Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Trees and Boy Stuff

Dragging the Christmas tree up from the basement this year nearly caused a trip to the ER for this mama. I'm sure I've already offended some who feel that only a real tree is appropriate for the holidays by admitting that my 7 1/2' tree comes out of a box. I have this thing for symmetry and besides, attaching a tree to the top of my vehicle, taking it down by myself when I get home and dragging it inside while Aidan offers helpful suggestions does not sound like my idea of an enjoyable afternoon. So I got the large box out of the holiday corner and pushed it over to the flight of 12 stairs. The box is unquestionably too large and too heavy for one female to hoist upstairs. Particularly a female who is 5'1" on a good day.

But I am stubborn.

I got it to the 11th step the first time around and then simultaneously dropped it and nearly fell down the stairs, thereby forcing my now sweaty and frustrated self to start the project from square one. So there I go, again, huffing and grunting and using more adrenaline than muscle to force it upstairs. Got it this time.

But I was so flushed and tired by the time I got to the top, that I was in no mood to decorate anymore. It is times like this I wish I had a man around. If I would have been able to say, "Hey, will you bring the tree up for me?" I would have been singing to Christmas music and wrapping twinkling lights around the branches while encouraging Aidan to pick out his favorite ornaments to hang on the tree.

The tree is still in its box in the middle of my living room and I get a little pissed off every time I walk by it.

I had another moment yesterday, where I wished for a male to help, this time in answering a question for my son.

"MOM! It won't go down!"

"What's that, honey?" I question, absentmindedly.

"My pee-pee. IT WON'T GO DOWN!"

"Uh. Um. Uh. I'm sure it will. It has to at some point."

Right? I mean, it will. I'm sure there's also a much better response for that kind of statement. But I don't know what it is.

Sometimes I really, really love my independence. And sometimes it is all a bit overwhelming.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ten Good Reasons to Finish School Before You Get Yourself Knocked Up

10.) It becomes very difficult to face forward in the classroom. Then impossible. Those desks are not designed for a pregnant woman's comfort.

9.) It is kind of embarrassing to have milk stains on your shirt when in college.

8.) Your prof doesn't really care if you were up all night. Everyone was. Only difference is, they were knocking back Coronas and you were trying to calm a child getting two-year molars.

7.) You cannot work full time and go to school full time and raise a child and pay a mortgage. You will either go crazy or never see your child. Which will make you go crazy. So you must opt to take one to two classes per semester. I like to call this THE FOREVER PROGRAM. Major doesn't really matter, it's just going to be forever before you're holding that expensive piece of paper.

6.) Getting up at 4am to write a paper before you go to work when you didn't go to bed until 1am because you were doing laundry and getting kiddo's stuff ready for the next day really sucks.

5.) You will criticize the clothing of your fellow classmates and be all, "Is she really wearing that? How old is she?!" And then, no matter how old you are, you will realize you are old in comparison with everyone else.

4.) Study Abroad does not really work with a child in tow. Go ahead and cancel that semester you were planning to spend in Brazil.

3.) In your Senior semester, it's really odd when your prof is only three years old than you.

2.) You will want to turn to a fellow classmate who is complaining about their allowance and tell them to shut the hell up. You probably will go ahead and say it.

1.) Motivation when you're a Senior? Not good. Motivation when you've been a Senior for TWO YEARS? Practically non-existent. I may actually go crazy during the next ten times I have to sit in class. But then? Well, the forever program actually ends.

So I guess there is a little silver lining! But really. Finish school. Then make babies. That is my PSA of the day. Please let me know if you need another hundred reasons or so.

Monday, November 16, 2009


There was absolutely a time when I defined success in terms of money, titles and what I could show the world I had accomplished. My first two years at Michigan State were spent as a Journalism major with a determined desire to work long hours, produce shows and some day have a comfortable spot in front of the camera, รก la Katie Couric.

I remember mid-sophomore year as I juggled being a co-producer for MSU News, planning activities for the girls on my floor as an RA, working at the front desk and maintaining a decent level of energy on a routine four to five hours of sleep a night, that everything changed.

I woke up and thought, "I'll never be able to keep this pace and be a good mother."

Which was a thought lobbed totally into left field as I was 19 years old, decidedly single at the time and had absolutely zero prospects for a family life.

The story, in facts, is simple: Got a restaurant job, got knocked up, got married, got divorced, get to raise world's most amazing child. (Possible bias on that last fact.)

There are times, I will admit, when I feel a little stuck. I cannot save the majority of each paycheck and take a few weeks off to travel Europe- something that would certainly be feasible of I lived in the world of singletons. Perhaps I would sell my home and live in a cramped apartment so I could start an event coordinating business. I can guarantee you that I would have finished my degree long ago. Maybe I would live in Spain right now. Maybe I would have experienced being a big city girl for a year or two like I had always imagined.
Perhaps I would get all crazy and set some goal like biking coast to coast. I don't know.

The reality is that I cannot. At least not right now.

I went to Indiana this past weekend, where three of my four sisters live.

In the midst of pure chaos, which is the norm for a family with five sisters and 10 offspring, I glanced around and listened to life happening. Dinner cooking, football on downstairs, Wii competition commencing upstairs, the dog barking, my darling little niece falling asleep on my chest...certainly nothing out of the ordinary.

I'm right where I'm supposed to be. I'm a family girl. My intuition from seven years ago was spot on. And I may be slow on the take...but I will finally graduate in 26 days.

Success is now defined in terms of relationships and in slowly working towards goals and never giving up. Success is having a house full of people who love one another and being able to yell, "Go Colts!" at a television screen with my son. Success, to me, is not what I am wearing, what I am driving, what I live in, how much money is in my bank account or what my job title is.

Everyone defines success differently, of course. And while there was a time that I thought I was absurdly off the path I was intended for, I now think that detour shaped my perspective in a way that nothing else could have.

When someone else's life is more important than your own, the world gets really simple all of a sudden.

Monday, November 9, 2009

One of the Good Guys

I am well aware that there are parental hurdles that I will have to overcome as a single mother of a boy. There are the inevitable stereotypes that come along with each gender. I am hyper-sensitive to them, with a heightened awareness for the fact that Aidan is modeling after a female on a more frequent basis. I am forever trying to both cuddle him and engage in rough and tough wrestling with the enthusiasm of a guy. I endeavor to raise him to be as well rounded as possible. Then there are the undeniable opposite sex basics: we use different restrooms when out in public, one of us goes lid up, one goes lid down, we have different “junk”.

However, there are differences far superior in importance to me than the fact that only a few more months can slip by before posted signs regulate that I must send my child through the men’s locker room before we can swim together.

I wish I could think of a more eloquent way to phrase it. But what I want to say is this: I will not raise an asshole.

That kid will continue to put the lid down and open doors for women and be good, SO GOOD, to people. He will be the kind of guy that returns communication and is genuine and treats people like they matter. When a bunch of adolescent high school girls are having a sleepover, their topic of conversation will not include how my son Aidan is a self-centered jerk. No one will be crying because he broke their heart and then stomped on the pieces. He will be fun, he will get himself in crazy trouble, he will break the rules and have to fix his own mistakes, he will continue to cause me to pull my hair out. But he will not ever intentionally be an asshole, so help me.

So this morning is totally typical. I’m drying my hair; Aidan is eating breakfast at the table. We turn some music on so Aidan can rock a little 6:30 am air guitar while I attempt to locate the desired pair of turquoise earrings to match my outfit. Aidan walks up to me.

“Mom?” he questions, totally serious.


“So. This girl in my class wants to marry me.”

“Really? What do you think about that?

“Well, I like her and all. But what about all the other girls?”

A ladies’ man? Maybe. Probably. That kid is so charming. But his mama will make sure that when the time comes to have relationships with those girls…he will treat them right.

I’m sure his future wife will thank me that she got blessed with this guy who is cuddly and engaging and sensitive and articulate and active. Because his mama cared, more than report cards, more than athletic prowess, more than his creative ability to fashion something impressive on a piece of paper…she cared that he was one of the good guys, that he knew what it meant to value the life of someone else.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Road Trippin'

One four-year-old.
One Mama.
One drive from Holland, MI to Madison, WI.
One drive from Madison, WI to Holland, MI.
Zero stops.

Even I'm impressed that I have my little boy so well trained that he follows the "Mommy does not like to stop the car before reaching destination" policy that I've instilled. I take great satisfaction in getting the computer print out that tells me it will be a 5 hour 47 min drive and getting there in 5 hours and 10 min. I'm all triumphant: SUCK IT, MAPQUEST.

Silly, yes. But absolutely true.

I was equally impressed that nothing but a new pad of paper, markers, two cars, snacks and dance parties (okay, arm waving and head bobbing) was required to keep my little dude decently entertained.

Of course truth be told, it poured for the first three hours of the drive out to Wisconsin and two different colors of marker mishaps had stained Aidan's cheeks within minutes of our departure.

BUT. We did it. Our longest road trip ever, just the two of us.

I remember, vividly, when driving through the speedy, bumper-to-bumper scene of Chicago caused me to lean forward, white knuckles gripping the steering wheel. On this trip I was the definition of relaxed: shoes tossed in the passenger seat, flipping through my ipod and crusing with the flow of traffic.

I've described in other posts the things I've had to buck up and figure out how to handle on my own: shop vac usage on Christmas Eve with 18 people on their way to my house, shoveling at 3 am so I can get out of the driveway for work, killing live mice with a broom.

I've come to find that we can all handle more than we give ourselves credit for. I think it defines a person, the way we react when the mold of life as we know it breaks and we're left, standing alone in the pieces. I was a little bit of disaster for months.

It's just me and this boy. And I realized, while crossing state lines, listening to Fleet Foxes and munching on goldfish crackers...I'm finally totally okay with that. I'm comfortable in these single mama shoes. And I get to share so much life with the coolest kid I know.