To Mothers and beyond

So last year I mentioned how this day should include lots of people.  Not just people with children and not only our own mothers.  Because I think nurturing and connecting happens on so many levels. People that care mother Earth, for animals, and other people’s kids.  All of it.

But today is a day that I’m always tempted to feel sorry for myself. It marks 24 years since the last time I spoke with my mother.  Three days after Mother’s Day she died.  Let the pity party begin. The corsages, the special brunches, the family gatherings used to make me wanna puke. If you had a mom “F” you.  If you were happy, who cares?

But somewhere within my soul is the notion my mom spent most of the years she was here instilling in me-being grateful for what you have.  Sounds easy, but college graduations, weddings, and the birth of children are very important occasions.  Moms should be there, right? The reality is the fact that I graduated from college is nothing short of a miracle.  Somehow an incredible man actually asked me to marry him!  Icing on the cake?  I somehow managed to bring two healthy little boys into the world. Yep…be grateful for what ya got!  Even if it doesn’t happen according to your plan.

Yes. I think it is great we pay homage to our mothers.  I really do.  Frankly, we should do it every day. I’m not gonna turn away mushy cards, boxes of chocolates, and breakfast in bed. But in my life there are a ton of people who deserve much gratitude.  It makes no difference that they are not family. And don’t tell me, “Blood is thicker than water.”  Adopted children take exception to that.  Mud is thicker than water too and do you know what that crap does to dress shoes, sink drains, and carpet?

Trust me, I wish my mother were here with me more than I can put into words.  But I like to think she played a hand at making sure so many other people were here to pitch in.  So I salute you all.  For being like a mom, a sister, and a friend-thank you!

Now get your corsage on and hurry to brunch before the all the free champagne is gone!

 

The Morning After

207800-250I waited as long as I could to shower. And goodness knows I needed a good soaking. I still had layers of camera-ready makeup caked on.  And despite half a dozen applications of antiperspirant, the stage lights and my nerves had created the perfect condition for sweat. I was ripe.

Although I looked a mess and it was time to get back to normal, things were moving (or at least I was) in slow motion. It  was sort of like the day after prom.  Or New Year’s Day.  Without the hangover part. Our Listen to Your Mother event was still so fresh in my mind I didn’t want to move.  Not even for a shower.  I feared the memories along with the makeup and the day old sweat would fade. 

I didn’t want to forget the blue bracelet the Lisa so selflessly gave me. It was similar to the blue of Alec’s shirt. Or Bonnie saying something comical during our group shot. And the last minute nod that Alexandra gave, reassuring us we’d be great and really wouldn’t fall apart on stage. Posing in the mirror and nearly peeing in my dress seeing Rachel scrunch up her face. How Lindsay got excited seeing her husband enter the theater lobby. Afterward, Darlin Nikki telling me her father had tears in his eyes after hearing her story. Pamela’s curls. Kathryn explaining why she loved the color red. Seeing Tara’s mother, so youthful herself and so proud of her daughter.  Asking Liysa more than a few times when we had to be ready for photos. Rochelle giving me a look that always makes me want to burst out laughing.  All the colors of Rebecca’s tattoo. Feeling Amie walk past on stage, knowing she made it through her story as we all cried. Kalia…looking so grown with a smile that was reminiscent of her grandmother’s. Strangers saying what a wonderful job we all did.  Friends hugging and congratulating us. The sound of peanuts winding down the chutes at AJ Bombers. The goodbye hugs and promises of future gatherings.

 Reluctantly, I made my way to the shower, still foolishly thinking that as the dirt disappeared so too would all of those gestures, words, sights and sounds.   Then I heard a familiar cackle in my mind. It was Jennifer’s laugh.  That’s when I knew those memories, our stories-our connections weren’t going anywhere. It’s also when I knew I was way overdue for that shower.

 

Do I Look LIke A Mom In This?

207800-250I remember before I had kids I would see women 10 years after high school or college. After they’d had children. I used to wonder, what happened to her? They looked-different.  It was as if their hair wasn’t kept up and they’d put on weight.  They looked tired.  How naive. I get it now. Part of it is age. But after you have kids alot of things change. We look like (gasp) Moms!

 My parents were hippies.  Despite my pleading, begging, and guilt tripping, they still refused to buy me Barbie.  They didn’t want me to think that beauty meant big boobs and blonde hair.  So instead, I had a misfit cast of dolls: a black doll whose perfectly sheened afro I insisted on combing out.  Then there was the Bionic Woman, who was like 2 inches taller than the other dolls, one arm donning a panel which housed her bionic parts.  And rounding out the group was Skipper.  Flat chested, stick straight hair, and legs that wouldn’t bend no matter what. What a pool party that was. 

So why do I, do any of us, get caught up in conventional beauty, continually asking, Do I look like a mom in this? 

Maybe, because our physical selves have …shifted a bit. Which alters our ego…perhaps? Like shoe shopping at one of those warehouses.  Seriously, some of those places have gotta have 3000 pair of shoes.  If you go there and can’t find shoes you either A. really didn’t look, or B. your feet are a size15. But seriously, a strappy stiletto?  So not gonna happen. My ankle fat would ooze outta that like cookie dough forced through a strainer. And size does matter.  I’m a 10. On one foot. Mysteriously, since childbirth my left foot is an eleven.  Shoe shopping is about as painful as finding a two-piece bathing suit.  The same size never fits both parts, and something’s always hanging out. 

Way before muffin tops became fashionable, cute was all we needed for jeans.  Now? It’s all about the comfort, but we don’t dare get anything that could fall into the category of, well, you know-MOM PANTS! 

There are plenty of styles to pick from.   There are the ones that have the mock rips and acid wash on them.  I just can’t bring myself to pay for something torn and void of color.  I’m pretty certain you can get the same effect with a lawn mower and half a bottle of bleach.  

Skinny jeans?   Worst fashion concept ever! Those should come with a disclaimer that reads, “THESE JEANS ARE SKINNY, WHEREAS YOU MAY NOT BE.”    Skinny jeans are only good for kicking off yeast infections, cutting off your circulation mid-calf, and lowering sperm counts. 

Oooohhh bedazzled jeans are tempting aren’t they, with their blingy decorations adorning the pockets.  But those faux rhinestones and bright embroidery are like a magnet for people’s eyes.  And my butt really doesn’t need that kind of attention. Sadly, it’s just not that nice.

 Ahhh…then there’s Gloria Vanderbilt.  Her son is Anderson Cooper, and who doesn’t love him, right? Okay, so that brand hasn’t really been big since the 80’s but the tag on the front reads “LOOK SLIMMER”.  Now we’re talking.  I mean, they don’t say you’ll look skinny, but instead “slimmer”.  That just sounds realistic.  Like a nice way of saying “You won’t look great, but you won’t look so bad either.”

 It probably doesn’t help that the dressing rooms are often filled with girls half your age, chatting away about their bodies. “Look at your boobs! I’m so jealous-they’re perfect.  I hate you!”  I hate you too and I didn’t even get to see your boobs. Nothing makes you question your boobs more than being surrounded by three mirrors to give you that full frontal view.

 Here is how I imagine my dolls conversing today:

“I am so glad I stopped relaxing my hair.  My curls are awesome!”

“Yes they are! Did I tell you I’m the spokeswoman for People with Bionic Parts?  People look up to me for more than one reason now!”

“That is so cool. Yeah, I don’t care if my knees don’t bend.  I just joke and say, ‘At least I won’t have to get them replaced!’ ”

“You all inspire me.  I finally stopped getting upset about blonde jokes.  I mean if I am so stupid how come I was able to build an empire in my name with 200 variations of me?  A pool, a car…a townhouse.  Right?”

 

Do I look like a Mom?  What does a Mom look like? Do we look a bit different than before we had kids?  Maybe.  But we are moms. So wear what you want even if you have to use  Spanx.  And a special bra.  And possibly some industrial style hosiery and duct tape.  But embrace the skin you’re in; stretch marks, arthritic knees, and saggy boobs. They’re all part of the fabric of who and what we are as we maneuver the journey of motherhood.  Just remember looking like a mom is hard work.  Heck yeah, you do look like a Mom.

 

 

 

Mom Traffic Controller

Many mothers choose to stay home with their children for a few years and then return to working outside the home. The problem is that after staying home for a while, there’s a gap in the resume.

To fill that gap, I suggest moms just need to take a hard look at all they do. The list is endless: launderer, referee, chef, chauffeur, counselor, triage nurse. Where am I going with this? Not sure you even want to know, but since I’m this far into it, I’m adding Traffic Controller to my list of duties and responsibilities. And most often this traffic directing takes place in the bathroom.

Still with me? Great. So six years ago my husband and I bought our current house. We convinced ourselves it was an upgrade from our previous home. First, we no longer have to take a ladder to the outside of the house in spring and fall to change the storm windows. That required more dexterity and physical strength than we signed up for. And there was generally a bit of cussing involved. The second thing we now have is central air. Ahhhhh, cold air right here in our house. We don’t have to sit through awful movies or wander around in circles in department stores to soak up their AC. We’ve got our own.

But what we didn’t think through was the fact that our house is a “one holer.” Yes. A one holer. A house with one bathroom. We probably didn’t give this much thought when we bought the house because our boys weren’t completely potty trained when we moved in. But still, what were we thinking: that they’d stay in diapers into adulthood? I believe it was more. I think we believed on some level that Oh we could totally put a toilet in the basement. No problem.

Here’s the rub. There are 24 hours in a day. We have four toilet-using people in the house. This gives each of each 6 hours of time to use the bathroom. Yet every morning without fail, everyone needs to use the toilet—at the same time!

Here’s how this works.

“I gotta go—bad!”

“Sorry, you should have woke up earlier.”

“You’ve been in there 20 minutes!”

“Have not.”

“Have too.”

Enter Mom the Traffic Controller.

“Okay. Get up. Let your brother go.”

“I’m pooping!”

“Have you actually pooped yet?”

“No, but I’m trying,”

“And you. Do you need to go number one or number two?”

“Number one.”

Okay. Get up for 10 seconds and let your brother pee!”

“Not fair!”

“No it’s not. But get up because there’s a line.”

“That’s okay Mom. Can I just go in the sink?”

“WHAT? For the love of, just go while your brother takes a quick break!”

“Thanks. You can sit back down.”

And just when all should be well…

“He peed on the seat!”

They still sell ice cream in those gallon buckets, right? Hmmm. I think I could use one or two of those. Perfect. I can add Problem Solver to my resume too.

Moms Gotta Have Fun Too!

There are people you connect with. And for different reasons. Usually you have something in common. Maybe you met in college. Or you see each other at the dog park. Or it’s the one person at work that doesn’t make you wish you’d quit your job. When you send the kids off to school you add to that social network.

And it’s interesting to see those relationships evolve. I look back as a mom of a k5er (no, it’s not a word, but it works) and see how things were. We had difficulty remembering each other’s names. We often just referred to people as, “that one kid’s Mom.” We were nervous parents, worried about if our kids would learn their ABC’s and share their toys. Most of our conversations were in passing in the hallways or parking lot. Fast forward five years. Same parents. Same kids. Different dynamics. We used to set up play dates with the kids. We’ve learned it’s just as important to set up dates without the kids.

A couple weeks ago I went to a Birthday party for one of the other Moms. Yeah. Just a little different. Instead of rushing to our cars like we do for the morning drop-off, we rushed to give each other those big oh-my-goodness-I can-hardly-breath kinda hugs. We tell our kids to not run around at restaurants. That night we had our own dance floor going! Our kids have been told that alcohol isn’t what it’ cracked up to be. After having my fill of adult beverages, I heard someone say it was time to do shots. Nope- not the kind for the flu.

When we first met our conversations were limited to where to the niceties like how our kids liked school and would we be going to the fall dance. Now we share deeper stuff. Like divorce. Job loss. Frustration with trying to be the best parent possible. It’s grown up stuff.

It’s ironic that we want our kids to make friends. But along the way we do too. But be open to invitations and keep your adult sippy cup handy. “That one kid’s Mom” could be your lifeline, dance partner, and friend all in one.

Do We Really Want It All?

You’ve likely heard the question, “Can we really have it all?”  You know, husband, career, kids, social life.

Before I had it all I remember thinking, how hard could it be? I’d have a house, a husband, a very grown up job and kids.  Yeah.  Okay.  So it would all be perfect if the house were self-cleaning. And if the husband didn’t have to put in so many hours at work.  And the kids never got colds.  And the grass was always that perfect shade of green. And if someone would kindly do all the grocery shopping.  And cooking.  And the stocks we bought were worth something. 

 Sure.  We can have it all. You bet.  But it’s like a smorgasbord.  And it’s all there for you to choose from.  Fancy cheeses, filet Mignon, mashed potatoes, green beans, pork’n beans, those weanie things on toothpicks, bacon wrapped chestnuts, carrots, broccoli (pass), salmon, sweet corn, corn on the cob, bread, gobs of butter.  Even dessert. It’s all there.  You can eat it all.  Go ahead eat it.  Yeah.  How are you feeling now?  It’s like a bad Alka Selzer commercial.  You take too much and you will combust.

It’s not far from how it is with life.  Sometimes there’s just too much going on.  But we feel compelled to do it all.  Why?  Maybe it’s just our nature.  Frankly, the older I get I feel that perfection is overrated.  Maybe I’m just getting lazy.  Or tired.  Or realistic. 

The other day a friend of mine found out she mailed a card that was supposed to have a check in it. She accidentally forgot to put the check in before mailing the card. In an email to me she said, “Can you tell I’m coming unglued?”

 I was actually relieved to read that email and was thinking,  I’m not the only one.  Last week I threw a check away.  Yes.  In the garbage.   It took me sixty seconds to grab the check from the pile of mail.  Then 20 more searching through the garbage can for it. I was busy going through the mail and listening to voice messages and thinking about making dinner and just absent mindedly threw the check in the garbage.

Another friend who has five children and is married told me she needs a couple hours a week just to think.  She said she needs to go somewhere like  Dunkin Donuts just to gather her thoughts. I was thinking even somewhere not to have to think sounded good.  And yeah if donuts are served-even better!

 I think as women we tend to think it’s all gotta get done and we have to be the ones to do it.  But if we are always doing it, no one else has the chance to.  So yeah. we can have it all.  And maybe even at one time.  But just a heads up….something might end up in the garbage.

Am I Supposed to Understand This Stuff?

You can ask most anyone who knows me, and not one of them would describe me as a road scholar. Or a genius. When people describe me I have a feeling the intellectual part is skipped. I have five older brothers who were extremely smart, so I figure my parents even if only from a statistical point were okay with that.

But I got by. I had to. My parents were both teachers so there was no hiding from the whole school thing. They went to every conference. They met with every teacher. They got the mail before I did. And they opened every report card before I could get my hands on them.

My oldest son is in Third grade I am blown away by the homework. The amount, the subject matter. Even the binder. It is clearly the largest size binder that is known to man. It broke (literally broke) my son’s new backpack. And at week four the seam of the big red binder is already coming apart.

Our kids really like school and I thank the school Gods for that. I didn’t hate school, but for means it was a means of socialization. But this homework stuff brings me back to being a kid in school. I just sit there and think, How the hell do you do this? When did they start teaching kids to add left to right (not numbers in rows top to bottom)? I can’t add like that! I didn’t get a memo or see it on the ticker on the cable news show. I don’t even want to know how things have changed with division ad multiplication.

That big red binder contains everything the kids need each day. Inside the big red binder is a calendar. Every day the kids copy their assignments off the smart board. That’s very impressive as I still can’t convince anyone to put the toilet seat down.

Besides the calendar, the big red binder is home to a notebook, four see-through file folders, and two pocket folders. The problem is I have no idea what each is for. Yes, they are labeled. I just don’t get if Fluency is under Grammar or Reading. Does the take home folder mean the stuff stays at home forever, or can we toss it out? Even more pathetic is the fact that I went to parent orientation to figure it out! Now I just call other parents in a panic to see how far off course I am.

I’m trying to figure out if I should categorize my homework difficulty under memory loss or admit that there are some things I never understood well. Either way I have a big red binder I need to get real cozy with for a few months.

Scoot Mom Scoot!

Remember how easy it was to lose those pounds after having babies?  Yeah, me neither. But I am trying to get in shape.  And though he is well-meaning, it doesn’t help that my oldest is a total believer of every commercial he sees.  “Hey Mom look at this commercial…you can lose 10 pounds in two weeks.  Is that what you need?”   

So a friend from work mentioned this running program called From the Couch to 5K.  I was mainly intrigued by the couch part.  It’s basically  a graduated running program.  I’m certainly not trying to run a 5K. But I am trying to get off the couch more.

 Admittedly, I was embarrassed to start running.  It really isn’t a good visual.  In my younger years I had this great stride and was carefree.  Now I take small steps, and I’m nervous to step on something the wrong way and twist my ankle. I imagine my neighbors watching me from inside their home and trying to describe what they see.  “No honey, she’s not running. It’s more like a scoot.”

 But it’s cool because I found that there is this sort of runner’s respect other runner’s show me now.  Sort of like Harley riders.  Without the motorcycle.  And without the leather gear.  Okay okay.  What I mean is that other runners (I mean the ones that are really running- the non-scooters) make a point to give me a nod or say hello.  And whenever another runner acknowledges me all I can think is Cool! They think I’m one of them. 

 The other day 3 women were running in my direction. They were laughing and carrying on.  There I was hardly able to keep a steady breath, let alone speak.  Then one of them gave me a smile and a wave.  As much as I was ready to stop my run for the day I waited til they were out of my view before I came to a halt.  I didn’t want them thinking they’d wasted a wave and a hello on some second-rate runner.

 But what is really nice is the kids want to join me. They like to ride their bikes while Mommy scoots behind them.  Seeing as how I am unable to speak and run at the same time, I came up with hand signals for stop, slow down, keep going.  I probably need one for Mommy needs oxygen but I think they’ll figure that one out.

Some Rules Are Meant to Be Broken

We tell our kids lots of things. Life is full of do’s and don’ts.

We explain to our children that they should be proud of who they. They are to hold their head high and not hide their face.

Wearing appropriate clothing is a must. Nothing outrageous or inappropriate.

Our children have been taught the dangers of talking to strangers. They know not to go to a stranger’s house and never take gifts from them.

Playing in the dark not acceptable. It just doesn’t make sense. What’s to see?

Most of us have instilled a strong work ethic in our children. They have learned to work hard. Nothing is free.

We have explained to our kids that it isn’t nice to scare people. It’s just, well, scary.

And thank goodness for the dentists who back us up on the dangers of sugar. Simply said-sugar will make your teeth rot. We tell out kids the can practice on the first set, but after the second set comes in that’s it.

And just when we think we have the rules and do’s and don’ts covered, it’s Halloween and parents around the country find themselves having this conversation with their kids:
“Go cover your face and put on the craziest outfit you can find. Now head outside. Yes, I know it is dark. Don’t worry, none of the other hundreds of kids can see either. I understand the label says the material says flammable… just stay clear of the yards with fire pits and candles along the walkway. But do make sure to make really annoying and scary gestures along the way. And go to all the houses you can, even if you don’t know people and beg for candy. Lots of candy.”

We adjust our rules for lots of things, including Halloween. Of course we do. And after the little ghosts and goblins are in bed, it’s our jobs as parents to go through the bucket loads of candy they got. Each and every piece.

Their Mother Did What?

It’s easy to look at our own parents and think how badly they messed up. But really even at their worst did you ever consider suing them?

There are two adult children (twenty-three and twenty) who tried to sue their mother. Their claim? Emotional distress. That distress came from incidents in which the mother told her son when he was 7 that she was going to call the police if he didn’t buckle his seatbelt. And he also was upset that some of his Birthday cards did not contain cash or a check.

The younger sister apparently had it bad. Her mother once called her a t a homecoming party at midnight and told her to come home. It gets worse-this same mother refused to take her daughter to a car show.

I never thought I’d get hauled into court. I have however worried that my boys will get me on the Dr. Phil show. They’ll both be seated across from me, and Dr. Phil will be between us. One of the boys will refer back to their childhood and say, “Our Mom would get upset and tell us that when we grew up she was gonna come over to our house at 6:30 in the morning, pee in her adult diaper, and cry until we let her in to give her cereal.”

Dr. Phil would suck in his breath and have that 10 second pause for affect. Then his shiny head would turn to me, and in that signature Texan drawl Dr. Phil would ask, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Okay, so if my kids were truly going to take me to court for emotional distress I guess I should prepare my list. Well, I made Miles wear tennis shoes he decided he no longer liked. And they were brand named…poor thing. I told Maxon that hot dogs would no longer be suitable for breakfast. And being the meanie I am, I always insist they both wear helmets when bike riding and skateboarding. I am awful, I know. It’s shameful but I have been a stickler for brushing their teeth and taking vitamins. I can only imagine the lasting torment I bestowed upon them for demanding they wear hats and gloves in the winter.

Man I hate to sound like my parents, but I can’t help it. “Wait til you have your own kids. You’ll see.”