A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Dear New(ish) Neighbor Across the Street,

I planned to come by and say hello.  I intended to introduce myself.  I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood, and do all the welcome-y things that good neighbors are supposed to do, just like Mr. Rogers taught me (well, maybe not the singing and the acting out stuff with puppets and toy trolleys and such, but you know what I mean).  Sigh.  But I haven’t.  And now literal months have gone by.  And I feel really bad about it.

mr-rogers-hello-neighbor

I can make all of the excuses.  You moved in during Spring Break.  Spring Break!  During Spring Break this year I was busy in Florida hating the beach in the rain along with too many loud people inside of a too small house.  And then we got right back into school and activities and all of the things, so dropping by to say howdy to you fell to the bottom of my to do list.

Plus, you’re a dude.  And from what I can discern with my mad private investigator skilz, you do not have a wife but you do have a couple of every other weekend teen-aged kids.  What if you just went through an ugly divorce and now you hate all wife-type women?

And you rarely seem to be home.  I saw you walking your tiny dog in the mornings while I was waiting with the boys for the school bus.  But I never see you at other times of the day.  What am I supposed to do?  Sit on my front porch and wait for you to come home from work, and then go knock on your door?  What if you come home from work and immediately have to go to the bathroom?  I would be knocking and you would either have to poopus interruptus, or ignore me (because now I know you are home… I just watched you pull into the garage).  That would be so weird.  And not a little awkward for everybody involved.

I had a plan to bake you some brownies, which is what some very nice new neighbors of ours did when we moved into our house seven years ago.  But every time I bake a batch of brownies, somebody in this house eats at least one out of the tray and wrecks the possibility of gifting the whole batch.  OK, you got me.  I’m the one who eats them, but that’s neither here nor there.  And now I resent you a little bit for making it super convenient for me to eat brownies.

Then, I decided I would buy some Greenies treats or a toy for your dog.  I went to PetSmart down the street and I had a traumatic flashback to the time that I thought it would be a great idea to adopt two puppies at once, but I got so anxious that I had to return them after only 48 hours and my kids still hate me to this day because of it and I feel like a broken human being because I guess I don’t truly like dogs and the whole experience was just horrible.  Well, thanks for bringing that whole nightmare back up.

Maybe I will bring you a housewarming gift instead.  A six pack?  Maybe you don’t drink.  How about something crafty or homemade… soup mix or take out menus from local restaurants?  Something decorative or practical for the house… candles, a photo frame, a house plant?

A front door mat?

A front door mat?

OK, OK.  This is going in a weird direction.  I feel that I have made this way more complicated than it needs to be.  Let’s start over.

Welcome, neighbor.  Better late than never, right?  Here is my family’s contact information.  We’d love to get to know you.  Feel free to stop by anytime.

P.S.  I swear I’m totally normal.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

 

 

Come What May

It was a cold, gray, January day.  All of the other kids were in school as it was a Thursday, but Kid A had checked herself out early.  It was her 18th birthday, so she could do that now.  She climbed into her newly-leased electric car and turned on her iPod.  The passionate and emotional voices of Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman spilled from the sound system.  The words blasted her ears and bombarded her heart.  The song lasted the exact length of time it took her to drive from parking lot to parking lot.  She took it as a sign, like a cardinal at the window or unexplained feathers.

Sheepdog and I arrived together.  We held hands as we walked into the waiting room.  I noticed a giant eel slithering inside a 75-gallon fish tank before I even saw Kid A in the corner.  The building smelled faintly of rubbing alcohol and burning things.  We all hugged and walked over to meet with her guy.  She gave him a piece of paper that had been folded and unfolded and looked at so many times that it had the worn feel of soft leather.  They spoke to one another in the language of creative people.  Then he scanned her paper into the computer and pulled it up on the big screen.  A lone sob escaped from my throat before I could pull it back.

Seeing his familiar handwriting up there, larger than life, I was caught completely off guard.  But seeing it a few hours later, permanently inked onto the slight wrist of my oldest child, it actually felt good.  After all she had seen and experienced and lived through the past few years, it felt right.  Well, as right as a tattoo can possibly be.

"I will love you until my dying day."

“I will love you until my dying day.”

His life story will always be a part of hers.  He left his mark on her heart.  Now his handwriting is marked on her forever as well.

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Today is the first anniversary of Braden’s death.  One whole year has gone by.  An entire year of holidays, and birthdays, and Mondays.  One whole year passed of experiences, and change, and growth.  One whole year of the regular and mundane too.  One whole year of memories made without Braden.  I feel like that is one of the worst parts.

I have thought of him so much over the past year.  Sometimes I think of him intentionally, like when I plant flowers in his memory.  I talk to him as I’m doing the work, updating him with new funny stories as well as the regular day-to-day stuff that’s been going on.  And when these plants inevitably die, I think of him again because I know he is playing a twisted joke on me.  All of my other plants thrive.  It’s just the ones that I tell him are “his” that end up brown and crispy.  I like to think that Braden enjoys our conversations so much that he is just making sure that I’ll keep checking in with him.  So I guess I’ll keep buying him new plants.  And I’m good with that.

Other times he pops into my consciousness accidentally, like when I recently came across the milk shake recipe for cancer patients that I used to make for him when his stomach could tolerate them.  It was made with protein powder and coffee and chocolate sauce and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.  It always made me so happy when he would finish one, because he was losing so much weight and what else packs on the pounds but the best ice cream on the planet?  I also find him popping into my head when I’m listening to music in the car, wondering if he got to hear that really great song before he died.  Or was he around for that game?  Or did he get to see that movie?  Or look at that blood moon?  As more and more time passes, the answer is almost always ‘no.’  Not while he was here with us on earth.

So, to officially and reverently mark the passage of one whole year without Braden, Sheepdog and the kids and I went on a short hike up the Indian Seats Trail at Sawnee Mountain this past Sunday.  When we reached the top, we found some rocks off the beaten path and we sat together as a family.  We overlooked the valley below and Sheepdog said some nice words and reminded us that Braden is happy and healthy now and we shouldn’t ask for anything more than that.  He also reminded us to be thankful for our own health and happiness and to make each day mean something.  Some of us spoke about happy memories and fun times with Braden.  Some of us weren’t able to speak at all.

There was a placard up by the Indian Seats that said mountaintops are considered sacred by Native Americans because they bring us closer to Father Sky.  I don’t know about that, but I certainly felt closer to my God and to Braden that day.  It was sacred and it was good.  Well, as good as it can be when somebody is taken away before we are ready for it.

Wish me luck for tomorrow… come what may.

Muscle Groups

Oh, hello there, friend.  How have you been?

So busy.

How are you doing?

So tired.

What’s new with you?

Same old, same old.

 

I often feel like I’m living the life of a celebrity.  A jet-setting, paparazzi-hounded, silver-spoon-in-my-mouth rock star who spends my days doing exotic and exciting things, all while getting pampered and reminded how vital I am to society on the whole.

Oh wait.  Back that up and reverse it.  I’m so bored and tired that I got confused.  I am a stay at home mom.  None of those things applies.  I need a nap.  And a maid.  And some mental stimulation.

I would like to thank the Academy, my fans, and especially my family.  They make me feel important every single day.

I would like to thank the Academy and my fans, but mostly I want to thank my family for making me feel special and important every single day.

The 2013-2014 school year is about to cross the finish line and everybody is throwing stuff at the velcro wall in hopes that something – anything – will stick.  Let’s have a party!  Let’s have a Field Day!  Let’s have a concert, a recital, and double-elimination playoffs!  And please bring four cans of pineapple juice, two tablecloths, a photo of your child holding a sign that says something nice about his teacher, a pair of black Adidas soccer socks, a Bat Mitzvah card, a couple of boy birthday gifts, and a white dress.  And lots and lots of checks.

Meanwhile… my body is rebelling against me.  It grew too many babies from scratch and I am now falling apart so I was secretly convinced that I was dying from my core.  I finally broke down and went to the doctor.  He said he can rebuild me, so there is hope.  I was very excited to think he meant I will be like the Bionic Woman, but there may have been some kind of doctor/patient disconnect.  I guess we’ll see.

And to top it all off, I haven’t even been able grip anything with my hands this past week, let alone type, because I spent three hours last Wednesday power washing my driveway with an unloved machine I borrowed from my brother-in-law, Chuck (Sister B’s husband).  It had a broken wheel hub when I picked it up, and by the time I finally got it working (with the help of my friendly and helpful neighborhood stay-at-home-dad), it had two.  It was bouncing around so much that all of the hoses eventually busted off and sprayed wildly around my yard.  I was covered in mud and dirt and grit and whatever it was I was cleaning off the concrete.  It was like actively pumping gas all morning.  The job wasn’t done but at least I had cleaned the Junior/ Senior Wars “artwork” off of my driveway.  My fine motor skills were collateral damage for almost a week.

In summary, I seem to have lost my mind, my core, and my texting abilities/ pincer grip.  Being the supportive husband that he is, Sheepdog said that he knows a hand exercise to help me work on the latter.  My doctor is fixing my body, so I guess that just leaves my sanity.  And I think that’s probably overrated anyway.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

 

 

 

Mama’s Got This

Sheepdog and I had just finished playing a fantastic game of hide and seek late last night, when a text came in from Kid A.  A friend had alerted her that somebody just “hit” our driveway with shaving cream.

I like to refer to myself as "highly procreative" rather than "a slut," but to each his own.

I like to refer to myself as “highly procreative” rather than “a slut,” but to each his own.  D-minus for creativity, Class of 2015.

Ah, Junior/ Senior Wars.  A time when high school kids can play lighthearted pranks upon members of the opposing class.  A little toilet paper here, some shaving cream there.  Some call it a rite of passage.  Some call it fun and funny.

I call it stupid and a ginormous pain in my ass, especially when I am hosing off my driveway in my pajamas at 1 a.m.

The police department calls it vandalism, especially if it escalates.  Shit just got real, yo.  On your permanent record.

There are always going to be fartknockers who wreck it for everybody else.

Sheepdog and I do not condone Junior/ Senior War activity and we do not allow our kids to participate.  But I was alerted via Facebook that some juniors’ houses in the neighborhood got TP’d the night before, so I took precautionary protective measures in anticipation of my senior getting a little something-something, just because.  Cutting down the two river birch trees from the front yard a few years ago wasn’t going to be enough.  I tapped into my Jersey Girl/ Boardwalk Empire roots and asked myself, What would 3-Pops do?  But, since the answer to that question likely involved a baseball bat and some knee caps (not really my style), I decided to go a more technologically advanced route.

IMG_0271

If you mess with her cubs, you had better be prepared to hear from the Mama Tiger (Swiger, like tiger).

I love a good penis on the garage door as much as the next girl, but I am a little concerned that all of your penises (and there were many) look like cacti.  If you were drawing from memory, you might want to get that checked by a doctor, Picasso.

I love a good penis on the garage door as much as the next girl, but I am a little concerned that all of your penises (and there were many) look like cacti.  If you were drawing from memory, you might want to get that checked by a doctor, Picasso.

An apology would be nice, but I won’t hold my breath.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

This Is Just Not Funny

Yesterday was the first day of April, or as I would rather call it, March 32nd.  I am not really a big fan of the pranks and jokes and general tomfoolery that accompany this particular calendar day.  I never remember that it is April Fool’s until it is too late and by then I have fallen for a handful of pranks completely, thus becoming a literal fool (archaica person who is duped).  Or, I see right through people’s trickeration and have to pretend.  So, nope.  I’m not really a fan.

But my kids are a whole different story.

A few years ago Kid B contributed to this blog by posting about her favorite pastime… pranking her siblings (Kid B Uses Her Powers For Evil).  Kid C, Kid D, and Kid E seem to have gone the way of Wazaah, so they spent a good part of yesterday afternoon hiding each other’s shoes and pillows.  It was all very annoying, especially at bedtime harmless and funny and made everybody giggle.  Even I couldn’t keep my icy heart from melting each and every time I heard Kid D yell out “APRIL FOOL’S!” followed by a giant guffaw.  He was on a roll by dinnertime.

Sheepdog had ridden his bike to work yesterday, so he came in through the basement workshop and not the kitchen door when he got home last night.  He showered first and then joined us for dinner.  When he came upstairs, he had the remnants of panic smeared across his face.  Then he greeted us with, “Are you TRYING to kill me?”

Apparently, the pranksters got to him too.

This shit is not funny.

This shit is just not funny.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

All Are Punnish’ed

I was talking to a mom at the baseball field last weekend.  Her son is on Kid D’s team, the Padres.  She also has a daughter in 5th grade and another son in high school.  He is 16.  We were bonding over the scourge of parenting teenagers.  Because that crapfest is more complex than a Gordian knot.

Gordius was the King of the capital city of ancient Phyrigia (located in the Ankara Province of Turkey).  He tied an intricate knot and prophesied that whoever untied it would become the ruler of Asia.  According to ancient tradition (and Wikipedia), Alexander the Great simply walked over and lopped that thing off with his sword.  And guess who was King of Asia from 331 – 323 BC?

Way to think outside the box, ATG!

Way to think outside the box, ATG!

As far as I can tell, one of the big hurdles with kids seems to revolve around one central theme… honesty.  Even the best of them are inclined toward half-truths and omissions.  “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission” is the song of their people.  There are various degrees of lies being told and sundry ‘failed-to-mentions’ which they are failing to mention.  And there does not always seem to be sound reasoning for the lack of candor.  One of my kids lied the other day about taking a shower.  To what end, you dummy?  I just don’t get it.

So, when you kids get caught – oh, and you will get caught – whether it is for throwing a party at your house when your parents go out of town for the weekend, or for picking your boyfriend up before school even though it has been explicitly prohibited because of the very unsafe left turn out of his neighborhood, or for wearing yoga pants out in public even after your father has said very clearly and with very little exception, “NO YOGA PANTS TO SCHOOL,” we, as your parents, have to come up with suitable and effective penances in order to deter this bad habit.

Sheepdog and I over the years have employed penalties that run the standard gamut from ‘go to your room’ to ‘give up your phone.’  We have explained that lying begets more lying, it does no one – the liar or the person being lied to – any good, and, most importantly, it hurts your heart by causing guilt.  It has proven most effective with our kids when there is a retributive theory of justice (the punishment fits the crime), but also when the punishment is tailored to the offender.  I once heard a story from a mom who kept a pile of bricks in her backyard, which she would make her very logical son move from one location to the next for absolutely no purpose whatsoever, whenever he deserved punishment.  Another mom made her daughter hold a sign up at a busy neighborhood intersection that said “I disrespected my parents by twerking at a school dance.”  Now that’s hardcore.  But was it actually effective with those particular kids?  That is the ultimate question when it comes to punishments.

Recently, Kid A was making some bad choices.  Sheepdog and I sat her down and yelled had a discussion with her about the behaviors we wanted her to adjust.  As incentive for her prompt alterations, we decided that she, an 18-year-old girl who has been driving her own car for two years, had to ride the dreaded bus to school.  Dun dun dun!

Who says parenting can't be fun?

Who says parenting can’t be fun?

Shortly after I texted Sheepdog, Kid A sent me a message that her boyfriend had just broken up with her.  It was not a huge surprise given recent events, but she was still sad about it.

IMG_0223

And now she’s all mad at me.  Whatever.  I’m just sitting here, trying to cut my way through this giant knot.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Things We Share and Things We Keep to Ourselves

As it so happens, more often than not these days, it was just me and the boys at home on Friday night.  Kid C was sleeping at a friend’s house, Kid B was at the high school to watch baseball and soccer games, and Kid A was at a meet and greet for her currently number one college choice (Go Jackets!).  Sheepdog was working late.

I wanted to make a nice dinner since I hadn’t cooked very much since we got back from our vacation.  I bought some steaks and planned to grill them for Sheepdog and myself after I put the boys to bed.  The boys, however, were getting peanut butter sandwiches and calling it a night.  I wasn’t wasting good, grass-fed beef on those ingrates (“It takes too many bites for me to chew it all up!“).  No problem.  More yummy cow for me and your father.

But first, I needed to take a shower.  If you’re going to woo your husband, you need to start with the basics (although ‘dirty’ is rarely a deterrent when it comes to my husband and lovin’).

So I spread the peanut butter, poured the milk, and turned on the SpongeBob.  I set the boys up for success and asked them to please give me ten minutes.  Don’t answer the phone.  Don’t answer the door.  No one goes in or out.  No couch jumping, stair diving, or playing baseball in the living room.  Please try not to hit your head on anything (it happens more often that you can imagine).  Come get me immediately if someone is choking.

I went upstairs.  And miracle of all miracles, I actually got to take an uninterrupted, hot shower.  I even shaved my legs.

I came back downstairs and praised both boys for their excellent behavior and ability to follow directions.  Their faces beamed and their chests swelled from the accolades.  Then I noticed a notepad sitting out on the counter.  I asked Kid D if he was starting a new grocery list.

“Oh, no, Mom, ” said Kid D, matter-of-factly. “Someone knocked on the door while you were in the shower.”

“…aaaaand?…” I prompted him to link it back to the notepad by waving it about in the air.  “Who was at the door and what exactly did you do?”

“A man was at the door.  I didn’t know who he was.”

Awesome.

“So I told him to hold on a minute and I came in here and wrote a note.”

Oh, crap.

“And then I took it to the door and held it up for him to see.  And I never opened the door, Mom.  Because I know that I am not supposed to ever open the door without you right here.  I just showed him the note.  The man smiled and said he would come back later.”

"Gary was just taking a shit."  Bathroom meeting, Weird Science (1985)

“Gary was just taking a shit.” Bathroom meeting scene, Weird Science (1985)

It says, “My mom is in the bathroom.”  Apparently, I need to teach some more stranger danger lessons around here.  And maybe a lesson or two about “things we share and things we keep to ourselves.”

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

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About an hour later, I received a message on Facebook from a friend in the neighborhood.

Mystery man identified.