Monday, January 28, 2013

A Day in the Life

Last Thursday started like this:

Please note that the maniacal laughter is not mine. It is my dear friend who does not have cats and does not witness such vicious antics on a regular basis. I have to say, I was a bit surprised by Mabel, though. She is only about 6 months old and she had to drag that dang squirrel through 2 cat doors to have her way with it in the comfort of the warm house.

My day didn't really begin with squirrel killing. My weekdays start with getting my 3 older children to 3 different schools. Simple enough. We know the drill. But today my surly 16 year old decided to miss his ride. That means we have to stop what we are doing and go out into the sub-zero temperatures and transport our darling. No biggie. Deep breath. Its all good. My husband is home this morning, so it simplifies matters. He goes out into the cold and pulls the car out of the garage. The same garage my son hit last night going 45 mph (or so it seemed) as he attempted to pull the car in for the first time.

I turn my attention back to the two remaining school-aged children. Kelly decides he is late for school and I cannot convince him otherwise. He gets ready and heads out the door. We are having an extreme cold snap and it is -5 degrees without the windchill. He starts heading down the street.

Problem is, Kelly takes the bus. It picks him up right in front of the house. I'm not sure where the hell this child is going. Having a teenager with Down Syndrome is always full of adventure. Sometimes it truly is like having an alien living with us. What is this person thinking? Is he really going to try to walk to school? I yell to him, hoping I don't wake the neighbors. He stops, but only because one of our other cats (we have 3) crosses the road to greet him. Phew. Mittens saves the day.

I shift back to Grethe who has to be at school in 5 minutes. Luckily, we live next door, but we still struggle to be there on time. So much fun to be had in the mornings! It is hard to pull away. And this morning Grethe adds a twist: she tells me at 7:56 about the latest teasing episode. Two girls from her class have been giving her a hard time all year. It's typical, catty 10 year old girl crap, and I usually make light of it, but its been going on consistently for months and Mama Bear is getting tired of it. Another deep breath and I tell her to be kind to her friends, even when it is hard. What I am thinking at the moment is "WTF is that little brat's problem? She's just jealous of you because you are so cute and nice! Tell Miss Nasty to shut her yap".  I hope she listens to my verbal advice, not what I am emanating from my pores, and becomes a better person than her mother. I ignore my internal conflict and usher my child out the door.

Kelly is still with the kitty as his bus pulls up. This is the short bus and it is mayhem in there. If we put this scene in a movie, no one would believe it, it would be too over the top. The bus driver, William, has crazy, wiry hair that sticks up straight from his head. He hollers a cheery, "Hi Kelly!" as he swings open the door. The noise coming from the bus is extreme. Kids are yelling, one is running down the aisle and one is whooping while swinging his coat over his head. William is unfazed. Kelly is too. I have asked him before if he wants me to drive him instead of taking the bus. He emphatically says, "Bus!".  If he is happy, who am I to rock the boat?

Now here's where things can get a bit stressful. The red lights of the bus flash on our busy street and traffic stops both ways. Kelly takes his time getting on the bus. Once on the bus, he s-l-o-w-l-y selects the perfect seat. Then he carefully removes his backpack and places it just so.  He has to unravel the seat belt, but wait!  he can't do the seat belt with his gloves on... Cars are lined up for what seems miles because William has not turned off his flashers. I used to take Kelly onto the bus to expedite the process, but he will no longer allow me to do that. Like a coward, I now hide from  inside my house and watch the show from afar. Earlier this week, a car actually ran out of gas idling behind the bus. I asked Kelly's afternoon bus driver if having all those people waiting ever felt stressful to her (the same long procedure happens at the end of the day, with the addition of goodbye hugs). She just waved her hand in the air and said, "Nah, people are in too much of a hurry anyway. It's good for all of us to learn to wait."  No wonder Kelly wants to take his bus.

When they finally all leave and my twins are happily playing, I am desperate to just sit and drink a cup of coffee. I get a few blissful sips into it, while enjoying a visit from my friend, when the squirrel arrives. I make my laughing friend help me dispose of the corpse. Then in comes a text from my highschooler explaining some very poor grades on two of his finals.

Oh, for god's sake.

My 16 year old is doing damage control. He knows this is unacceptable because he has been mailing it in: doing the bare minimum to stay afloat. I have no problem with a couple of shitty grades if he he giving it his all, but this kid is not giving it his all. He's doing just enough and then watching shows on his iphone and playing video games-all supplied by his loving parents. Granted, we made him get a job to pay for the phone and he buys the games with his own money, but we allowed all of it into our home. We are ultimately the ones responsible as long as he lives in this house. Damn. This parenting gig is a lot of work.

I decide not to answer the text. Leave him hanging. I call Jeb and we decide to meet for lunch to discuss our strategy.

Most days I love my job. It is always very full and after 19 years of running a busy house, I've pretty much got it down. It is certainly not all work.  Usually, I get to do something fun like this:

But this cold snap has thrown me. My morning routine is off. I'm not about to go running at 5:30 in the morning when the windchill is 16 below. I know my brother in Alaska would probably tell me to suck it up, but we just aren't used to these crazy temperatures in NH. 16 above zero, fine, I'm out the door. But 16 below? I ain't going nowhere.

So I'm feeling it. Physically and emotionally. The house is a mess and the kids are a tad stir crazy too. So we invite a friend over and pretend to be pirates.

I get to sit by and soak up 5 year old phrases like,"Who wants to get shotten?!" or "I'm wearing my hat backwards, so I'm a dude" and "My ship can fly over the world".  Delightful.

All is calm, so I turn to my computer. I find this message waiting on Facebook:

Our 18 year old son, Luke, is on exchange in Brazil for a year. He did Skype with us last night, so we knew he hurt his foot, but a mother worries nonetheless. Even though I know his host family is fabulous and he's most likely getting more attention 5000 miles away than in his own busy home, it still makes me sad that he his is hurt and away from me. It is a totally unrealistic emotion, because he would probably be a pain in the ass, but I can't help feeling blue. 

After our fill of pirates, a productive strategy session over soup and the friend has gone home, we head to our local fun place...the grocery store. As pathetic as it sounds, my boys love going grocery shopping. They like to drive the carts that look like cars and tell me what I should buy. There are also free cookies and a potential ice cream purchase. If you add all of those things up, you can see the appeal to a 5-year old. They convince me to buy ice cream cones to put cake batter in. They saw a recipe in a kid's cookbook we have. What the hell? I think. We all need a little pick-me-up.

We get in the house, after dropping my weekly 250 bucks at the store, and we all get cozy. Big sis comes home and Kelly gets off the bus. We get snacks and settle in, just as Mr. Surly comes down and announces he is late for a driver's ed class he never told me about. Grrrr! I have to announce that everyone has to put on their winter garb immediately and get in the car. This is of course met by resistance and even tears: "We just got home!"  "We just started playing!".  I bribe them with the idea of cake cones. They reluctantly get in the car. We drive Mr. "I-got-two-D's" to his class and drive back home. Now it is time to start dinner, but I have promised the damn cones. Shit. I so do not want to make the cake cones. It has been a long day and I have not been childless for one second. 

They do not care. I have promised. We make the cones, but I take the fun out of it by snapping at everyone. My daughter calmly suggests that "maybe you should do a meditation, Mama". Oh, this girl is so wise! That is exactly what I need, but I have cake cones to finish, dammit! They are finally in the oven and I start dinner (will this day ever end?!). 

The timer finally beeps and VIOLA!

You're kidding me, right? Not only have my cake cones thrown up all over themselves, but there is cake batter burning all over the bottom of my oven. The white flag is thrown into the air.

I didn't realize the Baileys was in the picture until I showed the photo to a friend. Now my secret is out. Yes, Mother had a little nip to take the edge off.  In hindsight, maybe I should have added some to the cake batter.

My husband comes home, dinner is served and the nighttime rituals begin. The day is done.

Even as frustrating as things can be, the glory and privilege of my life is not lost on me. If my biggest problems are a dead squirrel and overflowing cake cones, I'll take it. It is easy to get caught up in the small dramas, but also just as easy not to take my life too seriously. Tomorrow is another day, full of new adventures.

And if the going gets tough, hopefully next time I will make the wise choice of meditation over the Baileys. 

But honestly, both work wonders.

"It's not the load that breaks you down but the way you carry it."   ~Lena Horn

"I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition."    ~ Martha Washington


  1. Nora, you crack me up!!! The best teachers do that-- so we lucky blog readers don't even notice the wisdom and refreshing humility you snuck in. Thanks so much for all your other posts too. I've wanted to comment but invariably make some ridiculous typo which I then can't correct. :) You, Jeb and the kids will always have a huge place in my heart and it's a gift for me to get to hear how y'all are. Take care, and hang in there the next time a day like this rolls around. :)
    P.s. on Grethe's suggestion-- there's a new meditation app-- free on 2/19 only- Omvana. I've gotten good stuff from Mindvalley, the company that's coming out with it. :)

  2. Hi Lisa!
    Thank you for taking the time to comment! So nice to know that someone is reading this stuff and I am thrilled to connect with you.
    I am working on a piece about Grethe's beginnings and I thought of you while doing it.
    Lots of love to you! nora
    I will check out that app!