Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Manic Act of Kindness

I had just dropped the kids off in front of the school one day last week, when I noticed something amiss with the car in front of me. As I rounded the brick-paved driveway, I noticed a lunchbox perched in the back window.

I have been the victim of a forgotten lunchbox a time or two myself, so I felt compelled to somehow let this other mom know. If I could just save one mom from having to drive all the way back to the school, or from the tremendous guilt of her child having to eat a dreaded "emergency lunch" (if she never even realized the lunchbox was forgotten), then it would be worth it. (Note: While I, personally, am very grateful the "emergency lunch" system exists so that my children do not starve, they are not as appreciative because they are not fans of the type of food that is offered).

As I followed this unsuspecting fellow mom out of the school, my heart was racing and my stomach was churning as I desperately tried to hatch a plan. Naturally my first plan was to do nothing. Because I had a pretty good hunch I would just be making a fool out of myself, anyway. Ah, but then enter the guilt trip, stage left. Wouldn't I appreciate it immensely if someone would stick their neck out for me in this manner? Wouldn't I be grateful for time and gas money and hassle and frustration SAVED? Yes, I would.

But there was really nothing I could think of to do, unless . . . unless the stoplight at the end of the road was red. Then I could put my good deed into motion, dash out of my driver's seat and with wicked speed, knock on this ill-fated mom's window (not too loudly, so as not to ruin her day in other ways). I could reveal to her the location of her child's lunchbox and save the day! Oh, my heart was pounding wildly now.

As we turned the corner on the road, I saw that the light was indeed red! But as we pulled up to stop, it tauntingly turned an annoying shade of green; the kind you only see when you want the light to be red so you reach something on the floor of the car or floss your teeth. Foiled!

Okay, now I really just needed to give up. I mean, how far am I expected to go when paying it forward or performing a random act of kindness? This was getting way too difficult. But some Jiminy-Cricket-like presence was on my shoulder, nagging me to go in hot pursuit of this vehicle.

So I got in the other lane and positioned myself next to her. I looked over. She looked like her day was not off to a good start already. Elbow up on the top of the door, head leaning on hand, mind most likely a million miles away. Boy, was I doing her a favor. I was going to change her life. So I honked the horn. She didn't look. I honked again. Nothing. One more time, more persistently. She finally looked, startled and giving that confused smile and wave you give when you think someone you know is trying to say hello, rather than a stranger is trying to save your life.

I had my window rolled down, and tried to holler over the noise. But I also pointed to the back of her car for a visual aid. "There's a lunchbox back there!" I yelled triumphantly. This was it. I was going to see a relieved look of gratitude on her face and with one glance, she was going to communicate to me that I had changed the course of her life that day and my reward would be in heaven. Only I didn't get the look. She said, "Oh!" She was smiling when she said it, but it was just, "Oh!" I smiled obligingly, and rolled my window back up. And went on my merry way. Without my good feeling.

I passed her and continued to watch her in my rear view mirror. It didn't appear that she had any intentions of making a u-turn. Nope. Just driving straight ahead on the same path. Not going back. Didn't seem bothered by the lunchbox at all. Well. And I had done everything but run her off the road and make a citizen's arrest.

It took me a good few minutes to be able to say this, but I don't have any regrets, and if I had it to do all over again, I'd do the exact same thing. Because if I had not done it, I would be feeling like I had let humanity down, and not cared, and not tried to help. I have no idea who she is. I pray she doesn't know who I am, either. But how was I to know the lunchbox was not needed? Maybe her child was having lunch at school that day. But it seemed logical to me that the lunchbox was just forgotten. And maybe it was, but she has a different way of thinking than me. Maybe her child LIKES "emergency lunches" . . . Or here's a thought: maybe she didn't even understand what I was trying to tell her.

But it is worth it to go out of your way. I don't feel satisfied that I helped her out in any way, but I wouldn't want to have gone on wondering if I could have helped, but didn't. From now on, I plan to avert my eyes from other vehicle's back windows when leaving the school. On the other hand, maybe I just need to be more prepared. I could make a sign that says, "Does your child need that lunchbox today?" and just hold it up as I drive by.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hitch Your Wagon to a Star

It seemed like a good time to get some exercise one day last week, as I do on occasion while Hannah and Emma are in gymnastics class, so I headed out to the van with Olivia. It was not, however, according to my plan to find that packed in there instead of the stroller was the wagon, still there from trick-or-treating in our friends' neighborhood two days earlier.

Determined to burn some calories anyway, I decided to just go ahead and use the wagon. My arms and back were not thanking me the next day, but the hilarity of Olivia's Wagon Ride Adventure far outweighs the agony.

We thought it would be marvelous for her to have more room to play in the wagon. We even brought along her "Cinderellas," as we call them - eight little character figurines she likes to play with. Since I didn't have a handy little tray with cup holders like I do on the stroller, I had to stash my keys, cell phone, and water bottle in there with her, too. There are two seats in the wagon, so she sat in one, and I folded the other one down to make a table for her to play on. Oh, and I also set my tall stainless steel water bottle on that "table" too.

It turns out that going fast with a wagon makes for a pretty rough ride. I guess we usually only use the wagon on slow occasions. For the first several minutes, all Olivia could do was lean over with her arms encompassing all of her Cinderellas and my water bottle. She was yelling, "Can you slow down?!" and "I should have remembered the stroller!" and I was laughing uncontrollably. She was in such an adorable crisis mode, little drama princess that she is. Naturally I really didn't want to slow down and lose any cardio benefits I was getting. But it WAS pretty loud.

After a few minutes, I stopped and put my water bottle on the floor of the wagon. She was terribly concerned that it was going to get dirty, but I assured her not to worry about it. And then we started up again.

It's a lovely, shady sidewalk to be on - there's even a pond on our route. I looked back at her to check on her after a few minutes and caught her waving to a passing vehicle, like she was the main attraction of a parade float. Of course the next time I turned around, she was hugging her bare arms like a cold, neglected child. Mind you, the temperature was an icy 79 degrees at that point.

We finally got back to the van. "I couldn't even talk!" Olivia declared. I began unpacking the wagon and she asked me to unbuckle her. I hadn't buckled her in, so I asked why she did it herself. "Was Mommy driving too crazy?" I asked with amusement. She narrowed her gaze and with a somber face declared, "I didn't want to fall in the lake!"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back To Life, Back to Reality

It's back to life as usual this week, in all its grocery-shopping and meal-making glory!

We had a lovely little staycation last week, if I do say so myself. My dear husband took last week off from work so that I and my bruised butt could be rescued from painful tasks such as driving the carpool and wrangling a three-year-old. But if you think being on the injured reserve list exempts you from further incident (even whilst recuperating), allow me to enlighten you.

You may, perhaps, be standing at the bottom of the stairs in your home, pausing only to look adoringly at one of your children while she plays nicely by herself. You may even pat her head lovingly before you turn to go up said stairs and see objects flying at you.

This will probably be because you have decided to decorate the landing on the stairs with a small round tablecloth-covered table, which greatly interests your new rapidly-growing kitten (do not be fooled by his cute and innocent appearance in the picture). And when he takes off from underneath the table, the tablecloth will come with him, thereby sending the table (and the flowers on top of it) hurtling down the stairs toward your shin.

Another thing you are not exempt from is temper tantrums and the fallout thereof. For example, you may be caught in the crossfire if your six-year-old should happen to have a meltdown because her older sister tattled on her for using too much product in her hair one morning (not that there is any resulting parental punishment, mind you).

Then when she unequivocally refuses to go to school that day, but changes her mind after her father leaves with her siblings for school, I ask you, who will have to take her to school? The fact that you have not been driving a vehicle because you injured your delicate sitting device will not bail you out of this one.

And, as if that cat has not caused enough trouble, he may also get the hankering to take off like a speeding bullet but instead plow right into your OTHER shin, nothing but cat skull against shinbone, making a sickeningly loud cracking sound. This will give you matching shin bruises.

Despite all this, it was nice to live life at a slowed-down pace and even garner some time to myself while everyone else was at gymnastics. Alone. At home. Just me. A very strange concept, indeed.

In closing, I would like to attempt to revamp the definition of the word torture as follows:

torture [tawr-cher] - noun: pain or suffering caused by someone who has temporarily lost the ability to bend over having to helplessly witness an increasing volume of items on the floor, which do not belong on the floor, but simultaneously living in a house with four other people, who couldn't care less if there are things on the floor that do not belong on the floor.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tale of a Bruised Tail

Top 3 Things to Do BEFORE Arriving at an E/R Due to Falling on Butt at Roller Skating Rink:

1. Guzzle as much water as you possibly can, camel-style, because once you get there, the dangerous liquid will be taboo, just in case you have done so much damage to your tailbone that you have to be prepped for surgery and rushed to the OR (and while you're at it, completely ignore that reason because it will FREAK YOU OUT).

2. Hit a Taco Bell drive-through. I know this will seem ludicrous at the time, since you are in pain and very concerned about your lack of ability to stand/walk/sit. But, trust me, the fact that you ate dinner very early in order to get your kids to their skating party on time will come back to haunt you and your empty stomach, at the very latest by 2:00 AM, while you are still waiting for x-ray results. And since you are already in pain, why do you need your stomach growling, too? But since water is forbidden, don't even THINK about getting food in the E/R.

3. B.Y.O.I.P. Bring Your Own Ice Pack. Because while you'd think with all the smart nurses and doctors running around, SOMEONE would have the brilliant idea to supply with you an ice pack for your sore bottom, this will not happen.

And as a bonus (I'm not going to count this as a number since it IS a tad silly as far as solutions go), bring an air mattress. Because the fact that you cannot sit down leaves you in a quandary in the waiting room. And the same reasons for which you are not allowed to drink water (think: possible damage to tailbone requiring surgery) do not apply to sitting on said possibly-damaged tailbone. So in review: Water, no way. Sitting on injury, absolutely.

Now you may be asking yourself why I don't just recommend staying away from a roller skating rink at all costs. Or at least keeping the shoes with wheels off of your feet. But there are two reasons why. First of all, I was trying to have fun with my kids and play along with them. This is usually very much encouraged by family experts. And secondly, I have never had a problem roller skating. But accidents happen to everyone. And believe me when I tell you that it felt like someone pulled the skating rink out from under me. I had no warning, and I still could not tell you why it happened.

So I'm just going to chalk it up to one of those things in life that was not reasonably avoidable. And be very thankful that I didn't fracture anything. And be very chummy with my Percocet and my donut pillow (lesser known by the name "coccyx cushion" - hmm, wonder why that name didn't catch on). And I probably won't roller skate anymore. My Mom thinks that once this is just a happy memory, I may be willing to get back on the horse (or at least the roller skates). But I think in the future I will find other ways to have fun and "play along." You know, WATCHING is highly underrated. The kids LOVE to be watched. And almost nobody falls while watching.

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Empty Space

The world is missing a mother this week. A mother of five whose twin daughters are in my daughter's fourth grade class. I didn't know her very well, but my heart is broken for her husband and children. Our paths did cross a few times. Nothing exciting. I just want to honor her memory.

Her girls were in Hannah's Girl Scout troop for a few months. I have a memory of one meeting when she was playfully daring me to volunteer for something. I remember feeling a rapport with her at that moment that made me think we may become friends. Sadly, that never happened.

During the time her girls were in the troop, she headed up the fall fundraiser. At the meeting on the night before the money had to be sent in, she told me one of our checks needed to be made out differently. I hadn't brought my checkbook, so I had to drive out to her house the next morning. I have to be honest and say that I was a little perturbed that she didn't call me prior to the meeting so I could have brought my checkbook with me that night. But now I have the memory of a little wooden bench outside her front door with her twins' names lovingly carved in it.

Then there was the time that Hannah came home from school with a uniform shirt that had their last name written on the tag. I contacted her about it, thinking Hannah must have gotten hers mixed up with one of the twins'. Her response was so laid back! She didn't think it was theirs and if it was, they wouldn't miss it, anyway, so go ahead and keep it. Oh, and she didn't even think they had Hannah's shirt, either.

The last time I saw her was right before school started, at the classroom visitation on August 20th - almost exactly one month before she died. We were joking about our children and she told me how she loved to quote Bill Cosby when he said, "The reason why we have five children is because we do not want six."

She was full of humor and ease. And she has left an empty space on this earth. May God comfort her loved ones now as only He can.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'll Go Get My Ball

My kids have a nifty little feature in their lunch boxes - a message board. It's where we can write each other funny notes or crucial information. Or they can draw on it during lunch time. Whatever. It's very casual.

I find it most ironic when Emma writes me a note asking me to wash off the message board. I know she means that it needs a deep cleaning which cannot be afforded by her handy-dandy erasing cloth. But still, I can't get by the irony.

When Hannah came home from school one day in her uniform and announced that her class had been awarded a "free dress" day, I asked her why. Apparently the assistant principal had done a spot check in her classroom to see if they were all dressed according to the proper uniform standards. I found it immensely amusing that the reward for being in uniform was to not have to be in uniform. I spent an entire five minutes of my life (which I will never get back) unsuccessfully attempting to explain the irony to her. Perhaps the most ironic thing about irony for me is that, for a massive portion of my days, there is nobody around to share in it with me. BUT I DIGRESS.

Back to the lunch boxes. I really look forward to what I'm going to see on Emma's message board. She is a 6-year-old 1st-grader and is doing that thing where she is learning to write by spelling things phonetically. It's so darn cute! And the translation fun is never-ending.

By far, my favorite message so far was a little trailer that came after one of her please-clean-my-board requests. I couldn't quite understand what it said, but it looked like this: "mmmm ol go get my bol."

At this juncture, what you must understand is that 1) we have a DVD player in our van, 2) my children do not tire of watching the same movie repeatedly (EVER), 3) when a movie has a funny quote, we will ALL (yes, I include myself in this) wear it out ad nauseum, and 4) one of the movies in our current circulation is "Bolt."

So when I questioned Emma for a translation of her writing, I do not exaggerate when I say that my husband and I burst out laughing at her response. She mimicked the laugh of Rhino the hamster ("mmmm") and said "I'll go get my ball!"

We never tire of giggling at this line. Frankly, Olivia will repeat it over and over again at the top of her lungs. Oddly enough, in the movie, Rhino almost whispers it. Or is that . . . ironic?

***Since this posting, Olivia has taken our favorite quote to a new level by mixing it up as "I'll go get my costume!" Isn't she clever? My 3-year-old is obviously a genius.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Let Them Forget

"Did something bad happen on September 11th?" My oldest daughter, Hannah, is almost 10 years old now. I hadn't yet explained to her the events of that day. It wasn't something I was anxious to share. I don't even want terrorists and hate and murder to exist in her world.

On September 11, 2001, Hannah was about six weeks shy of her first birthday. I was feeding her breakfast when my husband called to tell me about the plane hitting the first tower. When we all thought for a brief and innocent moment that it was some sort of weird accident. I turned on the TV in the living room and listened from the dining room, where I resumed my child's breakfast. And then I heard the words - a second plane had hit the other tower. My heart fell from my chest. And I continued feeding my baby her breakfast from Gerber jars. And people were dying.

So now she was asking. She wanted to know what happened while she was eating her baby food, blissfully unaware. A friend at school told her that a plane had crashed into a building. Yep. That's stripping it back down to its bare naked innocence. If only it were that simple. But I'm sure she was wondering why. And it was time that she knew.

We were on our way to her first Girl Scout meeting of the year. On our way to an activity where she learns to be a confident, good citizen and a contributing member of this society. And I have to tell her about those that wish to tear apart our very way of life and our very lives. But I didn't use those exact words with my still-nine-year-old. No, I chose my words very carefully. I gave her the facts and I tried to explain "why." The very question we have all been asking ourselves for the past 9 years. But I can explain the reasons without fully understanding or agreeing with them.

I tried to keep it simple. Even still, her attention was waning. I'm not sure she realized what was in the box she was opening. I'm pretty sure she silently wished she hadn't asked. But it is my duty to pass the baton of knowledge to her. She may have been here when it happened, but she has no memory of it. She can't remember. So not only is it my responsibility to never forget. It is my obligation to make sure she never forgets.