Tuesday, October 23, 2012

moving along...

As promised, I've completely rebranded my blog and turning it into something that is, I hope, bigger and better. I've copied my entire blog to the new site, so no material has been lost.

Come and join me at

Rocking the Red Zone

















Thanks for reading, and let's take this thing to the next level!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Flo Rida and teachable moments

Was driving down the freeway with Olivia this weekend, letting her spin the tunes from my iPhone - like a responsible parent, I might add, as I try to set an example by keeping my paws off my cell while I'm behind the wheel. And I have a new love of some fairly inappropriate pop songs, which of course were the ones she wanted to play.

Right or wrong, I'm not the parent who totally shields her children from the barrage of age inappropriate material that children of all ages are bombarded with on a daily basis. I don't let her watch Tosh.0 - but Rhianna's S&M? Guilty. She's going to hear it, so I'd just as soon she hear it with me so that we can talk about it. Should she ask me what S&M means, or whatever.

This time it was "Like a G6" by Far East Movement."When sober girls around me, they be actin' like they drunk..." not really ideal for her nine year old ears. I didn't want to make a big deal about it and draw attention; but by the same token I felt that moment where, you know, she might be old enough where she's hearing this and it's registering with her.

So I said, kind of under my breath but loud enough for her to hear - you know the words to this song are not really appropriate, right?

"Mom. I would never repeat what what they're saying in the song."

Good, trained response; but an even better teachable moment. We talked a little bit about how not only do songs sometimes have bad words, but they also sing about inappropriate situations and ideas. Great little mother/daughter moment.

Which then justified my not turning off the next song - Flo Rida's "Whistle."

I didn't say a word. But I can tell when Olivia's wheels are turning.

"You know Mom," she finally said, head cocked to the side and hand gestures showing her new maturity from our recent conversation, "I really think that Flo Rida is trying to express his feelings in this song."

"Oh you do? How so?" Brief moment of panic.

"Well, I think maybe he had a really hard time learning to whistle. But then he finally did, and now he wants to teach other people to whistle, too."

Whew. I think we're okay for now.

(And I've embedded the video for those who may not know the song...apologies for the not-so-unexpected booty in the screen below.)



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

the journey continues...

It's October, and the pink breast cancer awareness ribbons are everywhere. I know they mean something very personal to everyone who puts one up. Mine is in my Facebook profile picture, and as most of you who read this know, it's in honor of my younger sister, who is a survivor.

It was just about a year ago that a huge group of us got together, formed a team, walked in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and and celebrated being one of the top fundraising teams. The race came at the perfect time - M had just finished her chemo and radiation, and I believe we knew, or were close to knowing, that she was indeed cancer-free. It was the end of the first leg of her lifelong cancer journey, and it was a time to celebrate.
The Pink Sox about to rock the Race for the Cure in Phoenix in 2011.

While I cannot by any account take credit for that magical day last year, I can take credit for kind of getting the whole thing rolling, starting up the website, and initially rallying the troops. But it took on a life of its own. M has such an amazing - and by amazing, I mean, beyond phenomenal - group of friends, and it grew into this wonderful and meaningful gesture of love and support and happiness. And in the end, it was kind of like your wedding; one of those days that you think you should probably never try to duplicate.

However I've been struggling this month to figure out how I should be honoring my sister. How I should be honoring all the others out there for whom this disease has forever become a part of life. But really, my sister. And why does it take a breast cancer awareness month for it to get back to the front of my radar? Shame on me.

I know that there are teams out there doing the Race for the Cure who have been doing it for years. They come out in their pink tutus and crazy socks and pom poms on their boobies and they are totally awesome. They raise money for cancer research, honor loved ones and friends, and have a great time.

But this year I will be at home. I told my mom early on that I didn't think I had it in me to rally again this year; for the reason stated above, and for other reasons that now seem completely pointless and inadequate.

Bear with me here; this will all come together.

I was talking to my husband today, about something entirely different, when I said to him, I think I may need therapy because I get so completely paralyzed by process sometimes that I can't move forward. Or even begin. Sometimes it overwhelms me to the point where I just shut down or walk away. Some might think I just procrastinate, or that I'm unfriendly or unapproachable, or lazy.

(And, true story, shortly after I told L that I thought I needed therapy and why, his response was yeah, I think maybe that would be good for you. What do I say? "WHAT? You think I need therapy? Seriously?" God bless that man.)

But I know myself well enough to know otherwise. Sure, I can procrastinate with the best of them, and have my lazy days. But it's more than that.

I have a vivid memory of being a little girl in my yellow room, my mom putting on my white bobbie socks and black mary janes. If there was the slightest wrinkle in my socks, mom would have to take them off and start all over. I also think about how I genuinely struggle to choose an item off of a menu at a restaurant. If you all knew the process that I go through in my mind...cuckoo, people. And when it comes to a project at home? I want to do X, but I can't get started on X unless I take care of Y, and Y is out of the question unless I do something about Z...each little wrinkle has to be flattened out before I can move forward. Either I'm motivated and blow through every last detail, driving my poor family insane; or else I get overwhelmed and shut down completely, and watch Rehab with Dr. Drew all afternoon.

So you see why the thought of trying to pull that Susan G. Komen team together, fundraise, talk to a bunch of people I don't know well, and make this thing happen is enough to make me pull up the full John Hughes collection on Netflix and shut myself in my room for a month.

And how terribly, horribly selfish is that? Why can't I pull my shit together for my sister??? I didn't even sign up to walk. All I've done is put that pink ribbon on my profile - really, Robyn, seriously?

When someone you love is going through treatment for cancer, it's front and center. I watched an episode of Parenthood tonight (funny that I've never watched it before, but I did tonight of all nights), and in it one of the main characters announced to her family that she had breast cancer. The flood of emotion that followed - the memory of the phone call from M (I was out of town) with the news that I never fathomed I might hear from my young, healthy sister - I felt it, right there, again.

The whole time she was in treatment I never felt like there was enough that I could do, or did do. Luckily M is very strong and fiercely independent; she didn't need us all to fawn over her. So we didn't. But we needed something; to help us show our love, to support both her and the cause, to cope with and understand the purpose of her journey.

Because what you really want to do is go get a super laser and blast that tumor and all those cancer cells yourself. But you can't.

So for me it was the race. It kept us all busy and gave us a goal, that by the grace of god came to an end just as her treatment did. It was perfect.

And when the race was finished, we all went home feeling great about what just transpired. And she was cancer-free - what a blessing.

And then we all went back to our daily lives. All of us, that is, except M, who now goes for scans and tests every three months to make sure her cancer has not returned. Who lives, every day, with the knowledge that she fought and won; but that one day, she might have to gear up for that fight again. Who looks at her babies every morning in a way that none of us will ever fully understand. Who probably lives each one of her days with an new appreciation that, again, we cannot, and probably will not, ever fully understand.

And now a full year has passed, and I feel like I have let the memories and the knowledge of her new existence gather a few too many cobwebs. I'm not entirely sure what I should be doing; but I know it should be more than I'm doing right now, which basically feels like nothing.

I allow my idiosyncrasies to rule my world; and as a result, I live in the universe that's made up of the four planets that revolve closest to me in my little galaxy; my husband and my three kids. Because reaching beyond that little galaxy is often more than I can bear, I rarely do; and as a result, in this case, I've let something very important fall too far down the list.

If I know her like I think I do, M doesn't expect anything. She has plenty of other things to worry about; and they certainly don't include whether or not I have a pink ribbon on my profile or gave an extra dollar at the grocery store. From the outside, it's too easy to see her clean bill of health and then slip back into the lure of the daily routine. It's not like I'm going to call her up and say "hey, how's that cancer thing going?" Some people probably do, and that's fine; but I can't. Maybe I should. But I can't. And I'm not sure I can explain why.

M, I'll never fully understand what your life is now, and I'd never pretend to know what it's like to be in your shoes. But I do know that you are the bravest person I know. I admired you as a mother before cancer became part of your story; I admire you even more now. And I think about you more often than you probably realize; I think about your new reality, and how you might feel as you roll out of bed each morning, more thankful than any of us that the morning has come and you have a beautiful life and family to wake up to. And even though we aren't the sisters who talk every day, or even every week, you are always, always in my heart.



Because I'm not sure what else to give, I am re-sharing a post that I wrote during M's cancer journey that stays with me, and that I go back to read regularly.

I love you, Marci.
_________________________________________________________


March 11, 2011

Drove home from work with tear-stained cheeks today. As I got in the car to go home, I noticed a text from my sister, nothing but a photo.



I was kind of surprised that it made me burst into tears the way it did. It wasn't all sadness. Not really sure what it was. I called Larry, because, well...that's what I do. And he said, oh honey, you knew it was going to happen. And I said, of course I knew it was going to happen. But it actually happened. That's different.

It's just a moment. I was so full of something I can't entirely put my finger on, something that came back to me when I called M later to see how she was doing.

She sounded, well - really, really good. Free. Relieved. The image she gave me - relaxing on her back porch, in her jammies, brand new wrap on her newly-shorn head, sipping vodka and cranberry - told me that, by all accounts, she was really doing okay.

I asked about the kiddos, and she said her son (8, brilliant, and adorable) did a pretend faint when he saw her. Then it was back to their normal routine. They were ready, and maybe a little relieved, too, that finally Mom was bald just like she'd said she was going to be.

Sounds like her hair started falling out early this week. And once it started - it came out in droves. She said it was everywhere; even in JY's coffee this morning. She said that the hair that had detached from her scalp, but was still on her head, made it itchy and uncomfortable. She was thinking about it constantly and by today, it nearly sent her over the edge.

So instead of letting her slowly dying hair make a long, dramatic, and agonizing exit, she decided to take control. I can't tell you the relief I heard in her voice. And I couldn't help but think about JY, cutting her hair for her, how much he loves her, how he's taking such exquisite care of her, and how strong he is for her. I cried for that, too.

So you see why I don't think these were tears of sadness.

You see, M has always seen her hair as perhaps her best asset. And gorgeous hair it was. We Pinkston girls were blessed with thick manes of hair; and hers was meticulously cared for, perfectly colored and cut, lovingly maintained. But now, M, you have no choice but to learn that it never was your hair that made you beautiful. Silver lining.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

handwritten

Around this time each year, as the heat starts to subside and we start to emerge from our air conditioned homes and imagine all the gorgeous fall foliage that is probably showing up in another state somewhere, I get the bug. The fall cleaning bug, that is.

I have a huge list, and am dying to dig in. C has grown like a foot, and I need to clear out all the t-shirts that now hit him around his belly button. (No easy task - this boy doesn't like change. I will have to pry them out of his cold, iron grip. Or sneak them out while he's at school.) O has been "cleaning" her room on her own, which means piles of stuff in every corner to clear the middle so it's "clean". Wondering how many socks and half-eaten granola bars I'm going to find when we start excavation.

G actually sorted through his entire room on his own last weekend - I think because there is the possibility of hosting girls on the horizon, which meant a hasty exit for all the Legos and toy pirate ships. Which I've been instructed not to sell, but to store safely in the attic. Ah, the gray area between being a boy and being a man, right?

Anyway, also high on the list is organizing my recipes. Rather than a neatly organized recipe book, I have like a recipe corner, piled high with printouts, random checkout line crock pot and casserole paperbacks, ripped out magazine pages, and, at the bottom of the pile, my actual recipe book. I have very little counter space in my 80's era mauve kitchen, and need to consolidate the culinary mess.

I am overwhelmed by the task, but determined to tackle it. I sat looking at all the Food Network printouts thinking, what am I going to do with these? It's like I need a three ring binder and a bunch of sheet protectors for all this.

Blech, boring. No fun at all. And what if one of these emerges as a family favorite? Which a couple of them have, by the way.

Imagine me, 40 years from now, passing down family heirlooms to the kids. Oh here, honey, it's our family recipe from Aunt Marci, the guacamole recipe that we had every Christmas Eve, and at all our tailgates...printed out from when she emailed it to me 50 years ago. Look! It's my old email address.

Um, no.

These are two of the recipes in my recipe book right now. On the top is my mom's Neopolitan Spaghetti. Want to win over a man? Make this. Her son and sons in law beg for it. It's a family classic. And I have the recipe, in her handwriting, with grease stains from the ground beef. Do you have any idea how much this means to me?

Below that is a recipe my mother gave me that belonged to her mother, my Nana. I've never used it. My memories of my Nana are few, and very fuzzy. She passed when I was very young - but I do have vivid memories of running out with her into hailstorms and catching hail in our mouths. I think it was at her home in Texas. And here I have her Pumpkin Cake recipe, in her handwriting, in my recipe book. A way to keep those memories alive, every time I flip through to find my Christmas cookie recipes.

So daunting as the task may be, I'm going to organize all those printouts, and as the family faves emerge, I'm going to write them down on recipe cards and keep them in my book. And pull them out when I want to use them. Get my doughy fingerprints and greasy spots all over them.

I worry about this in so many areas of our life these days. We went 100% digital with our photos when Olivia was born, and our computer crashed and we lost them. Everything, for the first three years of her life. We keep that drive in a baggie, in hopes that one day we can send it off to the Apple Gods and spend a fortune having them restored. Thank god I printed out the photos of her birth - but it's easily been 8 years since I printed out a full set of photos. Just the odd one here and there, for a frame or a head shot. I pulled out all my old photos the other day (more fall cleaning), and the kids have had more fun pouring through them, looking at when Mom and Dad were first married and when Griffin and Connor were babies. There's just something about the physical photograph, as opposed to flipping through them on your iPhone or iPad.

Our digital age is so fantastic in so many ways. Look at me, sitting here blogging, and loving having this medium as a way to express myself. So many things about technology that we appreciate and value. But it's so hard not to leave the old technology in the dust. And with it, some precious memories.

I can assure you - a scan of my mom's Neopolitan Spaghetti recipe would never mean nearly as much to me as the real recipe, sitting in my recipe book, getting lovingly pulled out and used on Larry's birthday every year. You can't scan that.

Neopolitan Spaghetti (go ahead and put this one on a card...your fam will love it instantly.)
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can mushrooms
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 T. chili powder
1 package spaghetti

Fry bacon in two pans until crisp. Drain and keep grease in the pan (hence the reason this recipe is so good). In one pan, cook the beef with salt, pepper, chili powder and mushrooms. Cook until done. In the other pan, cook onion and pepper until soft. Cook spaghetti separately and drain. Mix skillets, add tomatoes, and let simmer for 30 minutes. At serving time, add spaghetti and crumble in all the bacon.

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

mom and dad vs. Olivia vs. the moth

First things first. It wasn't until I captured it on film that I realized just how much pink lives in my daughter's bedroom. This might be excessive?

Second, you might be interested to know, this sleeping bag represents a full-fledged standoff.

And ironically, this involves another moth. I'm wondering if perhaps there's a symbolism here that I haven't quite picked up on yet.

As I mentioned in my previous "mothra" post, my daughter has an almost phobia-level fear of bugs. Especially moths. Well, when I redecorated her room several months ago, we got her a loft bed; and she sleeps right by her air vent. Guess what likes to fly in?

Moths.

So when they do, she she gets Daddy, and he patiently and somewhat ceremoniously kills the moth for her. But lately, just the thought of a moth appearing has her afraid to sleep in her bed. The issue has grown into a flat out refusal to get into her bed at night; the fear of moths being a fabulous excuse to beg to fall asleep on the couch or cuddle with Mom and Dad.

So, what's really going on?

We got a little lazy this summer and, every now and then, let her fall asleep on the couch while we all stayed up a little later and watched TV. I think that the new school routine and having to fall asleep in her dark, quiet room by herself is far less appealing, even when we've spent hours crafting the perfect iPod mix for her to fall asleep to.

And then there's a new school year, and the anxiety that comes along with that. She was excited, but anxious, as any kid would be; but I'm beginning to worry there may have been more anxiety there than I originally thought.

So ultimately? I am not so sure it's really completely about moths, or bedtime routines or school anxiety. Those all play a part; but in the end, when voices get raised and ultimatums are laid down, it's all about control. For her, and for Larry and me. She refuses to get into her bed, and we stand our ground and say no, you can't sleep in our room, and you can't fall asleep down on the couch. You must go to bed.

Tantrums and unreasonable arguments ensue - on both sides, to be fair. She is trying to control her bedtime, and we are trying to control her.

Larry and I stand our ground, and then afterwards, when the tears are dry and the eyes are swollen and everyone feels bad, we think - should we have been a little more sensitive about this?

On the one hand, we are concerned that if we give in, then she'll know that a tantrum will net the results she's aiming for. Kids need to sleep in their beds, period. Even though we let it slide a little in the summer, we don't believe in just sleeping where you drop at the end of the night; routines are important, no matter how old your kids get.

But - I also think there's a genuine fear here, and anxiety, that we need to address. We can't just say, "That's silly, don't be afraid of moths, they won't hurt you," and expect her to be all "Oh, okay, I guess I'm not scared any more." Yet in our rigid reactions, this is what it appears we expect.

Where is the happy medium? When do we stop being firm but reasonable parents, and start being insensitive tyrants? And when does her genuine fear turn into a mechanism for her to try to manipulate situations and get what she wants?

So this is where we're at. We told her she has to sleep in her room; she insists on sleeping on the floor. So we're letting her do that. But you'll notice in the picture - she has that sleeping bag almost out the door; she is as close to being out of her room as she can get. Is that really because she's afraid of the moth, or is that her grasping at her last bit of control?

Truthfully? We need to not worry about it - and let her wake up with a sore back enough nights in a row to where she crawls back up into her bed on her own. And we need to NOT wave the "I told you so" banner in her face when she does.

Parenting can be so hard sometimes.
_________________________________

Today was a half day, and I told Olivia that before she played with a friend she needed to clean her room. She came into my room where I was working to let me know that The Moth had returned, and it was over her bed. She was playing it so cool - she was really trying hard not to freak out. We spent the next 30 minutes trying to catch it; me thinking, this will be great - when she realizes this moth is dead, maybe she'll get back up in her bed.

Finally, I killed the moth. She watched me whack it on the wall, could see the guts splattered all over the hot pink paint. Still, she walked up to the spot where it fell, and calmly asked where it was.

She had to see that dead moth - even though she watched me kill it.

Still playing it as cool as she could, she asked me to take it from her room, which I did. I walked back into my room and tossed it in the trash.

Liv came back into my room, and said with a big smile to mask her anxiety, "You know Mom, whenever Dad kills a moth he flushes it down the toilet."

"It's okay babe," I said, "You saw it was dead. It's in the trash. We're good."

She doesn't move. Smiles bigger. "Um, you know Mom, Dad always flushes it."

"Honey, we're fine."

"But Daddy always flushes it down the toilet."

I'm not getting out of this. So I go back to the trash, and pull the paper shroud; the dead moth has totally fallen out of the tissue. I'm not digging him out, so I have to fake it. And I almost don't get away with it.

I take it to the toilet, Liv following my every move. I drop the tissue in.

"Are you sure it's in there Mom?"

"Yes," I say, feeling a little guilty over my little white lie. Then I flush, quickly.

She finished cleaning her room, and the sleeping bag is still on the ground, so I don't think she's given up the fight just yet. But I'm hoping today's ceremonious killing, along with our effort to relinquish some control, soon leads to the end of our nightly struggles.


Friday, August 10, 2012

function before form

Okay, it wasn't this bad - but you
get the idea.
This evening I slipped out of the house around 7:45 to go pick my teenage son up from play rehearsal. Welcome to the fall, and the commencing of the extracurricular activities; and along with it, the annual quadrupling of the budget for gas in the family truckster. Or as hubby's green friend calls it, the Earth Fu*ker. Who ever thought it was a good idea to buy a massive SUV that gets like 12 miles to the gallon?

Oh...nevermind.

Anyway, before I left, I dug around in my purse for some change, thinking I deserved a McDonald's ice cream cone for doing so much driving around in this oppressive heat today. Pulled up to the drive-thru and ordered myself a large. Was listening to Lithium on Sirius XM, and a Rage Against the Machine song came on - had to turn it up. As in, it is physically impossible for me not to turn up a Rage song. 

So I rolled up to the drive-thru, window down, music blaring, ready to hand the guy my money. He looked at me with his outstretched hand, and although it was quick, I saw it - a double take, like a "there's something wrong here" look. I gave him the money, thinking, what's his problem?

A glance in the rearview mirror, and it was pretty clear. I'm 43, no makeup, graying hair unceremoniously wound up in a banana clip, glasses on, wearing a dress only a woman over 40 would wear. Rocking Rage out my car window like a teenager. With a vanilla ice cream cone. 

It's official. I'm really not all that cool any more.

Let's talk about that dress I was wearing. I went to visit my mom today (shoutout mom, xo), and as she's prone to do, she'd bought a couple of things that she decided didn't fit right, so she gave them to me. (Thanks to my mom's aversion to dressing rooms, I have a decent wardrobe.) This dress is a flowy light cotton, no waist, just bunches of gathers and cool fabric. Sleeveless. With a funky pattern on it that looks a little like the African smock type shirts my dad used to wear. 

What did I think when I saw it? Thought immediately of my dad, at a time when things were good, and got a little sentimental. And then, man - that dress would be so comfy! And cool! (As in temperature cool, let's be clear here.) I can't wait to go home and put it on!

(For the record - my mom has style-a-plenty. But she's also sensible, and bought the dress for the same reason I love it.)

And I did. Go home and put it on immediately, that is. After the long hot drive back from mom's, the dress was like I had on cheesecloth, with barely anything touching my skin. Aaaaah. Heaven. I went downstairs.

Olivia loved it because it was see-through and smelled like Grandma's house. But when I showed Larry and told him I wanted to sew like 100 more of them and wear nothing else all summer, he wasn't quick to respond that this was my best idea ever. Understand - it is agonizing for Larry to tell me that I look anything but gorgeous. He simply cannot not pay me a compliment. Which is suspect, but I love him for it.

But when I asked him how he liked the dress, he skipped a beat (clue number 1) and then said "Oh, it looks really comfortable!" (clues number 2, 3, and 4).

Oh, no. Oh, no no no no. I don't love this dress because it's trendy, cute, and hugs my womanly curves. I love it because it's comfortable and functional.

Hence the fence atop which I currently sit. Am I turning into that middle aged lady who slips on a muumuu and slippers every day? (Which is totally appealing to me, btw.) How do I reconcile that with the 25-year-old hipster that still lives in my head? And how do I merge the two without traumatizing the poor kid at the McDonald's drive-thru?

Monday, August 6, 2012

back to school with OCD mom

It's back to school season. I'm stressed, and I guarantee you it's going to get ugly. Throw a little pre-menopausal PMS into the mix and we've got a party, friends.

I know myself well enough to warn my husband and children ahead of time. This happens every year like clockwork. I remind them I love them, and kindly ask them to wipe the next few days from their memories.

I've mentioned my self-diagnosed OCD before, and every year in early August, it's at its glorious best. This queen of to do lists and shopping lists and calendar lists, all neatly organized into file folders and priority stacks, struggles mightily keep it together when it comes to preparing three children for the upcoming school year. Complications:
  • It's still 100 gazillion degrees in Phoenix (think: going from store to store looking for the dream backpack at a reasonable price. Sweat. Lots of it).
  • I quit my big job to be a freelancer, so now we can barely afford to buy new erasers.
  • I'm also a procrastinator, so I try to jam it all into like 48 hours.
  • I still have to go through everything the kids brought home from school last May. Did I mention I'm a procrastinator.
I kind of made things a little easier on myself this year by lecturing the kids ahead of time. If we already have 15 highlighters in the office drawer, I'm not buying you a brand new pack just so you can have the joy of tearing open a new one. And we're going to sharpen all 417 colored pencils we have in this house, all of which are still 6 inches long, and you'll pick your favorite colors for your pencil box...yeah, the one you used last year. Ever heard of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser? You'll never know we didn't just tear the sticker off of that thing.

The one exception? Crayons, even though we have them coming out our ears, since I think we still have every crayon from every elementary year for all three kids. But I'd have to be truly destitute to ever deny my child the joy of a brand new box of crayons for the first day of school. Otherwise - all bets are off. We're recycling this year, kids.

So. School starts in less than a week so I suppose I better get this show on the road. To start, I joyously merged all three kids' school supply lists into one Word doc, with a neat Wingding checkoff box next to the item and a "G", "C", and "O" to indicate which kids needed which supplies. That list was awesome.

However, I can't actually buy the school supplies until we can put them in their backpacks. And we can't put them in backpacks until we clear out last year's stuff. And we can't clear out last year's stuff until we clean out and reorganize the kids' office area. And we can't clean out and reorganize the kids' office area until the rest of the house is clean and the lawn is mowed and the pool is vacuumed, right?

The contents of Connor's backpack.
How he's still walking upright is beyond me.
Since my beloved Larry has stopped questioning my obsessive logic, we scoured the house, lawn and pool yesterday, thus making it possible for me to settle in today and sort through every sheet of anything my kids got last year. Which is a lot, folks. And included a long lost birthday invite and Certificate of Achievement for some thing or another.

By the way, I'm flabbergasted at how much my sons were toting around in their backpacks. Note to self: actually take a look in there this year, and secure the number of a good chiropractor. In the case of my daughter, her teacher retired this year, and instead of hauling all the old stuff in her classroom home, she gave it away to the kids, thank you very much for pawning that crap off on us OH! Did I just say that? Now we have to either negotiate with our kids to part with it or sneak it into the trash when they aren't looking. (Not that I've ever done that.)
Olivia contemplating the pros and cons of the primaries
versus the pastels for her markers. Look how patient I'm
being. That's my killer list in the foreground, btw.

Next, the trip to Walmart. Sadly, even Target, my favorite store in the universe, is too expensive for us right now. I suck it up, brave the obnoxious crowd, and do my best not to make Olivia cry as I control freak the hell out of school supply shopping. I did pretty good; she didn't break down until the end of the trip, which I kind of counted as a victory.

(Let's be honest though...we all remember the joy of shopping for school supplies. She was so excited to go, and so patient. Makes me a little teary-eyed knowing she's my last one.)

Anyway, upon return from the shopping expedition - the Sorting Of The Supplies. We started with the backpacks lined up on the dining room table, recycled supplies matched up with corresponding backpack. I then dole out the bulk of the new supplies utilizing my awesome list.

Still very proud of all the recycled school supplies. One
only needs so many pencil boxes and pouches and
highlighters in the house at one time.
By this point, Olivia's sensed her limits. I'm in the zone. She approaches me carefully.

"Mommy?"

"Yes Olivia."

"Um. Can I, um...can I please hand out all the pencils and pens?"

I felt her excitement. Her cautious optimism. Oh sweetie, you so totally get it. I know how badly you want to look at the different colors of click pencils and choose the best color for boys versus girls and give everyone three to start with and stack the rest in the office for future use. Then sharpen all the wood pencils and give everyone two of those. I know she looked on longingly as I loaded paper in the boy's notebooks, little fingers itching to help set up neatly organized binders. There's no mistaking it, my little control freak protege. I know it's almost time for me to pass the baton to my heir apparent. Or, uh...share the baton. (Like I'm going to give it up completely?)

I challenge you to find a more perfectly packed pencil
box. Or, more pink and zebra stripes (there are zebra
striped scissors in there somewhere).
I let her dole out those pencils, and she executed with mad precision. It is perhaps time to step back, relinquish control, and let my girl's organization skills blossom. She spent close to an hour organizing her own supplies. See the pink pencil box? That's from last year...note how sparkly clean it is (mm hmm, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, I'm telling you). Then look at the geometric perfection with which it is organized. That's my girl.

And in the end I only cried once, which I thought was pretty good, too, considering my stress level; and that was just the oh I wish we could get our kids all the things they want, but I know that's not good for them even if we could, but I'm still gonna go ahead and be sad about it for 5 minutes moment. But it passed. I went on to spend the entire evening with the kids' full school calendars in front of me (god bless the Internet and the ability to download anything, anytime), putting every scrap of information I could into my Google calendar for the entire year, which made me feel much better. 

And after a weekend of frantic preparation, I think we're ready to roll. My phone is going to be beeping with reminders every 20 minutes, and the kids are ready to fly out the door with their backpacks at a moment's notice. And I'm going to enjoy this moment, because even though school starts Wednesday, the crazy starts first thing tomorrow with rehearsals for the show Griffin was just cast in, back to school night the next two nights, the last minute story to write for the Republic...

Most importantly, Larry hasn't left me, and the kids are rolling with the punches. Lucky for me. Very, very lucky for me. Because in the blink of an eye, I find my three babies in 10th, 8th, and 4th grades; one day I'm going to miss the early August madness.

We're ready. Bring it on.






Monday, July 23, 2012

barbie on set


I so totally love this.

Olivia and her friend were busy in her room for hours today creating a Barbie "photo shoot". This is maybe half of the full scene. They have since abandoned the set, and moved on to someone's swimming pool for the afternoon - which probably explains the carelessly tossed Barbie in her stylish purple cowboy boots.

What do I love? How creative they got. I've been feeling kind of low lately because finances have been tight, and I don't know when I last bought any one of my babies a new toy or treat. Besides maybe a slushie at Sonic happy hour, which only sets me back about 75 cents. But they managed to merge the few Barbie, Groovy Girls, and Littlest Pet Shop accessories Liv has to create a pretty snazzy Barbie bedroom.

What else do I love? I didn't hear a peep from any of my little monkeys for hours.

I found the remote!
Best of all, check out the artwork on the wall, and the big screen t.v. in the foreground. They took zebra stripe duct tape to create the frames, and cut the pictures out of a magazine. And somewhere in there is a teeny tiny remote control fashioned out of pink construction paper and double stick tape. I love, love, love when they use their imaginations and create things on their own.

Not so sure about Barbie's television viewing choices, however - that's Snooki and JWoww on the t.v. Gonna cut her some slack this time though.

Friday, July 20, 2012

the news and the Colorado tragedy

"Mom, why do they keep showing the same thing over and over?"

From the mouths of babes - and my thoughts exactly.

First, and by all means foremost, I join everyone in sending my thoughts and condolences to the families of the people injured and killed in last night's tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. It's senseless and almost impossible to comprehend. Those families' lives will never be the same again, and my heart breaks for every one of them.

It might be a little soon, as we are all sharing in the grief right now, and trying to come to terms with what's happened. But I feel so strongly about this, and it's so fresh, I think now is the best time to get it down. So please forgive me.

As I have watched the events unfold today, there are things that are troubling me. With perhaps the exception of 9/11, when new details emerged almost constantly (and I was admittedly glued to the television for three days straight), I've always thought that the 24/7 coverage of tragedies like this was a little self-indulgent. I turned on the "Today" show, and had to turn it off as the hosts' and news teams' questions made me so uncomfortable I couldn't watch. How do you think they feel? How many different ways can these poor people say the same thing over and over? And how many times do you really need to replay the footage? In this age of instant news, if someone wants an immediate update, they can check any of a zillion online news sources to get the latest. I just don't see the point in the ongoing coverage on our major networks. If an important detail emerges, by all means, put it on the ticker or tell us about it during a break. But there is just no reason to dedicate an entire extra half hour of noon news to rehash what has been turned inside and out, every which way, already.

I think the reason it bothers me so much is that to me, it reeks a little bit of one trying to outdo the other. If Susie is going to get a scoop of ice cream, I'm going to get two. I don't think that this method of reporting does anything to honor the victims; in fact, at the risk of sounding callous, I think it exploits the situation.  I can't say if it's for ratings or to make sure they aren't criticized for inadequate coverage - but I think it's just way too much. Does it deserve some extra airtime? Absolutely. But this has been excessive.

I'm equally troubled by the intense scrutiny of how the two Presidential nominees reacted. Again - while I feel 100% confident their sentiments are genuine - do we need to analyze, blow by blow, whether or not President Obama should have cancelled his event in the wake of the tragedy? Do we have to spend 20 minutes discussing with a political expert the wisdom of not having someone ask the crowd, prior to his appearance, to remain silent? (Some cheered during Obama's statement, I think when he said something about justice for the shooter, or something along those lines). Really? And then cut in with breathless anticipation to see if Romney makes the same gaffe at his rally today? You can not tell me that the thought that went into the words they chose, how they presented them, and how they chose to handle the situation, had as much to do with the victims as it did with making sure they didn't do something to hinder their Presidential aspirations. Is it their fault, or the fault of those covering it? I don't know. But it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.


The other thing that bothers me is the reaction. I heard on a newscast today something about having police posted at every movie theater door this weekend - frankly, I am floored. You cannot "fix" what happened, and you need to be careful not to react immediately and impulsively out of fear. As a mother, I am constantly reminded that the world is a dangerous place. If we did everything, I mean everything, we could to keep our kids and families safe, we'd never go anywhere or do anything. We'd never let them swim in the ocean or ride their bike alone to a friends' house.


It's like having to squeeze my toiletries into a quart sized Ziploc bag every time I carry my bag on the airplane. These reactions are to me ridiculous, unnecessary, and a total waste of important resources. In the case of terrorism and national security, let's pour our efforts into the front end in tracking these crazy folks and trying to keep them from ever even getting to the airport with their guns or explosives or whatever in the first place. And with senseless tragedies like the one last night in Colorado, posting a policeman at every theater in the nation makes absolutely no sense to me.  

It's like they tell me as a mother - you can't wrap your kids in bubble wrap and be a helicopter parent. It feels to me as though we are trying to wrap the country up in bubble wrap. People, putting our lip gloss in a baggie, posting a policeman at every movie theater entrance, or putting our high school students through pat downs and metal detectors will not save us from these nutjobs.

These efforts come from the right place; something horrible just happened in our own backyard, and we want to do something about it. I just think sometimes we're misdirecting our sorrow, our anger, and our desperate need to understand. 

And for the record? When I did watch the news obsessively after 9/11, I don't think it was healthy for me, and I don't think it's healthy for our nation. It was a horrible, horrible tragedy, and if there's a realistic, productive way we can avoid it in the future, then by all means, I support those efforts. But when we live, eat, and breathe these tragedies, our children do, too, and I think it breeds too much fear, distrust and negativity.

Bring us the news, period. Give the victims the respect they deserve. And then let it go, to God, to the cosmos, whatever helps you heal and understand.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

mothra

One morning a couple of weeks ago, Olivia and I were leaving the house to head to the gym. It was hot - oppressively hot. We are in monsoon season here in Arizona, which means our obscene heat is paired up with humidity, which is just a little bit like hell on earth.

This is my planter, ironically, a photo taken exactly
one year ago to the day. And that's my lantana
on the left. It's much, much bigger now.
And the gnome is a little rusty.
Right beside my front door I have a planter with a few native faves, including a giant lantana bush. Lantana is really just a big, itchy, prolific flowering weed that survives in the desert heat, so everyone has it in their yard. I found one with maroon and gold flowers, so I proudly planted it by the front door in homage to my alma mater, Arizona State. And thanks to the nasty heat, it hadn't been trimmed in way too long. Big, tall, bushy, and overgrown.

So as Liv and I stepped out of the door that morning...I heard a rattling sound. At first I thought it might be a broken sprinkler head; but seeing as how every time I moved, or bumped the lantana, the rattling sound started up again, my mind immediately went somewhere else.

Rattlesnake. I had heard on the news that some desert creatures were heading further into civilization, probably due to the drought or something, I can't remember. It didn't matter. I'd heard it, and suddenly, there was no doubt in my mind that my Sun Devil lantana was sheltering a giant poisonous snake, poised to either strike the first person who walked through the front door, or worse - find a way to slither into my house.

Priorities firmly out of whack, I left it there, got in the car, and left. And admittedly, there were still three kids in my house, one of which wasn't mine. But I had to get to my Barbell Strength class, right? If you don't get there early, you get stuck in the corner with no room to move.

As we drove to the gym, I got out my phone. I wanted to call the boys to tell them to stay in the house; but I've been trying not to use the phone when I drive (except maybe to check facebook at stoplights, that's all, I swear), so I had Liv call them. She was delighted. A chance to call her brothers on behalf of mom and tell them what to do? Irresistible. So she called, and they promised to stay inside. Mmm hmm.

At the gym I was telling my girlfriends about my possible reptile infestation, and how Liv had called the boys for me. They looked at me, like, Robyn, really? Smirk. You really think they are going to take that seriously coming from their little sister? What's the very first thing they're going to do the second they hang up the phone? 

Crap.

Of course I did stay for class, and just said a little prayer that no trip to the ER was going to be needed when I returned home. I also prayed that the noise would still be there, because if it wasn't, I was going to obsess that the snake had gotten into my house. I can't even go there, people.

So we flew home after class. Griffin and I went out back and got some of the giant long pool poles so that we could try and lift up the lantana and see how big our rattler was. 

We poked. It rattled. It almost sounded like maracas - perfectly timed, mechanical maracas. Loud. Me = terrified. I decided okay, I have to do it - I slipped the pole under the lantana and lifted it up. I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do if I saw that snake. Except run of course. Slowly, slowly, I lifted...rattle rattle...but no snake.

Griffin crept a little closer. "Mom, what's that big white fuzzy thing under the bush there?"

I looked, and saw what looked like a tiny bird. "I have no idea, buddy," I said. "But I am totally not seeing a snake right now."

Feeling a little braver, we both crept forward. And it rattled - the white fuzzy thing, that is. 

The giant winged creature seconds after being
dislodged from my ASU bush.
Flooded with relief, I put down the pool pole, and Griffin and I dislodged this giant creature from underneath my lantana. It clearly was gasping its last breath; the rattling was getting weaker, and he looked a little, well, nasty.

(We recently had a bug company come out and spray the house, and I'm wondering if this fella got a whiff of the poison or something. And...if he has any relatives who are still whoopin' it up somewhere inside my house.)

Of course I immediately snap a photo and send it to Larry. It's not a rattlesnake!!! I text. His message back to me: Watch out for Mothra. She's mutated, pissed, and on a rampage.

MOTHRA.
I tease Larry mercilessly about his wealth of useless knowledge. I guess in this case, Mothra is a giant moth from the Godzilla movies.
                                                                         
Well, I thought the story would end there. I thought, this would make a fun blog - mom terrified that there's a rattlesnake in the bush when actually it's only a bug. But first I have to take that bug inside and take a photograph of her next to a ruler - she's huge! 

So I get a little Ziploc bag from the kitchen, load up Mothra, and take her inside. By now she's good and dead. I walk into the house, and Olivia promptly screams bloody murder. My daughter has an unhealthy fear of bugs, and I've just carried in a gargantuan specimen and tossed it on the kitchen table.

"Mooooom! Get that out of here! I can't be in the house with a bug that big! Mooooommmm! I can't do it!" Borderline meltdown.

Okay, okay. I put Mothra, encased in her plastic zip top shroud, on the back porch. The boys, on the other hand, were fascinated with it.

Naturally, I got busy. I forgot about Mothra. A few days later, I found her still outside in the baggie. I thought, I really have to write that blog. And if I leave her out here she's going to cook. So, I brought her inside and put her up on the ledge in the kitchen.

Where she sat for another week.

That's her, by the grocery receipt and lovely linen scented candle. ------------>

Tonight after dinner, Connor said, mom, why do we still have this giant bug on the counter?

Pffft. I totally have to write that blog.

So here I am. And I finally photographed Mothra next to the metal ruler, as I originally intended, although now she's dead and dry and shriveled up. I think she was a good half inch longer when we first recovered her.








RIP, Mothra. 








Discussion with Larry after finally getting my photograph.

"What should I do with her now?"

"I don't know."

"I feel funny throwing her away."

"Then save her."

Pause. Why on earth are we talking about this?

"I'm going to throw her away."

"Okay."

Monday, July 2, 2012

not so much a kidder...

NaBloPoMo prompt number one...my favorite joke?


Um - now that I think about it, and as dull as I now feel, I have to admit that I never, ever tell jokes. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. I saw "kids" as the July theme, and assumed they meant, like, my three monkeys. But me, a kidder? I'll have to give that one some thought. I don't get funny until I'm about three drinks in, and then I start to teeter on the edge of not remembering what I said that made everyone laugh, which does me absolutely no good here, unfortunately. 

So I'm trying to summon my creative interpretation brain cells, the ones that helped me get a B in Shakespeare 450. I was an English major, but (gasp!) I really didn't care for Shakespeare; however I could creatively interpret story lines and craft accompanying essays that had the professor thinking I was cheating on my papers (for real - I kept an essay where he'd written a note reading "I need to see your notes on this" before erasing it and giving me an A).

So anyway, in thinking outside the box, I'm going to count a joke as something funny I shared on facebook from someone else's status. It's the best I can come up with. And let me preface it by saying that while I get a kick out of reading these things, I only share them once in a rare, rare while.This one had me howling out loud in my office as I trolled facebook instead of working.






You likely have seen it already, in which case it probably isn't that funny any more. But for whatever reason, this got such overwhelming response on my facebook page - perhaps because, who doesn't want to head straight to McDonalds after eating four bites of rubbery chicken and bland rice?







Okay, it's an hour later, and stop the presses! Now that I said I never post these things, I just saw and posted another one tonight, so I feel compelled to share for joke day. My 10th and 8th graders loved this one.


Right? 8th grade algebra? Let me remind you about being an English major.





Sunday, July 1, 2012

top ten secrets to a happy marriage

Installment #3

Wondering why I started this whole thing as "top ten". Not sure when I'll get there - we're only on #3. Anyhoo.

Do It on Saturday morning. Even if you're a little hung over.

TMI? Sorry.

It's just that we had a killer date night Friday with three other couples. The Children's Museum of Phoenix had an adults only play date event, and we had the most ridiculous amount of fun, ever. This photo pretty much says it all.

Yes, that's the hubs, riding a trike on a course that includes a car wash. And those are our friends in the background getting more blackmail material on their iPhones. Note the Captain America tee. Love. 

So when we got home from this fabulous date, I had the munchies and got a couple of tacos at Filiberto's; it was late, so Larry was already sawing logs by the time I was two bites in.

Come on, don't be shy - you know how date night is supposed to end. We just ended it on Saturday morning instead. And the sappy lovey dovey stuff lasted all darn day.

We started with a Sam's Club post-date date. What the whaaaa? Two dates within 24 hours? Oh yes! We joke that our shopping trips are, sadly, the only chance to get any time alone together. But the truth is, we have a blast. Today I snapped a pic of the endcap at the front of the store.


Nothing says 4th of July like Jack and Coke. So...then we always pretend we're going to buy the Crystal Skull full of vodka, or the $150 bottle of scotch. I pointed out to Larry all my favorite pieces of jewelry. We ate pizza, and we refilled our drinks three times.

When we got home we picked up Olivia so she could run an errand at Lowe's with us. We just needed one thing, but were in the store for like an hour, because Larry and Olivia were getting in the display showers pretending they were time machines and picking out Big Boss Pool Noodles. He took her back to the Big Boss box like three times to pick out a different color. Pushover. And the sweeter he was with her, the sweeter I was on him.

Then, if you are a friend of mine on facebook, you also know that I'm a serial pool floater on the weekends, and have had some dismal luck with the blow-up floating chairs I love but that fall apart so easily. So when we saw this on display at Lowe's, Larry had to buy it for me (cha-ching, let's hear it for shopping after date night/morning). It rocks, by the way. Took it for a test run before dinner.

Today's last big to-do was changing the brake pads on our Expedition; but Larry had to wait until after dinner, because it's so ridiculously hot in the desert right now. It's times like these that I'm dumbfounded at Larry's patience and - what is the word I'm looking for? - laid-back-ness. Here's a pic of him working, using rope lights to illuminate the wheels, listening to his Adam Carolla podcasts on the car stereo.

Right? So not the complainer. And because we'd just had that kind of day, and I was feeling so connected and in love with this man, I found myself in the kitchen bubbling over with happiness chatting with my babies and scrubbing the tea stains out of his favorite iced tea pitcher and brewing pot just because I needed to do something nice for him.

At one point during my tea stain scrubbing, I noticed that Olivia was looking a little sad. Evidently she wanted to have a night swim with her brothers, but they weren't interested. Everyone was a little tired, and winding down for the night. So I took my Connor quietly aside.

"Hey Connor, I want to tell you something," I said. "Guess what I just did? I just spent 15 minutes scrubbing your dad's tea pitcher to get the stains out. It was really not fun at all."

"Um, okay Mom," he replied.

"But you know what? I enjoyed every second of it. And do you know why?"

The wheels started to turn. "Why?"

"Because I'm doing it for your Dad, because I love him, and doing something nice for him makes me feel happy, too." Pause. "Do you know where I'm going with this?"

He slowly gave me his little grin that melts my heart. "Yeah, I do," he said.

He sped up the stairs like a bullet and got his swimsuit on. And here they are, floating in the pool, watching Nickelodeon on the outside TV. And voila, a sad little girl is instantly transformed, with a memory she'll probably look back on fondly for years.

So now, while my precious family sleeps and I write, my heart is so full. Date night/morning was the spark that re-lit that fire for the day. And happiness is contagious. When we take care of our relationship, it trickles down in so many tiny, but huge, meaningful ways.

And I realize that the spark isn't really much of a secret; we all know we need it to stay connected. But today was, for me, a glorious reminder of what love between two people can create and sustain.

---------------------------------------------------------

P.S. Two days later...Sometimes I come back to a post because I feel it needs a little disclaimer, or explanation. I wrote this at the end of a stellar, beautiful day; one that, let's be clear here, doesn't happen very often. I don't want to be the irritating person who is trying to look like her life is always perfect. Days like this only happen once in a great while, when all the planets have aligned - it's kind of like waiting for an eclipse. So, I felt like I needed to write it down, as evidence that it actually happened :).

Will keep you posted, btw, as to whether or not we get blacklisted at the museum. Girlfriends and I realizing we were a little, um, loud that night.


Friday, June 29, 2012

my personal assistant

These are the little things I love, the things that make up for any amount of bad behavior. Today Olivia totally took it upon herself to see that I had the time - and proper notification - necessary to complete the transcription work that I totally blew off last night. (For the record, I spent the evening trolling blogs and getting ideas instead of doing the work that I actually get paid for. So smart.)


I have a dry erase board on the door to my bedroom, which also serves as my office. It's there in the event I'm interviewing a rock star or foreign dignitary or something, and can't be interrupted with "Moooom! Griffin farted on me!", at which time it says something to the effect of don't you dare knock or open this door unless you're bleeding, you can see the bone, or the house is on fire.

This is the board today, and that is not my handwriting, but rather the writing of my personal assistant Olivia. After posting the note, she proceeded downstairs to spearhead an effort to clean up the entire downstairs; an idea that received lukewarm support (at best) from her brothers, who were far more interested in their online game of Pokemon. Regardless, my downstairs is now clean and vacuumed, laundry put away, and dishwasher loaded, thanks to my three monkeys. Love them.

I think there might be a Sonic happy hour slushee in your very near future!!

NaBloPoMo whaaa?

Giving my blog a little facelift in anticipation of trying out BlogHer's monthly challenge encouraging bloggers to write every day with topic prompts.

Check back through the month of July and let me know how I'm doing :).



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

mommie dearest

I can tell it's been a difficult day when the kids start to cut a wide circle around me around dinner time. I just now came up to my bedroom, and Griffin was watching something on the Science Channel; I told him he was welcome to stay and watch, but he said no thanks and slipped out as quickly and quietly as he could.

Ahh, my fault. It's been one of those days when they know that there's just about nothing they can do right. One of those days when we all know it's best for all involved if we just kind of do our own thing and start fresh again tomorrow.

God, I love my kids. And I think it's that love that sends me off the deep end. Sometimes I am so desperate to help my kids make the right choices (and to not make asses of themselves) that I am correcting, disciplining, and redirecting at every corner. At the end of such a day, I usually end up scolding myself, and praying that my kids forgive me.

But let's be honest here. Mostly they probably just think I'm a pain in the butt. They think, Mom's on one today, we had better just steer clear. I have finally learned the art of reminding myself that I'm not perfect; but what I've yet to fully embrace is that my kids aren't perfect either, and I cannot expect them to be. I mean, if I'm talking about it, writing about it, or thinking about it, of course I know they aren't perfect; but when it comes to day-to-day parenting, it's awfully easy to expect perfection.

To complicate things, because I have such a tight marriage, the second Larry gets home from work he picks up on my vibe and is immediately in the same place as me. One case where one of our greatest gifts is a curse. So then, the kids have the both of us all over them for the slightest infraction. Sorry kids, double whammy.


So sometimes, like today, I have to pull Larry aside and say, you know what? I've been a total bitch today. Please, please be the good guy.

Such good babies.
And the kids? They all handle it differently. Griffin is officially a teenager - and while he is most definitely not your typical defiant teen, he is indeed starting to explore his his boundaries and is willing to push back a little. Enough to where Larry and I are taken aback - he's our oldest, our first teen, so we're still learning how to handle his budding independence. A careful balance between respect for his right to an opinion, while retaining our position as his parents and the voice of wisdom.

Olivia is, unfortunately, just as stubborn as Larry and I. Which means that sometimes she bears the brunt of our frustration. If she believes something, she just. can't. let. go. Gee, wonder where she got that? That firey, strong, sassy personality will serve her well one day, once she's learned proper limits. So right now, Larry and I see it as our responsibility to teach her where that fine line is between standing up for yourself and taking it too far. The process can be tough - but we're trying.

And Connor? Barely a peep. God love that boy. He's so sensitive to the vibe of the family, he'll do whatever is needed to help keep the peace. He never rocks the boat, and makes a very genuine effort to move into the fray when things get hairy. Rarely is he the object of our frustration, but he often steps up and takes the heat along with his siblings when we are on a tear. We have to be so careful to make sure he speaks up for himself. Those wheels are always turning, but he's not quick to share.

So complicated. And being a parent is so flippin' hard. And do you know what? When all is said and done, especially when times are tough, they teach me as much about myself as they do about themselves.   

Clearly, I had one of those days today; hence this post, and the large margarita (now empty) sitting next to my computer. I think we've repaired most of the damage, and we'll start fresh tomorrow. My kids know I'm human. Very, very human. I've talked with them about where I screwed up today, and how we might all think about how we can interact better tomorrow. Yep - I apologized.

In this moment I'm keenly aware of how often we wing it as parents. Despite the scads of books in the massive parenting section at the local bookstore chain, the fact is that when our kids piss us off, warranted or not, we react, often impulsively. And I don't know about you, but my reaction usually has far more to do with what kind of day I've had, how many bills I'm able to pay, how many freelance jobs I have backed up, and what day of the month it is (hello, PMS). When I am ready to tear into my kid, I don't think, hmm....what would Dr. Spock do? I react. And my reaction is most definitely not always right.

So, hopefully, we apologize to our kids. And I think that, if I'm totally honest, the truth is that I partly do it to make myself feel better, and ease the guilt. But mostly it's to make sure they know that I know I was wrong. And, when we apologize, we also teach our babies that it's okay to make mistakes...and that when we do, it's important to acknowledge them.

So here's to a fresh day tomorrow. And another margarita now that they're all in bed.

Monday, June 25, 2012

bad sauna

I've had quite a few gym firsts in the last couple of weeks. Like, last week I worked out five days out of seven, three of which were to group fitness classes. I'm blown away - first that I did it, and second that I actually kind of enjoyed it.

On the flip side, my body was not in any way prepared for this new workout regime. Which is why Larry (my superfantastic husband) and I went to the gym tonight just to sit in the hot tub and give our muscles a little TLC. And because Larry's a Siroky, which you should know means he's genetically part fish, he also swam a few laps, and wanted to spend some time in the steam room in the locker room on the way out.

I've never done the steam room, so I thought, rather than sit out in the hallway and wait for him, I suppose I just as well try it as well in the ladies' locker room.

Important to note here...there's a reason why I've never ventured anywhere near the steam room. I truly struggle with going outside my comfort zone, and the locker room steam room and showers are way, way outside those boundaries. I'm a homebody, and am perfectly happy in the little bubble that is my world. Which is why this whole gym/working out/interacting with strangers/using the steam room thing is such a big deal for me. But I'm starting to feel pretty confident, so I think, okay, another step outside the zone. (Kind of pathetic, I know, that getting myself into a steam room is this complicated. Future material.)

So Larry and I exit the hot tub and head for our individual locker rooms, and I stroll into the steam room like yeah, I've totally done this before. Which is a little funny because the only other person anywhere near the sauna is a woman sitting outside with some kind of paper mask on her face with her eyes shut, so no one even really sees me going in there.

Anyway, I open the door, and it's a little steamy, and the eucalyptus aroma is actually super relaxing. I think, why on earth haven't I done this sooner? It's lovely. I take a seat on the lower step and take some deep, cleansing breaths.

But then I hear a rumble, and a loud hissing noise rudely interrupts my humid reverie. Suddenly, hot steam is pouring out of a tiny hole in the wall and the hissing won't stop. I'm all alone, and do you know what my gut reaction is?

Pure panic.

Don't ask me why, but I'm instantly transported to a James Bond-esque dilemma, and my adversary has locked the door and is pumping toxic gas into what will ultimately be my chamber of death. The white steam burns my foot - oh no! The poisonous gasses are working their way up! I am completely alone, no one could ever hear me or save me. The end...is near...

I quickly came to my senses. Of course it's just the steam regenerating, and it will turn off in a minute. Right? I kept thinking it was going to stop, but it didn't. It would slow down, and I'd think okay, it's turning off now, and then it would go full blast again and there was so much steam that I couldn't see the door two feet away from me. Can't shake the panic...more steam...it went on, and on, and on...isn't there enough steam in here already?!? Get me out!

So, after maybe three short minutes that felt more like 20, I lost my resolve, and I left. Because even though the hissing steam pump finally stopped, I started to wonder, how long is it safe to stay in this thing? If I pass out, there is no one here to come to my rescue. You can bet I'll be Googling "steam saunas" to get the full low-down in the event I muster up the courage to go back one day. But for tonight? Done.

Because I was drenched in sweat, and I knew I'd still be waiting on Larry, I thought, I suppose I should just get it all over with now and conquer the showers, too. I can just leave my swimsuit on. But oh wait, that's silly; I brought some clean clothes I can put on, so I should shower for real and rinse my suit out. But...crap. If I do that, then I have to face my other big locker room fear.

The tiny towels.

Panic, breathe, panic, breathe. Okay. I can do this. Find my center. Breathe...okay. There aren't too many people here, and the attendant just re-stocked the towels. I'm a big girl. And it can't be worse than the steam room, right? Before the moment of courage passed, I grabbed two of the warm, clean towels, and headed to the showers.

And then, by god, I showered, sans suit, and when I was done I creatively wrapped two towels around my ample booty and bosom, and walked calm, cool and collected out of that shower like, doesn't everyone need two towels? Those things are like dish rags.

Until I see two other tiny ladies, each with one towel wrapped around them, tucked in at the top with room to spare. Gah. Really? How can I get my sassy confidence back, quick?

Who's my rock? Larry. And WWLS (What Would Larry Say)?

Mmm hmm. My rack is bigger than yours.


Mark my words, stupid scary steamy sauna and itty bitty towels, I'll be back.

wedge withdrawals

Olivia asked me today if she could play with my "high heels". Perhaps she should have said "can I play with your shoes that are probably a little bit age-inappropriate for a 43-year-old mother of three".

Anyway, at least they are seeing some action instead of continuing to collect dust under my bed.

I'm a little sad about the wedges...I love those shoes. Can someone please get married or invite me to go dancing so I have a reason to wear them?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

thank you, gary

The Pinkstons :)
What a beautiful day in Ashland, Oregon. A perfect day for a celebration of life, I'd say.

After a chilly morning, the sun came out, and we enjoyed a stunning day in a breathtakingly beautiful location. We might be a little more ga-ga than most, having come from the sandy, rocky, spine-y 110 degree heat; but even the locals went on about how the sun shone for Gary today.

(I should clarify that we've known the Moores since my mom started working for Gary at the Bartlesville Community Center back in the 80's, and our families moved together to Phoenix in the late 80's  where mom mom and Gary worked together at the new Herberger Theater Center. Our families are very close and have been through quite a bit together.)

There are two things that I wasn't quite able to get out last night that I think I can share now. One is the overwhelming feeling of witnessing, last night, the incredible legacy that Gary left behind. I saw love. I saw the deepest kind of friendship. I saw beautiful parents. I saw children who found their way (and I mean both Moore kids and Pinkston kids, by the way).

The other was when my mom and I were talking with one of Gary's daughters, and mom was talking about how Gary always forced her (my mom) to believe in herself. Gary believed there was nothing she couldn't do. And, as Gary was prone to do, he gave her that gift when she needed it most. He believed in her, and eventually, my mom finally began to believe in herself.

Talk about an epiphany. I welled up and could barely speak.

"Oh my god. I married Gary."

And I did. At a time when things with my own father were going south very quickly, Gary quietly filled the role of a supporter and father figure to our entire family. It was a time when I was in a rocky place, during my fourth year of college at ASU, making questionable decisions and choices that still baffle me. I was disconnected; finding solace (or perhaps hiding?) in the dance clubs and dive bars of Tempe; finding myself drawn to men who were in no way looking out for my best interests; blowing off classes, responsibilities and commitments I'd made; and, worst of all, ruining valuable relationships with people who I miss dearly to this day.

When I hit my "rock bottom", I had to drop out of school just 4 classes short of my degree and move home. Gary gave me a job, and I house sat for them to earn extra money. Gary and Sandye loaned me their car when I needed to move. Whatever I needed, they were there. And I mean - perhaps even more critically - there emotionally, too; supporting, loving, cheering me on. It was a generosity I did not in any way deserve, and I feel shame about it to this day; so much so that it can keep me up at night when I think about it a lot.

But the most important thing that Gary and Sandye did during this time was to take care of my mother and sister, who were still at home with my very ill father, when I should have been helping to do it myself. I have so many regrets from this time in my life; and I struggle with this more than anyone knows, although I've not really spoken about it before.

These were selfish years for me, and they were the years when my father's alcoholism finally tore him away from my mother and our family for good.  And this is when Gary and Sandye took us all under their wings and carried us, just as long as we needed to be carried. I am so thankful...although that doesn't begin to describe the level of the gratitude I feel. You can only dream that you might be able to reciprocate the kind of support and friendship they showed us during this time. You can only pray that you have an opportunity to carry them in the same way.

It took me a couple of years to shake my bad habits and my demons and fully pull out of it. And I'm convinced it all turned around the day I met Larry. He is to me what Gary was to my mom, as a friend. He believes in me, and thinks there's nothing I can't do. And although it's taken several years, he finally has me believing in myself.

Thank you, Gary, for another gift; again, one that I sometimes wonder if I really deserve. Without the example you set in my mother's life, I might not have realized what I had stumbled into the evening that chatty film student approached me on the bench in front of Fat Tuesdays in Tempe so many years ago.

And did I mention? Gary and Sandye's wedding gift to Larry and me was a week stay at their bed and breakfast here in Ashland, the Morical House. So Larry and I honeymooned here, and visited this very lake as newlyweds. Another generous gift I never was quite sure I deserved; but for which I was so, so thankful. A magical place, this is.

As I write this, I feel selfish again, because here I am talking about myself when there were so many people at that beautiful celebration today who were touched by him just as deeply as I was. There was nobody, and I mean nobody, who didn't love Gary.
___________________________________________

At the celebration today, I was sitting with my mom, brother, sister and one of Gary's daughters, and we were enjoying the sunshine and delicious bar-b-que, chatting away. Right in front of us, there was a seagull that landed and waddled up to the group. I had stepped away for a moment, but when I came back they told me about how the seagull started chirping, like it was talking, and then made a noise almost as if it was laughing at them.

I looked at my mom immediately, because she and I kind of share a special gift, and because I know she believes the same kinds of things I believe. I said quietly,

"Mom, Gary is visiting us right now."

I believe in my heart that Gary was with that seagull, because he wanted to make sure we knew he was there with us today. It stuck around most of the afternoon, flying over the ramada and walking up close to all the guests.

And okay, I understand that skeptics may say it's just a scavenger bird who thought he might get a few scraps of the delicious pulled pork. But whether you believe he was with the seagull, or in heaven, or in spirit...hopefully he now sees how very many lives he touched.

In my case, I hope he knows about my regrets, and how desperately I hope to make it up to him one day...how very thankful I am for the love, friendship and generosity he gave to our family...and, of course, for the enduring friendship and legacy of his beautiful family.