Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Must be Menopause

I don't know what it is lately... I've always been almost nauseatingly in love with my family in that gushing, knock me out before I burst into song kinda way. But since becoming a grand mommy, I'm just about disgusting myself. I cannot think of my husband, my kids or those sweet little baby girls without feeling like my heart might very well explode in a storm of rainbows, flowers and peanut butter cups. I get a similar feeling when singing... whether alone or at church... only that's more choruses of angels, flocks of doves and Agape dripping like honey from everything.

I hope you're drawing a good mental picture here. Seriously, I'm usually the sort of person who wants to smack reality back into those hyper-cheerful sorts who can find rainbows in a shit storm... and then I look in the mirror and realize what I have become.

I realize that were it not for a finely honed self-control (and finely focused too as it doesn't appear in many other areas of my life), I'd be that woman at every social function who people try to avoid engaging in conversation lest she regale you with tale after endless tale about what her way-more-precious-and-smarter-kids-than-yours are doing.

When the thought hit me today that if only I could get a television crew to secretly tape my family for a week, I'd have a year worth of great video clippage to share, I suddenly understood... I've gone over the edge.

No less than 10 times in the past week, I have lamented the fact that the only time anyone in the family is willing to be videoed is when they're aren't being their natural, random selves. I want a wireless lapel camera/mic set up... if for no other reason than to show their kids what they were like.

But alas, they freeze on camera.



Monday, February 14, 2011

Such Sweet Romance

In honor of St. Valentine's Day, here's John's favorite family story.

Charlie and I were married in August 1986, just a few months into my 17th year. Our choice to marry, despite my young age (he was 26), was made in part because we knew we were meant for each other and in part because we were trying to be "Good Young Christian People" and could no longer keep our hands off each other.

Incidentally, this is back story and not part of what John likes to hear. This bit would have him dramatically dry heaving and claiming we're destroying his innocence. He just likes the hear the water bed part of the tale.

Due to my age and rather tarnished mental health history, my parents were understandably... less than enthusiastic about the idea of Charlie and I getting married. To their credit, they did show loving support, bought my dress and hosted our reception. They were wonderful about everything.

Well, almost everything.

Mum made her feelings very clear on the eve of the big day when she sat me down and reminded me she expected I would finish High School before even considering children. I told her we were planning to wait a couple of years and not to worry. She responded with "I don't think you should even practice."

Mum's futile hope was further driven home when I opened her wedding gift to me. It was a lovely, cream colored, floor length, satin nightgown... complete with longer than necessary sleeves and an almost Elizabethan ruffled lace collar. I'm pretty sure she hoped charlie wouldn't be able to find his way past it.

Now Charlie, in his bachelor years, had decided to celebrate his freedom from a twin bunk bed by purchasing a king-sized free-wave water bed. He outfitted this bed with the finest satin bedding set he could find. Despite occasionally having to chase down pillows like a bar of wet soap, he enjoyed the gently rocking slumber in his silky nest.

About a week into our marriage, I decided, out of respect for Mum's thoughtfulness, to wear the "Nun's Pajamas". I prepared for bed in the master bath while he used the bathroom down the hall. Still in the honeymoon haze of twitterpated fancy, I slid under the covers to await my loving husband.

Okay, this is where John starts to listen...

Charlie came into the room and stopped just past the doorway with an intense look in his eyes. I imagined he was looking at me with the same gaze of new love I felt each time we were in the same room together. I totally missed the twinkle in his eye as he took a great leap from the doorway and cannon balled onto the bed.

In a micro-second, an evening of fairytale romance became slapstick routine as the wave of water rushed at me and launched me up out of the bed and into the wall before my shocked limbs could even begin to flail.

I wasn't hurt, beyond the dashing of my girlish fantasies... and Charlie was appropriately abashed until he was certain I was uninjured... but the next 20 solid minutes were spent glaring at him while he laughed hysterically. The next several hours and even days were punctuated by his sudden giggles and exclamations about the look on my face.

Within days, we had a cotton bed set. If I was going to smother him in his sleep, I wanted a pillowcase I could hold onto.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Department of Redundancy Department

I love my family.

Obviously, I also like stating the obvious.

It's a weird mood tonight. After weeks of stress and deadlines and worries and viral ick run amok, we've had probably the first truly relaxing day in a month... and I'm a little giddy.

Charlie just trimmed his beard and mustache and it reminded me of a snippet of dream from the other night... so I ran to tell Daniel (the subject of said dream) about it. He was, as usual, attached to a gaming remote with John working in clay beside him. Rachel came into the room as I launched into "Hey, Daniel. I had a dream about you. You'd grown a mustache and (really ratty) goatee thingy and I was trying to talk you into letting me help you trim the mustache."
"Because half of it was hanging over your lip and the other half was too short. I think I said you needed to not close your eyes when grooming your facial hair."

This turned into one of those moments where everyone in the room is talking over everyone else and laughing loud enough to shake the windows. While Daniel took a little good natured teasing (refusing help from anyone is total Daniel MO) I realized how very Mrs. Weasleyish I sounded in my own dream which then reminded me of past conversations with friends in which I have been favorably compared to one of my favorite fictional moms ever.

But the laughing... that's my favorite part. It's one of the reasons the kids still, after all these years, love to reminisce about when they were little. It's why John's favorite family tale occurred only days into my marriage to Charlie. It's why, while we have more than our fair share of hugs and "I love you's", I can also walk through a room, randomly call someone 'weirdo' or 'freak', get 'old-fart' or an equivalent in return and we all know it means the same. We're all not only drawn to laughter but seek to create it daily in our lives.

Charlie and Daniel's voices sound more and more the same each day. All of us females have almost identical speaking voices... John laments the fact that, for now, he still sounds like his sisters... but that will change within a year and people will confuse him for his dad and brother on the phone the same way they confuse all us women. But each of us laugh differently. They all look so different from each other and their laughs are as distinct and individual as they are. Each one is a joy to hear... even if it is 2 hours past lights out and I'm dying to get some sleep.

I love the sound of their laughter. I can hear it over any other sound in a crowded room... though that may have more to do with the fact that we're a loud bunch than it does my being attuned to their voices.

I used to be self-conscious and apologetic about my rambunctious and noisy family. It's such a blessing to be over that. I refuse to apologize for my laughing family. I'll accept the occasional correction from older folks who believe we, as Christians, should be more serious about our lives and our faith but will not change. Laughter is a gift. Even Solomon, the wisest person to ever live, knew the healing power of laughter.

Rachel and I were talking earlier tonight... she mentioned that Dora will probably toddle around with her little stuffed giraffe clutched in one hand until she's almost ready for school... much like her mom carried Mr. Bear. Rachel brought up her 'fi-fi', a t-shirt of Charlie's she swiped from our bedroom floor when she was about 15 months old. I remembered when the collar of the t-shirt separated from the rest of the shirt and she started wearing it around her neck like a cape. She said fi-fi was anything she wanted him to be... and yes, fi-fi was a him. Like Ford Prefect's towel, it was her constant and required accessory.

Like most 'tomembry' conversations, this one wandered all over her toddler years until Charlie popped in with a reference to Daniel's toddlerhood speech quirks. He made a comment about how uptight I used to be and I laughed.

"Okay Dear. You weren't the one who had to deal with Krys telling anyone who would listen about how Mommy fed her Baby-Sister-Becca-Rae with her boob, just like a bottle. You didn't have to listen to Becca telling everyone in God's green earth about how Mommy ran over her finger with a shopping cart (middle finger, sans nail extended, "Mommy. chopping carp rum ober") You didn't have to listen to Rachel screaming in the middle of Wal-mart "Don't hit me Mommy!" after getting her hand popped for dragging everything in reach into the cart. You didn't have to navigate a Christmas crowded K-mart with 4 kids while your 2 year-old son threw a tantrum demanding a... truck. (Only he couldn't say 'truck') You didn't have to deal with the stares while he screamed "F*ck! F*ck! I wanna f*ck!"

Of course, both Rachel and Charlie laughed through this little rant... and I realized that particular day was the turning point for me. I stopped being embarrassed by my kids being kids and learned to laugh in the moment, rather than later when no one was staring at me.

One of Daniel's other finer speech moments was the night we went out to a seafood restaurant and ordered crab legs. Charlie said he was afraid the kids would freak that we were eating Sebastian from "The Little Mermaid". That never came up. What did happen was Daniel climbed his not quite 3 year-old body onto the table to announce to the entire establishment that "I like crap! I like to eat CRAP!"... That was also the night Rachel realized that a mid-pout head slam isn't guaranteed to hit padding (wooden booths) and spent a good portion of the meal with an ice-pack on her head. It was also the night I decided anyone giving me the evil eye for discreetly nursing my newborn son in public would get a wide-eyed, open-mouthed stare, from our entire family, right back. Krys and Becca joyfully discussed the deaths of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber over their dinner salads.... which I think was the trigger for Rachel's head-banging... and only intensified Charlie's fears over the eventual crab-Little Mermaid connection. I had a sudden swell of respect and pride for my parents who made a point of taking all 9 of us out to eat nearly every month... and the night became one of our favorite adventures together.

13 years later and it still makes us laugh. We don't remember that Charlie and I experienced a level of exhaustion that night that rivals this past week's move. What we remember are the high points... and all the laughter that came with them.

I love my family.

I love telling stories about my family.

I love the laughter.

But you probably already knew that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bright, Shiny, New Day

I didn't really want to get out of bed this morning... but once I was up it was wonderful that I'd chosen not to chase after a few more minutes sleep. Yes, I've spent a good chunk of time on FB but I have to do something while waiting for coffee to kick in, right?

My coffee pot died a pathetic death in the move but my mug top filter is a life saver. Not a drop of wasted coffee with this thing and it takes NO counter space.

Anyway, it's wonderful to get up and feel somewhat strong and back to myself again. Knees are recovered, back is almost there and, except for the numbness in my left fingers, my arms and hands are back. I can even take a deep breath again without choking! I wanted to run through the house yelling for everyone to get up and enjoy this beautiful sunny day... but they'd have revolted and I'd have ended up back in bed.

Each day, the changes in getting settled in are visible. Little things and big things. I have to admit, for "As Seen on TV" products, UGlue lives up to the claims. It's nice to be able to put up my decorations and know they won't leave holes in the walls later... plus it has the extra added bonus of being lots more fun than dealing with nails and screws. I have my key chain level and adhesive. I'm ready to DECORATE!

Know what I love about no carpet? There are no fibers to hide when the floor needs to be swept. Nothing to hide the dust, dirt, nasties that get tracked in over the course of an average day. I'm more confident when I can see what it is I'm dealing with, you know?

The house isn't perfect... there are a lot of cracks and crevices in the homemade cabinets that need sealing. The same for corners and doorways where the flooring was laid... but I don't mind doing that. I don't mind the cracked deck or the screen on the porch that needs replacing... and all these little things that don't bother me anymore make me realize I really was a bit of a snob at one time.

This house is in a neighborhood we scoffed at considering during our house hunting 11 years ago. It wasn't upscale enough. The houses were too small and not modern enough. Too much of what looked like possible gang activity... too many cluttered and trashy looking yards. Too much and not enough of I can't even remember anymore.

Now, I see through different eyes and I'm grateful for the difference. After 6 years or so of complaining about Stepford neighbors near our old house, I realize I'm not meant to be worried about status and appearance. My job is to create a loving and comfortable home for my family... a warm environment for company and a place that fits us. I'm not meant to be running around trying to keep up with anyone outside this home. I am not meant to compare myself to the neighbors or even compete with them.

I've also realized there is a big difference between the obnoxious behavior or my overly privileged former neighbor children and the obnoxiousness of the free-range kids on this street. Kids are going to be obnoxious at times... but I've yet to see a hint of "are you good enough for us?" from the kids I've had to ask not to invite themselves in the yard to visit Luna. When I told them to feel free to knock on the door when they want to see the duck, and to ALWAYS wear shoes to visit, they were full of 'yes ma'ams' and smiles rather than the hints of 'screw you' I've seen elsewhere.

I'm not ashamed to admit Charlie and I needed to be knocked down a peg or two. Both of us grew up in situations that left us a feeling of wanting more and more... as if that made things better. Even with that house falling down around us, we clung to it beyond what was reasonable. I can understand why so many people look down on those of lesser means... because in their heart of hearts, they equate what they have and how they live with their personal worth. I'm grateful to be where that's simply stupid and a waste. It's a blessing to be free(ish... I'm sure there is more to learn) of such useless concern and attitude.

It's a beautiful day. Elena is babbling away in her walker. Charlie is gearing up to finish putting the dryer back together. Rachel is at rehearsal. John is doing John things, like inventing stuff from staples (I kid you not) and Daniel thinks I don't know he's still trying to sleep. So it's time to get off the computer, grab another cup of coffee and get back to turning our box and clutter filled house into our brand new and perfect for us home it is meant to be.

Friday, February 11, 2011

He'd Kill Me If He Knew

 I can do this in a blog post... even link it from FaceBook because the person it involves doesn't read my blog unless I tell him it's about him... and I don't plan on it.

I was cleaning/sorting/wallowing in the unpacking process in the living room and found a folded piece of paper. Now in my defense, what was on this paper would usually mean it's folded in such an intricate way that I'd know on sight not to read... but since it was just your standard folded notebook paper, I felt free to investigate. Picture, if you will, clear middle-school girl script complete with bubbles and bowling balls where dots usually go. The following is the note I found:

Dear ***-*** (a pet name I'd never embarrass him by sharing)
Sorry about tomorrow. But my granny needs me. I need a note from you! Cause I need a little love on paper to take with me. Oh and I will have my world domination plan done Wednesday. (If I'm back by then) I need the note by 5th period cuz my mom's coming to get me.

Love you,

Okay, 'a little love on paper' made me giggle. The world domination plan was enough to make me double up in laughter... I know I'm evil for sharing this but... COME ON! How could I NOT? And, yes, I am going to tell him I read the note and remind him about keeping them off the living room floor where they are fair game. He got off easy with me reading it.

When this kid told me "She just gets" him... he wasn't kidding. World domination? This should not surprise me.

Ah, middle school love. Is there anything that can compare?