Sunday, October 11, 2009

Confessions of a Baby Hogger

I used to tease my sister about this but now I get it. I see them everywhere I go and I just can’t help myself. They stop me in my tracks with their big eyes and gummy grins. I want to say “hello” and make them smile. I resist the urge to sniff their heads. I eagerly wait for an opportunity to hold them and it pains me to return them to their rightful parents. Those yummy, yummy babies.

Last week, I was able to visit with a friend and her newborn. I soaked in the feeling of his little head right in the crook of my neck and the weight of his infant self in my arms. As I was holding him so that he could look around, he turned his huge bright eyes onto me and smiled – a sweet gooey beam as if I were the best idea he’d ever seen. Tears sprang to my eyes and I felt a sharp pain in my right side as I spontaneously ovulated. I was overcome with the desire to have another baby and experience this all again.

Pregnant bellies elicit a similar response. I seem to be surrounded by the blossoming of early motherhood and it’s bittersweet. I wish to hold my hand where I might feel the baby kick. Instead I ask the mother how she is feeling and if she is sleeping well. I let her go ahead of me in line at the store or in the restroom. I try not to be one of those interested but annoying strangers that patronized me when I was pregnant. I saw a mother the other day at the museum. She was largely pregnant and trying to keep up with a toddler. She was walking in that way that made me know she was close to her due date – I could sense the heaviness of the baby on her bladder and the pressure on her cervix. I suddenly had to pee as if my own bladder were empathizing. So strong and familiar was that memory.

I feel like an old woman watching these younger mothers just starting out. I am a seasoned veteran. I am experienced in the arts of baby soothing, public nursing and acrobatic diaper changing. I can interpret the cries of even a stranger’s baby and tell if that child is hungry or just over-stimulated. I have all these skills that I no longer need.

There is no way to fully prepare for parenthood. So much of it, we learn along the way. We become the mothers our children need – a role that is multi-faceted and constantly changing. I can’t claim to know everything and the skills I need right now have yet to be learned. But what do I do with those skills for which I no longer have use? How do I upgrade “Advanced Baby Wearing” to "Remedial Tween Parenting"?

I didn’t expect the closing of the baby chapter to be so difficult. During my third and decidedly final c-section, I consented to a tubal ligation. I wanted family planning to be over and not to be tempted by a fourth pregnancy (which would be riskier for me given my history). Everything about Logan’s birth was relaxed and absolute. I savored each moment with him, instead of worrying if what I was doing were right. He was my third and my last baby and experience had already taught me how fleeting it would be.

I do know that I never want to be pregnant again, that my three boys are more than I can handle and that someday, there will be sleep again. I have many reasons not to expand my family. But those wistful pangs of baby newness are difficult to ignore. The days of containable children are over for me. The ease of being able to calm an upset infant with warm milk and a song is only memory. The joy of those first grins and coos pulled out as a “Hail Mary pass” by a young one after five weeks of not allowing me to sleep more than fifty minutes in a row is replaced by Big Kid delights. There is preschool, the transfer from diapers to “funderwear” and meaningful conversation. There is no baby in my future and babyhood is past.

I’m addicted to babies,” a friend says to me. She wants to get pregnant with a fifth child. “You’re crazy!” I tell her. But secretly, I understand. “So borrow someone else’s baby for a day,” I tease. “No, their heads don’t smell the same. I only like the way mine smell.” I think to myself, I know. I know.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I'm That Mom

You know that mom you see in Target wrestling with a toddler to keep him in the cart and hissing at her other kids through clenched teeth, "This is why I never take you anywhere?" Before you judge her, please come read my comeback post over at Triangle Mamas.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Is Susie Home?

It seems the longer I go without posting, the harder it becomes to create one.

When I was younger and kept a diary, I’d often start entries with, “Dear Diary, I am sorry it has been so long since I have last written.” I would then go on to explain what I have been up to so that Dear Diary might understand why I had been so neglectful.

I used the same tactic with my pen pal. Usually, months would pass between receiving and returning a letter. I would start each letter with “Dear Pen Pal, I’m sorry it has been so long since I have last written.” I would then go on to explain everything I had been too busy with so that Dear Pen Pal might understand why I had been so neglectful.

I suppose I could do that here. “Dear Blog Reader, I’m sorry…” But to write about all the minutiae of my life for the last month seems like old news, even to me. Blogging has been the one thing that I have not taken the time to do during this time. Suffice to say, I have been living my life and drafting posts only in my head. It’s easier to post there anyway. Writing is a simple task where words flow freely. Seems to happen best while I am in the shower or behind the wheel. Once I have pen or laptop in hand, however, my world becomes riddled with doubt and interruptions.

Actually, that last statement is true about anything I have tried to accomplish lately. The other day, it took me over thirty minutes to start a load of laundry thanks to the presence of young children. I once told my husband that it would be easier to be a stay-at-home-mom if I didn’t have children. I suppose the same could be said for mommy blogging.

In some research on back-yard chicken keeping, I came upon a blogger who referred to herself as the Blurt Blogger (I tried to create a link but now it is password protected) as she tends to blog in a few posts at a time with several weeks in between “blurts.” One of her posts was titled, “Too Busy Living Life to Blog About It.” I thought that title was a pretty adequate summary to my own life.

So if there are any readers out there who haven’t given up on me, let me bring you up to speed:

1. The boys finished school and are in the middle of their incredibly short summer break. By the time I get into a manageable summer routine, they will be back in school – in two weeks to be exact. My best method of coping is to simply Just.Stay.Out.Of.The.House. And while I don’t like to be the type of parent who overbooks her kids, they seem to do much better with less downtime. I often feel guilty about not liking being home with them but there are some factors that make me lose my mind hanging around the house. For one thing, they are just not the type of kids to just go play independently. And if they are, it’s probably not GOOD. Secondly, getting anything accomplished is an infuriating chore (see laundry story above). When trying to get a business email out the other day, I found myself begging Jess to just give me five whole minutes without bellowing my name. Third, if I am in my house, I have an uncontrollable urge to try and keep it clean which you know what an unsatisfying task that can be with kids home. And after the third time of cleaning up the kitchen before lunch, I realize that I won’t need to clean it again if no one uses it. So we leave – for my own sanity.
2. I have decided to start my own chicken flock for reasons that I can’t explain. I’ve just always wanted chickens and so my husband gave me some for my birthday. This new endeavor has required much library and Internet research to learn about the differences in breeds, poultry health-care, housing requirements, etc. Not to mention the actual hands-on care of baby chicks is rather intensive.
3. I have spent a lot of time in the yard cleaning and rearranging my garden. Everything was doing quite well until this past week. Never before has our garden been hit by so many different pests in one season. Aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borers, some fuzzy white insect that I don’t know its name, fungi and deer (by God the deer) have decimated everything. Everything I tell you!
4. Each of my children seems to be coping with some sort of regression. Dean is afraid to go outside because of the flying insects. He believes that he is their number one target (he even has nightmares about them) and I hope this phase passes soon. Jess is stalking me, not letting me out of his sight for half a minute. If I leave the room or walk outside to check on the chicks, within seconds he is calling “MOOOOOOOOM?!” If I had a nickel for every time he has yelled for me… And Logan seems to wake up more at night now than he did as a newborn. We all wake up tired.
5. I am trying to jump-start my business but as a standby, I have been applying for jobs. Since my resume was part of the data that was lost (along with years of pictures) from my computer, I had to rewrite it. This is apparently not the best economy to be looking for a job in health/human services, no matter how awesome I think I am.
6. Can you still call it Spring Cleaning if you have been cleaning for months and now it’s summer? I have been clearing out, reorganizing, moving and shuffling stuff in a way that makes more sense for our needs. This also includes making trips to the thrift store to donate our cast-offs and then shopping for more stuff to organize the stuff that we are keeping.
7. Finally, I am trying to make more time for myself. Reading, taking pictures, gardening, baking and planning sewing projects. I usually only have a moment or two at a time, but I think the desire is a start.

So now you understand why I have been so neglectful. Happy Summer everyone. May your days be filled with bubbles and your evenings with fireflies.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Silver LIning

A friend who is raising a daughter was recently telling me that the one thing she is missing about not having a son is the protectiveness that boys have for their mothers. Since I have no daughters, I can’t say if girls share this tendency or not. But I can attest to my own nine-and-a-half year old. I can always count on Dean to come to my aid and take my side – I don’t even have to ask.

Last week was a prime example. Dean was a witness to our marital storm and knew that I was upset with Luke. When I decided to put aside the argument and left the room, Dean followed me to make sure I was all right. I felt the need to reassure him that parents often disagree - that people who love each other will get angry, discuss their feelings and then make up. The important thing is to be respectful and never lose sight of how much you love one another. He patted me on the shoulder, assuring me that I was right and Dad was wrong. I may have giggled when I forced myself to say, “Well, that isn’t always true.”

A few moments later, I found this note waiting for me. Dean watched me expectantly as I read it. “It’s from Daddy,” he tried to tell me.

When I looked back at him, tears of gratitude in my eyes, he admitted, “OK, it’s really from me. And if I had more time, I would have made Dad one too and said it was from you.”

It’s a true gift to find comfort and nurturing from my own child. Dean certainly brought me beauty after the ugliness, the silver lining to the day’s dark clouds. May love always give you shelter from the storm.

Monday, May 4, 2009

We Weather It Together

Marriage is much like the weather. Most of the time, temperatures are comfortable with sunny skies and warm breezes. Occasionally there are storms, like the short refreshing ones that come and go quickly on a summer’s evening. While sometimes unpleasant, they harmlessly water the plants and clear the air from the heat of the day. Other times, the storms build up ominously over time and when you see the dark clouds and hear the warning rumbling, you know you need to secure the windows and test the flashlights. Even the best of relationships have to weather such ugliness – mine is no exception.

With the way that I censor myself here, it would be easy for you to think of my husband as a perfect, coffee-bearing gentleman who supports me unfailingly. And that is almost always true – except for when it’s not. He is my biggest fan but also my harshest critic. His words can make or break my self-esteem most easily. And let’s be honest here, sometimes men do not do criticism in the most constructive fashion. Last weekend, conditions were most favorable for sever weather.

The signs had been there all week, with a flippant comment here and some passive aggression there… storms clouds were looming all around our house. Despite the distant grumble of thunder and other warnings, I was still taken aback by the harsh wind and icy hail. Luke’s advancing cold front met with my area of low pressure and an atypical storm ensued. Luke let loose all his frustrations in a tornado of accusations aimed directly at me. At first, I tried to find reason in what he was saying, and then I realized there was no space in his rant for rationality. I put up my hand and walked away from the argument, post-poning the resolution and violating one of our fundamental “Fighting Rules.”*

That evening, when the storm clouds had cleared and we had given each other some space, everything still felt a little off. Feeling exactly like the air right after a storm, electrified from all the lightning and the light still a little green from the cloud cover, things were calmer but not finished. Nothing felt resolved and I felt betrayed. His criticisms tore at all my own insecurities of not being good enough, of not doing enough, not being enough. That night, I went to bed still angry (another “Fighting Rules” violation), still trying to make sense of the source of the fight. It’s taken just about the whole week to survey the damage.

Monday, I woke up resolved to be more of the wife and mother that Luke expects and deserves. More importantly, I resolved to be more of the wife and mother that I want to be. That night, he restated his complaints and conceded that his delivery of the information was wrong. I agreed that he had been an ass. On Tuesday, he apologized. He feels the way he feels but he was sorry for being a jerk about it. I let him know that I heard what he was saying. I didn’t disagree with his argument but I’d prefer he speak to me in a more respectful manner to voice it next time. And each day since has brought us a bit more to a place of understanding again.

I won’t go into any more detail of what we actually argued about as the content is so deeply tied into other posts that I want to share. But I will say that I am not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. If anything, I am most uneasy with my skills as a parent and my ego is a fragile thing. But Luke likes to think me perfect and finds it shocking when I am not. When he leaves for work in the morning, he wants to be secure in the idea that I have it ALL under control – the kids, the house, the finances… But this parenting/household CEO/maid/woman-trying-to-reenter-the-work-force gig is a juggling act that I am not handling with all the grace and style that I would like. I easily get over-whelmed. I often muddle through rather than leap forward. I often let our chaos run amuck rather than reining any true control over it. But I’m working on it.

And as for Luke, since he really is perfect 98 percent of the time, I can forgive the stormy 2 percent once in awhile. Besides, he did bring me coffee this morning and that is all the perfection I need.

*Susie and Luke’s Fair Fighting Rules were developed from our first argument as a married couple almost 15 years ago. I can’t remember what we even fought about but we did learn from our mistakes and outlined the following rules for future conflicts:
Never walk out on an argument, Never go to bed angry (you can’t sleep well), Never plead your case to your mother (she will only take his side anyway), and Never end an argument with the words “Fuck You.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Note from the Ledge...

I don't have time for a proper post, although I have many drafted in my head. The kids were on their three week Spring break, my parents came to visit and I hosted 15 relatives here the Saturday before Easter. This is extraordinary since I live about 850 miles from any of my family. So needless to say, I have been busy cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry and fielding disapproving looks and snide remarks. I have just enough time to change the sheets on the bed before I go to pick up my dear friend at the airport. She keeps coming to visit despite my terrible hosting skills. That is unconditional love, baby. Soon, I will be back to my regular routine of cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry and making disapproving looks and snide remarks. Until then, let me leave you with this:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Love Makes Coffee

Seventeen years ago today, I thought I had a plan. Finish the papers, take the exams, graduate, find a job, plan a wedding… It was the last half of my last semester in college and I was trying hard to focus. The workload was overwhelming and I used it as an excuse, as a protective cover to hide behind rather than face my doubts and fears about the future.

When my long-distance boyfriend (let’s refer to him as Christopher) would call, I would whine, “I can’t talk right now, I have two papers due tomorrow.” But he’d want to know what I was doing and with whom. I was feeling suffocated by his constant need for reassurance. It turns out, he had good reason to be worried.

Seventeen years ago today, I liked the idea of having a plan. The plan was sensible. The plan meant security. If I could just focus and stick to the plan… But I was distracted by some nagging emotions. Christopher was having a career crisis of his own so he was coping with his own doubts. When we talked about them, he would describe his dreams and goals. In one pivotal conversation, I pointed out to him that when he spoke of his future, he neglected to mention where our prospective children and me might fit in. He was stunned by his own omission and admitted that he wasn’t sure he wanted to have children. The plan was cracking.

And then there was Luke. Luke lived downstairs and visited my room often to see my roommate. A few weeks prior, they had gone out on a date leaving me inexplicably jealous. I was confused by this emotion. I had no right to be interested in Luke since he obviously liked my roommate and especially since I had Christopher. So I tried to ignore those twinges. I tried not to notice how the party was more fun when Luke was there, the card game was more interesting when he was playing, that dinner tasted better when he sat at my table. Instead, I always had a project to research and a paper to write.

Seventeen years ago today, I wished out loud that I could spend St. Patrick’s Day properly, in a pub or café with a mug of Irish coffee. But there was no pub and no time.

Seventeen years ago today, Luke knocked on the door and asked me what he needed to make Irish coffee. With the typewriter in one hand and Christopher on the phone in the other, I shut the door with my foot and grumped that at least someone would be enjoying the night. A couple of hours later, Luke knocked on the door again - this time with a coffee maker and a bottle of Jameson Whiskey. Other friends joined us after we had already consumed a few mugs. I finished my paper with shaky fingers as a party built around me. Time sort of suspended after that. It’s needless to say that I was up all night, what with all the coffee and a steady stream of visitors. We played card games, had intense conversations, drank and I read James Joyce out loud. Aided and abetted by caffeine and alcohol, I allowed my heart to take the lead.

Seventeen years ago today, I wasn’t looking for love. That was not the part of the plan. But love doesn’t make plans - love makes coffee. And he’s been making me coffee ever since.

May all your St. Patrick’s Days be as lucky as mine and Luke’s have been.

*photo credit to

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lunch With The Ex?

In the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother, the crew was discussing what happens when you have lunch with your ex. Barney, as he is the authority on the subject of dating, states there are only four reasons to meet an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend for lunch: 1. He/She wants to get back together, 2: He/she wants to kill you, 3: He/she wants to return your stuff, and 4: He/She wants to rub your face in the fact that they are better off without you. Being that Barney has not had a relationship that has lasted more than a few hours, it’s understandable why he wouldn’t consider a fifth reason to have lunch. May I propose Lunch Date Reason #5: He/she wants to simply catch up?

When you are in a serious relationship, that person is the first person you think of in the morning and the one you call first when you want to share good or bad news. You know their friends, their family, their coworkers and their pets. And when you break up, you can’t help but miss the friendship part of the relationship. There is no “But we can still be friends…” not that I know of, anyway. Even when a break-up is for the best, there are pieces of that other person that you will miss. It’s a simple fact.

My first real boyfriend and I dated for three years. We were a part of each other’s families calling each other’s parents “Mom” and “Dad.” Together we attended many weddings (seven in one summer), family dinners, vacations and school reunions. We made dreams and plans. We chose the names of our future children and where we would live when we retired. Our lives were intertwined. Opting to end the relationship meant having to let go of all of that and while I knew it was the right decision, it was a huge loss just the same.

I don’t often ponder what might have been if we had stayed together. I just know what wouldn’t have been – life as I know it now with all my boys and their joyful chaos. I chose to go with the unknown over the already decided. I chose passion over familiarity. I followed my heart and am so glad I did. I have no regrets but I do think of him – the same way I wonder about What If Marty and those other friends that I haven’t found on FaceBook.

But if I did find myself in New York and invited my ex out to lunch, #5 would be my reason. I’d want to hear about his work, his wife and child. I’d ask about his parents, his nieces and nephews who are all adults by now, his friends that used to be my friends. I’d get caught up on all that I’ve missed these last seventeen years. And in the process, I’ll be reassured that he is doing well and that breaking up was truly best for both of us, not just me. Perhaps that is the 6th reason to have lunch, but this I knew already.

Now it’s your turn. Pretend you have set up a date with your Ex. Which reason would it be? What would you and your ex talk about over lunch?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Taking Back The Girl, Revisited

Ordinarily, being trapped at a Starbucks with only my laptop in tow would be a dream come true. I’m living my own fantasy right at this moment. But in true Susie fashion, not even this is enough. I am antsy – worried about all those other things I should be accomplishing. I brought work with me but I am missing the papers I actually need. There is no free Wi-Fi (Starbuck’s, WTF?) so I can’t do the research I thought I might do and I don’t actually have enough time to drive home and regroup.

Added to my over-caffeinated nervousness, is the fact that I left one very despondent toddler at preschool. He’s been having really hard goodbyes lately, so much so that my husband can’t bear to be the one to drop him off. So at the last minute, I stuffed my laptop in a bag, my hair in a ponytail holder and Logan in his car seat and here I am - sitting here, oozing with mommy guilt and coffee fumes.

I know not to take the crying child too personally. He’s having separation anxiety, a phase that will probably pass and even if doesn’t, can’t really be helped. Scooping him up and bringing him home would only have made the situation worse next time. He has hopefully pulled himself together shortly after I have left. As a seasoned professional, I know this. As a parent in desperate need for a moment alone, I can’t help but feel awful. Leaving him feels selfish and indulgent.

What’s a mommy blogger to do? Well blog, of course! Which brings me to my next thought. Did you know that last week was my blogiversary? Me neither. Looking over the last year of posts, there are so many thoughts that I would have liked to share, or started to share and not finished. Some posts I have started but was not able to give them the time I needed to make them complete and convey what I wanted. Some deal with difficult subjects and some just seemed like old news because some other fabulous blogger scooped me. So I had been pondering my anniversary post but went and folded some laundry instead. It seems that blogging has gone the same way as getting my hair cut and my closet organized – pushed to the list of Things I’d Really Like/Need To Do But Can’t Because I Don’t Have Time. I suppose the more appropriate term would be “Don’t Make Time” because time for myself is never a priority. This is not good, I know. Really, I’m working on it. Remember this post? Well who will join me in recommitting to making a little time for ourselves as people? Going to the grocery store does not count. Nor does picking up dry cleaning or taking the dog to the vet.

What are you going to do for yourself today or this week? Tell us in the comments or post on your blog. Let us know how you will Take Back the Girl. And me? I think I’ll take a breath, relax and enjoy my childfree Starbucks moment (even without the Wi-Fi).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Did I mention that the Dishwasher is Broken?

One of the ways that I uphold my fragile sense of organization is by keeping lists. I have lists for things I need to do (pick up dry cleaning), need to buy (dog food), want to buy (area rug for family room), need to do soon (get tax stuff together), need to look into for the future (summer camp for kids), and the list of lists goes on…

I have no problem making lists. The problem I have is in getting anything from those lists accomplished. You see sometimes, a single item on the To Do list requires a complicated series of other To Do’s - which can make completing a simple task exhausting. Take, for example, item #4 from my current To Do list: “Get prescription filled.” Sounds simple, right? In actuality, getting the prescription filled requires calling the doctor’s office to ask them to write the prescription, wait appropriate time for request to be filled, drive to the doctor’s office to pick up prescription, sign forms saying that I am picking up the script, take script to pharmacy, return to pick up prescription after appropriate waiting time, find out that the pharmacy was actually out of that medication, then make faces at pharmacy staff person when I am asked if I would like to take my prescription to the pharmacy across town to see if they can fill it there and then FINALLY pick up the prescription. And so, “get prescription filled” takes three days.

So, it was no surprise to me today that I wasted a LOT of time trying to tackle item #1: “Make Insurance Claim.” When I was rear-ended two weeks ago resulting in some scratches to my bumper, I naively thought that I would simply just call my insurance agent and give him the information and he would make it all better. I was also naïve to believe that the guy who hit me had given me the correct information I needed to file the claim. You know where this is going, right? After three phone calls with my insurance agent, four different conversations with the guy’s “alleged” insurance company, two conversations with a police officer (not to mention the three calls it took to get to the officer I needed), one Google search, one search and one “What the hell, let’s try Facebook” search, it has been determined that the man who hit my car does not actually exist. Neither does his car. Nor does his insurance policy. In fact, the only proof I have that incident even occurred are the scratches to my rear fender and to my pride. It has taken many steps and about two hours to learn the hard lesson of ALWAYS get a police report. And I still can’t cross out #1 from my To Do list. Sigh…

The other way that I uphold my fragile sense of organization is to not let my dishes pile up. It’s a simple thing, really. Each day, if I am only going to accomplish one household chore, I at least reboot the dishwasher. The clean dishes get put away, the dirty ones go into the machine - you know how it works. The empty sink and clear counters give the illusion of a clean kitchen, even for just a few moments out of the day. You know where this is going, right? Last night, I loaded the dishes, filled the soap dispenser, and turned the dial. After a few moments, there was a loud, awful grinding sound - the sound of money about to be spent on fixing or replacing a major appliance.

So, as I sit here in my kitchen full of dirty dishes considering taking another mental vacation, I will instead move “Call Repair Guy” to the #1 spot on my To Do List. I better rest up for that one.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Theme Thursday - Cold

It's been quite some time since I participated in Stacy's Theme Thursday but I was determined today to find something in my archives to share. It was easy with COLD as the theme since we are feeling chilly even here in North Carolina. While I know many of my northern comrades are tired of the cold and the snow that comes with it, we reveled in it for the brief moment we had it.

Logan's first snow experience.

Jess tries to catch the elusive flake.

Morning frost etching the window.

Happy Winter Everyone!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Of Sloth and Circumstance

January is proving to be a long month, without much to show for it. For most of last week and the week before, I took a mental vacation. I quite literally checked out – ignoring housework, To Do lists and social opportunities. I left the house very little, choosing instead to wrap the winter blues around me like a warm, comforting blanket.

Of course, I felt guilty for this. I was sheepish and apologetic to my husband who kept trying to reassure me that my “checking out” was understandable. But I felt bad for giving in to melancholy, for wallowing instead of fighting, for dropping the charade that is being fine and functioning.

So this week, I am back to the land of the interactive. I am catching up on laundry and sorting through piles of papers on my desk and countertops. I am reading and answering my emails and learning all of what I have missed in the blogosphere. I am renewing my resolve to get organized and feel accomplished. I’ll start with paying bills and writing something longer than a Facebook status. I’ve put out an Amber Alert on my motivation. And I will catch up with each of you. I hope you have doing well and next time I take a mental holiday, hopefully it will be with you and somewhere other than my messy living room.

Welcome home.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Article That You Will Never See Published in the Journal of Aging and Health

As a child development specialist, I tend to be tuned into children everywhere I go. I often regard my own as well as the children of others with a scientific eye, silently evaluating and noting their actions and emotions. Observing adults in this way is not something I often do but on our recent visit to our parents’ houses, I was awed and fascinated with these older grown-ups the same way that an animal behaviorist might take an interest in a species never before studied. Here are just a few of the new facts that I learned about our parent’s generation:

First of all, the grandparent set loves plastic bags, especially of the zipper variety. They also have an odd attachment to paper plates and duct tape. With the use of these three items, there is nothing that can’t be stored, preserved or repaired. This ingenuity comes in handy because they also do not like to throw anything away.

It seems that all knick-knacks are precious. The value of these items is directly proportional to whether or not the gift came from a child (even if that child is let’s say now 38 years old) or if the giver is now deceased (even if let’s say the giver was never actually liked). These treasures must be displayed and kept safe from the roaming of toddler fingers. In the event that one of these whatnots accidentally gets broken, one must not throw it away – no need when there are plastic bags and duct tape available.

Apparently, once you are retired, the body requires very little sleep. An older person can be the last one in the house asleep and the first to rise leaving them capable of reporting every cough and movement of the other sleepers in astonishing detail.

Our parents live in a bubble (possibly made from a Ziploc baggie) called The Way That It Is. Outside of this bubble is Everything Else. Everything Else is different and threatens to force change within the bubble. Everything Else is not welcome because it is not The Way That It Is. There is no perception of our way and your way and their way. Life is simply divided between the worlds of The Way That It Is and Everything Else.

Finally, the older generation loves condiments. No matter what the food, there is a matching condiment. And it is perfectly acceptable to have more than one jar of the same condiment open in the fridge at the same time because condiments last forever, especially when sealed in plastic bags. And that is The Way That It Is.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ringing in the New Year, Susie Style

I drafted this post in my head, on the last night of the year and the eve of the last night of our “vacation.” I use quotations because when you take three children for two weeks to three different states to visit family, you can hardly call it a vacation.

Like most times of my life, I vacillate between two extremes of mood. Last night, sitting cozy with my glass of wine in the warmth of the fire, I watched the snow blow against the window. It was the perfect way to spend the last night of the year. I felt equally at peace with the moment and eager to be in my own home.

The trip has been full of frustrations – weather dictating our arrivals and departures, traffic causing more delays, a busy visiting schedule leaving not enough time to do activities but too much time doing nothing… And then there are all the little family issues that cause the gnashing of teeth and the rolling of eyes. It turns out that keeping my thoughts to myself is EXHAUSTING – when I’ve been able to do that, that is. For example, both my parents’ house and my mother-in-law’s house are full of things that don’t work properly. At my parents’, it was practically impossible to turn on a light or use the toaster without blowing a fuse. My mother-in-law’s house had only sporadic hot water when wanting to shower but perfectly fine boiling water when washing my clothes using the cold setting. And then of course, there is the annual holiday viral joy starting in Pennsylvania and spread throughout Southern New England.

The boys, when not sleeping off a fever or buzzing on cold medicine, seem to have genuinely had a good time. Celebrating Christmas and birthdays (both Jess and my husband are Christmas babies) in three separate houses, playing with cousins and generally getting whatever treats their hearts desire is certainly a great way to spend a couple of weeks. But I must admit, all this togetherness has me counting down the minutes to the start of school on Monday.

It will be wonderfully familiar to get back to our routine in our own home, sleeping in our own beds and eating our own food. At the same time, I wish I could take a bit more time off from my to-do list and daily life worries. Once we unlock our back door and drop the duffel bags of dirty laundry on the floor, life will be BUSY again. And it will be hard to leave the beach as it is hard to not feel that all is well with the world when you are looking at views such as this:

It feels like a month since we have been home as two weeks is too long to be away. But it has also not been long enough to see everyone and everything that we want to see. We always think we might get to have a date, what with all the family available to babysit, and there never seems to be time. Oh well, maybe next year – except next year, we will stay home for the holidays.

Happy New Year Everyone!