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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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HUG

8 Jun

Whine: When I went get Brother Bear out of bed this morning, he sulked at me and shouted, “NO! Daddy do it.”

Cheese: I said, “Fine” and walked away knowing his Daddy was already gone for the day. Joke’s on you, Mr. Crabbypants.

 

<em>Hug</em> [Book]

Brother Bear has this book called ‘HUG’ by Jez Alborough.

On the third  page (are they still considered pages if they’re made of cardboard?), the little monkey Bobo is sad. I always stop at this point in the story and ask Brother Bear why Bobo is sad. And he always says, in a very sympathetic and soft voice, “He’s sad. He wants his Mommy.” (In fact, he says that in every story when a character is sad. It’s a universal problem, really.)

As Bobo continues to walk through the jungle he sees all the other animals hugging their Mommies and he gets sadder and sadder. Until he hears someone shouting his name from above. He looks up and sees (Spoiler Alert!) his Mommy. He shouts her name, runs to her and he gets a big hug.

The last page is my favorite, it shows Mommy and Bobo walking away holding hands. She says “Bobo” and he says “Mommy”. I always use the last page as an excuse to sneak a big hug.

Only this last time when we read it, it went a bit differently. When I asked Brother Bear to name the characters on the last page I pointed to the small monkey and Brother Bear said, “That’s Bobo” and then I pointed to the larger one and he said, “That’s Daddy.”

He said it with just the tiniest hint of rebellion. As if he knew he was rewriting a much larger script than the one glued to the backside of a cardboard book. I tried to argue with him, but he remained committed.

Things around here, they are a’changing.

Bye, Bye, Baby Boy

Now instead of snuggling we play cars. In fact, he’ll come find me and say, “Mommy! Play cars!” And I have no choice but to obediently follow him to his room so we can fill up all the cars with gas, then race them down the Fisher Price ramp and back up the green elevator with the bell. And while we play I listen to him chatter about all the cars and if I listen really hard he sometimes tells me things about what’s going on in his brain. Which is super cute, I just wish his brain could tell me why he smells so bad all the time.

Yesterday while we were playing cars, he toppled over and bonked his head. He immediately threw himself into my arms for about a half a second. Then he jumped back up and rubbed his head. I said, “Do you want Mommy to kiss it?” He shook his head no, rubbed the spot a little more and said, “All better.”

That sound you hear? That’s the sound of my heart breaking.

The shirt seems redundant at this point.

But a few minutes later when a teetering tower of blocks knocked me on the hand, I pulled it back and said “Ouch.” He reached over, grabbed my hand and gave it the most tender little kiss.

Gah. I think I’m going to need a hug.

 

*hug*

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.

For My Sister

24 Sep

Whine:  Last night I stepped into my bedroom and into a large, slushy puddle of water simultaneously. After scanning the room for evidence of Tiny Terrorism and finding none, I shrugged and cleaned it up. When I returned to the scene an hour later and the slushy puddle had returned, with a vengeance, I called for back up. Turns out my air conditioner is disgruntled about having to work so late into September and is protesting by spewing water all over my carpet.

Cheese: Mr. Dad just earned his second “Fix the A/C” badge for his Handyman vest. He may have had to rip up the carpet and remove the bedroom door in the process, but at least I’m not borrowing from Big Sis’ college fund to pay for an emergency after-hours repair guy to come rip up my carpet and remove my bedroom door. Because that would be weird.

I want to dedicate today’s post to my sister Wren. Today is her birthday. And if you’ll excuse my language, it’s going to be a really craptastic birthday. Let’s just say it’s been a terribly hard week for her, and today will be no exception. And while I’m glad that she has a cute little house and cute little kids (and of course her hubby, “Uncle Steve”), I’m sad because they are all in sunny Florida. And that’s there and she’s there, and I’m precisely the opposite of that. I’m here.

And it just sucks to be so far away when she needs me to fan her and feed her grapes. (It’s what any good sister would do.) I mean I can’t even mail her a noodle casserole or anything because I’m pretty sure the UPS guy would scarf it all down before it got there because who can resist a noodle casserole??

And so the best I can do is try to make her laugh or at least entertain her. So I’ll probably spend the rest of this post telling stories about the good ol’ days and bore the pants off the rest of you, but I don’t really care because it’s not your birthday, unless it is, in which case you’re still probably not having quite as craptastic of a day as my sister so quit your whining already.

At some point in the early 90s Wren and I went to summer camp together. On the last night of camp there was an all-camp pizza party out on the grassy hill. We were all sitting around talking and hanging out. This apparently was really lame, so some of the boys started playing frisbee with the pizza boxes. Wren and I were ignoring them because we were deeply involved in a conversation in which we discussing our funerals. Looking back, I see how the pizza box frisbee may have broken out, as funeral arrangements are not that interesting to most eighth graders. Just as she was promising to bring flowers to my funeral, I felt something drop out of the sky right onto my head.

Upon further inspection and through choked back tears we discovered that I had just been hit with a full can of Sprite. Apparently the pizza boxes got boring and someone started throwing soda cans. I felt the Sprite spilling down my head, so Wren ran me up the hill to the nurse’s station. Except when we got there I realized it was most certainly not Sprite, but blood, trickling down my forehead. I looked like an extra in a bad axe-murderer movie. (As opposed to the good axe-murderer movie, which is one of mine and Wren’s favorites.)

In the end I was taken to the local middle-of-nowhere hospital, had a few stitches put in (it was merely a flesh wound) and went back to camp to milk my injury for all it was worth. But the thing I remember most was laughing so hard afterward with my sister about the irony of “almost dying” while discussing funeral plans. And the fact that there was someone else in the world with a sense of humor as morbid as mine.

Wren (far left) and I (far right) post soda can episode. Wish I could blame head trauma for my choice of shorts, or should I say jorts?

Wren and I, along with our other three sisters, have shared a lot of life together. School dances, breakups, vacations, and myriad bad style choices (see above). We have played dress up more than any teenagers probably should. We’ve had our fights, although fighting with Wren is pretty useless, as she will just argue until you are beaten down and give up.

A little too much time on our hands, I think.

As we’ve grown up we’ve done everything at almost the same time: gone to college, gotten jobs, gotten married (three weeks apart), and had kids. All the while we’ve remained friends and partners in life.  Our neurotic fixations may have changed over the years, but we still understand each other pretty perfectly. And I’m so glad that when the sky is falling, either literally or figuratively, that we have each other.  Happy birthday, Sis.