Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Nutcracker Not So Suite

For our Christmas gift this year, my dad asked if we'd like to have tickets to see The Nutcracker.
Of course I said yes.
I'd wanted to take the girls for years.

I had visions of my four darling daughters all dressed up in their finest - Hair curled in perfect ringlets that had been sprayed so heavily they looked like they were made of wood - Eyes sparkling, cheeks rosy as they watched the ballet.
Who wouldn't want that?

The night of the performance, I spent an hour pulling on their tights and smoothing down their hair. I broke up fights over the gray hair flower and buttoned their coats up all the way.

As we grabbed the keys to the van and headed out, Justin asked,
"So what's this we're seeing? Is it a ballet?"


I guess they don't have ballets under the rock where he lives.

As soon as we got in the car Tessa asked where we were going. She always asks where we're going.
As if she had been outside of her own body the entire time we were just getting ready talking about going to the Nutcracker.

"We're going to see The Nutcracker, Honey."
"Wait....... Right NOW?!"
"Yes. Right now."


There was excitement in the air as we pulled in and saw all the cars.

"There's a spot, Daddy. There's another one. There's one. I see another spot. Why are you passing all the spots, Daddy?"
Tessa announced that this was definitely the place because she could "read that big sign."

As we got out and Justin unbuckled Paige from her car seat, he looked at me and asked,
"Are we crazy for bringing a one year old to the ballet?"
Little did we know,
That would become the question of the night.

"No." I answered. Perhaps a little over-confident.
"The Nutcracker is for families. A family Christmas tradition."

We filed inside and spent a solid 20 minutes trying to get a family photo in front of the big Christmas tree.
Paige, refusing to be depicted with us as is her way, tried to make a break for it out the emergency exit.

Justin's face in all the photos looks as his face does in every family photo.
Like he needs a pain killer for sharp colon pain.


We smiled and re-smiled and re-adjusted our positions and wrangled Paige until finally some lady tapped me on the shoulder and asked,
"Are you taking a picture here?"
Well,
We are ATTEMPTING. No promises. Geez. Hold your horses, Maam.
FYI - The base of a tree is round.
There's plenty of tree circumference for us all.

As we headed to the balcony to find our seats, I spotted a long line leading to a beautiful woman dressed in ballet finery.
Dozens of little girls were goign up to say hello and have their picture taken.
We got into line and waited.
We waited and waited and waited - just INCHING forwards - until they flickered the lights to let us know the show was about to begin.
"Mommy? Are we going to miss the show?"

Finally it was our turn and Chloe and Tessa ran up to see her, where they were immediately blocked in football style by a Russian man with a camera demanding to know if we had our tokens.
Tokens?
What tokens?
No. We just want to see the fancy lady.
Apparently one must have paid $20 for a token to even come NEAR that particular fancy lady.
I made a face at the kids that said, "Touch her quickly and run."
For $20, I'll buy a costume and dress up at home and we can take photos all the livelong day.
$20.
No.
Off we went up the stairs.

Our trip took a little longer than other people's as Paige refused to hold anyone's hand and wanted to make the trip on her own.
All three flights of it.
She stopped to fondle the fine art on every wall.
She stuck her head out the railing and almost didn't get it back.
(That kid has one large noggin. Come to think of it - she is not unlike the shape of a Nutcracker, herself....)

Finally we had arrived - Seated in a sea of little girls and excited faces.
We settled in, snapped a few photos of ourselves,
and the lights dimmed.
When the music started, Chloe and Tessa looked like they were witnessing true magic. This was it. This was what I had dreamed of.

Paige - Not so much.
I have never, myself, thought of The Nutcracker as a heavy metal show, but who am I to judge an individual's take on art?
Within seconds, Paige was on her feet in her chair head banging to beat the band.
At the end of every song, she'd stand applauding and shouting "Yay! Hooray! I'll sing!"
She was REALLY enjoying it. So much so that several times, her excited little booted feet kicked the chair in front of her causing the old woman who was sitting there to turn around in complete disdain.
She looked like she possibly thought of children more as an INGREDIENT than a true life's joy.

Justin and I passed Paige back and forth like a relay even though she had her own seat. Of course she didn't want her own seat. That seemed boring. She'd rather scale our laps and wildly and violently shake my jingly necklace to the music with one hand while she reached down my shirt to her elbow with the other.

At least Chloe and Tessa were enjoying it.

That is, until The Bride of Hagrid showed up and sat directly in front of Tessa.

I don't know what it is. Some Rule of the Universe - If you put a child in a seat, a tall 300 pound adult with a large poof of hair is going to sit in front of them.
It's fact.

Now Tessa was on her feet in her seat, completely blocking the view of the people behind her.
"Tessa. You have to sit down."
"But I can't SEEEEEEEEEE."

Justin pulled her on his lap and all was fine for a total of 6 minutes when again she appeared at my side crying, trying to scale the part of my lap that was not already taken up with a head banging, necklace jingling Paige.
"What's the matter?"
"Daddy got mad at me because I'm thirsty. *sob*"
"Honey! I asked you 10 minutes ago if you needed to go potty or get a drink and you said no."
"But I am NOWWWWWWW. I need a drink really BAAAAAD."
"You're going to have to wait."
I said
- Well - I TRIED to say that.
It came out sounding like I'd stuffed my mouth with felt, because at this point,
Paige was standing on my lap with her entire torso pressed into my face asking the lady behind her for a pen.

I looked to my right to check on Chloe who was silent. She was entranced in the dancing.
Entranced with her knees up and her entire crotch exposed like an open book to the crowd below.

Yep.
You get a special view when you pay for the good seats.

At this point now, Paige is screaming trying to get the attention of the "Mousey."
This, following her screaming, "GIRL DIE! GIRL DIE!" into the crowd.
I'm sure that sounded offensive to everyone who didn't know that she was meaning, "girl cry" in response to the ballerina crying because her nutcracker had broken its arm.

This was my cue.
It was time.
I could hold her still no longer.
As Tessa still cried over her devastating dehydration, and as Chloe flashed the crowd, I hoisted Paige over my shoulder and carried her to the back.

To the back with the approximately 8 other parents who were doing exactly the same thing with their toddlers.
We exchanged knowing looks of solidarity.

Now Paige was as happy as a clam.
She was quiet now, too, because she was free.
In one swift second, after I had put her down and as I turned to look back at Tessa, however, Paige had located the usher podium and was in the process of a program heist.
That punk, for no reason other than to create a good old fashioned chase scene, tucked about 30 programs under her left arm and ran for it.
Mind you, she was still QUIET.
She was a juvenile delinquent,
but she was quiet.

As she made her way back around the loop and came close to her starting point, I snatched her up and handed the usher back her programs.
At that very moment, in a move I did not see coming, That usher opened the door to the hall and all but shoved us out into it.
I blinked.
I was stunned, but I had been heading there with her anyway, so I didn't protest.
I joined a dad out there who had a son that was wailing.
The dad looked at me like he was begging me to shoot him cleanly and quickly.
Paige pointed at the little boy and laughed.
"Haha. A boy a DIE."

"Yes, Honey. The baby is CRYING." I said loudly,
in case the dad was worried she was some sort of voodoo master putting a hex on his son.

Sorry, Dude. I can't control pronunciation.

And this is when it started.

Suddenly, there was a different usher coming towards the dad and his son.
"You know," she said, "Maybe you son would really love to go downstairs and watch the show on the big TV we have in the entryway."
The dad did not respond.
"It's these same dancers. It's live. It's right down the stairs." She said in her very non-subtle way.
The dad got up and walked away, never to be seen again.

Right now, Paige was climbing the stairs, then going back down, then climbing again, then descending again. Not a sound. Just a smile and the climbing.
I smiled at her until I saw it....

Oh no.
That usher was coming for ME.
Was she about to suggest that I take her away, too?
Even though we had purchased tickets just like every other person in this whole theater? Paige even had her own SEAT. Not even a lap child.
She was a certified theater attendee.
"Maam, May I suggest that you might like to do the same thing that I told the gentleman about?"
"You mean for us to go to the entryway? If I wanted to watch it on TV, I probably would have stayed at home, right?"
"Well it's these same dancers. It's live. It's right down the stairs."


This is when I got upset.
I was already missing the show.
I had already been poked and jingled and cried on and blamed for child torture through dehydration.
Now I wasn't even allowed to sit in the STAIRWAY?
I'd put on fresh make-up for this!

I took Paige's hand and walked her for a bit.
We wandered down the hall and found a large walnut statue that Paige aptly named "A Guy A Boobies."
We spent a full half hour sitting by, holding hands with, and touching A Guy A Boobies.

Then it was intermission.

We made our way back to our door and waited for Justin and the other girls to exit. The girls came out super excited. They were loving it.
We stood there for a second talking about the dancing and the costumes. My mood lightened.

And that's when I heard it.

Usher #1 approached Usher #2 and said very loudly as she looked out into the sea of kids, especially towards me,
"There really IS an appropriate age to bring children to these things. I just don't get it. It's not like it's a SCHOOL FUNCTION. I mean, there are ADULTS here who would like to watch the show."


My eyeballs felt pressure from the backsides.
My right shoulder did a weird little twitch.
Justin was talking to me about something and suddenly I couldn't even hear his voice.
He saw The Look.
"Kerri. Just let it go." He said.

And I usually do.
I've been cut off in traffic and pushed around in stores.
I've been surrounded by rude people. I've ignored people before who cut in front of my children and never ever say they're "Sorry" or "Excuse me," but would come unglued if my kids did that to them -
I've sat silently before, but this.....
THIS.....

"Nope. I'm goin' in."
I said, and I started marching.

Me and my pile of 5 coats and two water bottles and my purse and my jingly necklace marched right up the stairs to that usher that had pushed us out the door and I leaned in really close and creepy like and said,

"You know - I just needed to tell you. I heard you talking about those of us that have children here. I think it is EXTREMELY rude for you to be talking about us like that when we are most likely the reason you even have a paycheck. Am I right? Every single child ticket in here cost just as much as the adult tickets. People save all year to bring their families to this. The Nutcracker is a FAMILY event. It's about TOYS for goodness sake. You might want to look around you and realize that over half the people here are children and maybe next time you should do that before you open your big mouth and offend people around you who could have your job."

She blinked at me and mumbled an "OK."

I turned and stormed off, grabbing Paige's hand and dragging her as she barked requests to see the "Boobies again."

Justin called out after me to slow down and another usher appeared to ask me if something was the matter.
I let her know that something definitely WAS the matter and somehow left that door after telling my story with a free water bottle for my trouble. (?)

"Here, Tessa. Here's your water."

Let me tell you - Visions of sugar plums was NOT what was dancing around in MY head.
It's a good thing I cannot be held accountable in a court of law for what WAS.

When intermission ended, I told Justin to take the older girls back in and I'd just stay out with Paige.

I wasn't even going to fight it.
She was happy in the hall.
That, AND I didn't want to face that usher again.

For the entirety of the second half, Paige and I sat in the lounge in the women's bathroom and took pictures of each other.

People would come in and smile and comment on how cute she was and that it looked like we were having fun.

And we were.
We actually truly were.


Especially Paige, who was now laying down on the bathroom floor looking up her own dress from eight different angles in the full length mirror.


After it was over, as we filed out of the theater that night, I noticed all the other parents.
Eyes wide and traumatized, Hair a little more scraggly than when they'd gone in, most other moms looked like their necklaces had been jingled, too.
The dads all looked like they just wanted to get home and have a drink. On the rocks.
I passed the Fancy Lady Token Taker Nazi and almost stuck out my tongue.

We got into the car.
"NOW where are we going?" Asked Tessa.
"Home. We are going home. Possibly to never leave again." I said.


When all was said and done, and we crawled into bed last night, Justin told me he was sorry I'd had to miss the ballet.
I said, "Yeah. Well at least the other two girls loved it and were well behaved."


"Yeah. I GUESS." He said.
"What do you mean, you guess?" I asked.
"Well, At one point I looked over at Chloe and she was licking her entire hand an arm like an animal. I whispered to her to ask her what on EARTH she was doing and she just shrugged her shoulders and licked one more time."

*sigh*

I guess all those visions of perfectly coiffed little girls in fancy dresses at the ballet just isn't realistic for my family.


I mean, if you've seen one ballet, you've seen them all, right?
At least that's what I told myself.

Last night I was part of a different kind of dance.

An even BETTER dance called

A Guy A Boobies and A Bathroom Lounge.









Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mother Africa

Driving home from dropping my girls off at school the other day,
a CD came on in the shuffle.

It was the Asante Children's Choir CD and it had been there for months.
Number 2.
Filled with songs from a group of beloved children who we'd grown to know and love and call by name.

When we had layed our eyes on them, they had all looked the same.
Same pale blue shirts and khakis.
Same short dark hair.
My girls had asked me if there were any girls in the group, not realizing that over half of them were.

We had offered to host a couple for a period of five days that would become seven.
Then four more a month later.
Then five more a few weeks after that.
And then, inside, for a time that had no end.

We always ended up with the same two, not completely by chance.
I would send emails begging for Capi and Divine because we had fallen in love.

Over a course of fewer days than fill a month they had become part of us.

Saying goodbye to them the final time had been possibly the hardest most painful things I'd ever done.
As deep and affecting as child birth.
Releasing from my body two beautiful girls that in my heart were mine.

When they left, I had tucked notes every place I had been able to think of in the hopes that they'd find them one lonely night on the road as they unpacked the few things they owned.
The few things that were now mixed with a pile of dresses that were too small for Alena that I'd handed them before I left the room and sobbed.
They had danced in front of their mirror and I felt ashamed for months to look in mine.

I hoped that they even understood that my love was not brought on by a one night flurry of emotion because of some great slide presentation or a heart-felt plea from a pulpit for a sponsor.
It was not spurred by ankle bells or grass skirts under good stage lighting.

I hoped they knew that this love was formed on quiet afternoons amidst a sea of nail polish.
That it grew with wafts of the Vaseline that they put on their hair after showers they had taken together because that's what they were used to.
It bloomed with the cards they left each time they were gone on the road that said that they wished they could stay with us forever.

This was a love with roots that spread under an ocean that sprawled under a small dirt floor, and that had sprouted its buds inside me.

We told them we would come see them.
They had asked if we "knew the year."

The CD played as I passed grocery stores and four bedroom homes and cars with spoilers added.

In the beginning of the CD a young boy's small voice talks of the triumph of the African spirit through all the blood-shed and self-destruction.
Then he says, "Arise! Oh, Mother Africa. Arise."
and I realize that from that very first day they climbed into the back of my van
I have taken that phrase as a plea.

Please.
Arise and
MOTHER Africa.

You.
Kerri Green.
In your white mini-van scattered with excess.

Mother Africa.

And with tears still as easy as the day they said goodbye,
in my heart I say I will.





Saturday, November 2, 2013

Trick-or-Treat - Try Buying Shoes for My Feet

Well.
I did it.
Another Halloween down.

That night, after I removed makeup and washed white hair spray out of Paige's hair,
I successfully nestled the girls in their beds and, as is Halloween night tradition, gave the standard two teaspoons of Tylenol to both middle girls because their legs hurt "real real bad."
Extreme leg pain is a Halloween sign of success.

This Halloween was extra intense.
I worked on those blasted costumes for a month straight like it was an Olympic event.
Buying fabric.
Sewing fabric.
Re-sewing fabric with a furrowed brow because I suck at sewing in an epic way.
Borrowing items.
Buying items off Amazon.
Praying items arrived from Amazon in time because I didn't want to hear Alena stressing out loud about what would happen if they didn't for
one
more
second.

I ran around in a blur pulling it all together. I barely remember the last month of my life.

I found myself on one errand run standing in Old Navy fondling the $10 butterfly and hamburger costumes between my thumb and index finger with a distant stare.
I didn't even remember how I'd gotten there or what I'd come for.
But I fought the urge to go the easy route and pressed on to the point of complete exhaustion.

It was a marathon.

Not to mention:
WHOSE idea was it to have a baby that would be born on the day before Halloween and would therefore require a two day celebration lovingly referred to as Birthdayoween each and every year?!
Making cakes and buying candy and wrapping presents and sewing costumes.
(I'm saying "Justin's," because that sort of thing is always, let's face it, HIS idea.)

This Halloween week on my calendar had more writing than The Declaration.

Tessa's 5th birthday
Field trip to The Exploratorium
Pick up Chloe's cape
Halloween
Halloween festival
Daycare all week
Justin's Tribe's Casino Grand Opening Party
Casino family brunch
Two doctor's appointments
Alena having a Slumber Party
(Yeah. That last one is still to come and I'm sort of in denial that it's even happening.)

It was almost a veritable How To book for having a brain aneurysm.
I was GOING to go mad.

And speaking of books - I wrote a children's book.

Like - An ENTIRE children's book in a day.
Three minutes before I left to go to the school and pick up the girls and bring them home to get them in their costumes,
I wrote a children's book.

I think I might have an actual DISORDER.

I was super excited all day on Halloween to get the girls and dress them in their costumes.
I looked at my watch all day just waiting for the moment I could get in my car to go get them.
I'd had the idea to make them a team of villainesses for over a month.
I'm over the princesses and the mermaids every year.
Every girl is a princess, and I probably saw 150 Minions.
I wanted nitty gritty.
I wanted their real personalities shining through, and let's face it, with their personalities, what better to be than villainesses?

For a month now I've cut and sewed and called friends to borrow missing items.
I have pieced together and planned, ignoring frustrated sighs.
I have tried on and measured and plotted.
I have been so excited, all the while knowing what it would REALLY be.

The same thing it always is, that's what.

i.e. -
Me being super excited and happy and full of enthusiasm,
and them being super irritated with each other and crying that so-and-so pushed her on the steps or took her red lollipop or that something on them is
freaking ITCHY.

Dear God in Heaven,
Hear my humble cries,
Please do not make me ever have to hear that something feels funny on them or itches them ever again lest I be forced to leap from a bridge the next chance I get.


There was an entire two year span when Alena was little that I should have probably been medicated
all due to the total inability to ever find her a pair of shoes that she didn't find unbearable in some way.
The seam was weird, or the heel slipped.
She didn't like the bow, or they made her toes feel strange.
I was constantly about two meltdowns away from dropping her at a Safe Surrender site all over the sensations given by SHOES.

I listened to Tessa complain about something being uncomfortable in some way from 4:00-9:00 SOLID this Halloween.
Her face in a constant pucker.
It worked out well for pictures, as people commented on her amazing Cruella that "she never goes out of character!" and "How do you get her to make that perfect face all the time?!"
But I know.
I know that she was ITCHY.
That she pulled an tugged and writhed as I tried to make angry eyebrows on her with black liquid eyeliner.
I know that she wiggled and kept looking at herself in the mirror even when I told her to just face the front.
And nowhere else.
JUST THE FRONT.

The front.

Just face THE FRONT.

I know that that wicked green eyeshadow I did on her got smeared all over her nose, and I had to start over from the beginning because she scratched yet ANOTHER ITCH on her nose and that I almost made her cry by saying maybe they should never dress up ever again.
Meanwhile I had to do deep breathing exercises to keep myself calm.

I got the girls ready in assembly-line fashion.
Paige was saved for last because I was dreading her the most.
I was scared to even start with HER.
I was actually even avoiding eye-contact all day.

Since I had sewed the final stitch she had been screaming, "No AHBUSS!" (octopus) as I try to get the Ursula dress on her.
She's been completely terrorized by it as if it was made up of live wires.
But gosh darn it, I SEWED - and I NEVER sew - so she was going to wear that thing if it was the last thing I did.

I had gone to the fabric store to make it and braved the line of the weird cashier with flashing light up pins on her apron.
The girl that has so much energy that every single time I am forced to go in her line I feel the need to bring a taser on all future trips.

I had missed an entire episode of Survivor because I was stuffing tentacles.
The only thing that was going to stop me from cramming her in it like a hand-made toddler ravioli was CPS showing up at my door and putting me in cuffs;
and even THEN I might make some attempts with my teeth as they dragged me out.

I got those four girls ready with determination and a freakishly clammy complexion.
My heart beat out of my chest with adrenaline.
My hands trembled with every line of their eye.
I had ONE hour. This was GO TIME.
One hour before we needed to go for taking them by the cardiologist's office who had begged us to come.
One hour before trick-or-treating and the church festival.
One.

I raced around our house like we were about to be air raided.
I broke a nail and possibly, for a brief moment, spoke in Russian.

And Justin slept.

He slept and he took a shower, then he sat in the rocking chair until we were ready to go, and for his grand finale,
he looked at me like he was scared of me.

And I wished upon him evil things that would take an actual team of Villainesses to bring to fruition.

Till Death Do Us Part almost actually happened.

When I got to the part of putting that octopus costume on Paige, she threw a fit to beat all fits.
"NO! NO AHBUSS! NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!"
I was pinning her to the bed and yelling for Alena to grab her arms.
The dog spun in circles around my feet and I snapped at her to "GO!"
There was a flurry of black and purple and a noise coming from my toddler that sent Chloe running down the stairs.
For a few minutes I thought we might need an exorcist.

PS
Note to Self:
Next time you think of trying to draw mean eyebrows on a baby with liquid eyeliner - Run into an oncoming MAC truck instead.
That darned pudgy eye-wiping fist was my final and complete undoing.

Something in the base of my neck started to hurt.
Pulse.
Pound.
This was it.
I was actually having a stroke.

My days as a vascular lab office manager proved good in one thing - Carotid Artery Crisis Detection.
Classic case.
Woman has four girls.
Woman attempts to get four girls ready for Halloween.
Woman has a massive stroke from stress.

I waited for it.

I could feel my pulse in my eyeballs.

It never came.

What DID come was more complaints of itching from Tessa as she stood behind me, as she simultaneously removed the opera gloves that had taken me a full five minutes to put on her because for some reason the concept of one finger per glove finger doesn't register until a child is at LEAST 11 years old.
Then there was crying because her cigarette holder tip kept falling off.
I fixed it with museum wax while I tied things with my teeth.
Then there were Paige's toddler pleas for emergency crews to come and rescue her from the Liquid Eyeliner Eyebrows of Death.
Or so she called them.
Then Chloe was ruining her makeup because Paige's crying made HER cry.
I wiped her tear streaks off her cheeks with my spit with one hand as I pinned wings on Alena with another.

Maybe *I* was the Ahbuss.

By the end of getting them ready the whole bathroom counter was covered in stains of COLOR and chunks of hair. Some wig hair. Some of my own that had fallen out in clumps.
There were makeup brushes and clothing tags everywhere.
It looked like a bomb had gone off, and Justin stood staring from the rocking chair in shock.
His OCD too much for his newly awakened mind to bear.

For four minutes I hated him for his peace and lethargy and ability to BREATHE EVENLY.

WHERE were the tights?
Tessa! You can't just have bare legs and stop sitting like that in a dress.
No.
Get your hand out of there. No one wants to see that.
Did you grab a paci? Well where is it? No it's not. It's not there. I checked.
I don't know where your glow wand is. I think it's in my purse.
Well I can't control that.
No.
Stop scratching it. It's smearing.
Yes, we will eat dinner. I know you're hungry. I said we'd get something.
HAS ANYONE SEEN THE DOG?!

Before we left the house I took the pictures.

The pictures of no one looking at the camera.
The pictures of Paige disrobing and showing her baby boobies to the world.
The pictures of my kids doing everything I didn't want them to do after I'd done so much work.

No.
The Evil Queen doesn't pick wedgies.
No.
I've never seen Cruella eat a booger.
Why are you squatting? Stop it. Stand up. No. All the way. I TOLD you to take your hand out of there!

When we started driving Chloe asked me more questions and I responded by telling her not to talk to Mommy for a few minutes because Mommy needed to
"get normal again."

It was just so much WORK that I wanted it to be practically the best night of their lives,
rivaling everything but their weddings, yet I was the only one smiling, be it creepilly, as they trudged along behind me crying AGAIN that their toes felt "funny in these shoes" as I lined them up to take pictures.

Justin was still looking at me like I was completely insane as I snapped pictures and shook my head.

"This is SUPPOSED to be FUN, Kerri." He called out to me from the porch.
I reminded myself that though there was a draw to the quiet time jail time would allot, it wouldn't be worth it in the end to strangle him on the driveway.

I just don't remember ever complaining on Halloween.
Halloween is GREAT when you're a kid!
What is better than dressing up and getting candy?!
Looking back,
I actually had a reason to complain.
There was never much planning that went in to MY costumes growing up.
I was always something that I had put together from things I'd found around the house myself two hours before I went out.

The only purchased costume I ever remember was one of those super old-school printed plastic bags with arm holes and a plastic Strawberry Shortcake mask with eye holes and - if memory serves - a total absence of holes to BREATHE through, because one of my earliest childhood memories is of feeling suffocated, the smell of plastic, and the feel of sweat condensation on the inside of that plastic mask.

One year I was the ever creative "Boy."
I tugged on my brother's little league costume and BAM!
Boy.

I have been a bum and a duck hunter.
One year I was a donkey.
A donkey.
What little girl wants to be a DONKEY?
I was attending a Christian school that year and we were supposed to come as something from the Bible and a donkey is what my parents had landed on.
Out of all the thousands of pages in the Bible they could have drawn from, they picked
a DONKEY.

The one year my dad DID make me a great costume,
he fashioned a giant cardboard boat around my body and stapled my stuffed animals to it.
One should never staple a girl's stuffed animals.
I was Noah's Ark.
He put a lot of work into it which was really too bad, because it was so big and awkward to walk in that I couldn't really even trick or treat.
I ended up coming back home in half an hour.
It's hard to maneuver rambling garden pathways in the dark when you can't see anything below your neck.

But I'm pretty sure I never needed Tylenol.
I don't remember being itchy even once.
All I remember is the feel of dumping out that pillowcase of candy on the living room rug and praying my Dad didn't see because he had a way of eating it ALL and not apologizing.

I was excited for the thrill of the night then
and I still am now.
Too bad it seemed I was the only one.
The pictures that I took from this year that have Justin in them look like he'd rather be doing something at gunpoint.

Once my stroke symptoms had passed, I actually had fun. I know you were probably questioning.
Even though we showed up at the church festival and they were already taking down the booths because we are late for everything we've ever gone to.
Even though Alena forgot extra shoes to go play laser tag in with the youth group afterwards,
and so, in true mother form, I had to give her mine.

I rode home completely barefoot and wide-eyed.

Even though Paige ate so many lollipops that I might as well just skip what I know is coming and have her teeth all electively removed now instead of waiting for them to rot out of her head.

Everyone LOVED their costumes.
They DID look amazing.
Even if they had driven me to do evil shrieking of my very own.

My Ravenna, Evil Queen, Cruella, and Ursula.

My villainesses.
In their truest, most horribly itchy forms.

That night there was a knock at the door that I thought to be late trick or treaters.
It turned out to be a neighbor returning our dog who had been sitting on our porch for "quite awhile."
I hadn't even noticed she was gone.

I was too busy thinking of how I could possible top it all NEXT year.





Thursday, October 24, 2013

*BEEP*

What amazing timing to have decoded the cryptic "O-R-E-D-T-E-C-T" to spell "Detector;"
For last night, as I lay sleeping peacefully in my bed, one rang out into the night.

And not a mere chirp.
We're talking multiple beeps in a row over and over.

Immediately my heart was racing.

It was the carbon monoxide detector!

Or at least that's what I thought when I didn't smell smoke and didn't see flames.

I sprang up out of bed and ran in, only to have the beeping stop, and to see that it was shining a steady green light.

Well that was weird....

I went back into the room to see Justin's silhouette sitting up in bed.
"What was that?" He asked, sleepily.
"I think it was the carbon monoxide detector."
"It's not that."
"How do you know?"
"I don't smell anything," He said.
"Well that's the THING with carbon monoxide," I said. "It's odorless."
"We don't even have a carbon monoxide detector." He argued.
"Yes we do. It's in the hall."

I don't even know if he heard me.
He was back to snoring within three seconds and I just lay there worrying about the possibility that it had been, indeed, the carbon monoxide detector.

What should I do?
Should I crack a window?
Should I take the kids to the porch?
Should I call someone?
But then it hit me - Justin's snoring alone would be a good detector.
At the rapid and voracious rate that he was gulping in the air around him, he'd probably be the first to be poisoned by the gases.
If he stopped breathing, I'd make a run for it with the kids.


It had stopped chirping now and I nuzzled back into the covers just long enough to re-warm my spot, when there it was, chirping again.

Now, I already suffer from heart palpitations, and let me tell you - Being jarred awake by loud beeping that may or may not signal your impending death is really not a prescribed treatment for those puppies.

Now Justin and I were both in the hall.

It was 4:00am.

"It's not the carbon monoxide detector." He said with his eyes half closed.
"You didn't even think we HAD one." I retorted. "How could you have checked it, if you don't know where it is?"
"Well where is it?"
"It's right there." I pointed.
"OH. I forgot about that one."
"Well can you look at it?"

This is where he walked to the detector, reached up and FELT it.
In the dark of the hallway, he reached his exhausted hand up and FELT it.

Now, I am no expert on carbon monoxide detectors, but I'm pretty sure you can't tell if they are well functioning by feel,
so I pretended to trust his expertise, because that's what a good wife does, and secretly stood behind him and tried to make out the lights with my own 300/300 without-contacts vision.
I could barely tell there was a carbon monoxide detector, myself.

"Remember that little table-top stick-on detector that the firemen gave us a year ago?" I asked him.
"Yeah."
"Well, do you know what happened to it?"
"I think it turned a funny color and I threw it away." He answered.
"It turned a funny color?! That's the detector. That's how you know. If it turns a different color that means there's carbon monoxide!"
"Well it just looked OLD to me."

Oh for the love of God.

The beeping had once again stopped, and I had already requested that Justin climb behind the dryer and shut off the valve,
so we shrugged our shoulders and went back to bed;
only to find that Tessa had somehow teleported herself from her bed into ours when we weren't looking.

Just materialized there like she was born of a vapor.

At that point, I gave up on sleeping all together, as sleeping with Tessa is about as peaceful and comfortable as sleeping with a rodeo bull.

We were back to laying down for, at most, two minutes.

"Do you think we should call someone?" I whispered in dark.

No response.

"Justin......Do you think we need to call the fire department and have them check the house? I mean, just to be safe?"

Nothing.

Oh gosh.
Was he......DEAD?!

Had I been right?
And I love being right, but not when it's regarding something that could lead me back to single-parenthood.
I cannot man this vessel alone.
Had he been the first to succumb?

*This is where I did a brief self check, as I have made myself well Internet-versed in the symptoms of gas poisoning.
And kidney failure.
And bot fly infestations.
And many many other odd illnesses, but that is a whole different blog altogether.*

Did I have a headache? No. Muscle weakness? None.
Alright.
I was clear to proceed with confidence.

I was just about to shake Justin and check for a pulse, when the beeping resumed again, and we were both on our feet in seconds.
After 10 minutes of beep analysis, we realized it was not, in fact, the carbon monoxide detector;
but the smoke detector in our room.
This was decided by tilting our heads and roaming the hallway to stand by every smoke detector we have.
And there are lots of them.
You would think we would be overjoyed to have finally found the source, but we weren't, because that particular source was attached to a 10 foot ceiling and the ladder to reach it was in the garage downstairs.

The garage that houses the cat that tries to bolt for the indoors the second you open any door.
The cat that pees on things the second he steps inside.
Things that you are RENTING.
The cat you have to be a trained athlete to block.
An athlete you are not prepared to be in the 4:00 hour.

For the first time ever, I cursed our tall ceilings and Justin grumbled something I was probably lucky not to hear, and he headed down for the ladder.

When he returned, I asked if he'd gotten the batteries.
Nope. He'd forgotten those.
Nevermind. I'd get one.
Downstairs I trudged as he popped open the ladder with a loud clank, and I cursed HIM for probably waking the baby.

I returned upstairs, and now Chloe was in the hall.

"I can't sleep," she said.
"There's a weird beeping sound."

I told her to go crawl in bed on The Mattress.
"The Mattress" being an old crib mattress that used to be for one of the girls which we saved for the intention of making a bed for a child if they were sick and needed urgent middle-of-the-night care.
The Mattress which now almost permanently resides on the floor by my dresser and is used in events such as this one, which are almost never an emergency.
*See: Every single night.
I explained what was happening and that I was going to have to turn on the light so that we could change the battery in the detector.

The second the light enveloped the room, both girls started screaming and covering their eyes as if I'd hosed them in acid FROM said battery.
"IT'S TOO BRIGHT! AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! IT'S HURTING MY EYES! MY EYES! MY EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEESSSSSSSS!"

It was 4:30am.

Now they are wailing and I'm waving one hand wildly and whispering for them to be quiet or they'll wake their sister as I hold the bottom of the ladder with the other hand.
My waving is wiggling the ladder, and Justin is swaying and attempting to change the battery that is still well above his head with his very OWN 300/300 without-contact vision.

Again - 4:30am.

Finally the girls reduce their shrieking to just loud sniffly gulps and sideways squinty glances, and Justin snaps the new battery in place and closes the cover.
With force.
He descends the ladder and JUST gets it closed and put into the hallway when above our heads,
the chirping resumes.

I looked over at Justin and was worried for a second because I'd never seen THAT face before.
His mouth was weirdly and crookedly hanging open and he was staring at the wall that was four inches from his face.

This is when I watched Justin transform into a gorilla before my very eyes.
Gorilla climb.
Gorilla remove battery.
Gorilla eat battery whole.
Battery beep no more.

Lights out. CPAP on. Like it never happened.

Fifteen minutes later, and everyone was asleep.
Everyone but me.

I was laying in bed with eyes the size of the cat's who loves in the garage,
and let me tell you - Those things are huge.

My mind was racing.

I thought about emergency rescue.
I thought about gas poisoning.
I thought about an escape plan.

I thought about firemen.




For quite awhile.

I thought about our really old landlords who come to change the batteries every 6 months on a schedule and wondered why that battery had only lasted 5 months.
I thought about how they drive a Prius, then I thought about how quiet a Prius is.
I tried to let the thought of that silence lull my mind to sleep.
Two hours passed and so did many MANY other thoughts.

I had JUST finally drifted when there was
Even.
More.
Beeping.

Except this time was my *beepity beeping* alarm.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

C-O-N-F-U-S-E-D

Today I received a phone call from my beautiful 14 year old daughter during school hours.
She was calling me on her break to inform me that her math teacher had pulled her aside today and told her that since she was doing such an amazing job in Algebra this year,
he wanted to suggest that she take AP Algebra AND Calculus next year.

I beamed with pride.

"Great job, Honey! That's amazing! Keep up the good work!"

A half an hour later, that same beautiful 14 year old daughter called me a second time.

This time was to tell me that, though she had been using every day multiple times,
somehow within the last hour,
she had completely forgotten her locker combination.
She had opened it in the morning, placed her lunch inside, closed it, and forgotten how to open it again.

I was perplexed.

How is that even POSSIBLE?

Extremely complicated math problems/Unable to remember a three number sequence.
It's a real head-scratcher.

In the car after school pick-up, I drilled her on how this could be.
Her answer was that she had known there was a 13 and a 31 and she *thought* a 5 in there somewhere, because that
"sounded right."
Apparently those were not the right numbers, though, because there she sat having not eaten the amazing lunch I'd packed her,
(which was sitting wilting in her locker)
but instead having mooched three spoonfulls of yogurt and some rice crackers off of a friend.
And dag nabbit, I had even dug into the kalamata jar for that particular lunch.
Fingers poking right through that cold, oil layer.
Now that is dedication.
A lunch with kalamatas does not a mere Lunchable make.

I was still squinting and shaking my head about this whole situation, when from the back seat, Chloe's voice piped up.

She was doing her homework.

"Mama, What does O-R-E-D-T-E-C-T spell?"

My brain tried to re-spell what she had just said.

"Spell it slower. I don't think I heard you right."

"O.......(four painful seconds).........R.........(four more seconds)........E.......(four of the longest seconds of my life)..."
"Not THAT slow! Geez. Just a little slower than before."


*LONG PAUSE where she contemplated her entire way of being and mentally doused herself in ash*

"o....r....e.....d.....e...."

She was whispering now at a level that, I'm pretty sure, was only audible to dogs.
Whispering from the back seat of my mini van,
when the music was on.

I reached up and turned the music off, SURE I HAD to be missing something.
No one should be this stressed out over eight letters.
I had driven for approximately 2 miles with no recollection of that journey because I had been so consumed with figuring out what word she was referring to.

"Chloe! I need you to read it loudly and sort of slowly so that I can figure out what on earth you're spelling."
"O-R-E-D-T-E-C-T! That's what it says. That's what it says right here."


Was it even in English? Were my neural pathways misfiring?

I was starting to sweat and grip the steering wheel harder.

"That's not a word." Alena said while she rolled her eyes.
Like she had room to judge.
My Mathlete.
"That's not even a word."

"Chloe. I think you're missing a letter or something. That's not spelling anything that I can think of."

"Yes it is! It's right here! O-R-E-D-T-E-C-T."

I could hear it in her voice that she was about to cry.
Chloe's crackly pre-cry voice is practically a seventh family member.

I got tunnel vision for a second and felt my hearing go, which might scare the average person, but it has happened to me so many times I felt like starting to feel it, I was greeting an old friend.

"You're going to need to show me what you're reading. That's really not a word."

She held up her workbook and pointed to the word.
It took me a second to make it out because I was reading it in reverse through the rear-view mirror.
It felt like the most crucial eye exam of all time.

Once I saw it,I realized it was, indeed, O-R-E-D-T-E-C-T.

However, ABOVE that blasted non-word were the instructions:

"Unscramble the letters in the words below."

A key piece of information, if you ask me, but what do I know?
I'm just the driver for this group home.


Now, anyone who knows me knows I ADORE my children.
But they are just so CONFUSED all the time.
And their confusion leads to MY confusion.
A virtual domino game of dying brain cells.

Chloe is perpetually wearing one sock at home.
"Where did your other sock go, Chloe?" I will ask.
"I don't know....I think I had it in the other room......"
Her voice trailing off into they abyss.
How does a person lose a sock from off of their foot?
A sock is not something that just falls off when you least expect.

And Tessa, after years of being told the same thing over and over STILL seems confused about what to do with her clothes at the end of the day.
Do they go draped over her head board?
Crammed in the space between the toilet and the tub?
Do they get put onto her pillow pet?
Do the pants go in the dog crate?
I know!
We hang them over the banister and then take just the underwear down to the toy closet to be found at a later date when the only way to see if they're clean or dirty is to sniff them.

They're usually dirty.

And it is as if it's contagious because I started off much more intelligent than this.
Really.
I did.
But little by little I have been leached of all useful knowledge.
Each new child's adorable chubby cheeks seemingly actually made from my ability to form a thought.

The only things I know now are useless facts like what sound a zebra makes.

And I make it.

A lot.

Now, when Alena asks me for help with her homework, about the only help I can give is to type into a search engine for her, and sometimes she even has to help me with the computer's error message before I can do THAT.
I have no idea where silt originates from.
Home Depot?
When she asks me, "What is a function in math?"
The only answer I have to give is, "That's what I'd like to know."

At this point, I think it's pretty clear we Greens are all just bumbling through life.
Lucky to find our mouth holes to put food into.
Lucky to ever get where we're going in one piece.
Lucky to not be picked off by large carnivorous animals.

And lucky to have each other.

I do have ONE piece of knowledge left, though, and that is
that O-R-E-D-T-E-C-T unscrambles to spell "Detector."

I know because I looked at the answer key and then filled in that slot myself with a red pen that I found in Tessa's pants pocket that I found stuffed in the toy box.









Thursday, September 5, 2013

WARNING: There Are Lots of Warnings in This Warning

We went to dinner the other night.
As I unloaded my gaggle of children from the car and gave instructions on not stepping directly on my purse,
I reached for my keys to lock the door with the clicker and froze for a second.

Wait....

You're not supposed to do that anymore.
You know....
Because of the men.

The ones hiding just out of sight with the decoders who can steal your car's access code and then unlock your car when you're gone and steal it.
Now you're supposed to lock it from the inside.
It's safer.
It's true.
I read it online.

So I reached inside and locked it by hand.

Even though there is not one thing to steal in my van except ground up Pita Chips and a milk cup that, should you open it, would produce milk in its solid form.
Even though you can't even open the glove box anymore because there's something jammed inside.
And believe me - I've tried.
With Tessa's Fiskars.

As I walked away from the car, I thought about all the warnings I've been seeing lately.
All the shared and re-shared facebook posts about this evil and that evil.

I thought about the conversations I've been having lately with a friend of mine about anxiety.
She's going through it right now and I'm going through it,
well,
ALWAYS.
We bounce tips for getting through the day off of each other,
and applaud each other when we've fought the crowds at Target and not ended up huddled in the handicapped stall breathing into a paper bag.

It's no wonder people have so many anxieties now a day.
The world is one big warning label.

First there was the post I read about taking your keys with you to bed each night so that if there was an intruder, you could press the panic button on your clicker causing your car alarm to go off, alerting your neighbors, and hopefully scaring the intruder away.
That one didn't make me actually take the keys to bed,
but it did leave me laying awake at nights for awhile just contemplating break-ins and what I would do if there was one.
I wondered if Justin would actually use the tomahawk he keeps under the bed to protect me, or if he'd just toss it to me and run to the coat closet.
I can now honestly say that no intruder had better come here.
Kerri's got a plan and it involves several sharp things and a noise NO ONE wants to hear.

Next came the warnings about not taking pictures with your cell phone because of the GPS tracking in them and how predators could now figure out where you were when the picture was taken and track you and your family.
I switched my GPS to "off" and thought about buying some mace.
Which, weirdly, I noticed they sell at Office Depot right by the check-stand.


Then there are the food warnings.
Don't eat too much chicken!
It has arsenic!
Rice has arsenic!
Apple juice has arsenic!

The only thing that probably doesn't have arsenic is actual aresenic,
because nothing is made up of itself anymore.
And PS, don't eat corn.
Like, EVER.
That stuff will kill you AND the horse you rode in on.

Don't even get me started on McDonald's and their Goop Nuggets.
My kids asked just this week why they can't eat that anymore and I told them,
"Because I like you better alive."

So you think maybe you'll skip McDonald's for the kids and you'll just get a hot dog or something instead?
Nope.
Causes blood cancer.
It's been proven.

Then I read an article yesterday about some kids that got third degree burns from some chemical reaction they had because they climbed a lime tree after putting on sunscreen.
Now I'm nervous of two staples of summer time - citrus fruits and sun protection.

So now you're scared to eat ANYTHING, because everything you can think of has a health warning.

You envision yourself just moving far away and living off the grid.
Well.....Maybe with at least your iPad....
Just you and some close friends and a few chickens and seed starters gingerly placed in a biodegradable egg carton.
You pack up, excited for your new hippie beginnings.
"Hey, Hon, Did you pack the crystal deodorant?"
Check.
You stop for gas.
You've almost made it,
only to see the warning on the gas pump that you need to discharge static electricity on your door-frame to reduce explosion risk. I don't want to discharge ANYTHING on my door-frame, but -
EXPLOSION RISK?!
A warning which you can barely read because you're pumping gas at night or in the early morning before the sun comes up because you
"read online somewhere that that is the only time when the gas pump amount is accurate."
All other times you need to factor in ground temperature causing evaporation or some crap so that you're not paying for air.

At least that's how you remember it going.....

Maybe you'll call your friend and ask them what the article said again just to be sure...

Well you'd better do it on speaker, because cell phones cause brain tumors if you hold them too close to your head.

Then again, it'll be hard to tell if that is from the cell phone or that water bottle you've been drinking out of that you left in your car for two weeks.
Two hot, sunny weeks.
All those leaching plastics absorbing right into your spongy organs.

Now here we go on PLASTICS.

Then we have the warnings about keeping emergency supplies on-hand all the time.
Making sure we have adequate water in case of a crisis, etc.

People.
I hardly have positively edible items to pack in ONE kid's lunch every day, let alone 400 gallons of water just stacked waiting in my garage.
Even if I had 400 gallons, I wouldn't have room to put them.
I can barely pull the van in without scratching the sides on various used baby gear and a pyramid of half-full paint cans.

Or what about the pharmaceutical commercials for medications treating things like itchy scalp or dry skin that go on for three solid minutes because of the need to warn that they may cause stroke
or uncontrolled bleeding
or anal leakage
or personality disorders with thoughts of suicide.
Good grief!
I'll just scratch my head with a pencil, Thank you very much.

There is no hangnail that can justify oily discharge.

And as if the warnings are enough to give you a stress induced seizure, other PEOPLE are.

The other day I mentioned to a friend that Justin had had a headache for two days.
They asked me how his blood pressure was.
"It's great," I said.
"He has the blood pressure of a toddler."
"That's good," they said.
"Because I had a friend who had a bad headache and the next day they were dead of a brain aneurysm."

*blink* *blink*

Um....Thanks?
I'll keep an eye on his pulse.

*blink*

You think all these warnings are insane?
That we've gone overboard?
Well, apparently there are people out there who actually need
every
single
thing
written out for them in black and white.
They need the pillow tags.
After all, "They're there for a reason."

Without the warnings, these people would just go bumping into walls and walking into traffic.
They'd lick batteries.
They'd blow dry their hair while bathing thinking they'd be saving time.

As we speak, our mall's parking garage meter arm audibly states in a VERY loud manner,
"DO NOT WALK UNDER GATE ARM. DO NOT WALK UNDER GATE ARM."
All because some idiot walked under it one day, even though there was a 60 foot clearance on either side, as it was descending and got clocked in the head and later sued the mall because "they didn't know not to walk under it. No one had told them."

Let's see.....It's a 200 pound piece of moving metal.....

Seems pretty cut and dry, but maybe that's just me.

There was even an article about it in the paper.


And my daughter Chloe,
at almost seven years of age, has JUST gotten over her fear of escalators.
Why was she scared of escalators, you ask?
Because of this warning that is on elevators.
She thought the picture meant there would be fire on something that looked like stairs so you'd better run and run FAST.
Taking her to any place with a second story has been a nightmare for years.
Most of the family goes one way, and The Keeper of Chloe goes another.
We have to make plans for where to meet.

All of this has prompted me to make my own set of signs.
I think I'm going to post them all over town.
They will simply say,
"Use Your Brain. It's That Thing That Keeps Your Ears From Touching."

I'm going to put them everywhere.
At every four-way stop, at the very least.

It's no wonder our blood pressures are soaring and our pulses are racing.
Look what we have to contend with.

If the food's not killing us, the stress alone is.

I just wanted to watch a show and rotate my tight ankles while they were propped on the couch!
I didn't want to be panic dialing an on-call physician because that commercial convinced me I have liver disease.

I just wanted to take a trip to the mall where I could eat a flipping chicken bowl for lunch and browse at Sephora!
Now I'm probably dying of arsenic poisoning and absorbing toxic plastics through my skin from a Chanel sample.

I just wanted to not get bludgeoned in the night!
Now I have to trek back up the stairs to get my blasted keys that I forgot on my night stand, and I'm already late, and I HATE going back upstairs.

I just want to live in peace.
I want some occasional silence.
I want to sometimes smell the pages of an actual book.
I want to take pictures of my kids and not be worried I'm going to have to jack a foo' with a shiv later.
And mostly,
I want to not have to think about EVERY SINGLE MOVE I MAKE ALL THE TIME.

It's exhausting.

So how about another sign?
A STOP sign.

We have enough to worry about.

Let's all just take a lesson from Under the Tuscan Sun.
Let's ride a bike with a basket in the sun and buy some flowers we weren't planning on buying.
Let's lovingly dust something off while we do a wistful half-smile at nothing.
And let's all just STOP FREAKING OUT.

When I was younger, there was an old bum that used to sing "Que Sera Sera" at the local coffee shop's open mic every single week.
Only that.
One song, then he was done.
My friends and I made fun.
Now I see that maybe he was on to something.

Whatever will be will be.

EXHALE

Fear is not nearly as powerful as Living, so why is Living letting Fear win?

In summary:

More pictures of your cat,
Fewer links to Danger and Woe.







Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Notes From the Nest


Today was Alena's first day of high school.

We woke up when it was still dark out.
Something that is NOT high on my list of favorites.
If God intended us to be awake at those hours, He would have given us basic things then
- Like the ability to SEE.

I helped her blow dry her hair and put on her makeup through bleary eyes.
We discussed which earrings she'd wear.
I microwaved a breakfast sandwich, wrapped it in a paper towel and printed her a map of the campus.
I took pictures of her outside in the designated "First-Day-Of-School-Picture-Spot."
I told her to "do her REAL smile."


Then we were off.

She was quiet through almost the entire car ride.
I kept glancing at her in the mirror.

"Are you nervous?" I asked.
"More excited than nervous, She said.

When we pulled into the bus circle I got nervous.
There was a SEA of kids.
My high school memories came flooding back.
Good, bad, and great.

The freshmen were as obvious as if they'd been doused in red paint.
Not just because they were smaller, but because their pupils took up the entire colored part of their eyes, and lots of them were still with a parent.
Like Bush Babies, every last one.
They all looked like if you shouted, they'd scatter and shake and cling to a limb.


There were two freshman boys standing in front of the main sign.
It was clear they'd probably called each other last night and agreed to meet there.
They poured nervously over their schedules and looked back and forth at the map, then around the school, trying to figure out what to do and where to go.

Obviously THEIR parents hadn't taken them to the campus on two separate days to walk around and find each class to help ease their first day panic even though it was a hundred degrees and they had three other little kids with them complaining that they were hot.

*Eh hem*

I noticed the big girl with greasy hair who walked alone.
Day one and she already looked like she knew her year would be awful.

I could see the senior boys surveying the new girls,
and the senior girls who knew they would be and had,therefore, dressed accordingly.

I saw girls that looked like they thought prom was on the very first day.

I saw boys who looked like their parents had thrown them in the back of a truck still asleep and dumped them at the front steps with just an uncrustable in a bag.

I saw a lot of new shoes, and some kids you could tell had maybe never had some.

I started sighting several of Alena's friends from Jr. High and felt relief for her because I TOTALLY remember how it felt the first day.
I had spotted the only person I knew and clung to her.
My life raft in shark infested waters.

I'll never forget walking into science class and attempting to sit looking super cool in the swivel chairs they had at the tables
and having mine fly out from underneath me leaving me flat on my back on the floor.

Hi. I'm Kerri. Nice to meet you all. Are my bangs flat now?

I saw what I viewed as the trendy, the lonely, the goths, and the geeks,
and then I saw my daughter exit the car and gather her stuff, kiss me goodbye, and head off to greet her friends like it was nothing.

I felt so proud of her.

Like, Dangerously close to bursting into song proud.

Proud because I know that she won't see things the way you'd worry some kids would.
Proud knowing she will look past the skinny lonely boy and see that he's really super smart and fun to be around.
Proud that she'll probably try to befriend the big girl because she doesn't like it when people are alone.

Sometimes watching her feels like watching magic happen.

Alena is a friend to everyone.
She's a complimenter.
She's an encourager.
She sees a need and tries to fill it.

She is going to totally thrive.
I just know it.

I mean, I wish I REALLY knew it - Like with surveillance video or one of those Nanny Cams disguised as a bear or something, but still...

I circled around in the car and drove past her slowly, rolling down my window.
She was standing talking to a friend I didn't even know.
I did loud fake wailing cries and yelled her name as I passed.
It was really the least I could do.
I mean, I DO have a reputation to uphold.

She waved and I drove.
I was blocking up the bus circle with my neediness.

And then I got just past the school and started to feel like I was choking.

This was it.
I'd nudged her from the nest and she was flying on her own.
As a matter of fact, she hadn't even looked back at me until I'd called her name.
It's happening.
She's leaving me.

Before I knew it she'd be sitting in bleachers watching her boyfriend on the field under the field lights;
Excited breath like smoke in the night air.
Soon she'll be driving and wanting to go to dances and maybe even, Dear God help me,

on DATES.

I feel like she is ready, but also like there are some things she still needs to know.

Like
That this is when it really begins.

That these are the years she will probably remember most and think back on most often.
At least until she has children of her own and then is left thinking only about how fast they're growing up.

That the words she says now will be remembered and worn and used to form someone's sense of self,
so to choose them carefully.

That the words other people say to her can do one of two things.
They can scar her or they can spur her on, and which one they do is up to her.

That every hurtful thing that happens in those walls can be turned to triumph.

That one day she can look back and use every episode, every trial, every heartbreak for her own good.
Stepping stones to personal greatness.
That growth cannot happen without pain. Stretching hurts, but it's necessary to keep you flexible.

That she will probably get her heart broken at least once by someone she wished would love her,
and meanwhile,
another someone would love her and she'd never even know it.
That one day she'd look back and be grateful that she got passed by by that heart-breaker,
because she will see that it led to someone who could love her in the way she could never even understand in high school.

That she doesn't have to be the smartest,
the most beautiful,
the most popular,
the most wealthy,
the most athletic,
or the best at everything.
That all she needs is to be herself, because who she is is one of the most beautiful treasures - worth more than any title.

That it's OK to struggle at something, because for every struggle, there will be a success at something else and all of life is about balance.

To never judge herself by what she sees in those crappy high school bathroom and gym locker mirrors.
They're warped and scratched and are never your true reflection anyway.

That her thoughts of herself will be in constant metamorphasis, but mine and God's will not.

I will never doubt who she is.

She is mine and I am hers and that is all that matters.
Just as it's always been from that very first time I sat alone with her in the hospital room with her tiny hand wrapped around my index finger.

And I know she needs to learn this on her own.
I know that my words cannot ever be her only teacher.
I know that some lessons cannot be taught by another person, but only by experience.

But I hope, above all, that she can always choose to see the value in herself that I see in her.
That she will never surrender that easily.

Today was the first day since her very first day in school that I haven't written a note on the napkin and tucked it in her lunch.

This note just wouldn't fit on a napkin.


Alena, I love you.

Now FLY.












Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Perceived Crisis, Meet Actual Crisis

The other day we set out for the outlet malls.
We all piled into the van as usual with Chloe and Tessa fighting over which booster seat they'd get and Alena begging to PLEASE sit by Paige and NOT *eyeroll* by them.
Nothing new under the sun.
I settled my purse by my feet and secured my water bottle into the cup holder.
I handed Paige a book over my shoulder as she has trained me.
Then I put the car in reverse and began to back out of the driveway.

That was the moment a cry rang out from the backseat unlike any I had ever heard.
A WAIL like a siren.
A cry so loud,
so panic stricken,
so alarming,
that I was POSITIVE when I turned around there would be blood splatter on the back window, and limbs strewn about.

It was Tessa.

The veins in her neck were bulging and her eyes were the size of dinner plates.
She looked clammy.

I slammed on the brakes.

"Tessa?! What on EARTH is the matter?!" I asked.

When I heard the answer, I just sat frozen.
I locked eyes with her in the rear-view mirror and just kept staring for a minute.
Was this for real?
Was this really happening?
Was I on some sort of acid trip?

"My seatbelt isn't buckled yet."
She moaned.

Now I am all for safety while in a car.
I am 100% on board with always ALWAYS buckling up.
I have actually reported parents to the police before who I have seen driving with their toddler standing up on the rear seat completely unbuckled.

It wasn't the being unbuckled.
It was the complete and utter PANIC that happened before and as she told me.

"Tessa. It's OK. Just tell me next time. Good grief. You almost gave me a stroke."

It took a good 10 minutes for her to return to her normal self.
15 before she was back to annoying Chloe.

What a freak.

Then, the very next day, while I was applying my makeup, I heard footsteps.
It was Alena.
Her hands were clasped around something I couldn't see and her face was ashen.

"Mama! I need help!" She said.
The tone of her voice was worry mixed with fear and had a dash of terror added.
She was almost shaking.

I got worried.

The weirdest thing is that the first thing my imagination came up with that was happening was that she was clasping some sort of mangled baby bird that the kitten had gotten ahold of.
I was picturing making sutures out of fishing line, and possibly having to heat the hot glue gun.

When she opened her hands, it took me a second to even figure out what she was holding.

What IS that?......

"Tessa broke it. I can't get it to work now."
Her voice cracked like she was on the very brink of tears.

The Laser pointer.

It was the LASER POINTER?!
The little key-chain attachment laser pointer that we got to play with the kitten?

The battery was missing.
The button was jammed.

For the love of all that is Holy.

Can someone please explain to me how a LASER POINTER is worthy of tears and trembling and sending one's own mother into stress triggered A-FIB?

"Honey. This is NOT a crisis. I will fix it later when I'm done getting ready."
"But the BUTTON IS STUCK!" She burst.

And that is when I realized:

My kids have NO ability to judge the difference between PERCEIVED crisis and ACTUAL crisis.
And I realized it was time they learn.

Therefore,
I have created a master list of scenarios to aid in the detection of Actual Crisis.
When in doubt, they can access this list and weigh out the likenesses of their own situation in their own minds.

I hope this helps:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
PERCEIVED CRISIS vs. ACTUAL CRISIS


*There is a man with a chainsaw hiding in your rear floor-board after you pump gas. You do not see him until it is too late.
*ACTUAL CRISIS

*Tessa won't hang up her swimsuit and the floor got wet by your bed.
*PERCEIVED CRISIS

*Your shoelace gets caught in the rungs of the escalator at the mall and your foot is then detached at the ankle in front of multiple onlookers.
Mall goers shriek and panic. A stampede breaks out.
*ACTUAL CRISIS

*"She got the pink one."
*PERCEIVED CRISIS

*A flash flood ravages your entire county and the only way out of your home is by helicopter that never comes.
You are forced to eat a beloved family pet.
*ACTUAL CRISIS

*Chloe is laying on the right side of the bed and you wanted that SIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDEEEEE. And she had it LAST time!!!!!!!
*PERCEIVED CRISIS

*You are casually looking out of a 50 story window when an earthquake hits, shattering the glass and pitching you outside where you hang on to the window ledge by your fingertips. You then remember that earlier in the day you had received a text message saying that your mother had been kidnapped and if you did not respond to the text by 3:00pm, she would be tortured and killed. You had forgotten to respond. It is now 2:59pm.
*ACTUAL

*The bee won't leave your meat alone.
*PERCEIVED

* Your arm gets wedged in between boulders and you have to use your own pocket knife to cut it off and then find help after two days of drinking your own urine for hydration.
Everyone you love thinks you're dead.
*ACTUAL CRISIS

*Someone drank the last watermelon Honest Kids and you really wanted that last Honest Kids because last time you asked for it and she took it and then she promised you that you could have it the next time but then she took it anyway even though she told you you could have it next time, and......



*PERCEIVED
FREAKING
CRISIS.

To make matters even more clear, dear children, I have also composed a
CHECKLIST FOR ACTUAL CRISIS.

Use this for self evaluation:

Am I bleeding profusely?
Am I even bleeding at ALL?
Is a crime in progress that is punishable by time in a federal prison?
Do I, or someone around me, suddenly qualify for a teardrop tattoo?
Will it ruin yet ANOTHER article of Mama's clothing?
Is the mere sight of it enough to cause someone to have an actual cardiac event?
Could I die from it?
Could someone I love die from it?
Has anyone in the history of time ever died from it?

If you have answered "Yes" to any of the above questions, Proceed to "Actual Crisis Protocol."

*ACTUAL CRISIS PROTOCOL*
Call 911.

Hello.
Obviously.

If you answered "No", then you will follow "Perceived Crisis Protocol."

*PERCEIVED CRISIS PROTOCOL*
Take a breath.
Sit down.
Consciously make your voice three octaves lower than is your first crisis-loving instinct.
That VOICE you're using technically gives ME reason to use Actual Crisis Protocol.

*If something you own is cracked, broken, leaking, melting, wilting, running, torn, too soft, too hard, too cold or too hot- NOT A CRISIS.
*If you are bleeding but I still would require a magnifying glass to locate the injury- NOT A CRISIS.
*If anyone took your anything and you had it first - I repeat - NOT A CRISIS.

People have REAL needs in life!
Food.
Water that is not contaminated.
Vaccines.
Shelter from the elements.

You want help picking the bits of your chewed up La La Loopsy out of the dog crate because your arms are sore from the Wii?
That's not one of them.

If you spend most of your days with a roof over your head and a big bowl of something called "Cheddar Rockets" in your lap and you never have to leave your seat to even get the mail let alone find a well,
chances are you will rarely ever have an ACTUAL CRISIS.

I'm not trying to be mean.
I'm just trying to do my job as a mother.
The job that says that I need to somehow form you into an adult that doesn't freak out every time they have to stand in line or they don't get the parking spot they want.
An adult that can hold it together in Costco when for some unexplicable reason Kleenex stops making their kleenex boxes in 16 oz. size and now they are 14 oz.s for the same price.

And who checks the weight on Kleenex ANYWAY?!

It's my duty that you know this.

It's my job to make you awesome and to teach you how to handle things and to simply COPE.

So, in summary:

There are far too many nut jobs out there already.

Don't be one of them.

Take a deep breath,
Assess the list,
And

JUST

CALM

DOWN.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Thumb-Down to Top-Up

I had to call Virgin Mobile tonight.
Calling tech-support is the bane of my very existence.

Justin and I, and our po-dunk roots are ghetto, and we have only recently even stepped up from flip phones with 1.5 inch screens.
The switch was prompted by looking around at dinner one night as all our friends watched the latest You-Tube video on their iPhones and we just sat picking our teeth, unable to watch You-Tube on phones that were less technologically advanced than Etch-a-Sketches.

We upgraded, and therefore now have the ever illustrious pay-as-you-go plan that requires "Top-Up" cards be purchased once a month at Target and then loaded onto our accounts in order for our phones to work at all.
It's cheap, and cheap is good;
But it's ghetto.

Last night I had purchased said cards and applied them to our phones online.
I have done it multiple times.
I'm no Steve Jobs, but I'm no chimpanzee, either.
I had made sure to read the
"Congratulations! Your Top-Up is complete!" message after both Top-Ups, and rejoiced the next day when my phone was working again.

Justin, however, was not so lucky.

His phone said it was out of minutes still.
He'd tried to text me twice today and the text just got bounced back.

So I called them and I tapped my fingers.

Just like I had called last month when I added minutes and for some reason the minutes I'd added to his phone had been added to mine,
resulting in me having double the minutes I needed and him having none.

It had taken 3 Indian men and a prayer to a cow to figure it out and transfer the minutes from my account to his.

They told me I must have keyed something in wrong.

I told THEM, "False."

This time when I called I got a sweet little woman, at least a continent away, who I can only guess was new, and who promised
"I will try and be doing everything in my power to be of assistance to you with your troubles."


Golly.
Thanks.

THESE are the events which followed:


AGENT: "HOW MAY I BE HELPING YOU, MAAM?"

ME: "Well, yesterday I bought two top-up cards. One for my phone and one for my husband's. When I brought home the top-up cards and applied them online, it said everything had been successful, but today my husband's phone is not working. When I applied the cards last month, this same thing happened. It ended up that, for some reason, both top-up cards had been applied to MY phone only, and then he had no minutes."

AGENT: "I WILL BE SEEING WHAT I CAN DO FOR YOU. MAY I HAVE THE PIN NUMBER FROM THE TOP UP CARD?"

ME: "Do you want the numbers from BOTH cards, or just one?"

AGENT: "OH. YOU SAY YOU HAVE TWO CARDS, MAAM?"

ME: "Yes. That's what I said."

*TYPING*

This is when I explained my whole first paragraph, in entirety, again, and read off the numbers.

ME: "147278378983."
AGENT: "OK. THAT'S '147228378983."
ME: "No. I'll read it again. ONE. FOUR. SEVEN. TWO. SEVEN. EIGHT. THREE. SEVEN. EIGHT. NINE. EIGHT. THREE."
AGENT: "I AM VERY SORRY. I SEEM TO BE MISSING A NUMBER."

I read it again.

Four times.

AGENT: "I AM SORRY, MAAM, BUT IN MY SYSTEM, I AM SHOWING THAT THAT TOP-UP NUMBER HAS ALREADY BEEN USED."

ME: "I know. That is because I used it. Yesterday. When I bought the cards. I went online and used the cards and it told me my top-up was successful."

*pause*

*TYPING*

AGENT: "OH! I AM SEEING, MA'AM. THE PROBLEM I HAVE DETECTED IS THAT THIS ACCOUNT IS ALSO REGISTERED TO KERRI GREEN."

ME: "That is ME. *I* am Kerri Green."

*pause*


AGENT: "MAAM, I AM VERY SORRY BUT YOUR HUSBAND'S ACCOUNT IS SHOWING THAT IT HAS NO MINUTES AVAILABLE, AND BOTH OF THE TOP-UP CARD NUMBERS YOU HAVE GIVEN ME ARE SHOWING UP THAT THEY HAVE BEEN USED."

ME: "That is EXACTLY why I'm calling. Because yesterday I bought two top-up cards and put them on the phones, but one phone is working and the other isn't. I am suspecting that the same thing happened that happened last month, which is that both top up cards got applied to my phone number by mistake, and none got applied to his."

AGENT: "ARE YOU ABLE TO REPEAT THAT PIN NUMBER FOR ME MAAM?"

ME: "I'm sorry. What was that? I was busy jabbing out my eardrums with a burning hot poker. Can you repeat the question?"

AGENT: "I'M AFRAID I CANNOT GET YOUR HUSBAND'S PHONE WORKING IF YOU DO NOT HAVE ANY MINUTES PURCHASED, MAAM."

ME: "But I DID purchase minutes. I purchased TWO CARDS. I think both cards got put on my phone and none ended up on his. I need to transfer minutes from my phone to his phone."

*TYPING*
*MORE TYPING*

AGENT: "CAN YOU BE HOLDING ON FOR JUST ONE MINUTE, MAAM? I AM GOING TO TRY TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF YOUR ISSUE. I AM THANKING YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE."

Here is where I paused for NOT just one minute, but 10.
Finally, she came back on the line.

AGENT: "MAAM, SORRY TO KEEP YOU WAITING, MAAM. I BELIEVE I HAVE FOUND WHAT IS CAUSING YOUR ISSUE, MAAM. IT APPEARS THAT WHAT HAS HAPPENED IS THAT WHEN YOU ADDED MINUTES WITH THE TOP-UP CARDS YESTERDAY, FOR SOME REASON BOTH TOP-UP CARD AMOUNTS WENT ONTO YOUR PHONE AND YOUR HUSBAND DIDN'T GET ANY."

Oh
for
the
love
of
GOD.

ME: "That is what I said in the beginning! Can I please transfer the minutes?!"

AGENT: "PLEASE HOLD FOR JUST A MINUTE, MAAM, AND I WILL TRANSFER YOU TO THE DEPARTMENT THAT CAN HANDLE THAT FOR YOU. I HOPE I HAVE ASSISTED YOU WITH EXCELLENCE."

Transfer music.

Poking out of eyeballs with mechanical pencil.

Wishing for a wood chipper to stick my head into.

Then it came.
The voice of true help!
Could it be?!
The right department for all of my needs?!

AGENT 2: "HELLO, MAAM. HOW MAY I BEING OF ASSISTANCE TODAY?"

ME: "Well, you see, yesterday I bought two-top up cards........"