Odd and Curious Thoughts of the Week

I’m about to head to the coast for a family vacay, so I thought I’d leave you with these thought-provoking things.  Welcome to a week in my life. . .

(1) Stop it already with the swim coaches referring to the freestyle stroke as some sort of exaggerated ice-cream-scooping maneuver.  This is the third swim coach who’s yelled at my daughter to “Scoop!  Lift those arms and scoop that ice cream!”  Who comes up with these hair-brained examples that all swim coaches feel compelled to use? When’s the last time you raised your arms above your head in a swan-like fashion and dug your bare fingernails into a vat of ice cream? Any normal person would use a metal device with much less work involved, put the chocolate directly into a cone, and sit back licking it before it melts.  A normal person would not fervently kick while scooping over and over again, only coming up to breathe.  That person has a horrible bulimic binging problem and needs therapy.

(2) My son this morning decided he didn’t want to wear clothes.  A battle ensued with a slightly grey-haired 37-year-old and a 2-year-old.  I won, but only by a hair.  He beat me on the shoes.  I had to give a little.

(3) My daughter had another swim lesson today.  “Scoop, sweetie!”

(4) My daughter watched a movie this week called “Polly World,” whereby small Polly Pocket dolls come to life.  In this movie, which I assume is meant generally for children since the characters are pink and sparkles come busting out of their behinds, Polly’s mom died and her father was about to get remarried to an evil woman who wanted to ship Polly to boarding school.  Polly lands on stage at the talent show with perfect hair, along with her all-girl band, wearing a strapless dress.  I’m so pissed off at the writers of this movie, whereby I have to explain things like “moms dying” and “not all children get to grow up being in a rock band” and “you can’t wear a string bikini.  You’re five.”

(5) My daughter has announced that for her birthday, she would like every single Polly Pocket set ever created on this planet.  Alert: you’re getting a set of molding clay, an unabridged version of Heidi, and a set of oil pastels.  Deal wit it.

(6) I have a sudden urge for ice cream.  I just want to wallow in it.

(7) Stupidly, I answered a work phone call this week while I had both children with me.  Apparently my son wanted a certain book that my daughter took away from him and he was shrieking for it back and my daughter was holding it hostage. “Excuse me one second,” I said into the receiver.  “Give that back to him right now!” I yelled at my daughter.  “I need to take this call!”  Whatever works to create five minutes of quiet. My daughter gave me the most dejected and panicked look.  “But it’s the New Testament!” she said.  “He’ll ruin it!”  I grabbed it and handed it to my son.  It’s fine.  Jesus will understand.

(8) Of the food items that I’ve packed to go to the beach house, paprika made the list.  Who knew paprika would ever make a list of anything but useless spice one puts atop deviled eggs?  Who knew?

(9) “You really don’t have many wrinkles,” my daughter tells me.  “You have a few.  But you don’t look that old.”

(10)               It’s the weirdest thing.  The Polly Pocket movie has gone missing. I think Polly might be off scooping ice cream in an endless sparking river of cotton-candy with sprinkles.  She’s kicking like a movie star to make it to the other side, where her deceased mother has come back to life in order to hand Polly her first training bra and a designer glitter-bag chock full of inappropriate topics for children.  Yeah Polly!  Scoop that ice cream!  You can do it!

dancing queen

It’s been three years in the waiting.  Three long years of dance practice, ballet shoes, various pairs of tights, and teachers.  Finally, our daughter of almost six years had her first dance recital.

And it was miserable.

It all started a few weeks back.  “You know, mom,” she said.  I was squatting down on the floor trying to get tights around her thighs and making a mental run around the house with my mind wondering where her tap shoes were.  “Dance just isn’t one of my talents.”  She said it so earnestly, like she put a great deal of forethought into it.  I chuckled a little, because what does a kindergartener know of such things? She said she was a bit behind the step.  It was hard to keep up. I lifted up her chin until her eyes were level with mine.   I told her she never had to do dance again in her whole life.  But the recital was in two weeks, so Lord-willing she’d finish what she started.  We Hills always finish what we start.

The first year she took dance she was only three.  She was so excited and bubbly, her little pink tutu hanging below her chunky little tummy.  She smiled at me and waved as she threw scarves in the air. The next year I was working and had a baby and it was all too overwhelming to keep track of.  She had pre-school, which kept her consumed with art projects and new friends.  Dance was always an afterthought.

But this year she’s almost six, and I was determined to not miss the much-touted recital.  I watched her practice from outside the window at the studio, her body standing in first position, her arms at a graceful arch down at her sides.  She dipped into a plie and swept her arms up in a semicircle above her head.  I caught her watching herself at the barre to make sure her shoulders were back.  Her neck tall.  Her toes pointed.  She looked just like a bird, slender and curious, standing on the edge of the water.  Just like that, she was learning how to be a dancer.  And yet her thoughts were elsewhere.  Her steps delayed.  It’s hard for a girl to dwell in the present when there are four more beats to attend to.  There’s no room for reflection.  The music keeps on plodding forward like a military march, relentless in its precision.

The day of the recital, I tried to make it exciting.  I curled her hair and let her wear pink lipstick.  I pressed blush into young cheeks that were too pretty to decorate and told her how special it would be that I would see her on stage.  The curtain.  The dancing.  The thrill!

I waited with what seemed like thousands of other parents in the auditorium to see my little girl prance around in the lights.  It was inordinately hot and I ended up on the third row behind a woman who was breastfeeding and next to a lady with a child in her lap.  They couldn’t start the show until every last person was seated due to some fire safety issue, so we all sat glaring at the late-comers, our heads sinking in our hands, while people bumped and squeezed their way into random empty seats in the crowd.

Finally, the show started.  I had no idea there were so many numbers. Little girls tapped and turned in glitter and sequins with big, beaming smiles.  Like freshly-picked apples they bobbed around, red and sweet and buoyant.

Finally, it was time.  The curtain opened and I saw my daughter  – the tallest one in the class, stand there in a flowing ballet outfit covered in pink flowers.  But unlike most of the dancers, who were smiling and waving and acting like they had a slight interest in being there, mine looked as if she was auditioning for the Olympics.  As if each step held great importance. She was a bit behind the beat, but in one pivotal moment all the other girls hugged the person next to them and my daughter got to stand in the middle and bring her arms up in a sweeping circle above her head.  I cheered out loud and my heart welled up with pride.  That’s my girl!  That one right there in the middle who is perfect and wonderful in every way!

After her number, I ran backstage to greet her.  I wanted to hug her neck and tell her I was so proud of her excellent arm-sweeping and toe-pointing.  She didn’t look excited to see me.  She begrudgingly took my hand until we left the dressing room, and then shook me loose.  She moved her shoulders when I tried to put my arm on her back to guide her forward.  “What in the world’s wrong?” I asked. “We were supposed to do a group bow,” she said, like I should have known.  But I was already there, and waiting another hour for a bow on stage amongst seventy other girls was downright silly.  Right then, my daughter caught the loving eye of her grandmother, who said she was the best dancer in the world and told her she’d have driven a thousand miles to see the show. My daughter smiled feebly as we walked over to the trophy table, and as we picked it up and left she tugged at my hand.  “It isn’t even real gold,” she said as she looked down at her prize.  “No,” I said.  “They never are.”

On the way home, my father stopped and got my daughter a lemon slush.  Her face lit up and she smiled the first true, authentic one I’d seen all day.  “Can I get a large one?” she asked.  She clapped her hands together and began to hum in the backseat of the car.  Funny what makes a little girl happy. Not the lights or the stage.  Not the makeup or the attention.  Just a slush, on the way home, with cool air blowing in her face.  She wiped at her lipstick and gave me another sweet smile. As if to say it’s over.  Finally. 

Our daughter likes to live within her own space. Where you can move as slow as you feel.  I’ll miss seeing her arms above her head and the look of her little body in a leotard standing at the barre.  But I cannot force her to be someone she is not.  For she is growing into her own kind of swan, gliding along the top of the water, learning to dwell within the swollen drops of her own rain.

That’s a kind of dance, I suppose.  But it is set to her own music, where there is real gold at the end of the rainbow.

kids eat free

I saw it like a beacon of light on my way home from work.  Wednesday Nights.  Kids Eat Free.

I’m not usually one for such marketing schemes, but I was tired of coming up with dinner ideas, and Wednesday is my favorite day of the week, after all, and didn’t I deserve a night off?  I declared it so and announced to my husband to meet me there promptly at 5:30 pm.  I’d enjoy a bowl of soup while my kids munched on chicken quesadillas with pure delight oozing from their grateful little bodies.  It was a good moment, while it lasted in my head.

I pulled into the parking lot at 5:15 and my iphone sent me a meeting update that I had a conference call scheduled at 5:30.  One I absolutely could not miss.  So the moment my husband pulls up, I dumped two kids in his arms while talking on the phone and waved in the air like “well obviously I’m busy right now.  Please take these things off my hands, for goodness sakes.”  He stared at me with I so hate you right now eyes and schlepped the kids inside.

Finally, we are all sitting down and I quiz the waiter about the claim of free kids vittles.  He indicates that upon purchase of an adult entrée at the highest possible price, they’d throw in a tortilla wrapped up with cheese and a soda disguised as a kids meal. Since I just wanted a cup of soup below the required price limit, that meant only one of our kids was eating free.  The only logical choice was for one of our children to simply starve.

After a long wait, the waiter finally decides to tell me that my daughter’s lemonades are costing us three dollars a pop and aren’t included in the free part, so maybe she might like a refill of water? My son then develops an infatuation for drinking straws and decides he needs as many of them as possible to clutch between his tiny fat fingers.  When one drops, he screams “STRAW MAMA!” at the top of his lungs because we just haven’t quite mastered the inside voice and because straws are apparently super fun to just hold for no apparent reason.

Suddenly, my daughter whispers that she must use the restroom immediately, so I rush up to take her.  My departure makes a great impact upon my son, who seems to feel that he’s going to become motherless and abandoned right there in a Mexican restaurant amidst the piñatas and pink tablecloths.  He shrieks out my name and cries in horror, clutching his straws, until I reappear.  My husband just sits there, holding his head in his hands, wishing he was back at work writing a brief or something.  My son’s fake tears dry up the moment I arrive and he simply says “why hello, mama” like nothing ever happened.

We finally get our food, and while my husband is clearing a space for his tacos he knocks over his tea, which lands on my lap, and I’m all “this is so fun!  Let’s all have a good laugh about how kids eat FREE!  Yippee for us!”

At some point my husband makes the “let’s blow this joint” gesture, and he pays while I scoop up all the stray chips that have been flung in a four-foot vicinity of our table.  As he’s taking the kids to the car, it occurs to me that the bill is quite high.  Too high.  It hits me like the smell of bacon.

Our kids did not eat for free.

I marched up to the hostess stand and demanded my $5.95 back.  What kind of two-bit joint is this anyway? The lady just looks at me with mascara smudged on my face and crazy hair and red marks on my arm where my son was bopping me with straws. The credit card machine was busy and my waiter was annoyed and my husband wondered where the heck I was.  But I wasn’t about to walk out now.  Not when I was a sucker for such a stupid marketing ploy.  How long have I been a parent, anyway?  Didn’t I major in such foolish mind-bending communications in college?  Didn’t I know better than to get my two-year-old out in public at that time of day?  I blame it all on myself as I plunked down money for a new (and lower) grand total, putting my hand on my hip and realizing my jeans are still soaked with wet tea.

So, my friends, the next time you see such a claim about kids eating free and with wild abandon, run.  Run far and fast.  Away from said restaurant with straws and distant bathrooms and back toward home, where you can brown some broccoli and heat up some macaroni noodles.  At least life is calm, and lemonades don’t cost three bucks, and no one is screaming.

I noticed that Tuesday is Dollar Taco Night.  Sounds promising.  Maybe we should go for it?

Some people never learn.

karaoke

During the week, my husband and I pass each other in the house as if we’re both servants in Downton Abbey. We give commands and trade off duties and bargain.  You give baths and I’ll read bedtime stories. You change the boy’s diaper and I’ll get a hot stone massage.  Okay, so I made that last one up.

But we’re busy folks, raising two kids and working and trying to keep our house free of small cars and doll clothes underfoot.    And we both loathe cockroaches, which means we actually have to do dishes and wipe off the crusty food from my son’s chair after dinner and take out trash.  It’s exhausting.  So this weekend, we sent the kids to grandparents.  I’m thinking great wine and late nights and crunchy tacos at 2 am and lots of rated-R movies.  I’m planning on sleeping late and catching up on laundry and taking a hot bath.

On Saturday afternoon, my husband went outside to mow the lawn and I went whistling inside to do some laundry. No snacks and naps and fits and messes.  No one to unfold my sheets and streak up the glass and whine about eating broccoli.  Freedom at last!  A clean sparkling house!

I went inside and stared at the pile of dirty clothes.  That is so extremely dull.  I walked into the kitchen and looked at a dirty pan in the sink.  Yawn.  I’ll do that later.

So I went upstairs and did what normal, healthy, well-adjusted, people-above-the-age-of-twelve do.   Watched music videos. I was having such a fabulous time downloading lyrics and memorizing songs and watching Adele belt out ballads that I stood up in front of my computer with my iphone as a microphone and busted out a great rendition of “Set Fire to the Rain” in my pajamas.   I lowered it a bit so I didn’t squeak out the high notes.  I felt strong.  Powerful.  I could so totally rock this in a bar somewhere.  Maybe I should record a CD and rat my hair up four inches.

Then I heard the back door open.   I felt like a kid caught with a sugar soda and came crashing back to reality.  I cleared my throat, minimized the screen on my computer, and went rushing downstairs to throw some clean clothes from the dryer onto the bed.  Suddenly I had a sullen look on my face as I started to fold them.  My husband walked in, crazy tired from pruning and mowing and cutting down some cedar and washing off the driveway.  I’m not sure why I felt I needed to hide the karaoke session, except for the fact that I’m a grown woman trying to memorize song lyrics in elastic-wasted yoga pants while he was out there working.

“Whatcha doin?” he asked.

“Oh, just laundry,” I said.  I rolled my eyes like I was bored to death.  I think I sighed a little bit.  Shifted my weight from one foot to the other.

“All afternoon?” he asked.

“Well, you know, that and other stuff.  Boring house stuff.”  Like singing Rolling in the Deep at the top of my lungs.  Dancing.  Eating some leftover Christmas candy.  Putting on lip gloss. Drinking a beer at 3 pm for no apparent reason.

He shrugged as he headed to the shower, probably because the dirty laundry was still piled up high.

When my kids get home, I’ll be thrown back into reality.  We’ll all eat our vegetables and read bedtime stories and change poopy diapers.  But for a moment – just a blip in time – I was young again, with no worries in the world, closing my eyes and getting lost in the music.

Here’s to you, Adele.   You totally rocked my Saturday.

sparkles

This weekend, we went out of town for a wedding.  Weddings are bright and happy, filled with love and flowers and sparkles.  Or in my case, poop and overflowing toilets, with oozing wounds and gas.

On the day of the wedding, I had to leave a bridal brunch early since my father-in-law, who just had surgery, needed to head back to the doctor to see if his wound was infected.  There’s no way to make that situation less disgusting.  We were all huddled around in the exam room trying to distract ourselves with models of spines and feet bones so we wouldn’t see the surgical tech digging into his shoulder with a long needle trying to get out all the puss.

And finally, after the wedding vows and songs and exchanging of rings, we reached the reception, whereby my son began a tirade of screaming and thrashing in extreme fatigue.   At that, without even a bite of cake and an untouched plate of food sitting on a table somewhere, I began a thirty-minute drive to take my son and husband’s grandmother home.  My son was passed out cold, but she was in a chatty mood, and went into great detail, bless her heart, about the effect of beans on her digestive system.

The next day, it was back to grandma’s for cornbread and a pot of beans (we’ve covered that! I know the full effects!) and after hours of sitting around in an extremely hot house, it was my son’s nap time.  But the moment I laid him down, I heard a strange rushing-water sound coming from the restroom.  I went to investigate and discovered a bubbling witch’s brew of urine-laden water overflowing from the toilet basin and pouring onto the tile floor.  I screamed as my drugged father-in-law stumbled in like he was woken from the dead.   I told him I needed a plunger.  Like, immediately.  Perhaps some Pine-Sol?  He headed for the garage (what? why is this essential item in the garage?) while I tried sop up the water with towels and bathmats.

The day actually got slightly better when I did my mother-in-law’s laundry.  That should tell you something.

On the seven-hour drive home, the kids did great.  No poopy diapers in the car and no major breakdowns.  But Sunday night, after an exhausting weekend, I looked down after getting my son out of the high chair and saw brown things on the carpet.  It was, in fact, poop.  Literally dangling from his shorts and dropping to the floor below in small little clumps.  I rushed him into the bedroom to change his diaper, whereby he immediately stuck his hands directly into his filthy, half-exposed diaper, squished his fingers around in the contents before I could stop him, and then stared at his crap-covered hands in wonder.  I later had to go around the house like it was an Easter Egg Hunt trying to find poop droplets.  I ended up on my knees scrubbing the kitchen floor until my hands stung from the bleach water.

All in all, a really fabulous weekend.  I love weddings.  Peace and joy and sparkles, after all.

the loom

I feel like a decent mother. After all, my daughter eats her spinach, draws excellent giraffes, makes up songs that rhyme, and announces randomly at dinner that, sadly, Pluto is no longer a planet.  We mothers pat ourselves on the back for being that rock in our children’s changing world.  The straight arrow in their quiver.  We, after all, are good mothers.  Smart mothers.  We know best.

A few years ago, at my daughter’s pre-school, I noticed that a little girl was munching on pizza rolls and trying desperately to pry apart a fruit rollup apart with her teeth.  My eyes darted to my own child’s lunch, which luckily contained cottage cheese and fruit. I grinned.  My child might thumb her nose up at olives, but at least she’s not eating that.  Forget the fact that pizza-roll kid will end up at a Virginia private school on a soccer scholarship, or become a world famous scientist, or perhaps save a species of fish from extinction.  My kid won’t fall asleep with orange Cheeto dust in her hair, and that’s really what matters.

Then there was the time the preschool teacher announced that my daughter was able to spell her own name before all the other children.  I made a quirky little face like “What?  We just sit around drinking sodas and drawing on the walls.  I just have no idea where she gets it from.” In reality, I was patting myself on the back for putting up a word tree in her bedroom and for reading her so many stories despite the fact I was so tired I wouldn’t have cared if Curious George got hit by a truck and died.

But when your kids are little, your barometer for success or failure as a parent reflects back at you.  You control their diet, their wardrobe, and their bedtime routine.  You can set firm rules and make sure they show respect for others.  You drag them to church and make them wash their hands and eat their carrots. And when you feel like a failure, you call up your really good friends– those who occasionally put their kids to bed without baths or pull out dirty clothes from the laundry pile on picture day – for moral support.  One such friend called me in horror of what she had done, like the Mother Gestapo would hunt her down and take away her Mother-of-the-Year pin.  Crippled by the stomach flu and a husband out of town on business, she locked all the doors, set out a platter of lunch meat, crackers, cheese, and cookies, and just let her children watch Dora the Explorer all day while she lay in bed clutching her abdomen.  Don’t sweat it, I told her on the phone. That will probably make their “best childhood memory” list. 

But then someday, something changes.  It’s not about you anymore. It actually never was. I recently got a note home from Kindergarten saying my daughter wasn’t following the rules, and she could stand to listen more, and that perhaps she needed some practice on the daily sound tests. My heart sank.  As my husband was brushing his teeth that night, I said surely this teacher didn’t really see our daughter’s true talents.  That she’s creative and curious and brilliant.  I wished there was something I could do to show her teacher just how fabulous she is.

“No one will ever see her like you do,” he said. “To you, she’s perfect. You’re her mother.”

I suppose that’s true.  Mothers only see the good things.  The bright, shiny mornings.  The giggles and thank-you’s and made-up stories about dancing monkeys. We snuggle and love and pray and give, assuming that all the work we put into our children will pay off. Like a bonus that’s supposed to arrive at the end of the year. But we forget that these are independent little people, separate and apart from us.  They are not vessels we just fill up and push out the door; they are unique creations from God.  They must learn to fail, and must face struggles of their own – some we might not always be able to fix.  That’s hard for us mothers.  The thought of our daughter getting a broken heart, or our son not making the team, is too difficult to bear.  We can’t always make it all better by holding them close and reading them stories.  Homemade macaroni-and-cheese with crunchy breadcrumb topping only goes so far.

So I suppose we must simply love.  When times get tough, or they don’t fit in, we just love some more.  After all, we’ve already got our bonus.  We get to be the loom upon which their lives are woven, and watch them grow into beautiful people.  They will overcome, and change, and beam with pride when discovering their true selves.  We’ll stand in the background, us mothers, and realize that it’s not about us after all.

Amanda (from Texas)

Dear Martha Stewart,

Today, my son projectile vomited all over my shirt.  I had to change into a gown at the pediatrician’s office, walking out with a pile of my son’s throw-up still remaining on the little table.  Try getting that out with a stain stick.

Years ago, in your post-prison haze, I took a leave of absence from my job.  I said goodbye to my husband for the summer and jetted off to New York in a vainglorious attempt to work for you.  To impress you.  Befriend you.  After all – it’s ME!  Funny, confident, dancing-in-the-hallways me!  If I could just have a chance to meet you face-to-face, you’d totally agree with my three best friends that I’m fabulous.  We’d toast to our newfound friendship, sewing monograms onto calico pillows while sipping on chai tea.  I’d finally admit that I’m a wretched gardener and we’d have a grand afternoon plotting total world domination.

Okay, so it was reality television.  Not exactly the classiest venue.  But the fifteen folks who joined me in New York were not pond scum, but really successful people, chosen over a million folks to be talking with you about summer bulbs and apricot preserves, vying for a job where we could work with you on a daily basis.  This was my chance.

On day, in the middle of making a wedding cake to be sold at a bridal expo on 5th Avenue, your daughter paid us a visit.  I asked her a question I’d always wondered about.

“What was it like to have a mother like Martha?”

I envisioned parties of grandeur, with sugar cookies piled high with edible flowers and friends dancing around maypoles drinking cucumber water and reciting old nursery rhymes.  Alexis just gave me a flat look and said with hardly a breath that it was hard.  “Once,” she said, “when I was young, I tried to bake her a cake.”  I saw little Alexis running around in my mind in a petticoat, flinging sprinkles around with glee.  “She yelled at me for making the kitchen all sticky.”

Everyone chuckled with nervous laughter, because the reality was too sad to imagine.  We were on television.  5th Avenue, no less!  Let’s not focus on what the woman did years ago.  She’s changed!   So what if her daughter is dressed in black and seems to have a sour attitude, living with the memory that she never could live up to her mother’s standards.  We’re living in New York City.  Street vendors and expensive four-inch heels. Who-hoo!

Now, Martha, let’s be honest.  I didn’t have to meet you personally to realize you’re a big fan of order.  Rationalized numbering.  Labels.  You like steel and grey and windows and white, all clear of clutter and chaos.  You could literally eat on the floor of your office.  Somehow in this imperfect world we live in, you’ve found a way to have perfect rows of cabbage.  I respect that.  The ability to yell at the gardener and demand he remove the one wilted head on the end of the row?  Genius.

But I slowly allowed myself to question the long-standing truth that (1) you would surely think I’m special (2) we would be swapping sweet potato recipes long into the future.   Perhaps you weren’t the person I imagined.  A crack was starting to form in the armor of my Martha-ness.

The thoughts naturally arose – does anything gross happen in your world?  Have you ever accidentally peed in your pants or had to comb lice out of your daughter’s hair or invented a recipe that tasted like goat manure?  Surely once in your life you thought “I’m going to hurl.  I’m totally throwing this out and ordering pizza.”

Weren’t there ever a few moments in life, brief as they might be, that you cupped your hands over your mouth with delight at the beauty of seeing your child try to bake you a cake or make you a valentine or knit you a crooked potholder?  Is there ever a wilted cabbage you just don’t have the heart to pluck?

One morning, we got to have brunch with you in Bedford.  I was so confident you’d finally love me that I casually strolled over to the cappuccino machine in your gigantic kitchen and made small talk about the flower arrangement.

“Want one?” you asked me as the coffee machine hummed and hissed.  I tucked my hair away from my face and nodded.  Just me and a few pals, hanging out at Martha’s.  No biggie.  I was prattling on about how we can’t grow peonies down south, due to the hot weather and all, when I realized by the look in your eyes that you weren’t even listening.

“Are you Amy, from California?” you suddenly asked.

“No,” I stuttered.  “I’m Amanda.  From Texas.”  You briskly walked back in front of the camera to give a lesson on making waffles.  I was hurt and ashamed.  All the while talking of peonies, for goodness sakes.

The moment we left your place, after taking a tour of the greenhouses, hearing about elephant ferns, and watching your brilliant black horses pad around the back 40, we climbed in the car back to our quarters and, suddenly, it was if we didn’t exist.  Just another day in the office.  Just Amy from California.

I suppose the folks we idolize don’t always turn out to be as amazing as we had hoped. There is no pleasing you.  You will always be yelling at the gardener, the sticky child, the producer.  No cabbage or bath towel or applicant will ever be good enough.  I suppose if I get my book published, I won’t be back on your show to promote it, eating those yummy scones and sipping coffee backstage, waiting for hair and makeup.  Which is unfortunate.  Those were really good scones.

I don’t have to be walking along Broadway to feel my lungs fill with fresh air.  I can do that in my own backyard, watching my daughter scoop piles of pebbles into bowls and call it popcorn.  She will come running over to me with messy hands and a popsicle-stained face, showing me a stick that reminds her of a telephone.  My son will someday break a lamp or get motor grease all over my travertine floor and eat so much fried chicken in one setting that he’ll groan with delight, wiping grease on his jeans as he stretches back in his chair.  This is the texture and fabric of life.  It’s not monogrammed.  It’s not in perfect order.  It’s vomit-down-your blouse crazy.

So screw peonies.  I’ll take fields of bluebonnets, swaying in the breeze, my kids on the side of the highway buried in them, squashing the flower heads in their Sunday best.  It’s then, and only then, I realize they have buggers in their noses.

Yours most truly,

Amanda (from Texas)

martha stewart clean

I never thought I’d say this, but thank you, Martha Stewart.

 

Today, after we returned home from the grocery store with items sitting randomly about the kitchen table, my son grabbed a bottle of bathroom cleaner and waddled off.  I was at the stove cooking asparagus and wondered why my son was so quiet. I went to investigate. As it turned out, he unscrewed the lid and poured the entire bottle of bathroom cleaner on the carpet.  And I had no idea if he drank some.  I immediately called my doctor, who referred me to poison control, and the conversation went something like this:

 

“Hello?” I asked in a panic. “Poison control? I think my son might have ingested some bathroom cleaner. “

 

“Oh no,” a woman said.  I could hear the seriousness in her voice.  “What brand of cleaner was it?”  She was typing something into her computer.  Probably something along the lines of Yet another negligent mother who let her kid drink poison.  Call CPS immediately to have her parental rights revoked.

 

Martha Stewart Clean,” I said.

 

“Uh huh,” the lady said.  There was a pause.  “I think you’ll be fine.”

 

“But don’t you want to know the active ingredients?” I asked.  I really was hoping I didn’t have to get his stomach pumped, or worry about him being unconscious, or burning a hole though his intestines.  He didn’t seem sick.  He was laughing and pointing to my nose and trying to moo like a cow, but still. 

 

“Yeah sure,” she said as she bit into a sandwich, stuck in some cubical in Dallas.  “If you want.”  What’s wrong with these people?  Aren’t they experts in poison? Don’t they have some advice?

 

“Water, Citric Acid, and plant-based detergent.”

 

“Yeaaah,” the lady said, her mouth full of ham.  “I really wouldn’t worry about it.  That’s harmless.”

 

I wasn’t sure whether the judgment in her voice related to the fact that I am a negligent parent, not noticing that my son walked right past me holding a bottle of detergent, or whether I spent five dollars on a bottle of distilled water with a few drops of citric acid.

 

In any event, this stuff won’t kill your kid if they accidentally drink it, and it managed to create suds when I tried to soak it up from the carpet, so I’m never buying anything else.  I’m a loyal Martha Stewart Clean consumer (when it’s on sale). Or, conversely, maybe I should just pay more attention to my child when they walk by.   The next time, it might be a butcher knife.

one liners, part two

Five year olds are officially hilarious.  At least I think so.  Here’s some recent statements said around our house that made me laugh.  I laugh a lot.

(1) “You see that?” she asked as she pointed to my son’s privates.  “I’m going to call that a hankerdoodle.  So if I ever say the word hankerdoodle, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”

(2)  (a few weeks later, during a bath) “Mom, don’t forget to wash the hankerdoodle.”

(3) “Did you meet some new friends at school?” I ask.  She shrugs. “We didn’t have formal introductions.”

(4) “I scratched my arm and it feels like I’m being scraped by a giant cheese shredder. A GIANT CHEESE SHREDDER!

(5) “I’m going to call grandma and tell her I got crunched” (after her brother bit her in the face)

(6) “I love you infinity times infinity plus one and then times a hundred.  Plus two.”

(7) “Why can’t we ever go to Chunky Cheese-its? I think they have pizza.”

(8)  “You can just call it recess, mom” (rather than the more inferior “playground”)

(9) “One hole in my nose is all plugged up and I just don’t know what to do about it.”

(10)               “Why are all the states united?  What does united mean anyway?”

(11)               (Sobbing). . . “I just think it’s so sad that Angelina Ballerina lost her doll and that she didn’t get it back and I tried to look at another book that was happy to get over it but it just didn’t work.”

(12)               “I don’t want you to put bows in my hair.  I never want to wear bows.  Ribbons are okay.  Just no bows.”

(13)               “When I grow up, I want to be a cheerleader, a mommy, and a nurse,” she says.  (“Can’t you elevate that to doctor?” I ask.  “Maybe a dermatologist even?”) “No.  I want to be a nurse. Nurses get to leave the room first.”

(14)               “I don’t need a nap.  I’m not tired.  And I’m not being mean.”

(15)               “I’m so glad I have you for a mommy.”

(16)               “If I wasn’t born and another kid was born instead and you named her the same name as me, would you love her just the same?”

(17)               “You can always get more money.  Stores will give you change.”

(18)               “If he can’t say the word “passy,” (referring to her brother’s pacifier), it’s okay if he just says “assy.”

(19)               (Crying). . . “I miss my old teachers. I want to write them a card first thing tomorrow when I wake up.”

(20)               (The next morning). . . “Card? What card?”