Monday, June 2, 2014

Limping Along

My kids are on a never-ending campaign to render me fetal and broken, so they can play on the computers, phones and iPad indefinitely.  Last month on weekends we were letting them wake up and play on whatever electronic we'd left out.  It was giving us a little lie-in but it started spilling into the weeks.  That extra hour that one spends in and out of slumber in the early morning was lost for them.  They were tearing upstairs to play something the second an iota of consciousness arrived. The sleep deprivation alone was causing mayhem, so I hid the electronics.

I awakened to Steel's hysterical footsteps above me as she searched for a half hour.  Jack Peter had given up after 5 minutes and was sitting on the couch reading.  Clearly he doesn't have her persistence or her addictive personality.  By the time I came up to talk about it, Steel was in a ball, weeping on the couch with massive black circles under her eyes.  It was like looking into the future at her as a heroin addict.  Some of you might say that limiting the screen time is creating this, but I just can't deal with the insanity over it, and those games are so stupid.

Steel didn't take the "NO MORE MORNING SCREEN TIME" directive well, but by the end of the day she asked if she could delete her favorite game from my phone.   I didn't know how to, so Jack Peter helped her.  It's as if she realized that she can't handle it, so she had to get rid of it.  It made me think of my amazing little Grandma who quit a 3-pack-a-day habit cold-turkey because she'd woken herself up coughing at 65.  Grandma Girley lived to be 94.

In general, Steel and I have been having a rough time.  A week ago there was the black bean soup war.  She'd somehow pushed me to the point of, "If you don't eat it now, you're having it for breakfast.  If you don't eat it for breakfast, it'll be in your lunch...."  It wasn't so much about eating as it was about her acting like a spoiled teenaged c-nt.  I wanted to write her a letter,

Dear Steel,  you are displaying personality traits that will:
a. get you nowhere in life
b. make no one like you  
I am not going to back down on my attempts to nip these traits in the bud because I've seen people allowed to behave in this way, and they have crappy lives and feel like victims.  You are a strong, ridiculously smart, beautiful, powerful and sweet human being.  Rely on these to get what you want. Love, Mom

Instead, I took away all of her clothes except her school uniforms and told her she had to eat the soup and stop acting insane.  Rightly, she responded that I was acting insane.  We were having conversations about when I give all of the clothes to Toby 2 years from now when they fit her.
Steel, "I won't let her wear them!"
Mom, "Toby will put them on whether you let her or not!"
Steel, "NO, I'LL BE 8!"
(I was flummoxed by that for some reason.  Is 8 going to be the peak of her power?)

Meanwhile Toby is screaming at the top of her lungs that I am mean and I need to STOP.  Toby has, and hopefully will always, have JP's and Steel's backs.  Her ire is focussed; her loyalty profound.  She'll hit us.  (As she did at school when her favorite boy told her to save his seat.  Her second favorite boy sat in it, wouldn't leave when she told him #1 was returning, so she clocked #2.  At school she'll land at the "sit by yourself" table.  At home she'll get away with it because we are still pissed at her sibling.)

Tim was gone a fair bit in the spring.  At least one or both girls had flailing-legs, kicking-on-floor, screaming "I hate you mommy!" and "I WANT DADDY!" full-blown tantrums on every day of his absence.  As they bickered over the elliptical-machine-now-clothes-hanger in our bedroom, I considered rolling over in bed and saying, " on the electronics all you want, eat chocolate-covered pretzels and drink the flat ginger ale left over from last night's cocktails for breakfast.  Screw bathing and brushing your teeth!"  It wouldn't end up any easier, though.  They'd either start fighting about something and someone would get maimed or one of them would be so engrossed in the electronic, they'd piss on themselves and the couch, and there I'd be with the Fabreze and the Oxy Clean.  While forcing them to bathe in the big tub with their swim goggles to make it fun, I treated myself to whipped cream on my coffee and ignored the tattling screams for "Mommy!" and the flooding water sounds for 2 solid hours.

Tim and I went to Belgium and he to Germany.  It was a long way to go for 5 days, but I had fun because I didn't have to do anything but drink beer, look at ceramics, and eat waffles with one of my favorite friends, Irish Stephen.  Tim had to present a paper, get an award, and be fabulous.  We returned to a tight ship.  Susie, my mom, had been in charge.  Friends had helped make things go smoothly, and my 3-page, single-spaced list of helpful hints had been sufficient.
 Stephen wrapping up his new purchase.  Clearly the woman who owned the shop wasn't doing it well enough.
I preferred the one with the chrysanthemum.

Susie gushed, "They were wonderful! PERFECT ANGELS!!!!"  Nothing confirms my suspicion that I'm a terrible parent more that the words, "They are great UNTIL YOU WALK IN THE DOOR."  Both of the girls' Mason and Pearson hairbrushes had gone AWOL, and we were a library book short but that was the extent of the damage.  Why do my girls each have a hairbrush worth $100?  Because if they don't, my husband will take MY $100 hairbrush to brush their syrupy, toothpasty snarled locks, and mine will be the lost one.  One of my fancy boarding school friends was gifted a Mason and Pearson hairbrush by her dad when he returned from a business trip to England, and since then I've noticed them in posh people's houses and coveted them.  Is the stress over losing them worth having them?  I don't know.  Our inability to take care of anything is who we are as a couple, and we've accepted it about ourselves and each other.  Does this mean we shouldn't have anything nice?

I had another craft fair in May.  To start, the subtext of every conversation for 3 days being, "I'm here to sell pottery." sickens me.  I always despise selling pottery, but this one was more outstanding in its beastliness.  It was in Rittenhouse Square, a nice neighborhood in Philly.  I've noticed that nice neighborhoods all have eccentric crazies who linger around.  We, the crafts people, are sitting ducks for these rambling lunatics.  Then there was haggling.  I'm actually pretty nice about giving a free pot to someone who buys a few or taking a price down if it's a sweetheart who is agonizing over cost, but when someone asks me to lower a price, it's so gauling.  I always wonder what they do for a living and how they value their time to undervalue mine so brazenly.   I've also identified a new species of craft show attendee.  They come into the booth overflowing with praise.  They look at multiple things and hem and haw.  Finally they ask me if I have something I obviously don't, a 34 oz butter bell in pinks and browns?  a coffee cup that will also work as a fly swatter?  When I say, "no, I don't have that,"  They look at me and nod with a triumphant, slightly disdainful and faux apologetic look muttering "Oh...." as they walk out.  All of this theater is to say that I clearly don't have my finger on the pulse of the ceramic needs of society.  I end up making money at these things, but it's like pulling teeth, and is it worth all the work, the schlepping and the pressure it puts on Tim, the kids, my mom, and his mom????

Bringing the bikes to Rochester was Tim's genius.  The kids spent hours buzzing around on them.  Their complete exhaustion helped them sleep through the 40 degree nights in the RV with only summer blankets and sleepy suits.  Turning on the RV heat was out of the question.  Sunflower Rose threatens to completely implode if we run the heat for over 20 minutes.

We had another RV trip in Sunflower Rose this time to Rochester NY .  It is not a tight ship.  I don't have the personality type for an RV.  My friend Mia was one of those people who always had whatever you needed.  We called her "Prepared Mia."  She would use all of the pockets in her backpack and remember what she'd put in each.  Watching her pack for her round-the-world trip with her then fianc√© was as shocking as watching someone do a Rubik's cube proficiently.  All of her clothes were in these tight coils, and she could see and access anything.  I'm sure she had some sort of ingenious dirty/clean system worked out.  Maybe I'm like that when I pack a kiln, but otherwise I'm not.  I can't even manage my 3 purse pockets.  In the RV, I just don't have the drive to use all of those filthy little stowing compartments, so everything that the kids don't throw on the floor ends up there as the thing pitches and sways like a boat in a gail.  8 miles to the gallon, non-functioning wipers, and having to scream "are you buckled?" to miserable, bored kids every 12 minutes doesn't help either.  We've taken a really fun trip in it that all 3 kids will remember, and now we can sell it...

I'm trying to smile to avoid feathering lipstick and attempting an unwrinkled forehead for the photograph.  The result is a little intense, don't you think?  Can you believe I birthed that face with that TINY nose?????

I'm celebrating the decision to sell Sunflower Rose by vowing (again) to get healthy and write more.  This morning I went for a 1.5 hour long walk along the Skuykill river.  I wore knee socks, clogs, a Susie skirt and a cute top.  I had a talk with my good leg.  I told it that it was in charge and the slacker leg would have to keep up. I focussed on good posture and my "smiling is the new botox" mantra.  I flounced along happily for 2 hours, and my hips were fine.  Stretching my limbs afterwards in my skirt was the only time I coveted a spandex something to cover my ass.  Last week I'd donned workout clothes and real sneakers for the trek.  I ended up limping by the end of it, and throughout the walk I was comparing my barely-walking self to the perky joggers flying by.  I saw Richard running in agony.  I asked him what he was doing, and he responded, "Trying unsuccessfully to stave off middle age."  Perhaps my limp is shoe-related and perhaps it is because an 80-year-old woman stole my right leg and gave one of hers, but I feel like such a poser if I actually wear athletic clothing.  

I got a good little workout, but I did it on the sly.  I did the same when I was attempting to become a full-time potter.  I worked at a law firm and started chipping away at my work schedule one day at a time until I was down to zero hours at the firm and 60 at my studio.  I've always seen that as a weird character flaw.  I'm so afraid of failure that I sneak around when I go for what I want.  I'm going to embrace my furtive attempts at success; it's not going to change.

As I approached a picturesque bridge on my flouncy walk, I squinted at the canvasses of 6 older women in a Monday morning oil painting class.  One of them was clearly experienced.  Her bridge was really coming along.  She was going through all of the measuring motions. with her one eye closed holding up a vertical.  I've always been too lazy to be any good at rendering.  I was wondering how she was going to treat the graffiti on the top wall of the bridge.  I imagined she was probably going to ignore it and do a really boring picturesque painting, but I was fantasizing that she'd customize it with Graffitied "Menopause sucks!" or "FUCK FIBER." I'm sure if I'd said something to her she'd have thought I was one of those weird, posh-neighborhood crazies who corner people and say absurd things.
 Now that the bikes are such a big part of our lives, Steel could not bear another minute of Princess bike torture.  Thank God for spray paint and duct tape.  Toby's too-boyish bike got an upgrade as well.  JP started the gold trend.  He's such an amazing cross between Elvis and Evil Knievel

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