Monthly Archives: March 2011

My Many Cribs.

Counting things makes me feel all nice and relaxed.

That is, until I start to wonder if it’s a sign of an obsessive-compulsive disorder that has lain dormant for years. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that anyone who takes a careful look at their life can find some sign that they are three symptoms away from a diagnosis of OCD. It is the disorder of the season, from what I hear. If I can just sort of bitch-slap that thought aside, I can embrace the counting. I’m not in the front yard counting rocks or anything—I’m not insane. But if you know me, you may have noticed that numbers are somewhat important to me. I’ve counted jobs and car accidents, and for some reason I felt the need to add up all the numbers in my birthday. And today I finally sat down to count something I have wanted count for years: since 1991, I have moved thirty times and lived in five different states.

Is that a lot?

Never Make A Deal When You’re Drunk.

Once upon a time, John and I totally freaked out and moved to Cleveland. We had both been in Tucson, for seven or eight years and were once again sick and tired of the heat (as we are every year in June or July, so get ready). One night we went out for a pitcher of margaritas, decided to move, and sealed the deal with a handshake.

We are no longer allowed to make any decisions over a pitcher of margaritas. Just FYI.

Just months before, we had visited my sister, who lives just outside of Cleveland. It was fall, and the day Christin took us for a drive through the city and its outlying nooks and crannies, it was crisp outside, with beautiful leaves falling gently off the trees and the sun shining through a beautiful partly-cloudy sky. It was as though it was designed to make both John and I fall in love with the city. Seriously, it’s like my sister called ahead and had the scene professionally staged. We left from that visit smitten. Yes, with Cleveland.

We left Tucson at the end of August and lasted exactly four months in Cleveland before moving back. (I would like to take a moment to thank all of the people in our lives who never mocked us to our faces for the, um, quick turnaround, which, apparently, was predicted. And possibly bet on.)

In defense of Cleveland, which people seem to think is a shitty city, it is actually a fantastic city. It has gorgeous architecture, an amazing music scene, some pretty impressive record shops, and my sister. And for those of you who were super excited to have us back in Tucson, remember that we not only made my family happy by moving to Cleveland, but we made them (and us) really sad by leaving Cleveland.  Just sayin’. Bittersweet, people. Bittersweet.

The apartment we lived in briefly was in an awesome old red-brick building, and we scored a place on the first floor, which was both good and bad. Good because I am really freaking lazy and hate stairs and bad because we happened to live under people who preferred to do their vacuuming at midnight. The apartment had wood floors throughout, the backyard had, like, actual grass and some trees with leaves on it, and it was walking distance away from a fairly “hip” part of Cleveland. The apartment was almost perfect. But the job situation, alas, was not. Let’s just say that the fact that I had to call myself a “relaxation specialist” and work for a control-freak psycho business owner did nothing to make me feel either warm or fuzzy about the future of my career.

However, our mailman looked exactly like Ray Liotta, but bloated and pock marked.

We moved back not just broke, but financially devastated. I wish that were an overstatement, but dude, it may actually be an understatement. If it weren’t for the good deeds done by some people in our lives, I honestly don’t know what we would have done. Our former landlords in Tucson allowed us to stay in our old place until we were able to find ourselves a place that fit our budget —in exchange for one massage. One massage, yo! People are nice! Unless they’re smokin’ the crack. Not so nice then.

Which segues quite nicely into . . .

The Drug Dealing, Prostituting Midget.

We chose our new apartment for its location, affordability, and lack of ghettoness. It was a tiny but charming one-bedroom in a small complex of four duplexes. When we moved in, they were all occupied by what seemed like quiet, nonpsychotic people. And for one month, it remained that way. The only offense my share–a-wall neighbor could have been accused of was her love of Jack Johnson and her need to play him loudly, thus sharing her love with others. I was basically forced to listen to mediocrity, like, twice. At the time I huffed and puffed about it, but just weeks later, I found myself yearning for the sounds of Jack Johnson.

And that is not a statement you will ever hear from me again.

The landlords were at least 85 years old. They seemed, well, like they needed to be placed. In a home. For, like, old people. They were sweet, but just really fucking old! I think that maybe—just maybe—they were blind. Or just a little blind. Can you be just a little blind? Watch. Now, just to punish me, the SIPNEL is going to see to it that I become just a little blind.

Our sweet little mainstream neighbor moved out one month after we moved in. Now, I’ve moved so many freaking times in my life that I have learned to just go with the flow, neighborwise . There’s never any telling what that situation is going to be like. Then, two things happened at once. First the neighbor kitty-corner to us either fell off the wagon or just decided to start advertising his beer consumption. He parked a shopping cart on our shared front lawn and began tossing his empties into it. Within weeks, it was literally overflowing with Budweiser cans, and I was overflowing with total disgust.

When our new share-a-wall neighbor moved in, everything was pretty quiet for a while, so I thought, well great! Dodged a bullet there! And then it became clear to me that our little neighbor (and when I say “little,” I am being inappropriately literal) was more than just living there. She was running a business, and business was booming. Cars began coming and going all day long. Different cars, different men, and at all hours of the day and night. She had people staying with her, on and off, of all different ages, and they were all very, very evasive. I seriously think that not one single person looked me in the eye the entire time we lived there. It was both creepy and sort of okay with me.

Pardon me while I get all new agey on you but, really, there was some bad energy going on over there. At one point, I walked by her unit as she was showering, and I heard her hock a loogie. I have never, ever, ever been the same. I realize that that has absolutely nothing to do with “energy,” but still, it was gross. And when I think of that time, all I hear is the sound of her hacking it up and spitting it out playing over and over again . . . So, to recap, there was both bad energy and phlegm.

We knew that whatever was going on next door was bad. I knew that she was dealing within the first two weeks of her moving in (because, apparently, I am a pro), but I still only assume she was also a prostitute. Let’s just say that she left little to the imagination, and she spent about twenty to thirty minutes with at least ten different men each day. Who knows? Maybe she was a tutor! Like, a high-speed, scantily clad tutor!

Then one night, John and I heard a body being slammed against the wall, and a few people shouting. And it wasn’t like, “you are such a jerk!” type shouting. It was more like, “I’m going to rip your fucking heart out!” type shouting. Something smashed, people were screaming, things were hitting our wall, and we called 911. After we talked to the police and found out that our neighbor had been assaulted but refused to talk to the police about it, we figured that it was time for us to move out. We found out the next day that some guy had freaked out and pulled a gun on her and threatened to shoot her but instead threw her up against a wall, stole her bike and took off.

So, it was a classy encounter.

We moved out one week later, but we left with memories, and a song that our friend made up to the tune of “Jimmie Crack Corn” that goes like this:

“Midget crack whore, and I really care!

Midget crack whore, and I really care!”

Basically, it was a win-win.

Totally Deaf.

When I was 21, a miraculous thing occurred. I moved onto the top floor of a beautiful home, in a residential area of my hometown in New York, with two good friends of mine. We were in the house for less than a week when I glimpsed the people living below us and realized that I had known them years ago, as they were the parents of an old friend from junior high. They were amazingly nice people, and also totally deaf. Now, I’m not sure what you were doing when you were 21, but I was busy doing bong hits. Straight up. And I was doing them with a lot of people, late into the night, every single night.

It was a whole bunch of tomfoolery! Crazy kids, us.

At the time we thought ourselves pretty clever, and lucky, not realizing that when one sense is eliminated, all other senses are heightened. Whatever we thought we were getting away with, I can guarantee you we weren’t. One night, one of my roommates came home from being out and was so drunk he fell up the stairs, and then back down the stairs, and then back up, then down, and finally up, collapsing just in the doorway. It was so loud that I’m pretty sure that all hibernating animals everywhere came out of their holes and looked around. At the time we felt relieved that our neighbors couldn’t have heard a thing, but now, years later, I know that they at the very least felt it. And they probably smelled him coming a mile away.

This, not surprisingly, was one of the best and most blissfully ignorant times in my life. I’m pretty sure I have never laughed harder, nor had such close, intense relationships with people since. It was, like, deep, man. And I know for a fact that I have never hung another poster of Jim Morrison on my wall, or taped lyrics to a Pearl Jam song on my door, or lit as much incense. The final days in this apartment were so bittersweet that we all pulled our mattresses out into the main room and had what felt like a weeklong slumber party in preparation for our eventual separation. I am being completely serious when I say that the day I watched my roommates drive away in packed cars was one of the saddest days of my life. And it was the end of free bong hits, so that sucked. I knew, though, that it was a time that would never be replicated, and I think I knew too that it had left more of an impression on me than it had on my roommates. I suppose I could be wrong (although I never am), but for me, at the time, I felt like I lost my brother and sister all in one day.

That’s just depressing.

I Swear We Aren’t Wealthy.

And now I live in a fancy house. Well, we live in a fancy house. I clearly don’t live alone. Oh boy, what I wouldn’t give to live alone. The quiet! The free movement around the house! Dinners with herbs and vegetables that I like! But alas, I went all suburban and landed a man and had some kids. But the house that we live in right now is righting all the wrongs. The storage unit, the midget crack whore, the floors that smelled of bong water, the crazy drunk guy that lived above me and played his piano every night at 3 am, the apartment with no doors on the cupboards, the efficiency that was crawling with ants and buzzing with flies, the idiot decision to live for free in a house with a guy that ended up being a giant pervert, the extra bedroom of a hoarder, the apartment that was robbed . . . all of it is made up for by the fact that we have both a mountain view and a city view. We deserve the sweet, sweet deal we get on our sweet, sweet house. Because we have paid our dues.

Oh man, we have definitely paid our dues.

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Filed under Before Children., Children., Confessions.

Catch!

There are a lot of reasons why I feel like a shitty Mom, but there may be no bigger reason than realizing that you have an almost five year old that has no idea how to catch a ball. And to top that off, what made you realize it wasn’t the fact that you, as a mother, thought about how important it is for a child to know how to catch a ball, or that it might even be fun for him. I didn’t even think about it much at all! No, what I thought about in regard to sports or anything sports-related were the following things:

1. I fucking hate sports.

2. I don’t want to buy another ball.

3. The last time we went to the park in order to kick a ball around during my my-kids-don’t-get-enough-exercise kick, it was hell. I ended up chasing Luca across the field while he ran away from me at least eight times, until I got fed up and we left the park.

4. Teaching kids how to do something new requires patience. I don’t have any of that.

5. I’m tired.

6. Me? Totally lazy.

7. I fucking hate sports.

But you know what I remembered last night? I remember that it isn’t about me. This is a rather difficult concept for me to digest, since I am me and I am with me all of the time, so it’s pretty freaking hard to disregard me. I’m all up in my face! However, children were put on this earth just to shatter any ego or image of self that we may have had. So last night, when Rowan had a semi-meltdown because he wasn’t allowed to bounce a particularly hard ball in the house, he started to cry and said, “I’ll never learn how to catch a ball!”

So it seems that I have failed my child in this way, at least.

It isn’t that Rowan lacks confidence as a result of not being able to catch a ball. So far, the temperament he has shown (whether it is a result of us or his own personality will forever remain a mystery) is that of a more contemplative child. Yesterday at school, Rowan was playing with the fox and other plastic animals in the sand table along with some other boys. Later, I said to him, “Rowan, it looks like Billy* played really nicely with you at the sand table today.” Rowan looked up at me and with a look of both shock and thinly veiled disgust said, “Well, Billy doesn’t know anything about animals. He thought a platypus was a beaver!” and did a facepalm.

Some kids catch balls, other kids know about animals. I suppose that there are kids that can do both. Rowan is the kind of kid who, when asked what his favorite animal is, asks, “prehistoric, dinosaur, modern creatures, prehistoric sea creatures, deep sea creatures, or regular sea creatures?” before giving you an answer. He is a student of all living things with scales or fur. Sure, some kids like organized sports or running around, but my kid knows how many tons a liopleurodon weighed and what time period it lived in. He asked for a Xiphias gladius, by name, for Christmas when he was three, and whenever we go on a walk, if we happen to see poop of any kind, he calls it dung and then tries to track the animal that made the dung.

Quick! Time for a poll!!

Last week, when I was parent helper for Rowan’s class, he came in crying, with a boy following him saying, “You’re a liar! There is no such thing as a dimetrodon!” and Rowan whirled around and said, “There is so! There just isn’t a book here with a picture of a dimetrodon in it!” and then he crossed his arms as if to say, this conversation is OVER. So the next day, this came to school with us:

And someone got schooled.

Still, I feel I’ve done Rowan a disservice by not encouraging him to play ball, or by not taking him to tumble time when he was little. One of the biggest reasons I didn’t do that is because I didn’t really want to go to tumble time. You can’t just drop a kid off at tumble time! You have to, like, participate! And on the few occasions I managed to take him to the inflatable-slide-and-jumping-castle place, I spent the entire time going down slides with him because he was so freaked out by the whole thing, and then I was seasick the rest of the day because the movement of those inflated things totally screws with me.

And remember, it’s all about me.

Whenever I have tried to encourage any sort of physical activity, my kids seem to just totally freaking hate it. Rowan has been known to run 6 feet and then sit down saying, “Whew! That really tired me out!” Which has led me to declare to John that our kids are lazy. [Actually, I think he’s quoting his father when he does that. –Ed.] Recently, in a surge of motivation, I started trying to get Luca to catch a ball. He laid down the entire time, and whenever the ball managed to land near his arms, he would cuddle with it. It was both adorable and totally pathetic.

Hey! Sort of like me!

So now I oscillate between feeling like a bad mother for not pushing Rowan toward more physical activity and feeling like if he had showed any interest in it at all, in any way, I would have made it happen for him. All the signs point me in the direction of supporting his intellect, and really, they always have. He has never been interested in the type of activity other boys are interested in. I see kids climbing shit at school that Rowan is just not interested in. At all. And at times I’ve wondered if this is a bad thing. Will he feel as if he can’t keep up with other boys? The teachers even asked me to have his eyes checked, in case, instead of just being apprehensive about crossing planks, he was actually unable to see them clearly. They even mentioned that when kids run toward him, he puts his hands out to protect himself. They thought his depth perception was off, and I thought that would explain a lot! But now that we’ve had his eyes checked and know he has perfect vision, I think, well, he’s just Rowan. He just doesn’t want to cross planks until he’s ready, and he shouldn’t. And I don’t blame the kid for putting up a defense when kids come running at top speed toward him. I would do the same thing! Kids are insane!

I suppose I can’t be all that bad as a mother, since I wrote most of this post while Luca sat on my lap and shoved popcorn into my mouth. And I only yelled at him three times! So, see? Not so bad. I’ll work on teaching Rowan how to catch a ball. Because he asked me to, not because I feel guilty. And I bet you one thing: he’ll learn it because he wants to.

*I totally made the name “Billy” up. Well, not the entire, like, history of the name, just the name in this instance. Sheesh.

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Filed under Children., Confessions.

Preschool Confidential.

One day, while John and I were busy smoking the crack*, we decided that it would be a fantastic idea if we sent our kids to a co-operative school. You know, one that hinges on parent involvement and community-building? And let’s not forget fundraising, committees, and work parties, oh my! And so in that haze of crack, we signed Rowan up, and now, two years later, I still don’t have the hang of it. I mean, I’m better than I was. Way better, in fact, considering that no other parent has had to approach me tentatively this year, asking me if I am doing alright, due to some sort of obvious mental breakdown in the play yard. Yes, better than that.

Oh sweet invisible possibly nonexistent lord, I wish that I was being sarcastic.

The largest commitment that you sign up for with the school that we chose is something called parent helper days. We are (okay, I am) required to be in the classroom 12 times each year. I stay for the entire class, do all the manual labor, cleaning, and general servant-type stuff. And then, of course, I am expected to be one of three mature people in the room. Oh, and I am also supposed to help with the whole kid aspect too. You know, being able to handle situations that need to be handled, knowing when to let the kids “work it out”, tying shoes, pointing out the tissues, etc. But, as I have so cleverly illustrated for you in other posts, children are savages. And thus, I have learned a great lesson. A lesson that is both comforting and a little shitty, since the lesson includes the fact that I really should not be anywhere near small children in great volume. There are so many reasons why. I mean besides the fact that children are evil.

Here are just a few of the reasons why I am serving my own needs and the public’s by not being a preschool teacher:

1. The fashion. Good God! The fashion, it suffers so! Today, I actually wore sneakers. With jeans. While for me this is typically unacceptable, I felt that it was the only choice for me in this instance. What with the snot, mud, and the fact that we are now giving the children pitchers to pour their own milk with. I tried to dress it up with a necklace but it just didn’t work for me.

2. The snot. I’m sorry but there is no child other than my own whose nose I want to wipe. And some kids are just total snotballs. I have the daintiest boys on the freaking planet, which will cause problems later, I’m sure, but for now makes for a very, very, very clean face. Other kids will seriously let the snot slide all the way down to their upper lip. And then—and then—they lick it off. And that is the last thing on earth that I want to watch. First the snot! Then the licking! If you could see the look on my face as I witness this happening . . . well, that sort of leads nicely into . . .

3. I am completely incapable of masking my true feelings. You know how some people will ask you, “What’s one thing you would change about yourself if you could?” well, I have a few, but one of the things I would change is that I wish I wasn’t so fucking transparent. I literally rolled my eyes at a kid today. (Well, he was being ridiculous.) I’m sure the look on my face whenever I see snot pouring out of a kid’s nose is one of, first, shock, then disbelief, moving into horror, and sliding on home into disgust. This is in no way an exaggeration.

4. Girls.

5. Girls. Oh my god, the girls.

6. Girls. Are. Insane. I have witnessed things between the girls in this class that I only experienced in High School. And these kids aren’t even 5 years old yet! Unfortunately, I spoke out loud (really, never a good idea) today to the teacher’s assistant about how I felt about the girls. It went something like this:

“Wow. These girls are really aggressive!”

“Oh. Yes, we have some self-assured girls in our class. They have incredible self esteem!”

Really?

If a grown woman said a tenth of the things that these girls say to one another ( the things that are classified as self-assurance and -esteem) I can guaran-fucking-tee you that that woman would have absolutely no friends.

Already in place is the hierarchy of popularity, causing immense hurt feelings between the more aware girls. (Some are just happy drawing or playing “cat.”) The most popular girl in the group (and trust me, we all know who that is) already flips her hair, and says things like, “don’t you wish you had a dress as pretty as I do?” while twirling. They have mastered the art, at 4–5 years old, of eye-rolling and huffing, and have left even me feeling excluded.

5. Everything’s so freaking small. So small and cramped that I smashed my ear so hard on a shelf today that I actually said, “Fuck!” out loud. Thankfully I was alone in the room, because it would have been hard to get out of that one. All I did was lean down and then stand up while turning and out of nowhere came the shelf! Stupid tiny room.

6. I’m totally absent minded. So much so that I have already taken home a spoon and lost one glove and one earring. Oh, and I ate almost an entire row of the kids’ crackers while setting up for snack time. That’s not so much absent minded as just weird.

7. If you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to, well, say sort of insane things around the worst type of people, or at the worst times. For example, today when a little girl told me that she got paint on her hand, I told her to spit on it and wipe it off. Now, my kids would have known that I was kidding, because they’ve heard it all before, but this girl actually considered spitting on her hand.

8. I want to kick the ass of any kid that is mean to Rowan. Straight up. And let me tell you, kids are mean to Rowan. We’ve got the, “I hate you!” kid and the “you’re stupid” kid. Today there was the “you’re a liar!” kid and the “you can’t play here!” kid. A couple of months ago, when a boy told Rowan that no dinosaurs were allowed in the area the kid was playing in (and Rowan was, of course, a dinosaur) Rowan went into the classroom, made a sign that said “YES! DINOSAURS ALLOWED!” grabbed a piece of tape, walked out to where the kid was and taped his sign up right next to him.

BOOYAH!

Truth be told, Rowan usually doesn’t handle any of these moments as well as he handled the “no dinosaurs allowed” moment. He cries pretty hard and takes all of it to heart. It’s awful to watch, and I spend a lot of time biting my lip and letting the teacher handle it. If I handled it, I am afraid that I would be asked to leave the grounds and then be barred from returning. It’s excruciating to see your child spoken to as if they aren’t the most special person on the planet. And if I was a better person, I would probably just shake it off, but as it is, I just file away the name of the nasty kid and what they said to Rowan so that later, if I see them in a dark alley I can . . . I don’t know, pull his hair, or . . . be, like, really mean to him.

So let’s all take a moment, bow our heads, and silently offer up to the sweet invisible possibly non existent lord, our thanks. Thank you, S.I.P.N.E.L, thank you for steering me away from early childhood education and into bodywork, where I get to dim the lights, light a candle, turn on some lilting music in the back ground and just work.

And no one ever, ever, ever licks their snot.

 

*We don’t actually smoke, and never have smoked the crack. I’m not saying we never will…

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Filed under Children., Confessions.