Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Where are Mommy's Pants?

For the month of September I am doing a daily photo challenge issued by Kim of Let Me Start By Saying... Today's challenge was the word "Old"... and at the end of this experience that's exactly what I felt. You can see today's photo and others by following The Pirate Mommy on Instagram, and you can participate in the challenge by following The Kim Bongiorno

A book for all ages!

If I were going to sit down and write a children's book right now I would surely call it Where are Mommy's Pants?. They say "write what you know", and right now that is the question at the forefront of my mind. Where the hell are my pants... or any pants that might work, for that matter? Because they sure aren't in my closet, and thus far they don't appear to be in a store near me, either.

I hate pants shopping. I hate shopping for pants the way some women hate swimsuit shopping. I wear my jeans into the ground, sucking every last strand of stretchy denimy goodness out of them until at last I have to contend with the fact that I look like either A: a stereotypical "homeless person" advertisement, B: a hooker, or, sometimes even C: a stereotypical homeless hooker. That's where I'm sitting at right now. I swore that this time last fall I had at least five pairs of jeans... at least! So why is it that I'm staring at one solitary piece of below the calf denim in my closet? And that piece, naturally, is the "artfully" torn designer jeans that have moved from "a hint of sexy" to "Dear God, woman, cover that up!" No longer do I give the barest hint of tanned flesh playing peek-a-boo through the thick mesh of  "distressed" denim strings. Now it's more like pale fish belly slapped beneath a tic-tac-toe board that stretches nine inches up each thigh. You can follow the ever-visible veins that run up my legs like a sad little road map if you look closely enough. Please... please don't look that close.

So it's not like I have much of a choice here. I have to wear pants, at least in public and according to my spouse and children. And with my Bad Ass Chickcation to New Orleans coming up in ONE MONTH I can't even wait for my knees to get frostbitten. So today I took advantage of the fact that both kids were in school, fortified my courage with a double shot skinny mocha WITH whipped cream (don't laugh.. give me skim milk but dammit you'd better add that delicious whipped cream), and went Shopping. I can vaguely recall actually enjoying shopping, back when it meant a delicious, leisurely afternoon away from being a nurturing, loving, butt-wiping, handwashing, Dora watching Mommy. It meant ME time, quiet time, time where I could examine the way the denim fit to every curve and contemplate whether or not it was the right look for me (as if I had any other "look" than "exhausted and quite probably covered in peas")... as opposed to wildly grabbing underwear, ANY underwear and throwing it in the cart while the baby screamed and the preschooler tried bras on his head. Almost a decade later, though, it's legal to actually leave the children at home and go by myself and shopping isn't quite the luxury it once was. Honestly, it's becoming more and more like a trip into a hostile and forbidden territory.

I walk through the store towards what I presume is the women's department... or misses... or whatever they're calling clothes made for female humans over the age of 25. It's no secret that I can't dress myself, but surely I can buy cute jeans that fit, right? Surely I can do this one thing and come out okay.

This is where I pause for you to laugh. It's okay. 

There are approximately 472 different kinds of jeans here, and none of them appear to be anything remotely close to what I'm actually looking for. There are jeans with giant rhinestone... what are those, lizards? Are we putting reptiles on our asses now, ladies? Is that what we're doing? There are "distressed" jeans, which I have learned means I will look like a Solicitation Arrest Near You in about three washes. There are jeggings.. who the hell ever thought that was a good idea?  Low rise. Lower rise. Low rise boot cut. Low rise skinny boot cut. Low rise distressed skinny pumpkin spice boot-and-stiletto cut. I look for something that rises above my pubic bone and fail. I'm what you might call an "hourglass" figure... except I don't just have a little junk in the trunk, I've got one of those bags you throw up on the roof rack too. Low rise means I will spend every moving moment yanking up my pants, and every seated moment praying that I'm not flashing my ass to every room mom in the PTA. No.  I'm not asking too much, am I? All I want is a pair (or four) of jeans that fit well, are comfortable, trendy but not ridiculous, and won't create the need to borrow against the 401(k). Is that being unreasonable? Am I getting too old to buy cute jeans?

 I search the store for someone, anyone who might be able to light the way. Maybe there's a secret section I don't know about, a special, hidden place where women like me can find the pants of their dreams. It will have oversized dressing rooms with enough hooks for the clothes you want to try on AND your purse. It will smell like freshly roasted coffee beans and the lighting will be good. Denim will overflow from racks and shelves, jeans that are made to embrace curves,  with waistlines that hit a few degrees north of requiring mandatory waxing. And there will be 80s and 90s hits on the speakers, mixed with the occasional sassy late 70s hit. I could try on jeans to "It's Raining Men"... that would be okay.

What, or rather who I find is Cindra, who appears to be the only person working in the store. In between helping a mom whose toddler is wearing a thong like a Spiderman mask, and putting clearance tags on a rack of sequined bikinis, she directs me to one lonely rack of denim that is almost absorbed into the Maternity section. Fitting. I approach cautiously, searching for keywords like "classic", "stretch", and "mid-rise". There are two pair that meet the criteria and have the dubious honor of coming in my size. I scoop them up and haul them to the fitting room. Under the unforgiving flourescent lighting they fit well enough; nothing is hanging out or over. They're plain, but that's okay I guess. I try to imagine them with something other than ratty flip flops and an old t-shirt. Once I'm back in my own shorts I glance at the price tag and actually wince. Seriously? For plain, unadorned denim? Really? Does the amount of fabric required to cover one's butt crack really drive the price up that much? Is the price worth not having to keep looking?

I'm still musing on that last one when Cindra checks to see if my blank stare means I'm thinking or having some kind of medical incident. I hold up the jeans and shrug. "Just deciding." She offers me a reassuring smile and says with unmatched enthusiasm "Those are GREAT jeans. They're all my Grandma will wear!"

So.... I can make low rise work with a belt, right? 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Chemical Warfare

With Summer drawing to an end, most mornings at our house begin the same, a pile of warm, sleepy bodies tangled up like puppies as we try and decide what we're doing with the day. "Swimming?" "Too crowded." "Library?" "I haven't finished my books yet." "Back to school shopping?" "..... *tortured glare*...." Yesterday, however, was different.

"Mom, my head itches."  You heard the ominous music, too, didn't you?

Ever since the Great Head Lice Epidemic of Last Fall, in which the entire third grade was practically mobile with the things, we've been gun shy. An errant twitch brings back my Head Lice PTSD and suddenly it's Late September and an evening haircut has gone SERIOUSLY WRONG, and the Flake is out of town , and I have no idea what I'm doing, and DEAR GOD I HAVE TO BE IN NEW ORLEANS IN THREE DAYS, I CAN NOT BE CARRYING THE CAST OF "A BUGS LIFE" ON MY HEAD. But the Z's statement didn't trigger any of this. His hair is thick and shaggy, in desperate need of a back to school cut. It's hot, he gets sweaty, his head itches. NBD. But to appease him, I dug out a leftover, unused lice comb, all ready to pat him on the back and promise a haircut later in the day.

The music just got louder, didn't it? Because no such promises were made, there would be no haircuts or back to school shopping or anything even remotely approaching fun... that is unless your idea of painstakingly examining EVERY SINGLE HAIR on the head of a 9 year old is fun. As I stared at the comb, little brown dots mocking me from inside the narrow tines, all I could think was What the hell? We haven't been ANYWHERE. We've been practically reclusive the past few weeks! The question plagued me as I filled a shopping cart with shampoos, new pillows, and enough guacamole to  appease happy hour at Mi Gusto Grande Rancho Cantina*. When I'm stressed I like guacamole. And then the phone rang and all of my questions were answered. One kid, the only kid who had been inside my house besides my own in two weeks, was my undoing. One Saturday morning visitor with a raging case of undetected head cooties.

Her mom was mortified, but please. Head lice, while a massive pain in the ass, isn't something to be embarrassed about. It happens. Besides, I had my doubts that ONE kid dropping by for fifteen minutes on a Saturday afternoon could really turn our heads into a veritable nursery. It was like an episode of "I didn't even know I was pregnant" up in there. But, according to our pediatrician, it was totally possible. "Oh yeah," she chuckled. "You get a couple of mature over achievers that make the move onto your head and 36 hours is more than enough time to get things going."

Great. I had the freaking Rhodes Scholars of head lice setting up shop.

So I laid waste to the house (the Flake had already high tailed it out on a business trip... how the HELL has he gotten out of this twice now? He spent the evening drinking a glass of wine and treating his own hair while watching baseball.  I tried not to sneak tequila shots while strapping my 9 year old to the chair while he screamed "JUST SHAVE MY HEAD AND BE DONE WITH THE AGONY!").  I bagged every pillow, every sock monkey, and stored them in the shed. I stripped every bed and vacuumed every mattress. And I waged direct chemical warfare on the sweet, sweet heads of my children. No hair uncombed. No bug left standing... or, um, crawling. Or whatever.  This is under control.

But if it happens again? We're shaving our heads and burning the house down. No doubt.

*Mi Gusto Grande Rancho Cantina is not a real restaurant. But it should be. I bet they'd have great guacamole. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No more Minivan Mama

Standing in a cold spring rain, I took one last look inside my old, white minivan. The papers had been signed, the deal was complete. All that was left was to check under the seats and in the back one last time for any "personal effects." That's what the salesman called them, those bits of life's shrapnel scattered here and there. A new era had dawned and, for the first time in eight years, I was no longer a minivan Mama.

I pocketed the Tic Tacs from the center console and dislodged yet another baseball from underneath the passenger seat. Eight years is a long time to hang onto a car these days, especially one as beat up and, frankly, ugly as our van. There was a huge dent in one side from a careless driver, one of the plastic pieces had popped off a seat bottom, and the pervasive scent of Baseball Boy Funk you could never quite Febreeze out. I remembered the first time we saw it, the trepidation I felt as we pulled into the car lot in Oklahoma City. A minivan? Seriously? I couldn't see myself as that kind of Mom. I drove sports cars and cute little SUVs, like the one we'd piloted into the lot. It held the batbag and stroller just fine, thank you. It did not, however, hold seven people and their luggage for a 16-hour drive to Ohio, a trek we were slated to make in mere weeks for a family wedding. The salesman cajoled me with the Stow-n-Go, the dual temperature controls, the extra outlets in the back. I could see my future playing out before my eyes, the reality of being the mother of two very active little boys meshing with the convenience of this white monstrosity. "If we can get a DVD player installed," I heard myself saying, "I'm fine with it." Because let's face it- I was done listening to The Flake's stories about how when HE had to ride from Los Angeles to Kansas every summer all HE had were two MAD magazines and a stick to occupy himself. Screw that noise and pass me another Disney movie. As I doled out more Goldfish to an ever impatient six year old and his near-the-brink baby brother while the paperwork was "processed", I realized the truth: I was a minivan mom. Truth be told, I was before I even stepped foot on the lot. I just didn't know it yet.

We made the 16-hour drive to Ohio, our family, grandparents, and an uncle all comfortably marveling over the space, the ease, the fact that you could hook the XBox up to the DVD player and play Madden 05 while crusing along I-70 at 75mph. Technology! It didn't take long for me to embrace the minivan culture. Zoo excursions with the playgroup became carpool affairs. Ice cream trips after ballgames meant three or four friends giggling in the backseat. Stowed seats made room for clunky wagons, and there was no more wrestling oversized strollers into the trunk. The minivan life? It wasn't so bad.

It became the go-to for Girls' Night and getaway weekends, six friends piled in for a night on the town, joking about watching bad porn on the DVD player. We flipped down the seats for tailgates, loading cooler after cooler, canopies, chairs, and a mini-grill. We discovered that you could easily pack a 6-person tent, canopy, three gravity chairs, three bag chairs, grill, four coolers, and suitcases for three women going on a five day Camp-and-Concert excursion in northern Minnesota. The van hauled Christmas trees and birthday bikes. It was loaded up with flats of flowers and bags of mulch as we set about the nebulous task of giving our home what the realtor called "curb appeal". It was loaded down with our most prized possessions, the ones we didn't want the moving company to handle, when we made a 300 mile move to Kansas City. It was the first thing we unloaded at our new home. It has driven a thousand miles to and from ballparks. It has housed bat bags and shoulder pads, pool floats and snow sleds. A hundred on-the-go meals have been eaten in it's seats, from Dallas to Minneapolis. It didn't like to start in cold weather... ever. It's gas mileage was suspect. Did I mention that it kinda smelled? But it was ours... through thick and through thin, it was ours.

But now it isn't. As I checked the glovebox one last time, it's replacement smoothly slid into the parking space beside me. It is as new as the van was once upon a time, no owners until now. It's leather seats hold no Cheez-it dust or sunflower seeds, it's floormats are not only pristine- they're all there. It doesn't have a DVD player, but it has in dash navigation, traffic, and weather, satellite radio, a five disc changer, and the ability to sync to my phone with Bluetooth. It SMELLS GOOD. It gets 50 miles to the gallon yet looks like a sportscar. It is sleek, it is new, and it is HOT. It doesn't even require a key to start, just push a button. It only seats five, four if you want to be REALLY comfortable, but that's okay. My boys are no longer little bitty with big needs. One will be learning to drive in a few short months as it is. We don't travel in packs any longer, and for entertainment the boys have phones and tablets and chapter books at their disposal. The minivan time has passed. It is time for it... and me... to accept that and move on.

Yet as excited as I am for our new purchase (it really is beautiful, by far the finest car we've ever owned), I'm sad. It's hard to leave behind this piece of my life, covered with it's sports stickers, honor roll paraphernalia,  and memories of vacations past. Saying goodbye to the van means saying goodbye to that piece of my life, acknowledging that time has moved on and we have outgrown it's benefits. There are no more carseats left to buckle, no more bulky strollers or chunky wagons to maneuver. I am not the mother of babies any longer... but the mother of young men. Young men have a habit of growing up, moving on, and there's not a whole lot I can do about that but smile through the tears and embrace it.

With an air of finality I shut the van's door one last time and hand the keys to the salesman. It isn't mine anymore. I pull my "Support Pirates" magnet off the back and give it a final pat on the bumper. I hope they fix the door and give it a good cleaning before putting it on the lot. Maybe THEY can get the boy-smell out. I hope it finds it's way to another family, one needing more room for carseats and soccer bags and clunky wagons and bulky strollers, and I hope they cover the back with honor roll proclamations and sports stickers. I hope they find a way to cajole it into starting on cold winter days. I hope all of this as I slowly back out of the parking space, stealing one last look at our past before heading out onto the highway and out into the life that lies ahead.... and really, pretty excited about the gas mileage we're going to get while getting there.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The 10 Kinds of People You'll Meet at the School Carnival

School carnival season is upon us. If they haven't already, your child's school is likely about to begin bombarding you (via your child) with requests for baked goods, candy, and, of course, volunteers. There will be e-mails about themes. There will be notes sent home about when you can pre-purchase tickets to avoid the ungodly lines on Carnival night. There will be stickers affixed to every piece of clothing. God help us if you miss one; you can't get that crap off for love or money. 

My kids have always loved the school carnival. It's not the hokey games or cheap prizes. It's not the hot dogs and ice cream served up in the cafeteria. I think it's the idea of being in school, after hours, roaming the hallways with their friends. Even Ace gets bummed when he can't go back to his old stomping grounds and marvel about how LITTLE everything looks. 

So get ready, parents... it's time to bust out the wallet and the pre-packaged brownies and put on your happy face so you're ready for the TEN KINDS OF PEOPLE YOU'LL MEET AT THE SCHOOL CARNIVAL.

1. THE OVERWORKED TEACHER: What time is it? Five? Seven? Have we reached midnight yet? The Overworked Teacher has no idea. Time has somehow stopped. It may be moving backwards. All they know is that they arrived at the building at 7:30am and have not left. Aside from the twenty minutes when he was able to shove a half scalding, half frozen microwave burrito down his throat and chase it with some leftover Sunny D, there hasn't been a moment of peace. But somehow, even after twelve hours, he has a smile plastered on his face as children hurl themselves in his direction, delighted over the idea that IT IS AFTER SCHOOL ON A FRIDAY AND THE TEACHER IS STILL HERE! The Overworked Teacher is a saint. Make a mental note to give them something extra special during Teacher Appreciation Week... because money says they'll work the next Carnival too. And the next... and the next... and the next....

2. THE FAMILY THAT HAS PLAYED (AND WON) THE CAKEWALK SIX TIMES NOW: Are you running a mission service out of your home? Are you rebuilding your kitchen and currently unable to cook? Does your family require a high sugar dosage every fifteen minutes or someone may keel over? No? Then why the HELL DO YOU KEEP PLAYING THE DAMNED CAKEWALK? You've got SIX TRAYS OF BROWNIES that you're balancing in your hands. Six. You have two children under the age of 8. I understand that your kids loooooooove the cake walk. That's fine. So does mine. So do the other 578 kids that are waiting in line. Teach them about sharing and go try the freaking Chuck a Puck. 

3. THE MARAUDING GANG OF MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. Like, OMG, do you remember when we were THAT SMALL? Like LAST YEAR? OMG, no wai! WAI! 'Sup, y'all, we're back and we're in a large, adorably imposing gang, a gang with swagger and a fistfull of tickets. Ah, middle schoolers. Half of them have younger siblings still in attendance. The other half were dropped off at the front doors by their parents with admonishments to "behave". They've ganged up, and now these swirling hormonal masses are oozing down the hallways, loud and obnoxious and REALLY hoping that all of their former teachers can see how much BIGGER they are. If you can tolerate the pervasive cloud of AXE that hovers over them like toxic fallout you'll notice that, for as obnoxious and, well, stupid as they act... they're still just babies. 

4. THE HIGH SCHOOLERS THAT ARE SOOOOOOO IN LOVE. They first met in kindergarten. She was playing Legos. He wanted the wheels, so he took them. She cried. It was magic. They drifted in and out of each other's lives like so many pencil shavings until one day.... it happened. Now they're sixteen, in love, and reliving the glory of those early years. They won't buy any tickets... they don't want to play the games or eat the food. They're just going to hold hands and stroll the halls, stopping to chat with old teachers and gaze in loving wonder into each other's eyes.... while taking a selfie in front of the Dr. Seuss mural in the third grade hall. Beautiful. 

5. THE FAMILY WHOSE KIDS ARE ALL TOO YOUNG TO BE THERE: Look, Timmy! This is where you'll go to school in three years! No, the books aren't for you! No, you can't take all the toys! No, dioramas are not for eating! I give props to families who work hard to prep their kids for school and want to show them how much fun they'll have. There's actually a lot for the kids to do at a school carnival, even when you're not out of Pull Ups yet- the duck pond, face painting, coloring, the cakewalk (if you can get that DAMNED FAMILY TO GET OUT OF YOUR WAY... wait, is that... is that SEVEN trays of brownies? I will cut a bitch...). But you have to remember... the carnival is geared towards the kids who actually GO to the school. So no, there probably aren't a lot of toys appropriate for your two year old. And no, Timmy can't have forty seven more tries because he's three and can't throw the football into the hole but he really wants an inflatable bat. Trust the rest of us when we say you really don't want him to have that inflatable bat anyways. 

6. THE BLIND EYES: Did your kid just smack me upside the head with an inflatable bat? Your NINE year old kid? And then did he just shove two first graders aside so he could get in line in front of them. Dude, did he just SPIT his hot dog at that girl? What do you mean "not my child"? Are you blind? Wait, sorry. Yes you are. Look, I hate to break this to you... but your kid is an asshole. While you were smiling contentedly and basking in your belief that Little Dearest is truly the greatest thing ever to happen to not only this school, but this community, he shoved down three kindergarteners to cut in line, stole five pieces of candy, and then shanked a grandma with his pencil prize. When people are repeatedly trying to use their "nice" voices and explaining that your demon spawn PROBABLY had something to do with the bleeding five year old, stop playing indignantly stupid and put a leash on that thing. 

7. THE JUDGEMENTAL VOLUNTEER. You couldn't help out this year. Sometimes that's the way the ball bounces. Everyone else understands... except Judy. Judy raises an eyebrow when you walk into her game with your Sprout. "I thought you were "busy" tonight! How nice that you could make it!" Oh, she's good. When you explain that the other parent had other obligations so it's just you and Sprout for the evening, she'll nod and launch into a commiserating story about how Jim is brokering an international peace treaty so she just brought Junior and Junior Miss along with her... see how they're coloring in the corner until her shift is over? Despite the fact that you KNOW the other 99.9% of the PTA gets it, you'll still leave feeling the need to write a letter of apology for your slackerdom. Judy wins every time. 

8. THE NEWLY DIVORCED PARENTS. Nothing rocks an elementary school like an unexpected split, and the school carnival is like feeding time at the zoo. Will both parents come and be cordial for the kids' sake? Are they really still friends? When those people show up, there's about two minutes of wonder and then it's just boring. They just blend into the crowd. It's when Mom brings the kids and Dad picks them up and he hisses that she shouldn't have bought so many tickets and he just wants to get out of there, and she hisses that he was supposed to be there twenty minutes ago and the kids were getting anxious so of COURSE she bought more tickets to occupy them,  and the bystanders pretend to look in different directions.... it's then that you realize that we're all a bunch of bloodthirsty jackels and you get kind of embarrassed for yourself and everyone around you. Be the good guy and call the poor kids over and act like you didn't hear but just really wanted to tell them how awesome their artwork on the wall was.  

9. THE LAST MINUTE, 8-7 PARENT. They're racing in the door, the kids ready to party, the parents looking like they need a good night's sleep AFTER a shot of something strong (and I'm not talking about the kool-aid). They stand out from the rest of the crowd because unlike those who got off work at a reasonable hour and had time to change into jeans and a comfortable sweatshirt espousing team spirit, they JUST got off work. Mom is still in her scrubs after a 7-7 at the hospital. Dad is rubbing his eyes and sporting some serious 7 o'clock shadow on his face. But they're there, and that's all that matters, even when the most they can muster is to sit in the cafeteria sipping watery lemonade and letting the kids endlessly enter the raffles. They made it like they promised... but don't judge if they take a little nap, okay? Please?   

10. THE TEACHER STALKER. All night long her eyes are roving, and God help the teacher that falls into her sights. It doesn't matter that Mrs. Smith is running the ring toss... The Stalker is going to want to discuss, RIGHT THERE, Little Kathy's problems with long division and what Mrs. Smith can do to help. It doesn't matter that it's 7pm on a Friday night and Mr. Jones is off the clock and with his kids eating cotton candy, The Stalker wants to talk about Brian's 8th grade Science report and how he can bring his grade up. The Stalker doesn't want to hear about office hours and conferences. The Stalker has no regard for your personal life: when you signed up for that $32,000 a year, "summers off" racket, you gave away your right to personal time, Mister! Now, stop talking to your child and come tell me what you're going to do to help Melody make sure she keeps that 4.0!

So practice your toilet paper tossing and your paper chain making skills and get ready to have some fun... even if you don't score some brownies. It's all for a good cause.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza

It's that time of year again, which in our house means baseball season. For the next four months my laundry will never be done, my car interior will sport a persistant cover of infield dirt and sunflower seed shells, and I will find cups in the oddest and most disconcerting of places. And by cups I do NOT mean beverage containers. 

I'm not going to lie, though- I love it. I more than love it, I FREAKING love it. I love long days at the baseball park with the sun on my face. I love it when the concession stand NAILS the nacho cheese, giving it that slight bit of jalapeno heat that separates the merely average neon orange glop from the truly superior ballpark Nacho. I love looking at my feet after a breezy weekend and thinking "Damn, look at that flip flop tan!" only to realize in the summer that it's not a tan, it's DIRT from the infield that has turned into a resiliant kind of paste when mixed with sweat and the perspiration off an overpriced, underfilled cup of flat Diet Coke. I love smelling like sweat, expired sunscreen that I found in the bottom of my bag, and the aforementioned nacho cheese. Being a baseball mom is a particular way of life. 

Or maybe I get too into it. There's that possibility too. To be honest, I make most of it up along the way, kind of like how I parent, how I cook, and how I explain tricky subjects like reproduction, or the NSA. We pretty much fell into being sports parents without realizing what we were doing or what was going on. All we knew was that, when the Ace was three, he saw some kids playing organized football at the park and said "I wanna do that someday." When he was four he said the same thing... so that fall we signed him up. 

It was so cute... he was so excited! We waited in line to sign paperwork, and then to get his equipment. They handed me his helmet... that sweet little helmet! The mouthguard! Precious! The pads for his pants... oh, the little pants! The shoulder pads... wait, shoulder pads in flag football? The big guy behind the table tried to hold back the laughter but couldn't quite. "We don't play flag football here. It's all tackle." Tackle football... at age four? Seriously? Have you ever seen four year olds play tackle football in all of that equipment? They kind of run into each other and then everyone falls down and flails around like a turtle on it's back until the coaches run out and pull them all upright again. It's painfully adorable.  But he survived, and in the spring he played t-ball with his football teammates, and thus began the cycle we've been in for the past ten years: Football, Holidays, Baseball, take a quick summer vacation because now it's time for football again. I haven't bought a single item of clothing in the past ten years based on something other than it's resiliancy to dirt and how closely it matches our team colors. 

We sit in the stands every weekend, talking to other parents, cheering, or, in my case, furiously sucking on Tootsie Pops to keep from hissing at the umpire. What I've learned from those conversations is that I'm pretty sure we're in the minority when it comes to competitive sports parents. It seems like everyone else has had their own glory days in high school or college. They've passed on their stunning athletic genes to their children. They have this interlaced community of Former Athletes That Are Now Parents and Coaches that gather around the concession stands to discuss who is doing what while they wait for their nachos. 

My kids.... okay, my kids are lucky they can walk more than ten feet without falling over themselves, and even that can be a toss up some days. The Flake at least has a smidgeon of athletic history... he used to run (and run fast... that bastard would say "I'm going out for a two mile run!" and before I even had a chance to swallow that first mouthful of Emergency Chocolate I Pretend I Don't Have, he was trotting back into the house all vibrant and healthy and happy and shit.) Beyond that, though, he had nothing.... well, except stories that tended to go "Yeah, I started Little League when we lived in California, but then my dad got orders to Iceland and when I got there a windstorm picked up the left fielder and deposited him somewhere in downtown Reykjavic, so we didn't play anymore. That, and, you know, the Russians." I swear, it was always the Russians. 

As for me? I didn't play softball or soccer. I wasn't on the swim team. I took dance lessons. Let me rephrase that... I ENDURED dance lessons... or rather, more appropriately, dance lessons endured me. I liked it, the leotard and the soft ballet slippers and tap class where you'd get to do flaps across the wood floor in a very loud, very satisfying way. But I was NOT a dancer. I was cute. I was smart. I had gorgeous, ridiculously long hair that looked awesome on recital night courtesey of sponge rollers and spending the day sitting still. However, despite what the people at LA Looks tried to tell me, great hair DID NOT IMPROVE MY DANCE ABILITY. OK, LA Looks never said that, but they DID say I could be whatever I wanted to be, and that was a freaking LIE. 

The worst was tumbling time, the dreaded blue-and-dingy-white mat of shame! We'd pull it out, straightening it in the middle of the wooden floor before going to line up at one end, eight little Mary Lou's.... and me. All the time I was thinking "Can't we just do some more of those flaps? That's fun, right? That noise it makes is pretty awesome!" Meanwhile my classmates were, in their graceful, coltish, seven year old ways, effortlessly cartwheeling and round-offing across the mat. My palms would sweat. My heart would pound. One after the other they'd flip flop across the room while I was having a little nervous breakdown. Finally it was my turn. I'd take a deep breath and stand with my toes touching the edge of the mat. My arms would raise, my eyes would focus....

And I'd do a somersault. A crooked somersault. And not really a somersault either, kind of a sideways roll that somehow ended up with my braid in my mouth and my leotard forty-seven miles up my butt. It didn't end at one, either... I HAD TO SOMERFLOP ACROSS THE ENTIRE MAT. 

Oh, the humanity. 

So maybe my boys got their athleticism from their father... who knows how far he would have gone in baseball if not for the wind and, you know, the Russians? I will stick with taking claim for their dazzling wit and ability to quote entire sections of Muppet Movies. I haven't made them do any tumbling to see where they stand on that... it's for everyone's safety, really. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Krewe of Lego

It's no secret that I love New Orleans, especially during Carnival season. I love the sights, the sounds, the throws,the crowds, and the whole crazy atmosphere. 

One of my bucket list items is to march in a parade... And my sorta-secret wish is to ride with the Krewe of Muses someday. I want to glitter shoes and toss them to the crowd. I am a BEAST with a bottle of glue and a vat of glitter. 

I won't make it to any of the parades in 2014. I'm determined to be there again in 2015. So this year I just lived out my fantasy on a smaller scale...

My Life In Legos: Mardi Gras Muses

Friday, February 14, 2014

Right Here Waiting for My Delivery- Tales of a 6th Grade Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day, and personally, I don't care if you love it, loathe it, or really don't give a damn. It's here, let's deal with it, and let's do that by letting me tell the story of my 6th grade Valentine's Day.

February 14, 1989. It's a Tuesday... that means it's a school day. This was before everyone's panties were in such a bunch over how kids should "express" themselves on Valentine's Day and the logistics of bringing balloons and packages and flowers and crap onto the buses... and before SOME kids were such open boogersnots to those in authority. Look, in 1989 if Frank the Bus Driver told you to sit your happy little butt back down and get control of your roses/balloons/giant chocolate panda bear you DID it... because if Frank the Bus Driver had to tell you again? Well... God have mercy on your soul.

What this means is that in 1989 at my middle school the hormones were in full bloom and so were the acres of roses, balloons, and teddy bears deposited in the tiny school office every February 14th.

I'd heard tales. I'd heard about how the florists made trip after trip, how the office overflowed with tokens of love purchased by the mothers of twelve and thirteen year old boys who, let's be honest, had no clue nor interest. Mothers of twelve and thirteen year old boys understand... after all, we're wishing someone would take our OWN husbands shopping.* Oh, I'd heard... and you know what? I had a boyfriend. I had a boyfriend for VALENTINE'S DAY. 


OK, I don't know if you can really call "dating" in middle school dating. What it was, mostly, was two people of opposite genders calling each other on the phone and then not really talking.... and seeing each other in the hall and saying "Hey!" in a somewhat happier tone than we might otherwise use. The real romance happened in the notes girls wrote back and forth to each other absolutely swooning over the FEELING put into that last "hey". And when he'd stop by your locker to say "hey" in the morning? Before class? Well someone turn on the Richard Marx, 'cause baby he was RIGHT THERE WAITING FOR YOU. 

I'll pause here while every woman of a certain age sings the chorus. You know you are.

The protocol at my middle school was simple- hands off until the end of the day. During homeroom/clubs (held during the last half hour of the day) the office secretary would make final announcements and then list off any students who had "items" waiting in the office. Any other day you didn't pay attention, unless it was your birthday and you had the parents that sent balloons and giant cookies and teddy bears. But Valentine's Day? On Valentine's Day EVERYONE listened. If you had a boyfriend you listened with a certain smugness. If you had a crush, you listened with EVERYTHING IN YOUR SOUL CROSSED THAT YOU WOULD HEAR YOUR NAME AND ZOMG! If you were single you kept talking to your friends and pretending NOT to listen (but you so totally were)  unless you had those parents that not only sent you balloons and giant cookies and teddy bears on your birthday but also for every other holiday ("Oh, look Jim! Let's send this Tree shaped balloon with Blue Jay conservation cookie to Suzie for Arbor Day!"). On February 14, 1989 I sat back in my desk, all prepared to give my friends the wide eyed "*I* have something? Me????? On Valentine's Day????" look... because I KNEW. Not only did I have A BOYFRIEND but said boyfriend had told me that he and his mom went out the night before and got "something" for me. I'd kept that little nugget to myself all day long, just waiting... waiting.

The list was long.... even though my last name started with "E" I knew it would be a while... Anderson... Brewer.... Coffman.... Drake... Fisher... wait. Back up. My friends were still half listening along, no squeal, no shocked looks. Maybe they were going by grade? Then another sixth grader squealed, right before an eighth grader and that wiped that idea out of the books. This had to  be a mistake... SURELY IT WAS A MISTAKE. I mean, he'd told me! He'd told me he and his mom had picked something out and it was being delivered. He meant here, right? Not my house? did he even know where I lived?

There had to be a mistake. So when the final bell rang I gathered up my things and marched down to the office, friends in tow. One had to pick up her balloons, giant cookie, and teddy bear anyway so it would be so simple for me to slip in and point out the... well, the whatever with my name on it that had been overlooked. The hall was filled with squealing girls and boys who just really wanted to go play basketball in the gym but whose mothers had told them to BE NICE. While my friend found her stuff I stepped into the quiet of the office.

"Excuse me." I wasn't the least bit shy or concerned. I KNEW it was just a simple mistake. "There's supposed to be something here for me. From my boyfriend." Emphasis on boyfriend. Because I HAD ONE. The secretary checked the list she had. No, nothing with my name on it. Maybe his name had been entered instead? No, nothing. Was there anything that hadn't been logged in yet? That they'd just read names off of? Anything?

Of course not. Oh the pre-teen HUMANITY.

I slipped out of the office, not sure if I was pissed off or sad or if I even really cared except that... that... I had a BOYFRIEND and I was supposed to get SOMETHING and my  name was going to be read OVER THE INTERCOM. But it wasn't. My friend was waiting for me with a raised eyebrow. "I thought I left something," I explained, and helped her navigate what had to be the inspiration for the movie "Up" down the hall and out the door, all the while envisioning what had to be the obvious cause- he was breaking up with me for someone else and SHE was who got the... whatever.  Some other girl (slut!) was his Valentine. Because when you're 11 and just figuring out this whole "boys and girls" thing... rationality isn't high on the list.

The next day as I finished my homework in homeroom, the end of day announcements came over the intercom. I paid zero attention until something caught me at the end. "You have something in the office, how nice!" My homeroom teacher smiled and passed me a hall slip so I could go get it and still make it out to the bus. The tables that had held countless roses and balloon bouquets and other shrapnel of the heart had been put away and the hall was mostly empty as I slipped into the office. "I have something?"

It was just one rose, one little red rosebud inside a little glass vase. Attached to the red ribbon around it was the standard florists card featuring flying, armed babies and floating hearts. My boyfriend had signed it in his nearly illegible scrawl... and he'd signed it "Love". LOVE. It didn't matter that the florist had misplaced it, causing it to arrive a whole 24 hours late, that I'd missed participating in the crush of feminine competition for "Whose Boyfriend Loves Her More". There wasn't another girl, I really was his Valentine. We'd only last another couple of weeks... by Spring Break we were old news. But on that day, February 15th, I not only had a BOYFRIEND, but one who signed my card with "Love". And as the bell rang and I stepped into the hall with my little token of "love", I realized that I stood out. Yesterday had just been a blur of red and pink and balloons and flowers and hearts... on February 15th my little rose was the star of the show.

"Hey," he said, passing by my friends and I as we analyzed his handwriting for secret clues.

"Hey," I smiled back. Cue the piano solo.... wherever you go, whatever you do.... 

*My husband is really actually freakishly good at picking out gifts most of the time. I couldn't throw him completely under the bus. But about 10% of the time I will not only throw him under the bus but back it up, drag him out, and throw him back under it again. Just sayin.