Monday, May 31, 2010

Confusion in the Shower

Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat -   I realized this morning that the instructions on the back of a bottle of shampoo were not put there by greedy marketing staff, but were written by some working mother who understands how one can stand naked in the shower wondering if they have already shampooed or not.  Our minds race with the needs and wants of our family members and while lathering gently, we are focused on which store might sell a tiny motor needed to build a model of a roller coaster for our son’s science project.  We are absorbed in thought by the new blue vein that has suddenly showed up around our ankle and wonder if it will go away or if it is just another Mom Tat.  Suddenly we stand there with water cascading down us, unsure if we just shampooed or not.  Thankfully - help is there.  On the back of the bottle, we are clearly exonerated from our own preoccupations and inability to remember if we have lathered up yet and are provided with instructions to do it again.  Lather up girl - it’s okay!   Of course, as with all vicious cycles, there should be instructions about when to stop.   Last week, I used an entire bottle of Pantene shampoo and washed my hair six times in one shower.    While I give props to the woman who knew to get this message on every shampoo bottle in the world, perhaps she could have taken it just a bit further for clarification.  I believe it should read....  “Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat, Check leg for signs of aging, Shampoo Again, Toss in some Cream Rinse, Look to see if belly is flatter than yesterday, Make shampoo bubble horns jet from your head because nobody can see you and you do have that dark side hidden away, Shampoo again because it’s keeping you from the piles of laundry that await you, Repeat until the water runs cold or you hear one of your kids screaming that they have just super-glued their hair to the counter.”  When that cycle is complete, you can rest assured that your hair is clean, straightened, and tangle free.  As the bottle promises, you will be ready to take on the world.  

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Don't Forget to Pack the Axe Handle

    The kids are out of school now and we are preparing for our Summer Vacation Road trip.  It will be like a scene out of a Chevy Chase movie.  Even though there are only four of us,  when we travel, we take two vehicles.  My husband follows me in his truck happy as a lark for the peace of sailing down the road behind me without a worry in the world.  I can look behind me and see half of our belongings piled high in the back of his truck...   bikes, rafts, kites, coolers, all things beachy.   We’ve traveled together, but he likes to tease the kids, the kids pick on each other, chaos begins and before you know it, someone’s hair is rolled up in the window, tears are flowing  and I have slipped into insanity.  It is cheaper than going to a therapist, so we gladly pay for the extra gas and wear and tear on the car because “it keeps mom sane.”  That last phrase is usually whispered in hushed tones to our neighbors when they ask the kids why... “Why do you take two cars?”   

    The kids spend days preparing the car for their own entertainment needs. My daughter’s side will be filled with pink furry pillows, cushy blankets and Disney DVDs.  She’ll have a box of Sharpie permanent markers that will end up on the leather seats before the trip is over along with a book of horse pictures, a plastic axe handle, and an assortment of left over Halloween candy that I’m certain I threw out months earlier.   The axe handle is an odd  item to pack.  It’s left over from one of those toddler plastic tool kits, but it has traveled with us for years.  We crossed Europe with juices boxes, a beanie baby platypus, and the axe handle.  If it brings her comfort, who am I to ask?   You never know when a gal might need to whip out an axe handle.    

    My son’s side of the car will be a grid of wires and cables connecting iPhones to speakers to mini-micro processors, tiny cameras and anything with an apple on it.  He will have a bottle of Pellegrino Water, a retractable plastic coat rack that can reach his sister's head from across the car,  a secret stash of pretzels and be able to view the traffic lights at all major cities on the Eastern seaboard as we sail across the Mississippi delta.  The kids will text each other from one seat away.....”I’m bored”...”K”  “A 4 door sedan just ran a red light in Connecticut”... “Kewl”.     

    Often, my mother will travel with us and this is assurance that not only will we eat well upon arrival to the beach, if we are hungry on the way there we need simply to reach over and dive into a tin of cookies, baked ham or a pan of lasagna that are all traveling on her lap.  You just can't get those things through airport security anymore.  So off we go in our two cars and rolling deli.   

    I believe when you are traveling  it is important to torture your kids with the music of your generation and Time Life Classic 70’s CDs were made for just such purpose.   Oddly, my kids now know every word to “Knock Three Times” and every Dr. Hook song ever written.  We actually fight over which vehicle gets the 70’s CD.  When we stop for gas, my husband will steal the CD from my car and then pass us on the highway making gestures that the kids know mean “Knock Three Times.”  I believe we were  in Pascagoula, Mississippi last as the 70’s tunes blared from my husband’s truck and my daughter shook a plastic axe handle at him through the rear view window.  But is was all okay, because people forget that 30 days after you get your first CD, along comes Time Life Classic 80’s and “Relax, Don’t Do It” is just the song for cruising down the highway drawing permanent pictures of horses, mapping out control of the East Coast traffic cycles, and dreaming of how relaxing it will be once we get to the beach.

Friday, May 28, 2010

If I Ran the Circus

As a child, I loved the Dr. Seuss book “If I Ran the Circus.”  Little did I know it was a glimpse into my own future.  As an adult, I have found that I do run the circus.  Too bad, it doesn’t come with the really cool glittery outfits and feathery headdress.  That could be such fun.  I realized as I stood outside this morning fishing a kitten out of the dryer vent that Mr. McGurkis (the circus owner) and I have a lot in common.   My wolf-wanna-be dog trots by with a hot pink high heel flip flop in its mouth.   Who would purchase such, I thought.  I never know what treasure my dog is going to bring home each morning.  Last week she brought home a spine.  That's not something you find just anywhere.    Randi Hope, my confused white tail deer who imprinted on my husband and believes she is a retiree who should fish all day, wanders up quietly and has breakfast on the aglets of my shoes while I am elbow deep into the dryer vent.    I can hear the echo of my daughter crying inside the house through the dryer vent because she has managed to roll her Priscilla Presley hair up into a round brush and it won’t come out.  Our house alarm is going off for some unknown reason and I’m still arm deep in the vent holding onto the tail of a traumatized kitten.  My son is drumming on any surface that will make a hollow noise and the sounds begin to build to the point that  I could feel the blood vessels in my head exploding.   I was diagnosed with tinnitus a year ago which leaves me with a constant high pitched ringing in my ear 24/7.  I firmly believe it is from spending too much time with my head in dryer vents, pianos, and other loud hollow places fishing out family pets. My daughter is now standing outside with a brush attached to her head sobbing.  I would like to point out that my husband is off somewhere drifting across calm blue waters in his bass boat, soaking in the early morning sun, blissfully unaware of the chaos that is his household.  On second thought, he is probably acutely aware and that is why he is there and I am here.   I think I will put the circus on auto-pilot and buy my own boat and learn all that jib and yar talk.   Next time someone has hot-glued their hair to the counter or an animal is running loose with the neighbor’s lingerie hanging from its jowls, I will be out on the pond sailing in blissful circles watching the greatest show on Earth .... A show I love and wouldn't miss a minute of!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Elusive Sleep and Daylight Challenged Roosters

Summertime allergy season is upon us and I’m certain it is the pollen in the air and not the small family of cats living under my bed that is causing my relentless sneezing and watery eyes.  Antihistamines knock me out for days and leave me walking around in a zombie like state.  My mother, who is 72  years old and has the energy of a young woman, has no time for slow moving people when there are chores to be done.  As I sat at my counter in the same nightshirt I had been wearing for two days, waiting for the weather channel to actually give me the weather and not another blasted storm story, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast of sinus meds and Frosted Flakes.  My mother was picking up my kitchen and whisked my spoon right out of my mouth as I tried to eat breakfast.  She said it was time to wash the dishes and I was moving too slow.   Sensing my family's frustration with my medicated state,   I changed to non-drowsy medication and that has left me without sleep for days.   It has also left me disoriented at times and when I do doze off for a moment or two, I am thrown awake with that sudden panic of “Whose house am I in?!?”   I crave sleep, but it eludes me.  I suppose it doesn’t help that we have a cat who insists on sleeping on top of my head and a daylight challenged rooster who lives in our back yard that announces the break of day all night long.  Last night I slept on the couch because I was tossing and turning so.  About 4:00 a.m. my daughter woke to find I wasn't in my bed and she came into the living room like a crazed, wild child.  I wake to see this little person standing over me, hands on hips, brunette hair sticking out in all directions, questioning me with great disgust as to why I wasn't in my bed and where did I go.   After the initial shock of getting ripped up by a ten year old at 4 a.m. and remembering who was in charge, I told her to return to her bed and come back when she was sane.  The attitude was instantly checked, the little girl voice returned, and she softly crawled under the covers with me for the rest of the night.  She's going to be a great wife someday! 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Appliance Envy

Wonders never cease.  I took my kids with me to buy a new washing machine yesterday.  Explain to me how children who can't pick their clothes up off the floor suddenly know the difference in a front loader and the old standard $400 “Drop your clothes in the tub” washer.  Their eyes twinkled as they looked at the colored models of top of the line, high efficiency washers and dryers. They began discussing cubic feet, spin speeds and low suds options like they woke up this morning and all of this was suddenly important to them. They discussed which friend's parents had machines with steam options, L.E.D. lighting, and something called Fan Fresh.  It was apparent that my children were suffering from appliance envy.   I walked them over to a $300, top loading, plain Jane washer just to see their reaction.  They began to wring their hands and beads of sweat formed at their temples like little appliance addicts.  I reminded them that a good river stone and flowing water can produce the same results.  They were insulted, shocked even, that I would suggest such.  I’m certain it is more of a “Keeping  up with the Jones” phenomenon rather than a sudden interest in clean laundry and energy conservation.  They’re fooling no-one.    I picked out an average Extra Large Capacity washer and as I could have predicted, it wasn't available for two weeks.  Want to guess which ones could be picked up that day?  Of course, only the ones that resemble the space shuttle and have a similar price tag.  So tonight, I will stand in front of my new appliances and hopefully select buttons that will lead to clean clothes and not launch inter-galactic rockets from my home.  My kids should be so pleased. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mother Goose

Mother's Day has come and gone and it was a most enjoyable day.  My daughter made me a stepping stone for the garden, but she put all the stickers on the wrong side of the glaze so the first rain will wash them away and bring with it tears, I'm certain.  It is beautiful and will have to remain in a rain-free place like my living room.  My son gave me a digital picture frame and loaded it full of family pictures.  Something isn't working quite right though because everyone is either headless or scrunched up like Willie Wonka Oompa Loompas.  We all appear wider than we are tall.  Yes, I have seen that same image reflecting back at me in the mirror, but you convince yourself it’s bad lighting or something.   It's scary that my family is represented by a bunch of headless little people!  Gads!    After Mother’s Day lunch, which was prepared by very wonderful mother, we went to visit the queen of all mothers… Mother Goose.  She lives at the end of my road on a small pond.  Last year a party of wandering geese landed there. (probably drinking and flying)  After a few days of nursing their hangovers, five flew away and two stayed.  They produced seven offspring which we all watched with great enjoyment.  One day, they all flew away.  A few weeks ago, seven geese returned and had their goose rituals and their party going fun.  After a few days, five flew away and two stayed to deal with a sudden pregnancy.   One lone goose sat on her pile of eggs at the top of a small island in the middle of the pond.  We appropriately named her Mother Goose.  We have watched her sit on those eggs day and night, through storms and tornadoes, even through golf ball size hail.  A waiting father paced the shores and was never too far away.  He will swim around her island all day long, probably listening to a little goose bitching.  “… if you had to sit up here all day long…”   But he stays, doing his job, waiting and protecting. (probably hoping for maybe just a little dirty goose talk)  It wasn't long before seven more little balls of fluff stood on the edge of the pond with Mother Goose and Father Goose.  He seems to be standing a bit taller than usual.   They will spend some quality time together swimming patterns around the pond and then I’m sure that they, too, will all fly away.  I made my children watch this goose journey because I think that it is such a good example of what families should be like.  Father Goose was not over at the other pond on his expensive pontoon boat sipping import beer while Mother Goose sat alone in the hail.  Mother Goose put the needs of those eggs first and did not stray from her post even though group after group of geese passed overhead calling her to come have fun and tempting her with goose treats.  When a curious border collie stuck its nose through the fence, Father Goose took a plug out of him, sending a quick message to keep his nose out of their family business.   These are obviously Italian Geese that we are dealing with.  Over the past few weeks, my kids and I have watched the nine of them learn the skills needed to carry them to distant places and return home safely once a year.   They don’t teach these kinds of things in books.  It’s something you have to stop your car for and make your kids get out and drink it all in.     So, to Mother Goose, and mothers who are short, squatty, and headless,  your job is so critically important and Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the gifts you have given the world.  

Working Outside Our Skill Set

There are times that skill sets become critically important.  Example - You want your teeth filled by a licensed dentist, not a potter.  A geometry teacher that understands everything mathematical about planes should not be flying one.   And I think it is important to teach our kids that when presented with a job outside of their skill set, there are times it’s okay to say  “No thank you.”  My son informed me that he would be announcing games at the local ball park.  There is a big difference in singing into a microphone and calling out baseball plays in front of emotionally charged parents in team colors.  I checked in on him after his first game and the look on his face was one of shock.  My child was sinking and going down fast.   You have to understand, we are not a baseball family.  His knowledge of baseball comes from attending Braves games and holding my pretzels while I order more hot dogs and soda, not participating in Small Town America Little League.   The next scene is a scary one.....  Yes... the two of us, sitting in the box on the high stands behind the chain link fence, calling the game together.   Moms will do crazy things to help their children.  We looked on the field and there on the pitcher’s mound was his toughest teacher and his daughter was up to bat.  It was like a scene out of a bad 80’s movie.  Each time he tossed that ball up into the air it moved in super slow motion and we could feel the History grade sinking lower and lower.  We knew we couldn’t screw this one up.   He had learned in the first game that if you mess up the score on the board, the parents will come through that chain link fence at you.  It’s not there to protect you from flying balls - it’s to keep parents out of the box.    I’m filling out the play book, which I have never seen before in my life… drawing lines here and there, plotting dots, trying to figure out what the 12 columns are for.  It is impossible to keep up with which child is on what base, who is coming in, are they safe or out, what dots to plot and keep the scoreboard correct. Since we didn’t know the umpire’s hand signals and we were unclear on the difference in balls, fouls and strikes, we just turned that section of the scoreboard off and claimed bulb outage if anyone asked.    We focused on runs and trying to get names right as they came up to bat.  We had a field full of nine year old girls, all dressed alike, with ponytails that covered the numbers on the back of their shirts.  Each one of them was a Southern Beauty in a ball cap and ribbons with the same angelic face.  It was impossible to tell who was who.   Since most of their names ended phonetically with  “..aly” we discovered we could mumble those letters into the mic and be almost 99% certain that we had correctly called the right child’s name…  The parents of Bailey, Haley, Raleigh, Kaley, and Mayleigh were always pleased with our announcing.    We managed to get through the game without any parents yelling at us or throwing empty popcorn boxes at us, so while we can’t call it a successful night, we can call it a completed one.  One we survived together with a little good luck, a few math skills, and a lot of guesswork.   

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Crazy Cat Lady

    I am not well and I now realize the fragile state of my mental health as I sat alone on a Saturday night taking pictures of my cats.  They quickly grew bored with this activity and I moved on to taking self portraits with my phone for a Facebook profile picture that said, "Yes, I'm 46, but I still look 18."  I never actually got that photo, I'm sad to report.  The real problem is not my lack of photography skills or some odd interest in pets, but the fact that my children have reached that age that they are out with friends and no longer need me to order their meals, wipe their mouths or shield their eyes when an evil Disney character comes on screen.  Notice I did not say “pay their way.”  They still need me to do that and my money is being spent by the twenties at ball parks and movie theaters across the city while I sit home alone photographing kittens.  

    Realizing I must come up with a hobby to occupy this sudden onset of free time, I have looked into scrap-booking, on-line cooking courses, and even the possibility of doing the laundry on a Saturday night.  All seem equally depressing.  Fridays and Saturdays have taken on new meaning to me and I have to accept that my kids are having a wonderful time doing all the things we used to do together. 

    My friend suggested that I put the kitten photos into a calendar.  I toyed with this idea for a bit and  think my calendar should only have Fridays and Saturdays in.  One hundred and four very important days each year that children should focus on and not forget about the moms that sit at home alone secretly tracking them with the latest iPhone application and a topographic map.  Knowing that this would never sell, I took to my bed.

      I was lying there in the comforts of my self-pity with the pillows packed all around attempting to surf the net, not knowing what I was really looking for.  I had heard about chat rooms and wondered what might be there. I discovered that HotMama62 was cooking fish-sticks for her kids and CapnJD422 had enjoyed a hot dog for dinner.  Somehow I thought it would be a bit more risque than that.  It wasn’t.  I’m sure there are more specific sites for such, but I’m scared I might run into my two new carnivorous friends there and they might be dressed like ponies or something equally freaky.  I just don’t understand all that chat lingo and multiple on-going conversations about nothing.  I scratched  that one off my list of possible things to do.  I readjusted the pillows, placing the laptop a bit higher  so I could type from a supine position and eliminate the need for all spinal support or large motor skills.  That’s about the time I dropped the laptop on my face, leaving me with a lovely black eye.   I would like to point out that people don't believe you when you try to explain away a black eye by telling them you dropped your laptop on your face.  It's obvious that there are three things they are thinking at the end of that conversation:   1.  Idiot    2.  Her husband did it    3. Idiot      

    So... as my children are packing my twenties, my husband is away at deer camp and I can’t appear in public with a shiner, I sit home alone on a Saturday night making kitty calendars and sizing up the laundry pile.  My God - I’m slowly turning into the crazy cat lady at the end of the street!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

After a short business trip, I returned home and decided to be a good mom and spend the afternoon outdoors with the kids. It was the first warm and sunny day we had seen in many weeks. I took the kids to the park on the water front. There is a new playground there that my youngest wanted to see. It is a multi-layer system of caves and tunnels next to the river. (Does that scream safety hazard or what!) To raise more red flags.... your child enters a hole, not unlike a manhole in the street, and comes out 50 yards away, behind some boulders, two levels below, completely out of view from unsuspecting parents. Who designed this, I ask!?! I am probably a bit overboard when it comes to watching my kids, but I’m okay with that and my kids have learned to accept it. Cutting the umbilical cord was just my first test at letting go. If I could implant GPS tracking chips in them, I would. I made my 15 year old follow his sister through the maze of caves to ensure her safety should they get out of my sight. On the lower level, I found a 2 year old frantically looking for his mother. After 20 minutes of searching, we finally found her and she was not even aware that he was missing. Perhaps they should have thought twice before cutting her cord. We left when we entered one particular tunnel and there was a man who appeared to be living in it. It was time to head to safer ground. We headed home to the mountains of laundry that awaited me. The icing on the cake was getting home and finding a letter that my house payment had not been received. Knowing full well they had already snatched that thousand dollars out of my checking account, I called the mortgage company in hopes of speaking with a human. After an "estimated wait time of 25 - 30 minutes" and the gross realization that Journey and AC/DC songs are now instrumental mixes on Audix, I finally heard a real voice. His first words were not a pleasant hello, but a gruff statement that he was attempting to collect a debt and my words would be recorded and I think maybe even used in a court of law or chewed up and served to me on a platter. My customer service agent was surely the devil himself. Just as he pulled up my info, he informs me they are in a blizzard and they are being told to evacuate the building. (Apparently, it does snow in hell) He can no longer help me and I will have to call back. AGHHH!
So here are the facts I have garnered from today’s events:
1. My family has suffered some form of sudden onset amnesia and forgot how to wash clothes, put up dishes or partake in basic daily living skills during my absence.
2. Back in Black is now an instrumental song played by the devil himself while he watches the snow fall in Hell.
3. The light at the end of the tunnel might just be the glow of a crack pipe.

Miniature Fitness Trainers

 In yet another effort to get fit and get a step closer to those jeans I haven’t been able to wear in five years, I bought the Wii Fit program. It weighs you, analyzes your body fat, creates a plan of wellness and makes the process fun. In the beginning, I would get up each morning to have it greet me with a pleasant hello and tell me how well I was proceeding. After a weekend of Mexican food and delicate chocolates, I was informed that I gained four pounds and my Wii Character changed to a pudgier edition of me. How dare they! I paid $86 for a machine to tell me I was out of control and fat.
    My commitment to the program disappeared immediately. After a few months, I decided to give it another try. It seems that now the scale no longer works right. I never know if I'm going to weigh 3 pounds or 472 pounds. It says I lost 62 pounds since yesterday. Motivational, yes - but scary. Every time the scale goes up, my character gets pudgy and when it drops, I get skinny. My character now looks mal-nourished with that look of “I want a cheeseburger” in her eyes. I do not look like that. 
    To add to my workout - my kids created all of these tiny Wii characters to work out with me. My kids are represented, as well as a character of my first boyfriend they found in a yearbook (they found humor in that). Twisted kids! I can also work out with Brad Pitt, Jesus, the mean lady from work, and Einstein. Einstein is my favorite. I logged in as the mean lady from work and let her fail at her workouts - that way her scores are low. Now, I kick her butt every time I do downhill skiing or walk the tight rope. I do enjoy hula hooping with Jesus. We rock!
    Everyone should try it. I do well for a while and then it tells me I gained 120 lbs overnight. It’s hard to recover from that. My daughter, who is a state gymnastic champion, offered to be my personal trainer. She is ten years old, 4 feet tall and has the arm muscles of a Marine. Last weekend was Easter and after an entire weekend of hams and pies and dyed eggs, I was prepared to don the fat pants and stretch out on the couch. But no… my pint-sized trainer pushed me into working out against my will. Armed with pastel colored fingertips and ten pound weights, we began. As she was hanging by one hand from a chin up bar, she’s shouting words of encouragement… ”Come on girlfriend, give me two more.” Okay – my name is not girlfriend! What will I do with this child? She’s working me to death. While I do look at each experience as a chance to learn something new, I have discovered that my daughter would make a good drill sergeant and that I have something on my arms, I think, called a Pec Fly Deltoid. I thought those were mints you get on the airplane. My tiny trainer has been keeping a journal of our progress together and has filled in her side and mine. Her side of the journal reads like this: 100 sit-ups – Feel Great – 10 one handed chin-ups - My hair looks fantastic! My side of the journal reads like this: Pants falling down, Feels like ten bucks, arms burning, laying on floor. The Wii Fit characters were so much easier to work out with – including the mean lady. Do you suppose Einstein and Jesus miss me?

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...