What Hal Thinks of Mommy

Only one more post about Mother’s Day, I promise.

This was going to be my first post concerning Mother’s Day, possibly even published on The Day.  I itched to tell the story all weekend but never got around to it.  And then I needed to vent about my stressed-out crummy day.  And then I felt the need to illustrate that I’m not a total crab and can actually notice and appreciate the good stuff around me.  Which then left this one to get written and published last.  Oh, well.

Last Friday was a special day for moms (or some other special someone) to come to the Preschool and have cookies and tea or lemonade with their child.  I took off work early and came by.  Hal was waiting.

As soon as I arrived, he led me to the refreshment table and announced that he wanted tea…mixed with lemonade.  Smiling at the fact that I was serving him instead of what probably was supposed to be vice versa, I mixed his cup and poured me a cup of lemonade.  We each grabbed a cookie and headed to his table.

I sat down and he began to pull items one at a time from the bag.

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I had a nice pen with a scented flower attached to the top.  A portrait of the most beautiful preschooler in the room surrounded by a bright multi-colored pasta decorated heart.  A bookmark.  And a dozen different pictures made out of thumbprints, handprints, and footprints.  Several of them with various versions of the “I grow up fast and these are to remind you of when I was small” poem.  I couldn’t help but think to myself that the teachers really should have maybe not had the kids make quite so many similar art projects.  Then again, Hal was plainly proud of each one.

My favorite, by far – it always is – was the page where he answered questions about me.

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We’ll ignore the fact that I would have had to give birth to his sister at the tender young age of 8, that I can’t remember when I last had a picnic, much less felt relaxed at one, that he’s never actually seen me play hockey (although I did back before Jane was born), that he drew me as a very rudimentary stick figure when he can draw a mean pirate ship complete with cannons and Jolly Rogers on the sails if he’s interested.

We’ll ignore all that and remember that I am special because I like him.  Yes, yes I do.

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And Now for the Positives

Ok, so I was pretty whiny and ungrateful in my last post.  I realize that.  But really, I felt a strong need to relate how I felt and to communicate that not all moms feel sunshine and roses on their “special day”.

There were some great positives to the experience, though.  One that surprised me was that a number of unexpected people sent me text messages or gave me a shout-out on Facebook wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.  It’s almost like my “She’s having a crappy Mother’s Day” vibe stretched all the way to Dallas and even as far as California, to co-workers and former co-workers and people I haven’t seen in some time, to fellow beleaguered moms-of-teenagers and to people who have no children of their own.  It was humbling that those people thought of me that day.

Then there was the older lady at church who recognized my drawn and stressed face.  Who gave me a hug and wished me a Happy Mother’s Day.  Who expressed no surprise that my day was not going well.  You have three kids after all, she said.  She hugged me and encouraged me and spoke in such a loving voice that I just held on for a little while.  Her greeting was not perfunctory.  She was watching and caring.

My kids didn’t really get me anything for Mother’s Day.  Other than the excellent Key Lime Greek yogurt with the cookie crumbles that Jane and her Daddy got for me.  That was very nice.  And while she didn’t fix me breakfast in bed like one of her friends, she was still a step ahead of many of her peers for remembering the day without prompting and wishing me a happy one.

Daryl didn’t get me anything nor make me anything.  (What in the world is wrong with the school system these days?  No baby jar with multi-colored tissue paper glued to it and a votive candle inside?  No macaroni necklace?  No handprint flower?  Nothing?)  But what he did do was notice at one point that I was having a pretty sucky morning and then walk along beside me with his arm around my shoulders, telling me it was ok and he loved me.  This tenderness was dear… even if it did draw attention to the fact that he was tall enough to get his arm comfortably around my shoulders, although not quite on the shoulders.

Then there was dear Hal, who dogged me all morning and into the afternoon to open the package he handed me at church.  I was always too busy and I didn’t want to open it absentmindedly while hurrying off to something else.  So when I called him to me after the recital and asked if I could open it now, his face beamed.  And here’s what it was:

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“That’s the rain falling,” he said, pointing to the blue circles.  And I thought, how appropriate that the rain should be falling in my Mother’s Day picture.

“And see how tall it’s made the flower grow, Mommy?”

Indeed, my dear.  The flower has grown quite tall.  Now if only your Mommy can grow as much.

Mother’s Day… Just More of the Same

I had a crummy Mother’s Day.

Moms aren’t supposed to say that but there it is.  And I wasn’t alone, trust me.  Moms all across America were having crummy Mother’s Days.  I know because I ran into a couple of them.

My husband and daughter rose early to go prepare breakfast at church.  In honor of Mother’s Day, I got to pick the menu but it’s not quite the same as getting served breakfast in bed.  Especially since their early absence meant I got to rustle the boys out of bed and get them ready for church on my own.  That’s about like most Sundays except this time, they had been out very late the night before and wouldn’t get out of bed.  Exasperated, I attempted to employ Mommy Guilt:  “Come on boys!  It’s Mother’s DayCan’t you please do what you are supposed to do without me having to fight you?!”

That met with limited success.  Still, we got out the door earlier than usual – mostly because I dragged myself out of bed earlier than usual.  Sane moms like to sleep in on Mother’s Day.  I am no longer sane.  I had a long list of responsibilities waiting for me at church:  I needed to replenish the papers in the children’s worship notebooks, teach Sunday School, practice bells, and perform in three different bell pieces, oh and check with a number of other people about upcoming events.  Then my daughter called asking me to pick something up at home and also get some milk from the store.  I didn’t get to church on time.

That meant I was rushing around trying to take care of everything.  In the midst of all that, my husband reminded me that the older two kids had a recital at 2:00 in the afternoon.  So much for fixing tacos and watching Dr. Who after church.  More on the recital later.

As I sat at a table, snarfing down my breakfast (which, I must say, included a cup of my favorite yogurt purchased especially for me by my husband and daughter), a friend walked in with her two kids.  Jane looked up and cheerfully wished her a Happy Mother’s Day.  She smiled in that sweet, ironic way that we use when we appreciate something but still aren’t happy.

“Thank you!” she said, turning to glare at her kids. “You are the first person to say that to me today.”  She then went on to rant about her allegedly unappreciative children as they stared sullenly at the table.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist or even another overly taxed mother to recognize that she wasn’t getting a great start to her Mother’s Day.  I tried to calm the nerves and lighten the mood, which didn’t work too well since I wasn’t exactly starting from a happy place myself.

Before long, I was attempting to teach Sunday School, which I had not prepared for, which meant I knew I was not making it particularly exciting for anyone and I had no clue what was coming next since I hadn’t read it ahead of time.  Then I went to practice bells with such a jumble of nerves that I just felt like nothing was clicking.  I didn’t play well and Hal was pouting because I wouldn’t let him go out to play.

I encountered yet another mom a short time later and attempted to wish her a hearty Happy Mother’s Day.  She rolled her eyes at me and indicated that none of her three children had yet said those words to her.  Must be something in the water, I said, telling her about the earlier mom.

“Well,” she clarified, “My oldest did send me a text.  That’s all she could manage.  I ranked high enough for a text message, not a face-to-face or even a phone call.”

“I got tagged in a selfie on Instagram taken in our bathroom this morning,” I said.  Although, to be fair to my daughter, she did remember to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day before I got out of bed too.  Still, the selfie tag was distinctly odd to me.

It was, of course, difficult to settle into the Worship service with so much going on.  I didn’t get to watch my children sing in the children’s choir because I played bells for one of the songs and then stayed trapped behind them for the other.  Turns out that Hal had remained on the pew anyway and neither of his siblings had thought to drag him up front.  He still expected me to give him the gum I had promised him after he sang… even though he didn’t sing.  That resulted in a quiet, prolonged fit next to me.

The boys and I were able to leave the church shortly after 12:30 but Jane and her Daddy had to clean up from breakfast.  We didn’t have much time before the recital so I reheated some leftover pizza that we all ate quickly while my husband baked the cookies we needed to provide for the reception after the recital.

Now, I suppose many people think it is sweet and endearing to have a solo recital on Mother’s Day.  I’m not one of those people.  At least, not anymore.  I get it.  Moms love their kids.  They like to see their kids perform.  But, it’s a lot of work to find clothes sufficiently dressy for them to wear.  And I’ve been attending these recitals for eight years now.  There’s only so much scratching through Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that one woman can handle.  Yes, I love to watch my kids play but a recital isn’t just about them.  It’s also about all those other kids too, who, I’m sorry, in my stressed out state, I really don’t care to listen to.  But I have to sit quietly with a pleasant smile on my face and clap at the appropriate times.

It was just one more obligation in a day full of obligations and responsibilities.  I was tired.  I was stressed.  My time was not my own.  The one day when I should have gotten to set the agenda, I did not get to.  And that was my biggest problem with the day.

Things improved when I got to the reception.  We sat down with some friends we don’t see often and just talked.  The one nice thing about parenting a teenager is getting to talk with the parents of other teenagers and receive confirmation that you are not alone.  That that sweet girl smiling at the nearby table secretly turns into a witch at home just like yours does.

And eventually, we went home.  And after I took care of some church business and some volleyball business and some laundry, I finally got to start my day roughly how I wanted it to go, sometime around 5:00 in the evening.  We fixed tacos together and watched an episode of Dr. Who, while I folded laundry.  And then the boys went to bed reasonably easily and Jane retired to her room and then we watched Grey’s Anatomy while I folded more laundry and drank a glass of Orange Moscato.  And my husband didn’t even get upset when I knocked over his favorite tumbler, shattering it on the floor.

Grand Canyon 2014: Night Hike

Our last night in the Grand Canyon, we planned to hike out to Plateau Point from Indian Gardens to watch the sunset. The sunset in the canyon is a lot different than other places. The more interesting place to look is the East, not the West. The way the sun hits the canyon is magnificent.

But people were sore and tired and not very motivated. And then a ranger stopped me and the boys and offered a Junior Ranger challenge. That ranger was hiking out that night but the other ranger could verify their work, only he was leaving early in the morning, so… we decided to do the workbooks instead of hiking. It didn’t take much to convince us.

After the Junior Ranger swearing-in ceremony, my husband and I hiked the short, steep path uphill to the bathrooms. From that vantage point, I could see a great view of the sunset against the canyon so started taking some pictures. The boys ran up asking if we were going to go out to Plateau Point now.

“Please! Please! Can we go?!”

“It’s probably going to be dark before we get out there,” we said.

“That’s ok! Can we go?! Please!”

I looked my husband straight in the eye. Neither one of us wanted to go.

“I’ll take them,” I said, still staring in his eyes. The boys leaped for joy.

We hurried to the campsite (well, they hurried – I hobbled). We gathered jackets and water bottles and headlamps. With excited goodbyes to their sister, we hit the trail.

The first part of the trip was full of excited chatter and a quick pace. I warned them that we likely wouldn’t see the sunset. The Point was 1.5 miles from where we were camping. They didn’t care.

The sun passed below the edge of the canyon and everything turned a shade of gray. The temperature dropped and the wind picked up. I warned them it’d probably be dark and we wouldn’t be able to see anything. They didn’t care.

And I didn’t either. I was walking with my boys and I was at peace. The walking on the gentle, even trail was stretching out my tight muscles. I was comfortable and they were happy.

Before long, we were crossing the plateau and I kept thinking we had to be getting close. We didn’t need our headlamps yet but I was getting concerned about getting too far out. Eventually, Daryl decided that the wind was getting too strong and we turned back. I’m guessing we were probably 5, maybe 10, minutes from the Point. Oh, well.

About 10 minutes into our 30 minute return trip, I busted out the headlamps and fitted them on their heads. Showed them how to direct them to the ground and not shine them into people’s eyes. Then we resumed our walk.

Everyone walked in total silence. It was one part wonderful, one part spooky. As the last person on the trail, I kept irrationally looking behind me as if expecting a crazed axe murderer or rabid mountain lion to jump out of the bushes. The boys weren’t talking anymore, just focusing on the trail.

Then suddenly, Hal farted. The boys giggled. And the rest of the trip was filled with the noises of fake farts and other sounds amusing to young boys. I don’t know how special the evening was for them, but for me, it was magical.

Ugly Tape Girl

I’m not a PTA mom. Not anywhere close to it. No one would mistake me for one either. I don’t do parties and decorations and fundraisers and gift baskets for teachers. Really, in all the stereotypes you can imagine, wherever you’d place the dads is probably where you should place me.

But I am very curious. Especially when it comes to my children and their interactions with their peers. So when Jane joined the Stardusters dance lessons, I wanted to see how she did and what it was like.

The only parents allowed in during the dance, however, are the chaperones. And the only way you are allowed to chaperone is if you agree to help decorate for the dance. Only one parent has to show up for decorations in order to qualify both parents to attend the dance.

Score! I thought. I have to work. My husband can help decorate and I can still attend that night. Perfect.

But then the refrigerator died and he had to take care of it. I had already decided to help with decorating, again, just to see what it was like, but now I absolutely had to or we wouldn’t have a representative.

The first thing I noticed was that I got there ten minutes early and there were already 10-12 people and a tremendous amount of decoration already up. The next thing I noticed was the incredible attention to detail. Lots of bows and stars and sparkly things.

Eventually, after running Christmas lights and red tulle under all the chairs, I was given the task of decorating the little table in the hallway where the parting favors would sit.

The red table cloth was thin plastic and showed through to the hideously damaged table top. I asked for and received a solid white tablecloth to put under it. But the seventh grade taskmaster mom declared that she didn’t like the white tablecloth showing.

I put my thinking cap to work and used duct tape to secure the white tablecloth to the underside of the table so it didn’t show beyond the edges of the red cloth.

Then the eighth grade taskmaster mom handed me some puffy gold-glittered star garland and told me to use it to decorate the table. “Attach it in a way that looks cute. Don’t use ugly tape.”

As she walked away, I whimpered, “But I’m an ugly tape girl!”

I stared at the table and the two short strips of garland for a few minutes before wandering off to look for something else to do. One of the dads soon managed to step on a strand of lit Christmas lights, shattering one of the bulbs.

Repair work! I’m on it! I spent the next little while trying out replacement bulbs and repairing the lights. I then helped hang up the glittery red wrapping paper on the wall for the photo booth, earning me red glitter on my forehead that was all the rage at work later. Every once in awhile, I’d wander back over to the table and the garland to see if anyone had taken over. No one had.

Eventually, I used small pieces of tape to hold the garland in place in five locations around the edge of the table, letting the garland sag between each piece of tape. The eighth grade taskmaster paused at the table and scowled.

Before she could speak, I hastily said, “I’m going to cover the tape with bows!” She responded with a curt “good” before walking on.

I sighed in relief and then wondered exactly how I was going to make bows. I approached the seventh grade taskmaster, the kinder, gentler one, and asked if she knew how to make bows. I offered up some candidate silvery meshy stuff. I gathered some red pipe cleaners. She made a bow and we worked on wrapping it with the pipe cleaner before realizing that our get-up, while promising in appearance, was not going to cover my tape.

The tape was carefully removed, slightly ripping the plastic table cloth. I used that hole to poke the ends of the pipe cleaner through and then used the tape to secure the pipe cleaner to the ugly white tablecloth beneath.

I then tried my hand at her bow technique, making four more, none of which looked as good as the first. But the table earned a small nod of approval from the eighth grade taskmaster mom.

Ugly tape girl had succeeded.

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Playing Favorites

On Wednesdays, my husband and I have bell choir practice while the children have choir practice. When bell choir is done, the children then have chime choir practice. My husband is the director of the chime choir and the oldest two kids are in it.

Hal is too young so he and I usually hang around the church or go home early or if the lady that watches him during bell choir wants to hang around, I sometimes run errands while he watches a movie.

This evening, we had just said good-bye to the lady and were lollygagging around in the hallway.

“Mommy? Where’s Bubba?”

“He’s in chime choir.”

“Where’s Daddy?”

“He’s with the kids in chime choir. You know that, honey.”

“When are you going to be in with the kids?”

“Hal, it sounds an awful lot like you are saying, ‘Hey, Mommy. I really don’t want to hang out with you. When are you going to take over for Daddy so I can spend time with him instead of you?'”

“I am saying that.”

Tact is not one of Hal’s virtues. I grabbed him in a bear hug and mussed up his hair, saying, “Thanks a lot kid!”

He laughed and pulled away and then tried to get me to carry him. After what you said, boy?! I think you can walk.

Clifford isn’t Real

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Study this picture for a few minutes. Do you see anything wrong? Take a good hard look.

Tonight, my 10 year old son Daryl showed me the book and asked me what’s wrong with Clifford in the picture.

I studied it for awhile, counting the same number of digits on the “hands” and on the back feet. There was a tail. And an ear. And it was reasonable to assume the other ear was just blocked from view. Two eyes, a nose. Nothing out of line that I could see. So I said so.

He pointed to the hand holding the firefighting axe and and said, “He has opposable thumbs! Clifford can’t have opposable thumbs!”

“He’s also bigger than that apartment building, has surprisingly human abilities and intellect, and is a scary bright shade of red. What’s your point?”

“He can’t have opposable thumbs!”

Well, ok then.