Saturday, February 26, 2011

Free Bird


Rosie went to a dance last week.

The middle school Valentine's Dance.

It was a "semi-formal" affair, in which the girls wore pretty little dresses and little-bitty heels and the boys wore poorly arranged ties.

She had gone to a friend's house to get ready and get a ride there, and I was to pick them up when it was all over and deliver them safely home.

We waited, we parents, in the warmth of our cars. Reading books, checking messages, biding time. Soon enough, the doors opened, the light sliced through the darkness of the night, and a mass of young people spilled down the steps, a waterfall of children.

My eyes scanned the crowd, looking for my daughter.

And there she was.

When I saw her a few hours ago she was dressed in grey sweat pants, moccassins, and a soccer t-shirt. But in her giggling clot of girls, she floated forward in the stream, wearing the dress we had picked out. Silver with a hint of lavender, and an embroidery of glistening black flowers, it was lovely. She was lovely. And growing up so quickly. To say that the years between 3 and 13 passed in the blink of an eye is a weary cliche, but true nonetheless.

As they walked out into the breezy night air, their balloons tugged at the ribbons around their wrists like frolicking puppies. Rosie and friends were talking, laughing, teetering on their heels even while trying to pull off the look like they were born wearing them.

Their chatter and laughter didn't skip a beat as they loaded into the car. Maggie was wearing a curlie-que ribbon in her hair, torn from the basket Rosie won in a raffle. Another friend, Hannah, was helping Rosie dissect the basket to inventory the take. She had won a plastic heart that radiated a strobe light, nearly inducing a seizure in me while I was driving. The off switch appeared to be defective. She won a red teddy bear outfitted as a devil. And candy. Lots and lots of candy. Because large quantities of sugar was just what these girls needed about now.

When the conversation paused a heartbeat, I began my littany of questions.....

Me: So how was it?
Girls: (Looking at each other)Ummm...alright? I guess?
Me: Well were a lot of your friends there?
Girls: No. It was like, all 8th graders.
Me: Was the dance in the cafeteria? Was it decorated?
Girls: Yeah. They had like, 2 banners that said Happy Valentine's Day and some balloons.
Me: Why Valentine's Day? Isn't it, like, 11 days past or something?
When I have a conversation with two or more teen girls, the word "like" somehow finds its way into my vocabulary without my awareness of it.
Girls: Yeah but it was like, rescheduled.
Me: Did you guys dance with anyone?
M: We danced with each other.
R: And I slow-danced with my balloon.
H: Only like one couple dance-danced.
Dance-danced? Oh, I get it. Like food-food.
R: And Mrs. H did the tango with herself and when she saw me she told me to tell Patrick to get his hair cut.
Small school.
Me: Who did the music, Mr H?
Girls: Yeah, like always.
Me: What kind of stuff did he play?
Girls: The usual. Pop stuff.
Me: Did he play Free Bird at the end?
Girls: What's Free Bird?
At which point I nearly drove my car into a ditch.
Me: WHAT'S FREE BIRD?! It's only the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic played at the end of every middle school dance going back till the dawn of time!
Girls: Looking at each other.....
Me: You know, all the kids start yelling FREEEEEEEEBIIIIIIIIIIRD and the DJ acts like he's never gonna play it but you just keep yelling FFFFFRRRRREEEEEBBBBIIIIIRRRRDDDD until he finally, magically plays it and then all the girls group in clusters to slow-dance with each other and a few real couples make-out while shuffling their feet.
Free Bird.

Crickets.

They have no clue.

Then, to make matters worse, I start trying to sing it to them so they'll GET IT, but I glance in the mirror and realize Rosie is
going to die
and so I stop.

And I continue the drive home shocked into a state of stuporous silence.

But then we get home, and I see the girls waltz into the house, looking all grown up but acting like the young teens they are and I am all nostalgic.

Because I am still thinking of Free Bird, I sit down at my computer and look up the lyrics, because my memory has preserved them in a warped kind of way and I want to remember.

No. I want to re-collect.

And there it is......

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be travelling on, now,
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see.
But, if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can't change.

Bye, bye, its been a sweet love.
Though this feeling I can't change.
But please don't take it badly,
'Cause Lord knows I'm to blame.
But, if I stayed here with you girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you'll never change.
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can't change.
Lord help me, I can't change.


Only now I'm not seeing it as the teen once did. I'm not seeing it as a song I would belt out while knotting together with my best friends, arms all entangled.

I'm seeing it through a mother's eyes. And in the lyrics, my daughter, my beautiful, growing-up-too-fast daughter, is the bird about to fly.

And I know the next time I blink, she will be grown.

She will be flying.

And I cry ....

Monday, February 21, 2011

Quirky Minds Think Alike


Picked up Daniel's friend today. They hadn't gotten together in a dog's age, and on the drive home, I couldn't help but recall how made for each other these two are.

Some of the words/phrases I heard bouncing around in the back seat....

cryogenics
teleporter
more helium and hydrogen on Venus
DNA extraction
clone the pilot
dinosaurs in acid
I'll choke you
don't break my neck
sanitary
rock vs stapler?
the smoothest pencil in the world

Now, I'll admit the context and significance of most of these word bytes were lost on me.
I'm assuming it all made sense to them.

Future careers? The possibilities are endless. Some that jump to mind are:
video game designers (b/c we soooo need more video games in our world)
writers
astrophysicists
sanitation engineers
astronauts
pencil manufacturers
producers of fights pitting inanimate object agains each other

Taking bets.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ill-conceived Notion


As I was making the appointment with the vet's office, I thought to myself,
This is an ill-conceived notion.

A few of my critters were due for their annual shots
OK, 2 mths past due, but who's counting?
so I was figuring who to take. Since my vet gives a discount to any client deranged enough to bring in more than two animals at a time, I thought it prudent to take advantage of the savings. Also, more animals at once means fewer trips all together.

And I knew my yellow Lab had another ear infection. See, I'm kind of like an animal expert, so when she tilts her head back and scratches it slowly with her hind foot, then examines the foot, sniffs it, and licks the bacteria-laden puss from her claws, I just made that leap in my brain. I'm smart that way.

It's sorta like when a hillbilly picks some festering bit of squirrel from between his teeth, studies it, then eats it.

So I decided two dogs and two cats would be a nice, balanced mix. Wisely, I determined that putting both cats in one carrier would free up one hand, making things more efficient. They would be comfortable, I was sure, as it was quite roomy.

By roomy, I mean it was roughly the size of a one-car garage.

As it had a handle, I considered it a "carrier", but much like a hanky in a breast pocket, it was all for show.
This was meant to be set in place in one's home and remain there. If the house were to be sold, this "carrier" would be sold along with it, much like a refrigerator or an oven.

With the cats comfortably lounging in their respective corners, I hoisted it up and proceeded to get it downstairs to the car. Besides the mass and the bulky dimensions of the carrier itself, I hadn't thought that I would also be hauling the combined 25 lbs of the cats themselves. My back and neck muscles were bulging, I started to break out in a cold sweat, and I was muttering obscenities under my breath, but get it downstairs I did.

Next I brought the dogs down. Sunny (the Lab) was wiggling all over, excited at the prospect of
going somewhere
and
doing something.

She leaped before the door was fully open.
You know how when Wile E Coyote runs headlong into a cliff painted deceptively like a tunnel, and his body accordians up and he plays music? I can attest that this happens in real life.

When her body straightened out, and with the door in its fully upright position, she jumped into the back of the car. By the time I leveraged the carrier into place beside her, I had to spend a few minutes picking up the crayons, coloring books, headphones and socks that had been dislodged from the car due to Sunny's perpetual state of wiggle-iness.

We got to the vet's in short order and I proceeded to unload without incident. Getting them into the office was another matter.

First Sunny wedged herself into the doorway just as I was edging the carrier through.
She is not known for her intellect.

They were jammed, but I unstuck them and tried again. This time I told the dogs to stay as I tried to put the carrier through first. But Cindy Lou, the little Rat Terrier, darted under the carrier and around my ankles a couple times, winding me up like a top, then sprinting back the way she came, sending me spinning.
Unfortunately the act of unwinding herself only served to wind Sunny up.

I put the carrier on the ground and proceeded to intricately step over and under leashes, much like Tom Cruise avoiding lasers in a spy movie.

Untangled, I left the carrier where it was and got the dogs in the door, then dragged the portable shed through the doorway inch by inch.

We had made it.

Into the foyer.

We then had to repeat the whole process to get through the next door and into the office proper.

Only once I opened said door, the antiseptic smell of Vet's Office washed over the dogs and they knew where they were. This was no longer an adventurous outing, but an excursion through the gates of Hell.

They both put their full body weights into pulling back against their leashes. This while I was pushing the carrier through the doorway with about 1/2 inch to spare on either side, like I was moving a dresser into a bedroom. I pushed it into the office as far as my arms would reach, then stepped back and flung the dogs in with one mighty, adrenaline-surge of strength.

I recovered my breath for a few moments in the waiting room, slumped in a chair, my hair plastered to my face, my clothes enshroudeded in dog hair. The dogs were trembling in the corner. The cats, nonplussed, gazed out at me from the confines of their mini mansion.

The time came to weigh the dogs and Sunny lumbered onto the scale. I know I heard it creak. For a split second her motion stopped and her weight registered.
101 pounds.

My mind's eye offered up several snapshots:
Sunny parked under the table, catching each food particle before it hit the floor.
Sunny beating the other dogs to the dishes placed on the floor to pre-rinse before going in the dishwasher.
Sunny trying to wedge her massive body inside the dishwasher to get any nuances of food left behind from the pre-rinse.
She was all about the food.

Next it was Cindy Lou's turn.
"Go ahead and put her on the scale", instructed the tech.
"She is on the scale", I replied.
She weighed all of 8 pounds.

We got them all in the exam room and the the vet did his thing and all went well. Except Cindy, having never been to the vet's before, was nervous. Standing on the exam table, facing the vet, she saw his hand reach out to her and she wanted away. With her little tail being pressed up against my arm, she had nowhere to go. So she started backing her hindquarters up my body till her back legs were on my shoulder and she was doing a full handstand, completely vertically, upside-down.

Yes. I have normal animals.

The exam over, with thorough examinations and multiple vaccinations for each of them and two new drugs for Sunny's ears, I headed to the desk to check out.
There was much clicking of the keyboard.
There were many papers printed.
There were consultations in hushed whispers.

I was presented with the bill.

$401 dollars.

My God in heaven.

This was 1/2 a month's worth of groceries.
This was a pair of shoes and a pack of socks for each member of the family. And throw in some underwear.
This was a couple month's worth of school lunches.
This was a trip to WalMart when I only planned on getting some Tide and Ziplock Bags but ended up buying everything that I saw that I thought we needed at the time including that cute little throw-rug that would look just right by the front door.


There was only one thing for it.
Sell the children for scientific experimentation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

History of a Driver


3 years old
Learned to ride a trike. Clean driver's record.

4 years old
Bike with training wheels. Hard to operate on gravel drive. Tires would spin in place, gravel shooting about, resulting in road rage.

5 years old
2-wheeler. Fair share of spills and scraped knees. Often plowed headlong into shrubbery.

6 years old
Power Wheels. Had it going 0 to 2.5 in a heartbeat. It was either pedal to the metal or standstill; no middle-ground cruising speed. Couldn't drive a straight line to save his life. By the time he outgrew it, the pathetic vehicle was gravely in need of body work.

8 years old
Golf cart. Now you're talkin'. He would drive down the lane with the wind in his face (he had demolished the windshield early on) screaming in sheer delight. He careened about, landing the cart in ditches, stuck in the low-hanging branches of trees, into mud puddles that could swallow a cow. Neighbor gave him a restraining order, banning him from operating it anywhere near his property.

14 years old
No longer interested in outdoor pursuits, he became more.... inwardly focused. When his gaze was fixated on a screen, the world around him dropped away. Result? Looking up from a hand-held screen from the passenger's seat, he would ask (a 1/2 mile from home), "Where are we and how long till we get home?"
Orientation skills? Nill.
Awareness of surroundings? Absent.

16 years old
In their infinite wisdom, the employees of the great commonwealth of PA issued Patrick a driver's permit yesterday, which states that he is now qualified to operate a 2000 pound hunk of steel and glass.
On the roads.
Around other people.

The boy who can't remember to hand in his chem labs will now have to steer, maintain speed, brake smoothly, and know the difference between a red light, a blinker, and a 4-way stop. He will need to know that hydroplaning is not landing a small seaplane on a lake, the braking distance on dry roads vs wet, and who has right-of-way in a traffic circle.
All while breathing.

The folks at DMV may have said he is ready.

I, on the other hand, am not.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Number Crunching

6: Number of kids that call me Mom (or Mommy or Old Hag)

7 or 8: Number of kids that call me Second Mommy (ie those that know where they can get away with stuff 'cuz I'm too frazzled to notice what's going on under my own roof)

18 - 20: Number of times per day I'm asked 'What's for dinner?"

18 - 20: How often I'm tempted (per day) to inquire about setting up a McDonald's franchise in my own kitchen.

200+: How many gallons of milk we drink in a year

2000+: How many eggs we consume in a year

15 - 20,000: About how many diapers I've changed

20 - 30,000: About how many 'why' questions I've had to creatively and spontaneously answer

Untold hundreds: BooBoos I've kissed and made better

4 - 500: Number of miles I drive per week to take kids to school, pick up sick kids from school, drive to soccer games, the store, the library, appointments, CCD, play rehearsals,......

96: Dollar value of gas my Beulah drinks in less than a week, sucking it like a milkshake through a straw

7: Average number of socks found on the floor on a daily basis

30: Roughly the number of times per day that I have to tell one of my children to let it go-separate-go to your room-say sorry-no name calling-hands off......

50 - 100: Roughly the number of times per day that I have to tell one of my kids to feed the dogs-brush your teeth-take a shower-empty the dishwasher-take out the trash-clear your place at the table-pick up your socks-comb your hair-do your homework-no more screens-elbows off the table-chew with your mouth closed-finish your dinner-no soda-no dessert-turn off the light-flush the toilet-wash your hands-take out the puppy-clean up the puppy mess-whose bracelet is this-whose nail polish is this-whose socks are these-who left these markers out-who was using my computer desk and left a bowl of ice cream on it-whose tape-whose flashcards-whose magazine-whose book-whose turn is it to take Annabelle out-who left the sofa blankets and pillows all over the floor-who left the TV on all night-don't you understand that if you don't do your homework and turn it in you won't get good grades and won't get into a decent college and you won't get a job you like that pays good and then you won't find anyone to love and you'll be just scraping by all your life and die miserable and alone...

Sigh.

Why does anyone love me?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Amishivalry

You probably all know by now that I'm a self-confessed Amish stalker. Saw a scene last week that I thought was blog-worthy.....

Went down the road to buy eggs from Sarah, one of my Amish neighbors. But as I pulled into her driveway, she was walking out to her buggy, purse in hand, ready for a trip to the grocery store. She was out of eggs anyway, so I got back in the car to head home, thinking,
"Poor thing. I can just hop in my car and I'm ready to roll. She's still gotta go in the barn, harness up the horse, and hitch him to the buggy before she can start motorin'."

But just then, her husband walked out of the barn, leading by the reins their carriage horse, all harnessed up. He walked him over to the buggy, turned him around, backed him into place and starting hitching him up.

I suppose that is the Amish equivalent of my husband warming up the car for me.....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spittin' Mad

That's right I got spittin' mad over the weekend.

Mad at the love of my life. The man I've been together with through thick and thin (OK, more thick than thin) for nearly 28 years.

Seems every now and again we don't see eye to eye on stuff, and between the two of us, we've got a lot of stuff. When he refused to see my point of view with the crystal clarity I required, I had to choose between:

a) sitting down to a mature discussion over our opposing viewpoints
b) throwin' down in fisticuffs
c) breaking out in a farsical musical number, ala Glee

Since none of the above options really spoke to me, I chose instead to storm out of the house, work gloves in hand, and go directly to the barn without passing Go or collecting 200 dollars.

After mucking out and feeding/watering, I moved headlong into demolition mode.

If you'll recall, I shall soon be in receipt of about a dozen chicks, and I've gotta get that henhouse in order. I've got a place in mind ready for renovation, and a standing agreement with my neighbor Henry to build it for me, but you know those lazy, shiftless Amish. Can't count on 'em for nothin'.

So I started it myself. Tore out about 200 sq ft of old cobwebby chicken wire, removed boards, relocated untold numbers of gutter pipes, vinyl siding sheets, lumber and plenty of what-not up into the rafters of the barn. Transferred piles of old bricks into the workshop, scraped layers of muck and goo and old feed bags from the floors.

I was out there for days with nothing but a bottle of water (later turned toilet).

OK, OK, so it was really only a few hours. And so what if James came out to help me, doing the bulk of the sawing and hammering and ripping and other physical-type manly stuff? It felt like days and that's what really matters.

When we quit for the afternoon we had accomplished a heck of a lot. Or as us country folk say, a bushel and a peck. Way more than I would have if he had not joined my act of lunacy already in progres.

What's more, my head was a tad cooler when I finally re-entered the house. I took a shower, burned my clothes, and changed into some cozy jams, ready for a quiet evening of watching 3 million dollar commercials, interspersed with brief segments of football.

But now, looking back, I can see the error of my ways. All that anger, all that frenzied chaos in the barn.

Next time I feel mad at the hubs, I will pause. I will breathe.

I will take a couple minutes to draft an orderly to-do list and gather the neccessary tools, that I may magnify my productivity by 50% instead of the paltry 20% I achieved over the weekend.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Where am I and How Did I Get Here?

In an out-of-body experience the other day, I looked down on myself in my kitchen, being yelled at by an abnoxious 15 year old with long dirty blond hair (emphasis on the dirty).
Seems he was upset with me for making him go to school (on a school day mind you) because our home district buses were cancelled.

So I looked down upon myself (and it's not the most flattering angle, truth be told) and asked myself how I came to be in such a position. My child was back sassin' me; telling me my decision to send him off to school was retarded.

Wasn't this the same child for whom I endured 23 hours of labor, which included suffering through traditional labor, use of forceps, a Hoover applied south of the border, and ultimately being surgically flayed open to bring him screaming into the world?

Wasn't this the child I nursed through multiple ear infections and viruses, night terrors, appendicitis? Rocked and paced and cried for hours on end when he was a colicky infant? Stood in steaming bathrooms in the middle of the night to help ease the croup?

I was quite certain that this was the same boy whose bottom I wiped and diapers I changed so frequently that the act invaded my dreams. The child from whom I tolerated snot, pee, poop, vomit and strained pees in my hair, on my clothes, in my mouth and up my nose.

The boy I taught to read, ride a bike, use the potty and tie his shoes. The one I learned side-by-side with to find out all there was to know about dinosaurs, "constuction appointment", castles and bugs.

Looking back upon all I sacrificed - all the madness of being a Mommy - I found it unfathomable that any halfway grown child of mine should do any less than bow in supplication when I entered the room. How then, was I witnessing the scene before me? Had I truly let my children chisel away at me bit by painful bit to the point where there is nothing left but a shriveled up shadow of a human to be yelled at when their wish was not granted?

I wanted to scream and pull my hair out, but since this was an out-of-body experience, such was not possible.

So instead, zhwoop, I re-entered my body, grew a 1/2" taller (still puny compared to his 6' stature) and lay into him about respect and loss of privileges and blahblahblah. He quieted down about it, but still held a grudge for awhile. As did I. You'd better remember that I rule over everything you hold near and dear, son, and will not hesitate to take it all away in a snap.

Don't mess with this Mama.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If pride is a sin.....

....then I guess I'm goin' to hell.

Rosie took part in the middle school's annual spelling bee again last week and came in 2nd, besting 70+ other competitors.
The match was won by an 8th grader (Rosie is in 7th) when Rosie got out on the word 'malleable', thinking it had only one "l".

As Veronica said, the word malleable shall furthermore be stricken from our vocabulary.

Way to go, Rosie!

What the ....?

Fred: (peering down at a small quantity of brown something-or-other on the floor by the kitchen door) What is that?
Bella: (squatting down and looking real close) I don't know.
Fred: Is it poop?
Bella: (zooming in real close. Picks it up, smells it, puts it back down) Yep. It's poop. (Walks away)


Only in my family.

PS: To clarify, it was a piece of muck from the barn that I tracked in earlier without realizing. Poop definitely high on the list of ingredients, but it makes me feel slightly better to qualify it in this way.

PPS: Yes, Bella did wash her hands.
Yes, it did get cleaned up.

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