Sometimes, it snows in June.

There is a snowball tree in our back yard.

Source

For 11 months of the year, it looks like your average deciduous shrub.  And in the winter, it’s pretty dang ugly: just a contortion of barren, dead-looking sticks.

But  in late spring, it explodes in a mass of beautiful, white petals.  For the two weeks that it blooms, you can barely see the greenery hidden underneath the display of flowers.

It’s pretty stunning.  I look forward to those two weeks out of the year where we have a little visual break from the dreary Northwest springs.

Alas, the same snowball tree caught my son’s eye when we were outside playing in the yard last weekend.

I was working in the garden while the kids were doodling with sidewalk chalk on the back porch.  They were busy and content.   Or, so I thought.

Because in the brief time I had my back turned, Chip had grown bored with the sidewalk chalk.  So he wandered a few steps away, where my beautiful snowball tree taunted and beckoned to him.

It was the giggling that made me turn around.  But it was the destruction that made me come running.

“Noooo!”  I shrieked, as I bolted towards him.

But apparently, I run really slowly.  Either that, or my son picks at lightning speed (seriously, I should put the kid to work picking weeds).  By the time I had made it across the yard, countless handfuls of the blooms had been viciously plucked from the bush.  They lay strewn across the lawn like little dismembered snowmen.

I was mad.  As in, really, really fuming.  And I was also out of breath from sprinting across the yard.

As I stood there, my son looked up at me.  He deliberately yanked one more bloom from the bush, and held it up to me.

“It’s snowing, momma!” he said, shaking the flower maniacally.

I don’t know why.  But immediately, my anger dissipated.  Maybe it was seeing how much hilarity he saw in such a simple thing.  Or maybe it was seeing the little white petals stick in his dark hair like snowflakes.  Or his little giggles of delight.

I changed my tactic.  I explained that we do not pull flowers off plants.  But that, sometimes, if momma or daddy were with us, it was okay to make it snow.

So we shook that plant like there was no tomorrow.  We wiggled the branches, and batted at the leaves wildly.   It resembled one of those famous pillow fight scenes.  Except, instead of feathers, we were caught in a blizzard of petals and leaves.

Screams of glee.

Clouds of pollen (which I’m pretty sure confirmed that my kids are not allergic to pollen).

Flurries of white snow.

By the time we were done, our lawn was pretty much covered in white.  And my beautiful snowball tree had been decimated.  At least from 3 feet down.

I guess I’ll have to wait until next June to see the snowball tree flower again.  But I learned something this year when it bloomed.

There are some things in life that are pretty to look at.

But there are some things in life that are beautiful when they’re properly played with.

Sometimes, you just need a two year-old to bring that to light.  And to make it snow in June.

Happy Un-Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day.  If your Mother’s Day was anything like mine, you might have been lucky enough to have been spoiled.

Perhaps you got a bouquet of flowers from your husband-who-normally-does-not-give-flowers-no-matter-how-much-you-hint-that-chicks-dig-that-stuff.  Maybe someone made you breakfast, and cleaned up the kitchen afterwards.  Or let you take a 3 hour nap in the middle of the afternoon (and, let me tell you, it was heavenly).

Maybe you were showered with handmade cards signed with awkward, undecipherable little signatures.  Or a paper plate flower holder with the word “MOM” scrawled upside-down.   And you might have oohed and aahed like it was the most brilliant piece of artwork ever created.  Because, of course, it was.

Yesterday was pretty much a perfect day.  And I’m so grateful for that.  I’m still basking in the glow of the warmth and love my family showered upon me yesterday.

But, as I sit here reflecting on my Mother’s Day, I realize what today is.

Today is the day after.  Today is Un-Mother’s Day.  And, in reality, Un-Mother’s Day is a day not unlike any of the other 364 days of the year:

A day without the Hallmark sentimentality that surrounds a specific holiday.  There are no flowers, cards, or public acknowledgment of the job that we do.

A day where we roll up our sleeves, delve elbow-deep into poop and other bodily excrements, and get the job done.

A day where we try to be a wife, mother, cook, chauffeur, domestic goddess, and everything else in between.  And we try to do it all well.  With mixed results.

A day where we balance the million things we have on our plates.  Children.  Wifehood.  Finances.  Household items.  Maybe even a career.

A day where we often put other peoples’ wants and needs ahead of our own.

“It’s the job,” we say.  “Isn’t this what we signed up for?”  And we’re happy to do it.  We need to do it, and, most of the time, we want to do it.  Because this is the job.

This is Un-Mother’s Day.

But as I sit here, still reveling in the near-perfection of my own Mother’s Day experience, I can’t help but wonder…

What if we redefined Un-Mother’s Day, even a little?  What if, somehow, the other days of the year were a little more like Mother’s Day?

What if?

What if I accepted more of the offers for help… from my husband, family members and friends?  What about if I asked for help more often?  Would I have less control over how things are done?  Yes.  Would this be a bad thing?  Not necessarily.

What if I realize that I cannot be everything to everyone?  At least, not all of the time.

What if I put aside the minutia of the daily grind, even for just one day?  What would happen if I let the housework slide, the laundry accumulate, and the dishes pile up in the sink?  Would the world end?  Probably not.  Would I focus more on what’s truly important?  Probably so.

What if I spent less time obsessing about the fact that my children are not bathed every day, consume entirely too many processed and sugary foods, and are probably not disciplined as well, or as often, as they should be?  What if I just rejoiced in the fact that they are happy, healthy, and loved?

What if I spent less time worrying, and more time just simply being?

What if I acknowledged that in order to be a better wife, mother and caretaker, I must first be the best person I can be?  That, first and foremost, I need to be personally and professionally satisfied, and that everything after that will fall into place?

What if I took more time to be selfish?  If I took a little bit of time each day, or as often as I could, to do something purely for myself?  Without worry.  Or a sense of obligation.  Or guilt.

What if I had the same outlook about motherhood the other 364 days of the year, as I do on Mother’s Day?  The days that I feel like I’m failing as a parent are the days when I probably need to hear it from myself the most: I am a good mother.

What if I celebrated Un-Mother’s Day just a little more often?

I wouldn’t need greeting cards or commercialism to celebrate Un-Mother’s Day.  Just hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s.”   You know, the good stuff.

And, occasionally, flowers.  Because chicks really do dig that stuff.

Happy Un-Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there.  Do something nice for yourself today.  You deserve it.

The big porcelain throne in the sky: Episode 1

I had barely stepped foot inside the house.  I set down my laptop bag, gave the kids a kiss… and then I saw that look in his eye.  I knew immediately something was up.

“I’ve got bad news,” he whispered seriously.

My heart sped up.  Was it the kids?  A family member?  His job?

But it wasn’t any of those things.

He said just one word: “Elmo.”  And I knew what had happened.

The ensuing finger across the throat motion he made was completely unnecessary.  I knew that we had lost Elmo.

Elmo, circa 6 weeks ago. When he was still floating belly down.

We’ve lost fish before, and it’s never been a biggie.  You scoop the little bugger out, flush it, and eventually go drop another buck at the pet store for a replacement fish.

But this time was different.  Because this time, the kids were old enough to realize what was going on.

They had been old enough to select the bowls and colorful rocks.  They picked the fish out themselves: the red one for Chip, and the blue one for Bobo.   They had named their new friends. And they fed them.  (Except for when we forgot.  Which might have been why Elmo met his untimely death.)

The point is, they were very aware of Elmo’s existence.  And even though Jay had disposed of the body before the kids got home, we knew that, sooner or later, Elmo’s absence would not go unnoticed.

So while the kids played, we conspired to come up with a plan.  If Chip asked, we would tell him that Elmo had gone bye-bye.  He was too little to really get what had happened.

But Bobo?  We decided that she was old enough to hear the truth.  No matter how heartbroken she’d be.  Or how much she’d cry for her lost friend.  We figured a fish was a safe way to introduce her about the circle of life.

After Chip had gone to bed that evening, we sat her down.  “We have something to tell you,” I started hesitantly.

“Elmo died,” my better half stated bluntly.  He’s never been one to sugar coat things, that one.

Bobo looked at us wide-eyed.  “What happened?” she asked.

“Sometimes fish just get sick.  Sometimes they die,” I said.  “Or sometimes we forget to feed them,” my inner voice said.

She looked back at us in silence.  I could see the wheels turning in her head.  I braced myself for tears, or the hard questions.

But instead, after what seemed like eternity, she broke out into a grin.  “But MY fish is a live.  Yippeee!”  And with that, she trounced off happily to her room.  Discussion over.

And just like that, our daughter’s first encounter with death was over.  And all was good in the world.  Because Grover was still alive.

At least for the time being…

To be continued in Episode 2.

Multiplicity

Do you ever have those days when you feel like you’re juggling multiple personalities?  Figuratively speaking, that is?

I do.  And it feels like my multiple personalities have had a serious conflict of interest lately.

Working Me.  Mommy Me.  Housekeeper Me.  Chauffeur Me.  Wife Me.  Me Me.

They’re all there, fighting amongst themselves for a chunk of my time.  And, simply put, there are just not enough hours in the day to accommodate them all.  So my multiple personalities bicker.  And they engage in a perpetual rock-paper-scissors act to see which parts of me take precedence.

But at last my internal struggle is over.  Because, as I was channel surfing the other night, I found the long lost solution.

Multiplicity.

As in the movie, Multiplicity.  You remember it?  That ’90s comedy film where the husband stumbled upon the good Dr. Leeds, who created various clones of said husband so that he could balance his spouse, career and family?  That’s the one.

Anyway, as I was watching the movie the other night, I had this crazy epiphany that multiplicity just might be the answer to all of my problems.  If I had just a few more of Me around, I could really motor.  I started thinking about the possibilities.

Like what Career Woman Me would be like.  I’m guessing she would always show up to the office on time, sporting an immaculate business suit that did not have a single trace of spit up, playdough or Cocoa Puff residue on it.  She would never have to leave the office early to pick up the kids, or guiltily call in sick because one of her kids was oozing green boogers.  On days she worked from home, she wouldn’t have to worry about children cackling maniacally in the background during a conference call.

Or Mommy Me.  She would always have time for playing cars, giving horsie rides, or just stopping to really listen to what her kidlets were saying.  She would never rush them out of the house or beg them to stop dawdling.  She would stop and smell the roses.  Mommy Me would always let her kids play with Moon Dough, slurp spaghetti with their hands, and stomp in mud puddles… because she didn’t care about the mess it made.

And what I wouldn’t give for a Domestic Diva Me.  My domestic goddess clone would never leave four laundry baskets full of clean clothes sitting by the bedside, unfolded, for weeks.  There would not be scary things growing in her refrigerator.  She would not have Pizza Hut on speed dial.   And she would happily clean up the Moon Dough, spilled spaghetti, and mud stains from her kids’ clothes; she wouldn’t mind the messes that Mommy Me made.

Bloggy Me would not be caught dead with 256 new items in her reader.  She would respond promptly to her comments with witty, funny little snippets of goodness.  She would remember to check her Twitter account more than once every couple of weeks.

Wifey Me would encourage her husband to play golf, go out for a beer, or just hang out with the guys more often.  Because, deep down, she knows he doesn’t do that nearly enough as he should.  She would not scoff at the way he attempts to put away the dishes, even if she can never find anything he puts away.  (Because she would have time to re-put-away the dishes that didn’t find their proper home.)   And she would always remember that her husband is a person, a man, and the one she fell in love with 15 years ago.

And Me Me would make time.  Time to get a pedicure, or a haircut.  Time to go on a date night with the ball and chain husband.  Time to relax.  Or just veg out and do nothing at all.  Me Me would take more time to do things that she really wanted to do, as opposed to the things that she felt like she needed to do.  And she would not feel guilty about it.  Not one bit.

Yep.  I think multiplicity is the way to go, indeed.  Personally, I’m thinking the whole strategy is pretty brilliant.  And as soon as I figure out a way to contact Dr. Leeds, I’m so cloning myself.

Now, does anyone have the phone number of Dr. Leeds?

When I was your age, timeouts were for football

Dear Chip and Bobo,

You kids don’t know how good you’ve got it.

When I was your age, we did not talk back.

Okay, so that’s a lie.  Occasionally we did.  But when that happened, we knew what was coming.  We’d find ourselves picking soap out of our teeth.

Yep.  Things were different when we grew up.  Sometimes, we got our mouths washed out with soap.  And, sometimes, we were spanked.  Not often but, frankly, when we deserved it.  Usually with a hand.  Sometimes, if we were acting really hellaciously, with a wooden spoon (Which my mom once broke over my brother’s butt.  Which we laughed about.  Which made her really mad.)

I also remember once or twice someone getting spanked or having their hand slapped at school.  Not me, of course, because I was a perfect child.  Other kids, though.  And your auntie recalls in elementary school how the principal actually had a butt paddle hanging in his office, that he did indeed use on occasion.

Oh, how times have changed.

When I talk with your grandparents about this, they explain that’s just what people did back then.  There was no education for parents on alternative ways of disciplining your kids.  Timeouts were a term they used in sports.  And things like positive discipline, reward charts, bribery (okay, maybe they used that once or twice), or redirection weren’t exactly on the forefront of parenting methods.

The thing is, though, I never once doubted our parent’s love for us.  And honestly?  Our butts may have stung for a minute, but the disappointment in their eyes sometimes hurt a lot more.

It was also effective.  We feared… not our parents themselves… but the repercussions of what would happen should we act up.  When one of them got that look in their eye, we knew what would come next.  And it probably wasn’t going to be fun.

And that is the key point.  I want you to know there will be consequences, both positive and negative, for your actions.  I want you to have a respect for your elders, and that, when they say something, it goes.  I want you to be wary… not of me, but of making sure you’re doing the right thing.

That is what I want for you.

But how to achieve those wants?  Ah, that’s where it gets tricky.

When you were born, I had a preconceived notion of how we would discipline you.  We were spanked… and we turned out okay.  I guess I figured it would be the same for you.

But five years later, I’ve found that it’s not that black and white.   So instead we’re trial-and-erring our way through different ways of discipline.  And am I constantly questioning myself.

Every time a timeout is given.

Every time a privilege, a toy or the iPad (Gah!  A sign of the times) is revoked.

Every time you scream “NO!” and glare back at me defiantly.  Or, worse yet, run away giggling.

Every time I encounter that pregnant pause, and silently ask myself:  “To spank, or not to spank?”

Every time a temper tantrum is thrown.

Every time I ponder which battles I will choose to fight that day.  Or which ones I will let slide.

Every time I wonder if we’re being to strict.  Or not strict enough.

Every time I raise my voice.

Every time I get so angry that I feel the need to keep myself in check.  Or when I realize I might be the one who needs a timeout.

Every time I have to break out the proverbial beat down on one of you, I question myself.  And I just hope that whatever we’re doing is the right thing to do.

What I don’t have are the answers.  Your father and I are figuring it out as we go along.

What I do know for sure is this:  no matter what decisions we make as parents, we both love you with all of our hearts.  So we’ll continue to plug along.  Even when you call us the meanest parents on the planet.

Love you to pieces,
Your Momma (Who thinks discipline is the suckiest part of being a parent)

(Also?  Thanks, mom and dad. I now understand what you meant when you said “It hurts us more than it hurts you.” And one of these days, we’ll buy you a new wooden spoon.)

*****

Yep.  I’m reviving the “When I was your age” letters to my children.  If you missed the other posts in this series, you can check them out here.