Sunday, July 31, 2011

Can Facebook be more confusing to me than Twitter?

I am bleary-eyed from trying to hop right into this century (oops, or maybe it was the margarita Whit made for me) -- but anyway, I *think* I have (drumroll please) made a Mama Drama Facebook page and then actually connected this blog to it. So, if you want, try to hit the like button. From what I can tell, all that gets you is a trip to an unverified and random corner of cyberspace -- one that has nothing to do with Facebook OR my blog -- but give it a whirl and see what happens.

P.S. In case I haven't been perfectly clear, I HATE TECHNOLOGY.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Channeling my inner grandma

I’ve been thinking about a weird thing lately: being a grandparent. I guess it’s not really weird since I spent all week watching Jack and Caroline cavort with their grandparents, but it’s weird in that I never before even considered being a grandparent. Which I want to be. Someday. A long, long time from now. Kind of a lifetime from now.

So on the plane yesterday, while I was trying to ignore some kid screaming so loudly that I prayed the flight attendant would slip Benadryl (or valium) into his juice, I came up with an idea of the grandparent I want to be. I know it’s likely none of you can relate to this, because it’s an odd tangent my brain took, but the beauty of a blog is that my tangents can be indulged, by me if not by you. (And WOW that was a rambling sentence.)

Pretty much, most of how I want to be looks just like my in-laws, who defy the concept of aging and magnify the concept of love.

When I am a grandparent (and I’ll make Whit follow these rules, too):

I will rock hop in a freezing cold creek, or boogey board in a wild ocean, or push a swing in wicked heat. Even if I really, really, really don’t want to.

I will get in buggy paddleboats or go in spooky garages.

I will play Sardines, even if crouching in the bottom of a closet hurts my geriatric knees.

I will always have a favorite baked treat waiting for my grandchildren.

I will be tireless, knowing I can nap the minute they leave.

I will hook worms when my grandson wants to go fishing. (Maybe I’ll make Whit do this one, because YUCK.)

I will never make my child’s spouse feel anything other than loved, welcomed, appreciated and spoiled.

I will listen to my grandchildren tell me long-winded stories about kids I don’t know, books I haven’t read and video games I don’t understand.

I will never tell them they’re laughing too loudly.

I will never limit bedtime stories to one book.

I will love without criticism. I will let my grandchildren be who they are when they’re with me, even if that means they’re moody or crabby or scared of silly things.

Now, I wish I could do all these things as a mother. And maybe I do many of them at one time or another. But being a mother can be kind of hard; I am usually tired, I am always trying to do a million different things, and I always have to worry about consistent and conscientious parenting. And everything else. And, let’s face it, sometimes I have to do the dishes instead of playing cards. And sometimes, after parenting 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, it’s hard to be patient. Or even particularly nice.

And when I’m a grandparent, I will probably look back with envious nostalgia on these trying days now. Perhaps I’ll miss having legs that can run ten miles, or kids crawling into bed with me at night. Perhaps I’ll think reading a chapter in a book, uninterrupted, is kind of boring. Perhaps I’ll even miss being needed so much it’s oppressive.

Maybe. Mainly, though, I’ll appreciate the years I have now and be really, really thankful for the kids I’ve got. And I won’t rush through this time, and I’ll be the very best mother I can. And then, years and years and years from now, I’ll be a kick-ass grandma.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Report from the front lines

Hey, all you married ladies sick of your husbands’ shenanigans – those of you thinking the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, those of you enthralled by the idea of a man picking up the check and you NOT having to deduct it from your checkbook. This one’s for you.

On Saturday night, I had dinner and drinks with an old friend. Love this friend, love her kids, not crazy about her ex-husband, fascinated by the tales of dating on the other side of marriage.

As we were chatting, she pulled up a blog on her laptop. There was a picture of a guy – drop dead gorgeous, hot, smokin’, any hyperbole you want to apply would fit. Arms crossed, five o’clock shadow, sardonic and uber-sexy smirk, shades (you can’t even call them “sunglasses” – he’s just too cool for sunglasses), everything about him exuded perfection.

She looked at my expression. “Right??” she said, raising her eyebrows. The guy ended up being the friend of a friend and was profiled in the blog (for being sexy, I guess, I didn’t look beyond the picture to read the words), so my friend arranged to meet him for dinner and drinks.

Now, on paper (or screen), this guy was worthy of breaking every single commandment and relationship rule.

My friend is normal height (maybe 5’7”?), and was told this guy was the same height as her 5’11” friend. And apparently he was going to live up to the billing…cute, but also southern-sweet and smart. My friend dug out her Weight Watchers cookbook, ran to a Zumba class and got a spray tan. She was ready to be knocked off her (discriminating, but not crazy picky) feet.

So imagine her surprise when Mr. Hottie stood up from the table and was, at best, slightly below eye level with her. Imagine her surprise when she cracked a joke and he laughed uproariously, showing off a mouth of mangled teeth. Imagine her surprise when his voice sounded like he had just sucked on a helium balloon (okay, fine, I made that last part up, but it fits). Imagine the long, dark plummet of her heart when she realized that it is so true: you cannot ever judge a book by its cover. Or a stud by his picture.

They left the restaurant and she steered him by store-front windows so she could judge his actual height. When she realized her chin was pointing down, she gave up the illusion of a big, sturdy hunk.

She tried not to be funny so he wouldn’t bare his teeth.

When I finished laughing, I asked if she was going to see him again.

“Well,” she replied, answering me carefully, “he’s not married. So that’s a plus.”

Oh, all you single men out there, looking for a smart, sexy, accomplished woman in her 40’s – it’s like shooting fish in a freaking barrel. Where the hell is the best you’ve got to offer?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This is my life

Kids and I head out Monday for a quick trip to visit my in-laws (yes, I'm that annoying friend who really loves her in-laws and visits them even without my husband).

Anyway, we were at church, and I very piously whispered to Caroline, "Perhaps you should say a little prayer that we can get along really well when we visit Gramps and Ama."

She looked up at me and whispered back, "Okay, but right now I'm praying you'll take me shopping at Justice before the sale is over."

Nope. I'm not kidding. She really is, as my mother insisted, the payback kid. And you know my mom is feeding her these lines from Heaven, and then laughing her ass off at me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Yours is bigger but mine is better

This is so cliché it’s almost embarrassing to write, but it’s true: there’s a weird culture of garden wars that goes on in the suburbs.

This didn’t become totally evident to me until the other day, when one of Caroline’s friends was being dropped off for a playdate. I walked out to the car, intending to talk to the mother about what time she wanted the little girl home. As I reached the car, the door opened, and the mom barreled past me. Destination? My garden. (Remember my redneck garden? If not, click here and you can see that we’re not talking about mega acreage. You can click here to see what Whit thought of it.)

She walked around my dinky driveway garden and muttered to herself...”Well, my tomatoes don’t look good compared to these. But my cucumbers? They’re growing up the side of my garage. Maybe these don’t get enough shade. I like these little flowers; wonder what they’re called...”

Seriously, it was weird. But I totally get it. I was inspecting my neighbor’s garden last week and got an alarming case of herb envy because her basil is about thirty feet taller than mine is. Last summer, this same neighbor and I were very suspicious of Miracle Gro use because another neighbor had an absolutely incredible crop of everything she planted...we were not possibly going to admit that she had a better location, or superior soil, or (gasp!) that she was a better gardener. It had to be chemicals. And then supermom with the massive yard and therefore the massive, picture-perfect garden? I secretly cheered on the squirrel running from it with a fat green tomato in his mouth.

As soon as one friend drops off a plate of tomatoes and mozzarella and basil, another whips up gazpacho to outdo her.

And it’s not even just my strange little street. A friend posted pictures of the tomatoes she grew on Facebook. A friend in another state emailed me before and after pictures of her garden.

So maybe we all have some issues best explored on a therapist’s couch. But who has time for that? Not me. I’ve got to go count my strawberries, to see if I have enough to make a pie. That I will share, in a gloating kind of way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dog days of summer

This morning, Bo and I were celebrating Whit’s return: Bo with a long walk, me with blissful silence and solitude (because Bo, as human as he may seem in that he can actually talk, doesn’t try to engage in a conversation with me).

All of a sudden, a large SUV screeched to stop next to me. The window rolled down, and a friend of mine was behind the wheel. She glared at me.

“Summer SUCKS,” she said.

I laughed.

“It’s not funny. I’ve had it. Everyone yells at me and my husband is the hero because he buys tons of candy and lets them get Netflix movies at 10:15 pm. They stay up too late and tell me to wake them up in the morning and then scream that it’s too early. They hate what I cook and all my ideas are stupid.”

“I’m laughing,” I told her, “because you’re the first person who has admitted that.”

Normally, summer is my favorite time of year. Normally, I love having the kids home and not in camp. I love the pool, love the board games, love the lazy days, love the lax bedtimes. Love all the down time with Jack and Caroline who are, honestly, really enjoyable to be around.

And most of my friends say they love summer. (Granted, the ones who love it the most have kids in all-day camp from June to August or have fulltime jobs or send their kids to sleepaway camp. But still.)

For some reason, this summer is different, at least when we’ve been home and Whit’s at work or on a trip. Pretty much, Caroline complains and Jack cries. (I actually called him a baby yesterday. Well, “Stop acting like a baby.” Words I swore would never come out of my mouth. But, really, it was deserved.)

There’s nothing I can do that doesn’t offend one of them. Walk the dog? “You said it would be a short walk.” Take them to the pool? “We’re not getting in until you get in.” Play a game? “Caroline’s cheating!!” (Then he cries.)

A few days ago, I looked at Caroline and said, “You’ve complained about 52 different things today.”

She looked at me and said, “Then 52 times, you’ve complained about me complaining.” (Smart ass.) (Chip off the old block.)

“Let’s play a game, kids. Tomorrow, no one complains, not even me, and no one cries (not even me). Okay? If we can all do it, we can go out to dinner or go get ice cream.”

Caroline and Jack conferred quietly, and then looked at me and said, “Oh, Mom, it’ll never work. We don’t think you could do it.”

When does school start again?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Oh, Daddy, how we love thee

Jack and Caroline love Whit.

A lot.

Too much?

It’s cute when the kids tackle him when he walks in the door at the end of the day.

Cute, too, when they text him from my phone: hi dAd its jaCk do yoU mis me I mis yOu!!!!!

Kind of cute when Caroline says the house feels sort of empty while he’s on a trip.

Little less cute when Jack says, “I can’t wait for Daddy to come home because he plays with us.”

(You’ve got to be kidding me. I have carpal tunnel syndrome from throwing the damn torpedo to you in the pool for three hours.)

Very uncute when Caroline says, “Daddy never makes us go to church like you do but he says prayers at night with us better than you do.”

(Seriously? Well, guess what? I’m a CATHOLIC SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER. I’m kind of committed to going to church, and my religion doesn’t allow for too much ad libbing. Daddy’s a Presbyterian. Church is optional and they like to make prayers funny so people stay interested.)

And then decidedly rotten: “Next time, you go on a trip and Daddy can stay home with us.”

Oh, children, gather 'round while I tell you a story:

Once upon a time, there was a smart woman with a fantastic job and a cute figure. Perky boobs and a perk-y coworkers, courtside seats, great travel, excellent restaurants. She gave Daddy a special kind of hug (only twice, really, I swear to it) and she was blessed with two adorable children.

Her figure went to hell, and so did her perky boobs. So she could spend all her time, energy, money and sanity on those adorable children, she quit her job. Her salary vanished and her budget took a nosedive. In the next nine years, she got approximately four nights, in the aggregate, of uninterrupted sleep. She entered a world of joy: smiles, hugs, even “I love you”s from those children. She also entered a world of poop, puke and fevers.

This (absolutely amazing and selfless) mom did things she hated, just to make the children happy. She famously received an accidental enema by jumping off a high dive, despite her crippling fear of heights, because her children asked her to try it. She played with worms and applied medicine when “my bottom itches.” She listened to explanations of why boogers are interesting and answered questions like, “When I die, will bugs eat my eyeballs?”

Nothing was too small to receive her undivided attention. No boo boo went un-band-aided, no tears went unwiped. No hugs went ungiven and no cheeks went unkissed.

That mother gave her entire self to her children. In fact, for years her only personal outlets were long runs and a wordy blog.

That mother was told, in so many words and not in so many words, that she wasn’t exactly the favorite parent.

Guess what, sweet children?

That mother cleaned out every piggy bank she could find in her house and went to Vegas for a month with her friends. While she was hitting the roulette table, that superhero daddy was soothing scared children in the wake of nightmares, getting water, diffusing temper tantrums, focusing on food groups, caring for the dog, the fish, the frogs and the guinea pig, paying the bills, cleaning the house and planning fun 15-hour chunks of the day for those kids.

Think he had time or energy to play with them for hours on end? Nope. Think his prayers were funny? Only to the mommy, because she knew he was praying for her to come home.

The moral of the story, my dears?

A mommy in Vegas is a very, very happy mommy, and a daddy at home is a very, very crabby daddy.

Everyone begged that mommy to come home.

Especially those children.

So, really, just zip it with all the "Daddy's my favorite" talk all the time.

Because I’m this close to booking my ticket.

And you will cry. All of you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I love a man in the Philippines

It is absolutely pathetic that the Internet has taken over my entire life. I am not particularly computer literate (remember how Twitter gave me seizures until my friend and I went out to lunch and she gave me a tutorial on it?) and I despise the fact that if my computer breaks, I'm not smart enough to fix it and I'm paralyzed without it.

Deep breath.

I woke up this morning and I couldn't connect to the Internet. I talked to my ISP provider for 55 minutes. I learned that Ben has a daughter going into kindergarten and that she's really excited but he's a little nervous. He did not fix my computer.

I called Microsoft. Talked to a very nice man with a very foreign accent for 72 minutes. Learned that he is a computer genius but lacking in social skills. He did not fix my computer.

Jack lost a tooth. I asked him if he thought the Tooth Fairy could fix computers.

I called my ISP back and talked to Chris. I learned he is married and doesn't really like the summer and has a very sweet daughter who is scared of him and doesn't ask for anything. I, on the other hand, did ask him for things, namely a solution to my problem, for 64 minutes. He did not fix my computer.

I took the kids on a bike ride, walked the dog and fed them all lunch.

I called Microsoft back. 100 minutes and 51 seconds later, Stephen in the Philippines had zeroed in on my problem, fixed it, and run about fifty thousand tests to be sure it was fixed.

I think I am in love with Stephen in the Philippines.

Because he fixed my computer.

Meanwhile, Caroline had made plans with THE ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD. I finally unglued my ear from the phone to find out that I was taking her, Jack and a friend to raft night at a neighbor's pool. They knew how much it would cost, they had gathered rafts and changed into bathing suits.

I said no.

Everyone cried.

Including me.

So who's the sucker? Me. I am frantically trying to cook dinner for my father (who, remember, lives in my basement) (voluntarily; I feel compelled to add that) before we're due at raft night. And post something on this blog because I feel incomplete until I do. (Which is also pathetic, but I can only acknowledge one pathetic thing about myself a day.)

First person who stepped on a grape, thank you for inventing wine. Whit, thank you for buying me some before you left on your trip. Stephen, you and I have something special. I can just feel it.

Bottoms up, everyone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Someone stepped on a crack

I have a ruptured disc in my back. The last time it hurt was last fall, and it kind of got better on its own (right about the time they mentioned surgery). Very, very unfortunately, it's hurt (mildly) since the long car trip to the beach, and more unfortunately, now it hurts majorly. In that I mean there's no comfortable position, sitting or lying down or standing. I don't like drugs (most painkillers make me itch or throw up) so my options are limited.

Whit would tell you I'm not that stoic because he listens to me moan every time I move. But, until I wrote about it here, no one else really could really know how much it hurts because I think it makes me sound like a grandmother or a pregnant lady to say, "Oh, my aching back!" So I don't say it. I just shoot the kids death glares if they tackle-hug me in public.

Anyway, this morning I googled (yes, I do love Google) exercises for herniated discs, and one article talked about the type of person usually afflicted:

1. Obese.

2. Drives a truck for a living.

3. Engages in intense manual labor or heavy lifting for a living.

Geesh. Couldn't I even have an injury that's slightly refined? Or just more me, or who I would like to be? Couldn't ruptured discs come from whipping up fabulous dinners, playing umpteen games of Marco Polo in the pool or having a knack for cracking perfectly timed jokes?

Do I have to have the one injury shared by fat truck drivers who lift a lot of heavy things??

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Loving my new galaxy...

Caroline and Jack just finished a pancake breakfast and then Caroline shouted, "First one to make their bed wins! Neatly! Mom's the judge!"


Have I been abducted by aliens and plopped down in the middle of the Cleaver family? was a normal in which I was thinking that if no one ever took a picture of me from behind, maybe I wouldn't worry about my fat ass. That was what was on my mind (in a sort of obsessive way, I admit). Caroline was complaining because she didn't want to watch "baby" cartoons (Phineas just farted; that's hardly anything like Blue's Clues) and Jack was begging me to put chocolate chips in the pancakes instead of blueberries.

Caroline complaining and Jack eating? And me obsessing? Normal, normal, normal.

And now this. I really feel like I've entered the twilight zone.

Wait...I just heard her say, "First one to brush their teeth wins!"

Oh, aliens, thank you. Please keep me here for the rest of the summer. It's my happy place.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rocky mountain high (which is what I'd have to be)

Whit is packing for a week-long trip to Colorado. He occasionally does these “guy trips,” which I call “Brokeback Mountain trips” (no, I have never seen the movie. Whit tells me that if I saw the movie I wouldn’t think that’s quite so funny, but as long as I can plead ignorance, I laugh).

Some of his trips actually sound like a lot of fun, but this is the one trip that would never intrigue me if I saw it in a travel brochure.

From what I understand, it’s a fishing/camping trip. That’s okay. Whit is very outdoorsy (he can put on a tux and waltz at a charity ball or poop in the woods. That’s either attractive or completely repellent; going on 17 years with him and I haven’t decided which). He loves skiing and hiking and he really loves to fish. Sometimes I’ll fish with him. One year we were going to be in Idaho around his birthday, and I bought him an afternoon of fly fishing. Turned out the deal was for two people, so I put on my waders and fished with him and the guide. I loved it. So fishing isn’t the deal-breaker.

Camping? I’ve done that, too. He has a huge air mattress and a ceiling fan/light attachment and I like s’mores, so camping’s not the killer, either.

But these are the things you need to know:

1. When I say it is a fishing/camping trip, I mean that’s all they’ll do. They will fish, and then they will camp out. In tents. Not hotels. Which is how I like to rough it.

2. He needed me to buy eco-friendly soap so he can...wait for it...”shower in the river.” Yup, you heard right. Gross.

3. He is spending a fortune to live like a homeless person. Seriously. Trade the Colorado sky for a city underpass, and it’s the same thing.

4. Rain is irrelevant to his enjoyment of this trip. So are bugs. He’s not worried about bears or snakes or spiders. He’s not worried about serial killers lurking in the woods. (You can tell whose worries we’re actually talking about here.)

5. THEY WON’T EAT FISH. Unless they buy salmon at the local A&P (can you picture a bunch of dirty and smelly homeless guys storming the deli? They’ll call in the S.W.A.T. team: “Screw the cleanup in aisle five, we’ve got escaped mental patients by the bread!”). Is this because Colorado is a catch-and-release state? Because they’re humane fishermen? No clue. But fishing all day and then eating steak for dinner is just dumb.

What’s the lure (get it?) of this trip? A chance to eat beef jerky and not have your wife dry heave next to you? A chance to see if leaves are as soft as Charmin? Or just a chance to sit around a campfire and drink beer and fart and lie about inane facts?

Those are the things I will ponder, stretched out in my soft and comfortable king-sized bed, alone. Maybe I won’t see the magnificent starscapes Whit will, and maybe I would have thought the Colorado River was worth the trouble. But at least I’ll have a refrigerator and a shower.

And, for God’s sake, a toilet.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Administrative note

I ended up not liking the Google ads they put on the site, so I took them all off. But I added an Amazon widget, which will scroll through book recommendations. After a week at the beach with a sister-in-law who was scribbling book recommendations from everyone on the edge of her towel, I thought it would be an easy way to get some ideas if you want something to read.

Also, Caroline and I have been in a mother/daughter book club since first grade. We meet monthly with four other families and talk about whatever book we've read. This has been a wonderful experience and we read quite varied books, so I've added in some favorites and some on our list.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A baby by any other name...

So now it's me who will be leavin' on a jet plane, off to get Caroline. Since I won't be able to post anything, I am reprinting something I wrote years ago (in 2004, to be exact) because I've been thinking so much about Caroline as a baby. This article, which really captures my life back then, was fun for me to read. And I know many of my dog/kid friends will know exactly what I was talking about!

A baby by any other name...

I sighed in exasperation when I saw the yellow puddle on the floor of the playroom. I then looked into the guilty eyes of my two-year-old daughter, Caroline, who was stark naked, and the patient eyes of our five-year-old yellow Lab, Bo, who was also naked except, inexplicably, for a colorful birthday party hat on his head.

“Who did it?” I asked sternly.

No response. Then Caroline, currently in the throes of potty training, said in a whisper, “Bo did it.” Bo just looked at me, almost rolling his eyes.

This unclaimed accident wasn’t the first time I had considered the parallels of parenting kids and dogs. In fact, it was then that I remembered a conversation I had with a coworker about four and a half years ago. He was telling me about being awakened repeatedly the previous night by his toddler. I innocently responded by telling him that I had been awakened repeatedly the previous night as well, but by Bo, who needed to go to the bathroom four times. He told me his son had drawn on the walls with crayon. I commiserated, telling him Bo chewed a chunk off the edge of our antique coffee table. Getting agitated, he told me his son was lactose-intolerant. I told him Bo couldn’t eat onions.

Clearly enraged, he finally said tersely, “Raising a child is completely different than having a puppy. It’s insulting to me that you would even dare to compare the two.”

Ignorant, not yet a member of that exclusive parenthood club, I backed off. I figured I couldn’t imagine the difficulties one would experience raising a child, so I considered myself lucky to be dealing with just a puppy. I ignored my mother, who said, “Have a baby, for the love of God. They’re easier than dogs.”

I soldiered through the nights of not sleeping, the destroyed property, the incessant barking and the concerns about his weight gain and doggy development. I fought the panic that arose when our boy dog wouldn’t lift his leg to pee and preferred to squat like a girl dog, wondering if he did, in fact, know he was a boy. My husband and I took Bo to puppy kindergarten, then basic obedience classes, then advanced obedience classes – all on Saturdays at 8:00 am. I cleaned up accidents in the house. I read books on the best way to train dogs and I went to health food stores to buy the ingredients to make homemade dog treats. I planned playdates with neighborhood dogs so Bo would be socialized. I hired an expensive dog walker so Bo would be well taken care of while my husband and I worked. All the while, I remembered my friend’s comment, and I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to have a baby.

Then I had a baby.

I didn’t sleep. Everything I owned was pooped on or puked on. To say she cried often is giving her quite a bit of credit. Concerns about weight gain and development ruled the first year of her life. I fought the panic that arose when she tried to dance and I thought she was having seizures. She’s been in Gymboree classes, swimming, gymnastics and music classes since she was six months old. I clean up accidents in the house. I own – and have read – books on every child-rearing philosophy out there. She never ate baby food from a jar; I steamed and pureed organic fruits and vegetables for her. She has a playdate network that makes kindergarten pale in comparison. When my husband and I have something to do, she is taken care of by my siblings and closest friends so she gets incredibly attentive care.

It’s exactly like having a dog.

Bo chewed the heels off a pair of $300 pumps. Caroline threw diamond earrings in the toilet and then used the same toilet. Yes, the earrings were recovered, but it wasn’t pretty. Bo needs a three-mile run every day or he’s bouncing off the walls. Caroline needs a solid two hours of physical activity or she’s incorrigible. Now, I love my child infinitely more than I love my dog. He sank down the priority ladder when I had Caroline, and he’ll be lowered another rung with every subsequent child we have. But that doesn’t change the fact that raising a puppy and raising a child are remarkably similar experiences.

My coworker is now the vice president of marketing for a dotcom that made it. I’m a stay-at-home mom expecting my second child. We live in vastly different worlds, and only one of us spends every day with both a dog and a child. I received a smug email from him last week, saying, “Still think having children is the same as having a dog?”

I didn’t respond. You just can’t talk to people like that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Death to the amphibians

(Yes, my literal friends, you’re right – fish aren’t amphibians. But it’s a catchy title.)

I love dogs. Love, love, love. Adore Bo, the worst dog in the entire world, with whom I engage in a physical battle every night to cook dinner before he can snatch it off the counter. Love him like crazy. Am oddly drawn to Caroline’s guinea pig, who does have a cute personality and squeaks like a motel bed every time I walk near her cage carrying romaine lettuce.

But ohhhhh, how I hate the other non-human residents of this house.

Caroline has those weird pygmy frogs you used to be able to buy in a Hallmark store until the EPA or ASPCA or some other acronym shut that operation down. Jack was five and it was Caroline’s birthday, and he was magnetically drawn to the adorable little frogs with the multicolored rocks in the square lucite box. Happy birthday.

Personality? None. Can you pet them? No. Are they fun to watch? No. You (I) feed them whenever I can find the frog food before Bo does (he’s eaten three full containers of it because if I don’t say, “PUT IT WHERE HE CAN’T REACH IT” in Greek, apparently Caroline can’t understand me).

And then Jack’s fish. He begged for a fish. The (I could only pray) fatal words he uttered were: “One that won’t die fast.” Until this, I had him convinced that fish are temporary pets. You have them about a week, they die, you flush them. But this freaking fish has lasted more than a year. Personality? None, except that it would kill any other fish we put in there. Pet-able? Good God, no. Not if you value your fingers. Fun to watch? Ha. Hardly.

Both of these stupid “pets” have tanks that get dirty and need to be cleaned regularly. By me. Which is smelly and a little nerve-wracking since the frogs sense freedom and try to jump out of whatever bowl I put them in. And I’m always in the kitchen, and, well, yuck. That's a dinner mistake just waiting to happen.

So, I admit it, I’ve tried to kill them. Not meanly, not in a homicidal way, but just “forgetting” to find someone to feed them while we went on vacation. (Damn the seven-day pellets Whit found at the pet store.) Just not cleaning the water until it’s so murky I’m sure they’ll swim or jump into the wall so many times they’ll want to commit suicide from the senselessness of living. Just filling the fish tank with water when I do clean it, but maybe not enough for really comfortable swimming. Just not reminding the kids that they exist and letting the dog in their rooms.

To no avail.

Would I get arrested (and subsequently acquitted, apparently) if I googled whether or not chloroform would work on fish?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gloria Steinem, can you please kick some ass for me?

No lie...I was mowing the grass (which I happen to really like doing. Talk about getting your aggression out! You're murdering grass! It's fabulous!) and a guy drove by, stopped his car, and said disapprovingly, "It's a shame your husband makes you do that."

WHAT???? What? Do I look like an indentured servant? I am no feminist, but is it really akin to being kept in a cage and beaten when your husband says, "Hey, you want to mow the grass? Go for it."

And anyway, I come from a handy family. (Okay, if you know my family, please stop laughing. Maybe I should say I come from a family who can build entire businesses based on the assumption that others are handy.)

Whatever. I can snake a toilet and not ruin my manicure. I can fix a garbarge disposal with a j-wrench (okay, I'm not sure if that's its real name, or if someone was screwing with me since my name starts with a "j.") But anyway.

Dude. Come on. It's mowing the grass. It's okay. I'll burn my bra for you, but first I have to take out the trash.

Leavin' on a jet plane...

…actually it was a Subaru station wagon, but she’s gone.

Caroline, that is. Gone to spend the week eight hours north of home, with my brother and sister-in-law and their new baby.

I like to call it “protected independence.” Independence because, of course, she’s on her own. She has to make her own decisions and choose her own behavior. Protected, because her main chaperone is a fifth grade teacher and a really responsible aunt who really loves her.

But if course it’s hard for me to send her off. Because, let’s face it, I’m a total sap.

This weekend she and Jack rode in the annual neighborhood July 4th bike parade. I breathed a sigh of relief to see that nine years old wasn’t too old to string crepe paper through the spokes of her bike tires or tape flags on to her handlebars. I remembered with wistful sadness that exactly nine years ago, I plopped Caroline in her red Radio Flyer wagon, bedecked in a patriotic Gymboree outfit, and wondered as I pulled her along what it would be like when she was old enough to ride a bike.

That’s how it goes, I guess. In the morning you can watch your child be a child, and remember when she was a really small child, and feel like only ten minutes have passed between 15 months old and nine years old. Then in the afternoon you can hand her some “mad money,” remind her to brush her teeth and say her prayers and use her manners, and then say goodbye and send her off.

She’s called a few times. She’s deliriously happy.

Whit’s in a definite Daddy Funk.

Jack has already taped a note to her bedroom door telling her he misses her.

I’m enjoying having some Jack time, because he’s a funny kid (“Jack, how many months are in a year?” “Umm...all of them!”) and we’re planning to do things Caroline doesn’t like, like eat shrimp for dinner.

But still. We miss her. I miss her. And no one else wants to play with her guinea pig.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lullaby, Caroline style

“Please go to sleep.”

“But. I’m. not. tired.”

“But you are! You woke up at 6 a.m. Since then, all you’ve done is play outside. You rode your bike for two miles, you swam and went off the diving board and jumped in the pool for four hours, then you had a playdate for three hours, and I think all you did there was play different variations of tag. You are tired.”

“I’m not.”

“Really? ‘Cause you’re kind of crying.”

“I’m crying because I’m MAD that I can’t stay up LATE and you treat me like a BABY.”

(Welllll....who’s having the temper tantrum? Not the 41-year-old mom, at least not that you can tell.)

“I know you’re mad. But please stop kicking the wall because you’ll wake up Jack.” (And I might try to sell you on eBay.)

“Please stop pulling all the covers off your bed.”

(Please stop looking at me like Satan has taken up residence in your body, because you’re kind of freaking me out.)


“Don’t scratch my back. Don’t lie here next to me. Because I’m not tired. And you can’t trick me into going to sleep.”