Tuesday, October 31, 2006
So we decided that one didn't count.
Sunday night we managed to assemble a nice Pile O' Presents and I was planning to make a cake. Sadly, homework reared an ugly head, and so I bought the most beautifully decorated cupcakes from the gourmet grocery. Besides, we still had some of the Pony's SECOND cake hanging around, so it didn't seem prudent to add a THIRD cake in a week.
We got him some music on CD, some DVDs, a board came to play with the family, and Stuff For The Boat. Bunny gave him an event guide for boating on the upper Mississippi and St. Croix, complete with drink recipes and maps and dining guides. It's your full service guide for reading over the winter months.
And he got flags. And by "flags" I mean "FLAGS!" Gramma Sweetie sent a lovely ensign flag for the back of the boat. I got him a set of 40 signal flags. Traditionally used for communication at sea, the flags include the alphabet, numbers 0-9, plus some additional message flags. In this era of wireless communication, I don't see us needing to display messages--rather, I thought, we might just string them from bow to stern for a festive fluttering display.
So, we tried it out, as you can see above. Does it surprise anyone at all that the first thing we tried to spell out was "Lady Cliff?"
October here at Chez Evil has the distinct ring of "party party party!" Our anniversary, Pony's birthday AND birthday party, Mr. Sweetie's birthday, Halloween--it seems like I spend the month buying presents and decorating the house for one event after the other. Not to mention the birthday cake and candy that hangs around the house for the duration of the month.
Each one of these events is important, significant, and an opportunity to convey to the people I love the best how much they are loved. It's just--piled up like that, by the end of the month I am at the end of my extroversion. It's time to hibernate; or, since I can't actually do that, it's time to settle in front of the fireplace to read and write.
Fortunately for me, the weather here is turning cold, and the tempo of events is slowing down. I am looking forward to having the chance to take down all the party decorations, put away the presents, and simplify my life for a month.
Until we do it all again for Christmas.
The Bunny decided a couple of weeks ago to be an old fashioned news boy. She had the news cap--denim, with blingy rhinestones on it. All she needed were suspenders and a jeans jacket. Mr. Sweetie helped her with her costume, and even managed to find a way to tuck her pants legs into her socks to look like old fashioned breeches. But she didn't like that at all. And it is her costume, so she gets to decide what it should look like. So, as Mr. Sweetie put it--she had a hat, suspenders, and ATTITUDE!
Pony didn't definitely decided until about five days ago, and then she decided to be "a desert island." Not one you go out to buy, by any means. So, after tossing around ideas, we came up with a plan. Mr. Sweetie bought some lightweight wood--like pegboard, but without the holes. He measured Pony's head and cut a circle out, and then shaped it into an island-y shape. We used spray adhesive and sand to make the "island", and polyurethane to keep the sand from all falling off.
Then came the fun part--what goes on the island? I found some plastic palm trees which were just the right size, and bought Crayola Model Magic, in white, to fashion the rest of the island. Model Magic is very expensive, but it air dries to near weightlessness. So--what do you put on an island? Well, you put a castaway who has spelled out "HELP" on the beach in sticks. Speaking of castaways, aren't there some famous castaways? With a famous shipwreck? So I built a tiny model of the S.S. Minnow, as well as Ginger and Mary Ann for the island.
Hmm...castaways...castaways...Castaway...Tom Hanks? AND the volleyball he named Wilson! Also, and island needs pirates, and SOS spelled out in rocks, and a mermaid, and sea creatures and messages in bottles. We glued blue metallic fringe around the edge of the island for ocean.
But what about the Pony's head? Tiki goddess, of course! We got a picture from a party store site and made her up to be the looming supernatural presence over the island. Which meant that she had to have some worshippers, bowing and offering fruits to their god.
She entered the school costume contest, and with a friend who dressed as a tourist, won the "Best Group Costume" category. Which is great, but the Truth is--the value of that costume to me was all about amusing myself.
You scored 45% outgoingness, 69% intelligence, and 88% goodness!
You are the problem solver of many situations. Love, however, doesn't seem to going your way at this time of life. It's time to put your intellect in the mix; you will be better appreciated.
My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
|Link: The Which Movie Character Are You Test written by 5934 on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test|
But I did it, and so, in the interest of a full confession and getting it off my concience, I will share the results of my "Dating Style Quiz."
Link: The 32-Type Dating Test by OkCupid - Free Online Dating.
Plus, I totally did NOT sign up for the dating service.
Monday, October 30, 2006
I received the following from JoMama, courtesy of a cousin of mine. I love the diagram. The Man in My Life has long ago learned these lessons!
The Hormone Hostage knows that there are days in the month when all a man has to do is open his mouth and he takes his life in his own hands! This is a handy guide that should be as common as a driver's license in the wallet of every husband, boyfriend, or significant other!
What's for dinner?
Can I help you with dinner?
Where would you like to go for dinner?
Here, have some chocolate.
Are you wearing that?
Wow, you sure look good in brown!
WOW! Look at you!
Here, have some chocolate
What are you so worked up about?
Could we be overreacting?
Here's my paycheck.
Here, have some chocolate.
Should you be eating that?
You know, there are a lot of apples left.
Can I get you a glass of wine with that?
Here, have some chocolate.
What did you DO all day?
I hope you didn't over-do it today.
I've always loved you in that robe!
Here, have some more chocolate.
There are, as of today, about...oh...a gazillion posters who have signed up for it, and Fussy is now offering prizes too! Incentive to actually achieve!
It's not really that I don't have enough to post about--really. It's that I'm noticing that this past weekend, for example, I had exactly NO TIME to even turn on my computer, much less sit and compose a complete sentence.
But now, I've publicly declared my intentions, and now I can be mocked for failure. Nothing like humiliation to encourage participation--far more effective than prizes for me.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
My current favorite candidate for the Pony's Halloween costume is a "Music Pirate." As in, someone who downloads music illegally. Said costume would probably entail an eyepatch that said "iPatch" on it. I found some great skull and crossbones tights, and there is great pirate costume paraphenalia about this year. I guess Johnny Depp can make ANYTHING cool.
Looking for further inspiration, I discovered this, which cracked me up.
They say that to name your fear is the first step to conquering it. Sadly, those people suffering from hippoptotmonstrosesquippedaliophobia CAN'T name their fear, due to the fear itself.
It was not an existential crisis so much as it was the utter boredom and hatred with which I view having to make dinner. What is the deal with this thing we call dinner? Why does it have to happen EVERY DAMN DAY? And why won't the people in my family just eat normal food? I was looking at a magazine at the dentist office the other day, and fully 3 out of 4 Quick and Easy Family Dinners they showed, my family would not eat, even on a deserted island where the alternative was coconuts. AGAIN.
So, I'm feeling bitchy about the fact that we have to keep eating, so I have to keep planning and shoppng for and cooking and setting the table and washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen for the DAMN DINNER...and things just kind of slid from there. Think mudslide kind of "slid." Think homes toppled over and buried under the unforgining slime of a mudslide, with irreplaceable photographs and Aunt Sadie's bone china and even the dog trapped inside while you Just Know the nice man from Allstate is NOT going to be Dennis Hastert and is NOT going to be terribly sympathetic because even if your house was architecturally unique, the median rate for replacement of houses in your area is only about 30% of what yours was worth, as measured by what you paid for it EIGHT YEARS AGO and WHY did ANYONE build a house on a damn denuded hillside where there are no more tree roots to hold the soil in place and at least the Oakies didn't have MUDSLIDES, their land just dried up and BLEW AWAY which meant that at least you didn't have to WASH everything you salvaged and all your CURTAINS and RUGS and BEDDING and CLOTHES weren't RUINED not to even mention the heirloom cuckoo clock from Dusseldorf...
It was that kind of an emotional day. The kind where the thing that is going to help you make it all the way to bedtime is a serious rum drink, and there is no rum in the house and you can't get any because the kid's sport playoff game goes until after the liquor stores close.
So, cursing my lack of preparation, and being disappointed in myself for letting things get this bad without speaking up to Mr. Sweetie to ask for the help I so clearly (to me) need, I finally went to bed.
And it was like a locked door opened and people started coming out of the cold storage and came out to talk to me. To tell me their stories. To say "Hell, if you think you really want to be a writer, then go write this stuff down." And the characters that I have been trying to capture onto paper for a long time suddenly were there: they showed me the structure of their emotional make up, they set the emotional tone--the language-- for me to capture their lives.
The tone was the biggest gift. It was like showing me where the vein of ore is inside the mountain, and my job is no longer to randomly dig up the mountain, but to follow the vein as best I can. Sure, there are still minor details, like--oh, I don't know, maybe PLOT?--that aren't clear to me at all. But surely that is less important to what I am trying to do than the tone and the language to tell these stories.
So, as I'm lying there in bed, twitchy and not ready for sleep, this avalanche of character development starts to fill up my head, and I ended up getting out of bed and coming here to the computer to get it all down before I forgot it all. When I finally went back to bed--at a unholy time in the early morning--I discovered the Pony was taking up my spot in the bed, and I had to go sleep in her room. So, now, this morning, I am really tired. Three hours is just Not Enough.
I've done my morning obligations: got the kids up and dressed, helped the Bunny clear up a backlog of Spanish homework that she had forgotten about until she was in bed last night, got the circus on its way. I'm now going back to bed. My bed. To sleep. Because now I'm no longer grumpy or twitchy, but those emotional states gave me a creative gift that I needed. So there is a silver lining to the grumpy clouds of yesterday.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Anyway, the whole concept of shaving one's legs has me troubled. On a metaphysical level, on an anthropological level, not just on the level of sheer inconvenience. Although I bet that has a lot to do with it.
Why do women shave their legs? In the larger sense, I mean--why are hairless legs a beauty standard? Its just odd, isn't it--it's not permanently deforming, like foot-binding; it's not crippling and hygenically suspect, like female circumcision (and isn't THAT a euphamism). It doesn't add definition or visual emphasis, like tattoos or cosmetics; it doesn't demonstrate economic status, like giant necklaces and earrings. Its very essence isn't to create prominence to some feature--it's a subtraction rather than an addition.
Which may be the point. Humans who reach sexual maturity develop a number of secondary sex characteristics. Some we label desireable--female curves, male muscle development, the like. Others are undesireable--acne comes to mind. But body hair is uniquely undesireable for women. And, by subtracting the dark hairs, leg depilation subtracts years. Meaning that women--who spend a lot of time and effort to look young, and I'm one of them (okay, maybe not so much effort, but you know)--are spending the effort to look pre-pubescent.
And this kind of squicks me out. And it's made even worse by the whole bikini and Brazilian wax thing too. In this case, women's beauty is about looking TOO young to be an acceptable sexual partner. What does this say about our cultural acceptance of desirable sexual partners? And is it in some way enabling of soemthing we would never support outright?
Mark Foley is going down in flames because he made questionable propositions to underage pages on Capitol Hill. Sexual predators are barred from schools and parks and forced to notify the public of any change of residence. And yet. At the same time. We obsess endlessly about eating disorders and underfed runway models and "heroin chic" without taking the next logical step and realizing that there is a deep undertow of psychosis about sexual maturity in women.
Models are thin because why? Because then they look like barely pubescent girls? Or like barely pubescent boys? (I have heard a theory that runway models are thin because the standard was set by designers who are gay and don't want to look at women's bodies.)
Kate Moss's life is in ruins because why? Because she was launched to supermodel status by her rail thin "heroin chic" look, but then she grew up and got curves and nobody wanted her to be curvy, so she is a heroin addict now because she's trying to stay as thin as she was in her (very) early teens.
Women shave their legs and underarms because why?
Anorexia and bulimia are distorted attempts to achieve an "ideal" of thinness--why?
Breast implants are popular--and now LOTS of celebrities look like ironing boards with bowling balls stapled to their fronts--and that thinness is important why?
It doesn't mean I'm opting for the crunchy granola, liberal lesbian, all natural look any time soon. It does mean that I'm thinking about why I'm shaving while I'm doing it--or, in my case--often--not doing it.
Come on, if God had meant women to shave their legs, She wouldn't have invented dark hose. And opaque socks.
I don't care.
Because I have a GARAGE! HAH! Take THAT, construction suckahs!
(Ha! I'm getting smarter, and this year, I pulled requests out of both of them. How? Well might you ask! I simply warned them that if they didn't make suggestions lists, they would get gifts off of MY list of suggestions---which tended toward the shiny, the purple, and the mid-height heel. Sure, Mr. Sweetie has nice legs, but I bet he's really not interested in a pair of round toed platform pumps.)
The last of the crises is upon us not--what to be for Halloween?
Bunny has hers down--she's going to be a newsboy. She already has the hat, because she's a STYLIN' fifth grader. The real bonus is that she's going to get to adverstise the latest headlines: "Extra! Extra! Kindergarteners shorter than 5th graders!" "Extra! Extra! Candy expected later this evening!" "Extra, extra! I have no idea what I am talking about!"
It's harder for the Pony, because to wear a costume to school as a 7th grader requires an ineffable mixture of attitude and cool to pull off. No more fairies, angels, or princesses--they must have an edge. Trampy fairies, perhaps, or slutty princesses, maybe--there must be some dash of camp or irony. Boys have it easy--they can always dress up as girls. That's always good for a laugh.
Last year, Pony pulled off a clever costume--"Ra-punk-zel." Black nail polish and lipstick, a long black wig made out of yarn, an old prom dress from Ragstock worn with combat boots, fishnet stockings and fingerless gloves. She was a hoot.
But how do you top that?
Some friends of ours went to a Superhero Costume Party last year. He went as "Silent E," the retro superhearo from the old "Electric Company" PBS series. "He can turn a rob into a robe." She went as "SuperMom." Upon her "Cloak of Invisibility" (because, sadly, so many moms are invisible) she listed all the jobs that moms perform: cook, housekeeper, personal assistant, wardrobe consultant, chauffeur, etc. I thought that was fabulous.
Me? I don't need a costume for Halloween--I dress up every single day in my pretend "I'm a Functioning Adult Who Can Be Relied Upon" outfit. It fools just about everybody!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The one at the Hilton was hand mirror sized, mounted to the wall on an extending arm, and was illuminated. It was an amazing tool--who knew you could see so many eyebrow hairs that needed to be tweezed?
It was especially useful, as my eyes continue to age faster than the rest of my body, and the magnification worked even better than bifocals, which do tend to get in the way of actual tweezing. It's an age old problem--or maybe I mean an "old age problem." How do you put on eye makeup when you need your glasses to see what you are putting on?
So, I haven't (yet!) yet found a sufficiently attractive wall mounted illuminated extending magnifying mirror. But I did find a little compact sized one. And I used it. And it was amazing the difference it made in the final look of my eyebrows.
Sure, a 10x magnification might be a bit much. Maybe I really didn't need to see all those pores looking like divots, or the flakes of skin pulled loose when the hair was removed. So, I guess I'll not be ordering the Amazing Electron Microscope Magnifying Mirror either.
(This is an electron microscope image of a mascara brush, courtesy of this site. If I told you what all you were seeing, you'd never use mascara again, which would lead to a pandemic of pale eyelashed people. And no one wants to see that.)
Pony has now played for three seasons, and the growth of the team has been fascinating to watch. Even tonight, they were a great team, backing each other up, calling the ball, serving solidily over the net, then WHAM! Everything falls apart, and the girls are suddenly playing each others' positions, missing balls in their area, running into each other as they all run to get a ball, and then --at the last minute--deferring to each other.
That game ended at 5:30, giving us half an hour to get across town to the Bunny's game, plus feeding everyone, plus stopping at the library to get a book Pony needed for her homework tonight. Through the miracle of cel phone and 411, we called ahead to the library to get the book set aside for us, and called a Vietnamese take out place for dinner. I tell you, that was some AWESOME MamaGrooving going on.
And then the Bunny's team won! Which was very exciting, except that their next playoff game is tomorrow night at 7:45. Which seems incredibly late for 10 year olds, if you ask me. But no one did--ask me, that is. So, tomorrow night is another night of volleyball excitement.
Yeah! Volley Ball EXCITEMENT, I said! Can I get a "whoop whoop"?
Everyone had trouble waking up this morning, kidlets most of all. There were tears and stomach aches and nausea. Mr. Sweetie and I questionned them closely, then sent them back to bed. Because I don't think they are really sick: I think they are just really tired.
I have a lot of sympathy for that kind of tiredness. I have a slow metabolism ("Oh, you think?" snarks the bathroom scale) and it takes me 20-40 minutes to fall asleep at night, and the same to wake up in the morning. In between, I need a minimum of 8 hours to feel human.
Mr. Sweetie, bless his untroubled conscience, is exactly the opposite. He can fall asleep like someone hit his "off" switch. I have personally observed him fall asleep WHILE HE WAS STILL TALKING! Plus, he seems to only need about 5 hours of sleep a night, routinely staying up to midnight, then waking up before his alarm goes off at 5:30. I don't think I've actually met 5:30 a.m., I only know it by reputation. But, because I feel like a failure for needing so much sleep, I try to match Mr. Sweetie's hours. And with insufficient sleep, I end up in some really bad places: nauseated, dizzy, overeating to stay awake, depressed. I also think some of my mediations have drowsy side effects. So many days I will see everyone off to their work or school, and then go back to bed to catch up on that sleep.
So, what do you do when you can't tell if your kids are sick? Are we pushing them when they shouldn't be pushed? Are we enabling them if we let them stay home? Do we strike a decent balance by sending them back to bed, and forbidding any tv or computer?
On edit: well, they both went back to bed and were asleep for the better part of 2 1/2 hours. Bunny woke up and came down looking her usual sunny and sparkly self: she needed more sleep! That was the right thing to do!
Pony woke up and stumbled down and didn't look at all like herself. So, Bunny went to school, and Pony stayed home. Guess we did okay in the Parenting Olympics today.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Okay, so I asked the "Ginger or Mary Ann" question for women: Bono or Edge?
This, however, may make the whole thing moot. Sorry Bono. Believe me, I say this out of love, and it hurts me to say it. But especially since you cut your hair--shaved it, actually--you look like that formerly cool, currently schmaltzy actor, Robin Williams.
Pssst: It's NOT a good look.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
A man and his wife are out at dinner, when an acquaintance enters the restaurant with a gorgeous young woman on his arm, who is most definitely NOT his wife.
"That's just disgusting," says the woman. "Just who is she anyway?"
"Oh, her?" says the man. "That's his mistress."
"Oh sure," he says calmly. "Most of the successful men I know have a mistress. I have one too."
"Of course. In fact," he points across the room at a stunning woman at the bar, "there she is."
"Oh." She lets this fact sink in a moment, then leans across the table and whispers "Ours is prettier."
Which is what it is like to be married to a man who has a wooden boat. He is walking around with a glow of happiness, which is slightly tempered with some guilt for having such a mistress. Around here, we call her "L.C."--which is not just the initials of Lady Cliff, but is a reference to a Monty Python sketch where Michael Palin is caught with a scantily clad woman, and attempts to pass her off as "your Grace."
To which she replies "I'm not your Grace. I'm your Elsie."
But it is so wonderful to see Mr. Sweetie being so darn happy. Really, every little thing about this boat makes him happy. L.C. was pulled from the water for the season this week, and Mr. Sweetie went down to do some winterizing. He found himself scooping out slimy water from the bilge, just so excited and happy to have a boat with a bilge to clean. It's like every flaw and inconvenience is just another adorable quirk for him to love.
I'd be more jealous, but since that's how he treats me, I can't complain.
Friday, October 20, 2006
So, the first day results are in: karaoke is a good gift for a new 13 year old.
Turns out that, despite my long lived desire to sing karaoke, I am not as good as the Pony is--man, girlfriend totally nails it, even songs she doesn't even know. You would be amazed at how quickly she picked up "Start Me Up"-and she's not even that familiar with anything by the Rolling Stones.
It turns out (no surprise) that I'm an "80s Diva," some of my best songs being by Cyndi Lauper and Joan Jett. I'm okay with that--that's my era.
We dragooned Mr. Sweetie into singing too. We let him pick a song, and since he is a Classy Guy, he picked "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" by Tony Bennett. The learning curve is really steep, and by the end of the first song, Mr. Sweetie was nailing the notes beautifully. Then Pony made him sing "Material Girl." Which, of course, he totally aced. Pony could hardly breathe, she was laughing so hard, especially since he was singing in a falsetto, but between verses, he put on his deepest, most resonant baritone, and channelled Barry White.
However, the scores were telling, and as suave and cosmopolitan as he is, it turns out that Mr. Sweetie is a better Madonna than Tony Bennett. This is so WRONG! And I guarantee he's going to demand a rematch.
She went into the pediatricians, and asked for help. The doctor said "Just let her cry. Don't pick her up or try to soothe her."
"But! I can't do that!"
"Sure you can. Look, when you pick her up, does she stop crying?"
"So, since it doesn't make any difference, give yourself a rest. Just let her cry."
Which my friend totally could not do; it felt negligent. If your baby is crying, don't you at least TRY to calm her? Don't you get points for at least trying? Can you truly accept that you won't make any difference by trying?
I mean--for the first 9-10 months, you are that baby's world. Everything you eat and drink, you evaluate as to what affect it will have on the baby. Then, the baby is born, and there is still almost nothing that baby needs beyond its mother--to be held, to be fed, to be changed...babies need mothers and not much else.
How can you even wrap your head around the idea that you could make NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL? And how could you NOT EVEN TRY?
Maybe the doctor was right--but that's one of those times that the pallid Truth has no authority over the maternal instinct, wrong as it might be. I wouldn't have been able to just let the child cry, no matter who logical the argument.
Which just goes to show you that we new moms are SO whacked out on hormone cocktails that we cannot think straight. It's probably a good thing for the survival of the species that we don't.
Without missing a beat, Pony noticed them and said:
"It's because they are having the parade."
Of course! The Pony Birthday Parade! I bet there's one in your town too!
School has been a wonderful thing for the Pony--taking her to kindergarten was like releasing a fish into water. She just swam away into her element. And the school has continued to be an excellent fit for her; academically challenging, good social support, teaching style that matches her pencil-and-paper strengths.
The Bunny, not so much. She's more "hands on" in her style. At the Science Museum, for example, Pony would read the instructions and then perform the experiments: Bunny would push buttons to see what would happen. She's plenty smart, and very capable, but if it doesn't capture her interest, it's hard for her to stay focused. We're working with some excellent psychologists on the ADD thing, and she's doing just fine. It's just not the perfect fit it is for the Pony.
But, when you have your kids in private school, sometimes the sense of entitlement gets magnified. You find yourself saying things like "I pay $xxxxx a year for this?!?!?!?" Whatever "this" is--it rankles to be paying for something that is unsatisfactory. Bunny's school was closed for two days this past week due to a malfunctioning boiler--and some parents were absolutely furious. One parent even took the annual tuition divided over the instructional days and calculated how much it cost him for the school to be closed those two days.
Sure, it's sad that he was that bitter, but I can understand it. It is expensive to pay for tuition, and if you kid isn't getting what s/he needs, you might as well not get it for free. In public schools. Because then you can spend that $xx,xxx per year on enrichment opportunities. Which happens a lot even which the tuition payments.
Some people hire tutors to get their kids up to speed in specific academic areas. There's private music lessons, language lessons, art classes, dance, sports, all kinds of opportunities to get what your kid doesn't get in school. Or doesn't get enough of. Or is simply interested in getting more of than is available during a school day.
And there is an eerie pressure to do so, since so many kids do. I'm no Type A parent, but when your child comes home and says that "Susie is taking riding lessons, and can I too?" I, at least, want to say "yes." And there are plenty of Type A parents in the school--usually women who have left high powered careers to parent full time, but still carry their Fil-O-Faxes (TM) for playdates and afterschool activities. Which, if you are going to do anyway, you might decided to just save the tuition and send the kid to public school for the basics.
Which is a perfectly valid option, and one that we have looked at. I mean, some of our friends have looked at the annual tuition, converted that into a mortgage payment (in a good school district) and have decided to invest in property. Which does appreciate. Unlike tuition, which is pure consumption, really.
But--it's the right place for us for many reasons. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's imperfections are particularly galling because we are paying for the aggravation. But, it's been outstanding for the Pony, it's been very good for the Bunny. Both girls are well behaved and smart, and are the kind of kids who don't really make trouble--and so would probably be overlooked in a public school classroom. At their school, they are SEEN and KNOWN. There are two full time teachers in each of the K-5th grade classrooms, plus specialists for music, art, Spanish, computer, gym, and library. They start and end each week with school wide assemblies, where they are exposed to activities in classrooms and mini-courses where they are not themselves involved. The kids are from well educated families, most of which are intact--there are surprisingly few divorces in the school community, and even where there are, all the blended parents are usually involved in conferences and school stuff.
If there are things that are troublesome, there are fewer levels of bureaucracy to work through to get changes--if they can be gotten. Some things just take a long time--and if change does come, it can still come after your child is no longer at the school.
So, is there an answer? Home-schooling, but let me tell you, you do NOT want a depressive woman trapped at home with her kids...it's a recipe for homocide. Plus, if there is something I can NOT do, it's recreate the social atmosphere of a room full of peers--it is just not possible. And there is much to be learned about getting along in the world that comes with a school full of similarly aged kids.
Academics are important, no question. And part of the importance of properly challenging kids is so the don't become bored (or, conversely, overwhelmed) so that they learn to hate learning and school. Because, unless the world changes radically in the next few months, our kids are going to have to face a minimum of 17 years of school, plus graduate work. But academics are really only part of the story. This year, it seems, all the Pony's teachers agree that only about half of school is about the academics--at least for 7th graders. The other half is social, and that is JUST as important as the academics.
Boy, this was a long post--but it is about something that all parents think about, long and hard. Back when I was a kid, you just went to the school that was in your neighborhood. In some cases, you maybe went to the Catholic church in your parish. Some people moved in order to get into certain desireable districts, but there was not all this hand-wringing about getting the "right" education. Maybe our generation needs to lighten up--our kids will learn something, and there's no telling what they'll really need to know 15 years from now. Fifteen years ago, there were no Website designers, no content providers, no e-commerce gurus...fifteen years from now, what our kids will need to know might just be what they can learn from being in a school environment--how to think critically, how to decided what they want and how to get it, how to operate in ossified bureaucracies. Maybe the best thing we can do for our kids is to just get out of their way and let them find their own paths.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The other current favorites are Madonna's "Material Girl," followed by "That's Amore."
Hey, when you're 13 and 10--they're all Oldies.
Sure, I have some more experience now, but does it really translate? Each of my two kids is such a personality, and they have such different strengths and weaknesses, that any problem solving I do with one is, by definition, not applicable to the other one.
The Pony is now a teenager, which doesn't call for ANY of the skills I have mastered over the years. Sure, I got pretty good at changing diapers, and getting my kids to sleep through the night, and using carseats.... Like I said, not much call for those skills these days.
The Pony remains a delightful girl. She's growing so much socially, with an expanded group of friends, and such insights into why seventh graders behave the way they do. She finds a lot of humor in what goes on around her school, and laughs at most of it.
She is still very very kind and patient, even with her parents. If I told her we were having stewed monkey heads for dinner, she'd sigh, roll her eyes and say in an aggrieved tone: "But we had that for lunch."
Tonight, she opened birthday gifts. Among them were a karaoke game and Dance Dance Revolution, which she is currently doing with her little sister. She's invited Mr. Sweetie and me to try it out too. She still enjoys us, which is such a gift. We still get to have good family times. She is truly a great kid and a joy, and I feel lucky to have gotten her in my family. Happiest of birthdays, Pony!
However, I have to complain to someone. Who loads "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond onto a karaoke Playstation 2 game? It's like Grandma's Karaoke Night.
The Bunny turned excitedly to her sister and said "Let's go get one and pretend he's our grandpa!"
The Pony (and I) had no idea what she was talking about, so she pointed to the sign and said:
"See? It says 'Senior Rentals!'"
In case you are wondering, that was a deliberate joke on the Bunny's part--she takes after her mother that way. I'm so proud!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Although, so far, I think I come off as rather a cool mom. At least, a funny one. But she turns 13 tomorrow, and all of this can change.
This was a remarkable rebuttal to the childcare experts of the time who warned that children must not be cuddled, or picked up when they cried, at the risk of spoiling them. This may have been the start of science of touch, and the root of such current practices as "kangaroo care" and placing a newborn on the mother immediately after birth to allow them to bond.
This, however, scares me. It looks like Harlow's research all over again. You know, sometimes it's just as well my kids are much older--I'm not sure I'd want to have these lying around my house.
It turns out that the invitation to assist was to come onto the board of the hospital Auxilliary, and this was their annual meeting. Which, since I'm neither Catholic nor medically inclined, seemed like a bit out of my core competency. But, I went anyway, and ...wow.
I ended up at a table of 5 retired nurse/nuns, plus my friend who is a retired nurse. Some of the coolest woment in the world are nuns over the age of 65. The evening started with an hors d'oeuvres dinner--cheese, crackers, little barbeque sandwiches, seafood wontons, California rolls, salami, skewered shrimp, and egg rolls. And wine. Who knew that Catholic hosptial meetings would have wine? And nuns are good drinkers? We each had a tastefullly sized glass of chardonnay at our table, and one of the nuns noticed, and suggested--"they should just give us a bottle." So, as the youngest one at the table, I got a bottle. And a corkscrew. And I filled all those nun's glasses. Again. And the designated driving nun was the biggest drinker at the table!
One of the other nuns started introducing all of us at the table to someone else as "Sister [Name on the Name Tag]. So, I was made a nun--which I think takes the obligations of volunteering a little bit too far, and will certainly be a surprise to Mr. Sweetie.
So, are these my people? Is there room at the table for a non-Catholic, non-medical white wine drinker? If I do join this group, I'm going to suggest that "Auxilliary" needs to be changed. It is a hopelessly old fashioned name--it's as dated as being called "Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname." Which is, of course, how someone was introduced. But, let's face it--this organization was started at a time when all the doctors were men and their wives raised money for the hospital. The Auxilliary still does that--which explains a lot of things, such as:
- why it is still called "The Auxilliary"
- why the average age in the room was about 74
- why the only men in the room at any time were the chef and the two presenters...and at least two of them were gay
- why it felt like I was at a meeting of the women's group at my church.
In quaint old Saint Paul, however, the model seems to be that the fundraising happens through the Ladies' Auxilliary--still!--holding luncheons and fashion shows and running the gift shop. There is part of me that just loves that about Saint Paul--if it worked for our great-grandparents, by God, it will work for us!
Part of me thinks that, perhaps, it's time for the Ladies' fundraising to move to a more professional level?
But hey--keep serving the wine!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
NaBloPoMo: Coming soon to this space!
Monday, October 16, 2006
It's hard to believe that it's been that long--Pony is now in seventh grade and is taller than I am. Back then, she was so little, that when the little boy came to show us his Halloween costume, she couldn't say "Thomas the Tank Engine."
"It's Thomas the Tikken!"
Now, she's the elder statesman of the neighborhood, and the new parents are keeping their eyes on her as a future babysitter. And she's the same age as the babysitters we used to hire. These things happen when you live in one place for fifteen years: babysitters go off to college, the babies grow up and start sitting for the newest neighbors.
Our neighbor mentioned that the baby would be able to say "bye bye" in about nine months. And the incredible thing is that when my kidlets were three months old, I absolutely could not imagine that much time ever passing. Parenting is hard hard work, and one of the hardest things is how time absolutely DOES NOT pass. Dooce describes it as struggling to make through ten minutes, in order to then struggle through the ten minutes after THAT. I remember thinking that I was going to die before making it through the first two weeks of breast-feeding--two weeks felt like an eternity.
But now--hey! Nine months--that's no time at all! Nine months from now is next summer, and we already have theater tickets for farther ahead than that. Nine months is nothing at all anymore. I feel like I'm living in sync with the rest of the world now--but I still got a visceral kick of remembrance about how long nine months can be.
And really, the joy factor is entirely non-monetary, and it is totally the reason to have kids. This morning, in fact, the Bunny was making her breakfast, and happily humming a tune. Not just any tune. She was humming the "Darth Vader Theme" from Star Wars, while toasting her Cinnamon Toaster Strudel with Cinna-bon Cinnamon and Brown Sugar.
Interplanetary terror: it's not just for breakfast.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
The greatest sister in the world, suefunky, has passed on a thought that is my newest mantra: if you are planning to share a dessert with your dinner partner, and you say "Go ahead and order, I don't care"--you might not get the dessert you wanted. Or, as the mantra now goes: "If I don't ask, I won't get the chocolate."
Doesn't that just summarize the whole situation perfectly? Sure, I hate to assert myself, sure, I'm hopelessly blocked about asking for what I want or need--but hey! If I don't ask, I won't get the chocolate! And really, is there anything better than the chocolate choice? I'll answer that for you--no. Or, at best, rarely. Are other people going to offer me something better than what I want for myself? Again--rarely.
Or, as my therapist said--If you don't take care of yourself, no one else will. Which is true about being an adult, isn't it. I have the best vantage point for my needs and my desires and how to get them all met--so if I'm hiring the best person for the job, it would be MEEEE!
So, repeat after me:
"I'm sorry, that doesn't work for me."
"If I don't ask, I won't get the chocolate."
It is said that when the King of England first visited Christopher Wren's Cathedral of St. Paul, he said it was "Amusing, awful and artificial"--an exercise in the changing nature of English, as the words then meant "amazing, awe-inspiring and artistic."
Does that apply to Lemony Snicket's "The End?" Well, that depends on how you look at it. I started the series back in the day, when it was offered an something fun to read while waiting for the next Harry Potter. And it was amusing--in the current meaning--a clever twist on the earnest Victorian books that showed Our Hero, who was Honest and True, overcoming adversity and earning riches and rewards. I have actually read at least one book by Horatio Alger, where Our Hero was oppressed by a nasty stepfather (even his wife called him "Mr. Tarbox"), but escaped to the gold fields of California to strike it rich.
Of course, the exact opposite happens to the Baudelaires, which was clever. As the books progressed, I enjoyed the silliness--Count Olaf posing as "Detective Dupin," a reference to Edgar Allen Poe's detective of the Murder on the Rue Morgue. I failed to make the connection myself, but someone pointed out that J(erome).D. Salinger had written something called "To Esme, With Love and Squalor." Hence Jerome and Esme Squalor in The Esatz Elevator.
Sunny's speech was also cleverly allusive. As she learned to cook--in The Slippery Slope, I believe--she offered an appetizer with the phrase "amuse bouche"--literally something to amuse one's mouth. (A dedicated fan created a Sunny dictionary here.)
The books were rife with anagrams--the first I spotted was "Al Funcoot," the "author" of the play in which Olaf was going to marry Violet for the Baudelaire fortune. "Al Funcoot" of course rearranges to "Count Olaf."
But then I found some boards--and the dedicated and even obsessive fans who were looking to find hidden messages and deeper secrets that would reveal more about the story. Did you know that one of the patients in The Hostile Hospital was "Laura V. Bleediotie" which is an anagram for "Violet Baudelaire?" They discussed who "Beatrice" was--and I had thought it was just a nod to Dante, so I had skimmed it, smiled briefly, and moved on.
Was there more that I had just missed? Was there deep structure and a tightly cohesive story that ran beneath the books like a secret passageway--and that could be found only by serieous deciphering of various codes? Did I need to carefully parse The Unauthorized Autobiography and The Beatrice Letters to get ready for all the hidden meanings in the last book?
Then I read "The End." And while it ties up some threads, it leaves very very many unaddressed--even unacknowledged. There are more clever allusions--everyone who lives on the island is named after a famous literary island dweller: Robinson and Friday: Miranda, Alonso, Ferdinand, Caliban and Ariel; Omeros and Calypso. The "facilitator" of the island is named Ismael, and keeps repeating "Call me Ish."
The book also cleverly inverts the story of Eden: here, as all are dying, a serpent offers an apple that saves everyone's lives. There is plenty of clever wordplay, such as "read the end of The End from the end of The End and not from the beginning of The End." All are hallmarks of the entire series, and this one is certainly a match for all that came before.
As a finale, however, it asks more questions than it answers. What happened to the Quigley triplets? Is Fiona really evil, or is there hope for Klaus' broken heart? Will the Baudelaires ever come into their fortune? Is VFD really just "Volunteer Fire Department?" Then why all the secret passages and codes and costumes and child-snatching? Why is the sugar bowl so important?
But, in the end, the story got away from him. "Lemony Snicket" seeded his books liberally with false leads, possible story lines, red herrings--far too many to be resolved in a single book. Which he acknowledges with long discussions of how stories have no real beginning and no real end, that they cannot be fully encompassed, that they are like the infinite layers of an onion, with new stories being revealed.
Which I find very reassuring. Sure, I had missed some clever allusions, some neat puzzles, but there was not an entire story that I had completely missed. Jasper Fforde (another of my favorite funny authors) has said that as he writes, he puts things into the books so that he can pick them up later--even though he has no idea what they are going to be when he first writes them. Perhaps that is what happened with The Series of Unfortunate Events. Perhaps Lemony Snicket will write further series--the Quigley triplets would be a natural. And, of course, I will read them.
I do still want to know what "a wet viper perm" is supposed to be an anagram of.
Friday, October 13, 2006
"The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends."
This is clearly filling a need in MY life. Why not other pairings, like a Shakespearean Insult Generator with pictures of Paris Hilton? Or whoever (or whatever) gets your hate on.
"[Thou] foul defacer of God's handiwork.
Thou elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog! We leak in your chimney."
(That last one sounds like the French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
Speaking of which...why not random Monty Python quotes matched to--oh I don't know, maybe E! Online's Fashion Police.
Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
So, brave knights, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth.
The possibilities are endless.
I've done some more thinking about this issue--it IS homework after all.
The problem is that it feels like I've signed a social contract that no one else in the world has--that you only ask when you are truly desperate. Thus, it's not okay to ask unless the situation is extreme, PLUS when someone else asks you to do something, you are required to move heaven and earth to accommodate them, because it's an emergency--because they asked.
Which leaves me in a pissed off place when I find out that the request wasn't important. And whose fault is that?
I don't want to pass this on to the kidlets, but I don't have very good models to behave otherwise. Although I have this one friend who is very good at saying "I'm sorry. That doesn't work for me." And then she just shuts up--she doesn't apologize, or try to make something happen, or negotiate, or anything. Just "That doesn't work for me."
It's my new catchphrase.
Mr. Pumpkin Head pirate kit. What a steal! You don't have to perform a yukky crainiotomy with all that slimy orange pulpy stuff--plus seeds! It's non-flamable and even a kid can do it. So, I went to the website here.
But wait! There's more! More stuff from this seller? I'm there!
Maybe (I thought to myself) there are more options! Fairy princess pumpkin push ins! Or Vampires! Frankensteins! Mummies! Edvard Munch screams! The possibilities are literally endless. Surely someone has taken injectable plastics to the next level for Halloween.
But, I was distracted by this. Look! Shiny!
But if I got them, could I wear them after Halloween? Maybe the patent leather ones would be a better choice?
P.S. Thanks for the link, sweetney!
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Anyway, I had three kids and one other adult to assist, and we finished with 10 minutes to spare. The crepe paper operated as the spreading leaves of trees (which were the center posts of the room, covered in brown artist's paper): the metallic skirting made a charming waterfall over the doors, and in a bold move to make the whole thing about the kids, I made large paper leaves with all their names on.
This was especially smart for relieving any pressure on me--it was about the KID'S ART, not about what I could do. I just put up the background for what the KIDS did, and the KIDS' art was the focus. And really, isn't that appropriate for a school function?
The kidlet's requests were really reasonable, and I bought a couple other books that looked interesting. So now I'm done, and I've set the bar reasonably low so that if no one volunteers to decorate the cafeteria, kids could do it. Or, they could give it a rest for a bit, and then a new volunteer could suggest it. "I know, let's decorate the cafeteria for Family Night!" And then everyone else will say "You are such a genius!"
Either that or there will be a professional set decorator from the Guthrie who has a kid at the school.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
We spent every spare minute last weekend enjoying the boat, so I woke up on Monday realizing that kidlets needed clean laundry for school that was still residing inside laundry hampers.
Mr. Sweetie is travelling this week--he left Tuesday morning at 6:30, and will be back Friday night about 9:30.
Six loads of unsorted laundry dumped on my bed. I'm just going to move it over to Mr. Sweetie's side of the bed and pretend it's him.
Nevertheless, I did notice one thing particularly. One of the men speaking at the service was asked to step up on a raised platform and participate in a Buddhist ceremony, which involved lighting incense. He was a tall man, thin and European looking, (as I found out later) an advertising executive and the boss of the man being memorialized. As he walked across the platform, one of the legs of his elegant suit was caught on teh heel of his shoe.
It was that detail that made his sorrow apparent.
What I am discovering about myself, though, is that it is hard for me to advocate for myself. Somewhere, I got the idea that doing things for myself--because I want to--is not acceptable. Which really makes no sense at all.
I mean, when Mr. Sweetie and I started building our gardens, I knew I loved roses, but they were the one plant I couldn't bring myself to buy and plant. Why, you ask? I don't know. They were what I loved the best, but absent a "logical" reason to get them, I just didn't.
I'm finding that I have the same problem with other aspects of my life. Right now, I have a small handful of health issues that I really ought to have checked: I think I may be going slightly deaf; I have a plantar's wart that will not go away; I should get a mammogram; I have reason to think that I might have issues with sleep apnea. But do I call a doctor and get an appointment for any of these things? No! Why? I am afraid to bother a doctor--after all, they aren't really serious.
Okay, that's just stupid. As my therapist pointed out, I could be living very dangerously--who knows what health issues I might have. As I can figure from my own (former) professional life--you don't get paid if you don't have clients who give you work.
The problem is that I am afraid to take up space. I am simply, constitutionally, genetically incapable of asserting myself--hence, near pathological conflict avoidance. My brand new garage had a problem with some sort of shorting out--push the button to raise the door, and all the power went out. I was actually shy about calling the construction company to send someone out to fix that. As if, what? I was supposed to keep parking in the street because I couldn't get the door open? Or I was supposed to run to the basement everytime I used the garage and flip the breaker?
So, I spent some time with my therapist this week, and really--this is incredibly unhealthy behavior. I'm not happy, I'm passive-aggressive to Mr. Sweetie, I'm teaching my kidlets that they can't speak up for themselves. So I have to start taking myself as seriously as I take the rest of the world. This is my therapeutic homework until my next appointment.
So, rather than just hobbling along with things that are "good enough," or "at least not actively bad," or even "not life threatening yet" I am setting myself the task of treating myself to what I need to be the person I am capable of being. The person Mr. Sweetie married. A person that I like and admire. Like that.
Pony: And then we had to spend two minutes observing dirt. With water in it.
Bunny: Just a bucket o' mud, eh?
Pony: No. Wet dirt.
I guess those are fundamentally different things. This is what a good education provides.
Monday, October 09, 2006
But, going from the sublime to the ridiculous, it was immediately followed by the old Harry Chapin warhorse "Cat's in the Cradle." You remember that piece of crap, don't you? About the guy who is always too busy to spend time with his boy, until his boy grows up and becomes too busy to spend time with his dad. Pretentious. Obvious. Like sticking your head into a garbage can and having somebody come by and hit it with a baseball bat: There Is A Message!
I couldn't believe that someone actually found that piece of regrettable "music" and actually broadcast it--now. In 2006! I thought there was a statute of limitations on something that trite.
Apparently not. The Pony came home the other day, complaining about a couple of her friends singing "One Tin Solder." Oh. My. God. If there is not a statute of limitations on that, there should at least be a freshness date on crap that old. Anyone old enough to have heard that before SHOULD NOT have to be reminded of it again.
As a public service, I will refresh your memory:
Listen children to a story/ That was written long ago /'Bout a kingdom on a mountain/ And the valley far below. On the mountain was a treasure/ Buried deep beneath the stone/ And the valley people swore/ They'd have it for their very own.
[Chorus] Go ahead and hate your neighbor/ Go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven/ You can justify it in the end. There won't be any trumpets blowing/ Come the Judgement Day/ On the bloody morning afterrrr-er-er/ One tin soldier rides away.
Okay, that was painful. Worse than that, it stuck in my head after Pony told me about it. That's what makes it an earworm--it gets into your ear and you can't get rid of it. Hard to say which is worse--the Tin Solder or the Cat's Cradle.
What is the matter with musicians today--can't they write their own crap, so we don't have to listen to the old crap? I want fresh, new crap--the freshest crap you can find! That stuff, I can ignore!
But I don't want them to be tacked onto the end of my life--however old I get to be, there is a limit to how long I want to hang on, and the extra seven years might not actually be anything I want at that point. I know at least two women who lived far longer than they cared to, and every day was just a disappointment that they were still here.
I want my seven years back NOW. So, I decided that I would just advance my birthdate by seven years. This gives me the advantage of being back in my mid-30s, plus now I'm the youngest of my siblings instead of the oldest.
However, it appears that you can't cheat the calendar. I was sitting at the dinner table a while ago, and Mr. Sweetie became concerned about the expression on my face. I looked unhappy, or dour, or depressed--none of which I felt.
That is when I realized that, despite my entitlement to being younger, despite my lack of wrinkles, despite the fact that once every month I get a mother of a zit to announce my period--I am not, in fact, younger. Actually, it appears that in the battle against aging, gravity is now winning.
This would be really depressing, except that the alternative is not any better. Damn gravity.
But now we need a signature drink for on-board. We tried one that Mr. Sweetie's sister had recommended: a white Lillet with ginger ale. Maybe it's better on a hot day, but of 4 of us drinking it, only one really liked it. As a hot weather drink, though, it's not better than a mojito--just easier to make.
One couple I knew had a boat drink called "Strip and Go Naked" which was really drinkable on a sunny summer day, and consisted of an unholy mix of beer, vodka, lemonade, and probably floor sweepings for all I know. Yes, I had a lot of that--and that was over 10 years ago.
The aperatif of choice is currently Bailey's. At least that part is settled.
The gas lines got replaced and the seacocks got maintained, and she was lifted off her blocks and put in the water late afternoon Friday. I, of course, had about ten thousand things to do on Friday afternoon, and couldn't get to the marina until about 8 p.m.--having spent hours and hours ferrying the kidlets to their various music lessons and overnights. By then, it was fully dark, and we decided we didn't really need to move the boat to her slip until the next morning. Sure, we may have been over-cautious, but since I hadn't brought a blindfold, it wouldn't have been COMPLETELY DARK YET.
OF COURSE WE DIDN'T MOVE HER IN THE DARK! But, as it was our anniversary, we bought champagne and exotic cheeses and elegant crackers and gooey chocolate desserts and had dinner in the best restaurant in town. Lady Cliff was moored at the dock where she was put into the water, and so as we listened to jazz and ate, she rocked gently on the currents. The lights in the salon are warmly yellow, and make the African mahogany brightwork glow.
Poor Mr. Sweetie was like a kid on Christmas Eve, he was so excited about getting to go cruising in His Own Boat. Literally. He basically woke up at 3:30 in the morning and could not go back to sleep. At least he didn't come stare at me, willing me to wake up--a technique that has been attempted on Christmases past.
And she drives beautifully. Cap'n Sweetie piloted her out onto the river with just the two of us onboard, and we sauntered upstream a bit. The fall colors were at their peak this weekend, and Saturday was a gorgeous sunny day. After retrieving and kidlets and inviting the Evil Grandparents (JoMama and Poppa), we went out again. And again that evening. And with some other friends on Sunday. Which was gray and cold, but still wonderful and exciting and definitely NOT ENOUGH BOATING.