Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's For the Children (I Swear)

After the crazy auction busy-ness of the last week, I decided that today would be all about being Fun Mom. That Man is in Hollywood for the week (surely spotting a variety of reality TV stars that will have me in a tizzy), so the timing was right for us four to re-bond. I promised them an awesome day out, so after a little tidying up (as always, bribery worked), the house was squared away, vacuumed even, and we loaded out.

Stopped by a few friends' houses, had a "fancy" lunch (at the Mall) and hit the movies for "Horton Hears a Who." I admit to getting a little post-feast sleepy, but there were fine parts to the flick, cute ones and funny ones and all three of those kids were completely engrossed -- no kicking of the seats in front of them, no begging for treats, all good. At one point in the movie, a mob is out for Horton (who they perceive as a threat to the community belief system) and the jungle animals are chanting in G-rated violent fury, "It's for the children! For the children!"

I got the joke -- and after all the ways the auction affected me and my family, I wonder if maybe the joke was intended for me.

I took my kids out today because I have virtually neglected them for a week (or more, dare I say). I covered their basic needs -- mac and cheese, sleep, boo-boo kissing -- but more often than not, I was asking them to wait, to hold on, clamoring for ONE MORE MINUTE. The Giant Four Year Old sees papers on the counter, decides not to draw on them, and says to the air, "Fer da auction" but hours later, while his mom is on the phone (again), uses a pencil to decimate an entire cabinet door. B awakes me on the day of the event with "Happy last day of the auction!" which I know she is saying to the both of us. R does her best to do her best because she is a lay-low kinda girl and it seems sensible for her not to rile me now. These little moments, upsetting at best, kicked off the mantra for me: this is all for them, this is "FOR THE CHILDREN."

And I know it is, I do.

So when I skipped folding laundry for 10 days straight, and when That Man gently reminded me that all we had to eat was hard-boiled Easter eggs (and only pink ones), I took it with the "it's all gonna be worth it and I'll be back to normal when it's over" attitude. As if normally, there is always a healthy nutritious meal on the table, never a washing machine mildewing clothes that someone has forgotten to dry, always well-behaved children singing songs in a circle with a well-meaning Mother who has just finished making their clothes out of old curtains and tidied up the flash cards she created from recycled cereal boxes.

At lunch today, each of them in such delighted delight to be there with just me (and with cloth napkins to boot: ooh la la, and with a movie in a movie theater in their future), I felt so entirely redeemed. Maybe I was right! Maybe now that the auction was over, I would return to the former self I figured must be lurking somewhere. Maybe I was the mom I imagined I was when I'm not doing all this other stuff.

Then B said, "Mommy, you have no meetings this week!", and I lied with an emphatic yes, yes, isn't that great (as it seemed the wrong time to bring up the one I did have) and, all excited about this good news, R chimed in with, "Now you can just listen about presidents and look at the computer!"

Oh! Yes! THAT.

Point taken.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Funny HaHa or Funny Y'now

I worry about being funny.

I have never been the prettiest girl -- features too big and too unusual to be typically "pretty" -- but I rarely think about that now. There are even times when I love the way my face has aged: the harder edges look better to me than the baby-fat roundness I had when I was younger.

But I had some things then that made me matter: my loud mouth, my taste in music and the ways in which I could make people laugh. I asked That Man about it since he knew me then, and he said, "Yeah, you were funny ha-ha." (He also said I was kinda sexyhot (and had big boobs) but I am pretty sure that's his job to say so, and also, I'm sure he can't really remember anyway.)

I ditched the roundness in the face and added it to other parts of my body, and for that I am also somewhat, maybe, kinda equally content. "I had three kids," I can say and that helps. Maybe. Kinda.

At least I'm funny, right? Am I funny?

I feel much funnier in my day-to-day life, but here, I just seem so deadly serious, so dreadfully contemplative, so un-funny and lame. And when That Man points me to an awesome site ( and I read it and I love it and I love him for sharing it with me, I just end up feeling jealous and less funny and less clever and like a complete downer.

That Man? He can't be be more irritated by this lameness of mine -- all his good plans foiled -- and also he hates what sneaks up in me: my insecurity. He counts on me to be the loud mouth, with the good taste in music: the ballsy girl, "self-assuredly bored" as he wrote, who is funny, too. He counts on me to play tough.

He says, "you think a lot" which I understand, because I do think a lot. That's not a bad thing, and I'm not entirely positive , but I think he mostly agrees. What I do know is that there are not enough words to make a real person real on the page: it's just a little bit we can manage to tell.

It's only a small part we share most of the time anyway -- in words, or at pick-up, or at parties, or anywhere else really. We just give what we can, and when we can, and maybe, we just give what we want to.

Right now, I just want to be funny. Funny ha-ha.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Woe is the MCAS

In B's class this morning as usual to offer "writing" help, which basically means I'm there to tutor kids on their MCAS answers. The most recent practice test was a story about Harriet Quimby, a woman who boldly flew across the English Channel when only men were doing so. The students needed to write what Harriet's goals were and how she achieved them.

One particular boy failed this task miserably it seems, and so is sent to my table to re-do his answer. Why does he fail? He does not quote directly from the text as required. Instead he writes, "She wanted to prove that women were as capable as men" (words found nowhere in the story). How did she achieve this goal? "She flew across the English Channel."

A perfect answer in my opinion, as it thoughtfully and rightfully summed up the text. It was hard to tell him to erase what he had written, harder to explain why he had to.

Bullet Point Life

I'm living it. Even me: someone so in love with words -- which is the the only reason I started all of this. But, the Auction is three days away and there seems little time for anything substantial. (Please review Archives for "Ch-ch-changes" - it's a decent read about lots of stuff but about the Auction too.)

Anyhoo, now: the bullets:

* Missy Higgins is an amazing singer/songwriter who must have known me in a past life
* My friends who urged me to listen to her are about the best people I know
* I am busier than I was when I was "working" and I can't make sense of that
* My tomboy daughter resisted a ponytail or any hairdo (or a brush even) before Easter
* When convinced into a topknot, that girl saw herself in the mirror and exclaimed: "Fierce"
* Wha?
* Listen to Missy Higgins "Where I Stood"
* Major Bedhead was right: big conversations with husbands are far and few between but intense when they happen (I love that That Man and I still battle about politics, even if it's once a month. Sometimes, if I've read enough, I can outsmart him.)
* Are we having a conversation about race? I was hoping we would
* This is the best time to be a girl obsessed with politics
* Listen to Missy Higgins' "Forgive Me" and "Going North"
* Listen to music; eventually, it'll make sense

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why I'll Never Get Elected

Should I count the ways?

As far as religion goes, I have members of my family who are Wiccan and atheist, born-again and Catholic. As for politics, I have members who are Socialist and isolationists, neo-cons and Democrats. As for sexuality, excluding transgender-ism (as far as I know), I think we cover every base. We’ve got a lot of social sins wrapped up too: adultery, teenage pregnancy, divorce, drug abuse, alcoholism, lying, swearing, name-calling, and even cheating at Trivial Pursuit -- blatently.

Let’s imagine for fun that my personal history, separate from my families', is as bland as the dry toast most of the media thinks we want in a leader. Let’s just pretend that I am that person with no skeletons, no impurities.

It would not matter how pure or profound or meaningful or possible my ideas might be.

Someone would find my socialist uncle or my drug addict cousin or any other of the people I love who have impacted my life. They would find them and I would be done. Finished.

I sat at a dinner table only a few short weeks after 9/11 with a family member whom I adore who spoke for at least an hour about how we deserved that attack. He talked about how our own tyrannical, capitalist ways – our seething arrogance – caused this horror show. With that, he gestured to the ruins, smoldering still, only miles beyond the glass door that separated us from what the whole world was still watching on TV. He said we had nothing and no one to be sorry for, except for the ENTIRE SCOPE of humanity that we had already ruined.

The burning dead in our own back yard would not change that man. The vitriolic response from his family would not change what he thought: the tear-stained arguments, the facts and figures, the proof of what we knew and of all the things we couldn’t prove: none of that would change what that man believed. He believed it.

I sat in semi-silence, a child in that moment amongst the grown-ups of my life, and I regret that. Later I expressed my outrage to anyone who would listen. Maybe I was afraid of being called a complacent participant, but mostly it was because that no matter his elder-status, I knew that I was grown up enough to shout that he was wrong.

Do I still love this man, despite what he said? Yeah, yes I do.

Does that make me as complicit as he?

I had to make a choice with him – to let go of who he is, or to love him anyway. I made a choice to never forgive what he said, but to get to know him better: to weasel in my ways, my ideas, to prove him wrong.

There is hope for us all, and enough compassion in me to love him still.

Can I count on your vote?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why I Married Him

Long weekend. Lots of rain. St. Patty's party. Do the math.

Giant FOUR Year Old in love with ride-on vehicle. Zooms from room to room. All the freakin' time.

It makes a horrible, terrible noise.

The girls are rehearsing a "show" for us with music so loud -- and bad -- it just sucks the air out of the house.

At countdown-two-hours to Sunday night bedtime, That Man erupts:

"OK" he says (very kinda calmly mind you).

"OK!" he says, a little louder, a little less calm: "I'm just done. We're all done. I think we've had enough."

Girls get it -- long rainy weekend and all -- and turn the speakers down. They know that the show is the bomb and why rehearse any more any way? It'll change a thousand times when they perform it.

But that boy? He zooms in on his car.

"You want quiet?" he says.

Giant Four Year Old screeches the "car" to a halt. He looks his giant dad in the eye with an amazing beyond-his-years sneer, makes a three-point painfully noisy turn and kicks ass outta there, tucking his heels up to zoom the whole incredibly cool way out, not before saying, over his shoulder, defiant chin up:

"I'll GIVE you quiet."

That Man, he looks at me, and he's laughing.

I know in that instant that he loves us more than I could ever have imagined, but I also know that he wishes that the Kid would've added, for comic perfection: "motherfucker."

And That Man is right: that would've been way more funny. Totally wrong and really bad, we'd both agree, but yeah, way more funny.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Listen, I'm all Barack Me Like a Hurricane, but you'ld be an ass to not realize that what Geraldine said was the straight on truth. In fact, you'ld be an insecure, way too PC, slightly obsessed, dare I say, douche, if you felt the opposite. C'mon!

He's black. That matters. Deal with it. Get over your own guilt and deal with it.

Would a woman with his resume get this far, even if she could talk like him? Um, let me think.. NO!

Could a white man? Probably, maybe; but not as easily.

If you are big enough to know that his skin color doesn't matter, then you are smart enough to know that it does.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

All the Ways She Breaks My Heart

It was his birthday. B new that. But four minutes before we left, to meet friends at Japanese Hibachi to celebrate his 4th, she freaked out: she would only wear this one, this exact (stained) sweatshirt to the restaurant. I said no. Her dad said no. It proceeded from there like this:

Us: You can't.
Her: I will.

And multiply by 20. By her tenth complaint, I almost backed down; I didn't because we were GOING OUT for HIS birthday with friends and also because, of the few standards I set, one is that you look and act respectfully for another human being. I didn't mind the jeans and the t-shirt top, but a dirty sweatshirt? No. Not now. Not today. Words were exchanged; they were shouted in fact, and I am still swimming in the wake of it.

Her upset was gigantic, hysterical, so much so that my two other kids were in tears in the car heading out: "I don't want you to take her toys away, mama," they said, because we promised it. She? She was a gloomy pile of unrelenting regret, until I said, "Hug your sister: she is crying for you," and suddenly the beast in her relented: my little girl showed up. "I'm sorry," she sobbed, and she was.

Later, after a good dinner (where even she ate a lot) and ice cream and an awesome Rescue Vehicle courtesy of his neighbor/Uncle and a DOLLAR BILL even, K was too filled with happiness and it was time to go. I tucked him in, kissed his babyhood goodbye, scrambled to get R before she antsy-pants'd her way out of bed, and then went to B:

Goodnight, I said; this hasn't been our best day.

Her hands went straight to her face, covering up her quivering lip: she was crying. Hard.

I know it wasn't just the sweatshirt; tell me, I said.

She explained in kid-verse how her puffy winter coat has been deemed uncool by some kids. UNCOOL: "it' like 53 degrees today," they say, "why are you wearing THAT?"

Suddenly I realized why she asks me about the weather every morning, about the temperature. She's measuring only one thing: how will she be perceived today. And this breaks my heart.

When she tells me the truth about her own heartache, all the words I give to her to say, give to her to hold in her heart, all the lessons I try to teach -- they disappear; and I am just her mom. Just her shoulder. Just the one kissing her eyelashes, because no matter my experience or expertise, it just hurts when she hurts.

As she grows up, I am counting on the fact that most of what I teach and say will become more meaningful with time. I am counting on the fact that what I say matters.

But for now, I'm buying her a new fleece jacket. Sue me.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Signing Your Yearbook

I have all my old yearbooks. The funny thing is I look at them a lot less then I looked at my older sisters' yearbooks. I was obsessed with theirs, downright clinically obsessed. I poured over them like they were ancient texts that might unlock my future. I know it irritated those girls, but still, I snuck into their rooms and curled up for hours while they were gone, reading every. single. word. (Later, I would do the same with album liner notes - a whole other obsession.) To this day, I remember more of my sisters classmates then they do -- fuck, I could even quote their "quotes."

I mention this because in the last week or so three old friends have called or written because of my scrawlings here, and I mention it because I am nothing if not a consistently poor friend when it comes to keeping in touch, and I mention it also to remind said neglected friends that I meant every word that I wrote in their yearbooks -- even though none of us even shared one together. But if we did, I hope you know that I meant what I imagine I would write.

The first is a high school friend who I met slinging sandwiches and who my father always called, mysteriously to me then, the salt of the earth. I know what he was talking about now. The second is the first friend I had when I was a mom, and who moved away a short year later and about whom my mother said I would never forget because "you remember always the people you raise your kids with." The third is the most fun friend I had during my decade in the music business and the first person I ever IMd; it was during the dial-up days -- even though we could say more in two minutes on the phone, we hunkered down over the computer for hours. She was one of a handful who supported me when I went out on my own to start my business. Her ex-boyfriend was one of my favorite clients and is still one of my favorite musicians.

Now, these three are long gone from my everyday. One is in LA, one in Minnesota, one in Baltimore. All are married, most with kids. The drama/hilarity/sweetness of our shared past is long, long gone, which has less to do with me being neglectful, and more to do with time and its relentless ways. Still, hearing their voices, on the page or the phone, I wish I was better at holding onto what I love.

My youngest will turn four in a week and that seems almost unknowable to me: I don't even look at the baby aisle in the grocery store anymore and I didn't realize how big that felt until recently. My kids say they never want to grow up and leave, my son is checking the mirror to see if his baby face is still staring back at him, and even as I remind them that their growing up and leaving someday is the measure of my motherhood, I know how they feel. It sucks when things change.

I just turned 38. I don't have the dismal lurking gloom of my own mortality, and still abuse my body, willingly, without much remorse, but I can see how easily my life could turn into nothing but a collection of memories and yearbook pages. So, I'm gonna resist it, and I will call back (promise!) and write back too.

In the meantime: thank God for the internets.