End of the day goodness

End of the day goodness
Backyard travel

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Damn Big Wound

I have been puny since Christmas Eve and it has done nothing to damper what a fantastic Christmas we have had.  What it did do is give me time to lay in bed reading a book Helen brought home.  It is one of those Newbury award winning books that I never read but always meant too.  I am almost done, Helen is on page 82.  It is going to break her heart.  It is fiction, but it really isn't.  It is the story of Mildred D. Taylor's family and what it was like to be a little girl in Mississippi, in 1933, during the Depression and be black.

It has been a long time since I have read anything like this.  Yes, I read the Help but it was different.  It had more hope.  This is a book  that crushes your soul.  Maybe you have to read it in the 4th grade because you have more hope and optimism to retaliate against the awful truths in life.  In today's 4th grade you can have a crush on a very smart, funny brown boy in your class.  You can hear about the black woman who died in police custody on the radio and say to your Mom, "Oh come on, why are we still dealing with this issue?  You have been stopped a million times for speeding and the police man never makes you get out of the car.  Even when you are being grumpy with him.  If we were black would we have to get out of the car?  We are all the same.  Just some of us can get tan and some of us can't."

In 4th grade you can see color.  You don't ignore it. Color is beautiful.  My kids describe to me kids whiter than they are "Poor such and such is even whiter than me, bet she never goes out without sunscreen", "You know she is the color of your cafe mocha, Mom", " Oh, he is that dark brown that looks velvety".  But today's fourth graders are smart enough to know that a mean kid is a mean kid, a sweet kid is a sweet kid.  Skin color has nothing to do with it.

Still, knowing all of that does not make it any easier for a 9 year old to learn that America is not just the home of the free and the brave.  It is home to a society that allowed people to be tarred and feathered, set on fire, shot, hung, bred for labor and treated like animals for a long, long time.  The Civil Rights Movement took years because it faced such fierce opposition, oppostition that resulted in at least 41 recorded deaths.  Racial tensions still exist.  In fact they are rampant.  When I read this book I can see why.  That kind of wound stays open.  It starts to get better then someone pulls the scab off.  Maybe that is what I will tell Helen, this subject is a big open wound for our country.  My Great Grandmother came across Texas in a covered wagon, married a preacher, had four boys and though poor, was well respected in Bowie Texas, the town she lived most her life in.  Had she been black, this never would have been her life.  For one thing she never would have lived in Bowie, until the 1970's there was a billboard on the side of the road driving into town that said "Nigger, don't let the sun set on you in Bowie."

Like I said, it is a pretty damn big wound.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

All the Who's down in Whoville

Last night we went to the Allen tree lighting festival.  Not because I am a good festive parent who looks for engaging activities for the family, no, Helen sings in a choir at school and her choir teacher is one of those people.  Lauren and I dropped Helen off by the stage with her group and quickly capitalized upon the free hot chocolate and churros that the On the Border table was handing out.  It didn't take long before some of the parents from the school wandered up with younger siblings.  It is amazing how young kids connect like magnets.  The jumpers jump together, the runners chase each other, the climbers climb together and we parents stand together monitoring their squiggles.  I have met several of these parents before, one I don't know well but I like a lot.  She posted a picture the first day of school of her four kids looking gloomy about school starting while she jumped in the air with glee.  Yeah, that is a Mom with a sense of humor I can relate too.  Soon the squigglers including Lauren discovered the world's safest trampoline that needed to be jumped on.  Nothing hits the spot after jumping on a trampoline like a lollipop chased with fresh cotton candy.  The siblings were properly wired with enough sugar to launch a rocket into space by the time our choir came out and sang their two songs.  It was brilliant.  I love choirs.  All these different voices coming together, blending, making a music that could never be made alone.

Then this sickening thought washed over me.  We are all sitting ducks.  All of us here videoing our children, focused completely on the moment, enjoying the magic of leaving our couches, stupid celebrity news, the pain of the world, we are all standing here feet frozen, hearts warm.  Someone could take all this joy away.  I pushed out the thought.  Mad at myself for even going there.

Helen finished and the beautiful ballerinas from the Allen Civic ballet took the stage.  Helen, Lauren and Madison sat glued to the performance.  Madison is the cool Mom's daughter.  She had cool reindeer antlers on her head, the apple does not fall far from the tree.  I was glad to see she and Helen had made a connection through choir and sharing homeroom this year.  We watched more performances before Helen realized all the important sugar and jumping she had missed.

By this point, my feet are numb.  It is after 7pm, none of us has had anything that could be classified as real food in hours but, the girls are so stinking happy, and full of holiday cheer I decide to just go with it.  Helen starts jumping up and down, they bring a giant switch onto the stage.  I am focused on the long line I have been standing in so the kids can jump for two minutes on a trampoline.  It is one of the great mysteries of life, why kids want to wait in line for something they can do anytime at the neighbor's house.  But back to the switch, I am not getting why Helen is so excited about this switch.  I look at it more closely and realize it is a three or four foot light switch.  Helen saw this when she was backstage waiting to perform.  She has this ability to put two and two together and announced to her friends, "Hey, we are here for a tree lighting.  That is a big switch.  I bet they flip that and it turns on the tree."  No one, not one person thought this was plausible.  Helen was jumping up and down because she could feel it in her bones, her theory was about to be proven correct.  And it was, all the important councilmen of Allen stepped on the stage, spoke briefly and then counted down with the crowd to the grand moment when.......the light switch flipped and the tree came on.  I thought Helen might hop right out of her shoes she was so pleased with herself.  Then came the fireworks.  We were totally not expecting fireworks.  I thought for sure this was the highpoint of the evening and that we could now get into the car where I could start to thaw out my feet.

We start slowly making our way through throngs of people stopping, by the tree for pictures.  I take a look at the cotton candy line which now extends into Plano.  We happen into a Alexa, a 5th grade girl from Cheatham who we happen into every time we get off the couch and venture into Allen.  Alexa tells us her Dad is in charge of the cotton candy table.  Helen is already super impressed with this girl because she is a 5th grader.  This has just launched her into the stratosphere.  "Have you seen the line?" says Alexa.  "Yes," says Helen gloomily.  As I mentioned, Helen can put two and two together.  She knew there was no hope of cotton candy or Santa at this point in the evening and we were headed toward the car.    

I was imagining the way the heater was going to feel on my feet when Helen said, "Mom, Santa is going to be on stage, we can at least see him on stage.  Pleeeease!!"  What kind of a grinch would I be if we went to a tree lighting thing and I denied my kids Santa.  "Yeah, okay, lets go see Santa."  We head to the stage and it is not Santa.  It is Betty Lou Who with two brightly dressed Who teens with amazing Who voices.  My first thought is that it is a knock off of the grinch.  Here is the story.  These three are trying to have a Merry Christmas but "the grump" has arrived.  I chuckle, the irony of my own grumpiness at this moment has not escaped me.  I really do not want to be here.  But the kids, the kids are completely engaged.  Not just my kids, all the kids.  This little troop of 3 has mesmerized the under 11 set and at a pretty late point in the evening.  The kids in the audience are being given bells and bubbles to try to get rid of the grump.  They don't work.  We all try flashlights and phone lights.  They doesn't work.  Finally, everyone sings together.  First Rudolf then Santa Claus is coming to town.  This, this finally gets rid of the grump.  Then the Who music from the end of the Grinch who stole Christmas comes on.  You know, the song they sing when they all hold hands and gather around the spot where the tree should be but it is not there because the Grinch took it.  The Grinch tried to steal their joy but he could not.  The giant switch goes on in my head.  I think back to my thought earlier about being a sitting duck and it is replaced with the image of the Grinch looking puzzled.  Why?  Why do people still come together when everything is taken away?  Perhaps it is not enough to survive, we want to live and to live we must stay connected to each other.  To have joy, we must experience joy.  The Asian man in front of me turned and shook my hand and wished me happy Holidays.  The Indian woman beside me warmly gathered my hand in hers and gave me well wishes.  The pregnant lady with her busy toddler gave me a weary but happy smile.  The small troupe of Who's had asked us to wish cheer to each other to keep the grump away and it worked.

We headed back down toward the cotton candy table.  The line was much shorter now.  It wouldn't have mattered if it had gone to Richardson, I was feeling more connected now...less connected to my toes but more connected to my fellow man.  There was Alexa's Dad who was pleased to see a little girl who so obviously admired his daughter.  "Make this young lady a cotton candy the size of her head!" He said.  Lauren, for the first time ever, was sugared out.  That in and of itself is worthy of a blog entry.  Not to mention her willingness to stand in long lines so Helen didn't miss out on any necessary fun.  "Mom," said Helen, "I don't ever want this night to end."  "Me either," said Lauren.  "Me either," I said.

Luckily some nights do stick around the heart forever, cemented in place with cotton candy, Who Magic, and children singing in santa hats and reindeer antlers.  


Friday, November 20, 2015


Charity has been on my mind a lot lately.  It is getting to be towards the holidays and the school has been doing canned food drives, shoe drives, change drives, all sorts of things to help.  The conversation in the media has been focused on whether or not we should help others when we have people here who need our charity first.  Someone brought up a very interesting point, not until we were faced with being charitable towards outsiders, did our own homeless suddenly become a priority.  This really struck me.  I have been MEANING to work a soup kitchen for years.  I have been MEANING to volunteer time but I don't.  I am the queen of good intentions that tend to never ever ever amount to anything.

This is where Facebook comes into the picture doing that weird thing it does, allowing you into the thoughts and lives of people you barely know, or slightly know, or would like to know better but they are at football games on the weekends and you are camping with the Girl Scouts.  It is such a strange way to form friendships, but not really.  I like to think of it as modern day telegraph pen pals.  The messages (unless it is me), are usually short, direct and easy to digest.

One of the best aspects of this kind of communication is that it serves as a grass roots community motivator.  I certainly never would have poured a cold bucket of ice water on my head had my aunt not challenged me to on FB.  Nor would I have known enough about ALS to go online and give a small donation.  I gave a small contribution to a friend who ran a race to bring awareness and drop the stigma with depression.  I have signed petitions.  In fact today I received a letter from Senator Cornyn in response to my latest letter to him.  Facebook is directly responsible for getting me off my butt to vote in two elections (well that and my Dad, could not have faced Dad had I not voted).  Facebook helped me get to the McKinney Art walk this past weekend.  I always loose fliers but two friends who were participating had the information posted on FB so I could easily google the address in the car on my phone and get there.  You get the point, I am sure even with the pitfalls of Social Media, it has had a positive effect motivating you as well to take some action.

But back to my lack of charity.  Over the last few weeks I noticed several of my neighbors posting about ACO.  I did not know what it was so I looked it up.  It is the Allen Community Outreach.  It is a great website and it lays out a ton of ways to help without being overwhelming.  My first thought was, "Wow, this is a great resource for the GS Troop.  I need to find out what we can do to start partnering with them."  Then one of my neighbors posted that it looked like the ACO would not make their goal to provide the Thanksgiving dinners they wanted.  She gave specifics of what items were missing.  I needed to go to the grocery anyway today, how hard is it to pick up pie filling and fruit cocktail along with milk and chicken?  I got home and walked my bags to her house.  Yeah, I know, slacker's paradise, I don't even have to go drop it off, there is someone right across the street who is taking everything this afternoon.  Anyway, I was thinking how embarrassed I was not to have more.  I always do that.  I want to be grandiose and as a result end up doing nothing.  I got to her porch and there were lots of bags, obviously from different people.  None grandiose, just a little here and a little there but it was stacking up to quite a lot.  It reminded me of a grocery ad campaign in London.  "Every little helps."  It is so true.  If everyone helps a little, it ends up being a lot.

This November 20th, 6 days before Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for my family, the food in my fridge, the roof over my head, good friends.  I am also thankful to have happened into a community with a good heart, full of people who take action and care.  It is an amazing time we live in where one person can reach out through the internet telegraph and connect the dots of kindness together in a community.  Thank you to every person who sends these beacons out.  They are received.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Hiding Place

On one of my many childhood trips to Bowie, I found myself alone with the grown ups and scrounging around for something to do.  I must have been at least 12 because it was in the new house.  The new house had several book shelves filled with books at the top of the stairs.  It also had a built in wall cabinet loaded with pictures all across the top.  When I had had enough of staring at old images of my family and myself I decided to hunt for a book.  I pulled down 5 Little Peppers and How they Grew.  No, not in the mood for that plus I had already read it.  The Scarlet Pimpernel, eh, more into the cover than the first 10 pages.  Wait, what was that? Something skinny, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  Oh, it was about World War II.  I had read The Diary of Anne Frank and been riveted in the way every child is riveted by it.

And so it was I sat down with The Hiding Place, first lounging on the uncomfortable office style couch and when my chin started to tremble, I headed for the cave bed, carved into the wall upstairs in the bedroom.  No twelve-year-old wants the family to realize a random book has reduced them to tears.  There are not many books in my life that I have picked up and been unable to put down.  This was one of them.   It completely lifted me out of my selfish prepubescent world and launched me into that scary place of what if.  What if I lived in a country that was persecuting a group of people?  Would I be strong enough like the Ten Boom’s and help them?  Would fear prevent me from doing what was right?  Would I have turned my back on these people who had no where else to go?  I hoped that I would be a strong good person who cared more about others than myself.   I was so inspired by the goodness of these people.  These real people who had hidden Jews and been caught and put in concentration camps.  Corrie would write about the anger in herself and I could relate, but her sister and her father, they always saw and prayed for the SS men and the people who were acting out of fear and hatred.   I contemplated this for a long time.  I had never even considered praying for the enemy.  The enemy was the enemy.  They were the ones ruining everything weren’t they?  But in war things are never black and white.  There were the neighbors who at best were complacent and at worst, told the Germans about the Dutch families that were hiding the Jews.  These neighbors basically delivered a death sentence.  Did that make them the enemy as well?  Was complacency criminal or simply human nature?  After the war these people had the hardest time because not only could their countrymen not forgive them, they could not forgive themselves. 

When faced with the choice of stepping up or caving to fear Corrie’s family choose to step up.  For them it was the only choice.  You do not stand by and watch your fellow man suffer no matter what the consequences.   Corrie Ten Boom said a lot of things in this book that I had to read and reread and I still don’t know if I hear the message as it was intended.  But the older I become, and as the atrocities continue, the more I value her words about love and forgiveness.

“Do you know what hurts so very much?  It’s love.  Love is the strongest force in the world and when it is blocked that means pain.  There are two things we can do when this happens.  We can kill that love so that it stops hurting.  But then of course part of us dies, too.  Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.”
-       Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

From the deepest depths of my soul, I pray that I am strong enough to seek out another route for that love to travel.  I pray that I never partake in slamming the door and killing that love so that it stops hurting.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Absence of Wind on a Crystal Clear Lake or Happy Birthday Ms. G

Since Helen was a year and a half old and Lauren a year, they have been in one form of school or another.  There was Mother's Day out, preschool, public school in Plano, a charter school in Richardson, and now a public school in Allen.  Once you put your child into "the system" you come face to face with the reality of underpaid, overworked, tired, frustrated, over managed teachers.  As if this was not enough, they end up providing a ridiculous amount of supplies to the class room.  Every parent who has winced at the $60 -$70 worth of beginning of the year supplies should feel the pain of a teacher who looks around mid September and realizes, her classroom of kids who had fresh beautiful supplies 3 weeks ago are running dangerously low.  I have one chronic looser of pencils and one who goes through paper like I go through Cheetos.  All the hours I spent encouraging my toddlers to express themselves artistically accidentally transformed them into mindless supply eating zombies.

Elementary teachers have some well of patience and love that keeps them functioning at extraordinary levels in the classroom.    But they have another well, one of anger and resentment that is sometimes hard to keep contained outside the classroom.  It is heart breaking to watch talented classroom teachers wither under administrative bureaucracy that has lost touch with the magic experienced in the classroom.  I saw this more in the charter school than anywhere else.  Teachers were being paid $10,000 a year less but with the project based learning, their planning was twice as long.

We parents don't always help morale either.  We mean to, of course.  We talk about how much we support our teachers.  Some of us donate time, others supplies.  But.....there are those pesky tests.  The ones a good many of us are revolting against.  And the new partial absence policy after 8:15 rule.  And the fact that if you forget your driver's license, on a day you forgot to get lunch up, until 2 minutes before your kid's designated lunch time, well you are just S.O.L.  After all, you wouldn't want to jeopardize their safety, never-mind that low blood sugar.  Oh, and while we are on the subject of blood sugar don't even think about the bad last century habit of bringing birthday cupcakes to your kid's class.  This is nutritional treason.   Henceforth there will be birthday pencils!  Which does a nice job of circling the conversation back to replenishing supplies.  The point is, even after meaning to support the teachers, we often get so pissy with school policy that it leaks into our interactions with the teachers.  There is an undercurrent of disgruntled flowing through public schools that threatens to reach flood levels soon.

It is for this reason that I was unprepared for Lauren's 2nd grade teacher.  You get use to the current.  Its absence is as noticeable as the absence of wind on a crystal clear lake.  I noticed right away though I hadn't yet identified it as absence of current.  I just assumed it was young can do attitude. One day in the car pool line after only a couple days of school, she made a point to come up to my car and discreetly let me know Lauren had had an accident.  I cringed.  Last year's teacher had cringed.  I expected this teacher to cringe.  Instead, I got, "Don't worry, I have a plan for this.  From now on when Lauren goes to the resource room she will go to the bathroom first."  There has not been another accident since that day.  We had a few other hiccups in those first few weeks and this young, fresh faced woman deftly handled all of them.  She knew Lauren had never participated in the classroom before.  Her solution: create a small group where Lauren would be a critical part of the group where her participation is a goal of the group.  Everyone is rewarded when Lauren uses her loud and proud voice.  This makes everyone love to interact with her and she with them.  Brilliant.  She knew Lauren can't write more than a few words to participate in classroom work.  Her solution: Have Lauren tell her what she wants to write.  The teacher writes it as Lauren says it, then Lauren writes it and she is graded in a way that we can all see how much of the lessons are being comprehended.  I am the most amazingly proud Mom knowing that my child who I had thought incapable is consistently making strong C's, some B's and the occasional A (Insert me doing a happy dance).  And so the year has proceeded until wa la, first 9 week teacher/parent conferences.

You get 15 minutes for a teacher/parent conference.  Not a lot of time.  I try not to load up on coffee because my mouth is not the one that needs to run.  This is time to be quiet and hear the heartbeat of your child's day.

I sit down in the very small chair.  I am very aware of its smallness.  I realize how at home the teacher is in the other small chair.  Of course, she sits here with them, it is her day home.  She smiles the dazzling smile that is reserved for magical second grade teachers, genuine, warm but confident and strong.  "I want you to know that Lauren has the absolute right teacher this year.  I decided in 2nd grade that I wanted to be a 2nd grade teacher.  This is what I have always wanted to do.  I was pulled just like Lauren to go to the resource room from 4th grade on.  She doesn't like to be pulled, she doesn't like to leave the classroom but I told her I did it to and went to my resource teacher Ms. Rose and she helped me reach my goals.  I asked the children their goals.  Lauren wants to go to Fairy college to be a Fairy.  Ms. McGurk, I want you to know I know someone who grew up to be a fairy.  She is a tooth fairy and she goes to schools talking to kids about health and taking care of their teeth and she loves her job.  Lauren can absolutely be a fairy if that is her passion and the fact that she is willing to go to college.  Did you notice that?"  She proceeds to take 20 minutes instead of the allowed 15 to tell me lots of things.  She is missing class on Friday for a personal day, the first one she has taken in her 5 years of teaching but it is for a wedding, but she hates to leave her class...  What I heard was what every parent wants to hear from a teacher.  She loves her class.  She believes in Lauren.  She wants with all her heart to teach my child without trying to turn her into someone she is not.  She is teaching the class to accept who they are and others even if they are different.  Most importantly, for me, I could tell she wants Lauren to believe in Lauren.  I also heard and felt someone living her dream.  All the things that are negative about school melt in the presence of such a person.

When I turned to leave I hugged this teacher.  I don't do that.  I know she is use to the kids hugging her but I am not so sure she is use to parents spontaneously breaking into a hug.  There was no other way to express how overwhelmed I was to be in presence of someone with such a strong, tender, persevering heart.  A teacher's heart.    



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Poetry and Death

Random thought number 1.

When I want to be vague I write poetry.
In my head there are a million words spinning, swirling, taking up space.
But poetry is 5 card draw.  Reach in.  Take one from the deck and place a bet.
I was looking for a power adjective and grabbed a pronoun.  Damn.
Even better if I can grab words that rhyme.
The couch they kissed upon was orange.
It felt cold and sweaty and.....sporange.

Maybe I will write a cookbook instead.


Random Death thought #1.

Death stood in the doorway.
Together.  Hand in hand.
Because death is too frightened to be alone so it comes in twos or threes.  This time it was two.

Death stood in the doorway, waiting.  Not wanting to intrude on life's final moment.
Despite what people think, death has impeccable manners.
Death can wait for months or even years.
It is life who decides how quickly death will come.
Death stood in the doorway, like Adam and Eve.  Tempted by the apple.
Even barely rasping breath, and body ravaged, life's beauty mesmerizes.
If death is peace, it is so in the way water is peaceful in its stillness.  In the way a room is quiet with no children in it.  It is not the peace of a full belly or a picnic blanket after a bike ride.  Death longs for the bike ride.

Death stood in the doorway, ready as life frolicked away.  They walked hand in hand and covered the place where life had pulsed with wavelessness.  They held each other as sadness fell into them.  When there was no more heartbreak flooding the space where life had been, the three of them left.

Inside this Life

we live
start over.

all of us intent on being something
we already are.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

American Morning Snapshot

I wake up at 4am because I have spent most of my life being a slacker.   This morning I have to get Helen to school by 7:15am so I am too stressed about missing it to sleep any longer.  This is choir practice for God's sake.  If she misses more than one because slacker Mom did not get her ass out of bed, she is off the bleachers.  No 'Texas our Texas' coming out of Helen's little mouth at some future PTA meeting.

I get up, gathering necessary sundries from the dryer and drop them on the stairs for the trip up.  I head to the fridge and gather the ingredients for lunches.  Okay, this makes it sound like I did something.  On stressful mornings I make a deal with the food devil and give my kids lunchables.  I can never in good conscious brag about cooking organic, non-gmo, non-processed real food because at least once a week my kids get a lunchable.  They are kids and they celebrate those days like I have taken them to the other food devil, McDonalds.  Oh yeah, I guess that is another reason I can't brag about our food habits.

I take up the assorted clean clothes items and let the kids pick through until they find the right mix of comfortable.  Thank God they are not yet into stylish, non-rumpled and comfortable.  I am dreading that day.  Everyone is excited it is jacket weather finally so they put on their jackets and hop around outside for a few minutes.  They spot me pulling shoes out of the closet so they hop back in.  It is the last day of the shoe drive at school.  The last day I can pull old shoes out of the closet and let my children donate them to children on the other side of the planet who don't have shoes.   I have had at least three weeks to do this.  Slacker.  Particularly since I know my children.  Breakfast and putting on their own shoes is now of very little interest.  Not to mention the negotiation process with Lauren who will someday be on a tear jerking episode of hoarders where she will not let go of the same pink cowboy boots she demanded we keep today.  "Mom, these are from my old school.  These are my memory boots from Katelyn.  They are the only reminder I have.  You can't give away my memory." The pink boots stay.  The tap shoes, rain boots, cinderella "glass" slippers, dilapidated crocks and perfect sketchers that only fit Lauren for about 10 minutes go.  The carnage is left on the floor in the hall to deal with later.  Time wise we are still okay, which is a miracle.  Of course the children are not eating their breakfast, they are writing notes to the children and sticking them in the shoes.  I can't complain.  I brought this on myself.  Slacker.

Helen has become a pro at inhaling food.  She is the slowest eater but when push comes to shove, she can cram an entire waffle with 4 inches of Reddiwhip into her mouth.  I kid you not.  Gone are the days of cutting up grapes, the ultimate toddler choking hazard.  The new normal is watching this process and thinking "Good, that will hold her over until lunch."

We pull up to the school just as I see a student go in with the music teacher.  They disappear.  It is 7:08am.  I have a moment of panic.  Helen has a moment of panic.  We knock on the door like bears are about to attack.  Ms. Gibson comes out and opens the door.  "Were we suppose to be here at 7am?  I am not a responsible adult.  I can't remember if it is 7 or 7:15am."  Yes, I actually said this.  Fortunately Ms. Gibson is a goddess and assures me we are fine.  It is in fact 7:15am.

Lauren and I pull around to the front.  We made it but now have a gap of time where she and I can sit in the parking lot together before she needs to go in, well, and in fact before they will even let her in.  Schools are one of those precise timing things, like trains in Switzerland.  Doors don't open until 7:30am.  2nd graders and under go to the cafeteria between 7:30am and 7:50am.  The first bell rings at 7:50am when kids can head to their classroom.   The tardy bell rings at 7:55am and the doors lock.  After 8:15am your kid is considered partially absent for the day.  I am an ish person.  As in, I will be there around 9ish.  Hence, the reason I was up at 4am worrying.

We sit together and watch the rest of the choir students go in and the people putting up the tables in the cafeteria.  We see the students whose parents drop them off in front of the school before the doors open because they need to be to work early, the kids who volunteer to help in the drop off line.  Lauren has her little notebook and draws me her imaginary tree house.  It is fantastic.  She starts with the ladder.  It has a slide down into a pool and the slide looks like a rainbow.  She draws a pokemon lamp.  The wave of kids starts to swell.  In the middle of the wave is a policeman with his strawberry hair cut whisker short.  He is probably my age or a little older.  He high fives every child as they go by, one at each hand.  He positively radiates good natured fun.  The kids adore this authority figure who squats down to the shortest scholar and raises his hand high for the tallest.  He makes every child he greets feel important, but it is completely symbiotic.  I imagine the dose of adoration sustains him through encounters with grumpy housewives who have been up since 4am doing 50 in a 40 on their way to Starbucks.

I hated getting up this morning but I loved watching the whole morning process unfold.  It had the feel of stop motion photography.  I was sitting still in a whirlwind and watching it whirl.  The earlier risers, the walkers, the little brothers and sisters.  And of course my people, the ish people.  I watched their kids dive into the doors before they locked and gave a little cheer when I saw the last imp make it in.          

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Trip to the Store.

Yesterday was grocery shopping day.  I had put it off for as long as I could after vacation but 3 days with no bread, eggs or milk for my coffee, it was time.  I should have realized as we walked into Kroger's and the alarms went off that this was not going to be a smooth trip.  I stood frozen for a moment anticipating a cavity search when the Starbucks guy waves me in, so off we head to the pharmacy.  It takes about 15 minutes to get the prescription during which time Helen carries her sister around the tiny pharmacy room.  They look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa on a drunken Segway.  Great parent I am, I choose to ignore them, if they run into something or someone I will turn around and pretend I did not realize they were being obnoxious and ceremoniously ground them from their ipads.

They tire of this when they remember the last time we were here they begged for the pink digital thermometers on the end cap.  That day I said no.  They are only $2.99 apiece so this time I relent.  I am sure there will be a plot to reprogram them to hot since school starts in less than two weeks.

Sadly this Kroger is arranged in such a way that we now have to cross the entire store and semi-exit to get a cart.  We do this and again set off the alarms, only this time the girls have the thermometers.  "Go back!! Go back! Go back! Go back!"  I say.  "You are holding the thermometers!"  The girls rush back into the store while I hurry in with the cart.  At this point we are feeling a bit criminal.  No one else has set off the alarms.  

We proceed to the produce section.  Maybe the kids have not gotten out much this summer but they set upon the fruits and vegetables like a virus.  Lauren goes off in the direction of the apples.  "Mom I want apples.  I am going to get 4 apples, one each of my favorites."  I hurriedly get her bags for each apple.  The checker is going to love us.  Helen decides we need to attempt cooking our own beets.  They discover purple cotton candy by the melons.  We are only a third through the store and I am hungry and beaten down.  We are putting every bad choice in our line of sight in the cart, powdered donuts, pink iced sugar cookies, frozen fast food french fries,  purple cotton candy and candy orange slices.  I have to get those, Grandma Reddy use to keep those in a lovely little candy dish.  Maybe I can find a lovely little candy dish.  Maybe the beets will offset some of the sugar.  

Around the luncheon meat the kids are suddenly done with shopping and start farting on each other.  Now I am done shopping with them.  I smile thinking, oh boy, this is the last trip before school starts.  Hoorah, my Happiness Happens moment of the day, no more shopping with the banshees for the rest of the year.

We head to the checkout where I escape into the People magazine, thankful I am not married to Ben Afflick who appears to have been boinking the Nanny.  How cliche.  Poor Jennifer.  Why can't 40 something year old men just be happy with their 40 something year old wives, especially when they look like Jennifer Garner.  Oh crap, I am up, the children are being obnoxious again and this time I really did not notice.  I better swipe my card before I hold up traffic, can't wait to get home and break into the candy orange slices.  

"Ma'am, your card has been declined."  I look at the checker blankly.  This is impossible.  John got paid Friday.  He put money in.  I haven't spent any money yet.   "That is impossible." I say.  "Please try it again."  The checker who has just rung up 10 different produce items, one per bag and all the other items tries the card again. "Ma'am, your card is still declined."  

Crap, crap, crap.  I move over to the side isle, start checking my account which is indeed in the negative.  I start looking back, convinced I have been the victim of identity theft.  No, I am the victim of John forgetting to put money in my account Friday and me forgetting to make sure there was money in my account before a $200 grocery trip.  

This is the moment John dreads.  The moment when he is out of town and I bombard him with nasty texts and phone messages.  On about the 6th call (he is in a meeting in Manhattan), his admin. picks up.  I will say that I did a bang up job not saying one curse word while explaining the situation to Yolanda.  I am known in certain circles for dropping uncontrollable f-bombs.  I had lots and lots of Captain Kirk pauses where I said them in my head but none came out of my mouth.  

Yolanda messaged John, about two minutes later he texted that the money was in my account.

During the 20 minutes I was waiting, texting and feeling mad enough to pop, a woman walked over to me and asked if I needed a ride, she offered to buy my groceries.  Lauren was crying by this time and she helped diffuse that.  I was too much in angry mode to acknowledge how kind this lady was.  I thanked her of course but I wish I had said more because I realized this was my real Happiness moment of the day.  Anyone who is willing to approach a situation where another human being is seeping hostility and anger from every pore just because they recognize someone in need deserves to be recognized for their exceptional kindness.  She did help but it was by listening.  I feel guilty, at least I could have paid back the money, there is no payback for listening to a stranger rant.

I stood back in line.  Rechecked out.  This time the card worked.  Yippee! As we exited the store we set the alarms off for the third and final time, this time, we just rolled with it.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Blue Deer

If there is one thing I have learned from my 9 years of being a Mom, parenting is not like riding a bicycle.  There is no mastery.  I forget what I am doing and crash almost daily.  Take for instance yesterday.  It is appropriate that we started the school year with a paint party and finished with one.  The first one the kids behaved badly.  At this one, it was me.  I know, I know, I know, after all of my righteous indignation over the little girls walking around judging whose hearts looked like they were “supposed to” and whose looked bad; I sat there being very grumpy that Lauren’s deer did not look like everyone else’s.  What can I say?  I got swept up in the completed piece sitting at the front of the class with it’s sweet little face, standing in the snow, speckled with spots.  It was precious.  I could just see it hanging over her bed.  Alas, we came home with an entirely blue deer since Lauren’s deer was swimming.  No snow.  No sweet face.   

I sat there, watching as everyone else went from the sky, to the outline of the deer, to the inside of the deer, the ground and the final touches.  Lauren had wanted me to sit right by her, giving her confidence and protection from any outside forces that might hamper her mojo.  Instead, she got this.  “Don’t forget to put the blue lines where you want the sky to end like the teacher said so the blue doesn’t go down too far.  Go ahead and outline your deer so you don’t loose it honey.  Do you want the brown on your brush for that? “  I was a constant stream of suggestions.  Soon, she had become timid with her brush strokes and was chewing her hair.  I hate people standing over me when I paint.  It is a process, one that often looks stupid while I am in the middle of it.  I wouldn’t want over suggestive Mom hovering over me.

Soo, I went outside.  I made the mistake in my foul mood of saying I had to leave because I couldn’t take it.  Of course I got the subtle tisk-tisk from the Moms who were in full-blown Zen mode with their kids painting whatever and however they wanted (of course for every single one of them that included a brown deer with a sweet face, a blue sky and solid ground).  I understand, I too have been the tisk-tisk Zen Mom.  I have looked at high strung women and thought, “Life is too short to get all worked up over what your kid is painting.  What is wrong with you?  Lighten up.  Let them have fun, that is what this is all about.”   But for me, I realized, the fun wasn’t what it was all about.  It was about Lauren being different.  All year long she has struggled with not making friends because she is different.  She struggles because the way she learns is different.  The way she interprets the world is different.  So of course, absolutely the way she paints is going to be different.  But sometimes, I just want her to be like everybody else.  I want everyone to look at her deer and see a brown deer.  Not a blue silhouette of a deer splashing in an endless sea of blue where the sky and the water meet barely distinguished one from the other.

In the midst of my parent pity party, the little boy sitting next to Lauren looked at her picture and in complete earnest said, “I really like your sky.  It isn’t like mine but I really like how you are doing it.”

I hate to admit I left the party still sulky even after that little boy poignantly delivered the Mom lesson I needed to hear.   By the time I got home, I started to get some perspective.  I started to see the beauty in this painting my 7 year old had done with nothing but blue and white.  It wasn’t how I would have done it or how 20 other kids would have done it.  It is totally different but just as beautiful.  It isn’t easy to have a different child.  You worry because the majority of people are never going to get them.  But, some people do and that is worth more than 100 sweet-faced deer with browns coats and white speckles. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Top 3 Reasons I love you.

Helen has this brilliant teacher, Mrs. P., she has these great ideas that turn things like reading time into something special.  Friday the kids made towel and chair forts, turned off the lights, then curled up with a good book.   Last week she also had the kids create simple yet thought provoking 3, 2, 1 Mother’s day cards.   The card consists of the Top 3 reasons each child has for why they love their Mom.  Helen listed them as follows.

Number 3:  You take us to do lots of fun things.
Number 2:  You’re always there for me.
Number 1:  You will love me no matter what.

It was such a gift for me to know these three things.  I have just spent a good portion of the school year yelling at them for loosing at least 100 socks, for spending more time getting up from the table than eating at meal time, and for turning their rooms and playroom into the pit of despair.  I could go on and on and on but the bottom line is that a whole lot of parenting is spent in a grumpy state.  I have been particularly grumpy with Helen because she is 9 and now at the Bart Simpson age.  Before I was a parent I had no idea Bart was portrayed at that stage of life for a reason.   9 year olds are obnoxious.  I was obnoxious.  John was obnoxious,……sometimes I think men never really leave the Bart Simpson phase, it just morphs into Homer.

I see how Helen looks at me now when I correct her.  It is no longer the hurt little girl who is sad and remorseful for doing something wrong.  She gets sullen and mumbles under her breath things like “I was JUST trying to be funny.  I was JUST trying to make a point.  I was JUST reading a book and enjoying being engrossed in another world and didn’t notice you leaving Target to go get Lauren from tutoring which is why you had to have the store put in lock down while the book and I were being located.” 

Ah, we are entering the stage where being a parent means spending a lot of time being disliked.  So, to get a card that says “I love you for taking us to do lots of fun things, you’re always there for me,” and most of all, the one I love reading more than anything because it is so true, “You will love me no matter what,” brightens even the rainiest Mother's Day.

Thank you Helen and Mrs. P for the rainbow. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wild Horses

About once a year I look at my husband and say, “We need to go to Big Bend.”  He looks at me like I am crazy and says, “I am not going to Big Bend.  There are no trees.”  “Trees would ruin Big Bend.” I say.  He counters with, “It is faster to get to Arkansas.  Arkansas has trees, and it is green.  Not to mention it is mostly civilized.”

I get it.  I really do.  Big Bend has that type of terrain that either speaks to you or it doesn’t.  It is rugged, hard, lonely and unforgiving.  I love it.  Just as trees would ruin Big Bend, so would civilization.  I went once with my best friend when we were too young to even rent a car.  Thankfully her Mom signed for us.  We had just enough money to make this our first official vacation after graduating from college and becoming contributing members of society.  Off we went in our rented Jeep Cheroke, borrowed tent in the back, and a hibachi, we were ready to explore the West.

Of course getting to the West takes awhile and since we left after work, we planned ahead to stay at whatever motel was available in 1991 in Big Springs or Sweetwater Texas.  My memory fails me.  The only reason I even mention it is because the town had a pleasant name but a horrible smell.  They say smells stay in your brain and apparently it is true.  Some twenty plus years later, my nose remembers very well the offensive foul egg smell and headache that accompanied our first night of vacation.  The great thing about being young is enthusiasm.  We were simply amused that someplace which smelled so bad would lure us into staying the night because the name was charming; a good lesson at an early age that a town by any other name would smell as……well, not sweet. 

The next morning we were off towards Midland and Odessa.  We needed to stop for socks.   Okay, WE did not need to stop for socks.  I needed to stop for socks.  I am pretty sure all of mine were dirty and I had not gotten around to washing them before the trip.  This is where I should probably mention that my super power is having really responsible friends who get me through life.  Michelle found out all the information about Big Bend.  This was pre-internet.  She had to send off for maps, things to do, park hours, campsite availability through snail mail and actually call on a landline, long distance to make reservations.   She had discovered that you had to be 25 to rent a car and arranged for her Mom to rent it for us (thanks Barb, I never sent you a note but that was instrumental to one of the best trips of my life).  She had reserved our Santa Elena raft trip and horseback ride on the Southern rim.  I am pretty sure she was the one who suggested cooking meals ahead of time, freezing them and storing them in a cooler.  We had a borrowed tent that we practiced setting up in her parents backyard so we would know what we were doing once we arrived in BFT.  My contribution, not washing my socks so we had to make an unplanned stop.  Michelle did not make me feel like an unsocked heel, she turned this into a good thing saying we could get a few more supplies.  Another super power, my responsible friends are extremely understanding. 

The super market we go into amazingly has socks.  Again, 1991, there is no Super Target or Wal-Mart with groceries.   Apparently these Western outpost towns are use to irresponsible travelers.  We get in line and the power goes out in the grocery store.   All 10 people in line with us know each other, which by default makes us the most interesting people to talk to.  They ask where we are from and we answer the Dallas area.  We might as well have said NYC or Hollywood because this knowledge suddenly causes great embarrassment that our encounter with their town involves a power outage.  They simultaneously agree that we must be allowed to go ahead of all of them to the front of the line to offset the humiliation.  Michelle and I reassure these people that we are not upset or in a hurry, we are on vacation and we are simply impressed by strangers going out of their way to accommodate us in the grocery line.  This would NEVER happen in Dallas.  Well, we have said the magic words; we are now like family.  I am sure if this happened today we would all be taking selfies together and becoming friends on FB.  Instead, these women start telling us the story of a friend who lost her giant diamond ring in the produce department.  A few days later when it was found in the lettuce, someone turned it in.  It is not everywhere that a $10,000 ring finds its way back to the rightful finger.  The power comes back on.  We all celebrate and Michelle and I are back on the road with a new found love of West Texas. 

The day got sucked into the realm of weird travel time.  Even though we started off in the morning, we did not get to our campsite until dark.  Part of it is due to the fact we had no idea the scope of Big Bend.  Once we made it into the park and received driving instructions from the ranger, it seemed to take 2 hours to weave our way to the camp spot in the Chisos Mountains.  And, we were not yet acclimated to real darkness.  My apartment was next to a grocery store, right off south cooper.  I don’t think I had seen a star in 6 months.  Suddenly, we were driving on a road, steadily up a mountain where the only light was pouring out of our headlights.  We finally got to the stick that had the number we were given.  We looked at the rocky campsite, lit by our car and walked around figuring out the best location to pitch our tent.  It was windier and colder than we were expecting.  We found what we thought was a pretty protected spot.  The back of the tent set almost against a bolder with thorny scrub trees on either side.  We set to work, confident because of our practice run.  What we hadn’t done was set the tent up in the dark, in the wind, with solid stone to hammer the stakes in.  Crap, we had not even thought to bring a hammer.  We wandered around looking for caveman tools.  Finally the right rocks presented themselves.  It took a good bit of work to drive in the stakes.  We were shivering and sweating when it was finally done.   There is nothing quite like completing a difficult task, the satisfaction, the feeling of woman over nature, the moment where you realize the door is facing the boulder between the two thorn trees.  Fuck, fuck, fuck.  There was absolutely no way to get in the tent we had just put up.  Again, thank God for youth and enthusiasm.

There is something about going to a new place, arriving in the dark and waking up to the day.   It is like Dorothy, opening the door to Oz.  That is my exact memory of waking up in the Chisos Mountains.  The day before I had been in modern day Texas, but now I had traveled back in time.  I was in the Texas that most people expect but never see.   Michelle and I looked around.  Apparently this was not the busy season, we seemed to have the entire mountain to ourselves.

Everything Michelle had planned for us to do was perfect.   We went on a horseback ride up the South Rim with a picnic lunch provided at the top.  I have heard that horses don’t go up there anymore because it is so hard on the trail.  I remember thinking that I wouldn’t be so sure footed on those rocks.  The views were amazing.  There is nothing to say when you have a view like that, the guides were telling us what we were looking at but I don’t recall much.  I just remember the feeling of looking out so far that the sky touched the earth and not seeing a house, or a plane or a person.

Probably the best slice of info we got on that ride was from the other travelers who told us about a hot spring that looked out over the Rio Grande.  After riding all day and sleeping on some pretty pointy rocks, a natural hot tub sounded great.  Michelle and I are not known for our navigational skills so I have no idea how we remembered the instructions and found our way to the 2 mile gravel road, parked and walked to the trailhead in the dark.  It was a really bright moon that night and about 10 million stars did give us a hand.  There was the split second where we thought, hmm, we are two young women alone next to the Rio Grande, what on earth are we thinking….but right about that moment we found the Springs, climbed in and all concerns evaporated.  In fact, we regretted being so responsible that we didn’t pack any beer.  We were up above the river looking down on it dappled in the moonlight.  I never knew until then there are a million shades of black.

The next day we took advantage of our jeep cherokee and went cruising across the Chihuahuan desert on a dirt road that would gobble up my mini van whole.  Michelle pulled out a mixed tape she had made specifically for this adventure and popped it in.  Thus began my best non-road trip ever.  Perhaps Jacob’s Staff wouldn’t stand out in a field of wildflowers but in the desert, it seems so defiant against the monochromatic landscape with its red tips blazing, that I have spent years painting that image.   I don’t know how long we drove, at a certain point we knew we had to turn around.  The Chihuahuan desert is not a place to play chicken with the gas gauge.  We headed to a place in the park where you could refuel and shower.  We were staying in a relatively primitive spot.  The ranger had given us a map to the showers the first day and after a horseback ride and the desert, you could smell us approaching.  What we didn’t know is that the showers were coin operated.  This like the hammer had not been planned for.  We started scouring every crevice for quarters.  Let me tell you, the car wash gives you a lot more time than the coin activated showers in Big Bend.  None the less, we managed to get the big chunks off before heading back to our camp site.  Ready for the night in with a gourmet meal of reheated spaghetti.

The wind never seemed to die down in our camp site.  In fact, we gave up cooking every morning and opted to splurge and eat at the lodge down the road.  That place books up months in advance but the café is open to cold campers who can’t keep the hibachi lit, let alone start a fire.  The evenings we muddled through and fortunately on speghetti night the wind gave us a break while we sat at the picnic table celebrating our grand day.  It was about this time that a beautiful deer walked nonchalantly through our campsite, followed by a very large slow moving skunk and finally a smart little fox.  I think we would have reacted better to a rattlesnake than the skunk.  We had both been Girl Scouts, we had been told for years how to react to a snake.  No one ever said what we should do if a giant skunk decided to meander through our campsite.  We actually got the nervous giggles as we tried desperately to be invisible and non-threatening.  What on earth would we do if we were sprayed?  We would be driving 10 hours back in a rented car.  There would be no way to ever eradicate skunk smell from the car.  Poor Barb, she would have to buy a stinky rental car and immediately send it to the landfill.  Fortunately, we were of no interest to these characters.  They walked through twice.  Maybe we actually did make ourselves invisible.

All the essentials of a Big Bend vacation were completed but one.  We had hiked it, hoofed it and 4 wheeled it.  What hadn’t been done yet, was floating it.  Out we headed to spend time on the Grand Rio herself.  Somehow the rendezvous point was reached without missing the boat, or raft as it was in this case.   This was not your Colorado white water rafting trip.  We were in fact passed up by a 100 year old Mexican man, on a donkey, going uphill with a cart attached.  This is not a colorful antidote.  It actually happened.  Once we got our minds around the fact that this was going to be a very, very slow trip powered by the paddling of our guide, we succumbed to the lull of the river and bigness of Santa Elena canyon.  Everything on the river that day felt otherworldly.  The old man on the donkey, the way the reeds swayed as we passed them, what appeared to be wild horses running free on the Mexican side of the river.  Perhaps it was the absence of fences that made the experience so unique.  I have often wondered if I only imagined the horses in the years since the trip; my mind conjuring the freedom that belongs to wide-open land.  At the end of our journey, the river guide who was about our age invited Michelle and I to come see a band at a bar/restaurant called La Kiva in Terlingua.  We went back to the tent and gussied ourselves up as much as possible; I think we even ventured back to the coin operated showers.  I seem to remember going into the bar semi clean and bright red. 

Never before and never since have I walked into a place quite like La Kiva.  It left enough of an impression that I named a cat after the place.  It is exactly the type of bar that should reside in a ghost town.  It feels very much like a dirt dobber hole; a place under the desert where a fox or a snake would reside.  Michelle and I walked to the bar, “What are you having?”  There was only one answer, “tequila.”  

Somehow this bar that felt miles underground actually opened up to a great outdoor patio.  It had picnic tables around the parameter, a large area for dancing and a nice area for the band, which at that very moment happened to be playing a Rolling Stones song with an accordion.   We hung out with the river guide and a few other people and proceeded to have enough tequila to warrant an epiphany.   This was exactly how life should be.   No pretense, no distractions, no veil between us and everything else.   Even the graffiti on the bathroom wall spoke volumes.  I was hovering the normal 6 inches over the toilet staring at the door in front of me.  Exactly eye level to someone whose hinny was well above the seat read, “Don’t bother, crabs can jump up to two feet.” 
There is no hiding from the truth in the desert.

We ended up spending the night in a boathouse.  Our river guide accessed we were too full of tequila to make it back to our campsite safely and gallantly drove us or had us follow him back to the boathouse.  Forgive me, this memory is a bit foggier than the rest.  All I know was there was nothing nefarious in this offer, although I do remember him being rather smitten with Michelle. 

This was the perfect ending to our adventure.  Early the next day we pulled the stakes up from our tent and were shocked to see they were no longer straight.  The Chisos mountains had left their mark.   We left slightly different as well.  Something awakened, a knowledge that had not been there before.  A knowledge that will forever have me wanting to go back to a place where wild horses run free.   

Saturday, April 11, 2015


When Lauren was three months old, my Mom walked into the back room to discover Lauren lying motionless in my arms while I cried my heart out.  My poor mother went white.  I had been feeding her.  I always fed her in the back room because mealtime was not a good time for Lauren.  She would eat and then her little body would start to tense up with discomfort and she would scream.  She had terrible reflux.  It was so bad that she could actually make herself sit up from pain when she was only a few weeks old.  I never felt safe with her sleeping anywhere but on my chest at an angle.  The doctor told me it would help to add a small amount of cereal to bottled breast milk (he said breast milk would also be easier on her tummy) so she could keep more down.  This meant I had to pump.  Helen at 19 months found the whole cycle very cow like and fascinating.  Mom on the couch with the human milking contraption, one hand holding the suction cup to the bosom, squeezing milk into a tube that traveled into a bottle held between my thigh and seat cushion.  The other hand was busy feeding Lauren who I had balanced on my lap between the hose and fascinated Helen.   It helped, but eating for her was still difficult.

The day Mom walked in was the first time I could remember her eating and falling peacefully to sleep.  I had forgotten what it was like to have a baby who could eat and be happy.  I was crying for this peace she had been missing out on.

I had blocked this from my memory until yesterday when I sat alone at the dining room table with Lauren while she read to me from her “Pug” reader.  Lauren’s reaction to school is a lot like her reaction to eating as a baby.  She has to do it but it is always, always a struggle.  For 3 years I have been like a rat in a maze, looking for the cheese that will help her but I always hit a dead end.

Several years ago, before I had kids, back when I was stupid, I had an acquaintance who had the most amazing little girl.  I adored this child.  I didn’t think John and I could have children and this girl captured my heart and honestly gave me hope.  Her parents were a few years older than John and I.  They hadn’t thought they could have a child either, then….whala, here she was.   Maybe she was two or three when they started to realize something was going on with her.  Something where her brain wasn’t connecting properly with some of her muscles, she was going to need a lot of help to get them to communicate.  Her Mom was explaining this to us when I popped out with the most ridiculous statement ever.  I announced that basically she was perfect, smart, and beautiful, this would be something that would only make her a stronger person because she had a small adversity to overcome in her youth.   I will forever be impressed with this woman for not strangling me at that moment, or calling me on being a moron.  I don’t know that I would be so nice.  The woman was incredibly talented and had a fabulous business she had to give up to help her daughter overcome this “small adversity”.

What I did not realize from the “I don’t have a child, I want one, I think yours is perfect” perspective was that once you have a child everything changes.  It isn’t that you want them to be perfect; it is that you want them to not feel different.  You want them to be accepted and the one thing we all know from childhood is that a child who walks with a crutch is different.  A child who can’t read anything at the end of first grade is different.

So, sitting at the table yesterday reading Pug with Lauren has been a three year journey through a maze of autism tests, memory tests, iq tests, tutors, special ARD meetings, speech teachers and finally a test for ADD.  A test for ADD which turns out to have been pretty conclusive.  I do not think it is the only issue and the doctor informed me that any medication would give a 25% to 45% enhancement in focus.  That of course doesn’t sound very good to me but I am a person who can focus if I really have to.  I have no idea how much 25% helps someone who is distracted by lace on a table runner and the pictures of a house matching each other on every page of a 75 page reader.  I really don’t know what it is like to process the world through this lens, but as a Mom, I want to help Lauren in any way possible.

With my breath held, I gave Lauren 3cc’s of a medicine to help her focus before school yesterday and sent her off hoping that the 10,000 side effects I had read about would not happen.  I sent several notes to her teacher, ready to hop in the car and head to the emergency room.  As it turns out, she made it through the day, rode the bus home with her sister and walked home from school the same little 7 year old I had kissed before she left.  She was still telling me about free time Friday, she still wanted to have left over Easter candy, she still went outside to swing on the swing.  The only difference was that for the first time ever, we sat down to practice reading and she read every. single. story. in her reader.  We normally struggle to get through one.  Then, she said, “hey, lets have a peak at the next story to see what happens”.  Cross my heart that is what she said.  I sat at the table crying on the inside because that is what we parents do when a struggle is made easier for our children. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Drive Time Therapy

This morning we were very late to school.  So late that the Junior High bus had already left.  Helen remarked how great it was that we would have an entire extra hour some day to make that bus.  The thought catapulted us into a topic that terrifies my children, the future.  They are so scared of getting older, of me getting older, of having to leave home and venture into the world.  It is a terrifying thought at 7 & 9.  They can't imagine their lives being so different from how they are right now.  I have tried many times to make them feel better but the future might as well have horns and vampire teeth.  They simply don't like it.

So today I tried a different approach.  I said, "Girls, there is this passage in the bible, that is, well it is a poem really.   It says to everything there is a season.  A time to live, a time to dye.  A time to be happy, a time to be sad.  Right now is your season to be 7 & 9.  That is why this feels exactly right, why you can't imagine being any older.  You probably wouldn't want to go back to being a baby either.  No teeth, no talking, baby food.  You have moved beyond that, that season is over.  I remember thinking I could never be happy living away from my parents.  But then, I went to college and I loved it.  And I loved sharing the experiences with my parents.  In fact, when I first moved to San Marcos, Mom and I were at a popular restaurant looking in the jammed up parking lot for a place to park when this guy looked right at us from inside his car and made a giant muscle with his arm in his car window.  It was so big it took up the entire window.  Mom and I died laughing.  If you ask her about it sometime she will remember.  It made quite an impression on both of us."
Helen - "Mom, why did he do that?"
Me - "I am not sure."
Helen - "I think he did it because he thought you and Grandma were cute."  
Me - "Ha, you might be right.  The point is you grow slowly into adulthood.  You won't wake up 18 tomorrow, it happens slowly, gradually so that you are ready for it.  Right now, your job is to enjoy today, that is the best way to prepare for tomorrow."

They thought about this a moment and I could see them both nodding their heads in agreement.  It was good we were all in such a happy philosophical place because today was our time to be tardy.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Southern Snow Day

Here's the deal.  All of us in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, etc. we know the rest of the US has been buried in snow and bad weather.  We know this.  I have looked at the news and I have been mortified at the thought of having to remove 18 inches of snow off the roof.  The idea that it could collapse into the living room is beyond terrifying.  You guys are troopers and this year you are dealing with an abnormally crazy winter.  That said, I still feel justified complaining about 2 inches of sleet and ice in North TX.  Why?  Because we are caught completely unprepared for this shit.  We have been listening to the weathermen promising snow since we were 6 and most of the time it is a big fat nada.  That is why at least 1/2 of all the kids who had a snow day in Texas today went outside with socks on their hands.  You think I am kidding?  Imagine, that Saturday your kids were outside barefoot in swim suits pretending to be trapeze artists on the swing set.  Two days later the same kids who wish for just one teeny tiny little bit of snow all winter wake up and realize that there is exactly enough sleet and ice on the ground to justify a snow day.  First, you slam yourself against the door preventing them from running outside barefoot in their pj's.  At 7 & 9 it has been a full year since the last 10mm of snow and they have completely forgotten the proper protocol; which involves, lots and lots and lots of layers.

At this moment, we bribe the kids with anything we have on hand.  Hot cocoa, skittles for breakfast, anything to distract them from the white stuff between bits of brown grass outside.  We are buying time to look through every drawer, closet, nook and cranny to scrounge up the winter crap we haven't needed in 377 days.  While shoving the skittles in, we start trying on mittens that are never going to fit.  I don't know why it is always the toddler gloves that show up.  Well yeah, I do, that was the last time I was paranoid enough to try to shove coverings over their hands on a regular basis so there are at least 30 pair.  The closet under my staircase is a horrible place.  It is home to everything.  If the zombie apocalypse ever got in the house I would tell the children to hide in there because they would never be found.  Ever.  Sadly, this is the most likely hiding place for winter gear as well.  I start throwing pool noodles, backpacks and goggles in the hall.  I know I can only put them off for so long and it has now been at least 35 minutes.  Fuck.  Why didn't I get gloves and some sort of boots at Walmart Sunday when I was busy buying four gallons of milk, three brownie mixes and three cartons of eggs?  It is because people in the south won't spend one day without snacky cakes but we figure we can dart out real quick while the dog pees or to drag the trash to the curb in flip flops.  After all, we aren't going out if there is ice.  We have seen the news, we know what happens to foolish Texans who think they can walk or drive on that stuff.  They end up closing 75 because of those people.

Finally, after an hour of scrounging I have a giant mound of winterish stuff to turn my little darlings into mummy's with.  At one point Helen tells me, "Mom, everything feels stiff, it is hard to bend my arms."  "Yes dear, that means you are warm enough.  Go outside and have fun."  Of course there is no such thing in our closets as warm enough.  The rain boots are fantastic vessels for holding at least a gallon of snow a piece inside.  I do not know how they can get this much snow in their boots when there isn't enough to cover the grass but they manage.  There is a never ending cycle of people going outside, playing in the snow (aka sleet and ice), people coming inside, striping down to their underwear, wanting food, getting warm and instantly wanting to be re-mummified in something warmer and let back out to start over again.  This is a messy process.  One that drives my OCD husband insane who is also not venturing out on the ice.  This is how cabin fever starts.  This is why the Scandinavians brilliantly invented glogg.  We are fresh out of glogg but who says a frozen margarita isn't perfect for a frozen day.  And even if we loose power, I am sure I can shake enough sleet out of a kid boot for something tropical.  Día feliz de la nieve!