Friday, January 31, 2014

Look At Me Now

In keeping up with the rest of the freezing Joneses, we scored three consecutive surprise snow days this week.  Or as my local friend taught me, "Sneaux Days."  Everything looks better in French.

Surprise Sneaux Days because A) It's Lousiana.  B) It never actually snowed. C) My husband got off work for two of them, also.

While the temperatures dove into the teens and most of what fell was ice, we hunkered down like happy mammals.  I baked, kids ate, Andy cooked, I ate.  Abby and Grayson swung from each other; all marmosets in a 71 degree jungle.  At night we got together with our buddies to play Dominoes, drink Sangria, and sing "Let It Go" dramatically during a bootleg version of Frozen.

Basically, the best week ever.

Except I realized my poor girl thinks I never look at her.

Abby is five now and she has no idea I spend all hours of all days in many years looking at her, at her brother, and then back at her to make sure she's still in fact not needing emergency services.

"Mommy, look at me!  Look here, Mommy.  Mommy, are you looking?" She asks while I couldn't be looking at her more lookingly.

"Abby.  Do you see where my face is pointing?  My eyes?  That I've been starting at only you since you were born.  Why do you think I'm not looking at you."

"Because I don't want you to look away."

Boom.  Damn you Generation ChronicOn.  We snuggle, huggle, wrestle, break out into percussive Katy Perry songs during dinner, and encourage sarcasm.  We fight, apologize, talk it out, shut it down, and discuss why our privates remain privately ours at all times.  We practice 911, vote for elections, and discuss whether or not heaven allows snakes and killer whales (no and yes).  We are the parents that never stop parenting. We are Generation ChronicOn.

It's mostly from watching The Cosby Show and Full House, I'm sure, but our generation of parents spends a boatload of time parenting their Keurigs off.

Not that ours didn't, mind you.  There was boatloads of parenting then, too.  Just in a Generation OldSkool way.  Times were different.  We were allowed to bike across a busy highway to our friend's house for (rum &) Coke in the 6th grade.  Our parents got home after us because they worked super long hours and there was no such thing as after school care.  Except After School Specials.  They were pretty decent babysitters for the latch-key generation.  And the first place we learned what happens when Brad kisses Mary with their mouths open.

All their Non-Hovering-Letting-Us-Walk-Three-Miles-To-7-11 was right on.  And we turned out batsh*t neurotic regardless amazing.

But every generation does it differently than the last.  If we didn't then kids nowadays would listen to Bob Dylan instead of Daft Punk and the 80s would've never made a resurgence in music and Target fashion.

Honestly, I think our generatoin of ChronicOn is a good one.   It's just M to the F exhausting.  Who can keep up with all the looking, painting, Play-Doh'ing, letter-sound establishing, Pinterest crafting (just kidding), soccering, GMO investigating, organic produce collecting, gymnastic schlepping, important small soul psyche building?

Not ChronicOn me.  I can't keep up.

And my kids know it.  Well, Grayson does now.  Abby will too, pretty soon.  Too soon.

Somewhere along the way she'll want to triple lutz, straddle split, somersault more for herself, her friends, a more revered adult... and less for her mom.  Pretty soon she won't want to sit in my lap while she watches Garfield, calling it "lasanza" instead of lasagna.  Pretty soon my kids won't rely on each other for repartee and bruising.  Pretty soon their friends will dictate their interests and Mommy will permanently become Mom Where's Your Purse.  Pretty soon my life won't be piggy backs, flag football practice, tiny glove sorting, and washing plates with sweet smiling frogs on them.  Too soon.

So when she asks me to, "Look here, Mommy, Mommy are you looking,"  You better know I and my B12 vitamins will be looking - memorizing - right at her to see what she so temporarily wants to show me.

I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Oh my babies.  I'm always looking.  Even when you're running in the opposite direction.  

Monday, January 27, 2014


Grayson had a sleepover a couple of weeks ago and the house was surprisingly hushed.  Grayson is not our noisemaker.  Evidently his even-keel manner and serenity are louder than any noise the rest of us can make.  

Abby was glad to have us to herself but I noticed an edginess in her movement.  She U-turned from one activity to another with a restlessness that spoke volumes. 


Her security blanket was missing.

She tried to play with her dollhouse but the story line was thin and her heart wasn't in finding a place for the babies to sleep.

She asked me to run a bath so we could both play and float around; then promptly asked me to leave once I finally acquiesced.  

Finally we landed on an art project.  The night before, I spent some time on Pinterest, saving a few Valentine's ideas for us to choose on a rainy day. 

This was our cloudless, sun-filled rainy day.

We chose to make Heart-Shaped Sun Catchers

Oh, Pinterest, you are such a clever nanny.  This will be a day she will remember forever.

Step One:   Collect supplies.  Now shred the life out of all of your daughter's favorite colored crayons.  Awesome foresight, Mom. Abby was in tears before we even started.  Excellent work in having her skin her favorites, too.  That kind of trauma is hard to achieve at first try.  But you nailed it.  

Step Two:  Let your 5 year old's precious little fingers shove all the broken pieces into your least child friendly art tool around:  a pencil sharpener.  

Then ask her to kindly get each curcy-Q over the wax paper instead of in her lap which really is a gateway toward the floor.  Once on the floor?  Consider it marble tiling.  Pretty.

Yes, that is a vegetable peeler. 

Step Three:  Grab all the supplies from her approximately 4.5 minutes later because she has jammed all of her sacrificial crayons into the sharpener, never to be heard from again.  I can think of kinder ways to meet our reward.  Even for a crayon.


Step Four:  Add another hunk of wax paper over the first, cut a gigantic heart out of it, then iron the living crap out of that heart until only the darkest colors take over, sullying it like the recesses of your own angry, Type A,  Pinterest existence.

 Umm, what happened?  Is this Elsa's Frozen Aortic Pumper?

Step Five:  Stare longingly into your daughter's flaxen hair glowing in the sun.  Wish you were good like her. Pray to the heavens to keep your control freakiness out of her generous psyche forever.  Ask her to forgive you for not letting her use the iron herself.  She made it through the spiral blade of death trials, why not give her a hot cauldron to balance for good measure?

Step Six:  Say yes when your little frustrated girl asks kindly to go watch Sofia the First on TV.  For the love of all things pure and holy, let her walk away from your uptight string of autopilot nerve endings.

Step Seven:  Call her back in to show her the surprise heart you found when ironing the small piece.  Let her know you think it's for her.  Because it's perfect, whole, and wide.  Look again and try not to cry when you see her sweet heart is surrounded by your imperfect, messy, shady, mostly-needing-oxygen-blue-one.

Step Eight:  Stick to painting birdhouses, puppet shows, and designer paper dolls.  She loves those much more anyway.

Step Nine:  Forgive yourself over a cup of hot green tea.  Because you know your mommy self will do this all over again tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Privilege of Pain

It's not like I go about my days mopey and dejected.  

It's just that my heart reminds me, in quiet times when the light is yellow or when leaves skitter across the street like children, I have a choice.  When that swell begins, I can choose to either accept or deny.  

I make that choice every time depending on whether I'm wearing eye-makeup, meeting a friend for tea, or running into Kmart for conditioner.  Yes, I fell off the conditioner wagon.  Sometimes I choose to deny and go forward with imaginary moose horns leading the way.  Those days are good.  I am an excellent forgetter.

Other times, when my kids are gone and my husband is at work, I accept. 

Like an invitation, I accept the hurt of remembering.  The chance to once again hold memories dear.  To let the curling ache surge through my bones at the loss of what I can barely believe, almost a year later, that he's in heaven.

We talked about it often.  Heaven.  What goes on.  Who's already there.  Is Boompa running away from Boomps as they both trip over themselves toward a fancy ballroom?  Do we get to watch our lives, the good parts, on a screen in a leather-bound lounger with cats on our laps and limitless popcorn?  Will we get to choose again?

The morning he passed, I tried to call him to ask his thoughts, again, on heaven.  I wish I were kidding.   Did he believe you had to certain things here before getting to see our loved ones again?  Did he feel the same way I did about all the rules and regulations?  Do people walk this earth as separate strands of one immensely powerful source of light?  Does this light gain strength through compassion?

I tried to call him as I drove through Starbucks to get my friend an iced-vanilla latte.  Watching all the people staring at their phones in an attempt to connect to their brighter, bigger, happier source of light.  Hundreds of small lights, roaming in close range to one another without once making eye contact.  Seemingly blinded by the fact that eye contact is the only way in.

I didn't connect with him that morning but instead connected with his son, about a concert.  About music.

The minutes of that day are a movie-reel;  I play them over and over in my mind.  So many parallels.  Too many coincidences to be accidents.  My thoughts always goes back to the strangers I saw that afternoon at Starbucks milling together, but light years apart.  I cared so much to understand each of them.  That day. That day.

The many layers of unconditional love are revealed to me through missing him.  And denying myself that would be denying myself answers I meant to ask him that afternoon;  when he was already gone.

So now, when I accept that invitation to hurt, to ache, and yes, sometimes to cry useless tears, there is sadness but now I notice something else riding shotgun.  I'm not sure what it is because it's new.  We haven't known each other long.  For now, I'll call it privilege.  I feel the invitation to miss him is a privilege.

It is a privilege to shed tears for anyone we miss.  To deny ourselves the right to acknowledge their specific strand of light does not feel right.  I think we are meant to recognize those who bring us goodness, laughter, depth of character, and soul.  We are meant to pull them from the throngs of people just cruising at altitude to honor their spirit loudly and with sh*loads of confetti.

Those opportunities to accept losses are allowing me to connect with my brighter, bigger, happier, eventual source of light.  And who the hell am I to decline that kind of beautiful invitation.


Last Friday, I made a selfish request to hear from him.  That afternoon I received nada, except a cryptic note from a handsome elderly man about Elvis.  So creepy.  Yet sweet.  Very confusing.

This morning. I was in search of something when I came across this card.

It's an old birthday from Jimmy to me.  Since I was little, he called me "Nooskie-Boo."  Thirty some years old and I was still his Nooskie-Boo.

See what I mean?  An absolute privilege to keep them close, even through the pain of losing them too soon.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014


For years it's been all about the kids.

Seven years is a long time to forget about your own eyebrows.

Pretty standard fare until I find myself leaning both palms into my ears at 5pm;  screaming at the top of my lungs that I WILL NOT STAND FOR ANYMORE NOISE IN THIS HOUSE WHY MUST YOU CHILDREN YELL ALL YOUR WORDS,  DO YOU UNDERSTAND WE ARE NOT A FAMILY THAT YELLS EVERYTHING WE SAY?!

Oh yes.  They understand well.  Abby even mimics it seconds later.  Her mini-mom tantrum is taken out on poor Lemon and Blueberry.  Somehow Strawberry escapes unscathed but the other two have been sitting in the corner with (rather large and kind of furry) spider remains for days.

They do as we do.  Never as we say.

About two weeks each month  Every so often my skin feels like the quills of a porcupine are protruding from it, thus protecting my person from incoming assaults.  Things like hugs, kisses, interacting with people, being nice, helping someone with their shoes.  Even practicing spelling words while loading the dishwasher is far too cumbersome with quills.  One thing at a time, demanding humans, one thing.  We porcupines deserve a little room, don't we?  Alas, that room is never granted.  The children, the dogs,the telephone, the husband crush me with their own sensory needs, requests for orange juice, excessive displays of sweetness through face nuzzling.  They do not respect the quills.

Oh, but they see them.

The last time Andy suggested I go to the gym or "head on out for a run," my steely voodoo eyes let him know he should just pass me the chocolate chip jar next time.

The thing is, we full-time-at-homers don't need advice on what to do to find balance.  We memorized the freaking book on How To Find Balance.  We just need you to watch the children so we can.

Plain and simple.  You stay here.  I go waaaay over there.  And yet, things fall to crap upon execution.

Abby sniffles in my lap and says I must be mad at her because I've only spent the last 23 hrs with us glued at the hip and it was that last hour that really sealed the unconditional love contingency clause in our relationship.  23 hours does not a good mommy make.

When the quills are out, even my freaking dogs are personal energy vampires.  The walking, the feeding, the eyeballs asking when the fun part of their life will start, the constant cute snowy faces that need all that kissy make me lose track of my important things.  Like eating an avocado with a knife in my kitchen.  Alone.

Since I'm a girl of action, I made my family miserable for 5 years figured out what I could do to add energy to my body instead of chronically depleting it.  

First off, I tweaked my diet again.  Completely ditched the lattes in favor of green tea and much more water. Added some meals throughout the day to boost metabolism.

Secondly, I took note of where I go for fun.  Not errand running or exercising.  Those are more energy vampires for me.  Certainly not grocery shopping.  That place is like a colony of children who need me to help them with math.  Insta-exhaustion sets in before I find the wobbly cart.  No, I paid attention to where I drove when I sought refuge.  And wouldn't you know, my van drove straight to a place that is part thrift store, part dog adoption center.  I know, it's like I made it up.  But I swear it's real.

So now, I volunteer in this magical center and it's all kinds of perfect for the predicament my crowded soul is in.

It's fixing all things tangly in there.

Because look at who I get to hang out with.

None of them get poked by any quills.

You know why?

Because I don't have any when I'm around them.

These sweet bunny faces are generous spiritual guides.  They give energy in spades, not take it.

My Happy Place is taking pictures of them while we play.  There is warmth, affection, and a little bit of poop but it's awesome.   Each love here is looking for a family to dote on.  If you're local (Louisiana), please let me know if you're ever interested in adopting any one of them you see here.

I hope to be taking their pictures for a long time to come.

It's the least I can do for those who give so much without ever once caring I'm sometimes a porcupine.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

In many ways, living in Louisiana feels like being away at college.  There is this party feel in the air all the time.  Even a regular Tuesday.

Your best friends live right next door and down the street.  When you want to slip away from your responsible life for a minute, you shuffle to them in your slippers as they are waiting for you with your glass of white already in their hands.

Can't you just smell the patchouli?

Purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras colors frame every doorway in booming classy ribbon puffs.  Black and gold Saints regalia adorn most indoor archways.  The French influence is alive with Louisiana's cuisine, street names and the ever present fleur-de-lis pride on many walls.

Everyone invites you over for "the game."  And the appetizers are always shrimp.  When someone's grilling, it's a feast for a street and not just one family's dinner.
When we learned we were moving here, I was severely depressed  not thrilled.  I thought what's a northern family like us going to do in a southern town like New Orleans?

Have the time of their lives, that's what.

Man did I have a lot to learn about judgments.  I knew next to nothing about Louisiana other than how I needed to buy more tank tops and learn to love gumbo.

Since settling into our little niche north of the big city, the laid back energy of this town has inched its way into the soles of our feet.

Grayson is desperately trying on a southern accent by forcing himself to say, "y'all" when he normally uses "you guys."  The measured pause before and after are enough for us to lose it to the giggles but we try to honor his chameleon whenever possible.

Abby has quite naturally acclimated into a southern girl.  She often asks me to find her "hayah tahs" for her "hayah."  The girl's feet are forever the demise of our carpet as I cannot convince her to wear shoes.  Or pants.   If I do win out and get pants on those busy legs, she defies my parenting and smacks on the loudest skirt you've evah seehn over top.

Even Andy has become the family man of my dreams.  He always was but couldn't show it off when the Pentagon or Command & Staff had him tied up with their agenda.  It's the nature of the military beast.  You have a husband but they have a Marine.  They win.  You wait aggressively pining patiently praying he eventually gets a billet that does not own his time at home, too.  Including weekends.

-pause -Y'all -pause-, we got it.  They moved us here.

Louisiana has been so good for us and in return I have no choice but to love it hard, like the neurotic passionate northern girl I will always be.

*My blog is experiencing technical difficulties; not allowing its pilot to add pictures, space correctly, or make a mean paella.  Hope to get it sorted out soon.  Or else we'll all starve.  Creatively, emotionally, and figuratively.  Thanks for bearing with me.  Is it baring?  I never know.  (Ooohlala.)  I love you guys, y'all.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Free Flow

I don't have a post ruminating in my mind today like usual.  Yet I really feel like writing.  So, I give you some free flow:

Abby is quietly settled into my old favorite rocking chair pressing a stylus around all the wrong answers on her LeapPad2.  It's a patient game, and keeps telling her the sun is golden yellow.  My guess is she's trying to make it orchid pink.

Our pipes froze solid last night while I was dreaming about turning sinks on in my childhood home. 

My friend texted me the other day that her skin didn't fit and did I ever feel like that.  I have and today I do.  A lot.  Your whole body feels taught like a balloon that is willing itself to find the nearest sharp thing to relieve the pressure.

My kids' arms and legs are taking the shape of teenager's limbs.  Even Grayson's kneecaps seem like they have big plans in there.  Abby's thighs still have hints of freshly baked dough but her muscles are all business as they help her turn our living room into her tactical gymnasium. 

Abby has the most beautiful shape and I love my body more because it made hers.  She will know the words:  diet, fat, do these make my butt look big, and layering.  But right now, I hush Andy when he talks of how much weight he wants to lose.  I have wasted too many years underappreciating my own skin to let anyone's voice ring in her ears, including my own.  That kid bravado she has inspires and reminds me to speak well of myself around her.   It feels like a show most of the time but my body responds with taller posture and longer strides.  I think it's falling for it.

The other night Grayson told me Sparrow smells like the sweetest spot on the earth.  I know what he means.  Sadie smells like every secret I don't know about the world but someday might.  In her fur are the answers to galaxies we can't see and why vegetables are so hard to love.

For the last few months, silver is exploding from my dark hair like fireworks.  Sassy celebrations of late nights and years of keeping it together in the pediatrician's office.

Lately, I find Stephen Colbert hilarious.  The fact that he wears a three piece suit always just makes him funnier in my book.  It's such great medicine to watch him right before going to sleep.

There are fewer signs of Jimmy lately and I haven't seen him in my dreams.  It's amazing how many times I need proof he's still somewhere good.  While the signs of him are fewer, the presence of him is greater in my own mind.  I wake every morning more energized to push forward with things that feel important to me.  Some are small in scope but others are large and I am not intimidated by their bigness.  I trust these steps and all intention behind each one. 

We got to press the reset button as a family over the holidays.  That never happens and the boat we're on feels less like a canoe and more like a sturdy vessel.

Ever since that crazy endless stomach flu, I have severed ties with coffee.  Even decaf.  Did you catch the flu this year?  Did it change your taste buds, too?

Most of my shirts are purple.

This is the time of year anxiety sets in about spring.  No idea what that's about. 

I'm a couple of months away yet but 40 really does seem like it might be Fabulous.