Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dance with me.

I was looking for my softball glove at my parents' house when I discovered the closet of forgotten dresses. My mom was sort of a tom boy (she said she had to wear tennis shoes to her own wedding so her dad would recognize her) so this was a fun discovery. There were exactly four dresses: my mom's wedding dress, the dress she wore to my wedding, the dress she wore to my sister's wedding and this:


Pretty great, right? It is definitely hand made and I want to believe my mom made it herself. She wasn't much of a sewer but I know she made curtains for our old camper...how much harder could a dress be? (I'm obviously not much of a sewer either.) Whether she made it or not doesn't really matter as I have no problem believing whatever stories I want to believe.

I tried on the fabulous dress my mom made and guess what? It fit PERFECTLY. Like, beyond. I obviously had to steal it. But first, I had to wear it all morning at my parents' house, taking every opportunity to spin and twirl and show off my new old dress. (I used to do this with my mom's fancy nighties all the time. I've always loved to play dress up.)

As soon as I came into my parents bedroom show them the dress I would be stealing, my mom's face lit up. She smiled at me and nodded and said, "I like that!" Since she had hardly said a word since we arrived, this hit me like a ton of bricks. I spun around like a good little girl and took it as a sign that the dress she made was meant for me.

A little while later, it was my job to distract my mom so my dad could get his Rush Limbaugh e-mail fix (she literally follows him everywhere he goes...). When my sister and I visited together in December, we discovered the best way to do this was with a dance party in the kitchen. She responds fairly well to music and showing off our most random dance moves gave us something fun we could do that also felt helpful. Plus, it was really funny when we did moves she didn't like (she would just make a face and shake her head no). It became our morning ritual and was easily one of the highlights of our trip.

This time it was just me dancing. But I had the dress. And my mom really liked the dress (she kept smiling at me and saying, "pretty"). Plus, how fun is it to dance in a twirly dress? So I put on a CD and got to dancing!

First up was The Mamas and the Papas. It started off okay with a little California Dreaming but as soon as This is Dedicated to the One I Love started, I completely lost it.

While I'm far away from you my baby,
I know it's hard for you my baby,
Because it's hard for me my baby...

I mean, I'm wearing my mom's dress and she's smiling at me and telling me she's glad I'm here and they keep singing my baby in that faraway nostalgic way. Oof. Now I'm crying all over again!

I was having a hard time getting a hold of myself. Which, I have to say, very rarely happens to me. I am not a huge crier but this was killing me. I had to change the music.

I figured nothing about George Straight could make me emotional so I put it on. Sure he has a soulful kind of voice but I'm not at all familiar with his music. I was sure this was a step in the right direction. But wouldn't you know it, the very first lyrics bowled me over.

Ain't love so strange, ain't it a pain in your heart...*

Come on, George! Work with me here, buddy. I skipped to the next song:

Haven't you heard, daddy's gone crazy.
Haven't you heard, mama is gone...

By this point I was pretty much bawling my eyes out.

When Bill showed up a few hours later and found me hanging out in my moms dress with a tear stained face, I just kind of shrugged. "My doctor said I'd probably have a much wider range of emotions without the Zoloft..." I think he was right.

*upon further investigation, the lyrics are actually ain't love A STRAIN... but at the time, ain't love strange was really speaking to me. You know me and lyrics... 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Imperfect expert.

At the airport gift shop, I picked up a few magazines for our flight home. This used to be the perfect excuse for a guilty pleasure like People but a few years ago I realized I could get through an entire magazine without recognizing a single celebrity. So I had to switch it up. I've tried girly fashion mags (what to wear right now? um, seriously, whatever fits and is clean works for me), fitness magazines (THE best diet, THE best workout, THE quickest way to feel bad about myself), parenting magazines (top ten things to worry about this month!), news magazines (like reading People and not knowing anyone... with facts!), travel magazines (fun to look at but not really my fave to read), and interior design magazines (typically my very best bet).

Last time we traveled, I picked up Southern Living which I quickly decided is my very favorite magazine I've never subscribed to. Plus, I knew a few people in it and got to read nice things about Nashville which is always fun.

This time, I didn't see Southern Living but I did see Country Living which was super exciting because I knew there was an article on the Red Barn Round-Up which is easily one of my favorite things I've ever done in Nashville. I also picked up a couple magazines I judged solely by their covers: Scientific American Mind with a cover story about memory (because, hello, i just saw my mom), and The Atlantic with a cover story about the overprotected kid.

As soon as I launched into The Atlantic, I realized I had already read the article online (whoops). It had spurred one of my neighbors to email everyone on the block to see if we could just pretend like it was still the good old days and loosen up a bit with our kids. (YES!) I still read the article in its entirety and couldn't help but feeling somewhat smug about my own somewhat hands-off approach to parenting.

I spent the rest of the flight sitting across the aisle from my kids basking in what felt like parental success. I don't hover. I let my kids have their own experiences. I don't step in and solve their problems or claim their victories. I don't even check Liam's homework! All in, I felt like a pretty good mom.

In fact, I started thinking about my perspective as a parent and what I might have to offer as a writer. Maybe I could write something for The Atlantic? Or Huffington Post? I should definitely pursue submitting something to Home / School / Life magazine. And maybe Parents as well? It doesn't all have to be doom and gloom!

By the time we got off the flight, I practically felt like a parenting expert (I'd been daydreaming about all the things I could write about). I gotta say, I was feeling pretty good.

For about five minutes.

Then I tried to take Finn to the bathroom.

He immediately started to protest which was weird because we all just heard him say he had to go. While I usually try to figure out what's really bothering him before trudging ahead, this seemed completely irrational. He had to go, I had to go, let's go! But it's never quite that simple, is it?

He starting doing that thing where he stopped moving his feet so I was suddenly dragging him across the food court floor, so I picked him up. "I! Want! To go! By! My! Self!" he yelled, one very loud word at a time. I tried to laugh it off and kept walking. "Buddy, you can't go all alone in the airport!" (So much for free range parenting...) "But you can go in your own stall if you want to." He could sense he wasn't going to get exactly what he wanted and started to dig in his heels. Never a good sign with a strong willed child...

By the time we got in a stall, I could tell he was about 10 seconds from a full on tantrum. I went to the bathroom as quick as I could, hoping he wouldn't slam open the door and bolt (he didn't!). "Okay, Finny, your turn," I said as nonchalantly as I could. He wouldn't budge. I offered to leave the stall, find him a new stall, give him my second born child (ha), but nothing worked. Honestly, I could have offered him a chocolate covered rainbow and he would have thrown it in my face. So I picked him up and made a beeline for the door.

That's when he started to scream. If you've never heard Finn scream, boy, you are missing out. It's loud and shrill with a laser like focus on whatever (or whoever) it is he's upset with.

In this case, that would be me.

I'm not going to lie, it's been a while since I've even seen the kind of scene we were making. He was flailing and screaming while I did my best not to drop him. I tried setting him down to reason with him at one point but he swatted at me and made a run for it. There's nothing like chasing a three year old through an airport (in boots!) to make you realize once and for all you are not a runner.

I was mortified.

I'm usually the mom who has it all together at the airport. I have never, not once, been this mom. (I mean, not in the airport...) I had absolutely no idea what to do. There's no reasoning with Finn when he's like this. He's just...completely out of control. All I could think to do was take him to the closest, most secluded corner I could find and just let him work it out. LOUDLY. While I tried not to die of embarrassment.

After a few minutes, Bill came over to where we were (he just followed the blood curdling screams...) and that's when things went really bad. As soon as Bill picked Finn up, he completely stopped crying. It was like someone had flipped a switch. A switch that I, his mother, had no idea where to find.

Now I was the one who wanted to have a tantrum. I couldn't believe how angry I was at my own child. How dare he scream in my face and hit me like that in public! He made me look (and feel) like a complete failure. And to calm down for Bill but not for me? The nerve!

Finn bounced back immediately as if nothing had ever happened but I could hardly look at him. My ego had taken a major beating and I needed a moment to lick my wounds. He had surprised and embarrassed me and made me completely doubt myself as a mother. Not to mention completely knocked me off my high horse. How could I write about parenting? What a joke!

Although, now that I've had some time to cool down, I can see things a bit more clearly. I may not be a parenting expert (whatever the heck that is) but I am intimately familiar with the front lines of raising children. I can cite things that 'work' and things that 'don't work' but I also know there are times when all the expert advice in the world is no match for a headstrong three year old.

Besides, who wants to take advice from a perfect parent? Or worse? Someone who doesn't even have kids! Not me.

Maybe knowing (really knowing...) the ups and downs of parenting doesn't make me a failure so much as it makes me uniquely qualified. Our experience makes us experts.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Security brother.

We went to a birthday party this afternoon. One of my oldest friend's son turned 8 and we just happened to be in town for the party. Best timing! It was at one if those bouncy places that the boys love so, of course, they had a blast.

I kept thinking about the last time we happened to catch a party with this family and remembering how shy Liam was. He was clingy and slow to warm up and never really left my side. And now? Look at him! He's running around like he owns the darn place!





We were probably there 20 minutes before I realized Liam and Finn were practically glued together. No wonder Liam didn't need any time to warm up. He had a built in side kick!



Once I noticed it, the whole thing became even sweeter. And kind of funny once I realized that Bill and I were doing the exact same thing...

They never left each other's side the entire party. It was so, so sweet. 



Later I told Liam how much I appreciated him looking after Finn and helping him feel comfortable. "I'm glad Finn was there," he said. "Without him I'm too shy to have fun!"  


Siblings for the win!




Just some old pics of me and Moose...my parents have stuff like this stuck all over the place - I can't help myself!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wandering.

Last time I stayed at my parents house with the boys, it was one of the worst nights sleep I'd ever had. The three of us shared a full bed so I spent part of the night getting kicked in the face and the rest of the night camped out on the couch thinking about all the things that had gone down in this house. 

We had gotten up so early for our flight this trip that I had a feeling sleep wouldn't be an issue for any of us. I was right. We got in our little bed at 7pm and slept like rocks. 

Until the doorbell rang at midnight. 

I'm not typically a very light sleeper but this woke me up like a shot of adrenalin. The front door is right next to our slightly open bedroom window so if someone was on the front porch they were less than five feet from where Liam, Finn and I were sprawled out like a litter of puppies. 

I was scared. Who would be at our door in the middle of the night? And why hadn't anyone else heard the doorbell? The house was silent except for Finn's breathing and my pounding heart. 

Suddenly I heard the door to the garage open. Crap! I wasn't going crazy, there really was someone there. I crept to the window and slowly pulled back the shade. 

There she was. My mom. Standing in the garage in her baby blue snowflake pajamas just kind of looking around. I had never even considered for a second it could have been her wandering around the front yard. Now I was more scared than ever. 

I snuck out of our room and halfhearted whispered for my dad as I scurried to the front door. I knew he'd be upset that she was up and really upset that he hadn't heard her leave the house (this had to be a first...). I'd so much rather just handle it myself. 

By the time I got to the garage she was sitting in the front seat of my dad's Jeep. When she saw me her face lit up. "There you are!" she said smiling and then kind of shrugged her shoulders like, your guess is as good as mine...

I asked her if she wanted me to get in. "Do you want to go somewhere?"

She smiled and shrugged and nodded. "Can you do that?"

I knew I should try to get her back in the house or, at the very least, let my dad know we were okay. But she was talking to me. Smiling at me. Of course we could!

I got in the driver's seat and we sat there for a few minutes, talking but mostly not talking. I was pretty sure my dad was going to walk in and bust us any second, a feeling I'm quite used to at this house. "Hey, Mom. Do you think we should go home?"

She followed me out of the garage but instead of heading toward the front door, she walked down the walkway, away from the house. What could I do but go with her?

It was a beautiful night - crisp and clear, not too cold, with a half moon and a dozen or so stars lighting our way. So we went for a walk. Me, barefoot and bleary eyed; her in the snowflake pajamas my sister gave her that match her big, blue eyes. 

She fussed with the neighbor's mailbox, changed directions a few times, shrugged her shoulders every time we made eye contact. But it was nice. Peaceful. I would have walked all night but I was afraid my dad would wake up and not know where we were. So I steered her back to the house. 

I never even considered we might be locked out. No wonder she rang the bell! 

Years of being a latchkey kid had taught me some tricks but the key I found didn't fit the door and I knew my mom wouldn't wait for me while I jumped the fence to the backyard. She was obviously somewhat of a flight risk. 

So I did the only thing else I could think to do - what she did - I rang the bell. 

We waited. My stomach churned. What if he didn't hear us? What if he did? Please don't be mad, please don't be mad...

He handled it well and for all I know she stayed in bed the rest of the night. I fell back to sleep eventually too, once the adrenalin died down and I finished writing half of this (it would have seemed like a dream if I didn't get it down in print).

I'm curious to see what he has to say about all this in the morning. Has it happened before? What are we going to do to make sure it doesn't happen again? 

And of course, my biggest question, how is he doing this day after day after day all on his own? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nashville, let's kick some butts together.

I'm about to tell you something pretty alarming. Two things actually:

1. Cigarette butts don't decompose.

Like, EVER. I don't know why this comes as such a shock to me. All those years of casually smoking and dropping cigarette butts out the car window or putting them out in the gutter are making me cringe right now. I was young, sure, but how did I not think about what would happen long term? I must have justified it in my mind - it's just one teeny tiny little butt... - and never, until very recently, thought about whether or not they would decompose.

Now I know.

Traditional cigarette butts are made of synthetic polymer cellulose acetate which breaks apart after about a dozen year but never fully biodegrades. Since the smokers on Earth go through about 4.3 TRILLION cigarettes a year (and about 30% of those butts end up on the ground), that's somewhere around 500,000 TONS of pollution. Every. Single. Year.

Doesn't seem so teeny tiny now.

And, that might not even be the worst part...

2. The majority of these discarded cigarette butts end up washing into our rivers and streams during rains.

On the surface this sounds terrible: who wants little bits of trash floating around a fresh water stream? But the problem goes so much deeper.

Cigarette filters, by design, accumulate toxins. So just one tiny butt can contain up to 60 known human carcinogens, including formaldehyde and chromium. Within an hour of contact with water, these chemicals begin leaching into the environment.

That's our water!

They also end up being eaten by fish, birds, and other wildlife...including children! When we took the boys canoeing on the Harpeth a couple years ago, we had to swat cigarette butts out of Finn's little hands more than once. He just couldnt figure out what was up with all the soft white rocks on shore! I'm thankful he was no longer in the phase where everything had to go in his mouth because that would have been really gross. Not to mention, incredibly dangerous.



So, what to do? Thankfully Nashville Clean Water Project has some ideas. They've teamed up with TerraCycle to turn Nashville's cigarette butts into industrial shipping pallets. How cool is that?! They have a great plan but they can't do it alone. Please check out their Indiegogo campaign and consider making a contribution. There are lots of great prizes (like a $5 Whole Foods gift card for a $15 donation!) and you can be part of helping make Nashville's rivers and streams clean and toxin free.



Thank you, friends!

I guess you hear what you want to hear.

Thinking you know the lyrics to a song when really you don't is one of my favorite things.

I can remember, clear as day, walking to the bus stop with my sister and our neighbors when Moose (who was walking behind us) started busting out George Michael's Faith. She was dance walking down the street, really strutting her stuff and singing, "I've gotta have tits, tits, tits. I've gotta have tits, a-tits, a-tits-ah! Ba-bay!"

She was seven. We've teased her about it ever since.

I rarely sing out loud. Not even in the shower or car when no one else can hear me. Really the only time I sing is to my kids. Either softly at bedtime or really loudly to annoy them. I honestly think I sound like an opera singer or anyone else "good" who is really just loud and makes their voice move around a lot, so once I get started I don't want to stop. I sing until they want to kill me.

Whether or not I have the lyrics right obviously doesn't matter. No one cares what I'm singing; they just want me to stop singing it.

But tonight I realized something kind of funny.

We listen to a lot of Bob Marley in our house. (Why? Because it's awesome and never gets old, duh.) I've heard all the songs so many times I've kind of stopped hearing them. But last week one of his songs came on while I was listening with headphones and I heard the lyrics differently than I ever had before. It was like I finally really understood what my man was saying!

All these years I thought he was singing, "could you be loved" but now it was perfectly clear that was wrong. It's not could you be LOVED, it's could you be LOVE.

Could you be love?
Then be love.

I suddenly loved the song about a thousand times more. In fact, I started running it through my head like some sort of mantra. Could you be love? Then be love... How beautiful is that? Rather than trying to be smart or rich or successful or this title or that just be LOVE. Yes! It sent me running for my art journal.


As I was clipping and gluing and inspiring the crap out of myself with my new mantra, I decided to listen to Legend. I pulled it up on my new Beats Music app (like Spotify but apparently artists get paid better royalties) and immediately saw the actual title of the song.

Turns out I was right all along.


(Actual lyrics: Could you be love and be loved... pretty close!)

I have to say, I think I like my version better. What can I say? My sister and I have a gift with the lyrics!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Exercise for mental health.

Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.

That is an excerpt from a book I recently read called Spark by John Ratey, MD. Pretty motivating, right? I downloaded it in an attempt to brainwash myself into forming a regular exercise routine. I figured the normal motivators (swim suit season, skinny jeans...) were obviously not working, so I needed to come at it from a different angle.

I had never taken the focus off my body and put it on my mind before when it came to exercise but it turns out, it's a totally different thing. Instead of waiting for "results" that may or may not happen, you just do your 30 minutes of cardio every day because you have to. It's like a prescription. (Or actually, it's better than a prescription...) Not doing it just isn't an option.

Of course, when you have small children who are with you 24/7, this is much easier said than done. There will be days when finding 30 minutes of sweaty me time is as impossible as learning to fly. But now that I know my goal, I can do my best to make it a priority.

At first I planned to wake up early each morning to get my 30 minutes over with before the kids got up. I figured it was the only surefire way I'd fit it in. I told Bill one night that I was setting my alarm for 6:30 so I could get up and go for a run before he left for the office. He just kind of looked at me like, "It's almost midnight and it's COLD outside. Plus...have you met my wife?"

He's totally right. Mornings are not my thing. Nor is running. Or cold weather. Or hot weather... I had to figure out a way to make this as easy as possible.

Fortunately we've had no luck getting rid of our Xfinity cable (we never use it now that we've got Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime but it's cheaper to have it than not have it or something crazy like that...). Anyway, there are a ton of fitness videos on demand - and lots of them are 30 minutes long! So far, this is the most consistent way I've found of getting a workout in on a regular basis.

I don't need a babysitter or a big chunk of time and I can do it whenever I want (aka, whenever the boys are not up in my grill for a second). And if I get finished with the workout for my brain and still have time, I can easily add a workout for my body (five minute abs videos are perfect - that's really about all I can handle anyway). Plus, I love me some good aerobics.

As for results, I can definitely say when I do the thirty minutes, I feel better than when I don't. And since I'm weaning off one antidepressant (Zoloft), it's a perfect time for me to ramp up another one (exercise). As for not developing dementia or other brain related illnesses later in life...I'll have to let you know. (Way more fun than an after photo in a swim suit!)