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,


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

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.

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:

*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.

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

*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.

*"She got the pink one."

*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.

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

*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.

*The bee won't leave your meat alone.

* 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.

*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......


To make matters even more clear, dear children, I have also composed a

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."

Call 911.


If you answered "No", then you will follow "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!
Water that is not contaminated.
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,