This Memorial Day began with a weird (“oh my God it’s going to explode!”) whirring sound from my air conditioner. A frantic call and one responsive emergency repairman about an hour later revealed our worst fears. Our 14 year old unit, which has suffered through surface-of-the-sun summers and an endless beating from my son’s wiffle balls, was about to die a slow, stuttering, somehow honorable death in our back yard.
We get a new one on Tuesday. And I don’t want to TALK about what this will set us back. At all. I’m actually thrilled that I won’t even be here when the entire switch happens because – gag – it’s a lot of money and I just can’t bear to look. So anyway…
Our holiday weekend has meant piecing together episodes of functioning A/C moments. But when the weird, unnatural whirring begins, we turn it off.
And it’s late May. In Florida. We have heat here, people. Much, much stifling heat.
So if you were expecting some very insightful, super thought-out post about some wonderfully witty topic crafted by moi (*fluffing my hair*)… well, don’t. I’ve got nothing for you. With my t-shirt knotted very unbecomingly at my middle, I can’t really come up with much to say.
My mind has stuttered to a stop along with my enormous R2D2-looking air conditioning unit right outside my open window. I hear locusts. And a few birds chirping. And hot. I hear hot.
My computer’s fan is whirring like a mother right now.
So I will leave you with this. The best part of my weekend was spent with friends at the beach enjoying a fantastic Gulf of Mexico sunset. It was spectacular. And here is our crew fishing and wading and snorkeling away our over-heated hearts last night.
I’ll be back later – all cooled off, far FAR perkier, and way broker. (Shush. I’m allowing “broker” to be a word right now.)
I had the most unexpected however faaaar too overwhelming, busting with pride, parental moment yesterday. Honestly, I had no idea the day would turn out like it did. None. I told him it was just a game and when he got eliminated, he should just cheer on the rest of his friends. But, in a moment that filled me and clutched me and simply blew my mommy mind, he never actually got eliminated.
Let me start over.
At the start of the week, my 7 year old was told he had qualified to be in the Second Grade Spelling Bee. That alone made me proud. He got a certificate. How cool. The school Spelling Bee! He, of course, had no idea what a Spelling Bee was so he ignored all the fuss.
Fast forward to yesterday. I corralled my four year old and headed over to the school a little early to make it to the Spelling Bee. My husband had managed to slip out of work. I knew that getting up in front of the school and talking wouldn’t be kid’s favorite thing in the world so we thought our familiar faces might help.
As we settled onto fold-out lunch table benches in the multi-purpose room, our eldest marched in and gave us a quick self-conscious smile. He along with 14 other qualifying second graders were announced to the front of the room. Isn’t this a nice moment for them. I was proud enough right then. And I wondered how long this would take and what I was making for dinner. My husband checked his phone.
The principal began the first round. And some were eliminated. He got up, he quietly punched his words out easily enough. He watched the other kids get up. My husband saw him whisper to his friend, “That’s an easy one.” Suddenly I worried he wasn’t worried enough. And then worried about the potential for tears afterward. Maybe we should make him something special for dinner.
Another round passed, and another. They moved up to third grade words, half the kids were left now and so was he. More rounds. More correct words. He stayed, others went. Onto the fourth grade words. And suddenly there were four kids, two of which were fighting out for third place.
Wait. He was somehow one of the last two remaining. And everything changed for me. My heart leapt into my throat. My stomach knotted. My mouth was dry. My breathing slowed and then stopped. How had this happened? MY BABY WAS DOING THIS.
The word was “youth”.
The other boy started to spell. “Youth…U-E-T-H.”
The principal looked up, “No, I’m sorry, you are incorrect.” She looked at my son. “If you can spell ‘youth’, you will win the Spelling Bee. Ready?”
He nodded. And began. He looked down at the rug, his go-to concentration spot. The room was silent. “Youth. Y-O-U (…And I knew then. I knew he knew it. Because he sees that word on so much of his baseball equipment. His teacher was nodding, she knew he knew it too…)-T-H.”
“That is correct.”
And I fell apart. With cheers all around, I swooped in and gathered him into my arms. And I fell apart. Tears, hugging, “I’m so so SO proud of you, baby.” He started crying and buried himself in my sweater. Being up there HAD been hard. All of the cheering and congratulations and pictures flashing… too much. I cried – no, SOBBED – and he cried, the principal beamed, his teacher video-taped.
And there, in that very small little second grade school moment, my little boy was The Champion Of The World. HE DID IT.
Never. NEVER have I been more proud of my kid in such a sudden and unexpected moment. Should I have had more faith in my son? Maybe. He aces his spelling tests and most of the challenge words. But so do a lot of the other kids. He’s smart but I guess I’m not entirely sure if he’s unusually smart. Because is being a really good speller an indication of anything atypical? I’m not so sure. (Maybe I should find out. Anyway.)
And where were these crazy emotions coming from anyway? WHY do parents get so flipped out and weepy like I did? It is far, FAR more amazing to watch your child win something than winning that something yourself. It honestly feels better than anything in the world. What’s THAT about? Vanity? Pride? Oh my God, all those Groundhog days of “finish your homework” have actually paid off? Is it because suddenly I get some tiny nod of reassurance that, holy CRAP, I must be doing SOMETHING right.
I don’t know what all that emotion was about. But that emotion is still sitting right below, still threatening more tears right now, more than 24 hours since he won…
But he did it. HE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And now? We’re onto the charter school’s state championship in Orlando.
My kid. My awesome, fantabulous, crazy shy, mysterious, thoughtful, careful, bird on a wire.
HE. DID. IT.
*BEAMING* *BEAMING* *BEAMING*
Oh, and we made his favorite french toast for dinner after a celebratory appetizer of slushies and tots at Sonic (his choice).
Love my boy.
Update: Turns out the second graders don’t go to the State Championship after all, only third grade and higher. The principal got caught up in the excitement and told us the wrong information. I’m disappointed for him but, as my husband says, this way he STAYS the Champion! Still. So. PROUD.
This is a warning to all you parents who think that your pride has any hope of remaining intact during the course of your child’s upbringing . Because heed my words: they will do everything they can to seek and destroy what little bit of dignity you have left. I know this sounds like some sort of conspiracy theory. Because I’m certainly not accusing our children of doing it intentionally.
But they are out to get us.
Before they finally skip off into the sunset of adulthood, expect to be horrified, mortified, humiliated and flat out humbled on multiple occasions, in varying scenarios, in every location – most always public.
You probably already know what I’m talking about. You probably have your own laundry list of mortifying moments to share. If not? Well. Let me share a few of mine.
It’s baby poop on your pants without realizing it, and loud conversations about your privates in the public restroom stall, and climbing on you, hooking their foot and pulling your bathing suit off in the pool, and reaching up from the grocery cart and grabbing your chest to “honk, honk” you in the check out lane, and opening the restroom door and walking out before you’re done, and pointing out the “reeeally really big fat lady” on the bus (full disclosure, that was me at three), and screaming how much they hate their food when your new friend made them dinner, and never ever ever saying hello or good-bye or please or thank you no matter how many times you insist that they do, or announcing the play by play of exactly what you’re doing while holed up in another public restroom.
(Clearly, the public restroom has been a source of much humiliation.)
They are honest. They are saying and doing what they experience. Etiquette and social niceties and even basic manners just don’t come naturally to preschoolers. We try desperately to encourage this instinct, and I think (hope?) it comes eventually. But until then, expect to be booby-trapped at any moment, where your pride falls through a trap door and into the pit of your stomach as you realize your kid has found and unwrapped a tampon (previously zipped away in your purse) and is swinging it for all the customers in the check out line to enjoy (full disclosure: my friend’s experience, not mine).
These moments. They happen all the time. Seared into your memory, convincing your ego you should never set foot in that particular store, friend’s home, or public restroom (so many of those) again.
But these moments also force you to stand nose to nose with your ego and tell yourself to get the hell over it.
Like when you are getting your kids ready for a pool party and trying to smear as much SPF onto your wriggling child as you can and while you’re distracted wrestling him, another smaller child happens to stuff something down the back of your sundress. And you aren’t sure what it was so you ignore it but make a mental note to check your dress after you’re done with this (“SIT STILL!!!”) and then you leave without checking but remember you need cash so you stop at the busy corner ATM. And while waiting in line you glance over at your reflection in the window and notice something not quite right. Oh ok. Now you know what got stuffed down your sundress. A pair of your underpants. Which happen to be sticking out the back of your sundress, sticking out like a little hoodie or cape, but clearly pink underpants, yours, sticking out and flapping in the breeze for everyone in the ATM line to see.
(What did I do? I snapped them off and balled them into my hand and made my transaction as if nothing ever happened. And, no surprise here, I didn’t make eye contact with a soul as I stomped back to the care. And stuffed them into the glove box. Where they remained until yesterday when I remembered to get them out and stuff them into my purse when I dropped off my car for an oil change. But it’s a big purse and I have to dig around to find my wallet to pay for said oil change. So I’m pretty sure the Kia guy at the front desk got a good look see at them too. Yay, Hanes Her Way, in pink, is everybody happy now???)
Parenting requires a very large dose of self-deprecation. And humor. And resignation that your dignity means nothing in a restroom stall as long as every little one got a pee pee in the potty and are entirely wiped and hands were washed.
Onward. Who cares. Pride swallowed. I’m over it. Pink panties stuffed where ever, so be it. Thanks and have a nice day.
Look, I know watching videos can take a little time. So certainly wait to watch this one until you’re scarfing a sandwich down at work or waiting for the pasta to boil before dinner. But please do watch this. Because I am pretty sure I can promise you 6 minutes and 39 seconds of the the cutest cuteness you’ve ever seen.
I know I know. I’m his mother. The cutest cuteness? It’s a lot to promise and I am far FAR from objective
But come on, just check it out – even for a little bit.
You see, my three year old told me he was hungry. So I handed over an apple. Dinner would be ready in an hour and I didn’t want his appetite ruined on anything else. But I had no idea that today’s apple would result in such careful consideration. And joy. So even if you don’t think this is the cutest cuteness you’ve ever seen, I will promise you this. You will learn how to plant an apple seed with careful direction from a three year old at the very least.
Enjoy this sweet spring moment I captured yesterday afternoon in my backyard.
Still shuffling about my morning, disheveled, glasses on, wanting my cereal and cringing at the sun suddenly streaming into my window, I went over to fiddle with the curtains.
When I heard a very loud WOOSH.
And when I looked up, this is what I saw moving quietly across the sky. I grabbed my camera and pushed open the sliding door and stood amazed. It felt so close I could have quietly said “good morning” and I am quite sure the two people inside that basket would have heard me. But I don’t really do mornings very well so all I did was snap this picture, watch it move by and go back inside.
I probably should have said “good morning”. That’s what you do when a hot air balloon passes over your backyard, isn’t it?
Peaceful, beautiful and just another side to my morning. So to speak.
I took my two boys to the zoo this weekend. And usually this is a seemingly uneventful outing. We had a great time. The weather was perfect, balmy animal viewing weather and I even considered posting some of the fun monkey pictures I took when I got home.
But those monkey pictures aren’t really what deserves attention on this blog. Another experience stands out as something I feel should rather be posted about that day.
And it wasn’t a good experience.
I saw hate happen – and it was directed at children.
Let me back up and explain what went down. My three year old had been begging we ride the carousel for the better part of an hour. In fact, I am surprised that any of those monkey pictures were in focus at all. While I took them, he hung, whined, tapped, bumped, pleaded and nudged me until I relented and headed towards the carousel. So there I was, fumbling for change to buy tokens when I heard it.
I looked over and there was a pack of about 5 or 6 high school aged kids walking by, pointing.
“No, no, not Siamese, CHINESE!!!!! CHINESE TWINS, dude. LOOK!!!!”
“OVER THERE! LOOOK!!!!!”
The tallest guy in the pack stopped in his tracks and pointed. The rest kept walking but still – laughter, laughter, laughter, pointing…
I turned to see where they were pointing. And there, between the token machine and the carousel were two girls of Asian decent, sisters, obviously twins. Their ages were somewhere between my sons – so maybe four or five years old. They were both wearing beautiful matching red dresses, and were waiting in line for the ride.
“CHING CHONG CHONGCHINGCHONG CHONG CHING!!!! Holy shit, dude. Chinese twins!!!”
So much laughing.
“Oh my God, dude!!! Check that OUT!”
And then they were out of earshot, almost around the other side of the carousel. Still, I couldn’t help myself and said out loud.
“Are you KIDDING ME?!?!!?”
No one looked at me. No one looked at them. No one seemed to notice. Ignoring? Not hearing? Not caring?
And while I hissed “…. just disgusting, I can NOT believe what I just heard…” I glanced over at the girls. They stood in line. And their mother, whom I had not noticed before, stood there too with her stroller. All three were silent, waiting.
They didn’t act like they had heard anything.
But you know, and I know, that they heard EVERYTHING.
“What Mommy? Whats wrong?”
Had my kids heard anything? They must have. Do I point out what they said was wrong?
But after my six year old asked the question and saw my attention on them, they both turned back to their token recovery mission. They stood hovering at the bottom of the machine, willing their gold coins to drop out at any moment.
Maybe they didn’t hear anything. Or maybe they didn’t understand. Should I explain this to them? Should I have chased after those kids and yelled at them? Wait, could I really do that with my kids who were locked in token grabbing position? Would it make a difference? What do I do??
“Mom. The tokens?”
I fed the dollar bills into the machine and stole another glance over at the family. The mother looked tired. The girls looked unperturbed.
Should I say something to her?
No. I mean, what if she didn’t hear it, I wouldn’t want to bring attention to it.
Who am I kidding. She heard it. She heard a bunch of punks point out to the world that her two beautiful girls are “Siamese…. no CHINESE!” and then frigging “ching chonged” at them.
It made me sick to my stomach. But I did nothing. Except get tokens and stand in line behind another family who now separated us from both girls and their mother.
I saw her later on that afternoon. The two girls were running at full steam up the hill towards the giraffes. And their mother was a small distance behind them, pushing her stroller. The same tired look on her face, the same resigned sense about her. I tried to make eye contact, I wanted to smile and just send some vibe of kindness her way. But she didn’t look at me. She didn’t look at anyone. Just plodded on.
And I couldn’t help but think that because I didn’t really do anything, I was part of it all. Whose to say I didn’t think what those kids said WAS funny. From where she stands behind her stroller, whose to say the whole damn park didn’t secretly laugh along too. Her girls were singled out because of their race and their “twin-ness”. Whose to say she doesn’t walk around assuming the whole world is against her and her daughters unless someone stands up and says or does otherwise.
Or. Maybe she knows those were just some punk ass kids who are pathetically ignorant and has heard stupidity before and won’t let it get to her and her tired look is just from being tired after a day with her girls at the zoo.
I’d like to think that’s how she feels. It would make me feel better to think that’s how she feels. But really? My bets are that’s not really how she feels.
My kids pulled at my hands and I walked away. Safe in my own majority, never having had to consider an issue like this with my children before and possibly never having to again.
I was having one of those days this morning and it wasn’t even 9:00am yet. Snuggled deep into my covers, I was on the phone with my BFF. Amongst other things, I had missed her birthday and called her as soon as I had a minute to get to the phone. Where is my brain these days? And I was so sorry. So we talked and she is amazing and I sniffled along, trying to figure out a way to suck it up today.
That’s when I saw some birds. Well, a lot of birds in fact. Hundreds, maybe thousands. Circling in the sky. And they circled and swooped in the distance for the duration of our call. When I hung up, promising myself that today would start getting better, I walked out on to my back porch to see them a little better. So did my six year old. My Flip happened to be right there so I pushed open the screen door, turned on my camera and caught such an amazing sight.
I have seen birds like this in my yard before actually. This is the second time. (I wonder if flocking like this is a seasonal thing?) But this time there were more, and it was somehow more breath-taking than I remember (you will hear me catch my breath on the video below). While I watched them swoop and dive overhead, I couldn’t help but remember the words of a poem that I read at my grandparents memorial service years ago:
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
It seems at times we all need to pay attention to the signs around us. Things happen for a reason. Watch, listen – the answers and quiet comfort will come. Take this for what you may but, for me, this was truly a moment in the morning’s hush and the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds circled in flight. And I was grateful for it.
P.S. Something you might not notice in this video was what sounded like rain falling. It wasn’t rain. And, since I was out there underneath it all, I got hit with it more than once.
Someone told me once that being shit on by a bird was good luck. Perfect. I’m going with that.
So I was sitting at the intersection of Target and Suburbia this morning at around 8:00am. My kids were strapped into the back, their backpacks sitting on the seat next to me. The 80s station was on, and Dixie’s Midnight Runners were bidding Eileen to “Come on”.
That particular intersection takes it’s time in the morning with cars moving, plodding their way out of their gated communities, through green lights and towards the interstate. So there I sat, amongst the a.m. idling, waiting my turn, mind blank, when I happened to look over at the mini van next to me.
There was nothing much to see at first. A blue mini-van, the standard suburban Tampa mode of transportation, with a woman at the helm and the top of a baby seat strapped in the back, barely visible.
Nothing unusual for the intersection of Target and Suburbia.
Except, this woman? She was crying.
Not hard. Just staring straight ahead, sunglasses on, wiping tears when they came. Her expression was blank. I noticed a cigarette smoldering in her left hand, hung out an open window. Now and then she took a drag, then leaned out the window to blow it out, waving it away from her car. Back to staring. Back to wiping at her face. Back to having no idea she was being watched (although discreetly, behind my own sunglasses – I knew I was intruding on her moment).
It was a quiet cry. Not a sob. Not a quick couple of tears either. These seemed like the kind of tears that couldn’t help but spill over ceaselessly, no matter how stone faced she remained. Down they slid. Wipe. Take a drag. Fan the air. Stare.
My heart stopped and broke for this woman.
And then my mind raced to determine what could bring her to this moment.
It could have been any number of things.
Money. What if her family was struggling. What if her husband was about to be laid off. What if she had just finished balancing her check book and found no hope of any kind of balance. What if she knew there was nothing left. And Christmas ahead. And a Nintendo DS already promised to her son if he was a good boy. And loans and credit lost and unpaid bills and increased percentage rates and collection agencies and this damn mini-van that they never really could afford in the first place but were now stuck with. Could they get out of their home? Move in with her parents? Just for a little while. Could they ever get what they had back?
Or what if it was her marriage. What if after eight years, she woke up and realized she didn’t know her husband any longer. What if she suspected his attention was elsewhere. And his apparent indifference to their marriage meant that he was hardly covering his tracks. And she knew. And she had three children to care for and no idea what to do. Except to ignore and wait and hope it will just go away. And maybe, after enough time had passed, they would both remember why they had married each other in the first place. But until then, she was stuck raising her children and just ignoring.
She could have gotten a call from her doctor too. Her doctor could have told her the results came back positive. And she would need this kind of treatment, and that much recovery, and years of waiting to find out if it was ever going to be ok again. And her insurance was iffy at best. How much would this cost? And she is a mother, she has no time for this. Who was going to breast feed her baby? So she couldn’t bring herself to call anyone and tell them. Not yet. All that it could cost her family, no one needed to know. Not quite yet.
Or what if her mother just died. If that was the case, I should have simply put my car in park, gotten out, opened her door and given her an enormous hug. (And then maybe run back to my car quickly before she fumbled for her cell and dialed 911.)
Or maybe it was just another typical day. Maybe her baby had been up every 2 hours again. And had been waking up every two hours every night of her 9 months of life. Maybe the exhaustion was impossible to bear. But she had to drop her children at school. And pick up groceries. And talk to her son’s teacher about his behavior issues and make sure the air conditioner repairman didn’t rip her off. And deal. Just always deal. While the baby starts crying again. And only children at her feet and no adult home until 9:00pm because he was busting his hump to make sure they had a roof over their heads. It was just another typical day and that alone was enough.
I don’t know what it was. And I won’t ever know. But I understand. And I hope she will find some way out of her pain. Because that’s it. While we make these choices in our lives and take on the weight of the world, we just have to decide which way we are going to go. Forward? Up and out of the pain? Down the path of least resistance? Do we find the right way for our families? But are we making the best choices for us too? We hesitantly move our way through every crossroad. But we have no way of knowing where we will find ourselves someday. No way.
I hope she found her way. I hope with all my soul that she found peace. But I won’t ever know.
At that moment, the lights changed. She turned left into suburbia and I went straight past Target. And she was gone. And my kids were on their way to school. We all carried on with our lives. Another typical day.
It has been one of those mornings. We have had absolutely nothing on our agenda and my boys are bored. Four walls, inside, too much TV, punching, wrestling, screaming… it just doesn’t work.
So I herded them outside with no idea what we’d do.
And then I found an old tube of bubbles I had bought months (years?) ago. And that was all we needed. Bubbles. We must have played with them for over a half hour.
Indulge me and enjoy this video of my boys playing together with bubbles. Sure, this video is hardly going to go viral anytime soon. It’s just two boys playing. But there is beauty in it. Ok ok, I’m know I am SO being their mom right now. But look carefully. It’s the simple stuff, people. Just brothers, playing. Hanging out. On a Sunday morning. From the depths of my way-too-mommy-biased heart, I always cherish moments like these.