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Birthdays

Today was my dad’s birthday and tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday. He would have been 64. She’ll be four.

They never met, which is one of the great tragedies of my life, because my dad died three weeks after he turned 47. I was 24 at the time and while I understood intellectually that he was too young to die, I only now understand, at age 41, how young, exactly, 47 is.

My dad would have been a gruff old guy, I suppose, but I know that under his exterior was the heart of a man who laughed with such gusto that he could have been a professional sit-com attender. Actors would have paid him money to hear his laughter at the right spots. He had the biggest laugh I’ve ever heard.

The dad-shaped hole he left in my life has not healed. If anything, it has frayed a little, become worn with age.

But in the long years since he’s been gone, my heart has filled up with the love of the ones who came to stay: my husband, my twin boys, my miracle son, and my unexpected daughter who was born on Labor Day, which continues to amuse me.

I’m baking cupcakes and I bought balloons and we’ll swim and play at her pool party tomorrow. And only once or twice will I think of her grandpa who never knew her. I wish they their lives would have overlapped, even a bit.

Loss and love, intertwined, intersect as September 1 ends and September 2 begins.

Happy birthday, Dad. Happy birthday, Baby Girl. I wish you had met.

(Last year, same thoughts. Different words.)

The First Day of School

Somewhere in the dark hours between David Letterman and dawn, I realized two things:

1)  I needed another blanket on the bed because the air coming in the open window was cold; and

2)  I have a cold. 

Yesterday, I sneezed and sneezed, but I attributed all that snottiness to allergies, which sometimes strike me in the fall.  This, despite the fact that one of my sons has had a cold all week (he’s just now better) and one fought off a cold (had a two-day headache, but is now well). 

So, it was really delightful to wake up super early to fry bacon.  Yes, a delight.  Truly.

To wake up the teenage boys, I used all weapons in my arsenal.  I started frying bacon.  I turned on the overhead light in their room.  I turned the radio on, loud. 

After twenty minutes of this, I sent my husband in to wake them.  They appeared at the table, remarkably conscious.

My 8-year old looked half-asleep, so I sent him up for a shower while the scrambled eggs were cooking. 

And here was the verdict on the breakfast (peach smoothies, cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon and toast): 

“I don’t really like how the eggs taste.”

“The bacon is too crispy.”

“This smoothie is too sweet.”

Tomorrow?  Pancakes.  Much less work and a tried and true favorite.  (And I use a real recipe, not a mix.  Be impressed, be very impressed–not that the children will be.  I used to make pancakes every morning when my twins were in kindergarten until the day one of them said, “Pancakes again?!” in a voice of disgust.  That’s when they started getting cold cereal.)

The Night Before School

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  I have my third grader’s backpack filled with supplies, including four dozen pencils and a box of tissues.  Anymore, it seems we practically have to send in the inventory of Target when school begins.

I returned from the store at 10:30 p.m. and faced a dirty kitchen before I could even begin packing the backpack.  I finished putting the groceries away, loading the dishwasher and sorting through supplies by 11:15 p.m. 

Then I sat at the computer to check out what my teenagers’ schedule will be tomorrow and lo and behold (and gasp!), the formerly perfect online school shows that my students have no active courses, even though they have had active courses loaded for the past two months.

So, I guess we’ll stumble through tomorrow, which is fitting.  Every year since we started K12.com, our starting date has been chaotic–usually, our supplies are late.  This year, we have supplies but the internet portion is screwy.  Sigh.

Maybe, a miracle will occur and tomorrow, the computer portion will be fine and dandy.

Meanwhile, my secret weapon for waking up the kids is in the refrigerator:  bacon.  I hope it works.

Rise and Shine (Or Not)

When our twins were babies, they woke before the sun rose.  Every morning, without fail, they were awake between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  If we kept them up later at night, they woke up at the exact same time.  We never used alarm clocks because our twins were alarm clocks stuck on “too early.”

I am not a morning person, so this was a nightmare for me.  For a long time, my husband would get up with them while I slept a little bit longer, then showered, because when you have twin babies, you really don’t have a moment to yourself.  And I would die if I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning.

The early mornings were the worst.  I would say, “Just wait until they’re teenagers!  I’m going to be vacuuming in their rooms at 6:00 a.m. for revenge!”

But the years passed and now they are teenagers.  And I’m sleeping at 6:00 a.m.!  And 7:00 a.m.!  They are sleeping at 8:00 a.m.  And 9:00 a.m.!  Earlier this week, I was downstairs at 7:30 a.m. (getting breakfast for my almost-4 year old) and I heard the boys’ alarm beeping.  It beeps for an hour before it shuts off.

It beeped the whole hour and they did not stir, not even to push the “snooze” button. 

They sleep like the dead, these teenagers.  This is the first summer that they have slept in (until 10:00 a.m. some mornings).  Which has been glorious in many ways. 

But now, it’s past 11:30 p.m. and they are awake.  (I broke up a fight about a blanket just a few minutes ago.)  They will be sleeping at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, I am sure of it.

And then Thursdays?  They have to be up and ready for school-at-home by 8:30 a.m.  (My third-grader has to leave the house by 8:10 a.m. . . . and his go-to-sleep time has shifted, too–I heard him in the bathroom at 11:00 p.m.!  He’s been sleeping in until 9:00 a.m., too, a remarkably late time for him!)

All the parenting magazines and advice columns say to gradually shift the waking up time of your kids so they are back on track by the time school starts.  I tried, I did, really.  But alas, Thursday morning they’ll be waking up after a rather short night because I have not been able to get anyone to fall asleep at a decent hour.

I have a plan, though.  Bacon.  I’m going to fry bacon at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning and if I know teenage boys, they’ll be at the table, inhaling the greasy goodness of bacon faster before I can even say “Time to wake up!”

At least that’s my plan.

By the way, over the summer, each of my kids grew a whole inch.  And my son’s voice changed in the past two weeks.  I’m living in a fast-forwarded life and I think I might be missing the good parts.  Why is there no rewind button?

Time Ticking and Slipping (Away)

Two more days of freedom. 

Then school begins.

Four more days of having a three year old living in my house.

Then, she turns four.

My knuckles look bony and my hand-skin is saggy.  I’m turning into someone’s grandmother, only my kids are too young to procreate.  My timing’s clearly off.  First things first.  I have to finish raising these kids into decent grown-ups.  (Some days, I’m not up to the task.)

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll actually have something to say.  Or not.

Survivor Hype is Ridiculous

I must be missing something, because I can’t understand the fuss about the upcoming “Survivor.”  The plan, you see, is to divide the players into four teams, according to their races. 

And this is newsworthy

Last season, or maybe the season before, they divided the teams according to age and sex:  old women, young women, old men, young men.  I didn’t notice any outcry then.  Isn’t that sexist and ageist?  Is that any different that dividing teams according to race?

Would anyone care if people were divided according to height and eye color?  Or shoe size and ear-lobe shape?  Or weight and chin-size?

In today’s ultra-sensitive world, we are not supposed to notice any differences between people, especially in their appearances.  But good grief!  Sorting people into teams according to their race is hardly “segregation,” if you ask me, unless it was also segregation to sort them according to sex and age.

Here’s a newsflash:  “Survivor” is a game.  I sure hope that the media reaction (hysteria, always!) isn’t a reflection of real people in our country, who hopefully have more sense than the media implies. 

If anything, the new season of “Survivor” will show us all that race doesn’t matter at all (duh!) when you’re sleeping in the rain on a sandy beach for thirty-nine days trying to outlast, outwit and outplay fifteen other game-players. 

People To Whom I Owe Apologies

1)  My daughter, for my incoherent, sleepy bitterness at 7 a.m.  I was, perhaps, a little snippy.  I hope this is not your first memory.  Please stop waking up so early.  

2)  My sons, for my annoyance at 10 a.m.  I don’t know why the three of you must leave empty, sticky glasses on every surface in our house, but you do.  And when one of those glasses spills water on the floor, I know!  You don’t notice it and I shouldn’t yell.  And I am really sorry I used that old tired, “I am not the maid around here!” line.

3)  That pregnant lady in a wheelchair (a wheelchair!  what is wrong with me?) who wouldn’t move from her spot right in front of the picked-over jeans display at Gap Kids.  I was kind to you, but underneath my grim smile, I was thinking, “GET OUT OF THE WAY!”  I am the physical manifestation of impatience.

4)  Those two ladies hogging the tights display at Gap Kids.  Please.  Move.  Over.  My kid is holding my place in line and I just . . . oh.

5)  My kid.  Hey!  Sorry I spoke sharply to you, but I when I said, “Hey, stand here and hold my place in line,” I actually meant for you to tell me when it was our turn.  I’ve turned into one of those hissing mothers.  I’m sorry.

6)  My daughter.  I know.  You thought:  mall = merry-go-round.  I don’t know why, but I’m sorry.  The mall just meant clothes today.  And those jeans, the ones for $39.50?  Um, no.  Sorry.

7)  The marketing people behind the Gap empire.  People!  I criticized you in my mind, composing sentences describing the clothes you are selling in your store.  I used words (in my head) like, “Rumpled, clothes from 7th grade–in 1977–that we wore, scribbled on with ballpoint pens, washed until they frayed, picked at with nail-clippers, crumpled into a ball (unwashed), stuffed in a black plastic garbage bag and just recently discovered.”  WHAT ARE YOU SELLING, GAP PEOPLE?  Did you find my clothes from seventh grade?  Oh!  I would never buy those old ratty clothes!  (Except one pair of jeans for my son and two shirts.  But that’s it.)

8)  The pretzel guy and the donut guy.  You could not have been slower if you’d been trained by a comatose turtle.  I might have rolled my eyes at your lack of speed.  I apologize.  I should re-frame your slothlike movements as “deliberateness” and perhaps I wouldn’t be so toe-tapping, finger-drumming, heavy-sighing annoyed.  

9)  My sons, who apparently really were sick, which explains why you kept sagging as if your bones had suddenly turned to pipe cleaners.  I wish you’d told me you weren’t feeling well enough to shop (in one store at one mall).  Sorry I dragged you into that horror known as the mall.

10)  The driver of that little black car.  Hey!  You were in my blind spot!  Maybe you could NOT DRIVE WHERE I CAN’T SEE YOU.  I apologize for calling you an “idiot driver” when you beeped your horn at me so I wouldn’t bash into you.

11)  The bicyclist on the blue bike who took the corner too fast and slid into the road.  I probably shouldn’t have honked my horn at you in that “YOU ARE SO STUPID” sort of way, but really!  My heart almost stopped!  I could have killed you and then who’d be sorry now?!  Watch where you’re going!

So, I’m sorry, all of you.  When I’m irritable like this, you need to just stay out of my way.  Or shoot me.

Mood Swings

I had a delightful day off.  First of all, I shopped for school clothes for my 8-year old son (who responded to this news:  “Why can’t I just wear my old clothes?”).  Then, I saw “Little Miss Sunshine.”  I am not sure if my hormones influenced my reaction, but I laughed and I cried and then I laughed again and then I cried some more. 

Afterwards, I went to Value Village and Goodwill.  At Goodwill, I scored my best buy of the day, a brand new Pampered Chef stoneware deep-dish baker for $1.99. 

My boys are suffering from colds, so when I got home, I took my daughter to the park by the beach, which was mobbed with people attending a 10-year high school reunion.  My daughter threw rocks and sticks in the water for awhile, but then she wanted to play on the playground. 

We immediately encountered three children, two wild-eyed boys and a sneering girl, who went up the slide and tried to climb down the bars while my daughter was climbing up, so I said to them in my firm, mother’s voice, “Slides are for going down.”  They looked at me with that annoying, “You’re not the boss of me!” look and I wanted to pinch them in that spot under their arms and make them sorry for being belligerent and snotty and unsupervised.

Instead, I said to my daughter in a voice loud enough for the hooligans to hear, “Let’s go to another park where there aren’t so many naughty children.”   (Which we did.)

Yes, I am exactly six years old and I will not share a playground with rule-breakers and brats.  And please, tell me where were the parents of these children who have no respect for adults?  Probably peeing in the bushes and throwing beer bottles into the Puget Sound.

Signed,

PMSing near Seattle

Those Irresponsible Cats!

Here is what you do not want to hear first thing in the morning:  “Mom, the cats left the freezer door open all night.”

“The cats?” I said, not hiding the incredulity in my voice.

“Yeah, it must have been them, because, uh, it wasn’t me.” 

Me, thinking.  “Hmmm.  Didn’t you get a pizza out of the freezer for me last night?”

“Oh, yeah, but I told my brother to close it.  I said, ‘Hey, close the freezer!’” 

Only, his brother did not.  Nor did he.  (They blamed the cats, though, so you have to give them points for creativity.) 

So, today?  Meatballs, a lot of meatballs, are in the crockpot, cooking with barbecue sauce slathered on them.  And in the refrigerator?  Halibut thawing!  And for breakfast?  Waffles, waffles for everyone because, hello, did you see the thirty thawed waffles?  (Costco, how I love your super-sized packages, until, of course, they thaw in a household accident.)

Lucky for me, the freezer was rather empty.  I did have to toss two unopened packages of Skinny Cow ice cream bars, purchased on sale.  And quite a few melted popsicles, a giant package of vegetables, two pie crusts and a couple of frozen dinners.  The whole chicken and packages of salmon and cod were still pretty much frozen so I moved them to the small freezer in the kitchen.

So, I spent my morning letting the freezer defrost completely, wiped it out and now it’s cold and ready for new frozen goods.  See?  I am industrious!  I deserve a homemaking award.  (Just move aside that laundry basket on the couch and step over those toys and let me wipe off that sticky stuff on the table and by all means, come in, come in!)

If the kids didn’t leave the freezer door open from time to time, I’d probably never get around to defrosting that freezer.

This afternoon, my daughter is leaving (again!) with her little friend.  They’re going to run through the sprinkler at his house all afternoon.  While she’s gone, I’m going to clean her room, using my secret weapon, the large, black trash bag.  It must be large to handle the load, and it must be black to hide the stash!  Otherwise, children will reclaim items they haven’t touched in approximately 67 weeks.

Now, I’m going back to my Diet Coke and the newspaper so I can mentally prepare for the bedroom cleansing.

Stream of Consciousness, Kind of

And not only has my baby girl turned into a big girl who wants to leave my house without me, one of my thirteen year old son’s voice has begun to change!  How does this happen so suddenly?  One minute, he was four years old, the next, when he stands, he looks straight into my eyes–soon he’ll be peering down at me–and his little boy voice is gone.

Really, I can’t stand it.

On the other hand, I believe that all this means that one day, I will have more than approximately three uninterrupted minutes to myself.

*  *  *

Halfway through the day, I decided to sort through the bookshelf in my 8-year old’s room.  That pastime turned into a major overhaul of all his toys and books and containers.  I received a label maker recently as a thank-you gift and so, with great delight, I labeled all the drawers in a stack of plastic bins I bought him recently.  “Legos,” “Playmobil,” “Tinkertoys,” “Nintendo Games,” etc. 

I hauled three large plastic garbage bags full of toys, books, shoes and clothes out of there, plus a bag of trash and a stack of empty Rubbermaid bins. 

Meanwhile, the rest of my house collapsed upon itself and the kitchen sink filled with dishes.  If you stopped by, you would think I am the Worst Housekeeper Ever.  But, then, I’d show you his bedroom and you would bow down and worship at my label-making feet.  (Wait.  Did my feet make labels?  No matter, it’s late and you know what I mean.)

I took my daughter to the swimming pool tonight.  Only one other child swam.  The high temperature today was about seventy degrees, and even though the pools are heated, she was cold, so we didn’t stay long.

We returned home in time to watch “Big Brother.”  I exercised while I watched, then when it ended, I headed to the grocery store (at 9 p.m.) for some provisions.  We were out of milk and I ended up spending a hundred bucks on other stuff we needed, too. 

Only a week until the children are back in school.  Darkness comes so much earlier now . . . I wistfully bid summer farewell and look forward to fall with some bitter-sweetness.  The years with my children felt infinite at one time . . . now, I hear them ticking away, moment by moment, rushing like a stream heading downhill.

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