Monthly Archives: July 2014

Have Kids, Will…Get Dressed and Wear Makeup (Usually)

 

 

Motherhood changes us.  For better or for worse, we become physically different versions of ourselves when we become mothers.  We quickly come to realize that babies do not care if we are showered, dressed, or made up with cosmetics.  In fact, they probably like us better when we’re snuggled in with them, smelling earthy and feeling soft.  That’s all fine and good for a little while, but then we need to make our way out of our domestic cocoons and into the world of functioning adults.  We have to work, shop, keep appointments, and–oh yeah–socialize.  In most cases, the women I know make this transition pretty well and put themselves together a bit to go out in public.  Nothing fancy–just a little mascara and clothing that doesn’t include flannel pants with a drawstring waist.  It’s not necessarily easy, but we can make it happen. I absolutely do not pass judgement on women who go out in sweats and bare faces because I know how difficult it can be to put together an outfit with a screaming child (or children) clinging to you, overflowing the toilet, vomiting on the dog, or whatever.  Normally, though, I’m not one for sweats.

So it came as a surprise to me when, recently, I saw an acquaintance at our local coffee shop.  She was chatting with a female companion when I stopped to say hello.  She introduced me to her friend, telling this gal that I have four kids–boys, at that.  Fine.  That’s normal information to offer.  I do have four boys.  This coffee companion, without blinking an eye or cracking a smile, looked me up and down, and said, “Well, you’re put together for having four children.”    At this point, a series of thoughts ran through my mind, including:

  1. Why did that have to be such a back-handed comment?
  2. I’m not that put together…I think there’s a coffee stain on the front of my shirt.
  3. She probably doesn’t have kids, and thinks of dogs as babies.
  4. Did I brush my teeth this morning?
  5. What a bitch.

Pushing aside my discomfort, I tried to lighten the mood by responding, “Yeah, I’m usually schlepping around town in my pj’s, but decided to put some real clothes on this morning.”

Again with the stony face, this woman replies, “Well, that’s what I would expect!”

Now, let me ask you…why is that?  Why do people automatically assume that because women have children (or, at least, more than two children) we’re supposed to be perpetually disheveled slobs?  I will freely admit to wallowing in my slovenly condition when I had newborn nursing infants, and going out in public looking like I hadn’t slept in months–because I hadn’t.  But, really, when does it stop?  My youngest is now seven years old.  What would make that woman think that I am unable to pull myself together enough to meet some friends for coffee?  It was a school day, for God’s sake!

I suggest we all start doling out compliments that don’t include the word “for”.  As in, “You look really nice today…for a wrinkled, old lady.”  Or,  “You look really good…for someone with four (five, six , twenty) kids.”  Instead, let’s all find something nice to say about someone and offer a sincere compliment, or even a simple “Congratulations, that’s great.” Of course, there’s also the option of “accidentally” spilling your iced mocha latte into the jerky woman’s lap and offering, “Oops.  You look really good, too, for someone who just wet her pants in the coffee shop.”

 

 

 

 

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Have Kids, Will…Flee From Deer!

My husband has always had a knack for getting into scrapes involving animals. In fact, sometime around 1992, he was the first person on the Delmarva Peninsula to require rabies treatment after he had a run-in with a rabid raccoon during a party at a friend’s farm. When he was in middle school, he claims a deer came out of a thicket of honeysuckle, proceeded to single him out, and chased him across a field until he threw a motorcycle helmet at its head, causing it to turn and leave him alone. From that day on, he has always been afraid of deer, which I have always found incredibly funny. Who in the world is afraid of deer? I would tease. You better watch out, Bambi might sense you’re here and come charging out after you! Well, ha-ha, the joke is now on me.

My relationship with deer changed a few years ago, and not for the better. It all started when I was going for a run early one fall morning. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the wildlife around my neighborhood, especially on those early morning runs. Sometimes there are red foxes romping through the fields. Occasionally wild turkeys will make their way across the road, shuffling from one section of the woods to another, gobbling softly as I pass. Deer almost always make an appearance and will usually run off when they see or hear me coming. This one particular morning, however, in the crisp cool dawn, a male deer saw me and stood stock still as I approached. As I was running in its general direction, I was admiring the majesty of the great, antlered creature and thinking it would leap off into the woods any minute. But it didn’t. Instead, as I got closer, it clip-clopped toward me. Then, it started pawing at the ground and snorting the way angry bulls do in cartoons. It even lowered its head and tossed its antlers in my direction. Oh my God, I thought, I’m going to be impaled by a deer and no one is awake to help me! Completely losing my cool, I started leaping up in the air, clapping my hands, and shouting, “Shoo, deer!  Shoo!”   It didn’t budge and I think it may have even inched closer toward me. Feeling completely defenseless and absolutely ridiculous, I decided to turn back and run the other way, checking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t being stalked by the very confident, now terrifying, animal.

This seems like it should be an odd, isolated incident, but it has happened twice since then!  Just recently, I was on my bike–MY BIKE–and a deer started charging toward me.  What the hell is this?  Did I absorb some bad animal karma from my husband?  Deer aren’t supposed to chase people!  They’re supposed to look pretty and remind us of why we love nature.  My sons have volunteered some creative solutions to this zombie-apocalyptic-like epidemic, such as strapping a shotgun to my back while I run, or carrying a machete and chopping off any offending deer’s head, or better yet, taking one of my children with me so HE can shoot any deer threatening poor, old Mommy while she runs.  Really, what do people do in areas of the country where bears or mountain lions are threats?  I can’t imagine having a true predator coming after me because, frankly, these damn deer are scary enough.  For now, I’m being totally chicken and just running away as fast as I can, hoping the deer aren’t going to chase me down and eat me.  I guess the upside is my sprints are getting faster!

Have Kids, Will…Savor My Own Childhood Memories

While having dinner at The Aachener Brauhaus, a traditional tavern in Aachen, Germany–my great-grandmother’s hometown–I was suddenly reminded of my grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania.  Taking in my surroundings, my senses jolted with recognition.  The dark, grainy oak of the benches and moldings; the smell of sauerkraut, cigarettes, and beer; the sound of many voices, mostly the baritone of men blending together into a hypnotic hum, all became a blanket that wrapped warmly around me as I sat eating a plate of sauerbraten with red cabbage and potatoes. The jovial faces and sometimes boisterous conversations that surrounded me lent a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

My grandparents had 12 children, who in turn produced about 50 of my first cousins–no small feat.  Their home, when we visited, was always bustling with the activity of multiple family members visiting at once.  There was lively conversation, plenty of booze, massive, steaming bowls of either spaghetti or stuffed cabbage rolls–anything that could feed a large crowd, and an abundance of children running through the house playing hide-and-seek.  As the evenings wore on, someone would inevitably pull out a guitar or my grandmother would sit at the piano after being coaxed into playing Flight of the Bumblebee, an amazing song to hear and watch being played. The music would fill the living room and spill out onto the wraparound porch, where even more family members were catching up and swapping tales under the dim porch lights.  As a child, I didn’t often recognize the songs being played as my uncles would croon along to the guitar, but the sounds were soothing (and amusing as more imbibing took place).

The camaraderie of family and friends, coming together to visit, eat, drink, and entertain each other is universally appealing.  Nothing can replace the fundamental importance of generations coming together, whose shared heritage pulls history not from the pages of a book, but from the energy of the past.  The ghosts of those who have come before us, through life’s struggles and successes, live on in these moments–brought back to life through stories told and memories shared.  We carry our pasts with us no matter where in the world we go, and sometimes we find visiting other places helps to heighten our memories of past experiences as we are simultaneously creating new memories through new experiences.

As my children grow and I wonder who will need the most therapy for my sometimes inept parenting, I hope they are absorbing the best of what surrounds them.  Isn’t that what we always want for our children?  Knowing that both ordinary and extraordinary experiences will help to form them into the adults they will become, I hope they come to appreciate the ordinary love of family and the extraordinary effect it can have on them.