Family

Typical Stay at Home Mom

Typical Stay at Home Mom

As a stay at home mom, I often find myself thinking of cockamamie inventions or careers that would allow me to stay home with my kids, cook dinner, keep the house relatively tidy, help with homework, work out, cart kids to and from sports, and of course, take a nap now and again.

So far, “The Bleeper” which bleeps out swear words around your children, “Sockmate”, a force field that keeps socks mated for life, and my toddler straight jacket inventions haven’t amounted to much.

Recent events gave me my Eureka moment. My friend “Karen” suspected her daughter had lice. I found myself describing what to look for over the phone, providing consolation and advice; “Don’t walk, run to the nearest lice removal treatment center, find a chimpanzee, or a non-squeamish, very thorough friend who is willing to remove every nit from your child’s head. Call everyone your family has been in contact with in the last three weeks, purchase a hazmat suit, and start the abatement process in your home. And don’t be ashamed, trust me; almost everyone gets lice except the home schoolers. Most families get it several times.”

I fielded hundreds of texts from Karen in the next twenty-four hours, and stumbled upon the perfect career; A Lice Coach.  I can see myself at cocktail parties when people ask what I do for a living. No longer will I say, “stay at home  mom”, I will proudly declare myself “A Lice Coach,” and hand out my business card that reeks of tea tree oil.

“A Life Coach?”

“No, a LICE coach. You know those little brownish grey bugs that have become pervasive in modern family life.” They will likely scratch their head and walk away. So maybe it’s not the best cocktail fodder.

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

I could specialize in identifying and diagnosing, counseling, consoling, and providing a coherent course of action. I will advise where and how to get treatment, plus provide step-by-step home abatement action plans. I would offer a caring, conscientious and personalized approach. There is the take no prisoners, seek and destroy, total annihilation program, but this might not be right for everyone.

For the progressive Ghandi-esque among us, “compassionate coexistence” would be the protocol. This involves making peace with the little critters, and choosing not to treat. In essence, becoming lice farmers. These folks, while having big hearts, need to be willing to give up friends, family, schools and jobs.

Girl Scout Cookie Time

Girl Scout Cookie Time

My friend Anne’s daughter is embarking on the rite of passage known as Girl Scouts. She has inherited the craft and culinary skills from her mother, and now it’s time to test her sales skills with the annual Girl Scout cookie drive. The good news is that those darn cookies sell themselves.  Our family orders at least six boxes; three Thin Mints, three Tagalongs.  Emily is off to a roaring start after just one sales call. But wait a minute! The troop leader is capping each girl’s cookie sales at thirty boxes. That’s right, I’m not talking minimums and quotas, I’m talking no girl is allowed to sell even one more box over thirty. If I didn’t have proof of the veracity of this story, I would never believe it. It simply sounds too cliché of the trophy-distributing, helicoptering, let’s-create-legislation-to-promote-fairness-for-every-aspect-of-our-children’s-lives, parenting.

Apparently the ambitious Girl Scouts that sell hundreds of boxes make the other girl scouts feel bad.  Never mind that the legendary Girl Scout Cookie drive is the most important revenue-generating fundraiser. Forget that Girl Scouting is designed to form young women into self-starting, independent young women that are “always prepared.”  I’m interpreting the “always prepared” motto as preparing young women for the real world, not the pretend world of let’s protect our children from getting their feelings hurt.

Tagalongs or Thin Mints?

Tagalongs or Thin Mints?

Fast forward fifteen years when these former Girl Scouts are out in the real world, working at The Mediocrity Corporation. I can imagine the sales meeting now. “Olivia, do you realize you sold more than your quota this quarter, thereby embarrassing your colleagues, and hurting their self-esteem?! We’ve decided to spread your sales around to the rest of the team, and your commissions as well. Please don’t let this happen again. At our company, we strive to keep all employees on equal ground, on the lowest possible playing field.  It helps moral. We realize a year from now, this company won’t exist anymore because of dismal sales, but golly darn it, our sales force can hold their heads high, knowing they didn’t try very hard…”

“Hey Deb, sorry I have to bail on book club tonight, I have too much homework.”

“Excuse me? You have homework?”

“I mean my daughter, I have to help her. Sixth grade, it’s intense. It’s really putting a damper on my social life. I can’t go out on weekdays anymore, and cocktail hour has been severely restricted. I need all my faculties of reason.”

Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society"

Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society”

I don’t mention to Debbie my dissension into madness each night as we work through “our” homework. I start out like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society; compassionate, funny,with a dreamy “I’m going to inspire you to greatness” look in my eye. As we grind through endless math problems (no calculators allowed), discuss states of matter, absolute entropy, and perform calculations of molecular and formula weight, I become Agatha Trunchbull. I rant, my daughter cries.

“When I was growing up, we were given a mathematical formula and solved the problem,” I scream. “We didn’t have to do each problem six ways!”

Agatha Trunchbull

Agatha Trunchbull in “Matilda”

“And chemistry? We did orbitals and atomic weight in high school.”

“When I was in middle school, I would go to a friend’s house after school. We would race each other to finish our homework in a half hour so we could watch Brady Bunch reruns.”

In the 1980’s, middle school was manageable for the average student and parents did not participate.  Singapore math was taught in Singapore, an island nation that publicly flogged children for chewing gum.

Should I regret not being a tiger mom? Have I caused my children irreparable damage with my Laissez-faire attitude? My children attended play-based preschool.  I didn’t drag my kids to Kumon so they could work ahead of grade level, or send them to math and science camp. They’ve clocked hours of Sponge Bob, Scooby Doo, and other banal programs in front of the TV.

It was all good and well until sixth grade. Now I compulsively go to Google Drive throughout the day to view “our” assignments. Have study guides and supporting materials been posted? Should I brush up on Kahn Academy before my daughter gets home? I have an overwhelming desire to attend her classes, to see if I can absorb what they are teaching during class time. My daughter lives in fear of me shadowing her through school.  I’m sure I would get carried away and raise my hand constantly, or just shout out the answers.  I want to take the tests too. Can I pass the 2014 version of sixth grade? Will they charge me tuition? Will I get arrested? Can I join the debate team?

Fall Means Soccer

Fall Means Soccer

The season morphs from summer to fall and the air becomes crisp, nature’s colors radiant. Our family anticipates and embraces back to school, reunions with friends, and of course, football season. But alas, along with excitement, fall brings regimented schedules, rendering lazy summer days a fond, but distant memory. We now have places to be, on time, geared up, ready for action. “Everyone needs to be in charge of their own sports and school gear this year.” I explain to the kids. Order and efficiency must reign supreme. I’ll teach these young whipper snappers a thing or two about responsibility.

Preparing to leave the house, I observe each child carrying their own soccer bag. We packed them the night before and took careful inventory. This is going great; we are off to a roaring start for the new school year! On our way to practice, we stop at a friend’s house.  When it’s time to ready my son for soccer, my plan falters; his bag is missing. A thorough search of the car yields nothing but a summer’s worth of rubbish; half empty juice boxes, sand, crushed shells. “Rain Man, where is your soccer bag? Did you bring it into Jamie’s house?” Rain Man has no idea where his gear is, but he is certain he brought it with him, as am I. Next we search the house, a sprawling old craftsman. This takes a considerable amount of time. No luck.

Fortunately, Jamie has three girls between the ages of six and eleven; she has a size run of all sports gear. She lends us cleats and shin guards, saving our bacon for the umpteenth time.

Arriving home after practice, the mystery is quickly revealed. I trip over my son’s soccer bag where he dropped it in the middle of the room, on his way to the front door. Oblivious! Absolutely oblivious! This is when I lose my mind…

I rifle through the junk drawer, miraculously locating a measuring tape. “Eight feet, seven inches from the

CYO Soccer

CYO Soccer

front door.” I repeat it over and over again. I pick up the bag, then drop it, just to see if I notice. I repeat this motion several times. Yes, it registers immediately in my brain that I am no longer carrying the bag. Suddenly I find myself playing an inane and solitary game of “Mother May I”. It takes seven scissor steps, five bear walks, ten crab walks, or two giant steps to cover the distance from the “dropping point” to the front door.

I pick up the bag, “I have to zip up to Ken’s Market. I’ll be back in five minutes!” I shriek at my husband, in a voice unfamiliar to myself. I drive like a maniac up the street to the market. I grab the bag and head straight to the vegetable department, where I weigh the bag in the hanging scale. Three pounds, eleven ounces. I’m gob smacked by the irony; precisely how much my son weighed at birth.  I am quite certain I never inadvertently dropped my son on my way to the front door, and simply kept walking, unaware of my lightened load. I begin to limp out of Ken’s Market, still muttering “Eight feet, seven inches from the door”, my hair is disheveled, mascara smeared. I’ve somehow lost a shoe in my frenzy.  The tattooed grocery clerk, with plugs the diameter of DVD’s, in what were once earlobes, looks at me with genuine compassion and pity. “Just another Queen Anne Mom whose lost her sh*t.”

The last day of school was June 12, after a week of picnics, field days, and pool parties. The four large grocery bags, two for each child, filled with a year’s worth of school work, were deposited in my living room. There they sat, week after week. I considered having a coverlet made, and simply incorporating the pile into my décor.

The congressional debate going on in my brain, was at an impasse. Do I take the whole kit and caboodle and dump it in the recycle bin, without looking? What a nice simple solution. But the hoarder in me voted for carting the bags to the bowels of my boiler room. There I could place them on shelves amongst the treasure trove of outdated Architectural Digests, my husband’s text books and brilliant college term papers scrawled the night before they were due, my old year books, a box of floppy disks, and a vintage 1980’s Mac computer.

As this debate raged on in my head, and I, not unlike congress, became completely paralyzed with indecision, these grocery bags sat. Finally, my son took matters into his own hands, and dumped the contents of the two bags of absolutely everything he did in second grade, including scribbles on scratch paper, on his bedroom floor.

The Crowning of the Virgin

The Crowning of the Virgin

Amongst the detritus, I found this precious gem of a picture my son made at Catholic school. It depicts the “Crowning of the Virgin”. I took one look at this awe inspiring picture. I could almost hear the choir of angels singing in exultation, and in a flash, I grasped the assumption the entire Catholic faith is built upon; Immaculate Conception¹. Yes, I get it, God. I completely understand.

¹I am taking great liberties using the term “Immaculate Conception”. It is a common misconception among Catholics (including this one) and non-Catholics alike that “Immaculate Conception” refers to Jesus’ Virgin birth. This is actually wrong, but I use the term because it concisely gets my point across, and I believe most people understand my reference here. However; “Immaculate Conception”, according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, “is the unique privilege by which, when the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb, she was kept free of original sin through the anticipated merits of Jesus Christ.” ² Whoa! Perhaps the powers that be over-thought some of this church dogma stuff? Hopefully most of you, my dear readers, did not bother to read this footnote, but I really hated the thought of someone who really knows their church doctrine thinking my use of the term means I am a total ignoramus. I am only a partial ignoramus.

² Source: Wikipedia (A footnote to the footnote.)

 

Breakfast of Champions

Top Pot Doughnuts

When the coach sends that inevitable request for “snack mom” for games, be it soccer, baseball, or flag football, I hang back. I wait, and I watch, until every snack slot is filled, and then some. You may think me despicable, and perhaps I am. I like to think of myself as a conscientious objector to after game snacks.

I am 100% sure that none of the kids on our team are going hungry. Why not head home for a proper after game meal? Not to mention that I have no idea how to maneuver around food restrictions.

But the jig was up last Sunday. I think my daughter’s soccer coach, after three years, realized I had never brought snack. So when he provided game information, right there in the email, I saw that I was designated snack parent.

My husband suggested Top Pot Doughnuts. My knee-jerk reaction was pure revulsion. Are you kidding? Yesterday’s snack mom brought fruit kabobs and gluten-free sea algae seed bars. Doughnuts!? Are you kidding? The parents will hate me. The kids will hate me; those sun-screened, broccoli nibbling, no-TV –watching, violin and chess playing children of the new millennia? They are not allowed to eat doughnuts. They. Are. Not. Allowed. To. Eat. Doughnuts. glazed, chocolate with sprinkles

An irrepressibly evil grin spread across my face as my heart of darkness began pounding. I could feel the black tar coursing through my veins. If I bring doughnuts, my name will be mud in Snack Mom World. I will receive a lifetime ban from bringing snacks. It might include a fine, and public flogging, but so worth it! No mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa in the world will smooth it over. The judge and jury of snack world will hand my sentence down swiftly, harshly, without due process of law.

On Sunday morning, the family was, of course, running late. I ran into Top Pot, and ordered up three dozen doughnuts. Spare no expense; bring on the cortege! I let the clerk at the counter select the best, most decadent doughnuts.

“It’s extra for cream filled? No problem! Whatever you think the kids will like. It’s all for the children.”

We reached the soccer field, and as I walked in with the large Top Pot boxes, I felt all eyes upon me. People were staring, but not with disdain, but desire. Suddenly I was the Pied Piper of Hamelin, parents and children alike were chasing after me, hoping to get first dibs on the doughnuts. “No, we must wait until after the game. Players get first choice.” Some of these innocent eleven-year-olds had never had a doughnut.

“Do these have nuts in them?”

“No, it’s a misnomer. Honestly, I don’t know why they call them doughnuts. They are just dough balls deep fat fried.”

When the game ended, I was mobbed; practically trampled to death. I thought this joyous crowd of players and spectators would hoist me on their shoulders as if I had made the winning goal in a championship game. I was declared snack mom of the year, perhaps the century.

Mom family portrait-largerThere is a tone of wistful nostalgia when my mother, Helen, talks of growing up during The Great Depression and the war years. Collective deprivation produced a cohesion never experienced before or since in America. She reminisces about playing kick the can on Albany Street, collecting metal scraps and newspapers for the war effort, and as a five-year-old,  walking to the corner grocer to pick up a stick of butter for her mother, or cigarettes for her dad. The neighbor kid showed her the family’s machine gun hidden in the violin case. Where the violin was stored, no one knew. She and her siblings attended the Saturday matinee religiously, to swoon over Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.

Her younger sister, Frances, was admired for her beauty and blonde locks, her older sister, Laura, praised for her comportment. My mother felt she was harder to love. Helen was reprimanded for her fiery temper, and teased relentlessly for her red hair; attributes inextricably linked in common lore. Her father, Bill, was a larger than life, loving guy, who fondly called her “Pinky”. He appreciated her for her sharp wit and assuaged her combativeness with humor.

Childhood came to an abrupt and absolute end, when the family buried her father, on my mother’s eleventh birthday. Her own mother went to work full-time to support the family. My mother, and her sister, Laura, became surrogate parents to their two younger siblings.

Responsibilities, in addition to school and homework, now included cooking, cleaning, laundry, mending and sewing, grocery shopping, and raising a five and a seven-year-old. When he came around, they fended off an abusive teenage brother, whom their father could no longer protect them against, and their mother could no longer control.mom graduation 020

Helen worked her way through college graduating with honors, Phi Theta Kappa. She immediately began teaching grade school, which she considered more vocation than job. She supported her older sister and mother on her meager salary and took a job in the cafeteria of the state hospital during the summers to keep a paycheck coming.

Written off as an “old maid school teacher” at twenty-five, she surprised everyone, including herself, when she met and married my father in 1962. She was a seasoned veteran at raising kids and all things domestic when we three girls came along in two-year intervals. My mother was warm and loving, yet a fierce disciplinarian. Everything she did was for family.

Easter 1969Helen never had a “me” day. An indulgence was the “beauty parlor” to crop her red, wavy hair, or a few bites of a Hershey bar she stashed in the cupboard, until I began climbing on the counter and stealing it.

In an era of Hamburger Helper and TV dinners, my mother made everything from scratch. Not in an egotistical Martha Stewart way, but it was simply what she knew. Homemade tarts, granola, delicious whole wheat bread, which barely made it out of the oven before my sisters and I devoured it. She sewed all of our clothes, until my oldest sister begged for a pair of “store bought” jeans when she was in seventh grade!

She supported all of our endeavors. When I took a comparative literature class in high school, my mother read all the Chaim Potok books that I read, so we could discuss them as I prepared my term paper. In an era when parents were less involved, my mother shuttled us back and forth to lessons, and attended every competition and performance. She volunteered at school, long before parent volunteer hours were required and meticulously tracked.

3rd gradeMy father died six years ago, after forty-six years of marriage. As the fog of grief lifted, my mother discovered a curious thing; freedom. For the first time in her life, she no longer was a twenty-four-seven caregiver. Today she is a vibrant, very young, seventy-seven year old enjoying the simple pleasures of life on her own terms; reading, watching movies, traveling, tending her beautiful garden, and spending time with her family, which now includes three wonderful sons-in-law and four grandchildren, in addition to her three daughters.

Words seem inadequate for the intense gratitude I feel toward my mother, who loved and loves unconditionally and fearlessly.

Winter Spring 2014 247My self-esteem has really taken a beating lately. These are few things I recently forgot to do. This is not for lack of trying or caring, and of course, I have all the apps, gizmos, and gadgets, designed to avoid such oversights.

1)      Lock the front door. Not only did I not lock the door, but it was left ajar, when our family left for three days. If the neighbor kids threw a party in our house while we were away, they did a great job cleaning up after themselves.  I only found one mysterious, half-empty beer bottle.

2)      Submit my daughter’s bio for her role as Tiger Lily in Peter Pan.  At least no one can accuse me of being a stage door mom. Most of the bios require editing because they can’t possibly devote a whole page enumerating the astounding list of accomplishments, awards, lessons, and performances, for each child. My daughter’s bio was concise; first and last name.

3)      Bring in the milk on Mondays.  I generally forget to do this every week.  Having a milkman deliver the milk, saves me from forgetting to buy milk at the grocery store.

4)      Re-enroll my children in their school for next year. Luckily, I was sent a friendly reminder.

5)      I remembered to sign my son up for the afterschool Lego class. But I forgot I remembered, and helego missed the first four classes, out of a total of seven.  I played dumb when he mentioned there had been several classes prior to the first one he attended.

6)      I forgot where Seattle is located. Even the most geographically ignorant among us, knows that Seattle is as west as you can drive, before falling into salt water. I was tired and confused, after a long day of skiing with my kids and my sister. We ended up in a charming, Swiss-style hamlet located east of the mountain pass.  Oops. The great news is that we had a lot of extra time to belt out Beyoncé, Celine, and Mariah ballads. Let’s keep this one from my husband. Not about heading home in the wrong direction, but the music selection.

ski jump2Watching the Sochi Olympics brought back a rush of fond memories. Our family ventured to the 2010 Olympics in Whistler, B.C., for an unforgettable experience. My husband wanted to see ski jumping.  Living in Seattle, it was certainly convenient, and we figured we may never get another chance.

Arrangements were made, and we set out on our historic journey to the “Great White North”. As we approached Bellingham, Washington, my son asked, “Hey, isn’t this where baby Jesus was born, in the little town of Bellingham?” “Why yes son, it is”.

We made our way to Whistler and checked into our condo. The woman at the front desk advised we get up at 5 a.m. to make our 10 a.m. event. We laughed at the hilarity of such a suggestion. After all, the event was just up the street, and buses to the venue would be running like clockwork.

The next morning I awoke at 7 a.m., rolled over, and went back to sleep. When I finally dragged my bones out of bed, and the family was assembled, we were in a serious time crunch. But hey, no problem, just hop on the bus that runs right by our condo.

While waiting at the bus stop, several buses drove by, splattering us with dirty sludge. We began to panic.  We asked a few official looking Olympic volunteers why we weren’t getting picked up by the buses. The typical response, “They shipped me in from Manitoba, eh? I just work here, eh?”

Blood pressures rising, pulses quickening, we ascertain buses leave from Whistler Village, and head straight to the venues.  We flagged down a taxi and sped toward Whistler Village.

We were deposited at the Olympic Bus Depot.  As we found our seats, the bus driver climbed off, declaring his coffee break. Fifteen minutes later, fueled by tobacco and caffeine, the driver returned. We began the arduous journey, glancing compulsively at our watches.

camila olympicsSigh of relief as bus pulls into destination. Where is the ski jump competition? What? We have to hike up the mountain? No problem. It’s 10:15 a.m., but they can’t possibly start on time can they? It’s the first event of the Olympics, and no offense to our gentle Canadian brethren, but rumor has it, they’ve been a bit disorganized.  We start the long march up the hill; alternating between carrying, pushing, pulling, and rolling our children. Every muscle in our bodies aching, as we ascend. We are so close! But what’s this? A mass exodus heading straight down the mountain. “Hey guys, it’s great you’re all coming down the mountain, but can you please step aside? We have a ski jump competition to attend.” We are now going against a great current of refugees, waiving flags from a variety of Arctic Circle nations.

“Hmm, maybe it’s halftime? They have halftime in ski jumping, right?” That’s when the cheerleaders perform. We finally work up the courage to ask the pilgrims where they are going.

“It’s over.”

“No, we’re talking about the ski jump event.”

“Right, it’s over.”

Suspended disbelief; this can’t be happening.  I am sure these spectators are misguided and confused.  We keep hiking up the mountain. Ask a few more folks, just to confirm our idiocy. Is this some allegory or Aesop’s fable? My brain is scrambling to make sense of the grass hopper and the ant, or the early bird getting the worm. What are the true implications here? I suddenly see condemnation from teachers, family, my yoga instructor, the local butcher.You what? You missed the Olympics? How much did you spend on the tickets?

Apparently the ski jump event goes very fast. Fortunately a kid on our shameful return bus ride showed us his video of the event. It was just like being there. He got up at 5a.m. and made his way up the mountain, so as not to miss his once in a lifetime Olympic moment.

party3My failure to post last week was not because I was “nama-staying” at Quiet Whispers, Kind Thoughts Resort, a swearing rehabilitation facility in Mexico. Nor did I give up on Dry January and head to Cabo on a bender.

I was simply taking care of a few things on the home front; reorganizing the pantry to eradicate science projects, registering kids for sports, and cleaning my son’s room. I found him under mountains of debris, happily building Legos, his vital signs were normal.

I also attempted a world record for the longest service call to “Comcastic”. Two hours and seven helpful representatives later, I think I may have a spot in the Guinness Book.  I was trying to figure out why our cable bill each month is a king’s ransom.  The recording assured me, we are VIP customers.  I believe that means “Very Ignorant”,downton for continually paying insane bills without question or complaint.  It certainly didn’t advance me in the queue, or improve the quality of my customer service. It took a great deal of digging, sleuthing, and transferring to a variety of representatives, but I discovered that we are paying monthly fees on not one, but four decommissioned cable boxes, and an extra IP address.  A final transfer to the promotions department yielded a much better rate on our package of on-demand and cable channels. I was so excited that I invited the whole jing-bang lot of them over for tea and a Downton Abbey marathon.

For the record, Dry January is going great.  I have been a paragon of the temperance movement, and time is flying. Only 58 hours, 24 minutes, and 34 seconds to go.

© 2017 Napadaisical
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