Me: “…and they couldn’t put Humpty together again!”
Me: “…and they couldn’t put Humpty together again!”
We’re moving Graham into the girls’ room, and he’s gaining Lewis as a roommate. It’s basically Christmas over here. Graham’s been wanting to share a room with a brother since Bess was 3 days old. It dawned on him that she and Adelaide would be together, and he would be alone.
Since Lewis has almost outgrown his bassinet, and Adelaide has outgrown her crib, we decided it was time to get our room situation figured out. It was actually my mom who recommended switching the kids’ rooms. She knew Dave was designing and building a loft/bunk/trundle special needs gated bed for Adelaide and Bess. “Why not move the rooms? The girls’ bed will take up less space, so they can be in the smaller room. Since Lewis is taking Bess’ old crib, it just stays where it is!” Perfect!
Even though Dave is still working on the bed, I decided to start switching the rooms. I don’t have the space to pull stuff out, sort, purge, and put it into the correct room. So I’ve been winging it by moving everything around, creating piles, and trying to make a bit of progress everyday.
Enter Graham and Bess. Who started throwing stuff. Literally. They misinterpreted my piles. It became a free-for-all. I lost control of the situation quickly when Lewis needed to nurse. Then Lewis had a growth spurt and all progress stopped.
I’m trying not to stress about this…which is what women say when they are stressing about it…but I know it will all be done before Adelaide goes to school in the fall.
I also moved her crib, diapers, and rocker into her new room so she can get used to her new space. Our kids have never lived in other rooms. So I didn’t want her to get a new room and a new bed at the same time.
“Adelaide, do you like your new room?”
I once made the mistake of reading the comments section of something on the Internet. (I know. Don’t lecture me. It’s right up there with that time I wore gaucho pants with knee high boots.) I honestly think that’s the first place the FBI should be trolling for suspects in any crime ever committed at any point in modern history.
The article was about something important. Don’t remember what. Maybe how One Direction was breaking up? Or the Iran Deal? Either way, the comments were a mixed bag of everything from fake prayer chains to that guy who thinks he know everything about boy bands and/or nuclear weapons.
But someone wrote:
“Memes Are The Lazy Way Out!”
It didn’t concern me that it had nothing to do with Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, John Kerry, Philip Hammond, Sergey Lavrov, Federica Mogherini, Javad Zarit, or Ali Akbar Salehi. (Confession: I had to use Google on this one…I didn’t know the names of those British boys.) I was most put off by equating memes with torpescence.
Has this person never searched for the perfect meme? It takes sweat to keep scrolling through all the cliched ones even your great-Grandma has printed out and handed to a friend at church (totally not kidding…this actually happened) to finding that treasure.
The perfect rejoinder.
If we are friends and I’ve never sent you a meme, there’s a chance we aren’t that close.
And if I’ve never sent you a GIF, our relationship is most likely a sham. Much like most One Direction songs and the entire Iran Deal.
We have photographs of Dave’s great-Grandparents in our kitchen. Up in that empty space above the cabinets. Right next to my vintage Sandwich Glass canisters. Their faces without smiles. Their bodies rigid. Slight blurs where people moved. You can’t tell what kind of people they were from their photos. Dave’s Grandma scribbled notes on the back for us, so I know who is who and when they came to America speaking Czech.
Dave’s great-Grandpa came to the States, fought in WWI, then died of a heart attack while working his farm. Leaving his wife without a husband and girls without a father.
Adelaide is in Summer School. I think they call it Kindercamp. She’s transitioning from the preschool to her new k-4 elementary school. Getting to know her new teachers, classrooms, and routines. We can’t leave our little city when Adelaide is in school. At any moment, she could need us due to a seizure or a meltdown. So that means no trampoline parks, bounce houses, play dates with friends in neighboring cities. We’re on call 5 days a week from 7:40 to 1:50.
So we decided to come up with a fun tradition for Adelaide’s Summer School days. Donuts and hashbrowns. After we drop Adelaide off at school, we drive through and get a donut for Graham and a hashbrown for Bess.
We are proud frequenters of our local donut shop. It’s one in a chain, but you can’t tell. In a world of gas station and grocery store donuts, I enjoy driving through a place that uses one of those hoses to sense your vehicle and makes a huge ding. They push the sliding glass window open and take your order face to face. The menu sign is wood with vinyl stickers. The donuts are no nonsense. Their Facebook page has 100-and-some-change followers and hasn’t been updated in 8 months.
Grandma Tracy makes donuts from her mom’s recipe, and tells me stories about the beloved matriarch. She tells me about meals they made, how she stored her potatoes, how she canned meat, the little sweets she made for them, the dresses she sewed, and how they always had fresh milk. How life was different on the farm. “Those poor city kids’ moms didn’t know how to stretch the rations like we did. And we always had meat. Mom always made sure we had meat.” These stories are fascinating to me. Grandma was raised by a single mom during the Great Depression.
I chuckle thinking of all these articles written for my generation.
How will your kids remember you? Are you on your phone too often, making them feel unimportant? Do you put your phone away too often and miss those photos of everything they’ll want to remember? Are you making enough memories? Do you hug them often enough, but not too much that they’re uncomfortable? Are you reading enough books, while also making sure they play outside? Are you reading enough books outside? Will they remember you as a fun mom? Caring mom? Adventurous mom? Even-tempered mom? Confident mom? Strong mom? Godly mom? Graceful mom?
I wonder if Dave’s great-Grandma even had time to think about her legacy while she was doing the wash by hand, canning everything in sight for winter, and raising a daughter with special needs. Grandma Tracy’s sister couldn’t walk. Only attended school through the 8th grade. Had leg braces. But learned to cook fried chicken.
In May and June, we ate lots of donuts, while wearing pajamas. My kids may not even remember it someday, and it’s sad that I even wondered if they would. It’s embarrassing to admit that I actually wondered if they would remember me as the mom who let them eat donuts in pajamas. But the mantra of my generation is “Are you making memories?” Like we’re manufacturing them in a factory.
The question needs to be asked: Do I do things with my kids so they can have a good time…or am I wanting them to remember me someday as a good mom? I think it depends on the day. I hate to even say that aloud.
In previous generations, I think moms focused more on keeping their kids safe, healthy, fed, and educated. My generation is pressured into focusing on keeping our kids entertained and showing everyone now, and our kids later, that we succeeded in it. Like we’re simultaneously the activity directors and marketing team of a Summer Camp.
Grandma Tracy remembers the trips and dancing and candy. But she mostly reminisces about the day-to-day tasks. The love shown through doing what needed to be done. “She played with us in her own way. It was a good childhood, but nothing fancy. And we never once doubted she loved us.”
I have the advantage of an easier life and more time to play. But the motive behind the play matters most. Playing with my kids because I desire to spend time with them, not because I want them to think of me as a doting mom. Planning something exciting for them because I want to see them enjoy it, not because I want to be seen as an adventurous mom. Making a tradition so we can share an experience, but not expecting that to be part of my mothering identity.
I don’t know how my kids will think of me when they’re grown, but I’m done thinking about it. I’m done wondering if I’m messing them up. And I’m done over-analyzing all I do in hopes of giving them some idealistic childhood. I’m bucking the trends of my generation.
I’m just going to keep loving them well and collecting my vintage glass, which I’ll pass onto them someday. Bess will probably sell it all to buy hashbrowns.
“Can you use two red peppers and a Vidalia onion?” our neighbor asked me with a tear in the corner of her eye.
On the last Tuesday of May, I was headed out to get tags for our van. I stopped to chat with Louise. Steve was home on hospice. They didn’t know if it would be weeks, months, or a year. She asked Dave to burn off a pile of branches. We offered our washing machine while she was waiting for hers to be serviced. It was a quick conversation.
On the following Sunday, she called to tell us he had passed away.
On Thursday, I attended his visitation. Saw his military photos. Saw the folded flag. He always wore his Vietnam veteran hat. He brought us food from all the VFW picnics. All the bake sales. So many biscuits and hot dogs and cookies. But he never once talked about what he saw. Only told us that he hated when people set off fireworks on our street, because it reminded him of too many things.
He had the kids’ birthdays memorized. Never missed a chance to buy them gifts. He and Louise visited on holidays bearing bags and boxes of treats. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July. Goodies ended up on our door when sales were too great to pass up. Backpacks, clothes, coloring books, fruit snacks, and the craziest character socks I’ve ever seen. So many tokens of friendship.
We sent homemade jellies and jams. Made fresh bread. We knew his favorite beef jerky and her favorite word search books. We were chastised any time we tried to give them gifts. “You spend that money on your kids! Not on us!” So I started giving them photos of the kids. It was our compromise.
When Steve was first diagnosed with his cancer, I started texting photos. He was upset he had missed bringing their Easter gifts. I tried to tell him we did not expect gifts from a person going through chemo. The last text I received from him was less coherent than the dozens before it. I sent photos the day he died. Not sure if he saw them.
A couple days after he died, Louise came to visit. Held Lewis for the first time. The whirlwind was over and she was left with an empty house. Full of his stuff. Where does a person even start? She started with the crisper. “These were his peppers. I don’t even like peppers. I hope you can use them.” Cancer can take a person so quickly, that even the fresh produce from the meal he requested hasn’t reached its expiration date.
And no one knows when it’s all going to happen. Hospice makes guesses. Doctors make guesses. In the end, it happens in a living room while all the neighborhood dogs bark.
She came with bubbles and playdoh and chalk and bibs. I remind her that we just want to see her, we don’t need gifts, but that’s not how she shows love. Arms heavy with goodies and produce. That’s how she operates. While she tells me his best friend now has cancer and got into the med trial Steve couldn’t get into. Her husband’s surgeries and radiation and chemo didn’t work. But they’re working for someone else. It’s all so arbitrary. This cancer.
Steven Lynn Ross, 70, Carthage, MO, passed away Saturday, June 3, 2017 at his home after a lengthy illness. Steven was born September 26, 1946, in Topeka, Kansas, a son of the late Charles L. Ross and Doris L. Rowe Ross. He was a graduate of Topeka West High School, Class of 1964, and received his BA degree in Education from Emporia State College, Emporia, KS. Steven was a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, serving with the 27th Artillery attached to the 101st Airborne. He married Margaret L. Stevenson on September 25, 1970, in Emporia; she survives. Steven was a teacher for 7 years before moving to Carthage, where he and his wife operated the 7-Eleven Convenience Store at the corner of River and Fairview, from 1977 – 1997. In 2001, he went to work for the Carthage Wal-Mart Store as a cashier and Customer Service Manager from 2001 – 2017. He was a member of the Carthage VFW Lodge, Carthage Knights of Pythias, and the Vietnam War Veterans Association and was instrumental in getting the Vietnam Memorial Wall to Carthage.
Additional survivors include a son, Scott L. Ross, Hannibal, MO; a sister, Marcia Ross, Ft. Collins, CO; three brothers, Gary (Linda) Ross, St. Louis, MO, Richard Ross, Topeka, KS and Mark (Julie) Ross, Overland Park, KS.
The body has been cremated. Visitation will be held from 6:00 – 7:00 PM, Thursday, June 8 at Knell Mortuary, 308 W. Chestnut, Carthage, MO 64836. Private family inurnment will be held at a later date. Memorial gifts are suggested to Carthage VFW Post 2590 in care of Knell Mortuary, 308 W. Chestnut Street, Carthage, MO 64836. Online condolences may be expressed through http://www.knellmortuary.com. Arrangements are under the direction and personal care of Knell Mortuary.
“Dave, I can’t find it! And now we owe a late fee!”
“Can’t find what?”
“The water and electric envelope!”
“Just pay without the bill. They’ll take it at the drive-thru.”
“No, Dave! I lost the money! $200! I took your paycheck and used that stupid Dave Ramsey envelope thing! Now I’ve lost $200 and we’re late.”
Dave chuckled at me in the way I once saw him laugh at an environmentalist who chided us for using styrofoam cups.
We ended up overdrawing our account, because I couldn’t find the envelope anywhere. I searched our entire house.
Fast forward a few days.
“Where is that wretched envelope?” We were at Walmart. I couldn’t find our envelope to buy hygiene items. I thought Dave was going to divorce me. Right in the checkout, where celebrities (who divorced for less than losing an entire paycheck divvied up into envelopes) donned magazines we couldn’t even buy with our lack of cash. All we had was the change in Dave’s pocket. We had to use our emergency credit card to buy toothpaste.
We found a smattering of envelopes almost three months later. I had put them in a different purse. No idea why I’d split them up, but I found several hundred dollars in a purse I rarely used. One envelope said “Car maintenance” and we had already changed our oil.
We learned that month that we are debit card people. On payday, I tithe and then pay all our bills a few weeks early. Then we figure out how to use the rest. It’s not a life-changing system, but it’s worked for years now.
I spent decades trying to copy things that I thought I was supposed to be doing. My first year teaching was all about copying my mentor. My second year, I copied a female co-teacher. By my third year, I started to do things my way and it worked. It wasn’t without flaws, but it was me.
When I became a parent, I tried to copy other moms. Celebrities. Strangers in online forums. I did what I thought I was supposed to do to the point of crying out, “I hate bathing this baby!”
Graham loathed baths. Partly due to his personality of being contrary, but mostly because babies sense when you are stressed about something and they cry. Their lives are confusing, and they take their cues from us. The cues I was giving off were ones of lavender-infused sleep-deprived insanity.
My mom walked up to the bathtub. “Why are you giving him a bath? He’s not dirty. He didn’t have a poop blowout. Have you been trying to bathe him everyday?” I was in tears. Graham was screaming. “Yes. I read that he’s supposed to get a bath to help him relax. He needs a routine to sleep better.” She chuckled at me in the way I once saw her laugh at an environmentalist who chided us for using styrofoam cups. Different guy. Strange, I know. “Lyndse, that’s obviously not working for ya.” My mom scooped Graham out of the bath, dried him off, put on his diaper, and told me to nurse him.
“Lyndse, you’ve gotta stop trying to do everything ‘they’ say to do. The books and your friends and people online. Just stop. Being a mom is hard enough without adding all the things they throw at you. Don’t even listen to all the stuff I say! I’m sure I gave you too much advice, too! He doesn’t need a bath everyday. Unless you both like it. Then give him a bath everyday.”
The classroom management plans. The daily baths. The envelopes I couldn’t keep track of. It was all stuff I was trying to copy.
I’ve gotten better over the last few years, but this blog is proof that I was still trying to copy and listen to all the people ever. Failed challenges. Failed sponsorships. Failed writing schedules. Failed book reviews. Book reviews are supposed to be easy to implement. It’s your opinion about a book you read. I couldn’t do it. It just wasn’t me. It wasn’t working for me to review random free books they sent to my mailbox and inbox.
I’m 34 now. And it’s getting easier to say no to all the voices of friends and strangers. To stop jumping on bandwagons. To realize that even great things that don’t work for your family aren’t great. They’re just getting in the way. We can’t implement everything we see and hear.
There are other things that I would love to work into our schedule and budget, but it’s just not the right time. Maybe someday I’ll be wearing lipstick that doesn’t rub off when you eat. Not sure. Can’t afford it right now. Our homeschool routine is all us. It’s a mix that fits our family personality really well. Maybe we’ll attend a co-op someday. Who knows? It doesn’t fit us right now. I will never go back to daily baths. Nope. Never. Non-negotiable. Maybe those cash envelopes would work if we tried them again. No idea. Dave banned them for life. Can you blame him? They work well for thousands of people. But that doesn’t mean we need to use them.
Off to put away laundry. Still haven’t found a system that works. And I’ve copied every single one out there. But we all have clean, albeit wrinkled, clothes. So we’re winning in my book.
Heck, sometimes our clothes even coordinate. But not very often. Which breaks another Mom Expectation I used to copy…
“Is she a real person?” Dave’s question a few different times. I’m obviously not going to fall for message requests from the widowed-hot-navy-seal-with-a-dog who is actually a scammer. But my husband wanted to be sure his wife wasn’t being tricked by a fellow-disability-writer-who-loves-literature-and-Taco-Bell charlatan. I reassured him that she was real. I was 98% sure she was a real person. And I was 100% sure we were going to end up great friends. That was more than two years ago.
We started with Facebook messages, but quickly moved to text messages. I don’t remember why. Then she started sending gifts to my kids. And I started giving feedback on her upcoming book. Her husband texted me, with her permission, when she was hospitalized. He read my texts aloud to her. My husband prayed for her every time she was hospitalized.
It’s not a typical friendship in the “Let’s get coffee and split this overpriced muffin” kind of way. It’s more of a “Em, Adelaide needs to poop within the next hour before we leave on this trip and I’m trying to find a place on the interstate to change her diaper” friendship. Emily knows the only answer is a combination of 5 memes and gifs. It’s the “Lyndse, I just bought more yarn.” kind of relationship. Seems innocent enough on the surface. But I know the implications of my spoonie buying yarn.
It’s not a typical friendship.
But who wants typical when you can have what we have?
And I’m still not sure if Em called me a HERO or a NERD….that conversation could’ve gone either way.
Two years ago today, I found an embroidery hoop, some fabric from a scrap bag I bought at Silver Dollar City, and an old baby shirt. And I turned it into wall art.
Which I never ended up putting on the wall. It’s still behind the girls’ rocking chair. With four other things I meant to hang on that wall. I just never finished the project. I was waiting on a friend to make a canvas for me. And then life kept happening.
Two years have rushed by. In those years, Bess and Graham have reached all their milestones plus some. Adelaide has not.
When Adelaide was a baby and not reaching milestones, they sent us off to get an MRI. I remember begging God for hours, “Please let her sit up so we can cancel this MRI. Or make her MRI normal.” Neither happened.
Adelaide didn’t sit until she was much older. And her MRIs showed a brain that was severely malformed. Six malformations. One of them, colpocephaly, is pretty rare. There are about 150 people in our online support group.
Her second MRI came during a trip to Kansas City. Our second neurologist. And we heard ‘polymicrogyria’ for the first time. I eventually joined an online support group. It was reassuring to find other families with these long words typed into longer reports. Our rare kids reaching milestones at different times, so we can rejoice together over the most mundane things.
Bob bought the shirt for Adelaide a few months before the trip. Said the girl on the shirt had a big head like Addie, and they were both adorable. We were checking on Adelaide’s mega cisterna magna, so the shirt seemed like a perfect match.
I don’t keep lots of things. Our house is small, and I tend to fill it with things we need in the moment. And books. Books got me through my abuse-filled childhood. But I kept this shirt, and I turned it into something else. Something I was proud of.
Two years later, it’s still not on the wall. But that’s the beauty of it. In its own time, it will get there. Along with a few other things. It represents Adelaide’s journey…she operates on her own timeline. Meets milestones when it suits her. She stood up on her last day of preschool. They worked on that skill for almost 2 years. And she pulled it out of her hat on the last day. It’s so Adelaide.
And it was so Bob to buy that shirt for Adelaide. Until he could no longer talk, Bob asked about his Adelaide. He fiercely loved all his grandchildren, peppered across the United States. He had special nicknames for each one. Inside jokes. He called them, video messaged them, and bought them weird/overpriced/silly gifts. He talked about his grandkids to everyone. He was a proud Papa. Very proud. And he was proud of every milestone Adelaide achieved. And if she didn’t achieve something: “Who cares? Addie can do whatever the hell she wants!” He had a soft spot for her.
And it’s so me to have so many unfinished projects. It’s been 4+ years, and I still haven’t finished the girls’ room. Now we’re trying to build a special bed for Adelaide, and wall art seems less important. But I’ll still put it up at some point. I’m taking my time. And looking forward to Dave completing their bookshelves, so I can fill them with books Adelaide may never be able to read. Or maybe she will. You never know with her. She’s never seen those MRIs, so she doesn’t realize she’s done more than they said she’d ever do.
“Of course he did. Of course Gil f***ing died.” I mumbled it under my breath. In the front seat of our van. We were driving home from Iowa. From Bob’s funeral. I opened up my phone to see that Jonathan Crombie had passed away.
He was Gilbert Blythe. On VHS. Several places were warped. I didn’t own a copy. They were always from libraries. Too many libraries to count, because we moved so much.
When we moved into a new house, I would unpack all my books. Before my clothes. Most of my belongings stayed in cardboard boxes, ready for the next move. But my books were always freed and put on the white shelf. Not even a real bookshelf. It was one of those veneer over pressed board shelves that bubbled up when I accidentally left a glass of iced sun tea to sweat on it. It was wobbly. But it held my books. And I always unpacked Anne and Gil first. Their covers completely falling off.
I’d read them dozens of times before I even saw the movie for the first time. But once I saw it, Megan and Jonathan were now the faces. And they were perfection. As I read and reread the entire series from Green Gables to Ingleside, I couldn’t shake them. And their voices recited the lines. Jonathan’s Canadian accent replaced the voice I had created in my imagination.
I hated saying goodbyes. You trade addresses with a kid you know you can never write to, because you have no stamps. You make promises to see one another again someday. My friends would send one card, with a new school photo. I had no photos to send back. We always bought the cheapest package and my photos went to family members I saw twice a year. But I did this ritual over and over again. Crappy rental after crappy rental. Nodding that I would write, and hoping maybe we could afford stamps this time around. But we never could.
I didn’t need money to read my books. I didn’t need money to ride my bike to the library. I didn’t need money to daydream about Prince Edward Island or how amazing it would be to have a “dad” like Matthew Cuthbert and get a scholarship to college and marry a man like Gilbert.
And as a 32-year-old me traveled home on a long stretch of highway with a grieving 5-year-old who actually had me photograph him with the coffin so he could always remember how weird the embalming fluid made his Papa’s hands look, I grieved losing the person who was the closest I had to a dad. Bob was finally dead. The road to being destroyed by cancer had been simultaneously fast and drawn out. But he was my Matthew. Taking me in and making me his own, even though he already had children. And I cried over Jonathan’s death. A brain hemorrhage. His family didn’t even get to say goodbye. They had waited 3 days to announce his death.
It’s probably why I never want to leave this place. This house we’ve been working on for 11 years. Because it’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my entire life. We came home to this place after our honeymoon. We brought all four of our newborns here. We came back to this place after leaving two of our children with hospital pathologists. We were here when Bob lived. We were here when Bob died. Dave surprised me with my own copies of the movies, which have been the centerpiece of many date nights in this house. And my tattered, yellowed books are on a real wooden shelf in this house. A shelf bolted to a wall we own.
Two years later, I miss Bob nearly every day. I think about how he teased me for having so many books that Dave had to keep building new shelves. And he would’ve teased me for crying over Jonathan’s death. And he would’ve teased me for being so sappy. I miss the teasing so much. That was the worst goodbye of the countless goodbyes in my life. And a stamp can’t fix it.