Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Normally I'm much more prepared than I am this year.
Normally I've gone out shopping days before, written out my menu, cleaned the house -Well - JUSTIN'S cleaned the house.
This year is a little more scattered.
Because I've been so sick, for the last few days there was even a question as to whether or not we'd just go out for Thanksgiving dinner.

The list of possible recipe ideas I've had over the last couple of weeks has been whittled away slowly with slash marks until all that is left are the old traditional stand by's that take no thought to prepare. The list looks like it's been censored.
I threw out the brussel sprout ragout with caramelized onions. I was sad about it, but caramelizing sounds like too much work. We'll just thaw out some corn.

I even threw out green bean casserole for a simpler green bean with almond slivers and lemon juice.

And the house looks like a bomb went off.
There are clothes on the living room floor that have been just left in the place where they were taken off last night in exchange for pajamas.
There's a half empty sippie of grape juice tipped on its side on the stairs.
And there are, for some reason, stickers EVERYWHERE.
I removed about 15 from the back room area rug this morning.

But still, it feels like Thanksgiving.

There's something in the air.
Some sort of restful peace.

It's funny.
Really, when I think about it, I've had several less-than-perfect Thanksgivings in the last several years.

Like the first Thanksgiving after I had Alena when I bundled her up in an adorable little outfit and schlepped her over to her dad's house, planning on a joyful time with this new little family we were trying to figure out, only to discover another girl's name and phone number scrawled on a piece of paper on his nightstand.
Only to discover he wasn't ready for a new little family.
I spent that Thanksgiving crying while two beautiful 4 month old eyes looked at me, confused.

Or the Thanksgiving right after my parents got separated, where we decided to have Thanksgiving at Justin's house.
He and I were still dating.
His house was neutral ground.
I would cook and all would be merry.
At least I hoped.
But both of my parents came and the mood was heavy and difficult.

And as if that wasn't enough, the oven decided to go out and would only cook everything at a 500 degree temperature.
The smoke alarm was constantly going off.
We could hardly see each other for the smoke.
I think the turkey was done in one hour.

And then there was last year when my dad was headed to meet us all in Chico at my brother's and never showed up Wednesday night like he was supposed to.
Then we got a call Thanksgiving morning.
He'd decided to leave later than he'd planned and was heading out that morning only to get in a head-on accident in Sonoma. When he called, he was just stepping out of a steaming wreck.
The other driver was dead at the scene. He was being taken to the hospital. His foot was crushed. We were all in shock and left immediately to be with him at the Napa hospital.
It was horrible and scary.
It taught us what Thanksgiving is REALLY about.
We ate hospital cafeteria salad bar for Thanksgiving dinner and then stopped at the Jack In The Box on the way back home.
Justin got called "El Guapo" by the woman in the drive through window.

All this, and still Thanksgiving is so special to me.
It still makes me warm and happy and so so THANKFUL.

I have so much I don't even deserve.

I have a God that loves me and shows me every day that I am never alone. That I am seen and heard and cared for.

I have a family that, through it's occasional dysfunction, is there for me when I need them. A family that made me who I am and I like that person.

I have a husband, that, though he has absolutely NO knowledge of relatively common song lyrics, does have a knowledge of me and accepts me for it. A husband who has made my life full of laughter and given me my children.

OH - The children.
It's hard to explain how those tiny beings could simultaneously make you want to hold them forever and also make you want to eat your own eyelashes, but they do.
I have the three most amazing, beautiful, creative, funny, fun, entertaining daughters on the face of the earth.
They stress me out and make me scream, but they also just MAKE ME.

I cannot imagine a world without them in it. How boring it would be. How lonely.
I am thankful for every maple syrup kiss.
Every walk to a bed with a warm, heavy, sleeping body on my shoulder.
I'm thankful that I'm able to read a story a thousand times.
I'm thankful that I was chosen to receive these precious unfathomable gifts.

I am thankful that, even if it is scattered with stickers and juice cups, that I have a home and that it's warm on cold nights.

I am thankful for friends - and I have some great ones. Friends who are there when I need them. Friends who show up.

I am thankful that tomorrow, no matter if there's smoke or tears or rapid-cook turkeys, that I can know that at the end of the day I will join hands with the people in my life who are more precious to me than life itself and give thanks where thanks is due.

My heart feels full.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dear Norman Rockwell,

Well, the holiday season is upon us.

Upon me especially hard, actually, seeing as how for the last 4 days I've felt like I'm carrying around a 600 lb. bag of damp virus. Try taking THAT down a chimney.

Perfect situation when you're the one expected to be making a fabulous four fork herb butter turkey.

Even in the midst of the flu I've had, though, I have tried to take advantage of the time I have when I'm not working.

Thus, I dragged my soggy headed self into the shower Saturday morning before dressing the girls in their holiday finest to head off to the mall to see if Santa was there yet.
Of course he was.
He'd been there since Labor Day, probably.

Before we left I tried to prep the girls, because the last couple of years worth of Santa mall trips have ended with Chloe shrieking through the mall like she was the only one that knew that beneath all the stuffing and red velvet,
Freddy Krueger was actually underneath.

...........I'll never forget last year.

So, now that she's a very big three and three quarters,
I thought she might be ready. I decided to tread lightly.

"So, Chloe, Do you think you might want to just see Santa at least? Like, from the entrance of the Disney Store? Just check him out and then decide? It's the only way he'll know what you want. If you don't sit there and tell him, he'll probably just give you rice cakes or something lame."
I couldn't believe it when she said yes.

At first I didn't think she'd go all the way.
She was peering at him through a bush with big wide eyes making sure he didn't make any sudden moves. I think I may have even seen her do a quick check of a concealed weapon in her boots -
And then he sealed the deal by spying her, smiling and waving just a little.

That was all it took. We were golden.

She pushed her shoulders back, did a little hip shake and said,
"Mama! I'll do it! I really really will. I'll sit on his lap."

I was so proud.

Tessa wasn't so sure, which in hindsight I should have paid attention to.

Tessa's not scared of anything, usually, but she IS a good judge of character.
All 35 pounds of her clung to my already clammy and achy, yet holiday sacrificial body with all her might.

When it was finally our turn, and I'd explained that, No, I didn't want a $20 snap shot of something I didn't even know would happen,
I went up with them and put Chloe up on Santa's lap before I actually took a good look at him, myself.

No wonder these kids are always scared.
This was no jolly, cheerful mall Santa of yore.

This particular Santa, first of all, was missing a tooth. It was well in the back, but it was a tooth. I'm pretty sure in a shop full of elves capable of building anything a child's precious heart desires, at least ONE could make a tooth. Isn't there even a holiday classic about that?

As Chloe sat there timidly telling this so-called "Santa" about her dreams for her very own camera my gaze drifted to what was supposed to be his soft, downy cloud-like beard. It wasn't.
THIS beard was stained yellow, most likely from years of chain-smoking under the Dutton overpass.

I started getting the heebie jeebies as I realized that not only was he dry skinned and had a wonderingish eye, he seemed very uncomfortable with children.

Isn't that of #1 importance?! Shouldn't that be top on the job description?

I reached my limit when two drifter looking guys showed up at the exit side of the velvet ropes and he stopped talking to Chloe in order to motion to one of them and shout out, "Hey, Jimmy! You came back!"

We hurried out of there in a jiff. Tessa was still bug eyed and clinging to me like a baby Capuchin.

So-called "Santa" got up to bum a smoke of Jimmy.

Well THAT was a memory worth waiting in line in a clammy sweat for.

Chloe was proud, though, so I was glad.
And I felt better after she washed her hands and had some anti-bacterial lotion slathered on.

All the trolliping made my fever worse and by the time evening rolled around I felt like I'd been hit in the face with a redwood.
Thankfully my mom was home for the weekend and took care of me like good Mamas do.

This morning I woke up not feeling much better - A fact that really bummed me out because it was the day of all days at church
- The Thanksgiving potluck.-
There's no day better. It's always bliss to, just for ONE Sunday, not have the
"so where are we going to eat?" debate. (It's usually In N Out.)

Justin thought he was being helpful when he said, "Maybe you need to stay home"
This was a thought which I actually considered until he follwed that up shortly with,
"and just keep the girls here."
Horrible, horrible, wicked, evil plan.
I didn't have the energy to hit him.

Once again, Mom to the rescue, and she went off immediately to the drug store for whatever drugs could get me up and at 'em.
By 9:30 my life had been saved by Tylenol Cold and Sinus.

I was mobile, at least.

We got up and ready and got there.
We sang and shook hands while the room spun around me.
There was a pile of tissues under my feet that looked like you'd need a team of some sort to tackle.
But gosh darn it, I was THERE.
I may have been clammy and feverish and sneezing. I may have not been able to open my eyes all the way. So what if I maybe blacked out a little. I was THERE.

After the service we ate.
Well, I ate while Tessa stuck her fingers in and out of my drink and licked them over and over and over while saying, "Is dood. I wike it."
I was too sick to care.
And she already had the sniffles too, so I wasn't being completely irresponsible.

I wasn't paying attention much to what the kids were eating. Tessa had some turkey skin. Chloe walked by with a brownie at one point. I don't really even know if they ate much of a lunch.

I was pretty focused on the white light and angelic music I kept experiencing.

When we'd all had our fill and I had had my yearly experience that is so beloved, I grabbed my purse and two jackets, a large hanging foam turkey with construction paper chain legs that Chloe'd made in class, two additional projects, the church bulletin, my mound of tissues and my water bottle.
I told Chloe to follow me and headed out the door only to realize I didn't know where Alena or Tessa OR Justin were. And Chloe HADN'T followed me.

I needed serious help by this point. As I turned around to look for them all I got dizzy and all I could do was lock eyes on my friend Dennis and just try to make it to him without falling over.

"Hey, Kerri. How are you?"
"I'm having a near-death experience. You?"

Oh. There's Tessa.
"Alena! Next time you take Tessa with you to the bathroom let me know, OK?"
"Mama. I did. I just told you. I said, 'I'm taking Tessa to the bathroom with me' and you said, 'OK."

"Oh. Well make sure I hear you or make eye contact or something. And where's Justin?
Has anyone seen Justin?"

Mind you:
By now I'm about to drop to my knees with fever and chills and projects and children tugging on my clothing. In the distance I could hear Chloe crying. People were gathering and calling my name. "Don't go towards the light!"
Chloe couldn't find me, she said. She thought I'd left. For a minute I thought I'd left, too.
Tessa was running towards the parking lot.

Where the HECK is Justin?

He was at the dessert table.


I think he came, finally, when he heard the helicopter circling to air lift me.

And when he did, Tessa was gone again.

I stood there with a sweaty upper lip holding half the world.
He stood there holding pumpkin crumb cake.

"I can't find Tessa. Can you please help me?!"

"WHAT? Are you serious?! How could you lose her?!"

.............................This is where I pause to just let you imagine all the things I thought, but didn't say...................................................

And now, this Thanksgiving, I would also like to add to my previous post about all the things for which I give thanks;
I am thankful that you cannot be arrested for your THOUGHTS of violence.

Now I type this after hacking my brains out all evening, taking my temperature, making some tea, popping some Advil for my pounding head, singing two lullabies with a voice that will barely croak, putting two very sleepy girls to bed, teaching Alena to crochet a hat, picking up the living room, blowing out the candles, feeding all the pets, locking up the house and getting ready to go to bed.

I type this BEFORE I go up to join my husband in bed.

My husband who is already sleeping and has been for 2 hours while I did the aforementioned.

May he live to see another day.

I will close with a poem:

Twas the night of the potluck, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring. Not even my spouse.
I tried to be friendly. I said, "Hi. I'm Ker"
In the hopes that some kind soul would just stroke my hair.
The children were bouncing around in their beds
Over the monitor I heard one bonk their head
I blew in my kerchief, helped Alena make a hat
Then trudged on upstairs to tell this kid and that
That if I heard them again with all of their clatter
I wouldn't be back to ask them what was the matter
I'd just lay there heaving my big labored breath
Wondering if this was the bed of my death
What was my name? Where am I? I don't know.
It's only 8:00? You mean I've got HOURS to go?!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Well it wasn't Justin.
My Hubby.
My Dear.
It was a chior of angels - so distant and inviting
I think I saw Heaven, as true as I'm writing.
But a pet needs feeding and so does a kid
So goodbye to the angels is what I chose to bid
There's no rest for mothers. We can't go towards the light.
So I'll keep on fighting and I'll just say goodnight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Greek Vases, Cart Races, and Tear Stained Faces

I've definitely had better days.

Days that didn't practically kick off with sending daycare kids home with bleeding head wounds caused by an unfortunate mix of mini-blind cords and old Greek vases.

The little girl was fine.

I maybe felt even more badly for the mother - who is a couple of months pregnant and had already thrown up once today.

It was pretty much like,
"You're nauseous? Oh. Well, I have just the thing.
Come look at this bleeding head and then just as an extra gift, why don't you breathe in my dog's horrendous gas."

It was like the trauma was not going to end.

Her mom decided to take her home just to keep an eye on her and make sure her pupils stayed the same size and all that jazz. I felt awful.

After she left, I had one and a half unexpected free hours to cram full before my other two little girls came, so I loaded my cranky monsters in the car and headed off for Target for necessities such as diapers and cat food and taco seasoning.

The basics.

We raced around like we were in a shopping spree that would end in 2 minutes as to make it home in time.
The other girls were coming at 1:00.
I could picture the little family waiting on the porch for me as I came screeching in the driveway. Big brown Precious Moments eyes wondering where I was.

I was maniacal in the store, paying and entering my pin and checking my watch and saying,
"SIT DOWN" to Tessa.
I think they may have even alerted the security because I had already felt like I kept seeing a certain Target worker in almost every isle eyeing me funny.

I got funny looks from other Target patrons when we were done paying and Tessa said,
"Mama, I meed a go potty!"
to which I responded, "No you don't. You really don't."

I'm sure it sounded mean, but Tessa is not potty trained. Not even kind of.
Tessa just thinks it's fun to have you take off her diaper, fumble for a toilet seat cover with one hand while keeping HER hands out of the toilet water, and then have you sit her on the toilet for 3 seconds while you say,
"Don't touch the potty. Don't touch it." the whole time
Then she'll say,
"I all done."
without going.
Not even one drop.

I didn't have time for that game.
Some days I humor her. Some days I don't.

When I told her I wasn't taking her to the potty she threw a royal fit that did make me question -
"What if she is practically begging to be potty trained and I'm telling her no?"
but then I chucked that thought and I picked her up to carry her out.

While doing this, her shoe sole caught my shirt and yanked it down half way to my navel almost fully exposing one side of my bra. I couldn't get it free.
RIGHT in front of that two way mirror they have to the office so they can monitor what's going on.

So now, not only am I exposed, and holding my screaming toddler caveman style, I'm exposed in DOUBLE VISION holding my screaming toddler caveman style.


I mean, I was ALREADY wearing flip flops and sweats with my bangs in a barrette. What did it really matter?

In an attempt to re-clothe myself, I held Tessa out in front of me as if she were toxic and then she decided to kick off her shoes completely.

I was blocking cart traffic. I was sweating. I was begging Chloe to hand me Tessa's shoes, which, for some reason, she could not see, though they were right in front of her and VERY brightly colored.

(Directing a preschooler with voice commands is, in my opinion, a task worthy of using as military torture.)

We raced home breaking traffic rules and getting honked at while the girls fought over who got to push the buttons on the DVD player in the car and I pulled in just in time to get a phone call that one of the other two little girls I watch (who are sisters) was sick and so they would not be coming afterall.


Maybe it was a good thing.
Well, not GOOD.
Obviously I don't want my daycare kids bleeding or feverish.
But I think Tessa's not feeling well again and when she doesn't feel well she needs all hands on deck.
She needed me to be able to pay full attention.

At least that's the signals I've gotten all day as she's writhed and cried and begged for raisins like they're laced with crack.

I should have done only that, (hold her) actually, instead of doing other things -

Like checking our bank balance.


But, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I will give thanks.

I will give thanks that along with the bleeding head wound there was no passing out or concussions or more serious of injuries.

I will give thanks that I have kids at all - Sick or beasts or otherwise - because I remember how much I wanted them. And still do.

I will give thanks that only half of my bra was exposed and that at least it was my cute black one instead of my tan granny one.
The Witness Protection Program may have had to get involved with THAT situation.

I will give thanks that no matter what kind of day we have, at the end of it, I'm always left rocking little lavendar scented headed kids to bed while their pudgy hands pat me.

I will give thanks that we may not have a lot of money, but we have what is the most important:

Love, faith, and the promise that tomorrow is a new day.