Wednesday, May 20, 2015

a letter to summer 2015

Hello Summer 2015,

This letter isn't meant to manipulate you or anything, but you need to know: We are counting on you.

As children, summer stretched out over us like striped awnings over a turquoise pool. It held us like a hammock strung under palm trees. Summer, for us, was playing tag with friends until streetlights came on. It was long road trips to see canyons and valleys that God's own hand carved. Summer meant fireflies in jars, tadpoles in paper cups, and frogs under bushes. It was lazy mornings watching cartoons in pajamas and late nights reading one last chapter with flashlights under the covers.

In many ways, the summers of the past made us who we are today. I'm not going to lie, Summer 2015, you have a lot to live up to around here.

Kids today, they need you to woo them into the glorious freedom of days without end sprawling out over the coming weeks. In case you didn't know, some of these kids have a hard time at school- there are bullies and tests and homework and so. much. sitting. 

Teach them to run and skip and climb, dear Summer.

Unleash the joy of reading adventure stories for pure bliss.

Give them the happy accomplishments that only you can give: learning to effortlessly dive into the pool, perfecting cartwheels down grassy hills, and how to sing and chew gum and ride a bike all at the same time.

Summer, these kids need you to be so amazing that they can't imagine why anyone would want to spend every moment of the next three months in front of televisions or playing on devices. Because somehow, we are all learning that when we can't put down our phones or turn off the TV, life is something that happens to us. But when we open our front door and step out unplugged, we make a life for ourselves.

These kids of ours need to learn to make a life out of their moments, and that is your purpose here, Summer.

I thank you in advance for this gift. And I promise to be in this with you. I will push them out the door, drive them to the pool, and hoist them up into trees. I will take them to the library and teach them how to find the books they want to read. I will play with them at the lake and paint with them at the kitchen table.

I will be your comrade in arms, sweet Summer.

And when school days beckon, I will be sad to say goodbye. But I will also be grateful, and ready to see how these children of freedom can learn the lessons they need in school days of structure and responsibility. Because that is part of making a meaningful life, too.

Somehow, the shadows of my children will grow longer and longer until they grow all the way out of this house and into the wide world. And then, Summer, you will have new lessons for me as I fill my days with new adventures (By the way, I am asking in advance for island beaches, the perfect gold sneakers, and lots of grandbabies in my pool).

But for now it's you, me, Mr. Fantastic, and these kids, making the best memories we can make.

And, as my kids would say, it's going to be epic.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

my glamorous week in review

I live a glamorous life.

This week has been particularly sleek and upscale. I'm not trying to make everyone jealous or anything, but like the "highlights of the red carpet", "who wore it best?", and "the CDC's most infectious diseases", the details of this week must be shared.

It all started with vomit. (What good parenting story doesn't begin with vomit, though??) Indeed, Mother's Day weekend lived up to the hype, and I got to "be a mom" all weekend. I wore yoga pants and a Mossimo tank top, carried a jug of bleach around in lieu of a designer bag, washed my hands every 22.3 seconds, and rocked some sweet dark circles under my eyes as a result of the various times I slept on the upstairs sofa to make sure I could hear the gagging when it began. We will call this look "puke chic" and trademark it before Gwyneth or the Olson Twins try to claim it.

On Monday, we thought the worst was over. But, NO. The excitement had only begun.

The next episode will be called "CSI Cedar Park: Crazy Dog meets Boy". I will give you only the facts: Two of my boys decided to ride their bikes around the neighborhood. A man was leaving for work. The man's dog sprinted straight out the front door when it opened and bit one of my boys on the ankle as he rode by. After a neighborhood search, we found the owners for the dog. The dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. The dog is now in quarantine at the vet to make sure he isn't rabid, and my son's wound is being watched carefully for infection. This is a wonderful way to make friends in a new neighborhood, by the way. I believe The Saturday Morning Post once had Norman Rockwell paint a picture of some neighbors chuckling over a bite wound as Animal Control rolled up and took the dog away. (Unexpected Bonus: We have now actually lived a piece of endearing Americana!)

By Thursday it seemed like life was smoothing out. (Haha! Weren't we cute to think that?)

The morning started so calmly: coffee, bible, cozy sofa blankets. Then Mr. Fantastic headed out the door for a breakfast meeting with some community group leaders from church. He called me out into the garage. I was expecting a new Maserati with a big red bow, of course, but instead he wanted to show me the PILES OF MAGGOTS covering the garage floor. The thousands of little cutie pies had somehow crawled out of our trash can as a result of the storm the night before. He was very sorry, but he had to go eat lemon poppyseed pancakes and turkey sausage at Mimi's with super awesome human beings instead of ridding our home of vile insects. Kiss, kiss! Have a great day, Sweetie!

I learned lots about maggots that day. They kind of crunch when you step on them. They hide under everything in the garage, so you will also have to remove every. single. thing. from the garage. (Feel free to BURN IT ALL if you need to. No one will dare to judge you.) Also. sweeping them into one area only works for a few minutes, because they quickly crawl away. You have to be fast to clean up maggots, you guys. Slackers won't succeed. Bring your A-game and try not to think about what you're actually doing while you're doing it. Also, the fun is never over. Once you think you're done, you'll see more maggots, and have to reclean everything at least twenty times. These creatures are the opposite of leprechauns and fairies: they are everywhere and they bear zero magical sparkle secrets. (Unexpected Bonus: Some nice "me time". The kids wanted no part of this glamour-filled experience.)

Once I was done I soaked in a bathtub of bleach and actually ran myself through the washing machine twelve times. It was the only way I could be allowed to to re-enter society.

By the afternoon, most of the maggot shock had worn off, and I was off to an appointment at the dermatologist. This portion of the glamorous story was similar to an episode of "ER", except from the later seasons without George Clooney, when no one wanted to watch it any more.

Because I have a complexion one step darker than "glow-in-the-dark" and one step lighter than "ghost-like", I get to have a stranger closely examine my skin for possible cancer problems all the time. For those of you who actually have melanin in your skin, you are really missing out on a good time. The dermatology "full body scan" is exactly like going to a spa, except not at all. Sure, you get to be mostly naked in front of perfect strangers, but that is where the spa-likeness ends. There is no "tribal beats and pan flute" music to soothe you as you are "examined". There are injections at both places, yes, but no one offers you cucumber water or a discount on a manicure next time after your biopsy is taken. You leave the spa feeling and looking way better, and you leave the dermatologist feeling and looking like a Frankenstein-type science experiment. The spa is far superior to the dermatologist, and yet they are similar in outrageous cost. Capitalism is baffling.

I have worn SPF a bazillion since I was in the womb, so you'd think I would be fine. But no, the same day as the maggots, I got to be sprayed with liquid nitrogen repeatedly and have some skin removed from my arm. The best part of this is that Boy 3 kept saying I got my face "lasered off" all night. I love him to infinity. (Unexpected Bonus: free bandaid in the "swag bag".)

By Friday, I was pretty sure the drama must be over. Alas, I am too adorable for words.

Because by Friday afternoon, there was more vomit. (What good parenting story doesn't end with vomit, though??) As I was pouring a bowl of puke down the drain all I could think was, "Don't throw up, don't throw up. don't throw up." because that is all anyone ever thinks when they are cleaning up vomit. (Unexpected Bonus: I did not throw up.)

The moral of the story is two-fold: First, The drama is never over. Second, the glamour of motherhood is overwhelmingly underwhelming.

This week, I hope we have long, boring, bug-free, bite-free, doctor-free days sitting (in the shade, for goodness sake) by the pool, free of the vomit that seems a little too common around here.

Also, I'm getting myself some of those lemon poppyseed pancakes. (Unless the Maserati finally shows up.)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

when you're done being the mom your kids deserve

The boy woke me up in the dark stillness of midnight and breathed little sobs and moans. We climbed the stairs and he held his tummy and sat next to the toilet waiting for the worst to be over. He cried and moaned and asked God why he had to be sick.

I listened to boy-becoming-man prayers in the dark, as he told God he wanted to feel better. I began to tell him the stories of when he had tiny hands and little words. He sat there on the bathroom floor and I wove the stories of us into a blanket to cover us and distract us from the awful midnight sick.

This child of mine is growing up, and when everything goes wrong he still cries out for me first. But when it becomes unbearable, he wants God, too. I'm not sure I could find a more encouraging sight on Mother's Day weekend than his beautiful, widening soul.

Somehow, in the middle of all the things we get wrong, there are very important things that we are getting right. 

Twelve years ago, I wanted so much to be the best mom, to be patient and kind and sweet and precious. I wanted them to marvel at how I was just the kind of mom they really wanted. I wanted my children to grow up unscathed by their mother's inadequacies. I thought anger and frustration were the enemies, and if I could slay those dragons, well, then I would be the mother my children deserved.

I thought what they needed was a better version of me. But they didn't. Kids just need a mama to be a mama: sit with them, tell them to take their fingers out of their nose, read to them, laugh with them, give them some snacks, cry with them, listen to them.

My kids are going to grow up and tell their friends that their mom is straight-up crazy sometimes. They will have the same chance all kids get to lovingly roll their eyes behind my back and ignore my frantic advice to wear more sunscreen, drive more carefully, take their vitamins, and FOR GOODNESS SAKE BE KIND TO EACH OTHER! 

I'll let God be the one who is perfect. I'll just wait up on the sofa watching Gilmore Girls when they go to concerts with their friends, and if they miss curfew I'll go all psycho and text their friends some awkward bear-skin rug baby photos until they get home. I'll be the one embarrassing them with my giant floppy hat, shouting their name, and using a blowhorn as they receive their diploma at graduation. When they're in college, I'll ask them all the time about sex and if they plan to get in the game any time soon. If they seem unsure, we'll have a nice chat about STDs, what a job at Chick-Fil-A really pays, and how much babies cost. I will be obnoxious and in their business and it will be the best thing ever. They will hate it and they will love it and when they have their own kids, they'll finally get it.

The bottom line is this: I'm not going to be the mom they deserve, or even the one they want me to be, I'm simply going to be me: the mom God gave them.

After all the sick was done, that boy of mine sat beside me in the hallway and leaned his head on me. He sighed heavy and relieved, and said, "I love you, Mom. Thanks for being with me."

Then he went back to his bed and I went back to mine.

My eyes saw almost-man-sized feet trek down the hallway, but in my heart they wore Thomas the Train slippers and could still fit in my hand. As I slid into my own cozy bed, I thought of all the late nights we have ahead of us as these kids grow up.

I was grateful for my pillow and for the sleep.

I'll need my rest. It's all going to go way too fast.