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.

Arise and
MOTHER Africa.

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

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

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 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.

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.

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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
Stop scratching it. It's smearing.
Yes, we will eat dinner. I know you're hungry. I said we'd get something.

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.

The Evil Queen doesn't pick wedgies.
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!

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

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.