Tuesday, November 25, 2014

the creepy chaperones

While we're on the subject of children leaving home... How do parents of teenagers not just cry all the time and follow their kids around like crazy ex girlfriends?

Let me back up.

If you happened to check Facebook last Wednesday night, you might have noticed that DM and I were on a date. On a school night, no less! I'm gonna go on ahead and pat myself on the back for that one.

It being date night and all, I engaged in some married flirting, saying things like "Will you still make out with me even though I smell like dirty head and the 80's?"

why do they all smell like Madonna?
And "It's gonna take two people to get these pants off, but they're fastened with a hair tie so at least you'll have a head start!"

just fyi, that's a (really) dirty mirror, not dirty pants. well. the pants are probably dirty too. but, not THAT dirty.
We went to a Bastille concert. We may have been the oldest people there. I felt like we were chaperones on a school field trip. My immediate charges were a pack of strongly scented, perfectly coiffed Scandinavian exchange students. They were like Swedish Bieber triplets. It was fun. My favorite part was when the band did a rendition of TLC's "Scrubs." Funny what bits and pieces of pop culture have staying power. Like the other day I heard a young teenage boy make a 'Mean Girls' reference. Who'd'a thunk?! Then on the way home from the concert, DM and I got into a debate over whether the song "Pony" playing on the radio was a recent song (his view), vs. a recent remix of a song that's nearly 20 years old (my view). For future reference, Googling "Pony Horny Ride Me" is NSFW. Also, I was right (obv).

Anyway. Back to the show. I really enjoyed it. The lead singer was one of the most polite young men I've ever encountered. His parents should be proud. It was good music and they put on a great show. At one point they asked everyone in the audience to turn on their "torches" but since no one has lighters anymore, everyone turned on their cell phone flashlights, so instead of mood lighting, the place was lit up like a Christmas tree and it sort of felt like we were in the middle of a mass police interrogation. Also, at the end, the lead singer went out and ran around the audience while he sang. I love that kind of shit, even though I was sort of having a sympathetic panic attack for the guy because people were grabbing and touching him and it was 23% scary.

everybody put your hands up, you're under arrest!
I have to admit, though, I spent a good chunk of the show sort of creepy-staring at the group in front of us. It was a mom and dad, probably in their 40s? With their younger son (clearly just along for the ride), their high school-aged daughter (honestly she could've been anywhere from 12 to 17, I'm not good with ages), and a handful of her girlfriends. I'm not going to be able to put the pull of these people into words, and I'm probably just going to come off sounding like a stalker, but I was so intrigued by their dynamic.

First off, this teenage girl was willingly in public with her parents, so they must be doing something right. And she and her friends were sort of mesmerizing. She was beautiful, but not old enough to really know it, or to be self conscious of this fact. And she was completely transfixed and transformed by the music and the experience. I remember feeling like that, at that age... Like I was just mainlining music straight into my soul. It made me wonder at what point we all get so crusty and jaded?

But what really caught my eye was the mom. She wasn't that much older than me. She seemed as hip as you could be, for a mom. She knew all the words to every song, though whether that was from a personal affinity, or because her daughter plays them at full blast on repeat is unclear. But she wasn't really watching the show much, either. She was watching her daughter watch the show. Riveted. And garnering such pure, unadulterated joy as it was being filtered through her daughter's eyes. It almost made me want to cry. Like, happy/sad glistening tears, not ugly-crying or anything ;)

I just kept thinking about my daughter. Both of my children, actually. Even now, at 2 and 4 years old, I am constantly blown away by the fact that they are turning into such little PEOPLE. Like, real legitimate human beings. But, really, they're still so present. So open. So needy. So accessible. There's no barrier between me and their feelings, their hearts, their thoughts. (No barrier AT ALL. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, at MAX volume, always.)

I can't imagine what it's going to feel like when they're further along in the "conscious uncoupling" process, when they start to become truly separate and distinct from me. On the one hand, if you don't fuck it up too badly, your heart's just got to be bursting with pride. You freakin' CREATED these humans from nothing but tequila and a smile, and they are surviving in this big bad world, and they are the type of people that you would actually like to know, even if they hadn't sprung forth from your very own vagina.

On the other hand, I have to imagine it feels a lot like you're outside on a cold night, looking in on a bright, warm party to which you were not invited. Maybe they'll take pity on you and let you in out of the cold. But you know you're only there out of the goodness of their hearts.... You definitely weren't on the guest list. Hopefully, on the flip side, when they're as growed-up as they're gonna get, they'll let you back in, but man, that in-between-time has got to be a polar vortex for your heart. Ugh.

I did not expect to be this kind of mother. I wouldn't have guessed it in a million years. I didn't cry when I had to go back to work, when I sent them off to preschool, when I leave for a romantic grown-up getaway. I'm always happy when it's Friday, but usually, I'm pretty happy when it's Monday again, too. (Monday is the working mom's Friday ;)) I surreptitiously toss 97% of their "art" into the trash. (Like a ninja in the night. Hell hath no fury like a toddler who found his "mastowpiece" crumpled up in the garbage can.) The idea of saving a lock of my kids' hair or their baby teeth gives me the heebie jeebies. I mean, used teeth?!? That's just fucking disgusting, people. And yet. Here I am, on the verge of tears at some concert because the strangers in front of me are making me nostalgic for my life 15 years from now? WHO ARE YOU?! AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE OLD ME WHO WASN'T A COMPLETE AND TOTAL SAPPY PANTS?!?!


So. I have seen my future, and it involves me following my teenage children around with puppy dog eyes, watching them while they sleep, snuggling their long-forgotten blankies in the corner of my closet, and crying at the drop of a hat because of the way they eat an apple. I am really feeling that quote right now that says "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." (Elizabeth Stone). Ohhh my heart.

I just figured it out! This is like toddlers being freaking adorable so you don't murder them in their sleep. Conversely, teenagers are total angsty A-holes to their parents so that mom and dad don't spend four years mooning and moping and sobbing uncontrollably in public. It's God/Mother Nature/Darwin's way of helping us let them go :)

Anyway, when DM and I returned home, we revisited the too-tight-pants-tied-with-a-rubber-band issue. He was like, "What in the hell? I don't understand this. I mean, it made some sort of sense when you were actually pregnant, or recently pregnant, but it's been almost three years! Why do you continue to buy pants that you have to jerry-rig shut? Just buy bigger pants!" I thought: NEVARRR!!! I said: "Well, these happen to be really old pre-pregnancy pants that are WAY to small. But I do also sometimes buy pants that are a little too small, because I'm between sizes, and I just can't bring myself to buy the bigger size." DM: "Okay, but why, if you're between a 5 and a 7, do you buy a 3?!"

Aaaaand, that was the end of date night. (Although his cluelessness re: women's sizing and the notion that I could even get my ankle into a size 3 is kind of cute. And there was no way I was getting those pants off by myself. And it also reminded me of when I was pregnant and he would always take my boots off for me because I couldn't reach over my belly. Okay, fine. He can stay ;))

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the freshman 50 and other cautionary tales

The second installment, continued from "seven years of college down the drain."

My sweet sugar bean:

I remember when I left for college. My mom and little brother (your Uncle Ned, who was 7 at the time) drove me down to San Diego in our minivan packed to the brim with color-coded bins of booty from Bed Bath & Beyond. Shower caddy, soap dish, hairbrush, loofa, desk organizer etc. in shades of aquamarine. Turned out my roommate (who’s now your best Auntie B) had the same exact haul, in indigo blue. Pair that with our matching, emphatically cheery bed-in-a-bag ensembles and it was love at first sight.

Mom and Ned helped me unpack and get settled. We spent the day at the beach, went out to dinner at a slightly seedy Chinese joint in La Jolla, and then they hopped in the minivan and went on their merry way back to Sacramento. Mom didn't shed a tear, and I didn't expect her to. That just wasn't her style. But she called me the next day and said, "I wanted to thank you for leaving a sweeping shit-storm in your wake, so that when I walked into your room, I just got pissed off at the mess instead of collapsing on the floor and crying." It wasn't until that moment that I thought about what a big deal it was, for my mom to be sending her baby off to college.

That was the last time I saw my mom, as you know. What you don’t know – what you couldn’t have known – is that being your mom, raising someone so much like me, has helped me know her more. Helped me understand her more. Yes, at times it has made me miss her more – but it makes me “feel” her more, too. You are me, and I am her. She is in both of us. And I am so grateful for the chance to get to know her again, through you.

I used to think that I was “the lucky one,” being 18 when my mom and stepdad died. I was a “grown up.” I didn’t need my mom and dad like my little sister and brother did, who were 14 and 7 at the time. And I still think this is true. But man, what I wouldn’t give to share a margarita and shoot the shit with them today. It turns out grown-ups need their mamas, too.

My mom was always pretty straight up with me. (I remember when I was 14 and she told me that if I ever wanted to smoke pot, I should tell her, because she trusted her “sources” more than some shady dealer that sold to high school kids. I nearly reported her to my local D.A.R.E. affiliate.) But that lady had lived, and I know she was saving the real juicy stuff for when I was all growed up. I just wish she’d been around long enough to share some of those gems with me. Alas, she wasn’t. And I do not want that to happen to you. Which is why I’m writing this when you’re two.

So. Here goes. My advice to you.

Honestly, perhaps we’re just blinded by love, but your dad and I have never been too worried about you. We stress about your brother’s sensitive psyche surviving out in the "real world," but we’ve always joked that you’ll take life and punch it in the face. You just started preschool, and today one of the teachers said to me, “She’s such a good big sister,” knowing full well you’re a year and a half younger than your brother. That’s just you. You’re our glue. Our rock. Our super snuggly rock. You're a handler of things. Sugar and spice and a mean right hook. That's our girl.

Still. Who can’t use a few pearls of wisdom now and again?

First and foremost, nothing brings a guy to the floor like a knee to the nuts. Boys and their fragile little boy parts. Reminds me of that Betty White quote (Google The Golden Girls. You’re welcome.) “Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” Ha. Okay. But no vagina pounding until you’re 33, deal? Please just nod and smile for your dear old mother, thanks.
Only slightly less important, keep being you. Keep singing loud and laughing louder, dancing to songs you don't know, asking questions, being brave, exploring and making every day an adventure. Keep turning it up to 11. You sprang into this world with a solid sense of self. Continue to embrace it. You will spend these years perfecting the particulars, but don’t lose the essence of you in the frenzied melee of 20,000 other kids trying to find themselves.
Keep in mind: Heel height should be inversely proportional to levels of alcohol consumption. Drunk walking is dangerous business. Ask Auntie Autumn. Your metatarsals will thank you.
Also, steer clear of the skeevy-looking old dude at the nude beach. Just take my word for it. Conversely, feel free to befriend the charming and helpful lifeguards. They may prove quite useful one day.
Get yourself an industrial supply of that roofie-detecting nail polish. That’s just freakin’ genius. You can never be too careful.
Dance parties are always a good idea. Costumes make them even better.
Don't subsist solely on gummy bears and late-night burritos. That freshman fifteen is no joke. It was more like the freshman fifty for me. But all my friends got chubbier, too, so the whole year we were saying, "No, you look great! That's so weird that we used to be size 7 but now we're size 13. They [‘they’ being all clothes manufacturers on earth] must have changed their sizing?!" Then I came home at the end of the year and the first thing my grandma said was, "You got fat." Gotta love Grams (one of my favorite people in the world, after whom you were named). She just got more and more “insightful” as she aged, like a fine, vinegary wine.
Incidentally, I would never call you fat. Even if you were, I would still think you were the most gorgeous creature on the planet. I didn’t tell you that story so that you would worry about the number on the scale, or what size your waist is. Just worry about how you feel. Do what you need to do to be healthy and happy (which may or may not include the gummy bear diet). You are beautiful, and when you are striving to be your best self, that beauty radiates from you like sunshine and everyone around you just wants to sit close enough to feel the warmth. I saw this light in you the day you were born. (Except it was more of an orange glow those first days. We just thought you were really tan, but it turns out you had jaundice. Whoops!)
There will be plenty of boys (and girls) who love you. Young love and heartbreak are just part of the personal evolution process. Everyone goes through it (it's good medicine in some ways), and there's only so much your old ma’ can do. If you need someone to join you in a pajama-clad Dirty Dancing-Ben & Jerry’s binge, I’m your gal. And I promise you this – you are going to be alright.   
When it comes to love, be judicious about sharing your heart, your body, and your soul. You are more than the sum of your parts, but you must value each of those parts. Be sure that those who claim to love you cherish you just as much with your clothes on. You are our badass batgirl princess. Don't waste time on those who don't appreciate that fact. You are the real deal, my girl. Don't let anyone treat you like anything less.
You will know people who get married in college. Don’t be one of them. There is nothing sadder than a bachelorette party in a dorm room that consists of a budget male stripper, a $5 pizza from Little Caesar’s, and a six pack of Natty Ice. Girl, you are better than Natty Ice. Speaking of, I wish I could protect you from the vicious aftermath of your first night with Boone’s Strawberry Hill, but I believe this is just a rite of passage. Anyway, my point is, give yourself room to grow. Get to know you. Learn to love you. Then worry about Love-with-a-capital-L.
If you do go to a wedding, just a helpful hint: sign the guest book and/or pose in the photo booth at the beginning of the wedding, not the end. I once, let’s say… misjudged. I meant to write "May the best of your yesterdays be the worst of your tomorrows," but instead I wrote, "May the worst of your yesterdays be the best of your tomorrows." Those wise words are inscribed in indelible silver glitter ink for the rest of eternity, next to a photo of my friends and me clad in nothing but Spanx and mardi gras masks. So, yeah.
Oh, and that reminds me! Now, more than ever, photos are forever. Forever-ever. And can be distributed to a bunch of grubby boys’ smartphones with the push of a button. Please, for the love of God and everything holy, keep your lady bits away from the business-end of all photographic devices.
You are so trusting. Too trusting. Jumping off a tree limb and just assuming someone will be there to catch you. Be sweet, as grandma always said, but be careful who you let into the inner circle. Make people earn your trust, rather than just assuming that they're worthy of it. Find some good girlfriends, friends who will hold your hair and hold your hand, who will tell you you’re a size 6 when you’re a size 16, who will tell you Tijuana is a terrible idea, but get on that bus right behind you if duty calls. Look out for each other. Otherwise you might end up with a South African stalker who breaks into your house and steals your underpants... or something like that. (I’ll save that story for your first visit home.) Please refer to the paragraph about knees to the nuts, above.
Don't make important decisions when you are tired, hungry, angry, or sad. Or intoxicated. Eat a sandwich. Drink some water. Sleep on it. Then decide.
Take time for yourself. College is a time of so many things. Especially in today's day and age, where every event is captured and memorialized and romanticized in real time. "FOMO" (I just learned this term - Fear of Missing Out – aren’t you so proud of me?) – is a real thing, and so much worse now than it used to be because everyone everywhere is telling us how much fun they're having and we can see it ticking down our “news” feed minute by minute. Bathed in the becoming light of an Instagram filter, they all seem skinnier and tanner and happier than we are and we want to be a part of it. But trust me, they’re not. They’re trying to figure it out just like everyone else. Sometimes you need to step back. Take a break. Unplug. Unwind. You can be anything, but you can’t be everything.
And so, learn to say no. Or preferably, "No, thank you." Let's not forget our manners just because we're big college kids now, *nudge nudge.* Prioritize. Figure out what YOU want (not what you “should” do), and do that. Anyone who isn’t ok with you, the way you like you, just isn’t ok.
Finally, don't forget to visit your ole' ma and pa once in a while. If ever you are in need of unconditional love, free laundry, and a hot home-cooked takeout meal – come on back. We’ll be here. Well, unless we’re in Hawaii. In which case, we’ll meet you there, with cold Mai Tai’s in hand (we might even share!) 
Love you periwinkle,

Your mama

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Infrequently Asked Questions

Yesterday, my blogger buddy Brandyn Blaze of Life, Motherhood and the Pursuit of Happiness tagged me in a Q&A waterfall, and even though I sort of feel like my third grade self passing on a chain letter, I decided to take the bait. The questions posed to me were as follows:

1. What made you decide to get into blogging?

People were getting really tired of the novellas I would write as Facebook status updates.

2. How has it impacted your life?

I'm a little insane in the membrane. Blogging can be a great outlet, and a way to wrestle with the myriad questions and concerns that plague me from day to day, from the existential to the mundane. (Incidentally, check out this post on Time.com, "I'm a Mommy Blogger and Proud Of It.") On the other hand, it definitely gives me performance anxiety (I'm at my least funny when I'm trying to be funny), and sometimes it feels like an obligation more than anything else. An obligation to whom, I'm not sure, because I usually feel like, aside from DM and my cousin F and my friend Claire, I am mostly just talking to the air.

3. How do you manage to work blogging into your schedule?

Generally when a seed for a blog post pops into the soggy soil of my brain matter, I feel like I have to write about it RIGHT NOW. I spend a lot of my commute to and from work formulating what I am going to say, and then I usually just barf it out into Blogger in one fell swoop during a bout of insomnia or when the food truck is taking its sweet ass time growing the organic, fair-trade quinoa for my "anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, but may make you a bigger a-hole" salad. Then I sit on it for a few days, set it to auto-post, and notice five typos the second after it's published.

4. What's your favorite non-blogging "me-time" activity?

Reading in bed. Well, preferably on a beach in the sun with a frosty adult beverage within arm's reach but in bed is a close, and more easily attainable second.

5. If you could be anything in the world, what would you be? (Could be a profession, an inanimate object, an animal...sky's the limit!)

A baby hedgehog. So hot right now. Preferably not one used for animal testing, or given to Chucky as a Christmas present.


So there you have it, Ms. Brandyn B ;) You are one of the few bloggy folks I actually interact with on occasion, so this is kind of a stab in the dark, but I'm going to tag Ashley of Pink Sky Serendipity, Julie of Next Life No Kids, Annie of Swirleytime, and Diane of Chaos in Motion. No pressure. You certainly don't have to make a whole blog post about it, but I am a sucker for a good survey a la Myspace circa 2004. If anyone else is feeling inspired, please feel free to chime in, in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter, or you could write me a letter. As my little bro used to say, "Pick do you choose?" Here's the next set of questions. I'll go first.

1. If you had to listen to a song on repeat all day today, which would you choose?

I was going to say Budapest by George Ezra but then I listened to it on repeat while I wrote this and it started to bother me so now I'm revising. Between the Bars by Elliot Smith, because we just watched some movie where they mentioned it which led to a personal Elliot Smith renaissance of sorts. I love/hate questions like this because I have a new favorite every other day, which is why I narrowed the applicable time frame.

2. If you wrote a book on parenting (that evil genre), what would the title be?

"Downward Facing Dong" (Copyright, Trademark, All Rights Reserved). Could also be a budget yoga porn flick. (Is there any other kind?)

3. What is your spirit animal?

That or a grilled cheese sandwich.
4. What are three of your favorite words?

Haberdashery. Persnickety. Rapscallion.

5. Disneyland - Yay or Nay?

Hell to the freakin' Yes. Just don't tell my kids I went without them.

Tag! You're it.

Little did you know this was an application for friendship. The position is still open ;)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

seven years of college down the drain

Okay, so, a while back, Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat had an open submission for her next anthology, letters of advice to your children as they leave the nest. One of my cousins, who has always been a big cheerleader of mine, insisted that I enter. And I did. But my submissions were not chosen. I can't really blame Ms. PIWTPITT. They weren't my best work. It's much harder for me to respond to an external prompt, to write because I feel like I "should," as opposed to writing because I have a bee in my bonnet about one thing or another. This particular prompt was a challenge as my kids are 2 and 4 and I'm thinking more about how to get them to eat anything other than reconstituted chicken butts and how to make my bathroom not smell eternally of urine. I didn't get my hopes up too much, especially after DM proofread them and said "I like them. You're probably not going to win or anything, but they're pretty good." But, anyway, I got two free blog posts out of the deal. Here's the first one, to my best boy. It's long, I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear ;)

J$ - My sonny honey…

I just got you to sleep, finally, in the top bunk, with your super hero blankie and your lovey du jour. We read about astronauts and “Ironing man” and princesses (your sister’s choice, but you never protest too heartily.) You have taken your last sip from your Darth Vader water bottle, and you’ve gone pee twice (impressively depositing at least 74% of the urine into the toilet). I have vanquished all gnats, moths, and other terrifying winged monsters of the night. I sang 'Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder' to you over the monitor. You love the part about the doormats, bed slats and democrats. My dog and pony show is done, for today.

This letter is meant to impart some meaningful advice as you leave the nest and head off on whatever adventure life has in store (read: college). You’re four, so you might wonder why I’m writing this now, and not fourteen years from now. Well, first of all, you know me. I must have been a girl scout in a past life because I am nothing if not prepared. But really it goes a little deeper than that. As you know, I lost my mom and stepdad (your grandma and grandpa) less than three weeks after I left home. I had already learned so much from them, but in the whirlwind of “getting ready for college by ransacking Target,” I never had a chance to sit down with them and talk, face-to-face, as an (almost) adult. To hear the stories they had never told and the lessons they had yet to share. I figured I’d have a lifetime for that. Turns out I didn’t.

More than anything else, that experience… well, it made me a stage IV worry wart. So you can blame them for that! But it also made me appreciate how fleeting and impermanent life is. It’s like trying to catch a ray of sunshine in your hand. It’s there, but if you try to grab hold of it, it’s gone. I know better than most that you can’t take tomorrow for granted. So take that trip. Tell so-and-so what you’ve been meaning to say. Send grandma that card. If you have kids, WRITE A DAMN WILL. Wear your fancy pants. Crack open a bottle of the good stuff. What are you waiting for???

And this is why I’m writing a “leaving the nest” letter while you’re in preschool. I hope and pray that when the time comes I will be there to tell you this in person, and revise my advice for certain advances in technology and musical tastes. But just in case I’m not, I want my words written down for the record.

So, here goes. First of all, I apologize in advance, but when you actually do leave for college, there is a 97% chance I am going to be one hot mess of a mom. Milestones make me a bit sappy, from your first word to your big boy underpants, and I still sort of want to cry when I see your tiny little butt clad in teenage mutant ninja turtle boxer briefs. I cannot even fathom how my mother dropped me off at college without shedding a tear. My only hope is to go Rainman on your dorm room and allow the calming waves of OCD transport me to my happy place as I alphabetize your toiletries and arrange your socks by color.

Right now, you can’t wait to grow up and do grown up things. And sometimes, being done with the supper skirmishes and the bedtime battles and the wake-up warfare sounds quite nice. But I know that when the time comes, I will not be ready. How can anyone ever be ready, really? I know that at the moment you're walking out the door, I would give anything for one more epic toddler tantrum, if only because we would make up afterwards and you would curl your sweaty little boy body into my lap, say "I have super-much loves for you, Mama," and absentmindedly pet my head.
Did you know I’ve actually been keeping an advice journal since you were six months old? I saw some punk kids picking on a boy outside a middle school, and I swore then and there to do everything in my power to not raise A-holes. So that’s step one: Don’t be an A-hole.
To that end, when it comes to romantic relationships – be kind. You are a sweet soul and I’m not too worried, but it has to be said. Run your actions through the following filter: What would I do if someone did this to my little sister? If you still feel okay about it then, by all means, carry on.
I was going to say you should probably work on that morbid fear of winged insects and utter inability to pee in the toilet bowl, but judging from your father’s lack of prowess in these areas, I guess they are not prerequisites to earning your "man card."
Change your sheets. I recently read some study that said that the average single male changes his sheets 4 times a year. That is fucking disgusting. (I can say "fuck" now, right? You're a big boy.) I decided I do not want to know how often your father changed his sheets when we first met. I want to scour my brain with a Brill-o pad just thinking about it. This is definitely one of those “ignorance is bliss” situations. Seriously though, I can't have you dying of MRSA the minute you're off my watch. There will be a bed check when I come visit and if it is not up to snuff, I will be making bi-weekly  house calls for very public and embarrassing linen changes. This is not an idle threat. We survived lice in elementary school, and so help me God, we will not be doing bedbugs.

Oh, second piece of advice, directly related to the first: Hoard quarters. Then again, by the time you’re in college, you’ll probably just have a bank account bar code inserted under your fingernail, or the Laundromat will just do a retinal scan and deduct the total from your soul.

Take care of yourself. Eat vegetables, even if they’re buried at the bottom of a California burrito. Hydrate (especially when you’re drinking alcohol, you know, when you’re 21, *wink wink*). Exercise. Brush your teeth. And I've never known this to be a problem for college kids, but, get plenty of sleep. Your body is a temple, and it is at the height of its glory. In the not-too-distant future, the façade begins to crumble, the support beams begin to sag, and it takes more and more work to keep the temple in good working order. Take advantage of that strength and energy and metabolism while you have it!

Don't get a tattoo where a judge can see it. And if you do get a tattoo, think long and hard about what it is you want to get, and why, because take it from me, you will spend the rest of your life explaining it to people. Your uncle is still mad at me for discouraging him from getting a Snoopy tattoo when we was 17, and hey, I guess if he still wants it, more power to him. But personally, I wouldn't want to be a brand ambassador for Peanuts for the rest of my life. Get something original. Get something that has lasting meaning for you. Also, make it cool.

Attend class from time to time. Especially the first day when they hand out the syllabus, and any other days that look important. Make sure you know when the exams are, and show up! Professors are less than sympathetic to the hangover excuse. Surprisingly, however, I did successfully use the “dog ate my homework” line and it totally worked. (Probably because the dog literally ate my homework. I brought in the few shreds that remained as proof and offered to bring in the rest once they “resurfaced.” The prof graciously demurred.)

Those first days and weeks, choose your friends wisely, but beware, what you see is not what you get. Everyone has escaped the social confines of high school. They are no longer stuck in those cloying boxes: jock, nerd, drama queen (or whatever it is nowadays - hipster? emo? hello kitty?) Everybody is trying on different personalities to see what fits. Take it all with a grain of salt, and trust your gut. I can’t speak for most, but the friends I made my first semester in college are my best friends 15 years later, and my social trajectory would have been much different if I hadn’t found them, or rather, if they hadn’t found me. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Everybody’s doing it.

A corollary: Nobody knows anything. (I’m sorry to report, this includes you.) Don’t trust anyone who pretends they do. Right now, in preschool, you have a little friend named Connor who likes to tell some whoppers. It’s pretty hilarious. It’s gotten to be such a thing that whenever you say something outlandish, your little sister asks skeptically, “Did Connow tell you dat?” Well. Those guys still exist in college, and in life in general, and it is best to steer clear of them, or at least, take their advice at a severely discounted rate.
There’s a reason for all those clichés: older and wiser; if I’d only known then what I know now; the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, etc. I learn more about the world every single day, and I still don’t have this shit figured out. When I was younger, I thought at some point I would officially be a “grown up.” Like, one day I would just know all of the things and have all of the tools and that would be it. Here’s the secret though: the older I get, the more I realize that everybody is making it up as they go along.

I’m still waiting to feel like a grown up. I actually think, for me, the peak of my know-it-all-ness was sixteen. It’s been a downhill slide ever since. I'll have to show you this letter I wrote to one of my teachers in high school. The assignment was to write a letter about where we thought we would be in 5 years, and then he’d mail it back to us at that time. When I received my letter, I nearly died of mortification. Sweet Jesus, I was such an unbelievable ass. It is almost unbearable to read. Let’s hope, for my sake, there is a bell curve of dickery and it peaks at 16.

Of course I can’t recount the entire excruciating episode here, but a few gems: I started the letter with Al principio, just to set the tone. I go on to say that I was basically God’s gift to drama class, high school, and the universe, and as such, it was hard to find any “intellectual equals.” I told the teacher it was okay he had to take a leave of absence because – “no offense" – I could have done it without him. Oh and these: “I'll probably be paying off debts for a long time before I ever get rich and world renowned, but hey, I want to have to work to get to the top." [Stilllllll workin']. And of course "Losers quit when they're tired, winners quit when they've won." Pfffftttt. Man. I really missed my calling as motivational speaker and leader of the douche bonnet guild!
So anyway. The lesson here is, don’t do that.
Learn what makes you happy. Over the course of your childhood thus far, you have often fallen into the role of the wingman. You play the part flawlessly, and look, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, one might argue your dad has built an entire life and career being the best Number Two around. But make sure your desires aren’t subsumed by Numero Uno’s. You can’t live in the shadows forever. You are an original, and the world deserves to see the one true you. If nothing else, this is the time to find out what you want and who you are. This is an integral first stop on the endless journey into adulthood.
Be real. That might sound like some flimsy platitude, but I’ll give you a little anecdote. When I was in college, “some friends” decided to do mushrooms. However, the trusty dealer apparently sold them Portobello instead of Psilocybin. Most everyone accepted their sober fate with stoic resignation. Just think of it as an overpriced, (literally) shitty-tasting appetizer. But one guy – my boyfriend, actually, at the time – spent the next few hours acting like he’d either taken LSD, or was having a hallucinogenic reaction to Italian mushrooms. Don’t be that guy.
So, go. Do. Be you out in the big bold world. Take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you. You’re like your mama. You like your habits and your routines and your favorite pillow that is fluffed just so. But you are a brave, strong boy and I’m so glad you’ve ventured from the nest. The best way to learn your place on this wild and crazy planet is to see more of it. Life is going to kick your ass and blow your mind. It is a roller coaster ride with ups and downs… but the most important thing is to enjoy the ride (while trying not to puke or pee your pants). I hope this is the first of a lifetime of adventures for you.
Last but not least, come home. Not to get all Debbie Downer on you, but, my parents died within weeks of me leaving for college and after that I never really had a “home” to be homesick for. To this day, I long for a place to return to that feels like “home.” And maybe we all do. Maybe the notion of home is transformed by the act of leaving. What’s that Maya Angelou quote? “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s alright.” We may turn your bedroom into that man cave I’ve been promising your father for 20 years. Hell, we might even move to Fiji. But as long as your pops and I are on this earth, we are your home, and we will always be waiting for you.
Love you indigo blue,
Your dear old mama
“There’s a time and a place for everything, and that’s college.” – Southpark

Thursday, November 13, 2014

fraidy cat

When I was little.. I don't even remember how little, I think I was probably 8 or so... we were on our way to Tahoe but we had to stop by my step-dad's work so he could pick something up. It was dark out. We parked right by the back door of the building. Being the independent whatever-year-old I was, I wanted to stay in the car. (I know this would be frowned upon in this day and age, but this was totally normal in 1988. Maybe leaving me in the dark was ill-advised, but nothing CPS-worthy.) My parents said it would just be a minute. They took my little sister in with them. I have no idea how long they were in there. I can't imagine it was very long. I'd say thirty minutes at the absolute outside. It was probably closer to twenty-five or who knows, maybe even fifteen. In any event, it was enough time for me to nearly lose my mind.

Now, we've already established that I'm a bit of a head-case so I can't speak for the psychological normality of my reaction. But here's what happened. After a few minutes, I started to get worried. It was dark. We were downtown. There were dark figures walking by. At some point, a hoodie-cloaked homeless dude pushing a cart knocked on the window of the car, which freaked me the f*ck out.

At this juncture I started watching the time click by and became more and more agitated with every passing minute. For some reason, I got it in my head that they had forgotten me and that I was basically going to have to live in my mom's car. I finally worked up enough courage to dash out of the car, running the gauntlet of murky mysterious people lurking nearby, to the back door of the building. I knocked. No one answered. I waited. I knocked again. I rang what looked like a bell but did not hear any sound, and still no answer. So I ran back to the car. I waited a little longer. I was so upset and my mind was just going on all these literally insane tangents, so I started counting to calm myself. When that no longer worked, I ran back to the door and started frantically pounding on it. Finally someone came to the door. I tried to hold back my tears. Even at such a young age, I knew the importance of trying not to seem crazy to strangers. I said I was looking for my mom and my stepdad. I told her my stepdad worked there, and that he and my mom and my little sister had entered that door a little while ago to get something he needed from his desk. I gave my stepdad's name. The woman said she didn't know anyone by that name. I repeated his name again, and again. She looked at me helplessly and shook her head. I began to cry. She asked if I wanted to come in and try to call him, but I didn't know his work number by heart, and this was (way) before cell phones. Something told me not to go into this building with this strange woman, even though she seemed perfectly nice. What if my parents came back to the car and I wasn't there and they just left without me?

So I went back to the car. I locked all the doors, and proceeded to have what I can only describe as a psychotic episode. I sat huddled between the front seats, rocking back and forth, blasting the music and frenetically flipping the radio station. I counted some more, cried, SCREAMED. I remember the feeling SO keenly. It is still buried in there, raw under all those layers. I was one hundred percent convinced that from that point forward, I was going to have to live in my mom's beemer for the rest of my natural life, panhandle for my dinner and ingratiate myself in the downtown Sacramento homeless community at the tender age of 7. I know that sounds crazy and, for that moment, I really was.

that first part doesn't sound half bad.
When my parents came back, I LEAPED out of the car and JUMPED into my moms arms. Then I pushed her away from me and started screaming at her (not unlike my reaction to my husband after he leaves me alone with the kids for the weekend). I yelled "I THOUGHT YOU LEFT ME! I THOUGHT YOU WERE GONE FOREVER! I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO BE HOMELESS!" My mom was not one for emotional outbursts and basically told me (as nicely as possible) to calm the f*ck down, but I was just SO upset I could not pull it together. I think I cried the entire way to Tahoe.

Again. Maybe I was/am more mentally unstable that I thought. But this was one of those major "moments." For the next several years, my life was ruled by fear. I had to sleep with the light on for the first time ever. I wouldn't even sit in the car alone while my mom ran in to the grocery store for milk. I remember writing in my journal that my parents all told me that I would get over it, and by the time I was 10 (those mythical double digits) I wouldn't be so scared anymore. "BUT I WILL ALWAYS BE SCARED," I wrote.

I can't even convey to you the depth and breadth and WEIGHT of that fear. It was so big and so real to me. When I think about it now, I have an actual physical cringing of my soul. But I did, eventually, outgrow this fear. So it's easy to lose track of old feeling, on a day to day basis, when I'm (mostly) not afraid of the dark or any other things (except sharks, seaweed, and gray pubic hair). I forget how hard and sharp your fears can be, especially when you're young, and you don't have as much empirical evidence with which to talk yourself out of the certainty that you are going to have to spend the rest of your life living in a (bmw) van down by the river, or that the boogeyman is going to get you in the night. And even if you do have "evidence" - fear is not rational. Fear does not respond to logical arguments. I cannot prove to my son that moths do not, in fact, turn into vampires when he sleeps. Fear - whatever you feel - is real. It's real to the person who's feeling it.

It's easy to forget this, sometimes. With things like swimming, riding a bike, peeing in the potty, sleeping without their room lit up like a Christmas tree... things you KNOW your kids could do. You sometimes just want to push them over the edge to prove to them that they can fly. But i'm learning, slowly but surely, that pushing them causes the fear to snowball. Now they don't trust you or themselves. They'll do it when they're ready, and not a moment sooner.

Also, things are just scary sometimes. Like, we just got a puppy and she's sort of enormous. We're trying to teach her not to nip and jump up on the kids, and I keep getting frustrated because when she does these things, the kids just screech and run and jump around and wave enticing things in the air so Feta's like, "ERMAHGERD, THEY WANT TO PLAY WITH ME!" But DM kindly pointed out that our children are approximately three feet tall, so the dog running at them is equivalent of a small horse galloping toward my person at 40 mph and if that happened I would probably scream and pee my pants as well.

The other day, a (real) friend posted this link from my imaginary BFF Glennon Melton of Momastery.com titled "This is What Brave Means." I really like it. It's a good reminder that, contrary to common parlance, being brave doesn't (or shouldn't) have to mean doing something you're afraid to do. It means doing what your heart tells you to do, even when everyone else is telling you otherwise. I definitely fall into this trap sometimes. For example, saying to my son, "C'mon! your little sister's doing it!" or, "It's a flipping GNAT, kid. Pull yourself together," with the unspoken addendum, "ya pansy!" And that's just not cool. We need to trust and respect and listen to our little ones ... even when their inner voice is telling them that gnats turn into bloodsucking velociraptors when they lie their little heads down to sleep.

"15 Bogeymen From Around The World"
on listverse.com
I like Finland's bogey(wo)man. She just looks like a fat Barney.

How it feels coming up from the basement after turning off all the lights behind you.

Friday, November 7, 2014

diamonds = love

i recently had to tell my husband that he was hereafter prohibited from purchasing jewelry for me without first seeking guidance from a select few friends. and that reminded me that this (below) happened and it made me LOL (well, more like, CQTM (chuckle quietly to myself)).

one of my most favorite friends wrote this email to my husband:

don't ask why i am perusing the tiffany and co website at 7:30am... i swear i was on nytimes reading about something important like libya and there was an ad and i clicked on it... anyway, your wife (one of my favorite people in this world) would really love this ring... ya know, if you were looking for a $1400 present for a random monday.... [link to tiffany ring was included here]

his reply:

I call shenanigans.  Here are my guesses as to what's really going on here:

1) 55% probability:  Mack linked to this, or mentioned something about it randomly on facebook, pinterest, instagram, or some other website I know nothing about. You saw it, and are trying to be a good friend because she has also mentioned that my present buying over the last few years has fallen short of expectations (I admit, it has).

2) 35% probability:  Mack specifically asked you to email and me and "casually mention" this ring.

3) 9% probability:  Your smartphone fell down and accidentally typed this email out.

4) 0.9% probability:  You were actually on tiffany.com purposefully for your own reasons and, despite your bleeding heart, Peace Corps, Haiti-friendly beliefs, "diamonds = love" is hard-wired into every female's DNA.

5)  0.1% probability:  What you say happened happened (you just found yourself on tiffany.com randomly).

That said, I am certainly appreciative of the suggestion.  I would love to get her something she would love. I feel like I haven't successfully accomplished that in forever. Maybe they will let me buy this ring in parts :)


She forwarded it to me and said, "will you please tell him it really was the 0.1%?!"
haha. he can be kinda funny sometimes. but don't tell him i said so ;)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

a very spooky tale

I have a scary story for you, since it was just Halloween and all...

This past weekend... my husband... left me alone... with the kids... for two-and-a-half-days.

Honestly I DO NOT understand how all you single ladies (and gents) do it. Maybe, maybe, if mothering was the ONLY thing I had to do, I could be pretty decent at it. But add to that lawyering, wife-ing, having sex and grown-up conversations on occasion, bills, chores, dry-cleaning, grocery shopping, trying to complete basic daily tasks like keeping everyone fed and bathed and de-loused and up-to-date on their shots, as well as maintaining a habitable abode that does not alert CPS and the like... Not to mention my kids' particular requirements like Nightly Moth Massacre, Grape Peeling, Anticipating-What-Effing-Color-Of-Cup-You-Want-Today-Right-This-Very-Second (Hint: it's NOT that one), Perfect-Pasta-Buttering, Bite-Sized-Lettuce-Chopping, Sock-Seam-Eradication, Five-Point-Harness-Latching-WAIT-NO-TAKE-IT-OFF-I-WANNA-DO-IT-MYSELF (EVEN THOUGH I CANNOT, PHYSICALLY, DO IT MYSELF), Hide-and-Seek-in-the-Same-Location-Forty-Seven-Times, Feigning Surprise Forty Seven Times, Doing The Thing and Not Doing The Thing Simultaneously (e.g. Braiding The Hair Without Touching The Hair), Drawing Baths of Exactly 99.2 Eegrees Fahrenheit, Magical Laundering of Favorite Shirts and Blankies Before They Are Missed, Cleaning Pee Off ALL OF THE THINGS (seriously, how did you even get pee there?) ALL OF THE TIME (I can't decide who's worse - 4 year old boy or 4 month old puppy), Making Things Happen With My Mind (like new episodes of Wally Kazam on demand), Performing Dramatic Musical Numbers/Open Mic/Freestyle Rapping/Various Circus Acts Upon Request... and so on and so forth.

I know people do this ALL THE TIME. But I can't do it alone. I just can't. My mind is seriously BOGGLED by single parents, military wives/husbands, etc. BLOWN AWAY. I may have mentioned before this phenomenon my cousin once pointed out, about how we become so reliant on our significant other in the daily dance of parenting, but when we are forced to fly solo we get these superpowers and just handle shit like a boss, because, hey, these grapes ain't peelin' themselves. Well, this is still true. For like 8 hours, max. After that it's the point of diminishing returns. It's good to know you have the ability to lock it up when you need to, but it's so much nicer to know that if/when you can't, there's someone there to pick up the slack.

It's not all terrible, of course. Sometimes I look at my children and think, "What lovely laughing little miracles they are, how lucky am I to be their mother?" And other times I think "Is immaculate conception with the devil a thing?" This weekend was more of the latter. The kids have been sick for three weeks. I've been sick for two weeks and 6 days. The dog doesn't like to walk on grass, and uses the carpet as grass instead. In addition, she has consumed $200 of footwear in the past 72 hours. I don't know how to work the television, and, apparently, my son does not like my face and would like to have a mother that is not me. Let's just say it was a rough weekend.

There were a couple of bright spots, like our time at the Children's Museum - a glorious two hour cease fire of the incessant screaming, fighting, whining and crying. And the sweetest/saddest moment where Colby insisted on bringing a photo of our old Blue on a hike with the new pup Feta "so Bwue won't get sad we went wifout her." (She's actually insisted on sleeping with pics of Blue the last couple of nights, too! *Tears.*)

Colby, Jack, and "Our Dog That is Not Dead," Feta
Not Pictured: Photograph of "Our Dog That is Dead," Blue
But the rest of the time? Goodnight Irene, as my grandmother would say. We all felt like shit. I dosed the kids with baby Tylenol and I was popping these babies like Tic Tacs:

"Back Pain-Off," with NSAIDs, Acetaminophen and Caffeine
Nabbed this at work. It's a tiny bit like magic.
Here is my increasingly desperate and insane thought process beginning Sunday night:

6:00pm: Oh thank God it's almost over. One good thing about Daylight Savings - I can get the kids to bed earlier. I'm usually not one for drinking alone, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I've earned it. Come to Mama.

A romantical evening with me, myself, and I.
It's not drinking alone if your kids are home. That's a thing, right?
7:00pm: Ain't nobody got time for white wine and strawberries. Shit just got serious. Time to bring in the big guns.

Warning: They sell It's-Its in 12-packs
8:01pm: Fucket.

I'm just kidding. I didn't actually take Nyquil. That shit turns me into a straight tweaker.
On a side note, why don't they sell Theraflu anymore? All I can ever find is the generic CVS brand called Flu-Off or whatever. Anyway, me and Flu-Off had a moment.
8:30am: How on God's green earth did we wake up at 6am and still not manage to get out of the house on time?

"extra" hour my ass.
And of course we wouldn't forget to leave a love note for Daddy upon his return:

Naturally, by lunch time on Monday I was wistfully flipping through photos of the little beasties on my phone, my heart expanding with maternal love. Four hours is all it takes for total momnesia to set in. Motherhood, or Stockholm Syndrome? You tell me.

Of course, I didn't miss them enough to cancel my long-overdue post-work-pedi, or make any move to assist DM when he was being tortured by shrieking pygmies at bath time. Let's be real. This one's all you, buddy! You got this! After all, I wouldn't want to interfere with the development of his SuperDad powers!

I will say. If I ever only have 72 hours to live, I'll be sure to spend it alone with small children, so it'll seem like it lasts FOREVER ;)