Monday, August 30, 2010

The Songwriter

I used to write songs.

Before I had kids, I would come home after work and play my guitar and make up scenarios in my head to write about. I once wrote a song about an early twentieth century circus performer who was abandoned by all the kids who decided that his act was lame. He was the guy who gets shot out of a cannon. I mean, seriously.

And then I wrote all the typical girl-in-her-room songs, about love and sex and breakups and broken hearts, even though I have never experienced a breakup (thankfully). I wrote songs about my husband, my daughter, my students, and my parents.

Sometimes I get out my song notebook and sing through some of them. Most of them I've forgotten. And, pretty much all of them are terrible songs. Should that matter to a girl who just sings them in her room, no audience, no recordings, no witnesses? Probably not. But, for some reason it does.

Maybe someday I'll get back to it. Sometimes I feel inspired. One thing I haven't tried is writing songs about potty training or baby vomit. Maybe I should work on that: The Stay-at-Home Mom's Song Notebook. I can almost hear a chorus in my head: "Don't hold a baby high in the sky, he's likely to throw up right in your eye..."

I've gotta go. I've got songs to write!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kindergarten Came

Five and a half years ago, I walked around for nine months housing a little human being inside of me. I felt every hiccup, every shift in position. I went to the doctor's office and heard her heartbeat and saw her funny little movements on an ultrasound screen. One cold winter day, she was born, and I saw for the first time the little being I had sheltered for all those months. She was beautiful.

A few months later, I took her to the nursery at church. I didn't hear a single word sung or preached that day. All I could think about was my baby, who was out of my sight and hearing, who might need me, who might be afraid, who might be misunderstood by those who didn't know her the way I did.

As the years went on, I let go in other small ways, trusting a few people to care for her, but never straying too far. She is mine. I love her.

Today I took her to kindergarten. She was excited and could hardly wait to get there. She was greeted by a beautiful young teacher, an exciting classroom, and pink playdough. She will be fine. She is ready.

For me, this is the end of an era that I have adored. I can't help but feel that from now on someone else will be getting more of her than I am. That's a tough idea to swallow. But, I will be fine. I am ready.

This is life. And, it's wonderful to see her run out into the world and embrace it. She and I will always be mother and baby, no matter how old she gets or how many wonderful or terrible things she experiences in this life. We can handle it all, with God's help. We'll be fine. We are ready.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Underwear Elvis

Last night Chad performed as Elvis at a church fish fry. Seeing his act reminded me of an essay I wrote for a little English department publication while I was in grad school. Here it is:

I remember the first time I saw my husband become Elvis Presley. It was before he even owned the white jumpsuit with blue rhinestones. In fact, he didn’t really have clothes on. We had been married for several weeks when he came sliding into the kitchen, Risky Business style, wearing nothing but knee-high socks, white underwear, and a guitar. I was scrambling eggs and made every effort to seem disinterested in his act, shaking my head, snorting that you’re-just-not-normal laugh. But, the longer he played, and the more he twitched and shimmied and shook, the harder it was for me to pretend that this act wasn’t worth watching. It seemed like this man was channeling Elvis himself, right there in my shabby little kitchen, and I could almost hear the roar of a Vegas crowd in the sound of sizzling bacon.

As our first few years of marriage went on, I grew accustomed to seeing the amazing transformation that I called “Underwear Elvis” at any time of the night or day. I never knew when the King was going to make an appearance, but I was always mesmerized by the act which seemed to come so naturally to my husband. He told me how he felt a kinship with Elvis ever since he was a shy, skinny middle-schooler learning to play the guitar in his room, singing with Elvis records for hours at a time. As an older teen he entertained his friends by singing Elvis tunes, but by college he spent time on his own music, so the world rarely witnessed his uncanny ability to impersonate the King.

A funny thing happened, though, when he was asked to entertain at a senior citizens’ banquet at our church. He decided to do an Elvis act. He rented a jumpsuit with a cape, placed spotlights around the room, and put on a full-fledged Elvis extravaganza. The people went wild. Like me, they couldn’t believe that he could so easily turn into the King of Rock and Roll—his show was truly convincing.

Not too many months later, we were packing up to leave our home in Nashville so my husband could begin law school at Texas Tech. As a going away gift, the president of Sony Publishing and a member of our church who had witnessed his Elvis show, presented him with a white Elvis jumpsuit, complete with blue rhinestones, bell-bottoms, and a cape. It was tacky and beautiful. My husband accepted the gift with thanks, but couldn’t imagine a time when he would ever need an Elvis jumpsuit in law school.

We had been in Lubbock for exactly three days when he was offered a job as an Elvis impersonator at a local theater. He played show after show in his white jumpsuit, and the women went crazy. I stood and watched while middle-aged ladies groped him after shows as they had their pictures taken with him. One woman tried to unzip his jumpsuit—others stroked his hair or dabbed at his brow with handkerchiefs. Some nights children would come to the theater after their parents had dressed them up like Elvis—one little boy wore his dog’s Elvis costume. My husband became a local celebrity. Stories and reviews graced the local newspaper as everyone marveled at Elvis the lawyer. It all made for a great story.

Years later, we live in a small town, and the Elvis jumpsuit hangs in a closet. Even though my husband rarely puts it on, my daughter and I are still likely to be called Priscilla and Lisa Marie at the grocery store. My husband has reached an age where he finds the Elvis jumpsuit embarrassing—he says it makes him feel like he’s the one in the room who’s just wearing underwear while everyone else is fully clothed. Somehow I find that analogy appropriate, remembering his debut as Underwear Elvis in our little kitchen so many years ago. I still prefer to watch his lip curl and his knees wobble in the comfort of our little house while our daughter looks on in amazement. Elvis may have left the building, but in our family he lives on quite comfortably in white underwear and knee-high socks.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I've got a fever, and the only prescription is...more appliances!

On Friday I broke my washing machine. You see, I like to overstuff my machine. When you're washing for a family of four, you cram as much in the thing as you can legally manage. Not that there's a washing machine stuffing law or anything, but maybe there should be. The more clothes I can jam in there, the fewer loads I have to do. It's all very scientific and mathematical.

But, this time my system failed me. I stuffed an obscene number of towels, a blanket, and one of those baby shopping cart covers in there, poured in the soap, and let her go. Everything was fine until she got to the spin cycle. Then the frightening noises began. And the walking of the machine across the laundry room floor. Then the big crack that was followed by an eerie silence. That was the end of my washer.

I tried to be very grumpy about the fact that we had to buy a new one. I feigned all sorts of disgust at the amount of money this was going to cost us. I didn't want to be excited. But, I couldn't help it.

It's a strange phenomenon that occurs sometime between the year you get married and the year you have your first child. I call it Major Appliance Euphoria (MAE). It's an illness that comes on totally against your will, and one that certainly makes you feel old before your time. Once I couldn't care less what brand of washer I had or whether my dryer had a digital readout. I went for ten years with NO DISHWASHER, for Heaven's sake! But, you just reach a point when suddenly you get a little giddy at the thought of a washing machine with a wrinkle reduction cycle. It's a little embarrassing.

But, I am right in the middle of a raging case of MAE, and I am a more than a little anxious to get my brand new 4.3 cubic feet super plus capacity washer. Just imagine how huge my loads can get now! I can rule the world!

I won't overstuff my new washer, I won't overstuff my new washer...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Goodbye, Dear Friend

Today we said goodbye forever to a trusted friend. This friend helped us weather many storms, gave us hope when things seemed hopeless, and afforded us many relaxing evenings of peace and quiet. I'm speaking, of course, of Sawyer's pacifier.

Sawyer's (and my) paci addiction began at his birth. He has never--I repeat, never--slept a night without it. Many months of his life I got up to put the paci back in when it fell out at night. I never even rocked this kid--the concept is foreign to him. Who needs rocking when you have a perfectly good piece of silicone to suck on? We were both in heaven.

And, when we were out somewhere and I DIDN'T need a screaming child tagging along, no worries! All I had to do was make sure his paci was in his mouth. And another was attached to his shirt. And two more were in the diaper bag.

After awhile, the allure of the paci wears off, though. Like when he's old enough to do simple algebraic equations and he's still sporting the Elmo paci. I started Phase I of "Operation Kill Paci" a month or so ago. Last night I decided it was time to finish off our little friend once and for all.

So, I started last night telling Sawyer that "Big Boy Day" starts bringht and early tomorrow! I told him we were going to send his pacis to the new little babies who really need them, since he is a big boy and doesn't need his anymore. His reply? "I not a big boy!" Not exactly the response I was looking for.

So, first thing this morning I started talking about Big Boy Day, and he was ready. He was pumped up. I could tell he had been getting himself psyched up all night long. Or maybe it was that mention of a Big Boy Present that I had in mind for today. Whatever the case, he was ready.

So I addressed an envelope to my parents ("God's Helpers") and marked it EXTRA SPECIAL DELIVERY: SAWYER'S OLD PACIS FOR NEW BABIES. So, it wasn't the most creative wording, but it worked. Sawyer dropped his pacis inside and watched me seal it up. No tears, no drama. I felt like he was letting me off easy. (Like in pretty much everything a mother does, there is a certain amount of guilt associated with the thought that you have let your baby keep the paci for too long. After all, the books say yank it out of his mouth and toss it at twelve months! Am I giving him another "mother" topic for his future therapy sessions?)

During the ride to the post office, he repeated over and over, "I don't need pacis! I big boy! New babies need my pacis!" and I was cheering him on like my life depended on it. We got to the post office and he dropped the envelope in the slot. No big deal. I snapped his picture, gave him a high five, and told him how proud I am.

Right outside the door, he looked up at me and said, "I got more pacis at home." Uh oh. This is where two year old logic fails a little guy. I don't think he quite believed that we were actually sending ALL of his pacis away.

So, as I write this he is struggling to fall asleep without his trusted companion. My motherly instinct says I should rush down to the nearest store and buy all the pacis they have, and if his high school teachers have a problem with him bringing a paci to class, that's just their problem. But, I know that what's best for him is to let him work through it, despite the fact that my heart is breaking for him. Another milestone gone. Another sign my baby is growing up.

Now, if his high school teachers try to protest when he brings his stuffed Mickey Mouse to class, that really IS their problem!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Kids: A Happy Tribute

I've spent a lot of time with kids lately. I went to my parents' for a week and hung out with my niece and nephew, and a few days ago I went to a water park with about 20 kids from our church. I can really appreciate some things about little kids:

1. They're extremely easy to impress. I felt that I finally reached cool aunt status with my niece and nephew when we went to this bounce house place and I went down the big slide with them. Later, just to solidify the status, I bought them Pez dispensers for $1.50. They were thrilled.

At the waterpark, a little gang of boys, about fourth or fifth grade, were just beside themselves when I went down a waterslide with them. The great thing is that the big slide at the bounce house and the waterslide were totally fun for ME, and it made them all so happy, thinking that I am totally awesome.

2. Little kids don't care what you look like. It doesn't matter to them how you look in your swimsuit or if you're sweating profusely.

3. They don't mind if you bring your baby with you. In fact, they love it. They don't care if he cries or if he talks too loud. They get a huge kick out of seeing him laugh or smile, and they especially love it if they can get him to give them a high five.

4. They think that you can take care of things. Lost money? No problem--I've got them covered. Need help with sunscreen? Come on over here, and actually, let me use this SPF 70 instead of your 30. When you're a mom, they just assume you know what you're doing. Kids are the greatest.

So, the time I've spent with these little people lately has really made me happy, and makes me remember how much more accepting we all used to be before we turned into cranky grown-ups.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Life Awaits!

Kindergarten is bearing down on this family. I say it that way because, like all moms, I have mixed feelings about it. For one thing, it's hard to believe that my oldest is THAT old--big enough to go off on her own to a big school with strangers to meet and things to learn and lunches to eat. Worst of all, she's big enough to go out there and have a life that I can't supervise at all times! It's tough on a mama.

Secondly, we are a laid back sort of family. She will have to be in her classroom at school at about the time when we are normally thinking about getting out of bed. Seriously. So, earlier bedtimes and earlier breakfasts will be here soon, along with backpacks and homework. It's hard to imagine.

Despite all that, though, I am really excited for Adelade. She is going to have the time of her life--I mean, this kid was made for school. She's a total extrovert, loves making new friends, loves learning, reading, writing, and everything that school is really about. She will be thrilled.

So, on the first day, I'll remind myself of that fact, even while Sawyer, Chad and I walk out of her classroom and leave her there right in the middle of Life. Life without me. And at the end of each day when she tells me all about her wonderful adventure, I'll remember that I have her for a short time, and I'll cherish every detail.

I'll try to forget the fact that college will be here before I can blink an eye. In the meantime, she's here, she's mine, and Life will have to wait a few more weeks!