Saturday, March 30, 2013

Goat Boys

My ex is not a bad parent, he just has a slightly different parenting theory than I do. When we were married, I came up with the following brilliant resolution:

 Me:  "Hey, I have an idea.  We don't let the kid cry it out, and I get up for every waking, every night forever, and you stop telling me how to raise this kid." 
Ex: "Ok."

Me: "I have an idea.  We'll do cloth diapers. I'll change the baby for every dirty diaper, and you shut up about it being gross."
Ex:  "Ok."

See how easy I am to get along with? Turns out that didn't work well in the long run. I didn't renege on the deal, in case you were wondering, but I did resent him for keeping to it.  Also, I think he missed out on a fair amount of bonding, because I did all the child care all the time.

Anyway, once I became a single parent, I revelled in the joy of being the one to make all the rules.  Occasionally the ex would attempt to control things at my house, like nutrition, or toe nail painting, but I gleefully told him, "My house, my rules."  I didn't realize that the down side of that is "his house, his rules."

My ex loves video games, TV, football, and farting.  Three nights a week Daddy's Rules reign supreme, and there is nothing I can do about it but glower, like the time Big Pants came home with a sore arm from playing the Wii for 10 hours straight. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he thinks I am warping the kids by painting their toenails and eating fast food. I'm not saying he is evil, just that he parents differently and it's frustrating to have no control over that.

Today I took the boys to the beach.  It was 40-ish sunny degrees, and we ran around and climbed rocks.  We as in me, too. They got scrapes and I got blisters, but we had a blast.  Big Pants decided we needed to "protect the waterways," and collected a bag of litter all by himself. We were getting our nature on,  climbing this giant breakwall of assorted rocks and Tiny Pants looked at me and said in his best speech-impeded five year old voice, "This is the goodest life, Mama.  People who sit inside on a nice day  and just play video games and sit in front of their computers don't know how to live."

You see, I mean to be that mother, who takes the kids outside, teaches them about nature, recycling, grows organic food, and knits my own socks.  I really planned on being that mother.  But a lot of the time I let my kids watch TV and eat anything they can rummage in the kitchen while I take a nap or do homework. I wanted to make my own toys and homeschool, but a significant portion of the time I really just want them to go play and not mess up the living room too much again

I tell myself it is a balance between modern conveniences and the natural world, and on days like today I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job of it, so as a reward for all that sun and fresh air, we hit up the KFC drive through on the way home.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Liar, Liar, Wait, Mama's Pants Really Aren't On Fire

So my son caught me in a lie the other day.  Not a big lie, but what we used to call "white lies" before we realized such a term was (a) racist by implying white was better than black and (b) minimizing/justifying our lying behavior.  In other words, it was a small lie designed to avoid hurting someone's feelings.

Technically, it wasn't a lie, but it was intentionally misleading. I opened my mouth to explain this important distinction to my five year old,  but for once I realized that teaching him the finer points of justification would likely bite me in the keister at a later date. See? I can grow, too.  I can exhibit foresight on occasion.

Here's what happened.  I was talking on the phone while driving home from the bank. I didn't have time or energy for a lengthy conversation, but I didn't say that.  What I said was, "I can't talk now, we are going to Speech." 

As soon as I hung up, Tiny Pants asked if we were on our way to Speech. I said we were going in about an hour. 

"Then why did you say on the phone that we were going to Speech now????"

Huh. Well, err, yeah. Well, because I wanted to get off the phone.  Several times that day he brought it up again, reminding me never to discuss anything secret like birthday presents or bank heists in front of him. Once that kid hears something he shouldn't he's like a pit pull. 

Luckily, my oldest child saved the day by way of a school handout on TACT.  That's right- I wasn't lying, I was being TACTFUL!  Awesome!  We had a lengthy conversation about tact, , which he swore he didn't need to care about because the paper said it was for use with children ages 9-11, and he is only 7. Still, I forced him to and we discussed the questions he was baffled by in school. 

Scenario :  Your friend has a new baby sister and you think it's the ugliest baby you have ever seen. When your friend asks, "Isn't she cute?" What do you say?

Big Pants: Mama, I have no idea. (He cherishes honesty and kindness very highly.)
Mama:  Just say she's tiny! 
Big Pants: MAMA! (exasperated, like I am so unhelpful!)
Mama: No, Like this:  Your friend says, "Isn't she cute?" And you say, "And tiny!" And your friend says, "And cute!" and you say, "And tiny!" See? You're just avoiding the question.
Big Pants: (falls on the floor laughing)

Apparently tact is hysterical, and apparently I forgot it even existed as a separate thing from lying. Thank God school saved my lying guilty behind...and good thing I'm not a home schooler.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marriage, with and without Gays

First off, I am not a huge fan of marriage. I believe in long term committed relationships, I'm just not sure why we have to get the courts involved. Pieces of paper don't make someone love you more.  I tried it , but after divorce number two I decided that perhaps I wasn't good at it and should take a different path.  I think I don't look at it the proper way, or maybe I do look at it the proper way, and it is an archaic institution.

1. While my love is not conditional, the circumstances under which I will live with someone certainly are.  I realized that I have never meant "till death do us part." I wanted to mean it, and I thought I meant it, but in my brain it was always "till death do we part, unless you treat me badly, go to jail justifiably,or become a addict, etc."  I think many people think this way, they just don't admit it.  We have the option of divorce in our society, and while it is isn't the ideal, with half of all marriages ending in divorce, it isn't looked down on the way it once was.

2. I think the relationship suffers when both people feel safe, also known as  trapped.  It is easy to stop trying to look your best for your partner, to stop being polite to one another, to stop attempting to share each other's interests,  and to stop trying to surprise each other with little thoughtful moments.  The idea that I don't have to do that anymore because we are married-be it shower regularly, say excuse me when I burp, buy you a present for a holiday, whatever-  is toxic to relationships.  People should be together because they want to, not because escape is too difficult.  It is easy to drift into parallel lives cohabiting together but not really functioning together, but that was never what I wanted in life.  If I was going to spend the rest of my life with a roommate, I would have chosen based on different criteria, like their love of cleaning and cooking and staying out of my hair, coupled with their furniture and electronic equipment.  

 3. I don't think marriage gives any security.  Yes, you can get their social security after 10 years together, inheritance is easier and there are tax benefits if you are in the right bracket, but that's kind of it.  Nowadays, many employers allow domestic partner's to be covered on health insurance and child support laws have made it practically impossible to be deadbeat dad.  Besides, my mothers raised me to be a feminist, and I like feeling like I can support myself and kids, though perhaps not lavishly, certainly adequately. I wasn't raised to think I "needed" a man to take care of myself.

4. I will never change my last name again.  I did it twice, and it was weird. I have no desire to give up my name for someone else.  My parents did an incredibly awesome job of pairing my first and last names, and I don't think any person I chose based on love would randomly have a better one. Just listen…Only Mama…it's like music.  Only Smith doesn't have the same ring to it.  Now if I chose to marry based on name quality alone, I could be Only Fabulous, or Only Magical, but the chances of falling in love with someone with the proper name is unlikely.  The man could take my name though, that would be just fine.  Mr. and Mrs. Mama.

5.  I do love me a good wedding.  I love the dress, the flowers, the dress, the favors, planning the menu, the dress, shopping for all the tiny details, the dress. When it occurred to me that that much attention could be given to any party, say New Year's Eve or my upcoming birthday, I realized weddings and marriages could be separated, or more specifically, big awesome parties and marriages don't have to be sold as a package - you can have one without the other.

All that being said, that doesn't mean marriage isn't great for other people.  I know a lot of couples who are happily married and to be honest, I do envy that.  I don't think the piece of paper makes it more real or lasting, but I admire long term happy relationships, whether gay or straight.  If you can find someone you are completely nuts about that is just as nuts about you, and you can coexist together without killing each other too much, you have won, whether you fit into the mold of what society thinks couples should look like or not.  

If gay people want to marry, they should be able to.  Anyone who wants to give marriage a shot should have the right to do so.  I love the recent surge of pictures, icons, and posts on social media in favor of gay marriage.  Growing up as a bullied child harassed by people intolerant of homosexuality, it makes my heart sing to see it, although it is harder to determine which of my friends is saying what on Facebook, because most of them have the same profile picture today.

 Obviously, I have a bias, though it might not be the bias you expect.  My two moms did everything they could to feel married.  They had anniversary parties, renewed their vows about 50 times, got a civil union in Vermont, and a legal marriage in Canada. The right to marry is hugely important to them.

But there's another side, too.  I know a lot of lesbian couples who exchange rings and get "married" after three weeks or so of being together.  Most of the time this doesn't last, so they take their rings off and move on.  Because I am not as sweet of a person as I would like you to believe, I think they should have to think about divorce and all the BS straight people do when they tell everyone they are married. They have just as much of a right to legal divorce as legal marriage. Ouch,  I am a bad person, I told you.  


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fish are Like Flowers

We have fish, somewhat unintentionally - sort of the unplanned pregnancy of pet acquisition.   We have the fish that was a party favor at a birthday party (replacement #3 of that fish, I should say) along with his/her two friends.  

Here's how that worked:  Go to birthday party where they are giving out fish. Child begs you to keep fish. Remember how mad you were that your mom wouldn't let you keep carnival goldfish. Allow fish to be selected from kiddie pool by teenager with net and placed in bag.  Go to store and spend $80 on fish supplies and two nineteen cent "friends" for free fish.  Allow children to name fish: Monkey, Banana, and Friend.
Fish are fun and pretty to look at.  And then they die.  And then children cry and will eventually need therapy from the trauma.  So I get new fish and pretend they are the same fish, except the children recognize minute differences in the fish and I confess under pressure that I got new similar fish.  And then the new fish mysteriously die, too. And children cry.  This time, I explain that fish are like flowers.  They are living creatures and pretty to look at, but they don't always last very long.  This seems to be accepted and the tears dry up.  Monkey, Banana, and Friend Version Three have been around for a year, I think. I am proud.

Last year Daddy's sister gave him a beta (fish) as a joke, because he had a fish as a kid and got very upset when it died.  In an effort to poke the old wound with a stick, she thought it would be funny to give him a fish.   The kids were excited about the pretty blue fish, and asked what to name it.

"The fish is named Mama's. Because that's whose fish it is," he said, and sent the fish home with them to my house.  It was a lovely fish for about ten months, but then it became extremely lethargic.  It's been "Beta Death Watch" for about six weeks now, and I'm not sure if it is ill or just depressed. It floats in one spot, barely moving, and just when I think it's dead, it moves to another place.

It's recent deathbed is the top of the plastic plants, purchased to somehow make it happier. Said plants have somehow become unstuck from the bottom of the tank and are now floating upside down, making a nice little fish-sofa near the surface of the water. In order to see the fish, you have to remove the lid of the tank.  

It turns out, if you are trying to determine if the fish has finally given up the ghost, the most efficient way to do that is to open the lid with a cat peering over your shoulder. Turns out that fish can move at lightning speed. Maybe it just needs an occasional adrenaline rush? 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lessons From Drag Queens

I love drag shows.  I love drag queens.  I love anyone with a in-your-face this is who I am if you don't like it go stuff it attitude, particularly if said individual is also covered in glitter at the time.

My first exposure to drag queens was when I lived in Key West, and like many things, that first impression has stuck as the "proper" one.  In Key West drag queens came in all sizes and shapes, but all were over 6 feet tall in their shoes.  They all had choreographed routines they knew to the letter, fabulous hair, clothes, platform heels, and perfectly applied makeup, including extremely glittery lips.  When I was dating,my favorite New Boyfriend Test was a trip to the 801 bar.  If he couldn't hang with drag queens, he wasn't the one for me.  I also loved the role reversal of straight boys being sexually harassed by drunk men, but that's a separate story.

I had the good fortune of obtaining a drag queen roommate in Key West, who explained many of the mysteries of Drag to me.  Beverly explained the range of boob choices, why platform heels were a must, where to buy the best corsets, and how to pick a proper wig.  They only thing she refused to tell me was how to tuck. (If you don't know what I am talking about here, you'll have to do some googling on your own.)

I saw my next Drag Show in Chicago, and I was let down.  Many of the girls had condescending, scornful attitudes and breast implants.  They were unapproachable, unfriendly, and somewhat alien.  They made me miss my Key West girls tremendously.

Fast forward to this past weekend, when I had the rare fortune of attending a drag show in western Pennsylvania. These girls were amateur.  They had cheap clothes, bad wigs, and no one had a heel over 3 inches, but they were impeccably made up.  They were queen-sized girls - by that I mean the large, curvy variety, ranging in size from a pleasantly curvy size 8 to one whose thighs were larger than my waist.  And they did cartwheels.

These girls lip-synced their hearts out, dancing, doing splits, and, yes, doing cartwheels, some of them one handed.  Now, I am in reasonably good shape, and on the rare occasion that I do a cartwheel (in the grass, not a tile dance floor) it hurts.  It hurts my wrist bones. It jars all my joints when I land.  I don't think I could ever possibly consider doing one in heels of any height. You had to give these girls mad props.

Now, as I have mentioned before, I was raised by lesbians. (someone once pointed out that this phrasing is similar to "raised by wolves" but I like it.) I have some experience -- ok, a lot of experience -- with public ridicule.  I know what it is like to be called Lezzie for years on end and having rocks (ok, one rock) thrown through your window.  I know what it is like to be singled out due to sexuality, even though it was not my own. It made me want to curl into a ball and hide in the bushes, hoping to be swallowed up by the earth.  It did not make me want to do cartwheels or fiercely defy everyone who said I wasn't good enough.  I only wish I could have the courage of a drag queen.

Lessons learned:
Be yourself and be LOUD.
If you are not society's ideal of beauty, still know that YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
When people oppress you and say you are not right, not proper, not acceptable, DO CARTWHEELS.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Best Friends in Life Are Bouncy

This is my best friend, whom we'll call Asterisk.  Nothing bonds people so much as going through major life events at the same time, and Asterisk and I met the week after we each had left our ex-husbands.  We were like survivors of the same shipwreck who shared a lifeboat. It was great for all of us; my oldest and her youngest were one year apart - age three and four at the time. It really helped them to have a friend going through the same transition, and it normalized their life. I can't speak for her, but it really helped me to have someone going through the same emotions and divorce procedures at the same time as well.

We have celebrated each of our combined children's birthdays together, as well as every Christmas Eve since we met.  We have babysat each other's kids, had sleepovers, and too many play dates to count.  

But, and you knew there had to be a but in here, my kids hated her until last Thursday.  They wouldn't admit to hating her, but it was perfectly clear to all of us that she was not their favorite person.  Still, she is my sister-friend, and she kept coming over whether my kids liked it or not.  They don't get a vote. 

Asterisk is one of those moms who has rules and just assumes all children will obey them.  Her rules are small and rational. She doesn't yell, and she doesn't make unreasonable demands.  She has rules like no eating in the living room, not rules like children can be seen and not heard. Although she doesn't yell, she has some sort of Jedi mind trick where she tells the kids "no" about something, and they instantly obey.  I have no freaking idea how she does it.

I have to admit that I have used her as a threat to get my kids to go to sleep on several occasions, which probably didn't help their relationship but worked beautifully at bedtime.  She asked me to stop using her as a threat and I grudgingly did, but it didn't improve their relationship much.

We have had Asterisk accompany us on outings when she didn't have her kids to foster good memories and show she is fun.  Didn't work.

She took my boys to buy me a birthday present. They love to shop, but it didn't make them love her.  

She picked them up from school and bought them ice-cream. Didn't help.  

Then, this past Thursday she stopped by unexpectedly and in one of those random and completely bizarre moments, she won their hearts forever. 

Here's how it worked.  She came in, and my kids hid from her under a blanket on the couch.  She sat on them.  They jumped on her. She let them.  She is now one of their all-time favorite people.

"When is Asterisk coming over? Can she come over now? Can we jump on her again?"  

She came over the next day with her sister for a night of hair-dying, nail painting, and other girly endeavors, but before we  headed to the bathroom she lied face-down on my sofa and let them jump on her again.  I have absolutely no idea why she was willing to let them do this, but she did, and they were ecstatic. 

When we retired to the bathroom I sent the boys to jump on the futon across the hall in the guest bedroom.

Mama:  Go jump on the futon so we can dye Asterisk's hair. 
Big Pants:  I don't want to jump on the futon.  
Mama: The futon is nice to jump on.
Big Pants (glowering at me with complete displeasure): So is Asterisk!

We let them help with hair dying, gave them rubber gloves to blow up like balloons, and had a really nice night, but it was her willingness to be a trampoline/bouncy house that won their undying affection.

Not only do they love her, but now they worry about her welfare.  Saturday I had the following conversation:

Tiny Pants: Why did you make Asterisk blond?
Mama: People do that sometimes when they want a different look.
Tiny Pants: But how can she see?
Mama: What?
Tiny Pants: I'm worried she can't see cuz  you made her blond. (blind)

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Calling

I have found my calling.

All my life I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to be when I grew up.  My mother told me to go to college and take a lot of classes and the mists of confusion would dissipate and I would one day know what sort of job I was meant to have.

I went to college for something like 20 years, off and on. I majored in all sorts of things. The mist never lifted. Until today.  Today I finally felt with absolute down to my bones certainty what I am supposed to do with my professional life. 

Here's how it happened.  My big kid goes to a charter school, and parents have to volunteer a certain number of hours a week.  I hesitantly offered to teach an elective to the older kids in Creative Writing, if anyone could possibly be interested in such a thing, which I doubted.

Here's a secret:  Although I totally adore my kids and their friends, in general I am not down with OPC: Other People's Children.  I am not a kid person, really.  I look at elementary school teachers like they are a completely different species, because that's my definition of fresh hell.

The nice volunteer coordinator assured me that kids at the 5th- 8th grade level would be interested (yeah, right) and that because the only kids in my class were kids who actually wanted to be there, it wouldn't be that bad.  I took a deep breath and agreed, hoping for five students.  I got thirteen.

Thirteen smart, nice, loud, enthusiastic, academically gifted children actually wanted to work on their writing and wanted me to teach them.  I made up some lesson plans based on workshops and college classes I had taken and entered the building.

The first thing I noticed was that none of the lockers had locks on them.  Two hundred students, and not one lock. Wow, talk about trust.  I was impressed; obviously, the school is doing something right.  the second thing I noticed was that the children actually did want to be there, and although they were loud, they were really excited about writing.  That first class filled me with the same anxiety/adrenaline rush as  singing karaoke.  It went better and louder than expected, and I revised my lesson plan for the following week to reflect their skill levels.

Driving to my second class, I became concerned that maybe my class was on Thursdays, not Fridays, and I had done something unforgivably bone-headed, but after checking my phone calendar twice, I reassured myself that today was the day. 

The kids were loud and funny. They were cooperative.  They ran the smart board for me, because even after my 2 minute tutorial I still couldn't write legibly on the dratted thing.  They raised their hands in spite of being told to yell out answers. They wrote quietly when they were told to, and asked for extra time.  They fought over reading their work to the class.  They were excited and happy and….(drum roll, please) ...really fucking good writers.

I don't mean good for a ten year old.  I mean better than 90% of the college kids I took a writing class with at a medium-name university. Not all of them were on that level, obviously, but most of them.  The ones who weren't certainly wrote as well as many young adults I know.

At the end of class, one of the girls came up to me to say that she loved my class and looked forward to it all week.  The heavens opened. There were birds singing and happy little chipmunks dancing, just like my mother said they would.

here is why it is the perfect career path for me:

1. Only teaching smart, nice kids that want to be in my class is way easier than teaching sullen children forced to attend a stupid class they hate.

2. Only teaching one class for 45 minutes a week allows me to to continue to devote time to my other passions, like napping.

3. Because it is an unpaid position, I can practically guarantee there will be little competition to teach!  I won't have to fight with 100's of more qualified applicants!

I can't tell you how good it feels to have finally found my niche in the professional world!  My mother will be so proud!

(My son has actually done this at his school, I kid you not.)

image credit:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Post Birthday Blues

"Mama, I have that day after birthday thing," Tiny Pants told me today.
"The day after birthday blues?" I asked.
"Yeah, that one. Not the mad kind, the sad kind."

My kids get three birthdays a year, all in the same week.  They have the "friend birthday" extravaganza, which is too big, too much money, and results in too many presents appearing in my living room.  This is thrown on the weekend closest to the birthday.

Next they have their "family birthday" on their actual birthday where they get their presents from mama, mama's relatives, and another cake.

Last, they get get their "Daddy birthday" at Daddy's house where they get another cake, presents from Daddy, and presents from Daddy's family.  (This year, Daddy's sister gave Tiny an ipad mini.)

Confession #1: Do you like how at my house, it is "family birthday" and at Daddy's it is only "Daddy birthday?" Thats' my childish way of reinforcing that Mama's house is where they live, and Mama's family is their main family.  This is immature and bad parenting, yet irresistible.

Oh, and did I mention they get cupcakes at school on the birthday as well?

Not only do they score enough gifts to start their own daycare center, but they ride the birthday high for days on end.  After the last gift is open, they crash like a freight train driven straight into the side of a mountain. 

I don't go crazy with buying gifts.  I keep to a very reasonable budget (much less than the cost of the friend birthday party) and just buy a few gifts I think they will love eight times more than anything their father gets them. 

Confession #2: Yes, I do strive to outdo Daddy at every gift giving occasion, not financially, because Daddy makes approximately 5x my salary, but in selection perfection.  I try very hard to buy them the one thing they want more than anything else in the whole world.  If I can't do that, I subtlety suggest in the weeks preceding their birthday that whatever toy I got them is quite possibly the coolest gift ever and I really hope they get one.  It's present propaganda. 

Confession #3: Oh My GOD, I am sitting here typing this in a school reception area while Tiny Pants is in speech, and a 7 year old boy just walked by with a pierced ear.  I kid you not.  I inappropriately did a double take and confirmed it was really pierced and not just a clip on.  Wow, turns out I'm a little judgmental.  

OK, so my point is that kids birthdays are both my finest and worst moments.  I love to do the party, the presents, the wrapping, the cake.  I also love to win which is a sign of parental immaturity.  And I am apparently screwing up my kids with the week-long adrenaline rush  of multiple birthdays. Bleh. Oh, almost forgot, also am judgmental of piercing 7 year old boys, though if it had been a girl I wouldn't have been shocked at all. That makes me judgmental and sexist.

I'm going back to bed as soon as this appointment is over. Maybe I'll wake up a better person with a less fussy kid. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


When I was a child, my parents invented, or at least celebrated, half-birthdays.  It's a fairly simple premise; on the one chid's birthday, the other child gets a little half-birthday present.   My brother was 18 months older than me, so when he turned 7, I turned 5 1/2, etc. We were close enough in age to be horribly competitive, jealous little monsters, and the half-birthday kept us from killing each other.

My ex-husband was against half-birthdays.  He felt it was better for children to have the experience that when it is not your birthday you get nothing other than the joy of watching your sibling glom all the attention, that it would make them better people and learn to be giving.  Like many things, I agreed with him up front but was secretly not as convinced as I wanted to be.  

You see, my family was weird.  I don't mean a little bit different, but straight up strange.  My father lived in Alaska, a place so far off, many of my friends thought I made him up.  My mom was not only gay, but worked full-time and didn't shave her legs* or wear makeup. We went on protest marches, wore Greenpeace t-shirts, and had "This Yard is Pesticide Free, Safe for Animals and Children" signs on our front lawn.  No one was going to mistake us for the average Joe-sephines.  All I wanted was a nice, normal, traditional life - to be just like everyone else.  I married the man that I did because I was striving militantly towards normality like Sherman's march to the sea.  If he said half-birthdays weren't normal, I would take his word for it, though my inner child might have had a little cry, and my parents were horribly disappointed.

It turned out to be mote, as we broke up before the second child was of half-birthday age.  My mother tentatively asked if I would revive half-birthdays, and when I said, "Oh, hells ya," she rejoiced. I was reveling in all the special things that made me different, made me beautiful and rare. 

Fast-forward to now. Tiny Pants is celebrating his birthday on Wednesday, which is Big Pants' fifth half-birthday observance.  My father sent Tiny a present, but forgot a half-birthday gift for the big one.  No worries, I picked one up.  My moms sent Tiny a box…and nothing for the big one, so once again I will go to the store and preserve this tradition.  All of a sudden normal seems like a lot less work.

* I checked with my mom if this was offensive before I published, and she corrected me to say she did shave her legs, just not as often!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Whistle Pigs and Cake

I am cool. I am stylish. I am someone reduced to girlish squeals of glee when allowed to feed a whistle pig.  Ok, ground hog, but whistle pig is such fun to say.

For Tiny's Pants' fifth birthday, I booked an animal show.  The animal people explained how all their animals were given to them by people who didn't want them or were rescues. They were nice, and gentle, and sweet.

The animal show people instructed us to remain calm and not scream and yell or we would scare the animals. Nineteen children sat calmly in a circle and waited for their turn to pet the animals. Nineteen 3 to 8 year olds were quiet and waited their turn and sat nicely.

And then there was me. I did sit nicely. I did ooh and aaah over the adorable animals.  I did wait my turn to pet the animals, and refrained from mowing over those little three year olds in my enthusiasm.  I did, at least for the sugar gliders, chinchilla, coati, kincachu, and angora bunny.

Until the groundhog.
Here comes the cuteness!

I have always loved ground hogs. I used to have a ground hog-friend who lived next to the highway and that I looked for everyday on my way to work.  But I have never been able to pet a ground hog, or feed him carrots.
See? I let children feed Piggie, too.

We were instructed to call "Piggie!" in unison to get the ground hog to come out. Maybe it was the yelling that got me overly-excitable, I'm not sure.  I had not yet eaten cake, so I can't blame sugar.  But I did morph into a five year old girl when that Piggie came out. 

Piggie! Come back! I love you, Piggie!

How could any person sit still and quietly when that amazing adorableous-maximus came running around the circle?

I was asked by a grown-up or two if the animal show was for the kids, or for me.  Heck, ya, it was for me!  They enjoyed it too, but they will forget it in a few years.  I will remember it forever!  

(Oh, there was also cake, presents, a pinata, blah blah blah GROUND HOG!)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Birthday Eve

Tomorrow is Tiny Pants' big  0-5.  Somehow the single digits don't have the proper ring to them, do they?

When I was a kid there was the golden birthday rule- you could invite as many people as you were years old.  Somehow, that has changed to you can invite anyone you know, have ever met, or thought about meeting, and their siblings, aunts, and cousins. I'm not sure how or why, but birthdays have morphed into extravaganzas that everyone I know says they aren't doing again next year, but…

Secret sidebar: I love throwing these damn things, but don't tell anyone. 

I throw a good party, in my opinion, and I've learned not to sweat the details so much.  You see, there is a great Mom Birthday Army.  When you have a birthday party, all these moms swarm in a well orchestrated militia and set up and organize and hand out cake and smile and help clean up.  When the next mom has a party, a different and perhaps overlapping circle of moms pitch in.  None of us could ever deal with it all on our own, but none of us have gone down the tubes yet (but my day could be tomorrow). 

Some moms have raised  the birthday to an art form; I've been to the home party with homemade decorations, cookies, and games, all done perfectly to theme.  I've been to the "no presents - only gifts for charity" party, which made me realize my children are  spoiled present-hungry buggers whom i have failed as a parent.  There was the brilliant mother who had her child write out thank you notes before the party to hand out as everyone left, which I meant to do before tomorrow, but somehow haven't gotten around to yet.

There's a point, though, where the party can get too over the top.  We've been to parties with so much going on you need a decompression chamber afterwards to detox from the clowns and ponies and balloon animals all coming at you at once.  We have returned from parties with live pets we never intended to obtain. (OK, that was just once, and I am sure the mother of the birthday child counted on the parent's ability to say no if they didn't want a new pet.)

Tomorrow we are having a small get together consisting of everyone my son knows, their siblings, parents, a small petting zoo, and a pinata.  What could possibly go wrong?

(Come back tomorrow for funny pictures if I manage to take any in the ensuing chaos.)

Mama Reset Button

Why Grown Up Time Makes Me a Better Parent

A daycare provider once told me that when you have a day where all the babies in the nursery are fussy, it's you, not them.  As inconceivable as this is, apparently when my kids are driving me nuts, it is as likely my lack of patience as it is their irritating behavior. Hmm. Let's think about that.

Kids go through stages. Mine will go months and months of playing well together and entertaining themselves (mostly) to weeks on end when all they seem to do is irritate each other, whine and fuss and make me crazy.  At least some of this is valid; I do not believe that I am just feeling fussy and short-tempered when they make me crazy. I think they are making me crazy which makes me fussy and short tempered, which makes them whiney and irritating which makes me fussy and short-tempered… 

You get the picture, but I am going to blame them for starting it, because I'm mature like that. OK, regardless of who is at fault, what everyone needs to break the cycle is a Mama Reset Button, A.K.A. a night out without children.

(Cue lights and smoke machine)

I picked up my date,a 2 inch pink plastic dinosaur I stole - err borrowed - from my son, and met some friends Out In Public - at a Bar- Without Children - After Bedtime.

My date drank a little too much, and encouraged me to sing loudly and dance badly.  A good time was had by all.  
My Date

The next day I was tired, but I had more patience. I was less fussy and irritated with children who were still somewhat irritating and fussy.  I was a better mother.

Back when my brother and I were fussy, irritating children, (hard to believe I was ever an irritating child, isn't it?) my parents started a mandatory Friday night date night and held to it my entire adolescence.  I resented it. I was jealous and mad to be left home, but I am sure I was beaten much less as a result. 

Whether you are single or married, drink alcohol or prefer coffee, you need to escape your children on occasion and do whatever it is that makes you happy as a grown up. Your children might bitch and moan about you going, but they will enjoy you more as a result, and they will live a longer, happier life. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Serious Note

Preface: I try to write my blog so that if my ex-husband, mother or worst enemy ever stumbled across it, I wouldn't regret a word I wrote. I try to be real, but I also try to respect the privacy of people.  Dissing my ex on the internet doesn't make me a better or funnier person. 

Once you have children with the wrong person, you are pretty much screwed.  If you stay with them, you raise children in an unhappy home, and role-model bad relationships, thus continuing the cycle. It can be extremely hard to parent the way that you want to when you are in a bad relationship. Yet, if you go, you and your children are torn between two lives.  I would never advocate to anyone that they should leave or stay, because it is up to each person to decide which of the bad outcomes they can live with. Parents, in general, are wracked with doubt and guilt, and single parents especially so. 

My ex was not the right man for me, and although it took him awhile, he has said  that I was right to leave and that we never would have worked, and it was better to separate when the boys were too young to have a traumatic memory of our divorce. They have had two houses for as long as they can remember, and that's just their reality.  It sucks, but life sucks in different ways for different people, and they do love making out like bandits with two Christmases, Easters, and birthdays. Childhood scars most all of us in one way or another.  You just make the best decision you can at the time, and save money to pay for therapy later. (that's a line of my mother's, I must admit.)

I will also say that my ex has become a far better parent since we split up than he ever was when we were together.  The boys get real substantial daddy time, and he has done his share of feedings, diapering, dealing with throwing up kids, and entertaining bored kids whereas when we were together I just dealt with all that. They have a stronger relationship with him now that I think they would have if we had stayed together.

BabyDaddy and I function well together as separated co-parents. We go to parent-teacher conferences together, sit together at school events, and take the kids trick-or-treating together every year, but we don't hang out, or talk much except about parenting.  We do discuss kid issues and try to come up with solutions together, so that the children get the same messages at both houses.  We do ok, better than many, I'm sure, but we are not friends. 

It's always unsettling when someone goes from being your 24/7 partner to what feels like a total stranger. I have had many moments (and I am sure he has too) where I look at him and wonder how we ever managed to life together for as long as we did. In the four years we have been apart, we have both become different people with less in common than ever. Still, no matter what, we both share the parenting of the same children, and in that respect, we will always have common ground, not just as parents, but as people.  The same little beasties are affecting us as much as we are them.  Occasionally, though, we still have moments of connection.

My ex called me last night to tell me that a co-worker of his had committed suicide. The coworker left behind a wife and several children.  My ex said, "You are not allowed to kill yourself. I know we are divorced and supposed to hate each other, but if you are ever on the ledge, I will help you off. You can always call me if you get to that point.  The kids need a mother as much as they need a father.  And if I am on the ledge, and have absolutely no one else, I would call you, and I know that you would help me." 

To me, this agreement that even though we don't work, our children need both of us, and we need to ultimately help the other person in time of distress was bittersweetly beautiful.  I am glad that I don't live in fear of my ex trying to take the kids away from me, nor does he worry about me doing the same to him.  We both mucked up our marriage, but we are still inherently decent people.  I may not have chosen the right man for me, but apparently, I chose the right father for them.