Friday, August 31, 2012

Reflections

Before the beginning of the summer, I made a mental list of what my kids and I were going to do.  I didn’t plan any camps or extra vacations, kept weekend plans to a minimum, the kids were going to learn how to do laundry and we were going to enjoy ourselves and be free to do whatever we wanted to, at a moment’s notice, gosh darn it.

Then the summer began, and all my free to be you and me plans went straight in the toilet.

The first problem is that by the time we got into our summer groove, it seemed to be half over.  We only get about two months of summer vacation where we live.  Long holiday breaks and the occasional snow day ensure that our children will be attending school into the second week of June.  Add to that each of my kids’ chosen extra-curricular activities which end at the end of June / the start of July, and we are on a school-ish schedule of practices and games and performances until the lightning bugs are almost gone.

That leaves two weeks of July and three and half weeks of August to squeeze the spit out of summer, and we have VBS and weeks at the grandparents and actual vacations where we all go out of town and a mandatory family reunion to go to where I harass my elders.

So we didn’t go to the library or the art museum or a folk festival or even have a stinkin’ afternoon lemonade stand. 

We didn’t do any art projects or movie marathons or see an IMAX movie or hike a national park or even go to a park.  We didn’t go to any amusement parks either, which my son will probably never stop mentioning.

We did go to the pool, though, and I read some books there, and the kids ate their weight in mozzarella sticks and ice cream bars and learned how to do front flips and we all got our tan on.

My son learned some new yo-yo tricks, and my daughter zoomed around the neighborhood on her scooter which is something that I didn’t know she was so good at until I saw her zooming around the neighborhood on her scooter.

And we had a picnic on the fourth of July, and set off driveway fireworks which we ooohed and aaahed at as if it was the most spectacular fireworks show we’d ever seen.

We had cleaning day every week, and I did teach them how to do laundry, which was the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire adult life.  Maybe my whole life.

And we all had a terrific summer, even though I was a certifiable slacker who probably could have done a better job at planning this summer’s activities.

Oh well.
 
The summer would have been perfect
if our mom didn't suck.
 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday

In the spirit of the first week of school, I decided to post a message on the white board in our kitchen to inspire my kids to grab the new school year with gusto and positivity, to capture the magic of the first week and to set the school year off with a great theme:


Tell Mommy what you learned today, angels. 
I love you. 
Who wants chocolate chip cookies?


What I received was the following response from my kids when I wasn't looking:


No respect.  NONE.


Conclusion:  My kids - what a couple of jerks.

Confession:  They learned everything from me.

Hapy new scool yeer, evry 1.

Monday, August 27, 2012

O Happy Day


No more listening to arguments, yelling, or bickering.  No more fights over the TV.  No more asking for ice cream, candy or cookies at nine in the morning.  No more whining when the answer is no.  No more “You are the WORST MOTHER EVERRRRR!” No more food wrappers all over, at any given moment.  No more grass, dirt and leaves tracked into a freshly vacuumed house.  No more having to carry iPods, iPads, laptop, DS’s or any other electronics into bedrooms.  No more refereeing squabbles.  No more questions about having friends over, sleeping over, swimming, going to the store, buying this or that, or if we really have to clean today.  No more finding strange items in the grocery cart.  No more repeat viewings of Spongebob Squarepants, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, Victorious, Ant Farm, or Phineas and Ferb.

OMG.  NO MORE PHINEAS AND FERB.

School started today.
 
 

And just like that, the world is exactly as it should be.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Do Your Share

I like things to be clean and neat.  I like the sense of accomplishment of a clean house, strolling through my sparkly, bleach-scented rooms, going into bedrooms and bathrooms and inhaling the fresh, clean air, gazing at straightened up surfaces and knowing that they will stay like that for a while.

But.

I hate cleaning. 

In between rare phases of avoiding housework at all costs, I keep a cleaning schedule so that it never gets away from me and I find myself wasting an entire weekend scraping an inch of dust off of every surface.  So that means that each week, some time must be spent cleaning the house.

A while ago I hit a wall where I resented staying home all day and cleaning up everyone else’s messes; after all, I am just as educated and able to have a career as anyone else.  I stay home while my husband goes to work because that works best for us.

But that doesn’t mean he gets away with not having to clean either.  After all, that's his pee on the floor around the toilet.

My children have been old enough for a while now to wield a dust cloth by themselves and can actually do a good job.  None of this my two-year-old “helps” me clean crap.  We all know that if your toddler is helping you clean, you’re the one doing it.  I’m talking about kids who are able to spray some Pledge on a rag and make a wood finish shine like the top of the Chrysler building.

Which may or may not shine, but that’s beside the point.

There are four people in this house who are capable of cleaning whatever that sticky stuff is all over the floor.  I pointed this fact out to my family at the most important family meeting that I have ever conducted in my entire life.  I also mentioned that it would take us one hour to do a job that takes me four hours to do, and that all the dirt in the house belongs to all of us.  They all reluctantly agreed while I tried not to think about how many years they took advantage of my slight compulsive tendencies.

I proposed that we clean on Saturdays when everyone is home.  There are certain jobs to do, and we can rotate them according to whichever one I want to do that week.
  
And as with every other dictate that I have laid down for my family, there was resistance.

From everyone at first, but eventually they all came around and resigned themselves to family clean-up day, except for my son, who has perfected the craft of avoiding and putting off his cleaning day tasks like no other wily beast I’ve seen.
 
Yay Cleaning Day!  JAZZ HANDS!
I hate cleaning more than
not having a smart phone.



Which is funny, because one year in school he was given a choice to keep one of his teacher’s books, and this is the one he selected:


Don't we all?

 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday


School is about to begin again, which means new schools for each of my kids, new teachers, new friends, and new school supplies. 

Each fall my kids get a list of ten thousand items that they need to have for the school year, and each summer I put nine thousand nine hundred and ninety five of those items back into my desk drawers to be used again next year. 

Seriously.  My kids stretch the same pack of tissues throughout the year.  And hand sanitizer?  Really?  Each classroom has an industrial sized vat of the stuff inside each doorway; the piddly one I send the morning of the first day of school is stashed in the back of their desks that afternoon.  They are gifted pencils all year long, use dry erase markers only sporadically, have no need for red pens, and use the same box of crayons for nine months.  Yet I buy four boxes of crayons for each of them every year, because Walmart sells them for a quarter, and I love buying stuff that only costs a quarter.

So this year, when my son found out that he had to get dividers for a three-ring binder, I hauled out our stash of dividers that we’ve had since the beginning of the glory days, which is what I have come to regard the era of having school-aged kids, and asked him if he would mind using any of them instead of buying new ones. 

He examined the pile of plastic tabbed sheets from a Trapper Keeper he used in the first grade marked with drawings of treble clefs which he obviously had aimed to master that year, a few lone pockets culled from a couple of three-ring notebooks which were lost to the recycling bin, and a set of five sticker-adorned dividers in fair condition that my daughter used last year. 

He perused our collection and hesitated before choosing his sister’s hand-me-downs festooned with stickers from God knows where.  Probably our sticker cabinet. 

I felt his hesitation acutely, for, at the start of a school year, what does a kid desire more than a brand-new set of plastic dividers to use for almost no purpose?  

I felt compelled to jump in before he could change his mind and congratulated him on his wise choice.  After all, he was helping the environment by recycling our perfectly fine dividers, and he showed real maturity and restraint by not wanting new ones when he knew they weren’t necessary. 

Yeah, right.  I'm just cheap. 

This crap is expensive, people, and they sure aren’t selling plastic dividers for a quarter these days.

Tissues and glue sticks and pencils, oh my.

Monday, August 20, 2012

TV Time


When I was a kid in the summer, there were no summer camps, no summer sports seasons, no summers abroad, and certainly no summering in exclusive settings where waiters tripped over each other to serve us milkshakes and Shirley Temples.

On the average summer day when I was a kid, you would find my brothers and I stretched out in front of the TV in our living room, watching show after show, barely registering anything but the flickering magic screen bringing images of an animated race of small blue people, a blended family of three girls and three boys, or one of several movies on laserdisc that we watched on a loop until my mother screamed that we were rotting our brains and to get outside.




One summer ended with my parents deciding that we were only allowed to watch two hours of television per day, a terrible punishment to me back then, a couch potato with a moderate TV addiction.  The punishment only lasted a week or two, but it was long enough for the new school year to start and for us to replace our TV watching with other, more industrious activities.

We watched whatever was on during the summer: new cartoons, repeats of cartoons that my parents remembered as kids, MTV, old sitcoms in black and white, TV movies, soap operas, talk shows, old box office movies, the news.  We watched things over and over again until we memorized the dialogue.  We saw so many commercials that we sang the jingles when we saw the products at the store.

I grew up normally, that moderate TV addiction harming me not so much.  As a matter of fact, I rarely watch any TV at all these days, and I don’t feel as if I’m missing anything.  Maybe I got all the TV I needed in life during those childhood summers.

Those summer days may have been wasted, but the memories of being sprawled out on the floor and watching the tube day after summer day are good ones.  The freedom to relax and not worry about wasted or unproductive time was fully ours, and it vanished as fast as those summer months did when school started.  It vanished more quickly as I got older and had less free time to waste.

As this summer ends and I am preparing for another school year, I see my kids in their sprawled-out positions on the floor, watching the same cartoons about sea creatures and shows about performing arts high school friends and have to stop myself from nagging at them to turn off the TV and do something productive today.

So what if they’ve watched these same programs so many times that even I can recite the dialogue?  This memory just might be one that defines their happy summers, and I’m not going to spoil THAT.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday





When I have this much laundry to fold, I think of the one time I watched Jon and Kate Plus 8 and how I judged her so hard for asking her neighbor to come over just to fold laundry.  What a lazy lazerton from Lazytown.

And then I realize that she had eight kids’ worth of laundry to do, and I change my tune.

From judgment to jealousy, because dude.

I HATE FOLDING LAUNDRY.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ambitious Style


It was 1996, and I was an idiot.

When my motto was Why leave a good impression, when you can leave a trampy one?

I had been invited last minute to the wedding of a friend’s sister.  I lived out of town and would be traveling to attend the wedding.  According to the wedding etiquette of the day, out-of-town guests were typically invited to any parties supporting the wedding, including, but not limited to, the rehearsal dinner and post-wedding celebrations.

Which I attended because I was invited, but also because I had no other friends to visit and didn’t know better to decline invitations that were offered merely out of politeness.  I was not particularly close to the family and really had no reason to join in on the festivities other than I had nothing better to do.

It was also the year of Jerry Maguire, where legions of female fans across the globe reacquainted ourselves with Tom Cruise’s charms post-Top Gun Beach Volleyball Scene and pre-Creepy Cult Member Poor Katie Holmes Will She Ever Get Full Custody of Suri?

The movie was one of my favorites, and imagined myself in the Renee Zellweger role hundreds of times.  Ordinary girl and beautiful man come together to fulfill her wildest dreams - he realizes he loves her more than anything else in the world and that she, Mousy Mouserton, Completes Him.  Yes.  I said Hundreds of times.

I said I was an idiot. 

I coveted Renee’s look at the scene in the movie where she moves away and Tom Cruise decides that he can’t live without her.  Tan cropped shirt, black jeans, black sneakers.  The outfit was perfect for the casual post wedding family barbecue at the parents’ house the next day that I didn’t really belong at but was going anyway.  I had the jeans and the sneakers, but I needed the top.

I ran to the mall that morning, and found nothing that quite approximated the look I was going for.  With little time to spare before the party, I hurriedly snagged a top that just had to do.  This was the age of crop tops, and I was at an appropriate crop top age, so even though I would be showing a little skin, it wouldn’t be obscene.  I didn’t anticipate any raised eyebrows with the casual cool I was going to project.

I should have thought a little more about my purchase before I showed up at the party wearing it.

I was wearing a crop top, but it was cropped at the wrong place.  It was a half shirt, but instead of having a top half, it really only had the back half.  There was one button at the chest holding it together.

To make matters worse, it was windy, and the edges of my top flapped extravagantly in the breeze, exposing pretty much the whole front half of my torso all day, from collar bone to belly button.

I spent the whole day making conversation about the happy couple, eating picnic food, and avoiding disgusted looks from nearly all the women at the party and disgusting leers from all the men, all the while desperately holding my shirt together.  I asked for some safety pins, but what I needed was a WHOLE SHIRT.

Renee Zellweger and Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire.
Cute outfit, right? 
I'd post a picture that matches my copycat outfit,
but the parental controls on my computer don't allow pornography.

As the party ended and guests were readying to leave, I sought out the bride and groom to wish them good luck in the future.  The groom thanked me for coming and remarked, “Boy, that is one ambitious little top you’ve got on.” I hung my head, mumbled my goodbyes and congratulations, covered the exposed frontal portion of my body as best I could, and slunk away to my car.

I never saw any of those people again.  My friend has since drifted away, and rightly so.

I kept the top, but wore it as a TOP LAYERING PIECE, which obviously was its intention.

What I learned from this incident is this:  If your top is more ambitious than you are intelligent, then for the love of all things holy and decent, change.

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Before

What cherubs they are.

Life changes after kids.  It all happens so fast that you don’t really get a chance to realize it, and one day you turn around and you wonder what life was like Before, and you can’t imagine it.  It’s just like trying to remember life without color TV, or when you could buy jeans that covered your whole rear when you sit down.  You remember it was, but the reality of it eludes you, unless you sit down and try to reconstruct that life in your mind.

I employ discouragement to people who want kids to have them because they are “fun,” “cute,” “sweet,” and “loving.”  Certainly children may display these characteristics, but they also show other unsavory traits like narcissism, selfishness, meanness, and tiresomeness, among others, at most times.  You will have to deal with these difficult people daily, and in return, you may feel hopeless, helpless, and tired, and this will change you.  In big ways.

Before I had kids, I was confident.  Now I believe I’d mess up a conversation with a drunken Thai hooker.  My waning confidence is in response to years of double guessing my parenting decisions because of what has failed miserably in practice and what all the parenting books tell me I’m doing wrong.  Which is pretty much everything.

Before I had kids, I was youthful and gorgeous.  I was.  Now I’m a little stretched out.  Worn and dry skin replaced the pinkish elasticized miracle that covered every speck of my body.  My teeth were white, my hair shone, and I had a light in my eyes that I haven’t seen since 2001.  Now my hair is graying, and not in a gorgeous Stacy London stripe way.  Before you say, “well, that’s just aging,” it is NOT.  I see childless people who are my age and older, and they look exactly like I did before I became pregnant.  Exactly.

I was ready for everything.  Now, I’m ready for nothing.  Really.  I leave the house for anything 5 minutes after I should have been there.  That’s okay only because I don’t go anywhere that it’s crucial to be on time.  No one at the grocery store stops you and says you can’t buy ham because you were supposed to be there an hour ago.

Laundry could be done in one day.  After children, this notion is a complete fantasy.  Likewise for a clean house.  My bathrooms haven’t been all clean at the same time since the late ‘90’s.  And two months ago, when we got a new range, I found a baby toy under the old one.  Let me do the math for you: that’s like ten years of not cleaning under the stove.  Go ahead.  Judge my dirt.  I already have.

I wasn’t afraid of much.  I could go out at any hour of any day, put myself into questionable situations, and walk against traffic on the wrong side of the road without fear.  Now, an unfamiliar vehicle cruises through the neighborhood and I lock my doors and hide in the back for fear that it contains a terrorist or child-snatcher, or worse, a college kid selling magazines.

I didn’t get mad about stupid things.  Before, rugs were dirty and I washed them.  Drinks got spilled and I cleaned them up.  Now, two TVs are on in the house at the same time and I flip out because of the noise.  Each instance of spilled milk results in at least one person crying.  On the upside, I no longer get upset when things get broken, but is it really an improvement to have a house full of broken junk?

Despite all this life change, I love my kids.  They are loving, fun, cute, and sweet.  I would not trade them in or give them away, or even sell them to the highest bidder.  They are often my cheerleaders, and they show me love when I am at my most unlovable.  They teach me things I never thought about learning, and they are forgiving.  They are my peeps.

It’s true that I can’t imagine life without them, and this is not such a bad thing. 

photo credit

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday

This past weekend, I went to a family reunion.

We have a reunion each year for my mother's side of the family.  She has many brothers; I'm not even sure how many.  There are approximately a hundred and fifty thousand of us aunts, uncles, and cousins at this reunion.  We see each other this one time every year.

Like most families, we have our own traditions.  One of our favorites is playing a game where the host of the party sets up a table strewn with a bunch of junk like pencils, dish scrubbers, bungee cords, and tea light holders.  Everyone's name is written on  three slips of paper and placed into a bowl.  Someone draws the names and reads them one by one.  As your name is read, you choose a piece of junk from the table.  When all the junk is picked, people whose names are then called may "steal" any object from any other person.  When the names are all called, what you have left is yours to keep.

You may be familiar with this game; it is often called White Elephant Trade or Chinese Auction.  We used to employ these names until my brother made the point that we were racists by using an indirect Asian reference to junk.  We now call the game Junk Table.

This year there were several Walmart gift cards on the Junk Table.  My grandfather, who is 93 years old, selfishly took two of them for himself, knowing that no one would dare steal from an old person.

He obviously underestimated his granddaughter, who orchestrated the Junk Table herself and who had every intention of going home with a Walmart gift card.

Shortly after my name was called, I walked back to my seat and pumped my prize trimphantly in the air. I was heckled by members of my own family, astonished that I would stoop so low as to take from my elder, who was flagrantly displaying his collection of prime bounty in front of him on the table instead of hiding it in his pocket or under his chair like the rest of us were doing.  And who, incidentally, was also doing his fair share of heckling.

The game ended and I had only the gift card in my hand.  I kissed it goodbye as I handed it goodnaturedly back to Granddad, who gave me a crinkly smile and asked me if I was sure I didn't want it.

He didn't even give me a chance to answer as he slid the card into his shirt pocket, along with the other things he had hoarded.  I might have heard him mutter "sucker" under his breath.

Next year there will be no mercy, old man.  No mercy.

Don't be fooled.
The man is a hustler.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Body Shots

We recently came back from a family vacation at the shore.  Every year I go into a frenzy of fitness, healthy eating, and general well-being the week before we leave.  I try to walk or gym it a few times that week, eat salads and fruit, drink lots of water and take it easy on the booze.

I put myself through this exercise because I am self-conscious about my body, and for a week, I will be prancing around in public in a bathing suit.

And every year, I survey the public from behind my dark glasses, safe and semi-hiding in my beach chair, to see what I'm up against.

I see every single type of body out there, some with lopsided proportions and some with perfect, god-like proportions, and with every configuration you could think of.

I see big bodies, small bodies, compact bodies, long bodies, short bodies, bodies with ugly tattoos and ones with beautiful, intricate ones.  Pierced ears and bellybuttons, eyebrows and lips.  Tiny baby bodies and chubby children’s bodies, skinny kid bodies and saggy elderly bodies.  Round bellies, flat bellies, bellies that look like they might burst, bellies that hang over shorts, bare ones with defined musculature and bare ones without.  Big round bellybuttons that stick out.  Small pinhole bellybuttons.  Flat, deep ones.  Pumpkin butts, pancake butts.  Brown skin, tan skin, pink skin, pale freckled skin, painfully sunburned skin.  Peeling skin.  Wrinkled skin.  Smooth skin.  Arms and legs with bandaids and casts.  Thick discolored toenails.  Beautiful pedicured pink toenails with white stripes across the tops.  Thin women with thick ankles.  Round women with skinny legs.  Blond, black, brown, orange and pink hair.  Dreadlocks on young boys, dreadlocks on old women.  Necks strewn with gold chains and earlobes studded with diamonds and holding up dangling hoops.  Old and young wrists circled with delicate bracelets and bulky athlete’s watches.  Made up faces and faces bare except for white marks where sunglasses rested earlier. 

The combinations are endless, and not one of those bodies is better or worse than my own, all just different.

I sit in my chair and observe these people who don’t seem too preoccupied with themselves to enjoy the beach.

And I get up from my chair, walk toward the ocean in front of all of them, and try my hardest not to care either.

Someday, maybe I won’t.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday

The Olympics.
 
What?  Are they on again?

I don’t watch the Olympics.

Or care about them at all.

I know, I know, every four years, best athletes in the world, inspiring stories of love and loss and perseverance, trials and tribulations, training for a lifetime to have a shot at history.

Blah blah blah.  Isn’t there anything else on?  Or anything else to talk about?

The sports are boring.  Table tennis.  Diving.  Swimming.  Archery. Gymnastics.  Sailing. Fencing.  Handball.  Rowing.  Skiing.  Oh, wait.  Skiing is in the winter.

During the WINTER Olympics.

I don’t get why people make such a big deal about the Olympics being every four years.  They are every TWO years.  And football is on every year, and so is baseball, hockey, basketball, and whatever else fool sport there is interfering with my TV time.  Sports overload.

I used to make myself watch the Olympics because I thought it was the patriotic thing to do, cheering on the hometown team and all.  I was always tense about missing something that someone told me was important to see.

Then I realized that I just really don’t care who wins.

I am mildly interested that a person can be so good at an Olympic sport that they may be accepted into a pre-Olympian training course as a child.  But that sounds to me a little like The Hunger Games, so that’s pretty much where my interest stops.  I guess it would be different if one of my children was an Olympic-level athlete.  OF COURSE IT WOULD BE DIFFERENT.

But as my children don’t excel at an Olympic level at anything other than Spongebob Squarepants viewing, I’m not going to worry about warming up to the Olympics anytime soon.

Sorry Olympians.  Good luck - I won’t be watching.  I think there's a good episode of Seinfeld on TBS tonight.


Yeah, this is a picture from the last  summer Olympics.
Whatever.
photo credit