Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mad Blog Love

I've been sitting here for a good half hour now, staring at a blank screen.

All the things I would write today wouldn't be good ones, that much I can promise.

So I won't write.

Instead, I am sharing some of the best things I've read this week by my fellow bloggers.

Mad love.

Tammy wrote a moving piece about the part of the Trayvon Martin case that no one seems to be talking about on her blog, Partly Sunny, Chance of Rain.

Katy talks about embracing who she is now, right now...and though I only found her site about a year ago, I'm rooting for her every single day.  She's real and honest and completely hilarious, and you can find her on her blog, I Want a Dumpster Baby.

Kelly discusses how she arrived at this place in her life as a mother, and how the ordinary is far more extraordinary than we give it credit for being on her blog, How I Learned to Wear a Dress.

Lynda wrote a post that hit a little too close to home, about cancer and all that it takes from us on her blog, If Only She Had Applied Herself.

Kara admitted her lack of knowledge about all things Star Wars and toys with the idea of embracing the series (and it's dark side) on her blog, Life From the Dark Side of Aurora.

Megan started a 31 day self portrait challenge, and I ended up spending over an hour one morning reading through her blog.  I have a feeling we'd get along just fine in real life.  Check her out on her blog, oh....Boys!




And send them comments and more followers.  Us bloggers....we love that stuff.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Idiocy of Racism - Twitter and The Hunger Games

I gave in to the hype.  I succumbed to the trend and read the first book in Suzanne Collins' series.  My husband and I have plans to go see the movie tomorrow.

I'd write about the book, about the things I loved about it and the things I didn't.  About the things that disturbed me, about how I question who the moral center of the story is, about all that.  But I won't.

This isn't a review of the book, and I certainly don't want to ruin anything for those of you out there that haven't read it yet...even if it appears I am the one showing up late to the game here.

What I am writing about is the outrage some fans have expressed.  The things people have thrown up on Twitter as immediate criticisms of the movie.  The most newsworthy of which have to do with the color of some of the characters.

Twitter images pulled and linked from
There are more.  Many more tweets like these ones exist.

Sometimes I loathe the instant nature of the internet as it exists today.  Anyone with an opinion about anything can spew it out there for all the world to see, regardless of how ignorant and uninformed it is, how racist and inappropriate it is.

Most times, all they end up doing is making themselves look like idiots.  These people did just that.

The book describes Rue as looking about ten, with "bright dark eyes and satiny brown skin".  The other character from her district, Thresh is described with skin and eyes the same color, though he is much older, larger and stronger than she is.

Forgive me, but those descriptions match up perfectly with the casting.   Seems the people complaining aren't just racist, but obviously didn't read the books either.

I don't remember Cinna's character being described in the book in terms of his skin color, though his eyes were green.  People are even up in arms about Lenny Kravitz being cast in that role.  Maybe it's just me, but I'll take any reason to admire that man on a large screen that I can get.  He's devastatingly handsome with just enough flair to him that I'm sure he was the perfect person to fit the role.

Out of the millions of people who've seen this movie already, and there are a great number of them, as this one is a box office monster, you have a handful of people stirring up a controversy that never needed to exist had they actually read the book.

That Pandora's Box has been opened, though, regardless of how or why it was opened, and must be dealt with.

I have many issues with this controversy, obviously, beyond the fact that those whining didn't read the book. Or if they did, they didn't pay very much attention.

Why would the racial makeup of people in a post apocalyptic world be white washed?  Why would people assume that it would be, should be, is "supposed to be"?  It makes me sick to think that in this day and age, there are still so many people who live with this mindset.

The one tweet about how he wasn't sad that Rue died because of the color of her skin is so shocking and appalling that I don't even need to point out all the things wrong with it.

If there is anything to be upset about in terms of racial issues in the book, I'd point more to the fact that the district where Rue and Thresh are from is the agricultural one, where the people are forced to work in the fields, but never allowed to reap what they sow.  That, to me, is offensive, and unfortunately reflective of the unpleasant history of this nation.

Then again, I'm one of those people who tends to think that post apocalyptic times would be more likely to truly level the playing field and do away with racial inequities.  That people wouldn't be pigeonholed by the color of their skin and assigned to do work based on that alone.  The book begs to differ, and I take issue with that far more than with the color of the skin of any character.

No one is talking about that issue, though.  Mostly because my argument is one for color-blindness, not color-based superiority as these now-infamous Twitter profiles seem to push for.

Not sure how I'd fare in the world of The Hunger Games.

The self-righteous little brats on Twitter, though, they wouldn't last long in the arena.  That's for sure.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Have a happy period, and other lies they tell us

That's what the commercials say.

Enjoy being a girl.
Live life.  Stay free.
Have a happy period.

What the hell?!?!

What woman in the history of recorded time has ever had a happy period?!?!  What woman felt the familiar cramping that signaled the beginning and rejoiced?  Yes!  I get to bleed for 4-6 days!  Woohoo!!!

(Okay, so there are probably a few times we were all relieved our periods showed up, but that's another subject entirely.)

I get headaches and bloating and mood swings and pimples every.single.month???  For over 30 years????


I laughed pretty hard when a reader sent me a letter a consumer wrote about Always, the product who decided to tell us all to have a happy period.

Here's that letter.

Dear Mr. Thatcher,
I have been a loyal user of your 'Always' maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core or Dri-Weave absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants. Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my time of the month is starting right now.  As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call 'an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.' Isn't the human body amazing? As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customer's monthly visits from 'Aunt Flo'. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants... Which brings me to the reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: 'Have a Happy Period.' 

Are you f------ kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness - actual smiling, laughing happiness, is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James?  FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak, there will never be anything 'happy' about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreen's armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory. For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like 'Put down the Hammer' or 'Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong'. Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullsh!t. And that's a promise I will keep.
Always. . ... Wendi Aarons Austin , TX
While a bit over the top, and never actually submitted to Proctor & Gamble, this made me laugh.  Mostly because it's exactly the kind of thing I would write.

I think the whole happy period nonsense is just bad marketing.  If they are going to poke fun at women, why not the buyers of other products?

Denture wearers could be wished, "good luck eating today!"

Deodorant purchasers might be told, "hopefully this will mask your terrible body odor!"

Contact lens solution bottles could be emblazoned with, "don't be a four eyes!"


I have no plans to have a happy period, thank you very much.

In fact, I'm fairly sure I'm going to dislike it, no matter what the message on my feminine hygiene box says.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'm an expert

In my house right now are a few stacks of books.  Books that came recommended by people who should know about this stuff.  Books written by so-called experts.  Books that are supposed to help you improve your relationships and give you new tools to help develop healthier connections with those around you.

Marriage books and parenting books and self healing and introspection books and more.

What does it mean if they all, collectively, just seem to piss me off?

I think that part of my biggest problem is that I don't do well being condescended to, and any kind of self-help book comes with a sizable amount of condescension.  Clearly the reader is doing something wrong, and clearly the writer knows better.  Pat, pat, pat.

I've got my fair share of problems, and I have never claimed to have it all figured out.  Obviously I haven't, or I wouldn't bother with these books at all.

They aren't doing any good to me though.

If anything, they are just frustrating me more.

Nothing speaks to me, to my situation, to my life.  No parenting expert has dealt with the set of challenges and experiences I have.  No marriage counselor has been in my house or my life.  No amount of peaceful reflection is going to help me get centered and balanced right now.

I figure at this point in my life, I am doing just fine.  With everything that has happened lately, I haven't ended up on the news.  Not even once.  That's got to be a sign of success.

Maybe I'm setting the bar a little low, I'll admit that.  But that's about as good as it is going to get.

And maybe that is why these books are just frustrating me.  Maybe I just need to stop reading them for a while.  Maybe if and when I am ever in a better place, they won't piss me off quite so much.

Or maybe they are all just really and truly full of terrible advice, and it's not my perception of them at all.  Maybe they really are horribly written and condescending.  Maybe they really don't apply to me at all.  Maybe the so-called experts writing them don't know what the hell they are talking about.

Maybe I should just write these books.

I've got a lot of life experiences under my belt and I'm not on the news.  That's got to count for something.
People ask me for advice all the time, though I'm not always sure why.

That's it.  It's final.

I'm declaring myself an expert.

Right now, I'm an expert on surviving.

That, and extracting confessions from children.
Take a guess at which one was the guilty party.
These are my kids, lined up against the wall yesterday on the first day of Spring Break.  Someone had made a terrible mess and no one confessed.  They took turns throwing each other under the bus, then Ally gave a false confession in an attempt to end the waiting game.  I won.  The guilty one finally copped to it...and it's probably not the one you guessed based on the picture.

I won.

I'm an expert.

I should totally write a book or something.

You'd buy it, right?  ;)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A little behind

I've never been on on the edge of newness.  I'm hardly ever the first of my friends to hear about something, unless it's bizarre crap you can find on the internet....then I'm like a freaking explorer discovering the new world.

I can't think of the last time I read a bestseller when it was first on the list.  I almost never see movies in the theater unless we're talking about children's movies.

I didn't get through The Help until right before the movie was released on DVD.

I forced my son to wait to see the Harry Potter movies until we could read the books.  We read the first four as a family, he finished the series, and I'm still halfway through the fifth.  I've been halfway through the fifth for a while now.

I watched Twilight for the first time a few months ago, and have yet to see the other movies.  The books are somewhere in the house, but I haven't read them.

Even my husband is one-upping me these days.  He's already finished all three books in the Hunger Games series, and I haven't started them.

I like to hang back a while, wait for the hype to die down.

Wink, wink.

I did just watch a movie that I should have seen a long time ago.  I'm home by myself sick with a stomach virus, Tom took the kids the car show.  This is a movie I'd been warned about plenty, cautioned by those who know me.  I didn't read the books either for the same reason.

I knew I'd be a mess if I did.

And I was.  Still am, actually.

I just watched Marley & Me. 

It could have just as well been titled Maddie & Me.
My first baby
It could have been the story of us, right down to the missed miscarriage.  We didn't get our puppy until after I lost the baby, though.

We became parents the first time long before the human babies showed up.

It was like watching a home movie, from the days of trying to train a crazy puppy to the day the first baby came home and the animal who was the center of the universe became "just the dog".

I remember the frustrations of having a house full of babies, a dog that was into everything, a husband that was trying to be supportive but not really knowing how.  The depression.  The struggles with choosing to stay home.

The trusting my gut that moving cross country was the best decision for our family, packing up everything and starting over.

And, every so often, cleaning up the mess when the dog got into the trash.  Or pooped somewhere they weren't supposed to.  Or got out.

I remember the day I got the phone call when Maddie got hurt.  The realization that one day, we'd lose her.  And then we did last Spring, right after my brother had to put down Buddy.  Our other dog, Jake, is aging and arthritic.  I can't even begin to think about what will happen when we lose him too.

I knew there was a reason I was refusing to watch this movie.

Dogs aren't just dogs, at least not around here.  They aren't even just a part of the family.  I'd argue that they are the soul of it, the representation of what we all wish our relationships were really like.  What we should strive for.  Who we should aspire to be.

They are the only ones that are always happy to see you.  They don't care if we're sick or broke or cranky.  They don't care if we haven't made the lives we thought we would.  They are the only ones that never waver in their loyalty.  They always, always believe in us.  They would lay down their lives without question for us.  They are the only ones that love you unconditionally until the day they die.

I'm gonna go hug my Jake.  Though he drives me crazy at times, he's a good boy.

They all are.

My goal in life is to be as good of a 
person as my dog already thinks I am.  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Happiest Families on Earth?

We went to see Disney on Ice last night.

It was the 100th anniversary show, and my first experience with ice skating characters.  I've seen the Wiggles and I've seen Yo Gabba Gabba, but those were regular stage productions.

All in all, I thought it was pretty well done, though I wondered why they spent so much time on certain movies when there were other things that probably should have been included for it to really be a celebration of the full history of Disney.  There was no Steamboat Willie, no Sleeping Beauty, no Mary Poppins, no Peter Pan.

I mean, come on....a Disney show without Tinkerbell?  That just seems wrong to me.

They did hit all the Pixar movies, though, not that it should be a surprise considering these shows really are more about the kids than the adults.

Well, you would think that.

But then I know a lot of people who would totally go to these things even without kids.  In fact, I myself dream of the day someday where we get to go to Disneyland childless again.  I could stand in 2 hour long lines without listening to constant whining and making three separate trips to the bathroom.  I could get a frozen lemonade and actually eat some of it myself.  I could make out with my husband on the Haunted Mansion ride instead of being split up between two cars wrangling kids.

I'd still end up crying watching the fireworks show and feel conflicted about leaving, though....but I've never claimed to be normal.  I am a bit of a Disney freak myself, and I have the Mickey Mouse topiary in my front yard to prove it.

And no, I'm not kidding at all about that.

Mickey gets dressed up for all major holidays and birthday parties.

And no, I'm not kidding about that either.

As you've figured out by now, if you didn't know already, I love Disney stuff.  Which is why I was a little taken aback last night by some of the people in the crowd.

If Disneyland is supposed to be the "Happiest Place on Earth", then shouldn't anything Disney related come with a considerable amount of happiness as well?  One would think so.

It doesn't work that way though, not for everyone.  The vast majority of families were happy to be there, the kids were excited but the parents were reasonable about it.  Jumping and dancing is fine, singing along is fine, but just don't climb into other people's seats or scream at the top of your lungs.

Unless you are a two year old girl and your favorite princess just skated onto the ice....then, by all means, scream away.  Seriously, she was freaking adorable.

It's never the kids that rattle me at things like this, it's the parents.  The yellers.  The angry people.  The ones that are never happy.  The ones that can't just sit down and shut up.  The ones that can't see that they are making far more of a scene than they relatively well behaved children are.  The people who can't seem to absorb the happiness being thrown at them from every angle, who can't just let their kids have a good time.

Why come to something like that if you are going to be miserable and make your kids squirm in their seats?  I don't understand.

It makes me sad for those kids too.

I get frustrated with my kids.  We all do sometimes, of course.  I guess I just think there is something sacred about the Disney bubble.  Kids should get a little more leeway, and parents should give it to them.

The best part about anything Disney since I've had kids has never been about my experience, it's been about watching them experience it.  Seeing it through their eyes.  Living in the world of possibility, where heroes are real and princesses live in enchanted castles.   Though this ice show happened far away from the Magic Kingdom, it was real for those kids last night.

I know one thing for sure after last night....I cannot wait to introduce my youngest to Disneyland.  He's never been there, and  he is going to absolutely love it.

Can't wait.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Me, filtered

I've been censoring myself the past couple days.

Sitting on my hands and biting my tongue and smiling whilst muttering things under my breath.  Y'all have no idea how hard this has been for me, honestly.
I'm not one to normally do this, though it appears that I'm developing the skill set required to do it.

Hell, who am I kidding?

I haven't said what I've wanted to here in a very long time now.

I laughed when another writer/friend of mine lamented the fact that people read her blog.  I, too, have many times toyed with launching an anonymous blog where I could write about all the things really going on, and how I really feel about them.

I have a secret one that contains all that stuff, but I've never opened it up to the public.  Because I won't.

Let's just say that secret blog o'mine, it's had a workout lately.

That, and I probably shouldn't drink publicly for a while, or ever, until all this stuff blows over.

Which it might never do, mostly because people are who they are, and people don't change, and a lot of people piss me off.

So there.

I had the kind of afternoon yesterday that made me wish I still had a punching bag.  I was wishing there was still some snow to shovel or ice to chip off the driveway, but no such luck.  I could have gone out in the yard and dug holes I suppose, but then I would have just had to fight the urge to crawl into one of them and hide from the world.

I need a way to get this aggression and frustration out of my system.

I'm going to wax the floor.

Not because it will stay clean or nice or shiny, not because it will do any good in the long run, but because it's going to keep me occupied for a few hours.

I need be kept busy right about now.

Just trust me on this one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This, I can do

When you know someone going through hell, it often seems like there is little that anyone can really do to help them.

There are times when were seem to be powerless to help.

There are times when there literally is nothing we can do but sit on our hands, wait and worry.  Those times, though, they are rare.

Then there are all the ways that you can help someone, even when it seems like there is nothing to do.

You may not be able to help a family care for a loved one directly, but you can make them dinners and take one thing off their to-do lists.

You may not be able to treat a disease, but you can shuttle kids to and from the places they need to be so that others can do what they must.

You may not be able to stop the pain, but you can swing by the grocery store so they don't have to.

You may not be able to cure cancer, but you can give blood and help someone else fight it.  You can arm a complete stranger with hope and strength.

There is always something we can do, it's just finding that way.
Today, it is this.
I am tired, but happy tired this afternoon.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you that helped, that gave, that supported, that spread the word.

I am reminded yet again of just how wonderful this community is, of how we circle the wagons when we need to, of how we take care of us.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Channeling Ice Cube

I'm about to get all gangsta on you.

Hold up.

I had a good day yesterday.  It started out pretty freaking terrible if I am being honest.  Saturday night ran into Sunday morning and was one of those endless nights with little sleep, where you spend more time running dialogues in your overactive mind than resting.

I know I'm not the only one that does my best thinking at 3am.

The morning started off just as the night ended, full of conflict and inner rage.

There's really and truly no way to ever know what someone else is going through unless you've been a mile in their shoes.  No one wants to wear my shoes right about now, that much I can promise.

Especially since my shoes have been stepped on lately by those who don't understand.  I can't fault them for their lack of understanding though, mostly because I keep my ugly realities bottled up inside and tucked away from the rest of the world.  So instead I take the criticism and the commentary and move on.  It is easier that way, even if it's just demoralizing to me.

I don't have it in me to explain myself to anyone else right now, and I honestly don't feel like I should have to.

So I don't.  And I won't.

I picked myself up and dusted myself off and declared yesterday that the day was not going to be lost.

We took the kids to the zoo.  We walked the entire perimeter of it, trying to avoid being downwind from the stinky animals when a gust of wind picked up.  We shared pretzels and took silly pictures and laughed at Aidan when he talked to the birds and they started talking back.
The seals like to be ridden.  Really.
Seriously, if you heard that flock of birds yapping angrily in the afternoon yesterday, it's because he stopped paying attention to them after a while.  It was pretty funny.  Who knew his second language was bird?

We stopped to get fried chicken on the way home, because any day that ends with fried chicken is, by definition, a good one.

After we ate, we bottled a batch of home brewed beer and started another one.  Proof that I am indeed Irish....I love beer so much that I now make it.
Ignore the messy kitchen behind us.
And the fact that I'm wearing sunglasses on my head indoors at night.

He's not Irish at all, but really, really,
really loves beer.
I didn't even have to use my AK.

I'd have to say it was a good day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


When you live in Colorado, especially this time of year, you have to be prepared for anything.

In March, we could have heat waves like this week, with temperature hovering in the upper 70's.  We could have rainstorms that last for days.  We could have hurricane force winds.  We could have cold snaps with the temperature hovering near zero.  We could have blizzards and we could have tornadoes.  Some years we get all of the above, and sometimes they all seem to show up in the course of 48 hours.

This week has been beautiful.  Sunny and warm, breezy but not too windy.
March in Colorado
It's a good thing I finally got to cleaning out the yard last weekend, since the tulips have started sprouting and the plants are showing tiny spots of green just in the last couple days.

We dug out the shorts and sandals in a hurry, we've spent at much time as humanly possible outside.

We all know that we've got to enjoy days like these when they come.

We could have a foot of snow in a few days.

And to those of us that live here, that's just about perfect.

I'll be outside if you need me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Subtle Genius

I just took my children to see The Lorax.

As happened when they first saw Horton Hears a Who a few years ago, we spent the entire car ride home talking about the movie, specifically talking about what the movie really meant.

Dr. Seuss was a literary genius on a mission.

Though childless himself, he somehow knew that kids would turn and run from stories about moral and ethics and deep philosophical ideas in a he found a way to tell them which made them all the more palatable.

He used simple words, rhyming sentences, whimsical characters and imagined worlds.  In the lands of fantasy he so carefully constructed were deep lessons about humanity.

Clean up your own messes.
Everyone is worth something.
Be happy with who you are.
You must try in order to succeed.
Take care of the world around you.
We all need to love and be loved.

It seems that every story he ever wrote under this pseudonym had a far deeper meaning than the surface might show.   I want to believe that by now we've acquired his complete works, but I'm sure there are a few books missing from our library.

His words have been the first that generations of children have read, and at least in my house, they've been the  driving force for many teachable moments.

He was a true master.

I was fortunate enough to have met his widow, Audrey.  In the days of glamour and sparkle in my life in California, we attended a lot of charity dinners.  It seemed as though she was at them all, a willing and generous donor to any cause worthwhile.  Gracious and kind, she never wanted to be in the spotlight at all.

The gifts of Theodor Geisel were vast, and will be shared for generations still.

Thank you, Dr. Seuss.

Unless someone like you cares an awful lot,
nothing's going to get better.  It's not.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The post where I blow rainbows out my ass

You ever have one of those days where you just have to let stuff go and find something redeeming about the world?

I do.

All the time.

So, for today I'm going to blow rainbows out my ass. Sparkly ones. I'm going to gush positivity and ooze happiness.

Maybe I'm just stuck in rainbow hell.  Yeah, that's it.
I just made 100 of these.

For some reason, I thought that this would be a quicker and easier thing to make than the rainbow cupcakes were last year.

No. No. No.

The kids will love it, which is the point anyway.

Thing is, I've spent a lot of time blowing rainbows out my ass lately. Putting on the happy face and keeping calm and moving forward and all that crap.

Because that is what other people expect of me. Because that is what is required to keep life around here manageable and civil. Because my children need me to be steady and balanced. Because faking it is a hell of a lot better than sitting around pondering the reality of my life.

I was talking with a good friend last week (I think it was last week, but honestly who did it get to be March already, anyway?!?!), and we were commiserating about how messed up everything is. About how there really isn't much about the lives of most people our age that lines up perfectly with what they envisioned for themselves when they were younger. About how dysfunctional we all are in our own way, and about how little other people ever really know about it. About how we all go on, putting on the masks, blowing rainbows out of our asses, going through the motions. About how few people there are who did it all right, who got everything just the way they wanted, and about our personal theories that they are just hopped up on antidepressants because no one's life is really that great.
Why were we were all in such a hurry to grow up again?

I feel like this song is the background music of my life.

How did I get here?
I have no idea how I got here. But I'm here. And today, I going to be happy even if it kills me, dammit.

Be warned.

I'm spreading joy today, people.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

I had so many things to write...

Honest, I did.

Then I made a list of all the things I should be doing rather than writing, and did them.

Now, I'm tired and all I can think about is the fact that I bought all the makings for black and tans, but neglected to chill the beer in a timely fashion.

So now I wait.

Irish people aren't known for their patience.  ;)

I'll write something profound and moving, or funny as hell, or thought provoking, or riot inciting tomorrow.  As for now, I'm going to sit here and watch beer cool.

Hey, it's better than watching paint dry.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The post where I bitch about parking

There are a few of you who knew this was coming.

It's a frustration that I've heard expressed by many parents from all over the country, so I know this issue isn't contained only to our school.

The parking situation at school is ridiculous. When they built the school, and the parking lot to go with it, they built a smallish lot.  The first few years the kids went there, it wasn't too bad.  You could easily get a spot unless you showed up seconds before the bell rung, and it didn't take 20 minutes to get out of the lot when you were trying to leave.

Then the school open enrolled, and open enrolled, and open enrolled.  There are well over 500 kids at the school now, and guess what?  The parking lot didn't get any bigger.  Now there were just more parents fighting for spots.

People started inventing spots.   Started parking parallel along the back row, so that if you were parked in the actual marked spots, you were an unwilling captive until they moved.  The ends of the rows grew by one car, sometimes two.  There are a few parents who apparently have just declared the non-spots are "their" spots and park there on a daily basis.

Then there is the drive-up lane.  Also known as the fire lane.

Intended to be for quick drop offs and pick ups, it's become a parking lot too.  Even though the curb is painted red all the way around the lot, it must not mean no parking in the eyes of some people.  Or they are color blind.  They could all be color blind, right?
Notice that there is no exception
for "special people".
They park there, often when there are plenty of open spots in the lot, get out and walk to get their kids, leaving their cars blocking not just all the other parents trying to get in or out, but also the potential fire trucks that might have to save someone or put out a fire or something else significantly more important.

The ones that park in the exit row of the fire lane are truly my favorite....because they make it harder for everyone to leave.

Every once in a blue moon, the police show up and hand out warnings.  I don't know that they've ever issued tickets for the infractions in the lot.  They are too busy harassing the parents waiting in the loop above school on a city street.

The HOA in the neighborhood of the school has declared that no one can park in their bump-outs, and they've got the obnoxious signs to go along with it.  Never mind the fact that those homeowners bought houses across the street from a school and should have had a reasonable expectation of busy we did when we lived behind an elementary school.   It's not like the school just popped up after they closed escrow.

The parking lot has gotten so bad that most veteran parents don't even park there anymore.  They park on the neighborhood streets and walk.

It doesn't help that everyone is in a hurry, everywhere they have to go is far more important than patience, and everyone always needs to get out of their way.  A few kids were hit by cars last year, and I was almost run over, stroller and all, when AJ was a baby.  I have had my car backed into twice.

I honestly think the police should just hang out, unannounced, every so often...and actually hand out tickets to the people speeding in the lot, the people parked in the fire lane, the ones who invent spaces all over the place.

They need to do something.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is it too much to ask?

I got annoyed yesterday.

Really annoyed.

I have this thing about people who choose to have children, but have no interest in actually parenting them.
Drives me crazy.

In between running here and there, I have about 40 minutes to kill with 3 of the kids.  It's not enough time to bother coming home, not enough time to really do any errand running.

It is enough time to head to the nearest park and let them get some of the extra energy out of their systems though.

Incidentally, I am quite grateful for daylight savings time this week for this very reason.

I took the kids to a different park than the one we normally kill time at.  The one that they can never remember the name of, just that it has the big, big. big slides.

As soon as we got out of the car, I suspected there was going to be a problem.  A couple large families worth of kids were there already, and a handful of the girls had decided the slide was theirs.  They could climb up it, refuse to let anyone near the top of it, yell at anyone who came up the stairs, then cry to mommy and daddy when someone made it down the slide and ran into them.

You'd think after this cycle repeating a few times, the kids would catch on.  Slides go down.  You can't climb up them, particularly when the park is crowded.  If you choose to climb up the spiral slide, you're taking a risk that some kid at the top who can't even see you, may run into you.

But, no.

The girls yelled and screamed, barked orders from the top of the slide, cried to their parents when they got a face full of shoe from some other kid.

Did mom or dad ever get up?

Eventually, I edged closer and closer and closer to the slide until I was practically standing at the bottom.  I'd holler up to the kids at the top to make sure they waited for the others to move, then say loud enough in my syrupy sweet mommy voice for everyone in the park to hear that we only go down slides.

One of the girls started giving me the stink eye.

You know I gave it right back to her, with a smile on my face.

Eventually their parents all tired of being there, since sitting and doing nothing really is such hard work, and gathered up the kids and left.  More cars pulled up just as they left, and by the time we left, the park was more crowded than it started.  It was more crowded, but far more peaceful.  Difference being, all the new kids had parents that actually supervised them.

Get off the bench, people.

It's really not too much to ask.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March Madness

My life just got a whole lot more complicated.

It's March.

It always works out that way, and not just because of my husband's obsession with the NCAA Tournament.  For the next few weeks, basketball will just be on the TV all the time.  He can't just watch.  It doesn't matter how many times I remind him it's just a game.  It's not. Apparently.  He is an involved spectator with yelling and flailing and shock and awe and all that.

I had to text him the brackets as they were announced yesterday, since I was home with a napping child and he was at the library with the rest of the kids.  You know those rules about cell phones and libraries?  According to him, there is a Selection Sunday Exception.

He actually puts the game times into our family calendar.

And no, I'm not kidding.

That's not even the main source of my crazy right now.

Soccer season kicked into full swing last week.  Aidan switched from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, with the meetings on a different day now. Add in the pressure to finish all the required activities with my Daisy Troop.  Sprinkle with carpool schedules, after school clubs, choir and church.

My days are chaos.

I had to sit down yesterday and plan out my entire week.

Mondays are the worst....and not just because it's Monday.

I have to get all the kids home and fed, all homework done, make sure Aidan is in uniform, then get everyone out the door in less an hour and a half for church and Scouts.

Soccer practice days are complicated by carpool schedules that require me to be in two places at once, on opposite ends of town, while driving other people's kids.

Oh, and soccer practice happens like every day of the week.  There are the regular practices, then the hurry up and practice more before games start practices, then the league coach practices.  Goalkeeper training hasn't even started, and I'm not even sure I want to ask what day that will be this season.

I joke with my eldest daughter that she'd better get a scholarship to college for the amount of time, effort and money this sport is costing us.

No pressure, honey.

My schedule stays this way clear until May, and by then baseball season will have started.  The end of the school year is always crazy, this will be more so since I've got a kid graduating.  Then we have to start planning the Relay.

I should just kiss my sanity goodbye until July.

If anyone needs me, just look for the crazed woman driving a herd of children around in a beat up minivan. She's probably going to be on edge and hopped up on coffee, so use caution.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kicking myself

People sometimes give me crap for being an overachieving mom.

I kick myself for it too.

I'm not habitual about it or anything.  I don't prepare perfect organic lunches for them with little love notes every day.  I have grand plans for that at the beginning of the school year, then soon enough they are taking leftovers and whatever fruit happens to be in the house.  They may or may not have napkins, and there isn't hardly ever anything cute written on them.

I don't have elaborate birthday traditions like some people I know.  There are no wake-up birthday songs, no balloons in the doorway, no number shaped pancakes.  They get to pick what they eat for dinner that day and have some kind of party...but I figure that's enough.

I don't over-do every class party.  I'm perfectly content to sign up for chips and show up at the last minute.

I think most moms have a degree of crazy.  Something that we attach more importance to, so we make sure to make whatever that thing is awesome.

For some moms, it's birthday pancakes.  For others, lovingly packed lunchboxes every morning.

For me, it's the off-beat holidays.  The ones I claimed years ago.  The ones that no one fights me for.  The days that my kids get to puff their chests out a little at school and proclaim they have the most awesome mom ever.

I don't care much for the Christmas stuff.  I love the holiday, but everything about it is excessive doesn't need my help to be over the top.  Thanksgiving is just a day spent in the kitchen in my book, never really been a big deal.  This year is honestly the first one that I've ever put real effort into Valentine's Day cards, usually it's the store bought ones and forcing the kids to sign their names against their will.  I could take or leave Easter.

I'm all about the other days.

One of them, Halloween, seems to get bigger and bigger every year.  It's a full blown Hallmark holiday nowadays, complete with decorations and parties and cards and fancy costumes ordered from overpriced retailers.  It's always been big here though.  We have boxes and boxes of Halloween stuff in the basement.

Our family themed costumes have only gotten more and more elaborate over the years.  I keep waiting for the day that the kids don't all want to play along, but it hasn't come yet.  Until then, I pledge to completely over-do the holiday.

I vow to conspire with my mother in law months in advance to start assembling costumes.  I vow to swear my children to silence about the theme.  I vow to decorate my house no later than October 1st.  I vow to make them corny food like mummy dogs and witches brew.  I vow to participate in the Halloween costume parade.

There is another holiday I lay claim to, this one even more obscure than Halloween.  St. Patrick's Day.

It helps that I'm actually Irish.

For reasons I can't fully explain, it's always been a big deal here.  I spent 5 years cooking corned beef and cabbage, soda bread and potatoes for not just my family, but for the entire preschool.  I wanted the kids to learn that there was more to being Irish than leprechauns.

I've tried to get to the nearest St. Patrick's Day parade for as long as I've had kids, even if I have to go by myself with the kids since it's tax season.

The leprechaun comes to our house and does naughty things.  He dyes the milk and the toilets green, he turns the furniture upside down, he sprinkles green glitter everywhere, and he hangs the underwear from the ceiling.

Every year, the kids have constructed more and more elaborate leprechaun traps, but have yet to catch him.

Last year was the first year I didn't have a preschooler and I racked my brain what I could do instead.  The kids just expect me to do something for their classes for St. Patty's Day.  So I made these.
Plain frosting on top

Rainbow surprise inside
I set the bar too high last year.  I've got a few days to come up with something awesome this time.

Off to conference call the leprechauns....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Oh, I'm totally judging her.

So there is this mom.

Out of this town of over 80,000 people, I keep running into her.

Her kids don't go to my school, but I see her around plenty.

I know that I constantly say not to judge people, and that I try to do it in as many aspects of my life as possible.  There are times that doesn't work, though.  There are times where basic humanity dictates that one must judge another.

There are some people who ask for judgement, who beg for it even.

She's one of them.

She is the mother of four kids, at least as far as I can tell.  A quick glance at her kids leads one to think almost instantly that they each have different fathers.  I've seen her and her kids about a million times, but there has never been a male figure with them.  There's no ring on her finger, and within mere seconds of being anywhere near her, it's apparent why.

You don't even need to see her to understand.   You can hear it.

She yells.  Constantly.  I've never once heard her speak in a normal tone of voice.

She is a miserable person to share the same space with at all.

Every single time I see her, I'm tempted to say something.  To call her out in public.  To get in her face and yell at her like she does to her children.  To insult and humiliate her.  To belittle and berate her.

I want to hug her kids and tell them that they are smart and worthy and beautiful and precious.

You can see her children shrink away from her, flinching with every ounce of their being.

Her primary method of parenting is intimidation.  She threatens those kids constantly.

I saw her at the pool once.  Her youngest barely walking at the time.  She actually got annoyed when the lifeguard asked her to stay closer to the baby when he kept falling in the water and running along the edge.

She'd yell at him to come back, to stop, to wait...but she wouldn't get up unless he had actually fallen in or the lifeguard was on her case.

She barked orders at the rest of her kids across the crowded pool.

It was heartbreaking.

The last time I saw her, just this week, she was picking up one of her kids.    Within seconds of signing her out, the mother was urging her daughter to hurry up and telling her to shut up.

The hard part is that I've never seen any physical violence.  I've never seen her beat them, but their flinches tell me she just waits until no one is watching.  I don't know anything about her other than what I've seen in bits and pieces.  There's nothing to report.

I have no idea what her life is like.  I have no idea how hard it is for her.  I don't.

And yet, I know that no matter how miserable she may be, she has no right to put those kids through what she does to them.  They deserve a parent, not a bitchy drill sergeant.  They deserve a mother, not a monster.

We all have our moments.  We all have our frustrations.  We all near the end of our rope sometimes.  She just seems to dwell there as a permanent state of being, hanging on to the bottom and dragging her children along for the ride.

I try not to judge, but sometimes I just can't help it.

Some people need to be judged.

Monday, March 5, 2012

...and this is why we can't have nice things.

Living with a house full of kids has it's benefits, for sure.

They always have someone to play with.  They've got allies in their battles.  They have cohorts in the land of imagination.  They lean on each other.

They make me laugh....all the time.  They are my greatest source of joy and pride.

Living in a house full of kids also has it's downsides.

They are basically the human equivalent of poop-flinging monkeys.

They make messes.  Everywhere they go. There isn't a single room in my house left untouched...not even my bathroom.  There is evidence of children in every nook and cranny, under every bed and cabinet, on the carpets and on the floors.

They touch everything.

Over time, it builds and builds.  It's reached a critical level.

I have nail polish drops on my wood floor.  Pieces of the molding that have been kicked off or run into so many times that they are broken and gone now.  Every so often I still find tiny black letter keys from the computer they disassembled.  I have a set of gorgeous bookcases, covered with glass doors....only the glass is missing from one after the ninja door kicking incident that tested my kid-patching abilities again.

I spent all day Saturday shampooing the carpet downstairs.  There is little else in the universe that can make you feel completely disgusted by the living conditions you dwell in than shampooing carpet.  So gross.  I hate carpet.  On the upside, the dirty water that got sucked off the floor was sparkly....proof that there are indeed two little glitter-loving girls here.

I'm really glad that a few people talked me into waiting until after the slumber party to do it.  If my kids are messy, adding an extra 6 didn't make it better, that's for sure.

It's to the point now where I pretty much need to repaint the entire house.  You can only scrub the walls so many times before the texture starts to come off with the markers and glue and glitter.  The walls are scraped and dinged and dented, proof that life is well lived here and often includes dart gun wars and indoor soccer games.

There are the marks that I can remember, like the morning the metal shopping cart got launched from the top of the stairs and the kids all immediately realized they were going to be in big trouble.  Not just for the dent in the wall, but for the risk they were taking by doing it, knowing that someone or something more important than a sheet of drywall could have taken the hit.

There are the marks that still make me laugh, like the streaks of yellow on Ally's closet door, put there by a very mischievous little boy one afternoon as his sister slept.  Don't worry, she got colored yellow too.  Of course he found a cheap dollar store marker to do it.  The marks on her eventually faded, but nothing was getting them off the walls.

There are the ones that scare me, like the line the baby gate made in the wall when it came crashing down.  I was reminded again that morning that kids will always, always, always find a way to escape, even if it means scaling walls and banisters.

My home is far from perfect.  It is damaged and flawed, there is nothing about it shiny and new anymore, but it tells the story of us.

I'll get around to replacing the missing glass door and patching the holes and painting over the evidence.  You know, in my free time....when I'm not busy being a mom.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Letting Go

If there is one lesson I've learned in the last few years more than any other, it's that you have no ability to change other people.

Though it is possible to change yourself, it is impossible to change anyone else.

Even though it may be theoretically possible to change yourself, that does not come easily.  We are hardwired as humans, set in our ways, our thought processes ingrained in who we are.  We are creatures of habit, we crave predictability and repetition.  We rely on what we know, whether it is good or bad for us.

Recognizing that our patterns are dangerous, a step too painful for some to face.    And so the cycle begins.  People can get stuck in bad habits, dragged down by routine, crippled by what is comfortable, hampered by the very thing that hurts them.  Breaking a cycle is almost certainly an uphill battle, but without the recognition that it exists at all, change can never come.

And what are those of us around them to do?  Sit idly by and watch them destroy their lives?  Conspire with them and feed their addictions?  Enable their bad choices and beat ourselves up?

I'd argue not.

From the outside looking in, it's often obvious what is going on.  That the person stuck in the cycle needs help, but doesn't want it.  They want a cohort, not assistance.  They want someone who will let them keep making poor choices, they want someone who can turn a blind eye, they want someone who can't see the writing on the wall.

They want to live in the now, and only in the now.  Because now feels good.  Now doesn't worry about tomorrow.  Now is just fine the way it is.

But it isn't.

Tomorrow always comes.  And tomorrow, they will need help again.

For some people, their now is alcohol.  For others, gambling.  For some it is drugs.  For others, inappropriate relationships.  For some, it is an online fantasy world.  For others, spending money.

So desperate to control the now, they ignore the tomorrow.  They can't see the damage they do to themselves, let alone to the people who love them.  They can't understand that the people who love them and care about them can't do it anymore.  They can't understand that the people who support their choices without question do it for their own selfish reasons, and not because they care.

What are we to do?

I'd make the argument that we do what we must.  We do what we have to in order to protect ourselves and our sanity.  We shield the innocent.  We refuse to be drug down the downward spiral with them kicking and screaming.  We decline the role of enabler.

We walk away.

We let go.

We do this with the hope they will see.  We do this with the hope that they might someday understand.  That one day they will wake up and think about tomorrow rather than now.  That they can see the path of destruction and start to pick up the pieces.  We do this with the hope that it's not already too late.

People who've not been there can't understand what it's like to watch someone slowly destroy their life.

People who've not have to make this choice cannot imagine how hard it is.

Tough love is as much about self preservation as it is about wanting someone to change.
I can't go with you on this journey, anymore.

There's an important difference between giving up and letting go. 
~Jessica Hatchigan

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What brings me joy

I'm strange.

I've never claimed to be normal.

By now, you should all know this.

I'm not in a good mood, and I'm housebound with a sick little I can't do the things I would normally do to cheer myself up.

About the only thing that always works to alter my mood (aside from vodka, that is), is a good long walk outside, a bench somewhere, and water.

I've been needing some good quality water time.

When I was in college, believe it or not, I actually built time into my daily schedule for it.  I'd set aside at least a half an hour every day, preferably in the late morning or early afternoon, to hang out in my favorite place.  In the middle of campus, between the administration building and the library, is a gorgeous old fountain.  Encircled with rose bushes, it has a concrete rim all the way around it, perfect for sitting in the sun and contemplating life.

I spent a lot of time with that fountain.

I had friends who went swimming in it fully clothed, others who took dares to dye the water colors or pour bubbles into it....but those are other stories for other times.

When we lived in San Diego, it was easy...almost too get my fix.  Balboa Park was full of reflecting pools and fountains.  The Embarcadero dotted with parks along the waters edge.  Beaches everywhere.  Sometimes I'd find myself driving across the Coronado Bay Bridge just to turn around and drive over it again.

I love the ocean.

I love water.

Don't ask me what the hell I am doing living in a landlocked state in the middle of the country.

Sure, we have lakes and rivers here, but it's just not the same.

I try though.

My favorite places to wander here in town have lakes and streams and rivers of course.  The green way and Sandstone Ranch are fun for the kids.
Sandstone Ranch
I took this picture last Spring on the morning the post I wrote about my father was published and I needed to run away from the computer for a while.  I took all the kids and kicked rocks and drug sticks in the dirt and smelled brand new flowers and watched birds for a while.

A few months ago, I spent all morning here, just after a huge storm had come through.
Steam rising off the water at Golden Ponds
I could sit on that dock for hours I think.

And I should.  

Maybe tomorrow I can find time to steal for myself.  Just me and the water somewhere.  

My soul could use the break.

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