Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Lost Month, or: The Hospital, The Great Shoe Hunt, The Troublemaker, The Squirrel, The Laundry, and The Redeeming Qualities

I won’t make any pretenses that this blog won’t be mercilessly long. I suppose I have a whole month to make up for.

November passed me by completely, and I wasn’t sad to see it go. It was kind of a wretched month for me, honestly, and with very few redeeming qualities, although I promise to list them, as well as the bad. As I’ve said before, I don’t handle stress well. I don’t deal with busyness. I get overwhelmed easily. I’m like a person who can’t swim who has just taken two steps too far into the water and loses her footing. All I really need to do is take two steps back. But you can’t tell a drowning person not to panic. And so when the holidays start nearing, and I see my schedule start filling up, my tension builds accordingly. Here are some (just some, mind you!) of the things that pushed me those two steps too deep.

My stepdad was admitted to the hospital at the beginning of the month with severe heart problems that took a week to diagnose, at which point it was decided he needed a triple bypass. The doctors told my mom it would have been a matter of days if she hadn’t brought him in. I hate that I wasn’t able to be there with them. I hate it. I looked at it every which way, trying to figure out if I could make it to Florida, but it was impossible. And so I stayed home. And tensed. He is home now, and recovering, and I still hate that I can’t be there to help them.

Ashton has been (or had been- hopefully it’s past tense) having problems at school with his attitude. To be completely truthful, I’m at a complete loss as to how to deal with him. He isn’t your average 9 year old. He’s too smart for his own good. Except, apparently, when it comes to going over possible consequences for his behavior at school. The Friday before his birthday I scoured the mall for two hours looking for a pair of Michael Jordan basketball shoes for him. He started playing basketball a few weeks ago and is already in love with it. Anyway, I searched every single store in that mall that sold name brand shoes. I started out at Kids’ Foot Locker, and worked my way systematically through each store. I don’t know why I couldn’t just settle for something different. I just had it set in my mind that I HAD to have those shoes. In desperation I finally went back to Kids’ Foot Locker to beg the salesperson to double check. She asked, “Have you looked over at Foot Locker?” Mental head slap. No, I hadn’t. I hadn’t because I thought the two stores were separate, therefore implying that regular Foot Locker didn’t sell kids’ shoes. I hiked back over to Foot Locker, and asked if they had the shoe. Sure enough, they did. And I got quite the gentle scolding from the cashier telling me I should have come to them first.

I left the mall that afternoon, late for picking the kids up from school, so excited and happy that I had gotten the shoes he really wanted, so stoked that I was going to get to be the cool mom, so full of love for him. He gets in the car and hands me a pink slip from his teacher, stating an incident where he had displayed a terrible attitude and blatant disrespect and disobedience. Well. There went my happy little bubble. This is what I get, is it, for spending two hours and $65 on a pair of shoes for this ungrateful little...?? I was so angry. And hurt. And disappointed. And humiliated. This is my son. A reflection of me, of my successes or my failures. And I felt that all people would see was where I had failed. Let me explain a little something: I am already at a bit of a disadvantage as a school mom. Ashton is the oldest kid in his class- I am the youngest mom. The perks of teen pregnancy, I suppose. I’m sure most of it is in my head, but I feel like some of the teachers and other moms may look down on me a little. I’m young. I don’t dress or act like them. My kids don’t dress like their kids. There is something to be said for being “cool”, but in a conservative Christian school it could be considered a disadvantage. A sign of immaturity. All of this ran through my head in the space of 30 seconds when he handed me that paper. To my credit, I didn’t say anything to him at the moment. Sometimes, since I had Ashton so young, and since he was my almost sole companion for so long, I forget he is still a kid. I never talked to him like a baby. I carried on regular conversations with him from the time he was born. He spoke full sentences and had comprehensive conversations with me by the time he was 1. I tend to be too hard on him, to treat him like a peer, instead of a child. I knew if I opened my mouth in that moment I would regret it. I would wound him, and possibly contribute to brokenness in him.

Two days later was his birthday. We let him open his presents while his guests were there. But he didn’t get to have them. He is earning them back with continued good behavior at school and at home. So far he’s earned two gifts. Jeremy and I take a cruel pleasure in this particular discipline.

There are other, smaller things that have been stressing me out.

For instance, we had a dead squirrel on our curb for almost the entire month of November. I don’t know how it got there, if it got hit by a car, or killed by a neighborhood cat. Whichever way, it was there. Dead. I begged Jeremy remove it. Here’s the thing: I don’t do dead. Not at all. I don’t like dead bugs even. I drive by roadkill and get a shiver stuck in my spine. I used to lay my head on my lap when my parents drove by graveyards. I hate death. In any form. Even in a squirrel. Well, Jeremy didn’t want to touch it either. I just tried to ignore it when I had to go out to my car. I hoped the kids wouldn’t notice it, but of course they did. I was worried it would traumatize them, but it actually became a “thing”. A “let’s see what The Squirrel looks like today!” thing. An “if you don’t stop that I’m going to make you touch The Squirrel!” thing. In other words, The Squirrel became pronounced with capitals. One day as I was loading the kids into the car I stepped on The Squirrel. I really had to stop myself from screaming. I know I’m ridiculous. The quickest resolution would have been to pick up The Squirrel and dispose of it. I could NOT bring myself to do it. I told Jeremy dead things were his jurisdiction, and he chose for it to NOT be his. And so it sat there. For a few weeks. Then, The Squirrel started to stink. I mean. REALLY stink. That was a whole new adventure. An “ewwww I can smell The Squirrel from here!” adventure. A “Bubba said my breath smells like The Squirrel!” adventure. This past weekend, The Squirrel was gone. Carried off by vultures? Picked up by a neighbor who simply couldn’t stand the smell anymore? I know not, and I care not. It is gone. It is enough. Then! THEN! Yesterday morning when we arrived at church, we beheld a dog and his owner on a walk. The dog chased down a squirrel and proceeded to rip it to shreds right within view of our car windows. The kids watched in silent fascination. I mean, what can you do, but watch? Like a train wreck. I sincerely hope that was my final dead squirrel experience. Ever.

About a week ago, Jeremy decided he was going to help me with some of my laundry issues. Feel free to insert large air quotes around the word HELP. You all know laundry is my Waterloo. I can never win. In truth, I’ve given up. I attempt to keep the main rooms of the house clean and just hide the mounting piles of clothes in the bedrooms. All we do is sleep in them. You don’t need to be able to cross the floor to sleep. You just hop onto the bed island in the sea of clothes. It works. It’s a fire hazard, of course, but it works. Enter my knight in shining armor with his burning desire to help. While I was at work on Wednesday, he moved every single article of clothing that was not in a drawer or hanging in a closet, and put it on my living room floor. This.... this is a lot of clothes, friends. A lot. I’m talking, almost an entire wall. Inches below the window sill. 5 feet wide... 3 feet tall.... a lot of clothes. So many clothes. I walked in the door and beheld Atleigh in front of me, smiling from ear to ear, saying, “We have a surprise for you!” I took one look at the living, breathing, hateful monster that is my laundry and burst into tears. Needless to say, not the reaction Jeremy was expecting. To his credit, and I mean this so much, he really was helping. He organized our closets and vacuumed the bedroom floors. He said, “I thought you would be glad. You always say you’re so overwhelmed by it. Now it’s all right here where you can work on it!” My interpretation: “You’re always saying you’re going to do it and you never do. Now I’ve shoved it all out here in your face where you can’t avoid it.” I haven’t been sleeping at night thanks to that laundry. It haunts me in my dreams like I'm in an episode of Doug. The shirt sleeves reach out to strangle me. The mismatched socks kick me in the face. They say to me over and over “You’ve failed, you’ve failed, you’ve failed!” I feel guilty doing anything else other than tackling that laundry. Eating, sleeping, using the bathroom, editing photos, yes, blogging. The mass of laundry is staring at me accusingly even as I type, demanding my attention. It will be a miracle on par with the parting of the Red Sea if I can get it done in time to get our Christmas tree up. Which is another stress entirely, and one I won’t start in on right now.

But. I promised happy things too.

My stepdad lived. He is now scarred up like Frankenstein, but, by the grace of God, and I do NOT say that lightly, he is alive. He will recover. I am so grateful for that.

My closets got cleaned out. This is a novel concept. I am very grateful for that, although I may not have let Jeremy see it as much as I should have. The laundry WILL get done. Eventually. I hope. If not, we can simply build it into a tree shape and string it with lights.

My Ashton turned nine. This is almost unfathomable to me. My little boy, halfway grown. Of all my kids, he and I butt heads the most. He has just enough of me and Jeremy both in his personality to drive me sufficiently crazy. He’s a know it all (me). He’s aggressive and antagonistic (Jeremy). He’s sarcastic (me), and hard headed (Jeremy). But he’s also intuitive (me) and tender (Jeremy). He’s got good and bad, and over the past few years, he’s developed into his own complete person. He’s no longer just an extension of us. He is himself. For better or for worse.

He is also behaving better than he has all school year, hoping to get hold of those video games and Legos. Maybe I’ll carry it on over to Christmas too.

The highlight of my month was taking pictures of him for his birthday. I mentioned at Atleigh’s birthday that I wanted to make a habit of doing birthday sessions with my kids every year. Ashton cooperated far better than I expected him to (again, with the Legos ever before his eyes). This shoot saved the whole month of November from my scorn. My son's smile saved me. 


If you read all of this blog, you deserve an award. I don’t have one for you- sorry- other than the satisfaction of perseverance in the face of diatribe. I understand the irony of this blog being immediately after my last blog about breathing. I’m still working on it. Maybe it shouldn’t be so hard, but I am working on it. November beat me down some. But I made it through. Hopefully I won’t lose December, too.

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