Life, the Universe, and Everything

I found my way to this post listing the forty-two best lines from Douglas Adam’s, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy this morning and thought it was pretty awesome.

Big E and I are both fans of Douglas Adams and I actually threw him a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy themed party this past March for his forty-second birthday.  Forty-two isn’t normally a milestone year, but Little F was due the day before Big E’s fortieth birthday.  Needless to say there was no big celebration that year.  The next year I was planning a retirement party for a co-worker and Little F’s first birthday party, so once again Big E got pushed to the side.  But once I realized exactly which birthday he was having this year I decided there was no better time for a big party than the year Big E became the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

I’m not the best party-thrower, but I think everyone had a good time.  The theme wasn’t the easiest to work with either, but I did the best I could:

Babel Fish

Little F eyeing the mice cakes

And the best part, which I don’t have any pictures of, I made a cake shaped like the Earth which we blew up at exactly 11:46.  I was hoping for a Gallagher-esque spray of cake and icing, but what we got was pretty good too.  A word of advice to anyone looking to blow up a cake with fire crackers: Don’t waste your time with anything smaller than an M-80, go for the gusto.

Be Gentle With the Girls

Something that was said to me during the family reunion last week is still running through my mind.

I was talking with the dad of the cousin Little F was playing with. The boy was about ten months older than Little F, I’m not sure how old the dad was but I would guess in his early thirties. The dad and I were talking about how we were glad to have little boys instead of girls. I said that I had been hell as a teenager and fought non-stop with my mom. I was happy that statistically speaking Little F and I were bound to get through his teenage years easier than he and Big E were. The cousin’s dad said, “Yeah, and you can smack the boys around harder to keep them in line. You need to be gentle with the girls.” I just kind of gave a little half-smile and then changed the topic.

I’m still not sure if he was kidding or being serious. I’m sure there was some truth in it because there is always some degree of truth in a joke. But I didn’t know him well enough to know how much truth was there and I didn’t feel like getting into it in front of my husband’s extended family. I will say that I never saw him lay a hand on his son while I was around them. And I will say that his son was very well-behaved and seemed like a genuinely nice, sweet, high-energy kid.

But I will also say that I don’t ever plan on hitting Little F and I know that Big E feels the same way.

Little F is in a hitting phase now. When he gets mad or frustrated or is feeling over-powered he hits. And I seem to get the brunt of it. When we left the reunion on Saturday afternoon Little F didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay and run around and have fun. He also was very tired and hadn’t had a nap that day. I was very tired and mentally drained from being around so many people. While I was trying to get him into his car seat and explaining to him it was time to leave he smacked me in the face. When
I put on my mean face and sternly told him he wasn’t supposed to hit me, he did it again. At that point I handed him to Big E and I sat down in the passenger seat of the car and fumed. Thursday morning Little F and I were playing under the blankets in our bed. After a few minutes of that I told him it was time to change his diaper and that when I counted to five we would stop what we were doing and change his diaper. He kept telling me no as I was counting and then tried to hit me when I told him it was time to stop playing and change his diaper. That time I was too quick for him and caught his hand mid-hit. The thing is, I completely get where Little F is coming from.

He doesn’t want to stop playing or having fun or whatever he’s in the middle of doing when I come and interrupt him. And he’s telling me that as I’m telling him what’s going to happen, he’s trying to get me to understand. To him, I’m totally disrespecting him and his wishes by making him do something he doesn’t want to do even after he tells me he doesn’t want to do it. So he gets frustrated and hitting is the only way he knows to make his feelings known. After all, telling me “No!” or “Stop!” hasn’t worked. I’m working on giving his feelings names so he can use the words instead of his hands but until he gets a little older I don’t expect him to be able to express himself verbally, only physically. I mean, when he gets really excited about something he sometimes stutters a bit trying to find the words he’s looking for and that’s with good emotions running high. It’s that much harder when it’s a negative emotion. Think about it as an adult, trying to name your emotions while you’re in the midst of feeling them. It’s hard, especially when you’re frustrated or angry. And he’s only two for god’s sake! And it’s not like I let the hit or attempted hit go unpunished. I just don’t hit him back.

But, I know a lot of people who would disagree with my philosophy on this. A lot of people would tell me I’m spoiling him or letting him rule the house. From what I’ve heard about Big E’s childhood, Big E’s dad was a hitter. My mom spanked me when I was a little girl and I still remember defiantly telling her she couldn’t hurt me, then holding my tears for as long as possible while she spanked me, forcing her to keep hitting me if she wanted to win the power struggle. As a parent I can’t imagine having my child talk back to me like that and staying controlled enough to hit them but not beat them. And maybe that’s what it boils down to for me. We all have our reasons for doing or not doing things. I guess that’s the cut and dried reason for me not hitting Little F: If I was so angry that my inclination was to hit someone then I would be so angry that my intention would be to hurt them. I don’t want to hurt my child in that manner. I don’t want to teach my child that it’s the right way to deal with anger. And I don’t know if in the middle of a situation like that I would be able to keep enough of my cool to walk the fine line between hitting and beating without crossing it. I’d much rather not put myself into the position to find out. Set yourself up for success, not failure, right?

There was a Facebook meme floating around a few days, maybe weeks ago, about how you can get in trouble for beating an adult or an animal but the smallest, weakest ones who need the most love from you are okay to hit. It’s a little over the top and not quite accurate, but again, there is some degree of truth to it, as there always is.

A Done Deal… Almost

The single-girl house

Yesterday Big E and I went to the title company and signed all the paperwork for the sale of our house.  The buyer signs her paperwork on Tuesday but until that check hits my bank account I’m remaining cautiously optimistic.  I don’t want anything to jinx this.

 

Today we were over there for the last time building up the dirt line on one side of the foundation where water was known to seep in and getting the last of our belongings off the back patio.

It’s all a little bittersweet.  This was my single-girl house that I only expected to own for a short time.  This was what really kept me tied to one place after my years of wandering, even when I would have rather been wandering.  This is where Big E and I had our courtship through renovation: the two of us replacing the roof over the screened in porch the first month we were dating, Big E installing a ceiling fan in the bedroom, Big E refinishing the hardwood floors one weekend while I was out-of-town.  This was where Big E and I returned after our wedding. Little F learned to crawl and walk on those floors.  This was home.  This was our home.

Little F, Lucy, and Big E on our last trip to the old house

The house had been vacant since we moved.  The walls had been repainted.  The stager had done her job very well and made the house feel welcoming, but not like our own.  It was full of strange furniture and art work that we never would have hung on the walls.  The last few times I was there it no longer felt like the backdrop to all of those life-changing events, it just felt like a nice, small house.  A line from an Indigo Girls cover of the Dire Straits song, “Romeo and Juliet” comes to mind: Now you just say, Romeo? I think I used to have a scene with him.

I hope the buyer enjoys her single-girl house.  Maybe she’ll meet the man (or woman) of her dreams while living there and start a family of her own.  Or maybe not.  I certainly realize that particular idea isn’t everyone’s vision for their future.  I wasn’t even sure it was my vision when I bought the house, but these days I’m quite happy it’s become my reality.

Motherless on Mother’s Day

I’ve been sitting here for several minutes trying to write something heartfelt on what it’s like to be motherless on Mother’s Day. This is what I’ve come up with:

 

Nothing.

 

I’ve been motherless for the past eighteen Mother’s Days, so I guess I’m fairly used to it by now. I don’t generally get weepy when Mother’s Day cards start hitting the shelves or commercials start airing on TV. Most days I can watch movies or read books in which the main character loses their mother and not become emotionally distraught. I’ve forgotten the grief of the first Mother’s Day without your mom there to send a card to, to take to lunch, to buy flowers. Or maybe it’s not so much forgotten as it is folded into a tiny square, placed in a locked box, and set on a dark, dank shelf somewhere in the back of my mind waiting to be found and examined.

I only remember bits and pieces of my mom who died when I was seventeen. I’m more than double that age now; I’ve spent more than half my life without her in it. No wonder I don’t have very many memories that surface easily, which aren’t tinged with some degree of sadness or sickness or anger. I had all the teenage angst with none of the resolution.

So for now, that box will stay up on its dusty shelf. I’ll pull it down some day and examine it more closely, but not today. Today I’m going to cover my son in kisses and feel his arms wrapped around my neck. I’m going to breathe in his scent: fresh air and sunshine and dirt mixed with a hint of the sweet baby smell that’s rapidly disappearing as he gets older. Today I’m going to appreciate being a mother instead of having a mother. In that way I will honor her and pass on the lessons I learned from her.  And by doing this, I know she would be proud.

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Lucy Dog

This is our dog, Lucy. She is a rescue mutt that we adopted a little over two years ago when she was around four months old. She’s not the smartest or the best behaved dog out there, but she has a heart of gold and she adores Little F.

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Since Little F was born Lucy hadn’t been photographed quite as often as she was earlier in her life. Tonight Little F was asleep and I was avoiding cleaning so I decided to change that.

Oh, Lucy. You’re high strung, whiny, and for a short-haired dog you certainly shed a lot… but we love you.

Sick Day

Last night Little F felt hot and was tugging on his ear.  We’ve been through this before so we knew what the plan for today would be.

This morning, Big E took him to the walk-in hours at our pediatrician’s office while I went to work*.  (Little F will be fine, he has an ear infection but we caught it early so he should get over it pretty quickly.)  I came home after a half day at work and took the afternoon sick-kid shift.

The weather changed today; the wind picked up and the snow moved in. Little F and I snuggled on the couch and read a stack of books. We napped together.  I heated some home-made chicken broth and made toast for him. It was the perfect afternoon to spend on the couch with my favorite little guy.  Although I’m sure he wouldn’t consider it the perfect afternoon.

*A big thanks to Big E for being the kind of dad who will stay home with a sick kid.  When both parents work out of the home it makes sense to split the sick days when possible, but I hear from lots of moms that it doesn’t always work that way.  I’m a lucky lady.

A Very (belated) Christmas to You

Whew, it’s been a long time since I’ve been around these parts.  Lots to talk about and not a lot of time for talking.

After seven months of working on the new house we finally got it to a point where we felt like we were ready to move in.  We moved the week before Christmas.  If you have any say in when you plan to pack one house and move into another one, DON’T pick the week before Christmas.  Not only is the weather in these (and most) parts unpredictable, it’s the week before frickin’ Christmas! We ended up with pretty good weather all things considered.  It was dry and sunny but cold.  Considering last year at this time I think we’d already had twenty some inches of snow I’ll take no snow, sunny, and cold.

We moved in on Saturday and by Tuesday I had the tree up, even if most of the boxes were still in the basement waiting to be brought upstairs and unpacked.  (Hell, most of the boxes are still in the basement waiting to be brought upstairs and unpacked.)  I’m pleased to say that my plan of buying only a pre-lit tree and three strands of tinsel to decorate went over well this year.  No ornaments to attract unwanted attention, break, or get carted off to other parts of the house.  Oh, and that old lace tablecloth that I used for the skirt is bound to show up on every interior designer’s must-do list next year.

Little F had a great Christmas.  He’s not yet two so the real excitement for presents hasn’t quite kicked in yet; I expect that to happen next year. I do have a question for all you aunts and uncles and grandparents out there: When did it become okay to get a child some huge present requiring assembly without consulting with the parents first?  My very sweet sister-in-law sent us a very nice present for Little F.  However, it took my dear husband two hours to put together on Christmas Eve and once assembled, this is what we had:

I know it’s not really possible to understand the scale of this thing from this picture, but it’s about five feet tall and five feet in diameter.  I could easily climb in and bounce my little heart out if I weren’t convinced I’d go careening into the wall and tip the damn thing over.  So far Little F has had one good bounce session in it and several “two bounce” sessions: he demands to get in, jumps twice, gets bored, and demands to come out.  I’m not sure what my sister-in-law had in mind when she bought this for us, but I get the last laugh.  Before we moved in two friends told me, “You’ll never use your living room for anything since you have a family room too.”  Well, ha ha, guys.  The joke’s on you, we’ve used the living room at least four times since we moved in.  Once to assemble the trampoline and three times for Little F to bounce.  I think we’ll need to rename the living room the trampoline room though.  We’re going to have to disassemble that thing in order to move it and I don’t know who’s going to do that or when that’s going to happen.

Maybe my sister-in-law will take it apart for us the next time she’s in town.

 

Like father, like son

Earlier this week I was lying in bed with Little F.  Big E had already gotten up and was in the kitchen pouring coffee.  Little F was climbing out of the bed when he farted.  He paused for a moment then said, “Toot.”

To really understand the significance and the humor behind Little F recognizing and acknowledging his fart, you need to know what happened one winter’s night in 2008.

Big E wasn’t feeling well and took a dose of that night-time cold and flu medicine that promises you’ll feel better by the morning.  He went to sleep and I laid next to him reading.  At one point Big E passed gas, woke himself up, looked at me and said, “Farted,” then rolled over and muttered, “Typical” under his breath.  It was one of those moments you wish someone else were there to witness with you so you wouldn’t be the only one to capture the moment.  Of course he claimed to not remember anything the next morning; a cold medicine induced black out.  Very convenient.

But, as with the now infamous “typical” incident, I was the only one to hear Little F say toot.  My hope is now that I’ve written about it none of us will forget it and I can hold it over both their heads some day in the near future.  After all, Mama never farts.

The glass is half-full

I’m not normally known as an optimist, but it’s been a glass half-full kind of week so far.  Big E is back safely from his trip to California, Little F has given up on (or at the very least tabled) his plans for killing me via lack of sleep, and my dad is CANCER FREE!  He doesn’t even have to do chemo or radiation treatments, he just has to get his blood levels checked every few months.  My dad is one of the best people I know and I’m so glad we get to keep him around for a little longer.

My dad as a little boy

Walking me down the aisle on my wedding day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS: So the story I’ve been told about the pony is back in the day some guy would bring a pony around to different neighborhoods in the city and let the kids pose for pictures on the pony’s back.  I guess the parents paid the owner of the pony to get their kid’s picture taken?  I don’t think they actually went for a ride or anything.  I think it’s a weird concept for urban America, even in the 1950’s.  I’ve seen people pay to have their pictures taken with llamas in the Andes of Peru, but that comparison seems a bit like apples and oranges to me.  Has anyone else heard of this happening in the States in the recent past?