Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Jig, As They Say...

So it's that time of year again...the time of year when you can demand good behavior out of your children with the mention of three simple words: "Santa is watching."

Such powerful words. Their utterance saves me so much time and aggravation trying to teach lessons of right and wrong. They hold so much promise, and also fear. I mean, what kid in their right mind wants to tangle with Santa Claus?

This afternoon I wielded this mighty weapon of enforcement for the season's first time. It was on the way to - well, where else am I ever going? The Y, of course - and a scuffle was breaking out in the back seat. One sister placed her personal belongings on the seat of the other sister, and said belongings were promptly launched back. Cross words were exchanged. As I spotted the trajectory of one of these belongings - possibly a book of some sort - cutting through the air on its way to strike someone on the head, I acted fast. "You know, Santa can see what you're doing right this very second." The object froze in midair.

And then, Fifth Grader said, "Oh, Santa." She said it in that way, you know...I nonchalantly turned around to face her, giving away nothing. Third Grader sat quietly, frozen in a state of Santa-induced compliance. I began to turn back around when Fifth Grader caught my eye and silently mouthed, "I know."

We had a moment alone before she went into the building - her sister long gone, running to catch up to a friend - and I must tell you, I wasn't sure what to say. So I said, ever so quietly, "What do you know?"

"I know," she quietly said back. " I know about Santa." She smiled at me with all the love and realization that I'd hoped she would whenever this moment eventually played out. Then she added, "I promise I won't tell my sister." And she was out the door.

Oh, sad, sad day. And happy day as well. Being Santa is one of those things that I fantasized about in the rare moments of my pre-parent life that I imagined myself with kids. (Trust me, there weren't a lot of moments that I actually imagined being a mother.) It is every bit as exciting and magical and aggravating and stressful as I pictured it would be. I confess that I have lately, at times, hoped that this would be the year she realized, if only to cut down on the work involved. Now that it's happened, I'm overcome with a strange sense of determination to keep Santa going. Not in the same way - well, partly in the same way, for Third Grader - but with the intention of keeping the season magical in her heart. Everyone needs magic in their heart, no matter what they believe. And now she can participate in that process a little bit, which I think will only make it that much more special for both of us.

In the end it's just one more bittersweet reminder that she's growing up. It's beautiful and awful all at the same time. And so much more lies ahead. I am thankful, though, that I have the privilege of knowing her heart, at least for now. Hopefully, if I do my job well, I will always have at least a window view.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Filler Post

If there were such thing as a Thanksgiving fairy, I would ask her for a new blog template. I would also ask for seven trillion more waking hours in the day so that I could actually get to my blog, write things, spend quality time assessing the myriad of available jazzy blog templates out there and selecting one with which to upgrade the visual appeal of this site.

Alas, there is no Thanksgiving fairy. Perhaps I should have asked the Great Pumpkin. Then this would all be done by now.

I have started...oh, a bunch of posts this week and have published nary a one. Why? Because there are NOT seven trillion more waking hours in my day. All of my current waking hours have been spoken for. By the time I have completed the work thing, the chauffeur thing, the feeding thing, the homework thing, and the tucking in thing, I am done being awake. Plus, it's about ten degrees outside, which means everywhere I go the dry, dry heat is cranked up, and this combination of dry cold and dry heat makes me feel like I have snakey electrical wire for hair by the end of the day, so all I want to do is GET IT AWAY FROM MY FACE before I RIP IT ALL OUT, and if I'm not already done in for the day, that pretty much does it for me.

So although I had so many clever things to say here, I have squandered them. And now it's Friday.

So here's a little trifle about Problem Child. She has some serious maternal instincts. Since we have rendered her unable to reproduce, she has turned her maternal instincts on inanimate objects. First it was a cat toy octopus that she carried around everywhere she went. Then she adopted a furry bookmark of Third Grader's and a strangely alien-looking stuffed animal of Fifth Grader's. We regularly spot her "babies" in her food and water dishes, where she drops them for nourishment. Once they have "eaten," she grooms them and moves them from room to room with her.

Apparently, now Problem Child has decided to best Angelina Jolie. She has decided that pipe cleaners make very fine babies, and has ransacked the girls' craft supply drawer in pursuit of further adoptions. As of this morning, she has added blue, yellow, green, orange, and black pipe cleaner babies to her family. Several are having breakfast right now. The octopus is babysitting one. I think it is bath day, as Problem Child felt it necessary to lovingly groom a red baby on the kitchen counter this morning.

I don't have a good ending for this trifle, other than to say at least those pipe cleaners have found their purpose. Lord knows they were not going to get used for anything crafty.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tumbling With Turkeys

I've spent the entirety of the last forty-eight hours immersed in gymnastics land - specifically, our first invitational of the season, the Turkey Tumble.

We did fabulous work. Fifth Grader won two medals. Third Grader won two medals AND a 4th place all around trophy. So very proud of them.

And I have somehow managed to assemble a column, which I now leave to your kind attention.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

They're Fake, And They're Spectacular!

Among the thousand tiny, unimportant details about myself that I have not previously shared in the blogosphere is this tidbit: parts of me are not real.

I'm talking nails, people. Please. Waaay too frugal to revamp the big stuff. Not that the big stuff needs revamping, thank you very much - but I have long felt a conviction to keep as true to the original model as possible. That is, until I discovered acrylic nails. And highlighting.

Yesterday being a school/work holiday, I marked the occasion by taking Third Grader to the nail salon with me. Normally I avoid taking either of them with me, but I made a horrible mistake three weeks ago and allowed the nail salon to take off my acrylic nails. I was desperate to restore my hands to a condition that didn't call for balling them into fists all day long, so I chanced it.

I don't know what possessed me to let them take the damn things off in the first place. I have been doing this to my nails since I discovered it could be done, something like 17 years ago. Discovering acrylic nails felt something like how I imagine it felt to discover fire. Nothing short of miraculous, really. My real nails are the thickness and consistency of onion skin. Hot water makes them hurt. A strong wind makes them hurt. They peel and crack and generally make my hands look like they have recently been mauled. Once I learned that I could make them look like normal women's hands by letting someone shape tiny piles of smelly goo into hard and shiny coatings, I never looked back.

That is, until my dishwasher broke a few months ago, and I had to resort to manually washing dishes. Not good for acrylic. So not good that, when I went for a maintenance visit three weeks ago, the tech insisted on stripping me of my tiny armors altogether. I still haven't gotten my dishwasher fixed, so I am still manually washing dishes, and I believe I have mentioned that hot water FREAKING HURTS my pathetically weak natural "nails"- more like jagged ovals of skin, with triple the nerve endings. I had to go back. I just had to.

So while I was sitting there, watching the tech restore womanhood to my fingers (while Third Grader got herself a mini mani with blue polish), I got to thinking about the ridiculousness of it. Paying money to get fake nails so I can feel real. I caught my reflection in a mirror, particularly noticing the ultra blondeness of my highlighted hair. My naturally blonde hair. Fake blonde highlights in naturally blonde hair. What is this madness?

I don't really know where I'm going with this. I just thought I'd mention it. Women are crazy, don't you think? Then again, there's Third Grader - sitting there with her clip-in purple hair extensions, getting her nails painted blue. She may be on to something, no?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What I MEANT Was...

Last night I heard the most shocking statement.

It wasn't the statement so much as who made the statement. It was me. And the statement was: "I wish I had a husband."

Whoa. Context, please.

It was just one of those days. One of those days where I threw myself into my work all day and wanted nothing more than to slip into a drama and activity-free night with the girls. A day where I spent my last few driving moments thinking about my pajamas. And, naturally, this means I was then met with truckloads of drama.

Dramatic moment number one concerned the after school program (ASP) teacher's report on Third Grader. Third Grader bit Fifth Grader. That's right. She bit her sister. Fifth Grader displayed for me the telltale semi-circle bite mark on her hand. I cannot recreate the details of the events leading up to the bite because I wasn't really listening. I was too busy trying to deflect the glare radiating from Fifth Grader's eyes that said "I do hope you are going to punish her for this."

Fifth Grader frequently complains that I do not practice equal opportunity punishment. For instance, when she whacks her sister in the head, she gets punished. When Third Grader does the hitting, no punishment. This is the World According to Fifth Grader. My response? Scenario two doesn't happen. Third Grader doesn't have an aggressive bone in her little body. On the rare occasion that Scenario two does occur, I can only conclude that her sister must have really ticked her off to warrant being belted. This, says Fifth Grader, is unfair. And here before me was her golden opportunity to prove her point.

But Fifth Grader then did herself a giant disservice by immediately creating Dramatic Moment Number Two: a massive tween meltdown, in front of everyone, about how I never let her do anything that all her friends get to do. I think what she meant to say was this:

"Mother, you know how we have that Winter Enrichment program in January? The one where we have to pick an activity for Wednesday afternoons? You know how today was the deadline for picking snowboarding, and we talked about how expensive that would be and I decided to pick something else? Well, I've had second thoughts, and they are giving me one extra day to discuss it with you again. Can we please reconsider?"

What she actually did was something like this:

(Yanks bitten hand from my view and pulls me away from teacher) "MOM! I forgot I asked S to sign up for snowboarding with me and she did but I didn't and plus ALL of my other friends signed up! (Face rapidly turning red, tears flowing) And now I'm the only one not going just because you said I CAN'T! How come everyone else can afford it and we CAN'T? I want to go too, they gave me another form today and said bring it in TOMORROW! If I can't go it's NOT FAIR!"

As you can surmise, the rest of my evening was enormously unpleasant. We had quite a heated "discussion," if you want to call it that. About not embarrassing me in public like that ever again. About how our initial snowboarding discussion actually went - which did not include the word "can't" - and about the fact that none of her friends' families are in possession of a money tree, either, but have to make choices like everyone else, including us. It eventually concluded - with hugs and restored respectfulness, and my promise that I would sleep on the whole issue.

I called my friend D to vent about the whole ordeal, and in doing so expressed my frustrations at facing these decisions alone. Hence, my "husband" statement. My choice to get divorced, I know - but that does not make the actual moments like these any less overwhelming. Do I punish? How do I punish? Am I depriving her? Am I spoiling her? Where's the line? Where are any of the lines? Not that having an active partner would magically produce all the answers, of course, but you know. Strength in numbers. Good cop/Bad cop. "Ask your father." All those options a single mom doesn't have. That's all I'm saying.

I did address the biting incident, by the way. It was as I suspected - an unseen first blow by Fifth Grader, which she admitted to. Reciprocal apologies and hugs, and stern words delivered on the wrongness of using our hands (and mouths) for violence. That pretty much tapped me out for the night. The snowboarding paperwork didn't get completed.

Until this morning.

Monday, November 3, 2008

And I Shall Call It "Lemonade"

I figured I spend so much time grousing about our never ending stream of guest tornadoes, I'd call it a column this week.

Gotta do something with the pain.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

How I Wish The Voices Would Stop

I don't know about you, but I am so glad that Halloween is over. It seemed like a particularly dreadful prospect this year, what with it falling on a Friday and all - like many of you out there, I had visions of trouble minded teenagers, driving themselves from house to house, showing up on my doorstop and shaking their pillowcases at me, demanding candy at an hour far beyond the published trick or treat curfew. This is a particularly daunting, yet highly unrealistic, fear where I live because nobody actually goes trick or treating in neighborhoods to begin with. The kids all go to the center of town, where everyone gets in on the fun. There's the insurance/stump grinding business with its presentation of one hundred jack-o-lanterns; the library; the Garden Club Witches on the gazebo in the common; the church of unknown denomination (though clearly not Catholic); and the handful of quaint historic residences still somehow occupied around the square. Oh yeah, it's a party all right.

This of course is where I took the Vampiress and her big sister, the Heavenly Devil (half-angel half-devil, how apropos), but not before turning on our lights and leaving an offertory bowl of candy on the front step like everyone else on our road. You can never be too careful with those teenagers. Anyway, it seems the economy has taken a swipe at our little town's Halloween ritual. Several houses that normally decorate to the hilt had taken a pass this year and just doled out their little Milky Ways from a Tupperware bowl. The house known for its snack spread and adult beverage offerings? Miller Lites and store bought cupcakes. Blah. Also surprisingly low on trick or treaters for some reason. The Barn of Blood, a perennial kid favorite, was at least still open for business. Don't let the name fool you: The Barn of Blood is a known lame performance, but the proprietor, "Dr. Death", features a "bottomless candy buffet" at the end of it. He's good for about half their take for the night, thus a popular fixture.

Anyway, enough of Halloween. I don't enjoy it. I don't like the cold or the dark or being scared. I don't even like candy all that much. So now that that's done, my brain has moved onto bigger and better things. Namely...Christmas. I woke up this morning humming Christmas carols. Ack! I was tempted to throw on a little Harry Connick, Jr. over breakfast to perhaps exorcise the tunes from my head, but that could certainly backfire, so I resisted. And they are still there. In my head. Playing. And they must go, because it is not right.

What I need is a tune of more timely import. An Election Day carol, perhaps. Do you know any songs about the end of Daylight Savings Time? How about hunting season? I may have to write something myself.