Oh, yeah? When I was your age…

Hal has yet another loose tooth. It seemed pretty loose to me so when he walked in pushing on his lip near the tooth, I suggested that my husband take a look at it. Hal jerked away and shook his head.

“I’m not going to pull it,” he said. Then, after wiggling the tooth, he added, “Yeah, I’d say it needs another day or two.”

“Are you sure? Felt like it was ready to come out to me,” I responded.

“No,” he said, looking at Hal. “I’m more of the wait until it’s ready to fall out kind of person. Your mom is the rip it out kind of person.”

“You think I’m the rip it out kind of person?! Let me tell you…”

I then launched into the tale of my first two pulled teeth. These were stories I’ve told many times before and it dismayed me to realize that I didn’t remember for sure which was the first tooth and which was the second.

“So I was out shopping with Mimi. And Aunt May. And Aunt Susan was probably there. And Grandma Lucky and my GREAT grandma.”

Hal’s eyes were wide with wonder.

“And we were all in a dressing room together. It was a big dressing room.”

I was playing with my tooth and my great grandma asked to see it. My mom, who was very big on yanking teeth {this part now makes me think that this must have been my second tooth because how else would I know this?} warned her off and said, “Oh, grandma, no. It’s not ready yet.”

“I’ll see about that,” she said.

At this point, back in my dining room, I held up seven fingers – all on my left hand and only the pinky and ring finger on the right. “Now, my great grandmother,” I told Hal, “only had seven fingers.”

He looked over at his dad, who confirmed it with a solemn nod. Hal’s eyes went even wider.

“I can’t remember whether she used those two fingers this time or not but they were like pincers. She could grab hold of this skin under your arm {I demonstrated} and lead you wherever she wanted you to go.”

Hal scooted closer to his dad.

“Anyway, I just remember her reaching into my mouth and yanking that tooth out and saying, ‘Looks ready to me!’ I clearly remember looking at myself in the dressing room mirror, staring at the blood running down my face and all the commotion that caused in the dressing room.”

Hal was now standing partially behind his dad.

“Now, the second tooth,” I continued. “I lost that one on the Fourth of July. I know that because it was almost time to go to the big fireworks display in town and my mom insisted that we weren’t going until that tooth came out.

“I pleaded my case but she pinned me against the kitchen cabinets, reached in, and yanked out the tooth! It slipped from her fingers and fell onto my tongue. She said sharply, ‘Stick out your tongue!’ and I did and she plucked it off my tongue and we went to the fireworks display.”

Hal, now standing fully behind his seated dad and ducking down behind him, whispered in a small voice, “I’m glad I wasn’t you.”

I smiled. I didn’t have a rough childhood – definitely not. But my children are definitely softer than they would have been had they been me. Between my great grandma, grandparents, and my mom, not a lot of crap was put up with. Let’s just say they all had a perspective that you needed to be tough.

Oh, one last thing? Before I was two sentences into writing this story, Hal entered the room with his hand cupped in front of him. “Looks like today was the day after all,” he said, holding the tooth.

Affirmation. I was right!

Advertisements

Good Morning

Did I mention that all three kids were gone last week?  I have a post planned about how I think we will handle the empty nest based on our time last week, but for now I want to talk about my relationship with Hal.

Hal went to visit grandparents while his older siblings were at summer camp.  They left a week ago Sunday; he left Monday.  They returned Saturday; he returned Sunday.  We met my mom halfway to retrieve him.  I saw them exit the restaurant we were meeting at so I hopped out.

He saw me and raced toward me.  I scooped him up and gave (and received) a big hug.  Before I had a chance to ask how he was doing, he had spotted something behind me and was squirming to get down.

That something was his Daddy.

My reunion with my son was done.  There was Daddy, after all.

You might think I’m bitter, but really, I’m not.  He’s a Daddy’s boy and I understand why.  I mean, they spend all day nearly every day home with Daddy over the summer.  Daddy takes them to school.  I go to work.

Hal is remarkably devoted to seeing me off properly when I do leave for work.  Take Monday morning after his return, for instance.  I entered his room and gently rubbed his back to wake him up before I left.  I rubbed and rubbed and then gave him a kiss on the cheek.  He didn’t really stir until I said, “Hal, I’m heading to work now.”

He hurried to an upright position and wrapped my neck in a tight hug.  “I love you, Mommy.  Have a good day at work.”

As I prepared to walk out the front door a few minutes later, he called out, “Wait, Mommy!  I want more hugs and kisses!”

He could have stayed in bed – that’s what the other two would have done.  But instead, he ran down the hall to repeat the farewells.  And then he opened the door as I walked down the sidewalk and repeated all his well wishes, adding that he would lock the door behind me (a request I make frequently when leaving).  He opened the door again to ask me what it is I do at work.

I could almost see the little wheels in his head turning as it dawned on him that he really had no clue what I do at work.  Pausing to consider how to explain to someone so young, I finally said, “I write programs that run on computers.”

“Oh, ok.  Have a good day, Mommy.  I love you!”

We had to do double and triple good night hugs that night because I was leaving for the airport early the next morning.  I would not be going into his room to say goodbye.  This didn’t sit very well with him.

My first day of travel was such that it was well into the evening before I had a chance to call home.  While talking to my husband, I could hear Hal in the background yelling something about Good Morning.  “Why are you saying Good Morning?” my husband asked.

Eventually, Hal got on the phone and he told me Good Morning and suddenly, I understood.  This was his first opportunity to speak to me that day.  And it is very, very important to him that he tells his Mommy Good Morning.  It’s the first thing said to each other every day.  It’s why I never sneak out unless it’s unquestionably too early to wake him.  It’s part of how I know just how much he loves me.

Good Morning, Hal.  Mommy misses you very much.

When The Kids Are Away, The Parents Will Play

The kids are away from home this week and we are making the most of it. We had a great time at a wine tasting party last night. Today, we made plans for the movies.

Checking up on the kids while they are away has always felt like a chore. They sound very shy and not that interested in being on the phone. The conversations go something like this: “Hi, sweetheart!”…”Hi mommy.”…”Are you having fun?”…”Yes.”…”What have you been doing?”…”We went to the zoo.”…”That sounds like fun! What did you see?”…”Animals.”

This time, however, Jane has a cell phone. I decided to take a texting approach. The result was a lot more fun. Many of these messages passed each other, which means like many texting conversations, we were often answering each other out of order. I’ve included the timestamps and rearranged them a little bit so it will make more sense.

summer_text1

Later, I wanted to rub it in that I had been to the movies – a rare treat for me.

summer_text2

That last bit was a reference to a movie date we were supposed to have months ago. Thanks to the power of texting, I went from date to chauffeur with alarming speed. First she gained permission for a friend to accompany us. Then it grew to three or four girls and mom was no longer welcomed to tag along.

The next bit of the conversation saw me go down in auto-correct flames as I was trying to send the texts quickly in order to keep up with her.

summer_text3

I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with my daughter. It spread out across the day and was fun. Her possession of a cell phone is perhaps not all bad.

The Best Christmas Ever

Our Christmas tree is still up and decorated. In fact, Hal just turned the lights back on today. The first week after Christmas was spent out-of-state, visiting family. The next, out-of-town to celebrate our anniversary. The most recent was full, first with a funeral and then with resuming school and work. I am telling you this so that you understand it is still Christmas at this house, and thus not inappropriate at all for me to finally get around to blogging about the best Christmas ever. I was too busy enjoying it to write about it at the time.

Christmas 2012 did not get off to a particularly auspicious start. The 11:00pm Christmas Eve service was wonderful, don’t get me wrong. We all attended in our pajamas, including my husband in his footed smiley-face PJ’s that I had just given him. That drew a few looks.

No, the service that heralded the arrival of Christmas Day was nice and the drive home was uneventful. I was worried about what such a late bedtime would do to the day, but not too much. The problems started when we got home. Hal did not want to use the bathroom before retiring to his bed and a tantrum ensued.

Once all the children were settled, I needed to wrap just two or three presents and stuff the stockings. That took well over an hour. I finally went to bed around 1:30 or 2:00 and wondered how late the children would let me sleep.

Not long, as it turned out. A serious thunderstorm moved in by about 2:30, waking Hal. I stumbled into his room to comfort him. I struggled for a long time before I got back to sleep. The wind picked up and a loud metallic thwacking sound woke me around 5:00. I asked my husband if that was the new roof coming undone.

“Probably.”

“Do we need to do anything about it?”

“Like what? I’m not going out there in this.”

He had a point. Besides, the old shingled roof was still under the metal of the new one. No way I was getting back to sleep, however. I lay there listening until the sound changed to something bounding down from the roof. And then silence.

“There,” my pragmatic husband said, “It blew off. Happy?”

Before I responded, the next strip of the crown began to rattle. Sleep was a distant memory by this point.

Things improved once I gave up on sleep, though. My husband had once again managed to slip something under my pillow undetected. He hates wrapping, so this has become our new tradition. I already knew I was getting a Kindle Paperwhite, but I still don’t know when he managed to slide it under there.

As I passed through the living room, I saw a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in my stocking that I had not put in there the night before. So he hadn’t forgotten about my stocking either – another nice surprise. I added the toppings to the breakfast strata started the night before and put it in the oven.

Then it was stockings and presents time. Hal passed out the stockings, such a good Santa’s helper. All of them distributed gifts. Just like last year, though, there were no names. Last year were numbers and they’d have to ask me which number was whom. This year, they were letters. Perhaps this will become a new Christmas puzzle. As they heard who was each letter, I asked them what the formula was. I gave them a hint that I couldn’t put the appropriate leter on Daddy’s gifts because it was a duplicate of someone else’s. Daddy figured it out (2nd letter of their middle names). No one else did.

Jane unwrapped four nested boxes, each wrapped individually, before uncovering her mp3 player. Daryl received a used Nintendo DS, given to us by a friend to give to the kids. He immediately declared this the best Christmas ever.

And so it was, but not because of the gifts. When we were done unwrapping, we ate the strata. And then… then we just were. Most Christmases would have seen the hustle and bustle of preparing for a long trip. We would have been packing suitcases and piling into the car to travel the four hours or so to relatives in Oklahoma.

But Oklahoma was forecast to get hit by a blizzard. We had decided the day before that we would delay our trip by 24 hours. We had no idea how life-changing that decision would be.

After breakfast, we just enjoyed ourselves. We set Pandora to play Christmas music. People tried out their new electronics. We played some games and worked some puzzles and read and ate and relaxed. And shouted in excitement when we looked out the window and saw snow! Snow, on Christmas Day, in Texas. No one even changed out of their pajamas, except to go play in the snow.

I looked up at my family at one point and wondered, Is this what Christmas is like for other people? Christmas has never been a relaxing time for me, not even in childhood.

As a child, I remember opening presents at home and then almost immediately leaving the house to go… somewhere. Christmas Day usually included 2 or 3 extended family gatherings. The usual routine was to head over to my maternal grandparents’ house for lunch and Christmas with my mom’s family. At some point, sometimes before lunch and sometimes after, mom would drive us to my paternal grandmother’s house and we’d have Christmas with my dad’s family. Mom would then pick us up and we’d have dinner and Christmas at my step-dad’s parents’ house with his family.

It got even more complicated when I married. My husband brought with him Christmas obligations to his dad’s family, his mom’s family, and his step-dad’s family. Some families adjusted to celebrating Christmas on a day other than the 25th, but we usually still had at least two places to be that day, often more.

Shortly before we had our first child, we decided that we wanted to be able to attend our own church’s Christmas Eve service. That meant attending worship and then hitting the road, arriving at my mom’s house around 2:00 Christmas morning.

When the kids arrived, my husband began to agitate for change. He wanted to celebrate Christmas at our house. I wanted to avoid hurting people’s feelings. The compromise that stood for years was the Christmas Day travel. This allowed us to worship at our home church, open presents at our house, and still make it to Christmas obligations back home. I had been trained to believe that the right thing to do was to cram everyone in, jumping from one place to another, making sure we made an appearance everywhere.

This time, though, we actually found ourselves with no family meeting on Christmas Day. We still planned to travel that day, so suggested to my dad that we celebrate that night. And then we got word of the weather. There was no problem changing plans with dad. No reason we had to travel that day. No place to be until 6pm the day after. Why not stay home? It was such a novel idea for us.

The experience was ground breaking for me. Earth shattering. Tears-down-the-face significant. I sat at the table, watching my family just exist, with no place to go, no obligations to meet, no phone calls or appointments or errands, and I cried. My husband looked at me and smiled.

“Do you need a hug?” he asked. I nodded and he rose from the table.

“I’ve never had this before,” I said into his chest as he hugged me tight. “Not ever, not once in thirty-eight years. I’ve never just stayed home and relaxed on Christmas Day. This is amazing.”

We didn’t have to speak the words then or now, but we know what we are doing next year. The 26th is soon enough to travel for family. The peace of Christmas will descend on our household again. It is the only day that we can truly just be still and be together. I never understood how special that kind of time is. But now that I’ve experienced it, I am not giving it up.