Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Some people are into extreme sports. My friend, Heather, is into extreme parenting. She, too, has 3 kids, but somehow her house is immaculate, and she's put together-for real. Jack Peter once picked up an "US" magazine and said, "Look, Mama, it's Aunt Heather!" He was pointing to a picture of Angelina Jolie. The resemblance was uncanny. I'm proud of myself if I maintain some sort of hair removal routine which means I shave every 2 weeks; I do my eyebrows every month or two, and I might Nair my bikini area during the summer, so I don't scare the kids on the beach. Because we have no privacy, my kids have witnessed all of these rituals which makes me feel like a groovy open-minded mom. Heather took all three of her kids with her to the salon to get her bikini wax. She probably brought them all to the dentist afterward on her way to T-ball and ballet lessons.

Her oldest just started Kindergarten at Catholic school. The tyranny of looking into and applying to schools is starting for us, and we're trying to embrace only public school options. I'm partial to the military-style charter school in our neighborhood that consistently tests all of the kids at a 10 out of 10. It goes for an extra hour every day, there is no recess, they take French and Spanish every year including Kindergarten, and there is absolute silence in the halls when the kids are lining up to go to class. Jack Peter would be the only white kid there. Very few people in our social group consider the school as an option. I hear the phrase, "teaching to the test," delivered with an air of disdain. A failure to incorporate "learning modalities" was brought up as another drawback. There's always someone who tells me that kids need to "learn through play." I nod and try to look interested, but there's a nagging feeling that those are the people who are going to be spending a lot of money on expensive tutors down the road, and I have the echo of my father's voice bellowing, "F-that! Those kids need to sit there, listen, learn, and BUCKLE DOWN!"

Tim's dad, Jack, had those 5 kids buckling down. They worked every weekend. They chopped wood, dug holes, built houses, learned plumbing. Discipline was the only option in the McDonald house from what I gather. Susie, my mom, had us on a tight leash, and we went to the "best schools." In comparison, our home life is pretty loosy-goosy. My big issue is diet; not eating properly is not an option. Tim is strict around bedtime/naptime structure, and we don't allow any T.V, but there's a lot of cereal dumping, yard demolishing, head smashing, toy snatching, wall-stickering, water spraying, whining and general mayhem that slides by unpunished or worse, with mirth.

Tim and I have profited so much from our ability to be disciplined. Both of us work for ourselves doing what we love. An anaesthesiologist for the Navy periodically comes to my studio to buy work. After wandering around molesting pottery and chatting, he mused, "I've never done any drugs, but your work makes me feel like I'm on something...the COLORS!" It was a nice complement coming from someone so straight-laced. It must seem to him that I flounce around with a paintbrush like some sort of psychedelic pottery fairy-which I do. However, a pottery business is difficult both physically and mentally. I'm thankful I have the stamina to do it because it gives me so much pleasure, and, let's be honest, I'm not qualified to do anything else for money.

If I send my kids to the school where there is silence in the halls, will their creativity, curiosity and fire be squelched? Will they no longer say things like, "Mama, Alligators don't have chins."
Speaking of alligators, I STILL haven't taken any of my kids to the dentist.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Black eggs

I rarely answer my phone when I'm glazing, but a call came from the kids' daycare today. With a knot in my stomach, I rushed to pick it up. It was Jane. "Jack Peter let the lid of the toilet fall down on his penis, and it's pretty bruised. I think it might be uncomfortable for him to pee; Ivan did it last week, but it just hit the side. Those boys have to be macho and stand up to pee, so it happens from time to time. The whole tip of Jack Peter's penis is purple. We're putting ice on it, but maybe you should call his doctor to see if there's something else we should do. "

"Is he still crying? I think you're the first person who's ever used the word 'macho' to describe Jack Peter." I didn't mean anything by it, but I think she thought I was calling him a pansy. "Well sure he's macho on the days he's not wearing a dress! It's all in the clothes. Steel's pretty macho too!" No kidding...she wore boy clothes and would only respond to 'Andy' this morning.

I texted Hans, our pediatrician. He suggested that ice on the penis might not be a good idea, but he wasn't worried about it unless Jack Peter couldn't pee. I called the school back to relay this, and I got Chris, another teacher. "Hi Chris, it's Liz, Jack Peter's mom, I'm calling about his penis." "His what?" Jack Peter is not one to suffer in silence, so knowing that his shrieks of agony hadn't reached every ear at the daycare was a good sign. In the meantime I alerted Tim of the catastrophe, and he responded with a gleeful swagger in front of his staff, "Of course it hit him; it couldn't miss!"

Final text to Hans:
"Purple penis is fully functional and a source of pride, so all is well..."

Will a time come when Jack Peter will be embarrassed that he offered to show our neighbor his purple penis in the middle of the sidewalk? Will we not be able to fart in the kitchen and blame it on the ducks in our butts? Farting is our family's main source of humor. It's not a Philly thing because I know a married couple here who have been together for 12 years, and they still don't fart in front of each other.

I understand that impulse. There are times when I'm in the studio and I'm so glad I work alone. Did I become a potter, so I don't have to fart in front of anyone? 'Black eggs' are the term a friend used for his wife's dreadful pregnancy farts. I think about that more often than I'd care to admit. Driving back from Virginia yesterday, Tim offered me a mint in the car. I mumbled, "Can I put it in my ass?" Someone should come up with ass mints. Maybe I would have become a surgeon.