Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hopping on the Birthday Scales

I want to thank everyone for sending birthday wishes my way yesterday. As lovely as growing another year older and wiser is, I realize that it is not nearly as fun as when I was younger, having all-girl sleepovers and night sledding parties at Trull Brook Golf Course. One of my special presents this year was having to renew my driver's license.

My last experience with the Department of Motor Vehicles allowed me to choose the ten year renewal program, meaning the picture taken was of me in my early thirties. My face was a little brighter, all lit up with new love. My skin was a little tighter, my hair was a little darker. I didn't have to ask them to angle the picture from the top down because having a double chin wasn't an issue then.

All of the other vital information was transferred from when I first got my license at sixteen years old. That has always been fine with me because even though an officer of the law may question my weight calculations, I would rather someone still think I am one hundred and fifteen pounds instead of whatever I happen to be that week. I do pride myself on being an honest person, but this figure I didn't seem important enough for me to go out of my way to change. Until yesterday.

Since I had the ten year renewal plan, I missed many of the new rules and regulations regarding proof of citizenship, proof of address, proof of marriage, and proof of weight... WHAT? Well they didn't actually make me jump on the scales but I was appalled that after twenty five years I was actually going to have to be more truthful about my size. If I ever get pulled over, it's not like they are going to pick me up and test my weight. Yes, I was one hundred and fifteen pounds twenty five years ago, just not recently.

This time they actually asked for my current weight on the form. I felt guilty about blatantly lying, since I am a Christian and all, so I added twenty five more pounds to the original calculation. I'm sure with all of the treadmill running I plan on doing in the next few months I'll be getting pretty close to that figure I put on the form. But, since it's my birthday week, I'll just sit down tonight with a glass of wine and piece of cake and leave the working out for another day!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Forgive me father for I have sinned... hahahahahahahah!

Let me just start by saying that most of the time I am a fairly good mother... for real. But today? I must admit that I tricked my own child because it was too easy and just too funny. So, yes, forgive me father because this incident happened on the ride home from church!

It can be challenging raising a child in an ever-consuming world of continuous electronic stimulation. With the availability iPhones, tablets, and dvd players right in the car, I can almost guarantee that having a conversation with my daughter will likely not happen. It is too tempting to have her face plastered to a screen where she can just engage in the life of someone else instead of her own.

This issue really bothers me and I try to dissuade too much electronic usage, especially during short trips in the car where my daughter and I have a moment to catch up. Some days I win the battle. Other days I lose.

This morning, before I could even shut the door and click my seat belt, the usual annoying question floated up from the third row seat. "Can I have your phone?" No please, no ma'am, no nothing.

"Why don't we talk instead?" I suggested. I had put the new Pentatonix Christmas CD in the car and heard the first funky melody of their version of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" playing through the speakers.

"I don't want to talk," she whined.

"Don't you like this new CD?" I asked. I could tell she was enjoying it when I looked in the rear view mirror and spotted her swaying in the back seat.

"Yeah, it's nice. Can I have your phone now?"

She had gotten to bed after eleven last night and was up at seven this morning to go to church. It was easier to give into her demands when she was tired but I was going to try one more time.

"What did you learn at children's church?"

"Nothing."

"You just sat there and did nothing for an hour?"

"No, we learned about the birth of Jesus. Can I have your phone now?"

Some days the struggle is not worth it. I begrudgingly handed her the phone and realized that I had forgotten to turn off the Bluetooth that automatically connected to my car's hands-free calling option. This is where the story gets funny.

The bellowing tones of Pentatonix are temporarily halted as Senia Mae hit the voice to text button on the Google app. After the initial Ding Dings ring through the dashboard I hear her say, "American girl doll videos" from two rows back.

The microphone is located somewhere close to the steering wheel and I am suddenly aware that it will not be able to pick up her voice from that distance. I can end her call and listen to my music with just the touch of my thumb. She'll never know it was me.

"Oh come all ye faithful, Oh come all ye faithful, Oh come all ye faithful to Bethlehem," booms out of the speakers once again. I am laughing but she doesn't notice because her face is buried in the screen. After another thirty seconds go by my music pauses and I hear the ding ding noise again.

"American girl doll videos," comes rambling from the back seat. I give it a little longer this time before I hit the end call button.

"Sing choirs of angels... sing in exultation," the female voice blares as the bass vocal hums. I am mouthing the words in the front seat while stifling my laughter. Senia Mae isn't aware that I am currently winning the battle. She thinks we are experiencing technical difficulties. I let this go on for one more round before I suggest that she type the words into the Google search field.

"Oh," she says and the phone disconnects the phone from the call.

Suddenly we are both getting what we want: me listening to my Christmas music and her watching other girls play with American Girl dolls. She won't know it was me cutting off her phone connection for a few more years at least. Is it wrong for me to want to be more interesting to my own daughter than a darn device?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hello Operator, Please Give Me Number Nine

Apparently Miss Susie is still a hand-clapping hit of modern day schoolyards. My first grader came home singing, "Miss Susie had a cymbal, the cymbal had a bell, Miss Susie went to heaven the cymbal went to Hello operator please give me number nine... "

"I think Miss Susie really had a steamboat and the steamboat had a bell," I said.

"No, Chloe said it is a cymbal," Senia Mae confirmed.

"Well a cymbal does have a bell," I racked my brain for any further recollections.

Memories of little girls wearing plaid bell bottoms and Exersoles in the Shawsheen School parking lot came flooding back. We were sitting cross-legged in the shade, clapping our hands to the fast rhythm as we recited the naughty poem. There was always a row of girls waiting to sit in and I remember hoping I wouldn't screw up the words and have to wait at the back of the line for another turn.

"What are the boys doing in the bathroom?" I asked.

"I can't really remember," she says. "Do you know?"

"Well, I used to. We sang this when I was a little girl, too." Her eyes lit up, excited that we had one more thing in common. "But I haven't sang this song in a long time."

"I know, I know my Ma, I know, I know my Pa, I know, I know my sister with the alligator bra... " Senia Mae continues. "Mama, what's an alligator bra?"

"Hmmm," I said. "I not really sure." After searching Wikipedia we learned the skipped line after operator was "If you disconnect me I will paddle your ... behind the frigerator..." and that it was originally an alligator purse, which, of course made more sense than an alligator bra.

"Do you know what it means to call an operator and give me number nine?" I asked my six year-old.

"No."

"Well you used to pick up the phone and talk to an operator on the other end." I pointed to the retro phone we had hanging on the wall. "You'd pick up the handle and ask her to be connected to someone else's phone."

Instead of being amazed that you had to talk to an operator, my child was more amazed that the phone was stuck to the wall.

"You mean you couldn't take the phone in the car?" she asked.

"Nope," I said, laughing about how different her childhood world is from mine. Wow, it doesn't feel like it was that long ago!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What's Your Perfect Part?

"Everybody has a part of them that is perfect," Senia Mae said.

"Huh?" I asked, a little unsure of exactly what we were talking about.

"You know, a part that's absolutely perfect. Everyone has a perfect part. What's yours?"

"Perfect part? Do you mean their heart, soul, or mind? And just how do you know this?" I questioned, wondering where my daughter had ingested this little pearl of wisdom.

"Mama, like a part of your body. I learned it from Picture Perfect on Super Spies. Clover has perfect legs," she said. "Grammy's perfect part is definitely her fingernails, don't you think?"

"Um, yeah, of course."

"What do you think mine is?" she asked. I felt the vice begin to cinch my diaphragm as we embark on the first of probably many future conversations about body image. Somehow I want to protect her from the lifelong issue that torments me: feeling like I have to be a clone of Barbie to be considered perfect. I don't want her to grow up judging herself that way.

"I guess I would say your eyelashes. They are perfect," I said as we walked inside.

"What about Grampy? What is his perfect part?" Senia Mae asked. She scanned his body up and down as he snoozed in his comfortable chair.

"I'm not sure, what do you think?"

"I think it is his abs."

"His abs!" Grammy laughed, thinking of how Grampy's midriff looked more like a soft pillow rather than a six-pack.

"Yes. I think Grampy's perfect part is his abs," Senia Mae said proudly. Thirty seconds later she turned around to me and asked, "Mama, what are abs?" :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We are the Winners!

"I just can't believe we won," Senia Mae said, both hands holding on as she peeked over the tailgate at the folded green and metallic pile in the truck bed. Yes, we were the lucky winners. I had totally forgotten that we had placed a silent auction bid at
Shenanigan's last week until I got the call this morning.

Who would actually buy that? I laughed to myself as we walked up to the brightly colored double dog stroller during the Shucking for Shamrocks fundraiser Labor Day Weekend. I was more interested in the tour posters signed by the Indigo Girls or the sterling silver wrist cuff with the turquoise cross inlay, but the Best Pet Double Dog Stroller seemed like a useless item that would just take up space in the garage. My six year old daughter thought differently. She was instantly mesmerized.

"Oh, Mama, look at this!" she said enthusiastically. "Birdie and Luna would just love it!" She glided her hand over the mesh zipper enclosure looking longingly at the device that would basically force the dogs into going everywhere with her. They may love it if they were miniature Yorkies, but Birdie and Luna were both twenty pounds and usually ran the roads with us. For Senia Mae's sake they might tolerate the stroller, but they definitely wouldn't love it.

"I don't know," I said trying to guide away from the Best Pet.

"Mama, please, it would be just perfect. We NEED this!" We definitely didn't need this, I don't know if anyone really needed this, but it was cute. I looked at the sign up sheet and only one other person had placed a bid. It was still early in the auction, so I thought if I bid $5 over the first offer I would certainly be outdone by some other crazy person yearning for a double dutch pooch pusher.

I heard giggling on the other end of the line as the girl read the auction item we had won. "You are the winners of the Best Pet double dog stroller!"

"Please tell me you're kidding," I mocked sarcasm. "I didn't win the tour of the winery or the barbeque grill?"

"Nope."

"My daughter is going to be beside herself when she hears the news that we are the winners of such a major award," I said.

"Well I'm glad it went to you then."

"At least now the poor dogs won't be shoved into her doll carriage." I said. "I'll pick it up today so she'll be surprised after school."

She spotted it in the back of the truck as soon as we pulled into the driveway and her look of pure joy made a useless purchase completely worth it.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Mama, Guess What I Learned at School Today?

It's that time of year again, the kids are back to school learning reading, writing, arithmetic, and other forms of education that we as parents seem to never know about. The other day Senia Mae screamed from the bathroom as I was in the kitchen preparing her peanut butter and jelly for lunch.

"Mama, Mama, I've got lice," she shrieked.

"What? How do you know it's lice?" I yelled through the house.

"The nurse at school showed us a video yesterday."

"Are you sure it's lice?" I asked nervously, trying to remember if we still had the special shampoo from last year when the little critters were running rampant at school.

"Yeah, I saw it flying around the sink in the bathroom."

"Honey, lice don't fly." I said as I walked back to investigate. "Show me what you are calling lice."

"See?" she pointed to a minute black fly that landed on the mirror of the medicine cabinet. "Lice." From the enthusiasm in her voice it almost sounded as if she was proud to be the carrier of lice.

"That's a fruit fly. Remember, I've been trying to catch them since we found that rotten potato in the kitchen?"

"Oh, yeah," she said.

"You probably shouldn't be parading around claiming you have lice. People kind of freak out over that," I said.

"Oh, OK." she said, moving onto the next conversation before I had time to check her scalp!


*****


Today's hot tub conversation started with:

"So Ms. Purdy, the school counselor, came into class yesterday. Guess what she talked to us about?" Senia Mae waited for us to guess.

"I don't know," I said.

"What?" Kim asked.

"Concussions and empathy," Senia Mae said proudly. "Mama, what is a concussion?"

"Well it's a traumatic brain injury," I said, thinking how advanced the school counseling system was to be teaching concussion education in the first grade. It was kickoff week in college football and I planned on sporting my pumpkin orange Tennessee Vols shirt that Saturday. "The counselor was talking about concussions?"

"No, that's not what it was," Senia Mae said.

"I did think concussions and empathy was a strange mix," I said more to Kim than Senia Mae. "Although it is very important to have empathy for people suffering from concussions. Those injuries are serious and can be permanent."

"Was the word caring?" Kim asked.

"Ummm, no, I don't think so," Senia Mae said.

"How about love and empathy?" I asked.

"That doesn't sound familiar."

"Well what did she talk about?" I asked.

"Like how to be nice and care about each others feelings."

"Oh... did she talk about compassion and empathy?" Kim asked.

"Yeah, that's it! Compassion and empathy!" Senia Mae said. "Mama, what is compassion?" and the conversation started all over again!








Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Does Mae Mae's Mom Got It Going On?

Just for the record, I'm no Mrs. Robinson. I know my limitations, I realize that I am in my early forties and happen to be stumbling upon my much anticipated twenty five year high school reunion. But today, for a brief moment, I felt what she felt.

It had been a long day, the first after the Labor Day Weekend. To help myself feel better I decided to wear something that screamed summer, a pink and orange above the knee prAna razorback dress, because even though it is September, the temperatures here are still climbing into the mid nineties and every year I mourn the end of the season.

My theory has always been that hard days don't feel as bad if you know you look good and for some reason it seemed like I just couldn't catch up with my schedule. When I finally I stepped out of the office a few minutes after six, I still had no idea what I was serving for dinner, thinking I would just run into Kroger and it would come to me like a thought cloud above my head.

For once I didn't have a six year old hanging off my hip or droopy mom hair and I might have actually passed for a bustling twenty something double stepping it into the dairy to pick up some half and half for tomorrow morning's coffee. As I was trying to get through the milk aisle I got stuck behind another mom who was equally as annoyed that Kroger was sold out of the half gallon creamer cartons. That's when I noticed I was being sized up and down by a trendy young man on the other side of the refrigerator section.

A second earlier he had stepped back to let me pass and I caught him peeking at me while I opened and closed the glass doors. As I walked on past, I heard the woman call out to him and realized that he was her son. He had stepped away from her to make it appear to me like he was shopping on his own, not with his mom. I tried to contain my laughter as I walked away, realizing that he couldn't have been older than nineteen or twenty.

I can't remember the last time I turned the head of a teenager and even though I am probably old enough to be his mom, that boy put a spring in my step and was the highlight of my day. Walking out of Kroger with a satisfied smile on my face, I felt myself put on a little strut as the words to "Stacy's Mom Has Got it Going On" ran through my mind!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Trading Teeth for Cash

We had a visit from the tooth fairy last night. Because the tooth was an incisor, she left three dollars which is more than her usual payment. Senia Mae was skipping around the house in glee, thinking about how to spend her money.

"I want a Lego Minifigure of Velma from Scooby Doo," she said.

"Didn't she come with the Mystery Machine Lego Kit?" I asked.

"No, Mama, that only came with Fred, Scooby, Shaggy, and the Zombie."

"Oh," I said. "What set does Velma come in?"

"She's only with the Mystery Mansion," Senia Mae said. "Can I buy that with my three dollars?"

"No. That's going to be something you'll have to ask Santa for. Maybe we can just get Velma by herself. Let's look it up and see," I said, pulling up Google on my iPhone. I was surprised that a plastic figure that stood only three quarters of an inch tall was $24.99. "Wow, Mae, you're going to have to lose a lot more teeth to be able to afford Velma. She's almost twenty five dollars!"

"How many teeth would that be?" she asked. "I've got another loose one."

"Well if you get three dollars per tooth, count how many teeth that would be." Senia Mae ran over to the desk and grabbed a pen and paper. She began listing groups of three in a line down the left side of the sheet, very impressive for a first grader.

"Seven, no, eight," she scratched her head. "I need to lose between eight and nine teeth, Mama."

"Very good Senia Mae!" I was so impressed that I almost ordered the Velma figure online, forgetting the important lesson I was trying to teach my young daughter. "Hmmm. Maybe we can look for something a little less expensive at Walmart today. Velma's going to have to wait until you can save up a little more."

"Awww, Mama," she moaned, "I need her and she's got the magnifying glass and everything!"

"Why don't we go down the My Life aisle and look for some supplies for your American Girl doll?"

"OK!" and she ran to the door, ready to go.

"Don't forget your three dollars," I reminded her, glad that she was temporarily distracted, but worried that the tooth fairy might just get a letter with the next tooth defending the inflation rate!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The "Not So Great" Way To Teach Your Kid How To Ride a Bike

We have been having the same training wheel battle for months, Kim and I say Senia Mae is big enough to ride without any extra help and she begs to differ... literally begs and whines. I have gotten the tag along bike attached to mine, hoping that riding with me would give her confidence and help her balance. Just when I think it has given her enough boost, I decide it is time to try the old fashioned bike once again.

Today while we were in Grandma's pancake flat driveway, I brought out Senia Mae's 12" toddler bike. At six years old her legs are so tall and lanky that when she sits on the seat her knees practically hit the steering wheel. Standing ten feet away at the other end of the driveway I prompt her.

"Just push with your feet and balance with your legs out," I say as she fidgets with the glittery streamers dangling from the handlebars. "You don't even need to pedal if you're not ready." She juts her lower lip out in a pout, staring at me as if I am asking her to rearrange her underwear drawer. "Come on," I say. "It's no big deal. If you get scared or off balance just put your feet on the ground."

She shoves the bike with her feet, sticks one foot haphazardly on one pedal, and is barely moving before the bike leans to the left and she has to catch her self.

"See? That wasn't so bad. Lets try pedaling a couple of times now."

"Mama, I just can't get it. I keep falling over," she says.

"That's because you are not balancing. You can't do it standing still, the bike has to be moving."

"But I don't know how," she says and gets off the bike, walking towards the garage.

"Here, I'll show you," I said, and this was my fatal error. Not thinking that this was a small 12" toddler bike that sat lower than my knee, I plunked my butt down on the seat and gave the bike a push, letting my legs stretch out as the bike rolled forward. "See, its simple."

"Mama," she says.

"You can do it, too, Senia Mae."

"But Mama..."

"What?"

"I think you gave the bike a flat tire." I looked down and the back tire was completely flat. When I got the pump out of the garage I couldn't even inflate it because the seal was also broken. I was in such a hurry to teach my daughter how to ride a bike that I didn't even think my 25 years post high school butt might pop the seal on a midget bike. My mistake. Instead of teaching my daughter the right way to ride a bike without training wheels, I had to run out to Walmart, hoping that I wouldn't have to explain that my big butt busted her tire.
By the time I had the tire fixed she had already moved on to something else. Maybe we'll have better luck next time!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Enjoying a Summer of Simple Pleasures

I have this crazy list I keep in my head. It's a list of simple gratifications, things I feel are important to our personal development, things that I want to make sure my daughter experiences during her childhood. I want her to remember summers as more than weeks at a time of watching marathon Scooby Doo videos, realizing that her world, a world of iPads and Netflix, is overloaded with electronic time wasters. She might need to be guided into learning how to appreciate life's quintessential pleasures, activities that are satisfying enough on their own, without demanding additional entertainment.

Thankfully, some activities have already been crossed off my list because they are regular occurrences in our home. These are things like: squeezing out fresh lemons to make lemonade, building a tent in the living room and watching Pee Wee's Big Adventure while lying on our stomachs, and pulling out the Southern Living Book of Cakes and making the prettiest one just because we feel like it.

Two days ago, right as the sun dropped out of the sky and the skyline was nothing but a lingering purple haze, we slowly walked though the front yard and carefully cupped our hands around a few fluttering lightning bugs. We capped a Mason jar with a piece of tin foil pricked with a fork after sprinkling the inside with some of the extra food leftover from her Ladybug Land. Peeking around the corner into her room, I saw the little bugs lighting up the jar as they sat atop of her dresser. She had nodded off while watching her fireflies and her sleeping face had a delicate little smile. This alone made my heart happy.

Others things on the list need to be planned out more diligently, like taking a family road trip cross country and visiting the ghost town that has popped up under Lake Mead, camping in Yellowstone National Park, and the hiking inside the Grand Canyon. Before she goes off to college I want to have this time together because childhood only lasts so many years and the years seem to be passing by so quickly.

As I had a moment of alone time this morning I took the chance to enjoy one of my own personal simple pleasures. Senia Mae had been dropped off at camp, the chickens had been fed and watered, both Kim and my parents were off to work, and I had the whole house to myself. On this quiet Thursday morning there was no activity on our end of the lake: no fishermen, no neighbors, and no random boats flying past our cove causing excessive waves. I decided to indulge myself and take a dip in the water without my suit.

Swirling around in the gentle rippling waves, the warm sun touched places on my body that usually don't see the light of day, I felt that satisfaction, the wonderful feeling of basking in nature as I turned my face to the cloudless blue sky and floated on my back. The cool water rippling over my skin left me feeling refreshed and completely rejuvenated. Life was good. Then I remembered something my daughter had said yesterday.

"My kindergarten teacher said there are electric eels in Lake Lanier!" I snapped out of my moment of bliss trying to erase the thought of a slimy eel sending 600 volts of energy into one of my more sensitive areas. Aarg... for some reason I couldn't erase the image of a long creature rubbing up against my bare, glistening skin in the water. Certainly that information is not true, I think to myself as I quickly wrap my robe around my body. I'm definitely not going to let fear ruin my ultimate moment of Zen but just in case I'll Google it when I get back to the house!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Reason I Work Part Time


Although I know they are only joking, when people give me a hard time about only working three days a week I still second guess my choices. Every time I hear "Oh, you're whole life is a vacation," or "I can hardly keep up with your limited schedule," I stop and wonder if maybe I should go back to practicing full time. Originally I took Tuesdays and Thursdays off to be able to spend more time with Senia Mae while she was still young enough to want to hang out with me. I am aware that in a few years I may not be the companion of choice, so I've wanted to soak up all of the goodness while its still available.

The other day, while still drinking my first cup of coffee, Senia Mae grabbed my hand and drug me over to the dining room table to help assemble her new Scooby Doo Lego kit. "Mommy, look how cool the Mystery Machine is," she said after we had spent an hour assembling the 1960's retro Ford van replica. She rolled the lime green Lego van happily across our re-purposed pine table. It was cool. Both sides on the back opened up exposing their mystery solving equipment. She was so content, playing all by herself with her new toy.

"Hey, you feel like going to the trail and riding our new bike?" I asked. A few weeks ago I picked up a tag along bike to attach to our mountain bike. She loves being able to ride together. "We can take a picnic!"

"Sure... I'll get the snacks," she said as she skipped into the kitchen.

In an hour we were on the Big Creek Trail, riding easily through the shaded water oaks and talking back and forth about the different varieties of trees, the squirrel we saw standing on the boardwalk with a mouthful of acorn pulp, and how much fun we were having, just the two of us. After three miles we parked our bikes in the shade and grabbed some cold water from our bike basket. We sat next to each other on the bench, enjoying each others company in the solitude of the great outdoors. I could have stayed there forever and I think she could have too.

After we pedaled back to the truck I thought about how wonderful our day together had been. As I was loading the bike up onto the tailgate I looked at Senia Mae and said, "You know today really was... " and before I had time to complete my sentence Senia Mae finished it for me.

"Awesome," she said.

"Yes, it was awesome," I said thinking about how we had just spent an entire day enjoying each others company, without T.V., without electronics, and without having to spend money. Any doubt or guilt I had about working part time had suddenly disappeared. She thought spending the day with me was awesome and I could think of no other way I would want to spend my valuable time.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Can dogs have kittens? lol

A conversation from our morning commute to school:

"Mama, is Birdie going to have babies?" Senia Mae asked. Fortunately I am facing the road and she can't see me rolling my eyes saying, "Thank God, no," under my breath.

Birdie is our six year old pound puppy that looked strikingly similar to every stray dog roaming the streets of Cozumel... the ones whose pitiful eyes gave the poor me look as they begged for food. Although we love Birdie and have no doubts that she would be a expedient mother, we already have plenty of animals that require love and attention, one more puppy could easily turn our happy go lucky mini-farm into a literal "funny" farm. I spend nearly half of my day feeding and watering things. Right now our herd consists of two dogs, five cats, four chickens, and two fish.

After a long exhalation I answer, "No, honey. Birdie has been fixed so she can't have babies."

"But I really wanted a kitten!"

I was laughing so hard as we pulled into the carpool line that I didn't have time to explain that dogs have puppies and cats have kittens. Birdie, I am sure, would love to have her own kitten, birthed or adopted. She is very good mother to the ones we have now, letting them rub up under her belly and swat their tails over her face. I didn't have the heart or the time to break the news to Senia Mae that Birdie could never be a "true" mother of a kitten. I guess it will have to be a conversation for another time!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Getting Back to the Basics on Mother's Day

As I look at the young lady about to give birth in four weeks I think, "You have no idea how your life is going to change." None of us had any idea until the day it happened, the day we became mothers. There is no way you can understand the depth of emotion that surrounds the enormity of someone else's life being completely dependent on you. All of a sudden your most important job becomes being a teacher, making sure this new person feels safe, feels loved, knows how to love, and turns into a person with honor. What a huge responsibility but what an awesome responsibility, knowing that our actions, our feelings, and our morals are formulating what this little person is to become.

This little person watches every move we make, learning by examples that we set on how to be an adult. Yikes! How have I addressed the people I love lately? Has it been with compassion and empathy or with frustration and hatred. How have I reacted when stuck in that traffic jam or when the person in front of me in line is texting instead of paying attention? What about when this little person says, "Mama, look... " as I am in the middle of something I feel is more important. Have I dropped what I am doing to show them that they matter as much as getting my tasks done? What a huge responsibility but again, what an awesome one.

My parents have been living with us the last several months while looking for a house in Georgia. We see each other every day. I was surprised when friends invited my mom to spend a long weekend with them in Myrtle Beach and instead of packing her bags and getting the hell out of dodge, she thanked them and politely declined.

"Mom, you've been dying to go to the beach... Why not go and get a few days of fun in the sun?" I asked.

"You don't understand," she said. "You've been living away from me for 22 years."

"Well we are living together now, you see me every day," I said.

"I haven't gotten to spend a Mother's Day with my daughter in 22 years. That is more important to me than going to the beach," my mother said.

"Oh." I couldn't think of anything else to say. She was right, Mother's Day has a deeper meaning than just a card and flowers. Even when your children are adults they are still your children and you get to be proud of who they have become, the product of years of hard work and sacrifice. And even though as mothers we sacrifice time, money, sleep, friendships, our own thoughts, and sometimes our own sanity, I can't imagine a life any better than this, because this is the most important job I will ever have. And the most important thing we give and receive as mothers is LOVE. Happy Mother's Day, Mom and all mothers everywhere!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Appreciating That Special Moment

Some days just have moments, snippets of your life that you know are extra special right as they are happening. Today I had one of those moments. It was a melancholy day anyway, the eight year anniversary of Gram's sudden death, and Kim, Senia Mae, and I decided to take the back roads instead of the major highway. We ended up with a whole hour to waste, normally unheard of, and Kim said, "Let's get some ice cream."

We stumbled upon a Mom and Pop ice cream shop on Main Street in Alpharetta, an old fashioned brick colonial storefront with white painted trim and windows. It was exactly the building I would have imagined housing a little piece of historic downtown Americana and looked strikingly similar to the Pewter Pot Restaurant Gram and I would walk to when I was a child. I remembered warm corn muffins and hot tea in pewter pots as we pulled open the glass door.

Four Fat Cows was lovely as well as locally owned. I was sold as soon as the eager ice cream clerk informed me that their ice cream was made with a higher fat content which resulted in a creamier flavor and with less sugar. We ordered three cones of homemade heaven and decided to sit outside on the brick patio, shaded and comfortable as the trickling sound of the garden fountain muffled any unwanted street noise. An arched trellis, laden with the star flowered blossoms of Confederate Jasmine separated the patio from the parking lot. Closing my eyes and inhaling deeply, the sweet aroma carried me back to the day Gram and I planted the same vine outside the front door of my future Chiropractic office fourteen years earlier.

I thought about how drastically my life has changed in the eight years since Gram has passed... in some ways it feels like an entire lifetime ago. Since that time and solely because of Gram's death, Kim and I decided to have Senia Mae, named after Gram. I completed a full length manuscript about the life and loss of Gram and am currently pursuing publication. Kim and I have become parents, learning how to live and love in a way I never would have imagined possible, a way that is passed down from generation to generation.

Eight years ago today was the worst day of my life. I miss Gram every time I see my daughter mimic something she would have done, like taking a cardboard box out of the trash and saying, "We can re-use that!" But her death somehow kicked me into a new beginning, a better version of myself more available for giving and loving and becoming more of who I am supposed to be. That I wouldn't change for all of the apple turnovers in the world.

I miss you Gram and can't wait to see you on the other side.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Look Who's Burnin' Doing the Neutron Dance

It is a rare occurrence when I cross paths with my wife during a lunch break. The other day, like all of the moons lining up around Jupiter, she showed up at home as I was finishing up a yesterday's leftovers sandwich. When we have the opportunity to actually talk to each other without someone else repeatedly shouting, "Mama, mama, mama, mama," sometimes we catch up with each other in the hot tub. Believe it or not, you can say, "Would you like to... (and insert just about any word)... in the hot tub?" My answer is almost 100% of the time going to be yes whether it is: do you want to go over our tax statements or drink a glass of wine in the hot tub? So when Kim asked me at lunch time, of course I said yes.

This time the question was a little bit different, "Aren't you going to ask me why I carried up that old box of cassette tapes?" Kim asked. I had been floating on my back, daydreaming as I gazed at the cotton ball clouds. Sitting myself up I stared at her, clueless about the conversation we were having.

"What?" I responded.

"The tapes," She smiled, "Didn't you wonder why I carried them up from the basement?"

"Umm," was all I could say. In truth, I hadn't even noticed... maybe I'm not as astute as I pride myself to be.

"I've been reading this book and the main character has this old Trans Am," Kim's eyes became illuminated as she told the story. "His old car has a tape deck so he gets out his high school tapes when he takes the car out for a ride. It's totally awesome. After I read the story I thought about our truck having a tape deck and decided to dig my old cassette tapes out from under the spare bed downstairs." You could tell by the excited look on her face that she was just thrilled with the idea.

"Yeah, that's cool," I said, trying to sound more enthused than I really was. "Which ones did you bring up?"

Because we were raised in different parts of the country, Kim and I had very different tastes in music during our high school years. I was a complete alterna-chick, listening to Kate Bush, The Dead Milkmen, and Cure. Kim was raised in a suburb of Chicago and was totally into the pop side of rhythm and blues, something I showed very little interest in.

"Well I brought up Klymaxx, Guy, Ralph Tresvant from New Edition," she looked up and I was laughing hysterically. "I also have Price, The Time, and The Pointer Sisters!" You could tell that she couldn't wait to jump in the truck and start singing at the top of her lungs. "What?"

"It's just so funny, I never had any of those tapes even though we were in high school at the same time," I laughed.

"Maybe I just had better taste in music," Kim said as she went on to discuss another subject.

My lunch break was finally over and I had to make my way back to the office. I couldn't help but laugh as I thought of what the two of us were doing at that same exact moment: I was heading back to work to help heal the world from the inside out, Kim, on the other hand was riding around doing the Neutron Dance!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Going Home

You never know when an ordinary day is going to turn extraordinary. Yesterday was that day for me. I had a long, tedious day at the office, followed by a delicious dinner that I practically inhaled in order to spend a few quick moments with my daughter before she went to bed, and then I was off to praise band practice at the church. To say that I had little left to give is a major understatement. By that point in the day it is all I can do to just show up, go through the drumming motions, and drag myself to bed when it is all over. Fortunately, yesterday, something else was forcing me to pay a little more attention.

As I was sitting on my drum stool, waiting for the rest of the praise team to get their microphones and amplifiers from squeaking and squealing, I noticed a petite, white haired older lady standing with the choir director. Her hair was the color of the snow and she gripped her choir folder nervously as she gazed at the woman speaking to her.

"You are going to fit in just fine," the director said to her. "It just seems a little intense right now because we are getting ready for the choral competition in a few weeks. Stick in there, you are going to love it and we love you." The woman seemed unconvinced as she rolled her shoulders in, looking downward as she stepped down from the choir loft.

"Well the Praise Team always needs more singers if you are willing to get here at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday mornings," I said to her, hoping to lighten her mood a little. Her face lit up as she walked over to me, explaining that after holding down two jobs for over forty years she did not want to ever have to intentionally wake before 10 a.m..

"I completely understand. Every Sunday, when I really want to stay tucked in nice and warm under the covers, the only thing that gets me up is the thought that it is time to praise Jesus," I said with a laugh. "The voice in my head says, 'Get out of bed you lazy bum!'... and I always do, but it is hard." Those few seconds of sharing allowed her to open up about missing her home in New Jersey because her husband was still there.

"Your husband is still living in New Jersey while you moved down here?" I asked, confused as to why after being married for 63 years that living separately would be even be an option.

"No, he died last year," she tearfully said. "So he is still there and I am here. I just want to go home." My heart broke for the woman as she relived her moments with him; telling me their story: how she had taken care of him while he had been sick the last twenty years and how she worked two jobs to be able to put their daughter through school. "His last day," she said, "he wanted to take a shower. He could barely stand on his own and was legally blind. I said no, it was too late, I would just clean him up in the bathroom." The woman turned and looked away for a moment.

"When I was done he got up and walked to the bedroom. He didn't say one word to me, just kept moving. I told him to stop and let me help him," her voice quivered. "When I got to the bedroom he was looking up into the corner of the ceiling with his arms outstretched and the next second he fell to the floor. I thought he was joking and threatened to call 911 if he didn't help me get him up onto the bed, but he said nothing. At first I couldn't believe it was happening, not like this, not now. After shaking him for a few minutes he still laid there limp, not moving, so I called for help and when the police arrived they pronounced him dead."

I tried to not let my jaw drop as I listened her story. "You mean to tell me you witnessed your husband with his arms outstretched as he was being taken into heaven?" I was completely in awe and holding back my own tears.

"I just can't believe he didn't even say anything to me," she said, obviously still drowning in grief, sorrow, and self pity. She still seemed too wrapped up in the pain of losing her husband to realize how powerful an event she had the privilege of witnessing: God reaching down and pulling the spirit into heaven. I don't judge her because I can't understand the kind of intense sadness that accompanies that level of loss. But all I could think of was how many people fear death, just that unknown feeling of what actually happens: is it painful or terrifying? Am I heading upstairs or downstairs? Will I be ready to leave the people I love? But this woman got to see what actually happens... her husband reaching up his arms like a child wanting to be picked up and his spirit leaving his body to be with the Lord. I can't imagine anything more comforting or soothing than knowing for sure that is what happens when you die. You are in fact going home.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Green tea for me? There's no way... please make it a triple espresso!

Yesterday my friend proudly boasted that she had kicked the coffee habit and was now healthily enjoying green tea every morning. I was happy for her, wondering if I would ever be able to even contemplate such a drastic measure. She must have caught me rolling my eyes.

"What?" she laughed.

"It's just funny because there is no way I could even consider giving up morning caffeine until Senia Mae is about eighteen and I am retired. With the amount of effort I have to put into everyday and my lack of sleep over the past six years, a day without coffee would be physiologically impossible," I said. "I am certain I would drop dead before the end of twenty four hours." I'm not being overly dramatic, either. Some mornings it is all I can do to get the child dressed and out of the house.

The alarm buzzed the other morning as I slammed the snooze button for the third time. Please tell me I'm dreaming and it's still the middle of the night, I thought to myself. Although I tuck my daughter into her own bed every night, she often ends up pancaked to my side after spending most of the evening encroaching on my sleeping space, leaving me hot flashing and sandwiched into the 12 inch pocket between her and Kim. That is rarely a restful sleep. When it is time to gently nudge her awake all I hear is this squeaky little moan, "Momma, nooooooooooooooo," as she rolls over to face the other direction.

"It's time to get up for school."

"I don't want to go to school today," Senia Mae mumbles, barely moving her lips.

"Maybe if you stayed in your own bed you would sleep better," I joke.

"But I miss you so much in the night time," she says as she wraps her legs around my midriff, arms around my shoulders and covers my face in gentle kisses. I am trying to enjoy her innocent affection while being aware that we have to be dressed, ready, and out of the house in forty five minutes. Yes, that should be plenty of time, I know, but Senia Mae is very unfocused in the mornings. Some would even say we have a dilly dally-er.

After I sent her to her room to dress in the clothes that were already laid out, I had to check on her three times. The first time she was naked and back up in her bunk bed playing with her cat. I politely asked her to get dressed before I ran back to the kitchen to make her lunch. The second time I caught her sitting on the floor of her closet pulling out clothes for Naked Baby, her favorite doll. I demand a dressed child more firmly this time before I throw on something suitable to wear for the car ride to school. When I come in the third time and she is only wearing her underpants while looking through her bookshelf I raise my voice to get full attention.

"Senia Mae we're going to be late for school... get dressed NOW!" The power in my tone grabs her attention as I point my finger, feeling like the parent in Dr. Seuss' Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now? I really hate to have to use the Mom voice but sometimes it feels like its my only weapon. Eventually she is clothed and heads into the bathroom. As she is sitting on the potty I instruct her to make sure she brushes her teeth while she is still in the bathroom. At least we can attempt to multi-task.

"Well that should be edible," Senia Mae says as I am turning towards the door.

"Edible?" I ask, stifling a giggle. "Do you know what that means?"

"No," she says, completely straight faced.

"Edible means something you can eat." Senia Mae laughs at her misunderstanding. "Are you looking for a different word, like obvious?"

"Yes, Momma, it should be obvious that I am going to brush my teeth while I am still in the bathroom." She said the words with such conviction now that she had the right word. How, during this chaotic morning, could I possibly think she could get off target?

I laughed as I hurried her to the bathroom sink, placing the toothbrush in her hand as I quickly combed the snarls out of her hair. By some act of God we made it to school on time, pulling in as the last car in the parent drop off line. Could a few sips of green tea light enough fire under me to get this family moving in the right direction or any direction for that matter? I don't think so! I am going to stick to mind stimulating coffee until I can get just a little more control over my own crazy herd.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mother's Little Helper

OK, I admit it, I am a terrible housekeeper. Although I can prepare a five course spread that looks like the Pioneer Woman herself just moved into my kitchen, the daily nuances of domestic science are still exactly that... A CHORE.

"I will gladly pay someone to do this work..." I say to Kim, dreading the laundry pile that needs folding."Why can't every house have a live in maid like Alice? Look how effortlessly the Brady house ran...and with six kids."

"Because you won't want to pay what someone would charge to remove your clothes from the end of the bed everyday," Kim says.

She is right, that is what I would consider an unnecessary expense, but after a full day of serving patients the last thing I want to do is come home and get right back to work. I don't need my slippers waiting at the front door and a glass of red wine next to my chair... well, that would be nice... but you get my point. All I want is a chance to sit down with my feet up.

To combat my own house cleaning inadequacy, I try to continuously throw in small efforts like swirling the toilet brush around the bowl after I flush. It helps keep the orange ring away. Senia Mae must have witnessed me do this because recently the toilet brush has gone from being naturally unsanitary (it does go in a toilet) to completely defiled.

The last few times I brushed the bowl I did notice some dried up pieces of paper on the bristles but thought nothing of it because I was already mentally tackling the next item on my never ending to do list. Yesterday I looked down from the throne and saw crusty brown remnants intricately woven throughout the once white and grey colored bristles. This is the part of parenting that gets a little... yicky.

"Senia Mae," I called out, trying to compose myself before she arrived in the bathroom. She bounded in, covered in her fleece footy pajamas, her face glowing and full of life. "Have you been trying to help Mama clean the toilet?"

"Yes," she said with a slight lisp. Her beaming expression indicated that she was mighty proud of herself for giving a helping hand... I didn't want to squash her spirit.

"I sure appreciate you helping clean the toilet... but there is one really important step you have to follow." I said carefully.

"What is it?" she asked innocently.

"Well, you have to make sure you flush all the stuff down the toilet BEFORE you use the toilet brush... or else it gets really dirty like this." I tried not to gag as I held the brush to show her.

"Oh, OK." she said.

"But thank you for being Mommy's little helper... I really appreciate it." I tried to put a positive spin on a disgusting lesson before she skipped off.

"Mama, I like to help you..." and she ran out the door, her little mind onto the next big thing.

As I placed the soiled toilet brush into a trash bag, hoping that we all wouldn't come down with a case of eColi, I said out loud, but mostly for myself to hear, "This is the EXACT reason this family needs PROFESSIONAL help!"