Monday, May 18, 2015

Consider the Ladybugs on the Gear Shift

My coping mechanism is broken. My current circumstances are a little difficult, but no more so than they have always been. The biggest difference between now and before is that, in the past, I have always been able to have my little whine-fest (which is nothing like a wine-fest, in case you were wondering) and then put on my big girl panties and move on. Presently, I am stuck in whine-fest mode. Maybe permanently. I mean, I certainly hope not. But right now I can't even find my big girl panties, let alone pull those bad girls on. I think they are probably buried under toys, and textbooks, and dirty laundry. All I can figure is that my coping mechanism is busted. Malfunctioning. Kaput. Broke. 
Apparently IT is what has brought me through all of my challenges in the past. And I am kind of lost without it. I have no energy, no patience, no vitality, no strength, and barely a desire to keep going. Barely.

I don't like this new me. She's ornery. And miserable. And no fun to be around. Thank goodness she still mostly has her sense of humor or all would be lost. Lost, I say. 

My children are unfortunately bearing the brunt of this lovely new persona. I daresay they deserve it most days. But other days, I am sure they are quite blown away by the sheer Medusa-ness of it all. I know I am.

That being said. Since I am hyper-tense and impatient much of the time, I have also tried to be hyper-sensitive to the tender mercies that surround me. Because they are what get me through each day. And get me out of bed when I wake up every morning thinking: I-don't-wanna. Don't. Wanna.

Case in point, I was recently having (another) rough morning with my 5-year-old. Because he is 5. And he specializes in rough mornings. He had simply decided (once again) that he didn't want me to drop him off where I do every other day before work and wanted me to take him to his friend's house instead. Ya know, why not? "Hey, I know you've got 4 little kids of your own to deal with, why don't you take care of mine too. Thanks!" It was not even a little bit of a possibility. A total non-option, if you will. But that was pure logic and sense. Which has no place in the world of a 5 year old. And it did not stop him from throwing the fit-of-the-century. Or maybe fit-of-the-week. Cuz let's be honest, if those things only came around once every hundred years, it would be the miracle-of-the-century. 

This was, of course, just as we were about to load up into the car. 
And it was a doozy. Out of nowhere. A screaming, hitting, kicking, crying, full-out tantrum. Like the kind that was going to bring us both to our untimely deaths as we tumbled headlong down the cement front steps because he wouldn't let go of my leg. (Let me take this brief moment to wonder, once again, what our neighbors must think of us. Never mind. I don't wanna know.) I proceeded to calmly (seethingly, grinding-my-teethingly, and barely containing my own screams-ingly) get into the (too-small-for-our-family, sole running) car without him. He proceeded to act even more like a shrieking, raging, horror-movie style lunatic. Like something that comes from the dark reaches of the back of a closet or chases you through a forsaken forest on a moonless night. Let's just say if he had been Old Yeller, I would have had to put him down. For the safety of all involved.

I had just closed the door after getting into the car. Mostly to block out the unbearable wailing that, like Willy Wonka's psychedelic boat trip, was certainly not showing any signs that it was slowing. I took a deep breath and wondered how and when I was going to get to work and thought to myself, for probably the 17th time already that day: I can't do this anymore. Any of it. I just can't. 

And then I looked over to the gear shift. And saw a ladybug. I opened the door and shouted to my little man (monster) that there was a ladybug in the car. Tantrum: Terminated. Immediately. Like a switch. Off. He ran over to the car and hopped right in without even thinking. He told me to hurry up and shut the door so it wouldn't get away. What ensued on the way to drop him off was some distracted driving the likes of which would put texting-while-driving to shame, as I tried to capture the ladybug in an empty envelope without killing it. I was able to successfully capture the bugger, though, and arrive safely to drop them both off. Without so much as another word of complaint. I was late to work (again) of course. But I was able to get there without inflicting any bodily harm on anyone. Including the ladybug.

And don't think that the simple appearance of that ladybug at just the right time has gone by unnoticed by me. I see it exactly for what it is. A tiny miracle in an otherwise chaotic morning to let me know that my struggles are known. That I am not alone. And it is the moments like those that get me through. And keep me going.

Because it reminds me. That no matter how broke or exhausted or alone I am. No matter how inept or incapable or insufficient I feel: 

There will always be a ladybug on my gear shift. Just when I need it.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mawwiage Is What Bwings Us Togethew Today

So my darling oldest child is getting married (IN ONE SHORT MONTH!) She's been a grown-up since she was about two, so I shouldn't really be surprised. Is it a tiny bit hard not to be her favorite person anymore? Maybe a little. But could I be any happier for her? No, I don't think I could. I think she's found a wonderful guy who will take awesome care of her. (He even offers to blowdry her hair while she does her makeup to get ready for work. So. Cute.) I love her. I love him. I think they will make each other very happy. 

I have had a million thoughts running through my head since they started talking about getting married. Lots of selfish ones about wedding planning and costs and feeling old. Lots of reassuring ones because I see them together and I think they are a great fit. Lots of excited ones because...well, it's exciting. And lots of worried ones. Because I am the mom and that's what I do. At only 19 years old, one of my biggest worries originally was the whole but-they're-so-young thing. I feel like I did so much growing in my 20s. I thought about all of the things they would both miss out on. And I felt a little bad for them. 

And then I REALLY remembered being single and in my 20s. And thought about all the things they would miss out on. And realized how freaking lucky they both are. 

Being single and carefree and dating lots of different people may sound like a lot of fun. But the reality of it? Ew. It's the worst. So to my young-and-in-love daughter, people may tell you you're missing out. But they're lying. And here's why.

*Old Maidhood
I know that you've both gotten some grief over getting married young. I'm sorry that people can sometimes be judgemental and unsupportive. You know what else people think? That something must be horribly wrong with you if you are in your 20s and not married. To be unmarried in your 20s elsewhere in the world is perfectly normal. To be unmarried in your 20s in Utah? Well, that makes you an anamoly. A freak of nature. It's worse than not liking fry sauce or calling the convenience store the liquor store. I was 24 when I moved to Utah and I had no idea. No idea that people would actually feel sorry for me because I wasn't married. No idea that there was no dating scene for people over the age of 20. No idea that I would be the sad, sorry object of pity. Men, women, people older than me, people younger than me...didn't matter. It was like having an overbearing mother who wondered constantly what on earth was the matter with me. Except instead of just a mother, it was an entire state. 

*Blind Dates
Do you know what people do when they feel sorry for your unfortunate single state? They set you up. I could write a book called Bad Blind Dates. Except it would be too depressing and no one would read it. I thought by moving to another state I would escape my mother getting together with mothers of single (weird, always weird) sons and deciding that her daughter just HAD to meet these guys. And I did escape that. But guess what? There is not a hole deep enough or a state far enough to escape being set up on dates when you're single. 
Some blind date highlights? 
*Faking food poisoning so I could go home early. Yeah, it was that bad.
*An entire dinner conversation about Depeche Mode with a guy wearing, you guessed it, a Depeche Mode t-shirt. And belt buckle. 
*Being asked why I never wore braces to "fix my teeth." 
*Bowling. I hate bowling.    
*Suggesting a Jackie Chan movie to a guy only to have him ask, "Who's Jackie Chan?" 
*Being told by a co-worker who set me up that she was really sorry her husband's (unattractive, dull, humorless) friend hadn't called me, but not to feel bad because "he only likes really attractive girls."
Which is not to say that I did any better picking my own dates. As evidenced by The One Who Wished He Was Still in High School, The Cheater, The Gambler, and The One Who Forgot to Mention He Had a Girlfriend.
I'm just glad that internet dating was not really a thing yet. Cannot. Imagine.

*Living With a Girl
Living with a hyper-clean female roommate for 3 years and then living with my amazing sister for another 3 years was fan-freaking-tastic. However, living with girls for 6 years and then getting married and living with a boy? Possibly the worst thing ever. It's like eating nothing but prime rib for years and then having someone hand you a chili dog. Because I love a good chili dog, but it's no prime rib. I guess I should've known something was awry when my husband-to-be wouldn't let me use his bathroom at his house and always ushered me across the hall to his OCD roommate's bathroom instead. But I was sadly oblivious. Not to mention, did you know that you actually have to tell boys what you're thinking? Multiple times? Apparently they can't tell just by looking at you. Who knew?! 

All I am saying is that there is no formula for happy. No secret. No magical age.

The two of you will have the chance to live through your 20s together. To learn to rely and depend on one another. To know each other better than anyone else does. To go on lots of dates and trips and adventures...with someone you already know you have a great time with. 

So find your own bliss. Have so much fun together. Love the heck out of each other. And don't ever let anyone tell you that you missed out on anything. 

Or I'll have to tell you more bad date stories. And, unfortunately, there are many more.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Being the Mom (the 2015 Version)

I have been a mother now for almost half of my life and pretty much all of my adult life. I have gone from Mommy… to Mom… to MOTHER!!... to Cyndie (cuz sometimes I don’t respond to the word Mom at all.)

It is the most arduous, challenging, and rewarding thing I have ever done. Or will ever do.

I know that the point of Mother’s Day is to recognize and show our appreciation for moms, but I like to use the time to reflect on what it means to me to be a mother. There are really no words to describe the feelings, responsibilities, drama, guilt and honor associated with being a mom. But I am going to give it my best effort.

So here is a list of just a few things that capture the essence of what it means to me.

Being a Mom Means:

*Letting someone use your gym water bottle. To catch a roly-poly in.

*Sharing. First your body. Then your food. Then your clothes.

*Having an awesome jetted tub that you never have a chance to use. That is always full of Hot Wheels.

*Learning how to have a complete mental breakdown in 3 minutes or less. Because that is all the time you ever have alone.

*Maybe reusing an old science fair project once or twice. Because you just cannot do another one.

*Never getting to eat your own candy.

*Knowing every word to every theme song of every PBS Kids show that has ever been on. From Dragon Tales to Arthur to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

*Wanting to inflict actual physical harm on an animated character named Caillou. And his equally horrible animated parents.

*Never having a remote control with the battery cover still on it. 

*Being the person who most of the time knows nothing at all.

*Never getting to make spaghetti because all of your kids hate it.

*Knowing the horror of finding a booger wall on the inside of your pantry.

*Hiding soda like it’s contraband…to no avail because your children have the K9 abilities of drug-sniffing dogs.

*Never knowing what it might be like to walk barefoot through your house without stepping on a Lego.

*Putting the pillows back on the couch an average of about 23,694 times. A month.

*Sometimes finding an exploded soda or Barbie or tractor or a lump of asphalt. In your freezer.

*Buying endless amounts of fundraiser cookie dough. And then wanting to make cookies with it, but always finding the box demolished and emptied like a horde of starving rodents chewed through it.

*Knowing that laundry is like gremlins. And it somehow multiplies when you get it wet.

Of course, it also means:

*Being forgiven every day for messing up. And then getting to try again the next day.

*Getting to be there for someone else’s first…almost everything.

*Being the person that sometimes knows everything.

*Every now and then having a little person say or do (or write or draw) just the right thing, at just the right time.

*Being the one they want to snuggle after a hard day.

*Getting to watch the Backyardigan’s Robot Rampage as many times as you want. Because they like it as much as you do.

*Being the one your children count on. For everything.

*Being absolutely amazed at the incredible people your children are turning out to be.

*Knowing what it is like to love and be loved entirely and unconditionally.

Is the first list longer than the second? Admittedly. And it often seems like motherhood is more a comedy of errors and terrors than anything else. The rewards are few and far between. The sheer effort: mindblowing. It will break your heart. It will shatter your self-confidence. It will sometimes bleed you dry.

But is it worth absolutely every second?  You bet your stretch-marked a#$ it is.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ode to the Minivan

(You can tell this one isn't mine on account of, it's clean. And it still has wheel covers)

My car has died. The once great and mighty white chariot-for-7 is gone. I would like to spend this time being crazily stressed out about what-the-heck-to-do-now, but I couldn't jump right into that without first reflecting on the many, many years and adventures we have had together, this minivan and I. The miles. The smiles. The tears. The screams. The spilled crockpot of chili. The melted crayons and endless chip crumbs and candy and wrappers. The bobby pins glued inside a cupholder by an inch of sticky brown soda like mosquitos trapped in amber. The memories: Like the time we had to pull over at midnight in the middle of nowhere because my 3-year old had stuck a tiny candy up her nose. Or the breakdown on the Hoover Dam overlook. (Me, not the car. Although, I did warn them it would happen if I had to pull over.) The soccer games. The camping trips. The carpooling. The late night interstate traveling. The wheel covers that were lost one. By one. By one. By one. The rattling window. The not-quite-enough-trunk-space that we always made work. It gave us the best and last years of its life, this car. I will miss it dearly.

To pay proper tribute, I would like to dedicate a song to my sad and broken-down Mercury Villager. Because when I am not making up slogans, I am often re-writing song lyrics. I do it compulsively, without even thinking about it. My kids LOVE it. At least, I think that's what they mean when they say, "Seriously Mom?? Can you please stop doing that!?" and "THAT'S NOT THE WORDS!!" I have given it some deep thought and considered such lyrical masterpieces as Air Supply's All Out of Love or The Beatles Yesterday or Pink's Please Don't Leave Me or Slipknot's Dead Memories. But I think the depth of emotion I am feeling rivals only that of my forlorn teen years. Which, obviously, means that only Erasure will do. I mean, they got me through my unrequited love for Ricky Schroder...and that was no easy task. 

So, I give you my musical serenade to my lovely van set to the tune of the immortal synthetic-pop anthem of heartbreak and lost love: Oh L'Amour.

You won't start and now I'm aching for you
What's a mom with kids supposed to do?

You drove me to work, you drove them to school
Thought that you'd always run, why was I such a fool?
Sure you smelled like old fries, that was no way to live
But I did change your oil; I thought you'd forgive

After all of the trips we’ve been through
What's a mom of four supposed to do?

Why throw it away? Why break down on us?
Won't you miss all my yelling, and hearing me cuss? 
Sure, the kids made a mess and were always a pain
But I treated you right, used the higher octane

Like Interstellar, your engine it blew
What's a mom whose broke supposed to do? 

I can't drive a small car, they'll kick the back of my seat
I might rip off their legs before we get down the street
Not to mention the noise while I'm trying to drive
I can't have them that close, we won't make it alive 

You won’t start and now I'm aching for you
What's a mom with kids supposed to do?

Sniffle. Sigh. I will miss that faithful minivan. Rest in peace, you wonderful little old car, you. You've earned it. On the bright side, now I don't have to worry about replacing the wiper blades. Or tires. Or that rattly window that I always intended to do something about. 

But now I have to start all over with some other car. And get used to all of its quirks and habits. And hope that it will give me as many good years as I got from my van.

I mean, don't tell the Villager, but there is this pretty little Honda Pilot I've got my eye on. And it does have 4-wheel drive...