The first day of seventh grade

My youngest child started seventh grade today.  Her alarm woke her.  She wore a brown skirt and black blouse she chose herself.  She insisted that I put a purple streak in her blond hair.  She rejected breakfast but accepted a Zone bar and a Jamwich for later.  She packed up her school supplies in her backpack and waited for her carpool ride to pick her up.

I went back to bed.

I remember the old days when I bought packs of crayons and pink erasers and chose outfits for the first day and walked kids to their classrooms.  This child–my youngest child–is so self sufficient she needs me only for rides and money.  I’m not sure exactly how to feel about this so I choose to feel great.  I did this!  I created this self sufficient being.

(Only, she pretty much created herself.  She’s had a mind of her own since she was three months old and decided that no one but Mommy would be allowed to hold her.  Ever.)

My middle boy is a senior in high school.

A photo posted by Melodee (@still_melodee) on


The oldest boys are busily taking classes at community colleges nearby.

Do you remember how the days dragged along when you were a kid living at home, obeying your parents and following their rules and eating the dinners they provided?  Now, that seems like a lifetime folded up and put into glove box, like some kind of weird shrinking universe that folds in upon itself.

I know that this stretch of time  while the kids still live here and ask me what’s for dinner will be a hazy memory to them one day soon.  It will no longer be everything, but just a paragraph in a life’s story.  They are so eager to grow up and be gone.

Meanwhile, I have to figure out what to cook for dinner.  I’m still trying to catch up on the laundry that piled up while my daughter and I were in the Pacific Northwest for a week.  (A whirlwind of a trip!)  I meant to brush the dog a few days ago, but can’t find her brush and for that reason, the dog fur tumbleweeds are worse than usual.

 

Lagging

When you stop long enough, it’s hard to catch up.  The train has long since left the station and it takes extra effort to sprint down the tracks and jump on board.  Who has the energy?

That’s why I have been silent here.  I stopped writing long enough to lose the rhythm.  So tonight, I jump back in with a stilted update.  (For all two and a half of my regular readers.)

In a few days, I’m taking a trip with my daughter to our old home state.  We are looking forward to the experience for a bunch of reasons, including but not limited to seeing our old house, getting our hair done by our former stylist, visiting Mt. Rainier, seeing family and friends and (for me) eating at Taco Time.  I’m also looking forward to cool nights.

But, of course, to get ready for a trip–especially when we are leaving behind more than half the family–a lot of preparation is required.  I want to get the laundry caught up and the fridge cleaned out and the trash taken out.  Et cetera.  I need to clean the guinea pig cage and get kitty litter.

And because life gets all jumbled up sometimes, we are having company over on Sunday afternoon.  This explains the carpet cleaner and picture hanging and lists of food to prepare.  I have a lot to do.  I’m already sweaty just thinking about it.

Crowd in my son’s haircut and job interview . . . transportation to another son’s job . . . soccer practices and the fact that my son starts his senior year while we are still gone (WHO WILL TAKE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL PHOTO?!) . . . it’s just a lot to consider.  I’d like to consider just taking a nap, really.

I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to arrange coverage for my own job responsibilities.

I need a pedicure.

By the way, don’t you hate it when you run out of checks?  I use them so infrequently that I thought they’d never run out.  But they did.

So there.  We’re all caught up and forgiven for the silence.  And now, let’s try to keep up, shall we?

 

Present tense

Tomorrow morning, my daughter returns from her first experience at sleep-away camp.  She left with her church youth group last Sunday.  And while those in charge advised against campers bringing telephones, I allowed her to take one and for that reason, I’ve heard from her a few times this week via text message.  (Stuff like, “uh, I broke a bracket on my braces!”)

It’s been so quiet without her here.  I spent the first two days giving her room a thorough cleaning and then organizing it (with her advanced knowledge and permission).  In the past year she has turned away from her beloved stuff animals and fully embraced friends and everything that comes along with middle school.  She’s outgrown not just her old clothes, but childhood itself.  Time to put it away.

Now the relics of her childhood are stacked in the garage.  Some will be packed away to save but lots of it will be sold in a garage sale.  It seems another lifetime when I carefully packed a million stuffed animals into boxes when we moved but it was only four years ago.  That little girl is gone and in her place I have an eye-rolling, opinionated almost-teenager.  (It’s mostly awesome.)

When I try to imagine four years into the future, I’m blinded by the brightness.  It’s like looking into the sun.

So I blink and look back.  The past four years hover like a mirage, close but out of reach.  Time is a fun-house mirror, always distorted.

All the more reason to focus on today.  What else is there?

Say what?

I’ve started to think of my brain as a somewhat leaky bucket.  In the old days, my memories came with an iron-clad guarantee.  If something happened, I remembered.  If I remembered something, it happened.

Now?  I have no idea what’s happening.

Today I was riding in the car with my husband.  He has a new obsession with podcasts since I showed him how easy it is to subscribe to them with an iPhone.  Now whenever we go anywhere, a podcast plays.  Fine.

Out of nowhere, I said to him, “Hey, have you ever thought about doing your own podcast?” and he said, “Yes, and I already told you that.  In fact, I told you I asked  ____________ if he would do one with me.  I tell you things and you say ‘uh-huh’ but you aren’t really paying attention.”  And so on.

Now, here’s the thing.  Back in the day, I would have argued that point.  I would have insisted that he said no such thing.  I would certainly have remembered that, right?

Now, doubt sloshes around in my leaky bucket.  Is he forgetful or am I?  Did he only think he told me something or did I just pretend to listen and fail to hear it?  Did I forget?  Did he forget?

My hunch–completely undependable like a ladder missing rungs–is that he thinks he tells me things but doesn’t actually tell me.  This is my working theory, my blame-shifting explanation.  He is, after all, four years older than me.  He talks to a lot more people than I do.  I think he tells other people things that he thinks he told me.  Most days I literally don’t talk to anyone other than my kids and him.  (Sad but true.)  Wouldn’t I remember even the idle chit-chat between us?

Then again, maybe it’s me.  Maybe I am losing my mind, one sharp corner at a time.  Maybe I am just not paying attention.  Maybe I am sleepwalking through conversations and when I wake, the information vanishes like a crazy dream.

I don’t know.

I prefer to think that he’s wrong and that I am right.  However, at this point, your guess is as good as mine.

(Just don’t tell me that I really am losing my mind.  I’d rather not know.)

(But ask me what my childhood telephone number was and to sing the Brady Bunch theme and I’m your girl.)

What a week

Today Grace and I went to the neighboring town and picked up a new (to us) bed for her room.  Months ago, she told me she wanted a daybed and even sent me a picture of the one she wanted (at Ikea).  I told her I belonged to a Facebook garage sale group and that I’d watch for a similar bed.

Last night, the exact bed she wanted appeared for half the price of the new one at Ikea–and it included a mattress as well (no small expense).  I was lucky enough to be first in line and so today found us standing in a stranger’s bedroom, puzzling over how to disassemble the thing.  It only took us about thirty minutes to take it apart enough to get it out of the bedroom and into my mini-van.  The other mom and I did all the work ourselves, causing me to declare, “Girl Power!” as we lifted the mattress through her house.

The hard work came when I had to put the thing back together.  The worst part was when my helper’s grip failed and the back board fell onto both my bare feet like a guillotine.  Except my toes were not sliced off.  The tops of each foot were just bruised.  Nice.  But I got that bed put together with only one injury and no cursing in front of the children.    (Here’s the bed, but not the exact one we bought): HEMNES Daybed frame with 3 drawers IKEA Four functions - sofa, single bed, double bed and storage solution.

A couple of days ago, my husband woke up in the middle of the night with a stomach virus.  He went through twenty-four hours of misery.  I only hope my excessive hand-washing protects me from catching it.

On Monday this week, my poor daughter got her orthodontic appliance, a metal torture device affixed to her back molars with glue.  Each day I have to turn it with a “key” that doesn’t at all look like a key.  The device will spread open her palate so her teeth can be moved into alignment.  She could barely talk on Monday and could not eat at all.  On Tuesday, her speech was better but she could only eat what she didn’t have to chew.  Now, she’s adjusting.  And I only  have to turn that key 19 more times.

This was our first full week of summer vacation from school.  I only hope the upcoming weeks are less exciting.

Hickory dickory dock

My gas tank is empty and yet we have a few miles to go before school is finally out for the summer next Wednesday.  (My son was out of school a week or so ago.)  My daughter has half-days this week and other than a presentation tomorrow afternoon, she’s pretty much done in terms of productivity.  (Next week:  a field trip to see a movie in the movie theater down the road . . . the next day, a beach day.  This week:  lots of yearbook passing for signatures, plenty of party-planing  for the summer, etc.)

Fortunately, she’s distracted by the presentation and hasn’t been able to obsess and worry about the fact that she’s having a front tooth pulled tomorrow as part of her orthodontic treatment.  This is a girl who burst into tears when she got a vaccination recently, so I can only imagine the histrionics that will accompany the actual needle in her gums tomorrow.  (It’s a small tooth, smaller than normal and I’m told it will ‘slip out’ but I don’t really and truly believe anything a dentist says, no offense if you’re a dentist.)

(I’m not a big fan of the dentist so I’m trying to keep this underlying dread I have to myself.)

I will be glad when the whole thing is over.  And by “thing,” I mean the dental appointment.

I will also be glad when school is over.

Her summer break will end on August 24 and if I know my time-travel, August 24 will arrive in approximately six days.  I don’t know how it happens, I don’t know why, but I do know that time ticks quicker the older I get and summer-time ticks away the quickest of all.

 

 

Groundhog Day: June Edition

Two months ago on a Saturday morning, I stood fuming in a very long line to register my daughter for recreational soccer.  I had already driven around the enormous parking lot twice to even find a spot to park. Then I joined a herd of parents in a bunched up line to do a task that we should have been able to do online but instead required us to stand in an actual line so we could register our kids.

I’m fuming again, remembering.  A hundred of us milled around, checking the time on our phones, waiting to hand our registration form and a check to the lady who sat on the other side of a table.  So inefficient. Such a waste of time.  So annoying.

While waiting in that ridiculous line, I received a text message from a co-worker letting me know that the employee for the next shift had not shown up.

One of my job duties is to ensure almost around-the-clock monitoring of a website.  I handle the scheduling and oversee a few employees.  And for some reason, I had failed to note an employee’s vacation request.  I hurried home and worked the six hour shift on a Saturday afternoon and vowed to create more sticky notes or something.  Nothing* is more unpleasant than unexpectedly spending a Saturday working because of your own idiocy.

Seriously, with a Google calendar on my phone, an actual paper desk calendar and a variety of Post-it notes, things like this should not fall between the cracks.  Ever.

And yet.  Today I was still in bed (past 10:00 AM which seems late to you but I bet you get to bed before 2 AM, am I right?) and a text message roused me.  (I had been awake and had sort of gone back to sleep because why not?)

Today, June 6 became my personal Groundhog Day.  Months ago, the same employee requested a vacation day for today.  I approved it, typed it into a Word document, printed it out, and set it aside.  (At some point, my daughter spilled a glass of water on it, but it was still legible.  No excuses.)  But . . . no Post-it note, no notation on my paper calendar, no Google calendar alert.   I completely and utterly forgot to plan coverage for today.

What is wrong with me?  I’ll tell you this.  In March, when I last took note of this vacation request, June 6 seemed light years away, too far to even truly consider.  I didn’t even have a shelf in my brain upon which to set this thought.

Surprise!

Three months sped by in a psychedelic flash and suddenly, I’m spending my Saturday afternoon squinting at my computer screen and feeling like a dunce for for failing to hammer down this thing in March.

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future . . . and I actually do want to fly like an eagle to the sea.

 

 

 

*Actually, I can think of quite a few things more unpleasant.  The Norovirus, for instance.

Chopped: Untelevised Mom Edition

 

Cooking dinner is the bane of my existence.

I have a somewhat adversarial relationship with food in the first place.

(Even stating that I have a “relationship” with food is problematic, am I right?)

Food is supposed to be fuel and yet, I sound like I’m in an unhealthy dating relationship with it, as if food were an abusive boyfriend who alternately insists I eat a plate of raw carrots and celery for dinner or tells me I’m fat while we share a big bowl of barbecued potato chips or prepares me fudge frosted brownies with sprinkles on top and encourages me to lick the plate.  You may know what I mean.

Anyway.  I try not to fry food and eat hamburgers without buns and choose salads.  But . . . brownies.  It’s complicated.

And then I have five other people to feed every day.

Here are some of the restrictions I juggle as I consider what to cook for dinner.

Person one:  Doesn’t like vegetables, isn’t thrilled about pasta, has a sensitive tummy which can’t handle beef or pork or cheese or milk.  Likes buttered bread with meals but doesn’t care for biscuits or scones or muffins or cookies.  Prefers rice with a sauce.  Only iceberg lettuce.  No tomatoes.  Likes fried food.  DOES NOT LIKE BURRITOS.  (This makes no sense to me.)

Person two:  Likes pasta of any kind but not a lot of meat.  Eats some vegetables.  Not terribly picky.  Used to refuse pizza and spaghetti because of the red sauces.   Loves canned tuna with fervor.

Person three:  Drinks gallons of milk.  Loves my potato salad except tonight because the pickles were “too crunchy.”  Can detect the slightest difference in spices or texture and does not like change at all.  If one spice is altered, refuses to eat dish.  Does not like baked potatoes because they are “too much work.”  No vegetables and will only eat salad if there are croutons–and not just any croutons, but the “right” croutons and ranch dressing.  Does not like fruit or sweets.

Person four:  Just became a vegetarian.  Will eat vegetables and any baked good.  Likes coffee.  Usually eats dessert first. Will eat pasta but not casseroles or anything spicy.   Hates rice.

Person five:  Refuses to eat chicken cooked in the CrockPot.  Confided that his friend’s mom’s mashed potatoes are a lot better than mine because they are creamier.  Eats Taco Bell food but refuses my homemade soft tacos.  Most likely to ask, “What’s for dinner?”

I feel like those descriptions don’t fully express the difficulties.  Or maybe I’m just a wimp.

Here’s an example.  Something like eggs and bacon for dinner should be simple except that some like their bacon really crisp and some like it softer.  Some like fried eggs over easy and some like them over hard.  Some want them scrambled with lots of pepper.  Some hate pepper.  Personally, I want a lot of vegetables in an omelette but no one else really digs the vegetables or omelette thing.  Some want the egg cooked in a circle cut out of bread (“egg toast”).  To toast or not to toast?  That is the question.  I spend an hour cooking eggs in various styles and burning my hand on bacon grease.

They are a diverse bunch and they will not eat celery with peanut butter or yogurt with granola or a giant chef’s salad.  So if I want those things, first I make things they will eat because God forbid they eat raw vegetables or whole grains.

Oh sure.  I should insist that this crew learn to cook dinner and take turns.  I should have put the food before them and insisted that they eat it.  I should have introduced spinach before apple juice and I should have always offered slivered raw carrots and celery with hummus at every meal.

But I didn’t.  (Plus, I married a guy who grew up eating southern cooking and I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where we did not and he’s, uh, particular about food and I am not his mother, so there.)

So each afternoon, I wonder what I should make for dinner when all I really want to do is go for a walk, eat a big salad and read a novel.  And I don’t actually want help in the kitchen because I prefer to work alone–and stop trying to solve my problems or point out my inconsistencies because I just want to complain, is that a crime?  If so, please lock me up because then, I will not have to cook dinner.

(I do actually like to cook.  I just don’t like to cook DINNER EVERY NIGHT.  It’s so relentless and boring and time-consuming and thankless and repetitive and besides that, I’ve been cooking dinner for twenty-seven years, going on twenty-eight and isn’t that long enough?)

To answer your inevitable question . . . I have no idea what’s for dinner.  Isn’t it enough that I came up with dinner yesterday?

Who says you don’t use math after high school?

I am reading a memoir in which the author tells us the year and her age during that year.  I squint one eye and calculate her birth year and then subtract that from the year I was born so I can figure out who is older and by how much.

Lately, I do this every time I come across someone’s year of birth, which is surprisingly often.  It’s as if I’m trying to sort people into chronological order so I can figure out where to slide myself into the row.

Am I older than her?  If so, by how much?  Is he older than me?  A lot?

The even worse question is, “am I old enough to be her mother?”  Sometimes when I realize that I am theoretically old enough to be the parent of a thirty year old, it gives me pause.  Some people my age–and younger even–have become grandparents.  What is happening?

Is everyone else doing math in their heads all the time?  Or is this just a weird thing that I can’t stop doing?  I came across the date 1970 yesterday and thought, “I was five years old.”  I heard about Beau Biden dying of brain cancer at age 46 and I realize I’m four years old than him.  My sons are 22; when I was 22, I got married.

I line up the numbers, organize them, subtract and add.  I constantly slide myself into the timeline.

Not that it makes any difference, really.  My eyebrows are going gray, one hair at a time.  (Current white hair count, right eyebrow only, three.  Three eyebrow hairs are white.)  I’m losing pigment and blurring into invisibility.   There’s no way to stop this process, short of plastic surgery and Photoshop, and even that only changes your perception, not my reality.

1989 . . . the year my dad died and my husband and I moved twice and I worked at an insurance company and grew my hair really long and I was 24.

2001 . . . a space odyssey (ha) and we lived in a small town by the Puget Sound where the twins attended third grade and my baby boy was three . . . we had a big earthquake and I was 36.

1976 . . . the bicentennial and I had a “flag” shirt I loved so much; I was in fifth grade and Nadia Comaneci got a perfect 10 and won a gold medal in the Olympics (she was born in 1961, so she’s four years older than me) and I was 11 and my parents were divorced.

You’d think by fifty, I’d know exactly how I fit into the world, but strangely enough, I have the sense of cutting into line while trying to figure out what, exactly, everyone is lining up to do.  Where does the line begin?  Where does it end?  Am I older or younger than you?

And why do I feel so bitter about my mottled skin and drooping eyelids and the fact that I am older than the President of the United States* ?  (Although, I’d like to note that Oprah is 11 years older than me and so is Anne Lamott, but that doesn’t stop me from being older than Reese Witherspoon–she was born when I was 11–and Taylor Swift, who is young enough to be my daughter.)

At least I can still do math.

 

 

*A reader pointed out that I am actually younger that the President of the United States.  Hooray!  My husband and the President are the same age, in case you were wondering.

On the bright side

If you’re following along, you know that yesterday I rented a Rug Doctor© and cleaned my living room carpet in anticipation of having some people over today.

Today, I returned the Rug Doctor© and picked up a few groceries at the store while I was there.  I returned home to finish preparing for company.  Somehow, overnight, every single plate and bowl appeared in the kitchen with dried-on sticky guck on them.  (Since when is “guck” not a word, Spell-Check?)

But I didn’t start in the kitchen.  I started at the front door, so first I moved all the furniture back into place in the living room.  Then I removed dog hair from the furniture and tidied up.  I worked in concentric circles, until I had narrowed down the mess to the kitchen.  (This took an unanticipated and shockingly long time.)

That meant I had finished cleaning the guinea pig cage and did Poop Patrol in the back yard and the Swiffering was done.  Then, I faced the towers of plates and dried on guck.

I took a drought-friendly shower and drove to Costco for provisions.  Miraculously, I had enough time to drop food off at home before heading to school to pick up the carpool kids.

All that and the afternoon and evening did not turn out as expected.  For whatever reasons, my friend’s friends weren’t able to show up, so the two of us sat and talked and watched her delightful and talkative two-year old.  He threw rocks into my fountain and picked a million tiny flowers and ate grapes for the first time in his life.  He walked my big dog until the big dog nearly pulled him over in her hurry to reach me.  He played with Little People and their vehicles and threw a ball.  He called the guinea pig a “dog” and the picture of a pig on the fridge a “rabbit.”

(Two year olds are so fun, especially when you are not directly responsible for their happiness and welfare.)

I would have done it all again.  The Rug Doctor, the guinea pig cage, the scalding dish water.  For one thing, my house is cleaner than usual and all that stuff needed to be done.

But beyond that, it was so great to talk to Carrien.  She is a remarkable person and I’m amazed that a blog friend turned into a real-life friend . . .  furthermore, it’s amazing to me that she’s living this brave, gigantic life in Thailand with her kids and husband.  She’s a superhero but in disguise as a mom of five who is changing the world in a remarkable way.

 

 

 

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