Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Comment: Fear of Cooking

So I went ahead and dropped some coin on a couple of cookbooks today.

I may as well get this out there now, though. I’m a cookophobe. (culinariphobe? chefophobe?)

I fear cooking. Especially meat. I haven’t read Fast Food Nation but I have driven past the stockyards in central California and if that’s not enough to make you never want to touch red meat, I don’t know what is. (Sure, I like to EAT meat. I don’t like to touch it in its rawest, nastiest form.)

Cooking never really interested me, and now I have to take an interest in it. My husband courted me with food. He’s one of those annoyingly intuitive cooks who can’t really teach you because he doesn’t follow recipes: he just knows. His food rocks. But he’s very busy with a new and demanding job. And we’ve got to eat, so I’m the one holding the (grocery) bag. And it sucks.

As a relatively creative person, I found it hard to believe that all I could make each day for supper involved some form of noodles with some form of cheese. Our food was boring, unadventurous. I didn't know how to break out of it.

So with optimism and pluck, I bought two vegetarian cookbooks today. One of them looks especially good, because each recipe only has five ingredients. I looked at some of the popular cookbooks, too, but rejected them summarily: Barefoot Contessa? Way out of my league. Ditto Martha Stewart. My cupcakes will never be adorable. Rachael Ray? Too many ingredients and way too complicated. I think you need a degree to cook her stuff. 30 minute meals, my ass. I don’t have two hours for dinner-making.

The Joy of Cooking is a standby, but I’m not looking for bĂ©arnaise sauce recipes, or how to cook Sally Lunns. I just want some easy ideas involving real food.

So I’m going to see if once a week I can make one dish from one of these cookbooks that my family actually eats. Ambitious of me, I know. But I’m sick of freakin’ noodles and cheese and I think my kids are, too. How are they going to expand their culinary horizons if I’m just giving them the same crap every day?

So onward, to better health, no raw meat, and hopefully, not too much whining when the food’s put on the table. (Especially from me.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Question: Et tu, PBS?

Well, it’s becoming clear to me that even PBS Kids is not the idyllic educational alcove upon which we’ve all pegged our hopes and dreams of uninterrupted dinner-making or shower-taking.

What am I talking about?


Sure, on the surface, it’s about vocabulary and words.

But do you think my children are expanding their vocabulary?

Or do you think they’re running around the apartment with their blankies, “dying” the bad guys from the series and pretending to be WordGirl and WordBoy?

Of course it’s inevitable, isn’t it? My kids have just experienced two deaths of people they knew or knew of. They talk about death, but who knows how much they understand? They do, however, totally get the whole good vs. bad thing.

And "WordGirl" is such a mild version of that dichotomy. I could understand their play better if they watched StarWars, like some kids their age do. There’s some pretty hardcore evil in Darth Vader. But this is PBS. This is Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Although I don’t know that he’d approve of WordGirl's shenanigans, plucky though she is.)

And now they’re pretending the chairs are the bad guys, and they’re whipping their blankets furiously at them.

Do I need to just accept that we all have “killer” instincts? That we all basically have the ability to be vicious, if only in play? Am I reading too much into their violent blankie play? What’s next, dueling teddy bears? I don’t think I can take a murderous Pooh (that didn’t sound right) or a vitriolic Tigger.

I know we shouldn’t suppress children’s natural curiosity or their dramatic play. So I guess I just have to put up with killer blankies as long as we're staying somewhere where I allow them to watch network TV. I know, I know, I could turn it off. But I'm weak. And alert readers know that I have a love/hate relationship to TV myself. I'll be many things, but not a hypocrite. If I can "So You Think You Can Dance" then they can have Mr. Rogers. And maybe even "Wordgirl". The music's really good.)

At least they aren’t fighting each other. But if I see Pooh going down, the TV goes. (That doesn't sound right, either.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Comment: Of course we need to talk about Michael Jackson

Like millions (billions) of others, my kids and I have been watching a lot of Michael Jackson videos these past two days. (I’m grateful they took out the car-smashing sequence from “Black or White.” Not sure how I’d explain that to my kids.)

Michael Jackson was truly “the face of MTV,” a groundbreaking African American artist, extraordinarily talented and influential throughout the world, and a very distressed individual.

Look, I don’t know what happened at Neverland with those kids, and neither do you. We’ll never know now. I’m not excusing history for bad behavior, but do we even know what he allegedly did? I find Kobe Bryant way more creepy, or Mike Tyson, in terms of the alleged crimes they were involved in.

Don’t get me wrong, if anyone tried to manhandle my kids, I’d kick their ass.

But we don’t know what happened, and I suspect it wasn’t the hideous and blasphemous "Catholic priest experience." (I hope not.)(Don't get me started on that.)

Michael Jackson’s dad beat him regularly, he had to grow up in front of the world and never got to be a child. He had to be seriously suffering from arrested development. Look at Neverland. It’s a theme park. On top of this, he got major burns in an accident and got hooked, it appears, on painkillers. Is it any wonder he became increasingly eccentric?

The other worrisome aspect was his physical transformation. What was really going on there? Was he sick? What was he trying to achieve? Personally, I think he was literally trying to disappear. Just fade out of existence. Because he could never, ever have a normal life. So he had a mysterious freaky one, and waited for it all to fade away.

Isn’t it fun to listen to non-shrinks analyze the recently departed? I know, I know, I don’t know anything either.

I just really hope there is someone stable and strong to be there for his kids. No matter who he is or what he’s accomplished, losing a parent is a child’s worst nightmare.

R.I.P. Michael Jackson.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Comment: Private Analysis

So I'm in the process of applying to private schools for my kids. Alert readers know this is already major cognitive dissonance for me and my husband. I've seen two schools, and have loved one of them.

Why? Because it's nurturing, kind, and my kids will get lots of individualized attention and instruction.

Who doesn't want that for their children?

I wish public schools were in better shape, but they're not. We're lagging behind most other nations and yet we spend so much on education. It's an uncomfortable paradox. I still feel like a hypocrite for considering sending my kids to private school. And yet.

And yet. Every parent wants what's best for their child. (I'd argue that even those who don't look like they care about their kids, on some level, do. But not everyone goes to a lot of trouble for their kids. There's a difference between care and love.)

I'm supposed to write on the application form what I want my children to get out of being at the school.

At first, I was stymied. Was this a trick question? Was there some right way to answer this that would be my kids' golden ticket?

But then I realized, if I just tell the truth, that's going to have to be good enough. And the truth is, I want my kids to feel loved, respected, and challenged, in a safe, nurturing environment. I have to fill out two forms, but I want the same thing for both of my children, as different as they are, so I'm going to write exactly the same thing on both applications. (That's not plagiarism, is it? If it's your own work? Or is it nepotism? Dude, your MOM filled out your private school app! That is sooo old school!)

I don't have my head around it all yet, but I'm hoping that my kids will love the school as much as I do, and that one day I might teach there, too. I could use some nurturing, love and challenges in a safe environment.

Who couldn't?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Comment: Death

Everyone is buzzing about Michael Jackson and it seems like something should be said here, since I try to keep on top of pop culture, at least minimally. (And at least what I can find in Entertainment Weekly.) But I don’t really think I have any valuable insights to add. He was very talented, clearly very troubled, and now he is dead.

Sales of his music have gone through the roof. People all over the world are waxing nostalgic over where they were when they first heard “Thriller” and “Beat It”. Some of us tried to moonwalk, most of us failed miserably. Seriously, he was the face of MTV for awhile, back when they played videos. (I hear they’re playing them now, of course.)

Farrah Fawcett’s death is also sad. She was tremendously ill and tremendously famous in the 70s. I didn’t realize that she was only on “Charlie’s Angels” for one season. I never could get my hair to flip back like hers, much to my chagrin. I know there have been shows about her illness, documenting it in painful detail. I’m not sure what to make of that, but she’s dead and that’s unfortunate.

We haven’t heard much from Courtney Love or Britney or La Lohan lately. They’re totally eclipsed by these two pop culture icons’ deaths.

This is the second death that my children are experiencing in their young lives. Avid readers may remember dear Grandpa Gilbert, our neighbor who passed away shortly after we met him. There are more questions with Michael Jackson’s death. The kids know some of his music, and they want to know why he died. My answer? So does everyone else.

People are starting to point fingers at the private physician who tried to save him, and are claiming Jackson was addicted to painkillers. Honestly, we know just about nothing and we never will know the whole story. So we spin and conjecture and gesticulate wildly and dress up like him in tribute and buy his music in large quantities.

Such is massive public grief displayed in America.

I remember when Princess Diana died. My husband and I were living in England at the time. It was our anniversary. Needless to say, we didn’t go out for dinner that night.

People completely flipped out, conspiracy theories abounded. Nobody talked about anything else for months. But ultimately, we’ll never really know what happened on the road with the chasing papparazzi and the driver and all the details. Dead is dead.

We try to make sense of death by explaining it away. But no matter how many questions we try to answer or mysteries we try to solve, we can’t solve the ultimate question: What happens next?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Comment: Won't you be my neighbor?

I’ve been half-watching “Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood” with my kids this week. I have to say, I find him much less creepy now that I’m an adult.

I used to be a little irked by him, but especially his land of make believe. King Friday seemed kind of dim-bulbed, and Lady Elaine (Lady Lane? Laydee Layne?) looked and sounded pretty lit most of the time. She still disturbs me.

Not that my Canadian children’s shows were any less creepy. We had a tiny rooster in a bag and an obnoxious, smart-alecky giraffe. It’s just that I think whatever we see first as kids becomes the default. We’re not freaked out by things with which we’re already familiar.

Since we didn’t have cable, (which equaled American TV of any kind) we only got to see Mr. Rogers occasionally. He was iconic in the States, but in Canada, we had Mr. Dress-Up and his tickle trunk, which to today’s ears sounds a little deviant, but in the seventies made perfect sense. (He ALWAYS had the right costume for dress up from the tickle trunk. We marveled at how he could get all those costumes in there.)

The Eddie Murphy parodies were hilarious back in the 80s. In my dorm room, I had a poster of Mr. Rogers with a speech bubble in which I’d written, “Won’t you have my baby?”

Anyway, years later, and with kids in the picture, I can honestly say that Mr. Rogers is very sweet, and his show is neither creepy nor weird. Except for Lady Elaine.

But nobody rocks a cardigan like him, and nobody can beat his timing passing his shoe from one foot to the other in time to his merry song.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Comment: Sportstastic

I’ve been accused of being a baseball dilettante, to which I defiantly say, “Guilty as charged.”

I’ve never been one for organized sports. I got into watching basketball because my boyfriend liked it, and I married him, so the whole thing kind of stuck. But once Kobe was involved in that whole rape allegation, the Lakers didn’t look so good to me. No Ron Harper? No thanks. Just not interested.

And now I’ve moved to this totally jocky city (I mean that in a nice way). These people are hardcore sports fans. But the problem is, there’s no basketball team here. I’ve still got baseball, hockey and football, though.

As was glaringly obvious in my post yesterday, I went to the baseball game last night for the cake. But something else happened while I was there.

I actually wanted to watch the game.

This is new. When I got my free hat, I put it on.

And now I find myself in the interesting position of actually caring about sports, and wanting to know more. Baseball’s okay, but you do tend to miss all the excitement when you’re out getting dessert.

Hockey? Not so much. As blasphemous as it is for a Canadian to say, I just don’t like hockey. It can be cool, and it requires an enormous skill set (unfathomable to me, as I can’t even skate, let alone hold a stick or look for a puck) but I just don’t like all the fighting. Why can’t hockey players get along, anyway? Is it that they’re all hopped up on testosterone? Or are they just kind of jerks?

Then there’s football. I can’t say I really understand the details, and it feels like an eternity for the ball to get anywhere. Everything takes so long in football. You blink and you’ve missed the kick. Then you wait for forty minutes and look for lost tortilla chips in your couch while the ball moves a few feet. Seems kind of Sissyphean.

So where does that leave me? Yes, it looks like I shall have to immerse myself in baseball. One day I will no longer be a dilettante, and then, all who now mock me shall bow at my feet.

I'd probably better bring my own dessert, though.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Comment: Home Run

Just went to my first ever professional American baseball game (in America). I hadn't seen pro players since I was a wee lass in Montreal, when the Expos meant something. (Even though their mascot, Youppi, was a scary, muppet-like orange monster. We used to run around the ball park hoping to see him. I touched his fur once. I guess I'm still a little traumatized.)

It was my kids' first game, too, and we got the royal treatment. We scored some box seats for the game and boy, did we live the dream.

Were there hot dogs? You bet. Beer? Of course. Free loot, like baseball hats and cards, and professional photos? Yes, yes, and yes.

But here's what made my night: the dessert cart.

I haven't seen decadence like this since my stepsister made me a cake for my 18th birthday that my friends in my dorm and I dubbed "The Orgasm Cake." (Long may it live in history.) The skinny young woman in charge of the dessert cart must not like cake, because people, there was cake up the ying yang. I was pretty much salivating and making a total ass out of myself as she described, in luscious detail, the banana chocolate custard cake, the triple layer carrot cake, and the smore cake that had about three thousand layers of rich deliciousness, plus marshmallows on top and a creamy ganache vein to clog the arteries and make the soul sing.

My daughter got more ice cream than she's ever been allowed to have in her life. My husband and son got decadent chocolate cake and brownies, respectively. I got a piece of smores cake the size of my four year-old's head. AND I got a Grand Marnier shot in a chocolate cup. Yes, a chocolate cup. Sexy. If this is how rich people live, why aren't they all really fat?

It was pure decadence. It was madness. I couldn't finish it. I ate until I nearly burst. It was a beautiful experience.

Oh, and the game was good, too.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Comment: Getting it Right

I was talking to my best girlfriend today and we were reflecting on the fact that once our kids are in school, we don't know what's to become of us. It's a luxury, to be sure. I don't want to sound like some housewife of some American city. Believe me, that ain't me at all. I can barely walk in heels. And I let my legs get hairy frequently. (TMI. Sorry.)

Anyway, my friend and I were talking about making the "right" choice or the "right" decision and frankly, there is no right. There's Choice A and Choice B. If you choose Choice A, you'll follow that path. If you choose Choice B, you'll follow the other. It will do you no good (and some significant harm) to constantly look over your shoulder wondering if you should have made the other choice. (FYI, it will also really annoy your spouse.)

To quote the wise and loopy Lost, "what's done is done".

This is so much easier to write about than to actually live.

And alert readers will notice that there's a comment on yesterday's post from my friend and fellow blogger, The Sloppist, where he assures me that I will do the right thing in choosing schools for my kids. And of course, that is a kind thing to say. (In addition to his acerbic wit, he's actually a very nice person.)

But again with the "right."

We judge others harshly, but we judge ourselves harshest of all. When someone criticizes us, we criticize ourselves harder. We're always looking for the magic right answer to whatever question is on our minds, and berating ourselves when we're less than perfectly satisfied with our choice.

And the koan, if you will, is, there is no right answer. And there is no question.

Whoa. Way Zen.

I just blew my mind.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Comment: Coming to Terms (sorry, couldn't resist)

So I'm trying to deal with the fact that I think my family and I are turning into one of those families: the ones I swore we'd never be, doing things we swore we'd never do. But circumstances are such that the best option for our kids right now is that very thing that was anathema to us until very recently: private school.

I always swore up and down that my kids wouldn't go to private school. I was brought up in Quebec's rigorous (seriously, they let you go right to college in the US after 11th grade!) public Anglo schools. (This was of course before it was the LAW that no matter what you spoke at home, you had to go to school in French. Even at recess. There are language cops in Quebec. You think I'm kidding? Look up Bill 101. Sorry, I'm foaming at the mouth. Let me go get a napkin.)

In Montreal, the only kids we knew who went to private schools were "bad", i.e., the ones who got kicked out of all the public ones. But times have changed, and schools tend to suck pretty hard here in the US, as evidenced by our lagging scores on everything compared to harder working students abroad. And the city we live in has notoriously lousy schools. The schools in the suburbs, of course, are wonderful (relatively) and free. But moving to the suburbs is another thing we swore we'd never do, so we're staying in the city. End of discussion.

So what does a middle class family do if they want to live in the city and educate their kids?

Go private.

I haven't actually visited any of the three or so schools I've heard about yet. I go to the first one this week. I don't know if I'm going to be attracted or repulsed by the whole thing. I've always felt that private anythings (schools, clubs, labels) were stupid, and that if you can't include everybody you're probably an elitist asshole. So I'm really eating a LOT of crow here. So is my husband. He's a product of the rigorous suburban Chicago public schools. We're both dealing with a lot of cognitive dissonance as we consider this option for our kids.

What I'm hoping to do is find a school that not only I would want my kids in, but that I would want to teach in. If I can find that, then it's a private we will go. If not? I may end up on a ride-on mower in Blahburbia while my kids get a decent, and free, education.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Comment: Sympathy for Kate

In keeping with my recent regimen of watching way too much TV, I managed to spend about half an hour viewing“Jon and Kate Plus Eight”. I’d of course heard about the show in excruciating detail, (Thank you, check out line tabloid headlines and EW) but had never seen the show.

Look, it’s no joke having small children. Having eight will drive the sanest, kindest person right around the bend on some (many) days. I mean, come on, color coordinating eight little outfits for a Fourth of July parade? Over the top? Probably. Enough to make a person irritable? Absolutely.

One of the bits of gossip I’ve heard about the show, is, of course, the alleged infidelity of Jon. It appears that there is trouble in paradise, and of course Schadenfreude-starved America loves that.

And I have also heard that people think Kate is a shrew, or worse. They love to blame her for Jon's potential infidelity. This seems pretty nasty and unfair. Okay, in the short amount of the show I saw, she did get pretty snippy towards her husband, but he rolled his eyes and yelled plenty at her, too. Irritability is equal opportunity, people.

(On a personal note, I recognized myself in Kate a little; and I only have Plus Two. Blimey.)

Does Kate’s stridence and snarkiness make her a bad mother? Of course not. All but the most lobotomized of mothers have moments of snarkiness or uber-bossiness with their kids. I’m pretty sure it’s in the job description.

And I adore my kids. But if I had eight of them, I’d be shrill or snippy more than occasionally and, I’d argue, so would anyone. We Americans are such a judgmental lot, we think we’d be so different and perfect if we were in Kate’s shoes (or show). But we’re full of shit. We’d be caught in a snit about something on camera just as often as Kate. We just like to think we wouldn’t because that makes us feel superior and less jealous of what we perceive to be their massive advantages. (Which, I’d argue are not; I mean, don’t you think those little kids growing up in front of the world are going to each need their own therapy fund? All you have to do is look at child stars and you see, sadly, where it’s going.)

So everyone, please, lay off Kate, will you? She’s working her ass off.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Complaint: Me No Think Good

I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt my brain atropyhing at such an increasingly rapid rate until I realized the cause: I got no NPR.

There is an NPR station here in our new city, but I haven’t found it yet, don’t have a radio, and haven’t gotten around to getting it online, which, apparently, I have to do. Because NPR here plays lots of music in between the talking. Me? I’m partial to the talking. In California, it was all talk all the time. Don’t give me Bach, give me Mellisa Block. Please.

I miss NPR. I miss the sound of adults talking in multisyllables about things other than snacks or whose turn it is on the computer.

The adults I’ve come to worship and adore and yet will never meet, are absent from my life and I feel that loss excruciatingly. The closest I came to NPR in the past week was today, when the "Car Talk" guys did a guest spot on “Arthur” on PBS. Seriously. And FYI, “Arthur” is annoying; not as annoying as his Canadian comrade “Caillou” (who is insufferable to the extreme) but irritating nonetheless. I’ve noticed a lot of kids’ animated shows come out of Canada. And I’m wondering why my homeland isn’t more capable of less annoying shows. (What is UP with Canadian TV? Seriously, I’ve been asking for years and nobody’s got an answer. There are tons of talented people in Canada, and yet the TV remains mediocre at best, except for Codco and all its offshoots, and Kids in the Hall, which is no longer on.)

I can tell I’ve been watching too much TV because my attention span is so much shorter.

What was I talking about again?

Oh right, NPR, intelligent voices.

I want my brain back.

Kai, Michelle, Karl, Peter, Ira, this I pledge, I will come back to you, somehow, as God is my witness, because tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Comment: Me Like TV

For the next two months or so, we’re staying in a place that has cable TV, which, avid readers know, is 100% more network TV than anyone in my family has had in about five years. In the past, I got my TV fix online with “Lost” and “30Rock” while learning to lip-read with my lame connection on my laptop. I don’t usually miss having TV. Most of it sucks, in spite of the five billion channels available.

My kids are already walking around the apartment saying, "Coming up next: Mickey's Clubhouse, here on Playhouse Disney", which is scary considering we've only had TV for four days.

And lest you think I'm immune to the screen's charms...come on, I'm only human. And I just watched part of “So You Think You Can Dance.” This show, I really enjoy. In spite of all the hooting, screeching and endless personal stories, it’s worth watching strictly for the dancing. It’s kick ass. It’s amazing. And there’s nothing else like it on TV that I know of, bearing in mind that I’m an avid reader of “Entertainment Weekly” so even if I haven’t seen a show, I am aware of it.

Although similar in format to“American Idol", SYTYCD is different. With AI, we’ve all seen it so many times that it’s just dial-a-singer now. (There's always someone with pink hair, isn't there? I haven't seen the show in years but somehow it seems like every season some female constestant has pink hair.) But SYTYCD is compelling because when these kids dance, they really are baring their bodies and souls. Most reality TV is faux-reality. It’s scripted and set up, and people are very aware that they are being filmed. It's a self-conscious performance of non-performing. It's not sincere.

But SYTYCD isn't self-conscious. These kids are literally and physically laying their dreams at your feet. And that's touching in its innocence and earnestness.

And dance is not something you see most days, unless it’s your profession. So to watch the grace and beauty of excellent dancers is kinda nice.

But my favorite part is the passion these dancers bring to their art. There’s not enough passion (or art) in the world these days. Even though it’s tarted up for TV with those personal narratives and shrieking judges, it’s still pure somehow.

And that, ladies and gents, is my definition of good TV.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Comment: Life Lag™

Moving can really throw you. Moving across the country can throw you further. Moving to another country? Yikes. I’m just across the country, and my head’s spinning. In theory, everything is set up: temporary accommodations, activities for the kids, grocery locations.

But the reality of actually doing it? Mind-boggling.

Theory is so much easier than practice.

I’m living in a city with streets that run every which way with no apparent order. The cashier in the grocery store today told me she’s lived here all her life and still gets lost. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

We’ve been here for four days and it’s all I can do to get the gumption to leave the building. All this change is exhausting.

Meanwhile, my online presence continues virtually uninterrupted, which gives me some solace. Hell, some people don’t even know that I moved, since our primary interactions are online.

I did miss a few days’ worth of blog posts, but otherwise, I could be anywhere and it virtually doesn’t matter.

I was wondering if there is a similar condition to jet lag that I call life lag ™. (I claim it in the name of both my homelands!) A sardonic friend of mine commented, upon hearing this newly-coined phrase, that motherhood is the ultimate life lag.™ She’s got a point. You start a new life by giving birth to a new life and your old life kind of floats behind you, vaguely discernable and growing more distant every day.

It’s the same thing with moving. I wake up in the morning and think I am in California. Or I think of what my friends are doing without me. Or how easy it was to get to Target from my old house (sob). My old life is lagging behind this new life. And, like jet lag, I just want to sleep this one off.

At some point, things will merge, and I will begin to feel like this is home. It’s just not happening quite yet.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Complaint: One Angry Mother Redux

Apparently I have a lot of generalized rage when under stress. It usually happens when I feel I’m being misunderstood. This happens in my interactions with just about everybody when I'm maxxed out. My hackles are quick to rise and slow to settle.

The polite euphemism for me would be “mercurial.” People who don’t know me very well don’t believe it when I say I have a short fuse. They only see the sunny side of me, but as my dear friend Michele once said, “I’m in touch with my dark side. I LIKE my dark side.”

Here, here.

But I’ve noticed it really gets to me when my four year old daughter, after being told to go to bed, or wash her hands, or some other mundane activity, says “you’re not being nice to me.”

“You’re not being nice to me.”

I was voted "Ms. Nice Gal" in my high school class! Not nice? That’s heavy. Because it makes me mad that she is saying what I perceive to be untrue. Does nice mean something different to her? Am I taking it too personally? (Probably. Scratch that, definitely.) But it drives me right up a tree when she says that to me.

I mean, if I weren’t being nice, I would be wise to just admit it, apologize, and get on with the show. But when I’m telling her to get dressed for school for the fortieth fucking time, I probably don’t sound too sweet. But it isn’t a mean request.

Maybe she doesn’t like my tone.

So maybe when she says, “you’re not being nice to me”, instead of getting in a lather over semantics, I should just pretend that she is saying, “I don’t like what you’re saying.” And that does NOT need to anger, annoy or irritate me.

I’ll try that and let you know how/if it helps.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Comment: My reign of silence is over. For now.

So a few days ago I witnessed mob behavior of which, I’m ashamed to say, I took part.

It happened at my son’s elementary school.

And it was a classic case of me-first-ism, aimed at our children, natch.

So I went to my son’s kindergarten graduation the other day and…hold it.

Kindergarten graduation? Hello?

Did we graduate from kindergarten? I thought it was the first step of many, as you plodded through elementary, middle and high school. (We didn’t have middle schools in Quebec; you were thrown in at seventh grade with the almost-adults at age 12. Out of the frying pan…)

Anyway, yes, the whole idea of celebrating every freaking achievement our children attain is a disease, and it’s rampant in my circles. I run with a crowd of really nice people, most of whom pay too much attention to their children, myself included. It’s great to celebrate milestones, but how much is too much? (And haven't I asked this question repeatedly?)

I saw people jostled, bossed and cursed out while trying to secure a spot to videotape their child singing the graduation songs. (Yes, there was more than one.)

I got to the "multi-purpose room" 15 minutes early and it was standing room only. Other people told me they got there an HOUR early and it was standing room only.

When I tried to secure a spot for my preschooler on the floor in front of the front row, so she could see anything, a passively-aggressive "polite" woman gave me shit because we shouldn’t be sitting in front of the front row people because those people had won a raffle for the seats.

A RAFFLE for seats to a kindergarten graduation?

There are so many things wrong with that sentence.

We all spent our time holding our arms over our heads, trying to get the perfect shot of our kids as they sang. Mainly we filmed other people's receding hairlines and mild dandruff. We didn’t even watch our kids, we watched a video of them; and yet, we were there.

And we were grouchy, pushy and irritable.

Is this what it comes down to?

Apparently, yes.

We were all so obsessed with our children and nobody else’s, that nothing else mattered, including, apparently, manners. And really, we were more obsessed with capturing the experience than actually watching the kids.

We have met the enemy and it is us.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Complaint: Let me be sad, dammit!

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are concerned about my being sad at the prospect of moving away. I mean, after all, we’ve only been in this location for 18 months; what’s the big deal?


It’s the people. Duh. I don't particularly like the area all that much, but I like some of the people who live here.

You don’t always realize what kinds of friendships you are making, but when push comes to shove, you find that there are some pretty strong bonds. When you click with someone, you click. It doesn’t take years to figure that out.

So of course I’m sad. My kids are sad. My husband is maybe a little bit sad; but his situation was different. He’s off on a new adventure at a very exciting company where he is valued and heard. Sure, we’ll start again; we’re getting pretty good at it. There will be wonderful new adventures and people to meet and enjoy, too.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not sad now.

And sportsfans, it’s okay. Seriously.

The world will not crumble into the ocean if we cry.

Let’s be sad for awhile and be happy that we have the ability to be sad. Why? Because we love.

Like they say in “A Wrinkle in Time”, and I’m paraphrasing, the most powerful things in the universe are the unseen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Complaint: I need a nanny.

I do.

Not for my kids.

For me.

If there’s one thing you learn as a mom, there is nobody to take care of you the way you take care of your family. And right now I have no back-up, so it’s solo parenting, which definitionally means there is nobody at home to take care of me.

I want someone to cook for me and wash my clothes or at least give me a week off once in awhile. Hell, I’d settle for a day. If I had a nanny, a mother-nanny (Manny? Mamanana?), I could come and go as I pleased, and as a bonus, I’d have someone to help me pick out my outfits!

I’m thinking, Mary Poppins-ish, but no need for the magic umbrella. I just want someone to cook me dinner, and help me clean my room.

In some ways, those home makeover shows are like Nanny 911s for your house. And of course there’s the ubiquitous Nanny 911 in its pure form; but it primarily deals with how you take care of your kids. And I want a nanny to take care of me.

Do I sound petulant? Brooding? Whiny?

I sound like a tired and overstimulated child because I feel like one.

I’ve heard people say “I want a wife”, male and female alike, but maybe what they really mean is, “I want a nanny.”

Or, even more likely, they’re saying, “I want my mommy.”

Regression, anyone?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Comment: It always comes back to Facebook.

At one point do you just throw up your hands and say, that’s it, I’m totally overstimulated and just want to hide under the bed?

There’s an old Savoyard proverb that goes, “I have so much to do that I am going to bed.”

Counter-intuitive, perhaps, but makes sense when you let it sink in. If you have too much to do, you are no doubt burning the candle at both ends, and if so, you are exhausted. If you are too exhausted to take care of everything, you may as well chuck it for the day and go to sleep. Perspective has a way of creeping in during sleep. And energy. And focus. And a better attitude.

Because right now I have a poor attitude. My daughter left her pink teddy bear at a playdate this afternoon and I got so unnecessarily mad about it. Why? No good reason. Displaced stress, no doubt. It’s a totally normal and expected thing for a small child to do, and on most days wouldn’t phase me, but since we’re in the pressure cooker of the pre-move-with-spouse-across-country-saying-goodbye/see you later-parties-end-of-school-year-all-the-while-trying-to-prep-the-house-for-movers, my composure? Gone.

Good attitude? Not.

If I were Twittering (and I’m so glad I’m not) (and you should be, too) I would be saying, “seething….irritable…frustrated…exhausted…tired…still irritable…feel like running away from home….overwhelmed…” How lame a narrative is that? Is that monologue necessary for anyone else to hear besides me?

We are all so endlessly interesting to ourselves.

But that’s the advantage Facebook has over Twitter. Twitter is totally TMI, while Facebook lets you take a brief glimpse into other people’s lives so you know they are still chugging along, wherever they may be. That's okay with me.

Yes, I’m coming to terms with my love/hate relationship with Facebook.

But I still refuse to do the quizzes or throw sheep. I mean, come on, sheep? WTF?

And now, with a plate full of too much to do, I’m going to bed.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Comment: Still here, just busy...

We’re on the one-week countdown to moving, and time is starting to accelerate. Saying goodbye to new friends I didn’t get the chance to know better is bittersweet. But my neighbor gave me some good advice today. She said, “Slow down, and try to enjoy it all.”

Simple? Yes. Easy? No.

She just lost her father, a most marvelous and love-filled man who had been slowly dying in her house these past months. He finally let go three days ago, and so she and her sisters had to as well. Her acceptance of the life cycle impresses me.

Pretty profound advice, though. Try to slow down and enjoy whatever you’re in, because it won’t last long, whether it’s the best thing ever, or the shittiest.

Time marches on; in flowered Doc Martens, no less.

I know I’ve been Betty Buzzkill these past few weeks, but take heart: There will be more kvetching soon, and from a new state!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Complaint: I hate video conferencing.

I really do.

And I finally figured out why.

I want it to be more than it is.

When my kids and I do Tokbox or Skype with their dad who's on the other side of the country, it's not fun, it’s just...chaos. There’s reverb up the yin-yang, the kids are doing fourteen different activities simultaneously, and that kitchen is not cleaning itself while I hover over my kids being a bossy pain in the ass not contributing positively to the non-conversation. But the kids seem to love it, so that counts for something, of course.

But, see, I imagined this month-long separation from my husband being mitigated by lovely early evening video chats, along with IMs and the occasional phone call. It was going to be just like being together!

The reality? Not so much.

It’s not for lack of trying. Everyone involved is giving 100% effort.

But technology, as fabulous as it is, just doesn’t cut it compared to real, live, interaction.

We become one-dimensional on video, and my character is one big-ass shrew. I don’t like that the only thing I do when I talk to my husband is complain or boss my kids around.

As I said in my post about chicken nuggets and remorse, that is not the person I want to be.

I’m finding it difficult to be the person I want to be.

When one is under pressure, one realizes how fragile one’s perception of oneself as a cheerful, bubbly, (slightly hyper) gal who tries to roll with the punches really is.

Anyway, I can’t blame technology for my personality defects.

But wouldn’t it be great if I could?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Complaint: Speaking Phlegmish

Can't type...too congested...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Complaint: My children are kicking my ass.

Again, I’m kvetching. But seriously, after an entire day of answering a constant stream of (difficult) questions, changing band-aids, serving meals, drinks and snacks, and cleaning errant urine off the floor, is it any wonder a gal wants to stick her face in a chocolate cake and inhale? (Do they make chocolate wine? Because that would pretty much be the nadir. Or is it apex? I mean the peak. The top part, thingy. Me want choco-wine!)

I get through about 13 hours of hard core solo parenting and I think I’m some kind of superhero. Really, I’m just dog tired. I love my kids so much. And I think I have it rough because I’m on my own…and I wonder where my kids get their drama streak.

When I think of my neighbors, who are watching their gentle patriarch die before their eyes, my problems seem paltry by comparison. So many people are suffering more than me. Does that negate my suffering? No. But it does put it in perspective.

I’m all for some perspective right about now.

Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone who is dying and seen the love in their heart? Because that’s the experience I got when I looked at Grandpa Gilbert. He is suffering, his family is suffering, but the guy has so much love in his heart, it spills over onto anyone who comes near him. He has lived a good life and I hope he is not in pain. I hope my kids and I will see him again. But his daughter, my neighbor, thinks he will go any day now.

I haven’t explained to my kids the fact that Mr. Gilbert is dying. I don’t even know where to begin. But I think I owe them an explanation. How do you talk to children about death? You won’t be surprised to hear that I have a book about it. I have to find it amongst all the other ones I own, but it’s called “Lifetimes” and in a very matter of fact way, it talks about life cycles of all living things.

I think I need to go and read it again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Comment: The Chicken Nuggets of Remorse

Again with the remorse.

Tonight, as my children ate disturbingly disfigured breaded chicken parts, I realized we are a long way from where I want us to be.

And I don’t mean strictly geographically, although of course, I’d like for us to be with my husband/their dad, in the same place, all four of us, natch.

But I mean, I’m exhausted doing the solo parent thing, the kids are anxious and needy, and I’m feeding them fucking chicken nuggets? This is not the mother or person I want to be.

I had an epiphany of why people decide to be vegetarian or vegan: when you really think about processed food, especially meat, it’s just downright nasty (and I haven’t even read Fast Food Nation).

But what really got me was the fact that lately, my kids like to pretend they’re baby chicks, and they were talking about how this processed crap they were eating was a chick once. Maybe it’s the stress of moving and feeling like crap, but it just depressed the hell out of me to think of baby chicks and the food we eat. I made the connection in a way that I hadn’t before and I didn’t like it.

So now I'm the chick whisperer? No, I just think I understand why people actively choose not to eat animals. And I’m starting to wonder if I can be that person. I don’t want to lord it over anyone; I’m not into the self-righteous, preachy scene. I just don’t know that I want to eat meat anymore. And I’m not sure my kids do, either. They’re just not that excited about it to begin with.

Surely there is a book out there that talks about how to feed your family veggie style. And websites, too, a plenty, I would imagine. Probably loads of info.

Maybe it’s time to think outside the cow. Am I really ready for this? I’m pretty beat right now. Perhaps changing my family’s entire eating structure isn’t the wisest choice at this exact time and place. But know this: no more chicken nuggets. We’re through. If we’re going to eat chicken, and that’s an IF, then we’re not going to eat it so processed it’s like eating an entirely different food group.

Yeah, I said it. Anyone wanna piece of me?