Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Dream Realized

The Travelers game was great. I didn't expect it. It was a total surprise. And here I thought that a family night that didn't involve one person feeling left out, or some great outpouring of emotion, or loud noise was a pipe dream. We of course were a little late and couldn't find the "ample" parking that was on the directions but once we were in we walked right to our little area where they had the food all set up. Story was so excited he couldn't eat, but he drank his weight in Sprite. We talked a little bit with my co-workers, but mainly we were running back and forth refilling Story's cup and getting more hot dogs for me, which made me need some Sprite on the way home.

When the game started we went to our seats. This is how we sat: Justin, Holly, Story, Hayden, Me. I don't know what Justin and Holly were saying but I could see Justin down there talking to her like he was talking to a friend, laughing and interested in what she was saying, proud that it was his daughter saying it. Hayden and Story watched the game and I don't think Story really knew what he was seeing at but still looked over at Hayden with this "WHOA, did you see that?" expression every time something happened. At one point Justin took Story to see the mascot, who looked like a moose, but I couldn't say for sure what he was. After the fifth inning we left because it was getting late and we still had a long drive back to Russellville.

On the walk to the car we laughed together. On the ride home we sang Hank WIlliams and David Allen Coe as loud as we could. That might have been the first time that the five of us have done something together like that. It was a pretty amazing thing because with all of us there it seemed totally balanced, there was no child fighting for attention, there was no adult fighting to gain control. We were just happy, we enjoyed the personalities of the others in the group, everyone always had someone to talk to or entertain or to entertain them, nobody was the odd man out, unless it was me, but I'm the mother and I think that's my job sometimes. I got to see it - how it should be. It was an amazing night. It was like a moving snapshot, that smiling family with the happy kids and the competent adults, out of the house doing something fun, just one night in years of nights that you want everyone to see, that you want everyone to think of when they think of you. I know that from now on last night is the night I will think of when I think of how things should be, should have been all along.

Friday, August 27, 2010


It's almost 3:00. At 6:00 Justin, Story, Holly, Hayden, and I are supposed to be in Little Rock for the Arkansas Travelers game. You've never heard of the Travelers? Neither had I. They're Arkansas' minor league baseball team and they're playing at Dickey Stephens Park tonight. Napa is having their summer company picnic there. This is exciting to me because I've never worked for a place that cared to have company picnics, much less ones to which the kids were invited and where there was more on the menu than pizza and more to do than pretend it's a party when it's really a meeting.

I can't tell if Holly and Hayden are excited or not. They keep asking what the Travellers are. Justin is getting more than a little irritated at having to explain that they're not major league ball players as if the shame of Arkansas not having a major leage team is a reflection on him as a person and the perceived failures of his lifetime. "I can't even live in a state with a pro ball team!" He keeps saying, "it's the Cardinals' farm team!" and "Mark McGuire played for the Travelers!" I don't make it any better when I refer to our outing tonight as "going to see those kids play."

I don't know if I should be ashamed or not, but I'm excited about tonight. It will be nice to take the kids out to do something that's not a movie, I'm excited to meet the people from the other stores whom I a fuss at on the phone for always stapling their invoices together and never checking the ink in the printer, it will be a new experience for Story, I won't have to cook dinner. Justin's sister says there's even a place in the park where people yell insults at the players, and Hayden is looking forward to that. Like the family road trips, I know that a family night that is easy and fun is a pie-in-the-sky dream, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming it. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's a funny thing about kids...

I don't know why anyone wants to be a parent. You have to wake up early every day, feed them, bathe them, pay for daycare, totally rearrange your priorities, and worry about the fact that they can pronounce "giraffe" with perfect clarity but struggle with "cat." If you look at it like a business proposal, from an effort and reward standpoint, parenthood a terrible idea. There's nothing but effort put in and nothing but more effort required and for what? To see them win a few science fairs? For them to realize the dreams you let go? To have someone around to make sure you don't get shoved in some cut-rate nursing home in your old age? It makes no sense. None.

And yet, I wouldn't trade being a mother for anything. That's what's so crazy about the whole thing. Story is two-and-a-half now. He's talking pretty well, thanks to his speech therapist. We're having some trouble in the morning because he wants to choose his own shorts to wear. I'll pick out something that makes him look cool and he'll kick me until I allow him to pick out something that makes him look like a huge dork, usually to wear with his rain boots - if he can find them. He likes music a lot and dances those crazy little kid dances all the time. He found some giant bouncy balls that he likes to throw, and I let him because he's already pretty much broken everything there is to break in the house. It's fun until he starts throwing them at me. I spend most of my time balled up on the couch covering my head and swatting him with a magazine to keep him at bay. He loves to read (or for me to read to him). Lately it's "Winnie the Pooh," whom he calls, simply, "Poop." It melts my heart.

I can't say that I'm the type that goes for cuteness. Puppies are cute but I'd just as soon take them to the pound as take care of them. So I know that it's not the cuteness that I love. I'm not into cuddling and really prefer my space and would appreciate Story respecting that sometimes too, so it's not that contact I enjoy. He embarrasses me to death every time we go somewhere because he's so wild and I'm so bad at discipline, so it's not like I enjoy showing him off. I can't say what it is. I love my kids so much and for no reason at all, I just do. I love what they do and what they say and how they are. I would love to take credit for it, but they're so different and unique that I know that they are just themselves and I love them even more. I just wanted to have kids so I could see how attractive they would be. And now I'm stuck loving them so much that I'm terrified that something will happen to them and that the "giraffe"/"cat" thing is a symptom of something serious. It's inexplicable.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A small thing that made me smile

This is one sentence from a letter I received at work from one of our customers, exactly as it was written:

We have made significant strides over the past year to reach our goal of becoming the "Leading Aluminum Rolled Products Company in the World!"

Perchance to dream...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Their Kansas is our Kansas, a road trip

Family road trips always sound like a good idea when you're planning them... by yourself. Then, about an hour into the trip you find yourself fighting to regain control as all those ambitious plans crumble into a living hell of arguing children and bathroom breaks. My inclination is to say "especially in my family," but wouldn't you be so inclined?

When my father-in-law invited Justin, Story, and me on a trip to Kansas he had planned for a relatives 50th wedding anniversary we were excited. I even more so because he even planned it so that we could drive through Ponca City where my grandpa (Mom's Dad) lives. I haven't seen him in probably seven years.

I left work at about 11:30 because we planned to leave at noon. At 2:00 Justin was still packing and my father-in-law, mother-in-law, step son, step daughter, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew were cursing him in their cars in our driveway. Eventually we were on our way.

I don't remember how we managed to go on road trips without a GPS system. The GPS is only useful in a two-car situation though when any of the people in the car that's leading know how to work the GPS, OR when the person following (who owns a GPS and is proficient its operation) knows that the person leading doesn't know what they're doing and is good about using their turn signals. We ended up on some very sketchy back roads in Oklahoma before we finally worked out which car should be in front.

We met my Grandpa for dinner in Ponca City. He looks exactly the same as he always did only a little shorter, a little more frail. I didn't know what to say to him and was nervous the whole time because I thought I was going to cry. He looks so much like Mom and when we left I did cry, and he gave me a big hug and gave Story a big hug and Julie, my sister-in-law got pictures. I'm so glad that I got to see him.

It was one of those quick trips during which you drive for hours everyday and stay in a different hotel every night. Story pointed out every tractor between Fort Smith and Wichita, and even some tractors that weren't there. I brought my pillow from home with the pillow case that matches the sheets and then left it in the hotel the first night. Justin's knee locked up in the car when we pulled over for a quick break and I had to run around and catch him as he fell out of the car, breaking off my toenail past the quick as the sole of his shoe caught it on the way down. We visited some relatives of Richard's who had a beautiful house that was so clean the vacuum triangles were still visible in the carpet and Story pooped twice during the hour that we were there. We knew that it's impossible to make a quick decision about pizza toppings in a party of ten, but tried to do it anyway, the kids fought about who got to play with Story, and it's very clear to those of us in the backseat how key communication is when a father is driving and a son is riding shotgun.

You'd think that eventually people would learn that tranquil family road trips are a trick of the imagination. Yet we keep planning them, and keep thinking that "this time it will be different." We're like addicts who are always after that perfect high, that perfect trip with the pictures and the laughing and the quiet kids playing cards in the backseat and the parents who never get lost. That will probably never happen, not in any family, but in mine, on this trip, I got to see my Grandpa. I got to eat my weight, every morning, in continental breakfasts that have improved exponentially from the dry-danish-and-muffin days. I got to laugh with Hayden about the guy who picks up Steve Martin and John Candy at the Wichita hotel in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." Story saw tractors, Justin learned that his sister Julie might care a little bit about him after all, we got to see Holly laugh one last time before she heads off to be a teenager, lightning in Kansas is beautiful, and while family road trips are inherently horrible, I will always get excited about them, I will always enjoy them, and I will always look forward to the next one - if we're invited. It was a wonderful trip.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why a Swiffer Sweeper-Vac will change your life, if only in a small way

Only in the last four or five years have I become domesticated enough to listen to people when they talk to me about household chores, or to even know people who talk about these things. I was complaining to Trish at work about our laminate floors and how I had to wear shoes in the house at all times or sweep constantly to avoid having little bits forever sticking to the bottom of my feet - which I can't stand. She said I should go out and get a Swiffer Sweeper-Vac. It's a Swiffer but with a little vacuum strip in front to get all the chunky stuff that won't stick to the pad, and it is the greatest thing to happen to me since I invented mashed potato pizza that will blow your mind.

I once was a hateful woman who spent all day cursing the dust and dirt that covered my floors and the feet of the people who tracked it in. No doormat could be held responsible for that volume of debris. I think part of the issue is the laminate floor that has no grooves to catch the dirt. I shuddered to think what kind of filth was in the carpet and couldn't sweep without also vacuuming. It was consuming my life. So when Trish suggested the Swiffer Sweeper-Vac the $30 seemed like a small price to pay for some much needed peace of mind.

Thirty dollars is a lot of money for any type of cleaning product, but the Swiffer people will never price the Sweeper-Vac for what it's worth. I still feel like a hateful woman, but I'm a hateful woman with clean feet. There's no more going over and over the floor, the heavy stuff flying across the room and the light stuff moving three inches, trying to get all the dirt into a neat little pile that I'll inevitably walk through on the way to get the dustpan, no more agonizing about that irritating crease of dust that will never make it into the dustpan no matter how many angles or degrees of force I use sweep it up, and although there's still just as much stuff tracked in I can take care of it quickly and easily.

I've sung the praise of the Sweeper-Vac to everyone who will listen, including my Dad who, since my mother's been sick, I've realized is not the one who was overly-concerned about the "chi" in their house. On a trip up to Chicago he had me pick him up a Sweeper-Vac and has now become a man who gets up on Saturday morning and Swiffers the house, a dust bunny doesn't stand a chance. He credits the Sweeper-Vac with his transformation and is even interested in one of those Dyson vacuums, which look amazing but surely there is no improvement that could be made to a vacuum that would rival that of the Sweeper-Vac to the broom, unless that vacuum could somehow make dinner too.

I'm hoping that if I write "Swiffer Sweeper-Vac" enough times Google will post an ad with a coupon so you will all be able to go out and get one too. It will change your life, if only in a small way.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


His mother's voice is the first thing a baby learns to recognize. When I was pregnant with you I thought that that was amazing and since I didn't, and still don't, have it in me to just talk out loud about nothing to nobody I went out and bought a book. I didn't want to read a kids book and since I didn't think that it would make much difference to you whether I was reading "The Cat in the Hat" or "A History of Western Philosophy" I went with something in between, something that I would enjoy reading, something educational, something positive just in case the words you were hearing, those first words, somehow had some bearing on who you were to be. I chose a biography of Leonardo DaVinci. Every night I would, very quietly because even scripted I felt weird about talking out loud, read to you about Leonardo.

I don't remember many of the details of his life, just that he was an ambidextrous dyslexic, which meant that he could write the same thing with both hands at the same time, one forwards and one backwards producing mirror-images, he is the first person to explain why the sky is blue (because of the way the air disperses light and the fact that most of the world is water - which is blue), he is arguably the world's greatest artist, and he was a lot more than an artist, he was the true original Renaissance Man. His parents were not married. His father was a noble notary who came from a wealthy family and his mother was just a peasant woman named Caterina. His choice in parents worked out well for him because if he had been a true heir he would never have been sent to Verrocchio's workshop where he learned to draw, he would have had to be a notary like his father. Also, his pictures are often so cluttered because paper was very expensive when he was alive in the 15th century. He was a perfectionist and a notorious procrastinator. These are the things I remember.

I'm telling you this because you're an artist now, and I think that's amazing for so many reasons. Your drawings are like nothing I've ever seen before and I think even Leonardo at age six would have a hard time drawing Transformers and staircases the way that you do. I like to think that despite the fact that you live so far away and I'm not the one who is there to draw with you maybe I still have something to do with how great you are. There's my genes of course and then there's me sitting in my bedroom whispering to you about Leonardo DaVinci. I love you lots. --Momma

On a side note, I wonder what Story will be? I read Einstein's biography when I was pregnant with him.