No Socks.

When I get overwhelmed, and sometimes I do, especially in December, my house is the first thing to go.

No, the mail. The mail is the first thing to go. It’s just a long, cold walk to the mailbox, and so I don’t go. And then there’s the dishes. We’re out of cups.
And then there’s the Christmas stuff that’s out and mostly up but still a little bit strewn about and waiting for a verdict. And the fall stuff that’s waiting to be put away.  And the 500-piece puzzle set up on my dining room table, with one fraction of the bottom border complete. It’s been out for three weeks now.  And there’s the laundry. Who can tell what’s clean and what’s not? All I know is this for sure: nobody has socks to wear.

When depression is winning, breakfast sits on the table for days.

If you are picturing an episode of Hoarders right now, then I will humbly let you, believing in my heart that I don’t really need a referral for their assistance.

I had a complete meltdown on Saturday night. Shortness of breath, shaking hands, reaching out for help.

“Tricia, what is bothering you most right now?”
“I can’t find socks.” It all came down to socks.

‘No socks’ makes me feel like things are out of control, and ‘out of control’ follows the same neuropathway every time. There’s just some kind of connection that causes this crazy rush of adrenaline and fight-or-flight response. It all goes back to watching my husband die, when I remember doing everything I could and still not saving him, when so much was out of control and gone forever. It all goes back to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And this time, it came down to socks.

I almost called to cancel my appointment with my housekeeper. Surely she wouldn’t want to step into this chaos. Who can deep clean when you can’t find flat surfaces? I mean, great day, who even cares about deep cleaning this place? Just dishes would be great. And socks.

“I’m not a housekeeper. I’m not good at this,” I toss into the great void, believing these words to be true.

A voice of wisdom says to me, via text, “So what if you’re not good at it? Is that what we’re called to be good at? Who cares about dishes in the sink, Tricia? Show me the verse where it says you have to be neat and tidy. Oh, that’s right – I’m pretty sure the Pharisees quoted it.”

A point there. Proverbs 31 can get mightily misconstrued, but there’s nothing in there about dishes and laundry, I don’t think. Not in my version. And I might not want to read your version.

I choose Mary over Martha any day.

So I didn’t cancel. Please come and help me, sweet housekeeper and fairy princess of goodness. I never professed to be good at this; if I wrote a blog on cleaning and organization, then we’d all be hard pressed to find my credibility. But this mess? Help, please.

Here’s the thing about humility: when you admit you can’t do it, sometimes somebody comes to help you.

My dishes are done. My bed is made. Socks are henceforth in the washer. And it looks like it will all be okay.

The Story of a Birthday

I went to Krispy Kreme to pick up donuts for the birthday breakfast. But Krispy Kreme had a sign on the door that said, “A key component in our machinery has broken, keeping us from making our Delicious Donuts today. We apologize the inconvenience.”

I stood there and thought, well I don’t need the Delicious ones, so how about any other variety of your donuts? Oh, you’re referring to your entire menu as Delicious Donuts. So that means the entire donut idea is shot. And this sent me to the grocery store, whose donuts pale in comparison. And believe me, I heard complaints about this two-bit second choice from the boys who were still home alone. Never mind that their mother went to two places to find chocolate glazed and maple cream sticks.

I think one of the things I miss the most are the words, “Don’t speak to your mom that way.” “Did you like your meal? Then say thank you to your mom.” “Excuse me, show some respect. Because she’s my wife.” it’s hard to demand respect without a model to show what it looks like. And there’s something about a dad’s voice. Just something.

And it’s a birthday.  Can’t we all just get along for the sake of the fact that I was seriously uncomfortable eight years ago right now??  Epidurals for everyone, I say.

I don’t know why we can’t get out the door for school. But it makes me crazy. And when it was time to go, one child was still in his pajamas, no shoes or socks on. I seriously picked him up and carried him to the car. Told him to figure out a way to get dressed with his seatbelt on. I grabbed crocs on my way out the door, which he protested because he had PE today and wouldn’t be able to participate since he didn’t have the right shoes on.

I said, “Well, you had a whole hour, kiddo. A whole hour to find the right footwear. When the gym teacher asks today why you wore the wrong shoes, don’t you DARE tell him that your mom made you wear those, wouldn’t find the right ones, or anything else that makes it sound like your irresponsibility is my fault.”

I want to enjoy these children. With all of my heart, I want to.

I did the birthday shopping this afternoon, at a place that will wrap them for me. I used to wrap gifts – quite beautifully, actually. But that has gone by the wayside along with a million other things I used to do well – like grocery shop and plan a menu and cook.

Anyway, I chose airplanes, a collection of football figures, Legos, a couple of small games that I always think I’ll play with them when I buy them, and a kit to build your own robots.
The box promised ‘easy assembly.’ You’d think I would have learned by now.

I have to say: following directions and putting things together is a huge trigger for me. I can just feel the anxiety building. It’s not that that’s a man’s job, it’s just that it wasn’t my job. Robb thought like an engineer, and things like this were so fascinating to him. Now I’m learning words like ‘motor space’ and ‘chassis’ and ‘locate a small screwdriver before you begin.’ Where the stink is this small screwdriver? And on which freaking blessed side does the chassis go?

I tried. I read the directions, I studied the pictures, and Tucker, bless his heart, was so patient. I finally set it all down and said, “I’m sorry, buddy. I can’t do this. I’m sorry that I can’t.” He put his hands on my shoulder and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. Really.”

It’s just not, though, buddy. It’s not. It’s your big birthday gift and you can’t play with it.

Thankfully I came through with three Wii games, and he didn’t even mind that I hadn’t wrapped them. Those are distracting everyone until I can find that little blessing of a screwdriver.

Now I have a dog who is marking his territory in about 14 places in my house, and he’s humping anything that will stand still. Seriously. He reminds me of these boys who are sneaking peeks at your girls’ backsides. Can’t get him neutered fast enough.

Perhaps in another land, far, far away, maybe even in a parallel universe, it would not make a difference in my son’s first grade memories if I did not make an appearance at his field trip today. At a farm. In the rain.

Sometimes, it feels like the systems in my life are too many to change.  Like turning a massive ship with a small rudder.  My sweet friend reminded me this morning: “It’s a large marble slab, and you’ve been given a chisel.  It takes a lot of slow, careful chipping away before it’s finished.  But underneath is a masterpiece.”

Banking on that.  And breaking my nails as I chisel my fingers to the bone.

Love,
Grumpy Face

 

“People need spoons.”

I was on the phone with Laurelyn. (You know how I love Laurelyn.)

I sat at the top of the stairs in my jammies, since that’s been my talk-on-the-phone spot in every home I’ve lived in since age 11, when I first remember finding any interest in the phone.

The boys came in and out, in and out, in and out. Tuck was perpetually annoyed that I was still on the phone instead of serving him dessert, and he finally brought me a half gallon of ice cream and asked me to take off the lid. He resolved to solve this problem on his own. I applaud this.

A few more trips in and out, now with a grocery bag. And then he passed by with my silverware drawer in his hands.

The whole drawer.

I put Laurelyn on hold for just a moment.  “Tuck?? What are you doing with the silverware?”

“Mommy. People need spoons.”

One of the primary values in our home is hospitality, and I’m teaching the boys that everything we have is for sharing. The cupboards are open to them as long as they are sharing with their friends, and there’s nothing we have that we love too much to give away. There is always more where that came from, and when you’re not sure, give it away.

I think the boys have accepted this value, perhaps even internalized it. Every night, they share snacks with their friends – a bag of Doritos, a box of CapriSun drink boxes, a dozen popsicles.

Tonight they hosted an ice cream party on our front porch.

A dozen children were in my front yard, ranging from first grade to eleventh, and ice cream shrapnel was scattered all around. Three tubs of ice cream, one vanilla and two mint chocolate chip, all the sprinkles from the baking cupboard, an array of plastic plates and cups, and of course, my silverware drawer.

Five teenagers sat on the front porch, in rocking chairs and on the ground, texting and laughing and telling their summertime sagas. Girls were braiding hair. Boys were shooting hoops. And everyone was eating ice cream.

There was laughter. There was community. And in the middle of it all was the pile of books I’d been reading when Laurelyn called. Move your feet, lose your seat.

“Hey, everybody, looks like quite a party out here!”
“Hi, Tucker and Tyler’s mom! Thanks for the ice cream!”
“You bet, guys. I’ll stay stocked all summer. You’re welcome here anytime.”

At 9:47 pm, I called my two children inside. And I’d just like to say that I think 9:47 is entirely generous for a six- and seven-year-old. But they were the hosts of the party, and everyone knows the host can’t leave early. That hospitality rule comes shortly after the first: Always have enough for everyone.

Right now, the boys are tucked in, I’m sitting in my bed, and the party continues. I told them they can stay as late as they want, whenever they want. I’ll leave the porch light on.

I said, “Good night, everybody. You’re my favorite.”

One of the girls said, “I’m writing that in my journal tonight.”
Another said, “It’s going on my FB wall.”

A Costco membership is a small price to pay for my children’s favor among their friends. And as an aside, there is community, friendship, and love. And sprinkles.

On my front porch.

Pancake Ice Cubes

Right now, the boys are making cupcakes.

Actually, they are doing an experiment with pancake mix, water, Gogurt, and sprinkles. Oh, and this just in: lemon juice and lime juice, both brand new in the refrigerator, each opened by the power of my Grandma’s antique nut cracker.

Don’t think Christmas figurine with a beard. Think large tweezers to use backwards.

I like to think I keep extra things on hand for such experiments, but the truth is, I think I just buy more than we need, so there are naturally leftovers (or items yet unopened) that lend themselves to ‘experiments.’

I’ve learned to say yes to these experiments, since a dozen eggs cost about a dollar, and if I don’t provide the ingredients, they’ll go looking for them under the kitchen sink. And their ingredients will have the phone number for poison control written across the bottle.

So, gentlemen, have your fill with the edible ingredients. Right now, since I declined their request to put their creation in the oven, they have instead opted for the freezer. Also an optimal place for science observation. They tell me the goal is pancake ice cubes.

I just overhead debate about mustard, is it a liquid or a solid.

I hear Tyler speaking like a surgeon to his assitant. “Towel. Napkin. Scalpel.”

There is only one rule: Clean it up. Usually, they overlook many steps in this process. If I go in there to find yogurt and pancake mix caked on my floor, so help me.

They bound onto the deck, now holding Windex and dish towels. “Mommy, while you’re sitting out here doing nothing, we’re going to do some work for you. You’ll be so proud of us. We’re going to start with your bathroom.”

And the pendulum swings. But don’t let them fool you: it’s not really about serving mommy. It’s just about moving the science experiments to the bathroom.

While I’m sitting out here doing nothing.

Home.

“Boys, we are visiting our new home today for the very first time.”

“Not for you.  It’s not the first time for you.”

“True.  I’ve seen it … a few times now.”  And I didn’t take you with me because I hoarded those glorious moments of discovery for myself.  “Here’s what I want you to remember while we walk through the house.  Two rules: 1. Stay with me.  Be in the room I am in.  I want to show you everything, because this is the house you will grow up in and that matters a lot to me.”

“We will grow up in this house?”  I know you think you’re already grown up.  But we do have a few years left.

“And 2. This is not our home yet.  Another family lives there.  So there will be no running, racing, sliding on the floors, or damaging anything.”

“Right, because it’s not our house yet.”  Actually, that rule will remain consistent even after this day.

They were enthralled.

“Look at the yard!!  Look at the yard!!”

“Look at the cat!  She’s so friendly.  He’s so friendly.  Do you think it’s a he or a she?”

“This is my room?  My room?  Don’t change anything!  I love this color!”

“Mommy, this is your shower?  I’ll sneak in and not give you privacy.”  No, because Home Depot and I are going to rememdy that situation of the transparent doors.

“The cat came into this room too!  Look how he’s allowed up on the kitchen table.”

“Guys, just leave the cat alone.  This is his – her – its house.”

“Look at this closet in the basement!  It’s like the movie Annie.  There’s shoeboxes everywhere and the light turns on with a string!”

“Don’t touch me.  I touched the cat.”

“The cat doesn’t stay, gentlemen.”

“Mommy!  This is your office!  And sometimes you can put toys in here whenever we are allowed to come in here with you.” Sometimes, I suppose I could.

“Let’s put our rocking chairs on the front porch!  No, the back porch!  That’s where we’ll sit and talk, Mommy.  Every Sunday. You and me.  Just you and me.  Not him.  It will be like a date.  Just us.”

“Here’s the pantry, boys.  Look at these shelves that pull out.  Where do you think we should put the cereal so you can help yourselves in the morning?”  We each pointed to a different shelf.  I’ll trump that one when the time comes.

“Look at this computer!”
“It doesn’t stay, guys.  Only the permanent things will stay here for us.  So if you can pick it up, don’t pick it up.  Cause it’s not ours.”

“Where do you think the cat is?”
“Could we please stop perseverating on the cat?”

“Boys, this will be your bathroom.  But I have to warn you: there’s a pair of little girls’ underwear on the floor.”  (The owners let us come for 30 minutes today, but they very much still live there.  And their little girls still use that bathroom.  I play this up intentionally.  Because what could be funnier?  Plus, it’s better than the fixation on the freaking cat.)  “But you will never do that, will you?  You guys don’t ever leave underwear on the floor, do you?”

“Yes.  Yes, we do.  And we will.”

They chose their places at the dinner table.  They helped me decide where the piano will go.  And they raced down the stairs like they were in burlap sacks on a slide at a carnival.  So, there’s that.

(I might have to give in on that.  It’s just too great.)

I’ll always remember this day.  When each boy graduates from high school and leaves for college, I will look back on this day: when he walked into his new home, eyes wide with contagious happiness.

And how he slid down the stairs in his jeans.

***

20130212-123824.jpgSettle down, it will all be clear.
Don’t pay no mind to the demons –
they fill you with fear.
The trouble, it might drag you down,
if you get lost you can always be found.
Just know you’re not alone,
‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.

~ Phillip Phillips, Home