Monthly Archives: November 2012

Anatomy Lessons While Driving

Sometimes the car is not the place for an anatomy lesson. Sure, if you’re 16 and in love, maybe it’s the place where you learn what getting to second base is all about. But if you’re a mom, anatomy lessons while driving can be dangerous.

Questions don’t quite jar me like they used to. I’ve learned to expect anything from my kids on the open road, or on the ten-minute trek home from school. Either one. Oh, my kids have thrown some doozies at me just as I was trying to maneuver a busy intersection with the stealth skill of a Frogger champ. They somehow break through that tough barrier of concentration. It’s like someone’s in the backseat yelling, “Hey, driver, driver! Hey, driver, driver, hey!” I try to block them out, but those pesky kids are determined to chip through my focus. An innocent question hangs over my head and I hem and haw and brake and steer and hyperventilate all at once while my mind screams, “Get me out of this tiny box with these kids!” and “How come they never ask my husband these things on the way to school?”

Through the years, my kids have found the stained gray velour seats of our van a safe haven for asking the tough questions, a therapy bench if you will. I’m convinced it’s the no eye contact thing. That or the questions have been brewing in their minds at school all day, and their brains finally explode like steam from a kettle as soon as they get me alone.

“But what I don’t get is, how does the baby get in there?”

“Where does the baby come out of?”

“Parker told me on the playground that his mom is Santa. Is that true?”

“Mom, is s-e-x-y a bad word?”

And recently my kids were talking about crotches, which led to this: “What I want to know is what a girl’s private parts are called.”

Now I know I’ve mentioned that to them before, but I told them again to a response of giggles. And then a song about it. And then “a va-what?”

Just once I’d like for my husband to get those questions and I’d like to be a fly on the wall when he squirms and tells them the answer—and then I’d like to sing a song about it. Because I think I am finally over the discomfort and the hemming and hawing and the surprises from the backseat.

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A Mother’s Thanksgiving

As a mother, every day is Thanksgiving to me. I am grateful when my family walks out the door at their varying times every morning and we all come back together for the mad scramble that is dinner each night. Amidst the kids’ taunting, the whining about science fair projects, and me on the very brink of falling apart myself, I stop to take note that everyone came home in one piece. That alone makes it a good day.

As much as I nag about my son’s socks on the floor, I’m thankful they’re still size 2 and even more so that they’re still here, in my home. He’s only on my watch for so long.

I can’t stand to see the teeny, tiny trinkets that cover my daughter’s dresser, a housekeeping nightmare. So often I skip right over the menagerie and save the dusting for another week. Still I smile when I examine each one closely and remember how I would have wanted a half-inch glass turtle as a seven-year-old girl. One day curling irons and pictures of boys will replace them.

When my nine-year-old son asked when I planned to stop reading to him at bedtime, my heart dropped to my knees. It’s the time of day when we can still snuggle like we’ve done since he was young. We talk and giggle and for a few minutes, he has no show to put on for anyone. Toughness and independence left at the door, he enjoys our time together. I’m not ready for it to end, but that day will come soon. For now, I’m ever so grateful for each night that he doesn’t announce our ritual is over.

I’m grateful for a daughter who puts her brother in his place. She’ll be a tough girl who doesn’t take it from anybody. And he’ll be a better man for it.

I love starting my day with a chaotic send-off to school. And just when I think everyone is too busy for good-byes, my son always turns back, buries his head in my gut, and hugs me tight. Then my daughter squeezes me with the strength of a python and bolts out the door, skipping and jumping.

They’re not too old for me, not yet.

For every meal I silently bless and sprinkle with a bit of hope that everyone will eat it, for every afternoon that I am grateful I held myself together when both kids pulled my emotions in every direction, for every odd and scary health mystery that turns out to be gas or eczema, for every tear wiped, for every hug, for every kiss, for every loud howl of laughter, for every moment of quiet broken by shouts for me, I am so grateful every day of my life.

turkey

I have a feeling my thankful thoughts are different from this guy’s.

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Shirts vs. Skins and an Uninformed Boy

My nine-year-old son had his first basketball practice last night and everything was going well. The group of ten boys ran up and down the court with the energy of a litter of puppies. They sprinted toward the basket, took an awkward shot, and ambled away with the gangly misery of a newborn pup. Every now and then, they glued their eyes to the net, held their arms in perfect position, and sunk the ball, fists raised in victory.

Basketball

(Photo credit: mvongrue)

When the coach split them into shirts and skins teams for a scrimmage, three boys yanked their shirts off without a second thought. My son and another teammate stood baffled. Shirtless? In public? From courtside, my son appeared to be bargaining with the coach. He pulled his short sleeves up onto his shoulders as if that would make enough of a distinction from the other team. The coach got a good chuckle. My son edged to the side of the court. The team waited. Like a cowering pubescent teen in a locker room, he slowly peeled his shirt off and revealed a pasty white chest that has never seen the sun. He felt exposed. During the scrimmage, instead of covering a player on the other team, he tried covering himself with his arms.

“When the coach said we were skins, I thought he meant the Redskins,” my son said later. “Then Henry ripped his shirt off and I figured it out.” My kid had never heard of such a thing. And why would he? Growing up in sports where kids practice with flags or scrimmage vests to distinguish teams, no one uses shirts versus skins anymore. At the pool, I’ve always made him wear a rash guard to protect him from the sun. He doesn’t go shirtless in public.

My husband said they used to play shirts versus skins at school. My son’s jaw dropped at the thought. An image of all the boys in his P.E. class praying they didn’t get put on the skins team must have been flashing through his mind.

The truth always comes out though. My son goes bare-chested at home. It’s not like he’s uncomfortable without his shirt. So what’s the real reason behind the embarrassment? He was afraid a bunch of girls on the other side of the sports complex would see him shirtless.

That will change. One day, he’ll hope they do.

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Filed under Boy Stories

After 15 Years, He Still Likes Me

At 22, I arrived at my first job fresh out of college with a degree, cheap clothes, big dreams, and little else. Happy to have work as a feature writer at a small daily newspaper, I settled into what I thought real-world living was. I found my own apartment in a dingy area of town, made my own meals, paid my bills, and still had a taste for fun and freedom. I figured if I got married, I’d be 30.

The serious dark-haired reporter who covered the cops and courts beat changed that. His deep voice carried across the newsroom. He didn’t have time to goof off. He was always on deadline or rushing to crime scenes or court.

Four months after I started my job, we were engaged. We had become fast friends. It wasn’t a storybook romance. It was more like we saw each other at a party from across the room and thought, “There you are. I’ve been looking for you all my life. Let’s get out of here.”

We just knew. It wasn’t that I couldn’t imagine the rest of my life without him; it was that I could only imagine the rest of my life with him.

Fifteen years later, here we are, a boring couple with two kids living in the suburbs. He works. I stay home. We live the American dream. We’ve had little drama. Frankly, I think it’s a good life. We laugh, we wrestle, we get on each other’s nerves, we ignore each other, we taunt each other, we get each other.

For fifteen winters he has put up with two pairs of socks on my feet, ugly flannel pajamas, and a sticky plastic strip across my stuffy nose to help me breathe. Nostrils flared, I look like a proud pig coming to bed but he doesn’t say anything, though he does roll the other way.

He puts up with the used tissues I leave all over the house year-round and the fact that I make him clean the unidentifiable objects from the back of the fridge. I suffer with the fact that he refuses to throw certain clothing away when it is so riddled with holes a moth wouldn’t touch it. I made a pact with him early in our marriage that I would never throw his things out without asking. And I don’t. I did not, however, say I wouldn’t nag about those items—or his box collection in the garage.

We’ve been through times when I wondered if we’d ever be the same happy couple again. Nights when our young son wouldn’t sleep, my word, there were hundreds of nights. But somehow when the sun came up, we always saw things differently.

When you’re young and stupid and you’re mumbling those wedding vows in utter fear, you know you mean them, but after fifteen years you understand them with all your heart. The honeymoon ended long ago, awkwardness replaced with being too comfortable in human skin. If something itches, you scratch it. My husband has held my hair for me while I puked, put ice packs on my head to ease migraines. He’s helped me through stomach disorders that I never wanted him to witness. He probably saw things during childbirth that I don’t want to know about.

That’s when you know you’ve got it good. Between all of that and those sticky nose strips, he loves me anyway.

We’ve been married fifteen years this month and he’s still that young reporter who invited me to his house to do my laundry and cook dinner for me sixteen years ago. And he still does my laundry and cooks dinner for me.

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