Thirtysomething

I am surrounded by women in their fifties who look fantastic, are loving life and appreciate all fifty-plus years of their respective lives. I’ve never been scared to turn thirty. I don’t know about forty, but fifty looks like a blast! I was proud to turn thirty last year on this day. My thinking was that my chronological age had finally caught up with my emotional age. Folks have been guessing my age to be about thirty since I was seventeen. Now that I’m Thirtysomething, people have stopped saying, “You’re just a kid.” They’ve begun to say, “You’re young.” I like that. I have other adults finally treating me as a peer. Woo-hoo!

In celebration, the girls woke me before 5AM this morning to tell me Happy Birthday and ask what kind of cake I’d be baking today. Bake a cake for my own birthday? Nah. It’s just another day. Just another Family Circus performance.

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Dilemmas, dilemmas


As part of our evening routine (read: T-minus 90 minutes until bedtime), one of my daughters chooses a book for me to read to them, and one for them to read to me. Halie and Catie each have ‘choosing days’, where they can sit in any seat in the house/car, choose what books we read, but has also been pre-determined to be bathed first. Odd days are Halie’s, Evens are Catie’s.

That said, yesterday was Halie’s choosing day. She chose one of David Shannon’s books to read to me, A Bad Case of Stripes. He offers straightforward stories that are written from the child’s perspective: No David, David Goes to School. Halie also chose a book that she loves for me to read at bedtime: Where the Wild Things Are, by author/illustrator, Maurice Sendak. Beautifully illustrated, featured in the picture above.

Halie read her chosen book to me, Catie and Rosie, with some help of course. All of my daughters get serious when I read about the Wild Things, and I was at the point in the story where Max is sent to his room without dinner, when I heard a resonant rumble against the leather next to me. Halie and I locked eyes, and she said, “Pardon me.” I thanked her and was about to continue the story when the smell hit me – like a wet wool blanket – heavy and unbearable. Catie, who was seated on the other side of her well-mannered sister, reached to pinch her nose and hold it closed. Catie drew in her first breath through her mouth, and said, “Yuck! It tastes bad, too!” Halie just smiled.

So that is always a dilemma. Would you rather Smell it or Taste it?

Exclusive Members Only

Why is it that when we, as parents, meet new people and find out that they have children, we feel an instant connection? When getting to know strangers, I make more effort to make my life ‘transparent’, often sharing the gory details of life as a stay-at-home mom, simply to see who bolts first. Usually it’s the folks with no kids, who are rushing to book an appointment to get sterilized.

I find myself tempted to get caught up in the inevitable oneupmanship when comparing the horror stories of parenthood:

“Johnny drew on the underside of our coffee table with crayons once.”

“Susie drew on the big-screen TV with markers. Thankfully they were washable.”

“Really? My two-year-old colored every inch of flesh between her socks and her shorts with a Sharpie. Two hours and a Brillo pad later, her legs were still a sick shade of gray.”

I have good reason for avoiding these conversations: My daughters have done the same thing, to the extreme, and I always sound like I’m making up the story. I’m not. I promise.

My DH and I discussed what it was actually like to be a Fraternity brother. I asked once if he shared things with fellow brothers that he’d never say to anyone else. “Of course“, he answered.

That makes sense. Of course you share things with the members of your exclusive club that you keep from John Q. Public.

So that’s what being a parent means: Perpetual membership in the Exclusive Parenthood Club.

I won’t even tell you what the yearly dues are.

Authority Issues

The current series of messages at church is titled Authority Issues. When our pastor threw out the ‘teaser’ for this series a few weeks ago, my thoughts were: I’m sure that I have no authority issues.

Really.

My husband would beg to differ.

In the eleven years we’ve been together, I have grown my hair out past my shoulders three times ( of my own volition and to DH’s delight) and always find myself thinking of cutting it off again. Eventually, I do just that. My hair has been short most of my adult life, as well as nearly every color that occurs in nature, and one that I’m sure my Heavenly Father was shaking His head at. Unfortunately, most of those varying shades have been captured on film and are on display within my family. My husband wonders why I’d ever want a color other than my natural red, and shared with me that there was a time when he wondered what color my hair would be when he came home from work. I loved the change. Something new and different everyday! Then, on my 21st birthday, I shaved my head. Just so I could check it off the list of things I wanted to accomplish before 30 rolled around. No biggie for me – it’s just hair. It always grows back (it does for girls, anyway).
My husband has been most hurt when I have asked for his opinion on my potential choice of hairdo/hair color, then do something totally different. My DH hates surprises. I love them! I tell people that when we married, I couldn’t balance a checkbook to save my own life, and DH couldn’t spell ‘checkbook’ to save his. Sure, we’re opposites in some respects, but we share similar personalities, and a love of Texas Hold ‘Em. Let me make this clear: My DH does not decide what hairdo or haircolor I wear. It is on my head. Out of respect for him, I do let him know before I leave the house what he can expect to see when I return. Just so he has no surprises.

Today’s message dealt with what Scripture says about the sexes, and our Authority Issues. Men should be under the ‘umbrella’ of God, loving their wives sacrificially. Wives should submit to their husband, joining him under God’s protective ‘umbrella’. Our pastor relayed that he was feeling like a tiny man in a tiny row-boat, holding a bible, explaining one tiny verse. He also felt that he was faced by a Battleship, and that the women were aiming the machine guns at him even as he was speaking. I can say that I do like deferring to my husband in some instances. The pastor demonstrated my attitude best when he put on a great smile, and spoke through his teeth: “Sure. I’m submitting, but I really don’t want to. ” The message reiterated that marriage is not a contract to sign, but a covenant you enter into. Amen.

Plus, we made a deal: The person that decides to leave takes the kids with them!

We had a surprise musical group leading our worship today. It was as if the entire congregation had been invited to watch The Newsboys rehearsing. They were so casual and joyful. Joy-Filled! They drew us in and made us want to dance. We rocked!!

I cannot win!


Just shy of one week of wearing a tube sock securely taped above the elbow on her left arm had stopped Rosie’s finger-sucking (and prevented high orthodontist bills in the future). Just to prevent any compensation using her other hand, I’ve also been ‘socking’ her right hand at bedtime. I cannot put it past her to suddenly switch to sucking on her right-hand fingers. An added bonus: With her hands trapped, Rosie seemed ill-equipped to get to her diapers. She loves to streak through the living room in all her apple-cheeked glory.
Since we were out late last night for Date Night, I figured that Rosie would sleep late this morning.

Boy was I wrong.

I didn’t even set the alarm clock. I had closed Rosie’s bedroom door, knowing that while she could reach the knob and make it rattle, she still was unable to actually turn it. The familiar rattle of the doorknob woke me this morning, and as I was throwing off the sheets, a familiar odor hit me. Oh no. It couldn’t be. Pleasepleasepleaseplease.

The smell grew stronger as I neared Rosie’s room. When I opened the door, I was met by a sweet-smiling, poop-smeared toddler, who was sans apparel except for the preventive socks. At that moment, simultaneously, Rosie said her very first sentence: “Mah-Mah, POOP!”, and she darted past me and headed for the leather sofa. I darted to the bathroom to start filling the tub for an all-out decontamination. I was still reeling from the sweet smile/pooptastrophe/first meaningful words combination, so when I made it into the living room, she was still smiling, seated in the middle of the sofa. I pulled the tube socks off her arms, then tossed them in the trash. You cannot prevent everything, I say.

When Rosie has raided her own diaper before, I would normally hold my daughter with stiff arms, and while refusing to give into the urge to barf, seat her in the empty bathtub then begin running water. Not today. I was so overwhelmed with love and pride for my baby who had not spoken more than gibberish before today. My heart was flooded and my usual frustration swept away by the emotional tide that this milestone moment evoked. I kissed her on the only part of her tiny body that was not contaminated (the very top of her head) before I carried Rosie, stiff-armed, to the bathtub. I plunked her in the bathtub, scrubbed every inch of her, redressed her, then tackled the fecal fallout in her room. Most importantly, she survived, I survived, and we managed not to wake anyone else in the house. I am done with trying to divert my baby’s finger-sucking. I figure that she’ll have to keep them out of her mouth to say her vows, pledge her eternal love, then kiss her beloved husband. Until then, let Rosie have ’em!

My children ARE angels!

Tonight was Date Night at church. This event happens once per calendar quarter. Inexpensive childcare from 6-8PM on the church campus, dinner at the restaurant of our own choosing, then entertainment from 8-9PM, back on-campus. The comedian Bob Smiley ( father of three boys), made us alternately laugh, cry, clap and cheer tonight- about things that happen to all parents. His final thoughts for tonight were words that rang true in my heart: ” I know that my children are angels sent straight from heaven. God must have been ready for some more peaceful times up there.”

WHAT A WOMAN!

As a Kindergartener last year, Halie raised more than a few eyebrows. When she grew tired of simply raising eyebrows, she aimed to elicit gasps. Quickly, the gasps grew old, and Halie made it her goal to spend large spans of the school year in the In-School Suspension (ridiculously labeled The HELP Room). As parents, we had to trust the administration of this school, who probably had a combined tenure of 80+ years in education. Even the tried-and-true tactics for non-corporal punishment had absolutely no effect on Halie. We knew that we were being consistent to a fault at home, and saw none of the described behavior. So the school kept doing the same old things, and our daughter never ‘snapped into line’. I think that’s the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and over, expecting a different result every time. Good word to sum up our feelings about how our child was handled. Insanity.

This year, however, is most promising, despite Halie’s poor choices already made this year. DH and I figure that between the two of us and our respective family bloodlines, each of our daughters got two heaping helpings of stubborn. Halie for sure!
Halie began first grade at a new elementary school within the same district. Walking her to class the first day, I did not see one adult, either parent or staff, who was not helpful and smiling. Ms. F had a strong Italian name, a solid stance and a firm handshake when I met her. Halie introduced herself, of course, and went in to find her seat. Ms. F asked me to write down Halie’s departure instructions, and bid me goodbye. Huh! We’ll see how she handles Hurricane Halie.

When I returned to retrieve my six- year- old, the teacher who seemed so gruff with me that morning had a broad smile on her face, and hugged Halie, then told me that Halie had an excellent day. Wow! I asked my DH to pinch me. OW! I was only kidding.

I didn’t hold my breath waiting to hear rubber soles colliding with linoleum.

Meet the Teacher night was great, although I think my DH was the only male in the room. We were obviously eager students, as we took the two seats directly in the center of the front row.
We were the only ones to ask any questions, but wouldn’t have had to ask any of them if we had looked over the flyer Ms. F handed us as we walked in. The teacher with the strong Italian name, spoke very softly as she explained to us that she became a teacher when she divorced and became a single mother of two kids. She went on to tell us that each year, she ‘adopts’ our kids, and becomes greatly interested in their well-being. As Ms. F continued to talk about the rules of her classroom, she didn’t have my full attention. I was absorbed by the emotions that I was feeling for this teacher who I’d only seen once before. I asked myself, ” Where was this loving, involved teacher last year?” I was brimming with tears of joy when she finished speaking and asked all the parents to sign up for various activities. I immediately signed up to be the Homeroom Mom. I didn’t realize how much this teacher and I would talk over the phone within the next three weeks.

So, Halie’s in week three of First Grade. Yeah, I agree. It’s silly to count the initial back-to-school Thursday and Friday as a whole week, but who am I? The dream-like scenario with Halie at her new school lasted at least this long.
Ms. F has called me every day this week. Halie’s stealing things from her classmates’ desks. My goodness, that’s one way to get yourself alienated right off the bat, eh?
What a blessing it is to have Ms. F in the same corner as me and my DH. Our conversations usually begin with her trying to ‘soften the blow’ as she tells me what Halie’s done this time. I then do my best to explain (again) that there is nothing that will shock or surprise me. Halie’s been in hot water for breaking just about every rule at some point, and more than a few in one day.

Today, Ms. F called me again. I made it a point to ask her about her Italian last name. “I was my husband’s,” she told me. Turns out she’s from the fifth generation of pure Irish bloodline! Her son and daughter have the same fiery genetic combination that my Paternal Grandparents spawned long ago. I shared with her my thoughts on my daughter’s tendency to get bored and escalate negative behaviors just to get an bigger reaction. Ms. F told me that she had always been cautious about choosing her battles, then she said “I am truly stubborn, and no matter what I am determined to win!”

DH and I finally have an ally who desires consistency between home AND school. There’s no way that our oldest daughter stands a chance.

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