Friday, July 31, 2009

Date Night: The Cure for What Ails You

I have a great marriage. I'm not bragging, I just do.

Both of us grew up with divorce and remarriage(s), we've had the good fortune of seeing the bad, and the very good, and have learned from our parents and step-parents about what it takes to make a marriage work. From the get-go we both felt like we would do whatever we had to do to keep our marriage intact. It has not always been smooth sailing, but the stormy seas have taught us to become skillful navigators.

It is crucial that we present a united front. I don't mean that we don't argue, because we have enthusiastic disputes quite often. But we have learned over the years that we're not going to see eye-to-eye about everything. On occasion, we've had to just agree to disagree and move on. (I love Michael J. Fox's take on marriage: "Keep the fights clean and the sex dirty!")

One way that we've managed to strengthen our bond is by cultivating "date night." Sometimes it's the cliche of a romantic dinner, sometimes it's a cuppa-joe at "W-Awful House," sometimes it's a clandestine rendezvous on the front porch. The place is not important, the company is!

Last night's "date night" was actually a business meeting of sorts. But we were alone, together, and focused on a common goal. I would not use the word "romantic" to describe it, but it did serve the purpose of unity on a cerebral level.

I hear many of my peers complain about what their husbands don't do. I've learned to celebrate the things that my husband DOES do. I feel as though he and I are complete partners in marriage, parenthood and running our household. He is the other half of me, and I'm not going to get anywhere by putting myself down.

I couldn't quite put my finger on the thing that wasn't "right" with me this week. But "date night" turned out to be the cure for what was ailing me. I'm ready, bring it on!

Marriage is more than raising kids, more than paying bills, even more than having sex (although, that's one of the perks. . .) It's about edifying your partner, celebrating their successes and encouraging them through the tough times.

When you're feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, it's a good time to go back to the source (in this case, my Baby-Daddy) and reinforce your focus.

I'm not the only married woman who holds this opinion. Here's another take on the importance of working together with your spouse, written this week by my good friend at Momsweb:

Have fun!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Let it Wane

"The sky is cryin'.
Can't you see the tears roll down the street?
I've been lookin' for my baby,
And I wonder where she can be." - Stevie Ray Vaughn

Yeah, I've got the blues.

Over the years, the thrill associated with being a mother can wax and wane. For the past few days, it's been a little waney around here. And I obviously have not waxed.

I've felt distant from my children, as though we're all just going through the motions. The Edge (of 17) comes and goes to work. Halfway Between (10 & 20) comes and goes to hang with his friends. For Black Jack (21), either things are going really smoothly or he's in jail, because he didn't return my call yesterday. Even 7th Heaven is otherwise occupied with all the Barbie stuff she rediscovered when she cleaned her room.

I always prided myself on those noisy family dinners where everyone tried to talk over each other. I secretly covet the tasteless jokes and random body noises while maintaining my scolding demeanor. Now, we're lucky to get three of us to the table - and with all the healthy food I'm serving, nobody has gas! It's sad.

I usually try and keep my blogs upbeat and jovial, but the truth is that it's not always like that around here. Sometimes, it can get downright lonely and a little boring. I throw on my Stevie CD and, well, does anyone have a tissue?

What I have found, though, is that the "downtime" is usually a precursor to some big to-do. There is another crisis lurking around the corner and I'll be called upon to duck into the proverbial phone booth and don my cape and tights. And then the good times (and even a few heads) are prone to roll!


I guess I'll go shave my legs. Tights look terrible with stubble sticking out.

Have fun!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Conversations in the Rearview

Some days, 7th Heaven can't make up her mind.

"Hey Mom, has it been three months?"

"Three months since what, baby?"

"Three months!"

"It's the end of July, the seventh month. . ."


"What are you getting at?" Halfway Between (10 & 20) chimed in.

"Stay out of this!" His sister fussed.

"Honey, we're just trying to figure out what you're talking about!" I was hoping to head off an argument. . .and figure out what the heck she was talking about!

"HAS-IT-BEEN-THREE-MONTHS?" She tried to spell it out.

"Do you mean summer?" Halfway was trying to be the interpreter.

"NO! I was a first-grader. Mom said it would be three months until I was a second grader."

"Oh. . ." Sometimes we Moms are a little slow on the uptake. "You have about three and a half weeks until school starts."

"Yeah!" she said. Then thought for a second, "Noooooooooooo!" Then a few seconds later, "Yeah!"

"Well, are you happy, or not?" her brother asked.

"Honestly, I'm just not sure!"

Sweetheart, honestly, neither are we!

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Say My Name. . .

"Say my name, say my name.
You actin' kinda shady." -Destiny's Child

Y'all doing the shoulder thing with me? I have no rhythm. I think I gave myself a crick. But I digress. . .on to blog world. . .

"MOM!" The Edge hollered at me the other day as I was walking out the door.

"WHAT?! I'm walking out the door."

Her "person of interest" was on the phone and wanted to know how to address her father and me.

"'Most Beautiful and Intelligent Goddess of the World'. . .no, 'the UNIVERSE' would be appropriate for me. And Dad can be 'Dude.'"

Ha ha, he'll LOVE that! I thought to myself as I closed the door.

There are a few long-term family-friend kids who know me as "Miss Lara," but most of my kids' friends refer to me as Mrs. McKnight.

At first, it sounded a little stilted, but it's grown on me. Kinda like "Miss Jackson if you're nasty. . ." (Oops, there goes the shoulder again!)

So, now that Black Jack (21) has a fiancee, it's thrown me into a weird position. I call her to shoot the breeze on occasion. "Hey, it's. . ."

Who am I? Mrs. McKnight?

Your fiance's Mommy who loves him very very very much and will track you down and pull your hair if you do him wrong?

Lara? No, just using my first name didn't seem quite right, either. After all, I've got to maintain my "status."

"Hey, it's Me." Yeah, that will do it.

For the first ten years or so of our marriage, I would call my own Mother-in-law "Hi. How are you?" Or sometimes, I'd yank a passing kid into my lap and then could say, "Hey, Mamae, the baby wants to talk to you. . ." It's only lately that I've been comfortable with using her first name.

Fortunately my OTHER Mother-in-law is my age, so calling her by her name is no big deal. I call my Father-in-law long distance. :)

I guess I could make it easy on everyone and just come up with some cutsie nickname. In high school, I was "Doo." It was a shortened version of my maiden name. Fortunately, I didn't have any friends who stuttered.

My Mom calls me "Lollipop." I don't know. . .that's too close to "Sucker."

My husband sometimes calls me a "Mean Old B*%&!" and I have to set him straight. I am NOT old.

I don't know. Everyone else around here just calls me "MOOOOOOOOM!" There are days I regret starting that one going, not sure if I want that to be the norm.

So, what do you think, Dear Reader? What are your suggestions for referring to your potential future in-laws?

I still think that "Goddess" thing rocks, myself.

Have fun!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Is There Womb For Everybody?

"All that she want is another baby." - Ace of Base

That little ditty came out shortly before the arrival of our second child. I can remember Hubbalicious singing it to me while I was in labor with her. And my adoring response:

"Shut up!"

Things have sure changed since I first started having kids, 21 years ago. With my first, I had to have an emergency C-section. They put a mask over my face. The next thing I knew, someone was smearing Blistex on my lips and another someone kept trying to hand me this baby. "Take him, you'll like him!"

The second, also a c-section, was a little more entertaining. My husband stood overhead and gave my the play-by-play. "You should SEE what they're doing! This is SO cool!"

Number three was a VBAC. He was a breeze, in comparison to the first two. (An omen of things to come? One can only hope!)

By the time I got to my fourth child, I just went through the drive-through. What, I got fries with her. . .

We attended the arrival party for our newest family member last night. My husband's youngest sister lay in the bed looking uncomfortable while twenty people stood around the small room and shot the breeze. I leaned over and commented to my Father-in-law, "If I'd have known it was this kind of party, I'd have brought the Salsa. . ."

Fortunately, about the time that 7th Heaven started in with her latest round of questions ("Now, Mommy, where EXACTLY is that 'special place' the doctor gets the baby?") we were ushered out into the waiting room.

A short time later, we huddled around the video camera, watching my newest niece make her appearance as the final shreds of her mother's dignity were carefully hidden behind my Mother-in-law's head. "Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!"

We never did get to see the actual baby. It got late, the gang got restless(er) and we decided we'd pop back in once everyone was more "settled."

As we dive into the beginning of another "baby season" in our family (we've got three coming for sure and one "suspicious" one), I have to admit that I enjoy all the fuss and excitement, the stories and laughter we exchange amidst the anticipation and the comfort we take in knowing that everything came out okay in the end.

We dragged in pretty late, passed out the smooches and promptly hit the sack. The teens, more prone to late nights than their parents, hit the shower and the computer. As we lay there in the dark, drifting off to blissful slumber, my husband patted my stomach and made the comment, "I wonder what it's like to have a big ole' lump there, and then. . .it's just gone."

About that time, the hall light clicked on and Halfway Between stage-whispered, "Hey Mom!"

"Oh, no, dear. . .it's not gone. It's in the hallway and it apparently needs something. . ."

Have fun!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Don't Put Des-cartes Before the Horse

"I think, therefore I am. . .entitled." Rene Descartes' teenagers

I think that the parking lot at Wally World provides a good lesson in personal responsibility.

For years, now, it has been the privilege of the kid-on-hand to return the shopping basket to the designated area. We used it, therefore we should put it up. I guess you could say that I'm a big proponent of the philosophy that "descartes" go in "descartes return."

Yesterday, the task fell to 7th Heaven. She patiently waited while I unloaded my purchases into the Mombus, then took charge, "I've got this, Mom!"

"Watch for cars!"

She bopped back from her duties and loaded and locked herself into the seat. "Look at all those carts, Mom! Why don't people put them up?"

There were three carts in the empty space in front of my vehicle, and others scattered about the lot. "Well, dear, some people don't exercise personal responsibility. Do you know what that means?"

"It means taking care of your business, right Mommy?"

"Ex-spactly!" she giggled. The giggling ceased when I continued, "Kind of like keeping your room clean, picking up your Barbies off the living room floor, hanging up your towel. . ."

I looked up in the rear view in time to catch the eye roll.

She comes by it honestly. Her brothers and sister have their own issues with personal responsibility.

This morning, I prodded Halfway Between (10 & 20) from the comfort of his "sleep taco" (he wraps himself in the blanket, it's kinda cute) and sent him to put the Recycling can at the curb. "Son, it's your responsibility to get it out there. I know I've only mentioned this a few gazillion times. . ."

"Yes ma'am. . ."

"And stop on the way back to bed and put the dishes you used last night into the dishwasher."

"Yes ma'am. . ."

"And then you can pick up the clothes on your floor. . ."

He looked at me like I was Satan, then headed out on his appointed rounds.

You'd think after fifteen years, or seventeen years, or even twenty-one years of fairly consistent prodding, they'd get the idea that Mom isn't going to relent on the issue of personal responsibility. Don't get me wrong, I have my moments of weakness.

But, like Erma Bombeck says, "I'm going to stop punishing my children by saying, 'Never mind, I'll do it myself!'"

Hang in there, and have fun!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

There Is Water at the Bottom of the Ocean

"Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down." - Talking Heads

Where to begin?

Okay, well, the reason I often begin my blogs with a line from a song, I guess. I love a good musical - and have been known to randomly burst into song. Yes, that really does happen in real life. It's just a thing. Sure, it's weird. But it makes things more interesting. Imagine "Singing in the Rain" with no singing, that's all I'm saying.

This morning, I woke early and quietly, slammed back a couple of cups of coffee, checked my Facebook status and the Obituaries to make sure I was still here, then headed off to meet my friend at the corner for our walk.

In the distance, I saw a figure in blue, bending and stretching. "Oh, wow, my watch must be slow!" I thought to myself, then broke into a run. I hate to keep anyone waiting.

I made it two blocks before I gave out. I made myself jog another block before I realized it wasn't her.

An hour later, I was back at home, ready to take Halfway Between (10 & 20) and his buddy to their Robotics class at the college. I grabbed a glass of water and demonstrated my knowledge of robotics for my captive audience. They were not impressed with my attempt at popping and locking. The swinging arm did garner an uncomfortable grimace from the friend.

An hour later, I was back at home, ready to take 7th Heaven to her art camp. "Did you get my Portugal?" she asked.

It took me a minute. "Yes, here is your Port-FO-lio." I gathered some paperwork for my husband, ran down the list of errands and phone calls he needed me to handle, jumped into the shower for a quick rinse, and we hit the road.

An hour later, I was back at home, ready to eat a salad, write my blog and then run those errands. "Mommy, I need help!" the Edge (of 17 ) called from her room.

Two hours later, we had finished a deep, meaningful and occasionally tearful conversation about my pushing her to "dual enroll" at the community college for her last year of high school. She's been homeschooled for the last two years and we've been hashing and re-hashing options without any firm commitments. Finally, we agreed we'd go talk to the counselor tomorrow and make a game plan that was acceptable to both of us.

She went to take a shower, and I decided to check my email. I was reading a note from my aunt that a family member has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer when the Edge hollered, "MOM! There's no water!"

"What?!" Long story short (sorry, too late for that, I guess!) I'd paid all of our bills online before we went to Daytona at the end of last month. . .well, apparently with the exception of the water bill.


So, I took care of the bill, wrote an email response to my aunt, said a few prayers, revisited some questions I'm going to be asked on a podcast tomorrow on and fielded a phone call from my Mother-in-law.

"Y'all coming over tomorrow?" Huh?

"They're going to induce your sister-in-law." Just tell her to keep her legs crossed for ONE MORE DAY!

I didn't say that. "Of COURSE we'll be there. . ."

Feeling poopie, I decided to call my BFF from MFF (Get it? Moms Fighting Fat! There's a link to her page on my blog list - be sure to check out our podcast tomorrow!) I relayed the whole sordid mess to her.

Her compassionate response: "Sounds like a blog!"

And that is why I love her.

Needless to say, the water is back on, the baby is home, the Edge is freshly showered and on her way to work, and all is, for a moment, right with the world.

Sounds like a good time to sing and dance. . . Care to join me in the "Robot?"

Same as it ever was. . .same as it ever was. . .

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Do You Like Kipling?

I don't know, I've never Kippled!

Ah, that's one of my favorite jokes. And the title of my blog is an homage to one of my favorite poems, "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

I mean, really, any poem that opens with, "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. . ." is certainly a good one for a mom to know. If you're not familiar with it, here's a link:

(Kipling is also responsible for "Jungle Book," "Rikki Tikki Tavi," "Captain's Courageous," and "Gunga Din.")

Raising children in a modern world can certainly be a challenge. I reckon every parent who has ever raised kids has thought the same of their "modern" world - after all, Kipling wrote "If" over a century ago.

We'd all like our kids to follow our advice, take heed of our warnings, become strong, compassionate, self-sufficient individuals. The truth is, though, that most of them are going to fight for their own way and believe that we are just there to "ruin their lives." Don't take it personally. It is what it is.

But some day, if we are very patient and very lucky, they will have teenagers of their own.

Sure, I've got the whole "Sixty seconds' worth of distance run" bit down. . .but I'm still counting the minutes until I hear those magical words: "Mom, you were right!"

Have fun!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Life Takes on a New Dimension

Four generations watching the Moon Launch, Titusville, Florida-1969

"You should have seen it in color. . ." - Jamey Johnson

A human being is climbing down a ladder, about to be the first Earthling set foot on the Moon.

"Y'all come watch this!" Hubbalicious called out to the kids.

"We're making milk shakes!" 7th Heaven responded from the kitchen.

"The whole world stopped to watch this forty years ago," I suggested as I stood between rooms.

"That was forty years ago!" The Edge (of Seventeen) hit the pulse button on the blender again, then hit several buttons on her cell phone. "Besides, it's all in black and white. I don't like to watch shows in black and white."

Maybe Halfway Between 10 & 20 would be interested. I walked down the hall and stuck my head into his room. "Come watch, they're showing the actual telecast of Armstrong walking on the moon!"

"Thanks, but I'm talking to my friend on Skype right now. . ."

"But this is a dude. . .walking on the moon!"

"In 1969. . ." he sang along, then returned to his computer "call."

"It's just my Mom, she wants me to come watch some lame show about the moon." Then he redeemed himself, "I love you, Mommy."

I guess they've seen too many movies, experienced too much "virtual reality" to find actual reality very interesting.

So Hubs and I sat alone watching "history" and understanding that we live in an amazing time, when people going into space is no big deal, you can instantly send a text to a friend, and talk to someone face-to-face on your computer.

Some day they'll sit watching their holographic images, trying to explain to their kids that life was still pretty amazing in 2-D. . .

Fine Home Design

There's a commercial on our local radio station featuring a sultry Southern lady who claims she can "Make yo' home look lahk a piture out of a maaaaagazine. . ."

That sounds lovely.

However, as I look around this morning, I think my home ALREADY looks like a picture out of a magazine!

The "Toys 'R' Us" catalog. . .

Have fun!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

All the Way to the Moon, and Back

I think it is fitting to launch my new blog on the eve of the anniversary of the Moon landing.

I can imagine how those guys felt, taking one small step for man and a giant leap for mankind. After all, that's how I felt the first time I held my own child. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that it was going to be an adventure.

Now, years later, I reflect on those first moments of uncertainty and realize that I have learned so much - and that I still have miles to go!

I hope you'll take some comfort, dear reader, as I chronicle the daily chaos of raising my children, that we all have days when we'd like to send them straight to the moon. When they offer you whine, certainly you're inclined to serve up a little green cheese with it!

Just keep in mind that they have their moments, too, when you love them all the way to the moon, and back.

Have fun!