Thursday, August 28, 2014

August 29,2014: The Dutch Oven

Me and my brothers (and yes, two of us were later recipients of braces)
I think I have mentioned this before in my blogs. I grew up with brothers.

Painful at times, but fun most times. I do know that I have thicker skin because of it.

At a young age I was taught the art of fighting back physically, and mouthing back when Mom wasn't listening. I could scrap and hold my own with the best of them. I climbed trees and skinned my knees while battling to keep up with my older brothers and their friends. The forever little sister.

I am now going to confess things my mother didn't know. Mom's typical response to our fighting and verbal sparring was very standard. "You three need to work out your problems on your own." A true travesty in today's culture of the forever helicopter mom.

But she kept her word. We really did have to work it out on our own. There were great life lessons learned and I had bruises to prove it.

Now confession time. Sorry in advance, Mom....

By age 11, I listened to George Carlin's vinyl "Seven Dirty Words" at least a dozen times. My uncles owned this adult album. My brothers would coax me to sneak into the uncle bachelor pad to listen with them. These naughty words will unfortunately be imprinted in my brain forever.

I am quite sure that my brothers used my mom's upstairs plant as a watering hole. It died with no one taking blame. But I had the inside scoop. My brothers were too lazy to walk to the downstairs bathroom in the middle of the night.

My first kiss was on a dare during a game of Truth or Dare in our neighbor's garage. The recipient of my dared kiss was my brothers' friend. For the record, he was as scared as me. And it was my first lesson that chemistry does matter. Kissing a boy is more magical if you like him. Although following through on a dare is exhilarating, the kiss wasn't so great.

During a conversation with Garrett tonight, I was reminded of another of my brothers' shenanigans. The Dutch Oven. As we talked of my years of growing up as the younger sister, Garrett showed no sympathy for my vulnerable youthful predicament. In defending my susceptible ways, I pointed out the various injustices shown to me. But Garrett wouldn't budge.

"It was good for you! Look at how it helped toughen you up as an adult."

Then I explained the Dutch Oven.

My brothers were boys full of gas. There were many strange odors that continuously flowed from their room. And they thought these foul odors and the noises producing them were funny. Boy humor.

As any good sister would do, I ignored them. Unless they were able to taunt me at just the right moment.

If caught laying under a blanket draped over our floor heat vent for warmth, my brothers would often try to "violate" my space by holding me under the pillowing blanket as they filled it with their gas. They called this technique the dutch oven. It was horrid. Yet another injustice where my mother looked the other way.

As I explained this to Garrett, he laughed. There was no sympathy at all. When I text my brother, Matt, asking the name of this gassy shenanigan, he laughed too.

As an adult, I shake my head as I remind myself that little boys just grow up to become big boys. Their humor and enjoyment for life doesn't change a bit. Just the amount of hair and body girth changes with age. In fact, I bet they would still listen to the George Carlin album and pee in my mom's plant if given the opportunity.

Yet despite the perpetual bruises, I am blessed. Thank-you, Mom, for looking the other way. Being the little sister really wasn't a bad gig. I think I would listen to George Carlin again too. Just don't tell Mom.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 23, 1014: Mama's Boy

Garrett, Ben and I assembling the dorm room
Yesterday was moving day to UNL for Big Bad Ben. It was a good day. No tears. No angst. Just time for change and a rite of passage. Good for Ben and good for Mom.

Earlier in the week, I worried of the pending fire drill that seemed imminent. As is typical for my middle child, little planning or packing had occurred in advance. Although Ben assured me he had it handled, I projected chaos on our scheduled 4:00 p.m. Friday move into Harper Hall. My organized self decided to follow Ben's blind lead and kick in Plan B, if necessary; make sure he took clean underwear and his backpack and then make a second trip to Lincoln later with all the things he forgot. I'm officially thankful for the short 40 mile commute.

But Ben surprised me. With his dad's lead on Thursday night, he cleaned out his room and packed Home #1 for school. Based on Ben's hoarding ways, this was an unbelievable achievement to complete in just a night. Picking him up at noon on Friday, we moved on to tackle Home #2. I decided to employ my persuasion tactics in trying to convince him not to take 15 pairs of shoes to college. My goal was a reduction of his overall wardrobe, as this was an impractical accommodation for his small dorm room.

As Step 1 in the 10 Step Reductionist Program for hoarders, I played for Ben a video displaying his small dorm room as posted by the fine housing people at the University. I then delicately started helping him organize his bags, boxes and stacks into smaller, movable quantities. And surprisingly, he let me.

Together we tag-teamed in developing a three-stack organizational method; don't want, store for later, or take to Lincoln. We worked through every stack and every pile accumulated throughout my house. And then we tackled his stash brought over from his dad's until the Acura was packed. I decided that the "don't want" and "please store" stacks would be my solo project over the weekend.

We accomplished the seemingly impossible in a mere three hours. In response to our shared joy on a monumental accomplishment, Ben playfully sang a little ditty he memorized from a childhood TV commercial.

"Me and my mom. My mom and me. Playing at Playdaze from 10 until 3." hmm...hmmmmm...hmmm...

Listening to my 18 year old display childhood bliss and a bit of teenage humor, made me smile. We had become quite the pair over the last year. A connection I thought didn't exist in the days before his senior year.

I was reminded of a conversation from a month ago that didn't include Ben. I was spending time with the bookend brothers, Zach and Grant, that lacked their middle counterpart. I listened to them complain of my perceived affinity to their missing brother.

"Ben is such a mama's boy," Zach shared with a roll of the eyes.

I objected. But Grant didn't accept my pleadings.

"He is SUCH a mama's boy. Ben, Ben,'s all about Ben."

Not conceding defeat, I continued to debate my equal love for all three offspring. But my pleadings only went to the deaf ears of my oldest and youngest.

Zach then reassured me that this purported character flaw wasn't as bad as it sounded.

"Ben is the one who needs the attention. Being a mama's boy is what he needs."

A backhanded compliment? Perhaps.

After completion of Ben and my afternoon of packing and organizing his disorganization, I shared with him his brothers' accusations.

"Zach and Grant say you're a mama's boy," I blurted out as we walked in load #2 into Harper Hall.

After a slight pause, Ben responded.

"Yea, that's probably right."

I reflected later on the statements made; now by all three. Did I really favor one child over the others? And was it so blatant that they all accepted it? After a bit of time to let it sink in and for me to successfully over-analyze, I came to a conclusion. Yes, Ben is a mama's boy. Right now. But Zach had his stint before Ben, and Grant before Zach. They have all had their turn, depending on their individual needs at a particular time in their lives.

When Grant was a baby, the older boys were attached to the hip of their dad while he coached them through in their sports and during their childhood. Daddy's boys. In turn, I carried my constant companion, Grant, on my hip until he was a way-too-old 4 year-old. He was my forever shadow. Then at age 8, Grant dropped me like chopped liver for his dad.

At age 15, Zach had become man of my house when his dad and I divorced. He and I were quite close. Until Zach dumped me his senior year.  His friends brought with them bigger and better things than his mama. Ben took over title of mama's boy in the summer before his senior year. It's been a good run. They were all good runs.

Zach and Grant actually just suffer from short-term memories. I must now remind them.

In the meantime, I smiled this morning as I read son #2's text  on his first night in Lincoln.

"It's so great here."

I will miss hearing Ben shoot hoops on the front drive. I will miss his laughter playing games with his little brother on the trampoline. I might even miss their bickering which was as frequent as the laughter. One thing I do know is that Ben will inevitably move on from me in the days ahead. But he will always be a kid at heart. Always. And that will always make me smile. Mama's boy or no mama's boy.

And I will soon be a free agent.

I have thought this through and know it is highly likely that Grant won't pick me up. At least not right away. In the meantime, I will fall back on our dog, Cookie. She will be easily enticed to be a mama's dog. Dog treats, walks, and allowing her to hang her head out an open window. My puppy pampering will result in her loving me back unconditionally and with little effort on my part. I now understand why empty-nesters become dog-lovers.

Oh, and by the way, all 15 pairs of shoes did make it to Lincoln........

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014: Time Passages

Skutt Football 2014
This morning began like any typical morning. At least what a "normal" Monday morning feels like to me.

The alarm went off at 4:45 as a stark reminder of Garrett's 6:45 flight back to Denver. After a quiet and dark drive to the airport, I dropped Garrett off and headed home. Grant was the next who needed to get out the door. Today was the first day of official football practice for Skutt Catholic. Two-a-days with the first practice at 6:30 a.m.

For the last 8 years, the start of high school football has been our official sign that summer is over. Somehow this pivotal date always sneaks up on me like a pouncing cat on an unsuspecting mouse. Boom. Today I acknowledged in disbelief that it really was August 11th. Planning for our busy May, full of graduation milestones, seems like yesterday. I am still cleaning up from the party.

But such is life. This creep that starts slowly, but ends quickly, happens to us every year. This morning I was startled into the reality of what this day would bring.

It felt odd to drop off Grant at the Skutt football field. Grade school days are done. It felt equally odd that Ben was not participating in football practice. His four year tour of duty was complete. I took in the field and the school with a different set of eyes this morning. A chapter has officially closed and a new one has begun.

After dropping off Grant, Ben asked for a ride to his summer job. It was nice to catch up with him as he updated me on which friends had already left for college and his own plans for packing and planning over the next week. It didn't seem to bother him that high school was behind him and playing football was in his past. He is excited for his next adventure.

As for Grant, he is also ready and eager. Being the youngest of the Lane boys to walk the halls of Skutt can be a good thing and a bad thing for Grant, but he is excited. I have no doubt he will find his own way, outside of the shadows he appears to be following.

The sunlight in the horizon reminded me that my heavy heart was unnecessary. The only one with a hint of sadness on this realization of change was me. Grant and Ben were golden with their new day.

So a good morning, all and all. The sun is shining and life will keep moving at record pace. We all just need to keep enjoying the ride.

Friday, August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014: My Fix

As Garrett and I sat in a work meeting, he noticed my top. One he hadn't seen before.

"Is that new?" was his question.

"Yes", I said excitedly. "It came in the mail yesterday!"

After remembering that I had the same response regarding a maxi-dress the night before, he answered as any male would.

"You have a problem."

I then asked the obvious question every female would ask.

"Do you like it?"

His answer was a smiling "yes". Affirmation. No problem noted.

I discovered something called Stitch Fix on FaceBook. Someone liked it and the concept peaked my interest. An on-line personal stylist. The tag line advertised was "your partner in personal style". The more I read, the more I wanted to try it out.

As I have indicated in prior blogs, I love clothes and fashion, but I hate shopping. I find large stores and large inventories overwhelming. I don't even like on-line shopping. Although this is my preferred method of item delivery, I don't enjoy surfing the net through endless volumes of inventory selections.

The idea of being assigned a stylist to pick random outfits was very alluring. As I perused the website, I noted cute outfits that appeared to be transposed straight out of Vogue. Return policy seemed as easy and user friendly as Zappo's. I couldn't resist. Curiosity was killing the cat. Could such a service really exist producing such attractive results?  

So on my iPad in the dead of night, I signed up.......

As I laid in my dark bedroom, I flipped through the stylist pictorial clothing selections on my iPad. I was asked to provide my feelings on wardrobe collection displayed with an answer of "Love", "Would never wear" or "Would be willing to try". Exercises like these and similar question sets provided my soon-to-be assigned stylist needed details to make her surprise selections for me.

When my first box arrived, I felt like a little girl on Christmas Day. Carefully opening my aqua embellished box, I oohed and awed over the bright colors, sleek designs and varying materials that greeted me. Whipping off my casual running attire, I tried on each piece one by one. Even with a disheveled ponied hair and lack of fashionable heels, I was happy with what I saw in the mirror. My stylist, Hannah, had my number.

And so the addiction began.

Since I have received two more shipments. A jacket in a style and color I would never had picked on my own. A bracelet made by African women and turquoise dangling earrings. And why have I avoided floral and grays all these years? It is amazing the new looks Hannah has convinced me to try out. A pen pal with purpose.

The best test of my satisfaction as a customer? I have yet to send anything back.

Being the good wife, I decided to meet Garrett halfway. I have opted to skip the August shipment. But September is a must. I am sure Hannah will have some great must-have fall picks. Thanks, Garrett, for being so understanding :)