Category Archives: humor

Strength

A favorite memory - riding the ferris wheel each year with my dad...

A favorite memory – riding the ferris wheel each year with my dad…

My dad used to constantly tell me, “I may not always agree with your decisions, but I’ll always be here for you & I’ll still love you no matter what happens.”  Now that I am a parent of three children with distinctly different personalities, I realize how brave – how EXTREMELY BRAVE – that was.  At the heart of that statement, I now know, was a bold faith.  He was confident in his faith that I was intelligent & would choose wisely.  I didn’t always make the right decisions but I’m alright – educated, happy and content – & I think he always had faith that I would be.  How in the WORLD he kept this unwavering faith in me through the early teen years is beyond me.  Jack Daniels, maybe?  I love my three with the deepest emotion and intensity that one can muster.  Somewhere, buried in my heart, I know that same faith exists.  In those moments when they are just TRYING the last vestige of patience that is hiding in a remote corner of my soul by not turning in homework, forgetting tests, or talking back, I long to have been given some sort of warning when they were born.  “This one’s a Level 5!  Take cover! In a therapist’s office, if possible!” or “This one, a level 2,  will cause some waves, but you will easily ride it out.” Something….anything…. I often tell people if I ever host another baby shower I will order a cake that says, “Get ready. Your life is about to be turned completely upside down & any confidence you had in your ability to lead will be shattered.  But CONGRATULATIONS!”  Had I been warned, instead of childproofing with cute outlet plugs I would have barred the windows, intensely researched the best therapist instead of pediatrician and had a locksmith put locks on the OUTSIDE of their doors.  (Kidding……sort of.) I made it through these stages with my firstborn, a spirited, outgoing, FUNNY, beautiful daughter.  In college now, she amazes me all the time.  She is someday going to be living on her own, continuing to make me proud & we will barely remember we had to wrap our arms around her tightly in the car to keep her screaming, writhing self from jumping out the door of our 95 Geo Prizm on the way to school because the socks she wanted were not clean.  The drama that ensued when her dad lost her Halloween wig right before Halloween night rolled around will be but a distant memory.  When you’re opening that Diaper Genie you considered essential and smiling between bites of cake, no one will tell you how hard it is, but you too will survive.

We are left with two boys at home.  They are REALLY making me question where my dad found that faith.  He tells me they’ll be fine.  Not only did he have faith in me, but he has it in my kids.  He is the epitome of unconditional love & has never expected them to be anything more than what they are.  That’s a fine example to have and I struggle daily to live up to it.  When one of my kids forgets to turn in a 50 pt. assignment, or gets a speeding ticket, or comes home with one shoe because the other had been taped to his locker by the teacher & he just didn’t notice it, I usually hang my head in prayer.  “God, help me.”  I now understand why my grandma, who I grew up with, would look at the sky sometimes & simply say, “Strength.”  It used to seem odd to me but I get it now.  Oh, Lord, do I get it!

“Strength! (looking skyward) Strength!  And if possible, a little faith.  And thanks.”

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Prayers…and Thanksgiving!

When I talk about my life, people often say, “You should write a book!”  My usual response is, “I’m waiting until some people (99% of our relatives) have passed so I don’t make them angry.”  I care less and less about that as I age because life is what it is.  When I have no family left that speak to me, you, my fair readers, can feed me on holidays.  I’ll be right at home in your laundry room, using the washer as a table.  Just save me some rolls & slip me a glass or two of wine. White, please.  A nice Pinot Grigio.  Speaking of holidays, this Thanksgiving provided me with a classic “relative” moment to share & brought similar holiday moments of the past to mind.

Chuck invited me to move in with him after I graduated from college in May of 1992, one semester behind him.  It was TOTALLY his idea, regardless of what you might have heard when his mother stood up in front of her Baptist church congregation and asked that we be prayed for because we were “living in sin.”  I appreciated those prayers, and felt them working deeply as I was swinging naked from our cheap brass light fixture, but NOT as much as I appreciated the calls from friends saying, “Holy SHIT, Chuck’s mom told the entire church congregation you were living together!”  Those, I appreciated.  So……I took him up on his offer & my dad helped me move from Springfield to Kansas City. I had a lot of t-shirts, a cheap O’Sullivan coffee table & an end table that was made to look like a dalmatian.  It was an easy move.

My dad is the sort of man whose train of thought goes something like this:  “She’s moving IN with him?  Before marriage?  Well, at least she’s not pregnant and I didn’t have to pay for a dime of her college expenses and she’s never given me an ounce of trouble and HOT DAMN!  That boy is willing to take this hot mess on? Where do I sign?”  That’s my dad.  He wasn’t overly upset and as my former college roommate likes to point out, my grandma was likely sure I was sleeping on the sofa because I was such a good girl.  God LOVE that woman – I do miss her.

Our apartment was in a really nice, new complex in Overland Park, KS, the most vanilla, suburban city in which one could lay down roots.  I longed to live near downtown Kansas City, which was undergoing extensive urban renewal at the time but Chuck liked to be literally five minutes or less from his office.  The apartment was 762 square feet and had one bedroom, one bath, a living/dining area and a small kitchen.  It sat right next to a major four-lane highway.  I loved the traffic noise & Chuck hated it.  Furnishings were sparse. Our used microwave oven was so old and heavy that when it quit, we had to disassemble it and carry it to the dumpster in pieces. Amana Radarange, baby!  We were living the life!  Remember those old sofas from the 60’s and 70’s that were made of a knotty, plaid fabric woven in a lovely array of fall colors?  Had one!  Chuck’s grandparents had donated it to him for his first apartment.  We were very happy and really proud of our first home, despite it’s shortcomings.

We hadn’t made a lot of friends yet and didn’t entertain much (or at all), but Chuck had relatives who also lived in Overland Park and once when several members of his extended family were in town, he invited everyone over.  If I remember correctly, in that tiny apartment were Chuck, two aunts, two uncles, a cousin or two and his grandparents, who (bonus!) got to reminisce about their old sofa!  Chuck decided it would be nice to give everyone a tour of our place, which, had he thought, could have been accomplished by letting people stand beside the kitchen (card) table and spin in a circle while he yelled out the room names. Now remember, these people are all very, very uncomfortable with the idea of us living together because history will tell you that living with your future mate is bad.  Charles Manson and all of his followers?  Lived with their mates before marriage.  John Wilkes Booth?  Assassin and co-habitator.  Healthcare.gov website developers?  ALL CO-HABITATORS.  So you can see why the worrying was rampant.  Chuck wanted his relatives to really experience our place and file through all four rooms.  He led them just like a realtor needing one more sale to wrap up a good month and when he got to our bedroom, they would not go in.  WOULD.NOT.GO.IN.  A team of sled dogs couldn’t have pulled them across that threshold.  Poor Chuck was all the way in the room pointing out the lovely features (“This is where Noelle was stricken with her first kidney stone!”) and some of them didn’t even go near the open door while others peeked in like one might peek into a room fully expecting to see a dead body but hoping like hell not to.  I hurried to look in there thinking, “Have I left a teddy on the bedpost? Panties on the ceiling fan?  K-Y Jelly on the dresser?  IS THERE A LARGE SPIDER?”  Nope. Nothing.  I  sat back down, as did Chuck, eventually, and the circle of visitors had taken on the look of a gathering of relatives waiting for the doctor to come out and tell them if their loved one survived a harrowing surgical procedure.  Apparently just thinking about the sex that went on in that 9×9 room had them all entirely discombobulated.  After a few attempts at conversation – “How ’bout a game of Monopoly?” “How ’bout those Chiefs?”  “Isn’t that George Brett somethin’?” – the party was clearly over and everyone left.  Chuck walked them out and came back inside.  He looked at me with an odd expression and said, “Did they think a giant condom was going to attack them if they went in our room?”  We still laugh about it today because it was just so…….INANE!

A few weeks later we were (surprisingly) invited over to his aunt and uncle’s house for Sunday dinner and his uncle’s sweet, elderly mother, who is no relation to Chuck, was there for a visit.  We were all sitting at the nicely appointed dining room table eating dinner when the woman blurted out, in the clueless manner of Aunt Clara on Bewitched,  “DO THEY PAY RENT???” You can’t buy these moments, people.   We still laugh about it because our assumption is that she was so absent-minded she thought we lived in the basement or another part of the house & had just come up to dinner.  I wanted to yell back, “NO! We live in sin over on 103rd!”

By now, my hope is that you’re getting an idea of why I cringe when holidays roll-around.  One year, I walked into Chuck’s grandmother’s house and she greeted me with, “Wow, you’ve really been a-putting it on ain’tcha?  You used to not be that big!”  I wanted to say, “Yes, Chuck looked into moving me up the Mississippi on a barge but in the long run it was cheaper to just rub Crisco all over me and shove me in the car.”  Instead, I turned to Chuck and said, “WHAT THE HELL?” At a previous holiday dinner, she had accused me of not eating enough.  I was pregnant and she said, “You’re gonna kill that baby!”  I walked out that time and drove to my own grandma’s house.  THIS IS WHAT I ENDURE.  All out of respect for Chuck.  Well, this grandmother is 89 now and still going strong.

Last week, on the day after Thanksgiving, we had dinner with some extended relatives on Chuck’s mother’s side and you guessed it, she was there (although she’s on his dad’s side).  Being the nice person that I am, I walked into the living room where she was sitting with Chuck and sat down on the couch.  Wyatt was in the recliner across from us, watching TV.  The woman looked at me, flung her hand toward Wyatt and said, and I am not EVEN kidding, “That one there, he goes to a school for special kids, don’t he?”

Who SAYS that??  “Special needs or not!  Who SAYS that?? A special school?  NO. No, he doesn’t.  He’s been in the family for 14 freaking years.  He’s perfectly normal, if not extremely intelligent and how many……I literally have no words, except NO, he does not go to a “special” school! Now before you sensitive readers freak, I have nothing against children with special needs, obviously, but if your child does NOT have special needs, you don’t want people to say that they do and you certainly don’t want a grandparent who has known the child for over a decade to be telling people that your child has special needs when they don’t!  I took a deep breath, counted to 10 and said, “He and his brother go to a private school.  His sister went to a public school.  They’re both great schools.”  How do you even answer that? Thankfully, we don’t think HE heard her asinine question.  We’re trying to laugh about it now but I have to tell you that one has just left me shaking my head.

All I know, is at this point in my life, all bets are off as to how I respond. To any relative.  About anything.  And all of this is happening to me because I CO-HABITATED, right?

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Child-Rearing: The Fine Print…..

Some of you are contemplating having children, adopting children or, if you’re exceptionally desperate, perhaps kidnapping a couple of infants. (Take them back please; someday they’ll be hormonal and you’ll be searching for the address to return them to on anywho.com, and, besides, who needs a felony?)

Disclaimer:  I know some of you are struggling with being unable to have children and I’m in no way attempting to minimize that desire that burns within you to be a parent.  It’s real and it’s wonderful and it exists. And more than anything, I hope your dream comes true.  And most of that dream will be WONDERFUL!  Just don’t act like being shat upon at 3 a.m. is a moment you were waiting for & will cherish forever.  You may laugh heartily later but you won’t want to repeat it.  Now…..

Potential parents need beneficial advice, lest you think it’s all rainbows and unicorns.  It’s not.  Sometimes it’s poop explosions, vomit and bloody noses that never seem to end.  It’s baseballs-through-windows & broken limbs & stitches & Sharpie on couches.  It’s “everyone-but-me-has-a-smartphone-and-I-might-as-well-be-exiled-to-Tanzania.”  (Neither of our boys, 11 & 13 have them. They’re still here, functioning fairly normally – the boys, that is.)  As much as you plan to ‘cherish every moment’, no one enjoys a stream of pee in their ear canal or shit smeared on their brand new white J. Crew tee.  I know this.  Don’t try to sell me on that bullshit. You’re exasperated. You laugh about it later but you’re exasperated!

We need to get to a point in our society where we are honest about the reality of parenting and what it involves. We need to understand that some of the people who have had children and melted down under the stress were simply not prepared.  A lot of us weren’t. I’ve melted down A LOT!  When reading two freaking chapters on “What To Look For When You INTERVIEW Your Pediatrician”*, nowhere does the article say, “Be sure you find out which of his buddies was a psychiatrist because you’re going to need some scripts for yourself before your kid starts on whole milk.”  But it should.

No one is honest with parents-to-be.  No one tells them that it’s ok to complain.  No one told tells them that it’s not going to kill Little Johnny or Sara’s self esteem if they’re disrespectful to you and you tell them they’re being a miserable little asshat and that their game controllers will indeed reside in Dad’s office drawer for a week.  As a society we went through decades of being told that we need to build up our children’s self-esteem and let them know that they can do anything they set their minds to.  There’s some truth to this.  Help your kids find their talents and encourage them, yes.   I’m not sure how many of you watch American Idol auditions but sometimes we definitely need to tell our kids they can’t even carry a tune in the cargo hatch of a Range Rover and should suggest that maybe they pursue being a sandwich artist at Subway while letting better talents and abilities emerge. (Back off!  I know there are wonderful, pride-filled sandwich artists out there. Love me a turkey on wheat! NOT HATING.)  Maybe your husband was a great athlete, but if little Tommy isn’t loving going to the ballpark, he might be happier playing chess, or golf or making movies.  Be big enough and brave enough to let him.  And to let go of your dreams for him.  Pretty sure neither of my boys is going to be a professional dancer or golfer so why would I push them that direction?  Guide your kids.  Don’t live through them.  It’s ok to quit soccer or football.  Or cheerleading.  This is hard but no one tells you it’s coming.

The self-esteem movement is part of the undoing of America that we’re seeing.  It’s all about ME.  Oh trust me, my kids can be “all about me” quite often and I tried NOT to parent that way.  They get on my last nerve not considering others feelings before their own a LOT of the time.  I’ve tried and preached and gotten angry and  I’m admitting that I would love to change that trait but in all honesty, I don’t know what to change. I’m doing the best I can, praying, trying to be a great example and hoping maturity will help.  We live in an age with so many outside influences that our parents and grandparents had no concept of.  No, it’s not all happiness and family dinners.  They aren’t all going to make good, or God forbid, PERFECT, grades.  You shouldn’t expect them to.  Loosen the fuck up. Forgetting a thank you is NOT the end of the world.

Baby showers and presents and shower cake and decorating nurseries are exciting & nice…..I’m sorry, I meant “finger sandwiches & hor d’oeuvres”.  We can’t have sugar and gluten-filled cakes and punch at baby showers  anymore!  Harrows! Then that baby could be born with a BMI of 35!  Don’t even get me started on freaking PUSH PRESENTS.  Gag. (I think when I birthed Ryder, Chuck let me watch “ER” instead of the Cardinal game. That was my present. And it was the episode where a lady died in labor.  Thanks, hon.)  Pregnancy, birth & delivery all seems exciting and it IS but I’m thinking this dose of advice might be helpful in list form.  It’s not what people (except me)  write in your little book at the gluten-free shower.  Nap when the baby naps!  Make your own baby food!  It’s so easy and so cheap!  Just tell him you’ve already been up with the baby twice – he’ll NEVER know! ** And this handy, numbered list will be much easier to refer back to by number when you’re railing on me in the comment section:

1. Your kids & you will only come down with ‘projectile vomiting/simultaneous poop shooting illnesses’ while your husband is enjoying his business meeting at the Boca Raton Resort and Club drinking martinis brought to him by a lovely waitress named Fawn after he finishes his exhilarating game of golf on the links.

2.  You will at some time in your child-rearing years wonder if medication would help both you and your child.  Sometimes it helps your child.  It most always helps you.  There are, in fact, two kinds of people in this world: those who are properly medicated & those who should be.  This I know for sure, OPRAH, so shut up.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  You’d medicate your gall bladder if it wasn’t working properly. Or your heart.  Our ancestors used medication too, in the form of bourbon and martinis.  Our options are much safer.  You don’t have to feel like the world is closing in on you and it doesn’t have to be “just” post-partum depression or baby blues.  It can be when they’re 14 and want to go to the mall but they don’t have the right bra at that mall (because there are no visible tits on your child to begin with) so they need to go to Target and while they’re at Target they find three shirts they need and they have to have all three and you are such a BITCH because you set a budget of $30 and how is she ever going to not be laughed at when she goes to the PARTY & in that 30 seconds in Aisle 2, YOU JUST RUINED HER LIFE!  It can be then.

3.  Some of your child’s grandparents will possibly drive you stark-raving mad.  Because they will either tell you how to raise your child LIKE THEY DID decades before OR, EVEN WORSE, they will give this little smirky look like John Boehner gives Obama when he sits behind him during the State of the Union address & disagrees, which, much like with the grandparents, is every other sentence.  That look from grandma means, “Oh, you think you’re being so progressive making those babies do things like sit in car seats and not snack on raw weiners but YOU SURVIVED & YOU’RE PERFECT!”  Which ultimately means, “Look, America!  *I* raised perfection & my kid doesn’t measure up!”  This will anger you to no end and I applaud you for not smacking them.  This is one of the toughest things I’ve dealt with as a parent.

DISCLAIMER #2:  My dad and stepmom have never done this.  They may have disagreed a couple times with how we raised our kids but never raised an eyebrow and only gave advice when asked.  Imagine that – the ones that don’t express judgment get asked 🙂

4. Your baby may not like breastfeeding.  You may not like breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding is not the PERFECT food.  The food that works for YOUR child is the PERFECT food.  My daughter liked her bottles ice-cold, like most people like their beer.  A doctor told me I was crazy to feed her like that.  It could be traumatic on her infant stomach.  I told her to come over at 3 a.m. & help feed her.  That’s traumatic.  PERIOD.  Cold ones, it will be if it makes her happy.  Seriously though, go to a playground, ANY playground, right now and tell me which kids were breastfed and which weren’t.  (No fair, naming the 6 year old who is latched on to his mom lying across the park bench.  That’s a give-a-way.  And if you’re that mom, don’t be surprised when a line forms.  Kids are curious. That shit looks appealing.  To kids AND grown men.  Save that for your home quarters, please.)  But if breastfeeding is not for you, who cares?  I just wanted one person to tell me, “This is not necessary, you know.  Just quit.”  And finally someone did.  With Wyatt, I nicely said, “Please don’t tell me to breastfeed.  I’m very comfortable with my decision.”  With Brooks, I said, “Honey, did you pack that Koo-Aid here for junior in the diaper bag?”  There are no concrete rules with child-raising, except maybe to be honest with your pregnant friends, relatives, daughters, etc.  Don’t judge them.  Some things are just a personal choice and they’ve become a needless political platform.  We literally have organized groups that harass women who do not breastfeed.  I was a victim, practically stalked by a LaLeche woman.  I lived in Colorado at the time.  You have no business telling someone to nurse their baby anymore  than they have any business telling you whether you should wipe your ass front to back or vice versa.

5. People will judge how you educate your child.  There are so many ways TO educate your child.  Not every type of education is right for every child.  Our daughter did public education, K-12, though aspects of it were hard for me to watch.  It was her choice to stay and she did fine and is now off at a small university.  It might be right for your child.  Our sons go to a private Christian school because we wanted more individualized attention, staff & faculty that see individual differences in children and teach accordingly, friendly faces that act happy to see us & our kids instead of acting angry & exasperated.  We definitely LOVE less bureaucracy.  At this school, I’ve never felt a need to request a teacher, never seen a child grabbed by his arm and jerked, and the administration KNOWS my family.  I couldn’t tell you who the public LRSD administrators are on any given day and they certainly don’t know me.  It bothers me that people who have NEVER set foot on my kids’ campus judge it based on rumor & biased articles and have never experienced how it really feels.  That’s unfortunate.  It might be right for your child.  Some people have kids who thrive through homeschooling or online home education.  This would be absolutely no fun for either me or my kids.  I do not have it in me.  But my friends who do it?  I have them up on a pedestal with the inventor of the donut and people who can paint awesome portraits.  ULTIMATE ADMIRATION.  Maybe that’s right for your child.  But when you’re pregnant, no one tells you what a huge part of your life your child’s education will be beyond being sure they advise you to buy your home in a good school district.

6.  Sit down for this one.  You kids will hit adolescence.  They will lie.  (Yep.)  They will connive. (Yep.)  They will annoy the goddang hell out of you to do the silliest shit.  I personally would do high school over twice before I’d do 4-6th grade again with my daughter and sons.  They are hormonal.  They have no clue who they are or what they want.  They hate you because it’s cool to hate you.  Until they need you.  Then it’s cool, until they walk out the door and tell their friends with hair flip and eyeroll how much they HATE you.  (They will walk out the door, but bonus to you for your childrearing in their formative years if they shut it behind them.)  But wait,  none of their friend’s parents want to drive so you take the kids everywhere and pick them up.  The up-side to that?  You know where they are and what they’re doing.  It’s a pain but also, it’s time with those kids you can’t replace.  I cherish it now.  Oh, and sometime in middle school,  girls will want to dye their hair.  You’ll try to fight this.  I finally gave in.

“So, dye your hair.”

“Huh? Really?”

“Sure.  Dye your hair.”

They dyed their hair.  They dyed my hair, sink and walls too but it comes off.  There’s still a spot of dye on the ceiling but it just makes me smile when I see it.  They came out and showed me their dyed hair.  I couldn’t tell they dyed their hair but I said it looked beautiful, because in my eyes it looked absolutely perfect.  It will pass.  It will be hell and you will want to sell them, hide from them (done that – Priceline is great for this), and then damn if you don’t look forward to the happy moments again.  During adolescence they are few.  BUT THEY ARE THERE!

7. YOU WILL BE JUDGED!  Kids will talk to you like shit at this age and you will have other parents & grandparents butt in and tell you how to raise them or how “their kids never talk to them like that — not more than once!”  (I call bullshit).  Sometimes we don’t discipline our kids immediately in public.  It depends on the circumstances, severity and kid.  It’s really no one’s business.  Maybe when the offender gets home the video games are gone for three weeks.  Maybe we tie their hands behind their back at the table and gag them til we’re finished with our dinner.***  Whatever works. 🙂 Don’t let people’s opinions of you affect how YOU raise your kids.   Quite frankly sometimes we joke with our kids in a way that is horrifying to adults (sarcasm, advanced humor) & they stare as though we have them farmed out to be extras in porn or allow them to open for Andrew Dice Clay.  Expect judgment like this.  I didn’t see it coming and it was hard to cope with.

8.  The children will break 3/4 of everything you own in some manner.  They won’t care.  If you so much as chip the corner off one of their Legos by stepping on it with your boot, you, however,  will be subject to severe sanctions involving super glue (that after decades on the market, still fails to attach anything to anything except your finger to your lip)  or searching for “tiny pain-in-the-ass goblet from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Lego set – MINT condition” on eBay. Around 5th grade you grow a pair and throw all evidence of that shit in the trash when you break it, buried inside an empty can of vegetables that they would never touch.  Hint:  They can see them in the clear vacuum canisters 🙂

9. My final reality, because I’m getting sleepy is that when I had kids, I expected, when they were teens,  to be arguing over curfew, yelling “TURN THAT MUSIC DOWN”,  checking for alcohol, dealing with sneaking out,  you know, ALL the stuff you see in movies and on tv when teenagers are referenced.  Now, I’m not stupid enough to think my kid didn’t ever do anything wrong (BAHAHAHA) but for the most part, I think she and her friends have been honest about having designated drivers. She was pretty darn dependable about texting when she stayed over with friends.  We gave her freedom, put some trust out there and she stayed out of trouble, or, as a former teen, myself, I know that at least she was smart enough not to get caught….You’re probably expecting the worst during the teen years but I will forever value my dad’s theory to give me freedom and trust me until I screwed up.  Thank God speeding tickets were not considered screw-ups.

I could preach on, I’m sure, but just know that parenting is an amazing joy ride fraught with laughter, tears, frustration, anger, exhaustion, mass amounts of cash, pride, passion, and sometimes even boredom.  Some days you won’t like each other and THAT IS OK.  Some days you’ll lose your temper and THAT IS OK.  Most of us do the best we can and for the majority of us, THAT IS OK.

Footnotes:

*  I just asked my pediatrician if he takes AETNA.  You may want your interview to be more thorough.  But then my “birth plan” (remember we lived in Colorado – practically required) was: “1) Endure labor as long as I can. 2) Ask for drugs so I won’t feel it. ” Another lady in our class had one that was like 25 pages long and found it NOT funny when I asked if it included meal requests for the hospital stay.

**Okay, that piece of baby advice was mine.  Caught.

***JOKING! PUT THE PHONE DOWN.

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