Goodbye Mommy. I love you…

Summer is over and school has begun. Everyone in the house is now up early each morning instead of just me*. So our patterns will change again and I’ll lose one small endearing moment.

When I am leaving the house before my children, which really only happens when they aren’t in school, Hal has a very sweet ritual.

“Goodbye Mommy. I love you. Have a good day at work.”

I get this every morning, often multiple times. Always the same.

You might claim this is just perfunctory and he’s not even thinking about it, but you’d be wrong.

You see, every morning of the summer when I would leave for work while the children were still in bed, I’d walk in and say goodbye to each of them. Jane would typically not respond much and if she did, she was usually irritated that I was waking her up. Daryl, now entering the teenage stage of life himself, never stirred. He never acknowledged my presence, never said goodbye, never even woke up as far as I know. So much for the mamma’s boy.

But Hal? No matter how deep asleep my youngest child was, no matter whether I spoke or just delivered a soft kiss to the cheek, Hal always stirred and said his goodbye phrase and hugged me tightly. Even if he wasn’t ready to open his eyes.

One time, he got his phrase swapped with his bedtime phrase and said, “Goodnight Mommy. I love you. Have a good day at…{pause}… Goodbye Mommy. I love you. Have a good day at work.” We both smiled and hugged. It was sweet.

Ok, so you might look at that and say, “See? It’s perfunctory. He’s not even thinking as he says it.”

But remember when I said “often multiple times”? Yeah, it wasn’t multiple times while he lay in bed. The other times came as I opened the door to leave, as I got to the car, or if I walked back into the house.

That little boy, with no personal need to rise from bed, would climb out of his top bunk and run (run!) down the hall calling out, “WAIT MOMMY! I need another hug!” He’d embrace me by the door and then say, “Goodbye Mommy. I love you. Have a good day at work.” Sometimes he’d even get out of bed and lay on the couch waiting for that opportunity to get another hug and send me off properly. And I’d say I had a 50/50 shot at him opening the door and running down the sidewalk barefoot to do it all yet again.

No, he’s not robotic. It’s just very important to him that I get sent off properly every single day. Of course, now school is back in session. Everyone rises early and struggles to get ready to leave the house. People get crosswise with each other. Hal gets frustrated and whiny and yells at everyone. And I try to calm him down and tell him to have a good day at school. I don’t get my sending off. I don’t get my “Goodbye Mommy. I love you. Have a good day at work.” I wonder if he’s even aware I’m going to work.

I’ll still get my “Goodnight Mommy. I love you.” every night. But all those “Goodbye Mommy”‘s from the summer will have to hold me over until the next summer. Maybe I’ll get a little recharge over Christmas break. We shall see.

Goodbye little buddy. I love you. Have a good day at school.

 

*Jane will point out that with band camp every day of August, I wasn’t the only one up early. I find that a superfluous detail to this tale. That’s just August and it still wasn’t the entire family, but she would be right. Her school year, in a way, started August 1st.

The Blanket Wars

We were staying at my mother’s house on a recent Saturday night. My husband and I in one room, Jane in another, and the boys in a small room off the living room with a curtain temporarily installed over the doorway to it.

I was sound asleep when 2:00 am rolled around. More than sound, I was dead asleep. Deep, deep into some sort of dream that left me disoriented and confused when I heard our door open with force and speed.

I jumped and tried to orient myself. Before I had fully managed to separate reality from the dream, an angry little voice said, “MOMMY. Bubba just ripped my blanket right off of me! And he won’t give it back!”

I tried to fathom my older child doing this in the middle of the night. A visual image of the younger wrapped tightly in his blanket and the older pulling it off of him with malice just didn’t seem to work.

I dropped the attempt to understand and just opened the closet in our room. I felt around blindly until I touched one of mom’s two million blankets she has tucked away. After pulling it out, I handed it to young Hal.

Hal looked at it and looked at me as I walked back toward my beckoning bed.

“Is this blanket for Bubba?” he asked.

“Well,” I responded carefully, “since Bubba already has the other one now, why don’t you just use this one.”

I winced as he exploded, “BUT THAT’S MY BLANKET! I was using it!”

All hope for returning quickly to sleep vanished as I headed down the hall to deal with the situation. I still didn’t understand why Daryl would have woken up and chosen to pick a fight with his sleeping brother, but I was going to get to the bottom of it.

The scene that greeted me wasn’t what I expected. The two mattresses lay about 5 feet apart. The blanket in question was on the floor between them. Daryl was sprawled on his bed with his arm on the floor and an intensely angry expression on his face.

“Take the blanket back, Hal,” he said in disgust. “You weren’t even using it.”

Suddenly, it all made sense. Hal had been wrapped up in his blanket and kicked it off of himself as the night went on. Daryl woke up cold and saw that Hal wasn’t using his blanket so decided to take it. But Hal was likely still on top of it such that when Daryl pulled it away, it woke up Hal and left him with the impression that the blanket had been ripped off of him.

The whole scenario was made all the more bemusing by the fact that it was hot in that room! No wonder Hal had kicked off the blanket. And I have no clue why Daryl felt he needed one.

Oh, well. I draped the new blanket over Daryl as Hal wrapped himself again in his blanket. Life returned to normal in that room, where everyone was likely already asleep by the time I crawled into my bed.

As always though, I was not as quick to regain slumber. Once again, I lay awake and composed blog posts in my head and tried not to hold a grudge against my little cherubs.

Not Pretty

My daughter’s boyfriend is Mexican American and his mother is a superb cook. I have pretty much lost my daughter to her.

“David’s mom made soup so I’m going to stay here for dinner. Her soup is the best!”

“We are over here at David’s house eating this great meat dish. I don’t know what it’s called.”

“She made tamales and… wow! They are so tasty! Is it ok if I stay?”

And even…

“O.M.G.! David’s mom is making hamburgers tonight and hers are the best! I’m not coming home.”

I’ve been a little jealous, to be honest. Jealous of her time with my daughter. Jealous of my daughter getting to eat the food while I struggle at home deciding whether to serve up hummus and pretzels or hamburger meat with rice or just tell everyone it is (yet again) fend-for-yourself night.

She did bring a few of those tamales home one night and she was right – they were tasty indeed. And she promised me some soup once but it all got consumed by people actually present at the house, so I missed out.

Most recently, she brought home some salsa (flavorful but a bit too hot for me!), some of the best flavored Spanish rice I’ve ever had, and some fresh homemade tortillas. As I carefully unwrapped the tortillas from the moist paper towel wrapped around them, Jane passed on her new mom’s warning: “She said to tell you that they aren’t pretty.”

I glanced down at the goods. They were small, just a bit denser than what you’d get at a restaurant, and perfectly round with some slightly rough edges. I laughed.

You see, I tried making tortillas from scratch once. Once.

I even had instructions from a genuine Mexican American woman.

It didn’t help.

I told Jane to tell her that when I made tortillas, we were able to engage in quality geography lessons. Seriously. Despite my best efforts to make them round, I had one that had a striking resemblance to the state of Texas. Several other noticeably non-circular blobs. And one that incredibly enough, looked just like Florida.

Florida.

Not even one of the square states.

It was one of those moments that I thought I might lose my husband to a laughing fit. “Breathe, honey! Breathe!”

So, see, just like people, when it comes to tortillas, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Grumpy Girl, Grumpy Uterus

Last week, we returned to our annual inter-generational art conference. This put us essentially in a “hotel” room together for five days. We pulled the short straw on bathrooms in the lodge and got a tiny one where the bathroom door barely cleared the front of the toilet. This is challenging for a family our size, to say the least.

One morning, while I was in the shower, Jane came in and started rummaging through the myriad of items on the counter. “Where’s the Ibuprofen?” she asked with more than a tinge of grump in her voice. She found it just as I prepared to answer and swallowed them without water.

“What’s the Ibuprofen for?” I asked as she began to exit the room.

“My uterus” was the frank reply. Then with the same unhappy, grumpy tone, she added, “It’s not happy that I didn’t put a baby in it.”

Now, some mothers might have been startled and even concerned by the comment. But being a writer and Jane’s mother, I knew she wasn’t saying that she wished she had put a baby in it. She was speaking from the uterus’s point-of-view and it was definitely not happy at that moment. I found it a beautiful(?) description of a woman’s monthly cycle.

Later, when I shared the exchange with a friend who reacted in the more predictable manner, Jane chimed in with an expanded explanation.

“You know when your parents tell you you are going on a trip and you are really excited about it? You get everything all packed and ready to go. And then they tell you that you aren’t going anywhere after all and you need to unpack.Do you unpack nicely and gently? No! You are angry. You grab your clothes out of your suitcase and slam them back into your drawer. It’s like that.”

It’s like that. She’s right. And maybe that’s why it hurts so much more when you are younger. Your uterus hasn’t become jaded enough to expect the trip to be canceled. After years of unpacking every month though, it gets tired of slamming the clothes back in the drawer and instead does so tired and dejected and just a tad disappointed. But not surprised and not angry.

I love my daughter. I love that she’s a reader and thus a creative wordsmith. It’s so much more fun when the people around you can create unexpected pictures in your mind rather than conveying the basic, dull information you requested.

Good Friend, Rough Ride

Sometimes life sucks.

Sometimes life sucks for a friend but you are there for them so they are able to keep their head just above the water.

But sometimes life starts sucking for you before they are able to swim on their own.

And then what?

I guess you tumble down the roaring rapids of life clinging to each other, each taking a turn rolling over to pull the other out of the water.

Each holding on to the other and hoping, hoping the water will calm soon and you can both climb out onto the shore. And stand there holding hands instead of clinging for dear life. And enjoy the sun and the view and look back at the raging river and know that you survived because you had each other.

Yes, sometimes I think it might happen like that. If you are blessed with a good friend.

Sometimes You Just Gotta Sing!

My mother-in-law’s house outside of Denver has a basement, complete with two rooms and a bathroom. One day while we were visiting, I was sitting on the bed in one of the rooms recording receipts in our budget app. My twelve year-old son was in the bathroom taking a shower.

And singing.

Kind of.

I mean, I suppose you could call some of it singing.

Some of it was more like practicing exotic bird calls.

And some sounded like Tibetan throat singing.

And some sounded like yodeling.

And still others like some sort of theatrical stage production.

And at times, the various components were combined in unique ways.

He was getting on my nerves. In fact, I almost called out to him to cut it out. But before the words came out of my mouth, I paused and considered. He’s enjoying himself. Truly, truly carefree and enjoying himself. Surely I could enjoy it too.

Which I did.

And then I realized that other people deserved to enjoy it too. I realized I was missing an important opportunity as I strove to finish entering the receipts. With that realization, I hopped off the bed and rushed quietly to the bathroom door – a receipt partially entered and forgotten.

I began to video the dark, closed door. And of course, at that moment, he quit singing. But I waited patiently. Sure enough, 30 seconds later I heard his low voice make some squeaking dolphin-like noises followed by some (loose interpretation of) lyrics from Jon Cozart’s YouTube hit, After Ever After:

The Japanese killed all my whale friends

Oil is spilling

Mermaids are killing

Thanks to BP

He then devolved into a screeching, donkey-braying repetition of “THANKS TO BP!”

I laughed silently as the noises crescendo’d before morphing into monkey sounds and eventually into some rousing beatboxing. The beatbox stopped suddenly and after a brief pause, he called out in his best Urkel impersonation, “What was thaaat?!”

Another bit of silence and then I knew it was coming and could barely contain my giggling.

He opened the door.

And screeched, clutching the towel around him.

His face registered first pure shock and surprise to find someone at the door, followed almost immediately by the recognition of what I had been doing. My laughter spilled over the floodgates. I rushed to stop the video and pull away as he tried to grab the camera.

I promised him that I wouldn’t post it on Facebook and I’ll honor that commitment. And I won’t violate the spirit of that commitment by posting it here. What I will do is gleefully show it to anyone I come across who’s interested. It’s good for a solid belly laugh. Trust me on that.

It’s Been a Month Since…

It’s not writer’s block. I don’t think. I’m honestly not sure what it is. Reticence? Exhaustion? Whatever it is, the end result is that I’ve written one blog post in the last couple of months. I’ve composed several in my head, but not nearly as many as when I was in my prime.

I don’t feel I’ve had a lot of opportunity to sit down at the computer, but even when I have, blogging has seemed an overwhelming task better left for another day. Or another… or another… or…

My husband and I accomplished a grand hiking feat in June, complete with illness and worry about death and encounters with angels along the way. Surely I could find the time and interest and energy to blog about that? But the week after was busy and then we went on vacation. I took a laptop so I could blog in the car during the 15 hour drive. It stayed under the seat until we returned home. Untouched. The story unblogged. And now I’ve told the story so many times verbally that it feels tired and uninspired.

I swore that when I returned to the computer, I wouldn’t blog about the lack of blogging. I’ve done that before. No one is interested. Just blog about the usual funny family fare and don’t mention the long drought, I told myself. Just blog like nothing’s wrong. Like nothing has been wrong.

Tonight, I sat at the table eating crackers and hummus and drinking wine and talking to my husband. The hiking story meandered through my head and another story crossed its path. I didn’t feel a strong urge to blog. In fact, the initial reaction was one of exhaustion. Maybe another day, I thought. But there was a tiny little flame back in the recesses of my brain. It was flickering, barely lit. I knew I needed to attend to it or it’d snuff out for sure. If not today, then when?

So I looked up at my husband and said words I haven’t said in a long time. “I think I’d like to go blog now,” I said. “If that’s ok with you,” I added after a brief pause. He looked at me silently before responding it was fine with him.

Sitting down at the computer, I knew the hiking story was too much. The other story would come. I could write about it. But first, I needed to explore my non-writing. It needed to have the light shined on it. It needed to be examined. If nothing else, I needed to practice my writing before trying to tell a story. Logging into WordPress brought me to the stats page, where it told me: It’s been a month since A Roller Coaster Day was published.

A month. Feels like a lifetime.

If you are reading this, thanks for humoring me. Ignore the love handles spilling out of my writing work-out clothes. I’m out of shape, but I’m here again at the gym. Sweaty and out-of-breath but here nonetheless.