Monday, May 16, 2011

Mundane Monday

When Sophie was an itty bitty and Katie was a twinkle in my eye, we all took a trip to visit friends who had two children.  Their kids were potty trained, going to school kinda kids.

 I love staying at a friend's home, because you spend some good meaty time together.  You are like roommates on good behavior for a few days, negotiating eating, cooking and bathrooms.  I enjoy being a guest (and having them in my home) because I snag a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a family. I can see what they have in their fridge, how they discipline (or don't) and a new aspect that I discovered on that visit - how laundry was handled.

At some point I had to put some clothes in the drier that got wet from the pool.  Simple enough.  I entered the laundry area, and I was floored by the huge, overflowing piles of clothes that spilled everywhere, from the tops of the washing machines, to the floor and out of various hampers.  Surveying the area it wasn't clear what was clean, dirty or a sedimentary layer from the Paleozoic area.  I tossed my damp clothes into the drier and stole one more look at the mayhem. I stood in the hallway viewing the carnage, mentally wagging the finger of  judgement at my friend's laundry room.

I talked about this wreck of a laundry room for weeks after the visit.  I made sweeping pronouncements to my husband that we would never, ever let our laundry situation get that far our of hand.  "I mean, we have a washer and dryer right in the house!  It couldn't be more accessible than that!  Walk three feet, toss some soap and clothes in - boom - we're done!" 

It is easy to be judgemental.   I did it more when the girls were little and I was unsure of my own strength.  I hadn't built up the self-confident parenting muscles that I have today.  I still judge though - it is a bad habit and I am cutting down.   Really.

But back then,  I was so clueless.  I had no idea the shit storm of dirty clothes that would follow with two kids.  At the time of laundry judgement Sophie was a baby.  There were barely three of us in the house. We hardly made a mess.

Cut to -  my day today and the large slice of humble pie I ate and the hulking giant of laundry that needed to be slayed.   I spent three hours this afternoon sorting, folding and washing clothes.   A small dent was made before I had to stop and pick up the girls at school.  I just came back from round two.  One more hour and I have destroyed the laundry beast.  At least this time I had a glass of wine to drink to ease the pain of the calluses that formed on my fingers from all of the folding.

 Now we have the problem that since every single piece of clothing in the house is clean - we don't have enough drawer space to fit it all.

So to my friends whose laundry room I judged - I am sorry. If you guess it is your home that I am writing about - I owe you a few rounds of drinks - and the free reign make fun of me the entire time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

As the days go by

A good friend called me this morning.  We have known each other since we were single and untethered  and luckily we embarked on this parenting journey at the same time.  We live a parallel existence, miles apart.   We talk often - we are a life raft for one another in this often overwhelming storm of mothering. 
"Give me some inspiration Stephanie!" she said.    I laughed.  I snorted.  I picked up the 409 and got to cleaning the crumbs and smears of peanut butter on my kitchen counters.  I usually clean while we talk, because I hate the drudgery of cleaning.  I talk on the phone while I clean so I can be distracted by the soul-suck of daily housework .

"Give me inspiration - Wow!"  I said, "Right now, I don't think I have any.  I am knee deep in just regular living.  We have yard work to do.  Laundry to fold.  Kid birthday parties to attend.  Everything is so...regular.  Normal.   I am not inspiring.  Not right now." 

It got me thinking about that great Talking Heads song, Once in a lifetime, that I have found myself often singing since I became a mother.  When the girls were barely two and a newborn, and I was in the endless custodial world of diapers and onsies and healing from birth I would find myself bleary eyed staggering through the house singing , "This is not my beautiful house!  This is not my beautiful wife?!"  The song got me through some low times.  I find myself turning to it again, but a new line keeps playing on repeat in my head, "You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

When did this normal existence happen?  How did I get here?

 As much as I fool myself into thinking that I am still this subversive, city dwelling twenty something, I am most certainly not.   I am a married woman with two children.  My husband and I have been together for 15 years.  We have a mortgage.  I drive a Subaru station wagon.  I belong to the frickin' PTA!  I cannot get more regular and normal than that.

 It is a mind-trick, this normal adult existence.  I carry around with the me the dorky, awkward eighth grader that I was and other times I am the girl in her 20's who rents an apartment and waitresses and I have all the time in the world to figure out who I want to be when I grow up.  Maybe I am starting to experience that time quickening phenomenon.  The cliche is true -  life speeds up.   And since forty is a reality, I know that sooner than I realize, fifty will be here.  And that is a whole other world of adulthood - there is no denying your age at that point.   I still have a threadbare safety net of youth left.  My kids are in elementary school, I can pass for thirty-nine.  But not for much longer. 

My questioning should not be confused with being unappreciative.  I am deeply grateful for our health and home and the butterflies and the financial fact that we can afford to buy organic foods and shoes when we need.  I love that the girls and I ride our bikes in the morning to school.  I love the ritual of afterschool snacks and dinners together.  And even though I could do without the housework, I love our home that Cliff and I and the girls are creating together. I have no desire to pack us all up and live off the grid in Canada.  I am happy with where I am. 

 I am simply dumbstruck with the feeling that this normal life seems to have snuck up on me.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Last week the girls and I took our annual tri-state area spring break road trip. For the past three years, I pack up the car and visit my parents in Connecticut and then fan out to various friends in the New York tri-state area.  I have close, generous friends who open up their homes to the three ring circus of the Lazenby girls. I try to be a good house guest, bringing food and wine and my own bedding. I love this trip and I want to be asked back by my friends.

 Part of my purpose of the trip - besides trying to fill a week off from school - is to expose my girls to my homeland and the people that I come from.   This corner of the Northeast is not multi-cultural  - it is very white.   I feel that it is important for the girls to get into a city and hear some noise, see people in different colors and hear forgein languages being spoken. It is a good lesson for myself too, in how to handle questions on the subway asked in a loud kid voice of - "Mommy, everyone in here has darker skin than us - do you see?" I see.  And it is true. 

 I started this trip years ago because I needed to prove to myself that I could still get a glimmer of that person I was before I had children.  I did it to prove to myself that I could be independent. Even though I was with them every moment of the day, taking a trip like this was the great duality - I was in a place where I remembered the free, childless person I was, yet, I was very responsible for these little people that were my children. 

It takes balls and planning and patience to road trip for a week with young children. Most day I have two out of the three.  We don't have video screens in the car, so we do it without movies or downloaded television shows.  The girls pack books and pencils and notebooks and with the advent of Pandora we can sing Katy Perry and Madonna for miles and miles.  I may love my dirty rock & roll, but having this girls has allowed me to indulge in my love of sugar pop music. 

This trip is important because it gives me a break from being a daily task master.  A barking sargent, hoisting them (and myself) out of bed and getting ready for school.  I feel as though I say "No" too much as a mother.  No to junky snacks, no to play dates because it is a school night, no to television.  As a mother, I am constantly monitoring, the girls and myself.  I am monitoring their manners, how much organic fruit they eat, how much sleep they get.   On these trips it is good reminder to myself that saying "YES!"  is fun for the girls - and myself.  

 Sophie shared with me her journal that she kept for our road trip.  Do you know the moments that stuck out to her for our week away?  The fact that at the aquarium she and Katie got Doritos and popcorn from the vending machine!  She thought staying up late with me and our friends to watch American Idol was "so cool!"  That although he was "wicked bummed" that she had hiccups at the Museum of Natural History it was "way awesome" that they got ice cream with sprinkles from a street vendor and they could sit on a bench and watch the people go by. 

"Yes" is a great word.  This trip really was a great reminder to use it more often in my daily life as a mother.