Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ava's Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Ava! Ava turns 4 today (but we're celebrating it tomorrow, so maybe don't mention anything to her yet and yes, I realize this is the last year I can get away with this)!!
If you don't know Ava, you are missing out. Here's how she came to be:

I had a nice, pleasant, untroubled pregnancy, if you don't count my being a grouchy, bad-tempered, ornery shrew most of the time, which I don't. I have never felt so out of control of my emotions and it was a little frightening. A portent of the child to come?? I hoped not, but feared so. About a month before my due date, my sister Elizabeth got married in Vegas. And that's all the explaining I'll do for that. Hee. I was so worried that I would end up giving birth to my child somewhere in the deserts of Utah, Arizona, or Nevada, take your pick, that I sent Darron alone to represent the Millers. He came and went, the knot was tied, baby remained firmly inside me and I felt a little sheepish for being so overly cautious. (Um yeah, sorry for missing your wedding, Elizabeth. Still.) So when Darron was invited by a friend to fly to California and golf for a few days two weeks before I was due, I was torn. I did not want him to go, obviously, but how would I feel if nothing happened and he just missed out on a fun weekend (a little vindicated, actually, but that's not something I care to admit). How would he feel? Could I handle the "I told you so"s that would be sure to follow for a really long time? Hmm... Well, I'll tell you what I did, after working it out in my semi-disturbed, overwrought, hormonally agitated brain, I did the thing that all women do although it has been proven never to have worked in the history of the world-- no, not once. I left it up to his conscience. Even now, I sigh at my stupidity.

The first night he was gone, I put the kids in bed and laid down to read. After a few minutes, I began to feel something. I had been induced with my first two kids and so had never gone into labor on my own and didn't know what it was supposed to feel like. But, if I were to guess, I would think it would be just like what I was feeling right then. I tried not freak out and to stay relaxed and talk myself out of it. After an hour or so, I called Darron to relay my suspicions and share my burden of fear with him. We came up with a plan that I should wait awhile, then if it didn't stop, alert his parents that I might be needing them to come get me that night. I took a shower and painted my toenails because I read in a book once that you're supposed to do that before you go to the hospital. I had to pee a lot, for some reason, and when I would, an unexpectedly large amount always came out. And then they got harder and faster, the contractions. So I called my mother and father-in-law, at 1:45 am. They arrived a half hour later and I was in the car before my father-in-law could even get out. We arrived at 2:30 and worked our way through the impossibly slow workings of hospital admittance. I couldn't get an epidural until my midwife came. I couldn't call her until the paperwork was complete. I couldn't complete my paperwork until I could recall the last date of my first missed period. WHAT is the point of pre-registering, I ask you!!! End of story, I gave birth to little Ava Maren, in a hospital bed, sans epidural, squeezing the bejeebers out of my poor mother-in-law's hand, so she could not sneak out, while my cell phone rang incessantly in my purse (Darron, from the airport, calling to tell me the next flight out wasn't until 11:30 that morning).

Ava was a beautiful, healthy, 8lbs 4oz. She had a mop of black curly hair and dimples on the tops of her cheeks. She was beyond gorgeous (in a few days anyway) and still is, I admit. Like my others, she was a quiet, sweet, easy-going infant, shy, pudgy, hesitant. Her hair lightened but remained thick and abundant. She has retained some pudge, thankfully-- mostly in her cheeks (all four), but with a generous amount everywhere else. She is remarkably curvaceous, if one can use that term to describe a preschooler, and leaves her father and me worried about her teenage years. She will give us some trouble, that one.

She is exuberant and effervescent. She lives in a world of fairies, princesses, and mermaids. Her favorite animals are pretend worms, pretend horsies, and real kitties. She loves to sing and act out entire scenes of her favorite movies. We enjoy taking tea together and she will recommend her poisonous tea as highly as her delicious tea and get offended if you only want the delicious tea. I secretly believe the delicious teapot is empty because I have never actually been given any. She is very knowledgeable in the science of reading one's personality and gender from their eyelashes and eyebrows. Works for humans and animals, real or pretend. Ava loves (in this order) Ashley, her Primary teacher; Morgan, her cousin; Marissa, a friend she played with once a year ago, but seemingly can't get out of her head; Grandma, and who doesn't love Grandma?; various strangers who pay attention to her while we are out, ie cashiers who ask how old she is, then act amazed when she tells them she is 3 and her birthday is after mom's on July 15th, and we're going to a KITTY ZOO!! where she can pet the real kitties and Morgan's gonna be there and yesterday when she went to Morgan's house Morgan pushed Toby and he cried but then Dawn put him in bed and Morgan got in trouble and cried and we had a snack and-- then I cut her off because that is really the only way to get Ava to stop talking. You can see why I don't make the list. And we are not going to a kitty zoo for her birthday. Does YOUR town have a kitty zoo? I have skillfully convinced her that she wants to ride horses, those we do have, but sometimes she forgets that's what she wants to do.

We love having Ava in our family. She livens us all up and makes the dinner table a rowdier place. She pulls me out of my shell and makes me uncomfortable in good ways. If you know Ava, you love her, even if you missed her birth, and chances are she loves you too. Barring anyone with mean eyebrows. Happy Birthday little Squimes (skw-eye-mz). Thank you for being a wild card in our otherwise predictable lives. We love you!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Little Clarity

I had one of those grocery shopping trips that makes you want to, I don't know, try out long-term fasting as a new hobby, give up your children to the traveling monkey show, or perhaps both. My (wonderful, patient, talented) dad was here painting my kitchen cabinets. I assisted. Pictures may follow if I ever get my camera fixed. I took one child, yes, a mere one fourth of the entire force with me to run errands. The rest stayed behind to be babysat by Dad. I chose Tommy because I feel a bit guilty now and then that I don't do anything with just him. He's the youngest, the most volatile, the least able to listen to reason or respond to threats, so if I'm gonna pick just one to accompany me somewhere, it rarely will be him. But guilt gets even the best of us (and sometimes even me) so I thought we'd share a little one on one while getting work done at the same time. After a solid four days of running wild and free with few designated meals and no baths that I can recall, my kids needed some Mom attentions in a big way, especially the little one.

We had four errands on the list: grocery store, bank, Lowe's, Costco. Each stop was meant to be brief, in and out, no time for getting bored or distracted or working up a tantrum. There was the plan. Here was the reality: 90 degrees, lunchtime, naptime (for me), naptime (for him), the day before the 4th of July-- a day of shopping frenzy, especially at Costco. I didn't know this and would not have gone, had I. I despise a frenzy, in any form. I shop only out of necessity, and barely tolerate people as a whole. Group. Of people. And especially when cranky, which by the time I reached Costco, I was. Tommy had reached cranky immediately after his sucker from the bank teller ran out. I normally do not let my kids get suckers from the bank, the doctor's office, the haircutters, anywhere. I am cruel and unusual, but I do not like dealing with the inevitable fallout. And stickiness. They hardly ever ask anymore, and Tommy has no idea these things are even a possibility. But he did mention to the bank teller (a young 20-something female) that he had a sticker. A gift from the cashier at Albertson's, which is kind of a big deal, because he has been deathly afraid of stickers and their inexplicable power of ... sticking, but the cashier offered one and Tommy actually considered it for a moment, then said yes, just as I finished saying in that obnoxious mom voice "He doesn't like stickers". Yes, clearly. So the cashier overrode me and gave him one. He let me put it on his shirt in the car, which is kind of a big deal. It couldn't be covered by the carseat buckles, yet had to be centered on his shirt, which caused minor confusion and drama until I figured out what he was crying about, but problem solved and we pressed onto the bank, where when Tommy proudly told the teller "I have sticker". She misunderstood and stupidly asked "Oh? You want a sucker?" Stupid. Stupid stupid. Tommy's eyes popped out incredulously, the little sugar-deprived angel. Things like this just don't happen to him when his mom is around. "Sucker??? Candy???" He couldn't believe his luck. I couldn't resist muttering rather petulantly, but let's face it, defeatedly and pointlessly, "He actually was telling you he had a sticker." But some people just hear what they want to hear and do what they want to do and that girl wanted to ruin my afternoon, so what could I do? Well, that sucker lasted all the way into Lowe's, the nail and screw aisle, where I was searching out a very specific screw. And washer. When time ran out. My sticky, red-chinned, sugar-saturated two year old gave me his soggy sucker stick and demanded another one. And if I had had one, I would have given in, but that's neither here nor there, so I had to use all my powers of entertainment and distraction (which are considerable) to keep him occupied until we finally got the heck outa Lowe's. I would have just skipped Costco, but I really needed milk, and I envisioned this whole run in/grab milk quick/dash out scenario, which seemed rather doable and slightly heroic, so we went for it. But alas, 3/4 of Northern Utah County had decided to buy hot dogs and fruit trays at this exact moment in time and it was a mad mad mess. Tommy and I did not appreciate it. So with him shrieking and crying to get down, holdyou, ride in the cart, do it buckles! and me trying to manoever the teeming and rather rude aisles, we wended our way, taking a full hour to pick up a mere $100 worth of items. We parked it at the end of the longest line and worked our way to the front. When our turn came I was so bedraggled and distracted the cashier had to ask my twice for my membership card. He was one of those efficient, college-age kids, clearly too smart to be working as a cashier, and needing everyone to know it. Probably a business major. He rang my order up so quickly I hadn't even gone over to the paying side of the line when he said " Your membership has expired, you want me to just add that on?" I did some quick mental math, or at least tried to access the quick mental math part of my brain which was shut down at the time since the survive Costco with a flopsome and wailing toddler part of my brain had taken over all control, and fuzzily determined I would not have enough money to buy the $100 Executive, which I now had, but might be able to squeeze the $50 Gold, only running the card would tell for sure. I said I would get the $50 membership, but he quickly told me he could only renew what I had and was I getting it or not? while impatiently and pointedly looking at the endless line behind me. I told him I didn't think I had enough money, but to go ahead and try it. With thinly veiled (I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here) disgust he finished the transaction in record-breaking, business major time and held out his hand for my debit card. I gave it to him and said helpfully, "I've been having trouble with my card, so you may have to enter it manually" (This was the reason for my bank stop earlier, I had ordered a new card). He looked at me and without missing a beat or breaking his withering eye contact, swiped the card and said "It seems to be working just fine". Like I was making it up. Then he looked down at his screen and said, "It didn't go through". I said, "I know, its been having problems, I ordered a new one today, I'm sorry for the trouble." What am I doing apologizing to this kid? I'm pathetic. "No," he replied, "it was DECLINED." No hushed tone of false tact and sympathy, just blatant disapproval toward this frantic and harried mom who seemingly has no control over anything in her life... her checking account, her mind, her screaming, spitting child. "Can you pay for it in any other way?" "No," I said, "that's it. Could I leave the cart here and come back with cash? (Back to the bank. Yay!)" "Don't you have a check?" Deep calming breaths. "No, I don't have any way of paying for it right now. Can you put it in the cooler until I get back?" "Are you coming back?" Charitable thoughts. "Yes, that is why I am asking you to keep my things for me." "When will you be back?" The little twirp did not believe I would come back. I was fuming but dangerously close to tears (always?!!), so I assured him I would be back within an hour and left with Tommy streaming baby curses in our wake.

I did return. I first dropped Tommy off, directly into his bed, returned to the bank and got everything sorted out. We have milk. And a renewed Costco membership, Gold. And as I drove back home in silence and retrospection, my mind began to wander back to my days of cashiering in a grocery store. I was a 21-year-old newlywed, in my last year of college, cashiering part time at Days Market in Provo, a small locally owned grocery store where you would recognize all the regulars. In all the wisdom and maturity that is to be found in a 21-year-old, I was quite judgmental of my customers. When someone's credit card was declined, I was inwardly annoyed-- how could they not know that was going to happen? Couldn't they add? When someone had screaming kids, I was bothered that they wouldn't or couldn't control their own children. Why have them if you can't keep them quiet? And I suddenly remembered one woman in particular, a regular. She would come in once a week or so at 9:55pm, 5 minutes before the store closed. She must have been a professional of some sort, she was always wearing a suit and dress shoes. She would slowly do her grocery shopping as we were shutting down the store, covering the produce, counting out the tills, straightening the shelves. We would all be incredibly antsy to be done with work and every minute after 10 that she was there was one more minute we had to wait. We would all glare at her and whisper about her while she shopped, Why does she always come so late? She is so slow! I can't believe she is so rude. Doesn't she realize we all want to leave? When I rang her up, I would be all false smiles and thinly veiled disgust, but inwardly full of horrible judgments and offense.

This is the woman who came to my memory as I drove home. And I finally saw her for who she was. A woman who worked until 9:45 every night, wore uncomfortable shoes all day, then had to fit in her shopping before she could go home and take them off. She probably liked shopping there with us far less than we did, but she was never rude, never complained to our manager, never had her credit card declined, and took all the abuse that a bunch of self-righteous post-adolescents could deal out. I have added her to my list of people who deserve my apologies.

My anger was diffused; I gained a little clarity. I may still avoid a certain cashier's line at Costco in the future, but that's just being smart, right? I can forgive someone, but protect myself from their unkindness and further humiliation at the same time. I ain't made of stern stuff. And I do need to eat. The monkey show is still a possibility, but only if they're accepting frantic harried moms. I can stand on my head.