Friday, May 28, 2004

Franny in Pink Sweats

Sometimes, when I'm with my kids, I'll fantasize about the things I could be getting done if they weren't around, like cleaning the bathtub.
Not only is this sad, it doesn't make sense since I am a slob. Only now I'm a slob who is obsessed with housecleaning. No matter how many minutes I steal to clean or straighten, our house is constantly messy, with Play Dough stuck to the kitchen floor and the treads of everyone's shoes; Polly Pocket clothes littering the bathroom and dried cat vomit on the carpet. (We have three cats).
How did I become such a boring drudge? And if I have to be a drudge, can't I at least be good at it? Can't my house be clean?
The mom across the street--a Mary Kay saleswoman --once delicately suggested I check out "FlyLady.Net'' a motivational housecleaning site. (FLY stands for "Finally Loving Yourself'').
The site was heavy on acronyms, pep talks and undercurrents of disapproval. Crippled with shame because of my messy house, I apparently suffered from "CHAOS'' (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.) The poster girl for this was "Franny in pink sweats,'' illustrated as a frazzled loser in curlers.
The site, a cross between Heloise and Erma Bombeck, was both horrible and tantalizing. While I guffawed with contempt, I secretly wondered if maybe it could work. Maybe if I set aside 15 minutes a day to clean each room,like FLYlady suggested...
I imagine that most of the moms in my neighborhood would find nothing wrong with But I'm one of those moms who often feels alienated from other moms.
I wonder how much of it is them or me. Are they all snotty, judgmental and banal? Or am I insecure, condescending and socially awkward? I'm thinking its a little bit of both. Or maybe a lot of both, I don't' know.
Its especially bad with the stay-at-home moms at Lulu's school (I work part-time, so I only see them twice a week). The last time I was in a group of them--waiting for Lulu's Daisy meeting to end--they talked in guilty tones about working out at Curves and low-carb diets, which depressed me.
"I weight as much as I did before,'' complained one mom.
"But you might see the difference in inches,'' another replied knowingly.
The nice thing about being a stay-at-home mom two days a weeks is that after school today, Lulu and I went and got ice cream before we picked up Zeb. She still lets me hold her hand and kiss her unexpectedly. I wonder how much longer that will last because next year she'll be in first grade. It seems to only last until second grade.
Right now, its almost time to pick her up and make her dinner. Regis and I usually eat after the kids go to bed, so I don't do much for their dinner except microwave stuff and make hotdogs. Today, I'll be opening a can of tuna and slicing Lulu some cucumber, just like FIPS (Franny In Pink Sweats) undoubtedly would.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Little Howard Hughes

Zeb has developed an obsessive-compulsive desire to constantly wash his hands.
Breathlessly, he runs into the bathroom, drags his potty/step-stool over to the sink and starts in with the bubblegum scented pump soap. He wants to do it again and again and sobs when I explain that he's washed his hands once and that's enough.
He learned this skill in daycare and he's proud of himself. I should be glad he wants to be self-sufficient, but instead I'm annoyed. (I was content to rub his hands with a diaper wipe every now and then, but only if they were really filthy).
The only upside to his zeal is that it lures him away from other things, like throwing CDs on the floor or riding his Big Wheel around the porch.
Whenever I need to distract him, I just chirp, "Come on, Zeb, it's time to wash your hands!!''

Sunday, May 23, 2004

I Hate Motherfuckin' Cocksuckin' "Deadwood''

Regis and I love "The Sopranos,'' where the profanity always rings true.
But after "The Sopranos'' is "Deadwood,'' which Regis likes for reasons he can never make entirely clear to me and I have grown to hate with a passion.
Nonetheless, since its on after "The Sopranos,'' and I don't feel like getting off the sofa, and we've already drunk our "Sopranos'' night bottle of red wine, and its too much of an effort to go the freezer and get a lime popsicle, which I like to eat as a substitute for the beer I really want, I end up watching "Deadwood''-- and bitterly complaining all the while.
What I hate the most are the portrayals of women. With the exception of Calamity Jane, who is a decently-written character, played by a good actress, all the female characters are whores who get beat up. Or whores who get killed.
If they were well-developed and believable whores getting beat up and killed, I'd feel a lot better about it. But they're not. They're one-dimensional and the point-of-view dwells so lovingly on their brutalization.
Another thing I hate is the veneer of historical accuracy. Initially, what was interesting about "Deadwood'' was that you got the feeling that it was trying to tell you the REAL story about the Wild West.
At first you think, yes, that's how people must have sounded back then. They must have sometimes said "cocksucker'' or "cunt.'' Everyone must have been kicking the shit out of prostitutes or getting typhoid or forming an addiction to opium. But until now, no one could portray that on TV! That's the beauty of HBO.''
But now it seems like HBO is just an excuse for the"Deadwood'' characters to utter things like "If ya don't tell me what ya did with that money, yer gonna get fucked up the ass.''
When I hear "Deadwood'' dialogue these days, I don't think 'this is how people must have sounded then,' or even, 'this is real people talking' I think, "oh, they're on HBO so they can say "motherfucker'' and now they're saying it every two minutes.''
In the last five minutes I was listening to the show, they must have said some variation of the word "fuck'' at least 20 times.
The only offshots of fuck they missed, as far as I could tell, were "babyfucker'' and "unclefucker'' but only because those terms probably hadn't been invented before the 20th century.

Friday, May 14, 2004

...But isn't that how Britney got her start?

The note home announced that Lulu's kindergarten class would be holding a "talent show.'' It was designed as an esteem-building fest centered around the theme "I Can!''
Lulu's teacher, Mrs. Lincoln, who we ordinarily love, listed some of the talents shown in previous years: somersaults; counting to ten in Spanish, tying shoes.
Lulu loves to draw so she decided that she would draw a girl in a dress for the show. (Dresses are her specialty).
But then she got wind of what some of the other kids were doing. Pietro Giordano was breakdancing. Maria Springer was doing the macarana. Felicia Pingry was playing the flute. Sanchita Patel was folding paper animals AND hula hooping. It was starting to sound like "Star Search.''
Suddenly, Lulu didn't want to draw anymore. We ran through an inventory of what I considered to be her talents: She can pretend to be a robot but didn't' want to do that. She can recite passages from "Sponge Bob'' (and does a mean Mrs. Puff) but nixed that. She can somersault and skip.
But Lulu decided to dance. This, in my mind, was a bit of a problem. Last year, I projected on to Lulu all my thwarted hopes of becoming a ballerina and signed her up for ballet. She really liked it and had a great time.
But I found myself scrutinizing her like the most heinous of stage moms. After lessons, when she was asleep, I'd report to my husband, "She's doing fine, but she just doesn't have it. Its like if you saw a kid playing baseball at an early age and you can tell that even though he might be good someday, he's never going to turn pro.''
I tried to conceal these feelings from Lulu because I realized how unhealthy and ridiculous they were---she was only four and big whoop if she didn't become a ballerina. Ballerinas are all bulemic, anyway.
I vowed that for the talent show, I'd be supportive and laid-back. When Lulu decided to dance to "Denis'' by Blondie, I squelched the urge to steer her toward something more crowd-pleasing--like "Cinderella'' by Play.
But soon, it was all too apparent that since she hadn't taken ballet in a year, she didn't have a routine. She resisted my attempts at choreography---which consisted of Jon Benet-esque miming motions because I thought they'd be easy for her to remember (lots of hugging oneself and pointing to one's eyes and to the audience to indicate, "Denis, Denis/ Oh, with your eyes so blue/Denis, Denis, I got a crush on you.'')
Lulu was bent on improvising. Her dance involved lots of leaps and spins and falling on the floor, occasionally in time to the music. She also tried to incorporate Pietro's breakdancing moves.
She looked adorably ridiculous and I hoped that she'd do it that way during the show.
When she came home the day of dress rehearsal, though, she said she had been too "embarrassed'' to do her entire dance. No one made fun of her, she said. She just suddenly felt self-conscious.
I tried to reassure her the she'd be fine, but she cried, "Its embarrassing. I want to be invisible.'' I told her that if she didn't feel comfortable dancing, she needed to think of something that wouldn't' make her feel embarrassed, but she refused.
By now--cranky from a long day of school and aftercare--she had worked herself into a mild hysteria. Her whining grated my nerves and I wound up snapping at her. I worried she wasn't dancing because I had so clearly conveyed my lack of confidence in her.
In the end, Lulu decided to draw herself picking up Zeb, with both of them wearing party hats (the party hats were her idea, for once, not mine).
As it turned out, the show was not the child-star pageant I imagined. The break dancers and flute-players and paper-animal folders were fine, but they looked like normal, nervous six-year-olds, not performers in a Missy Elliot video.
When Lulu's best friend Maria trudged grimly through her macarena routine, Lulu did the motions along with her from her chair for encouragement and hugged her tightly when she was done.
A few acts later and Lulu's name was called. She walked up front in her denim dress with the checkered tulips and quietly said, "I can pick up my brother Zeb.'' She held up her drawing. Everyone said "awww'' and clapped.
When it was over, Mrs. Lincoln told me that during dress rehearsal the day before, Lulu had danced beautifully. She couldn't understand why she'd changed her mind.
I wanted to scream: "Because I killed her impulse to dance with my narcissistic demands that she be perfect!! And I'm terrified of doing this for the rest of her life!!!''
Instead, I replied, "Gee, I don't know. Maybe she was just feeling shy.''
Next to me, on a child's desk, was a tray full of "champagne'' in tiny glasses. I reached out to take one, but the teacher's aide informed me they were just for the kids. The Sprite in plastic cups were for the parents.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Not Now, I in a Meeting

Zeb's demanding career of pushing trucks around the living room floor leaves little room for downtime. On top of it all, there's his sideline as Pizza Man.
He likes to knock on the kitchen wall while he's eating and pretend he's delivering a pizza (and a chicken sandwhich for Lulu, who doesn't like pizza).
When he knocks, I'm supposed to say, "Oh, look its Pizza Man! Can I have my pizza? Pizza man, do you have the sandwhich I ordered? Thanks Pizza Man. Here's your money, Pizza Man. Bye Pizza Man!.'' Then he knocks again and the cycle begins anew.
Anyway, after a particularly hectic shift as Pizza Man, Zeb was back on his day job, loading up the blue truck with Hot Wheels when I pointed out that his diaper was full of poo and needed to be changed.
He answered, "I busy.''
Later that day, when he had a hair in his mouth, he confided in a bewildered tone, "I eating hair.''
When Lulu was his age, she was talking in complex sentances but handn't mastered the pronoun "I.'' Instead, she said "you,'' (I guess since we called her "you,'' she figured that's who she was.)
As a toddler, Lulu also liked to run up and hug my bum cheeks. Once, she requested "Mommy pick you up with bum bum.''
I explained that even if this were possible, I didn't think she'd like it. And come to think of it, neither would I.

A Bright and Shining Undergarment

I told Lulu to remember this moment, because it might never happen again in her lifetime: Her Powerpuff Girl underwear said "Friday,'' and that was the actual day of the week.
Today is Thursday, and Lulu is wearing Barbie underwear.
In more troubling developments, my husband, Regis, read in the paper today that the world is 10 to 37 percent darker than it was in the 1950s. Scientests can't explain why, but there's less sunshine.
We wondered if it was sunnier during our childhood in the 1970s, but I guess since the change has been gradual, we hadn't really noticed.
Regis wondered why the global diminess story was on page 22 of the New York Times instead of page one.
On a slower newsday, without all the torture victims and beheadings, it probably would have been.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The End of Innocence

Normally, I dislike knee-jerk expressions of optimism. But I realize they're good for the children.
So when I'm with my two-year-old son, Zebulon, I find myself quoting Bob the Builder (or "Bobadenden'' as Zeb calls him).
"Can we build it?'' I'll call excitedly. "Can we fix it?''
His answer is always, "Yesa Can.''
Until the other day.
When I asked him at lunchtime if we could build it, he irritably shouted, "No!''

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Cold Hard Mom

Sometimes, in desperation for a guiding principle in my life, I'll seize upon rock or rap lyrics and decide that I should take them to heart.
It doesn't matter if the song is good or inane, like "Beautiful'' by Christina Aguilerra, which sounds fabulous, but has dumb lyrics.
I don't care, because whenever I hear "Beautiful'', I fervently tell myself, "I AM beautiful, no matter what they say. Words CAN'T bring me down!!!''
I get the same feeling from "Damn, it Feels Good to be a Gangsta'' by Scarface. I'm inspired by the lyrics: "Real gangsta-ass niggas don't run for shit, cuz real gangsta ass niggas can't run fast.'' (In real life, if I mentioned the song at all, I'd pronounce it "gangster'' since I wince to hear myself dropping "rs'' in an attempt to sound ghetto).
As far as I'm concerned, "Damn, it Feels Good to be a Gangsta'' is confirmation that I should stop trying so hard to please people.
So is "Cold Hard Bitch.'' Judging from the video, cold hard bitchiness means little more than ignoring Jet, horny rockers who want to fuck the sexy pouting blonde bartender.
In my life, there are no horny rockers (if there were, I'd invite them in for a beer instead of ignoring them) but I could still learn something from their song.
When neighborhood moms forbid their kindergartners from saying the word "stupid,'' which is also banned in school and is now regarded by my daughter as profanity, a cold hard bitch would protest.
She'd proudly announce, "Our daughter is allowed to use the 'stupid' as long as she doesn't apply it to people. In our household, fictional characters, especially scary ones, and inanimate objects may all be called, "stupid.'' In fact, her father and I say "stupid'' all the time.''
But I am not a cold hard bitch.
The most I can realistically aspire to be is a firm and occasionally frosty so-and-so.
It's hard to get good lyrics out of that. But its still worth a worthy goal.