Halloween costumes this year did not put me over the edge. OK Harry Potter's hair is an odd shade of indigo. My mom never allowed me to be an unoriginal witch, so I had some pangs about that. The green pumpkin was a little challenging, and it was annoying that it was thrown over for a toddler bee outfit from the dress-up bin, but I have no complaints.
I sound like a frat boy. I've started listening to the Preston and Steve morning show on Philly's Rock-n-Roll radio. I get in touch with my inner meathead and feel slightly connected to the blue collar side of Philly. It started when I got pulled over right after depositing Toby at daycare, by a bald, white cop with good posture . I'm no longer eligible to play the "I'm attractive; don't give me a ticket" card. I admitted to rolling by the stop sign as I handed him my license and insurance, and he sauntered back to his car. He returned to my window after a short time, and I said, "Honestly, I was listening to Preston and Steve. They were talking about women who prostitute their way through college, and it was so depressing!" The cop said, I WAS LISTENING TO THAT TOO!! HORRIBLE!!! Now, your registration is expired, and you really need to pay attention to stop signs, but I'm going to let you go...
The radio was tuned to MMR in the first place because I try to be a "cool mom" for Toby's 5 minute commute and play music for her. I suffered through NPR and AM radio Red Sox broadcasts for all of my commuting young life. As soul-crushing as the adult radio was, I would never have dreamed of asking Susie for some pop music. To this day I get slightly nauseous when I hear baseball because it brings back cigarette smoke/no-air-conditioning induced car sickness. Tim and I got pulled over a few weeks later. We were on our way to set up my Rittenhouse Square craft show in the rain. We were probably listening to BBC's James Kumarasamy talk about Syria. Without Preston and Steve on our side, the truck was impounded, Tim spent hours and a lot of money getting it back. I walked to my soggy booth in the rain. I'm sure Dave, the kid in Tim's office in charge of renewing registrations, wished his day had started with an inadvertent boob text rather than the rampage he received from Tim.
First day of school!
It's been 3 months since my last confession/blog. My excuse? Tim started a new full-time job at Temple which he loves except that it sometimes conflicts with his other full-time architect/developer gig. We became pet owners at the end of the summer-3 hermit crabs. It doesn't sound like much, but there's been some drama. I've had numerous craft shows, both girls had massive birthday parties, and Halloween happened. I've also had a recurring zit inside my nose. I'm obviously doing penance for a major wrong in a past life. It's agony, and it's bad for my marriage. If Tim grazes my ever-growing nose on his way in for an affectionate peck, I want to punch him in the face. We've also had to adjust to driving an hour + roundtrip every day to get Steel to/from school as Kindergarteners aren't bussed in Philly. We get to share it with the Duffy family otherwise it'd be 2.5 hours. Sadly Duffy #3 is younger than Toby. We'll have to do it on our own when she hits Kindergarten.
The 5 Duffys live in 800 sq. feet. Their main mode of transportation is bike carts. Marni has a business sewing cloth diapers; Tray works at the bike shop. Having met them, the idea that we are remotely "green" is absurd. They did that hippy potty-training thing where you start them at 3 months. She makes whole wheat pop tarts and quinoa, and their kids eat them. They aren't horrible and self-righteous, though. She admits to realizing that she's an introvert only after having had 3 children. Her hilarious complaints about the needs of her children is refreshing. Touching, for instance, after the morning snuggle and before the nighttime cuddle drives her nuts. She keeps her hair at about 1/4" long and looks fabulous. She can even joke about the devastating death of her young mom. Despite numerous pre-trip swine flu jokes, Marni's mom died of the swine flu after her trip to China. The only major difference between our outlooks is that they go to church and their mortgage is probably less than we spend on alcohol for a week.
Marni cycling the girls to school in her "bakfiets.nl"
After a week of propriety, the Duffy/McDonald kids now torture each other like siblings. It's all fine if we are singing along to racy pop music. However, Sage and Steel have the same taste in men, so that's lead to some heated conversations. Sage tattles on Jack Peter for whatever wrongs occurred in school. Jack Peter retaliates by writing her into comic strips. The "Sage-O-Tron" was his most recent, easily-vanquished foe. The middle Duffy, Fern, is a flawless human being. She prides herself on reminding me to yield at a particular point in the ride where I'd almost killed them, me, and another carful of somebodies early in my Green Woods Charter commuting days.
The Sage-o-tron rocking a Grandma Susie skirt
There's a lot of penis and vagina talk. Steel announced that when she presses on her "coo coo" it feels like people are tickling her. Sage revealed that in "her world in her head" there are only girls except for one boy who is naked. I was convinced she was channelling Hugh Hefner when she started making Hawaiian Luau references. I've seen hitting, tears, spitting, and juice-box-dumping-down-shirts in my rear-view mirror. I just continue to drive and bellow out math problems.
Kindergarten has been a disappointment for Big Deal McSteel. She has a lot of undisciplined 5-year-old boys in her class. She's at the maturity level of a teenager, so it's been trying. "KINDERGARTEN TAKES SO LONG!!!" was her complaint the first week. Her teacher was on maternity leave for the first 6 weeks, and the assistant teacher was barely in charge. On back-to-school night, the assistant said to me, wide-eyed, "Thank God for Steel. She's my teaching assistant!" The real teacher is back, but I'm pretty sure she'd rather be with her 3-month-old son than constantly disciplining a bunch of kids who can't sit still. I read to the class on Steel's birthday and had three little boys crawling up my skirt while the teacher was fuming, "MICHAEL! KEATON!" One of them has actually been suspended from Kindergarten. One day Steel came home triumphant, I asked why she was so happy. Her reply, "No one got in trouble in gym class today. It was so fun!"
I guess gym class is where it all comes to a head. Mr. Hunsberger had to call me about Jack Peter's conduct referral in gym. Apparently Jack Peter wasn't supposed to twist a girl's arm and jump on it because she told him his Harry Potter hair was not black, it was blue. I agreed with Mr. Hunsberger that Jack Peter needs to exercise some impulse control but I was pissed that he was putting emphasis on the fact that the victim was a girl. I see what goes on in the back of my Mini Van; Jack Peter has some integrity issues, but the physical aggressors in our world are almost always female. We had to have a family sit-down. The girls are really good (outside the house) about following rules. I had to explain that if Jack Peter hits someone again at Green Woods, he'll be suspended, and it'll be ALL of their faults because they've gotten so used to clocking each other over who gets the dark blue cereal bowl.
Report cards were uneventful except for Toby's. At AKWD, Jane has a whole list of things that can be "age appropriate" "exceeds age expectation" "needs development" With all of our kids she draws a gratuitous pencil line through the "age appropriate" row, but she'll check one thing in the "exceeds age expectation" column. Toby is our first to get a check in the "needs development" column. She is, apparently, off the charts in her ability to lead, but she lacks in the "ability to follow" area. It's been a little rough for her. She was feeling abandoned because Steel left her for JP's school. The big kids have homework and are exhausted, so they get all of our attention either screaming at them or doing homework with them. Toby lines up her dolls and teaches them. The classes go on for hours. She'll only take a break if either Tim or I is coming down on Steel or Jack Peter. She'll run up and scream at us with her arms out to protect her sibling. In hindsight, it's darling, but in the moment, we want to kill all of them.
It was a game called "play dough pirate." Toby's students are a rough bunch.
According to my chiropractor, I did have a previous life; my hip problems are from a past-life injury. I'm cooky, but the idea that previous me was hit by shrapnel in WWII, and now I get gimpy if I'm on my feet on concrete 12 hours a day for 3 weeks straight isn't compelling. My skepticism stops, however when he tells me that my lungs and liver are fine. I am constantly worried about silicosis and cirrhosis of the liver. We all hear what we want to hear. My chiropractor, himself, has his own selectivity going on. Over the summer, we were at our local music festival. It's one of those, "buy and empty cup for $20 and drink all day" events. By 5, no one was feeling any pain except for Jen's husband, Erik. His back had gone out, and he was prone on the picnic quilt stretching and groaning. Jen, on the other hand, was walking around with her usual perfect posture and "tits on a stick" physique. A slightly lit Dr. George approached her to tell her she needed a chiropractic adjustment. This was out of the blue. I was nowhere near, so he didn't approach her because she was my friend. Erik could have been getting gang-banged by a group of rabid squirrels.
My husband doesn't hear what he wants to hear. He doesn't hear at all. We are perfectly matched in almost every way (especially our mutual hatred of musical theater) Our major marital hurdle revolves around his deafness and my mumbling. I mumble things that aren't worth saying at all. Narrating the minutia of my life out loud is one of my fears. I've seen it in relatives. So, I mumble something boring. Tim says "what?" I mumble it again because I'm embarrassed to have said it at all, and he again asks, "WHAT?" I then scream, at the top of my lungs, "THE SMOOTHIE ISN'T SO BAD WITH CABBAGE THIS MORNING!!!!" Tim's feelings are hurt, and I feel like an asshole for being short with him and for saying something so stupid in the first place.
I was at my dear friends' 50th wedding anniversary party. After a few drinks I had to make a toast:
Everyone is saying such nice things about marriage. I grew up across the woods from this couple. The "tapestry of obscenities" that wafted through the woods on a regular basis during one of their marital battles was rich. Marriage is really HARD. The other night I asked Tim why he always opens a new tube of toothpaste but leaves the old one for me to finish up? Is his time worth more than mine? Why doesn't he just throw it away? His response, "I don't really think about it, but I do worry that you'd be pissed if you saw a not-entirely-empty toothpaste tube in the trash." I responded with, "Next time just throw it away, and baby, you deserve a new tube of toothpaste when you want one.
I finished the toast with something about being on the same team. Everyone laughed. The part that made me laugh was Mia's confession, "Mike (her husband) would NEVER finish a tube of toothpaste! Then it would be his responsibility to put toothpaste on the grocery list!" So poor absent-minded Mike and cheap me are wrestling the dregs of the toothpaste tubes to eternity.
It's mornings that are the hardest. Steel and Jack Peter need to practice piano. Everyone needs to get dressed, eat, pack their school bags, and brush their teeth. I have to make 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 2 "healthy snacks." Tim needs to make coffee, 2 salads, and 2 smoothies. All of this has to happen before Marni arrives at 730 to exchange Sage for Steel. Sage and JP wait outside for the often-tardy bus, and I get Toby ready to go to school. This is all happening while kids are randomly pulling out crafts, legos and unauthorized reading and Tim and I are screaming, "LOOK AT THE CLOCK!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" It's a logistical fuster-cluck.
We've had a couple major morning almost-catastrophes. Two weeks into the school year before Marni was dropping Sage off to wait with Jack Peter for the bus, I put Jack Peter on the bus and went in to get Toby ready. It was still warm out, so the windows were open. I heard his real bus stop. I looked and saw, to my horror, Clarence, his real bus driver waiting. My level-headed response was to run into the house and start screaming. This made Toby scream as well. Tim had to decipher what we were screaming about, get his boots on, and catch both busses. I was convinced that Jack Peter had been taken away from me by a cleverly disguised pedophile. Meanwhile, Jack Peter was intrepid on the Frankford Friends School bus. Zoe, our 11-year-old, Frankford-Friends-student neighbor had walked by Jack Peter and taken her seat. Tim was able to make the switch at the stop sign. The upshot was that Amy, Zoe's mom, had to give Zoe an assertiveness lecture, (if you see something you know isn't right, like Jack Peter on your bus, you need to SAY SOMETHING) I needed to reassess my emergency coping mechanisms, and Jack Peter had to learn to avoid buses without Clarence at the helm.
On a Monday, I asked Tim if he could drop Toby off for me, so I could start my week with a swim. Tim picks up the kids at Green Woods twice a week. I do it 3 times. I always take Toby to school, so I felt entitled to a morning by myself. Everything went smoothly until I got to the studio at 10 feeling refreshed and ready to work. I checked my phone and saw 2 messages. One was from Tim telling me to ignore the previous message. The previous message was from a woman named Sharon Wonder telling me she had my son and Sage. Sharon had been walking to work when she'd been approached by a weeping Jack Peter. Can you HELP us? Jack Peter could only remember my number in his hysteria. He and Sage had been waiting out in the cold for an hour. Apparently the bus had already come, and they had missed it. Tim left with Toby assuming the big kids were gone. After I didn't answer the phone, Jack Peter told Sharon Wonder that he and Sage go to Green Woods Charter School. Sharon googled and called the school, the school called Tim. He was there in 10 minutes, and they got to school in time for science. Sharon Wonder is now a great friend, so all's well that ends well.
Were Marni and Tray mad that we'd abandoned their daughter on the street? Nope. They compared the incident to the time I had to run back into their house asking where their 3rd child was. Leaving, I was verbally assaulted by a roofer from across the street, "HEY LADY!!!! THERE'S A BABY ON THE ROOF! GO GET YOUR BABY!!!!" Ryder, Marni and Tray's youngest was not on the roof. He was sitting in the 3rd floor windowsill with only a poorly-fitting screen keeping him from being an Eric Clapton song. It did occur to me that a roofer in California would have been stoned and waving at Ryder and playing peekaboo. A roofer in Philly is not going to let a kid in a window fly-especially if he gets to simultaneously scare the shit out of a dumb blonde getting into her minivan.
Speaking of blondes, I was asked to write a Haiku about my life:
3, 5, and 7
Taylor Swift is our soundtrack
Oh trouble trouble
That sums it up. I'm putting in more pictures this time because I've been told to...