The Reality of My Life as a Grown-up-In-Progress

My parents made grown-up life look easy. I am only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding that now as I follow what I remember of their example, and the product is less than stellar. I’m not saying my parents were perfect at everything they did, I just can’t think of anything that they didn’t do well.

Like gardening. They made waking up at 7am on a Saturday after a full week’s worth of work, parenting, and life look like a piece of cake. They cheerfully tied up their work shoes, corralled us all outside, and proceeded to weed, hoe, and plant like it was fun. Which is why when I saw a spot for a small garden box and flower garden in my yard, I was overjoyed! I have yet to find waking up with the sun and detangling weeds nearly as delightful as they made it seem.

And while we’re on the subject, my parents spent the end of summer and early fall preserving the bounty from our garden. Whenever I go over to visit, I still see the shelves lined with rows of tomato sauce, salsa, and peaches. I remember filling five gallon buckets with the produce from the garden, which would then get crushed, cooked, and boiled down to fit in plenty of jars to last us through the following year. Becoming nostalgic as the summer winds down had me ordering 20 lbs. of tomatoes. I had recipes of tomato sauce, tomato paste, and homemade ketchup all pinned on my Pinterest board for the occasion. I even bought a whole new flat of jars, expecting to buy another after filling those. Except, after picking through the leaky rotten tomatoes and roasting the rest, I was only able to fill two pint sized jars. I didn’t even open the flat, just used leftover jars from my last exciting food storage experience.

And food preservation isn’t the only thing I watched my parent’s excel at, either. They never  seemed to need to sit down and rest! They’d go from waking up at unholy hours to workout, to cooking breakfast, getting us kids off to school, and then go shopping for three hours, come home and tidy up a bit,  then make dinner, check chores, and tuck us in bed right before jumping into theirs. When I have a spare moment at my house, I’m torn between napping with the baby, watching a show on Netflix, or doing yesterday’s dishes. And while I contemplate that, I am on Facebook procrastinating my choice.

Maybe it’s like training for the olympics: they’ve been “practicing” at this whole grown-up thing for so long that they make it look easy. If so, I’m taking applications for a coach. Or a maid. Meanwhile, I’m extending an open invitation to my parents: If you would like to garden, I’ve got the land. If that garden turns out well, I still have those jars. And as for your energy, please send in generous quantities.

And for those of you in the same boat, we should have a support group. I’ll supply the Netflix.

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That First Year

My second (step)mom says I asked a lot about cancer the year after my first mom died. She says she can scarcely remember a moment that I didn’t plod down the stairs, rubbing my eyes with my hair sticking up, and ask where my mom was, how she died, and if I was going to die, too. She said it broke her heart, because she was working so hard to make our new life fun, interesting, and full of love, and yet those questions kept coming.

But I don’t remember asking.

I do remember my second mom singing “Five Little Speckled Frogs” and “Over The River” to my sister and I at bedtime, each of us perched on the edge of the bed, following the hand motions and glubbing at the appropriate parts. I now sing those songs to my son, and he giggles at my glubbing that I learned from my mom.

I do remember apple crisps fresh from the oven, the smell wafting up the blue carpeted stairs and into the bathroom where I was getting a bath. I remember my wet hair dripping streams down my back as I dashed downstairs in my nightgown to get the pieces of crust with cinnamon and sugar on them that she called “crustos.” I make apple crisps every now and again just so I can eat those “crustos.”

I do remember the snow woman we made with my mom’s pink apron circling the waist. All of us out together in the snow with pink runny noses looking for the perfect rocks for the eyes and mouth. I hope to make a snowman like that with my son and husband this year.

I remember Glade’s picnics at the library park, where the seagulls eat your fries if you aren’t careful. I remember asking her to braid my hair, and how often she would make sure not a hair was out of place. I’ve never had it that smooth and perfect since I started doing my own. I remember her made up words like “crankola”(to describe one that is cranky) and “dinero” (for dinner). I remember her teaching me to tie my shoes, and quizzing me on parts of the body for preschool. I remember her playing “Heart and Soul” and “Amazing Grace” on Sunday evenings in the living room.

I remember a lot of it, I cherish a lot of it, and I love her.

Gaining a new mom was hard, I won’t deny it. But that first year of having her as my mom is something that I happily remember. Thank you, Mom!

Wacky Wednesday, On A Thursday

I have neglected my Wacky Wednesday, mostly due to finals and feeling overwhelmed, but I am back!

Last month, Sean and I celebrated our third anniversary, which led me to remember the day we met, which led me to write it here. So sit back and grab something to munch on, cause as first-sight stories go, this is an interesting one.

Do you remember the first time you glanced at the love of your life? Was a flirtatious batting of the eyelashes over a plate of spaghetti? A glare in the third grade? Or was it the side glance of someone who really doesn’t want to be creepy but MAN does that person look good!? Well, my first glance was a one eyed, guilt ridden entrancement from about 3/4 of the way from the back of a crowd of fifty.

I was in the single’s ward (a church congregation for singles ages 18-30) for the first time. My friends and I decided to go on the day that they served food because we had low expectations of the ward and wanted to at least be fed. We had been reluctant to go, mostly because we had heard rumors of women being proposed to after the closing prayer, so we sat in one of the back rows. I had just acquired a new phone, and was, along with the entire back row of newcomers, furiously typing “LOL” and “Are you serious?!” instead of actually listening. I had lost my right contact that morning, and because I was short on time, had decided it was the perfect day to do what my eye doctor had recommended–go partially blind. So it worked out that I was able to text during the meeting, because I am nearsighted and you don’t look dorky when you hold your phone up to your face.

I was startled out of texting the friend sitting next to me by a man getting up to the pulpit and sharing that he had just lost his friend due to a boating accident. He then told the story of part of his journey back to church, and shame filled my heart, and flooded me to my toes. I remembered why I was there, and knew that even though I couldn’t see him, that man at the pulpit was on fire (the surrounding girls also made mention of said fire with words such as “hot”). I listened to the man, determined to meet him one day if he didn’t already have a girlfriend, and tried closing one eye and partially shutting the other to get a better look at him. It didn’t work, so I quit making faces. 

At the dinner afterwards, I sat at the end of a boy-girl-boy-girl-girl table. Across from me was another girl, and we chatted happily the entire time. Which left little-to-no time for me to squeeze into any conversation including a boy. I wanted to find the man who had spoke, but after doing a quick squint scan about the room, I determined he had gone home. I finished my dinner and determined that I needed some dessert. Only my friends had already consumed theirs, and, as anyone knows, girls travel in packs. But the cookies looked really good, and I had picked my roll to pieces, so, I bravely took a deep breath and marched over to the dessert table like I was in a speed walking race. I made it there without any encounters and snatched up a cookie and a brownie as a reward. I turned around, already bringing the brownie to my mouth with pride when I nearly ran into an outstretched hand.

“Hi! My name is …” I don’t remember hearing his name. All I heard was the blood pumping in my ears. He had scared the heebie jeebies out of me!

“What’s yours?”

I surveyed what little I could see of this man. He was smiling, but around his smile was the scruffy three-day-old start of a beard. The top three buttons of his white shirt were undone, revealing chest hair and a wife beater underneath. I couldn’t really see the details of his face, but clearly this guy was not the dashing man at the pulpit earlier. I muttered my name, and he threw in, “Well, I look forward to getting to know you!”

I repeated the sentiment, stunned at his boldness, and then returned to my giggling posse, promising myself I would stay away from that homeless looking man in the future. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever visit again, and determined I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t recognize anyone with both contacts in, and that would be embarrassing. And yes, those were my actual thoughts.

Flash forward to the end of mine and Sean’s first date, to when he mentioned that we had met before. 

“Whatever,” I protested, sure that we hadn’t, “I would have remembered if we had met before.” I mean who wouldn’t! The guy was handsome and confident, not to mention a little crazy.

“No really, we did!” he insisted, “I spoke in church, and then shook your hand afterward and told you how I looked forward to getting to know you.”

I nearly choked. Maybe I did choke. My throat had tightened into an embarrassed/horrified knot. I thought I had successfully avoided the homeless man, and that the speaker was blissfully on his honeymoon with his Relief Society President wife.

Enter cliché speech about how it just goes to show that we shouldn’t judge people- 

But really, don’t judge people on the day you only have one good eye.

Practice

You begin a book like you make a friend: suddenly. You don’t shake their hand, and immediately puke up your backstory on them, making sure that their view of you is accurate. You just let them see you in whatever you happen to be wearing that day. Smudged eyeliner and your shirt tucked into your underwear on your left hip (without your knowledge, of course), your newfound friend is forced to make assumptions about you as a person without knowing that you heroically flushed your sister’s dead goldfish and replaced it with a new one all before Chugginton  finished just this morning. And in that split second, as their eyes trace the crusty toothpaste left behind on one corner of your mouth,  they are confronted with a decision: do I continue this relationship, or do I cut it off here by smiling a half-apologetic grin, and wave at some other friendship candidate? And just like that, you either have a reader, or another failed introduction. Not that I would know, of course.

You see, I’ve never got past the introduction of a book. Never squealed with glee as the phrases that I put to paper practically dripped gold as I read them over and over again. I’ve always wanted to, but as is typical of my behavior, I am afraid to fail at it. But now the tugging, daring section of my personality urges me to fail at it, to fall flat on my back and struggle, arms flailing, to right myself again, with the breath stuck somewhere between my chest and mouth. That urging, pushing, bossy part of me wants me to crash and burn if only because it means that I have something to fail at, something to call a failed beginning because it is better than nothing.

It is because of that that I have decided to finally write. Finally start the words that have been covering my brain in a sooty haze that engulfs me at traffic lights, and distracts me while skimming over my textbook. So, if I intend to start, you may ask why in the world I am only writing about starting. Good question. It could be that I am quite good at procrastinating, but I would like to think it’s because I want the practice. I want to type some small bit of literature that is insignificant before diving into the story that I have been holding so close to my heart, afraid to let it fly, to fail, to die. Or to live. (Hopefully it is the latter) So, today marks the day that I practice with my most dearest marble, my favorite baseball, in hopes that I don’t loose them. Wish me luck.

Wacky Wednesday: In Case of Fire…

I love my job. Is anyone really allowed to say that? There seems to be some underlying rule that states you must hate Mondays, watch hundreds of cat videos, and dislike your job. But Monday is my favorite day of the week, and I really do love my job. Here’s why: children are actually comedians, and I get to be with them ALL. DAY. LONG. I don’t believe I’ve laughed as hard as I have this last week in a while, and I’m a generally happy person, so that’s saying something.

Most of the comedy comes out in car rides, when the iPads get left home and the boys I nanny are done arguing over who gets to squeak Sophie, Killian’s teething giraffe. Somehow the topic of marriage had come up, and M (the youngest) spoke up about expectations in his future marriage. “I don’t want to get married,” he began, matter-of-factly, “But if I do,” he added quickly, after N (the oldest) declared his intentions to become both a husband and father, “then I am NOT changing any diapers. My wife had the baby, she can wipe his poopy bum!” He then continued, “I will go grocery shopping or whatever if I have to, and work, but didn’t have that baby, so I am not getting spit on!”

Later that day, the boys were playing a truth or dare generator game on the iPad. I was playing as well, and got asked what I would do with one million dollars, if I had it. I named a couple of things, and M jumped in with, “Buy a puppy and ditch Sean!”

“Never!” I said, slightly laughing, “That would be awful! I would miss him!”

“I know, I know,” he said almost disappointedly. Then, as an afterthought, added, “Well, if I had a million dollars and I was married, I’d take the money and ditch my wife!” His poor future wife. I had this image in my head of a woman with spit up in her hair and a baby on her hip, in a house with an abundance of groceries but no husband.

The next question was directed toward M. He had to answer what one possession he would save if there ever were a fire in the house. I expected to hear the iPad, WiiU, or something similar, so when he said, “My mom!” with such enthusiasm, I thought it was pretty cute. Not that his mom is a possession, but that he would be so happy to save her from a fire that he would forego his toys to rescue her. But then he explained, “Cause then I’ll have someone to stand by, and a drink!”

Ever since I’ve had Killian, the boys have learned a bunch of new baby things, such as how to change a diaper, what foods babies can eat, and most intriguing to them, how babies get milk from their mom. Clearly M didn’t understand the concept behind nursing, because when his brother asked him to clarify where he got the drink from, he said, “Ya know? Mom can nurse me!”

N blushed and I couldn’t quit laughing. What did I tell you? Comedians.

Wacky Wednesday: Praying For Bugs

Our house growing up was made out of a light pinkish-tan stucco that reminded me of a peach and made me feel safe. Apparently the praying mantises had similar feelings about it because they felt it was the perfect place to secure their eggs. For those of you who don’t know what a praying mantis’s eggs look like, picture shredded wheat with the consistency of old packing peanuts and shaped like an oval dome about an inch long. They were all over the side of the house, right where my sister and I weeded every Saturday. I had been peeling them off for years when a brilliant idea hatched in my mind. Instead of tossing aside the pried off egg, I would get to watch it hatch! I looked around, made sure no one was watching, and then shoved it deep into the pockets of my cutoff jeans.

I favored my hip while I worked, taking great care not to squish it and checking on it every so often to make sure it was still cushioned among the lint. Finally, I was done outside. I snuck downstairs while Ryan practiced the piano to show Lindsey my prize, keeping  the lights off so nobody would discover us.

Lindsey was in awe of my plan, but it didn’t take long before she pointed out the obvious flaw. “There’s nowhere to put it, Leisl. At least not somewhere where no one will notice it.” She was right. Both of our rooms were so messy that they had to be cleaned often, and that meant an inspection of our cleaning done by our mom. She could find anything, anywhere, kind of like a ninja. Except….if we found a room that was always clean, then there would be no need for an inspection. The lightbulb in my brain lit up, “What about Ryan’s room?!” His room was always clean. So clean, I often wondered why he even had a room if he never used it for anything good, other than sleeping, of course.

We could still hear the plinking of piano keys, so we snuck into his room to investigate the perfect spot for hatching praying mantises. We searched every inch of the room for things to hide it in or behind, to no avail. Where there were dying plants and dried watering cups in my window sills, his held only two dead flies. While my dresser was covered in pictures, hair ties, and old jars, his was empty except for a piggy bank. It was even recently polished. We were about to go around the room for a third time when the piano music stopped, and we heard Ryan sounding footsteps descending the stairs. In a panic, I wrenched open his sock drawer and shoved the egg into a pair of tube socks in the rear of the drawer. Then Lindsey and I dashed across the hall and split up, going about our business for the rest of the day.

A few weeks later, after forgetting our little nursery inside the sock drawer, Lindsey and I were playing in my room when we heard a yelp of surprise come from Ryan’s room, followed by a “Girls!! Get in here!”

A baby mantis. Yes, they are that cute in real life.

We were often getting into Ryan’s things, so we went in cautiously, not wanting to seem guilty when we didn’t know what he had discovered missing. He was standing over his sock drawer, motioning for us to peek inside.

As we peered over his shoulder, we saw thousands of microscopic praying mantises summiting his tube socks.  “They hatched!!” I looked excitedly to Lindsey, whose eyes were the size of golf balls. Ryan stared at us with a look that seemed to say, “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t tell Mom.”  I don’t know what we said to make him keep it a secret, but in a stroke of luck, we even convinced him to share one of his M&M Minis with the praying mantis’. We gave them a little bottle cap full of water, and though we watched over them with great care, we soon had a praying mantis grave yard covering the dresser. Ryan scooped up the three surviving babies and opened the window to set them free, hoping that they’d make it better out there in the world than they did inside. He then turned to me, giving me a look before exiting the room, calling out, “You’d better clean that up before Mom finds out!”

I was devastated. What had we done wrong?! Ryan had said they needed bugs, but they hadn’t even gone near the dead flies we had gathered from the window sill. “Ah well,” I thought, wiping my nose on my sleeve, “at least there’s a bit of M&M left.”

Wacky Wednesday: The Burden of Rocks

Most stamp collectors collect stamps as a hobby. They seek out the perfect stamp to complete their collection, and revel in the excitement as they carefully place that coveted piece of history in it’s previously designated spot. They have a refined eye to pick out just the right stamp, and could tell you either the monetary value or the era it came from just by looking at it.

When I was three, I collected rocks. I, like the stamp collector, carefully selected my rocks and stored them in my big blue wipe box. Only, instead of the pretty purple and red rocks, I selected the dirtiest, saddest looking rocks. The ones with bits sharply broken from being thrown across the street. The bulky ones that wouldn’t fit in my pockets properly, and the annoying pebble that was rudely evicted from a sneaker moments before. I felt bad for these rocks– being cast away had to hurt their feelings– so it was up to me to scoop them up and give them a home in my wipe bin. Occasionally, family members would find a sparkly rock or a smooth blue one, and I would add that to my collection to let them know I appreciated their contribution, but was shaking my head inside at the wasted space.

Every day, sometimes more than once, I would lock myself in the bathroom, fill the sink up with warm water, and dump my rocks in with a great crack! I would sigh as the water would turn murky, and scrub each rock with the care of a worn out mother.  Soaping them down with a bar of soap, I would inwardly chide the rocks for being so dirty, before drying them off with the hand towel, and placing them to bed softly back in the wipes bin.

These weren’t rocks that would be put on display in a museum, or even on my dresser, because to me they weren’t rocks– they were orphans. Dusty orphans that required many baths. About once a week, right as my bin was getting hard to close, I would notice that I lost about half of the rocks to the garden. Somebody (I suspect my parents) would thin out my supply, only to have it be refilled by the week’s end. But I, as faithfully as a farmer pulling weeds, would trudge back outside to find my orphan rocks, dust them off,  give them a good bath, and a nice, plastic place to sleep.