football message board than selecting your anniversary card. (And don’t even think about him writing in it. He signed it, didn’t he?? Didn’t he??)

…you have ever travelled across the country so he could do a ‘live draft’.

…you know what a ‘live draft’ is.

…you know all the names of the local sports radio hosts because you listen to sports radio… when you’re alone.

…your second-hand sports information outweighs that of most grown men.

…you routinely use metaphors like “hurry-up offense, call an audible, and zone defense” to describe routine domestic events and wonder why the other mommies don’t know what you’re talking about.

It might sound like I’m complaining about my lot in marriage, but Sports Widowhood isn’t all bad.

Mr. Dad pretty much always owes me one (how do you think I got him to approve this post?) and when he’s gone at the game, I get the remote to myself. And I like to pretend that his passion for sports is simply a metaphor for how he feels about me. Because that makes sense, right? Either way, some of the sweetest friendships I’ve formed happened while waiting for our boys to come home from the game.

Those same  boys who sometimes surprise us by having those rare ultra-meaningful man conversations sandwiched between analyzing stats and complaining about the refs. Or who stop on their way home from a out-of-town game with a new dining room table they picked up (without prompting) from Pottery Barn Outlet. (Yes, I said Pottery Barn Outlet.) Plus, there’s something to be said for watching Mr. Dad coach the kids on the proper team cheers (Heeeeeyyyyyy, Sic ‘Em, Bears!) and dressing Brother Bear up so they walk around in matching outfits all day.

Besides, it could be worse, at least he’s not into NASCAR.

Yet.

I would like to apologize now to my future daughter-in-law/sports widow for letting it start so early.

*For the record, Mr. Dad did NOT even think about doing this. Mostly because we got married in June — well before football season.

This post is dedicated to my own band of Sports Widows, who have made this job a lot more bearable. Good thing they’ll never know how much fun we have without ’em, right girls?

Hardcore.

Choose Your Own Adventure

5 Aug

Whine: I heard Lil’ Sis crying in the other room alongside Big Sis’ cajoling whispers. I discovered Lil’ zipped into a carry-on suitcase, head downward as Big Sis dragged her around the room.

Cheese: All we needed was a bigger suitcase.

Do you think I could get this "luggage" past security? PS Big Sis is IN the suitcase.

 

 

 

On our 11th anniversary, Mr. Dad and I decided to get fancy. We threw three kids and everything we owned into our minivan and started leg #1 of what would eventually be a 40-hour road trip. We exchanged a quick smooch on our way out the door, muttered a somewhat sarcastic “Happy Anniversary” then hunkered down for the start of our 2,500 mile “vacation.”

But just as we were about to leave, he handed me two small strips of paper. Homemade tickets for a getaway weekend in the near future. So last weekend we dropped our kids on Kiki’s doorstep and got the heck out of Dodge. We spent a day at Schlitterbahn because what’s more fun than hanging out with thousands of people in their swimming suits? We spent the remainder of the weekend eating our way through Austin, TX.

I could talk for days about our little trip. How Mr. Dad saved cash in the back of his top drawer for months to pay for it. How we waited in line for a water slide for almost three hours and didn’t really care that much because we liked the company (well, except for the nicotine addict in front of us who got a little jumpy around Hour 2). How weird it was to finish an actual sentence without being interrupted, jumped on, or distracted by my lovely but attention-starved progeny.

The theme of our weekend was adventure. We ate tacos from a street vendor. Drank milkshakes with a little kick. Rode an uphill waterslide. Went dancing on 4th St (6th St. was a little too undergraduate for us.) Walked through IKEA (which is WAY on the wild side for me). Wandered around the Texas Capitol. I wore my hair wavy, for crying out loud.

We look well-rested, don't we?

Something about those three days reminded me of the days that seem several lifetimes ago. The days when Mr. Dad and I were just a couple of kids hanging out at the movie theater doing goofy stuff and trying to dig popcorn out of our retainers. The days when my biggest concern revolved around my hair (back the days of perms and hotrollers.) Or the days we spent as newlyweds on roadtrips and dinners out and watching whatever we wanted on TV. And somewhere between the Hotel Starbucks and 4th Street, we rediscovered both our love for really good tacos and just hanging out.

By the time we got on the road home, I was through with adventure and chomping at the bit to get home to my babies. Who, for the record, seemed rather unimpressed and a little confused upon seeing me. Brother Bear looked at me as if he may have remembered me from a former life as he looked to his Kiki for reassurance. I wanted to shout “GOOD GRIEF, I WAS ONLY GONE THREE DAYS, HOW BAD IS YOUR SHORT-TERM MEMORY KID?” but he’s a baby and he can’t count anyway, so I didn’t. But then we bribed them into coming home with us with a stuffed platypus and a few Disney t-shirts.

And now we’re back to Real Life. Which I don’t mind too much, since my kids can make an adventure anytime, anyplace. (Do you hear that, Costco? We’re coming for you.)

Freaky Friday

16 Feb

Whine: Curse Sonic and their “Limited Time Only” ploy. I was on the verge of making a good decision and settling for a half-price Diet Coke. But then I realized that if I didn’t get the chocolate cherry shake today, I don’t know when I’d get another chance. Limited Time Only, my foot. I fall for it every time.

Cheese: The reason we were at Sonic in the first place is because Lil’ Sis used the potty chair. AT PRESCHOOL. Are you kidding me? What kind of alternate universe is this??? I don’t know, but I think I’ll stay a while. I like it here, it’s very clean and dry.

Speaking of alternate universes, I suppose it’s time to for me to hop on the bandwagon and post my “holy-cow-we’ve-never-seen-this-much-snow pictures.” Let me just say, I grew up in the frozen tundra of the midwest and I know my way around a snowbank, so last Friday was not the first time I’d seen a large amount of snow. But I’ve lived in Texas for almost twenty years now and have got to say that for us that snow was EPIC.

Now I know that while the more southern states were freaking out and cancelling school, the true northerners were probably feeling quite Snowlier Than Thou. My Uncle Dave defines this as “the attitude exhibited by persons of Northern descent towards those that are more snow-challenged after any snowstorm, whether it is one inch or three feet. Usually accompanied by eye-rolling and mocking laughter.” Don’t deny it, yous guys, you know you were.

But I sure didn’t care who was rolling their eyes or laughing, I got to play with my kids in the snow!! I have such fond memories of sledding and skiing and building snowmen and eating snow (the white stuff only), and I felt such joy at getting to let them in on what winter is actually like.

Until it was time to get ready to go outside.

First, I made sure everyone had gone potty. Those layers are a beast to peel off in case of a tinkle emergency. Then I put three layers of pants on each person, me included, which ensured that I looked like a whale who was seriously off course. Then we went for the coats, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Which left all of us in pretty good shape. Except for the feet. Noone in Texas owns snow boots. We hardly have close-toed shoes let alone waterproof boots. I was tempted to cover the kids’ feet in plastic bags, but the fact that we’d already spent 30 minutes bundling up won out and we headed out with our inadequate footwear.

The "before" shot. You can tell because noone is crying yet.

My first order of business was to teach the girls about snow angels before the snowy yard became covered in tiny footprints. I showed them how you carefully plop down on your bottom. Then you lean back and swoosh your arms and legs across the snow. And then you gingerly get up so as not to disturb your angelic silhouette. Except I forgot to factor in one tiny detail.

I am eight months pregnant.

So there I am lying face up in a heap of snow, stuck on my back like a very unfortunate and bloated turtle. My kids are not too compassionate, mostly they are laughing at me flailing around in my eight layers of clothing as I try to return to an upright position. Forget not disturbing the angelic silhouette. I just needed to get up. I finally rolled over onto my knees and hoofed myself up, but not before making a note to myself about who should and should not do snow angels.

At that point Big Sis had taken enough direction on how to enjoy the snow and proceeded to spend the next thirty minutes engineering a snowman. Lil’ Sis spent the same 30 minutes whining, fretting  and crying. Girlfriend does not like to be cold. She finally stopped fussing and found a suitable activity. Walking next to the curb, dragging her feet through the three inches of slush. In her mary janes. Whatever.

Looks like fun, doesn't it?

Two jolly, happy souls.

The next day was even better though. First, because we got a bunch more snow. And second, cause Mr. Dad had the morning off. So we went through our layering ritual, stuffed the fluffy children into their carseats and headed to a nearby school. Then we went sledding.

What do a plastic swimming pool, a tabletop, a garbage bag and a laundry basket have in common?

Yep, you’re right. They double for a sled when you are in a pinch. We slid down that tiny hill about a hundred times. I’m not sure who had the most fun, although I can guarantee you it wasn’t Lil’ Sis, who again spent most of her outdoor time railing against the cruelty of Old Man Winter.  I feel sorry for that girl if she ever has to live where forty degrees is a mild winter. And as luck would have it, she’ll probably marry a Canadian.

But Mr. Dad and I had a blast sledding down that hill long after Big Sis lost interest. I felt a tad foolish, a grown woman who couldn’t even use her kids as an excuse for sledding down that hill again, cause one was off crying and the other building yet another snow man. But hey, we get this much snow down here once every lifetime, so I was not going to let feeling sheepish stand in my way. Even when I fell off the sled at the bottom and couldn’t get up.

Lil' Sis did not find this amusing.

By Saturday most of the snow had melted, we had used our annual bundle of firewood and the heavy coats and scarves had been returned to the back corner of the closet. And I was glad. I used to think I missed the snow. But now I know the truth: two days a year of the stuff is plenty for me. If I need more than that I’ll book a flight to Canada.