Double Digit Man Builds an AM Radio

“Single digit years are for learning,

but the double digit years are for earning”….The Wisdom of Tyler at 10

Tyler radio

Double Digit Man and his AM radio

How’d we get here so fast? It seems like only yesterday, I was holding our little peanut, our tiny precious baby boy, this last precious child.  The weeks quickly turned to months, then years, and now here we are: The first decade is in the memory vault now.

Day One:

I still remember your birth like yesterday. You were born twenty minutes exactly after we got to the hospital. Yes, twenty minutes. You were almost born in the car, stuck in traffic between a State-Carolina game and NC fair traffic. Then we went to the wrong hospital entrance, the one for heart attacks, which your dad was about to have I believe.   When asked my name at the admissions desk for cardiac patients, I screamed, “THE….. BABY……. IS…… COMING…….. OUT!!!!”   No further questions were asked. I was wheeled faster than a NASCAR pace car across the hospital campus straight to maternity. I was stripped, pushed down, and not anesthetized. A few excruciating moments ensued. BOOM! You arrived.

We hit the ground running that day. We haven’t slowed since.

Mom and baby Tyler

Day Two:

But you started leaving me a little too. And every day forward, it’s been a little bit here, a little bit there, but always something each day slips away from those first moments we shared, never to return.

Year One through Five:

You changed completely. And then changed again.

You started out speechless, and pooped your pants a few thousand times those first few years. And though it felt like forever, finally, you reached hygienic independence once you saw your preschool peers do the same thing.   Those victories were so huge then. Still–we forget them.

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Many sleepless nights were then followed by you learning to walk, and talk, and then talk back. You also learned to count, say your ABCs, read, write, build, create, and understand.   Like the caterpillars we ‘re currently watching transform into butterflies, how quickly our baby transformed into a little boy.

Punk Rock Tyler DSCF8697

 Years Six through Ten: You became even more of you:

You became my creator extraordinaire.   Somewhere between your starter set of Duplo blocks and your attic room’s current infestation of countless Lego kits, you changed. No longer content to just build a Lego kit, you now can design a Lego Masterpiece from scratch, or take a kit and rebuild it into something extraordinary, functional, and new that is NOT in the instructions either. You do this and don’t even have any pieces left over.

You’re a stroke of genius, and sometimes madness. You are our pint-sized genius who sometimes struggles to write legibly and “stay focused” on school work; yet somehow manage the most complex concepts. As a toddler you didn’t speak until two and a half, and then you went from barely babbling to a string of sentences literally in a matter of a few days. There were few first words, only big ideas.

You memorized complex lyrics to the Phantom of the Opera by age four. You can tell me now who produced or starred in every Batman movie ever, and what year it was made, where it was filmed or who produced it, etc. You’re the king of trivia and Monopoly, but can’t seem to quit using your fingers to do basic math.   Despite ten thousand requests, you still forget to wash your hands after a bathroom break!

Queen Skelly

You are my Doctor Doolittle. You are the sensitive lover of animals who helps me bury and pray for the souls of the severed remains of every creature killed by our Lion King-like cat Toby the Hunter. You have begged (successfully, I might add) to keep all the strays we’ve ever found.   After all, four pets is NOT too many, right? Then there’s the rescued birds, bug collections, and caterpillar hatcheries.  With our four-footed friends, we both giggle and squeal over what we call “cuteness attacks”. You tell me you feel like your heart might explode from happiness when you watch our cats cuddle together, or the dog sneaks a kiss with Toby. I feel the same way when I watch the joy on your face.

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You are my Mr. Business. You are my competitive child who is determined to get Boardwalk & Park Place first in Monopoly. You understand money, and amazingly, how to leverage OPM (other peoples money).   You actually think of things like propositioning your parents to buy raffle tickets for your unwanted toys in order to buy more toys. You beg me to show you how to sell stuff on eBay, and have asked me to teach you how to monetize your own YouTube channel. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know yet how to do these things, never mind the time, you’re willing to wait, or better yet– pester me until I find myself doing that which I really don’t even want to do. I watch you “take over” when in a group of kids, immediately assigning the tasks of the playground, and wonder how do you even do that? Charm and confidence will surely compensate for any lack of knowledge or skill sets,  I have no doubt.

You are My Connoisseur of Culture: You’re my partner in a shared love of history,art,  science, drama, and music. It delights me to no end that you appreciate going to museums and enjoying visual or performance arts with me.   And in our first year homeschooling this year, I like it when we work together—the blissful moments where the whole house is quiet, even the dog and cats are asleep and then our little one room school magically fills with the sounds of opera. Or U2.   Or Vivaldi. Or Lindsey Stirling—YOU introduced me to the music of this amazing violinist. How did you know? You just do this all the time. Telling me things I don’t even know. Wonderchild. That’s what you are.

Forest Tyler

You are the best little brother and grandson ever.  Though you’re growing up mostly as an only child, you are all over the big brother and sister who helped me when you were a baby and who now laugh and revel in your presence when ever they visit home. You’ve found a way to worm your way into their hearts too.  They are like hip parent substitutes around you, alternating playing Santa to your childhood desires and being dutifully annoyed by the little brother who took over one room and then another, claiming more house real estate then they were ever privy to.    You bring them so much joy and laughter, just like us.  You are also the delight of your grandmothers and other relatives.   You are a baby with extra time and toy benefits with them.  You have kept their hearts young with your exuberance for discovery.  Nothing beats seeing life the second and third time around through the lens  of a child.

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Fast Forward to Now — The Birthday:

For your birthday all you wanted was a Play Station 3. You said you’d rather have that than then a party. I acquiesced, as after having choreographed thirty-four kids birthday parties for you and your siblings before this one, I woke up this year and realized: I’m toast.

I gladly “traded” a high-value gift for a high-chaos party. We were both happy. You got your Play Station. But you also received a microscope and a Snap Circuit electronics kit.  After eating cake,  instead of zooming to your highly coveted video game system, you did something that surprised us. First you got out your microscope. Then you built an AM radio. By yourself. By following directions with your Snap Circuits. Yes, follow directions.  Those two little words I often say, as though I’m a foreigner from a strange continent, speaking to someone with selective hearing loss.  But these things you’re interested in?   You’re laser-focused and assembled the radio independently like you’ve been doing it forever.

These are the moments where it’s so COOL to be a parent. The ones where your kid just totally surprises you. So hours after the family birthday dinner ended, Daddy and I, couched and tired, watched you create your radio. In a matter of minutes, we were listening to the static-laden AM broadcasts of war in the Middle East that was immediately followed by the soft sounds of 70s singers Olivia Newton John and Kenny Rogers.

Oh son. Life is more like this AM radio world then you know.   We’re nestled inside our cozy little home, but just beyond our walls, lies a darker world of death, destruction, and a multitude of wars for our very lives and souls.  I want to shield you forever from evil, and fear, and anxiety, and worry, and stress and hurt and just blanket you with Olivia and Kenny or musical theater. I want to lay out a blanket of furry critters for you to always be able to cuddle with. I want to spread overhead a sky full of rainbows and eclipsing moons and falling stars.

I want you to grow up, but not at the expense of losing the magic.

I want you to experience all the triumphs and love of being an adult outside the limits of this family, but wish I could spare you the pain too.

I won’t be able to stop it. Loss and hurt and hard are as much a part of life as discovery and wonder and amazement are.

All I wish today is for you to stay awhile. Stay a child a little bit longer.

I kiss you goodnight, and as this decade closes, I silently thank our God for being so gracious. This beautiful baby boy born in the autumn of my mothering years—I am blessed by your presence in our lives, beyond what I ever could have dreamed.  I love you!

Happy 10th birthday. Love, Mom

Cuteness attack

This is what a cuteness attack looks like! 

Tyler IMG_4516IMG_5002 Tyler IMG_4518

The Poker Game of a Lifetime

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I had a thought tonight while pondering mid-life as my family has faced quite the challenges of late:

If life were a poker game, what card would I love to trade?

I can just see it now.  All my 40-50ish (and beyond) aged friends would be sitting around a round table.  Some of us would be drinking mojitos. Others would be drinking Ginger ale on ice.  Some of would be smokers, the others vegans.  Fat ones and skinny ones.  All are welcome here!  Some would be staunch conservatives, and others would be die-hard liberals.  Some of would be married, some widowed, some never married.  Perhaps some would be “questioning” all that.

We’d swap stories of our current status in life, trade success and horror stories of our marriages, our kids, our parents, our careers, our faith, or lack there of (any of the above).  And we’d talk about our health.  The entree to the former appetizers we’d linger on now for a while.

It’d be like a poker game for the post-menopausal mid-life crisis club.  Except that for us it’s not a crisis.  It’s standard fair for this stage of the game.  Mid-life.  Not young anymore.  But young enough to really want to LIVE still.  Tender enough to still cry.  Strong enough to perservere when we’re done.

We’ve seen some tragedies.  Some have lost parents.  Or breasts.  Or ovaries.  Or our homes.  Our marriage.  Our jobs.  Our sanity on occasion…sometimes we simply lose “it”!  In spectacular fashion even (the icing on the cake!)  Because it’s all just so much to keep up with:

Jobs, responsibilities, family members with issues, trials, health, chores, endless ways to communicate, finances, weight, and the ever-present thought:

My TIME is running out.  Not yet God.  Not yet.

So we’ll sit around the table and play a little game of poker, trading stories:

“Oh, I can top that!  I tell you what, I’ll trade you my leaky silicone tatas for your surgically stolen ones thanks to your BRACA results!”

“Ummm, no I think I’ll trade w/Sue over here because she said she’d give me her perky pets if I’d take her husband with the wandering eye and since I don’t need a man, that’s fine with me.”

“Oh yeah,” says Emmy who lost her husband at 47 to a sudden heart.  “No, I’ll give you my somewhat deflated tatas AND I’ll raise you one and give you my nice house that is paid for free and clear from the insurance settlement.  I miss Fred so much, so very very much.”

“Are you kidding?” Jane pops in who at 57 is back to where she was fresh out of college, renting an apartment after her husband became disabled and couldn’t afford to support the family after 30 years of valiant efforts.  A stay-at-home mom all these years, she now finds herself working at Target, grateful, that she is able to help out at all.  She is so tired, but doing the best she can.  “I’d give up my tatas to have a home, and especially to just rest some times.  I’m so tired!”

“Um…I don’t know”  Linda says.  “That might be a bad deal!”  She’s thinking she could trade her paid for home, and may consider consider trading her husband, okay only for a moment.  After all, Phil drinks way too much, has a red hot temper and at least Jane’s man is so loving, so kind to her all the time.

Round and round we’d all go.  Sometimes pining for the good graces we weren’t privileged to receive. Grateful for the trials we were spared.  But at the end of the night, there’d be no winners.  No losers.  We’d simply fold.  Together.    

We’d be the way we were when we first sat down to play this game.  All those years ago.  Before the botox.  Before the bankruptcy.  Before the cancer.  Before the addiction.  Before the coffins and the good-byes that came too soon…parents, spouses…..a child.  That one trumped everything.

And yet we are all still here.  The fortunate ones, anyway.  The blessed ones already left us.  And they are waiting.  Smiling.  Willing us to go on one more day.  Endure one more trial.  Wait patiently on that which you can not possibly know, see, much less understand.  Consider the joy set BEFORE us as we suffer.  And trust.  God has us!  He is for us!  Oh, how we get to practice that, lest we lose our minds totally.

And keep on loving our families, each other and counting so many blessings as we bet our chips on the tales from our lips.   With dignity, grace, and strength, we keep on keeping on at Poker Game of Lifetime!

Deal me in!

Radical Lizlam

frazzled-mom 5      I’m Liz.  Busy Mom.  Occasional writer.  Welcome to Lizlam.  What is it you ask?

A new religion?  A political agenda?  A training camp for the mental vacillators, you know, the not-quite bipolars—those of us who already know we chronically alternate our moods between PMS, melancholy, frustration, tears, sensitivity, resignation,  or surrendering ourselves to tear jerking laughter.   So you don’t need to remind us our emotions change directions faster than the wind!  WE KNOW!  Or as Lady Gaga croons, “Baby, we were born this way.”   We don’t need a diagnosis.  We just need you to get out of our way occasionally.  We are once, twice, three times a lady all in the same day—all with different shoes, moods, and game plan for this moment’s task!

FYI Men: We don’t need you to understand us; we just need you to agree with what we’re saying.  It’s really that simple.

This is Radical Lizlam:  Radical Lizlam is a progressive philosophy of consistent bedlam, mayhem, and a variety of chaos that is best mitigated by extreme laughter, frequent raids of stashed chocolate supplies in clandestine locations and a memory more than capable of forgetting things.   We Radical Lizlamists even bring stability to chaos by occasionally dropping the F-Bomb!  (FAITH-bomb that is!) “Lord help me NOW please!”  Can I still say bomb in a blog without being targeted by the NSA?

A radical Lizlamist is person who has big dreams and goals, but generally get about 98% sidetracked by a schedule that is spread pretty darn thin and a circumference that apparently spreads in inverse proportion to it.  This is the fault of other people, not ourselvesSee, we are givers, oh how we give! Please don’t lecture us about “carving out time for oneself.”  Do that, and you’re likely to have a Hot Yoga for Dummies book hit you in the head. frazzled mom 2

We are the radical real housewives of every city who get the kids ready for school while answering the (surprise!) 7:00 am termite man’s questions about what our husband didn’t do.  We are the ones who politely tell the phone solicitors for the Firemen’s Association to beat it because we’re 30 minutes late to our child’s school performance.  Besides, we all know real firemen don’t sit at desks behind phones panhandling desperate housewives.   No!  Real firemen are out fighting fires and posing for next year’s calendars even though 1 square inch on calendars can’t possibly contain today’s schedule.

Don’t lecture me on putting our schedule in our smart phone either.  Are you crazy???  Do you know how many times we have to find that stupid thing after one of the kids misplaced it playing Angry Birds?  Lose that and you virtually lose your entire life!!

We Lizlamists are the ones who do our level best to find gluten-free, dye-free, sugar-free, flavor-FULL cupcakes at the Circle K fifteen minutes before arriving for a school event just announced by our forgetful kid who didn’t give us last week’s weekly folder chock full of important information.  frazzled mom 4

We drive the car that’s had a ping for over six months and doesn’t have gas in it to get to work an hour ago as we look in the rear view mirror and note that we have eye-liner on just one eye.    We are the ones who sort and chuck the bad mail from the good.   We sneak corporate time from our real jobs in order to like, SHARE and pray for on Facebook for all the lame who cannot walk, as well as the animals who have no homes,  and every single other woman we know who has even bigger problems, and believe me there are many!  All this makes us feel things extremely, so JUST DEAL WITH IT if we happen to go a bit emo on you if you either hurt our feelings, say something really nice, or ignore us when you shouldn’t have.

We fundamentally transform disgusting litter boxes into pot pouri for finicky felines. We volunteer to host parties for our best friend who just started selling jewelry to other frazzled friends who we know in advance will forget to RSVP.   We are thinking how we best can make you happy when we check Pinterest for ideas for a delicious dinner tonight.  That is, before we realize that gymnastics practice, soccer practice and a vet appointment after work means we actually only have just enough time to figure out how to make chicken in a brand new way yet again.  If we still fail to beat the clock, we compromise with our kids and settle for McDonald’s even though it means long waits in unhappy lines, for the sake of the 1389th happy toy made by an enslaved Chinese child (which also makes us feel really bad) when all we really ever fantasize about is a nice sit-down meal at Applebee’s.

We help with the homework we don’t understand, and when that’s not good enough, we may even attempt to pencil in some of the answers in matched offspring’s handwriting if that will reduce the endless questions pricking at our slow-percolating migraine.

We work harder than the Secretary of State importing peace to siblings and exporting lice from heads to sinks.  We smuggle excess toys to thrift stores while trying to avoid detection by our children.  We attempt to transform “aftermath” to Simple Home.   We make executive decisions every day that promote the welfare of our family members knowing we’ll never receive accolades or awards.   frazzledmom 3

 We work as hard as we can, as fast as we can, every single day that we live.   We are a walking Rolodex of who to call for every kind of domestic disaster and a memorized Dewey Decimal system of every item that everyone in our home still hasn’t learned how to locate. 

 We are continuously humbled knowing we don’t have it all together, especially compared to our more successful, better organized sisters!  And yet we love them anyway. 

At night while our men watch Orange County choppers or ESPN, we silently pay last month’s bills with next month’s funds, while making tomorrow’s grocery list, while hammering out a sympathy, wedding, and new baby card to mail tomorrow.    Long after the kids are shampooed, read to, prayed up, and tucked in, we finish cleaning our kitchens and go ahead and fold and hang two or three loads of laundry, before attending to today’s emails requesting even more of ourselves.  We hope that later we might get lucky and get to sleep in a bed not invaded by big dogs with a propensity for French kissing, feverish children with snotty noses, cats in heat, or snoring, farting men who may attempt to paw us, even though they still haven’t really heard a word we said all day.

At day’s end we pray.  We pray for mercy and grace to do this all again for one more day.  It may be down our knees until we fall prostrate (translation: sleep at last).  For some of us, we pray quietly in our minds where words end and dreams begin.

Yes, we boo-boo kissers, stuffed animal surgical specialists, sandwich packing, sandwiched generational caregivers are the real extremists in society.  We are the full time CEOs of our homes and often the part time or full time employees of wherever it is we go to rest from the exhaustion of domestic bliss.   We juggle hormones, children, careers, schedules, tasks, and occasionally our dreams just for us.

We are amazing women who keep society in balance.  We are the revolution that keeps the planet from tilting off its axis in a thousand small maneuvers every single day.

We are living life to the full, loving all of you with every ounce of us we possess and then some. 

We are moms, wives, friends, sisters, daughters, grandmas, employees, and volunteers trying to make the world a better place by serving you well.  

We are Radical Lizlamists.  This is more than just our religion, our movement, our philosophy, or even our funny farm.  This is who we are.

TRUE CAVEAT:  This story was written ALL WHILE:

  • Solving an 8 year old’s existential crisis
  • Assisting with 3 digit regrouping math homework
  • Mentally  planning tonight’s dinner
  • Taking three phone calls (2 requests, 1 solicitation)
  • Instructing above mentioned child how to mail a LEGO sweepstakes entry by snail mail
  • Pulling out spilled Frosted Flakes (dry ones….yay!) in between my a,s,d,f,j,k,l, and my beloved sem.

I Learned Italian Because My Son Had to Poop

Narcissus_(da_Vinci) Wikimedia Commons“Narcissus” by Leonardo Da Vinci – Wikimedia Commons

     I learned to speak Italian last night.  In a very nice Italian Ristorante.  In a secret room.  The one where the bella signoras pee or powder their nose.   Why?  When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, l’ll tell you why!  My little boy had to poop.

Here’s the thing. He’s at that in-between age.  He can usually go to the men’s room by himself once I’ve sufficiently swept the area for strangers of unknown origin or intent.  I’m just a mama bear in that regard.  But from time to time, nature calls in its purest form. 

This time my son informed me the nanosecond my steaming plate of pasta arrived, that he had to go to the bathroom–bad.

“Come with me!”  Uh-oh.  I know what this means.  This is code language for I better bring some reading material.  I grab my phone just in case.  I can play on Facebook or perhaps catch an article or two from the Times online.

I do what any protective mother does for her boy of the awkward age between being able to wipe one self, but with neither of us comfortable for him to be alone in a man’s den to do one’s business.  I took him with me—to the Signora’s gabinetto.

He went to the potty.  I went to the potty. He started to bolt.  I grabbed him with my Go-Go Gadget arm that can span the entire width of a gabinetto. 

“Not so fast buddy!  The hands?!?!?”  I ask incredulously.

“Oh yeah!”  He cycles the water on, then off, faster than a camera’s shutter speed in Sports Mode.  Al Gore would be moved if he could witness this moment.

“Hold it!  LONGER!  With soap this time!”

Kids intrinsically know that payback always deserves to be hell.  So after a good five minutes of soaping, lathering, and going through yards of paper towels, he finishes.

“Great!  Let’s go!”  I’m almost out the door when he informs me, “Wait a minute.  I’m NOT finished.”

Terrific.  “I’ll wait by the sink then.”

I wait.  And wait.  And wait.   I read the label on the designer soap.  Wash Responsibly it says.  I ponder this for a few more minutes.  I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever been an irresponsible washer.  They must know piccoli uomini (little men) come in here sometimes.

“Any luck?”

“No.  Not yet.”

That’s when it happens.  The gabinetto is eerily silent.  I am suddenly, but pleasantly aware that the Frank Sinatra songs in the Ristorante are not the same soundtrack playing here.  But I don’t mourn Old Blue Eye’s auditory absence for long.

No!  That’s because it’s better in here.  Way better! 

Why if you stay long enough, you can learn to parlare Italiano!  Fantastico!

Buon giorno maam!  Good day maam! (A scoundrel’s voice.  I wouldn’t trust this guy as far as I could throw him!)

Sembri molto bella!   (Yah!  Not too shabby considering I’m pushing fifty and I’m fairly exhausted right this moment I think.  But grazie!)

Grazie! I hear a sultry voice with a hint of mischief reply above the automatic air-freshener dispenser.

Che cosa dovremmo fare per cena?   (What should we have for dinner?)  The scoundrel speaks yet again.

How about my PENNE PASTA that is getting cold as I stand here?  I think to myself.

Patate(Potatoes?)

With some oray-gino?   (Oregeno.  It’s actually spelled like we spell it, but this is how people endowed with romantic tongue say it.  Don’t forget to r-r-r-oll the “r” in your pronunciation with heavy accent on the second syllable!)

I’m kind of getting into this now.  I mentally chastise myself for not bringing my glass of Vino with me.

 Ho una macchina veloce sportiva!  (I have a fast sports car!)  A vision of a former boss let go for sexual harassment comes to mind.

The woman on the sound track chuckles daintily and seductively.

 Volete vederlo?  (Would you like to see it?) The womanizer speaks again.  Clearly she gets in his car.

Tieni d’occhio la strada! She says this as she laughs.  (Keep your eye on the road!)

Hey wait a minute I think; we’re about to move into a PG-13 bathroom experience!

More conversation ensues.  I am learning more foreign words during these momenti di cacca than I ever learned in an entire year of Spanish class in both high school and college.  I’m actually paying attention.   I’m having my Rosetta Stone moment all because my son had to poop!

At this point, I am gaining both confidence and fluency.  I check in with the poopster to get a status report.

Almost done!”   Almost, because I have to wait another seven minutes for the wipe process to be carried out.  I hear the pump-a-dump-dump of the toilet paper roll as the cardboard cylinder hangs up on its apparent four corners.  So I know something is happening in there.

More pulling of paper.  More flushing.   I’m relieved that Sheryl Crow did not succeed at getting a one square only mandate passed for us non-famous peasants in order to avoid disastrous climate change.  If we blow up the world from too much cacca, than perhaps we deserve it.

Finally the deed is done.  It is finished.    The Evocatore of Hot-Turned-Chilled Expensive Dinners emerges.

But this time I had held my cool.  I was patient.  Understanding even.

Why?  Because now I’m part Italian.

OK, I know I didn’t learn enough to impress my friends as the narrator promised I would.  As if my bathroom experience could possibly linger even one more stinkin’ moment!  But I think I learned enough that I could at least manage a few basic tasks if given the opportunity to travel to Italy someday.

I can hail a taxi.  Taxi!  (Pronounced Tock-see!)

I can handle the check at the restaurant.  Si prega di dare i miei saluti e il mio check al signore al bar.  (Please give my regards and my check to the gentleman at the bar.)

I can talk my way out of an emergency. Taxi!

When we walked out of the bathroom, some of the restaurant staff were waiting.  We were SO WORRIED about youYour party said you disappeared!”

“Nope.  IT happens.   We’re fine,”   I assured them, “but grazie!

I returned to my cold dinner more excited than when I left.  Now all I have to is find a sponsorizzare for my impending trip to Italy!  I smiled.

“Cameriere!” I snapped my fingers. “Altro vino favore!

Pour yourself some vino to go with that canolli and enjoy this classic:

Princess of Grace

karolina kotkiewicz

PHOTO CREDIT:  KAROLINA KOTKIEWICZ

So maybe I wasn’t born into the Royal Family and beseeched with adoring Brits and Royal watchers the world over tracking my every hiccup, pimple, gaff, dress of the day, pound gained or lost, and event attended by infinite mobs of paparazzi with camera lenses the length of yardsticks.  I’ve never had women faint or men swoon and lay down their coat for my dry clean feet to tread, simply because of my existence.

I’ve never been deserving of security detail, a personal hairdresser, chef, or secretary to manage my job of social engagements and charitable work, though I would love to have the latter three just for kicks!

When I was pregnant with each of my own brood of three children, the world didn’t stop spinning if I woke up hugging the royal porcelain throne.  I certainly wasn’t given a diagnosis with as many syllables as Princess Kate has been given.  No, I was simply told, “It’s normal; now go eat a cracker.”

Yes, it’s not always easy being a mere serf to servitude and simplicity, complex array of daily chaos.   It’s challenging indeed.  There are no minions to blame.  There is no staff to assist.   There is only my individual blood, sweat, tears, and frequent sleeplessness that accompanies the challenge of trying to do it all: work a day job, raise kids, assist parents, volunteer at church and school, clean house, laundry, attend and reply to endless paperwork, pay bills, feed pets, chauffer children to school and activities, help with homework, find time to play, oh and breathe!

The real challenge is trying to find the essential time known as “Liz Time.”  Yes, these are the precious hours necessary to rejuvenate my own soul: writing, photography, my beloved bible study group, or trying to catch up with good friends.

Living life outside the palace is messy.  We sorely lack a protocol of propriety.  It’s not always structured and it’s rarely consistent.  Yes, high drama occasionally exists outside the drawbridge but doesn’t make the press (thankfully)!  There is no portcullis at our home’s entrance to shield us from the dangers of the outside world.  We have no moat to slow down the uninvited guest or Royal Guard to interrogate and arrest the annoying solicitors who all come at inopportune times.  Ready or not, our house is always open.

But before you grab a monogrammed hanky and cry for me Argentina, hold your horses.  I am grateful for my commoner status.  Above all, I am grateful that I don’t live inside a fishbowl where perfection is the water one must constantly swim in.  For I know this much is true:  I would drown.  Quickly.

See I have evolved over the years.  I have reframed my thinking.  I am not a slave to my family or even to forces outside my control.  I am indeed a princess of three things:

     A Princess of Procrastination:   Ask any accomplished, or worse, struggling (aka “wannabe”) artist, writer, painter, visionary (okay…I’ll stop there) and they will tell you this:  You sometimes must procrastinate regarding your duties of life in order to nurture your high calling, even if at this moment it is perceived only by you.   For who knows the plans God has for you?   Perhaps, you were born for such a time as time as this.  Translation: To respond to intuition and to occasionally shirk what others perceive as duty.  Wisdom whispers quietly sometimes.

     A Princess of Prognostication:  Yes, because the winds of perpetual change often blow in and out of our home, it sometimes feels as if our so-called fortunes can only be predetermined by the accuracy of my prognostications.  That is to say, if I freak out better and more efficiently, you will get off your butt and see the urgency this particular situation requires and quickly get on board!  Indeed! A prophet in her own household is rarely met with honor.  So be it.   My predictions, assessments, and royal decrees march onward, until even I am reminded of a simple truth:   Submit.  Pray.   You are not in charge.  Even though you sometimes act as if you are. 

     A Princess of Peripatetic ProportionsNothing lasts forever.  This too shall pass.  Wanderlust.   The world is so beautiful.

These thoughts comfortably coexist in my brain.   Life is sometimes challenging on the home front, but it’s equally good as challenges not only make us stronger; they reveal who we truly are.

In the midst of trial, I’ve been known to contemplate what life is like outside my kingdom.  What is happening at this moment under the Eiffel Tower?  Does the Taj Mahal have a five o’clock shadow?  Is a child crying for her mother in Halong Bay?  Will the Asteroid belt continue holding up around us?  Who is hurting near me?  Can I help?

I realize life is indeed good.  Blessed, in fact.  This is not of my making, but of God’s.  He has given me life, health, and a family to be grateful for and good things too numerous to count.  He has given me tears to assist with trials and a trust to deal with life on life’s terms:  a temporary assignment.    Because I don’t have to be entirely responsible for generating my own strength or controlling outcome, I am immensely grateful.

I am a princess indeed.  A princess of grace.  Thank you.  Thank you very much!

Don’t Get Caught By the Eyeball Police!

Photo Credit: Lambert Hulton Archives/guardian.co.uk

      That’s because in our house Little Brother is watching you!  Yes, he roams the kitchen table like a roaring lion waiting and watching for a disobedient dinner patron to commit this most dreadful of sins:

Praying with your eyes OPEN!

If there was a word that described the pace and structure of our house, it would be this:  HAPHAZARD.   So on the nights I cook dinner, if I’m not utterly exhausted, and if I happen to muster up the energy to clear off random acts of homework, unfinished Lego kits, half-sorted piles of junk and legitimate mail, and other miscellaneous objects from our kitchen table in order to have a “family dinner”, then I usually insist that we say a blessing.

It’s only fitting that we should ask God to bless our food for the nourishment of our bodies and oh did I mention the “hands that lovingly prepared it”?  Anyway, my six year old son still prefers the standard:

God is Great

God is Good

Let us thank Him for our food

By his hands we all are fed

Thank you God for daily bread

 

Sometimes I throw in a quick extra request before everyone can shout Amen and start digging in.  I’ll wiggle a sentence or two sideways in that brief interval before the first mouth utters first syllable “A” and mutter something about a world event, “and Lord, please bless our soldiers who are digging in and trying to stay safe from enemy fire” or “please bless the starving children in Africa.”   Or I may say, “Please bless our daughter as she travels out of town this weekend.”     The point is I try.

Prayer is important.  It’s important to me.  But generally my family just wants to eat, if there are actually full plates sitting before them.  The “please bless and save the world” prayers are preferred at bedtime, not meals.    See my son likes the prayers, but what he really likes is to be the enforcer and check the table for any wandering eyeballs that happen to reveal themselves behind lids that should be closed.

“(Sinful person name)’s eyes were open!”  he gleefully proclaims if anyone opens their eye at any point during the prayer before Amen is stated.

He should be a lawyer I think.  He expects obedience to “the law.”  No mercy is granted, and if my son was sheriff, you would be flogged in the public square for not adhering to the Eyes Remain Shut regulation of mealtime prayers.

I sometimes sigh and wish our grace at meals were more full of….well, grace!  Less legalism, more words full of thanksgiving and grace and Godly requests for others.    I want prayer to be our habit of love, not our obligation to following a rule.

I believe that is how Jesus wants us to come to him…with thankful hearts, with prayer and petition making our requests made known.  And then the peace that surpasses human understanding will guard our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.

That’s the idea anyway.  It’s just that sometimes that’s when the cat jumps up on the table.  The solicitor phone call rings.  Ding Dong goes the doorbell.  The forgotten oven timer finally sounds reminding us that the food I prematurely took out is now ready.  Prayers are started and quickly interrupted.  Eyes open and my son is taking names and calling them out.

We live in a busy world and when did it get so hard to just make a family meal happen?  You know; the table is cleared and set, steaming hot healthy food waits to be ladled onto shiny white plates, iced drinks await to be sipped, napkins are in laps, prayers are said, and Dad is ready to slice the meatloaf.  Sweet children patiently await the food to be served.  Then we’ll all talk about our glorious day and how blessed we are.

OK, scratch the record at this point.  Still as moms we try, and dads too!  Interruption is our standard and peace seems to be our exception, but still we press on with endurance to have a family meal, complete with meaningful prayer and good food that we are indeed thankful for.

As for me and my household?  Well, we all try to keep our eyes shut as long as possible.  Never mind the plank that frequently juts out from them, we just don’t feel like getting a verbal citation from the Eyeball Police.

A QUICK prayer for your family dinner: 

Lord Jesus, please bless the mother’s hands today who tried her darndest to lovingly prepare a family meal after a full day of work and responsibilities, for kids who are not perfectly behaved or quiet, and a husband who doesn’t make it home on time because he works so hard.  Bless the solicitor who calls because they’re just arriving at their second job because times are tight, and the cat who reminds us he’d like to eat too, if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother, and the little Cub Scout who just happened to sell popcorn at an inopportune time to raise money for his troop.  Bless our over-scheduled lives and our sometimes under-nourished souls.  May we remember that even when we don’t give You the praise for our dinner and even more so for our lives, that You are still watching over us, blessing us, and in control.    We thank you for not only the food that nourishes our bodies, but for You who feeds our spirit and nourishes our life.  Help order our time so that we may enjoy eating as a family and with minimal distraction and drama.  And Lord, please keep us safe from the Eyeball Police!  Amen!

PS – I’ve made this meatloaf and it’s really good. Especially the bacon topper! It’s essentially the same as my mother in law’s recipe, but I was too lazy too type it, so I pulled this from About.Com

1950s Meatloaf Recipe:

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef (chuck is best)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork sausage (seasoned or not)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 large cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper (sweet capsicum)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, divided use
  • 2 to 4 strips bacon, cut in half (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ground beef, pork sausage, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, sweet onion, bell pepper, oregano, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, onion soup mix, milk, and half of the tomato paste. Gently mix only until combined. Do not overwork the meat or it will become tough. Form into a loaf. Cover with the remaining half can of tomato paste. Weave the bacon strips over the top.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let meatloaf rest 15 minutes before cutting to serve.

Yield: 8 servings

1950’s-style Meatloaf Recipe Photo © 2010 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

All Aboard The Care-of-Self!!

Having a two-year old is like having a blender that you don’t have the top for. — Jerry Seinfield

There’s a certain word my son just can’t seem to say.  All kids go through this phase when they are toddlers and learning to speak. Generally,  by fix or six, they have mastered the pronunciation of most words they know.    But one word, my son never bothers to correct, even though I have told him the correct way to say it, is:  CAROUSEL!

He has always insisted it’s called The Care-of –Self.   Which knowing him and his sweet personality, it fits.

When he was a baby, much to my sometimes horror, he would lovingly pat any woman who held him, in the chest—top, dead, center as it is known in mechanical terms.   As a toddler he called these lovely items:  Mashers.  I noticed from the time he could speak, whenever he didn’t know a word; he just gave an item a word that seemed to fit.

Certainly mashers fit the name of someone prone to his proclivity, as well as the aforementioned item being squashed by small hands.   I used to warn moms, grand moms, and even young teenage girls, if they were to pick him up, “If you’ve got them, he’ll get them!”  Thankfully, he’s outgrown this innocent toddler behavior—well hopefully until at least the late teen years.

I wish I remembered more of this early vocabulary he created.  At five, he first became aware that people die and ultimately are buried in cemeteries.   So whenever we’d pass a cemetery in the car, he’d say, “Look Mom, there’s a ghost hive!”  On Mother’s Day, he always wishes me “Happy Saint Mother’s Day!”

One of the funniest words I recall was about a time he had used the bathroom and unfortunately the toilet clogged and ran over.  “Mom!  HELP!”  I came running as fast as I could.  He was tearing up and said, “Help!!  There’s “toilet juice” all over the floor!   It’s disgusting!”   Indeed it was, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at his description.

Another time, even though he was already five, he pointed at a robin scampering across our yard.   Strange little creatures, you’re more likely to see them on the ground, then above your head.  But he saw it and pointed out, “Look mom, it’s a Robin Red Chest!”

Once at the playground, a child bolted down a plastic curvy slide so fast, that his hair stood totally on end!  My son noticed this scientific phenomenon and yelled out, “Mom, his hair ran out of gravity!

Only a few months ago, he observed an apartment close to our home that had burned down several months ago.  Construction crews had started stripping it down to the foundation, removing all of the burned siding, and clearing out the burned interior.   When we passed this apartment, he noticed the new crews working.  He pointed at it and said, “Now all the house needs is its skin on it.”

I wrote down a handful of these words over the years, but the majority of this creative-speak simply evaporated into the atmosphere and that makes me sad.

See he is growing up now.  The first trimester of childhood, that is the first six years, is already up.  How can this be?  He’s my mid-life baby whose sole responsibility is to keep me young, busy, and on my toes until my late fifties!

I have just one piece of advice to all you young, and young-at-heart wonderful mommies out there.  Somehow, somewhere, write down those cute little things your boy-wonder or little starlet says.  I know you already take a million digital pictures, but make sure you jot down somewhere those “first REAL words”.  You think you won’t forget this ever, and by next Tuesday you’ll have no idea what that cute thing was, only that they said “something” adorable.  Keep a notepad in your car, your diaper bag, or purse with attached pen so that you can capture it.  Even if you just shove all your little notes in a folder with your kids name on it, you’ll be glad later.

I know the days of early motherhood can be long.   The duties are harsh, your “to do” list borders on cruel and inhumane, your body is tired and worn out, and all your efforts are consumed with orchestrating nearly everything:

  • Coordinating play dates!
  • Providing top-notch educational experiences!
  •  Teaching little ones to tinkle and stinkle in a potty!
  •   Learning how to read words!
  •  Breaking up fights among siblings!
  • Planning three nutritious meals a day and snacks that are nibbled yet never entirely consumed!
  • Hourly diaper changes!
  •  Grocery and supply shopping!
  • Acres of dirty laundry and hours of cleaning that are never seen!

You spend your days navigating the disaster zone of spilled cheerios, leaking sippy cups, and a minefield of sharp, talking toys, as well as the brigade of ten thousand tiny pieces (kit toys).

Yes, I know!  You moms are at your most amazing, when you feel the least visible and the most vulnerable to losing the last shred of YOU!   Time moves simultaneously at the speed of light and slower than a snail’s pace.

Just remember this:

These sweet days will pass.  These little darlings will grow.  You will get through this!  And ultimately you will be begging your mind to remember one day those subtle moments when each of your sweet children said something precious or did something adorable.

The journey of motherhood is an arduous one.  You will learn a new language and skill set right along with your baby.  So whenever you can, however you can, find the ways to rest your body, and nourish your soul:

  • A call to a friend while sitting down, not tending to a child
  • Read a great book or magazine at nap time
  • A box of chocolates!  Calories don’t count if you’re near tears anyway.

As I hit submit on this post, I am praying this simple prayer:

“Lord, for any mom today that needs encouragement desperately, please let her know she is super amazing!   I don’t know who she is, but I know she’s giving with everything she’s got to her family.  Reward her faith and let her feel appreciated and loved.  Make sure she is blessed with the knowledge that she is a good mom and may she at least once today have the opportunity to board “The Care of Self”.

Don’t Sink the Boat Son!

     The reluctance to put away childish things may be a requirement of genius.
~Rebecca Pepper Sinkler

Today was a good day.  I got things the house picked up and took a break from writing.   I got out a bit and enjoyed my life with my six year old son.

We played two rounds of miniature golf.  He is a real free spirit and tends to slump his shoulders, swing while his feet are in motion, hold a club that would make any reasonable golfer cringe, and listens to instructions about as closely as I listen to foreign language translations while impatiently left on “ignore”, when calling customer service numbers.

Yet for all my attempts at teaching technique, he easily tied my score, simply by playing the way Frank Sinatra would have advised, “I did it MY WAY!”  That is to say, he dragged his club while swinging, tapped around each hole faster than Gregory Hines, and skipped from hole to hole with no regard to keeping score or winning.

Since he’s been born, I’ve always known he possesses that “something different” quality.  I keep trying to teach him, mold him, shape him, and above all instruct him to please follow directions!   I want him to do well in school!  I want him to pay attention!  I don’t want him to get picked on.  I don’t want him to be a teacher’s “pest”.   Basically, I want to spare him any trouble that comes from being a non-conformist.

But you know what?  I can’t.  I can demand, argue, and rationalize why it’s so great to follow directions and how it makes life easier, but it sort of falls on deaf ears.  It’s not that he is bad, or doesn’t want to follow directions; he just has such a strong sense of self—and a propensity to be distracted, because everything is interesting in his world!

When he hears the word no, that is his cue to no-gotiate!  When he gets in trouble, he may not hear you the first five or six times, but then he will turn on the charm to soften any anger after the fact.

He is our creative, and highly hilarious little bug-a-boo!  He is the one who clings to all of us,  from parents to siblings to grandparents.  He loves so deeply and so pure.  A talk show host would say he possesses “rugged individualism”.  Yes…all forty two pounds of it!

At one point, when he was haphazardly hitting the ball all over the place, I asked him for about the tenth time to please stop and LISTEN to my directions.  I want you to succeed in life!  You need to listen and follow directions.  I don’t want you to be like that boat over there; I don’t want you to sink!!    He just looked at me and kind of shrugged and skipped to the next hole.

Do you know what that little stinker did next?  He got a hole in one.  Yep!  For the rest of the day, Mom went into overdrive, competing against a six year old with a vengeance, determined  that if I could not beat him, I would at least join him in the “hole in one” club.  Many shots later, in our second game, I finally got mine!   Ah, sweet victory!

What is the lesson in all this?   The thing with free spirits is somehow things always seem to work out for them.    Sure, they have to accept basic responsibilities in life, but for kids who are determined to find their own way in sports, academics, and in life choices, I’m learning as a mom,  to take a breath, and bend like a willow, rather than stand tall and hard like the mighty oak.

The older I get, I’m learning to follow my own inner voice too.   I am setting speed records these days in giving up control and organization in order to follow my creative side that has been lying dormant for some time.  I’m learning to embrace my weird, wild, quirky, funny, sad, obsessive, angry, and faith-filled sides of my personality that makes me, ME!  No one pushes back harder than I do, when I feel misunderstood or that I don’t measure up in some area or another.  Why would I expect him to not feel the same way?

I think my son is seeing that.  He is learning the joy that comes now by living in the now, seeing where the day takes us, and finding the smallest things that make life joyful.   So color outside the lines, my baby.    Collect other people’s pistachio shells on our walks and give me these “clues” to take home.    Hit all the buttons in the elevator so we can see how each floor is different than the one before.    Bring me your stash of pigeon feathers despite the germs they may carry.

Be you and be happy.  Because your mom loves you always, exactly the way you are!

Bye Bye Baby Girl

Dance Photo: Bob Stuart Photography
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too
Partial Lyrics – Daughters – John Mayer

Who doesn’t get a lump in their throat when they look at their baby girl and see the incredible young lady you knew they would be.  We look in the mirror at ourselves and often think Oh my; what happened? But our daughters—well, that’s different.  Sometimes we have these moments that just seem to freeze time.   As we do, we  observe with amazement and are  shell shocked because this realization hits us so hard; where did all the time go?

I’ll tell you where it went.  You bring the little apple of your eye home and your days get consumed with nursing, stimulating, putting down, comforting, and watching every first in amazement:  First  smile, first tooth, first step, first words.  You have more fun dressing your baby girl than you ever did playing dolls.    I was born to do this, you think.  My happiness is complete now.

You don’t realize it; it’s gradual, but you leave the cocoon of infancy quicker than you thought.  Now your packing diaper bags with goldfish crackers snapped in plastic, a few wedges of apple for good measure, sealing  sippy cups, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, and Barney tapes (my baby missed the IPOD and even CD generation).   You’re meeting the other moms you’re friends with for play dates at the park, or Gymboree class, gymnastics lessons, or trips to the library or museums. You’re in full blown motherhood!  You’re concerned about every morsel they ingest, every habit they have and every milestone they either exceeded or lag behind.  You put character band aids on every boo boo and you kiss the tears until they vanish.

All former identification with career status only has now taken a back seat, most likely, to motherhood, regardless of hours worked outside the home.   Sometimes you may go to work because you desperately need a break, or perhaps you have to work, but it kills you.   Either way, you’re desperate  to hurry  home,  afraid of what you might be missing.  The ache of not being with her catches you off guard.  You always thought you could do both easily.   You learn having it all, is not just an illusion, it’s clearly obvious that you don’t even harbor that desire now.  Less becomes more.

As you learn to make peace with work and motherhood, time ticks on.  Soon you’re packing back packs, lunch boxes, and learning how to French braid hair, and sanitize freshly pierced ears.  Baby girl plays with you;  she plays with her dolls or Build-A-Bears, or with friends.  You don’t even feel it, this sudden pull as she becomes  the pretend role of mommy, Queen, finger painter Picasso,  clown, gymnast, dancer, singer, artist, pot-holder weaver, tye-dyer extraordinaire,  and a million other choices. Yes, she’s leaving you, alright.

You referee sibling fights and arguments amongst friends and you too, change hats more frequently than you once changed diapers.  One minute you’re craft mom, the next minute you’re nurse, the next you’re mentor mom, homework mom, PTA mom, and chauffeur mom.  Yes, before elementary school is finished, you will start logging miles that would make a truck driver say, “Whoa momma….slow down.”     But you keep going, because you know dance lessons, help with homework, music lessons, summer camps, play dates, museum trips, are all what will make your daughter super amazing someday.  Or at least you delude yourself, if you can just keep on striving towards that ultimate Queen’s Crown of PERFECT MOM, all will be well!

Time doesn’t pardon you or slow down, just because you can’t seem to get it all done in a day.  More than half her childhood has passed already.  Middle school is a complete revolving door of hormones, physical changes, and a mental maturity that arrives without warning.   Stringy uncombed hair is suddenly combed.  Make up is applied.  Bras go on first.   “That time” arrives and leave you both a little sad.   Even little girl is more a memory now.  Hints of a woman are lurking in your subconscious, but you chase it away.

High school arrives.  Day after endless day of activities ensue.  First car, first date, first job, first prom, first boyfriend all take place.   The cycle of firsts repeats.    My daughter is a dancer.  EVERY night of her entire high school life was spent at a studio.   Dinner with family was rare, but the dashboard dining table was common.   Rebelling or excelling is common during these years.   You learn to deal with the stress of either, or both sometimes.  Your daughter’s friends sometimes become your friends, or sometimes become the thorn in your side.  But deep down you love all of them; especially the thorny ones.

Since you often feel like you are feeding and mothering a clan, you admit that maybe Hillary knew a thing or two when she said, “it takes a Village to raise a child”.  You are Village Mama trying your level best to supervise, teach, befriend, and intervene when necessary.  Your former status as CEO on the domestic frontier has been diminished to that of an adviser.  Unlike your day job, you were not informed of your demotion.

Suddenly you went from  turning baby girl on her back in the crib, to this moment where  you’re watching  young lady turn her tassel.   In our case, we wrapped childhood up with several amazing final senior recitals, a graduation party, and tied a pretty bow on her life with a big trip to NYC,  a final nod to the amazing world of competitive dance.

Then–.BOOM!  It happens.  This is the day she leaves you!  Bags are packed,  room is cleaned out, pictures are taken, hugs are exchanged, and you go back home with one less.  You tell yourself not to cry.   But of course, you do.   You’re happy for her.  But you’re sad for you.  You knew that day they placed her in your arms this day would come; you just tried to pretend it wouldn’t.

We say goodbye and let this beautiful woman God crafted all those years ago inside of you into the big wide world.

You nurtured her, taught her, laughed with her, traveled with her, joked with her, ate with her, made things with her, drew with her and sometime when she wasn’t looking tried to just draw her.  Above all, you just loved her.  You loved her so much and so hard, you realized when she left, you weren’t sure what was left inside of you.

If she’s your first, you know the first time in every big step is the hardest and you take comfort in the children who still keep you busy.   If she’s you’re last, or your only one, you feel pain the most acutely, because now time demands of you to answer the question who am I now and what in the world am I going to do.

But like her, you will find the answers to these questions in time.  Take time to listen to your heart; what is stirring in your soul just for you?   And just like baby girl, you will step out bravely into the new world and find the answer.  Trust God.  Reach out.  Go forward.   And find your life in a new way.

When I saw her first in a pram they pushed her by
Oh my, my how you’ve grown
Well it’s been, it’s been…a little while

In a Little While…U2

Choreographed Driving (Confessions from an Octo-Mom)

      

I feel like I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe.  ~Author Unknown

     OK, so I’m not really the OctoMom, but I can sincerely appreciate her every minute of her every day getting all fourteen of her little ones up, fed, dressed, and ultimately driven to a destination.  Besides this isn’t about her; it’s about me.  I am still the busy mom of one busy six year old boy, as well as a proud mama of two adult kids.  However, now days when driving to school, activities, errands, and even day trips,  it’s usually just my son and me.  Sounds simple  you’re probably thinking–especially you busy moms of two, three, or a van full of kids, all in diapers and pull-ups, multiple activities, and probably a part-time or even full-time job for yourself.

Well, all I can say, is hold on a dog gone minute.  It’s not that simple.  First of all, let me be clear about one thing:  I don’t do Super Mom.  Since my home office desk is just too damn small (it would make Goldilocks cry), I had to outsource some of the required space I need to the passenger side of my mini-van.  This seat holds my paper work calendar and address book (in case my phone ever vanishes).  It’s also my coupon repository for assorted retail stores,  and  various restaurants which I frequent due to exhaustion from working  in a physical labor environment, and just being a mom over forty.

This seat also doubles as a tray table for fast food eaten on the run, water bottles, and sometimes fast food cups, because the two drink holders are taken up with the GPS thingy on the left  holder,  and the IPOD on the right.  The ashtray is where all change is stored– our family’s  entire “emergency fund.”  (I once cried happy tears when I remembered I even started this fund and found a whopping  seventy four cents!  Jumping Jackpots!  I had enough to get enough gas just to drive home and retrieve the forgotten pocketbook which contained the plastic-endowed wallet that could have bought the gas in the first place.)

Also found on my van’s  impressive instrument panel is a three foot long IPOD extension cord, which falls just inches short of reaching my son’s outstretched arms in his booster seat.  It connects to my aftermarket stereo jack,  since IPODs weren’t standard in 2001 vehicles. Therefore, I run interference between him, the stereo, and IPOD frequently.  Another cord from one cigarette lighter  powers my GPS, and the other cigarette lighter is designated for my Smart Phone’s charging cord.  I would probably be a more relaxed driver if I at least had the option of smoking, but clearly this will never be the case.  My tiny dash, that is all 12 cubic inches of space in front of my odometer and fuel gauge, serves as the jukebox repository for music CDs, my bank (where I put my paychecks) and our Accounts Payable system (where all our retail and grocery receipts go), as well as our personal post office—outgoing mail on the left, incoming on the right.

And this is why I have to participate in Choreographed Driving.  What is choreographed driving you ask?  Let me explain by way of example.  Yesterday, just my son and I decided to take a day trip to the beach.  Puh-leeze you are thinking.  Mom of one; how hard can that even be? ” Very!” would be my response.    You see, I have an over-thinking brain, which though it shames me only somewhat, sort of reflects my less-than-organized approach to life.   So when driving, yesterday to the beach for just one day, this is how it went down.

Thirty minutes of uninterrupted driving occur.  Then like clockwork, “Mom, I’m starving,”  my six year old informs me.   Fine, I’ll pull into Mickey D’s and grab a Happy Meal.  I move the collection of sand toys, shovels, and buckets behind me and extend my right arm an additional twelve inches to get my pocketbook which has now migrated southwest of my son’s seat.  Another words, it’s virtually in third row seating.

Fast food sack and drink is quickly distributed to the youthful back seat captain directly behind me.  I get back on the highway and I’m putting my debit card in my wallet as I drive.  My son then informs me he can’t put his Yogurt Parfait together without spilling it ALL OVER the back seat.  Sorry, but I value the character trait of enabling, way more than a van that reeks of sour yogurt-encrusted carpet.   No problem!  I contort my arm behind my seat, and grab all the disassembled parts of the fruit parfait, and carefully pull it back to the front while I assemble it.

Next, I glance at the GPS, to make sure we haven’t gotten back on the interstate in the wrong direction.  We’re fine.  Eureka!  Suddenly,  as I’m doing this, I get a moment of inspiration regarding five topics I wish to write about all  flooding my head at the same moment.  QUICK!   I reach up and grab a pen from my car’s visor and start scribbling on a pad of paper also kept on the passenger side, aka “the desk”,  for emergency thinking such as this.  I write in a language, nearly unbeknownst to even me, and I will spend painstaking hours later trying to translate it back to English.    No matter, the fruit parfait now has the correct proportion of nuts and accompanying desleeved spoon in it, and has been safely returned to my son.  He has his drink and mine is resting securely in the car’s third drink holder, that is to say it’s sitting snugly between my legs, causing serious thigh freezer burn!

My phone rings, but mysteriously  won’t “accept” the call.  DAMN IT!  What’s wrong with my phone?  I disassemble the protective case sans screwdrivers, and then the phone itself while trying not to destroy all of my fingernails, take out the battery, and wait the five minutes for it to reset.

“MOM!  The IPOD won’t go to such and such song.”   Fine, back goes my Go Go Gadget  arm for the fifteenth time this trip to retrieve the IPOD that my son was holding.  I find the White Stripes Ball and Biscuit song I assume he was trying to search for.  This is soon followed by the Bare Naked Ladies singing the Christmas song God Rest Ye Gentleman because my son is a DJ Mix Master Extraordinaire

       Long trips such as this are infused with an eclectic mix that trend heavy towards Christmas songs,  mixed with some White Stripes, Toby Mac,  Go-Tye,  a few U2 songs (mom’s music drug of choice) and preschool chorus songs that will almost make your ears bleed, peppered with the occasional Broadway musical songs, particularly Mama Mia!  Whatever happens mentally, you must not get attached to a song, because right when you get to the best part, or the chorus, he will most assuredly change it.  Much of our travel time is spent listening to the rotating click of the mouse wheel, as he tries to find a specific song. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” could certainly be his theme, but unfortunately when traveling, it is a favored song I never get the benefit of listening to.

Please don’t lecture me on distracted driving because my eyeballs never lose sight of the road.  But my arms go everywhere.  They assemble and hand out toys, prepare meals and drinks, and fix electronic gadgets.   They find money, and sometimes small scraps of survival-worthy food or candy that gets lodged in cracks and crevices.  This chauffeur’s arms and hands untangle earphones, pull up Angry Birds on the phone for entertaining my son, write words of inspiration, hold drinks, and file credit cards.

These hands once spoke in sign language to a rude driver who was demanding I pull out into oncoming traffic and sacrifice my child just so they could GO.   Most importantly, these arms save our van’s entire system of organization during sudden stops.  Faster than the Bionic Woman, I can keep “the desk’s” ’  papers from sliding to the floor, the food and drinks from spilling, the contents of the dash from spilling and lodging up under the gas or brake pedals, which could ultimately result in a fiery crash of horrific proportions.

I may not be Supermom, but I am the original Octo-Mom!  I confess;  I multitask.  My two arms do the job of eight, hands down (and up, and all around, for that matter!)   I simultaneously can drive, eat, drink, and sing, taking momentary breaths to answer a hundred questions from an inquisitive kindergartner all which start with the word “Why”

I do all this while commandeering electronic gadgets and controls both on-board and external, and even take the occasional phone call.    The tasks are many; the miles pass quickly, yet safely.    I am an organized  symphonic medley of tasks, music, and wisdom as my son and I cruise the miles to get to the beach.    It may sound like a day of ADHD-like hell for you, but for us it’s just typical.

I’ve never gotten a DWD (Driving While Distracted) violation and I’ve never texted and drove (OK, maybe glanced down or hammered out a one word reply but ONLY at a stoplight).  So when you see a mini-van or SUV out there, and it’s pulling just a little bit to the left, most likely it’s not out of alignment.  If  it’s not weaving, they probably aren’t impaired, but it could just be another busy mom inside running Grand Central, while navigating the highway of life.  Say a prayer, and then pass quickly.

A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after.  ~Peter De Vries