Stick It Out.

23 March 2015 | 5 Comments

When we were married in 2005, I was educated, owned my own house, had a retirement account, and a whole lot of love for my future husband.  In my head, I was an ideal age.  Twenty-nine is old enough to know better and young enough to have children, if you want them.  I had travelled, dated a sufficient number to realize that Dave was an extraordinary man, and knew how to live a happy, fulfilled life on my own.  We had done pre-Cana, adopted a scruffy rescue poodle, had discussions about future children, and a system in place for handling our finances. 

I wasn’t just settling for Dave, I was choosing him.  And he, me. 

I was also probably, most certainly, very much under-equipped for actual marriage. 

I remember driving home from a friend’s lake house and telling Dave that fine, I wanted a divorce and hearing him respond in kind.  We had been married a few months.  Marriage was kind of hard work, if I am being honest.  Aren’t we supposed to say the vows, have lots of sex, get pregnant easily, have two perfect kids, do well at our careers, and love each other always?  If he was ‘the one’ it would be easy, right?   

There was something humbling about that.   You walk down the aisle and into this life you’ve never led before.  You are completely inexperienced and yet, you think you know everything because we all come packing our own picture of just what the ‘good marriage’ is supposed to be.  When it doesn’t hold up to Hollywood, or your grand-parents’ marriage of 50 years or, what you see from your best friend’s marriage, or your next door neighbors’ you feel like you must be doing something wrong. 

DID WE JUST MAKE A MISTAKE??

Now, after nearly ten years of marriage, neither of us can recall what that first huge fight was about in the first place.  We both remember that we sheepishly faced the reality that our argument had happened in the first fifteen minutes of our trip… and that we still had an hour trapped in the car with each other. 

Awkward. 

We were silent for about fifteen minutes and then,

Me: Do you really want a divorce?

Him:  No.  You?

Me:  No.  I have no idea why I even said that.

Him:  We are idiots.

Me:  Totally. 

We talked.  A lot.  We realized that even though we had moved in together when we got engaged, being engaged or living together is not the same as being married.  You might like to think it is, but it isn’t.  Kind of like you think that having children will be the same as life before children. 

Spoiler Alert, your life changes when you have children.

I learned quickly, you can’t just kick someone out when you get into an argument.  Oh, I mean, you can yell, “GET OUT of my house,” but then you realize that regardless of who’s name is on the mortgage, it’s their home too and you will feel like an idiot.   He learned that he had to communicate frustrations instead of ignoring them.  We also figured out that the only people who belong in our marriage, is us.  My sisters, his best friend, our parents, his boss, my Facebook feed… they don’t get a say, a vote, or to weigh in, and our marriage is not their business.  Ever.  

In the several hundred arguments we’ve had since then, we’ve both learned that a little empathy for your partner goes a long, LONG way.  

I know this in no way guarantees that Dave and I will stay married forever.  The reality is, marriages that I thought for sure would last forever, fail.  Marriages that were bad ideas from the start have lasted for years.  There are no guarantees, there is only the work, the love, the day to day, the fun, the hurt, the laughs, the frustration, the big stuff, the little stuff, and the fact that we’re both still willing do get up each day and choose each other.  Even on the days when that choice might not feel as fun as packing up and moving to Aruba and surrounding yourself with pina coladas and room service.

Or so I’ve heard.

Mondays.

10 March 2015 | 2 Comments

Since the stroke, which Meme likes to refer to as the ‘thing that happened,’ my mom and her siblings have assigned days that everyone is responsible for calling or visiting.  She’s convinced it was my mother who cracked the whip on her siblings, but it wasn’t, though Janet is pretty whip cracking, I’ll give her that.  The daily calls and the stipulation that we could install an emergency alert system in her house, is the deal to keep her independence.  It’s all slightly BS.  Secretly, I believe that they’re all afraid of her stubbornness and she’s just humoring them by allowing these daily check ins, but whatever works... 

Shortly after the ‘thing that happened,’ Dave was over there helping to install something and Meme was filling him in on these daily calls.  “I’ll be glad when this stage of my life is over.  Everyone is calling and checking in on me.  They think I’ve kicked it if I don’t answer the phone right away,” she said.  He chuckled a little because he already knew about the call schedule.

Then a few minutes later, “What are they going to do about it if I do kick it, anyway?  There’s not a damn thing any of them can do.  When it’s your time, it’s your time.”

Now though?  I think that she enjoys, or maybe just graciously allows, the intrusion into her daily routine by the brood she claims as her own. 

Tate and I have Mondays. 

We drop Finnegan off to school and go over and have breakfast with her.  Tate asks her for the 47th time just why Meme likes her oatmeal with milk and Craisins, when she likes hers more firm with brown sugar and cinnamon.   Meme fills  me in all of the family updates, including phone calls from my cousins in Chicago.  She announces at least once each visit, how absurd it is that my aunt does her laundry when she’s quite capable of going down to the basement to do it herself.  Oh, she gets it, she assures me, “They don’t want me going up and down the stairs with a basket.  It’s just not necessary when, I can do it myself.”  I tell her to enjoy it, humor her children, and to send Sue over to do mine if she doesn’t want the help. 

The talk lately, is of March Madness.  She’s not sure how she’s going to fill out her bracket, her past winning streak means she has a reputation to uphold.  Let’s not forget the woe that her beloved Buckeyes stink this year.  Priorities people, basketball is undoubtedly in her top three... we just aren’t sure if family comes before or after it.   She asks about Bo-Bims, which is what she calls my sister, and fields in depth questions from her great granddaughter about if she really knows Aunt Punka and just how she does.  Apparently, she is satisfied by Meme’s answers and I am convinced that Lyndsey will never be called her real name by anyone, but me. 

cell 1052

Tate has already moved on to the entertainment portion of our visit and twirls her way through the living room.  She pairs the excited whirligig with non-stop chatter about her imaginary sister, Heinje.  “We’re ice dancing!  Me and Heinje are the best ice dancers!”  Meme agrees and pays for the performance with a  belly full of Club crackers.  Then she makes a power play when I answer the phone, she turns on Disney channel for her.  When I raise an eyebrow, she simply pretends in her old age that she doesn’t see me because she’s concentrating on the remote buttons.  I now know where her loyalties lie.  They sometimes draw funny things and Meme tries to convince her to tell everyone that she is TQ’s great-grandmother, not because of her age, but her excellence.  “Tate, you can just tell everyone you call me that because I am so GREAT!  Don’t you think?” 

Yep, Meme.  We kinda do.

Press (re)Start.

24 February 2015 | 7 Comments

When I don’t want to do something, I have a really hard time starting.  When I’m stressed.  When I’m tired.  When I am embarrassed, angry, and overwhelmed.  It is easier to hide or immerse myself in something mindless, have you played Trivia Crack?  My mostly rational mind is clued into the fact that this is a by-product of the ADD, but my overwhelmed reaction (ding ding ding, also the ADD) sees it as a series of hurdles. 

And you know my booty isn’t making it over any hurdles.

The thing is, it bothers me, being away from here as much as I have been, but there are some other things I needed to spend my energy on.  It’s kind of like that put your own oxygen mask on, then your kids’ when the reality is you’re going to see their face and put their mask on first.  And I did, but it’s also a bullshit cop out excuse too.  Because everyone knows in the crazy airline demonstrations, doing that just makes you pass out while your kids are fine.  I’m pretty sure mine would just poke me with a stick because they want a snack. 

Coming back for a quickie “hi, how are ya,” in the midst of all of that, seemed like kind of a jackass thing to do.  So, I just didn’t.  I would be like that friend who just shows up unannounced to your party, because you put it on Facebook.  Sure, you forgot that friend wasn’t under your ‘acquaintance’ list, they aren’t really invited, if we’re being honest but, they still show up and make it all awkward.  Yep.  That about sums it up.

Ooooh, is that Chex mix?

And, no, I’m not going to talk about it just yet, the other stuff, but I will.  Probably.  Just not right now.  << I also hate when people do things like that,  WHO does that?  Annoying people, on your acquaintance list, that’s who.  But, you already know that. 

Unless you’re new.

In which case, um, hi, I’m Michelle, you can totally come sit by me.  I’ll probably even be back here tomorrow.  Maybe.

I am pressing the re-start button.  While crossing my fingers it doesn’t crash the system. 

What’s new with you?

Is Being a Mom Hard?

07 January 2015 | 8 Comments

We were sitting at the table and I was frustrated. 

It had been a very long day.  I was tired.  We had a snow day, on the very first day I was supposed to get two hours and fifteen minutes of blissful quiet time in two very long weeks.  They alternated all day between being the best of friends and relentless bickering.  I. Just. Wanted. To. Clean. Out. My. Stupid. Over-stuffed. Closet.  That was my goal for the two hours and fifteen minutes of quiet time while my youngest was supposed to be at preschool.  I wanted to listen to something with adult lyrics and drink coffee and pull out all of those old maternity clothes and too skinny pants that had somehow gotten tucked into the depths of the closet. 

That, and I’m not going to lie, there are some hideous shirts I was hoping to sneak out of Dave’s side too.

Instead, I was refereeing.  By dinnertime, I was pretty close to my exasperation limit, when Tate declared how much she LOVED her steak taco.  She wasn’t just saying how much she loved it, she was telling me that it was the BEST taco ever.  You would think, that winning dinner with a three and a half year old would be a good thing.  It might have been, but all I could do was stare in disbelief.  I wondered if maybe, an alien had taken over her body?  That had to be the answer.  She couldn’t be my daughter, the one who had thrown an epic, nightmare inducing, tantrum meltdown on New Year’s Eve because, that’s right, we had dared serve her steak. 

After dinner, I was skimming Finn’s homework from the night before and asked him do a couple more math problems for practice.  Math is one of those things that we struggle with.  I say “we” because I’m trying to decipher just where his gaps in learning are from a grade skip, so new concepts don’t completely blindside him, while simultaneously not screwing him up with my ‘old math’ ways.  And he?  He’s just trying to figure out how fractions relate to measurement.  He did the problems, but I wondered if he really grasped it.

“Mom, is being a parent hard?  Like, is it a hard job?  Because sometimes, it seems like it’s really hard for you,” he asked, sliding over to give me a hug.

Most days, I hope as a mom that I’m doing more right than wrong.  Some days, though, I wonder if that is true.  That’s difficult for me to say out loud.  To admit, I am far from the world’s best mom.  There are two sweet faces looking to me for an answer that I don’t always have.  There are days I feel like a failure.  I am a  completely crap ‘new math’ explainer, I am a zombie in the morning, and there are days that I tell him to hustle because we’re late and he’s got four minutes to get to class.  I wonder if I’m asking the right questions, wonder if they’re really happy, or if they’re going to think that we somehow screwed up their childhood when they are grown. 

See?  I assume that my parenting, will probably lead to therapy. 

It’s not easy or for the faint of heart, this parenting thing.  Well, some days it’s easy and those days feel like a gift.  They exist, I’m convinced, to make sure we don’t eat our young, when we’re confronted with, “This is the most boring house ever!” as you glance at the thirty five choices for entertainment in your immediate vicinity.

Almost daily, I wage a fierce debate that chocolate is not considered a ‘healthy’ snack and wonder would if it would be much easier to just feed Tate all the chocolate her belly can handle.  Have you ever examined the logic of a three and a half year old?  It’s the stuff that torture is made of.  I’m also trying not to yell because I don’t want to be that yeller mom whose kids roll their eyes and tune out, but I still swear too much.  Some days I have to consciously remind myself that it’s OK to close the door and take a minute to finish cleaning out the closet while they argue about who cut off who’s hand with a fake plastic light saber.  Then I wonder, should I be concerned that they are cutting off each other’s hands with plastic light sabers?  Isn’t that the first sign of the dark side? 

There are days that I’d love to not be the elected vomit cleaner.  Or nag about homework.  Or break up sibling squabbles.  Or days when I’m too freaking tired to try to figure out new math, so I don’t screw up my seven year old.  As long as we’re making this list, I also, unquestionably, still mourn the loss of sleeping in on Saturday mornings. 

I tell myself regularly, it’s normal to have failure.  It’s normal to make mistakes and admit when you’re wrong.  It’s normal to have tough days when you just want to give up and start over in the morning.  It’s normal to wonder if you’re the ONLY one screwing up your kids.   

When your frustration is maxed out.  When you’re at a loss for how to handle something.  When you are desperately searching for that child rearing manual they MUST have forgotten to give you when you brought this baby home.  When your seven year old sees you struggle.

I hugged Finn and considered all of these things before I replied.  I am smart enough to know that my days of unprovoked snuggles are numbered.  “Probably the hardest and best job I’ve ever had,” I confessed.  “I know I screw it up.  I probably make mistakes all the time.  But, I wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world.”

“Well, I’m never having kids if they’re as bad as Tate,” he replied and packed up his homework.

They will test our limits, are crazy freaking mess tornados, and bicker with each other.  They will make us worry, tell white lies, and forget their manners.  They will exasperate us, make bad choices, and probably not always be nice.  And we still have a job because of it. 

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