Monday, July 30, 2012

That's A Pisser

My son is peeing all over the place.

Several months ago, I decided Henry was ready to get out of diapers. It was an item I'd included in my ridiculous list of Thirty-Nine (long abandoned and due to expire shortly), and, plus - the girls had been so easy.

Henry was totally on board. He'd run to the toilet every fifteen minutes. We did the potty dance and gave high fives and we declared to friends that Henry practically trained himself!

So smug. So stupid.

He lost interest. He didn't want to stop playing or he didn't make it on time and accidents happened frequently. Then they stopped being accidents. It's as if he was saying, 'You and your games are tiresome, woman. Piss off.'

Today, he peed in his dump truck and brought it to me.

'Pee pee truck?' he said sweetly. Pantless. 'Yeah?'

'Thank you,' I said, grateful it was only pee. Thankful it wasn't an actual dump truck.

I'm started to wonder what's cheaper - buying a carpet cleaner, renting one over and over, or sheeting everything in plastic. To make matters worse, Shutup Roxy has suddenly become an old dog. I've had both of them simu-pissing at different ends of the house, with me running and screaming and throwing towels and yelling DON'T TOUCH IT! because someone will end up in the crossfire.

Someone like Julia will come running, because I am screaming, and hit a patch of pee and go down, hard.

And then everyone gets a bath.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


"So, what do you think about what happened in Colorado?"

The question catches me off guard, because it seems silly. Like, "So, what do you think about Tom and Katie's divorce?", or, "So, what do think about all those mason jars on Pinterest?". But of course, it's not a silly question and, unlike the others (don't care, really weird, used interchangably), it's one I don't know how to answer.

I don't think about it. I feel about it. Horrified, heartbroken, confused. But the most prevalent feeling, the most base and real and visceral reaction, is a hearty and heated, what the fuck?

What the fuck, y'all?

I've seen all kinds of articles today - thoughtful, well written, articles - telling me how to talk to my children about the tragedy. Guess what? I don't want to. Katie is eleven. We live in Squareville USA in a comfortable house where the most serious issue facing her is what she's going to wear on the first day of middle school. Am I going to shatter that sweet silence with the idea that a six year old kid can walk into a movie theater without a care in the world, and get wheeled out, dead, killed by a maniac?

Fuck that noise. I won't do it. I can't do it.

I woke up in the middle of the night, my heart squeezed tight in my chest. There was an elephant sitting there, and I couldn't breathe. My hands clutched the blanket and I couldn't hear the small boy beside me snoring softly, for the roar of blood in my ears. My eyes were hot with tears and I could not shake the idea that one of my children was in danger. They are in bed, they are under this roof, they are safe, we are safe, they are safe, we are safe. And when my heart finally stopped pounding and I was able to move again, I walked through the house. Doors shut. Doors locked. Children sleeping, innocent and unknowing.

I'd like to keep it that way.

I feed them small sips of reality through a bendy straw, filtered with age appropriate language and tempered by platitudes. Nothing will happen here, my babies. Reassuring hugs and ice cream, and the hope that they'll just forget all the things that keep me awake at night.

What do I think?

I think that worrying about it is a million times easier than facing it. I think talking about it as some abstact beats the hell out of explaining what just happened in reality.

And when I'm forced, when I have no choice but to swallow my anxiety and sit down and tell them truths no child should have to hear, I remember to tell them this:

For every loss and fear and evil and wrong, there is a light. There is goodness and hope and healing. For every step we can not take alone, there is someone who will carry us.

I need to believe it as much as they do.

When I was seventeen, I found myself in the middle of a riot in Berkeley. It happens. In an instant, I was faced with a rushing mass of people. I could not run fast enough to escape them and then, true to form, I fell. I looked up and saw that within seconds, I was going to be trampled. Leading the charge, heading straight for me, was an enormous man, face set like stone.

I could not move. Instinctually, I curled my body into a ball and covered my face. And then, instead of being overrun, I found myself flying. Lifted under the arms by this massive man who carried me, running, around a corner to safety. He paused only long enough to press me into a doorway, push my shoulders back and say, gently, 'Stay', before he began to run again.

When I watch my children fall, when I see a crowd coming around the corner, ready to run them over, I have to tell them they're coming. I have to tell them why. Then, I have to pick them up and help them fly.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Elsewhere on the Internets

Katie is home after two weeks in Arizona with family, and I don't think I have hugged her enough. She brought with her my amazing 12 year old nephew, Daylen, so I have double hugging to do. While I'm busy hugging, go read this piece I wrote for my friend Tara, at Faith in Ambiguity. She's on vacation, and offered up her space to me for the day.

I hope you like it. I call it, The Dude.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Sometimes, it's a cosmic subtle hint. My friend K-, posting this article on Facebook.

Sometimes, it's a truth said in the heat of an argument about nothing - "You're on the computer all the time."

Sometimes, it is a heart crushing proclamation made by a five year old who's been denied screen time - "I don't want to read a book! Books are boring! I HATE BOOKS I WANT TO PLAY WII."

I hate books. The words brought tears to my eyes. How could my child hate books? How could my child prefer to spend her time watching Spongebob or playing video games or browsing the app store or anything, anything but read a book?

The answer is simple. Me.

I wake in the morning, stumble into the kitchen, and check my email. Messages from Target and Groupon take precedence over coffee, even. I fix breakfast and turn my back to my children while they eat so I can check Facebook. I keep the iPad on the counter so I can check in here and there dozens of times a day as I pass through the room. At nap time, I balance it on my knee while I rock Henry to sleep.

Henry is barely awake and starts asking, "Play game?" Julia can work every electronic device in this house better than I can. And she was the source of the "I hate books" comment. I do not read at bedtime anymore with any regularity, finding it easier to put a movie in her portable DVD player, while I get Henry to sleep.

Katie, who did receive the benefit of thousands of pages read aloud to her, and has reading and writing skills far beyond her age and grade level, prefers the company of an ipod touch to anything else.

I, my friends, have fucked up.

I am not a bad parent. I take my kids places and love them fiercely and have spontaneous dance parties and feed them good food and teach them right from wrong. I am afraid what I have become is a lazy parent. Maybe sometimes an overwhelmed parent. Maybe a smug parent, assuming that their natural inclination for awesomeness will compensate for any deficit in my parenting. I am, I think, by any standard a good enough parent.

I don't want to be a good enough parent. I want to be a good parent. I should strive every day to be a GREAT parent. When we decided to have children, everything in my life became suddenly secondary. I am responsible for the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of three very small people. It is my job, my chosen profession, to dedicate my life to helping them become good and kind and productive and generous and loving people. Some people wonder what their purpose in life is. I don't - that's it. Those three people are my purpose in life.

It's my responsibility to do this job the best that I can.

And I haven't been. What I have done is helped create a trio of vidiots, so 'connected' with things that we're losing connections with each other. We lead by example - Sean and I, finally alone with all the kids in bed, sit in front of the television, simultaneously watching a show and surfing on our respective electronic devices.

But it's the way things are now! Everyone's connected! Everyone is linked in! Everyone has a blog! It's bullshit, is what it is.

I'm not going offline. We won't throw out our televisions or computers or phones. I will still give in to laziness and exasperation and say 'just watch a show for a little while' to get dinner made or laundry folded or a few minutes of quiet. I am not perfect, I can not be. But good enough is not good enough, anymore.

Today, no one played video games. As a result, none of us got the shakes or went insane or burst into flames. Instead, we sat on the floor and played Legos until my ass fell asleep. Tonight, I sat in the rocker and announced, "Storytime!" and didn't hurry the story. Julia decided she doesn't hate books, afterall.

Tiny steps. Small victories. Glimpses of greatness.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Last weekend, Sean and I went out to dinner to celebrate our seventeenth anniversary. We have a few favorite restaurants, but he was feeling adventurous and suggested we go a town over and try the Brazilian Steakhouse.

"That's meat on sticks, right?" I said warily, already missing the pork shank, mac and cheese and collards I would have ordered at our standby special occasion joint.

"Skewers, actually, and there are sides! And a great salad bar!" He raised his eyebrows.

We're bonafied meatetarians, but I have a soft spot for salad bars and a weakness for the phrase 'all you can eat'.

"Let's do it," I said.

I pulled out my trusty Target t-shirt dress and he gave me the eyebrow waggle again. "Fancier," he said. So I went fancier and let me tell you - it was completely unnecessary.

The restaurant itself was lovely. Crisp, clean linens, an impeccable waitstaff, a courteous and charming maitre d'. And a clientele that looked like a group from the state prison (and their dates) had been granted a night on the town, and decided to go meat. There was Lots of Rubber Bracelets Guy and Dr. Seuss Guy (in a One Fish, Two Fish t-shirt). At a separate table, on what may have been a first date, was Red Shirt White Tie Porn Mustache Guy, and his lovely partner Fedora Bandeau Top Hammer Pants Lady. Perhaps they were on their way to an REO Speedwagon concert, I don't know. But I do know that Sean and I needed a good dose of 1986 to fit in at this joint.

Our fine waiter, Kevin, gave us the low down- we could start with the impressive salad bar. He would then bring us our meat plates, and a side of sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, and a basket of tiny rolls. We were given card to signal the meatatiers (not what they're really called, I forget the official meatnomer). When the card is on green, we're saying 'bring me the meat'; red means 'good lord, stop with the meat for a minute'. The meat would flow freely - sausages and steak and chicken and lamb, some of it wrapped in even more meat. Kevin cautioned us to start slowly.

Start with a salad.

Sean and I made our way to the salad bar. Luckily, we were the only ones at the bar at the time, so we were able to leisurely peruse the offerings. I had managed to put a few shrimp on my plate, and then the strangest thing happened.

Looking back, I know that what I thought was happening could not actually be happening, because what I thought was happening was this:
(jump to 3:44 to see exactly what I'm talking about)

I know it might seem unreasonable, thinking that perhaps Duran Duran would be making a remake of their classic video for The Reflex over the salad bar of a Brazilian steakhouse in North Carolina. But had Simon Le Bon walked over with some meat on a stick, I would have been no less surprised than I was by what actually happened.

What actually happened was: The steakhouse had been having an issue with their air conditioning. The contractor, in a prime example of horrendously bad judgment, decided to remove a ceiling tile and replace it with a metal sheet pan, to collect the runoff. A metal sheet pan, which when completely full, would fall from the ceiling, hit the sneeze guard of the salad bar, and fly across the room, shooting a spray of water that was video worthy.

And which completely drenched my husband.

You know those horrifying moments, when an entire room goes silent and it's because they're all looking at you? The silence was deafening, and right before Sean turned on his heel and excused himself to go to the restroom, I heard One Fish, Two Fish guy sum up the whole night in three little words:

"That was weird."

So I'm standing at the salad bar with my plate of five shrimp, and I'm a little confused at to what I should do next. There is a guy with a mop and I know I'm in his way. Should I go sit down? Should I try to get some more food off the portion of the salad bar that wasn't affected? Should I stand there and eat my shrimp?

I wish I could say that the last two thoughts were not actual thoughts, but they were. You're talking to a person who once cleaned kid vomit off the table at Chili's then finished her meal. I am not proud. But I am hungry.

Finally, I walked to our table and sat down my plate, then went and stood outside the men's restroom.

"Hey, man," I whispered to Sean when he walked out. "Hey, you want to go home?" Sean is a very tidy person when it comes to his person, and I knew he wouldn't want to sit through dinner with his boxer shorts wet and cold.

"Yeah, yeah, let's go."

"I'll get our stuff. Does it smell? Are you smelly?"

"It's not toilet water, it's air conditioner water." he looked at me like I was stupid, but I have a special talent for making him doubt himself. "Why, do I smell?"

"No. No more than usual."

"What does that mean? Do I stink?"

About this time, the manager comes around the corner, where we're skulking outside the men's restroom like we've done something wrong. He starts talking to Sean and I walk to our table to get our things. In the thirty seconds it takes for me to make the roundtrip, they've become best friends.

"We're staying!" Sean announces, and the manager is shaking his hand and clapping him on the back.

I know what has happened here. The man has uttered the magic words, 'free meal', and all is right with the world.

We will sit at our table, Sean with his wet, toilet water leg, getting the fish eye from the other patrons. I will laugh too loud and make four trips to the salad bar and declare, later, that 'meat farts don't smell!'. Sean will deem his favorite waiter his meat dealer, and push his gastric boundaries to their limits. We will turn down dessert, and leave a generous tip. We will go home and re-enact the entire thing with great embellishment. Sean will develop Matrix-esque reflexes. I will stand for an agonizingly long time with my plate of shrimp.

We laid in bed that night, still so full and happy. "Happy anniversary," Sean said. "Happy anniversary," I said. And fell asleep laughing.