Monday, April 30, 2012

On a Scale of Cool-to-Parents

We just are so inherently cool.

No, not really. I wish.

I love music, cool or uncool, especially music with singing. Whatever mood I’m in, I sing along, wholeheartedly and with abandon. (Possibly this is why S. was embarrassed when I sang “Gray Squirrel” on the overnight???)

And my moods run the gamut—I sing Broadway musicals, I sing Erasure (my version of bubblegum pop), I sing Beethoven’s Wig with the kids, I sing folk songs like crazy. I’ll sing all the parts of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Oh, yes, it can be done.

Lately, I’ve really been into spirituals. As I told a friend, when kids constantly bring “surprises” into your life, sometimes a good round of “The Great Amen” or “Come Unto Me” really hits the spot.

This all began when Big A. and I met in college. And then there was much grunge music.

I guess you could say I had a lot of anger in college and all the flannel-wearing, screaming kids in Seattle came along at just the right time. Plus, since Big A. and my college roommate really ARE way cool, we had access to enough obscure angry, screaming bands to make sure we never ran out of music for moshing. We were cool, collectively. Well, musically, at least.

Little A. has now decided he likes “loud” songs. Big A. blames me. I don’t know what he’s talking about—I’m not the one who put Shriekback’s “Nemesis” on a mix and played it in the car with the kids.

And that’s the rub…are we cool? Or are we parents? Can we be musically cool parents?

Everyone’s probably seen the adorable video of the three kids singing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I love it. Way cool! But I admit to chickening out when the song comes on in our car. Big A. and I will be singing along happily, the kids grooving, and then,
Mama, I just k—
“Look, kids! A digger putting dirt in a truck!”
Put a gu—
“Ooo—did you see that colorful bird?”
Pulled my trigg—
“No, it’s there. Just look over there.”

I don’t, do not, firmly DO NOT believe in sheltering kids from art of any kind, so this is a bit out of character for  me. When S. was two years old and asked what happened to Nemo’s mom, I took a deep breath and said, “The big fish ate her.” She was cool with that. I did it—I am a brave, cool mom. Sometimes.

Sometimes I’m a chicken mom. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that, to my innocent kids, none of it means much more than “Bismillah” or “scaramouche” do—or “parthenogenesis” for that matter. But the way they’re growing these days, I’m just waiting for one of them to explain parthenogenesis to me.

In the end, where do we fall on the scale of Cool-to-Parents right now? Well, I’m doing my cool-mom-chicken-mom dance. “Nemesis” is fine, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is fun with distractions, but no Pearl Jam or Violent Femmes or Too Much Joy or Dead Milkmen…yet. As Jimmy Buffet sings, “And some of the things I’ve seen, Maybe [they] won’t have to see.”

And maybe we’ll influence their taste for the good. Maybe they’ll discover, all on their own, that if you’re trying THAT hard to describe a girl without being disrespectful then you probably ARE disrespecting her, that “loving” and “f**king” are not synonyms, and that no one should listen to anyone who suggests that a girl “do the Helen Keller.”

Okay, I am so totally uncool.

On the bright side, Little A. really liked “Enter Sandman” when it came on the “oldies” station the other night—that’ll have to hold them for now.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Me and Coffee

Me and Coffee

Let’s just say that, until this year, 2012, there WAS no me and coffee. We were distant acquaintances at best.

My mom drank coffee—a LOT of coffee. I loved the smell. Seriously loved it. But the one time I tried to drink her coffee—a little cold, leftover stuff from the bottom of the pot—I hated it. Go figure. But more on that later.

So I stuck to the occasional soda for my caffeine boosts. Even in college, I could never pull an all-nighter, possibly because of my lack of commitment to caffeine. I’d get tired, drink a Coke, and pass out twenty minutes later.

But in college, I learned something (shocker, I know!). No, really. During one long rehearsal, my directing professor asked me to make a pot of coffee. I made it the way I always made it for my mom and brought it into the theater. He took a sip and, being a theater professor, his reaction left nothing to the imagination. He didn’t quite do a spit-take (we had a brand new theater building), but damn near.

“What did you do to this coffee?”

“I don’t know—I just made it like I do for my mom. I put in eleven scoops for ten cups of water.”

Possibly this explains why I hadn’t liked my mom’s coffee???? Either way, that ended my association with coffee for years. The Starbucks revolution rolled on without me. Motherhood caused lots of sleep deprivation, but I managed with the odd cup of tea or two. Fast-forward to about a year ago, when two irresistible forces began to act on my immovable resistance to coffee-commitment.

One, I tripled my editing workload. I’m not just working some afternoons, evenings, and weekends now, but working all of them. And late evenings. I couldn’t spend 10+ minutes waiting every time I wanted a cup of tea—in an editing marathon, if I need a cup of tea every hour in a forty-hour weekend, that’s four hundred lost minutes. You can make coffee faster and by the pot. Plus, the tea just wasn’t working.

Two, some weird craving overtook me. I’ve always loved dark chocolate, but suddenly I couldn’t get it dark enough. I wanted something more bitter, with more strength to it. I wanted something that tasted like coffee smelled.

Always caffeine-commitment-phobic, I didn’t know where to start. My sister suggested mocha as my gateway drink. I liked it just fine, but if I tried to pull off an edit on Starbucks cafĂ© mochas—well, I’d probably use up my fee. Time to take it a step further. I needed to buy a coffee maker.

Like anyone afraid of committing, I invested as little as possible. I bought a Brew-n-Go drip coffee maker, which makes 16 ounces. Then I had to find coffee. I tried a couple of different brands and roasts, but nothing hit home until I found my true love: Pilon Espresso Coffee. We’re in love, me and coffee!

Mind you, despite my Cuban paramour, I’m still probably a lukewarm lover. The directions say to use one tablespoon of grounds per demitasse cup. Yeah…no. I use about a tablespoon and a half for the whole 16 ounces. But at least I’m faithful--I haven't flirted with another brand yet!

And, when I do sit down, I sure appreciate a warm, strong, steamy…cup of coffee.

Yes, I will be drinking more coffee tonight as I wrap up an editing project. It’s date night for me and coffee!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

To Bite the Apple or Not...

So, I’m pretty sure I’m going to upgrade to an iPhone this week. I’m fairly ambivalent about the whole thing. I like my sturdy little phone with the pop-out keyboard. It’s small, takes a beating, and does the job. Kind of like me, now that I think about it.

And, once I have the iPhone, I’ll have to decide whether to move to an electronic calendar or not. I feel like writing things out helps me mentally juggle all the mom schedules and the work deadlines, but I am willing to concede that the whole mess might be getting beyond my puny mortal brain.

I just don’t know, folks. What do you think?

Why I Don’t Want An iPhone
10. Apps—my husband needs no additional leverage in his quest to make me play Words with Friends.
9. I don’t think I used my iMac to its full potential.
8. I hate being trendy.
7. $$$$$$$$$$
6. Giving up my paper calendar.
5. It’s breakable.
4. Touch screen.
3. Learning curve.
2. I can get my work emails on it.
1. Too. Dang. Big.

Why I Do Want An iPhone
10. Apps—okay, okay, some of them are cool.
9. I loved my iMac.
8. Games to occupy the kids in THOSE situations.
7. Portable, incorporated iPod.
6. Portable, incorporated calendar.
5. Portable, incorporated GPS.
4. Sometimes you just need to Google it.
3. Better camera and more memory.
2. I can get my work emails on it.
1. All the cool kids have them.

Looking at the two lists, I’d have to say that the two main reasons I’m upgrading aren’t on the list: my current phone won’t hold a charge and my husband loves his iPhone a lot.

The better camera/memory is pretty tempting, though. And I'm fairly certain I'm just being grumpy about change. Change is good; we love change! (repeat as needed)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Parental Lessons from the Garden

In honor of Earth Day, I want to share a few thoughts on what I, as a parent, have learned from gardening.

Number One Similarity
First of all, let me say that the Number One Way I find that parenting resembles gardening would be that I am perpetually making things up as I go along—with about a 50% success rate.

Different Plants, Different Needs
I’m finally getting the hang of this in the yard—begonias in the shade by the front door, Gerber daisies by the pool in full sun.

And there’s no doubt it holds true for the kids as well. S., like her dad, is high-contact. She enjoys life by sharing experiences, she wants to check in constantly, and say everything that comes into her head. Like me, Little A. needs his space. If he can’t come home from school, eat, and disappear into his room for a few hours, he gets cran-ky. Like me.

Pruning v Weeding
Yes, there is a difference. To me, weeding compares to reminding kids to kick those annoying bad habits—you know, whining, leaving laundry on the floor, jumping on the bed, screaming in the car, licking things. Basically, repeated actions with NO redeeming value whatsoever.

I don’t feel bad about weeding.

Pruning, on the other hand…. Take, for example, our bougainvillea. It’s beautiful. It blooms lavishly. But about ten seconds after its most gorgeous display, it’s leggy, leafless, and invasive. I’m always SO satisfied when pruning goes well—but I can’t tell for a week or so if it went the way I intended. It’s a real act of faith to cut off those still-blooming branches!

Parents walk a similar fine line because, let’s face it, our greatest strengths are also are greatest weaknesses—and our kids’ are, too. S. is so strong that she constantly astonishes me, but she doesn’t always know her own strength. She tends to bowl people over—physically and emotionally—without realizing it. We have to help her relish her strength, while keeping it in bounds.

Little A. thinks outside the box. His busy little mind constantly finds ways around restrictions. He finds amazing solutions to some real brain-scratching situations, but some principles just can’t be wiggled around. For example, when I tell him not to jump while brushing his teeth—well, the laws of physics aren’t going to change because he’s hopping, not jumping. Yes, he got the toothbrush in his palate and, yes, it’s given us LOTS of leverage on those laws-of-physics situations.

I don’t want S. to fear her strength, just manage it, and I don’t want Little A. to conform, just respect the laws of nature. Walking that fine line is the leap of faith in parental pruning!

I have so much respect for grassroots.

When we moved into this, our first house, we naively decided to create a flower bed out of our front lawn…just by putting down a border. Needless to say, we’ve been fighting the St. Augustine grass in that flower bed ever since.

Sometimes, when the season and soil are just right, I can start with a clump of grass and pull up a whole network of roots. Thinner white roots lead to knots of roots, lead to more thin white roots and eventually to a thick brown root running for yards. And yet I never get them all.

This, I hope, represents the family in parenting. The values and ideals that have been handed down; that our children share with each other, their cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The connections that never really break.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

3,000 Words

I've had a lot of reasons to just adore my family this past week--too many to say! So here are three pictures to give you the general idea.

Big A. took these bunnies out to the garage to await storage in the attic. Each morning last week, he surprised the kids by posing them. We laughed the most over this one!

I LOVE this art project. Little A's class read the book, then glued umbrellas to a cloud. The other kids pasted their umbrellas all over, so I asked Little A why he put his all around the edge. "Because umbrellas keep the rain OUT, Mommy."

And our beautiful big girl made her First Communion today. Here she is, thanking her brother for the flowers he gave her. As her Grandma said, "She's as sweet as she is beautiful."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Story Snack Day

Story Snack Day

So, S. has been begging me to do Story Snack all year. This involves reading a book to her class and serving a related snack. I read The Lorax, one of my favorite-favorite read-aloud books, and brought in some semi-exotic fruits to try. I think she had fun, but the whole afternoon was a roller coaster. 

Once again, I learned a lot, including yet another lesson in humility.

I learned that, when you bring food to school at 2:30 in the afternoon, you should keep your hands out of the feeding area or you may draw back a bloody stump. Yikes.

I learned what happens when you give acai berry juice to a bunch of southern kids:
“Oh, this tastes like sweet tea!”

I also learned what 7 out of 13 kids think fresh coconut water (milk?) tastes like--

I still wonder when, where, and how they tasted coffee, but that sure would explain a lot. They were all probably left alone in one of those stores that threatens to give unattended children a triple espresso and a puppy.

General Bad Idea of the Day

Today, I learned that, no matter how tight your schedule is, do NOT schedule a meeting with a mom
  • That requires you both to concentrate on a computer
  •  Is immediately after school
  • And requires two seven-year-olds and two four-year-olds to ‘play’
If you must have such a misguided attempt at a meeting, I learned that you should
  • Force them to eat something healthy first, preferably with tryptophan
  • NOT have a half dozen toy eggs made out of wood
  • HAVE a video, trampoline, and rubber room

After Action Report
Mom: Did you have fun at Story Snack, S.?

S: Yes!

Mom: So I didn’t embarrass you?

S: No, it wasn’t like ‘Gray Squirrel’ or anything.

Mom (a little surprised by this turn): Well, first of all, ‘Gray Squirrel’ is a camp song—not appropriate for school. But why was it embarrassing when I sang it on the overnight?

S: Oh, it’s just that…well, some of the moves surprised me.

Mom: What do you mean? The gray squirrels have to swish their bushy tails.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nine Hours of Small Boat Training

Top Ten Things I Learned in Nine Hours of Small Boat Training

1.     When we’re not taking responsibility, multi-tasking, and setting good examples, moms are snarky, witty, and hilarious.
2.     Canoeing is all about partnership.
3.      I don’t care what you’re doing, it works differently at 39 ½ than it did at 20.
4.       Nine out of ten moms pack PBJ sandwiches in their OWN lunchboxes.
5.       Getting a sixteen by six inch, L-shaped bruise on your thigh will win the respect of a four-year-old boy. It may also frighten your husband.
6.       Kayaks are fun. Period.
7.       I can tie a bowline—every time, with or without a post, and even backwards!
8.       After a nine-hours-in-boats day, mimosas may look really, really, really good….
9.       There is no substitute for common sense.
10.   In two feet of mud, everything sucks. Literally.