Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Extreme Teen Makeover

In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t imagine my daughter associated with the items in this picture. She is the girl who screams, I mean SCREAMS when a fly buzzes near her head. She and the outdoors are like oil and water. Getting her to clean her room is a lesson in futility. But these boots, hammer, work gloves and measuring tape belong to her. And she earned them.

My sweet 16 year-old just returned from a trip to Kentucky where she and a bunch of other local teens built and rehabbed homes for the underprivileged. She signed up, but I’m not sure she really understood what she was getting into. She reluctantly surrendered her cell phone and a week of her time to help others.

I’m not sure what I expected upon her return. To be honest, not much. And the change is subtle. But it’s there, buried underneath the tired eyes and the farmer tan. She’s done some things and it’s made her a better person.

The story that sticks in my head is one that started as her explaining to her fellow teens that the word is “wheelbarrow” not “wheelbarrel.”

“But we didn’t have a wheelbarrow so we pretty much had to lie on the ground and mix the cement with our arms in the foundation holes,” she said.

“Didn’t it dry on you?!” I asked.

“Nah, it won’t dry instantly and besides, that’s all we could do,” she replied.

Huh. This cannot be my daughter. This isn’t the person we dropped off a week ago who kinda, sorta didn’t want to go. That girl is gone. I like this new girl. She’s got spunk. I hope she stays.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Book of Love

You marry the cover, but you live with the book.”

My husband and I heard this a couple days before a big family wedding. My brother got married for the second time – to a lovely girl, I might add.

But this philosophy, so to speak, made we think….as did the wedding. I can’t help it. When I go to a family wedding, I pull out my scorecard. I start taking mental notes. Their family versus our family. Of course I know it’s not a contest, but I can’t help comparing my family with all of its quirkiness to the other family with all of its shiny newness. They’re pretty and perky and seem to do everything right. We’re awkward and shy and keep tripping over our own feet.

Sound familiar? You bet it does. A family wedding is like a mini version of a high school prom. There are insiders and outsiders. Populars and unpopulars. Prom king and queen (groom and bride) and the rest of us. Some will embarrass themselves. Most others will be wallflowers.

But back to the book, which is, essentially, what a family is. We’re the book inside the couple’s cover. Sure, they, and the world, look amazing for that one day, maybe longer. And there are several chapters in this book, each representing part of the family. Each chapter grows as life goes on and I’d even say that sometimes you have to re-read a chapter or two because your impression has changed based on other events.

And that is exactly why a wedding is a terrible time to judge a family. There are speeches of gratitude and love and support for and from the couple. Funny stories are shared. Some people meet and some get reacquainted. It’s easy to compare family dynamics and find one side or the other lacking in some quality.

But for me, looking back on 24 ½ years of marriage, the real story is when things go south. And I’m not talking about vacation. When the chips are down and sad and bad things happen. When life and people get really, really messy (and they will), that’s the worth of a family. That’s when somebody proves their love - when they are willing to step up as others need to step away.

I wish my brother and my new sister-in-law a lifetime of happiness. I hope their newlywed glow continues as long as possible. But when it fades, and it will, and the pages of their book get dark or scary, I hope that both sides of the family do their part…whatever that is. To, me, that will be a happy ending. And I’m a sucker for happy endings.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Summer of My Discontent

So, it’s summer time again. And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some summer…especially after the winter we had. But I feel like I’m having a really tough time adjusting.

On a positive note, I’ve finally figured out how to keep up with the extra laundry that another body (a.k.a. College Kid) brings. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how that woman with 17+ children is doing it, but that’s her problem, not mine. (And I just want to ask her: “Have you ever uttered the word NO?” A restraining order might be appropriate. I’m just sayin’.)

But my first challenge is that I’m not much of a cook, so for me to put forth any effort in the kitchen is a big deal. And nothing rains on my Rachael Ray parade faster than College Kid or High School Kid deciding at the last minute to opt out of dinner. I understand that their plans are, how shall we say, fluid? But I have absolutely no idea how to run our house. I feel a combination of guilt and annoyance. I should be cooking memorable semi-home-cooked meals. But it seems like whenever I do, nobody is home. Whenever I don’t, they look at me like the orphans in “Oliver.”

The other thing that I’m struggling with is not just seasonal. It’s the beginning of the end. High School Kid drives herself…everywhere. This is great in so many ways. No longer do I have to haul her to and from lessons, appointments, etc. I’m free to do my own thing….which is very liberating…but again, somewhat guilt-ridden. I feel like I should be there parenting her. She, of course, resists any and all of my attempts to do so.

It’s a slippery slope where I am. I’m drifting between hanging on for dear life and reluctantly letting go. I chide myself for not putting forth an effort but wonder if it would be worth it anyway. And so, I’m reduced to latching onto family dinner opportunities wherever and whenever possible. Sure, I get plenty of time to play tennis and enjoy the warm weather, but not a day goes by without me worrying that I’m going about this all wrong.

I think what I really need is some Prozac with my sunscreen.