Thursday, February 26, 2009

Poop Saves The Day

I picked the kids up from school the other night ready for certain doom.

It was grocery night and K had to work late.

I was fairly confident that taking the kids to the market by myself, attempting to feed them at the market cafe AND completing the family shopping was asking too much.

When I got them settled in the car, I tried to prime them for good behavior by explaining everything we needed to do and asking for their help.

The Rooster pledged her support, but when I asked The Mayor, he demonstrated his new found spelling ability and said,

"N-O! N-O! N-O!"

[Look! Hell and a handbasket are headed straight for one another!]

I took a deep breath and responded to The Mayor,

"Then you'll have to clean up all the spider poop in the world, ...with your tongue!"

"Eeeeew, GROSS!" my children squealed, laughing with delight.

"I'll make you SWALLOW the spider poop," The Mayor threatened.

"I'll throw it up all over you!" I countered.

"I'll make it into a suit made of vomit and dress you in it," he said.

"Then I'll give you a BIG hug and squeeze you tightly against my new vomity, spider poo clothes!"

My children were laughing too hard to remember to be belligerent about the way we had to spend our evening.

The Mayor also kept trying to puzzle out how much spider poop exists in the world, where it is located and how one might actually lick it up.

When we got to the market, I decided to see if I could continue to work the poop angle in my favor.
"I know!" I said. "Let's pretend that everything we need to buy at the market is some kind of animal poop and it's our job to decide what animal made the poop!"
Oh. My. Got.

I am a BONAFIDE genius.

String beans? [Snake poop.]

Cous cous? [Mouse poop.]

Peas? [Alligator poop.]

[And so on.]

This kept my butt obsessed children entertained for the entire grocery shopping experience.

[And it was only mildly embarrassing when other shoppers turned to stare as we loaded up our cart with poop produced by baby dolls, humans, hippos, weasels, monkeys and the rest of the animal kingdom. ]

When we arrived home, K was waiting for us.
"How did it go?" he said, expecting the worst.
I smiled and said,
"It was actually fun."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Caveat

When K broke out the new checker board, The Mayor said that he'd prefer to learn chess first.

With difficulty, K and I somehow remembered the names of the chess pieces, but the rules of the game were long lost.

K, being a stalwart and patient parent, turned to the Internet and printed out a set of game instructions.

My glorious husband sat down at The Mayor's little table and began explaining.

"This game has a LOT of rules, Mayor," he said.

"Dad," The Mayor replied. "I really like games and game rules. Actually, I like all rules."

He thought for a moment, then added,

"Except parent's rules. Those are stinky."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wonder

The Rooster climbed into my lap as the lights dimmed and The Mayor rose up on his knees.

I wondered how they would respond, this was their first trip to the circus.

A woman in a blue sequined leotard sat swinging on a trapeze bar way up in the big top.

She swung higher and higher and then suddenly flipped and twisted, catching herself from falling by hooking her feet on the swing's ropes.

The Rooster, who loves to swing more than I can even begin to explain, was beside herself when she saw the sparkling performer dangling above.

She pointed in awe and her mouth formed a perfect "O".

I felt her chest expand.

She inhaled a great gulp of air and then held her breath, waiting, frozen still.

I looked over at The Mayor, still on his knees, his face upturned, filled with wonder.

I realized my face was covered in tears.

It's amazing how much your children's joy can stir you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fortunes

K's best friend Brian came to visit this weekend.

I'm pretty sure that his primary goal for the 24 hours he spent with us was to leave my children thinking he was the loudest, silliest, most-likable person they ever met.

He was as silly as a goose on Xanax and louder than the two kids put together.

[Which is a serious achievement in itself as I have extraordinarily high decibel children.]

Before we dropped him off at an old law school friend's house with whom he planned to attend his reunion, we stopped off at Target.

While I gathered the dull and random household essentials, Brian took the children to the toy aisle, let them pick whatever they wanted and treated them to it.

As a staunch pro-feminist who worked for years doing intervention work with male batterers, The Rooster's choice of a baby doll caused Brian a moment of mild discomfort.

He realized that he had hoped she would choose something tough, like a baseball glove, but she couldn't have been more clear that what she wanted was a baby doll.

What does a pro-feminist man do when a woman chooses domestic bliss and the charms of motherhood over sliding into home?

He keeps his lip zipped and assumes the gal knows what she wants!

[Which is exactly what he did.]

At the check out aisle, Rooster turned to me and said,

"Brian is like a silly Santa!"
On our way out of the Target store, we stopped to look at all the dogs crated in front of the nearby pet supply super store.

An animal rescue group was holding an animal adoption day.

I wished I could take one home, but we're not ready for a dog yet.

The Mayor and I wandered around to each crate and let the lonely dogs nudge our hands with their wet noses.

Just as we were about to leave, an employee of the pet store came out the front door holding a puppy.

The dog was an amber colored mutt, clearly part pit bull, and you could tell that she'd recently been spayed by her shaved belly.

I overheard the pet store employee talking to the animal rescue volunteers and hung back, listening.

"He walked in with her in a crate," she said. "Obviously he left without her. We found the crate on one of our shelves."

I tried to wrap my head around that.

Who does a thing like that?

The employee looked at my puzzled face and went on to say,

"It happens all the time. People leave all kinds of pets here, lizards, snakes,dogs, cats."

"What do you do with them," I asked incredulously.

"We adopt them out if we can," she said.

The pit bull mutt hung limply in her arms as puppies do.

The Mayor and I stoked her sweet face.

She was docile as a lamb.

We finally left, suddenly in a hurry to get Brian on his way to his law school reunion.

As we followed our big, silly Santa to the car, I hoped that a trace of his spirit of generosity would linger behind us and inspire someone to take the pup home.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Winner

The Mayor is learning about dinosaurs in pre-k.

He's become a veritable font of dinosaur factoids, enthusiastically overflowing with random details.

He was unable to sit still or eat his breakfast this morning until he released the pressure mounting mightily under his dinosaur detail valve.

"Mom! Mom! Do you know what?"

"What, Mayor?"

"A triceratops and a velociraptor were fighting... and there was a sandstorm... and they died in the sand WHILE they were fighting!"

"Really?"

"Yes!!! It's the only known fossil of dinosaurs fighting! They DIED while they were FIGHTING!!"

"Oh," I noted.


[I tried to be enthusiastic.]

The Rooster, who had been quietly chewing her toast, lifted her eyes to mine.

"Do you know who won that fight, Mama?"

"No, Rooster. Who won?"

"The sandstorm," she said sardonically and returned to the business of eating her toast.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Slow Burn

Things feel pretty weird.

Everyone I know seems at least a little stressed.

Every morning I read the paper and see new stories about layoffs and our economic free fall.

It doesn't help that that I know people who have lost their jobs.

I think about them waking up to another day searching for work, worrying.

It doesn't help that newspaper columnists wage an endless debate about why the stimulus package won't work.

It doesn't help when the critics emphasize how much debt will burden my children.

It doesn't help that it's winter time.

On so many mornings, the trees are stark black silhouettes against a grey sky and the wind's cold hand slaps me in the face.

It doesn't help that the approach of severe thunderstorms casts an eerie greenish-yellow glow across the sky making the town siren shriek and moan, insisting that all citizens huddle in their basements.

Surely the sky IS falling and the end is nigh!

Swimming (even when I don't feel like it), helps.

Concentrating on the job I have and doing the best I can on any given day, helps.

Being patient and present to my children, helps.

Peppermint tea helps.

Ah, but I see I've just drained my cup.

I'll go now and fill it up.

[At least half way.]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Interesting

"What can you tell me?"

[That's what we say to each other when we get home from work.]

K sat there a moment, thinking.

"Nothing," he said. "Not one thing."

"Yeah," I returned. "You've been working too hard and so have I."

"Ack! We're not even interesting anymore!" he cried. "What did we used to do that made us interesting?"

I drew a blank.

"Maybe we were never really very interesting," I said.

[Oh, The Joys - now with more Optimism!]

"Okay," he said, "what did we do that made us think we were interesting?"

My thoughts wandered back to the time when he and I got to know each other.

"You volunteered for Habitat, you played guitar... you had those index cards with vocabulary words on them... that was interesting."

"But I don't do any of those things anymore," he lamented.

[He was awfully cute with his index cards... but you should have seen him framing a Habitat house with his sweaty t-shirt clinging to his rippling... ]

[YOWZA!]

After the kids went to bed, we headed for our computers.

[Because we are smokin' hot like that.]

K kept interrupting me to show me tricks to enhance the performance of Microsoft Excel.

"What are you working on?" I finally asked him.

"I'm practicing building an amortization table," he told me.

[Yes, practicing building an amortization table. You heard that right.]
"Come see," he said. "Let me show you."
And do you know what I said?
"Baby, you're getting more interesting all the time."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Paging Dr. Google!

Occasionally I freak out a little bit about the fact that I write an online diary.

[You know, this here blog.]

I sometimes worry about privacy.

[A word with which I am only remotely acquainted.]

I ask myself, "Exactly what have I posted on the internet, again?"

"Who is reading my blog, anyway and why are they reading it? How easy is it for someone to find my blog?"
[As if I keep it a secret.]

When I am having one of these moments, I google my name and the word "blog" to see if anything about me comes up in the search results.

Thankfully, there is a young, competitive runner who lives in a far away state and there are pages and pages of links about her.

[Effectively throwing would be stalkers off my trail.]

After exhausting myself catching up on my doppelganger's latest race stats, I clicked over to the image search results to find out what I return in the photo category.

Do you know what you get when you Google Image Search my name and the word blog?

[I am looking a bit under the weather these days, no?]

This photo SO deserves a newspaper headline...

No Joy for THIS Blog Reader!

Mighty Wind Devastates Innocent Internet User!

Horizontal Parenting Taken Too Far!

Bored Reader Slipped Into Coma!

[Now you know about my secret Hawaiian shirt collection. Damn!]

Monday, February 16, 2009

Small Protections

The Rooster likes to be carried from the couch to her bed after her bedtime stories.

The Mayor asks his father to pick him up and gently toss him into bed every night.

Like most children, they both want to be picked up and carried a lot -- especially when they are tired, sad or hurt.

After carrying them to bed last night, K and I talked about our own memories of being carried.

There was such safety and comfort in it.

I have a distinct memory of when my parents stopped being able to carry me, though I don't know how old I was.

Something I relied on was suddenly gone. I remember feeling strangely cut off and really sad.

Wouldn't it be amazing if you could be picked up like that again, to be completely enveloped in the strong and protective arms of someone two or three times your size?

Remembering the feeling, I daydreamed of losing myself in my Grandmother's soft lap, riding my father's shoulders on a hike through the mountains and climbing into my mother's bed and fitting myself into the curve of her belly.

I remembered resting my head in the spot where my father's neck met his shoulder.

My body relaxed, the whole weight of it supported by his arms, lulled by the cadence of his gait.

Sometimes I slept.

I was so safe there.

Do you remember when it ended?

"You're too big to be carried. I can't pick you up anymore. You're too heavy now."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's All In The Cards

On Sunday mornings, K and his friend David go bike riding for exercise.


A few Sundays ago I wracked my brain for an activity I could do with the children while he was gone that didn't involve changing out of my pajamas.

Being the always ahead of schedule, freakishly organized type, I decided we should make Valentine's Day cards for their classmates.

[I may not be Betty Crocker, but I can cut and paste you under the table, PTA Lady!]

The Mayor spent two hours making a single card for his best friend.

The Rooster produced a solid handful and advised me on how they should be addressed.

Knowing she didn't have enough for her whole class, I suggested that some of mine could be addressed to her friends.
"Do you want to give this one to Hallie?" I asked.
I held the card out for The Rooster's inspection.

She looked at it carefully and then at me.
"I don't think she would like your cards, Mommy," she said.

"How come?" I asked.

"Yours are too weird."
Ah, well.
Have a weird Valentine's Day!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Raccoon

In the car on the way to school this morning, The Mayor said,

"Mom, did you know I speak Raccoon?"

"No, I didn't know that," I admitted.

"Do you want to hear me speak it?" he asked.

"Absolutely!"

"Ererererrurururuererererurur," he said.

[Please excuse any misspellings, I am not personally familiar with the Raccoon language.]

After making a long speech in Raccoon, The Mayor turned to his sister and, shifting gears completely, said...
"Does anything scare you, Roo?"
She made that one face, you know the one, and said...
"You do."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From My Office To Candyland

When I picked up the kids after work, the weather was nice and they were playing outside.

I sat down and let them play for another hour.

K was working late, so there was no hurry.

I took off my jacket and, in my short sleeved shirt, enjoyed the sun's warmth on my arms.

The Mayor and The Rooster ran around and around the school playground.

I love it when they burn off the jet fuel like that.

"They'll fall asleep easily," I thought to myself, smiling.

The thing is, these scenes end in drama most days. Somewhere in in here I have a timing problem.

The perfection of the afternoon sun and the playground unravels as soon as we get in the car.

Everything becomes vile and loathsome once they are buckled into car seats, especially me.

Everything I say and do for the next sixty minutes, beginning with the car ride home and ending with dinner, will be an extraordinary failing as far as my children are concerned.

I start off by refusing to mitigate the daily fight over the middle seat belt buckle that doubles as an imaginary popsicle.

Mommy is terribly, horribly MEAN and the world is really, grossly unfair!

Lately, K has been walking home from the train station in order to get a little extra exercise.

When he arrived home tonight, both children were wailing inconsolably.

The Mayor begged his newly arrived father for a band-aid which he urgently needed having inflicted a small, almost imperceptible scratch upon his person during a bathroom mishap that allegedly occurred when I sent him in to wash his hands for dinner.

The Rooster simply needed food.

K and I stuffed their little faces with grilled cheese sandwiches, grapes, cucumber slices, buttered rice, blueberries (in January, I know, I know – the jet fuel, I totally suck) and then…

It was all Candy Land, all the time.

[Though the little cheaters insisted that K remove the Gingerbread Man card from the game's deck because both of them stand in firm opposition to the possibility that an unfortunate draw might set them so far back on the board.]


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Tell Anyone About The Alligators

"I have a secret," she said.
One of Rooster Girl's classmates stepped tentatively towards me after-school on the playground.
"You do?" I said. "What is it?"

"It's about alligators," she told me conspiratorially.

"What about alligators?" I asked.

She glanced furtively to her left, then to her right and stepped closer to me. Taking me into her confidence, she whispered,
"Alligators swim... in WATER."
I regarded her mop of curly, locks, her apple rose cheeks, her three year old innocence.

"They do," I said.

"I don't think it's a secret though," I added

"Why not?" she asked me.

"Well, most people know that alligators swim in water."

"Oh," she said in her smallest, saddest voice.

She wandered away with her gaze downcast and her enthusiasm dampened.

I hung my head.


Monday, February 09, 2009

One Down, Four To Go

Last week, I let them take my power at work.

[Four out of five days, anyway.]

Every morning as I drove in, I reminded myself...

"Don't let 'em take your power!"
[Best laid plans, eh?]

I let the small stuff get to me and hung my frustration out on the line.

I was as petulant as a child at two different meetings last week , rolling my eyes, sighing heavily, generally accentuating how burdened I was by inefficiency, ineffectiveness and... whatever else.

[Oh, the grown up.]

As it turns out, the whole "don't let 'em take your power" thing works about as well for forty one year olds as it does for four year olds.

[Maybe 20% of the time.]

At the week's end, I felt defeated.

I let it all get to me. I let them take my power.

I vowed that this week I would bring my inner Zen Master to the office with me.

Today, I kept my cool.

Bow to the Sensei.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Dangers of Free Association Parenting

Last night, after I finished reading to The Mayor, he asked me to tell him stories about when I was a kid.

Oddly, I sort of drew a blank. What to say...???

"Tell me about when you were seven," he said.
Seven... seven... what was I doing when I was seven?

[Perhaps I killed too many of my memory related brain cells during the college years?]

I told him that my friend Tomi Lynn and I would pretend we were super heroes who rode Big Wheels up and down Bullring Lane, a culdesac near our houses. ['Olé!]

After a hard day's work as Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Tomi and I would play "restaurant" (as long as her mother wasn't around to put the kibosh on our menu items).

Typically, I played the customer and sat at the table while Tomi waited on me.

Tomi played the waitress, but looking back I realize I should say waitresses, as she seemed to suffer a multiple personality disorder in this game. One minute she'd be a waitress named Della and the next, a mean one named Kutchen.

[Tomi grew up to be an actress.]

Kutchen & Della routinely served the restaurant specialty, white bread smeared with a thick layer of butter and then coated in sugar.

[Ew.]

The other specialty was Pickles In A Bag.

Tomi would load dill pickle slices into a sandwich bag and tie a knot in it.

I would poke a hole in the corner of my bag and suck the pickle juice out.

[Where WAS her mother?!]

The Mayor was pretty intrigued about the pickle bag.

[Surely there must be more interesting stories to tell???]

This morning I wrote to my parents with an appeal...

Please, write down stories about my childhood and send them right away!

I wonder if it's already too late.

Perhaps from this day forward I will be known to The Mayor as that Sugary-Wonder Bread eatin', pickle-juice drinkin' Freak.

[Oh, hi!]

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What A Moment Can Make You Remember

When The Mayor was three months old, the two of us flew to England.

My friend Matthew asked me to become a Godparent to his son.

I was nervous about traveling with The Mayor. He was my first child and I had no idea what I was doing.

K couldn't come with me because he had taken all of his vacation time (and then some) when The Mayor was born.

As worried as I was, I made plans to go.

I'm not always the best, most reliable friend in a day-to-day way, but you can usually count on me to be there when it matters.

[Unless you schedule your wedding on the due date of my second child, my friend.]

I remember arriving in Manchester with The Mayor asleep in a sling.

I saw Matthew waiting for us and thought,


"We made it!"
Despite the triumph of simply arriving, I remember feeling completely awkward on that trip.

My body was still half inflated, like some forgotten children's float still hanging around the house in November.

Matthew and his wife, already the parents of two, seemed to know exactly what they were doing.

To me, they were old hands at this business of parenting.

Matthew lives in an 18th century farmhouse on the Pennine Way.

In the daytime, hikers trekked past the front door wearing backpacks and carrying walking sticks.

At night, we bundled up against the evening chill and walked into the meadow.

Matthew, in possession of a frozen mouse, would call to a local owl.

The nights when the owl appeared out of the silence to swoop down and accept our offering took my breath away.

The Mayor and I shared a farmhouse bedroom ordinarily belonging to Matthew's daughter.

Early one morning, I lay awake beside him, shaking rattles and other toys, trying to keep him quiet until I heard others awake in the house.

Eventually I did hear movement and I could tell that Matthew's two children had climbed into bed with him and his wife.

I could hear them laughing.

I looked down at The Mayor.

At three months he didn't do much.

Someone was being tickled in Matthew's room. There was squealing and more laughter.

I remembered jumping on my own parent's bed to wake them up on weekend mornings.

My parent's stalled for time in their warm covers while my brother and I demanded bacon and pancakes.

The Mayor waved his arms and legs in response to the toy rattle I shook.

I wondered how long it would be before The Mayor woke K and I by jumping on our bed.

I felt a little jealous of Matthew's family.

This past weekend, I remembered our trip to Matthew's house and that one morning in particular.

K and I were in bed when The Rooster, dressed in a leotard and tutu, climbed onto our bed and wiggled under the covers, pressing her small, cold feet against our warm bodies.

The Mayor, wearing his pajamas and an over layer of Pirate accessories, climbed aboard shouting directives at us, his weary ship mates.

"Batten down the hatches! Swab the decks!"

"I'm working below deck, Captain!" K shouted from under the covers, stalling for time.

There was silliness, tickling, laughter and, eventually, an insistent demand for pancakes and bacon.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

WWE Kingergarten

K and I went to orientation at the elementary school last week because The Mayor will start Kindergarten in the fall.

The program included a school tour.

When we went outside to see the playground, the Principal proudly showed off a new set of tire swings.

I had to hold back from using my world championship wrestling moves to put the HURT on him when, trying to be funny, he said,

“We were really fortunate to get the new tire swings. As soon as we get the area mulched in properly we expect to see a real uptick in broken arms.”

Excuse me Mr. Principal, did you say, BROKEN ARMS?

OH, HAYULL NO!

Don't even joke or I'ma hafta hitchoo wif my BODY AVALANCHE!


Monday, February 02, 2009

Stages

Sometimes at work, colleagues and I talk about whether we are more “process” or “task” oriented.

Metaphorically speaking, would we rather build the ship or sail it?

Personally, I would rather build the ship. I want almost nothing to do with sailing it.

I like starting things, creating something from nothing.

Maintaining something after it is built has a quality of endless monotony to me.

On Saturday night, K and I went out to dinner and then saw the play Mauritius.

[Excellent script, props to the playwright.]

After dinner we stopped for coffee.

“I want to tell you something,” I said, “but I don’t want you to take it personally. It’s not about you.”

“Okay,” K said.

“Lately I feel vaguely dissatisfied, kind of bored I guess. It all seems to stretch out endlessly ahead of us.”


K smiled, understanding.
“Every day is the same,” he said.

We talked about whether or not we aren’t officially entering… [roll suspense music]… middle age.

[Gasp!]

The innumerable possibilities open to us in our twenties and thirties now appear limited, to some extent, by the choices we’ve made.

We’ve built a number of ships – career, family, home.

K and I reflected on the wave of friend’s marriages and births we have witnessed over the last decade or two and speculated about the next wave.

Macabre as it may seem, we laughed at ourselves for imagining that all that we can look forward to is the incoming tide of divorces and deaths.

Last night, my friend Gail invited me to join her and some of her friends for the movie Revolutionary Road.
“You’re going to see THAT the day after our middle aged ennui conversation?” K said.

He prepared himself for a psychiatric intervention upon my return.

Oddly, the film made me feel better somehow.

I certainly don’t feel trapped and without options in the way that a 1950’s housewife might have felt.

Falling asleep after the film, I thought about gardening instead of ship building as an alternative contextual metaphor.

K and I planted two little seeds that sprouted into a family and now we must bend to the task of cultivation.

I should try to learn to find joy in the small, repetitive tasks, such as the pulling of weeds.

After all, I hear it's the careful, daily tending of the plants that brings about a good harvest.