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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shopping with my Mother

A shopping day in KC...a long time ago...
Even though my daughter turned sixteen this month, yesterday I was sixteen, and my mother was 38 again. And we were taking a mother-daughter shopping trip while my dad holed himself up in the garage. We managed to have a good time...sans the rest of our families. Wink, wink.

I was simply along for the ride, truly not needing a thing. My mother was the one who needed a day away from her shop–as she rarely gets away. But by the end of the day, I noticed the creases on my arms from my bag straps setting my mother only carried her one measly shopping sack.

"Mom! You need to get more stuff!" I exclaimed in a wave of guilt.

"Oh no. I got everything I came for," she stated in her humble way.

"You sure?" I confirmed, happily toting my bounty, in my only-child type of way.

She nodded, with a smile.

The day was great. We laughed at our atrocious, skinny legs, discussed books at great lengths, wondered about people who don't read (or only read Fifty Shades of Grey), boasted about my kids (a lot), and didn't worry about ANYTHING. And this part is really mom was really hungry all day. She usually eats like a bird and is slightly disgusted by people who over-eat. But she's on this steroid for a skin reaction. So, it tickled me to see her lick up the rest of my corn chowder. And nibble on some mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups! (She is so anti-sweets!) I couldn't help but giggle...

I know I've been crabby lately–all consumed by work. Certainly, I didn't need to go out and spend my wallet. That wasn't what mattered. The change of pace with my beloved mother was one of the best days I've had in a long time. It was a day to unload. I really did feel like a youthful daughter, on an outing with my wise mother, asking her for her opinion on just about everything and anything. It was a day to cherish. I love you, Mama!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Saving the Parental Face

The other night we had gone out to eat when I decided to tell our son a story how I had caught a napkin on fire at the very restaurant where were dining. The story included how I had shouted "Fire! Fire!" just before my hubby quickly doused the tiny blaze with some water. As my son rolled his eyes upon hearing the anecdote, I could see him imagining the embarrassment his mother would have brought upon him if he would've been there to witness the event. While I have sort of gotten used to embarrassing my spouse every once in awhile, I never thought I'd be the parent my kids would be embarrassed of. I am. I am that parent.

So the cool factor seems to officially beyond my scope. It's a bit humbling. Last week a few of us parents holed up at Troy's Bar & Grill after a Pee Wee's baseball game. At one point of the night a flood of twenty-somethings trotted in with their swanky clothes and fancy hair and cool shoes. I glanced down at my mom capris, burying even further into my smart hoodie. I knew it was time for us to duck out before we had a chance to appear as if we were trying to fit in. My sixteen-year-old didn't happen to be with us, but all I could think was how she'd be begging for us to leave to avoid a particular shame. But in reality? That crowd didn't even notice us–the people in our family-zone bracket. They seemed to look right over the tops of our wisps of gray and increasingly pronounced bags under our eyes. So unless we started downing shots with the youthful troupe, we stood a pretty good chance of being ignored and saving our kids from any possible humiliation. 

I confronted my daughter about the issue. Asked her straight out if her parents embarrassed her. She was gentle–even offering, "Not always." But here's the kicker. She told me candidly that it wasn't her father that embarrassed her. It was only me. 

"Me? Why?"

"Just different things. Like your big smile when you talk to little kids. Even Cole agrees it's kind of weird."

Well. That's just me being wistful about my kids not being little anymore. And apparently, for good reason. They get awfully judgmental once they reach a certain age...Awfully judgmental. I think I can promise my kids this...I will never intend to shame them. Never. But given the history of parental/child relationships, I'm bound to make their eyes roll just a few more hundred times in their lifetimes.

My kids never embarrass me. They are always lovely!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Driver's Seat

And she's off!

While I don’t actually remember my 16th birthday, I certainly remember anticipating it. And believe it or not… it seems I have a similar level of excitement about my own daughter’s upcoming sweet event which happens TODAY. A milestone. Today, assuming no hiccups, the state of Iowa will let her loose to navigate the by-ways and highways. Should I feel nervous about her propensity to become lost, even in a town, such as Harlan, where she has schooled and leisured nearly her entire life?

Well, let me think.

The girl has proven her academic smarts. I won’t bore you with the details, because it would be over-the-top boasting–as we parents are prone to do. But she is a smarty-pants. So, it's slightly amusing, yet alarming, the girl is sooooo directionally-challenged. (And I really mean that in a literal-sense. She does appear to have life goals and all.) But it wasn’t but a few years ago, she was directed to walk her 'lil brother home from my bank to her grandparents (a fairly straightforward track of fifteen blocks with a few minor jogs). Apparently, without the coaching of her nine-year old bro, they would've made a circuitous trip back to the bank. And one of her most recent stints involved her and her gal-pals finding themselves on their way to Sioux City, instead of Omaha (destination:Westroads). Thanks God they eventually found the mall though. I'm not sure what she would've done without more skull t-shirts from Hot Topic. She hardly has enough of them and they are so adorable. Her mother loves them so.

Actually, I can't say much. I'm a bit directionally-challenged myself. When I worked in Omaha as a young adult, I pretty much memorized the map of Omaha so I knew how to get around the city. (No such thing as Google Maps you know. Just an impossibly large, clumsy document that we romantics still like to use.) Luckily, I found my way to important places like...Target (for stuff not like skull t-shirts). My husband couldn't figure out how I could navigate Omaha, but not have the ability to point to north. Well, north is overrated. I just need to know what I need to know. And I think Alex has inherited my sense of direction. So, if that's the case, I guess I have nothing to worry about, right? She seems to be on the scent of some pretty decent shopping trails. Even if she gets off the beaten track, she'll find her way. And ff there's one thing that's for certain about Alex, it's this: she's determined!

Happy Sweet 16th to my pretty girl! Wherever you find yourself...make sure it's in a place with good cell phone coverage.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's June!

I turned the calendar today, and noticed that we have reached the month which officially announces the beginning of summer! (Confession: I even found some Christmas greenery today that somehow meshed fairly well into the drab spring we've been having.) Needless to say, I'm happy the kids are home on their school break...even though I will seethe with jealousy at times about the mothers who get to stay home with their brood. But I made my choice to "lean in," as Ms. Sandberg would say. So, I'll make the best of it.

The kids have already been leaning in on their own this summer. Besides their daily chores (which they tend to gloss over fairly quickly without much elbow grease), they are also working for their grandparents and caring for their new kittens...when it occurs to them. Alex works in my mother's shop, and seems to be a very conscientious employee. (Of course fashion tends to be fun sort of a job, so how can she not be?) And Cole has been learning a thing or two about motors as my father's apprentice, managing to squeeze a few bucks out of him, as well as plenty of trips to the DQ. But at least these kids are taking a break from their electronics. Hallelujah.

Speaking of breaks, I'm also on a bit of a break myself–having just finished my first Gotham Writer's Workshop which I found super fun. (How's that for a tantalizing description?) Anyway, get ready for another one of my assignments, a short story titled "The Dinner." I hope you enjoy reading... AND I hope your summer is filled with lots more reading, and, of course, sunny baseball games!

The Dinner

“Nana? Papa?” 
Hunger pangs evaporated the moment Laura entered the apartment. A full-court press of garlic, with a hint of dog piss, enveloped her. A barking, obese Chihuahua trampled over to sniff her out.
As she bent down to pat the the wiry terrier, he growled upon her touch.
“Taco Bell! How many times you gonna show me your teeth?” After a a few strategic scratches behind the ear, the dog stretched its legs on Laura. “Now I’m your best friend?” Lifting the pet into her arms, she wrinkled her nose. “Smells like we need to wash the spring thaw out your coat, mister.”
She walked into the galley kitchen to find her grandparents, preparing for dinner.
“There she is.” Grandpa Pete looked up from his newspaper, glancing at the clock. “Just starting to wonder about you.” He pulled himself up to lay the paper in a heap of other papers in a corner of the room.
“She’s not one bit late!” Grandma Susie said, coming over with a mitt on her hand, to kiss Laura on the forehead. “I told you to come around...7:00, didn’t I?”
Nana had told her 6:30, but Laura was unsure if her grandmother was making an excuse for her, or had simply forgotten what time she was to be there. Laura smiled in agreement. Laura’s parents would be mortified if they knew how late she had shown up to a planned meal with her grandparents. But Laura’s parents weren’t around anymore. And sometimes her shifts ran late.
Grandma Susie stepped back, eyeing the dog. “Did Mitzi give you a hard time? That dog has been barking so much lately.”
“Mitzi!” Grandpa Pete shouted. “That dog died ten years ago. You mean Taco Bell. That’s Taco Bell.”
Grandma Susie ignored the comment and went back to the oven. “Now. Let’s get this meal on the table.”
Laura put the dog down to wash her hands to help set up. While Grandpa Pete started to gather plates and forks, Grandma Susie opened the oven door and stared, vacantly.
“Nana?” Laura stood next to her grandmother. The oven air wafted its garlicky scent, stinging her eyes. “Should we pull out the roast?
“Oh, yes! Doesn’t it smell delightful!” 
Laura took the mitts out of her grandma’s hands, to pull the roaster out of the oven. As soon as she grabbed hold of the pot, she lifted it with more ease than she should have.
She set the pot on the stove and opened the lid to find garlic cloves, onion slices, and baby carrots. No roast. 
“How does it look?” Grandma Susie asked.
Taking a fork, Laura stabbed a carrot and tossed the steaming vegetable in her mouth. Laura blinked a few times, her eyes watering from the burning, sweetness dissolving in her mouth. “Carrots. Yummy.”  
She watched her grandpa filling up water glasses. He kept his eyes focused on the task, his hands slightly quivering. 
Laura hugged her Nana, feeling the loose skin, wrapped around her fragile frame. She wondered how many times Nana had forgotten to cook, or had forgotten to add the roast, and how many times Papa had never said anything. Then she looked to see the dog crunching his overflowing dish of dog food.
“I have an idea,” Laura said, letting go of her grandmother, and taking her grandfather’s trembling hand as he placed napkins on the table. “Let’s go out to eat. I’m tired of roast.” 
Grandpa Pete glanced to the oven. Then he nodded, his eyes heavy. “You know a cafĂ© with good coffee? I could use some good coffee.”
“I do.” Laura turned to look at her grandmother who was giving Taco Bell more food. “We might need to stay up for awhile, Papa. And talk. I think we need to talk.”
Grandpa Pete made his way to his wife, who was now kneeled over, scratching her dog’s ears. He lifted her up, leading her out of the kitchen. “Sweetie? Taco doesn’t need anymore food. But we’re going out now. Laura’s taking us out to eat.”
Grandma Susie smiled at her husband. “Oh? That sounds lovely. We don’t go out much anymore. Do we?”