My Middle Name Is Not Grace

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Many moons ago, when LilZ was playing soccer (and hating every minute of it) MrZ had to have a talk with me. He informed me that he didn’t think it was a good idea that I constantly joke about LilZ inheriting his clumsiness or lack of grace from me. “He may have gotten that from you, but you might remove any possibility that he overcome that if you keep joking about it.” Something to definitely think about. Yes, his soccer playing reminded me a lot of my own as a child. Struggling to run and kick simultaneously. Yes, he sometimes tripped over imaginary objects. Yes, he often ran into things that had not ever moved – like walls in our home. All of these things indicated a strong Zoot-ness in his grace, but why should I point that out? MrZ had a good point, if I gave him that excuse early on, he might not ever feel like he can move past it. Imprisoning him to a lifetime of bruised knees and scraped elbows.

SO – you will not hear me say those things ever often regarding any of my children. At least not if their in earshot. No matter how much it may be warranted.

However

If I were going to? This would be one of those weekends I’d be joking about it. There were bonked heads on tables that had never moved. There were scraped knees tripping over flat concrete. There was a bloody lip and a bloody toe. One child went to bed last night with an icepack on their food while another went to bed looking like they had gone a few rounds in the ring with a heavyweight champ. Let’s just say this: There Was Not A Lot Of Graceful Performances This Weekend. Maybe the floors were all slippery. Inside and out. Maybe there were shifts in the gravitational pull that threw certain children off-balance. Maybe elves secretly moved walls in our home while we slept. Whatever the cause…this was a weekend of blood and bruises.

Or maybe, a certain parent passed on a few clumsy genes. Not that I would ever imply that while the kids were listening – of course. But if I did?

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I’d totally blame the one with the goatee.

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My Father

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This is the eulogy I read at Dad’s funeral mass. I’ve been wanting to share it with you guys for awhile, but just wasn’t ready to reread it yet. It took everything out of me to read this that sunny day in April. I even tried to back out during the mass by giving my brother the “I CAN’T DO THIS” look. When my brother and I were preparing our separate eulogies, we both knew we wanted to tell the group the man we knew. They knew my Dad as a brother, a friend, an uncle. But no one really knew him as a Father. This was my attempt to let them see that side of him. It seems appropriate to share today.

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Donnie and I were talking one weekend in the car on the way into town. We were discussing traits I may or may not have gotten from Dad. Things I’m proud to have inherited, like his love of geography and things that have caused me worlds of problems, like the insanely curly hair. I was thinking about how my parenting reflects the way Dad parented us and I said, “You know…Dad was an extremely selfless parent.”

I’ve been a Mom now for 14 years. Many times in those 14 years, I’ve needed to take breaks. Sometimes I take the kids to a babysitter while we go to dinner, or see a movie, or even just run errands. I have a lot of friends who are also parents and they’ll agree with me in those breaks being a necessity. I don’t know of anyone who has ever said, “A break? Nah, I don’t need one!”

Except for Dad.

Dad enjoyed being a parent so much that parenting was his break from the rest of his life. Not only did he NEVER take a break from being our Dad, no matter how crazy we were acting, but he always claimed parenting us was EASY. He said raising us was the easiest thing he ever did. This proved one thing for sure: Dad had a different definition of “easy” in his head than I did.

Dad went above and beyond being the regular requirements of a parent. He coached soccer for both of our teams. This was especially difficult for me since I have absolutely no natural athletic skill whatsoever. He took me to gymnastics and both of us to piano lessons. He helped us with science fair projects (we always had the best ones, of course) and book reports. He took us to museums and to the library.

And that’s just the beginning.

As we got older he found ways to stay involved in our lives. He traveled to see us play sports all through high school and stayed up late many nights to wait for us to get home so he could hear how our school functions went. I remember one time, as a Senior in high school, he ended up driving a car full of my squealing friends from Camp John Knox to Knoxville and back one night so that we wouldn’t have to miss a Y-Teen rally for our Senior trip. If you’ve never been trapped in a car for an hour with more than five hyper-active teenage girls you many not realize how charitable of a gesture this was. You’ll just have to trust me. It is considered a war crime in some parts of the world.

The funny thing is? Dad loved it. He loved nothing more than just being a fly on the wall when C and I were around our friends. He often considered our friends and their parents his own peer group. He joked that when we graduated from high school he lost a lot of his social circle in the parents of our friends.

One time I volunteered Dad to chaperon a field trip for my biology class when I was a Senior. He was given a group of freshmen to be in charge of and realized immediately that it was more of a formality than anything. Those freshmen didn’t need or want him to be in charge. That didn’t keep him from trying his best to at least memorize all of their names on the way to Chattanooga. Dad didn’t know how to do anything halfway.

He took me shopping for prom dresses in high school. He even managed to fake enthusiasm (in between yawns, of course) as I tried on dozens of outfits. Let’s just say that raising a teenage daughter is a difficult task for anyone, but for a single Dad? There just aren’t words, I’m sure. And he still rose to the challenge.

His selflessness raising us to adulthood knew no limits. But it didn’t stop there. C and I both have leaned on his shoulder several times as adults. He continued to be our best cheerleader as he traveled out west to see C do his Iron Man and came to Nashville to watch me run my marathon. Even just in the last year or so he spent a week in Tucson helping C tile his home and spent a week in Alabama helping take care of Nikki when I was recovering from my c-section. Anytime we asked for him to help us, he did. Never once putting anything before us.

Essentially, he put his whole life on hold while he raised us, letting his own personal dreams and goals fall to the wayside. I think that’s the hardest part about losing him now, I don’t feel like he ever got to live his own life. Maybe if he hadn’t been so busy watching me try on hot-pink satin prom dresses, he could have hiked the Appalachian Trail or written a book.

But I’ll try not to focus on that and instead focus on the sacrifices he made for us and do my best to repay him by making similar sacrifices for my own family.

But don’t count on me driving a car full of teenage girls anywhere. I know my limitations.

I know I’ll face many pains in my heart in the years to come as things unfold in my life that I know he would have been excited to hear about. I told him everything, from getting picked on in 2nd grade to learning how to rack servers a few months ago. I told him about new books I discovered and new challenges I faced as a Mom. He was always there.

When trying to decide what to say today, I just thought this was a side of Dad worth telling you all about tonight. The side you may not have been aware of – the amazing selfless father who was more than just a Dad to us. More often than not – was our best friend.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you more than I even knew was possible. The hole you’ve left in my life makes me hurt in ways I don’t even have words to express.

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The End Of Dance Week

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We finished our week-long trial dance class. I’ll probably sign her up again in the Fall because the classes are only once a week and she likes the outfits, but I’m not sure if this is her thing or not. She really didn’t seem to care too much about learning the dances. More about looking at herself in the mirror while shaking her booty. She gets that from her Mom.

Since I don’t remember taking any dance classes (I think I did when I was her age, although I’m sure it ended the second they realized I was born with NEGATIVE amounts of grace.) this was a new experience for me. For example – dance clothes are expensive! Because I didn’t know any better I went to our local Dance store and bought everything there. I think that was probably the only place I could have gotten the shoes, but evidently Wal-Mart sells the outfits. BAH! And a lot of ladies said they got theirs at consignment fairs but that those outfits are the first to go so you have to get there early. Eh. I like a good deal as much as the next lady, but I don’t see me putting that much effort into it. I’m still also lazy.

I think she may have been the only girl (save ONE maybe) who wore the same outfit every day. Some of the girls wore different outfits every day! Luckily NikkiZ loved her outfit so much she didn’t care. Although next time? I’m buying a one-piece outfit. She kept taking the skirt on and off throughout the class.

I still don’t know why there are holes in her tights. Can someone explain that one to me? On the heal of each foot there’s a big hole. It’s not torn, it’s obviously supposed to be there. But why?

And also…the hair. I actually had to use hairspray on her hair to get it to stay back. I had to go out and BUY hairspray. Possibly for the first time since I got married. Hairspray! On a preschooler! Because she had to get her Daddy’s hair that is so fine it won’t stay in a bun for more than 2.3 seconds.

It was a fun week. Definitely gave me plenty of photo ops, that made it worth it right there.

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Wanna Trade?

I fixed Brit’s Blog. Kinda. I’m no expert but I did my best to at least recovered posts/comments from her old database and copy it to a new database for a new WordPress install. Unfortunately, There is no design. But that should be easy to remedy. I’m just happy she’s back because Brit is one of those many women I hold as my Mom Idol. She is the Mom every child deserves and that I hope my children get at least MOST of the time out of me.

(Not yesterday. When I put my child in time out on the floor of the DVD section at Target last night and sat there browsing the DVDs while she screamed.)

(Hey. At least it wasn’t the beer aisle, right?)

But having her here yesterday was fun and got me thinking…(I know! I know! Hide!)…Can I we trade blogs? I was thinking about starting something called the Big Friday Blog Trade. I’d give you a platform here if you would give me a platform on your site. See…we trade! All you need is (a) A Blog (b) The ability to either create a login for me or to trust me with yours and (c) The desire to lend your voice to my site.

What’s in it for you? Um. Nothing. I mean, you get to write an entry on my blog…but that’s it. No donuts. Sorry. But I’d get to write on your blog! And that would be fun for ME!

If you’re interested, leave a comment using a valid email and your blog URL. OR – if you’re not big on the comments…email me. Keep in mind that my blog is kid-friendly as many kids read my site. Including my own. So if you’re interested in writing about your sexcapades or if you are addicted to the F-word, it might not work. I have to keep my blog a nice place so this is no Basement, but if you have kid-friendly content you want to write about? Come here! And feel free to duplicate the post on your own site later for your own records…I’m not claiming ownership.

So…are you interested? It will be fun!

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Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

I remember when MrZ told me that he was certain the house I grew up in was smaller than the 1400 sq ft apartment we were living in at the time. I thought he was joking. (I’ve never been good at spatial approximations.) He assured me he was not so I called my Dad and said, “Dad? How big is your house?” “Probably just under 1000 sq ft.”

I was shocked. I mean, yeah I lived in that house my whole life, but I was shocked it was so small. Really? Are you sure? “Yes, Kim. I know how big my own house is.”

The funny thing is, he bought it at half that size. When he and my Mom bought it – I was an infant/toddler and it was only the half of the house you see to the RIGHT of the door. He added on the part to the left. I don’t remember the house that small – since he added on almost immediately – but we have the pictures to prove it. 500 sq ft. That’s a small house.

Dad spent his last few weeks referencing how frustrated he was with the house. He had all these plans to make it bigger. Better. And he was experiencing quite a bit of regret over that. Part of him wishing he had just done it already. (There were golf club handles in the yard he was using to survey the property to draft out the floorplan.) While part of him just wished he had settled for a “better” house long ago. Given up on that house. It kinda bothered me that he seemed to be so torn up over that. I mean, we were happy there. He worked a lot. No one expected him to work full time AND build another half of a house. But he expressed his regret nonetheless.

The funny thing? I was NOT happy there for a long time. I hated that house for a large portion of my childhood. I feel like I can say that now that he’s gone. I was not comfortable having friends over until I was old enough to find our strange house interesting. For many years I was just embarrassed it wasn’t like anyone else’s. There was no air-conditioning. Not a central unit, not a window unit. Just fans in the windows. And those were only on at night because why have them on during the day when it was just blowing hot air around? Showering in the summer was almost pointless because you began sweating the second you dried off.

Since there was no central unit, we also had no central heat. We did have one baseboard heater in the living room under a table. We would curl up under that table with blankets during the winter and watch TV together. We also had a fire hazard coil heater we only turned on for Christmas Day (because the tree was always in the part of the house without the baseboard heater), and when it snowed. We turned it on when it snowed because we could lean up against it to warm up after playing in the snow. I learned the hard way though that wet jeans get hot very quickly and had the burns on my ass to prove it.

I had two friends spend the night once in high school. We had a math competition (or something like that) the next day and Dad was driving us early. So, they spent the night. It was cold so we all three bundled up in Dad’s old waterbed (which I claimed as my own because it was HEATED) and giggled all night about HOW DAMN COLD IT WAS. Maybe that’s why I’ve never minded camping. Wasn’t much different than life in that house.

We weren’t poor. That’s not why we lived such a minimalist existence, Dad just wasn’t concerned with trivialities. We could survive without the heat and a/c – so what’s the point in wasting money on it? Other trivialities? Furniture. We anever had a proper couch my entire time through high school. We had bean bags. It’s hard to invite a boyfriend over to watch movies when you only have bean bags on an ugly linoleum floor. Needless to say – I didn’t have boyfriends over often. I was too embarrassed.

Somewhere towards the end of High School, however, I started thinking that maybe my lifestyle was kinda cool. Maybe my unique living situation was something to brag about, and not hide. I thought more and more like that the older I got. I was proud to bring my kids into my childhood home. Teach them how to stay warm in the winter nights (breath heavy under the blanket wrapped around your body like a cocoon) and stay entertained with no cable. I even brought two coworkers by my Dad’s on a trip in college and they both were fascinated by my house. One of them even asked if he could move into the basement he thought it was so cool.

My room
This was my room. And the closet Dad built into the wall because the bedrooms had no closets.

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The back of the house.

Now it’s empty. We’ll be handing it off to someone else soon. Someone who will see the cracking plaster and peeled linoleum and not ever know the amazing hands that constructed the frame so many years ago. They’ll probably tear it down and start over, I know I would. And the only thing left will be the pictures and the memories of a father and his two children huddled up watching A-Team together. I feel bad for the years I was embarrassed because it really is something I’m proud of now. The tiny house surrounded by commercially zoned properties filled with warehouses and 18-wheelers. It wasn’t the typical neighborhood nor the typical house that my classmates lived in…I wish I had appreciated that more. Maybe if I had, Dad wouldn’t have carried regret about staying in it for so long.

Either way…it served it’s purpose. Living without air-conditioning in the summer and without heat in the winter became my version of, “walking uphill to school both ways,” with my kids. It gets thrown out to my kids every time the whine about something.

“You’re hot? SERIOUSLY? It’s 71 degrees. That’s not hot! You should try living without air-conditioning in your car OR YOUR HOME. That’s how I grew up, you remember. I would have thanked GOD for 71 degrees.”

Dad would be proud.

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