All Creatures Ingrate and Small

Kids can be real jerks.  Any parent knows that.  Do y’all remember last Xmas when Stella acted like an ungrateful so-and-so  ?  Since then, I’ve made a real effort to talk to her about gratitude, and to help her recognize that while we’re not wealthy, we are ok, and that’s better than so many others.  After threatening that Santa would not only not come back to her house if he heard her act the way she was acting, I informed her that he would take back what he had given.

Over this spring and summer, we’ve discussed homelessness a lot.  On a couple of occasions – when the mother bear in me felt it was safe – we have purchased food and supplies for homeless people outside of stores and given it to them.  She’s asked questions – good ones.  Why don’t they have a place to live, food to eat?  Why don’t they have a job or clean clothes?  Why did we buy a sandwich, chips, and drink for that man, but not give money to that man on the corner holding up a sign (and appearing intoxicated, in my opinion)?

I thought we had made some progress.  Then Crispi came to town and the subject of last Xmas somehow came up.  Do you know that little ingrate is still complaining about that?  About how she “only got one thing on her list that she wanted?”  Y’all, I almost lost it.  Clearly I have more work to do, and I have no idea how to do that.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about that.  This year, Stella WILL help me pick a name off an angel tree and we will go shopping for that kid – NOT for her. Santa is not going to be as generous.  He may even leave a note about overhearing nasty comments.  What makes it worse is that it’s just stuff, dammit, plastic stuff that she doesn’t even play with.  For her, it’s the just act of receiving the stuff that matters.

From now on, we will be experience-driven.  I’m not even sure if I want to do a birthday party this year for her.  Maybe we’ll just have a weekend of experiences: go-karts, Chuck E. Cheese, the zoo.  For Xmas if people ask what she wants, I’m going to suggest more active things: play dates, coupons to go berry-picking, a trip to the mall to ride the carousel a few times.  Felix can do the same thing.  He makes his own toys, after all, but putting together random bits he acquires through day-to-day life.

I don’t think I’ve spoiled my children.  But clearly an important part of a critical message has been missed by my eldest.  Anyone else have any trouble with this?

See? Experiences. Like a beautiful makeover.


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Shrine On You Crazy Diamond

There has been a renaissance, of sorts, involving my son.  Y’all know he’s always had Preciouses.  Lots and lots of Preciouses.  From Donuts, to cans of soup, to teen tiny sandwich, to gears, to Lightning McQueen, my kid has been a hoarder collector.  Often, the Preciouses simply had to be placed in his bed.  I often wondered how the hell he was able to sleep.

He still has a fondness for things, don’t get me wrong.  Lately it’s been keys, my old geologist’s hand lens, and shell ball.  I wish I understood what set objects apart and made them Precious.  I doubt I will ever know.  But it’s less and less likely that these Preciouses need to be in his bed.  Some of that may be due to the fact that they’re often small or pointy;  I think I’ve managed to convince him that those are not desirable qualities in a sleep buddy, particularly since said object may end up lost.  That’s a deal-breaker, the potential loss of a Precious.  Now there is a new, better way.  He’s made something of a shrine.

It’s the bookshelf by his bed, which doubles as a nightstand.  He carefully placed his bust of Beethoven on it, and the rest has evolved from there.  Beethoven is the guard, the sentry, the gatekeeper.  He keeps the Preciouses safe.  Periodically when he’s away from the house, I do a purge and remove non-essential Preciouses, particularly if they are organic in nature and might smell.

But don’t f#&k with Beethoven.  He’s a brute.

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Never Let Them See You Threat

The top of my refrigerator: where we keep our cereal, bulk food/paper towel storage, and a penal colony for the toys of misbehaving children.  Do you have a place like that at your house?  Please tell me I’m not alone.

Let’s face it.  Little kids can be difficult to reach sometimes.  All the gentle, firm lip service only does so much.  Time outs can often feel like a time for quiet meditation, or more likely a strategy session for the next wave of jackassery.  Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, such as the sight of a favorite toy looking forlornly at you from atop the fridge.

I give warnings.  Do I ever!  At the onset of pretty much any activity, I caution my darling children that there shall be “no _______ drama.”  I don’t want crayon drama, or cup colors drama, or popsicle drama.  I don’t want kinetic sand drama, play-doh drama, bubble drama.  But do y’all want to know something?  Almost invariably they give me drama.  I don’t understand this.  I even make them repeat after me: “mom doesn’t want any ______ drama.”  It’s no use.

I’m generally not for corporal punishment.  Like at all.  So when that’s not typically part of your arsenal and all the usual stuff you’re supposed to do as a disciplinarian falls short, what’s left?

For me, it’s absurd threats.  I don’t even mean for that to happen, but this weekend alone I’ve threatened to pop every balloon in the whole world and break all the crayons in the house.  No.  Not my finest parenting moments to be sure.  I think that sometimes subconsciously I say that stuff to make sure anyone at all is listening. Maybe I’m forgetting to say shit out loud?  Maybe I’ve gotten so good at fussing about people under my breath that I’ve adopted that method of speech?  But most of the time the little creeps don’t hear me.  So top of the fridge it is.  Until I can come up with some other method of mom-intimidation. 

Poppy’s appearance in this blog post should be in no way considered a commentary on her character

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Spa’d Goals

You know how sometimes shit just doesn’t go the way you think it will, even if it’s something you’ve done a hundred times? My mother has just had one of those times.


My mom has been staying with us for the past 8 days or so. This was part long overdue visit, part helping me out with kids during the dreaded transition from camp to school, and part moral support for me as I packed my little bitty dude off to big kid school. Yes. I cried. But no matter.

Now my mom, “Crispi,” is a full-time RV’er. She has spent much of the summer up in Canada where sometimes the water systems are a bit iffy, chemically, leading to strange hair reactions – not to mention what it can do to laundry. As such, my usually-blonde mother arrived at my house rather drab in color. While here enjoying good old Amurrrrican water, she opted to buy a basic highlight kit, with the added bonus of having me there to pull the teeny bits of hair through the teeny holes in the plastic bonnet. No sweat, right? She’s always been a DIY hair dye chick with a long and positive track record so this wasn’t even something to mention.

I left my mom in her plastic bonnet and took off for carpool. Carpool has been extra nightmarish lately. I mean, I get that it’s only the first few days of school and all, but the worst offenders (and there are MANY) are those with kiddos in grades 1-5; in other words, this shit isn’t new to them. It’s like the entire parental pool has suffered blunt-head trauma. Anyway, an hour later I come back home to my mother, the Khaleesi. Well, Khaleesi with a slightly frumpier wardrobe (sorry, Mom) and lacking the three dragons.  

Y’all, it was startling. I mean, I couldn’t look away. It was bad. It was really bad. And I should know because I, too, tried the Khaleesi look, and I did it on purpose, paying loads of money to look really horrible and strange.

We agreed that something needed to be done. My mom figured some kind of rinse would take the edge off of whatever horrendous shit had taken hold of her hair. I gave her my car keys and directions to Sally’s. She tried that rinse twice. It did nothing at all.  

This morning after I took my last baby to school and cried a while, we were back in Sally’s. The manager was trying to help- low-lights this and processing that. I was admiring the cool colors in the meantime. We immediately agreed that going obnoxious would totally be the correct decision in this case. Blue. She would be blue.

So after a pedicure, during which we both went blue, and some Indian food for lunch, I dyed my mother’s hair blue.

It is fabulous. She is the rockingest blue-haired grandmother I’ve ever seen. It is glorious, and so much better than the wanna-be Khaleesi hair.
Later: I had to skedaddle earlier before posting, but something alarming is happening. She’s getting bluer. She’s blueing. The shade has gone from pretty sky to fairly-saturated Smurf. Where this ends, I know not. But it’s still better than it was.

My mother is cooler than your mother.

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I Know Why the Caged Nerd Sings

Y’all.  I finally got to see Wonder Woman.  With my mother in town, Will and I got our first date in at least a couple of months.  We made a beeline to the theater and caught it on what may very well have been its final day showing in our town.  I loved it.  The first thing out of my mouth was “I wish Stella were older so I could take her to see this.”  The second thing I did was express total awe and admiration that Gal Gadot shot most of those scenes while like 5-6 months pregnant and she looked amazing while kicking ass.  Then again, none of my maternity clothes ever had an accompanying CGI team or had blue-screen panels sewn in.  Then again, that wouldn’t have helped me a bit.  I  barely managed to haul my swollen self to the office.  She is a woman of wonder, that Gal.

See? This is what I get to wear to work sometimes, although a short little outfit with a sword and shield would have been a poor choice for wandering around inside one of those giant above-ground storage tanks they store oil/gas in.

But I was so thankful for a cool female character.  Will and I watch a lot of the superhero genre, as it’s one of those realms we can agree on.  We’ve done Daredevil, Arrow, the Flash.  They all have one thing in common: their female characters are all either whiney tits, unstable, evil, or a combination of the three.  It’s boring.  It’s also pretty damn frustrating.  In the series mentioned above, you’re waiting for them to hurry up and be killed off, thereby removing the distraction.  With Wonder Woman, you had something believable, or at least as believable as a superhero can be.  She emoted when necessary, but it was justified and didn’t require an orchestra with a bulging string section to do it.  You  never once wondered if her hormones were out of whack.  Why is it so hard to write a decent female character?  Why can’t they be funny?  Smart?  Tough?

Sorry.  I am a nerd.  I have grown to accept this.

And even during an innocent carousel ride, I can’t help but think my son was channeling his inner Khal Drogo. Yep. Nerd.

I am also raising nerd children, and you know what?  I’m totally cool with that.  Felix, especially, is obsessed with learning all sorts of random sciencey stuff.  Venus flytraps are huge right now.  Last week it was tornadoes.  He makes me find him YouTube clips and documentaries so he can learn more about his chosen topic of the day/week.  One night not that long ago, we watched sea cucumbers puke their guts out for about an hour.  That shit never gets old.  Oh wait.  It does.

The dude watching a bug being slowly digested.

I often wonder what it’s like to be part of a more typical household that watches football and stuff like that.  But I don’t waste too much time on that.  We have important science stuff to do.

Ignore me.  Today is Stella’s first day of 2nd grade and I’m a nervous wreck.  It doesn’t help that I couldn’t be there when she left this morning.

The Dude making a giant “spider web.” Shortly after this was taken I had to remove it, much to his intense displeasure. I couldn’t seem to make him understand that MyMom couldn’t cook safely with so many trip hazards present.

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Cook Before You Leap

One of my guilty pleasures is cooking shows, particularly those of the “reality” genre. Top Chef, Iron Chef (American and Japanese) -it’s all good. But the guiltiest one of all is Gordon Ramsay. I know it’s all bollocks, per se, but I get the biggest kick out of him hollering at people, calling them bleeping donkeys, bleeping muppets, or accusing them of having palates like a cow’s backside. That’s gold, I tell you. Gold.
Shifting gears entirely, mornings are pretty damn action-packed at my house. I suppose I’m experiencing it with fresh(er) eyes and ears since my mom is staying with us at the moment. You can’t help but wonder if she thinks we’re all utterly insane. We don’t ease into our day. Oh no. We never have, to be fair. We begin at full throttle – full volume.  

I think my blood pressure goes up at least 10 points every morning, and that’s a conservative estimate. There’s lots to do. Feed the cats. Feed the fish. Coffee. Take my vitamins and crazy pill. All the while the crescendo builds very quickly. Stella wants Teen Titans Go on TV. Felix wants to watch documentaries on Venus Flytraps on my phone -his latest passion- but it’s the same phone I’m trying to check email and the weather with.  

The volume gets louder as the squabbling over programming gets more heated. Then Will starts to bellow from the bedroom where he’s still trying to get his beauty rest so “OhMyGodShutUpSoYouDon’tWakeYourFatherUp.” But they’re bored, right? And STARVING. Suddenly Titans and Flytraps mean nothing. I am running Hell’s Kitchen. Stella wants a spinach omelet with cheese, but OH MY GLOB DON’T PUT THE CHEESE IN THE OMELET, YOU DONKEY! The cheese goes on the side!  

It’s also worth noting that this cheese? It’s the same Voldemart cheese we’ve been buying for years. But suddenly it’s unacceptable unless you cut it and serve it in a certain way. Dammit. Because I have nothing else to worry about.
And Felix wants waffles and toast. But butter! And absolutely no crust. Got it? And why are you cooking his breakfast before mine? I’m so hungry my mouth is watering. My mouth isn’t just watering-watering. I might drown it’s watering so much. And no crust, MyMom. You have butter, right? And I can’t hear my show! Bob the Builder is so loud I can’t hear Teen Titans.
Clear down, you muppet. Lunch is in a few hours. (Seriously, my children could give Gordon Ramsay the cold sweats.)

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The Catcher in the Why

Felix came home from school a few months ago singing this song – or a couple of lines from it – over and over again.  We tried everything we could think of to identify it.  I Googled every possible version of the lyrics I could make out.  Nada.  I got a video of it and sent it to his old teachers to see if they had a clue.  Nope.

It starts out pretty clear: We’re crashing in the why.

After that he gets really mush-mouthed.  Other than the “oh-oh-oh-ooooooh” part.

I think he made the whole thing up.  But dammit it’s catchy.  I catch myself whistling it when I’m doing dishes.  Felix gets pretty pissed off about that.  That’s HIS song, and I never get the ohs right.

Do y’all remember that old show Frasier?  There was one silly episode where Daphne had overheard some gross rock band’s song and the whole house was walking around singing the same line over and over: “Flesh is burning, do-do-do-do-do-DO.”  That episode has always stuck with me.  And now my Crashing in the Why is the Crane residence’s Flesh is Burning.

Crashing in the why, y’all.

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Horton Hears a New

I can feel anxiety creeping up on me.  It’s fairly diffuse but I can feel it getting stronger.  It’s all kid-related and due to the imminent changes.

Today will be the last day I pick Felix up from his play school.  This is the place we found after things went so badly at the Stepford Academy, when we didn’t know what to do with Stella or if she would ever fit in anywhere.  She thrived there.  I had 2 years where I didn’t have to worry about her during the day Monday through Friday.  Felix slid in there as well once he turned 1.  Neither of my kids ever cried when we dropped them off, or came running to us as if they had been tortured by mean little elves all day when we picked them up.  They were happy there.  They were allowed – encouraged – to be themselves.  Just a few days ago I went to pick the Dude up, and he had built a giant “machine” which took up about 25% of his classroom; it was taller than I was.  The other kids were kept away and asked to not mess with Felix’s creation.  His new “big kid” school – the same one Stella attends – doesn’t have anything at all to build with on the playground.  I feel sad for my son.  He’s about to have to grow up a whole lot; I fear his new world won’t be as magical as the one he’s used to traveling in right now.

So yeah.  I guess I’m pretty sad about that.

And there’s the impending set of “new” barrelling towards Stella.  Sure, she is probably very ready to get back into some kind of routine.  But her new teacher – no matter how highly-recommended – is unknown to her, to me. Those will be an anxious few weeks, waiting for her to settle down and settle in.  The doubts and “what ifs” enter in.  What if Stella and this new teacher don’t gel?  What if she gets discouraged?  What if she stops working so hard and ceases to care about principal’s lists and student of the month awards?  I’m so tired.  I get even more tired thinking about all of this but can’t stop.  On one hand I want to stop the clock.  On the other I want to just fast-forward 3 weeks and get to a place where things have sorted themselves out.

So I guess I’m feeling maudlin.  I suppose this is a feeling most parents have at the beginning of any new school year.  My feelings may be enhanced by some of our earliest “firsts” and the drama that went along with them.  Next Friday – the first day my little boy goes to big kdi school – I’ll probably be a mess.  Raising these little people is hard.

I know they’ll both be ok.  Kids are resilient, or so they say.  As for me, there’s wine.  Lots and lots of it.

Have a good weekend, y’all.

Yeah, I guess they don’t look worried.

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Rotten to the Chore

It’s been a week, y’all.  While keeping Stella out of camp was absolutely the right call, it’s been logistically challenging.  To be fair, the girl has had a pretty terrific week: a trip to the water park, splash pads, bowling, cupcake decorating, and tea parties.  But it’s all starting to feel so abnormal.  She is like my retired father; she has no clue what day of the week it is.  And that shit is catching.  This morning I woke up and wasn’t sure if I should be panicking that I wasn’t already dressed for work.

She also got a field trip to my office. Wheeeeee!

It’s also so much Togetherness.  And kid time.  My glob, I would dearly love some solitude and adult time.  I’m not sure what that even looks like at this point.  It’s probably not watching porn while naked wrestling in alcohol-infused Jello.  But maybe a conversation where I can get out a sentence without having to stop and tell a kid to stop shaking their ass or not to Wolverine-claw their sibling would be a good start.  Or seeing a movie.  Like F’ing Wonder Woman.  No, I’m not bitter.

(As I type this, my son just raced past me in his underwear bellowing Jingle Bells.  Xmas in July and all that, I guess.)

Did you know you could “accidentally” spit out water all over the living room (without excessive laughter involved)?  Yeah.  That’s a thing.

One of my more inventive ideas this week involved cleaning.  I “let” Stella help me with big kid jobs.  Like mopping and using Windex.  Now lest you worry that I’m changing her name to CinderStella, she kind of sucks at these endeavors.  Her Windex aim is awful.  Lots of wooden things were hosed.  And she refused to listen to my explanation on how to mop oneself out of a room, thereby avoiding foot prints.  But no matter. Some grunge removal is better than none.

I’ve just locked myself in my room to try to post this.  It sounds awful out there.  Will is hollering about jackassery (Sorry in advance to my children’s new teachers for their fabulous new noun.).  It’s only a matter of time before Felix picks the lock.  He may have a promising career in grand theft ahead of him.

Shit.  Will just screamed to someone not to stick “it in your ear.”  Gotta go.  Light a candle for me.  Or something.  

P.S.  I seem to know a lot of people going through some gut-wrenching shit these days.  Show some love out there.  Do a random act of kindness.  Let’s try to tip the scales for those who need it.

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Whip of Fools

We have made it.  Stella has survived Summer Camp Season 2017.  For the next 2.5 weeks, she will be with one of her parents or grandparents.  Togetherness.  Oh yeah.

The particular camp she just finished culminated every week with a “talent show.”  Y’all.  It was so awful.  Those things are without a doubt the most painful things I have sat through as a parent thus far. 

For the most part, these were nerd kids.  This was not a group you would see featured on Fame or Glee.  With a few glaring exceptions, none of these children needed to be allowed anywhere near a stage.  Add in a handful of young, “hip” counselors who enjoy introducing kids to unfamiliar and horrible pop music and you have a new level of hell that Dante himself would be horrified by.

The first week, Stella “sang.”  Despite my misgivings, that was probably the least-awful “talent” she chose to exhibit.  She composed an original song.  It was very short.  Hence the “least-awful” part.   The next two weeks she chose to be a “dancer.”  Her “dancing” made Elaine Benes look like Anna freaking Pavlova.  

Her first week “dancing,” she performed to some horrendous song about a cheerleader.  Yesterday it was to something about whipping a nae nae.  Y’all, this shit made me feel like Archie Bunker.  What does it mean?  What the living hell is a nae nae?

My daughter is amazing and she is talented.  Her talents are not something you can package and put on a stage.  It doesn’t help that she refuses to take artistic direction.  She will/would not consider suggestions such as actually attempting any sort of choreography.  As such, I was the only parent in the room not taking pictures or videos.  My dad would beg me each week to send him a video.  I refused.  I wanted no evidence of these “talent shows.”  

I know.  I’m an asshole.  And I’m already scheming about next year.  We may be learning some magic tricks before next summer.  If I find a sparkly top hat, I can probably sell it to her.  Just please, glob, no dancing or singing or naeing.

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