Females and the Facilities

obligated

We’re having a nice morning. Every one is well rested, all have the day off, and, miracle of miracles, it is sunny in Pacifica. We may even go swimming later.

Two of the five Fentanes females that live under this roof were gone for two of the three days this weekend. And the Fentanes female, who shall remain nameless, and who does a lot of the housework, (no guilt intended…well, maybe a little) cleaned the kitchen, even mopped the floor, and spit and polished the bathroom. The weekend has been very productive, housework wise for this Fentanes female.

In an attempt to extend the cleanliness of the apartment, the bathroom in particular, housecleaning Fentanes female asked very nicely, even sweetly, to her x-chromosomed brood, “Ladies, do you think today it’s possible we could keep the bathroom looking like it does at this moment?”

I did not intend to create a ripple in the cosmos, but the effect of that question on those eight ears, was remarkable.

“Mom, we’re girls, we’re not guys. We can’t keep the bathroom clean.”

“Ahhh, yeah…no.”

One was speechless, and the other one was so engrossed in some life or death battle on Fortnite that there was no response.

What is it with females and the bathroom facilities? It seems like the room is an extension of their very lives. The make-up, the towel mountain, the bras…geez, I’ve got like two, I’ve never seen so many bras. And the hair. I’ve already had maintenance out twice to unclog the sink. He asked, “What’s down there?”

“Uh, lots of hair and maybe the Alexa remote, I have no idea.”

I grew up with Noxema and Oil of Olay. Now there are five varieties of just Vitamin E oil, two large containers of coconut oil, an array of shampoos and conditioners. The White Rain (you know, the 99 Cent Store variety) is mine, of course. Razors, rings, soaps, solutions, brushes, bras, I tell you, I am amazed at the stuff that’s out there. Fake eyelashes that look like spiders. Not what I like to see on the counter first thing in the morning.

We live with one son. One young man who possesses one bottle of shampoo, one toothbrush, one hair cutting kit; that’s all. I think the girls believe the bathroom is an annex to their closets and make-up bags.

One of the characteristics you need as a mother is patience and flexibility. I’ve learned when to throw in the towel, or just pick it up. I’ve lived with personalities that never change. So, when it comes to my females and the bathroom facilities, I accept the things I cannot change and wait for the serenity that God is going to grant me.

To my surprise, after their showers, each of the girls picked up after themselves. Later in the day, one of the females eagerly asked, “Mom, what do we get for keeping the bathroom clean?”

“A clean bathroom,” was my serene reply.

 

 

 

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The Old Man Walking Down The Road

Here is an excerpt from my self-published book, “The Plight of the Hare & Other Stories From the Shoe”. Illustration by Breena Nuñez.

old man

I was driving home one Sunday after trying to go to church. I was angry we hadn’t made it to the service because of the little war that erupted in the car. While driving, I noticed an old man walking on the road. The road was a busy four-lane street without sidewalks. He was walking in the direction I was driving, and I was coming up behind him. From the back, I noticed his ill-fitting suit and his brown derby securely on his head. He reminded me of my old, agile Portuguese neighbor whom I’d admire from my window as he repaired his roof.

I passed the old man and glanced at him in the rear view mirror, thinking maybe I would see that old Portuguese face. I knew I wouldn’t because that neighbor had already left this world. And this man was very much alive. He was defiantly smoking a cigarette while walking at a brisk pace. He wanted to cross the four-lane road, and I glanced in my mirror again to see if he was successful. I thought maybe I would stop to help. But, he was determined and sure-footed. He didn’t need my help, he would make it.

This old man, his clothing, his hat and his defiant manner reminded me of my carefree childhood when men like him were all over the place. The most discomfort I felt was the anticipation of doing chores, or the consequences of not doing homework. My most pressing concerns were whether that cute guy was going to be on the bus or if I had a ride to the dance on Friday. What a stark contrast to today! Driving home with a car full of children worrying about a bank account empty of funds, my concerns had dramatically changed. There are creases on my brow from the sheer weight of my responsibilities. Men, like that old man walking down the road, had the same creases. My father had the same creases.

My father told me of a time when the weight of his responsibilities were at their heaviest. Confronted by his boss to quit drinking or to quit, he purchased a six-pack to think it over. After that was gone, he got a ride to the Russian River where my mom and we kids were. In the cabin, he was lying on his bed contemplating the wife, the kids, the mortgage, the houses, all the cares; and these responsibilities pressed hard. He could hear the kids splashing and laughing as they swam, careless, without worry, while he was carrying the load, however imperfectly, on his fragile shoulders.

Fast forward forty years, my children were silent in the car because they knew I was mad. I looked nervously at the little gaslight that comes on when the tank is empty reminding me of the many empties in my life. Now the burden was on my even more fragile shoulders, and I felt like my father did. But that old man reminded me of the kind of folks who were around when I was a kid; they had their creases, their responsibilities, but somehow they made it. That six-pack was the last my father bought, and he made it, too. I looked back one final time and saw that the old man made it across. So I drove home that quiet Sunday afternoon, believing I would make it too, like my father and like the old man walking on the road.

Adolescent Absurdities

alexa

Teenagers…gotta love ’em! I mean you really have to love them because there are times when you don’t want to love them. You folks with newborns and babies – yeah, you guys who haven’t slept in months – sorry to break it to you, but the baby phase is easy. Exhausting, but easy.

Let me share some of the absurdities one has to live with when living with teenagers. I’ve taken some dramatic license. Mind you, there was a time I had five teenagers under one roof. I don’t remember much during those years…we all survived though. There’s a definite difference between boys and girls. Boys are quiet, destructive and obsessed with rock music and video games. Girls make up for the quietness of the boys by talking incessantly. Ellie, even last night, was talking in her sleep.

Let’s take last night: Ellie got up early yesterday to go to Dream Machines in Half Moon Bay. When Eloisa, the baby and I returned from church around 7:30 pm, Ellie was home and already unconscious. I understand, it was a long day for her. In order for Ellie to sleep, she must have “Monk” on replay. Since I was babysitting, I thought I could bypass the “Monk” marathon and put on a nice movie. Where was Ellie’s firestick? Now, Ellie is very, uhm, very possessive of her firestick. Rarely can anyone watch TV in the front room without her express permission to use the firestick? But Ellie was unconscious…I couldn’t wake her, I didn’t want to wake her. So I looked around for the coveted firestick…there it was, in her hand as she slept. Yikes! Because her sleep was so deep, the grip was not tight. I slowly and deftly removed the firestick from her slack grip. Whew…. I  got myself a big glass of milk and settled into the couch to watch a show with the baby. I settled Peyton with his bottle, and I gently grabbed the firestick, pressed the button, and whispered, “Alexa….”

“NOOOOOOOO!” came from the unresponsive body. “Give me my firestick!” Rather than wake up Smaug entirely, Peyton and I went into my room and watched that groundbreaking, critic-acclaiming, culture-shaping, lofty film, “The Incredibles” and called it a night.

During adolescence, I fear the processes of logic may either be underdeveloped or suspended until the kids are nearly 20. Another example: because yesterday was so busy, I asked my offspring – female offspring – if they had clean clothes for the next day. I didn’t have time to do the $40 worth of laundry at the laundromat, I didn’t want to, I was tired. I know I’m a bad mom. Anyone who has raised girls know that clothing is a very important priority in their lives. I sympathize, but my priorities are usually bond and have paper pages. I was a weird teenage girl. Anyway, one of the female offspring was devastated that I was not doing the laundry. Mind you, this same child just got dressed to the nines for church. I told her why don’t you wear the same pants you wore to church. You think I had taken the kitchen knife and stabbed her. “No! I already wore them 3 times, they’re dirty.” I explained that there must be over 100,000 articles of clothing in this apartment. She could surely find a pair of pants to wear tomorrow. (I live with four of my daughters, and, for the most part, all of them can wear the same size.)  I added that I will do the laundry tomorrow night. Now here it comes…wait for it:

“You say that all the time, you never do it.”

Huh? I responded more to myself than to her…”I never do the laundry?”

“You never do it when you say you will!”

OK, so I’ve never done the laundry, when do you do it? Who does do the laundry…all of it? The towels? Your laundry, mine, your sisters, etc? Who does it? The conversation abruptly ended.

These kinds of situations are common and leave me scratching my head. Also there are things my kids say that now just render me dumbfounded:

“Where are my jeans with the holes in it?”

There are approximately 20 pairs of these kinds of jeans in my apt. I do not answer.

“Why don’t you ever do anything for me?”

I was giving this kid a ride somewhere. But I do not respond. I am mute.

Why aren’t there any clean dishes?”

Not a peep.

“There is no food in the house.”

Nothing. See previous blog, “At Least There was Milk in the Fridge.”

In my advanced middle age, I am learning to conserve what little energy I have. I don’t respond to these or the many other questions or statements of silliness that I’ve heard uttered from my offspring’s mouths. I chock it up to adolescent absurdity and move on. Life is way too short.

 

 

 

 

Lyric-ese

languages

I love languages, I have since I was in 6th Grade where I had my first brush with Spanish. Took a little German in college, and over the years have learned salutations in over a dozen languages. The Filipina caregivers are very impressed with my ten words of Tagalog as was my Egyptian coworker when I wrote my name in Arabic.

Unfortunately, my children are monolingual, and I’m not too sure its English they speak. The words are English, the grammar and syntax appear to be English, but, for the life of me, there are times I’m not fully understanding them, or they’re pulling the wool over my eyes. I texted my Author Talk flyer to all the kids, I got a few responses: cool, do I have to go? and finally, it’s gonna be lit! Huh? I know I’ve heard these phrases somewhere before, and then I had an epiphany. During one of our many “drive-bys” by the ocean, I heard their language, it’s their music, the lyrics from the songs they play…over and over and over again. They speak lyric-ese, some kind of new slang.

Since most attempts at conversation with my young people result in “huh?”, this is how I imagine they’d go if they did respond:

”Eva, what  time you gonna be home? And don’t get in a car with a driver whose  been drinking AND don’t take a drink from anyone.”

…Like why you so obsessed with me.  What’s that suppose to mean? I’m your mother.

”Ellie, where are my clothes? Weren’t you gonna put them away?”

To the left, to the left, everything you own in the box to the left. Don’t sass me!

“Eloisa, what do you think you’ll do after you get out of school?”

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadow, if I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe. That’s, uhm, good. Relax, a little, we’re just talking about 8th grade.

‘’’Beasto, you’re so quiet, what are you thinking about?”

I got money on my mind, and my mind on my money. Good.

Espi, you’re almost done with school. How exciting! How does that make you feel?

Young, dumb, broke high school kid. Okaaay.

”Hey, quiet it down in there.”

Let’s get it started…hah! Let’s get it started in here. (They are bad kids.)

Well, two (or eleven) can play at that game. When I’m done raising these kids, I’m gonna take this job and shove it because I’ll be ready to take a chance again. I’ve looked at life from both sides now from win and lose and still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all so if you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone, you will hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

I may never pass this way again so don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy, lighten up while you still can, don’t even try to understand, just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu, adieu, to you and you and you (+ 7). I’m glad to go I cannot tell a lie, I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly. And kiss today goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Ovulated to Say That!

obligated

Years ago, we were at our regular stomping grounds – the McDonald’s drive thru – when, after I gave my order from the dollar menu, the voice from the box enthusiastically said, “Happy Holidays!”. I mumbled under my breath about the dearth of the “Merry Christmas” salutations when one of my kids who shall remain nameless said quite matter-of-factly, “She’s ovulated to say that.” Well….that certainly changed the trajectory of the mood in the car.

Because of my unique position as the mother of many kids, I am often “ovulated” to say things. Take last night, for example, conversation went from contently answering one child’s question to a full scale assault from sibling who declared adamantly, “Oh, we all know she’s your favorite.” Again, the trajectory of the mood in the car changed.

Said child then, in her most jurisprudent manner, cited all my high crimes and misdemeanors against herself as well as my alleged significant favoritism to fellow sibling. Well, after a long day, not feeling like a domestic tete a tete, I nonetheless rose to the challenge. I mustered what evidentiary support I could gather from my 50+ memory that was subsequently low on calories and countered the charges with adequate support to negate her accusations. I’m ovulated to defend myself.

“I have no favorites.”

“Yes, she’s your favorite, remember when you went to Starbucks, and out you come with a strawberries & cream just for her, and for me….NOTHING!”

“Uh, I don’t really remember that.”

“Oh yes, you do, you do that all the time. You don’t do anything for me.”

“Uhm, well, I came all the way down here to pick you up tonight. You know I don’t like to drive at night. I always tell you how talented and pretty you are.”

“Well, you’re obligated to say that, that’s mother duty.”

“You mean, ‘I’m ovulated to say that?'” trying to inject humor into the ride home. Didn’t go over well. Turns out, said litigant was very hungry and retracted her accusations after some divine lumpia and a couple of danimals.

But, we parents, are often called to say things out of “ovulation”. I laugh because that particular obligation is a direct result of successful “ovulation” processes. We are obligated to say many things to our children. And some of those things are a mandated obligation to these souls entrusted to us.

“Mom, are these jeans old man jeans?”

“No, son, they look good on you.”

“Mom, can you see my collar bones?”

“Yes, I can see your bones, they look nice.”

“Mom, how does my makeup look?”

“Looks great.”

“Mom, why does everyone hate me?”

“Honey, they don’t hate you.”

“You like her better than me.”

“No, that’s not true. I love you just the same.”

I’ve had to wrestle emotionally with most of my kids. It is a tough task. Especially during the teenage years. But we are obligated to tough it out with them. As much as they drive me crazy, when at times, I want to give it all up or say things I wouldn’t be able to unsay or totally disconnect from them, by God’s grace, most of the time, I am able respond to their accusations, disappointments and pain with some semblance of objectivity and compassion. Yes, said child is right, it is mother duty, it is parent duty. I’m ovulated to do so, to say so and I want to do so because I love them. I really love them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I Hate About Motherhood

crazy

I love being a mom. Not that I’m really good at it, but I like it. I like my kids, and they give me a lot of laughs and joy. Yet, there are a few things I hate about motherhood that are pretty typical, but was ignorant of when I started the journey. I’m not talking about the labor and delivery, even though that was challenging or even the sleepless nights, what I am talking about are events further down the parenting road.

Fighting

Probably number one on the list is fighting among the kids. They fought when they were little too. I was happy to move into a three bedroom house, then I had enough corners to put them all in.

A characteristic that doesn’t particularly bother me about one kid wreaks havoc on another. Then it becomes a bickerfest. And you’re mad at both, even the whiner. Sometimes just playful banter among them can turn on a dime. My college roommate shared some wisdom from her mother, “Laughing turns to crying!” So true. I hope as they get older, they will learn to be patient with each other. I’m being patient waiting.

Guilt

I don’t think there is any parent that doesn’t feel guilty about how they’ve raised their children. Folks say, “You did the best you could.” Well, not really. I did try, I tried hard. But I don’t think I did my best, I could’ve done better, but I didn’t. But I tried. I get an A for effort. We’ll see how the Lord grades me later on.

Navigating through the teenage years, I’ve had to acquire a skin of armor against the guilt trips from the kids. Kids can make you feel guilty almost as bad as parents or the church. But I’ve come to an age where I stand by my decisions and am courageous defending them. Hopefully, the kids will appreciate the good things.

Letting Go

I didn’t think it would be so hard when the kids flew the nest. Even when the first one left and there were still at least nine in the house, sometimes we had extras, I missed that one.  Each time a child moved on, I was so sad. I worried whether they could make it out in that big bad world. But, they ended up doing OK.

I feel bad for my youngest ones. You see the older ones just had to get use to these  new people coming into the family when the little ones were born; but, the little ones have to watch their siblings leave them. Siblings that they became close to, siblings who were their best friends. I knew it was sad for me, I only realized lately how sad it is for them too.

Aside from the things I hate about Motherhood, the things I love truly outweigh these difficulties. Of all the things I’ve learned while mothering, learning to love and be loved is foremost the best thing.

Babysitter Mode

babysitter

When I came home from a long day at work today, I was hungry and wanted to cook something up; but the stove top blew a circuit. So I hopped in the car with a couple (TWO) kids. It wasn’t long into the bickerfest that I reminisced about the days when all the kids were home and chaos reigned. I had to come up with some coping skills.

Back in those days when all ten were under the same roof, and there was another parent around, I created a mental device to insure my sanity. I called it Babysitter Mode. When there would be wars on multiple fronts, meals to try to prepare, laundry to diminish (because, as you know, it never ends), chaos to calm all with approximately three hours of sleep, I was about to blow a circuit or two myself. Other mothers told me stories of how they coped with their many kids. One locked herself in a bathroom til Dad came home. I know my mom’s generation had their coping skills too, and I think drinking was involved.

So, in order to keep my head and sanity, I created Babysitter Mode. When things got out of hand and I didn’t have the stamina to deal with it all, I switched to Babysitter Mode, and my primary task was keeping the children from killing each other. Period. I was no longer in Mommy Mode, Good Mother Mode or even Bad Mother Mode, I was just the sitter. No dishes, some snacks, definitely no laundry. I was working until the other parent came home.

There are certain rules during Babysitter Mode.

  1. Questions are limited to one per kid. There is a kid who can shoot off two dozen questions from the house to Dollar Tree, the distance of, say, one mile. Absolutely forbidden in Babysitter Mode. If their questions exceeded this limit, the babysitter gently replies, “Ask your father when he gets home.”
  2. Sorry, but the babysitter will not read any books to the children. Although innocent enough, she has learned that this idea will inevitably create another skirmish when a book is not agreed upon.
  3. Children can watch whatever they want on TV. Since at this time, there wasn’t cable, there weren’t many choices. A VHS tape of general interest is usually successful.
  4. Older children may play any video game except Super Smash Brothers since the brothers often confuse the game with reality.
  5. The babysitter does not help with homework.
  6. The babysitter does not give any rides.
  7. Once the peace has been established, the babysitter may find a quiet corner and read a book of her choice.
  8. The babysitter will only bathe the children if they are considerably dirty.
  9. Older children are encouraged to go to their friends’ houses, but friends are not allowed over.
  10. The babysitter will refer all conflict resolutions to the father which usually ends the conflict right there and then.
  11. The babysitter will refer to the clock when asked “What time is it?”
  12. The babysitter will not spell a word for anyone.

I have found Babysitter Mode to be a successful coping device when things use to get out of hand. I chuckled tonight as I remembered the days of Babysitter Mode. Though things have quieted down a lot with only four kids at home, I may still switch to Babysitter Mode just for a moment alone with a book.