Sunday, August 26, 2012

A night before the first day of school poem adapatation

Tonight, I was lamenting my kiddos' imminent departure to kindergarten tomorrow morning.  My exact words were:

"OMG OMG OMG OMG. Breathe, Pam, breathe. It's just school. You're not sending them off to work in a mine."

In response, a friend posted this poem by Dan Valentine (presumably because she thought it would be funny if I anxiety-puked all over my keyboard):

Dear World:

I bequeath to you tomorrow one little girl named a crispy dress...with two brown eyes...and a happy laugh that ripples all day long...and a flash of light brown hair that bounces in the sun when she runs. I trust you'll treat her well.

She's slipping out of the backyard of my heart tomorrow morning...and skipping off down the street to her first day of school. And never again will she be completely mine. Prim and proud she'll wave her young and independent hand and say "Goodbye" and walk with little lady steps to the schoolhouse.

Now she'll learn to stand in lines...and wait by the alphabet for her name to be called. She'll learn to tune her ears for the sounds of school-bells...and deadlines...and she'll learn to giggle...and gossip...and look at the ceiling in a disinterested way when the little boy 'cross the aisle sticks out his tongue at her. And now she'll learn to be jealous. And now she'll learn how it is to feel hurt inside. And now she'll learn how not to cry.

No longer will she have time to sit on the front porch on a summer day and watch an ant scurry across the crack in the sidewalk. Nor will she have time to pop out of bed with the dawn and kiss lilac blooms in the morning dew. No, now she'll worry about those important grades and which dress to wear and whose best friends is whose. And the magic of books and learning will replace the magic of her blocks and dolls. And now she'll find new heroes.

For five full years now I've been her sage and Santa Claus and pal and playmate and father and friend. Now she'll learn to share her worship with her teachers ...which is only right. But no longer will I be the smartest man in the whole world. Today when that school bell rings for the first time...she'll learn what it means to be a member of the group...with all its privileges and its disadvantages too.

She'll learn in time that proper young ladies do not laugh out loud...or kiss dogs...or keep frogs in pickle jars in bedrooms...or even watch ants scurry across cracks in sidewalks in the summer.
Tomorrow she'll learn for the first time that all who smile at her are not her friends. And I'll stand on the front porch and watch her start out on the long, lonely journey to becoming a woman.

So, world, I bequeath to you tomorrow one little girl named a crispy dress...with two brown eyes...and a flash of light brown hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs.

I trust you'll treat her well.

[Apologies to Dan Valentine for any missing punctuation, etc.  I couldn't easily find the original source because mamas all over the internet are copying and pasting your poem.  Um, kind of like I just did.  Except I gave you credit and most of them don't.  I am a writer.  I tried my best.  If you see this and want a link, it's yours.  Just let me know.]

Anyway, I did my own adaptation.  Here it is.  Enjoy.

Dear World:

I bequeath to you my little monkeys. In clothes they picked out themselves which are totally not the clothes I would have picked, but whatever, it's their big day so it's OK I guess... with their mops of hair that I promise I brushed even though they completely look like orphans because secretly I kind of like it when they look messy because it means they're having fun.

They're meeting our next-door-neighbor at the bottom of her driveway tomorrow, the female next-door-neighbor that my daughter said she would marry after she was rejected by her best male friend, who is already betrothed to another. She has no idea that the very Christian family would probably be horrified at her girl-girl marriage plans with their daughter, and has no idea that that marriage would not be legal in most states.

Now they'll learn not to say "Oh shit" when they drop something, and not to talk too much about how they'll drink coffee and wine and beer when they grow up, or about how when they grow up they will be allowed to say "fruckin'," because the teacher doesn't like it when they talk that way.

No longer will they have time to watch TV and play on the Wii all day long.

For five full years I have alternated between being the best mommy ever and the meanest mommy ever, depending on whether I said yes or no to a cookie ten minutes before dinner. Now I will pack a cookie in their lunch boxes and some cheez-its too, and they will probably eat them before they eat their lunch and I will never know.

They'll learn all sorts of crap, like about Justin Bieber and Monster High and whatever the boy equivalent is of those horrifying things. They will ask for iPads and want to text their friends. They will know more about the next level of tech than I do. And I will be the old lady who uses the wrong words for some computer thingie and makes them roll their eyes.

So world, here they are, my little potty-mouth, gay-friendly, nerdy, amazing, loving, beautiful-souled kids.

If you don't treat them well, I'll break your f**king face.

Aaaaaand that is the sort of thing that sometimes happens on my personal facebook page.  I thought I'd pass this one along to you, my faithful readers, late on a crazy Sunday night.

First day of school in the morning.  No anxiety-puking allowed.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is it hot in here?

I tend to run cold.  All winter, I sneakily turn up the thermostat, which gets sneakily turned down by my budget-conscious, warm-blooded husband.  He’ll be hanging out in shorts and a T-shirt, while I wear sweats and hide under a blanket.  So imagine my surprise when I asked recently, “Is it hot in here?” and he said no.  Well, I was drinking red wine, and had been cooking.  That must be it.  The kitchen was hot from the oven.  Yeah.


It happened again, both us in the dining room eating lunch.  “Am I have hot flashes?” I asked him, appalled, wiping sweat from my forehead and pulling my hair off my neck.  He said that maybe I was warm from the stress of dealing with my son, who had just put me through a challenging parenting half hour.  Yeah, maybe.  Yeah, no.

It keeps happening.  Sometimes it even wakes me up at night and I have to adjust the fan to point on me and pull off the sheets to let the sweat evaporate and cool me.  It’s been about a month, with a flash happening once or twice a week.  I’m having some weird sleep disturbances too, waking up early for no reason (and if you know me, you know how truly weird that is).  I’m 38.  I’m effing perimenopausal.  You’ve got to be effing effing mother-effing kidding me.

So, yeah, that’s happening. 

I went on the interwebs and found out that perimenopause usually starts around age 40, and can take anywhere from 5-10 years to fully resolve into actual menopause.  So I’m not out of the range, I guess.  But damn.  I’m not ready.  I went to grad school, which tends to delay child-bearing, so lots of my friends had babies at the age I am now, and into their early 40’s.  My family is complete.  I don’t want more kids.  But…  menopause?!  No.  Not yet. 

I feel like my mom only just finished hers.  She had a protracted perimenopausal period too, ten years?  Maybe more?  I remember her going to the doc claiming to be perimenopausal (At what age?  I don’t remember.  It suddenly matters.)  I remember the doc telling her that she could still have a kid tomorrow, hormonally speaking.  That lasted a long time.  So I know this is just the beginning.  But it’s the beginning.

I’m trying desperately not to think of it as the beginning of the end. 

The part about no periods sounds pretty good, but I’m on the Mirena, so that is already mostly true.  The part about osteoporosis is scary.  The part about losing my libido is the part that really freaks me the hell out.  My libido is so much a part of me that I can’t imagine what life would be like without it.  I can’t imagine who I would be.  I’m a woman, sexy, hot, curvy, awesome.  I’m scared of those things changing, of feeling less like a woman.  Terrified of feeling less sexy, less sexual.

I know there is more to me than sex.  Obviously.  I’m trying to think about wisdom and crap.  But crap.  Screw wisdom.  I want the big screaming O’s.  I want to boink without synthetic funny-tasting lube.  I want to feel that swing in my hips that comes from knowing that I am one sexy bitch.

Every woman goes through this eventually.  I’m not alone.  I should probably start reading self-help books and crap.  They’ll probably talk about the wisdom of being an elder and transitions and crap like that.  Blah.  Sigh.  I’m too young for that shit. 

In my own mind, anyway.  My body, apparently, not so much.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A parenting confession

Want to feel better about yourself as a parent?  Yesterday, I took my five-year-old kids to the library.

For the first time. 

I know, I know (hides under desk). 

They have been to Storyville, a fabulous play area in a branch of the Baltimore County Public Library with topical books in each of the play zones.  We have a veritable library at home, with more books than we can fit on the shelves, and a steady stream of new books, including easy readers and short early “chapter books” passed down from their cousin.  We read books together every night, and they love to read.  They see me reading all the time.  But somehow… somehow, I just never took them to the library.

When normal parents were taking their kids to story time or circle jerk or whatever it’s called, my two were too crazy.  They were in a “pull every book off the shelf” phase, and it was enough work for me to just get through the day with my destructor twins without (a) subjecting some sweet librarian to their antics, or (b) sweating my junk off trying to corral them both and make them sit and listen.  The idea of one of them pulling shelf after shelf of books down while I chased the other was more than I could handle. 

But then they got older.  I should have taken them then.  But I didn’t.  Why not?

See, here’s the thing.  Until yesterday, I didn’t have a library card either.  I read books, every day, every chance I get.  I write books, or try to.  Whether or not I ever finish a novel, I AM a writer.  It’s part of who I am, something I am driven to do.  So why don’t I go to the library?  It should be my magical place.  But no.  I like to own books.  I like to read them in the bathtub and not worry about the edges turning wavy where they sit on my damp boobs.  I dog-ear too.  I know.  Shameful.  Bad Pam.  But they’re MY books, so I can.  I know I’m hard on books, so I buy them instead of borrowing.  Used when I can, new if I must. is awesome, although they won’t take “water damaged” books (see above re: damp boobs).  I read books over and over, so it just makes sense to own them.  I am on my third copy of Worthing Saga, having loved it to death twice over.  Three paper copies, plus then I bought it on kindle.  Kindle will save me from having to buy Fionavar Tapestry again, because that book has been read to pieces.  Literally.  At some point, my kindle will fall in the tub.  I am at one with that expense when it happens.  It’s a drop in the bucket compared to what I have spent on books for that thing.

Also, when I used to borrow books from the library, I wound up paying ludicrous amounts in overdue book fees.  I bring books into my life and absorb them into my library, into my heart, into my soul.  Books I read become part of who I am and I don’t give them back.  Don’t lend me books.  I will steal them.  I won’t mean to, but I will do it anyway.  Don’t ever, ever lend me books.

In my defense, once I realized this about myself, I stopped letting people lend me books.  Someone would recommend a book to me.  I would write it down (or, later, text it to myself).  They would try to give me the book to borrow.  And I would say, “No, don’t lend me a book.  I will never, ever give it back.  Ever.  I steal books.”  You know what happens when you say that?  People don’t believe you.  They lend you the book anyway.  And then they never see it again.  Friends who may or may not read this blog, I have your copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.  Another friend, been looking for one of your Sandman anthologies?  Yeah, I totally have that.  Grad school friend who lent me Middlesex and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, loved ‘em.  Yup, still have ‘em.  Oh, and I also still have your copies of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Cynthia Heimel’s Sex Tips for Girls, lent to me well over a decade ago before I knew to warn you of my book stealing problem.  Grad school roommate who was convinced you would get your books back by using an elaborate system similar to a library, with cards inside the book and cards in your little index-card box saying who had what, how long did it take you to get your books back?  Something like four years?  Did I ever actually even give those to you?  I know at some point I pulled them off my shelf, but I can’t remember if I ever actually gave them to you or not.  If you did get them back, congratulations, you might, truly, be the only person who ever has. 

I remember my mom trying to get my dad to sell books at yard sales, and him being so sad about it.  Dad, I totally I get it.  I have a few of my dad’s favorite series that he smuggled to me or to my sister to save them from the “5 for $1” box.  Don’t worry, Dad.  They’re safe here with me.  I’ll never give them back to you, of course.  But you know where they are.  You can steal them back if you need them.  But not Foundation.  I need those. 

Where were we?  Oh, right.  Library.  So yeah, I don’t do the library thing.  So I didn’t think to do the library thing with my kids.  They get attached to books too.  Imagining having to return Harry the Dirty Dog, or Mog the Forgetful Cat (affectionately nicknamed “Drat That Kitty” in my house) to the library after three weeks?  No way.  I get that I should try books from the library and then buy the ones we love.  I understand why that’s better, you don’t have to tell me.  But here’s the thing, we don’t need more books.  We have more books than we could ever read. 

We do buy books when the kids get obsessed.  Currently, books about Mario.  In the past, books about the Wonder Pets or Little Einsteins or whatever.  And guess what?  The library doesn’t even have most of those.  Thanks to my mom’s book-loving generosity, we have roughly double the library’s selection of Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends books.  And you know what else? The library didn’t have a single Mario book!  Not a single one!  My kids went up to the librarian, so brave and big, and asked her if they had any Mario books, and they didn’t.  Well, library, booyah to you, because we have two.  Four if you count the two my kids wrote and illustrated for themselves.

I feel like I am protesting too much.  No Mario books!  Down with libraries!  You guys know that’s my shame talking, right?  Because my poor kids were five before I took them to the library.  The librarian who took our info for the library cards, let’s call her Judgey McJudgerson, looked at them and asked, “How old are they?  Three?  Two?”

Bitch, you know they’re not two.  Go to hell.  They’re five.  And I brought them here because they’re going to kindergarten in a week and I don’t want them to go to the library at school and tell the nice teachers that they have never been to the library before.  Because that would make me look bad.  We’ll probably go once more this week, so they can get in the groove of the whole checking out and returning books thing.  So that I won’t look like quite as bad of a mother as I am.  Because really, my kids are healthy and loved and secure, so most other stuff I do is about not being judged.  Just me?

I seriously considered telling the librarian we had just moved to the area so she wouldn’t judge me, but I was afraid my kids would rat me out.  Sick.  I know.  I have a problem.  Well, more than one.  Fear of judgment, book-specific kleptomania, the list goes on and on…

So anyway, I took them to the library.  They loved it.  We read several books there and picked four to bring home.  Pinkalicious, Me and My Cat (both awesome), some Sponge Bob book I couldn’t talk my kid out of, and a Sid the Science Kid easy reader.  I took this adorable photo of them reading a book of animal-based fables from around the world.

My kids, reading together like angels.

And then I was afraid to post it on facebook because I didn’t want to be judged for being that excited about them at the library when it should be old hat to all of us.

So I did what I do when I am overcome with shame.  I told the entire internet all about it.  There you go, people.  My failure, here for your downward social comparison and amusement. 

I think they’ll live.  I know they’ll love to read.  They’re mine.  They will read.  You probably shouldn’t lend them any books, though.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

No such thing as a free dresser

Nearly a year ago, my sister saw this beautiful buffet sitting on the curb for trash.

It’s solid wood, made by Bassett, and probably cost $1500-2000 new. I love the lines, softly curved without being prissy or ornate.  I knew it would be perfect as a dresser for my daughter’s princess room.  Painted white, pink crystal knobs that she can change out when she gets tired of everything in the universe being pink and sparkly.  Perfect.  And free.  FREE!  Who would throw this out?  They’re crazy!

Now before you judge me for painting this beautiful piece of furniture, I assure you that there is a lot of damage that is not visible in that picture.  Deep gouges and weird black stains on the top, bottom corners completely chipped away.  It hurts my heart to cover pretty wood with paint too.  I wish I could have salvaged this piece without painting it, but there was no way.  Painting it will give it another life.  I promise, I love wood as much as you do.  (That’s what she said…)

One more unfortunate reality that cemented the “paint it” decision was that once my sister got it into her house, she discovered the smell.  Apparently the crazy people who threw away a perfectly beautiful Bassett buffet smoked like chimneys.  It smelled like a chain smoker’s house.  Ugh. 

So we got the ludicrously heavy thing back to my house and there it sat, smelling like stale smoke, for months.  OK, many months.  Like almost a year’s worth of months.  What can I say?  I got busy.  It happens.  And have you ever tried to paint a piece of furniture with two four-year-olds hanging on your legs?  I was completely daunted.  How would this EVER happen?  I can’t even manage to put my clean laundry away.  They live in a permanent pile on the ottoman in my bedroom, hang-up clothes laid flat so they don’t wrinkle.  How did I think I would find time to paint a dresser? 

On my rare free days, I was painting the kids’ rooms so that we could get them into the separate rooms as soon as possible.  Bedtime had become a nightmare with the shared room.  A nightmare that often lasted past midnight.  So that took first priority.  And then, it was summer.  And it was time to paint the dresser.  I sanded what needed sanding (mostly the top), filled the extra holes with wood putty and sanded those smooth (because I’m using knobs instead of handles), and used a chemical deglosser to clean it and prep it for priming.

It had two different finishes.  Someone had clearly attempted a refinish job on it at some point and given up.  Most of the piece was fairly well stripped.  But the insides of the cabinet sections were glossy with a dark reddish stain.  Yuck.  I decided to use an oil-based primer to be on the safe side.  And to prime everywhere… inside the drawer openings, everywhere, to make sure we sealed in any remaining smoke smell. 

But here’s the problem.  You can’t oil-based prime in the house unless you get serious ventilation going.  And every day I had free and my husband had free so he could watch the kids, it was 95+ degrees out.  Too hot to paint outside, too hot to open the double front doors.

Eventually we got a day in the mid 80’s.  Not exactly cool, but as good as we were going to get.  I threw open the front doors, opened the back door and some windows, and started priming.  Six hours later, I had finished the base unit inside and out.  I was exhausted, sore, sweaty, and covered in oil-based primer.  Oh, also, I didn’t buy mineral spirits.  Nail polish remover got it off the sensitive areas, like knuckles.  My pumice stone scrubbed it off the rest. 

That evening, my left hand started acting up.  Pinky, ring finger, and bird flipper all numb.  Hand shaking with tremors, and too weak to hold anything.  My husband had to convince my hypochondriacal ass that it was just my crappy painting ergonomics, and that he was quite certain I didn’t have self-diagnosed MS. 

It took another month to get another nice day so I could prime the drawers and doors.  It eventually happened.  And then it was time to paint!  Yay!  Painting is easy!  I can do that any day.  When it’s raining, when it’s hot out, when the kids are in bed, whenever!  Yay!  Paint! 

Coat one.  It. Looks. Awesome.  Foam rollers and Benjamin Moore low luster paint for the win!  Perfect.

Wait, what the hell is that pink stuff?  Crap.  Inside the cabinet sections, the weird red stain is bleeding through the paint and primer.  Through the crazy stinky oil-based primer that was supposed to seal everything.  Crap.  I pull out an old can of Zinsser stain-blocking primer that I had laying around and do a coat of that inside the cabinets.  Still pink.  Another coat.  Still pink.  A third.  Yeah.  It’s still bleeding through, but less.  It’s inside the cabinet.  I think I can ignore it.  The outside looks perfect.  If it bugs me, I can wallpaper or contact paper inside the cabinets, but by the time the clothes are in there, I don’t think I’ll care. 

Every time I painted, I got the hand tremors and numbness lasting 2-3 days.  So I guess hubby was right.  It’s not MS.  It still blows.  I tried changing my ergonomics, but there are only so many ways to paint inside a cabinet. Oh, and to make sure you all feel super sorry for me, I also splatted the Zinsser primer into my eyeball when I was hammering closed the can.  Bang, bang, bang, AAAGGHHHH!  Primer in my effing eyeball!!  Painting delayed as I flushed my eye with water hanging upside down under the bathtub faucet and then changed the clothes I soaked flushing out my eyeball.  Fun.  But at least it was the water-based primer, not the oil-based stuff.  Whew.

To add insult to injury (injuries), when I went to put the whole thing back together again, the cabinet doors on the sides were so tight that a kid won’t be able to open and close them.  The width added by the paint is enough to make them stick.  So they will be essentially non-functional.  We don’t really need that much storage, so it’s not that big of a deal.  I can just store seldom-used or off-season stuff in there.  But their lack of functionality kind of makes me wish I hadn’t spent two days priming them three extra times (four if you include the original primer) to try to reduce the pink stain bleed.  Could have saved myself that little bit of trouble.

So let’s sum up, shall we?  For almost a year, I had a slightly stinky, damaged buffet in my house.  And then for the past month—yes, month!—my foyer has looked like this:

Those full-glass doors?  Yeah, they’re the front doors to my house.  The first thing people saw when they walked into my house was all of that crap.  For a month.  And my left hand hasn’t worked properly for more than a few days all month.  And I got primer in my eyeball. 

Add to that the roughly $125 I have spent on paint, primer, brushes, rollers, paint trays, drop-cloths, etc.  The $45 I spent on the crystal knobs.  And the, hmmm, let’s say probably, I don’t know, 30-40 hours I have spent prepping, painting, etc.  I’m just saying, you can get an Ikea dresser for $200-300.  Yeah, it would be particle board and wouldn’t have these pretty lines, but all of the doors would open, my foyer would have been clean, my kids would have watched a lot less TV this month, and I wouldn’t have paint in my hair right now and a still-nagging worry that I might possibly have paint-induced MS. 

The moral of the story?  Nothing is free.

Oh, and the extra bonus moral, don’t ever look up your symptoms on the internet.

The end.

So without further ado, here it is… my definitely-not-free dresser!  All finished and settled in its sparkly pink-walled new home!  Was it worth it in the end?  Um, I really don't want to talk about it.