Hot Mess

A photo by Matthew Wiebe.

I was the hot mess mama this morning. If medals were to ever be given, my overachieving, but underdressed self would be receiving gold. (also, the above picture is an exact representation of what I looked like this morning…)

“It’s 7:30 on a school day!” Trav said, too close to my ear. His statement was my wake call this morning. I only had twenty-five minutes to get three children ready for school. (The school bell rings at 8:00 a.m. sharp.)

We overslept, thanks to our “close to the Lord” child’s iPad. (She’s currently grounded from the iMisery and it’s taken residence on my night stand…and here’s where I tell you that my daughter has set 7 alarms on it, starting at 6:00 a.m. And those alarms severely messed with my mind this morning. So thus, I’m blaming the iPad (for ignoring my alarm) and its alarms, because it was definitely not my good book last night mixed with my ill respect for mornings. I am innocent.)

“WHAT?!” I screeched in the face of my wake up call (sorry, husband), jumped out of bed and sprinted to the kitchen. Still feeling hazed, I started throwing three lunches together (apples…a candy bar…and a juice box–I may get a call from the teachers). That’s a lie, there was also jelly sandwiches–that I didn’t spread–and gogurt. Then I shoved three pieces of toast in the toaster, and set a cold clump of microwaveable bacon–no, I didn’t separate the six pieces that formed said clump–in the microwave and hit 30 seconds. The overcooked toast popped and I put one streak of butter on each one, before I took a deep breath and then patted myself on the back. (Notice how I never said I made a cup of coffee. And yet, there I was slaying lunches and breakfast. Go me! #momwin)

Trav was busy getting the girls up, because I tend to overreact when under such short time constraints. (“GET UP NOOOOOOWWWW, WE ARE LATE!!!!! *while pulling my hair out and throwing clothes at them)

I raced to get Amelia dressed, Trav signed planners, and I was back in the kitchen, making threats–“if you think you don’t have to brush your teeth because we’re late, you are wrong! Go brush your teeth!”–then I’m throwing lunches in backpacks, telling them to shovel their burned toast and bacon down faster without choking, and nearly picking the beauties up and tossing them in the car.

And we’re late. (I will not speak of my irresponsible speed, but my long-bus-like Yukon can take curves on a dime, so if you are in the market for a mini-bus that can haul booty (the always running tired and late kind) go buy one!)

We are that one minute late, the one that follows the school doors locking. That one minute, the one we learned on orientation night that makes me, as a parent, have to physically walk in and sign them in. Admittedly, I almost told the beauties to just sneak in, but I can’t. I am a rule follower to a default. My anxiety about rules says I have to get out of my car and go do the walk of shame with them.

I park, and swallow my pride before I open my car door. I am a sight–this I know. I’m also horrified as well, because I never looked in the mirror this morning. This leads me to question all that could be wrong with my face… (Think smeared-not-completely-washed-off-eye-make-up, boogers, and no eyebrows…)

You know you are late when you don’t even attempt to draw on your “brows.”

I take a long, disapproving glance down at myself and instantly abhor my appearance–I have on pajama pants, gold dressy sandals, a cross between a sweater and a trench coat, with a brown and white polka dot tank top underneath, sans a bra and worse, I can feel the heaviness of my hair that is sticking out as big as Texas because I slept on it wet.

I feel naked, but I am dressed…praise the Lord.

And I’m walking with my arms crossed over my chest, pressing against my sweater/trench coat wrapped tightly around me because in the flurry of lateness I didn’t go for basic necessity, the cardinal rule after breastfeeding four babies: a (push-up) bra.

Inside the office, nobody is making direct eye contact with me, mostly because I probably look like a threat of some sort–a fashion confused extremist.

Finally, when the silence is too long, and everyone is quietly shaking their head at me, I basically have an outburst of hands and weird body gestures while asking, so loudly, “Where do I get tardy slips?!”

I sign the tardy slips, kiss the beauties bye, walk the shame road feeling like Cersie from GOT and drive much slower on the way home, trying to bring my embarrassment and my heart rate back down.

Parked in my garage, I get out and make a beeline to my kuerig. I smell it, before I see it. My face, that could possible have a giant booger hanging out my nose, is one of shock. There on my counter in my bedroom, freshly brewed, lies a piping cup of liquid gold.

Trav turns the corner and grins at me. I take my coffee as a strange sight in my peripheral alarms me. Something is not right.

“Did you make the bed?” (Even the 19 decorative pillows are arranged. I almost gasped.)

Trav nods, looking coy. (I half wonder what the H is happening? Because this is the twilight zone!)

I ponder the made bed and my whacko thoughts a moment. In twelve years of marriage, he has maybe made the bed twice, and that’s a generous benefit.

“Why?” I ask, almost scolding. (It’s not enough that he has to make all the money, but now he has to make the bed, too?!)

He shrugs, a mild twinge of guilt coats his face.

And suddenly, after a sip or two of coffee, I feel enlightened.

“You made the bed so I wouldn’t get back in it, didn’t you?” I accused, like he was on trial and I was a young lawyer asking the most important (make my case) question of my entire interrogation.

He laughs at my dramatics, holding his hands up in surrender. “Babe, listen, if you don’t get laundry done today…” He sighs. “I’m going to have to start turning my underwear inside out. You left me no options.” He smiles, the same one that makes me remember that I do love this man.

Today, okay honestly…most days, I am a hot mess mama of four beauties, and sometimes, like the first week of school, I’m an overachieving procrastinator of the homemaking kind. It just is. Thank goodness, I have a family and friends, who love (and hug) me through it, even my husband with his gentle nudges, too.

Cut some slack for all the Mamas, we are trying, amidst running late and mountains of laundry…

Bite. Your. Tongue.

A photo by Oscar Keys.

A few days ago, my two oldest daughters had a disagreement with one another. For the life of me, I cannot begin to remember what started the verbal war between the two. (mainly because I’ve been floating in a state of little sleep and I don’t think chocolate—as a primary source of nutrition—is much of a memory preserver)

All I can recall, before my memory cuts off at the exchange of two words (idiot and moron) angrily lobbed at one another, was something about eggs. That was right before steam shot out of my ears like a locomotive and my head swiveled like Medusa. I highly doubt they said anything after my wicked transformation into pissed off Mama.

I could lie to you and tell you that discipline came in the form of them sitting in time-out for ten minutes. A solitary place where they both could think of ten uplifting things about each other. Then I made them recite those affirmations of character to one another while they held hands.

But that wouldn’t be the truth.

I got so mad that I burst out crying (Medusa cries, just so you know). And, once I calmed down, I went off the deep end about name calling being the ugliest form of a sucker punch. And as their Mama, I can’t defend a sucker punch.

It was a tirade—this episode of mine. And I’m not sure they heard what I was really trying to “teach” them. Maybe it was the tears, or my head swiveling on my neck, I’ll never know.

But now it’s been awhile; I’m more collected (basically, not an emotional basket case incapable of training up children). I feel strong enough to put into written word why I am so hung up on name calling.

First, I’d rather be slapped in the face than called a derogatory word. (Seriously, don’t slap me–I am fragile.) Call it a childhood hang up, but it’s my truth.

I can still remember the first time someone called me a name. The impact it had on me is one I won’t forget. I was in the sixth grade. My home life was weary and intensely stressful. My parents were only a few months shy of announcing their impending divorce. My childhood was on the verge of shattering.

One weekend, I’d been invited to a birthday party. The birthday party. The one where all the “cool” kids would be there. Rocking a too tight perm (that was awkwardly growing out and worse, an undercut), I’d never felt more accomplished, to be invited, at age 11. In my mind, I had made it to the proverbially inner circle of social hierarchy.

Little did I know, my fall from the “so-called top” would be swift and hurt like hell.

At this birthday party, we played ‘spin the bottle’ or maybe it was ‘truth or dare,’ I can’t remember. According to the spin or dare, I had to kiss a boy (who I will not name) who I thought had won the 1.6 (I’m not talking the measly 656 million, it was the record jackpot, mmmkay) billion dollar lottery of all genes. In my eyes, he was it–the. cutest. boy. in. all. the. land.

The peck was 2 seconds, pink cheeks and no eye contact for the rest of the party (and probably the rest of entire school year) followed. We were 11. It was the first “kiss” I’d ever had.

I’d return to school the following Monday, most likely skipping, with Cupid’s arrow surely still visible, like a love struck fool. I was standing outside the school, among a few friends, waiting for the bell to ring, when a girl walked straight up to me and stuck out her hand.

I was confused. This person was apart of that social hierarchy I’d perceived of my own free will; we did not talk. Did she want me to shake her hand?

Clearly not getting it, she reached out and took my hand and placed it into hers and then she rigorously shook our locked hands, before she said, “Congratulations. You’re a slut.” Everyone, after the initial shock wore off, laughed.

The image is one burned in to my memory. (I’d later learn that this boy, I’d barely brushed lips with, was “going out” with this girl’s friend.)

I stood there, shocked and humiliated. After the bell rang, I went into the bathroom and locked myself into a stall, sunk into the metal barrier and cried. An ugly cry.

Those words, for longer than I care to admit, clung to my fragile self-esteem. The adhesive was my own insecurities, my broken home life, and the blooming idea, amid my humiliation, that I held little worth.

It was the “bully” moment of my childhood and it changed me.

I think my emotions, upon hearing my daughters name calling with such vengeance, pulled me under an ardent tide because my oldest daughter will be 11 next year. We are encroaching on territory that holds a painful landscape of mine.

She could break someone, or be broken by someone.

I cannot change the past, nor do I hold any ill will against this memory, or any one in it. But this is my chance, Lord willing, to place power into changing my children’s culture.

What I told my girls, when I was ready to broach the subject again, was this.

“Death and Life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21

I told them I wanted them to understand the value of a word. A word is profound.  No matter the size.  It holds power, casted negatively or positively over, against, and for someone.

Even just a single, negative word can cause a deep-seated fissure upon someone’s heart; striking a negatively false belief in their self-esteem and their self-worth.

One. Single. Word.

Is all it takes.

I shared with them the responsibility we shoulder using words and the value of “why” we need to choose to communicate our frustrations versus the easy way out–the verbal sucker punch.

I want them to be cognizant their words could break a child’s heart, one who is suffering. Who feels unloved and lost. Who wants to desperately fit in, because there isn’t a fit in their home life.

Their words could scar someone, stranger or friend alike.

In truth, we never know where someone stands, in light or the shadows of darkness, but our universal culture has to be kindness mixed with a little bit of bite. your. tongue.

It’s easier biting your tongue, than eating your words. (Here’s where I tell you I had a mind to go to a speciality grocery store and find the most disgusting thing–sure to have the worst taste–and labeling it ‘idiot’ and ‘moron’ and then making them eat it.)