Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Oh, four-day weekend . . . you make all my dreams come true. Well, except for the part where my husband screams at various football games on TV. And the part where his greatest contribution to our list of household chores is to lift his feet when I come through with the vacuum. But, other than that . . . it's all good.

Our Thanksgiving was basically a repeat of last year. I cooked dinner and then we went to a friend's house for dessert.  I picked out a couple of cookie recipes from a kids' cookbook and tasked my daughter with the job of making dessert - under careful supervision, of course. In anticipation of indulging in said dessert, I worked out four days in a row, including a yoga class on Thanksgiving morning. It was free if you brought a canned good. At this time of year, I keep extra cans o'food on hand for just this sort of thing. Food drives galore.

Although I don't actually prepare a turkey (I bought some roasted turkey breast for my husband from the HoneyBaked Ham place, it still took most of the day to prepare everything and to help the kid make two kinds of cookies (birds' nests and dirty snowballs, in case you wondered). I made yeast rolls from scratch, roasted a tofurky, and also made mashed potatoes, dressing (vegetarian, using my mom's recipe), green bean casserole, and a rice casserole.  I must confess I did get fairly irritable by mid-day. Because I don't like to do a lot of cleaning and laundry on the weekend, I try to get everything done on Thursday of each week. So, in addition to cooking all day on Thanksgiving, I also did a bunch of laundry and cleaning.  Now, I don't expect my family to be terribly invested in my interest in having clean bedding and whatnot, but the fact that they were still in their pajamas past noon was slightly annoying. My husband lifting his feet when I came through with the vacuum (so helpful!) gave me thoughts of dipping his pillowcase in mayonnaise and then placing it gingerly back on the bed.

Dinner turned out to be pretty darned tasty, if I do say so myself. The yeast rolls were really good. There is always that dicey moment when you don't know if the dough will rise or not, but it did its thing.  I had a nice glass of wine with dinner so that I'd stop yelling at my family. As soon as we were done, we piled in the car and headed to our friends' house for dessert. They just remodeled the lower level of their home - it now contains a bar and two flat-screen TVs. I was afraid my husband would try to move in once he spotted the same football game running simultaneously on both screens.

Anyway, my kid played with their kids while the adults drank adult beverages and five dogs milled about (my friend has three dogs and her in-laws were visiting with two more pooches). We stayed for a couple of hours and then headed home so that I could sort coupons and work on my strategery for Black Friday.  I wasn't super-enthusiastic about it because I knew that most stores were already open. There was no real reward for getting up freakishly early on Friday, so I didn't set my alarm. I worked out my game plan and went to bed.

I am not proud to say this, but I was at Walmart before 7 a.m. on Friday. Why?  Well, we decided to get the kid an iPad Mini for Christmas and Walmart was offering the best deal - a $100 gift card with the purchase.  So, I headed there first. However, they were sold out so I left. I was amazed at how many people were standing outside at the Sam's Club next door to Walmart. I am guessing that Sam's didn't open until 7:00.  You gotta love Midwesterners, though. You hear about brawls on Black Friday in some areas but those folks just stood there placidly and patiently. Oh, and the temperature at that time?  11 degrees. And that's without the wind chill factored in.

Next, I headed to Target. Target was offering a $75.00 gift card with the purchase of the iPad Mini. Fortunately, they had a few left in stock. I promptly used the gift card to buy gifts for a couple of my umpteen nephews. I won't bore you with every stop I made on Friday, but I will say that I was pretty successful. I got some great deals and, since so many people has shopped the day before, the parking and crowds weren't bad at all. I ended the day by transporting a Lab mix for a shelter. I was kicking myself for not bringing a crate because this boy turned out to be a lunatic. I mean, a nice lunatic but a nut nonetheless. He hopped into the passenger seat and then tried to put his tongue in my ear for the entire ride. My right arm is actually sore today from trying to fend off his amorous advances while I was driving.

Between nine hours of shopping and an hour of Lab-wrestling, I limped into bed at 9:30 and stayed there. Missions accomplished.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

I can keep a toddler alive (and other tales)

You probably thought I forgot to tell you about the rest of my east coast trip, but fret not!

I got home (well, to my sister's house) from the wedding at 11-something p.m., at which time the babysitter went home. I knew that I needed to get my nephew (the nine-year-old) out of the house at 7:45 a.m. for a robotics competition of some sort. So, I set my phone to wake me up at 7:15.  I then took the baby monitor (for my two-year-old nephew) downstairs to the room where I was staying. I figured I should probably be aware of it if he woke up during the night. At around midnight, I was all set to go to bed when I received a text from my brother-in-law. "Can someone walk Bess?"  Doh! I forgot about the dog. See, my dogs maul you as soon as you walk in the front door. It is hard to forget about them. Bessie Mae is a very peculiar but sweet hound dog. She just sits silently in her crate and doesn't make a peep. Anyway, I went back upstairs, retrieved Bess from her crate, and then walked her for a block or two. I hope that a few night owl neighbors enjoyed that vision of me in my red snowflake pajamas, standing around like a chump while Bessie rolled in the grass.

The next morning, my alarm went off as expected and I got my nephew up. There was a brief crisis when he couldn't find any pants to wear.  I felt pretty confident that he should definitely wear pants to his competition. I thought the person picking him up would appear on the porch and then leave, but when I rounded the corner, she was standing in the kitchen with paperwork and a list of stuff that my nephew needed to bring. So, add her to the list of strangers who had seen me in my pajamas (and no bra) at that point.

My two-year-old nephew, much to my surprise, did not wake up until around 7:45. He must have been exhausted from wreaking havoc at his parents' wedding the night before. I gave him a fawful (AKA "waffle") and attempted to check my email on my phone. No-go. I quickly realized that he couldn't be left unattended for even a second. I sent my sister and brother-in-law a text asking if I was being paid time and a half. They did not respond. Hmph. My niece had gotten up briefly to help her brother get ready and then went back to bed. I was on my own.

I changed his diaper. He had pooped. Then I gave him a sippy cup filled with watered-down apple juice.  However, he kept pulling other sippy cups out of various nooks and crannies around the house. It was like some weird toddler magic trick. I never managed to get one from him before he'd already taken a sip. Then he found a set of keys. I figured it was harmless to let him play with them. Then he set off the emergency alarm on his dad's car, which was sitting in the driveway. So, I took the keys. He found another set. I took those. Then he found a bottle of vitamins. The bottle had a childproof cap, so I figured it was safe for him to play with it for a minute or two. Then I heard a sharp "pop!" as the lid came off. Took those away. Next up: he found a bottle of liquid make-up. No idea where he found it. I took that away, but not before he'd gotten the lid off and had enhanced his beauty a little. Moments later, I found him crouching behind a table, concentrating mightily. That's poop number two, if you are keeping track.

At around 9:00 a.m., my sister's sister-in-law (got all that?) stopped by to pick up her daughter, who was upstairs in a bunk bed with my daughter. She had her friend from Australia with her. So, please add two more people to the list of innocent citizens who have seen me in my snowflake pajamas. When they walked through the door, they asked why the rear door of my brother-in-law's Jeep was wide open. I quickly deduced that this was another side effect of the great key incident. After they left, I continued to wrangle my nephew for another hour or so until finally, I just felt like I could not live for one more moment without a shower. I woke up my niece so that she could supervise her brother's destruction while I cleaned up my act.

Eventually my sister and her husband did indeed come home. I suggested to my brother-in-law that he round up everything in the house that is safe for the toddler to play with and to mark it "toxic." I mean, seriously, just put a skull and crossbones on every stuffed animal and every kid-safe thing in the whole house. I am convinced that is the only way my nephew will be drawn to them.

The rest of the day was pretty quiet. My sister's sister-in-law returned after taking her friend to the airport. I picked my mom up from the hotel.  My baby sister and her son showed up as well.  So, we had a house full of people. We spent the rest of the day hanging out and watching some videos from Brian's funeral. I know that his wife truly has no choice but to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other (she has two children, after all), but I must say that she is handling it with more grace and dignity than I believe I could muster under the same circumstances. Also, she must be very brave because she took four kids to a movie later that evening.

The next morning, I got up to find that my brother-in-law was up with the two-year-old. Better him than me. I asked him if he knew where I could find some ibuprofen. I didn't want him to think I was hung over, so I confessed that I was having menstrual issues (which was the absolute truth). "Now that you're my brother, we can talk about my period, right?" The look he gave me left me with the impression that . . . no.  It's okay. My husband and I have been together for 21 1/2 years and the topic of menstruation is still decidedly and permanently . . . off the table.

After lunch, I packed up our gear and drove to my dad's house in Maryland. My nine-year-old nephew had stayed home from school so I took him along with us. My daughter and I were spending the next two nights at my dad's house. Later, I would drive my nephew back home. I'd made plans to go out that night with an old friend of mine and needed to drive back to Virginia anyway.

While my daughter and my nephew were conning my dad and his girlfriend out of ice cream and anything else they could think of, I drove down the street to IKEA. At home, I'd have to drive to a neighboring state to go to IKEA, so it was kind of exciting to have one within spitting distance. I couldn't buy much, of course. The airlines tend to frown on the whole bringing-furniture-on-the-plane bit.  I did pick up some fun hats for my two youngest nephews. Best ten bucks I've ever spent.

I did go out that evening but didn't get into too much trouble. We went to a fancy wine bar and then to an Irish pub. I arrived back at my dad's house at 1:15 a.m.  MY KID WAS STILL AWAKE.  Way to lay down the law, Dad.

The next morning, we headed to Baltimore for the day. It was a lot of fun.  We went to the science museum there. On the way home, we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The mango margarita I drank must have caused my judgement to falter, because right after dinner I bought my daughter an ugly outfit from Justice. She is hoping for some Justice clothes for Christmas, too. I can't even walk by that store without having a seizure from all the glitter and neon. Maybe her aunties would like to "take one for the team" this year.

On Wednesday, my dad drove me and the kid to the nearest Metro stop so that we could head to the airport. The train ride was mostly uneventful except that my daughter refused to sit in an actual seat. Instead, she opted to swing round and round on one of the poles, which conjured up a couple of troubling thoughts involving germs and future occupations and stuff.

We arrived back home just after dinnertime on Wednesday evening. By then, I'd reached maximum mother-daughter time with the kid. I handed her over to her dad.  "Congratulations, Mister M! It's a girl!"



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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The big day

I can't begin to tell you how honored I felt to be a bridesmaid in my sister's wedding. I mean, I had a horrifying blemish on my face and she still let me be a part of the festivities. The day flew by and I'm struggling a bit to remember details. Saturday afternoon was a complete blur. I was at my sister's house and there was quite a flurry of activity. The kids were running around like crazy. A make-up artist came and went. My sister had her hair done. I picked up my mom from the hotel where she was staying and brought her back to my sister's house. Oh, and I also picked up my nine-year-old nephew from a Lego club meeting.

We all needed to be at the winery by 4:00 p.m. for pre-wedding photos. My sister headed over at 3:00 to get her gown on while the rest of the bridal party got ready at her house. The limo that was shuttling us to the winery was a 1964 Rolls Royce, which was very cool.  My youngest sister and I got dressed downstairs.  The main goal was to keep her two-year-old son from touching us once we were dressed. Toddlers, as you may know, are inherently sticky.  Shortly before we left, he found a bright blue marker and used it to give himself some eye shadow.  Pretty!  I also helped my daughter get into her flower girl dress.

Before we knew it, the limo had arrived and it was time for us to head over to the winery (just a few miles away).  My sister, daughter, nephew, and I piled into the back of the vintage vehicle.  The driver asked us, "Is this everyone?"  We nodded.

We'd driven about a block when my cell phone rang. It was my brother-in-law (or at least he would be my brother-in-law in about an hour). "Um, would you like to come back for your mother?" Doh!  We drove back around the block and picked up my mom.

We arrived at the winery and promptly marched outside for family photos. It was chilly and a little drizzly, but I'm sure it could've been worse. The real fun was when our fancy heels started sinking into the mud. Meanwhile, the bride and groom's two-year-old son was running around like a madman, refusing to pose for pictures. I sure hope the photographer got some good shots in spite of the chaos!  I have to say that the bride looked absolutely stunning. 

The ceremony started just after 5:00.  It was getting dark, which was a bit worrisome. We lined up at the door inside the winery, as we had been instructed.  In the distance, we could see the guests seated in front of the ruins. Frank and I were first.  We walked carefully across the grass (he knew my heels were sinking) and then paused at the start of the aisle. Once the wedding coordinator gave us the thumbs up, we headed up (down?) the aisle towards the dreaded stairs.  I spotted a few familiar faces in the audience, including my Aunt Shirley, who looked amazing after having lost 200 pounds recently. Yowza! When we got to the steps, I grabbed Frank's arm, hiked up the bottom of my dress, and hoped for the best. Moments later, all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen were on the stage. Since there was no best man, my niece (maid of honor) walked down the aisle by herself. Instead of a bouquet, she held a single yellow rose in honor and memory of the best man, Brian.  Then my daughter (flower girl) and nephew (ring bearer) came down the aisle together.  We are talking maximum cuteness here.

Finally, we were all assembled on the stage, which was lined with candles. I realized I'd forgotten to bring a Kleenex. Ack! We all watched as the Rolls Royce circled the winery and then drove towards us. My sister got out and made her way across the grass. My dad and my stad helped her along (yes, she had two escorts). Once she was on the stage, the ceremony began. The groom's stepdad served as the officiant. It had gotten dark and he struggled to read the vows. The groom's mom saved the day and leapt up behind him with a flashlight.

As John read the solemn words, the bride and groom's son climbed up on to the stage and proceeded to run back and forth behind us.  The stage area behind us had wooden flooring and I think he liked the noise his dress shoes made as he ran. I struggled not to laugh as I could hear "thumpthumpthumpthump" and then "thumpthumpthumpthump" again as he turned and ran back the other way.  Finally, the babysitter managed to tackle him and get him off the stage. My other toddler nephew also caused a minor ruckus during the ceremony but I think this is par for the course when you have two two-year-olds at a wedding.

Thank goodness we aren't Catholic.  The ceremony was sweet but brief. I held my breath as the rings were retrieved from the satin pillow - I'd tied them correctly!

Moments later, we all convened inside the Barrel Room at the winery for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. I had to sit down for a few minutes to give my feet a break. At that point I think I was willing to knock my eighty-year-old grandma out of the way to procure a seat. I also think I got winded just watching the babysitter chase the bride and groom's son. I told my brother-in-law that whatever they were paying that poor girl, it probably wasn't enough.

At around 7:00, we all headed upstairs to the main part of the winery (which was closed to the public by that time).  Everything was just beautiful. The lighting was perfect and the tables were decorated beautifully.  I think it all turned out just as my sister had hoped - elegant and classy. The photo montage I had created was playing on a couple of big screens.  The buffet dinner was excellent. They served a vegetarian lasagna that seriously changed my life.

After dinner, the DJ started cranking out music and all the kids headed straight to the photo booth. Of course there was a first dance with the bride and groom. Then they each danced with their moms, too. Eventually, it was time for the official toasts. The groom's friend Whitey (no lie - that is what everyone calls him) gave a toast, standing in for the best man.  I must say he did an absolutely perfect job. He first offered a toast in memory of Brian.  Brian's widow was there and I know the whole evening was an emotional challenge for her. I hope she could feel the love that was in that room for her husband. His presence was deeply missed.  After that, Whitey went on to offer some light-hearted quips about my sister and her new husband.

Then it was time for my niece to give her toast. My niece is fourteen and probably has not had a lot of practice when it comes to wedding toasts. She stood up and sang a Taylor Swift song called The Best Day. I mean to tell you there was not a dry eye in the house. I scooted over to sit closer to my mom so that we could bawl together.  When she sang the line "I have an excellent father" she looked right at her newly minted stepdad. I seriously thought my heart might explode.  I am SO proud of my beautiful, brave niece.

The rest of the evening was filled with dancing and wine and mostly appropriate things going on in the photo booth. It was great to be with family.  We all live so far apart and are seldom in one room together.

I hope the wedding was everything my sister wanted it to be. I am so very happy for her. Plus, I'm excited to have such a wonderful brother-in-law.  As the reception ended, the bride and groom headed off in a limo (as my teenaged niece dryly noted: "They are going to a hotel. Whatever. Ew.") and I headed back to their house. I was scheduled to babysit their son in the morning. I wasn't sure I had the stamina after what I'd seen the babysitter endure during the wedding, but I was determined to keep him alive until his parents got home.

So there you have it. A full recap of the big shindig. I hope my blemish and I did not cause any embarrassment.

Rehearsal dinner

Maid of honor and bride at the rehearsal dinner



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wedding: Mission Accomplished

My sister and her guy are now officially hitched. Now that I've got my bridesmaid's duties all checked off, I am just hanging out and enjoying a couple days of vacation.  I've barely seen my kid. As you'll recall, the best man died two weeks before the wedding. His daughter is here and she and my kid seem to be getting along famously. They even slept together on the top bunk in my nephew's room last night. My nephew actually gave up and moved to his sister's room because the girls would not stop talking. Anyway, A has been so busy hanging out with her new friend and her cousins that I only see her periodically when she needs food.

To back up a bit, my daughter and I arrived late Thursday night. My dad and his girlfriend picked us up at the airport and drove us back to their house in Maryland. I went to bed and the kid stayed up and partied with the grown-ups. Typical. On Friday morning, I left the kid with my dad and I drove to my sister's house (in Virginia). I figured she'd need help with pre-wedding stuff before the rehearsal dinner.  One job I was given was to figure out how to tie the wedding rings onto the ring bearer's pillow.  Needless to say, there are countless YouTube videos that give step-by-step instructions.  I did a few test runs and soon felt confident that I had mastered the art of ring-tying.  Most of the afternoon was taken up with making lists and figuring out all of the who-needs-to-be-where kind of stuff for the wedding.

We had the wedding rehearsal at 5:00.  Believe it or not, I somehow failed to realize that the ceremony would be held outside until my dad happened to mention it the day before.  The wedding was scheduled to be held at the Winery at Bull Run.  More specifically, it was to be held on an area of the winery called The Ruins, which consists of a stone fireplace and a large stage of sorts. The bridal party was instructed to walk out of the winery, across the grass, around a barrel, through the seating area, and up three stone/slate steps to the stage. I was paired with a nice guy named Frank. Frank might actually weigh less than I do.  I had some concerns about getting up those steps in my towering heels and the floor-length dress.  I wasn't sure how much I could really lean on Frank, what with him being a stranger and me outweighing him and all. One of the other bridesmaids, my sister's best friend, was standing behind me during the rehearsal and said that she felt pretty confident that she would be depositing her front teeth on those steps at the ceremony.

After the rehearsal, we headed to a nice restaurant for the rehearsal dinner. I have been so careful with my eating in the three months leading up to the wedding. I have clocked a gazillion hours at the gym. So, naturally, I sat there and ate hundreds of thousands of tortilla chips. :::sigh::: I am such a loser sometimes. After dinner, I did something I've never done - I ordered an after dinner drink. I ordered Disaranno Amaretto.  That's right - I get a little crazy when I'm on vacation. It was definitely a lot different from the cheap amaretto that my husband I mix with orange juice at home.

I'll write about the wedding in another blog entry. I have to go now. My two-year-old nephew has taken off his pants, so I am taking that as a sign that we are about to party.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I can't win

I had an appointment to get my hair cut and highlighted on Monday. I've never had highlights and I was really looking forward to doing something a little different. My hair is very fine, thin, and fragile, so this was a once-in-a-blue-moon sort of thing for me. I wanted to look cute for the wedding. I asked for red highlights and picked a hair swatch out of a book. The stylist and I agreed that the highlights should be noticeable but not overly chunky. She did her thing and then spun me around so that I could look at myself in the mirror. I could see nothing. Nothing. My hair was exactly the same as when I color it myself with a box from Clairol.

"You might see it better, when you're outside in natural light," she told me.

I thought to myself: "It's November, it's 29 degrees outside, and it gets dark at like 3:30. But I'm supposed to stand outside until someone spots my invisible highlights?"

I know I shouldn't make a big deal out of something so minor, but I was just so disappointed. She offered to redo them but by then it was after closing time for the salon. I had stuff going on the next two nights, so there was no way I could come back. My flight leaves on Thursday. I think what bugged me the most was to spend all of that money and to get nothing. The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. I was actually crying by the time I talked to my mom later in the evening. As my sister pointed out, at least nothing BAD happened.  I still have some hair, so I guess there's that.

Tonight I went to a local nail salon to get my nails done. Again, another splurge-y sort of thing that I would normally never dream of doing. A friend of mine had suggested gel nails (vs. acrylic/shellac) because they don't damage your natural nail underneath.  So, that is what I asked for. The man who greeted me at the front desk spoke little English but I believed we had some sort of understanding as far as what I wanted.

A woman led me to a manicure desk and a different man came over and sat down on the other side.  I must say he was very efficient. I tried to tell him that my left thumb doesn't bend but I could tell he didn't understand what I was saying. I asked, "Will I be able to pick out a color?"

He nodded. "Color. Yes."

Then, when he was done, he escorted me to the cash register. "Um, can't I pick out a color?" I asked again.

A woman who seemed to have slightly more English under her belt jogged over and told me, "No color. White tips look very nice."  I am tempted to write this phonetically (as she pronounced it) but I don't want to be accused of being a racist jerk. I am not racist, I promise. I was just a bit frustrated by the communication.

"It's for a wedding," I said. "On Saturday."

"Yes, white tips perfect for wedding!" she told me enthusiastically.

I gave up and paid my bill. :::sigh:::  The best laid plans of mice and men, eh?  I may just paint them on my own.  I also feel a blemish forming on my cheek. I swear to you, I will cut off any part of me that has a blemish on Saturday.

p.s. I tried on a shirt at TJ Maxx yesterday and for a fleeting second, under the fluorescent lights of the fitting room, I spotted three strands of hair that were vaguely, distantly reddish. So, if you want to see my highlights, you will need to meet me in the fitting room at TJ Maxx.

p.p.s. If you send me a text, please give me a week or so to tap out a reply. I was a slow texter before the nails, so . . .



A wedding toast!

When the preparations for my sister's wedding got underway, I was so happy for my sister that I felt like I had some stuff I wanted to tell her. Mushy stuff. I thought maybe I could give a toast at the wedding so I started to write one. Later I learned that tradition dictates that only the maid of honor and best man give toasts at a wedding.  I guess I've been to some non-traditional weddings that didn't follow etiquette or something. I remember going to the wedding of one one of my husband's childhood friends several years ago. Abel (the groom) stood up and said, "I know that the bride is supposed to be the center of attention, but I need everyone to pay attention to me exclusively."  If you know Abel, this will make sense to you. Anyway, I still have some stuff I want to say to my sister, so I'll share it here. I'm going to go ahead and use my brother-in-law's name because it's a common one and I don't think it will give you a way to track us down and murder all of us or anything like that.
________________________________________________________________

A toast to my sister and her husband

First, I must tell you that I had some very serious concerns about this marriage. Marrying a Dallas Cowboys fan seems wrong in so many ways. However, instead of stewing over Josh's heinous shortcoming, I have decided to devote my energies into converting him into a Redskins fan or, better yet, a Packers fan. But, he is my brother-in-law and I love him, so even if he doesn’t convert, I will try to accept him even with his disability.  

Josh, I need you to know that I do indeed adore you and am so happy you and my sister found happiness together. I know that being a stepfather is not an easy job, but I saw early on that you had the head and the heart to parent and to love L and L without reservation or hesitation. My daughter has already viewed you as her uncle for years. Now it’s just a little more official.  Two years ago, you received the opportunity to get in on the ground floor with this parenting stuff. Of course I am referring to the birth of your beautiful son, R. What an amazing gift for you, to be able to see your own brown eyes looking back at you from that adorable little face. I can’t wait to see if he will be analytical like you or passionate like my sister – or maybe some of both. The five of you have formed a truly beautiful, strong family. I am so very happy for all of you.

I need you always to remember that my sister is extraordinary. She is an amazing mother, sister, daughter, auntie, and friend. Not only is she physically beautiful, but she has a beautiful heart as well. She is whip-smart and funny and generous and kind. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is not afraid to experience all emotions, deeply. If she is joyful, you will know. If she is angry with you . . . um, you’ll know.  

What a gift my sister has been to me all these years. I don’t know what I would have done without her. I was an introverted child and she was the extrovert I needed in my life. She asked me not to share any childhood stories at the wedding, so I won’t tell you how she used to sing, “Errybuddy’s got a hungry heart . . . “ when she was little. Or about how she is such a heavy sleeper that we used to sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” at the top of our lungs while she napped on the couch after school. Or about the times she snuck out of the house as a teenager. She made a rope out of some knee-high pantyhose she’d gotten for Christmas. She’d tie the pantyhose around her wrist and then fling the other end out her bedroom window so that her friends could come and tug on it when it was time to go out. She was the wild child to my goody-two-shoes. 

Although I am the older sibling and perhaps should be the one setting an example of some sort, I find myself in constant admiration of both of my sisters. I love them both so very much.  

Please join me in raising a glass to my beautiful sister and the lucky guy who had the smarts to make her his own. :::clink!:::

Monday, November 11, 2013

How do you know?

Sometimes I worry that my daughter will think her middle name is Focus. I'm constantly saying, "A, focus. Just try to focus." How do you know when your child's personality quirk is actually a medical issue that needs to be addressed?  This topic has been weighing heavily on me lately.

Everyone who meets my daughter finds her to be very charming and engaging. And she is!  I know I'm biased but she is just downright likable. Everyone at church says, "Oh, she's such a free spirit!" She is a free spirit but even free spirits need to get dressed every morning.  People have no idea how hard the mornings are at our house. I think they believe I am exaggerating or that I am too hard on her.

No one ever says, "I can't wait to be a mom so that I can yell at a short person all day long."  No one wants to be that kind of parent. And yet, I find myself turning into some crazed harpy every morning. Her dad ends up yelling, too, and he is not a man who would normally raise his voice.  I think we're just at a loss. We've tried reward programs, taking stuff away, and everything in between.

Yesterday, my daughter missed church again. She was up at 7:24 and we don't have to leave until 9:40, so it's not like she didn't have enough time to get her act together. Even with 2+ hours to get everything done (and really, "everything" is a pretty short list: get dressed, make bed, comb hair, and brush teeth), she still struggled. As our departure time drew near, I said, "We're leaving in a few minutes."  I made that statement several times, in fact. She was in the living room, watching TV and drawing in her notebook.  Finally, at 9:42, I grabbed her jacket and handed it to her.

"I'm leaving now," I said.

I grabbed my stuff and walked into the garage. I noticed she wasn't behind me. I opened the garage door and then started the car. Still no kid. I sat in the car for a couple of minutes, fiddling with my iPod and whatnot. Finally, I decided that she must not be coming.  I pulled out and closed the garage door once I was in the driveway. I paused to see if she would run out.  Nope. I turned the corner and drove to church.

I was about a mile from church when my phone rang. "Mama," she sobbed.  "Why didn't you tell me you were leaving?"

"What?!"  I was incredulous. "I handed you your jacket and said I was leaving. What other information did you need?"

She cried and I asked her to put her dad on the phone. We discussed the situation and agreed that this was one of those "learn your lesson" moments.  I felt sad driving to church without her. Church is something we always do together.  Sure, I could have gone back in the house to get her before driving away, but I really wanted her to pay attention and figure it out on her own. I mean, we've been attending the same church since she was one year old and it has started at the same time since it was founded, I think. She knows how to tell time. Also, I might have been tempted to turn back around and pick her up, but I was scheduled to teach religious education and needed to get to church on time.

Saturday morning had not been much better.  She and I needed to leave the house at 9:30.  We were headed to a friend's house.  She had a playdate with my friend's daughter.  Even when she was headed to a fun event, something she very much wanted to do, she still couldn't get dressed and comb her hair.  P tried setting a timer and told the kid that she had x number of minutes to make her bed. No go. Tears were shed.  Voices were raised.  I said, "Go brush your teeth!" and she replied, "You're saying it in a mean voice!"

Sure, I did say it in a stern way. But this was after at least a dozen utterings of "Hey, sweetie, go brush your teeth, okay?"  I send her into the bathroom to brush her teeth and then regularly find her rolling on the floor with the dogs instead. Does she forget what I asked her to do? Is she being purposely obstinate?

I guess I just don't know if this stuff is normal or not. When the kid was little, I belonged to a May 2005 birth club board on Babycenter.com.  I'm now connected to a lot of those moms on Facebook. So, these are people who have children the same age as mine - right down to the month. I hear about how these other kids get up when their alarm goes off, they get dressed, pack their own lunch, make their own breakfast, etc. Then after school they do their homework voluntarily, bathe unassisted, and so forth.

One of A's best friends is on meds for ADHD (or maybe just ADD - I'm not sure which).  Her mom is a nurse so she knows what's she's doing.  If the issue comes down to focus, I don't think my child has a greater ability to focus than her friend does (or did, before the meds).  I guess that is one reason why I've been thinking about this so much. Am I doing my child a disservice by not having her evaluated?  I don't want her on medication but if there is an issue that needs to be addressed, I don't want to fail to help her.

I have a conference with her teacher next week. I think I'm going to ask her how well my daughter is able to focus at school. If she hasn't seen any issues, I will let it drop for now.  But I think I will still wonder.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

You'll wear a shirt with a kitty on it AND YOU'LL LIKE IT

I went shopping with my daughter last weekend. She needed some new boots. Not snow boots, but fashion boots.  In the past I have seen some cute boots at Gymboree so I took her in there.  They were having a sale and I had a coupon. Woot!  I started poking around and spotted some adorable pants with flowered appliques on them.  And, there were brown boots that matched! "Look at these, baby girl. Aren't they cute?"  She shrugged. I poked around some more, determined to find some article of clothing on which we could agree. And then, finally, I heard this:

"Mom, I just don't see anything in here that I like."

Whaaaaat?  No more Gymboree?

"Are you sure?" I asked, frowning slightly.  I held up a skirt.  She shook her head. We left and headed to Old Navy.

Later this month, Sesame Street Live is coming to town. I used to take her every year. Now she is too old.  This morning she left the house in skinny jeans, high tops, and a tee shirt with her school logo on it (they are the wildcats and today is "Wildcat Wednesday").  However, she didn't want the shirt to be too baggy so she grabbed a rubber band, bunched up the bottom of the tee, and rubber-banded it so that it would fit snugly over her tiny little hips.

I know she is growing up. I can handle it . . . I think. For some reason the rejection of Gymboree really stings, though. I don't know if I'm ready to give up. I mean, what is the alternative?  The clothes at Justice?  My retinas can't take it!

At least I still have my memories.

Gymboree sweater with a kitty cat on it.

Gymboree shades.

Mod dress from Gymboree.

Gymboree pants with, yes, kitty cats on them.

Monday, November 4, 2013

And so we move forward


 My heart was so heavy on Friday night, after the news of the best man dying, that I didn't know what to do with myself. I decided to go to the gym. Did you know that you can have the place to yourself if you go on Friday night? 'Tis true. Well, there were three other people there. So that makes four of us with no social life, apparently. I've noticed two young women who come pretty regularly. I think they've made some sort of pact to get fit together. However, as far as I can tell, they just walk very slowly on the treadmill and run their mouths.  They'll probably quit soon because the gym "did nothing for us!" But, I shouldn't judge. I thought I was killing it on the elliptical one day until I happened to glance at the settings on the elliptical next to the one I was on. This woman's settings were basically double mine - higher incline, higher resistance, etc. She probably thought I was a colossal pussy.

Anyway, normally I go to the gym on Saturday mornings but since I got it out of the way on Friday, I went to a craft fair on Saturday morning instead. I took the kid along, but this was probably a mistake. I was looking for Christmas gifts, she was looking at junk for herself. Honestly, I just do not know how to get the whole "Christmas is about giving" lesson into that kid. I bought handmade wooden airplanes for my two youngest nephews. My daughter, unable to stand it, told me how she'd always longed for a wooden airplane of her own. Really? At 8 1/2 years of age?  She is going to sit on the floor with her wooden airplane and make propeller noises with her mouth? She already has a room full of toys she is ignoring.  The whole outing turned into a "stop-thinking-about-yourself-for-five-seconds" mother-daughter brawl. We also did some shopping on Sunday and she dragged me into Justice.  I told her I wasn't buying anything there (I had already bought her a Christmas dress and a pair of boots elsewhere).  I explained that if she would do her chores, she would get an allowance, and then she could buy ugly clothes from Justice.  I guess I was just a different type of kid than she is but when I was her age, if you told me that I could dust and get some money, I would have dusted the whole house plus the roof just to get some money. My girl? She just shrugs.

After the craft fair, she and I headed out of town for the weekend. We were volunteering at a pet expo (held a couple hours from home) on Sunday so we got a hotel room and decided to make a weekend of it. We met my friend Becky for dinner, which was a lot of fun.  And then of course we had to go back to the hotel so that we could go swimming.  I know better than to resist when it comes to that girl and a swimming pool.  I must say she has gotten to be a good little swimmer. She has been taking swim classes at the Y (off and on) since she was a baby. She recently achieved "Minnow" status, which was very exciting.  Apparently there is great shame in being a Guppy.

Now, I have a confession to make. Before the kid and I left town, I think I reminded my husband no fewer than three times to turn the clocks back on Saturday night. I also wrote him a note and left it on the counter. So, needless to say, I went to sleep Saturday night without changing the clock in the hotel room. I got up at 6:25 Sunday morning to get ready for the pet expo. Then I looked at my phone. 5:25 a.m. Gah!  I had to call my husband later in the day and confess.  I guess the good news was that I had some extra (if unexpected) time to read and to paint my toenails while the kid was still sleeping. And speaking of sleeping, she and I shared a king-sized bed and she still managed to kick me all night long.

The pet expo was a lot of fun. I gave A the job of standing in front of our booth and handing out some freebies.  She lasted about ten minutes before she quit and ran off to pet dogs. She is obsessed with small dogs so I'm sure she parked herself at some chihuahua rescue and drove people crazy. I barely saw her for the next two hours. I didn't give her any money so I figured that would keep her out of trouble. However, she conned my friend Laurie into buying her some nachos. That kid, I tell ya.

When we got home, I Skyped with my middle sister for a little while. Needless to say, she is a wreck, her fiance is a wreck, and of course Brian's widow is beside herself with grief. I cannot conceive of losing my husband or one of my siblings, so my heart just aches for everyone.  I gave P specific instructions not to die before I do. Sure, I would get his life insurance money, but I need him around so that I can nag him to turn back clocks and stuff.

The wedding will go on as planned next weekend.  My daughter and I fly out next Thursday.  I know it seems impossible right now, but I am hopeful that by next weekend, the pain of Brian's death will sting just a little bit less for everyone. I know my sister and her fiance are trying to figure out the best way to remember him at the wedding.  He will not be forgotten. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Incomprehensible

As I was driving home from work yesterday, I got a call from my middle sister. As you know (because I blather on about it constantly), she is getting married in two weeks. She is currently in Puerto Rico on a short vacation with her best friend. I could tell right away that something was wrong. She'd gotten up in the middle of the night to catch a freakishly early flight, so I also knew that she was probably wrecked from a long day of travel. But I also knew from her voice that it was more than that.

A bit earlier, she had initiated a FaceTime chat with her fiance, who was back home taking care of the kids. She could see something in his face but wasn't sure what. Maybe he was just irritated with her for some reason. She asked him what was going on. He didn't want to tell her the news he'd just heard, didn't want to ruin her trip. She pushed until he finally, reluctantly, agreed to unburden himself: his brother Brian was dead. He'd been found by his young daughter yesterday afternoon. Brian would have been 42 today. The cause is unknown (as far as I'm aware). It sounds like the best guess, at this point, is a heart attack. 

Brian would have been the best man in the wedding.  He would have given the toast at the reception. I'm sure that he and his wife and their children were looking forward to flying up from Florida (to Virginia) for the festivities. I think I had met Brian just once, briefly, when we were both at my sister's house at the same time.  He was a nice guy, a good egg. If it was a heart attack, it's just hard to get one's mind around it. He was fit, athletic, and not overweight. It is just so hard to comprehend this sort of tragedy, to make any sense of it at all. I'm sticking with my theory that sometimes really bad things happen for no reason at all. To hell with all of this "everything happens for a reason" garbage.

Today I am just sick at heart for my sister and her family and for Brian's family as well. I feel just awful for my brother-in-law, as he was very close to his brother. The wedding will go on, of course. I didn't really know Brian, but I have to think he would want it to. That empty chair is going to be tough for everyone, though.

I've been working on a photo montage for the wedding for the past couple of months. It contains several photos of Brian and his family. My thoughts are with all who have heavy hearts today.