Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Different is not Mandatory


My oldest son loves baseball, in case you are a new reader or a forgetful one.  Well, really, he loves football, but baseball is what he's allowed to play, and it's currently baseball season. I know I have blogged about baseball previously here and here, but now I am going to blog about it again.

Did you know, by the way, that blog is actually Latin for Bitch, kvetch, or rant? Really. Or perhaps I can add these synonyms to Merriam-Webster. It would be accurate here at Only-Mama.

I have said before that I don't love sports.  I actually come from a long history of people who don't love sports; I come by it honestly.  My mother, her partner, my brother, my father... none of us love sports even a little tiny bit. Herein lies the problem.

I swore on my newborn baby's head that I would defend him from tyranny and not push my agenda on him, and defend him from all agenda-pushing family members no matter how well meaning. And now I have to.  I have to stand up for his right to play baseball.  

RELATIVE: There's more to life than baseball you know.  
ME:  Yes. I hate sports, but he loves them.  I swore that I would expose him to a multitude of hobbies and let him choose.  He chose baseball.
RELATIVE: Well he probably chose it because he wants his father's approval.
ME: Or because it is fun.
RELATIVE:   He could miss a game every now and then and do something else!
ME:  He did miss a game to be here now with you WHO IS NOT ACCEPTING HIM FOR WHO HE IS!!

OK I didn't say that last part.  I ended my statement after "with you." But here's the thing about liberal parents - they will fight to the death for you or your child to be different, but they can not stand when your child wants to be mainstream.

My parent, I mean nameless relative, will love my son no matter what, but they might love him a little bit more if he is weird, dates outside his race or inside his own gender.  They would love him to obsess about space or dinosaurs or volcanos, classical music or art.  They are prepared to accept him no matter how different he is.

But they are not really prepared for him to be normal. They don't know how to deal with a kid that loves what boys traditionally love --  sports.

This, of course, reminds me of how I rebelled in my teens by becoming Born-Again Christian and listening to Rush Limbaugh.  It was the best and easiest way to piss off my parents.  I even voted for George Bush (the first) in 1991. Believe me, it was far more effective tool of disobedience than my brother's mohawk.

Son, look into my eyes. 

You have the right to be normal.  

You have the right be straight.

You have the right to love baseball more than anything.

You even have the right to vote Republican.

You can grow in the direction most pleasing to you.  Just love the life you lead.  That's all I ask of you.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Damn Cat

FRIEND: What is that sound?
ME: That sound of someone plunging something large and wet?  
ME: The cat throwing up.
FRIEND: Gross.
ME: By "gross" I think you mean, "Have fun cleaning that up by yourself!"
FRIEND: Yes, that's exactly what I meant.

ME: Cat, where did you throw up?
CAT: No reply. (cats don't actually speak English)
ME: Does that look mean, "Don't worry - you'll find it with your sock?"
CAT: (smiles knowingly and walks away)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

When Fat Cells Fly

Have you ever noticed how people try and sabotage you when you are dieting? If you convinced yourself that plain egg whites were the ultimate breakfast on a given morning, someone is guaranteed to bring in fresh donuts.  Not only will they eat them in front of you, but they push you to eat one too.  Or have you noticed that friends who are fatter than you try and "plump you up" or push you to finish up that last lonely donut in the box so it won't go stale?

There's a reason, and it's not what you think.  They are not  being bad friends.  They don't hate you and aren't jealous of your smaller figure. It is merely self defense.  They know something you don't know.

Fat can not be created nor destroyed.  If you lose a pound, it is going to fly around the room until it settles on someone nearby's hips.  You have all seen it - as one person in an office gets smaller, all her coworkers get bigger. 

It's like squeezing a balloon:  whatever is inside (air, water, pudding, jello) doesn't evaporate, it just moves to the other end of the space. What, you've never filled a balloon with pudding? What did you do when you were a child?  You probably had Atari, which is just another example of how video games sucks the creativity out of children.  

This is what we used to use Office Temps for.  If everyone in the office was trying to lose weight, we'd hire a temp  or an elderly volunteer for the summer and send all our pounds her way.  Unfortunately they caught on, and after awhile refused to come to our office anymore. 

Although maybe it was  because I made the temps/volunteers do nothing but file while I looked over their shoulder telling them how wrong they were doing it.  "No, that is not filed under the person's name, it's filed under the business name…except that one and these four which are business that we file under the person's name.  And half the alphabet is filed in my office and the other half of the alphabet is under the fax machine." 

The above is actually true. At my last job we actually lost half the alphabet for several months after the file clerk decided to reorganize the drawers, then quit.  If I hadn't been dieting at the time she might have stayed.  Productivity might have suffered, but I got back into my skinny jeans during the same time period so who cares, really?

Seriously, though, the most successful I ever was on a diet (lost nearly 30 pounds) was when several people I worked with were dieting at the same time. We encouraged each other and shared diet recipes.  And the office was big enough that all the fat we lost flew on to an unsuspecting shrew in Human Resources. I would say it was a win-win for everyone. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Travelogue Day 157 or Maybe Only 6

So we left the woods, but not the lovely state of West Virginia.  Took the boys to a coal mine and historic village (Tiny Pants now wants to be a coal miner when he grows up).  Went swimming.  Introduced the boys to the wonder and joy of the Cracker Barrel. 

Photos of Cracker Barrel Old County Store - Restaurant Images
This photo of Cracker Barrel Old County Store is courtesy of TripAdvisor

(It's not about the food - it's about the gift shop.)

This morning we made several trips to the breakfast buffet and relaxed in the large and spah-cious hotel room - they only had suites left, so I not only get my own bed but my own room - and then Big Pants threw up.  

I am not sure if he willed his stomach to turn itself inside out so that he could stay in bed playing iPad all day and not have to vacation any more, but somehow I doubt it.  I spent years trying to will myself sick on chemistry exam days and it never worked. Besides, he loves a good hotel pool. He'd never give that up willingly.

Now we are waiting to see if we spend the day in bed, or go sauntering about West Virginia some more. I just want him better enough to drive home tomorrow. Meanwhile Tiny Pants is shaking my legs demanding a third trip to the lobby for free breakfast. And he lost my page in the book I am reading in an effort to get me off the computer. Sigh. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Suck At Being In The Woods

My parents, children and I rented a cabin in a state park in West Virginia for a week, of which I managed three nights before begging for a hotel and internet.  Here is my travelogue so far:

Ahhh, the woods. Well, the joke's on me with all my bags. The cabin is too small to bring them inside!  I had to unpack just enough for one drawer each person.  We have a tiny log cabin built as a public works project during the depression and it's small and quaint and cute. It is a perfect romantic rustic getaway, but it's a little tiny bit on the small side for 3 adults and two children.  There's no TV and you can't even text here. Whoa. 
I was very glad to see that my parents also ignored the NO ALCOHOL sign. We all brought wine. Wine helps in close quarters.

We have a beautiful view of a sheer drop off right outside our cabin, and a nice road to walk on unless a car is backing down the mountain; not that many hazards for small children who forget to listen.   It's green and mossy with a lot of ferns.  I don't exactly recall what to do with nature.

I grew up in a suburb, but we spent a lot of time in the woods. Summers we spent in Alaska, a fair amount of our time spent in the woods was also without electricity or water. I used to know how the woods worked. I used to know what to do in them, how to look at them and how to picture magic fairies and elves and how to picture myself the size of a fox running through the woods. I'm not sure I remember anymore, but I will try.


I miss my own woods.  I can see the beauty here, but it doesn't invade my soul, though I wish it would.  I don't long to run down dirt paths here, but maybe it's because these paths aren't mine.  Maybe it's because I feel like I'm borrowing someone else's peacefulness, renting their serenity for a week, and it doesn't fit right.

I'm not used to mossy rocks and sheer drop offs.  I'm used to welcoming trails and  trees I recognize.  My woods look different. I am a bad traveller.  I am in a beautiful forest and miss my own. I know how the sunlight in my own woods reaches through the trees to tickle the dirt road. I miss the fish in my pond. I know the turkeys there and the deer that are browner than the ones here.  Can one be homesick for woods while staying in the forest?

Maybe it's the confines of the tiny cabin stuffed with too many people. I can't write, I can't read, I can only visit. I am in the woods but I have no solitude.  I hear more buzzing humans - all members of my family - than I hear birds.  I only hear birds when I first wake up and everyone else is still asleep. 


So I was all rah, rah, nature! Slept in the same room as my two kids and my mom. went on a paddle boat, canoe, and made home made ice-cream. Yay, woods!

Then, as I was snuggled up with a book on my cot with my plastic encased pillow, I found that nature had followed me into bed.

A big black ant.  Not the worst, I get it, but it was on my arm while I was in bed. I'm against nature invading my covers.  Like really against it, but I couldn't scream or even say anything to my mother who I know would sympathize, because my eldest was still awake a mere 18" from my head and if he knew that nature was meandering into our bedclothes, he might never sleep again for the rest of the trip. Or he might want to capture it and make it his pet and name it George. Hard to say, but still not a relaxing end to the evening.

Hotel.  Internet.  Television. Shower stalls wider than 28 inches.  Beds without ants in them.  Things that I am missing horribly.


Nature. Beauty. Fun. Great. I am over- peopled and unable to write anything anymore. Put parents on notice that I am unlikely to survive week, but will keep trying. Plastic pillow cases mean no lice, right? Like it's an impossibility, so there's that.

########       #########            #########        ###########     ############## #  ####

My parents say we can leave!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Now I get to carry five people's belongings up this staircase:

At least it's picturesque.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Let Sleeping Whales Breach

Tiny Pants fell asleep in my bed last night, and I didn't want to move him.  We were in a hotel room with 3 of us and two beds, so two of us were going to bunk down anyway, and he kept waking up a little unsure where he was, and I liked being able to pat his back and reassure him that is was OK before he full on woke up and stayed up.  But there was more.  I liked falling asleep with his little snuggly body near by.  It's been a long time.  

I started cosleeping/bedsharing with Big Pants when he was around 10 months old out of self-preservation.  I like how we give it a fancy name instead of just saying I let the baby sleep in my bed. Anyway, I nursed him every two hours all night, and was working full time and just couldn't go down the hall anymore. It worked for me, until he was two and a half and wouldn't leave my bed.   I wanted him out before the new baby came, but that just didn't happen.  We wound up with a "family" bed full of four humans for a while.

Surprisingly, it was Tiny Pants who was out of my bed first.  He was just a kid who liked his own sleep space. Big Pants would burrow his hands underneath me and try to sleep wrapped around me like a starfish on Sponge Bob.  Tiny would crawl to the end of the bed and sleep there.  

Big Pants also needed an act of congress and correct planetary alignment to fall asleep, whereas Tiny Pants just needed to be tired and laying down. He would sleep in the car, a pack n play, a stroller (all things that made his brother scream at the top of his lungs)  and even a crib. He was out of my bed happily before he turned one.  His brother wasn't out until just before kindergarten.

So I savored the treat of falling asleep next to him.  For about an hour.  Then he started acting like some sort of insane orca. 

He did this:

and this:

A lot of this:

But none of this: 


 Around 6:30 I gave up.  Here I am at my computer, and here he what he looks like, just wallowing in all the room.

I am tempted to poke him a little just once or twice, or make a lot of whale noises close to his head for pay back. Tomorrow he's bunking in with his brother!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


I am packing to go on a week long trip with the kids and my parents. Packing with children takes monumental effort, and it doesn't seem to matter whether you are going for one night or a week, it's all approximately the same amount of stuff.

1 suitcase for the boys
1 suitcase (smaller) for me
1 bag assorted shoes for six assorted feet. (generally two feet of each size)
1 bag toiletries/medicine
1 bag stuffed animals
1 bag library books/DVDs
1 bag food for car/hotel snacks
1 cooler 
1 bag of my portable office
1 bag of ipads/laptops
1 swim bag
1 bag baseball stuff
1 dog bed

That's 12 bags plus a dog bed. I realize that some people think that all you need is a few changes of clothes and off you go, but I have found that my life is easier if I bring it all. 

1. Kids cry less when they have snacks readily available, the kind they like, that they can get themselves.

2. If you don't bring medicine, you will need to go to the store in the middle of the night. If you do bring it, it will be unneeded and spill everywhere.

3. Driving stresses me out.  If the kids have toys, books, DVDs, etc., I have half a chance at some sleep/relaxation.

4. Of all the things that I pack, the only thing that won't be used is the clothing.  They will live in bathing suits if it is nice out and PJs if it is not.  Bringing a change of clothes for each kid each day is a complete waste of energy, but I somehow feel like a bad parent if I plan on them not changing their clothes all week. That's like not wasting space on toothbrushes.  You know you have to bring them to be a good parent, even though you will probably never find them before the last night anyway.

5. It is supposed to rain every day. I have to be prepared for being stuck in a small space i the middle of nowhere for 5 days. But in case it doesn't rain, I have to be ready for horseback riding, canoeing fishing, swimming (damn, forgot to buy poles today) and playing outside. 

The sad thing is that we are stopping for one night at a hotel, then staying the remaining time in a cabin.   That one night will require me to bring in most of the bags:

1. snacks. My kids eat every 8.735 minutes.
2. clothes for them
3. toiletries
4. stuffed animals
5. swim bag for hotel pool
6. my computer
7. oh, yeah, clothes for me.
8. dog bed
9. cooler, which will need new ice

On the plus side, I don't have to bring a giant bag of cloth diapers, a potty chair, or a pack n play.  On the down side, if there is room I have to fit in two sleeping bags, a tent, and a blow up boat. 

Oh, and I meant to grab a dog crate, just in case my parents are late for my Very Important Appointment Monday as it is too hot to leave the dog in the car.  I figure if he is boxed up I can shove him in a storage closet somewhere for an hour.  

Going home, everything will be thrown into a big pile and shoved in the trunk haphazardly, never to be unpacked.  But half the stuff will get lost, so that will make it even easier.

My kids don't even care that much about vacations. They just want to go to the gift shop at the rest stop.

Chocolate. I need to pack lots of chocolate that I can secretly eat after the kids are in bed…better start eating now and get my levels up to an acceptable level.  Safer for everyone that way I think.

Actually, I like traveling a lot with the kids.  Nothing makes me love them more. They are flexible, sweet, charming little monkeys who go with the flow better than 90% of adults out there.  After Big Pants throws up, that is.  You see, every car trip with Mama he throws up in the first 45 minutes, which by now I should be prepared for but somehow never am.  He never throws up on road trips with Daddy. Never ever ever. Always does with me like clockwork, generally on whatever I have foolishly stuffed in the space where grown ups would put their feet, but his legs can't yet reach. Tomorrow it will be the dog and his dog bed down there. I better bring a bucket.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

How Not To Pick Up Girls

I went out with Asterisk last night, to a bar, without children, like real grown ups.

I wore these yellow shoes that I love and are one size too big, but I pretended no one noticed the gap at the back. I choose denial on occasion. It works for me.

I had a new dress I wanted to wear, but I bought it a few pounds ago and I was a little insecure about my stomach. I found an old stomach cinching pair of  underwear that came up to my waist and had lots of elastic in helpful places.  I put on the dress, and the special underpants gave me weird and unnatural bulges in unexpected places. The top of the briefs also wanted to roll a bit, which actually makes your waist thicker.  I remembered once again why these things are not the solution to losing a few pounds, but I was too lazy to take them off (they require a bit of tugging to get them on) so I just went with a flowy dress. It was hot, anyway.

My dress had a racer back (think criss-cross straps for those unfamiliar) so I couldn't wear a regular bra.  Luckily, I had a convertible strap bra that you can make go criss-cross, but unluckily I only had one strap.  Seeing as the bra theoretically could be worn strapless, I decided to go with one. I felt slightly like lady liberty, but figured tugging one side of a bra beat tugging up both sides.

I was dressed five whole minutes before the babysitter got there! I was an awkward success!  Asterisk and I went to a local bar with an outdoor seating area and soon had met a few men who were eager to make our acquaintance. 

I generally assume that people lie when they are drunk and trying to impress you, so I assumed the doctor, lawyer and salesman were probably not a doctor, lawyer, and salesman. They swore they were, and they might have been.  They were definitely funny and strange and amusing.   Two of them were vying for my attention, and neither of them had any chance in hell not only with me, but with anyone with an ounce of sense. 

Here's why (single guys, listen up):

1. No one asked if I was married, single, dating, had a boyfriend, etc.  One would think this might be relevant if you plan on seeing someone for more than five minutes in a bathroom stall. One might also think that before you wasted your time, you would be curious. The lack of asking implies that you aren't in it for the long run, so it doesn't matter. Most girls like to think that men are interested in them for longer than the time it takes to zip their fly.

2. Although they talked about what they did for a living, no one asked what I did. No one cared if I worked, was on welfare, loved my job, or hated it.

3. No one asked me how old I was, or if I had kids. When I volunteered that I had kids, no follow up questions were asked. Note: people with kids will like you more if you ask at least one question about them. Most people can't shut up about their children, and I certainly get that you don't want to even think about kids if you are thinking about getting someone in the sack. If you are wooing someone with kids, pretending that they don't have any will not score you any points.  Again, it implies that you don't really give two shits about the person, and only want to get them in bed.

Are you getting the picture?  I was told how pretty I was, but neither guy had any interest in me beyond that.  They liked me for laughing at their jokes and listening to them, and looking attractive.  They were dismayed that this didn't work as well for me as it did for them.  

How it works in the minds of men (actual lines I have been told):

LINE: Of all the girls here, you are the only one I want to take home.
ME: Fabulous! Let's jump in bed!

LINE: I'm a doctor/lawyer/Indian Chief and I have a nice car.
ME: Yay! Can I give you a blow job in the parking lot?

LINE: You are so pretty. I noticed right off when you walked in how pretty you are.
ME: Really? I am appealing to the opposite sex? Let's go in the men's room and get a lil sumpin-sumpin!

Now, that's not to say that women don't like to be told that we are pretty - of course we do. But we also like to feel interesting and smart and funny.  A guy that can make you feel like that is a guy who actually has a chance. 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I need to yell less, and more.

I'm going to yell at my kids less.

Now, if you knew me, you might think that might not be possible.  Several people have said that I should yell at the kids more. "Rein in the chaos," is the expression they use, I think.   Make them finish their meals, clean the house, not interrupt grown ups and chew with their mouths closed.  And I am totally going to do that. I totally want kids who are clean, polite, and chew with their mouths closed.  So I will try very hard to yell more about those things, along with not jumping on the couch and not farting on people. Especially the not farting on people part.

I will continue to yell about not whining for toys and crying because you didn't get your way.  Those are awesome things to yell about; it comes naturally to me. I think I might be actually awesome at yelling about spoiled brat behavior. 

Actually, I don't yell.  I do raise my voice, but I fall more into the never-ending lecture category.   I think my kids would prefer me to yell loudly for three minutes and shut up than to lecture, which goes on far too long and no one enjoys, not even me.  I might change my strategy to incorporate poking them with sticks, because that sounds more fun than lecturing (for me) but I'm not sure if that requires tetanus shots.

But there's a different category of yelling I am going to do less, and that is the "stop harassing your brother" kind.  I am trying to raise these feral creatures to be caring, considerate people, and part of that involves a lot of yelling at them to stop picking on each other.  As a child, I wished my mother had stopped my brother and I from fighting more than she did, and as a result I yell about this a lot. I shouldn't. I should let them pick at each other a little bit more.


Here's why:

1. The playground rewards kid who are good with snappy comebacks and clever putdowns.  Now, I am not saying that I want my kids to be mean or anything, but the ability to hold your own when someone else is picking on you is a valuable life skill. 

2. It gives you confidence to know that you can hold your ground and not be afraid.  I spent most of my life running from bullies, and if I had turned around just once, I think I would have been better off.  I didn't have any confidence at all until a friend taught me how to fight in her backyard.  Once I knew how to fight, no one tried to pick on me again.  I developed a confident vibe that kept bullies at bay.

3. Learning how to negotiate and problem solve relationships will serve them well in the workforce, in marriages, and in life in general.  They aren't going to learn how to figure things out by me doing it for them, and it may seem like sharing computer time or deciding what game to play isn't relevant to adult life, but it really is if you think about it.  No one likes to share, not even grown ups.  Everyone wants their own way, even grown ups.  It's easier to learn how to navigate these waters at home with your brother than at your first job.

So from now on, I'm going to let them irritate each other a little bit more often, and build up my yelling stamina for the things that really matter, like farting on Mama.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Closed Windows Make Good Neighbors

Much like family, you don't get to pick your neighbors.  You get what you get and you try to get along and if you don't get along you have no choice but to suck it up and try again because in this housing market no one is really moving anytime soon. I mean, you could sell your house, pack up, and move if you don't like your neighbors, but it's really a huge hassle and there's no guarantee that your new neighbors will be any better.

I've been mostly lucky.  When I first moved in, I had an arty single mother of a babysitting teenage girl living right next-door. When she moved away (sigh) I got a scientist who studies bacteria and his significant other, a vet, and their really nice cat and three dogs.  I love the vet because she shows us cute pictures of animals on her phone and also drives around with a medical torso thing in her car.  It's art, don't fuck with it. (it really is art, she wants to somehow suspend it from the ceiling. In the meantime is resides in her car to amuse and confuddle people. Or it's just really heavy and she's as lazy as I am. Hard to tell.)

Lord, I was born a rambling Torso...

On the other side is a grumpy but nice older guy and his adult kids who wishes I would care more about gardening and my lawn but would still rescue me if I screamed really loudly, which is really reassuring and is a major benefit of living in a neighborhood where the houses are close together. An open window and a good  neighbor beats a security system hands down. (Note to grumpy guy: I can accidentally see someone in your house's porn if I look out my living room window after 10pm.  It's rather vanilla and uninspired, according to a couch-surfing lesbian friend who alerted me to it.  Personally, my eyesight isn't all that good. I can't judge without more information.) 
My Natural Low Energy Garden

I also have a nice guy across the street who helped me catch my guinea pig when my mother accidentally dropped the cage and it ran under the minivan. The insolent pig planted himself in the exact center of the 6" tall space under the vehicle where no one could reach him. Neighbor Tim saved the day.

Slippery and Wiley Creature

A few houses down is a guy who somehow or other got involved in something that resulted in a SWAT take down I got to witness (totally highlight of that week) but he either moved or stopped doing things that resulted in a bunch of people wearing bullet proof vests talking to him through megaphones and pointing high powered rifles at his house.  Either way whomever lives there now is nice and quiet.

I had some less than ideal neighbors across the street who had a lot of people living in a small space. They were very nice people except that they kept thinking that I had called the police on them for child endangerment or abuse or something and they kept coming over to talk to me about it.  I had not called anyone, nor had I ever seen or heard anything to make me want to call the police on them. I got tired of defending myself, especially because I knew they didn't believe me and I knew that they were probably psycho.  I didn't particularly care for potentially psycho neighbors thinking I had turned them in for beating their children. I also didn't particularly care for having neighbors that I thought might beat their children.  I was glad when they moved.

They were replaced by a young couple who gutted the house and have been fixing it up for months.  They are nice. They work hard. He is an architect.  She is a cute blond who helps replace large picture windows without swearing. It turns out that they are prone to having very large parties that get very loud, with a bunch of men sitting about 2 feet from the front window, staring intently at something below window height and yelling "Yah, BOYYYY!" at the top of their lungs.  There was also some yelling of numbers and comments about a big girl. They actually yelled so much that the people I don't know who live two houses down started cheerfully yelling back at them at 9:30 at night, while my children are supposed to be going to bed.
There are some benefits to winter, like people closing their windows.  At least I don't have to worry about making a noise complaint.  Apparently someone who lives nearby calls the police about all sorts of things, if you believe the alleged child beater who moved away and the guy who woke up to find SWAT on his front yard.  It's nice to know that I don't have to be the bad guy on the street, someone else is more than happy to do it for me.