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.

The MOJO of Christmas

Christmas is magical.  And if you’re an Odessa, Texas, Permian football fan – Christmas is pure MOJO.

Kids are so honest.  Listen how my son tells the story of the birth of Jesus – and notice my daughter’s little voice when her daddy makes the request.

Nothing sweeter than the little voices of my babies.  Twenty years ago they were babies, today they’re who I want to be when I grow up.

Magic I tell you, pure magic.

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…

Ironing out the Wrinkles

Considering that in a few months I’ll be closer to 50 than I am to 45, I decided that I needed to bear some of the responsibility of growing old gracefully, share a few pointers, and reveal the TRUTH ABOUT AGING.

If you’re a young mother or a woman considering having a baby – no, your stomach will never be the same. Flat abs, forget it. My stomach looks like a road map, not to mention that if I squeeze the layers of skin and fat together, I can make my tummy appear to be birthing a baby through my belly button bottom up. Attractive.

The lean, sexy legs are replaced by puckering cellulite, or hail damage as I like to call it, and spiders. Spider veins that is. One of my nieces approached me a few years ago while I was sitting by the pool. It was a rare occasion for me to be unclothed and in swimwear. I try to spare my family the possibility of being ruined for life by exposing them to middle-age flabulosity. When she saw my legs, she remarked, “Nanee! You got tattoos!” I could almost see the wheels spinning in her 4 year old brain. Poor girl will never be the same.

And the worst thing about aging? Wrinkles. Not just your face – I actually like to see wrinkled faces because it speaks to maturity and life experiences – but wrinkles on your knees? Your elbows? Not so cute.

Tip #1 – When you step out of the shower or the tub, dry off in an upward, not downward, motion. Gravity is already doing it’s job, you have to counter it with something.

Tip #2 – There is no tip #2 because tip #1 hasn’t helped me at all.

Maybe it’s better summed up by someone else. Laugh if you can relate, laugh if you think it’ll never happen to you, just laugh. Make those wrinkles do the jiggly dance.

Guilt by Motherhood

What is it with American mothers?  American mothers say, “What am I doing wrong?”  European mothers say, “What’s wrong with this kid?”  ~Dr. Stephen Adelson

It started early and it seemed to come naturally.

No, not motherhood.

Guilt.  Guilt by Motherhood.

Dr. Adelson was our pediatrician.  We spent a lot of time in his office and now that his son is a politician, I have no doubt we were contributing to his campaign fund.  Anyway, after the third or fourth or seventeenth time of seeing the good doctor for the same, recurring ear infection, I felt like the worst mother in the world.  My son Stephen had so many ear infections the first 8 months of his life that he would drool at the sight of anything PINK.  Which may explain this now that I think of it…

Bodybuilding competition, 2006

And that’s when I asked him.  Dr. Adelson didn’t bat an eye or furrow his unibrow.  His answer has bounced around in my head for years.

What is it with American mothers?  American mothers say, “What am I doing wrong?”     European mothers say, “What’s wrong with this kid?”

Maybe it’s just me, thought I suspect I’m not alone, but whenever something went wrong with my kids, an illness or a bad grade or the VCR ate the tape with 8 episodes of Full House on it, it was MY FAULT.

Forgotten lunch money?  My fault.  Bad hair day?  My fault.

A few years ago my kids and I were talking about pregnancy and strange cravings.  I gushed about my first pregnancy with Stephen, telling him that I craved everything liquid – Coke, Hawaiian Punch, Tea, and of course, dill pickle juice.  He stared at me.  Then, he spoke.

“You drank CAFFEINE when you were pregnant with me?!”

The question hung in the air for what seemed like hours while I tried to come up with a lie compose myself.

And that’s the day I actually thanked God for cell phones because Stephen’s phone rang just in that moment and I didn’t have to explain the lie I was conjuring up in my head.

My kids didn’t blame me.  I did.  I apologized for EVERYTHING.

Don’t get me wrong.  I firmly believe that moms are human and we make mistakes and when we do, we should say we’re sorry.  But not EVERYTHING is our fault.

I’m trying to stop – really, I am.  Enough is enough.  And when the guilt becomes too much, then I do what appeases the guilt.  I bake.  I bake their favorite treats, buy their favorite snacks, put it in a big box along with a couple rolls of toilet paper (hey, you can never have too much) and ship it off to them.

I feel so much better, at least for a little while.  And then Courtney gets caught out in the rain in New York City without her umbrella and I apologize.  I feel guilty even though I had previously sent her not one, but two awesome umbrellas.  It’s my fault.  Time to bake.

Hmmm, maybe they’re on to me…