Mischief and Mayhem

Jeff and Katie were three and two respectively when we bought our first house and they moved out of kiddie beds and hand-me-down sheets to big beds and brand new bedding sets that I was more excited about than they were.

Jeff had graduated from his Mickey Mouse obsession and moved onto dinosaurs and Katie loved everything about Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I remember how excited I was to find the perfect comforter and sheet sets for them at Target and for a price I could afford.

Moving into a new house with two toddlers underfoot quadrupled my frazzled and frenzied approach to unpacking and settling in. I was glad that the kitchen was within earshot of their bedroom and I could listen for mischief while I unpacked the pots and pans.  I smiled to the sound of quiet, mentally patting myself on the back for having such well-behaved kids and I wondered what imaginative game they were playing.

I opened the door and two sets of blue eyed guilt glanced up from between the twin beds.  I scanned the room; the walls were still white, the carpet was still blue, and there was no sign of scissors or missing chunks of hair.

Confused, I stepped further into the room, “Your sheets!  Oh no, what did you do to your sheets?  They are covered with blue ink.”

Silence.

“How could you ruin your brand new sheets?  I’ll never get the ink out. You two are in time out until I say otherwise.  Do not leave this room!”

Silence.

For the next thirty minutes I paced between the kitchen and their bedroom and tried to calm down.  I’m sure I sounded like the teacher in a Peanuts cartoon and all they heard was “Wah wah…” every time I opened their door to scold them.

I opened the door one last time, “Ok guys, I’m done being mad now, but before your time out is over is there anything else you want to tell me?”

They stood facing each other, turned toward me, and pulled their shirts up in unison to reveal tummies decorated in blue ink.

I stared at them and did the only thing that made sense.  I burst into laughter and captured the artwork with a picture.

The photo has faded, but the memory has not.

Where Do Babies Come From?

I’ve wished on more than one occasion over the past year that blogs had been invented or at a minimum I had been aware of my passion for writing when my kids were little. Kids do say and do the darnedest things and it would be great to have the funny stories recorded and shared.  Then it dawned on me, the recurring theme in my life these days is, “it’s never too late,” and there is no reason I can’t apply it to this as well.

I’ve decided to devote one post a week to a memory and an anecdote.  It seems fitting to start with the question all parents know is coming and most of us want to avoid.

I’ll always wonder what prompted Jeff to stop blowing bubbles in the bath water, peer over the edge of the tub and ask, “Where do babies come from?”

I’d only been a mother for four years and based on the combined wisdom of parents with more experience than me, I had been counting on at least four more years, and with any luck even longer, to formulate my response to this inevitable question.

The crease in his forehead and the intensity of his stare made it clear that I wasn’t going to be able to wiggle out of giving an accurate response.

I sized up the situation and, with great relief, realized that he hadn’t asked how babies were made, just where they come from; an important distinction that guided my response.

“They come from the mommy’s tummy,” I said.

He shook his head, a four year olds version of “duh,” “I know that part, but how do they get out?”

I took a deep breath, “They come out through the birth canal.”

In spite of my hope that such an official sounding answer would satisfy his curiosity, he asked, “Where’s the birth canal?”

“Well…..umm…it’s between the mommy’s legs.”

His gaze alternated between my face and my lap, “Did it hurt very much when they took your legs off?”

Priceless.

Snapdragons and Butterflies

purple snapdragon and white butterfly - medium charcoal pencil and color pencil with a touch of ink and pastel
Snapdragons and Butterflies

Today is my maternal Grandmother’s birthday.  If I’ve done my math correctly she would have been 101 years young today. I have many wonderful memories of her which include learning how to properly knead the dough, the taste of homemade bread fresh from the oven, and playing  “boutique” for hours on end.  However, the image that most often comes to mind when I think of her is one of snapdragons and butterflies.

It seemed appropriate to post an essay entitled Snapdragons and Butterflies to commemorate her birthday.  I wrote it in December 2010 and it’s one of my earliest completed pieces as well as one of my favorites.  It also seemed fitting to illustrate the post with my first solo drawing.  Although my original idea was to create a realistic interpretation of my favorite flower I decided a version that was more child-like was the way to go. Colored pencils were the medium of choice as well as a touch of pastel and ink.

————————————————————————————

Snapdragons and Butterflies

Snapdragons and butterflies will always and forever remind me of my grandmother. Many gardeners shy away from the delightful, but delicate flower – however, she embraced the challenge associated with bringing the brightly colored blossoms to life.

I could have spent hours, and probably did, pinching the tiny blossoms, making the dragon’s mouth come to life and then releasing it.

I recall there always being tiny white butterflies dancing around the flowers. Were they vying for attention or simply enjoying the playfulness?

Snapdragons seem so delicate on the outside, but if they can survive tiny hands repeatedly pinching to open and see the dragon’s mouth, you know they are strong. Snapdragons are much like my grandmother.

Her name was Lucy, not a common name, which is fitting because she was not an ordinary woman.

She was beautiful, whatever the setting. She might be dressed to the nines for church or a social event, or digging in the garden, tending to her flowers or vegetables, a worn work shirt tied around her waist.

I was always so proud to be a guest in her Sunday school class. Her hand encircled mine as we entered the room, and my heart would pound with love as her students rushed to greet her.

Like a flower has a fragrance, so did my grandmother’s kitchen. It was always filled with the aroma of meals made from scratch and with love. My eyes lit up when I saw the peas I had laboriously shelled as part of the delicious meal.

She somehow knew how to make something ordinary into something wonderful. How we cousins used to squabble over who got the ‘special knife’, the knife that rattled when you picked it up. To this day, I like to think it really was a precious jewel, and not a scrap of metal that was trapped in the handle of that knife.

Wherever she went, she knew someone. Oh, How agonizing it was to have to stop and wait while she visited with ‘just one more’ friend or relative. Little did I know, the memory would make me smile someday.

My favorite times were when it was ‘our’ time, we’d giggle and laugh as she tucked me into bed. The ritual never changed, as she playfully pinched my chin, nose and cheeks before the final kiss goodnight.

Her spirit touches me whenever I think about snapdragons and butterflies.

————————————————————————————

In loving memory of my Grandma Lucy. Dedicated to my mom and my daughter, the two most important women in my life, and with gratitude for four generations of beauty and grace.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Be as You Are – Let Life In

I had the best run of my life this morning.  I never thought I’d hear myself say that a five mile run was easy and I enjoyed it.  I also may never say it again, but today I felt like I was flying and I could have completed double the distance and then some, which is a good thing since I am registered for the ODDyssey half marathon in May.

I’ve never been a runner.  I went out for track one year in high school and all I remember about it, in addition to most of the meets being long, cold, and boring, it was clear that my lack of speed and enthusiasm were indicators that I should stick to swimming.  Although if I had stopped to consider the fact that my first memory of swimming was cheering coming from the bleachers when I finished my first event (a full two lengths after everyone else did) I might have given track a second try.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how strange life is and today was no exception.  I recalled the conversation that took place in 2003 and in many ways started a transformation.

“Beth, Trudy here.  The annual fundraiser for the Omaha Opera Guild is coming up and I’d love for you to chair the silent auction.”

“Me?  I don’t even belong to the guild and I wouldn’t know the first thing about chairing a silent auction.”

Not one to take no for an answer, Trudy named a dozen reasons why I was perfect for the job as well as why it would be a great experience.  I don’t think she took a single breath and before I knew it I agreed.

After conducting dozens of meetings, making hundreds of phone calls, and compiling the list of auction items and prices I found myself facing the most daunting task of all.  It was time to find a dress for this very formal event.  While trying on one size after another I realized that my entire wardrobe was designed with stretchy material and waistbands and I had done a good job of convincing myself that it wasn’t that I had gained weight but that my scale was off by thirty pounds.

One of the auction items that caught my eye was a trial membership to Curves, a women’s fitness center.  The cartoon-like image of a woman in decreasing sizes and the caption “We’re Downsizing” made me laugh (and think) and in a moment of impulse I bid on it and ‘won.’

I procrastinated for a couple of months and it took a doctor’s report that my blood pressure was high to motivate me enough to redeem the trial membership and join Weight Watchers.  Outside of chasing kids around the house and walking between the parking lot and my office I hadn’t exercised in over fifteen years and I was embarrassed to find that the thirty minute circuit workout wore me out.

Three years, thirty pounds lighter and many inches smaller I looked and felt better than I had since my early twenties. Between 2003 and 2006 a connection at Curves led me to Pilates and my instructor turned me on to kickboxing, which I loved more than anything I’ve done before or since but unfortunately my knees didn’t feel the same way.

I researched options and evaluated treatments for osteoarthritis. I read several articles that promoted strengthening the muscles around the knees as a method of pain management.  I knew I didn’t want to go back to a sedentary lifestyle so I decided to give it a try.  Among the recommended forms of exercise was my favorite, swimming, and one the doctor recommended, biking.

It was winter and I didn’t own a bike so I tried out a spinning class and was hooked.  I became a regular and I learned that spring isn’t followed by summer, it’s followed by triathlon season.

One of the other regulars stopped me after class one day, “Beth, you should do a triathlon this summer.  There’s a great one coming up in July and a bunch of people from here are doing it.”

I laughed, “You’re kidding, right?”

“Why not?” she said.

“Well, for starters I don’t own a bike and secondly I don’t run.”

She convinced me that people walk during the run portion of the event, I knew I could swim, and I’d been thinking about buying a bike.  I registered for the sprint distance triathlon associated with the Cornhusker State Games and tried to wrap my head around swimming just under a mile, biking twelve miles, and last but not least the 3.1 mile run walk segment; then I bought a bike.  Since then I’ve completed seven triathlons and five half marathons, each one of them became a story of their own.

This morning the timeline of events and people circled through my head as I ran and it dawned on me that every time I acted on “impulse,” unexpected and wonderful things happened.  I realized that it wasn’t impulse at all; when I open my heart and my head to new experiences, when I follow my instincts, and when I pay attention to the ‘me’ that I was meant to be, amazing things happen.

Of Course it was Logical

There’s almost nothing better than putting on a new outfit and knowing you look great.  Particularly when the outfit is a birthday gift and is one that you had your eye on but never thought you’d own.

The morning before I turned thirty I admired my brand new black and white checked skirt, matching top, and the black patent leather belt that tied it all together.  It had been ages since I’d had any new clothes and I was secretly excited about the compliments I knew I would receive.

Just before lunch and the prime compliment receiving and birthday wishing time I got a phone call from the daycare letting me know that Jeff had fallen on the playground and I needed to come pick him up.  In spite of the explanation I wasn’t prepared for the sight of his two front teeth being perpendicular to the roof of his mouth.

The heat and humidity intensified between trips to the dentist, the periodontist, back to the dentist, and finally home.  I’m not sure if I was more relieved he was going to be OK or that he had finally drifted off and my immediate concern was getting him in the house without waking him up and the logistics of picking Katie up before the daycare closed.

In those days we had one key to the house and it was for the garage and the door into the basement. I turned the key and found myself standing in front of the door with half the key in my hand and the other half in the lock.

My choices were limited.  I could take Jeff back to day care, sit down in the driveway and cry, or find a way to break in.  I scoped the perimeter of the house and determined I could fit through the ground level window into the garage if I could find a way take it apart.  I’m convinced to this day that if I figured it out a five year old could have and we probably weren’t as safe as I thought we were.

I sized up the situation and calculated the risk of ruining my new outfit while squeezing through the window was high.  I scanned the neighborhood and other than a few retirees manicuring their lawns there was no one in view.

In one instant and a single thought I made my decision, “If these people haven’t seen a grown woman in her underwear, it’s time they did.”

Right after I dropped my skirt and just before I slid out of my slip, Trudy arrived out of breath and on the scene, “Is there some way I can help you?”

I nodded, added the slip to the clothes I held, and handed them to her. Without a word I shimmied through the window, swung from the crossbeam to the floor, opened the garage door, and emerged back into the heat.

In retrospect I think the stunned look on her face accompanied by the nod toward her house may have been an invitation for a glass of iced tea while waiting for help to arrive and not an offer to hold my clothes.

What can I say? It was a brand new outfit and I will always maintain that it was a perfectly logical solution.