Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lessons in Liquor

I wonder if my dad remembers this story. Although vascular dementia has taken much of his short-term memory, I am often amazed at what his mind can recall. Think I'll ask him at our next visit . . .

It was awfully early on a Saturday morning when I was abruptly awoken by my dad who was standing in the doorway of my room. I jolted upright. Oh no! I thought. What time is it? I've got practice. A surge of headache ran up the back of my brain, forcing me to lie down again.

I looked back at Dad who was now smiling at me, still leaning against the doorjamb. "How you feeling this morning?"

"Oh, just fine, Dad. Just need a little more sleep," I fibbed.

"I think you've got soccer this morning, don't you?" He turned away and headed toward the kitchen. I could tell there was something more he wanted to say, so I drug my aching butt out of bed and followed him to the dining table.

"So, you're tired, huh? Maybe that's what you get for staying out all night," he added.

"Aw, Dad. It was just a bunch of us seniors getting together to hang out. You know, in a few months most of us are gonna be at different places. I want to spend as much time as I can with them." My head was screaming at me as each word came out, but I thought I was hiding my hangover pretty well.

"Well, that's what I want to talk to you about." (Important back story: if you know my dad, you know that besides making a corny crack or gentle tease, he's never been a real Chatty Cathy. And if you don't know my dad, then I should also tell you that while he worries a lot about his kids, he left most of the difficult child-rearing discussions for my mom.)

"I don't mind you saying all your good-byes to your high school friends from around here, but I do mind seeing that large box of empty liquor bottles tucked away in your room." I braced for the worst.

Dead silence. My dizzy head tried hard to picture the events of last night. Had fun, hung out with friends, drank a little bit--well, more than a little bit, well, more than I should have since A) I was pretty new to alcohol, B) because I was underage, and C) who I am I kidding, 26 letters is not enough key points to state why it was dumb for me to be drinking . . .

I did have a hazy recollection at the end of the night of announcing to the group that they could not leave the bottles behind. "We must recycle them!" I said with passion (and a few Dixie cups of vodka mixed with red kool-aid). Guess the only redeeming part to my story is that I was green before it was officially cool!?

But yes, I did actually utter those words. And even crazier, I had collected the bottles of cheap whiskey, vodka, gin, etc. and stuck them under the empty cutout beneath my desk . . . in my bedroom! (Apparently I had not thought through the discard phase of my recycling plan.)

"Oh, Dad. Yes, we were drinking some last night. I know it was dumb. I DID have a DD, I promise!" I spat out. "I just took the bottles home so I could, could, well, recycle them. They were going to get tossed out," I added, feeling stupid, a little ashamed, and mostly dumbfounded that I was having this conversation with my dad.

My loving, devoted dad looked at his youngest child and with complete seriousness said, "Sweetheart, there's a few things you need to know about drinking. Most of them you'll learn on your own. But for one thing, you have no business drinking Wild Turkey (bourbon). Ladies drink Southern Comfort." Then he left the room.

As I sat there with my mouth agape. I knew there was so much more that my dad wanted to say to his youngest of four, but he didn't need to give me another speech on underage drinking. He had said so much more in those few sentences than any well-intended D.A.R.E. officer, pleading pastor, or the average overprotective parent. Now a mother myself, I realize that he probably wanted to wrap me in bubble wrap and keep me safe in my room until I was a better-prepared grown-up. Instead he knew I was going to face decisions and choices in the years to come that a ranting, raving father could not fix that morning.

Thanks for the advice, Dad. I still smile when I see a bottle of Southern Comfort-even though I can't stomach the stuff. And just so you know, Daddy, another lesson I've learned since our first drinking discussion . . . real ladies drink well-crafted beer (in moderation).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back to the Bottle Again

I smiled as I sat on the grassy edge of the soccer field watching my son and his buddies chase the ball all over, occasionally seeing it end up in the goal (usually due to defensive error or goalie mishap). But it was a great moment. Until...

My husband, who was standing next to me also enjoying the human herd, looked down and commented with a pleasant but matter-of-fact tone, "Hey, I never noticed all those GRAY hairs you've got." (BTW, it must be mentioned that he was actually smiling sweetly as he said this.)

My immediate thoughts were (in this order) . . . No, he did NOT just say that! Then Oh crap, it IS that obvious! Followed by Wonder how soon I can get in to see my hair lady?!? Ending with Hhhmmm, surely he does not plan on seeing this gray-haired woman's naked body tonight?

I sat there stunned, analyzing my feelings about his revelation (of course, this was not new info to me because I had stopped highlighting my hair months ago, and I noticed that those blonde streaks I had been adding for so long not only helped me cling onto the image of my younger self, but they also provided the added benefit of blending the random grays that I previously did not know existed in such growing numbers.)

What sucks even more about my new hair nemeses is the fact that my husband has his own little evidence of getting older. He is blessed with the prettiest light gray streak right in the front of his hair. Women who are trying to "grow old gracefully" pay big for that look. And he gets it naturally. Can you believe that?!?

So this is the guy, not the first to notice, I am sure, just the first with the ill-fortune of pointing it out to me. His next line was even better, for when he saw my look of horror from his comment, he quickly said, "No, I think it looks good! It's kinda like highlights, don't you think?"

No, dearest, it absolutely is not!
A for effort. F for execution. Trust me, my grays add no aesthetic quality to my tresses. He could not say anything to make it better.

Perhaps I would not have been so deflated at his poorly-chosen proclamation had my daughter with peachy-perfect skin not been recently connecting the "cool red polka dots" on my belly. I later learned these are cherry angiomas, yes, scarlet age spots resulting from overexposure to the sun--my curse from my cuter, tanner bikini years.

It's been a few weeks since that soccer practice and belly game. Since then I've admitted to myself that I can't blame my husband or anyone else for my dulling do or sinister spots. I was being overly sensitive about the inevitable. I am getting older. I can squint when I'm in front of the mirror to blur the view of my eye wrinkles. I can dollop layers of lotion crammed full of collagen from tip to toe. My body is aging. I get some solace (but not much) from the new (but pretty ridiculous) saying that "40 is the new 30." But, hey, I'll take it, despite the fact that the words don't erase crows' feet.

And I've decided the next time one of my curious family members wants to innocently inquire about the tiny lines forming on my calves, rather than putting fresh linens on the guest bed and serving brussel sprouts for dinner, I plan to take a deep breath, smile big, and glance at my husband's gorgeous gray streak and admire my children's supple skin before announcing, "Spider veins, guys. My hair colorist says they're all the rage!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Taking the Long Way

I've been accused that I can be a bit overprotective of my children in certain areas. In fact, my husband snickers whenever the kids and I sing one of my remixes of a classic tune where I have slightly altered the lyrics in order to get a result I like. (WHO STICKS A BABY IN A CRADLE IN A FRICKIN' TREE ANYWAY?!?) I've shared with my husband and others, that I am not trying to shelter my kids. But I occasionally steer away from some subjects till I am ready to best address my children's questions. I want them to ask me anything they want to. I want them to learn about life, but, yes, there are topics that I'm still trying to figure out as an adult before having to explain them to my learning little ones.

A few weeks ago we were headed off to school and my four-year-old noticed something in the road, not moving. "Look, Mommy! That turtle is slooooooooow."

My daughter leaned closer toward her little brother's window and said,"Um, I don't think that's a turtle. It's got some fur left. Maybe long ears? And it's not moving at all. Mommy, what was that?"

Crap. Our first real and very close-up roadkill sighting. Couldn't it have been something less cute?!? I glanced in my rear view mirror at the squashed bunny. Here goes, I sighed...

I gave a brief explanation of how sometimes animals are not as fast as cars. Both kids asked many good follow-up questions, particularly curious about the family the rabbit left behind. They seemed a little sad, but by the time we arrived at my daughter's school, they both seem satisfied with our talk. There were some questions in the days to come--mostly about dying. Again, they seemed to accept my answers.

Just two minutes into our jogging stroller run this morning, my son spotted something in the road up ahead. "WHAT IS THAT?" he yelled. I could see from 50 feet away that it was a dead animal. After we passed the mangled marsupial (veering as far away as I safely could), we went at least a mile with my son asking questions about the smashed critter. Thankfully, he moved on to math when he spotted several numbered mailboxes. (Geez, how many questions can you answer about one dead animal?)

On the way back up the hill, I could see the even flatter remnants of the opossum. I braced myself for more questions. Instead my son offered five plausible reasons as to why the opossum was killed in the street. My favorite being "he didn't have enough energy to go fast because he needed a healthy snack."

What I am realizing about some of these tough topics that must and will be addressed in my journey of parenthood and my children's life learning is that if you give your kids the support, open communication, and opportunity to explore their world, they'll come up with their own thoughtful explanations and conclusions about life. I don't have to have all of the answers. And sometimes it's probably better that I don't.

In fact, kids often have the best ones. As we neared the opossum the second time my son suggested we not drive right through it because that would be too bloody and gross--instead we should "just go around it." I'm glad to see that not only has my veering strategy been passed down to my son, but even happier to know he's managed to make it look like it's actually the smart thing to do sometimes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Clearer Picture

On the way down the stairs I was thinking of a difficult family situation we're going through-getting older, taking care of loved ones, making the most out of life. Pretty big stuff.

As my mind was reeling about all of this, I brushed by a picture of my son and knocked it off the wall. I was relieved when I saw that the large piece of glass remained unbroken after the tumble. Smiling at the photo of my little guy at four months old-big chubby smile and fat fists, I knew this was sheer joy caught on film.

After adjusting the crooked matte, I returned the framed picture to the wall and walked away. Again it fell down, this time causing black streaks and a rather large dent in the foyer wall which I recently repainted.

Not quite as tickled this time, I was still able to manage a grin when I noticed the glass was still intact. I hung the picture-again-this time making sure it was fully connected to the tiny, metal hanger. On my knees I scrubbed the wall clean. Still on my knees Please make me like that glass-fragile but strong, visible but able to show the beauty of others, delicate but resilient to what life brings.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Blame it on Silent Night

While I prepared lunch for my son today, he patiently drew pictures at the kitchen table. He also provided the entertainment by performing his one-man show where he tells me a great story, often impressing me with his vocabulary and unique retelling of a classic tale with his little tike twist.

Today's narrative was very loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood. As I slathered peanut butter on bread listening to the lengthy monologue, I nearly choked on the knife I was licking when my son said something about "a different virgin."

"What was that?" my voice squeaked.

"I'm doing a different virgin," he said.

As I forced back initial laughter and then a fainting spell, I asked my sweet just-turned-four-year-old, "You're doing a different (gulp) virgin?" My head raced. . . WHERE IN THE WORLD DID HE HEAR THAT WORD?!? WHAT DID MY HUSBAND LET THE KIDS WATCH?!? OH, NO! WILL I HAVE TO EXPLAIN WHAT IT IS RIGHT NOW?!?

"Yes, I'm telling a different virgin about the wolf," he piped up with a duh-mom look.

"Oooooohhhhhhh. Okay. (I am now breathing again.) You are telling a different v-e-r-s-i-o-n of the story," I sounded out.

"Yeah, veeeeeersion," he repeated.

"Oh, great. I love your veeeerrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiioooooooonnnnnnnnssssssssss of stories. Please tell me the rest." I paused for a huge sigh of relief.

I turned away to finish making lunch and listen intently to the rest of the story, very thankful that both the wolf and my son's innocence remained--at least until Cinderella shows up. And by then, I am hopeful that we will have told enough stories between us that he will pick the right version.

Monday, February 22, 2010

One Reflecting Running Mother

I can hardly believe it. Our youngest is four years old today. To absorb that hard-to-believe fact (and to work off one of the four slices of double chocolate football birthday cake I devoured this weekend), I decided to go on a four-mile run--the longest my aging ankle has allowed in awhile. Hey, I figured it couldn't have hurt any worse than the five days of labor the docs were trying to hold off to keep my son from arriving too early exactly four years ago. A notion a bit funny in hindsight . . . a pack of health professionals and a tractor trailer full of drugs, both trying to tell 6.1 pounds of fury to wait a few more weeks, or c'mon, at least a couple of days, before making his official appearance. And I was stuck in the middle only to ref the futile fiasco. (Guess you know who won that uphill battle, huh?)

One of the thoughts I had while schlepping up the hill and dodging pickups was how similar the birthing process and the act of jogging can be. Both involve pain--obviously. Whether they use that large can opener to pop out your little cherub or you get the good fortune to push the little nipper out "down there," the pain is very present.

And when running if you choose to crank out your miles on the treadmill to avoid angry drivers or you select an outdoor route, the bubbling blisters, chafed nipples, torqued knees, and brutal butt sweat will always be your chummiest exercise buddies. Again with the pain.

But thankfully, as in most things in life where there is labor, there is reward. Of course, there's the initial look from your little one, precious cuddles, the smile, the cute yellow poop, all of those glorious firsts. The list of payoffs is way too long for one blog entry.

While the running benefits can't quite compare to the joy of your new child, there is something simply amazing, truly beautiful, completely incredible, absolutely awesome about getting to eat virtually as many Little Debbies as you want when you are on a regular running regimen.

So happy birthday, my sweet baby boy. This cupcake's for you!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Super Mom

Since becoming a mother, I realize I've obtained special superpowers.

Like the amazing ability to leap over a child-created masterpiece Megablocks tower in a single bound.

Uncanny super hearing that rivals Lassie. I can detect the most minute toddler toot from anywhere in the house (and unfortunately due to my ridiculously good sense of smell, tell you what the tooter had for lunch).

I have such sinewy strength I've been known to hold both my kids (have you seen these two?!), one in each arm while navigating over our pup's massive pile of poop (have you seen this dog?!?!).

While I don't have X-ray vision, I've got something much better! My fierce and icy stare causes my daughter to stop in her tracks, sometimes tremble, and even cry before I've uttered a single sentence. My son, on the other hand, must wear special secret contacts, because my ghastly glance seems to have much less an effect on him.

But I do have a pretty original talent that even the Marvel heroes can't touch. I can still cut off my pee midstream faster than a speeding bullet. This is thanks to the kegel exercises recommended by my OB/GYN. He had scared me so bad into thinking after my kids were born I would not be able to walk without peeing on myself unless I performed a plethora of pelvic squeezes-like three million a day-seriously).

In fact, I saw him today for my annual exam. And I don't think it's a complete coincidence that my long of list heroic skills popped into my mind while I drove home from my doctor visit. I think I just needed a reminder of my superhuman abilities after another less-than-empowering trip to the gyno. (Perhaps I needed some affirmation after allowing a person I see just once a year poke me with ice-cold instruments in my private parts while I remain calm and try to distract us both with tales of my recent epic exploits . . . hey, I think I can add that to my superpower list too. Take that, Hulk.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Muffin Music

I need my kids more than they need me. And here's proof. . .

The county had a two-hour school delay. You know, three icy puddles or even a few shiny oil spots that Cletus left behind keeps us off the roads in these parts. Since we had some extra A.M. time, I made semi-homemade muffins this morning. (You know the trick where you add one or two "healthy" ingredients to a pre-made mix likely heavenly-laden in extra sugar, fat or some other delicious delicacy, I mean, ingredient). So as I sprayed the nonstick oil in the little circles in the baking pan, wondering how in the world I'll be cleaning the Pam residue off my walls and counter, my daughter looked up from her drawing at the kitchen table and says, "What nice music!? I love it, Mom!"

I whirled around from my stovetop stupor expecting to find her listening to her dad's Itouch (off limits!) or to simply confirm that something else isn't working quite up to par on this nearly 39-year-old body, because I did not hear any tunes tinkling. "What music, honey?"

"The music you made in the pan, as you sprayed each little cup," she said looking very confused, as if she too was wondering about my hearing ability. And sure enough, I took the Pam out of the pantry, held the muffin pan in the air, and resprayed each circle. This time not even considering the oily mess left on the wall and floor. And it did make a sweet little noise, a slightly different tone in each of the tin cups. And it was nice.

"Oh, I like that. Thanks," I said. My daughter smiled and went back to her drawing, probably a little curious why I thanked her.

So you see that's why I need my children so much. They are constantly helping me notice the beauty that surrounds me every day. Much like the paint marks my son left on his big sister's dresser that bled through his art paper last week, well maybe that's not a great example . . .