Monday, July 21, 2014

Kid Snippets

I spend a ridiculous amount of time in parking lots or at stoplights, hurriedly entering clips of conversation into the notes section of my phone. So often, these bits and pieces never make it to an actual blog post and I feel bad about that but also not quite motivated enough to craft them into something interesting. So here are a few of those lost snippets:
 ***

"Why would you get to be the deciding factor?" I asked little kid when overhearing Big Kid's pleas to be the first to use the computer that day.

"I love when you say that, mom." Big Kid interrupted.

"When I say what?"

"Deciding factor. It's just really classy, so much better than the word choice. Deciding factor...yeah, that just sounds really good, two excellent words to use together."

It's so nice to have another word nerd in the house.

***
While listening to the radio:

"I knew you were trouble when you walked in -- she better be talking about herself! That girl is nothing but trouble, I don't even know why anyone would date her, knowing she's going to write trash talking songs about them later when they break up."

"Who is it?" I asked, not smarter than a 5th grader when it comes to pop culture.

"Taylor Swift."

"Who would break up with HER?" asked little kid. "She's totally rich. I wouldn't even care if she wrote mean songs about me, you can deal with some stuff for that kind of money."

***

"Max is my favorite boy lately." I said.

"Mooooom! Why Max?" little kid protested.

"He's sweet, he loves me all of the time, he rarely asks for anything. It doesn't mean I love you less, Max just gets to be the favorite this week."

"Great. Now I'm living dad's life."

***

little kid walked into the family room, bounced a Nerf football off of the side of an unsuspecting Big Kid's head and yelled, "Hash tag, deserved it!" as he continued walking into the next room.

I wasn't even mad. It was hilarious.

(Big Kid was mad.)

***

"Big Kid, you know why you don't like mustard?" little kid asked. "Mus-TURD," he finished before Big Kid could answer. He then repeated the joke 3 different times over the next two days.

I don't even know if those are funny to anyone else, but I don't want to forget them.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Okay That's Enough

Mr. Ashley yelled at the kids earlier (I was going to re-phrase that so it sounded better, but to hell with it, sometimes we yell a little) because they barely looked up from their devices when I walked in the door and asked them about their day. He talked to them about listening generously and participating in a conversation instead of being so absorbed in your own activity that you can't even pretend to be polite.

Then he left to run errands.

Then I heard the entire history of the Nintendo franchise from Big Kid. A full forty minutes of character evolution, highs and lows in design and ideas that were either destined to fail or did because of bad timing or competition that should have never been considered competition at all if people could only appreciate true video game design craftsmanship.

God damn, this generous listening business is hard work.

Then we moved on to Weird Al Yankovich's latest comeback and some of the highlights of his career. I couldn't make it up if I tried. 

I was appreciative of the attempt at first but I had a headache and, let's face it, even in tip top shape, this is just too much. Even for the best, most generous listener.

I finally told him I had a little bit of work to catch up on since I was out of town today but that it was really nice talking to him, and we happily went our separate ways.

I'm fine with that. It was a good start.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Banned Breeds

The other day we were talking about how our dog, Max, was found roaming around an industrial area with two other dogs that were obviously younger than him and looked half like him. We often speculate on what his prior situation was and what his relationship is to the puppies. I think he's their dad, even though that seems like an odd dog set up--that the dad would end up with the babies and no mom in sight. I don't know, it's a mystery and will remain one. I am Facebook friends with the people who found him and they have the other two, is there dog DNA testing? Would Maury get involved here?

The kids aren't so sure that he's their dad, and think they're just a rag tag gang of shaggy street dogs.

"They don't even look like him," little kid said during the latest conversation.

"They look kind of like him. Like maybe he had babies with, like, some sort of little shitzu--"

Big Kid gasped and little kid burst out laughing.

"No! No! Shitzu is the name of an actual breed of dog. I'm not cursing!"

"It just sounded so bad," Big Kid said, beginning to laugh.

"Shitzu. Shitzu. Shitzu. It sounds awesome," little kid said. "Shitzu."

"Knock it off. Don't make me ban that word." I once had to temporarily ban the word 'potato.'

"You can't ban types of dogs. What if I see a shitzu?" This child has spent every day of his 7 years practicing his negotiating skills in some way.

"You don't."

"It's such a great word. Shitzu is the type of word people should write on the back of their cars."

"On the backs of their cars?"

"Yes, everyone should do it. Shitzu."

"Stop saying 'shitzu', for real."

"You have to ruin all jokes, little kid! God forbid this family have any fun before you have to ruin it for EVERYBODY!" Big kid, always serious, started. "The Swedish Fish joke is all we have left and she wouldn't even let you talk about that for, like, a week or something!" 

Rita's Italian Ice once texted me every day for weeks to tell me they had the Swedish Fish flavor that day. They have it everyday, apparently. All attempts to stop it were ignored and the boys liked to say, "We haaaaaaave Sweeeedish Fiiiiish tooooodaaaay!" in a really creepy voice every time my text message alarm would sound...several times a day, for un-Rita related texts, too. It was hilarious and almost as annoying as the text messages after a while.

"Shitzu is a BREED of a dog, it's not even a joke, it's a real thing!" little kid insisted. "Mom, what if I see a real shitzu? Tell him I can say it then."

"If you can actually find and identify a shitzu then I guess I'll let it slide in that context, but otherwise, no, you're not allowed to say that dog breed. You've already proven that you can't be trusted to use it responsibly."

"Oh, I'm going to find some, trust me." 

So let's not be surprised when little kid grows up and gets a shitzu, complete with a matching "shitzu" bumper sticker.

Note from Ashley: It has since come to my attention that it is actually spelled "shih tzu"--who the hell knew? That actually would look better on the back of a car, he might be on to something here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Clone Wars

"Remember how they were planning on cloning a woolly mammoth?" Big Kid asked.

"Yep. Haven't heard much else about it, though," I said.

"What if they could do that with people? Take DNA from people long ago and make new ones?"

"They probably could, but ethically it would be a nightmare. It would be hard to pull it off publicly. Ethics is like the difference between right and wrong, people would feel this was wrong."

"Yeah, because then everyone would want you to clone someone they lost and it would be crazy!" little kid chimed in.

"People would be like, 'Obama, I miss my dad and I demand you bring him back!' and it would mess everything up and they'd be mad at Obama even though it was their idea. But it would be nice for people."

"Yeah, but if someone replicated you exactly and made a baby that was identical to your DNA, but that baby grew up with entirely different experiences and memories--would that be you? In any way?" I asked.

"Hmmm. Good point. But what if you could somehow recreate the same life?"

"How could you? Even little social interactions could throw something off. Even if you put them in the same scene, it would be a different time and different people--there would be no way to recreate the old life exactly. Maybe if you could download memories and experiences but we can't. So you would just raise a baby that looked exactly like your dad, which would be pretty weird."

"True. What if you brought Elvis back and he had no interest in music?"

"That would be pretty crazy. He'd have a lot to live up to," I said.

"What if we brought Adolf Hitler back?" little kid tuned back in. (Have I mentioned little kid's obsession with World War II? It's a little creepy. He also thinks China's government is pretty bad ass and can't be convinced otherwise. little kid loves dictators. I have no idea how or why this happened.)

"What if we brought Hitler back and he wasn't a jerk? What if he fell in love with a Jewish woman?" Big Kid asked.

"He wanted to be an artist. What if he was a successful artist instead? What if his life just took a different path? It's weird to think that at some point all evil people were just innocent little kids." I said.

"That is weird. That the Fuhrer himself was just an innocent little boy who wanted to be an artist one day. It's kind of sad. Everyone was just a little baby at some point."

"Maybe Hitler just wanted to make the Jewish people feel some of the pain that he felt inside about art school," little kid offered.

"Eh, I don't know, I don't think so. He was, no doubt about it, a horrible guy--maybe at some point he wasn't, but what he did was really inexcusable, we can't afford to have a lot of sympathy for someone like that."

"But maybe if we can clone him and raise him to not hate Jews, maybe it would help balance everything out. But if we did that, I don't think we should tell the new Adolf Hitler about the old Adolf Hitler and that could be tricky. It would just make him feel bad, though." little kid speculated.

"Yeah. Hopefully. Don't think we'll clone him, though."

"But what if we did?"

And right then we arrived at the birthday party they were attending...and I was glad. Although these conversations are amusing and enlightening, they can go on FOREVER. FOOOOOOREVER. And I just don't freaking know. Just like I don't know what would happen if you dropped someone wearing a suit of armor into a tornado from an airplane, I simply don't know how the life of a new and improved Adolf Hitler would go. Also, don't care.

Parenthood comes with a ton (A TON) of unanswered questions. Thank God for drop off parties.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

'til the End


These were my grandpa's best friends. I met them at his funeral on Thursday.

Of the three of them, two were nearly deaf and one can barely speak but their friendship has spanned years, has been the witness of this physical decline, and has persevered in spite of it.

I was doing really well with my grandpa's passing. I figured I was just all out of emotions for the year and that I know, really well, that people die. My brain had decided that, from now on, that shitty fact of life was going to be strictly business...right up until the little one was wheeled in to my grandpa's funeral on an office chair, after running out of energy in the parking lot.

He was a wild sight, but sharp and focused and sincere as he met our family. Then he got up to speak, but he's the one who can't speak, and he delivered the most beautiful whispered eulogy that no one other than my cousin and I heard. He was funny and authentic and truly, heart-wrenchingly sad.

And that slayed me.

The other got up and shared tales of their years of shared breakfasts and how my grandpa hated his jokes. He was "the young one" in his late 70s. During any pause in the ceremony, he would kid that the one who couldn't speak would like to speak again. The duo was dark comedy genius and I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

I met his other friends--tiny, wizened, filmy-eyed people whose creased faces creased more as they openly cried. They were simultaneously hardened and softened by life and their many years. It was amazing and it also sucked. My biggest consolation lately while reviewing morbid thoughts is that some people live to a ripe old age but now I'm thinking maybe that's not such a great end either. My grandpa was going to be 93 next month, and I console people with that as they try to console me, but it's really not much consolation.

Those old people spoke of their memories of lost friends and spouses, and their deep sadness made me realize that, unfortunately and fortunately, there is no such thing as being an "old pro" at grieving.

(I want to punctuate that sentence with "Fuck" but grandpa wouldn't like that.)

This trio down to two really did me in. They also made me realize the true value of friendship.

One of the most surprising aspects of motherhood was how incredibly isolating it can seem (and maybe this can be said of adulthood in general, I'm not certain since the two went hand in hand for me. I became a mother at 25 and I only consider those older than 25 to be official adults). When I needed friends the most, I had the hardest time making them. I can now say with certainty, through a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, that I have a few friends who I can count on to roll into my funeral on an office chair full of whispered memories 60 years from now.

I urge you to look for that and cultivate that, and if it's not readily available, to keep looking. I urge you to be the most you that you can be, because that's how you find those kinds of friends--the type who can spend years contentedly together despite no longer being able to hear what the other has to say.

Also, be nice to old people. They're dealing with a lot of shit.

So that's what I've learned for the week. However, I'm officially done learning life lessons for the year--seriously, it's enough already. Please let's get back to poop jokes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

FYI

"Did you know that many people die from hot dog eating contests?" little kid asked today, completely out of nowhere with nary a hot dog in sight.

"I don't know if that's true. I don't think you can say that many people die," I answered.

"Yes! Yes, they do! It's the number one risk of hot dog eating contests!"

"Right, but even as the number one risk, I don't know that you could say that a significant number of people have died due to hot dog eating contests. It's the worst that could happen, but doesn't happen often."

"What do you even know about hot dog eating contests?" he insisted.

"Not a lot, I guess." I conceded.

"Right. It's extremely dangerous. A lot of people die."

Okay.

Let that be a lesson to you all. No hot dog eating contests.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mind Blown

Big Kid, who is 10 years old, has almost finished reading the Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe, a book he found two weeks ago in a box of books that mostly just looked good on my bookshelves and made the occasional appearance as a prop around Halloween.

His chosen reading list this year would make an English teacher swoon and his understanding of what he's read is impressive.

But, I just had to go into the kitchen to help him figure out what was going on with the cereal, after he spent several minutes unable to make it pour despite an honest effort. Lo and behold, it was a new box of cereal and the bag was sealed shut.

That was it. That was the whole problem. The bag was shut.

I hope his future wife is patient.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Tooth Fairy is an Asshole and other True Tales

I hate the tooth fairy.

I'm typically the parent who loves the magic of childhood. Well, by "loves" I mean "indulges extravagantly and creatively while bitching about it most of the time" (fucking Elf on the Shelf). That's the stuff that lights me up as a parent, the fun and imagination and silliness and the complaints about the resultant mess and effort.

But the tooth fairy can kiss my ass. For real, I am counting the molars until I can officially end that relationship. She's unpredictable, frequently forgets to show up, made that stupid ass rule about putting the tooth under the pillow instead of somewhere more convenient to access and there is absolutely no consistency with pay rate. What does she do with the teeth? No one really knows, there's not even much of a story there. What does she look like? Not a clue. Teeth are gross. Wiggly teeth, loose teeth, absent teeth, lost teeth -- all absolutely revolting and not to be celebrated! This is seriously the weirdest tradition ever.

When little kid was preparing for getting his two teeth pulled, he mentioned that he was going to hit the tooth fairy jackpot with two teeth at once.

"Preston got $20 from the tooth fairy for losing ONE tooth! I never got $20!" he said.

"Preston's parents are assholes," I thought. I gave a noncommittal hmmm.

"Can you imagine if I got 20 bucks? It would be $40 for two!"

"Maybe Preston's was a gold tooth. I can't imagine getting $20 from the tooth fairy. It's usually like a dollar, or whatever. You might get a little bit more since the dentist is pulling them out but I don't really know. The tooth fairy just kind of does whatever, it seems."

He nodded; her history of unprofessionalism has served me well. 

Before he went to bed that night, I told him I read on the internet that a lot of kids were leaving their teeth on their nightstand so they are easier for her to find. She's getting old, you know. He left his on the nightstand.

After some parental conferencing, alarm setting, and wallet digging, Mr. Ashley assured me the tooth fairy would get the job done this time.

I woke up in a panic as he awoke for work. "Did it happen?" He nodded. I felt tremendous relief.

Moments later little kid straggled in, hair messy, face lit up with joy, "The tooth fairy came!"

"Yay!"

"She left me TWENTY DOLLARS!!"

"She left you TWENTY dollars?" Mr. Ashley and I looked at each other and then back at him with forced smiles.

"What the hell?!?" I hissed as little kid left the room, happily waving his $20 bill.

He shrugged apologetically. "It was dark! I didn't know!"

Sure enough, the intended $5 bill sat on our nightstand, minus the $20 bill for lunch money.

Sorry I called you assholes, Preston's parents. It's obviously the tooth fairy who is the asshole.

I hate the tooth fairy.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

2%

Today my little mutant becomes less mutant-ish.

little kid is a dentist's dream come true -- one of 2% of people in the world with an extra tooth, part of a smaller percentage that has both the baby and adult extra tooth, and two of his teeth have "dimples" which is far less adorable than it sounds since it's a genetic anomaly that requires filling.

Now that little teeth are falling out and bigger teeth are growing in, that little mouth is running out of room...particularly since the front and center adult tooth is gigantic.

His dentist is like the Willy Wonka of dentistry, but only in the fun-kind-of-creepy sort of way and not in a might-give-you-a-candy-factory kind of way. When he informed me about the extra teeth, it was with a glassy-eyed excitement and with a slight enthusiastic tremor to his voice. Dude was psyched. It was presented as a great honor. I think we were both seeing dollar signs, his coming and mine going, and our levels of excitement were not in alignment.

The dimple announcement was similar -- full of delight and wonder and met with bored questions from me on how insurance feels about tooth mutants.

As we peered into his tiny mouth, I asked, "Doesn't that adult tooth seem big?"

"Oh, it's huge!" he answered, simply with a smile, not a care in the world. I don't know, homeboy must get kickbacks from whatever orthodontist will eventually make us poor. 

When I told little kid his appointment was approaching, his face fell. "I don't want my teeth out!"

"It won't hurt," I lied, because moms do that.

"I won't be special anymore!! I love my monster tooths!"

It has been a fixture in our family since its discovery -- his monster tooth, his sweet tooth, his shark tooth, depending on our mood and his behavior.

"But your mouth can't fit all of those teeth. Your teeth will grow in crooked."

"So?"

"It won't look as nice as straight teeth."

"But it makes me special!! No one has extra teeth and now I'll be just like all of them. I don't even care if my smile is crooked. I'm one of 2% in the whole world!"

Man, I envy that kind of confidence and positive self-esteem. I don't care about my jacked-up grill, I just want to be different! Secretly, in a hidden little corner of my heart, I'll miss that monster tooth. I love that little mutant face.

He has asked a few more times if it will hurt and I vaguely promise that drugs will be involved, but I'm worried sick about the hurting part. The last time this dentist gave him nitrous, he kept repeating in a bizarre, sing-song voice, "little kid, it's going to feel like you're on a roller coaster ride, but you are right here with me and your mommy so even if it feels like you're in a magical place or if there are lots of colors or you feel like you are flying, you are just here in this room with your mother and dentist. You may feel like you're on a roller coaster, but you are really right here...safe with me...safe with your mother..." over and over and over again in a hypnotist-type voice.

I wanted to scream, "DUDE, you're making me have a bad trip and I'm not on drugs!! Quit being a freaking weirdo about it!"

As soon as we left the building, little kid said, "I didn't feel like I was on a rollercoaster, I just felt like he was talking and acting weird," and I answered, "He was."

So, I'm both looking forward to, and not looking forward to, that.

Wish us luck--little kid for joining us average-mouthed folks, me for the cost and anxiety of dealing with all of this weirdness, and the dentist in acting like a normal person who isn't hosting an acid trip.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Slow Learner

If this summer was a rap song, it would be called:

"Moooooooooom! The Dog Peed in The House Again!"

because that's how we roll.

I love Max. I really do. I don't even think it's possible not to love a face this cute. He completes our family.

We can never pee in the house? Really?
 (Because our family is full of stubborn assholes.)

However, friends, I would like to propose a new rule where we don't allow anyone who is going through a major life change,  including but not limited to: pregnancy, grieving, moving, job loss or haircut remorse, to make any other major life change, such as: any of the above and/or GETTING A NEW DOG.

You all know me better, you should have said, "Ashley!! You are looking to fill a hole that won't be filled with chewed up shoes and pee puddles on your floor."

And I would've been all, "You're not the boss of me! It will be different this time! I NEED a dog!!" but you would at least have had the satisfaction of being right.

I don't know if he's got that thing that Dory or that Memento guy had going on but he has absolutely zero concept that a rule would last longer than the one second we're discussing it. Not allowed on the bed? How about now? How about now? How about now? Now? How about if I sneak up from the side? No? Really? I'm not allowed on your bed? It's brand new information every single morning.

Potty training is going the same way. He thinks peeing near the cat box is probably okay but it's not. He also likes to mark his territory even though I've promised that no dog will ever (EVER EVER EVER, for the love of God, EVER) come through that door and challenge his only dog status. Ever. He will look me in the eye, with that sweet, sweet little face and pee right on my antique trunk and he will be genuinely shocked and confused when I object.

We try going out hourly, puppy pads, belly bands, praise, punishment, crate training and threats of abandonment every day and yet every single day, I thank the lord for my all tile house.

I look forward to work at the yoga studio today because there is no pee there. Forget the quiet and that sometimes we have cookies in the back room, there's a 99% chance I won't clean up any puddles of urine and that's really enough for me right now.

I'm now looking to fill another hole in my heart that involves not cleaning up pee, so I guess I've got that going for me.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Time Travel

"Mom? You know Einstein's theories on time?" Big Kid asked.

I stared back blankly, because, embarrassingly (I guess?), I do not know Einstein's theories on time. I know of them. I think. Kind of. Well, I might. I know that he did something like that.

"Yes?" I offered, not really answering. Should I know this?

"I read that book about it," he added. "I can't stop thinking about it and it boggles my mind to think about it. It bothers me sometimes."

"..." I stared at him. I was still trying to figure out exactly what it was we were talking about it.

"I mean, if time relates to where you are does that mean that everything is going to happen anyway? That there is some way your life is going to go because it's already mapped to go that way and that you won't be able to change certain things no matter what you do because they've already happened in the future? And if so, what's the point of life, then?" He stared at me earnestly, waiting for an answer.

I had (and have) only the slightest, slipperiest of grasps on what he even might be talking about. Poor smart kid got the wrongest mom. She even just used wrongest as a word.

"I...I don't think it means that?...I will have to read the book?" I offered. "Just try not to think about it." It's the best I could do. I've been thinking about it since we had that talk and I'm still not sure what I think. Not sure I want to read the book, to be honest, it would be even more embarrassing if I still didn't understand it then. But that was probably the wrong answer -- imagine if Einstein's mom told him to try not to think about it? I don't know. Maybe she should have.

I did watch Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure with them, since it amounts to the full extent of my time travel knowledge, but, it failed to answer any of life's deeper questions. We're going to have to re-watch the Back to the Future trilogy, pronto.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Day 3

So, we're 3 days into summer.

By hour 2, I was hatching up plans to run away from home. This is not hyperbole either, even though I do love hyperbole; I was literally looking up yoga ashrams that let you exchange work for temporary room and board and classes and was thinking of how I could pitch this as a potential book idea.

SEE, IT'S WORK AND MY LIFE CALLING, I HAVE TO GO! I KNOW YOU WOULD WANT THIS FOR ME, FAMILY.

It would have been a hard sell.

Also, these places looked kind of strict-ish and our viewpoints on comfortable accommodations vary. They probably didn't even have wi-fi. Most didn't allow coffee. It would've been a disaster -- thus, the book idea. It would've been a hilarious disaster. But anyway, I'm sorry for all of the bad things I ever said about car rider line and homework helping...turns out it was a pretty fair deal after all.

And I know my kids aren't even badly behaved, they're just kids and kids are annoying. We're partying it up anyway, though. We had the annual kick-off party on the last day and everything.

Photo: McCann Bros. Summer edition 

Last night Big Kid had twin friends spend the night.  When their mom arrived to drop them off,  I asked if she'd like to have a glass of wine while we talked for a minute and she said, "Was I actually screaming that out loud as I walked through the door? I mean, I've been thinking about drinking since I woke up, but I didn't know others could hear me." I told her it's summer -- all moms are walking around screaming that in their head.

I took the kids to the water park today so that the lifeguards could help me watch them, which I think is some next level genius slacker parenting right there. Thankfully, my mom bought us an annual pass to the park, and it will probably save them from a future of telling their therapist about that time their mom spent several months with some crazy yoga cult. Again. 

I've also been crazy busy working because I'm now blogging for Shutterfly's Treat.com and ebay, which is awesome but also tricky to schedule around important announcements about Minecraft or some guy's YouTube video. You can see the first of my posts, about photographing siblings, here

The adorable kids pictured there also come from a family with twins, and when I told their mom that  I needed to borrow some or all of her kids in the next day or so, without providing a reason, she simply said, "Take as many of my kids as you want whenever you need them." I'd say that's true friendship, but I suspect people who have twins just really need to get rid of some kids on occasion. It worked out for everyone.

Anyway, that's how summer is starting for me. Slowly and loudly.

Good luck, mom friends, and cheers to us all.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's Coming...

It's the end of the school year and I am flat out over it. I wish teachers would keep this in mind while planning elaborate year-end projects and parties. In the past week, I've helped make a product to sell at market, create an invention and presentation, and bought dress clothes for a musical. These are all things that would have been exciting at the beginning of the year but now they are soul-sucking endeavors that make me want to home school, and by home school, I mean hire someone else to home school my kids at their home.

Last week little kid lost his homework, after completing it but prior to turning it in, usually a grave offense. But, really, this time I just didn't care. I was annoyed and mildly embarrassed but I felt okay writing the teacher a note telling her not to give him credit and to feel free to make him redo it. I felt like adding, "Because I don't care!" because I don't care. If that makes me a terrible parent, that's okay, too, because I don't care. It's actually kind of nice not to care.

I was really looking forward to summer and long, lazy days with my boys...and then we had the 4 day Memorial Day weekend and I realized I'm ill-equipped for long, lazy days with my boys. I'm tired of washing uniforms and signing stuff but I'm also smart enough to know that these upcoming months are not going to be easy.

Mr. Ashley's all, "Do they really need summer camp?" and I'm all, "HELL YES THEY NEED SUMMER CAMP! Why do you hate me?"

I need summer camp. That would actually be pretty awesome, to pack my own lunch and gather my own clothes and go off somewhere so people could entertain me for hours. Kind of like work, but more of it should happen outside.

I really love my kids, I just don't love dealing with school or dealing with no school.

That's all.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hobo Feet

"Mom, what would you rather kiss--a hobo's foot or me?" little kid interrupted me for the 1864th time while I was trying to write an article today.

"I don't know, I'd have to meet the hobo."

Remember when he used to get all riled up over who had the softest nose, him or Murphy? Because he couldn't stand me telling our dog that his nose was soft since it somehow indicated that his own nose was less desirable.

"You don't love me!" He declared after hearing that I wanted to meet the hobo.

"I love you so much that I wore you in a cloth sling around my neck for the better part of 15 months and I let you go overdue when you lived in my stomach. A hobo's foot most likely wouldn't interrupt the writing I really need to finish. I love you so, so, so much that I'm going to invite you to be quiet so I can do my job and we can just bask in the love."

"I bet you love that dead squirrel in the yard more than you love me." 

"I'd have to get to know him."

THESE ARE THE CONDITIONS I WORK UNDER.

Big Kid is home and is fine, by the way, we both survived the trip to St. Augustine.

And yes, someone does need to pick up that dead squirrel.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Overnight Update

I did it.

I woke up at 4 am yesterday to put Big Kid on a bus leaving town without me.

I didn't really sleep because I was awake every hour on the hour, checking the time and alternating between plans to "miss" the bus and have to drive up there or just making the executive decision to take a one night vacation in the same city as the school trip, solely for my own sake.

Mr. Ashley kept reassuring me that he would be fine, and I kept explaining that this was for ME, that I might not be fine and that I would just feel so much better that it would be worth the time and expense.

This morning when I went to wake him, he bounced out of bed before I even entered the room, all smiles and big-eyed with a glowing excitement. Ugh. I had to let him go. He chatted happily about his seat mate and his plans for the ride up as I checked and re-checked his bags and my inner ability to allow this to happen.

I was really worried that I would ugly cry or somehow embarrass him so I really focused on not doing that. It was going pretty well.

Then he boarded the bus.

I went to the other side of the bus for a picture of him through the window.

Photo: That is my baby on a bus going far away. I only snuck onto the bus one time and I did not follow it.

Then I saw a lady pick up his bag and put it in the overhead compartment. The bag had his entertainment and snacks in it, and I knew he wouldn't bother anyone to retrieve it for him now that he was seated.

I considered what to do. I knew I should just go home and let it work itself out but I looked around and realized no adults were really watching the entrance to the bus...and I slipped on.

Yes, I did. Yes, I know this was probably not the best choice. I know because Mr. Ashley told me so but I don't care one bit.

"Here's your Kindle," I said, plucking it from his bag. He looked at me with a face that said, "Seriously?" and thanked me.

"Have fun!" I said, slipping back off the bus. I knew not to kiss him or anything, and I didn't cry. I was pretty proud I didn't give in to my impulse to just hide in the bathroom of the bus and become a stowaway.

Overall, I'm counting the whole drop-off as a success.

He seems to be having fun and has been in intermittent contact through texts. He guiltily confessed to the soda he bought each day, assuring me of his caffeine-free choices, despite me telling him to enjoy himself and eat and drink what he wants within reason.

I have done mostly okay this entire time, with only one stomach-turning moment of "What in the hell have I done?" yesterday afternoon when his phone died. I'm really glad I let him go.

I'm also really glad he'll be home tonight.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Helicopter Crash

So, I know I was really looking forward to Big Kid attending a school that did more projects and field trips and activities outside of the public school norm.

But now that he's leaving for an overnight school trip to St. Augustine tomorrow, I hate this idea very much. Very, very much.

Mr. Ashley and I were not chosen as chaperones. I'm trying not to take it personally but I have a feeling that maybe I should take it personally. But Mr. Ashley hasn't even been a jerk there yet at all, so he should have been able to go, they even said they needed male chaperones and I suspect they are prejudiced against him because he married someone that might have accidentally been annoying a few times.

Or maybe they didn't choose us because they like me the most and we all know chaperoning is going to suck. Can you imagine the bus ride? It's like 3 days! Or 5 hours! Same thing on a bus full of 4th and 5th graders. While I'm fairly certain me being too nice and too fun probably isn't the reason I wasn't picked, I'm glad to have it on the list.

"Big Kid? I'm sure these people are nice and normal and all of that--but I don't really know them. Therefore, in my heart it feels like I'm sending my 10-year-old far away by himself and that is tricky. You have to watch out for yourself, don't assume anyone is watching you, you watch them! You do what you know is right at all times! Be respectful but don't be afraid to speak up for yourself! I am trusting you, the only reason you are going is because I trust you. Listen to them, but trust yourself, and do not get separated from your phone!" I urged him.

"Mom, I do know these people," he said. "So, yeah, I already know I need to watch myself, trust me."

Amusing but not so reassuring.

When he was in 3rd grade, I let him walk home from the bus stop by himself. It was one of the scariest days of my life...and I hid in the bushes and followed him the entire way. I honest to God want to do that tomorrow. The school said parents were not allowed, Big Kid has emphatically said I can not go and Mr. Ashley insists I should not go...but they don't own St. Augustine, I can go there if I want.

I really thought that I was so cool back in October when I had no problem with this idea. See? I am excellent at not being a helicopter parent. I do not have special snowflakes for children.

But today I would hire a helicopter to deliver me and my special snowflake to a hotel of our choosing in St. Augustine if it was up to me.

It's probably good that it's not up to me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

On Dying

So I swore I would stop writing about depressing things because it's more fun to be funny, but when you're writing your own life story, it's not as easy to declare that life will only be fun and funny. As lovely as that would be, life just kind of does what it wants.

Also, the kids just aren't that funny lately. That's their fault.

My life is going well. More than well, actually, more like shout-it-from-the-rooftops amazing. My biggest problems right now include having too many friends and too many jobs that I love. Is there other shit I should be worrying about? Probably, but I'm not. I'm mostly good. Almost every single day is a good one.

Grief has been a strange and surprising thing for me, though. It's a lonely and private thing. Even though I went through the experience of losing my dad with others, their experience is their own and they're alone in it, too.

I am 100% perfectly fine 98% of the time, but that other 2%...it just swoops in out of nowhere and knocks the wind out of me. I have tried to sanitize my life of anything that may trigger this--I even threw away the bag I brought to hospice and most of the stuff in it. My favorite comfy pants have been hanging in the closet untouched since then, I hate the sight of them even though I miss wearing them. I re-arranged all of my playlists so no songs would surprise me. I don't like food I ate then and I dislike using the travel coffee mug I got then. I stopped using the brand of lip balm I used then. I don't want to think about "then."

But my brain did not get that message. Stupid brain. My brain apparently likes to think about it and it is a trying task to keep it busy and otherwise occupied.

A week or two ago, This American Life featured a show about hospice but I didn't know that when I hit play. As I came to realize the subject matter, I found myself frozen halfway between my kitchen and living room, standing there listening. Eventually I paced back and forth a little, caught between wanting to turn it off immediately and desperate to hear this other person's experience, curious to see if it was like mine, if they were like me. Needing to know that they are like me.

By the time they got to the part about keeping the patient's mouth moist with a sponge on a stick (a harmless little tool that now haunts me, despite its incredible usefulness at the time), I retreated to my bed and continued listening, barely breathing, feeling frozen again. It was a beautiful episode, by the way, truthfully told and informative and moving, even probably to normal people.

At the end, she played her mom and step-dad's song, Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever Amen" and then I cried. A LOT. I remember going to that concert and hearing that song with my dad. I cried more than I did when he died in March. I cried and cried and cried. And cried.

And sometimes, like then, I feel like I cry more over the getting there than the being gone. The being gone is sad in a deep, achy, surreal kind of way. The going was sad in a traumatic, sharp, really real way. And I know that, all in all, it was peaceful and beautiful and that I'm lucky to have been there. I feel like I gained so much spiritually and emotionally and as a human being in that room...but I would gnaw off my own arm if it meant we could turn back time and go back to before that happened and I could be the slightly more shallow version of me again. The one-armed slightly more shallow version of me who has a dad without cancer.

I miss not feeling this way and not having these memories and feelings and doubts and regrets. I know it is what it is, that this is life. I know it went as well as something this shitty could but I just don't like it.

How's that for profound? Dying: I just don't like it.

Probably a pretty universal experience.

Every once in a while, something sets me off on the path of thinking about it and it's hard to get other things done. Then it's hard to explain to people who need other things done, "But my dad died! Two and a half months ago, but still! I am super busy trying not to think about it because it sucked!" It's not a great excuse this far out. I myself am surprised it's still an issue and I know how bad it sucked.

I don't have a strong conclusion or purpose here. Most of me wants to stick this in the graveyard of unfinished posts. Telling the world that I still think of it is not the best way to not think about it, is it?

But that's what's up with me. I'm happy and busy and have almost everything I want in life except for these wonderful and horrible memories of "then."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Notifications

So, I accidentally caught Big Kid in an act of -- rebellion? defiance? lying by omission? I'm not sure. I ended up not being as mad as I probably should be, so I don't know which word to use.

Both kids love YouTube videos about video games. I know. It's bad. Videos about video games...I, too, roll my eyes at the very thought. But whatever. During our negotiations in getting permission to watch these videos, I explained that my objections were really with YouTube comments, more than video content.

I think I said something along the lines of, "Those people are serious morons and I don't want you around them." A kind and compassionate explanation. They both agreed and promised not to read the comments.

Yeah, I know. Everyone reads at least a couple of the comments, they are an irresistible train wreck. This whole post should be filed under "Parenting fail #gazillion" since I've lost count.

Then, months later when the issue had died down, I began getting strange google + notifications on my phone. At first I was excited because I thought maybe I finally did google + right and people there loved me, but the links all led to an alias I didn't recognize critiquing videos, movies, music and pop culture. Confused, I read comment chains and, although the subject matter was completely inane (to me), I was surprised at how well thought out and articulate the comments were.

It took longer than it should have, but not very long, to realize it was Big Kid. I'm still not 100% sure if I'm seeing YouTube comments or google + comments or what is going on, but somehow my phone gets push notifications from his account, so I see everything he types.

I wasn't really sure how to handle it because he shouldn't have been doing that, but I was also a little interested in what was going on here, and didn't want to blow my cover since this seemed like a fortunate parental gift, this sneak peek at what goes on when adults aren't watching.

Had he been your typical internet commenter, I would have been more upset. But he just seemed so mature and respectful and the grammar was lovely. The other people in the conversations he joined were also normal-ish...interested in odd things but not the terrible idiots I've witnessed before. Even debates were mild and as well thought out as arguments about gaming consoles can be. I felt very torn between pointing out his infraction and watching to see what would happen.

But one day I couldn't resist and I confronted him about it, not revealing my source.

"I know you comment on YouTube or Google + or whatever," I said. This is my go-to mothering method. I like to drop a bomb of information and quickly gauge reaction and then go from there based on their level of guilt or concern.

He looked back at me, calm but curious.

"I'm not mad but you know you're not supposed to do that." I continued, this time waiting for a reply.

"I don't use my real name."

"Yeah, that's good. What's going on there isn't so bad, I'm just disappointed that you weren't honest with me. Though I will say that I appreciated your language and maturity on the comments I saw. "

He nodded. "You know that wiki I edit?"

I do know about the wiki he edits, although I still don't really fully understand what a wiki even is, but I have seen this and it seems like a harmless hobby.

"That guy has no idea that I'm a 10-year-old. Who would let a KID edit their work? But, man, he needed the help. I haven't lied about my age but I do try to act and type like someone responsible and I would never bring up my age on purpose."

"I just don't want you talking to any weirdos on the internet."

"I just talk in the comments, and edit that wiki. I won't do anything else, I promise."

I trust him.

And I also installed a key logger on that computer and I avidly read those notifications on my phone.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Business Attire

This is the best co-worker I've ever had:


Even though he gives me hives, smells funny, and poops in my shower. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Me and Max

It turns out that the only animal I've ever been allergic to in my entire life is my sorely needed and desperately loved new best friend.

One hug leaves me covered in huge red hives from my wrists to my armpits that burn and itch and make me want to peel my skin off.

I won't get rid of him, I can't get rid of him, and I won't stop hugging him and I can't stop hugging him so I guess this is my new life.

I want to go outside and shout to the heavens, "YOU WIN, UNIVERSE!! OKAY?!? YOU FREAKING WIN. You are the WINNER and I am the LOSER and if you don't mind, I'd like to just quietly live my little life down here with as little misery as possible since we've already determined that YOU WIN."

Because sometimes it's hard not to take life personally.

But instead I will wear long sleeves and hug my dog and give the universe the finger whenever I think it's not looking.