A pox on your house!

I use to wonder, when I heard old English sayings like “A pox on you and your house”, what it meant. Then I had kids…..

Photo cred. mricon

So, I’ve never had the chicken pox. At least not that me or my mom knows about. Maybe I had a mild case or maybe we all have some natural antibody. My brother hasn’t had it and my mom says she’s not had it either. She exposed us as much as she could but still, our bodies refused to get it. Whenever I’ve told anyone I hadn’t had the pox I always, to this day even, got that horrified look of wide-eyed concern, followed by the comment, “It’s really bad when you get it as an adult”.  I guess I thought I’d just wait till I was around 80 or so and let it turn into the shingles. Sounds like a party to me!

I moved to Hawaii for the second time in 1997 and two days before I left I went to someone’s house who had triplets (yep, some people have those) and after I sat and ate my nice dinner she tells me, “Oh man. It’s been rough here. The triplets have had chicken pox.” Then I got that wide-eyed, horrified and concerned look ‘cuz, you know, it’s bad when you get it as an adult and just before you board a plane to move to Hawaii. Needless to say the pox eluded me that day too.

Now I have three kids and none of them have had the pox…well, until recently. I think Sylvie has them. There are bumps on her tummy, she threw up last night (it had whole blueberries in it and stunk really bad), and she had a fever today. So, I’m crossing my fingers, praying to the good Lord above and hoping that we don’t have a pox on our entire house. If I get it as an adult and in the summer no less, you may find me hiding under a bridge, rocking back and forth and rubbing calamine lotion on exposed skin.

Here’s to raising kids that carry lots and lots of germs.

So, what IS your opinion on raising kids?

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This seems to be the age where EVERYONE has an opinion and they all want to blog about it. Wait! What am I doing? Well, everyone but me is highly opinionated and wants to blog about it. Now that I’ve outed myself, here is my opinion:

I have “liked” this group on FB called Free Range Learning and it’s dedicated to homeschooling and unschooling and, for the most part, she posts some good ideas or tips on things to do with your kids. But more often than not she posts these articles about the latest research that links, well, everything she doesn’t believe in to how awful children will turn out if a family uses these practices.

Today the article is how spanking is linked to obesity. Then there is a smattering of comments from women who apparently don’t spank. So here’s my issue: I find sites, groups or movements like crunchy ‘mamas’ (why are they always called mamas?) that are devoted to raising kids in a specific way to be very judgmental and graceless. The main comments on spanking and obesity were, “low income and uneducated families usually spank and will usually have obese kids anyway” (I’m reducing all of the comments into this one sentence, of course). And this is the kind of BS that drives me crazy!!!

Moms already feel like they are failing  and they wonder if they are totally screwing up their kids due to all of the research out there, so why do other moms feel like they need to create sites to make them feel better about how they are raising their kids and shame others for doing it poorly?

Also, this research gives people more proof that “If your kid is fat, it’s likely that you spanked. You really should have nursed more, slept with your kid, wore them on you all the time, never had taken them to McDonald’s, never used a stroller and never circumcised.”

The reason I even read these sites is to find moments where they are celebrating their children and finding ways to encourage other moms rather than post stupid research off THE INTERNET (It’s the internet, people!) Research that has no grounding other than it presents a good argument and articulates a well written debate. Also, posting this “research” presupposes that all of the rage in kids and poor behavior is always linked to parents doing something wrong. Damn! Has your child never acted out in public, done something aggressive or thrown a fit? I thought those moments were sort of normal and even healthy.

I really have nothing against attachment parenting, crunchy parenting or the like. That’s basically how we’ve raised our kids anyway. But I have an issue with parents banning together and forming groups that judge and alienate other parents for doing it wrong. Most moms feel isolated already; feel like we’re doing it on our own and still wonder, almost daily, if our kids are going to grow up to be the next Unabomber.

So, my advice? Well, thank you for asking…..Stay away from those articles. They are ubiquitous on FB and besides, that research is more likely founded by a college undergrad who doesn’t have children anyway so they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. I’m sure that 90% of parenting is intuitive. Find a book or see a counselor or take a class to get some tools to get you over a hump. But if you’re paying attention, and most of us are, the answers will come.

It’s not even the articles that bother me so much. It’s all of the self-righteous comments that people leave after the article that really irritate me. I read a crunchy mamas site that started the circumcision debate and one women’s chime-in was, “I saw a boy flipping out at the store the other day and I knew that all the rage was because his mom likely circumcised him”. Oh barf! Get over your totally awesome and perfect parenting-self, mama! Embrace your fellow moms, even those who spank and sit at the park together, under the trees, and watch your kids play. They need a break from you too.

Here’s to raising kids and embracing all of our imperfections while doing it….sometimes doing it poorly!

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Art on the Ave

 

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Today was Tacoma’s annual Art On The Ave festival and, once again, it didn’t disappoint. I took the kids by myself (Matt was working) and they actually did really well. Oliver only wandered off twice and the second time I told him I’d take us all home if he did it again. That seemed to do the trick. Man, what must it be like to be a highly driven and highly curious kid in a rich, overly stimulated setting?

Art on the Ave 2013

Art on the Ave 2013

 

They were able to pound out some leather key chains, and chisel their names on metal, eat some handmade, gourmet popsicles from Hilltop Pops and ask me every five minutes if I could get them something from every single vendor booth we passed. Speaking of the vendors….I love to see artsy t-shirts but Oliver kept stopping by the tables where the shirts said things like “Pitch my tent” or “Are you staring at my boobs?”. He wanted to get the tent pitching one and I had to just buckle down and explain why it wasn’t appropriate for a kid to wear.

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I love our little art community in Tacoma and it’s great to see so many people come out for this  community event. We even had sunny skies and 80 degrees F. Last year Chloe watched the Tacoma Derby Girls have a go on the square and Oliver made buttons and crafts at tons of booths. The first year we came was, meh. But the last two years have been fantastic. Well done, Tacoma. Now it’s time for the Fall Free For All to rock it out a bit better.

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When it rains, it pours….sometimes five gallons worth.

There is a level of chaos that was upped for us after having three children. Going from one to two was nuts because they were born pretty close together. I was chasing after a curious toddler while holding a newborn in a snugglie. But after a few years they began to play together and, even though it was still a bit crazy, they were entertained because they had one another to play with. Then came number three….

She is two and a half years old already and she gets into everything!!! She’s a climber so I often find her on top of the arm of the couch reaching for the top of the bookshelf, preparing to pull down something or other. She always finds my phone and hides under the table to push buttons. So far I’ve called AT&T three times in the last two weeks to cancel applications she somehow purchased. I don’t have an IPhone, let alone data,  and for some reason she is able to push buttons until she downloads something, costing us money every time. Even if I hide my phone she will somehow find it.

Chaos always comes in repetitive segments. Life is calm and there are no worries, just the usual busy-ness. Then chaos comes like a domino effect and it just keeps coming, usually when you’re in a hurry and the place you’re trying to get to is actually important. This morning I had a meeting at 9am. This is the exact time that school starts for my kids and I had forgotten about the meeting starting in twenty minutes so I rushed to get properly dressed and teeth brushed as well as the toddler looking presentable (brushed hair and no more stains on her shirt). Just as I was getting ready she pooped in her portable potty so I had to take care of that. Then, after I got her dressed, she pulled off her shoes, socks and pants so I had to get her dressed again. Then we get to the van and the doors were frozen shut and as I was trying to nudge them open with my toddler in hand, a school bus came blazing down our narrow street so I moved aside and saw the bad mood in the bus driver’s face. Dang! I moved so she could get by!!! What the??? Then I had to scrape the ice off the windshield and off we went.

I dropped the kids off and sped to my meeting. This was our morning. Rushed and filled with chaos that doesn’t normally come unless, of course, we are in a hurry. Maybe it’s just that we notice it more when we’re in a hurry. I don’t know.

Then there was this evening. We finished dinner and Matt was starting to help Olivier to figure out what he would do for his school science fair project. I was cleaning up after dinner and taking thing after thing away from Sylvie as she kept grabbing spoons, cups, pens, carrots….anything she could get her hands on, and running off as I tried to chase her down and get the item back from her. At some point I hear Matt say, “No, Sylvie. That’s going to break if you do that. NO!!!! (loud crash)….Trace!!!!” I go to the living room and see she knocked over our five gallon jug of water for our dispenser. Yes, the lid was on. She dropped it and cracked it open. Water was gushing, like a river, all over our living room. Thankfully we have hardwood floors but it was dribbling down the heater vent, soaking the area rug and sending its river flow over the entire living room.

We grabbed about eight beach towels and kept soaking up water, wringing it outside, soaking it up again and again. It was nuts! Two of our kids helped as much as they could. One of them kept bitching about how his feet were getting wet so he wasn’t helping whatsoever! It was total chaos for about twenty minutes or more. I’m calm now and it’s even sort of funny to think about. It was NOT FUNNY in the moment and I couldn’t quite believe how crazy it was. I seriously don’t know what I would have done if Matt wasn’t here to help me clean up. He often isn’t in the evenings. This is life with three kids. Sometimes the chaos blindsides me and it’s enough to make me want to sit down in a corner and suck my thumb while weeping. I think I’ve done that minus the thumb sucking. But here we are today, with three amazing kids who have brought so much craziness into our lives and I’m thankful. I’m thankful now because I’m not sopping up five gallons of water from our hard wood floor.

Here’s to raising little humans!

It’s story time

I’ve been wanting to tell this story for a while now but with the holidays and all that jazz, it just never made it down. I did scribble it in my personal writing pad, which gets written in daily. But here it is:

 

I have a few friends who recently started producing a show called The Drunken Telegraph. It’s a live storytelling installment and I’d missed the first two or so. Finally I went a few weeks back to sit and listen to some live stories. I even signed up for the story slam at the end. I’m glad that I didn’t know it was a type of contest or I don’t think I would have signed up. I didn’t want the pressure to perform, or maybe outperform, I just wanted to have fun.

 

Well, I had a blast. So much of how I use to teach was through story telling and I honestly think that’s why a lot of my students really enjoyed the weeks that I was with them during my years of itinerant guest speaking. I got my points across by just telling a lot of stories. I was going to tell a story about our team getting robbed and stranded in China but during the break people who I hadn’t seen in months kept commenting on my hair and I had quite a story to tell about being a female with VERY short hair. Through their prodding I decided to tell the hair story. It was something like this:

 

In our culture there is a huge connection with femininity and long hair. I’d had short hair just after I got pregnant with my first-born and during that time I was living in a very populated college town. I noticed the difference in how the young men looked, or rather didn’t look at me, after I cut my hair. I went from being cute with flowing locks, to being someone they would look away from if I was coming down the street. It was almost like they looked away because they were embarrassed for me (insert crowd laughter).

 

Then it grew and was once again, long and lovely. I had two more kids and recently cut it all off again. I was tired of dying out the grey so short hair made so much sense. Plus, I like how cute and sassy it looks. But over the years, as I’m aging…getting more wrinkles and more body fat I notice that there are days where having short hair is a bit inconvenient as I’d like to have something long and feminine to fall back on during the days when I don’t feel so young and cute.

 

A few weeks back I was having an off day and I kept catching glimpses of myself in storefronts while I was on a walk. I thought my eyes looked puffy and tired, my puffy winter coat kept me from having a girly figure and then there was my short hair. I wished I’d had dark lipstick on so I could at least feel like I looked girly, but no such luck. My hair made me feel sort of boyish along with looking old and tired.

 

I didn’t give all of this as much thought as I’m writing. Catching glimpses here and there only took a few seconds of thought but it lingered. At the end of my walk I saw a man around my age riding a bike towards me so I did the friendly thing and I smiled and said hi. He nods, passes me then says, “Excuse me!” I turned around. “You are SO beautiful!!!” I, of course, giggle and downplay it like what he said was cute and that this happens to me all the time. I may have even put my hands in the shape of fake guns and fired them at him, “Oh…you!!! Thanks….haha”. Then he says, “NO! I’m serious! You’re so beautiful!” and rides off.

 

This is how I ended my live story: “No matter that he was a man in his mid-thirties riding a kid’s BMX  bike. No matter that he was missing a few teeth and seemed as though he had a slight drug problem. After his comment I still walked away thinking, ‘Damn! I still got it!!!’ “.

 

That was my story. At the end I even won the slam. I had so much dang fun. I haven’t told a story to an audience in months. I haven’t taught in years. I love the power of story. It has a way of making you laugh or cry or ponder. You make connection points with people into your own life, “Oh! They GET me!” Or we see their own vulnerability in a story. This is a huge part of why I love to read and write. I love a good story and a well told story. Hopefully I captured both that night. In the end, it was just a whole lotta fun. Thanks, Tacoma. Stay classy!

 

 

 

 

I always miss the good stuff!

It seems like I’m always missing the action in our little city and I arrive a day late and a dollar short, to use an overused cliché. Sometimes it’s a good thing like when we were out trick or treating this Halloween with a group of friends and a lot of kids. We came home after gathering inappropriate amounts of candy and put the kids to bed only to read in the news that there were kids stealing candy from other kids that night using a gun. It was on our street. Hurray for an early bedtime!

 

Today I took a bit of a stroll on our small high street and decided to hit the local pawn shop just to see if there was anything interesting. I browsed around. Looked at the dusty power tools and the well-played instruments. I saw some nice jewelry, said hello to the two dudes that work there and then left.

 

I went over to our new coffee shop/bike shop/bar where I saw an old acquaintance that I knew quite well in high school. I looked over at him and pretended like I didn’t recognize him. Yep, I have those days. In all fairness he probably thinks he recognizes me but is not quite sure from where. Then I sat and read my Stephen King book about writing, which is REALLY good. I heard a few sirens after I sat down but, whatever.

 

I was only there about half an hour before I sipped my last bit of hot chocolate, ignored the old high school acquaintance again and headed home. I passed the pawn shop four windows down and saw two cop cars and two ambulances outside and all the crew surrounding a guy lying on the ground. I asked a man what happened and apparently the guy on the ground stole stuff from the shop yesterday and came back again to do likewise. They weren’t having it this time so they scuffled with him and he tried to leave but tripped on his way out and didn’t get up. The poor soul was looking pretty worse for wear, to use another cliché, and sort of gave off that junkie vibe.

 

I probably missed that whole event by about five minutes, maybe ten. It’s funny how time works; the whole butterfly theory. One minute can change an entire encounter which can change someone’s life. If I had been in there during the incident my life wouldn’t have really been changed much except I’d have seen a scrappy lad get a bit roughed up trying to steal loot from a pawn shop. But then again, if I had been just a minute late on my jog last week, I wouldn’t have had a run in with a crazy lady.

 

I don’t want to think about it too hard or my eye will start twitching but I’m amazed at the difference that just a minute or two can make. That minute or two can make a difference of life as we know it or chaos and basket balls being thrown at your face.  Hmm….I sounded a bit like Jack Handy just then.

 

Well, no matter, I still dig my neighborhood. It’s still shocking and friendly all at the same time. At least I was on time enough to walk up my street after the pawn shop event and see a man dumping half of the crap from his home (dirty mattress, popped air mattress, broken TV and scads of straight up trash) just outside Le Donut right next to a charity box that reads, “Clothes, shoes, cell phones”. See what a difference walking by at the right moment can make?

 

 

Urban Handbook. Sold where?

Somedays I wish there was a sort of handbook for living in this type of setting. I grew up here and it was always the type of city where you learned how to lock your door (car and home) once you were in and once you got out, and if you drove downtown back in the day, you rolled up the windows and locked the doors so as not to get jacked by the pimps and druggies. Looking back I think there was likely some overdramatizing on the subject of personal safety but, the city still does has a vibe of instability to it at times.

Today I was coming back from a jog (two miles post-Christmas belly and I was giving myself a mental high-five on a job well done). I was cooling off down the street from my house and saw someone who looked like they were walking up on my lawn. Someone I didn’t recognize. Then they seemed to be in the neighbor’s yard. It was a girl who walked a bit like a boy so there was an edge of toughness there. When I came closer I could see she snagged a soccer ball from our neighbor’s porch and was coming towards me. Our neighbors have five kids and one of them plays with my son so I did feel a bit defensive of his property.

When she came towards me like a Harlem Globetrotter, a mentally ill Globetrotter, she was trying to do the offensive/defensive dribbling movement with me in a way that total strangers do NOT do with one another. I just smiled while she was laughing a bit too overconfidently while saying, “Come on. Let’s go. Let’s play” in her tomboy voice. I laughed a bit insecurely and just swerved around her to avoid her then thought, “I know she took that from our neighbor’s yard. What the….?”

So I asked her, “Did you take that from up there?” pointing at their porch and she paused. When she paused I immediately regretted asking her that question. She started coming at me and it was clear she was looking for a fight. She said, “Oh, you wan it? You wan it?” I said nothing. Just stated at her. Then she threw it HARD towards my face and I put my hand up and blocked it (thank you cat-like reflexes). I was a bit stunned but still said, “Thanks”. It was the thanks that was the other mistake. It seemed to fire her crazy up to amber alert. She came at me, while I was holding the stolen ball in my arms like a small cat, and just started pushing into me. It was mental (I use that word deliberately) because I was trying to protect myself without getting her really fired up. I kept wondering if she had a knife or something. So I just kept pushing her off me then she pushed her hand into my face and walked away.

The whole episode reminded me of a scuffle I use to get into in high school. Totally unexpected and a bit stupid in its subject matter. I actually wanted to punch her to get her away (at my core I’m a pacifist but I have my moments of weakness, sorry) and because of  my kung fu training (thank you David Welther) I was thinking of ways to swing her around and trip her and get her on the ground. Then the better part of my mental make up took over and told me, “She’s crazy. Don’t ‘eff’ with her!”. Then I felt bad and sort of didn’t want to hurt her. She was tiny and not really strong. My pushing on her was pushing her back hard. She wasn’t really a good match for me even though she thought she was. I walked away shaking partly out of anger and partly out of totally being stunned. Too much adrenaline, fight or flight stuff going on in my innards.

I had to tell the kids about it because they heard me speaking about it to the husband on the phone. Then later my son and I drove around a bit to try to see if we could figure out where she was from. I’ve had another encounter with her so I think she lives around me. Fantastic! I can’t wait to see her again. I told O she was wearing all brown and she was small. The best part of the entire event is when we finally went into Safeway to get our five gallon water jugs filled and O saw a tiny old woman, maybe seventy years old, in a brown trench coat. He pulled on my sleeve and pointed to her while pressing his mouth shut and his eyebrows raised, like he was saying, “Look! There she is. The crazy lady that attacked you”. I laughed out loud thinking of the small Vietnamese woman that he was outing throwing a ball at my face and trying to push me over. It was really cute of him to try to be my advocate.

So, I wonder where is the handbook on urban living that helps those of us who are committed to living in a developing city with an abrasive identity that she is trying hard to overcome see people who are a pain in the ass with compassion? Where is the compass that gives us some direction on what to do in really weird situations, not to avoid getting in fights but more to see things the right way? There’s a fine line between staking your place in the city and loving it, wanting to make it better, clean it up, develop her….all while contending with the disenfranchised who roam the streets day and night and letting them live here too. It’s just as much their city as mine. What to do? What to do?

Well, I’ll tell you this: If you see a small, tan woman wearing all brown, walking all tough like a tomboy and trying to interact with you for a good game of basketball while walking down your street….just pretend you don’t really notice. I learned the hard way not to stir up someone else’s crazy out of a sense of justice for your neighbor’s soccer ball. I’ll put that in the handbook.