“what mess?”

by renegademama

You knew this one was coming. This is the post where I complain about my husband’s cleaning habits. Or lack thereof. Allow me to clarify for a moment that I know men exist on this planet who are neat and tidy and generally interested in hygeine and order, but, as I said this post (but in reference to my son), I don’t have one of those. I have a husband who, wonderful as he is (and he is), falls more in line with the stereotypical dude who “cleans” a room for 30 minutes yet somehow manages to leave it looking oddly similar to the way it looked before.

This used to bother me.

Ah, shit. Let’s be honest. It still bothers me. But I’ve found some peace with it, or I’ve resigned myself. Either way, I don’t flip out about it any more as often. My new perspective came in the form of a conversation with my midwife. By the way, undoubtedly one of the finest features of having a homebirth is the visiting that occurs during pregnancy. It’s simply magnificent. A midwife comes to your house and listens to you bitch for at least one hour.  She measures your belly and does the pee-in-a-cup thing and listens to the baby’s heartbeat, etc., but then she just talks with you – not  about more tests or the 75,000 things that could go wrong at this point, or how you’ve gained too much weight or your belly is 1/8 of an inch too small or whatever…but just chats. And if she’s like mine, this woman will be strong and straight-forward, wise and maternal in an earthy, connected way – not frivolous or sappy, not old but not young – grounded and real. She’s a badass who’s seen it all and knows it all without knowing it all (if you know what I mean) . This is obviously another blog post. Forgive me, my mind is like a lost puppy on steroids.

Back on topic.

So Tosi (the midwife) and I were sitting on my couch chatting and as usual I commence whining about how my husband must have some sort of mental defect because he appears incapable of cleaning. What an ass that man…he doesn’t respect my wishes and he obviously doesn’t care about me at all because I come home from work and I’m pregnant and need help but the living room is thrashed and he’s just kickin’ it all happy and calm with the kids. Blahdeeblahblahh. She listened and then said something so profound it floored me: “Yeah, some men are funny that way – they see things differently. You know, Mac isn’t looking at the mess and thinking ‘you know what? I’m not cleaning that. I’m leaving it for Janelle.’ He’s looking at the mess and thinking ‘that looks fine.’”

Unbelievable. She delivers babies and saves marriages.

So I tested it out. One night we were sitting in the aforementioned living room and there was crap everywhere (including, but not limited to: toys, folded laundry, dirty laundry, shoes, books, school papers, shopping bags, blankets, books, socks, dishes, bugs, bark, rocks – when I say ‘crap everywhere’ I actually mean it) and I’m crawling out of my skin and about to FLIP the hell out – yet somehow he’s so calm he looks like he could be sitting in a Zen meditation room. So I ask him: “Honey. Okay. Seriously. Right now, sitting here in this room, does this mess bother you at all?” And he looks around a little confused. Then asks “what mess?”

Sweet Jesus. I couldn’t make this up.

And I realized that Tosi was right. He’s not mean and selfish. He has an inborn vision problem that causes him to see messes as neatness. Poor guys deserves compassion. (Unless there’s a recovery group for that sort of problem – Slobs Anonymous perhaps? – People for the Ethical Treatment of Housing?). Okay. Anyway.  

So now I know that I have to give specific tasks and explain very carefully what needs to be done around the house, making sure I don’t leave anything up for interpretation and, even more importantly, making sure I don’t assume that something is so obvious there’s no reason to mention it…I recall somebody telling me once that she instructed her husband to move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. So he did. She didn’t say “turn it on.” And my sister-in-law told me recently that she had to explain to her boyfriend that after he takes the trash out, it’s critical that he insert a new bag.

Whoa. Deep stuff.

But now I kind of just laugh at my husband’s creative techniques. Kind of. In between fits of hysteria. Recently I’ve noticed that right outside our bedroom door, in the hallway but still kind of right at the threshold, there’s this pile of clothing that never seems to move. Well, I move it. But then it comes back. Pretty much every day it comes right back, not unlike my children. So I inspect the pile one day and see that they appear to be Mac’s running clothes. (yeah, he decides he’s getting “fat” so he runs for 2 weeks, at which time he ceases, because he’s already lost 18 pounds and an entire waist size. UNCOOL.). So I ask him, actually chuckling, “sweet angel heart love kitten, why do you put your running clothes in our doorway every day?”

And he responds “well, since I run at 5 in the morning and it’s dark, I didn’t want to wake you up by turning on the bedroom light and finding my clothes.”

See what I mean? Wonderful. How do you get mad at that? It’s so damn cute. And thoughtful. He’s always been a much kinder person than I am. I probably would have flipped on the light purposely and crashed around a bit just to wake him up so he can see how hard I’m working.

So I gave him a kiss and suggested that perhaps he keep them in the same drawer, so he can just open it and grab the contents in the morning. No light required.

He seemed impressed by my ingenuity. But now there’s an ironing board in the hallway where the clothes used to be.

Oh well. One thing at a time I guess.

thinking about his clean house. no, definitely thinking about something else.

11 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | March 18, 2011

sorry, but I think you have me confused with a grown-up

by renegademama

It was just another day – just another trip to the grocery store, just another check-out line…until, after answering the monumental bagging choice question (which really isn’t monumental at all, unless you’re within a certain radius of San Francisco, where plastic bags have been outlawed or some such nonsense), I was slammed suddenly by a large boulder, which flew in from the left, unannounced, smacking me squarely in the head and leaving me confused, lost, and shaken.

Well actually there was no boulder. But it might as well have been a granite crater, the way it stung and burned and hit me, hard…that teenaged checkout kid and his quiet inquisition… “Would you like help out with this, M’am?”

Dude whah?

Did he just call me m’am? My grandmother is a m’am. My mom is even a m’am (albeit a young, very pretty one). But me? I’m not a m’am (you worthless little shithead juvenile). Not nice, Janelle – stop that~!.

Well, yes, evidently I am a m’am. I know this because everybody keeps calling me it. Using my vast deductive reasoning skills, I have concluded that somehow, unbeknownst to me, I’ve wandered into m’am territory and, as we all know, there ain’t no gettin’ outta here. In fact, I’m so entrenched in m’am–hood that when people call me “miss” I look at them gratefully but knowingly, because while it strokes my ego for a moment, I know they’re just being kind. And in a way, it almost stings more.

I mean goodness, I’m only 31. Well, 32. At the end of this month.

And I know I lead a ‘m’am’ sort of life with the husband and multiple offspring and house and family vehicle and lack of stilettos, etc., but it’s just that I don’t feel like a m’am yet. I don’t feel grown up. I look it, and occasionally I act it, but I’m not really there yet. A friend of mine recently joked that she and her husband often wonder what their kids would have been like “had they been born to grown-ups rather than them.” For obvious reasons I adore this woman.

And she’s right. I mean it appears that there are people out there who feel prepared and sufficiently matured and ready for this parenting gig…or maybe they just pull off the façade better than I do. But at this rate, I’ll be grown up and settled into myself and wise enough to raise kids around the age of fifty, when I’m too old to reproduce. What a jip.

Seriously, sometimes I try to be stern and adult-like at dinner when my kids are misbehaving and I get those damn giggles right along with them and I can’t keep a straight face as hard as I try. And sometimes I make strange, random unsolicited noises solely to be loud and annoy people, just like my 5-year old. I sing 80s ditties in a horribly offensive operatic manner, driving people nuts intentionally, because it’s fun…and I think I’m funny pretty much all the time and when I get overtired I cry and lash out and complain like a 2-year old nearing the breakdown point. But yet, I’m 32…the prime child-bearing age. The ‘right time’ to be a mother, the right time to settle down and take care of other humans and guide and lead and love…to be wise and grounded and a ‘m’am.’

So, grocery store check-out guy, I just want you to know that I die a little death every time you call me that awful name and you think you’re just being polite but really you’re launching me into a new level of existential angst. Thanks for that.

And by the way, yes, of course I want help out to my car. Can’t you see how tired I am?

Gifted and BITE ME Education

by renegademama

So I walk into my kids’ school the other day with my stunningly gorgeous baby on my hip (this has nothing to do with the story, but she is in fact gorgeous and yes, I am that lame, shamelessly singing praises of my infant’s loveliness). And this lady follows behind me, cooing and making a huge deal about the aforementioned baby, so of course I love her instantly, even though I just met her, and I’m struck by her exceptional taste in babies.

Then she says, “Oh, is Ava enrolled here next year?” And I respond “no, she’s going to public school.”

Hold up. Background. We currently have our kids enrolled (thanks to the mammoth generosity of grandparents) in a very expensive, fancy school in one of the most yuppie-filled, hyper-educated, wealthy cities in the whole freaking world (I mean I think it is, having not been to every city in the world). I won’t mention its name, but I will tell you it’s on Hwy 80 between Dixon and Sacramento, and it starts with a “D.” But that’s all I’m saying. And there’s this type of mother who lives in this town…you may know her…she’s pretentious and quick-mouthed and affluent (not really affluent, but just enough to feel better than the poor people) and she has an assuming air about her, one that figures every child at least plays the cello by kindergarten and writes Russian and plays two sports and does theater, very well. In fewer words, she bites the big one and I hate her.

But I digress.

So this little number asks me politely about Ava’s continued enrollment and I say “no” and tell her which school Ava will attend and oddly, this news isn’t too shocking since many third graders bail to the public schools for fourth grade. But then she drops a bomb on me, with an almost imperceptible flicker of evil in the eye: “Oh, that’s a good school. The G.A.T.E. program is good – you’ll be happy there. My daughter did well in G.A.T.E.….”

But I had already stopped listening. I froze for a second and stared really hard into her mean steely eyes, hoping my silent derision would register somewhere in psyche. I mean, that is precisely the sort of behavior that makes me want to beat certain mothers with blunt objects. She knows perfectly well that not every kid gets into the “Gifted and Talented Education” program. She knows that a kid has to score very well on a pretty competitive test to get in. But despite all this, she refers to it as if everybody does it and everybody obviously participates and if your kid were going to public school, clearly she would be participating in the smart-kid (translation: “children of good parents”) program. Obviously.

I felt like asking her “Do you ever wonder why other mothers hate you? Because I can clear that up for you in about 12 seconds.”

But I’m a rock in the stream. All Zen and shit. So I didn’t say anything other than “Okay, thanks. Bye.”

You see…my kid didn’t get into the G.A.T.E program. There. I said it. And I’ll admit that it hurt my pride. My ego wept in the corner for at least six minutes after I read the results. I almost demanded a retest, confused at how my daughter could be reading at a 9th grade level and not be considered above average. Or how any kid of mine could not be considered above average. Duh. Then my ego took a new approach, getting mad because I only had her tested at the persistent requests of her teachers. So it’s their fault. Confused, I asked Ava about the test and she said nonchalantly “well, I didn’t know why I was taking the thing, so if I didn’t know an answer, I just sort of skimmed it and filled a bubble in.” Sweet. I’ll blame her score on that and move on.

So of course this woman’s comment burned a little, but what lingered was a total disbelief that a person could be so damn out of touch. I mean why not just be nice? She dropped that statement knowingly, with a complete and total awareness of the fact that it’s really kind of an elite group those damn G.A.T.E. kids, and rather than just being mellow, chatting it up with the commoners and whatnot, she saw an opportunity to brag, to look cool, and hopefully, (if all goes well), to make another mother feel inadequate and small – and she took it.

And I thought to myself as I passed her again “Can’t we all just get along?”

Then I thought, ah, whatever. Gifted and Bite Me Education.

At least I’m nice.

Most of the time.

oh. yeah. you know what you can do.

Pardon Me, but there’s vomit on your Chanel

by renegademama

A few weeks ago I joined Twitter. I know. I know. But if I’m going to make the effort to write the damn blog, I need people to actually read it. Therefore, I’m like totally into social media (hair flip, valley girl accent). Anyway I have been seriously amused by the Twitter bios. If you’re not familiar, I’ll explain: you have 140 characters or some other nonsense to write a little bio, and it shows up next to your ‘avatar’ (profile picture), all of which is intended to catch people’s interest so they’ll ‘follow’ you. Whatever. I didn’t make it up.

So you scroll down the list of prospects and click on people who seem interesting or like-minded or whatever you’re into and it kills me the stuff people put up there. There are of course the born-agains, the sober people, the shock-factor people (“anarchist mother of two who yearns to piss you off and eat your young”), the granola moms with their damn acronyms ( SAHM, BF, CD-ing, AP, NoVax), and the ones who are ooooo sooooo baddddd (“I drink whiskey, have tattooed arms and say fuck a lot.'”). But lately my favorites are the fancy and [evidently] well-dressed women who write things like “fashion savvy mother of two” or “hip mama in stilettos” or “fashion-conscious San Diego mother of four. You’ll find me drinking cabernet in my Chanel.”

Now I have nothing against these women. I just can’t for the life of me understand how they do it. I mean, the sheer logistics of my life negate any possibility of my wearing $600 sweaters. Or stilettos.

First of all, my day almost always involves some sort of bodily related emission ranging from drool to breast-milk to things I’d rather not discuss. And I think I’d be really disturbed if indeed there was vomit on my Chanel. Or maybe part of wearing Chanel is the ability to afford Chanel, which brings me to another reason I wear Old Navy…finances. No need to expand that topic. Speaking of expanding, let’s be honest, I’m too fat for designer clothes. Yeah. Some of us missed the memo about exercising after childbirth. [I do, however, breastfeed a lot, which I hear burns about 12,000 calories a day, so I should be covered.] But even if I had money and a life without random excretions and they made fat people Gucci, who the hell has time for that kind of effort?

Now don’t get me wrong. I have standards. I shower. I wear clean clothes. Mostly. And if I don’t have any, I very carefully sift through the hamper, thoughtfully contemplating my choices until I locate something without visible stains or an overtly unpleasant aroma. I mean that can take a while. And I absolutely draw the line at wearing maternity clothing past 7 months post-partum. I only wear flip-flops in light rainstorms and I’m perfectly willing to iron a piece of clothing for a special event. Like a wedding. Or a funeral. Of somebody I really care about.

Perhaps they are experiencing some other version of motherhood.

Or maybe they aren’t. In that case, I kind of admire them. Though I think it’s a little obnoxious to walk around flaunting one’s thinness and general health etc. by looking all hot with a 2-month old, I think it’s pretty cool when women take care of themselves for real after having a baby. Most of us generally feel like we’ve been hit by a Mack truck after giving birth and this feeling sort of continues for, oh, I don’t know, forever. And our appearances may reflect this feeling.

Plus, if you’re like me, you look back on your “pre-baby” days as your “hot days” – and, since that ship has sailed (far far FAR away, replaced by, well, not hotness), you figure you might as well stop trying. And since most of us don’t have a nanny, cook, housekeeper (or three), rich-ass husband or even the inclination to drop thousands of dollars on fancy labeled clothing, the statement “Pardon me, but there’s vomit on your Chanel” probably won’t be sent our direction anytime soon. However, most of us are able to put a little thought and time into ourselves, in whatever way we like to put time and thought into ourselves, and I think there is real value in this, in taking care of oneself before being expected to take care of others.

Because if my well is dry, I’ll have nothing to give.  And if I have nothing to give, but am forced to give any way, things go poorly. Understatement.

So here’s to my version of Chanel and stilettos, and yours, whatever that looks like.

Because I’m good enough and smart enough and gosh darn it, people like me.

BuahHAHAHAHAHAHA! (sorry. the Stuart Smalley thing was funny.)

plotting ways to stain my clothes

14 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | March 10, 2011

my 9-year-old has lost her mind

by renegademama

My daughter, Ava, turned nine last November. I think the cake was laced.

Or she’s been possessed. Jury’s still out.

I read at some point about the “9 year change” – basically it’s a second major separation from the parents (following the one occurring at around 2 years), but it’s a sort of existential separation, where the child realizes she is not only physically separate from her parents (mother mainly), but also mentally and emotionally distinct. It is an awkward, precarious, questioning time resulting in mood swings and a lot of boundary-pushing. Some nine-year olds begin to contemplate death – including their own (which seems weird. I didn’t realize I was going to die eventually until I was about nineteen, while sitting under a tree in the quad in college, but by then I had discovered Captain Morgan and Hemingway, so it all seemed rather irrelevant).

Anyway, whatever the psycho-babble explanations, my kid has turned into a complete whack-job. One moment she is calm, collected and really quite grown-up, discussing relatively mature topics in an engaged, humanlike way. Five minutes later she’s giggling, flailing about and uttering strange sounds in a manner so goofy I can’t decide if she’s cute or has some sort of formerly unrecognized handicap.

My aunts, who’ve each had a small army of children, assure me this is normal.

And I’m sure it is. The aunts also muttered something about prepubescent hormones (which, as I stated in this post, can kiss my ass) and I’m sure they’re right about that too. But I don’t want to talk about the fact that my baby girl who isn’t a baby girl at all could potentially in a couple years be faced with her biological make-up in a very real way and I may actually implode upon myself in grief, denial and fear.

I think this is an exaggeration, but one can never be sure.

What I want to talk about is the fact that my daughter sometimes irritates the living hell out of me and no, there is no gentler way to put this. And I don’t mean irritated like “wow, that’s kind of annoying. Wish it would end.” I mean irritated like a tag tickling the back of your neck, like an itch on the bottom of your foot, like I don’t really want to be near you irritated. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it comes, whoa. Look out.

It makes me sad to feel this way.

I don’t know what’s happening here and I don’t like it and I’m pretty ashamed. Do good mothers feel this? Probably not. Good mothers probably have the maturity to recognize the brevity of the whole situation. They are probably less selfish and ego-centric, which enables them to be patient, forgiving and understanding with the kid, rather than short-tempered, visibly annoyed and retaliatory.

I ask her nicely. She ignores me. I get mad. I yell. She responds or doesn’t. Or she screams and storms off or she cries or gets hysterical. And my heart breaks.  Sometimes I’m a bully. I use my power as mother, use my strong voice and body to control and make things change and get what I want. Then I apologize, having acted poorly.

It’s a different feeling than the irritation I feel when Rocket is still naked after 25 minutes of coaxing to get dressed, or Georgia decides to nurse the instant I finally get up to take a shower. It’s a separated irritation. It’s a real irritation. She annoys me like other adults annoy me. And this is strange because she isn’t an adult. She’s not even a little adult. But she is. But she’s not.

Oh, Ava, I love you.

What burns child is that you’re walking right away, just as you should. I feel the world and time and biology pulling you down the hall, closer to the door, someday you’ll cross the threshold. But I want you to stay inside, baby girl. With me. Here at home. Right by your mama.

We’re separating, she and I.

I try to enfold her in arms that don’t quite reach any more.

Everything about her demands distance. She occupies more space physically. She has her own interests. Often she prefers being alone in her room. I see her thinking and contemplating things in there, by herself (objects or photos or books but rarely dolls any more), checking in occasionally to see what I think. Or not. She has real smells like real adults (bad breathe and sweat and stinky feet and unwashed hair). She is not uniformly pleasant any more.

Screw you, biology. Give me my baby back.

No, don’t.

Rather, God, give me the strength to love her as she needs me now. And I promise I’ll get used to this.

It’s funny how nature knows how to baby-step a mother and child into separation – knows how to make a kid just big enough and strong enough and smelly enough and annoying enough that separation becomes even slightly palatable to the mother. What a stark contrast to the way I feel about my infant Georgia, who is so luscious and aromatic and infinitely attractive in absolutely every way that I want to eat her sometimes – literally consume her! – because I just can’t get close enough.

So little Ava, I guess the deal is that you will remain forever stitched into the fabric of my soul, though you are no longer hanging on my coattails.

Huh. Guess I did want to talk about it.

there she is.