This Week In Gratitude

Only a minute ago she was walking into her first day of first grade, and now this.

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She came home from her last day of school today and I squeeled OOOOH! A SECOND GRADER IN MY HOUSE! and she rolled her eyes at me in that way children do when they are faking annoyance at your utter uncoolness because they can't let you know how much it means to them that you're still so into them that you can't help but squee all over them.

Pro tip: I dont actually think that particular eyeroll ever goes away, so long as you keep unreasonably and insufferably loving the goddamn shit out of them.

Anyway, once she was done NOT SMILING AT YOU MOM and rolling her eyes, she came up to me, climbed in my lap, and once she was all snuggled in tight she asked, "Mom, what did you learn in 2nd grade?"

I thought. I really thought. I can still remember what that room looked like, the way the hazy east coast sunlight shone through the aluminum blinds and on to the wood grain desktops. I can still smell every smell in that room; dust, humidity, sweat, cocoa butter, rubber cement and chalk. I *cannot* remember any one thing that I learned inside of that classroom, however, save one thing: Adults can be very, very cruel to children.

It's weird that it took my grade two teacher to open my eyes to this. I lived with two of the cruelest, most sadistic adult human beings I will ever encounter in my life, but that is what is amazing about children - their infinite ability to love unconditionally and forgive repeatedly, and also to buy into your shit about "religion" and "discipline".

But my grade two teacher was not my mother. She was not anyone's mother, so far as I knew. She was the teacher-stereotype they make movies about, Ms Agatha Trunchbull in the flesh. She was a small woman, and grey all over - from her hair to her heart.

She particularly hated children in my cult sect of Judean-Christianity, as if we had some choice in the matter. I can't remember her name, and I don't remember the sound of her voice, but I remember the way her dingy blouse hung away from her flabby arms as she, every morning, would pull my friend's uncombed, unwashed red air up into tight ponytail with rubbber bands, and the way it hung stained with sweat every afternoon when she would rip those rubber bands out of her hair, not caring how much gorgeous read strands of hair she took with them.

I think that she hated poor people, that she was digusted by dirty children, that she dreamed of teaching at the school down the road from us full of middle-class white children whos parents packed them sack lunches and made sure their hair was combed and clothes were cleaned every day, not just on the first day.

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We were not middle-class white children. We were children that they all wrote off, the ones they tucked away inside a high-security Section 8 neighborhood and left to play in dumpsters or the woods or the basketball court until we all got good and hooked on our parents drugs or vodka or hopelessness and rendered ourselves obsolete.

Almost no one cared about us, but few dared to show it the way my 2nd grade teacher did. She actively despised us, even the few of us that showed the promise of some potential. We were lost children, lost causes, social waste - and she made damn sure we knew it.  

I read somewhere that a child's perception of themselves is defined by the time they reach ages seven or eight. That gives us a very narrow window of time to instill a healthy perception of self. I can't remember if grade two was the year that I learned cursive, or the year I started to multiple large numbers, but I do remember that grade two was the year I realized someone thought I was worthless.

And I'm glad for it. 

I'm glad for it because it reminds me every day to tell *my* second grader how much I value her, respect her, adore her, love her. It reminds me to be kind to every second grader, every third grader, every eighth grader I come in contact with, because maybe they just need one person to counter some really horrible message someone else is trying with all their might to instill in them.

In second grade I learned that adults can be very cruel, and I am grateful for that, and for her, because in so many ways she taught me exactly would grow up not to be. 

Is Too a Word

This post is sponsored by Clorox® Ick-tionary. Just FYI for the FTC.

My kids' last day of school is today and I really can't even wrap my head around the fact that this year has already ended. I mean, we JUST moved here before the school year had started and if the school year is over, that means that I like OFFICIALLY live in Arizona or something, doesn't it? Even my seven year old daughter remarked that this year went by really fast, and nothing at all ever goes by really fast for seven year old girls. One minute, I had a bright eyed and bushy tailed 1st grader, and two eager boys ready to enter jr high and high school all shiny and Axe'd to the gills. Now I have three large kids all somewhere on the pubery-spectrum, and all completely over it. 

My house is about to smell *awesome*.

My children are all of the age when cleanliness is next to impossibleness. I keep telling my sons that no one makes out with the smelly boy, but they don't care. At 15 and 13, they'd rather be hung by their putrid toes than face the shower. For a while there, they were both showering really super regularly, but then I decided to move my daughter into my room so that the boys could each have their own room, and the daily (sometimes even twice-daily) showers came to a screeching hault. I can't imagine why. 

Even my seven year old daughter is so totally over bathing, and this is the kid who just last year would take baths for days. I could plop her in the tub and go write an entire novel; she'd stay there, happily waterlogging away, for as long as I'd let her. 

Of course, every blessing usually turns into a curse, if you just wait long enough. Case in point.

(That, my friends, is called a Poop-edo, or a Tubtanic, or how to get your seven year old son out of your one year old daughter's bathtub with little to no effort on your part.)

Those days of her daudling away hours in the tub are long gone, just like this school year is, but she takes swimming lessons so she's at least getting a decent chlorine-dunk twice a week.

Her brothers both take MMA. With adult UFC fighters.

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You can't even imagine the smell. 

So I'm pretty excited to spend all day, every day, for the next 70 days or so with them in our adorable, but not terribly large, house in the middle of the god-forsaken desert during summer. 

And I haven't even started thinking about the trail of tears these children leave behind them everywhere they go. My son was home for 27 minutes today and it took me an hour to clean up the mess he made in that time. And then I remembered that it would have only taken me 16 seconds to yell at him for making it, and then I could have spent the rest of that hour watching him clean up after himself and knitting scarves for the winter THAT NEVER COMES HERE. I am slow, but I get there eventually.

Anyway. I've gone off topic. The topic at hand is the fact that my children are kind of gross, a-little-more-than-un motivated, and out of school for the summer, and (I think) competing for title of Best Mess Maker in Least Amount of Time. I call this The Alice Coup'r.

Or maybe their no-showering teenage-goopy butts are stuck in a tiny little house with me all summer long, because lord knows it's too hot to check the mail before 2:37 am, and what they are about to do to my poor house can only really be described as Stick(y)holm Syndrome

Life with kids is epicly icky. It is also very, very  funny. My car has had crabs, I've stood fascinated watching a child vomit out of their nose, I've attempted to catch vomit (#7), I've smelled wet sheets that were wet for all the wrong reasonsWe all have.

(Well, maybe not the sheets bit. I think you're probably smarter than that. Please be smarter than that.)

And that's the beauty of the internet - we get to laugh at each other. With. I MEANT WITH.  Clorox®, with the help of some of us who've been there & done that, created the Clorox® Ick-tionary – a wiki-style dictionary that we hope will become a new language of how we talk about messes and icky situations parents face, conquer, and laugh about.

It's kind of hilarious, really. From Board-‘oeuvres to Petrifries, if it's happened to you, it's going to show up in the Ick-tionary eventually. There are coupons for cleaning supplies to make your children scrub their black fingerprints off the walls with, interactive games to play (Match the Mess, which is kind of the safe version of Sniff the Stain, which I've done. In underwear I've found on the floor. I have no idea why. I am an idiot.) and new words to read every week. Each week will have a featured words - this week's featured word is Hippocratic Oaf (aka Germpocracy), which is something I won't be again for a long time because there is no more school to send my kids to even though they have Green 11's

You can actually submit your own awesome words for messed up stuff to the Ick-tionary at www.icktionary.com. I think I'll have a few words up there eventually (this one is me!), but I don't think anything is ever going to top Secret Garden.

Wordless Whatever the Hell Day It Is

Offered without comment, mostly because I can't even, but partly because I thought today was Wednesday. That, my friends, is calling winning.

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My 13 year old. And his *girlfriend*

::hums tunes from Fiddler on the Roof, pretends this isn't happening::

Me More Than You

I started working from home about six years ago, after I moved to Canada and got everything I ever asked for. Everything I ever asked for was, of course, to be able to stay home full time with my kids (and not totally suffer for it - I did in fact stay home full time with my sons and we ate sogoddamnmuch Kraft dinner and it was worth every bite). IN Canada, I actually wasn't allowed to work. Visas are weird. So is being a full time stay at home mom in a new country where you literally don't know a single person except the people directly to either side of your condo and you only really know them because that one night that you left the country in the middle of the night with your kids in tow, they'd offered to hold you while the cops beat your door in with sledgehammers to retrieve your children from their deee-runk! father. 

Can you tell I haven't been writing in a while? All of that should have been seven words. Man, when the levee breaks, I tell you WHAT.

So there I was, after a year of being a single mother with three very small kids and a potentially-ex husband in an entirely different country while living off of my two nights a week at the bar tips and a pathetic amount of assistance from the kids' dad in an 800 sq ft apartment, standing in the middle of the most gorgeous place on Earth in a quaint townhome and nothing at all do to but take care of it, and those kids.

I hated it, of course.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, the right someone was able to find that post, and he offered me a small little side gig that paid out of America, so Canada could shove it in my house-shoes and smoke it, and my days of working from home commenced. 

They quickly expanded beyond the confines of that small little side gig into a real live big girl job with a title and a teency bit of supreme executive power and a'ight stock options and a lunch hour and everything

Before all of that I waited tables. I loved waiting tables. I was really good at waiting tables. I gave waiting tables a lot of shit, but you know what? Waiting tables was something I couldn't do at home, and my kids never once asked me to stop serving that Côtes du Rhône and help them fold a duct tape wallet RIGHT NOW OR EVERYTHING WILL END.

My family has never really figured out what working from home means. They get mad if I won't let them play games or get on the computer after school because GAH, YOU ARE ON THE COMPUTER. The kids' dad used to expect to come home to dinner and a clean house, and I was like ARE YOU GOING TO COOK AND CLEAN? and he was like I AM WORKING and that my friends is THE POINT. I don't leave, so they don't think of it as work. One of the kids once said that their dad deserved to sit on the couch and watch TV instead of helping me with the dishes because he worked all day every day. 

Brains sure are hard to scrub off of popcorn ceilings. 

They think I type all day, and that is not an exaggeration  I took my two sons to Mom 2.013 Summit with me this year because I wanted, no, I needed them to see exactly what it is I do all day. They were like YOU GET FREE STUFF FROM PRETTY GIRLS IN SUPERHERO COSTUMES ALL DAY?

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My plan clearly needs some rethinking.

They did get a bit of a glimpse, or at least some context, into what I do at the computer all day, and I think it may have helped some. Of course, that didn't stop TXU from calling me yesterday to tell me, not ask me, to bring his homework to him that he'd left in his overnight bag from his dad's. This is where you point at the monitor and judge me, because you know that if I bring him the homework, I'm the problem, right? Well, I am, and I did, but only because A) I could and B) he'd worked all weekend on that homework and I have divorce-guilt.

Had he left it on the computer, that may have been another issue entirely. Which is exactly what he did this morning. 

So it's 7:38 am and he is ringing my damn phone of it's non-existent hook, and I just keep ignoring his call because he wants SOMETHING and I am not in any state to deliver ANYTHING except coffee to my face at 7:38 am, and he gets the point eventually and hangs up. And then he calls me from the school. And then he starts texting me.

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Can you get it to me by 8:03 am?  My boss would be hard-pressed to say that to me.

But the thing is, he worked SO HARD on that music. I should know, I listened to him play and replay and note and re-note and play and play and zomgmakeitstop until he had all the music written out perfectly. He's so squirrel! with everything in his life that when he really focuses, when he sits down and does something all the way start to finish, I just want to hold onto it because I know that he must really truly madly deeply love the hell out of it. I knew what would happen if I said no, I wouldn't bring it - he'd panic, then he'd get angry, then he'd get upset, and then he'd have a shitty day. I don't want to be the cause of his shitty days. I also don't want to have to drag my seven year old daughter out of her morning routine to go rescue her brother who could finish his work (bravo!) but couldn't get it from the desk to his backpack (boo!).  

So I told him no.

And I heard it. I heard him run through panic, then anger, then sadness. And it broke my heart, but I had to do it. At some point, these kids all have to be let to fall on their own, of their own, and they have to figure out how to get back up on their own, by their own. Their mother isn't going to be there with their homework and a cape all of their lives, and if I keep letting them think I will, then I am the problem.

Turns out, he explained what happened to his teacher and she is giving him until tomorrow am to turn in his assignment. I had nothing to do with this conversation. I'd be willing to bet, however, that he learned a way more valuable life-lesson during that negotiation than the reiteration of my unboundaried love for him would have reaped. And it only hurt us both a little. 

This Week in Gratitude

After barely-squeaking through a week of being too sick to do much more than work and sleep - and neither of those things to any real degree of effectiveness - i have never been more grateful than I am right now for Platex Purple Plastic Dish Gloves

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I try to keep the a/c off as much as possible when the kids aren't home, because (like pimpin') a/c ain't easy. When my March electric bill, with no ramp up or warning or anything, leaps straight for the clitoris and exactly doubles itself, I find myself willing to endure a little more in-home sauna experience than usual. Which you'd know is really saying something, if you've ever smelled me in the summer.

Sex Education aside, because you totally forgot about this, didn't you? You're welcome:

My kids have pretty much been left to their own devices this week, because my skin, something inside and under both my right rib cage and right hip bone, and all the glands from my belly button up declared mutiny this week, and so there has been a lot of breakfast-cereal-with-a-side-of-Xbox for dinner which is great in an air-conditioned college dormroom, but isn't so idea inside the tandoor ovens they try to pass off as Real Estate in the Sun Valley. 

Lucky-Charms-milk left out on the counter for just two or three hours in the desert heat turns was the inspriration for The Leprechaun. Fact*. You should probably just take my word for that.

And so now it's Mother's Day, I'm off the Lance Armstrong dose of predanose, and I have a week of dishes to catch up on. Because nothing says Happy Mother's Day like opening up your dishwasher and finding all your good mugs stained damn near black from tea, and probably your mother in law's soul. 

You see, my mother in law, who I've managed to say pretty close to not a single word to since her son and I broke up once and for all, came to spend some quality grandma time with 3of3 while the boys and I hit the road for Mom 2.013. Which was very nice of her. I kind of thought the giant super fancy dishrack on the counter, the purple dish gloves hanging over the faucet, and the utter lack of dishwasher detergent in the cabinet would have been clue enough that we don't really use the dishwasher in this house, and if you leave all of your dishes in there, I'm going to find them a week later having just come off of Autoimmunopocalypse and you are going to cease being my best friend. 

It wasn't.

Maybe I should stop talking to her in smoke signals and hints and grow the fuck up.

Nah.

And so I'll be spending most of Mother's Day wearing a scrunchie and Playtex Plastic Purple Dish Gloves, scorching the last week's yuck off of our dishes, then our floors, then the laundry, and bleaching my ex-mother in law out of my Starbucks Architectural Mug collection while my not-so-little one spend the day with their father going to see Iron Man and swimming and yard-saling and doing whatever it is they do on his days with them that don't have anything to do with me anymore - so that when they get home tonight, we can just be. Together. With no distractions. Because the only Mother's Day present I need or want is to be theirs**. 

*ish.

**That, and I have the a/c set to 76 today. And I have the whole house to myself. #rebel