Monday, July 28, 2014

Weekend Edition

The kids were in fine drama form over the weekend. The handoff from their dad on Saturday was not smooth, setting the stage for uncomfortable feelings to creep out in unexpected ways for the rest of the day. At the end of an overdue visit with the grandparents Saturday night, the girls were mutinous with insistent demands for a sleepover on the spot, "The people don't want us to leave!"

What people? Grandma and Grandpa are moving . . . I'm going to be gone for most of the week. We're going home. TONIGHT.

There were lots of surly kid statements made on the drive home, and at first, I chewed them out, burnt from having to deflect the Spend the Night! argument 500 times.Violet announced she was just feeling really anxious . . . about Boys and Girls Club on Monday . . . about starting third grade in the fall . . . about her parents arguing in front of her earlier that day.

I shifted from the tired "you NEED to LISTEN to your mama!" refrain to explore the purpose of being on the planet. The point of struggle being how you respond to it - not that it exists. It's supposed to exist. The kids were engaged as the conversation meandered into related topics. At home, the kids asked if I had any books about spirit stuff.

I wasn't prepared to bring out the religious texts, so I handed my 8 year old a book about dreams and my 10 year old, The Secret, which I was surprised to spot on my bookshelf. With one chapter under her belt, Daisy adopted the phrase, "Like attracts like."

Maybe all that what goes around comes around, give and you shall receive talk inspired my special Sunday morning breakfast with reserved seating, lukewarm drip coffee, sunflower seeds, cold oatmeal, a chia seed snack my girls find slimy, and a meringue cookie. They talked about how long it took them to prepare it - and how the coffee was hot when they first made it. I truly appreciated their thoughtful efforts as I quietly put the food away and made a fresh cup of coffee.

For our Sunday fun, I took the kids to visit the baby cows I'm currently obsessed with at my place of work.

We ran errands with some early back-to-school shopping.

All I wanted to do for the rest of the day was be at home and get things ready for a busy week. However, that sneak Violet insisted she call her dad because she was "worried about him," if worried means getting us invited to a barbecue she knew he was at that just happened to be teeming with boys her age. I took us to the barbecue. I'm a team player; Violet, not so much. When it was finally time for reading before lights out, Violet refused to read, brush her teeth, or get in bed. She declared ALL THE OTHER KIDS AT BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB STAY UP ALL NIGHT, AND THEY TALK ABOUT IT ALL DAY LONG.

I had lost my patience by the time Violet got to that ridiculous claim, but she didn't stop there. My tone became more and more uptight: IT IS TIME FOR BED. YOU'RE GOING TO BE TIRED IN THE MORNING IF YOU DON'T GO TO BED NOW. AFTER EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND, YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO ME. YOU'RE ACTING LIKE A JERK . . . Daisy, my little Secret head,  reminded me helpfully from the other side of the room, "Like attracts like, Mom!"

Yeah, OK. It's not good parenting to tell your kid she's acting like a jerk and telling your kid you have done a lot for them is indiscernible white noise, but I had reached that trembling point past patience and logic.

My seething anger certainly wasn't having a positive effect on Violet who was throwing herself around the house. I remembered to hand her a box, an old anger management technique we had recently agreed to bring back.

Violet's anger shifted to laughter as she shredded that box. She said she was sorry, and it wasn't long before both girls were fast asleep. There is no peace like the quiet of an evening that follows kid-frenzied bedtime.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What the Pug

The 4th of July celebration at the Bindy family home this year was attended by an eclectic bunch I didn't know well enough to ignore from catatonia in a nearby lounge chair. So, I noticed when the kids disappeared for a while. I found them behind closed door, engrossed in an enthusiastic debate around a piece of paper. They explained they were writing a song about their love for pugs.

Daisy had pulled me aside earlier to confide, "I will never say pug ugly EVER AGAIN. Bindy's pugs are aDORable!"

In recent times, my kids' dad might have suggested we consider the term pug ugly as a defensive strategy against Bin's general bad attitude toward the dogs that run in our reorganized family pack. Bin's and my dog grudge match started several years ago, when my dog Sadie occasionally bit a member of Bin's family. I would characterize the incidents as more herding nips than bites and it never happened with anyone else's family, but Bindy might tell a different story. All I can say is I didn't see Bin's family acting naughty, but I trust Sadie to know who's out of line.

So when I adopted my rescued dog Scout a while back, I wasn't surprised when Bindy said he's not cute. She also doesn't believe that Scout is a designer breed, as I was thrilled to discover on the internet. I am certain that Scout is a Border Collie by Corgi, aka Borgi.

But here's where it starts to get personal - Bindy claims that Scout isn't even a long dog, which is madness because the dog is shaped like a corndog. I can't tell you how many times I've discussed the issue of whether Scout is a long dog with friends and family, and everyone always says my dog is long. Because I never waste my time arguing about things that don't matter . . . got that, Bindy?

Anyway, going back to last weekend, the kids finally rejoined Bindy's 4th of July party and asked me to get everyone in the same room for their performance. I wasn't completely comfortable in that role but the kids were singing a song they wrote, and by god, there would be an audience.

People were polite but the room wasn't filled with warm fuzzies at the end of the performance. I compensated by declaring, "That was GREEAAT . . ." while snorting loudly. I made eye contact with one person before exiting the room. The kids later told me it was perfect because pugs snort too. I think I'll take that one.

And here's What the Pug. The lyrics really aren't bad.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy Independence

One moment I found what I thought was a small patch of damp carpet, and then this happened.

My kids are gone this week. I was looking forward to flying free like the independent spirit I was meant to be. Instead, I burdened my parents. My father was over here for hours helping me with this today. Maybe he thought he'd be flying free in his sixties.

Speaking of dependence, Bindy and I were mostly surrounded by children last weekend. However, we found our freedom in the form of an OK motel with a great view and pool, meals out, chardonnay, and a stack of magazines as tall as a miniature pony, which isn't that tall but it is when you think of magazines.

I hid my tower o mags when I arrived to the motel. Didn't want to make Bin think I was going to ignore her or anything. She even joked about how when I was a new mom I would leave her with my child to entertain, feed, and clothe; ignoring everyone and everything except the magazine in front of my face and whoever I was playing Scrabble with. I smiled at her memory, leaning over from my lounge chair to hand her two magazines from my secret stash, pointing to my empty wine glass, and asking her about when the kids should get out of the pool for dinner . . . what are the kids having for dinner anyway? Things have totally changed.

But how can you relish freedom without responsibility? Loving some people is setting them free and loving other people is keeping them close, even in moments when setting them free sounds like it could be refreshing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


How is June over? It was the first day of June and the kids and I were rocking out at Music Fest, and then it's July. Before another month drops away, stop. dniweR.

Let's start with yesterday. As I rolled away from work, I noticed the Service Past Due 328 miles ago message on my dashboard that I've been noticing for about 300 miles. Remembering the 4th of July road trip to Bindy's on Thursday, I made the car appointment with the unexpected now timeslot, picked up the kids, picked up the dogs, dropped off the dogs, and dropped off the car. Somewhere along the way, Daisy spoke nervously about wanting to look for clip-on earrings. Many of her friends have pierced ears and she talks about it INCESSANTLY, but she's terrified of anything shot-esque.

Riding on the crest of getting things done, I announced we were walking to the mall while our car was in the shop. Daisy, if you talk about it this much, let's get it over now before you have time to go over it one more time in your mind. In typical little sister mode, Violet countered that it wasn't fair: ALL her friends had their ears . . . I stopped her before she got to pierced. Then get your ears pierced too. Done and done.

As I suspected, Violet was in before she took it back, in again, and out fo sho, all as Daisy solemnly faced the ear piercer. I wasn't entirely sure Daisy would get through it either, with visions of her in the not so distant past trying to kick and hit her way out of shots in true streetfighter fashion.

But there I go again getting stuck on a moment. This Daisy will face her fear of shots in the name of style.

I consoled Violet: your time to be brave for earrings will come. No rushing necessary.

June to be continued . . .

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Music Fest

In my twenties, live music was a regular part of my world and it would have disturbed me to know my children's first real music fest would be more than ten years into parenthood. It's not how I pictured it at all.

I know that life is not the pictures, but I thought I'd still try to have some fun with my daughters in the sunshine today at the Redwood Mountain Faire. In an attempt to distract them from another round in the ring this morning, I reminded them: Don't fight! We're going to have fun! FREAKING FUN. YEAH! Daisy was more into it than Violet and immediately started working on her outfit.

It took us a while to get out the door ready for the range of hot meadow sun to forest chill, but I was psyched. Violet was whiny and wanted to know how long the drive was going to be. I told her 10 minutes, and, just as we reached the parking lot, she wanted to know how long we were staying. I told her as long as we wanted - All. Day. Long. She protested, despite my clarification that getting to go to a music festival is a treat. We got out of the car, and Violet complained about the hot sun and having to walk to the gate. At that moment, a man approached us, "You want a ride?" Turns out, there was a shuttle, bringing the only reprieve from Violet's complaining in the first hour.

Fully prepared for the kids harshing my music fest mellow, I cheerfully maneuvered them through the gates to a shady spot under a tree  by the mainstage so we could spread out our blankets and chairs. Violet announced there was nothing to do. I took them to the food booths and we started with snowcones for the girls.

Mama was ready for a glass of wine, which took a line for bracelets, a line for tickets, and a line for wine. Before I could plop down between the girls on our chairs, ready to relax with some music, they announced they were really hungry.

I waited in two more lines for food according to each kid's preference. Violet's food was ready long before Daisy's and mine, and I was still waiting for our food when Violet let me know she couldn't eat what I had gotten for her. I waited in a third line. By the time I claimed my seat again under the tree, Violet needed to go to the bathroom and Daisy had spilled half her burrito on her dress. I started to lose my patience.

Daisy asked me why I was cussing so much not long after they were both too hot in the sun, too cold in the shade, Violet's shoes were too small to walk in, they didn't like the outhouses, it was too loud, and there was still nothing to do. And yet we managed to have some fun, one child barefoot, the other covered in chicken burrito.

You know, the complaining did finally subside. For about 15 minutes, everyone's needs had been squarely met, we were sitting on our blanket in the sun, and I realized it was time for more sunblock. I grabbed the spray can and did exactly what I had reminded the kids not to do - spraying directly into my face. Even with my eyes closed, they burned so hard I couldn't open them for several minutes. This was our icebreaker. We couldn't stop laughing. Through tears streaming down my face, vision blurred, I heard Violet say she was sorry for her bad attitude. Later, when we were waiting for more kid's activities, I felt like I should explain to the other parents who were making conversation - I sprayed sunblock in my eye, but it seemed to be such a paranoid excuse with the whiffs of smoke throughout the venue. Daisy observed that my eyeballs had red lines in them and one eye was really puffy. Exactly, because it's important to stay cool at music fest.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Her Majesty

I was at work today when I saw the announcement via email that Maya Angelou had passed. The quote below the headline:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I like it. I like to think about what that means and how it applies in my experience and why it isn't true all the time . . . turning the idea around and around in the back of my head as I tend to do while going about my day.

It brought to mind a snapshot of reading Maya Angelou for the first time as a kid. Her words ran together like silk on the page. Hooked, I read everything I could find of hers until there was no more left.

Sitting in my cubicle today, I recognized a clear call for a quote on my chat status. Too bad Oprah already took rainbow cloud. Instead, I found,

"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities."

And *BAM* the authentic power of her words blows you right away. Words from an actual transformer of realities, who worked to uplift all people. We as a global village could use all the uplift we can get.

And love. We need love, as the Beatles often remind me in my living room and car these days. But, no one beats Maya Angelou in love quotes.

"I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn't just hold—that's ego. Love liberates. It doesn't bind. Love says, 'I love you. I love you if you're in China. I love you if you're across town. I love you if you're in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I'd like to have your arms around me. I'd like to hear your voice in my ear. But that's not possible now, so I love you. Go.'"

Tell me your mouth wasn't hanging open by "Go."

I could fall in love with a sumo wrestler if he told stories and made me laugh. Obviously, it would be easier if someone was African-American and lived next door and went to the same church. Because then I wouldn't have to translate.

Falling in love with a sumo wrestler who tells funny stories? She's my hero.

Tonight I made solo dinner. I cooked up what I thought was going to be one grassfed frozen patty from TJ's but it was two frozen patties stuck together with paper in the middle. I couldn't get the thing apart. I tried a knife, a spatula, my fingers. My solution was to throw them in the pan stuck together so I could make the separation after a little heat.

Except it didn't work that way. After a scuffle with my meat, oil and bits sprayed across the counter and floor, I thought about never eating meat again before another quote came to mind - have I mentioned that OCD runs in the family?

My life has been one great big joke, a dance that's walked a song that's spoke, I laugh so hard I almost choke when I think about myself.

I'm convinced that learning to laugh at ourselves til we almost choke would cure about half the world's ills. But good point about not actually choking.

And finally, my last Maya moment to share with you today. After I updated my chat status at work, I turned away from my computer and blinked, surprised by something I had forgotten about. A couple weeks ago, I had attached one of those tea bottle caps with a quote to the wall of my cubicle.

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

I consider liking yourself the achievement of a lifetime. I'm satisfied with halfway acceptance for now.

But I'll keep trying. Thank you, Ms. Maya. 

maya picture

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Queen of May

It's still May, so I thought I better write something on that theme of your mother is always right, or at least, she's right about a lot more things than you might initially believe (hear that, daughters?). Besides, I have a story.

My mother is a huge fan of locking things up. She keeps her doors locked tight in the middle of the day, even when she goes to her mailbox for 30 seconds. I, on the other hand, tend to be a little more caszh about keeping things locked. I've even developed a fear of locking the front door of my home after being woken up one morning at the condo by a contractor, who needed my car out of the driveway.

In pajamas, undereye mascara, morning hair, and no shoes, I moved my car with a single car key in hand and returned to discover I had locked myself out. The alternate entrypoints were also locked tight, thanks to my mother the locksmith, who had been over to watch the kids. I asked a guy on a ladder if I could borrow his phone then drove 45 minutes to San Jose to pick up the extra housekey from my mother. Thank god I had gas in the car.

I mean, I live in a quiet neighborhood and feel safe. Several neighbors throughout the complex happen to work in law enforcement. So why freak out about locking a door when the real risk seems to be getting locked out? I'm in my 40's. I've got some wisdom of my own now, Mom. So when my daughters told on me to Grandma, that I hardly ever lock the door except at night when we were sleeping, I rolled my eyes. Here we go again with the negative naysayers that are my mother and children. Everyone, chill out.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I had an evening work engagement and came back to my homey unlocked front door, setting my workbag and purse just inside and taking my dog Scout out for a short walk. I was gone for somewhere in the 5-10 minute range and when I returned, there were two police cars parked in the street. I didn't think much about it because it's not an unusual sight in my neighborhood.

As I walked up my driveway, I noticed I must have left my front door ajar because it had blown wide open. It was raining a little that night so my feet were slippery on the tile as I hung up the leash. That's when I heard something and it was coming from my bedroom downstairs. In shock, the only sound I made out next was, "police!" as two policemen moved up the stairs toward me as I slipped, startled when they asked me about my daughters.

I was so scared for a moment that something had happened to my daughters, who were supposedly with their dad. The nightmarish vision of a crime scene in my bedroom faded as they referred to my daughters with unfamiliar names and told me they had been given my address by a mother of a missing pre-teen. There were more names I didn't recognize.

My fierce watchdog didn't bark at the policeman - Scout is the only male in a household of human and canine females so he usually greets men as his long lost best friends -  but I asked the guys if they would step outside with me so I could take my dog off the leash. At this point, all three of us seemed to be pumped with adrenaline. Later, I realized how it might have looked through their eyes.

The police explained what happened: when they pulled up to the address they were given as the last known whereabouts of the missing little girl, they saw the front door open with a purse just sitting there and noticed the car was still warm. They said it looked like someone was in imminent danger. I wondered for an insane second if they were in cahoots with my mother.

Of course they had ended up in my bedroom, which unlike the rest of the condo, was in complete shambles with clothes and private things people normally put away for company strewn about. It had the look of a place where a struggle of some sort had occurred.

More than once, the police guys said, "We thought someone was in trouble," apologizing for entering my home. I found myself reassuring them, it's OK, cringing with the knowledge of what they surveyed in my bedroom. They returned to their cars and long story short, the girl was hiding out next door with her friend from school. The mother was close on the address.

The moral of the story is though mothers aren't always right, they all too often are. Yes, Mom, locking your door is a good idea any time, even - or especially - with police around.