Just a minute

“Just a minute,” I repeated for the bazillionth time, a phrase completely lost on a 3 1/2 year old boy, whose only goal for the day, or in life, is to play ‘fireman emergency’ without interruption.  On this, the rainiest day ever, I’d managed to nearly occupy him with a DVR’d Christmas special and his requested snack, wholegrain oatmeal [I’m serious, he really asked for oatmeal – finally a quirk that works, right?] My husband had offered to pick up a few groceries on his way home from work, so I wouldn’t have to drag two stir-crazy children to the grocery store.  I needed to email him a short list from my phone. I thought if I could get it done quickly, I might not forget anything this time.  3 1/2 year olds are funny.  When they don’t get results after asking for something a handful of times, they continue the asking with increasing pitch and frequency.  Funny, right? Hilarious.

After stalling on his request for a drink for a few repetitions, the room got quiet.  You know the kind of quiet I’m talking about.  Too quiet.  Before I could call out his name in the direction of the gentle rustling I could hear in the next room, he wandered into sight, glass of water in hand.  He proudly walked over to me to tell me he’d gotten a glass out of the cabinet, poured water from the fridge, and added a splash of “tickle water” [carbonated water, cute right?] from a bottle on the counter.  My heart melted.  I was at once beaming with pride and tearful with sorrow, and even a little mad at myself.  It was one of those motherhood moments where you know you got it a little wrong, and where you know you’ll pay the price by time suddenly speeding up a little more.

They say life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.  In few other aspects of life than parenting is this saying more true, nor in that particular moment for me, more literal.  In just a minute, as I wrote a grocery list, my first baby went from asking for my help to helping himself.  I thought of all the other things this startling realization meant.  I looked down at the Lightning McQueen bandaid on my toe.  In just another minute, I wouldn’t be dressing their bobo’s, or my own, with cartoon bandaids.  In just a minute, I’d be able to cook dinner using both arms, because I’d have no baby to hold in one of them. In just a minute, I’d be Mom instead of Mommy, and then a weekend laundry service.  In just a minute, well, my time is up.  Nap time is over, and I promised to play fireman emergency, for just a minute more.

The Gift-wrapper’s Handbook

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11th-hour gift wrapping was practically a holiday tradition during my childhood.  In one of three shared bedrooms at my Grandmother’s house that quickly transformed into a Hallmark midnight madness sale, strewn with 20 or so rolls of wrapping paper remnant ranging from ring-box-size to ginormous-1980s-electronics-size,  we would catch up from a whole year of not sharing one bathroom for several days.  The dramedy that enveloped this annual exercise remains, to this day, one of my fondest childhood memories, and the basis for my new gift-wrapping traditions.

The Gift-wrapper’s Handbook

1. Do not use one of those tape dispensers you put on your hand which dispense no fewer than 10 itty-bitty pieces of tape in total; they are for pansies. Dull scissors and 25 nearly-empty rolls of any kind of clear tape hidden in random places throughout the house will do just fine.  The scavenger hunt should take at least an hour. You’ll still have to go to the store at 11pm for more tape, just as the wine-case is being locked.

2. Break presents down into as many component parts as you can without voiding the manufacturer’s warranty, and wrap said components individually to make it look like there are more presents.

3. Upon forgetting to check that box on the online order form to add gift boxes, use old gift boxes from a different, higher-end store, so as to set falsely high expectations for the gift recipient.  This requires stalking the recipient a bit to make sure you catch their expression when they open it.  Decide in advance whether you can stay the course.

4. If you cut the paper too short to wrap the end properly, don’t start over.  Ya think wrapping paper grows on trees?  Use remnant paper to cleverly cover the end.  No one will ever know you screwed up, especially if you fold the edges over before applying 72 pieces of tape.

5. Whenever possible, use boxes that are entirely too big for their contents, so it looks like you are giving someone a pony or a flatscreen. See #3.

6. Do not introduce politics, religion, or business into our wrapping-session small-talk. Pretend we’re in a bar and stick to topics like celebrity scandal.  See next point.

7. Consume alcoholic beverages disguised as Starbucks treats and which contain roughly the same amount of calories, or twice the daily caloric range for a man.  If you followed rule number one, you’re going to need a drink.  If you broke rule number one, you’ll have a free hand to consume beverages, so you have no excuse.

8. Do not start gift-wrapping until several hours, not days, before gifts are to be opened.  You shouldn’t even be done shopping until the holiday dinner is served. In fact, you should be late to said dinner if at all possible so as to arouse an argument involving at lease half of the adults present.

9. Repeat number 7.  If you’ve recently quit smoking, sneak out for a cigarette. The frost-bite will be totally worth it because no one will smell the smoke on you.

10. After the gift-opening carnage, collect every salvageable scrap of wrapping paper and bows as if your survival depends on it.  As you’re doing this, mutter under your breath that wrapping paper doesn’t grow on trees.

11. Repeat number 7.

I dedicate this post to my awesome aunts, uncles, cousins, and dear Grandmother, who I miss very much.  Merry Christmas!

Sandy Hook

It’s taken me some time to wrap my head around the events and aftermath of the Connecticut shootings.  Actually, my head’s not wrapped around it at all.  How could it be around such a senseless tragedy?  At first I avoided writing about it, and even reading about it to the extent I could.  After all, what more can I add?  What unique perspective? What words of comfort, not just to the survivors of this horrible event, but to the nation, the world at large which also suffers in its wake?  But I soon realized I needed to write about it, if only for my own therapeutic relief.

It amazed me how quickly after the news broke that the polarizing debates began to emerge.  The only thing that seemed to unite us was our grief, our unshakeable sadness, and our desperation to understand how this could have happened, again, and how we could keep our children safe now other than letting the school bus just pass by our stop without putting them on it.

My first instinct was to avoid the topic of gun control.  I even admit to rolling my eyes at the first few posts I saw on Facebook which heatedly addressed the subject, and especially the less-than-accurate statistics reported in support, or dissent of it.  But I can’t deny that it is central to this problem and that possibly I’d been too quick in the past to join one side of the argument, perhaps missing some middle ground where lives could be saved with just a little compromise.  But none of us seems to have the answer to the extent that this problem isn’t still a topic of debate.  We wouldn’t be talking about it if so many lives hadn’t recently ended in senseless violence.

My preferred issue, if you will, though I frankly prefer not to have to take issue at all, is the deserted plain of mental healthcare in our country. To me that is the most senseless part of it, because I still contend that people aren’t motivated by weapons to destroy lives, but rather their own destroyed lives to employ the use of weapons.   This is the obvious eddy in the raging rapids that intertwine our passionate arguments about gun control and help for the mentally ill.  Or more simpy put, the worst chicken and egg quandary mankind may face in modern society, if you’d rather.  Some would argue that resources for mental health are abundant.  My ob/gyn confessed, after counseling me on the signs of postpartum depression, that he wrote more prescriptions for antidepressants than birth control pills.  And therein, in my very lay opinion lies at least part of the problem.  If we have enough help for mental illnesses, is it given too freely, without enough accountability, both on the part of the healthcare system and more poignantly the patient/family? There seems to be an awfully long line forming at the “get your quick fix for whatever” counter.  We’re all too busy, too burdened, or too broke to invest in our own care.  We put our faith in a system that even the most Obamacare-opposed would agree needs sweeping reform of some kind.

As you can see I have no answers.  I have more questions, all of which lead to the one we are all asking: why?

What I do have is a tremendous heaviness in my chest that spreads out to my limbs for the victims and survivors of this tragedy.  I hugged my children tighter that day, and have let my laundry pile up ever since, partly due to the immobilizing sadness and fear, partly due to a likely necessary change in perspective. We all lost a bit of our innocence that day, none so much as those precious brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters.  The debates are important, if painful, if we’re to fix this and keep our children, our future, safe. Rage on, I say.  Don’t give up trying to figure this out.  But also, turn off the tv, give Facebook a break and your children one more hug, even if they look at you funny because you Just. Won’t. Stop. Hugging. Them.