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Monday, September 30, 2013

The power of positive thinking OR Happy Black Friday!


I woke around 5-ish, in a dark room that smelled like apples and cinnamon (thanks to Glade plug-ins) and felt like home – good thing, considering it was home.  I stretched out luxuriously and puffed my pillow beneath my neck.  I was plenty warm, but for added comfort I reached down and turned on my heating blanket (yes, my hubby was tired of my icicle feet).  I spent a few seconds thinking about the things in my life that were going well and the blessings I had received yesterday, on the only day appropriated in this society to give thanks.  Blinking a few times and thinking about the coffeemaker, I realized that exactly one year ago today (down to the minute) I was standing outside in icy, harsh 19 degree weather.  I was freezing, my husband was freezing, but we were going to be those people.  Those hard-core, I-love-my-kids-so-much-that-I’ll-wait-for-hours-in-the-freezing-cold-to-get-them-what-they-want, pushing, yelling, frugal parents.  Neither of us had ever experienced the magical feeling of shopping on Black Friday, so we decided in advance to have the little munchkins stay over at a friend’s house so we could wake at 4 am and become true members of society.  There we were, showered and shiny with the pink thrill of excitement fresh on our cheeks.  My caramel macchiato (with extra caramel, of course) was doing it’s best to warm my hand, but that wasn’t really it’s job.  The job was to wake me and comfort me as I walked through the stores, creating a warm feeling of relaxation with every pleasant sip.  Once I was happy with the creaminess, by default I would be okay with dropping huge amounts of (hubby’s) hard-earned money (obviously I’m not the only one that feels this way, otherwise they would have never thought to put Starbucks in the grocery stores).  We waited for what seemed like forever, watching all the other real people rub their arms and breathe into scarves (wusses).  We, being so much better than everyone else, gossiped about our comrades, making up stories and imagining what their lives were like (though we agreed ours was better!).  After what seemed like forever, finally the pearly gates opened and we were awash in the brilliantly warm basking glow of  . . . Walmart.

Yes, Walmart.  Some say it’s the saving grace of the middle-class American.  I say, “Amen to that, sister!”  Where else can you go to buy tampons, steak, golf balls and the aforementioned air fresheners all at the same time and spend only $15.00?  Personally, Walmart is the first place I look for anything.  My motto?  If Walmart doesn’t have it, I don’t need it.  Okay, that’s an extremist’s motto, but really. Have you ever not found something at Walmart?  That being said, there we were, watching what seemed like a movie – people everywhere, running, yelling, pushing to get the carts.  Screams of triumph and groans of disappointment were abound, bickering old ladies and crotchety old men were present in surprisingly large numbers.  After finding an empty cart sitting alone in an aisle (I apologize if this was actually someone else’s cart!), we attempted to make our way to the electronics department.  Ha.  There was a line almost to the front of the store full of people holding the electronics ads.  At one point, my manly husband yelled, “I’m going in!  If I’m not out in five minutes, tell the kids I love them!” and dashed through the carts and people like a Commando superstar.  Exactly one minute later he was back empty-handed.  He had even lost his ad.    His shoulders were drooping, his face had lost nearly all of the pretty pinkness that screamed “CHRISTMAS!” and he was clenching his fists.  “Where’s the DS?” I asked.  I was not yet seasoned enough to understand that when the sale started at 5, all the items were gone by 5:01.  Silly me.  We walked around a bit, looking for anything else we could conceivably pass off to our offspring as a great gift, but the people were plentiful, the stock was, well, not, and the amount of physical contact I had to endure was almost pushing me over the edge (reminding me of a fantastic Dave story, a mud concert and monkeys on the walls.  More on that some other day!).  Well, I thought, there is a Target right next door.  Maybe we’ll have better luck there.  Silly me. 

Target was the same as Walmart, except the smells of the perfumed ladies were more Macy’s than Marshall’s.  We quickly grabbed a cart and split up this time (talk about quick studies!).  He, of course, went to the electronics and I went to the clothing department, looking for more clothes that may actually fit the beautiful little (ahem) tumbleweed we call Juliet. All of a sudden, in the middle of me trying to get past a cart full of stuff (thanks for strengthening the economy lady!), I saw Hubby’s brilliantly happy face.  He was running to me in slow-motion, holding up a pink box in one hand and a black one in the other (I like to picture Rocky Balboa here – Yo, Adrian!).  His smile was so wide, I had to look away in order to retain function in my retinas.  He proudly dropped his baubles into the cart, and with a huge sigh of relief he said, “We got ‘em!”  Just then we overheard a conversation between two women about their goods being stolen out of their cart.  Apparently they left the cart with the plasma TV unattended and someone swiped it right out of their cart.  The other woman said she heard that was happening all over the store and there may actually be a revolt.  Time to go. 

There is a moral to this story, believe it or not.  The moral is, when you wake up on Black Friday in a warm bed with clean sheets, and the house is still (save for the creaking of the heat), do not think for one second that you would be better off shopping - unless, of course, you firmly believe in the power of positive thinking and already have an agreement with the Higher Power that you will, in fact, be a better person for the rest of the year if He could just guarantee you this one request.  That is why, at 6 am on Black Friday, I am sitting in front of my computer wearing woolen socks, a woolen sweater and woolen undies (I wish!) with a steaming cup of hazelnut coffee in one hand and a whiny, though cuddly, four-year-old in the other.  I used up all my requests this year.  I will pass the power onto someone else and shop like a normal person tomorrow. 

Jesus is the reason for the season?


“Who can tell me why we celebrate Christmas?”
So opened our family dinner tonight, just mere hours after we heard about the Wal*Mart associate trampled to death in New York and the people shot to death in a California Toys R Us, all because of things.  I’m not sure if it was our heavy hearts after hearing this kind of tragedy or our empty pockets after we decided we were indeed going to buy two more Nintendo DS’s and another high end item as Santa’s little elves this year that made Jamie ask this question.  It was primarily aimed at the younger boys – Juliet is the purest of hearts – because it seems that they become more and more heathen as the days go on (it was just yesterday at our family Thanksgiving dinner that Connor said, “Jesus Christ, mommy” in front of Jamie’s entire family). 
The kitchen was quiet for a minute, then my five-and-a-half-year-old piped up.  “Um . . . so we can get presents?”  His innocent little face flirted with a smile for a minute, then his sister and brother both twittered a little, perhaps nervously, as Jamie said, “But why do we give presents?”  Again, nothing.  Of course, Juliet knew we were testing the boys, so she sat back with an all-knowing smile on her face, watching the two of us adults trying to figure out what we were going to say next. Honestly, I was shocked that they didn’t know.  We aren’t a church family, but I like to think that we know a lot about the Bible and religion in general.  Little did I know that just because I know it, doesn’t mean my kids know it by default. 
“Whose birthday are we celebrating?”  I ask, certain that this time would be the Aha! moment.   Liam squirmed a little, looked at Connor then looked at me, helpless.  I could see in his face that he didn’t want to be wrong again but he still wanted to say something.  His green eyes implored me to whisper to him, to give him the answer by osmosis.  He was thinking so hard . . .
Then his younger brother saved him from his humility.  Connor said, in all seriousness, “I know!  Mine!”  His smile couldn’t have been more winning, his pride no smaller that Mount Kilimanjaro.   My disappointment, though, outweighed it all when the entire family (myself included) burst into laughter at our ignorance.

Gray Hairs and White Lies


Oh. My. Word.  Is that a gray hair?

For reasons unknown to my mostly rational self, this morning I got the feeling that I should be checking my hair for grays.  I didn’t really think I’d find anything but I looked anyway - we all have that weird OCD-like behavior when it really behooves us not to.  I took my brush and brushed my hairline up and back and leaned over the sink to peer closely into the mirror – something I had never, not ever done in my life. 

My first brush stroke produced what I had really highly doubted - my very first gray hair.  It was about three inches long and slightly thicker than the rest of my dull, baby fine and painfully thin hairs.  It sparkled and shone in the light of the bare globe vanity bulbs and appeared blonde (which is what I was hoping for).  My hubby walked in just moments into my sudden old age.  I turned toward him in what seemed like slow motion and pointed.  “Is that a gray hair?” I asked incredulously.

Now, let me tell you a little something about my husband.  He is the type of guy women want around because he is very flattering and complimentary and will go to the grave lying to make someone (ahem, me) feel gorgeous and perfect.  Lately we had been having discussions about my between-the-eyebrow wrinkles or, according to him, “wrinkles”.  His eyebrows shot up as he leaned closer and I read it all over his face – I was old. “Uh, yeah.  It is.” He said.  “Welcome to thirty, baby!  You always said you want to be all gray.”  He knew his face had betrayed what was to be a little white lie (er, gray lie) and then had to make a joke of it.

“Psh.” I said, laughing but superficially worried about my current predicament.  He kissed my sleep-wrinkled forehead and headed off to work, chuckling at my vanity, I am sure. 

I spent the morning thinking about time and youth and gray hair and wrinkles.  What is youth, anyway?  An overpriced, overhyped serum at a department store?  A feeling? An adjective?  A state of mind?  If it is the former, than I am youthful – wait, no.  Ever since I was 23, I’ve felt out of place with my age.  I should be thirty; I used to tell my friends.  I feel thirty on the inside, I would explain.  But my face and height and body shape begged to differ - I still get carded to buy wine!  I was shopping with my parents (who are 49 and 51) and children a while ago and they were buying O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer (which, although non-alcoholic, you are still required to produce proof of age).  The cashier asked if I was their daughter and my dad, befuddled by the question, asked, “Why?  Can you see the family resemblance?”  She said, “Oh, I was asking because I can’t sell your alcohol to you with her if she wasn’t your child.”  At this, we all looked at each other open-mouthed and shocked.  “She’s knocking on the door of thirty!” laughed my mom. “Four kids!”  The cashier was surprised and laughed it off as a compliment, but a deeper part of me felt like I was being jipped out of a certain rite of passage, like developing breasts as a teenager – wait, I was jipped out of that, too.  I felt like my age and my appearance didn’t match and for that I was a little sad.  There have been many times in my life where I felt that I was being overlooked due to youth, misunderstood and brushed away.  I knew people didn’t take a lot of what I thought and said seriously due to being mistaken for, say, 15. I wanted to look older, I wanted to look wiser.  Are wrinkles wise? 

Later in the afternoon while my youngest was napping, I got curious and took out my trusty, five-year-old hand mirror and brush and went to the window for better light.  I began running my fingers through the hair I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with since teen years, and wouldn’t you know it – my hair was ridden with grays.  Ridden, I tell you! Gray, gray everywhere.  At my nape, by my ears, smack in the middle of the back of my head.  Everywhere.  I must have counted twenty before I stopped.  When did this happen?  Why haven’t I noticed them? – Well, that’s not really a legitimate question.  I know why – I don’t pay too close attention to my hair as I HATE it.  I wash it, brush it and pull it back.  I trim it very sporadically and color it even less.  It just hangs on my head like dead, thin corn silks.  It’s shiny - I’ll give it that, and smooth - but it lacks about two-thirds of the volume a healthy head of hair holds.  I stared into the mirror, playing with one of them for a few seconds before I was shocked back to reality by the ring of the phone.  It was Hubby-of the-Year.  “Hey, that gray hair isn’t the only one.  I found more.” I said, expecting to hear him say something like, “You’re crazy” or “No, those are just blonde” but instead he hesitated and said, “I know.  I’ve been noticing them for a while.”

Wait.  What?  What?! You knew about them and didn’t tell me?”

Because of my dismay, I cannot recall what he said in response to that.  I do know that I felt almost betrayed, like he had lied to me.  My core, normally so age-driven and anxious to be old, had just been told it was old.  I was no longer the young 25-year-old-blond-with-the-yoga-butt he was dating.  I was now the wrinkled, gray-haired-30ish-year-old-wife.  In the course of one night (one sleep as my kids say) my whole persona seemed to change.  I aged dramatically and drastically just at the revelation of the pursuit of youth.  I had really never given any thought to anti-wrinkle creams.  When I saw a hair dye commercial, I completely disregarded the sales pitch that it “Completely Colors Hair Thoroughly – Even Those Pesky Resistant Grays” and “100% Gray Coverage”.  On this day, my afternoon was spent perusing for the best price/product for my situation (in case you are wondering, it’s Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Cream.)

When my boys got home from school, they were anxious to tell me all about their fun Friday, but I was anxious to shock them with my old age.  “Do you see my grays?” I laughed as I pulled my hair back. 
“Whoa, yeah!” said my oldest with a huge smile.  “They are white!”

I had to tell myself, after realizing what a bad example this would set for my teenage stepdaughter, that this obsession with youth and beauty had to go.  I sat down, opened my laptop and here I sit, pouring out my frustration over what shallow, insipid little ideas that float through my sometimes tiny little mind.  Hubby and I had a little laugh over the whole deal and he turned and looked at me with the most genuine expression and said, with his hand on his heart, “This is all that matters.  All that counts is what’s in here . . . and yours is beautiful.”

Gotta love my man.  He sees past the shallow exterior into the shallow pool of love!

Bee Stings and Bloody Tongues


Today started as the day from hell.  First of all, when I woke I knew that my cough and lungs were no better.  I wheezed my way out of bed, listening to Liam’s random babbling – something I hate hearing when I first get up.  Mom, mommy, mom, look . . . ugh.  I need peace for the first hour I’m awake, but even I couldn’t give myself the peace and quiet I so craved with all the coughing going on.  I fixed Liam his breakfast and made my morning luxury – hot cocoa.  Then Connor got up.  Thankfully, he was in the same jammies he went to bed in, meaning he did not pee the bed today.  Whew.  One small favor granted.  Thanks, God.  I went upstairs to gather the laundry and noticed a board on the floor in the boys’ room.  Upon inspection, I realized it was a piece of the bunk bed frame from under the top mattress.  As I turned to ask Connor why he broke it (as usual, it was undeniably his fault), I saw marker and crayon marks all over their bedroom wall.  If there was any doubt in my mind whose fault that was, it vanished when I noticed that the word “Connor” was decorating the paint in red, brown and orange.  Yay.  More work for me to do on top of the everyday messes!  I was unsure how to feel about it though.  Part of me wanted to scream about the writing on the walls, and the other part of me wanted to congratulate him on writing his whole name without help. After I got over that little catastrophe (with the warm fuzzy mommy feeling taking over), it was almost time for lunch.  Liam and I made mini English muffin pizzas (on Thomas’ English muffins – way to plug the brand, right? – WAIT!  Upon re-editing of this post a year later, my hubby has changed companies and no longer works for Thomas’.  Please buy Wonder Brands instead!) and we all sat down to eat.  Liam noticed Connor’s tongue was purple and Connor rushed to the bathroom to see his handiwork (he later admitted that he snuck the tube of purple-colored cookie frosting and ate in my bedroom).  I heard a bang and thump and though that he had jumped off the sink and was just about to yell when he came running toward me, screaming.  His tongue was hanging out and was no longer the Wonderful World of Disney purple.  Instead, it was red.  Blood red.  I brought him to the bathroom where I set him on the counter so I could cleanout and assess his mouth, when I realized my mistake as he squealed when he saw himself in the mirror.  “I’m gonna die!  I’m gonna die!” he shrieked.  As I started squirting the water from the water bottle into his mouth to rinse out the blood, he started swallowing and yelling some more.  “I’m choking to def on my own bwood!  I’m dying!” 
“Connor,” I began, “you are not going to die.  It’s just a little bite in your tongue.” 
“I bit my tongue off!” he screamed, completely hysterical.  Now, there have been times that seemingly small things build up in my psyche and turn me into a raging lunatic, but this time, all I could do was laugh with a tiny tear in my eye as sympathy reared it’s little head.  Finally he calmed down enough to take the Tylenol I offered and held the ice-cold washcloth in his mouth.  I got him comfy on the couch and turned on a movie for him.  Liam came running out of the office with a picture of Curious George in his hand.  “Here Connor,” he said, handing it to him gently and trying to see inside his mouth.  “This is for you to cheer you up.”  My heart melted.  Leave it to a near disaster to make me appreciate the closeness they have. 

About an hour later (alas, no nap though I was really hoping the Tylenol would relax him enough to send off to blissful slumber), Connor said he wanted to go outside.  He was playing out there for a while when I heard him yelling.  Normally, Connor is not a crier so I knew that something must be wrong.  Sure enough, he came into the house screaming with terror and holding out his finger.  “A bee stingded me!  A bee stingded me!”  Oh, hell.  My worst nightmare was coming true.  Connor’s dad is deathly allergic to bee stings and for the past five years, I’ve worried that Connor is also allergic and I won’t know until he dies from his first sting.  I grabbed his hand, searched for the stinger (none!) and once again rushed him into the bathroom.  The cold water seemed to calm him down quickly and his eyes lit up when I told him to chug the last of the Benadryl (Ahem, I am not a doctor.  Do not try this at home).  Kids.  Fortunately for all of us, no anaphylactic shock seemed to be flirting with us, so once again Connor made his walk of shame back to the couch.  I again propped the cushions and wrapped him in the kitty blanky.  I made a little icepack for his finger and adjusted the TV.  My sweet little boy.  What a day for him.  I stared at him from across the room for a minute, thinking about how stressful his owies must be for him and wishing I could take away the sting.  That’s when I noticed the blue scraps of fabric at my feet.  “What the . . .” I bent down to pick them up and found the scissors right behind me, also on the floor.  “Connor?”  His little face looked up at me, still tear-stained.  “What are all these scraps from?”  He pulled up his blanket to show me his shorts.  They were three inches shorter on one side.  He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I wanted to be a man.”  I was speechless.  I didn’t know what to do.  I just walked away and sat fuming in the kitchen until my hubby came home.  When I regaled him with the tumultuous day, he went out, hugged Connor and asked where his sting was.  Connor held up his hand and said, “Right here on my big fat winky.”  Jamie smiled at his use of vocabulary and asked to see his tongue.  Connor stuck it out and then Jamie asked him if he knew what karma was.  Of course, my little almost-five-year-old didn’t know, so Jamie explained it to him as something that explains why bad things happen sometimes, like if you cut your clothes and misuse scissors, then something bad might happen to your hand.  I think Connor got it, though later that night he was right back to his normal, misbehaving self, regardless of the threat of karma.