How To Remember The Little Things

My mom always left notes for herself. Everywhere. There could be notes hanging from the ceiling fan pull in the dining room, guaranteeing she would see them since that was the main thoroughfare of the house. She’d tape notes on the inside of the front door so we’d see them as we left. Or on the door out to the garage. Or taped to the bathroom mirror. Or she might lay the note on her purse or on some other object that she wasn’t likely to forget.

I used to think she was forgetful. Now I know how smart she was.

Her notes would remind her to get something out of the fridge or to take something with her or make a phone call, some little out-of-the-norm activity that she needed to do. Or it would be a note reminding us of something we needed to do.

I actually come from a long line of note posters. My grandpa, her dad,  taped notes on the staircase banister, which was the central location of his house. These notes were often notes instructing my grandma on something she needed to do or a note for one of us coming to the house. The funny thing about his notes were that they were always typed and dated. I’m kinda surprised he didn’t sign them or have them notarized. I used to imagine that he filed the old notes away in case he needed them as evidence in a disagreement on something or for historical reference.

Despite having been raised by note-posters and understanding the intrinsic value of the activity, I’ve never made it part of my daily routine. And considering how badly I remember the minutia of life, that’s not a good thing.

While bemoaning the stacks of stuff in our entry way that my husband plans on (some day) (when he remembers) taking out to his studio, I remembered the notes.

“Maybe you need a better reminder {than all the crap in the way… I thought but didn’t say}. Maybe a note on the door so you see it on the way out.”

That put the thought in my head.

I have these Wella bars that I eat for breakfast at work and I accidentally took the entire box to work on Monday without remembering to leave one at home to eat before our half marathon this weekend. So I knew I had all week to remember to bring one back home.

Yesterday, as I retrieved one from the fridge in the morning, I thought, You aren’t going to ever remember to take one of these out at the end of the day.

Aha! I thought with a smile. A Post-It note will do the trick. But where? The fridge? My computer screen? No, I’ll get used to seeing it all day and it won’t work. Aha! On my purse!

And that’s what I did. Come the end of the day when I reached for my purse, I smiled broadly at my wild success and retrieved the almost-forgotten Wella bar from the fridge and slipped it in my purse, triumphant.

And then this morning as I pondered our upcoming race, I suddenly exclaimed an expletive. The must-be-refrigerated Wella bar from the day before was still nestled in my purse.

I guess I’m still in the beginner stages. Another note, perhaps? Maybe I should have carried the note with me and placed it on my steering wheel or back on my purse. So close, yet so far. I’ve got a long way to go before I earn my place among the great note-posters of my family.

string-around-finger-9x10

Saturday Special

We were getting a little disconnected as a family. Maybe not just a little. Jane actually dissolved into tears of frustration recently when trying to explain why it bothered her so much that we hadn’t woken her up from the couch when we got home.

“Don’t we eat dinner together as a family anymore?”

We actually had done that just a couple of days earlier but without her. As a high-schooler with a boyfriend, she’s home less than she used to be. But in her defense, she was home that particular evening and I had fixed myself a salad without waking her or her sleeping brother. “Fend for yourself” was becoming the norm.

The next night, we played games late into the night with friends and didn’t arrive home until after midnight. Needless to say, our Saturday got a late start. I eventually marveled that even the dog hadn’t stirred by 10:30 and went to rouse my clan as my husband set out to prepare a brunch feast.

When I woke Daryl and said, “Come on, Daryl! It’s lunchtime!” he asked how it could possibly be lunchtime. “What about breakfast?”

“Dude,” I said, “it’s 10:40. We slept through breakfast!”

We had a bumpy start through meal prep and consumption. Jane wanted to spend time with Hal but Hal didn’t want to share his drawing pad or his colored pencils. Daryl had woken in a sour mood and didn’t like having to hand wash some dishes, although he chose that task over making waffles.

After lunch though, all three kids sat down with their respective pads of paper at the dining room table and used Jane’s gel pens to draw or color. Jane asked if I wanted to join them but I declined. “I have too much I need to do,” I said.

But when I reached my room with the laundry hamper, I spied my grown-up coloring book. Sensing something special was happening, I grabbed it and joined the kids. Jane was playing music on a bluetooth speaker and everyone colored quietly and talked and laughed and complimented each other’s art.

Eventually, Daddy joined us at the table as he sorted the mail. Knowing that I really did have work to do, I put my book aside and began sorting papers as well. When Daryl tired of coloring, he started going through books on his shelves that he didn’t want anymore. He’d bring them to the table and we’d all make decisions on them together.

“We aren’t getting rid of any books! Mrs. Smith says you can’t have too many books,” Hal stated confidently.

“Mrs. Smith has never been to our house.”

It was wonderful. “We should do this on Saturdays more often,” Jane said. I agreed.

Later in the afternoon, she and her Dad left to take care of some shopping. I asked Hal if he wanted to go for a walk. He was very behind on his miles for a Kids’ Marathon the boys are participating in and the treadmill gets boring.

Soon, the two of us were walking the 3.2 mile loop that my husband and I run when we want a “short” run. Hal likes to talk and prattled away as we walked. He pointed out slyly that he was still in his pajamas. I suggested that maybe long flannel pants weren’t the best choice for walking on a warm Spring day.

We talked about the dogs we saw, the trash along the way, the sky, the trees, the grass, people’s yards, the cars going by, the bear he thought he might have seen in the woods.

“There aren’t bears here,” I said.

“Well, I saw something move in there!”

“I’m sure there was something there but it wasn’t a bear.”

“Maybe a squirrel,” he said.

“Or a cat.”

“A cat?! What would a cat be doing in the woods?”

I shrugged. “Exploring. Hunting mice. Or birds.”

“Do cats eat birds?” he asked.

“Yes. Or at least, they like to kill birds.”

The walk was long but there was a nice breeze and clouds blocked the sun most of the way. We passed by some pigs in pens. There was too much in the way for us to see them but we could sure smell them! Hal decided he was glad he didn’t live near them.

We talked about a car that was covered with a tarp but also under a carport. We discussed various reasons the car owner might do that. We peeked at a pond in the distance and discussed the “private property” sign on the fence and what it meant. We studied the trees that had grown up under the power lines and had their tops cut off. We remarked on all the ant mounds and how large some of them were.

“Why did God invent ants anyway?” he asked.

“Well,” I said. “They are very good at breaking up the soil so plants can grow.”

“We don’t need ants to do that! We can do that ourselves,” he said.

I pointed out a large field of tall grass at one point. The wind was blowing the grass in big lazy waves. “It looks like a big grass sea!” he said with delight.

We passed by a house that had some dilapidated out buildings. “Do chickens live in there?” he asked.

“It looks like chickens may have lived in there before,” I said. “But it looks too rundown now. I don’t think it’s in use.”

“Look!” he said as we passed by the end of the building. “That part is really falling apart! It looks like it got hit by a tornado or maybe a hurricane or something!”

“I think it’s just the passage of time. They didn’t make repairs over time and now it’s falling apart. Look over there,” I said, pointing to an even more unstable structure behind it. “That one’s really old.”

“I bet a tornado came through a really long time ago. Like in the old days. Back in 1977.”

“Hey!” I said. “I was three years old in 1977! Those aren’t the old days!”

He looked shocked. “Wow! You were three in 1977! Hey, Hannah told me the other day that her favorite number is three and that’s how old you were way back in 1937!”

Seventy seven!”

That started a game of “back in the old days, forward in the futurative days.” Hal would pretend he was an old man and say things like “back in the old days when I was three, we had a nice building for the chickens but back in… oops, I mean, forward in the futurative days when I was 52, it was worn down.”

He went through various topics. Like when a DVD just made sound, not pictures. I told him DVDs didn’t exist “in the old days.”

“Well, back in the old days, we just had a radio to listen to but forward in the futurative days, we have television.”

And so on and so on until he ran out of “old days” differences. That’s when he enlisted my help. I’d say the old days line and then he’d give the future one, sometimes restating my old days with his own twist, sometimes keeping it straight.

We compared phones on the wall to iPhones and film cameras to digital. He tried to claim that old days didn’t have cool sports cars like Camaros. I told him they had actually been very popular in the Seventies.

As we walked past a stranger mowing his yard with an obviously old push mower, Hal said, “Back in the old days, we just had a rundown old mower, but forward in the futurative days, we have a nice shiny one.” He pointed to the man. “I got that one from our friend there with the mower.”

I don’t spend a lot of one-on-one time with Hal. I’ve recently started working with him on his cello lessons, sitting and watching and paying full attention to him and his efforts rather than multi-tasking. But when I surprised him by showing up with Daddy at his Spring party the day before, he glanced up at me, showed no interest at all and rushed over to his dad to tell him what he had made. That stung. It stung a lot.

But then I got to spend 45 minutes walking with this wonderful little man we are raising. This quirky, oddball, inquisitive little man. And I was happy.

I honestly can’t say whether I enjoyed the family coloring party or the walk with Hal more. I just feel incredibly fortunate that I got to experience both. I didn’t get the big paper reduction project done that day, and quite frankly, I’m not sure how we’ll stay on schedule with our tidying plans, but I don’t care either.

This was special. And as Jane said, I want it to happen again.

Electronics Free Time

My husband decided we should institute an electronics free time in our household. He and I discussed it for a bit before deciding to “go live” Sunday evening. Sun-Thurs, regardless of whether school is in session, everyone will put away electronics from 5pm until 8pm.

This includes phones, iPods, tablets, the PS-4, computer games – all of them. Kindles are allowed for reading. And while the devices are all sitting in a designated public-access spot, we can check them for text messages or answer the phone if it rings.

So Sunday evening rolled around and my husband told the boys to put their electronics away. Daryl soon picked up his old iPod and said he wanted to do experiments with it outside. I was leery until I verified that it wouldn’t power on.

He and Hal were soon outside using the silvery back of the iPod to reflect the sun onto the sidewalk. When they noticed that they could almost see the Apple logo on the concrete, they ran back in for a sheet of paper to see if they could get a clearer reflection.

Sometime later, Hal came in looking for a rag. A glance outside showed that they had raided my husband’s pottery shard pile and were cracking pottery with a rock, washing desired pieces in a cup of water, drying it with the rag, and arranging them on a board for a mosaic.

Several times, I contemplated calling them in to put away laundry or help me make decisions on their overabundance of T-shirts. Every time, though, I looked outside at the two of them. Working together. Not fighting – at all. And unplugged.

And every time, I decided the clothes could wait.

When I came home from work last night, they had found a magnifying glass and were seeing if they could start a piece of paper on fire in the driveway. Hal created a new hind end for himself out of a shoe box. They played with the Nerf dart guns.

Both nights, they came easily to the table when called in for dinner. And no one has whined about wanting to be on their electronics. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s like nirvana or something.

We’ll see how well it lasts. And both nights, Jane has been gone so the jury’s still out on how that is going to work. And last night wasn’t without a dispute or two. But all in all, this is exactly what we were hoping to see happen.

As I told my husband, I’m more than happy to give up Two Dots for this.

Bonafide Bonehead

In the course of telling you about my recent cellphone catastrophe, I mentioned the boneheaded moment I decided to rinse my cellphone off in the sink before trying to… rescue it from the effects of excessive moisture.

I wish I could tell you it was an isolated incident.

It is not.

My nonsensical idiocy runs the gamut from obvious (to everyone else) poor fashion decisions to actual life and death matters.

In eighth grade, I wanted to look like, I don’t know, Molly Ringwald or something. I wanted to look like a hip young girl in tune with 80s chic, and I thought I had exactly what I needed to pull it off. Unfortunately, no matter how bright and preppy your shirt looks, if you combine an ultra-short black leather mini skirt with hot pink tights and little heeled silver boots, you look like you belong in the red light district, not on the red carpet. It wasn’t until I noticed all the whispers taking place that I realized there was more to style than just color coordination.

Childhood can perhaps be excused, but adults are supposed to know better. Before we had kids, I got in a huge fight with my husband about whether or not we should wear face masks while playing pick-up roller hockey. He insisted we should. I insisted that no one else even wore helmets and we’d look like over-concerned fools if we added face masks. That night – I’m not kidding you – that very night, I found myself in the urgent care center at the hospital getting 11 stitches in my eyebrow after colliding with someone on the rink.

I obviously didn’t learn my lesson because sometime after that, we arrived at an indoor skating rink for pick-up hockey with a rougher crowd. I dug and dug through my large hockey bag but couldn’t find my rubber mouth guard. Oh, well,  I thought. It’ll probably be OK to play without. Not too far into the evening, a show-off forward approached me with the puck. I stood my ground (perhaps a boneheaded decision itself) and he smashed right into me. As I picked me and my freshly broken stick up off the rink, I noticed that there was a bit of something on my tongue. Part of my tooth. I found the mouth guard as I put my stuff back in my bag.

Then there was the moment about a month after my first child was born when I loaded her and the dog up in the car and went to pick up a car part from a dealership for my husband. By the time I got there, I had… well… basically forgotten I had a child. I was standing in line at the parts counter when all the blood drained from my face as I realized I had left her in the car. Did I run back out and get her as any normal person would do? No! I stayed in line because I didn’t want all those other people to think I was a bad mom when I re-entered with a tiny baby. So… I became a worse mom… by leaving her there. {For the truly aghast among you, it was neither too hot nor too cold outside. She wasn’t in danger just by virtue of being in the car.}

While deep in a secluded section of Grand Canyon, requiring a steep uphill climb and several miles of walking to get anywhere close to a ranger, I once tried to take a close-up picture of a cute little baby snake… rattling its cute little tail at me… Until my panicked husband yelled as he approached and I backed off. In my defense, none of the people standing around watching had said anything at all. My husband made sure to give me all the grim details of what would have happened had I been bitten. And he was quite amused that I had gotten so close to the snake that the pictures I had taken were all blurry.

But perhaps the most boneheaded decision I made was when I was a Junior in High School. My boyfriend at the time asked me to marry him. Well, I didn’t know if that was a good move – I was fairly certain it wasn’t. I didn’t know if I wanted to marry him or not. And I certainly didn’t know what would happen if I said no. What I did know was that I didn’t want us to break up. And I knew that wouldn’t happen if I said yes, so I said yes. And he was oh, so happy.

Fortunately for me, many of my boneheaded moves did not have disastrous consequences – this one in particular. That boyfriend was the last one I ever had and we’ve beaten all odds on many fronts to have made this marriage work. And I truly couldn’t ask for a better person to be there laughing like a hyena whenever I do something really, really dumb.

20 Hours and a Bag of Rice

The children and I, plus Jane’s boyfriend, were away from home visiting family. It was the last day and a full busy one. We had met my father-in-law for breakfast and then made a quick visit out to his house before heading back to my mother’s house for the big extended family gathering.

My grandmother on my stepdad’s side plus her daughter and son-in-law had pulled into the driveway just ahead of us. We greeted them and made introductions before I darted inside. See, I was supposed to be helping with the food but really needed to use the bathroom first.

It was much colder than I had expected it to be. When we had left home several days earlier, it was 84 degrees outside. This particular morning, it had literally been freezing when we woke up. I had foolishly failed to check the weather and as a result had not packed any long pants. I had spent the previous day wearing a pair of my mother’s jeans. She and I have about the same girth but my legs are noticeably longer. I walked around looking like a dork in high waters.

All this to say that I had stopped at Wal-Mart and purchased some sweatpants that I needed anyway. But sweatpants have front pockets, not back pockets. And I was in a hurry when I entered the bathroom. I took care of my business, turned to flush, and then quickly pulled up my pants. I was tying the string when my cellphone, nestled in that front pocket and forgotten about, leaped into the toilet headfirst.

I shrieked as the water swirled around it, made a mental observation that it was a good thing it was too big to fit down the drain, and snatched it out quickly. I then added to my growing list of boneheaded moves and rinsed it off under the sink before drying it off. Isn’t that what you always do when you pull something out of the toilet?

Anyway, I then rushed out of the bathroom and told my mother that I desperately needed some rice. She could tell it was an emergency but couldn’t quite figure out how someone could have an urgent need for rice. Especially as they emerge from the bathroom. But rice she fetched as I powered off my phone.

I would later remove it from the rice to use the vacuum to suck any moisture out of the openings, but otherwise, it stayed in a bag of rice from noon that day until 8 am the next. And for that 20 hour window, I was struck by how lost I was without my phone.

I wasn’t able to make the dish I planned because my recipe was on my phone. I didn’t want to Google and find something close – I wanted my recipe.

I couldn’t take pictures as the family gathered. I had to use my mom’s phone and now I’ll have to wait for her to forward the pictures to me.

I couldn’t check my work email as I had promised to do while away from the office.

I couldn’t check personal email either, which turned out to be very critical the next morning when I discovered at 8:20, as the family was slowly waking up, that the bell choir director wanted us at church at 8:50 for rehearsal.

I couldn’t receive text messages from the friend taking care of our dog.

I couldn’t check on my Words With Friends games or play Two Dots. I actually kind of liked that part. Hmmm…

That afternoon, when I prepared to go run – it having been too cold that morning, I realized that without my phone, I couldn’t track my run or my heart rate and — horror of horrors! — I couldn’t play music to keep me motivated.

For that one, I downloaded the two apps on my mother’s phone and survived well enough. The run won’t be in my Polar Beat history. But that’s OK because mom’s older Samsung still has the location bug and wouldn’t track where I was anyway.

I couldn’t access Google Maps but fortunately knew my way home.

That night, I couldn’t set my alarm clock for the next morning but was luckily back with my husband. Who had not dropped his phone in the toilet. So I had him set his.

I felt so lost. I was only antsy for the first couple of hours. After that, I managed to accept the situation and wait. But I couldn’t help being reminded how critical that expensive little device has become.

Children & Communication: The Great Irony

When you care about the details:

Mom: “So how was school today?”

Child: “Fine.”

Mom: “Anything special happen?”

Child: “No.”

Mom: “I heard the fire alarms went off.”

Child: “Oh. Yeah.”

Mom: “So what did you do?”

Child: “We went outside.”

Mom: “Was it scary? Exciting? I heard there was smoke in the hallways.”

Child: *shrug*

When you don’t care about the details:

(Mom asks the initial question because school dress code does not allow blue socks.)

Mom: “Why are you wearing blue socks?”

Child: “Because I’m wearing my boots and…”

Mom: “Ok, I understand.”

Child: “No, wait! Let me explain! I’m wearing my boots and I’m going to wear my pants over the top of the boots so…”

Mom: “Got it. I need to go finish getting ready.”

Child: “But, wait! See, I’m wearing my boots with the blue tops but I’m going to wear my pants over the boots so the blue doesn’t show but when I wear short socks when I’m wearing the pants over the boots, the boots are cold on my skin so I’m going to wear tall socks so that doesn’t happen.”

 

Kids Ruin Everything

Kids ruin everything.

They ruin your mind. A wise woman advised me at my first baby shower to write down every cute thing they do because, “You think you will remember, but you won’t. Motherhood zaps your brain cells!”

She was right.

If you are a woman, they ruin your body. First they do it by distending your belly to such a degree that, especially if you have more than one or two, the skin simply gives up and sags. Then, if you breastfeed, they do it all over again to your breasts.

They also ruin your childhood memories or the things you love. You wouldn’t think they could, but they do. They do this either by just being present or by virtue of the increased “enlightenment” of the world in general since you were young.

When Jane was about two or three years old, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. One of those songs that I always sing along with at full volume if I’m in the car. Only there’s something about belting out “Hell is for children!” with my innocent, young sponge in the back seat that just struck me as wrong.

First I stopped singing. Then I turned down the volume. Then I changed the channel.

I knew Pat Benatar was singing about the evils of child abuse, but how could I explain that to my daughter if she asked? And would I want to? She ruined the song. For years, I’ve had to change the channel instead of sing along.

Movies fall victim too. I loved Real Genius when I was a kid. Loved it. I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to see it. We finally sat down to watch it one evening and, at first, they loved it too.

But then the woman that desperately wants to sleep with a genius came into the picture. She started trying to seduce Mitch, the young protagonist. Jane turned on one of my favorite childhood movies. Now, whenever the movie comes up, she says, “Oh, you mean that one where the woman wanted to rape a boy?”

When I protest, she reminds me that an adult having sex with a teenager is rape. When I remind her that the woman was not successful in her seduction, she points out that Mitch did have sex with his girlfriend, who was 18. He was not. Rape, says Jane.

The most recent experience wasn’t even with one of my own children. It isn’t enough that my own children sully the things I enjoy in life – no, my friends’ kids have to get in on it too.

I was driving my boys and my oldest son’s best friend when The Police’s classic, “Every Breath You Take” came on. Another song I love to sing with, and so I began.

To my surprise, our young guest began to sing along with me. Well, almost. His version went something like this:

Every breath you take and every move you make

Every bond you break, every step you take,

I’ll be stalking you

I glared at him and kept singing.

So did he.

Every single day and every word you say

Every game you play, every night you stay,

I’ll be stalking you

I tried to laugh it off, but now he had me thinking about the lyrics differently…

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me

How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make, every vow you break

Every smile you fake, every claim you stake,

I’ll be stalking you

I couldn’t ignore it anymore. That beautiful, beautiful love song from my youth was now creepy. Really creepy. He was right. The song wasn’t about dedication and forlorn love. It was about stalking.

Crap! I loved that song. And a kid ruined it.

They don’t stop when they become adults either. My sister-in-law ruined her mother’s love of watching football. She absorbed all the information about concussion and injury and declared the sport too violent. She harangued her mother for supporting it and cheering on. No, not only should no one play the sport, but no one should watch it either.

With a certain sad resignation, my mother-in-law stopped watching her Broncos. And now they are going to the Super Bowl!

I’m telling you, kids ruin everything.