Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hell, Thy Name Is School Project

There are several words that strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. 

Chuck E. Cheese.
 Or, in my case, the school project.

At first I thought it was just me grousing about the school projects that my children are assigned. Then I quickly realized that I am not alone. Almost every parent I chat with brings them up in casual conversation which obviously means only one thing: they are assigned for the sole purpose of making us crazy. Or for the children to have a deeper understanding of the subject matter, but for my purposes it will be the former. 

Enter my daughter, who, through some cruel twist of DNA, has apparently inherited the procrastination gene from her both her parents. Up until recently, my answer to the lollygagging has been to just drag the process along until it's completed. But you know, that crap gets real old, real quick, plus it doesn't encourage her to change her habits. My new approach has been to remind her to get going on it and reiterate that it's her responsibility to get them done. After that, the chips can fall where they may. 

Here is how the conversation usually goes: (if I could do sound effects here, there would be a lot of almost choking sobs and snotty nose sounds)
Me:  have you started on your project yet?
Celi: (crumpling to the floor, face screwed up in emotional agony, tears welling, and wielding the body language of a whipped puppy) noooooooo...
Me: Cecilia. You have to get going on this. We can't take this up the last minute and I am not doing it for you.
Celi: (sobbing) I know Mommy, I'm sorry.
Me: Why are you crying?
Celi: I just don't knoooooowww. You're mad at meeeeeeeeeee....
Me: honey, I am not mad at you and there is no reason to cry about this. Just get started and we'll help you. 
Celi: (still boohooing) I'm just not perfect like Amber!
Me: (Siiigghhh) I love puberty. Anyone want to go for a lice check?

While entertaining, the problem with the conversation is that it doesn't just happen once. Know why? Because she still continues to do nothing, all the while bemoaning her existence as NotAmber.

And then a day or so later, we have the Exact. Same. Conversation.

And again, a day or so later. And so forth, until eventually, the switch flips on until lo and behold, the magic starts happening, and she squeaks it in just under the wire, which makes me totally crazy.

This is why the school project makes me insane. It's not the little plastic animals, or the endless power point slides, or even the white tri-fold boards. In hindsight, it really isn't the project itself. The problem, it would seem, is a young girl named NotAmber. Chuck E Cheese, party of one, your table is ready.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Those Long Dead Relatives Don't Just Find Themselves You Know

I am a major people watcher. This is why I like Facebook so much - to me it's virtual people watching, not in a creepy way, of course, but just as you might in person. I like to know what people think, why they do the things they do, what they think about what I do, what they think about what I think about why they do things. Sometimes this is known as being nosy, but I like to think of it as sociological information gathering through observation - sounds better, you know? Throw in my affinity for a good freak show and it is ON.

It's harmless, really. I don't have any interest in utilizing any information I may gather, I just like to know stuff. The same applies to useless trivia - need a garbage disposal for useless information? Look no further, yours truly is on the job!

However. There are times when this drive for omniscience goes too far. Like now, when I have basically blinded myself with my newly acquired Ancestry.com membership. Here is what happens when nosy garbage disposal gene blends with history nerd gene: nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Zero. See where I'm going with this?

Time stops. Finding out where my great great great grandmother's burial plot is becomes a matter of SIGNIFICANT IMPORTANCE!  AND WHY CAN'T I JUST HAVE A MOMENT IN PEACE?!?! Don't you know what's going on here?! Gah! (yes, I'm rolling my eyes too, okay?)

And then I look at the clock and realize that it is almost midnight. And that everything more than two feet away is looking a little jumpy and hazy, all at the same time. And that my head hurts, and I am thirsty, hungry and in need of a restroom break, not to mention a decent night's sleep.

In short, I have realized that this may be extreme, and probably need to get a grip. And I will say that one of my favorite things about Facebook is that it has allowed me and my far-flung cousins (who are all quite smart and witty people, I must say) to get to know each other a little better. And I also recognize that part of this curiosity about my ancestry is from being a fairly rootless individual, so I cut myself a little slack there.

But then I remind myself that there are so many things to know but the stuff that count the most is right in front of me. Every day. And surely, they want to know what their ancestral roots are too, right? Right! Mom's on it guys, don't you worry.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

God Told Her That I Was A Bad Person. Seriously. I Could NOT Make This Crap Up.

Several years ago, I was in a group of women that was pretty tight knit. We spent a lot of time together, all being in the same stage of life - that of being newly-ish married and raising young children. This group meant a lot to me, as I had been so excited about having a group of girlfriends, something that had been missing for a while. I was not from the area, and my own long term friends were scattered all over the state, so this group was a great fit. Or so I thought.

This went on for a year or so, but the over the course of about three or four months, I realized I was being edged out of it. At first I thought I really must be just imagining things, but eventually asked someone else involved if they had any idea as to what was going on. She had no insight at the time and the edging out continued until I finally gave up on all of them. I'm pretty proud, and have zero desire to beg anyone for anything, especially friendship, so I just "walked". And honestly, I think the part that hurt the most was that they all just let me go without a fight or even a whimper, which I took to mean that no one cared, or had ever really cared at all.

Eventually it came to light that the perpetrator was involved in a Christain sect/borderline cult, and that God had told her that I wasn't one of the right people to be involved with. She then managed to manipulate and weasel her way in between existing relationships, as well as started letting her real colors show. By the time I was told about any of this, she had made her own bed, because nobody wanted to hang out with her anymore anyway. I felt so relieved on some level, because even though it was crazy, it actually made sense - it was something I could understand. The hurt with those who did not even care remained though, and I have not seen or spoken to any of those women in quite some time, not out of anger, but resignation.

A lot of good came out of this, believe it or not. The women in this group are wonderful people, but I think they were never really my people. I'm brash, irreverent, loud and direct. I also tend to use bad words sometimes, and most of these chicks are penultimate small town southern belles, in every sense of the word. Plus, red lipstick is the name of the game, and I just really cannot stand the stuff. The point is that while I was friends with and extremely fond of them, the bond just obviously wasn't there.

However, I emerged from this extremely painful experience with some truly valuable insight. The whole time the extraction process was happening, I beat myself up. What was wrong with me? What had I done? Why did no one care? and such. This became slightly obsessive, to be honest. I like to know WHY things go the way they do, and not having any answers just made me crazy. I cried, I lost weight, I lost sleep, and I moped. A lot.

But. One morning, I woke up feeling like myself again. The first thing that came into my head was, "I don't care." Not in a flip way, but in a way that I knew I was free of the whole thing emotionally. It occurred to me that I don't care what they think. This has nothing to do with me. The change in my thinking was like being let out of prison. I felt so free. And so, that chapter in my life closed.

I actually consider this to be my best day ever. It opened my eyes to how false an image I had constructed for myself to try to be accepted. Ever since then, my confidence has grown, my self esteem has grown and well, my "give-a-damn" is busted. While I am far from perfect, I know that I'm pretty darn okay. I'm kind, generous, funny, honest, loyal and am an excellent friend. In hindsight, being pushed out of that group was one of the very best things to ever happen to me.

What about you? What good has come out of your tough times? Or have you had a similar friendship experience?

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Locked In The Bathroom And I Blame Bill O'Reilly.

In my house, there is one rule about TV for the kids which is basically if I don't like it, they can't watch it. This works fine for them 99% of the time, and the 1% that it doesn't, I don't care about.  That's right, Mommy is a cruel and ruthless dictator y'all.

However, since I can't exactly tell my husband what to watch, we have had to do some negotiating. Here are the terms: he does not have to watch sappy shows with predictable tear-jerking/medical tragedy and I do not have to watch Hunt for Bigfoot on Syfy with him. There are exceptions to these unwritten rules, but the hard and fast law is in regards to the "yelling shows", as I call them. They are not allowed, ever. Period. Thankfully, my spouse agrees with me about the format, even if we don't see eye to eye on the subject matter. (see this post: Newt Gingrich Is Not An Orthopedist)

This rule includes basically all cable news talk shows regardless of their points of view. I don't like any of those shows because a. I don't think that they promote a genuine dialog of various positions on an given issue and b. listening to the shouting and talking all over people is just really chaps my ass and c. I do enough yelling for everyone. We're all full up in the yelling department, so to speak.  (Don't judge me - I have Scotch-Irish roots so my crazy is genetic. My British DNA is the only thing keeping me sort of level.)

Anyway, here is how Bill O'Reilly got involved. Every morning, we watch the Today Show on our bedroom TV. Also every morning, the kids come into our bathroom for me to make sure their hair is reasonable. This morning, I was working on Cecilia's rat's nest while Matt Lauer was interviewing Bill, who as you may have guessed, I'm not a fan of. However, everything was cool until they started discussing Whitney Houston and the "yelling" started.

Me: I am not listening to this garbage! Bill has turned the Today Show into a yelling show!
Then I firmly closed the bathroom door for emphasis. It was not a slam. Mostly.

Me, a few minutes later when I tried to exit: Hey - the door knob won't turn! Hey! Oh my gosh, we're locked in. Lawton? Lawton! Honey?

Honey has already gone to the garage to select the various implements of destruction needed to break into one's own bathroom. Hence the no answer. He came back and began getting us sprung.

Cecilia: We're doooooomed! and all other manner of ten year old silly girl jibberish plus sound effects.

This went on for about ten minutes until my husband got the doorknob off and we got out of the bathroom, thank goodness. I really was not looking forward to climbing out the window and was even less excited about getting my daughter out of it. And, in all fairness, the doorknob has been acting up for several weeks, so we should have considered ourselves already warned.

However. The long and short of it is this: the way I see it, Bill O'Reilly locked me in the bathroom with his yelling on my beloved Today Show. When Ann gets back from whatever secretive mission she's on, I am soooo telling on him. 

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine Schmalentine

Several years ago, I told my husband that I no longer wanted to participate in Valentine's Day. He looked at me warily, like he was waiting for the trap to be sprung. Seriously, I swore to him, I mean it! We love each other, we both know it, and I really could care less about the so-called holiday, I told him. Let's just forget the whole thing! He agreed, cautiously, but still kept one eye on me, convinced this was some kind of gotcha moment. Not so, I promised, I'm dead serious.

As much as I'd like to say that it's because it's commercialized, or fake, or whatever, I'm just not that cool. The real reason I don't like Valentine's Day is because I cannot emote on command. Really, it's bad. The stuff I write in cards is horribly pathetic on a regular day, the stuff I try to come up with on Valentine's Day are words of legend, and not in a good way. The pressure of being romantic, sexy, lovey-dovey, or whatever is just too much pressure for my ridiculous psyche and what you get is a huge lump of stupid. 

We usually do a little something for the kids, and help them make valentine's for their classmates but that is about it. I have no desire to elbow my way through a crowded restaurant so that hubs and I can gaze into each others eyes, I don't need any overpriced flowers, and I can PROMISE you that I really do not want a stuffed animal. I would accept candy, but that is only because I like to eat, and it should be from the sale rack the day after. My husband doesn't care about any of those things either, so we've just agreed to let it go.

Now please note that I am only saying this is what we do. I'm not saying that anyone shouldn't enjoy V-Day as they see fit, or not. What I am curious about is what the rest of you guys think. Do you like Valentine's Day? Or do you, like me, just try to pretend it isn't happening?

PS. Maybe now that I've put it down for the whole entire innerweb to see, my husband will finally believe me. He still gets tweaky around this time every February - I think he still thinks I'm messing with him and that he is going to walk into a romantic apocalypse at any given moment.

PPS. Which now that I think about it, is kind of entertaining. Hmmm...

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And Then The Spider On The Ceiling Laughed At Me. True Story.

So yesterday was a regular day for the most part. I got to go to the Apple store and for a PC/Blackberry person, this is like going to an exotic foreign country. Super fun.

The wtf part of yesterday began when I spilled my soup all over my desk. Oh, and some splashed onto my clothes, leaving me to reek of eau du jambon (look it up) for the rest of the afternoon. No big deal really. Went to get the kids, headed home and began dinner.

For whatever reason last night, my children were being completely annoying. What? They were. The most frustrating part of this is that they weren't doing anything easily defined. Not quite disrespectful, not quite uncooperative, not quite disobedient - juuuust enough to really work my nerves. All evening.

Finally get them in bed with minimal scolding and then I decide to take a bath instead of a Xanax chased with a six pack, which is what I wanted to do. Better, right? No. Turns out this was not the right decision, for the following reasons:
  • Ran out of hot water. I guess I didn't wait long enough after the kids showered, which, as I see it, is totally their fault somehow.
  • Tried to read Skirt! magazine while sitting in the tub. Over sized publication (that I love, even though it betrayed me last night) apparently had a wedding insert in it that kept causing it to flop over. Fought with the magazine for a little bit...right unto it flopped over into the water.
  • I was using a folded up towel in lieu of a pillow (that I don't have - note to self) and when the magazine battle began, my efforts to keep the paper dry was counterproductive to keeping the towel dry. Le sigh.
  • Begin awkward scramble to get all undesired objects out of the tub. Shaving cream can joins the fun. Bubble bath bottle hits the floor, begins leaking.
  • Throw magazine across the bathroom, try to get all the way under the water and recover my wa. (look it up)
  • Towel slides in again.
  • Throw towel across the bathroom.
  • Heave huge sigh (which I'm really good at - just ask my husband) look heavenward to satisfy my need to be dramatic about how the universe is treating me at the moment.
  • Notice spider (that I'm sure is a brown recluse dripping with flesh eating poison) on the ceiling. Quite sure it snickered at me.
  • Finally, I give up and exit the bathtub and get dressed.
And people wonder why I go to bed at 8:50 PM. ^This. This is why.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When Your Mother Is A Huge Chicken

At the moment, I'm having ridiculous amounts of anxiety about Cecilia's potential future school situation. The school we are trying to get her into is amazing. Outstanding academics, athletics and culture - this place has it all. It also comes with a price tag that is approximately 30% of our annual income. Obviously this is not doable, so we have applied for a scholarship/financial aid and are waiting to hear the results. We've already prepped Celi about the possibility of this not coming to fruition because I'd rather expect the best and prepare for the worst. Maybe I'm a cynic, but I feel that being honest and direct about some of this is a better approach for us.

Truth be told, I'm actually more scared of her getting in that not, I think. I can handle disappointment and I'm good at cheering people up and pointing out the bright side of a situation that hasn't gone your way. I'm not scared of finding somewhere else for her to go for middle school, or of what anyone may or may not think of me. I'm scared for her. Which is hilarious, because she is not scared a bit. Waltzed in like she owned the joint this past Saturday when we went for her testing.

It's interesting how your own experience as a child shapes your perspective as a parent. When I was a kid, my dad decided that I was too precious for public school (don't even get me started - let's just agree that this was crazy) and sent me to an expensive school in a very exclusive part of town. How my parents afforded this is a complete mystery to me but went I did. Went and was miserable. Excluded, picked on, looked down on, mocked - you name it and it happened. I didn't have the right clothes, I had stupid hair and braces. I didn't live in the right part of town, I didn't know anything about snobby people and I managed to get my very first F. I was eleven. Less than one year older than my daughter is now, and in the same grade she will be next school year.

My own emotional scars keep screaming at me that this is the exact same thing. My inner voice is silently shrieking at me, "Why are you doing this to her? WHY? Don't you know what will happen to her? Didn't you learn?!" Then we go to the school campus. And it's amazing. And the girls who go there are accepted in the best schools in the country. And the teachers are amazing. And and and and and...

And so I tell myself over and over that this is not the same. And that if she is unhappy, we will simply walk back into her current school and pick up where we left off. And that we will talk to her about the pitfalls of elitism and snotty behavior. And that we are trying to give her an opportunity that could easily change the direction of her life forever. And that she is SO much better equipped than I was, due largely to having a much more stable and normal home life, and a huge familial support system.

But I'm scarred. And this makes me not just scared, but terrified. The very idea of my most precious daughter experiencing the same pain makes me crazed with worry. It makes me want to hold her in the place where I know it's easy, in order to keep her safe. But that's not safe, it's frightened, and sad.

Safe is being taught to fly, and then nudged from the nest, stretching your wings and catching the air, then sailing high into the sky. Safe is learning to stand strong when things are tough. Safe is the confidence you savor like candy when you've done something difficult. I want my daughter to soar with eagles, not hide like chickens. So if that means I have to jump from the nest too, so be it. We'll fly together, and if we don't, we know we tried, and I'd much rather say that we gave it a shot, than that we were too scared to try.

So, fly, my baby girl, fly.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hot Water Sets Egg

We eat a fair amount of eggs at our house - everyone likes them, and it's a quick and easy meal that's chock full of protein. The clean up is fairly simple and fast too, which is another plus. The interesting thing is that every single time I go to clean the pan that I've cooked the eggs in, I make sure to use cold water, because I hear my grandmother's voice saying, "Hot water sets egg. Use cold water so it won't be such a mess." I have no idea if this is really true or not, but I do it nonetheless.

This grandmother was fairly distant, some because of geography and some because of personality, but my memories of her are relatively innocuous if nothing else. The egg instruction, however, was actually something I remember her teaching me. Maybe she told me other things and I've forgotten them, or maybe that was it - regardless, I remembered it and have incorporated it into my regular cooking routines. And, like clockwork, hear it in my head at least once a week.

I was much closer to my other grandmother but I don't remember any pearls of wisdom from her either. She doted on all of her grandchildren and spoiled us all half silly and we were all in love with her. But I don't have any recollection of her telling me anything of import other than not to smoke, which I knew already. We were too busy discussing the superiority of Co-Cola in a small bottle versus the big bottle and how Miracle Whip was the devil. (She was absolutely correct on both counts, in my humble opinion)

When I was growing up, my mom tried to teach me useful things as well. The basics of cooking, sewing, housekeeping, etc., but I didn't listen. I learned to cook eventually, haven't had a laundry catastrophe in a while and can kind of make a button stay on, but can't hem a pair of pants to save my life. I wish I had paid more attention, especially when I need to remember how to do something I should already know, but I was too busy running wild all over our neighborhood, or just being unwilling to listen.

Now that I am raising a daughter, I think more about what she's taking away from her childhood. I know that kids learn by example but I do think that some things just need to be taught, like how to hem pants. What I'd like to figure out is how to teach my children things that will actually stick with them and be of use in the future, without making them feel like they are still at school when they get home.

Can you guys relate to this? I mean, I think pretty much everyone decides their parents don't know anything and stop listening to them at some point, but how do you bridge that gap? What do you want your children to know?

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