Thursday, May 24, 2012

Road trip...and so much more

Eight hundred miles.

That's how far it is from Texas to Iowa.

But it feels like so much more than that when someone is sleeping on you.  Just ask Reid.

  Hayden using Reid as a pillow.  Him not pleased.  

Last week, we put the roof rack on my little Scion xB and took off for a high school graduation in Iowa.  This wasn't just any graduation, but one of my dearest friend's daughter's graduation.  No ordinary girl, she is the one who bewitched me with her 2-year-old-self.  The one that I fell in love with.  The one that made me say to Aquaman, "We gotta get one of those!"

Many years and three sons later, I still haven't gotten one.  She's it.  My only girl.

So off we went to see her walk the stage and wish her well.  I first loaded up on college stuff for her - the obligatory hoodie, the pillow pet (You Bet!) in the shape of her soon-to-be mascot, a koozie, and a decal for her car - via the University of Minnesota website.  Their mascot?  The gopher.  Got a lot of mileage out of that one.  

Aquaman and I decided to leave after school Thursday evening.  We figured we'd just drive straight through and hoped the boys would fall asleep at some point.  It wouldn't have been so bad if my throat didn't start hurting Wednesday night.  Then I started sneezing.  I took the first shift, driving from 6:30 to 10:30, realizing that the air conditioner wasn't really blowing cold air.  Besides periodic cries of "It's hot!" and "Can you turn on the air?" from the back seat, things went pretty smoothly.   Then Aquaman took over.  Next thing I knew, it was 2:00 a.m. and I took another shift until 4:00.  Aquaman drove us the rest of the way through fields and fields of corn and soybeans.  We were having migas at our friend's farm house table by 8:30.  Nothing better.

The farm house
The barn

Some large piece of farm equipment

Aquaman and I both took turns napping the whole weekend.  Turns out we're not so tough anymore when it comes to driving all night.  I ended up with a full blown cold and a raging case of PMS.  But it was a wonderful time:  lots of great food and friends and old pictures to look through.  The graduation ceremony was somber.  My God, it was like a funeral.  Except for when I (and one brave accomplice) screamed out "Go Gophers!" as our graduate crossed the stage.  I'm pretty sure I won't be invited to the next kid's graduation.  But it was soooooo worth it.

It was a rite of passage for this sweet girl who is a ray of sunshine to all who know her.  But it was also a rite of passage for me.  One of my dearest friends - the one whom I bonded with during our tenure as Alaska residents  - was once again a model for me.  She had babies first.  She was with me during labor:  we had a secret pact, her and I.  It went something like this:

Me:  You know, if Aquaman flakes out on me, you're it.  I want you there.  Ready to step in if he can't hack it in the delivery room.
Her:  You got it.  I'm your man.
Me:  And if you ever mention this to Aquaman, I will deny that I doubted him.  I will say you are out of your gourd and this conversation never happened.
Her:  I understand.  I'm still your man.

And she was (only now I guess the secret's out).  She stood by the entire time I was in labor, but mostly comforted my mom in the waiting room who was frantically crocheting the baby a blanket and coming unglued every time she heard me scream, while Aquaman came through for me with flying colors.  She was one of the first to hold our sweet baby boy.  She is the reason I persevered with breastfeeding and the reason we taught all of our children Baby Signs (which, if you don't know about, you can read about here).  She held out four years longer than I did in Alaska because she is tough.  So I watched her and her beautiful children and her delightful husband, surrounded by family and friends and love, and tried to take it all in.  To see how she organizes and prepares and accepts help and keeps calm and takes a deep breath and holds her shit together.  And that is what I want to be like.  And I want my children to continue to grow and flourish under our care and to become what her children have become:  caring and capable human beings who aren't concerned or sidetracked by the unimportant, but focused on what matters.  It's quite something to witness.

I returned home to Texas exhausted, but renewed.  The boys went back to school.  Aquaman went back to work.  And I go back to being Momma.  But trying just a little bit harder.  With my eyes on the prize.  Eyes on the prize.    

Monday, May 14, 2012

Feelin' Like a Momma

Here are some of the things I said yesterday, on Mother's Day.

"For just one day, could you not fight?"
"Stop it."
"I mean it."
"If you can't behave before we even leave the house, we won't leave the house!"
"I'm about to just send y'all to bed."

It was a hard day.  For one, Aquaman is out of town.  For two, it was also his birthday.  So he was waiting for his next boat trip in Louisiana, turning 41 without me and his boys.  Lucky.  Cause yesterday was no picnic.

It started out well enough.  As I watched CBS Sunday Morning in my bed (I have a lifelong love affair with CBS Sunday Morning), sweet boys greeted me with gifts:  both of Pioneer Woman's cookbooks (my newest love affair) and a Hello Kitty iPad cover (another lifelong love affair of mine).  These gifts were evidently what one boy (recruited over the phone by Aquaman) had been hiding from me for days, despite my best efforts to ruin the surprise.

As I left for work early in the week, I brought in the mail that included various envelopes and a box addressed to Aquaman.  I carefully set them on the couch to await my return later that evening.  When I came in the door that night, all three boys were sitting slack-jawed watching TV, remnants of their after-school junk food binge everywhere, and the mail was scattered on the floor - minus the box.

"Where's the box that came in the mail?" I asked the room in general.

"What box?" one boy replied.

"The one that was right here.  On the couch.  It was for Daddy."  I was getting irritated.

Hawkins scanned the room.  "It's here somewhere."

"Where?" I asked.  Silence.

"Okay!  Stop watching TV and listen to me!"  My voice boomed.  Three sets of boy eyes focused on me.  "First of all, the mail should not be scattered all over the floor.  Second of all, y'all need to pick up all the wrappers and plates and cups.  And third of all, where's the goddamn box that I left right here?"

Pause.  "I haven't seen it!" Hayden protested.
"I don't know!" Hawkins yelled.  "It was just here!"
"I have it," Reid admitted quietly.  No further explanation was forthcoming.

"What the hell for?  Go get it!" I ordered.  

And as I followed him into his room, I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself for living in a house full of boys that made it impossible for me to set anything down anywhere with any guarantee of it staying there, unmolested, for any length of time.   I watched as Reid proceeded to pull his sleeping bag off of his blanket off of his laundry basket and only then did it dawn on me:  this had something to do with Mother's Day.  And I was ruining it.

At the same moment, Reid managed to choke out, "Daddy told me to take care of it!"  And I looked up to see tears coming down his cheeks.  "You're not supposed to see it."

"Oh."  The only thing this crappy mom could muster.  Shit.  Holy hell.  Moher of pearl.  I suck.

I managed to recover, sitting down on Reid's bed and pulling him onto my lap - which his big, bad, 11-year-old self hardly EVER lets me do anymore.   "I'm so sorry, Reid.  Sometimes you just have to look me in the eye and tell me, 'Mom, you need to stop and listen to me.'  Don't be afraid to tell me anything.  Just be honest."

"I was," he sniffed.

"Yeah, but only after I'd gotten all upset...Anyway, it's fine.  I don't know what's in it.  Are you okay?"           

"I guess,"  he slid off my lap and began re-burying the box.  "There's another package coming, so don't freak out over that one, okay?"

"I won't," I promised.  And I didn't.  I simply delivered it to him later that week and he buried it deep in his dirty clothes with the other box.

So I gave him an extra squeeze when they presented me with these gifts.  I also got some handmade things:  Hawkins knitted a yellow scarf and two little bracelets and Hayden made a lovely personalized bookmark and glass pendant necklace in art class at school.

But the sweetness ended there.  Aquaman had arranged for a gift card to be left at one of our favorite restaurants downtown, Spoons Cafe.  That way, the boys could take me out to eat and not worry about the bill.  Only, because it was Mother's Day, it was way too crowded.  So we decided to postpone it and instead ended up at Taco Bell.

Yes, they all need haircuts.  Don't you think I know that?

It was actually quite tasty (Their Cherry Limeade Sparkler rivals Sonic's Cherry Limeade. No Lie.) but that's where the boys quit pretending to be well-behaved for the day.  We then ended up at Wal-Mart - a mistake on any day with three boys.  After that, we went home for a nap and then returned downtown to try again at the restaurant for their famous pie.  But they closed early.  So we ended up at Fuddruckers.  Not the most refined of eating choices for the day, but I got a break from cooking.

With so much togetherness, I was more than ready for bedtime.  This always involves me repeating multiple directives of this variety:

"Get ready for bed."
"Brush your teeth."
"Take your medicine."
"I'm not going to read to y'all if you act like this."
"Don't forget to brush your tongue."
"Leave the dog alone."
"No more magic tricks.  It's bedtime."
"Anything that needs washed better be in the laundry room."
"You should put some more cream on that - it looks bad."  

I'm eventually wound like a top and ready to explode.  I managed to hold it together, kiss their sweet heads good night, and retreat to my bedroom.  About an hour later, I heard a bedroom door open.  "God damn it!" I was thinking.  "If one of them is STILL up, I swear to God..."  And then I heard it.  The gag, the pause and the inevitable splat on the tile floor.  Someone was throwing up.  In the bathroom.  But not in the toilet.

I raced down the hall to find the boy, bewildered, standing there blinking, with another heave on its way.  "Turn around!  Face the toilet!" I screamed.  He obeyed.  But for some reason, he didn't kneel down.  He stood at full height.  Vomit has a reach, my friends.  A real reach.

"Kneel down!" I screamed.  "Get as close to the toilet as you can."  Only after he complied was I calm enough to offer some encouraging words.  "It's going to be allright.  You're okay."

As he continued, I retrieved paper towels and cleaner and went about the work of mopping up Fuddruckers Revisited.  The boy immediately felt better, rinsed with water and began brushing his teeth when I heard his twin ask, "Mom?  Is the toilet clean?"

Oh shit.  "Almost.  WHY?"

He burst in and I backed away, along with his brother.  Round Two.  This boy kneeled the first time.  "It's okay," I offered.  "You're allright."

His brother escaped back to his bed.  Round Two eventually ended and I managed to get all traces of vomit off of the walls, toilet and floors, kiss them both on their cold, clammy foreheads and close the door to the Vomitorium.

And I felt like a Momma.  And then I went to sleep.    

Friday, May 11, 2012

I love a rainy night

It's been rainy here.  It started falling last night and continues.  I have fought the urge to take a nap all day,  and now it's too late.  So I did these other things to occupy my time.

I am making Pioneer Woman's meatloaf.  I have never made any other meatloaf except for my mother's recipe that involved part ground beef and part ground veal or pork.  It's my favorite.  But P-dub has one that involves wrapping the loaves in bacon.  Enough said.

I finally found something that will make my house smell like our neighbor Molly's.  Her house always smells so good - but lemon is the only scent in the mixture that I can identify.  I switched to Lysol lemon scented to clean.  It smells good, but not like Molly's.  But today, I stumbled across this Paula Deen candle.

Lemon Basil.  I've been burning it all afternoon.  Mission accomplished.

I also made a wreath.  I love wreaths, but I'm not very crafty.  I just picked out a bunch of felt flowers and owls that were on sale at Michael's and gave in and bought myself a glue gun.  Here's the result.

Quit.  I know it's not great, but it makes me happy.  

As long as you're making fun of me, I might as well really give you something to laugh at.  Remember that song by Eddie Rabbitt?  "I Love a Rainy Night."  Well, I adored that song.  Still do.  I think I'll go listen to it now.

And later, I'm going to watch a movie, snuggled in my bed with whatever boys will join me.  One of my favorite spooky movies, perfect for a rainy night, is Fallen with Denzel Washington, John Goodman, and Donald Sutherland.  Oh my gracious it is good.  All about fallen angels and good versus evil.  I love me a good versus evil movie.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This hurts me more than it hurts you

Our six-month-old puppy got her lady parts fixed yesterday.  Fixed.  As in - removed.  So that we don't populate the planet with even more puppies, however cute they may be.  

I dropped her off at the clinic early in the morning and Aquaman picked her up late in the afternoon.  He said she walked out on a leash fine, but then just kind of stood there.  Then she laid right down in the waiting room.

When I came home, she still managed to haul herself up out of her bed and greet me and the twins at the door in her cone of shame.  Only now, I'm calling it the cone of pain.  Because it hurts real bad when she slams into your legs with it.  Which she does.  About twenty times a day.

She hasn't let the pain meds slow her down any, either.  She can't navigate the back steps to the yard very well, but she goes just as quickly, stumbling the entire way.  If she wants to go out, she still sits by the back door, and still tries to push open the storm door with her nose.  The same nose that is now about an inch lower than the white plastic cone of shame/pain.  So she just scrapes it up against the door and pushes.  It works.

I'll admit that I was kind of hoping that she'd be more, I don't know, down for the count for a few days.  But I'll be damned if she didn't jump up on one boy's bed this morning to snuggle up with him.  And she was up on the couch this afternoon.  She even attempted to jump up on one boy returning from school.  Damn it.

She'll be on pain meds for three days and in the cone of shame/pain for two weeks when we'll return to have her staples removed from the incision.  I think everyone in the house will have bruised shins by that time.  My favorite depiction of the cone of shame is in the Disney animated movie Up.  If you haven't seen it, you really should.



Friday, May 4, 2012

Whew! That was a lot of work!

For the past five days, Aquaman and I have gotten busy.

Painting. (What did you think I was talking about?)

After the boys were all safely on the bus each morning, we'd finish our coffee and head out to the back yard. There, the monster waited.

The back side of our house - and the work the insurance company is requiring us to do to it - has been hanging over our heads since the fall. While Aquaman was gone for several months on a boat, I managed to pull off the siding all the way around the house (you can see the whole process at This was the siding the insurance company wanted us to repair. I hated the 1970s era, asphalt crap and refused to repair it and was just certain that there must be beautiful clapboard underneath that ugly stuff. I was right.

But it wasn't in perfect condition - few things are on a century-old house. So we read a few books and talked to a few carpenters and then we started scraping the old paint off. Most of the wood was salvaged, some had to be replaced. And we had to put up a railing on the porch steps.  Then we were ready to prime, paint and caulk.

So that's what we did this week. All week. For five mornings straight. I am so tired.

The priming wasn't too bad, except Aquaman sloshed quite a bit on my head while he was up above me on a ladder. Aquaman sloshed a lot of paint everywhere, actually. It's on his hands and arms and in his hair. He even managed to get some on his stomach, underneath his shirt. How does one manage that, exactly?

After priming, there was caulking. Caulk has a very interesting pronunciation that made for a hilarious morning.
"Get your caulk over here," I  ordered.
"Don't drip your caulk on me!" I'd warn him.
It was endless.
"Hold your caulk steady."
"Is the caulk still wet?"
"We went through that caulk fast."
"Squirt the caulk in real deep over here."
"You have to get the caulk in every nook and cranny."

We had the best time. We listened to lots of music while we worked - mostly on Pandora. I love Pandora. You should check out this internet radio if you haven't yet. We had Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers radio on most of the time (in preparation for his concert this weekend), but also Johnny Cash, Adele, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Colbie Caillet, ABBA, Steve Miller Band, Foster the People, Glen Hansard and The Cure. Each song would remind one of us of something different: college days or having kids or our parents. And quite a few reminded us, and had us talking about, the past two years and how difficult they've been. Nothing but time to talk while we painted.   Strangely enough, talking about difficult times was good.

And today, when we finished, we were grateful. Grateful the job is done. Grateful that we're still married. They're both a lot of work: painting and marriage. They both leave you exhausted at times and beaming with pride at others. Sometimes you miss a spot and your partner comes in to fill in behind you. And between the two of you, it ends up looking pretty damn good.