Saturday, April 28, 2007

Swimsuit Shopping

I bet few women would disagree with me when I say that shopping for a swimsuit is just a step above giving birth on the painful, "PLEASE, MAKE THIS BE OVER!" scale. But at least when you have a baby, you get something wonderful, miraculous and lasting out of it. When you buy a swimsuit, you get an expensive piece of nylon fabric that clings to your body, and in my case, clings to the part of my body that has been stretched beyond recognition four times. I have the marks to prove it!

When you buy a swimsuit, it may actually look OK, but it doesn't like you much, the way it bulges right there and gapes right there, or makes you look six month pregnant. You don't like it either. Not one bit, but what choice do you have? If you want to take your kids to the pool--a ritualistic, normal activity to do in the summer--you've gotta suck it up (or in) and put on the suit.

There's only a month left until the outdoor pool opens in my city, and and I am therefore filled with anxiety about what I will wear to the pool. Anxiety may actually be the wrong word. Let's think again. How about fear, worry, trepidation, nausea or panic? I think of those words and more when I think about putting on that close-fitting nylon fabric and walking out in public.

Well, one thing's for sure. I refuse to wear that chartreuse tankini I bought from the Lands End catalog three summers ago. I thought that buying an extremely bright (BLING!) suit would hide my "anxiety zones" (that's what they call them in the catalog). No, they just call attention to ME (BLING!) and all my anxiety zones. The only good thing about that suit? Wherever I am at the pool, my kids can find me. Just look for the lady in the neon lime suit with pink squigglies in it. This year I'm going to get navy blue so my kids can't find me. Why DO I want them to find me anyway? What was I thinking?

Ok, so I thought about getting a new suit, one that would not be detectable from outer space. I looked through the catalog, and saw some really cute suits that might look OK on me. I did the first painful part: measuring. I got out my trusty tape measure and started--bust, waist, hips and torso. This is supposed to help you determine the correct size, IF your body is normally proportioned. If your body is not normally proportioned, then you feel like a freakazoid and have to call the friendly, reliable people at Lands End to ask them what size to order if you have three measurements that equal three different sizes.

I usually like to talk to the folks at Lands End. They are friendly, and I love hearing that midwestern accent. It reminds me of the six years when I lived in Wiscaaaaansin. So, when I called, a nice, competent lady answered the phone. She didn't make me feel freakish when I told her that my measurements added up to three different sizes. But she did make me tell her what they were, and that was NOT so pleasant. Then she said, "Hmm, yes this is a praaablem. Let me caaaall a sizing specialist to see what'll work here." (Great, my body is so abnormal that I have to have a sizing specialist.)

She put me on hold. I starting ironing a shirt for a bit and then she came back. "Maaaaam," she said. "I just spoke to our sizing specialist and she thought you should be a blank blank on top and a blank on the baaaaattom."

"Well, what if I don't want a tankini, what if I want a one piece?" I asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.

"I'd say, then, that you should praaaaaabably stick with the tankini so you don't have to worry about that praaaaaaablem."

"OK, you've been quite helpful. Thanks. I'm going to think about what to do now," I told her.

"No praaaaalem. Thanks for caaaaaalling Lands End. You have a nice day now." She hung up.

I flipped through the catalog some more. Why does this have to be so incredibly difficult? It might be easier to wear neon lime for another year. I consider this for a bit. Is six months too long to make a decision? Maybe my anxiety zone won't be an anxiety zone anymore if I wait. Or. . . .what if I pay $80 for a swimsuit that fits now, but won't if I lose more weight? Hmmmm, unlikely.

I also thought that maybe Lands End isn't "swimsuit headquarters" like they claim and maybe some other place would be comparable. So I spent some time browsing. Too much time. Most of the choices out there that aren't $120 a suit are either too small to see without a microscope or tents that come half way down your thigh. Neither one will do for me.

So I'm back to the drawing board. The possibilities are mind boggling. Tankini, one piece, halter neck, soft cup bra, shelf bra, X-back, square neck, swim mini, brief, #1 leg length or #2, etc. Way too much for me to process, let along make any kind of decision before the city pool opens up in a month.

Good luck, comrades with stretch marks, finding something to wear to the pool. May your experience be more successful than mine was!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Teresa!

When I was five I was blessed to make a friend who is still my friend 35 years later. Her name is Teresa, and she lives in Indiana with her husband Steve and their five children, three of whom are triplets. One of those triplets has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. His name is Tyler and he lights up people's worlds, just like Teresa has been lighting my world all these years.

I write about Teresa because two weeks ago I realized I missed her 40th birthday on March 10. Some best friend, huh? She didn't miss mine. I got a beautiful card where she listed all my good qualities. I open it up and read deeply when I'm feeling down. So I will send her this blog in hopes that it will make up for missing her milestone birthday.

Growing up, Teresa lived down the street from me. When we were eight or nine or ten or somewhere in there, we started a secret club. We called it the Dot Dot Dot, named after secret book which had three giant red dots on the cover. Our clubhouse was my ponderous willow tree in the back yard. We had been banned from Teresa's giant oak, after the mailman caught us swinging from the tallest branches during a hurricane-like wind storm. Plus, she had more little siblings to bother us. So we met in my willow.

Willows are great places to hide from people. I know because I spent hours in that tree over the years, bawling my eyes out over lost loves, fuming in anger at my parents, and trying to manage my teenagerly mood swings. I loved that tree because if I could find just the right spot, those long, vine branches could completely hide me from people in the yard or people looking out the window trying to find me. They were a cool green canopy, an oasis from childhood cares. It was a secret fortress and general headquarters for Teresa and me and our club.

I might give my right arm to have the "Dot Dot Dot" today to read to myself and then decide if I'd let my kids read it. Where in the world did it go? I can't remember what we wrote on the pages. Secrets of course. But not ordinary secrets. These were "blood secrets." The title page swore us to secrecy and eternal friendship, and then we had to cut ourselves and smear blood on the page and sign our names. I remember comparing whose blood was redder and who made a bigger smear.

We felt awfully grown up, awfully devilish, making ourselves bleed to convey our lasting friendship. It must have worked, though. Whenever I hear the words "best friend" I automatically think of Teresa, even though now I'm a 40-year old woman.

The worst day of my life was in 3rd grade when Teresa moved to a bigger house. I remember being insensed that I now had to be driven to her house. It wasn't even 10 minutes away, but it still felt like a world away to me. Now she was in a new school. Now we couldn't take turns asking Steve Vincent if we could borrow his super-cool mechanical pencil. Teresa ended up marrying Steve Vincent, and it was evident clear back then how much she liked him.

I remember coming home from visiting Teresa's new house, and being very depressed. I sat down on my bed and looked across the room and realized that my gerbil wasn't moving. "Frisky" was dead in his cage. I got Frisky in 1st grade when Teresa and I were in Mrs. Faust's class together. Mrs. Faust made us away from each other because we talked too much. But then we just shouted across the room to each other and that was even louder. So she moved us back together.

So Teresa moved and Frisky died all on the same day. It was way too much for a nine-year old to take. Even so, there were plenty of sleepovers in Teresa's new house. It was huge and had an unfinished basement. Teresa had tons of chores on Saturday mornings being one of eight children, but I always helped her. Her idea of sweeping the kitchen floor was to sweep everything into the middle of the floor. This included dolls, cups, spoons, napkins, notebooks, pencils, car keys, assorted toys and hairbrushes, all in a big pile. She'd leave it there in hopes that people would take their things and she wouldn't have to put things away. Then we'd start doing something else and we'd hear TERESAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! Teresa's Mom had great lung capacity! We'd scrambled back to the kitchen to put stuff away.

On one sleepover we made up a dance to "Love Story." We'd start our on different sides of the room and make our way to the center in a comic thrust of drama. Teresa's Mom taught us the jitterbug at a sleepover 50s party. That was the same party that girls started throwing up and had to go home because they'd drank too much pop and eaten too much candy.

In junior high Teresa and I were LOUD. I could hear her in the 9th grade hall, even when I was in the 7th grade hall and vice versa. She was there when I wiped out 10 feet before the finish line while running the 100-yard dash at a region track meet. She wrote me notes in class and wrote BFA all over them (best friends always). She told me when I was being a jerk and needed an attitude adjustment. She was always calling me a "spaz."

Sometimes childhood friends part ways in high school, but we didn't. Even though we mostly hung out with different friends, I remember canvassing the lunchroom daily looking for Teresa. I wanted to be in touch each day. I wanted to see my oldest friend, even if she was with other people. I'd go sit with her a while talk and then leave, repeating the same ritual on most days. She was security when I probably didn't appear to need it, but really did.

Teresa played the violin and every sport imaginable. She was incredibly coordinated. I played the piano and was interested in student government and the school newspaper. I was more "preppy;" she was more of a "jock." I had a "bob;" she had "feathered" hair. She had brown hair and enormous brown eyes. I had blond hair and blue eyes. In third grade we had exactly the same glasses--enormous brown things that covered half our faces. In 7th grade we both got hard contacts and forever had bloodshot eyes until we got soft lenses in high school. That same year we got braces. We were gorgeous!! We had our picture taken in one of those booths in the mall. I am wearing a necklance with a cursive "E" dangling from the chain and "studs" in my newly pierced ears. Our braces are sparkling like a diamond mine.

Teresa told me all about periods and sex. She showed me pads and those obnoxious belts that her big sister had. I was aghast that men and women participated in such an act. She was equally disgusted that her parents must have done it multiple times to produce her siblings. We wondered if you could go through life without having sex. We vowed we never would participate in such vile behavior. Hah! We have nine kids between us!

Guess who I went running to when RP kissed me right in the hall at school? Who did I tell immediately? When GF held my hand at Lagoon? Who did I cry to when I thought my heart would break half way through my junior year? Yep! In return I knew her every thought and feeling and listened to her chewing out KF mercilessly for ignoring her at school even though he was supposed to be her boyfriend.

How many times in my life have I called 277-9484? Millions. "Is Teresa there?" "TERESAAAAAA!" Bang. "HEY EL!" she'd say as she picked up the phone. And then we'd blab endlessly about so and so and who did what and who liked who. My Dad would be telling me to get off; her Dad would be picking up the other line to see if we were still talking. Then I'd get off the phone and write her a note to give to her the next day, encapsulating everything we'd said on the phone and what I thought about it. Of course I wrote BFA all over it, and folded it into a special envelope.

I told Teresa stuff I never told anyone else. She never betrayed that confidence. She never made me feel stupid, even though she always got better grades than me. She never judged; she listened. She was the epitome of a true friend.

So, to my oldest, dearest friend---HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! You have literally meant the world to me for nearly all my life. Here's to another 40 years of friendship!

Monday, April 23, 2007


Have I ever written about my Dad? Of course I have. He seems to creep up now and again in my writings, usually when the weather's warm enough for gardening or when I've been hiking around in the Utah desert country.

On July 10 I think of him because it's his birthday and sometimes I go to his grave and put the wildest flowers I can find there. Pink carnations or roses from a florist won't do for him. I need my own garden-grown flowers, something unique and different, something earthy like him.

One year I put sunflowers and daisies, one year blooming stems from my butterfly bush, another pine boughs mixed with delphinium. There have been plenty of years when I've put nothing, and I'm sure that's OK with him. One year my girls made a twig vase to hold the boquet in.

I can't walk by a garden without thinking of Dad. Every February he'd get out his Burpee catalog and order all his seeds so he'd be ready to go in March--pea planting time. The first of March he'd go out there and turn over the soil and add a bunch of peat moss, compost and whatever concoction he had to make the soil rich and fertile. He'd have to lay down for a day after that. Working in the garden "did a number" on his back. Along about mid-March he'd get the peas in. He'd put up trellises for them to grow up, and would watch them grow carefully every day.

In April it was warm enough to plant some green beans, and then in May came the rest. Tomatoes were his crowining achivement. Every year he'd try a new variety, and he'd nurture them meticulously in their wire-fashioned cages. Whenever someone came over, (including my friends) he'd take them out back to show them the garden. He'd tell them about the new golden variety of tomato he was growing that year, but that he'd stopped growing parsnips since the family hated them. He'd point to a growing green thing and ask, "What do you think that is?" When of course my 16-year old friends couldn't possibly guess the plant, he'd tell them it was a kohlrobi, a turnip-like plant, but a bit sweeter. They were polite to humor him, even when he snatched the plant out of the dirt, wiped it off on his levis, and asked them if they wanted a bite. I was of course mortified that he was talking vegetables with my friends.

But my brother, sister and I spent plenty of time out there in the garden. Our morning chores in the summer always included weeding and watering the garden, before it got too hot. We grumbled and complained, but we loved what that garden reaped--fresh vegetables for dinner.

Dad was generous with his garden-growing talents. Every Mother's Day he planted my grandmother's garden, and took care of it like it was his own.

My brother learned to garden from my Dad, and I'm convinced it shaped his career choice. Today he is a certified landscape architect and a master gardener. The seeds he planted with my Dad as a toddler in overalls shaped him in ways we never imagined at the time, and now he repeats his own planting ritual every year in Seattle, Washington. He combines the time spent with Dad with the knowledge gained in study and experience, and creates a vegetable, flower, sculpture masterpiece that cause passerbys to stare and wonder.

My sister would plant a master garden, too, if she didn't live in Texas where everything gets burned up in the summer. She did have an amazing one in Alaska, one that I'm sure made Dad start turning over soil in heaven. I would plant one too, if my husband didn't already do such a fantastic job in that department.

I'm wondering which flower to bring to the grave this year. Maybe I bring a flowering tomato plant. He'd like that. Or humor him with some sprouting parsnips, since he loved them and we despised them. I think I like sunflowers the best. They are strong and cheerful like he was, unfailingly positive when things were bad. He always lined the garden with the giant variety, and took great joy in watching them reach toward the warmth.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring Break With the Family

This past week it has been spring break for my children. They were thrilled to get a whole five days off school, but have constantly worried that it's too short, and how this other school district they know gets a TWO week spring break (I'd like to know where that district is).

Throughout the week I've heard, "Oh no! Only four days left," or "I can't believe how fast this break is going." The most hilarious one is, "There's no way I'm going back to school on Monday!" Oh yes you are,I think to myself, all while smiling sympathetically at their scowling faces. Monday's going to be a great day for me.

My husband is a big camper/hiker/outdoor guy. He likes nothing better than to take the family camping. In years past I have stayed home with my youngest, claiming that she was too young to camp and it would be too cold. So they've gone without me--Darren and the three older kids--while I've hung out at home with the "baby." (two- three- and four-year olds can be "babies" can't they?)

For some strange reason, I decided to go with them this year. I think it had something to do with my oldest daughter graduating in two years and me wanting to make as many family memories as possible before that happens. Also, I couldn't claim that my almost six-year old was still a baby. Or it might have been that I actually wanted go to some of the places where Dad used to take us camping.

My husband spent a good portion of the day on Tuesday getting ready, while I napped on the couch. I'm still getting over my sickness, remember? I finally roused myself and went to the grocery store to "buy a few things" for the trip like marshmallows and beef jerkey and potato chips--all things bad for you. That trip cost $107.56.

Darren packed up the car while I avoided packing my own stuff. For some reason, I'm very bad at packing. Always have been. At 10 pm I watched "Everybody Loves Raymond" while folding up a huge basket of clothes. Personal tip: If you save laundry folding until 10 pm you can justify watching TV for an hour while you fold.

We were on the road at 9 am Wednesday but I needed to stop at Starbucks to get an herbal tea. This was annoying to everyone in the car. I've never heard such complaining! But I told them we'd all be happier if I was happy. They agreed and we stopped. They got some yummy lemon muffins out of it and Darren ended up drinking half my tea, saying "Wow, this is great tea," numerous times.

The highlights (bright spots) of our spring break trip were:

1. Taking two gorgeous hikes--one in Capitol Reef Nationl Park, Utah, and one in Little Wild Horse Canyon near Goblin Valley. The sandstone cliffs were magnificent and fearsome and narrow. It's a good thing I've recently lost a few pounds!

2. Realizing that my five-year old was deinitely not a baby anymore, but a young girl who wanted to prove she could hike the whole way.

3. Playing hide and seek around the "goblins" at Goblin Valley--the whole family. It was 65 degrees and one of those perfect--and rare--family moments when every one is happy at the same time.

4. Eating at a fun burger joint in Torrey, Utah, where everyone loved what they ate.

5. Running into old grad school friends and chatting a bit about old times.

6. Eating my husband's dutch oven chicken barbecue dinner--yum yum yum!

7. Seeing all the unique desert flowers in bloom and learning their names. Orange globemallow are especially beautiful.

8. Stopping at this amazing rock shop in Hanksville, Utah, and seeing a genuine dinosaur leg bone, and every other kind of rock imaginable.

Things I could have done without on the spring break:

1. Staying in a "cabin" that was really about as big a wooden tent because it was too cold to camp. It was a night of muscial beds and restless sleeping, and WAY too small for six people. But it was cheap.

2. Cleaning out the car after a camping trip. Bionicle heads, red rocks, red sandstone, bags of rocks, empty water bottles, empty cans, kids' meal toys, bionicle swords, pillows, Raggedy Ann, Slushy, Jessie and Fuzzy, (all beloved dolls and stuffed animals my kids can't sleep without) bionicles legs, map, brainquest card game, DVDs, bionicle arms, candy wrappers, more red sand and a crying Indian doll.

3. Buying our son his first pocket knife, and having three cuts in the first 10 minutes of whittling.

4. Thinking that Dad would have loved to be there with us all, and knowing he never would. Thinking he would have been a great pocket knife teacher and legend teller. He also would have known that ancient guy at the rock shop and would have sat a piece with him.

5. Knowing that I'll never eat such good crackling wheat bread again as we found at that old pioneer store.

There were more highlights than bad times. I guess it was a successful spring break after all. But tomorrow's going to be one of the few great Mondays.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sick of Being Sick

It's amazing how this "cold" has wiped me out for nearly a week. I was sick the day my husband left for Chicago, and I was sick the day he came home. And then another day beyond that. Today I'm feeling better but not 100%. I'm starting to be able to taste things again, and my sense of smell is returning. But really, my smell and taste were basically wiped out for five days. You'd think that would make me lose weight. Of course not! Since my throat hurt I wanted ice cream, and lots of it.

So all I did was lie in bed for at least four of the five days, dozing in an out of sleep, listening to people fighting and screaming below me. I read "Jacob Have I Loved," a young adult novel by Katherine Patterson. Not nearly as good as "Bridge to Teribithia," but not nearly so sad either. Wow, I got the book club book done before book club! I love novels about the ocean, because water can be a metaphor for so many things--happiness, anger, life, love, and the unbreakable force of nature. I also learned a bit about crab mating, something I didn't know a thing about!

So when I came downstairs, showered, dressed and with makeup on at the tail end of this "cold," my kids looked at me like I had been transfigured. "She's alive," they seemed to whisper to each other. "She's not nearly as ugly as I thought," or "Why doesn't she look like this every day?" (Heads Up: I do shower and get dressed every day. It's just that when the kids haven't seen me that way for a while, and then I come downstairs with my hair not matted to my head, they think I've had an extreme makeover.)

Well, I guess those whispers behind my back are better than the "looks" I often get from my 15-year old daughter when I take her to school in my pajamas. I don't know why she should act shocked at this, I've been doing it for years. I guess it's just that now she sort of cares about her image, and I am part of her image apparently, and me in the mornings in my jammies, is like, totally embarrassing! "Are you wearing that?" she asks. "I most certainly am," I snap, "so you'd better stop looking at me like that and be grateful you're getting a ride instead of walking!"

I should mention that on the rare occasion when I happen to be dressed on the way to school, she looks at me, surprised, and says, "Mom you look good." I don't really look good; she's just shocked I'm not in my jammies. But it's nice of her to say so. Can I just say I hate women who have it all together before 9 am? They make me feel so slobbish.

Maybe I should try to pull it together more in the morning, hair and clothes-wise. It does feel good to be dressed while it's still morning. But then people would expect that, and I would have to keep it up, and that would be a lot of work. Because if I looked really good for a week and then said "forget it" the next, people might think I'd "let myself go" or that I'm depressed, or sick. But then again, if I jumped back on the wagon and got ready early, then they'd all think I'd had something done, that I was incredibly beautiful in comparison to how I looked the week before. Hmmmm. That's an idea. Just keep 'em guessing.

My friend Alison and I laugh at each other in the mornings. She only sees me in my red fleece or green fleece pajamas and I only see her in her navy blue bathrobe. When I pick up her daughter for school, that's the condition both of us are in. But we both know we will eventually get dressed and get it together later on. I like carpooling with her because how can she pass judgement on me when she's in her bathrobe? She can't. And she doesn't. I guess I should mention that Alison is pregnant, and can wear that navy blue bathrobe until she delivers if she wants.

What's my excuse? Now that I'm better I don't really have one, do I?

Monday, April 9, 2007

Chocolate Blaaaaagh

It's the day after Easter. The chocolate eggs that I snatched from my children's Easter baskets are now coursing full power through my bloodstream, making me feel rebellious, out of control and undisciplined. I don't like it when I feel that way, but, I'm telling you that those eggs were just EVERYWHERE yesterday! It's not my fault!

I think I'd like to blame my over-consumption of chocolate on our society in general. Just think about it. we live in a society where chocolate dominates everything--our secret stashes, our cooking, our holidays, our desserts, our gifts, our thoughts--our world. Don't believe it? Take a look at the yearly calendar.

January--I wake up from a sweets-induced coma brought on by months of collecting chocolate for "children's Christmas stockings." How much of it got into the stockings? A significant amount, about as much as got into my mouth as I was "preparing" for Christmas.

February--Valentines's Day's in the middle of this dreary, cold month. Who wouldn't go overboard on those Dove Hearts, hot cocoa, and anything else resembling chocolate? Son's birthday. Gotta invite the family over for goodies.

March--I spend this month getting the excess chocolate out of my system in time for . . .

April--Easter month. Chocolate bunnies, chocolate chicks (found them at Costco, leave it to me to sniff them out) and the worst offender of all--Cadbury mini milk chocolate eggs, the ones with the crunchy outside shell, and dense chocolate inside. Wicked little devils.

May--Toffee Crunch Cake brought to a Memorial Day picnic. Main ingredient: Heath (no, not health) toffee bars.

June--Ok, the stores are not saturated with holiday candy this month, so there may be a brief respite from overeating chocolate. Maybe.

July--Fourth of July and two birthdays. Both girls like homemade chocolate cake. Not a cake mix. The real thing with cocoa powder and chocolate cream frosting. They know what the good stuff is. They've had a superior teacher.

August--Another daughter's birthday on the 7th of this month and the stress of wondering how to pay for everyone's school activities and clothes and supplies, etc., could potentially drive one to OD on those Lindt balls at Borders--four for $1.00.

September--Look at all the stores! They've repackaged all the Halloween candy with these cool new colors. I bet the Snickers and Twix "fun size" would be "fun" to try in this new packaging! I bet they taste different this year. Let's buy some to find out in time for . . . .

October--The most candy-laden month of the year in my opinion. On the 31st my children bring bags of it into my home as I'm trying to unload the bags I bought on the trick or treaters. For some reason we didn't have many last year, and so the excess sat around for a day or to. Just a nibble here, a nibble there. In years past I've told my kids I'd give them $10 if they would throw away their candy. One kid took me up on it one year. Since then, they'd rather have the candy than the $10.

November --Gotta start stashing away candy for "children's Christmas stockings." Wow, look at that deal: Two bags of Hershey kisses for $4.00. And this one: Buy one one pack of those adorable mini-Santas and get another pack free. Can't pass that up. This is the month my husband says, "Why is there chocolate in every drawer in this house?" I reply, "Just getting ready for Christmas, dear!" And then there's . . .

December--Need I say more? Parties of all kinds, chocolate confections of all kinds, Aunt Charlotte's butter cream double-dipped mints, the kind my cousin and I hunted high and low for at Grandma's house. Yep, I'm doomed. I work myself into a chocolate coma, only to be greeted--Happy New Year--it's . . . .

January Time to diet and get into shape and do everything you didn't do last year. Rah, rah, go team!!! Let's see, what country in the world has never heard of chocolate? Let's go there. Let's stay there.

At least for one chocolate year cycle.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Two Years Left

There's only two years left until my daughter goes to college. She turns 16 this summer, and in all that hoopla, she'll get a driver's license (heartstopping in and of itself) go on a few dates, go to girls camp, and work as a certified lifeguard at the local pool.

You know all those older ladies in the grocery store, the ones who see you with a newborn baby and tell you to treasure her, she'll be gone before you know it? You try to be polite, and say something like, yes, I know, but you really don't. You have no clue how fast it goes.

How can it go fast, you wonder as you wearily walk down the produce aisle. The last few weeks have been a blur of sleep deprivation and physical recovery from the most exhausting experience of your life--delivery of a first baby. You can't imagine your tiny red bundle as a kindergartener, let alone a teenager and college student. You've woken up four times the night before in breastmilk-soaked sheets to a wailing baby you could have sworn you just fed. After you change an explosive diaper with your eyes half shut, hoping you've done an OK job, you settle down to the task of settling the hysterical baby down.

This cycle repeats itself for months on end. You are rewarded with smiles, laughs and a cute, chubby baby in pink clothes, but you still get no sleep. The days drag. It's amazing to watch your baby change and grow, but the hours can be long and monotonous, even though the months keep turning over on the calendar.

So you think the grocery store ladies are insane when they make such an insensitive comment. But then all the sudden, it seems, miraculouly the red, wailing bundle is a bright high school student, with an attitude, an awesome grade point average, a bucket full of swim trophys and a disastrous bedroom.

And the thought of her leaving your home is searingly painful.

It's time to start thinking that maybe this is the last time you can do this together as a family, so you'd better do it. You worry if you've taught her basic skills to survive--laundry, cooking, cleaning, fincances, etc. More importantly have you taught her all the things parents are supposed to teach--honesty, integrity, morality, faith, service and kindness? If you haven't, there's not much time, or it's already too late.

Because at nights now she's on her cell phone at 10:00 pm chatting to friends instead of me. What's she saying? What does she say to friends that she won't say to me? Are there things I should know that I haven't paid attention to? Or is everything OK, she's just enjoying yacking on the phone to friends, something I certainly understand.

So I begin a countdown to the next phase of life. My husband says it's wonderful to watch them move on to their new lives, but I disagree. At least right now. As bizarre as it sounds I want a few more nights where she can sit on my lap and rock to sleep, a few more messy art projects, a few more Christmas mornings when she got her beloved doll.

I just want a few more years added on to the two years.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Nine-Year Old Athlete

Because I went through pregnancy, labor and delivery four times I get to brag about the kids I brought into the world. I just get to, and I'm sorry if you'd rather not read about my son Nathan's amazing soccer skills. I'll understand. But I just have to blog about what I witnessed this afternoon at his soccer game.

My son is a phenomenal soccer player. He can play almost any sport--he's extraordinarily coordinated--but he truly shines at soccer. He just glows, radiates, gleams, etc. He shines so brightly that the other teams' coaches beg our coach to take him out of the game. Our coach says he's staying in until he drops. He usually ends up dropping on the way home. But while there is a breath of energy left in him, he will work his guts out. He will maueuver around the other players at breakneck speed to score multiple times. Today his team scored six goals. He scored five of them.

I'm just so proud. I get so excited when I watch his hummingbird-like footwork that I pump my own legs up and down while I'm cheering in my lazy Mom chair. Part of the time I am a shouting, pleased-as-punch parent, the other I stare bewildered at this kid of mine. How in the world did my husband and I produce such a coordinated, agile child?

I ran sprints in junior high and a year of high school, so maybe he gets a bit of speed from me. Maybe. But he definitely didn't get his endurance from me. That must have come from his Dad. And his competitiveness and determination are definitely traits from his Dad. His love of sports? His Dad. His energy? His Dad. But his love of soccer? Mystery. His incredible skill and ability? Another mystery. Maybe some great-great granfather down the line was a soccer player. Or at least had some of the same skills.

As a Mom I wonder how or if I should push him to a higher level of play. Do I want to head down that road of competition sports where I have to invest lots of time, money and energy into his playing? Do I let him keep on shining in recreation soccer for a while longer until he is ready to move onto to bigger and better things? If he does move up to competition soccer, will that affect how much time I can devote to my other children's activities? I think, cool, what if he became a professional player some day? And in the next thought, that's crazy, what kind of a life is that?

For now it's a kick being #12's Mom. It's such a rush to answer "yes" to the question, "Are you # 12's Mom?" I think they expect to see some buff, tall, athlete-type in a sweat suit, and they're kind of taken aback when they see me in all my Momliness. I think they're imagining what Nathan's Dad looks like. Maybe he gets it from him, they're thinking. Most likely, though, they're not thinking anything of the sort.

I also wonder how to strike a balance between praising and encouraging Nathan and teaching him humility. I told him, "I think it's so great you're such a good soccer player and that you love it so much, but be careful not to brag about it (like your Mom is doing at this very moment). "I won't Mom!" he says, exasperated. I can only hope the whole thing doesn't go to his head someday, and that in his zeal to score goals, he remembers to be a team player.

I'm having a hard time getting images of him on the soccer field out of my head. I see a blond 3rd grader, red-faced and grim-looking, determined to get the ball out of the other team's territory. With precision he pelts the ball long and hard over a smattering of player's heads, then sees no teammates are around to receive it. So he runs after the ball himself, reaches it at the same time as the other team's defenders, whisks it around them with some fancy footwork, dribbles down the field and angles it into the opposite corner of goal box.

The grim determination leaves his face, replaced with a luminous smile. He raises both arms above his head, wahoos, and proceeds to high five a bunch of teammates. He looks over at me and smiles while I'm busy cheering like a maniac, something I always thought was so unbecoming of parents.

Tonight he went to bed with grass stains on both knees even though he'd showered. "Nathan, how come you didn't wash your knees?" I asked him. He thought for a minute. "Because I wanted to remember how great today was, Mom, and that one move where I wiped out and rolled trying to pass the ball to David!"

Tomorrow or the next day he'll have to scrub off the stains. But today they are a monument to the pleasure of playing, pure childhood fun and the sweet springtime air at the soccer field.