Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On the eve of Summer 2012

School gets out tomorrow, and as someone who holds summer sacred, I am ecstatic.  Mr. Boy will finish third grade tomorrow, and enter the fourth grade in the fall.
There has been a lot of talk in our house about his upcoming birthday.  He has wanted an army man party for a few months, but has suddenly changed his mind.  Mr. Boy plays Army Man quite often on the hillside and when we saw these army helmets today I just had to get some for him and AK, in hopes to sway him back to an army themed party.
Tonight as I was putting things away in the kitchen, Mr. Boy was feeling chatty and sat at the island talking about all sorts of things.  Legos, Navy Seals, Big Foot, Army Men, and upcoming activities.  He was full of questions as always... and I stopped and looked at him sitting there in his army helmet, fiddling with Legos, and I just wanted to yell out, "Time! Time Out!  Stop the clock!" while gesturing frantically to the referee.  Not because I need a break, because I just want to pause this moment forever.  How did this boy get to be almost nine years old?   Where did the time go?   How do we slow this aging train down? 
Soon those delicious cheeks will melt away, and he won't be caught dead pretending to be an army man.  I'll become so uncool that I'll be "soooooooooo embarrassing" and this boy won't be caught be dead talking to me. 
Today, I am grateful that school will be out, so that I won't have to share these kids with their teachers who have them for most of the day.   I will buy my own army helmet and play on the hillside pretending to blow things up and shoot down the enemy planes. I'm ready for goofy face contests, swimming, and stories around the fire pit.  There is no pause button in life, but at least summer allows for you to slow it down a little.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mother of all Mother's Days

A picture of the lovely breakfast my kids prepared for me. 
Mother's Day is the most glorious day of the year in our house.  Mr. Man and the kids spoil me and I look forward to their love notes, which is my favorite gift. 

After a sugar laden breakfast prepared by the kids, topped off with chocolate croissants from Mr. Man.  We went off to church, where the children sang a medley of songs about mothers.  I'm actually in charge of the children in our church, so I was the one who was wrangling them up on the stand to sing.   After the children sang, my beautiful boy exited the stage and proceeded to walk on his knees all the way across the chapel on his knees to the pew in the back.  I was mortified, he was not. 

Later, during Sunday School, my sweet boy pulled out the chair from a kid who was about to sit down.  The child hit his head, and I spent spent the rest of the Sunday Service soothing the injured child and seething.   How on earth am I going to stay sane raising my Always-the-Comedian Mr. Boy? 

A pounding headache was rounding out mother's day, and I decided to take to my bed.  I laid down, closed my eyes, and missed my mother. 

When I woke up, there were Mr. Boys apologetic big blue eyes inches from mine.  There was a tearful apology from him, followed by a fabulous dinner prepared by Mr. Man. 

That night as I checked on the kids before going to bed, I stopped and pondered the miracle that these children are mine.  I thought about their birthmothers who had given me the gift of motherhood and admired their courage.  Out of all the people in the world, they chose me to be the mother of their child.  As I ran my fingers through the kids tousled hair, I remembered that these kids are the reason Mother's day is the most glorious day. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Down South - in between the wedding festivities

 My brother is one of my favorite people. When he went away to college, I missed him terribly and in the midst of teenage angst, my exasperated parents would send me to stay with him for the weekend, hoping he could figure me out.   He didn't pry into my life, he just listened, and became a close friend.  
I knew there was no way I would do this trip without him there for support, and I also knew there isn't anyone in the world I'd rather go to Nashville with.  My brother is an incredibly talented musician, and totally into food.   (Just an FYI, because I'm still bitter.  My brother got the dimples, the musical genes, the good teeth and the good eyebrows.  I just got the leftover mutant genes, such as the ability to fold a paper airplane and remember what people ordered at restaurants.)

I'm a California Native, and having never traveled to the south, I was a bit alarmed at how many people warned me, "The South is different..."  However, I knew everything would be okay once I stepped off the plane and saw this.
We actually had to drive an hour outside of Nashville to get to where the festivities were taking place.  I was amazed at how green everything was.  It is gorgeous. 
There were a ton of Civil War sites and we strolled through multiple old cemeteries. 
The place we stayed wasn't quite on par with the Four Seasons, so we opted not to go for a dip in the aluminum pool.  
 There are churches on every street corner, and even the high rises have steeples. 
One morning my brother and I drove a few miles north to cross the border into Kentucky. 
If only we had stayed one more week, we could have gone to the derby!
We made our way back to Tennessee and for my Dad's Bachelor Party, we took him to lunch at Cracker Barrel.   
I was baffled to see Mac'n'Cheese and Spiced Apples listed under "Vegetables" on the menu.  The food was very good and very heavy.  The biscuits were crazy fluffy and I rediscovered that I love carbs and butter.  
My Dad and Steplady had a lovely party the night before the wedding for friends and family.
One thing I love about my new family, is that they insisted on jeans for the party.  I threw on some pearls to quiet my mother's voice in my head.  I can just hear her saying, "Well, at the very least, put on a skirt and some lipstick..."   I heard her voice in my head a lot on this trip. 
 My dad was "coming down with something" and had the chills.  Personally, I think it was pre wedding jitters. During the party, we wrapped him in blankets. 
By the next day, my dad was on the mend, just in time for the nuptials. It was good to see my dad happy, but it was still weird to see his arm around another lady. 
 Want to see something crazy?  I think my new siblings and I look alike.  What do you think? 
After all the festivities, my brother and I had one night out on the town in Nashville.
I found Elvis and asked him to whisper the directions to some good BBQ.  
 On every street corner there was a musician singing their heart out.  We stumbled on this Amish Family preaching and singing... and I would have joined them on their buggy ride home, but they had microphones... which made me doubt their authenticity... 
 My brother and I went into one of the local "Honky Tonks" and settled in to watch some bands.  Within an hour I felt my shoulders relax and I felt all the stress and the grief from the last few months melt away with the sweet soulful sound of classic country songs by Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. 
For the rest of the night, we slipped in and out of bars listening to different bands.
 We were having the best time. 
 When we got hungry, we hit Jack's BBQ, for some delicious Southern BBQ.  I swear I died and went to heaven, it was unlike anything I've ever tasted. 
The next morning, I was sad to leave the south. My brother and I had the best time together and I found Southern Hospitality to be endearing.  
I knew my trip wouldn't be complete without a big ole southern breakfast.   The grits were delicious and I couldn't stop eating them.   
Total # of times I was called "Sugar" on this trip by strangers: 16
Total # of times I was told some form of  "Bless your heart" or "Have a blessed day": 23
Total # of times I laughed with my brother:  1,172
Thanks to the good folks at American Airlines, I arrived home safely...  And thanks to Mr. Man who held down the fort so beautifully while I was gone, I arrived home to find this...
They didn't even notice that I came home until I did a cannonball into the pool, while yelling, "Howdy Y'all!"

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

My Family, version 2.0

One year and two days after my mom passed away, my father called me to let me know that he was engaged to be married.   I knew this was coming, he had been dating like a madman starting three weeks after my mom's passing. My hope was that she would be nice and that she would make my dad happy. 

My dad wanted me to meet his fiance in Febraury, and so I agreed.   I would pick them up at the train station and spend an hour with them.  Mr. Boy wanted to meet her, AK wanted nothing to do with it.  As I drove to the train station, my heart started pounding and the familiar phrase of, "I don't want to do this." repeated in my head.   As I neared the station, I saw my dad with his arm around a petite lady, who was not my mom.   It all seemed wrong, and I hit the gas and drove right on by the train station leaving them standing there on the curb.  Mr. Boy kept pestering me, "Mom, why did you drive right by Grandpa?"   I just needed a moment to think this through.   I summoned all my courage, made a U turn and headed back to the train station.   I picked them up and spent the next hour with them.  

I spent 34 years of my life seeing my mom and dad together. It seemed so weird to see him with someone else.  I know he is incredibly lonely, I know he needs a companion, I know he deserves happiness... I know, I know, I know, but my heart still longs to reverse the clock and go back to the "Before".   Before there was cancer, before there was heartache, hospice, death, and a funeral.  He is ready to move forward, I am not.

"Steplady" as she was called in our house, because Stepmom didn't quite seem right, turned out to be lovelier than lovely.  Kind, endearing, warm, and friendly, she is impossible to dislike.  

This past weekend my brother, who has been with me through it all,  met me in Dallas to fly out to Tennessee for the wedding.  When I got to the crowded gate at the airport and couldn't find him in the crowd, I stifled the urge to call out "Marco?"  When we were little, we spent hours in the pool playing Marco Polo, and used that same game to find each other in crowds our whole childhood. 

I arrived in Tennessee with an emotional gameplan.  I simply wouldn't have feelings.   I would stifle them, smile, and go into auto pilot.   I brushed up on Tennessee football trivia, funny anecdotes, and interesting news topics to chat with the "New Family" about. I would be charming, but emotionally distant. 

I spent the last few months building up walls, that southern hospitality knocked down within the first few minutes.  Steplady's adult children were kind, welcoming, and endearing.   They embraced us and celebrated the new family.   I was caught off guard and it was impossible not to like them.   I felt guilty for wanting to keep them at arms length. They were compassionate and knew things were hard for my brother and I.  They wanted me to know, my mother was honored. We had things in common and I couldn't help but instantly fall in love.  I had always wanted a big family, and now I had a large family with lots of siblings.    
My dad and his new wife were married on Saturday.  During the ceremony, I found a spot inside the temple where they were married to focus my attention. I had a multitude of emotions, happy, sad, good, weird, and excited.  The excitement between my dad and his new wife was contagious, and they were beyond overjoyed during the ceremony.  
I had been unprepared to hear people call the Steplady by my dad's last name.  I hadn't even thought that she would be called, "Mrs. X", yet after the ceremony people were calling her that in a celebratory manner.    In my world, Mrs. X was my mom, for 49 years she had owned that name and built the reputation it carried with it.  That was the hardest part of the whole thing, and I felt that familiar stab of grief as people congratulated her by calling her by her new last name.   I could hear my mother's voice, "Don't you dare let people see you upset.  This is your Dad's day."  Appearances were important to her, so I quietly slipped away to pull myself together.   Do you ever really stop grieving?  

Pictures and an intimate lunch for close friends and family completed the celebration.   When it came time to leave, I was sad to bid my new siblings goodbye. I am positive there will be multiple visits in the next few years. I never thought that when I wished at the age of ten for a big family, that it would come true 15 years later.  Now when people say, "Do you come from a big family?"   I can answer, "Yes! There are 6 kids, 2 girls, 4 boys."  And maybe I can get away with having a little southern drawl when I say it.  I've always wanted an accent.  Life is funny how that works out.