Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gotta know when to give

I am very fortunate that, unlike many of today’s politicians and Hollywood elites, Sean has no skeletons in his closet. He is a faithful husband and loving father. He is as decent in private as he seems in public. And he’s been that way as long as I’ve known him. Friends and family who've known him even longer agree: he is a genuinely good guy.

But there is one secret few know. It’s a love he discovered shortly after our marriage and it took me by surprise. I knew we’d have our differences – what married couple doesn’t! - and I knew we’d have to compromise on certain issues; I just never imagined I’d have to give on this front. But after seeing the joy this newfound love brought him, I caved and welcomed four more ladies into our marriage: Shelly, Denise, Terry and Heather, otherwise known as Point of Grace.

Point of Grace released their first album a year after we were married. And Sean fell hard. Hard. Those tight harmonies, soaring orchestrations and encouraging lyrics just did him in. He loved everything about the group. We saw them in concert several times and with each show and consecutive album, he was convinced they were the best thing going.

Four months ago, I found out they were coming to Jackson for a Christmas show. As a bonus, Aaron Shust would be with them. Aaron was a worship leader at our church in Atlanta and Sean has fond memories of playing in services with him. Major score for the wife! I bought 5 tickets and kept it a secret from Sean. I just told him to mark off that afternoon.

It got a lot easier to keep that date clear because two days after I bought those tickets, Amy Grant, the woman I brought into our marriage, announced she’d be in Grand Rapids the very same day. I was inundated with texts and emails, telling me about the show. Sean caught wind of it, and I knew he’d buy tickets for that and tell me to chuck the other plans because he didn't know Point of Grace was even coming to town. I cut him off at the pass and said, “Oh, that afternoon is blocked off for the Amy Grant concert. I already have tickets.” He didn’t give that one more thought. Of course his wife already had Amy Grant tickets! That was a no-brainer.

Both concerts were last Sunday, and until lunch that day, he was convinced we were seeing Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith that night. I had the Point of Grace tickets wrapped up and as the five of us sat around our lunch of soup and sandwiches, I handed him a package and said, “Merry Christmas! Here’s the first gift of the season!”
I can’t remember I time I saw him so confused. Or genuinely excited.

We made our way down to Jackson for the show and it was wonderful. Aaron and his band were amazing. It was great to hear him in person again. And those Point of Grace ladies did not disappoint. Even though they are now a trio, their harmonies were as perfect as ever. Sean loved the entire show and I racked up some serious wife points.
When we got married, I controlled the CD player. And that CD player played a steady rotation of Amy Grant music. I was upfront about who I was bringing into the marriage. And as much as I initially begrudged having to share CD space with Point of Grace, I must say they really grew on me. I am glad we welcomed them in to our lives. I enjoy them almost as much as Sean does. But not quite.

Thankfully, we love each other most.





Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Mothers have to stick together

Some people can sit outside, get some sun, sport a golden tan, and live their lives. Others simply step outside, burn to a crisp, peel and go back to looking like they’ve never seen a sunny day in their lives. Sean and Amy are in the first group. Michael, Rebecca and I are in the lobster category.

So, when Michael had a work trip to the Dominican Republic two weeks ago, I was very concerned about him burning. Yes, I know he’s 23 and living on his own – he was going on a business trip! – but still. The boy does not like sunscreen. And he does not actually think he burns. Seriously. It’s like in the peeling process a little bit of his memory peels away with the flaky skin and he has no recollection that every single time he goes to the beach he burns within an inch of his life. 

This is the text he sent me and Andi, his fiancĂ©*,  after we both reminded him about using sunscreen:
No. We didn’t believe him.

After he’d been there a couple of days, a few of the women he’d been teaching in his training sessions approached him with concerned looks. They said they had sons his age and wondered if they might help him with his sunscreen application. Because it appeared he was getting burned.

Y’all. If that is not the Greater Motherhood coming together, I don’t know what is.

He told them he was sure his mom would appreciate their help and actually allowed them to help him. He allowed complete strangers to put sunscreen on him!

He called us that night to tell me about the helpful moms in his group because he was sure I’d be pleased they wanted to help him. Oh, I was! And I sent him a text to show the moms:
Unfortunately, their help came at the end of the week, and the damage was done. But at least now I have photographic evidence that the boy does not tan. He does, in fact, burn. And he looks just like a lobster.


*More to come on this development. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

An addition to What to Expect, please


What to Expect When You’re Expecting rocked the publishing world when it hit the market in 1986. Since then, expectant moms everywhere have poured over its pages, soaking up info on how big the baby is (It’s the size of a lentil! And now it’s the size of a lime!), what to eat for optimal baby baking, what to ask the doctor and a zillion other things I know I read but after nearly 18 years, can't remember.
Author Heidi Murkoff built an empire off that publication. There are 12 other What to Expect books, like What to Expect: The First Year, The Second Year, The Toddler Years, not to mention What to Expect at Preschool and a babysitter handbook.

But after 30 years, the What to Expect books have only covered about 5 years of a child’s life. Kids typically live with parents a lot longer than that. And while there are tons of other topics to cover after year 5, I would like to suggest an addition that is hitting close to home today – What to Expect When Your Adult Child Won’t Be Home for the Holidays.
By the time you read this, our oldest will be winging his way to a Caribbean island where he is scheduled to teach several classes for work. He will be there all week, missing Thanksgiving.

(Who schedules training over Thanksgiving week?! Turns out this training session is for Canadian members of Michael’s company. Since this is not Thanksgiving for Canadians, it’s a great time to schedule a business trip for them and it only impacts a few Americans.)

When Michael first told us of his trip, I was surprised. Fine, shocked. Okay, I cried. Whatever. I mean, this will be the first major holiday the Duffy Five have not all been together. Sure, since the two oldest left for college there have been missed birthdays and other lesser holidays. But this is the first big one we won’t all be together.

After a few minutes of my own private pity party, I pulled on my big girl pants and said, “This is the first of many holidays we won’t all be together. This is yet another new normal. I will not simply make the best of it. I will have fun with whoever is here, dadgumit!”

We’ll still do our normal Thanksgiving Day traditions: we’ll watch the parade while eating sausage balls. We’ll decorate for Christmas. And to mark this new time in our lives, I decided to add a new tradition: we’ll go to Chicago and see the Christkindlmarket and all the Christmas decorations.

The five Duffys will eat turkey together after church on Sunday so everyone still gets their fill of sweet potato casserole and my mother-in-law’s pear/Jell-O salad that I have, after 25 years, finally perfected. We’ll tell Michael about our time in Chicago and hear about his Caribbean adventures. And it won’t matter one little bit that all of it happens on Sunday and not Thursday.

Now that I’ve had time to process the situation, here’s what I’d say, given the chance to write What to Expect When Your Adult Child Won’t Be Home for the Holidays: don’t make an idol out of the date. Be flexible. Be willing to change up traditions. Hold things loosely.

With all the impending changes in our lives, I think I’m going to be reciting those thoughts to myself quite a bit in the very near future.

Ms. Murkoff, if you need any help with my suggested book, let me know. And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, no matter when you celebrate!





Thursday, November 09, 2017

To flush or not to flush?

(This is a semi-gross topic. Consider yourself warned.)

One of Rebecca’s classes was canceled this week because the house where she takes it had some plumbing issues. That’s a polite way to say sewage flooded their basement because the pipes from the toilets were clogged.

Team Good News: the remediation people. They showed up right away and cleaned up the sewage so the nastiness in the basement was all gone.

Team Bad News: the plumbers. They told the homeowners the clog was due in large part to tampons that had been flushed down the toilet.

The plumber told the teacher, “Flushing tampons is like flushing cement.”

(And you thought the sewage back-up was the gross part…)

Y’all. I am not one of those women who talks about tampons or periods or other personal things relating to the bathroom. That’s a big no-no for polite conversation. That I’m even writing about it is physically hurting my fingers as I type. But when Rebecca’s teacher told me what happened I knew I had to ask:

Who knew flushing tampons was a bad thing?

I have assumed my whole menstruating life that tampons were made of paper and, just like toilet paper, could be flushed with abandon. Obviously you don’t throw plastic in the toilet, so the applicator goes in the trash, but the actual, used tampon? Flush away!

We’ve all seen signs like this one:

But my thought was always, “I cannot believe they have to hang this up! Who throws things other than paper in the toilet?!” 

Who's to blame for this potential plumbing disaster? My mother never told me you couldn’t flush them. The teacher said her mom didn’t either. But when the teacher asked her sister, she said, “Of course everyone knows not to flush them!” 

Hey, sister - not everyone! Because when I Googled, “Can you flush tampons?” I got 348,000 results in 0.88 seconds. 
Clearly this is a question many have asked, but only to Google, apparently.

Let’s go to the source that’s not the Internet, I decided. I ran upstairs and got my box of Playtex tampons so I could read the instructions. In black and white they clearly state you can flush or place in the trash. Their online instructions are the same. But when the teacher looked up Tampax’s instructions, they clearly state NOT to flush.

Why is there no International Board of Tampon Instructions? I’m usually against that type of thing but in this case, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be helpful…

So my question to you, dear readers (if any of you are still reading) is did you know this? Is this just some common knowledge that I missed? Do most women talk about tampons? Is this type of conversation really happening anywhere in the world?

I am now on a mission to erase my search history and the text conversation with Rebecca’s teacher. Because if I die today, I do not want anyone opening my laptop and seeing how many times I searched, “Can you flush tampons?” or “Are tampons biodegradable?”

I am seeing the flaw in this as I prepare to publish this on my blog…

Of course, when I finally do publish this, Sean will be so happy, because he has never talked about tampons ever before. And he is ready to never talk about them again.

I bet Rebecca's teacher feels the same.






Thursday, October 26, 2017

Off the wagon for good

For years I have railed against the wearing of leggings in public. I’ve questioned how so many failed to realize the legging is not a pant. I’ve wondered how it became acceptable to wear little more than thick tights outside a dressing room. And I’ve marveled that this fad that I was sure would be a flash in a pan has lasted as long as it has.

But a few years ago, I got a pair of leggings FOR IN-HOME WEAR ONLY, of course. In those years I have loved staying home if only to wear those things. They are so stinkin’ comfortable! As soon as my outside-the-house responsibilities were over, I made a beeline for my bedroom; off went the pants and on came the leggings.

Then, like a wave, LuLaRoe posts flooded my Facebook feed. Grown, adult women started wearing leggings. Like, all the time. These were women wearing the leggings, not just college students who couldn’t be bothered to put on real pants to get to an 8 o’clock class. And they were all coordinated with cute tops and sweaters and boots… I found myself looking longingly at the comfy clothes and finagling a way to get home to put on my leggings.

After all that legging envy, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I finally fell off the anti-legging wagon.

Y’all, I wore leggings outside the house yesterday.

I recently bought what I thought was a shirt but after getting it home, realized it was a shirt dress. It was long enough to cover everything that nobody wants to see. I instantly thought it might – MIGHT – be the kind of thing I could wear with leggings instead of jeans. I put it on once with the leggings but chickened out and put on jeans. But yesterday, I took the plunge. I cannot recall a time I wore a more comfortable outfit.

Now, granted, I only went to a friend’s house (she was also wearing leggings!) and I didn’t go in public places, so I eased myself into the leggings-outside-the-house thing. But I did stop to think, “This is the day I get pulled over and go to jail and I get arraigned and people take pictures and I’m in leggings.”  

I should stop watching all those Law & Order reruns…

Like all who fall from grace, it’s the small steps you don’t notice that lead to the tumble. And for me, the in-home-only leggings was the first step down the slippery slope to full legging acceptance.

If I caved on the legging thing, I’m really worried about other fashion ideas I might change my mind about… white after Labor Day? Mixing prints? Wearing black and brown together? Perish the thought!

But y’all, if I ever cave on socks with sandals, lock me up and throw away the key. Just don’t throw away my leggings. 
_________________________________
Here's a helpful guide:



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Didn't budget for this

So, we still have a dog.
When the Westie Resuce adoption agency did our home visit (that is not a joke), they asked me how much I thought we’d spend on a dog in a year. Um, we need to buy dog food and take him for a yearly check-up. In my mind, that equaled about $150, but I didn’t want to sound cheap so I answered “$200?” That number did not please the agent and she began listing all the myriad items we should expect to include for the Dog line item in our budget.

Turns out she was correct; my number was way low. From check-ups to heartworm chews to flea treatments to treats and toys and the four leashes we’ve had to buy since he’s chewed through them all, my number was laughable. But after a year and a half, I thought we’d finally gotten everything we needed for Dakota.

And then we went for his yearly check-up. He’s been chewing on his paws lately so we talked to the vet about his itchy feet. She said it’s most likely a grass allergy…

Y’all. This dog is allergic to grass.

(He’s actually allergic to the pollen in the grass, but at this point that feels a little nit-picky.)

So, the reality of what we learned is that Rebecca’s dog is allergic to his bathroom.

What do we do about this? Grass is everywhere! The vet suggested giving Dakota one Zyrtec each day.

I could not figure out how in the world we were going to get the world’s pickiest dog to take a pill. I’ve watched our neighbor make her cat take a pill and I was pretty sure that would never fly with Dakota. But the vet suggested Rebecca put it in a bit of peanut butter. Dakota does like peanut butter, so I was game.
I had no idea how successful the peanut butter trick would be. The dog LOVES his daily dose of Zyrtec-infused peanut butter. If he could unscrew the lid to the peanut butter I think he’d OD on the stuff. 
Sean takes a Zyrtec daily. Rebecca takes a Zyrtec daily. I take a Zyrtec daily. And now Dakota takes a Zyrtec daily.

We’re bonding over our shared allergy meds.
If we didn’t love our real-life human third-born as much as we do, I can promise you we would not be buying an extra dose of Zyrtec for a dog. Mainly because we wouldn’t have a dog, but you get the point.

The best thing about having Dakota is Rebecca will never be able to doubt how much we love her!



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The future is (almost) now

I don’t mean to alarm you, but my baby is graduating from high school this year.

What I meant was I don’t mean to alarm myself… but, too late! I am officially alarmed.

I was doing pretty well pretending Rebecca would be around, oh, forever, because I was too focused on dealing with the desertion of her older brother and sister. For the past several years, I was consumed with Michael and Amy’s high school graduations, and then Michael’s college graduation. My attention was focused like a laser beam on the two older people who unceremoniously packed up and moved out. Rebecca was my steady Eddie. She wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. She’s my baby!

But this September I woke to find another high school senior in the house. And she started talking about where she’s going next year and all her plans and oddly enough, where she’s going and her plans don’t seem to include Michigan or me. Which, as you can imagine, has been quite unsettling.

I’ve said before that I am keenly aware I am not the first mother to send her children into the world. But I rarely heard anyone talk about it. My mom never brought it up, even though for her, each first was also a last, since she only had me and my twin sister. When we flew the coop to college within weeks of each other, I don’t recall any talk at all about it. I imagine my children wish they could say the same…

But this verbal processor is talking about it A LOT, and as I’ve talked about it I’ve run into other mothers who feel the same. It’s not that we don’t know it’s coming. It’s that it came a whole pickin’ lot faster than we could have imagined.

Days are long and years are short. I heard that when I was a young mom and thought it was complete garbage. Days, weeks, months AND years were long. I was feeding and cleaning and wiping mouths and bodies and noses and butts that weren’t mine, and I thought it would never stop.

Then one day, it did.

I have now become that old lady who tells new moms, “Enjoy it! Time flies!”

For those dealing with sleepless nights or picky eaters or kids who simply will not go poop in the toilet but will gladly do the deed in a diaper behind the couch, please know I feel your pain. Your days are long. And seemingly endless. Rest when you can and eat well and do your best to take care of yourself because you are doing hard, thankless work.

And when you can, find glimpses of joy. Maybe the picky eater eats a meal without complaint. Maybe Mr. Diaper finally uses the facilities. Maybe Miss Never-Naps actually sleeps more than 15 minutes. Write them down, with dates. That way next week, when you think nothing is going well, you can recall that something has gone well. And that can give you hope that more will go well in the future.

And the future is a whole lot closer than you can possibly imagine!