Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Lumpy Day

My Lumpy Day Current mood: bored Category: Life
Anyone who knows my daughter, Moira, knows that she is very in touch with her feelings. That is to say, she is emotional. I love this about her and I, um, don't love this about her. She is one of those kids who can talk down to you and make you feel dumb. She doesn't do this because she is mean; she does this because she is Austin's daughter. She has an innocent superiority about her that makes her at once wise and irritating. I have to admit that sometimes I forget she is just a little girl. She might be able to read the spiritual blueprint of a room in three seconds, but she also picks her nose.

Moira has some very deep conversations with my dad, my husband, and formerly with my husband's father. She likes to talk about spiritual things, and these three men are quite the enthusiasts for spiritual conversations. The house could be burning, but if Austin makes a comment about which TULIPs he doesn't agree with, well, the house will continue to burn. The fire alarms would blare and black smoke would char their toes, but Dan and Austin would stand there and debate about Calvinism. (Is it L that bothers you? Well, I have some interesting Latin books that discuss the validity of....) I guess that Moira has taken her cue from these men, and they will no doubt continue to be proud of this aspect of their granddaughter/daughter.

What I'm trying to convey to you is that Moira tends to be very deep, very complicated, and thus very emotional. (What preschooler do you know that asks why God would want his son to die and does that mean that God wants her to die as well?)

I have almost stopped being surprised at the random and difficult things she asks.

And thus our story opens:

Sundays are usually a vvveeeeeryyyy looooooooonnnnngg day in our home. We go to church and then we go to church and then just for kicks we go back to church and then go out to eat while people talk about church. We fully expect the kids to sleep in the car between churching and churching and they also get to eat whatever random things I find in the glove compartment. They don't mind if this is goldfish and cheerio dust, but I draw the line at half-eaten cereal bars. (Do you know how crusty a cereal bar gets when it mingles with the fresh air? The insides look like tar. I'm not sure what locust bean gum is made of, but it looks like dead rotting bugs)

One would expect for Moira to be hyper-emotional on these days, given that she is shuttled from place to place with strange sleeping hours and thirteen classes to attend and Bible crafts to assemble. But instead, she thrives on the hustle bustle pace of Sunday. It could be because she loves to play with other kids or it might be that she gets fresh goldfish and cheerios rather than the dusty ones I offer. But for some reason her need for order is thrown out the proverbial window on Sundays. Imagine my surprise when she didn't want to go to class, didn't want to play, didn't want to check on her Webkinz. She was quiet, introspective, and altogether withdrawn. We were driving home at the end of Marathon Sunday and she whining. I detest whining. I would almost rather her be catty with me. My patience, which is thinner than my wallet, has a kryptonite. As soon as I hear that nasal, drawn-out, high-pitched sound, I feel my resolve to be a good mother melt. My talons are released and the hair on the back of my neck stands at attention. (Note to self: find out how much electrolyis costs)

I eked out some warning to Moira about what happens to little girls that irritate their mothers with whiny voices.

She said, "But Mom! I've had a rough day!" which is her way of telling me that she just needs some space, some time to recuperate, etc. I can understand and relate to this; I often tell Austin that I've just had a rough day. It doesn't always mean that really bad things have happened, but it means that I'm having a hard time dealing with whatever is going on.

I told her that having a rough day was perfectly acceptable, but that she needed to process it in a mo' betta way than by spewing it via ugly sing-song hell.

She thought for a moment. I saw her little furrowed brow in the rear view mirror. I know this knitted, quizzical look. I see it from her dad all the time. It usually comes just before he attempts to prove me wrong by using Latin, Logic, and Lies. (Just kidding) But I do see this look from Austin and Moira both. They wear their brains in their eyes. You can know what they are thinking just by looking at their eyes. I'm not sure if this makes them transparent or if they are just trying to let you know in a kind way that they think you are stoopid.

Moira recanted; "I'm not having a rough day. I'm having a lumpy day."

And then she fell silent, as did I. I had been expecting so much more; I was ready for her to talk about the plight of the poor, the state of the economy, or at least retell the disturbing story of the boy who kicked her at school. But she just gave me the weird and almost indiscernible blurb about a lumpy day.

When someone says 'lumpy', I immediately think of a bowl of oatmeal. Are you wondering about my cooking abilities? You wouldn't be far off the mark. I'm actually not a bad cook. Most of my epicurean blunders come down to impatience. If you haven't ever made oatmeal (real oatmeal that is) you will need to know that if you pour the oats in to the boiling water too fast, you create big lumps. This is not desirable. Oatmeal becomes very chewy and gloppy and not in any way fun to eat. So the word lumpy makes me think of lumpy oatmeal. If you have ever had the misfortune of eating lumpy oatmeal, it would stick to your brain (and ribs) too.

Oatmeal is a fine breakfast option. I like oatmeal. Good oatmeal, that is. I wouldn't say nay to a nice big bowl of oats, and if you offer brown sugar and some bananas, I might even smile about it. But I don't know that I have ever sought out a breakfast food establishment for the sole purpose of procuring a dish of oatmeal. I have done so for waffles and crepes and a basket of Provence's holiday bread. But oatmeal? It is more of an everyday dish. It is the stand-by, the old faithful, the boring but blessed. If oatmeal could be a clothing article, it would be that dingy but loved sweatshirt you pull out of the closet when you just need to feel comfortable. You might even forget that the sweatshirt is there until you just need something more plain, more boring, more ordinary.

When you add lumps to this faithful standby hot cereal, you take away one of its only real perks. Oatmeal is nice because you don't really have to think about it. Good doughnuts require your attention, good oatmeal does not. Bad coffee requires your attention, while bad oatmeal (sans lumps) does not. Ordinary is one thing, chunks of ordinary is quite another. My tongue and teeth can handle the soothing ordinariness of creamy oats tinged with sugar. My mouth does not appreciate when it is offended by a large blob of sticky, mushy, thick oatey grossness.

I've been thinking about the lumpy oatmeal analogy to life. I have no idea if Moira meant anything close to what I'm thinking or if she just ate an expired Cheerio from the car's floor.

But her thought has so far applied to my experiences this week.

I'm having a lumpy day.

I have a hard enough time with 'ordinary'. I need something to look forward to most days. It doesn't have to be much, sometimes I'm excited just to get my legs shaved. I'm kind of like a child in that regard. If you speak slowly and with the correct inflection, I might be coerced into thinking that Tax Day is indeed a holiday.

My big trip is finished, my kids' birthdays have come and gone. My sister probably won't be spending as much time with me this summer as we previously thought, and I'm not really excited about having to find a place for my kids to go this summer while I'm financially chained to this here desk. The fall will come soon enough and Moira will start school. We'll start anew the whole crazy process of going and coming and fixing and doing. It just feels kind of....plain. Looking at the vast expanse of oatmeal before me, the regular "comforting" normalcy of life, I want to throw the bowl away and go look for a crepe. Because my life is kind of lumpy right now. Normal life is one thing. The big turds of normal life are quite another.

I could write one of those articles that say how blessed it is to enjoy walking in the park and making bologna sandwiches for your kids because life is all about blah blah blah lie lie lie.

I do treasure the moments of just being with my friends and family. I really do. I am really happy when I can enjoy time in my sweatpants, reading a book on the couch while Austin kills innocent cyber-monkeys. I love sitting with the kids while they make me food for their stuffed animals in their plastic kitchen.

But I also feel ready for something more, something different. Life has become lumpy, and I'm starting to lose my appetite. (No, this is not a cry for help. I realize that it might sound that way. I'm simply being melodramatic)

Am I having a lumpy day because I'm too much in a hurry to make things happen? Do I have to eat lumps because I didn't finish school or wait to have kids? Why does it seem like other people get Eggs Benedict while I'm ordering another bowl of Quaker's finest?

The blessed normalcy quickly turns to boring when there is no end in sight. The cold porridge sits as I stare at it, willing it to go away.

I should learn something from this, but so far I'm not sure what the lesson should be. I'll let you know when it hits me. I'll be the one sitting here chewing on the lumps of life.

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