Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Your daughter or mine?

I’m heating meatballs in the oven, going for a makeshift dinner of sorts, my husband and son are at baseball, the baby is temporarily sleeping and my 7 year-old daughter hits me with:

“Mom, do you think I’m Goth?”

Another dinner-time-universally-important question and my husband is not in the room. Dammit.

Many years of counseling and teacher-training come back to me as I quickly self-talk myself into remaining calm and showing no strong emotion that she could possibly attach to the word “Goth” as positive or negative, therefore eliminating any chance of her trying to use my emotional response to this word against me in a few years. It was difficult.

“What do you mean by ‘Goth’?” I ask noncommittally.
“It’s where a person dresses all in black and stuff,” she replies. “I like to wear all black.”
“Who told you about this?”
“My friend in school. She said I’m like so Goth because I like to wear black.”

Now I know this friend she mentions and I really like her. She came to my daughter’s birthday party this year and she is a nice girl. As far as I know she is the oldest kid (maybe an only child) and although she is extremely precocious, I’m curious where she learned about what Goth means. I’ve seen both her parents. They are Asian and don’t have a penchant for black.

I know it’s a simple harmless question. I get that she has no real understanding of what Goth means in all its stereotypic labels, mannerisms and attitudes. She might just as well have said, “Mom, do you think I’m a hooker?” or perhaps “Do you think I’m a stoner?” and she would probably know as much about these two things as she knows about being Goth. That one is a fisherwoman and the other a person who throws rocks.

But the Goth question stops my heart a bit. I spent three years teaching Junior High English and I can tell you, it scared the hell out of me. Not that the students were threatening. Not that I couldn’t control them in my class. But the thought that someday my kids would be sitting in rooms similar to these, surrounded by yahoos similar to the ones I taught, scared me to the very marrow of my existence. And that’s not even taking into account what kids will be like in 6-8 years. Hang on while I swill my wine…

The ironic thing about all this is that my husband and I have joked about this very thing.
“Why is she wearing all black today?” my husband asked at one point.
“I don’t know. She often wears all one color. Some days it just happens to be black,” I reply. Then my daughter tramps through the room exclaiming, “I just love black! I love to wear black. It’s my favorite color.”
My husband and I eye each other. We gulp. We act nonplussed. As she walks away my husband says to me, “Do you think she’s Goth?”
“Not if I can help it,” I retort.

I’m one of those people who hope to instill in my children the knowledge that you can’t judge a book by its cover. That you don’t label and discriminate based on the superficiality of looks. I know. I was one of those teens who prided herself on looking different (not Goth however) and never, never, never desired to fit the mold. (Damn the rogue genes.) But it’s a different matter when your little 7 year old daughter is using the word Goth and all you can envision is body piercings, hair dye and spiked dog collars. Suddenly your chubby handed little girl who loves to play homeless and run in the dirt barefoot, is a teen slamming doors and stealing your black eye liner.

I finally gather myself and say (again without emotion) “No, I don’t think you’re Goth. Being Goth is more than just wearing black. It’s more about how they act and the things they believe in and the negative things they do in their spare time.” Yes I know, I stacked the deck. I stereotyped. I’m sure there are probably many many Goth teens out there who volunteer at the local animal shelter, donate their time to Big Brothers Big Sisters and who attend daily Mass. (I have never seen any of them, but I’m sure they are out there.)

“Oh, you mean like ding-dong-ditch?” she asked me.

Ding-Dong-Ditch? I think. Is that as bad as it gets in her imagination? Maybe I don’t have anything to worry about after all…

“Yes, exactly,” I say.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Morning After

I woke up this morning sad and despondent. I shuffled my feet into my worn, pink fluffy slipper socks, grabbed my winter bathrobe and headed for the coffee maker. It’s 5:45 a.m. It’s cold out. It’s windy. Worse than all that; it’s no longer Mother’s Day.

I look forward to Mother’s Day more than my birthday. It has to be the best holiday by far: no Thanksgiving food-prep stress, no Christmas money-sucking-present-buying stress, no Easter-grass-all-over-the-floor stress. Mother’s Day is all about ME. Not even my birthday is all about me.

I’ll admit that I wring every single minute out of Mother’s Day. From 12:00 a.m. Sunday morning until 12:00 p.m. Sunday night I am off the clock. I am demanding. I am selfish, greedy, impatient and do what I want. In fact, I act exactly like my children. No wonder it’s difficult to change their behavior. Being selfish and doing whatever you want feels really really good.

On Mother’s Day I do no chores. I clean nothing, put nothing away and get out what I want. I prepare no meals, feed no children, wipe no butts, and do not answer questions from my kids. Want a cupcake? Go ask your father. Need a roll of toilet paper? Better yell louder, he’s downstairs. Hungry? I have a vagina that pushed you out of it, I’m off duty—go find your other genetic half. The most important part of the day however, is the fact that I feel guilty about none of it.

My husband, bless his personality, allows this and indulges me. He does not harumf around, deep sigh at my requests or play martyr. He is helpful, accommodating, and patient. Upon going to bed Saturday night I say to him, “So if the baby gets up before midnight, I’ll get her, but if she gets up after midnight, you get her. How does that sound?” He knows it’s a rhetorical question. I’m not looking for an opinion or a renegotiation tactic. And he does get up with her. Three times between midnight and six a.m.

I sleep in. As much as you can sleep in when you know you have church at 10:00. I read my novel in bed while my children pile their homemade cards, bookmarks and yard-picked flowers on me. They watch me open their gifts with wide expectant eyes. “I love these tissue paper flowers!” I exclaim. “This poem bookmark is perfect for my novel!” I marvel. “Wow, I never knew macaroni could be so incredibly useful!” I admire. My daughter and son do my bidding from my bedroom. They follow each request up with a “Yes mom. Can I get you anything else?” Then march down the hall shouting, “Mom wants some coffee! She needs more sugar! Don’t forget the cream!” I have one of those surreal moments where the expectations in my head and the reality of my life converge for a few brief, breath-still seconds. I inhale deeply and smile.

I am served breakfast in bed. Eggs benedict, my favorite. My children eat along side me, tucked under the covers. It’s cute and I love them, but I’m especially looking forward to the part of the day when they leave me alone.

I spend the day gardening as is our usual Mother’s Day ritual. I rip the old fence out from my garden, plant my tomatoes. My husband makes me iced tea, which I sip in the weathered green Adirondack chair in the backyard. He’s got the baby on his hip, on his shoulders, under his arm. She’s fussy and moody. He’s barefoot and wearing an untucked t-shirt and as I look at him from the garden, I smile and think, “This iced tea could really use some more lemon.” The baby down for a nap, he heads to the grocery store for a few dinner items. “Hurry back,” I yell. “Before the baby wakes up and starts crying.” I’m not getting her. My day isn’t over yet.

The best gift you can give me for Mother’s Day (in addition to flowers for my yard or a new garden fence) is a day where I don’t have to be a mother. I want to remember what is was like when I was single, or at the very least childless, when I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. That person that existed before Mrs. Vidoni, or Mama, or Mom or Mother. What was her name again? That’s right…Rachel something. I know it’s ironic that a person would want to spend a holiday that celebrates the fact she has offspring, without her offspring. But as my daughter said to me once, “A dirty kid is a happy kid.” Well, similarly, an off-duty mom is a happy mom.

The day ends with my husband making steamed crab, pasta alfredo and various other delectable tidbits. There was an ice cold Sams Summer Ale in the fridge for me. He purchased a smorgasbord of desserts from a local bakery. He cleaned the kitchen and did all the dishes. We watched our Sunday evening shows together on the couch. I was happy like a tick on a fat dog and still had 2.35 hours of my Mother’s Day left. I suggested, “This day was so perfect. I think we should do Mother’s Day quarterly.” He gave a yeah-whatever chuckle. I continued. “I’m happy to do a Father’s Day quarterly as well,” thinking that this would be a good way to make the playing field level. Then I threw in the mother-ism zinger, “Didn’t you feel good about doing all those things today?” (Like when you tell your children, “Don’t you feel great that you studied for three hours? Doesn’t thoroughly cleaning the toilet give you a deep sense of accomplishment? Aren’t you proud of yourself for making the dog’s life better by cleaning up the poop in the yard?” Life is all about the spin.) My husband said, “You know, I didn’t mind any of it really. The part that’s frustrating is the baby. You only have short amounts of time to get something done. I barely could clean the kitchen before she needed something.”

I snuggled closer to him. He just gave me the best present yet: 24 hours in my shoes and affirmation.

Here’s a shout-out to my husband: Thanks for the great day! You rock!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Need a Spa Day?

I know this posting will seem a bit unorthodox...you haven't seen anything like it from me, and are unlikely to again. That is, unless I find another good cause to support.
I know. There is a cause and a group for just about everything. Diabetes. Heart Association. March of Dimes. Cystic Fibrosis. Women-who-suck-at-housecleaning.
Oh wait. That's just a group I'd like to start.
Many of you know I walked for the MS society to support my good friend Dawn. While I do occasionally benefit from her handicap placard when we shop, I would rather she not be dealing with MS, and trying to figure out what this means for her future and the future of her husband and three small children. So I walked to support this amazing cause. For those who supported me in that endeavor, THANK YOU!!
My second cause is the Relay for Life. I'm part of a team walking to support another good friend, Claire. She has battled and beat breast cancer! Yeah for Claire! She also has a husband and three small children who have had to deal with the questions that arise when confronted with a life changing event of this nature; the what if's, if only's, and what now's.
So I had an idea to raise funds for the Relay for Life walk coming up in June.
I'm going to raffle off a $50 gift certificate for Spa Finder.
It's good in just about any state, and you can go to the website to find the specific spa locations that accept it. Just imagine; you can support cancer research while getting a mani and a pedi. What an offer!
Here's how it works: For every $10 donation you make to my Relay for Life fund, you'll get entered into the drawing for the certificate. If you donate $20, you get two chances, and so on. My goal is $300, but I'd love to surpass it. And honestly, a $50 gift certificate for $20 is a pretty good deal.
The links below will take you to the Spa Finder website where you can get more info, or my personal page for Relay for Life.
I'm going to support these two causes because these two friends welcomed and helped me when I first moved to MA back in 2000. That neighborhood playgroup where I met many of my friends (my only friends at the time) saved me and provided me an opportunity to get out of my small condo with my two small children. If it weren't for these ladies, I'd probably be supporting AA, (since wine seems like a good solution when you're stressed) or Mother's-who-have-had-it.
Oh wait. That's another group I'd like to start. Sorry.
But I'm also going to support them because so far I've been blessed with good health. And so far, I haven't had to face those If Only thoughts and Why Me questions. They have. And that's reason enough for me.
My personal page:
Spa Finder:

Friday, May 2, 2008

Sending Cards and Thank You Notes

For those paying attention, you’ll notice I added “Blogging in timely fashion,” to my list of things I suck at. Just so you know I’m aware I have a problem. It’s not just blogging however. It’s doing anything on or before a timeline. This includes sending cards.

If you’ve given me a gift in the last 10 years (well...ever) and I haven’t sent a thank you, let me do that now.

Thank you so much!

If you’ve sent my children a present, card or check for their birthday or any gift-giving holiday and you have yet to receive a thank you, then for my children I say,
Thank you very much!

It’s not that we are an ungrateful bunch, on the contrary, I know (and I tell my children) how blessed we are and how we should be grateful grateful grateful everyday for simply living in our home, but for some reason I simply cannot get it together enough to send cards of thanks. In fact, my daughter has just finished her thank you’s from her birthday party in February. While they are written, they are currently sitting on the back of the hutch. I have not sent my thank you’s for the donations that were made to the MS society for the walk I completed. And I’m sure there are a few baby presents I received when the baby was born that slid under the radar and now my daughter is going on one and I can tell you, a card is not coming.

It’s not just thank-you’s I have trouble with. Sending cards of any type is truly an issue for me. My sister’s birthday was three weeks ago, her daughters birthday is Saturday and although it’s been on the calendar since January, have I sent either one a card? Of course not.

I’m not sure why I bother to write birthday’s, anniversaries, and whatnot on my calendar since those reminders only serve to remind me what I’ve missed. I look at my calendar every day at least twice. It takes that much for me to keep up with what the kids are doing. How do I continue to get myself into these situations? You ask. How the hell hard is it to slap a stamp on an envelope put it in the mail and be done? Here’s a brief example of my thought process. So you know, C=calendar and TB=thought bubble. Mine of course.

I stand in front of the calendar on Monday.
C: 10:00 home cleaning estimate; Girl Scouts
TB: crapcrapcrap. I didn’t clean the house enough for the cleaning lady she’ll probably think I’m a slob dammit I have to plan for Girl Scouts what are we going to do oh Mimes might be fun [glancing ahead in the week] it’s a busy week will I even have time for a nap I don’t think so, oh my sister’s birthday is on Thursday I have to remember to send her a card.

I stand in front of the calendar on Tuesday.
C: Teddy Bear Picnic 2:00-3:00 daughter’s class, bring snacks, blanket; Karate 4:30-5:00; Baseball practice 5:00
TB: crapcrapcrap. I didn’t get anything for the teddy bear picnic, maybe I’ll have time to make cookies who am I kidding don’t forget the blanket is the camera battery even charged I don’t think so dammit. Karate and baseball practice start at the same time how can I be two places at once I wish my husband were home well someone won’t be going to something maybe I can get the neighbor to take my daughter to Karate [glancing ahead in the week] in-laws coming tomorrow still haven’t cleaned the lower level for them, oh and I need to get a card in the mail today for my sister’s birthday.

C: Mom & Dad in-law arrive 3:15-Providence
TB: plan on having house all cleaned by 10:00 a.m.,will go to buy a card for my sister, get it in the mail then maybe it will only be a day (or two) late. I can apologize for that I need to find someone to get the kids off the bus so I can get mom and dad from the airport I still need to finish the laundry before they get here, what will we be eating for dinner I can’t stand making dinner maybe we’ll go out get a card get a card get a card.

C: Sister birthday; Karate 4:30-5:00.
TB: dammit dammit dammit. Didn’t send sister a card make sure that I call her today and apologize for not sending a card, cleaned all day yesterday and still was late picking mom and dad up, I didn't pick up a card yet well screw the card because now it's late and since it's late I might as well not send it...

And then all the family arrived for the baby’s baptism and the next week the kids were off from school, and now it’s May and my neice’s birthday is tomorrow and while she is only turning two, have I sent anything yet? Right. You know the answer.

In fact I was talking to my neighbor the other day who was relating to me that a mutual acquaintance had had a tragedy in her family. While we both don’t know the woman all that well, a card or thoughtful note would have been nice, so I said to my friend, “It is my intention to send a card.” That was a few weeks ago and now it just seems weird to send one.

I was so late on my Christmas letters, but had already printed the pictures, that I sent out Merry Spring letters instead. Those went out in March.

My other niece and nephew had birthday’s in February and March. It was my intention to take them to Build-A-Bear while I back visiting so we could have some bonding time and celebrate together. Well, family tragedy trumped the birthday event plans, and now it’s May and have I sent them gift cards to Build-A-Bear? Have they received anything from sorry ol’ Aunt Rachel? Nothing. Nada. Zip. "Sucking as an Aunt" --add it to the list.

We still haven’t had my son’s birthday party. His birthday was in April and we’re planning on having it towards the end of May, but it requires me to send out invitations. They're on the hutch, but they remain blank

I need to enroll my daughter in day camp for a week this summer. The forms are filled out. The check is written. The doctor has signed her off in good health. The envelope is sitting on the back of my hutch.

I mailed the last of the Christmas presents to family at the end of February. They were family calendars with our pictures. Family was never able to use the first two months. I’m just happy the calendars aren’t on the back of the hutch anymore.

Maybe I need to get rid of my hutch.

According to the latest wedding etiquette, brides and grooms have three months to send out all their thank you notes. Now this is something I might be able to accomplish.

If I had a three month window for all cards and correspondence, I may actually be more successful in sending things off. Another option would be to just send everyone a package containing a year’s worth of greetings: Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Easter, what-have-you. Then I would only need to get one thing in the mail per family. That idea might actually work.