The beginning and an end

School has started for my 8th grader.  My EIGHTH GRADER.  Let me remind you, rare reader, that she was one year old when this blog started.  A mere clingy baby.  I used to write about her more than I do now because back then, she didn’t have Internet access.

Of course, I don’t think she ever tries to find this blog because I am just a mom who matters about as much as a broom.  Well, maybe a little more than a broom but definitely less than a flat iron.  I am dependable, the person who runs errands for her and will buy Starbucks drinks just to keep her in the car a little longer to hear her talk.  I am a debit card and the one who offers food.  I am the backdrop in the dramatic production that is her life.  I am gravity, taken for granted.

It’s fine.  Totally.  Fine.

She’s on track developmentally, separating herself from me and distancing herself–unwittingly, I’m sure–from our relationship.  I heard a therapist on the radio say the other day that a mother/child relationship is the only relationship we have that starts off close and becomes less close as time passes.  (Something like that.)  I have a friend who warned me about this, so I’m trying to just take it in stride.

Quite abruptly, my husband agreed to let her attend the nearby public junior high, so now she’s walking to school every morning and walking home every afternoon.  No more driving carpool for me (hooray!).  The school is four times larger than her previous school and she claims to love it (so far).  I hope this was a good choice for her.

(It’s entirely possible that I’ll have to delete this blog post if she finds it.)

In other news, the high school student who had been living with us for 14 months left yesterday for college.  Our house is quieter; my son–who shared his room for those 14 months–is sad.  He’ll start college classes on Monday at the local community college.  He would have preferred leaving for college but made the sacrifice to stay home to avoid accumulating burdensome student loans.

So we are all adjusting to the new normal around here.

My husband just took off two weeks from work and caught up on his sleep and started taking long walks by the beach and enjoyed a nice break from going into the office.  It would have been great if I’d been able to take the time off, too, but I have frittered away my vacation time a half a day at a time throughout the year.  So while he lollygagged, I worked.

Laundry baskets still circle my office like worthless slumbering security guards.  The guinea pig has a cage on my desk so I can keep her company.  (Her main cage is in a corner of the family room and it’s pretty quiet in there.)  While working, I’ve had the television tuned to the Olympics and Big Brother.  I’ve been reading a lot.  My books shelves have become messy and I want to sort through everything and organize everything but I can’t seem to carve out enough time for that project.

What really matters?  Does it matter?

The death of an old friend of mine has cast a melancholy shadow over my week.  I’d known Beth since way before I had kids.  She had a four-year old when I met her.  She was a sheep farmer’s wife, of all things, and the pianist at a church we planted.  I remember the peacefulness of their home and the charm of learning what it meant to tend to sheep.  We spent a day during lambing season with them, watching the births of lambs.  We attended  sheepdog trials at the farm.  One idyllic summer afternoon, we sat on the bank of a river and watched the children splashing in the water.

We moved away but kept in touch.  The years passed and Beth and her husband had a total of seven children.  They had relocated to the middle of Montana when cancer struck three years ago.

And now, after a valiant fight, Beth is gone.  She was fifty-four.

Her death has reminded me of my own mortality.  I either dwell on death and its inevitability or blithely carry on as if I will live forever.  Right now, I just feel glum about the imperfections in my personality and character and accomplishments, such as they are.  (Comparison, the thief of joy, they say.)

Have you heard the saying that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child?  Some of my kids are feeling sad these days, so I feel sad, too.

I am in the summer of my discontent when I should be thrilled to just be alive with . . . all this.

As I tell my kids, everything looks better after a good night of sleep, so off I go, to sleep, perchance to dream.

 

 

The beginning and an end

Interrupted

Having older kids means I am no longer abruptly woken by someone standing at my bedside saying, “Mom?  Mom?  Mom?”  In fact, no one stirs in my house until noon now that summer has overtaken us with its heat and lack of structure.  No one goes to sleep before 1 AM in my household, other than my husband.  (I work until midnight.  The rest of the household has no excuse whatsoever, other than their youth and ridiculousness.)

Consequently, the mornings are silent and languid around here.  I miss my quiet nighttime house, but the late morning stillness is a good consolation prize.

Between the four of them, my kids are filling the summer with part-time jobs, a lot of “sleeping over” at friends’ houses, youth groups, beach days, erratic sleeping schedules, going-away get-togethers, Pokemon Go, movies, and growing up.  So much growing up.

It’s just weird.  This year I will have only one child still in school.  She’s going into 8th grade and is in a rush to get to high school and beyond so she can get a tattoo and nose ring.  (Over my dead body, I think, but I try to keep my face free of expression since I have been informed that I am “so critical.”)  Two of the kids will be attending the local community college.

The other day, a friend of mine from my childhood church sent me a message to tell me our former youth pastor had died.  He was about 65, she said.  After I graduated from high school, he moved on from our church and I heard along the way that he’d become a college professor.  Since I heard the news of his passing, I have looked up his family online and discovered some details about his now-grown children whom I used to babysit. The dark haired baby I used to take care of is a lawyer now.

My youth pastor was a significant figure in my adolescence.  He taught our youth group as if we were all smart and as if the Bible were relevant to us, even explaining the original Greek to us at times.  He was good-natured and kind and calm and smart.  I remember in particular one night when our youth group held a fundraiser at the rest-stop near our town.  We offered cookies and coffee to travelers in exchange for donations.  At some point, I worked a shift behind the table and he was there, listening to me talk and discover ideas about God and fathers and theology.  He probably didn’t remember that night but I never forgot.

(I am trying to find a conclusion to this rambling post but even though it’s 1:24 AM, my grown kids keep coming downstairs into the kitchen, then back up, then back down and I cannot fully express how annoying and irritating and distracting I find it that there are wandering awake people in this house at this hour.)

In conclusion, I was sad and stunned to hear of my youth pastor’s death. I imagine his family’s grief and shock and know a bit of how that feels since my own dad died when I was 24.  I hate how time carries us along on its current, sweeping us into the future so quickly we can barely glance back at where we’ve been.  The future is inevitable and irresistible.  We cannot resist the current dragging us away from this moment and into tomorrow.

(ON MY GOSH, ANOTHER KID TRAIPSING DOWN THE STAIRS.  Into the kitchen.  Back up the stairs, closing the door loudly.  I can’t take it.)

(Even the dog is sitting next to me, licking her lips, yawning, making weird dog noises and trying to catch my eye.  PEOPLE!  I am an introvert and need some time alone so keep my sanity.  And by “PEOPLE”, I mean you, too, Dog!)

I give up.  I’m going to bed.

Interrupted

Not bitter

I’m not exactly sure how many people slept in my house last night but I did wake up to three recent high school grads in my living room, sprawled on the sectional, and when I knocked on my daughter’s door and peeked into her room, she and a friend were sound asleep.  At this very moment seven or eight teenagers are playing games around my kitchen table.

All I really did today was drive people around.  I took my son to work, drove to our church for a work-day (but did no work because I arrived so late), then drove another son home from the church.  After an hour or so at home, I drove my daughter’s friend home (30 minutes away!) and then after I dropped off my daughter, went to pick up my son from work.  By then, it was after 4 PM.

Some people actually participate in recreational activities on Saturdays!  Not me!  But I’m not bitter!

You know what also doesn’t make me bitter?  The fact that my kids do not revere my vast years of experience nor treasure my unsolicited advice.  Some of them even accuse me of being critical but listen, I just call it as I see it.  For instance, if your shirt is too tight or your teeth look grimy, I might point that out, in love, of course.

This is what I’m learning, though.  Adolescent and twenty-something children do not want to know what you really think about things.  Actually, they just don’t care what you think about things.  You are as irrelevant as a rotary-dial telephone.  What do you know about clothing and relationships and how to act in public?  Nothing!  Why are you even looking at me like that, MOM? 

Whatever. As I said, I’m not bitter.

Mostly, tonight I’m just grateful that all the children that belong to me are safely under my roof along with half a dozen of their closest friends.

*

(For fun, I’m running a little experiment in my household.  Usually, I cart down the extremely heavy and always overflowing hamper of dirty laundry from the upstairs bathroom where four of my kids deposit damp bath towels and their dirty clothes.  Then I wash, dry, fold and sort the folded clothes and towels into baskets.  I don’t mind doing laundry and folding it.  But I really get tired of carrying that super heavy hamper downstairs.  So I decided not to do it.  I’m waiting to see how long it will take one of the big strong young men who live in this house to notice it and bring it downstairs.

I find this very amusing, but that’s what happens when you get old and possibly semi-bitter and have nothing better to do with your time–when you aren’t driving kids around, cooking dinner, working full-time and reading–than to conduct social experiments on the unwitting young people who live in your house.  My hypothesis?  The laundry basket will never ever be brought downstairs and the kids will start going commando and drip-drying after showers.)

 

Not bitter

Five years

We have lived in this house for five years now.

Long, long ago, my friend, Diane, told me it takes five years before a new place feels like home.  I’ve always held that thought close to me like a soft, comforting blanket.  It just takes time to sink roots into the soil of a new place.  Just hold on, I’ve told myself.  Give yourself five years.

So, now, it’s been five years and there are a couple of cupboards holding the strangest jumble of items that I hurriedly unpacked and tucked away those first days here.  It’s been five years and my garage has never been truly organized.  It’s been five years and I feel the typical social disconnect that follows me all the days of my life.

I need to sort through my books and clothes and shoes and photos and life.  Too much in my life feels jumbled and cluttered and unsettled.

But who has time to KonMari her life when the laundry constantly flows like a polluted river and the natives demand daily nourishment and a steady stream of people call on me for answers and help?  It’s chaos, a mishmash of puzzle pieces that don’t fit together at all.

For instance, we have a new kitten.

Our four year old dog, Lola, developed a mysterious and painful allergic reaction requiring a visit to the vet, $123.00 and three bottles of medication.

My 18-year old went to a 12-day conference.  My 13-year old is heading to camp for six days.  That means packing and prep.

The computer router died a sudden death and the 1-day “expedited” business shipping of the new one took seven days and cost me $33 extra dollars.  I spent almost three hours on the phone with tech support.  The inhabitants of my house wandered around for days, stricken at their lack of access to Netflix and computer games and YouTube.

Almost two weeks ago, my elderly Texan in-laws appeared with very little notice to spend three nights with us.  While it was great to see them, it was a lot of cleaning and cooking and conversation.  I’m still worn out from the effort.

So last night, I drove to the beach and watched the sun set.

And it felt like home.

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Five years

Summertime (reflections)

Finally, summer vacation is here.  The relentless pace of the past month has eased.  The kids keep themselves busy, visiting friends, working and sleeping late.  I’m kind of at a loss.

I used to be the Cruise Director of Summer Activity and now, I’m nothing more than an Uber driver, depositing the kids at one location or another.  (The 18-year old drives now which is an entire untold story in itself.  Is there anything more disconcerting than letting your baby drive down the street by himself?)

I remember the experts telling me to enjoy my children while they were young because after about age 12, they’d prefer their peers to me and boy howdy, that’s exactly what has happened.

I think I enjoyed my kids when they were young.  Mostly.  Not enough.  Not nearly enough because frankly, they were kind of annoying.  Well, some of them.  (Not the one who is reading this blog because NOT YOU, my darling!  Ha.)  But I have scrapbooks that remind me of all the things we did, the places we went, the fun we had.  Photographic proof.

I remember those early years as a concentrated dose of everything.  Too bad I couldn’t have diluted it, bottled it and saved it for these days because now, snuggling in a recliner with a freshly bathed four-year old watching Rugrats before a 7 PM bedtime sounds absolutely enchanting.  At the time, I was just getting through the bedtime routine so I could have a moment to myself.

When I come across an article giving tips to parents, I think, too late, too late.  Why didn’t we do all the things the clever writers recommend?  We were busy, too busy, trying to survive and get through the days.  (Also, as it turns out, kids drive you absolutely crazy with their whining and fighting and they resist being who think they should be. Maybe that was just me.)

Why didn’t I tell them everything I know while they still believed I knew everything?

We should have given them more chores, had more conversations, isolated them from technology, insisted that they read every night before their early bedtimes.  We should have told talked more, listened more, made them eat more vegetables.  We should have lived in the country so they could milk cows and grow produce and we should have lived in the city so they could explore museums and experience a diverse urban community.  We should have spent a year traveling cross-country in a camper.  We should have never left home.

We should have been young and active parents.  We should have been gray and wise parents.  We have should had an only child.  We should have had a dozen.  We should have banned television from our house.  We should have watched television together so we could discuss it during commercials.  We should have used library cards more.  We should have purchased more books.

We should have played with more homemade organic Play-doh and painted with more professional-grade watercolor paints and planted six-foot sunflowers and formed our own family orchestra (complete with violins and cellos) and our own baseball team with a pitcher who could throw a curve ball and a fast ball.

But it’s too late.

So, I’m not a perfect mom, not even close.  (That breaks my perfectionist heart because all I have ever really wanted since I can remember is to be perfect and to do thing perfectly and make perfect decisions and every time I’m faced with my imperfection it bums me out.)  I’ve made selfish choices and done bonehead things and missed opportunities along the way.

I read those articles with their hints and tips and ideas for parents with regret and a little bit of bitter rage because how it is even possible to be That Parent when you are dealing with kids who don’t even want to brush their teeth or eat carrot sticks?  How was I to know that the years really would scream by faster than a rollercoaster?  I did not really believe it and now, I feel like I missed some things and I would respectfully request to be allowed to time travel so I could fix up a few things I missed the first time around.

Pending that approval, I can only tell you what I know for sure.  We did the best we could with the knowledge and ability we had at the time.  We are still doing the best we can, navigating these waters, hoping we are doing the important things right.

That just has to be enough.  (Until I can go back in time and spruce up some things.)

 

Summertime (reflections)

Unsorted thoughts

It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say.  On the contrary.  I had so much to say.  I had hundreds of words waiting to be strung together like Christmas lights that twinkle until you jiggle them and then go half dark because somewhere a bulb has burned out.

So, in the interest of just catching up before the lights go dark, let’s just do a random catch-all, shall we?

I fell down yesterday at Disneyland.  I was distractedly walking, one hand focusing on buttoning a center loosey-goosey button on my shirt that insisted all day on slipping out of its buttonhole when the flat ground sloped into a curb.  My foot caught it just right, twisted and I fell hard onto my right knee.  Just as quickly, I sprang up like some sort of middle-aged gymnastic completing a required skill.  Honestly, I didn’t know I could move that fast.  (Picture Sally O’Malley.)

I didn’t even look down at my knee and no one seemed to have noticed even though the park was bustling.  My wound burned, and I thought I must have ripped the knee of my pants.

I didn’t, though.  However, my knee is skinned.  I don’t think I’ve actually fallen and skinned my knee like that since I was a kid.  I am currently sporting an enormous bandage.

*

My son graduated from high school a week ago.  After the ceremony–outdoors, warm blue skies, gentle cool breeze–we went to Red Lobster at his request and presented him with gifts and cards while he sat in his forest green graduation gown and flower lei.

He caught a cold a day or two before graduation.  Old habits die hard and I keep wanting to remind him to get some sleep since it’s a school-night.

*

My mom was here for six weeks.  We had fun, even though the weather has been grayer than usual with our “May Gray” and “June Gloom.”

*

I sent a message to someone I know who blogs regularly (every Sunday) to point out that she was long overdue for a blog post.  (So bossy.)  She said she has been too busy to blog but really, isn’t that the time you should blog the most?  So you don’t forget?  So you can explore your own thoughts as you sort through then and put them into words?

She pointed out that I was long overdue, too, and she was right.  So, here this is.  I tell myself that I will start blogging more regularly, just for my own benefit (since my “social media influence” is hilariously non-existent.)

*

Tomorrow is my 7th-grader’s last day of school.  This is my baby, the child who should have been born first because she’s been bossing us all around since she was (literally) three months old.

*

You know what is weird?  I keep coming across parenting articles with tips and ideas and instructions and all of that is so irrelevant now.  Whatever choices I made as a younger mom have been made and there’s no way to backtrack and start fresh.

Now I just stand around with my hands in my pockets and hope that everything turns out right.  We lit the fuse and it’s too late to re-light it lest it explodes in our hands and takes out an eye and blows off a thumb.

We have to trust that our efforts will catch fire and . . . well, enough of this tortured metaphor.  (Though I will probably revisit it at some point because I really do feel like I’m watching my firecrackers from a distance, wondering if they are duds or if they will explode at some point like they’re supposed to do.)

*

Today (well, technically yesterday) was my husband’s 55th birthday.  My daughter said, “Oh, he’s so old!” and I wanted to tell her that I couldn’t wait until she’s fifty-five so I can tease her about being old and then she can realize the error of her ways and understand that fifty-five is really not so very old except that I realized that when she’s fifty-five I will be (statistically) (most-likely) dead.  So.  That was a sobering thought.

*

My husband and I went away for two nights to Palm Springs on a retreat.  My mom stayed with the kids, but I’m not sure who was watching who, really.  Lola the Dog moped around the whole time I was gone, barely leaving the staircase landing outside my bedroom door.

I think everyone with a teenager should get a dog.  The teenager might not be happy to see you (they are so “tired” all the time from the exhausting life they lead which consists of sleeping, eating, spending your money and checking their social media while watching Netflix and who can blame them for being “literally” too tired to come downstairs to get a glass of water when they are thirsty?) but the dog will leap for joy and maybe even nip your elbow in gratitude that you have returned home again where you belong.

*

I have a few other things to discuss but, alas, I cannot discuss them.  They are like “unspoken prayer requests” that people would shout out during church prayer meetings when I was growing up.  I suppose if you really knew the person with the unspoken request, you could accurately guess, but if you did not, you might distractedly speculate instead of praying during the allotted time.  (Or maybe that was just me.)

If you know me, you might guess what I can’t commit to print.  Or you can use your imagination and just speculate.  Sometimes it’s more fun to speculate anyway, don’t you think?

*

The squares on my calendar for this weekend are empty.  I can only hope they stay empty.  I have plans to lie around and read and sleep all weekend.

And with that scintillating report, I’m signing off and going to sleep.

 

 

Unsorted thoughts

Give me a minute

My problem is twofold.

Although I am a pessimist at heart, on occasion I suddenly believe with an optimist’s confidence that I can do just one more thing before I leave the house. For this reason, I chronically leave the house ten minutes after I meant to because I think, “Oh, I need to call the orthodontist,” or I decide to fold a load of laundry or type out one more email before grabbing my keys and heading for the driveway.

I also believe the lie that I will encounter no obstacles while driving.  No stoplights, no traffic, no slow drivers.  I assume it will be smooth sailing while I’m piloting my minivan around the county.  If my GPS says I will arrive in 11 minutes, I think maybe I can make it in ten.  I am completely out of touch with reality.

I don’t know why I switch from Eeyore to Tigger, but I do.

Yesterday perfectly illustrates this character flaw.

First thing in the morning, I had to drive my son and his friend to school.  I noticed that I had less than a quarter of a tank of gas.  I’ll fill it up later, I thought. Then I came home and delivered a second son to school.

I began working and before I knew it, it was 2:11 PM.  I meant to leave at 2:00 PM but somehow time slipped away and by the time I was at the end of my street, it was close to 2:20 PM.  I had a fifteen minute drive to pick up my son and his friend and thought, maybe I can make it in ten minutes.  (Fifteen minutes under absolutely perfect circumstances, mind you.  Twenty-five minutes if you are an ordinary human being on a Thursday afternoon.)

I was destined to fail because . . . traffic.  Traffic at 2:20 PM!  What’s up with that?  Do people now leave their jobs at 2 PM?  I don’t know, but I arrived ten minutes late for the pick-up which landed me squarely in the nightmare of the after-school exodus of high school drivers.  Getting out of the school parking lot took ten minutes.  Turning the corner at the street took another ten minutes.  We crawled along.

I was heading to pick up my other son and managed to arrive thirty minutes late.  At that point, my gas tank indicator said we had six miles before we’d run out of gas.

So I had to stop and fill up the tank.

I dropped everyone off at home and headed for my carpool pick-up.  I was now running twenty minutes behind and figured maybe I could make up a few minutes.  (I am a slow learner.)  But, of course, I could not because . . . traffic.  And stoplights.  And slow drivers.  And fate.

I picked up those kids fifteen late and delivered them home twenty minutes late.

By the time I returned to my own driveway, I had been in my car for a solid two hours.  Two hours filled with regret that I hadn’t left my house ten minutes earlier.  Two hours wondering why I expect the highways and byways to be free of traffic.  Two hours of despair as it became clear that no one would get out of my way so I could get through traffic lights before they turned red.

As I said, my problem is twofold.  So I vow to stamp out the optimism and belief in a life without obstacles soon.  But first, I bet I can get a few more things done . . . hold on, I’ll be right there.

(Just one more minute.)

Give me a minute