Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Years for the procrastinator

Published December 30, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

It's New Year's Resolution time again. For me, that means it's time to find another creative way to write another New Year's Resolution column. Lucky for you, I'm a creative gal, and I'm, uh, resolved.

If you sensed hesitance in that last sentence (hey...that almost rhymed), it's because my New Year's Resolution for this year requires a great deal of growth and change for me. A procrastinator by nature, I've lived my life by a well loved motto: Never put off for tomorrow what you can put off until 2008. Until last Thursday, I thought I had plenty of time. Then I looked at a calendar. Aw, dang.

That baby with the 2008 banner is ready to high-five the old man of '07, and I'm sitting here like I'm taking the SATs with a kindergarten education. When you put things off the way I do, the day of reckoning comes at you like a freight train full of Twinkie wrappers and pink leotards...or like a hastily composed simile: it makes sense on some level, but ultimately, it's makes you fear for your brain cells. (Anyone wanting to draw a parallel to the above and my writing style can go take a New Year's flying leap.)

I've had to leave my computer to get air and do a guided relaxation exercise eight times already, and I'm only four paragraphs into this column. With a few more deep breaths for good measure, I will share the things I will finally get done this year.

-I will change the name on my social security card. I remember this every year at tax time when I have to wait two beats to make sure I sign my maiden name, Sarah E. Braudaway. That thought is always punctuated by the shocked screams of the tax preparer saying, "You got married WHEN?" Considering I got married and changed my name to Wilson 12 years ago, that said marriage ended two years ago, and that I plan to change my name to Clark sometime this year, I'm putting my visit to the social security office at the top of my list.

-I will buy a pie server. Well, if that's what you call one of those wedge shaped spatulas. It may not seem like a big deal, but years and years of Thanksgiving pies don't lie. Forks don't work. Regular spatulas don't work. Garden spades work okay, but they make the pie a little crunchy.

-I will learn to sew. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. (I needed a little comic relief to ease the tension.)

-I will have my wisdom teeth removed. Yes, I'm 31 years old now and should have had them out by the time I turned 21. I've been hanging on to them because I was hoping to glean a little wisdom from them before giving them up. So far, all I've gleaned is pain and a chance to use the word "glean." It's nice, but it's outlived it usefulness.

-I will develop and print all the pictures I have taken over the last 8 years. This is actually a two part goal, because the cost of printing all those photos will require me to either win the lottery or get another job. I'm willing to work part-time buying lottery tickets in case anyone's looking.

There are a few more, but I'm still in denial. As a woman who's raised procrastination to an art form, this makes the 19 mile, 13 hour Half Dome hike I did this year look like (insert hastily worded simile here). The good news is that I have an extra pair of hands to help. Lucky for me, 2008 will mean marrying the best friend I've had since I was 17, so the two of us can pound these goals out pretty quickly, I think. As long as he's not a procrastinator like me, we're golden!

Wait...he took nearly 14 years to give me the kiss he wanted to give me the night we met. Aw, dang.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I know where all the time has gone...

Published December 23, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

My oldest child turned 11 on Friday, and I participated in that age old tradition of motherhood by facing the day with a very loud, "WHAT?" It seems cliche because it's true, but I really do not know where the time has gone.

Except that I do.

Every mother in the world could tell every young person in the world to live life to the fullest because time moves fast, and before you know it, your oldest child is turning 11. The problem with this advice is that for young people, time doesn't move fast at all, so warnings fall on understandably deaf ears.

Long before my only became my older became my oldest, I have pondered on this disparity of age and time. Why does time move slowly for children and quickly for adults? What occurs that produces this change? Where, in fact, does the time go?

Santa took it.

That's right, folks. I am making the accusation of my own free will and in full awareness that this may create mass panic in the community. That jolly old soul with the rosy cheeks and the flying sleigh is the culprit behind this time/age phenomenon. He comes to our houses, wiggles down chimneys, leaves presents, and takes our time.

Think about it. The man manages to produce toys for every child in the world with a production schedule of just 364 days. He delivers said toys to all the children in the world in ONE NIGHT. Clearly, Santa has some kind of power over the space/time continuum. No one without that power (who isn't a mother...*badum ching*) could get all of that done. And really, he's old, but have you ever known Santa to age? I think not.

The twist is that while Santa's taking our time, he is clearly NOT taking the time of our children, and therein lies the answer to the problem. When you're a child, you believe in Santa and time moves on its leisurely course, cutting a lazy path through life like a river made of caramel. Once you stop believing, time whips past you like a bullet train (Polar Express, anyone?)

You might consider this an act of revenge on Santa's part. After all, I'd be pretty miffed if I brought you presents every year and then you doubted my very existence. Of course, we all know Santa's not the type to look to revenge. The time loss is more of a natural consequence to a very unfortunate choice. People who don't have time for fantasy and fairy tales and a little bit of whimsy simply don't have time at all.

While wasted years of unbelief can never be reclaimed, you can make a change now that will see you through the rest of your life. It's time to slow down the train and take a ride on the lazy river. In other words, it's time to start believing again. In years past, Santa gave me a music box, a pogo ball, and a pair of roller skates. This year, I give Santa my belief. The cool thing is that it's all I have to give him to get my time back.

Of course, I'll be adding a cheesecake to the cookies this year...just in case.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Because she is a mother

Published December 16, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

There is a story attributed to Victor Hugo about a mother who, having a piece of bread to share between her two children and herself, broke it in half and gave it to her children. Soldiers observing this were divided as to why the mother took no bread for herself. The first assumed she was not hungry. The second made the more astute observation when he said, "It is because she is a mother."

You're hearing me here, sisters, aren't you?

Now, I've never been in a situation quite as dire as that, unless you count the time some well intentioned but misguided individual planned a Muffins for Moms event at my children's elementary school and then refused to allow any of the children to share in the muffins. Breaking my oversized muffin in half and giving it to my kids was done because I'm a mother. Storming into the principal's office and complaining and having the muffin nazi thrown out was done because I'm a hothead. (PTA, this is why I am still not a member.)

So, it's Christmas/Birthday time for me, and in seasons past, this time of year would lead me into my traditional Christmas Conundrum. Do I spend my gift money on myself or do I spend it on the kids? Do I choose a so-called high road and sacrifice to my own detriment, or do I accept my own worth and treat myself at the risk of feeling selfish? 11 years of motherhood mixed with a couple of years of pretty intense therapy have lead me out of conundrum and into compromise.

When it comes to shopping for myself, I get creative. There's some kind of pre-purchase penance I do in order to feel like an adequate nurturer before committing the "sin" of self indulgence. For me, that means justifying any purchase by conforming it to a set of rules. 1) The purchase must be naturally cheap or so reduced in price that it cannot NOT be purchased. 2) The purchase must serve the family in some way.

Why the need for compromise? After all, it's gift money intended for me. There really isn't a reason I should feel the need to justify spending gift money on myself. The only answer I can give you is, "Because I am a mother." Even if I'm taking this whole concept to an unhealthy level, if you're a mom, you know what I'm talking about. You give them your body for nine months (longer if you're nursing), and something inside of you changes until you want to give them everything. And how.

Last year, I spent my birthday money on a new wok to replace the broken one that had been sorely missed. The kids love my noodles with the homemade sauce. I spent my Christmas money on a stereo for the kitchen, the better to entertain my children with Weird Al and They Might Be Giants every day before dinner. This year, I've pooled my money and bought an outrageously low priced, used laptop computer from my neighbors. The kids now have free rein of the "big computer" for games and homework, and I can do my own schoolwork at the table with them during homework time.

Someday, I may get to the point at which I can spend a little something on myself without thinking of how it will benefit my kids...maybe after another two years of therapy. Maybe all I'll ever do is realize that taking good care of myself means taking better care of my kids, so any purchase for me benefits them too, and in the end, they'll thank me for my balanced example.

Well, that's just crazy talk. Here kids, have a muffin.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Feeling naughty?

Published December 9, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I'm telling you why...Santa Claus is coming to town, all right, and according to the song, he's got a twice-checked list in that sleigh. Which column did you make this year?

It's a shame we don't find these things out until the big day. Sure, most people SHOULD know if they've been naughty or nice throughout the year, but I'm willing to bet there will be a large portion of the population on Christmas morning standing, jaws slack in absolute shock, beholding stockings filled not with chocolate and perfume but ugly lumps of coal.

The good news is that I've joined forces with Santa Claus this year to give certain citizens the heads up. Don't mistake this information as a chance at absolution. It's too late for that. There is no such thing as deathbed confession when it comes to the big guy in red. You've had all year to do right by society. We just thought perhaps the advanced notice would give you a head start on making a change for 2008.

Man in large truck who nearly rammed my car as he was driving out of a parking lot last night, then honked at ME like it was my fault: NAUGHTY. Sure, people make careless errors on the road all the time. A wave and a sheepish smile might have gotten you on the nice list, buddy. May Karma flatten your tires.

Person who stole the cash in my wallet: NAUGHTY. You're not even getting the coal treatment. Santa's bringing you every smelly diaper I've changed since becoming a mother. That's five smelly bottoms in quick succession. Have fun with that. The man who found my wallet and took great pains to find me and return it is, of course, on the top of the nice list. He gets every hug and kiss I've been given since becoming a mother.

Richard Simmons: NAUGHTY. Your song "It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year," is in no way amusing or motivational. If I want to chow down on pie and egg nog until I have to be rolled from a room, I'll do so without your commentary, thank you. The management of the radio station which played this song at the precise moment I was taking a bite of my lovely chocolate chip muffin have also made the naughty list. To the makers of the muffin: You are very, very nice.

Britney Spears: NAUGHTY. Not that I've ever considered you an upstanding citizen, but woman, what happened to you? Are you out of your mind? A) You're a mother. Act like it. B) White trash is not the new urban chic, no matter what your stylist tells you. C) The charcoal would be very useful in ridding the narcotics from your system, so make use of it. Just a thought.

The United States Congress: NAUGHTY. If I wanted nothing but whining, arguing, and stonewalling to happen, I'd have sent my children to Washington and told them it was time to clean their rooms. Santa and I are taking the next pay raise you vote yourselves and sending you all to obedience school.

I know. It's never nice to find out you're on the naughty list, but take heart. The new year is less than a month away. You have a chance, a real chance, to make something of yourselves. All is not lost. There is hope. Unless, of course, you're the inventors the of Wii.

Santa has a whole other list for you, and it involves fire ants and Barry Manilow music.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

It's okay! I won't try to eat it!

Published December 2, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

November 14 was a momentous day in my household. I know, I know. I have momentous days all the time. It's one of the cool things about having five kids. One child would give me several occasions per year that I could call momentous. Multiplied by five, the momentous day potential leaves me giddy to the point of collapse.

Michael was the child in question on that Wednesday two weeks ago. He made the day momentous by being kind enough to have a birthday...and not just any birthday. Michael's cake was topped by candles numbering three. Say it with me now...MO-MENT-OUS!

If you're a mom, it won't be difficult to understand where I'm coming from here. The third birthday is a big event. It's HUGE! At this point, I'm not sure there is any birthday more exciting or welcome than a child's third birthday. Yes, the first is fun with its lone candle and cake-covered face. 16 is exciting (terrifying?) with the promise of adulthood around the corner the prospect of driving right there on the doorstep. But three...three is THE year, my friends.

Three is the year mothers all over the U.S. get to tone down the worrying (just a notch, of course). You see, three is a magic age in which a child suddenly stops looking for windpipe trouble around every corner. I'm talking about choking, people. My youngest Wilson has officially passed the choking hazard age limit and has been promoted to dogs. That's right! Michael has the go ahead to eat hard candy!

Let me tell you, this is a relief! It's been a long, lonely 11 years, raising children who could at any moment decide to choke on anything that happened to be lying on the carpet. It's been a long three years, getting Michael to this point. And with four older children who crossed the three year threshold many moons ago and therefore have no small-toy part restrictions, it hasn't been easy keeping things off the carpet.

Mothering a child under three is kind of like walking through a minefield...a minefield of legos and board game parts. The hazards are everywhere. And by the time a child gets to be about two, he's smart enough to realize you're not letting him have what everyone else has, but not quite developed enough to understand why.

Fortunately for us, Michael has crossed over into the world of the "3 and ups." If Miriam dumps her craft beads all over the floor in her room, we're good. If Ray spills his rock collection or Cate empties Monopoly, it's going to be all right. That long awaited day has come at last! I feel like making a t-shirt for Michael that says, "It's okay! I won't try to eat it!" (I wonder if I could get him to wear it every day.)

Now that my youngest has made this giant leap for all toddlerkind, I'm left to wonder how I'll fill my time. Perhaps now, I can finally take up tennis. Maybe I'll learn to water ski. I don't know. What I do know is that I don't have to worry about that bag of butterscotch candies my friend gave me or the container of marbles just waiting to be tipped over. Michael is three now, and this mother's butterscotch filled dreams just came true. For the time being, he is safe.

Until Evelyn introduces him to matches, of course.