I love the holiday season. I love the sense of unified generosity, the decorations, the Christmas cards - I love it all.
I feel a sense of happy obligation to reach out and help during this season, helping provide Christmas celebrations for the less fortunate, food for the needy and help wherever I can. I am always grateful to those who make this easier for me. Food drives at the grocery store, gift trees at the mall and the ubiquitous Salvation Army Bell Ringer. I am grateful for people who bring the opportunities to me.
That was until yesterday.
When I entered the store, the bell ringer was absent. I was a little sad, as I had a fistful of donation prepared as I approached the entrance. As I was checking out, I noticed he had arrived. Gleefully exciting the store, I approached the smiling attendant. Happily, I fished in my purse and strode up to the suspended red bucket with my donation.
This was the last moment my world was still right.
As I dropped my money in the bucket, the smiling man ringing the bell said, "Oh, yeah. I love watching you stuff money in my bucket."
I'm not kidding. WHAT THE HECK??? I choked on my own spit and reeled there in front of the store. I was so dumbfounded I stood there for enough time that he kept talking.
"Are you headed to the gym?"
My brain took extra seconds to engage as I wittily retorted, "Um..... no."
"Well honey, you are workin' it in those pants."
At this moment I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Of all the Bell Ringers in the Phoenix Metro area, I found the creepy lecherous one. Yay me.
In one horribly awkward swoop this guy had killed all the warm feelings I might have ever received from donating to the Salvation Army and turned the whole exercise into the creepiest exchange imaginable. As I power walked away from him I could feel his icky eyeballs leering after me. I walked faster and faster until I leapt into the safety of my minivan and hunched down out of sight.
Now, lest you think I'm ultra sensitive, I appreciate a nice, unsolicited compliment. Who doesn't like to be told they look nice today? But pairing the exchange of money with leering pants comments sullied the whole Christmas giving thing.
So now, in addition to poisonous spiders crawling down my face, edges at tall heights and refrigerator mold I have a new fear that has reached phobic status: Salvation Army Bell Ringers. Beware. You could be their next victim.
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy
I love the holiday season. I love the sense of unified generosity, the decorations, the Christmas cards - I love it all.
I ventured out into the world, and of course, was accosted by humanity.
Followers of my escapades know I'm a relatively low-maintenance person. Jeans, sneakers, an occasional brow wax with psychological stress thrown in for good measure. I've been reflecting on how many organization gurus have a schedule of household maintenance things we should follow. Things like: every six months you should get that long brushy-like thing and clean the lint out of your dryer hose so your house doesn't catch on fire from the build up. Yeah, I've never done that. We're supposed to clean out our freezers every year, discarding the items we have frozen if they are past the expiration date we put on them when we put them in there in the first place. I solved that one - I don't write anything on them so not only can I not tell when things expire in my freezer, I cannot tell what those things are. I have been known to defrost what I thought was peaches only to discover it was hamburger. For the record - that is when I toss it.
One schedule I do follow religiously is the oil change. OK, this is mainly because a little light illuminates on my dashboard that says "maintenance required" and I feel guilted into action. Today was my oil change day, which also means - ta-da, it was car wash day!!! I get a free car wash with my oil change and this makes me happy!
Driving onto the lot, I am motioned vigorously by an attendant who is desperate for me to pull into his lane. Guiding my landing like a ground air-traffic controller I pull up and roll down my window.
My new best friend is super excited to see me on this lovely day and starts with a feisty "Good Morning!"
It's one in the afternoon and I'm gnawing on a piece of pizza so he quickly corrects himself and says, "Well, you're enjoying lunch so it must be afternoon. Good afternoon maam!"
I swallow my bite and start to say I would like an oil change and a car wash please when he interrupts me with a dire emergency that needs my immediate attention.
"Maam, maam, can I show you something? Maam, winter is an important time to address the changing needs of your vehicle. Paint finishes need extra attention as we go into the winter months..."
He has opened my door and is trying to get me out of my car to see the horrible corrosion that has taken place and needs addressing by his amazing detail service. I grab the open windowsill and hold fast to my door saying "No, no thanks."
OK, let's get real here. I drive a minivan. Not just any minivan, an old, utilitarian, functional minivan that we keep in working order for hauling kids around town. It was purchased over a decade ago. It has never been "detailed", waxed, buffed or any of the high-end things people who celebrate their cars do to them. This is a minivan. The idea that suddenly we need to care for the paint finish this year is quite frankly, absurd.
Also, I drive this minivan because I have kids. Kids whose hygiene is questionable at best. AND, I drive other people's kids. All kids are gross. Have you seen kids before? They spill, shed, poop, barf, pee, leech, scrap, slough, chuck, fling and ooze all manner of fluids and solids. At any moment some sort of projectile is either on deck or being expelled by every single one of them. It is with this spirit that I drive the minivan. I maintain general levels of automotive cleanliness, which they promptly dishevel until the next oil change.
So this guy trying to convince me that the season change in Arizona requires an upgrade to my auto cleaning regimen is a non sequitur.
Now the guy is pulling on my door. PULLING ON MY DOOR! Yeah, this is gonna end well.
For the record, I totally understand the up-sell. It is an important component of successful capitalism and I wholeheartedly support it. It is fine with me if you ask me if I want fries and a drink with my veggie burger. If I say "yes" you make more money. If enough people get fries and a drink that means you stay in business so that I can keep coming back to buy my veggie burger. Ask away.
BUT...once I answer... LET GO OF MY FREAKING DOOR!!!!
I pull the door back, slamming it shut and say firmly, "no THANK ... YOU. Just an oil change and the free car wash."
To no avail. He keeps on keepin' on about how my paint finish will suffer irreparable damage. How the value of my vehicle will diminish and how he can save me from a fate worse than death.
I start to roll up my window and... yep, you guessed it... HE STICKS HIS ARM IN MY CAR!!!!
At this point I'm totally freaking out. I look around with a panic, and notice the manager is watching him reach in my car as I'm rolling up the window and he yells at the guy who starts to yank his arm back, but has wedged it, past the elbow, in the small remaining space and can't get it out easily. A nicer patron would have rolled down her window a little to help the guy out, but I was MAD, MAD, MAD so I just watched him try and extricate himself as I gave him the stink-eye.
Gathering up my stuff I rush into the building and wait for the oil change to finish. I'm a little flustered, but mostly just annoyed at the aggressiveness, until I go up to pay.
"That will be $60" the cashier says.
"WHAT? All I got was an oil change with the free car wash!"
"Well, Maam, you have this detailing charge for the detailing package you ordered."
Just to be clear: I did not pay $60. The manager knows my name. The aggressive salesman knows my name. The establishment has sticky note posted behind the counter with my name. AND, I got two extra stamps on my loyalty card in the hope and prayer that I might possibly come in to their establishment again. Ever.
I love cooking. I watch Food Network in my spare time. I teach sold-out cooking classes across the country. I dream of going to a minimal time commitment, low-cost culinary school. The side-effect of this lay person's novice interest in food has been that I'm sort of a food snob. I don't like a lot of processed food. Buffets scare me, and I'm regularly depressed when eating out to find the food not as good as I can make at home.
The challenge of my interest in food has been coming up with things to cook. Regularly my family is in charge of choosing what they would like, because the planning is what often stumps me. So imagine my delight when driving with my kids yesterday and they have a request for Monday dinner! I'm all a twitter with what delicacy they are going to request. Mushroom ravioli with shaved parmesan and truffle oil? Chicken picatta with WOW risotto? Quinoa bolognese? Some of my creations are on their top ten list and I'm anticipating what they're going to request.
"Ok mom, my friend had these for dinner this week and they were awesome!"
Now I'm really curious. I love awesome food!
"So mom, we want SPAGHETTI TACOS!!"
Gasp! (Gag & vomit a little in my mouth) "WHAT???"
"Yeah mom, they talk about them on iCarly (TV show for pubescents) and they sound really good!"
Again, another glaring example of how I have failed as a mother. I thought I had trained them to have discretionary palates. Clearly they will eat out of the trash like the rest of America.
After a sleepless night of tossing and turning over my failure, I decide they should indeed have their wish. Because I am such a smart and wise parent I realize this will work like reverse psychology and I will look like the supportive, giving parent that I dream of being one day.
So there I am - tongs dangling with cooked spaghetti in one hand taco shell in the other. Grappling at what my kids have reduced me to. I decide they can stuff their own tacos and put the whole culinary menagerie on the table. Their delight is palpable, my despair is as well. They readily dig in, stuffing pasta into the shells like they've waited their entire lives for this gourmet marriage. For the record, before you get any ideas, this is not like the chocolate-meets-peanut butter marriage. I mean it is pasta and a taco shell.
Of course, Karma being what it is, Unnamed Child #1 has a dinner guest - so other people will know about this travesty. The guest even reports that they told their mother about our menu when asking if they could stay for dinner. There goes my lecture career.
The kids are oohing and ahhing and mmmmmmmming at their dinner...I'm trying to figure out how to take a bite without committing to a whole taco. I break off a piece of shell and tentatively taste the whole mess. In all honesty it was not bad, but it was not good either. As I'm crunching away our guest says,
"It tastes just like Chef Boyardee ravioli."
Niice. People are going to line up for my cooking classes to learn this crap.
Today I had occasion to wonder at what age people develop their "filter." You know, the thing in your brain that prevents you from saying the things you are thinking?
Kids don't have filters, which makes them funny if you are a bystander, shocking if you are their target and nerve wracking if you are their parent. It's always fun to be in the grocery story with your kids and have them point out some obvious, but unflattering characteristic of the person in front of you in the checkout line. All you parents have had this happen to you: "Hey mom, look at the giant nose on the lady the ugly stretchy pants!" Sadly, there are not convenient holes us parents can crawl into at those moments.
A few years ago, our little family was visiting a dinosaur museum with our two five-year olds. We were having a great time when all of a sudden my son came running up to me shouting at the top of his lungs MOOOOOOM! MIDGETS!!! I quickly tackled him and tried to stuff baby wipes in his mouth to shut him up. I had just subdued him when another of my kids came running up screaming MOOOOOOOOOM!!! MIDGETS ARE EVERYWHERE!!!! As I'm trying to figure out what was going on I looked up and saw, midgets. Although I had developed a filter that knew that they preferred to be called "little people" there were indeed little people everywhere. Hundreds of them. Lucky us, we had chosen the same day to visit the museum as the National Convention of Little People and now I had to spend the rest of the visit with my five year olds bound and gagged, their little arms flailing like a T-rex trying to itch his nose.
This morning I walked into the classroom where I teach second and third graders. I happened to be wearing high heels, which is out of the norm for me, but many staff members wear them so it wasn't like these kids had never seen them. As I enter the class the kids run to me and hug my legs. It's sort of cute and creepy at the same time. I pat their little heads when one looks up and says, "You're gigantic!" I peel her off my leg and say, "Yes I am," Another immediately chimes in, "You're skinny too. Really freaky skinny." Ok everyone, let's change the subject.
No luck. A boy looks up at me and says, "You are giant, skinny and sort of weird looking."
Well now, don't I feel a bit like a midget at a dinosaur museum?
"Ok kids, I am taller than you, and yes, I am skinny buy let's start working on our rhyming words now."
"Mrs. Teacher, Mrs. Teacher I have a rhyming word! Tall -ball"
"Nice job, anyone else?"
"Meee, meee big - pig, skinny - ninny, weird - beard."
I have mixed emotions about the theme we're following. The kids are getting the concept, but I am the object lesson. I suggest a few other unrelated words, and they have totally lost focus. "Mrs. Teacher, do you ever eat?" "Mrs. Teacher, how can you get that tall if you don't ever eat?" "Mrs. Teacher, my cousin was as skinny as you and she died."
Yep, nothing like a little community service to make one feel good about themselves.
Recently my husband has taken to running marathons. In a former life I was a distance runner. Then I got better. Somehow he has caught this disease as some sort of mid-life crisis that says, "I've hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim a couple of times. I've completed P90X so now, of course I must run marathons." The actual marathon itself is fine. It is actually pretty fun to sit in a lawn chair gnawing on a Slim Jim and watch the parade of crazy pass me by. Generally I'm not a sideline sort of person, but I'm completely peaceful watching other people heave their guts out at mile 17, pee down their own legs and get carted off by the paramedics. I don't have an ounce of envy over that sort of insanity.
I do, however have a slight problem. Well, actually we all know I have more than one, but for the sake of brevity we'll just deal with one for now.
I have a really hard time turning down a dare. I have a teeny tiny competitive streak that runs over the sane part of my brain when certain decisions are being made. A recent case-in-point was a dare put out there by my little sister. An endurance challenge created by the British army called Tough Mudder. At first I was only mildly interested, until she said she had signed up and was "all in." So, of course I had to as well. I mean, she is my LITTLE sister.
So the first weekend in October I find myself meeting a few of my besties in the Reno airport to drive a 45 mile Lombard Street mountain pass to Bear Valley, CA. No one told me that the biggest part of the challenge would be getting there without puking in the hair of the person in front of you.
The days leading up to the challenge the organizers sent texts to registered participants warning them of snow on the ground, extreme cold, and other harsh conditions. All I could think of is how I had gotten my skinny, uninsulated bones into this madness.
We had a team of six, and arriving at the hotel everything was going well until one of the girls pulled out what was to be our team uniform. Hot pink underarmor, black pants and of course hot pink argyle socks. Nothing says "tough" like argyle socks. In general I'm pretty fashion challenged, but I kept worrying that we were just going to look stupid with these knee-high argyle socks. Let's just say, my fears were unfounded.
Arriving at the registration site there was a guy in a loin cloth. Only a loin cloth. There was a guy in a green unitard. There were kilts and tights and thongs. And there were people dressed like this:
See, you don't even see our socks do you?
There were even guys dressed up as Mormon Missionaries:
I don't know if they were actual Mormons or not, but it was a great team uniform.
So off we go on our seven mile, nineteen obstacle challenge.
It was an amazing experience and running through the last fire obstacle was almost disappointing since we were having so much fun. While we're not hitting the entire nationwide Mudder circuit, we've pre-registered for Phoenix in 2011!
I have reached that stage in parenthood when I'm not as cool as I used to be. This realization came as quite a shock since I have been super cool for most of my life, but recently an unnamed teenager has let me know that I'm completely socially unacceptable AND mentally retarded. Despite the fact that I watched countless other mothers go through this rite of passage, I've been caught off guard with how sudden my fall off the pedestal has been.
To my credit, I have remained a safe, un-connectable distance when I'm in public and keep a paper bag with eye holes cut out just in case someone they know walks by.
The challenge with our arrangement is that this teenager still needs me. A lot. So, I hang around.
Because I don't know "anything" it's really a waste of energy to pay attention to what I'm saying. Many of our conversations go like this:
"Hello darling teenager, you should wear a jacket."
cricket chirp, cricket chirp
"Oh, teenager, It's sub arctic temperatures tonight, you might want a jacket."
cricket chirp, cricket chirp, eye roll
I'm getting better at just cutting my losses and waiting by the phone for the dramatic, urgent phone call requesting a jacket delivery, but I'm not perfect yet.
The reality is there are a few times when I have something really important and relevant to say. Things that enrich even a teenager's full life.
This week while sitting in a waiting room I fought a valiant, but losing battle against Entertainment Weekly Magazine, for the teenager's attention. As I made small talk, I mostly got vacuous silence back so of course I started upping the ante.
First I commented on the photos in the magazine. Nothing.
Then I commented on the text of an article in the magazine. Nothing.
Then, I started saying more absurd things to see if they might actually be listening and just pretending to ignore me. "Hey, I have an orangutan on my back." Nothing.
"My molars are wearing kilts." Silence.
"I myself am radioactive and my children came from Mars." Even this news of their origin didn't get a response.
So I sat, trying to entertain myself through other means when of course... Elvis walked in. I'm so not kidding. Some guy, who clearly had a night job as an Elvis impersonator - or a higher than average affection for The King, walked through the waiting room. He was in normal clothes, no jumpsuit, BUT he had the jet black dyed hair, mutton chop side burns and the quintessential fat Elvis sunglasses.
I leaned over into the teenager's space and hissed through the clenched teeth of discretion, "Elvissssssss!!!!"
"Psssst!!!! Hey, Elllllvvvviiiiisssssss!!!!!!"
In desperation I threw an unsportsmanlike jab with my elbow while trying a third time, "el-VIS!!!"
The physical contact was the ticket. They looked up, said "What?" and then "Hey, Mom...look! Elvis!"
My work is done.
Many of you have been asking me what my problem is. Me, being the picture of decorum I am, have refrained from burdening you with my terrible life-challenges. But, since all sixteen of my remaining followers seem deeply concerned about my welfare, I feel compelled to share.
WARNING: The above statement should tip off those of you who have no interest in the personal workings of my life to log off NOW. I will be discussing things that include knives, pain, blood and screaming. Or at least some of those things. If you do not care about my welfare or have a weak stomach LEAVE NOW.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
OK, so many of you have been asking why I have been so remiss in blogging. The biggest reason is I'm finishing up school. I'm so close to finishing I can taste it and I literally spend hours each day reading inane stuff like Faulker and Economics 101. This is neither interesting or funny to the outside world. My ongoing battle with educational bureaucracy has worn even me down to the point that the inanity no longer gets a rise out of me. I think I've turned into one of those third world country people who just stand in a line because its there and it's something to do. Sad but true. So this endeavor has sucked the creative life out of me. (By all means, send your kids to college.)
But also, I have a pain in the butt. Literally. Last week I went to the dermatologist to get little spots and dots checked out. Nothing I had any real concern over, but I was a beach bunny in a previous life, back before sunscreen was invented and we used baby oil and aluminum foil for our sun protection. This being the case I try to be prudent, so I go get checked out. (Stop laughing at the mention of me and prudent in the same sentence.)
So the dermatologist asks me if I have any concerns and I point out a few things, which are deemed normal but marked for freezing. If you've never had anything frozen off, it's pretty cool. So the derm gets out the freezing spray can thingy, which looks like a fancy spray paint can a vandal would use, and primes it...except it won't turn off.
"Oh, dear!" she says, "I'm glad I didn't do that on your FACE!"
Um, yeah, me too. The can keeps spraying and spraying off into the corner of the room while the nurse wrestles with it and can't get it to shut off. You've all been in a doctors office, and the rooms are pretty small. I become a little worried that freezing gas being expelled into the tiny space is going to overpower us and we'll all be found unconscious by the night custodial crew.
My fears were unfounded, and the nurse returned a few minutes later (gas still being expelled by the broken can the Dr. wanted to use on my face) and she froze off a thing on my leg, arm and my temple. Perkily holding the can up like I hold up the whipped cream can for the kids, she says, "Anything else?"
Now, back before I had kids I used to have this little tiny cute flat freckle mole on my backside. If you've had kids, know someone who's had kids or have met a kid you know that kids wreck a lot of stuff. Well, somehow having kids turned this tiny flat freckle of cuteness that sort of made my hiney look like Cindy Crawford - and grew it into a freakish glob of ickness. Because it's on my backside it's out of sight, and no one ever sees my backside, willingly, so it hasn't caused psychological damage outside of my own home. But, here I am in the office being asked if I have "anything else?"
I show her the mole and she gasps in horror. Just kidding, but she did say, "Well, there's nothing wrong with it, but it's easy to remove so why don't we take it off." I ask a few questions about recovery time and she says, no big deal, a few days and I won't feel a thing.
Let me just state for the record: Doctors are liars.
I have this thing cut off my butt - in the glamorous position, face down on the table, pants around my ankles, apologizing to the nurse that it is on my butt in the first place. She laughs and says, "Honey, this is nothing." The doctor comes in, cuts it off and I'm good to go. No big deal. UNTIL THE LIDOCAINE WEARS OFF!
I have injured body parts before, broken a rib - and the pain made me amazed at how often I breathe. Broken my wrist - and was amazed at how much I use my hand. For the record: I had no idea how much I sat down. Here I am, over a week later and I still have this enormous pain in my butt. I'm fine if I'm standing, but man, I am one lazy person: I sit a LOT!
So there you have it. More information than you ever wanted to know about why my blogging has been so dull. I'm being "educated" and my butt hurts.
Please send well wishes, food and flowers to my residence.
I know. I KNOW!!! Thank you faithful people who keep hoping I will have something interesting pop into my head. Sadly, my life has been devoid of the inane happenings that usually make up my daily existence. Clearly I need to get out more.
BUT! Today I have a message from the Schawn's guy.......and.......they've brought back EGGPLANT AND ZUCCHINI PIE!!! My world is right again.
I realize this happened because some neighbor who dislikes Mr. Schwan doorbell ditched him with a boatload of end-of-summer zucchini but I DON'T CARE!!!! I can now re-enter the processed food world like other normal people. I'm dusting off the microwave, breaking out the paper plates and singing an eggplant loves zucchini song.
Later, after I'm full, I will work on the choreography.
I'm a rather low maintenance girl. I'm most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt and you can often find me in the same outfit multiple days of the week. So, while I don't get my nails done (I bite them myself) and I don't go to the tanning salon (a fine layer of dust seems to have the same effect) and I don't dye my hair...yet. I do draw the line at one beauty necessity: the eyebrow wax.
While I have a fairly high pain threshold, I can't pluck my own brows. (TMI? Well, you do come here of your own volition).
So I regularly let a highly-skilled glamorous Asian woman get me presentable every few weeks. This weekend I went in for a touch up and settled in to the relaxing, comfy waxing table in the privacy of the waxing room. OK, 'room' is a generous description, it's actually a cubicle with a curtain separating it from the nail salon, but at my price point this is as glamorous as it's going to get.
Lounging back, I close my eyes and ready myself for the spa experience. My technician enters, and gives me the once-over asking in a rather nasal tone, "What you want done?"
"Eyebrows" I reply and fold my arms ready for the warm dollup of wax I find so pleasant.
Instead of starting the treatment I'm startled by, "You no want your lip done?"
Ok, now I'm taken aback. I have never noticed that I had a 'stache. Oh my goodness, I've turned into one of those women who has lots of facial hair and doesn't notice. Those women you love having conversations with, but try desperately to find an inconspicuous place to look as they have mole hair, or chin hair or, as in my case, a handlebar mustache.
At this point I don't know what to do, and am in a full panic. I was not prepared for the lip waxing. I'm so flummoxed I ask the stupid question, "Do I need a lip wax?"
Again, the nasal reply: "Oh, yeah but you can do what you want. "
Girls. We have got to stick together. I don't know what I want. I do know that I do not want a mustache, but I need some sisterly advice. Suddenly the sanctity of the salon has shifted, and I feel like at the auto repair shop where I always feel like the mechanic is trying to take advantage of me because I know nothing about cars. Do I get the extended warranty on the flux capacitor? Do I have my windshield wipers rotated? Do I get my lip waxed? I DON'T KNOW!!! I just want someone I trust to tell me what to do and not have my husband ask me later what the heck I was thinking.
I figure I can always come back and have more hair removed from unseemly locations so I decline the lip wax. The responding huffy sigh shows I clearly have made the wrong decision, and I spend the entire time of the brow wax obsessing over how bushy my mustache looks.
Shielding my wolf-like face from the pedicure patrons I pay and run out to the car. I pull out of sight of the salon and check my mirror. Leaning closer and closer to the rear view mirror, I can't see a mustache. There are all sorts of other hideous things I need to speak to an esthetician about, but for the life of me I can not see lip hair that warranted that huffy sigh.
Still this is not a decision one makes lightly. I scurry home and barge in the house accosting my children with, "Do I have a mustache? Look really closely, now stand back, now squint a little, turn sideways while I walk by pretending I'm on the phone. Does the reflection of the phone make me look like I have a mustache?"
Of course, I put money in each of their therapy jars.
Back in my childhood someone decided that I should play the piano. Many adolescents were subjected to the same parental dream with the same marginal success. What this means is we have an army of semi-grown ups out there who quit just after they became able to play Fur Elise and The Entertainer with bad inflection and timing.
I took a few years of lessons, most of which are a blur because of my dominant lazy gene which precludes me from working toward mastery of most things I attempt. One teacher still stands out in my brain: Mrs. Miles.
"Mrs. Miles" sounds benign enough, but Mr. Miles was long gone so all she did was sit in her home with her doberman, shellacking her perfect beehive hairdo and thinking of ways to torture me. Lisbeth, as my mother got to call her, was sweet and grandmotherly whenever a parent was around. Once that door shut behind a student's maternal protecter all gloves were off. Mrs. Miles, as the rest of us had to call her, was a Russian immigrant who had survived the German Nazi invasion. Needless to say she didn't take kindly to wimpy sixth graders who don't practice.
Out of sheer terror I became able to play a perfect Fur Elise, Entertainer and a few other pieces before I was released from her captivity. To this day I can't hear Chopin's Minute Waltz without having severe bladder control issues.
Now I'm the parent with musical dreams.
Interestingly enough, all three of my kids have done well on the piano. They have all gotten to the point where it is fun to hear them play, which is the real pay off for a parent. All we really want is for our kids to perform for the grandparents and show up the neighbor kids in something.
One of the elements of my children's school curriculum is strings study. #1 has become amazing on the viola and has played in a number of orchestras that didn't have the audience wincing in their seats as they endured the pain of Junior High strings version of My Sherona.
#2 and #3 study Suzuki violin at school...with about a hundred other fifth and sixth graders. It's one thing if the kid shows some interest in an instrument, it's a whole-nother thing when every kid at school has to learn Twinkle Variations on a temperamental instrument that even accomplished musicians work to keep in tune.
Last night as one of my unnamed children "practiced" a piece that eluded them I could feel my flesh peeling off of my face. Beginner violin is one of the worst sounds in the universe. No, I take that back, beginner violin IS the worst sound in the universe. A kid that has an impressive piano repitoire, sat screeching out the vestiges of some tune that I believe is a pterydactyl mating call.
Of course, we then had the awkward moment where the kid looks up with soulful eyes and says "Wasn't that great mom?"
This is a pivotal moment in parenting. Do I tell the truth and crush the spirit of my budding musician? or Do I pad my words encouraging their efforts toward mastery?
Surprisingly, I did what any wise parent would have done: After an awkward moment of silence where their pleading eyes searched for my approbation, and blood dripped out of my ear drums, I tilted my head, nodded with a warm smile and yelled for viola-playing Unnamed Child #1 to come help as I sought refuge under a blanket.
Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I must make something very clear: there are HUGE holes in my parenting.
I know it's easy to create cyber fantasies about the bloggers you read and I don't want to give the wrong impression. I am only doing a marginally acceptable job at preparing my children for the real world. I try and disseminate relevant skills to them, but the reality is if at some point in their adult lives they don't live in my garage, it will be a miracle.
Case in point: despite the fact that we live in suburban Arizona where the temperatures often top 110 degrees in September, we do all our own yard work, and make our children join us. You might be nodding with impressed approbation thinking we are raising the kind of kids who will go around the neighborhood starting their own landscaping businesses or better yet, mowing the lawns of all the widows in the 'hood. Well just stop right there.
This Saturday hubby sends Unnamed Child #2 out to the garage by himself telling him to get started on his portion of the lawn. At a few points during this Rockwell-type moment I look outside from my air conditioned window to see my progeny quickly being dessicated by the sun. Sad, but watching them was making me miss my show on Food Network so I lost interest in their plight.
About fifteen minutes later, sweaty kid comes inside and proceeds to make themselves a snack. Getting ready to fire up the gas stove, Unnamed Child #1 yells at #2, "What is that smell? Why do you smell?" I barely look up because I often ask the same question of all of my children.
With all the savvy wisdom of one who has been appropriately instructed in the use of power tools, #2 says, "It's gasoline, I spilled it all over my pants when I was filling up the mower."
Unnamed Child #1 then shrieks with all the hysterical lung capacity of a teenage girl, "DON'T LIGHT THE STOVE!!!!!!"
At this point I probably should have gotten involved, but #2 beat me to the punch when they asked, calmly and with a straight face if their pants needed to go in the laundry because they had gasoline all over them."
Yep, some parents teach their children about the incendiary properties of gasoline before they let them play with it. Other parents teach appropriate hygiene and fashion boundaries that give guidelines for wearing flammable liquids. But those parents don't get to watch complete episodes of the Iron Chef do they?
Despite the fact that you think I'm amazingly glamorous, I am really a creature of habit. Maybe glamorous habit, but habit nonetheless. I like my stuff a certain way. I like getting the back-to-school routine all set up. And, while I deal with it, I don't like change that much.
A few months ago the Schwann's truck was driving through our neighborhood. I've always wondered what was on that truck. As a family we don't eat much pre-prepared food. Most of what my family has to endure is food I made from scratch. This should answer any of your questions about why we are so skinny.
So, the truck is tooling through the 'hood and dog and I run chasing it like a kid after an ice cream truck. The driver stops at a neighbor's house and of course, I invite myself to join their little food-delivery tete-a-tete. I realize as I'm flipping through the catalogue of options that I am weirder than I admit; most of the offerings are things we just don't eat. Now, because I've created such a scene - running after him and barging in to someone else's home with my panting dog, I figure I really should order something.
One item looks pretty good - a zucchini and eggplant pie. Please don't gag. I know normal people don't eat this sort of thing, but around my house this is rather common fare. Just not in a pre-packaged, microwave-safe container. That part is new.
Gathering my frozen "pie" dog and I walk the long road back home. (It's not actually that long unless you are holding a bundle of frozen food against your chest.)
Later, when I serve up my "pie", my family LOVES it. Really. The kids ask if we can have it more often, and I do admit, it was really tasty. I make a mental note the next time I see the Schwann truck, I need to run after it again. And yes, I do know that a grown woman running down the street after frozen zucchini is not a good resume bullet point.
Imagine my dismay when the next time the Schwann man and I meet, he informs me that Schwann's has discontinued my beloved frozen zucchini and eggplant pie. WHAT??? A place that sells deep fried cheese balls and ice cream is not making lots of profit on their zucchini and eggplant pie? I knew it was too good to last.
Such is life. Really. Everything eventually does change.
This week our church congregational boundaries were redrawn. Changing everything.
Last week my son told me he might be too big to sit on my lap. Changing everything.
And, sadly, no matter how far I chase the Schwann's truck, I cannot comfort myself with a hefty serving of pre-packaged, microwave-safe zucchini and eggplant pie.
We are a very cosmopolitan family. My children have travelled quite extensively for their age. They study Spanish AND Mandarin Chinese starting in fifth grade. They will eat almost anything - spinach, octopus, escargot - they eat it all. I remember standing in Pompeii while a tour guide explained some of the history, and my seventh grader leaned over and added even more depth and context from what she had learned at school. Since it's important to me that we experience people, experiences and cultures different than our own, I often pat their little heads with approbation.
This week we were having a wonderful family discussion. As my kids have matured these have gotten more and more interesting. They have insights and opinions I admire.
During the discussion Unnamed Child #2 asked, "Don't the Haunnikins do that?" Referencing a discussion about animal sacrifice.
What? Suddenly I'm unsure of myself. With all the changes in political boundaries, particularly in the Balkan states I was aghast I didn't know about the Haunnikins.
We all were unfamiliar with the exotic animal-slaying Haunnikin culture. Emphatically #2 continued: "You know, The Haunnikins - the wandered around living in tents while that guy... what's his name... was their leader?"
I'm stumped. I can think of no current nomadic tribe called the Haunnikins. "Are they African?" I query.
"No!" He says, "You know, The Haunnikins, the escaped from Egypt and that guy... what's his name... oh, Moses! was their leader and they sacrificed animals."
I can't contain my laughter as hubby calmly corrects him... "Dude, those aren't the Haunnikins they are the Jews."
"Oh, yeah, I thought it was something like that."
Upon reflection I figure it makes a little sense - Christmas/Christians - Hannakauh/Haunnikins... which leads to Ramadan/Ramadans... Halloween/Halloweenies.
Three cheers for the Haunnikins!
I've never been accused of being a "girlie girl" although I do think the characterization is like a point on a continuum. Standing next to Rosanne Barr, I seem like Swan Lake Barbie. Standing next to Glinda the Good Witch, I look like I do my hair with an immersion blender and brush my teeth with a pitchfork. It's all relative.
My name throws people off too. Telemarketers never know how to pronounce my name and usually ask for Mr. A-see-line, to which I reply, "That dirtbag moved out months ago" and hang up.
But usually, people who know me have me safely placed on the continuum of "feminine enough". This means I shower at least twice a week and own a pair of high heels over 2 inches.
Sooo, imagine my delight when my hubby reports he received a call this morning. Then he starts silent laughing so hard he can't tell me the story. Of course, I'm excited to hear a story that makes him gasp for breath... I should know better.
Apparently we got a call from a neighbor that went like this:
Neighbor: "Good morning! Did I wake you up?"
Neighbor: "You are breathing hard"
Hubby who just ran 16 miles: "I just finished working out"
Neighbor: "Well, I was wondering if you would teach my class this Sunday?"
Hubby: Pause..."Do you mean ME or Aselin?"
Neigbor: "Uh, this isn't Aselin?" Awkward moment... "Well her voice is kinda deep."
Fast forward an hour or so when I come in after petting bunnies and unicorns and singing to a rainbow, I see my chortling companion doubled over, trying to catch his breath from laughing.
Hubby is cracking up relaying the information to me that apparently I sound like Bruce Vilanch. Or at least I sound like a guy who just ran 16 miles in compression shorts. Neither option is very appealing to me.
Crud. Now I have to curl or wax or bleach something today just to prove my femininity....or my metrosexuality... ugh! I'm wearing a tiara and pumps to the grocery store.
I have great kids. They, for the most part are obedient, kind and helpful. That being said, they struggle with a few things - one of them going to bed.
I suppose it's a great thing to enjoy life so much you don't want to check out of it for a while. I, on the other hand, fantasize about becoming a bear and hibernating for six or more months. (Ok, not really, but you can't tell me you haven't had days where that sounds appealing)
Today is the first day of school, so of course, last night everyone was very excited. So excited that they couldn't stay in bed. So excited that they couldn't quit singing Coldplay's Viva la Vida at the top of their lungs and then breaking out in a Broadway medley that would have made Andrew Lloyd Webber proud.
I've learned that I can't beat them, but I do enjoy giving the stink-eye whenever I get the chance.
So last night, an hour after bedtime I'm skulking along the hallway, moving like a lynx after her prey when I get to their room.
Unnamed Child #2 is, of course, not in bed. Leaning up against Unnamed Child #3's bed they are deep in discussion. I started to make a move to get noticed, so I could intimidate them with the dagger glare of motherhood when I started to catch the conversation. I won't get it verbatim, but it went something like this: "If we can harvest the eggs I think we could make a lot of money." "Yeah, but caviar is pretty expensive, I don't think we'd make more than caviar." "Yeah, but we could have a whole snail farm and it would be easier than harvesting fish eggs."
OK readers, let's regroup here. My kids are avoiding their proscribed bed time so they can make plans to open a snail farm and harvest the eggs for sale, competing with the existing caviar market.
Anyone else a little disturbed by this?
Good grief, what have I spawned???
Suddenly, Unnamed Child #2 notices that I've been standing there and jumps into bed, trying to play innocent.
I'm just sayin', if you're making plans to enter the snail caviar market, you're innocence is LONG gone.
My in-laws have recently published an amazing 491 page life history. It's very inspirational to read their adventures, challenges and wisdom all bound neatly in a lovely leather volume. It has made me reflect on our church's request that we each assemble our life histories, keep journals - things that our posterity will want to know.
In theory, for me, this is a lovely idea. My reality is quite different. I don't think I would or should tell the complete version of my life history. I've stumbled, rather ungracefully, through the last 40 years and the next 40 doesn't promise to be much different. I am not one of those people who has lived an inspirational life you would want your children modeling themselves after. I have more of the "horrible warning" sort of life. Much of my life history would have to be redacted, like a J. Edgar Hoover file, without the cross dressing.
For the record, I have not committed a felony, been incarcerated in a Mexican prison or kidnapped a small child and made them live in a shed in my backyard - I don't have that sort of embarrassing life. Rather, I just wish I did most everything better the first time. I can look back and reframe the moments of my life with a Kodak sort of wisdom, but I rarely display it in the moment.
I have a knack for doing the exact opposite of what I should have done, or said, or more importantly: not said. While vignettes of such social carnage might be good fodder for people who don't know me, I am trying VERY hard to keep the therapy bill as low as possible for my own children.
For instance, I had an experience this past week I have tried and tried to frame in such a way I can share it with you. I am sure a kinder, gentler soul could do it justice, keep it light and even heartwarming. Instead, I just fantasize about ninja kicking the principle player. Patience is not one of my stronger... OK, I have NONE.
So, sadly, much of my life has to be edited. For the record, I have not ninja kicked anyone...recently, and I do hold my tongue...most of the time. Which makes for infrequent blogging, but does give my children a better, albeit scant, legacy.
I left home today in hopes of exposing myself to the general population to generate blog material. Wait, that didn't sound right did it?
At any rate, I dragged Unnamed Child #1 to IKEA. IKEA is really an unreal place, and a nice way to kill a few hours. Wandering through the aisles of furniture that was clearly conceived to decorate a Hobbit Hole stylishly and functionally, we planned on an exciting afternoon. Ascending the escalator to the second floor we found ourselves in a Swedish stupor after a few twists and turns.
Despite the double digits in her age, Unnamed Child #1 still likes to be seen with me. As we were looking at some of the pre-fabbed kitchens I decided that we needed to spice things up. Usually when we are in public, someone comes up with a game or a dare which puts us at odds with the rest of humanity. I told her that we no longer could speak in English, and must passionately discuss whatever item was closest whenever someone came within earshot. The first one to laugh, lost the round, and the loser of the game would pay dearly with an undecided punishment of the winner's choice.
What ensued was a game of verbal chicken that had my little teenager gesticulating and waving a spatula around while speaking complete, albeit passionate, gibberish. As the game progressed, neither one of us could win a round since our interchanges became more absurd, animated and pointed. Others tried to watch the crazy foreigners without being caught looking. (A skill that is rare and valuable) We were laughing, there was snorting - which #1 kept insisting was part of her chosen dialect. Once I went to the clicks and whistles of Swahili, we were all completely undone.
Gaining our composure, we were ready to descend to the bottom floor with our cart, so we approached the elevator. Pushing the button, the doors promptly opened; which always makes me smile - when the elevator is waiting for me rather than the other way around.
Inside were three women sporting summer costumes that are popular around town. Popular, but not wise, as hot pants and tube tops only work on a very small segment of the population. This percentage is even smaller once you add piercings and tattoos that make it impossible not to stare without being caught. (A skill I have not yet mastered). Fixated on a neck tattoo which went all the way up to a multiple-pierced ear, I stepped back as the women started to exit the elevator. Suddenly the leader of the coven realized it was the wrong floor. Now, in case you haven't been to IKEA, there are only two floors. Immediately I was confused, since if they were already in the elevator I assumed they got in at the bottom floor. Then, they all started laughing as deco-neck chick said "I thought the ride was taking a long time." The second droopy-tube passenger said, "Didn't anyone push the button?"
We all started laughing as they confessed they had been standing in the elevator for over five minutes. Smiling I said, "So we rescued you then!" This brought cackles that made all sorts of things bounce and jiggle, and Unnamed Child #1 kept raising her eyebrows at me as she shielded her eyes from the sort of impressive cleavage no one ever gets to see at our house.
As the doors opened on the bottom floor, the ladies, in unison all grabbed their tops at their armpits and gave a hearty hike toward the sky. "Thank you for rescuing us from ourselves!" their leader said as they ventured off into the labyrinth of IKEA. I winked at #1 and whispered, "I think they need more help than we can give."
She nodded emphatically, in English.
My mojo is hiding somewhere far, far away. Likely the dog ate it.
Recently we celebrated my sister's graduation from college. I cried through most of it. Partly because I was so proud of her; a young mother who got a psychology degree while raising her little ankle biter, working a day care and training for a 5K. Personally I think that 's an amazing accomplishment and I am bursting with pride for her.
The other reason I cried through the ceremony is the speeches lasted, and lasted, and lasted WAY past the point where anyone wants to hear any more "wisdom." I distinctly remember leaning over to my neighbor and saying, about the speaker opining about Dr. Seuss: "Don't do it, don't do it,...noooooooo!" as the speaker busted out an entire Suess book of wisdom and read it to us.
Don't get me wrong, Seuss is a genius, but there is a general rule in public speaking: leave 'em wanting more. No one at the graduation ceremony did that. Hence, my tears.
But this is not the reason I have taken a writing sabbatical. Instead, my life has had a bit of stress in it lately, and when serious things happen I find it hard to blather on about the blister I received from mopping or how my mailman doesn't seem to be able to match the numbers on the boxes with the numbers on the letters.
That being said, my own personal reading is going well. My research is fascinating. And my schoolwork putters along. So please believe me when I say I am not sitting in a dark room watching Jerry Springer all day. (That's just like a family reunion for me). My goal is to be back on track next week - so be on notice all you people in the grocery stores, mail men, bug spray guy, dry cleaner... oh sheesh, I'm depressing myself with how mundane my actual existence really is!!!
OK, I'm going to think really, really hard for something interesting to write about. So be on notice, because it could be you!!
Every year my in-laws have a Fourth of July party in Utah. Despite the fact that Utah is pretty dry, it does not outlaw over-the-counter fireworks like Arizona does. This fact has seemed a great injustice to my children over the years, but seeing as how we are invited to the party, it works itself out.
Since we don't know the first thing about fireworks, we usually just mooch off those around us. Trying not to be such a leech, I tell the kids we can bring our own this year. Imagine the squeals of delight as my children select a large pre-packaged assortment of incendiary entertainment from the grocery store. I'm all impressed with myself because I even had a coupon, and the assortment took two pre-pubescent minion to carry out to the car.
They oohed and ahhed over the opportunities that lay inside the cellophane wrapped package. Unnamed Child #2, getting a rush of testosterone, even pulls out a pocket knife because everyone knows packages of fireworks are impressed by a kid wielding a pocket knife. Stabbing at the shrink wrap because "Mom, I'm just making it easier to open later" seems completely helpful and logical. I figure, as long as a human is not being stabbed, everything is OK.
Pulling up to the soiree, I'm completely confident all the other attendees will be impressed at the arsenal of gunpowder we've just hauled inside. Let's just say I would have gotten more reaction had I brought a package of paper plates to the party.
Out on the lawn, waiting for our arrival, are my nephews. Teen-aged nephews. One of them , legally teen-aged. They don't have a pre-packaged assortment of exciting fireworks. No sir-ree. They had two large suitcases, large enough to stash a dead body inside, full of fireworks from the Indian reservation. Fireworks that are not only illegal in Arizona, but also illegal in the other 49 states, including Utah.
Dejected, and weirdly mesmerized, my children ooh and ahh over the black market set-up being organized in the third bay of the garage. They had lain out their options, in order of how tonight's performance would go. My fireworks contribution to the show was not even an entre act. My stuff was the equivalent of the guy outside a concert venue in a light up top hat riding a unicycle and selling water.
As dusk unfolded the show began. As the family gathered in their lawn chairs, the show had a build-up. A fountain, synchronized bottle rockets, then one or two shooting stars up high in the sky that burst into patriotic wonder and dusted us with ash we accepted as a badge of honor for being witness to the illicit display.
As time wore on, those holding the lighting wands grew more creative: syncing multiple shots into the sky, in a rather professional production. All we needed was a little music and we could have charged tickets.
If you've been a long time reader, you know this isn't going to end well. Although, I'll admit, it ended better than it could have.
In what would be the prematurely final firings for the evening, six launches were arranged and their release promised to be spectacular. It certainly was.
The first couple of shots went off inspiring wonderment as the lawn chair audience gazed into the sky. Somewhere around the third shot, we had a misfire. No one quite knows how it happened, but of course, rather than shooting into the street, or a fence, this rocket tipped over and shot straight into the third bay of the garage. It all happened so fast, I'm still hopped up on the adrenaline.
Grazing my nimble sister-in-law's leg, the starburst exploded raining colorful sparks all over the waiting congregation of contraband explosives. The flash was blinding and the realization of what was likely about to happen made all of us leap one direction or another. The braver in the gene pool ran to the garage to save sis from the likely explosion of gas fumes from the lawnmower, weed whacker and actual gas cans stored inside the garage. Not to mention the four-hundred remaining fireworks yet to be lit. The lesser of us took cover. I was hiding somewhere under a bush when the all clear was given. The fact that there was not a secondary explosion is nothing short of a miracle. The fact that sis was not horribly injured was also miraculous.
Once we all were assured everything was OK, that's when the real firework show began, and let's just say, it was spectacular. Let's just also say, it doesn't matter if you're of "legal" age when your parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbors yell at you...the law cannot protect you here.
You know those hysterical, screaming people running around during emergencies? I'm not one of them. When something terrible happens, my left brain takes over and I go into ultra-focus-boss-people-around mode. While this mode is extremely unpleasant for others in my normal day-to-day life, during an emergency I'm the best person to have around.
Once, in a head-on car accident with two pregnant friends (I was also expectant), I took command and saved the day. The only thing missing was a bullhorn. It was not until later, in the hospital, when I spoke to hubby over the phone did I break down in a completely incoherent blather of sobbing.
While traveling I have the opportunity to do lots of driving. Yesterday I went to Idaho to retrieve Kid #1. Driving along the picturesque base of a mountain range I was enjoying the quiet. i was thinking about how spectacular the scenery was, how different the terrain of the places I've been in the last few weeks is, and how I was really, really hungry (OK, that thought rarely goes away).
Suddenly, someone driving southbound launched something out their driver's side window. I am a furious opponent of littering, especially wondering how cigarette smokers don't think flicking their expended butts out the window isn't littering. Before I have time to work myself into a frenzied rage - the site burst into flames. It was sort of an explosion, likely because the brush was so dry. The flames were taller than my car, and there were two sites burning. I quickly passed the location and figured I should report this atrocity.
Dialing 911, Sheila answered with the standard "911 what's your emergency?" I've only called 911 twice in my life before, (pregnant car accident and person trying to break in to the house I was inside of) and both times they responded with calm assurance, and were very helpful.
"I'm driving northbound on I-15 and a brush fire just broke out..." I was about to try and describe what exit I was near when Sheila said: "Can you hold?"
WHAT THE HECK!!! I understand the standard customer interface platform of putting us Plebeians on hold, sort of the Disneyland crowd control strategy of having most of their guests stand in line, but this is a FIRE!!!
I drove for what seemed miles before Sheila returned and asked my location.
There are a few things I wonder about this. The highway I was on runs the entire state and I was on a cell phone. Possibly they were able to note my general location, and maybe wanted to get the firemen started putting on their gear, but still....HOLD???
I don't know, when I returned to the site an hour later I expected to see all sorts of hullabaloo, and miles of charred dry brush. Clearly the authorities in Northern Utah have it together. There was about a mile of crispy burned median, but no damage other than the removal of the brush, which is likely a good thing.
I am working on my Eagle Scout award. At least, I think I should be awarded one. Darn all those gender-specific Boy Scout requirements. Anyone who is familiar with the Scouting program knows the mother is just as responsible - if not more responsible - for the attainment of Eagle rank than the boy.
In this process, one of the merit badges we're working on has been Dog Care. This was an obvious selection from the long list of potential badges since we have a dog, and theoretically we care for him. Besides researching various diseases that can afflict the canine species, Unnamed Child #2 (and I) have kept a log of everything we've done for our dear dog over the last two months. This log has been rather intensive since it asks the applicant to log all the exercise, hygiene, food and veterinary care that goes into responsible pet ownership.
What I really think is this whole thing is a ruse to prevent people from ever getting dogs. To see it all spelled out on an Excel spreadsheet is rather sobering, and dog is clearly not pulling his weight around here.
Finally, the two months of recording was over and the last part of the badge is a visit to a veterinarian for a tour. I should have set this up earlier, but I was too busy getting the scout to record each feeding, walk and bowel movement.
Shockingly, our Petsmart located vet, who we really don't know at all, invited us to 'come on over right then'. As it happens, I was ready to go 'right then'; I LOVE it when the universe works on MY schedule. Unnamed Child #2 was playing at a friend's house and completely unprepared to be ripped from his social engagement to do something as mundane as go to Petsmart. I did what any resourceful mother would have done - I took both kids.
Clad in their scout shirts and shorts the vet received them warmly and took them behind the closed doors to the inner vet sanctum.
I waited, and waited, and waited becoming more and more impressed at the length of the impromptu tour. At the conclusion we thanked the doctor and said our goodbyes. I was fixated on signing this dang merit badge off so I could go back to oblivious dog care, where he's fed on an as-needed basis rather than an actual schedule.
Getting into the car, I asked how the tour went. I got the run-down of what they saw, exam rooms, anaesthesia, vaccinations - the sort of stuff one would imagine is in the operational side of a veterinary facility. Then came the good stuff:
"MOM!!! Then, (pant pant) we saw a fetus! A FEEEEE-TUS Mom! A real-life FEEEEEEEEEEEEE-TUS!!!!"
Unnamed Child #2's eyes were as large as saucers and his companion scout kept nodding emphatically like a good side-kick should.
"MOM!! Do you even know what a FEEEEEE-TUS is????"
Now, despite what Unnamed Child #2 thinks, I am not so old as to have forgotten High School Biology, and my own reproductive education. "Yes," I reply, "I do know what a fetus is. What kind of fetus did you see?"
"The vet didn't know. She thought it was a dog, or a cat or a turtle or something, but Mom it was a FEEEEEE-TUSSS!!!!"
Clearly the vet had impressed the scouts who were now vowing to go into a field of veterinary medicine just so they could see another fetus.
I, on the other hand was very concerned that my vet didn't know what sort of fetus she had on hand. Personally, I label my fetus jars to avoid these pesky sort of mental lapses. Fortunately, this won't impact our veterinary care since our dog is a male... but that's a fetus discussion for another day.
It is a given that I will need to contribute to the future therapy of my children. I accepted this idea before they were born and have established requisite funds anticipating their upcoming needs. I mean, sheesh, they have ME as a mother. I confess that when selecting a dog, I did not believe -until this last week - that he would also need a fund.
Preparing for the oppressive Arizona summer has traditionally meant a tip-to-tail shave for our happy-go-lucky canine. Deciding that I was going to save the outrageous $70 it usually costs I set out to perform the duty myself. How hard can this be?
Laying out the industrial strength clippers, comb, scissors and clipper oil I proceeded to wrangle the beast. He's smarter than he should be and getting him restrained proved challenging. Trying to coax him over to the station I had prepared on the patio was like trying to get a toddler to take medicine. For about ten minutes he stayed just outside my reach. By the time I had him captured and restrained, I had already broken a sweat.
Firing up the shears I stood before him, trying to decide where to start. Not being a graduate of The Grooming Academy, I was a little perplexed on the starting point of this exercise, so of course I just shaved down the middle of his head.
Now I've watched this process through a window at Petsmart before. How hard can it be?
Twenty minutes into my masterpiece I stepped back to admire my work: Clearly this will require the establishment of a canine therapy jar.
But, undaunted, I pressed forward.
Like a suburban Edward Scissorhands, I snipped and sheared as the dog did his best to avoid contact. In his mind this was clearly punishment for the time he ate the entire black fondant-covered cake on our white carpet.
As the minutes turned to hours, I kept chopping more and more hair from his unwilling body. The more I tried to smooth him out, the more it looked like I was styling him with an immersion blender. At one point it looked like he had exploded:
During this lengthy endeavor my mind drifted back to a simpler, earlier time. I remembered how excited hubby was when we first got married. He had some inane idea that putting a ring on my finger meant he never had to step inside a Super Cuts again. I'm pretty sure this expectation is why he actually proposed. He begged me for years, trying to get me to agree to cut his hair.
Hubby is a smart man, usually. But his fixation on saving the bi-monthly $9-plus-tip expenditure blinded him to the fact that when the target of your affection instructs you to "buy an instructional video" before attempting to cut your hair, things are not going to go well.
After a few years of pleading - and I do mean years - I begrudgingly gave in to his charms. He came home with the "Advanced Hair Styling System" from Sears and sat ram-rod straight on a kitchen chair, draped in a towel, while I finished watching the video. He was like a little kid anticipating recess. Of course, he scheduled this first coiffing the night before a job interview at Compaq Computer in Houston.
Following the video instructions to a T, I put on the appropriate clipper guard, trimmed carefully around his ears, made perfectly shaped side-burns. I snipped, smoothed and scissored his longer locks into an impressive blend. Six and a half hours later, I declared he was done. He stood up and walked to the powder room mirror. After a few seconds, he closed the door. Pacing outside I kept trying to coax him out.
Remember, I said he was a smart man, and I am pretty sure he was locked inside the half-bath trying to quell his tears. Once he emerged he gently said: "You've done an amazing job. Buuuut, is this side supposed to be this much longer than the other side?" OK, in fairness he did look like a member of the Flock of Seagulls. Exasperated, I huffed and pointed to the chair.
$9 plus tip was seeming less and less wallet gouging.
Grumbling (note to reader: this is never a good quality in someone cutting your hair) I evened out my work and proclaimed him finished. It wasn't horrible, it was just really, really, really short. Military short. I sent him off to the job interview, clutching the "Advanced Hair Styling System from Sears" in my hand and muttering under my breath about how I never agreed to this in my wedding vows.
As he drove the long hours to Houston, he stewed in the consequences of his wish-come-true. Dreading how he was going to be perceived, as walking in with a terrible haircut makes a pretty bad impression. True to my husband's unfolding life, he walked in to the room as his interviewer, a former military commander, stood and saluted him.
He was offered the job.
I never cut his hair again.
Dog was not so lucky.
Saturday I threw what was likely my last "little kid" birthday party. I love throwing parties and have enjoyed the playfulness that kids birthday parties require. The problem is, I've developed a reputation. A reputation that has brought out "expectations."
Unnamed Child #2 had a party a few months ago. I must say, I outdid myself. The Indiana Jones meets Jack Sparrow themed party was a huge hit. I mean, how can an hour of throwing sticky eyeballs, hurling knives at a heart-shaped cake, fishing snakes out of the swimming pool and other assorted feats of plunder not be fun? When the whole thing was over, one of the usually stoic guests, hopped up on sugar and gummy worms, gushed: "This was the best party EVER!!" Me, trying to be the Martha Stewart of piracy glowed with approbation.
Then, at an evening school wax museum, one of the "wax" statues broke character when they saw me saying: "Hey! Are you Unnamed Child #2's Mom???" "Why yes I beamed." "Can I come to your next party?"
Wow. This was big time. In high school I was the kid who was smart enough never to attempt throwing a party. The mix of parental restrictions combined with my general nerdyness guaranteed failure. I'm confident any such social gaffes would have involved me, sitting on a couch with the guy from biology who ate ants and my dog. (Only some of that scenario has changed)
So there we were, Saturday, 10 a.m., ready for the equestrian themed party to begin. I was nervous. I had a lot riding on this soiree. (Notice the clever pun?) Pacing by the door, I was excited when guests began to arrive, don their handmade horse costumes and prance around the living room.
Moms were gathered in the driveway, obviously impressed by the gummy apple rings I had strung up in our orange tree, buckets with inflatable balls on the lawn and plates of sugar cubes lining the porch railing. I ventured out to say hello. Because I'm such a recluse, I don't know many of the moms, and felt I should introduce myself. As we were chatting, another woman strolled onto our lawn. I didn't see her daughter in tow, and figured she must have run ahead inside while I was busy explaining my dazzling mini polo field.
Waving at the newcomer I strolled over, as she yelled over my shoulder to the other moms - "Garage Sale?"
The other moms were doubled over in laughter.
"No," I tried to explain, "birthday party."
"Inside?" She pointed.
"Yes." I replied, watching aghast as she started for my front door.
"Noooo!" I called, trying to be nice, but not wanting her to enter my home. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, it's amazing how much can flash through my brain in a few seconds. I was trying to decide if I was going to be able to reason with her or if I was going to have to tackle her, there, in my front yard, in front of all the moms I was trying to impress.
"No Garage Sale!!!" I hollered again. At this point she was half-way up on my lawn, making a bee-line for the house. "No, no, no, no, no!!! Fiesta!!! No Garage Sale!! FIESTAAAA!"
I finally got through to her, and clutching her purse she huffed, turned on her heel and got back in her minivan.
Really. How can you not tell that the stuff strewn all over my lawn on a Saturday morning is crap with purpose, not crap for sale?
Our house is consumed with "finals." Final exams, final harvests, final days of middle school, finally running the marathon... we sit on the precipice of a lot of ends.
Watching my children cram for their finals has frustrated me to no end. I don't have the cramming spirit in me, I never have. Cramming involves trying to stuff tiny bits of data into a stressed and overloaded brain. It's one of the things that drives me CRAZY about our western format of education. It's all multiple-choice and formulas. Sadly, doing well in this paradigm does not mean you are well educated.
I worry that we have "educated" ourselves right out of the ability to reason. To think. To figure out.
The things that matter in life, require such effort. Plugging numbers into a formula may help you figure out the radius of a circle, but let's face it, until you're sewing a giant tree skirt you'd be hard-pressed to find a real-life application for that formula.
When all is said and done, I'm not sure I care if my children can select the right bubble on an answer sheet. I do care if they can tell me why three of the bubbles are the wrong answers. I care if they can give me another example of a right answer. I care if they can design their own botanical fashion lines.
I want my children to reason. To understand WHY they hold opinions. WHY they think the things they do. WHY they know the things they know. None of that stuff is testable on a bubble-sheet, it requires articulation, nuance and facets. It requires holding convictions that were forged, not borrowed.
They'll get through finals just fine. In fact, a monkey could get through bubble sheet finals pretty well. My hope is that these concepts are not actually Final, after all.
I've been called lots of names. This week, during an immigration "discussion" I was called a sanctimonious suburbanite. While I admire the alliteration, I didn't appreciate the characterization.
But, this does beg the question... where do I stand, as an Arizona resident, on all this immigration hullabaloo?
After spending literally hours trying to defend my position from people calling me a racist, I figure I'd like to say something in a forum where people can't yell in my face. Post whatever you want...just no bad-breath yelling in my face anymore.
Here's my position:
Someone has to secure the border and enforce the law. I don't care who, but the Feds weren't doing it, so I'm happy, yes HAPPY, Arizona has stepped it up.
We cannot economically sustain the level of services we extend to people regardless of immigration status.
End of position.
Now, while all of you living in Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle are freaking out at my unreasonable position, and you're winding up to call me a bigot, I want to share with you what I do in my spare time.
I volunteer to teach English. To the children of ILLEGAL immigrants. Children we enroll in school, then fail to effectively educate because, let's face it - if you were plunked down in China tomorrow and asked to learn spelling words, it would be near impossible without some help. So, since I speak some Spanish, and we're enrolling these kids anyway I believe strongly that I can make a difference in their lives.
They are wonderful, happy, hard working, eager and at times, desperate to learn. I love being with them, and so four days each week I spend a couple hours teaching these children how to compete in America. Hopefully giving them big dreams AND a pathway out of the shadows.
Believing we should secure the border does not make me a racist. It makes me want to protect the America that allows for the realization of those dreams. I invite any legal immigrant to come. I will help them assimilate. I will invite them to my table, and place my hand over my heart to the flag that makes us all brothers.
Due to some "incidents" in my youth, I have been asked NOT to to return to a few places. OK, one of them is college. That was over a small mis-understanding about me inciting a riot. That made national news. Depending on who you are, that was either not one of my finest moments OR the coolest thing I've ever done. I'll leave it up to you.
None of my escapades were permanently damaging... they say only one person got a broken nose at my riot... BUT they all have been outside the parameters of someone's arbitrarily-decided boundary of decorum. Sort of like arriving without your invitation to a State Dinner - it can be frowned upon. Apparently riots are frowned upon in certain places.
Sad thing is, I am badge-wearin' proud of all of my "incidents" . While I live a relatively sedate and legal life, I do have the need to entertain myself constantly. This is why, when there's a lull in the activity, I immediately start looking around for action. One person's lull is my opportunity to be escorted from the room.
So imagine my delight when I discover that I've been banned from yet another location!!! Just this week!!! AND that location happens to be my husband's office! It's all too exciting!
Apparently people have been spending WAY too much time reading my blog, (or other more interesting blogs,) that I got banned! Electronically blacklisted. Censored. Shut out. China-Googled. Somehow, some Office of Decorum decided that my blog was not "productivity enhancing" OK, so the good thing is my husband's office is more efficient than the US Government. Bad thing, is my tax dollars are still going toward government employees looking at porn while hubby's co-workers can no longer get caught up on my escapades during work hours.
Yeah, like people are going to read this in their spare time?
My husband made a terrible error in choosing to marry me. His challenge increases with the arrival of each holiday. The time between the holidays is sheer bliss, but his grave error came in not taking into consideration that I'm a lousy person to try and buy a gift for. Couple that with the fact that he doesn't like to shop and, well, you can imagine his pain.
With each impending anniversary, birthday or Christmas his stress level rises. Smart men marry girls who wear jewelry. Wise men marry girls who venture into a store more than twice a year so they can tell their beloveds what they would like to receive. Intelligent men don't marry women who ask for a rolling mop bucket for Valentine's Day. (True story) Even if that's what the girl really wants. Isn't that an assault on one's manhood? Well, he can pull it off, but he's no mere mortal.
So what does this unfortunate gent do when (cue music: dum, dum duuuum) Mother's Day rolls around?
I'm no help; I don't want anything. At least until I see it at Costco.
This year, he did a wonderful job celebrating the excruciating eighteen months of gestation time, near death and years of poopy diaper changing followed by more excruciating years of homework. Good thing the Federal Government and Hallmark colluded to set aside one day a year to make all the bystanders forced into honoring motherhood; it makes it all worth it.
He did a great job. His gifts involved reconnaissance. I am mightily impressed and feel wonderfully celebrated. Then, I heard the story behind the gifts, and well, my bubble sort of burst.
One of my gifts this year was an extravagant gift certificate to a salon I enjoy. He has no idea what I do during the day (which is probably a good thing), so the fact that he found this salon blows me away. Then he told me the story behind the escapade:
In my own mind, I am a legend. Everywhere I go people know me. What this really means is that I don't go very many places and to fully obliterate the bubble, the places I do go involve commerce - me giving money to people: the grocery store, dry cleaner, gas station. It stands to reason that these people might remember me. Hence, my notoriety.
Hubby went to see if the Salon, miles from our home, was indeed my preferred hangout. He walked in and inquired of the proprietor if an "Aselin" was one of their customers. The reply of course was: "We have lots of Aselins who come here."
Really? I guess something got lost in the translation, lots of Aselins? Since hubby speaks fluent Thai, I always thought he could navigate the Anglo-Asian divide. Who knows what they meant by lots of Aselins, but for the entire world's sake we should be glad that there aren't 'lots of Aselins' running around getting things buffed and waxed in the same salon. I'm just sayin'.
Hubby thought he was in the right place, so he ventured another guess. One of my dearest friends introduced me to this salon. She, unlike me, knows how to shop. She gets great gifts because she knows what she wants. Every time we are together I am impressed by the details about her and her style. So of course, I just try and copy her. Kellie brought me to the salon over a year ago and I've frequented it ever since.
Hubby proffers: "Does Kellie come here?"
An entire chorus of: Ohhhh, Kellie! We LOVE Kellie! Kellie is WONDERFUL!!!! Came flooding out. Then they burst into song
Yeah right. Lots of Aselin's but only one Kellie? If you met her you would agree, there is only one Kellie.
Aselin's on the other hand, are a dime-a-dozen.
I'm not much of a girlie girl. Growing up driving a tractor and mucking our sheep pens quashed any vestiges of demurity that might have existed under my dirty fingernails. But, enough is enough. Even a dyed-in-the-wool tomboy has her limits.
We have this lovely picture window that looks out over the backyard. Every day for the last week I have removed a dead bird carcass from the patio. Apparently birds cannot distinguish between glass and open space. Subsequently we've had a daily magestical soar only to be cut short by a resounding thud followed by a flap, flop...expire.
It makes me sad and disgusted at the same time. I have been home to hear more than one of these 'thuds', and I always follow the distainful sound with fervent praying for the welfare of the bird. Although I have had a few miraculous successes, my odds are not great.
Yesterday was the last straw. Sitting in my office it felt like the whole house shook with what has now become one of the spring sounds we hear. I hurried outside, begging for the welfare of the gray dove I saw lying on its back. As I arrived on the scene the bird was gasping for air, and then expired in front of me. Not a pleasant event. This bird had hit so hard there was actually blood.
I had had enough.
I told hubby we had to find something tasteful to put on the window to stop the birds from flying into it. He nodded and went back to what he was doing. Which is what he usually does when I have a decorating idea. Since he had not been cleaning up the bird carnage he was not aware of the severity of the situation.
Wracking my brain I tried to come up with something that would work. Walking past Unnamed Child #3's room a huge lightbulb went off over my head. (It's still there I think) Last year for a school project, the class traced an outline of each of the children and then each kid colored a life-sized self portrait. I pulled the figure down from her wall and stuck it on the window. Standing back to admire my work I realized that I was not only a tomboy, but I also had decorating sense that fell somewhere on the continum below Redneck and above Cave Dweller.
For two days now, we have had no dead birds but every time I walk past the window I startle. Apparently I have the peripheral vision of a wombat since multiple times each day I think someone is standing in my living room. Lousy peripheral vision and the short-term memory of Dory the fish from Finding Nemo since I'm the one who put the dang thing up there in the first place.
Now the big test of who my true friends are comes when everyone shows up in the morning for yoga, and sees this:
Not very zen is it?
Recovering from the hangover of our Mother's Day celebration, it's hard not to take stock of my influence as a mother. The day is filled with gushing speeches, tear-jerking NPR memorials and awkward moments as handmade gifts wrapped in paper bags as shoved at you.
While the Mother's Day celebration my family put on was fantastic - tasty breakfast, lovely gifts, poetry and I wasn't punked at church this year. All in all I considered it a fantastic success. Yeah.
That was until unnamed child #1 excitedly came in to my room jumping up and down about the $1 pleather Miley Cyrus pants they had purchased at WalMart. Pleather???? Miley Cyrus??? $1???
All the approbation I felt at the amazing bargain shopping accomplishment - and buying pants for a dollar is pretty dang good - was quashed by the selection of the garment. I mean really, PLEATHER??? I thought we had gone over this: pleather should not be purchased under ANY circumstances... even for a dollar. Just as I started hyperventilating, the kid felt like driving the nail into my coffin. "I am going to wear them in P.E." they excitedly declared.
What kind of P.E. class are you taking? Pole dancing? Sheesh.
As I'm speed-dialing the principal the kid assures me, "We all got them, we're going to wear them together." Oh, that makes everything better. Now they have an entire middle school pleather army learning pole dancing. That makes me feel muuuuch better.
Really, how can this happen. I am a responsible parent who thought I had effectively imparted important wisdom to my progeny. Clearly, with the intrusion of this newest pleather garment, I have failed.