The End. The Beginning?

Is Sunday the end or the beginning of the week? It’s the first day on the calendar, but I always think of it as the end of the week.

When the baby woke from her nap this afternoon, I snatched her from her bed, changed her clothes, herded up the boys and off we went to the beach. My husband was at the church for the high school baccalaureate, so this was yet again a mother-only adventure.

I was disappointed to find the tide already coming back in, but we walked way out to the water anyway. Babygirl made a bee-line for the murky salt-water and might have walked it to her waist if I hadn’t stopped her. She does not want to hold my hand anymore.

I had forgotten about seaweed, though. That stuff is slippery and slimy! I worried that Babygirl would slip and cut her hands on the barnacles. The boys immediately wandered away, eyes downcast, searching for sea creatures. I was so thrilled to find a star-fish clinging to a rock (I think they are officially called Sea Stars, but they will always be star-fishes to me!). YoungestBoy placed it in his bucket, and eventually had a little sea community in his yellow plastic pail. He also had a hermit crab, a sea slug, a shrimp, a crab, a dead jellyfish, and a moon snail collar. Alas, we did not find the elusive moon snail, but we did find a collar, which reminds me of an old tire. The moon snail lays eggs and mixes them with sand and mucus and this material is shaped into a large upside-down funnel, like the kind my grandmother used to put homemade pickles into jars.

Boys at the beach.  Posted by Hello

We stayed for an hour, then finally, I coaxed the kids to return their creatures to the sea. The star-fish clung to the bottom of YoungestBoy’s bucket, so I had to pry each little star-fish arm free. YoungestBoy cradled it for awhile and finally let it go.

I took pictures to document that, yes, the children have had a family outing. They did not spend every moment of childhood watching television and playing Nintendo. I have proof.

Babygirl has begun helping me unload the dishwasher. She likes to take the silverware out and put them into the drawer. Unfortunately, she doesn’t care if they are dirty or clean, so the silverware situation is somewhat unsanitary at the moment. But at least she’s interested. My boys have never shown any interest in the dishwasher, other than the time they put regular dishwashing liquid into it and I had a sudsy flood in the kitchen.

Babygirl also has a new obsession with buckling things. She sits in her booster seat, buckles up and then wants to be unbuckled so she can buckle up again. When we arrive at our destination in the car, she wants to be unbuckled so she can buckle up. Today, when we arrived home, I unbuckled her quickly, like a magician doing a magic trick faster than the human eye can see. When she realized she was unbuckled and about to be removed from the carseat and the beloved buckles, she turned and clung to the side of her seat. I tugged on her, just like I had tugged on that stubborn little star-fish in the bucket. Finally, I got her unstuck–much to her outrage–and carried her inside. Another successful Adventure completed.

A Childhood Memory

One of my favorite childhood memories just came to mind.

When I was a child, we used to go out to eat at those buffet-type restaurants, especially on Sundays after church. We particularly loved Old Country Buffet because the dessert area featured an ice cream machine and you got to swirl the ice cream into your bowl all by yourself (a Big Deal when you are seven).

On this particular day, we sat in a booth. My sister, Harmony, brought her bowl of swirled ice cream back to the table and climbed into the booth, where she began to scoot on her knees, facing away from our table. She clutched her ice cream in her grimy little hands as she attempted to traverse the wide expanse of the plastic-leather seat. She faced the backs of our neighboring diners.

And then she lost her grip and dumped her ice cream down the back of the man at the next booth. He wore a suit. A suit with melting ice cream smeared on the back.

I have no further memory of that day, but I imagine my mother’s mortification and that man’s horror and my sister’s tear-stained face.

And it all makes me laugh.

See? I told you I was seven years old.

Me? Whine?

Today, the tide will be low. Very, very low. Lower than it’s been in the past 19 years. I wanted to take the kids to the beach to search for sea creatures. I checked the tide tables last night and the low tide is expected to occur at 2:00 p.m.

But YoungestBoy had his final baseball game this morning at 9:00 a.m.
And my husband had to work for a bit at church.
And then YoungestBoy had to go sign up for soccer.
And then my husband had to go to a funeral.
And Babygirl had to take a nap at 1:00 p.m.

I was feeling so whiny about missing the low tide. The big kids don’t even care about going. They’ve just been pestering me about going to a used video game store to buy Gameboy games. But I wanted to go! I wanted to find a moon snail and crabs and a tiny, little octopus. I want the children to remember sea spray on their faces and the salty stink of the shore and the sucking sound their shoes make in the rarely seen muck.

And wouldn’t you know it? At precisely 2:00 p.m., rain started to fall.

This rain is not a light, misty, foggy rain. This rain is a pelting, stinging, cold, steady downpour.

Tomorrow, the tide will be low again. Not as low, but low enough. We’ll try again. The moon snails will still be lurking just under the surface of the sand and the bottom of the sea will be exposed, ready for us to explore.

Mid-Life Crisis

In 1989, my dad died. He was 47. He died from malignant melanoma. Who knew that skin cancer could sneak through your body and lodge in your brain and decimate your liver and snuff out your life? He was diagnosed and four months later, he died.

He died in the bedroom we’d set up for him in the house he owned. My husband of two years and I had moved in with him in May of that year. He worked nights, we worked days and we were going to each benefit from this new living arrangement. Except that he was diagnosed with cancer the week before we moved in. He quit his job and puttered around the house most days.

When we moved in, he gave us the blue master bedroom and he claimed my old lavender bedroom for his own. That’s how it happened that he died in the room where I grew up.

I was 24 then. I’d been married for two years and during those two years, I’d worked at a law office while my husband earned his Master of Arts in Religion degree from Yale Divinity School. I adored the adventure of living in a new state, a new region, a new city. I walked the mile and a half to my new job, soaking in the sights and sounds of the city. But soon, I was bored by my job. I worked for a lawyer who’d just started her own private practice and I did not have enough work to do. I’d stare out the window at the three churches across the Green and I’d imagine my life, my Real Life, which I figured would start as soon as my husband finished school.

My co-worker, Leo, the paralegal in the office, would say in his Boston accent, “Don’t wish your life away,” because I was always wishing it were time to go home or wishing it were the weekend or wishing it were lunch-time. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Then my husband finished school and we moved back to Washington state and boy, did my Real Life begin with a vengeance. My dad died within 9 months. My sister started taking drugs and staying out all night dancing at raves. My husband couldn’t find a job, and when he did find work (at a bank), he was fired. I began working for a medical insurance company and again, I was bored. Don’t get me wrong. I was a great employee. But I was waiting for my real Real Life to start. I figured that would start as soon as we had a baby.

Um, no. No baby that is. From the very first month–I have journals that confirm this–from the very first month, I was panicked and pessimistic and glum. I somehow knew that I wouldn’t get pregnant. This underground knowledge, though, didn’t stop me from hoping each month, from imagining pregnancy symptoms each month and from crying hysterically every month when my period started.

And everyone–I mean, everyone was pregnant around me. Everyone from my married friends from college who were using birth control to my 17-year old sister’s schoolmate (who had an abortion) to the girl I went to high school with who got pregnant with twins on her honeymoon–everyone. I was the common denominator, a fertility goddess for everyone but myself.

I spent the year weeping. My husband was bewildered and lacked my sense of failure and urgency completely. All I wanted was a baby. I wanted to be pregnant, I wanted to be a mother. I wanted a family. That’s all.

I did think briefly about becoming a nurse and I even took a biology course at the local community college. But between my full-time job and helping my husband start a brand-new church, I just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm necessary. I wanted a baby. Period. It was like my own personal Hierarchy of Needs. Oxygen. Sleep. Food. Husband. Baby.

Over four years later, I sat wedged between two carseats when we took our newly adopted twins home. As we pulled in the driveway, I remember thinking, “What the hell have I done?”

And then, just to prove He has a sense of humor, God gave me my long-for pregnancy when the twins were almost four. YoungestBoy was born when I was 33, nearly ten years after I had first started trying to get pregnant, many years after the doctors told us it was “unlikely” that we’d ever conceive.

And then, to prove that He always gets the last laugh, God gave us Babygirl when YoungestBoy was almost five, just when I was started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the proof that life did, indeed, exist beyond my family room.

And because my Heirarchy of Needs has been met over the years, I sense this new urgency, this drive, this longing for more. But not more babies. My flashing “NO VACANCY” sign is up.

But I wonder if I’ll be more than this. Will I have a career? An accomplishment besides having all laundry finished? Will I someday go somewhere that a briefcase is necessary? Someplace that requires quiet precision, steady concentration and single-minded attention?

Or will I always be washing dishes and wearing capri pants and slippers and organizing Vacation Bible School while I’m wiping snotty noses and folding socks?

I guess this is my mid-life crisis. I am a mother. Now I want to be more. My dad died when he was 47. I’m 39. Time’s a-wasting.

Wow

I realized just now that Babygirl turned 21 months old yesterday. Where, please tell me, where did the time go?

Just a while ago, I heard her babbling and looked over to see her “reading” a Teletubbies book to DaycareKid. DaycareKid, typical boy, was too busy putting a pair of underwear on his head to notice. He has a horrible cold and while we were in the back yard, he blew a snot bubble that was bigger than his actual nose.

While in the back yard, I mowed the lawn and clipped ivy with giant scissor clippers that I just remembered we owned. I keep them in the front closet with the winter coats and my wedding dress so that the children don’t use them and accidentally cut their brother’s hands off.

Tonight is YoungestBoy’s last baseball game and my ever-vigilant husband already purchased snacks for the team. Yay, husband!

Last night, I was at the pool with my four kids and our friends’ three kids. We were standing on the grassy hill just outside the gate. Babygirl was running down the hill as fast as she could and the boys (and L., the outnumbered girl) were eating candy they bought from the new vending machines. The other kids’ dad was coming soon and we were just waiting around.

Then four people came heading alongside the tennis courts and towards the pool. They didn’t come from the parking lot, but on foot from the apartment complex that adjoins the pool property.

My immediate thought: They are not members.

My next thought: Shame on you. You just thought that because the two teenaged boys are black. You racist!

Then: I wonder if anyone will say anything. They are not members. They do not look like members. Gosh, I’m racist.

I watch the teen with corn-rowed hair and a tattoo covering his stomach try to convince the blond girl that the water was warm. Two boys, two girls. Not members. I was sure of it.

Finally, the lifeguard said, “Hey, are you guys members?”

I was too far away to hear the entire convesation, but the gist of it was, “What? Members? How much does that cost? You’re kidding! Four hundred dollars?”

The lifeguard says, “You can come here as a guest of a member, but otherwise, you can’t swim here.”

And then, the tattooed guy floated over to a clean-cut young dad who was swimming with his toddler. “Hey man, can I be your guest?”

Clean-Cut Dad looks him in the eye and says, “No. I don’t know you. How could you be my guest?”

I wanted to say, “Yeah, and besides that, it costs $5!” Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!

I apparently am actually seven years old inside.

But the little voice that talks inside my head is usually right. They were not members. And that actually didn’t have anything to do with their skin color.

At times like that, I realize that I live in a society where I’m afraid to say anything negative about a person of color, for fear that I will be perceived as a racist. If I were truly color-blind, I would have confronted those teenagers the second they approached the fenced pool. I don’t have any problem at all standing up to teenagers. Earlier in the pool, a tall, blond teen boy took my 11-year old’s goggles and refused to return them. Until, of course, I went over and demanded that he do so.

If he were black, that blond goggle-stealer, would I have bit my tongue? I don’t know. What I do know is that I seem to make greater allowances for people of color so as not to appear racist.

And are you racist if you are aware of the race of others? Or are you racist only if you discriminate? And is it discrimination to look the other way when you see a person of color breaking a rule?

The Fine Art of Complaining

Yesterday, I received a large envelope from Proctor & Gamble. Inside was a big, green envelope with a postage-paid return label on it and instructions to put the remaining product inside for examination.

Product? What product? The form letter added to my confusion. Then, I realized this was all about Secret. A few weeks back, I decided that my sticky underarms were just not satisfactory and that Secret’s new “sheer dry” formula was to blame. So I emailed them and complained. “I’ve been using Secret since I was a sweaty teenager,” I said, “and I hate your new formula. The original formula works, but not this improved formula.”

They emailed me back, advising me of the correct way to use deodorant. I ignored the condescending tone and gave my address as requested. That’s why I received the envelope yesterday, the coupon for a free deodorant and the request to return the old deodorant (which fortuntately, was still in the corner of the bathroom shelf).

So, hooray for Proctor & Gamble. Though, I remember an old urban legend from when I was a teenager about how Satan controlled the company and you could tell this by looking at the configuration of stars on the toothpaste tube. Look here. It wasn’t just my imagination!

I have an unexpected day “off” today without my daycare baby. He has a cold and his mother stayed home with him. I spent the morning sorting through toys. I have a big, black trash bag ready for Goodwill.

The sunshine has returned. Blue sky, warm air. Too bad the kids still have two weeks of school. I am so finished hounding them about homework and caring about spelling words. But don’t tell them.

Cutest Boy Ever


YoungestBoy, the summer of 2001, when all he wanted to do was swing, swing, swing.  Posted by Hello

Cute


Random Cute Picture of YoungestBoy Posted by Hello

I Could Have Been A Surgeon

I woke up this morning and felt my gold hoop earring under my fingers, near my pillow. I fingered my ear and sure enough, no earring. Then, I probed my other earlobe. No earring. Apparently, I had some kind of dream in the night in which I had to remove both earrings. I have no memory of this dream or action. Weird, huh?

Babygirl woke up with a runny nose today. Alas, we had to go to church anyway because I was in charge of leading the music. Despite her snottiness, she was fairly cheerful, unless, of course, someone said, “Hi Baby!” to her, in which case she buried her mucus-y nose in my shoulder.

Later in the afternoon, I took the kids to the pool. The sun actually shone and the rain stopped and despite a stiff breeze, the kids said, “It’s hot! Let’s go to the pool!” Babygirl was happy to go anywhere in the car. Lately, she wants to go places and do things.

YoungestBoy passed his swim test the second time he took it today. The first test today, he swam underwater nearly the whole way. Not good enough. He needed to do the crawlstroke, so he swam back to the rope (underwater) and then did a flailing crawlstroke back to the other end of the pool. The lifeguard looked dubious, but then said, “He wants to go off the diving board, doesn’t he?” I said, “Yes!” and he said, “Well, okay, but if he gets tired, tell him he has to get out.”

YoungestBoy said, “But mom, I never get tired!” Then he proceeded to jump off the diving board about twenty times in a row.

At 5:00 p.m., my husband arrived with hot dogs for the grill and the necessary accompaniments. (Chips, ketchup and mustard!) I took Babygirl home and left the boys under his care. They swam for another hour.

At home, Babygirl and I went in the back yard and she wandered around while I pulled a few weeds and trimmed some ivy.

When the kids came home, my husband mentioned that YoungestBoy’s swimming trunks were stuck to his . . . private parts. Oh no! This happened once last year and it was a pain, literally, to get it unstuck. Same swimming trunks, too. Last year, I figured it was a fluke. Apparently, I was sadly mistaken.

I went up to the bathroom to find my boy sitting in the warm tub water, swimming trunks still on. Upon closer examination, I discover that the delicate skin has somehow poked through the tiny mesh holes and is stuck in two places. Can everyone say a big “ouch”?

My first thought was lubricant. Unfortunately, I don’t even have baby oil in the house. I thought maybe hair serum would work–it’s greasy and slippery stuff designed to combat friz.

My baby and my husband are looking over my shoulder. My husband says, “Are you sure? The area is . . . well, sensitive, you know.” I decide to pour baby shampoo on it instead, though in hindsight, I’m not sure how I thought that would help. Poor kid is yelping whenever I tug on the mesh. I decide to cut off the swimming trunks, leaving just a square of mesh around the “area.”

First, hair shears. No. Not sharp enough. Then kitchen shears. Again, no. Not sharp enough. Finally, I resort to my sewing scissors. This works and I leave a small square of mesh fabric hanging off the end of his tiny little member.

Then, I think, Wait! Heat expands, cold contracts! Let’s put it in a bowl of ice water and see if the tissue shrinks. At this point, tissue is stuck in one single hole, but it pokes through like a little water balloon which has been stuck through a chainlink fence and then filled with water. Can we all pause and say, “ouch” again? Thank you.

So, I fill a small Rubbermaid measuring cup with cold water and an ice cube. I hold this chilly cup to his little willy and he flinches. If he could stand the frigidity, this might work. Alas, too cold and the little bubble of flesh remains stuck.

I pick up my sharp shears. I clip, I snip, I work slowly, painstakingly, one miniscule thread at a time. I realize I cannot cut the final edges or I’ll prick his, well, his skin. But I get very, very close. He wiggles the fabric and it completely frays, leaving him free of the strangling mesh.

We high-five and he hugs me and thanks me for saving his life. I say, “Well, even if it were cut, you wouldn’t die.” “I wouldn’t?” he says. This leads into an deep discussion of amputation and when it would and when it would not lead directly to death. He also makes me promise to always let him wear underpants under his swimming trunks. I promise and think to myself that I will write a scathing letter to Ocean Pacific and demand to know why they use mesh which can entrap a little boy’s, uh, little boy. If you know what I mean.

Saturday: A Quick Summary

Wake up. Hear stomping, then bedroom door opening. Feign sleep. Continue to drool, arm flung over face. Hear husband say, “Yes?” and YoungestBoy answer, “Can I have a Go-gurt?”

Doze. Wake up when husband’s arm bumps my hip. “Hey,” he says, “You should shower before the baby wakes up.” I pry one eye open and squint to see the clock. It’s 7:08 a.m. Whatever happened to sleeping in on Saturdays?

I roll over and deny that morning has arrived, despite the evidence of children downstairs. STOMP! SLAM! THWACK!

I hate mornings. Have I mentioned that lately?

I shower while my husband lies in bed. This is clearly wrong, but I cannot figure out why it still happens. I should be the last person in bed. I am the person who makes the bed. It makes sense, right?

I have time to rotate the laundry (washer into dryer, dryer into basket) and fold a load of clothes. I pick up an enormous pile of cards from the floor where I’d ignored them last night. Then I get Babygirl from her room. She greets me, saying, “Sheet. Mommy. Sheet. Chair. Mommy.”

My husband showers and goes to work until noon. I tell the kids we can go to the pancake breakfast at the pool–it’s opening day–and that motivates them to shower and get dressed. I give YoungestBoy a bath and wash his hair because he has a birthday party to attend.

I feed Babygirl oatmeal. Coax her into clothes. Wrap the birthday present. Clean the litter box. Feed the kittens. Fill out the pool membership application and write a check. Get a snack for Babygirl. We finally leave the house at about 10:15 a.m.

We arrive at the pool and it’s sprinkling. No matter. We aren’t made of brown sugar. We won’t melt. We eat pancakes and eggs and sausage. The rain stops. The kids decide to roll down the grassy hill. Except Babygirl. She runs.

We leave at 11:00. I have to pick up Babygirl and carry her to the car while she shrieks and kicks and cries. She likes the pool, I guess. We are home a short time and my husband arrives home, too. I realize that I don’t need to make lunch because the boys just ate pancakes. I change YoungestBoy’s clothes and at 11:45 a.m., take him to the birthday party. Mr. Over-Protective Husband advises me to check out the party house. “Be sure there aren’t three ‘uncles’ lurking around,” he says. I roll my eyes.

Noon. I drop off YoungestBoy at the party.
12:30 p.m. I go upstairs to nurse Babygirl before her nap.
1:00 p.m. Mission accomplished. Babygirl is asleep. Husband is also asleep. I tell him I’m going to the grocery store. I have a short list, a handful of coupons and I shop fast. By 1:45 p.m., I’m back in the car, heading to pick up YoungestBoy from the party. He had a great time! His good little group of buddies were at the party. He was red-cheeked and happy.
2:00 p.m. Arrive home. Tell husband I’m taking the boys to the pool to swim. He looks at me like I’ve clearly lost my mind. But the boys want to swim, even though it is sprinkling off and on and about 60 degrees. The water is heated, after all.

At the pool, TwinBoyB immediately takes the swimming test–he swims the length of the pool to the satisfaction of the life guards. YoungestBoy wants to dive off the diving board, so I tell him he needs to take the swimming test, too. He seems tired and bobs a lot in the water and once comes to the edge of the pool–I don’t think he actually realized he was being tested. When he got to the edge of the pool, the lifeguard (a new girl with freckles) shook her head “no.” He didn’t pass! This is the boy who can dive 10 feet to the bottom of the pool to retrieve a penny, the kid who swims like a fish.

He was crushed. He swam back under the rope, though, and continued his underwater acrobatics. He practiced swimming with his arms whirling above his head. Then, while playing a chasing kind of game with his brothers, he bashed his head into the side of the pool and gave himself a lump on the back of the head. He came out of the pool, crying and I wrapped him in towels and hugs while tears rolled down his face. He was upset about the lump, but also upset about not passing the swim test. “Mom,” he said, “I feel like I’m a bad person. I will never pass the test!”

I watched TwinBoy, too, with an aching heart. He is not a good swimmer. In fact, he doesn’t really swim. His arms and legs are just not in sync with his brain and he cannot propel himself through the water. Besides that, he does not like dunking his head under water. He comes up sputtering every time. But he wants to play water-basketball with the other boys and the hoop is just on the other side of the rope. I watched him hugging a basketball under water, floating on it, and gazing at the kids on the other side of the rope. Seldom do you see such a stark picture of a kid who is not included. Usually, the rope is invisible. I hope he can learn to swim this summer. He did shoot a few baskets, but when the ball doesn’t float back within reach, he can’t retrieve it.

After YoungestBoy calmed down and decided to go back into the pool, I sat shivering because my jeans were wet from hugging soaking him. I tried to read an old Vanity Fair magazine (I’m so behind–this one was never opened, from December 2003), but mostly I watched the kids swim.

We left at 3:45 p.m. and the second I got home, Babygirl ran to me and insisted that I hold her. My husband left to run errands (pick up dry-cleaning, wash car) and I felt so annoyed! Even when he’s home–when he’s not working–he never seems to stick around! So, I had to cook dinner with a nosy, pesky toddler in my arms and underfoot. We had tacos–hard and soft–and I had to laugh secretly because my boys raved about the “meat” I cooked. It wasn’t meat at all, but a ground beef substitute called “Morningstar Grillers.”

My husband returned while we were eating dinner. Then he mowed the lawn. Finally finished, he decided to take Babygirl for a car-ride so I could practice music for church tomorrow. I sat at the piano and went over the songs while the kids make a big racket behind me.

Then TwinBoyA said, “Mom! Mom!” I turned and looked and there was YoungestBoy, sitting upright, legs crossed, head completely drooping sideways. Sound asleep. I took two pictures and then my husband returned and laid him in TwinBoyA’s bed. He slept until 8:30 p.m., and was awake and off-kilter until 10:30 p.m.

Now, this is what you call really, really tired.  Posted by Hello

My husband and I watched “The Restaurant” on television. I read the newest Vanity Fair while I watched television. My husband was teasing me about it because this is the issue that features Brad Pitt on the cover and much ado was made about nothing (his naked photos inside). I told him, “I only read this for the articles.” At the moment, I was reading about Stephen Hawking, eminent scientist who is trying to figure out the origin and purpose of the universe.

And now, it’s past 11 p.m.

Everyone is asleep. I never finished all the dinner dishes, nor have I put all my music for tomorrow in a notebook. I have no idea what I’ll wear to church tomorrow, but right now–right now–I’m going to put a chicken in the crockpot and go to sleep.

Saturday sure ain’t what it used to be. (I remember when it was a day of leisure. Now, that memory seems like a lie.)

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