There You Go, Mom…Making Me Learn Stuff Again

My parents did a very convenient thing: they were born four days apart from each other. Needless to say, when they hit those important milestone birthdays, it makes things easier on me and my siblings. One giant bang of a celebration, and we are good. That is exactly what we did this past weekend. I am still exhausted.

Do I really have parents this old?

My dad welcomed his sixth decade on earth last week, and today it is my mom’s turn. But today is a little more than just a birthday; it is a celebration of second chances. As my dad tearfully admitted at their party, there were two times in his life when he didn’t think he would live to see 60: when he almost fell from a jerry-rigged rope bridge between two fly ash electrostatic precipitators (…um, no clue. That is total enginerd territory), and when he was being wheeled down a hospital corridor on his way to a quadruple bypass surgery. And there was one time, much more recently, when he was afraid my mom wouldn’t make it to 60, either (cue the tears from the entire room, the resulting red eyes ruining all good photo ops during the “Happy Birthday” song…thanks, Dad). 

I have only mentioned my mom’s accident once in this blog, for a few reasons. I try to keep this space fairly light-hearted, mostly because I don’t like reading stuff from negative nancies, so why would I expect other people to be interested in reading about my woes? Second, facing things like the mortality of your parents is pretty heavy and emotional stuff and, well, I have a good dose of German blood running through my veins. We don’t always deal with that stuff very well. We like to bottle it up; and when we do let it out, it usually results in a rather uncontrollable “ugly cry” and virtually indecipherable words between sobs.

But let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version of everything that has happened the last five or so months: My mom had been having these spells where she would pass out, and the doctors were not sure what was causing them. Before they could figure it out, she unfortunately fainted and fell one morning, landing on her head. She fractured her neck and bruised her spinal cord, an injury that could have very well left her completely paralyzed or dead. There was quite a long time of uncertainty about how my mom’s body would heal. The doctors said she would regain feeling and mobility in her hands and feet, but they could not say how much or how quickly. And they still couldn’t figure out what was making her pass out, which put her in danger of the same thing happening again. After weeks in the hospital, dealings with blood clots, months at a rehab facility, and even more months in outpatient therapy, my mom has persevered and is able to walk on her own again. The cause of the fainting spells has been found to be seizures, and she is now on the appropriate medication to (hopefully) keep this from happening again. She is still not back to where she was pre-accident, and probably never will be. But considering the alternatives, I don’t think I would have it any other way.

So today, my mom has made 60 even more fabulous than it would have been. And to celebrate, I would like to share six things I have learned from my mom’s accident.

Sexy. (*not my mom's legs) via Wikipedia licensed under CC BY 2.0
Sexy. (*not my mom’s legs) via Wikipedia licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. My mom can rock a pair of TED hose compression stockings like nobody’s business. She even pulled them off with formal wear at two weddings this summer. Who needs fish nets?

2. I am apparently of the age where doctors seem to feel I am the keeper of and the person whom should be consulted about my parents’ health history and concerns as well as the medications they are on. And I am absolutely not comfortable with that. When my mom was in the hospital, her neurosurgeon (who was quickly dubbed as being “my buddy”) would direct all conversation about my mom’s condition to ME…despite the fact that my father, the patient’s HUSBAND, who is of sound mind and body, was also in the room. Dude, my parents are just turning 60. They aren’t that old. I’m not committing them to the nursing home quite yet. I still refuse to believe I am old enough to be the mother of a seven-year-old, let alone keep track of the bazillion and one medications you are about to put my mother on. Give me a few more years to defer all important decisions to my parents. I’m not the matriarch yet. Geez.

The infamous Aunt Ginny

3. No matter how young you are, everyone who uses a walker ends up looking like my Great Aunt Ginny, God rest her soul. Sorry, Mom. You were totally doing the Aunt Ginny shuffle.

4. The best motivation for not having to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life is to order your wheelchair from a company who never actually delivers said wheelchair. It’s a long and ridiculous story (as are most things health insurance related), but basically, my mom never got the wheelchair they ordered. So it’s a good thing she’s walking now.

5. When the going gets tough, you realize how amazing your friends and family are. My mom is lucky to have so many people who care about her. The outpouring of prayers and support was vast. Even better was the number of friends and family who were literally at my mom’s side; bringing dinners, driving her to therapy, keeping her company at home before she got the green light to be by herself, and taking her to the store or just out to lunch. That did wonders for my mom’s spirit. But it also put my dad at ease as he went back to work, enabled my sister and I to keep our own households running, and helped my brother deal with being in another city, knowing that mom was cared for.  We are all so grateful for this band of generous souls.

6. My mom is pretty bad ass. If you would have asked me that day in the emergency room if I thought my mom would be where she is today, doing what she is doing less than six months from the accident, I probably would have said no. Not because I didn’t have any faith in my mom, but simply because everything was so unknown and, frankly, scary. But my mom did not let that get the better of her. And I know that she is doing as well as she is today not only because of the miraculous way the body can heal itself, but mostly because my mom decided on how she wanted things to be. And she made it so.

So Happy 60th Birthday, Mom! Welcome to the decade of second chances, you compression stocking fashionista, you. Love you.

Happy “Tin” Years

Ten years ago this very day, I was putting on a white gown. Ten years ago this very day, I was feeding off of excitement and butterflies. Ten years ago this very day, I was surrounded by 200 of my closest family and friends. Ten years ago this very day, I spoke the most sacred words I have ever spoken. Ten years ago this very day, I married my best friend.

And what am I doing on the ten-year anniversary of this day of all days? I’m having ten four-year-olds over to my house for a superhero themed birthday party. But that sounds about right…because after ten years, two kids, two houses, a dog, some ill-fated fish, and a very temporary turtle, life looks a lot different for me and my husband than it did on our wedding day.

Ten Years is the “Tin” Anniversary, which seems pretty appropriate if you think about it. Tin is not a flashy metal, but it is very practical and useful. It’s used in bakeware and for coating cans because of its low toxicity levels and ability to resist corrosion. It can be combined with other metals to make alloys and solder to join electrical circuits. It is even used in the window glass-making process and can be chemically combined with fluoride to be used in toothpaste. Tin is not imposing; it is easily adaptable. Kind of like a marriage that has lasted for ten years.

After being married for ten years, life is not exactly as flashy as it once was. “Practical” and “useful” become the norm. The never-ending unpredictability of kids, home ownership, car ownership, and work requires a marriage that can be adaptable. In a lot of ways, life does not really belong to us the way it did when we were first married. But that is a naturally occurring element of marriage…just like tin.

The day we met

Still, our ten year anniversary is a pretty huge milestone. These truly have been the best ten years of my life, and I have my husband to thank for that. And I find tin to be an even more appropriate representation of our life together because of the coincidental fact that the day I met Kurt, he was dressed as the “Tin Man.” (Well, I put that in quotes because it is hard to call some poorly wrapped pieces of aluminum foil a Tin Man costume.) We were both riding on a Wizard of Oz homecoming float in college, and while the attraction was not necessarily immediate (I mean, LOOK at that costume), I should have known this was a fateful moment in my life.

A much better costume attempt a few years later

You see, growing up, The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie. I had a mini-obsession with Dorthy and would often force family members to act out the entire story with me. So it seems pretty darn appropriate for my knight in shining armor to literally be wearing the “metal” suit of the Tin Man. And Kurt played the role of knight very, very well. The whole sweeping-me-onto-his-horse-and-riding-off-into-the-sunset flash and romance was a talent of his. How could I NOT want to marry this man?

Ten years later, it is clear to me that marrying him was the best decision I ever made. Because Kurt is still my “Tin Man.” Though he can still bring the romance with the best of them, he is more my practical knight in shining armor. The kind with an ax who can chop wood to furnish a home for his family and an oil can to smooth over sticky situations. And just like the Tin Man, he has an enormous heart than no one needs to see…it is obvious it is there.

Somewhere along those ten years we may have found ourselves back in Kansas, leaving the daily romance of Oz behind. But Kansas is where Dorthy wanted to be all along, because Kansas was home.

My Favorite Subject Turns Four: Happy Birthday Michael!

Dear Michael,

It seems appropriate that I post this birthday letter to you on my blog, since you have single-handedly provided much of my material for it…and frankly some of my best quality material. Every time I finish a new blog post and read it to your dad, he always says, regardless, “I think it’s your best one.” Well, I know that’s not always the case, but I think we would both agree that “Dancing on Betsy Ross’ Grave” is probably one of our favorites. And that is all thanks to you and your “unique way of living life.” Mostly, I love that post because it means I will always have something to remind me of exactly the boy your were at the age of three-and-a-half. But today, my little man, you turn four years old, and I can not wait (and frankly, am a bit frightened) to see what this next year will bring.

Michael the cowboyYou certainly keep us on our toes, which (while not always amusing at those very moments) has certainly provided us with lots of after-the-fact laughs, suppressed smiles while trying to scold you, and I give up giggles. I have often said about you, “It’s a good thing he’s cute”…and you really are, in my completely unbiased opinion. But truthfully, I don’t want you growing up with the notion that those charming dimples and lashfully luscious baby blues will buy you a free pass to make your own rules…because guys like that are big fat jerks. And you, my little buddy, may have had a salty three-year-old tongue sometimes, but you are powered by a heart that beats sweet and pure. Besides, now that you are turning four, I’m fully expecting the “terrible threes” to kindly be on their way.

One thing I hope will stick around, even though you are getting older, is that I can always count on you for some really fantastic snuggles. You…are…momma’s…boy. Plain and simple. Though it is sometimes burdensome that I am always your first choice to do pretty much everything, I really adore that you adore me so. It is hard to resist your nightly request of “Momma, will you snuggle with me?” even in spite of the massive number of time outs I had to put you in or “Michael messes” I had to clean up that day. And in those moments where you are lying in bed on the brink of sleep, all I can see is a perfect little boy.

Reflecting on this past year, age three has really been something. Exhausting? Yes. Frustrating? Yes (by the way,…PLEASE get his whole normal healthy eating habits thing down. It’s just annoying.). But you have made it all worth while because it is impossible for your genuinely lovable and inquisitive nature not to shine through. And you may be getting wise to ways of covering up your indiscretions (like when I catch you sneaking a cookie and you almost instinctively hold it up and say, “I was getting you a cookie, mom.”), but it also seems that Osmosis Boy IS starting to catch on to the right way of doing things as well…like saying “okay” when we ask you to do something instead of ignoring us or blatantly refusing. And might I say it is pretty adorable when we reaffirm this by saying “Good answer!” and you reply, “Yay! Let’s have a good answer party! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!”

Instead, let’s have a birthday party today to celebrate the fact that you have made our lives complete for another year. And pretty jam-packed-super-full as well. I feel certain that age four will bring many more blog posts to come, but I would be lying if I said I was not excited to see what you will bring to the table, and how you will refine the talents you already posses. For instance, your emerging negotiating tactics that usually only consist of what you will get out of the bargain: “How ’bout you take me to the ice cream store. Would that be a deal?” Well buddy, I’ve got one for you…

How ’bout you just keep being exactly who you are, and I just keep on loving you all the way to Heaven and back. Would that be a deal?

Love, Mommy

The Greatest Mother’s Day Gift

Do you smell that? It’s the smell of tempera paint, clay, a fresh pack of construction paper, and Elmer’s glue mixed with some misshapen waffles and the aroma of overpriced flowers. Ah…the smell of Mother’s Day.

Kids (and dads) everywhere are hustling to put final touches on homemade gifts. Reservations for brunch are being made. Men of the family are struggling to put together menus for family get-togethers that don’t consist solely of barbequed meat and beer. Gift certificates for manicures, pedicures, and massages are being bought at an alarming rate. Hallmark stock is likely skyrocketing.

What mothers really want for Mother's Day
What mothers REALLY want for Mother’s Day (from https://www.facebook.com/guggiedaily)

I myself always look forward to seeing what my kids and husband cook up for me every Mother’s day, both literally and figuratively. But as a post my friend Maggie (check out her awesome blog at Perspectives Writing & Editing…little plug) made the other day on Facebook, it really does not take much to show us mothers some honest appreciation. I would be happy if my kids could just understand that I would give my life for them at any given second of any given day…and treat me accordingly as the unselfish and heroic queen that willingness to sacrifice proves me to be, bowing to my every wish and command. I guess breakfast in bed is nice, too.

But honestly, nothing my children could give me could ever match the gift I was given simply with their advents into my life: a true and pure understanding of unconditional love. Never have I ever been so angry or upset with my kids that I did not tiptoe myself into their rooms after they were asleep, whisper a kiss across their foreheads, and silently thank God for the dreaming little blessings before me. And it will always be that way. I know that because the moment my oldest child came to be and I was able to feel that unconditional love stirring within me was also the moment I understood, for the very first time, just how much I was loved by someone else. For me, it took becoming a mother to know the depths of my own mother’s love for me. To look at my daughter and my son, to feel my adoration without horizons for them, and to realize I am the source of that same feeling in someone else…well…that is a beautiful revelation.

I think those of us especially with young children get wrapped up in Mother’s Day being “ours.” We are now a part of that sacred female community, and we feel a bit entitled to a day where we get a pat on the back for surviving sleep deprivation, temper tantrums, and assaults of various disgusting messes and smells. But when you get those adorable cards with crayon lettering, framed handprints, and handmade beaded necklaces that you will sentimentally treasure for the rest of your days, just remember that somewhere in a box or a closet in the house you grew up in, your mother has packed away all those little things you made for her. And now, you will understand why.

me and mom
Me and my Mama

Happy Mother’s Day, especially to my mom. I love you.

(P.S. Mom, you just said the other day that you told someone, “Her blog will make you laugh…and cry.” Well, I’m guessing the tissues are out on this one. Sorry.)

What I WAS Going to Write About: The Enigma of the Three Year Old

doctor pediatrician
“There has to be something wrong, right?” (photo modified from Flickr under CC by 2.0)

Last week I began formulating an idea for a blog post, born out of the frustration that comes with being the mother of a three-and-a-half year old. I have often said that the age of three should be declared a medical affliction. After all, there has been many a mother who has gone to the pediatrician with complete certainty that there will be a diagnosis of an ear infection, a sinus infection, an ANY infection to account for the increasingly whiny behavior of her child, only to have the pediatrician tell her he is completely healthy…he’s just a three year old. True story. And if three is a medical affliction, then three-and-a-half is a chronic disease.

That WAS what I was going to write about in my post.

I WAS going to pepper the post with a slew of examples proving my hypothesis that the age of three-and-a-half is a chronic disease, examples from right under my own roof. Like last Saturday when Michael pouted that he didn’t want his dad to take him to the playground because he would rather sit in a gym with me and watch his sister’s basketball practice (yes, it is nice that he loves me so, but only a three-and-a-half year old could make going to the playground a bad thing). Or Monday when Michael noticed that I sprinkled just the tiniest dash of flaxseed in his mac ‘n’ cheese and would not eat it because it apparently smelled and tasted “ridiculous.” Or pretty much any time Grace has something worthy of being on video: every recording of her performances, recitals, or games has the sound of Michael whining in the background. And in the case of last year’s Christmas dance recital, he is actually physically IN the background (listen for the cue around the 2:43 mark where I whisper “MICHAEL!” in horrified embarrassment at what I know is about to happen yet have no power to stop).

I WAS going to post about all those things, until a series of good behaviors and heart-melting actions made me feel like a frigid mommy dearest for even thinking to disparage my sweet little boy. Like the fact that on Sunday we were in a church with no cry room for literally almost three straight hours (mass followed by a baptism) and he was a complete and total champ about it. Or the fact that on Tuesday, for pretty much the first time all school year, he walked right over and sat on the rug after hanging up his coat, instead of latching onto my leg and making the goodbye process a battle of wills. Or the fact that on any given day, at any given time, I can ask him for a snuggle and he happily obliges, usually throwing in a goofy little smile as he squashes my cheeks together with his little hands before planting a sticky kiss on my face.

So that is what I AM going to write this post about instead. About a little boy who pretends to be Santa and wraps up things around the house to give his sister. About a little boy who plays house with his four Batman figurines, designating a Dad Batman, a Mom Batman, a Brother Batman, and a Sister Batman who all throw a party in the Batcave for the “Terrible” Hulk so he will turn into the “Happy” Hulk. About a little boy who has me read Llama Llama Misses Mama over and over again because it helps him remember that his own mama might go away sometimes, but she also always comes back. About a little boy who, every day as soon as we drop Grace off at school, says “I miss sis.” About a little boy who calls the kitchen the “chicken,” thereby making it hysterical every time he scolds our dog by yelling, “Scout, get out of the chicken!” About a little boy who sounds like Forrest Gump when he says “ice cream,” and who makes us giddy by humoring us with the movie line we taught him to say for full effect: “Lieutenant Da-an…iiiiice cream!” About a little boy who still has the captivating sing-song voice of innocence, making me sometimes hang on even his jibberish ramblings just to listen to the way he says the words.

Yes, there is definitely a lot to complain about with a three-and-a-half year old. But fortunately, there really is so much more to love. And that is the best medicine for any chronic disease.

More of the Same in 2012: A Year in Review

Believe it or not, both of my children stayed up until midnight last night to ring in the new year, albeit by accident. We had planned to “celebrate” early like most parents of young children, but for some reason, everything just ran a little behind. We ate dinner later than we planned, which moved back our movie start time. Before we knew it, we had unknowingly blown right through 9:00 and 10:00 pm. My husband quickly gave the kids a bath in order to have our celebration at 11:00, but then we realized what the heck. If they can make it to midnight, more power to them. And they did.

So as we watched the ball drop, the sparkling apple juice was flowing. We all wished each other a happy 2012…all of us except for Michael. These were Michael’s very first words of the new year, in order: 1. “Ew, they’re kissing.” 2. “Sis, you’re in my way” (accompanied by a push)  3. Sticking out his tongue and spitting at us.

Well, I thought. It looks as though 2012 is going to be pretty much the same as 2011.

On second thought, however, that really would not be such a bad thing. By most accounts, 2011 was a kind year to me. There were definitely some horrible moments throughout the year, most notably the passing of Kurt’s grandfather and our friends’ little boy Chase, as well as the horrible tornadoes that struck the area, including the homes of both my in-laws and my great-aunt and great-uncle. Thankfully, the twister’s damage resulted in fixable things, so I count that as a blessing.

But more often than not, 2011 brought positive things to my life. My kids treated me to more gems of hilarity and uber-cuteness. Grace learned to read, ride a bike, and get herself ready in the morning, while Michael figured out the potty-training thing…all four of which are very freeing things for a mom. I spent a lot of life-renewing time with a lot of different friends, including two girls’ weekends: one of which helped me get back in touch with the girl of my yesteryear, and one that helped me appreciate the woman I am and the life I have now. I also made some new and wonderful friends, and welcomed another

St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series
Photo by Jleybov via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

adorable niece, Kate, into the world. I had five whole days to myself this summer when Kurt mercifully took the kids on vacation with his family, which meant that for five days the house was clean and quiet, I was well rested, I did not have to watch PBS Kids, and I painted my toenails for probably the first time all year. I did join the family later in the summer to visit the Chicago area and spend time with my “bestie” and her family. The Cardinals won the World Series the same night we had our annual Halloween party, so I got to wear a costume AND sing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang at the same time: win-win.  And speaking of Halloween, FX made me giddy with their new show American Horror Story, which let me feel spooky long after the ghoulish holiday was over. Sometimes, I am really easy to please.

micky dolenz meet and greet
The Happy Couple – Me and Micky

I feel like I am forgetting something really momentus…ooohhhh yeaaahhhhh. Did I ever mention that The Monkees embarked on their 45th Anniversary Tour? A tour us fans did not think would really happen? A tour that worked as a vehicle to show me the depth and breadth of my husband’s love for me? Yes, 2011 boasted the magical weekend when Kurt and I traveled to Columbus, OH, and I rocked out to my favorite band of all time from the front row (see A Completely Biased Review). Not only that, but twenty-five years of waiting to meet my idol, Micky Dolenz, finally paid off with one geek-out moment hug and an unintentional groupie moment (see Meet and Greet). And I was not the only one to have a brush-with-greatness moment this year. Kurt also caught a glimpse of one of his favorites, celebrity chef and host of Good Eats Alton Brown, AND saw a live performance that included his favorite radio personalities and comedians, Bob & Tom, Chick McGee, and Jimmy Pardo. That’s right ya’ll, we were rubbing elbows with the A-List.

Finally, 2011 gave birth to this blog. While in itself, this is not all that amazing, what it has represented for me is. You can read my first post on the Genesis page to learn more about why I started the blog in the first place. For now, I just want to recognize the happiness I have found in creating my stories here, in remembering a passion I had forgotten and left to collect dust. And the fact that people have taken delight in reading it…well, that is just the hug from Micky on top of The Monkee concert cake.

So if 2012 wants to bring on more of the same, I say that is fine by me. Here’s to a new year!