Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thank You, Dott

I’ve been thinking about grandmothers a lot this week.

First of all, my mother-in-law has been here for the last few days. She says she missed Katie and Davis, but I strongly suspect that after reading my last blog post, she wanted to come make sure her son and grandchildren were OK, since I have become a notorious streaker. All kidding aside, she is the best mother-in-law anyone could imagine. She’s enjoyed spending time with the kids, but I’ve also had a great time with her. We’ve played tennis, eaten really good chicken salad, and watched a chick-flick, and I’m happy she’s my friend in addition to being my husband’s mother.

My kids are blessed with two loving, fabulous grandmothers. Both Mrs. JoAnne and my Mom mean the world to my children, and I am fortunate that they are both huge parts of Davis and Katie’s lives. It’s important to have someone who bends the bedtime rules, looks the other way while you sneak an extra cookie, and loves you in that special way that only grandmothers can do. When my children are old enough to date and marry (at 40!), I look forward to stepping into that role. I will be a fantastic grandmother, God willing.

I’ve also thought a lot about my own grandmother. Growing up, she was always called “Grandmother”. No funny nicknames for her – just straight and to the point. However, when Katie was born, we were faced with a dilemma. She wasn’t my kids’ grandmother, and that word is a mouthful anyway for someone learning to talk. We all agreed that the best solution was simply to call her by her first name, Dott.

She died this past March after being sick for a while. I got to spend some time with her the week before she died, and although both of us knew we were saying goodbye, we enjoyed our visit. She couldn’t talk or move, but her eyes answered my questions. I told her about Katie and Davis, about Knoxville, our plans for the summer, and funny things that I knew she would enjoy. Her eyes never left mine, and she held on to my hand as hard as she could with the little bit of strength she had left. We always had a bond, she and I. Walking out of her room at the nursing home that day, knowing we had just said goodbye forever, was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Her estate was settled last week, and in her usual generous style, she left my sister and me a small inheritance. She always told me that it wasn’t much, but she wanted us to have it to do something to “remember her by”. It may sound trite and silly to everyone else, but I bought a camera with the money. She loved pictures of the kids more than anything, and any visitor to her house was immediately given the latest photo album and instructed to believe that her great-grandchildren were the smartest, most talented, gorgeous children ever created. I am quite sure no one dared to argue with her.

Even after her mind and body began to go, she would look at those pictures and hold them. Even when she couldn’t remember who the children were, she would comment on how beautiful they were. She would always tell me, “I have never taken a picture in my life, but I love to look at them.” I still remember that. Still, I have second-guessed myself, wondering if a camera purchase with Grandmother’s gift was an appropriate way to honor her.

Today was the first day of the photography course I am taking. As usual, I was running late, my mind in a thousand different places. As I pulled into my parking space, I reached into my purse to put my sunglasses away and my hand closed around an envelope. It was the money envelope that my uncle had used to send Dott’s gift. I had looked at the front of it when I had taken it out of the outer envelope, but I turned it over for the first time there, sitting in my car outside Wolf Camera. My grandfather has been gone for five years now, but there in his handwriting, was “Love you, George + Dott”.

My heart seemed to stop. I stared at his handwriting, so familiar to me, and unforgotten after years have passed. I knew then that Dott would have been pleased with my decision to remember her by capturing picnics, birthdays, Christmases, first days of school, family get-togethers at the lake, and the just plain ordinary, run-of-the-mill days that make up all of our lives. She would like that, and although she never took a picture herself, it’s a small way I can honor her. Every time the shutter closes and the faces of the family that she loved so much are captured, I’ll thank her for being such a huge and cherished part of my life.

I love you, too, Dott. And I miss you every single day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Davis is no Colin Firth, or, Public Nudity: It Can Happen to You

I love the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary. I loved the book. If you hang out with me long enough, you can’t help but notice that, like Bridget, things happen to me that don’t happen to normal people. After watching the movie for probably the 500,000th time Monday night, it occurred to me that I was an American, married version of Bridget Jones. Embarrassment for me is a way of life. So is keeping up with my weight and trying not to drink too much. I have a thing for tall, serious attorneys, too. My second-favorite scene in that movie is at the end, after realizing that Mark has left her apartment after reading all the scathing things she has said about him in her diary, she chases after him in a snowstorm in her bra, panties, and tennis shoes.

This scene has always bothered me a little, but I chalked it up to Hollywood. (And to the utter deliciousness of British super-hunk Colin Firth. Can you say “How YOU doin’” with a British accent?) After all, NOBODY goes chasing after someone she loves wearing nothing but her undies. Common sense would dictate that before you go dashing off into the street, you would dedicate four or five seconds to grabbing a shirt and pants. OF COURSE you would.

Davis and I have had a lazy morning. Scott took Katie to school, and Davis and I have cleaned up the playroom and organized the office. He was watching a movie when our neighbor called. She was babysitting a friend’s little boy and wondered if Davis wanted to come over and play. Davis’s lack of other-little-boy companionship was documented in my last blog, and he was thrilled to have a play date. He ran off to change out of his pajamas as I also went to get ready. He called over his shoulder, “I want to go by myself.” I was thinking that he did not want me to stick around with him after I had taken him over to Ellen’s house. No problem, I thought, I can come back and finish the office in peace and quiet.


So I am standing in my bathroom, in my bra and panties, about to put in my contacts when I heard the door chime on the alarm system go off. “Davis?” I called, thinking that the wind had set off one of the window alarms by mistake. I slinked into the hall, avoiding all windows, because I didn’t want anyone to see me unclothed. (This is a plot point you’ll want to remember later.) “DAVIS!!” I ran through the house, and there was obviously no Davis. I went into the garage, not knowing what door he used. No luck. I went out towards the backyard, but that door was locked. NO, I thought to myself, but knowing that he had, in fact, gone out the front door. I sprinted to the front door and without thinking, yanked it open and charged outside. Davis was nowhere to be seen. I ran out further into the yard, and just as I could see his bright blue shirt at my neighbor’s front door, a car full of teenage boys came around the corner. Let me stop the story now to say two things:

1. Why the HELL were these people not in school?
2. Let’s just say that I did not have on my best pair of underwear. I was taking my kid to a playdate and going to the gym later. Who takes out the Victoria’s Secret for that?
3. While I do frequent the gym and play tennis regularly, gravity, time, a love of cheesecake, two children and one emergency surgery have left their mark. Things are not where they were years ago when I was the age of these truant people driving down the street.
4. Since I did not have on my contacts, I am going to pretend that the squealing of brakes was in concern for whatever domestic situation was occurring, and not so they could laugh at the naked old lady.

Yes, that was four things, but I’ve had a traumatic morning.

I raced back behind the front door, and called Davis back to the house. Davis received the talking-to of his life and was very, very sorry. In his defense, he thought that I had agreed to his going over to Ellen’s by himself. Once he had agreed that he would never, never, go out of the house without me again, he asked me through his tears, “Mommy, why don’t you have any clothes on?”

The phone rang. I was thinking that it had to be the police, coming to get me for public indecency (or at least intentional infliction of emotional distress on the teenagers), and it was my neighbor Ellen. “What in the world?” she says. “I hear screaming, brakes squealing, and Davis is in my front yard with one shoe and his shirt turned backwards! Also, was someone laughing?”

If anyone wants to buy my house, it will be for sale soon. I’m moving to England.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Child Back to School, One to Go!

As I read my friends’ facebook pages and blogs filled with tears and emotion about their children’s “firsts”, I am thankful that this year is not a milestone year for us. We have had the excitement and nerves of two “new” years – kindergarten is obviously a new beginning, and first grade is just as new with a full day and more responsibilities. This year is routine for Katie. She knows the school, she knows the teachers, she knows the expectations, and she knows a lot of kids from the two previous years at Blue Grass. No nerves and no drama (yet, of course.) It’s comforting. As much as everyone idealizes summer, me included, there is a lot to be said for returning to a normal, predictable routine. I have already noticed a change in all of us. We are obviously up earlier, and things around the house and involving the family are getting done at a more brisk clip than they have all summer. We seem more awake, we are more organized, and it seems that even despite the continued heat of summer, we have a new spring in our step.

Davis still has three weeks more to go before the start of preschool. I have not had any type of routine childcare for Davis since April, so I am eager for him to start his own school. Not just for the break it will give me (and I really, really DO need a break!), but also for the opportunities it will give him. I suppose hanging out with 36- and 7- year old girls all summer is kind of a drag for a 4-year old boy. Davis, like his sister, is such a social kid that two people get a little boring no matter who they are. He needs more than the pool and the house and an occasional field trip. I can’t wait to see how much he enjoys a true preschool. I hope they don’t require combat pay from me after the first week. His teacher might have to start her own blog. Or take up recreational drugs. All kidding aside, I plan to use these three weeks to start getting him ready and enjoying a little Mom-and-Dave time. He doesn’t get to be an only child often, and he gets a kick out of doing big-kid things without Katie.

Once September begins, it is an extended sprint until Christmas. Fall is the busiest time around Casa de Taylor with Tennessee football, multiple family birthdays, school, and church activities. We are happily running a bed-and-breakfast for the football season with lots of out-of-town friends and family staying with us to watch the Vols. We are hosting a baby shower for a precious member of our church. AND, this year, just to up the ante, we have planned a trip to Disney World for the fall: a week’s vacation with Mickey, Buzz Lightyear, the Princesses and our dear friends the Averys. We are so excited that we talk about it almost every day and constantly plan our trip. More on that later!

Time to finish the coffee and get started on the wild ride that is fall/first semester/football season. It’s my favorite time of year and it’s always an exciting ride.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shut Up, Iron Man

Sometimes you have to face the uncomfortable truth that your children’s toys can become possessed by demons. While toys are generally the fun and harmless, non-demonic kind, you can’t deny that a few are downright creepy. Take “Clownie” for example. Clownie was Scott’s favorite stuffed animal as a child. How my husband grew up normal with that thing in his bed throughout childhood is beyond me. He has since passed it down to Katie, who also keeps it on her bed. I am terrified of that clown. During the school year when I am alone in the house during most of the day, I can feel him watching me as I put away Katie’s clothes or clean her room. I usually just put him in the closet, but then I listen for the eerie creak of her closet door opening for the rest of the day. (And yes, my over-active imagination is not helped by my morning coffee intake.)

Clownie, however, is not my current problem. Davis received an Iron Man action figure for this birthday in June. It lights up, speaks, and is capable of defending a four-year-old boy from the forces of evil. OR SO HE WANTS US TO THINK. Davis is obsessed with Iron Man. He wears his Iron Man shirt for days and days in a row. He attempts to read his Iron Man books. We have let him watch the kid-appropriate cartoon and I have allowed him to watch exactly 4.6 minutes of the movie. (I edited out the other two hours. I’ve had worse mornings than pre-viewing a Robert Downey, Jr. film, but I digress.) Davis has several Iron Man action figures, but this one is his favorite. So much so that he snuck it into the bathtub with him one evening. The water, obviously, shorted out the lights and the voice and rendered I.M. mute and lightless. I called it a win, dried the toy off, and told Davis that Iron Man would continue to fight evil, but he would just be quieter about it. I didn’t think of it again.


In the middle of the night several weeks ago, Scott shot out of bed, standing by the door to our bedroom. “There’s someone in the house,” he hissed at me. Immediately the ancient fight or flight instinct took over and I had adrenaline oozing out of my pores. I heard a freaky, other-worldly voice booming through the upstairs: “I AM IRON MAN.” “Well, at least we know who it is,” was my vain attempt at humor while my blood pressure came down from the stratosphere. Scott shot me a death look and stalked off to find the culprit. There, in Davis’s room, was Iron Man, voice and lights magically healed. Scott didn’t appreciate this miracle and tried to turn him off. However, since technically the toy was already off, there wasn’t much he could do. He finally shoved I.M. into some luggage in my closet and we returned to sleep, only occasionally hearing his muffled cries.

On the nights my husband’s snoring requires me to sleep in ear plugs, I am not awakened by Scott’s and Iron Man’s battles. I don’t always know when Iron Man has had an active evening until I find him stashed away somewhere bizarre. The morning I reached out of the shower, blinded by shampoo, into the linen closet for a towel only to grab Iron Man and have him roar at me was not a good day. Keep in mind that when Davis wants to play with Iron Man, he is completely quiet. Iron Man has been to church with us (we considered asking for an exorcism while he was there), the grocery, and over most of Knoxville, quiet as a mouse for all of these outings. It freaks me completely out that he only comes to life at night, when we are trying to sleep.

Iron Man has settled down for the last couple of weeks and again, I had forgotten all about him until I woke up last night with the hair on the back of my neck standing up, sensing that something was frighteningly strange in the house. Again, it was Iron Man, railing against the world from Davis’s room. There was no way I was going in there. Stephen King has left enough scar tissue in my brain that I began imagining I.M. standing in the middle of the room, eyes blazing, an army of possessed, mutant toys behind him. Despite the paralyzing fear, I did manage to kick Scott (sort-of gently) and once he woke up enough to realize I.M. was back on the warpath, he got up to deal with it. From my bed, I could hear “I AM IRON MAN” and then I began to wonder what would happen if I heard “PUT ME DOWN SCOTT.” Then I heard the sound of Scott smacking I.M. around and shaking him furiously. “Don’t make him mad!!” I yelled, from the safety of my bed. Scott later reported that he tried to stomp on Iron Man and then attempted to pry his legs off, to no avail. Needless to say, Iron Man spent the night somewhere else strange, his screams muffled for the good of the sleeping family. If he and Clownie ever discover each other, we may be in trouble…