2014 has been a… year.
This Saturday, I rounded up both boys and two dogs (one more than usual as we were dog-sitting for my parents) and drove the two hours back to Pennsylvania to visit my Great-Grandma on her first weekend in the nursing home. My parents were in Florida for a family wedding, and my Grandma, being Great-Grandma’s daughter, was in the hospital. I felt like Great-Grandma needed some extra love that first weekend in a new place away from everyone else, so off we went.
We stopped at The Farm first to drop off the dogs and check on all the homes. I fed the boys a quick lunch and explained again what we were doing.
“So she lives there now? It’s not like a hospital where you just stay until you get better?” BigBrother raised an eyebrow, not really believing me.
“Well, yeah she lives there, Buddy. It’s not the same as a hospital.”
“So she doesn’t live here anymore? That’s sad,” LittleBrother mused from behind his milk cup.
“Yes. Yes it is sad, Bubba.”
And it is sad. This whole year has been full of all things hard and sad and big and grief-filled. It’s been exhausting for everyone in the family, and it’s only the beginning of October. The end of the year seems far away, even though it’s not. And let’s face it: 2015’s arrival doesn’t bring with it promises of no more hard stuff or sad things or all the same junk. Nope. So we soldier on together, visiting when we can, running errands as needed, helping where we can, and praying with all of our might.
We arrived at the nursing home during lunch and sat with Great-Grandma, the boys’ Great-GREAT-Grandma, while she ate her ham, spinach salad, sweet potatoes, and cornbread. We met her table mates. We carried on conversation like visiting her in this new place was normal instead of new and big and different.
We then followed her to her room, walking behind as she pushed her hot pink walker with zebra-print bags attached to it; she likes that everyone makes a big deal about how spectacular her walker looks. I love that bit of spunk; I share her middle name.
The boys sat on the floor and colored while adult conversation and story-telling took place. I reminded her about the time I stayed at her place when Great-Grandpa was still alive, how she let us eat our food on tray tables in the living room so we could watch the Smurfs together. She talked about how she met Great-Grandpa (the Grange) as the boys raided her candy drawer. She talked about adjusting to the new place, about making friends and talking to the other people living around her.
I meant to take my big camera, because I don’t have a picture of both boys with my paternal Grandma whom we lost this past June. I hate that, so much. I took for granted all the times we had together, all the things we did. The boys spouted off a list of memories later this same day as we stopped at the hospital to pick something up for my maternal Grandmother; they admitted to missing Big Mamaw (my paternal Grandma) deeply and my heart caved in all the more. I forgot my big camera, but snapped a quick picture with my iPhone before we left.
I don’t imagine visiting your Great-Great-Grandma at the nursing home ranks high on the fun factor for any six- or eight-year-old. But they smiled and did as they were told and wiggled too much and talked a lot and were generally the amazing little boys I know and love. I know they don’t fully understand everything that’s gone on this year, what’s left to come in the months and years ahead… nor do I, really. It’s all big and hard and too much.
But we’re in this together. As I walked back to the car with my hands in theirs, I felt thankful to have them both with me on this journey of hard stuff in this year of sadness. I am so thankful for these two brothers and their lively presence; they keep me in the here and now.
Sometimes I think my Pastor preaches directly at me.
At first, I thought she was just going after the kids last Sunday when she started out her children’s message by asking the kids if they ever whined or complained. I watched as LittleBrother’s eyes got wide with honesty. I smirked as BigBrother smirked, knowing in his head he was saying, “ME?! NOT ME!!” Ever so dramatic, that child, but yes, he whines and complains like every other child on Earth. Life can feel hard when you’re a kid, when you’re not in charge of the rules or the dinner menu or the schedule or of anything really.
I don’t expect them to never complain. My ears would prefer if they would complain without whining, of course. You know, in a very adult-like way. “Oh mother, this homework is bloody difficult today. I feel eight kinds of frustrated. May I take a short snack break?” Apparently I want them to complain like British adults. Or something.
But after the kids sat back down, after I shot them my smirky Mom grin, the Pastor continued on with us adults and how we complain way too much.
Me? Not me! (I don’t know where that older son gets the dramatic flair. At all.) I shook it off though, because surely someone like me, someone who recognizes the many awesome things in her life, didn’t need to be told not to complain. Surely my own complaints were valid.
There’s been a lot of complaining in the house this week from the kids though, as with every week. Homework is hard. Kids are mean. It’s not fair that they can’t go to a friend’s house on a soccer night or use technology on a weekday or that they have to go to bed at the time we have set because so-and-so doesn’t have a bedtime, Mom. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
“What did Pastor K say about complaining?” I smirk.
And then I find myself grumbling while I fold laundry or struggle to meet a deadline or stand outside with the dog in the dark. I found myself in places I didn’t want to be going through things I didn’t plan on going through, feeling angry and whiny and very, “This isn’t fair.” I whined about things like pace. Like dog hair on my black pants or my tan pants or maybe I mean any of my skirts because I don’t wear pants and why did we get a black and tan dog anyway? Or a dog at all! She smells! She’s annoying! She trips me when I try to walk down the hallway because she thinks the sun rises and sets on my head! She barks! AT EVERYTHING!
Traffic. Bad drivers. Good drivers. The moms at school who won’t talk to me because I didn’t come from here and I don’t fit in here or maybe I just complain too much. The testing at school (but really…). Waking up early. Going to bed early. My site loads too slow. Google Docs won’t open. iOS 8. They updated an app in a way I don’t like. They didn’t update an app and now it doesn’t work properly. WordPress. Not WordPress. Spotify on my computer freezes at least eight times per day. I’m out of lives on Frozen Free Fall; I can’t beat the wolves either. My kid’s soccer coach is a jagoff. I hate politics in Ohio. I hate politics in Pennsylvania. I hate politics everywhere.
And on and on and on.
And so I’ve said to myself, not out loud or maybe out loud and that’s why the moms at school won’t talk to me, “Remember what Pastor K said about complaining. Take a breath and look around you. Take a breath. Be grateful.”
I’m not doing well with it. I’ve complained all week. But every time, every single time, I pause. Even if I tweeted it and it’s already out there for the world to see. Even if I said it to my kids or my spouse or the dog. Even if it’s already out there and I can’t take it back. Even if it’s only in my mind, a silent grumbling mess of complaint. I pause and I think and I breathe and I shut my mouth or stop moving my fingers across the keyboard or tell my brain to stop, just for a second.
Just for a second.
That’s usually all it takes for me to realize that my complaining is stupid. Some of it is valid, of course. Parenting can be exhausting and life can be draining and responsibilities can feel daunting and health problems simply stink. Those things will always be true. But the breath, the pause to think about things for just a moment, changes my tone, my perspective just enough to push me back from Pessimistic Over Whiner and into my normal Realist Who Talks A Lot.
I’m not going to paint my world with a rose colored brush, but maybe the pausing will change my tone just enough that my shoulders won’t be forever clenched in a stressful hump. Maybe.
But maybe all of this almost-optimist talk comes from the fact that my lives are back in Frozen Free Fall. I have to go kill some wolves; priorities are important when figuring out how to be grateful for the things and people in your life. Obviously.
I needed to take a photo, but first I had to set up the shot.
They did this.
I’ve been watching them lately, as they spend time together before school and after school, on the weekends and when we’re out and about doing the things we do as a family. Sometimes they’re awful to each other, the tones of their voices grating on each others’ nerves and my heart.
And then sometimes, like yesterday morning, everything about them clicks. They gather notebooks and pencils, magnifying glasses and books with secret codes. They start an investigation into something of Very Important Matters. They come up with suspects, written in code. They talk about the possibilities as I make lunches, do work, put on running clothes, walking in between and around them; they live in their own little world, and it seems as if I’m not even present.
They picked it up as soon as they got home from school, as if they didn’t spend the whole day apart. As soon as we finished the homework routine, off they ran to solve the mystery.
Moments like these make up for the arguing and the bickering, the fights and disagreements. Those things happen. Brotherhood isn’t always easy. But when they do what they do as only they can do it—not any other friend they’ll ever make—I’m reminded of the wishes and dreams I dared to dream when we found out we would be having a second son. I didn’t know everything we’d experience; I have no idea what awaits us around the future bends in our journey. But these moments?
Yep. I’ll take ‘em.
Does anyone remember the Infinite Sadness of LittleBrother this past May when he couldn’t ride the roller coasters at Cedar Point because he was less than a quarter inch shorter than the 48-inch requirement? It was a sad day in Happy Town, let me tell you. While BigBrother and my husband were off riding the coasters, I walked LittleBrother to Camp Snoopy, bought him extra snacks, and tried my hardest to make a little boy feel better about not being tall enough.
That’s hard work, yo.
I mean, it was understandable when he wasn’t tall enough last year. He was five, for Pete’s sake. But he was sosososo close in May, and he was sosososo sad. My heart broke, and I cursed myself for
not bringing his baseball cleats to give him an edge on the height problem my inferior height genes.
Then summer happened. I knew the kid grew some, because when it came time for school, none of his size six pants fit properly. He looked as though a flood might come rushing by at any given moment. When we received an invitation to attend Halloweekends at Cedar Point earlier this month, we measured LittleBrother… and it seemed like he reached 48 inches. But did he?
As soon as we made it through the front gate of the amusement park, we walked LittleBrother over to the two women at the measuring stand. LittleBrother took a step up on the metal platform, and the nice lady swung the arm around to see if it cleared his head or if he was finally tall enough.
It smacked him in the head. HOORAY! (Right?)
And so our family of four beat feet to the roller coaster LittleBrother had been desperately waiting to ride for the past two years: Millennium Force. Of note: Both of my sons pronounce it Millellium, even with regard to Star Wars, and if anyone ever corrects this adorable bit of speech, I will cut that person. So hard. Anyway, we waited in a lengthy line, something both boys now get to understand about amusement parks; big kid/adult rides require longer line waits than those off in kiddie-lands. We waited and waited and saw friends and waited some more.
People around us commented on how LittleBrother didn’t look tall enough, about how small both boys were, and blahblahblah. I wanted to tell these people that maybe they should keep their comments about other people’s bodies to themselves or, at the very least, leave the parenting decisions to us, but we just stood and waited and listened to the Roller Coaster Afficianado behind us discuss All Things Millennium Force.
Eventually we made it to the front of the line. I asked LittleBrother if he still felt sure about riding it, and he replied with an excited, “YESSSSS!”
Awesome picture courtesy Momo. Awesome expression on BigBrother’s face courtesy genetics.
We stepped into our seats, buckled up, and off we went up the hill.
I then experienced a moment of motherly fear. What if he was too small? What if he fell out of his seat despite the attendant making sure he was strapped in as tightly as possible? What if the ride malfunctioned? What if what if what if? And that’s what it’s like to live with anxiety, folks. I told myself all was well, and then shut my eyes as we crested the top of the hill.
This is where I admit that it was also my first ride on the Millennium Force. I have happily walked LittleBrother around while BigBrother and my husband rode all the big coasters. I don’t dislike them, but someone had to stay with the younger, smaller kid, right? So as we crested that first hill and started our way down, I closed my eyes so my contacts didn’t fly out. Then I opened them quickly to check on LittleBrother who wore the biggest smile ever seen on any roller coaster ever. When we finished the ride and looked at our photos in the booth, LittleBrother’s face is lit up with a smile and my eyes are clenched tightly shut.
We asked him how he liked it, and he replied, “That was AWESOME.”
The whole day was awesome. We rode all of our favorite rides, including the bumper cars.
And the Giant Wheel.
And many others.
Cedar Point added some stuff for the younger kid set for their Halloweekends, including a corn maze, a hay bale maze, a trick-or-treat area, and other fun things. I felt relieved that they included the little ones in their Halloweekends festivities this year. If LittleBrother hadn’t quite made that 48-inch mark, we would have had enough things to do while the other two rode coasters. As it was, we still hit the mazes and a few other of the special things for little kids. Halloweekends run through November 2nd, so check it out whether you’ve got little ones or not!
We experienced a lovely day at our favorite amusement park, and I can’t wait to go back next spring and ride more coasters with my boys. (Though, now LittleBrother is determined to hit 52 inches by spring. If he does, I may need to take out a small loan to afford new pants.)
Disclosure: Our tickets to Cedar Point were free. Our opinions are our own.
You know the kind of
day week. The one where nothing goes the way you want it to go. From work projects to runs to scheduling to meals that flop to kids that whine to a dog that pesters the ever-loving snot out of you to the fact that you really haven’t seen your husband at all this week to gas leaks to mean kids to Open House at the school where you learn all of the OMGWTFBBQ about standardized testing thrust upon third graders who are just eight years old to laundry that just won’t flipping wash itself to sheer exhaustion.
Yeah. That was the week we endured.
And I didn’t want to be at the soccer field for an “our game last week sucked so bad” practice at five o’clock on a Friday evening. Because who wants to be at the soccer field for practice—good, bad, or otherwise—at five o’clock on a Friday evening? Not this lady, that’s for certain.
But I got us there. On time.
BigBrother ran off to do whatever it is you do at soccer practice (I did not play soccer; soccer didn’t exist in Rural Ville in the 80s) while LittleBrother and I sought out some shade. I spread out his blanket, and he sat and read for quite some time.
Watching him read, watching him not mind that his Friday evening was being eaten up by an unnecessary practice, made me rethink my stinky attitude.
I mean, what was I going to do?
Go home, finish the dinner I didn’t get finished, toss in some laundry, clean up the week’s worth of clutter in the kitchen, put away my laundry, and then go to bed somewhat early in hopes of having a decent long run tomorrow. No, sitting in the shade with my younger son while my older son ran off some energy didn’t seem too bad.
And so I watched as BigBrother messed up the same drill approximately eight times before he understood what the coach was trying to get him to accomplish. I smiled when he got it right, when I watched the recognition cross his face and the pride puff up his chest. I read a little bit, but my reading was interrupted by a done-reading LittleBrother who apparently did yoga in class with his teacher today. He showed me a bunch of poses, and then asked me to show him some others. I showed him a nice twisting chair which always is great for my back problems. His favorite pose is the Tree Pose. So we had a Tree Pose Off; I won for duration but he won for utter cuteness.
And then practice was over. The world didn’t end. My bad mood lifted not because I went to practice, but because I chose to let my bad mood lift. I’m not always great at living in the moment, at letting the gunk just roll off my shoulders and instead feeling the late September sun shining down on the top of my dark-haired head, letting the sun warm me first from the outside and then all the way into my core, my center. I struggle with not having that 100% control over my life, my schedule; when I write my week down in pen, I don’t want to scratch things out or use white out or have to cram a practice into a spot where a practice wasn’t written. But sometimes, you’re meant to sit in the sun on a September evening without realizing, without it being written perfectly in pen back on Sunday night.
Yes, it was a lovely Friday evening indeed.
I’ve been sitting on this story for awhile, mainly because I can’t believe it happened. If anyone dropped the F-Bomb in front of our sons, I figured it would either be my husband, his grandfather, my dad, or someone that most certainly was not me.
I was wrong.
The Monday after a conference, I found myself in a rush to finish up work, get the boys fed, and get out the door on time to have BigBrother to a baseball practice by five o’clock. I do not understand why our local youth leagues find five o’clock an acceptable time for practices; sometimes we even get stuck with a 4:30 practice. As a working parent whose partner works 24 on, 48 off, we sometimes luck out in that he can run the boys if I haven’t quite finished up my workday yet. This particular day did not fall into that happy space, and I rushed out the door with two little boys, two water bottles, an iced coffee for myself from my not-quite-a-Keurig, and my laptop and cell phone so I could finish work up at the baseball field.
We had just about ten minutes to make it to the middle of the city, which isn’t too bad. I should have gone the back way, and this experience caused me to use the back way from then on out, but I hadn’t yet learned my lesson. As such, I found myself coming down the hill into the factory section of our city right before five o’clock in the afternoon.
Quittin’ time, as it were.
A gentleman leaving one of the establishments that works for/with the fracking companies that have taken over our area found himself walking down the center line of the road. He wasn’t crossing the road and just happened to be centered on the line at that point in time as I came across the bridge and into the city limits. No, that would have been just fine. Instead, this gentleman was walking from his employer’s building to the convenience store down the street via the center line.
Ain’t nobody got time for that, buddy. I got a kid who needs to be at baseball practice in eight minutes and four more email to send.
It just so happened that my window was down.
It just so happened that as I came up next to him I momentarily forgot that my children sat behind me, buckled into their booster seats because safety ranks high on the scale of importance in this family.
It just so happened that as my head was next to his head for a brief second of 35mph, I said, “Get off the f@#$ing center line.”
And then I remembered my sons sat behind me. I did the Mom Cringe. Then I quickly evaluated the situation. The radio was turned up to a decent level. The two boys jabbered incessantly since we left the house. There was a chance, however slim, that they didn’t hear their mother drop the f-bomb.
A chance. A hope. A miracle.
I don’t think I got to blink an eye before LittleBrother says, “Mommy, you said the F-word.”
Hold your horses, KINDERGARTENER*.
“Hey, LittleBrother, how do you know the F-word,” I flipped it back onto him, because not being in trouble is more my favorite than being in trouble.
“Well, a kid said it to the Principal and he had to go to the office. I didn’t know what he said, so I asked another kid what he said, and he told me what the f-word was.”
GOOD JOB, KINDERGARTEN.
After I stopped the laugh I wanted to laugh from bubbling out of my mouth, I asked BigBrother, “Do you know what the f-word is?”
“Oh, no. I only know innocent words like shut up and stupid.”
This is a blatant lie, as my husband’s grandfather has graciously exposed our sons to any number of colorful words over the years. But, whatever. BigBrother is also a rule-follower and knows certain words don’t belong in school. I didn’t feel very worried about it.
Still, I launched into a not-quite-hysterical discussion about how certain words can hurt others’ feelings and how we really shouldn’t say them. I apologized for using the word to the
f@#$ing idiot man walking in the center of the road. I let them know that if they hear a word they don’t understand or recognize, they can always bring the word home to me and their Daddy and we’ll discuss it at home. I told them that talking about the “bad” words at school, even if you’re just asking your friend what it was or what it means, could get you in trouble if a teacher overhears the conversation without context.
They asked a number of questions. I answered them to the best of my ability without laughing so stinking hard. And then we arrived at the baseball field. On time. Despite the guy walking in the middle of the road, so my F-Bomb felt totally unwarranted. Classy, Jenna. Real classy.
So far, neither boy has dropped the F-Bomb to a friend, to a grandparent, in school, or to us. Which is more than I can say for myself since mid-May. Ahem.
* = (Yes, this happened near the end of Kindergarten; so deep my shame that I could not tell you about it until now.)