Monday, February 27, 2012

Crooked

The day they handed me that beautiful little bundle of pink, she was perfect.

I checked.

Ten little fingers. Ten little toes. All working parts in between. And the ultimate dream come true as she was born from one woman and given to another to love.

The day they said I could take her home from the hospital, she had turned a funny shade of yellow. Jaundice, they said. Not too bad, but enough to delay our departure for a few hours while they checked her blood levels. And after I assured the doctor that my house was indeed very brightly lit -- I don't believe in drapes -- they let me take her home.

A few days later, her little tongue developed millions of little white bumps. Thrush -- necessitating her first prescription from the pharmacy.

And I think I can count on one hand the number of prescriptions she has had since. One case of strep. One case of flu. More than a few bladder infections because she has a HUGE bladder and because she would rather hold it until the last second than stop what she is doing.  But other than that, nothing. Nada. Not even one ear infection in the life of this adopted, formula fed, cold bottle baby girl.

She's perfect.  Well, except for her messiness and dislike for baths, that is.

Until now.

At her latest routine check-up the day after her 11th birthday, after telling me that Lora was practically off the charts for her height, her pediatrician noticed Lora's posture. I've noticed it. Even as she stands a full head and shoulders above her friends, she doesn't stand straight. She's rather crooked. And stiff.  The doctor noticed it too.  And, after asking my girl to do the routine bend at the waist, she ordered an X-ray at the hospital.

And a few days ago she called us with the results. "Pretty significant" scoliosis. Curvature of the spine.  We now have the name of an orthopedist, who, they say, likely will recommend that my beautiful, talented, smart, funny, angel-voiced, artist, writer, messy, pre-teen baby girl will have to wear a brace for the next several years.

And my mother's heart hurts.

From the day they are born we wish we could wrap them in bubble wrap to keep them safe and free from harm. And we wish we could encase their heart in steel to protect it from hurt. We would gladly take their shots for them if we could, step in the ants, jump in front of the wasp, cushion every fall.

I also want my baby girl to be perfect, in everything she does and everything she is. I want her to have perfect curls and perfect skin and perfect posture and perfect teeth. I want her to never feel hurt and pain and discomfort. I want her to never be picked on or teased for being adopted or for having acne or for having crazy hair of for wearing the same sweat shirt three days in a row or for smelling bad.

Or for having to wear a body brace when she goes to middle school.

But she will.

Right now she thinks it's cool, like the kid with the cast who can't wait to show it off to her friends. But what will she do when the reality comes? The inconvenience? The discomfort? The 23 hours per day?

I told her she's like a tree that grew too fast (at age 11 she is 5-foot-2 and is expected to grow another seven to eight inches) and grew crooked. The brace will help keep her from growing more crooked, but won't undo what's been done.

And will it work?

I don't know.



But I know that no matter how crooked, no matter how messy, no matter how frizzy her hair, she is perfect to me.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

There he goes -- again

I don't often repeat myself.

But I can't do this any better a second time.

I officially become a baseball widow tomorrow. Again. It's game day eve. Again. This is his 22nd season. His 11th at his current school. His 12th since we've been married.

I know the drill.

Reposted from February 24, 2011, "There He Goes."




My husband went to bed hours ago.

It was only about 9:30 when he surprised me by suddenly announcing, "I'm going to bed," and asked me to do the few dishes in the kitchen, which are normally his responsibility.

But if I know him at all -- and I do -- he's upstairs right now, wide awake. He has tossed and turned a million times, studied every flaw in our bedroom ceiling, listened to every tick of the clock on the wall and seen every red number on the one beside the bed. His head is probably under the pillow and the blankets are all tangled.

And when I make my way up there in just a few minutes, I won't be waking him at all.

Tomorrow is Game Day, the first game of the 2011 high school baseball season in Louisiana. And, right now, he's so excited he can't stand it.

There are a lot of people in this world who love what they do. I used to be one of them. But my husband? He lives what he does.

He is about to embark on his 21st year as a high school baseball coach, his tenth at his current school, his 11th since we've been married. And he could not be happier.

The day he went from being a local recreation director to being a coach again after an eight year hiatus, one of the first things he said to me was, "I got my first name back."

"Coach."

And I became a coach's wife.

It wasn't easy because, at the time I was also a sports writer, covering high schools. And there's that whole conflict of interest thing that newspapers frown upon. So I couldn't write about him, couldn't cover his games, couldn't write about his successes and failures. Oftentimes, I couldn't even go to his games.

But I was there in spirit. And we certainly did rehash every detail when we got home.

And I learned to expect the unexpected.

Like the time he called me shortly after game time from his cell phone. I was at work at another game far away.

"Where are you?" I asked, wondering if the bus had broken down or the game had been rained out on that perfectly blue spring day.

"I'm in an oak tree," he replied, matter-of-factly.

"Why are you in an oak tree?" I asked, just as matter-of-factly.

"Because the umpire asked me to leave."

"Well, try not to fall out OK?"

I learned to sleep through those nights like these -- the ones before the first game, before the next game, and after the last game.

I learned to live with the silent partner hunched in his chair, chewing his nails as he relives every pitch, every call, every errant throw while he pretends to watch TV with me.

I learned to live with the crazy nights when my house is invaded by coaches and other wives, often bearing food and drink, as they celebrate the good days by reliving every pitch, every call and every errant throw.

I learned to live with the absences, the late nights, the early mornings, the forgotten birthdays, and going solo to family gatherings.

I learned to live with the parents and fans who don't care that his wife and child are within earshot when they call him names because he tried something that didn't work or benched a kid who didn't.

I learned to live with the baseballs. Everywhere.

And the smell.

Because I'd rather live with a man who loves what he does than love a man who doesn't.

Just a few days ago he came home smiling ear-to-ear after watching one of his former players flirt with a no-hitter as the took the mound for the first time for one of the top college programs in this country. A few days later he grinned just as broadly to watch another former player on the same team hit a home run and yet another take the mound for the opposing team.

Tonight he spent hours hunting and pecking on the computer as he compiled a list of every one of his former players who is now playing ball somewhere, either at the college or professional level.

"There are 13," he said, as proud as a parent could be. As proud as a coach could be.

And in a few hours, long before the alarm sounds, he will get out of our bed and come downstairs to sit in this very spot, where he will slave over his lineup and play the game in his head a dozen times. Maybe more.

He will pack his bag with the tools of his trade, careful not to overlook any detail. (But he will probably forget his cell phone.)

Then he will return to our room to kiss me gently goodbye.

And I will whisper, "Win."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Social studies

A Facebook friend recently shared the sad tale of a probably well-intentioned father who earned his probably mortified daughter a great big F on her solar system science fair project by doing too much of it himself.

I can relate.

When I was in elementary school I, wanting to be a broadcaster in the days before cable television, 900 channels and 24-hour news, decided to do my mandatory project on radio. Cool subject. But I needed a model.

My stepfather stepped right in. He suggested I build a crystal radio set -- a "very simple" collection of wires and other things that allegedly creates a working radio. Or it did in the 1970s.

You see how much I can tell you about it. He, being one of those parents, did the whole thing, cigarette dangling from the corner of his clenched teeth. I just wrote the report.

 I remember it had a small piece of plywood and a coil of copper wires. I believe it was supposed to have actual crystals, but it did not. And when the judges asked me if it actually worked, I had to reply, "No."

Needless to say, I didn't win.

I was reminded of that incident recently when my own daughter was forced by her elementary school to enter the social studies fair. And I saw just how easy it is for a parent to get "caught up" in the project. It starts right away.

Offered a long list of potential subjects to research, I tried to steer my then 10-year-old fifth grader to a "good" one.

Naturally, the first I suggested was Adoption, she being adopted and all, and me having just published a little book on the subject.

No. she said.

OK. How about the Houma Indians, the unrecognized tribe our hometown is named for and of which she is, therefore, an unofficial member?

No. she said.

And no  amount of persuasion or suggesting would budge her one inch. She had no interest in any suggestion I might have. None. Nothing I said appealed to her. It never does. So I gave up.

And she, completely on her own, selected, "Home remedies."

Really? You sure? Ok.



Several weeks later, I was asked -- no, ordered -- to go buy her the three-sided board necessary to complete the project. Her dad, The Coach Teacher Guy, took care of that. He also bought her the necessary border thing and a little package of letters.

A few days later, I was told I must "help" prepare said board. We had to glue the borders on.

So we cleared off the dining room table and pulled out the glue sticks and threw away the ones that had hardened into rocks and, together, we glued on the swirly red borders -- her on one side and me on the other. And they were pretty straight.





Then her dad came in. He being the math whiz (and me definitely not), he got to help her glue on the letters. First, however, she had to decide exactly what her title would be.

She: "Home Remedies"

Me: "I think you need something a little more catchy. How about -"
She: "No. Home Remedies"
Me: "Lora. You need something catchy, something to grab their attention. How about 'Home Remedies: There's a cure for that."
She: "No. Home Remedies is good enough."
Me: "Dad."
He: "Mom's right."
She: "Ok. 'Home Remedies: There's a Cure.'"

Sigh.

Then, using a very complicated mathematical formula, he and she figured out the proper spacing for that oh-so-catchy title. I left them to it. When they finished, they were left with:




A little crooked but good enough.

Now if any of my daughter's teachers or any of the Social Studies Fair judges would like to know the extent of Lora's parents' participation in said project, that's it.

No really. That is all. She never asked us for another bit of help. A few days later I came home and she showed me the printed photos she had pasted to her boards.




And a few days after that she showed me her paper.

It wasn't great.

Let's just say that any reader in search of a few home remedies would be sorely lacking in advice, except that honey is good for a sore throat and tea bags are good for a canker sore and kerosene used to be used to get rid of head lice.


Me: "This needs a little work."
She: (Rolling her eyes). "It's fine."
Me: "It's a report on home remedies and you don't have hardly any remedies."
She:  "Yes I do."
Me:  (Really long pause) "All I'm saying is, you need a few more examples."
She: .... Foot stomp.

And my work was done.

Well, that's not exactly true.

On the day of the fair -- a day I had to be in the office early as I would be the only one there -- and as I puckered up to kiss her good-bye as she boarded the bus at 7:45 a.m., she informed me thusly:

She: "You need to bring me the stuff for my model at school."
Me: (Still puckered)."What?"
She: "You need to bring me the stuff for my model. I need tea bags, lemon and honey."
Me: "When?"
She: "This morning. I neeeeeeed it!"
Me: "Are you kidding me????"

Me -- after she's gone: Dammit Lora! There's no way. She needs to learn to organize and not spring these things on me at the last second... Let her fail... I have tea bags..... I don't have honey or lemons.... Good. Let her fail....
....
....
30 minutes later, I called the school secretary -- the oh-so-wonderful Mrs. Shelly:
Me:"What time is the Social Studies fair?"
She: "It starts at 9 and goes all day."
Me; "What time will they start judging? Lora needs tea bags and lemon and honey for her model, but I'm at work and I'm the only one here. I can't leave!"
She: "We'll take care of it."

And she did. They found her some tea bags in the teacher's lounge, and some honey in the cafeteria. She had to settle for a printed picture of a lemon.

It does take a village.

Needless to say, my beloved child did not win the Social Studies fair. Nor did she place or show.  (A wonderful young lady with an autistic brother won with her project entitled, "Unlocking the Mystery of Autism.")

But her dad and I didn't get an "F" either. And we can hold our heads high.









Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The man I love


This is my husband. The man I love.

The guy in the middle.  With the red jersey on. Which matches his face at the moment.

So is this. 




 On a different day, at a different game, with a different umpire and a different result.

He was asked to leave this particular field by this particular man in blue on this particular day.  For which he received a standing from his team's fans, who felt that this particular umpire was not calling balls and strikes the same way for both teams. He happened to agree with them.

It wasn't the first time.  It won't be the last.

Oh, he doesn't always look like this.  Sometimes he looks like this:



 But, if his players don't listen to him or do what they're supposed to do, he can look like this:



And after the game, he usually looks like this:




 My husband is a high school baseball coach.  A pretty darned good one.  He is  377-216 overall in his career, 240-102 at his current school, which is located in the suburbs of New Orleans. His teams have made the playoffs every year of his tenure,  and have advanced to the state tournament six times. He has yet to win a state championship, however. But he will. Eventually.

I just know it.

The man I love has a love other than me. He has a mistress I will never overcome, never displace in his heart. And he brings her home with him every night. I can see her. I can smell her.

Her name is Baseball.

And I like her rather a lot myself.

The 2012 season is about to begin in earnest. Which means he will be leaving me for his mistress more and more. There will be too many late nights. Too many dinners alone.Too many days I'll be left fending for myself when the sink stops up or the toilet overflows. Too many sleepless nights waiting for him to come home. Too many long weekends. Lonely weekends.

And spending my upcoming 50th birthday without him.

 And when he does come home, I'll be there to pick him off and dust him off and send him back out to her again.


I am a baseball widow. Always waiting for him. Always rooting for him (sometimes from afar). Going without him. Doing without him. Missing him.

It's what I do. For the man I love.






.








Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Proud mama


I did not write this.

My 11-year-old daughter did. She is in the 5th grade.

Believe it or not, she got a bad grade on this assignment.  It was supposed to be an expository piece (A type of writing where the purpose is to inform, describe, explain, or define the author's subject to the reader - Wikipedia). Instead, she wrote this:


I despise waking up. You have a great dream, BOOM! The school week hits you in the face -- Monday through Friday.
It’s like the soft white cloud above your head starts raining on you. How I woke up today? Don’t ask.
                “Riiiiiiiiiing!” screams my alarm clock. My heavy eyelids creak open. Awake? "Nooooo," I groan. Half asleep? Possibly. I hit my alarm clock as it falls. Crash! Broken? No. Indestructible forever? Of course.
                “Bite ‘er Lolleigh! Sic ‘er!” my mom commands jokingly. Never works. Lolleigh just licks my face lovingly. She
makes me feel better, even at 7 AM. Her soft white fur, a puffy cloud. I could fall asleep petting he-
                “C’mere Lolleigh!” my mom says.
I’m up. Shirt, shorts, socks, shoes. I walk to the bathroom. Hair, teeth, face, hands. Done. 
I trudge downstairs. Waffles and chocolate milk for breakfast.  That's the best food. Eggo waffles, Nesquik milk, and maple syrup. 
 My mom yells at Leigheaux for peeing on he chair. He's my rain cloud. Sigh.          
      Waking up is hard. Great dreams, Monday. Monday is a mighty monster slurping me up like I am a pasta noodle. Yuck.



Every word is true.

The calm before the storm.


She is the worst-waker-upper in the world, no matter what time she goes to bed. A grump.  A beast. She growls. She snarls. She doesn't bite (not so far anyway). She does stomp and slam things.

No matter how sweetly I attempt to wake her up.  No matter how many songs I sing or rhymes I make or tickles I give, she hates mornings.  She kind of hates me in the mornings.

Waffles and chocolate milk do kind of help, however. By the time she gets on the bus she's willing to kiss me with only a hint of a snarl. 

I hate mornings too.  Like me, she likes to write about it.


I still believe she is from Mars.

And I am a very proud Martian Mama. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

I oughta be in pictures!

Near as I can tell, there are some 10,414 photographs of my daughter Lora on my computer.

There are a couple of hundred more pasted into her baby book, her two scrapbooks and the three photo albums I have put together. Another couple of dozen in our photo album of just our trips to Florida, a dozen or so on my walls, and another half a hundred in a little basket because I can't figure out where to put them.

She is 11 years old.

In fact, I threw her a whopping 11th birthday party the Saturday before her actual birth date. Rented the local hall, invited her friends, baked her four batches of cupcakes and bought paint canvases, brushes and paper towels for everybody. It was fabulous.

And it will forever be remembered thanks to the 101 digital photos now stored on my computer.

Not one of which is of me.

Oh, her older sister took a few. More than 70, in fact.

Not one of which is of me.

On her actual birthday, we took my daughter to one of New Orleans' most famous hot spots -- the Rock N Bowl, which definitely lived up to its name. Again we whipped out the camera. Another couple of dozen photos were taken.

But this time, after hearing me bitch and moan about my lack of apparent presence at the previous event, my husband made sure I was in a few frames. There are six photos of me.

Oh it's not really their fault. Yes, my stepdaughter is a professionally trained photographer and did spend two years taking photos of tiny princes and princesses at DisneyWorld, but that's beside the point. I wouldn't aim the camera at me either. My daughter is a much prettier subject. So is my stepdaughter.

And my husband barely knows how to turn the camera on, much less how to point it and shoot. In fact, there would be a couple hundred more photos of our daughter if only he had remembered to put film in the camera on the day she was born. Seriously.

But it's not really a dad thing, is it? It's us moms who are intent upon documenting the moments of our lives, capturing them, trying to hold on to them. It's us moms who spend hours putting them into albums and scrapbooks. It's us moms who crop out the stranger in the background, remove the red eye then organize them into folders, upload them to Facebook and create Smilebox slideshows. The age of digital has just made it easier.

And it's usually us moms who spend a rainy afternoon looking through them and wiping away our tears. My daughter went from a teeny tiny pink bundle of joy to a taller-than-me, grumpy tween in the blink of an eye. I often look back on those cute little baby pictures and wonder where the time went.

And I cherish every one.

I live in the suburbs of a town filled with people who lost all of their cherished memories just a few years ago thanks to a bitch named Katrina. My mother-in-law used to chide me for taking so many photos. Now all of hers are feeding the fish at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico -- except for the three from her wedding I just happened to scan into my computer. But there is not one existing photo of my husband as a baby.

There are now 414 photos of him on my computer.

There are more than 100 of my dogs.

And 179 of me.







Friday, February 3, 2012

Homecoming

So, remember that mall I wrote about a few weeks ago?

The one in Houma that I used to roam (and rule) back when I was a teenager? Long, long ago...

I'll be back there tomorrow (Feb. 4th), at La. Cajun Stuff, where I'll be signing copies of my book, "Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting."  Mr. Guidry is going to set me up with a little table out front and there will even be a real live Cajun band playing inside, on the Back Porch Stage.

It's my Homecoming.

So come see me!