Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kindergarten: The Glad Game

Half a mile down the street is a little elementary school, only a few years old. We drive past it often, and ever since it opened we occasionally have told Silas as we passed it, "Some day that's going to be your school!" That 'some day' always seemed so far away.

'Some day' finally arrived last Wednesday, the day that my little boy strode into kindergarten sporting an awesome pair of light-up Star Wars kicks and a Despicable Me backpack, and holding his mother's nervous heart. Apparently I need never have worried. The kid loves his school day, adores his teacher, and has easily made some friends in his class. The school seems to be quite tight-knit, and as luck would have it, I even know some of the faculty and staff. The lovely "Ms. G.," who has been a friend of mine since I was 17, is a full-time teaching assistant who has eyes on my boy from the moment I drop him off until he comes running into my arms with a grin at 11:48AM, which is the end of his day (we're doing half-day kindergarten). At the open house last week, I even recognized the school secretary as the mother of one of my childhood friends, and I was happy to receive her bear-hug upon our recognition of one another. The school is new and lovely, his classroom is exciting yet cozy, and his teacher is creative and personable. Silas is clearly in great hands.

As kindergarten approached, I (mostly) persuaded myself to play Pollyanna's "Glad Game" in place of wallowing in sadness. After all, I reasoned, it's not like I'm losing Silas. He's actually introducing us to this new, awesome thing! Besides, he's only gone in the morning. I reminded myself of Malala Yousafzai, the widely-recognized young activist and Nobel Prize laureate who survived a Taliban gunshot to the head and has fought bravely for the rights of girls and women to receive an education in all corners of the world. We're lucky, I told myself, that Silas has the privilege not only to attend school, but to attend a great school. Sending him to a place where he can learn how to reach his potential is not a sad occasion. There are mothers in many places who long for this opportunity for their children and don't receive it. We have our lives, our health, strong social support, and exciting opportunities. No wonder Pollyanna played this game! I felt a million times better about sending Silas to kindergarten when my perspective changed from negative to positive. As Pollyanna herself said, "When you're hunting for the glad things, you sort of forget the other kind."

Malala Yousafzai, whose book I Am Malala is fabulous, by the way

Still, despite my best efforts, it was a bit of a sucker punch during the first morning's walk home without him. I held back tears until we were off school grounds, and even then I only shed a few as I pushed my other two along in the stroller. The waves of grief that day were brief and only brought on by my recollections of Silas as a newborn. I remember so well my maternity leave with him, those bright summer days spent falling in love with a new little baby so fast and so hard. I remember the kisses on his tiny face, smelling his hair, and falling into naps with him in my arms while Ellen DeGeneres and episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" played in the background. Those were sweet, sweet days, and I'm lucky to have those memories. I've even been lucky enough to have them three different times with three different boys, two of which are still home with me full-time for years to come. Boy, am I excited when I think about that!

A new mom
 We're a little over one week into school now, and I'm very excited about the part in our lives that this little elementary school is already playing. Silas is currently enjoying School Spirit Week, which has included such antics as "Minion Day" and "Duct Tape Day," much to BJ's chagrin (I put BJ in charge of making duct tape accessories and he excelled---a new-found talent!). At occasional points throughout my life I have felt a sense of crisp clarity that I knew I was in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. In the millions of directions I could have gone, somehow I had gotten it right and was following the correct path. Yesterday as I was chauffeuring my younger two around, another of those rare clarity moments hit me. Our family is in exactly the right home, in exactly the right school, in exactly the right class; the five of us belong here, and we are where we're supposed to be. I take great comfort in that intuition.

Nowadays, we still frequently drive by that little elementary school a half-mile down the road, but our words as we pass have changed a bit. Now we say, "Silas, there's your school! And George, that's going to be your school too some day!"

Some day.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Seinfeld-Potter Confluence

Some serious time has passed since my last post. You're welcome. I haven't wanted to write, and I couldn't think of anything to write about, so instead I spent my me-time after the boys go to sleep devouring travel memoirs and catching up on "VEEP" episodes. Last week on vacation, though, ideas for blog posts began popping into my mind in quick succession, so here I find myself again!

Topic number one: "Seinfeld." It seems to have been one of those love-it or hate-it shows, and I loved it. Elaine, Kramer, Jerry, and George are tops in my book. I've seen every episode at least once, and BJ and I regularly quote one-liners to one another when appropriate. Sometimes in my mind I pair a scene occurring with one of our boys with an equivalent "Seinfeld" scene and I smile inwardly. Occasionally this habit is my own personal "Serenity now!" that gets me through chaotic situations. There are just too many good scenarios and one-liners to ever capture in one place, but I thought I'd record some of our personal favorite "Seinfeld" quotes with images of our kids. My personal favorite scene had no appropriate place, but I hope the resulting Seinfeld-Potter Boy confluence brings a chuckle to "Seinfeld" fans. Enjoy!

George: "My name is George. I am unemployed and I live with my parents."

Kramer: "You think people will still be using napkins in the year 2000? Or is this mouth vacuum thing for real?"

Kramer: "These pretzels are making me thirsty."


Kramer: Here's to David Puddy for helping me install a much-needed and much-appreciated garbage disposal in my bathtub.
Peggy: You have a garbage disposal in your bathtub?
Kramer: Oh yeah, and I use it all the time. Yeah, I made this whole meal in there.
Elaine: This food was in the shower with you?
Kramer: Mm-hmmm. I prepared it as I bathed.

Kramer: Well, it's a story about love, deception, greed, lust and unbridled enthusiasm.
Elaine: Unbridled enthusiasm? 
Kramer: That's what led to Billy Mumphrey's downfall.
Elaine: Oh, boy.
Kramer: You see, Elaine, Billy was a simple country boy, you might say a cockeyed optimist, who got himself mixed up in the high-stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue.
Elaine: Oh, my God.

George: "Jerry, just remember, it's not a lie if you believe it."

Elaine: He's like a Svenjolly.
Jerry: Svengali.
Elaine: What did I say?
Jerry: Svenjolly.
Elaine: Svenjolly? I did not say Svenjolly.
Jerry: George?
George: Svenjolly. (licking some peanut butter off his finger)
Elaine: I don't see how I could've said Svenjolly.
Jerry: Well, maybe he's got, like, a cheerful mental hold on you.

Jerry: Elaine, have you ever gone out with a bald man?
Elaine: No.
Jerry: You know what that makes you? A baldist.

Jerry: "Did you know that the original title for War and Peace was War, What Is It Good For?"

George: "The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli! I got about fifty feet out and suddenly, the great beast appeared before me. I tell ya, he was ten stories high if he was a foot."

George: "You should've seen her face. It was the exact same look my father gave me when I told him I wanted to be a ventriloquist." (In this photo, I'm referring to our George's countenance.)

Elaine: "We don’t know how long this will last. They are a very festive people."

Elaine, on pain pills: "Stella! STEEELLLLLAAAAA!" 

(Elaine is writing a catalogue with a mail room clerk that she intended to fire, but instead promoted because she was intimidated by his gruff voice and military fatigues.)
Eddie: I think I got something here! For the Bengalese galoshes. "It's tough keepin' your feet dry when you're kicking in a skull."
Elaine: Eddie...that might be just a tad harsh, for women's wear.
Eddie: Well, I'm not married to it. 
Elaine: Oh. Well, um, in that case why don't we take the phrase, "kicking in a skull" and we tweak it, you know, just a hair, to something like, what, like "strolling through a dewy meadow"? 

And finally, of course, the greatest of all:
Elaine: "You're through, Soup Nazi. Pack it up. No more soup for you. NEXT!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The First Daisy

Every fall, BJ and the boys plant a beautiful display of tulips in our front garden. Each spring, they wait with bated breath for the emergence of the leaves, then the bulbs, and the opening of the beautiful flowers. It is always a sight to behold, particularly with my favorite guys hovering near them, viewing them in admiration.

I love the tulips; don't get me wrong. What I really can't wait each year for, though, is my daisies. As April rolls into May each spring, I find myself hanging around my daisies more often, willing those little stems to shoot up buds, and then willing those promising little buds to show me what's inside. Every year I count on those daisies, and they never disappoint. They mean so much to me, in fact, that I have told BJ that if we ever move to another home (a thought that breaks my heart even to consider!), half of those daisies are coming with us.

The nostalgia behind those daisies is incredible for me. I remember well the evening of May 4, 2010. BJ and I came home from the hospital late that afternoon with our first newborn, a little guy named Silas. I was already deeply in love with him, and I relish even now the promise that that evening held--an entire lifetime to come with this amazing little boy. I felt terrified, yet on top of the world. That first night, though, I might have been mostly terrified. Because of that, BJ's mom Susan came to spend the night with us. She had a dinner engagement with her job, but once it was over in the early evening, she came to our house toting an air mattress, a tray of leftover food from the shindig, and a bucketful of daisies from her yard. I sat on the grey sectional in our living room, looking out our large front window and smelling my sweet new baby, as I watched BJ and his beloved mother plant those daisies in our front garden. It is perhaps the sweetest memory of my entire life.

Daisies are perennials, destined to come back each year, and for that I am so grateful. That means that every May, I get to look at our beautiful, humble garden and remember with swells in my heart what it felt like to have a new baby, a devoted husband, and a mother-in-law-turned-mother who would give her time, efforts, and love to her son, his wife, and her new grandson. Later that evening we all watched YouTube tutorials on how to swaddle a baby, and we all laid Silas down in his crib together. I remember Susan telling me to go to sleep and get some rest, and I asked with trepidation as I looked at that tiny being in that huge crib, "Are you sure there is no way he can die tonight like this?" She reassured me that Silas was fine, and then she met me in the living room during each nursing session that night to talk to me while I fed Silas, and then she put him back to sleep while I rested. It was the first night that she stayed, but it was by far not the last.

Last weekend, my first daisy opened. Then another, and another the next day. Silas excitedly ran to me last night and announced that five daisies are now in full bloom. The same little boy that snuggled sleeping in my arms five years ago now races on big-boy legs to tell me the big news...

The daisies have bloomed.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Parent Fail

When it comes to motherhood, I like to think that I get most of the important things right. There must always be a balance, however, and I more-than-occasionally tip the scale over to the side of "probably not the best-ever mother performance." My kids eat vegetables, but they also eat Happy Meals and suckers. They take baths or showers, but sometimes with a three-day stretch in between. They love reading, but they also love watching "American Ninja Warrior" and then building their own harrowing obstacle courses in the living room. They love exploring nature and handling toads and worms, but then I sometimes forget to wash their hands. They love to listen to music, but they may have a thing for Meghan Trainor. Currently, their favorite song is "Tribute" by Tenacious D, which they have dubbed "The Demon Song." I partially blame Jack Black for his awesome characterization of a hilarious, snorting demon. It cracks me up to hear my kids' tiny voices singing from the backseat, "We are but men. ROCK!" (George's pronunciation is more like, "We ah but men. WOCK!")

The award for "Mother of the Year" (as my friend Chanda jokingly calls herself) isn't likely to go to this gal, whose 17-month-old son calls all drinks "Coke." On the subject of drinks, though, Coke might be slightly better than the conversation I had with Silas the other day, in which we talked about how he is the oldest child and will therefore get to accomplish a whole lot of milestones first. We took turns listing them. I said he would go to school first, he said he would turn eight first. I said he would drive a car first, and so on, until he proudly announced that he would "get to drink beer first."

Nope, parenting isn't for the faint of heart. It's being stuck on an airplane with a sick child, using baby fingernail clippers to cut a Zofran in half because it's the only thing you can think of that might help. (It did!) It's letting your kids taste your coffee, realizing that they love it, and relinquishing what was yours when you spot the waffle bite from his mouth going back down your straw (I only give them the rest if it's decaf, at least). It's getting up from the table no less than eight times (I'm serious) during a meal to take care of spills, get refills, retrieve forgotten utensils, and take kids pee-pee. It's making room for one more in bed after a nightmare involving wolves in the house. It's just all-encompassing.

So forgive me for the following story, which is really the impetus for this post.

A couple of weeks ago, BJ was gone for a jog in the afternoon. Van was sleeping, so bear in mind that I only had two children to keep an eye on, not three! Silas and George played in the sandbox as I packed groceries to take to Susan's house, as we planned to cook a meal with her there. Even though the sandbox is easily in my line of sight from the kitchen, I must have lost track for a couple of moments because Silas stepped into the back door, lamely announcing that George had just covered his nice shirt in sand. As I stepped closer to Silas to help him brush off, I could see that he had sand in his hair too, and quite a bit of it. I stepped outside to put the kibosh on these shenanigans.

"George!" I began. "If I catch you dumping sand on your brother again..." My voice trailed off as I realized that what George had inflicted upon Silas was only about one-tenth of what he had done to himself. The sand was absolutely caked into his hair. What's a mother to do? There was no way that they were stepping into my house like that, so I stripped them down to their underwear and turned on the hose. The weather was warm, but the water was cold and I don't blame them for their reticence about getting hosed down. Silas screamed in laughter and enjoyed it, but George screamed as though I was murdering him, and promptly ran around to the front yard. Eventually I had enough sand off of my children to herd them inside, straight to the shower.

This they loved. However, I could hear that Van was awake and now playing in his crib, and we really needed to get ready to go to Susan's house. So, after a couple minutes of letting them spray each other and themselves, I took over and scrubbed scalps to remove the grit, beginning with Silas. Once out and dried, I pulled Silas close, said, "Listen bud. Look at me. I need you to go get some underwear and get dressed. That's your job right now is to get dressed. Got it?" He gave a thumbs up and trotted off, laughing as he went. I then tackled the trick of getting the sand out of George's hair. (As an aside, I don't think I actually got the last of it out until about ten days later.) George got out of the shower and we got him dried off, precisely as I was beginning to notice how quiet the house was. I suggested to George that we should go get dressed and find his brother, and he agreed.

Silas wasn't in his bedroom, nor was he in any room of the house. I went to the back door, which was still open from our trek in from the patio, and I didn't see him anywhere out back. He knows not to go out front without telling me, but my chest tightened a little and I thought, "He must have gone out front." Just as George and I reached the front glass door and opened it, I could see that BJ had returned from his jog and was walking down the cul-de-sac toward our house, laughing hysterically. And there was Silas, buck naked, riding his bicycle around the street of the cul-de-sac. The child had not a shred of clothing on, not even so much as a sock or a pair of Ninja Turtles underwear. Buck flipping naked.

When I later asked him why he didn't go straight to his room to put on his clothes as instructed, he told me that he had seen his bike on the front porch as he walked past the front door to go to his room, and he "forgot" his instructions and ran outside to go for a spin on the street. In that moment, caught by BJ--which doesn't really matter because BJ knows I don't always have it together anyway-- I had to come to terms with my limitations as a mom. Here I only really had two kids under my care since the third was in his crib, and still I had let it get away! And I sometimes have visions of a fourth?! Who am I kidding? A quick peek around our street confirmed that, fortunately, there were absolutely no neighbors outside to witness the spectacle of my son's garmentless joy ride. I'm not Catholic, but it only seemed appropriate to cross myself in that moment.

And so, dear Committee, this is why you should consider my application for "Mother of the Year" Award. And did I mention that last week my youngest son was taken to the emergency room twice in one night for entirely separate problems? I bet you don't have many applicants that can claim that! Hey, someone has to keep it real around here...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Moore in May

It's a curious mindset we have, citizens of Moore in the month of May. With each storm that rolls in and each day that forecasters warn of tornado potential, we shrug our shoulders and say to each other, "Well, it's Moore in May." I'm sure that there are places in the world that become accustomed to environmental dangers that surround the area (I won't even go into man-made dangers like war zones), and, well, Moore is one of them. I'm not sure if the target is over us specifically or what, but the month of May sometimes leaves us pretty scarred around here.

To friends who are reading this in other places, the mindset of Moore residents probably doesn't seem normal on many levels. I sometimes hear people ask, "Why do they choose to live there?" Well, there is a fairly straightforward answer to that for most of us: it's home. Our families, friends, neighbors, homes, histories, schools, and community networks are here. What keeps anyone in the town where they live? Sometimes it's the people, or the parks, or the cultural life, or the amazing food, or the weather. People often like where they live, and lots of people like living here for many of the reasons listed above. Oklahoma City is great, and I like it a lot. My little suburb to the south is a nice place for us to raise our family, send our kids to good schools, be near our parents, and be near many of our friends.

That being said, the thoughts that I sometimes have about the weather, my home, etc. probably aren't typical for most Americans. Yes, I know that every region of the country has its own plights with which to deal. California is kin to earthquakes as New England is cozied up with blizzards. Perils of the environment happen everywhere. But, how often do you really think about the true possibility of losing your home and everything in it to a storm? I think of it often. Very often, in fact, and have become increasingly comfortable with that notion over the past two years, should it ever have to happen to us (knock on wood it won't). How often do you hear your kids point out damage around the town and ask, "Is that damage from the medium tornado or the big tornado?" They are referring to two recent tornadoes that Moore took a hit from, one which was medium-sized this April, and one was the EF-5 behemoth that devastated us two years ago. Silas remembers both. How many of us have five-year-olds that can easily recall two separate natural disasters that happened in their community?

How many have been told by their husbands, "We need to get the kids' birth certificates back into the safety deposit box. (We had taken them out to make copies for a trip.) They probably shouldn't be laying around on the dresser since it's May." Because, duh, they might blow away and never be seen again after a tornado rips through the house. A commonplace thought, right? And how many of us really need to mop the floor after the kids go to bed, but hazardous storms are expected shortly and so we put our dirty floors off to another night---not because we need to keep an eye on the weather (which we do), but because, dammit, I don't want to mop my floors tonight if I'm going to lose my roof to a tornado in an hour. That would be a giant waste of time, right?

There are several pieces of good news here. One is that our house is still standing, and it's May 22! We're almost there! The other is that my kids are total troopers. They stay super cool and collected when it's time to go to the shelter, and they understand on a juvenile level that we might lose it all, but we won't get hurt and we won't lose each other, and that's all that really matters. Flood waters rose from the creek that runs alongside our house on the evening of May 6, as we accumulated 9.38 inches of rain in a matter of just a few hours. That night, I suddenly feared the tornadoes less as I realized I might be about to lose my house to a flood first. The water came within three feet of our western wall, though we still had a foot of foundation to go up. In any case, my kids were as ready as they could be for that too. Several of their backyard toys got whisked away by rising waters, and they gracefully accepted that the toys were gone forever. A trip into the woods behind our house later that week turned up successful though, as I was able to retrieve the three big ones that were lost. See if you can see the wheels of their riding excavator sticking out of that debris pile 100 feet behind our neighbor's house. That took me 15 minutes alone just to dig that one out, and I flicked three spiders off myself in the process. My reward was that I was heralded as some kind of war hero by my children as I emerged from the woods, tattered and filthy, but triumphantly wielding that darn excavator.

These days when storms are expected, my two older kids ask to sleep on a pallet on our bedroom floor. We acquiesce, knowing that storms around here can be loud and scary. When the going gets tough, though, my kids know how to prioritize, and they know how to chip in, help, and prepare. They are becoming well-versed in the storm shelter preparation routine, and they relish some parts of it. Trips to the shelter entail digging into the fruit snacks and Cheez-Its that we keep stocked down there. Hey, if you have to huddle in a dark three-by-eight space for an hour whilst listening to sirens and pounding storms, you might as well get some dinosaur fruit snacks out of the deal! I couldn't be prouder of my kids, just as I couldn't be prouder of my fellow Moore citizens. We are friends with some who have lost all earthly possessions, and they have undeniably had a rough road to bear. I am so proud of all of them and their spirit as they- we- continue to move forward. We're tough around here, and we like to help each other...and you can add that to the list of reasons why I just don't want to move.

The tornado siren: the soundtrack of May

Asleep on the floor in our bedroom

This wasn't the night of the flood; this was just a normal stormy day this May.
THIS was the flood.

The entrance to our neighborhood. Yep.

The debris line came within three feet of the house near the dining room.

The clouds we saw as we came out of the shelter on May 6th

Our routine on tornado-potential days: pull the van all the way forward, open the shelter, and vacuum out all the dead spiders with my friend Julie's amazing hand vac. I think I need one of those things!

In goes the lantern, the radio, the keys, garage door opener, and a pair of shoes of each boy's choosing.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Knights and Horses

I haven't posted in a long time, which I attribute to fatigue and writer's block. However, I will welcome friends back with a celebratory post. My baby--yes, the baby that I originally began this blog writing about with posts such as Mommy Mathematics--is now five years old. I can hardly conceive of this. No one ever told me how hard birthdays would hit sentimental mothers like myself! If your child is older than mine, I partly blame you! Not really. I can easily say that the last five years have been the best of my life though, and that if someone gave me an opportunity to start it all over again, I would take it in a heartbeat.

Silas welcomed his fifth birthday surrounded by people who love him. He chose a medieval knight theme for his birthday, after BJ and I took the boys to the Medieval Fair on a complete whim about a month ago. It apparently really resonated with him, and his presents included a suit of armor made especially by BJ's mom Susan. (Craft foam! Who knew?) I would like to add here that I might personally have sunk my own ship by now in the journey of motherhood if not for one Susan Potter. The lady just never stops exceeding my expectations! For the birthday party we rented a bounce house, ordered pizzas, devoured yet another gorgeous and delicious cake by my friend Natalie, and spent the evening enjoying wonderful company. The weather was gorgeous, the kids were happy, and so the mamas and the papas were happy too. Because the Kentucky Derby coincided with the party time, I  convinced begged some of the lady guests to don obnoxious hats, and BJ had frozen mint juleps at the ready. Kids and adults alike watched the big race, and it was a grand old time.

Five years ago I met a boy and fell deeply in love. Five years later, it's somehow even better. Happy birthday, Silas. You're my awakening.

Tunics for each party-going child, courtesy of Sus

His "fierce knight" face

My lovely mom, who acquiesces so nicely to my ridiculous hat-donning demands

Miles and Silas were the most avid horse-race watchers of all!

I know I dropped something down there...

Getting fitted by Susan and Miles with his brand-new armor

Don't forget the helmet!

A party-goer filled her card with confetti, which the kids promptly pounced upon, recreating the scene many times over. The party-goer, who shall remain nameless, contends that she warned me beforehand that the card contained ridiculous amounts of confetti. I contend that she told me this as I was mid-mint julep, so my remembrance is fuzzy. In any regard, the confetti is still lying on the living room floor two days later because I have been too lazy to vacuum it up.
Will just looks like he is waiting to be knighted!

Pulling the sword from the cake

Enjoying his slice of cake from the only place in the house where a man can go in peace

Ice stealer!