Archive | November, 2011

Our holiday crime spree.

28 Nov

It is true that when my husband and I were younger we were on the rebellious side, but neither of us were ever criminals  (youthful indiscretions aside).  Well, we weren’t, unless you did not buy the late 1980’s/early 1990’s sloganeering that, “SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME”.  In that case, Rich was a sponsored criminal and I was a criminal groupie.

We must look shady.  Nothing says dangerous like a relatively short couple in their late 30’s schlepping two little kids and an overstuffed diaper bag with their coat pockets full of used Kleenex, lollipops, and a couple of pacifiers.  At least that must have been what the cashier at the Christmas tree farm thought when she insisted on seeing my husband’s identification when he tried to pay for the tree we lovingly picked out.  I don’t know how she saw through our plan.  I thought it was fool-proof:  we steal a debit card, drive (our minivan) outside the city to a tree farm, take 2 hayrack rides, freeze, pick out a tree, take 2 hayrack rides back, freeze again, pay for our frigid fun with stolen funds, and disappear into the night with a diabolical laugh.  It could have been Alastair’s fault.  I warned him that his over-the-top adorable act would draw unwanted attention.  The kid has got to learn to tone it down if we are going to make it as a crime family.

The joke was on her though.  We thought of every possible scenario.  We had the proper identification and completed the purchase.  Some young farm boys tied it to the top of our van and I restrained myself from correcting their inappropriate language.  I needed to remain calm and low-key. We were almost home free.  I had it in my head to belittle these wholesome boys to the point they would watch their mouths around children in the future, but then realized they would probably just insult me back and then Rich would defend my honor, a physical brawl would ensue and the police would surly be summoned.  I didn’t want to make that memory. I wanted to get home and decorate our ill-gotten prize.  I rolled up the window, turned up the radio, and held my tongue.  Soon enough we had our tree and made a clean get away. 

Drunk on Friday’s success we decided to up the stakes on Saturday night.  We loaded up the get away van and headed to Target under the guise of needing dishwasher detergent.  No matter how often I tell the boy, Alastair blew our cover almost immediately.  I just know that security saw him chatting up the elderly wheelchair bound woman right inside the front door.  Their mental alarms must have gone nuts watching him on video surveillance holding up his pant legs and dancing around her so she could see how his cowboy boots light up.  The minute she smiled and clapped for him it was all over for us.  For the next 30 minutes I noticed that no matter where we were in the store a certain young female security guard was never far away.  She kept a keen eye out when I picked out lotion (our criminal escapade at the tree farm did a number on my skin), she watched as we debated what to pick up for dinner, she was ever vigilant as we joked with another mother about the chaos that comes with having two young sons, and she was front and center at the exit as we all shrugged back into our coats to make our escape.  We eluded capture once again.  No alarms sounded as we passed through security.  What cunning! What luck! What skill!  How did we do it again?  Here is the secret.  We paid for our stuff like we always do with our own hard-earned money from the jobs we take quite seriously.

 

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I failed.

22 Nov

I have failed quite a few things in my time on this planet.  Fine.  Whatever.  I took the driving portion of the DMV test 4 times before being awarded my license. In my defense, I passed the written part the on the first try and was a nervous 15-year-old.  I failed a couple of courses in high school and a couple more in undergrad.  That was my fault for not paying attention and/or not showing up.  I failed at my first marriage.  I was 23 and knew what I wanted, not what I needed.  I failed as a saxophone player in middle school.  It was heavy!  I failed at snowboarding.  I am just not that coordinated.  I have failed at doing my fair share, remaining composed, being sympathetic, picking right over wrong, meeting deadlines, following up, apologizing, saying what I mean, losing weight, quitting smoking, correct pronunciations, simple math problems, remember things, listening, and being on time.  I failed a pregnancy test twice…

In the end, very few of those things mattered and some of them even turned out for the best despite their poor initial showing.  I have had my fair share of successes.  I even have a document printed on the skin of a dead animal declaring me a master.  (I totally would have opted for the paper if I knew I had a choice!) Those are stories for a different day. It is my failure as a writer that continues to needle me.  I finished my undergraduate degree with a major in studio art and a minor in English (creative writing).  It could have gone either way for me.  It just so happens by the time I visited an adviser I had 1 art class left for the B.A. in studio art and 3 left for the B.A. in English.  I went for the art degree.  After 5.5 years it was the way to go.  For several years I wallowed happily in the mud of mediocrity.  I dabbled in both photography and creative writing.  I taught art to elementary school students and later English literature and creative writing to high school students.  I loved both jobs.  What I did not love was the idea that I was done growing and evolving as an image maker or writer.  A good number of my friends at the time had terminal degrees and spoke enthusiastically about what a gift it was to have had the time away from “real life” to hone their craft and refine their methods of expression.  Slowly my mud stopped being safe and pleasant and started to get sticky.  I found myself increasingly frustrated with my creative works.  They were stagnant and juvenile.  One subject in particular proved itself to be impossible to express through either photographic imagery or the written word.  I tried innumerable times to address the death of my father with seriously limited success in either media.  It was time for graduate school. I looked into programs that offered a MFA in photography and those that offered a MFA in creative writing.  I labored over statements and cover letters.  The more I wrote the more frustrated I became.  I found myself blaming language for my inability to communicate.  In one rash moment, I unceremoniously discarded all the creative writing applications and dedicated my life to the photographic image.

It was not a mistake.  I thrived in my MFA program.  My images grew technically, expressively, became more sophisticated, and I leaned who I was artistically.  I finished my degree, worked a year in a museum, and then landed the coveted college teaching position.  14 years after my father’s death I have finally made a series of images that address this ever elusive topic.  Granted, they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of my experiences or emotions in regards to losing my dad.  I have not resolved anything, nor do I think I ever will or even want to.  What I did succeed in doing I am very proud of.  I simultaneously communicated my grief and gratitude.

Bolstered by my pride in that series of images I thought, maybe now I can do my dad and his life some justice with the written word.  It turns out that I cannot.  I tried.  I failed.  I found myself reverting back to my old argument that words are weak and incapable of the depth I need.  While that may be MY truth, it is not THE truth.  I have read so many well crafted,  interesting, and entertaining blog entries since joining this crowd a couple of weeks ago.  Here are some recent examples that I enjoy and am admittedly a little envious of: The Laws of Nature « Becoming ClicheProcrastination and the Time Thief | Rant Rave Write.  Rebellious Phase (Or Why I Blame Boyfriend For Ruining My life) « purposefullyawkward.  Boxers & Blugs « Kana’s Notebook.  Panic and Maternity Pants « brokencondoms.  Driving in America « Miss Demure Restraint.  Weak words are definitely not their truth.

Right now I feel like Alastair.  He is 4 years old and in a manic struggle with the number 5.  He can count to and far beyond the number 5.  He can add and subtract to reach 5.  He can write the letters to spell five.  He can recognize a well crafted “5” when he sees one.  He can also recognize a poorly crafted “5” when he sees one.  What he cannot do is get his brain and hand to co-operate to consistently create his own beautifully handwritten number 5.  The frustration causes screaming, tears, and projections.  I know, buddy, I totally get it.

I can’t find my angst.

17 Nov

I seriously think I lost it for good this time.  Over the years, I have misplaced it a few times, but it always found its way back to me.  I am not sure what do to about this.  I have had it forever.  It matched my cynical perfectly.  Speaking of, where did I leave my cynical?  This getting older thing is really doing a number on me. I can’t seem to remember anything these days.  I usually keep my cynical with my disillusion but now can’t locate either one.  I hate to say it, but it is a distinct possibility that kids stole them.  Maybe my husband threw them out.  He never liked them anyway.

Ugh.  They were so comfortable!  They don’t even make them like mine anymore.  What I see the young people with these days just seems so cheap and contrived.  Not like mine at all.  I had the real deal with the poetry and journals to back it up.

I guess I don’t miss them that much.  They were fairly outdated.  Not to mention the fact that they were heavy and I was always exhausted after carrying them around all day.

I must admit the optimism my husband gave me on our first date is pretty nice…and it does look really hot with the confidence I picked up in my early 30’s.

You are lucky I am a Pacifist

13 Nov

I am talking to you, young man in the black truck with the bass so loud it rattles my teeth.  I dislike you with a passion I usually reserve for bigots and abusers.  I know you are oblivious.  How could you not be with those sound waves regularly liquefying your gray matter?  You have an uncanny knack for passing our house daily during nap time and/or minutes after we get the kids settled for sleep at night.  I can hear you coming when you enter the neighborhood and then literally feel you as you slow down to a crawl to pass the speed bump directly in front of our house.   I have noticed you turn down your music as you approach your house.  (I totally know where you live.)  Did your mother complain?  She should.  It is obnoxious.  Speaking of obnoxious, what is it that you are listening to?  Your taste in music sucks.

Fine, I am an old lady.  I don’t get it.  I am cool with that.  I don’t want to get it.  I just want it to stop.  This has been going on for 3 years now.  I am not that good at math but by my calculations you should be at least 19 years old.  That is plenty old enough to be over this desperate “please-look-at-me” business or to move away for college. I have yet to meet a woman (or girl for that matter) who confesses to having met her beloved after being overwhelmingly impressed by volume of his car stereo.  It doesn’t make you look desirable.  It makes me want to punch you…and I don’t even know how to punch!

You have annoyed me enough to Google search “tire deflation devices”.  They are called Spike Strips or Stingers if you were curious.  Alas, they are dangerous, expensive, and only available to law enforcement.  I am not that kind of person anyway.  I did get a little satisfaction daydreaming about it though.

Am I missing something here?  Is there anyone who can clue me in?

Since I have given myself permission to gripe in this post there is one more thing I need to get off my chest.  Why in the hell are the recycle triangles so hard to find on plastic containers?  I spend far too much time scanning the bottom of containers, especially the transparent ones. Until this issue is resolved I am just going to recycle everything.  Take that!

My hands are too cold to be a mom.

11 Nov

I get “corpse fingers” (Reynaud’s disease) when I get cold.  I can’t help.  It is gross.  My fingers (and toes) turn white, lose sensation, and don’t bend easily.  As I warm up they turn red and tingle.  It isn’t all that painful, just a little uncomfortable.  The painful part of the whole thing is when I go to touch one of my kids and they wince, pull away and sometimes scream.  I don’t blame them.  Nobody likes to be touched with ice cubes. I get it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t get bummed out.

One of the million things nobody warned me about being a parent is that you need NEED a thick skin and healthy sense of humor.

Examples from recent memory:

A: I don’t like it when you touch me with those hands.  (I already explained that one.)

A: You talk too much. (True…ish)

A: You laugh too much. (Lots of things are funny!  Anyway, I thought that was a good thing.)

A: You are boring.  (No I am not! I am just tired.)

A: The house is messy.  (Agreed, but it is mostly his fault.)

E: We are working on saying Ma-Me (mommy) because Ma sounds too much like “milk” and “more”.  Granted, those all used to mean essentially the same thing.  Now it is confusing.  He can say it, I have heard it.  Right now I will say, “Ephraim can you say, ‘mommy’?” He will keep a straight face, hesitate, and then say, “Alastair” (his brother) or “Teacher” (the dog).  He usually giggles after he does it.  (Little devil.)

E: He gives great kisses and I want them all the time.  Sometimes I will ask for a kiss and he will go grab a stuffed animal and shove it in my face and then walk away smirking.  (Again, little devil.)

A: Within the same 30 seconds Alastair has told me my breath smells bad and he likes the smell of the car exhaust.  (Seriously?  I know coffee breath is bad.  I agree, but it is hard to hear that your breath is bad from a kid who enjoys the smell of exhaust.)

A: You car is too dirty. (I am not the one eating Goldfish in the backseat!)

Here is the kicker…

This is this year’s Thanksgiving card he made at school. That is me.  Right there at the bottom of the list.  First on the list is Target?  Yes, he is most thankful for the retail store.  Brother and dog are next.  Daddy got a decent spot.  Hugs and “doing work” (work is what they call the activities they do in Montessori) gets the next spot.  That is pretty sweet, except I know it is in reference to his Directress whom he LOVES.  I am last.  If he had thought of one more thing I would have been out of the running all together.

I get more than enough of sweetness from my kids.  I appreciate every compliment (I make the world’s BEST scrambled eggs!) and show of affection if get.  I live for them.  I have to be honest though, when I became a parent, I expected them.  Who wouldn’t?  I did not expect the criticism.  I mentioned this to my mother, she laughed, and sarcastically said, “I wonder where they got that from?”.  My mother is seriously enjoying watching me get a little of what I gave.  I don’t blame her.  I was pretty wicked.

I know she is reading this.

Mom, I apologize for the thousandth time for my youthful mouth and attitude and thank you for resisting the understandable impulse to have my lips sewn together until I reached adulthood.

I only hope I can be as strong.

A House Full of Alphas

8 Nov

Yes, I did just equate my sweet little family with pack of wild dogs.  With all the howling, growling, snarling, and teeth baring that went on this weekend it is a pretty apt comparison.  We all have dominant personalities for better and worse.  This weekend it was for worse.  At some point last week everybody in the house was sick.  By the weekend all the acute symptoms were gone, but the grouch stayed around.  I was bossy and impatient.  Rich was tired and quick-tempered.  Alastair was convinced we all lost our hearing and need to be yelled at. Ephraim thought everything would be fine if he could just be touching me (and only me) at all times.  Even the dog got in on it.  Apparently this is his house and if he wants the garbage spread across the kitchen floor than that is damn well what is going to happen.  I am sure the fish would have jumped into the mix if he had vocal cords and his biology didn’t confine him to his bowl of water.  After all, he is a Siamese Fighting Fish (aka Betta) named after the Roman god of war.

Most days our little pack of Alphas can coexist in relative peace.  We are never bored.  Somebody will always have an opinion about what we should do together and we are happily adventurous.  I also take a lot of comfort knowing nobody in my house is going to be taken advantage of and if nurtured correctly my boy’s dominant personalities can translate into positive leadership skills as they grow.  The dog though…he really needs to learn his place.  Be that as it may, he is a rescue who had a rough start in life, so I do tend to cut him a lot of slack.

Monday morning was a long time coming.  I do not generally look forward to the weekend ending regardless of how much I love my job.  I enjoy hanging out with my boys.  This weekend was an exception.  After I dropped Alastair off at school I felt my shoulders loosen just a bit and my jaw unclench.  As I walked from my car to my building on campus I remembered that it is near the end of the academic quarter when all the students are stressed out about finishing their final projects and taking exams and that I had scheduled 2 critiques for that day. I felt myself bristle.  Fortunately, nobody growled at me and I didn’t have to bare my teeth.  That would have been embarrassing.

An argument so good he almost got his way.

6 Nov

It doesn’t happen everyday, but on occasion my 4-year-old will give me an intellectual run for my money.  On this particular day he wanted a popsicle before dinner.  His first two attempts at persuasion fell flat.  It was the third that slacken my jaw.

A: Can I have a popsicle?

Me: Not before dinner.

A: I can’t eat dinner.  Real food gives me green face.  (We make the distinction between play food/treats which are fun to eat but don’t have any nutritional value and real food which is at least somewhat good for the body and green face=nausea…it is from a book we read to him when he was tiny).

Me: Nice try.

A:  I think I am allergic to real food.  It makes me itchy and crabby.

Me: You are getting more creative my love.

A: You just won’t understand.

Me: You would be surprised how much I understand.  I am pretty smart.

A: Fine.  I can’t eat dinner because then I won’t be hungry.

Me: That is the point of eating dinner.

A: Ugh!  If I am not hungry I won’t want a popsicle.

Me: That is a problem?

A: Yes!  I want to want the popsicle.  If I am not hungry I won’t want the popsicle and it tastes better when I want it.  I want to want it!

Wow.  That is the truth.  There are a number of things in life that are infinitely more satisfying if you get them when you really want them.  Of course, there are things that are better if you wait.  I know that.  Still, that was a damn good argument and I almost fell for it.  Almost.  My brain kicked in and I thought, “He has to be well nourished to be able to reason that well.  It is my responsibility as his parent to see to that.  He thinks well if he eats well.  No popsicle before dinner.”

I won’t relay his reaction when I congratulated him on his rationalization but still said no.  It makes him seem far less charming.

Pregnancy, Death and Fear

5 Nov

Sheila Talbitzer – Fine Art Photography.

Photographic art about pregnancy, death, fear, and more.

I call that “Daddy’s Fault”

4 Nov

I see a lot of myself in my two boys.  They are picky, dramatic, emotional, defiant, and opinionated.  I can own up to those things along with a bunch of their more positive traits.  What I can’t (won’t) claim is their blatant disregard for their own personal physical safety.  I don’t get it.

As the only XX in a house full of XYs, I have come to the non-scientific yet perfectly logical conclusion that the risk-taking behavior is directly associated with that pesky Y chromosome…you know, the one they got from daddy.

Here is some evidence to support my non-scientific yet perfectly logical theory:

-When my husband was little he thought he might like to grow up to be a stuntman.  To prepare, he practiced throwing himself  down the stairs.

-As a teenager he got toxic shock and had to be rushed to the hospital after failing to remove the large splinters in his scalp from a half-pipe skateboarding fall.

-When he joined the Army at 17 he signed up for Field Artillery.  Why?  “I wanted to blow shit up.”

-When the Army did their x-rays upon his enlistment it was discovered he had broken his arms 20+ times.  He has never had a cast.  Direct quote: “Casts are for pussies.”  He said when he was skateboarding and one arm hurt he would just fall on the other one.

-In graduate school while working on a metal sculpture he caught himself in the gut with a grinder and tore up his skin.  Did he go to the hospital? No. He went to Dollar Drink night and then went home numb enough to poor hydrogen peroxide on it and pull out the shrapnel with tweezers.

You are totally on board with me now I bet.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE (yep. all caps.) this guy.  He is an awesome father and the greatest husband.  His mother claims he was the easiest of her children. (I know and love the other two and being the easiest of those kids isn’t really much of an accomplishment.)

I will be there warning those boys over and over to be careful, but Rich is always the first one to comfort them, staunch the bleeding, wipe the tears, fetch the ice, and apply the bandage.  He should be.  After all, it is his fault.

My baby will make you uncomfortable and I might laugh.

3 Nov

There are few things you should know about Ephraim before I explain the title of this post.

1) He only smiles if he is really feeling it.  This particular model of baby did not come with the “Auto-Smile” feature.  It did come with a state-of-the-art “Poker Face/ Blank Stare” factory installed.

2) He talks and laughs a lot, but usually only at home.  If we are in public he will only say a few things and normally only to me, his brother, or his daddy.  (Grandma, Mimi, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins too if they are around.)

3) He is at the age where he is interested in the world but is still leery of unfamiliar adults.  He wants to look, taste, and touch everything.  He does not want to have a conversation with strangers.

4) He is a momma’s boy.

Ephraim is cute.  He can’t help it.  One of his favorite words is “wow”.  He says it all the time.  When we are out at the grocery store or a restaurant he will point at something he thinks is interesting and say it very dramatically.  He will also stare at people.  I understand how this could be confusing to people who don’t know him.  He is cute, he obviously talks a little, and he makes eye contact.  It would be natural to talk to this little guy.  The thing is, he doesn’t want to talk to you.  Look at you? Yes.  Talk to you? Nope.

This is how it goes down.  A stranger (usually one he is staring at) will try to engage him.  He will run to me to be picked up.  I always oblige.  Safe in mommy’s arms, the stranger assumes he will respond to them.  Not going to happen.  He will continue the poker face.  If the person persists, seemingly out of nowhere he will plunge his arm down the front of my shirt and nestle his hand between my breasts…still giving the stranger a blank stare.  The change in expression on the person’s face is typically so pronounced I have a hard time not laughing.  I feel like I can see their internal debate.  Do I continue to try to talk to this baby who is giving me this blank stare with his hand shoved down his mother’s shirt or do I just leave?  It generally ends with a nervous smile and hasty “have a good day”.  If you are going to make Ephraim uncomfortable he is going to give it right back to you.

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