A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Half Runner Beans and Broken Hearts

The end of August is the herald of heartache in my life. For 11 years it's been a bittersweet time, as within a 48 hour span I am handed the anniversary of my beloved niece's birth and the death of a close friend. Add to that the events of last year and frankly, I could skip the end of August ad infinitum. If I could just jump from say, oh, August 20 to around September 4 or so that'd be great.

We recently drove up to the farmers market that's up near the mountains (but not quite IN the mountains) and everything reminded me so much of our huge gardens when I was little.
By the time Matt was born the huge gardens had gone by the wayside. But when I was little my grandparents, parents, and all of my grandparents neighbors all grew gardens that were about a half acre or more in size. They were massive to plant, massive to keep up, and massive to harvest.

It was a normal course of the day to be handed a basket and sent out to the garden to pick food for dinner. I can distinctly remember being shocked to learn, at about age 7, that you could also buy these things at the store. My grandmother had a basement that ran the length and width of her house which had a fruit cellar at one end. It was full of Ball jars with our vegetables for the year.

The farmers market reminded me of those days, when my Mom was young and not dying horribly or dead. She was younger than me, by quite a bit. Those days were so long. The hours in the gardens were interminable, hot and bug laden. I didn't really enjoy them one bit, if I'm honest. I would grumble and stomp around barefoot up and down the aisle, seeking the zucchini that I knew I would be required to eat, or pulling off some tomatoes that I knew I could talk them out of making me eat. Muddy, dusty feet, the smell of earth and green life growing all around me coupled with my mom calling me to hurry up were a theme of my childhood.

It seemed like those days were never going to end, and now I look back and they were forty years ago and I am confused about how that happened exactly. I don't think I could tell you how to can vegetables, or how to tell what's ripe enough to pick.

But I used to know. I was a different person then.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

History Lessons

We grow up learning the history of our state from a very early age. Even though I've been a Hoosier ex-pat since 99 I could still pretty accurately tell you the story of the Pigeon roost massacre, the Battle of Tippecanoe, the New Harmony community (like Shakers but not Shakers) and other intricacies of that boot shaped place. I know that Clinton is as far east as Prairie grass grows, and that The Region is a real place. I can tell you how my own family came to Indiana after the revolutionary war (land grant), where they settled (Nineveh) and the true stories of how we got to where I sit now in the grand scheme of things.

My kids are learning a different history and sometimes that's weird to me. They are learning the history of the place they are from, Georgia.
They are learning the lessons of tornadoes that caused devastation, and families that created a local art form that is legendary.
What is a little interesting is that it's seeping into my own brain. I knew as soon as we came into this room at the Northeast Georgia history museum that we were seeing some Meadors family work. It's interesting, that little nugget of history has made it into my collective knowledge base of these 8 years.
Each state has it's own thing, it's own history and it's story. It's what defines the people of that place. It's too bad, in a way, that there isn't enough time in school to learn these intricacies of each state. We'd understand WHY sometimes I think, when we cast our eyes across the Union, if we understood what came before.
 For me Georgia always represented a civil war place and that was about it. But having lived here so long, I've learned that the civil war is just one thing that happened here. Just like the Pigeon Roost massacre is just one thing that happened in Indiana, it doesn't define the whole of the place any more than that. When you don't live here, and you see the snippets of this place, it's easy to see it through the wrong eyes. I think that's true of everywhere.

It's one of the 13 colonies, most people forget that. Folks usually think New England - but no, we are one of them.

Some really amazing things are here, were here, and will be here. I think maybe that's why I like it so much. I dislike being so far from my family, my family beyond my walls. I love being in this foreign place that has become my home, that my children call home.
This stupid snake isn't one of those amazing things though. What on earth would possess someone to make this damn thing. 

"Ceramic snake killed by ex-pat Hoosier" is the first thing that came to my mind upon seeing it. Stupid snake.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Love Comes Walking In

Yesterday I had a deja-vu of the very early morning sort. It was the kind of moment with sights and sounds and textures and regret.

When I was in school I had a friend who was also in band who lived somewhat near me. It was walking distance, the next complex over in fact. I lived in a condo, packed in like some weird game of 3D Tetris along with 3 other families in a large retangular faux spanish building.
That photo above is actually the building in front of mine. Mine looked exactly like this. The one in the photo above - burned to the ground when I was 15. Also - that roof looks crooked doesn't it? Anyway, I digress...

My friend was a guy and I really liked him. I'd always been raised to think of boys as my equals and not to think that every male friendship was supposed to be a boyfriend. Thus, I have always had a lot of guy friends. He and I became really good pals my freshman year, and he'd show up at my house several days a week in the summer or after school. We'd sit in my room, decorated in antique rose linens and Star Wars everything else and listen to whatever records he had brought over, or watch whatever movies he'd rented.

My mom would make us nachos, and various other snacks. We'd laugh and cut up, behaving like two close friends would. He introduced me to Cheech and Chong, I remember listening to their albums in my room and not admitting to not getting the drug jokes (sorry I'm a square, a drape). He brought over the Van Hagar album as we refer to that period of Van Halen and I remember how enthusiastic he was about it.

That's what took me back yesterday. Love Comes Walking In was on the radio at 6 am, and I remembered so well hearing that for the first time with him. He was ecstatic about the lyrics, the music, it's a memory of my friend sharing a joy with me and it was a really happy day.

One day he showed up at my house in a red truck and suggested we go to Dairy Queen. As we sat eating our chocolate dipped cones I asked where he got the truck and he told me it was his. Then he said it had been his brother's.

Then he said his brother died yesterday. I didn't know he HAD a brother. He had never once mentioned it.

In the sweltering heat of a beat up red pick up truck and as our ice cream melted awkwardly, he told me about his drug addicted brother who was never home and who was in jail all the time. He had died from an overdose. He told me slowly, like he wasn't sure of what he was saying. I just remember wanting to hug him and we were both holding ice cream and I didn't know how to accomplish that.

He shook it off and suggested we go for a drive. We drove through the corn and soy bean fields, blasting music I chose from the random tapes on the floor and he told jokes and I laughed.

A week later we started school, and out of nowhere he came up to me and said "Don't expect me to drive you everywhere because I have a car. I'm not your fucking chauffeur."

He hadn't driven me anywhere since that day we went to Dairy Queen, and I was left standing in the hall of the music department confused and a little hurt. I hadn't seen him in a few days, but I had chalked that up to us both getting ready for school.

He never came over again. He never called. He never came by and sat with me at lunch.I asked a couple of people if they knew what was wrong with him and no one had any idea what I was talking about. I tried to strike up a casual conversation a couple of times and he literally walked away both times.

We went to the same college years later. I saw him across the quad and waved - I was excited to see a friendly face. I will never forget the cold stare I got, nod, and how he continued walking away.

It was years later that someone parted that curtain for me. I never understood what teenage girl transgression I had made to cause him to suddenly hate me. A girl I knew dated him and she said "Well after you wouldn't ever go out with him you broke his heart." I was flabbergasted. GO OUT with him? WE WENT OUT ALL THE TIME!!

I know it's a huge part my fault. I miss stuff. I don't always read into situations. But part of it is his fault. He never even tried to hold my hand, he never once indicated I was anything but his awkward girl pal.

So when I hear Love Comes Walking In I wonder if I missed a nice boyfriend because neither of us knew how to talk? It doesn't matter now. But I'm sorry I hurt his feelings. I always will be.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Lessons Of The Past

Autistic children do better with a routine. This is a pretty well known fact, and truthfully it's rather like CANNON in the world of Autism. Just as you know Darth Vader didn't say "Luke, I'm your father." (Or you should know because my God don't you have the Internet why don't you know?) you also know that "Autistic children do better with a routine."

I'd say that what's possibly more true is that autistic PARENTS do better with a routine. Just as parents of newborns have to map out their lives with this tiny human who requires 24/7 man to man coverage, autistic children need certain things and they need them from you and not when you feel like it.

I have a bath time routine that while it's not a "RULE" it's a guideline. I sit with them, as if they are small, and I WATCH them. History has taught me over the past 12 years that to sit in the other room, on my bed reading a book or what have you, simply leads to disaster. It's boring in the master bath while they play.  It's a fairly unpleasant time as they are 12 and have discovered that they are boys but we aren't to the point where I am MANDATED by decency to wash them alone. That day is near, however. I play phone games like Gummy Drop, Candy Crush's less cool cousin (but I can say "I don't play Candy Crush"), Linez, and Blek all round out my iphone entertainment. Plus Facebook and Plurk, and checking FLICKR and texting people are part of my repertoire.

I scrub them, wash faces and hair and let them return to playing in the water. I resume whatever game, or conversation, and after a while we drain the water and get out and on with our lives.

Tonight, however, I have this new book. It's so very good. It's Margaret Atwood and she's who I want to be when I grow up. Her words are like a conversation with a good friend. So I took my book after I got them clean, and I stretched out on my bed and set a timer for 15 minutes. That seemed like enough time for me to indulge in a little fiction and them to play with water and toys. I noted that Miles had dumped LITERALLY every toy into the tub, and they were happy.

It seemed like at 12 maybe we were at a different place. I dove into my book, keeping and ear out for sounds that seemed dangerous or distressful.

As my timer went off I called out "Miles pull the drain, Charlie stand up." At the same time, Miles shouted "WIPE! I NEED WIPE!"

Oh no.


At first I thought, just maybe he thinks he needs to poop. I rushed in and took Charlie's hand - who was already standing and walked him out of the tub. I scanned the water like Captain Quinn searching for danger and OH MY GOD THERE IT WAS.

A turd.

He had dropped a HUGE TURD in the tub. In the tub FULL OF BATH TOYS AS WELL AS HIS BROTHER.

The water is going down. The turd is actually a solid turd (Praise whomever you like) but it's now water logging and sinking and is going to lay and melt grossly across the plethora of toys beneath is. I did want any panicked mother would do.

I slammed both hands into the water and pulled out that turd, flinging it into the toilet in horror.

Over the course of the next few minutes, I manged to get the water on in the sink with my elbow and scrub better than any surgeon in the history of the world. I was crying and laughing and furious with myself because if I had BEEN there I would've seen the physical signs that he needed to go and I would have intervened. I scrubbed again and again and again. I used the hand sanitizer and then I used it on Charlie's legs because they had clearly been in poop water. I didn't even know what else had been in poop water. I used a clean wash cloth to wash Miles off again out of the tub and got them both...dealt with.

Routines. Sit with them in the bathtub. My husband has the bath toys soaking in bleach, and I'm soaking my soul with...I don't know what. I feel like I got kicked in the face. I should be able to do one normal thing in my life, but I can't.

Some days I resent it more than others.

Monday, August 08, 2016

It Never Stops

Two of my babies are 12. They are still, and may always be in some ways, babies. On Saturday at the train event, at one point both Miles and Charlie climbed up on a truck or tractor and then held out their arms to me to rescue them. A toddler might hold out their arms expectantly, and leap into your arms. When a 12 year old boy does it, I promise it's a different experience.

Charlie is so tall and heavy I can't truly hold him any more. He likes to sit on my lap like a baby, he likes to snuggle, but I can't truly carry him - he's simply too big. Miles is quite a bit smaller and quite a bit lighter, even though as you can see he's a great big boy.

He would let me carry him around a lot, pretty happily. He's greedy with his Mommy time. Since he was a baby it's been his opinion that the only baby that mattered was Miles. 

It's a conundrum, these boys that are turning into men. They aren't truly babies. They are growing but they aren't growing up. Aging is what they are doing. Time is passing and with it the biological things happen. But Cookie Monster is still hilarious, as is Lazytown, and all those other shows your 12 year olds left behind. We haven't outgrown and donated/yard sale(d) our baby toys, not all of them. They are still played with in many cases.

I don't know what it will be like to have men who watch Sesame Street and who want goodnight stories. Men who might still wear diapers and call me Mommy. Then I remember my joy when they learned to call me that, at the age of four or five, so maybe I'll just be happy they call me anything.

This time last year, my mom was in a place I don't know if I can ever be in - she was ready to die. She was very ill, disease was being quite the asshole to her. For her, the only thing she needed - in fact she said this even years before, was to know that her children were strong and safe. She knew that we'd be fine no matter what happened. She was right. We're a little broken and we're very sad but we're strong and we're safe. We're ok and we have each other.

How am I supposed to ever be able to die when I will always have my Miles and Charlie who need me so much? How?

I guess I can't die then. Perfect.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Trains, Trucks and Tractors REDUX

We decided to burn our last Saturday before school in the swealtering heat at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth. It was the Trains, Trucks and Tractors weekend which we haven't been to since God was a boy.

I'm required to say things like that, I live in the south.

We were pretty tame for the summer due to the financial constraints of not having a job but things are back on track and that's more of a relief than I can actually ever properly explain. It was nice to get out and feel like us again, soaking up the sunshine and the fun of big trucks, trains and climbing on tractors.

I've talked too many times about how I avoid being in pictures because of my massive case of body dysmorphia (ok I know I don't ACTUALLY look like Jabba but I feel like you think I do) but I can say I guess I don't hate that too much.

And we were having fun so maybe that's all I should worry about. I'll fail but you know. I can pretend.
Today's blog post is just a rambling mess without cohesion that's very self indulgent about a happy day out with my family. There can never be enough of these days in my world.
Their faces make me happy. Silly, happy, nevous, unsure - I love to look at them all and think about the adventures we had that day.

Today's post is a bookmark in my memory banks, of a day we were together and it was perfect.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Safety Dance

I loved horror once upon a time. I loved the suspense of well written horror. I love the jumps and shocks of scary movies. I've been known to indulge in some pretty gross movie-wise stuff with my birthday twin Nikki so I can say that I definitely have loved some horror.

Time has changed that for me and I've addressed it before, I'm sure, but I just got a shaking reminder of how weak I am in front of FEAR and DANGER when presented well.

I just finished Stephen King's REVIVAL and I can say with a certainty that I had a strong idea of what the horror was going to be very early in the book. It was so interesting to read, the characters painted in that east coast charm of his (even those not from the east coast) that I couldn't stop. I wanted to know for sure HOW it unfolded, what it manifested into.

Except that I forgot one important little detail. I can't feel unsafe. If something moves me to the place where my mind can feel unsafe I simply can't handle it. Maybe it's motherhood. Maybe it's mortality finally settling in. But I know one thing for certain, I have to be in control and I have to be safe and know everyone I love is safe.

I couldn't watch Walking Dead because not only did I cry during all three episodes I watched, but because it evoked in me an all encompassing dread feeling of NOWHERE IS SAFE. That shit takes place in Atlanta and I'm in Atlanta and oh hell no I can't have that.

This book rolled me into a similar but maybe more all encompassing dread. Painting a picture of inescapable fate, one that waits for us all, I found myself getting more and more drawn in to the words. The pictures he painted, the aberrations of reality loomed on the page sharply and I got everything he meant.

And then I realized I am never, ever going to fucking sleep tonight.

My heart is pounding still a bit, thinking on it too much.

I hate to think I'm too much of a wuss to read one of my favorites but maybe it's come to that. I can't stand that idea, I love King. I want more and more of The Dark Tower. I love his work. But man, I'm not sure I'm going to sleep again, not even in the arms of the Dragon.

IT WAS PHANTASM SCARY. And that's all Generation X needs to know.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

I'm Much More Me

I'm sentimental and emotional by nature. I pretend to be tougher than I am to make up for that. I once did this assessment of my "emotional" work nature and basically it said I was super over sensitive, however, I was someone who would hide that I was hurt and would instead set people on fire in a rage rather than admit I was hurt.

Well that seems rather extreme. I have never "actually" set someone on fire.

What I've found though is that the more time I have ever have to spend trying to be part of a process/group/relationship the less time I'm actually able to be me. The less me I am, the less happy I am. Eventually I'm a spectator. That's when I start to fail. Work, relationships, anything. If I'm not able to just be me without being judged/criticized etc for being a flawed human I can't be a positive part of whatever it is.

I've watched bad things, wrong things happen to good people. But I wasn't me and I didn't have my voice. I had the voice that was acceptable, and it wasn't loud enough, it wasn't strong enough to truly be heard. The voice that could be heard was the one that agreed and complied.

There's this phrase someone said to me 20 years ago, "Children of alcoholics accept the unacceptable."

It's one of the truest things ever written. If you can accept that at the age of 8 you had to figure out how to use a phone book to look up the various bars your dad might be in, because you mom is bleeding and in labor, there isn't much you can't accept. And that's the problem with me. I've spent a long time accepting things that weren't right, weren't me.

Suddenly, though, I feel like me. I'm happy. I'm connecting, I'm sharing, I'm talking. I don't feel bad about who I am - I don't feel like I have to be someone ELSE in order to be liked.

I was so tired of being someone else.

Maybe I'll just be me for a while. I'm flawed. But I'm really quite awesome.

Monday, August 01, 2016

With Clouds That Climb To The Sky

One of the things I miss most about not living in Indiana (besides the people I love) is the sky. If you never lived in a flat place where you could see forever you won't know what I mean. There is sky so big you can watch a storm roll toward you for an hour, or more. You can see clouds that are like living, breathing monuments to some fluffy white deity rolling and changing across the horizon. Clouds climb, they billow, they stretch into shapes and into themselves. 

Where I live is dense with trees. I took that photo above and you can see the horizon cluttered with trees. It was a beautiful day, storms rolling in and the thunderheads were just beginning their dance. Grey clouds came sliding in beside white billowing beauties heralding the pounding storm that was just behind them.

My son and husband tease me about the clouds endlessly, about my love of them. I once said "We don't have clouds like this in Georgia" when we were in Indiana which they both thought was hysterical. After I got done flipping them both the bird I went back to my cloud worshiping ways in silence. 

Maybe what I meant was, we can't SEE clouds like this in Georgia. Clouds are clouds are clouds. But I no longer have a wallflower's seat at their dance. My view is obscured by the southern belles known as Georgia Pine - their hoop skirts flinging needles and cones and blocking my view.

I'd like a day where I can sit on the edge of an Indiana field and watch the clouds. I'd be glad to snap some beans if you have them, or shell some peas. It's been a while, but I'm a pro.