Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Falalalala!

Christmas has come and gone, leaving boxes and cookies and tiny little bottles of alcohol* in its wake. I suspect that 2012 is the last year my daughter will believe in Santa, so I wanted to preserve the magic as much as possible. After we got home from church on Christmas Eve, she set out cookies and almond milk for the big guy and even opened the little fireplace doors, just to make sure Santa didn't get trapped in there or anything. Together we watched Santa's progress on the NORAD website. "He's almost in Puerto Rico," I told her. "You'd better go to bed right away!"  And so she did. Her father and I, for once, got a little quiet time together. Thank you, NORAD!

Although my daughter cannot be pried out of bed even with a crowbar on most mornings, she was up bright and early on Christmas Day. I was already awake, because the foster puppy apparently needed to get an early start on his evil-doing. He was up by 6:00 a.m. As any dog person will tell you, when a puppy wakes up and starts wandering around . . . you get up, too. You don't just let him wander around because you're "sure he'll be fine."  Nothing good can come of an unattended puppy.

We decided to gate off the living room while we opened gifts. The dogs (including the puppy) sat on the other side of the gate, looking very put out. A climbed the gate and then dove in.  Santa brought her a bean bag chair and she was thrilled. It's a fuzzy fuchsia affair with sequins on it. Santa also brought her several items from her list, including a stuffed horse, clothes, a DVD, a CD, and I can't remember what else. Her Meemaw and aunties hooked her up, too. My mom made her a beautiful robe. My middle sister got her a sleeping bag with A's name on it. My baby sister got her a shirt from Justice. Santa brought her an ugly rainbow blanket from Justice, so the kid was thrilled to get two things from that store.

I could see a definite shift in how Christmas went down this year. Now that the kid is a little older, there are slightly fewer toys. Sometimes P and I still have flashbacks to Christmas of past years, when we spent the entire day trying to liberate a Dora play set from its box. Just when you think you've just about freed the doll from the box, you find that her hair is actually stapled to the cardboard. Ai-yi-yi. Although some kids hate getting clothes for Christmas, my daughter actually had clothes on her list. I got her some red boots that I would love to wear myself and some cute outfits from Gymboree and Crazy 8. Both stores had kick-ass sales right before Christmas.

After the frenzy of unwrapping was done, we got dressed and headed to our niece and nephew's house for a potluck lunch. My family is far away but P has relatives in the area. We rotate with hosting responsibilities for Christmas Day. Next year it will be our turn. I brought along a casserole and a pastry. A was thrilled to have a chance to play with her cousins. The challenge that we always run into is that A is an only child, our nephew's daughter is an only child, and P's brother's daughter is an only child. So we had three young girls with iffy sharing skills trying to get along. It went well for a while and then eventually all three were mad at each other for various reasons. That's how we knew it was time to wrap things up and head home.

My daughter had a bunch of items on her Christmas list that included the word "maker." Slushie maker, cotton candy maker, ice cream maker, etc. I didn't fall for any of that, but our niece and nephew did. They got her a cotton candy maker. "Thaaaaaaaanks," I said when A opened the gift. I made a mental note to buy their kid a drum kit next year. So, of course, we hadn't even made it back to our house before she started asking about making cotton candy. P decided to humor her and the two of them sat down together to give it a try. He read the instructions while she impatiently waved a paper wand around, ready to catch the spun sugar as it flew out of the machine. Only . . . it didn't fly out. It turns out you can't just dump in the colored sugar. You have to sift it in slowly. P had to scoop it back out and then try again. Eventually, at long last, some wisps of cotton candy began to appear. By that time, the kid had gotten bored and went to her room to play with a new art set. So, I grabbed the paper wand and started twirling it inside the cotton candy machine.

I pulled it out and grabbed a pinch of cotton candy for tasting. "Oh, it's . . . ummmm, gritty," I said. "What flavor is it?"

"Pink."

I tried another pinch but could not place the flavor. I had no context for it, I guess. By then, the kid had re-emerged and swept more of the cotton candy onto the cone. She tried a pinch also. "Oh," she said.

We're going to try another flavor next time. We're also going to try following the directions more closely.








*I asked Santa not to put any chocolate in my stocking, so he tossed in a few mini bottles of booze instead. I'm either vaguely offended or secretly delighted. Or both.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Step into Christmas

After my last post, I felt like I was out of words for a few days there. Friday morning I received a pre-recorded message from the principal of my daughter's school. The school was scheduled to hold a lock-down drill yesterday and the message served as notification to the parents. Apparently, they've had a lock-down drill previously, because my daughter told me about it. I asked her what they told her to do if there is a lock-down. Apparently she is supposed to go to a specific area and curl into a ball. She knows she is supposed to stay away from the windows. She said the classroom door will be locked and the lights will be turned off.

She also made this comment, which has haunted me ever since: "I have to stay in a ball so the shooter can't see my legs."

I felt like crying, just knowing that my child has this kind of awareness now. Stupid reality. Leave my kid alone.

In happier news, my sister-in-law visited us from Kentucky this week. She was supposed to stay with her other brother for two days and then at our house for two days. However, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law contracted the flu and were at death's door. So, P's sister stayed with us for four days.  She is an easy guest to have around - she's low-maintenance and goes with the flow. She taught A how to play Mahjong on the Kindle. She may have regretted her decision to stay at our crazy house because the foster puppy is wreaking pure havoc. I mean, he is a pistol! This morning he got into my daughter's craft supplies and managed to rip open a bag of stick-on googly eyes. So, we had googly eyes strewn all the way across the dining room. It was almost funny. Almost.  When Augie isn't sleeping, he spends his time dragging around throw rugs, gnawing on human flesh (any part of you that you've stupidly left exposed), and emptying his bowels/bladder onto the carpet. We let him outside about a hundred times a day but at this point, anything that lands outside is more of a coincidence than proof of him catching on.

As of Tuesday, I got all gifts (for nephews, niece, parents, etc.) shipped out so now I'm just sort of coasting into Christmas. I did have one major goof-up. I mixed up gifts for one nephew and a friend of the family. Their names are actually pretty similar, but that doesn't forgive my stupidity. I guess it is kind of funny that I sent an inflatable hippity-hop bouncer to a teenaged boy. Anyway, I had to contact that kid's parents (good friends of ours) and ask them to forward my nephew's gift to the correct address.  And then of course I had to send out the correct gift. Ai-yi-yi.

We took the kid to see Santa Claus a few nights ago. Now, why is it that kids tell Santa that they desperately want the one thing you were not planning to buy for them? She sat on Santa's lap and blathered on and on about how she wants a stuffed horse (as in, plush horse - not a taxidermied palomino or something).  When we got home, I frantically started searching target.com, toysrus.com, and so forth. I finally found one at Build-a-Bear.  P went over there the next day to buy it. I pictured my guy standing in line to go through the stuffing process and whatnot. "Did they make you put the little heart in there and make a wish on it?" I asked.

He told me that the lady did obligate him to kiss the heart before she put it inside the horse.  Man, I would've paid money to see that.  What a good daddy he is.

So yes, now we are in the calm before the storm. Last night I went to solstice yoga at 9:00.  It was amazing - quiet yoga by candlelight. I almost fell asleep during savasana, which is pretty rare for me. I have a hard time relaxing. It would have been more like the usual me to lie there and wonder if I had purchased a sufficient number of stocking stuffers.

I'll sign off now as I need to take Short Stuff to the mall (:::shudder:::) to buy a gift for her dad. Oh, and I called this post "Step into Christmas" because that song was playing while I was typing away, and it always reminds me of my stad. One time he gave me an extended dissertation about the arrangement and production of that song. This will make sense to those of you who know my stad.  I saw "Step into Christmas" in a whole new light after that.

Welcome to my Christmas song 
I'd like to thank you for the year 
So I'm sending you this Christmas card 
To say it's nice to have you here

The kid and her aunt

The root of all evil


Monday, December 17, 2012

What to say

Like many parents, I could not decide what to tell my daughter about the shootings in Newtown. I didn't want to tell her at all. The tragedy at Sandy Hook also made me realize that I'd never really talked to her about security at school. I guess it just never occurred to me to say, "Hey, if a crazy person with a gun comes into your school and starts shooting everyone, this is what you should do." And even if I did, what sort of protocol would I recommend? Run? Fling yourself under your desk? These school shootings always seem very random as far as who gets gunned down. There doesn't seem to be much that a child can do to escape a bullet.  It's heartbreaking that we have to think about such things.

At first I was pretty determined not to tell her. A lot of my friends were having similar debates on Facebook. Talk or don't talk? Most opted to bring up the topic in as much as they were concerned that their child(ren) would hear about it elsewhere.  On Saturday afternoon, my daughter and I baked and listened to Christmas carols. When we weren't baking, she was watching the Disney Channel. Everything is sunshine and lollipops on the Disney Channel, so I knew we were safe from bad news - at least for the moment.

On Sunday, my daughter and I spent the day together.  We skipped church and went out to brunch instead, just the two of us. We did some Christmas shopping and had a wonderful time. As we drove around, I looked at all the flags flying at half-staff and decided I should probably say something. I was afraid she would hear some buzz at school on Monday. I was somewhat vague in the retelling of Friday's events. I basically just told her that a man went into a school and hurt some children but that she shouldn't worry about her school.  She asked me a couple of questions and we talked about the flags. "The flags have been lowered for the children," I told her.

I didn't explicitly tell her that 20 children died. I didn't mention that they were her age (a fact that made the news all the more searing for me).  If she asks for more details, I will do my best, but I didn't want to paint too frightening a picture. I didn't want to tell her that I am scared to let her out of my sight. I cannot begin to imagine the horror that the Newtown parents felt on Friday . . . that feeling of not wanting it to be any child but most of all not wanting it to be your own. "Please please please," I know they were chanting in their heads as they ran towards that school.

I didn't cry about the shootings until Saturday night, when Saturday Night Live opened with a choir of children singing Silent Night. It was a simple but poignant way to honor the fallen.

If this tragedy makes it necessary to address the issue of gun control, I suppose I should mention it also. You see, I was raised by a pacifist. My mom didn't even want us forming our hands into the shape of a gun.  I have zero interest in owning a gun or learning to shoot a gun. My husband and I differ on this. He believes in gun ownership.  I'm not completely opposed to people owning handguns or even standard hunting rifles. I am opposed to people owning anything more powerful than that. Nobody needs an assault rifle. It bugs me that the pro-gun people refuse to acknowledge the killing power that is very specific to guns. They say, "What else will you outlaw? Knives?" Well, look at it this way. Let's say that the shooter in Newtown had stormed the elementary school with a knife. Could he have killed 26 people before killing himself with that knife?  It's an impossibility, in my view.

I don't have any answers, though. I have to believe that the shooter was mentally ill. The linked issues of gun control and mental illness . . . well, it's all a little too heady for my little blog.

After our brunch yesterday, I took my daughter to a gingerbread house party. She and eight other little girls slathered gingerbread houses with copious amounts of frosting and then affixed candy to the houses. As I watched my daughter carefully poke M&M's into the frosting, I couldn't help but revel in that small moment of innocence and wish that nothing else would ever seep in.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

You kinda suspected I was crazy

And now you have solid proof. I am currently fostering this eight-week-old puppy for an all-breed rescue. Augie (we call him Augie Doggie, naturally) is part hound (the rescue has his mom) and part "handsome stranger."

Yeah, I didn't think Christmas was hectic enough all on its own. I decided that what we REALLY needed, when it came right down to it, was a small guest who might be inclined to swing from the branches of our Christmas tree by his teeth. And I should add that our guest has very poor bladder/bowel control. And razor-sharp teeth. Fortunately, just as nature intended, the cuteness prevails.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beauty

This amazing blog post by Amanda King went viral recently. I've read it a couple of times.  She's a great writer.

I've been thinking about Amanda King's words a lot in recent weeks. She writes of her struggle to find beauty in herself and to set a self-confident example for her children. This is my struggle, too. My daughter is the most beautiful creature I have ever known. Her green eyes turn me into goo. I'm enamored with her wild curls, her contagious laugh, and her perfect skin. When my daughter leaves the house to go to school every morning, she doesn't worry about how she looks. She is always cute as a button in her fashion boots, stylish dress, and sequined beret. No matter where we are, she walks confidently (often with one hand on her hip). It's more of a sashay, really.

What does she see when she looks at me?  I'm not entirely sure, but I do know that she hugs me regularly and calls me "beautiful mama." She draws pictures of me in which I am always depicted as a glamorous lady, complete with ballgown, high heels, and fancy jewelry.  She is fascinated with my belongings such as perfume, make-up, and jewelry. Little hands are forever re-arranging my things. She always wants her nails painted just like mine. The poor thing even believes I can sing.

What do I see when I look at myself? Not what she sees, I am sure of that. Growing up with various auto-immune conditions (and with children and adults alike making sure I knew that I was DIFFERENT and NOT NORMAL), I'm sure I had virtually no chance of developing a healthy sense of self-esteem. I can't look in a mirror and think, "Well, aren't you looking downright cute today?" It just won't ever happen. I see a chipped tooth, hair that is far too thin and uncooperative, a face that is growing older . . .

And don't even get me started on my weight.

I am careful not to say anything about my weight or my appearance in front of my daughter, though. The last thing I want to do is project my stuff onto her. However, I wonder if I could take it one step further like the blogger I mentioned. An excerpt:

"I don't want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too.  They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that's what women do.  That's what mommy did.  I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty.  Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don't know what to make of ourselves." 

"Look at me, girls!"  I say to them.  "Look at how beautiful I am.  I feel really beautiful, today."

I owe it to my daughter to think I'm at least half as beautiful as she thinks I am. I need to get this right, this parenting business. This business of being a mama to a little girl. My hope is that I'm raising an amazing kid who will  someday become a spectacular adult. Nothing would make me happier than to know that 60 years from now, when I am long gone, she will still walk her sassy walk . . . hand on hip, beret on head. And that she will never have doubted her beauty.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Music

Here it is, the annual post that no one likes but which I insist on writing anyway. I get really excited about new music. I particularly like the Pitchfork app on Spotify, which really helps me weed through the gazillion albums that are released each month.  I also subscribe to several music podcasts.  At this point I've let all of my magazine subscriptions lapse - except Rolling Stone. I finally came to the realization that I wasn't that interested in fashion or make-up tips. Just music.

My favorite songs released in 2012 (according to the play count on my iPod):
  1. Teenage Icon - The Vaccines
  2. Default - Django Django
  3. Fading Listening - Shiny Toy Guns
  4. Hot Knife - Fiona Apple (Every Single Night is up there, too)
  5. All of Me - Tanlines
  6. Doused - DIIV
  7. Would That Not Be Nice - Divine Fits
  8. Move in the Right Direction - Gossip
  9. Motion Sickness - Hot Chip
  10. Lonesome Dreams - Lord Huron
  11. Elephant - Tame Impala
  12. Babel - Mumford & Sons
  13. Guggenheim - The Ting Tings
  14. Electric Guest - This Head I Hold
Favorite guilty pleasure: I Love It by Icona Pop. It is hard not to be downright gleeful as you sing along. "I THREW YOUR SHIT INTO A BAG AND PUSHED IT DOWN THE STAIRS!" 

I only bought a few albums in their entirety this year. I did purchase Django Django's complete album and have listened to it over and over. I also purchased the Divine Fits album, which has also been in heavy rotation.

Thanks for humoring me. As you were, soldiers.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A little bit crazy, a little bit wonderful

'Tis the season! We've got holiday-related events coming at us left and right. Two weeks ago we went to our local festival of lights. Last Sunday my daughter and I attended a Christmas production together. Although it was technically an amateur show, I have to say it was very well done. Flawless, really. It was two hours of singing and dancing and all kinds of Christmas-y stuff. I won the tickets in an auction and I'm glad I bid on them. The show was well worth the longish drive to the theater. 

A few days later, we attended the holiday program at my daughter's school. One benefit to having a short child: she is always in the front row. Easy to spot and photograph. The second grade sang one song about pinatas and a Hawaiian song about Christmas. Mele Kalikimaka!  I heard that song for weeks before the concert. Oh, and she gets really pissy if you try to sing it and you call it mele kalikicaca. Or mele kalikiclickety-clackety. Some people do not have a good sense of humor. And some of those people live in my house.

On Saturday, we got our tree. I'm actually a little surprised at how easily the three of us selected a tree without too much bickering. We got a saw, marched into the tree farm, and ten minutes later we had a tree. I could swear we just got a Christmas tree. It's so true what people say - the days are long but the years are short. I hung a "baby's first Christmas" ornament as we decorated the tree and I couldn't help but wonder where the years had gone. This is baby's 8th Christmas.

Next up was our church's Christmas program. My kid got a pretty big speaking role this year. We don't do the traditional Christmas story. Unitarian Universalists like to put a little spin on the usual stuff.  The kids performed a play about Hoshmakatu, a camel who traveled to Bethlehem carrying gifts for the baby Jesus. My daughter played his trusty sidekick, Humbug. Humbug is a lamb, so she had to dress all in white. Putting my child all in white was a bit frightening for me, as you can imagine.

And finally, A and I attended the Nutcracker Ballet. She'd never been to the ballet before and I knew she'd love it.  I won the tickets at the Pride festival a few months ago (well, technically I won a gift card and this was how I chose to use it).  I hadn't seen the Nutcracker in years so I really enjoyed it. Getting stuck in the parking garage and then driving home in a snowstorm?  Less enjoyable. But I have some mulled Christmas wine, so I'm good.








Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Empathy


When my daughter was a toddler, we went through the typical episodes with biting and hitting and whatnot. We got a couple of calls and notes from daycare about it. When you're just a tot and your playmates piss you off, I guess biting them seems like a pretty good solution at the time. Then when she was around four, a boy at Kindercare was bullying her pretty heavily (he was a lot bigger than she was). Eventually he disappeared, so I assume that his parents had to pull him out. I think he had some more serious issues than what can be handled in a traditional daycare environment. In any case, I remember thinking that I wasn't sure which would be harder - having a bullied child or having a bully.

Last Thursday I picked up my daughter from Kindercare as usual. She wasn't in the room where I usually find her. A staff person told me that she was in the back area. When I found her, she looked very sad.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

She looked down. "I called someone a name."  She said it so softly that I almost couldn't hear her.

A staff person came over to fill me in. She explained that a little girl in the four-year-old classroom has an auto-immune condition and is on a heavy dose of steroids. As such, she is significantly overweight. Although she and Adrienne aren't in the same classroom at the daycare, apparently they were seated together at some point. My daughter looked at the other girl and said, "You look pregnant."

Needless to say, the comment hurt the little girl's feelings and the word got back to her parents (I'm sure they weren't thrilled either).  I told the staff member that I would have a talk with my daughter, who had started to cry by that time. I took her out to the car and strapped her in.

"Listen, you made a mistake," I told her. "I'm not mad at you. It happens to all of us. Sometimes we say something stupid and hurt someone's feelings, and then we have to apologize. You will need to tell her that you're sorry."  She nodded. And then wailed all the way home.

My daughter is not a bad kid. She is a sweet girl and is very loving.  I don't know why she said what she did.  My heart was really torn, though. I have three different auto-immune disorders myself. Thanks to the vitiligo, I was stared at and verbally abused by other kids when I was young. I want my daughter to be the kid who befriends the classmate who is different.  I know she has it in her heart to be that kind of person.

When we got home, we talked a bit more. I reminded her that it is never appropriate to comment on someone else's appearance, unless it is to pay them a compliment. I happened to have a blank card (with hand-stenciled hearts on the front) that I picked up at the county fair a few months ago. I suggested that she write an apology to the girl she offended and handed her the card. She nodded and said she would feel more comfortable doing that instead of a verbal apology. I hoped she would do both.

I didn't say anything more about the incident, because I think by then she had already punished herself over her mistake. She was very quiet all evening and cried a few times. The next day, there was no school so she would be at Kindercare the whole day. She had the card with her when her dad dropped her off Friday morning.

When I picked her up after work that day, I asked her how the day had gone.  "Did you apologize to her?" I asked.

She beamed at me. "She's my best friend!* We sat together at lunch!"

I could tell that she felt a lot better about the situation. And, I'm betting that she'll be more careful about what she says to others in the future. I hope I handled the situation in the most beneficial way. I tell you, this parenting business is not easy.

Now that the ordeal is in the past, it occurs to me that I should pass along one other piece of advice to my daughter. No only does the "if you can't say anything nice" rule ALWAYS apply, you should never, ever, under any circumstances suggest that a woman of any age is pregnant. I mean, unless the baby's head is actually crowning (and maybe not even then) . . . don't say a word. 

*My daughter has a few dozen best friends. The more the merrier, I guess!