The Princess, who is now ten years old, has been asking for an African American “Ken” doll for a couple of weeks now. When I asked why she needed another Ken doll at all, she said that it was so she can “pretend that he’s Aaron Burr.”
Yes, I know that Aaron Burr was a white man, but she thinks he’s black because Leslie Odom, Jr. plays him on Broadway.
I don’t know whether to feel super proud of her for further diversifying her Barbie collection or to have some kind of white lady guilt for not already having a African American Ken doll.
Anyway, African American Ken dolls do not just materialize for no reason. Maybe she will find one in her Easter basket, or as a reward for having blood drawn, which she needs to do this month.
Yesterday she told me that while she’s waiting for the doll, she’s just going to “pretend Leslie Odom, Jr. is sick,” and the Ken doll she has “is his understudy”.
I think my induction into the Theater Mom Hall of Fame might be imminent
When I woke up on Saturday, I knew I’d be good for nothing. Migraine. Couldn’t get out from under the weight of my head. So the day went by in a blur, kids bringing my ice water, dog licking my face, kids asking if I wanted anything. Whenever I’d wake up, it was just to roll over to the other side.
Meanwhile, Manfrengensen was a super man. Took care of the kids, made them breakfast for dinner. Took the Princess to her field hockey game (where she scored her first goal and I MISSED IT), even took time away from his ND-football-watching-schedule to drop Edison off at the movies with friends.
Then today, he took The Princess with him to Clooney’s soccer game, so I could catch up on all my weekend chores in peace. As I walked around the house, I realized what an amazing guy he is. Not only did he totally take care of the kids yesterday, but he also brought in wood and set up the fireplace for winter.
But the best part was when I opened up the freezer and found a brand new quart of my favorite ice cream.
Love that guy. He rocks my world.
Her: Let’s play. I wanna play. See?
Me: Okay, but where’s the squirrel?
Her: I don’t want the squirrel. I want to play with the bully stick I have in my mouth.
Me: Yeah, but that’s like 3 inches long, and all slobbery. I can’t do anything with that.
Her: Yeah, but I want to play.
Me: Okay, here’s the squirrel. Drop the stick.
Me: Don’t you want to play?
Me: Want to play with the squirrel?
Her: No, just you and the stick.
Me: What if I hit you in the face with the squirrel like this:
Her: That does nothing for me. Did you see this stick?
Me: I’ve got stuff to do.
Her: Me too. I’m going to lie down here with the stick. Did you see this stick?
Me: I need coffee.
This morning I read about the controversy surrounding GoDaddy pulling its Super Bowl ad because of a kerfuffle about puppy mills and animal cruelty. Which of course, is something we should all be concerned about, yes, yes. I hear you. But what bothers me about this, whether it’s actually true or just a GoDaddy-staged publicity stunt is that while you can get this kind of action for the rights and dignity of animals, you can’t really say the same thing about the rights and dignity of women. Seriously, just try complaining about the objectification of women in ads like the ones for
Carl’s Jr. or any of the other myriad Super Bowl ads, or almost any ad (one of my favorites is the one where the guy is watching the game on his phone under the table because obviously it’s more interesting than anything his woman has to say from across it…but I digress…) for that matter, and you won’t hear anything about the ad being pulled for a reason like that. If anything, what you will hear is the sound of crickets chirping.
I could go on, but that ‘s not really the story I wanted to tell you. No, this is a story about parenting. A story about how I would like for my boys to grow up understanding that women are human beings, not slaves or sex objects, and that the way women are portrayed in the media has an immediate effect on how men view them in the real world. And I made my point, in the car on the way to school this morning, by relating it to Congress’s recent refusal to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and the fact that women in the United States of America on average earn seventy-eight cents for every dollar that a man earns, even if they are doing the same jobs with the same amount of experience. It’s 2015. The 21st century. The new year came and everyone was bitching about how we weren’t getting the hoverboards that Back to the Future II had promised us. I’d just be happy if they gave us the 22 cents. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if people whined more about pay inequity than they do about the injustice of not getting hoverboards??
But again, I digress…I’m a stay-at-home mom. Basically, as I’ve said before, that means I am a cook, a laundress, a chauffeur, a judge, jury and jailor, janitor, a pet sitter, a nurse, a cop, a safety monitor, a teacher, a gardener, a comptroller, head of purchasing, a cruise-director, appointment secretary, and all-around shit-doer. So when I mentioned to my sons this problem of the pay gap, I was a bit incensed when the one in the back seat said, “Yeah, but you don’t work.”
That’s right. He said it. After asking me this morning where he might find his freshly laundered gym uniform, and then packing the lunch I had prepared for him into his backpack, this son of mine had the stones (though admittedly not the brains) to say to me, “But you don’t work.”
But the funny part was that he had said this as we were pulling into the parking lot of his school, and not a minute later, he realized that he had actually left his gym uniform back at home. “Can you bring it to me before 8:30?” he asked. (This was at 7:50, and I still had his brother to drop off at another school.)
“But, Clooney,” I said, “I don’t work.”
Warning: Contains Spoilers
So, I Just had “the talk” with Clooney, confirming his suspicions about the Easter Bunny and Santa. He took it much better than Edison, whose response a few years ago was the dramatic accusation, “You LIED to me!” before storming up to his room and slamming the door.
Clooney said that he had been “testing” his theory about Santa and the Easter Bunny for a while. This testing entailed not writing a letter to Santa, and not telling me what the Easter Bunny should bring in his basket. Overall, he took the news well, and before he went on his way, he said “Wow. You and Dad should really think about doing some professional acting because you guys are good. Dad keeps secrets better than that guy on the Bachelor .”
We don’t watch The Bachelor , so I’m not entirely sure what that means, or where he got that concept, but still, that kid makes me laugh.
Just want to start this off by saying (in case you don’t already know) that parenting can often be a soul-sucking experience. Don’t get me wrong, of course sometimes it’s great; they make you laugh; they make you proud. But mostly they just wear you down to a little nub. At least until they’re in college (and even then, only if you’re lucky).
And that’s just before your first cup of coffee, mind you.
Anyway, basketball season ended, and since Clooney is the kind of kid who needs some structure and activity to his days, I suggested he try running track this season. He’d never done track, but he’d done a couple of cross-country kind of activities in the past. He’s long and lean, so I figured track would be a good outlet for him.
Clooney’s kind of artsy. I mean he loves art, but more than that, he’s into music. He can talk about music these days the way he could talk about cars from the time he could speak. Not that he can’t still talk about cars. Generally speaking, he can talk about anything. In fact, his rambling
conversations could talk cats off the back of a tuna boat. But anyway, he plays three instruments: electric bass, the clarinet, and cello. He also sings in the school chorus and has a part in the drama club’s spring play. He’s plenty busy, but I still worry that he will be sucked into that iPad, that Minecraft will turn his brain to pudding, that he needs more stimuli. I’m a mom. I worry…
His school doesn’t have an elementary track program, so when I went looking for a program, choices were kind of limited in our area. I finally found one through the Catholic Youth Ministry, but our church doesn’t have a track team, so I had to sign him up through the diocese website, and then get a dispensation to put him on the team of another parish. Already I was jumping through hoops, but hey, a mom does these things.
After we got signed up, we were able to get more information about the team. The first sign that perhaps we’d made a mistake, was the practice schedule: Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5:45 until 7. Not ideal, since he has bass lessons on Tuesdays until 5 and drama climb on Thursdays until 5 as well. But again, I’m Mom. If he wants to run track, I will make it work.
His first practice was cancelled because of late-season snow, so the first practice he actually attended was on Thursday. Thursdays are a bit crazy for us, because I signed The Princess up for a dance class this season, thinking that she could take a school bus one day a week to the school that offers this after-hours program. However, I was mistaken on this point, and didn’t find out until after I had paid for the class. So, every week, I pick up the Princess from her school and drive her to this other school, about 15 minutes, for the class. It’s not really a big deal, but I have to pick her up at 5 as well. The dance school is only about a mile from Clooney’s school, so it actually kind of worked out, in terms of picking them up around the same time.
On a normal day.
The first day of practice, was also the day that I took our dog to be groomed. She wasn’t ready to be picked up until 3:00, so after I got her, I took her with me to get The Princess. After dropping off my daughter at the dance class, I ran the dog back home, which was 20-25 minutes from the dance school, depending on the traffic. Got the dog settled at home, grabbed some cold chicken for Clooney to have for dinner before track, and headed back to get them both. First I picked up The Princess, and then I headed over to get Clooney, and one of our neighbors’ kids, with whom we carpool. From there, we headed back toward home (at 5:00, traffic is thicker, so 25 minutes was making good time). Clooney ate his dinner in the car, but it turned out that he had forgotten to bring his track clothes, so after we dropped off the neighbor, we stopped back at our house for him to change, and to drop off The Princess with her older brother, Edison, who was by then home from his own after school activity.
Clooney quickly changed, filled a water bottle, and we headed to the practice, which was 10 minutes away, but still in heavy rush-hour suburban traffic. Lots of cars, lots of lights. I missed a parents’ meeting with the coach, but I got him there by 6:00, which I told the coach would be a regular occurrence.
After I saw that Clooney was settled, I got back in the car, went home, fed the other two kids (because Manfrengensen was working late), walked the dog, and went back to the track to get Clooney. By that time, the sun was going down, and it was getting cold. I stood watching him run for a bit, and then he saw me. The coach told them he’d see them Sunday at the meet, and the kids were free to leave. Clooney came through the gates with the crowd, broke away to come to me and said, “You know what? I don’t want to do this. Track’s not really my thing.”
And I just kind of felt like this:
One time, we were down at the beach, watching Casino Royale, and the torture scene came on:
Around the 45-second mark, my dad said, “What are they trying to do? Give him hemorrhoids?”
Another time, my nephew was watching Yo Gabba Gabba:
My father, as he was just walking through the room said, “These guys are lucky to be working.”
Of course, he had myriad other great things he said, but these two just keep making me laugh.
Pulled this out of my second-grade daughter’s “daily” folder.
Took me a second to realize how facting hilarious it is.
So, you may have been wondering where the hell I’ve been. Not that I flatter myself by believing that I am much more than a constellation of ones and zeroes in a universe of code, but I do feel like I have this place, and so I should tend to it now and then.
It’s 2014, and I have not written much in the last six months. I’ve been on hiatus, closed for business, out to sea in a lot of ways. But now we are almost a month deep into the new year, and I feel like I’ve got to come back, or risk never coming back at all.
The thing is, we lost my father in September. He was an amazing guy, the kind of person who lit up a room, brought the party, made you feel like all was right with the world. He was just the best kind of father, and King of the Grandfathers. The kind of grandpa who dotes on his grandkids, slips them candy and money on the sly. I’ve written about him many times here, including the time that he totally saved my butt, which was just one of the many many times he did. He was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, complications from a procedure performed on his heart, that ended in a blood-splattered night of dashed hopes and tears. In the wake of the loss, I’ve kind of been empty and had a hard time putting thoughts into words. Also I feel like I need to address the issue of losing my dad before I can write anything else. Does that make any kind of sense?
I sat by his side, taking my daily shifts in the hospital, and we had the most wonderful conversations. I think he knew his time was short, or at least he feared that it was. I don’t know if other people let him feel those feelings, but I did. I let him know it was okay to be scared. And I feel so lucky because he basically told me everything I had ever needed to hear him say. That he loved me. That I’m smart, strong, a good mother. That my husband is the best kind of guy.
He didn’t believe in God or heaven, but he said on more that one occasion that he thought he would achieve immortality in the hearts and memories of the people who loved and remembered him. Whether or not he had that right, I know he will never leave me.
2013 was a good year in a lot of ways. Both the boys had lead roles in their school plays. Edison made the all-state chorus, and his scores at the audition earned him the rank of number-one baritone in the state. We had a great summer vacation in California. We got a dog. But all that has been under the cloud of the worst thing that happened last year, not necessarily robbing me of joy in the good, but tarnishing it nonetheless.
My dad always told me, whenever I felt sorry about losing my mother, that I had to concentrate on what I have, to make what’s here now my focus. In the end, that’s some of the best advice he ever gave me.
So now it is a new year, and though the holidays were difficult, I do feel like the baggage is just a few ounces lighter. So much to look forward to this year: Edison is going to high school, and Clooney’s going to middle school. Every day is a gift, and there’s a lot of laughter and love around here. So now I’ve said it, and hope that, at least in a blogging sense, I can move on.
My dad used to end every phone call by saying, “Okay, if you need me, you know where I’ll be.”
Yeah, I know.
The Princess has lost two teeth in the last ten days. With the first one, she came home from school so proud, showing off the little plastic treasure box that the nurse had given her to hold the tooth. She put the box under the pillow, and nothing happened. The next morning, she was so disappointed that the Tooth Fairy had stood her up. I didn’t know what to say – I mean, I had totally spaced the thing. She is, after all, the third child, so this tooth fairy thing is kind of getting old, at least for me. But still, I felt bad, because Tooth Fairy, for her, is a rare opportunity to earn some cold, hard cash.
That night, after school, it was obvious that she’d been trying to work out why the Tooth Fairy had dissed her. She told me that her friend had said that perhaps leaving the tooth in its box had been a mistake, that perhaps the Tooth Fairy had missed the tooth because it wasn’t in the open space under the pillow. And I lightbulb lit up in my head. This little girl I had never met was not only a friend of my daughter’s, she was no doubt, a friend of mine — how kind of her to give me a second chance! So that night, The Princess left just the tooth under the pillow, and what do you know? The Tooth Fairy left FOUR DOLLARS. A little guilt on Mom’s part can really generate interest on that tooth investment.
Well, then within a week, another tooth fell out, and frankly, I just don’t carry around that much cash. And, to be honest, again I forgot about it. The cleaners were coming the morning after she had put the tooth under her pillow, and before they got here, I meant to change everybody’s bedclothes. I took out the sheets, laid them on the beds, and then got side-tracked and forgot about the actual changing. I guess the cleaners figured that because I had put the sheets out, I meant for them to change the linens, so they stripped the beds and put the new ones on. And, oops, the tooth disappeared.
Well, The Princess was incensed. Because she had forgotten to check in the morning, she assumed that the cleaners had stolen her Tooth Fairy booty. I tried to dissuade her from this theory, but she would have none of it. She HAD BEEN ROBBED!
Then, when Manfrengensen put her to bed, she told him about how she’d been a victim of this crime. He, of course, figured that I had dropped the ball, so after she had finished her rant about the Tooth Fairy, he said, “Let me talk to her, and we’ll see what happened.”
“You know the Tooth Fairy?” she asked.
“No,” he said, “Mom,” meaning, “Let me talk to Mom…”
And without missing a beat, she said, “Mom knows the Tooth Fairy?”
And then you know what? I freaking spaced it the second night too. Mom of the Year over here.