Friday, December 19, 2008

Flying is optional

We'd been in the car about 1/2 an hour or so, first leg of the shuttling, and I hear Audrey pipe up: "Are we there yet? Don't you know a shortcut?"

I was about to say something when Ben said, "Audrey. There's a lot of traffic. It's not like we can fly."

"Only on my broom," I quipped, which made Ben crack up.

Minivans don't come with "flying package optional" on the sticker, but mine has something I'd consider the next best thing.

A DVD player.

I was resistant at first to the idea of one, but Mr W talked me into it by pointing out how nice it would be to have one already installed, ready to use at anytime; as opposed to our previous method, which involved a series of cables and headrest-mounted screens, the rigging up of which made a Space Shuttle launch look easy by comparison.

I'm all for reading and being bored on long roadtrips, but I have come to appreciate and love the DVD. Nolan sniffs with disdain when I use it for what he deems 'short' trips, but he's not driving. He has no appreciation for the silence-is-golden mood that spreads throughout the van whenever we use it.

Between that and the fat iTunes cards Mr W provides me, I maintain some semblance of sanity.

Even when I am turning down dark roads getting lost. :)

It's not only men...

...who won't ask for directions.

I spend a lot of time ferrying kids back and forth, and for the most part, I am okay with it. At this stage of the game, it's just part of the deal. I've gone from spending all day at home covered in Cheerios to spending all afternoon in my van, belting out my favorite tunes, trying to make sure I don't forget anything important.

Like a child.

Just last week, Mr W was home, as were 3 of the kids. I was emptying the dishwasher, and he was playing a computer game, we were just going through the usual afterschool routine of watering and feeding, when I looked at the clock. I looked at Mr W, alarmed: "We gonna get Ben? Because he's getting out of school right now."

His school is about 15-20 minutes away. Oops.

Last night, I had the added challenge of being in two places at once. Audrey and Ryan had a performance, at the elementary school down the street. Ben had a performance with the jazz band at a Mexican restaurant, that for all practical purposes, was on the other side of the world. They all had to be at their places within 45 minutes of each other and their functions were ending at the exact same time. Mr W was working.

It's like a math problem, isn't it? "If one van leaves at 5:30, with three kids, and arrives at 6:30, with two kids, with a detour in the middle, how long will it be before the Mom is escorted away by the men in white coats?"

I left with what I considered plenty of time. I knew, roughly, where Ben had to be, and I'm always up for an adventure. However, I assumed that if we were going to a restaurant, that the area around the restaurant would be oh, I don't know, inhabited by other businesses; not be located on a dark, damp stretch of road that instantly brought to mind visions of Friday the 13th. I panicked, foolishly made a turn in a muddy stretch I thought was a private drive but was really an alley (cue the Jason montage) and drove back down the road a mile, near panicky tears, to the last set of businesses I saw. I was about to call my reinforcements, but stubborn, I-can-do-this made me snatch the map (Ben had neglected to show me at the house before we left) and study it again, telling myself to focus, to think. Oooooohhh. I was on the right track, I just didn't go far enough into no-man's-land to find it. I drove back to where I was just at, and went further, into the darkness. A tiny swath of light appeared, and in it, a tiny sandwich board denoting the restaurant's name. I turned in and there was all kinds of light, and a giant, two story building mocking me with its size, what-took-you-so-long smugness in its facade.

I was about to do the move where I slow down just enough to shove the child out the door, as he was totally, horribly late (25 minutes, which in band-geekdom, translates into an hour, which means I was about to break out in hives) and I had a scant 20 minutes to get the other two to the elementary school when his band director showed up at the side of the van, all friendly and genuinely nice, and asked if we were coming inside. I reminded him of our other engagement, and he reminded me to call him if we had any problems with picking up Ben. (Which also required strategery on my part, but worked out just fine.)

I learned my lesson, took the surface streets I knew back, and we made it.

With seconds to spare.

I pointed and pushed Audrey to her spot, I sat Ryan in his; and I found one for me along the wall next to a friend who must've seen the look on my face as I surveyed the packed house and waved at me across the room to come stand by her.

I was enjoying the chorus' first number (Ryan is in it) when I realized that Nolan was not there.

Wasn't he supposed to meet me.....?

I texted him and he assured me he was almost there. Which, in teen-speak, translates into "I'm just leaving the place I'm at."

After the performances, my friend and I decided to take all the kids to eat at McDonalds. I was halfway to leaving when I realized...

I was missing a kid.

We'd have to wait for Ben to get home.

The men in white coats are very nice. I have my own private room, and the food is okay...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Christmas wish

I was reading a magazine the other night, and in it, there were letters to Santa that different authors had written, as if they were writing a letter for themselves at any given age (like 5, or 35, or 10, or 77). One of the letters in particular intrigued me, because the author pointed out to Santa that what she wanted wasn't really anything that could be put in a box, but if she gave him ideas, maybe he could come up with something that would fit the bill. I started thinking about what my letter to Santa would be, and after casting aside "mistletoe in my doorway" (Who doesn't enjoy a good smooch? Although, I think the UPS man mind find it offputting to be smooched by a lady in pink flannel panda pajamas, crazy hair, and questionable-hygiene-at-the-moment. My packages might never make it here again.) I came up with this:

Dear Santa,
I realize that you might not be able to do it, but I believe in Christmas magic and I have to ask...can I have one more day?

I would like one more day of sitting at her feet and feeling the mysterious whisper of silkyness as my 3 year old self stroked her stocking.
I would like one more day of following her around her garden, to hear the names of her plants, even though I know now that I did not inherit her green thumb. I ask for one more day to see her facial expressions as she listens to what I have to say, waiting until I am finished before correcting my Spanish.
I would like one more day to feel her hands gently get the tangles out of my hair before making my braids. I want one more day to giggle at a shared joke at my father's expense, one more day to play Loteria--to hear her say "El Catrin" as she held up the card for us to see the picture, one more time to sit on the bed and watch her get dolled up for her weekly Bingo excursion. To sit in the car, finding the capacity to keep my teenage mouth shut and listen to her and her friend Catalina replay the evening, as I drove them home, hearing who won the most money, local gossip, and the jangle of their bracelets against each other as they punctuated their stories with their hands. I want to hear her sigh, the one she made when I had the water temperature just right, as I angled the shower hose to hit her just so on her back. To hear her comment on how wonderfully healthy the children look. To see her face, patiently enjoying Audrey's attempts to comb her hair. To hear her "buenos noches, que Dios te bendiga" as we all took our leave at the end of our visit.
I want watch her make tortillas, measuring everything in the palm of her hand, rolling the dough into balls that magically stacked perfectly in her big silver bowl.

I know, Santa, this is not possible.

And that's okay.

I know I have her always.

In the gentleness of my hands as I work out the tangles in Audrey's hair, before I make her braids.
In finding the capacity to keep my Mom mouth shut, listening to the kids talk about their days as I drive them home, listening for them to punctuate their thoughts with drumming on their pant legs.
She'll be in my kitchen, every time I pull out my big silver bowl, rolling balls of cookie dough.
She'll be next to me, shaking her head every time another plant becomes one of my helpless victims. She will be with me, giving me the patience to wait until the kids are finished before correcting their Spanish.
I will still always hear "buenos noches, que Dios te bendiga" as I end a visit to my parents and head home.

Thanks, Santa, for listening. See what you can do.

It's not that I have regrets, that I feel that I didn't appreciate her enough. It's just that like a spoiled, petulant child, I am unhappy about losing one of my favorite things in the whole world.

Grudgingly, I accept the fact that 94 years is a long time to be on this earth and that she certainly earned the right to finally go. I am willing to part with her only because I have such wonderful, rich memories of our time together.

Buenos noches, Nana. Que Dios te bendiga para siempre.

Not as easy as it looks

Last week, I received word that my Nana was being moved into the hospice unit of the nursing home she was in. I wasn't worried, but I was sad that the end was approaching and when you're anticipating something like that, well, it's easy to lose focus.

I was at the elementary school picking up the kids when Nolan appeared out of nowhere. He'd forgotten his keys, and knew where to find me.

He very graciously occupied his sister on the swings while I finished up some stuff in the office. As we walked to our car, my thoughts were on calling my Mom for news, when I had a little brainstorm.

I decided I needed a normal, regular thing to keep my mind at bay for a few more minutes.

I cocked my head and looked at my tall, gangly boy and smiled. "Mijo," I began, not believing the next words that were going to come out of my mouth, "Do you want to drive us home?" (He'll be fifteen in about 12 days. The permit window is quickly approaching. He's gotta start sometime....)

"Really? You're not kidding??" he asked, incredulous. "Not kidding," I said, taking a deep breath as I handed him the keys. "Get in."

I made sure Audrey was buckled in, and I gave him some instruction on where the gas and brake pedals were, as well as how to get it into drive. "Let your foot off the brake, and it will roll forward. Get a feel for it and then you can put your foot gently on the gas," I said.

He listened. And concentrated.

I held my breath but was calm when I addressed him. "You're going to have to slow down up here to turn," I said, then I reached over and helped him make the turn. "Look in front of you, not at the cars parked in the street. Your hands will follow your eyes, and we will hit whatever you're looking at," I added.

Audrey started giggling like mad in her seat.

"Um, you need to step on the gas." Pa-whump! The van jumped a few feet forward, and I became reacquainted with the head rest. "Easy, dude. A little lighter with that foot..." "Sorry, Mom." "What are you doing, trying to kill us, Noey?" asked our little backseat driver.

We approached an intersection, and as people in our neighborhood don't always remember to slow down, I made him slow as we got closer. A car approached us, and we had a little standoff. You go. No, you go. No, really, you go. Finally, I semi got out of the van, standing up in the doorway, shouting over the top of it, "He's learning. Go ahead and go."

The other driver smiled widely, light bulb going off in his head, and I could almost see him remembering his first drive.

We made it up the street in fits and starts, and finally, we were at our house. "You're Dad's not home, so we have the whole driveway. I'm gonna let you pull in and park it." I helped him with the turn again, but as we hit the incline of the curb, we paused a little, so he goosed it enough to make it...but kept going.

"Brake, son. Brake. Brake NOW!"

He'd mistakenly hit the gas. Luckily, he recovered in time such that my garage door is remains intact.

Surprisingly enough, so do my nerves.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I should read before I sign

I get pieces of paper shoved at me all the time, usually rumpled from being in the bottom of the backpack, and always of the highest urgency.

The rule of the house is no shoving paper under Mom's nose while we are pulling out of the driveway on the way to school. It took a while, but they are all on board with this, and it's gotten 100% better.

Now if I could get them to stop shoving paper under my nose at bedtime, when Mom's patience is short and all she wants is the breathy silence that accompanies 4 little bodies hitting the hay simultaneously.

Not that 'simultaneous' ever happens. Nope. There's one last trip to the bathroom, two drinks of water, and a "did you brush your teeth? get in there!" before I can even be assured that everyone is in their own bedroom.

All of which leads me to the papers...the papers I have to sign for field trips. Ryan had a zoo field trip a few weeks ago. Audrey has a field trip today.

I'm a sucker for "Mom, will you come with us?" because at the end of the day, I'll pretty much say "Okay" to anything if it means I can watch tv by myself, for the ten minutes I'll get in before I'm knocked out too, face down in the latest issue of "Real Simple." (You are what you read. ;p)

As a result, I went on a zoo field trip a few weeks ago with the fourth graders, the highlight of which were the giant poops in the rhino pen and the babboon's red asses. Try explaining babboon red asses without the real reason why and you will begin to understand why it is more fun to be at the zoo with kindergartners, whom you can easily distract with "Hey! Did I just hear the lions roaring??"

And today, I'm going on a field trip with Audrey to the local bowling alley. Six classes of 1st and 2nd graders. Just the thought of all those shoes needing to be changed is making me reach for the Excedrin right now.

Hopefully, she will be as sweet as her brother, and pat the seat next to her for me to sit down when we get on the bus.

I guess I should count my blessings, were it not for the kids going to all these local exotic places, the only time I'd do anything fun like this is.........

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Order something else

On the way to work this morning, I decided to drop in to Starbucks.

I usually try to avoid it, because I know it will make me late; but it was one of those mornings where I was trying to maintain that I wasn't really cranky yet knew, deep down, that I'd be better caffeinated.

It was unusually busy at my usual drive-thru, and I'm a patient kinda girl, even if I am cranky, so I parked my car and walked in. I tried not to feel a little smug as I watched all the 'gotta-go, gotta-go' types jockeying for the next available spot in the line of cars approaching the drive-thru entrance, knowing it didn't matter what spot they got, they'd still be waiting when I was heading back to my car.

Once inside, I had to wait in line, but it's fun for me to people watch in Starbucks, if only to hear what people order. I think the next time they ask for my name, though, I'm going to start amusing myself and try using different ones. Something easy to fit on the side of a cup, like "Tallulah." "Janet. Miss Jackson-if-you're-nasty." "George."

I was waiting for them to call my name, and listening to the barista as she called out what the order was/customer's name. I always feel a little weird when they call out my drink, as though the mere mention of what I'm having is some indication to the world of my psyche. As if "tall breve gingersnap latte" would reveal to the world that, heee-eeeyy, this chick, she's got a precious drink, but the breve, well, that's quite decadent, even on a Friday, you can bet she's rockin' some hot underwear, maybe a black bra underneath that tshirt, and whoa! matching panties, too; as a spotlight appears from nowhere and follows me out the door. (For those who don't know, 'breve' means that they make your latte with half-and-half, for heaven's sake, and yes, it is creamy goodness but really, if you're going to drink that, you may as well be drinking full-fat chocolate milk and having someone gently wipe off your chin when you're done.)

Anyway, I'm standing there, eyeing the crowd, hoping not one of the soy-milk-nonfat-sugar-free crowd judges my choice of butterfat with an indiscreet eyebrow raise when it happens.

"Venti caramel mocha frappuccino for Ryan," the barista calls out and I turn my head to see a dude in his mid twenties approach, and yeah, I'm thinking, surely, that's not his drink, but then I see the girl with him has a cup already and then I'm a little catty, a little judgmental, as I see him get his straw ready and take a drink.

He wasn't fruffy, but he wasn't dressed like he was doing any manual labor, either. And I couldn't help but thinking he looked a little ridiculous holding a giant, clear, domed lid cup, the upper half filled with whipped cream, the visible criss-cross of caramel up the inside of the cup making it look more like a confection than a real cup of joe. Again, I have no excuse, I mean, my drink is not anywhere near the truly hard coffee served in some places around here, but I just find it very emasculating for a man to be seen holding a cup like that, drinking something that amounts to a coffee-flavored milkshake. Clearly, his momma didn't raise him right. (I won't get started on the metro-hair.)

It made me wish I'd stopped at the convenience store just up the street, where the men are men, taking their coffee in giant doses and should they reach for cream and sugar, they might say "Excuse me, ma'am" in a voice that sounds like it's seen some real life, even though they know you heard them coming up behind you, because work boots always make that scuffy thud-step across the floor. Everyone just wants their caffeine hit so they can be on their way, not a frappuccino half-caf soy anything in sight.

Guess I know where I'm stopping next time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nice to be missed

I got in from work the other day, and no sooner than I put my keys down, I had my circle of friends around me. Audrey hugging, Ryan behind her, and the little dog jumping up and down behind both of them.

"Mommy, why do you smell so good?" "Mommy, you're pretty." "Mommy, I missed you."

It was enough to stop the "Can't-you-people-let-me-set-down-my-purse-and-breathe?" snark about to come out of my mouth. Wooowww. Kinda hard to not like being loved like that.

I considered changing my schedule and working full time.

But then the real work started: "Mom, I'm hungry." "Mom, I need a book for school, can you take me to Barnes and Noble?" "Mom, can you help me with my homework?" "Mom." "Mom." "Mommm...."

"How was your day?" Mr W asked, as I walked into our room and made my Mr Rogers change-of-clothes switch.

"It appears it's just getting started," I answered, grinning at him as I finished putting my things away.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

He strikes again

I was hanging up clothes in my closet the other night when the little guy entered my room. He was on his way to bed and wanted his goodnight kiss.

I bent a little at the waist, he's much shorter than I am, and he gently placed his hand on both sides of my face, drew me in, planted one on me just as he slid one hand around to the back of my head to make sure I was in the right spot. "Goodnight, Mom," he said, as he left the room.

I doubled over giggling at the foot of our bed, shaking my head and asking Mr W, "Did you see that?" I straightened up, and raising an eyebrow, I could not resist this comment: "You don't even kiss me like that."

I hope this doesn't foreshadow a liking for chubby older women with curly hair who like their lip gloss.

Somewhere, I think Freud is chuckling in his grave.

Either way, someday, some girl will be very happy.