The Other Things I Am

I am a negotiator.
I am a referee.
I am a diplomatic lunatic wielding the baton of power called “Mother.”
My hair is turning grey, sneaky strand by sneaky strand.
I have a drinking problem, which is to say that I can’t get the drink to my face without it going all down my front in various quantities.
My voice is the loudest, and the softest.
I go between “put that down, please” and “get your fingers out of your face” repeatedly.
I am the singer of the bedtime songs and the voices of the bedtime stories.
I am the head chef, the driver, the personal assistant.
And at the end of each day, I am tired.

But I am other things, too.

I am a magician.
I am an engineer.
I am a storyteller, typist, editor.
A confidante and sage to those who need one.
A soul-searcher, an observer, a boil-it-down-and-give-me-the-truth seeker.
A craftsman, a tailor, a designer, a yarn-worker.
A singer, a musician, a collector of sounds.
An artist with perhaps too many artistic pursuits.
A lover of all things intrinsically beautiful.

But this evening, it is nearly six o’clock and all I am is…

wanting some goddamned peace and quiet.

ROLL ON, BEDTIME.

Laughing and Milkshakes

In memory of Sarah, my big sister.

(Warning: If you’ve got a weak stomach, you might not want to read this post.)

Where we grew up in Montana there was a restaurant there called Cattin’s. Every Thursday night they’d have a special, “All You Can Eat Fish & Chips.”  Sometimes we’d go there to have a meal with just the three of us: Sarah, Mom, and me. We’d sit in the classic diner booths and have basket after basket of their beer-battered fish and crispy fries. It was a rare treat as we almost never went to restaurants, and we could have as much as we wanted.

Sarah had a particularly large appetite. People always remarked about how much she could fit into her belly, despite being of a slight frame and always the smallest of the three of us. When she was manager of the wrestling team she would go for meals with them before a meet and out-eat any one of them. If ever we went to a buffet she could stomach several trips, easily.

This day was no different, and there’s no telling how many fries or pieces of fish she’d had. And to end the meal nicely she asked for a milkshake. A raspberry one. The diner was relatively empty except for the staff and the maintenance man who was mopping the stairs, so we entertained ourselves.

The milkshake was one of those that comes in a tall conical glass with an additional stainless steel tumbler. There was no doubt she’d finish it all. As she slurped happily away, somehow our goofiness got the better of us. We had a special humour only the two of us seemed to share, and we could get each other laughing over nothing. It started with a giggle, but grew into disaster.

Whatever it was that was so funny I fail to recall today, but in our hyperactivity (probably due to sugar rush from fries and milkshake) we started laughing uncontrollably. I can still remember clearly Sarah trying to gasp for air with tears forming as my mother said, “You girls had better quit it or one of you’s gonna start throwing up.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Mom’s warning somehow added to the funniness, and then the giggling fit had taken us to the point of no return. Several minutes had probably passed with Sarah clutching her abdomen from the onset of cramping from fullness and stupid hilarity. It was out of control.

Then suddenly, she put her hands over her mouth. She made a quick move to try and get out of the booth. Mom hustled out of the way. Sarah started running to the bathroom leaving a little trail of bright pink leakage from our booth to the hallway, when we saw by the look on her face that she’d just realised she didn’t know where it was. There she nearly knocked over the maintenance man, now at the top of the stairs having just finished mopping all the stairs below, who took one look at her and pointed down the stairs to say, “The bathroom’s that way! Go!”

The look on his face was one of shock and surprise like someone being mugged at first, but then his countenance fell as he realised he was now going to have to re-mop every single one of those stairs and clean the spots off the carpet, too.

I was still laughing. It was the most hilarious thing at the time (I think I was about thirteen or so) to watch this catastrophe play out while my mother sat there and buried her head in her hands with embarrassment.

“Oh, my God,” she remarked with exasperation, “what did I tell you? You can dress ’em up, but you can’t take ’em out.”

I don’t think we ever went to Cattin’s again.


Image from http://thumbs4.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mJMaJ8QK86pQDgbKNR2_9tQ.jpg


All in Time

There was a time
when I thought love happened
like in the movies.
I don’t believe in love like that
anymore.

There was a time
when all the little girls at school
got boyfriends
who brought them flowers
on Valentine’s Day
But I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day
anymore.

There was a time
I experienced something
but it wasn’t love.
Not even close.

There was a time
a long time
I looked for love
in every smile
in every glance
I don’t look for love
anymore.

If there was a time
when I knew love
and love knew me…
I didn’t remember that time
anymore.

But there was a time
a kind time
where love found me
and followed me
into the depths
of great loneliness
and the love was great
but the world was not
and the love was taken
and did not breathe
anymore.

Then there was a time
a short time
where love found me
and followed me
into the depths
of great despair
and the love was great
but I was not
and I knew this love
needed more.

There was a time
a long time
I yearned for love
because it was not known
because I’d kept it
from myself
I refuse to do that
anymore.

Maybe one time
I’ll come to find
the kind of love
they show in the movies
they write in the songs
the encompassing
consuming
propelling
sweeping
legendary
love.
But I won’t wait for a thing like that
anymore.

For there were times
when love was born
with tiny hands
and tiny feet
when I least expected it
and when I most expected it
and I was not lonely
anymore.

But after some time
a long time
I felt the void
of my old nemesis
the stranger
the foreigner
for the void was great
and the bridge was not.
I knew my soul
needed more.

At this time
love is still a stranger
ever-elusive
not-to-be-trusted
and there are times
when I don’t want it
anymore.

So until the time
when both my little boys at home
become boyfriends
who bring girls flowers
on Valentine’s Day
I will show them love
every day
and forever,
and more.

-Kirsten Young

The Woman I Am

I have my father’s head, the buffalo head. Hats never fit. Disproportionate to my body.

I have my mother’s thick hair, enough for ten people. Hairclips never fit. So heavy it gives me headaches.

I have a wide set of shoulders, like a football player. Blouses never fit. Not very feminine.

I have really long arms, monkey arms. Sleeves never fit. Wrists always exposed.

I have large hands, as big as a man. Gloves never fit. Handshakes with women feel awkward.

I have an extra long torso, too long for your height. Shirts never fit. Legs too short to match.

I have very muscular legs, like a body builder. Jeans never fit. Thighs too thick for the waist.

I have big feet, like flippers. Women’s shoes rarely fit. I have to buy men’s.

Yes, my skull is big. It must be because I have a large brain full of thoughts and cares. This brain helps me to understand so many things and imagine even more.

Yes, I have a ton of hair. It must be because of all the stress I’ve had and the hairs I’ve shed, for after all of that I’m still not bald. This hair has kept me warm when I’ve given my coat to the person who needed it more.

Yes, my shoulders are extra wide. It must be because I’ve been given so many responsibilities I needed the extra space to support the weight. These shoulders have carried people over obstacles who could not keep going on their own.

Yes, I have long arms. It must be because I needed the extra length to reach higher, and to have room to give more hugs. These arms have embraced the most beautiful babies and lifted up so many.

Yes, my hands are large. It must be because I was meant to create so many things. These hands are skilled, nimble, strong and capable, and have produced the most beautiful works.

Yes, my torso is almost freakishly long. It must be because the greatest loves of my life were to grow there and they needed extra leg room. This torso has helped me to stand tall and defend what mattered most.

Yes, I have muscular legs. It must be because I needed them to be strong so I could get back up again, and again. These legs have helped me to make long journeys up steep hills.

Yes, my feet are massive. It must be because I needed to be able to trudge through deep muck and still maintain my balance. These feet have helped me to keep from falling over and to travel for miles without wearing out.

I’ve always wished I could feel like I fit, but I’m so thankful for my head. I’m so thankful for my hair. I’m so thankful for my shoulders, and my arms, and my hands, torso, legs, and feet. I love them, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

I love my body because it fits the woman I’ve become.

The Woman I Am.

081

Karmic Heebie-Jeebies

In 2011 I attempted to start a blog. I got three posts into the blog before a random comment on social media, which was probably not even intended for me (but my anxiety wouldn’t let it go), had me feeling like somebody out there thought I was copying them (I wasn’t). Years later I realise that even if they thought that, to post a funny story about being a mother is not copying anyway, it’s just common.

So now it’s 2015 and while a handful of things have changed, the story is still funny. And after the past few posts, I’d like something to make you laugh. Enjoy.

Yesterday was an eventful day for us. The first part of the morning was spent getting ourselves ready and heading to London on a coach to meet up with one of my best friends who deliberately caused herself a layover just to see us. The afternoon was filled with sight-seeing, posing for pictures, and lots of hugs. But before sunset, those feel-good vibes had been replaced by panic, tension and horror.

Once upon a time, a letter came home from My eldest son’s school. (We’ll call him Alfie.) ‘Please be advised that head lice is going around the school… Check your child’s hair regularly.’

“Head lice? Gee, thanks. Let’s just hope Alfie doesn’t get it. Alfie, don’t go near other children’s heads at school. Don’t share your hat or anyone else’s hat. Promise me!”

“I promise.”

Soon after the letter, I had myself thoroughly convinced that it would just not happen to us. I hated having lice when I was six years old, and I was determined not to let them in this house. Not on my watch you don’t!

For about two weeks we thought we were pretty lucky. There was no sign of the little critters, life went on steadily and everyone got to where they needed to be on time. Everyone including Alfie, who needed to be at kickboxing at six o’clock sharp on Thursday night.

While the name ‘kickboxing’ may not immediately imply head-to-head contact, there are some instances in which the children’s heads might meet as they practice certain moves. And when Alfie came home and took a shower after class, he wouldn’t stop scratching his head.

At first we thought nothing of it. “No big deal, surely it’s just a dry scalp from too much shampooing. He’s had quite a few showers this week anyhow. The water is hard in this region, too. We’ll use different conditioner next time.  No time to fuss over it now, we need to be out of the house tomorrow by eight!”

When we woke up yesterday morning we were so busy getting ready that we didn’t pay attention to whether or not Alfie was scratching his head. It was the last thing on our minds at that point. It did get a bit annoying when Alfie would take off his hat and stop walking to do it, so we hustled him along and told him to keep the hat on his head and stop messing with it.

“Can I have a piggy-back ride, mom?”

“No, Alfie, we don’t have time for that right now. We have to get to the bus station on time. Maybe later.”

We made it to the station as planned, and as Alfie sat next to me on our bus journey he rested his head on my shoulder from time to time. Once in London, we took lots of pictures where we were smiling and posing with our heads close together. Our friend hugged each one of us extra tight as we said our good-byes and when we got on our return coach, just when Alfie had rested his head on the back of the seat, I made him trade me places to make it easier to manage the baby.

As a matter of fact, I am not a fan of buses at all. I am always concerned that the person who sat in my seat before me may have had head lice, especially when I see a greasy hair-print on the window next to me. Yesterday was no exception, I just didn’t ever imagine that the lice-carrying greasy person who passed out on the bus would actually be a very clean, seven-year-old little boy whom I love so much.

After the bus had pulled into the station and we were on our way home, Alfie asked me again for a piggy-back ride. I didn’t refuse him this time because I knew he had been so patient all day and really deserved to get off his feet for at least part of the way home. Once on my back I told him to climb onto my shoulders instead, where I carried him for about a third of a mile before I had to put him down. He even got to run (his favorite thing to do) for the home stretch; what a perfect day it had been so far.

Once inside our home sweet home, we were ready to relax for the remainder of our lovely day. Hubby was brewing tea, I was donning my sheepskin booties, the baby was playing with the toys he hadn’t seen all day, and Alfie was…

…scratching his head.

“My head really itches, mom, I think I have head lice.”

“You think you have what? Let me see your head!”

I immediately got out the flashlight and looked through his hair, only to be horrified by the sight of things on the back of his head… crawling around… and… moving… “There’s… there’s one there! There! Get it! Get it!

As I squirmed like a little girl and tried not to empty the contents of my stomach on the floor, flashbacks began to haunt me of all the different times during that day in which my head came close to Alfie’s. I was getting increasingly panicked. What if the baby has them, too? What if he gave them to our friend? What if British lice aren’t supposed to go to America? I HAVE LOTS OF HAIR!

Meanwhile, Hubby was taking a much calmer approach to the whole thing.

“It was going to happen. We knew it would.”

I didn’t! I really thought we wouldn’t get them!”

“Well that was silly. We’ll get some stuff for it in the morning.”

I wasn’t sure I could wait until the morning. However, given the hour and the time required for treatment, it was going to have to wait. It was pure coincidence that we had rice with our dinner, right after I had been getting queasy over lice and nits for some time, but I managed to keep it all down despite fears that it was moving. Shortly after, I thought I started noticing some itching.

I couldn’t tell if I was paranoid or if I really was infested, but I seemed to be freaking out just in case. All night long I had a bad case of the heebie-jeebies, complete with nightmares at bedtime. Not exactly the type of ending I would have chosen for that day.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m afraid of spiders and ticks, especially after Hubby found a tick crawling on me last year, or that I’ve seen one too many episodes of Monsters Inside Me. I’m afraid of quite a few micro-menaces, actually, such as wasps, earwigs, red ants, bedbugs, mosquitoes and even dust mites. There is just something about tiny things making me unhealthy without my permission that really “bugs” me. Plus, I can still feel the nit comb yanking through my super-long hair back in the first grade, which only added pain to the trauma, for a mental scar that is sure to last a lifetime.

While researching more information on the little buggers, it became clear that it is important to stay calm in these situations. Stay calm? Excuse me? This is so that you don’t over-treat the children, and probably also so you don’t traumatise them. So I tried to remember to keep cool.

“Alfie, next time you decide to bring some new pets into this house, you make sure to ask permission first, okay?”

“What? I didn’t bring any…. oh. Well I didn’t ask them, they’re invisible so they just… got on me.”

When Hubby came back from the store this morning with the treatment gel, I was quite excited to use it. It is a product called Hedrin, which is supposed to suffocate the lice and penetrate the eggs to kill them all. When finished simply shampoo, condition and comb out, and voila! No pesticides or harsh chemicals, can be used on the baby if necessary. I saturated Alfie’s hair with it as directed and after fifteen long minutes of “How long is it now, Mommy?” and “Has it been fifteen minutes yet?” it was time to douse him with shampoo.

When I put the conditioner on him and started combing his hair, dozens of little brown flecks kept showing up on it, turning my stomach with each stroke. Only one was as large as a sesame seed so it’s difficult to tell how long he’s had them, but if they have to reproduce sexually and there were lots of small ones and quite a few eggs, hatching every seven to ten days,  and they only lay up to ten a day… how many did he have and how long had they been there? Should we only be concerned with head-to-head interaction from the past two days or the past two weeks? Some friends of ours watched the boys for us one night and their little girl was playing closely with the boys. So I sent her a warning, too.

“No worries, thanks for letting me know. Got all the gear to treat it already.”

Wow! That wasn’t the reaction I was expecting!

“…the first time I got them from my niece and nephew I bleached my hair to get rid of them! This won’t be the last time Alfie brings them home, don’t worry.”

At this point I am feeling much better about the way I reacted. I felt awful at first, but after talking to our friend I realized that if we just keep some treatment stuff on hand, we’ll be fine. My reaction was totally normal, and all was forgiven anyhow. No bleach involved.

After Alfie’s hair was done I treated my own, and now that we have both been treated I can let him near me once again. Alfie’s hair only required about a fifth of the bottle of Hedrin while mine required three fifths. That leaves just the right amount to treat Hubby’s hair and possibly the baby’s so we should all be good. But what the Hedrin won’t remove is the memories of looking through the back of my son’s scalp to see things crawling around on him, sucking his blood. It may be weeks before the nightmares and the phantom itches stop.

I can’t help but be suspicious that this may be karma getting back at me for scaring the crap out of Alfie with his very own plastic spider a few weeks ago. I put my arm around him and pretended I just wanted to hold him close when I put the thing on his sleeve and shouted, “Alfie! There’s a spider on you!” The way he squirmed… seems awfully familiar.