Do Something

I am so angry and heartbroken about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and I feel like anything I write on this silly blog risks minimizing the tragedy somehow.  And I don’t want to do that.  But I just have to say a couple things.

First, I was equal parts relieved and disturbed when I saw a police car stationed outside my kindergartner’s school at pick-up today.  It has really come to this.  My mom taught K-12 for decades, in lovely, quiet communities, probably like Newtown, and has said that schools should have metal detectors with loud alarms at the doors.  Before I had kids I thought that was a little extreme – today, it seems perfectly reasonable.  Second, I hugged my kindergartner and my almost-kindergartner so, so, so tight today, and none of the other things I wanted to do this afternoon mattered at all.  And third, as I am typing this, there is some effing ridiculous show on TLC about a bunch of women in Vegas having a “gun shooting party” at a shooting range.  And they are in stilettos and have cleavage up to their chins and clearly think they look really hot shooting guns.  YOU DON’T.

You’ve heard it all before, but I’ll say it again:  we have a sick obsession with guns and violence in this country and our politicians don’t have the balls to address it.  Immediately after I heard about the shooting, I heard lots of public figures saying, “This is not the time to talk politics.”  This language about “politicizing tragedy” has now become the routine, acceptable way of ignoring our deadly gun problem, and preventing any sort of impassioned rhetoric about it, and sweeping the initial hard feelings under the rug.  But I think Lisa Belkin at HuffPo said it beautifully — talking about gun control right now, in the wake of this unthinkable tragedy, while parents in Newtown are still waiting for good news that will never come about their little, soft-skinned, bright-eyed children, is our obligation as parents.  It’s a matter of keeping our kids safe.  If I was in Newtown and knew these families and this school, I would physically be out there helping in every way I could.  But I’m not.  So I am going to try to do what I hope some other mom would do if, god forbid, this happened in my neighborhood.  I want to take some “meaningful action,” to use Obama’s words.  And while I’m glad to hear Obama talk about “meaningful action,” I don’t trust any politician – even one I happen to be a big fan of – to follow through.  They’ve buried their heads in the sand for too long.

But I do trust other moms and dads, who physically ache right now from the devastation they are hearing about, to do something.  So, just as a first step, I found the We Are Better Than This campaign, started by the Brady Campaign just days after the horrific shooting in Aurora, Colorado.  They’ve set up the website now so you can send condolences to the families in Newtown.  And the Brady Campaign’s website has lots of information about current and proposed gun legislation, as well as a way to find your local chapter and take some action.  Getting educated is the first step I’m going to take, just because I don’t know what else to do, but I know I have to do something.  And if you want to get good and fired up, I’d suggest this New Yorker article and this New Yorker article and this Slate article.  This quote from Amy Davidson at The New Yorker devastates me, and makes me want to do something:  “How do we find ourselves asking kindergarteners to be more courageous in the face of a gunman than politicians are in the face of the gun lobby?”

While some of the immediate responses to today’s shooting felt horribly familiar and scripted, at the same time this feels a little different – like the outrage is more raw, more angry, more proactive.  Like people want to fix this.  I hope I’m right.

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Just Calm the Elf Down

I have heard so many people complaining about their Elf on the Shelf this holiday season, to which I would like to say, he is not a real person and he is completely under your control.  If he is annoying you with his unreasonable demands to hide him in outlandishly creative spots, and he wants to come bearing gifts and treats for your kids, it is 100% your fault and you could probably do something about it.  Also, in a matter of days he’ll be off to Florida or Cabo or wherever the elves go in the off-season, so really, just deal.  You’ll be fine.

Also, picking apart a Christmas toy for its over-commercialization and the stress it adds to already busy moms during the holiday season is just too easy.  And to say that the worst thing about the Elf on the Shelf is its message of “spying on kids” – really?  Isn’t that Santa’s whole deal?  I remember being a little wigged out when I first heard “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  Oh, you know, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good…”, followed by the screeching violins from the shower scene in Psycho?  The Elf on the Shelf is just an extension of that, and part of the deal we make with our kids every December:  you behave, and I will do fun stuff for you and shower you with gifts and I will take exactly zero credit for most of it.  Now go to bed, I have to write “I LOVE YOU” in powdered sugar on the kitchen floor so you think you live with a magical flying elf.

In other news, I started to worry last weekend that the kids were getting a little too obsessed with all the stuff they want for Christmas.  So we went to the grocery store today, and they each got $10 to buy things for people who don’t have enough food.  My attempted lesson about giving back turned into a miniature (adorable) version of SuperMarket Dash:

Image

In between the near misses with other shoppers, I think they actually got it.  I steered them towards the canned food section, and J asked how homeless people get can openers, and how will they heat up the canned food, and what will they use to eat it?  And he asked so earnestly and L was listening so closely that it was a lovely little moment in the middle of the grocery store.  And the kids behaved on the way home, and played nicely while I made dinner, and then read stories under the Christmas tree and went to bed so fast.  It was lovely.

And I probably owe it all to my spying little Elf on the Shelf.

Cracking Up

J and L have been calling each other “stale crackers” for the past few days.  They heard it on Jake and the Neverland Pirates – Jake and his little cartoon hooligan friends run around Neverland saying, “Last one to the ship is a stale cracker!”  Um.  As a white woman whose doctor just told her she’s getting older, I am super uncomfortable hearing my kids call each other stale crackers.  Sigh.

So it got all kinds of Christmas-y up in my house today.  I found the most overpriced beautiful wrapping paper and gift tags at Container Store and wrapped up some toys for my nieces and nephews.  I am sharing the picture with you because, even though my kids politely oohh-ed and ahhh-ed when I showed them a pile of beautifully wrapped presents, you and I both know they really don’t give a shit.  But maybe you do!

Presents

I also made an owl ornament today.  I use the term “made” very loosely, because I just got a $4.99 kit at Michael’s, and stuck a threaded needle through some pre-cut holes in some pre-cut felt.  Wait, is that sewing?  Did I sew?  Anyways, this owl is freaking awesome.

Owl

While I was at Michael’s, I saw a mom and daughter in the scrapbooking aisle who were just about to get into it.  The mom was wearing a Harvard Law sweatshirt, and something about it looked legit to me – not like she bought it on a trip to Boston, or like it was left over from the ’80s when all the cool seventh graders wore college sweatshirts.  It looked like she actually went to Harvard law school.  Or at least that’s what I made up in my head.  I overheard her say to her middle-school aged daughter, “I KNOW what an ink dauber is, DO NOT talk to me that way or you can forget about that embosser…THING.”  For the record, I have no idea what ink daubers or embossers are, and they scare me.

I felt for that woman.  Michael’s totally overwhelms me because the moms in there who are really good at crafting speak another language and have customs and tools that are totally foreign to me.  I imagine that woman was thinking something like this:  “I am a freaking highly educated woman standing in a strip mall craft store and an 11-year-old is smack talking my knowledge of SCRAPBOOKING SUPPLIES?  What have I done with my life.”

We’ve all been there.  Well, maybe not in a craft store arguing over embossers with a surly tween, but in that place where we know we’re working so hard – and we have the wrinkles and gray hairs to prove it – and somehow we’re still totally unprepared for what is coming at us.  Maybe that is why I am in love with my five dollar owl.  I bought it, I read the instructions, I made it, it’s cute.  The end.  Just simple and finite.

Which is pretty much the exact opposite of trying to explain to your 4 and 5-year-old why they can’t call each other crackers.  Can an ink dauber help with that?

Acting Squirrely

As I may have bitched about mentioned earlier, my husband travels every few weeks for work.  This week he is in San Francisco, staying in Union Square, and thoughtfully texted me a picture of the beautiful holiday scene right out his hotel window:

SanFran

I’m sure that he sent that picture because he missed me and wanted to share his holiday cheer, and not at all to rub it in my face that he was on a mini-vacation in a beautiful city.  Well, little did he know that at the precise moment he sent me that picture, I was watching my own extremely interesting scene:

Squirrel

That is a squirrel humping an empty peanut butter jar on the street in front of my house this morning.

At first, I thought, “Oh, how adorable, the squirrel found an old peanut butter jar and is having a delicious snack.”  But then I walked a little closer and noticed that the lid was still on.  And the squirrel was, um, on top of the jar.  Making angry, high-pitched grunting sounds.  Before I realized that this scene was not as adorable as it first appeared, I pulled out my phone and took some pictures, and then once I figured out what was going on I felt like a total perv.  (But not so pervy that I deleted the pictures, obvs.  You’re welcome!)  Then I tried to run to my neighbor’s house so she could see this — I mean, she took care of my kids while I was totally incapacitated, the least I can do is show her a real live squirrel humping a peanut butter jar.  But as soon as I made a step towards my neighbor’s house, the squirrel ran away.  Dragging his beloved jar behind him.

Maybe he was just trying really hard to get the lid off.  I will avoid all of the very obvious and highly inappropriate sentences that I could write after that one.  Anyways, that’ll teach my husband to send me pictures of his fancy-schmancy work trip.  Or maybe it will encourage him.  Dammit.

Monkeys, Minaj, and More

So I started thinking that I had nothing to write about today and then I see this:  Image

It is like the universe is telling me to write and is sending forlorn pocket-sized monkeys as its messengers.  If you happened to lose your adorable, tiny, shearling-coat wearing monkey today, he is apparently wandering around an Ikea in Toronto.  And he’s wearing a diaper.  And according to at least one woman in the store who posted a video of the little guy on YouTube, the whole experience was “terrifying.”  OH my god, now I just read that this monkey was locked in its crate in a car, and it managed to get out of said crate, OPEN THE CAR DOOR, and make it across the presumably huge Ikea parking lot to do a little shopping.  That IS terrifying.  The owner wasn’t supposed to have the monkey in the first place, so now the Toronto authorities aren’t giving him back.  What will become of this poor monkey?  Well, at least he’s dressed appropriately for winter in Toronto.  Do you think he’s going to go to a zoo or animal shelter now and be like, “Why the hell are all of these monkeys naked?”  And all the other monkeys are going to be all, “OH, look at fancy clothed monkey in his warm shearling coat and poop-catching diaper, he thinks he’s better than us, let’s eat him.”  Poor, poor monkey.

In other news, sometimes my daughter says something so thoughtful, so sweet, so insightful, that I am in total awe of her.  And then other times, she asks me to call her Nicki Minaj when I pick her up from school.  

I just had to write that down because I don’t want to ever forget it.  

Anyways, by this point in my stay-at-home mom adventure, I expected to have some insightful perspective on the whole thing.  I thought I’d have some clarity about what was better for my family, for my kids, for me.  But instead, I have never felt so old in my life because my body is going batshit crazy.  

First, I tore the meniscus in my knee because I had the nerve to actually work out for the first time in, oh, a year.  To quote my orthopedist:  “Who do you think you are, doing lunges at your age.”  Why I never.  Luckily it wasn’t a bad tear and I only had to wear a gigantic brace and hobble around for about ten days.  But, as my mother always told me, walking like a peg-legged pirate for ten days has its price.  For me, it aggravated a back problem I hadn’t even thought about for like four years and caused me to HERNIATE A DISC.  That is in all caps because it is TOTALLY MERITED.

And of course, my disc has the balls to herniate itself right after my husband leaves for a business trip and I am solely responsible for the kids.  Shit always hits the fan as soon as my husband is en route to his fancy hotel and his expense-account nights out with co-workers.  If not for my amazing neighbor swooping in and taking care of my kids while I whimpered on my heating pad, I have no idea what I would have done.  Well, I would have taken painkillers and drooled on myself – I guess I should say I’m not sure what the kids would have done.

So the worst part of the back pain is behind me, but it has slowed me down for going on four weeks now.  Which means for four weeks I have been feeling useless and not doing the looooong list of things I wanted to do after I quit my job, and my husband has been doing everything.  All while listening to me tell him he’s doing it all wrong (well, he is).  

So that’s why I just don’t have any perspective yet.  It’s disappointing, but maybe also a lesson – that when you have more unscheduled time in your day, there’s more room for stuff to go totally off track.  Or to stop trying to plan stuff and just take care of yourself.  Or that even when you are lying on the kitchen floor in excruciating pain, it will take a good 30 minutes of eating dinner before one of your kids says, “Hey, what are you doing?”  Or maybe I am just getting old.  

I’m going with the first two.