Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Peanut Butter Monologues

Caution: The following blog entry contains a few swear words and several references to John Tesh.  Everyone in the house is asleep except me right now.  I think this awakens my inner sailor.  My apologies in advance for the language.  Dad.

My mother-in-law has this book written by John Tesh.

Up until I noticed the book on her kitchen counter, I had always thought John Tesh was just Lisa Hart's bitch on Entertainment Tonight.  Oh yeah, and I do know he is also a sort of new age musician (think Yanni meets Shroader from The Peanuts) who seems to cater exclusively to fifty-something divorcees.  I imagine his concerts consisting of middle-aged women screaming and throwing their Spanx onto the stage as John Tesh, mysteriously shrouded in smoke from an industrial-grade fog machine, plays a keyboard set on Synth Vibe II.  Yeah, I don't really get it either.

Because it was sitting right next to a jar of pretzels I can never seem to keep my hand out of whenever I'm at my in-laws', I opened the book and started reading.  The paragraph I read had to do with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  In it, John Tesh explains that roughly 85% of all Americans spread on the peanut butter first.  (The other 15% polled just sort of looked at John Tesh in confusion, thinking, why is this weirdo asking me how I make PB&J? He looks kinda familiar.... Wasn't he Lisa Hart's bitch on ET?)

I'm not really sure what his point was, here...was he commenting on our rising obesity rate, linking it back to the fact that we Americans sure do love our peanut butter, we spread that shit on THICK, and that's why we're all a bunch of fat asses.  Or was he merely saying that once we establish a habit (like putting the peanut butter on first) it will take an enormous amount of ambition and motivation to break ourselves of said habit (like switching to Nutella and marshmallow fluff instead...I wonder what percentage of us spreads on the fluff first...and what percentage goes into an immediate diabetic coma the instant we take a bite?)

ANYWAY, the reason I'm even bringing up John Tesh and his amazing powers of observation, is now that I make Rollie's snack for preschool three times a week, I am gripped in this powerful internal struggle.  I get out the bread, the peanut butter, the jelly, and a knife.  I cut the bread in half and reach for the jar of peanut butter.  Then I stop.  Don't do it, I think.  Don't be one of those people who puts the peanut butter on first.  Fight the urge, Bekah.  Show some self-respect. Put the peanut butter down.  Good.  Good.  Now open the jelly and slather it on that bread.  Good for you.  Your part of small yet mighty group of self-possessed people who spread their jelly on first.  Nicely done.

And then I think, Screw you, John Tesh.  Why am I letting you and your stupid book dictate how I make my son a sandwich?  So what if I reach for the peanut butter first?  If it happens to be the jar closer to me, wouldn't that simply make me a more efficient sandwich artist?  Aren't I being a weak-minded lemming if the only reason I don't spread the jelly on first is that you are using your Jedi Mind Tricks to make me think I shouldn't?  Piss off, John Tesh.  I HATE YOU.  And you know something else?  Mary Hart overshadowed your ass on that stupid show for TEN YEARS.  For TEN FREAKING YEARS you sat there in your stupid chair with your over-sprayed hair and your fake tan, and all the audience could think was, "God, please get this douche-bag off the screen so we can see Mary Hart again."  How does that make you feel, John Tesh?  How dare you bully me into a making a sandwich for my son the way you say I should?  

...I'm sorry.  I'm sure you're a perfectly nice guy, and a bit of a Renaissance Man.  I'm not really hostile.  I'm just tired.  Elsa didn't nap, Rollie won't stop tackling her, the dog keeps barking to go out, then barking to come back in, and I'm pretty sure I'm out of beer.  So really, it's not's me.  I'm sure there was some very logical reasoning behind your peanut butter observation, some important point that I completely missed because I wasn't really paying attention to your book; it was just right there in front of the pretzels so I had no choice but to stare at it as I absently ate a bunch of empty, salty calories.  Maybe we all have something to learn from your peanut butter observation.  Maybe I do need to break away from old habits.  Maybe I should start wearing Spanx and listening to your music, too....

Seriously.  This is what runs through my mind pretty much every time I make a sandwich for Rollie's snack. I hope Jeff doesn't read this blog; he will think I've lost my mind.  Or rather, his suspicions that I have already lost my mind will be unquestionably confirmed.

Either way, tomorrow Rollie gets a Nutella and marshmallow fluff sandwich.  And a syringe of insulin.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just Call Me Captain Ahab

Today I proved, once again, that I am a gigantic a-hole.

It is Rollie's first day of preschool.  And since we all know how socially affable and advanced my son is (ie, he only picks his nose when he thinks no one is looking) I figured his first day of school would be Easy-Peasy-Cream-And-Cheesey.

I didn't even really bother prepping him for it.  He'd already met his teacher, seen his classroom, and even christened the little bathroom in the back (see Schoolhouse Jerk for more on those exciting developments).  How much more preparation would he possibly need?  Sure he was going to be in a completely unfamiliar room with a bunch of other little nose-miners for three-plus hours, totally away from everyone he knows and loves, with no chocolate milk or elephant lovey or fuzzy blanket for miles and miles...I figured he would be so excited about school he wouldn't be able to contain himself, he would bounce in his car seat the whole way there, and when I walked him into his over-stimulating classroom he wouldn't even remember to toss a 'bye, Momma' over his shoulder as he dove headfirst into the fun-filled fray.

Which is why I win the award for World's Most Smug Ignoramus A-Hole To Ever Swagger Across The Earth.

I should have picked up on the warning signs last night.  His whole mantra of "I'm not going to school," should have been a big clue to me that this morning wasn't going to be the lemon drop of a morning I was anticipating.  When Jeff told him about all the fun things he was going to learn and all the neat friends he was going to meet, Rollie simply said, "Sorry, Dadda.  I'm not going."  I just smiled and shook my head (I know, I know...seriously?  What do I think this is, a detergent commercial?  So I did get that grass stain out after all! Thanks, Tide!)

This morning we had some more in-depth conversations.

Me: Hey Rol!  Are you excited about school?
Rollie: ...Are you going to be with me?
Me: Well, Baby Els and I are going to walk into your classroom with you....
Rollie: ...Are you going to stay?
Me: No, hon.  No one's mommy is going to stay.  You're going to be with your teacher and all your new friends.
Rollie: What friends will be there?
Me: Well, you don't know them yet, but you'll get to know them.
Rollie: ...Is Ryan going to be there?
Me: No, Rollie.  None of your friends will be there. Nice one, Bekah.  Make sure you mention that a hungry crocodile will be tapping on the window all morning, too.
Rollie (now starting to look slightly panicked): But are you staying?
Me: Baby, I told you, Elsa and I will walk you in, and then you'll stay with your teacher and learn a lot of cool stuff.
Rollie: ...But I don't want you to leave.
Me: Oh Rollie, you'll be having so much fun learning new stuff you won't even notice I'm gone.
Rollie: No, I won't.  I don't want to learn anything new.  I want to stay just like I am.
Before The Storm
Me: Hm...can you imagine?

Still, he dressed, brushed his teeth, even posed for some pictures with little-to-no resistance.  As he clamored into the car, he seemed at ease, and dare I say eager, to begin his new routine.

We were caught in school zone traffic, rocking out to U2 as we waited for the flouresent-clad policeman to wave us by.

Rollie: Turn the music off, Momma.
Me: Why?  You don't like this one?
Rollie: I don't want to listen to music right now.
Me: ...Okay.  What do you want to listen to?
Rollie: Just the outside.

I glanced in the mirror and saw him looking out the window at the rain-soaked world.  He reminded me of a boxer psyching himself before a fight.  Maybe I should pull out some Survivor.  I could almost hear "Eye Of The Tiger" playing in Rollie's little mind as we sped toward school.

We parked and piled out.  And that's when I started to get a bit worried about Rollie.

Rollie: I don't want you to leave, Momma.
Me: Well, let's all go in together and see who else is there.

He looked up at me, his eyes as gray and rainy as the overcast sky.

"Please stay, Momma."

At while every ounce of me wanted to say, Okay, Rollie, I will stay with you all day today, tomorrow, every day after that, I will never ever let you out of my sight for as long as I live, I knew the minute we got home and he started smacking Elsa across the back with the gel-encased Wii remote, I'd be ready to send him to reform school.

Before me walking him into school could turn into me dragging him into school, we hurried into the building along with other, seemingly more enthusiastic children, and found his class.

I tried my best to distract him from the fact that I was about to walk out the door.  I showed him his cubby, an obscenely large toy fire engine, a bin full of battered Thomas accessories.  None of these things disguised me edging toward the door with Elsa balanced on my hip.

"No, Momma!" Rollie cried.  He clung to Elsa's leg, pulling so hard that if she'd been a GI Joe, her rubber band would've snapped.

"Rollie, you'll be fine," I felt like I was telling this to William Wallace as he was carted away post-trial.  "You're gonna have so much fun."

Rollie responded with a full-body flail.

His teacher, who had been handling a few other minor crisis when we walked in, now hovered over us on the wings of experience.

"Rollie," she said, "do you like Thomas the Train?"

Bless her for trying.  She hadn't seen Rollie already dismiss Thomas and everything he stands for as an evil plot to strand Rollie alone in the room.

"I think I might take him outside to calm him down," I said.  As if this was actually going to make things better instead of escalate the situation to near-pandemic proportions.

"Okay," she said.  In that word I heard her thinking, Lady, every second you stay here and try to tell your son he's going to have fun you are sending him into a panic only reserved for kids who are about to either miss their bus or puke their guts out.  But be my guest!

I brought him into a bustling hallway and sat him down in a little chair.  He can be reasoned with, I foolishly told myself.  He can write some letters.  He can beat me in Wii Sword-Fighting.  Surely he can understand the logic of a 32-year-old English major.  Assuming there is such a thing.

But he knew the look on my face.  He knew I was about to try to talk some sense into him.  Which meant he wasn't getting his way.  Which made him freak out even more.

"I want to go with you," he pleaded, kicking his feet and sobbing.

"Rollie, you're going to stay here with your teacher," I said firmly.  "I will be back soon to get you, okay?"

"I don't want to stay!"

Finally I did it.  I had to.  I decided it was time to bring out the Big Dogs.

"Rollie, listen," I said.  "Elsa and I are going to go out and get you something super duper special for being such a good boy and staying here at school."

He actually stopped crying for a minute.  "What are you going to get me?"

"...I don't know yet.  What would you like?"

"Uh...A bubblegum whale."

"A bubblegum whale.  Okay, got it.  I will go out and so help me I will find you a bubblegum whale.  Okay?  Now please stop crying."  Never mind the fact that I'm not really sure what he means by bubblegum whale.  Is it a giant piece of whale-shaped chewing gum?  Or does he mean a gummy whale?  Or an actual life-size whale chomping on a giant piece of chewing gum?  Which I was prepared to deliver, provided he stop bawling his eyes out and go back into his classroom.

But the tears had momentarily stopped.  Time to show the world that I am not a total waste of a parent.  We went back inside and I presented my red-faced, breath-shuddering son to his teacher, then got the hell out.  I could hear him yelling again as I hurried down the hall, but I didn't turn around.

I had a gum-chewing whale to catch.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Art Sicko

Yesterday was a long day.  I am doing serious battle with a pisser of a cold, and both children had apparently raided the fridge in the middle of the night and gotten into Jeff's stash of Rock Star.    I felt like my energy level was somewhere at a negative four, and theirs was about eighty-gajillion to the power of google.  And my voice is gone, so yelling at them, while normally pretty ineffective when I can reach 140 decibels, proved to be completely useless when I sound like a squeaky toy.

I'm not gonna lie.  I let them get away with everything short of premeditated homicide yesterday.  I just didn't have it in me to enforce whatever lax rules I instill on a regular basis.  Rollie discovered how much fun a ping pong ball and a ceiling fan can be.  And I discovered that Elsa make it from the arm of the couch onto the end table in a single bound, with only one in four attempts ending in disaster.

I also discovered that they are surprisingly self-sufficient little buggers when they want to be.  I'm pretty sure they only keep me around because I'm taller than they are, but not when I'm lying slug-like on the floor surrounded by snotty tissues.  They spent a good part of the afternoon pushing upside-down rubbermaid containers around the house and climbing on them to reach things: food, junk mail, Wii remotes, the toaster oven.  They were like little ninjas, scaling furniture, retrieving items, disassembling the couch and leaping across the cushion-strewn room (ninjas do that, right?).

I had to get a bit creative when coming up with ways to entertain them without me having to budge.  I think the activity Rollie enjoyed the most was dictating scenes for me to sketch onto a big piece of manilla paper.  This activity also led me to yet another discovery:  I suck at drawing.

I think my days as an artist peaked in sixth grade.  I was actually in this program called 'Special Art' (original name, right?) in elementary school.  While all my less artistic classmates were studying for spelling tests, me and a select few other supposedly gifted students were yanked out and brought into the art room, where we spent thirty-five minutes getting high on fruit-scented markers and rubber cement.  This might explain why I am a terrible speller and whenever I catch a whiff of watermelon I have acid flashbacks.

So anyway, I lay on the carpet with Rollie and created a masterpiece.

Rollie: Draw me and Elsa and Bonnie's mom petting Bonnie (Bonnie is our neighbor's dog)
Me: Okay.....
Rollie: No, Mom...Bonnie doesn't look like that.
Me: Well, she kind of does, right?
Rollie: Now draw the kitty cat down the street.
Me: Okay.
Rollie: What's does Bonnie's mommy have a spaceship on her head?
Me: That's not a spaceship, that's her hat.
Rollie: Her hat doesn't look like that.
Me: Rollie, just work with me here.
Rollie: Now draw Ryan's house and Ryan inside.
Me: Okay.  There.
Rollie: Why is Ryan eating the kitty cat's tail?
Me: He's just looks like that.  It's called perspective...or something.
Rollie: Why is it called perspective?
Me: Who else should I draw?
Rollie: Draw Will.
Me: Okay.
Rollie: No, Mom.  Will doesn't look like that.
Me: Rollie....give me a break.

Cemetery Period circa 1986
Sadly the finished work is not much better than my Special Art drawings.  I actually have one such piece from that time period.  I call it my Cemetery period, greatly influenced by my Big Brother Matt and his early work during his Barbie Doll Covered In Red Nail Polish period (which was directly preceded by his Shark Attacking Mustachioed Surfers Period).

Rollie also wanted me to draw a picture of Jeff, Dora and Boots eating pretzels and drinking juice.  I tried my best, but after insisting that the Boots I drew looked NOTHING like the real boots, Rollie gave up on me altogether.  And after studying this piece for a few seconds, I can't say I blamed him.  Although I think my Boots is probably the most accurate of the three figures I drew.  Last time I checked, the real Jeff doesn't resemble the Jeff featured right in the slightest.  Thank God.

Luckily, I am feeling slightly better today.  Not well enough discourage the kids from reenacting the movie Tremors in our living room, but not on the verge of death, either.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll have to strength to stop Rollie from playing the part of Kevin Bacon.  But today I think I'll work on my latest sculpture: Used Tissue Still Life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Playmate Of The Year

Where does imagination go?  What happens to the brain's ability to come up with fantastical stories of monsters, talking cars, brave knights and animals that ride on clouds and circle the sun?  When do we stop imagining our Cabbage Patch Kids are rescuing each other from an Evil Orphanage Lady or that our GI Joes are marooned on a desert island, their only shelter a Millenium Falcon that has holes blown in it from our older brother's fire crackers?

Why am I having the hardest time engaging in Rollie's new favorite game of making his plastic Lightning McQueen and Mater have breakfast together?

Seriously. I feel like every time he approaches me, cars in hand, and starts pleading with me to play with him, I want to beat myself over the head with a plastic Piston Cup.  It's gotten to the point where the instant he does something naughty, instead of banishing him into to Time Out, I simply take McQueen and Mater and put them on top of the fridge.  And hope he forgets them for days.  I take great pleasure in removing these toys from his possession.  I almost have to squelch the malevolent, Phyllis Diller laughter echoing in my head as I do it.

Why?  Why don't I indulge him for ten minutes?  Why do I feel like I'm suffering a slow, horrible death, bored out of my mind as he sits there on the carpet, Mater and McQueen facing each other and pretending to eat breakfast?  Why would I rather watch a Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon than come up with some dialogue for Mater and deliver it in my best Larry The Cable Guy voice?

The other day I said, "Rollie, I will play any other game in the entire galaxy with you except...except Breakfast at Jiffy Lube."

"But Momma, I really want to play with Lightning and Mater.  Puh-leeeeease?"

"I'm serious.  I will play ANYTHING else.  Anything at all that you want to play, I will play."

"But why don't you want to play this?"

"Because, Rollie, it bores me to tears."

"Why does it bore you to tears?"

"Because all you do is sit there while I carry on a one-sided conversation with Mater.  You never make Lightning talk.  I do all the talking."


"Why don't you ever make Lightning say anything?"

"Because he's resting for his big race."

"Well, be that as it may, I still would rather play anything else with you, so think of something else to play."

"No!  I Don't Want To!"

"Rollie, don't be naughty or I'll just take Lightning and Mater away."

He piped down, thought for a minute, then said, "Want to play tag?"

Really, Rollie?  Tag?  Playing tag falls somewhere just below scouring the toilets on my list of unappealing ways to spend my afternoon.  And yet, here again is my dilemma.  I used to LOVE tag.  Holy crap, 25 years ago ask me if I'd rather play tag for an hour or have a lifetime supply of Fruit Roll-ups and you'd better believe I'd pick tag (offer me a lifetime supply of Devil Dogs, on the other hand, and I might be singing a different tune).  What happened?  Why don't I want to play a game that used to give me more joy than a sugary rawhide of fruit?   Mention tag to me now and immediately I feel my heart sink like I just realized I'd been walking around all day with a broccoli spear lodged in my teeth.  I simply do not get it.

"How about something else?" I asked.

"No, tag!  Let's play tag, Momma!"

"How about Hide and Seek?"

Rollie's response was to run up to me, smack me on the leg and say, "You're it!" before tearing across the house, giggling all the way.

I shuffled after him, deciding that I'd better participate for a little while, lest I want to take home the trophy for Worst Playmate of the Year.

Still, this whole idea that I am no longer fun is nagging my mind.  I mean, when was the last time I truly threw my whole self into a game Rollie wanted to play, without checking my emails on my iPhone or mentally running through the list of things I needed to get done that day, what to make for dinner, or what I should write for my next blog?

As I sit and type this out, I can hear Rollie playing in his room.  By himself.  His Lightning McQueen and Mater toys are looking at me from on top of the fridge.  I think I will bring them to him, sit down on the floor with him and play a little Breakfast at Jiffy Lube.  And I'll leave my iPhone here, beside the computer.  I promise.  I'm going to win the title of Playmate of the Year if it kills me....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Milk Of Amnesia

Well, last night it finally happened.  

Jeff and I can I put this....we were walked in on....

It's official.  Rollie has been scarred for life.

So as not to further make any of my dear readers uncomfortable (this means you, Dad), I will spare you the details.  Just know that Coitus Interruptus has taken on a whole new meaning.

This event has made me wonder exactly how much of Rollie's childhood he'll remember.  He's three-and-a-half right now.  I remember some things from that age.  Which is why I'm thinking now's a good time to stop scolding him when I'm say, half-dressed.  The last thing I want is for him to harbor awful memories of me putting him in Time Out, then storming off to my bedroom, my underwear-clad ass jiggling all the way.  I have a feeling Time Outs will start be lose their effectiveness if I hear him snickering as I exit the room.

But maybe these moments won't become too deeply rooted in his little brain.  Maybe I still have time to redeem myself and he won't grow up with the image of my Big Bottom burned into his subconscious. The handful of memories I do have from that young mostly revolve around walking with my mother down our street to collect litter and put it in a trash bag.  It seems like we did that an awful lot.  Perhaps she was an inmate on a work-release program back then? I do vaguely remember a striped outfit she wore on more than one occasion.... And I do remember her hands always being wet.  Of course, now I see why.  I feel like I'm always washing my hands now--if I had six kids, my new nickname would be Lady McBeth.

One thing I do clearly remember is my mother telling me I have a photographic memory.  I'm pretty sure she did this so I wouldn't feel so bad about being chubby and wearing hideous pink glasses and hand-me-down clothing.  I took her claim very seriously; I think even bragged about it once or twice to my friends, truly believing I had super-human powers of recollection.  I'm sure my friends were likely not as blown away as I was (wow, Becky, you can remember where you left your Trapper Keeper and your Gem doll...whoppee-doo).  Looking back I can now safely say I most certainly do not have a photographic, optophonic, subatomic or even semi-decent short-term memory (see the iPhorget entry for a refresher least, I think that's the entry...).

I'm certain my short-memory has been ravaged by what one of my friends has dubbed the "Give A Mom A Muffin Syndrome" (again, at least I think that's what she called it).  This phenomenon occurs because moms are usually in the middle of a hundred different things....give her a muffin and she'll take it from you, walk with it into another room, then set it down somewhere when she suddenly notices mateless socks on the floor, dishes in the sink, a GI Joe floating in the toilet, and she'll become so absorbed in taking care of those things that when she finally has a second to think, she'll have a hard time remembering what a muffin even is, much less where the f*ck she put the one you gave her.

....What was I talking about before?  Oh yeah, I was wondering whether or not Rollie would remember the night he crept into my bedroom to find Mommy and Daddy sleeping in a very funny position.  I'm hoping that we handled it nonchalantly enough to where he'll simply dismiss it.  I think I sufficiently distracted him with some chocolate milk and a rendition of Lida Rose so that he will forget any bedroom acrobatics he'd just witnessed.

If not, then I suppose we could always designate some of his college funds to psychotherapy.  Right after we install a deadbolt on our bedroom door.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Thunder From Down Under

So for the past week I've been monitoring this sort of Media Firestorm going on in Australia....

Mia Freedman, creator of has garnered over 1,000 comments in response to an article called Motherhood Is Easy.  Here's a link to the article--Motherhood is easy--but just in case you don't feel like getting all click-happy, it's basically about an Australian journalist who has confessed that motherhood has been, up to this point anyway, easy for her.   And how she has difficulty relating to women who say that it's hard (that'swhatshesaid).

The author, Jacinta Tynan (who has a charming Australian accent and so I find it hard to get all riled up at anything she says) referenced my book in her article. When I read that I was like, Really?  She read my book?  Cool!  I believe the phrase she used to describe it was 'riddled with sarcasm.'  I don't know if she meant that in a good way, but, who cares!  Someone I've never met has read something of mine.  Bad ass!

So anyway, the scores of emails in response to this woman's article have been interesting.  Fascinating, actually.  The biggest thing I've come away with after reading them is, Boy, those Australians are so, like, articulate.  And polite.  Even the more scathing ones still sounded like a couple of English grandmas enjoying an afternoon cup of tea. Grandmas who hate each other, but who are polite about it, nonetheless ("Would you kindly pass the scones, you dried up old biddy?")  I hope when I start getting emails from readers who beg to differ with whatever drivel I'm cranking out, they will be half as respectful as the ones Ms. Tynan has received. (Side Note: I have received one so far, for my Planes, Trains, And Matt Damon In Tight White Shorts entry.  It was a polite, albeit quite lame, response to the fact that my kids are as obnoxious as a drunk girl at a frat party.  I think the reader kinda missed the humor in the whole thing.  Maybe Anonymous Number One was that old guy in row 26 who yelled at me.)

What's also fascinating to me are the widely varying opinions woman are leaving for Ms. Tynan.  Her article has stirred up some serious emotions.  Which is understandable, considering the subject matter.  Who doesn't have an instant, passionate opinion about motherhood?  It's like bringing up The Holodeck at a Star Trek convention.  That's what I absolutely love about it (motherhood, not The Holodeck):  It is an instant connection with millions of women.

And that's why I write what I write.  Not only do I get to feel that connection, but I take enormous pleasure in pointing out how f-ing hilarious motherhood can be.  I laugh every day at my kids (sometimes even with them...mostly at them, though).  Every day I see what I've labeled the Hilarious Lunacy of child-rearing.  Maybe I am being shallow, obtuse or just a Big Puffy, but the fact that I--I--am in charge of two little people, blows my mind.  It's nuts.  The fact that my day can sometimes revolve around whether or not Rollie has decided to go on a poop strike, or Elsa is being a Stage Five Clinger and I can't get one stinking thing done around the house without her trailing after me and mewing like a sick cat...those things crack me up.  I mean, not at the time, of course.  But given enough perspective (and alcohol), I find an undercurrent of humor in everything about being a mom.

Maybe it's just my warped childhood, sick sense of humor and the fact that Jeff brings home free beer every other week.  Maybe it's because my advanced, obnoxious, whiny, sweet-natured kids are natural comedians, and I'm usually too tired to discipline them and so I laugh at them instead.  But I have to say that to me, motherhood is a riot.  It's easy.  It's hard.  It's great.  It sucks.  It rocks.  It pukes on you in the middle of the night (again, just like a drunk girl at a frat party).  Women shouldn't be afraid to wax poetic about its joy...or bitch about its struggles.

And they especially shouldn't be afraid to laugh their asses off at everything in between.  Because really, that's where the good stuff is.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Puffy Is As Puffy Does

When I was growing up, I was always aware that certain words were off-limits in our house. For a while there, I was so terrified of getting in trouble, I tried to eliminate all four-letter words from my vocabulary.  Which probably explains why words like devilish and aquamarine became part of my eight-year-old lexicon (well, that's actually because I was a voracious reader of the Sweet Valley High series).

To this day I'm still very aware of bad language if I happen to be watching TV with my parents.  Some actor drops an H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks and instantly I shift, clear my throat or leave the room to get some popcorn (same goes for anything adult in nature....I would rather die than watch anything racier than Forest Gump with my parents....watching onscreen nudity with them is as uncomfortable as a vitamin going sideways down my throat).

Even phrases like Shut-up and You Jerk were pushing it.  I often heard words whose definitions mystified or eluded me, usually heard from my older siblings or someone on the bus, and I'd be intrigued.  Intrigued enough to these words in mixed company (meaning someone within earshot was older than 10).  As you can imagine, this sometimes ended badly for me.  I was one of those kids who got in trouble not for what I did, but for what I said.  For being cheeky. That, and for stealing Fruit Roll-ups....but that's a story for another time....

Despite the possibility of some soap in the mouth, I still used bad language when out of my parents' earshot.  I still pushed the boundaries of acceptable speech.  And I remember the first time I stuck up my middle finger.  Kindergarten.  But it wasn't some well-timed rebuttal to a name-call or a schoolyard tiff.  It was during library class, when we were all supposed to be closing our eyes for some goofy imagination exercise.  I remember sitting there, knowing that absolutely no one could see me do it, and I stuck my hand up in the air, middle finger protruding skyward, timid and unseen.  Perhaps I thought I would be struck down, smited by God's wrath or a florescent ceiling light would come crashing down on my belligerent little head.  The teacher didn't even say anything....if she did notice me flipping my trembling bird she was probably like, WTF?

I went through a stage when almost every other word out of my mouth was a bad one.  I thought this made me something of a image I cleaved to, despite my baby fat and pink glasses and tendency to match my socks, scrunchies, stirrup pants and sweaters in the same shades of turquiose and black.  This foul-mouthed habit peaked in seventh grade.  Get in a conversation with me during the onslaught of puberty and you were likely to think you'd stumbled across a Bob Saget stand-up routine (ever see that guy live?  Holy crap is he dirty.  And he apparently has a thing for Kimmy Gibbler).

Anyway, what I'm saying is that kids will eventually try out new words, phrases, hoping for a laugh, a reaction, something to let them know how clever they are (or in some cases, that they have a promising career on a cheesy sitcom).  I definitely need to keep this in mind, because Rollie is on the threshold of that envelope-pushing stage.  And it will only get worse once he starts school.

So far it seems innocent enough.  Right now his big thing is calling everyone in the house Big Puffy.  When used in context, it sounds like it should be derogatory, like calling someone Stupid or an F-ing Idiot.  But when he says it, it just sounds so hilariously strange that I don't scold him for it.  I'm not even sure where it came from.  Big Puffy.  Unless he's been sneaking into the TV room in the dead of night to watch some VH1...are they airing some seven-part Sean Combs biography series that I don't know about?

But then for the past few days instead of calling me Big Puffy, he's started calling me Big Butt.  Yeah, that one isn't so cute.  I've gotten after him each time he's said it, and he tones it down to Big Bottom, but that one is still pretty obnoxious.  Especially when it's sorta true.

I really don't like that he uses to word Butt.  I don't want him to be one of those kids other parents whisper about...the Bad Influence.  The Potty-Mouth.  Jeff and I have both gone to great lengths to shield our children from profanity.  Contrary to how it must seem (yes, I know I can get a little swear-happy sometimes), we don't curse in front of our kids.  At all.  We've been spelling out words like Brat, Sex and Little Shithead for years.  I'm pretty sure Rollie will ace spelling bees at school...if they're emceed by Chris Rock.

So I guess we're doing what we can to keep Rollie's tongue pure and unoffensive.  But one of these days he's going to pick up a few charming words, just as he'll pick up the stomach flu or head lice.  And he'll most certainly teach them to Elsa.  And any other kid who he hangs with.  Pretty soon I'll be on the receiving end of some embarrassing phone call:  Do you know what my son told me your Rollie said at school?  Big Puffy.  What kind of parent are you, letting him listen to such awful music?  Next thing you know, he'll be quoting lines from Full House.

I know it's coming.  I guess my best response will be to flip the bird into the phone.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Schoolhouse Jerk

Yesterday, after much contemplation, procrastination, and sudden realization that if I didn't hurry up, I'd be condemning him to a lifetime of playing catch-up and quite possibly never moving out of my house, I signed Rollie up for preschool.

I'm not really freaking out about it.  Yet.  He's ready.  I'm ready.  I think he'll really like school and possibly even excel at it.  But baby boy is starting school--school--in three weeks, thus beginning 18 years of structured learning, socialization, and the inescapable nickname he is sure to earn when they start the rhyming unit, whatever grade that is.

I called the school yesterday morning.  The woman on the other end of the phone was nice enough, although I'm sure I sounded like a mother who just realized that the entity she'd been feeding and walking and bathing for the past three years was not a dog after all, but in fact a child.

Me: Hi.  Uh...I wanted to ask about your preschool program....
The Lady: Okay!  How old is your child?
Me: He's three.  And a half.
The Lady: We do have four spots left in our three-year-old class.
Me (instantly thinking 'I'll take it,' but realizing that I needed to sound a little more shrewd and judicious): So...can we like, come and take a tour of the school?
The Lady: Of course.  What day were you wanting to come by?
Me (pretending to consult my calendar to see when I could possibly fit a tour of the school into my busy schedule): Um...let's see...well, I think I could come by today....
The Lady: Sure!  I'll be here until 4-ish, so if you wanted to stop in around 3, that would be great.
Me: Alrighty.  See you at 3.

After I hung up I started to panic, feeling incredibly unprepared.  Should I come equipped with some questions?  Maybe I should ask what their state academic ranking is.  Or to see a report of their test scores for the past ten years.  Maybe I should research the current professions of people from the graduating three-year-old class.  What if there aren't any astronauts or neurosurgeons or Nobel Prize winners?  What if all this school produces is a bunch of *gasp* English Majors??

I pulled into the parking lot five minutes early, Rollie asking me the whole way if we would be able to feed goats at school.  At least someone in the car had prerequisites.  Yes, ma'am, but what is the goat-to-child ratio?  Not sure where he got the idea his his head that the school doubled as a petting-zoo, but I was already going into this realizing that school these days isn't what it used to be.  Maybe they do goat-cloaning on Tuesdays, right after their computer networking lab.  Nevermind that when I started school, the lesson that really stuck with me was not to dip the red paintbrush into the white paint or Mrs. Feldman will go medieval on your ass.

I found The Lady seated behind a tidy little desk in the school's admin office. She was younger, more chipper and definitely less sweaty than I was.  Obviously she had no children of her own yet (this was later confirmed).  She greeted us and led us to one of the three-year-old classrooms, where my children immediately proceeded to giggle and vibrate around the room like they'd just ingested a Halloween's worth of Pixie Stix.

The Lady: They're so adorable.
Me: Oh...haha...thanks.
The Lady: So since Rollie's three-and-a-half, he'd be in the Middle Three's.
Me (my radar instantly going up the second it is even suggested that my child is anywhere in the 'middle' of anything, because to me 'middle' sounds too much like 'average' and even though I myself am about as average an individual as you can get, Rollie is by far advanced in absolutely ever aspect of his little life): Oh, well, he's actually...haha...I hate to use the word 'advanced' but he's pretty, you know...advanced...for his age.... (I can't even continue, because I am suddenly very aware of what an a-hole I sound like.  Really, Bekah?  Are you really going to be one of those parents?)

The Lady was pretty gracious, probably because she heard that every freaking day from some other a-hole parent, so she just nodded and smiled.  That must be teacher code for All right, I'm just going to ignore that and pretend that you aren't the arrogant jerk you just proved yourself to be.

The Lady: Well, the Older Three's class is full, but there's always a chance that one could drop out or something that would free up a spot.
Me (Ah-ha! So there is a drop-out rate....): Okay.
The Lady: All the classes do pretty much the same thing, though...colors, shapes, numbers, Bible stories.
Me: Okay.  Would he need to bring a Bible?
The Lady: ....If he wants to he can, but the teachers will read them out loud to the kids.
Me (feeling again like an idiot.  Why the hell would Rollie bring a Bible to school?  What's he gonna do, follow along while the teacher reads from Revelations?  Take notes in the margins?) Oh, okay.

The Lady went on to tell me that Rollie's class would have a Spanish teacher once a week, a music teacher, a gym class, and some other stuff, and I was trying to listen, but I was distracted by Rollie, who was doing his Tony-Award Winning I'm Trying Very Hard Not To Poop In My Pants Right Now Dance.

I excused myself for a minute and hustled Rollie into the tiny bathroom in the back, Elsa stomping after us and shrieking.  I shut the door with us all inside, managed to knock over a mop bucket and almost shut Elsa's fingers in the door, before Rollie informed me that we needed to get out because he wanted his privacy.  I emerged from the bathroom, feeling like I should crow, See?  My son is advanced.  He's already dropping a deuce all by himself!  Middle Threes my ass!

But The Lady had left the room, likely to go take a nip from her flask, which would be the only way I could stay that chipper and pleasant after hanging out with parents like me all afternoon.

Anyway, in the end I enrolled Rollie, filled out the appropriate paperwork and beat a hasty retreat before I said something else that would further incriminate me as the World's Biggest Jackass.  He starts in three weeks.  I have three weeks to prepare him for a new world of learning, making friends and keeping the red paint where it belongs, lest The Lady keeps him in Middle Threes forever and ever, Amen.