Friday, February 25, 2011

This is what a Catholic education does

Devon has always been a bit of an odd duck, a clever duck, but an odd one for sure. I don’t feel bad saying this; I would totally say it to him. Then we would perhaps proceed to have a long chat about it, maybe drawing him in particular instances of strangeness or even acting out parts of his life –with him as the director, of course. That’s just Devon, several degrees off to the left and marching to his own guitar.

A couple of weeks ago I went to fetch Dev from a play date and ended up chatting with his friend’s mom for a spell. I like this mom quite a bit as she seems equally immersed in the same neurotic struggle with motherhood that I battle everyday. She, I’ll call her K., takes her son and Devon to tap dance lessons every Friday and then the boys often have a good long play afterwards at her house while I finish up work. K. always has a fun story or two to share, and this most recent will rank among one of my all time favorite Devon stories.

Right now Devon and his friends have reached that age where video games are new and exciting, they reign king among the 6 year-old set. I personally loathe video games and regret the day I introduced Devon to his Nintendo DS. Unfortunately, at the time we were spending hours on end with Matt in his hospital room, and in a desperate attempt to keep Devon from tripping over somebody’s oxygen tubes, I broke down and bought him the game. When I’m not banning him from it, Devon is glued to the damn thing.

K. has yet to buy her young son a Nintendo and so Devon always makes sure to bring the contraption to the play dates. K. also hates video games, Devon knows this and so has tried to sway her to realize her son’s dreams and get him a “Tendo. When I picked up Dev, K. said to me, “I didn’t know that Nintendo made religious themed games. Devon told me he has a game called ‘Jesus Lives!’.” This was news to me and I told her, “Um, no. Mario? Yes. Sonic? Yup. But, no, no Jesus here.” And then she began to tell me the tale.

The boys attend a Catholic school and are in Kindergarten together. K. is able to volunteer in the classroom and so she had a clue as to where Devon got the info. It seems he incorporated the week’s religious classes into his game and then he tried to sell her on it. We laughed, both of us either fallen or half-assed Catholics at this point; neither of us upset about the fact my son had told a bald faced lie in order to help his friend attain the game. At least it was a creative lie.

On the way home I asked Devon about it, he grinned a sly smile and said, “Well, it’s like this, Mai-Mai. The first level there’s Jesus, and he’s going around a field getting all these different sized crosses. He has to get enough until he can stack them up high and then rise to Heaven….” There was the second level, that one was about Egypt and the death of firstborn sons. If you saved the babies then you got to the third level where Michael the Archangel cut down all evil with his magic sword. The fourth level involved a plague of sorts. The fifth was about avoiding lightening bolts of sin. There was a sixth that I can’t remember and then the seventh level was all about giving a son anything he wanted because he had accomplished so many good deeds. I’m not sure if the seven levels somehow coordinated with the seven days of God’s earth works or if it was just a handy coincidence.

Being his mother I felt as though I had to impress some sort of lesson here and so we discussed the differences of tall tales, exaggeration and outright lies. He maintained his was all in good fun and even for the better of the good as far as his friend was concerned. And me? I was just so damn impressed by his creativity that I had to agree.

The first cut

Typically a second chance is the one following the first mistake. That first time you stumble, blunder, stick your foot in your mouth. Some falls are more spectacular than others. Some are more wounding than others. Some are small and inconsequential so the second chance seems almost nonexistent. So my question is can you run out of grace? Is it like a cat’s nine lives? Does the pool run dry?

Matt and I got married when we were so absurdly young that now when I look back on it I can’t believe we actually went through with it. Yes, being 7 ½ months pregnant definitely pushed us into it, but we could have waited. He could have balked. I could have said no. But we did do it. We said our vows, took the step. I used to trick myself into believing that it was a colossal mistake, our marriage. My memories were that we only hurt one another.

Our timing was abominable. When I was ready to commit and build a family, he was still licking his wounds from my pre-marital inability to stay focused. In turn when he was ready, I couldn’t breathe. And so it went. Then we divorced. Had Devon 20 months later and then split again after my father died. There was a span when we tried to pick it up but, again, timing was not what it could have been.

In November when I saw Matt in the ER something shifted from within. Something let go as I was standing next to his high walled bed where he writhed and looked so scared because his damn kidneys caused him to have a stroke. In those moments, with Loren and Cass at my side and Devon crouched in the doorway, I knew we were somehow still a unit. Broken or no, there was a bind that still existed. And nothing else mattered.

In the past I’ve been bound up by crippling self-esteem issues, fear of success or nearly any other psychological affliction I could slather on my being. There was some sort of satisfaction in calling it a failure and then living out the results, a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will. No longer. I’ve screwed up beyond words in the past but at this point I really don’t give a flip. Life truly is short and I don’t intend to skulk about the edges wishing I had something only to push it away when it presents itself. I want a family. My family. Like Stitch said, it is broken but it’s still a family. And I want it back. For true this time. In our case I believe there will be enough second chances to go the distance. I believe there is hope and love.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's a thin line between madness and PMS

By nature I’m not the most stable of individuals. Most of the time I’m cool with that and can roll with the punches. I mean I totally get that living with my mom, mothering the three kids while Matt is mostly out of town right now, loathing the extra 20 pounds below the expanse of my bust line and working a job at which I am entirely incompetent is bound to get a gal down. It just stands to reason. But lately that balance is just slightly off, and I have to say the urge to pull out all of my eyelashes and hide under the enormous pile of dirty laundry that can be found in most any room of the house is nearly irresistible.

My crazies aren’t necessarily bad crazies, there’s no puppy kicking here or baby pinching for pure pleasure. So it’s not all bad, in fact I like to fancy my instability as somewhat optimistic in nature. Were it to have a color it might be a soft salmon. And. I like to think the balance won’t go so over the edge that that pretty in pink won’t turn to bottom of the outhouse sludge brown.

There are factors that might push me over, the teenage girl child for instance. She’s the sort who all her teachers refer to as a star. “We wish they were all just like your sweet angel, “they tell me whenever I set foot in the school. She routinely wins scholastic awards and I always see her surrounded by the other children when I stop by the school. But, red sister? Angelic to me? Hell and no. Simply put, it’s psychological warfare at some point every day. She’s smarter than me. Faster. More cunning. And far more persistent. She’s going to eat me alive. And afterwards she’ll pick her teeth clean with my smallest rib, smile and look for her next conquest who will likely be her littler brother. Beacuse he's vanilla flavored. That’s the way she rolls.

The small boy child has been pushing me to the edge for the past month or so. This is a first for him because if one were to look in the dictionary for the word cherub, his pink cheeked face would be right next to it. During his six years I have rarely reached and edge with him, but the other night when he looked at me and said, “Mai-Mai you are using your tired voice again. I think you are at the end of your throat with me” I knew I needed a break. Luckily Matt has been in town and for the last three nights I have been without the constant halted chatter of his sweet, grating robot voice. I miss him like hell but the silence has been beautiful.

Strangely it has been the oldest who hasn’t been making me nuts lately. A year ago I was negotiating five F’s into at least C’s, this year he has nearly straight A’s and is so buoyed by the recognition he is getting for his filming that he has stayed out of trouble. The blessing of this is truly a weight off my soul.

So it’s not all bad, really. There is the beautiful bouquet of lilies that Matt sent me and I can smell them as I sit at my desk and pretend that I know what I’m doing. I’ve started yoga again. I have a prescription that is helping me sleep more than 90 minutes a night. And, speaking of sleep, the horrible water and tornado dreams I had for a couple of months are down to only a night or two a week. So really, maybe it’s all just PMS.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Losing it. One jacket at a time

The strain of having the kids full time for nearly three months is beginning to show. Most days I can sort of wing it, but lately it's becoming apparent that I serious lack some basic skills when it comes to full time single parenting. On Saturday I had to work my second job at the ski mountain, which isn't a huge deal it's just that after a full week of working at my other job I'm pretty beat. Luckily my tasks at the ski mountain are fairly low key and the people I work with are amazing. Another benefit is the kids all get free ski passes and lessons for a minimal fee. For Loren and Cass the lessons are optional but for Devon, unless Loren has the time to take him out on the slopes for a day, they are mandatory. And Devon hates this. I know, poor kid lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world, gets to take ski classes on world class mountains with incredible teachers and he's devastated. My heart bleeds for the poor little bugger. Really.

So Friday night I set out all his stuff, we got up early and donned our ski costumes and headed up to work. When I take Devon with me it means I have to leave my post to get him signed up for a daily lesson since earlier in the season he insisted he wouldn't do the eight week long course. This means an extra 20 minutes or so every Saturday as I sign him up, find a teacher, explain that I have to leave him early so I can get back to work and assure the teacher that, no, a ski lesson will not be torture and that Devon will cheer up and actually have fun. This Saturday was a bit more cumbersome because Devon had left his parka in Utah and was wearing a light jacket of mine that came down past his knees and required several rolls at the sleeves. I thought he looked rather fetching in an orphan sort of way but his ski teacher was not of the same mind set, "Oh dear. We can't have that. Let's just see if we can find something in lost and found so he won't be so uncomfortable." To this Devon replied in his robot voice, "No thank you. I like this jacket. But I don't like ski lessons and this will be the last ski lesson I will ever take." The teacher pleasantly ignored him and proceeded to find him a jacket while Devon hung on me and kept whispering how hard his life was into my ear.

Once clothed, I had to explain to his teacher how Devon would likely not eat the offered lunch, found his borrowed snow pants (he had left his at school and had to borrow a too small pair from a friend the night before) scratchy and wrong and that he truly does enjoy skiing. "He's just a bit of an Eeyore sometimes. But he'll get over it." Now the teacher truly did pause and take a good long look at me before she pipped up, "Oh, now. We'll have him out on the hill and being a Tigger in no time at all." Here I wanted to swat the giant smile off her face while simultaneously sink into the floor that my child heard I had just referred to him a sullen donkey. I also work for the same ski giant where everything-is-always-happy-the-children-are-great-and-nothing-sad/bad-EVER-happens-dammit. Instead I knelt down to Devon and gave him a huge hug and whispered into his ear how much I loved him. Over his shoulder I started to say something more to his teacher. But how can you put into a short sentence the you-see-his-dad-had-a-stroke-and-hasn't-been-able-to-take-care-of-him-for-nearly-three-months-and-now-his-dad-has-been-gone-for-a-month-with-his-dying-father-and-likely-won't-be-home-for-more-than-a-few-days-here-and-there-for-another-few-months-so-it's-just-me-on-the-front-line-and-you-can-see-I-am-a-hot-mess-at-this. No. Instead I said, "Our life has been slightly tumultuous lately." And that's when I knew. She saw the madness in my eyes and decided I was That Mom. The one who believes there is a crisis where there is none and so makes everything a drama. I know because I have seen those moms where I work at the same mountain and my staff and I have had good fun gossiping about them. We love to pick them apart, saying things like, "Did you see how she actually expected us to let her 6 year old ski in a grown woman's coat??? She must be nuts. Poor kid."

Yes, it's all come home to roost. I'm not that mom, I don't think. But I'll cop to a bit of craziness for sure.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Artists and asses

I come from an artistic family. That statement means that most everyone on our family tree is fairly nuts, but it's all good and we're all down with it. Yesterday I was at a local cafe that I appreciate for its wide selection of gluten-free baked goods when I apporached the owners about hosting an exhibit of my mother's work. It was a lovely exchange and the low down of it is that I will soon be bringing them some examples of her photos for a possible showing in May.

Later I called my mom to inform her she would have to get off her duff, find some good stuff and start cranking for the show. She was excited but then said, "So when are you going to get off your ass and have a show there?" To which I replied, "My head is so far up said ass that I can't even go there right now. In fact, if you really must know my true state, I don't even have on underwear right now. Haven't in days. I'm too pudgy for them and even if I wasn't they're all dirty." My mother paused and replied, "Right. Well. Okay." While it didn't leave her completely speechless it did slow her down.