Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I love you, four-day weekend

I'm sure you are chomping at the bit to hear about my Thanksgiving. Wanna hear it? Here it go. I started the weekend by taking my daughter to see the new Muppet movie on Wednesday afternoon. Yes, I saw it the first day it opened, because I am cool like that. Earlier in the day one of my co-workers said, "Oh, I bet your daughter is really excited to see that movie." I didn't have the heart to tell her that the outing was almost entirely for my benefit. The kid just came along for the M&Ms.

On Thursday morning, I went to yoga. It was a free session (entry was a canned good for a local food pantry) and was extremely crowded, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Two of my friends from church were there (we didn't plan it that way) so that was a bonus. I hoped that making a good decision at the start of the day would prevent bad decisions later in the day.

My baby girl on Thanksgiving
Later that day, we had the big dinner at a friend's house. This particular friend always fries the turkey and for whatever reason, my husband feels that this task cannot proceed without his involvement. So, he headed over there at 11 a.m. to watch football and make some intricate calculations involving oil and minutes and velocity and turkey poundage. I'm so glad I'm a vegetarian. I sent our daughter along with him so that I could have the house to myself and work on the project. I figured she may as well play with the other kids instead of me yelling at her all day. I did get a lot of work done on the vanity. I will post a new photo soon. My painting skills definitely leave a lot to be desired. If you ever visit our house and have occasion to view the vanity, please squint at it from at least ten feet away, do not look in the drawers and for the love of God do not look at the back of the thing. Right now I'm trying to figure out what to do about the drawer pulls (I may get crazy and hand paint them with polka dots or something). I'm also on the hunt for a vanity stool.

Dinner itself was nice. The usual stuff was available for consumption. We were asked to bring two pies, so that is what we did (I bought them - sorry). I am not big on pie so I was not tempted by dessert. Had there been some chocolate on the table, it would have been a whole other story. My middle sister was telling me that someone brought a homemade flan to their Thanksgiving celebration. Oy.

After dinner, I went home and finished my Black Friday game plan. Now, I have to say that I find it truly irritating that Black Friday now starts on Thursday. To me, stores that open at 10 or 12 on Thanksgiving are essentially saying, "Hey, we don't give a fuck about our employees." Seriously, I did my time in retail and I think it's horrible to make someone work on Thanksgiving. Black Friday is for early birds, not night owls. Everyone knows that the early bird gets the worm - not the night owl. YOU ARE REWARDING THE WRONG BIRD, PEOPLE! Anyway, I made plans to get up at 4 and go shopping in hopes of grabbing a few bargains. One thing we really wanted was a 42" television that Best Buy had as a "door buster."  P decided to drive over there at midnight to determine what his odds were. He saw the line that wrapped around the outside of the building and promptly drove back home. We did end up buying a TV at Best Buy the next day. It was on sale for Black Friday but isn't as large as the big one that was long gone. Funny side note: when he pulled our old TV off the stand, there were about a dozen CDs underneath it. When A was a toddler she was always shoving CDs in weird places.  We knew we were missing some but eventually we just convinced ourselves that we were losing our minds. And now that we don't need CDs anymore, we can use them as coasters or something.

I did manage to get some good stuff on sale on Black Friday. Lots of games and whatnot. I was home by late morning and was exhausted by mid-afternoon. However, my daughter was bored so I ended up taking her to a water park. I had a buy-one-get-one pass. We had a nice time. Since I had gotten up so early, I hadn't bothered to put on much make-up - just a little eyeliner and mascara. When we were at the water park, the kid said, "Mom, you have a little bit of black right here."  She pointed to the corner of her eye. I grabbed a towel and wiped my eye. "Better?" I asked.  She nodded.  Well, an hour later we were in the ladies' room and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had black mascara smeared from my eyebrows to my cheekbones. My daughter saw me peering into the mirror. She looked at me with a slight frown, a look that was probably meant to convey sympathy or empathy but instead came across as, my mother is a half-wit.  "Mommy, I just didn't want to tell you."  Thanks, kid.

On Saturday morning, I went to Weight Watchers and learned that, despite working out and eating carefully all week, I'd managed to gain half a pound. Honestly, why do I bother? After that, the kid and I headed out of town to take Willa the puppy to her new home. Willa's new digs are about 2 1/2 hours away, so I got a cheap room on Priceline and figured we'd make a weekend of it. On our way to the new home, we stopped to visit our former foster dog, Fritz. Now, Fritz is much more my speed than a puppy is. He's almost 12 now. I was happy to see that he is doing well. His mom, who has come to be a good friend, made us lunch and had some nice little gifts for us. She made a necklace for my daughter - I'd try to describe it but I'd never do it justice. My friend also gave me a set of mala beads. I was touched to learn that the set includes a bead that once belonged to her mother.

A was sad to leave Willa at her new home and hugged her profusely until I was finally able to pull her out the door. I've been fostering for nearly 12 years, so I don't get too emotional anymore. The only time I get weepy is when the dog required a lot of rehabilitation and was in rough shape when the journey began. Young, healthy dogs are pretty easy to let go of. Anyway, Willa's new family is happy to have her and I'm happy that I won't have a puppy swinging by her teeth from the branches of our Christmas tree. Falalalalala.

Our hotel room turned out to be pretty nice. It was one of those Residence Inn joints. The room had a full kitchen and all that jazz. The kid insisted on sleeping on the fold-out couch by herself. I didn't argue with the notion of having a king size bed just for moi. We spent most of the evening watching "Punkin Chunkin" on TV and reading. We drove back home the next day after a stop at Trader Joe's (we don't have one anywhere near our home). After spending three solid days with Miss Chatty, I handed her over to her father as soon as we got home. "Congratulations, Mr. M, it's a girl!"

All in all, it was a good weekend. I'm sure you were expecting something more titillating or newsworthy, seeing as how it took me a solid week to write this blog entry. I'm planning to get an oil change this weekend, so watch for a post on that next.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

A rant for the season

|begin rant|

It happens every year. The rumblings spread across Facebook, clever church marquees, and various forms of advertising. "Keep Christ in Christmas!" Everyone seems so worried that outsiders are trying to put the kibosh on their holiday that they issue a pre-emptive strike. They warn that utterings of "happy holidays" will be dealt with swiftly and mercilessly.

For all the times I have heard "Keep Christ in Christmas," I have never heard a non-Christian say, "Take Christ out of Christmas!" Not once. Sure, some of the atheist organizations put up the occasional billboard to get people riled up, but even many atheists celebrate Christmas. I've spotted a few "XMAS Trees" signs at tree lots, but I think that's more about laziness (and perhaps the limitations of a spray-painted hunk of plywood) than sacrilege. I think the war on Christmas has been greatly exaggerated.

Keep in mind that only around one-third of the earth's population is Christian. I'm not good at math, but I believe that statistic also indicates that two-thirds of the planet is not Christian. Many non-Christians, particularly in the U.S., are practically forced to acknowledge Christmas whether they want to or not. Can they go grocery shopping on December 25th? Probably not. Even if Christmas is not a holy day for a given individual, they've probably got the day off work and have been doused in Christmas carols and cookies for weeks on end. So, I just don't see how someone can simultaneously say, "CELEBRATE MY HOLIDAY, DAMMIT!" and "DON'T YOU DARE CELEBRATE MY HOLIDAY IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE EXACTLY WHAT I BELIEVE!"

When you check out at Target and an employee offers a cheerful, "Happy Holidays!" this is not tantamount to saying, "Take Christ out of Christmas." A quick glance at a calendar reveals that there are, in fact, multiple holidays occurring this time of year, starting with Thanksgiving and stretching through to New Year's Day. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the winter solstice also fall in that time span. And, of course, Christmas. (See, it's a whole bunch; that's why we call this period "the holidays.") The lady at Target can't tell just by looking at me whether I am Christian or Jewish or Muslim. I'm not offended by "Happy Holidays" any more than I'd be offended by "Happy Hanukkah." If you want to blame someone for turning Christmas into a commercial holiday, blame the retailers. But then, we'd also have to blame ourselves for succumbing to it (I was at Black Friday like a jackass, too, so I am not pointing any fingers here).

A wise friend pointed out to me that we're all on the same planet and that we should focus more on inclusion than divisiveness. She happens to be Buddhist (and is not in any way offended when people wish her a Merry Christmas). I'm a Unitarian Universalist, but I happen to be a big fan of Jesus, too (and yes, I celebrate his birth). Christians are supposed to be loving and tolerant, so who cares if others celebrate the holiday as they wish?

|end of rant|

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Our foster pup has an adoption pending. A sucker very nice couple came to meet Willa last weekend and decided to adopt her. It's a good thing I had every intention of being honest about Willa's naughty behavior, because my daughter sang like a canary before the visitors even had a chance to sit down in our living room. "Willa pees and poops on the floor, and she stole my underwear," the kid announced loudly.

"Ha ha!" I laughed nervously. "I was, um, just about to tell you about that."

It is true that Willa is a thief. She is the only member of our household who can fit under the bed in the guest room/office. So, that is where she keeps her cache of stolen items. Our house is generally kept pretty neat, but there are two primary opportunities for theft: 1. My daughter can't remember to keep her bedroom door shut and 2. Laundry being folded is fair game. Every other day or so, I pull the guest room bed out from the wall so that I can clear out the stash.  I have found the following:
  • My pajama pants
  • My husband's t-shirt
  • Mutilated Barbies (I think at least four have been maimed at this point - the pooch has been pooping Barbie hands and feet for weeks).
  • My new pen
  • Dish towels
  • Receipts
  • Shoes
I took Willa to the vet yesterday for her final visit before the adoption.  She weighed 11 pounds when we got her and now clocks in at 22. She has actually made some strides in her housebreaking.  She still pees inside about once a day just to keep us from getting complacent, though.

As much as I complain about the evil little imp, she is very sweet. She sleeps with me at night and is very cuddly and affectionate. She has been pretty good about not chewing computer wires, dining room chairs, and the like. It helps that I have other dogs because she wrestles with Gretchen constantly (which sort of keeps them both out of trouble). Willa is funny and keeps us entertained. At first it seems amusing when she runs through the living room, ears flying behind her and a wild look in her eye, but then we realize, "Hey, did she have my underwear in her mouth?"

Her new home is a couple hours away, so I think the kid and I are going to make a weekend of it and get a hotel room on Priceline. I'm also planning a visit with Fritz, my former foster dog. He lives in the same area where Willa will be residing. Plus, I adore the nice lady who adopted him and she is planning to feed us.

So, the puppy saga will be over soon. The next time I receive a phone call during which I hear the words, "Hey, would you mind fostering a puppy?" I'll be smart enough to respond with the right answer. Or at least to pretend to have a bad connection and hang up toute de suite.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Oh, to be so confident

She made me take this photo of her flushing a toilet. We were in an antique shop and she was fascinated by the "olden" potty.

My daughter was selected for the student council at school last week. I received a letter from her teacher requesting me to approve A's participation on the council. She told me that she thinks my daughter's personality and good ideas will be of value to the other members. A lot of thoughts went through my head:
  • First graders are involved in student government? Do they know she still doesn't pour her own juice? 
  • Does she have to take notes? And if so, can they limit the discussions to words that have appeared on her spelling tests this year? 
  • She has to report back to her class what happens in the meeting. I have received 15-minute responses to the question "What did you play at recess today?" so I can only imagine what sort of report her class will receive.
Mostly, though, I'm just darned proud that my daughter was selected. I wonder if this will be the beginning of a long and storied career in politics. She and I attended a tree lighting ceremony downtown last Wednesday. Our city's mayor was there. I turned away for a moment to throw away the cup from our hot chocolate and the next thing I knew, my daughter was chatting with the mayor like they were BFFs from way back. She saw him two days later at a different holiday event and was beside herself, waving and calling out to him. He waved back and said, "Hi there!" Maybe he remembered her and maybe he didn't - I'm not sure. To top things off she spotted him again on Saturday at our local holiday parade and waved to him again. I am fairly certain that she is convinced that the mayor specifically and purposely plans his schedule around where my daughter might be on any given day.

She is confident, that's for sure. I stayed home from work on Friday to work on the secret project. I did get up to help the kid get dressed and to fix her hair. She was headed to the bathroom to brush her teeth when she turned and looked at herself in the full-length mirror in the hallway. "I look so pretty," she said to herself. I hugged her and told her she sure was right.  I have never, in 41 years, looked in a mirror and thought, "Hubba hubba!" I have no idea what it's like to have my daughter's confidence, but I'm definitely envious.

This morning at church she was chomping at the bit to make an announcement during our "candles of community" tradition. She wanted me to walk up to the chalice with her but did not want me to say anything. She took the microphone, said her name (everyone knows her but I suggested she say her name in case there were any new people in attendance) and then announced that she had been selected for student council. Her voice rang out clear as a bell. She set the microphone down as the congregation applauded for her.  Later, after the service was over, she announced her news to each member individually, just in case they'd somehow failed to hear it with the aid of a microphone and speakers.

I'll be anxious to hear how tomorrow's meeting goes when I pick her up. Apparently the first order of business will be elections. A matter-of-factly told me that it is her intention to be president of her school this year. I suggested that it is more likely a fifth grader will be chosen, and she scowled at me as if she couldn't believe this outrage.

So, who knows. Maybe she will choose a career in politics. Do politicians have to get up early? That might be a problem.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bianca would never do that

I've come to the sad realization that playing the Santa card ("Ohhh, you know how Santa feels about dirty teeth - better get to brushing!") is not as effective as it once was.  I think my daughter figured out that despite all the threats, she still gets plenty o'presents on Christmas morn. So, although I will continue to advise my daughter that the big guy in red gets furious over uneaten vegetables and jackets left on the floor instead of hanging them up because the hook is RIGHT THERE FOR GOD'S SAKE, I knew I needed a new tactic. Enter: Bianca.

Like many parents, I worry that my child is not learning to think of others. I once read that children are pretty much genetically programmed to think only of themselves until the age of eight or so. However, my daughter does have a good heart and I think she just needs some encouragement to understand concepts like gratitude and giving. So, I took her to the mall yesterday to select an angel ornament from the Salvation Army's Angel Tree. I explained to her that each ornament represents a child from a low-income family and that these kids won't get much for Christmas. I immediately realized that I'd left a loophole - I feared she'd ask why Santa doesn't bring these kids as many gifts as they bring her. However, she didn't ask.

We looked at all of the ornaments until we found one for a girl who is close to my daughter's age. I thought maybe the whole concept would come together a little better if the recipient is the same age/sex. We chose Bianca. She is seven. She wears a size 8-10 clothing, size 2 1/2 shoes, and really needs pajamas (according to the note included on the paper ornament). "We'll shop for Bianca together," I told my daughter. She nodded, but I'm not sure she really gets it. She didn't ask me any questions, which is unusual. We aren't wealthy, of course. Our checking account takes a beating every month (and we don't have any savings to speak of except for 401ks). But, we have a house, jobs, cars, and college educations. We have food to eat. We're okay. We can hook up a little girl we'll never meet with some pjs and shoes.

Now, please don't tell Bianca but I am using her - just a little. I didn't set out with that intention at all, but I am a parent whose toolbox is mostly empty. Time-outs are ineffective at this age, we don't spank, and positive reinforcement is only marginally effective. So, that leaves the induction of guilt. Within mere hours of having chosen Bianca, I found myself saying things like, "I'm pretty sure Bianca puts her pajamas on the first time she is asked" and "I really doubt that Bianca would leave that much food on her plate." Poor Bianca. I have no shame. Seriously.

Anyway, here's hoping that by the time the holidays are over, my daughter will think of Bianca and remember that not everyone has everything they need and want - even basic necessities. And maybe she will remember that giving is more important than receiving. Perhaps she'll even be more grateful for what she has. And, most importantly, I hope she'll remember that Bianca always, always eats her vegetables.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The mysery I cannot solve

I walked into church yesterday to find that the speaker was  . . . my yoga teacher (apparently I don't check the schedule ahead of time or read the newsletter very carefully).  I adore her so I was excited to see her at the fellowship and to hear her her speak. Our Unitarian Universalist church does not have a regular pastor. Instead, we invite different speakers each week, each one delivering a topic that serves to help each of us further our own spiritual journey. Although there is certainly something to be said for having a permanent pastor to deliver a cohesive series of sermons, I sure learn a heck of a lot from all the different speakers. I really look forward to going to church, which is more than I can say for the first 36 years of my life. Anyhow, Kathy spoke about Ayurveda, an ancient philosophy of healing. She talked a lot about food and the five elements (air, ether, water, fire, earth), but don't ask me for any details beyond that. It was interesting, though (or at least the parts I could grasp).

As I sat there listening to Kathy talk about the mind-body connection, I kept thinking, "Why can't I make that connection? What is wrong with me?"  I go to Yoga, I go to the gym (I can last an hour on the adaptive motion trainer these days), and I try to take care of myself. It always comes down to my eating. Why do I try to pretend that I can somehow trick my body into not acknowledging buttered popcorn and the like? I eat a ton of fruits and vegetables. However, I also eat junk. On Saturday, for example, I went to Weight Watchers and then went to a craft fair at a local high school. There was a bake sale there as well. There, on a cafeteria table at the back of the gymnasium, I spotted them. Chocolate chip cookies.  Only a buck for six of them - plus, it was for the debate team so I had to help the kids, right? I started eating the cookies as soon as I got in the car. I mean, it didn't feel self-destructive at the time. I just really like baked goods.

On Saturday night, the three of us went to a hockey game (we have a local USHL team). The kid had never been to a hockey game and I wasn't sure how she'd fare. I almost told her to bring her DS because I figured she'd get bored. However, she was totally into it. She sat in her dad's lap so she could see better. Also, she farted in his lap at least half a dozen times. I just think it's nice that he has something to share with the guys at work when they ask, "What did you do this weekend?" Anyway, back to the game. There were four guys sitting in the row in front of us. I don't know what their relationship was, but we guessed they were all related. All were huge. The kind of huge that spilled over the back of the chairs and caused my 6'3" husband to have one knee in the aisle and the other in a neighboring county. I was in a similar predicament, but of course I am much shorter. I watched the four gents eat nachos and hot dogs with the works. True, their intake is none of my business. But I just kept thinking, "Am I really any different? Do I treat my body any better?" Also, "I'm pretty sure one of these guys is always in the seat next to mine when I fly."

Last week I watched an episode of "I Used to be Fat," an MTV program that follows recent high school graduates as they try to lose weight before going off to college. In this particular episode, the trainer kept telling the trainee, "You have to figure out why you gained weight. There has to be a reason. Otherwise, you'll just gain it back." I have often struggled with this concept. I am not aware of any major psychological wounds that should cause me to overeat. It's true that I have never had a lot of love for my physical self; I have generally felt betrayed by my body. I have a host of medical issues (autoimmune stuff). I miscarried four times. So yeah, it's hard to be in my own fan club. But, I don't like to look for excuses for why I can't lose weight and keep it off. I talked to my OB/GYN when I had my annual physical recently, and he helpfully suggested that I "eat smaller portions." Well, thank you, I never would've thought of that! As an aside, he also told me that with my bone structure, I'll never be model-thin. I always thought "big-boned" was a euphemism for "fat," but there it is.

At the end of the day, I still don't know why I indulge in self-sabotage. However, I'm going to try harder to remember that I do have control over this. I decided to start working on the control  issue yesterday. I took A and her friend to a children's museum for the afternoon. I took them to Dairy Queen for ice cream on our way back home. I didn't order anything for myself. For whatever reason, I am incapable of ordering some small low-fat frozen yogurt and finding a way to be happy with that. I'd really rather have a brownie sundae with hot fudge. There are no in-betweens with me, mister.

I'm so tired of failing. I feel like Oprah. I'm fat, then less fat, then fat again. My mom called and diplomatically asked me what size sweater she should buy me for Christmas this year. Poor P is my Stedman, trying to decide whether or not to offer me a Kit-kat from the Halloween candy bag. I get tired of fighting this thing, but if I don't . . . before I know it I'll be at a hockey game, spilling over the back of my chair, telling my neighbor that I sure hope the team scores six goals so that I can get a free taco.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I hate this time of year

I hate November. Not because it gets dark at noon. Not because I have to come down off the sugar rush brought on by Halloween (we still have Reese's peanut butter cups but don't think about touching them - I will knife you as sure as I'm sitting here). It's not even because of the really bad art that was posted all over Facebook today in honor of Veteran's Day (seriously, though, the people who create those eagle-superimposed-on-an-American Flag images should have to surrender their Photoshop software or face criminal charges). Nor is it the fact that November signals the start of the frenzied holiday season.

I don't like November because it involves so much death.  I realize I am very much in the minority here, but stay with me for a moment. I promise my next blog entry will tackle some heady topic, like: why does my daughter walk right past her dad in order to ask me to do something for her? Has he simply convinced her that he is incompetent and that her best bet is to head straight for the parent who has a uterus?

I love Thanksgiving. Even though I am a vegetarian, there is always plenty to eat. I just skip the turkey, the dressing, the gravy, and anything else that looks like it might have dead animal flesh in it. Usually, that still leaves a ton of stuff I can eat, including dessert. Since I don't make a turkey myself, of course, I never host Thanksgiving. So, really, it's a stress-free holiday for me. I usually visit my family in Virginia or Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, but this year I didn't have the vacation time or the money, so I'm sticking around. A friend has invited us over for the big meal (the friend is my daughter's Godfather's brother - got all that?)  They have a huge family and know how to organize a meal. So, Abel will call us with a very specific item to bring and all we have to do is bring it. The day will involve a lot of eating, socializing, and - in all probability - some wine. I just can't get too crazy because I have to get up early the next morning and risk my life for a $5 Barbie.

My only real complaint about Thanksgiving is the emphasis on the turkey. I'm pretty sure my daughter will be required to make a turkey-related craft over the next week or two. Stores will advertise sales using a gleeful cartoon turkey whose jovial demeanor (look! he's wearing a little pilgrim hat!) basically tells us: "I can't wait to be eaten!" In reality, the life of a turkey is more dismal than one can really imagine. They are pumped full of hormones so that they can grow unnaturally large in an abnormally short period of time. In fact, I've read that some turkeys are so large that many times they cannot even support their own weight on their skinny bird legs. They live in horribly cramped conditions and then they meet their end, appearing in a freezer near you shortly thereafter. I know nobody wants to think about that. As Linda McCartney once said, "if slaughterhouses had glass walls the whole world would be vegetarian."  I guess part of my beef is with the sugarcoating. If you're interested in this phenomenon at all, check out a site called Suicide Food, which highlights advertisements that feed into the idea that cows and chickens and pigs are absolutely ecstatic at having the opportunity to be someone's dinner. A prime example is the ever-popular barbecue sign showing a beaming pig holding a cleaver.  Ew.

I dunno. I guess I'm a little off-kilter (you know, cuckoo) but when it comes to Thanksgiving, I prefer to focus on family and gratitude and giving. I prefer my holidays to be cruelty-free, I guess.

I'm not done with my rant, though. Today I saw my first (of the season) deer carcass shoved onto the back of a pickup truck. I dread this every year. I have friends who are hunters (I'm pretty sure some of them just go along for the beer) so I don't want to paint all hunters with the same brush. However, I just don't get it. It makes my heart hurt every November, to see deer after deer lashed to trucks, blood crusted here and there, their dignity gone. And don't try telling me that hunter is feeding his hungry poverty-stricken family. That hunter has a tricked-out, extended cab, dualie truck that cost almost as much as my house. And don't try telling me that the hunters are concerned about wildlife management, either. That argument just doesn't hold water. At the end of the day, I just can't separate wild animals from the ones who live in my house. All animals are the same to me. I was incredibly sad to learn, earlier this week, that the western black rhino has officially been declared extinct. Talk about "wildlife management."  Wildlife fared a lot better before humankind stepped in to "manage" it. But, I digress.

People will continue to hunt. Millions will continue to eat turkey and won't worry too much about where it came from. I guess I'll just be the lone crazy person who doesn't really understand.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lunch at the first grade table

I decided to surprise my daughter and have lunch with her today. Instead of taking her out to dine (I've done that, too), I packed a Tofurkey sandwich and ate lunch in the cafeteria with her. She's been known to get "in the yellow" for her behavior during lunch so I wanted to see for myself what goes down. She told me she's gotten in trouble for talking too loudly during lunch. I couldn't help but wonder, "How loud do you have to be in order to be 'too loud for the lunch room?'" She tried to convince me that the kids are only allowed to whisper, which seemed a little odd to me.

I signed in as a guest and waited outside the office, lunch box in hand. Moments later, the first graders flooded the hallway. A was surprised and excited to see me. For the record: she is still willing to hug and kiss me in public (I'm sure those days are numbered). We stood in line with the rest of her class and then filed into the cafeteria. One of A's best friends came up to me and informed me that she and my daughter have been banned from sitting together in the lunch room. So, we sat next to a different friend. A and I sat down at the table, opened our lunch boxes, and started munching. If I had not been there, I'm about 99% sure she would have eaten her Oreo Cakesters first. However, since I was in attendance, she dutifully chewed on her PB&J. She snuggled up close to me, seeming to be proud and happy that I was there. Meanwhile, a couple of boys at a table across the aisle started whispering to each other and pointing at me. I'm pretty sure that the wee detectives deduced that I was not, in fact, a first grader.

I made a few observations about the crew at my table.

1. I was the only one there with a full set of teeth. Seriously, first graders have it rough. The two girls sitting across the table from me had about a dozen teeth between them.
2. The cafeteria is not quiet and the kids don't have to whisper. So, I'm back to wondering how someone could possibly be "too loud for the lunch room."  But, apparently, my kid finds a way.
3. Kids don't eat green beans. They just don't.

During lunch, the students are obligated to raise their hand if they need something. There are two cafeteria monitors who wander around the room opening milk containers and picking up garbage. It didn't take the kids at my table long to realize that they had an official grown-up in their midst. Before I knew it, I was opening ketchup and salad dressing packets left and right (I got mad skillz, yo). One girl seemed to need three packets of barbecue sauce for her sandwich. I didn't question it. The friend on the other side of A kept asking me random questions and at first I wasn't going to say anything but eventually I did point out to her that she was sporting a huge marker stain (shaped roughly like the state of Florida) that started at the corner of her mouth and made it nearly to her right ear. As usual, A put me on the spot and asked, "Can so-and-so come over to my house?"  I tried my best to be non-committal. I'm happy to let her have friends over but it's kind of challenging with the dogs (who have trouble accepting that visitors are not there specifically to see them and that not everyone enjoys a Boxer tongue down their throat). Also, my daughter's room gets trashed during every play date and then I'm the one who ends up on on her hands and knees fishing Barbie shoes out from under the bed and whatnot.

Before I knew it, the twenty-minute lunch period had passed and the kids were lining up to go back to their classrooms. The kids need permission to get up and throw their garbage away, but I stood up and threw mine away without permission. Yeah, you heard that right. A was the last to leave. The other kids filed past us. She-of-many-barbecue packets patted me on the back as she walked by.  My daughter got in line with her classmates. I zipped up her purple dog-shaped lunch box and gathered my purse and jacket.  I started to head for the other door so that I could sign out in the office. I turned and looked at my baby girl, the shortest one in her class, waving madly at me. "Bye, Mama! I love you!"

I'm glad I get to be awesome for at least a little while longer.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm all discombobulated

I'm sick, but still managed to pack a dozen errands and events into the weekend. Resting is for pussies. I'm mostly just ignoring my cold, even though my lungs are leaden and my head is too heavy for my neck. I did give in and buy some Nyquil for tonight. I'm expecting to be unconscious before 9 p.m. Well, unless I decide to stay up and watch "Sister Wives." I think I've watched every episode and am not any closer to understanding polygamy but I try to keep an open mind. Similarly, I was watching "Umpteen Kids & Counting" a few mornings ago and don't fully understand that scenario either. I have to admit that I can't really bring myself to make (negative) comments about the Duggars because they just seem so darned nice. I did laugh out loud when Jim Bob Duggar explained why they are opposed to dancing, though. He said something about dancing creating sensual desires that cannot righteously be fulfilled. Yet, we have some pretty strong evidence that he and Michelle get it on CONSTANTLY. What's the difference?  You're either horizontal or vertical, but that's about it, right? I was perplexed for the rest of the day.

I do try to be open-minded and accepting, though. In our area we've had a recent influx of Somali refugees. I was delighted to see diversity on the rise - I really want my daughter to learn about lots of different types of people. The newcomers are largely (maybe all?) Muslim and the women wear the traditional hijab. I see them at the grocery store and find myself wanting to strike up a conversation, to ask how they like it here and if they were warned about our winters ahead of time. The opportunity has not really arisen, though. I saw a Somali woman at the grocery store on Friday. She was wearing a burka and only her eyes were visible. Instead of thinking, "Wow, that must get so hot in the summer," I thought, "Wow, I could hide fifty pounds under there and no one would have any idea."

In other news, I've started Christmas shopping. I'm determined to spread out the expenses a little more effectively this year. I hit two craft fairs and the mall yesterday. At the first craft fair, I bought a couple of Barbie dresses for the kid. I then stopped at a booth that sold candles. I spent a few minutes sniffing the different scents. It was kind of pointless, in as much as my right nostril has not worked in a week and my left one is only pretending to be functional. Anyway, I bought a candle and as I was checking out, I got in a panic because I couldn't find the bag with the doll dresses in it.  I spun in a circle and looked all over on the floor. "I know I had a bag," I told the candle man as I wrote my check.

"Um, ma'am?" he said. "It's under your arm."

"Oh, ha ha!" I replied. "I guess I'm just wearing so many layers."  And what I meant by "I'm wearing so many layers" was "I'm basically losing my mind."

I did manage to pick up a few gifts this weekend. I had some coupons I was able to use at the mall. I'm also planning to do the Black Friday thing again this year. It appeals to my sense of adventure and my need to be thrifty, I guess. I think Black Friday is one of those things that people either love or hate. Last time I saw my sister-in-law, she solemnly rolled up her sleeve and pointed at her elbow.  "See this scar? Black Friday."

P says we should just buy gift card for everyone and call it a day. Well, we really only buy gifts for the kids in our family and I don't think gift cards will work. I'm just picturing me handing a gift card to my one-month-old nephew: "Here. Get yourself somethin' nice." Plus, I like buying gifts. I'm just trying to be sensible about it.

Anyway, that was my weekend. The puppy just pooped on the kitchen floor, so I have to sign off now. I'm pretty sure I picked up a pile the other day that had Ariel's hands in it. Sleeping Beauty also lost a foot. They are planning to compete in the paralympics this year. They prefer to think of themselves not as handicapped but handicapable, you know. The puppy has a visit with a potential adopter next weekend. Willa is cute and all, but I'm pretty determined to get her placed before Christmas. I have an idea of what she might do to a Christmas tree and would prefer she do it to someone else's. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So much drama, mama

This is the story of a crime. Whether it's a misdemeanor or a felony depends on your perspective.

I don't claim to be a laid-back mom by any stretch, but I'm not as much of a stickler as you might expect. You want candy at 8 p.m.? Fine (provided you can get it yourself). Teeth don't always get brushed at night. Sometimes the lunch I send to school with my daughter has nothing resembling a fruit or a vegetable in it (well, unless you count PB&J, I guess). Sometimes I go crazy and let her stay up until 9.

Other times, my tolerance level drops a bit. I have been known to ride my daughter for leaving her underwear on the floor instead of putting them down the laundry chute (which is six inches from her bedroom door, by the way).  I nag her about leaving drinks all over the house. I say things like, "If I pick this up one more time, it's going in the garbage" and "See? Was that so hard?" Sometimes the little things bug me, sometimes not. It really depends on the day and my mood at the time. There is, however, one rule that is always upheld: do not hurt the animals. From the time she was born, I have been telling my daughter that she may not bother the dogs when they are eating or sleeping (I'd tell her to do the same with the cat but it's a moot point because our cat is a ninja and cannot easily be located).  As a toddler she did a few stints in time-out for breaking the rule. In short, she is required to respect our furry family members.

Fast forward to Sunday night. The kid was chasing our foster puppy around. She is pretty much obsessed with Willa. Willa, however, was playing with Gretchen. A wanted the puppy to herself. I turned my head just in time to see my daughter extend her leg and kick Gretchen in the thigh. It was not what you'd call a good wallop - I'm not even sure Gretchen noticed she'd gotten the boot. But still. I sucked in my breath, held it, looked my daughter in the eye, and waited for her to realize there was a problem. I saw the "oh shit" expression cross her face an instant later. "Go. To. Your. Room." I said evenly and deliberately. I wasn't a raving lunatic about it but I made sure my tone of voice left no question about the seriousness of the situation. She stuck out her lower lip and marched down the hall to her room.

What to do now?  I decided to give her some time in her room. Before I could decide on a punishment, she started churning out notes and shoving them under the door.  Here is a sample:

Seriously?  I mean, what can I expect when she is 13? I got a similar note a couple weeks ago but it said "my mom hats me" and let me just say that my response ("I don't hat you - you can wear one or not. Totally up to you!") was not well received.  I have a hard time reacting to drama. I don't want her to think that I don't care about her feelings, but I'm also not planning to play into the hands of a six-year-old. I tell her at least half a dozen times a day that I love her, so it's not as if she has reason to doubt my affection for her. I would throw myself in front of a bus for that kid.

Her father, on the other hand, can do no wrong. I offer the following as evidence. Yes, they skip around clutching ice cream cones and roses. If I weren't so busy ruining my daughter's life with my unreasonable rules, I'm sure I'd do the same.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Update on secret project

I think you'll agree that it looks like a colossal pile of dookie is coming right along! Since this is a Christmas gift, I wonder if I can talk the entire planet into moving the holiday into March this year.

In other news, did I mention how much fun it is to foster a puppy?