Guest Post at Letters for Lucas

I’m hanging out over at Letters for Lucas today doing a guest post for my sweet friend Tonya!

Letters for Lucas was one of the very first blogs I started following back when I started blogging last February. She has such an honest and open way of writing. Her blog is an amazing collection of her thoughts and feelings tucked away for her little boy Lucas to read one day.

Reading her posts always makes me remember those infant and toddler days, a time in my life that sometimes I think went way too fast.

So stop over there today, pull up a chair, and have a virtual glass of wine with Tonya and I while I chat about what I think was important when mothering little ones and what really wasn’t.

Exit Interview

I sit waiting in the small room, my portfolio lying on the desk in front of me. It seems decent enough, filled with pictures and art work, certificates and ribbons. I wonder if there was anything else I should have included that would make a difference. I guess it’s too late now.

Maybe some sort of bribe would help.

I wonder if there’s an ATM nearby.

I feel awkward in my fancy skirt, blouse, and pumps; they look like a Catholic school uniform all grown up. I should have worn the same clothes I’ve worn on the job site all these years. There was never a complaint, unless you count that unfortunate clogs-with-skinny jeans incident.

At least nobody took pictures.

The door swings open and the interviewer glides into the room, taking the seat across from me. She wears beautiful clothes, flashy jewelry, and not a hair is out of place. Her nails are impeccably manicured without a chip in sight. Her shoes match, she looks rested, and she has no spit/mud/coffee/rice cereal/zit cream stains on her clothes.

Why did I have to get the one interviewer who can’t possibly relate to my job?

“Good morning, my name is Miss Dopportunity, and I will be interviewing you today.” She looks down at the stack of papers she has taken out of my file. “So, I see here that you are nearing the end of your current position as Mother to a High Schooler. My paperwork states that you were on the fast-track, climbing rather quickly through the ranks of Mother of an Infant to Preschool Mother and PTA Mom.”

“Well…,” I stammer, “if you can correct that in the paperwork please, I never requested to be on the fast-track. I really wanted to master each position before being promoted to the next.”

She chuckles quietly, glancing up at me for a moment before regaining her perfect composure. “There really is no “other” track for this career. True, some of those early days may have actually seemed longer than 24 hours, but in reality the whole career path moves at lightning speed.” She rifles through the papers a bit more and makes a few notes on them, then fixes her gaze on my portfolio. “Let’s have a look at what you’ve brought here today.”

I quickly open the large folder, anxious to show her the fruits of my labor (and delivery). There are baby footprints inked at the hospital, a lock of newborn hair too fragile to handle. Lost teeth, certificates for library summer programs, report cards, and class pictures. Paintings, crayon drawings, necklaces made of dried pasta. Letters from grandparents loved and lost, newspaper clippings, baseball team pictures, autographs of famous people, and movie ticket stubs.

Random reminders of a childhood that slipped through my fingers.

Junk, really. To any other human being who isn’t a mother.

I wonder what she’ll think of the job I did as she sifts through the things with efficiency and tact. I want her to be careful with them, but I hesitate to say anything for fear of sounding rude. Then again, with those fancy fingernails, she might damage something.

Or break a nail.

She stops thumbing through my things and pulls out her notes.

“Now then, I have a few questions to ask you. These are standard questions at this point in your career, but your answers might determine your exit strategy so please think carefully before you answer.”

A tiny sound somewhere between a gasp and a squeak leaves my lips. I hope she didn’t hear it.

“Did you let him play in the rain? Catch tadpoles at the creek? Did he see museums and movies, plays and magic shows? Was he allowed to get dirty, taste the snow, wade into the freezing cold surf, bury his sister in the sand?”

“Was he taught to be kind, to think of others? Does he have a pet? Did you make his home a soft place for him to land when he falls? To read? To relax? Chase a dream, develop a passion?”

“Were there scraped knees, bloody noses, toothless grins in Christmas card pictures? Did you tell him about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, only to have to come clean later? Did you help him dig to China in the sandbox? Make a dinosaur skeleton out of chicken bones? Fingerpaint in the house?”

“Did you ever just sit and watch a herd of cows graze, hang out in the backyard hoping to see a shooting star, look for owls, go fishing at dusk or hike an incredible hike? Was he ever allowed to spend the day in his jammies, eat ice cream for dinner or just sleep until noon?”

“Did you enforce the rules, dole out punishments, make him apologize, send him to his room? Did he have to make amends, write thank-you notes, remember to say “please” and be nice to teachers?”

“Can he tie his own shoes, pack a suitcase, use a payphone, schedule an appointment, brush his teeth, make his bed, keep track of his own money, build a campfire, open a small carton of milk, mow the lawn, pump himself on the swing, ride a bike?”

She pauses here, giving me a chance to take it all in. I am so nervous, feeling that there must have been something that I overlooked, one or two major steps along the way that I neglected to take. I nod my head, maybe a bit too tentatively, and wait for her to pepper me with more questions.

“Well then, it seems that everything is in order. You still have some time remaining in your current position, but I am recommending that you be considered a candidate for the next level, Mother to a Young Adult. I will forward the paperwork sometime in the next few months.”

I am stunned. Shouldn’t there be more questions to ask?

Maybe a lie-detector test?

“That’s it, that’s all you need from me? Are you sure? How can you really know that I’ve done my job well enough to move on? How will I really ever know? Is there a salary increase with this new level? What about vacation pay? Does this skirt make my butt look big? How do we really know that Humpty Dumpty was an egg?”

She stands up and smoothes out her skirt, pushing her chair back in as she heads for the door. As she reaches the door she stops, turns, and looks me in the eye. “This career is what you make of it. There are no right and no wrong answers. What you do with it is your choice. Once you are promoted to the next level, there is no going back. The hours can be pretty crappy, the pay is lousy, and your insubordinates can be, well, insubordinate. But don’t get me wrong; this is a lifetime career. The positions may change along the way, but you will always be employed.”

She walks out the door, shutting it quietly behind her. I slowly gather my treasures and put them back into the file folders, ready to return them to the drawer at home. No ribbons or certificates for me here today, not even a candy bar or a pat on the back. But I do a little happy-dance, just because I can. The rewards of motherhood are immeasurable, and can’t be compensated with cash, prizes or chocolate. I will never know for sure if I did a good job, but I do know that I did my best.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve earned that promotion.

My Super Power

I always thought if I could have a special Super Power, it might be flight. X-ray vision would be cool, but only if I could choose what to use it on (sorry Gramps). Or maybe I would want to be super flexible, with a name like Yoga Girl or a Pilates Ranger.

I realized the other day that I do possess a Super Power-like skill. This isn’t a skill I had when my kids were younger, but one that has evolved as they have grown taller, bought ipods, and taken over the bathroom each morning. I even have a Super Hero name for myself.

I have become InvisiMom.

As I move through my day, I may seem like any normal mother-of-two to the regular people. People who aren’t my kids.

Cashiers see me, ask me if I found everything I was looking for, and hand me my change. People at work, both adults and kids, not only see me, but they talk to me too. Even the dog is unaware of my Super Powers.

But to my kids, I am InvisiMom.

InvisiMom must be available at all times, ready to drop everything to assist her child. Tasks required of this powerful hero may include any (or all) of the following: last-minute school supply purchasing, signing field trip permission slips, favorite-clothes laundering, shoulder to cry on, nursing back to health (or at least providing a band aid), taxi-driving, splinter-removing, reaching things on the high shelf, giving a practice spelling test, mending shirts, or giving a child a ride to the location of their begging choice.

Now the actual power of InvisiMom isn’t that she can do all of these things. All moms do these things, and so much more.

And unlike many moms her age, InvisiMom is uber cool. So indubitably the children would want her around.

But what InvisiMom brings to the table (besides dinner) is the ability to remain invisible until the children summon her and she is needed.

So, if InvisiMom is summoned to drive the tween girl to the mall with friends she becomes visible for a short time, but invisible once they reach the mall. She becomes unseen to tweens and teens, blending into the background like ugly flowers on grandma’s wallpaper.

If the teenage boy needs to borrow the laptop or get a ride to a friend’s house? InvisiMom is right there, practically his best friend.

And then she conveniently becomes invisible again.

Until the next time they need her.

So what happens if InvisiMom asks her kids to do something for her? They may nod and mumble something that sounds like agreement. They may even seem to be heading in the proper direction to clean their room/put away their shoes/mow the lawn/take a shower/feed the dog.

But she was really invisible when she asked them. So it doesn’t count.

So she asks again, in a tone that sounds a bit more like nagging than asking. A tone somewhat louder than an invisible Super Hero might use.

But apparently, since she was not truly summoned by the children, she is still invisible.

So she asks a third time, which now comes out somewhat louder than a nag, bordering on a yell. To which the children reply, “I didn’t hear you the first time!”

Then the most amazing thing happens. InvisiMom is no longer invisible! It took three tries, but finally the children have seen her, heard her, and are responding! She’s done it again, throwing off her cloak of invisibility and taking the reins of motherhood once more!

Now they just think she’s cranky. So they go off to their rooms, leaving her alone once again.

So maybe being invisible wasn’t so bad.


This post is linked up to Word Up, YO!, which is masterminded by KLZ, Natalie, and Liz; The Word of the Week is:

Indubitably, indubitable

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Free Bird

Both of my kids went back to school last Monday. My job at the school doesn’t start for a few weeks yet, so I have some free time on my hands. There is still the school drop-off/pick-up for my 12-year old and everyone still expects to eat dinner for some reason. But other than that, free time.

Since my kids aren’t little anymore, I do actually get some time alone during the summer. I’m just usually the taxi driver/short-order cook/driving instructor/problem solver/nagger/cruise director and feel like I’m “on duty” 24/7 when they aren’t in school.

During the school year, I know where they are from 8am -2:30pm. It’s kind of like they’re in jail, with no possibility of parole until 2:30 or a vomiting episode, whichever comes first.

As our summer starts to wane, there is always much anticipation of my upcoming free time; so many possibilities. Mani-pedi?? Massage? Meet friends for coffee/lunch/walking/shopping? Lie around the house and do nothing? Write my novel/exercise/knit/crochet/start a money-laundering scheme/walk the dog/scrapbook?

Let’s just say I’m not crafty, so several of those ideas do.not.apply.

But the possibilities are endless.

Monday morning came and the kids went off to suffer through enjoy their first day of their new school year.

I hit the ground running….I was on fire! Drop off daughter, make menu list for the week, shop for groceries at two stores, unload groceries, play with the dog, blog, tidy up family room, make some lunch.

It was only 11am. And then I was stumped.

My problem is that I don’t know how to relax. Deciding what to do is not easy for me, especially when there are so many options.

When I’m stumped on what to do, my mommy-auto-pilot takes over and I start randomly throwing in loads of laundry or tidying something up. Which is never really done, so it’s always an option when bored.

But it’s boring.

As the week moved on, I found something to do for myself each day. I went jogging, trying to find the legs I once had; learned to Tweet thanks to encouragement from my blog buddy Liz; finally linked up to Mama Kat’s writing workshop; I chatted with a far-away friend.

By Friday, I was bored.

And out of the blue, boss-lady called to see if there was ANY chance I could work just a few hours before I’m hired back for good? Just set up the classroom, start getting referrals for at-risk kids from the teachers. She says there are SO many kids that need me this year.

My first thought? Crap. My summer is over.

But after I hung up, I had a different thought. Maybe I finally found what I was looking for all week long.

I think I just need to be needed. Just a bit.

Visit with an Old Friend

There are certain people in our lives who have a major impact on who we become. Their actions determine the course our lives can take, whether good or bad. Their impact may never be known to them, unless they stay in our lives or we have the chance to visit them later in life.

I decided it was time to pay a visit to one of these people.

Me.

As I approach the front door, I see something that looks like a stuffed animal hanging from the handle.  “Baby Sleeping“, it says on a little eyelet heart in a cutesy blue script. So I do what anyone else in this situation would do.
BAM BAM BAM!!
It takes a few minutes, and then the door opens slightly.  A thinner, less wrinkled, short overalls-clad version of me peers out.
“Hi,” she says in barely more than a whisper.  “My baby is sleeping, can I help you?”
“Actually,” I say confidently, “I am here to help YOU.”
“You look familiar; do I know you from the Mom’s Club?”
“Something like that. Mind if I come in?”
“My baby’s sleeping, so I am very busy right now.”
The older, more confident me won’t take this as a no.  “Thanks, I won’t stay long,” I say as I start to push through the door.
Younger me steps aside and I walk into the family room. Scanning the room feels like thumbing through an old photo album. Like if I had really managed to prepare any photo albums in the past 16 years. Familiar items long since discarded grab my attention from shelves and the coffee table.  The whole room is neat and tidy and the place is deadly quiet.
“So you say you’re busy, but what exactly are you doing while the baby sleeps?”
“I have lots to do. I empty the dishwasher, put away the toys, organize the board books by category, alphabetize the alphabet blocks, fold laundry, clip coupons, read Parenting magazine, pay bills, and mop the floor. I would vacuum, but I don’t want to wake the baby.”
“OK, here’s the deal with all of that.  It’s pointless, useless drudgery!  Eventually it will all get done anyway. You should be taking a nap when the baby naps! Maybe if you did that, we wouldn’t have so many wrinkles and such a dull complexion later!” I worry that I may sound angry or bitter, so I try and soften my tone a bit. 

Maybe I am a little bitter about the wrinkles, since she sure doesn’t have many.

“Do you really think it matters that the blocks are in alphabetical order?” I say. “That the books are sorted into categories? Can’t Board Books be a category all its own?”
“It matters to me. It makes me feel like I have some control over my day, like I’m a good mom,” she says, now eyeing me a bit more closely. “Wait, did you say “we” when you were ranting about wrinkles?”
“Yeah, take a good look sister, ’cause I am the 46 year old you,” I say, hoping it doesn’t sound mean or threatening.  OK, maybe just a bit mean.
She takes a step back, analyzing my hair, my face, and my clothes.  “What’s the deal with your pants, they aren’t long enough!” she says, sneering at my capris.
“These, my dear, are capri pants. They will become quite popular in a few years. Because you ate so much ice cream, loved you some hot dogs and some bacon, and didn’t exercise at all, now I have to wear capri pants instead of shorts. You left a lot of cottage cheese on these thighs for me to deal with.  And while we are on the subject of clothes, you might want to re-think this whole short-alls thing.  They aren’t working for you, and the pointy white Keds don’t complete the outfit; they make it worse.”
She looks shocked, but quickly regains her composure. “But I’m comfortable, and these are cute!”
“Cute is for babies! You will never again have the body of a 30 year-old. Never. You just don’t appreciate it now, so you cover it up with short-alls and t-shirts. Live a little! Enjoy what you have!”
She glances down at her outfit, brushing breakfast crumbs from the bib of the overalls. “I am a mom. I will dress like a mom and act like a mom, not like some teenage hottie.”
I try and control my laughter, but she’s almost too funny to watch. “That’s not what I mean! Just live a little, fix yourself up a bit, do it for us. Take up jogging, buy some fashionable clothes, start getting facials, use more sunscreen, and please….lose the bangs.”
Now she looks angry. I think my visit may be coming to an end.
“Thank you for your visit, but I’m really not interested in my life 16 years from now! This whole conversation is just a bunch of malarky! You seem to be blaming me for all of your flaws when, in reality, I’m sure there are tales to be told of life in your 40’s that certainly aren’t MY fault. Don’t you still eat ice cream and bacon? Enjoy that glass of wine before bed? Exercise only when it’s convenient?”
Sensing that I’d better go, I stand and head for the door. “It’s been nice visiting with you, and I hope you’ll think about what I said.” Before leaving, I turn back briefly. “Oh, and those perfectly nice C-cups you are nursing the baby with? Enjoy them while you can. That’s all I’m sayin’.”

This post is linked up to Word Up, YO!, which is masterminded by KLZ, Natalie, and Liz; The Word of the Week is:

Malarky

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You Know You’re a Mom When…..

I had so much fun linking up to Arizona Mamma’s  You Know You’re a Mom When-sDaze! that I decided to do it again this week!

You know you’re a mom when…..

  • You are diligent about refusing to let the kids eat raw cookie dough (Raw eggs! Salmonella for sure!  You’ll thank me later, when you aren’t sick!), yet sneak spoonful after spoonful when they are out of the kitchen.
  • You can play Name that Stain with anyone in the family, and always win.
  • Other members of your household are amazed at your superpower-like ability to locate lost items without even getting up to look for them.
  • You can sort a bin of plastic dinosaurs by the era in which they lived, not because you were a science major in college, but because your son is obsessed with all things dino.
  • You can fumble through your purse and come up with a band-aid, a quarter for a gumball, a hair scrunchie, a coupon for juice boxes, or a matchbox car when needed.
  • Your kids have adorable clothing.  You haven’t bought anything for yourself to wear that didn’t come from Target in years.
  • Some of your best memories involve crawling, spit-up, loose teeth, broken bones, ice cream sundaes, and finger paint.  Maybe all in the same day.

I’m being sneaky and also linking to Word Up, YO! hosted by Natalie (Mommy of a Monster), Kristin (Taming Insanity) and Liz (a belle, a bean and a chicago dog) .  The word of the week is fumble.

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Mother’s Day, Chapter 16

Ah, another Mother’s Day has come and gone.  Hallmark cards were ripped open, breakfasts made with sticky little hands, pink construction paper cards with glitter and glue are hung on the refrigerator for all to see.  A whole day all about Mom, catering to her every whim and wish.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

This may sound harsh, but since I became a mom, I haven’t really liked the idea of Mother’s Day.  There, I said it.  It always feels like a day of guilt, thrust on the husbands and children as a way to atone for transgressions of the past year.  How many businesses count on Mother’s Day for a substantial portion of their profits?  Restaurants are packed, flowers sent, cards bought, and jewelry given.  All very nice gestures, and always much appreciated by all of my mom friends, including me.

But I have truly always felt that every day is Mother’s Day.  I know, blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard it before.   But each day I wake up with my kids under my roof, safe, sound, and healthy is a gift.  At some point in each day (even from the teenage boy) I get a gesture of gratitude.  “Thanks for the ride to the library”, or “Thank you for washing my favorite shirt”.  Everyone thanks me for dinner, even when it’s not particularly appetizing or recognizable.

I get hugs, high fives, IM messages, phone calls, and smiley faces written on my white board.  Sometimes I am offered a stick of gum or a few pieces of prized candy.  I see the appreciative look on my daughter’s face when I hand her the freshly washed PE clothes on Monday morning.  That look of relief on my son’s face when it’s pouring rain and I decide to pick him up from school.  Well, it’s not recognizable to anyone else, but I can see it.

Every day that I have been a mom (5,822 to be exact) I have had both great moments and epic failures.  Like the time I locked my newborn daughter in the car in my son’s preschool parking lot.  Hell hath no fury like a postpartum mother in a rainstorm that waited a whopping 10 minutes for the roadside assistance guy to unlock the door.  Or the time hubby and I stuck both kids on the barfy, spinning ride at the fairgrounds and they screamed bloody murder the whole time.  We stopped waving to them after a few times around, then started pretending like we weren’t their parents.  Who would do that to their kids, anyway?

So in spite of all the failures and mistakes, I happily accept the tiniest gestures of gratitude for the things I do right.  That morning grunt from my son as he shovels breakfast into his mouth tells me, “Thank you for the smoothie, it’s great!”  The eye roll I get from my daughter as I try and give her unsolicited advice tells me, “You are such a wise and wonderful mother!”  I could go on, but I don’t want to brag.

I do love the handmade cards, the promises of activities we can do together, and the look of satisfaction on their faces as I sit down to eat my kid-made breakfast.  Maybe the whole idea of Mother’s Day isn’t about what’s in it for mom, but how it feels to give something TO your mom.

So in MY mommy world, the thanks I receive for all of the things I do comes in simple packages, delivered daily, without ribbons or glitter.  Smirks, kisses, and eye rolling are optional.