And for once I was SuperMom

Friday, July 26, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Yesterday we bought a house.
After a seven month process of haggling, negotiating, trying to decide 'what I really want,' we signed a stack of papers and our real estate agent gave us some keys.
The lawyer announced,
"That was a crazy stack of papers," picked them up and tapped them into order.  O.A.R.'s lyrics, 'that was a crazy game of poker, I lost it all,' turned into, 'that was a crazy stack of papers, I bought it all,' starting running through my head.  I wanted to say something about it to lighten the air, but I couldn't remember the name of the song.
People kept asking me how I felt yesterday.  Mostly I just felt tired.  Numb, maybe?  There seemed not much fanfare.  Should we go break a bottle of champagne against the vinyl siding?  Should we at least go out to lunch?  We couldn't decide on a place to go, and mostly my stomach was still digesting our very large dinner from last night.  We went back to campus, collected our children, ate leftovers and went on with our day.
My husband said,
"I think we're contractually obligated to take a picture of ourselves holding the keys and post it to Facebook."  So later that day we did.  46 likes later and an ecard I'm feeling a bit more real.
Scott asked me how I felt when our day was done, dinner cooked, the kids in bed, and poking away at our respective electronic devices.
"It doesn't feel real, and part of me feels like we just a big mess," the house is a hundred years old, and, well, needs some work.  During the last walk through I kept thinking about what clothes I had in my wardrobe that I could completely ruin with paint scraping and rug tearing up.
We stood looking at the backyard that had gone to seed,
"I want to start mowing now,"  Scott said.  Good, because that pile of plants makes my head spin.  He keeps looking at me and saying,
"We're going to have a lot of decisions to make, and we're going to have make them soon."  Like a warning shot.  I might be the most indecisive person to walk the planet.  Might be.  I have been itching to decorate a house for years.  Now faced with a thousand decisions I might short out.
I still can't believe that I can be this blessed, to own our own home.  To have a place that I can finally paint, a place that we can call our home for a long time.  To be 'settled,' to have a town that we can sink our teeth into, to have neighbors for years rather than months.

Friday, July 19, 2013


So now what do we do?

After hearing the verdict of the George Zimmerman case I shuddered throughout.  I thought we had come so far.  I hurt for Trayvon's parents.  Had my daughter's been out that buying iced tea and skittles most likely Mr. Zimmerman would have offered to walk them home.  Had I son, maybe we would have told him to run right home.  Even though any teenager regardless of color can be up to no good at that time of night.  We are capable of theft and violence, no matter what shade our skin is.  How do we change this?  How do we make our world safer for our children?

My husband runs a camp on the North Shore; an area about forty five minutes north of Boston.  The area we live in is quite homogeneous, largely middle class and wealthy white folks.  There is a town that is more ethnically diverse about a half hour south of called Lynn, it is also more economically depressed than the North Shore (which isn't saying much, most places are more economically depressed than the North Shore).  My husband started a program with a charter school in Lynn and we are now pulling Junior Counselors up from Lynn to work alongside us.  They all happen to be of Latin or African backgrounds.
Last summer I assumed that these counselors would feel a bit out of place, I wanted to reach out to them.  I wasn't real sure how to do it.  I didn't want to march up to them and be all, like, 'so you're clearly not from around how's it going.....are people being all not racist and stuff?'

One of our counselors has done a particularly good job reaching out the them and incorporating them warmly  into the staff.  I happen to be good friends with her so I asked her how she did it,
"I just treat them like they're human," she said with a shrug.
Oh right.  That.
The more I study people and culture, the more people I meet from different cultures the more I notice that we're all people.
I remember a conversation I had with a Kenyan friend about introducing foods to their babies, what did they give their babies?  All soft mashable foods, one at a time...huh, exactly like we do.
Once I was having a group conversation with some Maasai women, they asked us how long our periods were and giggled with surprise pleasure when they found that they were the same length as theirs.

As for our junior counselors I did remember that they are teenagers and any awkwardness I perceived from them probably had far more to do with the fact that they are just that, awkward teenagers.  I also forget that I am, gasp, an adult, and, terrifyingly, married to their 'boss.'  So far I have tried to treat them as such, scared teenagers, so I talk to them about their broken phones, let them play with my children, and smile at them when they look the most terrified.

I think it's important to remember that Trayvon Martin was just that, a scared teenager who was accosted by a man with a gun.  He was accosted, most likely, because he was black and that is something awful that we need together on as a society.
We need to remember that mostly people of different colors than us are just people.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

She's Got Legs

            “I wish I had your legs,” I heard a croaky voice behind me. Initially I thought it was a man, I turned to see a woman who looked like my Nana following me out of the door of Target.
            “Uh, Thank you,” I smiled awkwardly and I’m sure blushed.
            “They’re great,” she finished.  I slunk away, pushing my cart, not really knowing how to finish the interaction. 
            What I didn’t tell her is that I have spent years hiding my legs in pants.  Only these past few years when I lost weight from breastfeeding and living in a developing nation have I had the courage to wear shorts on a regular basis.
            When I was about eleven years old I was doing an exercise video by Raquel Welch, she showed a still of a woman’s legs and said that these were the ‘perfect’ legs; if you can hold a coin in between your calves, in between your knees, and at the top of your thighs, so that there is a significant gap in between your thighs.  I remember looking down at the gap in between my calves, and the thighs that were pressed together in one solid seam all the way down the length of them and feeling so defeated.  My thighs still touch all the way down, and there is still a gap between my calves, but that didn’t seem to bother the lady at Target.
            I remember seeing a picture of myself in college, my friends and I had just rented our first house together.  We ran around like big goobers and took extremely goofy pictures of exultation.  There is one shot of me from behind, I am wearing one of those ridiculous pairs of super low cut jeans.  My bum looks amazing.  At the time I can remember how much mental energy I wasted thinking that I was too overweight to wear shorts. 
            Do you ever wonder what you’re going to be like when you’re older?  Often I look at older women and think, ‘I want to be like that.’  I’ll pick women I think are classy.  Those that have aged with dignity, accepted their changing body, taken good care of themselves, give advice well, I usually pick those ladies.
            Today I pick this lady.
            I want to walk around big box stores and tell younger women that they look fantastic. 
            “Hey, your butt looks great in those jeans.”
            “I wish I had those arms, I’d wear tank tops year round.”
            “Don’t wear a black bra with a white shirt.”
            Did I mention that I would also dispense fashion advice?  Because in my head that is what this lady does,
            “No one should wear jeans that tight, you might be thin enough, but, dear, it’s just tacky.”
            “Oh, honey, purple leopard print boots are always a bad idea.”
            “I wish I had your body, but you should still wear a bra with that.”

            I don’t know how I am going to develop the gravelly smoker’s voice…I’ll have to figure that one out when I get there.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Theater 101

               I've been looking forward to this Friday for a week.  Last week I saw a friend post a photo of her and her daughter at a local theater, North Shore Music Theater, waiting to watch a performance of Snow White.  Knowing that friend is more tuned in to local events than me and is very good at age appropriate planning I quickly clicked around and booked tickets online for the next showing of their fairy tale series; Cinderella's Wedding.
             I cringed at the story line, fearing that I was going to set my daughter up for a bedazzled, glittery, hang your hopes on a man feast.  I booked it anyway because I can tell she's been needing a date with Mommy and I really want to expose my children to theater.
             Some of my favorite memories growing up are of going to performances of The Nutcracker Suite, we went almost every year.  My mom would regularly buy us tickets to go see Broadway Musicals that were touring through San Diego.  I loved the magic of it all, getting dressed up, the festive atmosphere, the sparkle of it all.
           Now I'm wondering if my Mom just really likes the theater and it was an excuse to take us.  Her diabolical plan worked, and now I love the theater and can't wait to take my girls.  Just as my mom must have thought, you can excuse yourself to spend the money if you are going to spend it on your children as well.
           So at twelve dollars a ticket how could I refuse?  I know it's not going to be Broadway, but, heck, she's three, she won't know.
           This morning started off with a sad little trot on the elliptical, after straining my left calf I am relegated to gentle cardio, something to which I am unaccustomed.  I planned to put us in sundresses, because you should get dressed up for the theater, but I was assuming a 10am show for children probably didn't need my pearls.  Scott asked if I had a specific dress in mind, I told him the two I was going to let her choose from; a grey one or a pink one.  When I came back from the gym she had picked the pink (of course), so I followed suit and picked my pinkiest frock.  I said silent prayers for good behavior so as not to ruin our date.  I briefly asked her if she wanted a braid in her hair and then dropped it when I got resistance, no use jinxing myself.
           I think every Mom on the North Shore had the exact same idea that I did.  The parking lot and front of the theater was filled, filled, with little girls in sundresses and Moms in casual dresses.  Or grandmas.  Or aunts.  There were a few girls in crowns and blue satin Disney Cinderella dresses.  I thought that maybe I should have let Emma wear her Cinderella dress...then I remembered it's in storage.  I reasoned that I was glad I had her wear normal clothes, to teach her regular expectations for theater going.
           I was surprised to see concession stands outside and little girls bedecked with glowing crowns and butterfly wands.  A strange amalgamation of Disney marketing and theater.  In one particular memory of a theater experience we came out at intermission and there were very fancy people drinking champagne and eating very fancy foods.  I vaguely remember my mother buying me a chocolate truffle.  There was no popcorn and there were certainly no spangly sparkly crowns and crosses.  Emma did notice the light up crowns and I pointed some more girls out that had them.  I held my breath as we talked about them, she did not ask for one.  Thankfully.  I noticed that her little head did not quite clear the seat, I asked if she could see the stage, she said, 'yes.'  I was suspicious she didn't know what she was missing, I surreptitiously scrunched down to her eye level.  She could see the back of the head of the mom in front of her.  I offered my lap, she initially refused.  I saw several people with black plastic booster seats, but being suspicious of the oft nickeled and dimed feeling I get lately when attending any form of 'entertainment,' I didn't seek them out.
         Eventually the play started, after two visits to the potty and eons of waiting.  The circular stage positioned in the middle of the seats lit up, all went dark and we waited.  I was pretty curious to the quality of show we were about to get.  Kind of like Medieval Times with a knock-off Disney feel.  You could almost see the actors counting '1,2,3,and 4,' in their heads during the dance sequences.  And I am pretty sure that Prince Charming is to come out in about five years and Cinderella is going to end up divorced and confused.             And it was precisely perfect for Emma.  I am not sure how much of the story she followed, but she quickly climbed on my lap and was all eyes and ears for two hours. Currently I can hear here using lines from the play while playing by herself.
         Emma behaved as the princess while we were there, there were no accidents, she waited patiently during intermission and did not ask for popcorn instead of the snack produced from my huge mom bag.  I treated her special and she acted special.  A successful introduction to a theatrical experience.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Yell Conclusion

            I do my most charming and calm parenting in public.  Don’t we all?   We feel others eyes on us, so we make choices to be calm, to take a breath, to use the tricks that we learned teaching or babysitting.  We let go when we’re home, we’re done, we’re tired, and damn that pile of laundry is just getting bigger and angrier, and why won’t they just get off of you?
            I can still remember some of childhood, looking out at the world through those eyes that are at everyone’s knee level.  I can remember getting yelled at and thinking that everything was my fault.  Even if it wasn’t.  Even if it had nothing to do with me.  Now that I realize that I often yell at my children when it isn’t their fault and I worry a bit about what messages that I am sending them.  I have worried about that from the beginning, the words that I would watch so carefully to craft to save them from harm, then there would be that one slip, that one false utterance would drop from my lips and crush her self image. 
            When I think about those moments in the pew on Sunday I was sincere in my desire not to yell at my daughter.  When I look at my week I lost resolve pretty quickly.  It is always in those moments of not paying attention where I lose my bearings and say un-nice things.  I think I use yelling in an effort to control the situation.  Or when I’ve run out of mental resources.  This week made me a lot more mindful in stressful moments and when Emma is having a temper tantrum.  To dig back and find my triggers, my moments of personal panic, to see when I am foisting something on her that is not her fault.
            I keep thinking about what my grandmother and her generation would think about these ‘no yell’ challenges.  If they would wish we had something like that or if they would think we were silly.  Maybe a bit of both?  Kids are frustrating, they do frustrating things, they try your patience, and very few of us are made of the stuff of preschool teachers.  Of course you yell at your children, everyone yells at their children.  Have we gotten carried away on the bandwagon of political correctness?  Has the fear of saying anything hurtful grown so great that we won’t even say what’s true or do what’s natural? 
            Maybe that’s just growing up, you start with this myopic view that you are the center of the world and slowly, very slowly you begin to realize that is not the truth and look outside of yourself.  You take everything personally until you know that it’s not about you.  As a parent this is a bit damning, but what can you do.  At least I can try to not take things out on her that aren’t her fault or walk away from an ‘incident’ with feeling like I treated her with kindness and acted my best. 
           I hope that this past week has taught me to be more mindful in my speech and in the way that I deal with Emma's temper tantrums.  A reminder that calmer usually works better, and maybe just an understanding with myself that I am not perfect.