Saturday, December 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Kid-free traveling and other sure fire ways to feel guilty...
This is it. I am on a plane. ALONE. I have read nearly 130 pages of my novel that is pure drivel designed to give my weary mind a break. I have sat comfortably in my window seat for nearly two hours without having to sing a song, make up a story, or play I Spy. I have not have to dig thru my purse for a magic way to entertain my children with nothing more than a safety pin and expired gift cards in my wallet. I have not had to give apologetic murmurs to the passengers around me because of the alternating crying and shrieking with delight emerging from my row. I am traveling as an independent, quietly content grown woman, perfectly able to sit still and mind my own business.
Everything is perfect. Everything, of course, except the small, nagging voice of mother guilt. There are lots of things about motherhood that are totally wonderful, totally amazing. But the thing is, with this wonderful job you give up your ability to have a mind independent of thoughts about your children. Gone forever are your days of totally guilt-free moments. Case in point, as the plane ascended, instead of thinking about the fun I would have the next few days exploring beautiful Colorado with my husband, I found myself thinking remorsefully about how my daughters would be thrilled beyond description at the adventure of riding a plane. And there it is. The seed is planted. And just like that, I suddenly see three little faces, all doe-eyed and pitiful, staring at me, pleading silently to be included in the fun. Asking me with mournful eyes why, oh why, has their mommy abandoned them to have fun without them?
I push these thoughts from my mind and focus instead on what the next few days will be like. For starters, my husband and I will be able to eat several meals and actually take the time to taste the food. Between drink spills, bathroom breaks, and holding Leighanne as she climbs up our bodies to escape our table, it is quite difficult to enjoy food at home or when eating out. It’s more like a survival mode where the adults take turns eating. One puts their head down and gobbles a few bites while the other keeps a wary eye out for predators seeking to snatch your meal by causing some distraction. It’s a team effort to get an entire meal eaten, really. They don’t call spouses “team partners” for nothin’. You’d think this would ensure my size 6 figure, but somehow not eating works only for Hollywood personalities.
Next, I will sleep. Seriously. I WILL SLEEP. Some women like to take advantage of every moment of a getaway to explore, to shop, to take in the local culture. Not me. I will snuggle down in my comfy king size bed and sleepily wave at my husband as he heads out for an early power breakfast with colleagues. I will sleep with the glorious knowledge that except for the trumpet of the archangel, nothing short of an act of God will suddenly pull me from bed.
Also high on my list is taking advantage of time to exercise in the hotel fitness center. This may sound odd to some of you, but only those of you who have no children. Exercise, in my little world, has become a privilege, not a drudgery. To burn calories on an actual piece of exercise equipment instead of by chasing my four-year-old whom I just saw dart around the corner holding my brand new MAC lipstick, mascara, and her little sister by the hand, would be heavenly. To lift weights that involve barbells and machines that give rewarding little clanging sounds instead of hoisting my 60-lb. 6-year-old up the stairs because she has a leg cramp is almost more than I can imagine. To run for half an hour and not come home to my children crying and clutching a picture of me as if I will never return (producing more mother guilt, by the way) is a scenario I haven’t enjoyed in quite some time.
Right. That is what I envision.
And then reality hits. MOTHER GUILT. This is what it will really be like:
Michael and I will sit down to a delicious meal that contains no chicken fingers, applesauce, or grilled cheese of any kind. We will take our time and actually walk away without indigestion because we sucked down our food. We will say things that would qualify as complete sentences. Five whole minutes later, we will look at one another and say, “That was good. What do we do now?” as they take away our empty plates. It will take more than a few days to let go of our survival mode instinct when it comes to eating.
I will wake several times during the night wondering if I just heard the baby cry out. Or was it Olivia dreaming again about the giant rat that taps on her window? I will remember where I am and smile as I settle back down into the covers, looking forward to hours and hours more of sleep.
At exactly 5:45AM I will jerk my eyes open, fully awake, ready to go make breakfast for someone and plead with my kindergartener to let me dress her in something other than her “I love Chick-fil-A” t-shirt for the third day in a row.
I will don my workout clothes, arm myself with my iPOD, and just as I hit my stride on the treadmill, the shuffle songs option will select Lauren’s favorite Barney song. Again, the three doe-eyed faces will appear in my mind and I will hurry thru my remaining exercise time so I can get back to the room to call them.
And after day two, I will begin fidgeting. The girls must be SO distressed without me. They probably aren’t eating. They’re probably waking up crying in the middle of the night because I am not there. I bet they are wandering the house aimlessly, looking at my picture and missing me so much they can hardly take it. I bet the baby is looking around everywhere, wondering where her mommy has gone. I will practically run home from Colorado to get to them as they must be pining away for me, the most important person in their worlds.
And when at last I arrive home and open my arms to receive what will be their tackle hugs, I will suddenly be thrown back into reality when they ask if I could move over a little as I’m blocking Tom and Jerry on t.v.
That’s mother guilt, people. :)
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
At our house, there are a few things that are givens. I can count on these things just as confidently as I can count on the change of seasons.
The first given is that my children will have quite different reactions to the change of season wardrobe. My middle daughter will be on cloud nine, for this is an event she has waited for since the day after all her pants, long sleeved shirts, and jackets were packed away last year. There is something about clothing in a storage bin tucked away that makes them much more desirable than the appropriate season clothing folded neatly in your dresser drawers. She will dance and sing, twirling around as she holds her “new ” clothes against her with glee. She will try on every item and
declare it beautiful, and I will sigh with relief that some items still actually fit.
The next given is that my oldest child will be quite appalled at the thought of parting with her summer clothes. You must understand this is the girl who much prefers animal costumes to princess gowns, dinosaurs to baby dolls, t-shirts to sequins.
She also seems to have absolutely no sense of temperature b/c she wants to wear a t-shirt and shorts even in 20 degree weather. Jeans are too restricting, she says. It’s impossible to sit "criss cross applesauce in pants and anything that even loosely
touches her arms is “too tight”. She will watch mournfully as her t-shirts (all with cartoon animals or logos from chick-fil-a and her school) are packed away and replaced with what I consider cute little girl fall clothes.
She will try in vain to hide a couple pairs of shorts and her favorite shirts, hoping that I won't notice her bare arms and legs when she emerges in the morning for school.
Each evening we put her clothes out on her bed for school the next day. We alternate whose day it is to choose the outfit, b/c frankly I have given up my pre-motherhood dreams of having little girls dressed to the nines. I do draw the line when she chooses a t-shirt that has a ripped collar and faded Texas lizards. Every other day I am allowed to choose something that actually has pleats or, dare I say it, something not available in the little boy’s section of the store. She understands this agreement, though we do have occasional discussions about my choices for the day.
After getting dressed (a process that’s either joyful or filled with sorrow depending on whose day it is to choose), it is time to face the hair brushing scene. The makers of the de-tangle spray we use have stopped selling to anyone but my family because Olivia’s hair alone provides enough business for them. Like every good parent, I turn on the television to distract her while I pull and tug on the tangles that have magically appeared overnight. There will be no hairbows allowed and no headbands. She simply endures the brushing and if I am very lucky, allows something besides a ponytail.
Time for shoes. I find it very strange that the exact pair of shoes that fit so perfectly and were so comfortable in the store somehow morph into objects of torture to my little girl’s feet. She currently has one pair of brown tennis shoes that she wears every single day. This is something I have come to accept and offer only weak resistance on my days to choose her outfit. As these shoes become more and more worn, I am sometimes concerned that a well-meaning, compassionate stranger will offer me money to buy my little girl new shoes.
The Bible tells us to not worry about what we will wear. My daughter seems to grasp this command in ways that amaze me. Vanity is not a demon she wrestles with, and I am grateful. I am learning to put less emphasis on my children’s appearance. And actually, if you see my child in public wearing a ratty t-shirt with jelly stains and her good ‘ol brown tennis shoes, her hair obviously not brushed and a big smile on her face, you can smile knowing that I am in the middle of a lesson in sanctification that day. Either that or I didn’t catch her before we got out the door.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Great Pumpkin
I have a theory about the world of gambling. I think it originated in the mind of some young child observing his peers at a pumpkin patch.
A couple weeks ago Lauren and I accompanied Olivia on her class field trip to a nearby pumpkin patch. We were thrilled by the intrigue of the corn maze, cuddled with the oh so clean barn animals, and even listened to the story of how a pumpkin seed becomes a pumpkin.
But then, at long last, came the much anticipated moment, the hayride leading to the pumpkin patch. That magic land of orange, that field that holds the promise of the best, most jack-o-lantern worthy pumpkin ever seen. I could almost picture the
casino lights and music as I helped my children climb up into the hay-filled tractor trailer.
The kindergarteners all watch with wide eyes as the pumpkin patch draws ever closer. They wring their hands nervously and tap their fingers on their knees, as if signaling the dealer that they want another card. Will this be the year? The year they find the most spectacular pumpkin ever seen?
Finally, we arrive at the promised land. The back of the trailer is opened and one of at a time the children step down, looking around in amazement at the sights around them. More pumpkins than they’ve ever seen, gleaming in the fall sunlight with vines wrapping mysteriously around them.
I watch as the kids scatter, little shrieks of delight coming from everywhere. This is what childhood is all about, I think, as I observe little boys and girls happily calling their parent over to praise the perfect pumpkins they have found.
And then I watch my daughters. And slowly I begin to realize I may be in for more exercise than I bargained for. The patch is at least five acres and both my children are working their way toward the far corner of the field. It doesn’t matter, I think, this is fun for the girls and surely they will find a pumpkin that catches their eye soon. I take a final glance behind me and notice the first children already climbing back into the trailer with happy smiles and pumpkins in their arms.
We pass pumpkin after pumpkin and so far have not found anything remotely acceptable. Too round, too bumpy, too orange (?). But girls, I say, we didn’t bring any water with us for such a long walk. It’s like they can’t walk away from the table, you see. The next pumpkin will be better. Just one more, they’re thinking. You wait and see. I will beat the house and find the most glorious pumpkin ever grown.
Little beads of sweat seem to be forming on their foreheads. I suggest this one and that one, yet none of them seem to be good enough for my little gamblers. Just a little further, they say. They look really good over there. On we trudge through the patch.
Just as I begin to think I may need my cell phone to call for a ride back to the trailer, at long last, the moment arrives. The pumpkin of all pumpkins is found. But Olivia, I say, remember the one rule the pumpkin farmer told you? Do not choose a pumpkin you can’t carry. Look how far away we are from the trailer! That pumpkin seems too heavy for you.
But as I always do, I give in to her insistence that she can carry her pumpkin and we begin the long hike back. Exactly seven steps later, I find myself lugging her 15-lb. pumpkin for the remaining two acres back to our ride.
So you see, pumpkin patches could have a direct correlation to future gamblers. They start out as kids determined to hit the jackpot of the pumpkin world. They’ll push lady luck and pass up great pumpkins b/c they’re clinging to the hope of what the next one will look like. They can’t resist the allure, the temptation, of what might be just a few more steps away. And before you know it, they are visiting the black jack table.
So come on by and see our glorious pumpkins. We’ll have some spiced tea and roasted pumpkin seeds. Then the girls can teach you how to play poker.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Vacation. Relaxation. Rest. Serenity.
Those are the words my mind instantly conjures up when I hear my husband suggest I should tag along on his business trip to the beach with him for five days. I picture a sunny coast, comfy chair with a big umbrella, a “brain candy” kind of book, and sleep. Wonderful, uninterrupted sleep.
And then, as it always does, reality sets in and new
words come to my mind.
Temper tantrums. Multiple bathroom stops. Crying. And then I stop thinking just about myself and wonder what my kids might be like.
Vacation is something that, exactly like my previously flat tummy and skinny jeans, disappears into the mist at the moment your first child is born. Unless you are so fortunate as to have willing grandparents, you must f
ace reality that your children will be accompanying you on any trips for at least the next 20 years.
That being said, vacation with your kids can be a wonderful experience. Filled with laughter and fun, the memories you will make will last you a lifetime. The photos of your daughters splashing in the surf with their daddy and building sand castles will be priceless. However, being the realist that I am, I must also consider that the happy memories will not be the only ones that last a lifetime.
Let me explain. Our first night we stayed in a hotel room with two queen-sized beds and set up the pack ‘n play for the baby. Since we were all in the same room, my husband and I settled in for bed at the magic hour of 8pm, the time our kids went to bed. We spent a long night of up and down with the baby, who made her very loud protests known at being cramped in a pack ‘n play. At one point I slept across the foot of my daughters’ bed, where I was kicked in the back throughout my time there. Mercifully, morning arrived, and we set out to continue our adventure. I ignored the bleary-eyed guests all around our room in the hall, watching silently as we departed.
90 seconds into the trip, our oldest child asked the “are we there yet?” question. This continued every 45 seconds for the next 3.5 hours. Our van became a mobile movie marathon, my kids’ eyes glazed and zombie-like by the time we arrived at the hotel. I think we used up all t.v. time for the next two years on this trip. And by the way, I know there’s talk of giving President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize, but I think it’s only fair that the inventor of DVD players for the car be recognized first. The lives of many a parent and child have been spared thanks to this incredible ad
vancement of peace and harmony.
With Michael in meetings Thurs. and Fri., I was the sole agent for fun to the kids. First on our agenda was a shuttle ride to the beach. The driver tried to give ME a tip in exchange for a promise to ride a different shuttle on the way back, which was really unnecessary considering the baby wails in his ear were at half the normal decibel level. The older girls were entranced with the sights and sounds, oblivious to the fact that I was busy rescuing their sister from certain death every 10 seconds or so in the surf. Later I was asked to build sand castles masterpieces with only a shovel and a toothpick, all while scooping sand out of the baby’s mouth.
Time spent at the pool was not nearly so stressful with such a diminished chance of drowning. Strangely, my 4-year-old could not seem to hear me any of the 18 times I asked her to stay on the steps until I could be there with her, and each time I returned from chasing the baby away fro
m the pool’s edge, I raced back to find Lauren with her little face barely breaking the surface. I tried not to notice the smile on the face of the tanned, bikini-clad woman lounging nearby with a fruity drink of some kind in her hand.
For the sake of time, I will not mention the eating out experiences. Just know they involved drink spills and high chairs that sat unused at our table.
So, parents of young children, this is vacation. This is the dreamy time of making memories, the times that you will cherish looking back....only you’d better make sure to write them down or video the entire trip, because with the amount of sleep you’re going to get, you’ll forget that you even went on a trip the next day.
But with all that said, I know we will do it all again next year. I’ll get a chubby-cheeked kiss and little arms wrapped around my neck and be willing to brave the vacation experience again. Why? Because that’s just what supermoms do. Someday I'll have a vacation that is actually a vacation. Of course
by then I will be so wrinkly and old that there may be laws against people like me being on the beach.
But seriously, I’m nominating the car DVD guy
Monday, October 5, 2009
Occasionally I hear comments about how stay-at-home mothers are “wasting their intellectual abilities” or “eroding their critical thinking skills” by leaving the workplace. I watch these people on t.v., usually women, and as they adjust their trendy glasses with their perfectly manicured hands and push a freshly cut and styled hair back into place while putting me down, I have a few thoughts I’d like the chance to televise myself. I put down my teething child, step out of the maze of freshly folded clothes, and stand up on my coffee table to better proclaim to the t.v. my adamant positions.
I am not a proponent of gambling, but I know how to fix our great nation’s financial woes. Every stay-at-home mom in this country could hold a gigantic bet....let US come run the business world for a few days and YOU people step into our shoes to take a break from your high pressure jobs and power lunch breaks. After just one week, I guarantee mommies would emerge the victors in our little wager, thus producing enough money to pay off our debts and start fresh in this economy.
I think I could qualify as a city planner due to my experience from packing for my family to go on vacation. This involves multiple list making, hypothesis concerning possible clothing and entertainment needs, being resourceful in how I will fit all items into a suitcase half as big as we need, and planning for every possible natural and preschool disaster that could occur along the way.
I am also quite skilled in communications. I would love to see one of the high-powered business kings or queens of the world take on an angry 4-year-old and emerge successful. Her hands on her hips and her angry eyes boring into me, I have been the victor in convincing her that she cannot, in fact, wear her bathing suit to the Christmas party or play with the cutlery in the bathtub. And not just by force, either...I can usually have her completely change her mind and emerge with a big smile as she does what I’ve convinced her is the best thing.
I have extensive HR experience as well. I take complaints (verbal OR written in marker on my walls) 24/7 concerning everything from what’s on the menu to indignation over imposed bedtimes to unhappiness due to siblings that have broken lego masterpieces. I can cause children who are on the verge of pulling hair and biting to hug and make up in the end....an outcome many companies have not been so fortunate as to produce.
And finally, I could serve as a city judge. I can look the accused straight in the eye and determine whether or not they are being truthful. I don’t even need their faces to be covered in chocolate or to see the empty candy bag in their grubby little hands. I can sense it, I just KNOW when someone has done something they shouldn’t have. It comes with the territory of supermom, something I would dare say many of our illustrious career persons have not acquired.
And so, “Miss thing who gets everything done” (without having three little people undoing your work constantly...big deal), please think twice before putting down the real superpowers of the world. You may run a company, but WE run the toddler world...and if they ever break free, heaven help you.
Friday, October 2, 2009
I am a decisive, determined person. Once I decide something, that’s how it’s going to be. Period. My husband can tell you that I am slightly stubborn. If my mind’s made up, there’s no turning back. I am like the tree that withstands the tornado, the levee that does not break, the bird nesting outside your window that will not die.
Could someone please then explain to me why, on a regular basis, I cannot do something as simple as holding my ground when it comes to daily life with the three small little people who live in my home?
I am beginning to suspect that these darling daughters, these lights of my life, are more than meets the eye. I have been keeping notes of times when their charm overtakes me, and as if they have superhuman abilities, I find myself doing things I SWORE I would never do.
Case in point: birthday cakes. I HATE decorating cakes, and every year I swear that is the last time I’m going to do it. My resolve on this point cannot be swayed. I am in the zone, no one is going to convince me to whip out the dreaded container of food coloring, parchment paper, and tips. As the summer months of birthdays approached, I spent 5 min. a day mentally “toughening up” so I would without a doubt withstand the pleas and cries for very specific cakes that were sure to come my way. I am a wall of determination. NO, NO, NO.
In the past three months, I have baked and decorated 14 layers of cake for my daughters’ birthdays. Leighanne’s was my own idea, a multi-layered cake with polka dots, which at one year old, I’m sure she appreciated about as much as my trash collector would notice if I tied pink ribbons around all my trash bags and monogrammed our family’s initials by hand on each one.
The day before Olivia’s 6th birthday party, I found myself elbow deep in a charming little thing called “marshmallow fondant” icing. It’s easy, they all said. Anyone can do it! So here I am, sweating, kneading and working on an icing conc
otion that is freaking out my
husband as he sees it sinking into the pores of our brand new granite countertops.
How did this happen? I ask myself as I enter hour #3 and am tediously coloring, cutting out, and placing tiger stripes and leopard spots on the six-tiered cake from hell. Where did I go wrong? How did they find a crack in my resolve?
The answer, of course, is that they are superhuman. They possess mind powers. I have witnessed my children convince otherwise competent adults to let them START a movie night at 9:30pm, let them take off all their clothes and turn fingerpaint into bodypaint, and their grandparents have brought them home with yet ANOTHER prized stuffed animal, which I add to their collection of 947 at home. Children hold the power, people. They know it, we know it, and they are skilled at using it.
Lauren’s is the last of the birthdays each year. By this point, my fingers are permanently dyed black from food coloring for the zebra and tiger stripes and I am nauseated at the thought of more cream cheese icing. But then, even as I steel myself for final combat, I know it’s a losing battle. And before I know it, I am rolling sugar cones in pink crystal sugar and trying in vain to stack irritating squares of cake to form a tower on a hot pink castle cake.
I consider for a moment what bliss it would be to just tell my kids the sad news that birthdays have been outlawed. How traumatized would they really be if I told them anyone seen having a birthday party or cake is toted off to kid jail?
And I mean it this time. I am NOT making cakes next year. It’s been a month and a half and I’m still shuddering at the thought of crisco and cake flour. Please, for the love of all things holy, hold off your superpowers, girls.
And no, we are not getting a dog. SERIOUSLY. NO.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I recently had to make a visit to my eye doctor. I have the eyes of a 103-year-old in a 29-year-old (ok, ok, 31-year-old) body. The technicians literally gasp when they first see my prescription and I get the feeling they dread the “which is better, one or two?” game just as much as I do because I answer “blurry is blurry” for so many times they have to quit to take a smoke break.
But this is not my point. Because this was my first time to this particular office, I had to fill out the 1000-page medical and insurance forms before I could be seen. No problem, I thought, I won’t have the girls with me and will quickly and easily fill out any forms and answer any questions necessary. I am a college educated adult, after all.
Name, Sharon Webber. Male or female? Female. So far, so good, I think.
I breeze through the form asking for my address, maiden name, and medical history. No one asks me to take them to the bathroom. No one colors on my shoes with a sharpie. No one even lays on the floor screaming for my attention as I continue through the forms, happily discovering that I do, in fact, still remember how to write in cursive.
But just as I begin to relax and enjoy the process of form-filling, I am hit by a sever and sudden onset of what is laughed at by the world of non-mothers. A disorder that shows up randomly and without warning at any time, leaving its victim virtually paralyzed, and it is nearly impossible to hide. What is it, you ask? A little something I refer to as “mother brain”.
I see the blank lines looking at me sinisterly, as if they dare me to come up with an answer. The trouble is this, they have asked my social security number. I begin to feel warm as I loosen my scarf around my neck and try to summon the magic numbers from the recesses of my mind. Social security number....hmmm....do I still have one of those? Am I still an official citizen with one of these prized numbers? If I could just think of the first few numbers that would get me started. In triumph I whip out my driver’s license. But wait, Michael made me take it off for security reasons. Hmmm....umm....well, nevermind, it will come to me, I’m sure. I move onto the next question.
Birthdate. In horror I realize these numbers, too, are slow in coming. I was born, wasn’t I? When might that have been? I look around to see if I know anyone else in the waiting room who maybe would remember, but they are all happily filling out their own forms, pens busily scribbling information they have not forgotten.
Suddenly, a technician approaches me to ask for my glasses. I hand them over and then she asks, “what kind of lenses do you wear?” I open my mouth to answer, but just look at her instead. NOTHING. NADA. I wear contact lenses? “Ummm...hard lenses,” I blurt out in relief. “Yes, dear, I know, but I need to know what BRAND.” My, this mother brain is going downhill fast. I sheepishly confess that I have no idea and she tells me not to worry, she will try to figure it out.
Finally, I finish the forms and turn back to the social security question. For goodness’ sakes, I can remember all kinds of numbers. I know each of my three children’s birthweights, how many inches they were, what time they were each born, how many ounces of formula they drank at what time, how many wet diapers they had any given day, I even once knew the number of hairs on my youngest baby’s head (three).
Reluctantly, I pull out my cell phone to call my husband and ask for the answer. I stare at the keypad, only to realize two things....first, I cannot recall the number. Second, I forgot to charge the phone.
But finally, as if sensing the seriousness of my mother brain moment, the receptionist offers helpfully to find my social security number for me in my medical records. And just like that, I am saved. Rescued from my brief interlude with insanity. I absentmindedly rifle through my purse and clutch the pacifier hidden in my lipstick pouch. Instantly, I relax. Everything is coming back. I know who I am. I am Sharon Webber, supermom.
Just please, please don’t ask me what my area code is.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I'm telling you...feeding my family is a result of the Fall. I've already explained how cooking (and the grocery shopping necessary) is caused by sin in the world. Today I'd like to explore this line of thinking and how it plays out in the world of restaurants.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Let's talk rodents. Actually, I have just one specific rodent in mind, a Mr. Chuck E. Cheeses. Just the mention of his name brings on chills and immediate dread in the hearts of parents. This rodent laughs in the face of Terminex, Cooks, even the less than legal methods some of us have been guilty of using in order to get rid of unwanted pests.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
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