Saturday, March 10, 2007

Daniel's Jacket

Here and there and there
Blue as the hide-and-seek love in the boy's soft eyes
Pockets full of determination and treasure

A lonesome telegraph


Carried roughly by the mothers
Who just want you to stay in one place

Gently by the mothers
Who wonder what's for dinner

Where have you been today?
Everyone wants to know
The kids don't like you
They want to call you Danny

You told me big tales
And I snuggled up close with your fear
Mama loves you big as the moon
She just can't reach you, Danny

Friday, March 9, 2007

Oh, My Past Neighbors, I am Heartily Sorry for Having Offended Thee

It's not that I don't remember my partying days, it's just that, from the ever-deteriorating vantage point of the other side of 37, my whole take on the matter of partying and neighborhood relations is, let's say, Differently-Abled.

We have a beautiful, old, much-mortgaged house in a friendly, blue-collared, laid-back St Paul neighborhood. Unfortunately, our financing options limited our choices to houses that were either in a perpetual state of disrepair, on the "wrong side of the tracks," or in That Other City Where You are More Likely to Get Your Head Blown Off. We chose the wrong side of the tracks, which is just right for us. We love our neighborhood and will never move. Unless of course, we find something bigger and better for less money and can take our neighbors with us.

Along with the well-behaved children who know that the neighborhood parents talk to each other and have to be in well before the street lights come on, a great library, and a nice park, we are surrounded by the Trifecta of St Thomas party houses.

It's so nice for the students. They can park their BMWs, Volvo XC-90s, Audis and Durangos in front of our house, go to College House in the middle of the block to warm things up to a drunken level, and then walk either East or West to their next wop-soaked destination, conveniently despositing their beer bottles, keg cups, and yes, multi-colored vomit in the nearest available yard.

At first I tried talking to them.

Me: Hey--it got a little loud last night, do you think you guys could try to keep it down a little?

Josh the Ex-College Student-Turned Home-Owner/Rental Entrepeneur Thanks to Daddy's Money: Oh Yeah, sorry about that.

Me: We don't care if you guys party, we just don't want to hear it.

JTECSTHORETDM: Yeah. Sorry about that.

Then, after a 4-am group beating of a helpless victim on the front sidewalk (which, the next morning I realized was indeed JTECSTHORETDM, confirming my suspicions that the guy probably deserved it), I tried lecturing them.

Me, at 7:30 a.m.: Pound Pound Pound.

Falling apart and clearly going to hurt all day person who answered the door: Yeah?

Me: Mornin! Where's Josh the landlord?

Falling Apart: Uhhh...does anyone know someone named Josh?

Amid a see of couch cushions, four-legged blanket-burritos, and a pea-soup-like fog of beer breath, a head lolls upward and says, "I'm Josh." To which I wittily reply, "Uh, no you're not. I want to talk to Josh."

Several clearly uncomfortable minutes later, after much murmuring upstairs, an "Uh, I dunno, some lady," and a couple of, "You go, No you go"s, I get an, "Uh, there's no one here by that name." So I say, with all of the coolness I can muster," Do you guys know what your neighbor does every day?

Blank stares.

"She gets up and goes to chemotherapy to deal with her breast cancer, then she goes to work, then she comes home to take care of her two-year old so her husband can go to work second shift to pay for the chemo." All true.

Blank stares, although I think I saw one of the way-too-cute girls get emotional.

Me: Her two-year old was up at four last night watching your buddies beat that guy senseless. Totally, shamelessly, untrue.

Blank stares, and an, "Oh yeah, that was Josh."

Again with the we-don't-care-if-you-party routine followed by several minutes of another clearly uncomfortable silence during which I tried to look as cool and understanding, yet tough, as possible.

Me: Okay, then. Have a good day.

We've tried calling the police, then looking out the crack in the window curtain to see them chase young partiers down the street to give them consumption tickets, but only saw some kind-hearted hand-shaking going on, after which the partying resumed.

We have even tried working with the St Thomas Neighborhood Relations guy, who to his credit met with the current students and landlord and reported back to us a roomful of blank stares and a hopeful vision of future quiet nights. They had a party two days later.

Then I summoned all the passive-aggression I could muster and sent an email to our city counselor who was running for Judge:

To Whom it May Concern I know we are just a family trying to sleep at night blah blah blah maybe you could take some time during this election season to help us blah blah blah.

Instant response. Must have been the just a family trying to sleep thing. They sent the fire inspector over who found 26 violations and called me to tell me if there were any other problems, to be sure to let him know. Ordered the illegal bedroom removed. Sent the football-playing boys before the disciplinary committee at St Thomas, where I am sure there was more good-natured hand shaking, told us to call the cops next time we heard anything remotely party-ish going on. Gave us JTECSTHORETDM's cell and home number and encouraged us to wake him whenever we were woken. An opportunity for conflict which made my heart leap with joy.

They were quiet. Beautiful silence every night, punctuated only by my two-month old's ongoing wailing as I maliciously and not-so-politically-correctly let her "cry it out."

Then another party. We called the cops. It was still election stumping time. The cops came. Blocked off both ends of our street. The Beautiful People ran like hell. My heart pounded with the excitement as I peeked through the crack in the curtain thinking no one could see me. This is what I remember a party being like. I put in my running time, you little freaks, and if I have anything to say about it, you will too.

Oh my past neighbors, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee.

I am sorry for singing Violent Femme's songs at two in the morning in the attic of a small duplex with three of my friends. And an amp.

I am sorry that my friend hid in your doghouse when the cops came to that one party and chased us down the street.

I am sorry for having passed out in your snowbank.

And for dragging my phone onto the porch and calling all my friends at 7 in the morning to tell them that when you are on LSD, lemon-beer is the cure.

For playing Wild Cherry as loud as that funky music could be played. Every night for probably a year.

For dragging my friends into the bathroom to show them my party trick and giggling loudly right up through the plumbing to your bedroom for hours.

For that one dude who puked up a whole McDonald's pickle on our deck after doing a Jack Daniels beer-bong. (Although that was pretty cool.)

I understand and am doing my penance. Every Thursday-Saturday. And whenever else there is dollar beer.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

I Feel Like A Woman

There was a time when I could watch an hour of daytime TV. Minus the bon bons, of course. Thing One would wake from his nap, want to snuggle a little bit, and watch Dr Phil with me. Of course, that had to end when Thing One developed the uncanny ability to notice each and everything around him for what it was, including shameless ratings ploys disguised as family therapy. I realized I pulled the plug a little too late when I asked Thing One on the way to get shots what our Dr's name was, and he gleefully replied, "Dr. Phil!"

It is during daytime television that the keen advertisers work their hardest to sell moms like me on the idea that all things in our life-including ourselves and our children-stink, leak, break, confound us, and otherwise need covering up, propping up, or fixing up. My favorite was a commercial for Febreeze playing this summer. I always thought Febreeze was just for getting rid of dog- and husband-stank. Apparently, I have been wrong all along.

Enter beautiful woman who clearly has never pushed a 9 pound baby through her vagina, but who, we are to believe, wants to smell like a real woman and not like puke, snot, shit, boogers, and dried up string cheese that has been ground into her dry clean-only size 2 top. We are to infer this dilemma, because of course there is no baby or ground-string-cheese-covered-toddler anywhere in site in the whiteness that surrounds her. The happy announcer announces that sometimes, we just want to smell like a woman and not a mom.

Come on!! Even I don't buy into that one. We all know that a real woman does not smell like Febreeze.

A real woman smells like Marlboros and yesterday's track suit. And on a wet day, a little like Border Collie.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Drama of the Verbally Gifted Child

Me: Hey Thing One, do you want cherries or bananas with your breakfast?

Thing One: No.

Me: You don't want any breakfast?

Thing One: I want breakfast.

Me: Okay climb into your big boy chair and I will make your breakfast.

Thing One: I wanna don't have breakfast.

Me: Okay no breakfast, then.

Thing One: I want breakfast.

Me: Okay, climb into your chair, then.

Thing One: No.

Me: Okay, then.

Thing One: Mama go get sister?

Me: Sister is sleeping.

Thing One: I gotta go to work.

Me: Okay, have a good day at work. Love ya.

Thing One: Where my keys?

Me: I think they're in your firetruck. What are you doing with the funnel?

Thing One: I just gotta pump a little breastmilk.


"Mama just has to run the poopy diaper out to the garbage."

Translation: "Mama is going to step outside and take 10 cleansing breaths with my lips wrapped around a Marlboro before I teach you a bad word."

I'll Show You Mine if...Wait...I Don't Have One

Thing One: "Hey Mama, should we look at your penis?"

Me: "Mama doesn't have a penis, I have a vagina, remember?"

Thing One: "Oh. Well, should we put a little Desitin on it for you?"

Me: "Uh, yeah, no thanks, I'm good."

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Top Ten Book Ideas

I read books. I won't deny it. I devour them. Parenting books. Psychology books. Books on personality development. Activity books, coloring books, potty learning books. Maybe you sense a theme here.

And like any other stay-at-home-mom scraping together her pennies and skimming from the grocery money to buy a pack of cigarettes (to be smoked after the children are in bed, because daytime is for pointing out how yucky it is when we see someone smoking), I am constantly developing ideas for "the book" I can write that will lift us out of our poverty years and open the eyes of all those other sorry saps about to embark on the parenthood climb.

Here are some of my most promising prospects:

1. What to Expect When You Play Airplane with an Infant.

2. What to Expect When you Just Want to Go Cry in a Corner, but your Almost-Two Year-Old Has Just Peed There

3. Your Child, Leak by Leak

4. The Boy With No Hands Because he Wouldn't Wear His Mittens (A full-color picture book)

5. How to Bribe, Cajole, Reverse-Psychologize, Behavior-Modify, and Silence Your Spouse into Conforming to your Clearly Irrational Expectations

6. Mama Take the Boogie? Lessons in Sharing

7. I'm Okay, You're a Poopbag

8. Thing One's Mama Has Bowling Balls for Breasts: How to Teach your Children About the Beauty of Breastfeeding

9. The Anti-Jello-Body Diet

10. How to Teach Values, Ethics, and Decent Behavior When you Have No Conscience

She's a Firecracker

According to the Good Mommies, I am not supposed to compare my children because it may damage their Self Esteem. Not one to pass up on a sure opportunity for dysfunction, I have made a list:

1. On his birthday, Thing One wedged himself between two ribs during birth and stayed there for 2 1/2 hours, possibly waiting for the swearing to be over. Thing Two, on the other hand, tied herself in a great big knot and then hit the gas as soon as Daddy went to the cafeteria. (Nurse: "Do you think he will freak out if we page him?" Me: "Um, yeeeaaahhh.") 15 minutes later (Daddy made it) we had our girl.

2. At five months, Thing One looked like a white Don King. Thing Two looks like Mr Clean.

3. Thing One has a college fund. Thing Two has a brother with a college fund.

4. Thing One is about as laid back as they get. When all of my other friends' toddlers were flopping like croppies on the floor and screaming, I would think--wow--I'm glad my kid doesn't do that stuff. Then Thing Two was born. Maybe that's how she tied herself in a knot. Flopping like a croppie and screaming bloody murder inside my tummy.

5. Thing One is very much like his father-as I said, mellow, laid back, and about as friendly as they come. Thing Two, apparently, is a lot like me. Hence Daddy's smug grin when she bites down with all her might on my nipple after draining me--he likes to think of it as Karma.

6. Thing One was born with a penis, which came equipped with the creepy ability to identify makes and models of cars at the tender age of two. Thing Two was born with a Bugina, which came equipped with a Super Duper Mommy Confidence Shrinker--the model with the Handy Dandy Scream Amplifier.

7. My mothering in Thing One's first year was guided by parenting books and instinct (parental). So far, Thing Two's first year has been guided by criminal profiling books and instinct (fear).

8. Thing One had a bath every other day. Thing Two gets a bath when I think people might notice the toe jams. On her cheeks.

My mommy friends used to be a little envious of me, I think. I mean, when they ask you if your baby sleeps through the night, why wouldn't you answer, "Uh huh, he sleeps twelve hours. From 5:30 to 5:30. It's kind of hard on us, though, because we can't really take him anywhere."

Now my friends just laugh at me. Not with me. Cuz I'm not laughin'. I'm usually crying. You just can't hear me over the girl-screams.