Almost everyone knows that when a person has more than one child, the personalities of said children will differ greatly. I knew this even before I had children because I had a sister who is as different from myself as night and day. Yin and Yang. She's outspoken while I bottle it all in. She's outgoing & talkative while I'm quite introverted. She had 3 girls and I had 2 boys (because she hogged all the girls).
By the time Critter blessed our family, I was fully aware that he would be a person with a personality completely separate from his big brother. Critter tries daily to shatter our eardrums, I think I've had to tell Smooch to use his inside voice three times in his life. Smooch will be 8 in a couple of months and still won't climb on our kitchen counters and I'm trying to figure out just which Ninja moves Critter uses exactly to get at the Marshmallows in our pantry. And after I took them away how he managed to retrieve them from the middle of the kitchen table.
Now for the most part I'm a fairly intelligent adult woman. I knew these boys would be different. Although I can say I didn't exactly plan on HOW different they would be, I did expect it. What I didn't expect, however, is how different their Mothers would be.
Smoochie's mom was totally on the ball. He was clean, well (and promptly) fed, and at all times "dressed and ready to face the day". I quoted that because that is the phrase I used every morning when we were getting ready. A pajama day for that boy was always either a super treat meaning we had nowhere to go, or it meant the boy was super sick and too pitiful to care about getting dressed. Smoochie's mom had it all, an eagle eye, quick humor, and reflexes as quick as a rabbit. Smoochie's mom rocked. It's no wonder he never colored on a wall or cut his own hair.
Meanwhile, in the land of Neurotic 6 years later, I look around and spy Critter's mom. She's frazzled and mostly askew and partly deaf and completely off her rocker. I'm thinking Critter may be getting the shaft. Critter thinks that if his mom is putting clothes on him it means he is going "bye bye" and starts waving. And he may be right.
Critter was most recently spied in a living room (also occupied by Dad AND Big Brother) drawing on a coffee table with a pencil. This implies he has developed the ability to become invisible and his mom's eagle eye clearly needs lasik.
Critter's mom is slow and has lost her quick reflexes. She's always limping due to the recurring foot cramp that comes from stepping on poky hard plastic children's toys. She may be developing a personality disorder because she can often be spotted hunched over limping and muttering to herself.
Critter's mom has lost her sense of time and completely thrown her ability to plan for the immediate future out the window. She should really expect that every day at 5:30 Critter will be hungry and yet it still comes as a daily surprise to her. Her personal motto has recently become, "Oh crap, dinner."
I have searched our home thoroughly for any trace of Smoochie's mom, but she can't be reached for comment. (Between you and me I'm pretty sure she's locked up in a tower somewhere and won't be coming back)
And Critter's mom? Is too busy daydreaming of a bubble bath in a soaking tub with candle light ambiance and a glass of wine to bother.
Yesterday, I came up with my most brilliant idea of the year. Truly, it was simply phenomenal. Our house is a bungalow built in 1933. When we purchased it, to us, that meant charm. I mean, it still has the original doors and glass doorknobs. Take that and combine it with hardwood floors, a large yard, a large kitchen,(and yes, a dishwasher) and we were charmed into buying.
Unfortunately charm technically means work. I'm not really sure how the two tie together but they do. And this is where my mind and my thought pattern was yesterday when I woke up. There are things in this house that simply need to be redone.
Now, Martha Stewart I am not. Nor am I an interior designer, and my home collection shows it. I'm pretty sure if they came out with a line of my personal home decor, it would be titled Le Hodge Podge. Given the funds, I would gladly hire a crew to come in, demolish-strip-paint-rebuild-cute-ify every square inch of this place. However, I am a stay at home mom, and our budget is stretched. Things are tight.
But see, the thing is, as I sat yesterday watching Critter eat his breakfast, I had an epiphany (I seem to have a lot of these and apparently haven't yet learned that epiphanies are usually not a good thing when they spontaneously erupt from my brainwaves). If I wait until we have an abundance of funds to start fixing up the place, I will be ready to move to the nursing home. I can either get up the nerve for a healthy dose of DIY or I can live the status quo.
I opted for the DIY route. I mean how hard can it be, really? It's not like I haven't read any assortment of DIY blogs over the past year or so. And back in the day, I could watch the heck out of Trading Spaces. (Is that even still on?)
A while back my in-laws gave us a whole slew of paint that was left over from their re-paint job on their home interior. Since I already had the paint, and I had a great portion of the supplies needed sitting around our home in various places, I began in our bathroom. I chose this room because it's the smallest room in our house. For those of you who speak fluent Chas this interprets directly to 'The room that will be easiest to redo when things explode and I've messed it up entirely'.
So sometime after breakfast, I climbed Mount Babygate and began work on our bathroom cupboards, which will be miraculously transformed from their generic dark oaky color to black by the end of the redo.
I did not take into account what DIY means with a 19 month old running wild and unchecked in my home. I was soon enlightened to find out that it means while I am busy not paying attention to him and sanding down the cupboards, he will find the need to help me out with my homemaking duties and use his footie pajamas to mop my kitchen floor for me. Water courtesy of the dog dish. He also took it upon himself to redo my decor by completely emptying his toy box and artfully arrange his toys over every square inch of floor space between his bedroom, the kitchen, and the living room. His decor line is titled Le Tod Podge.
Today I decided that I simply can not handle another dog water wash on my kitchen floor, so I waited until my sweet little Critter was down for his nap before embarking on my bathroom project. Having done all of the sanding and priming yesterday, I began applying paint on the cabinets today.
I soon discovered the oops paint I thought was black looked much grayer out of the can. It didn't completely cover my white primer- but I figured it wouldn't on the first coat- but I had to use white primer because it's what I already had on hand, and this is a budget DIY project for Pete's sake. So while my little Critter snored peacefully away in his crib, my mind became obsessed with the color gray.
-Gosh that's awful gray.
-John's going to kill me, I told him the cabinets would be black. And I started this project without even talking to him in the first place. Surprise honey, I've torn apart our bathroom, you can't shave because I've got drop cloth taped over our sink, and ta-da! How about a gray cabinet or two?
-Would he buy the line 'Gray is the new black'?
-I'm going to have to rethink my wall color. Crap, this whole thing is about using what's on hand, what on Earth am I going to tell John when I need to go buy a couple gallons of paint?
-I'm not sure I can do gray. Maybe I should just go buy a small container of real black and go over with the black at the end?
I was totally and completely fixated on gray. Just before I was finishing the last part of the last cabinet, I noticed that my gray was drying a bit darker. I breathed a sigh of relief, noted that I hadn't been that covered in paint since high school when I worked on Tech Crew backstage making sets for plays and such. While admiring the nice dark black color my cabinets were drying into, I stepped backwards off my handy dandy step stool.
Right into the bucket of paint.
Because I'm Chas and that. Is just what I do.
I will now leave you with the mental picture of me with a black foot and ankle wrapping a makeshift cover with improvised drop cloth rippings, (plastic and paint are slipperier than ice- it's a wonder I didn't break anything) once again scaling Mount Babygate, hunchback sliding my foot across from the bathroom to the living room and finally through the kitchen to the sink (the bathroom sink is out of commission remember). I'm 5 foot 3, so I have nooooooo clue how I cleared the counter and managed to get my foot in the sink without leaving a trail of gray (until it dries anyway). I will tell you it was a sight to behold.
Next time I have an epiphany, somebody needs to smack me back into reality.
Butterflies, flushing newness, and happily ever after.
I can't truly speak for all American girls, but I can say that I grew up with a horribly misrepresented notion of happily ever after and the fairy tale. The handsome prince who was perfect and flawless. The certainty of being swept off my feet and worshiped and treasured surely meant a lifetime crammed full of sweet nothings and blushing cheeks and intestinal flip-flops, right?
The bookworm that I was as a young girl ran into book after book about the beautiful girl and the prince (or cowboy or dark and mysterious rogue rebel as I grew older) who supplied her life with the promise of happiness and flowers and suave romance and heart palpitating lust every moment of every day for eternity and forever. To my 20th century American girl mind, that was the definition of happily ever after.
I never once read a book about the day Cinderella woke up and realized she would spend the rest of her life eternally retrieving Princely's skivvies from the floor next to the empty laundry hamper. I never read any of her rants about how at least the ugly step-sisters left their clothing inside the hamper and left the stinking toilet seat down and they for freaking sure never ever supplied her bed with so many pillows she dreamt about being choked by marshmallows.
Nor did I encounter a book about how to continue loving your prince through bouts of extreme anger and frustration and tears and hurt (aka P.M.S.) and how to come to terms with the realization that life and love and marriage isn't the idealistic fairy tale I once thought it was.
Now that I'm older and I've experienced a great deal of marriage and love I realize that while fairy tales do exist, it is my concept of both the fairy tale and happily ever after that was grossly askew. Here, I'll explain.
This is a photo of one of my most beloved, highly prized possessions.
It's a poem written for me by my very own Bonehead while he was out at sea for the first time after becoming my husband. It is about both him and (a highly romanticized concept of) me. I'd share the story of the inner romance but some things in a marriage must always remain sacred. What I will say is that upon his return after our first prolonged separation as husband and wife he presented me with this poem.
A few years later he secretly commissioned my high school best friend and maid of honor to turn the poem into a beautiful one of a kind piece of art. For the longest time I kept it tucked away safely in a closet so no harm could come to it. Occasionally I would take a peek, run my fingers lovingly over it and allow the words to once again fill my heart with love.
One day Bonehead took it from it's safe place without my knowledge, grabbed my toddling Smoochie, and the two of them had it professionally framed for me. Almost 10 years into our marriage I walked into our bedroom and found it waiting for me on my pillow.
I know now that happily ever after is different for each person. For me, it is the scattering of joyful moments that tie together the mundane. My fairy tale is knowing the continuing love of a man and being able to share the ins and outs (and yes, the frustration and anger too) of every day life with him. My happily ever after lies with this poem and many other unexpected moments like these that fill my heart with joy.
I am beginning to realize our trusty family minivan is good for a few things. The biggest most obvious feature is its ability to carry and tote a large amount of both people and things. Our family spends a great deal of time in the car. With Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Annie and assorted cousins just over an hour away, often times by the end of the weekend our family minivan looks more like a family minihotel after a particularly festive room party, only for the more selective (and surprisingly temperamental) sippy cup carrying, juice box discarding sector of society. I've recently cleaned the van, though, so for at least the next couple weeks it will look like housekeeping has recently knocked on the door and come through.
Our van is also good for some interesting conversation. At some point or another, pretty much every topic under the sun has been discussed, from how tires are made to which airplane is the fastest. Often from the back seat a small-ish voice can be heard saying, "Mom?" or if it is the weekend and we are out together as a family, "Dad?" Rules state that either mom or dad is required to verbally acknowledge this inquisition before the conversation can continue. Rules also state that there are no guarantees what you will hear when the conversation does continue.
For example, the family was out in the trusty hotel on wheels minivan last week when from the back seat came the telltale, "Mom?"
"Maximus* got some really hot chicks."
From the driver's seat I look at Bonehead. Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Judging from the way Bonehead was looking out the window and hiding a smirk, I'm fully thinking I actually heard what I thought I heard.
A quick glance in my rear view mirror assured me that yes, in fact, I did still have a sweet little 7 year old sitting in my back seat. Thankfully I did not drive us through some sort of freaky time-space continuum or somehow Rip Van Winkle myself 16 years into the future.
Preparing some kind of mental speech about respecting girls, and how calling them 'chicks' or any other similar name really wouldn't be looked favorably upon by anyone including mom, dad, and any girl he ever comes in contact with, I felt the need to verify. "What did you just say, Smooch?"
"I said Hot. As in spicy."
By this point I was completely speechless. I truly didn't even know where to start. Fortunately for me, he felt the need to continue speaking.
"Maximus* got some hot chips. At lunch today"
It was at this point in our drive that Smooch had to sit and wonder why his mom was having such a laughing fit in the driver's seat.
I sat there trying to wrap my brain around what I'd just read, on a blog I've been following for quite some time, wanting more than ever to leave a comment. Usually if she's written something controversial and thought provoking I can think it over and then comment. Only this time, I discovered she'd turned the comments off, and I would not be able to do so. Ohohohoh I had some things I wanted to say in response to her post, but couldn't.
Truth is, I enjoy reading this blog. Sandi @ Lucky Thirteen and Counting has a very large family, and several members have special needs. The love that must be in her heart combined with the work that must go into taking such good care of this family has to be at astounding levels. And anyone with a family that large has to lead a life at least 10 times more interesting than mine, just with the extra opportunity for laughter and commotion alone.
All the same, I think I was more frustrated at not being allowed to comment than I was at what I read on the blog. And then I realized that I have a blog. I have a voice. Not that I've networked and grown my blog to ginormous levels, but even if it is a small one, it is still a voice, a place for me to- well- scratch my neurotic spot.
I don't usually share my opinions on things with people other than immediate family because for the most part I hate having opinions forced upon me. In fact, if you chose to stop reading now, I would totally get it. But I've been thinking hard about this all morning, and I have an itch that I can't ignore. Yep, I'm scratching.
What I took away from what I read is that no matter how happy I think my marriage is, my husband could cheat on me. And that I would be absolutely blind and lying to myself if I didn't see that possibility. And that no matter how much I trust my husband, there might be a woman out there who decides she has to have him and would stop at nothing to seduce him.
There was a time a few years into my marriage when those kind of thoughts ruled my brain. Every time he was away from me for more than 20 minutes, my brain would go there. Would he put himself in that position? What if he did? What is going on that I don't know about? Is he going to? Would he if he had the opportunity?
I spent a great deal of time with my stomach in knots. The knots in my stomach contained anger, and distrust, and they grew until I didn't recognize the person I had become. I was distrustful, needy, and just generally unhappy with my life and beyond a shadow of a doubt I was miserable.
This being the time before we had children, I seriously considered divorce over and over and over. After all, if I couldn't trust him, did it matter that I loved him with all of my heart if I was going to be miserable and carry an iron cannonball around in my stomach anyway?
And then our Smoochie arrived and touched our hearts beyond anything either of us could have imagined. For the first time, I think we saw our marriage for what it was and decided that a little intervention was needed in order to give Smooch the life and love he deserved. We went to counseling. Yep, the dreaded marriage counselor. For a long time, actually. And I went to see her on an individual basis, too, because I had a lot of other baggage to deal with and kick to the curb. Did the counseling help? Sure. After all, who wouldn't benefit from an outsider's constructive view on the relationship- especially if both parties are equally open to change.
But the real reason I am still with my husband is because I had an epiphany. Could Bonehead cheat on me? Absolutely, with 100% certainty it was a possibility. I couldn't then, nor can I now, guarantee that he will not ever err and cheat. Heck, I am human myself, and who's to say that 3, 5, 10 years from now I won't mess up myself? It's like being in an airplane and trusting your life to the pilot. If you're going to fly, you're going to have to give up a little control, otherwise you will be stuck on the ground and probably miss out on opportunity after opportunity in your life.
I could continue to live with that panic-can't-breathe feeling every time he leaves my presence, or I could put a little faith in him and simply trust that he wouldn't behave inappropriately. For me, it came down to the whole glass half empty/ half full scenario. I made a conscious decision to look at my marriage as a glass half full. I nurture it, trust it to still be half full in the future, and do my best not to drop it or spill it. And if some day I wake to find out someone guzzled the last half and left me with an empty glass, then I will deal with that. But I refuse to nurture hate and mistrust in my marriage (and heart) on the off chance that someone might be that greedy.
Its been several years since I adopted this view point. And in all honesty, I would be lying if I said that every once in a while one of those old thoughts didn't sneak into my brain. But then I remind myself that life's too short to allow those kind of thoughts to once again take root in my head, and I deal with it and kick it to the curb.
So could he cheat? Oh, absolutely. When it comes right down to it, I have absolutely no control over whether he does or not. What I can control is me, and I refuse to waste my limited number of days worrying over the 'what could be's' and instead choose to live in the love and devotion that is my 'here and now'.
*As I was finishing up this post, by chance this song popped up on my shuffle. The irony is that it pretty much says what I was trying to say, anyway. Here's the lyrics, and the Youtube link, if you care to hear.
I Believe- Cowboy Mouth
Whatcha gonna do with the restlessness inside you worried mind How you think you're ever gonna get ahead when you feel so far behind Step inside this endless moment for a subtle touch of grace I've always found my strength inside the act of faith
I believe in the spirit of Rock N Roll In the eternal stregth of the immortal soul Cause sometimes everybody's gotta let it go I believe in the power of love
I believe in the sounds of Sam and Dave That little children should occasionally misbahave That all that you get is all that you gave I believe in the power of love
Little boy staring out a windowsill to a world that doesn't care Everybody 'round is so much bigger that they don't even know he's there But one day he's going to grow to be a man and maybe then they'll see He'll provide the hope and care for the family
I believe in the chance of love at fist site That your life doesn't always have to be a fight And if you do it at all you ought to do it right I believe in the power of love
I believe that sometimes you got to take a stand That you're holding my heart when you're holding my hand Cause everything is eventually in gods hands
I have got to take the best of me and keep that heart alive Why'd i ever want to shut that down and kill my soul?
I believe that sometimes you've got to take a chance That you can't lve your life just listening to can't's Casue the thrill of the ball's part of the thrill of the dance I believe in the power of love
I believe that we never really are alone 'Cause there's so much more than anything we've known New Orleans is always gonna be my home I believe in the power of love
I believe in the spirit of Rock N Roll In the eternal stregth of the immortal soul Cause sometimes everybody's gotta let it go I believe in the power of love
35 and preparing to begin a new chapter in life as the single Mom of two beautiful boys. I'm approaching each day as a new beginning and still embracing the laughter it brings. And also, I am destined to be eternally pale.