Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Giving and Receiving

I'm the youngest of seven kids. Dad was in the newspaper business, a notoriously low-paying pursuit. Money was always tight. We never considered ourselves poor because we always had a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet. Our clothes were often shabby and worn and the shoes....oh, the shoes.

I wore shoes that I had long outgrown. I wore them until it hurt to put them on. I wore them until my toes poked out or until the soles split. I wore my sisters' hand-me-down shoes that were two sizes too big. I stuffed paper towels in the shoes and pretended that I didn't notice that they were five or six years out of style. Kids can be mean though and I heard hateful, vicious taunts about my clothes and shoes.

I can afford to buy my own shoes now and have plenty. I still wear them out and wear them long past their fashion-due date because even when I look at my paint-splattered penny loafers I can hear my mom saying, "But they have plenty of wear left in them!"

Ever year, our office adopts a needy family and asks what they want for Christmas. In the past, the lists have included XBoxes, CD Players, Playstations, DVDs, CDs and other flashy gear. Last month, we got an e-mail about our holiday family. It's a single mom with four boys. She's going to a technical college and makes sure the boys go to school every day. On the wish list? No toys or games or movies. The family asked for clothes and shoes. Shoes. When my shift was over, I went straight to the store to buy what I could afford.

When I told my co-workers what I was doing, they stuffed money into my hands. Wads of dollar bills, fives, tens and 20s. Before I knew what was happening, I had collected $150. Today, I spent the last of it.

All four boys will get a brand new pair of shoes and lots of socks. Mom will get a pair of boots and, because all moms deserve a little something extra, she gets a new purse to match. Everyone gets some candy in their stocking, too.

It's not the fanciest stuff in the world and I wish I could have bought them more. I may be kind of stingy with my charitable giving sometimes, but if all you want for Christmas is a pair of shoes? Yeah, I can help you with that. Me and my team, we're more than happy to.

Monday, November 26, 2007

With Friends Like These

When I was pregnant, my sister-in-law told me about a great parent's group that she went to when she had her first baby nine years earlier. "Oh, it was wonderful!" she said. She made it sound like a big fat mama/baby love fest. The way she told it, mamas sat on fluffy white clouds and their little diddums were rolled up in rainbows. She made wonderful friends from that group, friends she still had nine years later.

Three weeks after the Bug was born, I was ready to give it a try. I walked into the group and got The Look. The look that says, "Good heavens. Why is she here? She doesn't even have a stroller. She's still wearing her maternity clothes? Her child is wearing *gasp* Brand X and not super-cool-indie Brand A? Oh, no. No, no, no. She does not belong. Do not look at her. Do not engage her. She'll just want to come back."

But I did go back. I went back again and again because I was determined to either find someone to hang out with or make one of those bitches be nice to me and the Bug. I called the Grinch on more than one occasion, crying, "No one likes me! No one wants to be frieeeeeeeends!"

I kept going. For a year and a half, long after the Bug had aged out of the group, I kept going. Just when I had given up hope, a mom showed up and we shared a few chuckles. She came back and we laughed even more. The next time, she brought a couple of friends and they invited me to lunch with them. I called the Grinch, breathless, "I'm going to lunch! With PEOPLE! I think.....I think they're nice and they might like us, too!" It was worse than first date jitters. Going a long time without friends will do that to you.

It's hard to believe that was a year ago. The four of us have done a lot together and become good friends. We're watching our kids grow and change and we're having new babies. We roll our eyes at the challenges brought on by toddlerhood. We laugh a LOT, usually at each other or something our kids have done.

Now it looks like my friends, (my only mom friends within "let's meet for lunch and some park time" distance) are moving on. One will be moving to China soon. Another wants to move closer to family in another state. The third wants to move to another part of town, too far for quick meet-us-at-the-park-in-10-minutes playdates. It makes me very, very sad.

I'm sad because they're moving on and I'm not and it seems like it'll be easy for them to make new friends wherever they go. I'll still be here, in my hometown. The same place I've been for 38-years. And, with the exception of the Grinch and Laura, I'll be friendless. Again.

Has anyone told you how isolating parenthood can be? It can and it sucks.

This post sounds like a big pity fest and it is. I'm happy for my friends to have new opportunities and new adventures. I'm jealous. I'll miss my friends. I get ill at the thought of going through the playgroup/parent's group wringer again.

Why can't it be as easy as it was when we were five-years-old and we could walk up to someone on the playground and ask, "Will you be my friend?"

Monday, November 19, 2007

And we only have to worry in case our girl wears thin

We got the word back in June that the Police were coming to our town. Tickets were purchased and the worrying began.

At that point the bug had never been with anyone other than Grinch or I, not even for a few minutes. How in the world were we supposed to go see a concert?! Without her! At night! Worry indeed.

We threw out ideas, we talked about emergency plans, we argued over who would go to the show and who would stay with the bug. "I'll stay." "No, I'LL stay." "Noooo, I'll stay." and so on.

The bug started preschool and everything went so well that our hopes for the concert were high. High enough that we pretty much forgot about it until the week before the show. Says a lot for our preparation skills, huh? We DO procrastinate well in this family. We're champions, in fact.

The day before the show, I dropped the Bug at a friend's house and she played happily for an hour before I couldn't take the suspense any more and came to "rescue" her. She was surprised to see me. Not in a "You came back!" kind of way, but in a "What are you doing back so soon? I'm not ready to go. I'm having fun." kind of way.

The day of the show, we talked and talked and talked with the bug about what was going to happen, who would take care of her, mommy and daddy with come back, yadda, yadda, yadda.

We dropped her off, armed with her favorite books, dolls, toys and pajamas. When she heard that ice cream was on the menu, Bug practically waved us out the door.

We watched our cell phones like hawks all night, probably checking the signal and message lights after every song. There was no "She's been screaming since you drove away, come get her!" call. There was no "come get your hellion." text message. We made it through the whole show. And we enjoyed it! We had fun! Like grown ups! Like real people! Amazing!

The Bug made it, too. She was sleeping soundly when we came to pick her up and went straight to bed when we got home. Our kid is awesome. She's stronger than we know and making us stronger every day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Second Time Around

My first pregnancy was a surprise. I was on the pill and had missed a couple of days, but picked up where I left off and thought everything would be okie dokie. Surprise! That worked before, but not this time. I was shocked, excited, happy, terrified, elated and depressed all within the 20 minutes after I saw "pregnant" show up on the test stick.

Even while still in shock, I began working to ensure that I had as healthy a pregnancy as possible. I called my OB/GYN for an appointment and had a gigantic spinach salad. (Somehow, I got it in my head that spinach was exactly what a growing fetus needed.) I quit drinking caffeine and threw out anything with white flour or artificial sweeteners in it. I stood far away from microwaves. I canceled an appointment to get highlights in my hair. I checked out "What to Expect" and baby name books from the library. I did all this before I even told the Grinch that I was pregnant.

After the Bug came, happy, healthy and perfectly normal by all accounts, my zeal for getting it all "just right" didn't end. I was so scared that something I ate would get into the breast milk and make her sick or weird or allergic to something that I lived off of applesauce and graham crackers for the better part of a week. Eventually, the pediatrician told me to get a grip and eat some food. I did. The bug survived.

This time around, though, things have been a little more relaxed. In fact, it's not uncommon for me and Grinch to forget that I'm pregnant. At a recent party where there was an open bar I was just about to ask for my usual...then it occurred to me that, oh yeah, you're six months pregnant. The 7&7s are off limits, mama. Cranberry juice and ginger ale, please.

No dreaded white flour, alcohol or aspartame have crossed my lips (though I did sneak a tiny sip Grinch's Terrapin Ale last night. Yum.), but given that I'm working the overnight shift and getting about four hours of sleep a night: caffeine? It's just about a necessity. I try SO HARD to go without it. I've even found a dark, quiet, private corner at work to sneak a quick nap when I just can't keep my eyes open, but things are so busy lately that I can't even sneak away any more. I pay too much for the mini-Dr. Peppers to minimize any damage I might be doing and only drink them on the nights when I work.

Are you shaking your head and mentally tsk-tsk-tsking me? Tell you what: for a couple of weeks work the overnight shift, take care of a two-year-old all day, sleep four hours then get back to me. I'll be happy to hug it out over a Coke.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball

In honor of all the toy recalls lately, specifically the potentially coma-inducing Aqua Dots: