Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Going Out For Some Grub, Part Deux

Well, I did it! I went back to my all-time favorite Mexican restaurant after an entire year away. It was the scene of the most hellish entrée of my life. To recap, please see this. Suffice it to say, my bean burrito platter had more than its requisite share of protein.

Anyway, the kids have been gently inquiring over the last year if I was ready to try again. This kind of cracked me up because THEY are the ones with the weak stomachs, refusing to eat around toddlers, being thoroughly grossed out when their friends chew with their mouths open across the table and reluctant to try foods that remotely resemble the animals they came from.

I had no intention of jumping back into the water so soon, but when one of my dearest friends called and said she and her husband and baby were already at the restaurant and asked if we wanted to join them, I had to act fast. We piled in the car, the kids giving me sympathetic looks as I broke into a little sweat and got the fake throw-up feeling in my mouth.

When we got there, we were led to the EXACT table where the incident occurred. I ordered something completely different from “my usual” and bravely dug right in. When Tom took my pic on his cell phone, I realized that it was exactly one year to the day from my fateful last visit.

Let’s just say, I’m baaaaaaaaaack! Dinner was fine.

I just wish I had kept those free appetizer certificates they so generously bestowed on me when I agreed not to sue.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Piles of Blame

I have a habit of playing the blame game. If something went wrong in my younger years, I’d want to pin it on my brother or sister. As a mom, when my kids act up, I often attribute it to the influence of other kids, the time of year, the cycle of the moon, barometric pressure—you get the picture.

So, I’m wondering what you would do if you let your dog out to go to the bathroom at night and she disappears. And after about 10 minutes of surveying the estate you still haven’t found her.

And then you discover she has let herself into the neighbor’s house and is ransacking their walk-in pantry, an orgy of Beggin’ strips, nacho chips and all manner of other food. And you see by her bad example that she’s leading the neighbors’ own puppy into a life of crime.

And when you realize that the neighbors didn’t even notice anything was amiss, you have to fess up and apologize for your dog. And they tell you this is the second time tonight she has helped herself to their kitchen.

And when you take her home, she promptly chucks up 2 huge piles of this on your floor?

I know, you ask yourself, "What’s wrong with those people?! Don’t they know how to lock their doors? "

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Flashback Friday-- Feeling Groovy

Flashback Friday. The past few Fridays I’ve been confessing what an easily annoyed jerk I am. This Friday I’m taking a break to remember simpler times, and share a picture that makes me giggle. Check out Flashback Friday posts by other bloggers here.

1n 1992 I was in grad school in North Carolina. I worked at Blockbuster and made $3.10 an hour plus all the movies I could rent— VHS of course. The extra .10 an hour was because I was a college graduate. Tom was an undergrad working in a lab. We were friends for a few months before we started dating, usually just meeting at my apartment for pizza, beer and 90210.

I remember arriving at a Halloween party with some friends and being greeted by 2 guys with ripped jeans wearing carved pumpkins on their heads. Upon seeing one particularly hairy set of legs through the rips, I remember thinking, “Whoa… those are some pretty hairy legs.” Little did I know, those legs would one day be mine. By the time Tom and I threw the groovy 70’s party pictured above, I was not only digging the hairy legs, but was falling hard for the rest of him too.

Back in those days, we did such sweet things for each other. I remember his knocking on my apartment window at 2 in the morning to deliver a surprise of Little Debbie Swiss Cake rolls while I studied. The mix tapes we played on impossibly large boom boxes. The home cooking. Sneaking kisses in the library. I did sweet things for him like picking all the pistachios out of his pudding when he had his wisdom teeth removed, and baking him a heart shaped cake for our 1 year “anniversary of dating.”

When this picture was taken, we had so few responsibilities. Although we had almost no money, we always seemed to have more than enough. We would extend ourselves for each other and keep no tally sheet. While in those days I would eagerly sit in a science lab with him waiting for his test-tubes to do whatever they were supposed to do just so we could be breathing the same air, today he sits on his computer upstairs, and I’m downstairs on mine.

So, as we enter this weekend of kids and sports and fundraisers and work, I’m going to remember that 21 and 22 year old and how much fun they had when this picture was taken. Digging through the Salvation Army bins for polyester pants and the perfect 70’s prom dress. Reserving my first (and only?) keg at the local dive bar. Speculating about whether a guest’s Member’s Only jacket was a costume or an unironic fashion choice. Doing the Hustle and wishing everyone else would leave so we could slow dance alone in all our double-knit glory…

This picture puts a smile on my face and makes me want to forget for a while the mortgage, the 2 adorable kids sleeping upstairs, and the barfing dog and remember what it was like to be young and right in the middle of falling in love.

Kind of makes me want to go grab Tom from upstairs, pop Jurassic Park in the (still working) VCR and open a Corona.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

not Love, anna

For those of you who, upon seeing this photo, pitied me and acknowledged how I have my hands full with my daughter, I accepted your sympathy graciously. Some of you had been there yourselves, as a mother or a daughter. Others recommended I sleep with my bedroom door locked, in case she ever went all Menendez on me.

If you want more details about this picture, check it out here

Today I’ve dug into the archives—my late mother’s jewelry box— to show you that I don't deserve sympathy, I deserve (and am getting!) payback. Here’s a pseudo-Valentine from me to my mother, circa 1977 or so, in which I let her know how I felt about her on a given day. I remember sliding it under her bedroom door, thoroughly pissed about something.

Since apparently my scanner stinks, I'll type it for you here:
Just fur you
Po Po
not Love,

I can’t say much for my spelling—po po should be “poo poo,” but I will say that this note gives me hope. My anger burned white hot over whatever she had done to me.

Who knows what it was? Making me go to piano lessons? Telling me to clean my room? Or the time when she wouldn’t let me go with a friend to the White House to MEET AMY CARTER!!!!!!?????? I had a strange feeling at the time that she thought maybe I was too high-strung to keep it together on a 10 hour outing with another family. This is right before I locked myself in the bathroom for 4 hours decrying the cruelty of humanity. Hmmm.

This note gives me hope because I know it did not sum up how I really felt about my mom, just as Molly’s picture can’t negate the good times, such as the down-right awesome day we spent together today. I can picture my mom shaking her head and laughing as she tucked it in her jewelry box, just as I laughed when I saw the curlicue mustache Molly gave me. Payback can be heck.

I just need to keep telling myself that a daughter’s love for her mom goes way beyond hate notes. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Confession: Annoyance Allowance

I am easily annoyed. If you know me well, this is not really a confession, because you have witnessed it. If you've read about my psycho behavior at school parties and on field trips, you are getting the idea. Even my kids recognize this, as in, “Look how mommy bites her lips and her eyes get real big when Daddy is annoying her.”

The thing is, I have a bit of a rep for being a generally pleasant person, but sometimes I struggle to be pleasant to the people I know well. I just get annoyed. I don’t think it’s right to be nicer to the super market checker than I am to my own flesh and blood, but that’s how it goes down most days. Sister (and best friend in the universe?) Snippy to her. Husband? Don’t ask.

Now I’m coming off a sleepless night because I was too easily annoyed and curt at a church meeting last night—so I spent the entire night tossing, turning, fretting and regretting. At the meeting I had diarrhea-of-the-mouth, when I should have let others talk. I was controlling. I shut down some people’s comments, and I got snippy. These are people who came out on the coldest night of the year to help me with a huge project.

I could claim that I was “meetinged-out” after a very long day. I could play the hormone card, since I had started my period about 12 minutes before the meeting. But in reality, I think I’m just too easily annoyed. And, to make matters worse, I think the reason I got so testy was that I felt safe doing so because I am very close friends with a lot of the women in the room. Nice, huh? I think it’s the same way you can keep your cool with a tough or aloof teacher, but then you come home and dump all over your mother. Ugh. Been there, done that.

A blog I enjoy which takes about 2 seconds to look at each day, is really just a photo w/ a caption. It is called “Annoyance Allowance.” It’s fun to go back through the archives and see pictures of all of the things that strike people as annoying. Some are strange. Some are universal. The best part about it is the concept that we are allowed ONE annoyance a day. The creators of the blog don't have kids yet, so maybe that allotment is too low, but that's a discussion for another day.

I think days like yesterday, when I let myself sink into the self-centered, “my way or the highway mentality,” I’ve gone way over my annoyance budget. I mean, aren't we always telling our kids that behavior is a choice? We can choose to be annoyed, or we can choose to give people slack and show them grace. I know what I want to choose today, and I hope my poor friends from last night have a little grace left for a very annoying Anna.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Fun Mom"

My mom had a dose of zany in her. Whenever we got a new jar of peanut butter, she dared us to be the first to scoop out a big hunk—with our fingers. She was right in there, trying to be first, too. Sometimes on car trips we had just Dairy Queen cones and gumdrops for lunch.

She let us play a game in the house that involved chucking tennis balls, hard, at each other, as long as we blocked the windows with furniture. When she had to take us to sports practices or rehearsals, she would lean her seat back in the car and instantly fall asleep, no matter who could see her. She sat cross-legged on the kitchen counter as she talked to us. She said “shit.”

Instead of yelling at us for being irresponsible and taking good spoons out into the sandbox, she offered us and our friends 25 cents for each one we found and returned, $1.00 for sterling silver.

One time when the three of us kids were fighting like banshees, she kicked us out of the house, each with a ceramic bowl—telling us that if we were so mad, we could not come inside until our bowls were broken. Fighting turned to bewilderment. Had she finally lost her mind? I was reluctant to do something so utterly wrong, but I eventually broke my bowl against a tree and was soon laughing my head off with my brother and sister.

I thought Mom was cool. This is at the same time I thought she was the weirdest, most old-fashioned, strictest, most embarrassing clog-wearing mom on the planet.

I hope to strike this same balance with my kids. I instituted “Ice cream for Breakfast Day” for the first snow day of every year. There’s never much risk, with the way I eat, that we won’t have ice-cream in the freezer. And, since school most likely is cancelled anyway, there’s no fall-out from all that sugar.

I also make up songs in the kitchen, dance like Pee Wee Herman, engage in lots of potty humor, and talk like a Valley Girl. I wear dorky get-ups around the house, and drive the kids to school with last night’s mascara half-way down my cheeks.

I want to be zany, but in a safe, “I’m still the mom” sort of way. I’m sure we all had friends with the “other” kind of cool mom. You know, the one who hung out playing quarters with the teenagers at parties because she’d “rather have them drinking safely at home” than somewhere else. The mom doing the beer bong. The one who gossiped about who should be cheerleader, and why her daughter had been “robbed!” of the honor.

That other kind of mom always freaked me out. My mom was not that mom. Our drama was not her drama, and she didn’t drag us into any drama she was dealing with in her own life. She lent a sympathetic ear, and dished out hugs, but she let us deal with our own stuff.

If our friends betrayed us, she didn’t call their parents and chew them out, or tell us why we were so much better than they were. She didn’t get involved in who was dating whom. I remember thinking, although I couldn’t put it into words then, that she showed remarkable restraint.

She didn’t label, and she didn’t name call. This made me feel safe because I knew that even if I was the bitchiest bitch ever, or the biggest baby, she’d still be there for me. Instead of screaming at me when I freaked on her, she would give me a sort of wide-eyed, bemused look that said seemed to say, “Uh, yeah, you are acting like a huge ass right now. I’m going to keep my mouth shut. I’m sure you’ll realize the error of your ways before too long.” And I did. No berating, no negotiating, no pleading. She was the mom and I was the kid, and I felt safe knowing that my childish behavior might not make her happy, but it would never rip her world apart.

My mom attracted teens to her, around the kitchen table. Not with beer bongs, but with plates of nachos and a listening ear. If they were boys, she cut their hair using her barber clippers in the middle of the kitchen. She took the exchange student to get birth control after telling her that although she didn’t believe in premarital sex, she would do what the girl’s own mother would do for her if she could be there. She figured out how to make international long distance calls, just to be sure. Did she mention any of this to me, her curious, gossip-loving daughter? Nope. Restraint again.

Kids crave structure, and when we have rules and structure and standards, they feel safe. It’s when they feel safe within these constraints, that we are able to get a little zany. Not "unstable, no dinner, different men in the house, out-all-night" zany, but just a little bit more fun than you would expect from mom on a given day.

I may be more yell-y and psycho than my mom was (maybe I should just start saying “shit” to blow off some steam), but I hope some of her fun rubbed off on me.

So if it’s letting the kids take the cushions off the couch to jump on every night, having ice cream for breakfast, teaching them the diarrhea song , or grooving out to Dance Dance Revolution, I hope my kids see me as FUN MOM. Just not in that order.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Things that Make Me Go Hmmmm....

Why is it that when you are driving and ready, spork in hand, to eat your Taco Bell Border Bowl, there are only green lights on the horizon? 13 green lights in a row?!

And why, later the same day, when your bladder is about to rupture and you are estimating how many ounces of urine your cloth car upholstery can absorb, it’s nothing but red? Hmmm.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Desperate Times

Have you ever got caught in the bathroom without tp? And you need a lot? And the only one home is the cleaning lady? And you don’t feel like the 2 of you are close enough to have her lend a girl a hand in this situation? So you search the trash can for used Bounce sheets and dryer lint? No? Well, you didn’t miss much.

You're Gonna Miss This?

I found this list today on a piece of paper shoved in a blank journal. It just says “Summer 2004,” which would have made Jake 5 and Molly almost 3. You don’t have to read the whole thing, or any of it all. It's not that interesting. I think it captures the grueling, often mundane aspects of being home all day with kids, on a “typical day.” It could just as easily have been 2002 (like the above picture), 2003 or 2005. For those of you slogging through the mud today, hang in there. Reading this, I missed it…sort of. I realize now that while the days are LONG, the years are SHORT. And at least we have blogging now!

7:15 a.m. up, Tom already at work
Paper and Shower, kids parked in front of PBS
Breakfast, I eat, kids don’t
2 Tantrums
Period on shorts
Out door, w/ snacks
Preschool to pick up form
Oak Hill for forgotten toy
Dumpster dive—new sprinkler!
Let kids go in new sprinkler, fully clothed
Naked Lunch
Nice playing
Put away clothes, organize toy room
Kids rearrange everything to play made up game, “Disney on Ice”
Ants in kitchen
Tantrum (Things not EXACTLY right)
Mom suggests movie
Calls exterminator, does laundry, emails
Molly bites Jake, hard, during movie
M to timeout, J gets popsicle
4 neighbor kids waltz in, uninvited
Mom shoos out—not in the mood
Molly screaming, trying to get out of room. Sticking little hands under the door.
Both kids outside
Back inside, 2 extra kids to play “Disney on Ice” to Jake’s EXACT specifications. (furniture rearranged, toys dumped again)
Make zucchini bread w/ Molly – messy
Call exterminator. Again.
Show neighbors sprinkler, all wet and naked again
Come inside, Stormy weather.
Play game
Raining in kitchen, leaky roof
Lecture Jake about “chilling out” again
Spilled milk
Ice Cream
Meltdown, Molly wasn’t doing dishes to Jake’s EXACT specifications
Jake’s ice cream falls on floor, tries to eat it off, weeping
Spilled milk #2 and 3
Sweep floor
7:30 pm Dad comes home
Dad reads to kids
Mom finally goes to change feminine protection. Shorts # 2 stained.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Country Roads, Take Me Home

Sorry for the blog silence. I’ve been holed up in a house w/ 7 kids, 6 adults, one dog and a hermit crab for the past 6 days. I’m kind of glad I couldn’t blog at my in-laws, because I would have come off as a raving lunatic, or at least more of one than usual. I needed to get back home and get a little perspective before filling you in on my week. See how happy I look in my own kitchen?

Trips to the in-laws always seem to go like this: I work myself into a lather packing for the household. Laundry, pack, schlep, laundry, pack, schlep. When we get there, my first strategy is to hide out in a back bedroom reading books 24-7. This is not to protect myself from them, but to protect them from the raging b-rat I become every time I’m there.

I find myself cringing at everything anyone does. I play a little game in my head called “That’s where Tom got that annoying habit.” I feel rebellious. If they are talking politics, I feel like yelling, “I voted for Obama!” If they extol the virtues of health food, I rip open a bag of chocolate and strap on my feed bag.

Underneath my rolling eyes, moaning and groaning, I think what I’m doing is trying to punish them for not being my family of origin. As if to embrace them fully and their way of doing things will somehow negate my experience of “family.”

The thing is, ever since my mom died, twenty years ago, my family hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and roses, so why am I comparing, and judging, and punishing these kind, lovely people who have never been anything but good to me? But still.

By day 2, I feel the need to flee. Unfortunately, I’m 7 hours from home and have never bothered to plot an escape route. The idyllic country setting begins to feel more like a curse than a blessing. I have no idea how to get to a main road. Perhaps if there were a Target nearby, I could indulge in a little retail therapy to make it through. No dice. Snowfall doesn’t help either. Low thermostat? Annoying. Boring local newspaper? Ugh. Tennis magazines? No thanks.

By day 3, I’m lethargic, as if overtaken by carbon monoxide. Everything is in slow mo. I sleep as late as possible, ignoring the chipper “Well, look who is up!” by other members of the household. I keep my Christmas pj’s on as much as possible. The kids are having a blast with their cousins, and Tom is loving catching up with his parents and siblings.

By day 4 Tom is offering me a one-way plane ticket home and out of his hair. The nerve. I rally. Our anniversary is pretty good. We go to a nice dinner and a movie. That night, I roll over in my twin bed uttering a “Night Ricky,” to his “Night Lucy.” Romantic in an old fashioned kind of way.

Day 5 really picks up. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I start to socialize. I drink wine. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this earlier. I ring in the New Year with a smile on my face, even though my night is spent in yet a different house with 10 kids, 6 adults, and I’m on an air mattress mere inches away from a cage containing a dead guinea pig. The people we stayed with were pet sitting for the holidays. Someone had a much worse vacation than I did.

On Day 6 I start to think about whom Jake will marry. Will he bring home a girl so witchy and judgmental that I’ll have to walk on eggshells around her? Will I have to apologize for my mere existence? Will the way I breathe bother her? Will she play the “A-ha!” game inside her head? Will she fail to recognize what a fabulous person I am?

Chastened, I spend my last few hours there being the daughter-in-law I should have been since the beginning. To my in-laws—I’m sorry for what I’ve put you through for the last decade and a half, even though most of it just played out in my mind.

To Tom, I’m glad you come from such a dear family, with kind parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. I know I’ve said this to many guys in the past, but I think this is the first time I’ve said it to you. And I mean 96% of it: “I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.”