Friday, December 29, 2006

Sassy Molassy and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

If I had read my horoscope for today, I bet it would have said "Stay home! Better yet, stay in bed!"

It was not really that bad, in between major catastrophes. The kids and I slept until 9:00 or so, got up and did the normal morning things, and Genevieve went down for her usual morning nap. About twenty minutes later Genevieve woke up from her morning nap and refused to go back to sleep. Ok, not a big deal, I just wouldn't be able to set her down until she went to sleep again. Somewhere around 12:30, I gave up on believing that she would ever do such a thing, and decided to yield to the older kids' requests to be taken to Bookstar to use the $20 gift cards we got them for Christmas. I somehow managed to put on clothes, wash my face, put on a little makeup, and do something with my Roseanna-Roseanna-Danna 'do with one hand while holding a baby in the other, and we all piled into the van.

As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, I remembered I was about out of gas. I usually try to get gas when the kids aren't with me, but since we're all still on winter break, they're always with me. Kroger is right there in the shopping plaza with the book store, so I foolishly thought I could fill up there without too much of an ordeal. As I turned into the parking lot by the gas island, I must have turned a second too early, because I went over the curb. I pulled up to the pump thinking everything was ok, and started the intricate process of scanning my Kroger card for the loyalty discount, pushing the correct buttons, scanning my debit card, and being told to "see cashier." Dammit. I tried again, hitting "credit" instead of "debit" since this sometimes helps when the computer is being irksome. No such luck this time. I went to the cashier, who told me to just hit the "pay cashier" button, which I did. So I had just started pumping my gas when the teenage boy next to me informed me that my right front tire was flat. Shit! I thought for a minute, realized I didn't even know where my spare was stored and that we never renewed our AAA membership, and reached into my purse for my phone to call Big Daddy at work. No phone. Are you f*#&ing kidding me? It was humiliating enough to have to call my man to rescue me from a stupid flat tire, but now I had to borrow the cashier's phone to do it and then explain that I had somehow left my phone at home.

I called him and explained the situation, feeling rushed and embarrassed on the cashier's personal cell phone, and he said he would either leave work and come himself or see if he could get my dad, who works nights and would be home and awake at that time of day, and help would be there soon. Right after this, the cashier told me my debit card was declined, even though I thought there should be plenty of money in the account. "Well," I sighed, "I'm not going anywhere. I'll have to pay you when he gets here." I flashed back to a moment earlier this morning, when I found my only other valid card in the dryer, told myself I should go put it in my purse, and then set it on the windowsill next to the dryer. Beautiful. At least she was nice about it.

At this point, Genevieve was screaming because she had seen me through the window and hates to be in the car when it's not moving. I put her, still in her car seat carrier, on the little seatless stroller cart deally and pushed her back and forth as I got out the jack and tire iron and tried to figure out where the spare might be. Once I established that it was not under any kind of panel in the way back of the van, I remembered the owner's manual in its special black zippered case in its own little holder under the front passenger seat. Sure enough, it revealed the bizarre location of the spare tire and the steps that would be necessary to remove it. At least that was something. There was a time, in college, when I went through so many tires on my little Chrysler LeBaron that I was once able to change a tire during the 15 minute break in the middle of an hour-and-a-half Tuesday/Thursday class and make it back in time to impress my classmates with my blackened palms. I found it humiliating not to be able to handle this situation myself. I can guarantee that if I hadn't had the kids with me, I would have at least tried.

About the time I figured out where the spare was and how to get it, my brother-in-law came walking up. "Are you my knight in shining armor?" I asked. He expressed disgust that "no sorry son of a bitch" had offered to help me, then got to work jacking up the van. I continued to feel worthless, but tried to focus on corralling the kids and restraining myself from saying "I'm sorry" every three seconds. And since my brother-in-law is anti-cell phone, I couldn't borrow his phone to call B.D. and tell him to transfer money into checking, so he had to buy my gas on top of rescuing my sorry non-tire-changing butt. I know he was glad to do it, but it's the principal of the thing. To say that I don't like to ask for help is an understatement, but I guess sometimes even I just have no choice. So thanks Uncle T. for rescuing us, and for thinking to put air in the spare tire once it was on, which I would never have thought of. I owe you one.

That crisis resolved, I went ahead and took the kids to the book store since we were already right there in the plaza. They picked out books and I got one for myself with a gift card I received from one of my students, and then we made our way home carefully but uneventfully.

The second bad thing that happened was later in the afternoon. After another brief yet unrefreshing twenty-minute nap, Genevieve was in her usual perch on my back in the mei tai while I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and got a chicken ready to roast in the oven for dinner when I heard a huge crash in the livingroom, complete with the distinctive sound of breaking glass. I ran (the three steps) into the livingroom to see Somerset standing horrified in the middle of the room with her hands up by her head. "What happened??" I asked, scanning the room for the damage. "I don't know!" she cried. Then I saw what had happened. Attempting to hide in one of her usual spots during a game of hide-and-seek with her brothers, she had moved one of the doors of the corner T.V. cabinet, dislodging the lighted Christmas garland that was draped across it, which took a large-ish snow globe down with it when it fell. The glass and ceramic snow globe I bought for Calvin's first Christmas. It had shattered on the floor beneath the small table where the kids sit to eat and play. Water, glitter, fake snow, and tiny shards of glass were everywhere. At least I didn't have to worry about the baby getting into it. Then as I set about cleaning up the mess, I realized the small basket of baby toys at the end of the couch was in the path of destruction. Sure enough, when I looked into it I saw a piece of glass right there on top. Big Daddy arrived home from work as I was sweeping, so he helped me clean it all up while I took the baby toys into the kitchen and went over each toy looking for glass. The basket must have been just at the edge of the spray when the globe burst, because my careful inspection only turned up two slightly-water-splashed toys and one more piece of glass at the bottom of the basket. I shook the basket out, checked it again, and re-checked each toy as I put it back in, then went over the floor again with the rag mop to pick up any small glass splinters. I think we got it all. I hope so.

After that, B.D. volunteered to take the older kids with him to buy some much-needed jeans with some of his Christmas money, leaving Genevieve and me in relative peace. I was nearly ready for a stiff drink, but settled for half a roasted chicken and three episodes of The Sopranos on DVD.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Does this make me a grown up?

I find myself in a strange situation. My parents, who have traditionally been all-things-new suburb dwellers, in contrast to my steadfast midtowniness and love of old houses and independently-owned businesses, have flipped the script on me. It's partially my own doing, too. To make a long story short, after selling their house recently, instead of immediately buying a new one, they moved into the guest house behind a pilot friend's "big house" and are living rent, utility, cable, and phone-bill-free for one year in exchange for my mom babysitting five overnights a month. My parents are now living my college life, but without (let's hope!) some (or, ok, any) of the more sordid details. It was college after all.

One of the strange outcomes of this arrangement is that my maternal family's big Christmas Eve dinner and gift exchange was held at my house this year, for the first time ever. I enjoyed being able to host, especially since I wasn't responsible for the whole dinner, and it rained all day so there was the added bonus of knowing I was not dragging four kids in and out of the minivan all day or listening to Big Daddy bitch about having to drive Way Out To East Jerusalem in the nasty weather. In my 1240 square foot, one-bathroom house, we had my parents, maternal grandmother, aunt and her husband, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, plus our brood, and it really worked out just fine.

Even though I know that next year my parents will have bought another roomy suburban house and will, in all likelihood, insist on hosting the holiday themselves, I feel like this was a rite of passage. Somehow I never feel quite like an adult in my parents' eyes. I think it's because so many of my lifestyle choices just don't jibe with their idea of adulthood. It's as if they are still hanging on to the hope that I will decide to move to the burbs, start going to church, express regret over my two (very banal) tattoos, get a "perky" haircut, and buy some bejeweled holiday sweaters and tops to be worn in the appropriate seasons. As I approach my mid-thirties, I think they are close to giving up. I hope so. Nevertheless, they seemed cheerful at our gathering, and my Dad even had a few glasses of pinot noir to help the holiday cheer along. I almost felt like I was being a bad influence!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

In a totally unoriginal move

Since I seem to be posting impaired, I thought I'd steal take inspiration from Andria's idea and post a list of 100 things about me. Except I seriously doubt I can make it to 100. We'll see. I'm guessing my list is going to be organized-like into loose categories, because that's the way my thought process works (scary!). Ok:

1. One of my students got accepted into M.I.T. today.
2. In an ironic twist of fate, the captain of our football team pretends to have a crush on me.
3. I wonder daily if my principal likes me or thinks I'm a freak or what.
4. Brevity is not my strong suit (have you noticed?).
5. I am extremely self-conscious about the fact that I talk too much and am sometimes powerless to stop it.
6. I often leave meetings and gatherings fearing that I have just been obnoxious.
7. I used to be obsessed with the book Lolita.
8. I have read at least five books five times or more.
9. I am finally reading Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and am finding it very British.
10. I own a signed first edition of my favorite book.
11. I finally read Pride and Prejudice and thought it sucked.
12. I also thought the movie "Lost in Translation" sucked.
13. I hate everything about winter except the holidays.
14. I am nursing a baby and typing this one-handed. (that only lasted a few minutes)
15. I wear black almost every day, and I see nothing wrong with that.
16. I think shopping is torturous.
17. I would kill to be tall.
18. I'm pretty sure I could kill someone who tried to hurt me or my family and have spent time thinking about how I could do it with my bare hands or household objects, and I would never feel bad about it.
19. I still sometimes feel shocked that I have four kids, and that one of them is almost 9.
20. In my last pregnancy, my hair turned curly.
21. In my last pregnancy, I had euphoric fantasies about eating sand.
22. I wish I were at the beach every single day of my life.
23. I love to travel but have barely traveled at all.
24. I am already struggling to think of things to put on this list.
25. I have issues with food.
26. I can't think of any food more foul than cole slaw. Except maybe tuna salad.
27. I wish I liked any kind of Asian food, but I just don't.
28. Chicken Tikka Masala makes me hum with joy when I eat it.
29. I would like to take an Indian cooking class.
30. I would one day like to go back to school for a Masters in urban planning, but realistically I'm more likely to go back for an MFA in writing.
31. I won the Allen Tate Poetry Award my senior year at Rhodes College.
32. I have no idea who Allen Tate is or was.
33. I am least likely to like people who see themselves as weak or helpless, but I feel kind of bad about that.
34. I have never been in therapy but that's probably a mistake.
35. I am a poor judge of character when it comes to first impressions.
36. I trust people easily, but I suspect this is because I have low expectations.
37. I have mixed feelings about nihilism as a personal philosophy.
38. I once took meditation lessons from a Buddhist monk who spoke only Vietnamese.
39. As a child I went to a Seventh day Adventist church with my grandmother.
40. I was raised Baptist.
41. I have been baptized twice.
42. I have a deep-seated aversion to religion and churches.
43. I can quote the Bible chapter and verse.
44. I will probably take my kids to a Unitarian church when they get older. I guess.
45. My husband and I were married by a judge but had an outdoor wedding.
46. I got married two weeks after graduating from college, and in the same location.
47. I married my high school sweetheart.
48. I married the only man in the world I could ever, ever be married to.
49. My husband and I dream of living on a boat after our kids leave home.
50. I left home at 17 and have never had to move back in with my parents (knock wood).

I just decided to make this a list of 50 things about me, instead of 100.

But, I like those actor's studio questions, so I will answer those, too:

1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
being out in nature, especially near any kind of water
4. What turns you off?
the phrase "turns you on"
5. What is your favorite curse word?
Oh, they're all so good!
6. What sound or noise do you love?
ocean sounds
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
my baby crying
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
urban planning
9. What profession would you not like to do?
car sales
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"Remember when you said 'If there is a God who made me, and knows me, and loves me, then I'm pretty sure that God is not going to punish me eternally for a little thing like being wrong about his/her/its existence. I'm willing to bet that the religious authority figures who have emphasized belief over actions throughout history have done so because they were not doing good things and did not want to be questioned.'? That was so right on!"

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hissy Fit

The two hours between four and six p.m. are the trickiest part of my day. I have it easy in the mornings, since Big Daddy is the one who has to get the kids up and ready and to their respective schools and sitter. All I have to do is nurse Genevieve and pray she stays asleep while I shower, dress, make lunches, and scoot out the door by 7:00 a.m. Sometimes she does, but I still manage to be a few minutes late almost every day. The workday itself is generally pleasant, since I like my school and my students this year. I don't even mind the after-school dash to Mud Island to pick up Genevieve and then to the school for the other three. But once we get home, I am looking at two to two and a half hours of clothing changes ("Daddy wants you to change out of your uniform when you get home, you know that. Because you will spill stuff on it. Come on Somerset, give it to me. Fine, leave it on then, I don't even care..."), snack facilitating, homework coaching, squabble refereeing, and attempts to get the baby down for a nap so I can clean up a little and start dinner, which will almost inevitably end in screeching from the living room waking her up so that I end up cooking and cleaning with a sleepy baby tied to my back. All I really want to do is sit down and read or watch Oprah, but I can't and for the most part I've accepted that. Most days I do fine, biding my time until B.D. makes it home to at least keep me company in munchkin land and take his turn being the one to beg, plead, and threaten Somerset into pretended compliance with our meager rules.

But some days there are surprises, and that's where I fall. I've always prided myself on being a go-with-the-flow kind of person, able to think on my feet and take problems in stride. For some reason, those abilities seem to take a nap in the after-school hours. When that happens, various personalities step in to take Calm Mama's place. Sometimes it's Mommy Dearest, who causes a steady stream of nagging and bitching to come out of my mouth about the ungodly state of the kids' rooms, the mindboggling presence of so much of their crap in the living room, their arguing, their forgetting of things at school, and so on. Other times, like yesterday, it's The Big Baby. She throws tantrums. It is not pretty.

Yesterday afternoon, Calvin told me all about how the Santa Claus we know, in the red and white suit, is just an image that was thought up in the 1950's by Coca Cola, and how he always wore green before that, and how he isn't really fat but used to be skinny. I understood that he learned this in school, and was able to casually ask him where he learned about that. His student teacher. Of course. I did a good job of hiding, but this information just crawled right up my ass and made me furious. Calvin still believes in Santa Claus, and I realize this is probably the last year that will be true. At this point, he chooses to believe, even in the face of naysayers and some evidence to the contrary. Luckily, he seems to have taken this fascinating revelation about how Santa is just a cheap marketing ploy, which his tweny-one year old student teacher is so proud to have discovered all by herself on the amazing internet, and incorporated it into whatever logical process he has going on about Santa in that beautiful brain of his. But I was still pissed, and as soon as Big Daddy got home, I lunged for his laptop and fired off an email to Calvin's very lovely real teacher asking her to please tell her student teacher that some of us try hard to give our children an actual childhood, and could she please not kill Santa for them just yet. I felt somewhat better after that, until I went to move Somerset's lunchbox off the counter and noticed it felt heavy. I opened it to see that her entire sandwich and most of her chips were still in there, meaning all she had eaten all day was a banana. When I asked her why she hadn't eaten her sandwich, she looked upset and said it was time to go back to her room (from CLUE class back to the YMCA room) and she didn't have time to eat. There have been other times when she told me she did not have lunch on CLUE days, but it usually turned out that she was just confused because she ate in the CLUE room and thought it was "snack" time. This time, though, the food was still there so I knew she hadn't eaten, and this just flew all over me and reignited my fury over the Santa debacle. I decided to write a note to the Y teacher about how they need to get their shit together and make sure my poor baby gets to eat her lunch at the same time and place every day, but I couldn't find a pen. That was it. The Big Baby decided to throw a hissy fit about the impossibility of finding a pen in this disorganized pit, and how could it be that we don't even have a #$*&%$ pen in this house?? In fact there were probably more expletives than respectable words coming out of my mouth, but I'll spare you. B.D. tried to give me a fine-point sharpie, which I threw back in the basket, shouting "That is not a pen it is a #*&%ing Sharpie!" and then ranted about how I was going to throw all of those Sharpies away because the kids keep drawing with them and there was a mark on the table now from one. To his credit, B.D. did not tell me to pull my shit together, instead choosing to stop folding laundry to go and find me a pen. This left me standing alone in the kitchen, feeling stupid, and noticing for the first time that the Rosemary Clooney Christmas CD he had just bought me to replace a long-lost tape was playing on the kitchen stereo. It's my favorite Christmas album, and he bought it for me, and he put it on to play so we could listen to it while I cooked and he folded, and instead I had drowned out the wistful, melancholy version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that always makes me cry and that is the reason I love that album so much with the sounds of my temper tantrum. I felt like a complete ass. I thought about how irritated I get when he acts moody, knowing that in his worst fit of grumpiness he has never come anywhere close to throwing a fit like I just did. So I pulled it together. He brought me the pen and I wrote the note, and I mumbled an apology, and in a little while we were both able to act like nothing had happened.