Monday, August 31, 2009

Vodka Babas

There are some things that change when you have a kid. No matter how much you still "want to be you," you are no longer your own. Your body and life and controlled by people much smaller in size than yourself, but much bigger in power and will.

If not careful, the short people will control when and where you eat, if you will ever sleep alone with your spouse in your own bed, whether you get any work done, laundry done, take a shower, etc.

Not that the short people that live with me have any control over my life, but I'm just saying...

Nick and I have recently taken up bartending at home. I don't want you to believe that the CEO Midgets of Liskey Manor have caused us to drink excessively or anything, but they sure have taught me to DRINK FAST.

Anyway, we were inspired after we bought a cheap margarita mix at Meijer, only to be hung over the next day. This hangover was not alcohol induced, but rather a bad mix of artificial lime flavoring and high fructose corn syrup.

I was on a mission. I'm sure Nick would have been more excited if I was on a mission to do the 12 loads of dirty laundry we hve or to clean the fridge. There was no time for that: the perfect margarita was waiting to be made, from as close as scratch as possible.

I stayed on Google and close the the phone. Nick was at the store for what seemed like hours: a bag of baby limes, one large bottle of non-yellow tequila and triple sec. Triple Sec was $30 - what? I paniced. This was a crucial part of the recipe (we thought) but spending that much seemed irresponsible and would better be used in Owen's college fund. Nick trusted his instincts and went to the liquor store and got a small bottle for $3 instead.

There was so much prep work: cutting and squeezing limes, boiling sugar and water, crushing ice, making fresh salsa and gucacamole. It was all coming together so nicely, as it should since we were putting in more time and effort that we put in any meal we make these days. Now, just to add the tequila.

The directions said to pour 2 shots. We froze.

I had 2 shot glasses at one point in my life. It was 2001 and I was studying in Jerusalem and brought home a set of mugs and saucers made from unbreakable Jerusalem crystal. Shot glasses were only a few sheckels after all the money I'd spent there, so I bought 2. They fell off a shelf when we lived in L.A. and shattered on the floor. Unbreakables broken.

We searched in our crowded cabinets and found nothing. How many ounces are in a shot anyway? We asked Google and decided crisis averted; we'll just measure them out ourselves. But, we couldn't find anything with ounces written on it. My math is poor, I failed quantities and conversions in school. My heart was beating too fast to Google "conversion chart" and figure out which one I needed, anyway.

Just then I realized my whole world has been controlled by ounces and calories for over 2 years - how do I normally measure my ounces? After a moment of relieved joy that I had actually forgotten about all of Ella's feeding problems and syringes for 5 minutes, I knew what to do.

I pulled the water-spotted Medela breast milk bottle from the drawer, filled the line up to 2 ounces and showed Nick: Tequila Baba.

We laughed at how different our life was with kids and how we would have totally made fun of ANYONE WHO USED BABAS TO MEASURE ALCOHOL AND ANYONE WHO SAID BABA INSTEAD OF BOTTLE WITHOUT THEIR KIDS IN THE ROOM in our former kidless lives. Its crazy, but our kid-full lives are so much more exciting that the former: full of dancing, full of laughter, full of lots more shit.

One day they will be gone and there won't be a baba to use for a shot glass. We won't trip on toys in the middle of the night and our house will be quieter and full of other good things, like lots of wine and expensive lamps that won't be knocked down with baseballs and a TV sans frosting hand prints. Our time will be our own and our bed will be our own too. Even so, seems like no matter how full of nice, expensive and pretty things my life becomes, it will always be fuller because of the no-longer-so-short people who used to scribble on my walls and snot on my sweaters.

But until that day comes, please learn to wipe your own butt and sleep in your own bed, sweetie pie.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

He gives and takes away

I can't help but feel overwhelmed with trying to write today. Nothing earth-shattering has happened since we last saw each other here, but with any absence is a passing of time. I can't tell you where the month of July went because I feel like I may have skipped it all together. It blended all together with only the echoing of fireworks in my ear and a flip-flop tan to recall it was ever here.

It's hard to understand a situation when you are in it, which is why its always easy to watch the people in your life from the sidelines and judge and dispense advice. But, as I learned from a friend in college, sometimes you must step back and get in position to watch your life as an outsider, as that person on the sidelines who knows what to do. And so, I step back.

For some reason, the last month or so has weaved together the last years all together and the magnitude of all that has happened in my family and life has hit hard. It is a heavy load.

Ella has finally hit 24 pounds, which for those of you who know my heart and those of you who pray for your own little ones to grow, know that is a miracle. She was stuck at 18 pounds for an entire year (give or take a pound or 2 up or down every week). She is on the charts. It's on the lower end of the charts, but by golly, she's on the charts.

And even with joyous leaps like that, I still can't shake the feeling that this journey and task are too much for me. That she may never talk or sing. That she may never be able to eat without the help of a tube. That she may never stand up straight. That my heart might give out before I get to the end. That my broken heart will break hers. That my faithful Healer will not hear my snotty prayers.

And yet still, there is this tragic void from my Grandma's passing. This picture was taken the week before she died, before we knew how close to the end it was. I was afraid I didn't have a good picture of Ella and Owen and their beloved Grandma Sharon. She hated pictures, almost as much as me, but I'm forever thankful for her smile here. I'm sure she knew that this is a picture they would hold close forever and that their love was one of the most powerful things in her life and so, she smiled.

I've been remembering things like how she patiently taught me to sew and how she shared all her favorite musicals with me over bowls of popcorn and cans of Diet-Rite. I remember the glorious trip she took me on to Salt Lake City when I was 7 to visit my cousins. I flew on a plane with my Grandma, just us, and spent a week with her and my Papa. She spoiled me. We ate out every day and she bought me lots of souvenirs, including bells to hang on my Keds so the bears didn't eat me. If that isn't love, I don't know what is.

She was the kind of Grandma that made each of us feel like we were her favorite - like we could do no wrong, when several of us did our fair share, myself included. We fought over who could spend the night at her house and ran and hid when our parents said it was time to go. She always made Christmas cookies with us and took us school clothes shopping. She paid us for our good grades and insisted we have at least 2 celebrations for our birthday - 1 cooked by her and the other at a favorite restaurant. She bought my books all through college with savings bonds she'd purchased through the years. She worked a job in her 50's and 60's just to have enough extra cash to visit her East & West Coast grandkids whenever she felt like it.

But, it wasn't just us who felt her love. She faithfully delivered food to the worst neighborhoods in South Bend for St. Vincent DePaul for many years. Her knees were always bad and she wasn't all that strong, but she did it anyway. Sometimes I'd go with her and help her pack up the bags and make sure there was stuff kids liked in there, like mac & cheese and cake mix. We'd walk up to the door with gallons of milk and non-perishables, and with humility and grace my Grandma would deliver what often felt like a miracle. I thought people would be defensive and embarrassed for needing the help, but their responses played off hers: thankful, loving, humble.

Grandma always made sure that everyone we knew had family to be with on Christmas and Thanksgiving and if they didn't, they were our family. She opened her house to whoever needed it. She marched for peace. She gave money freely. She once even hid a man in her basement who was trying to avoid the Vietnam War.

She fought for peace and justice her whole life. That's how she showed God's love to the world. It worked.

It still works.

I'm sure she knew the good she was doing. But, it wasn't until her second to last day with an earthly body that we saw it come together.

The obituary became a group project, as we all saw unforgettable qualities that must be mentioned. We thought it only be true to her to mention her years of food deliveries in a rusted-out blue station wagon. We laughed about the trunk popping open as she drove over speed bumps.

All the while, one of the kindest nurses we had, was giving my sleeping Grandma more pain meds, more anti-anxiety, through her IV. She inquired about our mumblings and the woman she was caring for. It was the strangest thing that happened next.
The nurse told us of her being a new mom with no money at all, as her husband was on active military duty. A friend suggested she get help with food and other basic necessities till her husband was home or she found work again. And because God is cool like that, the cancer-fighting old woman whom she was caring for that cold January day, had once cared for her. She hadn't put it together at first, but once she did, her kindness was multiplied and her gentleness overflowing.

See, I don't know if you believe in miracles or not, but that was a miracle.

Sharing that with you made my burden lighter. Seriously. On the long tape measure of my life, this is probably only an inch or even and inch and a half. It only feels like the weight of the world when I don't pull the tape out all the way. Here's for hoping I don't snap my fingers as it flies back in!

We all know, with death comes new life. And in this dreary month of July, there was a bright spot. My first nephew was born. He is cute. He is wise. He is so loved. He came when our hearts needed him most.

Adrian Dash Mabry - we love you.