What is a Hero?

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Last month I listened to my mom die, nearly four years after her death. It was on a 911 audiotape played over video footage of my mom’s house burning down. One of the many lawyers at the mediation played this as part of his presentation. My attorney warned me ahead of time that the footage and audiotape would be played and that I could step out of the room if I wanted. I decided to stay. There were two things that compelled me to stay: the first is that I didn’t think that what was on the tape would be any worse than what I was already imagining. And the second reason I wanted to stay is because I wanted to be present for those last moments of my mom’s life in the only way I could be.

And it turned out to be an experience I was grateful for.

I mentioned before that my mom had advanced multiple sclerosis and that she needed 24 hour care. She was very fortunate to be able to stay in her home and hire personal caretakers, some of whom became her best friends for nearly 20 years. On the night of the fire, her caretaker, L, was staying with her. My mom’s best friend’s son, R, was staying in the garage apartment. When the alarm sounded L had to come downstairs and pass by the front door to get to my mom’s bedroom. She called 911 while she was helping my mom into her wheelchair. I could hear my mom’s voice in the background but I couldn’t make out the words. And there was a man’s voice even farther in the background but, again, I couldn’t make out any words. I believe that voice belonged to R, the caretaker’s son who struggled to get into the house to rescue the women. He was unable to break through the door, however. L couldn’t say very much to the 911 operator because she was quickly overcome by the smoke. There were a few seconds of coughing and then silence. It was very fast.

Right after my mom died an arson investigator explained to me that fire sucks all of the oxygen out of a home very quickly. So, for the next two years I assumed that my mom had died in her sleep. I was horrified to learn that she and L had been conscious before they died. I can’t even imagine how they felt. I still can’t. It makes my heart hurt to think about it.

As I was listening to the tape for the first time during the mediation I was sitting right next to L’s adult daughters, one of whom quietly sobbed throughout the presentation. After all parties went to separate rooms so that negotiations could begin, the daughters’ attorney invited me in to meet them. I had long wanted to do this. I started crying right away as I said how sorry I was for their loss. I told them that I felt deeply indebted and humbled by their mom’s actions that night. And equally important to me was this: my mom died knowing that not one, but two (R was trying to get in also) people cared enough about her to come to her rescue at the risk of their own lives.

That is a hero.

All my gratitude and love to L. and R. And to those who cared for my mom for so many years. You are forever in my heart.

 



First Day of School. No Big Whoop!

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Brace yourself. I know this is against the mom code. I did not take any pictures of my sons before they left for their first days of school this week.  I know, I know.  They will never be in  these grades again. (I feel certain of this because they get nothing but ✔+ marks on their report cards. The teachers tell us that is good.)  You know what else?  I didn’t take any pictures of them when they came home, either.  I heard that gasp.  It didn’t bother me a bit.

Maybe, it bothered me just a little.  That, and all the adorable pictures shared on Facebook by my friends of all their adorable kids in their back to school clothes and shoes and backpacks.  I love looking at those pictures. I think about the ones I didn’t take.  I feel a pang of guilt.  It passes.

Back when the boys first started school, I made a big fuss.  I would buy new clothes, shoes and backpacks. I would load the backpacks with supplies they didn’t even need.  Haircuts two weeks before school started were mandatory.  And, of course, there were pictures.  Pictures with eyes closed, backs turned, and blurred by fidgeting. Pictures of my boys with blank stares or looks of dread.

For the first few years, the first day of school would be a flurry of activity.  A special ‘first day of school’ breakfast, lunches packed with first day of school notes, and me talking about how exciting it was that they were starting school.  The mandatory, “I can’t believe you are in ____ grade this year!” would be repeated several times.  All this would end with my insisting we take pictures and the boys struggling to stay still for them.

It took me a while to realize it, but my boys weren’t enjoying all the first day of school hoopla as much as I was.  In fact, it was making them more anxious.  They would complain that the new clothes were uncomfortable.  Aaron would ask why I insisted on buying new clothes when his old ones still fit (which they did) and were already “broken in”.  That’s his code for comfortable.  Nic hated breaking in his new shoes on the same day that he had to start a new school year.  I was piling on too much new all in one day.  Topping all of that off with my need to take pictures to commemorate the day was too much pressure.   back to school bw

Nic thought I was making such a big fuss and wanted to take pictures because he was never coming home.  “Ar you making me live at school like the teachers?” he would ask.  Aaron made it clear that pictures were unnecessary and part of the “pain”.

When Nic got to third grade, the first day of school extravaganza came to a screeching halt.  He was struggling with school, understanding the world, and keeping it all together.  Keeping with a routine, making things calm, helping him feel safe were more important that getting that great first day picture.  To keep his anxiety in check, I played it off as no big deal.  “First day of school.  It’s no big whoop.  Right?”  He would smile because he liked the sound of the ‘whoop’.  It was a genuine smile, not like the forced ones in all those first day of school pictures.

The low-key routine seemed to suit Aaron as well.  “See, Mom, I didn’t need any new clothes.  And you didn’t need any pictures.  And, it was still the first day of school.”

So, every year now, that is how we do it.  First day of school is no big whoop.  We are all calmer and happier.  I may not have those first day pictures to share but I do have two boys starting the school year with real smiles on their faces.

 




Carpet Calamity

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So, yesterday I had the carpets cleaned which was a particular treat for me because I have children. So, naturally this happened the very next day:

Me: (entering room and noticing a glass knocked over on the coffee table and a whole lot of chocolate milk dribbling off the table onto my newly cleaned carpet) “AAAHHHH, WHO SPILLED THE CHOCOLATE MILK!!!????”

Son: (sitting directly next to the knocked-over glass and playing on his I-Pad) “It wasn’t me.”

Outraged-sounding kids from next room: “Well, it wasn’t me, either.”

And the child sitting right next to the overturned glass kept playing on his I-Pad and actually looked surprised and annoyed when I told him to go grab some towels. As I was cleaning up the mess I came up with a plan for revenge. When I become a grandparent I will be bringing each of my grandchildren a spray bottle full of red koolaid and a whole bunch of permanent markers for their second birthdays. I may have to get a bit sneaky about this after the first time or two, though. But I will look totally surprised when my kids express outrage over the resulting mess.

 


Would You Have Kids Again?

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By the time I had my second son, I had already been asked the three most personal, invasive questions that anyone who isn’t your doctor could possibly ask.  You have probably been asked them, too, or have asked them yourself (Shame on you!).  You know the questions:

  • When are you getting married?
  • When are you going to have a baby?
  • When are going to give your son/daughter a sister/brother?

I thought getting married, having a baby and giving that baby a sibling would have been enough.  I was wrong.  The question I hadn’t expected was what would come next.  Oh, sure, I got a year or two reprise from the invasive questions after my second son was born.  I think people saw how tired and hormonal I was.  Asking me any such question was likely to result in my becoming a sobbing lump of incoherent mush or my removing your head with my teeth, either literally or metaphorically.  No answer was worth the risk of witnessing either.

Eventually, though, the question came, “Would you have kids again?”.  Usually, I was asked this question while I was dealing with one child having a tantrum as the other cried in terror or as I tried to change one diaper while the other child removed his, and it’s contents, onto the floor next to me.  To be clear, no one was ever asking if I would have more kids, just whether or not I had made a mistake by having any.

I have to admit, in those early days when I was too tired to think, or feel, or function,  there were many times I would have quickly answered “No!”. “No.  If I had to do it over again, I would not have kids.  I would choose sleep.  I would choose freedom.  I would choose feeling human.”

But when my boys would fall asleep in my arms or smile at me or do something for the first time, I was entranced.  I was in a bubble of love and could not image life without those experiences.

The question, “Would you have kids again?”, has come up over and over as the kids have grown.  I wonder sometimes if people even realize what they are asking.  Do I look that miserable? Sometimes, I probably do.  Are you suggesting my children shouldn’t exist, that I made a mistake? I never thought anyone was trying to be cruel.  More likely, they were acknowledging the level of commitment it takes to be a parent.  Hell, I have even said to people who don’t have children, “You made the right decision!” or have warned them, “Whatever you do, don’t have kids.”

The question hasn’t just been from strangers.  My husband and I have asked it to each other.  We have often joked (okay, sometimes, we weren’t joking) about how much easier life would be with only one.  The thing is, we already have two.  How could we possibly decide which child to keep?

I can't even imagine life without my children.

I can’t even imagine life without my children.

And, that was the crux of it.  Once you have a child in your life, once you become a parent, there is no undoing it.  Sure, you may wish that you had more sleep, more time to yourself, more time for your partner.  Never having had your child, though, that is unimaginable.  The thought of a world where either of my sons didn’t exist is sad and lonely.

“Would you have kids again?” is an unanswerable question because once you have your children there is no other life.  I have no way of knowing what my life would have been like if I hadn’t had children.  I can imagine many things but none of them may have been true.  But, now that I do have children, I can’t imagine my life without them.  They are as much part of me as my limbs.  They are extensions of my being.  No matter how much of a challenge it can be to raise them, I would not want a life without them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imperfect Mommy is on HuffPost!

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HuffPost, in partnership with Chevrolet, launched a new section today called ‘Moments Not Milestones’.  Guess who was featured as their first blogger?  That’s right, Imperfect Mommy!  Check it out.  Like it! Share it!  Comment!  Enjoy!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marie-zullo/i-wonder-what-my-barbie-w_b_5546027.html


Toilet Paper Troubles

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As I hunched over the toilet tonight, trying to plunge the half roll of toilet paper it apparently takes my son to wipe his bottom (or “bum” as the creepy lady from the Cottenelle Cottonellcommercials likes to call it)  down the pipes, I couldn’t help but reminisce about toilet paper troubles past.  This post originally appeared over 2 years ago. Unfortunately, not much has changed.  Sigh.

 

 

 

“Mom! Mom!” came my son’s panicked voice from the downstairs bathroom.  “The toilet is overflowing.”

I race down the stairs thinking, “I really need to get more fiber in these kids’ diets.”

When I arrive in the bathroom, the toilet, thankfully, is not overflowing but it’s not really flushing, either.  Tissues are piled high in the trashcan and the toilet paper roll is missing.  A fresh roll of toilet paper sits on the top of the toilet tank untouched.

“What did you do?” I ask my son.                                       tp roll

“I flushed the toilet paper roll.”

“Why?”

“Because there wasn’t anymore toilet paper.”

“But, why did you flush the roll?”

“Because, I used it to wipe my butt.”

“But, there’s a new roll of toilet paper right here, ” I say, as I pick the roll up from the back of the toilet.

“Oh. Then, I guess I didn’t need to use all those tissues.”

 

 


Nice Try

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David recently appealed to me for more screen time. When his verbal pleading and protests didn’t work he submitted the following cartoon depicting what would happen if I gave him more screen time:

scan0001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I give him points for creativity, but the answer is still “No.”