Sunday, December 28, 2014

To My Sweet Sam on his Fifth

Dear Sam,

Happy very late 5th birthday, buddy (11/23/14)! In case it helps, I also have neglected to take you to get your well-child check up, and here we are 34 days post-birthday.  The latter is more understandable than this late birthday letter, I'll admit: Your ear tubes have come out and thus you have not been well enough to get vaccinations, and because we've been to the pediatrician three times since your birthday, I already know officially how much you weigh -- 40 pounds.  Moreover, I don't need anyone to tell me that you're tall.  I can see that for myself though I do love a good percentile now and then to confirm my notions.  I also know that you are big enough for 10 ml of amoxicillin or 7 ml of Augmentin twice a day for 10 days, discard the rest.  Bubble gum flavor.  And while we're talking numbers, don't worry about all those milliliters of fake bubble gum because hopefully we'll have your third set of ear tubes put in before you turn six!  Yay! 

As I lay in your bed tonight rubbing your back and trying to figure out what smelled like barf, it occurred to me to consider the length of the arc of my adjustment to motherhood.  I figure I'm not anywhere near the apex, but I've been hanging on long enough to be about a quarter of the way up perhaps -- which means I'm decently discerning about things that matter, I guess.  One of which is that the ER is a very unnecessary place as long as everybody's bones are intact, there is no unstoppable bleeding, and all are capable of breathing on their own.  Another important aspect of ascending the arc is gaining the ability not to worry about the faint smell of vomit unless there is a reason more important than olfactory unpleasantness.  Especially not at 8:30 p.m. when everything is otherwise quiet and you're not sure if the extra sheets are clean.  But perhaps one of the most important aspects of traversing the arc is learning not to cling to comfort.  Motherhood is a lot of things, but it is most certainly not always comfortable -- physically, mentally, or emotionally. 

You see, Sam, after John was born, I said for years that I couldn't handle anymore children ... didn't want more babies hanging on my hip.  And then one day I imagined a bald little Thanksgiving baby, and 41 weeks later, there was you.  Moreover, if I thought that I was overwhelmed with one child, two has just about done me in is only slightly more of a work of love.  You ask me all the time if we're going to have another baby, and I cheerfully explain that that is impossible for our family because we have just enough kiddos in our house!  The truth is that it is both in spite of and because of the fact that motherhood consistently and constantly pushes me out of my comfort zone that it is the greatest work of my life.

Over this last year, Sam, I have struggled to maintain even the slightest glimpse of balancing motherhood with the other parts of my life.  I fear that it has many times been to your detriment.  But I promise you that I will always keep trying to do better at being more present with you, listening to you, and seeing you in all your Sammishness. 

Tonight, for example, while I was fiendishly sniffing for the barf-smell source, you were showing off your new addition skills -- holding up fingers and modeling your abilities, then asking me to do much more difficult mathematical equations such as [insert your incredulous giggle here]: twenty plus twenty!  Followed by ceaseless iterations of "Do you know what it is, Mom?  What is it?  20+20!  Oh my gosh!  Mom!  What is it?!?!?"  I waited just to see if you might be able to get it, but, exhausted with impatience, you finally said, "Well?"

I answered, "It's forty!  Can you believe it?!?"  To which you replied, "Wow! I really didn't know!  That's awesome if you're telling the truth, young lady." 

It really is 40, love.  I've been studying for the GRE, so I'm relative sure.

Despite my lack of work-life balance, this year has been a good one for you as a student Sam.  You switched schools and are at a much more progressive preschool where they espouse child-led learning (emergent is the keyword if anyone wants to google it).  Your teachers let you choose what you'd like to learn and then guide you in a direction that helps you develop that particular skill through play.  They also make you taste everything at lunch (which is prepared at the center) before you can have more bread or crackers, your staples.  You have told me more than once that the school is fine other than the tasting.  Once you told me that you tried chicken -- "real chicken!"  But that you "definitely didn't eat the bones."  Sam, I relish that little detail of your random October day even now -- your pride, bravado, and storytelling skills all capture me. 

As a brother, you are still learning that you are the little one.  This means that for the time being, John will be able to beat you at pretty much anything you try.  This also means that the arc of my adjustment to motherhood must bend quite uncomfortably in the direction of patience because the two of you are pretty relentless in all aspects of your interactions.  One thing that I love about you, Sam, is that you never give up the idea that you can beat John in cards or football, spaghetti eating or chicken chasing.  You hold out an endless hope of one day succeeding.  This everlasting optimism is part of why we love you so much, and part of what makes us worry constantly that you'll crack your head open.

Right now, Sam, your brother is all the directions you want to go in.  You often seem lost when he's not in the house.  You also like your individual time with me and your dad, but I don't think there's any other playmate you prefer more than your brother, even if he's holding your head under the pool of water that forms at the end of the slip-n-slide.

So, Sam, since this is closer to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday than to your own, I think I will end by taking the liberty to examine one of his most famous sayings.  I love this quote because it inspires us to think about the bigger picture rather than focusing on all the small details which may or may not be pleasant to consider.  It asks us to ponder not what tiny battles we have won or lost, but to envision the greater cause.  He said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  I think of this often when I'm getting mired down in the everyday conundrums of how to be a good mom.  I tell myself that the moments may seem long (especially the ones involving sibling rivalry and/or unidentifiable barf smells), but the years seem short. 

One of your own more morbid yet sweet aphorisms is that you'll always love me, and I'll always be your mom, even when we're all dead.  This is very true, sweet.  It doesn't matter what happens in any moment -- for better or worse -- in the long run all that matters is that I'm your mom.  My sweet Sam, it is my fervent prayer that the arc of my motherhood will not get bent out of shape by impatience, selfishness, or misguided values.  Rather, I'll do my best to keep my arc bending in the direction of you, sweet, which is most certainly toward love.

With my biggest ever hug,

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Where Did These Athletes Come From?

It must be my mad cheerleading skills that contributed to the creation of these little athletes.  I watch them with sheer joy, amazement, and jealousy.  How I wish I could rock that footwork.  How I longed to enjoy something and be so good at it that I would run until sweat beads formed on my upper lip.  I seriously wanted some sweat beads in elementary school.  I coveted Erin Craven's sweat beads.  But anyway, God (and Brian, I guess) gave me these two little soccer gems so that I might live vicariously through them.  And for that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

To My 1st on (actually one day after) Your 10th

Dear John,

Yesterday you crossed over into double digits.  I'm still 28 of course, but somehow you are ten.  Never again after this year can you count your age on your hands.  Toes will need to be involved, and I have seen your toes, and this is not a good thing.

This is my 10th letter to you.  The first one included a minute count of how long I had known you (525,600 minutes) and a Broadway tune.  I fear this one may not hold a candle.

We have been celebrating your birthday over the last two weekends -- one fun day with friends at Nashville Shores and another weekend with The Paternals, one of whom made an apple pie (your request), which you scarfed almost singlehandedly in a matter of two days.

I really don't have a plan for this letter.  I want to write down some things that you're doing these days and might let that be my overarching theme, lame as it is.  You love that word lame, by the way.

Right now you are obsessed with Legos, soccer, and your "Clan" that lives in my phone.  I get automatic messages all day to update how your clan is doing while you're away.  "Xiangyong1988 has just raided your village!"  or "The troops are ready to attack!" or "Our arsenal of supplies is almost empty, chief, WHERE ARE YOU?"  I'm quite sure this sucks my battery down, but I can't bring myself to delete the app because you enjoy it so much.  (And also, I can get you to do basically anything if I threaten to delete it.)

You waxed political yesterday, comparing America's wars in other countries to youth travel sports teams -- they never fight it out on their home turf.  I thought that was pretty brilliant, but on the other hand you've been bringing home Ds and Fs in social studies, so who knows?  (Side note:  I secretly like that you're getting bad grades because it forces me to practice Spanish in order to help you get better.  I am so proud of my new knowledge of 4th grade geological terms en Espanol -- suela, meteorizacion, formas de rocas, etc.).  I will enjoy it much less when the homework is in English, so please do try to improve and/or consistently attend a Spanish immersion school.

You're still taking piano lessons although this will probably be the last year.  I told you last year that you could quit when you get to middle school because you would be playing a band instrument at that time.  You have your heart set on the saxophone.  I guess I have to be OK with that.  It's just that you're good, JB.  You have an ear for it.  I think your foot for soccer and arm for baseball are great too, but those have nothing to do with me, and son, here's the deal: Soon you will learn that it all has to do with me, unfortunately.  I want to see you shine BOTH in activities that I pursued AND in things that I could never fathom.  I want to live vicariously through you.  I want you to do all of the things I did, and out-perform me.  It's not even a lot to ask, love.  It's just you at your best.

Too bad there's that whole HOMEWORK thing.  It is really holding us you back.

Let's discuss our time in the car, JB.  What is this calling cars thing?  You and your brother do it both individually and collectively while I drive you all to various extracurriculars.  "Oooooh!  Call that mustang!"  or "Oh yeah, call that monster truck."  or "OOoh yeah baby -- that motorcycle is mine." (An important unnoticed fact here is that we live in a city where we see sports cars, motorcycles, and monster trucks driving around daily -- how many other cities can brag about that?)  My most important question is this: Why is it important to call cars/trucks when you're the only one who sees/wants them (e.g., when it's just me and you in the car and Sam is with your dad? --  I drive and wonder about these things.)

John-John -- you know that we love you by now.  But do you also know that we like you most of the time too?  You have matured into a lovable, hard-working, funny kiddo about whom we are more than proud.

I am especially interested in your athletic talents (but would also love it if you tried, say, theater or ballet), but all of you is pretty cool at this point, JB. You seem to be learning yourself and applying that knowledge to good decision making about the choices that you/we make.  I feel proud to be part of Team John, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for you.

You are loved, liked, respected, (catered to, not that it matters), and honored ...

With all my hugs and love,

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday Night Special

I used to always blog on Thursday nights.  Because I only had one kiddo. Because I wasn't working full time.  Because Brian was always at work until late.  Because I had finished mopping for the, um, week.

Now I have two kiddos, am working full time, have a husband who no longer works late, and a cleaning service that mops, um -- don't judge -- once a month.  (We have a small house.)

Tonight I worked until 8 p.m., had dinner with a colleague until 9ish, and got home at 9:30 p.m. after a long day of dealing with what I like to refer to as triple I's: Important Immigrant Irritations.  Who amongst us doesn't love alliteration?  Let him cast the first stone.  (Short aside:  I once joined a book club that was just forming.  We were all having a discussion about when we should meet, and "First Fridays" was my suggestion.  However, some important member was always busy on that day, so I came up with the following to satiate my alliterative drive:  Book Club will meet the Friday Following the First Friday of each month (FFFF).)  

And when I got home at 9:30 p.m., all the house was quiet and completely dark.  I chose not to take this personally, and felt Thursday calling.  So, here I am.

The following is on my mind ...

  • It's not possible, but still, I will soon have a child whose age is in double digits.
  • I don't record enough of the hilarity of the everyday, which I used to do ad nauseum.
  • I can't possibly be taking enough photos of poor, sweet Sam.
Note that they're all negative.  I noted that, and my well-trained, self-aware mind said, "Write 3 positives to counteract negative thinking."  So, here:

  • I feel that I make a consistent & concerted effort to be a better parent mostly daily.
  • I go to bed earlier on average these days than in the last few years.
  • I try to live a balanced life that is focused on neither me nor my family, but us as a whole.
And now for the love of all that is good in the world ... on to just some photos... no more psychobabble.

It is soccer season, and I'm reminiscing about John-John's first year on a team.  He was three and serious, but as fate would have it, he got on the pink team.  It was appropriately named the Pink Panthers, and not to worry because John -- as fate would have it -- was in a pink phase.  

Not such a pink phase that he didn't insist upon orange socks. 
 Then there came the in-between year where one was playing and one was watching.  There were moments like this, which are simply magnanimous mama music (MMM), as far as I'm concerned.
John scored a goal.

John's team won the game.

And then came Sam's first year, which was marked with utter adherence to the rules.  NOT.  I once ran into a college friend at the fields (his kid was playing on an opposing team) and during our catch-up-on-the-last-almost-20-years conversation, Sam pulled down his pants and mooned the referees. TRUE STORY.

Obviously, we don't have a pic of him engaged in the act of mooning, but we do have proof that he played soccer for the Black Bears because of black uniform top, of course.

And those are all the pictures I have.  Hopefully I can do better this year in terms of sports memories.  

But until then..



Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Relative Permanence of Mohawks

Sam had been begging for a mohawk for months (years?) when Brian finally gave in.  Normally I would have stepped in and ended this dream for him, but I was heavily involved in a grading frenzy of essays with titles such as, "My All in Love with Mathematics" and "My Testes Anxiety" (yes, really -- the plural of the word "test" proves to be quite difficult for non-native speakers, as it turns out).  So, I was a bit distracted when the shaver came out.

At first, it was a mohawk version that went all the way to the nape of his neck.  Now y'all.  I am from Mississippi, but I'm sorry, I couldn't do it.  It was just too much.  I encouraged them to edit it a bit ... suggesting that perhaps a more "army-guy flat-top approach" might be better.  They bought it.  So, this is what we ended up with:

If only you could see the difference where his beach-brown skin meets his hairline.

They actually eat all the time and haven't been in a concentration camp, but the main point of this is the distinct hair qualities.

So, the day after the mohawk was complete, we decided to go to Radnor.  The boys were going to scooter and I was going to exercise by keeping up with them.  Sam wakes up that morning and runs into the kitchen, looks at me seriously, and says, "Do I still have my mohawk?"

"Yes," I say, surprised that he thought it might go away in the night.  "It's a haircut, so it's not going to go away."

With much conviction, he snaps at me, "It's not a HAIRCUT!  It's a MOHAWK!"


So, we're getting ready to go to Radnor, and Sam comes up to me and whispers, "Can I take my mohawk to Radnor?"

"Um..... of course!" I reply, thinking that something is really wrong with his understanding of object permanence.

"YESSSSSSsssssssss!" he says, and runs out of the room to tell John the exciting news.

Now when we go somewhere and people admire his "haircut," they are met with a very curt response:


Indeed.  And, for now, it's still there.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

He has always had good hair.

In the Battle Between Napkins and Squirrels ...

First of all, congrats to our boys, both of whose teams were runner ups in their leagues' silver division championship games!  Here they both are receiving their trophies:

And after all that was said and done, I finally made time to take my car in to get an oil change.  What is it about taking your car in for any one little thing?  It's like they can't wait to take the whole thing apart looking for other problems that you might not know about.  This doesn't happen when I go to the doctor or when my students submit papers.  I just get checked out for whatever I came in for, and my students get feedback from me that reflects the objectives of the lesson from which the submission came.  And yet mechanics ... those conniving know-it-alls.  (Gracie, if you're reading this, I'm sure Chris is not like this at all, and would actually like to meet him -- would he consider becoming my PCM (primary care mechanic?)

See, back in 2010 I went in for normal maintenance and discovered that Chick-fil-A napkins had gotten lodged in the "blower door" (a lovely name that one cannot forget once discovering), and because of this, the AC, when on "recirculated air" made an incessant clicking sound that would've cost a grandish to fix.  That prompted this blog post.

And then this week I went in for an oil change, and 30 minutes later, a young man came out with what looked like a filthy old, dust-covered wash board with rodent droppings and acorn shells lodged in it.  It was my AC's filter.  A squirrel had apparently used it to make a lovely home for him/herself.  I had wondered why there were acorns in the vents and on the floorboard, but of course with boys, one never bothers to ask questions about things such as this.  This mechanic encouraged me to take a picture, "so that your husband will believe you," and so I did:

You can see acorn halves, poop, an eaten-out part, etc.  Good stuff, y'all, Crazy, exciting stuff that just doesn't happen to you in your 20s.

So, in other news, Brian and I went to Arizona for our 13th anniversary.  And below are some of my favorite shots from our trip:

We flew Southwest and got "C" boarding passes, which basically meant that I was out on the wing and Brian was co-pilot.  So, he told them it was our 13th anniversary and VOILA, we got to sit together.  At the end of the flight, they announced our anniversary and gave us a bottle (yes, bottle) of champagne, which we left in the hotel as a gratuity for the the housekeeper.  During the time they were announcing us, people were exiting the airplane.  We could not exit because my original seat (where my luggage was located) was behind us.  So Brian weaved his way back there amongst the passengers, and I meanwhile took up with a child who was flying unaccompanied.  He had heard the announcement, and asked me if I was proud of my 13th husband.  So, I explained to him the differences between marriages and anniversaries.  He then started singing a song featuring the books of the Bible (which I knew), so I joined in.  When I got to Ecclesiastes, he stopped me an dsaid, "Jehovah's witness?" I replied that no, indeed, I had grown up Baptist, at which point he informed me that the Bible said I was a JW.  Kids these days.

Driving north from Phoenix, this was our view of the desert.

Ah, Flagstaff in June.  It's always 70 or below and breezy.

We went to our favorite hiking spot and did a morning hike overlooking Mt. Humphreys.

Brian's breakfast.


On the way back to Phoenix, we stopped in Sedona for a hike.  The scenery wasn't bad.

Oh Phoenix.  You hot mess.

There is much more to say about June, but unfortunately I am writing this in July.  I'm trying to keep a once per month posting schedule, but working 3 days/week is proving to be too much of a burden.

Perhaps in the fall I can do better ...


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

End of May 2014

It's the end of the month, and I had a New Year Resolution to do this once each month.  So here I am.  This picture is the gist of it:

We spend a lot of time at baseball fields, and now our oldest is coaching our youngest.

Which only means one thing:  We. Have. Made. It. In. The. World. Y'all.

Yes, that's really all.

Love to each of you,

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dear Baseball,

Alternate Title:  In Which It Was Just Christmas, But Now It's Spring, Which is Not a Big Deal. (Alternate, alternate title:  In Which Baseball:  The End)

Once a month blogging was my only goal.  No need to be an overachiever despite how hard it tugs at one's heartstrings.  It's really not my fault.  Watch this.   Then you'll understand.

So now.  Here we are.  I would try to write something witty except that my M-i-L gave me an awesome new camera which is totally not distracting.  I really like cameras.  Thanks Jane!

But what I like even more than cameras, is writing letters ... and so ...

Dear Baseball,

First, let me say that you have totally swept me off my feet.  I once saw you as this stupid, boring unending thing that may have involved cute guys but was totally not worth the time commitment.  Now, I am older.  I can appreciate you for what you really are.  (In a word, complicated.)  I can (almost) understand and value your baggage, your required patience with multiple and often ceaseless innings, and your extreme need for sustained knee-area pants scrubbing, which, by the way, I would be way cooler with if you weren't always in dire straits to be so WHITE.  A girl appreciates a good healthy color, sometimes.  Roll with it, dude.  So, despite the fact that I love you, let's both agree to be less complicated, how 'bout it?

Second, let's be real about how much time you require.  I didn't mean to have two boys, Baseball.  I didn't mean for them to love you and be actually quite good at maintaining a relationship with you.  I just wanted everybody to be happy and have fun.  In my naive, pre-baseball-boys mind, which never involved pants scrubbing or bats in the house ... especially not the bats ... Lord, those things ... how do they end up in the dining room?  See, if you could explain all of that logically in a five-paragraph essay with attention to author, audience, and purpose while avoiding logical fallacies, I might fall even deeper in love with you.  But for now, please back off:  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Finally, baseball -- could you please not be so fickle?  I like a good challenge, but you are living at the mercy of your umpires, Sweet Game.  They are totally controlling you.  Take back your manhood and make some clear-sighted decisions for once.  Stand up to those "He's-Safe-No-He's-Actually-Out" calls.  Don't let those Umps control you, friend.  They are working for the man.  The white-pants man.

I hope this finds you well, B.  The weather hasn't been good for the last couple of days, so we've missed each other at the field, but spring is full of hope and promise.  There will certainly be more opportunities.  In the meantime, can we please commit our attention to self-betterment?  I will stop sneaking hunks of Trader Joe's Goat Cheese if we can come to this agreement, which I think provides total mutual compromise.  Until next time, B,

Mama K

You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. ~Jim Bouton, Ball Four, 1970

With those who don't give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can't think of anything to say to them. ~Art Hill

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. ~A. Bartlett Giamatti, "The Green Fields of the Mind," Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

In Which I “Mama Up” (or at least consider it)

Sam has also discovered SELFIES.
If you had told me 10 years ago that I would have two boys, a snake, and a membership at an Isshinryu Karate Dojo, I wouldn’t have even bothered to laugh in your face. I probably would’ve walked away from you and started telling people that you have a mental illness.

And here I am with all of the above (plus a betta fish that we traded for the four hermit crabs because one of those suckers pinched me and after that it was all over).

Tonight I said what may take the cake in terms of parenting quotes. And I don’t say that lightly, because I have had my share of “we don’t eat our boogers because they are too high in sodium” moments.

I should preface this with an explanation that Sam has been difficult lately. And not difficult in an eating boogers sort of way … much more than that.

He is emotional. He is hostile. He is unreasonable. He is mad because he cannot hold all of his Pokemon cards in one hand. (He also cannot hold all of his Pokemon cards in TWO hands, but he does NOT want a Ziploc bag or a rubber band!) He is upset because he doesn’t understand his immense pile of Pokemon cards and their various damage levels. He is pretty angry just in general. He is also offended that he cannot eat donuts and Cheetohs (Cheethos? Cheetos?) for every meal.

Additionally, he pretty frequently gets in trouble at school. And now -- per my request -- I’m getting phone calls instead of notes-home-in-his-lunchbox about this behavior.

Phone calls at work.

So, things aren’t smooth right now. They could be much worse, I know. And I seriously thank God and Jesus and Mary and Joseph and John the Baptist (and sometimes even Elijah and Moses) every night because I know that hidden underneath my delusion of difficulty is the reality that my life is pretty smooth overall. Maybe even easy. (Although if you repeat that to anyone, I will punch you in the throat.)

Tonight I said, and I quote (obviously): “Do NOT wipe your nose with the crotch of your dirty underwear!”

Should I just go ahead and ask for help, or wait until someone offers?

What would I even say at a support group meeting? Hello. My name is Kimberly, and my child actually took off his dirty underwear and used it to wipe his snotty nose.

Feel sorry for me.

What is the point of all this anyway? This parenting nonsense is making me take pride in such ridiculous things as successfully painting all of my fingernails purple except the ring finger, which I painted turquoise.  Because somebody told me that was the new thing.  And it is sorta pretty in a non-symmetrical kinda way.

What am I supposed to do with these difficult children that I’ve had?  I think they’ve finally outgrown the fire-station drop off threat, so now we’re accepting real serious proposals.

Some days I think: It’s them or me.  I can’t hear another fake fart or senseless nonsensical babble that ends in “face” (e.g., Mamaface, Peepeeface, Johnface, Stupidface, etc.).  It makes me want to peel away my epidermis (let’s face it, cuticles are an ORGAN!  Part of the biggest organ in our bodies – the skin!  This is way seriouser than anyone acknowledges.)

But I can’t just sit around peeling.  Because I’m.The.Mama.  And Mamas have to be more mature and responsible than their children.  (I know, right?  Who made up that crap?)  I’m always stuck with this feeling that even when Mamas feel that neither the mature nor the responsible trait has ever existed naturally in their DNA, they must still strive.

And so I’m writing this to console myself.  I’m writing this to say that I know I need to … I’m sorry, can we please do away with the phrase “Man up”?  I think “Mama up” gets more to the spirit of the idiom. 

And now, I’m off to Mama Up.  (Which likely includes lying down.)


Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's my party, and I'll ____ if I want to.

Brian and I have birthdays that are 12 days apart, so each year we celebrate together.  Normally this happens in between our birthdays, but due to inclement weather and viruses, this year it happened about 2 weeks late.

We decided to go to Ken's Sushi, one of our favorites, and afterward we attended a movie (we are SO adventurous).

At this point it becomes necessary for me to insert two very important side notes.  Normally my side notes are meant to be comic relief from whatever mundane thing I'm attending to, but these are actually integral to the plot, so please read them in full, no matter how painful.

Side note #1:  Two months prior to our birthday celebration, I had had a couple of bad days.  On Thursday, December 12th, we had a holiday potluck at my work.  I signed up to bring Green Bean Casserole (GBC).  But of course I can't just make a plain old GBC, I had to go over the top with it -- local, organic green beans, extra sauteed mushrooms, real bacon bits, etc.  Upon arriving at work, I exited the driver's seat and proceeded to the backseat to procure the GBC.  However, instead of gracefully hoisting it from the floorboard, I clumsily let it slip from my hands and crash into the backseat like, for lack of a better simile, projectile vomit.  Forgive me.  There's been a lot of projectile vomit in my backseat over the years.  Now.  Could I have handled this situation better?  Yes.  But I was pre-menstrual.  See, that TMI moment was almost worse than the projectile-vomit moment, but you're still reading.  Hang in there.  I could've just said, "Oh phooey," and salvaged what was left.  But no.  I proceeded to fling my oven mitts (and some mild swear words) across the parking lot while stomping my feet angrily.  And then the worst of it all happened: A handsome young man appeared, holding out my oven mitts (which were lovingly knitted by my mother's across-the-street neighbor, Peggy -- thanks Peggy!  We love those things ... they're so thick and protective!) as if they were a peace offering for the war I was fighting with the GBC.  I stopped stomping and cursing.  I accepted the mitts with a slight smile and "thank you," and he walked away, presumably to call all of his young, hip, single friends, and tell the story of the middle-aged mom throwing a tantrum in the parking lot.  His nonchalant behavior inspired me to pull it together, and I ended up saving about 75% of the GBC and -2% of my reputation.

Side note #2:  The next day, Friday, December 13th, I created for myself an itinerary that was -- if you can believe such a thing -- much much worse than the previous day's minutiae.  When I got up, my phone had a reminder notification about my Sunday school class's Christmas party.  But of course, this was at 6 a.m., and I hadn't yet had coffee, so I dismissed the reminder without looking at the details, and proceeded to frantically text every potential babysitter I know in an attempt to find a way to go to the party at the last minute.  Then I remembered that it was a potluck, so I started making a grocery list.  Next, I recalled not having bought any new clothes since the children were born, so I wrote down "Find new outfit -- at least a decent shirt" on the to-do list.  A babysitter texts back that she is available.  Score!  I go to work.  At some point midday, I emailed Brian to inform him that our Friday night plans had changed a bit and to please not exhaust himself teaching 6th grade math.  I worked until about 2 p.m. and then went to the mall, got a new shirt, came home, downed a coupla cups of coffee, and cleaned the house so the babysitter wouldn't call the DCS on us.  There was a poptart under Sam's bed.  (Just realized that the downside to side notes is that one feels compelled to keep it to one paragraph.)  I make a black-eyed pea and feta with quinoa salad to bring to the potluck.  I slow cook the black-eyed peas from scratch.  I go and picked up the boys.  Brian arrives at 5ish, and we are to leave at 6:30.  The party starts at 7:00.  The babysitter arrives at 6:15ish.  I'm in the shower.  I quickly attempt to make myself presentable in my new shirt and standard black pants.  By 6:45, I'm totally ready.  Where is Brian?  The boys note that his car is still in the driveway.  The sitter corroborates this allegation.  I go to the laundry room to check.  (???)  He's not there.  I check the bathroom, his car, and I even call the neighbors to find out if they've seen him.  Finally, I go into our bedroom because I had forgotten to put on earrings (the horror!), and notice him sound asleep next to a ginormous pile of clean clothes that I had not had time to fold and had dumped on our bed.  I clap my hands twice.  Because, you know, husbands like that.  He bolts up, confused.  I clap again, twice, to the rhythm of my words, "Let's GO!"  And he is so sleepy that he actually and amiably gets up and walks to the car.  At this point, we're late, so I'm in a hurry, but I'm trying to avoid the babysitter's car in the driveway.  I'm backing down with what I think is a careful eye when all of a sudden I realize I'm on top of the low brick wall which lines our driveway (again -- my car had just gotten out of the body shop because I had straddled the wall in Novemberish and caused significant damage), and Brian is yelling STOP! STOP! STOP!  So, I go with my instincts, which were to put the car in forward and drive off of the brick wall.  This cued more STOP! STOP! STOP! so I stopped.  Brian got out, surveyed the damage, and yelled for me to climb into the passenger seat and roll down the driver-side window.  I complied.  He climbed through the window (the door was stuck on the brick wall) and successfully reversed the car back onto the driveway.  I was so happy!  Brian had saved the day like always.  I let him drive while I input the party address into my phone's GPS.  We arrive.  There are no lights on in the house, no cars parked in the driveway, nothing, in fact, that even hints that there is a party at said house.  But I am sure that everyone else is late and we are just the first ones there.  I skip up to the door, black-eyed pea salad in hand, and knock excitedly -- yay!  A holiday party!  After a few minutes, my friend shows up at the door in sweats and graciously greets us.  I'm like, "Where is everybody?" and she's like, "Um.  The party is ... um, the party is not until tomorrow night."  And then we laugh like hyenas because there is nothing else to do in the face of such awkward idiocy.  Brian promptly turns and sulks back to the car.  She and I laugh for a few more moments, and I insist that she keep the salad for tomorrow night, giving instructions about how to serve it cold with lemon juice.  I walk back to the car and totally, completely burst into tears that can only be likened to the kind of thing that teenage girls do.  The sort of tears that turn your face into a speckled trout, and if you are, say late 30s or so, can cause your right eye to twitch uncontrollably for hours.  Brian intrusively announces that we are going to end this pity party and go get sushi; he is starving.  I'm heaving.  Sobbing hysterically about how unorganized and unfit I am -- why did he ever even marry such a stupid loser?  We park at the sushi place, and he waits a bit for me to stop crying.  I don't stop.  We enter the restaurant.  I proceed to cry throughout the ENTIRE meal.  The waitress keeps bringing me green tea ice cream because I haven't ordered anything -- I'm too upset.  As we leave, she says, "Honey, you have GOT to get rid of that cold, and I start boo-hooing again and practically yell, "I'm not sick!!!"  Brian respectfully berates me in the car for  not catching on to her attempt to cover for me.  The end.

So, tonight we go back to the restaurant where, two months ago, I had sat compulsively crying and eating green tea ice cream.  We sit in the same place.  We have the same waitress.  I tell Brian that tonight I'm going to redeem myself.  We order slowly, taking a long time between soup and entree.  The waitress is attentive but not nagging.  Finally, we're done and she comes to bring the check and remove the plates.  She asks how was the sushi, and I say, "Delicious!"  I'm thinking, "Thank GOD she doesn't remember us."

As she's leaving to get our change, she says, "I'm so glad you enjoyed it.  And (looking at me) you held up quite well through the whole thing."

At first, I sat astonished.  Then I said, "Right!  I didn't even cry! Yay!"

She got our change, and we left ... even though I wanted to tell her all of the above.

But I didn't.

Because despite my supercoolness, I'm mysterious.  Which makes me more supercool.

There's no lesson here.  Were you waiting on one of those, "This is what I learned" concluding sentences?  Well, you're going to leave disappointed.  There is no take-away from this except that waitresses have good memories.  I wish I could find a silver lining in the compiled narrative of it all. But sometimes I think it's enough just to tell the humiliating story.

Onward and upward,

Sunday, February 02, 2014

January 2014

One of my NYRs was to write one blog post each month.  I'm already three days behind schedule.  But we shall carry on.

(My other resolutions, in case you're interested, were as follows:  (1) Save ALL coins -- so far I've cheated only once to buy coke at the vending machine at work; (2) Look at my calendar every now and then to avoid missing parties and/or showing up on the wrong night -- this is going well thanks for my nifty new phone; (3) Not let coffee be the first thing down my throat every day -- this is mostly just about remembering ... I haven't found it difficult to do this.)

So, here I am three days into February doing my January 2014 update, which shall be divided into parts:

Part 1: New Years

We traveled to Austin for New Years (by car, not that it matters), and I was able to finish two entire novels on the way there and back.  Texas shouldn't be allowed to be that big; however, I guess chopping it up would still keep Austin 12 hours away from Nashville.  Here are some pics from the trip (taken by MiL, OFP (Official Family Photographer).

John's Big Project

We took the kids and grandparents to a dangerous hiking area.

11 months apart and both are something.else.

I love this one so much!

The Lucy/Kimmy tradition of mani/pedis.

Bruce got a new hat.

Sorta normal.


Part 2:  School Begins Again

Brian and I quite enjoyed the return to normalcy.

The boys weren't exactly thrilled about it.

I began taking karate.

Part 3: Other Random Good Stuff

John got to attend a reading of Jeff Kinney's newest Wimpy Kid book and meet the author.  This was a thrilling literary event for him, and now we have a signed copy.

I have turned 37, and since it's now the 3rd day of February, Brian has turned 42.  I had BBQ and carrot cake.  He chose Indian buffet and "punkin" pie, as Sam calls it.  On the morning of Brian's birthday, we ate 1.5 punkin pies with our breakfast burritos.  The second half was polished off during half time of the Super Bowl.

My work has changed big time.  The coordinator of our ESL program has gone on maternity leave and left me in charge.  I have already done lots of ridiculous things such as hiring an instructor to replace her without checking his references first.  It all worked out well in the end, but still.  Lesson learned.

John is working very hard in 3rd grade and making all As.  He'll take the state test this year, and he's been practicing at home using a website.  His pre-test math/science scores are through the roof (and might I point out that he learns all of that first in Spanish, then takes the tests in English).  He's still working on the English/reading/writing piece.  He's such a crazy hard worker.  He's playing basketball right now and rocking the court.  Baseball will start soon.  He's also still doing piano and has now decided to also take karate.  So, every Tuesday night he and I treck down to Smyrna, Tennessee, which is where my sensei at school has always practiced.  Her sensei was trained by one of the original four marines who brought Isshin-Ryu karate to the U.S.  Yes, I am worried about all of these extra curriculars, so please do not ask if it's too much.  It probably is.  There are worse things in the world than quitting karate, however.

Sam is trying not to spit on people or poke them in the eyes.  He is also working hard not to call people a "mama head," which is way better than "fart gas."  He's taken to calling himself my "baby cat" and rubbing his head on my legs or shoulders like a cat, making a noise that simulates purring (or blowing one's nose).  Inevitably there is something disgusting on his mouth/nose while this is going on, which then gets transferred to my professional attire.  He will also start baseball next month, and is more than excited about shopping for a new glove, bat, and cleats.  He is really into beyblades and has learned how to take them apart and put them back together with other parts such that they change from "stamina type," for example, to "attach" or "defense" type.  He just spent an entire week (minus last Monday) with good reports sent home from school, so he got a new beyblade this past weekend named Pirate Orochi.  He's a balance type.

Brian is trucking along this semester riding on a cloud of his students' great practice test scores.  They were so improved that he won a half day off, which of course he won't take because, according to him, "If I want a day off, I'll take a day off -- no need for awards."  He is planning spring break trips of hunting and camping and summer trips of kayaking in Colorado.  I'm just trying to remember when the kids have birthday parties, practices, and school, so I'm grateful for his event planning skills.

I think that's all the news around these parts.  Hopefully I can crank another one of these puppies out before March.