Clean Freak

I used to clean my house every day.  Seriously.  EVERY day.  I had a routine that included vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning the bathrooms.  I went through so much Windex my husband dubbed me the Windex Queen.  And it didn’t stop there.  My family had to endure countless times of searching for the glass they set down on the counter to refill because just as quickly as they set it down, I put it in the dishwasher.  On one occasion apparently my son fixed a bowl of cereal and when he turned his back to get a spoon, I dumped it in the sink and put the bowl away.  Truthfully, I never even knew I was doing it, it was just an automatic impulse.  My poor family – probably scarred them for life.

I LOVED to clean.  Not just clean, but organize.  I took great pride in the towels in the linen closet all lined up perfectly or the junk drawer being arranged by category.  Okay, I admit it, it is a little disturbing.

One of the best things about the chores of the day was the treasures I would find.  Laundry was the most financially rewarding.  Tom carried a money clip that he would often leave in his pocket and while it didn’t ever have anything larger than a few George’s, I stood fast in my belief of the motto “finders, keepers.”  A girl always needs a little cash for an emergency, albeit secret, chocolate craving, right?

Not all my cleaning discoveries were good ones.  When the kids were little, I learned the hard way that I needed to check their pockets before I washed.  It was during the early 90’s when some genius at Elmer’s decided glue should come in neon colors.  Stephen loved pockets and put his glue in a pair of white shorts.  (I know, why would I ever let a 5-year-old wear white?)  I spent the next year adjusting my shirts because they would get stuck to the hot pink splotches on my bra.

During that stage of life when the kids were little, I would find everything from Batman action figures, rocks, and Matchbox cars to crayons, pennies and Polly Pocket’s shoes in their pockets, their beds and what they thought were their hiding places.  One time I was cleaning and found a thimble in their secret playroom in the attic.  It wasn’t a real secret playroom – no Flowers in the Attic, I wasn’t that kind of mom, though a room with a lock was appealing at times (for me, for ME, not the kids!!) – but a playroom in the attic that could only be accessed from the secret door hidden inside Stephen’s closet.  Anyway, a THIMBLE.  I didn’t use them, but I had recently been to a fabric store with both of the kids.  Could it be that one of my kids had stolen the thimble?  And why?

Being the detective that I was (it’s one of the many Mom hats we wear) as we put them to bed, Tom and I told a story about a very bad little boy who stole things.  I’ll admit, we both assumed that it was Stephen because, after all, he LOVED his pockets and putting things in them.

We had barely made it through the story when Courtney burst out “I did it!  I stole the cup!  It was for Polly Pocket!”

The following day we made a family trip to the fabric store and I made her return the thimble and confess to the store clerk.  Unfortunately, the clerk thought I was crazy for making her return a 99 cent thimble, but trust me, Courtney has strayed as far away as possible from anything remotely related to sewing!

Back to the topic of cleaning house, I would like to note that it has changed through the years.  When Stephen got his driver’s license and started carrying a wallet, I can tell you that his wallet was the cleanest wallet in town because I must have washed it once a week.

But now that Tom only uses a debit card, my cleaning days are less fruitful.  The kids are gone, so I think the most profitable day in laundry was the day I found 11 cents in the bottom of the washer.

I cleaned house Thursday.  Now I’ve gone from every day to once a month.  And only because the cat hair floating across the floors is overwhelming.  And I guess you could say my finds are, er, different.  This time I found 2 orange ear plugs beneath a sea of cat hair under the bed, next to a stale frosted mini-wheat.

Times have changed?  I guess this is what life looks like when your nest is no longer full of children and has been replaced by cats.  Welcome to my world.

Do-overs

In my last post I told you how much I missed my kids.  Nothing’s changed, but I wanted to share a few tips with you so that you wouldn’t have to experience 1,500 miles of distance between you and your children like I have to.

First of all, I always told my kids that they could go anywhere.  I told them not to limit their college selections based on close proximity to home but rather to use that time to go out and see the world.

What was I thinking?

When Stephen was a senior in high school we took him to Los Angeles and it was during that trip that he decided he wanted to live on the beach and go to college at UCLA.  Courtney’s junior year we took a trip to New York and that’s all it took to convince her that she was destined to attend New York University.  What were we thinking?

The summer of 2006 was horrible.  Courtney graduated from high school and was headed to NYU and Stephen, after 2 years at the University of Oklahoma, had been accepted at UCLA.  In August, we rented a U-Haul and drove Stephen’s belongings to California, then boarded a plane to New York to get Courtney situated in the Big Apple.

In a one week time frame, my kids were bi-coastal.

I cried the ugly cry all the way home from New York.  Then I spent several months drowning my sorrows with double stuffed Oreos.

It was awful. I gained 30 pounds and slept with my cell phone in case they called.

I thought that raising my kids to think for themselves was the right thing to do.  I figured that the worst that could happen would be that they would vote for a Democrat.  Boy was I wrong.

Now Stephen is working and living in Houston, and in a few months he will be transferring to Denver.  Courtney has decided that pursuing a career in screenwriting will mean that she will move to Canada after she graduates.

If you don’t want to end up like me, with an empty nest, here are my suggestions:

1.  Never take your kids to vacation spots that are also college towns.

2.  Aside from the geography that they study in 8th grade, don’t tell them that life exists outside a 50 mile radius.

3.  When they question the existence of  cities like New York City or Los Angeles, LIE.  Tell them those aren’t real places, just Hollywood fantasy.

4.  Most importantly, lay on the guilt.  Tell them how sad you will be if they move away. And,

5.  If all else fails, bribe them.  Or lock them in their rooms, whichever comes easier.

I am proud of my kids.  I live my life vicariously through them.  Stephen spends every third or fourth weekend in Mexico or Italy vacationing.  Courtney is being mentored by the best writers and moguls in the media world.  Stephen makes more money than his dad does and Courtney is becoming a very sought-after entertainment graphic designer.

I don’t know whether to be jealous of them or excited that when they put us out to pasture, they’ll be able to afford designer Mu Mu’s for me and a room with a view for their dad.

I miss my kids

It was April the last time I saw my beautiful Courtney, and my Stephen is in Houston.  While I’ll get to see Courtney at Thanksgiving in New York, it will most likely be Christmas before I see my son.

I miss my kids.  And it’s my fault.

When I was raising my kids I used to tell them that after high school they could go anywhere.  That was the time for them to see the world – there’s more to this life than Oklahoma.  I love the Sooner state, but I wanted them to have a choice – to see what was out there and then make the choice as to where they wanted to live.  If all else failed, they could always come home.

I admit, I was trying a little reverse psychology, and it didn’t work.  I thought if I told them to go, they would choose to stay.  I was wrong.

And now, as the holidays approach, I start getting sad.

That’s to be expected.  But I’ve also reached a place in my life where my kids are happy and they don’t really need me as much as they used to.  Whereas before I would get at LEAST one call a day from Courtney and a call or two a week from Stephen, now I’m lucky if Stephen has time for me once a month and Courtney does good to have time for me once a week.

I understand that they are living the lives I raised them to live, but I didn’t know it would hurt so much.  I LIKE my kids, I LOVE my kids, and I MISS my kids.  I spent 25 years being their mom, and now, they don’t need me.

So I’m baking.  I’m sending them all the goodies that they can’t get anywhere else.  I’m tempting them, enticing them, bribing them – whatever it takes – to remind them that there’s no place like home.  Caramel popcorn, fudge, party mix and puppy chow – all their favorites.

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.  I know they’re living the lives they were intended to live.  But I would suggest to other moms out there – make home the place that nothing can compete with.

Or, just drill it into their little minds that Mom always comes first.  Period.

Guilt works too.  That’s my next approach.

Stupid empty nest…

Homecoming

Thirty years ago tonight I was wearing a lovely purple dress and being escorted across the football field to be crowned Homecoming Queen.  I had my Farrah hair sufficiently plastered in place – if a breeze had blown, my Final Net Extra Hold hairspray wings would have given me liftoff.

I can honestly say that the title was never really useful.  There’s no box to check on a job application (gender M/F – homecoming queen Y/N?) and I’ve never had the occasion to wear the crown.  I am available for ribbon cutting ceremonies if anyone needs an old queen!

I’m a little nervous.  It’s been 3 decades since I’ve seen most of the people I went to school with and this evening I’m going to reconnect with them.  A lot has changed – besides my weight.  I have age spots, spider veins, a turkey neck and I’ll have to wear glasses to actually SEE them – then I’ll have to try to figure out WHO they are.  My memory is terrible.  I do good just to remember my own children’s names and don’t ask me how old I am unless you want to wait for me to do the math.

Nostalgia is starting to creep in.  Friends who have already left this world will be missed. I can feel the lump in my throat swelling.  I’m definitely going to need to wear water-proof mascara and stuff a wad of tissues in my purse.

Now to go get ready.  I’ve only got 2 hours and it will take me that long just to squeeze into my Spanx.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  Hm, what to wear?  Crown or no crown?

Important things I learned from my dad

Dear Dad,

I just wanted you to know that the things you taught me and the example you set for me made me the woman, wife, and mother that I am today.  In spite of all the times I slammed my door, argued with you, and pouted when I got mad – I was listening.  At least most of the time.

You taught me how to remove stitches when I was 10 – who needs a doctor when you can do it yourself?

You taught me that coconut cream pie and a Coke is the REAL breakfast of champions

You taught me that Christmas trees don’t have to be purchased – there are plenty available off the side of the road, over the fence and through the woods – you just have to bring your own saw and HURRY!

You taught me that “IT’S NOT TO REASON WHY, IT’S TO DO OR DIE”

You taught me how to drive a stick shift – or, rather, you frowned and yelled a lot and I cried – but I learned and I’m the one who taught my kids

You taught me that when you disciplined me it was hurting you worse than it was hurting me – hmmm, still not quite sure about that one

You taught me not to do as you DID, but to do as you SAID – I’ve used that one a few times myself

You never swore, except to Pete, whoever that was

And most importantly, you continue to teach me that I can count on you and you will always, always be there for me.

That was proven first in 1972 when our life became just the two of us.  I can never thank you enough for taking on the responsibility of raising a 9-year-old me.  That was not easy, I’m certain.

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Sigmund Freud

Freud was right, but not just in childhood, forever.

Love,

Your daughter