Meeting an Astronaut

In Space, anything is possible.
Or perhaps,
“Whip me, beat me, take away my charge cards… NASA is talking!”

From SpaceCamp? No? JB had never seen it either, which downgrades his Eighties movie knowledge from Deficient to Abysmally un-American. I could focus an entire series of posts on the movies he’s not seen. Hey…

However, tonight I’m hear to talk about meeting a astronaut. My friends, when I stop to catalog my many blazing failures as a wife and mother? Then I consider last week’s’ Air Force One adventure and tonight’s Meet the Astronaut? In my opinion, any surplus emotional capital now lives in my corner.

I wouldn’t know a Bieber if he sat down next to me, but I am over the moon (pun=totally worth it) about meeting an astronaut. That’s me, Proud Geek. Then I realized that Space Camp has an adult program. It’s ON, people. Who wants to go to camp with me?

Wait- back to the kids, since this is about them, right?

Not only did Zach meet a live one, complete with blue suit and nifty patches, but Bill– we’re likethis– approached Zach rather than waiting for Z to chase him down. I expected an astronaut to be pompous, but William McArthur, a North Carolina native was above and beyond (again, totally worth it).

Zach, to his credit didn’t drool on himself. But other than name and rank, he was basically speechless. My son. Speechless. The child talks in his sleep.

The pictures, Stephanie. Yes, well. As it would turn out, my camera made it, but my SD card did not. Nor had my phone (so I thought). A few minutes after taking this shot, JB took back his phone and wandered off with Elliot.

To look at a Turtle. When less than 5 feet away, stood an astronaut that has BEEN IN SPACE. Sigh– can you just visualize the gnashing of teeth and wailing (mine) that could have been?

But then during the presentation Bill called on Zach by name. Who needs a picture of their very first meeting when you have this one?

Zach’s face stayed like this for most of the talk. Without words coming out of it.

Except during the questions.

When McArthur asked what types of supplies might be delivered to the Space Station, I muttered Tang. Which Zach overheard and answered.

Cue audience laughter. Next step– show Zach a container of Tang.

At the end, before the Colonel could finish “any questions” Zach’s hands flew into the air.

You never know what’s going to come out of a 5 year old’s mouth, so both JB and I tried to get him to ask us first.

Nope.

“Is the robot still on Mars” was his question. Not, “what’s it like to pee in space”. Though that’s also a valid (IMO) question.

Yes, is the answer, by the way. With a new one going up August 6th.

Then, after the Colonel reminded the audience that China also wants to explore space, but–unlike everyone else–doesn’t want to share knowledge, Zach had another question: “well, what happens if they get there first?” Very much concerned that if China calls “shotgun” on space that we’ll never ride front seat again.

Actually…

By the time we left–with assorted schwag, autographs and foam astronauts– two very tired kids were mostly slurring nonsense from the backseat.

When suddenly Zach mumbles that he needs an engineering degree– and can he “get one those from NC State”?

Yeah, kiddo. NC State has a few engineering programs.

Zach–Not to be Left Out

Hey Mom, Look Fast.

My first son. My Big Boy. You’ve been on this earth for 39 months, 9 days. Wowzer.

See, I was perfectly content to get sappy about your brother and save the Zach-sap for another day. Until I ran across this photo–

Maybe it was because I had been looking through all of y’alls baby pictures. Maybe it was because it’s actually possible to have a meaningful conversation with you now. Maybe it’s because you delivered a rebuttal to one of my mom-decisions that was worthy of the Supreme Court. I just had this sense that 15 years from now I’ll be able to look back at this picture and see the man in the boy you were. After I got a beer and stopped crying…sigh, this mothering thing will rip your heart out if you let it…I got sappy all over you. You even helped me pick some of the photos. At one point you asked why there weren’t pictures of you and Elliot together. So we found some and I got to work.

I spent the first 2 years of your life so smug in my parenting skills. As it turns out, you get your personality from your father and my skills didn’t have much to with it at all. You liked to sleep, eat, stare and snuggle. In that order. Even fully immersed in the “I’m three stage” you aren’t a difficult kid. You’re a people-pleaser, a peacemaker (usually), a diplomat, and a spokesperson. You are also self-centered, bossy and extraordinarily talkative (that you definitely get from me!).

November and Decemeber 2006

I worked full time throughout my pregnancy, going into labor 10 days before I was due. We all blame a certain company, who had caused an inordinate amount of stress for the past several weeks and for whom I had concluded the resulting meeting late that afternoon. At home, we were watching college basketball and at the next bathroom break, my water broke. Just like in the movies. I got all excited, decided my contractions were 5 minutes apart (they weren’t), and that we should go to the hospital (we shouldn’t have), and that I could do a natural delivery (I didn’t). I was dilated a whole centimeter.

Eight hours later I had dilated to 2cm. 12 hours later I made it to 3cm. It was then that they gave me the pitocin. I made it to 5cm before begging for the epidural. You were what they call “sunny side up”, meaning you were face up instead of down. Which explains the rug burn on both of your cheeks. I pushed for 2 hours and you finally popped out. Well, you were kind of vacuumed out, but regardless you were out and I avoided the c-section.

I didn’t have a parenting dogma mapped out. I’ve never read a Sears or Ferber book. I just did what came naturally, which I would classify as Attachment Parenting-light. I was still working, telecommuting, and you were the perfect baby for such a situation. You weren’t demanding–quite the opposite, actually.

Your First Year

It was just you, me, and our two dogs. Where Elliot has you to entertain him, you had the dogs. You bounced yourself to sleep in the jumparoo more than once, but you also enjoyed free range over most of the house. We listened to NPR and read a ton of books. I was a member of the No-TV club (until I got pregnant with your brother, then all bets were off). We took plane trips–to both Louisiana and Illinois– and you were the perfect travel partner. You were a child living in an adult’s world, for sure.

I’ve had the chance to watch a child grow from a newborn blob to an independent preschooler. I appreciate you more than you can possibly know. Sometimes I think you get the short-end of the stick –because you are the oldest, because of who you are, and because even when you are demanding, you still really aren’t.

As laid back as you are, you’ve thrown some volcanic fits. Some kids hold their breath, you managed to form petechia.

You want to be a train conductor when you grow up. I tried to buy you a conductor hat and you politely refused, stating, “I’m not a grown up yet.” You are convinced that you are going to college when you are 13 years old. You love basketball, though there is still some confusion on whether you will be a Duke or Carolina fan. You have a mess of curls and I keep your hair long, because I think they are gorgeous. You mimic my expressions and school me on my occasional hypocrisy (HANDS ARE NOT FOR HITTING, MOMMY). You are sensitive, compassionate, and full of laughter. I hope you don’t let life take those qualities away from you.

Faces of Zach

You are an awesome brother. When I was pregnant you continually insisted that having a brother meant “cookies and more toys”. Once reality set in we had some tense moments. But nothing like I anticipated based on anecdotal evidence. I’m always impressed with how much assholish-younger brother you can take before snapping back at Elliot. You boss him around incessantly, though and I think that time for you is coming to end with him.

I listen to you guys play when you think I’m not paying attention. I hear you explaining Real Life Issues to him.

“This is NOT a cup, Elliot. This is a baby cup. We DO NOT drink out of baby cups”.

      I tried to give y’all baby sippies and call them a cup.

“Head butts are not cool. I don’t like them. Does you like it when I do it to you?”

      Overheard from the living room after I Elliot had started crying. E’s lesson was learned, no interference from me was needed.

“Yes, that is a _____ (train, truck, car, shoe, sock, book). Good job.”
“HA, Elliot. That’s not a cat. That’s an apatosaurus”.

Brothers

You try my patience daily, sometimes hourly. That’s not really your fault — I don’t have an abundance of patience to begin with and life with a 3.5 year old mostly guarantees that my short supply is gone by noon. But you also amuse me with your silliness. You amaze me with your intelligence and self-sufficiency (bliss, you can put on your own shoes, brush your own teeth, and get in/out of the carseat…complete with buckling).

Most importantly, you filled this adult’s world with the unconditional love of, and for, a child.

The Club Sandwich

Ha, I’ll bet you thought this would be about food. Nope. Read on.

My mom recently had surgery for a total knee replacement—her right knee to be exact which means no driving for Mom—and would need some adult assistance (her husband is disabled). This means, as her locally living, only child, and a SAHM to small children, that we were going to Nonie’s House for an extended visit. Not a social visit, either, I would be visiting as a caretaker. The phenomenon even has a cute name. My current situation falls under the Club Sandwich Generation definition. I’ll grow up to be a real sandwich someday—maybe even a foot-long submarine.

Down periscope, down periscope. Argh…we’re taking on water.

But I digress.

Being a mother isn’t new to me. I’ve been providing care since my oldest son was born, 3 ½ years ago. I have “slept” in a chair to keep a baby’s stuffy nose draining. I have picked up a crying child and been covered in vomit. I have remained covered in vomit, while I cleaned up my kid first. I have worried, schlepped to doctors, and googled. I have done all of those things—because they are my children, and because I am their mother.

But long before I became a mother, I was daughter. Long before I was caring for and nurturing others, I was being cared for and nurtured. All of those caretaking tasks were being done for me, not by me. But those roles are slowly reversing.

Within my own extended family—on both side of the tree—I’ve already watched the shift of those child/parent roles. Since both of my sets of grandparents live/lived out of state, my participation in their caretaking was limited to brief visits. I was/am not there for the long-haul of it.

I’m in awe of both of my Aunts and their families, for the amount of time and effort required in caring for my grandparents. Despite each of them having siblings they were the only ones, who as adults and young mothers, remained local to their own parents. Proximity increased availability and they each bore the bulk (if not all) of the associated responsibilities. And they both did it with grace and good humor. Good examples for me, in the future.

Look at the caregiving statistics from a 2010 survey. There will be more and more WOMEN caring for both children and elderly parents. At the same time. Oh, and working outside of the home, too.

Maybe it’s just me and everyone else realized this a long time ago. While I certainly felt the ongoing press of dual responsibilities—to my children/husband and to my mother—I didn’t have a true sense of how imminent and inevitable it would be for me. No sense of how consuming it could become if my Mom doesn’t remain in good health. In my mind, the age where my Mom will require that kind of assistance seems so very far away.

I’ll bet it seemed far way for Aunt Polly and Aunt Donna, too. Until, you know, it wasn’t.

In ten years, assuming that no one is struck with a catastrophic disease, I will have children that are 13 and 11 years old and a 70 year old mother. I won’t be done raising my kids and will likely be working for pay again. I will be providing increased care for my mother.

I can barely get it together now—with small kids and a very relaxed schedule. Juggling children in school, a career, and my mom makes itchy. My mom already worries that I will be resentful of having to care for her. It would be naïve and foolish of me to promise that it won’t happen—stress tends to make me cranky. Regardless, I will do all of those things—because she is my mother and because I am her daughter.

Do other people finish things?

Like, do normal people actually finish things? Is my fantasy of this place where projects are completed and all of the stuff has a predesignated space just a myth. Are there more people like me, who have a dozen projects residing in either the plan or execute phase and–very rarely–the finished phase? Stuff makes me crazy. Disorder makes my brain hurt. Paying retail prices for just about anything makes stomach hurt. My heart aches over the creative things that I never get to, because it takes too long to shift, dig, and sort through all of the stuff.

I’d like to take this opportunity to blame my piles and unfinished-ness on my ADHD, thankyouverymuch. Impulse begets purchasing things that you aren’t ready to actually start yet. Random, creative thinking gives second lives to otherwise landfill-bound stuff. Which means that I have a hard time letting go of things.

And even as I cognitively realize that there are people who have control of their lives, I have to wonder if it is actually the norm. Mostly I just hope it’s not because that means I would actually be closer to normal.

For those of you that can actually take a package to the post office and mail it before the dust accumulates, well you’ll think I’m a moron. Whatever.

I have problems following a linear path even with the lines drawn out in the road. Well, here, let me try and explain with a recent example.

Since Memorial Day weekend, I’ve been in one of my “get rid of, put away, finish” things. I’ve been freecycling, craigslisting, and goodwilling. I started with the baby clothes in the basement. Which motivated me to clean out the playroom–they have too many toys, they can’t even decide what to play with. The storage system just wasn’t working, the cube idea is cute and all, but the bins don’t stay sorted. I upcycled one of our leftover cabinets from 2008’s kitchen makeover (of course I kept them! I might need it for something!) into a book shelf so I could switch over to the clear, plastic bins. My brain got away from me during the process and I ended up trying to make the bookshelf look like a house, but it just didn’t look right outside of my brain. The cabinet/shelf was fine though. Yes, I have pictures. Yes, I’m too lazy to get up and go download them off of the camera right now. I’ll post ‘em later.

By cleaning, sorting, and purging through too many toys, I reclaimed a line of wall space in my bedroom where two rubbermaid tubs had become toy boxes. But three little projects before I finished the playroom, I got distracted and started cleaning through the piles in the bedroom. And, once again, before I was done with either the playroom or the bedroom, I decided to clean out the top of the boys’ bedroom closet. Until yesterday, that closet space was the home to several random glass antiques, a broken coo coo clock, Joel’s ski bibs, and a korean hand fan. Now it has a giant box of kid winter and hand-me-down clothes, so at least the contents are appropriate and those clothes are off my floor. Of course, the clothes were replaced by previous closet residents. My piles are like an elaborate game of tetris. I do not have the high score.

Even now, I’m blogging because–thanks to the great bedroom re-org–I got motivated to finish the floor pillows I planned for the playroom. And by finish, I really mean start. I found all of the necessary items–pillow forms, fabric, thread–under my bed. The project was fresh in my mind after spending 7 hours in the hot, hot NC sun at the Spencer Transportation Museum today. Like the Grouchy Ladybug, at 6pm I looked at the unfinished project and said, “do you want to fight?” and got started. Everything is cut and pinned for three pillows, because if I was going to do one, I might as well do all three of them. In truth, all I’ve done is make a giant mess in the middle of the bed right…….before…….losing……interest.

Now it’s either:
1) finish the pillows, because otherwise I need to unpin the fabric and will have wasted all of my time investment.
2) create a new pile (mess) in a new place (top of dresser) to finish (not to be seen for another 6 months) later.

Decisions, decisions.

The End of Quarantine

Tuesday, Day 4
I needed to pick up a freecycle item in Cary. I remembered that Cary also has one of the nicest train stations in the area—and Zach really, really loves trains. They were still sick-ish, low fever and snot, but they’d have to lick a person in the eye to spread it. Which is how I decided to go to the train station after my pickup.

They have lots of cool stuff—like route maps.

A bench with an older man who spent more than several minutes playing pass the paper with Elliot.

Instead of being punk’D, I was ADHD’ d and managed to insult the game-playing stranger. If a clinical definition for social Tourette’s Syndrome doesn’t already exist, it should. I don’t even remember how I managed to transition an innocuous conversation about plane vs train travel into a Yankee crack. In Cary. Cary, the city that is (lovingly) referred to as the Corral Area for Relocated Yankees. Thankfully, the train arrived soon after, saved by the…whistle?

In the afternoon Zach and I made play dough. I even let him stir it on the hot stove stove, with burner on super low.

Oh gracious, he could have burned himself! What if he ended up in the ER. Said with all of the Southern-ness of, Bless your heart, you moron. Why ever would you let let your 3.5 near the hot stove?)

I have to constantly remind myself (and a few others) that Zach is not as spastic as Elliot. Activities that Elliot can’t do–both because he’s Elliot and he’s only 18 months old–Zach can do, just fine.

Also, for anyone who thinks that homeschooled kids don’t learn as much as schooled children…let me point out a few of the conventional topics I taught to my 3.5 year old.

English

    Review of capital versus lowercase letters.
    Reading–recognize simple words, learn new words.

Math

    Review of whole number ID
    Introduction to fractions–1 cup of flour versus 1/2 cup of flour
    Counting–3 cups of water

Chemistry

    What is energy–for cooking, the energy is heat
    Phases of matter–How does energy affect the matter? Liquid starts to solidify
    Describe the some of the differences between a liquid and a semi-solid

All of that looks like formal learning to me. And we got some playdough out of it. ;)

Then there are the points that I re-learned, too

    A kid who goes more than a little crazy after eating red dye #40 will have the same reaction he uses it with bare hands to color his dough orange.
    Food coloring is more water resistant than Crayola paint

Wednesday, Day 5.
Yet another regularly scheduled playdate that we are missing. The fevers broke on Tuesday night, so they were both feeling better, which meant they were antsy. It’s hard to explain the 24-hour-without-fever rule to Small People. We were all bored and getting annoyed with each other.

A random bag of hidden (from them, not me) toys provided a happy diversion when tossed into rubbermaid containers of moonsand.

We ended up having a spontaneous–and quick–birthday party for several members of the Stuffed Animal crew. Complete with cake (bread, cream cheese, and fresh strawberry preserves) and pointy birthday hats. Take that, Tea Party.

Even though hanging out with them turned out to be a lot more fun than I anticipated we are happy to be rejoined in the healthy world of with the other Small (and adult) People.