Friday, April 25, 2008

The Scent of a Mother

There are certain smells that can send me back into the years of my childhood--my grandma's southern cooking, lasagna baking, the smell of tinsel at Christmas, to name a few. But nothing stands out so vividly or can transport me to a different time and place than my mother's perfume.

It hasn't been one constant smell throughout the years. Instead, my mother has several signature scents that have permeated the hands of time and can literally create a time capsule of what was happening at the time she wore a particular perfume--a "soundtrack of smells" you might say. These scents remind me of comfort when I had the flu, a tight hug before I went to school, a delicate spray on my own neck when I was playing dress up.

For example, there were the "Coppertone years". Yes, technically this isn't a perfume, but for the years we lived in Charleston, South Carolina while my dad was in the Navy, this was what was slathered all over my mother's body nearly every day. These days were marked with trips to the beach, digging in the sand, dodging hungry seagulls, and just soaking up every bit of sun we could get. Ah, the days before we knew the damages sun could cause. Now as I spray Coppertone all over my four very fair-skinned children's skin I am transported back to days when life was relaxed. I don't remember every detail of living in South Carolina, but that smell always makes me think of the times there with my mother.

Next came the days of "Joy" by Jean Patou. On my mother's dresser sat a smallish bottle of this beloved scent. My dad had bought it for my mom as a gift. She cherished it and used it sparingly since money was tight in those years. It was saved for special occasions or Sundays. Whenever she wore it, I always felt like my mom looked a little more "fancy" and even more beautiful than she usually did. The cruel joke in all of this is that the smell also reminds me of when my dad died suddenly in a car accident. "Joy" seems like such an ironic name for something that can make me relive such sadness. But, as my mother hugged me in those days and weeks that followed his death, I remember breathing deeply and smelling her perfume. The smell that reminded her of happier times.

Around the time that I was 12 or 13, Mom began to wear "Beautiful" by Estee Lauder. She was just coming out of a terrible marriage to a horrible man. We were on the cusp of finding our way out of a nightmare and this smell seemed to represent a new path and fun! It was time to put the past behind us and these times were ones I remember fondly. My mom had a whole new outlook on life. We went places, had fun, went shopping. The world was ours.

Over the next few years my mom met and married again. My step-dad is truly a dad to me in every sense of the word and loves my mother very much. One of his gifts to her at Christmas one year was a bottle of "Knowing". This is the scent that took me through high school and college. I think that if you ever want to feel like a teenager again, just go cover yourself in a scent that you were around a lot during that time. One whiff of this and I'm back in high school. Every morning I would hug her and the scent would linger on my clothes as I went about my day. If I was having a particularly bad day like many teenagers do, I could just breathe in the faint scent and I knew that at least at home, there was someone who loved me--even if a stupid boy or a mean friend didn't. As I went away to college and struggled so terribly my Freshman year with home sickness, I would sit in my dorm room and sniff my clean clothes that I had washed when I was at home over the weekend. Invariably, my mom would fold them and leave her mark. I wanted so much to be independent at that point in my life, but I just didn't know how. I knew it was time to grow up, but I couldn't figure out how to do it.

Throughout the years and all the different smells, what has remained constant is the way my mother's scent has comforted me. Now I have four children of my own and I wonder what kind of memories are being branded into their minds by smells. Will it be the Pine Sol that I use to mop the floors? Will it be baked chicken since I so often cook those to get meat for casseroles and other dishes? Or, will it be one of my many perfumes that I love so much? Whatever it is, I hope it brings back memories of love, of being cherished more than anything else on this earth because that is the greatest feeling in the world.

Write your own mom story and enter it here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Rope

Right now I'm trying to make sense of life. I'm trying to suck in all the good things about my kids, savor them, and store them in my memory bank. I'm trying not to take anything they say or do for granted.

The other night we were all lying on the family room floor watching a movie and during it, it hit me that I was so blessed. I began thinking of J and how he's 11 years old and by the time K is his age, he'll be in college. He'll be an adult. And that's hard for me to think about because I remember when he was 2 1/2 and life truly has flown past.

The delicate balance of wanting your kids to grow up and at the same time, feeling emotional about it was driven home even harder this weekend with the situation of a family we know. Their 15 year old son is very ill. He had leukemia and is in remission, but his body has just been weakened by viruses and infections and right now, he's not doing so well. It is heartbreaking for his family, and for our community because we all want so desperately for him to be well. We all want to see him be a regular teenager with homework complaints, playing baseball, hanging out with his friends being goofy, navigating the bizarre world of dating.

It's situations like these that give me a slap in the face and make me stop and realize that I'm so, so, so, so blessed. My children are healthy. My problems with a messy house, lots of laundry, a harried schedule, and never feeling like I have a minute to myself are because of them. If I didn't have them, my house would be clean. If I didn't have them, I'd only have laundry for two people. If I didn't have them, life would go at a more leisurely pace and I'd have time to do whatever I wanted. However, I'd never trade them for all the money in the world. I love my life and I thank God every day for it. Life is a rope that we've all been given and when it starts to unravel, then it's really hard to hang on. I'm very thankful for my rope. Today my prayers are ones of gratitude and prayers for a 15 year old boy in the hospital who wants so desperately to live a long life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Going to the chapel...

If you are a person who thinks that what is on t.v. doesn't influence kids, then let me try to persuade you to think otherwise...

Sunday evening, we were watching Father of the Bride. K was sitting on my lap at the end when it gets all sentimental and I started to hold her a little bit tighter as I thought about her someday getting married. Then, I looked around our family room at the other kids and started to tear up realizing that in a flash, they'd be old enough to get married, too. K asked me what was wrong and I told her, "Mommy is just thinking about how someday you'll be a grown-up and you'll get married, too."

Well, that was the WRONG think it say because for the rest of the evening and most of yesterday she kept reminding her siblings and me that, "Someday, I'm going to be a grown-up and I'll get married."

Obviously, she thinks that this grown-up, married thing is coming soon because now she's started making wedding plans. She's two.

She informed us last night at dinner that she'll be having a, "pretty dress" at her wedding. She'll also have a "carriage and a mean prince who she'll turn into a nice prince or a mouse" with her magic wand. Her 5 year old brother then tried to offer her advice.

"K," he said, "I know who you should marry."

"Who?" she asked.

"It's a great choice. Michael Jackson."

I almost choked on my sloppy joe. First at the thought of my daughter marrying that creature and second because how did L know about Michael Jackson? So I said through my laughter, "Why would she want to marry Michael Jackson? How do you even know who Michael Jackson is?"

"Because Mommy," he explained as though I'd just crawled out from under a rock, "Michael Jackson is an awesome basketball player. He's the best ever. Daddy told me so."

Oh yes, this was all making sense now.

"Did you mean Michael JORDAN, maybe?" I asked him.

"Yes! I meant Michael Jordan. K should marry Michael Jordan so he can give me basketball lessons."

"Yes, that's great advice. We'll be sure to let Michael Jordan know he's betrothed to marry your baby sister in 20 years. I'm sure he'll be very agreeable to that."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yes, it does get better

Six years ago this month I was struggling with 24 hour a day progesterone poisoning while my twins happily gestated and kicked each other. My biggest concerns at that point were:

A. Would our house ever sell, so we could move out of our two bedroom cracker box?

B. Would I ever stop puking?

My good friend, Jodi, was also pregnant at the time. We've been friends since we were 14 and have been through many life milestones together. It seemed fitting that we were pregnant with at least one of our children at the same time. It was her third child, another boy, and we were both blissfully unaware of what was lurking around the corner for us.

By the end of that year we had both had children with birth defects and we were both facing a world of unknown experiences.

Now, here we are 5 1/2 years later and ironically, we're both muddling through surgery recovery with our children. We've joked that some day O and G (her son) will probably end up falling in love and will get married while we sit and wring our hands with worry over the genetic nightmare of two people with birth defects coming together to procreate.

The truth of the matter is right now, we'd like to send O and G off to their own private vacation destination. We'd call it, "The land of the 5 year old insomniacs" or "The isle of children who are hungry in the middle of the night." We think they would get along there splendidly.

The good news is that life is 100% better than it was. O is recovering from her painful surgery and we are recovering from sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion.

What a difference a few days makes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

When will it get better?

What they told me about my daughter's recovery after a tonsillectomy:

"It is a bit rough. She'll have a very sore throat for about 7-10 days."

What they should've told me about my daughter's recovery after a tonsillectomy:

"She will become like Joan Crawford's character in Mommy Dearest. There is nothing she will be able to eat more than once. Chicken noodle soup? One time only. Mashed potatoes? One time only. Ice cream? One time only. After that, she'll hate the taste of everything. She will have to survive on smoothies, milk, water and Sprite. You will be sleep deprived because she'll hate the taste of Tylenol 3 and she won't appreciate the razor-like feeling in her throat when she's forced to ingest it, and as a result, she'll do very little sleeping during the nighttime hours. It will be like having a newborn again."

In fact, I feel like I've been thrust back in time 5 1/2 years. When L and O were babies, she was most unpleasant. She had colic. She had reflux. She only liked my husband. Meanwhile, L was very agreeable and happy. It's a lot like that now. She cries a lot, not much makes her happy for a long period of time and although sometimes she wants me, she'd rather have her dad.

The poor girl needs a new throat.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Melts my heart

Sometimes we do things for our children and feel like they take it all for granted. Then every once in awhile there's a payoff so rich that it makes all the times you've wiped puke off their faces worth it.

Yesterday evening was particularly rough for O. She ws in a lot of pain and was pretty miserable. I had tried everything to make her feel more comfortable--medicine, drinks, hugs, rubbing her back, singing, praying, and then I put her to bed because she told me she wanted to sleep.

After about an hour, I heard her creeping down the steps. I was sitting on the couch and she walked over to me and sat on my lap. She sat there for a minute or two, got up, turned around, grabbed my face and kissed me on the forehead. And with a little, "Goodnight, Mommy," she was off to bed.

My heart melted a little.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Life's unexpected turns

In my last post, I talked about how O was going in for surgery. The surgery itself went well; however, when they took out her breathing tube in recovery, she started couldn't breathe on her own. They ended up having to re-intubate her and then she went to intensive care.

The last time she was in intensive care with a machine to help her breathe, she was a premature newborn. At that time, it was upsetting, but the whole process seemed expected. She was a preemie and of course she'd need help breathing. Nothing that happened on Monday was expected and I had a hard time dealing with it.

With lots of prayers and her very strong determination, things started improving and we got to come home on Wednesday. We were all so thankful she was o.k. and that we got to come home.

While we were in the ICU, it made me realize yet again how quickly life can change and how we should all be thankful for what we have and who we have in our lives. Not only did our situation drive this point home, but also the situations of other families in the ICU. One family was there with a sick teenaged boy. Nobody could really figure out what was wrong with him, but he was very ill. His family was terrified.

So, go hug everyone you love and tell them how much you appreciate them. Life is short.