Picky, Picky!

Sometimes it’s hard to resist trends. Like last year when Kate fell prey to that wild nose picking fad. It’s big with the preschool set, don’t you know?

There were days where I seriously worried she might be developing a problem. Like when her nose would inexplicably bleed. She’d flip out at the sight of blood, yet appear completely puzzled with the concept that plunging a finger up her schnozzle was the root cause.

Ballerina Booger

No amount of cajoling, shaming, or complete degradation deterred her. I tried so hard to ignore the whole situation and hoped it would pass, but that was tricky because of my serious issues with crusty bits of dried mucous. I couldn’t help but recall when Joe was in preschool and I happened upon his crunchy collection. He’d proudly displayed it right there on the wall next to his bed. It was one of those motherhood “firsts” that delivered a serious blow to the beauty of this little human I brought forth. My sweet, handsome little boy was smearing goobers on the wall! What next?

Anyway, at some point Kate just became really good at hiding her booger picking addiction. In fact, as summer approached, I thought she’d kicked that monkey off her back.

Well, I was stupid.

It was our last week in Maine. Dave and I were hustling to pack and coordinate real estate closings. He had just started his new job in Massachusetts which meant he was leaving early on Monday mornings and returning late Wednesday night. Life was pretty insane in those last few weeks. On the upside, I successfully managed to ignore Kate’s penchant for booger harvesting. That is, until the Sunday night when she appeared with a gusher.

This wasn’t any old nosebleed. This was hemorrhaging. This was enough blood to soak through two wash cloths and the hand towel I had pressed against her face while we drove to the hospital. By the time we reached Maine Medical Center’s ER, my hand had muscle spasms from pinching Kate’s nostrils closed. There was so much blood, the ER staff took one look, opened the doors and rushed her straight to a room. They probably thought, “Hey that kid definitely doesn’t have a bloody nose!”

Five minutes later a very bored looking doctor appeared with a clamp for Kate’s nose. Despite it being plastic and the loveliest shade of Cinderella-blue, from Kate’s perspective it probably looked like a torture device. The young doctor mistook our petite Katie for a delicate flower and, in a sing-song voice, suggested she might consider placing the clamp on her nose “so Mommy’s hand can have a rest.” Personally, I thought this was a fabulous idea. Kate did not.

No amount of coaxing or flattery from that poor guy (who probably didn’t enroll in medical school intending to one day to deal with obstinate five year olds and their nosebleeds) would change Kate’s mind. He finally rolled over after experiencing Kate’s withering glare – a squinty eyed, silent staring contest that she never loses.

withering glare

And with that, he left us to wait for the ENT.

And wait we did…

Of course the bleeding eventually stopped and, as is typical of our ER visits with children, we began to feel as if we needed to explain exactly how awful this injury had been. That the sheer volume of blood was so insane! That we hadn’t over-reacted. No Sir, we absolutely weren’t a couple of idiots who hauled their kid to the emergency room because she had a bloody nose.

No matter how gracious and reassuring the ER staff appeared to be, I just knew – that deep down in my soul kind of knowing – that they were gathered around a coffee pot rolling their eyes and calling us assholes. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. Either way, the specialist came and pulled what he called “a good-sized blood clot” from Kate’s nostril. To me it looked more like a gruesome core sample. Roughly the size of my left arm, that thing just kept coming.

I felt vindicated but resisted the overwhelming desire to jab my finger at the eye-rolling nurses and scream, “IN YOUR FACE, BITCHES!”

Rather than aggressively confronting the emergency room staff, we held Kate’s precious little hand and listened as the ENT ordered us to stay for approximately 350 additional hours so Kate could be monitored.

During the 279th hour, Kate took on a bizarre appearance. Somehow oddly poised, her posture suggestive of a middle-aged woman in the act of judging someone’s newly decorated living room. She held her cup of ice water with its sippy straw carefully balanced beside lips painted with rusted streaks of blood and said, “I really wish they gave me a better room… this one is no good.”

I swear it was like my great-aunt Zelda rose from the dead. Well, if I had a great-aunt Zelda, but you catch my drift, right? Because it didn’t stop there. Within minutes, she was planning her funeral. For real. She was planning the whole thing just like my imaginary Aunt Zelda would have.

“When I die, I want my ashes put with kittens and God,” she declared, waving her cup of ice water in my general direction. Dave shifted uncomfortably and avoided my gaze, as if he’d somehow escaped this funeral mandate from his five year old daughter. I rolled my eyes and tried not to giggle because the kid was serious.

“Right, kittens and God,” I repeated. This pleased her. She laid her head back against that sub-par gurney they’d provided and resumed watching her program, Sam & Cat. Can we all take a moment here to thank God she wasn’t watching Lawrence Welk? Because that would have been truly freaky.

She watched the show for roughly 6.4 seconds before lifting her bloody face from the shitty pillow on the second-rate gurney to speak. Clearly, she had become delirious from blood loss… Sentences flew from her mouth machine gun style. There was nothing linear about the conversation. Statement upon statement, peppered with questions that had nothing to do with the words that had just gushed from her gore-painted mouth.

Hypnotized, I reached down to scratch an itch on my right shoulder and noticed my t-shirt had grown stiff with dried blood. My hands, no matter how many times I’d washed them, felt tacky. The copper smell of blood clung in my sinuses but by now, Kate was having a fantastic time.

I just wanted to go home. Hoping for some back-up, I looked at Dave, but he’d taken a trip to that far off state known as Catatonia. I know this because, though he looked like he was awake, he’d stopped blinking and his breathing was shallow.

“I have an idea, Kate…”

“You shut up your mouth!” she bellowed. Either she had entered some sort of iron deficient stupor or she was possessed. Either way, I cringed and apologized profusely for interrupting. She waved me off then immediately launched into a series of mind-numbing questions. Things like, “Those strings in the sky…are they made by God?”

In all honesty, she sounded like a freaky little hippie on mushrooms but I was too frightened to ignore her. I thought of my ex-father in law and how, when he had a bloody nose, he’d jam an OB tampon up his schnoz. At the time, I was mortified but I’ve begun to see that he was a wise man.

Loner Land

Our move back to Massachusetts and into a fantastic school system was absolutely the right thing to do. Especially for Joe. We are one month into the new school year and his teacher has already opened the lines of communication. It was an email response to a writing assignment she’d given to the parents in Joe’s class. Her response to my writing assignment titled The Care and Feeding of Joe Faherty, was, “I am wondering if Joe continues to see a therapist?”

It was a great question. One that tells me she’s paying attention. That she sees what I see and despite a fantastic summer filled with confidence and lively discussions with other children, Joe is having issues in the classroom again. It was a message that I found both encouraging and heartbreaking.

I’ll be completely honest, I knew this would happen as soon as he began the new year, but I didn’t want to be pessimistic. He did so well over the summer. He walked into camps in our new town with such confidence and came out of one with a firm “job offer” for next summer. That camp leader was so impressed with his patience and great attitude, she hired him to be her helper and has already arranged it.

During his stint at Ocean Ecology Camp, I watched him walk into a group of boys who fist-bumped him their good morning greetings. At the time, I sat in our mini-van and nearly cried with happiness over those fist bumps. At the beach, he gave impromptu talks about horseshoe crabs to groups of children and their grown-ups. He was awesome – holding up those prehistoric looking creatures and answering excited questions.

And then school started.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a happy guy. He gets on the bus with smiles and hugs in the morning and in the afternoon, reaches for my hand as soon as he exits. He holds on for the duration of the walk down our new street and doesn’t care who sees. I love holding his hand, it’s almost as big as mine now.

I tried to capitalize on the confidence he developed over the summer. When school started, I eased him into the social scene with daily challenges. Things like, Today you should try to have a conversation with someone new, or, Ask someone three questions and tell me what you learned about that new friend. He was hesitant, but he played along. And then one day at breakfast I said, “Trade telephone numbers with a new friend.”

Bad idea. He began to squirm uncomfortably and poked at his egg.

“Um…maybe I could wait a while. It seems too soon…I need to get to know people better.”

No amount of support or encouraging words will sway him. By now, I’m hearing all of those familiar cues that he has one foot back in Loner Land. His table mates are frustrated with him for not transitioning quickly enough, “This one girl takes “line-up” way too serious.” He doesn’t sit with the same kids at lunch – meaning, he hasn’t made any connections with another kid.

How is it that this kid who is gregarious and loving and so very smart at home is an entirely different person at school? How do I fix it? How do I make sure he’s a happy and well-adjusted human who has friends and some social involvement when he doesn’t show other kids he wants to be involved?

It’s time to find a new therapist.

Amy True 016

Blowing Off Dust

It’s been so long, this blog has acquired a patina.

Seriously.

It’s so out of date, I might as well label it “Vintage.” But instead of fixating on sorry appearances, I’m just going to jump right in and start writing. That’s right, I am.  It might be messy and chaotic and contain typos and not be at all important or tremendously well-written, but I’m going to write it. Mostly because you’ve caught me riding the emotional roller coaster that happens after we relocate to a new state. Again.

Okay, to be fair, Massachusetts isn’t exactly new to us, we’ve just returned after a six-year hiatus. This time I demanded  we chose a nice house in the ‘burbs rather than the heart of Boston. What can I say, I wanted to live near the beach this time and own a car without dents, dings and gouges. I wanted a driveway instead of street parking and neighbors who probably don’t sell crack. Also, we have these three little kids and it turns out good schools are pretty much a big important deal. Huh…who knew?

So we’ve landed on the South Shore in a town we liked to visit back when I was first pregnant and Dave was still in law school. We’d drive down here to hit the beach during heat waves and wonder what it would be like to live in this place. If you’d asked me, I never would have dreamed I’d be sitting at a kitchen counter in the same town ten years later, rocking a little bit of a paunch and having birthed two additional kids.

I’ll never fail to be amazed at how, just when I think I’m comfortably settled somewhere, the universe throws a curveball our way. As it turns out, Maine didn’t want us anymore. Or maybe all the reasons we landed in Maine in the first place had simply run their course. After all, it was our move to Maine in 2010 that threw me onto the emotional rollercoaster that resulted the birth of Narragansett No. 7. And this silly little blog led me to grad school in Maine where I befriended some of the most important and supportive people I’ve ever had in my life. These are people who read some very raw work – memories of childhood buried so deep, that as I began writing my memoir, it felt more like projectile vomiting than any type of creative process. And they still love me, but grad school has ended and we have all retreated to our laptops.

Last fall, as I was attempting to throw myself into a post-grad school routine, I took on the home preschooling of our youngest daughter. Remember Kate? The one with a penchant for the filthiest of potty words? Anyway, it seemed our formerly cooperative preschool had begun to turn into something resembling an MMA Cage Match. For one thing, I wasn’t really into mandatory parent meetings where parents called the other parents “fuckers” and routinely threatened legal action over a case of head lice. Uh, uh… these are the preschool years, people. PRE. SCHOOL.

So, I fantasized about a nice, mellow year. One where I’d help Kate learn her upper and lower case letters, make sure she could count to at least 50. A year filled with play dates to keep her (us) socially involved and away from rabid women hell-bent on mandatory fundraising via lame calendar raffles. I thought, Oh , I’ll totally have time to write! Hell, I thought I’d be done with this memoir and sending it out to agents by spring. I conjured the image of a stress free summer in Maine.

Well, that’s not how my year went. Not at all. You see, as much as I thought Maine was our place – no matter how much I adored our beautiful home – it seems the universe had something else in mind. When we stopped paying attention to all the little messages that it might be time to move on, the universe or God or whatever force always seems to put David or I right where we need to be when we need to be there, started making Maine far less lovely.

From Dave’s insanely shitty job to the loss of friendships, missing cats, dead pet lizards, Joe’s continued difficulty in the school… It all piled up and pointed us to the door.

So here I am, sitting at the kitchen counter of a home in a suburb south of Boston – the one where I never imagined I’d live – and I’m wondering what the universe has in mind this time.

It feels good to come home.

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Mother Knows Best

“Hey, Mom… you know who you remind of?” Gwen called from the kitchen.

My seven year old daughter has developed the habit of calling out her random thoughts, expecting whomever she is addressing to be instantly available. She’s a lot like me that way.

When I poked my head into the kitchen, she was sitting at the counter in front of my laptop with Kate. Together, they were watching YouTube videos of Disney Princess songs. Those catchy sing-alongs accompanied by a bouncing ball to emphasize the lyrics. Of course, I was instantly curious. I’ll admit, maybe even a tiny bit flattered to think that some princess evoked fond thoughts of me, their Mommy.

“Who?” I hopefully asked.

“That mean old witch in Rapunzel,” she said. “What’s her name again?”

“Mother Gothel,” Kate answered.

The song they were listening to reached my ears at the same time her declaration registered in my brain.

Mother knows best, take it from your Mumsy…

Have you seen Mother Gothel in Rapunzel? She’s a narcissistic bitch sporting a mane of dark curls. She feeds off Rapunzel’s magical golden hair, engaging in the intimate, maternal act of brushing those locks until the golden glow restores her youth and beauty. Without access to Rapunzel’s hair, she’s a withering mess of gray hair and wrinkles.

What the stuff? Really? This is how my middle child sees me? I most certainly don’t live vicariously through my daughter! Do I?

Panicked, I asked, “Kate, do you think I’m like Mother Gothel too?”

Don’t judge me; I was desperate for a second opinion. I needed someone to tell me that Gwen was wrong.

“Yup,” Kate declared. “You wook wike her.”

Mother gothel 3

Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it…

mother gothel 2

The most disturbing part is, Gwen made this very accusation three years ago. It’s true. We were in a jam-packed movie theater enjoying a girl’s day out and as Mother Gothel said, “Great, now I’m the bad guy,”  when Gwen, in her most inappropriately loud movie theater voice announced, “She’s just like you, Mommy!”

After the insane laughter of our fellow movies goers subsided, I sat in my stadium seat, face burning. Oh, I laughed too, in my lame attempt to appear cool. I mean, four year old kids say the darndest things, right?

On the bright side, they didn’t compare me to Ursula the Sea Witch or worse, Maleficent, because that would have been just plain more awful.

Skip the drama, stay with Mama…

mother gothel

Honesty

Despite my rabid insistence that Narragansett No. 7 is not a Mommy Blog – because it’s really more of an anti-Mommy Blog,  a catch-all for my neurotic ramblings, and failures as a writer/parent/woman/human being – I suddenly find myself engaged in some very Mommy Bloggish endeavors.

Case in point: I am teaching Kate preschool at home this year.

No, not because she was kicked out of her former school for bad behavior or anything. There are many reasons.  Mostly, the preschool wasn’t a good fit for us anymore. The mommies of her classmates were much younger and frankly, I wasn’t fabulous at making connections with them last year. What can I say? My thesis left very little room for play dates. Kate is our third child and most of the kids her class were the first-born in young families. I just wasn’t as… how shall I say? Gung ho? Nervous? I don’t know… I’ll let you fill in that blank. With two older kids and their schedules to shuffle, Kate’s preschool related extracurriculars took a back seat and if that appeared to be unfriendly, then so be it.

Then there was the issue of a little boy diagnosed with a spectrum disorder mid-year and some intolerance that came along with it. The situation brought me back to Joe’s first years of school and the shunning we experienced from the other moms. It pissed me off. It made me not want to bring my son anywhere near some of those folks. You know? I guess I threw a wall up.

Anyway, here I am preparing Kate for Kindergarten on my own. If I were a liar, I’d be sharing perfect photographs of each and every craft or messy sensory activity that Kate dives into. You would be inundated with toothy smiles and things like splat mats and smocks and wipes on the kitchen table, but that shit disappeared with kid number two.

Sure, I might post photographs, but rest assured, they won’t always be pretty. Not like those shiny happy pictures on some blogs and most definitely not like the photos snapped at preschool events of days gone by.

Why? Well, because teachers shower in the morning. That’s right. They generally don’t stink like dirty hobos in dire need of a breath mint.

Teachers don’t tell their daughter to “sit down and write those lower case e’s or I’ll steal all of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups out of your Halloween stash.”  (Note to self: potential sorting and/or math lesson.)

Teachers might consider my requirement that she walk the dog after lunch unfair.

On the other hand, if Kate were at preschool she never would have felt comfortable enough to say, “Get over here you little gween bastard,” to a miniscule Lego frog evading her grip. That’s how our fine motor skill sorting game went down last week. I’m pretty sure most the other mommies wouldn’t have approved, but life isn’t always perfect. And maybe that’s the difference between first time moms and third timers.

Copyright 2013 Narragansett No. 7

Procastination and Self-Loathing

Truth is, I’m mired in the worst writer’s block I’ve ever encountered.  First, I was just taking a month off.  Just a simple one month break. Thirty days post-graduation to catch-up with my family. I suppose it all began as some lame attempt to assuage the guilt that had built up over two years of placing grad school deadlines before my children. But somehow, that August break crept into September, bled into October, and has now begun to ooze into November. The Break grows increasingly vile by the day, slowly morphing into an insidious hole that now threatens to erase my very need to write.

In September, I wrote just one rough piece. Something I hastily cranked out in order to meet the deadline imposed by my writers group. A  group composed of my amazingly talented friends. These are the people who have, over the past two years, become some of the best friends I have ever made. They are people who are actually doing something with their talent, like Penny Guisinger whose amazing work appears here, and Kerri Dieffenwierth whose fabulous words have been published here.

Truth is, despite the insightful (and patient) comments of my highly respected peers, I haven’t revisited that rough piece I submitted since we met via Skype a month and half ago.

Excuses don’t excuse my lack of inspiration.

Truth is, I have a memoir that is 90% finished and I’ve been too chicken shit to finish my book proposal. I’m in full avoidance.

I’ve been home pre-schooling Kate this year. Mostly because the cooperative preschool we belonged to for nearly four years turned out to be rather uncooperative and less parent-run than I’d come to expect.

So I’ve been focusing on things like kindergarten readiness and dance classes to make up for Kate’s lack of social interaction. Because things like boogers and dancing are important to my youngest child’s development. Right?

boogie

Then there’s that yearly Halloween party… the one that helps me avoid what I’m supposed to be doing by assembling things like this:

kitchen

                        And by making these:

  candy apples

 The worst part? I feel like I’ve lost my funny.  Mostly because I’ve been mired in writing a memoir for two years and it covers some rather un-funny personal history. These days, I find myself over-thinking what used to be silly blog posts.

So instead, I’ve been doing important things, like sitting on a king-sized bed piled high with laundry and watching the Kardashians. Because someone has to commiserate with poor Khloe and her camel toe, right? Gravity sucks, man.

khloe-kardashian-camel-toe hermes bag

I’ve been avoiding things like submitting my work to journals or contacting Word Portland, a local event created by Emily Young, a fellow Stonecoaster, that would allow me to read my work at a really cool public venue.

So this blog post is my official return to silly parenting horrors, random thoughts, and my commitment to writing something. Anything. This is me forcing myself to get off my ass and write.

And it feels good.

Pain and Fist Shaking

Joe had a fantastic summer. At the exact time his child behavioral specialist was confirming he exhibits behaviors “of concern for falling within the autism spectrum disorder,” Joe was making a connection. At the end of second grade, he finally made a friend and he blossomed. There were play dates and sleepovers and beach days and water parks and Joe was just another kid. Most signs of Asperger’s and anxiety took the summer off and ADHD isn’t a huge issue when school is out.

Joe took a summer off from his medication. He needed to gain weight. That medication that helps him focus in class and get through a day at a desk also suppresses his appetite. He was falling behind on the growth charts.

By August, he had gained 8 pounds and put on an inch and a half.

He’d also gained confidence. A lot of confidence.

By August, that old enemy called anxiety began to show its ugly face. The thought of returning to school, the intimidation of crowds of kids, and the reality of unfamiliar faces began to make him nervous. His new teacher graciously suggested he come in to meet her, to help alleviate some anxiety… to see his new room.

His new teacher is wonderful for Joe and to Joe.

School started with no issues. Besides the kid on the bus, who on the first day, asked Joe for his name, then declared to the boys around them, “Joe’s my ass.” Confident Joe got off the school bus wondering why a kid he didn’t know would say that to him. He told me what that kid said with a smirk on his face and confusion in his eyes. I brushed it off and told Joe it sounded like that kid was pretty obnoxious. That he shouldn’t sit near that boy again. That he should let me know if the name calling continued. It didn’t.

For the first few weeks, he came home with big smiles on his face, thrilled to report that he’d been playing soccer at recess. Dave and I were happy. We saw it as Joe finally climbing over a major social hurdle. He had become confident enough to join in on a soccer game and play with group of boys. To finally show those kids he could play too. He was having fun. There was a glimmer of Joe becoming one of the boys. We hoped he was letting go and telling his anxiety to take a hike…maybe outgrowing it  and applying some of the coping mechanisms he’s learned in therapy.

Then one day he didn’t play soccer.

He didn’t tell me why he stopped playing. This is typical of Joe – when something happens, when he’s rejected or confused or hurt – he doesn’t talk about it. He doesn’t ask for help. He just pulls away. Sometimes, he might tell us what happened, but it usually takes at least a month… sometimes up to four months.

For the past week, Joe has gotten off the bus looking glum. I know him well enough by now to know that something has happened. I see him pulling inward, know the look of my son shutting down and closing the door on social interaction with kids outside of our house.

But I can’t ask him about it. If I do, he pulls into himself even more and I’m forced to watch him wage a battle with some horrible pain inside. So big and so overwhelming that he won’t speak. Instead, he buries his face in a pillow or turns to look out the nearest window and he fights tears. He refuses to cry. And my heart breaks. I’m helpless. How can I help my son work through something if he can’t talk about it?

So, yesterday morning Dave and I casually suggested that Joe start playing soccer again.

“It’s recess,” we said. “You can play a quick game of soccer if you’re bored with the same old stuff.”

“Mix it up,” we encouraged.

You see, he’s been a kick. One where he’s hyper-focusing on practicing handstands at recess. In reality it’s his avoidance of the group. It’s Joe protecting himself from the crowd by throwing his all into an endless stream of handstands that cannot be interrupted. It’s Joe’s safe zone. After a while, it’s awkward. And we had no idea why he was suddenly regressing after such a strong start to the year.

So, after we innocently suggested he give soccer a shot for the afternoon, he said, “I’d “rather not.”

“Why not?” we said, remaining upbeat. “You’re good at soccer!”

“Well, they were fighting over which team I should be on,” he said. “I didn’t like the fighting.”

Dave and I shared a glance over Joe’s head.

Pain and frustration for Joe bubbled to the surface again.

“I’m fine with playing by myself,” he said.

Later, as the bus pulled away, I began to cry. All of the hurts of his school experience came rushing back. The birthday party invites that never seem to come. His birthday party invites that are rebuffed and the little girl in last year’s class who said, “I’m not your friend, why would I go to your party?” What that little girl didn’t know was that Joe invited the whole class because he didn’t want anyone to feel left out. His act of thoughtfulness was met with complete rejection.

The girl who would sweep his things off the lunch table last year…the kid who punched him in the stomach in first grade…the kid who punched him in the stomach in preschool…

I sat at the table rehashing four years of painful moments and I shook my fist at the sky.

I wrote a Facebook post damning the situation. I damned ADHD and Asperger’s and anxiety. I damned an 8 year old soccer boss, not knowing that somewhere, there was parent at my son’s school who might actually consider his or her child the recess soccer boss. My fist shaking, painful moment – one where I directed my anger at a hypothetical child – a faceless, nameless child who my  imagination had painted as the Don Corleone of schoolyard soccer – rubbed someone the wrong way. Someone, Hell…maybe a group of someone’s assumed I was talking about their kid. Someone believed I specifically pointed my finger at a particular child, rather than God and behavioral disorders and the (normal) dynamics of the playground hierarchy.

Late in the afternoon, as I regrouped and readied myself to smile when Joe got off the bus, I learned that there might actually be a real “Soccer Boss.” That my comment was seen and assumptions were made.

And for that, I am sorry. I am sorry that someone who doesn’t know me or my son well enough to know his struggle, assumed I was actually pointing a finger at his or her child.

I took the kids to the movies at 4:40 yesterday. Dave was in New York. We came home, and I tried to ignore the drama unfolding because I’d shared a painful moment. I fed the kids, I put them to bed and then I cried. I cried for Joe. I cried because I felt guilty for complaining. I felt horrible that someone thought I was attacking their child. I tried to tell Dave about it over the phone. Dave who was in Manhattan and trying to understand me through my sobs.

Yesterday was a bad day. Next time I need to shake my fist at something, I’ll make sure I don’t assign that something an identity.

What the Hell Happened?

Remember when people didn’t get their drawers in a bunch over children wearing Halloween costumes to school?

Gwen started Kindergarten this year. She was confused upon learning that Halloween costumes aren’t allowed. Costumes are for private preschools these days. Didn’t you know?

But why?

When did it become politically incorrect to don a costume and celebrate the ancient pagan holidays? Next thing you know, we’ll be burning little people at the stake for dressing up in Monster High costumes. What’s that you say? Fairy costumes are cool, but just not on October 31st?

Well that sucks.

Sure kid, you can play Halo and watch soft porn, I mean…the Vampire Diaries with Mommy on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. Sex, violence and swearing are A-Okay but that Lightening McQueen costume? I don’t think so.

You might offend someone.

Listen, I know you don’t understand this yet – those ever-changing rules and regulations governing our society – but trust me; we used to line up and parade through the gym when I was in Kindergarten. Parents came and took pictures and candy was handed out. Yes, some of the candy even had peanuts in it. Some of the candy was hard and some probably contained dairy. But look, I’m still breathing. I made it through.

I know, allergies are a serious issue and that’s not really what I’m ranting about here. I was just on a roll.

I’m a skosh sentimental for the days when there weren’t catalogs selling knee pads for newly crawling babies. When parents weren’t compelled to blunt every corner in their home with squishy foam material and we could hop on pogo sticks without protective head-gear. Kids used to hit their heads. Yup. It’s true. We also used Play-Dough… that wasn’t gluten free.

Once upon a time, children were allowed to have a bit of fun at school.

We used to call it the Halloween party. (Cue the evil music.)

I experienced the excitement of hopping onto the morning school bus, not as Kelli, but as the Bionic Woman. Plastic mask in place and condensation building on the inside with each gasping breath, I refused to fall prey to claustrophobia. No, I sucked air through those pin-hole nostrils and remained confident that this year my costume would be the coolest.

I had no peripheral vision in that mask but it didn’t matter. No one was overly worried about me falling down the school bus steps or that I’d experience some sort of fatal latex allergy. Plus, I wasn’t complete moron, so I was okay with a simple, “Be careful!” And guess what? If I fell down and bumped my leg I probably said, “Ouch” and moved on.

There was no way I was going to push that mask up onto my head and reveal my alter-ego until I’d entered the classroom. I relished that day of anonymity. Didn’t we all?

No one fucked with the Incredible Hulk on the playground. The princesses were breathtakingly beautiful. Lady bugs flitted from swing to slide. Hobos and skeletons squeezed in a game of kickball at recess. We came home with construction paper Jack O’ Lanterns and UNICEF cartons.

We were allowed to be kids.

Seismology

It was the most benign of moments. We were standing in the laundry room. I was folding Dave’s boxer shorts, trying to talk to him over the competitive interruptions of Gwen, who is evidently in the throes of an Electra Complex. Seriously, can I have a conversation with my husband without you honing in, you…you…little Harpy?

Yes, that is basically the exact thought that ran through my brain as I stood there folding my husband’s underwear, competing with my six-year-old daughter for his attention. Then a low rumbling sound interrupted us all, along with a series of slow, rolling shakes and flickering lights.

Dave and I froze and stared at one another, silently trying to decipher the source of that faint thunderous sound and tremors moving our house. My mind quickly ran through a list possible explanations. Train? No, we’ve moved from the houses situated near commuter trains. Boiler exploding? Holy shit, I hope not!

“Is that an earthquake?!” Dave asked.

“Holy shit, I think it is!” I responded.

Gwen, who was standing between us, immediately began shrieking. Her eyes widened with terror.

“It’s okay, Gwen,” I said, instantly sorry we’d forgotten she was listening to our every word.

“I don’t want to die!” She screamed. “We’re all gonna die!”

Rather than running to David, she ran to me and jumped up, demanding to be held. As soon as I picked her up, her arms locked around my neck, almost completely cutting off my air supply. She continued emitting a series of hysterical screeching noises in my right ear, which promptly began ringing.

Despite her terror, I was slightly annoyed. I know, what kind of mother exhibits annoyance at a moment like that?

Me.

And I’m admitting it to the world at large – to my tens of readers. I am the type of mother who feels annoyed when faced with the possibility of temporary hearing loss and suffocation.

Mostly, as I stood there turning blue, I recalled that time last year when Dave treated the kids to a viewing of 2012. Don’t you remember? It was that John Cusack movie that tried to profit on the public’s fear of the apocalypse. If not, trust me, you didn’t miss much.

Well, that movie was rated PG-13. Dave rented it a year ago yet, Gwen only recently got over the phobia that developed after watching it. To help her work through that intense fear of earthquakes and general world destruction, we told her earthquakes never happen in Maine. Not ever.

We’re so fucking smart.

Last night, Mother Earth demonstrated that we are, in fact, a couple of morons. An earthquake centered just about five miles from our house sent us this message and it was delivered via a good shaking and some deep rumbles.

“You lied to me,” Gwen sobbed into my neck. “You said there were no earthquakes in Maine.”

Oh, the guilt of a mother is a real mother

I’m a writer, not a seismologist for Christ sake. Granted, I knew I was making a bit of gamble when I told Gwen Maine never has earthquakes. At the time, that little voice in my head actually said, “Oh, you’re going to regret that someday, stupid!”

Now, I usually pay attention to that voice but last year I truly believed the chances of a 4.0 earthquake occurring in Maine were slim. By west coast standards, our earthquake was pitiful. I know this. You know this. Gwen did not know this.

Gwen’s frame of reference for earthquakes involved gaping, man-eating cracks in the earth. She was expecting hot magma, death, and destruction. She was waiting for that moment when we’d plunge to the depths of…of… I don’t know, Hell? And what did Dave and I do? Did we run like the guy in the movie, protectively sweeping his children into his arms whilst dodging explosions and fissures? No. We stood in the laundry room staring at one another like a couple of dopes and holding onto underwear.

It’s not difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a six-year-old and know the extent of her terror when you’re writing a memoir using your own six-year-old voice. When, on a daily basis, you…I, relive the fear and confusion of my six-year-old self. When I recall that break in trust – that moment when I realized my parents were human and maybe weren’t the smartest, or strongest or most beautiful two people in the world – that parents are sometimes wrong.

And so I was wrong.

Last night Mother Earth gave me a not-so-subtle reminder that in the future, maybe I should take a slightly less lazy approach to quelling my daughter’s fears. Like, maybe I should have explained fault lines and cited statistics and discussed tectonic plate shifts with my then five-year-old. But I didn’t. Instead, I looked at her, sighed, and then took the easy route. I soothed her fears with a know-it-all statement about earthquakes never happening in Maine and, a year later wound up being choked, rendered deaf in my right ear and eating my words.

Today, I discussed tectonic plate shifts, fault lines and whatever basic seismology is available to me via the internet. Overboard? Maybe, but Gwen lost a little bit of trust in us last night. Education is the best way to combat fear, right? My goal is to rebuild her trust and let her know that we were as surprised by those tremors as she was.

Gwen is better today. She’s interested in the kid-friendly earthquake information I’ve been reading with her. Her nerves are no longer raw.

Now, let’s just pray that Frankenstein doesn’t appear.

Brainwashed by Pink

It seems Kate is turning over a new leaf.

Lately, my three year old is a little less “hot mess” and more…more…well, feminine. I can’t say she’s been entirely ladylike, though there have been glimmers of a burgeoning Fashionista. But there’s also this other feminine personality making its existence known. It only comes out when Kate wears her hot pink cowgirl boots from Target. Hot pink cowgirl boots paired with a denim mini and whatever dance music is being piped into Victoria’s Secret on a random Monday afternoon.

Maybe it was the bordello-ish atmosphere of Victoria’s Secret that got her all riled up. Those hot pink painted walls and plastic boobies covered in lace demi-bras. Nary a man in site except for that one little blonde boy in a striped shirt who growled at everyone he passed. My girls stopped, turned, and stared at him in horror, their expressions indicating his kind wasn’t welcome there in Pinkville.

I maneuvered past a mannequin wearing a marabou covered thong which was covering the mannequin’s plastic vag, then looked back to see Gwen and Kate petting it. “Ooooh, this is soft Mommy!” Gwen said. “You should buy it.”

“I wanna touch it Gwen!” Kate hollered, stomping her tacky boot-clad foot on the floor. With a dramatic roll of her eyes, Gwen stepped aside and let Kate have at it. First, Kate rubbed the marabou covered mannequin crotch, then stepped forward and pressed her check against it. Her eyes closed and her tiny lips broke into a smile, “It’s so tickly,” she breathed.

Now, I imagine that most mommies would have tactfully steered their daughters away from the marabou crotch, but I stood there watching in a mix of amusement and horror and said nothing. It was like I was hypnotized by the whole scene and all I could think was, “Why the fuck do they put the cotton mommy panties all the way at the back of the goddamn store?”

Personally, my friends and I think it’s because VS doesn’t want those of us who have aged out of the whole “Pink” line lurking near the front of the store. We’d be holding up cotton panties for size while our children patted the mannequin crotches. Not sexy. Also, it serves as a public service announcement of sorts – this is your future high school girl!

You see, first forays in Victoria’s Secret entail thongs and cute little nighties. Maybe a pair of shorts boldly emblazoned with the word “Pink” across the ass – suggesting to the world, “Hey, fresh meat over here! Come and get me you dirty old men!”

Yikes

Next, having secured boyfriends and fiancé’s and husbands, we move into the edgier goods VS has to offer. Things like that marabou thong and crotchless panties.

Finally, thanks to the marabou thongs and crotchless panties, we wind up with three kids, frizzy hair and the need for underwear that doesn’t get lost in the girth of our post-pregnancy asses. Thus, we have subtly and unwittingly been relocated to the rear of the store to make room for the next crop of breeders.

I quickly moved to the table holding the 5 for $25 mom skivvies and began digging for ones that don’t say anything like, “Boyfriends are Recyclable” or “Pure Pink” or “Pink University.” I wondered why they don’t capitalize on the mom set and start some new sayings like, “Pink Playdates” or “Drink Pink Wine” or “Not So Pink Anymore.”

Lost in my reverie and piles of Cheeky underwear, I slowly realized the other women where nudging each other and giggling at something over my shoulder. Of course, I initially thought they were laughing at me, because I’m a self-absorbed neurotic who thinks the whole world is out to get me. Then I realized they were looking past me, at something closer to the floor.

And so it was that I turned and saw Kate in the midst of a very funny, albeit oddly sexual dance. Her brown bobbed hair pulled back in a tiny flower barrette, her eyes filled with confidence and her lips pressed into a saucy pout, she ran her little hands down her Hello Kitty t-shirt and onto her denim mini. With her right hip jutting out, she moved her leg to the beat of the erotic-sounding music – was that breathy a French woman singing or just Luann from Real Housewives? Kate’s arms slowly rose back above her head and she launched into a spicy little pirouette before starting her spontaneous set of moves again.

Gwen and I looked at one another and tried not to laugh. Clearly, Kate was serious about the artistic nature of her dance. To interrupt with laughter could only serve to squelch a future career in dance. Besides, all it generally takes to stop a three-year-old from a public display of lewd talent is to say, “Wow, Kate that is a beautiful dance!”

So I let her go for a few seconds and pondered whether or not I had time to whip out my cell phone and record a video. I couldn’t. I was too entertained to break the spell. Kate was lost in a sensual dance of self-expression. A slightly alarming dance for a three year old and one that nearly called for a pole and some singles, but a dance nonetheless.

Finally, she snapped back to present and noticed the gaggle of women who’d stopped to watch the show. Rather than running off to hide, Kate stood her ground and cast a hairy eyeball upon her audience. She placed her hands on her hips, one still jutting out at a dangerous angle while her leg kept the beat of the music. I was reminded of Jodi Foster’s character in The Accused, so I promptly said, “Nice dance, Kate. Let’s go pay,” and ushered her toward the counter.

So it seems that VS is already grooming my little girls. On Monday, we walked in and each one scanned the interior with sparkling eyes and a slackened jaw. It really is a little girl’s dream. Pink walls, oodles of makeup, perfume, and “pretty clothes.” I was forced to take a step back and have a look through their eyes. Then I vowed to never bring them back to that place again. From now on, I will make a show of purchasing my underwear from Target. The ones that are white and cotton and come neatly rolled up in a transparent plastic bag. Functional and decidedly un-sexy. Plus, no stripper dances are required to purchase.