The View Master

Tempus fugit, carpe diem and all that. Last day of kindergarten, pass the kleenex.  This post was originally published last year but seems especially appropriate today as I sit at my desk trying to figure out how it all got away from me so fast.  Neither sweet nor bitter stays on the tongue for very long.  Tempus fugit indeed.

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These days, life seems to click past from weekend to weekend, holiday to holiday, school year to school year.  It is as though I am seeing my life through a View-Master.  With the click of the thumb, one season disappears from view and is replaced with another.  And then another, and another.

Soon the school year will be over and we’ll look forward to lazy summer days, swimming and popsicles.  Click.  Then Father’s Day.  Click. Then Independence Day. Click. And then Labor Day.  Click. And then back to school again.

I was almost 39 when we married and AD was 42.  We were both on the dark side of 40 when Sean came along.  And perhaps because we are older or because we came to parenthood in the 11th hour, time is the filter which sifts the meaning out of the mundane for us.  Time is our most precious and finite resource and informs our every thought.

The other day I watched a young woman in the grocery store pushing a cart with her baby in the seat.  I watched her stop the cart and lean in to rub noses with her baby and coo sweet round syllables to her.  I estimated her to be about 25 and I thought about how if she lives to be 80, she will get 55 years with her baby.  And I was a little envious.

If I’m lucky enough to live to be 80, I will get 36 years with my child.  I am so grateful that I ever got to be a mom. I am grateful for every single day, even the days when I cry and complain about how hard it is because I know that no matter how many years I get, in the closing moments of life as I am ushered off  into the shadow of death, if I wish for anything at all, it will be more time.

This right-now season that fills the frame of the View-Master, is especially vibrant and crisp and golden.  My eyes want to linger here, to stay just a little bit longer…

Click.

Advanced Grocery Shopping

Sean has not started school yet, and won’t until after Labor Day, but it seems that everyone else has. Consequently I’ve been promoted to most favored playmate status, which is all kinds of wonderful but leaves little time for other things, like attending to this blog.  So here’s a re-run from way back in August of 2005, one of my first posts.

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The earth is inhabited by two kinds of people: Those who love to go to the grocery store and then the other 98% of the population — those who have a life.

Until Sean came along, I was among the 2% who rank a trip to the grocery store right up there with a day at Six Flags. Lately, however, going to the store is more like going to a friend’s Tupperware party — you are obligated to go, you’re looking for the cheapest thing to buy and you hope you don’t have to go again for a long time.

Once upon a time, my weekly visit to the store was a serendipitous adventure. Tom Thumb was my boyfriend. I couldn’t wait to see him. It was exciting to think about what new and exotic fruit or vegetable or gourmet item he might have for me.  Would it be tomatillos, star fruit or imported olives?

I would spend hours going systematically up and down the aisles looking at all the different items and thinking about what fabulous dishes I might prepare.   Even though my household consisted only of my husband and me, the boy bagging the groceries once asked me how many children I had to feed. Unfortunately, for him, he asked this question too soon after a failed fertility treatment. I burst into tears. He tried to become invisible, and in fact, he was never seen again.

Now that I have a kiddo, I’ve quit seeing Tom. Sam is my new guy. If Tom Thumb is Omar Sharif, Wal-Mart is Al Bundy – convenient, cheap, annoying.

The truth is, I have a love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart. I hate how they dominate the retail landscape. I hate how they wipe out the small mom-and-pop businesses when they come to town. I love that they are a block away and sell formula and diapers for less than anyone else in town. And most of all, I love the entertaining study in humanity that is Wal-Mart — almost as good as the airport, only with more local flavor.

Aside from where I shop, how I shop has changed as well. Where shopping once was a leisurely exercise, like golf only with more physical and mental exertion, it’s now a study in ergonomics and economy of motion. The goal of every trip is to maximize the shopping that needs to be done within the time restraints of my toddler’s disposition on any given day. No wasted motion, no wasted effort, no wasted time. Not even a second glance towards the beloved olives.

I remember how, in my previous life, I used to see women in Nike’s, running through the store like spooked race horses, pushing carts laden with children and macaroni and cheese, taking corners on two wheels. And I would think to myself: “They should really slow down and stop and smell the cilantro — life is short.”  What I didn’t know, until now, is that no one with a toddler buys cilantro and yes, life is short, but a toddler’s cart-tolerance is even shorter and death is only a slightly less attractive an option than a toddler melt-down.

Before Sean came along, there were no daily emergency trips to the grocery store. I consulted my cookbooks, I made a list, I pressed my clothes. If I were out of, say, anchovies, it could wait until next week. These days, it seems that I am at Wal-Mart just about every day for some emergency item, like chocolate. I realized this recently when the greeter, who knows me by name, calls to me as I’m pushing my over-the-legal-weight-limit cart out the door. “Nice Nike’s,” he says with a knowing look and a wink, “See ‘ya tomorrow.”

I felt so cheap and tawdry! As if no other grocery store would have me! Tom wants me back you know. He still sends me coupons….

Cuter

“He’s cuter than he used to be.”

This was a comment that I overheard recently at a family gathering. When I realized the speaker was referring to my son, I laughed involuntarily. Not a belly laugh, but a sniff of disbelief as though I were trying to expel a gnat from my nose. Cuter than he used to be! Absurd.

Her words seeped into the spongy part of my brain that processes and analyzes. I was surprised when I started to feel a little indignant. What exactly did she mean by that? That Sean wasn’t cute to start with but was just now approaching entry level cute? She was obviously unaware that the nurse in the delivery room had pronounced him “too cute” at birth. Too cute — too, as in unbearably cute, a level of cuteness that could not be tolerated, criminally cute. A professional nurse would not lie about something as serious as that.

It was the first time that it had ever occurred to me that there might be someone on the earth who didn’t see Sean as I do – that someone might actually think that he is not cute, but just average, just so-so. I was astonished.

As conversations about cousins, weather and jobs rose and fell and floated around the room, I held the expression of someone who was listening intently. I nodded and said things like “Is that right? You don’t say” all while diagramming those six words in my head. Cuter than he used to be.

What if she were right? What if I was mistaken and Sean wasn’t catalogue cover cute? I kneaded this idea like a cat atop a velvet pillow. Silently, purposefully, obsessively pushing, pushing. Would it be so bad if my kid wasn’t cute or would it just be bad that I was so blind?

As I pondered these things, I recalled that it was just the other day that Antique Daddy and I were looking through some early photos of Sean and we both agreed, and even laughed about how deluded we were. We didn’t remember him looking so goofy. We didn’t remember that his head looked like a big bald happy toothless bowling ball attached to drunken rag doll body. We thought he was too cute.  And in our eyes,  he was too cute – so stunningly and unbearably cute that we could do little else but sit around and look at him and sigh.

It turns out that he is cuter than he used to be. And I am even more blindly in love with him than I used to be.

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This post was originally published in June of 2006.  Every season Sean is cuter than he used to be and his daddy and I are astonished at how much more in love with this child we are than we used to be. We didn’t think it was possible.

Boundary Issues

Antique Daddy was out of town one day last week. He works from home, so the three of us are together a lot. A lot. Of togetherness. All  together. At one time. In one place. Often.

So, on those rare occasions when he’s out of town, I miss him and all that, yada yada yada, but it’s also kind of nice for Sean and I to do our own free-form, free-spirited thing as that’s the kind of people Sean and I are – two zany Bohemians.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand (which I haven’t really thought of just yet but give me a minute) AD has always worked from home and for the most part, it’s a really good deal, but on those rare occasions when he is not here, it’s kind of extra special to have the little boy all to myself. Sean and I like to violate all of daddy’s rules when he’s gone like eating in the car, eating in the den and watching cartoons in mommy’s big bed, while eating. When the cat’s away the mice will eat anywhere they want and feel no remorse.

Well, it turns out I did not have a subject at hand, so here’s a post from December 2005.  Man, that was a long time ago.

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Today, on the soft fleshy party of my right hip (as if there is place on me that is not soft or fleshy) I am sporting an exact replica of South America, only bigger and with more purple and yellow. And the reason I have this bruise is because my husband works at home.

Antique Daddy is a WAHD (Work-At-Home-Dad) and I am a SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mom) and we have a SWIFT (Sneaky-Wily-Incredibly-Fast-Toddler). WAHD + SAHM + SWIFT = boundary issues.

We have both always worked from home together and it has always worked for us. The upside to this scenario has been that we get to eat lunch together in our jammies and grope each other when we pass in the hallway – both of which are frowned upon in a regular office.

We established boundaries early on so that each of us knew that the other was working and not available for sex or help moving the furniture. The downside is that more often than not, the workday doesn’t ever really end, but working extra hours in exchange for groping your spouse in the middle of the day seemed like a fair trade.

As you know, we recently added a toddler to the staff here at AntiquesRUs and the boundaries have shifted. There is far less hallway groping these days, maybe because the hallway is now blocked off with a gate and the grope-ees are both chronically tired.

Now I know what you may be thinking when I use the term gate. You have pictured in your mind a device that prohibits the entry or exit from one location to another. Oh but you would be wrong. It’s not just a gate – it’s a baby gate, which means the only person in the house who can easily operate it or scoot under it is a baby.

Now some of you may be wondering what Antique Daddy does that he gets to work at home and the answer to this question is I don’t really know. Here’s what I know: He sits in a chair all day wearing a Borg implant and speaking in acronyms to other members of his Collective whom I think are located in a galaxy far, far away, like New Jersey.

So a few days ago, Antique Daddy informs me that he has a very important call and that he will be speaking to very important people about very important things and that it is very important that the boy not join the discussion. And because I have a college degree and he spoke very slowly making sure to enunciate the multi-syllabic word important, I understood the importance of what he was saying to me.

So then, I made sure the baby gate was securely shut and latched leaving Antique Daddy to manage in peace all things important. But soon thereafter, the boy felt it was important that he speak with his father immediately regarding an important matter. And so he brought this to my attention by rattling the gate like a gorilla and screaming DAHDEEDAHDEE which means, “Father, may I please speak with you?”

I informed Sean that Daddy was on an important blah blah blah important and that … It was then that I saw the vapor trail that lead under the gate and towards Antique Daddy’s office at the speed of light.

I knew I couldn’t unlatch the gate without the assistance of a toddler, so I hurdled it Flo Jo style and sprinted after him hoping to tackle him before he reached the end zone.

I congratulated myself on clearing the gate and managed to snag his shirt tail just before he breached security, but not before slipping on a Lego and landing squarely on my right hip with the boy on top. We both laid there on the floor for a moment, me unable to even moan in pain due to the lack of air in my lungs and the boy laughing hysterically saying “Do again Mommy! Do again!”

At this point, Antique Daddy has completed the very important call, opens the door and looks down to find the boy and me lying on the floor. “Are you just going to lie around all day?” he asks.

The next time I’m at the doctor’s office and he asks me “Is everything (doesyourhusbandabuseyou) OK at home? I’ll tell him no, everything is not OK. We are a WAHD-SAHM-SWIFT and it’s brutal. Is there a state agency for this?

Goose Eggs With A Side of Synthroid

I don’t know what it says about me that two of the most popular search terms used to get this site are “child has goose egg on head” and “synthroid overdose”.  I thought I’d save the world wide web the trouble today and put this all-inclusive post right up at the top. It was originally published in April of 2007.

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Two of the worst things that have ever happened to my child have happened when he was sitting on my kitchen counter and I was standing less than one foot away from him. Which is probably an indictment of my kitchen counter style of parenting.

I wrote about The Goose Egg Incident recently. Apparently falling off the kitchen counter and whacking his head on the floor hasn’t impaired his memory as just yesterday when I hoisted him up onto the counter he advised, “You need to watch me better. I could fall off of here and get hurt!” It was the finger wag in my face that I thought was a bit much. Inside my three-year-old lives a Jewish mother who is a police officer in her spare time.

The other incident I haven’t written about because… a) I don’t like to think about it, b) I’m embarrassed and c) it could probably be used as evidence.

About a year ago, Sean was sitting on the kitchen counter while I was standing nearby doing some important parenting thing like watching HGTV from the kitchen. I turned my back for not more than ten seconds and when I turned back Sean had grabbed my prescription bottle of Synthroid and removed the childproof lid. He had his head thrown back like he was taking a shot of whiskey, little white powdery whiskey balls. Someone should really invent that, little whiskey pills.

When I saw that he was foaming at the mouth and his little cheeks were puffed up like a winter squirrel, I of course, FREAKED OUT! My eyes bugged out of my head, all the air whooshed out of my lungs and sucked my brain right down into my esophagus.

I pried open his mouth and dug out a handful of pills and then I grabbed him by the feet and turned him upside down and started shaking him like a saltshaker. Which he thought was de-light-ful fun. He giggled and squealed “Do it again Mommy!” He seemed absolutely fine. I was out $30 worth of medication, but he was fine.

And then – then came the worst part of all. I had to call the pediatrician’s office. And give my real name. And explain. How. It. Happened.

So while I waited on hold for the doctor, I Googled “Synthroid overdose” and continued to FREAK OUT, but now in a more quiet and controlled manner. And also a very sweaty manner. It’s hard to type when your fingers keep slipping off the keyboard.

Finally, the nurse picked up and for some reason, when you are totally freaked out, people in authority either can’t understand what you are saying, can’t buh-leeve what you’re saying or go temporarily deaf. Because they keep asking you the same questions over and over. And this only serves to ratchet up the freak out level.

Me: Hi, this AM. My son! My son Sean, he ate my pills, my Synthroid. He opened the bottle somehow – childproof ha! – and just ate them. Chomp chomp, just like a squirrel. A very hungry Synthroid-eating squirrel.

Nurse: I’m sorry who is this?

Me: Antique Mommy, my son is Sean.

Nurse: And what is your son’s name?

Me: Sean. S-E-A-N. Sean. He’s two.

Nurse: And how old is he?

That’s when I take the phone and start hitting myself in the head with it.

Eventually she asks me how many pills were in the bottle, how many pills did he swallow, how many pills are left and lots of other questions about pills to which the answer was “I don’t know.” And she would say, “You don’t know?” And I would again say, “I don’t know.”

After many precious minutes spent trying to convey my personal information to Nurse Killmenow and a game of “Questions You Don’t Know But I’ll Keep Asking Anyway” (which caused a flashback to fourth grade math class) she advises me to just watch him and that any extra medication would probably be excreted in his urine. Which is exactly what Mr. Google said.

And then I hung up and waited for CPS to come and get my child so he could be raised by wolves or someone more responsible than me.

Alas, all’s well that ends well, but I shaved a couple of years off my life that day and we all know I don’t have that many to spare.

Pathetically Uncool On All Levels

I’m at Red Lobster.

On a Friday night.

At 5pm.

I am wearing the same Wal-Mart workout clothes that I put on at 7am that morning.

But I never got around to working out.

I look down and notice my shirt is on inside out.

I am drinking a glass of house Cabernet. That is the Red Lobster house wine people.

I, not my date, pay the tab. (He can’t find his credit card. Of course.)

When the waiter returns with the bill and my credit card, he asks for my ID.

I consider jumping on the seat of the booth and punching the air Tom Cruise style, but instead I just shout “GOD BLESS YOU MAN!” And then I whip out my license (out of a diaper bag) and show it to him and anyone who will look in my direction.

In the Red Lobster house wine provided haze, I think I’ve been carded.

And then he says, “Ma’am, the back of your credit card says Ask for ID.  See?” He holds the card out at a distance so I can see it.

Psssssssst.

That is the sound of my ego deflating, adjusting to the appropriate level for a 46-year-old woman with a toddler wearing Wal-Mart clothes inside out at 5pm on a Friday night in Red Lobster drinking house wine, paying for her date and shouting God Bless You Man! for no good reason. That level is somewhere under the booth along with the stray Goldfish and dropped color crayons.

I console myself with the fact that at least I didn’t jump on the booth. There’s that.

“Oh. Well then,” I say. “I knew that. God bless you just the same sir.”

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Originally published February, 2007

Looking For My Box

Why is it that churches need to put people in boxes? When Jesus spoke to and fed the crowd of 5,000, did he organize them into Youth, Singles, Young Professionals, Young Marrieds, Young Families, Pacesetters and Widowed and Divorced?

There’s a verse in Scripture that compares the body of the church to that of the human body, where all parts do their own thing but contribute to the wellness of the whole.  In our current church culture, generally all the Toes meet in room B3 and the Fingers meet in B4, neither benefiting from the wisdom and perspective of the other. And the idea of fingers and toes having their own meetings kind of cracks me up.

When I was widowed at 34, I eventually (re)turned to church to help me through the grieving process – not so much for spiritual healing, although that too was certainly needed, but merely as a way to force myself to get out and interact with other humans on the longest and loneliest day of the week.

What I found when I finally ventured back to church, now in my mid-30’s, unemployed, widowed and childless, was that I didn’t fit anywhere. I had no box. I didn’t fit into the singles group, where everyone was at least ten years younger than me. And I certainly I didn’t fit into the widowed and divorced group where most everyone was 30 years older than me with grown children and grandchildren.

Nothing changed after I remarried at 39. Antique Daddy and I didn’t fit into the Newly Marrieds group. Although we were newly married, we weren’t exactly young. And now even though we have a child, we don’t fit into the Young Families group either, because you know, we’re still not young. So we kind of roam around from church to church, class to class, bugging visiting people who are comfortably snuggled into their demographic box.

And while that may sound like a complaint, it actually isn’t. I don’t really want a box. I like being with people from all seasons in life. It’s more interesting. It’s kind of fun to make people squirm when you invade their box. It’s liberating to be box free! Down with boxes people!

I was appreciating my box-free existence a few Sunday’s ago. We were visiting a church and ended up in a Sunday school class with mostly older folks. When the teacher asked that the guests be introduced, an elderly gentleman stood up and introduced his daughter who was about my age. “Everyone, I’d like you meet Susan, my daughter,” he said proudly. Then he looked at his wife who was glaring up at him through squinted eyes – his cue to quickly correct himself. “I guess I should say this is our daughter.”

“I guess so,” she said dryly in her long-vowel’d Texas accent, “Since you were out eating a hamburger when I had her.”

Gotta love an old gal that speaks her mind.  See what I would have missed had I been in the Old People With Toddlers class?

Originally published November 2006.