Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Name Calling

Remember the first time?

It was magical, wasn't it?  You had anticipated it your entire life.  Imagined how it would really cement your relationship, where it would happen, and how unforgettable it would be.

I bet you still remember it like it was yesterday:  the sacred moment when you first heard your child call you "Mom".  

What?  Where did you think I was talking about?  

Remember how you coaxed and pleaded and taught your little diaper clad child to say "Mama"?  Remember how you longed to hear that angelic little voice utter your name?  Remember how completely exhilarated it made you feel and how it was absolute music to your ears?  

Actually, now that I think about it, yes, I do vaguely recall that thrill.  

Nine years and three kids later, all that work I put into teaching them how to say my name has really come back to bite me.  

I love it and I hate it.  

For the love of all things good and holy!  STOP saying "Mom"!!  

"MOM!  I need you to wipe me!" come the calls from the least able member of the family.

"MOM!" She's bothering me!"

"MOM!  I accidentally did something!" (this is a personal favorite of mine because you just never can tell what you'll discover...it's like being on a gameshow where you're the unsuspecting contestant).




By my rough calculations, I think I hear my name being called approximately 1,378 times per day.  

The word "mom" is so engrained into all of our subconsciouses that we can't go anywhere without thinking people are speaking to us.  Try it.  Next time you are in a crowded grocery store or ball field, have your child yell "MOM!" simply to see how many women will turn to look your way.  We can't help it.  It's like Pavlov's dog (except instead of getting a treat when we respond, we usually get in trouble for not HAVING a treat to give).  

The kids even sing songs with the only lyric being, "Mom, la la la".  They are like my own personal paparazzi.  I am the most pursued and popular person in my home (until dad surprises us with a new puppy again, that is).  I literally am followed everywhere I go.  No exceptions and no place they hesitate follow.

And so, the very thing we anticipated and dreamed of and cried over the first time it happened has now taken over and is completely out of control.  Moms, do whatever it takes to avoid a meltdown.  Wear headphones, stick cotton in your ears, meditate...just don't do anything that will cause your name-abusing children to associate "Mom" with "crazy lunatic".  

But seriously, shouldn't there be a limit for the number of times they can say our name every day?  Cell phones have texting plans and a limit on the number of minutes we can talk without paying additional fees.  Why can't we extend this to the home and "mom-happy" kiddos?  We could settle on a fixed number of "Moms" they could say and then every time they exceed their limit they'd have to rub our feet or wipe their siblings' bottom for us or, gasp, break up a sibling disagreement as our representative (that one would keep them pretty busy in a lot of our homes).  

I guarantee the name calling abuse would stop.  And quick.  

Excuse me...I think I hear my name being called somewhere across the house...and I am ready for a foot massage.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dumpster Diving

I used to find it fairly odd to see a scene like this one:

Not anymore.  

These days, if I see a woman with her rear end sticking out of a large trashcan and her head and arms fully immersed in filth, I hardly bat an eye.  Yep, I think to myself, she's a mom and she's on a mission.

In this case, it was a Spiderman action figure her young son had accidentally dropped in the trash.  I'm sorry to say he could not be retrieved.  It was a sad moment for superheroes everywhere.  

If you've a mom, you've likely spent some time dumpster diving.  I never really thought I'd be the kind of person who literally digs through the trash of others, and yet, after nine years of motherhood, I'm learning that I never really thought I'd do a lot of things which I do quite regularly

.  This happened to me most recently at Costco a couple weeks ago.  Joyfully full on samples, my daughter went to a trashcan to throw away her trash.  Moments later, she came back in tears because her plastic bracelet had also accidentally ended up in the trash as well.  

This was a travesty in her four-year-old world.  The universe really might cease to exist if that precious treasure of a bracelet was not rescued from the depths of the trashcan.

She looked at me expectantly.  What was I going to do about it?  Her eyes seemed to burn into my very soul, trying to determine if I was the kind of mother who would make her proud or the kind of mother who would go down in the books as worst mommy ever.

I took the high road, of course.  Anything for my child, right?


"Babe, I'm really sorry, but you have lots of bracelets at home (trust me on this one...three girls at my house means the things just magically appear and multiply)."  

"No, Mommy, this one is really special!  We have to get it back!  I NEED IT!!  PLEASE, OH, PLEASE!!"  The situation was quickly growing volatile and unstable.  I could see where this one was headed and frankly did not have the energy to pry her off a nasty trashcan or explain to a manager why my child was laying spread eagle on the floor consumed by grief.  

What could I do?  We walked over to the trashcan and sure enough, I spotted the bracelet.  There it was, lying in a glistening pile of discarded cheese and seafood (the samples that day weren't at the top of children's lists, I suppose).  

No.  I am not reaching in there.  Forget it.  That bracelet is worth about five cents.

I tried again to reason with her.  This was about as helpful as trying to sweep up the sand off the beach.  Not gonna happen.

Fine.  I took a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, took the lid off the trashcan, and leaned over as far as I could reach to get that stupid bracelet.  It was just out of reach.  Blast.

"Uh, ma'am, can I help you?"  a deep voice next to me asked.

I withdrew my head from inside the can, prayed that I was not wearing feta cheese, and straightened my hair.  I looked up at a middle-aged Costco employee who was looking at me trying to figure out if he should call security.

"Oh, no, I'm fine, thanks.   Just looking for something.  I do this all the time."

Why did I say that?

He walked away still giving me a concerned look but said nothing.  I stuck my head back in the trashcan for one last ditch effort.  

Success!  My fingers gripped the precious toy bracelet and I brought it out of the trash with a victorious smile.  

"I got it!  Look, honey, Mommy got it for you!"

But she was already gone.  She and her sisters had walked a few feet away to look at some toys, likely embarrassed by the fact that their mother was most definitely digging through trash.  

I stood up, straightened my blouse and tried to act nonchalant.  People were eyeing me suspiciously.  

I held my head high, retrieved my buggy, and calmly walked over to where the children were happily snuggling with a teddy bear bigger than me.  

"Darling, I got your bracelet for you," I said with all the control I could muster.

"Huh?"she asked, not even looking at me while she nuzzled the bear's soft fur.

"Your bracelet.  Remember the one you dropped in the trash and wanted me to get back for you?" I asked, holding it out for her to see.

She looked my way.  "It's yucky.  I don't want it anymore," she said as she turned back to laying her head on the teddy bear's tummy.  

Yes, dumpster diving and motherhood.  I'll add it to my skills set on my resume.   


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Losing Hank

I will never forget that night.

Now, I am keeping it in perspective and remembering that Hank was, after all, a pet.  He was not my child and our sorrow could have been immeasurably greater.  But we are still sad.  

Looking back, I can see God's hand of providence on us that night.  He was protecting our family and providing for our needs in ways I didn't realize until later.

Michael has been out of town most of this week.  It is an unspoken law of the universe that terrible things happen mostly when daddies are out of town.  We have a bit of a track record for bad things happening when he's traveling.  Plumbing problems, stitches, behavior issues, etc.  

I'd brought the girls home from the ball field that night.  Reluctantly, because it was a school night, I'd allowed Olivia to stay with our neighbors during their son's baseball game.  She wouldn't arrive home til 9:15pm.  This meant she was not home when it happened, God's mercy in action.  

As I pulled into the garage, there was Hank, jumping and barking like crazy at the gate.  He was so excited to see us he could hardly contain himself.  The little girls ran inside the house and I walked over to Hank.  The fact that the children went inside was God's protection as well, sparing them from the scene that would soon happen.  I pet him as he jumped up to greet me from inside the fence.  He was the picture of pure joy at having us home again.

That was when I made the mistake I'll always regret.  

I opened the gate for him.  

I needed to get the mail and unload the van, so I thought I'd let him out to run around the yard and the driveway while I was out.  This is something I always did.  He'd run like mad all around but would stay in our cul-de-sac and always come back to where I was after a minute or two.  It was evening and everyone's garage doors were closed.  I didn't think anything about it. 

He must've seen something across the street that night.  I think some neighbors must've been outside or maybe he saw someone walking.  For whatever reason, he took off in the opposite direction.  I couldn't see him, but within seconds I heard the impact and got a sickening feeling in my chest.  I knew.

Running out to the street that connects to our cul-de-sac, I saw a sight I will never forget.  I will spare you all the horrible details, but there was our Hank, lying in the middle of the road, clearly irrevocably injured.  The driver was crouched over him as was another man who'd seen the accident and stopped.  

I ran to him and knelt down right there in the street, already sobbing.  

It was in that moment I realized that after all the complaining and fussing I'd done for the last year and a half over this dog that I never wanted and never planned for, that I'd grown to love having him as part of the family.  Seeing him like that was horrible, plain and simple.  

After a moment someone suggested I get a blanket for him, so I ran back to the house and grabbed a big piece of flannel I had left over from a project.  I called my parents and asked them to come stay with the girls, and that's when the little girl crying began.  They knew something had happened to their dog.

Our sweet neighbors came upon the scene and I asked them to go stay with the girls til my parents could arrive.  Again, in God's providence, the mom of the family was home and had not gone to Bible study she was supposed to be at that night.  God put her right where she needed to be to help my girls and she was wonderful with them.  

Two men gently lifted Hank onto the blanket.  Blood was everywhere.  The girls didn't see him, but they knew he was blanket he was being carried in and their cries were loud as they stood nearby with the neighbor.  

They carried him to the van and placed him in the back.  I climbed in after him and sat with him on the most awful car ride I hope to ever experience.  A kind stranger who lived a couple streets down offered to drive us, for which I was grateful.  

During that 20 minute ride, I just pet Hank and talked to him and tried to let him know I was there.  
I listened as he struggled to breathe and choked and sputtered.  I cried over him and was thankful it was dark so I couldn't see all the horrible sights.

Once at the animal hospital, the kind stranger got out and walked toward the back of the van.  Before he opened the door, I stroked Hank's matted fur and told him he was a good dog.  I even told him I loved him.  The man opened the back hatch, lifted Hank up and carried him inside as I tearfully followed.

"What happened to this baby?" the caregiver asked as she took him in her arms and carried him behind closed doors.

That was the last time I ever saw him.  

After a short moment, the vet came out and told me Hank had severe head trauma.  There was nothing he could do.  I told him to put Hank down and signed some forms thru blurry vision.  The kind stranger just sat silently next to me.

We left without him.

During the drive home, we talked some about his dogs and how much my kids loved Hank and how he had come to join the family.  We laughed some about how much of a no-no it had been for my husband to spring him on us like he had without checking with his wife first.  

scenes like this one drove me CRAZY.  NO DOGS IN THE BED!!!

When I got home, I tried to quickly wash the blood from my arms and legs before seeing the girls.  I pulled them in my arms and gave them the sad news that Hank would not be coming home anymore.  It was very difficult, but I knew it was nothing compared to the moment that was coming when I would have to tell my oldest daughter.  Really, Hank had been her dog.

After about five minutes, she arrived home, happy and dirty from her time playing at the ball field.

I called her upstairs and we sat on my bed.  

It was without a doubt the most heartbreaking parenting moment I have ever experienced.  I tried to break the news to her as gently as I could, but she immediately started screaming, "MY DOG!!  MY DOG!! MY DOG!!!" over and over as tears rolled down her cheeks.  "IT'S NOT TRUE!  HANK!!!"

I pulled her to me and we cried together, her still yelling and calling for her dog.  The hurt was almost a  physical, tangible thing that had descended on our home.  It was heavy and suffocating.

After a while, my parents brought her sisters up and we all sat on my bed together.  My dad prayed for us and thanked God for the time we'd had with Hank.  

There wasn't a whole lot of sleep that night.  All I could picture was the images and sounds of that horrible night.  If only I had never opened that stupid gate.  

I suppose it's true that having a pet really does change you a little bit.  It kind of crept up on me when I wasn't looking, my affection for this dog.  He was hyper.  He was naughty.  He caused me endless extra work and headache at home.  

But he also snuggled.  He was so affectionate he simply could not stand it unless he was physically up against me when I was in the room.  If I sat down, he sat down practically on top of me.  If I played the piano, he sat on my feet so I couldn't use the pedals.  When I sat on the floor to homeschool, he sat so close to me I could hardly find a spot for the girls to gather around our school book.  I will miss him.  

I won't miss the dog hair.  I won't miss the way he always stole food from the 4-yr-old in this house. I really won't miss the way he loved to shred diapers and cause general mayhem, but I will miss his presence.  I will miss the way he brought such joy to my daughters and husband.  I will miss his happy personality.

So I suppose during this last year and a half, God has grown me.  I see now how people can love their animals.  I appreciate how they work their way into your heart and become part of your life.  I wouldn't say I am an animal fanatic, but I certainly have come far from where I was when that dark-haired little clumsy puppy first entered my life.  

Thank you, Hank, for teaching me to love more fully.  You will be missed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Exercise or Sleep? You Can't Have Both.

Motherhood tends to change your perspective on a whole lotta things.

One of these is my view of exercise.  

Before I joined the honorable and blessed estate of motherhood, I used to think of exercise as a chore.  I look back upon those days of my newlywed bliss and remember with regret all the perfectly beautiful moments I let slip thru my grasp where I could've been at the gym or outside running or on a treadmill or watching an exercise video or SOMETHING!  This also had something to do with the fact that I was in my early twenties and my metabolism and I got along just fine.  

Today Mr. Metabolism and I are NOT BFFS.  At all.  I hate him, actually.  

Once you become a mother, the way you view exercise changes.  It's no longer a chore in my eyes.  It's ME time.  Freedom.  So I may be about to pass out from exhaustion and my aging joints may be screaming for me to stop, but when I am exercising, I am an independent being.  I don't remember the last time any of the other people in my Body Pump class threw themselves on the floor at my feet because they couldn't tie their shoelaces.  No one has ever asked to drink from my water bottle, nor have they spit in my water before returning it.  

It's like Nirvana (only I am sweaty and stinky and surrounded by other sweaty and stinky people).  

When I am exercising, all the moments of stress and emotional fatigue just begin melting away.  

(Why the heck do the inches not melt away as easily?  For cryin' out loud.  The humanity of it all.)

I enjoy this freedom and relaxation for one reason alone:

I have decided that sleep is overrated.  I do NOT bring my kids to the gym with me for childcare.  I attend a class that starts at 5:15 AM....this means I have to get out of bed at the criminal hour of 4:52 (I have timed it down to the second).  It's painful and it's just wrong.  But still, compared with the alternative...

One choice would be to exercise WITH my kids.  I've tried this one.  The jogging stroller, the little bikes with training wheels.  Mmhmm.  It lasted about one block.  

Option 2: Bringing my kids to the gym with me?!  I have witnessed this over the years.  Perhaps you are one of these poor souls.

I imagine it goes down something like this:

"Hey!  Let's get ready and go to the gym, kiddos!"

Sighs.  Moans.  Crying.  Tantrums.  

At my house this announcement would be like saying the apocalypse was upon us.  It would not be well-received (but I can't say that I blame them...the kidcare at my gym has no windows, has kids crawling all over each other, and the music from the classes blares into the room.  It's not exactly comfortable.).

Thirty minutes later, everyone would be calmed down and I would begin packing snacks for them.  Thinking I should probably not pack m&m's or Little Debbies since we are going to a GYM, I'd try to sneak in some apple slices and carrots or veggies and hummus.  Halfway thru slicing the apples I'd have to stop and put out a minor disagreement over whose turn it was to put the dog out.  

Finally, we'd be in the car headed towards the gym.  If I hurry, I have just enough time to get there in time for the spin class.  

As I pulled into the parking lot, I'd see that no one is wearing shoes and that I left the snacks sitting on the countertop.  We'd have to go back, making me late for my class and wasting another 15 minutes.

As I walked everyone into the kidcare room, I'd try to ignore the kid in the corner wiping his nose on the toys.   I'd try to look away when a little boy in the bathroom forgot to close the door as he sits on the miniature potty.  I'd give my girls a bright smile, hand them their snacks and wave at the disturbingly tired looking adult sitting in a rocking chair as I headed out the door to catch the last half of that spin class.

And I would definitely ignore my kids' sad eyes looking at me like I've just left them on the steps of an orphanage.  Good grief, people, we're talking about forty-five lousy minutes!  I will not be gone long enough to take a trip to China!  

Yes, I've observed these moms trying to do battle with their desire and need to exercise and their attempt to bring their children along.  I understand.  I really do.  I mean, none of us wants to have to slip into a pair of Mom Jeans.  We do have a little bit of pride left in our physiques, after all.  It's imperative that we get some exercise so we don't become the poor person at the store that toddlers loudly proclaim to "have a BIG bottom" while their humiliated mothers shush them.  

And yet, the price is GREAT.  The diaper bag, the snacks, the video games for older kids, the complaining, the shoe tying, the rewards for kids who cooperate...it's just too much sometimes.  

As I type this, my kids are watching G-Force downstairs and I am seriously contemplating breaking into my daughter's birthday cake.  After all, if I can't have the happy endorphins from exercise, I may as well substitute with the quite pleasing endorphins from sugar, right?  

I'm convinced Weight Watchers and kids have something going on under the table.  It's a conspiracy.  The makers of Mom Jeans are in on it, too.  It's mothers against the world, ladies.  We WILL exercise!  We WILL be fit!  We WILL...

Oh, whatever....where's that cake?

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