Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Princess-O'dilia and the End of My Crisis

It was the children, of course, who really introduced me to Kipling. Somehow, we ended up reading Rikki Tikki Tavi, a story that I have always hated. They absolutely loved it so we followed it with the Jungle Book and many of the Just So Stories. He's lovely, like eating chocolates as the Evangelical house wife said once. It's Kipling and Joan Didion right now. They are where my heart is:

…she resolved to reconstruct the details of occasions on which she recalled being happy. As she considered such occasions she was struck by their insignificance, their absence of application to the main events of her life. In retrospect she seemed to have been most happy in borrowed houses, and at lunch.--Democracy, Joan Didion. 

But I'm too busy to tell you about beautiful things now. I was just going to quickly tell you how my mid-life crisis ended.

It was Princess-O'dilia (no last name, multi-syllabic dashed and hyphenated first name) who first introduced me to this idea of giving birth to something, to an idea. I didn't have time to explore this metaphor with her because I was more interested in hearing about how she had left Christianity at forty to become a new-age spiritual birthing coach. People's conversions out of Christianity are terribly evocative to me.

But the metaphor itself helped me to realize what was going on. The whole thing actually started with a metaphor. I don't often feel in metaphor, but last Spring, I started to feel like I was harboring an un-danced song.

And I went through this whole emotional thing. At best, there were moments of euphoric mania. At worst, I was chasing away Sylvia Plath moments with vodka tonics. Look though my previous posts, if you can't see crazy written over a lot of them, you're blind. (Technically speaking, I haven't had a Sylvia Plath moment since the nineties, but I was very blue quite a lot of the time. It was much worse than that winter where The Man worked all the time, and I had no friends except that canister of hot chocolate powder that I used to keep in my closet. I would nip from it when the kids weren't looking and when I was down.)

And now that the birthing pains have passed, what's left? What did I give birth to? Part of it was that I had to realize that a shift away from the ideologies that I held most dear was not an admission of failure but rather a realization that sometimes we need to have paradigm shifts. (I know. That's a totally simple idea to be preceded by months of crazy, but I am a horribly ideological thinker. I cling to them. If I were religious, I would be banging a tambourine at best and being a suicide bomber at worst.)

And another thing that happened was that I started working on a project. It's an important project, . It'll be meaningful, hopefully, but the process will be meaningful for sure so that's fine.

I have nothing to lose, and in the meantime, I'm going to wrap myself in Joan Didion and see where it goes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Importance of Donna Reed and Why Too Many Pillows Causes Global Warming

I've been spending an absolutely glorious afternoon vacuuming, and well, I have a few thoughts on the matter:

A) One of the reasons that I haven't vacuumed lately is because I have recently run out of vacuum bags. I am eagerly awaiting the UPS man to bring me some new ones. I normally vacuum ever day or every other day (this is certainly not a sign of how clean we are but rather a sign that we are so slovenly that I am forced to daily adress the visible debris that covers our floor).

In "Nickled and Dimed", Ehrenreich says that the threshold of house size where a family ceases to be able to maintenance their own home is 3,500 feet. Sorry, Babs, but my threshold is like 800 square feet or maybe 600.

Anyway, (and hopefully this doesn't come across as crass but it wouldn't be the first or last time), I just think that if my dad had realized he was going to kick his metaphorical bucket just two months after buying my vacuum, he would have probably bought me a Dyson. I'm sure right now he is kicking himself in heaven or purgatory. But, hindsight is 20 or 20 so there's nothing I could do but borrow the neighbor's vacuum which brings me to point number B.

B) I'm using my neighbor's vacuum. She has used many of my things. It's great. However, people tend to borrow less and less. In fact the other day, my son told me that if I borrowed the neighbor's "slip and slide" for his birthday he would die of embarrassment so I boycotted my Walmart boycott and spent my last twenty bucks on a piece of crap that will be in a landfill in less than a year.

A few months ago, I was watching Donna Reed to mentally prepare myself for a trip to my mother's. Season One Episode Two: what happens? First of all, Donna wears pants thus proving that Mary Tyler Moore was not the first housewife to wear pants on television. However, if it's possible, there's even a more important point than that, and that is this: Donna, who is by profession a doctor's wife, wants to take her son camping, and she does this with a tent from the neighbor.

Borrowing, it's essential. Here's how it works: one neighbor buys one well-made item, and the other neighbors borrow it. As a result, we don't all buy crappily-made items that have been manufactured in China. Thus, we save our manufacturing economy and we put Walmart out of business. It's a beautiful plan, seriously. We just all consume way too much. Which brings me to number C.

C) A few years ago, the Man said that too many throw pillows cause global warming. I, of course, got all huffy as I do when he says something ridiculous. But, I've realized that yes, over-consumption, in the form of pillows or anything else causes global warming.

It's a sick cycle, but my carpet looks good so I can't get too upset about such things.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer is Not Over

I just saw a naked toddler and a topless boy sprint past my window, and Boy Two is around the block with a gang of neighbors playing. A couple weeks ago, I was again silently bemoaning the loss of an outdoor culture, but as if in answer to my prayer, a ton of new neighborhood kids materialized for summer fun. The weather is warm (not so much today but yesterday it was), the bike trails are full of grasshopper carnage, and yet, I keep hearing people say, "I can't believe summer is over."

Umm, What? I have a calender. I get one every March or April when I decide that this year I will be organized and on top of stuff. My calender says its mid-summer. I think there's five weeks left, but if we're going to define our seasons by when school boards tell us to, then, I guess yes, summer is over. Fuck the solstice, fuck the equinox, Earth cycles have ceased to have meanings now that we have school boards.

(Duly noted that summers off are only relevant when kids had to work the fields, but then people should say, "wow, I can't believe school is starting in the middle of summer. Things have sure changed since I was kid," instead of "Summer's over.")

I have a point. I'm getting there. School starts on Monday, and we will be homeschooling. (yea!!)

Now, that the yea!!! is out of the way (and now that I have stopped clapping), I have to admit that we have made this decision without addressing a few key issues.

A) Money: we seem to have enough at the moment. (I doubled what I make so that helps, but I'm never sure how steady my earnings will be), but not having any benefits (vacation, health insurance, etc.) is a pain in the ass. And we haven't addressed the fact that I need to get a career so that eventually the man can retire from the stove.

B) There's really just A, but in regard to B, I'll wrap up my so-called midlife crisis in another post in case you're dying to hear how it all ended.  

I have a goal for this year, and that is to have a schedule. There seems to be a fine line between unschooling and sitting around all day with our cocks out watching TV and eating Cheetos. (Well, that would never happen becuase we canceled the cable and we don't eat fake cheese, but you get the point). I just need to draft a little schedule that keeps us busy enough but not too busy. I'm a firm believer that if the boys are busy playing all day then that's what they need to do, but if they're bored then we need to add a little more.

Boys One and Two are going to a one day school on Mondays, and I'm trying to find an affordable place for Boy Three to go that day too. Then, the older boys will have Karate Tues, Thurs, and Saturdays so that will suck up some time. The rest of the schedule looks like this 3 hours of free play followed by 20 minutes of reading practice. It should work. We'll see how it goes.

Boy One has just walked in and metaphorically slapped me in the face with a heap'o'whining so maybe it's all a mistake. Maybe I should just stick them on the school bus for what's been referred to as "thirteen years of feeling socially inadequate" all while learning very little. OR maybe, I'll feed him a sandwich and then see where we are.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

All About Me, Me, Me

Thirteen years ago, someone said about me, "You have a penchant for cruelty." It's stuck with me as one of the truer things that's ever been said about me.

We were in the break room at work. One of my co-workers had just gotten a haircut, and I said, "Hey, David Bowie called, and he wants his hair style back." At that point, I wouldn't even have been able to identify David Bowie in a line-up of two, but I thought the line sounded funny so I used it. The poor guy with the bad haircut stormed out of the room, and this woman whom I totally admired left me with that thought to ponder for the rest of my days.

One of my old lovers just sent me a story that she had written about me. "Don't let it inflate your MF ego," she said before she sent it. Her love, this undying love that she harbored for me when I, to put it bluntly, had no interest and had moved on could have inflated my MF ego (and maybe it has to a certain degree), but what I am more moved by is how well she captured my penchant for cruelty.

It's not something I mean to have, and it's something that people who don't know me well rarely ever recognize. They don't see it because I am so fucking, painfully nice to strangers and my friends. I love my friends, but to my lovers and my husband and sometimes my children, I am horrible.

You know how psychos abuse animals when they're children and you know how I am completely fucking indifferent to pets of all types. Well, I think that's linked.

I've gotten to know my aunt fairly well recently (the relationship has been predominantly online, but she's always been my favorite since I was little), and I am continually struck by how similar I am to her and to that side of the family in general. We spent much more time with my mom's family when I was growing up, but my entire make-up mirrors my dad's side. My sense of humor, my intelligence, my looks, it's all them.

She, my aunt, was told that she was fundamentally mean by her then soon-to-be ex-husband so she went to the mall and had it printed on a sweatshirt. FUNDAMENTALLY MEAN.

Maybe, it's that, maybe it's a genetic thing. (I think that sweatshirt is bloody hilarious by the way.)

But then, I never can take the blame for anything. Remember yesterday when I lost my son. Instead of thinking, "Hey, Minger, you're a giant d-bag who should have remembered to remind your son to wait at all major intersections and not get too far ahead", I just went off on a long-winded tangent about free-range kids and how much some of the neighbors suck.

The Man worked six days in a row, had one day off, and then returned to work. He filled his day off with a morning at work and an afternoon at the dentist for a tooth extraction, and I spent the whole day reminding myself to be nice to him. He said later that he can actually see my inner struggle to be nice on days like that, and it's a struggle that I often lose.

Tonight when my son was puking, instead of thinking, "Oh, poor sick, baby," while I held his head, I thought, "Jesus, we need to have a serious talk about mastication. Your chewing abilities suck. I hope you go back to sleep soon."

That's it. I'm just not that nice, and well, what does one do about it?  

Sunday, August 14, 2011

PANIC!!! (or how not panicking may save your child from death via keg stand)

And in our eighth encounter with the police in a year and a half, the policeman asked for my name and number because he wanted to include in his report that the man he had just ticketed had said "fuck" in front of my children. About forty minutes earlier, we had been passed by a cyclist who ran a red, said "fuck yeah", and then was given a ticket by this lovely cop in the undercover SUV. Unfortunately, if saying fuck in front of my kids is a crime, I'm probably due for some time in the clink.

During this conversation with the cop, an ordinary person may have taken the time to tell this officer that the reason I was going north and then south on the same road over this forty minute interval was because I had misplaced my eight year-old, but I really didn't want anyone to panic (anyone besides The Man who was sending me frantic text messages every two seconds).

About a year ago, I got separated from boy one at the grocery store. When I asked someone if they could page him, the reaction was absurd. "Code Adam. Code Adam." Flashing Lights. Security doors closing. I was like, umm, he's probably just browsing, could you just page him to the front please. Luckily, before they could fully implement their code, he sauntered up with a great sale price on a baked good or something.

Apparently, my feelings about not wanting the cops to freak out are shared by the kids because two hours later when I had finally found him, he told me that he had thought about going North on Remington to find us but hadn't because there were cops everywhere, and he didn't want anyone to freak out.

(For those interested in logistics...  We were on a four mile ride. At mile two, Boy One got ahead of us. Boy Two and I continued to ride up, and we turned North onto Remington hoping to see Boy One waiting on the side of the road. Boy One, however, had passed Remington, continued an extra block West, and was waiting for us at the Dairy Queen parking lot. After he got tired of waiting for us, he decided the safest thing to do was to head home. Once there, he went to the grocery store and spent a bunch of his birthday money on candy. He also gave some change to some little girls who were crying becuase their mom wouldn't let them ride the pony. Technically, he's not supposed to go to the grocery store without permission, but I know that once he starts to feel adult, he doesn't stop.)

The freaking out is the problem. (Okay, so maybe the fact that we all got too spread out on our bike ride is the real problem, but we'll deal with that at another time). People are way too freaked out about lost kids. I have been free range since well before Lenore Skenazy ever popped on the scene. Yes, of course, there's probably times when it would do us well to freak out about a lost kid, but for the most part, we probably need to calm down. (Out of all my parenting ideas, this is the one that has the least resonance with anyone I've ever meet.)

And we've been encountering problems about the free range business every step of the way. Many people have taken it upon themselves to tell my kids that they're going to get kidnapped (unlikely, and how about I stand in a parking lot and tell all the kids on their way into minivans that they're going to crash and die which is much more likely). People have told me that I shouldn't let my then three year-old (Boy One in St Paul) walk up and down in front of the house because people are driving around looking for white kids to put into child slavery (no, they're not). The list really goes on and on.

Lately, Boy One has been being teased by his idiot friend the preacher's kid because he's allowed to go to the grocery store and buy candy (I can see the store out my fucking kitchen window) and because he can go a block away and swim with another neighbor. Here's the taunt Boy One has to endure, "My mom actually cares about me and gives me rules. You don't have a good mother." Oh, wow, stick a knife in my heart. (Puh-lease)

I tell him his options are to notice that his friend is jealous, not tell his friend about his adventures, tease him back, or if he wants, I can give him a bunch of extra restrictions if my so-called lax rules are hindering his social life.

Their boundaries are the entire subdivision which is probably a half a mile square with the only caveat being that they cannot enter any houses where I have not meet the parents. Consequentially, I have met a lot of parents. I'd say I know more neighbors than people who have lived in this neighborhood for years, and it was the same in any neighborhood we've lived in. Beyond that, they can go up to three miles away with permission and my phone number. Boy Two has no interest in journeys like that, but Boy One has always been one for adventure.

Back to the freaking out problem. Boy One has an incredible sense of direction and a solid set of instincts regarding people. However, I worry that a simple request like, "Hey, sir, I just broke my leg on the bike path, would you please call my mother, " will have disastrous results like police and investigations and blah blah blah because if we don't totally undermine our kids' sense of independence, we must be bad parents.

That's what I worry about. When, they've gotten ahead of me on the path and arrived home twenty or thirty minutes before me, or when they've gotten separated from me at the library, I've never worry about that not-at-all-ubiquitous old man who's waiting to snatch them. I worry about the fact that other people won't be willing to help them without serious rebukes toward them or me because we're all supposed to micromanage the shit out of our kids.

So maybe the next time we see a kid who wants us to call their mother or a kid who needs directions to somewhere or a kid who is taking a walk on his own or a mother who wants to know if we've seen her kid, maybe we should just chill the eff out, offer help if necessary, and stop adding to the whole culture of PANIC!

Lastly, I'll admit that I have lost the kids a few times (but if you know me, you'll know that I'm the type of person who loses and looks for the glasses that are on her head and the keys that are in her pocket and everything else that isn't so close), but I would far rather have lost the kids a few times then face the alternative.

My neighbor has two ten year-olds who are not allowed to play outside unless under direct adult supervision. Today was the fifth time that I've ever seen them outside in a year and a half. I watched them ride lamely up and down the sidewalk under the gaze of their aunt. They aren't allowed to play with the other kids on the street, and honestly, I don't even know if they're capable of engaging in conversation or making any decisions.

As I watched them, I thought fuck-it (I know, a totally eloquent sentiment): It's important for the kids to be independent, and its important for them to engineer some of their own social relationships (even if I'm not a fan of the idiot preacher's kids). I'd rather spend a few hours looking for a lost kid once a year or so than have a bunch of incompetent lily-livered weirdos who have no sense of how to survive.

PS. I have no idea what lily-livered means, but I'm throwing it in.

PPS. It just seems that if you aren't allowed to venture around your block or hopefully further by age nine, it might be difficult to decide whether or not you want to do meth or have sex or do a keg stand, and those are all decisions that are coming up quickly for these kids.
So if we all calm down and let the occasional kid get lost and found without a heap of hoopla, we might be able to help our kids avoid real dangers like dying from alcohol poisoning after a keg stand because they've never had any practice making real decisions.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Exorcism in Aisle Five Please

Monday at six PM, I was in front of Chase bank struggling to keep ten pounds of potatoes contained in their broken bag that was sitting in the baby seat on the back of my bicycle. To the banker who was walking out, I gave my very best I'm not fat with gray hair smile and said, "Oh, I'm just practicing with this bag of potatoes in case I ever decide to have a real kid." He seemed to believe me.

Seriously, potatoes, flours, eggs... none of those home ec experiments will ever approximate children. I should have sold tickets to my house tonight. Anyone with a cock thirsty teenage daughter would have been privileged to get her a spot at my show tonight. Holy. Cow. Birth Control. Oh.. My. Gawsh. Can I get a late term abortion for my 3, 6, and 8 year-olds?

Seriously, their heads spun three sixty's independently of their bodies, and I was glad, glad that just cake ended up on the floor and that there were no broken windows. Exorcism in aisle five, please.

Let's just say that birthday party, sugar-over load does not go well for us.

But, they're asleep now, an hour earlier than usual, and I have lost the steam to write any more.

I was going to try to loop the sarcasm back to something meaningful like how even though I hate birthday parties, I love to see neighbor kids learn about food at our house. Today, we rolled out pizza dough and topped it. Other times, we've picked cherries, baked cookies, made stock...  They've all loved it every time.

The pizza got made and eaten, the homemade chocolate fudge cake with fudge frosting got made and eaten, and when they all left, I mainlined some vodka and fudge. Too much of both. Then, I kept my cool through demon children, and now, I'm spent.

Good night.  


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Birthdays... Bah Humbug.

Because I'm  a miserly old so and so, I totally hate birthday parties. I think I would convert from atheist to Jehovah's witness just to get out of birthdays I hate them so much. Maybe, I could just get the atheists to drop them from their belief system, but I don't have Richard Dawkin's phone number so it's not going to happen.

I'm feeling particularly annoyed about it today because I'm on the way to Target to buy the kid across the street a present with my hard earned money. Neighborhood update: The bullies moved away, harmony has been restored, and now, I have to buy a dang gift. Last year, I gave this kid homemade play-do and a note that said, "Thanks for having a birthday party during a fucking recession. Hope you enjoy your homemade gift, loser." Okay, obviously, I didn't include that note, and I threw $5 and a matchbox car into the gift so that my kids wouldn't be mortified. They were already beyond embarrassed that I made them wrap the gift in newsprint.

When I was a kid everybody wrapped their gifts in the funny pages. We need to return to old fashioned values like that. I'm sure it would have a positive environmental impact.

I think birthdays should be as low-key as possible. My main MO on parenting is to give them as little as possible because they'll never appreciate it, and they'll just ask for more. Besides, if they get everything when they're little, it'll just be blow and hookers by the time they're ten, and nobody wants that.

Last year, I managed to convince my son to have a family party two months after his birthday and with only two relatives. That was great. This year, however, he wants a party. Why we would throw a party to celebrate the 8 year anniversary of the last time I spent a night alone with my husband is beyond me, but I have unwittingly consented to the idea. I guess we'll have neighbors over, and we'll toss clothes pins into a glass milk jug. Kids love that, right?

I'm going to try to convince him to let me put this on the invitations: "Don't feel obligated to bring a gift, and if you would like to bring one, just bring an old toy that you're sick of because the chances are high that I'm going to break it or my mom's going to throw it in the garbage within a month anyway. Wrap it in a newspaper. Thanks." That'll never work because most of his friends' parents were born in the 80's so they don't read the news, and if they do, it comes in a totally non-wrapping-paper-blog-format.

Just to be mean, I've made the kids spend their birthday money on sausages and over-priced yogurt that I would never normally consent to. The only part that I like about birthdays is when we cuddle up, and I tell them about the day they were born. Boy Two's favorite boast for a few months last year was, "I shot out of mommy's vagina in one push." He was the winner in the pushing category.

Birth is cool, but birthday parties, bah humbug.