Raise A Child in 30 Years or Less

“Play That Funky Music White Boy!” (Me & Wild Cherry)

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It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose. There was undoubtedly going to be a point at which My Wedding Vision clashed with that of the Bride’s.

Naturally I hoped it would be over some minor detail; a wrinkle we could iron right out. I certainly wasn’t anticipating a conflict of such EPIC PROPORTIONS. According to some recent alarming remarks from Her Brideliness, it appears as though we don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on what constitutes excellent dance music…

As every wedding guest knows, the dance music is vitally essential to establishing the vibe of the entire affair. As such, on our RSVP cards, we queried our guests as to “which song is most likely to get you on the dance floor.” Just to be clear, I know EXACTLY which songs get ME on the dance floor, I just thought it’d be a nice touch, gracious and “hostessy” to sprinkle a few other songs into the Wedding Mix. You know,  songs other people like.

The response cards have been rolling in to the mailbox for the past few weeks. As expected, all the song suggestions prompted a conversation about our upcoming meeting with the DJ to construct the dance song list, which elicited this comment from Emilie:

“There are a few songs that I definitely don’t want played under any circumstances at the wedding!”

I  nod my head vigorously in agreement, assuming that Mother and Daughter were on the exact same page about some of the ridiculous songs out there that we definitely don’t want the DJ to play. I could only imagine which songs from my personal list of “TOP 10 MOST ANNOYING DANCE SONGS EVER” we would jointly agree to ban.

Instead, she irreverently references music from my catalog of “TOP 10 BEST DANCE SONGS EVER WRITTEN.” She goes on to say: “I don’t know their titles exactly, but one is something about a Brick House and there’s another one where a white guy is encouraged to play funky music!”

Instantly alarmed, I looked immediately over at Jimmy, who is not necessarily invested in dance music, but thoroughly  invested in me.  

There simply aren’t words to express the Joy-Vacuum that I will experience if these songs are unjustly boycotted from our wedding. Most of them are more than just songs, they are the ANTHEMS of an entire generation.

For example, every woman my age, give or take 10 years either direction, genuinely believes in her heart-of-hearts, that SHE herself, is in fact the aforementioned BRICK HOUSE. Maybe she doesn’t exhibit this behavior in her everyday life, but you can sure tell she embraces it when she dances. When she is out on the floor, she is “36-24-36,” the “winning hand,” most especially when she “shakes it down, shakes it down now.”

Impervious to my reaction and the depths of my despair, Emilie turns to Father-of-the-Bride and twists the proverbial knife:

“I’ll never forget all those eternally long road trips when Mom would crank up the radio and torture us kids for hours with her dance moves from behind the steering wheel.”

Apparently, all those years I thought I was making sweet memories, I was actually torturing my own children. Plus, isn’t “torture” a strong word?

I have a week before we meet with the DJ. I’m currently thinking of a few ways to Bribe-the-Bride. This isn’t just about ME, I’m equally concerned about all my Brick House friends, who will be sorely disappointed if they don’t get to “lay down their boogie” next month.

“Return To Sender” – (Me And Elvis)

Text from me to Emilie right after I mailed wedding invitations

Text from me to Emilie right after I mailed wedding invitations

As we get closer to our wedding date, people have started greeting me by asking, “How’s the wedding planning going?” My usual quippy response is, “I’ll tell you the day after it’s over!” I say that because I have been naively assuming that any WEDDING BLUNDERS I might possibly encounter, or be currently in the process of committing, would not be revealed to me until the actual wedding day itself.  I was a bit wrong.

Last week, after my little Bride spent the better part of a month painstakingly addressing invitations in her best Catholic-school-girl penmanship, I insisted on taking them home, so that I could give them a “once-over” and have the final say in Quality Control. I was not going to take any chances with these babies, as they were handmade in the UK, by tiny little English ladies. I found their company on Pinterest and ordered them post haste, (pun intended.) I don’t know if they have a little invitation factory there in Great Britain, but I rather preferred to picture them sitting around a kitchen table in their little cottage in Somewhere-upon-Somewhereshire gluing the ribbon and adhering the little embellishments.

I could not have been more pleased when I saw the finished product, squealing in delight. When the Father-of-the-Bride feasted his eyes on my little jewels, his first words were:

A. “Honey those are Divine!”
B. “Can I help you address them?”
Or
C. “Dear God, how much did those set me back?”

If you answered “C,” thank you for being a loyal reader of my blog.

The truth is, I couldn’t answer his question about how much they cost, because I paid for them in British Pounds. So, I don’t quite know, but it’s safe to say that they were a pretty pence. Which explains how relieved I was last week, when I finally handed 250 of them into the ever-so-capable hands of the United States Postal Service.

So imagine, if you will, the scene in my home the very next morning, when Jimmy walked into the house carrying an enormous  bin marked, “Property of the USPS” brimming over with my invitations…

I was sitting there working on my Wedding To-Do list (now that the invites were securely mailed out) and struggled mightily to process his words to me, “The best way to do this is just rip the proverbial Band-aid off quickly, so…here are your invitations back, it looks like they need more stamps!”

It seems the United States Postal Service took issue with the unorthodox shape (square?) of my English Envelopes. They RUDELY defaced most of them with large red rubber-stamping that screamed “ADDITIONAL POSTAGE DUE!” which necessitated the ordering of 130 additional un-American envelopes overnighted from Great Britain so we could re-address, re-afix proper postage and re-mail. That set us back a few more pence.

The following day, I received a ransom note from my local Post Office, saying that another 60 or so invites had been confiscated and were being held hostage there. I was welcome to drive over at my earliest convenience and negotiate their release, at 44 cents apiece.

As fortune would have it, things actually managed to go downhill from there, when word started trickling in that various members of the Groom’s family had received summons’ to report to their local Post Office to pay a small fine for the privilege of picking up their invitations…

It’s been almost a week since the debacle and I’ve spent almost every minute chasing down invitations, but I think we have recovered MOST of them. I was thinking about wearing a money-changer belt around my waist at the wedding so I could reimburse my Guests, but I’m concerned that between that and my Spanx, I won’t be able to breathe. Instead, I think I’ll just put out a jar full of change, with a sign instructing guests to reimburse themselves, HONOR SYSTEM style. Much classier…

Speaking of classy, I’ve decided that Mollie and Gracie’s invites will definitely be “Made in the USA.”  I’ll probably just buy them at Walmart!

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“Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon” (Me and Boy George)

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Remember those compromising videos that you allowed people to take of you when you were younger?

Videos you would be mortified today, for your friends to watch…

You know the ones I’m talking about…

There’s a video of that nature floating around this house somewhere, that caused me to flinch in embarrassment every time I was forced to watch it.

It’s the video of my first few hours of motherhood. The cameras were rolling 24/7 the day Emilie was born. An hour or so after my firstborn was conceived, My parents couldn’t beat a path to Best Buy fast enough to purchase a large and cumbersome Panasonic Video Camera. They diligently toted this contraption around for many years documenting every moment of Emilie’s life, beginning with the day she was born. (Regrettably, these videos didn’t disappear in 10 seconds like today’s Snap Chat. Our generation had to wait years for VCRs to become obsolete and erase the evidence of our youthful folly.)

There are several unsettling things about this video, starting with the fact that I exhibit the composure and maturity of a 12 year old. The most cringe-worthy scene is when my Mom picks up one of those pacifiers that the hospital provides and coaxes it into Emilie’s tiny little rosebud mouth. The camera pans to me, as I screech and lunge off the hospital bed announcing with plucky self-import:

First-Time-Mom: “Don’t put that thing in her mouth! We certainly aren’t going to be starting anything like that!”

First-Time-Grandma: (tossing pacifier aside and dragging out her syllables) “Ooookie-Doookie!”

It’s painfully obvious that I had done my research and knew everything about the “shoulds” and the “shouldn’ts” of parenting my newborn. Apparently, I bought into some crap I’d read about “Self-Soothing.” (If self-soothing was really a thing, therapists and Ambien wouldn’t be thriving like they are today.) But, it’s good to know I had a rigid Maternal Compass that first day.

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Fast-forward a few years later, and a few years after that, and a few years after that and a few years after that. Ironically, there’s no footage of me in FULL BLOOM as a mother, largely because no one cared to film it anymore. But, if there had been, it would’ve depicted me attempting in vain to coerce all 4 of my subsequent offspring to suck a pacifier. I tried every trick in the book from brushing the nipple gently around the baby’s lips to dipping the damn thing in Karo syrup, to dredging the Karo in granulated sugar (like I was rimming a martini glass, instead of a plastic nipple). All of my efforts were in vain, as not one of my belligerent and willful children ever took a pacifier despite my efforts. Karma had the last laugh. They say she is quite the Bitch.

I’m not exactly sure when I did an about-face, cashing in my high standards for peace, sanity and convenience, but it was definitely chameleon-esque. Someone managed to snap a picture of me sharing my Margarita with Baby Emilie at a Mexican Food restaurant a few months before her first birthday. (She was teething and I thought something icy and numbing on her gums would help, or possibly a little Baby-Buzz would knock the horns off?)

"Everyday is like survival" (Boy George - 1983)

“Everyday is like survival”
(Boy George – 1983)

The important lesson here, of course, is that the woman who managed to raise YOU, undoubtedly knows more than anything you’ll ever read in a book. I’m glad we got this all sorted out before my kids have kids and I’m a Grandma. In fact, the more I think about it, the word “Karma” sounds remarkably a lot like the word “Grandma.”

Maybe I’ll have my grandchildren call me that….

 

“I Ain’t No Fortunate Son” (My Boys and Creedence Clearwater Revival)

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A Spring Break letter to my Sons:

Dear Boys,

It blows my mind how many of your friends are on glamorous, luxury vacations this week. I apologize for not believing you, when you said, EVERYONE you knew was leaving town for Spring Break.

I really didn’t believe it was literally EVERYONE. But, it is…

I realized you weren’t exaggerating on Sunday, when we arrived late for Mass and the church was so empty that we still had our pick of the pews. I was completely convinced when there was zero wait time for a table at the restaurant afterwards. Later, last night, when I was casually skimming Facebook, I was inundated with even more evidence. There were hundreds of pictures of your friends hitting the slopes and the crystal white beaches of Mexico and the Caribbean. (I bet it’s hard to convince yourselves that your friends are laying around their houses, as bored as you are, when you are drowning in social media to the contrary).

So, you were right, apparently we do have the Great State of Oklahoma all to ourselves!

I know that you’re growing weary of hearing this, but, when Dad and I were growing up, things were way different. Of course, you know all about the ’70s because you have watched every episode of, “That ’70s Show,” but there’s a few things the show didn’t cover…

For starters, we didn’t have Spring Break in the ’70s. Spring Break, like many other questionable social ills, was born on the college campuses of this great country. Every year the media would cover thousands of college students flocking to the beaches of Fort Lauderdale and Daytona for Spring Break. But, grade schoolers and high schoolers stayed at their desks for the most part. We had a few days off around Easter, commonly referred to as Easter Vacation. We dyed eggs and spent hours hiding and finding them in our backyards for entertainment. This cost our parents less than $2.

But the most important thing we really wanted you to understand, when you innocently asked us last week,

“Where are we going for Spring Break?”

…is that, in the 70s, if we did have a day or more vacation from school, the last thing in the world we were going to do was advertise it to our parents!

Why – You ask? Because, our parents weren’t going to go skedaddle to a travel website to plan a luxury vacation for us. They were going to send us to fetch a pen and paper, so that they could make a list of things that needed to be done around the house. Our parents were delighted when we had days off from school so we could:
reorganize the attic
pull weeds
clean out the garage
and paint the house

I’m not going to go so far as to say, children were “a blessing” when we were growing up, (as in our grandparent’s generation when they genuinely needed more hands to work the fields) but, our parents were definitely not above using their children as Indentured Servants.

If my siblings and I thought we could pull it off, we would set our alarms on vacation days, get up early, get dressed and leave the house, hoping our parents would think we actually HAD school. Bottom line- We just weren’t as “in our parents faces” back then. We avoided them as much as possible. This is a concept that your generation isn’t familiar with; we called it, “making ourselves scarce”. It worked well for all concerned parties.

But, back to you- Please don’t think it didn’t make us feel super un-cool, remorseful and negligent when we saw your disappointed faces. We failed to plan and planned to fail, as they say. Nevertheless, it’s not too late to salvage your Spring Break! In an effort to make it up to you, we proudly announce:

THE TWO-FOR-ONE GRANDMA TOUR 2015!!!

That’s right guys, you are going on an all-expenses-paid Road Trip to visit, not one, but BOTH of your grandmothers!! Get your i-phones handy,  you’ll want to post tons of pictures, as we drive you all over our old “stomping grounds” reminiscing and pointing out places of interest, such as our high schools, Tiger Stadium, where we went to make-out and many other exciting locales. We will sing songs and share our favorite memories, as you sit captive and captivated in the back seat.

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We were able to pull this entire trip together at the very last minute, largely because we didn’t need advance reservations and the ladies aren’t charging us a dime for lodging.

Start packing! And be grateful we don’t think you can distinguish between a flower and a weed and we don’t trust you anywhere near our house with a paintbrush!

Love,
The Mom Who Saved Spring Break

The last time we trusted James to paint the house...

The last time we trusted James to paint the house…

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want, You Get What You Need” – (A Stocking Stuffer Strategy By Mom and Mick Jagger)

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want, You Get What You Need” – (A Stocking Stuffer Strategy By Mom and Mick Jagger).

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want, You Get What You Need” – (A Stocking Stuffer Strategy By Mom and Mick Jagger)

The stockings were filled by the chimney with care, in hopes that my phone charger still would be there!

The stockings were filled by the chimney with care, in hopes that my phone charger still would be there!

Sounds like the majority of the Moms I’ve talked to have completed their Christmas shopping, for the most part.

“I just have to pick up some stocking stuffers and I’m all done!” boasted one of my friends.

Not to be the voice of negativity, but that’s a more daunting chore than it sounds like… I’m pretty sure the tradition of stuffing stockings originated years ago, back in the Mother Country, when the only thing children received from Father Christmas, was a small (human-sized) sock filled with a few walnuts, an orange, a corn husk doll and a schilling or two. Nowadays, our kids get so darn much for Christmas, I’m actually bitter about stuffing their stockings. Not to mention, I can ill-afford this task, as the stocking stuffers usually cost more than the Christmas gifts…

So this year, I’m thinking that, since I probably can’t shirk my parental obligation to fill these obnoxious, oversized socks, (fit for a Clydesdale) the least I can do is make MY life a little easier with a strategic selection of fillers. This year, I’m going with the following theme for my stocking stuffers:

“CRAP Y’ALL BORROW OR STEAL FROM ME AND DAD THROUGHOUT THE YEAR”

PHONE CHARGERS: I know in advance, that I’m going to crawl exhausted into bed many a night in 2015, reach behind my nightstand for the end of the cord to my phone charger and find nothing. I’ll follow this trail of nothingness all the way to the wall socket, where I will be rewarded by more of Nothing. I know you will all deny having seen it and look at me dumbfounded and bewildered when I suggest that you may possess any knowledge of my charger’s whereabouts.

CAR CHARGERS: I can already picture the hectic day when my phone loses juice on my way to a basketball or football game in Bugtussle, Oklahoma, completely at the mercy of my GPS, fumbling through the console for my phone charger. Who am i kidding? It won’t be there.

EAR BUDS: Some days I never even make it to the gym to work out, because I burn the requisite number of calories, not to mention all my allotted time, taking the house apart and searching all the cars for just one pair of ear buds.

BATHROOM ESSENTIALS: These items disappear from my bathroom at an alarming rate. Are you taking hairbrushes and combs to your friends’ houses and leaving them there? If that’s the case, why am I not finding your friends’ hairbrushes and combs lying around here that they left? Due to the genetically ambiguous nature of my hair, I actually only need my comb/brush once a week or so, but there’s never one in my bathroom when I do. Ditto razors, soap and shampoo. Do y’all seriously wait until we fall asleep at night and creep into our bathroom to kidnap our toiletries? Any excuse not to shave my legs is great, but Dad really needs to shave, so….

COFFEE PODS: One of the best things Daddy and I ever did for ourselves was switch to the woefully expensive Keurig system of coffee brewing. One cup at a time! Fast and Fresh! I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s literally changed our lives for the better… Except for the mornings when we stumble bleary-eyed into the kitchen to discover that you and your friends burned through $20 worth of coffee pods, the previous night, during an all night study session. It’s rather pathetic that I have to hide Back-Up Emergency Pods in various places around the house to ensure that we can always get a cup of coffee to start our busy day of servicing your needs.   And, I probably shouldn’t say this, but it’d probably be cheaper if we had a “pot habit”, instead of a “pod habit”….

FOOD AND GAS GIFT CARDS: It’ll cost me a ton, but I’ll probably throw in a few gas cards and fast food gift cards. I reckon it’s “pay me now or pay me later”. I understand that it’s ridiculous for me to expect you to eat dinner at home or, God-forbid, on the costly meal plan the university requires us to pay for. I am resigned to the fact that your generation socializes at Panera, Whataburger and Starbucks. So, I guess the exciting challenge will be for me to predict which dining establishments will find favor in 2015 with “Generation I’m-not-eating-that”.

I’m super motivated to head over to Target now. I really like my plan and think this is Pro-active Parenting at it’s very finest! I just have this nagging suspicion that even after Santa Claus gives you a $30 Starbucks card, it’ll barely be February before I’m fishing around in the hole I slit in the bottom of my mattress trying to find a coffee pod for Daddy, so he can go to work to try to earn enough money for your sock to runneth over next year…

“I’m starting With The Mom In The Mirror” – (Me and Michael Jackson)

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One of the things I’ve always hated about my vocation, is that EVERYBODY has an opinion on how you should do your job. People don’t go around telling Engineers how to build bridges, or Surgeons how to perform surgery; people tend to defer to the expertise, education and training of other professionals in their respective fields. But, if motherhood is your career of choice, one must always be prepared for an onslaught of unsolicited input on how to do this particular job. The problem as I see it, lies in the fact that this profession is woefully overexposed – EVERYONE, either IS a Mother, is close friends with a Mother, knows a Mother or, God forbid, actually had a Mother themselves…

Generally, I usually find other people’s opinions well-meaning and useless; I believe we really do know, instinctively, what’s best for our own kids… I don’t mean to imply that I’m Never open to outside suggestions.  In fact, I have managed through the years, to stumble inadvertently across several nuggets of wisdom from some rather unconventional sources:

The Federal Aviation Administrartion
(Lesson: Take care of your Kid’s Mom – No one Else Wants to Take Over In The Event Of Your Untimely Demise)

Before I had children, when I would take the occasional flight, I was always surprised that the airline warned you, that, “in the event of an actual emergency,” always put your own oxygen mask on first. I really felt like this flew in the face (pun intended) of the very essence of parenting, as I understood it, (which I clearly did not).
I was always taken aback at this instruction and “judgy”, in the way that, only people who haven’t had kids yet, can be. It wasn’t until many years, and several kids later, on a flight out of Orlando, while 2 year old James repeatedly threw his small plastic horses, with remarkable accuracy, at the heads of the passengers seated around us, that I came to understand the metaphorical imperative. It suddenly dawned on me that,  if I should pass out due to a sudden drop in cabin pressure, no one, in their right mind, would be as motivated as I would be, to rescue my little Horse Whisperer.

The Local Fire Department
(Lesson: Motherhood is not as effortless as some of us make it look)

I explain it to Jimmy like this, “You look over at those Firemen when you’re sitting at a red light, in front of the Fire Station, and you mutter to yourself, “They’ve got the life! What do those guys do all day anyway? Play checkers and wash the fire truck?”

And that’s what it sure seems like, right up until there’s a blazing fire to be put out; then, they’re the first ones to run into the flames!  It’s comforting and reassuring to know they’re “on call” and ready to go.

That’s exactly how it is with Moms. You might resent whatever it is you think we really do all day, right up until the proverbial crap hits the fan!!! And then you can’t hand the emergency over to Mama fast enough. We may look like carefree slackers, but we’re your family “First Responders.”  So, if you see us out and about laughing gaily, seemingly without a care in the world- remember we will be the first ones to run right into the flames of a family emergency, while everyone else practices their stop, drop and roll.

Just had a long relaxing bath and lunch out with friends....reporting for duty!!

Just had a long relaxing bath and lunch out with friends….reporting for duty!!

A Restaurant In Texas
(Lesson: You Can’t Fight DNA)

There is a restaurant in Houston, called “A Taste Of Texas,” that Jimmy and I dined at a few times when we were younger. While I can’t remember what their menu was or if I even liked the food, my future parenting endeavors were profoundly affected by a sign they had posted right by the Hostess Stand. The sign said, “The Management requests that children not Alter the Atmosphere of this Dining Establishment”. What’s relevant here, is that it indelibly planted a seed in my mind, that it was actually possible to raise children who did not alter the atmosphere of their surroundings, and I do so love a challenge! Unsurprisingly, all 5 of my kids turned out to be “Atmosphere Alterers,” in spite of my best efforts. It was written on their DNA – (on their Dad’s side)

Nature or nurture?

Nature or nurture?

A Wise, Crabby Old Asian Woman
(Lesson: Live With It, There are No “do-overs”)

There was a smaller, less poshy, Chinese restaurant in Houston, that Jimmy and I dined at ONLY ONCE. We ordered two entrees, a tea and a Diet Coke. When I took a sip of my tea, I noticed it had a funny taste, kind of stale. So I motioned for my server and asked for a Coke instead. When the bill was presented, she had charged us for all 3 beverages. I was unconcerned, as I was certain, we would sort it out when we got to the cashier. When I explained the situation to the elderly Cashier/Owner, she got a very disgusted look on her face and literally screeched, “You Order Tea, You Pay Tea!!”

We forked over the additional 85 cents, which was a small price to pay, considering, that we have told this story at least 300 times. (It kills at cocktail parties!) What a valuable life lesson… Many was the night, when the kids were little, and, I was at the end of my rope, Jimmy would just smile at me and say, “You Order Baby, You Pay Baby!!”

Raising great kids takes patience and time; it’s a long and arduous process.
My best unsolicited advice: Trust the Mom in the Mirror… Everyone else can just hold their horses!

"You order kids, you pay kids"

“You order kids, you pay kids”