Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

In Memory of Everything

This post is not going to be about anything profound.

What it is going to be, is filled with sentimental woolgathering about my childhood; in particular, about a person in my life who likely has no idea how much she has meant to my sisters and me.

And it's going to be very long. I know, long is the kiss of death in the blogosphere, but this is for me, not you, so there.

My grandmother died when I was just an infant, and this person I speak of stepped in to fill the cookie baking, cheek pinching, present buying void Grandma left with her passing.

It wasn't a big decision, there wasn't a lot of thought. It's just what she did. She fussed; over anybody and everybody who needed it. She still does.

She is my Auntie Carol; my mother's sister, and she was 17 years old when my mother, a "late" baby, was born (my Grandmother was 35). She mothered my mother, and then she grandmothered us. She is 78 and she still mothers my mother. I have moved far away, so she doesn't get to grandmother me much anymore, but when I go home, she makes up for lost time with a vengeance.

She cooks us a fine meal and sets the table with dishes that I ate on as a child. The olive colored water goblets feel familiar to my lips. The tablecloth is one I spilled gravy upon as a child, horrified to have spoiled the snowy and carefully pressed linen. She still puts out a relish tray piled high with pickles and olives; remembering, I suppose that my sisters and I loved to stick them on our fingers and then pop them into our mouths one by one.

She makes my boys Shirley Temples with two maraschino cherries. She lets them drink soda until they are crazed with sugar and indulgence. She lets them have two desserts, even though she knows they won't finish them both. She lets them drag out the stereoscope and piles of stereographic cards. She does not complain when they don't put them back.

I try to help. After so many meals, so many dirty dishes, so many pies and turkeys baked in the trusty harvest wheat colored oven...she's earned the right to enjoy her meal, linger over her coffee and savor her dessert without jumping up to refill glasses or platters. She will have none of it, of course. She shoos me away, protesting that she can still put a meal on the table by herself. But the last time I was home, she deigned to let me mash the potatoes, and that was when I knew that she was growing tired.

She and my uncle are moving out of their home of 50 years this weekend. They are elderly now, and can't keep up with the demands of home ownership, or maintain the acreage the house sits on. My uncle has been infirm for several years now and she has carried the burden by herself.

She is relieved, if a bit regretful as well. She is happily clearing out closets and cabinets and giving away the momentos of her life, a life that is intertwined with so many others. I have not been there for the yard sales or the carefully considered doling out of personal things. I have not been able to gather up the memories and store them away for safekeeping, except in my mind.

But not long ago, I received an envelope addressed in her distinctive hand. Inside was a drawing I had done as a child. It was a simple drawing...nothing about it was special or unique that I could see. I have no idea why she kept it.

Another time she sent me one of the pink and blue trifold cards announcing my birth. And now and then I receive other little treasures; a tattered but beautifully embroidered hanky, a piece of old lace, a snapshot, a butter pat, a cut glass salt cellar, a piece of doll clothing sewn by my grandmother, black and white photographs of my mother, my grandmother, my sisters, me.

They make me smile, but they fill me with sadness. My childhood in that house is being slowly dismantled. Last Christmas we visited for what I knew was the last time. And it filled me with a melancholy that lingered for days. I went through every room, remembering.

In the bedroom, I sat at the vanity that had been my playground as a little girl. I remembered sitting there for hours sniffing, smearing and powdering. I remember clipping enormously gaudy rhinestone earrings onto my delicate earlobes; wincing at the pinch, smiling at the effect. I remember sliding bangles and bracelets onto my arm until it was nearly too heavy to lift. I remembered pushing the antique hatpins through the thin cotton of my play clothes. I had no idea what they were for, but I liked them.

She never frowned at the mess and she never scolded when I spilled her perfume or smushed her favorite lipstick into a creamy stump. She always exclaimed over my beauty when I emerged from the bedroom, trailing a cloud of Emeraude behind me and looking for all the world like a Davis-esque Baby Jane.

Even the bathroom held memories for me. I remembered bathing in strangely squatty little tub (our home was very old and had a huge cast iron tub). I used her White Rain shampoo and her Camay soap and felt very pampered and mature. I can still smell the fragrant lather.

Later, I would lie in bed and enjoy rubbing my face against the fresh, cool, sweet smelling sheets. Our sheets at home, worn from many years of washing, were never so crisp. My sister and I whispered and giggled in the antique twin beds, but she never called to us to be quiet or settle down. She always let us have the closet light on to gaurd against the deep, still darkness of the country night.

In the morning, we woke to the smell of coffee and frying bacon. She always smiled at our sleep blinky eyes and our wild hair and asked us how we would like our eggs cooked. We all wanted them cooked differently of course, but she never sighed unhappily at that. She cooked our eggs the way we wanted them and poured us each a cup of coffee from the percolator. She said nothing when we heaped spoonful after spoonful of sugar into our mugs and then didn't drink it.

She let us bring the barn cats in the house when Uncle Norm was gone. She let us turn the vinyl ottoman upside down and pretend it was a horse, a car, a boat. She let us eat ice cream right before bed. She let us eat tomatoes and cucumbers right off the vine; never fussing about them being washed or sliced. She let us play in the cornfield, unmindful of bruised ears or bent stalks.

She took us places...To the fish hatcherie, where rectangular cement pools of fish were teeming with silvered bodies, packed so closely together that it seemed impossible that they could swim at all. She took us to the Red Mill, and told us stories about the Mill Pond covered bridge, which my uncle, her brother had designed and built. He even won an award for it, she told us proudly.

She took us to my grandmother's grave, where we just stood quietly. She didn't cry. It had been a long time I suppose and the tears had been exhausted long ago. But she pulled the weeds and carefully righted the little stone urn and replaced the plastic flowers. With a wistful smile, she told us how Grandma would have loved us girls.

She took us into the tiny chapel in the woods and let us lay wildflowers upon the altar. She took us to the farm where we jumped when the calves bawled, started violently when the chickens flapped crazily past and gave the bullpen an absurdly wide berth. We held our noses and exclaimed over the odor and wiped our feet compulsively in the high, sweet smelling grass.

She laughed at us for that. She thought us funny and sweet and innocent, I think. Her own children grown, she took pleasure in everything about us. Even our city kid skittishness was charming to her.

I will miss that house, but it is just a place after all. She is still here. I don't want to think about when she is not.

So I don't.

I just close my eyes and think about sunny days in her backyard, swaying lazily in the hammock or the swing beneath the oak tree...listening to the emphatic snickety snack of her shears as she pruned rosebushes.

I think about how it was to never be afraid of her not being there and I don't think about not making it home in time to say goodbye.

And, I love you. And, thank you.

We are Northern people and German to boot. We are not terribly demonstrative or outspoken about how we feel. I don't think she has ever told us that she loved us. She didn't have to. I knew. I still know. Everything she did and continues to do, is a testament to her love for us.

But I want her to know how much she has meant to us, to me. I want her to know how those moments of my childhood are suspended in time as moments of true and perfect happiness. I want her to know that no grandmother could have grandmothered us better than she did. I want her to know I love her.

Thank You Auntie Carol. You were one of the things that made childhood so right and good.

To you it was maybe nothing.

To us it was....everything.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Wisdom of Floyd

The boys and I are huge YouTube fans.

We love to browse for funny or interesting videos. Like any new internet venue, it's quickly becoming overrun with spammers and teenyboppers, er..I mean...tweenagers...but you can still find just about anything you could possibly think of...Schweatty balls, men in knee breeches, and nostalgia galore.

Last night after a ballgame, we were gathered around my computer watching our latest "can't stop singing that song" music videos. Mine was "1234", a choice that was not looked upon with favor by my boys.

Pre-Pubescent One chose "Thanks for the Memories", a tune to which we all knew the words, and bobbed our heads in unison.

When it was Diminutive One's turn to choose, he asked to see the video for a song he had heard on the radio, but he didn't know the name, only the artist. Pink Floyd.

"How does it go?" I asked.

"We don't need no education. We don't need no sound control" he sang.

Then he quoted what was inarguably his favorite line in the whole song loudly, and with great gusto.


I couldn't help but smile. If ever there was an anthem written for Diminutive One, that would be it.

I pulled it up and played it for them. And then the questions started.

"Why are their faces like that?"

"Why are they going to school in a factory?"

"Why are they jumping into a meatgrinder?"

"Why is he hitting that kid? Teachers can't do that!"

"Why are they breaking their desks?"


I tried to formulate a response that would satisfy their curiosity without overwhelming them with a lot of details they couldn't process or understand. I paused the video and launched into what I hoped was an accurate and straightforward explanation.

" see...this whole video is just one big social commentary."

I lost Diminutive One right there, but Pre-Pubescent One looked intrigued.

"Really? About what?" he asked.

"Well, different people have different interpretations. Some people think the it's a metaphor for a tryannical government that wants to deny the people free will and the right to voice dissent."

"Hmmmmm." he said. He still looked interested, so I gathered he was following me.

"Other people think it's about a society that values conformity rather than individuality, and how it encourages people to follow blindly rather than thinking for themselves. How it's completing squelching any inclination or desire to be different."

Diminutive One piped in to ask once again why their faces were like that.

"The masks hide their identity so that nothing about them is distinguishable from the others. It obliterates their humanity. They become, just "another brick in the wall"

Diminutive One didn't get it. At 8, he's still very literal minded.

"Are their faces all burnt or something?"

Pre-Pubescent One rolled his eyes.

"Their faces aren't burnt, duh. Mom just told you why they're wearing masks."

"I don't get it." he said, clearly nonplussed about it.

"Honey...if you look at the bricks in a wall...are they different from one another? If you took the bricks out of the wall, and mixed them all up in a pile, would you know which one was which?

I saw the realization hit his eyes.

"OOOOHHHHHHHH! The KIDS are the BRICKS. They're mad because they don't want to be all the same. They have ideas and stuff."

"YES!!" I exclaimed, startling him a little.

"But it could be just about kids who don't like school, couldn't it?"

"Sure. It could. Sometimes, a songwriter wants the the listener to interpret the lyrics in their own way."

"I think it's about that."

"Then it is."

He looked extraordinarily pleased with himself. And so, in a manner that I'm sure Pink Floyd et al never really intended, (unless the pop culture academics are wrong and it really is about a kid who hates school) "Another Brick in the Wall" became Diminutive One's ode to academic disillusionment and malcontent.

For Pre-Pubescent One became something different. It became a really salient example of the undeniable power of such a medium. It appealed to him and impressed him.

"Damn" he said quietly.

I gave him my best displeased mother look.

"Sorry Mom. But geez....that's just.....brilliant."

I assure you, he was in reference to the song lysrics and their metaphorical prowess, not my philosophical grandstanding.

He got it. That's really cool. But it's also kind of bittersweet, because it seems like just yesterday that I had to explain to him why we don't eat boogers. And I know that it won't always be so easy to answer his questions or impress him with my insight.

Pink Floyd = Cake Walk.

God help me when he wants to discuss Nietsche or Proust.

Disclaimer: The above conversation with Diminutive One has been abridged in order to preserve the sanity of the reader. Let's just say, the kid knows how to pummel an equine corpse with remarkable efficacy.


WOW. See...this is why the Blogosphere is so incredible.

Yes, we are talking to one another in our homes behind computer screens.

Yes, perhaps we should be out talking to real people.

But in some ways, the internet is more real than real life is real. I can't think of anybody in real life aside from my sister and my mother with whom I would share the kinds of things I share with you here. Nobody else knows the secret, but now you do.

And I am simply amazed by the outpouring of support, friendship encouragement and commiseration in response to my post about Shame.

Some of you have offered up your own Shame in solidarity. Some of you have made light of your own accomplishments out of compassion. Some of you have gone out of you way to let me know that it doesn't matter; that it's just a thing...not a measure of worth.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you. I am truly, truly touched.

I would also like to thank Sandra at Organized Chaos, and Luckyzmom for nominating me for another thinking blogger award.

I love this award. I won't lie.

When I first dipped my pinkie into the blogging waters...I was a little dismayed. But I once I held my nose and jumped into the deep end, I found an incredibly smart and diverse population of mothers, writers, and women trying to make a difference through the power of their words.

But they weren't being given the accolades, attention or opportunities that some of the high profile bloggers were being given. And frankly, I couldn't see why the high profile bloggers were so high profile. It made me feel a little disheartened. I felt like women were not being fairly represented as the wonderfully insightful, intelligent and significant segment of the human collective that they really are.

So...I think I've got a handle on the kinds of folks who read my blog. After a year, I think I know my audience. Therefore, I give this award back to all of you. If you stopped by here today, give yourself an award.

Take this code, copy and paste it onto your blog, (hover over it for URL to original site) and then pass it on in whatever manner you see fit.

Because I have no doubt that there are thinking bloggers out there reading, that I have not been privileged to come across. I have no doubt that there are lots of bloggers who have not been given this award that deserve one. I have no doubt that blogging, at it's core, is not just a bunch of mindless inanity being dressed up as socially significant stream of consciousness and vomited onto the digital landscape that is the blogopshere.

It's real life, it's important, and it means something. And now, it is being recognized.

Congratulations on your Award!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Both of my boys are so very smart, that sometimes it still astonishes me. How could I have borne such canny little creatures?

Pre-Pubescent One is interested in Science and Technology. He is a good problem solver. Many of his teachers have remarked upon his ability to "think outside the box". His 5th grade teacher once told me laughingly that Pre-Pubescent One's answers have prompted many a debate between she and her husband when she solicited his opinion about whether a particular answer was wrong or right.

Diminutive One is fantastically creative. He writes epic stories, one after another, scribbling furiously for hours on end. He infuses these tales with with stunning details and rich imagery. He has a skill and an awareness of the craft that is far beyond his years. His vocabulary is vast and he sometimes gets odd looks from adults because of his speech. He is dramatic and colorful and hungry.

Unfortunately, neither of them is terribly jazzed about school. Neither of them will graduate at the top of their class, be given academic scholarships, or be taking calls from Mensa.

I watch them struggle. They hate school. They are not motivated to do well. They think it's stupid and it sucks.

I tell them, I know. I understand. And recently, I let them in on a dirty little secret.

I did not graduate from high school.


I grew so demoralized, so frustrated, so apathetic and so filled with hopelessness and...I just stopped going to school. I found much more of interest and value out in the real world. So I ditched class and wandered the streets to watch people, or hide out at the library, hunched into a carrell so nobody would see me and call the truant officer. I read for hours on end, completely absorbed and wholly satisfied. Or I wrote...mostly bad poetry, poring out all the heaviness in my heart.

There is only one class I attended with any regularity, and that of course, was language arts. It was the only thing that gave me any sense of worth. The teacher, Mr. Sandlin, was small, tidy man with a quiet, comfortable scholarship about him. He didn't yell at me when I skipped, he simply asked me if I had written anything new and could he see it. He always, always, always...wrote something positive on my papers. He always made an encouraging remark in his neat, cheery handwriting.

I will always remember him.

Of course, when it was discovered that I had not only failed every single class except language arts, but that I was lacking so many credits that I would have to attend for another entire year....there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. My parents were displeased, but not, of course, surprised. They had been to the principal's office far too many times, staring at forged excuses and listening to administrators preach the gospel of "not living up to her potential" that they had heard over and over since I entered Jr. High.

I refused to go back. Nothing could make me. I had had it and I was 18, and I informed my parents that it was MY CHOICE. And to their credit, they did not strongarm me into going back. They told me that they loved me, they believed in me, they knew that I was smarter than to let myself be trapped into a life without choices.

I went back. And I graduated. And then I was done. No more school. College was bound to be just another series of disappointments and failures. It was not for me.

In general, I try not to waste too much time on regrets. But I would like to go back in time, take that headstrong girl by the throat and choke her quite senseless.

It's my biggest shame. My only secret. The thing I never tell.

People assume I am an educated woman. I suppose that should be flattering, but it only makes the shame all the more fierce. They speak to me of grad and undergrad and this degree or that, while I nod my head and make noncommital remarks. I change the topic or extricate myself from the conversation before I am forced into a lie or trapped into admission.

It's not something I relish. And I wish it weren't so. But I also think that my regret has strengthened my resolve not to let my boys fall into the same terrible cycle of apathy, disappointment, and resignation. I won't let an inept teacher or a flawed system make them believe they are stupid.

Boys, I tell them...I want you to have choices. Because you are too big to be happy doing something small. Too fantastic to be happy with good enough. You were born for greatness. You are my hope for redemption. Do this for me, so I don't have to spend the rest of my life knowing I failed you as well as myself. Do this so you never have to wonder about what you might have been. It's bitter and it hurts, my dear boys. And I don't want that for you.

And they look at me with astonishment. You? Mom? You?

It helps them I think. It puts us in league with one another. It makes them feel less alone. They are sorry for my regret, they do not want it for themselves. So my shame has come full circle and become somthing I never could have foreseen. A practical thing, an impetus. A tool and a teacher.

So there it is.

I am not an educated woman. I do not possess a degree of any kind. I barely earned my high school diploma.

Sometimes, during periods of great stress in my life...I dream that my former Principal calls me on the phone to tell me, with great, sneering satisfaction, that there has been a mistake, and they must take back my diploma. I will have to go back to high school.

I wake up sweaty and shaking, with dread laying heavy on my heart and the word "NO!!" dying on my lips.

My boys will have no such dreams.

If that is what takes...this telling of secrets...then that's what I will do. I would bleed the rich, hot blood of my body for them...why not the blood of my soul as well?

Shame has it's uses afterall, it seems.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Our Own Worst Critic

As I mentioned in a recent post, I've resumed a fitness regime after having abandoned it for the better part of a year. I wanted to make sure I was firmly established in my routine before doing any sort of documention in regard to progress.

This has always been my standard operating procedure, because truthfully, I'm afraid to take "before" pictures and measurements, only to have my enthusiasm peter out and then be left with nothing but a couple snapshots of backfat and batwings as a glaring testimony to my apathy.

I'm seven weeks in now, and I decided it was time to take stock.

I stripped and stood in front of the bathroom mirror with a tape measure, trying not to notice that the phalanx of glaring lights illuminated every blemish, ripple and roll.

I stared down at my toes to avoid looking at my midsection, and sighed in resignation as the dialogue of scathing self-criticism commenced.

Me: Jesus, we have some wide-ass feet.

Myself: Hm. I don't believe we have ever seen anybody else with perfectly square feet.

I: Somebody should call Guiness.

Me: We probably shouldn't paint our toes that particular shade of coral, then.

Myself: It does sort of draw the eye downward, doesn't it?

I: Well at least that takes the focus off of our knee bulges.

Me: Those are hereditary!

Myself: Nods

I: Hereditarily FAT.

Me: I'm really more concerned about our saddlebags.

Myself: We were just born curvy.

I (incredulously): Those aren't saddlebags, those are freaking foot lockers. You could store rations for an entire platoon in those things.

Me: least our stomach doesn't look too bad...considering.

Myself: Noooooo, but it could use a little toning.

I: Ladies...navels are not supposed to be FLUTED.

Me: It's not FLUTED! It's just a little...tired.

Myself: Girls, girls, it looks fine. At least it's still an innie, that's something, right?

I: Sure, if you think that makes up for the fact that it's three inches lower than it used to be.

Me: Well, it doesn't matter, nobody sees it anyway. And hey...the girls still look pretty good for our age.

Myself: Yes, they really do.

I: You two do realize that headlights are supposed to point straight ahead, don't you?

Me: Well they do...mostly.

Myself: Except when we sit down.

I: Or stand up. Or bend over. When the headlights on the van point different directions like that Husband takes it in for an adjustment.

Me: You think we need an adjustment?

Myself: Like surgery?

I: No, certainly not. We're perfectly okay with wall-eyed nips, right?

Me: Well, we do prefer to age gracefully.

Myself: Right. We believe in women looking like real women.

I: Real women with fluted navels and wall-eyed nips. I'm sure it will be all the rage soon. Hef oughta be calling any minute now.

Me: Why do you always have to be so negati....SWEET WEEPING JESUS what is that?!?

Myself: It appears to be a whisker.

I: Why are you freaking out? We've been dealing with chin hairs since we turned 35.

Me: Yes, but that one is like FOUR inches long! How could you let us walk around like that??

Myself: It's not really four inches long. Maybe two.

I: chin hair does not a beard make.

Me: Where is that goddamned TWEEZERS?? I swear if Diminutive One used it to fish legos out of the toilet again I'm going to wring his neck.

Myself: Here it is. Remember? We were plucking our eyebrows in the bathtub.

I: While we're at it, maybe we should do some maintenance on those nose hairs.

Me: Oh god...not nose hair. Anything but nose hair.

Myself: Well, it's really only one nose hair. That shows.

I: It only shows when someone is looking straight up our nose. Get a grip.

Me: Well....I think we're being entirely too hard on ourself. Husband loves us unconditionally and he still thinks we are beautiful.

Myself: Yes, he does. We are very lucky.

I: Husband is blinded by love.

Me: He is not. He likes real women.

Myself: That's right. He doesn't like skinny plasticized women.

I: Riiiiiiight, he prefers fat kneed women with fluted navels and nipples askew. He's found his ideal woman, then hasn't he?

Me: Well, I guess the only thing left to check out is the caboose.

Myself, I (in unison): NO!

Myself: weeps gently

I: Really, haven't we had enough indignity for one day?

Me: Yes, I suppose so. It's not going anywhere.

I: Ain't that the truth.

Me: See...there you go again being negative.

I: I'm not being negative. I'm being realistic.

Me: Negative.

I: Realistic.

Me: Negative.

I: Rea-

Myself (still weeping): ENOUGH!! Dear GOD enough! Don't you know what you're doing to us!!

Me: I think we need a drink.

Myself: I think we need chocolate.

I: I think we need to get laid.

Me: Veto. That requires getting naked.

Myself: I have to agree. We're demoralized enough right now.

I: Alright, alright. How about a pint of Rocky Road?

Me, Myself: Now you're talking.

I stepped away from the mirror wondering why I see nothing but imperfection when confronted by my reflection. I am confident in my worth as a thinker, a writer, a problem solver, a manager and a mother (for the most part). Why then do I judge my physical self so harshly? Why do I hold myself to an impossible standard? Why do I care so much?

And then I thought...

I am really in no mood for all this introspective bullshit. I'm going to go have some of that ice cream.

And I did.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

An Ugly Truth

Pre-Pubescent One turned 12 yesterday. He had an impromptu sleep over in lieu of the concert he was supposed to attend, which was rescheduled for sometime in June.

I spent the evening keeping Diminutive One out of his brother's hair having quality time with Diminutive One. Being the oldest of three, I understand not wanting younger siblings underfoot, but I also felt his sadness and hurt at being excluded. At 11:30, we were passing the time until midnight, the hour that Diminutive One had bargained for as bedtime, by watching Full House reruns, when a Public Service Announcement about internet predators aired.

Jamie, in her distinctive voice, stated some statistic about how many children had been "sexually solicited" online.

Diminutive One listened and then turned to me with puzzlement written on his freckled face.

"I don't get it." he said.

"You don't know what a sexual predator is?" I asked. We had talked about this before, so I was unsure of what, exactly, he was questioning.

"No. I know what that is. But I don't know what is sexually she said."

I glanced at husband, who shrugged, and then nodded slightly to indicate that there is no time like 11:30 at night, when we are both stupid with fatigue, to have a heavy discussion with our son about people who would use an object that heretore had been completely innocuous and known only to him as an instrument of fun and entertainment to stalk, molest, and possibly murder him.

But if there's one thing we've learned, its that when an opportunity presents itself, we have to take advantage of it. There's no good way to broach such a subject out of a clear blue sky. And unless they're truly inclined to listen, there's really no point.

I took a deep breathe and let it out, trying to be inconspicuous about it.

I guess he realized we were about to get into something fairly unpleasant, so he held up his hands as if warding off a pysical blow, and said, "But I don't really need to know."

"Yes, I think you do." I said gently. "You already know about people who want to have sex with kids, right?"

He made a moue of distaste with his perfect little mouth and wrinkled his snub nose. "Yes."

"Well..." I began....

And then we talked about all the ways in which a predator might "solicit" him online. How they might lie and manipulate and disguise themselves. How they might try to find out where he lives and then come here. As in previous discussions, I spared no detail. It's an ugly truth, but one he needs to know.

Later as we prepared for bed, he asked if he could sleep with me and I agreed. In the bed, he got as close to me as he possibly could, all but lying on top of me as I read.

At last I turned off the light and we both laid (lay, lie?) there not sleeping. We listened to each other breathing for a while and then he spoke...

"Mom? Do kids always have to move out when they're 18?"


"Oh. K. Goodnight."

He rolled over, his plump behind smushed damply against my lower back, and fell promptly into sleep with the complete abandon that only children can manage.

And I...I laid there, listening to 12 year old boys play video games and talk about girls and thinking about how goddamned short 18 years really is.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Day With Diminutive One

Welllll....the last couple entries have been a little on the heavy side. So I'm going to try to lighten things up a little bit today.

How? Well, with mindless fluff of course!

You may remember that I was considering keeping Diminutive One home this week because the school was being unccoperative about allowing him to take the CRCT in alone in a quiet room. I went higher, twice placing calls to the county Superintendent, which were not returned. A friend told me dryly that "You don't want to talk to him anyway. He's a huge prick."

Well who needs that? So I kept him home.

I was a little concerned about how we were going to get on for an entire week alone the house together. I mean, we typically do alright as long as everything goes his way. But try to get him to eat a vegetable or change his underwear....

Anyway, I was worried.

But, as it turned out, he was so damned happy not to have to go to school, so relaxed, so free of anxiety, that he's really been very easy (relatively speaking) to deal with. And I suppose, it doesn't hurt that for the first time in his whole life (except for the time he had his tonsils out and then he was too sick to enjoy it) he has had my undivided attention.

It kind of breaks my heart, knowing that he has been so profoundly miserable. I went from being reticent about having home, to wishing I never had to send him back.

On Tuesday we went to Petsmart. We have three cats, (yes, three, it was an accident) and they go through quite a bit of food and litter. The Petsmart near us just opened, and I was happy to finally have a convenient place to buy those items in bulk. Diminutive One LOVES to go to the pet store, but typically it's one of many items on a lengthy to do list, and we only stay long enough to get what we need. He never gets to stay as long as he would like.

But that day, I let him linger.

He looked at every single thing in the store. He looked at rodents, reptiles, amphibians and fish. He spent quality time with the rescue animals. He watched a very morose Shihtzu get a haircut. He watched an even more morose Bichon get a manicure, complete with hot pink toenail polish. He helped me select a new drinking fountain for the cats. He helped me pick out treats, carefully selecting only those that were seafood flavored (a known favorite in our house).

He observed an elderly couple shopping with their Shihtzu, who was obviously obscenely pampered and well loved. The old man crooned to the trembling little dog almost constantly, as one would to a small,frightened child. Diminutive One remarked to me, "I bet that dog thinks it's a kid or something." I'm pretty sure if the dog didn't, it's owners did.

On our way out, he spied a "Cat Sitter" dvd, featuring all kinds of lower food chain wildlife such as rodents, birds, and butterflies. He was really jonesing for that dvd. I'd seen it on t.v. too, and thought it might be a lark (ha-ha), so we added it to the mountain of merchandise in our cart.

When we got home, he went straight to the DVD player and, after gathering the cats ceremoniously in front of the television, popped it in. They were monentarily intrigued by the loud chirps and twitters...three sets of ears pricked up in unison and they looked at one another questioningly. In unspoken agreement, they went in search of the source of the promising and delicious sounds. They did not return.

Not that we noticed. Because you see, Diminutive One and I were completely and totally mesmerized by the sounds and images. We both sat slack jawed and unmoving for the better part of 30 minutes.

Finally Diminutive One sat up with a jerk and said, "Where are the cats?"

I gave a start myself at the sound of his voice. "Ummmm, I don't know. They were here a minute ago."

We looked at each other sheepishly. Diminutive One rubbed his eyes, yawned, and then said, "I think I'm going to remarket that as an adult sitter DVD. It was riveting!"

Remarket. Riveting.

And they want to send this kid to summer school.

Puh. Leez.


My site was nominated for The Blogitzer!

Also, a big thanks to the very sweet Jessica over at Oh, The Joys for nominating me for a Blogger's Choice award. I am a very small fish in a very big pond, so I have no illusions about actually winning anything. But it was nice to be acknowledged. Thanks Jess!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hello, In There...Hello

My life has a soundtrack, and I'm sure the same is true for many of you. Generally, I like mustic with a really rollicking beat; something to get my blood pumping, my fingers snapping, and my feet dancing. But when I'm feeling melancholy, instrospective, nostalgic or mellow, I like something smooth and sultry, something warm and whimsical.

Sometimes it's Dean Martin. Sometimes it's Norah Jones. Sometimes it's Bette Midler.

I love me some Bette. I'm really dating myself with that admission, but I don't care. I love the way her voice wraps around me like an embrace; rich, resonant, fluid. Whether she's being sassy or sentimental, her words always tell a story, they always move me.

She sings in the same key as I do, so I can really belt it out along with her. And I do.

I know almost all of her songs word for word. But there are a few that haven't, for whatever reason, struck a chord with me, and those I just hum through, half listening, waiting for one of my favorites.

This morning, sorting laundry, my mind filled with worry over sick kids and churning with the never ending list of to-do's, something caught my attention, and I stopped for a moment.

The song was "Hello In There" and it's one of the hum throughs. I've never really stopped to listen to the words, never really cared. But these words hit me like a fist.

Ya know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder evry day.
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, hello in there, hello

I didn't intend to write a post about the massacre at Virginia Tech, because although it is undeniably tragic, and we all feel something deep inside when we think of it...there comes a point when it's all been said.

But people are angry. Really, really angry. And who can blame them? Their loved ones lie dead. Innocent and unlucky, they were simply the victims of time and chance. They hurt no one, they did nothing to deserve their horrible fate. And it's normal to be angry. And it normal to direct that anger at the person who took those lives.

But I think that anger is misdirected a bit.

People knew that this Cho fella was disturbed. They saw it, they felt it, they read it. And nobody did anything. By their own admission, they were just waiting for the day they saw his face on the news.


Well because in today's society, we all walk around cocooned by our own lives. We don't ask, don't tell. We lower our heads and avert our eyes. We don't want to get involved. We don't want to seem nosy. We mind our own business, until our business is tragedy. And then we weep and wail and ask why.

We don't stop to say, "Hello in there....Hello."

Maybe he just needed someone to ask him what was wrong. Maybe he just needed to feel like someone gave a damn. The shooting wasn't his only cry for help. He tried to reach out. Everything about him was screaming for help. But instead of taking a moment to say..."Hello in there...Hello", students and faculty alike tittered over his strangeness. They made flip remarks about him going postal. They ignored his humanity to make him more suitable as the butt of jokes.

People, we have got to start paying attention.

When someone is lonely, hungry, sad, empty, angry, lost...we have to look and see and then do something about it.

There's an elderly lady who begs for change at the local Starbucks. Lots of people give her money. Nobody looks at her. Nobody asks her why she has to beg. The last time I saw her I smiled and said hello as I handed her a dollar. She jerked as if I had struck her. My friendliness surprised her. And that my dear people, is a shameful thing.

We have to take a moment to say "Hello in there....Hello."

Or we will soon be a nation populated by Chos and the consequences will be devastating to the human race.

"Hello in there...hello."


On a happier note, I'd like to thank Doodaddy, In the Trenches and Rachelle, for giving me a Thinking Blogger Award. I have to admit, it gives me a little ripple of satisfaction. There are so many really intelligent people saying meaningful things out there and I love that bloggers who are writing really fantastic stuff are being recognized.

Ironically, I was going to award Doodaddy AND Rachelle, but someone beat me to it. So, lessee....

I want to nominate my friend Kirdy at Urbane Chaos. She has recently returned from a pretty lengthy hiatus due to moving, and I am so glad! Whether she is writing about world issues or potty training, she is always fun and interesting to read.

I also want to nominate my friend Nina over at Closer to Fine. Nina is a 40 something mother of 4 who recently come out as a lesbian, and everyday she gives me insight into the struggle for acceptance, understanding and tolerance.

Then there is Omegamom. She and I used to run in the same circle once upon a time, but a series of unfortunate events caused us to go our separate ways. These days she is a strong advocate for adoption awarness and a terriffic source of information and support for those considering adoption. She also writes very enterainingly about her 4 year old adopted "dotter". She calls herself "good enough Mom" and who can help but admire that?

And lastly there is Andrea over at Little Bald Doctors. Recently, Andrea contemplated not blogging anymore, because she felt that she wasn't doing any blogging of substance. I beg to differ. She did not throw in the towel, I'm happy to say and since then, her writing, always good, has reflected a really stunning sincerity and depth.

Pass it on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Way People Are

Freedom of speech is a sticky wicket.

It seems like it should be a fairly straightforward concept, but that’s only true if those availing themselves of that freedom can always be counted on to use good judgment.

I wholeheartedly support and vehemently defend Freedom Of Speech. I think it is one of the most precious freedoms that we have been afforded under the auspices of our Declaration of Independence. I place it before Freedom of Religion and Freedom to Bear Arms in order of importance. Its not something I take for granted, and I will defend anybody, even Don Imus, who chooses to exercise that freedom.

Unfortunately, there are a few things people seem to forget about freedom of speech.

First, and foremost, that it is a privilege, not a God given right. Any privilege too often abused, is inevitably curtailed or abolished. And I have learned, with unfortunately personal clarity, that any potential in that regard will be exploited if the potential exists.

Because that’s just how people are.

Secondly, that no freedom is absolute. There have to be guidelines. There have to be standards. There has to be a just and reasonable expectation or we risk falling into a moral and social profligacy.

Because that’s just how people are.

Thirdly, that the founding Fathers never intended Freedom Of Speech to be a vehicle for hatred, bigotry and vulgarity. They intended to give the people a voice. They intended to empower us to stand up and say “this is wrong” or “here’s what I think” without risking our lives or our freedom.

Nobody intended for yahoos like Don Imus to go on public radio and make racial and sexist remarks about innocent young women. Nobody intended to pave the way for Howard Stern and his ilk to broadcast the kind of vicious and offensive shlock that he dishes out under the dubious compendium of “entertainment”.

And yet, a precept that was conceived with only the very best of intentions, is being used to sanction just that sort of thing.

Because that’s just how people are.

I think that’s nuts. And I think it’s equally nuts that people are rushing to the defense of such individuals. There is nothing defensible about intolerance.

And here’s where it gets sticky. Because there’s really no way to define and quantify such freedom without endgendering the kind of ham-fisted autocracy that the Founding Fathers sought to eliminate.

So where does that leave us?

Well, that’s where responsibility and accountability come in. We all have to use good judgement in how we choose to exercise our freedoms. And we have to stand up and say “This is WRONG” when someone like Don Imus abuses his freedom. That’s not denying someone their right to speak freely. It’s protecting our own.

So. While in theory, I support Don Imus’ right to say what he said, in practice, I think he’s an unmitigated ass for doing so. And I fully support the action that was taken against him.

Because if we don’t demonstrate that such behavior is unacceptable, then we will all, one day, pay the price. Freedom of Speech will become a distant memory; a thing spoken of in history books and tales told by grandfolks to grandchildren.

Because that’s just the way people are.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Laughter; It Does a Body Good

Well, obviously the post below was written in a moment of paralyzing sadness, guilt and self-doubt. I may seem fairly philosophical and relatively upbeat about Diminutive One, but the truth is, I have far more of those moments than I like to admit.

But they are not all consuming.

Life with Diminutive One can be incredibly demoralizing and emotionally exhausting, but it is never, ever boring. And there are times that his antics make me laugh, even when I know I should be well and truly horrified. Perhaps it's some sort of instinctual self-preservation tactic.

One day last week, the phone rang early in the day. A glance at the caller ID told me it was the elementary school calling. I cringed inwardly, wondering if it was simple illnes or something more calamitous.

I expected the Assistant Principal or the School Nurse, both of whom I am on far more familiar terms than I care to be. To my surprise, it was Diminutive One's teacher. She never calls. She always sends notes or emails me. As soon as she identified herself, a heavy, greasy ball of sick dread dropped into my stomach and laid there like lead.

But her tone was oozing with kindness and tentative sympathy. I was puzzled by that. As our conversation progressed, the reason for her solicitude became abundantly clear.

Teacher: Hello Mrs. Antagonist? This is Mrs. WoefullyInept at Barely Adequate Elementary School?

B.A.: Erm, yes, hello.

Teacher: I hate to ask, but I was wondering....if your family has recently experienced a terribly tragedy? Regarding your oldest son?

B.A.(midly alarmed): Noooooooo. He's fine as far as I know. I haven't seen him since he left for school this morning. Why????

Teacher: Well...I ummm...I wouldn't even have considered calling you, it's just that he was so earnest and very convincing.

B.A.(suspiciously): Who was?

Teacher: Diminutive One. I'm afraid he's telling everyone that his older brother was murdered while he was away at college.

Pregnant Pause

Teacher: Stabbed. To death. Apparently, it was a very violent death.

At this point, relieved, semi-hysterical laughter threatened to burst forth. I stifled it with effort that was nothing short of Herculean.

Teacher: Mrs. Antagonist?????

B.A.: Yes, I'm here. Sorry. I was just....a little taken aback. No. He has not been murdered.

I tried to turn a sarcastic snort into a convincing sniffle.

Teacher(coldly): Oh.

B.A.: I don't have a son in college. My only other son is in Middle School.

Teacher: Well, I didn't think so, but....he really was very convincing. He was giving a lot of very explicit details. It was upsetting the other children a great deal. So I thought I had better find out before talking to him about it. In case it was, you know....true. I didn't want to make light of it if he really had lost his brother. Violently.

B.A.: Well I appreciate that. Can you think of a reason he might have been telling such a story?

Teacher: Well, I was hoping you could tell me.

B.A.: I really can't think of one. But he does enjoy drama a great deal.

Teacher(dryly): Yes. He does.

B.A.: Ummmm, okay, well, I'll talk to him about it when he gets home. I'm sure he didn't mean any harm. He just enjoys making up stories.

Teacher: It might be a good idea to talk to him about what kinds of stories are appropriate.

B.A.: I certainly will Mrs. WoefullyInept.

Teacher: Thank You. Good-bye.


I'm sure Mrs. WoefullyInept didn't find it funny at all. And I suppose I can't really blame her. A room full of traumatized 8 year olds can't be easy to deal with. I suppose she thinks that only a child who is somewhat disturbed would conceive such a nefarious and grisly tale. But I didn't and don't think that Diminutive One had malicious intent when he told his story, nor was he suffering from some sort of psychotic episode.

Stories of violently murdered siblings and the like are, in my estimation, the natural consequences of a fantastically dramatic and imaginitive child who is bored to distraction. Simply put, Diminutive One decided to create some drama and interest to brighten the dull predictability of his school day. Perhaps not a wise course of action, but not deliberately destructive either.

We are not able to see Diminutive One's therapist this month due to an insurance snafu, but she has been in touch to check up on us. She invited me to call her at any time if something problematic arose. I decided to give her a jingle, just to make sure that I wasn't harboring a fledgling Charles Manson in my home.

As I related the incident to her over the phone, there was what I interpreted as a stunned pause, during which, I experienced that all too familiar sinking feeling again.

But then, to my intense relief....she giggled. And the giggle turned into a chuckle, the chuckle a guffaw.

"Oh my." She chortled. "That poor woman just isn't equipped to deal with a child like Diminutive One, is she??"

And then I felt better. I felt free to laugh, as I had first been inclined to do. And I did. Really, really hard.

Because sometimes you just have to.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Folly Of Wishing

Yesterday, we had the good fortune to score some really good tickets to a Braves Game. We sat directly behind the dugout, albeit on the visitor's side. But we could have hocked a loogie on Chipper Jones as he stood at third base, the wisdom of which was hotly debated by my boys.

We have never ever been that close before and we were all kind of jazzed about that. We took full advantage of the amenities, which included a waitress to fetch us all the overpriced and undercooked ballpark fare we could hold. Or, afford. Despite having free tickets we still managed to spend a ridiculous amount of money.

The weather was fine...clear and a little chilly, but perfectly comfortable if one was properly dressed.

I did not have a good time.

Diminutive One, as is often the case, made concentrating on the game impossible. He flipped his seat up and down. He tore the paper menu into strips and then threw them up into the air like confetti. He hummed. He whistled. He jiggled his leg. He stood up. He sat down. He climbed into the row behind us. He clambered back. He stood on his seat and nearly landed in the laps of the people in front of us. Three times. He went to the restroom. Three times. He did the wave long after it had died down, popping up and down like some maniacal jack in the box. He jabbered non-stop, asking a continuous stream of questions until I was nearly apopleptic with irritation.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know that this is nothing new.

DO has always been Spirited and was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Usually, I deal with his behavior with a sort of resigned acceptance. It is often unpleasant and frustrating and wholly unrelaxing to take him places, but I can't confine him to the house for the rest of his natural born days. That would be a whole lot easier, but it would be unforgiveably cruel and certainly would not serve his best interests.

I try to avoid activities that require him to be still for a long period of time, but I don't think we should always have to cater to his needs. I don't think the entire family should be held captive by his diagnosis. So we just accept that some outings will be more challenging than others. And mostly, we are okay with that. We've become so accostomed to it that I don't think we'd know what to do with a meek and quiet child.

But last night, I just didn't want to be accepting. I didn't want to deal with it. I just wanted to watch the damn game. And so I spent the entire evening wishing that he could just be like other kids.

Seated across the aisle from us was a man sitting all by himself. He was an older fella, with the burnished skin of a man who has lived his life outdoors. He had a pleasant face with big soulful brown eyes. They were sad, but kind. During the first couple innings, I saw him scribbling industriously on a piece of ragged cardboard he had torn from an empty Budweiser carton. He was obviously making a sign of some sort, and I was wildly curious about what it would say. At last he finished and held it up to the camerman directly in front of the dugout. It read,

"LAST STOP. I have been to every Major League ballpark in the USA."

The cameraman blatantly ignored him, which I thought was a shame. What a wonderful human interest story it would have made.

Husband struck up a conversation with the man. He had indeed been to every ball park in the United States. It had taken him three years. Husband asked him if he had a ball from every park and he shook his head regretfully. But he did have a hat from every single one, he told us cheerfully.

Husband inquired as to why he was all by himself for such a momentous occasion. The man's face fell a little and those big brown eyes looked even sadder. He glanced at my boys wistfully, gave a small forlorn little smile and said, "My sons did not want to come with me."

Suddenly I felt ashamed of myself.

I had spent the entire evening wishing for something that can never be, instead of being grateful for what is.

It's an easy trap to fall into this wishing, when you have a child like Diminutive One, and I sometimes worry that I have wished his entire life away.

When he was an infant I wished he would just sleep. When he was a toddler, I wished he could just speak. When he was four, I wished so fervently for Kindergarten that it simply could not come fast enough. And every year since then I have wished that life with him could just be easier. I have wished for answers that will probably never come. I have wished for normalcy.

All that wishing when I should have been celebrating.

I have a child. A bright, creative, fantastically complex and endlessly challenging but marvelously unique and infinitely curious child.

And he is with me.

Every day I can touch him, smell his hair, pat his deliciously plump behind. Every day I can look into his face and see my mother's freckles, my husband's grin, my father's humor. Every day I can see with my own eyes that he is safe and happy and healthy.

My wish for today, is that I can appreciate here and now, what will be gone before I know it. Soon he will be lost to his own life. And then I will be wishing to have back all those years I wished away.

I wish...not to wish anymore.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Of Character And Courtesy

When I was a child, things were a little different than they are today. In some ways it was better, in some ways it was worse. I could go on and on about those differences, but what I really want to discuss today is manners. Because my parents insisted on good manners, I notice them. I also notice when they are lacking.

I suppose part of that is also due to the fact that I live in the South, where people will look you right in the eye and smile while plotting your painful and grisly demise as recompense for some small slight, real or imagined. Gentility is highly prized here in the land of Julep and Jesus; second only to religious piety and devotion.

But sometimes, it's a fragile and tenuous though impressively artful politesse. Sometimes, its quite impossible to determine if the sentiments being so lavishly and elegantly expressed are as sincere as they are enthusiastic.

And yet, it is undeniably pleasant to be on the receiving end of such exaggerated courtesy.

For those reasons, rudeness is all the more conspicuous when it occurs.

Yesterday, I took Pre-Pubescent One to the Orthodontist. The waiting room was strictly standing room only. The reason for this, is that unlike the standard dental practitioner's setup, where the Dentist or Orthodontist sees one or two patients at any given time in private procedure rooms, this office has but one cavernous room. In this room there are at least 10 mauve leatherette chairs, each cradling a reclining child or adolescent, all with yawning mouths, all looking very much like baby birds waiting for a fat and tasty worm. It is a veritable assemply line of orthodontia.

I happened to spy one empty chair and made for it only to be told by the woman next to it that "My son is sitting here."

I was, quite frankly, shocked.

As a parent, to deny another adult a seat so my child could sit is simply unthinkable. And it has nothing to do with hyperbolic Southern convention. I was taught that children stand, adults sit. As a child, I knew better than to remain seated if an adult was standing. All of us did.

Perhaps that seems like an antiquated practice, but I don't think it really is, unless one considers respect for our elders an outmoded concept. In the book I am currently reading, one of the characters says "Respect for our elders is the cornerstone of civilized behavior."

I think there is something to that.

But I wonder if, more than simple rudeness, it's a symptom of a larger social ill; that being the increasingly kid-centric standard that governs our behavior these days.

Growing up, my parents were always accessible, always emotionally available, always invested in us. But their lives did not revolve around ours. They had their own friends, their own interests, their own time together and with other adults. They loved us, but they were not defined by our sucesses or failures. They were devoted to bringing us up well, but not slaves to our every desire.

Looking at my own life, I'm not sure I can say the same. And I suspect this may be true for many other families as well.

But still, I insist upon a certain level of respect for and deference to adults. They know to stand if an adult needs a seat, they know to hold the door for an elderly lady or gentlemen (anybody, really, but especially them), they know that they don't interrupt or insert themselves into adult conversation. They know that to speak disrespectfully to other adults is an invitation to examine the ceiling cracks in their room. And, out of respect for my husband's deeply Southern heritage, I insist that my children address other adults as "Sir" and "Ma'am".

It's just the way things have always been for me and now for my children. I've never thought twice about it, because I was so thoroughly indoctrinated as a child.

You know, it's not that I couldn't have stood for the 20 minutes that we were there. I could have, quite easily. It was, perhaps, the overt rudeness that so thoroughly took me aback. And when I snapped to my son, "Well, I guess I'll just stand", she wasn't the least bit embarassed. In fact, when another woman cleared a chair of her daughters belongings so I could sit, she shot daggers at me for the duration of our stay there.

So whether it was simply lack of manners on her part, a sense of entitlement on her child's part, or unrealistic expectations on my part...something about the entire experience rankled me.

Later Pre-Pubescent One remarked upon the rudeness, and I was glad to know that he recognized it as such. My kids may be stubborn, loud, overdramatic, lacksadaisical and lazy...but they are damn polite.

So, if nothing else, I've left them a legacy that will really come in handy should they decide to make their home in the land of Julep and Jesus.

But I hope it's more than that. I hope I've taught them not only to respect their elders, but to value their experience and wisdom. In an era where youth and beauty are valued above all else, that's a rare thing. I hope I've also done a decent job of making sure they don't get too caught up in their own importance. I hope they can recognize that they are just a small part of a larger, more significant thing.

While they are, of course, the center of my Universe, we don't really need to let them in on that part. They'll find out when their own children enter this world.

And when that happens, I'm sure the little devils will be unfailingly polite and respectful of their old Granny B.A.

Or Else.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Laying Blame

Sometimes I wish my husband was a superficial lookist asshole.

One of my closest friend's husband is. He's always chiding her for what she eats, how she looks, and her lack of self-discipline. He is not discreet or discriminating with his remarks either. He thinks nothing of making comments such as "Perhaps the grilled chicken would be a better choice for you." when other people are present. He doesn't usually even have the decency to lower his voice.

I would have kicked him to the curb years ago, and that's the least of the reasons, but my friend has grown accostomed to it. I'm not sure she even realizes how disrespectful and demeaning his behavior is.

However, for the 12 years that I have known her, she has pretty much maintained a healthy weight. How could she not with the constant reminders and unrelenting criticism?

In 2005, I lost around 50-60 pounds. That's strictly a guess. I did not weigh myself because I was focusing on inches rather than pounds. Inches proved to be a more reliable indicator of progress for me, while watching the scale was demoralizing and discouraging. But I went from a size 22 to a size 12, and I was eyeing size 10 with aniticpation, counting the days until I could once again squeeze my multipara behind into my prepartum clothes.

In 2006, I became complacent and lazy and put quite a bit of it back on, although not quite all of it. I was able to slam the brakes on my indulgence and apathy before I had to graduate to plus sizes once again.

See...if I had a husband like my friend's husband, I probably wouldn't have allowed that to happen.

But noooooooo, not my husband. Instead, he has to be accepting, supportive, complimentary. He has to love me unconditionally. He has to tell me how beautiful I am and mean it. The bastard.

Even immediately post-partum, when my blissfully empty belly looked like an albino elephant's backend and my hugely swollen breasts were subject to bouts of sudden, unexpected bursts of jet propelled milk expulsion, much like that from a novelty lapel pin and during which, anybody standing near by was at risk of being drenched by an errant stream.

Even when I had such dark smudges under my eyes that it looked as if I was a victim of domestic violence. Even when I forgot to brush my hair and my teeth for days on end. Even when I smelled like a combination of sour milk, baby poop, and Preparation H.

He still fondled my behind, nuzzled my neck, and propositioned me regularly. The insensitive son of a bitch.

Un. Believable.

After Diminutive One was born, my body looked and felt completely alien to me. I would look in the mirror and marvel at just how thoroughly my pregnancies had ravaged me. Because I am very short, (5'4") and had very large babies (PPO, born at 34 weeks, weighed 6lbs, DO, born at full term, weighed 9lbs 5oz.) the muscles of my skin and stomach had borne the brunt and now told the tale.

Pregnancy, combined with many sleepless nights and worry over an infant born with a hole in his heart and a severe case of reflux, and, a successful attempt to quit smoking cold turkey at the beginning of my pregnancy...caused the pounds to pile on.

There was a pinnacle moment when Diminutive One was in Kindergarten that made me realize I had to do something about it. You can read about it here.
And I did.

I was so proud of myself. I had a healthier mental outlook, more energy. I felt strong, powerful. My body was no longer a prison, it was a well tuned machine. And I just let it go to hell.

After much thought, I've decided it is all my husband's fault for never telling me my ass was going to need it's own zipcode soon, or that my knees were growing moss due to the shadow my stomach cast upon them. The unreliable horse's ass.

But, it's okay. I've learned that I have to motivate myself, and that the only person for whom I can live a healthier lifestyle is myself. I can't do it to please him, or to fit society's ill-conceived and unrealistic standard of beauty. I have to do it for me, so that I can feel good and strong, and healthy.

But that's not to say that I don't rely on a little external motivation now and then.

I've recently started exercising again, and have achieved my first short term goal of six weeks of exercising every, single day. And I'm really proud of myself. I feel inspired, motivated, happy. I haven't seen any huge changes yet, but my pants are fitting better, my bras don't pinch my armpit fat anymore, and my stomach is slowly, slowly losing that elephantine quality. I think I can go the distance this time.

But...just to make sure, I've bought myself a little insurance.


It's a circa 1950's Beaumelle Original wiggle dress.

I obviously have a thing for vintage clothing, but I haven't bought much because what point is there in having it if you can't wear it? Since my husband can't be bothered to tactless and critical, the this dress will serve as my inspiration.

And when I wear it to his semi-formal Christmas party, he'll just have to deal with all the other husbands staring at me. I just hope that for once, he can bring himself to be insanely jealous and ridiculously suspicious and act accordingly.

The trusting, level-headed jerkoff.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It's Not Easy Being (sorta) Green

Every spring and fall, our neighborhood gets the privilege of listening to our neighbor, whose house is directly adjacent to our own, blow his lawn from sunup to sundown, every weekend. I don't think he even stops to pee. And I don't even know what he's blowing, becausese he doesn't have that many trees in his yard. Not to mention that he starts blowing long before the first tree is even in bud, and long after the last tree has been stripped of the last stalwart leaf.

The entire neighborhood is held captive during this fanatical bout of horticultural zeal. Nobody plans to cookout. Nobody has guests over. The kids don't want to go out and play. For someone such as myself, who has a low tolerance for noise anyway, its on par with Chinese water torture. It is constant, pervasive, maddening. One can hear it in one's teeth, one can feel it in the pit of one's stomach.

And when at long last it stops, the effect is similar to stepping outside a concert hall, where one's eardrums have been violently, albeit voluntarily, assaulted for several unrelenting hours. One is momentarily disoriented. It feels peculiar and wrong, until one realizes that the startling absence of cacophony is right and good...even if one's hearing is terribly muzzy and fuffled. The relief if profound, but tenuous, as one never knows when he might decide that he has missed a particle. Once bitten twice shy, as it were.

So anyway...with any other neighbor, we might decide to approach them and politely request that they KNOCK IT OFF. But unfortunately, this guy is not a reasonable sort at all.

We learned this many years ago when attempting to resolve a conflict between our son and his, during which our son was categorically banned from their home. Being a sensitive kid, Pre-Pubescent one was absolutely bereft. Never had he been treated so unjustly. Husband went to talk to the man, fully intending to be polite, diplomatic, and objective. He was told that the dispute was entirely the fault of Pre-Pubescent One, and that further, his behavior was obviously due to our inept parenting and an egregious lack of discipline.

Husband is a peaceable man. He is incredibly easy going and can get along with just about anybody. But when he returned home red-faced and fuming he declared that he had never wanted to punch someone in the mouth so badly in his entire life. He didn't. And we have spent the last five years or so avoiding this man and his ill-begotten spawn at all costs.

The neigbhor to his left found this out more recently when he caught the man red-handed, blowing leaves and other particulate matter into his yard. The neighbor, quite justifiably, asked him to stop. The man replied that the neighbor couldn't be bothered to care for his own lawn properly anyway, so what did it matter if he blew the detritus from his yard there?

From there it got ugly.

Husband happened to be at the front door checking on the whereabouts of our children when all this transpired. He reported to me gleefully that leaf blowing neighbor almost got his block knocked off, but that the blowee's elderly father-in-law stepped between the two men and then physically escorted the blower from the property.

So you see why we hesitate to approach the man.

But today, I have well and truly had enough. He blew all day yesterday. He blew this morning. And when, this evening, we returned quite late from a day of enjoyable but tiring and sort of crazy making merriment with the in-laws, he was still blowing.

So I did a little research.

And tonight, by the light of the moon, I will creep over to his painstakingly manicured lawn and....

No, I'm not going to tp the house, though don't think it didn't cross my mind. Along with egging, shaving creaming and flaming dog poo'ing.

Instead, I will put this in his mailbox:


Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Leaf Blowers


There are four major health hazards from the use of leaf blowers. They are:

• Exhaust pollution
• Particulate pollution
• Quantity of pollutants
• Noise


One gasoline-powered leaf blower generates as much exhaust pollution in one hour as
would 17 cars traveling slowly. Cars disperse their pollutants over long stretches of road,while a blower concentrates its pollutants in one neighborhood. Two-stroke engine fuel is a gas-oil mixture that is especially toxic compared to automobile emissions.

Exhaust pollution from two-cycle engines is a large contributor of carbon monoxide
(CO), nitrous oxides (NOx), hydrocarbons (HC), and particulate matter (PM). The
particulate matter from combustion is small in size (2.5 or microns or less).2 Combustion exhaust particulate matter remains suspended in the air for hours—sometimes days—and is easily assimilated in the lungs. The EPA and ARB state that such PM can increase the number and severity of asthma attacks, bronchitis and other lung diseases and reduce ability to fight infections. Those particularly affected are children and the elderly.

(PM2.5 microns refers to particulate matter size diameter in millionths of a meter or microns. PM2.5 particles are 2.5microns in diameter or smaller. PM10 particles are 10 microns in diameter or smaller and include PM2.5 particles. A PM10 particle is about 1/17th the diameter of a human hair.)


The airjet generated by blowers with velocities of 185 miles per hour or more spreads dust, dirt, pollens, animal droppings, herbicides and pesticides into the air. The effect lasts for hours on particulate matter that is 10 microns in diameter or smaller. The ARB has estimated that each leaf blower entrains (puts into the atmosphere) 5 pounds of particulate matter per hour about half of which is 10 microns or smaller. The EPA and ARB state that such particulate matter can create the same health risks as does the exhaust pollution.


The ARB calculates that leaf blowers inject some 2.11 tons of combustion pollutants
per day into the air. These pollutants contain organic gases, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and exhaust-size particulate matter (PM2.5) as described previously. Additionally, twenty tons per day of small size particulate matter (PM10) are swept into the air by blower airflow.


Noise interferes with communications, sleep, and work. The EPA claims noise degrades quality of life by impairing social interaction. It also reduces work accuracy and creates stressful levels of frustration and aggravation. The average blower generates noise that measures 65 to 75 dBA or more at 50 feet, and even louder at close range.

Leaf blowers are often used fewer than 50 feet from NON-CONSENTING people. Neighboring homes may be occupied by home workers, retirees, day sleepers, children and the ill or disabled. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends general outdoor noise levels of 55 dBA or less, and 45 dBA or less for sleeping. Thus, a 65-decibel leaf blower would be 100 times too loud3 for healthful sleep.

Blower noise can, and probably does, impair the user’s hearing. A blower generates upward of 95 decibels of noise at the operator’s ear (see Table 1 above). The Office of Safety and Health Administration requires hearing protection for noise over 85 dBA. Hearing protectors as worn in the field provide only a fraction of the attenuation needed for hearing protection. There is an increased risk of hearing damage and deafness from repeated exposure to noise above 75 dBA. Deafness caused by noise is irreversible.A decibel change from 45 to 65 dBA, is a 100-fold change in volume.


I even included a bibliography of my sources, lest he is inclined to believe that I, err...the anonymous party who placed the information in his mailbox, is manufacturing information to suit my, err, their agenda.

Now look...I'll concede that I am not the greenest person on the planet. I will also concede that my motivation is mostly that of extreme personal annoyance.

But even an ecologically noncommittal person such as myself can comprehend that burning several gallons of fossil fuel to achieve an objective that can be just as easily (and honestly, I believe more expeditiously) accomplished with a simple device known as a rake, is environmentally irresponsible and frankly, just plain stupid.

And after doing the research, I am finding myself affronted on a completely different level. Atlanta has enough problems with pollution without idiots like him pumping more into the environement for purely aesthetic reasons.

Plus, you piss off all your neighbors...people who might one day have to succor you as you huddle in your boxer shorts and watch your house burn to the ground (possibly due to some flaming dog poo gone awry), or call an ambulance when someone beats you to a bloody pulp for blowing leaves onto their lawn.

I'm hopeful, but not deluded. Chances are, he doesn't really care. But at least I'll feel like I did something, instead of sitting here seething and slowly losing my hearing.

I can't wait to see if he powers that sucker up next Saturday.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mother Woman, Other Woman

Remember how, as a kid, it was almost impossible to think of your Mom and Dad as non-parent type people, with jobs, lives, and loves all different from those you knew?

It was sort of shocking to imagine your Dad kissing another woman, or your Mom cooking Sunday Pot Roast for another man. It seemed wrong and scary if that other life could some day come back and reassert itself as the better choice. As if your very existence could be cancelled out by might have beens.

I had forgotten about that.

But of course, having our own children has a way of dredging up all kinds of things that have been lost. It's not only the innocence that leaves, us, but the fear as well. The Big Bad Wolf becomes just another archetypical storybook villain. We no longer believe there are monsters in the closet. And we forget to feel threatened by the other lives that our parents might have lived. Unfortunately, with this, comes the realization that they are not perfect or invinceable.

Perhaps that is what has really frightened us all along. Not the other lives, but the other selves. The non-parent selves, who were mortal, fallible....human.

Today Husband and I took the boys to see the Titanic Exhibit at the Civic Center. On our way back through downtown, we pointed out various places to the boys; places we had once frequented, worked, relaxed. Once upon a time we had both navigated those streets with familiarity and ablomb; nonplussed by the traffic, the drug dealers, the thoroughly ridiculous number of one way streets.

Now it makes us feel all uptight and touristy. Now we have to fake nonchalance.

Husband pointed out the impossibly tall building where he had begun his career. Impressed, the boys craned their necks upward, marvelling at the fact that they couldn't see the top from our vantage point directly below it on the street. They asked about the elevators, the bathrooms (one on every floor, we assured them) and the fire escape plan.

I pointed out the building where I had worked. It's completely mirrored and I explained to the boys that from the inside, it looks as if there are no walls at all. Well, not from my (former) office. It was hidden away in a dark and insignificant corner and smelled like a combination of perspiration and egg salad. But I got to look out those magical windows on my way to the bathroom.

Diminutive One asked me if the floors and ceilings were transparent too. At first this struck me as a thoroughly silly question. But I suppose, in buildings that must have seemed fantastic and surreal to him, transparent floors and ceilings were certainly not outside the realm of possibility. At 8, not much is.

I explained to him that no, of course they weren't. Because what if, above you, there were ladies who were wearing skirts?

At first he was puzzled. But then the dawning realization caused a blush to creep accross his freckled cheeks. Husband quipped that it might not be such a bad idea. The boys guffawed and then looked at me to see if I was going to take offense at such a ribald comment. I rolled my eyes heavenward and declined further comment. The three of them tittered in their shared maleness.

We stopped to lunch at Spaghetti Warehouse, where we had the novely of eating in an honest to goodness boxcar. Cramped, but charming.

And a good time was had by all.

Later that evening, while snuggled up in my bed, both of us with a book in hand, Diminutive One suddenly asked,

"Mom...Do you ever wish you still worked at that place?"

"No." I said emphatically. "I'm happy right here."

"But I don't flush the toilet."

"That's true. You don't."

"I'm always making a mess."

I nodded.


"You probably didn't have to clean up poop and stuff at that job, huh?"

I wanted to tell him that there are are all kinds of shit in this world and that I had cleaned up more than my share in that sparkling glass walled prison. I wanted to tell him that poop doesn't matter to me, even though sometimes I stomp around and complain very loudly about it. I wanted to tell him that it was just a job, while he is my heart and my soul. I wanted to tell him that the job might have made me plenty of money, but he makes me a Mother.

I didn't of course. He wouldn't have understood. And besides, we weren't really talking about poop. Or Messes. We were talking about that other self he had glimpsed today; the Me before I was his Mother. We were talking about the other life; the one without him in it, the one he was worried I had maybe liked better.

And I remembered the fear of being cancelled out. Swallowed up. Erased. I remembered being afraid of "might have been".

"Babe...The day I got to quit that job and become a Mom was the happiest day of my life."

"Really?" he asked, concern still wrinkling the brow beneath his unruly curls.

"Really. I knew there would be poop and stuff, but I didn't care. I just wanted to be a Mom. And now I am."

And stuff. We've had a lot of "and stuff" lately. And it's been hard. But as I said those words, it occurred to me that I really and truly meant them. I wouldn't go back to my old life for anything. I couldn't imagine my life without "and stuff".



"I'm going to flush the toilet from now on."

"Well that would be nice."

"And lift up the seat every time."

"Well, I do hate sitting in peedle puddles."

"And clean my room every day."

I cocked my head and raised one eyebrow at him. He giggled. Reassured, he snuggled in and closed his eyes.

After he was asleep, I stroked his hair and looked at him, and realized...I get to be invinceable for a few more years.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

One Epic Rant About Public School

This week is Spring Break for my kids.

Are we in Florida basking in the sun? Are we soaking up history in Pennsylvania or D.C.? Are we taking a family road trip and marvelling at things like the biggest ball of yarn or silos painted like ears of corn?

No. What we are doing is preparing for the CRCT.

Why? Well, because apparently, his teacher can't be bothered to actually, you know...teach.

Well, no, that's not a fair statement. Anybody child who grasps concepts the very first time they are taught and who loves worksheets with a white hot passion is sure to thrive in her classroom.

Diminutive One's struggle has been going on all year. Really, it has been going on since he entered school, but I blamed it on bad teachers and a stubborn streak a mile wide. In first grade, he had a TERRIBLE teacher. She was old and grouchy and impatient. She didn't like him and he didn't like her. She did ridiculous things like refuse to let him go to the bathroom and punish him for not completing his work by taking away his recess time.

She set him back an entire year. He shut down and just refused to put forth any effort. He wouldn't do class work, he wouldn't do homework, and when taking tests, he would fill in random answers. Despite all that, he passed the CRCT with flying colors and moved on to 2nd grade.

His 2nd grade teacher was an absolute Godsend. She challenged him, she engaged him, and she made learning fun and creative. Most importantly, she saw beneath his stubborn and single minded exterior to the bright, funny, interesting kid he really is.

Diminutive One not only recovered the ground he had lost, he made tons of progress. By the time the year was over, he was reading at a 4.9 level (fourth grade, ninth month) he had learned all of his basic math facts and had grasped carrying and borrowing with no problems whatsoever. He was excited about moving onto multiplication in third grade.

Unfortunately, third grade has been a complete disaster.

In November, Diminutive One began seeing a psychologist in an effort to understand why a super bright kid is doing so poorly in school, as well as to get to the bottom of his behavioral issues.

In the interim, I have been trying to work with his teacher to help Diminutive One. She has been completely uncooperative, or rather...just monumentally uninterested. She isn't a mean person. I can't say that she has been unkind to him. But she is not at all concerned with helping him realize his potential. It's simply not her problem. And I don't think she has any concept of what is realistic in terms of expectations from 8 year olds.

Here is an example:

Each child must fill out their agenda every day with homework in it. It is to be signed by the parent each night. Forget my own issues with this, (one of those unrealistic expectations I was talking about) it just wasn't working for Diminutive One. He would forget to write it down, or only write it down partially. On the rare occasions that he did remember to write it down, he would neglect to bring home the materials he needed.

The end of the day in a third grade classroom is a study in chaos. The kids have to remember jackets, backpacks, lunchboxes, homework folders and textbooks. Some of these kids have a forty mintue bus ride, so they must plan a pit stop or risk an accident on the bus, which, they must take care not to delay. It's a lot for any third grader but for Diminutive One, it was just too much.

I contacted the teacher to discuss this, and request that she just glance at his agenda each day to make sure his homework is written down. She replied that she didn't have time to check everybody's agenda. I then asked if she could perhaps send home a sheet with the week's homework on it. Diminutive One's second grade teacher did this and it was enormously helpful. I always knew what he was supposed to be doing. Again, this was apparently more time and effort than she could or would expend. I suggested a blog. Like the weekly sheet, other teachers do this with great results. I even offered to do the blog for her. She flatly refused.

And so, more days than not, Diminutive One comes home with his agenda blank, or no book. He can't do his homework at all, or can only do a portion of it. As a result, of course, he is unprepared for classwork. When he asks for help, she tells him he should have done his homework. Then she sends me a tersely worded note informing me that *I* need to teach him X concept by such and such date or he will fail the weekly test.

You know what? I *know* that teachers are dealing with a really shitty set of circumstances right now, due to specifications set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act. I know they are trying to cram too much learning into too little school day. I know they have too many kids, they have too little resources. I know they have to meet certain requirements to keep their job, their bonuses, their tenure. I know they are slaves to test results.

And that really fucking sucks.

Because there are some really excellent teachers out there who can't teach the way they want to. They are not free to teach the way they know will get results.

But does that mean a teacher can't take three minutes, less maybe, to do a very, very simple thing for a pupil who needs it? Three minutes to help my child. Three minutes that would have made a huge difference to a smart but struggling kid?

This is one big, fat, consequence of all this bureacratic micro-managing. Kids ARE being left behind.

Now we come the issue of high stakes testing.

I have received a letter from the school stating that Diminutive One will not pass the CRCT. If he does not pass, he will not go on to 4th grade. Accompanying this letter was an enrollment form for summer school.

To say that I saw red would be a monumental understatement.

The teachers are all making a point to let the kids know that this test is a very big deal. The kids are painfully aware that if they don't pass, they could get held back. This, of course, is a kid's worst nightmare and you cannot imagine the anxiety this is causing my child.

I consider it wholly and completely the fault of the school system if my child is in fact, ill-prepared for this test. But who will face the consequences in the form of summer school? He will. And how DARE they tell me he will fail before he's even been given a chance to succeed? How DARE they tell me he will fail when every year he has passed with scores in the 90th percentile?

Well you see, he only has to pass the reading portion of the test (which sort of the begs the question WHY they have to spend a week testing every other skillset). and he has consistently failed to meet his AR goals.

This is not because he doesn't read well.

It's because I am no fan of the Accelerated Reader program, and I have not encouraged his participation at all. Why? Because I don't think it encourages a love of reading, or motivates a child to challenge themselves. Diminutive One can read War and fucking Peace as far as I'm concerned, if that's what he wants to read. But he is continually discouraged from reading material that is not at his level.

I read Ivanhoe when I was 11. I probably didn't understand half of what I read. But you know what? I looked up words I didn't know. I asked my parents about passages I didn't understand and grammar that was foreign to me. I learned how to extrapolate meaning from context and content. The point is, it certainly didn't HARM me to read it, and I probably learned a great deal more than I could have from Judy Blume, whom I also read a great deal of when I was 11 and who was almost certainly a more appropriate "level" for an 11 year old.

So he reads what he wants. And he doesn't make his AR goals and for this reason they feel he in danger of not passing the reading portion of the test.

He will not be going to summer school. If he doesn't pass the test, I will homeschool him. This year has been pure torture for the kid and I'm not putting him through another two months of that. Period.

But he can pass. Both his doctor and I agree on that point. However, he was recently diagnosed with ADHD and an anxiety disorder and she thinks that it would be in his best interest to take the test in a quiet room by himself.

I contacted the school to make the arrangements only to be informed that they would not accomodate that need because "We have to adhere to state mandated testing protocol." Now, I've done my research, and nowhere does it stipulate that the test must be administered in a group or classroom setting.

I went higher.

I was told again, that they could not accomodate my request, because "You don't have a 504 in place." A 504 is a document that stipulates children with special needs and/or learning disabilities will have a mutually agreed upon set of criteria met, without fail. I don't have a 504 in place because WE JUST GOT THE DIAGNOSIS, which I reiterated to no avail.

So what do I do now? Well. I think he will be sick next week. Terribly, terribly ill. In fact, it might take him an entire week to recover.

Parents...we have to do better for our kids. We have to make learning an odyssey of adventure and creativity. We have to stop cutting enrichment programs. We have to stop drilling facts into their heads and let them be discovered. We have to make our kids a participant in their own learning, instead of the spectators they have come to be. Children don't learn by watching, they learn by doing. They need to get in there and get their minds dirty.

It's not working, and the consequences are going to come to bear when we have to hand over the reins to the next generation.

I don't know how to make it better for everybody. I wish I did. For my part, I am thinking, once again about homeschooling my son. I'm not entirely sure that I have the discipline or the patience. I think, we might just kill each other if left alone together six hours of every day. Which is why I haven't done so before now. I'm nothing if not realistic about my ability to deal with my Spirited Child, and my need for some time away from him.

But I can't not try. I can't let my beautiful, creative and intelligent child flounder until his self-esteem is gone and his hope for the future all but destroyed. I know I can challenge him. I know I can make him love learning again. I know I can satisfy his insatiable curiosity about everything in the universe and beyond. There is no end to what he can achieve if he's just given the opportunity.

Perhaps we will both end up dead or seriously maimed. But maybe....he will go on to be a happy, confident, successful adult. Maybe a great thinker, philosopher, writer or artist.

It's worth the gamble. I didn't need my sanity anway.