Friday, October 25, 2013

in which 2 anecdotes give a good glimpse of our Real Life

I have two anecdotes to share with you, and then I need to go lose my mind. Like bookends, they clamp together all the events this week that WOULD ONLY MAKE SENSE with these two things on either side. Speaking of sense: children mostly don't have any.

Anecdote #1: 
Tuesday night, I checked my email at a friend's house because our computer is dead. That took about 8 seconds. Maybe less. Then I stayed to chat, and that took about two and a half hours. Maybe more. By the time I left, it was about 10:15 PM, and I decided to take a McDonald's apple pie to Lumberjack, who was at work. Well: really, I decided to get a coke, and enough apple pies for Lumberjack, me, and one for Scout and Freckles to split. That's $3.18 of late-night goodness right there.

And then I was handed a coke, and the drive-thru attendant said, "Have a nice night!" and closed the window. I said "Apple pies?" like that's what you normally say to someone who's just told you to have such a nice evening. There was some confusion behind the window. It popped back open.

" accidentally gave your pies to the car in front of you. Is there anything else you want instead?"

Mistakes happen. No big deal. But this one would take eleven minutes to correct (by baking up some fresh pies), and it was already late. I smiled, got a refund instead, and drove away with a coke. Clearly my children had no idea what had just happened. They had no idea, being well past their bedtime and all, they'd just been cheated of apple pie. Approximately instantly the moment they figured it out, Scout began wailing.

When it's just so far past their bedtime, you do the only thing you can do. You offer an Oreo instead.

So there they were, eating an Oreo, when there was more wailing. I popped my head into the dining room.

"Girls! What is the deal?!"

Freckles spoke dryly, not even glancing up. "Mom. She's crying over a crumb."

Scout upped the volume. "I WANTED THAT CRUMB!"

Moral of the story: When you're three, and it's way past your bedtime, and someone robs you of your apple pie, a single Oreo crumb becomes a BFD. Please don't ask me to spell that one out for you, Mom. Google it.

Anecdote #2:
Today Scout put on underwear that was a little baggy. She put on pants that were a lot baggy. We went to Wal-Mart. We spent an hour and a half there. And in one simultaneously mortifying and hilarious moment, I looked down to see her pants AND her underwear down around her knees while she walked alongside me. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, scream, or cuss, so I went with an interesting combination of all four, and tried to leave as soon as possible.

Those are my anecdotes. If it's hilarious or horrifying, it's probably happened sometime in the last 3 days, capped on either side by lunatics who call me Mom.

Also, I told Lumberjack that I'm not going to the Fall Party we're planning (and helping host) tomorrow. I told him I would be on vacation. BY MYSELF. Both girls asked if they could come. And Freckles asked when I'm going to grow another baby. Just as soon as I retrieve the fragmented parts of my mind, my dear, just that soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

facing my fears

The thing about irrational fears is that you either die from them or you have to live with them until you die. A third and very likely option is that you will just die from the anxiety of living with them. Double-whammy. That being said, there are approximately three things in the world that I am afraid of to an irrational degree, so I fully expect to have an anxiety attack in triplicate one of these days and just keel over cold.

#1: The Ferris Wheel.

 Here’s why this one is irrational. I’m not afraid of bolted cables, which is why I can ride in an elevator without losing my mind. I’m not afraid of heights, which is why I can smile while waving from the balcony of a hotel room on the 18th floor. And I’m not afraid of circles. SO. It must be some eerie combination of all three. And let me tell you, the 7-minute Ferris Wheel at the Navy Pier in Chicago was every bit as awful as my 28-hour labor with my firstborn. Not something I need to repeat. Also, in one particularly scarring memory from my childhood, there was a Ferris Wheel I rode on with my older brother and it was kind of a rickety, rusty thing and so old that the benches weren’t caged in with seatbelts like they are nowadays. We were at the top and it had stalled to let someone off and my brother started rocking back and forth. And maybe that has something to do with this fear and maybe it doesn’t. I just wanted to share that story.

#2: Storage.

Yes, storage itself. The noun and the verb. Whoa-dang. I got to digging around in a storage shed of my parents’ last weekend and that was just twenty minutes of heavily compacted terror. There was an old roll of paper towels sitting on a shelf that had been mutilated into a pile of shreds. How did that happen? You tell me. My guess is a demonic bobcat. Also, spider egg sacs and piles of unknown grit kind of freak me out. I finally concluded that my incessant drive to get rid of stuff is because the idea of saving and storing it actually scares me. And look, I don’t care how clean and tidy and organized someone’s storage might be. Stuff that sits in a storage bin just gets scarier the longer it sits and starts to smell.

To that end, I also sorted through a box of my parents’ love letters and cards they sent back and forth to each other for like three years, and I have two things to say:

1. No, I did not read any of them. Seeing “To my Schmumpity-dumpkins” written in my dad’s handwriting was reason enough to just leave it be. Gross.

2. I also realized just how genuine and precious these letters were because they were written across distance and time, and that’s not something a digital age really affords anymore because texting is more convenient.  (And the thing about texts is that you don’t have a box of them to look through in 35 years, and even if you save them for 6 months you may drop your phone in a puddle and that’s the end of that.) But texting is also more impulsive, and there’s something very rich about waiting a couple of days to get a letter that says “I love you.” That’s a little bit sacred, I think, and another reason I didn’t want to read the letters.

Finding this box of letters did not make me feel any less terrified of storage, but it did make me feel thankful I’ve saved all the cards and notes Lumberjack and I have written to each other. To be clear, I am not storing them. I am just keeping them.

#3: Jalapeno peppers.

I generally feel it is best to avoid preparing a food that has the ability to blind, melt, or paralyze me. A Jalapeno pepper can do all three. I’ve heard horror stories of people just touching a seed and then touching their face and then spending the night with their arm packed in ice because the seed juice burned their hand. Oh, and by the way, they can’t see anymore, either, because there was Burn Transfer from hand to eye, so not only are they packed in ice but they’re also blind and probably won’t have the facial-muscular strength to even raise their eyebrows ever again. No.Freakin.Thanks. I couldn’t prepare a Jalapeno pepper if my life depended on it because my life depends on not preparing it. Unless I’m wearing a HAZMAT suit. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. I want gloves and a breathing mask and utility goggles and that is the bare minimum I’m putting on for the event. I also want a long wooden back scratcher so I can scratch my face with something if my face starts to itch right after I’ve cut into the pepper, because THAT WILL HAPPEN AND I REFUSE TO GO BLIND OVER A PEPPER. I will scratch my face from an 18-inch distance from myself. When I imagine talking to you and you’ve handled a Jalapeno pepper, the rest of that scene is that you’re probably in the hospital.

In conclusion, irrational fears suck. I’m glad I only have three to worry about. In full disclosure, I am genetically predisposed to longevity on my dad’s side and eternal fertility on my mom’s side, so if I had to pick a fourth irrational fear, it would probably be having a baby when I’m 92 years old. While I can absolutely envision being trapped on a Ferris Wheel with a storage tub full of Jalapeno peppers and no safety goggles, I do my very best to not also project into that nightmare being pregnant at age 92. There’s only so much anxiety a body can take.

Friday, October 4, 2013

stayin' alive

I'm a big fan of Baby Steps. Small, reasonable Goals. Achievable stuff. I don't make New Year's Resolutions because I don't need reminders that I suck. I refuse to give in to a system that thrives on reminding me I'm a failure by the middle of February.

That being said, if you're reading this and you make Resolutions, I have just a few kind, gentle words for you. So cozy on up and let me whisper in your ear:
Don't play that game anymore. 
Don't be that person. 
It's not too late to turn back. 
Don't be stupid.

There, now. Don't we all feel so much better about the issue?

I had an appointment earlier this week at the Health Department. That's one of my favorite places to be. I love it so much I almost regret not working there anymore as a breastfeeding advocate. (None of this paragraph is true except for the parts about having an appointment and the fact that I used to work there. Let me spell it out for you if sarcasm ain't your thing: I hate being at the Health Department. H-a-t-e it.)

So there I was, at the ol' HD, and I didn't even bring the kid with me that apparently I was supposed to. So after we took only eighty-five minutes getting that whole mess straightened out, I sat like a bedraggled lump of bitter scorn and defeat in the clinic room.

"Step on the scale, please," the RN instructed. So I did.

"Oh my! You've lost ten pounds since your last visit."

I started to mumble my usual response.
"Um, that's not surprising. I'm skinny, it's in my gene pool, I have a high metabolism, and I'm breastfeeding...that's five hundred calories a day right there..."

JUST IN CASE you thought discussing weight problems were reserved for Big Girls with plump curves and extra inches, let me tell you that in my experience, health professionals relish  the opportunity to make a Skinny Girl feel like a healthless, hapless, waif just one saltine cracker shy of an eating disorder. But I digress.

She cut me off. "Well, it says here in your chart that last visit you set a goal to maintain your weight."

"Wait, what? That was actually A Thing? A Real Thing? Like there was a Real Goal set?"

My head was swimming. I vaguely recollected the previous visit. A foggy, fuzzy, distant memory, too many sleepless nights back to remember with clarity. I'd just had a baby so my uterus was still blobby and OUT THERE and my boobs weighed 15 pounds apiece. The dietician, my old co-worker, no less, had happily said, "Well, now! Your weight is looking good, how about if you just try to maintain that?" I'd laughed her off. Who was she kidding, anyway? I didn't realize I'd just made A Real, Actual Goal and that it went into my chart and that I had proceeded to fail meeting this Goal with the weight of a ten-pound punch.

The appointment continued and Scout was up next. She was measured, weighed, No-she's-not-around-any-second-hand-smoke, No-I-don't-heat-up-lunchmeats-because-who-does-that-anyway, Yes-we-limit-her-fried-food-and-desserts, yada yada. And then:

"What Goal would you like to set for her?"

I stared at her.

She cleared her throat. "What three-month Goal would you like to set for her?"

I narrowed my eyes. Surely this wasn't happening. So I calmly collected every piece of I'm-in-charge-here dignity about me and said coolly,
"I'd like her to be tri-lingual in three months."

It was her turn to stare.
"Um. Excuse me?"

As much as I love being at the Health Department, they're good at keeping me there for three hours on their own, so I had no real need to drag this out any longer.

"Look. I don't know what it is you want. What do you mean, A Goal?"

"Well. She's could be potty training, or knowing her colors, or singing the guys homeschool, right?"

"Yes. And she potty trained over a year ago. She knows all of her colors, all of her letters, and can write many of them. What does this have to do with a dietary health goal? How about if we set A Goal for her to gain or maintain her weight?"

That was satisfactory and we were mercifully dismissed from the appointment a few minutes later. I don't know what she typed, but "Gain or maintain weight" sounds a lot just like "Staying alive," which honestly - especially after today's trip to Wal-Mart - seems about the only reasonable Goal I can tackle in my life as well as the lives of my children.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not without purpose. I'm not without drive. And I'm certainly not without gumption. But I am obstinately without the need for someone whose name I can't even remember setting A Health Goal with (or for) me just because it's the next step in their computer program. And, in an especially combative move, I would like to point out that EVERYBODY IN THAT BUILDING SMOKES CIGARETTES. If we're going to get all intimate and discuss personal Goals with people we don't know, I'd like to include Avoiding Stage Four Lung Cancer in that discussion.

I have since decided to start compiling a List of 3-Month Goals to take with me to future appointments. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Becoming the Supervisor for the Tupperware Replacement Piece Hotline
2. Growing an eleventh toe. Man, the things I could do with eleven toes.
3. Learn to tie my shoes using only my elbows
4. Rally for the city council to give approval on the keeping of hippopotamuses as domestic pets
5. Never go to Wal-Mart again
6. Spend fewer minutes than most-of-my-life at Health Department appointments
7. Time travel, and something about world peace

I will submit one of these Goals, and if they don't like it, then I will submit No Goal Whatsoever. Or just "Staying Alive."

And DON'T THINK that Staying Alive isn't a Real, Valid Goal. If it weren't, there wouldn't be a song about it. Also, Staying Alive takes real effort. It takes eating, and sleeping, and some scrap of sanity, and trips to the library, and clean underpants. It takes dignity, hilarity, and making sure my kids aren't eating their boogers. It takes learning to read, learning to let go, and learning to face fears. It takes teaching my girls about Jesus and also cicadas. It takes figuring out which housework I should do after the girls are in bed (Two answers are acceptable here: 1. No housework, and just collapse from exhaustion or 2. Mop, because there's no one awake to spill anything sticky.). And it takes teamwork with Lumberjack in the check-out lane at Wal-Mart - him to take the girls to the van and get them buckled in, and me to pay for the groceries so he doesn't have a coronary when he sees the total. It takes failing - but leaning on and living in grace. Staying Alive is a good Goal. We practice it well. We practice it with passion and absurdity and mishaps and missed naps.

I still wish I had an eleventh toe. Maybe it will have sprouted in three months. Maybe in three months I won't care. Maybe in three months there will be Bigger, Better Goals to occupy my time. Maybe for the next three months we will just Stay Alive...and I'm good with that, too.