OK, so, I'm not really sure why, but last week was a bad one for me. Like---full-of-grumpiness bad, like lost-my-temper-way-too-often bad. So I just laid low and didn't post on my blog, because hello? Who knows what might have come out. Instead, a week-in-review kind of post about the random people who made last week a titch less bad:
The woman behind me in the line at Walmart. Would someone PLEASE tell my why Walmart has 89 check out lines but only three or four are open at the same time? And WHY, when the lines get longer and longer, can't they pull some cashiers from the break room to help out? This is why I do as much of my shopping at Target and my favorite local grocery store as I can, but sometimes Walmart can't be avoided, as was the case last week when I was pinching my pennies. (This week, too, come to think of it. Dang.) So, it's getting dangerously close to nap time for Kaleb when I finally made my way up to the front, found the "shortest" line (I was the FIFTH person in line), and started waiting. Then, disaster: Kaleb spotted that damned arcade/put-in-two-quarters-for-a-ride-with-Barney place, and it was all over. He wanted IN THERE. So there I am, sans any helpful Bigs (they all wanted to stay home, scarred, no doubt, by Grouchy Mama and not wanting to spend any more time with her than possible, especially in Walmart), holding a screaming, squealing, and squirming two-year-old over my shoulder. Not losing my patience. Just pretending I was somewhere else. Somewhere more pleasant, like the mental ward. I'm certain that every one of the 59 people waiting in line with me are thinking "geez, lady, can't you shut that kid up?" and I'm thinking back to them, "why, no, I can't, as he is the world's most stubborn two-year-old." I finally make it to a spot where I can start putting my groceries onto the belt, still holding said squirming (and still-screaming) two-year-old, and the lady behind me said, "here, why don't you let me help you?" and then she helped me unload all of my groceries. Seriously---I started bawling right there in the checkout stand, taking yogurt and cereal and grapes out of my cart. Bless her.
My amazing pediatrician. So. All of a sudden, Kendell has a yen. A random, who-knows-where-it-came-from yen: let's buy a four-wheeler. Umm, OK, are we forgetting that penny-pinching thing? Anyway. He's gone a few times with some friends, but decided that we needed to experience the four wheelers as a family. Apparently forgetting this little tidbit: in our family, without exception since the time Haley was two, every two years someone's needed stitches or broken something, and as it has been two years since our last stitches experience? Oh, and the broken-arm-and-chipped-front-tooth experience? Wouldn't it be a wise thing to avoid dangerous things like four wheelers? Wise is apparently not in our vocabulary. So, we head out to the sand dunes with some friends. We rented a cute little four wheeler for the kids to ride. And not ten minutes after Haley had gotten on and started learning how to ride it, she went down a little hill, got scared and forgot the brake, and drove right into a tree. At least now we've fulfilled our every-two-years stitches contract. Since we'd just gotten there, we decided that everyone else would stay and I would drive her in for stitches. And since I couldn't bear to fork over the $100 ER co-pay our insurance has so lovingly graced us with, I had to drive all the way back home. An hour and a half trip, one way. But my amazing pediatrician? Well, he squeezed us in. He took about three minutes to stitch up her forehead, without anything hurting, and sent us on our way. And he never made me feel guilty for being the idiot mother who let her daughter get on that cute little four-wheeler without a helmet. Why must I continue to learn lessons the hard way?
The flirty guy at Taco Bell. I think we have the world's slowest Taco Bell. Seriously. I've waited in the drive-through line for 45 minutes before. (When you need a cheesy gordita crunch not for its nutritional value---does it have any?---but because it just makes you happy, you go to extreme, desperate measures.) But when I picked up a quick dinner on Friday, there was no one in line but me. When the boy at the window asked if I wanted any sauce, I answered with my customary "Fire, please." And he said, "Whoa! A chick like you likes fire sauce?" and he continued on, smiling and making jokes and then I realized: he is trying to flirt with me. WHAT is up with that? Who does that? Who flirts with a thirty-something in a minivan, wearing a ponytail and pajamas at 6:30 on a Friday night? (See why I can't just go into the restaurant when that line's so long?) Apparently this boy. I didn't flirt back (I think I've forgotten how) but I did giggle all the way home.
OK then. I thought this would be a short little entry, but apparently not. Now that you're all caught up on last week...let this one begin. But wait, really quick: who forgot to tell me that the 4th of July is next week?
This morning, my kids and I all walked over to the park. It's supposed to be hot today, in the 90s, so I thought we'd get our fun in early. The kids laughed, swung on the swings, had races around the jungle gym and shoe-hurling contests (in which they got swinging as high as they could go and then, in turn, flung a shoe off to see whose could go the fastest or the farthest; this only lasted for a few minutes until other people besides us came to the park, but they were giggling and cheering each other on like I couldn't believe). It wasn't hot yet, and the canyon breeze was still rustling the trees. I purposefully didn't take my camera. I didn't want to observe, I wanted to be in the mix, laughing with them.
So I crossed the monkey bars as many times as my poor triceps could deal with it. I helped Kaleb climb to the very tallest slides and then slid down after him. I timed their jungle-gym races. And I took a turn on the swings, too. I think one of the great things about being a mom is that you get the chance to act like a kid again. Why else would a thirty-something women be swinging on a lovely June morning. And here's what I remembered today: swinging is a blissful thing. Kids are lucky they get to do it every day, watching the blue sky move toward you and then fall away, feeling that little stomach-thrill on your way down, catching the breeze in your hair. I found myself giggling along with them. Along with the rush of wind, a whole burst of memories came rushing back to me, like how the swings were always a refuge to my shy little fifth-grade self, or the day in third grade when Rolo Smith fell off the swing at the top of his arch and the ambulance came, or the little city park we used to go to, the one with tire swings. The kids thought it was great that I was swinging with them and challenged me to go as high as they could. It really was a perfect summer morning for all of us.
So here's my challenge to you: some time this week, take your kids to a park. If you don't have kids, take your spouse. Or go by yourself. But go! Reintroduce yourself to your childhood self. Go swing! I promise you'll smile for the rest of the day.
One day last week, my kids and I all took a walk after dinner. (I'm trying to work this into our daily routine.) The Bigs rode their scooters, and when we were on our way home, Jake asked me why it's easier to push with his left foot, since he writes with his right hand and kicks the soccer ball with his right foot. Honestly, I wasn't quite sure, but the next day in my Pilates class, the instructor mentioned the fact that most people's right legs are stronger than their left. I thought about that in connection with Jake's question and realized this: it takes more muscles to balance yourself than it does to make yourself go.
Maybe this struck me as something significant just because I'm struggling to find a balance in my life. It seems like I am constantly giving attention to one certain thing or person, and not enough to everyone else. That I'm successful at doing one task but fail at getting all the other things done I should be doing. I manage to spend some time on writing but then I feel like I'm not giving enough time to my kids---or vice versa. Even a regularly-scheduled day (which to me seems like the epitome of good balance) seems to be beyond my ability. I look around and see other people who have seemingly achieved balance---their houses are always clean, their kids have legible handwriting and don't constantly squabble with each other, they exercise every day and still have time to wash their cars once a week and squirt the garbage can out after the truck stops by.
Of course, I'm certain that no one really ever achieves a perfect balance. Maybe the trying is the point? But I am comforted a bit by something I shared in church today. I taught a lesson on provident living---which is, in a nutshell, making sure to live our lives not just in the now but also by planning for the future. Provident living, our prophet Spencer W. Kimball said, "is a way of life, not a sudden, spectacular program." I think that applies to finding balance, too. It's not a sudden thing, but a progression. And while lately I feel I've been going backwards instead of moving forward in my quest to find balance---maybe if I keep trying, my muscles will grow stronger?
Ever since we got home from our vacation, I've been thinking about Las Vegas. When I was a kid, we went there every summer. We always stayed at the Landmark hotel/casino. Mostly we swam (I still have dreams about that very pool) and shopped. We'd walk through the casinos (I was always terrified that some police officer or security guard would yell at me if I stopped walking, so I never stopped moving), collecting matchbooks (in the pre-smoking-laws days!) and those cups they used to have everywhere for people to put quarters in, both emblazoned with the hotel's logo. We went to the bar at the top of the hotel and had shirley temples to drink. For breakfast we'd go to the Stardust buffet, where Becky and I would drink the coffee creamers. My dad would play a Keno ticket and let each of us girls pick a number---I think we won one time. We'd go to Circus Circus and play the games upstairs while our parents gambled downstairs---and we never won anything.
For me, it's significant that nearly all the casinos I remember from those childhood Vegas trips have been imploded---I think only Circus Circus and the Tropicana are left. It's a symbol of how today's Vegas is definitely not what it was twenty-five years ago. When we stopped there last month, I'd not been to Vegas for three years. I'd heard that it wasn't family-friendly anymore---I watch C.S.I., of course! I knew the new "What Happens in Vegas..." slogan. But honestly, I was so not prepared for just how truthful those things are. It's definitely not a family destination any longer.
Of course, I remember seeing those people on the Strip, passing out the brochures and fliers with the scanty panty girls. There were a few billboards with showgirls on them. I know it's always been sin city. And honestly, it's hard to shock me. But the amount and the intensity of the skin everywhere in Vegas---well, it managed to shock me. Mostly because my kids' eyes were constantly surprised. I think I've taught them to be fairly observant, so they didn't overlook the giant posters advertising nudie shows and erotica. They saw it and it made them uncomfortable. Which sounds preachy of me, I guess. It's not so much that it exists, but just that I don't want them to see it all.
So here's my new opinion of Vegas. (I should add that by "Vegas" I mean the tourist part of Vegas; I know lots of people who live there and love the non-touristy parts.) I think it's like Disneyland for adults. Is there any other city you can think of that you visit JUST to go to the tourist part? If you go anywhere else, you mingle more with people who live there. New Yorkers see the Statue of Liberty every day, right; San Franciscans cross the Golden Gate Bridge during their commutes. But no one lives on the strip. It's a strange community of tourists. And it is definitely for adults, with adult pleasures around every corner. (Although, turning the corner to the lion habitat at the MGM Grand was a great moment for my three Bigs.) The Vegas of my memory has imploded and is now just dust.
The last year I taught high school, I had four pregnant teenagers as students. (Side Note: There were also four other teachers who were pregnant, so I was surrounded by all these girls/women pregnant with their first babies, who all had cute little bellies, and there I am, Mother-Earth-like, pregnant with my fourth and simply ENORMOUS, which was just embarrassing.) None of them ever asked for my advice, and I didn't feel like I could just offer it up unrequested. But as I listened to them talk about preparing for their babies---prenatal classes and baby showers and shopping excursions to BabyGap---what I wanted to tell them is this: you think you're having a baby, but you're not. You're having a person. The baby thing is fun, but it's a small, fast time in their lives.
I wouldn't have meant that in a judgmental way; I wasn't judging them. More than anything, I was saying it to myself, too, because Kaleb was the baby I most yearned for. The one who I got because I wasn't just baby hungry, I was baby starving. In the years before I got pregnant with him, I'd find myself standing in the baby section at the Gap, trying not to cry; I'd stare at pregnant women like some sort of creepy stalker. I wanted a baby so badly. Once I finally got pregnant, though, it was a complex one. Not medically but emotionally. I had to relearn all over again: he wasn't just a baby, he was a person.
These memories have been in my thoughts this week because yesterday Kaleb turned two. I can feel now how, all emotional complexities aside, he really did feed my baby starvation. I don't cry in Baby Gap anymore and pregnant women are safe from my stares. But I don't know that I'll ever stop missingbabies. To me, babies are one of life's best things, and if I could always have one, I would. I look at Kaleb and I can't imagine how those two years have flown past so quickly; he is definitely growing up. I find myself holding on to whatever baby things he does---dare I admit out loud that he still has a bottle before his nap and bedtime? And that I hate getting his hair cut and so put it off until he starts looking a little girlish? And that I savor his multiple mispronunciations because he doesn't sound grown up yet? Honestly, I don't want him to grow up. I'd like to keep him little for forever. Maybe he doesn't want to grow up, either, because he refuses to say his name. (He is a stubborn one, Kaleb. There is no convincing him to do anything he doesn't want to do.) If you ask him what his name is, he always replies with "Baby." And while I'll keep calling him by his name, of course, and coaching him on how to say it, I am loving this reply. After all, he's my youngest; he'll always be the baby, right?
Here's a photo of him last night, blowing out his candle. We got to the last "happy" of the birthday song and he blew the candle out, so we finished singing in the dark. Kendell had the idea of turning out all the lights, and while it means I didn't get very good pictures, it was perfect. Kaleb was absolutely entranced at everyone standing around and singing to him.
OK, so, if you know my scrapbooking style at all, you know I tend to write a lot of journaling---a lot. But lately I've been a bit obsessed with a sort of sparsity of words, of packing as much meaning into as few words as possible. It's sort of like writing poetry, only with more freedom and connections. Or like prose poems. [Completely unrelated side note: there's a quiz on that link to help you discover if you're an Emo or not; made me giggle a bit as sitting at a computer taking an on line quiz seems totally non-emo to me in the first place!]
And that's just what my new class at Big Picture, Write Now!, is about---how to write good, strong journaling that's also quick. I am excited for the class to start---it begins on Thursday---because I hope it will help more people want to journal. So many people seem to think that journaling takes too long, but it doesn't really have to. Don't get me wrong, I still do layouts with lots of journaling. But I'm starting to see more clearly, now, which photos demand a lot of words, and which want just a few really good words.