Saturday, December 10, 2016

Cat House

"Hey, I have these two boxes in the garage and I was thinking we could make them into little houses for the kitties for Christmas," I told Big Kid at the dinner table last night. "I need your help though because I want them to look really nice. So I was thinking we'd measure the sides and then decide what kind of little houses they'd be, like Calliope's could be a candy shop and Alexander Hamilton's could be, I don't know, whatever, but then I need your help designing a little store front and the building sides in Photoshop. Then we can get it printed at Kinko's and put it on the boxes. I could probably print it myself but -- " It was then that I realized that everyone at the table was completely silent and staring at me. "What?"

Big Kid shook his head. "There is literally not a thought in your head that doesn't revolve around cats."

"No."

"Yes, he's right," Mr. Ashley added.

"Did you just hear yourself, mom? That whole thing? Like, really think about the things you say and tell me they aren't all cat-related."

"But it's the kittens' first Christmas, I was just thinking..."

"He's right," little kid confirmed. Everyone else in the house is kind of boring, so when he takes their side I start to wonder.

"I just thought it would be fun."

"Right. That's the thing, mom. Turning cardboard boxes into cat houses is your idea of fun. That's kind of the whole problem."

"Seriously, Ashley, the cat situation is out of control."

"It's not."

"The sight of them snuggling the other day made you cry. The whole thing is weird."

"I just wish there was a cat big enough to snuggle me like that."

"See? That. It always comes back to cats."

"Okay, then. I'll make the cat houses by myself and I won't put your names on the gift tag."

And then I dropped it but I was secretly mad. The cats don't pull this kind of shit with me. They love my love of cats. Mostly.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Crosswalk

So, lately I'm a little scared of people because people can be scary.

I'm an over thinker, which makes for some social anxiety, and I live in an area that has a large number of people who only live here for half the year, and these people often have no chill. They're very comfortable asserting themselves, where I prefer to smile and nod and go about my day, avoiding direct interaction with strangers in public.

Every day I sit at the same residential street corner in my car waiting for little kid's bus, and I have to pull slightly into the crosswalk in order to see it coming.

I'm neurotic, so I feel tremendous guilt about that and try to be conscientious about reversing a little bit in the rare event that anyone tries to cross. The other day I was in a terrible mood though, and the bus was coming soon. I saw an older lady approaching with her dog and mine started barking at hers, so it was full chaos mode. She stopped and looked at my car, and I wondered how long it would take for the neighborhood watch to arrive and interrogate me.

I decided I wasn't reversing that foot from the crosswalk, she wouldn't even have to walk around me with the path she was on. She probably already hated me anyway and both stupid dogs were barking like crazy.

Then she walked across...and around to my driver's side. Fuck. Should've backed up.

She waited patiently as I rolled my window down, ready to apologize and explain the bus stop situation when she said, "I just wanted to tell you that you're a good mama. I see you here everyday, just sitting and waiting and you're a good woman and mother."

I was so stunned by her kindness that I wasn't sure how to reply, a rare event for me. I stuttered something out about how nice it was of her to stop to say so -- that I spend a lot of my time there waiting and it feels wasted and that she had just made my day.

The drudgery of motherhood feels so purposeless that it's easy to forget that it's important.

That lady was a good reminder to be the stranger that's willing to take a chance on others, and although she'll most likely forget it as a small kindness, I will remember it forever and as more than that.

(And I have to stop being a scary stranger too.)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mini Mentor

little kid still snuggles me in bed every morning before school. I love it.

"Any advice for my job interview today?" I asked him yesterday.

"Hmm," he said thoughtfully. "Walk really tall, like, stand up straight. And -- " he paused for a minute, thinking some more, "You're gonna say a lot of stuff and you might be nervous so it might not always be good stuff. But just say it the way you always would. You should be yourself because people like you and if they don't, you shouldn't surprise them later. Would you even want to work there if they didn't like you? So just be you." He quickly added, "But don't cuss. Or laugh too loud. I mean, laugh, but not that hyena laugh you do when we Snapchat. Be you but more normal."

So, my guru is in 5th grade. I think the advice of not surprising someone with who you are is profound and more of us should do that.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Kind of Fun

"Remember when you made me go on the dinosaur roller coaster at Legoland? I didn't like it." little kid reminded me, because I must have looked at peace with myself as a parent and person.

"No. I don't remember a dinosaur roller coaster." I know I made him go on at least one ride he didn't like, but couldn't recall the details. These are not real roller coasters, for anyone feeling sympathy that I encouraged him to try something new.

"It was maybe wood or something?"

"Hm. No."

"There was like a lost dinosaur theme or something? With crates around? It wasn't a big coaster. Near the front of the park?"

"No. I don't know."

"You found a spelling mistake on one of the signs in line and you were so happy. You couldn't wait to email them about it."

"Ah!! Yes! They had 'to' instead of 'too.' Man, I have a picture of it somewhere. I never did email them. That was fun."

"No...it wasn't. That was the whole point of me bringing it up."

Sense of Sweetness

little kid, now 10, tripped and fell in the kitchen, so I hugged him and rubbed his back for a moment.

"I'm so sorry, babe," I murmured. "It sounded like it hurt." After a few long seconds of a tight hug, I added,"Hey, are you using shampoo?" 

"Oh come on, mom." 

"You're not. Your hair smells yuck."

"That's rude. That's just mean to bring it up right now." 

"I'm just saying. Killing two birds and all that, like your hair would. You have to use shampoo every day." 

"Don't hug me then."

"Look, my greatest joy as a mother -- out of all of the things over all of the years -- is the pleasure of secretly sniffing your hair when we hug. Please don't steal that sweetness from me. I only have a few years left. Please, if not for the sake of your hygiene, please use the shampoo so that I can have that." 

I thought I sensed a softness in him then. He's usually as weak as I am about the thought of him growing up and leaving me. 

"So this is all about you then? I fell down. Does everything have to be about you?" 

(I was wrong about the softness.) 

"Yes. Everything is about me. Your leg is fine, your hair is not. Please use the shampoo."

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Right Friends

On the drive to school the other day, my 10-year-old randomly said, "Mom, you and your friends are really cool."

"Me and my friends? Uh, thanks. We don't get called that a lot, I don't think."

"No. Really. You have, like, really good friends. Like you'll get dressed up all fancy for each other or just text each other during lunch to go sit somewhere wearing yoga pants and with your hair all...not fancy." We sit at a dive bar, drink Bloody Marys like they're going out of style, and play Prince on the jukebox from our iPhones for hours on those afternoons, but he doesn't know that. "And you're all like, 'Take nine kids out in public? Sure!' and no one even yells that much. Like how you'll all boss each other's kids but in a nice mom way. And I like how you're all mad about the election but you are looking for people to be nice to, like that's a funny and cool way to be mad. And how you say you don't like to talk on the phone but when you do, it's for like an hour. And you're all all loud and stuff, but in a fun way, not an annoying way. Most of the time. No offense, sometimes you guys are annoying but just because you're having maybe too much fun."

This is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me or my friends. And it's spot on, down to being annoying. We totally are.

"Wow. Yeah. We think we're super cool, so thanks for noticing. Really. I am lucky in the friend department and what you just said made me feel really good."

"But how did you make those kinds of friends? I want friends like that when I have kids but I think it would be good to start now."

"It's super tricky. And also not. Sometimes you meet people and you know they're meant to be your friend, and you have to stay in touch or tell them that you're friends now and you suck at staying in touch and hope they're cool with that. But mostly make sure the people you really like know that you really like them, because everyone likes to be liked. I could see you and your best friend coaching your kids' football teams some day, I think he's one of your soulmate friends."

"I don't know," he said pensively. "I don't think we'd have our kids play football. Maybe something safer like soccer."

"Yeah. That's how you know. That you already know that about each other."