Sunday, December 27, 2015

Owl-standing holidays

This was the best we could do as far as a picture of Carol's 10 grandchildren.  Baby Avery is supposed to get photoshopped into Erin's arms.  Ash was out in Seattle.  Carol was less-than-thrilled about Dan's beard and hat, but it was "No shave November"

The whole McDonald family got together at the shore for Thanksgiving.  Pat was in from California.  He spent the entire time cornering people to simultaneously lament the demise of his relationship with the woman we used to refer to as “Crazy Eyes” (She is really cool, but she’s 35 and wants kids, and he’s 52 and just married off the kid he had inadvertently.) and to boast the long list of beautiful girls in their 20’s and 30’s who are pursuing him via “OK Cupid.”  Mike, also in from California, spent his time delicately trying to explain to Pat that he no longer has a job in California because their company lost a big account, insinuating that perhaps Pat would be more valuable helping with all of the projects he’s got back in Philly with Tim, and urging him to rejoice in “dodging the bullet” of starting a family with Crazy Eyes.  Johnny, who was responsible for the turkey, and is ALWAYS hours late for any event was juggling his sick infant daughter, his rambunctious, cross-dressing 3 year old, his wife who’d just been diagnosed with both Strep and Mononucleosis and doesn’t love McDonald get-togethers in general, and the fact that the house they were supposed to have moved into for Thanksgiving was looking nowhere near being finished in time for Christmas, which they are hosting both her family and a portion of the McDonald family.  Tim was desperately trying to convince Pat that HE NEEDS him for the chaos of his mother’s upcoming renovation, so Pat should move back to Philly while also trying to assure his mom that he’s got the project under control.  All of these conversations bled into the dinner we were having 2 hours late.  The kids were wrecked because they’d been watching screens and eating junk food for the whole day except for a short park/boardwalk jaunt and a couple hours of dress-up.

I decided to make a drunken toast to pull everyone out of his/her individual psychological wormholes.  I tried to say something great and thankful about everyone in the room.  On my way back to my seat, my ass sideswiped a chocolate pie that landed facedown on the white carpet.  Whatever the toast didn’t accomplish my ass did.  After dinner I plucked “Good Will Hunting” out of the pile of VCR tapes to watch en masse.  I remember it being a heartwarming film with the added benefit of Robin Williams and funny Boston accents.  It went ok, but I’ve been trying to dodge the question, “What is a blow job?” from my kids ever since.

Which reminds me of an incident that happened last summer involving Jack Peter and a friend’s son.  We’d all gone swimming in the Wissahickon Creek.  The boys were upstairs changing.  My friend walked in, and they both had boners.  She was HORRIFIED.  I was un-phased.  Tim had caught JP and another friend looking at raunchy stuff on the iPad, and we found some naughty pictures JP had taken of himself on the cloud that he had deleted from the iPad.  In light of my friend’s horror, we decided to have a wee talk with him and Steel about appropriate behavior.  During the talk I had a memory of JP’s asking me what a “hummer” was.  I’d given him a response about an army vehicle, but it occurred to me that he’d read the word in another context, and my evasive answer was going to thwart his asking me about anything in the future.  In the middle of the talk I queried: did he remembered asking me about the word, “hummer?”  He did, and my definition had fit perfectly into the comic book scenario.  We went on with the awkward conversation, and I prayed that the hummer detour would be forgotten.  Not my boy…the next day he asked, “Mom, why did you ask me about hummers in the middle of our talk yesterday?”

It’s interesting to be going through the same schoolwork JP had 2 years ago with Steel.  I was quizzing her on science for her test.  I’d never done anything like that with JP.  Honestly I’d never been aware of ANY tests in his academic career.  Scraps of ripped paper would come home with spelling words on them.  They invariably had 15/15 on them.  I’d sign them as I would his other perfect score things, but it never occurred to me that they were the basis for most of his grades.  Steel had a study guide to complete about bats.  The questions were detailed.  I didn’t know the answers; neither did she.  We came across her artfully written notes that had every bit of information she needed.  They were beautiful.  Some of the letters had curly q’s on them.  She had NO RECOLLECTION of their contents; it was as if they'd been written by someone else.  That’s MY GIRL!!!  The inside of our brains is kind of like the jellyfish scene in “Finding Nemo” everything’s pretty but hazy.  We have to get stung for something to click.  She got all of the science down really fast, and always gets perfect scores as well; she just has to focus on it exclusively.  All of this is fine because her attention span is vast; she can focus. 

I have never seen a page of notes in JP’s stuff.  I know for a fact that he’s horsing around because he gets those often off task/distracting others comments, so he uses 50% of his brain to listen to a lesson while drawing "Powerful Carrot farting" cartoons and showing them to his classmates.  And yet, all of the information presented is IN THERE.  His brain looks like an IKEA.  It’s got storage in storage and Velcro and hooks, and everything is neat and organized, and there’s endless room for more information.  Tim has to keep a RIDICULOUS amount of information balanced when he’s running a project, so perhaps JP’s brain is like his although Tim also forgot who his Secret Santa was last week and that he’d already gotten him a gift, so let’s hope JP doesn’t end up like that.

Steel’s teacher, Mr. Ferrante, is constantly marveling about the difference between JP and Steel.  “Night and Day” was the phrase he used.  Mr. Ferrante has gotten a bad deck this year.  Steel and 2 of her friends are the only easy kids in his class.  He got rid of Michael, the kid Steel considered her charge, for Brent.  (Steel told me in Kindergarten that she knew Michael would always be in her class because she’s the only one who can handle him)  Steel was lamenting the new kid, Brent’s existence and praying to get Michael back.  I asked her why he’s so bad.  She said that he’s a jerk to everyone, but worst of all, he’s a jerk to Mr. Ferrante.  Mr. Ferrante sent me an e-mail telling me that Steel had earned a dress-down day for good behavior.  I responded that what she’d prefer is the opportunity to hit Brent in the nose.  Mr. Ferrante wrote back that he appreciates that.  Apparently every now and then he’ll ask Steel if everything is going to be OK.  She’ll look him in the eye, nod her head and say, “Yes, Mr. Ferrante, everything is going to be OK.” It makes him feel better.

Toby is still a wild card.  One thing she is that the others are not is COMPETITIVE.   She’s constantly comparing herself to them and to others.  Her report card comment was the best I’d seen because it mentioned how considerate and community-oriented she is.  I told her no one had gotten as good a comment, and she’s told EVERYONE she since then.  She still seems like such a baby.  She’s cuddly.  She has a tiny little lisp that’s fading daily but is still there.  She needs hugs and kisses and cuddles more than the others.  And she’s so cute and shapely that everyone wants to snuggle her still.  She’ll call out in a worried voice from the stall in a public bathroom to make sure I’m still waiting for her.  She’s really sensuous.  She can’t bear a paper napkin; she needs cloth.  She likes everything to be served on a plate.  The others eat with their hands still if we aren’t there to nag; Toby needs a fork.  She’s got a short temper, but can be talked off the ledge.  Steel takes a while to blow, but when she does, she’s irrational and cannot be reasoned with for HOURS.

Unlike the others, we are actually getting to witness Toby’s learning to read.  It happened overnight with JP, and we were too busy to watch Steel.  Toby will ask what things spell or how to spell things.  We make her do it herself, and she can, but she’s not got their confidence to just go ahead alone.  She still says super cute kid things.  Tim was holding her and squeezing her, “toushie;” she said that whenever he uses that word, she envisions her bum being filled with Kleenex tissues.  I was all decked out for a date and bent over to kiss her.  She said, “Mommy, I love it when ladies with boobs bend over and I can see the dark space in between them!”  “Yes, Toby, everyone loves that.  It’s called cleavage, and I only have it if I’m wearing 2 bras.”
Both girls have starting wearing “crop tops” every day under their shirts.  They are little sports bras.  I wasn’t comfortable with it at first.  I was haunted by the Susie Kinder assertion that little girls should not be sexualized, and they shouldn’t wear things that refer to boobs that aren’t there.  My friend Karen has the opposite point of view.  “Let them wear them!  The more clothes the better in that area, I say!!!!”  I was so uncomfortable with my own body when it changed.  My mom took me kicking and screaming to buy bras.  I was sure that everyone was staring at the straps underneath my shirts.  Might as well avoid that scenario.  It is a little jarring to see the straps underneath shirts on Toby’s little hourglass back, but I’m used to it now.

Maybe my input can help in another parenting scenario; it takes a village.  My neighbor’s daughter has just been slammed with the idea that her period might come.  The terror in her eyes as she spoke of it was palpable.  Her mom’s first period story was as follows: she was wearing WHITE overalls on a winter trip with school to Manhattan.  It was well-below freezing, but she'd convinced her teachers that she didn’t mind the cold.  Her parka was tied around her waist as it looked like she’d been shot all over the back of her overalls.  I said, “OK, Samantha, that is ONE scenario.  I came home and noticed a stain on my underwear and wasn’t even sure it was blood.”  The only trauma I suffered was a 4-hour inability to put in a tampon.  My mom just said, “Keep trying; I can’t do that for you!”  In hindsight perhaps I was dealing with a hymen????  No one ever talks about hymens anymore.  Isis probably does.  I hear there's a hybrid Ford Hymen coming out in 2016.

We are DRIVING to Florida right now.  All of my “no screen time” parenting has flown right out the Minivan window.  By the time we hit Savannah, they’ll have logged 5 DVD’s.  Marley and Me was the best.  They were all crying their eyes out.  Toby recovered the quickest.  She was screaming at Steel, “STOP it’s JUST A MOVIE!!!!!!”  Tim and I were screaming, “TOBY, LET HER CRY!!!!!”  and JP whimpered, “Can we watch Guardians of the Galaxy now?????

Speaking of parenting ideals going out the window, I spend all year wondering why my kids act so spoiled and saying, “NO!” and then Christmas comes.  First of all I wanted to get everyone bikes and skates, and we bought 4 bikes at the silent auction for our school.  I felt so blessed that money I was planning to spend anyway was going to the school, and I was getting REALLY NICE BIKES that I’d have been too stingy to buy.  Then it occurred to me to buy skates on ebay because I couldn’t justify buying new leather skates for my girls because they’d grow out of them in a season. I HATED my vinyl skates growing up.  I loved the worn-in shabby-chicness of the leather ones that the rich girls had.  My girls would probably prefer new to anything, so I spent 3 hours with some white nail polish and scuff remover giving them the vinyl freshness that I hate. 

I’m starting to see that awareness of money seep into my kids’ lives.  Toby wants a nice, big house.  Jack Peter wants everything, and Steel wants everything her cousins have.  We got a call from school the day of the book fair.  The kids are supposed to make a wish list, bargain with the parents that night, and buy the compromise books the following day.  JP wanted NONE OF THAT.  He wanted to take that book fair BY STORM.  He brought his entire life savings of $240.  He was spotted with his wad by the dean of students who saw it fit to bring JP into his office to explain to him that he shouldn’t be walking around with that kind of $ and called us to give us a “heads up.” I can’t be mad at his wanting to spend his own money on books, and I also admire his anti-authority initiative.

Jenner and Erin are Mike’s girls.  They live in California in a beautiful house, and they have really nice stuff.  Mike and Jill each wear apple watches, they drink really good alcohol, and they spend $800 on professional lice treatments rather than torture themselves and their children with olive oil, mayo and nit-picking.  They make more money than we do, and they like the best of everything.  At Ash’s wedding their girls opted for the $50 professional hair/makeup that I denied my girls.  Jenner and Erin are beautiful, smart and charismatic, so all 3 of my kids love and look up to them.  I foresee multiple anguished conversations with the words, “but Jenner and Erin get to….” Hopefully it will be character-building for all of us.

 If I had balls it would just be the bikes and skates, but I got bargains on both, so then I went out of control. I think my sense of money got skewed when I went to New Jersey to sell my friend, Jennifer’s jewelry at a Catholic school holiday fair. It’s in Summit New Jersey.  I was SO MUCH BETTER at selling her jewelry than I am my own pottery.  I sold a $1200 necklace to a blind woman and got her to add a couple $200 rings as well.  I had some help from Jen’s mom who led the sheep to the slaughter, but I was pretty masterful.  Jen’s dad had died suddenly, and his wake and funeral conflicted with her show.  Despite feeling that Jen deserved to do well at the craft show, I was feeling rapacious about the blind lady until I discovered the woman is supporting Donald Trump; now I wish I’d pushed for a couple of bracelets as well.

I actually adore Christmas.  I love making presents for teachers.  Isn’t a belt for the long-suffering music teacher showing the first bar of “Hot Cross Buns” a stroke of genius?  Samantha actually gets design credit for the “eat bugs” belt buckle for the entomology-obsessed science teacher.  I was going to do something with a microscope, but a microscope really close to the genitals of a man who is 6" shorter than I am didn't seem appropriate.  Apparently his insect cooking films have rendered him an internet sensation, so the cricket flour Jen thought was such a great idea is just a normal thing in his pantry.  The owl cup went to the science teacher who awards a kid daily with the coveted “owl-standing scientist."  Mr. Sylvan’s belt was a forest (I remember very little of 8th grade Latin, but "silva" is one thing I do remember) of sage leaves.  I’d used the sage because it was what I had at the studio.  I was thrilled when JP came home to tell me, “Mr. Sylvan says he likes pizza better than his daughter.”  I said, “What’s her name?”  “SAGE!”  Being a potter does make this stuff easier.  I can always trade for Jen’s jewelry if I’ve given too much pottery in the past.

Pre-Christmas week at school is traditionally a time for JP to behave badly.  At the silent auction we bought him “A day with Ms. Kim Birkmire.” On Tuesday of the 3-day week before break, he had to arrive at school at 7:30 am to help her direct traffic.  He had to make announcements on the loud speaker.  The head of school now calls him, “The laminator” because Kim put him to work on signs.  She took him out to lunch for a cheesesteak, and gave him the power to dole out a conduct referral to the dean of students for inappropriate hall behavior.  He was in heaven as was I.  That conduct referral might’ve gone to him had it been a normal school day.  Perhaps not, his teacher, Mr. Sylvan, identifies with him, so he has him under control.  I’m assuming that JP will NOT get into the magnate school, Masterson, because of his behavior scores. I’m hoping he doesn’t anyway.  It will not be fun deciding between keeping him in this amazing environment where everyone has his back and putting him into one of the best free academic institutions in the country. (where there are 33 kids in a class who all have their shit together)

 So we will be in Savannah Georgia for Christmas Eve.  I got a room with a balcony, so we can hang the stockings out.  I’m pretty sure that the rest of the loot is going to be back in Philadelphia.  Santa is either too empathetic to make us schlep all of the presents or the stocking division is more organized than his present division.  Everything looked so great when we left the house.  Shiny packages surrounded 4 bikes with new-ish ice skates hanging from them.  I’m panicking that our house will get broken into and all will be gone when we return.  This is because I’m a racist.  The guys who hand out the coupon books for the local stores were about to throw one on the lawn.  I told them not to because, “We are going away!”  Now I’m sure they are going to come back and rob us.  Tim told me that I’d be worried about saying something that stupid if they were white, but I’m honestly not sure.

One of Toby’s classmates asked me if I am Toby’s grandmother.  I’d been expecting that at some point, but not last Monday.  I took solace in the fact that the kid is black and is often picked up by his grandmother who is pretty cool.  “Oh he doesn’t know any kids who live with their actual parents…”
So I’m vain and racist. I am also cursed with a love of ornamental cabbage.  I didn’t realize how much people hate it.  I need a support group for overly-confident-about-their-appearance, bigoted cabbage lovers.  I’ll get right on that for 2016.  Happy Holidays!

(I posted these images on Facebook, and my friend, Martha told me the cabbages are lucky they have me.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Have a Heart

Toby should rock this next time they give her a "dress down day"

DEE AH!  You've got to get a HAVAHAHT trap if you want to get the mice. You can't get the glue or the snap traps. Those mice have gotten too SMAHT. Get a few Hershey BAHS, and load it up. As soon as you HEE AH the DOWAH close, you get up and you drown the little f-er. Then you set it again.  By morning you won't have mice nor will you have slept at all.

This was my father's advice on our mouse/rat problem.  We share an incredibly entitled rat with our neighbor and we have multiple mice all to ourselves.  The first incarnation of "Operation Mouseschwitz" was to buy and load up a bunch of traps. We got 3 in the glue and 2 in the snaps. The mice were still coming out and boldly dancing on the stove in front of me if I sat at the counter doing paperwork. One of my Mt. Airy friends claimed that her mice would shit IN THE GLUE TRAP just to taunt her. Bananas, pasta, potatoes, plums were ravaged daily, and the mouse shit was appalling. I was unaware of the rat until my mom was sleeping in the basement and had left the snack food from her drive down to Philly in one of her bags. The rat dragged an entire bag of pretzels across the room. My mom noticed but did nothing; she has raccoons walking in and out of her house yelling at her if the cat food is low, so pretzel-toting rodents don't bother her.

My mother in law is another story. She used to live about 40 minutes outside of Philly. She made Johnnie, her youngest, drive out to Havertown in the middle of a work day to deal with a mouse. When she came here, she too, had snack food in her bags having driven from Canada. She lay in the guest bed PETRIFIED as she listened to a rodent rummage through her stuff. She was then convinced that it was running around inside the mattress that she was sleeping on. Tim and I assumed that the mattress part was in her head, but poor Carol's terror was the final straw. Stage two of the operation was, "Operation MEOWschwitz."  As we are all allergic to cats, we decided to borrow Baby Django from Julie, our old nanny. She'd offered him freely, but after multiple 25-line texts about the Django transfer from her house to ours it became clear that she wasn't entirely comfortable entrusting her baby to us. She and James spent the night, so Django would have family there on his first night away from home. We left in the morning before the 3 of them arose. We returned to a house plastered with Django-maintenance instructions. All of this was for naught. Django cowered under the guest bed for 3 days without relieving himself or sustenance until Julie brought him home.

We are now at stage 3. I've been going to Jack Peter's baseball games all fall. It occurred to me, suddenly, that I'd been chatting with a really nice single dad at a lot of the games. I told my friend Kathy that she should come to one of the games and meet this guy. As I was awkwardly making conversation to lure them in to talking to each other, I started to babble about the mice. Dan, the dad said, "My girlfriend is trying to get rid of a cat who might solve your problem; he's a super-tough hunter!" Right then and there he'd solved my immediate problem: I could stop the awkward chatter because he already had a girlfriend. (I was starting to feel the ire of the parents who were there to watch and support their children as I regaled them all with my rodent tales.) We took him up on the cat. Dan portrayed the cat a little differently than the girlfriend did. The baseball game was on Sunday, and despite her living in Trenton, the cat arrived at our house on Monday. Apparently, he bites and scratches people, and he scratches leather furniture, BUT all that is going to change here because he has 3 kids to pay attention to him and he'll be able to go outside. She, her son, and her mother practically ran out the door after he'd been let out of the carrier. The son shouted, as they got into their car, "Now we can get a FRIENDLY cat!" Despite all of this, I have high hopes for Rocky. He didn't hide from us. He has hissed a fair bit, but Rocky Balboa has been waiting downstairs for the rat for 3 days. Unlike Django, Rocky comes up to eat and look at us insolently, but then he returns to his vigil. He seems to be hunting more than he's cowering. My optimism is based partially on his love of story time. Steel read 3 books to him on the first night, and he wandered up to me and Toby as I read to her this evening. Who knows what's going to happen with the allergies.

Part B of stage 3 is that I borrowed a HAVAHAHT from our neighbor, Victor. I bumped into him at the grocery store. He was directly in front of me in line. A cute baby was in front of him, so I was flirting with her until she turned away. I was then evaluating the contents of Victor's cart and having trouble aligning the Chef Boyardee with the swiss chard and the Raspberry Milano cookies. I looked up to see him watching me curiously. Obviously Bob and Victor are trying to get the rat as well. They are resorting to poison, because the rat BIT Victor WHILE HE SLEPT because there was no cat food one day. (Bob and Victor's cat is friends with the rat.  Let's hope Rocky is more discerning about the company he keeps.) We discussed the problem throughout the check out process. Victor tried to involve the unamused Acme employee while he scanned as if we were at a cocktail party, but it didn't work.

The reason I was at Acme after dinner was to get an Amazon card, so I could buy a Havahaht. Tim was surprised when I came home with an actual Havahaht.  Bob had set the it with hot dogs; Victor says the rat prefers steak.  I've known him to like salty snacks, and who can resist Halloween candy? So the HAVAHAHT is waiting for Mr. Rat with a snickers bar and some tortilla chips in his favorite spot near the guest bed. Carol was almost right. Upon further investigation, the rat was clearly running around the box spring, but he hadn't burrowed into the mattress....yet.


The grim reaper is here for the rat, I hope. 45 minutes of Halloween preparation yielded these results, and I let them do their own pumpkins. I'm figuring out this parenting thing slowly but surely.

Friday, October 23, 2015

55 more shopping days

My kids aren't going to allow me to yell at them for 2 weeks straight while I make their costumes.  They are cutting me out of the process.  Maybe I'll get to rip Toby's clothes for her zombie, but that's going to be it.

The pro-choicers have gone about this thing all wrong.  I've started to call myself "pro-abortion"  to which people respond, "Nobody is pro-abortion!"  Screw that; I AM pro-abortion.  Maybe we could go for something cute like the "Nip in the budders."  I'm sure some clever advertising person could work in the rhyme of "udder" and "budder" for a campaign slogan.  On this platform, I'll clearly be the nominee for the democratic ticket, I'll be debating Donald Trump.
"Miss Kinder, You believe in killing the lives of innocents!"  
"Actually, Mr. Trump, I'm going to take it a bit further.  I'm for abortion in ANY form even retroactive abortions.  If, for instance, your mother, Mrs. Trump regretted having given birth to you, a sentiment for which anyone without a heart of stone would have sympathy, she could go to her gynecologist at Planned Parenthood and ask to retroactively terminate her pregnancy.  Planned Parenthood wouldn't perform the procedure, but one of their affiliates would take care of the problem.  Planned Parenthood could then profit by organ harvesting in addition to their current fetal tissue sales.  Imagine if they discovered that you didn't even have a heart to harvest after your procedure?!"  
"I can see your point in the case of retroactively aborting the criminal spawn of illegal immigrants, but what about the innocents in the womb?"
"Well considering that I'd be willing to allow a virtual going back in time to abort rather than murder someone, let's go forward in time and look at most of those "innocents" when they've lived a life unwanted, uneducated, and without proper healthcare.  Very few of them remain innocent under those circumstances, so, therefore, better to just nip them in the bud, so to speak."
(massive applause)

I don't think I have a future in politics, but I'll bet Pope Francis didn't expect to be Pope. He and I share the same birthday.  Maybe this is the moment for the December 17th-ers to shake things up.  I just googled "people born on December 17" and this came up:

Endowed with strong sense of optimism and level-headedness, 
 except when faced with lost water bottles, complaints about meals, and poor behavior at school individuals born on December 17 are practical and charming folks with a hardworking and determined nature. These people have high standards and a warm-hearted independent spirit. However, given the same, they possess the maturity to accept failure as well and do not get let down by the same. or they drink so much after they've failed that they forget about it.Although self-disciplined, they enjoy breaking the rules from time to time. December 17 individuals aim to strike a balance between their ambition and dream on one hand and the assessment of their practical side and actual realization of goals on the other hand. They are methodical and disciplined in their approach and never in a hurry, taking everything one step at a time. 

December 17 individuals are health conscious folks, sometimes to the point of being health fanatics as well. Mostly, those with this birthdate face a health condition early in life which makes them extremely conscious about health matters. These people eat wisely and take in nutritious food in their daily diet. They refrain from binging on anything that is unhealthy or harmful in their daily routine. all true if you leave out the alcohol  
Another aspect on which December 17 folks are overly cognizant about is including physical exercise in their daily routine as a way to remain fit and healthy. They make sure to exercise daily for achieving overall vitality and strength. However, December 17 folks should concentrate on weight-training as it is supposed to reap in much more benefits and add on to their aim for a healthy life. I'm not a poster girl for editing, but why wasn't that bit about weight training edited out?

Financially, individuals with their birthdate on December 17 hardly face an issue all through their lives. They are destined to make money and hence find financial security for themselves and their families. Just like earning money is not much of a problem for these folks, similarly, spending is also not a curtailed effort. is becoming a serious vice People with this birthdate have an open heart and open mind and spend generously. They need to control their spending streak just a little to enjoy a balanced financial position.

The career opportunities for individuals born on December 17 are wide and varied. These people possess great entrepreneurial spirit. They are ideally suited for jobs that allow them to make a one-to-one contact with people on a regular basis. It was all looking good until I got to this part.  I spend most of my time alone with lumps of clay.  Maybe that's why I have imagined conversations with Donald Trump, Michele Obama and Brad Pitt. This is because these people have a keen understanding and knowledge of what people around them want and tirelessly make efforts and research on various topics and themes to back up their intuition. 
 yet another missed opportunity for editing, but it sounds like 12/17'ers assert that they are right about something and then search tirelessly for evidence to support this assertion.

Relationships, Marriage & Children 
Relationships are important for individuals sharing their birthdate on December 17. Whether it is parents, friends, relatives, neighbors or love interest, these people maintain healthy and cordial relationships with everyone. Romantically, these people are a little hesitant to get into a love relationship. 
 Until they find "the one," they just pretend to be in love so they can have regular sex and work all the time. This is primarily due to the fact that December 17 individuals look for autonomy even in a love relationship as well. Though space and some sort of freedom is necessary for December 17 natives, they do understand the value of having a soul mate and prefer to go through the good and bad of life as a couple than single. December 17 individuals make exceptional mates and strive to keep romance alive.  by spraying whipped cream on their mate's coffee periodically As far as parenting is concerned, they believe in giving their youngsters independence and freedom. As such, they do not make strict disciplinarians and instead allow the little ones to make their own rules and be conscious about them. How does that work out for the December 17th ers?  It's not going so well here in Mt. Airy.  Maybe that's why Pope Frances in all his wisdom chose a life of celibacy.  He can be the holy father of the Catholic Church, but he'd raise a bunch of wolves who don't know how to behave if he had his own children.

Speaking of children, I was on a field trip with Jack Peter's class.  His teacher said that he's very happy to have only 1 child.  I thought that strange, but after a day with 27 4th graders, I marvel that he didn't get a vasectomy.  I discovered through the mommy rumor mill that this teacher, Mr. Sylvan, used to be Mr. Hoffman.  He TOOK HIS WIFE'S NAME.  That galls me.  Why didn't I get Tim to take MY name?  The world has enough McDonalds in it.  Tim's family alone meets the worldwide quota of McDonalds. Tim has also told me that he hates the liaison between the "M" at the end of Tim and the "M" at the beginning of McDonald. The "clean-favored and imperially slim" (my father's words) Kinders are a dying breed.  I could have followed my dream of naming one of my daughters IO.  It just looks/sounds cool to me.  In mythology IO didn't do much.  She seduced Zeus and either he turned IO into a cow to hide her from Hera or Hera found out, was pissed, and did it herself.  Naming a girl after a home wrecking slut who got turned into a heifer is questionable in general, but imagine if her last name is McDonald.  Old McDonald had a cow...E I E IO!

I've been marveling over the 6 failed pregnancies Tim and I went through trying to have a 4th kid.  It's mind-boggling.  What kind of person doesn't get the hint like that?  Being a potter is my excuse.  I make A LOT of really crappy pottery.  Only about 15% of what I make really sings.  I throw stuff into my shard boxes in hopes that a prolific mosaic maker will come and take them away.  I donate pots to charity events.  It follows that I wanted to have tons of kids because given my success rates in the studio, there are bound to be some lemons in the bunch.  And yet, every kiln I pack with the thought that every piece in it is going to be FABULOUS.  Blind optimism runs my life.  I wonder what Tim's excuse is.

We definitely have our hands full with 3 kids.  Another mom was admitting that she NEVER goes out with her husband anymore.  It's kind of true for us as well.  Not only that, we don't see friends unless they have kids our kids' ages.  My neighbor, Kathy has 2 kids, 7 and 10.  They fit perfectly into our posse.  Kathy is now my best friend; I met her a year ago. If Lizzie Borden moved next door with 3 kids 9,8 and 6, she'd be my best friend too.  A waiter or a bartender will also become my best friend if he/she is at all interesting.  Jen and I went out with 4 kids for burgers and beers.  We are now at the stage that we can sit the kids at a different table.  The waitress amused our kids and then came over to tell us about her transgender life.  The kids would move in and out of the conversation as they visited our table to report each others transgressions.  At dessert, they couldn't choose between the milkshake or the doughnut for dessert, so transgender Scotty threw a doughnut in while the shakes were in the blender.  "Hmmmm, Jen, In Philly we put kale in our smoothies; in Lexington you throw in a doughnut????"  Scotty has an open invitation to come live with us in Philadelphia.  Hungover Jen had to deal with the question, "Mom, what's bottom surgery?" from her daughter on the way school, but that was the only fallout.

Jen has since told me about "snissing" which is wetting your pants when you sneeze. There are a lot of little annoying things like that about being a mom, but nothing's perfect.  I did an exchange program in France when I was 15.  We weren't wanted at school because the French kids were preparing for the BAC, and we distracted them, so the 4 other Americans and I roamed around the south of France for 3 months.  It was amazing.  I lived with a family in Juan les pins outside of Antibes.  They were fun and smart. I went skiing in the Alps, I saw tons of art.  I ate amazing food.  It was one of the best times in my life.   The only thing that really annoyed me was the pepper.  How could French people have such flawless taste in everything and then they go and choose white pepper over black?  I think about how much I missed black pepper on that trip.  I also think about how I used to hang out with friends and do whatever I wanted all the time, with neither sniss or peeze issues. Now I end each day going to bed exhausted, looking wretched and wondering what I did to f up my kids that day.  But every morning I wake up thinking my coffee is coming soon, and it's going to be a perfect day without tantrums, conduct referrals or mouse shit on the counter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The bigot and the bitches

This tweety bird night shirt is by far the trashiest piece of clothing I own.  I do love tweety bird, but that's not enough of a reason to buy and wear something hideous.  It's comfortable, and the kids love it, so it's eluded many a purge.  I happened to be wearing it on Friday OUTSIDE on my lawn as Toby and I waited for her ride to school.  I was dead-heading marigolds.  I didn't think too many people would see me.  Toby's ride got later and later.  I started to blame the lack of a chauffeur on my imprecise oral communication skills.

In a moment of incongruous initiative with regard to a possible "tardy" on Toby's  kindergarten record Tweety and I brazenly rallied Toby into the Minivan.  I was feeling OK about my parenting as we hurtled down Lincoln Drive until we hit traffic.  If one is late to Green Woods Charter School, one has to get out of the car and walk one's child to the front desk to sign a f-ing "tardy" slip. If I had to walk Toby the 200 yards to school barefoot in nothing but Tweety and my driving glasses, I would have had to withdraw all 3 of my kids from one of the best free schools in Philadelphia.  I was sweating; my heart rate went up.  Being the white trash mom of the bigot and the bitches was more than I could bear.  I got Toby in on time, so I stayed in my little Honda Odyssey cocoon, but I'll NEVER do that again.

Is Steel a bitch?  I'm sure her irritation is palpable when people are misbehaving in 2nd grade.  She and I heard about Jack Peter's first conduct referral of this year on Schloka's speaker phone.  (Schlocka is the Honda Odyssey)  Jack Peter hadn't said a thing when I'd left him at the house, but his teacher called while Steel and I drove to dance.  After listening to Mr. Sylvan's message on our booming surround sound, I said to Steel, with some exasperation, "What do you think will make Jack Peter stop screwing around in school???"  Steel said, "I think you need to beat him."
She definitely speaks her mind.  Deena discovered a note to her boys penned by Steel listing all of their infractions at JP's most recent birthday party.  These two are notorious in our house.  Steel and Owen fell in love at first sight when she was 5 and he was 7, but it's gone downhill ever since.  Toby and Coleman have hated each other on sight, and I'll probably be repeating this in a toast at their wedding.  However, Steel was walking on air tonight after the Benner boys left.    Steel had emphatically told Owen to "STOP!"  He'd looked her in the eyes, said, "OK" and handed over the spray-on hair color he was about to unleash upon her.  She was so tickled by her power and by his submission.  Steel is the one who pushes the hardest on my buttons.  You're all saying "BECAUSE SHE IS YOU." in your heads, but I didn't have her balls when I was 7; I certainly wouldn't have confronted a cute, raspy-voiced 9-year-old boy.

Toby, too, is having a hard time with suffering fools.  Maybe it's sexist to call either of them bitches; I'll call them both bitches in training.  Toby came home from aftercare IRATE on her 2nd day of kindergarten.  She'd held onto her ire for 3 hours.  Apparently, her teacher, Ms. Lowell, was drawing lines on the projector to discuss shorter versus longer.  She was doing it by hand which was fine until she got to the "equal" lines.  Toby fumed, Ms. Lowell and the entire class agreed that the lines were the same length when one was DEFINITELY longer than the other!!!!"  I know it's not right to contradict an adult, but she and everyone else were WRONG!  I jokingly e-mailed Ms. Lowell that night that there's an architect's daughter in the house, and she needs to start using a ruler. 

Toby was also incensed at her first soccer practice that a boy on the other team had PUSHED HER.  She might be too polite for team sports.  She was also unimpressed by Steel's description of their free range aftercare program.  Steel said, "I hope we get to run around in the woods today!"  Toby said, "You run around the woods?  Are there any ADULTS?"  Steel responded that no, there were just kids.  Toby, "Well than I'M NOT DOING IT!"

JP is the bigot.  Why?  Somehow on a playdate with Owen and Cole, they had come across a Utube video with the line, "Now there are 7 NIGGERS in my store!"  I still have no idea what they were watching.  JP waited until the first week of school to chant that line aloud IN FRONT OF THE HEADMASTER'S SON.  I was lead to believe that the headmaster was kind of a jerk.  Sadly I've had quite a few experiences with him, and he's been anything but.  The first was a phone call.  He was relaying an allegation about Jack Peter involving saliva and a female student in the bus line.  Mr. Masterson gave me an unbiased, "heads up" rendition of the situation and that was that.

My second Masterson phone call involved "google docs."  In 3rd grade they shared their writing via google docs.   JP figured out that he had an e-mail because he had a "google docs" account.  He started sending e-mails to his friends.  He started sending them to his enemies, as well.  He wrote one saying, "PLEASE DIE" to the girl who told his current girlfriend, Juliana, about his crush.  Mr. Masterson called and said that not only was he impressed that Jack Peter had discovered the e-mail capability but also that JP had changed his password.  Very few faculty members had managed to figure out changing their passwords.  Mr. Masterson admitted that it was Green Woods' responsibility to disable the e-mailing capabilities for 8 year olds.  When the "Please Die" part of  the illicit e-mail situation came up, Mr. Masterson said to me, "Well, as his lawyer, 'Please Die' is passive.  Had he written, I'm going to kill you. he'd be suspended."

A couple weeks later I had the pleasure of a another midday call from Mr. Masterson.  They had just discovered a google doc written by my son entitled BAD WORDS.  Jack Peter had listed the top 10 in Helvetica.  He'd then switched to a more Halloween-esque font to finish with the line, and don't forget CRAP!  One of those top 10 was NIGGER.  This was last spring.  When asked, he claimed he didn't know what the word meant, but he knew it was bad.  We'd punished him by making him write the definitions of all of the words while the girls got a movie night.

In light of that, this year's nigger incident (chanting the line, "now there are 7 niggers in my store") was unforgivable because he no longer had the "I didn't know what it meant." excuse.  We made him write a report on Jackie Robinson, and I got to say repeatedly, "This is why we don't let you on the internet.  YOU CAN'T HANDLE IT!"
We thought that writing the report while the girls and the neighbors watched a movie would be enough of a punishment to squelch his enthusiasm for bad behavior, but a week later we got our first conduct referral phone call of 4th grade.  Jack Peter's teachers always start out serious, but it devolves, and then they're gushing about his wit, generosity, intelligence and creativity by the end of the call.  This conduct referral was for general horsing around in class.  Under "time of incident" his teacher had written, "ALL DAY"

This was JP's response to "dress down day"

In all interaction with school I am as obsequious and funny as I can possibly be.  I come from a long line of teachers, and I know I'm too self-involved to be one, so it breaks my heart and pisses me off when people are wretched to anyone working at a school.  Our school has a particularly efficient, smart, funny and hard-working administrator.  I could e-mail her at 10 pm and have a response by 11.  She's the one up at 5 in the morning dealing with snow days and transportation issues.  She also takes the time to send cute e-mails telling me she caught my son stopping to smell the Christmas wreaths.  She is directing traffic in the rain, getting copies of transcripts, and giving her lunch to a kid who's hungry.  

Every year, she has to liaison between the parents and the incompetent City of Philadelphia bus system.  This year she was verbally abused so many times that the principal had to send out a mass e-mail reminding parents that the administrator has NOTHING TO DO with the transportation issues and that all complaints should be going to the the district transportation coordinators.

I sent the administrator a "top ten list" of responses she should make to rude parents:
10. "Call the district.  If you're on hold for over 7 hours, you're eligible for a drawing.  The winner will get to have dinner at a Steven Starr restaurant of his or her choice with THE POPE!"
9. "After a recent study in childhood development, we've deduced that Green Woods kids are over-scheduled.  These long bus rides were created to give your children time to day dream."
8. "We are hoping Green Woods parents meet these transportation challenges with a family perusal of world news.  We want Green Woods students to understand that a 2 hour bus ride is mild when compared to a beheading"
7. "Oh come on!  You loved it.  You got to scroll through Facebook for two hours without having to answer any questions or do laundry."
6. "Green Woods is striving for an all-around education.  This includes survival-in-the-wild techniques.  The next time little Elvis feels he needs to pee while he's on the bus, encourage him to urinate in his water bottle and retain the contents for future use.  On back-to-school night, the PTA will be handing out little funnels to help the little girls with this endeavor."
5.  "We are sure that your catchment school will still accept little Elvis if the transportation issues are too much for your family.  His slot at Green Woods is a highly coveted item in Philadelphia"
4.  "This was an introduction to our "transportation software hacking boot camp!"  Your child has the opportunity to compete against the best and brightest city-employed engineers to devise a better system.  The winner will receive 5 TRAILBLAZERS!"
3. "These transportation hurdles were devised as testing opportunities.  Masterman and Harvard are no longer looking a standardized test scores.  They are using a "reality TV approach" to evaluating children in times of stress.  Let me assure you, Mrs. Cranky, Little Elvis is doing VERY WELL on these new tests."
2. "Just be glad your kid wasn't on bus number 98.  They sat on the bus for 4 hours and 37 minutes, and each and every one of them emerged from the bus with a head full of LICE!"
AND THE NUMBER ONE ANSWER to irate parents with transportation issues is:
1. "I hear they have FABULOUS schools right across the river in Lower Marion.  Have you considered MOVING?????"

I save my bitchiness for my poor husband.  Recently this worked out really well.  I'd been in charge of everything at home for a few days.  Tim returned and was trying to get together a pitch to a developer.  He wanted me to sit and listen to the presentation when I wanted to go to bed.  I listened.  It sucked.  I told him.  He stayed up until 5 revising it, and the meeting went really well.  Tim thanked me the next day and told me that I was the reason things had gone well.  That made me feel good...sort of.

Instead of making Tim Creme Brûlée for his 51st birthday, I bought a flan from the guys who sell them on the street for $5 in the Puerto Rican neighborhood.  It got a little dented in my bike panier, but it was flantastic in theory.

My bitchiness was unfurled again last Friday.  Tim had been gone for two weeks.  He'd threatened extending the two weeks to help his uncle prepare for his aunt's funeral.  Despite the tragedy of his aunt's death, I felt completely justified when I texted, "YOU NEED TO COME HOME AS SOON AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN," Someone else could help with the funeral; whereas no one was going to help here with the bigot and the bitches.  In a shocking turn of events ANOTHER aunt on his mom's side died 5 days later.  After 5 days home, he was going back to Canada for her funeral.  Incidentally, Steel probably isn't a bitch, but she might be a witch.  On the night that Patty, Aunt #1, died, Steel said at bed time, out of nowhere, "If Aunt Patty were our mom, she would spoil us all the time!"  She'd met Aunt Patty once in June.  Indeed Patty and Uncle Norman spoiled my kids rotten. I'd see them sneaking away with a posse of kids and Duty Free Toblerone bars the size of the kids' legs.  One can't help but think that Steel felt something from Patty on the night she died.

Friday is piano night.  We alternate between our house and Kathy's.  It was her night, and she suggested Tim and I go out to dinner instead of hang out with her and the kids.  (Kathy is divorced.  Perhaps that gave her insight on how necessary it was that we have 3 hours together before he flew away again.)  We went to happy hour and ordered a fancy gin drink.  It came, and he got a phone call.  He told me he HAD to take it.  It was from a colleage of 12 years ago whose son was in jail.  Could Tim go and bail out the 35-year-old son?  The charge was aggravated assault.  I'd never heard of this woman.  As far as I was concerned, her son could fester in jail while we enjoyed our gin Fizz.  It's funny how the thing that most attracts you most about someone when you marry them can infuriate you.  His generosity, energy and ability to handle a crisis are so attractive until it's everyone else's crisis he's attending to.  I told him he couldn't go.  We still don't know what would have happened because he was fighting me on that point when the woman called to say she'd gotten someone else to do it.  This white-trash, barefoot, tweety-bird-nightshirt-wearing bitch might've been arrested for aggravated assault if he'd left me at that bar...

or maybe my response would have been similar to Toby's if someone had taken away her first milkshake...

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Time Suckers

Not only do I waste time gardening.  I also waste time arranging cut flowers from my garden.

At some point during our annual visits with Tim’s ambitious brother Mike in California, he asks me about expanding my business.  This year he brought up the success of the Heath tile company in Sausalito.  Apparently the couple who bought Heath has turned it into a 14-million-dollar, nationwide company.  One of my ambitions for this summer was to change the side on which I part my hair.  I’m trying to floss more, and I also would like to read to my youngest child more.  Neither of those goals has been met, but the part part has been accomplished.

Screw expansion.  I’m not the 3rd world country I used to be in terms of ceramic output.  First of all, I can’t hire anyone because I spend most of my home life asking people if they’ve accomplished tasks.  The answer is usually “no,” so I nag, threaten and cajole.  If I have to do some menial tasks to avoid asking someone else to do it, so be it.  I can’t devote more time to work because all I want to do is garden.  I need to get a bumper sticker that says, “I’d rather be weeding!”  I'll put it right below the one that says, "I'd rather be potting!"  It sounds like I smoke a lot of marijuana.  Another garden-related time suck: Steel has started to write notes to the flower fairies, Dahlia, Pansy and I can’t remember the third.  We had tears over the weekend because those fairy bitches hadn’t responded in THREE DAYS! 

 I know it's probably beginner's luck, but doesn't that look AMAZING?!  My neighbors are actually starting to refer to me as "The Gardner" or "The Zinnia Lady."  I've also gotten some dismissive, "You know that they are all annuals, don't you?" comments.  I think I've got a line on some perennials for next year, so those nay sayers will have to kiss my Bee Balmed ass.

Then there’s my weird sense of thrift and sustainability.  How long do I spend going through bags of hand me downs looking for the next pile of clothes for each of my kids? It’s a challenging cost/benefit analysis when they complain about what I bring home from the loft at my studio and a new outfit at Target costs $10.  Kids’ clothes are so cheap it’s terrifying. Were they all sewn by little Jack Peters, Steels and Tobys in Bangladesh?  Speaking of Target, another way I waste time is looking at towels.  A few years ago I had the brilliant idea to buy white towels.  White towels would make our filthy home feel like a spa!  And they'd have the added benefit of ensuring that I would always have enough to do a full white load.  Tim's tube socks and the cloth napkins never filled it up.  To avoid a wasteful partial load, Tim would throw it all in with the colors and turn everything grey. Despite our having a separate laundry basket labeled by Steel in Sharpie (Wights) not one, but all 8 of our "new" white towels look like someone used them to wipe their ass with it and then hung it back on the rack.  I've never wanted a "nanny cam" before, but I'd love a towel cam.  It's so humiliating to give them to guests, but one cannot take a new towel purchase lightly.  There are amazon reviews to consult, mountains of terry at Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond to fondle, and maybe Ikea has amazing towels.
A rare trip to buy new clothes at Target...

Last year my new prescription sunglasses were stolen from my car the first night we were at our new house.  Have I replaced them?  No.  Going to the eye doctor is an out-of-the-question time suck, and I get a free pair of glasses every 2 years, so I might as well wait.  See how much time and money I save?  The other day after a harrowing car ride, I spent a good hour googling “fractalized vision” and assuming I had a brain tumor.  2013’s prescription sunglasses are in a swim bag somewhere.  The 2011 ones live in the car.  My research revealed that wearing glasses with an improper prescription can create weird geometric divisions in vision.  OK maybe a trip to the optometrist would have been a better use of my time.

My most Sisyphusian time sucker is the battle against wasting anything.  I justify it by claiming that I’m green.  I roll my eyes at Tim when he, once again, forgets to bring bags to the grocery store.  I seethe when he opens a new bag of salty snacks without finishing the stale, wretched ones lurking behind the cereal.  Bear in mind, my husband is actually trying to change the way buildings are built in this country.  Buildings create 75% of our greenhouse gasses.  There are optional tax incentives written into the briefs for subsidized housing dollars.  The subsidized housing market is so competitive that developers almost always go for the incentives, so the incentives essentially become unwritten policy.  Tim is trying and succeeding in getting 37 states to give points for 0-energy, passive house subsidized housing projects, so he deserves a fresh bag of pretzels.

Meanwhile, the girls went to a birthday party in March.  One of the games involved picking peanuts up off of the lawn.  The bags of peanuts were weighed, and the owner of the heaviest bag was given the first choice of the dollar store prizes on the prize table.  Toby was apoplectic because the Frozen pencil case went to a girl who picked up more peanuts.  I spent the car ride home bellowing about how it’s all crap that’s going to break and she shouldn’t be crying about cheap toys.  Both Toby's and Steel's bags of peanuts ended up in a bowl on the counter because I couldn’t throw them away.  No one in our family eats peanuts.  When I got sick of the bowl on the counter, I ignored Toby’s pleas to be read to and instead spent an hour shelling peanuts to turn them into weird, natural peanut butter.  No one ate that either.  Then I baked them into peanut butter cookies.  I tried to slip in some whole-wheat flour because I don't want to waste it even though no one likes that either.  The cookies got re-branded as “breakfast bars” and ended their lives in the stomach of Brittney’s less-than-discerning boyfriend at MIT.  I’m saving the world one peanut at a time.

I should at least be making a ton of pottery this summer because my kids are in camp for 6 weeks.  The camp day is 2 hours longer than their school day.  They go to subsidized inner city day camp.  It’s really cheap and great, but there are a lot of fancy camps out there.  I’ve started lying.  Steel is doing an AMAZING week of cairn-making camp.  It was her special treat because she did an overnight camp for a week in the Hamptons at Currency Manipulation Camp.  JP is doing a week of tattoo camp followed by a really interesting hedge fund management camp.  Toby is going to do a 6-week SAT preparedness camp, so we’re having a GREAT SUMMER!
Tattoo camp...

Maybe Toby should be preparing for the LSAT.  She said to me out of the blue the other day, “Mommy, what do you love most in the world?”  I got a little misty and told her that I love her, her siblings and Tim.  She then said, “How would you feel if you couldn’t have us?  If you had to watch us be with someone else?”  I was sort of horrified.  “Toby!  That would make me so sad!  Why would you say something like that?”  Triumphant she replied, “Mommy, that’s how we feel about MOVIES!”  She set me up to get all maudlin, and then she went in for the kill; she's 5!

She’s been really funny lately.  She told us that there’s no gravity in her head.  “There are chairs flying all over the place!”  She does have a chair fetish, so I’m not surprised.  I’m going to be sad when her legs can touch the floor when she’s on a chair.  Seeing her little legs parallel to the floor when she’s on the toilet almost mitigates the fact that she always chooses to have a really long poop when we’re at a restaurant and my food has just arrived.  She likes to make whimsical conversation while I ask every 2-3 minutes, “Are you finished yet?”  At North 3rd she asked, “Mom, have you ever wanted to touch poop?”  I replied, “I’m sure most people probably do, just not enough to actually do it.”  She then said, “Freud says that playing with clay is actually an acceptable way to avoid the desire to touch your feces.”  I told her to hurry up and that we are more of a Jungian family anyway.  Back at the table,  I asked her if she was going to finish her potatoes and she said, “No, my mouth is bored with those potatoes.”  I wish my mouth would get bored with the heaping spoonfuls of Nutella I’ve been sneaking. 

(You know I'm kidding about Toby's knowledge of psychoanalysis, right?  I'm sure there are people out there who would reduce my life's work to a desire to play with feces, though.)