The Love Triangle

I am definitely a female of the species. I have married a male of the species.

In proof: we have reproduced the species.

This is where the similarities end. Except we both like rock climbing. That, too.

When I think about things, I think in circles and occasional waves.

When I open my mouth and let them out, I hear lovely word pictures.

“Darling, would you please put your dirty glass in the dishwasher?”

When Hubby thinks about things, he thinks in straight lines with lots of little star-shaped clusters along the path.

When he opens his mouth and lets them out, he hears lovely word pictures.

“Are you saying I don’t do my share around here? Because I do, and dishes in the sink are not a problem.”

He has no concept of circles and waves. He thinks I think in straight lines covered in stars and therefore, I am speaking in tongues again.

I will say “molehill” and he will hear “mountain”.

I will say “problem” and he will think “not”.

It is actually easier for us to speak in body language with occasional signing.

“Darling?” I say, and when he glances my way, I lift the glass from the sink, calmly place it into the dishwasher, shut the door, and look at him and smile.

He replies by raising an eyebrow inquisitively and going about his business.

What is there to say, really?

On the other hand, I do occasionally have a triangular thought.

I ponder something that has three sides and appears a little alien at first, and I stare at it and turn it around and try different views and throw a few preconceived ideas at it until it starts to form a shape that I recognize.

I really feel the need to share this concept with my Hubbs.

I face Hubby, open my mouth, and attempt to say the thing: “Triangle.”

Blank stare.

I try again: “I think it might be a triangle.”

“What you’re talking about sounds more serpentine. Possibly it’s an irregular quadrilateral.”

He’s really attempting to understand.

I go on, “I’m not sure if it’s actually pink with purple spots, but basically, we’re talking about a triangle here. Maybe scalene.”

“No,” says Hubby after some consideration, “this sounds much more complicated. I’m not even convinced that triangles exist. Not in the way you think they do. What you’re talking about is an icosahedron.”

“But,” I falter, “I told you it only has three sides. And they connect into a single shape. Forming three angles inside of it. It’s pretty much a classic definition…”

Hubby frowns. “Are you telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about? Because if there’s one thing I know, it’s shapes.”

Later that night, I call a girlfriend. I’m almost in tears.

“Honey, calm down,” she says, “Tell me exactly what you said. This is a safe place. I’m listening.”

“Um, triangle?”

“Oh!” she says, “Triangle. Of course. Sometimes it’s pinkish, like, with tiny purple dots on it.”

I’m speechless.

“Are you there? Kid, I know triangle and you know triangle. It’s okay if he doesn’t know triangle. I think his mind is just wired for octagons. Perfectly normal.”

I take a few comforted breaths and she continues.

“Actually, my Hubby is all about colors. Have you ever tried to explain what the number nine smells like to a guy who can’t even begin to understand what you’re talking about, unless you can say what color it is first?”

*sigh*

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

We have a winner for yesterday’s Father’s Day drawing!

Congratulations to Ms Lyn, who checked in to my website at 7am and was brave enough to mention her similar memories with always-awesome Soap-on-a-Rope.

A tremendous THANK YOU to everyone who took the extra ten seconds to enter by either Subscribing or Commenting. Not everyone is familiar with blog bits, and it’s good to practice, eh?

Here’s a photo of the drawing in progress:

 

Kid number four helped out this morning, as kid number five is down at his new high school helping with an art project. Kid number four agrees with me that we should’ve sent a sleeping bag with him, hint hint.

But we can’t.

Because we also have basketball practice, simultaneous dental appointments, Bible class, and dinner to make. Mini BBQ Meatloaves, if you’re interested. Somewhere in there we’ll swing by the pharmacy, the bank, and visit Grampy in the skilled nursing facility.

The front door handle broke. I just remembered. It broke in the locked position.

Well, we’re just going down the chimney guys. Life’s too short to fix stuff.

Oh, and don’t forget kid number four is also practicing his driving. Yeah. Got his permit last week. Oh, you’re going to hear a lot about that in the near-ish future.

All part of this relaxing, spa-like experience called “Summer Vacation”.

Anyway.

Your names went into the cookie jar and we put Hubby’s new socks next to it, because, well, he got new socks and I just think maybe we should have sprung for a new mountain bike instead.

I’m pretty hopeless at gift giving. Just make a note of it and cut me some slack. It is what it is.

Lyn, your delightful Memories-on-a-Rope are headed your way.

Shower in bliss.

Thanks, everyone, for reminding me I’m not alone in the trenches.

And that my cookie jar is empty.

Put it on the list.

Fathers Day Give-Away

And here you thought I didn’t do holidays!

You’re right.

But this isn’t a holiday.

It’s an excuse to take my dad out to breakfast and eat french toast with wild abandon.

The man had three daughters in a row, all of whom were supposed to be sons, so I buy him some french toast, too, coffee on the side.

My mom continues to live a life of deep gratitude for us girls, and my dad had to be content with a lifetime of Father’s Days expecting the same three gifts: soap-on-a-rope, cheap cologne, and socks.

It never occurred to us to buy him manly things.

A chainsaw. A new TV tray. Conway Twitty records.

The 70s were full of exciting options, but we were completely distracted by Barbies and bicycles.

If you grew up sporting twin hair braids, embroidered peasant blouses, corduroy bell bottoms, and pleather jackets, you rocked the 70s.

If you ever hung beads or curtains instead of doors in your doorways, you rocked the 70s.

If your dad ever had a full afro on his head with a matching mustache…and he’s not a black man…you may have grown up in the 70s.

If your dad finally took out the afro but kept the ‘stache because he “closely resembles Tom Selleck”, well, you had one studly dad, I guess.

The scents of my childhood include English Leather, Old Spice, Noxema Face Cream, and Irish Spring bar soap. The Avon Lady would come around every month or so and leave us lipstick samples and perfumes like ‘Sweet Honesty’ and ‘Hawaiian White Ginger’.

Soap-On-A-Rope came in several options, very attractive in the glossy brochure.

Our job was to clean the guy up apparently, and I think it’s time to honor that tradition today.

If you would like to join us in this forty-something year running tradition, please do me a favor and sign up as a Subscriber (in the little box on this page, above on the right).

My blog will send you an email to confirm that your link is correct, and then each of my stories will come right to your inbox as I publish them.

(You can read them or delete them…I will never know!)

Subscribers are the backbone of blogs. The number of Subscribers is what shows the blog’s growth, reading this on Facebook doesn’t count.

Show your support and your name will be entered into the drawing for a lovely scented Soap-on-a-Rope, delivered to your door with my compliments.

Dad is happy to let someone else…anyone else, really…have the manly soap hang in a shower far, far away.

If you are already a Subscriber (you’re awesome!) you can leave me a comment about the 70s (in this comment area below) to enter the drawing. Write in the box, then click on “Post Comment”.

You don’t have to put your real name when you leave a comment.

You don’t have to admit you were raised in the 70s by Tom Selleck.

But you do have to admit to showering once in a while.

"I am your father!"

“I am your father!”

Bend In The Road

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” wrote the poet, Robert Frost.

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I recently accepted an invitation to speak at a women’s retreat in Ontario.

Yep, Canada.

It’s slated for the end of September when, I am informed, “there’s an eighty percent chance of beautiful fall colors and a zero percent chance of snow on the ground”.

Which is, as you know, terribly attractive to weather wimps such as myself.

As close as I can figure it, the ladies there were reading my blog this spring, and in a fit of desperation born of an eternal winter, decided I was just the one to join them over a hot cuppa and lead a few discussions on life in the trenches.

Well.

When paths diverge, what’s a girl to do?

This particular path smells briskly of moose and pine and possibilities.

It’s delicious.

Although I have not yet met these lovely ladies, if they’ve had a child explode a loaded diaper in their lap or a meal explode in their microwave, we already share the kinship and camaraderie of Girlfriends.

I could lead an entire class on the pros and cons of using a single closet to hold nothing but canned goods (labels out!), but that’s not why I’m going.

I’m going because I know that Life in the Trenches can get seriously messy.

And awkward. And stupid. Sometimes things happen that we definitely didn’t sign up for.

We all have days when we feel lost, overwhelmed, underpaid, and darn it, our feet hurt. We want to sit down and have someone rub them.

We’d like to just sit down, please.

We see two roads diverging in a yellow wood and can’t for the life of us figure out which one we are supposed to take because we still have the grocery shopping, soccer practice, bills to pay, and the dog to worm, and already we’re suspicious that the yellow wood may be yellow for a reason.

Especially if snow and kids are involved.

With multiple paths wandering around shadowy corners to destinations unknown, we face decisions all day about which way to turn next.

Moving always onward, our choices are making all the difference.

And if today is the current sum total of every choice we ever made, then might it be possible to choose our next bend in the road with slightly more intention?

The path that seems rockier but holds a little more brightness? The path that heads uphill, but gives a little more grace? The path that scares me but feels more compassionate? The healing path that feels like laughter could be possible, even through tears?

When I tell this story of Canada, with a sigh, ages and ages hence, I will say that I chose the road that felt most like God calling me.

And also, I will say with a smile, my paths were full to overflowing with Girlfriends!

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost, 1916

Best Birth Control Ever

There once were elective classes offered in school called Home Ec.

I learned a little sewing, some typing (my favorite of course), possibly some actual economics (which I’m sure I slept through) and to finish off the semester, we had to “care” for a raw chicken egg for a week. We had to make little carriers for our egg, choose the sex and name for it, keep it with us at all times or pay for a “babysitter”.

The lesson was that looking after a “thing/helpless person” isn’t as simple as you think.

If your egg dropped, your grade dropped.

Obviously, this project led to great lengthy daydreams about what we were each going to do “some day” with our “real” family.

Once we found a spouse, of course.

Not so my children’s generation.

My daughter came home from school one day with a baby.

This was a “real” baby. Life sized, complete with diapers, bottles, carrier, stroller and clothes.

“Baby Daddy” sold separately.

“Real Baby” had to be cared for around the clock for a week.

“Real Baby” was cute.

“Real Baby” was a hit.

“Real Baby” was a computer.

Each of the “Real Babies” had a program that changed for every student. Much like a…real baby…you never knew what you were bringing home until it was too late.

My daughter’s child was adorable for exactly two hours.

Then all hell broke loose.

If you did not immediately cuddle the baby when it cried, the computer internally noted it. If you did not change the diaper when the poop alarm went off, it was recorded. If you could not get the baby to stop crying in a set amount of time, well, you’re grade and future as a human being was in jeopardy.

It occurred to my daughter that she wasn’t getting very much homework done. She had to bring Real Baby to the dinner table, which wasn’t comfortable, and trying to get Real Baby to go to sleep was simply not happening.

She came to me in tears around midnight, two hours after she would have loved to be asleep.

“Mom, make it stop!” she pleaded, pacing with the Real Baby in circles.

“Honey,” I said, “I don’t think I’m supposed to help you. Just do what you can.”

An hour later, she cracked.

She tossed Real Baby onto the couch and put her fingers in her ears.

“Lock it in the trunk! It’s broken! I can’t listen to that one more minute! I don’t care if I flunk the whole class!”

“Sorry kid,” I answered, “I don’t speak Demon Baby.”

Off she stormed.

Real Baby wailed from the cushions. I thought about the car trunk.

“Hmm. Now why are these feelings familiar?” I pondered.

The Real Life answer, of course, is to just lift my shirt and put a cork in it.

But that wasn’t going to happen.

Just then, her sister walked in. She picked up Real Baby and gave it a rock or two.

Real Baby must have liked it. It stopped shrieking in tongues.

We looked at each other.

“Just for one night,” she said. And she walked off with Real Baby.

Both my girls had their heads together the next day and Real Baby disappeared back into the school system that had spawned it.

The alternative project was a five page essay. It looked pretty easy now.

My kids don’t need lessons on sexual identity, methods, ethics, ideas or vocabulary that will expand their childhood horizons.

Don’t tell them sex can be a safe game to play, and you expect them to join in any day now.

If you really want to educate a kid on what happens when you decide to have sex…hand them each a Real Baby for a week.

And Weeeee’re Outta Here

Today’s “The Day”! We’re graduating from eighth grade for the last time!

Last kid out of middle school is a rotten egg!

Well, not really.

He’s the egg, the school’s where that faintly sulphuric scent is coming from.

Sometimes I randomly pause in the middle of my day and take a moment of silent thanks that in four more years, I’ll be quit of the public education system for good.

There were some years I thought, “You know, it’s not that bad”.

And then another ‘doozy‘ would surface.

The system is run by crazy people. They sit around in closed rooms and throw darts at phrases on the walls. Whatever they hit, they put into the system.

Much like the decision to have children, phrases like “Common Core” and “classroom size cap” and “lunchtime salad bar” were probably a good idea during the five minutes they were discussed.

No one took a moment to see how the ideas lined up as a whole. If they even made sense.

Riddle me this:

Is it or is it not counter-intuitive to have my teen read an award winning literature book filled with angst against society and ending in suicide…and also hold a suicide prevention assembly? They tell the kids to watch each other for signs of depression, and then make them all read books and watch videos that are, to put it mildly, totally depressing.

Have you ever worked as a lunch time monitor?

I always made my kids bring a sack lunch to school because at least I knew what they were eating. Or not eating. Sort of.

Dozens of children were receiving free lunches from a school system that provided a salad bar nicer than Home Town Buffet. Healthy free lunches! I would have loved my kids to partake.

But.

When you only get 25 minutes for lunch, and ten of them are spent in the lunch line, you have to choose between 15 minutes of play time or eating.

All those lovely lunches went into the trashcan.

I know, because I had to supervise it and ensure that none of the uneaten food got shared with classmates who actually wanted to sit down and eat.

It makes no sense.

The public school system attempts to give our children a well rounded education, trying to fill in the gaps that we negligent parents leave when we deliberately attempt to keep their education narrow.

Sex education comes to mind.

In case we shy awkward parents can’t seem to bumble through the difficult phrases of the Facts of Life, our school teachers will do it for us.

And let me tell you, even at kindergarten level, the Facts of Life are slowly becoming the Suggestions of Life.

But I just want to know…if you’re so sure, School Board, that my seventh grader is going to become sexually active immediately, and I as a parent am only able to stand helplessly by and wring my hands, is it possible that you have played a part in that occurring?

It’s a bit like having YouTube videos that walk you through the exact process of how to make a bomb. You know, in case a terrorist needs some help finding direction in his life.

There was, however, something that happened most triumphantly in a public school.

Had it been deliberate, I would give you kudos.

But you didn’t.

So.

No.

Sex Ed was finally taught correctly. Accidentally, but thoroughly.

Tune in on Tuesday, I’ll tell you all about it.

Putting the “Pro” in Procrastination

Today I’m changing my “To Do” list into a “Ta Da!” list, one brutal step at a time.

You can’t rush progress. You have to tease it out, like hair tangles.

Hubby and I have these lists, and they morph constantly.

Sometimes I will add one to his, just to get it off mine.

We’ve lived in our new house for two years now and I look back at our original “lists”, the ones we made during escrow, of what we’d do to this place once we got our hands on it.

There are a great many items still pending, and I can never decide if I should laugh or cry over them.

Home decorating was never my forte.

I know what I like, I just can’t seem to invest the hours necessary to locate it. And then, of course, the price has to be right. I save all the receipts in case we get half way through the “vision” and realize only Genghis Khan would decorate a home like this.

Return everything, go back to square one, and take another six months to “reimagine” the room.

You can’t go wrong with a few big houseplants.  They disguise the fact that I have not yet painted the walls. Do you know how many shades of “white” exist?

If you fill the house with enough people, you hardly even notice the worn carpets.

In the meantime, there is one little project that consistently pops up, especially when we have a mob of teenagers over for a pool party.

The deck off the second-floor kitchen does not connect to the yard below. To get from the kitchen (food) to the pool (fun) you tramp down the stairs in the middle of the house and out through a connecting bathroom.

With wet dripping feet carrying a second round of chili dogs and pitchers of lemonade.

Maybe it will make it out of the house, maybe it will leave a trail. I can’t watch.

How many Hubbies does it take to screw in a staircase?

Only one.

But first he will need to draw up a plan. To draw up a plan, he must survey the property using complicated instruments and document his data into a new (yet un-purchased) AutoCAD program. Said program will require a (recently purchased and un-loved) seriously expensive laptop.

Once he has plans, they must be approved by the HOA, City Hall, and the FBI.

They will be elaborate, involving doubling the size of our deck, integrating an under-deck BBQ lounge, adding a fire pit, and putting another set of French doors where our dining room windows are. The actual stairs, of course, will curve dramatically along the bank and down under the trees.

I want to mark a red “X” over this list item and replace it with: “Install slide”.

Just get these teens out of my kitchen, pronto.

Our home has it’s original 25 year old roof. At the moment, it doesn’t leak, but every good engineer type will inform you that it’s on borrowed time.

We set aside a fund during escrow labeled “New Roof”.

It’s been sitting in the bank just waiting for the green light.

Apparently, one does not simply install a “new roof”. No.

One must evaluate all possible uses for this event. This is the opportunity to install canned lighting in some of the rooms. We may want to put in an additional skylight here and there. Let’s not forget our list item to “get solar panels”. You really want to coordinate this properly.

In preparation for this vaguely imminent list item, Hubby has acquired 300 free roof tiles from the roof of a neighbor who was…getting a new roof installed. It was a ‘good deal’.

“You should always have some spare tiles for a job like this,” says Hubby, “just in case.”

Every one of our neighbors have monthly home improvements done: new landscaping, new paint, new appliances, new windows.

It could be that they have been “fixin’ to get to it” for the last ten years.

They would hardly be professional unless they did.

So You Want to Date My Kid

Dear Person Applying to Date One of my Teenagers,

Congratulations.

You’ve recently passed a pre-test that included your family background screening, personal financial philosophies, character quality check and views on personal space.

You obviously have amazing taste and a great deal of courage, therefore I am offering a trial period where we can all get to know each other better.

Because, of course, if you date one of us, you date the whole family.

I’m not much of a seamstress, but if you arrive for your date with sloppy clothing, I will gladly apply enough duct tape to ensure your pants don’t accidentally fall off during the evening.

Ladies, if you show up dressed in clothing four sizes too small, I totally understand. The economy is so bad, most young ladies can only afford a half of a wardrobe. I will loan you my Snuggie. Zip up!

When I ask you where you are going and with whom, you only get one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Don’t forget: I’m a mom.

I will find out.

Appropriate places for a date include old folks homes, ice skating rinks, hospitals, movies featuring chain saws and explosions, church services, daycare centers, and crowded stadiums.

Be afraid of the dark…very afraid.

When you are together in our home, please accept my complete responsibility for the siblings placed strategically in corners. They are well paid and have one job: maintenance of personal space.

We own an electronic two-foot-long sharpened meat thermometer. It has settings for chicken, beef, turkey, and boyfriend. If we test you and your temperature is too high, you will be “done”.

And we will take you out.

Make curfew by a solid ten minutes. If you’re not early, you’re late.

Do not dally in the car saying ‘Good night’. Exit the vehicle promptly upon arrival and keep both hands in clear view. Announce you have returned my child safely and early, and drive on.

There is no need to linger on the doorstep because I will join you, and after a group hug, will explain that it’s past my bedtime, slam the door in your face and turn out the light.

Our kid is not your ATM, your therapist, your decoration or your doormat.

Facebook, phone calls, tweets and texts will be monitored for quality assurance.

You are not in charge of her, I am.

You cannot change him. Believe me, I already tried.

Some day I will morph from world’s meanest mom into world’s best mother-in-law.

But this is not that day.

Family is forever, and most dates…are not.

Sincerely,

Mom

Pediatrician Praises

The unthinkable just happened.

Our health provider sent me a stack of notices.

One for each child. All saying the same thing.

Our family pediatrician is retiring and passing the baton to another doctor.

How is this possible?

This is the guy who held my infant firstborn. And each newborn that followed.

He listened to my naive new mommy questions (I just don’t think that umbilical cord looks right) and he listened to my mommy-in-the-trenches questions (If my kids have chicken pox and I’m immune, but we have chickens in the backyard, can the virus somehow reach my unborn baby?) and he listened to my old mommy questions (His massive stretch marks are from growing six inches a year!? Really?).

He listened to the kids’ questions (If I’m super careful can I still play basketball with my broken arm?).

He always treated us with respect and understood that mom usually knows best, even if once in a while, her instincts were going against a doctor’s recommendations.

He was there with an epic X-ray when my 2 year old swallowed the metal marble from our Mousetrap Game.

He was there when my 7 year old spent a long night in the hospital with appendicitis.

He crazy glued my 9 year old’s heel back into position when the tidepool sliced it open.

He stapled my 8 year old’s scalp back together when a trampoline jump went awry.

He stitched another 3 year old’s forehead into a Harry Potter scar.

He’s done sports physicals on 16 year old kids who topped him by a solid eight inches and never missed a beat.

He stood by patiently while I explained that the first cast he put onto my son’s leg was removed the next day by said son in the garage with a power tool and we were back to try again.

Maybe a cast-iron cast this time?

He advised on concussions and bedwetting and taught me what Fifths Disease is. He passed out tetanus shots and circumcisions. He measured and weighed and poked and prodded.

My children have never been afraid of going to the doctor.

We sent him Christmas cards.

Granted, my youngest child is now a ridiculous 14 years old.

But if I had to choose a doctor for myself, it would be this pediatrician, diapers implied or not.

When I first met him, he was young and sported a tidy dark beard, glasses that framed twinkling eyes, and wearing his crisp white coat. The proverbial stethoscope always sat in his front pocket.

When we saw him last summer, I noticed his beard was quite gray. His eyes still twinkled but were surrounded with smile lines and crows feet. His coat remained crisp and white.

He may have seemed a little shorter. But then, my youngest had grown so much taller.

He moved a little slower and listened a little longer. He asked about my firstborn.

If you must go, Dr. M, please take the love and thanks of our family with you.

Because of you, I had the courage to face germs and blood and needles and tears. I knew you were there to back me up 24/7 and I’m sure we caused more than one of your gray hairs.

Thank you for helping our kids remain more or less in one piece after all these years.

They have scars and embellished stories to go with them, but I think you should have the bragging rights to the job.

Anybody can break stuff.

Only the gifted can put it all back together again.