A new feature writer here at Baleful regards

Friday, December 30, 2005

Today on “I am doing the best that I can”, the editorial staff is pleased to present Q&A regarding parenting questions. Today’s guest writer is Vlad the Impaler, well-known child development specialist:

Q: Dear Vlad,

I am perplexed by the behavior of my 18 month old child. She has recently taken to throwing full out temper tantrums every time that I tell her “No”. This occurs even when I telling her “No” for a good reason, like not petting a rabid dog, or touching live power lines. Is there some other way I can convey my intentions to her without the giant hissy fit being thrown?

Earth Mother


I am Vlad the Impaler! Ruler of Wallachia. In one day, I impaled 30,000 merchants for disobeying trade laws and left their bodies to rot outside the city walls. None shall disobey me.

When the Turkish ambassador refused to remove their Phrygian hats, I had the hats nailed to their heads to remind them of my power. I have bathed in rivers of blood and rejoiced in the suffering of my enemy’s.

In reference to your spawn, I suggest you impale her on a stick and see how she likes it. If she continues to defy you, I would cut off her hands to keep her from touching anything you have decreed off limits. If she persists on screaming, her tongue can easily be removed.

Now leave my sight, before I send the army of Romania to destroy your bloodline.*

*The views of Vlad the Impaler do not reflect the views of the editorial staff and must be viewed in the light of one demonic rulers opinion.

Feel free to submit your own child development questions to Vlad. He would be happy to respond.

"The Real Life Quiz"

Thursday, December 29, 2005

At a recent visit to Walmart- (Mecca of the dammed) I was absentmindly waiting for my turn to place my items on the conveyor belt of doom when my eyes fell upon the magazines on display. Now, mind you I was also wrestling various things ( lighters, arsenic, the tools of Vlad the Impaler) from my child’s grasp and trying to remember if we Needed toilet paper OR had far too much toilet paper.

There it was. The answer to all life’s mysteries. A magazine quiz about how to tell if your man was really “into” you. Of course, this was accompanied by a photograph of a nubile 16 year old in a push up bra with come hither eyes.

On the drive home, I pondered the real quiz. You know – the real life quiz. The “I want to marry you (or settle down and make a life commitment for my gay and lesbian peeps for whom this isn’t an option quite yet), and possibly have children with you and have a joint checking account and wash your underwear” quiz.

So I decided to write one. This is my “Real life Partnership Quiz”. Play along at home. Write your own questions, even. It isn’t how good you look on the second date. It isn’t sex secrets that will keep him satisfied. It’s life. And Life ain’t pretty….

My partner Always waits for me (wink, wink , know what I mean… Waits…)
a) Yes. Fair is Fair. In fact, I generally get to go first.
b) Not usually. Is something else supposed to happen? It isn’t all about him?
c) What are you talking about?

You have a raging case of the flu. You are vomiting and spreading effluvia about the house. Your partner:
a) Gets up and begins cleaning – making sure you are all right, helps to put toothpaste on your toothbrush, then brings you water and puts you back into bed
b) Mutters “Are you OK” and then falls back to sleep
c) Sleeps through it completely and then gets mad at you for making him “sick”

You are experiencing a wicked bout of PMS. Does your partner:
a) Remarks how lovely you look today and offer to make dinner
b) Asks if there is anything wrong with you
c) Wonders aloud why you are being a “wicked bitch” and then talks about “that time of the month” and being “on the rag”

You have had a miserable day at work. Your partner:
a) Listens patiently and offers no suggestions about how to fix it, while handing you a glass of wine
b) Suggests that he kick your co-workers asses
c) Tells you that he has his own problems and to stop whining - JESUS!

You and your partner have a child. You both work. Do you:
a) Share sick days so that both of you don’t get in trouble at work
b) Mainly it is Mom who stays home, but he will if it’s REALLY important
c) Husbands don’t’ take care of sick children. Ever.

The sick child vomits profusely at 3 a.m. Does you partner;
a) Gets up and helps you start laundry while bathing said child and changing all sheets and linens and carpet, and walls
b) Ask if you need any help while remaining firmly in bed
c) Sleeps through it and asks why you are so tired the next morning.

The biggest fight you have had involves:
a) Money
b) Children
c) How you have let yourself “go” and if you loved him you would be more enthusiastic about oral sex

You are going out with girlfriends. Does your partner:
a) Smile and say “Have a great time Honey”
b) Complains about having to “babysit” his child
c) Doesn’t come home so you have to cancel your plans

Your partner knows the correct answer to “Does this make me look fat?’
a) Yes. The answer is always “No” – Regardless.
b) He answers honestly and tells me when I could stand to lose a few pounds
c) He needs no prompting to tell me that my ass is taking over the house

You have gone out and spent $200 on two pairs of shoes. Does you partner:
a) Tell you that you work hard and deserve those amazing shoes – Besides it IS your money
b) Ask why you need another pair of shoes
c) Complain that you could have bought him some video game

Bonus Question (For Elizabeth , whose husband TOTALLY aced this one)
You have three children, one of whom is a newborn. Does your husband:
a) Let you sleep uninterrupted for several hours while attending to all the children cause he knows how tired you are
b) Lets the children crawl all over you shouting “Mommy – I’m Hungry”, so that you never fall asleep and then thrusts a crying baby in your directions saying “I don’t have boobs”
c) Leaves the house and goes out to a sports bar

Vlad the Impaler, the little known champion of Early Childhood

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I was home all day today with Emily.

I played 4 games of Harry Potter "Uno", read three chapters of "Half Blood Prince", played two games of speech therapy concentration, watched and applauded the show of "Dance Dance Revolution" game her Auntie gave her, drew her a bath with the new Bath Confetti that Santa brought, looked at an atlas of the night sky and pointed out the constellations that are out now, took out a National Geographic map of the world and discussed the migration of our various family lineages, heard a reading of "The Pup speaks Up" and wrestled with said child on the floor.

What I was SUPPOSED to be doing is working on my hypothesis for my doctoral program. So, at 7 p.m., I asked Terrance to take over.

Me: "Honey, leave the internet up. I want to check my email and then I need to do some writing about Vivan Paley."

Terrance: "WHAT?"

Me: "Writing. I need to work on my writing..."

Terrance: "Did you say you were writing about Vlad the Impaler?"

Me: "(laughing) NO! What does Vlad the Implaer have to do with Early Childhood education and the effects of social emotional development on later school academic achievements?"

Terrance: "That's what I was wondering."

Me: "Although I suppose that could be a REAL fun project..."

Can you imagine the "Test" scenerios?

Note to self...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Half cooked "monkey bread" doesn't make Christmas morning festive.

It smells really great ~ all buttery, cinnamon warm deliciousness. Then you bite into it.

And the saddest part is that you are so hungry, you try to pick off all the cooked parts off the dough and eat those, along with a fair amount of uncooked dough.

Next Year: Pre-cooked cinnamon rolls.

Puttin' the "Jesus F-ing Christ" back into Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Well, Here we are again. Christmas Eve. Emily is on high alert and has been shrieking at various times since she woke at 6:30 a.m.

I'm not kidding. You'll be doing your thing and suddenly "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"
comes from the other room. I think of it as her "tea kettle" mechanism. She is so excited that she can barely stand it, and in all honesty it is Fun to see her like this.

So I leave you all, the blog friend world, with tidings of comfort and joy.

I am one of the Q&A folks on "mommybloggers" this round. Check them out!

D-e-e-e-e-p Breath, Release.....

Friday, December 23, 2005

Guess who lost his wallet again last night?

Guess who flipped out this morning about it and then began having shooting chest pains?

Guess who is home with the child who is out on school vacation?

Guess who needs to chill the heck out?

That's right. It's not me, I'm the smart one. I take anti-depressants!

Sigh. Looks like I am going to have to give up some Good sex tonight in order to calm this man down.

* I did ask if his life insurance was up to date. He did not seem to find that terribly funny.

And we found the wallet. He left it at the restaurant.

What the heck goes on in that room when I'm not looking?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This is what I found next to the "camping out box" this morning. It appears that the stuffed animals, Bitty Baby, and Emily have been planning their get-away......

Mommy Vs Mommy

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Last night found me taking a bath at 12:30 a.m., trying to relax and ease the shooting pains that were searing through my gut. While this little spa experience was certainly cutting into my sleep time, and I felt as if an alien were about to pop out of my belly at any moment, it was also curiously peaceful.

No Child. No Husband. No one telling me that they had to pee. No one asking me where their “Book, paper, belt, magazine, shoes, or insert your own request here”

I also began to think on what it means to be a “working mother”. The old bumper sticker says “Every mother is a working mother”, and while that is wholly true, it also blurs the lines in what is arguably the knife in the heart of the feminist movement today.

Stay at Home Mom VS Work away from home Mom. Women VS Women.

Prior to becoming a mother, I was a child care provider for other mothers. More specifically, I was an Infant child care provider. I had babies as young as 4 weeks old handed to me while their mothers departed for work. I patted the backs of crying mothers and handed them tissues as they walked out the door in the first days and weeks of their being back to work. I told them to call me every hour if they needed to, that it was not a bother. I smiled when they showed me how their babies liked to be held and how they liked to be fed. I tried to help them move across the chasm that had opened in their hearts and in their lives. I was a plucky Sherpa, leading them up the Everest of motherhood.

Every woman handled this transition differently. I liken it to what it must have been like for my mother, as a Maternity Nurse, watching different women experience labor and birth. There are no absolutes.

Some women walked briskly away from me, after handing me their baby. Some were so overwhelmed that they feared their total breakdown in front of me – a stranger. Others were overjoyed to be returning to work, a place where they felt competent. For yet others, the fear of giving their child to a stranger was the strongest emotion. Would I be another “Nanny from Hell” who would beat and abuse their baby?

There was always a second wave to these new emotions. Was I judging them? Were they measuring up to what I, a child care professional, had seen before? Were they doing it right?

At the time, I was less aware of this second wave. I was not yet a mother, and I assumed that every woman, having given birth, was secure in her knowledge that she was doing fine. I know now that this is not true. The whole “giving birth” thing is the easiest part of the job. The real merconium hits the fan after the baby is there.

In hindsight, the best gift I gave all those mothers was the actual love I felt for their children. I adored my job. I liked these babies and I liked their mothers.

My confession was that I did judge them.
While it shames me to admit this, I had a lot of opinions about who was a good mother and who was not. Did she bring the baby in sick AGAIN? What do you mean she forgot the diapers? If she really loved her baby, she wouldn’t drop her off here when she had a day off, she would keep her with her and enjoy some time with her own child! When I was feeling particularly nasty I would think, “I see this child more hours than the parent does!”

Of course, we all know what happened to uppity child care professionals who think they know everything, right? That’s right ~ they give birth to a high need screamer who pukes all the breast milk up, doesn’t sleep and won’t gain weight. They also go into a crushing depression that lasts for three years. They get judged a bad mother by their own child care provider, even though the mother is the Director of the child care. They cry, a lot. They regret thinking mean thoughts about other mothers.

I also was required to face the essential paradox of the working mother. I am Dammed if I do…anything. Working makes me selfish. Working makes me materialistic. Working makes me a cold, career driven bitch that, if she had a maternal bone in her body, would stay at home and parent her child. I mean, why bother having a baby if you are just going to hand her over to someone else to raise, right?

It isn’t that simple. Yes, for some mothers, they work to provide income. They may be a single parent, or a partner who needs to bring home an income to keep the family going from paycheck to paycheck. I admire them.

Some mothers choose to stay at home because they want to, and have a partner that can afford for them to do so. I also admire them.

Some mothers really like their jobs. They may have chosen career paths that took a while to build, or required a lot of education. They may feel good when they are able to contribute to their profession in a meaningful way. I suspect that these mothers understand that their mental health is tied up in maintaining a part of this non-mommy identity. I know that this applies to me.

I like to work. I am a better mommy because I work. If I had lived in an era that forced me to stay at home, I would most likely be a Valium addicted alcoholic. The best gift I gave my child was exposing her to other adult caregivers who weren’t depressed. I gave her child care professionals like me.

However, my fondest wish is for all women to be able to say what path is right for them, without any other woman doing any eye-rolling, or tsk-tsking at their decision. I recall a very startling conversation I had with another mother in my daughter’s Infant room. We were talking about having more babies, and if we would, if our husbands wanted more. She turned to me and said, “I’d love to have another baby, but I would feel really guilty about having three in child care.”

“Why?” I said.

“You know”, she said “THREE children ~ all in child care? What kind of mother would I be?”

I smiled. “A mother who likes to work”, I said. “A mother who is a better mother because she knows she likes to work and doesn’t feel guilty for it.”

I hope that was a gift for her.

Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On Sunday, I made one of my projects to clean the room of my daughter. And I mean "Mommy Clean" the room.

I had just finished wrapping the gifts that are stashed away for her and realized that we would have no room for her new things, due to the plehtora of stuff that she owns currently.

Now, Emily is her mother's daughter. I am a pack rat, who is begat of a long line of pack rats. I know why it is important to keep that tiny scrap of paper that your friend gave you in 7th grade, cause it's, you know, special. However, I now must balance my own pack rat tendancies, with the pack rat tendancies of my child. My mother's house in Vermont is FILLED to the rafters with all my accumulated stuff. She once tried to threaten me with a yard sale, hoping this would motivate me to come and denude her spare room of my 35 years of accumulated junk and I called her bluff. "Do it", I said.

She couldn't. She couldn't bear to give any of our things away. I knew she wouldn't.

So, when I have to "mommy clean", I have to wait for Emily to exit the house. If she is present for the cleaning, every scrap, every old marker cap, every bent or broken piece of crayon becomes her "Faaaaavvvvvoooooiiiiittttteeee" that she "nnnnnneeeeeeeeedddddddsssssss"

On Sunday, I spent nearly three hours in her room. I mega-cleaned. I placed every piece of everything back into it's assigned place. If a marker had dried up, I tossed it. If a coloring book had been filled, I tossed it. I dug things out from under the bed, found things stuffed into small boxes and nooks and crannies. I threw away a bag full of garbage.

She came home and said "Thanks Mom - my room looks good" . "Yes", I said, "and I'd like you to keep it clean for Santa ~ he needs space to put your new things!"

Of course, this lasted for about 35 minutes. Because of the Box. If you want to give a child of just about any age a really good time, give them a big box. First I had to pretend I was shipping her to Alaska, then the box became a cave, until the box changed into a house.

So here it what her room looked like by Monday Morning. She had decided to make the box into a house and then to camp out in her house box that night.

But it was this mornings scene which stopped me in my tracks - This is the scene after night 2 of the campout in the box:

So yes, It is messy again. I understand why my mother generally just gave up and closed our door. I mean, it is so clear that this is the room of a happy kid ~ a best beloved kid. She is my daughter through and through.

Don't make me Shank you, Claus

Monday, December 19, 2005

Well, I am alive. Not that there was ever any doubt, but I just wanted to clarify for my own sake. I have survived 2 weekends - IN A ROW- as a single parent. Both weekends involved a snow day on each successive Friday. I believe that this is a cosmic plan to de-stabalize me j-u-s-t enough so that I run from my house, naked, screaming: "Take me Forest Elves!!", as I disappear into the woods.

But I resisted. Barely.

As are all children in the countdown before the gift orgy that is Christmas, my own child is off the ever-loving wall. I threatened to eat her yesterday. Cannabalism, Folks. I threatened Cannabalism. Where are the Holiday songs about Cannabalism? We could start a new trend.

So this is a mish mash of a bunch of my thoughts over the last weekend. I never had time to sit down and write the witty, all inclusive blog entry as I was busy wrapping an obscene amount of gifts, cleaning and mailing 75 christmas cards. And I decided to buy a new address book and swap all the names over ( which, might I add is NOT a good idea on the weekend before Christmas).

Thought 1: Even though they have the built in "support" - This camisole is not prepared for what we are bringing to the boob table. Note to self. Wear a bra.
Thought 2: When did all the words from Bob Segar's "Hollywood Nights" take up residence in my brain. I sang along with all the correct words this morning. I don't even think I like Bob Segar....
Thought 3: Really must take care of eyebrows TONIGHT. They look like angry hedgehogs have mated on my face. And I think I see a GRAY eyebrow hair. Is that even possible?

Thought 4: The tree honestly did not look this big in the field when we tagged it in October.
I measured it on Friday - Any guesses? ?? 10 and a half feet tall. That's a big ass tree.

Here are some ornaments from my tree. I always like to see what makes people's tree's different. Here are some of mine.:

Year 2005 - Dawn Graduates from Graduate school

Year 2003: Dawn Starts Grad school, works full time and parents a yet to be diagnosed ADD child:

Year 2004: Dawn is in grad school and spends many weekends out with her fellow students. She has a pretty good time!

This was from 1993 - the year Terrance proposed... Get it? Pigs Flew!

And Finally - This was the one I chose for Terrance this year. In honor of his "encounter":

He's a witty one, he is....

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I called home last night for my traditional "I"m on my way home and I should be arriving in an hour" phone call. This is also when the "what's for dinner" conversation occurs.

Terrance: "Do you want the Steak? With the peppers?"

Me: "Yeah, that's fine, I'm not that hungry."

Terrance: "Do you want anything else with that? Vegetables?"

Me: "No, The steak and peppers is fine."

Terrnace: "No other vegetables? Perhaps some...........................Peas?"

Me: "No, Peppers are fine, I don't need......HEY! Are you still trying to get me to eat your ball icing peas?"

Terrance: "Maybe I am."

Oh , he is a funny one, that husband of mine.

Scary Ghost Stories

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Holidays are a bit of a mystery to me. I mean, I understand the concept behind holidays and all, but the Happiness that is supposed to go along with holidays? Not so much.

I grew up with a very unhappy father. Emily has never met him, and doesn’t even know his name. She only knows that her “Poppa” is my step father and that my real father was a “bad man, not so nice”. As an adult, I suspect that he is an undiagnosed bi-polar, among many other issues. He was a Marine and an enlisted Vietnam Vet. I have not seen him since I was 14 years old.

Now, believe me. I have had 17 years of therapy. I have held pitty parties for my bizarre childhood and myself. I have been angry. I have moved on.

However, I have to recognize at holiday times that there are forces that move within me. Forces that even 17 years of therapy don’t expunge. Dragging these forces, these undercurrents take a lot of energy, for they do not like to be examined and fight, kicking and screaming every step of the way.

Holiday’s were not happy times in my home. There were copious fights. Christmas trees were thrown down stairs in fits of rage. Christmas trees were hacked up in fits of rage. One Christmas eve, my father ran outside of our house on Base with his shotgun, yelling that if he saw Santa, he would shoot him. I was six. I locked him out of the house and hid under my parent’s bed. My mother unlocked the door and chased him through the house screaming, “She’s little, Donald, don’t hurt her!”. Or the Christmas morning that I took a nap and when I woke, all my gifts were gone. My father stood in the living room and told me that I was bad and that Santa had changed his mind and taken everything back.

It seems to be my instinct at Holiday times to pick fights with people that I love. You see, when you are angry with someone, they can’t disappoint you. Anger makes sure that you don’t have to face what, or why or who. You can just be Angry.

Most of the past seven years, I have worked very hard to make traditions for my daughter. For the most part, I have been successful. Terrance is gentle with me at this time of year and for that, I am supremely grateful.

So, be gentle with yourselves and the people that you love. I think that is one of the best gifts that we can give. Understanding.

* Title Taken from the Song “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. It was always the line that made me think, “What does this have to do with Christmas?”

Same Planet...Different Worlds

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Last night, our bedroom:

Me, sitting in my bed with new quilt, chatting merrily about all my internet friends and obsessively working on a new project.

Me: And so, then I was reading this other blog and she took pictures of the hotel room that was Advertised and the one she Got, I also like that she was discussing the bad idea that Eminem and his ex wife get back together, cause they do seem to have some relationship issues that I suggest they may want to work on before they get back together – like the killing and maiming issues….

Terrance ( headphones on, listening to his illegally downloaded music): Can you pass me the digital camera – I want to down load that picture for my mother.

Me: You weren’t even listening to me , were you?

Terrance: “Yes, I was.”

Me: “NO, you weren’t – you just interrupted me to ask me to pass you the camera – that was not listening to me.”

Terrance: “Dawn, you are talking about a bunch of people I don’t know, what do you want me to say?”

Me: “What else do you want to talk about? Emily? Emily? Emily? How about some more Emily?”

Terrance: “No, we could talk about Christmas, or your application to McGill, or lots of other things.”

Me: “Congratulations. I no longer want to talk with you at all. You win!”

Terrance: “I’m listening if you want to talk…”

Me: “Talking to you right now is the very LAST thing I want to do.”

This Morning, I am leaving for work:

Me: Give me a hug cause I love you even though you really piss me off sometimes.”

Terrance: “What are you talking about?”

Me: “Are you being facetious? “

Terrance: “No. What did I do to deserve that?”

Me: “I was really angry with you last night – when you were ignoring what I was saying…”

Terrance: “Dawn, I honestly do not know what you are talking about”

Me: “Wow. I Honestly don’t think you do. All right then, have a good day.”

Idle Hands are the Devils Work

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I like to be busy. I do all sorts of "projects" while I sit and watch TV. Some indescribable genetic trait, passed on by my German Catholic Farming lineage, screams "Don't just sit there - DO SOMETHING".

So I do. I cross stitch, I scrapbook for Emily, I braid wool rugs, I make these picture cards from National Geographic and foist them upon every teacher I know to infuse Authentic Cultural Diversity into the Whiteness that is our schools and child care centers.

I also quilt. Not "by the light of the kerosene lamp until my eyesight goes and I can't support my fatherless child" quilting, but quilting nonetheless.

So, I present to you, the "millennium Quilt". You may notice that we are several years past the "millennium". Yeah, I know. Sue me. The concept was this. Take 2000 different squares (ALL DIFFERENT!) and make a quilt. Do it before the Year 2000 was up.

Well. What can I say? Shit happens. I had accumulated all the 3" squares, but never the chutzpah to finish the quilt. This fall I was struck by a bolt of inspiration ( HAHA a fabric joke!) and actually put fabric to needle and got the face of the quilt done. Of course, being so close to finishing the quilt, it sat next to my bed for the past three months whispering to me. "Finish Me ~ Finish Me, Dawn, it'll feel good, I promise".

Yesterday, I gave in. I finished the quilt. I knew it was going to be gorgeous. My quilts are full of audacious color. I quilt in Purples and Oranges and Magentas. When one of my bestest girlfriends in the whole wide world lived right next door to me, we would celebrate the completion of a quilt with a cup of tea, while we admired the handiwork of the smart, modern and versatile women that we are. We did this because our husbands never quite had the correct appreciation for this labor of love.

So, I present to you all: The millennium Plus 5 years Quilt!

Snow Day

Friday, December 09, 2005

This morning, the holy grail of elementary school occurred......THE SNOW DAY!!!!

Now, I am normally Not the stay at home parent ~ for the myraid of reasons I have outlined in previous posts. Not one of my strengths. However, Terrance is in Baton Rouge, filling his belly with cajun food and staying in a hotel that he has started to call "Crack Ho Comfort Inn". He anticipates being offerred a "gum job" at any moment. As any wife would, I asked to be called right way, cause I want to hear the line the Crack Ho might use to seduce him. My white-ness finds these sorts of things fascinating.

So, I am home. I am hanging on with a strength that is admirable. I called my friend Cindy last night during one of the 2 hour screamfest's that Emily launched upon me at 8 p.m. Talking to another adult, whilst my daughter screamed "You're a teacher Mommy - You help other kids, why won't you come and help Meeeeeeeee?", was immensely helpful and I did not beat my child. But the prospect of a snow day? Geessh.

I feel asleep with mixed feelings. I could really use a day off, but a day at home with any age child is not a day off. So this morning when I woke up, I flicked on the TV and scanned the school closings for the up or down vote. Emily, master ninja that she is, popped up in bed next to me and said "Do I have school?"

Nope. Called off. I crawled out of bed and called into work. Looking out the window, I thought "What a piddly storm. This better not be it." So, at 6:40 a.m., I took these pictures:

Not much. I was somewhat Disgusted and went back into the bedroom.

At 9:30, I went out to Dunkin Donuts for coffee, and when I returned I took these:

Ok, A little Better. The wind is picking up. And It seems to be coming down harder. By 11:00 a.m., we've got drifts:

Between noon and 2 p.m., all hell breaks loose.

At 4p.m., my daughter turns to me and says, "Mama, are you going to go out and get Chinese food?"
Sure, If I can find my car.....

As you requested

Thursday, December 08, 2005

You really shouldn't encourage me....

I'll be the one in the corner with the Elf ears and the Green Invisibility Cloak

If it must be widely acknowledged that FancyPants is Jane Austen’s bitch, than it must also be acknowledged that I am the Tolkien’s Arwen.

Yes, I like Hobbits. I love Wizards. I adore Dragons. I am overwhelmed by Orcs. I am all aflutter over Aslan.

This love of mine has been generally underground. Aside from a conversation in which I roughly and emphatically corrected my husband regarding how the name of a particular Wizard in “Lord of The Rings” was pronounced, and WHY that was important, I rarely unfurl this particular fetish in public. I quietly buy and read my books. I buy the tickets to the movies and I rejoice when they are done well.

And then, I was Outed by this:

For all you wand needs:

Raise a toast to the New Year with these Goblets, then have a sword fight:

Apparently, someone knows, and that someone is watching.

Another reason to hate my new co-worker

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

This has appeared on her desk. Save me.

How to tell if Mommy AND Daddy have had a baaadd Day!

I had to laugh when I walked out into the Kitchen this morning and saw this:

And I promise. The "Christmas Hell" photos are coming. I am just collecting some Really good ones!

"This is Officer Dumbass, I got a car taking pictures of really bad Holiday Displays - I'm bringing her in..."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

To fully appreciate the story I am about to tell, you must understand and accept two facts:

My Husband has no Memory. He has been kicked in the head repeatedly during kickboxing matches when he was a teen and young adult. I am lucky he recognizes me on a daily basis.
My husband Loves his mangy old cars.

Right now, we are in the process of having last rites pronounced on his beloved 1986 Jaguar XJ6. I have been encouraging him to pull the plug on this car for two years now. It has cost an Obscene amount of money to have repaired, and it runs sporadically, at best.

However, he Loves this foolish car. He loves the way other guys look at this car. He loves pulling up to places and getting out of this behemoth. He Struts when he is around this vehicle. I think of it as his visible, un-vascetomied penis.

It can no longer be inspected, for there are too many things wrong with the car. Even he has come to slowly accept the fact that this car cannot be salvaged.

So he has been staying at home. I work, and commute about 23 miles one way to work. I get the car. He suffers by staying at home.

So here is where the story begins. Emily has Tap on Tuesdays. It starts at 4:30. There is no feasible way for us to split one car into several segments to go in opposite directions of the state. Sometimes, my friend Denise picks me up and takes me to and from work. However, she is on a business trip, so what are we to do?

Rent a car. Yes. That is our solution. It coincides nicely with the fact that he has to be at the airport on Wednesday at 4:30 am, and I have no desire to drive the 35 miles to the airport, drop him off, to turn around and drive 35 miles back, get the child to sleep for an hour, only to get her back up and then get her ready for school. Do I look like I need more torture?

Last night at 7 p.m., my husband says “Lets’ go to the Airport and pick up the Car”
All right. No problem. Good Plan, Chief.

We bundle the child, and drive the 35 miles to the Airport. I marvel at the god-awful Christmas decorations on the way to the airport. We pull up to the airport at 8:07 p.m.

T: “See you at home, honey.”
D: “Do you have everything you need? Phone, Wallet?”
T: “Yep, here’s my phone, here’s my…Hey…Huh…. Where’s my wallet?” Is my wallet over there?

Oh yes. He has indeed forgotten his wallet. 35 miles away.

It is so typical, that I almost laugh. I hold back, because he is also so angry that I fear the Stroke is imminent. But …it…is…so…funny….

So we drive 35 miles back to our house and fetch his wallet. It is sitting there on the coffee table. We all take a potty break, and head back to the airport. It is 8:47 p.m.. I formulate a new reason to go on the trip. I will document the hideously decorated houses for my Internet friends. I will call it “When Christmas Decorations go to Hell”. Tee-Hee. I have a plan!!

We drive 35 miles back to the airport. Emily wakes up just as he is getting out of the car in the airport and yells, “Daddy, do you have your wallet? Do you have it?”
He does not answer her.

I bite my gloved hand to keep from laughing.

I start to drive back home. I have a plan for which houses I will stop and take photos for my planned blog entry. Woo Hoo. My evening is not wasted.

I pull over and take the first house photo. I am in hysterics. This is going to be so funny.
Stop number 2 and 3 go smoothly. I jump out and take the photos and jump back in to my car and drive away. I think to myself “The inhabitants probably think I am photographing their house cause I LIKE their decorations, HAHAHAHAHA!”

As I stop to photograph the 4th house on my planned route, I realize I can’t get a good shot of the horror that is this particular yard. I would have to drive into the driveway and I just don’t want to commit to this level involvement at 9:30 p.m. I pull away from the shoulder and drive off.

Unbeknownst to me, I have a follower. I am “acting suspiciously”. I am pulled over about 7 minutes later.

“This is odd”, thinks Dawn. “I know I wasn’t speeding – one weekend in bad driver school taught me to never, never, never speed again. I wonder if I have a tail light out”

The Ginormous flood lights erupt into my car. I start finding my license and registration. I roll down my window. Officer Dumbass approaches

OFC Dumbass: “Good Evening Ma’am. I am Corporal Dumbass with the Podunk police department. May I have you license and registration?”
Me: “Sure – can I ask why you pulled me over?”
Ofc Dumbass: “Well, um, Ma’am. I noticed you pulled off the road back there and then pulled back onto the road and I just wanted to make sure everything was all right.”

I stare at him. Is pulling on and off the shoulder a crime? A glimmering light begins to emerge. He thinks I’m Drunk – or maybe on Drugs, or maybe smuggling drugs and drinking!!! I smile. A big, toothy grin. I hold up my digital camera in the air and say : “I was talking photos of Christmas lights”.

Ofc Dumbass: “Oh (very long pause). Oh. Well, Ok. I’ll be right back”

He is Clearly embarrassed. He thought he was pulling over a drunk drug dealer and he gets me, in my orange Halloween witch flannel PJ bottoms and the matching T-shirt that says “Spooky”. For extra effect, I am wearing a non-matching headband of brown and blue flowers. And I am grinning at him. I am indeed "Spooky".

Now, I give him the fact that these were terrible Holiday displays. I can see why he thought I may be drunk to be taking pictures of such hideousness. If he were a police officer with the "Queer Eye" holiday display sqaud, he would have every reason to pull me over. As he was not, he did the only thing any self respecting heterosexual male could do. He walks back to my car and says :

“Ok, Ma,am. You know if you are looking for nice displays, there is one around the corner of the town gazebo, that would be great for pictures.”

Me: “No, I have to get my daughter home and in bed. I was just taking pictures if they were on my way home.”

Ofc Dumbass: “Well, Ok, Ma’am. I’m going to give you this slip of paper saying that I was just doing a check up and you drive safe all right?”

Me: “OK, Thanks”

He walks back to his vehicle and lowers the wattage on his floodlights. The back of my head is no longer on fire. I am grinning. I begin to laugh. Dude, I am SOOOOO talking about you on my blog tomorrow!!

Busted for trying to mock people, again.

"Holiday Photo's": A lesser known circle of Hell

Monday, December 05, 2005

I have survived another year of Christmas pictures. Without Killing my child, my husband or myself. Although there was a moment last night that if I had possessed a Traditional Hari Kari sword~ I would have gladly fallen upon it.

All right. Some of this agony was my fault. I waited much longer than I ever do to book the appointment. I normally have the child's Christmas photos done by Thanksgiving. I buy the Christmas outfit when it first appears in September. I am a woman for whom pain should be avoided at all costs. This particularly includes the pain of enduring hordes of other Mom's and Children and HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!!

I mean, and I know this is sick; I generally have bought all my Holiday cards in the clearance sales in January and address them in August. So I sign the cards, insert the angelic photo of my spawn and mail those suckers off! It is a joke for some of my other Mommy friends that my cards always get there first, which gives me a small evil satisfaction. I win at the Mommy game!

Not this year. This year, I called the Picture People on this Sunday morning and said, Can you get me in?

How about 6 p.m.? All right ~ no problem. I think I have outsmarted the gods of Christmas photos by booking at 6 p.m. on a Sunday night! No one will be there, Right? All other good Mom's will have their children in baths and eating dinner and headed for bed, Right? I will stand alone in the mall, with my dressed up, unfed child at 6 p.m..

Upon my arrival at the Picture Place, I see what I can only imagine as a scene out of a Child Inspired version of "Caligulia". Children screaming and falling down, parents swearing and gesturing at one another, harassed photographers and desk staff. If we added an Orgy Room and the Vomitorium, we would have been all set.

Now, my previous post about judging others aside, there were some families whose gene pool should have dried up long ago. I suspect they crawl out of the woodwork every few years, at Christmas, to have their images recorded for posterity. I think it's the twinkling lights that attract them. That and the candy canes.

Trolls and Hags and Ogres, oh my!

There is not much a Picture People photographer can do if the Material is unattractive. They make maybe 8.00 bucks an hour? They aren't magicians. Placing already "Looks" disadvantaged children in hideous plaid, bad lace and cheap velvet does them no service. Add in a mother chasing her child around and screaming " Attica! Attica! You put that back, you get in your stroller right now!"

Terrance and I raise our eyebrows at each other ~ The baby is named "Attica"?
He says "Maybe where she was born?"
Me: "Or conceived on a conjugal?"

I know. I am mean. I am catty. But I speak the truth.

Queen Bee and Wannabe

Friday, December 02, 2005

I have been reflecting on Jenn's post about her feelings watching her preschool daughter get her first taste of being rejected by the "in-crowd".

The topic is one that I have thought a great deal about over the past three years. Both my actions and reactions have often been driven by issues that I have buried deep in my consciousness. Indeed, for my very last graduate degree paper, I wrote about "Female relational aggression" - using the observations I had done in my daughter's classroom, my own experiences, and those of my daughter as the core of the writing.

Jenn's post brought this topic back into the forefront of my mind, and coincidentally collided with a new "incident" in our home.

Emily had recently brought her school class photo home. I sat with her and went over all the children, asking her to name them and tell me a little bit about them. I like to have a face in my mind so if I have to go in and kick some ass, I will aim for the right kid. No, seriously, she and I have a lot of conversations about her day and I like to know who she is talking about. Now that she is in public school, I don't have the access and knowledge of her classroom peers and families I once did. I rely on these conversations to fill me in on the "stuff" that I can no longer see.

Emily went through every picture, and described each person - what they like, what games they like to play, who she sits with at work time, who has allergies, etc.

A few days later she was talking about a little girl and I responded "Oh, is she the chubby one?".
I did this completely unconsciously. Emily didn't even stop the flow of conversation to acknowledge what I had said to her, and I assumed that the comment had gone unnoticed. Much as all the "clean up your crap" conversations seem to be repelled from her brain.

Then, last Monday, as we lay on the bed talking about her day she says to me:

Emily: "And then I told Allison that my mom thought K was "chubby", and Allison said "What does that mean?"
Me: "OH MY GOD! (hand covering mouth) Did you really say that? You didn't tell K that I said that did you?"
Em: "No, I told Allison and I think that Allison told K what you said"
Me: "OH MY GOD! When did I say that? I didn't say that , did I?"
Em: "Yeah you did - when we were looking at all the class photos, you said "Is she the chubby one?"
Me: "Oh, Honey. That was not kind for Mommy to say. That could really hurt K's feelings - did it hurt her feelings when Allison told her that I said that?"
Em: "I think so, yeah."
Me: "Oh,God. I am really embarrassed. I should NOT have said that."

In my mind, I am picturing K and her mother having the flip side of this conversation. I picture K's Mom wanting to beat my ass - and rightfully so. I deserve to have a whole six pack of whoop ass opened on me for that bit of female aggression. I ponder whether or not to go into the "Body Types are not a good reason to judge another person", but how fucking hypocritical can I sound in one night? Even a 7 year old will be able to see through that transparent lie.

Which brings me back to the paper I wrote. Part of the journey through this topic was a re-examination of my own roles in some of the key "female group" moments in my life. Was I the victim that I always remembered myself being? Or had I played a much more influential role in my teen angst?

My Bad Year was 8th grade. 7th grade was rotten, but I survived, hanging onto a group of girls I had been friends with in elementary school. Indeed, I had run with the "Alpha" females in elementary school. I was in the "smart" reading groups, "smart " math groups. Things came easy for me.

8th grade, however, was a different ball game altogether. I became a target. There were notes put in my locker describing how "low" I was, what a "slut" I was, how "stuck up" I was. Every time I opened my locker, there would be a group watching me , trying to see if the last note got a reaction. This group of my "friends" would move lunch tables on me, and laugh as I searched the cafeteria for my lunch table. I would invite these girls to slumber parties and they would accept - then no one would show up and no one would call to cancel.

The crowning moment was in Humanities class. After enduring yet another brutal day of whispers and notes, another anonymous petition was passed to me during this 5th period "Honors" class. I opened the note and burst into tears. No, Sobs. I began to cry so hard that I started to hyperventilate. I couldn't talk, I couldn't breathe. My teacher had to physically carry me out of the room. When he got me to the Nurse's office and tried to ask me what had happened, I couldn't tell him. I would get my friends in trouble and then things would be so much worse. I demanded to go home.

Once home, I wouldn't tell my mother what had happened. I refused to go to school for almost two weeks. I lay in bed and tried to find the key - the reason my social group had expelled me. I could see no "rule" I had broken. I was distraught and depressed. I went back to school. I wouldn't talk to anyone. I was a girl without a country.

The following year, I re-formed a social group. I would like to tell you that I was a nice girl who included everyone and was never mean to anyone else again, having learned my lesson. But......... that would be a big lie.

It would be really attractive to tell myself a story of Dawn the victim, done wrong by the selfish Bitches of Rutland, Vermont. Sadly, that edited version of the story would be leaving out large and important chunks of the story.

In 9th grade, I did indeed reform a social group. I did not speak to any of those other girls again- although I could tell you every one of their first and last names to this day.

This experience of being the pariah did not stop me from ascending to the top of the new social ladder I had constructed. I gathered enough influence to have my new group of friends help me target and harass an older Senior girl ~ Heather Luther~who had briefly dated my high school boyfriend before I had dated him. We would station ourselves along her route to her classes and announce "Here comes the Beast", among other phrases. She complained to my boyfriend. We ramped the torture up. We would each find countless ways to persecute her and then report to each other over long phone conversations.

In 5th grade, I helped spread a rumor that a girl - Mary Jackson - had head lice. Mary was quite poor, and we wouldn't play with her. She did not return for 6th grade. In 6th grade, I helped isolate and target another new student, Gloria, who ended up peeing her pants in class. She didn't stay long in our school after that.

In the Karmic sense, it is not surprising that I experienced such a fall. Hubris? Is that you I hear knocking?

I had to own my role in the cycle of female relational aggression. Feminists theorists will tell you that women perpetrate "Horizontal Violence". We are disenfranchised, so we seek to destroy people like us ~ other women. It isn't safe to bring our anger to the real place it belongs, so we seek to mitigate it through this relational aggression. We disguise our Anger. We use silence, and looks and other underground communication techniques to communicate this to other women. A woman never has to say a thing to let you know that you have pissed her off. When boys bully, they are easy to catch. The jump and wrestle and yell. Females are much less overt and this makes finding evidence of bullying very difficult. Add in the Mafia enviable "code of silence" that goes down between a group of girls, and is it any wonder that no one addresses this with our daughters?

So when our girls start to experience this in their own lives, the flashbacks start for a mother. The denial, the cover up, the blaming of the victim ( their own daughter) begins.
"What did you do to make others mad at you?"
"This isn't happening to you, you've got lots of friends!"
"I never had trouble making friends at your age!"

There is a dark moment when a mother thinks "I must not have done a good job, cause the other girls don't like her. Did I buy the wrong clothes?" and on and on. We are shamed for not preparing our daughters to handle this shit, but we never learned to handle it either. Their social success, or lack thereof, is our success story or our fault.

So I struggle. Every Day. I struggle with the fact that I still take joy in mocking a co-workers shoes ( "I think those are "Spleather", since she couldn't buy the "Pleather" pair!") I struggle with the "Chubby" comment that I don't even recall saying. I struggle with how to both shield, defend and prepare my daughter for her life among the pack.

All I can do is walk next to her in this puzzling, changeable landscape that is female relationships.

Thanksgiving Hamburger 2005

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A week has passed. There are no left overs of succulent roast turkey in my fridge- but then again that is not unusual. I don’t cook. In fact, what is in my fridge at the moment is a large-ish bottle of some vanilla soy smoothie stuff that Terrance has been tricking Emily into drinking and my large bottle of Japanese Plum wine. No milk for our child, but plenty of wine for the mommy.

So we went to New York and spent time with my in-laws. I love my in-laws. I am very, very lucky – I know. My mother in law, the namesake for our child, was a bad ass 60’s Black Panther mama- I have seen the gun toting motorcycle pictures to prove it. She raised two children in Detroit, and both are still alive and reasonably well-adjusted adults. She has been married four times. I have met all her ex-husbands. For, in some cultural phenomenon that seems to exist only with my husband’s family, all ex-spouses LIKE each other. They visit, and talk, and come to each other’s parties. I watched Terrance’s father (Husband #1, father of both children) sit and chat at length with husband number 3, while current Husband Number 4 brought them fresh drinks.

Alas, in my family, when a divorce or breakup occurs, the Ex’s are cast out, never to be seen again - like reenactment's of Lucifer's breakup with God. We are not forgiving and jovial people. We are white. We are vengeful. We are bitter, bitter people.

So, I expected to enjoy my time with my mother in law. For, after all, she is the woman who took me aside before my marriage and said –“If he ever hits, you, I expect you to knock his ass out. If you have to kill him, I’ll understand. I’ll bail you out of jail, cause while he is my son and I love him , but he’s a man, honey. Women have to stick together”

Instant Love. Really.

So, imagine my surprise when my mother in law emerged in New York City, having taken on the personality of an elderly, embittered white woman.

While I will not detail every complaint, every sigh, every comment – for it is too exhausting for even me to relive – I will give you the vignette of what will hence forth be known as “Hamburger Thanksgiving 2005”

My Mother in law wanted to see the statue of Liberty. Not go out to the Island, just see it form Battery Park. OK. All right. We take a taxi from E80th to Battery Park – quite a long taxi ride – and spend 8 minutes standing against the silhouette of the Statue for photos- then back into a taxi to go to Times Square. Now, I am in the Taxi of the Sinus , garlic breathed, taxi driver. I am queasy from the stench. My eyes PLEAD with my husband. Open the window, open the window I send with my wifely mind ray. He ignores me.

We get to Times Square. My daughter says, “I want a hot dog”. My mother in law starts looking around for a street meat vendor to purchase requested hot dog. I GLARE at my husband. My wifely mind ray sends Our child can not eat a hot dog from one of those carts, The vomiting alone will cause me to divorce you. He picks this one up and says “No, Mom, No hot dogs- let’s find somewhere to eat”.

She suggests Applebees. I glare at my husband and send this thought I have not come to New York to eat at a god damn Applebees on Thanksgiving. I may have even muttered this statement into his arm.

He counter-suggests a brew pub nearby. Ah yes, grasshopper, very good. I smile at him.
We are seated. She picks up the menu and scans it. “Is there anything you want to eat here? Is there a hot dog for the baby?”

Frankly ( a hot dog joke!), I could care less about a hot dog for my child. I have the motherly view that we can find something on any menu that she can have. I refuse to live my total life by the presence of a “kiddie menu”, and my child has come to accept her fate. When I am very hungry, the few motherly instincts I possess go right out the damn window. It is all about my precipitously declining blood sugar and me.

My father-in-law returns from the bathroom and offers this Deal Breaking Statement:
“I just told the hostess that when I was in the bathroom a member of the restaurant came out of a stall – adjusted himself and walked out without washing his hands”.

Ok, yes. I concur. Gross. But I am SOOOOOO hungry and food is so close by. Maybe the dude was changing his pants… Maybe?

She leaps up and says, “We can’t eat here!”” and I give one last longing look at the menu as I get up and put my coat back on. We leave.

I have now fallen into near coma like levels of low blood sugar. I am sullen and silent. I don’t even glare at my husband. I shuffle along. I don’t even have the strength to argue.
But Terrance, my best beloved, spots another brewpub down the street – The Heartland. “Lets’ go there!!” he exclaims!

And while my mother in law mutters and mumbles, I take off in a dead run for the Heartland Brew Pub. We get in, we are seated!! Hurrah!!!

There is a plated Thanksgiving dinner – or the ala carte menu. It seems a simple choice. I will have the Thanksgiving dinner…..Right? Won’t I? Apparently not. My MIL wants to debate the overall business decision of offering only the two menu choices with the waiter. I catch the waiter’s eye.

“ I will have a pint of the “Spiced Pumpkin Ale”. My stare suggests that he would do well to get me this beverage quickly. He seems to understand completely and rushes away to get my beer – even before getting anyone else’s drink order. Ah, sir. I will tip you well!

We peruse the menu. There is no Hot dog. My MIL takes this up as a rally cry. :”Can the baby get a hot dog? Can the baby get a hot dog?”

No, No hot dogs. She will have a hamburger and judging from the look I am shooting her, she will LOVE this fucking hamburger. She will rejoice and dance and write poetry about the perfection of this hamburger. If she does not, this may go down as one of those future therapy moments where she starts off by telling her Therapist:

“That was the moment my mother lost her shit, punched my grandmother in the nose, jumped up and ran to hide behind the bar of the brew pub”

The waiter returns and I accept his pint of pumpkin ale tenderly, as if it is my second born child. I smile. I close my eyes and drink. Then I hear:

MIL: “I want a frozen Margarita”
Waiter: “We don’t make frozen drinks here, Ma’am”

I open my eyes and turn in time to see my MIL put her head down on the table, in defeat.
MIL: “just bring me a glass of Riesling”
Me: “I’ll have the hamburger – medium rare – and I’ll be ready for another pint by the time it’s ready”

I eat my Thanksgiving Hamburger and drink my tasty Thanksgiving Ale. Mmmmmmmm, Pumpkin Ale.
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