my confession

Here is my darkest confession:  I don’t monitor how much TV my children watch.  Yipes!  I know, terrible, right?  But listen, I bicker with my teenagers over chores, and grades, and bed time, and cell phone use.  I insist on table manners, and firm hand shakes, and coughing into elbows.  I point out rudeness, and disrespect, and negativity.  I remind them to save their money, change their underwear, apologize with sincerity, and show gratitude.  I praise honesty, a sense of humor, creativity, and clean hair.  By the end of my day, I really don’t care if they are vegging out in front of Duck Dynasty as long as they are not smoking pot, injecting heroin, getting drunk, or cyber bullying!

My four-year-old has dialed into my slacker attitude when it comes to television.  She pays equal attention to the shows and the commercials.  She often informs me of shampoo that will make my hair shiny, detergent that will keep our clothes stain-free, and cereal that looks really yummy.  Last night at the dinner table, she told us that there is a machine that makes homemade ice cream.

“You just put in the ingredients, and the machine blends it all up until it is ice cream.  Can I have one of those?”

My strategy when one of my children asks for something is to formulate a vague response like, “That sounds sooooo interesting!”  And then hope they forget about it in twenty-four hours.  Frankly, with my four-year-old, this has been a successful approach, but in this instance it didn’t work.  This morning Ella came into the kitchen crying.  I have mentioned before that Ella is Scarlet O’Hara in pink footsie jammies.  She has a flair for drama and prefers to play the role of damsel in distress.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, my tone full of sugar and love (It is important to stay calm here so as not to escalate Ella’s anguish.)

She sobbed into her hands.  “You know that ice cream machine I REALLY wanted?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t have one,” she bellowed, wiping snot across the back of her hand.  “The man on the TV said you have to be eighteen years or older.”

happy birthday

Today is my brother’s birthday.  He is 875 years old.  OK, he is not really 875, he just looks it.  Ok, he doesn’t look 875, he just acts 875.  Alright, fine, he is 47 and he looks 52 and acts 17.  I hope he reads this; I am cracking myself up right now.

In honor of my brother’s birthday, I thought I would share a story about him.

Long before MTV aired its show Punked, my brother loved a good prank .  When he was a senior in high school, he orchestrated a massive practical joke.  First, he burned holes in an old t-shirt.  Then, he strapped smoke bombs around his torso.  Screaming, with smoke billowing behind him, he ran into the chemistry lab yelling, “I’m on fire!”  He proceeded to pull the lever on the acid-wash shower, dowsing himself with water.

Now, this is a pretty good prank, but it didn’t end there.  As a testament to the safety of the chemistry lab, but unfortunately for my brother, the acid-wash shower had never been used before.  No one knew how to turn the facet off.  As water gushed from the spigot, it became apparent that the drain didn’t actually work.  In the end, my brother flooded the science wing.

If an eighteen-year-old attempted this prank today, he would be suspended, arrested, water-boarded, and sent to Guantanamo.  In 1985, the teacher just shrugged and grabbed a mop.

my brother and I, 2007

my brother and I, 2007

So, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.  You look like a monkey, and you smell like one too!

my lucky day

May 27th is a particularly lucky day for me.  On May 27, 2006, I met my husband.  On May 27, 2007, he asked me to marry him.  On May 27, 2008, I found out I was pregnant with our baby girl.  Obviously you can see why I celebrate the end of May, but I can tell you that it didn’t start out that way.

I went on my first date six months after my first husband died.  I know, that sounds wayyyyy tooooo early!  But, I had sound reasoning behind my decision.  I needed to meet new people.  My inner circle was so full of sorrow for me and my grief; they were so full of desire to help and their need to show support, that I began to feel unhealthy in my own life.  I was a young widow, and I was in danger of assuming that role for decades to come.  What if widowhood wasn’t just a chapter in my life, what if it was my entire book?  I felt desperate to ensure that I got unstuck.  I was determined to heal and decided the best way to start was to do the one thing I was most terrified of doing, dating.

I joined Match.com, and I signed up for a service called It’s Just Lunch, where I got set up for lunch dates a couple of times a month.  I had many first dates, and then, like a teenager, I never returned their calls.  In May a friend phoned and wanted to introduce me to Tim.  She invited both of us to a dinner party to see if we clicked.

Frankly, we didn’t talk much that night.  Still, I wasn’t completely surprised when he called me a few days later.

After a bit of small talk, Tim said, “So I don’t really know much about you; I mean except that you’re a tragic widow.”

A tragic widow?  A TRAGIC WIDOW!  “I’m not a tragic widow,” I snapped.  “And my children are definitely not tragic.”  I didn’t come right out and call Tim an asshole, but I implied it with my tone.

“So why did you agree to see him again?” you ask.

That is a very good question.  I agreed to see him again because of my girlfriend, Alex.  Alex was at the party the night I met Tim.  The next day she called me and said, “He’s totally your type.”

“What type is that?” I asked.

“If you went running across train tracks and fell just as the train approached, Tim looks like the kinda guy who would sprint to your side, scoop you up, and throw you out of the way.  That is totally your type.”

“Oh God, that IS totally my type!”

So I agreed to have dinner with Tim because he had massive biceps and looked strong enough to launch me off train tracks.

Still, it was not love at first sight.  Tim claims I didn’t talk for three weeks, and that is not completely untrue.  I am a bit shy and a rather hard nut to crack.  Tim, on the other hand, is a man with strong opinions and a strong sense of self.  He is easily irritated by stupidity, and unfortunately for him, the world is rather stupid.  Tim was like a pissed-off Energizer Bunny, with O.C.D. and a touch of road rage.  While he spent the first month waiting for me to talk, I spent the first month waiting for him to calm down.  Still, I kept seeing him because he had that bicep thing, and he kept seeing me because he felt obligated not to crush the spirit of the tragic widow, plus we made each other laugh.  We still laugh A LOT!

As weeks turned into months, we stayed together.  After that first summerXmas2012 443 Tim said, “I believe all women are crazy and eventually, given enough time, they will unpack their crazy and show you just how insane they are.  Then, a guy has to decide whether he can live with that level of dysfunction.  I keep waiting for you to unpack your crazy, but now I realize you are completely up-front with your insanity.”

“Yes,” I said.  “All my crazy was unpacked by our third date.  And I keep waiting for you to chill out, but now I accept that you are simply not capable of relaxation.”

And we lived happily ever after.

paper trail

photo3 Photo8After my mom died, I hauled three big boxes of paperwork out of her house.  These boxes have been sitting in my garage, waiting for me to sort through them; a task I have been avoiding for almost a year.

I believe my mother was either a lawyer in a previous life or an accused felon because through the paperwork she kept she can prove her whereabouts for virtually every day of her life.  Neatly organized by year, my mother kept every receipt, estimate, manual, and report.  Have you ever purchased something and while throwing away the warranty card wondered who actually fills those cards out?  The answer is: my mother!  If my mother purchased a lawn mower with a five-year warranty, and it broke down after four years and eleven months, she could pull out the manual, the receipt, and the name of the salesman who sold it to her.  By the way, if your name is Joe and you worked at Sears in 1982, I apologize on behalf of my entire family.  According to my mother’s notes, she phoned you three times to complain about a faulty weed whacker

It was hard not to feel sentimental when I began the sorting process.  Ah, there is my mom’s handwriting.  Look, my dad’s high school diploma.  But eventually I took a more practical approach.  Do I really need my parents tax return from 1963? (In case you are curious, they earned a combined $10, 941 that year.  My mom as a bank teller and my dad as a high school history teacher.)  Or how about my brother’s preschool evaluation?  Apparently he was very good a pasting.  I found my vaccination report from 1970, so I can mark worry about Rubella off my list.  I can prove I was baptized, I can prove I was adopted, and I can prove that on September 8, 1987 my parents both had the halibut for dinner at Steamers.  I can also tell you my brother’s SAT scores from 1985, which proves he is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.

It was weird going through the minutia of my parent’s life together, decades of bills, receipts, and contracts.  But in the midst of the mounds of documentation, there were treasures.  A letter from my grandmother to my brother on his ninth birthday declaring him a dream come true, and a note from 1971 in my mom’s handwriting telling a random babysitter that I like tuna fish for lunch, and I do not like the bedroom door closed when I fall asleep.  How about my dad’s college transcripts? I had no idea he failed psychology.  Had I known that thirty years ago, it would have come in handy.

In the end, I shredded ninety-nine percent of the boxes contents.  You simply can’t carry around decades of tax returns and notes on plumbing repairs, and now that it is over, I am glad the boxes are gone.  Still, journeying through my parent’s paper trail was not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

 

the high-maintenance bed-time routine

Like many four-year-olds, Ella has a rather elaborate bed-time routine.  It begins shortly after dinner with a bath and pajamas.  It involves, snacks, puzzles, coloring, singing, teeth-brushing, and a game called daddy is a mountain, where she climbs up Tim onto his shoulders.  All of this is followed by books, shadow puppets, and tucking in.  After tucking, green blanket first, then pink, then red, either Tim or I have to scratch her back until she falls asleep.  She is perhaps the most high-maintenance sleeper of all time.  If any part of this routine is skipped, Ella turns into a hurricane and tears the house apart. (OK, that is an exaggeration, but she does talk a lot about her feelings being hurt and nobody caring whether she is happy.  She is Scarlet O’Hara in pink footsie jammies)

Last night, I was trying to hurry the bath process along because I still needed to finish laundry and make school lunches.  Sensing my urgency, Ella said, “Taking care of three kids and Chaucer (our dog) is a lot of work.”

“Yes it is,” I replied and then joking, said, “Maybe we should get rid of Chaucer.”

“NO!” Ella shrieked, wide-eyed with outrage.  And then with a sweet smile on her face and a head full of shampoo bubbles, she calmly suggested we get rid of her brother.

for $75 I’ll kill her myself

Meg with King Oberon.   (King Oberon, March 1994 - January 2005)

Meg with King Oberon.
(King Oberon, March 1994 – January 2005)

Since Sunday was Mother’s Day, I thought I would share a funny story about my own mom.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I had two dogs, King Oberon and Asticou.  (I actually had three dogs, but Bronte turned out to be crazy and attacked my neighbor).  By my mid-thirties, I had only one dog left, Asticou.

At this point, I was between husbands.  My first husband had died ,and I had not yet met my second husband.  Asticou was aging and had a host of health issues.  I worried that one day my kids and I would wake up and find Asticou dead.  I wasn’t sure that any of us were emotionally prepared for that possibility.  My parents suggested that they take care of my dog and put her to sleep when the time came.  I took them up on their offer.

So, Asticou went to live with my folks, and although I was not present for the next part of this story, this is the way my father always told it:

Asticou seemed to be getting worse, so your mom and I decided it was time to put her down.  Mom insisted on doing it and packed the dog off to the Humane Society.  About an hour later she returned.  I stood at the window and watched her exit the car, then saw Asticou jump out after her.  I thought it was sweet.  Your mom was a tough girl, but obviously, she couldn’t put the dog to sleep.  I met her on the porch.

With sympathy I said, “So, you couldn’t do it?”

“No,” your mother snapped.  “They wanted seventy-five dollars.  For seventy-five dollars, I’ll kill her myself!”

(OK, just to clarify, my mother was not a cold-hearted puppy murderer.  To my knowledge, my mother never killed anything except houseflies, wasps, carpenter ants, and the occasional rodent.)

Thinking that Asticou was on her death-bed, my mom began feeding her waffles for breakfast and hotdogs for lunch.  Every night she gave my dog a bowl of ice cream before bed.  Asticou quickly gained twenty pounds.  She looked like an ottoman, skinny legs with a broad flat back.  Filled with a new-found zest for life, and a belly full of spaghetti, my ailing dog survived for two more years.  My mother’s waffles actually gave her the will to live.

Asticou, before she got fat on hot dogs and pasta

Asticou, before she got fat on hot dogs and pasta

bronte

Bronte, who looks totally sweet, but tried to eat my neighbor

 

PS  Asticou was named after the Inn where I used to work.  King Oberon was named after the Shakespeare character from Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Bronte was named after Charlotte and Emily Bronte–authors of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, respectively.

the scariest thing

In March, my son turned fifteen, got his learner’s permit, and started driver’s ed.  Cole has been sincerely shocked to discover that being super good at the video game Grand Theft Auto does not necessarily translate into being super good at merging into a roundabout in an actual automobile.  (Side note here:  Cole does not personally own Grand Theft Auto.  That is a violent, nasty video game which he only plays at his friend’s house.  I am confident that not allowing him to own the game makes me a better mother than my neighbor.)

So, Cole and I were out practicing his driving when he sneezed twice in quick succession.  After his final sneeze, eyes wide open, he gripped the steering wheel and straightened himself stiffly in the seat.

“Holy Crap!” he yelled.  “That is the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.”

I reminded him that his dad died when he was seven.  He has had a cast on his left arm four times.  And there was that time three years ago when he had a hundred and four fever while hiking and had to swim across the Snoqualmie River in order to get back home.

He shook his head.  “No,” he replied, catching his breath.  “Sneezing while driving is the scariest thing I have ever done.”