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Friday, June 29, 2012

If You Give a Mom a Muffin (Or "A Day in My Life")

First off, I cannot take credit for this piece of literary genius. However, I couldn't not share it. In writing my last post, I remembered seeing this post from a friend (probably shared from someone else's wall who borrowed it from someone else) and thought just how true this really is!

To all my mom friends - you'll appreciate this! And if you haven't read any of Laura Numeroff's "If You Give a..." children's books , you should read one first before reading the following.

If you give a mom a muffin,
She'll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She'll pour herself some.
Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.
She'll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she'll find dirty socks.
She'll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
She'll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her
she has to plan for supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She'll look for her cookbook
("101 Things To Do With a Pound of Hamburger").
The cookbook is setting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.
The checkbook is in her purse
that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.
She'll smell something funny.
She'll change the two-year-old's diaper.
While she is changing the diaper, the phone will ring.
Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.
She'll remember she wants to phone a friend for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her
that she was going to have a cup.
And chances are...If she has a cup of coffee,
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

Not Listening Can Be Rather Dangerous

I know I am not a very good listener. (Shh - don't tell my therapy patients!) I blame it on my poor attention span. I have all intentions of listening when someone tells me something, but then I glance down at my shoes and notice how worn they are. And then I remember that coupon in my purse from Famous Footwear. And then I remember that my husband announced his plan to buy himself a gun if I buy another pair of shoes. And then I try to recall his schedule this week and figure out how I could sneak a new pair of shoes into the house when he's not home. Or I could leave them at work. What other pairs do I have here already? Then my nose itches, and I try to discreetly scratch it (just the outside! I am NOT a nose picker!!!). Then I realize that scratching isn't working and I really just need to blow it. But it's embarrassing to blow my nose in front of another person. Oh, wait. There's another person here. And she's looking at me expectantly. Should I nod and smile, grimace and frown, or just say the always safe, "Tell me more."

See - that's what I mean. It just happens. For all records (and professional reputation and liability), I am usually pretty focused and attentive in session with my clients. It's only 50 minutes, and I know that they are paying me big bucks (well, really, their insurance company is paying my employer piddly-squat) to really help them. And if I don't pay attention to what they are saying, I would be doing a really crappy job and that's just not how I roll.

Unfortunately, though, that means that I've used up most of my listening abilities by the time I leave the office. As much as I love him, I admit (and he knows it anyway) that my eyes gloss over when my husband starts talking to me about something that I need to really focus on (unless it's nail polish, celebrity gossip, or his sensible realization that getting a gun was a pretty stupid idea). In theory, I'm very interested about the stocks that we own shares in, the changes to our health insurance, what he needs to do to fix the washing machine, and the new toy he wants to purchase (which I can pretend to disapprove of but secretly like and use when he's not around - wait, just to be clear - I'm talking about things like Jeeps and wireless headphones and beer fridges. Get your mind out of the gutter - I was NOT talking about sex toys, although admittedly, when I look back, I can see why you might think that...). My kids often ask me things that I offer the stock answer to, only to then realize three minutes later that I wasn't listening and in fact just agreed to let them have a lollipop before dinner or take a picture of me in the shower. (Well, in my defense, the second one was really more due to my daughter's articulation difficulties, but I guess partly I wasn't listening closely enough and just agreed quickly so I could hopefully go back to my only 7 minutes of peace and quiet I get all day.)

While most of the time me not really listening is harmless enough, sometimes there are actual consequences. Like when I was a bartender in grad school and often forgot drink orders. Was it a gimlet or a gisbon? A Corona or a Corona Light? Thankfully, then, I had an amazing $2000/year stipend from my practicum position as a therapist trainee and didn't have to rely on a real job to buy my ramen noodles and Salvation Army finds. Another example of real consequences was when I was watching the video on how to use my new smartphone. Most of what I heard was "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" with a few key important words peppered in, like "turning on the power," "retrieving voice mails," and "making a call." The damn thing didn't have a rewind or fast forward function, so I had to start the whole hour-long video over again and zone out until the part I wanted, only to then miss it again and start all over. Oy vey!

The most significant (and probably frequent) difficulty I've experienced, though, due to not listening, is quite catastrophic. Having had three babies and various other ailments (wait - does that sound like my kids are ailments? Well, sometimes, I might say they are...), I'm no stranger to doctor's offices. You'd think, with all of my experience, that I'd know by now how crucial it is to listen very very carefully when the nurse hands you the gown and begins to walks out the door. Of course whatever she's saying is important, and of course I never listen. I find myself, over and over and over, standing alone in the exam room, holding a gown, wondering two very important questions: 1) which, exactly, of my clothes did she say to take off, and 2) did she say to put the gown on with the opening in the front or the back? I never know! I've thought to bolt out the door and chase her down the hall to ask her, but then it'd be admitting defeat. Instead, I just take a gamble every time and make my best guess. It's pretty reasonable to expect that the dermatologist does not need my bra off to check a mole on my shoulder. It's also pretty reasonable that I should take it all off at the ob/gyn's. But seriously - at the PCP, when I know she'll do a breast exam AND check my spine, how can I be expected to remember if she wants the opening in the back or front??? I'm sure that on more than one occasion, I've had a doctor come in and giggle to herself when she sees that I stripped for nothing or put the gown on the wrong way. Well, I'm just doing my part to make their office lunch conversation a little more entertaining that day!

For all of us non-listeners out there, I think I'm going to start a public health campaign in my free time. I'll begin petitioning doctor's offices to hang up fancy posters in their exam rooms, with instructions (and pictures for those of us who get distracted while reading, too) on how to put on the gown and what articles of clothing to take off (and which to leave on) based on the type of exam you're having. Maybe the nurse could even stick a big arrow (think "Pin the Gown on the Patient") on the exact example that applies to you? I think there's big bucks in this, I'm sure! Much more than I get paid for noticing the way my patient's ears are slightly lopsided and that there's a spider's nest in the corner of my office, all while occasionally asking, "How does that make you feel," and nodding at the (mostly) right times. Riches, here I come!!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Me and my neuroses, making Freud (if not my mom) proud...

My two oldest daughters spent last week with my mom. They had a great time, and so did Grammy. I missed them dearly, but it was nice to have one-on-one time with our littlest one. I felt so free - like back before I had kids! We went out to eat at a nice restaurant, I didn't have to do eight loads of laundry, tucking my girls into bed only took 1/3 of the time... It was great! And although I'm a somewhat controlling person (or so my mother tells me, anyway - solely based on the fact that I ask her to turn the lights off when she leaves a room and wipe the knife off when going from the peanut butter to the jelly jar), I was actually okay while the girls were away. I went a whole day and a half without talking to them once, and while it did take me slightly longer to fall asleep each night, I managed to not feel compelled to know what they ate and wore and saw each day.

However, the neuroses kicked in when we went to go pick them up this weekend. First off, my mom had commented during the week about how many clothes I had packed for them. At this point in my life, with going away at least once each month, every month and being solely responsible for packing my own and my three children's clothes, shoes, toiletries, stuffed animals, books, and other illicit items that we don't need to mention here, I consider myself a well-trained and, truthfully, professional packer. I don't just throw things into a suitcase willy nilly. Oh no - it's a process, complete with lists (paper and digital), designated bags, and prescription medication. I check the weather forecast. I count out how many days and nights we'll be gone. I allot one outfit for each day per person, assuming the weather forecast is correct, and then I throw in a couple of "just in case someone pees their pants or spills ice cream in their laps" back up outfits. I also add in some unseasonable items, you know, just in case it's 85 degrees in February (this is New England - you never know!). I also add in at least one or two (depending on which person I'm packing for, but I won't name names) extra pair of undies - again, just in case the unthinkable happens. I coordinate shoes with outfits, underwear colors with weight and color of pants fabric, accessories - I've got it all covered. So - I tried not to let it bother me, but the notion that my mother thought I over packed was upsetting (especially since, a) in her mind, this is further proof of my controllingness, and b) in my mind, she completely disregarded the time and painstaking effort I took to properly pack their bag. Oh, and not to mention that I was trying to do her a favor and save her from hours of laundry doing.)

So - we arrived on Friday night to stay for the weekend. The girls were reasonably clean and completely happy (both to have spent the week with Grammy and to see us again). Their room was fairly orderly, as was their suitcase. However, almost every single item I had packed for them was just that - still packed. There is an empty dresser in the guest room just for this purpose, but my mom said she just never got around to unpacking their clothes. So they lived out of the suitcase for the week. My mom did laundry (even though I told her that's why I packed all that I did - so she could avoid it) and apparently put the clean items right back into the suitcase. Really, in the grand scheme of things, I don't really mind that they lived out of a suitcase for the week. Honestly - I wasn't the one having to rifle through the piles trying to find the mischievous disappearing shirt or errant set of playground pants (yes, they really exist - check it out: What did bother me was that that then meant that I could either suck it up and continue to let them deal with living out of the suitcase for the weekend while we were there (meaning, I'd have to deal with it), or I could risk further proving Mom's hypothesis and unpack their clothes into neat and tidy rows in the dresser drawers. I bit my tongue, sent a quick prayer to Saint Monica, and unpacked just the bag I brought that day with my clothes and our youngest's.

We got home late last night, and I finally unpacked the girls' suitcase this afternoon. Again, my ugly yet well groomed neurotic head reared itself. Not having lived at home for over 12 years, I had forgotten how differently my mother and I do laundry. As I mentioned, she had done a load (or two?) of the girls' clothes, which I do appreciate. However, much like the differences in our personalities, there are vast divides between the way she does laundry and the way I do it. She line dries everything, for starters. I'm not implying here that her personality is crisp and bristly and devoid of any refreshing Bounty scent, but more on the free-spirited/natural side of things, even if it is a bit off the beaten path at times. She also folds shirts by bringing the shoulders together and folding the shirt in half length wise, then again width wise. I prefer to fold it in thirds - folding the arms and sides back behind the center, then folding it in half width wise. Basically, Mom doesn't mind a few wrinkles in her shirts, even if they are right down the center where everyone can see them, but I go to painstaking efforts (one step shy of stealing the folding board I see a sales associate using every glorious time I'm at The Gap) to make sure the wrinkles are off to the side and as unnoticeable as possible. And then there's the socks. This might possibly be the worst offense, in my opinion - even worse than the way she leaves the toilet lid up all the time, no matter how many times I've told her it grosses me out to see into the toilet whenever I happen to be in the bathroom (and the fact that I'm terrified one of my children will drop something into it just for fun or worse yet - stick their hand in to fish out said dropped item). Are you ready to hear about this egregious offense? You might need to sit down. My mother puts the socks together and turns one inside out around the other to make them into little sock balls. I know - you are stunned, too. How can she not realize that this stretches out the unfortunate sock that just happened to be on the outside? Does she not see the absurdity (and profanity) of having a drawer full of pastel colored, soft and fuzzy testicles, essentially? Does she not understand the ways in which these sock balls become instantaneously irresistible to any cat within a seven-mile radius, and therefore, often end up stuck in the nether regions of the couch, smushed into the catnip-loaded and rather hairy scratching pad, or carted off to the basement to become my sadistic cat's next "bitch?" These socks are doomed from the moment she slides her fingers inside to roll them up. Seriously, Mom, give them a sliver of hope, would you? Just stack the socks on top of one another and let them live free, for the love of God!!!

So - it took all I had in me (and admittedly, a promise to myself of ice cream later) to not rewash, redry, and refold all of the clothes she had done. I know, I know - rewashing seems a bit extreme, but really - how else could I make my girls' t-shirts and underwear get that wonderful fresh-out-of-the-washer smell? And yeah, redrying already dried clothes seems a bit frivolous, but how else can I get them to not stand up by themselves (even when they are clean!)? Refolding doesn't seem much less senseless, either - but again, how will I be able to sleep tonight, knowing that my sockless kids will be facing the world tomorrow with wrinkles front and center on their shirts?

But you'd be proud of me. I put on my big girl panties (which were quite soft from the dryer and folded neatly in my drawer in thirds so even those don't have a crease down the middle) and managed to deal with it. I put away all the girls' clothes without rewashing, redrying, or refolding a single item. Well, there was that one shirt, but even Freud needed years of working with someone to help them completely fix their neuroses... I'm okay with being a work in progress.