Last Saturday afternoon I went to a beautiful wedding. And then I drove away and started drinking.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d quit the Diet Coke, right? Claimed sobriety, and all that. That was true. At the time. I was a former Diet Coke drinker. Not going back. Happy about it. Smug, even.
And then, Saturday… seeing those super young pretty people recite vows just sort of set off a massive WHERE’S MY ADDICTION-STYLE SECURITY BLANKET reflex.
There’s nothing wrong with marriage. I have no regrets. And these two people are lovely from all accounts. Okay, I’ve never met the bride but she was darling, and the groom I’ve met a couple of times and I’m sure he’ll be great at the whole marriage thing. Really. They both will.
But I was still sitting there, thinking, “Dear LORD, they look like they’re fifteen. Do they REALLY know how hard this is going to be? Because marriage is HARD. Even great marriages. HARD. Did anybody really tell them….?” And I got all nervous for them and then jumped in car and headed for nearest drive thru with reputably oversized cups.
My sister called just as I got there and I whispered into my phone, “hi, hang on, I’m falling off the wagon,” and then I ordered a very large diet coke.
She was calling to tell me a long, elaborate, entertaining and romantic story of how someone she knew had just gotten engaged. Right. At. That. Very. Moment.
I thought about going back for another diet coke. I didn’t.
I’m into full disclosure around here when possible, so here we are. I’ve had a few diet cokes this week, but am not sneaking six packs into the house under my clothes or anything. No drinking in front of the children, and no diet coke on the home premises at all, ever.
I’ll stop. Again. I really will. Tomorrow.
Oh man, that sounded lame, and in a thoroughly unintentional way.
Don’t tell me anything sweet or romantic or marriage related for awhile, ‘kay?
Ethan-10yr from backseat: (breathes very deeply) “MMmm. Smells like coffee.”
Me: ”No. We just drove past a dead skunk.”
Ethan-10yr: (long pause) “Oh. My mistake.”
This thrills me because Ethan-10yr casually used the phrase, “my mistake” as if it didn’t pain him greatly to do so. He did NOT start to sell me on some crap-explanation about the olfactory similarities between coffee and skunk, just to avoid being wrong. PROGRESS.
This is the child who used to hate being wrong so much that occasionally when he was really wrong and being obnoxiously in denial about it, I would have him say the words, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. You were right,” to whichever brother deserved these words.
Sometimes, I’d ask him to say this repeatedly and hug him and pat him and reassure him that this was really good for him and for his character. (Just imagine the dirty looks I got for this.) I’d coax him into verbalizing his error and then praise him as soon as the words left the mouth over and over until he was laughing and not feeling sick about his admission of fault. I’d point out how he’d lived through the experience of admitting fault and seeeeeeee? notsobad.
As crazy as that may be, I’m convinced it was necessary in his unique need for maternal guidance. Go ahead. Just thank God right this second that I am not your mother.
I’m counting today’s car conversation as a significant Ethan-10yr victory of character.
That skunk did not die in vain.
It was on its way in or out of a pecan grove when a car hit him. Hopefully, OUT, and it had already eaten many pecans and was happy and full. Maybe he was on his way to Starbucks for an espresso.
Boys. BOYS. Ugh, they’re just so cute and strange and smart. Two recent moments that made me realize I just do NOT understand how they think:
The morning that I utterly failed to prevent my baby, Seth-4yr, from morphing into Seth-5yr, he and Caden-6yr were outside playing. It was early. Ethan-10yr casually mentioned his brothers were in the backyard “trying to figure out how to make a stinkbomb.”
“Oh. Well. What are they using?”
“Oh, just a whiffle ball, sand, and some dog poop.”
I do not know the components of a stinkbomb, but I’m thinking they were 0 for 3 there. But still. It woulda probably worked anyway. Gross.
I yelled for Mike to please grab the hand sanitizer and go have a man to boys discussion involving many repetitions of the word, “NO.”
The other day in the car, Caden-6yr decided he was going to thoroughly MESS with me. He had it written all over his face.
He asked if we could get a hot tub.
I said, “Maybe when y’all are all older. Why?”
“I just want one.”
We were at a stop light. Just as it turned to green, I see him turn and give Ethan-10yr a look that said,Watch this. I’m going to make Mom FLIP OUT. Yes. He has that look. I don’t see it often, but that’s just because he is usually more careful of rearview mirrors.
“My friend Lindsey and I are going to get a hot tub when we’re older. We talked about it.”
“…? Uh… Do you mean… you and Lindsey are going to both get hot tubs when you’re older… or… you… and Lindsey…. are going to share a hot tub when you’re older?”
I needed clarification. Also? I instantly regretted using the word ‘share.’ It has such a positive connotation in our family. USUALLY. BUT. NOT THIS ONE TIME. NO.NO. NO. But I couldn’t take it back and re-phrase. I was trying to be totally aware that this child was out to get me. I’d seen it on his face. Braced self for whatever came next. I just hadn’t seen THAT coming. I was aiming for way casual and airy in my tone, so he wouldn’t know how well it was really going for him. No fear, and all.
“Oh, we’re going to get one TOGETHER. When we’re older. We talked about it.”
Ethan-10yr looks WAY impressed. He does not do things like this. He is weird and infuriating and challenging, but in seriously different ways than this.
I’m wondering WHEN ARE THEY DISCUSSING THIS? THEY ARE IN FIRST GRADE. SHOULDN’T THEY BE TOO BUSY LEARNING OTHER STUFF THAT IS NOT THIS? But I didn’t say anything. I was being SO breezy. Would NOT be baited. Not me.
Caden-6yr half smiled and shot a look at Ethan-10yr and said, “Do you have a … problem with that, Mom?”
What. A. Stinker.
“oooooh, no. This is something that you want to do when you’re older, so if it’s a problem we can talk about it then, right?”
Then he totally cracked up and I applauded self for not driving off the road.
Unbelievable. The baby is SIX. What HAPPENED here?
I cried on the way to the kids’ school this morning.
I’m perfectly fine. It was all Elvis’ fault. Have you ever really listened to the Elvis version of “How Great Thou Art?”
Caden-6yr saw my tears, heaved a big sigh in the backseat and said, under his breath, “It’s gonna be a loooong day.”
It was VERY Caden-6yr. It reminded me of a day 3 years ago. The beginning of another long day, and a similar moment in the car with Caden-3yr and probably my favorite Caden post ever. He’s an adorable mix of personality, charm, candor, and obnoxiousness.
I’ve inflicted upon myself a crash course of Human Resource Management. I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I already know all of this, and then it came to me. I did the same thing about 11 years ago. Learned everything I could on HR, in a short amount of time.
I had a really great paying job in a small office with 4 men who… really could have used a lot of God, a few self-improvement books, and maybe a muzzle or two. They were quite a group. But it was a great job regardless, and Mike was still learning the ropes of his chosen field, and that job paid the bills for the few years I had it. We were grateful.
Things went downhill. The company was supposed to lay off one person, and instead of the boss’s best friend who had just been hired, it was me. The boss’ best friend was fairly awful, but he was new. I was really good at that job. I’m a quiet, polite sort (more so back then) and went through all the proper channels of discussing this lay-off decision with the correct individuals in the correct order. When that failed, I did a huge amount of research, and put together a 64 page official complaint, citing long passages of Equal Employment Opportunity law.
Here, on this website, I have little regard for punctuation. I know. And if I’m tired, I don’t use capital letters. And I say ‘um’ a lot. The most popular word in this blog’s lifespan is probably ‘poop.’ So it might surprise you that if I want to bust out a scary sounding legalese filled complaint, I have no problem accomplishing it.
My cover letter specifically stated that I had not retained an attorney.
But I was so pleased when I heard that middle and upper management had quaked with fear over those 64 pages and didn’t believe the ‘no-lawyer’ claim for a second. Surely they hadn’t hired/harassed/unfairly laid off some twentysomething in West Texas who could write like that….? Nah. They reacted very much as if I had an attorney.
The EEOC gave me an investigator named Gus who called frequently with endless questions.
A year of long phone interviews with Gus went on. And then he told me that the company had then claimed they’d never gotten the complaint in the first place. It was an interesting approach. They’d spent a year discussing its content with him, page by page. I’d hand delivered two copies to two managers (with a smile), and faxed one to another out of state manager. But I hadn’t kept the fax confirmation. I couldn’t prove they received it. Unless I somehow could, they would close the investigation. Gus said the case was very strong, but they’d found a technicality that would have to be honored.
I didn’t want the job back. Not that this was an option, anyway.
I just didn’t want that particular boss to feel quite so free to treat someone else like that. And I knew I’d made him think twice about such things. Mike was getting a company started and it was already doing well. Baby Ethan had arrived on the scene by then. So maybe this was just as well. It was early September of 2001.
And then it was the 11th of September, in 2001.
And then it hardly mattered at all. This suddenly seemed like such an odd thing to have poured any time and energy into in the first place. This was very much… nothing… in the new collective national perspective on life.
I let it go, gladly, easily, that day. Along with anything else that seemed petty, or small, or unimportant when placed next to the blessings of family and freedom and security and life.
Now, years later — I’d forgotten why I knew all the HR stuff I was studying, and I laughed at my six year old for not understanding why I’d cry over Elvis singing a hymn.
I guess it’s a matter of perspective. Letting the right things matter, and move you… and recognizing when to just let the rest go.
Seth-4yr has a new phrase. He aims it my way, with much derision. I’m the best target for this little experiment, since I’m the least likely to be offended, and the most likely to think it’s adorable.
He’ll walk by me, shake his head, and say, “not appopiate.” There are no ‘r’s. It comes out sounding like, “not uh-PO-pee-uht.” The first time I was judged so harshly, I was standing at the kitchen counter, sorting mail. Minding my own. I’m positively scandalous when I sort mail.
Mike had a ‘not appopiate’ moment the other night. We were discussing his trips, and my plan to be Totally Back In Shape before I’m cleared to go kick something in early December. This involves, well, a LOT, since I have a long way to go. But one of the things on the to-do list is to get my veins zapped. I had it done a few years ago, and they’re awful and hurt again and have to be fixed really soon, but that part is painless and no big deal. Also on the list is a ton of exercise and this isn’t REALLY on the list, but I put it on the list as sort of a reward for all those crazy tests I’ve been taking and it’s getting the Hair Issue fixed. Yes. Really. No more tumbleweed. Hopefully. And I gave up Diet Coke. Yuh huh. Clean and sober for WEEKS now.
But that’s beside the point. My point was that I was telling Mike that I was having a lot of these things done. It would ” be kinda like being a whole new woman.”
He looked at me and smiled warmly. He nodded, and with great sincerity said, “That will be REALLY nice to come home to.”
I could feel my eyes get really big, and the only sound in the room was my jaw, popping really loudly with painful TMJ issues as it FELL TO THE FLOOR.
Mike saw my face.
Mike heard my jaw.
The neighbors heard my jaw.
Mike decided to fix this situation.
The neighbors ignored the domestic situation next door, and I’m grateful.
Mike said, “I just mean it’ll be nice to have my new wife AND my old wife!”
For those of you who do not know our history, I’d like to point out at this particular moment in the story that I AM the new wife. He has an old wife. And I am NOT her. I KNOW that’s not what he meant. But. OHMYGOSHSTILL. What he meant was that I would somehow be the “new wife” AND the “old wife.” Does that make it any better? Um… no.
More specifically, noooOOOoooOOOOoooo, it does not make it any better.
At this point, Mike realized he had somehow made it worse with this ‘fix.’
My mouth was still hanging open. My eyeballs were drying out by now. But I’d seemingly forgotten how to blink.
So he dove onto the bed and faceplanted into a pillow and laughed until his whole head turned red. He offered up thoroughly ineffectual apologies and I sort of laughed at him. And sort of not.
It was soooooo not appopiate.
Note: he’s really pretty nice. usually.
I would be planting bulbs right now… except for the snakes in the flowerbeds. They have a serious repellent effect on me. Those snakes have probably been there every other year I”ve been out there and I’ve just never noticed. But now I KNOW. This is a big difference. They’re out there thinking snaky things. Acting all slithery. And green. Just waiting to make me scream without even trying.
The flowerbeds are a bit bulb-heavy anyway. Its an annual tradition of mine to spend the fall planting hundreds and hundreds of new bulbs. And that’s a tradition with serious cumulative, floral results and maybe it’s just okay to take a year off due to snakes.
The good news is that the frog are finally gone. Which is great. Because they would assemble their Giant Frog Family, including 7000 tiny babies, on the driveway. And then I’d have to go out there and spray them off with a water hose until not a single stupid frog was in the path of the Giant SUV, then hop in Giant SUV and speed down out of the Frog Family Reunion site before they could hop back in the way again. It took TIME. And effort. And I don’t think they appreciated my lifesaving heroics in the slightest, but that’s just how it is with frogs around here.
I don’t know where they all went. If you know, please don’t tell me.
*I KNOW that title is lame. I know. I’m good with it, anyway. I think it’s Gen 3, but I’m busy not planting bulbs or spraying frogs and studying marketing and not working on fixing that title.**
**Not that you aren’t worth the effort. You are. And pretty, too. But let me off the hook because I can only currently recall 3 of the 5 steps in the ‘new product development process’ and that’s gotta change before 9 am tomorrow.
earned three credit hours with a test on Substance Abuse. (Learning Experience of July 2010 came in a little too handy.)
wrote Ethan-10yr a very sweet note about how I’d help him with his bedroom. It does not currently enhance his life in any way. It is crammed with trash, old papers, too many animals, and stuff he doesn’t use anymore. But no fear. I am here to help. We are in this together. It is a worthwhile endeavor, and here are 8 detailed steps we will undertake in order to accomplish this task. The ‘very sweet’ part of the note hopefully counteracts the panic attack that will strike my child when he gets to the 8 point list. Well. That’s the idea, anyway.
cleaned out all the drawers in Seth-4yr’s room and got rid of all the clothes that are way too small that he insists on wearing anyway. Recently Mike and I asked him why he won’t wear the nice, new clothes we bought that he helped pick out. He said, “Oh. They’re nice. I’m just waiting until they’re SMALLER.” Sigh.
cleaned out all of Caden-6yr’s drawers. His aren’t so bad. He’s personally the messiest individual ever, but he likes things organized. He can be coated in 9 kinds of gunk, head to toe, when I pick him up from school EVERY DAY, but the kid appreciates organization and neatness of possessions. I like that particular contradiction in him.
got all worked up about somethingI have no right in the world to do that with. Ever do that? Certain songs set it off every time. Note to self: avoid those songs.
ate half a zucchini-walnut muffin from Starbucks. The top half. Of course.
did 5 loads of laundry.
wasted a huge amount of time and energy standing in front of mirror, hating hair. Not standing there trying to FIX the issue. Just staring and actively hating. This is unhealthy. Don’t do that.
could bore you with a million Substance Abuse facts that I have crammed into my head. But I won’t. You’re welcome.
need to go pick up the kids, discuss the newly implemented Organized Dresser Drawer Protocol, give Ethan-10yr his very sweet note and pray for the best.
Some day in this house there will no longer be the need to have the discussion with some child about how the # of days in a week is directly proportional to the # of underwear I expect for each of them to come through the laundry cycle. I asked Mike to have this conversation last night with one of the boys. Just to mix it up. So they don’t think it’s just Mom who believes in these crazy notions.
After this conversation is held, if the laundry cycle still reports a lack of child comprehension, we progress to Wedgie Check. I don’t call it that. But I think of it as that. Because I will periodically grab the child by the waistband and check to make sure those undies do not look like the ones that were there yesterday and usually, inadvertently, give the child a wedgie. And if they DO look like the previous day’s undies, we revert back to Step One and discuss the 1:1 ratio. Until their eyes glaze over.
They always object to the Wedgie Check.
And I always object to the “hey, THOSE look WAY. TOO. FAMILIAR.”
But come on already, why is this so difficult?
If I waited around for gracefulness, I’d never get anything done. My style of ramming into doorframes and walls is partly bad depth perception, and partly (mainly) personality. Because I’ve always been this way, though, I’m pretty good at it. I smash into something, laugh, move on and forget about it before the bruise shows up.
I’ve wanted to take Duke (the chocolate lab) for walks and runs, but he’s trained to walk on the left side, and he’s knee height and I didn’t think this was a good idea with the whole left knee still almost better kinda thing. So I haven’t. But today! Today I figured we were almost there.
Duke did well. He ran on the left and did not smash into me as he has been known to do. What I DID forget about was how I opened the door to the garage to get his leash and smashed the door into my forehead. Do you ever do that? Just swing open a door and not move far enough out of its way? I do that ALL. THE. TIME. My standard silent response is “I do not feel that pain,” and then promptly forget about it. I can do that. It’s real real helpful if you’re clumsy.
We ran a little ways and my head was hurting and I had no idea why. Then my left shin was killing me and I remembered the other night when I was mowing my mom’s lawn and the grass bag jumped off the back of the mower and then I got caught in the metal guide bar things on it. I tried to jump over it, but it was too late and I was always awful at hurdles anyway. Pretty blue and purple swollen tennis ball sized bruise.
The pounding of the running really didn’t help the throbbing head or shin. But, you know, if I wait until I’m suddenly graceful and relatively intact, I’ll never get to do anything. Like, EVER.
My sister is much the same way. Accident prone. But I’m kinda quiet. And my sister is kinda NOT. LaLa will slam her forehead into something and wrinkle up her face and hold her head at an angle (I can SO picture this, I’ve seen it thousands of times. Really. Thousands. We are so clumsy). And then she’ll suddenly shout, “OW!” and scare everyone in the house. And then we’ll all be sympathetic because whatever she did, it really REALLY looked like it hurt. And then a little time will pass and she’ll shout, “OW!” and scare us all to pieces again. Repeat as necessary.
She has the very best ever head injury story*, so I’ll try to get her to tell it. She’s away on a trip, but maybe when she gets back.
*there are “very best ever head injury stories”? ooooh yes. none of this run of the mill sort of ‘forget to get out of the way of a door’ sort of head injury. this particular story has teen angst and sound effects and a sequel.
Years ago I remember endlessly fussing over my toddler daughter’s hair and someone saying, “You’re only doing this because she’s your first child. One day it’ll be different.” I can’t remember who said it. At the time I thought it was rude and refused to admit that it was probably true. I was twenty one and trying hard.
Thursday night I put the kids to bed and I took up residence on the couch. I had two tests the next morning and a lot of studying to do. Twenty minutes later Seth-4yr came out to the living room, almost crying. He doens’t like to cry. He’d rather make faces and heave, and let his eyes get watery – but always stop just short of crying. This was what he was doing. He had a problem and he wanted it fixed before the tears left the eyes and dampened the eyelashes – that’s the part he hates. That is the moment of personal defeat for him.
A tuft of hair right on top of his head was sticking up – and there was something blue in it. It was that sticky silly-putty-like stuff you hang things on walls with. He’d found some earlier, played with it, and I’d told him when he was done to throw it away. But there it was in his hair.
Seth-4yr has gorgeous hair. It’s thick and silky straight. Medium to dark brown, but it shines with blond in the sunlight.
I hugged and kissed and whispered encouraging words about how this was not a big deal at all and everything would be all right. I tried for about a minute and a half to get it out. Sure, it would have been possible. But it would have taken me an hour. Mike was out of town. I did not HAVE an hour. I really needed to study.
So I took him to the kitchen and chopped it out with a pair of scissors, kissed his new little bald spot, told him it would grow back, and sent him back to bed.
There IS a difference between a first child and a fourth. Whoever said that to me 14 years ago was right.
The next afternoon I was sorting mail and just not quite thinking – or being very sensitive – and I asked him if anyone had mentioned his little bald spot.
His mouth dropped open and he put a hand over the patchy spot and said, “no!” in a highly (justifiably) annoyed voice.
I hugged him and apologized and tried not to laugh. “Baby, there will come a day when you’ll need a bald spot. Or some thinning. Or some receding. Or some graying. And it’s all really very cute, trust me.”
He was sitting next to me on the wicker loveseat on our front porch. He gave me a dirty look. Again, justified. But I was done with school and those two tests, and was feeling kinda silly.
I kissed the top of his head again and said, “If you don’t have any of those things, you’ll look like Wayne Newton, and that’s just not right.”
He looked up at me and snuggled closer and seemed to be thinking about what to say. I thought he was going to ask me who Wayne Newton was. But then he decided exactly what it was he wanted me to hear: ”Shhh.”