Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mr. Bubby's Wild Ride

During his brighter days, Bubby basks on the beach.
I liken the hollow hype of the week of Spring Break to that of New Year's Eve.

Sure, it's easy - desirable even - to join that parade of revelers who truly believe that THIS YEAR it's going to be different. THIS YEAR it will be memorable. And, you're sure, when looking back upon the shenanigans that will ensue, in the spirit of the excitement that was drummed up by the likes of the royal wedding of Charles to Diana and the anxious preparedness exercises required of the Y2K conversion, this was indeed the year that finally lived up to the hype.

But, in the end, it inevitably ends with you drawing a fortune out of your 401k to pay off the pre-pubescent babysitter who sat on your couch all night eating hot wings and watching Housewives of Atlanta, while you defeatedly hang up a ridiculously non-rewearable dress with a new, strategically-plopped guacamole embellishment in the back of your closet.

This entry will serve as a bulleted recap of our past week... the glories of the much anticipated Spring Break.
  • The day before setting off on our Griswold family vacation adventures, our car was returned to us from the shop with the wrong size tire, white-wall out. I had no idea of the seriousness of this error. Wrong size, I get. White-wall out... my husband made it clear he'd rather be seen riding through town in a jester hat atop a burrow than drive the car like that. (At least, now I know what I can get away with. *snicker*)
  • The nomad set off for a business meeting in the big city, and I took the opportunity to take the kids to see their grandparents for a day. Upon our return, I notice a blur of brown in my driver's side mirror. Followed by three seconds of silence... and a high-pitched, blood-curdling, wheeze-interrupted screeching of a child from the backseat. Man Down! The beloved Bubby Bear had made a run for it by way of the rear window. I watched the surreal scene unfold in my rear view mirror. Bubby rolled gingerly to a stop in the right-hand lane. For the tiniest moment I thought, "He looks so peaceful and free. Basking in the sunlight." The choking sobs and mournful repeating of "BuhBEE, BUHbee!" from the back seat only partially shook me from my daydreaming. But the white minivan that clipped Bubby's right side and sent him violently rolling onto the shoulder and nauseatingly out of sight into the ditch along the winding country highway successfully yanked me from my stupor. Hazard lights employed, and many a sheepish smile to the aggravated drivers slowly pulling around while I point to the abyss of the ditch and attempt to mouth "I'm so sorry. My daughter lost her Bubby." (as if they care... get out of the road, lady), the rescue mission was surprisingly successful. He required repeated doses of Shout Advanced and aggressive scrubbing, but the road rash he incurred, for the most part, has healed nicely. 
  • Two days before we leave for our secluded little cabin overlooking an area lake, the American Angler to which I'm wed discovered a hole in the hull of his fishing boat. Oops. 
  • Finally driving to the cabin, and an hour after entering a dry county, the angler and I realize we didn't bring the beer. (This was the low point.)
  • Our first night in the cabin welcomed us with a thunderstorm and quarter-sized hail. (The cabin was fashioned with a tin roof... so quaint).
  • Our first morning in the cabin welcomed us with temperatures below freezing, a low-lying fog that clouded the view and a general grumpiness among the troops. 
  • During our return trip to the cabin from an afternoon visit to a nearby town, winding and steep roads delivered an award-winning case of car sickness to Bubby's owner. It was during this experience that I realized my four-year old doesn't have any teeth. From the looks of what she produced, she chews absolutely nothing before swallowing. Which, in a way, was advantageous for the cleanup crew. Big chunks are easier to scoop up off of the back seat with the metal spatula provided by the cabin's kitchen. (Credit goes to the nomad for his composure, concentration and creativity during the recovery efforts.) And poor Bubby. He yet again endured a deplorable case of situational disrespect. With no washer and dryer, we could only resort to washing him with Great Value dish soap (Mountain Glade scent) and setting him in front of the fire. He held up his head, and we held our noses, as best we could. 
There were some wonderful moments bespeckled amongst the rubble. And, being in a warm loft cabin with a crackling fire, a glass of wine and the family with which you'd stick it out, regardless of the lingering, sour tinge of the smell of noodle vomit, beats your average day of scraping the hardened dishwasher soap out of the little dishwasher door that refuses to open during the wash cycle.

But, it's days like these spent with the ones you love that bring out the undiluted reality that regardless of the hype, you're gunna have your fair share of noodles thrown up all over you. It's how well you scrape them off the back seat that counts.

 Or something like that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Luck of the Irish... If only for a day

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. The obvious solemnity of the holiest of holy days aside - which undoubtedly all Irish-Americans, Catholic or otherwise, recognize, and if you don't, shame on you - it was a pretty great day all around.

I delivered both children safely to school, completely dressed (even though they both adamantly refused to wear green, ignoring my pleas that they'll be tortured by peers with evil pinching and return to me purple with bruises, because, afterall, that was the way it was when I went to school. And dammit it ought ta be that way now. I digress...) and on time. This may seem inconsequential. However, the aftermath of the recent stripping of an hour from my closely-guarded time bank has unfortunately impacted my five-year old most, causing one official tardy and three very close calls. Tardies are serious business, I've come to learn, in Kindergarten. I'm told she'll be taken off the "Watch List" sometime during the Second Grade, assuming there are no additional infractions.

I reconciled with my aforementioned uber-cool big brother and his beautiful, equally as uber-cool wife and their deliciously adorable baby girl over a quiet lunch composed of 98% adult conversation (excepting the Austin Powers references), and was comfortingly absent of any ulcer-inducing drama or embarrassment. I also broke my no-alcohol Lenten fast and savored two delicious pints of a local micro brew. One for me. And one for my Irish homies. 

I returned my library books on time... all jacketed as immaculately as when I checked them out, with no torn pages, missing CDs, and all absent of any additional pre-school illustrations that were not original to the publication.

I did a fair amount of work, even listening in on the dreaded conference call.

Picked up my young scholars on time (but not before being publicly reprimanded by a PTO board member regarding my irresponsible use of the one-way exit to enter the school lot... thus my embarrassment quota for the day was met), and even had the patience and stamina to agree to letting them play on the playground a bit instead of immediately returning home, per the usual routine.

Successfully cooked up my first beer-braised Irish Stew and something those Green Islanders call a Colcannon. And unsuccessfully poured up my first Black and Tan, but successfully drank it down.

The nomad returned from far away lands. Weary though he was from traveling, he quietly cleaned the disaster I left in the kitchen (sadly, no pot of gold to be found for him upon completion) and deloused the mangy children. In so doing, I quietly allowed him full control of the remote, and an entire hour of the History Channel.

All in all, an incredibly luck-filled day.

I can only look forward to the next moderately-observed holiday on the calendar and wonder with anticipation what's in store...

April Fool's Day.

Well, crap.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jesus Cake and Holy Rollers

I made a King Cake for my four-year old's preschool class yesterday. I was told by her teachers it was a huge hit, and seconds were requested by most of her friends. I was also told, by the four-year old that belongs to me, that the proper name for said pastry is "Jesus Cake."

Upon correcting her, she reproached, "No. We will caw it a Jesus Cake. Because it was weow-wee good, and all my friends whuved it. And Jesus is weow-wee good, and I'm pretty shuah all my friends whuve Him too."

Touché. I'll not even attempt to debate that point.

But, apparently, the aforementioned purvayor of pastry pseudonymity didn't get a healthy enough dose of the divine dessert. Judging from what I experienced today -- embarrassment in its purest form, immediately followed by overwhelming feelings of helplessness and parental failure -- I've deduced this child undoubtedly needs more Jesus Cake in her diet. Because if Jesus is "weow-wee" good, my four-year old is "weow-wee, WEOW-wee" bad.

Today, a leisurely lunch and conversation with my very hip, collected and gracious brother was tainted by flailing, crayons thrown to the floor, frustrated table pushing, screaming and a whole heaping helping of steaming hot sass being thrown my way. Even now, I'm not clear what exactly the catalyst was. In my limited research of Piss-Poor Preschool Attitude Syndrome, it seems the symptomatic triggers A) can vary, B) are composed of several chemical reactions, and C) depending on the environment in which the piss-poor attitude is being cultivated, can mysteriously self-produce independent of any and all logical and/or rational factors.

All that stupid metaphorical mumbo-jumbo to say, she freakin' went roller-girl in public with absolutely no intention of breaking. She showed no mercy. And refused to let up. I have a faint memory of something to do with a coloring book page that was torn. From there, it was a blur of the following internal dialogue:

"Crap. Oh Crap." (Eyes shifting quickly around the restaurant to gauge level of interest in the horror scene about to unfold.) "Shiiii... please stop. Oh please, please, stop. Okay. It's gunna be fine." (Attempting to self-soothe by breathing deeply.) "Arghh. This isn't working. I'm the adult. I'M THE ADULT HERE, for God's sake!"

If you're wondering how it ended... I was a teeth-gritting, stoic-faced parent, dragging/quasi-carrying by one underarm, hip and possibly the scruff of the neck/herding my kid through the lunch-crowd while patrons did their best to look away, instead focusing their energy on all the judgment they could muster. One middle-aged woman offered me a "knowing" head tilt and half smile before sheepishly looking at her shoes.

I took her out into the cold and gray March day, sat her on the concrete steps in front of the doors of a local pub (wishing that the young man sweeping under bar stools would pity my plight, and without a word, slide a pint of draft beer out to me) and did the only thing I knew to do. I sat quietly beside her until she settled down.

She's four. I need a manual. Because, as it stands, I haven't the slightest idea how to begin a conversation with her on the unacceptable nature of her behavior, the resulting palpable embarrassment that had by then taken over my appetite, or the unbridled disappointment and helplessness I was feeling as her mother... caretaker... at this point, more like an involuntary participant in some sick parenting game, the intent of which was to force the losing player into a position of complete and unadulterated discomfort and shame.

In desperation and not having anything else at the ready, I thought about telling her all this. Instead, as the wind picked up, I looked at her, and simply said, "You embarrassed me in there. Do you know what it feels like to be embarrassed? It's like when you stand up in the middle of the room, and everyone else is sitting down, looking at you. And your teacher asks you to sing a song, and when you finish, everyone laughs and some of your friends tell you all the things you did wrong, and all the words you messed up and all the ways you may have made yourself look silly. Have you ever felt that way?"




"No. But I'm weow-wee saw-wee you feeoh that way."

So, I've learned a two things today:

1) I must work harder at embarrassing my children. And each time I do, I will openly define the situation as "embarrassment" so that they will understand exactly what it feels like. It is unacceptable to me that I have a human being in my care who claims to have no understanding of this emotion to which I so religiously cling.  I can't recall two days in succession when I've not had a run-in with it. That my children are experiencing anything other than this irritates me. This will change for them. And in so understanding, my opportunities to be entertained have just increased exponentially. (Bwaaaa haa haa haa haa ha ha ha ha... heh heh... ahem...)

2) I have no idea whatsoever what I'm doing as a parent. I need a game plan. Should similar situations play out again, I need to be ready. I've gotta get a better strategy in this parenting roller derby. I took a beating today, and I feel like I may be sore for a while. I found myself helmetless on the rink floor amid a swarm of elbow throws and kicks. But this one... this one will require some thought. Other than swearing to never leave the house, thereby never having to parent in public again... although, this is a viable option... I don't have the answers.

It's days like these that make you think back nostalgically on the pre-kid utopia you once lived. The days before Jesus Cakes, kid-interrupted conversations that take weeks to complete, and the brutal roller girl beatings children can bring.

But, then again, Jesus is "weow-wee, weow-wee" good. And, perhaps, armed with enough of His cake and a sturdy pair of parenting skates, I'll eventually roll through this derby alive.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Softball vs. Sandboxes: In Pursuit of the Average Kid

Character building.
I tore into a new two-week package of Prilosec a few days ago. The ulcer's been steadily churning for a while now, but it wasn't until just recently the bubbling crater required medicinal attention. And, during these times of self-perceived weakness, I tend to look back and reflect upon the goings and comings of my current state and question why I've allowed said factors to consume me... or at least consume my gastro function.

I am very much a controloholic. And when I lose my grip, I feel I've failed. And, often, my children are to blame. Well, indirectly. More clearly stated, I worry, at a nuclear level, about the decisions I make for my kids, and how those decisions are going to affect who they are going to become.

For instance, now in kindergarten, my older daughter brings home flyers and papers and pamphlets and handouts, thrice-daily it seems, touting cheerleading camps, dance workshops, gymnastics tryouts, MathAThons, scouting, soccer, softball, basketball (I find this one particularly amusing to target to the under-3-feet-6-inch demographic), rocket science expo, intro to neurology, "Your Ticket to The Nobel Prize Nomination" seminars, and on and on.

And, I worry. As I toss them habitually into the brown paper recycling bag, I worry that perhaps I'm holding her back. Maybe she really NEEDS these things. After all, SOMEONE obviously deems them not only worthy, but essential, to her and her peers' development. As much I want to say I have every ability to control the variables and experiences in her young life with unwavering confidence, there is a creepy crawly thought that persistently slithers its way to the frontal lobe, and I begin to believe that my skepticism of the over-involved lifestyle will ultimately result in a dark and dismal future for her. What if, by not signing up for every extracurricular within the tri-county area -- successfully triple-booking every weekday and thereby refashioning our weekends into 48 hours of kid-ferrying, crazed-soccer-mom-cutting-off-traffic-in-a-minivan, ulcer-palpitating insanity -- she is missing her every opportunity at greatness? Fame? Success? Nay, dare I say, stardom??


But, then I read something today... a bit of mental Mylanta. And, much like my own, it's just another voice out there in the cyber clutter, but I drank it down: "It’s not the achievement that’s important, but what is learned through successes and failures that creates character."

And so, with that clear validation from such a credible source, I'll continue to cling closely to the hope that I'm not causing long-range damage (to her, anyway... my stomach is clearly irrecoverable). Perhaps successes and failures can indeed be unearthed in simpler, less-stress-inducing outlets when the scholar is a five-year old. And, maybe this lifestyle of swapping ballet recitals for afternoons in the sandbox and trading weeks of selling cookies door-to-door for early Saturday morning fishing ventures will yield an average, ordinary kid who, God-willing, will grow up with a strong understanding of what she likes and doesn't like, of what she believes to be true and false, and of what she herself deems worthy of her pursuits. Either that or she'll be most excellent at sand structures and fish chowders.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Like a Lamb

I opened the windows today.

And, I breathed.

For the first time, in this morale recession they call winter, I breathed. And just as if I were playing the role of that blissfully put-together domestic angel on the set of a dryer sheet commercial (heh, chuckle-worthy thought, no doubt), the floor-length drapes billowed and surrendered to the winds of this first day of March. And subsequently, I surrendered my pessimism and winter cynicism, and implored that, on the wake of those uptopic breezes, the Almighty deliver both far from my reach.

And, again... for the first time in a long time... I have faith it will actually happen. Perhaps this March Lion they speak of is soon to be on the prowl. Perhaps these gentle breezes that signal the promise of spring will themselves be forced to surrender to the storms of more ominous days to come. (Oh, come on. Let's get real. If any of you unfortunate readers have skimmed over even a phrase or two of my previous posts, you'll have to agree that "perhaps" should read "bat down the hatches and prepare for the worst".) But, as long as this new March wind billows and blows, I believe I'll continue to summon the lambish (heh, sheepish) bits of my heart in defense, should that cowardly feline come a knocking.

Here kitty, kitty. Blow wind, blow.