Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scott Walker is an Ass

Seriously. It’s a fact.
I can title this blog “Scott Walker is an Ass” because I am American and, therefore, I do not run the risk of being stoned to death for voicing the truth about politicians who attack women’s rights. Unfortunately, not all women live in my particular lap of luxury.
In many places in the world, the enforcement of women’s second class citizenship is done out in the open. Without repercussions. Often violently.
In the U.S., we prefer a more subtle approach.  Our politicians employ a softer touch. They claim to have our “best interests” in mind as they chip away at our basic human rights. But see…the thing is…I am an adult. And, as an adult, my best interests are mine, and mine alone, to determine.  I don’t need Scott Walker making decisions for me. He doesn’t know me. He’s never met me.
I admit to a certain amount of naiveté. I just have trouble wrapping my mind around the level of arrogance required for a person to decide that he has the authority—that he has some sort of innate entitlement by means of being born a privileged white male—to make the most personal of decisions for half the population.  I mean, the arrogance that goes in to that assumption is unfathomable to me.
In 2013, Governor Walker signed a bill requiring all women in the state of Wisconsin to be subjected to an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion. That, in itself, is pretty dang grievous. But Walker went one step further, requiring that the ultrasound technician point out the fetus’ visible organs and external features to the woman before the abortion.
Obviously, this is a ploy to discourage women from having abortions. To shame them for their personal decisions about their own bodies. Why? Because Scott Walker apparently knows better than you and I do what we should and should not do with our bodies. Walker (who happens to have not graduated from medical school, strangely enough) thinks women should be subjected to an invasive, medically unnecessary, and expensive procedure prior to having a perfectly legal abortion. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to inflict his lay-person’s belief on 2,896,054 women in Wisconsin.
Rather than being an honest ass and just saying outright that this law attempts to limit a woman’s access to a legal abortion by shaming women, Walker has recently defended his obvious attack on women’s fundamental rights by stating that ultrasounds are just a “cool thing.”
“The media tried to make that sound like a crazy idea,” Walker said. “Most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time that pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing.”
“My sons are 19 and 20, we still have their ultrasounds,” he went on to say. “It’s just a cool thing out there.”
Sure, ultrasounds are cool. I am not anti-ultrasound at all. I still have my pictures. Hell, I still have the sticks I peed on! But my children were wanted. Planned. I had the means to care for them. I was financially prepared. I had a loving and willing partner. My ultrasounds were chosen procedures, not forced upon me. I viewed my ultrasounds through the lens of a woman who had made the conscious choice to become a mother.
Not all women who become pregnant are in the same situation.
But that’s okay. These woman have Governor Walker to step in and make fundamental life decisions for them. They do not have to worry about owning their own bodies—their own choices—as long as Walker is there to take care of them. I am sure they feel protected. And cherished.
And cool! Let’s not forget how cool this whole thing feels.
Being forcefully subjected to an invasive vaginal procedure is SO. FREAKING. COOL.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Very Real Struggles of Summer Camps

Summer is almost upon us. School is winding down. Parents are scrambling to find summer classes and courses and camps to entertain their children for the next three school-free months. Anything to avoid the dreaded “I’m bored!” The options through the Minneapolis Parks Department are really quite endless.
Karate, gymnastics, fishing, swimming. Arts, crafts, archery, soccer. Harry Potter camp, anyone? Video game design? Yoga? Chess? There really is something for any and every interest. Any and every kid.
Except mine, that is.
Late yesterday afternoon, as his siblings ran and chased and yelled and played at a local playground, and Nicky sat on a bench between me and Ruanita complaining of one bodily pain or another, I decided to broach the topic of summer camps with my youngest son.
“Your sister really wants to take karate,” I said. “You should take it with her.”
“No thank you,” he replied.
“No, really, Nicky. If you took karate, your sister would be there with you. You wouldn’t have to do anything by yourself. I know you don’t like doing things by yourself. What do you think?”
“No thank you.”
“Well…here’s the thing, Nicky. You’re not going to sit around the house playing video games all summer long. Your brother has choir. Your sister has soccer and probably karate. You need an activity this summer, too.”
“I don’t want to do karate.”
“Well, what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are you interested in? They have lots and lots of camps in Minneapolis we could sign you up for.”
Nicholas sat silently, methodically pulling the bark from a stick he had found while wandering aimlessly around the playground. He appeared deep in thought. Or perhaps he was simply ignoring me.
We sat as his sister begged him to come and play. (He replied with a polite, “No thank you.”)
We sat as his brother, towering over him, offered to swing him on the tire swing. (He replied with a cool and collected, “Swings make me dizzy.”)
We sat and sat and sat some more.
Eventually, Nicky’s little face lit up. He turned to me with a huge smile.
“I know what I want to do this summer!” he declared triumphantly.
Excited by the prospect of Nicky showing interest in any activity, I encouraged him with a wide smile of my own. “What is that, honey?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied, grinning wildly. “I think I would like whittling.”
“Whittling…like in carving sticks?”
“Yeah. Whittling.”
My son wants to whittle. His summer “sport” of choice is whittling. Harkening back to his Beverly Hillbillies-style Kentucky roots, the boy wants to whittle.
Who am I to argue?

Thursday, July 03, 2014

I Object!

There have been many articles written about the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. Most have scoffed at the premise that one person’s religion trumps another person’s healthcare decisions. Several have justifiably lamented the ridiculousness of a company—a non-human entity—having its “religious liberties” threatened. Some have warned of the slippery slope this ruling has created. Still others have even posited that this decision may have negative implications for the GOP party in upcoming elections.

While these are all valid points and certainly deserving of a little bit of outrage on our part, few articles I have read really get at the heart of what I think should be the main objections Americans have to the Hobby Lobby ruling.
Below, I have circled all of the Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby.

Do you see any similarities? Any glaring characteristics these justices have in common? Let me give you a hint: It may or may not involve their possession, or lack thereof, of fallopian tubes. 
Yep, you guessed it! They are all men.

Not a single one of the five justices who voted in favor of Hobby Lobby would ever be prescribed the birth control devices they decided to deny American women. Not a single one of these justices would suffer the fallout of an unwanted pregnancy. Not a single one will ever know the struggle of being a poor, single mom.
Not a single one of these justices have ever—or likely will ever—have their personal healthcare decisions mandated by  a court of their peers.  

Five men decided what women across America can and cannot do with their own bodies.

Does this sound right? Fair? Just?
If men got pregnant, I have no doubt whatsoever that contraception would be readily available through every corner ATM.  Sports bars would replace their bowls of peanuts with multi-colored birth control pills. Mobile IUD clinics would make certain that every man had access to their God-given right to a free insertion. Super Bowl commercials would hawk the morning-after pill alongside beer and cars.

In short, we would not be having this discussion if men got pregnant. Why? Because men have always historically held dominion over their own bodies. Women? Umm…not so lucky.
In response to the Hobby Lobby ruling, Ruth Bader Ginsberg (who many have come to gleefully refer to as “The Nortorious RBG”) penned a glaringly brilliant 35-page dissent. In it, she quoted the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where she wrote “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive rights.”
And truer words have never been written. How can women become the movers and shakers who control this nation when our reproductive rights are subject to the impulses and whims of a select few’s supposed (convenient) religious liberties.

When will American women—a gender who makes up 50.8% of the U.S. population—stand up and say enough is enough? When we will stop allowing men to make decisions about our bodies? About our healthcare? When will we demand that we be given sole sovereignty over our own uteri?

If nothing else, this ruling is further proof that we need more women in positions of authority. In corporations. In courtrooms. In healthcare office. We need more female representation at all levels of business and government. We need to embolden women to stand up and be heard. As women (and the men who support us—they do exist, you know), we need to use our majority standing to put women into these positions of authority.
It’s 2014, people. Isn’t it about damn time?

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Love, Laughter, and Legally Ever After

On Saturday, June 21st, I married the love of my life. My wedding was a beautiful outdoor ceremony attended by my closest family and friends. The ceremony was followed by a delectable plated Greek dinner at a lovely local restaurant. The wine flowed. We cheered and made eloquent toasts to love and laughter and legally ever after. We smiled until our jaws hurt.  It was an amazing summer evening…

…that changed absolutely nothing.

Read the rest of my article on The Next Family!

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Ruanita and I are trying to eat healthier in our old age.

Yes, I am well aware that this sounds like the beginning of a New Year’s Resolution adventure gone terribly awry. But we are trying. It’s hit or miss…more misses than hits, but we get brownie points for effort, right?

For the past few years, we have planted a garden in our back yard. We grow the usual—nothing too exotic. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Summer squash. Zucchini. Bell peppers. Occasionally some jalapeños. Last year we did sweet corn. Like I said, nothing too exotic. The veggies of the meat and potato people.

Ruanita and I were both raised as meat and potato people. Actually, if I am being honest, I belong more to the lard and bacon tribe. We were raised in Kentucky where everything if fried. Fried chicken. Fried salmon patties. Fried cornbread. Fried catfish. Fried. Fried. And fried some more. I never tried Asian food until I was in college. I never ingested a salad until I was a full-grown, living-on-my-own adult.  Growing up, I never saw a vegetable that wasn’t floating in butter or coated in cornmeal and…wait for it…fried. Fried green tomatoes. Fried okra. Fried squash. You have not lived until you have downed a plate full of fried squash and a cold beer on a hot summer day. Jesus Christ, that is some good shit!

But I digress…

I am 41 years old and Ruanita just turned 50. Fried squash is no longer our friend. As a matter of fact, it could probably be labeled Public Enemy #1 as far as my colon is concerned. At our respective ages, we need to adjust to a better way of eating. A gentler, friendlier means of fueling our bodies. In a state of abject melancholia (and I am not going to lie…probably a bloated, drunken stupor) after a particularly horrid weekend of eating out three meals a day, we decided that we would join a CSA this year rather than messing with a garden of our own. CSAs are trendy these days. And you know I am nothing if not a trend-setter.

For those of you not as contemporary or in vogue as Ruanita and I pretend to be, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. A CSA allows consumers to buy local, fresh, often organic foods directly from a farmer. Basically, a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” of their harvest to the public. Typically, a share will consist of a box of vegetables (and sometimes fruits and other farm goods) per week throughout the growing season.

After some fairly hardcore googling, we decided to buy a share in the Driftless Organics farm based in western Wisconsin. We like that they also offered a grass-fed beef share, which we also purchased. Actually, as novices to the whole CSA movement, we purchased half a share—just in case our lard-loving bodies rejected fresh, organic produce. As half-a-share members, we get a big box of fresh produce delivered once every other week instead of weekly. They are delivered to a local home in South Minneapolis and we pick it up two Thursdays a month.

I’m not going to lie. When I first opened the box, there was a definite moment of what-the-hell panic. Where were the tomatoes? The cucumbers? The yellow squash begging for a nice cornmeal bath? Where were the familiar vegetables? They were nowhere to be found.

In my box were two purple kohlrabi. Purple vegetables?

Garlic scapes. Creepy.

Fennel. What the hell am I supposed to do with fennel?

Basil. Smells like Olive Garden…maybe there’s some potential there.

Garlic chives.  Closely resembles my lawn.

Napa cabbage. It’s huge. Freakishly large.

Salad turnips. Looks like something my dog would dig up in the back yard.

Radishes. Never tried ‘em. Look sort of shifty, if you ask me.

White scallions. What’s the difference between green onions and white scallions? I have no idea.

Two butterhead lettuce. That’s a lot of lettuce.

Broccoli. FYI—it doesn’t grow in cute little pre-cut florets.

Snow peas. Do I look Chinese?

Spinach. Okay, I like spinach. In small doses.

Strawberries. Finally! Something that can be made into a margarita!

Initially, I stared at the box somewhat dumbfounded. Vivid imagery of my $360 rotting in my fridge flashed before my eyes. But then I remembered. I am a 41 year old woman with high blood pressure.

Something has to change.

So I reluctantly began perusing the internet for recipes. There had to be a way to take these strange, bordering-on-obscene vegetables and turn them into a palatable meal. I tried just cutting everything up and make a salad out of it. Blech. Not good.

Then I got creative.

Breakfast: Green smoothies full of organic strawberries and two huge handfuls of spinach. Even my pickier than picky son drank it!

Lunch: Kohlrabi mashed potatoes with garlic chives. A tiny bit lumpy (the kohlrabi isn’t as tender as potatoes), but pretty tasty with enough butter and salt.

Dinner: Homemade basil/garlic scape/walnut/parmesan pesto over gnocchi. Delish! Added some garlic bread and it was pretty damn heavenly.

On tap for tomorrow: Turkey tacos in butterhead lettuce wraps.

I feel healthier after only one day of eating fresh produce. I know I am not healthier—not yet anyway—but I feel good. I feel productive. And creative. And, most importantly, trendy. My brother might even say “crunchy.” Yes, that’s it.

I feel crunchy.

Now what the hell do I do with all this cabbage?

Monday, June 02, 2014

Guest Blogger

Chronicles of a Clueless Mom is thrilled to welcome a guest blogger--my 7-year-old daughter, Sophie. The following is an essay Sophie wrote for school.

If I Were in Charge of the World

If I were in charge of the world, I'd cancel school, bedtime, and vegetables. I'd also cancel fruit.
If I were in charge of the world, there'd be more candy, less monsters, and no violence.
If I were in charge of the world, you wouldn't have bugs. You wouldn't have boys. You wouldn't have bad things or "Don't annoy your brothers." You wouldn't even have brothers.
If I were in charge of the world, candy would be vegetables.
And a person who sometimes forgot to clean and sometimes forgot to wash would still be allowed to be in charge of the world.
I don't know about you, but I want to take a trip to this peaceful, stay-up-all-night eating candy, never cleaning, never bathing, bug-less, monster-less world. I'm afraid I might miss strawberries though.
Sophie Pierce-Ralph for President, 2042

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Popularity Contest

There is a new word making the rounds at my house. It floats in and out of bedrooms. Through closed doors.  It hides in cob-webbed corners.  It pushes its way into private conversations. The new word forces old words aside. Familiar words. Comforting words. It wheedles its way into unsuspecting ear canals and infiltrates gray matter. The new word revels in its self-proclaimed importance. It’s all-encompassing significance.

It’s a seemingly benign word. Popular. Not so scary, huh?


Suddenly, inexplicably, all life as we know it is divided into those who are popular and those who are not. My son is a middle schooler and popular is the be-all and end-all of his existence.
When did this happen? What is this intangible thing called popularity? Who does the sorting? And why has my young son latched onto his seemingly random sort with the conviction of a mountain climber dangling from the last intact thread of a fraying rope?

I am old. Or at least I feel old most days. I am not, however, so ancient that I do not remember my own middle school days. I should be comforted by the fact that adolescence has not changed a single iota in the thirty years since I was eleven years old, save for the anonymity of the internet which has only managed to intensify the experience. But when my son talks of the “popular” kids as though they are immortal gods capable of bestowing or withholding amazing grace on a whim, I am not comforted. I am not comfortable at all.
Believe it or not, my bespectacled, skinny, pasty, science-loving, mathematically gifted, choral-music-singing, kind-hearted, sensitive eleven-year-old son who just learned to ride a bike and has yet to tie his shoes so must resort to wearing the fashionably limited selection of grown-man-sized shoes that come equipped with Velcro is NOT one of the popular kids. Crazy, I know. I mean, what the hell kind of criteria are we working with here, people?

My son is a geek. A self-avowed geek.
In my house, geek is not a dirty word. It is a status symbol. The highest possible station in life. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I like to think of geekiness as realized self-actualization. The ultimate state of being.

In our home, we recite Star Wars dialogue ad nauseum. We argue over the virtue of Marvel versus DC (umm….Marvel, of course).  We sing show tunes. In rounds. Anything and everything can be a sword. Or a light saber. Or better yet, a wand. We hex one another with pencils. With baguettes. With toilet paper rolls. We watch science documentaries for the sheer enjoyment of it. My children love Xena. And Buffy. And Hermione. We believe girls can kick ass, too. Our favorite channel is PBS.  I often find Lucas humming the entire theme to the BBC’s Sherlock in the shower. We think Neil deGrasse Tyson and Christiane Amanpour are strangely sexy (okay, maybe that’s just me).  We embrace our geekiness with joyful abandon. Lucas has always proudly declared himself a geek.
And he still does.

But now his proud declarations are tainted with a tiny, almost imperceptible bit of longing. A longing to be one of the popular kids. To obtain the status—the pre-pubescent prestige—that is reserved for the very few. It’s a miniscule longing, but I can see it. I can hear it in his voice. When he talks about the kids on the student council. When he talks about the girls in his class. When he jokingly refers to himself as not having an athletic bone in his body. There is an undertone now. There is subtext that was absent a few short months ago.

Lucas and I have discussed this phenomenon. He is surprisingly candid and he has a keen understanding of how fleeting popularity is. He knows that today’s popular kids will be flipping his burgers tomorrow—or so I tell him. He understands that there are things much more vital to personal success than popularity—like kindness and intelligence and diligence. He knows these things on an intellectual level.
But on a visceral level, he wants to be one of the cool kids.

He may hate himself for wanting it, but he wants it all the same. And it is something I cannot give my son. It is an intangible that eluded me when I was eleven years old and certainly eludes me at forty-one. For the first time in Lucas’ life, my child desperately wants something outside of my ability to give him. He has entered a strange new world he must navigate alone. I can give him tools. I can provide support, but I can’t take that walk with him. This is probably one of the toughest realizations of my life.
But Lucas is one of the lucky ones. He is not a loner by any means. He has a best friend—a great kid who I really like—with whom he can share his thoughts and interests and feelings.  And he has three other good friends. They are the five amigos. The five musketeers of geekdom. He is not alone. Not all kids who enter this strange new world are that lucky.

Last night, Lucas and I watched the documentary “Bully.” I would highly recommend that anyone with a middle school kid—just entering the world of the popular and the decidedly not—watch this documentary with your child. It is available on Netflix or from Redbox or you can get it at Target or Walmart. You may even be able to check it out from your local library. Watch it and talk to your child. Listen to your child. Make sure your child knows that he can always come to you. He can always count of you. Make sure he understands, in no uncertain terms, that bullying in all its forms is absolutely unacceptable.
If every parent of every middle school student had this conversation with their child, just imagine how we could change the world! One school at a time. One family at a time. One kid at a time.

It’s within our power, moms and dads. We just have to have the talk.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'm Gonna Wash that Gray Right Out of My Hair

I am a woman of a certain age.

As a woman of a certain age, I am plagued with gray hair. Actually, the hairs I speak of are not really gray. That is a misconception. They are actually white. As white as the loathsome snow falling from the drab, depressing Minneapolis sky this afternoon.

Absent of all color, these hairs glow. Seriously. They glow.

And, while the rest of the hair sprouting from my head is relatively straight, these rogue white hairs grow in perfect curlicues that rival any hairdo Shirley Temple ever sported. They like to gather right above my ears and curl away from my head, giving me the appearance of a Hasidic Jew with traditional Peyot (yes, those curls have a name). My Peyot are not religious in nature. Nor are they a particularly attractive look for a forty-one year old pasty Midwestern lesbian.

So what do I do about it?

I color my hair. I color the hell out of my hair. Just last night, I spent three hours in a salon chair getting an all-over color, a partial foil, and something called a paint-between. It was quite the elaborate spectacle, but I was thrilled with the results. I washed that gray (incandescent white) right outta my hair!

So this evening, I am walking around Target—totally rocking my new blondish-brownish-reddish-not so ashy-and definitely not white well-blended foils—and notice several lesbian couples out shopping, as well. Because, as everyone knows, Target is a bastion of seething lesbianism. And I notice that almost every woman I see—strangely, they are all forty-somethings like me—has gray hair. Maybe not completely gray, but obviously un-colored. This got me thinking…

Why do lesbians not color their hair?

I would venture a guess that, compared to the female population at large, lesbians are less likely to dye their hair. Someone should do a study. A double-blind study aimed at proving or disproving my hypothesis. Sounds like an incredibly shrewd use of our tax dollars, don’t you think?

As I sit here thinking about my own group of friends and acquaintances, I have come to the stunning realization that the majority of them do not dye their hair. When we get together, there is an awful lot of radiant white peeking out from those perfectly coiffed flat tops.

So why is this? What is the purpose of allowing one’s hair to go gray gracefully? What does this say about the lesbian community? And, more importantly, what the hell does this say about me?

Am I shallow?

Am I vain?

Am I desperately clinging to any tiny semblance of my misspent youth that I can get my arthritic fingers wrapped around?

Bloody hell! Am I straight?!?

My partner, Ruanita, refuses to color her hair. Though she is 8 ½ years older than me, she has a LOT less gray hair than me—a fact that flings me headfirst into a deep crater of depression if I allow myself to dwell on it. Genetics are a bitch, huh?

I like to think that I am gray because I live with her and she is not gray because she lives with me, but Ruanita would probably disagree. And likely curse at me profusely.

When I ask her about coloring her hair, she simply replies, “I don’t want to.” She likes her gray hair. She feels like she earned every hard-won gray hair on her head.  She wears them—the few of them that are there—as a badge of honor. A testament to her life experience. An outward symbol of her hard-earned wisdom and no-nonsense gumption.   

I, on the other hand, like pretty colors.

(Fuck. I am shallow.)

I like when my hair is blondish-brownish-reddish-not so ashy-and definitely not white. It makes me feel good about myself. I feel more confident when I feel less old and frumpy. And confidence is a good thing, right?

Perhaps I am in denial about my age. Perhaps I am too invested in my personal appearance. (Of course, if this were true, logic would dictate that I would get my ass off the couch, lose some weight, and maybe shave my Yeti-like legs on occasion.) Perhaps I need to just let myself go gray gracefully and work on my more pressing psychological issues instead.

I don’t know.

But I find the whole gray lesbian phenomenon fascinating.  

What about you?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Momma Told Me There'd Be Days Like This

There are days when you think you are actually doing pretty well at this parenting gig. Days when your children seem almost content. Almost happy. Days when you are in the zone—the parenting zone. You all know what I mean, right? Days when you look at your children and you think maybe—just maybe—their financial futures will not be riddled with the pock marks of extensive therapy debt. Days when you see nothing in their future but promise and success and roaring accolades.  Days when their little souls seem at peace and their little psyches intact. All because you are one fucking badass mother.

Then there are days like today.

Days when you forget to dress your children in green because, as a forty-one-year old mother of three who barely remembers to pee most days, you are incapable of remembering a holiday that is synonymous with drunken abandon.  You have no time for green beer. Days when you pick up your eleven-year-old son from school grasping his bicep and wincing in pain. Days when he declares today the worst day. Ever. In the history of days. Days when he says to you, “There is apparently some thing in middle school where people are allowed to punch you if you don’t wear green. Mom, why didn’t you tell me to wear green?” You don’t know how to respond, so you only say, “I’m sorry, son.” Because “I forgot to dress you in green because, frankly, I simply do not have even an infinitesimal bit of available space left in my brain at the moment because I am too busy trying to figure out how we are going to pay for the $7,000 in dental work you are getting next week” seems a bit too harsh.

There are days when your youngest son gets a new video game he ordered in the mail. A video game for a game system you do not own. A Nintendo GameCube video game that he was dying to have and insisted on spending his $30 on despite your warnings that there was no way a GameCube game would play on his Nintendo Wii system no matter what the idiot hacker on YouTube said. His little heart leaps for joy as he tears open the manila packaging. And when it does not play in his Wii system—just as mommy had warned him—he falls into a deep, deep depression. He assumes the fetal position on the couch and refuses to speak for an hour or so until he falls asleep. When you wake him for dinner, he refuses to eat. When you put him in the tub for bath time, he once again assumes the fetal position—under water this time—taking on the appearance of a disturbingly large, scrawny fetus. Now he is in bed. Moaning. That his eye hurts. And his leg hurts. And his penis hurts. You discover, to your utter disappointment that the apple does not fall far from the tree. He is an emotional hypochondriac in much the same way his momma is an emotional eater.

There are days when you say the unthinkable to your daughter. Days when (after enduring a visit from your homeowner’s insurance adjustor, and a couple of long calls with your banker, and a pamphlet in the mail about your 20th—TWENTIETH!!—college reunion) you look your beautiful, happy, enthusiastic daughter in the eye at ten minutes to eight o’clock and you actually say, “Please, Sophie. Please, for the love of GOD, find something to do for the next ten minutes that does not involve being right in my face.” There are days when your daughter calls you mean. And slams her door. And refuses to kiss you goodnight. And flings her skinny little body on her bed with the force of F5 tornadic winds.  There are days when you know you are a shitty parent. You just know it in your gut the same way you know that you need to put down the fucking Oreos and eat something green.  

But now that everyone in the house is mad at you—with the exception of the dog, but she’s not very bright—you are going to bed and putting this horrible day to rest.

Tomorrow is a new day.

God help us all.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Pucker Up!

Every morning on my way into work, I listen to NPR on the radio. Yes, I am one of those people. As a matter of fact, any time I am in the car—with the exception of when Ruanita is in the car with me because she doesn’t put up with my pretentious shit—I listen to NPR. In my defense, I watch very little television—with the exception of BBC programming (God, I sound incredibly white and remarkably old)—so I get most of my information regarding news and current events from the internet and the radio.

This morning was an exception to that rule. For the first time in 2014, the air temperature is expected to climb above freezing here in balmy Minneapolis. It’s practically going to be 40 degrees today! I was feeling particularly festive this morning as I thought of pulling my flip-flops out of hibernation. MPR’s coverage of the crisis in Ukraine simply did not match my festive mood, so I turned to my 2nd favorite radio station to listen to a little Katie Perry.

The disc jockeys (is that still what they’re called or am I simply bolstering my geriatric white woman status?) were prattling on about a survey of listeners they had done the day before. The question up for debate was this:

Do you kiss your children on the mouth?

The overwhelming consensus among Twin Citians was a resounding no. Apparently, it feels “awkward” and “weird” and “uncomfortable” to kiss one’s children on the mouth. Rather than singing loudly off key to a little Katie Perry “Roar” on this bright and sunny morning, I am now questioning whether or not I am an abhorrent deviant.

Shit. Not the plan, people.

Okay, so let’s be honest. I kiss my kids on the mouth. And often. I also kiss them on the cheeks and on the tops of their heads and occasionally on their hands. When I do kiss them on the mouth, it is not a lingering kiss. There is no swapping of spit. No tongue action. There is nothing remotely passionate about the kiss. It is a peck usually followed by a big hug as they are rushing out the door to school or climbing under their covers for the night.

I do not find it awkward. Or weird. Or even a little bit uncomfortable. We are an incredibly affectionate household. We snuggle while we watch TV. We hold hands when we walk through Target. My 11 year old son still climbs in bed with his mommas for a little bright and early “Lukie sandwich” loving on Sunday mornings. Does this make us deviants?

We are all human beings. And humans crave the touch of other humans. The touch of another person makes us feel alive. It makes us feel secure. And loved. And protected. And honored. It makes us feel safe in an otherwise scary world.

Why would I not want to give all of this to my children?

I would argue that there is nothing even remotely sexual about kissing your children on the mouth and that avoiding it for fear of sexual subtext is unhealthy. It is sexualizing something that is in no way sexual. That, to me, is “awkward” and “weird” and “uncomfortable.”

Europeans kiss everyone on the mouth. It’s a symbol of affection and nothing more. And they possess an infinitesimally tiny percentage of the American hang-ups and prudishness revolving around sex. Further proof that I should have been born British, but I digress.

So are Ruanita and I truly in the minority here? Do you kiss your children on the mouth? Is it weird?

And more importantly, where the hell are my flip flops?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Parenting in a Polar Vortex

I live in the tundra.

I am not kidding. During a normal winter, Minneapolis is a barely inhabitable throwback to mammoth-infested ice ages of eras past. In this—the year of multiple polar vortexes (vortices?)—Minneapolis is nothing short of hell on earth. If hell, you know, froze over and became a snowy, icy, land of biting wind and shoveling-induced back pain and pizza rolls for lunch because it is too damn cold to go out and get real food.

In short, we’re suffering here, people.

It takes a village to raise children, and my village is currently nursing a severe case of frostbite. We are in the midst of our 5th school closure day this winter for extreme cold, and this is how we are coping:

You can almost see their little brains turning to mush! These children need to be in school. We desperately need the public school system to instill a good work ethic and a love of learning in our children. Left in my care, drool is starting to form at the corners of their cute little mouths. Their eyes are glassing over and their poor pointer fingers are succumbing to cramps typically associated with 90-year-old arthritics rather than seven-year old Minecraft junkies.

Take them to the zoo, people say. Take them to a museum, friends muse. Make them read a book, strangers advise.

Zoology. Art. Literature.

These are all noble pursuits. That is, these are all reasonable pursuits were one to reside in heaven. Or even on Earth. But in hell?

Despite our descent into hell, Mom and Momma still have to work. There is no time for Zoology and Art and Literature when both moms work a 40-hour week. These people are supposed to be in school, remember?

Parenting in Minneapolis in the midst of a polar vortex looks a little something like this:

• Netflix. Round the clock. Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t really that inappropriate, is it?

• Asinine YouTube videos of fruit that insults people. And cute puppies. Lots of cute puppies.

• Sitting in silence while we stare intently at little blinking dots on individual 7-inch screens.

• Trying to schedule meals for children who are “not hungry” because their parents are too lazy/put upon to curb their round the clock ingestion of sugary snacks the parents have managed to convince themselves are an acceptable cure for pre-pubescent boredom. (Also known as If-You-Can-Reach-It-Yourself-You-Can-Eat-It Syndrome.)

• “Sure, wear your pajamas all day!” Logic would dictate wearing pajamas every day would result in less laundry, but laundry somehow defies the laws of physics and the natural order of the universe. Weird.

• “They haven’t been outside, so do they really need a bath this week?”

• “No, you don’t need to comb your hair. We’re not going anywhere."

• “Yes, you still need to brush your teeth despite getting a pass on all other forms of personal hygiene. If your teeth rot, mommy will have to explain to the dentist why I thought cupcakes were an appropriate breakfast food. Mommy really doesn’t want to have that conversation.”

• “We really need to think about buying more pillows and blankets for the living room.”

• “Oh, Nicky, where have you been for the last three hours?”

It’s not pretty, people. It’s not pretty at all. Let’s say a collective prayer that Minneapolis Public Schools are open tomorrow. If not, my children may end up being beyond all hope of reasonable rehabilitation.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thoughts on Giving Thanks

It’s that time of the year again. Time for the obligatory giving of thanks. Many people began on November 1st posting a different thing they were thankful for each day on Facebook. Though I find this to be a perfectly wonderful practice, it is one that I have neither the will power nor the stamina to engage in. If I had even an infinitesimal grain of willpower, there would not be a nearly empty bag of snack-sized Snickers bars in my freezer. And as for stamina, well, let’s just say I get exhausted walking from my car to the house.

So here I sit on the eve of Thanksgiving pondering gratitude and the role it plays in my life. Of course, I am thankful for my partner and my children. I am thankful for my extended family and good friends. I am thankful for the roof over my head and the Snickers in my belly. I am even thankful for my dog despite her bad breath and bed-hogging tendencies.

All of those are a given. Of course I am thankful for those things. Who isn’t?

But tonight I find myself thinking of gratitude in a different way. This evening I find myself thankful for the boredom in my life. Thankful for the mundane. For the sameness of my days. For the predictability.

That sounds weird, huh?

Right now, I am sitting in the same chair I have sat in every evening for the last three years or so. It is worn. It is covered in dog hair. It has a couple of rips in the fabric from misplaced puppy nails. My daughter is nestled in my armpit, as she is almost every time I sit here. But it is familiar. It is comfortable. It cradles my butt just so. Many people are not lucky enough to have a ratty old chair that feels like home.

I am thankful for the Disney movie on the television right now. The movie I have seen no fewer than 325 times. But I am thankful for the monotony of this movie. The fact that I can recite the dialogue word for cringe-inducing word means that I have been blessed enough to share this hour and a half with my children—snuggled together—no less than 325 times. Many parents aren’t that lucky.

I am thankful for my children’s arguments. Their perpetual, ludicrous, mind-numbing fights. The sibling altercations that drive me to wine. And Snickers. And wine. Those fights mean that my children have voices. And opinions. They are able to form a coherent argument. They have the mental capacity to make their needs and wants known. To make them known loudly and passionately, at times. Many children are not that lucky.

I am thankful for the constant stream of paperwork that comes home in my children’s backpacks every day. The spelling words. The algebra word problems. Geometry. Fractions (God, I despise fractions). Science projects (build a Rube-Goldberg machine? Seriously, Mrs. Hill?). The never-ending reading assignments that I have to coerce my children to complete with threats of permanently unplugging them. And the art projects! The carefully crafted art projects that make their way to my house by the dozens every single day. The art projects that cover every available flat surface in my house. The art projects that I secretly smuggle out with the trash every opportunity I get. These are all evidence of the education my children are receiving. A solid education received from a good public school. An education that will unlock numerous opportunities for them. Many children are not so lucky.

I am thankful for days like today when Ruanita and I bicker. When she tells me to leave her alone. When I tell her to stop being so crabby. The snapping. The sarcastic remarks. The childish displays. Our spats mean that we trust one another enough to show the ugly side of ourselves. The infantile and selfish and asinine. The erratic and irrational and unbalanced. I trust that she will not leave. She trusts that I will overlook. We know that we are here for the long haul. Many couples are not that lucky.

I've spent a lot of time lately involved in the “excitement” that is other people’s lives. The unpredictability. I’ve seen firsthand the anxiety and insecurity that comes from a lack of stability. And I find myself feeling eternally grateful for my boring little life. I will take nine o'clock bedtimes and Friday pizza nights any day!

Today, I give thanks for the mundane. For the banal. For days both dull and trite. Today I thank my lucky stars for the utterly ordinary moments that make up my sublimely extraordinary life. 

I am one lucky woman and I know it.