Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crazy Mom Advice For My Boys: General Life Stuff Edition

Since we never know how much time we have left in the world, or how long we have to pass on our neurosis, paranoias, and craziness nuggets of wisdom to our children, I've started a little series of posts that list the things I want my boys to know, so were I to kick off before they grow up, they'll have these posts to laugh at and defy.

I mean, wouldn't you want to take advice from this crazy bitch?




Since brevity is not in my vocabulary, I'm breaking the posts up into categories. As you can see from the title, this post is about general life stuff.

Boys,

1. Be nice to everyone. Your grandpa, my dad, always drilled that into me, and now I'm so nice to people, even to people who don't deserve it, that it's disgusting. But seriously, there are enough assholes in the world, you don't need to add to the count. Your grandpa told me a story about a girl in his class when he was a boy 200 years ago, and everyone was mean to her except for him. Years later, he applied for a job and she was the person who interviewed him. She remembered him and said that he was the only person in school who had been nice to her. He got the job, and he told me that he knows she never would have hired him if he had been one of the mean kids. You don't have to like or respect everyone you meet, but you should do your best to be nice and treat them with respect.

2. Have a sense of humor. I can't imagine that you won't have one, growing up in our house, but just in case, here's a hundred bucks- go buy yourself one. Don't forget to use your sense of humor even in the bad times because that's when you'll need it the most, and that's when people around you will need it, too. Don't underestimate the power of a well-placed joke in a bad situation.

3. Stand up for what you believe in and for what's right, even if you're standing alone. One of my most favorite quotes is this one by Malcolm X: "I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against."

4. Speaking of truth, don't be a liar. Nobody likes a liar.

5. Don't pretend to be somebody that you're not. It's exhausting, like when I have to be classy in certain social situations. I prefer to just be me, and you'll discover that the more real you are the better you'll feel about yourself. There is so much strength and confidence in just being you, and even more strength in knowing that the people who like and love you are liking and loving the real you, not some facade, some character you've created. I can't imagine how lonely it would feel to not be loved for who you really are.

6. Speaking of being liked, understand that not everybody is going to like you. I know, what a shocker, but it's true. In fact, there may even be A LOT of people who don't like you. And you know what? That's okay. Learn who matters. Think about it: do you like everybody you've ever met? I'm going to guess no. It's okay not to be liked. It's life. It hurts sometimes, but get over it and move on.

7. Don't do drugs. Just don't. Especially the big ones: heroin, meth, coke. Don't "huff," either. I worked in a jail and saw addicts every day. They are not pretty. Not just physically speaking, but inside. The drugs blew their minds, ravaged their bodies and who they were as people. The addiction pulled them to do things they weren't proud of, things they never would have done had they not become addicted. You don't want to spend your life in jail, sharing a cell with some crazy fuck who shits all day and masturbates all night, or on the streets, hungry and wallowing in your own shit and puke and giving blow jobs to get cash for your next fix. If there's anything you decide to listen to me on, let it be this. I'll fucking brain you if you start doing them, and then lock you up in a closet. I'm not joking. You think you've seen the crazy in me? You haven't. I have a whole lotta unseen crazy inside and I promise, you want it kept unseen. Don't do drugs.

8. Love your brothers. I mean, who else is going to give you their i.d. so your underage ass can hit up the bars to get picked up by the cougars, or pick your drunk ass up and hide it from me and your dad, or know exactly what you're talking about when you bitch about how crazy your parents are? Take care of each other, be there for each other, respect each other and your differences. I'm not saying I can force you guys into getting along, but I AM saying that I can knock your fookin' heads together until you do. And I will. 

9. You're going to get knocked down. Don't stay down. Pick yourself up, and stand a little straighter. You're going to become stronger by going through the bad things that life hands you. Remember that, when you're brought to your knees in grief or pain or stress. And remember to laugh. Never forget to laugh. Find a way to laugh through it; I guarantee you that there's something to laugh about. If you can't find it, come ask me, I'll find it. Or just get through it somehow and then look back and laugh. That's what I've done while raising you.

10. You know what I've learned a lot from? My mistakes and my failures. When you make a mistake or fail, and you will, because *GASP* you're not perfect, try to view them as learning opportunities instead of letting them make you feel like shit about yourself. Try to minimize the amount and severity of your screw-ups, though. One really good way to do that is to learn from other people's mistakes and failures. Another good way is to make smart decisions in the first place.

11. Have the grace to forgive, and the smarts to never forget. 

12. If you hurt someone, own up to it. Be strong enough to admit that you did something wrong and apologize. BUT, don't do something so hurtful or stupid that an apology can never be enough to make up for what you did. 

13. Don't make me bury you. Be safe, and make good decisions.

14. You're not always going to be right. Be capable of listening to others and being told that you're wrong. Especially if I'm the one telling you that. 

15. Bring your old crazy mom a bottle of wine every once in a while, and sit and drink it with me. Make sure it's a double bottle, the 1.5 liter kind. 

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Valentine's Day Debbie Downer

I admit that I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day, haven't been since fifth grade, when all the girls in my class received a Valentine from one boy or another, except for me. Never mind that the boys who gave them Valentines were probably the ones who either picked their boogers and ate them, now reside in cell #8 on Block C and are called "Bitch", or wet their pants well into sixth grade, but sitting there in class and realizing that I had been excluded, my cheeks became flushed in embarrassment, humiliation spread in my chest and gut, and I learned a couple of harsh life lessons: Not everybody was going to like me, and I was going to be left out of things.

Back then, my hair was boy-short, with some mullet-like curls in the back, I had a crooked, goofy smile, bushy eyebrows, big front teeth, and an even bigger nose. Nobody was accusing me of being pretty. Based on my physical appearance, it was totally understandable why none of the boys wanted me to be their Valentine; I wouldn't have given a Valentine to me.

Every year after was pretty much a repeat of the Valentine's Day of fifth grade, but I got used to it so it stopped being embarrassing and just was what happened. Eventually, I outgrew my physical goofiness, got a little prettier, got a boyfriend here and there, got a Valentine here and there, but after a while, I started to realize that they didn't really mean anything. Everything about the whole day started to feel manufactured, forced, overplayed, Hollywoodized, like a total cliche, and I saw how it set a lot of people up to expect big things, only to be disappointed. In college, I worked in a restaurant and watched people wait two hours for a table, then by the time they got seated were so pissed and hungry that their night was basically ruined. This only served to reinforce the ridiculousness of the day.

The first Valentine's Day I spent with Nate, we had been dating for a few months. I got him a card and wrote in it that I despised the day and thought it was stupid but here was a card, anyway. He got me a card, and had written the exact same sentiment in it.

My heart sang at the fact that he hated the day, too. Over the years, we've half-heartedly acknowledged the day some of the time, usually ignoring it overall. It means more to me when he gives me flowers, a small gift, or a card for no reason, on a day when he isn't "expected" to, than it would ever mean on Valentine's Day. 

This year, Ethan is in first grade and Connor is in preschool. I bought Valentines for the boys to give their classmates (ALL of their classmates) along with some lollipops, erasers, and stickers to put in little Valentine's bags with the cards. The boys sat at the table last Saturday and made out their cards and filled the bags with the treats. It was incredibly cute to watch. They were happy and it was infectious. 

Yesterday, Connor came home from preschool with a giant paper heart filled with Valentines. He and Ethan excitedly went through the Valentines, with Ethan reading them to Connor while Connor pulled all of the candy and erasers and other treats off of them. "Wook, Efan! Another wollipop!"

Once again, their happiness was infectious. Ethan told me that he can't wait to see what he gets for Valentine's Day, and I said, "Me too, Buddy." 

Because I want to see them happy. I want another day of watching them excitedly go through their bag of goodies. I want them to enjoy the day for now because someday, they're going to feel the sting and humiliation of rejection, and some or all of the magic might be taken away from them. And while I know from personal experience that it will only make them stronger and more aware of how the world really works, for now, I'm going to soak up their innocence.

And celebrate love every day of the year, and let the sweet cards the boys made for us work a little magic inside of me.





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Monday, February 11, 2013

Tip of The Year: Don't Take Your Kids Shopping

The other day I took Connor shopping with me. Connor is four. Connor thinks that he needs everything he sees, everything is magical, and everything in the world is the key to his life's happiness. Not a day goes by that he doesn't ask me or his dad for a minimum of twenty "special" (read: ridiculous) things, starting with asking for gum or lollipops at 7:30 in the morning.

He is always denied. Yet, he tries. Every day.

First, we went to Toys 'R Us, otherwise known as the Seventh Circle of Hell or Mecca of Insanity. You choose. Actually, you probably have your own special name for it but whatever. We started in the baby clothes section, not because I have a baby anymore (a thousand daggers went into my heart at typing that; I fucking LOVE babies) but so I could look for onesies for my business. Connor found some onesies that he liked and asked if we could buy them. I asked who they would be for and he said for him and Ethan... 

...Ethan is six. 

I explained to him that they weren't really his or Ethan's size, and then complimented his fashion choices. On we went to another section. Connor asked to buy a dish set for Brandon, seventy-five different tubes of toothpaste, some Q-Tips, and an Angry Birds toothbrush. Denied. Then we walked past the baby swing section and he asked to buy a baby swing for Brandon. 

Who is two and a half. 

Then we went to the toy side, and that's where shit got real. Every twelve seconds, I heard "Mama, can we buy this?" After a while, I stopped answering him and he didn't even notice because he had moved onto The Next Best Thing That Will Make His Life Worth Living. Finally, he asked if he could get some Legos.

I told him that we could at least take a look at the Lego section and see if there was something small that he would like. He got super excited and happy and I felt like the Mom of The Day for finally telling him that he could have something. I was thinking we could probably find a small Lego set for like five bucks.

Obviously, I am a Lego-buying virgin. We went to the Lego section and I saw the prices and about shit myself. 

I thought formula and diapers were expensive. LEGOS ARE THE BIGGEST WALLETFUCK I HAVE EVER SEEN.

To make matters worse, Legos are the bane of every parent's existence. Well, except for Play-Doh. You pay out of your anus to bring these bastards home, only to step on them, sit on them, break your eardrums at the sound of them being dumped out of a box or at the sound of little hands swishing through the box for 39 minutes to find the flat, two-millimeters-square reflector-light-looking piece that is the only thing that will complete the car, listen to your kids fight over them, watch your kid and husband spend 75 hours putting together the intricate windmill only to have it fall apart 45 seconds later, and have your kids cry at night when they can't find the beheaded, one-armed Lego Man that is the only thing that will comfort them to sleep - that night.

What a bunch of stupid, masochistic people we are. I'm not sure which is more insulting: Paying that much to be tortured by Legos or some dude paying for a hooker and then contracting a venereal disease from her. Paying to be Lego-tortured or paying to contract V.D.... Toss up.

I got sidetracked. Back at the store, Connor was looking at the Lego sets and of course he wanted the Really Cool Fighter Jets and Lego Cities and Gigantic Trucks at $70+ a pop. I kept telling him that they were too big and "Remember, I said you could have a small (read: cheaper) Lego set. Why don't we look down here." We looked "down here" and when I saw that the cheapest Lego product I could find was $9 and it consisted of a two-piece motorcycle, I started bribing Connor with candy to distract him from the fact that we weren't going to get a Lego set and to get him the hell out of the store. On our way out, I bought him and Ethan Angry Bird sticker books, a Cars sticker book for Brandon (yes, I paid to find 1678 stickers all over the house for the next month), and some candy from the quarter machines. 

I thought he'd be satisfied. I am stupid.

We went to Dollar Tree next, to get Valentines for the boys' classmates to throw away 27 seconds after receiving them, and various other shit that I didn't know I needed until I saw it there. "It's only a dollar!" Connor of course began his ritual of asking me for crap every twelve seconds, and at one point, when I saw that he was asking for some unidentifiable lead-based plastic piece of crap that would break instantly, and then Brandon would choke on the parts and die of lead poisoning, I asked him, "Do you even know what that is?"

He responded, "No."

Jesus. Then he asked me if I could buy him a box of "feminine rinse" a few aisles later because he liked the pretty flower on the box, and I told him to stop asking me for stuff - not that he listened. I did cave on the sparkle toothpaste, four bags of candy, pack of pretzel dips, Angry Birds mouthwash, pack of glow sticks, Scotch tape for his brother (don't ask), pack of gum, and foam stickers.

That's eleven dollars, plus tax, that I can never get back. Not even to mention the Toys 'R Us purchases.

The moral of the story: Don't take your kids shopping.


Look at the Angry Birds loot I conned my mom into buying!



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Monday, February 4, 2013

"I feel my love for my children the most when they are sleeping."

The phrase "I love them most when they're sleeping" always makes me smile because I identify with the sentiment wholeheartedly. At night, I often sneak into the boys' room and watch them sleep for a few moments, like a crazy stalker taking a break from my rabbit-boiling. They're so sweet and peaceful, vulnerable and unfettered, and usually in some strange, amusing, or heartwarming sleep position that I love to take photos of. 

While watching them, I'm always overwhelmed by these profoundly deep feelings of love, tenderness and affection, and with an aching chest I'll watch them and stroke their faces and just feel, just allow the emotions to wash over me and center me, to clear away the angst that I felt over motherhood that day. In this calm, I'll rest a hand on their chests and quietly tell them my wishes for them: to be safe always, to be healthy, to grow into happy men who do good in the world and to others, to die peacefully as old men in their beds, content with the long lives they led. 

And sometimes, if the day has been excessively rough, I'll also apologize to them. "I'm sorry, babies, for losing my shit, for not being a more patient mother, for being so frustrated. I'm so sorry, and I'm trying to be better. Please forgive me." And I vow that the next day will be better, but know that it probably won't be.

During these times, I feel how vulnerable that I am; that these three little boys are my everything and each of them wears my whole heart, not just a third, because love does not capture only a fraction of a person, it captures the entire being, and love is not divided among my children.

I usually am only flooded with these deeper emotions while my sons sleep because during the day, chaos abounds, things need to get done, time is short, patience is even shorter, one kid or another is always distracting me. Most days, I am just trying to get through the day, trying to prevent or stop the meltdowns of my kids or myself. My mind is distracted, my emotions are hijacked by these little boys, but at night, I get myself back and calm ensues. It is one of my favorite times, not only because it means that I am "off-duty" (kind of) but because it is then that I get to really feel the full force of my love for children, instead of merely knowing that it is there inside of me, a constant force during good moments and bad, never wavering in its depth or lesser or greater at any one time.

I think the phrase should be changed to, "I feel my love for my children the most when they are sleeping."


Connor hugging his bear.



Brandon and Be-yo



Ethan

And because I'm a doofball with a high level of maturity, I also take photos like these. Yes, I'm blind and wear glasses occasionally. Like when my contacts are out.


Me with my poor child, Connor.

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