Keeping house: a working mom’s secret

It’s August. And that means the kid is a 3 year old.

This summer has been a routine in balance. Balance between getting dishes done and hoeing weeds. Balance between walking the dog and trimming the bushes. Balance between finding out what that smell is once and for all and fixing the leaky pipe in the basement. Balance between repairing the leg on the washing machine and folding that one load of laundry that’s been in the dryer for three days.

There is no time for it all, and so some days the weeds peek over the brick edging, making sure I’m nowhere nearby with my trusty hoe. My absence confirmed, they call on all the strength of Mother Earth to sustain their roots and they propel themselves high into the air overnight, until suddenly we are “those people.” You know. The ones who let mutant weeds tower over the flower beds – who let their yard go just a smidge past acceptable before finally thwacking it off right when the neighbors surely begin to wonder about us.

The pipe has leaked all summer. We have the means to fix it. It’s a simple fix, so I’m told. But it gets lost, plunking droplets of water into the large bucket beneath, waiting for us. We dumped the bucket the other day, and I can’t imagine how many drops were in there, marking the minutes, hours, and days of deferred maintenance. But it’s all good. The bucket is big, and it’s been emptied, so we’ve bought ourselves some time.

Time. You know, the thing we don’t have.

Well, we do. And we don’t. It will get done. Just like everything eventually gets done. But the stretch in between getting things done and keeping them that way is often wide, so that all of the weeds I toiled over on Monday and Tuesday evening have returned (along with their babies) by the following Monday. Because on Wednesday and Thursday, we had to do dishes and laundry. Friday, there’s that other thing we had to do. Is that chicken spoiling in the fridge? Better order a pizza.

I could get it all done. I could. If I arrived home, and we had a daily plan, we could get it all done and I could have one of those houses that looks like…well…one of those houses. Sidewalks festooned with vibrant blossoms doused in Miracle Grow. Window boxes spilling with lush vines. Bushes trimmed and groomed respectably. Don’t get me wrong. We don’t have a pile of spare tires in the front yard or aluminum foil in the windows or anything. We keep it tidy…ish. But the folks who live in those houses likely don’t have to smell the food in the fridge to determine its toxicity. We sniff. We sniff often. And sometimes we end up with an inadvertent science experiment like that one time with the pork that grew that weird white fur and– nevermind.

The point is that we just have no time. Actually we have plenty of time. But for some reason it slips away every night after we’ve filled it with dinner, followed by our evening walk together. A few minutes more trickle away in the time I watch kiddo ride his bike in the driveway. Who knew it took a whole half an hour to get that pesky little pretend spider out of a toddler’s armpit? Then we obviously have to smell his stinky toes at the end of each day and pretend to pass out – ten minutes there. Getting jammies on and brushing teeth? Let’s just mark 45 minutes and not think about how long it really takes to garner compliance from a 3-foot tall whirlwind who laughs hysterically at the frustration of others. Bedtime stories take at least half an hour.

And then it’s 9:30 p.m. And he’s still not asleep. And where did the time go? The dishes sat in the sink again. By 10 p.m. the whirlwind is still, and laundry is finally being folded downstairs.

I’ve learned a few things this summer. For one, weeds are obnoxious assholes. Secondly, toddlers like to ask questions. A lot of questions. The same damn questions over and over and over and over again…

One of these things will last forever. The other will not.

The weeds will come. They find a way to emerge and vine, through cracks and up buildings, and from beneath obstructions. And they will always be. Toddlers grow too. They grow into kids who’s toes no longer need smelling – who no longer ask “Mommy, where’s the guy? Mommy where’s that guy? Where’s his truck? Where is he? Where’s his doggy? Where’d he go?” As if the answer to his quandary is simply the key to understanding the purpose of life in the universe.

So it makes sense to tend the toddler with the toes and the questions. And leave the weeds to grow. At least for now. And that’s my secret to not keeping house.

How the prank call became extinct

drama

I lived about 12 miles from where all of my friends lived, in a different town. There were only so many telephone circuits between the two towns, so it was one of those loathsome situations where calls were long-distance unless you kept hitting redial a thousand times until your call went through for free. Long distance in those days was a big no-no because back then, phone conversations with friends and boyfriends could span hours. Parents brandished phone bills angrily in the air, demanding to know the meaning of a call that cost $5.62. That’s right. We talked on the phone. We relished extended periods of verbal communication that did not require our necks to bend perpendicularly to our developing spines, nor the exploitation of our thumbs. We laughed. We gossiped. We were comfortable with long pauses. There were “be right back” pee breaks when we were unwilling to hang up the phone for fear of losing the sacred non-long-distance connection.

I begged for my own phone. I had the kind you could get for $9.95 at K-Mart, with the buttons in the handset. Phones used to emit a satisfying plastic-y clack when the handset met the hook. I’d twist the cord around my finger or around itself until it became a tangled knot that squeaked like only the gummy membrane of a phone cord can. I also had a sweet Garfield phone. Do you remember those? My friend Heather gave it to me in junior high.

phone

Occasionally, during late night calls, my boyfriend and I would hear a muffle or nearly inaudible click that signaled someone may have picked up the other line. We’d freeze, holding our breath, hoping we hadn’t been caught talking at 12 a.m. on a school night. In which case a baritone voice would interrupt the call by saying, “You’d better get off this phone right now” through clenched teeth. When it was my dad, I’d follow a pattern: 1) squeak “Bye!” and hang up 2) come to Jesus immediately and 3)break up with Boyfriend the very next day because I’d disappointed my father, and that required a complete reevaluation of my life and a future that didn’t involve boys.

Anyway, I chuckled to myself while lying in bed the other night, thinking about those nights I got in trouble for being on the phone late with my boyfriend (who incidentally ended up being my husband and with whom I had the son who inspired this blog). I thought about our little almost-3-year-old dude and what it will be like for him someday, and I was a little sad.

I’ll never do that, I thought. I’ll never pick up the phone one night twelve years from now to see if my son is on the line past bedtime because there will be no line to pick up. There are no circuits to break through and phones no longer come in two pieces linked by a vinyl curly-Q. He won’t spend hours on the phone, because our silly culture has run away with us to Pleasure Island where we’ve eaten the ice cream and smoked the cigars and upgraded our smart phones until we grow long brown ears and tails and—HEE HAW! – we become jackasses who text and drive, “sext” naked pictures of our hoo-hoos, capture videos of victims rather than helping them (but not without snapping a selfie first)…you get the picture (pun intended).

But it’s no wonder texting is preferred in the absence of a cord to occupy our fidgeting hands.

Yes the absence of land lines has caused quite a pickle. The dominos have toppled from one to the next until every aspect of our future has been altered.

Prank calls, people. Prank. Calls. Don’t pretend you’ve never done it.

Call so-and-so’s mom from a slumber party and pretend you’re selling condoms at a discount, even though you really had no clue what that even was.  Dial 1-800-TAMPAX and giggle while telling the operator on the other end “It’s stuck in there. I can’t get it out!” Then dial back and order free tampon samples but have them sent to the boys in your class, getting their addresses from the … wait for it … phone book. (Side story: This one time some boys in our class prank called my house while I was out at my friend Heather’s house. My dad answered. The boys pretended to be radio DJs and told my dad I’d won something. He muttered that I was over at my friend Heather’s house and they immediately said, “Ok, thanks! Bye!” and hung up the phone. It didn’t take Dad long to realize he’d been pranked, which really pissed him off. He showed up on Heather’s doorstep in record time following the call, demanding to know who the pranksters and where they lived. I gave him vague directions to prevent Dad from verbally kicking their asses. You’re welcome, boys.)  But *69, followed by caller ID, followed by cell phones took away forever, the rite of passage known as: the prank call.

Disappearing landlines are also cause for thousands* to lose jobs as telemarketers (*that number has not been verified). I wonder what happened to the nice folks who called during dinner time to harass ask you to switch long-distance carriers. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to a nice gentleman continue to call me “Mrs. Scott” while prattling on to a 13 year old about how switching from AT&T to Sprint could save our family five cents per minute on long distance calls after 7 p.m. I’d welcome cell phone carriers to jockey for my business the way long-distance carriers did back then. Are you kidding? But they don’t. They don’t have to. They have us all by the balls and bits with their 2 year contracts and exorbitant unlimited data rates, which we’re all willing to pay every month because “What if there’s an emergency? I need Google Maps. How will I track my ovulation without my lady parts app?”

Pardon my Andy Rooney-ness. I get it. I’m not mad at technology, which provides enjoyment, convenience, and value. I simply feel that it may have pickpocketed a few precious coins from the sacrament of childhood, as experienced by my generation. Who knows what fresh hell adolescence will bring for today’s toddlers. It’s too soon to tell. I only know that long talks on a school night about someday “moving to the city” won’t resonate from a landline.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check out Pinterest. I want some DIY ideas for upcycling old telephone cords.

Because I cry.

PicMonkey Collage

“So do you feel like motherhood has changed you?” Hubs asked on Mother’s Day.

“Yeah.” Duh.

Hubs and I were high school sweethearts, you know. Back then, he had a nickname for me: The Ice Princess. Yes. Before Ana and Elsa…there was me. Only I wore baggy jeans, flannel, and sang “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from my ’87 Mazda instead of “Let It Go” from a snow-capped mountain. I’d like to see Ana or Elsa drive a stick at 16.

I was likeable and friendly in general. But in terms of “love” my demeanor was somewhat chilly, I suppose you could say. I thought “love” (#eyeroll) was lame and sensitivity was useless. I was slightly apathetic. Hugs were reserved for grandmas and parents, and handholding in public was impractical, if not ridiculous. I loved my family. I loved sports. I loved Doritos.

Age and life experience slowly chipped fissures into my icy façade. Then the knock-out blow, Motherhood, took my frozen blueberry heart and left it in the sun to melt and over-ripen to mush, and ferment into wine whose sweet tanginess I lap up. I grow drunk. And I pass out. From…feelings.

*Shudder*

What happened to me? I go from The Ice Princess to Richard Simmons after too many cocktails. I’m now the girl whose husband feels the couch shaking and looks over, only to see his wife sobbing when Andy leaves Buzz and Woody for the last time on Bonnie’s front porch before going off to college.

I can’t explain it. Everyone is different. Our hearts are snowflakes. We live and learn and grow in different ways. For me, it was giving birth to a 10 lb. 1 oz. human, who has since nearly tripled in size. I find myself internalizing the world’s problems on my commute home as NPR whispers in my ear that life is unfair and generally terrible for so many. I internalize the world’s problems because I frame them in terms of my son’s future. And when I do that, I think about all kids. And you can’t think about all kids without thinking of humanity, and boy is humanity big.

Suddenly, the list of things that used to make me cry seems trivial – both in size and significance – while the list of things that makes me cry today grows into a grocery list of items needed to prepare dinner for the Duggars.

What made me cry at 21:

  1. Ruining an expensive shirt
  2. Ruining my hair
  3. Mean people
  4. Slicing onions
  5. Stepping on rocks
  6. Leaving Disney (World or Land)

What makes me cry at 35:

  1. Ruining our democracy
  2. Ruining Earth
  3. Mean people
  4. Slicing onions
  5. Stepping on Legos
  6. Arriving to or leaving Disney (World or Land)
  7. NBC’s Parenthood
  8. Meaningful looks
  9. Weddings
  10. Folgers commercials
  11. Katy Perry’s “Roar”
  12. News
  13. Hunger, famine, injustice
  14. Last-second, game-winning shots
  15. Abuse
  16. Notes in minor key
  17. “Up”
  18. “Toy Story 3”
  19. Pixar music in general
  20. Triumph
  21. Sunsets and cornfields
  22. Poverty
  23. Luke bringing balance to The Force
  24. Empathy
  25. Lack of empathy
  26. Anyone growing up
  27. Anyone going off to college
  28. Birth stories
  29. Bon Iver
  30. Free-and-reduced lunch rates
  31. Did I mention poverty?
  32. Movies with Dakota Fanning as a child
  33. 80s love ballads
  34. Redemption
  35. Justice
  36. “Bridge to Tarabithia”
  37. Jesus
  38. Homelessness
  39. Sea World
  40. Plastic grocery bags
  41. Plastic food containers
  42. Plastic cutlery
  43. Plastic bottles
  44. Plastic in general because #45…
  45. Plastic cesspools in the ocean
  46. (Which brings me to) Vinyl
  47. Heartfelt Taylor Swift songs
  48. “Hoosiers” (see #’s 14, 20, 22, 34, 56)
  49. Jimmy Chitwood (see #14)
  50. Kids standing up to bullies
  51. Babies who survive
  52. Babies who don’t
  53. Katy Perry’s “Firework”
  54. Grace
  55. Love
  56. Hope
  57. Faith
  58. “Mary Poppins”

If you’d told me 10 years ago that a pop singer with gigantic eyes and sometimes blue hair would sing a song about roaring like a tiger, and that I would actually listen to it, I’d have laughed in your face. If you’d told me that I’d not only listen to it, but belt it at the top of my lungs while a huge lump of inspiration and strength and beauty and hopefulness and gratitude rises in my throat … well I’d have spit in your face.

I cry. I cry for joy. I cry for sorrow. I cry all. the. time. Two and a half years after having a baby, the ice has cracked. The pieces have drifted at sea and washed ashore white sandy beaches, completely melted. And it’s warm and sunny. And I feel strong.

Oh boy. I think I’m gonna cry.