Oh, so sorry to hear it, because that's what I'm serving today. Actually, this is some writing I did just before I started my blog, so consider it a little taste of summer in this cold season.
August 1, 2007
Today we went to the city pool. My son Tommy has a love/hate relationship with the pool. He desperately wants to jump in and swim, but he doesn’t quite trust his own abilities and mostly stays close to the sides and the steps in the shallow end. He watches his friends jump and slide and swim without a care, and he is just eaten up with the longing to do the same.
I'll just stop right here and say that my kids have never had swim lessons and I feel guilty about it. My friend Julie, whose family went with us to the pool, has her kids in lessons year round. They know more strokes than I knew existed and they swim competitively at the ages of 6 and 8. They are wonderful athletes, and my kids are deprived because I am too broke and/or too lazy to take them to swim lessons. There. I got that off my chest.
Today was the day Tommy decided he wanted to go down the slide like all of his friends were doing. He begged and pleaded and whined about how much he wanted to go down that slide. I told him that he could certainly go down the slide, but he needed to be able to jump into four feet of water and swim to the edge without help (and without floaties) before I would let him go over there. So he climbed out of the water, trotted over to the only slightly deeper side, and proceeded to have a meltdown on the side of the pool because he was too scared to jump in. Then he started to go back to the shallow side, but something inside his little heart called him back to the edge, and he turned around and came back.
This continued, back and forth, for about 15 minutes. When I told him to just forget it and go swim in the shallow end, his crying intensified, and I felt myself considering having a meltdown of my own. There was no reasoning with this child at this point. He was in such turmoil, deeply desiring to do something that terrified him.
Finally, he mustered up the courage to jump off. He coached me about where I need to stand, (“Closer, Mama, closer!”) and then, after much cajoling, heartily went for it. He leaped out into what he thought would be my arms, only I moved away at the last second so he would hit the water. In a moment of sheer panic, he reached out for the only thing within his grasp, which was, unfortunately, the top of my bathing suit. He used the leverage he gained after pulling my bathing suit down, which caused me to lean in toward him, to hook his other arm in a chokehold around my neck. So there we were in the water, me struggling to disengage his arms from my windpipe while making sure my girls were all covered up, and him screaming and crying over the betrayal and the sheer frustration of being afraid to swim.
Thankfully, the whistle blew for adult swim and we had ten minutes to regroup. It was past time to go, everyone was tired and getting cranky, but Tommy was haunted by that slide. I looked at Julie, and said, “I think I’ll just let him go down. The lifeguard can fish him out if he gets in trouble.” And, good friend that she is, she agreed. We also agreed that if he did have to be rescued by the lifeguard, we just wouldn’t come back to this pool for the rest of the summer. It would be too embarrassing.
As soon as the whistle blew, Tommy solemnly climbed the stairs up to the slide. I positioned myself close to the roped off area in the pool to cheer on my brave boy. He reached the top of the stairs and stood behind the giant blue tube that would transport him one step closer to manhood. And froze. He wouldn’t budge. His mind was terrified, but his heart wouldn’t let him back down. I tried encouraging him. I promised him a dollar. I begged him. I ordered him to just come back down the stairs. He would not move.
Finally, the calls of the children in line convinced him to come down the steps in humiliation. To my surprise, he walked right back to the end of the line to wait for another chance. He stood in line, smiling. “I’ll do it this time, Mama.” This continued for another five minutes or so, climbing up, freaking out, climbing back down again to wait for another chance.
At last, my loyal friend Julie looked at me and said, “Do you want me to push him?”
“YES,” I replied, sorry I hadn’t thought of it earlier. This is why Julie’s kids can swim and mine can’t.
Julie marched right up there to the top of the stairs, pried his hands off the sides of that slide and gave him a good shove. I could hear her sweet little voice saying, “Come on, you can do it!” as she heaved him into the tube. Tommy came flailing down the slide and into the water with a splash. Almost instantly, his head popped up, his eyes wide with shock, and he lunged in my direction. As soon as he reached my fingertips, he began crying. Screaming, actually. He resumed his death grip around my neck, and continued crying inconsolably as I trudged up the steps out of the pool and began trying to pack up my belongings to go home. Julie looked slightly remorseful, and I was trying to hide my smile.
Naturally, about this time, three year old Katie started crying because she wanted to be picked up, too, and my six year old, Grace, started whining because she wanted a turn to go off the slide now that she realized Tommy was getting a dollar and she was not. (On a side note, she had done the dance up and down the ladder four or five times that day and had never mustered the courage to go though with it.)
We made quite a scene exiting that pool, with all three of my children whining and crying, me threatening them with bodily harm if they don’t stop fussing, and Julie and her kids walking quietly and oh-so-well-behaved behind us.
Later that evening, I heard Tommy proudly telling his Daddy that he went down the slide at the city pool.
We decided at the last minute to take a trip out East, a very spur of the moment thing to do, also pretty much insane for a family of five plus a dog, but we've packed and loaded the car and we're headed out in the morning.
It'll be a pretty quick trip, meaning the drive time will be almost equal to the visiting time, but I have two new baby nephews to snuggle, and I can't wait. It's always hard to be away from my loved ones at this time of year, especially when they're all under one roof eating gumbo and promising to e-mail me pictures. So I'll show them, I'll just bring my crew and crash their party. Ha.
Meanwhile, I'll be away from the ol' blog for a while, but I do have a few extra posts up my sleeve, so be sure to come back and visit soon. I promise, it'll be worthwhile. I'll give you a hint: you'll get to see me with some lovely tall curling-ironed bangs. All crunchy with hairspray. Oh, it'll be fun.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Have a wonder-filled, peaceful, merry Christmas! Love, Chrissy
The Big Guy arrived to an onslaught of paparazzi and hordes of squealing, adoring fans. Some were more reserved. Some began to grow suspicious of his authenticity. They questioned his nerdy glasses and creepy, gnarled hands. Others were unsure about wiry, loose-fitting beard. Some just didn't like him at all, and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. But they were all won over by his gifts of chocolate.
Until he drove away into the night in his Nissan Sentra, and the questions began again.
I'm not the kind of person that's good at tending to details. Details don't bother me. I don't sweat them. I'm not meticulous about anything. I do not make excuses for my children when they dress themselves in mismatched clothing. I do not lose sleep at night if there are dirty dishes in the sink. I'm perfectly comfortable reading a book (or a blog) with two baskets of laundry strewn on my couch.
In fact, I'm comfortable with a certain level of messiness around me. I function well in it. I feel at home in it. I'm just a left-handed, right-brained, scattered-about, disorganized mess, and I'm okay with that. If I lived alone, I would have no conflict whatsoever with my natural inclination towards chaos.
However, it seems that I have found myself in charge of running a household. A household filled with other messy, disorganized, scattered-about messes who continuously need me to manage the whereabouts of petty little things like socks and cold medicine. They are constantly expecting me to be able to identify where their mittens are and where the black sparkly tights are that go with this pretty Christmas dress, with matching hairbows that we haven't seen in a couple of weeks, which I suspect are on the floor of my car.
I gotta tell you, I'm flunking out in this department. I just don't have the organizational skills to stay on top of this stuff. I am constantly searching for things.
Which brings us to Monday. Brownie meeting day. In the afternoons, I must leave my house by 3:25 to arrive at the carpool lane at school just in time to meet my daughter and Brownie friends at the curb. So of course, I sat at my computer on Monday until the clock read 3:23. (I just had to check a couple of blogs and leave my witty comments, you know, because I know how much people crave my witty comments.) At 3:23, I rounded up my younger kids and headed for my car, but.....where are my keys? Not here. Not there. Not in the kitchen. Not by the front door. Not in my coat pocket. Not in my purse.
I looked everywhere for my keys, and my frustration level rose as each minute ticked by. Finally, at 3:35, I found my husband's keys and dashed out the door, only to remember as the door was slamming that he doesn't keep a house key on his car key chain. (Why, honey? Why do you do that?) I pushed on, and arrived to find my little girls in brown sitting dejectedly on the curb at 3:39 while their teacher patiently waited. I apologized profusely and zoomed back home to find the rest of the Brownie troop waiting at my front door to be let in.
At the end of the day, exasperated at my inability to find my keys, I checked one last place for them: on the hook in the kitchen. Where they belong.
but it turns out I have access to unlimited free child labor right here in my own home. Here they are, working diligently to mass produce sugar cookies for my consumption: Pay no attention to that cluttered kitchen you see behind her. My minions will clean that up next. And quit looking at my 1970's wood paneling. It's coming back in style, I swear. At my cookie factory, we are all about the business of making cookies.
No smiling is allowed. Back to work! And no sampling the icing!
You can tell by his bedhead and beleaguered expression that this one was up before dawn to begin his labor. Look alive, kid. You haven't met your quota. Never mind that sewing machine in the background. I'll put the littlest one to work on that after her cookie shift has ended. She's still got a good eight hours or so left before her next cocoa break.
The little sucker finally let go. At last, Grace is free from the public scorn and humiliation of being the only first grader with all her baby teeth. She can now add 'tooth pulling' to her resume, which also includes such recent additions as: 'bike riding', 'shoe tying', and 'chapter book reading'.
She has excellent credentials for a seven year old.
I attended a Christmas Party this weekend that you people would not believe. I work part time at a group home for teenage girls, and the party was for the girls who reside there as well as the staff.
The Junior League does a lot of volunteer work for our group home, and a few weeks ago, they sent out these mysterious, unsigned invitations to come and have a "Shopping Party". They solicited donations of jewelry, shoes, clothes, and purses from all their folks, and set up a banquet room at the Hilton with racks and tables like it was a store. When we arrived at the party, they gave each of the girls and staff an envelope of Monopoly money and told us to go and shop. (Have I mentioned that I LOVE the Junior League?)
Now let me say that all of this stuff was second hand, but you could tell it was donated by the type of women that shop at Neiman's and that wouldn't be caught dead in last season's Banana Republic off-white cashmere sweater. So they donated it to us. Yeah.
(And by the way, last year's fashions are still five years ahead of the way I currently dress, so I have no problem with them.)
Anyway, another good thing about the fashion mavens that donated these clothes is that, well, they just don't dress like teenage girls. So when I found nice things, like say a fabulous J. Crew burgundy corduroy blazer, or an Ann Taylor sweater, I tried, I really tried, to offer it to the girls, so they could have something nice, you know, and every time, they would look at me, roll their goth-eyeliner eyes, and say:
"Ms. Chrissy. Ewww."
And I would cackle wildly and stuff the item into my shopping bag.
The girls did get a lot of good stuff, and we went home and spent the afternoon trying on clothes and squealing and exclaiming about how cute we all were. Then we went to the movies to see Enchanted and I wore my new pink sweater complete with matching pink and brown belt and necklace, and my new Gap leather jacket and matching purseand boots. It was a good day at work. It was truly a blessing poured out on me by God. I loved it.
As for the cashmere sweater, the one with the $178 price tag still attached (!), I quickly did the math and calculated that:
Off-white cashmere sweater + Living in my house = Certain heartbreak for me
So it went to live with our staff therapist who has no kids and can care for it properly. But I did get to hold it and snuggle it for a while before she pried it out of my hands.
**Oh, the girls had a good time cracking jokes about my awesome pink and purple KangaROOs (you have to capitalizeROO, according to Google), but I just told them, "The shoes are quirky, and so am I, so we go together." And they all agreed.
That's right. KangaROOS, circa 1982. Except mine are spring green on the bottom, making them more 80's-liscious than ever. Now all I need are some leg-warmers, a side ponytail, and some Love's Baby Soft, and I'll be ready for anything.
I got them as a gift at a Christmas party this weekend, and I also scored a red ankle-length trench coat, so now I am also prepared for detective work, should the need arise.
The first mystery to be solved: What should I put in my zippered pouch?
Oh yeah, they're done. Sorry to rub your face in it, but I actually got them done early. You mean you didn't? (gloating laugh).
Truthfully, I rarely get them sent out before December 23rd, so I have no right to ridicule any of you late-senders. Or early-to-mid-senders, as it is still the first week of December.
As it happens, I entered a blog giveaway contest back around Halloween or so and won a free set of custom-designed cards, which forced me to orchestrate the annual Christmas photo shoot when it was still ninety degrees outside, which felt wrong. So don't hate me for being on the ball. In real life I'm not at all organized.
I hesitated to put them up on the blog because, well, they have my last name on them, plus, I didn't want to spoil anyone's gleeful surprise when they got theirs in the mail (I'm just certain that's how people react when they get my cards).
Anyway, last night I found my card posted on Weelittledesigns, which is, incidentally, the website that gave me all the fabulous free cards, and it cracked me up because they had put a pseudonym on them, so of course I had to post it: Aren't they darling? I told Pete just the other day how darling these cards were, really. Just darling. And then he said to me, "Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good." Then we just laughed and laughed.
This is the tree from the first Christmas we celebrated after purchasing our first home. We were both out of college and working full time by then, and children were still a year or two in the future. I remember coming home from work every evening and plopping down on the couch to watch TV until Greg got home, when we would debate which restaurant we wanted to eat at, and whether or not we wanted to see a movie afterwards.
I really thought my life was stressful back then. I had such a strong desire to fill one of the empty bedrooms in that home with nursery furniture. I fantasized that if I could just have a baby, then I could quit my job at the children's psychiatric home and be a stay-at-home mom, and my life would be so much better.
That year, we drove out to a Christmas tree farm, picked up a hand saw, and wandered through the acres until we found just the right one. Then my lumberjack hubby felled the tree and dragged it what seemed like two miles back to the car.
We got it home, wrestled it into the tree holder, and spent hours perfecting the location of each and every ornament. This was before the days of popsicle stick crafts from Sunday School, before the days of putting the breakable ornaments up high so little hands wouldn't grab them. After meticulously measuring the exact symmetry of each decoration, I placed a giant stash of previously wrapped presents under the tree, one of which happened to be a box of Whitman's chocolates I had bought for a coworker.
See that sweet-faced little dog in the photo? Back in those days she was a pampered pooch, and was used to royal treatment like baths and grooming and pretty little bows. (Now she's scraggly, stinky, and forgotten, I'm afraid). Perhaps she had a premonition of her future mistreatment, because while I was at work the next day, she sniffed out that box of chocolates and chowed down on it, and in the process knocked down the entire tree.
When I opened the front door that evening after work, I was greeted by the tip top of the tree right in my face. I wrestled my way in the door and attempted in vain to return the tree to its former glory.
I learned a lot of lessons that day, not the least of which was how to induce vomiting in a dog. I wouldn't have thought so at the time, but looking back now I think of the days in that house as happy ones, maybe tinged with a little sadness and longing for what I didn't have. The years we spent there were the last years we would have before children, the last days of freedom before the real work began. Had I known then the three little blessings that God would pour out on us, one after another, I could have spent less time worrying and hoping, and more time just enjoying the gifts I had already been given.
This is the Christmas tree that Greg and I put up the first year that we were married. We called it our Charlie Brown Tree. So scrawny and pitiful. There were probably six ornaments on the tree, and apparently only one present. The bow on top was recycled from my wedding bouquet. Don't you love that disco ball ornament? (Yeah, we still have that one.) What a magical thing it was to see the reflection of the disco ball against those lovely cinder block walls.
And I especially love how we had to squeeze the tree in between the kitchen table and the living room love seat, so no one could sit at the table without the tree poking them in the back of the head.
We were seniors in college, going to school full time and working part time, and we were B-R-O-K-E. We had an "apartment", if you want to call it that, that was part of the school's married housing dorm. It was actually two dorm rooms connected by a bathroom with a stove thrown haphazardly into one of them. No countertops, no cabinets to store kitchen stuff. Our pots and pans and dishes were stored in crates stacked on the floor, and we had two of those little dorm-sized refrigerators. The rent was a whopping $250 a month, and we used to say it was worth every bit of it and not a penny more.
The apartment was situated right smack in the middle of the men's dormitories, with whom we shared a laundry room and a prolific population of cockroaches. I'll never EVER forget the time I went to get my laundry out of the dryer, and there was a dead cockroach that had been dried right along with my clothes. Of course, I got some more quarters and started them over, and from then on I never forgot to look inside the machine before I put in my clothes.
Such fond Christmas memories. Feel free to share your own poverty-or-cockroach-related ones. Or any other for that matter.