Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Cookie Ban

I have forbidden a certain grandparent (Grandma Lonna) from feeding my children cookies. The whole cookie thing just got out of hand. First it was holiday-theme cookies. I was fine with that. Then it was the cookies shoved relentlessly down my kids' throats when we'd stop by for a visit. A little irritating, but I was able to manage.

But that just wasn't enough for Grandma. Her cookie compulsion soon evolved into the shameless stuffing of cookies into my kids' pockets and hands and mouths as we'd head out the door. Then she'd run into the street to pass them through the car window.

"No more!" I'd plead, "They've had enough. May I remind you, Alex came home and barfed last time. NO MORE COOKIES please."

Grandma Lonna would nod in agreement, "Okay, okay." Then she'd race back to her kitchen to begin filling cookie to-go containers. She was completely out of control.

Having Grandma shove cookies at a kid who LOVES sugar AND can't say no AND has gastric reflux AND a propensity for oral food eruptions (puking) is not a good combination. Plus, I'm always nervous about eating baked goods from Grandma Lonna after the Cornbread Incident. She has terrible eyesight. She once baked us cornbread with ANTS in it. Hundreds of black speckles, that, yep, turned out to be hundreds of dead baked ants.

What it bakes down to is this: Grandparents like to play good-cop to our hard-ass parenting bad-cop role. I can embrace that, and even enjoy massive spoiling as a spectator sport. But cookies do not equal love. Unless they are heart shaped and we are speaking figuratively. 

The final straw was when Grandma broke into our house one day and left a plate of cookies on the kitchen counter. Creepy. Like our own personal cookie stalker. I'm not saying she scaled up the side of the house and pried open a window. I think I forgot to lock the back door that day. Though, I haven't ruled out the possibility that grandma may have inched up the drain pipe with her cookies in one hand and a homemade burglary kit in another. 

Grandma Lonna isn't the only cookie-obsessed grandparent we have in our family. My mom, known as Granny Frannie, is another hardcore cookie pusher. Unfortunately, I just don't see my mom enough for her cookies to be a problem (health or otherwise). And her cookies are unreasonably good. And whenever she makes a to-go plate to bring home it is NEVER a problem. Because it takes an hour and a half to get home and by then the kids have forgotten about the cookies. So my husband and I wait until they are in bed and then stuff our faces, lick the plate clean, and remove all evidence from the house. It's our silent revenge for both having mothers who never gave US cookies when we were kids. So keep making those cookies, mom.

I'm mentioning the cookie thing because I am reconsidering the Grandma Lonna cookie ban. My change of heart came about when we were sitting in the doctor's office - Grandma Lonna's appointment -  and I ran down my long list of questions, carefully writing down the doctor's responses to share with the rest of the family. I often have to speak for Grandma during these appointments due to a language barrier as well as some lasting effects of a stroke many years ago. After answering everything the doctor stood to leave and kindly asked, "Do you have any other questions?"

"YES!" announced Grandma Lonna. We waited in silence for Grandma to gather her thoughts, find the right words.

Grandma gave the doctor - a mother of three young girls - a long serious look and said, "Do you let your kids eat cookies?"

The doctor looked taken aback. Slightly confused. And then she answered, "Yes, I do. It's not always the healthiest snack but my kids do eat cookies." And then she left.

Monday, October 12, 2009

If Only

Nice to know someone can sleep in around here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Cup, an Egg, and a Spoon

Not such a great morning yesterday. I was up at 4:40am to get my mother-in-law to the cardiologist's for her 8:30am appointment. She was incredibly ungrateful, which I found incredibly irritating. I get that being grateful to the person pounding on your front door at 5:00 in the morning is pretty darn impossible.

But she answered the door in her baggy THERMAL LONG JOHNS clutching a teapot in one hand and an egg in the other. Not my definition of "ready" - which was what I had requested from her the night before. My mother-in-law is a rebel. She waved the egg at me with tight, angry fingers, "It's early!" she stated accusingly. Like I was responsible for rotating the earth too fast that day. I wasn't quite sure if she was going to throw the egg at me or cook it. Fortunately, she shuffled into the kitchen and dropped it into a pot of boiling water. She looked pissed, but last I checked, I was the one who skipped coffee that morning.

I may have sounded a little crabby when I told her she had ten minutes to get ready or she'd have to find herself a new ride to the hospital. I mentioned I skipped my coffee that morning, right? The cause of my stress was stemming from knowing I had to get back into town in time to take my kids to school. Her appointment was an hour away. Her daughter was meeting us there at 6:00am, traveling from the opposite direction.  The plan was for me to drop her at the door of the medical center and head back home.

My pleading finally paid off and Lonna was ready in 15 minutes. I turned off her kettle and scooped her boiled egg into a cup. I grabbed a spoon from the kitchen drawer and told her, "You can eat this in the car, let's go." 

It was too dark to eat the egg. It was a stupid idea. The egg clunked around in the little brown cup between the two front seats growing cold. I made small talk on the way over, we discussed her diabetes testing, her fluid retention, her muscle cramps, her yoga class she wants to go back to but can't, how much we love her doctors and how happy we are that she has them. We never talk about the fact that she is most certainly dying and doesn't have much longer. Sometimes I pick topics that get her all fired up, just to make sure there's still some fight left in her.

But as I dropped her off in front of the medical center, I couldn't ignore the obvious. I offered her the egg in a cup with a spoon and she actually reached out to take it. It was a stupid idea. And I finally saw her, how she must look to others. A tiny little asian woman with wispy thin hair and sunken cheeks and the most stubborn dark eyes. Reaching out to take the egg in a cup with a spoon from me as she clutched her overcoat around her always-cold failing body. I pulled the cup back.

"You can't take this," I told her, "it was a stupid idea." She stared at the cup for a moment before nodding her head in agreement. We shared a small laugh, and she pulled back to leave. She struggled with the car door for a moment and then crept her way through the sliding hospital doors. I watched her through the glass walls and she paused to wave good-bye and for a moment I pictured how crazy she would look if she was actually carrying a cup and an egg and a spoon down the hall of the medical center while waiting for her daughter. 

It was a stupid idea.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Another Fine Parenting Moment

So, how did YOU send your little one off to school this year? With hugs and kisses and promises of after-school cookies and milk? Did you pick out the perfect back-to-school outfit and gush over what a great teacher your child got?

Yeah. Well, I took a different approach. Let's just say fourth grade did not start off how I had hoped. 

It all began when my son's best friend was put in a different classroom. It's their first year separated since Kindergarten! Alex was devastated when he found out. I tried to console him. I told him how great his teacher was and how I was confident that the teacher HE got was the right one for HIM.

And then I took it a little further. "You know," I said, "the teacher your friend got is a little strict. I'm not sure you would have liked her."

"She's MEAN?" Alex asked.

"I did NOT say mean, honey. I just think this OTHER teacher is a good choice for you. Your friend will do just fine." Oh crap, just what I need, Alex telling his friend he has a mean teacher.

The icing on this shit cake I'd cooked up for myself is that I happen to know his friend's teacher. I'll call her Ms. H. Now Ms. H is, in fact, an absolute sweetheart and an amazing teacher!!! I was more than a little disappointed that Alex didn't get placed in her classroom. 

Fortunately, Alex immediately fell in love with the teacher he DID get and it looked like we had a smooth year ahead of us. He even met a new friend - and for a super shy kid like my son, that's a big deal.

Sadly, the story does not end there.

One week into the school year, we were notified that there was an unexpected increase in enrollment and they had to hire an additional teacher. Some children would be moved to a different classroom. You guessed it - Alex was moved into Ms. H's room. His best friend was moved out and placed with the new hire. His new friend went into the new hire's room as well. In fact, all his close friends went into the new hire's room.

I spent the weekend explaining to my son that Ms. H was REALLY REALLY nice and that I was very happy with the change.

"I GOT THE MEAN TEACHER!" he wailed.

"She's NOT mean, stop saying that," I told him.

"Then why did you say she was mean?" he asked. And asked. And asked.

"I – NEVER – SAID – SHE – WAS - MEAN. I just said a little strict, and I was exaggerating. I know her. She is super NICE. She is a great teacher. She is the one I was hoping you would get."

Ah, but the seed of doom had been planted. Alex was sick with worry and afraid to get out of the car when I dropped him off for his first day with Ms. H. When I picked him up, he was not happy.

"How'd it go today?" I asked.

"Okay. Ms. H has a book for the kids who break the rules," he told me.

"What do you mean?"

"She has a book that you have to sign if you break a rule. And your name stays in the book for ALL OF ETERNITY," he explained in a slightly hysterical voice.

"Honey, I'm sure it's not for all of eternity. She probably throws it away at the end of the year."

"No, I looked in it. There are names from last year."

"Alex, this is not a big deal. You are a great kid, Ms. H will see that in time and she will love you. You have nothing to worry about. Even if you had to sign the book, it would not be a big deal."

"I DON'T EVER want to sign the book," he sobbed through clenched teeth. Conversation over.

At back to school night Ms. H mentioned she was a little concerned that Alex wasn’t speaking to her. I tried to look innocent. I gave her a comforting pat on the shoulder. I gently explained, "Alex doesn't like change and he's a bit terrified right now. You may not want to have him sign THE BOOK for awhile, he may end up traumatized for life."

Ha - mischief managed. Or so I hoped.

Update: Despite my efforts to ruin fourth grade for my child, I have failed. Ms. H has officially won my son over. Yes, he likes her. Yes, he no longer leaves my car white-knuckled and clutching his backpack like it’s the last life preserver on board the Titanic. The book of doom or whatever the heck she calls that thing has not even made it into a recent conversation. And rumor has it that other kids think the book is cool and they TRY to get their names in it. Go figure.

So, here's to great teachers, sensitive kids, and another fine parenting moment!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


It's hard to say no to free music. Especially when it comes from an unlikely source. A mystery traveler left a Lady Gaga CD in the rental car we took on our vacation last August. I'm pretty sure the person who rented the vehicle before us was significantly more hip than our quiet little family of four. More hip, more interesting, and I'm guessing MUCH younger. Younger than me, that is.

Another artifact from this other person's road trip was tucked in the pocket behind the passenger front seat. It was a pair of brand-new still-in-the-package rainbow peace symbol earrings. Who WAS this person? Lady Gaga herself? My eleven-year-old daughter was ecstatic with the earring find, until I vetoed her plan for taking ownership of the three-inch dangling ear ornaments of unknown origin. Nice try.

The music, though, the music was - at first - enjoyed by all. It happens to be the only car CD my family owns. We have our individual ipods and our computer music libraries. But nothing has actually made it into our personal vehicles. Until now.

The kids tolerated the new music scene for about a week. Then they pleaded for silence while they buried their noses in books. All it took was one week of Lady Gaga and my master plan to create mini-geekoids of my offspring has firmly taken hold. So proud.

The music is having the opposite effect on me. I am deteriorating into mindlessness. Dorky goofiness at its best.  I confess, after school drop-off I find myself tuning away from my talk radio shows and cranking up the Gaga tunes.


I swear, so NOT me. But it's catchy and reminds me of my bubbly, adorable friend Sandy in college twenty-some years ago. Yes, as a matter of fact she was cute and blond. Still is.

DON'T WANT NO PAPER GANGSTER. Okay, I admit, I have no idea what Miss Gaga is talking about. I'm not even sure these are the actual words in the song. But it's so darn catchy and yes, I'm singin it, baby, singing away while cruising to the supermarket and to the school and then to sick grandma's house.

Been cranking these same tunes for two months. I feel like they should do a study of my brain activity. Two months. There is seriously something wrong with me.

And poor Gaga lady - this can't be good for her career. I should probably send her those earrings when I get a chance. Peace. 


Monday, October 5, 2009

A load of you-know-what

Writers like words, especially perfect words that describe less-than-perfect situations. I have found such a word. My word perfectly describes the shit I recently had to deal with. Literally, shit. I'm telling you this because if the s-word bothers you, you'd better stop reading now. If you have a better word that describes the brown stuff that comes out of the back end of a dog - then be my guest and mentally place that word as a substitute for the s-word when you read it in this post. For me, I am playing the literary card here and standing by my perfect word.

While I'm appreciating the qualities of one lovely word, I'm also faced with the unfortunate situation of lacking the right word for something else. You see,  I've discovered a new emotion and I don't know what to call it. This emotion occurs when you don't know whether to cry or throw up. Your throat closes up, tears well up in your eyes, and your stomach convulses into retching spasms. Yet you can't puck, because waves of hopelessness and despair are pressing down on you.  A name for this new emotion escapes me. I'm open to suggestions.

My son was playing at the park, and as nine-year-olds tend to do, he was rolling around on the field in major combat with invisible enemies. Before leaving the park, he asked what was on his shirt. There was a big mashed pile of dog shit sticking to the back of his shirt. We took the shirt off and if IT WAS UP TO ME, the shirt would have been tossed into the trash. But no. My husband carried the shirt home and left it on the front porch. LEFT IT THERE. Even after I told him that if he wanted to save the shirt, HE needed to hose it off completely on the lawn before bringing it in the house.

SIDE NOTE: I'm sure some of you can identify with the concept of "marital standoff." I can't be the only one who leaves a single crusty frying pan on the stove, unwashed, for weeks, desperately hoping that the person who actually used the pan, would actually clean the pan and complete the full cycle of helpfulness. These things never end well, do they? Eventually you end up scrubbing the stupid pan or throwing it away - depending on how much you like or need that particular frying pan.

I, personally, wasn't overly fond of this particular shirt. The shirt stayed on my porch for a week and then disappeared. Good, right? NO. Bad. Bad. Bad. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had (I'm going to assume this was an absentminded moment for him and not intentional) tossed the shirt into the laundry hamper where it was then accidentally washed with the rest of our clothes. I had a pile of dog shit in MY WASHING MACHINE WITH THE REST OF MY CLOTHES.

I tried to have a rational conversation about this incident with my husband. But, seriously, can anyone REALLY have a productive conversation about having a load of dog shit in their washing machine?  -And I know for a fact that there is no good ending to such a conversation. I've just had to let it go.

And now - while I don't have an actual word for it - I do have a new emotion to add to my repertoire. I don't think I'll ever find a use for this emotion in one of the books I'm writing. Nope, no character comes to mind. No situation I can think of at the moment. Though, the phrase "that's a load of shit" does carry a depth of new meaning.