Sunday, July 11, 2010

On hiatus

It has been more than a YEAR since I last posted. Not because nothing's been happening in my life, but because I've been too busy living it to write about it.

I'm still batshit crazy and I'm sure at some point I'll feel like writing about it, so I'm not going to shut this blog down. Meanwhile, I'm doing some work on my tortured psyche and eating issues, which you can read about here. I'd love your company on this new adventure of mine.

Happy trails, all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Out of My Head

I have been spending too much time inside my head of late. Jack is out of town right now, which means I need to work extra hard to stay engaged and present in my life.

JJ and The Peanut joined me in bed early this morning and we spent a leisurely hour reading, cuddling, and sipping coffee (or hot chocolate). The day dawned clear and unusually warm, so we ate a quick breakfast and headed for the beach.

It's not often that you can really hang out at our beach. Our coastal town is often shrouded in fog, and the winds off the ocean can be bitterly cold. But today it was perfect. We packed a bag full of sand toys, plastic dinosaurs, and snacks, found a perfect spot near some rocks and a stream, and had at it.

We built sand castles, tossed rocks in the stream, hunted for tadpoles, collected seashells and beach glass, ran shrieking from the foamy ocean waves, buried JJ's feet in the sand, staged an epic herbivores vs. carnivores battle, chatted with some other families, and breathed in the salt air.

Then we headed home for a bath, lunch, and popsicles. I think we'll spend the afternoon in the back yard, running through the sprinklers, identifying insects, and pulling weeds.

It's a very good day to be out of my head.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Glutton for Punishment?

I have written before about our local cooperative nursery school, which JJ attended for a year when he was four and The Peanut is attending now. Mostly when I mention “The Co-op,” it’s to complain about how much work it entails for me. My responsibilities are as follows:
  • Working at the school one afternoon (three hours) per week
  • Being on call as “emergency parent” for one afternoon every six weeks
  • Performing a family “job” for the school (this year I've been putting together a monthly newsletter)
  • Performing a family job for the two fundraisers: a huge auction fundraiser in the spring and a smaller “trike-a-thon” in the fall (I fulfill this obligation by writing articles for our local paper)
  • Raising a minimum amount of money for each of these fundraisers
  • Completing eight “enhancement” hours, doing various needed projects
  • Completing and discussing parenting-related reading assignments
  • Attending regular parent education/information meetings
This is indeed a shitload of work, but the tradeoffs are that tuition is insanely cheap, the program is play based and wonderful, and there’s a built-in community of parents and children that makes all the work totally worthwhile.

Except recently I’ve been questioning whether it really is worthwhile. After two years at The Co-op, I am more than a little burned out. I remember feeling so lucky to be part of the school when JJ was there, enjoying my workday even more than I enjoyed having a few hours to myself. But this year has been different. Maybe it’s because JJ's school day begins at 8:30 and ends at 2:30, while The Peanut’s in the afternoon session (12:45 to 3:45), so I end up doing a ton of driving back and forth. Or maybe I’m just tired of all the volunteering and fundraising I’ve been doing for both kids’ schools and our school district. Or maybe I just want more time to myself. Whatever the case, a good deal of the shine has worn off.

And Jack’s burned out, too. Even though he isn’t nearly as involved as I am—not because he doesn't want to be, but because he has to work—he still does a lot. He fulfilled the bulk of our enhancement hours by building a shed, and he worked a shift for me when I was on jury duty. But probably what's most exhausting for him is listening to me bitch and moan and complain about The Co-op, especially after my workday. There is always drama of some sort, whether in the form of other parents who don’t do their jobs, children who don’t follow the rules, or just general craziness. Last week there were several deliberate tricycle crashes and a biting incident, and this week there was the little boy who crapped his pants—not that it was his fault or anything, but still: guess who ended up on cleanup duty?

So after much soul searching and discussion, Jack and I decided to look into another preschool option for the fall. The Peanut has one more year before kindergarten, and having her attend a program that doesn't require parent participation would allow me to do more of my own work instead of schlepping kids around all day. It was with this thought in mind that we visited our local Montessori preschool, assuming that it was basically a done deal.

Turns out it wasn’t. The school’s director is a pompous, pretentious ass whose main job seems to be pandering to parents who want their little darlings to read at a sixth-grade level before kindergarten. After parading several children out and having them read for us like performing dogs, he told us that The Peanut was “already behind” academically, but that he was certain that she was bright enough to catch up with the others.

As. If.

I don’t have a problem with parents who want their kids to be able to read, write, and do long division by the time they’re five years old, I just don’t happen to be one of those parents. In my opinion, a four-year-old has much more important work to do: playing with play dough, building with Legos, painting pictures, counting beans, putting together puzzles, stringing beads, riding tricycles around the play yard, making friends, gluing together collages, learning to negotiate with other children, chasing butterflies, creating and inhabiting elaborate imaginary worlds. If she happens to learn to read along the way, great…but if not, who the hell cares? She’s got plenty of other stuff she needs to be doing.

So it looks like we’re in for another year at The Co-op. Next time you catch me bitching about it, please remind me what the alternative is. Because when you’ve found the absolute best place for your child, it really is worth setting aside a little personal freedom for just one more year.

Besides, The Peanut will be in the morning session, so I’ll have much more time to complain about it here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Amazing Grace

I don’t believe in god or any higher power. Never have. My parents were both atheists, so I take my nonbelief for granted, like my blue eyes. So it might surprise you to learn that this is one of my very favorite songs:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind but now I see.

I don’t believe in grace, don’t believe in redemption. But if I did believe in such a thing, I know exactly what it would be. It would have blond curls and round blue eyes, a rippling laugh, soft cheeks, round arms flung around my neck, sticky kisses, the words “I love you, Mama” breathed in my ear.

And all of this times two. Amazing grace, indeed.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dead to Me

The other day, The Peanut and I were having a serious conversation about her dimples. “What are they for?” she wondered. “Why doesn’t anyone else in our family have them?”

“Your Aunt Jessie had dimples,” I told her.

Had. The word flew out of my mouth like a startled bird. The Peanut didn’t miss a beat, and was already chattering about another exciting topic: how JJ has a penis and she doesn’t.

But more than anything, I wanted to take that word back.

I’m sure my sister still has her sweet dimples. I’m sure her eyes are still the deep blue of pansies. It’s been years since I’ve seen her, but some things don’t change.

I like to think that if she called me tomorrow, it would be as if no time had passed. We’d still have that sisterly telepathy, that special bond I’ve never had with anyone but her. We’d marvel that we still share the same hairstyle and the same wardrobe, fashion choices made in parallel, independent of time or geography. She’d utter a well-worn phrase, and we’d both laugh until we choked.

I’m afraid I’m letting her go. Because that is what you eventually do, whether you want to or not, when someone you love is gone.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Own Brand of Crazy

I woke up this morning at 4 am. My mind was whirling with thoughts and worries, none of which warranted such an early wakeup. After staring at the ceiling for half an hour, I surrendered to that maelstrom of neuronal activity. I ran on the treadmill, finished the newsletter for The Peanut's preschool, returned some emails, emptied the dishwasher, made JJ's lunch, and sauteed leeks to get a jump-start on dinner. When Jack staggered blearily out of the bedroom, I handed him a fresh cup of coffee and resumed straightening up the living room.

Like all objects, I exist in one of two states: at rest or in motion. When I'm at rest—inert—I can barely summon the energy to get out of bed. I'll go for days without a shower; it just seems like too much effort, and the thought of having to take another shower in a day or two makes me want to weep. What's the point, I wonder, when I'll just get sweaty and gross again? The simple activities of everyday life seem pointless and exhausting.

But when I'm in motion, I cannot rest. Sleep eludes me. I perform tasks at a frenzied pace. I revel in ticking off the most boring items on my to-do list. Shower? Check. Scrub the shower tiles with a tootbrush? Check. Make gigantic pot of vegetable soup? Check. I plow through my day at an inexorable pace, unable to pause to catch my breath.

I have wondered before if I have bipolar disorder, although my brilliant psychiatrist assures me that I don't. I trust her, she knows what she's talking about. But it's hard to come to terms with the thought that my "energetic periods" are most likely how most people feel and function on most days. Not the sleepless part, of course; I attribute that to anticipating the inevitable crash.

And that's partly what fuels my frenzy: the realization that my state of being in motion can't continue indefinitely. How long will I have this time before I stutter to a halt? If I can just cram in a few more things before I lapse back into inertia, our household can coast for a while on the fruits of my labors. Healthy meals prepared in advance and frozen in careful portions can be thawed and reheated—although sometimes just operating the microwave seems like a Herculean effort. Bills paid ahead of time won't haunt me when I don't have the energy to lick an envelope, let alone write a check.

These days my periods of total inertia seem to strike less often and last for days instead of weeks. But strike they still do, with the same crushing force. When that wave of exhaustion and hopelessness hits me, I have to give myself permission to do the best I can. And since love and attention can't be banked in neat portions along with healthy meals, that's where I have to focus my efforts. My kitchen sink overflows with dishes, the floor is littered with crumbs, my hair is a mess and I'm wearing the same yoga pants I've worn for the past two days. But JJ still makes it to school with a lovingly packed lunch; The Peanut gets to her dance class, and I'm there to watch her; we all snuggle on the couch and read book after book together. Love is the one thing I won't ever let slip through the cracks.

I just hope it's enough for them.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Scenes From My Marriage

Jack and I wanted to watch a DVD last night, but the remote control had disappeared. We are the proud owners of the world's shittiest DVD player, which cannot be worked manually at all. (Unfortunately, we bought it new for 20 bucks after rebate, which was such an awesome deal that neither of us can bring ourselves to replace it.)

We tore apart the downstairs looking for the fucking remote. "I know it was down here this afternoon," I said as I tossed all the throw pillows off the couch. "The kids were watching The Electric Company, so I must have used it then."

"Maybe you took it upstairs," grumped Jack, who gets a little nuts when he can't find something.

"Maybe," I said doubtfully. "Or maybe one of the kids hid it. Did you look under the couch?"

"I looked under the couch 5,000 times," he snapped. "It's not there. It's not anywhere."

"I'll look upstairs," I offered. "Maybe I took it with me when I had to run upstairs to answer the phone."

"Yes, because once again, all the phones have mysteriously migrated upstairs." (Leaving all the phones upstairs is another one of my charming habits. Along with misplacing my keys, my purse, my library card. And the remote.)

Twenty minutes, I admitted defeat. "I don't know what I did with the fucking thing. I must have left it someplace weird."

Jack threw his hands up in the air. "It's lost forever."

"What do you mean, it's lost forever? It's still in the house."

"Not necessarily," said Jack ominously.

"What, you think it disappeared into extradimensional space?"

"No, I think my demented wife accidentally tossed it in the trash."

"Oh, that's nice. Real nice." Not for the first time, I cursed myself for having told him about the time I threw away my retainer when I was 11.

I managed to maintain my air of wounded dignity until Jack went to brush his teeth, and then furtively crept into the kitchen and peeked in the garbage. I have to confess I was surprised and a little disappointed that the remote wasn't there.

I asked JJ about it this morning. "Oh yeah, I saw it yesterday. It's under the couch."

And that's exactly where it was. Of course.

Image by jaqian used under the creative commons attribution license.


Cringe is one of my all-time favorite episodes of This American Life.

I think I'm the crab-walking guy. Or maybe Ira Glass on the set of M*A*S*H. Or maybe I've elevated cringe to a whole new level.

I fear I might be stuck in a permacringe.

Image by Peter Kaminski used under the creative commons attribution license.