Saturday, April 30, 2011

Big Little Voice

My daughter has a big voice.  I don’t mean that her voice is loud.  Or screechy.  
Just BIG.
Being the mother of a daughter means instilling in her a solid sense of strength.  Of not giving up or giving in because people expect less of you.
It means giving her a voice.

Girrrrl Power!

Thing is, sometimes she is under the impression that hers is the only voice that matters.
Peyton has been described as a “dynamic” child.  At age 9, she is intense in every emotion - from happiness to anger to sadness - she feels them all with the same fervor.
She huff and puffs and stomps and sulks over the smallest slight.  Is the universe playing some kind of cosmic joke on me?  Testing my patience?  My resolve?  Is there a hidden camera somewhere? (and if so, maybe I'd better think twice about throttling her.)
Other moms have told me that this is quite ‘normal’ and are experiencing the same things with their daughters.  Kind of a macabre “preview of the teen years” attitude.  I just don’t buy that.
When does a big little voice become too big?
When it starts to overtake the entire family.

This always happens when I tell her to clean her room.

Peyton feels entitled to express her opinion about everything and all topics are open to debate.  There is one problem with that:
One’s sense of entitlement does not make one entitled.
So, how do you foster good self-esteem and strong character while at the same time asserting parental authority?  Good question.  My plan is to make sure that she knows she is loved, but not letting her operate under the delusion that she is any more important than any other member of our family.  
I think that’s where Dina went all wrong with Lindsay.

My girl has her own opinions and her own sense of self.  I think the thing that's missing for me is that her strong personality leaves little room for me to be the "mommy" I want to be.  
What she needs is firm guidance and loving approval;  what I need is to be "needed" by her a little more.

But for now, I think I can settle for just a little more civility...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Post Will Have to Wait

The post I had for today will have to wait.  Sometimes it’s impossible to dismiss the words of another for your own.
As I caught up on some of my favorite blogs, I read the newest post on Wanderlust. Kristen’s post is simply so powerful, it could not be ignored - at least by me.
So please, check out Wanderlust to read The dead woman, and be sure to leave some love for Kristin.
Rock on, baby!

::Comments closed for this post::

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kill the Wabbit

Easter for the disorganized:
So I put off shopping for Easter dinner because of the school holidays.  Who wants to drag two kids through the grocery store unnecessarily? 
Well, apparently I do.  So casual was my attitude toward preparations that I waited until Saturday afternoon to go to the supermarket.  
In the rain.  
With both kids.  
The day before Easter. 
Remember that scene in War of the Worlds when everyone was trying to get on the boat and the angry mob took Tom Cruise’s minivan?
It was kinda like that.
After dinner, it was time to decorate eggs.  I always like to do this about an hour before bedtime, otherwise it turns into a reexamination of each egg in order to add “just one more thing.”
I forgot to cook the eggs.
So needless to say, the kids were psyched that they got to stay up late (by about two hours,) while I tried to figure out how I was going to “flash refrigerate” the eggs so they wouldn’t have to decorate hot little spheres of pain.
Eggs done miraculously with no egg dye being spilled all over the table (this time.)  Put my little zombies to bed - maybe they’ll sleep late!

I sent Derek down to the cellar to get the kids baskets which I had purchased weeks before like an organized and well-planned person.  They were beach-themed: big colorful buckets with things like swim rings, goggles and monogrammed beach towels.  

They were also missing. 

We whisper-argued for a little while before I told him to find those Goddamn buckets or drive down to the 24-hour Walgreen’s for replacement baskets.
After lots of banging around in the basement, he found the buckets.  I am afraid to go down there now.  We arranged them just so, then I added the chocolate bunnies I had stashed.  He hid the eggs and went upstairs to pass out.

About five hours later (WTF?!) the kids woke us up to go downstairs.  We dragged ourselves to the living room while they hunted for eggs.  Success!  They found them all in no time.
All but one.
They looked around again, but still no egg.  Derek tried to re-trace his steps, because really, they were mostly hidden in plain sight.  But he was so blind from exhaustion when he hid them, he couldn’t remember them all.

After mainlining several cups of coffee, I started dinner.  As I was putting together my special sweet potato souffle, I realized that, ironically, we were out of eggs.  Off to find an open grocery store on Easter Sunday.

Dinner turned out lovely, and it was a beautiful spring day.  We never did find that last egg, but I think I have a feeling where it went:

Ozzy looooves eggs!

At least I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Imaginary Stick, part II

Welcome to the second half of my nightmare.  If you missed the beginning, CLICK HERE for part one! 
Sure enough, Mr. G. arrived about forty-five minutes later.
He was a balding, mousy little man, who was very pleasant and, in my opinion, pretty non-judgmental.  I offered him a seat, and we made small talk for a while.  You know - how long have we lived here, how old is your son - that sort of thing.  

Then he took out his note pad and the Official Interview started.  
He told me that he couldn’t disclose the source of the complaint, but I let him know that I already spoke with Peyton about it and knew the source of the allegation.  This ruffled him a bit because maybe she had been coached!  
A four year old.  
The only creature more brutally honest than a four year old is a three year old.  
I assured him that I simply explained the situation to her to prepare her for this visit.  He interviewed her.  The kind of garden variety questions that could raise some red flags, depending on how they were answered like ‘Do you like living here?’  and ‘How do you like your school?’  The only thing I can recall her telling him was that she really liked the kids at her school, but the teachers were “not very nice.” 
Then he asked me what I can only assume to be the ‘usual questions.‘  Given my heightened state, it was all I could do to keep my defense-mechanism {being a smart-ass} from kicking in:
Do you or your husband drink alcohol, Mrs K.?
{Not NEARLY enough!}  Well, occasionally, you know, in social situations.
Is there any illegal drug use in the home? 
{Does that include heroin?}  No, no, nothing like that.  Absolutely not.
Are you on any medication? 
Now, this was before my MS diagnosis, so I couldn’t even pull the “crippling disease” card (dammit!)  But I wasn’t about to tell him about the Prozac for my ongoing clinical depression, or the Xanax for my panic attacks (one of which I was experiencing at that very moment.)
Medication?  No, just a Tylenol here and there. 
See?  I wasn’t even copping to DayQuil!
Do either of you spank your children?
{Hell, yeah!  But only twice a day.}
This was a tricky one, because yes, I have spanked the kids.  We live on a fairly busy street, and my number-one-non-negotiable rule is No Playing Out Front Unless Daddy or Me Are Out There With You.  It only took one swat on the bum to drive that point home.  
Well, yes, I have, but only if they’ve disobeyed a safety rule, and that hasn’t happened in months... 
I see.  Would you mind showing me your home, Mrs. K?
{Well, jeez, I haven’t really had time to put away the S&M gear, but if you must...}  Absolutely.  Come right this way... 
I gave him a tour of the downstairs:  living room, kitchen (fresh fruit, very good,) dining room, playroom (oh, what a nice collection of books you have!)  Then the upstairs.  Incredibly, I had actually made beds and tidied up that morning.
He commented on the decor (What a beautiful home you have!  Did you decorate it yourself?  Very nice.)  And asked about window treatments (Are those custom made?)  
And with every step, I began to feel more and more violated.  I wasn’t sick and anxious anymore.  I was angry.  And I told him so.
Listen Mr. G., I understand that this is your job, and I thank God for people like you, because I wouldn’t last a day seeing some of the things you must have to deal with.  But I fail to understand what the condition of my house has to do with the situation with my daughter.  I’m sure that there are people in much nicer houses than this who are abusing their kids on a regular basis, just as I’m sure that there are kids that live in crappy motel rooms who couldn’t BE more loved...  

...And just think about this for a minute:  if I were beating my daughter with a stick, don’t you think she’d be afraid that I’d beat her with a stick if she told anyone that I was beating her with a stick?!
I understand your frustration, Mrs. K.. Obviously, there’s been a mis-understanding.  Given the circumstances, I’m not sure why they didn’t just call you in for a conference.  I will file my report, and let you know the outcome in a couple of days.  I’m confident that the matter will be dismissed and the file will be closed.
Well, the matter was dismissed, and the file was closed.
It goes without saying that Peyton did not return to that school.  In fact, I got the distinct feeling they didn’t want her back, those Concerned Faculty Members.
But for me, the shame and anger and humiliation wore on for months after.  For the longest time, I was mortified and I lived in fear of anyone ever finding out this had happened.  
It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t really own any of this.  It had been thrusted on me, and it was my responsibility to not take responsibility.  I was letting them make me feel this way.
I finally decided to open up and share this story.  Yes, I was afraid of being judged.  But the reactions of those around me stripped away that shame.  “Are you serious?  Did they even say anything to you first?  Did they call her pediatrician?  Anything like that?”
No.  No they didn’t.  They called the mousy little man at The Department of Child Services.  
And for a moment, they made me feel like the worst mother in the world.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Imaginary Stick - part I

Hello?  Mrs. K?  This is Mr. G from the Department of Child Services...
We’ve received a report that your daughter Peyton might be the victim of abuse...
Oh my God!
There are allegations being made that she may be being beaten with a stick at home...
Wait.  What?!
We had just moved to ‘idyllic suburbia,’ and we were excited to start our new life.  Out of the city.  Nice, big backyard.  Great school system.  Plenty of room to grow and unlimited potential.  
What could possibly go wrong?
Peyton was a year away from kindergarten.  She had been enrolled in the pre-school program at a nice Catholic school in the city, but now it was just far enough away to be a pain-in-the-ass to keep her there.  Not knowing anybody or anything about the area, except that it was ‘idyllic suburbia,’  we decided to play it safe and enroll her in the local Catholic school’s pre-school program (I mean they’re like a chain, right?)
What could possibly go wrong?
Her old school was bright and cheery, with a nurturing atmosphere. This new school was grim and severe.  
Her old school had screaming children running around the school yard, burning off steam before the bell rang and the day began.  This new school had little drones who waited quietly and patiently to file into school in an orderly fashion.
Her old school - loud and messy and happy.  This new school - quiet, efficient and somber.
I saw a change in her in those first couple of months.  There were behavioral issues that were never there before, but I just wrote them off.  After all, we had:  a.) moved,  b.) changed schools, and c.) just welcomed little Jack into the world six months earlier - lots to swallow in a short amount of time.  
But the biggest red flag I missed was on her progress report - the teacher had commented that she wished Peyton would participate a little more in class.  
My girl was (and still is) always chatty and bright and engaging.  What do you mean she’s not participating?  She’ll talk to anyone who’ll listen to her!  
When I asked her what was going on, she only said that she stayed quiet because she didn’t want to get yelled at. I brought this up at our parent-teacher conference, and they simply said that it was crucial to instill “proper deportment in our students” early on. 

Those dour bitches.  I understand the need to keep order, but we’re talking about a bunch four year olds here!  WTF?
Still, I kept sending her. 
 And this is where it went wrong.
We were coming up to the end of the school year, when the kids were allowed to wear shorts when the Awful Thing happened.  See, Peyton wasn’t used to being a 'free-range chicken,' so as soon as the weather was nice, she was out in our backyard every day until we dragged her in - swinging on her new swing set, riding bikes, busting her ass every five minutes on the ladder to the slide, climbing our apple tree (quaint, huh?)   And her shins (and only her shins) were dappled in little bruises.  We joked about it.  I used to say to my husband, “Look at those legs.  It looks like we beat her with sticks!  We’re gonna have to cover her in bubble wrap!”
We joke.  Inappropriately sometimes.
One afternoon, during quiet/nap time, a Concerned Faculty Member asked Peyton about her shins.  She thought nothing of saying, “Aah, you know.  They beat me with sticks.”
O. M. G.
"With a stick?  Oh no, you see, that’s kind of a running joke in our house.
I understand, but I’d like stop by, if you don’t mind.  I’m afraid it’s necessary to complete the investigation...
Investigation?!  Holy Shit!
Umm, okay, sure.  You can come by right now if you want.  I can cancel my plans for this afternoon, that’s no problem...
That’s great, I can be there in about forty-five minutes, okay?
After I hung up the phone, I felt myself getting flush and I just wanted to throw up.  What the hell was happening?  I sat down and collected myself, then called Peyton into the living room.  I struggled to swallow my anxiety (something I was usually quite good at,) and asked her if she knew what was going on.  
She actually started giggling (because, you know, it was fucking ridiculous!)  But I told her it was kind of serious - explaining to her the best I could what was going on.  I told her that someone would be coming over in a little while to talk to her about it, so I really needed to know what happened.
She told me about the Concerned Faculty Member.  She told me that the Concerned Faculty Member asked her to to take a walk down to the office for a little chat with some other Concerned Faculty Members.  And then she ripped my heart out by saying, “I tried to tell them I was only joking Mama, but they wouldn’t listen to me!  Am I gonna be in trouble at school?”
And so we waited for Mr. G. to arrive...

**To Be Continued**

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Love You, Thora Levine

Things I learned about my daughter while dress shopping for her Girl Scouts ‘Daddy & Me‘ dance:
*She willingly grooves to the ’80’s channel on XM Radio:
Hit me with your best shot
Why don’tcha hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Fire awaaay!
*She looks stunning in giant Easter hats:

*She wants to change her name:
                          Peyton:  I don’t like my name.  I wanna change it.
                          Me:  Umm, okay, what did you have in mind?
                         Peyton: {mumble, mumble}
                          Me:  What?  Flora?
                         Peyton:  No,  THORA.  Thora Levine.
*She still loves twirly dresses:

*She doesn’t realize that clear heels eventually lead to pole-dancing: 
After a loud argument in the middle of the store,
we did not
 get these shoes.

*She is a giant pain-in-the-ass to go dress shopping with, but doesn’t she look lovely?
I love you, Thora Levine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pajama Day

When I was younger, I was a tastemaker in cutting edge fashion!  In my head, anyway.  Much to my mothers’ dismay, I adhered to my own dress code.  A typical outfit looked like this:
1 pair - dark colored paisley mens’ boxer shorts (buttoned for modesty, please)
1 pair - black tights 
1 replica 70’s punk band concert t-shirt (i.e. The Stooges, Siouxsie & the Banshees, etc.)
1 pair - 8-hole Doc Martens.  I had the pointy-toed ones that nobody else had (except Bridget Fonda in the movie Singles.)  See?  Cutting edge!
Accessorized with Kabuki-white make-up, red lipstick, black nail polish and long purpley-red hair.

I never cared what anyone else thought of this.  I was still the same friendly approachable girl I'd always been, just with a different aesthetic.  And besides, some of my friends wore the same type of stuff, listened to the same kind of music, and had the same kind of mild contempt for the shiny people (but really, who didn't?)
While I still wear the occasional Bauhaus t-shirt *sigh* Peter Murphy still makes my heart go pitty pat*,

Make sure your volume is looooow...
I find myself far too concerned with what other people think.  I’m not sure why that is, but I’ll save that for another post at another time, because this is about Pajama Day.
After I got the kids dressed for school the other day, and went to get myself together, I decided to make a statement (at least to myself) and stay in my pajamas for the day.  I felt that I needed this exercise in a “rip the band-aid off” sort of way.  
Now, when I say ‘pajamas’ I do not mean a satin nightgown set or a pair of footies.  Actually, my pajamas consist of a random t-shirt and, on that particular day, these:
Go Red Sox!
I dropped Peyton off first, but that really only involves me driving up to the front door of the school and slowing down just enough to push her out of the car.  No bravery there.
Jack was next.  I drove to his pre-school, and along with a handful other parents, walked into school, down the hall, and to his classroom, where I too loudly proclaimed that today was my Pajama Day.  Surprisingly, Jack’s teacher said What a great idea!  Everybody should have a pajama day! 

Later in the day, after I got the kids, we ran to the supermarket.  A few old ladies kinda gave me the stink-eye, but you know, whatever.  Everyone else?  Meh.  I went largely unnoticed until Peyton asked me why we had to go all the way back to the produce section.  I told her that I had forgotten to pick up lemons and announced, in my best ‘Bruce the Shark’ voice (you know, from Finding Nemo?) that We’re havin’ fish tonight!  
At this point in the day, I think I was just trying to make my own negative attention.
While I didn’t see anyone I really knew, I did run into a school-mom from a higher grade.  She commented on how cute my pajama pants were, and I explained my mission for the day.  She said she’d have to try something like that, and maybe, just maybe, we could influence a pajama day movement.
Maybe I’m still a little cutting edge...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Parentile Dysfunction

Mama, why does my peepee get pointy sometimes?  I tried to push on it, but it won’t go in.
Jack said this to me last week when he and I were home alone and I was able to skirt the whole issue by telling him that I wasn’t really sure, because I didn’t have one, but that I was pretty sure he shouldn’t try to push it in.  This answer seemed good enough.  Case closed.  And how much cuter could he possibly be?

Fast forward to tonight:
Mama, my peepee is pointy again.  Here, feel it.
Is this gonna become a thing?  Isn’t he a little young to talk to about, um, anatomy?  Oh, God, what if he starts discussing his, um, business at school?  Should I retain counsel?
This time I was ready.  I had a plan.  With a bright smile, I said,  I have an idea!  Daddy’s right in the office.  Let’s go ask him.  He knows aaaaaaall about that stuff.  
We walked into the office, and I explained that ‘we’ had a question that he could probably answer better than me, then I got the hell out of there.
I smiled as I overheard my husband explain that sometimes it just pops right up, and the best thing to do is leave it alone.  There were some finer points that I couldn’t quite hear,  but the whole conversation seemed to have a ‘technical’ quality to it - which made me smile even more - like a really surreal episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy!
I feel a little better now, because after they were done with their discussion, I heard Derek ask Jack if he had any other questions.  And Jack said, Yeah, how come Hulk isn’t as strong as Superman?
There’s my baby boy!  For now...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shiny Objects

Things I did last night instead of writing the post I had planned:
Watched a re-run of The Office even though I’d already seen it
Dwight:  Who’s Justice Beaver?
Jim:  He’s umm...he’s a crime-fighting beaver.
Comedy Gold!
Looked online for - wait for it - a Star Wars Galactic Heroes Millennium Falcon playset.  Jack is out of his mind over Star Wars, and has asked only for the Millennium Falcon and a light saber for his birthday.  The light saber is definitely out of the question until it’s warm enough to be an outside toy (for those of you not familiar with the Star Wars Trilogy, I am sorry you are confused.  Also, crawl out of your cave every now and then.)
Started with a Google search.  Amazon?  Yes, sir, I am a Prime Member, let’s take a look... Oh. Those fucking thieves.  Oooh, a fondue pot!
Looked up recipes for fondue for forty-five minutes.
Checked Craigslist.  Craigslist gives me the creeps.  Washed it off my hands while I thought of a better alternative. 
While washing hands, spotted a gardening catalog on the counter.  Perused catalog.  Pondered the benefits of growing my own geraniums from seed rather than buying from the local garden shop.  Come to the conclusion that either way, they will die in the pot, unplanted.

Decided to try - this site is kind of like Craigslist for hippies because people are just giving their shit away (good karma, though) - and found the following listings in my area (* = actual quote):
a single bar of Ivory soap (one. single. bar.)
Photo of Dave Thomas* (from Wendy’s or Canada?)
Old Nail Polish*
24-pack of hot dogs
tricky food processor*
I can’t decide which is more dangerous - the hot dogs or the ‘tricky food processor.’
Resolved to (finally) just go to bed.  While trying to fall asleep, my intended post literally flows from my mind in eloquent, concise prose.  Sleepiness terminated.  Back downstairs to capture the brilliance!
Opened the computer to a clean, blank page.  All signs of excellent mind-post vanish along with prior knowledge of spelling and grammar.
Cleaned out my e-mail inbox.  Cripes, my mother-in-law forwards a TON of bullshit with subject titles like “FW:Fw: THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOUR KIDS - DO NOT DELETE!” Briefly consider marking her as ‘spam.’
Banished to eBay, forced to pay a gazillion dollars for a fifty dollar toy (but still a few dollars less than Amazon.)
...And that’s how I roll.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fools for Love?

With all the uncertainties in my life, I take comfort in knowing this one small but unwavering truth:

Any given member of my family, at any given time, will cut a bitch for an extra slice of bacon.

We were out to breakfast last weekend when Jack decided to commandeer Peyton’s plate and score himself a piece of her bacon, having already inhaled his own. When she rather loudly demanded it’s return (thank God we weren’t dining at the Ritz,) my charming son ran his tongue along the entire piece - lengthwise - and held it out to her while wearing a big, greasy, shit-eating grin. She shot him a look of a thousand daggers, then turned to me and said, “I wish I was an only child.” My husband joked that he wished for zero children, which made both kids gasp in mock horror, and I snarkily joked that if it weren’t for our little criminals, I don’t think we’d still be married. Derek dismissed this claim by saying he was too irresistible too pass up. I thought about that a little later in the afternoon.

Would we still be married if we didn’t have kids?

My husband snores. Loudly. He leaves the cap open on everything from toothpaste to baby wipes until they are dried out and useless. For some reason, if he’s cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, he doesn’t think it’s necessary to wipe down the countertop, usually leaving a sticky, crummy mess. He orders an inordinate amount of comic book action figures (don’t call ‘em dolls!) from eBay and is much more fastidious about his comic book collection than our current household budget. Also, the majority of our social planning MUST adhere to the itinerary of his colon.

Derek is also responsible for the waste management duties in our household (isn’t every husband?) Only he seems to be afflicted with that rare - and sometimes fatal - condition known as rubbish blindness. Every night, I must don my satin pantaloons, trumpet in hand, and declare, “The garbage is spilling over!” before any action is taken.

BUT, this is also the same man that used to read Peyton her Sesame Street book in a Grover voice when he thought I couldn’t hear him. This man has run to the 24-hour pharmacy at 3 a.m. because Jack has woken up with a fever and we were out of Children’s Motrin without a word of complaint. He is the *vomit concierge* because he knows that I would rather put my eye out with a fork than clean that shit. And he held my hair during my many bouts of morning sickness (if you define morning as all day.)

In the summer of 2008, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Worst. Day. Ever. Derek was home with the kids when they told me, so by the time he got to the hospital, I thought I had my shit together enough to be able to explain my diagnosis, and maybe make a pithy joke about the no refund policy on brides after the first eight years.

Instead I dissolved into a puddle of tears.

Turns out, the neurologist had already spoken to him before he got to my room, and the only thing he said was, “We’re in this together. And I’m not going anywhere without you.”
Derek and I just celebrated eleven years of marriage last Friday. Yes, we were married on April Fools’ Day. Twelve years ago, after Derek proposed that we put up with each others’ crap ‘til death do us part, we perused the calendar for an appropriate date. April Fool’s Day falls on a Saturday? Sign us up! The fact that we were both excited to gather our family and friends together on this particular day to share our vows and celebrate our beginning speaks volumes on how we conduct our union. Because really, if you can’t laugh at yourselves, you might cry.

Now, where did I put my trumpet?

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