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?
"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
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.
My kids are not normal. I suppose being raised by me they never really had a chance, which is sad for them, but hey, there is always therapy.
One of the areas they find themselves at odds with the general population is in their eating habits; they will eat most anything. Their wide palate has been exciting and a blessing. I am confident that when most families are trying to decide what they want to eat when going out, the youngest member of the family doesn't yell out - "Vietnamese!" They're good little eaters, and won't be cheap dates ordering off the kids menu.
One of their favorite restaurants is Tottie's Asian Fusion in Scottsdale. Our family goes quite often, and the kids share sushi, curry, shrimp and pork spring rolls and all sorts of stuff that doesn't resemble mac-n-cheese or chicken nuggets.
Last week, I ordered some take-out from Tottie's which was quickly devoured when I got home. It's nice to be popular with the natives. Tottie's famous spring rolls are a wonderful Vietnamese roll made from rice paper, vermicelli noodles, shrimp, pork and some veggies. They are fantastic, and we never order enough of them. This delicacy is served with a delicious peanut sauce my kids lick from their plates after the rolls have been inhaled. The peanut sauce is delicious, and sometimes, rarely, there is a little left which I store in the fridge.
Last week, I was working in my office when I heard screams from the kitchen. Since I hadn't been cooking that day, this time it wasn't my fault. The commotion escalated, there was yelling, banging, and all manner of hubbub. Weighing whether or not I should go investigate, I ran in to hubby, doubled over in laughter. The skirmish was still in full swing, but he had to let me know what I had missed.
Unnamed child #1 was still hollering in the kitchen. They had been eating some lunch, and found the peanut sauce left over from last week. Being a Neanderthal they stuck their finger in the tub, and scooped out a hefty sample. It didn't take long to realize that the tasty peanut sauce in fact was spicy oriental mustard. Not the mamby pamby yellow mustard most Americans consume, no sirree. This was the nuclear condiment variety. Poor Unnamed child #1 was snorting, coughing, gagging and in sizable discomfort. The audience to their pain was laughing, cheering and yelling "Do it again! Do it again!"
In our home, empathy is always trumped by entertainment.