Thursday, April 30, 2009

Comment: Crawling into the Millenium

I finally did it. I got an IPhone. And I think I love it. It’s clearly smarter than I am, and possibly better looking, but I’m diggin’ it.

I haven’t figured out 95% of the functions, and when I go to answer it I always miss the call. (But I selected the old school phone ring sound; it takes me back to the 70s. It's been three days and I still think it's hilarious when it rings. Meanwhile my kids are all, "what's that?!") When I listen to voicemail, my cheek hits the number keys. Are my cheeks too puffy? I'll have to look into this. And word to the wise--don't use your IPhone after you've moisturized your hands.

Clearly I'm only partway up the learning curve.

But dude! YouTube on your phone! Itty Bitty Email! ITunes! I can play Run-DMC for one kid while we wait for the other to finish up at school. It’s awesome. I’m talking like I’m twelve! OMG it’s so FAB!

I need to go be alone with my phone now. We’re just getting to know each other, but I’m pretty sure this relationship has a lot of potential.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Comment: Of course I’m talking about Facebook. What did you expect?

It’s been two days and I’m already a junkie again. But this time, I’m just going to have to learn to regulate. I want to stay in touch with the world, and the world is on Facebook.

I won’t throw sheep, I won’t send fake balloons or take quizzes that tell me what I already know (I’m an aging GenXer stuck in the 80s who still loves Duran Duran). I’m a demographic, I know that, the media knows it, and Dove chocolate sure as hell knows it.

Maybe it’s the newness of being back on after two months in the dark, but I’m all hopped up. I’ve had a bunch of fun catching up conversations with people I hadn’t talked to in ages, even though we were on Facebook previously. So maybe by leaving, I came to appreciate the renewed connections that were amassing in my early friending days but that I took for granted because they all came up so quickly. If I really go through my list of friends, I see that there are more old friends, true friends, than I remembered. From whence hath come this newfound optimism? I know that. Nor why I doth speak like this. (Sorry.)

Like George Costanza, I’m back baby, and I’m lovin’ it.

I’m really hoping that Facebook isn’t a gateway drug to things like Twitter and Quibble (okay I made that up, but wouldn’t it be funny to have a texting site where you just picked at semantics from moment to moment? You could Quibble your Tweets. Dude, that’s so meta! I’m a freakin’ genius!)

I hope I don’t ever end up Twittering anyone. That just reminds me of people on their cell phones who wait until they’re backing OUT into traffic to use their non-hands-free (hand-ful? hands-on?) cell phones to announce to their destination party “Yeah, I’m leaving now. I’m on my way. Yup, I’m driving. What are you doing? I’m driving. I’m on my way. Leaving now.” Masters of the Obvious.


But if I've learned one thing from my love/hate relationship with Facebook, it is this: Never say never.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Comment: Well, I've done it.

I’m back in the fray. Facebook is back in my life. We’ll see how long this can go on without getting dysfunctional.

Thing is, when a family is moving far away, it can get lonely to move (especially if you just did last year, FFS) so a person might want to get in touch with other persons and let them know how things are and WHERE things are throughout the whole transition.

I’m just sayin’.

As a matter of fact, I had a lovely experience today with my re-entry into Facebook.

People actually noticed that I was gone.

Sniff, you like me, you really like me.

Seriously, I’m just warning you that there will no doubt be much kvetching and ranting about Facebook, while I am on it all the while, keeping in touch with people I like and ignoring the people who friended me for street cred (as if).

So stay tuned for more bitching and twitching about Facebook. I do tend to go on.

But you already knew that.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Complaint: We're not really complaining.

My friend and fellow blogger The Solipsist was talking about insults in one of his recent posts, and he got to the term “Canuck.” I’d like to set the record straight on that.

Speaking as a Canadian, and ex-pat, I would have to say that I think the word “Canuck” is just uber-lame. It’s not cute, it's not accurate, and it sounds like a marriage of the words fuck and Canadian and as a polite and law-abiding citizen of Canada I have to take umbrage at the term. Politely, of course. I'm fine with it, you know, but other people might now like it.

Also, The Solipsist also claimed that Canadians never get offended. And this is not entirely true. Canadians CLAIM never to get offended, but they do. That’s what makes us/them Canadian. We act like we’re fine with whatever people are saying about us but the truth is it riles us to no end to be compared to anyone else, (especially Americans, our flashier, more fabulous older sibling country) and riles us even more if nobody takes any notice of us (which happens all the time.) So we act like we’re fine, but underneath, we’re pissed off. But we don't show it to anyone but each other.

Why? Because everyone thinks we’re so damn nice. So we act nice. Everyone mocks our pronunciation and still manages to get it WRONG (we don’t say ABOOT, we say ABOWT). We don’t only drink beer and play hockey although many of us do one of the other. I’m weird, because I don’t do either. (But I did go through an embarrassing “Black Label” beer drinking phase in my Montreal Boho youth, but that’s another story. I even smoked Canadian cigarettes. Gah.)

So what I’m getting at here is that Canadians are tricky because we generally ARE nice, mellower, more tolerant (see pot smoking and gay marriage) but we can be offended. In fact, most of what any American says about us gets our knickers in a knot because we think, how could they possibly know what it’s like to be Canadian, they have no idea, we’re SO different, they’re such philistines, but really we only seethe because we hate being compared to the States by the entire world. (And please, people, it's not KWUHBECK, it's KABECK.)

The truth is, there are a few key differences between Canadians and Americans. But ultimately there are many more similarities. Canadians and Americans generally speak the same language, read the same books, shop at the same stores, worship the same stupid celebrities, and eat the same food. I'm a dual citizen so I do it all, baby.

So here are the key differences, for the record: there’s no death penalty in Canada, anyone can go to the doctor for free, and you can’t buy a gun at the mall. That’s about it, really. Oh, and we’re a little passive aggressive.

But we’re much too nice to let on about that.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Complaint: Numerically Fixated

Did you ever think you’d be spending your late nights trolling the Internet for number beads?

Yes, this is how I spent my evening. In the next six weeks, my family is planning a cross-country move, which involves a brand new job, natch, a brand new climate, and an entire revamping of the family infrastructure. I have shitloads to do.

And yet, tonight, I spent my evening looking for freaking number beads.

They’re not so easy to find. See, I caught the illness that’s been going around. You know the one, where you get a little too emotionally involved in how your well the craft you plan at your child’s school is going to be received? I think it's called Overfunctionitis Craftacular.

In the school my daughter goes to, the parents get to plan a lesson for the day, and this of course involves planning a craft. Well, I got it stuck in my stubborn head that on our “Numbers Day” we were going to make necklaces with number beads on them. Do you think it was easy to find number beads?

It wasn’t hard to find alphabet beads, oh no! They’re everywhere. They're the Britney of beads. You can't walk a step without falling all over alphabet beads. Lakeshore, Michael’s, I mean, they’re a dime a dozen. But for some reason, there is a dearth of number bead suppliers. I did, eventually, find some that weren’t out of stock. But it wasn’t easy.

And I thought it would be easy.

It did get me to thinking, though, how big, really is the market for number beads? I mean, alphabet ones spell your name, fruit beads are quirky, glass and metal beads are swanky, but number beads? It appears that very few people are interested in them. Does anyone make any money on these?

But I’m a determined person (some would say stubborn, but they can bite me) so I did eventually find some, pay way too much money for them, and now I’m wondering if in fact said beads will be enjoyed or even used by the preschoolers. They don’t CARE if they make a number necklace. They’d probably be just as happy coloring in cut-out numbers. But I don't have time to cut out 240 numbers (for the 24 kids, 1-10 each). I'm supposed to be getting ready for a MOVE. But nobody's putting a gun to my head, saying, "Get number beads or I'll break your knee caps." I mean, it was my stupid idea in the first place.

So I confess it. The number beads are my issue, dammit.

Clearly I need to get out more.

If you have a use for number beads, other than for a craft project for children, I sure as hell would like to hear it. I may very well have a lot left over after next week.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Complaint: Damn You, Barbie

Even though we were only there for five minutes, my daughter managed to find the single most ridiculous book in the library. It’s a Barbie book, natch. It’s about two “Barbie Girls” and their “diamond adventure.” And get this, it’s “based on the movie”!

It’s bad enough that such a book exists, but that one can also attain a visual, talking copy of such dross is really disturbing.

Anyway, both of my children are interested in this book, but especially my daughter. She can’t take her eyes off it. She’s been carrying it around for three days. It tells the story of two perfectly gorgeous poor girls who save Melody, the muse of music and end up princesses (natch again). So why am I railing about this when just the other day I yearned to be Princess of Everything?

For starters, the writing is crappy. Very pat stuff, this Barbie business. And the throughline is spotty, though I at least partially blame the fact that a good two to four pages of vital exposition is missing from the book. Still, one can divine the gist of this tale without an advanced degree. There are two best friends and there’s an evil third who tries to thwart them. (Hey, just like high school!) The two reunite and save the day and turn into princesses, with accessories!

My kids keep asking me to read this to them, and it’s all I can do not to get apopleptic when they ask. It’s so very obviously a result of marketing; focus groups amalgamated a four-year-old girl’s ultimate, ultragirly fantasy and put it on paper. It's crack.

Even though the book is about the girls as friends, there is a rift, which they, of course, in the end, repair. (enough commas in there for ya?) And of course they are rescued at one brief moment by two studly guys named Ian and Jeremy. (WTF?) (At least the girls didn’t get married at the end. Phew.)

It’s almost physically painful to read this reductionist, sappy, stereotypical, bullshit pseudo-fairy tale to my children.

So I’m just thinking that maybe the due date on this book is going to be coming up really soon, if you know what I’m saying.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Comment: More on Bumper Stickers

What, exactly, are people thinking when they affix bumper stickers to their cars? Today I saw one I've never seen before, that said “Clean and Sober”. Isn’t that a bit like saying, “I’m no longer an arsonist”? I mean, if you’ve done some bad shit, fair play, we all make mistakes, but do you need to advertise it? Sure, we live in a confessional society, but come on.

Personally, I’d rather keep my demons tucked back where they belong, in ancient history. But maybe that’s just me. I can understand that there’s a pride in kicking addiction. Of course there is, it’s huge, it’s life-saving. I get that. No disrespect intended to people who fight addictions (which, by the way, I think includes pretty much everyone, at least on some level.)

But it got my warped mind thinking about other bumper stickers you might keep your eyes out for in the future.

“Crab-free since 2007!”

“I just shoplifted!”

“Look at me, I’m in a car, driving!”

“My kid is WAY smarter than your kid!”

“I’d rather be barfing!!”

“I’m probably illegally talking on my cell phone!”

“I was a bitch in high school!”

“My other car is another car.”

“I didn’t pay my taxes!”

And so on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Comment: Corrections

I’ve noticed from one of our crafty commenters (commentors? commentants?) that a couple of points need to be addressed regarding recent blog postings.

In reference to "The P of E "(Monday, April 20), one insightful poster (there’s the word I was looking for!) asked if guys could also be the Princess of Everything. I say, absolutely. Prince, Princess, or both. Let the good times roll. Anyone can aspire to be the prince/princess (or both) of all that they survey. And most of us do.

Another thoughtful poster drew to my attention the fact that ultimately I used the word democratic in the wrong way in my post about my quest for democratic Easter egg hunts. (Monday, April 13.) (Wait a minute, both Monday posts? I sense a pattern here, and possibly a conspiracy.)

I really meant, can an Easter egg hunt be egalitarian? If said hunt had been truly democratic, votes would have been counted and recounted, bully pulpits and filibusters would have appeared, not to mention the unsightly hanging chads we’d best not discuss. So please, know this: I’m not looking for democracy in my children’s treasure hunts: I’m looking for equality. Or, at the very least, equity of some sort.

In other news, I think California is melting. Seriously. Northern Californians for some reason seem to think that air conditioning is optional. Not cool. (Get it?) (Sorry, heat's getting to me.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comment: Alert the Media

It’s official. I’m middle-aged. I can crow on and on about how I’m “old”, and that’s not so traumatic because it isn’t really true. When a fortysomething person says “I’m old” what they’re really saying is they’re middle-aged. It almost seems MORE damning than saying you’re old. We respect the old. (Mostly.) We like the old. (Usually.) Middle aged people, aren’t they just, you know, Boomers?

OMG, GenX is middle-aged. We’ve become what the Boomers were. It’s the BOOMERS who are old now (Suck it, egomaniacs!) and we are the monkeys in the middle.*

How did I come to this conclusion? Well, I’ve started the slow decline to my twilight years (not the vampire kind) by the number of drapy, flowy, non-form-fitting tops I’ve accumulated in my closet. If you have more than two, you’re probably over 35. At least. I mean, I didn’t realize it was happening. But I recently became aware that I have a bevy (how many is that, exactly?) of drapy, flowy blouses that hide my muffin top quite nicely, thank you very much.

Because it’s also official: I have an impressive muffin top. I tried to shrug it off, run it off, but then I just kept scarfing it back on through my assiduous ingestion of chocolate, cookies, and more chocolate. Look, I like eating.

But what’s cool about middle age, (so far), is that I’m actually starting to care less. I mean, if I were 32 and looked the way I do now, I might be alarmed. But I’m ten years older! So really, so what? Who am I trying to impress? I’ve been out of the ingĂ©nue business for years. Even the sophisticated femme fatale is too young and trim for me.

Sure, if I had a trainer, a chef and a whole lot of money, I might be able to battle this belly bulge. But I don’t. I have two kids and a husband who is also middle-aged.

So I say, bring on the scarves, the tunics, the gowns and the robes! Bring on the flowing fabric and f that noise on trying to be thin, young and beautiful. In this case, one out of three ain’t bad, baby.

*It’s a good thing being middle-aged has nothing in common with the Middle Ages. That was one nasty-ass time to be alive. Which you weren’t for long anyway. I mean, there was no middle age back then.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Comment: The P of E

"I just want to be the Princess of Everything."

That quote comes from my daughter, but it really comes from all of us.

Let’s delve a little deeper: What does it mean to be the Princess of Everything? Sure, on the surface, it means wearing beautiful clothes, probably a crown (and possibly combining it with the scepter of your choice), and having people wait on you.

Superficially this all seems rather, um, superficial.

(Though a scepter would be cool, I have to say.)

But it isn’t. Not really. Because what lies beneath the surface is this: my daughter wants to be in control, to be in charge. Princesses would theoretically have some, but not all, power. If they wanted all the power they’d be Queen (or President, and we all know how many headaches THAT job has, plus there’s no crown). So wanting to be the Princess of Everything means being in charge, but not fully. Someone is there if you mess up, but you can usually pull the strings you want (front row seats at Hannah Montana, starring role in High School Musical 14, etc.) without any trouble.

Also, being the Princess of Everything means being beloved; why? Because in all the lore we feed our children about princesses, they are ALWAYS beloved. You don’t generally hear about mean princesses. They’re always nice. It’s stepsisters who get the really bad rap. Princesses get all the love. And let’s face it, it’s a pretty basic need that we all have, to be loved.

It also means, per Disney, being beautiful. But by whose standards? If you’re the Princess of Everything, then everyone will measure their standard of beauty by you. So it doesn’t matter what you look like; you’ll be perceived as beautiful because you’re the Princess of Everything. I mean, duh.

Being the P of E means getting to do what you want, when you want. Isn’t that what we as adults all strive for? We hurry through the drudgery of the day to get to what we want: money, sex, booze, TV, play time of one form or another.

If I were the P of E, I wouldn't need to do the mundane tasks that take up the majority of our days; no longer would I be waiting for fun to fold the laundry, make supper, pay the bills. It would all be done for me so it’s always fun time. (Just try and actually figure out what fun really is. It’s a little more elusive than it seems initially. But that’s a post for another day.)

So P of E = power, love, major but not ultimate authority, and the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want. Oh, and being considered beautiful by everybody.

Hey, I wanna be the Princess of Everything too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Comment: More Female Fun!

I’m really having quite a week. Had my annual mammogram yesterday. It’s really not that painful an experience, at least compared to unmedicated childbirth. I think the fact that I am not one who sports an ample bosom makes it easier.

Anyway, the first humiliation was filling out the chart in the waiting room. You’re supposed to draw on a diagram of breasts your various moles, freckles, etc. Not being intimately familiar with my “beauty” marks and not having my husband with me, I had no choice but to peek surreptitiously down my shirt while avoiding the stares of the staff and other waiting patients. I really couldn’t see much down there, so I didn’t draw anything. And I did look like an idiot.

Then there’s the whole “don’t wear any deodorant or creams in the breastal area”. Well I didn’t. But then I stunk. One tends to sweat a bit at mammograms, seeing as they’re not exactly relaxing. So here I was being placed and arranged with kindness by an innocent technician who had to get up close and personal with my body odor. Poor woman.

I did compliment her hair; it was a glorious red (turns out it was henna; who knew?). But I didn’t compliment her while she was positioning my boobs. That might have seemed weird. I mentioned it when she came to find me in my drafty gown and sack ‘o belongings in the inner sanctum waiting room.

I have really long arms, and they seemed to be in the way no matter how the technician placed them. I tend to tense up when my body’s being positioned under a machine, so it was a little awkward. And let’s not forget that I stunk.

Anyway, luckily mammograms really don’t take that long. Waiting for the results can be nerve wracking for sure. But the experience itself, other than sweat and pinched boobs, isn’t so bad. It’s a small price to pay for prevention and detection.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Complaint: A Womanly One

There’s nothing like going to the lady doctor to humiliate and embarrass yourself just a little bit more than the last time.

Ahh, you know of what I speak? Your annual womanly appointment. South of the border needs to be taken care of, so once a year, off you go, ready to climb aboard the stallion and get your nether cowgirl regions checked out.

It’s not fun. It’s not dignified. It’s not pleasant.

But it must be done.

And what makes it worse is if while you’re waiting, you have to pee, and you go to find a bathroom in the maze of halls, and you find it, but when you go to exit, you’re living in a Sartre novel, as there’s no way out of the labyrinthine structure you’ve entered. So you have to ask someone in scrubs how to get back to the waiting room and you find out that your cute little Converse shoes squeak every time you walk AND they make your feet smell like death. Why or why didn’t you wear socks today?

What continues to debase you, of course, is the paper gown/gigantic napkin you get to wear around yourself while you freeze your heinie off waiting to be probed. And once you’re in the examining room, there’s nothing to look at except diagrams of cervical cancers and breast lumps. It’s not a laugh riot.

Then there’s the whole worry about flatulence. You do NOT want any action going on down there while your doctor is visiting. That would pretty much mean you’d have to basically join the Witness Protection Program of Wellness and never set foot within a five-mile radius of said medical establishment. It would just be too mortifying.

Finally, there’s the whole verbal diarrhea thing. If you’re not freezing your ya-yas off or getting poked and prodded or worrying about smelly feet or errant gas, there’s your damn mouth. Talk, talk, talk. “Blah, blah, blah, here I am, telling you my life story because I don’t want to call attention to the fact that you have a metal instrument SCREWED inside my personal area, hey, that’s my uterus, dammit, ouch!” So you blather on and on and on like an idiot.

So I ask you, how do these medical professionals keep a straight face?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Can't talk: busy with mother visiting. More soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Question: Can an egg hunt be democratic?

Easter is teaching me and my children lots of things, and not the ones you might expect.

Yes, my children are indeed associating yet another holiday with sugar, which is what I swore I wouldn’t allow, but in a moment of weakness, (see 4/10 post) I allowed the idea of the Easter Bunny to enter my children’s realm. To be fair, I didn’t start it; the schools did. They didn’t hear about the damn Easter Bunny from me. Yes, I blame the schools.

But I did nothing to stop perpetuating the myth of the E.B., and in fact solidified it by buying baskets and small treats (mostly chocolate) for my two smallish children.

Then the kids got to do egg hunts and the real fun began. And by fun, I mean chaos, misery and the requirement of U.N. level negotiations to allocate eggs to the two children involved in a series of increasingly acrimonious disputes.

I ask you, how do you make an egg hunt democratic? When these are done at schools, the quick and the greedy always get the most. This leaves the slower and less agile at a serious disadvantage. It's totally and utterly unfair. Is this something we just have to accept? I think not.

At home, I tried to level the playing field; each child picked a color and was told only to find that one. But that was only effective in theory.

What ultimately happened, of course, was that one child found more eggs more quickly and battles ensued as to which color was originally “mine” versus “yours”, and “Don’t show me where mine is, I want to find it myself!” and “Don’t take my egg!” and “It’s not fair, he found all of his first!” There really is no way to win in this situation.

Eventually the color-coding got exhausting, time consuming and totally not fun, so I just put the kids’ initials on the eggs, hid them, and said, “Deal with it”. That worked better than anything else we tried. I don't think egg hunts can be democratic after all. Maybe they're a good preparation for life.

But hot damn, what a lot of rigamarole. Holidays truly are exhausting.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Complaint: OMG I’m like totally S.I. *

*Socially Inept

Okay they say it happens, but it’s really hitting home. I was just on the phone with an old friend from college. Haven’t spoken in over 20 years, but have emailed extensively over the past four or five months getting back in touch. We write, we blog, we try to comment on each other’s blogs, etc. Relationship re-established.

Then we talked on the phone. And I deteriorated into a gibbering idiot. We’re planning to meet each other’s families next week. But I feel like my verbal diarrhea is pretty explosive and I’m hoping I can reign it in before then.

See, I’ve spent so much time talking to my kids and other people’s kids and other people about kids that I fear I’ve become one of THOSE people.

You know, the ones who talk about their kids all the time. The ones who have no life because they’re living through their children. Saints preserve us, I’m one of the shameless gushers I used to mock.

But I must mock no more.

My old friend and I had a perfectly good conversation, but I just felt like I was babbling and incoherent. When we write to each other, we can edit, and I definitely come across as wittier and glibber in print. In person? Not so much. It’s all gush gush, giggle, giggle. It’s embarrassing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with enthusiasm. As we’ve discussed, (okay as I’ve proclaimed) in a previous post, I am an enthusiastic person. And I’m okay with that, exclamation point.

But talking to my friend made me remember that we knew each other in a different time and place and that so very much has changed, for me, and of course, for him. He is married now, as am I; he has a stepchild, I have two small children. He is gainfully and professionally employed; I have two small children.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

There was so much I wanted to do when I was young, and granted, I have done quite a bit of it (lots of it in my 20s) but I kind of put off most other things with this whole raising children gig. (Which, by the way, I very much wanted and continue to want to do. I just think the whole childcare/work balance issue needs to balance better soon.) This whole lack of identity as a stay at home parent is really, for lack of a better word, professionally and socially atrophying.

That’s what I was trying to get at when I said I’m socially inept. I remember going out in public for the first time after my first child was born, with another new friend/new mom. We went out to eat at one of those loud, over-stimulating, massive-portion-serving Texas Cheesecake Despository type of restaurants, and since it was Los Angeles, the waiter was a cute young actor who knew how to charm. The two of us were simply unequipped to deal with his saucy banter. We were drooling, sleep-deprived morons incapable of wit or substance. We barely knew what to order.

It was a little scary. Then I got really busy with my kids for the next six years. And now I’m coming up for air. My family’s situation is such that we may well be relocating, which is both exciting and exhausting.

Starting all over is a great chance to “start fresh,” whatever that means. And now that my kids are older and less needy, it is finally time for me to come out of professional and social hiding.

And that’s scary.

Because I’ve been under the tortoise shell of my children for six years.

I know meeting up with my old friend will be fun, because he is a person of substance, wit and kindness. I am sure he will forgive my babbling about my kids, and my myopic view of the world which I am only now just starting to expand.

I just hope I can keep up with the banter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Question: What. Have. I. Done. Redux.

Okay, we all know I allowed Barbies into my household, much to my occasional chagrin. But now we’ve finally gotten to the age where my kids are really into holidays and their meanings, especially if said meanings involve chocolate in any form.

So this year is the first Easter we as a family have to actually acknowledge. And I can see that things could get out of hand very quickly.

Just today, the last day of school before Spring Break. (Woo.Party.) The kids both had Easter egg hunts that resulted in the acquisition of scads of plastic eggs in a variety of Eastery pastel hues. Why is Easter a pastel holiday? Christmas is a vibrant, primary and secondary-colored holiday. Shouldn’t Easter be even more vibrant, given what it’s celebrating?

I don’t know. I’m just a secular humanist who has allowed her kids to believe in the Easter Bunny, which of course has way more to do with Pagan fertility rites than it does with Christianity. Not an issue at my house either way.

But I can see that the frenzy of chocolate foil-wrapped treats, small plastic crap and that annoying, shedding “basket grass” are only going to increase over time.

But how can I not let my kids enjoy the holiday? We believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy for only so long. Why not let the kids enjoy it while they have their innocence? That’s my thinking. I don’t particularly like the idea of every holiday being equated with candy in my children’s minds, though. That’s, as the kids like to say, messed up.

So what’s the balance between celebrating a holiday for the kids and celebrating it for the personal meaning of the actual holiday? How much sugar and plastic is too much?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Comment: Odd Numbers

Why are numbers called “odd” because they don’t divide by two? Shouldn’t they just be called “uneven” numbers? And why is the adjective "odd", when used to designate a person, a negative thing? What’s the etymology?

If I weren’t so damn tired, I’d look it up. But I’m solo parenting for a couple of days and it never fails to exhaust me. If you were asked questions all day for twelve hours, you’d be exhausted too. It’s amazing the questions my kids come up with. Frankly, it’s amazing the questions ALL kids come up with. All kids are trying to figure life out and each one has their own take on things.

I mean, there are so many things we need to teach our children that we don’t even realize need to be taught. Take the above example. I’ve known about odd and even numbers for so long that I’d forgotten the concept has to be taught. But it does.

Sure, there are things like crossing the street safely or wiping one’s butt that truly and obviously need to be taught. They're not always easy, but they're pretty simple.

But there are so many more things. For most of us, the concept of left and right is pretty solid. We don’t have to think about it, we just know. The same goes for right and wrong. This is even more difficult to teach. How do you teach children what is good and bad, especially if you’re more of a secular person and aren’t relying on a large religious tome to guide you?

There are laws, and rules. Those help define right and wrong. But it’s not that simple. Right and wrong are subjective, and that’s where you run into the ambiguities that make it so hard to teach.

Makes potty training look like a walk in the park, doesn’t it?

And there are physical things we take for granted, like nose-blowing. It took me years to learn to blow my nose and the main reason I learned was that at age four I got a plastic Fisher-Price horse's ear up my nose and couldn't get it out. (I have no idea what possessed me to put a toy horse's ear anywhere near my nose. Must have been part of a very complex plot in my storytelling.) Anyway, I kept sniffing, sobbing, and saying, "It's not coming out! (giant sniff) It's not coming out!" Finally, my mom had to force me to learn to blow OUT, and thus expel the little plastic nugget from my nostril. It was sweet relief, but what an ordeal. Do you think my mom ever imagined she'd have to teach me to blow my nose? (especially under these circumstances)

And swallowing pills is another. Maybe it's just me (it's probably just me) but swallowing pills took me even more years to master than blowing my nose. (You're probably amazed I got through school. ) I remember at one point it was thought to be a brilliant and urgent idea for me to take cod liver oil pills. My health-food conscious (obsessed) mother insisted I needed to take it. If you've ever tasted cod liver oil, you know the only option is to take it in capsule form, even if it means you'll be fish-burping for the rest of the day. Gnarly.

Anyway, I remember that I couldn't swallow the pills, and it was making everyone crazy. So my stepsister decided to try to teach me. I ended up repeatedly putting a capsule in my mouth, swishing water around, and spitting it all out in the sink. She, on the other hand, kept demonstrating, and probably swallowed dangerously high levels of vitamin A that day. I'm surprised she didn't grow fins. She fish-burped for a week and I still couldn't swallow a damn pill.

But eventually, I learned.

Maybe that's part of what we have to keep in mind as parents. Even with (or in spite of) our meticulous efforts, our children will learn most things. Isn't that odd?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Complaint: Playdate Purgatory

I am so sick of playdates.

I’m not sick of any specific person. It’s much more generalized than that.

I’m just sick of getting everyone gussied up and snacked and bathroomed and heading over to the house of someone I barely know so we can watch our children socialize for two hours while we wait for mayhem to erupt (or not).

It really is like dating. And as Tracy Morgan on 30 Rock said (on his defunct TV show “Cruise Ship”) “I’m getting too old for this ship.”

I’ve painted a pretty bleak image of playdates, I suppose. They’re not all like that. Some of them are fun for the grown-ups too. But many aren’t. They’re just….tedious. Because your kids may get along, but that doesn’t mean you and the mom are going to be BFFs. It’s statistically unlikely that your child or children AND you will mesh perfectly with said playdate children and THEIR mom. So there’s always an imbalance.

And you’re always playing against the odds, as you try to keep the younger or older sibling entertained while the featured “players” of said “date” amuse themselves by taking out every single toy in the freaking house.

And I’m not even talking about drop-off playdates, which, while simplifying the equation of players and odds, leaves one sibling feeling irritable, left out and desirous of shopping for small plastic princess dolls and dresses that said sibling’s parent has to keep putting on the damn doll over and over, and no, I’m fine, just hand me a mocha and all will be well.

Seriously, caffeine plays a huge part in mothers’ lives. I’m sure you already know that. It plays a huge role in most adults’ lives. But now research is showing that some particularly heavy dose of caffeine is helpful in some biochemical/mental conditions, some of which I actuallyhave. Hey, are you telling me coffee is an approved drug? Bring it on.

I think a playdate is improved significantly by the addition of caffeine. I was at a perfectly good but but slightly chaotic playdate the other day when my hosts offered me some authentic Indian Chai tea. I don’t normally go for tea, but it was gooood. When I mentioned this to my hosts, they said, basically, look, what you Americans call Chai isn’t Chai, it’s utter shite, so here’s the real deal, freshly home brewed. The things you learn on a playdate.

But isn’t playdate an annoying term? Say it a few times. See what I mean? Someone somewhere decided to get cute with the whole dating concept and decided that no, it wasn’t enough that we had to date in our earlier years, but that even with the hopeful stability and maturity that marriage and family bring, we’d still have to go through the agony of more fucking dates.

So here we are on playdates. The same cool family who made me the Chai also talked to me about how in India, there are no playdates. They said, the kids just hang out outside together and play. You don’t have to arrange anything or get all formal in between the enrichment classes and Kindergarten homework packets and Gymboree. To which I responded, “Hey, just like when I was growing up!”

Why have things gotten SO ridiculous and scripted, that every social interaction in our children’s lives needs to be planned/penciled in and micro-supervised to within an inch of its life?

Can we please do something about this?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Question: How are you?

When people ask, “Are you okay?” do they really want to hear the answer? I mean, honestly, we are often not okay, and when people ask, are they really saying, “You need to be okay,” or “Please tell me you are okay even though it’s obvious that you are not,” or “Please tell me what’s troubling you?”

There are so many possible subtexts to a mere “Are you okay?” it’s hard to know how to answer this seemingly simple question.

Most people don’t really have a lot of bandwidth for your problems. They’re immersed in their own, which is natural. We are all self-centered. That’s part of being human, like it or not.

So when someone asks if we’re okay, are they asking because they care, because they're nosy, because they need us to be okay, out of habit, or is it something else altogether? There’s a prurient interest we have, a sort of schadenfreude, which isn’t intentional, but has us heaving a sigh of relief when we hear that the naughty child at school wasn’t ours, or the person hit by the car wasn’t our relative, or the job loss wasn’t our spouse’s. It’s not that we’re happy that someone else is in pain; we’re just so damn relieved that whatever is not okay is not happening to us.

It’s a curious thing. Keith Johnstone, the brilliant improv theatre specialist, said that every time you tell someone that something is going well for you, it’s like you're kicking them. So does the converse apply? When we tell someone that something is shitty on our end, is that like giving our friend a hug?

In a word, yes. Not that it’s our intention to make someone feel better or worse based on our woes, but that’s the effect. “Boy, I though I had it bad!” we think, as we watch our poor friend suffer; we feel badly for them, but we also feel relief that it isn’t happening to us. It’s not callous; it’s human nature.

But let’s at least be honest about it. Life is not really that difficult and shitty for most people, though it truly is for some. Shouldn’t we consider doing something to help people who have it shitty rather than just be thankful that we’re not the shittees?

Something to think about.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Comment: Maybe it's actually a complaint, but it wasn't intended to be

The idea of starting over, although it has merit, just exhausts me. My family and I have been living in one place for just about fifteen months, which is just enough time to get settled into the environment and start really making friends and connections.

And soon it may be time to move again.

How does one reinvent oneself over and over? I’m not saying it’s going to happen for sure, but it’s certainly possible, likely, even, that my family and I will be moving again within the next six months.

In today’s economic climate, we’re going to go where the jobs are. It’s simple, really. But far from easy.

I’ve always enjoyed the idea of being able to reinvent myself in new places, but frankly these days the whole idea of moving tires me out. It takes so much energy to move to a new place and forge a new life, especially when you are doing it for your whole family.

I’m not trying to complain, because opportunities are usually a good thing, and one can always find the silver lining, etc. etc. BUT I just want to say, I’m freakin’ exhausted and I’m going to go to bed now and read Michael Chabon at the advice of my dear friend and fellow blogger, The Solipsist. Check him out.

I will be away from my desk for a few days, exploring new possibilities for reinvention. Stay tuned.