Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Question: Is there anything more thankless than cooking for children?

Really, is there?

No matter what is placed in front of children (“presented”, as a wise friend used to say), it probably won’t get eaten. It will, however, get picked at, complained over, and shoved around the plate. Then it will get mashed beyond recognition and someone will be ready for dessert.

I’ve never liked cooking because I never learned how to do it, so probably I’d enjoy it more if I knew more about it. But feeding small children is not inspiring me to take cooking classes.

My kids would balk at a bĂ©chamel sauce; (yes, I know what it is, I just don’t know how to make it) they would cry at a cassoulet (again, awareness but no skill), sob at a soufflĂ©.

So why bother making it?

I’m not condoning chicken nuggets. Alert readers will recall that we try to stay away from those (not always successfully. But I have trained my kids to hate McDonalds food because it’s so crappy. Only my daughter calls it “Old MacDonalds” which is too hilarious to correct.)

We have generally fresh food, cooked so simply it’s pathetic.

What I really need is a spice seminar.

But even with a vast knowledge of spices, my kids would probably reject it all out of hand with a “Eww, too spicy!”

Finally, there’s one more reason I don’t feel inspired to cook due to a little something I call the Bite Me Betty Crocker Law: The amount of time spent eating is inversely proportional to the time spent making the meal.

So really, I should just throw random food on a plate and we’ll all devour it like dogs. Right?


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comment: Life. Philosophy. All that Crap.

So I'm sitting in the apartment and I notice this Zingo game that my kids like to play. It’s a picture version of Bingo and has a swank little contraption that dispenses the cards two at a time for the payers to identify and then grab to put on their card. It’s kind of like a Pez dispenser, but more horizontal. And it takes forever to load the thing. But it’s totally worth it to slide the thingy back and forth and watch the cards fly out.

My kids can play themselves, technically, but they always want me to play too. Then I can be the dealer and they can concentrate on getting their picture cards. Because if you don’t pay attention, or you call out the name of the object too late, you don’t get the card.

How apt is that for a life metaphor?

Plus when you fill your card, you get to yell out “Zingo!” which frankly is one of game’s main selling points.

I also see our lucky bamboo plant that is growing nicely. Even in this rainy, grey and yet somehow vibrant city, this plant is growing. It’s supposed to bring us good luck. How do you measure that, anyway? Is there a placebo effect for luck?

What I wonder about is this question: is life about luck, or putting in your time and staying alert?

Answers and results may vary.

Luck has a place at the table, don’t get me wrong. But it’s so elusive and slippery and unquantifiable. Maybe luck is a state of mind.

Personally, I think life’s more like a Zingo game. You sit there and your cards get dispensed over and over and over and eventually you find one you like, IF you pay attention. And you fill up your card and you wait for your big moment. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.

So I think life has more to do with putting in the work and paying attention.

Who knew this kids’ game was so Zen?


Monday, September 28, 2009

Complaint: We're all a little too uptight these days.

Wound up tighter n' a tick, as my aunt says.

I noticed it today when there was a big drama at my husband's workplace over where some non-essential items were to be delivered, and when. Multiple emails with multiple CCs and multiple phone calls and messages were made.

Look, I know business is business, but it's not life or death! Didn't Confucious (or some other totally wise dude) say "The only things that are urgent/emergencies are life and death"? I mean, we all run around like chickens with our heads caught off at the slightest thing. We need to figure out how to calm down.

Lest you think I'm casting aspersions, fear not.

Because I noticed it especially in myself today when I lost it twice over things one shouldn't lose it over in front of kids.

First, the seat belt holding my son's carseat got jammed at the gas station and I started freaking out. What if his seat can't be fixed? How am I going to get him safely home without a carseat? Why do these things happen when my husband has the other car with the other car seats parked at the airport while he is across the country? Argh.

After being bossy, calming down, then apologizing, I got the flippin' thing to work. Man, things really bug me. I'm okay with people, it's objects that drive me batshit.

Then later today my daughter nearly knocked over our energy-saving-depression-banishing-fabulous-but-highly-toxic-mercury-filled light bulbs in a fixture she was playing under. (I told her to stay away from that area. But she's four and has boatloads of moxie.)

Anyway, the emphasis is on nearly knocked over. It's great to be kind to Mother Earth, but why do the good bulbs contain such toxins?

I think I'm breeding fear in my kids. (I was going to say, I'm scared that I'm breeding fear in my kids.) Ugh.

Somehow Mama's gotta find a way to calm the hell down. I know I can be (melo)dramatic and sometimes that can be a positive thing, but I need to figure out how to calm down and not over-react to things. I don't want my kids to be skittish and unsure (though I certainly can be, apparently.)

I don't like it when my dramatic overreactions scare the kids. That's messed up.

The scary thing is (again with the fear), there's probably a pill I could take that would address my anxiety. Oh wait, I'm already on it. Heh.

Guess I'll have to suck it up and change my behavior.

Working on your behavior is SO MUCH WORK.

Where's that quick fix we're all looking for?

It must be in here somewhere.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Comment: Guh.

I had a hilarious (to me, anyway) post all ready (early, even!) for today about the paucity of good acting chops on the Disney Channel and its ilk. Also, on the lack of originality on TV. Good stuff.

But I left my laptop on the kitchen table while drinking coffee this morning AND while the kids were doing art projects.

Cue music: and down went the coffee. GASP. Ladies and Gentlemen the "F" word will not be starring in this performance; his role will be played by his understudy, Crap! Shit! Dammit!

And dark went the screen forevermore. (Or at least until my husband gets back in town and can try to resurrect it. But I'm not counting on it.)

Now part of me was thinking, SHIT, all my writing. But my blog postings are all up on the Web. And the big project I'm working on with my best friend? She has a copy of it. And even if HER computer dies, I have a hard copy.

The play I was working on? Hard copy. Phew.

I'm not organized about backing up files. But I do tend to print stuff out whenever I can because I'm (justifiably) paranoid. And lazy.

So even though there is stuff I will have to redo or never see again, it's just, you know, stuff.

How very Zen, right? Uh huh? Give it to me for the Zen!

In my new parenting attitude of being less bitchy, I didn't get mad at my son (who knocked the coffee over with his massive blankies) or at myself (for having a beverage of my choice on the table) (okay, maybe I was a little mad at myself). I honestly didn't think the computer was ruined.

But I think it is. Seeing as it doesn't turn on and all.

Easy come, easy go.

Lucky for me we have a spare.

And there's no way this one's coming anywhere near my kitchen table.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Question: What do you do when your four year old child is acting up?

And I mean, really acting up? It’s so hard not to get sucked into the vortex of this intense little person’s rage. If it’s scary for onlookers, imagine what it must be like for her.

That’s the compassionate response.

But when you’re in a car (luckily, as a passenger) and she throws something at you, it’s hard to be calm, cool and compassionate. You might say a bad word or, rather, shout a bad word. The shout may have verged on screaming.

So I didn’t win Mother of the Year for my reaction to her throwing a plastic toy at my face.

Who knows if she was even aiming for my face? I doubt it. She just throws things when she’s pissed off. And she’d just had her flu shot, so she was robo-pissed. And did I mention we’re also in the process of moving into a new house?

Upon reflection (which you never have at the time, of course) this makes the compassionate response seem pretty obvious and necessary.

Oh well, better luck next time. And there will be a next time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Complaint: So. Very. Tired.

Moving Day. Too much stuff. Can't find things. Don't want things. Overload. Thank you and good night.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Question: How Do You Explain Protesters to Children?

So we were watching the protesters and police on TV at the G20 tonight and my kids, (aged 4 and 6) both asked, “Mama, why are they arrested?”

How do you explain this to small children?

I told them that the protesters were not listening to the police, and not leaving when they were asked. (As it turns out, some of them were throwing bricks in windows, but at the time I didn’t have that information. That would have made my job easier. Little kids know all about what it means to break a rule.)

So my son said, “That’s not very nice of the police.”


I don’t want my kids to grow up fearing the police. And protesters do have the right to make their points in a non-violent manner. Most of them do, though I don’t honestly think it does much good. Maybe I’m too cynical. Or is it just realistic?

We can’t beat big business. We can’t transform health care. There are too many very interested, very rich and very powerful people who want things their way, and this does not include universal health care coverage or a higher minimum wage or greater taxation for the wealthy.

But in instances like those in Pittsburgh, the police really are trying to keep things calm. And unless you have a Trigger Happy Jack on your hands, they’re there to help and not to hurt. And if my kids should ever need a policeman, I wouldn’t want them to be afraid of to talk to one.

When I lived in California, even I was afraid of the police. And I’m a white, middle class female. And Canadian! But that’s L.A. My Latino students despised the police, and some of them had good reason: they would be harassed no matter what they did. Going for a Slushee at the Quickee Mart was a pull over offense for these kids, strictly based on how they looked.

So I grew, in my ten years there, to fear police.

But like any group of people, there are going to be extremes at both ends of the spectrum. There are kind, helpful cops who will save your life and sacrifice their own; there are also itchy finger whack jobs who have no business carrying guns. The same can be said of any group, be they protesters, police, punks or pre-Meds.

Ahh, the civics lesson. It starts so early with curious kids. Time to start thinking ahead.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Comment: Art for Everyone

Ahh, the tyranny of the blank page. Screen.

When I’m driving along in traffic, I get great blog ideas. When I’m in the middle of refereeing two feisty kids and making dinner, I get ideas. But when I sit down to write? Not so much.

I usually get my ideas for my daily post early in the day. That way, in the evening, when my chores are done and the house is quiet, I just have to kind of plug into whatever I was thinking about earlier and write.

At least that’s my creative process. Sounds fancy, right? What’s your creative process? How do you make your art? There are many pompous and alienating questions that get asked about art. And there are way too many assumptions about artists. They must be crazy, or selfish, or mercurial, or some other socially accepted form of mental illness.

But I think everyone’s an artist.

We’re not talking about being paid to do it. Just like there are professional athletes, so too are there professional artists. But just because you don’t get paid doesn’t mean what you’re making isn’t art.

I’m taking another awesome writing class with Ariel Gore, online. And every single person in the class is really talented. Every one of them could/should be paid to write. But only a handful are. They are all, WE are all, artists. We just have days jobs.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make art.

Augusto Boal is a brilliant theatre educator/social activist/earth shaker who brought art to the people in the form of his Theatre of the Oppressed. He’s a freakin’ genius. Look him up sometime.

Art is all around you. And in you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be creative. Everyone is creative. Turn off the TV, mute your phone and shut your laptop, and go do something creative.

(But not while "Glee" is on; that’s a show about expressing yourself, whoever you are. I suggest you watch it tonight, then go be creative.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Complaint: Zoo Cynicism*

*Wouldn't that be a great name for a band?

Now that we live in a new part of the country, the inevitable has occurred: I tried to put it off for as long as possible, but it finally happened. We went to the zoo.

Not a big fan of zoos. Watching sad, overcrowded polar bears soaking in bathtubs is just, well, it's a downer, frankly.

Having recently converted to actually enjoying museums, I was hoping for a similar transformation at this new zoo in a new town.

Alas, it was not to be.

Why would you pay almost fifty bucks for your family to walk around looking for live animals, only to be constantly assaulted visually with hordes of plush ones in the souvenir stores that pop up every two hundred feet?

Is this why we go to the zoo? To buy a fake animal? I saw a few animals, yes, but that probably took up 10% of our time there. The rest of the time was spent walking around looking for animals and ending up dangerously near gift shops over and over and over.

Is this what it’s come to?

Oh, we did spend at least 35% of the time listening to my daughter say, “I wanna see the shark!” three thousand times. Since there is a small aquarium attached to the zoo, this wasn’t as outlandish a request as it might seem at first.

But what did we do when we saw the shark? We took pictures. Every single grown up I saw was taking a picture of the shark, or their kid looking at the shark, or their kid ignoring the shark. I’m guilty of it, too.

Are we living our lives or are we just gathering data for later? And what’s later? Are we going to look at all the videos and photos we took of the top of our kids’ heads and the butt of a bored shark and think about the fact that we were just at the zoo? WHILE we were at the zoo, we weren’t thinking about the zoo. "Hey, remember an hour ago, when we were at the zoo> Let's watch."

Talk about mindless. There is nothing mindful about videotaping a shark while your kid whines for juice and you wish you were somewhere else. And anyway, how many YouTube videos of shark parts does the world need? How much of life is now recorded and posted online?

Which brings to mind a Simpsons quote (doesn’t everything?). Homer is bored and wants to travel. He says something to Marge along the lines of, “I want to explore the world and try new food. I want to have hoagies, subs, heroes. I want to live Marge, why won’t you let me live?”

Homer's got a point. Maybe we shouldn’t take so many pictures of our life and actually try living it instead.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Comment: Loser Barbies

I found myself harkening back to an earlier time in my life, as I sat with my daughter the other day, absent-mindedly playing Barbies. Suddenly, a thought came to me: I always get the Loser Barbies.

With two to choose from, my daughter chose, natch, the princess fairy fabulous Barbie, while she left me with the generic, lesser doll that is supposed to be a Barbie but is really a very cheap knock-off (her legs come off too easily, she’s hollow, it just ain’t right). And I thought, yup, again with the Loser Barbies.

When my sister and I were little, we played with Barbies. My sister always had the grown-up Malibu Barbie—beautiful, tan, blonde, leggy, booby, etc.

You know who I had, of course.

Malibu Skipper.

The second fiddle, little sister, flat-chested, boring.

The fact that my sister and I grew up to mirror the shapes of our childhood dolls is depressing, to say the least. Sure, my hair is blonde now, in parts, but my sister is naturally blonde. And curvy. And me? Skipperesque.

So of course I always wanted a Malibu Barbie.

So musing in the present time about Barbies; is it my lot in life to be second best? Or does it just mean I’m not as fussy as some people? Will I continue to take the Loser Barbies so someone I love can have the Barbie of her choice? It's embarrassing to admit that I was a victim of the Barbie Aspirational Culture, but that's what was out there; that's what we played with, that's what we grew up wanting to emulate. Impossibilty in an aqua one-piece and lavender shades.

It brings to mind that scene from “The Joy Luck Club,” where the main character’s mother says something like, “Waverley (the protag’s friend) she always takes the best food from the plate; always wants best quality for herself; you take what is left, because you have best quality heart.”

Or something like that.

Sounds like someone still wants her own Malibu Barbie.

I guess it’s never too late to fulfill your dreams. (Is there an emoticon for a sardonic grin? Because that’s what I’d put here if I could.)

But seriously, I do have the tendency to give up so other people can have what they want. Isn’t that the definition of motherhood? Best quality heart is better than wanting best quality. I'm pretty sure about that.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Question: How Much Cheese is Enough?

So I’m watching football today (you did read that sentence right) (and really, I was mostly looking at it) and of course I’m seeing tons of commercials.

Pizza Hut now has circumscribed their pizza with yet more cheese. It’s not enough to have it on the pizza and, in some instances, in the crust, but now it’s all around the crust. I think technically it’s inscribed adjacent to the crust. Just to be accurate.

This is why we’re a nation of food-crazed, perpetually hungry, muffin-topped people.

On a similar note, I caved and bought “The End of Overeating” because I couldn’t finish my library copy in time and someone had reserved it so I had to return it. David Kessler, former head of the FDA, gives the dish (hyuk) on why we eat and obsess and then keep eating.

I can’t wait to get into this book. The only problem is, it will probably make me hungry.

Good night everybody!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Comment: Suck it, Victoria's Secret Babes!

So for some random reason or other I received a Victoria’s Secret catalog in the mail today. (Have I ever ordered anything from them? No.) Well after taking a good look through it, all I can say is, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

First of all, VS used to be strictly about underwear. But they’re expanded their brand to all manner of clothing, some of it not even particularly sexy. (Granny pajamas? Wha?)

I’m still humbled by the airbrushed babes in the skintight jeans and sweaters (and bras, natch). But I noticed something today: the sweater style that is apparently coming back is...


You know, the sweater with that pulled yarn look, where it’s all loopy and fluffy?

It reminded me of my youth (not the misspent part) back when boucle was fashionable. Back THEN.

At about age eleven or so, I had created my ideal fantasy outfit. This was the outfit I would have that would transform me from boyish, underdeveloped, slouching girl to statuesque, confident young woman. I daydreamed about it so many times I can still conjure the image in my head.

I would be wearing Road Runner jeans (look it up) and cowboy boots (look, they were popular, ok? Shut up!) and underneath my blazer with the sleeves pushed up? A boucle sweater.

I never did get any of those things as a child. Though by the time the mid-eighties were around, I was wearing thrift shop blazers any way I damn well pleased.

So seeing boucle sweaters on images of perfect women today? Made me wistful. But see, I never looked like them. And I never will. The only way now is down. Gravity is no longer my friend.

If I got a boucle sweater now, it wouldn’t make me cool or fabulous. I’m already as fabulous as I'm gonna get, and as long as my husband thinks I’m cool (or hot) it doesn’t matter what kind of sweater I wear.

Take that, consumer culture.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Comment: One Year Ago Today

Well, it’s happened. Today marks the one year anniversary of QCC. Should I have made t-shirts? What started out as musing about being a rock star last September turned into a (mostly) daily exercise in self expression and spleen-venting.

I don’t know all of my readers, but I know most of you. I’m not even sure how many of you there are. I’ve done no viral marketing, no focus groups, no quizzes, polls or questionnaires (except in the early days of the blog, when I did love the polling feature as alert readers may recall).

I’ve been delighted whenever one of you either makes a comment here, or via email, to me. I hope you enjoy my rants. I enjoy writing them and I enjoy knowing other people enjoy them. It's a total win-win.

Also, two of my friends have started blogs in the past year. It's not like I'm Paula Abdul taking credit for all those Idol winners like she did last night on VH1 Divas (She is exhausting) but they are both using, like yours truly. Coincidence? I think not.

Here's to you, readers, whoever you may be. Feel free to comment if you can get the damn thing to work.

You rock.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Comment: Wrath Hath No Fury Like Something or Other

It’s amazing how quickly you can go from zen to rage. It’s especially disturbing to do so when you thought you were “over” whatever issue it was that was pissing you off. Saying you are at peace with something is one thing; actually being at peace with it is another.

When times get tough, how do you lower your expectations? How low do you let them go before you say, I’ve had enough, I’m trying something new? At what point is enough of something enough?

It’s so hard to shift one’s paradigm, change one’s seas, etc. There are millions of books out there that tell you how to try to do it. And honestly? I don’t think any of them have the answers. At the risk of getting all freaky-deaky, I do think the answer is within.

But you have to peel through a lot of layers to get to that within. And most people can’t be bothered. Or they run screaming the other way. Or their wisdom is buried so deep inside that they don’t even know it’s there.

Do I sound like the sound of one hand clapping? Woo woo.

Man, like Homer Simpson, I’m looking for the quick fix. But that’s not real.

So I guess I’ll have to revise that strategy. Figure out what to do with the chaos all around me.

I’m being obtuse and slightly melancholy. Just call me Betty Buzzkill.

Plus, I’ve been reading a lot of Cary Tennis lately. Makes me want to write him a letter. For those of you who don’t know his work, he’s an amazing writer who does this brilliant advice column in It’s called “Since You Asked.” He’s not a shrink but he plays one better than some of the real ones. He’s a bright, sensitive, visionary type of guy.

Check him out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Comment: No Van Gogh on the Child!

How do you know what you can get rid of when you’re doing a stealth household crap purge while your kids are out at school?

Because today my daughter looked for two different things, on two different occasions, and I had to b.s. my way out of both of them, because I had just thrown out both items. Down a long, irretrievable garbage chute. I didn't think she'd notice. But obviously I was wrong.

One item, her summer sandals, are pretty outgrown and are kind of hazardous when she runs in them. Now that it’s cooler and she’s wearing tights, her feet slip around in them in a disturbing way. Not safe? Easy. Goodbye Target sandals.

The other object I got rid of more for aesthetic purposes. Or maybe due to their creep factor. We had these sticker/tattoo/coloring kits for Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. My daughter got into the tattoos from the Van Gogh collection. She put one on the other day, and when I saw the rest of them today, I chucked them. I mean, would you want your preschooler wearing a very talented and depressed one-eared man on her shin? It wasn't a painting of sunflowers or anything, it was a self-portrait.

Van Gogh was good, no question, but have you looked at his stuff? Really looked? His palette is so dreary and all his flowers droop. There’s a reason. The poor man was clinically depressed. He shot himself in a field. (Probably one he painted earlier in his torturous career.) I’m not denying he was a great artist. I just don’t particularly like what he painted.

Having cycled through several bouts of depression myself, I suppose it hits a little too close to home for me, to see a truly depressed person’s work, and on my daughter’s body no less. Shouldn't it be a tattoo of someone like The Wiggles? I'd even take Barney in lieu of this.

So I threw out the Van Gogh tattoos.

Honestly, do you blame me?

It won’t be so easy when she grows up and gets a real tattoo of a depressed alternative band name tattooed on her ass.

But if it’s punk, I’ll understand.

Maybe I’ll get one, too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Comment: "I hope it’s not the swine flu!"

When I came downstairs at our building yesterday and asked for the concierge to call me when my delivery came from the drugstore via someone from my husband’s office (how entitled is THAT sentence, it's terrifying) because my kids are sick, the other dude talking with him said jovially, “I hope it’s not the swine flu!”

How, in any realm of anyone’s imagination, is that helpful to say out loud? Especially to an anxious (though seemingly living large) mother?

I’ve decided that here at QCC we don’t do enough fun things, so here’s my first: Lunkhead of the Month. This is an award for the person or persons who say or do the dumbest thing in a four week time period.

So the Lunkhead Award for Septemeber Goes to…..Random Man in Lobby.

Why do people think saying “I hope it’s not the swine flu” helps? Is it just their socially awkward anxiety spurting out, or what? Somebody else said that to me via email but I can’t remember who it was. I’m sure whoever it was is a stellar human being, but why say that?

Gosh, I hope you don’t have hepatitis! Or mange! Or scabies!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Question: What do you do when you see something happening that doesn’t look like it will turn out well, and you can’t stop it?

I’m just asking.

Not to get all heavy and melancholy, but there are things I see going on in life, both personal and general, that aren’t healthy, and don’t look sustainable.

I’m not really sure what to do about any of it.

Buddhism would tell me to just watch the train wreck. Accept the train wreck. Lean into the train wreck.

Easier said than done.

Buddha didn’t live in the age of iPhones and 24/7 availability people now have, wherever they are.

But the point is still sound: watch the disaster, try some equanimity, and breathe deeply. Everything changes. Everything will pass.

It reminds me of a cartoon I once saw of a guy at a doctor's (or guru's) office saying, “Yes, sure, I want to relax! But I want to do it now! I want to be on the cutting edge of relaxation!”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Comment: Hungry All the Time

I’m reading “101 Things to Do Before You Diet” (hyuk) and it’s pretty good. The author, Mimi Spencer, is a fashion writer and knows a lot of tricks on how to look thinner than you really are.

But that’s not the best part. What rocks is, she’s hilarious. She’s a very cheeky Brit who comes across just as human and foible-filled (mmm, foibles) as the rest of us. Her tone is perky and slightly quirky and it works. She is us.

It makes me feel better to see that I am not alone in my obsession with (a) food and/or (b) my specific weight. We women all walk around thinking we’re ugly and fat when we’re not. It’s truly a disease of the mind. We’ve been taught to find fat of any kind offensive, even though evolutionarily-speaking (mmm, evolution) skinny gals would go down first.

Junk in the trunk, or the glove compartment, or the passenger side, is pretty damn normal.

So this book just reminds you that you should think before you eat, not eat everything in sight, and be nice to yourself.

So far. I’m only in the first dozen tips. I have many miles to go on this one.

But it strikes me as sad that I and so many others are so obsessed with how we look, when the look that is allegedly normal by Hollywood standards, is actually under-nourished, weak and brittle. Why do we want to look like junkies? I hate that I resent my muffin top, but I do. And I’m not alone. Why do have to be so OCD about our asses? Humans, so complex. It's all a rich tapestry.

Anyway, I’ll keep reading this book. If nothing else, it’s making me be mindful of my bad habits, which is a good thing. And it’s making me laugh. What’s not to love?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Comment: In Brief

I’ve just spent the entire day inside a small apartment with one sick child and one well (and restless, natch) child.

I’m so understimulated even a Ken Burns documentary sounds good.

Think I’ll go see if there’s one on somewhere…

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another Related Question:When do kids stop talking publicly to other kids about their blankies?

I wonder because my son wanted to bring in his blankie for what in the old days we’d call “show and tell”. It’s now a bag wherein you put five items relating to yourself; it’s (seriously) called the “all about me” bag. Sign of the times.

So my son wanted to put his blankie in the bag. And I worried about his school yard cred. But he's so young. Blankies are still sacred at that age, aren't they?

Luckily he mentioned that another little girl in his class had brought in HER blankie earlier in the week , so I thought, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

And he brought it in today and all was good.

I just wonder at what point kids start teasing the kids who talk about their blankies. Kids reach a certain age when they decide that they no longer want to please anyone in authority, and that they know way more than anyone else.

I had thought that happened around age 12 or 13, but it’s actually much younger. Adolescent rebellion starts early. Fourth graders are all into pop culture and hip hop and being “sick” (aka cool). (Reminds me of The Simpsons: The cool character they invent whose name eludes me says to Marge and Homer, “Thanks for letting me chill in your crib.” To which Homer replies, “Thank YOU for assuming we’re hip.”)

But really, should a second grader be familiar with Homer Simpson’s body of work? And should any elementary school aged child be watching Family Guy? (Um, no.)

How early is too early for sarcasm, deadpan humor and songs about hos?

Again, I’m just askin’.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Question: At what point to you have your children of different genders bathe separately?

When does a child go from innocently-curious to perhaps-inappropriately-curious about the whole personal area situation? And why is it so hard to talk about this? Can you believe I just wrote “personal area situation?” Oy.

I don’t know the answer. I have a sister. We could still bathe together today and it wouldn’t matter. (Though it would be crowded.)

I just don’t have a precedent. Neither does my husband. He has a sister, but they’re four years apart, so it was probably pretty obvious when they needed to stop bathing together, if, in fact, they ever did at all. (I’m betting they didn’t.)

I don’t want to cause mockery or chagrin on the playground when my son casually mentions that he has a bath with his baby sister. But surely there are other kids who still do that.

When do you stop? And does that mean two baths a night? Or alternate night baths? What about showers? WTF?

Could someone get back to me on this, please?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Complaint: Beatles Overload

Okay, okay, I get it. The Beatles version of Rock Band is coming out. It’s coming out and people are going to buy it. Rock stars are talking about it, non-rock stars are talking about it. It’s a regular British Invasion! Somebody hold me back.

Seriously, I know they were/are a big deal, but why is this such an “event”? I mean, it’s just not that important. It’s a lot more vexing that many people in this country think the President shouldn’t be allowed to talk to kids about staying in school. FFS, how about some perspective? (See yesterday’s post.)

Plus, if I may add vinegar to my sour grapes, have you seen Rock Band? It doesn’t teach you how to play, at least not the actual guitar. Pushing buttons in sequence is a skill, sure, and one kids today will need. But it’s just a big Game Boy, right? Boy howdy.

And I understand that playing Rock Band is in many ways a fabulous wish fulfillment for people of all ages and musical abilities. If I had it, I’d probably love it. I want to be a rock star.

But even if I had Rock Band, I wouldn’t be out looking for “She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah” or “Norwegian Wood.” That’s not rock music. Or maybe it is, and I’m just caught up in semantics. The Rolling Stones? Rock band. Led Zeppelin? Rock band. The Beatles? Very talented and over-hyped boy band. It’s pop people, like it or not.

Beep-beep beep-beep yeah indeed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

BONUS Question: How could anyone be offended by Obama’s education speech today?

Seriously. I just read the whole thing and there’s nothing in there that’s going to transform the nation’s youth into extreme left wing slacker-liberals who have abortions and go on welfare for kicks while keying Beemers and Benzes. I mean, unless he inserted subliminal messages (don't laugh, Anne Coulter probably claims he did) there was NOTHING in that speech that was controversial.

If anything, the speech seemed pretty “pull yourself up by your own boostraps” Republican to me.

So all you right wing zealots, calm down. (Not that any of my readers are right wing zealots, but maybe their neighbors are, so, you know, you could tell people to calm down who may have been foaming at the mouth about President Obama’s speech. I mean, talk about a knee jerk reaction. Did these people even stop to find out what he was going to say? Way to jump the gun on the whole thing. Oh that's right, right wing people love guns, don't they?)

No really, I mean, come on! Don’t you want your children to do well in school?

That’s all he’s saying.

What is wrong with people?

Sometimes a pep talk is just a pep talk.

Spread the word. As a reasonable human being, spread the word that doing well in school is not code for some socialist resistance regime.

Don’t the naysayers have anything else to do with their time? Why do you Republicans hate America so much? Because the only message today was: Be a good student, it's good for you and the country.


Comment: Ambivalence-R-Us

My kids are safely and happily ensconced in their new school. My husband is at his very demanding job.

I am a wreck.

I thought I would be relieved and happy when the kids were off to school; be careful what you wish for. With them in school, the days suddenly loom longer than ever. I feel as though my life consists of dropping off, picking up, and waiting.

I’m in what Dr. Seuss calls “The Waiting Place.” Once we move, and I get more work, I’ll be busy and likely much happier again. But right now, I wait.

You can’t rush getting a new job; you can’t rush a closing date on a house. I know I should be enjoying my newfound freedom, but it has left me hollow. Sure, last week, I was elated. But that’s worn off. I’m sure things will balance out again soon enough. Just not now.

All of our agony comes from waiting, doesn’t it? Waiting for something to end. Waiting for something to start.

Pema Chodron says we should “lean into the sharp points.” This, as opposed to avoiding the things we don’t like by compulsively and incessantly eating, shopping, drinking and other ing-ing too much.

Lean into the sharp points.

It’s worth a try. But right now? Ow.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Comment: There’s something ironic about working on Labor Day.

But when you think about it, there are always people working on holidays. It’s just that so many of us are accustomed to having certain holidays off, every year, without fail. So when suddenly someone in the family has to work on labor day, it seems somehow wrong.

Bu really, though not everybody gets paid to work, every day is a work day on some level. I mean, if we define work as doing something that requires labor, then everyone works, all the time, don’t they?

How come mothers don't have unions?

I remember going into labor for the first time. I thought it was the flu. Bad flu. Or food poisoning. Turns out it was my son, making an early entrance into the world.

And the labor with my daughter happened in the middle of my getting a chest x-ray. I said to the technician. “I think I’m going into labor.” And she kind of smiled and said, “Stand still, honey.” A few short hours later, my daughter was born, early bird number two.

Happy Labor Day, Everybody!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Comment: Humanity, Ugh

So one of the things I noticed when I was substitute teaching yesterday was, fourth graders are just like ninth graders. At least, in the boys' case. A fourth grade boy is just a miniature fifteen year old: only he’s on the very beginnings of riding the wacky wave of adolescence, which, nowadays, lasts far, far into the twenties.

When I told my husband that the boys had given me a run for my money (giving false names, goofing around, talking, standard issue sub behavior) and that these nine year olds in a small private school were a lot like the fifteen year olds I taught in urban California, he said: of course it’s all the same with these boys, “it’s just a matter of degree.”

So if I understand him right, (and I think that I do), then four year old boys are the same as fourteen year old boys are the same as twenty four year old boys. Zoinks.

When does maturity happen? Is it possible that it never does?

As for girls, the cliquishness starts around age 4, worsens through fourth grade, and peaks in high school. Of course sororities and such happen in college, and from what I’ve heard, they’re no picnic either.

So maybe the bottom line isn’t that boys are immature a lot of the time and girls are cliquey a lot of the time.

Maybe that’s just how we are.

God, what a terrible thought. Are we that obnoxious at our very cores? Are we learning all of this from bad reality TV? Or is reality TV only a reminder of what assholes we generally are?

Is art imitating life, or is life imitating art?

It's on my mind because I watched some more of “Real Chance at Love” today, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the rumour I heard about the guys being actors is probably true. What I wonder is, how many of the women are actresses as well? I’m pretty sure several of them are just in there to mix shit up. But some of them might be real people, non-actors, with a sincere desire to (a) be on television or (b) find love. Which, as we’ve already discussed, seems a highly dubious goal for any kind of TV show. Especially one full of fakers!

So I don’t know, people. What is reality? Who is real?

It’s all a rich tapestry.

(Bonus points if you can tell me where I got that last line.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Comment: Working for the Weekend

I went back to work today for the first time in six and a half years. I had a blast. And I’m bone-crushingly tired.

I am seriously going to have to pace myself. And find someone to help clean my house, when we get a house. Right now, apartment living, though cozy (and I use it euphemistically) makes my housework easy. I pretty much ignore it until the cleaning people come every two weeks; it never gets too bad. (Yes, I'm living the dream.)

As far as work goes, I’m on call, so I’m at this point extremely part time. I hope to sub more, and frequently, and to eventually parlay this subbing into a full time position teaching (preferably Drama) at my kids’ school. But I'm very willing to teach other things too; I love, love, love this school.

But for now, I have to digest my day of smart assed but cute fourth graders, adorable but slightly whiny first graders, and trying to learn 75 kids’ names in one day.


Stay tuned for a future post on subbing. It’s new turf for me and honey, I have stories for you.

But I’m too tired tonight.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Comment: The Pandora’s Box of Gum

How does one deal with the whole “do as I say not as I do” scene in terms of parenting?

Specifically, my issue is with gum.

I tend to cast aspersions on it in general, and I do not allow my kids to chew it. They think it’s gross and I’m sure that’s because I gave them that impression.

But I need gum these days. I am trying to lose a few pounds, and chewing gum after supper is better than scarfing on desserts and nuts and such while I’m cleaning the kitchen. Even though I’ve had dinner, I end up pigging out afterwards, so I thought the gum would work. (A friend suggested it.)

However, I can’t let my kids see me chewing gum. I’m supposed to loathe the very sight of it.

Guess I went a little too far in expressing my antipathy.

And I really don’t want to explain to the kids that I’m chewing gum because I want to lose a few pounds, because I don’t want to give THEM food issues. They don’t eat for comfort, I do. I don’t want to make them go down that winding, difficult road. They’re only 4 and 6, FFS!

So I don’t know what I’m going to do. Perhaps some stealth chewing? Sounds like something you’d see on a sit-com.

Or maybe I’ll have to go to mints. But I’ll probably have to justify the hypocrisy of being anti-candy.

Oh crap.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Complaint: Slouch Boots Are Back!!!

Like ohmygod, like, totally gag me with a retro spoon.

Please. The eighties were lots of decadent, stupid fun for people of a certain age. But it’s over now. Move, people!

Let's not even mention the hideous recent trend of pigment-dyed (and/or acid-washed) jeans. And skinny jeans. And off the shoulder shirts with long inserted zippers. Then there are the black lace leggings. Shouldn’t we at least wait until Madonna retires before bringing back her pre-Material Girl look?

Maybe I’ m just shopping in the wrong places. But wait, I shop at Target. How could that be wrong?

I have seen several pairs of slouch boots and, totally gag me, the dreaded booties. Nobody looks good in these. Except maybe ten year old girls. And even then, it strikes me as precocious and a little too elf-life.

I mean, have we learned nothing?

And speaking of vacuousness and stupidity, I see that there is TV a show called “Toddlers and Tiaras.” It's about little girls (and their psychotic mothers) who compulsively do beauty pageants. And from the thirty second promo I saw, it looks worse than even “Real Chance at Love.” The former is out and out exploitation. Of children. At least RCL involves consenting adults.

I can not imagine why anyone, I mean ANYONE would want their child to dress like sluts at age three. In fact, the topic of make up came up with my four year old daughter fairly recently; she asked me if she could wear lipstick. I said no. Little children don't need make up; shouldn't wear make up.

How do you explain to a small child that you don’t want to whore them out to the highest bidder?

Because yes, there’s now a term for the phenomenon of tarting up your little girl and parading her around for prizes: prostitots.

So pervasive there’s a WORD for it.


It’s just sick and gross to paint your child and make them strut around in belly shirts, heavy makeup and heels. I mean, WTF? When you see a grown woman dressed like that, you think, hoochie mama, right? So how the hell does that translate to cute on little kids?

Stop sexualizing small children. They are not trophies. They are not Barbies. They are not dolls of any kind. What kinds of people do these pageant pawns grow up to be?

Stop the insanity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Comment: Some Things I Learned on the First Day of School

Car lines take a looong time. Do not, repeat, DO NOT drink a can of Coke Zero before driving to get your kid(s). Waiting in a long line of cars is excruciating as a result.

Kids do better with goodbyes if you don’t blubber like a baby when you drop them off. Actually, I didn’t. Honest! I was very matter-of-fact about dropping off my kids and they went to school without a fuss. I felt pangs and anxiety all day, of course, but they don’t know that, and they don’t need to.

Now it’s time to shine the spotlight on their bedraggled mother. I went shopping this morning while the kids were in school, looking for clothes to wear at a future job.

Which could come sooner than I think. I found out this afternoon that I may get to substitute teach on Friday at my kids’ school. Be careful what you wish for; I’m going to have to put my money where my mouth is and actually go to work.


I’ll have to do a full clothing inventory and see what I can swing.

I’m sure you’ll be waiting with baited breath.