Parental Failure #732

My parents are coming to visit, so we spent the weekend cleaning the house. This morning I am sore all over, which is pathetic on so many levels. I know my mom would say not to worry about it, that they're coming to see us, not our house, but she's never seen my house at its messiest, and I'd like to keep it that way. I aspire to be the kind of person whose house can be ready for visitors with, say, an hour's notice. Right now, I need at least three days.

Anyway, as I was cleaning our bedroom, I realized I have gone wrong in a very significant way. Here is a sampling of the objects I was pulling out from the dust underneath our bed: A plastic tea cup. An Ariel bracelet. A baby doll bottle. A My Little Pony brush. A fairy puppet. A Little People car. I realized that not only an I a slob, married to a slob, raising two slobs, but that I have, in my slobbiness, failed to preserve the sanctity of the master bedroom.

I never would have dreamed of taking, much less leaving, toys into my parent's bedroom. My parent's bedroom was not a place to play. I never even went in there, unless it was to get a new tube of toothpaste or a fresh bar of soap, which were stored in the top drawer of my dad's dresser. (My whole life, I will never forget the smell of my dad's dresser drawer. Mom, Aimee, are you smelling it now too? That kind of soapy medicinal smell?) It's not that my parents ever told us to keep out; it was just understood that their room was off-limits (and boring).

My children, on the other hand, view our bedroom as an extension of their playroom. Why did we allow this to happen? In part it's because of the TV, I guess; in part, the fact that our room isn't set apart from the rest of the bedrooms; it's only three steps from the girls' room anyway. They tend to run in there after their baths to snuggle under the quilt on our bed, or to catch a few more minutes of Nickelodeon before lights-out. They also like to play wrestling or tickle games on the bed with Chris (while I go elsewhere -- I've told my kids I don't know how to wrestle. So far they believe me! And I can't stand hearing people being tickled; brings back bad memories of my big sister holding me down tickling me. I could never break free and I haaaated it. Ugh. I'm twitching right now just thinking about it.) It's not that I mind the kids being in my room -- there's just no reason, I see now, for the room to become a repository for their toys.

So -- new rule! Toys that come into our bedroom must exit the bedroom that same day. If that helps keep the bedroom even 25% cleaner, it's progress.

So, for about six years now, or as long as I've had children, I've been thinking that I simply can't keep the house clean because of the children. Not just because they're messy, but because they demand too much of my attention. This weekend, however, apart from a few minutes here to open up some play-doh jars and a few minutes there to start a Tivo'd episode of Drake and Josh, the kids were really good about keeping themselves entertained and out of my way. So I guess I don't really have an excuse anymore. Huh.



Today is our tenth wedding anniversary, and I was going to spin some kind of elaborate metaphorical post comparing our marriage to the traditional ten-year anniversary gift, but then I found out that the traditional ten-year anniversary gift is…tin. Or, alternately, aluminum. All I can think of to say about tin (or aluminum) is that it conducts heat well, and it’s recyclable. Oh, and it’s apparently not a good idea to chew on foil if you have fillings in your teeth. Or even if you don’t, one would think.

Ten years ago I was walking down the aisle of my little hometown church. It was hot. It was really, really hot. The organist was, it was discovered a few years later, a pedophile. One of Chris’s groomsmen, and the guy who read the Bible verse (“I am a noisy gong!”), were both at the time our brothers-in-law; now they are just jerks who did our sisters wrong. (It’s fun looking through our wedding album – hey! There’s the molester! Hey! There’s Jerk #1! Luckily, or really not, many of our wedding pictures were stolen when our house was broken into in 2000.) Instead of the more traditional vows, our pastor made us repeat the “I will lodge where you lodge” verse (from the book of Ruth?) – which is lovely, but we couldn’t look one another in the eye because it was also kind of goofy to say “I will lodge where you lodge” to one another. Even though we had the wedding in Texas specifically so many of my friends could be there, none of them showed (LSAT, MCAT, starting new job, planning her own wedding, wimped out for no reason). It was really, really hot.

But, as they say, it’s not the wedding that matters, it’s what follows, and what has followed has been good. (And really, I have very fond memories of our wedding in spite of all that stuff.) Now that we have children we have less time for one another, and that’s unfortunate. I miss the days of snuggling on the couch together, watching Iron Chef and eating ice cream; I miss long quiet afternoons spent drawing and reading and napping together; I miss being able to hug my husband without two little girls running up to say, “No, I want to hug Mommy! She’s my mommy! Let’s do a family hug!” But I’m glad that we’re in this messy, chaotic, disorganized life together; I’m glad that I have one little girl with his blue eyes and another little girl with his big toes and artistic bent; I’m glad, every time I hear him laugh or see him smile, that I’m the lucky one who gets to spend the rest of my days with him. I’m grateful that our bond is strong enough to keep conduct love and understanding even through the bad times, and that our good times are eminently recyclable into happy memories. (Ugh. See, that really doesn’t work at all. Who chose tin? Who decides these things, anyway?)

I love you, Chris. And I will always lodge where you lodge.



Back to real life.

My time away was fabulous. Charlotte is one of my favorite cities. I napped, I read books interruptedly, I watched movies in bed, I shopped, I got stuck in an hour-long traffic jam IN A PARKING GARAGE (but that was the only bad part). We returned, hugged the kids, unpacked, did laundry, repacked, and then were off to Atlantic Beach with twelve high school girls (who fascinated Mallory, of course). We swam, we splashed in the ocean, we ate lots of Cheetos, we played in the sand, we rode up and down the "galigator," we ate fried shrimp, we soaked in the hot tub. But I could just shut up and show you pictures.

This was the first afternoon, when we went for a walk on the beach and the girls swore they would just get their feet wet. Naturally they ended up getting soaked, then I got soaked when I had to fish Phoebe out of the drink when a big wave got her. I like the way Mallory is channeling Marilyn Monroe in one of these shots.

Later, we returned properly attired:

I was surprised at how brave both of the girls were at the beach. To be honest, watching the kids swim in the ocean, even at the very edge of the beach, freaks me out a bit, what with the possibility of being swept away forever and all. But Mallory and Phoebe loved it, even Phoebe, who last summer wouldn't even get into a wading pool. She stood and shouted, "It's coming! It's coming!" as a wave approached, and then said, "I can do this!" or "Take it one step at a time!" as the water rushed over her. Mallory's comment was that she had to be sure to thank God for making the ocean because it sure was great.

The only bad part about the beach is that apparently I've become one of those curmudgeonly people who can only sleep in her own bed. Something about that seems just so middle-aged. Sigh. So I'm a bit tired. Oh, and Phoebe has re-entered a tantrum-throwing stage, so we had a couple of big screaming fits about inconsequential matters, all of course at locations or times when I couldn't do anything to settle her down or flee the scene (on the bus, at the pool while Mallory was still swimming). I don't know if she was just tired, or if the stress of being potty-trained is getting to her, or if this is just a fun new phase. Whee!

The high school girls thought our little girls were adorable, and Mallory was thrilled beyond definition when three of them accepted her invitation to come swimming on Tuesday night. They quizzed her on the type of TV shows she liked and agreed with her that Drake and Josh, Camp Rock, and Zoey 101 were cool, but H20 was kind of dumb. (They also, like Phoebe, enjoy a good episode of Max & Ruby.) Mallory told Chris that she was going to make a picture for all the girls for him to bring to class when school starts up. "They can each bring it home for two days, then they have to bring it back and give it to someone else," she explained. (She also told me that I should be a teacher like Chris. "I don't know how to be a teacher," I said. "Well, here's the first step," she said. "When someone does their math problem wrong, you be mean to them. It's simple!")

Speaking of teaching, the funniest moment happened in the pool on Tuesday night, when the students noticed a cute boy in the hot tub. "Hey Mallory, don't you want to go to the hot tub?" one girl asked loudly, and when Mallory agreed, she whispered to her friends, "That's our excuse! Come on!" Chris, Phoebe and I followed a few minutes later; the girls were trying to engage the cute boy in conversation, but he didn't seem very interested. Then one of them said, pointing to Chris, "That's Mr. K, he's our yearbook teacher." The cute boy said, "Hey, do you mind if I ask you a few questions? I'm thinking about majoring in education," and then spent the next ten minutes talking to Chris about teaching. The look on the girls' faces was priceless.

So that's what we did on our summer vacation. As the girls put it, I wish it could've lasted forever and ever. Or at least a few more days.


Out of pocket

I've always liked that expression and never had the opportunity to use it, so there it is. I will be away, gone, no access to internet (unless I take advantage of the hotel wi-fi) for about a week. Tomorrow through Sunday, Chris and I will be in Charlotte (comic convention for him, reading/shopping/napping for me); Monday through Wednesday all of us are going to Atlantic Beach, NC (yearbook workshop with high school kids for Chris, lots of swimming and sand castle building for me and the kids and I do hope Chris can join us for a bunch of that). So, although I am quite sure that checking my blog is the highlight of everyone's day -- there won't be anything new here for a while. See you on the flip side (something else I've always wanted to say).


I wish . . .

I was there to give you a real hug.

I wish I could make it all right for you.

I wish I didn't live 1200 miles away.

I wish I had a magic wand, or magic words, to make you feel better.

I wish this hadn't happened.

I hope you know I love you, and that I am holding you in my thoughts and my heart, and that I will honor that little soul in my memory.


Thumbs Up for Phoebe!

In the hopes that announcing this news to the internet will not jinx it entirely, I report to you that our brilliant child stayed dry all weekend, even during naps and overnight. Way to go Phoebe! We went out for ice cream to celebrate.

She's very proud of herself:

And a bit shocked that I was taking pictures on her in the bathroom:

Naturally, this happened the day after I bought the the jumbo box of diapers. Here's hoping they go completely to waste. Well, I guess all diapers go to waste anyway, don't they? Ha! Ha! Uh, yeah. You know what I mean.


Excuse our dust

I made this whole layout my very own self! Well, to be precise, I purchased the background elements and then built the layout. It was easy. I'm not quite done; I don't know if it's quite right yet. I do like the owl.

The header definitely isn't done. I may have to borrow my husband's skillz. This is why I am careful to call myself a web editor, not a web designer.

Stay tuned!


Not so magic

Mallory’s class read most of the Magic Tree House series this year, so when I found out that the series author, Mary Pope Osborne, was coming to the UNC Planetarium for a special event and book signing, I asked Mallory if she’d like to go. “Mary Pope Osborne! Yay!” Mallory said, and, so impressed was I that my 6-year-old recognized and responded to the name of an author, I said I’d take her. (Then I found out that tickets were $20 a piece. Ouch. I went ahead and bought the tickets, and informed Chris that he and Phoebe couldn’t come.)

The big day was Saturday. Mallory woke up in a foul mood. She asked for doughnuts for breakfast. I said no. She threw a big fit. I said that, apart from the fact that you just can’t have doughnuts every single time you want a doughnut, which for Mallory would be every seven seconds, we didn’t have time to go get doughnuts before we had to leave for the Magic Tree House show anyway. She said I was mean and that she wouldn’t go to the show unless I bought her doughnuts. I said no. Another big fit ensued and she declared, loudly and with great passion, that she was absolutely not going to the show, she didn’t want to go anywhere with me ever, she wanted to stay home and play with her friends, I should go away and never speak to her ever again.

Well. At this point, frankly, I didn’t much want to go anywhere with her either, but I’d paid $40 for these tickets. It did cross my mind that I was out $40 either way, but staying home would save maybe $20 of gas, so maybe we should just not go. But then I figured that was the wrong stance to take. I told Mallory that she would enjoy the show once we got there. I told her that the tickets had been expensive and it would be a waste of money not to go. I told her that several of her schoolmates would be there too. I told her that if she did stay home she would not be allowed to play with her friends anyway. Then Chris told her that if she didn’t go, she wouldn’t be able to watch TV for a week. That worked. We got in the car.

I’d like to say that things improved and that we ended up having a fabulous time, but that didn’t happen. Mallory did cheer up some, but an attitude of sulkiness prevailed. When we drove into Chapel Hill and I said, “Mallory, look, that’s the apartment your daddy and I lived in before you were born?”, she – who usually loves facts like these – said darkly, “So?” She complained about walking one whole block from the parking garage to the planetarium. She refused to be impressed by the giant sundial or the exhibits in the lobby. When I pointed out a few of her classmates in the auditorium, she said those kids were not her friends and she didn’t want to say hello. We had to get up halfway through the movie to go to the bathroom, even though we’d gone right before it started. (“No, I can’t wait! You’re mean to make me wait!”)

She did seem suitably impressed to be in the presence of Mary Pope Osborne. She had her book signed, and, upon seeing the cover of the newest Magic Tree House book, told MPO that, “Penguins are my mommy’s favorite animal!” (Although when I offered to buy her the book in the gift shop, she opted for a lollipop/fan combo piece of plastic garbage instead.) As we were leaving, I asked if it had been as awful as she had feared. “It was just kinda bad,” she said.

You ungrateful brat, I thought to myself. I wanted to lecture her on the importance of appreciating the opportunities she had. I wanted to remind her that she told me she wanted to come to this event. I wanted to tell her that I was disappointed that she had come close to wrecking what I had conceived of as a special day for just the two of us. And maybe I should’ve said all those things. Maybe she needed to hear it. But instead, I just took a deep breath, took her by the hand, and started the walk back to the car. She’s just six. She’ll learn.



I was walking around the office, showing off some new pictures of my girls to a group of select co-workers. A woman I'll call Kay called me over so she could take a look. I don't know Kay very well, but I do know that her 18-year-old son, her only child, was killed in a car accident a few years ago. I showed her the pictures and thanked her for her compliments, which were effusive. And I walked back to my desk wondering how it was possible to show joy over other people's children when you have lost your own. I know that people do it, I know they have to move on, but I just can't imagine how.

And as I write this, I have the feeling that I'm being insensitive, that I'm suggesting that a good mother wouldn't be able to move on from grief. I don't mean that at all. I know that if I were ever tested in this way -- which, needless to say, god forbid -- I, too, would come to a day that I would be able to be happy again, to enjoy life again. But the process of getting there is beyond my comprehension. I can't see how I could ever come to accept that a life without this:

would ever be a life I'd want to lead.


It's Over!

No, I’m not talking about the democratic primary season, although allow me to say briefly – Go Obama! And also, although I am deeply sympathetic to the other candidate and how very crushingly disappointing this defeat must be for her, and although I have my own share of disappointment over how things have turned out because I would dearly love for my daughters to not even have to ask the question, “Can a woman ever be president of the United States?”, I am also deeply annoyed that she hasn’t conceded yet. You’re done! Now go away, we have more important work to do than to figure out what happens next to you.

But! I’m not here to talk about that. What I mean by my title is that Kindergarten is over for Mallory. It seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, well, except that I still remember the tedium of each and every handwriting worksheet, and still feel the pain of every morning wake-up (not a morning person, my oldest daughter) – but it’s done, and with this I feel she’s left the very last vestige of babyhood behind. She’s well and truly a big kid now. She can read (some), she has excellent penmanship, she can add and subtract and count by 5’s, she knows about planets and presidents. She loves recess, she groans about PE, she can count to ten in Spanish and she can recite a full litany of Catholic prayers (including “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Howard be thy name.”) She had a few bad days this year and has not, I’m afraid, quite learned how to recover from being reprimanded or corrected; she’s apparently very quiet in class and I suspect that she doesn’t let on how much she can really do. She needs to work on confidence and on following directions, and on NOT consistently being the last child to find page 47 in her workbook, or to get in line for lunch, or to clean up after Art, or to pack up at the end of the day. But overall she did good. And yesterday afternoon she dug right into the stack of worksheets her teacher sent home for summer work, so I think she really enjoys learning. That’s the thing I want most from her school experience, to enjoy the experience of learning new things, so I’m content.

All that said, Mallory had to write a sentence in class yesterday that summed up the year. She wrote: “In kindergarten I learned how to sit on the carpet.” Now that’s tuition money well spent.


Stealing a page

Last week, Aimee posted some of my nephew's journal entries from his 1st-grade year. Mallory brought home her journals on Thursday; I hadn't even known that they kept journals, so this was a nice surprise. She handed me the one from September and said, "Look at how sloppy my handwriting was! What was I thinking when I was five?" Her class only did journal entries on Mondays, so generally Mallory just recounted her weekend adventures. Here are some of my favorites:

January 22: I wet to pla en the snow. I mad a sno ajul and I at sum snow and I cam inssid to haf sum hit jiclit. (I went to play in the snow. I made a snow angel and I ate some snow and I came inside to have some hot chocolate.)

February 25: I'm haveg a dol prdy. Im geteg a pupy. (I'm having a doll party. I'm getting a puppy. We did not get a puppy in February, by the way.)

March 31: I wint to the hotel to swem. I went to the bech to find seshels. I went to the acwreeim. (aquarium)

April 7: I wete to see hotin hesaho. I winte to go to my gramas hous. I winte to the pets stor to bie to feshes. (I went to see Horton Hears a Who. I went to go to my Grandma's house. I went to the pet store to buy two fishes. Also a lie about the fish, by the way.)

April 21: I sawe a pink ranbow.

May 28: I wint to ride on a horse. I wint to my thrinds hous. I wint to the bousee house. (I went to ride a horse -- you guessed it, also a lie. I went to my friend's house. I went to the bouncy house.)

About the "thrind" -- Mallory had, until recently, still been pronouncing three and Thursday as "free" and "firsday." She makes great pains to pronounce her "th"s correctly now; however, now first and friend have become thirst and thrind. Someday she'll get it all right. And I'll be a little bit sad when she does.