Monday, August 24, 2015

Hot August Nights

Alternate blog titles: Shine Bright Like a Diamond...or...I Squeal for Neil. But it's August. And the evening temperatures are high. So why the heck not?

A friend once told me, "There are two kinds of people in the world, Neil Diamond fans and closet Neil Diamond fans." I believe this to be true. I know there are people who would try to deny it. But they're just not looking deep enough inside their closets. Of this, I am convinced.

If you can't tell, I am the former kind of person. I first fell in love with Neil when I was about 13. Sweet Caroline. Shilo. Forever in Blue Jeans. Cracklin' Rosie (although for years I thought she was a stalwart woman, not a store bought one.) I heard the songs on the radio. Loved them. Loved him. It may not have been cool to be obsessed with Neil Diamond in the days of Bon Jovi and Depeche Mode. But I was anyway. At least I thought I was. And then, when I was about 17 years old, my parents got me his In My Lifetime CD box set. Sigh.

That was when I really knew. I mean, before that, our relationship was in the early stages. He made me giggle. And gave me butterflies. But I would never have dared let him see me without my aqua eyeliner on. (Cut me some slack. It was the early 90's.)

But once I listened (with insane frequency) to all 3 discs of the box set? Well, something changed. Our love grew deeper. The comfortable, he-really-gets-me kind of love. We laughed together. We cried together. We skipped over America together. (I don't hold it against him, but let's just say: not a favorite.) At that point, I knew it was really love. The kind where we could share secrets and sequin shirts. The kind where he would hold my hair and bring me ginger ale when I threw up. (He might. You don't know!)

The man is a lyrical genius. With a voice as powerful as the low rumble of thunder; as soft and piercing as a lover's whisper. The showmanship of Barnum+Bailey×Mick Jagger. The bare-chested awesomeness of Al Pacino à la Scarface. And the eyebrows of a Muppet. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

His songs spoke to me then. They speak to me now. And as a tribute to my first love (except for maybe jelly bracelets and Jake Ryan) I give you 3 of My Very Favorite Neil Diamond Songs.

1. I Am...I Said.
It first touched me as an awkward teenage girl trying to find her place in the world. Feeling the emptiness deep inside that only an adolescent thinks they can truly feel. "Like, nobody gets me, okay!"

Then when I moved in my early 20's to Southern Utah from Southern California (which is 400 miles apart geographically and 4,000,000 miles apart in almost every other way.) Then I really knew what it was like to be lost between two shores. Even if they were just the shores of the Pacific on one side and Cedar City's own Coal Creek on the other.

Now the song speaks to me because I am a mother. And no one ever hears what I say. Not even the chair.

2. Play Me.
Again with the adolescent longings. The dreams of someday finding someone (hopefully John Cusack) who is the moon to your sun, the words to your tune. Could there BE anything more romantic? No, no there could not.

Then you date a little. And live a little. And start to wonder if this person actually exists. (And come to terms with the fact that it will not be John Cusack.) And if you're lucky, you do find someone who is totally willing to not just put up with you, but maybe even love your crazy, neurotic self in the process. (And tolerate your borderline-unhealthy obsession with Neil Diamond.) And you decide that maybe that's better than a moon.

And then you have kids. And you would sell your soul if they would just go to bed. And you spend hours in negotiation talks with the tiny hoarders until you agree to let them keep their garbage for "just 3 days" and put the stickers from their new clothes on your bedroom mirror. And bribe them with everything that is in your power to give, just to get them out of the car when they suddenly decide they "don't wanna go to school."

Then, and only then, do you find out what it really is to be played.

3. Hell Yeah.
This one is more recent. No angst-y teenage stories for you here. It's no Soolaimon. Not a super catchy tune or a great one to sing along with. But awesome and empowering in it's own right.

Neil is an old friend. And one I trust implicitly. For advice. For comfort. For karaoke. So when he says,

I hear you wondering out loud
Are you ever gonna make it?
Will you ever work it out?
Will you ever take a chance
And just believe you can?

Hell yeah you will
You're gonna be okay
And you might get lost
But then you'll find a way

Well, I believe him. 

And I sing this one to myself a lot lately. Because every tiny feat I accomplish these days feels like a major miracle. Turned my homework in on time? Made dinner? Remembered where we keep the vaccuum cleaner? Sent the kids to school wearing both socks AND shoes? Hell yeah, I did.

Are there only 3 Neil Diamond songs that I love? No way. And though there are a couple I could live without (Oh Heartlight. Why? Just why?) For the most part, they are all my favorite. At different times and for different reasons.  

A Solitary Man? Not if I have anything to say about it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Little Good-Byes

You think I'm going to re-write the lyrics to a She-Daisy song, don't you? Well, I'm not. Mostly because that last re-write took a lot of doing. Re-writing a 12 minute song is no joke. It's a good thing I didn't have to actually play any guitar solos. {Although I rocked some air-guitar lip sync performances for like a week straight. Just ask my traumatized kids.} Let's just say I'm resting the lyrical part of my brain for now.

Fourteen years ago today, give or take a couple days, I took my oldest to her very first day of kindergarten. It was one of the most bittersweet goodbyes I had ever said. 

She was so excited to start. She had yet to have any younger siblings and was the social-est (not the Karl Marx kind) of social butterflies. She couldn't wait to learn new things and make new friends.

I felt like I had spent her whole life preparing her for this day and I was excited for her too. 

She was also a little nervous. School was a new thing. She worried about her teacher, the other kids in her class, and whether or not someone would be there right after school to pick her up. 

I was more than a little nervous. I was a first-class mess. She had been my tiny best friend from the moment she was born. I didn't know what on earth I was going to do without her every day. Add to that the fact that I worked swing shifts at the time and I didn't know if I would ever even see her after I dropped her off in the mornings. {What? I never said I wasn't melodramatic.}

Walking away after getting her settled in her class? It was one of the hardest goodbyes I had ever said.

Two more daughters have had their first day of kindergarten since then. You would think that having done it before would have made me a pro. It didn't. They were both a little more shy and more nervous than my oldest had been. That made things even harder. Cue the goodbyes. The quivering chin. The wringing of hands. The tears. And that was just me. 

This morning, I dropped my youngest off at his first day of kindergarten. My last, first day of kindergarten. {No really. My last. If I somehow became pregnant again, I would give that baby away. Mark my words.}

To him, it's the start of something new and fun. To me, it's the beginning of the end. 

I am convinced that somehow time passes infinitely more quickly as soon as they set foot in school. It's some kind of special learning-institution-space-time continuum. {I'm pretty sure there's some hefty scientific research to back me up.} 

As he both high-fived and kissed me goodbye. As I watched his monster backpack disappear slowly down the hall. As I struggled to keep the tears from streaming down my face. I thought about all the little goodbyes we say as parents. No, not the goodbyes to sanity and a full-nights sleep and a flat stomach. The other kind. The kind we say to our kids:

* The first time we leave them with a sitter. And feel guilty and relieved and terrified all at the same time.

* The first night they sleep in their own room. And that lovely night's sleep we dreamed of ends up being just an illusion. Because we get up a million times. Every time we hear them sigh on the baby monitor. And sometimes when we hear nothing. Because,"WHY AREN'T THEY SIGHING??"

* The first time we drop them off for a play date. When we swear we're going to go straight home and finally get-something-done. But mostly we just worry if they are safe and having fun. (Plus, all we really want is a nap. And a shower.)

* The first day of school. When, suddenly, we don't know who they're playing with. Or what they're eating for lunch. Or whether or not they're behaving. Or if they are happy. Or sad.

* Their first friend party. And all we can do is hope the other kids are nice. (And that they aren't playing half the games we used to play at parties.)

* The first time they eat dinner at a friend's house. And we're a little sad to see that empty spot at the table. (And we hope to heck they aren't complaining about the food like they do at home.)

* The first time they sleepover somewhere without us. And we hope they are sleeping better than we are. And missing us less than we miss them.

* The first time after they get their driver's license and they drive the car. Alone. Without us in it. And we wonder how anyone ever survives this.

* Their first date. With someone of the opposite sex. Without adult supervision. And we wonder how anyone ever survives this. (And pray that adolescent hormones have somehow magically changed since the time we were teenagers.)

* The first time we leave them standing on the porch of their own apartment/dorm room. And we smile and wave. And then sob the whole way home. 

* The times when they come home for a visit. And then leave again. Because they don't live with us anymore.

Every parent experiences different goodbyes. Dropping them off with an ex. Day care. Plane rides. Hospital stays. Missions. School trips. 

But every parent experiences goodbyes. Some painful. Some tender. Some a mixture of the two.

And practice doesn't make perfect. Each goodbye is difficult in its own way. And saying one goodbye does not make the next one any easier. Because the hardest part of holding on is letting go. 

But the goodbyes we say as parents are always temporary. Because our children are ours. No matter where they go. Or what they do. Or how much they grow up. They will always be ours.

And maybe that...that is the "good" part of goodbye.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

But I Won't Do That

Recently a {young, fit} friend sent me an article titled,  5 Reasons Why You Can't See Your Abs. My first instinct was to take offense, but I know his intentions were pure. He's just trying to help a girl out. Whatever. I can actually think of 4 reasons off the top of my head right now why you can't see my abs, and they are 19, 13,11, and 5 years old. Do I love all 4 of those reasons to death? Yes. But the truth of it is that they have caused my abs to be buried so far under depths of skin that has been stretched beyond its limits, that they exist now as only a thing of faith. I cannot see them, but I believe that somewhere...they are there.

The article was not about exercise, but all about diet. Of course it was. Because what good is running miles every week or doing 500 sit-ups a day if you are still eating like crap? Apparently, no good at all. And don't get me wrong, I can count calories with the best of them. I can drink green smoothies, and eat nothing but carrots for dinner and egg white omelets for breakfast. What I am unwilling to do? Give up regular soda. And carbs. 

My reasoning? There are few things in life I enjoy. Most of my days are laden with obligations, and stress, and exhaustion. Something I do enjoy? Washing down a loaf of French bread with a giant Vanilla Coke. This is no doubt the reason why despite going to the gym every week for the last 3 weeks, I still can't lose the 7 pounds I gained in 5 days of vacation. Whatever. That's why stretchy jeans were invented.

Well, do you know what goes really good with empty calories and obstinacy? Meatloaf. Nope, not the gross hamburger kind. I could give that crap up in a heartbeat. I'm talking about the Ultimate Prince of Rock Ballads kind. The capital M capital L kind. And while he would do anything for love, I would do anything for abs. 

Do I know that soda is poison and simple carbs are the devil? Yes.

Do I know that eliminating them from my diet may just give me unbelievable results? Yep. 

Will I give them up? No. I won't do that. 

And I would do anything for abs
I'd run a mile around the track
I would do anything for abs
I'd do a million crunches on the mat
But I'll never forget how good it tastes right now
Oh no. No way
And I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No I won't do that

Some days the bread is cheesy

Some days the bread is hard
Some days you crave jalapeño kettle cooked chips, they're the best
But they'll make your breath like fire
You'll need a big Coke with ice 
Some nights a big box of donuts can help you out when you get stressed

Maybe I'm crazy, oh it's crazy and it's true

I could go a few days of eating nothing but cabbage soup

But as much as I love starvation

As long as there's carbonation
As long I still have teeth to chew
You'd better believe it, that I would do

Anything for abs

I'll cut back on unhealthy snacks
I would do anything for abs, I'll give up Captain Crunch and Apple Jacks
But I'll never forgive myself if I really had to brown rice
I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No, I won't do that

Some days I bake a pizza

And some days it's homemade rolls
Some days I just make clam chowder and eat it in a warm bread bowl
Some nights I toast a bagel
(There's no calories in the hole)
Some nights I think for a piece of key lime pie I'd sell my soul

Maybe I'm stubborn, but I'll eat dressing that's fat free

And that's not the only, not the only diet tip I'll keep

And I can do moderation

But not complete deprivation
So I'll just drink Coke, not Mountain Dew
You'd better believe it

That I would do anything for abs
I will work out daily, that's a fact
I would do anything for abs, I wouldn't mind having a sweet six-pack
But the only kind of six-pack that I will ever have is of Coke. Of Coke.
I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No, no, no I won't do that

And I'll never stop drinking Cherry Coke with crushed ice. There's no way. No way.
I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs
I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No, I won't do that

Will you raise your heart rate? Will you strengthen your core?
Will you try to hold a plank pose for five minutes or more?
Will you try to lift a little more weight?

I can do that
Oh I can do that

Will you give up brownies? Will you give up cake?
Every morning will you try to choke down a protein shake?
Even though I know it doesn't taste great

I can do that
Oh no, I can do that

Will you grill a turkey burger with your own two hands?
Will you eat it on a wheat bun even though it tastes bland?
Can you try to cook more healthy at home?

I can do that
I can do that

Will you not eat from the Happy Meals your kids got?
Will you let them eat their own french fries, even though they're hot?
Will you leave their chicken nuggets alone?

I can do that
Oh no, I can do that

After a while of this exercising thing
You still won't see your abs and it'll be coming up on spring
You will make the switch to drinking diet soda

I won't do that
I won't do that

Maybe you will start by adding BodyShred
But before you know it, you'll be giving up bread

Soon you'll start wrapping things in lettuce

I won't do that
No, I won't do that

Anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs
I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No, I won't do that

They say to never say never. So I guess there is always the possibility that I could change my bad habits. That maybe...just MAYBE...there will come a day when I give up soda. Or carbs. 

But it is not this day.

Monday, August 10, 2015

What They Don't Know

This weekend, my youngest who is 5 and my only boy sat on my lap at church facing me. He said, "Mom. Let's nuzzle." This is something we have been doing since he was old enough to sit up unassisted. It mostly consists of nose rubbing, cheek rubbing, face grabbing and other such mushy nonsense. (My husband, incidentally, thought I made up the word nuzzle. Until he read it in a book about a year after I had been saying it.) I thought about how much I enjoy him and how quickly he has grown up and I said to him, "How about if you don't start kindergarten just yet? Maybe you can wait, I don't know, just a few more years." He replied with, "No. I can't wait. I have to go." I tried one more time, "Are you SURE? Cuz I'm not really ready for you to be in kindergarten. Maybe you can wait until you're 8. Or 12. Or 15." He grabbed my cheeks, looked at me very seriously and said, "Mom. I have to go. You have to let me go."

He has been very nervous about starting school and I was surprised that he was so adamant about needing to go. But he is growing up. Whether I like it or not. And the truth of it is that all of my kids are growing up. I seem to be constantly reminded of just how quickly they are getting older and how soon it will be before they are grown and out on their own.

It feels like the first decade of being a mom was such an uphill struggle. I was pushing, pulling, dragging them to the top of a seemingly summit-less mountain. It seemed like the day would never come when I wasn't changing a diaper, being woken up in the night, potty training, feeding, lifting in and out of a car seat. But it did come. Faster than I believed it could. We reached the top of that mountain together and now they are rolling away from me faster than I can run to keep up. 

More than the start of a calendar year, or even their birthdays, the start of school, of a new grade for them, is when I truly realize how fast the time is flying.

They will never know how hard the first day of school is for me. 

They will never know that as nervous and anxious and scared as they are to start that first day, I am a million times more so.

They will never know that when I tell them that everything will be just fine, inside I am all but completely falling apart.

They will never know that every year after I drop them off with a smile and a word of encouragement, I sit in the car and cry. Every. Year.

They will never know that when they aren't sure where a class is or who they will sit by at lunch, I want more than anything to stay with them all day. To walk them to each and every class. And to sit by them at lunch.

They will never know that as sad as they are that the freedom of summer is coming to a close, I am even more sad. Because I didn't have the chance to spend more time with them this summer. Or the last one. Or the one before that.

They will never know that I spend their whole first day at school worrying and apprehensive. Praying that everything goes smoothly for them.

They will never know that I watch the clock the whole day long. Agonizing over when they will be home. Waiting for them to tell me about their first day. Hoping that it is all good news.

They will never know that when they go to school every day I feel like I am sending off a little piece of myself.

They will never know that I have every faith and confidence in them. But I still worry.

They will never know that as much as they love and need me, I love and need them just a little bit more.

They will never really know how hard the first day of school is for me.

But they are growing up. As painful as it is. They have to. And I have to let them go.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

If I Were a Boy

It turns out that Kanye West reads my blog. And he is furious. Apparently in all of my song rewrites (which are a favorite of his) I have conspicuously left guessed it...Beyonce. I don't know what I was thinking. I mean, how could I have been so insensitive? The only explanation that I have for my behavior is Beyonce's pure talent. I mean, Beck may have won Album of the Year, but we all know that Beyonce had the Best Album of ALL TIME. And I just really felt inadequate to touch her phenomenal lyrics.

I mean, let's be honest: Can't keep your eyes off my fatty, Daddy. I want you.

Can that be improved upon? No. No, it cannot. It really says it all. She (and her four co-writers) are able to capture with perfect artistry what it feels like to be both drunk AND in love. That's not an easy thing to do.

But I guess it's true what they say: Imitation is the best form of flattery. And who am I to disappoint Kanye?

As luck would have it, I have been thinking a lot recently about what it would be like to be a little boy. We took a recent family trip (because "vacation" is a bit of a misnomer) to California, and I could not get over how much my 5-year-old was looking forward to it. For two weeks before we went he kept asking me, "Are we leaving today?" Only to be reduced, almost to tears, when he found out that we were not. (And when I say "almost to tears," I mean he had a total meltdown each time.)

When we were finally loaded into the car and on our way, he kept chanting, "Cal-i-fornia! Cal-i-fornia! Va-CA-tion! Va-ca-TION!" Don't get me wrong, I much prefer that to the normal chanting of, "I don't like this song!" "She's sitting too close to me!" "I'm hungry!!" But I kind of didn't get it.

I finally looked back and said, "Um, can I tell you a secret?"
To which he promptly answered, "What??"
And I said, "You are a 5-year-old little boy. Every day of your life is a freaking vacation."

Luckily my cynicism did nothing to dampen his spirits or his eagerness. And, even I have to admit, it was a little bit cute. But, really, it's summer. He hasn't started school yet. He spends all day doing pretty much whatever he wants. Mostly in pajamas. What would that be like?

So as a tribute to the one and only Beyonce, and to my adorable, indefatigable little man, I give you: If I Were a Boy

If I were a boy, even just for a day
I'd roll out of bed at 10:30
And I wouldn't take a bath or get dressed.
I'd play with my cars
And watch some TV
Spill Frosted Flakes on the carpet
And I wouldn't bother to clean it up.
Isn't that what mom's for?

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to do the laundry
I wouldn't fill my pockets with sand.
I wouldn't pee on the floor
'Cause I know that it's gross
And when the bowl is 20 inches
There just is no explanation
And I know it makes my mom so annoyed.

If I were a boy
I'd leave my toys on the floor
'Til everything was broken
Then I'd want someone to buy me some more.
I'd sleep on the ground
Instead of in my nice bed
Put one hand in my armpit
And my owl blanket over my head
(My head)

If I were a boy
I think I could comprehend
How it feels to scrub the walls
I'd put my boogers in a Kleenex.
I wouldn't eat in the car
'Cause I know that it's hard
For mom to climb in the back seat
To vaccuum out the Skittles
And the melted and re-formed Almond Joy

It's a little too late for you to still be awake.
Another Transformers: Prime?
You've got to give me a break.
If you thought that this room was yours,
You thought wrong.

But you're just a boy
And you don't understand
But you'll grow up soon enough
And someday you will be a man
You'll have your own son
And you'll know how it hurts
To step on his action figures
Or get pegged with plastic bullets
And he won't stop 'til your house is destroyed

But you're just a boy

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Price of Funny

Years ago when I had to write a (stupid) paper for a (stupider) class, I asked my husband for help with the whole, "Three Greatest Strengths and Three Greatest Weaknesses" (stupidest) topic. I mean, what was this? A job interview?? We had been married probably about 3 or 4 years at that point, and he pointedly refused to help me in the "weakness" category. No matter how much I begged him, he remained silent on the subject. I even threw a few out there myself: Bossy, Impatient, Moody, Impulsive?? He wasn't going for it.

I swear it wasn't a trap. I really wanted another opinion. And who better to ask than the person who had to deal with me on a daily basis? I tried asking in a million different ways, but he wouldn't budge. (Maybe scary. Scary was my weakness.) Finally, I said, "Just tell me what your least favorite thing about me is. What bugs you the most? I promise I won't hold it against you. Promise." Begrudgingly, he oh-so-slowly answered, "Well, think you're funny when you're not."

I don't think I ever laughed so hard in my life. Ever. I know, more than anyone, that I am a fatally flawed person. I could, at any given time, list off a ton of personality failings that I have. But thinking I'm funny when I'm not? Not even on my radar. Probably because...well, I think I'm funny! Which I guess is the point.

I am pretty sure I have held true to my promise. Technically, I have never held it against him. Does it come up frequently in conversation? Perhaps. But I'm not mad at him for saying it. I mean, I think he's wrong. But...again...probably the point. And it might be that I have spent the last decade looking for ways to prove otherwise:
Like when my 5-year-old says, "Mommy, you're funny."
I say, "Tell your dad that."
And he says, "Daddy, Mommy is funny."
And my husband says, "Yeah, but is she funny ALL of the time, or just some of the time?"
And my fiercely loyal 5-year-old responds, "All the time."

But I wouldn't say that I've held it against him. And every now and then a plan of mine, that I think is downright hilarious, backfires. And I think maybe, just maybe, he was a little bit right. MAYBE.

For instance, my parents generously paid for a vacation home in Anaheim last month so that my entire family, parents, siblings, kids & all, could have a trip to California together. (I mean, if they wouldn't have sold their house in California, we wouldn't have needed the vacation home, so some might say they owed it to us. But it was still very generous.) My family was the first to arrive, and down the street from the (beautiful) rental was this house:

I snapped a pic and texted it to my sister with the caption...Um, I think Mom & Dad might have overpaid for the rental. I sent the same picture to my parents with a similar caption. My mom promptly responded with, Are you kidding? That is NOT what it looked like online. I told her that, unfortunately, I was dead serious.
I told my sister about a fifteen minutes later that I was kidding.
I did not let my parents in on the joke. Why? Well, my kids and my sister asked me that very same question. And I told them exactly what I'll tell you: Because it's funny.

The house was still being cleaned and it wasn't time to check-in yet, so my husband, kids & I headed to Downtown Disney to walk around while we waited. (And to torture ourselves with being that close to the Magic Kingdom without going in. Like hanging outside a KFC when you're on a diet.) About an hour later I got this text from my mom, Thanks so much for the heads up. We just talked to the rental company and they have agreed to cancel our reservation. They have refunded the money for the week, and they will let us stay for one night with no charge because of the misunderstanding.

Oh crap. I tried to text her back. I tried to text my dad. I tried to call them both. No answer.

Uh, had I just ruined our entire family vacation because I was trying to be funny? It appeared that yes, yes I had. I was flipping out a little bit, to say the least. My husband, on the other hand, was wearing a decidedly smug see-what-happens-when-you-think-you're-funny look. (Apparently being right is even better than having a place to stay for the week.)

It turns out that my parents had already been to the real vacation home, after having a meltdown about the text I had sent them, and were just giving me a taste of my own humorous medicine.
(How'd it taste? Funny. In case you were wondering.)

So I guess I now have to admit, that maybe, just maybe, sometimes I think I'm funny when I'm not.

Either that or I just come from a really funny family.