Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Driver Ed

Warning: rant ahead. It really bugs me that people move their shopping carts the way they drive. They are on phones, wandering aimlessly, and completely oblivious to everyone else. Why is that? How hard is it really, to just watch where you’re going? I’m hard pressed to decide which is worse: the grocery store, Costco or the freeways . At Costco, the aisles, carts and items are bigger than at the grocery store. This might lead a person to believe that there is more room for you to move around. In actuality, it leads people to believe there is more room for you to move around THEM.

Seriously folks. Every time I go to Costco there are people who stop for no reason in the middle of the aisle. People push the oversize carts with one hand while talking on a cell phone and simultaneously trying to push their way to the front of a sample line (not sure which hand they will grab food with), and people who weave back and forth across the aisle, unsure of which way they want to go. Then there are those who decide to stop in the middle of the aisle, or go soooo s-l-o-w because, well, who knows. These very same people are out there on the roads, with the exact same behavior behind the wheel. They run stop signs, lights and crosswalks, don’t signal when they should, signal when they ought not, and weave around when they can’t decide which way to go.

Now, in all fairness, I am the first to admit I am far from perfect. I was such a horrendous driver when I was younger that I probably should have had my license revoked. No lie. Ask my parents. No wait. Don’t. I am ashamed to say I had an average of one speeding ticket per year the first eleven years I drove. Yes, I said “average”. You do the math. But the point is, as a reformed speed demon, I did wrong for so long that I have a heightened sense of where people are going when I am driving, and I see the very same things from people attempting to maneuver shopping carts. It’s not ok to crash into the cereal aisle, drop their phones and spill their wonder juice samples. It’s REALLY not ok to crash into my car and injure my children, or force me to stop suddenly (and if I spill my coffee there’ll be hell to pay).

Why is it that they MUST take their purse out of the cart and leave it blocking the way while they step across the space that’s left of the aisle to sift through the newest t shirt pile? What is it that causes them to stop mid stream with no care that anyone is behind them?

You might think I haven’t really gotten past my speeding urges, but it’s not that I want to go fast. In fact, I enjoy going slow too. Sometimes I go slow on purpose because grocery shopping may be my only outing of the day. It just seems like the courteous thing to do is to PULL OVER. Don’t we have enough gridlock in our lives? I don’t mind if you want to go slow. I don’t mind if you want a sample of that new fat free nut and raisin bar. I don’t mind if you have to have that t shirt for $15.99 that only Costco sells. It’s just that when you go get it, step aside and let the rest of us pass by. Please.

140 Characters

I did it. I signed off. I actually signed off Facebook. Omigodnowwhat? It’s only been a few minutes, but already I am wondering what to do. It’s truly ridiculous. I mean, I have no time for Facebook, but somehow I manage to be signed on all day long. The thing is, I leave my laptop open on the table and jump on the computer whenever my kids are playing with each other or sleeping. It’s a very effective way for me to get things done during the day. I can write, I can email, keep in touch with everyone, and not miss anyone’s birthday. It makes me feel efficient since I am home most of the day with my little ones. I don’t spend much time on the phone because it’s too darn loud here, so Facebook has turned out to be the perfect solution.

So why do I feel guilty? I suppose that’s a part of parenting. I pay attention to my kids, I play with them, love them, care for them. They are good kids, we have fun together. I am allowed to have some social time, albeit at arm’s length via the electronic world. But now it’s truth time. I am not just a Facebook user. I am a major addict. When my internet connection goes down I refresh the page to see if I missed any new posts. I wonder at the beginning of the day what I might post as my status. Something interesting, truthful, but not too revealing. It is after all potentially seen by people other than those on my friend list. Besides, is it so wrong to want to know what everyone else is up to? It’s the modern day version of Gladys Kravitz peeking out the window to see what the neighbors are doing. Yes, yes, I admit, that was me before Facebook, but I’m far too in touch with my inner and online Gladys to stop.

Wait, there’s more. Not only am I addicted to just being on Facebook, I am addicted to playing a game. Bejeweled Blitz. There, I said it. I am competitive about it, and I tried to stop once, but I’m no quitter. I tried to quit coffee too. Ok, I didn’t try very hard. But I did stop playing Bejeweled for a week (read: the game was overrun with users and Facebook shut it down). I thought I was free of it, but then someone on my friend list started making high scores and I HAD to beat her. I even joked about needing to un-friend her in order to be in first place each week. She thought I was kidding.

This is when I realized I needed to change things up. Twitter limits the characters you can write to 140. Maybe I should limit my friend list to 140 friends/characters? And my posts too? Maybe I need a time limit of 140 minutes a day. Clearly I am getting carried away. But it’s like buying a new dress or a purse. You like it so much you start to wonder what you wore before you bought it. Come to think of it. I don’t spend much time on what I wear these days either. I’m in too much of a rush to sign on and see what my east coast friends posted while I was still asleep.

Ok, ok. I can should just close my computer. I was about to start this next sentence with “But” when I realized I have already used the word nine times. Clearly I am full of excuses. So here’s my last statement in 140 characters or less:

I’m addicted to Facebook. I could close my computer BUT my Blackberry has a Facebook app. Anyone know if Facebook has a support group?

Hurry Up and Wait


Hurry and wait I used to be a very go, go, go person. Inside I think I still am. I’m not sure my old self always knows that this is not how my new self’s life goes now. With four kids running around the house, life has sped up in some ways, and seriously slowed down in others.

Tending to their needs means whatever I’m doing at any given moment, like writing this blog . . . .

. . . sorry, kid fell off a toy and screamed.

Anyway, (sigh), it means my thoughts are constantly interrupted and I have to drop whatever I’m doing and come back to it. I’d like to say come back to it later, but later has a very different definition these days. It could be a week depending on how urgent it is, and how urgent whatever it is that takes me away from it is. In between the kids’ needs, my husband’s needs and letting go of the need to have everything in order, I find myself waiting, waiting, waiting, for what? Oh, right, for my thought(s) to come back. As soon as that happens however, another crisis needing my immediate attention is sure to occur. God forbid my children wait to steal each other’s bottles until I am sitting on the floor playing with them five minutes from now. No. They must do so when I am elbow deep in dishes or a poopy diaper.

Turning your brain on and off this way is perhaps a talent for some. But it is definitely a skill that moms need. I’m not one to let the dishes pile up or laundry sit. Maybe I should be. We have a regular routine, though I am not super strict with it, and I try to “get it all done” by day’s end. Maybe I try too hard, but I’m not sure I have a middle ground. How to reconcile this, how to reconcile this . . . wait, I know! Don’t. Do. Anything. Else. Ever.

Riiight. If I stop having any thoughts at all, I can sit around and wait forever for toy stealing, hitting, falling off couches, time outs and hair pulling to happen. I will have all the time in the world for that. But is it so wrong to sneak over to the computer for a few minutes at a time during the day and drain my thoughts quickly onto a page? At least if I can do that my head will be empty. That will leave room for the screaming to reverberate.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

August, 2009

As I started writing this, it was as though my son sensed he was blog fodder. He started a battle with the couch that he just could not win. Yesterday he got the stitches out. His first two. I say that knowing it will very likely not be the last, but rather the first of many similar ‘battles’. This little guy is one going on ten. I swear he doesn’t know he hasn’t been here long. He will climb on anything, reach for anything, and peer into anything.

So far he has fallen head first off a trampoline, pinched his fingers in doors, hung off of the ‘safety’ gates in our house, stopped a fall on concrete with his forehead, and gouged out his eyebrow (the stitches). We got a bench with cubby holes underneath and had to turn it on its side because he was on top of it within seconds and playing with the light switch (his favorite thing, only second to opening and closing doors). Once on its side, he decided it was a place in which to play, and promptly climbed in and out of each cubby until he got stuck straddling one and almost ruined the family jewels. I can just see explaining that one to the doctor. “Well you see doc . . .” Sigh.

I have toddler proofed the house the best I can, but he seems to be . . . SuperToddler!

“Faster than a panicked Mommy!”
“Able to leap small siblings in a single bound!”
“Look! Up on the stairs! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s . . . OHMYGOD! It’s my one year old!”

Pant, pant, pant . . . I am out of breath just writing this. I shudder daily at what his next ‘adventure’ will be. You know those plastic covers that go on doorknobs? The ones that keep kids from opening doors? He snapped the first one off a door while I was putting the second on another door. He figured out how to close the buckles on the high chairs, and I am holding my breath for the day he figures out how to UN-buckle them. He can’t sit too close to the other two kids while in the chairs, because he knows how to unhook their trays and send them crashing to the floor. And I have to let him out of his chair last, or he will unclip their trays from the underside.

While I really want him to have the freedom to run around, it makes me extra nervous when I must help one of the other two and I can’t watch him. Sometimes I have to put him in a bouncer just to have peace of mind while I tie someone else’s shoe or God forbid, go to the bathroom. If I don’t, I will either find him getting onto the shelf above the sofa gunning for the remote, or see his little fingers wiggling under the bathroom door.

My daughter on the other hand, wants to copy everything my son does, though she is not as aggressive or as able. The other day I said I wished she would be a little more independent. My husband raised his eyebrows and said, “Be careful what you wish for”. I immediately pictured the new room our local ER would undoubtedly be setting up for me for those long nights ahead as I patted my daughter on the back and said, “Honey, where’s your brother?”

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

August, 2009

I love to read. One summer when I was in perhaps fourth or fifth grade, I won a contest at the library to see who could read the most books over the summer. Call me a teacher’s pet, I didn’t care. I loved to read then and still do. I have less time to read now with all these tiny people running around my house. So I have a stack of books that I mean to get to, and I try to read a few pages every night before I go to sleep. With less time I have to be picky about what I read, and I tend to favor the lighter themed books and things that will make me laugh. I started this summer with the best of intentions. My kids sleep longer now, so I hoped that I would actually be able to take my mind elsewhere in the pages of a good book.

As luck would have it, I made my way through “Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind”. Since the birth of my kids, I find that my reaction to things is very different. While this book is about the adventures of a teacher’s journey through his career, I saw in it as an unlikely parenting guide. Let me explain.

You see, I really enjoyed school as a kid (see the first paragraph above). What I loved so much about reading this was twofold. First, in looking back, I was the kid craning to get the teacher’s attention to answer the question (unless it was math). Then I averted my eyes and appeared to intently study my desk. Second, I can only hope for my children to have a teacher like Mr. Done when they get to school. In his 25 years of teaching, he seems to have amassed a wealth of kid knowledge. Like, a child’s favorite multiplication problem will never be 8x7, how to dodge questions and send the class out to recess early, and how to preserve Santa Claus. I want that for my children.

I get the feeling that Phil Done is a pied piper of sorts. His genuine love for his students and his profession are so obvious that it is almost painful, but in a good way. Although much has changed in the last several decades, I couldn’t help but reminisce more about my childhood right along with Mr. Done and the creative projects in his classroom. The most touching chapters were “Angel” and “The Second Curriculum”. I tied these together as I read the bittersweet passing of a student all too soon, along with Mr. Done’s list of thing all children should do. Again as a parent, I cannot fathom the first happening, and the rest not happening. I cried through both of those chapters, and laughed through the rest.

When I finished, summer was almost over, and I realized I had actually made it through an entire book in less than eight weeks. For me that is a huge accomplishment. Last year at this time I was writing, yes, but I was also breastfeeding triplets, getting almost zero sleep, and wondering if I had enough energy to stumble to the coffee machine before someone cried again. Most of the time that was me. This year, my summer vacation actually had a vacation in it. I visited third grade. Do I get a gold star?? Huh Mr. Done? Huh?

Originally posted at LA Moms Blog. I occasionally muses about what my kids will tell their third grade teacher about me one day.

Tiptoeing Through the Tulips

August 03, 2009

I’d like to say it all started with a t shirt. But it didn’t. It started way before I bought the shirt. I knew it was coming, but nothing can really prepare you. I like to say that I understand that you cannot understand anything at all until you are there. And at the risk of sounding vague, even understanding that is true in itself.

The t shirt was something I found online. It says, “Things may be complicated at my house, but hey, at least they’re unpredictable.” It resonated with me and continued from there. What I am talking about is my kids. Two of them were recently diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. It sounds horrible when I see the words on paper, but not when I look at my sweet little babies, it’s actually not so bad. But it sure felt like it on diagnosis day.

My son’s diagnosis was expected. He had a severe brain bleed the day after they were born, 11 weeks early, resulting in a myriad of conditions that eventually arrived at CP. For the grade of bleed he had, he is doing remarkably well. No surprises. My daughter is the one that blindsided me. Her right leg turns in, and I only took her along to the neurologist to rule out CP. Ultimately it is not something that will prevent her from living a normal life, but it added to the laundry list of things to which we will need to adjust over time. The kids will grow and require various things like casts, braces, gait trainers, etc., and of course, more therapy. Though I love the doctors and professionals that make up our ‘team’, it is a constant flow of people in our lives. For someone who is used to being alone, it has been an adjustment for me. I am so very grateful for these caring people who help me and my children daily. But over time, I have come to realize that my time is slowly becoming everyone else’s - not only my children’s, but the whole team’s.

Fortunately CP is not an advancing condition. It is what it is, and can be improved for later years with early intervention/therapy. It is also not a cognitive impairing condition, thus, my kids are able to communicate and think well. We are very lucky. In the midst of feeling alternately overwhelmed and relieved, I came across a few blogs and sites that helped tremendously. A beautiful essay by Emily Perl Kingsley called ‘Welcome to Holland’ sums it up well. Now, Holland has always seemed like an interesting place to go. But I speak French. I like Brie and wine. Paris would almost always be my choice over other destinations. Ironically, I don’t like heavy perfume or cigarette smoke, and tulips happen to be my favorite flower. So what did we do? We got off the plane in Holland. And as we try to take in our new surroundings, we are tiptoeing oh so delicately through the tulips and realizing just how beautiful these large, bright and simple flowers really are.