Monday, July 21, 2014

Things I've learned after 5 days in the Woods with the Boys


1. Not all paddles float. 

2. The longer one debates if the paddle is worth being rescued when it is 60 degrees outside and the lake is cold, the less likely the rescue attempt will succeed. 

3. Diving into lake to rescue paddle 3 seconds too late is cold and futile. And wet. Did I mention cold? 

4. Goggles also do not float long enough to be rescued. 

5. (Some) Amish people have a decent sense of humor about having model rockets land on their roof. 

6. Alpacas have three stomachs. They chew, swallow, regurgitate, and chew more. You can watch the food go up and down their necks, making their necks looks like big fuzzy anacondas.  I'm now quite sure that alpacas are really big headed snakes with legs. 

7. Little boys occasionally sing odes to their penises when they think no one is listening. 

8.  When one has lost a rocket or two onto the roof of the Amish farm, you can make a rocket out of a stick, which is way more satisfying than using a pre-made rocket.  This causes one to become obsessed with what else they can launch.  Ugly shoe launching seems a worthwhile endeavor.   

9.   It only takes about five minutes for small boys to collect enough rocks in their pockets for their pants fall completely off.

10.  When using a tractor to pull a truck out of the mud, it is best when the truck is taken out of park before the tractor guns it. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Name Calling - A Better Word Than Boyfriend

My father always called his love interests lady friends. It was sort of quaint, sort of awkward, but more accurate that girlfriend  at his age - they were grownup women, not girls. 


How then, does one introduce a man one is dating?  Boyfriend is too youthful.  I was done dating boys a long time ago.  Man-friend is ridiculous.  Beau is too unexpected, and too close to boo to work for me. Gentleman Caller is a little too old fashioned, and besides, I hate to talk on the phone. People never call me. 

As a child, I was saddled with awkward language to describe my mothers' relationship, and I recoil from words like significant other, or partner.  I stole the term honey from my friends at the flower shops of my youth, as in your honey is on the phone, but it doesn't work well with children.   I can't introduce my children to my honey.  It just doesn't work.  Same with suitor, companion, or Heaven-forfend lover.

I tell myself that I am smart and I can come up with a better word. 

"Mama, you are never getting married again, right?  You already did that before.  You are done with that," my eldest says. 

"Mama, I want a stepfather or a stepmother," my youngest says, "in case you or Daddy die."  Note to self: reassure youngest child about death.  

No, I am quite firmly not getting married again, even if Tiny Pants would like a tidy name in his lexicon like stepfather and I would like a more exact word than boyfriend. The only time I waver in this is when I see wedding dresses, but then I remind myself I can always have a really cool fancy party some day and wear an over-priced dress if I want to. The rest of it I am not ready to sign on for, and I don't see myself changing my mind for a long time. That means fiance is out of the question.

I have asked all of my writerly friends to coin a word for me, and none have taken up my challenge. I guess I'm going to have to do it myself.  

Special friend. Um, eek.

Thesaurus.com suggests darling, tootsie, flame, dearest, steady, sweetheart, suitor, swain. How do you even pronounce swain? That's a ski resort by my home town. 





Cohort.  That is totally what I will use around grownups. Maybe. But kids? Probably not.

Main Squeeze. Too 80s.  Besides the kids do not want anyone else squeezing their mother.


Paramour.  That's kind of cool, but I'm not entirely sure of its meaning.  




Um, no.  Too sexual, and besides, I'm not even married anymore so it doesn't apply.

Maybe there's a cool word in another language I can steal. Amigo. No. I'll try Yiddish, the language of my ancestors. Bwypr'nd. Guess that won't work either. 

Words.  I'm a writer.  I should be better at this.  Got any suggestions?







Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Best Advice I have Ever Been Given


A few nights ago I was very upset and stewing into the early morning hours over a fight I had with a loved one.  I was quite sure that I was entirely right and they were entirely wrong.  I asked on Facebook if anyone else was up - it was 4 o'clock in the morning - and an online writer friend I've never met in real life was awake and answered.  She lives in Guernsey where it was a perfectly normal time to be awake. 

I typed out my anger and heartbreak, and she said:

Listen to me very carefully, because I have to go pick someone up at the airport in five minutes.

OK, I typed, my heart full of hope for the One Great Answer that would change my life.  She was a single Mama, too. I was sure that her struggles led to Deep Insight, I was confident that her next words would change my life.

Image: allspammedup.com

Go to sleep.  It's the middle of the night.  You aren't going to resolve anything at four o'clock in the morning.

That was it. No judgement, no commiserating, no comment on my Great Personal Struggle. 

Go.  The F*ck.  To Sleep.  (I added the obscenity, she's far too polite for that.)

She was right.  Sleep didn't magically fix anything, but it certainly was better than mentally picking at sores all night and resolving nothing. 

It's 4:00 AM.  There are no magic words. Go to sleep and try and become rational. 

Had another friend answered, we might have stayed up for the rest of the night rehashing all my feelings and arguments and doing nothing but making me more sleep deprived.  Instead, she Mama'ed me and put me to bed.

Go to sleep. It will be better in the morning, or at least the same in the morning, but you'll be less tired at least.  It is truly the best advice we can give anyone in the middle of the night.

Thanks, Limpet Girl.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Analysis of Good Housekeeping's* Proven Diet Secrets


*Or a similar magazine. Don't remember, crushing disappointment has made me block out the details.



I was standing in line behind a really slow customer at the grocery store last night, and picked up the Good Housekeeping (or something like that) off the rack which promised something like Proven Weight Loss Secrets or maybe Weight Loss Secrets that Really Work. 

Seeing as my most comfortable mom jeans have suddenly become my tightest skinny jeans, I figured I'd read it for free while standing in line.  I mean why commit to buying the magazine if I don't know if it's good, right?  It's not like I ever buy magazines about house keeping.  I mean a house keeper cleans. I don't want to read about cleaning. 

GH (or whoever they were) gets some serious credit for having a easily locatable table of contents that referenced the teasers on the cover.  When one is stealthily reading magazines in the grocery line there is nothing worse than having to turn through 5 pages of ads to find the dang table of contents. 

I located the page and started skimming as quickly as I could.

 Diet blah blah blah Exercise blah blah blah.

This is there secret to losing weight? Diet and exercise?  I knew that! Everyone knows that!  This is not revolutionary!  That is no fun and hard work and not at all what I was looking for!

There were two secrets I didn't know:  drink more water and get more sleep.  I like to take naps.  I am taking the author's advice and starting the day with a glass of water while my coffee brews.  I'll let you know if it turns out to be a dieting miracle, but I don't have my hopes up. 

(I planned on linking to their article but I can't find it online. Perhaps it wasn't even Good Housekeeping that I read, but one of its clones. I did find this article on how to lose ten pounds and spoiler: it says to eat 1300 calories a day.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Can You Send Your Ex-husband a Father's Day Card?


I shared a meme on FaceBook the other day that said something like "Happy Father's Day to all the single mothers doing doing duty."  I shared it because I thought it was a nice recognition of the moms that are both mother and father to their kids, but I didn't think that much about it until a single dad friend replied something along the lines of "don't co-opt our holiday, it's hard enough being a non-custodial parent."

I thought about it for a while and took it off my wall. Being a single mother who doesn't have any father at all does not make you a father as well, it makes you a damn fine mother.  Kids, if that is your situation, don't buy two presents, one for each holiday, just a really big one on Mother's Day.  My friend was right, Mother's do get a day already.  I grew up having to recognize my lesbian stepmother for both holidays in order to appease her, and that irritated me.  Just pick one!  I used to think.

I thought further about Father's Day and although I had the boys make their father a card, I now wish I had made him one as well.

When he and I were getting divorced, I objected to shared parenting (to my lawyer, not to my ex) because I couldn't imagine the kids spending nights away from me.  "Don't worry, he'll get tired of it in a year," she said.  "It's not worth fighting over.  Fathers never keep up on visitation once it becomes a hassle.  Just wait it out."

The lawyer was wrong.  My ex is a damn fine father, and he has never shirked in his commitment to the children.  He never stood the kids up for any reason, not work, stomach flu, or knee surgery.  He takes them to a baseball field every day that he has them and throws balls over and over, something I tire of in about five minutes.

But the reason that women buy their husband's father's day cards is to recognize how the father makes the mother's job easier as well.  He rearranges his schedule for my school needs, as well as the boys' baseball schedule. He shares extra expenses without a fight.  We go to school conferences and talk about everything kid related extensively, not just school issues but sports and how they are adjusting and what push back we get from the little monsters about rules.  He's still my co-parent, even though we live in separate houses.

Before you get too dewy eyed and romantic, just know that this would not have been the case had we remained married.  The kids would have been raised in a household of tension and unhappiness if we stayed married.  There is no question that we function much better in two houses than one. This isn't a blog about reconciliation or reunification.

And it's not like we both agree with the way each other run our separate houses, but we recognize each other's right to have "Mama's house, Mama's rules, Daddy's house, Daddy's rules," and try not to interfere. 

The point here is that I appreciate my ex-husband.  It might not exactly be hallmark card appropriate, and honestly, I don't think my getting him a card would mean anything to him.  I'm not sure he'd even read it before he threw it out, not because he's mean but because he doesn't like to talk about stuff like that.  Actually, I think if I got him a card it would piss him off, because of course he's a good father, WTF did I think of him.  So I am saying it here, where he may or may not read it, but at least someone will. 

       

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Guest Post by my Brother, Papa Bear

My brother just had a new baby, and I asked him to guest post about  because he's a great writer and I think the male view of parenthood is underrepresented in the blogosphere.   Also, I'm back in school and have been neglecting my blog. (But that last bit is self-serving. I should go with the first two reasons.)

Please welcome Papa Bear, my 6'9" brother, and read his essay written in the middle of the night like all good parenting stories. I'm proud to be his sister.


Papa Bear. Note how close his head is to the ceiling.
Yes, he is really that tall.
June 9, 2014 12:06 A.M.   


Vigilant : adj.: keeping careful watch for danger or difficulty



I am an old man and have known a great many troubles,

but most of them have never happened.
Mark Twain

As I sit here, in the darkness of the third day of my son's third week of life, I realize I do not worry for him. He will most likely get scrapes and bumps, bruises and hurts; all of which we will bandage and I will comfort him. These are important things for him to have. Danger in small amounts, enough to learn from, to build confidence in himself. 

I do not worry, but I am vigilant to any dangers he cannot handle; and at just past two weeks there is a lot he cannot handle. Spitting up while lying down is his newest challenge. And when I hear a gurgle, I'm quick to raise him up, pat his back until greeted with mama's milk or a burp. He is also challenged and challenges me to what I expect in a nights' rest; but I am learning to appreciate the quiet darkness, to hearing his panting breathing from his bassinet; hearing him self soothe, sucking fingers or thumbs, to succor himself back to sleep.

I think my generation and the one that followed has become too worried for our children, forgetting we once were children. We have allowed safety to overrule common sense; we have followed the government and manufacturers warnings to the letter, often quoting them as gospel; when they are mainly, merely suggestions.  We once rode big wheels too fast down hills, that were way too steep; far exceeding manufacturers recommendations. We ate mud and threw snowballs; we walked to school during the blizzard of '78, because that's what our parents and their parents did. We rode our skateboards in pools and in traffic; we invented sports that didn't exist before we lived, because that's how crazy we were. I know you think, "well, I didn't." But enough people did; otherwise the X-Games wouldn't exist.

Vigilance should be our watchword; not worry. Caution and consideration, not fear and doubt. We should be ready to remove unnecessary danger, replace it with a little danger; fear has a place, it sharpens our senses, let's us know when to pay attention and when to relax. If you've never reached for a hot pan only to pull back a burned finger; you will never know how hot you can handle and how hot you can't.

No, I won't let my son play with a knife, but I will teach him to use one and expect he will know how to use one - to cook- far before other children are allowed to use spoons. I know life will come at him hard and fast, and I look forward to standing beside him: Papa's got your back! We who stand watchful in night, listening to coyotes baying and howling in the woods, we lock our windows and doors. There are things out there in the darkness to worry, even to fear; things to go bump in the night, but we stand vigilant to keep him safe.

Baby Bear, I love you. Papa has always got your back; I will stand up, tall as I am, to watch over you; keep you safe, bandage your knees and wash your cuts, hold you as you cry and comfort your heart when life and others break it. I love you, and you will not fear, (or only fear a little) while I am on watch.



Friday, June 6, 2014

Tam-pedos


Mama, can you put this in your pocket?"  Tiny Pants held out a fistful of sticks he had collected along the shore.
"No, Tiny, you put them in your pockets," I said.
"But, Mama, my pockets are full!" 

What could I do? I allowed the latest additions to his stick and rock collection to fill my pockets as we walked along the beach.  

"Look, Mama! A torpedo!"  Tiny Pants held out his latest treasure:



It was nice blue color, and it had a stick that went in and out.  In a six year old boy's mind, it was an awesome treasure.

"No!  Drop it, Tiny Pants!  It's garbage."

"But what is it?" he asked.

"I don't know, but it's plastic.  We only collect nature, not plastic."

Of course I knew what it was.  I am female, and I menstruate.  I have even used such a thing before, but never on the beach.  I've always been astonished by the sheer volume of tampon applicators along every shoreline I have visited.  I've never seen a beach without them.  Do they float better than other garbage and thus wash up on the sand? But what about all the rest of the refuse? Why is is predominantly tampon applicators that liter the beaches, and not piles of other flotsam? 

Do women use them nonchalantly on the beach and bury them? I can't imagine this would be the case.  Sure, one or two women might do that, but practically every single beach I have been on in my entire life  has had at least one little menstrual torpedo on it. 

Did aliens come and collect an astonishing number of tampons, thinking they were weapons,  and once they realized they were not, just throw them on the beaches?

Or are they made of something completely indestructible, and like cockroaches, can survive anything?  Are these insertion units really the same ones I saw in my own childhood?  Tampon applicators are neither created nor destroyed, merely redistributed upon our shores.