Becoming Normal

When we first had Sarah almost 7 years ago, I remember thinking that I’d never be a “normal” person again.  In that winter of 2006, “normal” to me meant a person who didn’t have a leech-like being attached to their breast 24 hours a day.  It meant that I wouldn’t need a 3-page flow chart of procedures and decision trees if I wanted to schedule a dentist appointment or a haircut.  It meant that I wouldn’t have to plan my day in 2.5 hour increments based on the napping and feeding habits of my young one.  Deep in the trenches of new mommy-hood, I couldn’t see beyond what I was experiencing in those first few weeks.  I imagined myself toothless, with gray wiry hair down to my ankles, hobbling along with an 18-year old Sarah suckling my desiccated bosom.

Fortunately, these fears did not come to pass.  Sarah did eventually detach herself from my mammary glands and I found that with time, I only need a 1/2 page flowchart to schedule my routine maintenance appointments.  I never became the completely “normal” person that I had been prior to Sarah’s birth though.  How could I be?  I had acquired an almost Rain Man-like knowledge of all public restrooms within a 200 foot radius of whatever my location.  I ravenously devoured the discarded scraps from Sarah’s meals for my own lunch like a homeless person rummaging through a dumpster of unwanted food.  By the time Sarah was 3, I experienced glimmers of normalcy: driving in the car by myself, enjoying a multi-course meal with her in a public setting, not automatically developing an exit strategy everywhere we went.  Then I got pregnant and we had Katie.  Katie was born shortly before Sarah turned 4 and I started all over again with the constant feedings, the barrage of diapers, the torture of sleep training.  Normalcy eluded my grasp once again.

Katie is now almost 3.  And readers, last week, something EPIC happened.  I flew home to Texas with the girls by myself the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  Chris planned to join us later in the week and then, all four of us would fly home together after the holiday.  The last time I flew with the girls by myself,  Sarah was 5 and Katie was 14 months old.  That disaster of a flight ended with passengers around me talking in not-so-hushed tones about what a train wreck the three of us were.  I swore never to fly with them by myself again but Thanksgiving 2012 found me once again, strapped in at 36,000 feet with my girls and no viable exits in sight.

I was prepared to go to any lengths to keep my children from being THOSE kids…you know, the ones everyone wishes they could shoot with a tranquilizer gun.  I would have performed a one woman rendition of Riverdance on the seat tray if that’s what it took.  My tote bag was full of snacks, treats, books, electronics, paper, pens, crayons, and wipes.  With adrenaline coursing through my veins, my whole body was rigid with anticipation.  I was on DEFCON 1 alert, ready to spring into action should my children let out the slightest whimper of hunger, thirst, frustration, or boredom.

And do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing.  Katie did not freak out when all electronic devices had to be stowed away until we reached a minimum altitude of 10,000 feet.  No one spilled their drinks.  No one raised their voices.  No one pooped in their pants.  No one regurgitated their snacks.  No one used the seat in front of them as a proxy for a soccer ball.  Instead, they both tuned me out, plugged into their various “i” devices and there I was, with only a SkyMall catalog to entertain me.  Because even though I had prepared for all eventualities involving my children, I had not prepared for this: me with nothing to do.  In fact, I found myself…dare I even say it, bored.  And about an hour into the flight, it happened.  I fell asleep.  That’s right.  ASLEEP! In mid air! With children! By myself!  LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!!!  I know I just used a lot of exclamation points but really, I think this occasion is multiple exclamation points worthy.(!!!)

My brief nap lasted all of 10 minutes but what a significant 10 minutes they were.  We landed in Dallas on time, without incident, and I was a different woman than the one who had boarded the plane in Minneapolis.  I was 10 minutes closer to arriving at the Land of Normal.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with the ones you love most!

All I Want for Christmas

Like most major retailers across our nation, Sarah has chosen to completely ignore Thanksgiving and has moved right on to Christmas.  While cleaning her room last week, I found this piece of correspondence sitting neatly on her desk:

Brushing aside all issues of privacy and discretion, I opened up the envelope without hesitation to see what Sarah had to say to good ole St Nick.

This is a dramatic departure from last year’s list when Sarah had at least 10 items from which to choose.  This year, she’s putting all her chips on the table and is asking for one thing…a phone.  I should at least be grateful that she didn’t put an “i” in front of it but I doubt she’s imagining opening up a rotary phone on Christmas morning.  And then, as an alternative, if Santa cannot cough up said phone, she writes, “You pick.”  So simple yet so diabolical.  I can imagine her sitting at her desk, tenting her fingers and whispering, “Excellent,”  à la Mr. Burns as she crafts this note.  She is basically testing the guy by saying, “Santa, you with all your magical skills and wisdom choose the one other item that would bring my little heart joy, fulfillment, and happiness.  Let’s see you work for this year’s cookies, buddy.”   Chris and I are going to need some serious strategizing this year.

Material Girl

I’m a girl of the 80s.  Sky high bangs, the heady scent of Aquanet, and over-sized Coca-Cola sweatshirts all hold a special little place in my neon pink heart.  Everything about that time seems airy and sugar-coated.  Yes, I know we still had the Cold War and nuclear annihilation as real threats during most of those years but they almost seem quaint in the face of today’s war on terrorism, global warming, and Honey Boo Boo.  The movies, the tv shows, the clothes…it was just all so fun.  And of course, there was the music.  I can’t tell you what I had for lunch yesterday but I can recite the lyrics to George Michael’s Faith almost verbatim. So when I heard the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna, was coming to St Paul after a 25 year absence from the Minnesota tour circuit, I knew I had to get tickets.

In anticipation of what I was sure would be an epic event, my girlfriends and I booked a hotel room in St Paul so that we wouldn’t have to worry about driving home that evening in a less than completely sober state (read: tequila shots!).  We joined forces with other friends attending the concert and made dinner reservations at a restaurant in downtown St Paul.  We texted, emailed, and re-texted each other over what to wear.  I spent the week prior to the show listening to Madonna on my iPod.  I did everything short of donning a Boy Toy belt buckle and a cone bra to prepare for the big night.

The concert was this past Saturday night and although the tickets stated an 8pm start time, we knew she wouldn’t come on till later.  We enjoyed a very leisurely dinner where I mixed alcoholic beverages (martinis! wines! beers!) with careless abandon.  Buzzed and happy, we headed over to the arena around 9:30, where we amused ourselves with some excellent people watching:

9:30 turned to 10pm.  And 10pm turned to 10:30pm.  Still no Madge.  10:45, the lights finally dimmed and while the tipsy-trying-to-recapture-my-youth-Jane was excited for the concert to start, the 37-year-old-mother-of-two-curmudgeon was a tad bit annoyed by the overly late start.  My annoyance turned into shock though when one of Madonna’s first numbers, “Gang Bang,” featured her in a “motel” onstage in all her leather-clad glory shooting her male dancers with a gun, complete with larger than life blood splatters on the video screen behind her.  Hmmm…talk about a buzz kill.  What happened to the happy, peppy songs like “Cherish” or “Holiday?”  This may not be the concert I had anticipated in my head.

And it was not.  Madonna “sang” a disproportionate amount of songs from her latest album, MDNA, which to me all sounded like garbled, synthesized noise.  And yes, I completely acknowledge that this last statement makes me sound like a disgruntled senior citizen without enough fiber in her diet.  I was hoping for at least a good chunk of songs from her glory days….Material Girl, Papa Don’t Preach, Crazy for You, Into the Groove, Borderline.  I even would have been happy with her later 90s stuff where she reinvented herself as some Mother Earth Yoga goddess dressed inexplicably in a kimono.  Instead, she sang a handful of her older material but never in their entirety or in their original format.  Her slow, cabaret version of “Like a Virgin” elicited a polite golf clap from most of the people around us.  And when she was writhing slowly on the stage floor, licking her mike in a pantomimed act of fellatio,  I wanted to yell out, “You’re 54 for goodness sakes! Have some dignity!”  Yup, I know– I’m adding Metamucil to my grocery list…right…now.

When it became apparent that this wouldn’t be the dance-a-thon that I was hoping for, I sat down in my seat and began to check my emails.  Then, as the night grew later, I found myself  trying not to fall asleep.  Lest you think I was the sole lame-o in the arena, the 6 gay guys in our row also spent a majority of the concert sitting down.  Gay men! Seated! At a Madonna concert! Sad but true.

So the concert, was for me, a big let down.  Sure there were some positive points….I did marvel at the fact that she danced her ass off for 2 hours at 54 years of age.  But I certainly didn’t spend $190 on my ticket to ooh and ahh over her stamina.  And sure, I understand that as an artist, she wanted to showcase her newer songs instead of living in the past.  Maybe if I had been younger and didn’t have so many emotional ties to her music, I would have appreciated that more.  But I didn’t and I don’t think I was the only one that felt that way.  Because if she had taken a look at her audience, she would have seen that the vast majority of people there were like me…men and women who came of age in the 80s and early 90s, desperately seeking their youth.

Even this show of lights wasn’t enough to keep me awake!