Twenty-nine and life to go

My mom is my best friend, but we have vastly different ideas of fun. She always wants to go on these grand family outings (theme parks, bowling, movies), and I prefer not to take my children in public because there are three of them and it always turns out to be a stress fest. And yes, I said “fest” instead of “test.” Because if it were a test, I would fail every time. I inevitably end up irritated beyond measure, struggling to keep myself from breaking into tears and/or spontaneously cussing at a children’s museum or miniature golf course or similar venue inappropriate for mental breakdowns and cussing. I prefer to call it a stress fest. It makes it sounds less stressful. Almost fun.

Anyway, today her grand idea is to go to the zoo. I almost broke out in hives just thinking about it, so I managed to par it down to lunch at my house and a trip to the ice cream store. I should have known that mom’s idea of a trip to the ice cream store would involve going to a special, world-renowned ice cream store more than a half-hour away that people flock to in order to try every one of their 100 types of sundaes. It’s apparently a destination ice cream store. Guess what. That was everyone else’s idea too.

We waited in line for a life sentence. Without parole. Waiting in line forever with kids always sucks for the usual reasons, but it was especially bad at this particular place because, as I mentioned, they have 100 types of sundaes. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to get a seven-year-old to decide between vanilla, chocolate, or chocolate swirl, but even that decision is a whole process. This was that scenario times 33 1/3, for over an hour before we finally made it to the register. They changed their minds thousands of times, and the only thing  that Boy One knew for sure that he wanted was a banana split, which only came in a size bigger than his head and I would have had to sell one of the other children to purchase it. I refused at first, but after standing in line for most of my adult life, I decided I no longer wanted ice cream so I bought him the stupid banana split with the money I saved.

By the time I finally placed our order, Mom could tell I was getting stressed so she told me to go wait outside and she would bring the ice cream out.

Thank you. Since it’s your fault we’re in this mess.

The boys and I went outside to wait and I realized that it wasn’t just me. The fellow ice cream masochists seemed to be on edge and very touchy. If you bumped into someone, they glared at you. No one returned a friendly smile if you made eye contact. Boy Two was jumping up around near a parked car and I reminded him to be careful not to touch others’ cars. Then a nearby man snarled and pressed the lock button on his key fob to “re-lock” his car, causing it to honk.

“This ice cream hell is really doing a number on everyone’s nerves,” I thought to myself.  “I’m right there with ya, folks.”

Our group enjoyed the ice cream and we headed home. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the others at the store were not actually on edge because of the chaotic atmosphere, like I was. They were angry because we had apparently accidentally cut in front of an entire loop of the waiting line. It really wasn’t marked very well. I had no idea, and I felt bad when Mom told me…..but, really though, thank God we did or I wouldn’t be writing this post right now because I would be in a padded cell and straight jacket waiting for the Ativan to kick in.

So if you are one of the people we cut in front of at the ice cream store today (and there’s bound to be at least one of them reading this since everyone in Indiana was there), I’m sorry, but you did a great service by allowing me to preserve one small shred of my sanity.

Mama, I’m coming home

So my grandma passed away a month ago. Today, we attended a memorial event at the cemetery that included a balloon release. I’d never been to a memorial balloon release. In case you haven’t either, this is how it’s supposed to go:

  1. Distribute one balloon per each loved one being memorialized.
  2. The family of the loved one writes a heartfelt message on the balloon.
  3. The crowd stands silently as each name is read and they release their balloon when the name of their loved one is read.

A balloon release is always a risky place to take children because, to a child, losing a balloon can be a traumatizing event, often resulting in tears and devastation. A memorial balloon release has all of that with the added expectation that the child stand quietly and respectfully.

There were a number of issues at the memorial balloon release. Since our group was only memorializing one loved one, we only got one balloon to split between three children. I managed to find an empty balloon string on the ground, which satisfied The Girl, but I still needed an additional balloon. I had two options:

  1. Kill a member of our group so we could get an additional balloon, or
  2. Dishonestly obtain a second balloon for our group.

I went with the less radical option – lying at a memorial service. Now that everyone had balloons (or balloon strings) in hand, we were back on track, and the boys wrote their notes on their balloons.

Boy One wrote a sweet note about how much we miss Nana:

IMG_1122

Boy Two, on the other hand:

IMG_1124

Yes, you read that correctly. “I love mom.” Other attendees looked on with pity at this poor, sweet boy who had apparently lost his mother. I felt like I should correct them, but who am I to say anything? I just lied five minutes ago to get the stupid balloon for him. Also, it doesn’t actually say his mother is deceased and it’s not really his fault if  others read between the lines. And finally, maybe he knew something I didn’t? The day isn’t over yet.

In the end, his fraudulent balloon message ended up being a blessing and here is why:

As the event wore on, the boys became more and more restless. As boys typically do, they started a game of hitting each other in the head with their balloons, which I was powerless to stop without reverting to Option 1 above. This resulted in Boy Two’s special balloon memorializing his mother coming undone and being released. You will recall that he had firmly decided that he would not be releasing his balloon so this was an issue. Luckily, a kindhearted stranger with a soft spot for orphans offered her balloon to him, but her balloon was red, not white. This was another issue. He proceeded to cry. Red-faced, gigantic tears crying.  I was mortified. This grieving woman gave up her balloon memorializing her loved one (who most likely is legitimately dead) and he’s crying like a spoiled brat because it is the wrong color. I managed to look up through my embarrassment and when I did, I found misty-eyed, sympathetic faces looking back. Then I saw what they were seeing: an innocent boy who had already endured the loss of his loving mother (probably untimely cancer or maybe a tragic car accident). Now he has lost the only thing he had to memorialize her. His whole life is just loss and grief. How much pain can one little boy endure?

Shamefully, I just went with it, although I did stop short of referring to myself as “Auntie” while comforting him and reminding him of what a wonderful person his mother was.