Saturday, June 14, 2014

Car Crashes and Train Wrecks

Jack Peter turned 8 on May 14.  We'd cancelled his turning-7 birthday party last year because he'd gotten himself kicked off of the school bus.  That parenting decision was maligned by a number of our friends as WAY TOO HARSH.  This was revealed casually throughout Jack Peter's 8th year.  On Jack Peter's actual birthday we did a little family/close friends dinner.  After eating we went around the table saying something we love about Jack Peter.  I would have been a hot squirmy mess listening to all of that schmaltz.  Jack Peter smiled regally, nodding in agreement.  When we got to the last person Jack Peter said, "I want to tell you all something great about me...."  I can't remember what it was, but it's good to know that kid doesn't have any confidence issues.

I don't think any sort of disciplining we've done has been "WAY TOO HARSH"  Let's hope this is the 3rd and last conduct referral this year.  I texted the image to Jen.  If you can't read it, it says "sitting under the desk not following instructions"  She texted back.  "That's progress.  He wasn't on top of the desk exposing himself!"  Friends are great at helping me get perspective.  Speaking of WAY TOO HARSH...a conduct referral for sitting under the desk 5 days before the end of school??

Speaking of confidence issues, In early May, I was a part of the complete decimation of a little boy's confidence.  I already harped on my recent craft show in Rittenhouse Square, but I forgot about the WORST PART.  I was setting up my booth early Friday morning.  As we set up, the locals walk around.  I was putting up shelves, and I could feel eyes on my back.  I could hear whispering, so I turned around to see a mom holding her almost-two son.  As I faced them his eyes widened in HORROR.  The mom was continuing the banter.  Apparently, they'd left the house that day in search of Anna from Frozen.  I was wearing 2 braids, and I have light blue streaks going through my platinum blond hair.  From the back, it was clear that they'd reached their destination.  The mom was so thrilled that their mission had been a success.  She was gushing about their having found Anna.  When I turned to face them, it was clear to the kid that I am not Anna, but his mom, for fun, was insisting that I was.  I'll never forget the horror in that kid's eyes.  He was being lied to flagrantly, and HE KNEW IT.  What a blow.  Not-even-two, and discovering that it's all a SHAM!!!!!

Jack Peter's birthday party had a Minecraft/karate theme.  Everyone who wanted to, wore gees.  I put together 50 varying-sized cardboard boxes on the stage at the park, and they built things, kicked them over, put each other in boxes, kicked out of them, dumped them all off the stage, threw them back on the stage, etc.  I had the optimistic notion that I was going to break down all of the boxes and bring them back to my studio for packing and shipping.  They were TRASHED. We did the obligatory piñata. Who's idea was it to blindfold kids and give them a weapon to flail at a moving object, a moving object holding candy, so while the blindfolded kid is hacking away, anxious toddlers are running towards the weapon in hopes that the candy is coming out?  Did the Mexicans steal that idea from Auschwitz?  Jack Peter has a future in party planning.  The box idea was his, and he'd asked for a punching bag piñata.  Belting a piñata with boxing gloves makes the process so much less stressful for the parents!  Unfortunately, I'd started the punching bag piñata a week before the party, and it was a damp week, so I didn't get as many layers on it because it kept not drying.  It withstood 3 punches.  Even the candies were anti-climatic.  JP picked Werther's candies to go inside it.  They're good, but they are such grandmother candies.

The cake was uneventful except that in my drunken magnanimity, I let every kid pick out the exact piece he or she wanted.  It looked like the boundaries of the Middle East by the end of it.  Brandon, our baker friend, wasn't impressed by my carving prowess.

On the day of the big party we decided to go house-hunting.  Moving wasn't on the list this summer, but Johnny (Tim's brother, and the realtor in the group) had somehow promised one of the four bottom units at our glamorous place (that Tim designed and built) to two people.  One of the people is a couple in their early 30's.  The male half of the couple has been gravely ill for a year.  He's gone through chemo.  He doesn't seem to be improving.  I try and bring food over periodically.  Having watched the effects of Dick's illness on my mom, my sympathy for Alexis, the female half of the couple is strong.  They currently live in one of the units, but they keep thinking they'll have to move out because they only have one income.  Our friends, Ashley and Kurt were the other couple.  She's pregnant, and their first child is testing high for lead.  They need to get out of their old Fishtown house.  Rather than say, "no" to either of them, Johnny suggested (in a heated phone conversation with Tim about TAKING RESPONSIBILITY) that WE move out.  I said, "Let's go!"  We saw 2 places the morning of the party.  One was small and smelled like dog, and the big kids dumped Toby out of the hammock they had in the foyer.  The other was bigger and smelled like the oil tank that had been leaking for the past 3 years.  Despite the stench and the beeping batteries in the smoke alarms in the house, the kids chose the second house.

The house is currently 11 minutes from the kids' school (although a 2-year-long traffic diversion is supposed to ruin that)  The plan is to fix it up, move there for two years while we build our dream house in Northern Liberties, and then we'll flip it.  It was $174,000, so it's got nowhere to go but up, right?  So now on top of his 2 full-time jobs: teaching and running an architecture firm, Tim has taken  managing what he hopes will be a month-long renovation project.

I'm just excited for a change and a massive PURGE.  I mentioned how stressful it is to own nice stuff in my last blog.  Our current place at Thin Flats is so nice...WAS so nice.  It deserves better.  Our car was so nice when we bought it a year ago....

yes, that's a melted crayon, a wretched thermos filled with dried kale smoothie, and a festering sleepy time vanilla tea thermos inside a sticky coffee cup....that's where the ADULTS sit...

Speaking of cars.  My dad visited last weekend.  He turned 80 on June 6.  Our MIT niece, Brittney, turned 20 on June 2.  We all descended on Nanny's house for a Gemini birthday bash.  Brittney is a vegan; my dad is obsessed with longevity; and Johnnie kills it at the grill with the veggies.  All my dad could say on the ride home was, "Jesus, I embarrassed myself deah (dear) I gwoa-jd (gorged) myself!  Those VEGETABLES!!!!!"  We hung around for quite a while because Johnnie time is about 2 hours later than Patrick time which is about 1.5 hours past Tim/Carol time.  The kids don't care.  When they're at nanny's all rules are off.  They get to watch crap TV and eat pretzels.  My dad was happy.  He had a new audience.  He's either a complete hermit or a comedian.  Patrick and his high school friend, Tommy, were mesmerized by Peter's accent and his stories.

Peter went to both Princeton and Hahvahd Lo-wah (Harvard Law) with Ralph Nader.  Somehow he was regaling Pat and Tommy with stories of Ralph.  Ralph and Peter had almost gotten expelled from Harvard because they copied and shared the exams from the previous year with a posse from their class.  Ralph was off trying to import serapes from Mexico when it all went down.  The climax of Peter's story involves Ralph loping across campus in a serape with the dean and 5 horn-rimmed-glasses/Brooks-Brother-suit-bedecked classmates anxiously awaiting his arrival to clear them of malfeasance.  That story went down well, so Peter went into Ralph Nader's bio a little more deeply.  He started talking about Ralph's book on Cah Crashes.  (Car Crashes)  Pat and Tommy were rapt, so Peter kept going.  Things unravelled when Peter said he came across a terrible Cah Crash on Route 95.  Pat asked incredulously, "WHO WERE YOU WITH????"  Confused, Peter said he was alone in his car.  For the entire story, Pat and Tommy had been hearing the words COCK RASH instead of CAR CRASH.  (Was Pat picturing my dad's passenger dropping his drawers in the front seat on 95????")

The story has a bad ending.  In general my dad feels pretty good about how he's looking and feeling at 80.  He prides himself on his ability to play on words.  His not hearing "cock rash" and his temporary bafflement by Tommy's and Pat's confusion was a huge blow to his ego.  I'm sure he's still pissed about it, and here I was trying to make his 80th special!  How do I feel when my conspicuously absent dad shows up for McDonald family functions talking about jock itch?  I spent a lot of my life trying to heed all of my dad's decrees, but now I have to balance his with the equally forceful decrees of my kids.  "Deah, when you're interviewing with a woman, put your hair up.  When you're interviewing with a man, wear it down."  (It's worked for me all my life.  Craft shows are populated by women...ponytail it is.  When my dad is here, down it goes.)  BUT, despite my fathers constant caveat that long dresses make tall women look like curtains, the one maxi dress I own is my daughters' FAVORITE look.  Risking hearing my dad bellow something negative about "MU MU'S," I wore my hair down for him and the maxi dress for the girls-democratic as always.  It was great to have him; I wish he'd come down and gwoaj himself more often.

The end of the school year is such chaos in general-gemini birthdays aside.  I have constant shame that I'm not the recess mom, the PTA mom, the kindergarten aid mom.  Of course, when my half-hearted pledge to chaperone the kindergarten field trip to the aquarium was accepted I WAS THRILLED!!!!  It actually wasn't so bad.  They gave us 5 kids and let us do what we wanted.  My life is managing 3, so 5 for 3 hours wasn't a huge push.  I also know the aquarium pretty well, so my hideous lack of orientation didn't factor in.  My phone did die, so meeting the 1:00 deadline at the bus was challenging in the dark.  Towards the end of our stay, I lead everyone to the outdoors penguins, so I could see who had a watch and could ask them the time.  Whiling away 35 minutes with 5 exhausted kindergarteners in 90 degee weather in front of lackadaisical penguins should be an Olympic sport.  Thankfully the penguin with the ankle tag number 6195 swam up to us, looked meaningfully into our 12 eyes, and took a cloudy white penguin dump in the water right in front of us.  I put on penguin voice and introduced myself as 6195, but you can just call me 5 because I feel we are so close.  I didn't expect to hit this level of intimacy so soon, but so it is....I don't normally poop RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU ALL!!!!!!  I'm not sure what I had for breakfast.  I feel so ashamed!!!!! For the next 30 minutes and for the 45 on the bus the boys in the group demanded, "DO NUMBER 5!!!!!!"  So now I'm Steel's mom, the one who talks about penguins pooping for the next 8 years.  I also let them horse around on the escalators.  Steel fell and got a massive, band-aid requiring gash on her shin.  I also committed the Green Woods Charter School sin of messing up the waters of two students.  Sharing is NOT ALLOWED with food at Green Woods.  I gave Gia's pristine water to Ryan, leaving her with Ryan's backwashed-cracker-filled-semi-clear one.  I've probable gotten myself out of chaperoning field trips for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of bad parenting decisions, I made an epic one after Toby's ballet recital.  This ballet thing is no joke.  There were Saturday rehearsals.  The 3-page single spaced instructions for recital day scared the crap out of me, but we made it through, and 13 McDonald-family-Toby supporters filled a whole row at the theater.  It was actually one of the most moving 2 hours I've had in a while.  Jacquetta, the head of the ballet school had chosen a Maya Angelou poem, "Phenomenal Woman" to be a theme for a couple of the older kids' dances.  When Maya died, Jacquetta carried the theme throughout the show.  Each dance started with a Maya Angelou quote delivered a by solemn little dancer.  Living Arts Dance is one of the few things we do in Philly that is truly diverse.  With my WASPy New England sensibilities, I was honestly wondering how it was going to come together.  Over half of the older girls are either overweight or obese.  The recital still brings tears to my eyes.  By far the most amazing dancer was a girl who is carrying at least 40 extra pounds.  She was astonishing.  Each of the dancers appeared to have a McDonald-size posse there supporting her.  Jacquetta MC'ed with poise and love and tears.  It was life-affirming and perfect.

A super-amazing bonus to the already amazing recital was the introduction of the sock bun to our lives.  Each of us has a sock buried into our hair in these photos.  It takes 20 seconds to do, lasts all day, and only works with dirty hair.  I honestly couldn't have dreamt a more perfect hairdo for all of us.

A bunch of us went out for food after the recital, and we had a few margaritas.  The recital was perfect.  The after party became a train wreck.  Toasts and tell-alls abounded.  The kids were almost asleep in the booth when we left the restaurant.  Somehow Tim had doused Steel with water.  She was LIVID.  In my drunken attempt to appease her, I asked some outdoors diners whether I could take their pint of water.  They obliged.  I gave it to Steel and told her to douse her dad with it.  Of course it shattered on the pavement, and Steel's hysteria rose exponentially.  Who the hell gives a 6 year old a glass pint of water off of a random person's table to pitch at her dad?

The same person who decided to make egg cups without measuring.....

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