what I learned this week: ducks, goldfish, and the new chef in town

by renegademama
  1. So I’m three for three when it comes to kids who prefer sitting and whining over crawling. And why do they do that? Because I hate listening to fussy baby speak and I’m in no rush to enter the crawling stage, so I pick ‘em up. When Georgia gets annoyed in a position, I move her. Or, more accurately, I yell for one of the older kids to pick her up and move her.
  2. Speaking of yelling, there’s a lot of it in my family. We are loud bunch of people. I don’t love this, but I’m probably the loudest, which makes it tough for me to propagate redwood-forest calm around here. Or even medium noise. It’s pretty much ear-piercing riotous racket, all the time, in every room of this house. If you stay here long enough, it kinda just becomes a background hum.
  3. Sometimes, when I drink too much coffee, I get all jittery and start speaking in weird choppy sentences. Totally worth it though.
  4. I don’t think there’s anything sweeter than listening to a 5-year-old play little imagination games, making up conversations between the Lego men, talking to himself, lost in his world, when he thinks nobody’s listening. I will MISS THAT when it’s gone.
  5. I don’t think there’s anything less sweet than competitive 3rd-grade science fairs. Competitiveness and worksheets are pushing me to the brink of pulling my kids out of school. For the duration. I’m not really the home school type, but I may become one quickly.
  6. From the bathtub, if you squirt water out of the rubber ducky really hard at the toilet paper, you can make the roll spin and the paper fall down. Then, you can shoot the paper with the water from the duck, which is really fun, because it makes little wet blobs of toilet paper stick to the wall behind it. (Thanks, Rocket, for this one.)
  7. On a similar note, goldfish can survive really extreme circumstances. I finally cleaned the fish bowl this week. There was only about 2 inches of water left in the bowl, all of which was green and seemingly uninhabitable. The fish though seemed fine.
  8. You’ve probably observed this by now, but I make fun of everybody, indiscriminately, including myself. For fun. I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to get me into trouble someday with somebody, or a lot of people. I try not to care, but there’s a piece of me seeking approval and acceptance from everybody, just a little, and no matter how hard I try to be grown-up and independent and shit, there’s a very quiet voice in my head that says “Oh no, Janelle, don’t say that, people may not like you. You shouldn’t write that.” But for some reason I say it and write it anyway, and I always have, but I still have that strange teenaged insecurity. It’d be great if that would go away.
  9. I think I underestimate the capability of my 9-year-old. For my birthday, she went to my mother-in-laws house and put together a birthday party for me (I’m 32 tomorrow). She cooked spaghetti & meatballs herself, set the table herself, and made the cake – all with minimal oversight and direction from her grandma. It may have been the loveliest birthday I’ve ever had.
  10. My daughter will be cooking more meals around this place.
  11. I absolutely love writing this blog. It’s been in me for a long, long time and I love you people for reading it and for “getting it,”…so #8 has a bit less power. So thanks.
12 Comments | Posted in weeks of mayhem | March 27, 2011

How to Get 86’d from a Waldorf Mother’s Group (in 10 minutes or less)

by renegademama

I don’t know how this information is helpful. Or useful at all, to anybody. But you never know.

At any rate, here is a fool proof plan for getting kicked out of a Waldorf mother’s group in 10 minutes or less. If you try it, please let me know what happens. Please. No really, don’t forget.

  1. Pull up to the play group with your baby in a giant Graco “travel system,” preferably in gender-appropriate colors and themes (e.g. blue with boats or pink with flowers).
  2. If your baby is a girl, make sure she has one of those huge fake flower bands on her head and a polyester zebra-print shirt.
  3. Obviously, use disposable diapers and wear a lot of make-up.
  4. Dress your toddler girl in a Dora the Explorer shirt, Barney pants and Disney Princess shoes (the ones that light up). Let her play with your cell phone.
  5. Dress your boy in G-I Joe gear and give him a metal light-up gun to play with. Instruct him to ask the other boys if they want to play “WWF wrestling” with him.
  6. Within 5 minutes, prop a bottle of formula up in the baby’s mouth, keeping her in the stroller.
  7. Place a piece of bark next to your toddler. When she picks it up, run over and declare “Honey! Yuck! Don’t play with that – dirty dirty!” Take it away from her and chuck it, then hand her a brightly-colored toy out of a McDonald’s happy meal.
  8. Make little gagging sounds and pretend to vomit a little when the other mothers bring out their kids’ gluten-free raw-goat-milk barley walnut muffin.
  9. Immediately after, eat the McDonald’s happy meal. Feed it to your kids.
  10. Bring Twinkies and Cheetos to share.
  11. As a conversation piece, invite the other mothers to join your Book Club, excitedly telling them you’ll be featuring the writings of John McCain, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Pailin. Then ask which local day care is the least expensive and open the longest, explaining that since you work full time for the NRA, you need a reliable and cheap babysitter.
  12. If your baby starts crying, leave her there for a few minutes. Or a long time. If she persists, give her a pacifier.
  13. When your kid misbehaves, tell him that if he doesn’t shape up you’re going to take away his Nintendo DS and limit his Playstation time to 5 hours a day.
  14. And finally, dump a giant bag of florescent noise-making T.V. character plastic crap toys – all Made in China and purchased from Walmart –in the center of the children’s drum circle, exclaiming “Wouldn’t you like to have one of these rather than that silly Amish Maplewood toy?” Watch the kids’ eyes light up.

Then run like hell. Cause they’re gonna slaughter you. Well, they would if they weren’t such pacifists.

To avoid pro-Waldorf backlash, I've included this picture of my baby playing with an over-priced Waldorf wooden teething ring, so you know I'm just PLAYIN. P.S. I hate Disney character items and light-up shoes and Cheetos. No, I don't hate Cheetos.

beginning to see why people home school

by renegademama

What part of this am I missing?

Somebody explain to me how competition is useful in grammar school. I don’t get it. Or maybe I’m just too emotional or protective. I don’t know.

We went to my daughter’s “science fair” last night. All the kids had displays of their science projects, which they had worked on for weeks. They were all very proud, parading their parents around to all the boards, showing them whose was whose, especially highlighting their own, of course. My daughter was proud of her work and loving that we were at her school. It was fun. Well it was fun until the principal informed us that they would be “announcing the science fair winners” in a few minutes.

Wait. What? Why?

Why do we need ‘winners?’ Why does it have to be a competition? How do you judge the independent efforts of a 3rd grader? How do you judge learning and exploration? And more importantly, why would you place them in a competition they are not emotionally ready to handle? Are these competitions for the child or are they for the over-engaged parents?

And if you must have a competition in 3rd grade, at least give the kid a CHOICE of whether or not she participates. This was a mandatory school project –that’s getting judged? So wrong on so many damn levels.

After seeing the other science projects, with their super complex presentations and perfectly aligned poster boards and color-coordinated everything and other obvious contributions by parents, I felt like saying to Ava “check it out. You aren’t going to win, little one. You aren’t going to win because daddy and I have the strange and radical opinion that kids should do their own work, without help or input of parents beyond subtle suggestions and hints, when the kid is stuck and explicitly asks for it. Consequently, your project looks like it was done by a 9-year-old.”

So the principal walks to the front of the room and all the kids with their hopeful, bright eyes and the parents – some looking intent and serious, others, like us, looking like we’re about to vomit – and she announces “first, second and third place” winners. I glance at Ava.

Her eyes burn red. She’s trying not to cry.

Half the room is trying not to cry.

And I run to her, torn as usual: wanting to cradle her but wanting her to learn that the world is a rough messed up place. Wanting her to fight her own battles, wanting to beat the principal and the fucktard PTA mom judges to listless, bloody pulps. So I say “Ah, baby. Let’s talk about it in the car,” hoping the walk across the parking lot will shed some light on it…give me the right words to say…give me just the thing to make her feel okay, to teach her the perfect lesson for this particular experience and make it all okay.

But I got nothin’.

As usual I flounder and struggle and try to explain that it doesn’t mean her project wasn’t great. It only means that a few people thought it wasn’t as great as the others…and it doesn’t matter what they think and who the hell are they to judge and they have their own motives, etc. etc. But she’s not an idiot. What’s the take away for her? What’s the ultimate message? Mine was not as good as the others. Mine didn’t win.

Period. End of story.

My project was not as good.

I am not as good.

And the pride she felt a few moments earlier vanished. And suddenly hers was second-rate and she was silly to hold our hands and parade us around. Because it wasn’t very good. It wasn’t a winner. The important people said so. There’s no ribbon on mine. Therefore, I lose.

Please somebody tell me how that’s helpful?

Because even if she were to win, what would she have then? An over-inflated sense of ego and superiority derived from an arbitrary judgment of irrelevant individuals. A feeling of success because other people approved of her work. Why not value the process? The journey. The fact that she did this work by herself and she did a good job. And that is enough in itself.

There is a place for competition. When a person is ready to compete. When a person is emotionally prepared to handle the loss. When a person can separate herself from the outcome, knowing a competition doesn’t define her value as a person.

But not now. Not in 3rd grade. Not when it’s all wrapped up in one.

What did I ultimately say?

“Ava, remember that Townes Van Zandt song… ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down?’ Well, this is exactly what he was talking about.”

Then I called my mom and told her about the bastards, and tried not to let them get me down either.

when in doubt, ask yourself...

this is my serious face

by renegademama

Some of you may recall this post, in which I suggested that we “not worry about” brushing toddler teeth because “they’re going to fall out anyway.” Newsflash: I WAS JOKING. If I weren’t joking, that would mean I thought it was okay not to brush a child’s teeth until they were 7-8 years old…because they were going to “fall out anyway.” Yeah, so…I may be a bad mother, but I’m not crackhead bad. My kids get fed and bathed and clothed, pretty much daily, and they even, on occasion, get dental care!

I thought my overall tone in that post, dripping as it was with sarcasm, was pretty obviously “full of it”, but I recently discovered, much to my dismay, that some people read that whole toothbrush thing seriously. I was shocked and confused, until a well-seasoned blogger (who you may read at this awesome blog) filled me in on a critical piece of information: some people don’t pick up on sarcasm. Huh. I wonder if that’s why my emails at work keep almost getting me fired. Food for thought.

Wait. Hold up. Can’t read sarcasm? What a sad, miserable life. Almost all good literature is simply fraught with the stuff. Even Jane Austen uses it. (Therefore, it’s valid.) And David Sedaris? Helloooo. The writing of the Gods.

Anyway, I realized that such a person (the person who couldn’t read sarcasm) would be lost and alone and scared in my blog – like a kitten in the Sahara without its mother. So, being an altruistic lover of humankind, on behalf of those people, I’ve crafted a handy little guidebook to serve as a map of sorts, to help them navigate renegade mothering, where seriousness comes to die.

  1. I initially wanted to name my blog “Whiskey Playdates” and I don’t even drink. That’s how full of shit I am.
  2. In this post I compared myself to Ghandi. In this one I said I wanted to beat certain women with blunt objects. And here I stated that I want to bang on my children for “stalling.” And please let’s not forget this post, in which I declared that my kids need to stop attending school because they’re creating too much laundry. If you see statements like these, or any others that could potentially send me to jail or a mental institution, please rest assured that I’m just kidding. Playing. Making fun. Making a little jokey joke. Hahaha. Ha. Ha.
  3. In fact, I’m usually kidding. If I’m not kidding, you’ll know, because the post will look like this one (except for the whole play date in the trailer thing) or this one (Sylvia Plath and ovens and shit) or this one (does Walmart sell Bieber?).
  4. I exaggerate. I’m overly dramatic, emotional and intense. This is a personal blog about mothering. I get to be overly dramatic, emotional and intense.
  5. I don’t give advice on parenting. I don’t give tips. I don’t have handy bits of parenting information. In fact I hate handy bits of parenting information. I shoot it down in mid-air just on principle. If I see distributors of unsolicited parenting advice, I run away. Super fast.
  6. This blog is not intended to show anyone how to be a better parent. If I knew how to be a better parent I’d be off doing that rather than whining about my deficiencies online.
  7. My tongue is almost always planted firmly in my cheek. It’s actually a little exhausting, having it stuck there all the time. (Oh wait. You might not get that. So I’ll translate: I’m sarcastic. Just a little.) Good God I can’t stop! It’s a disease!
  8. I’m a smart-ass with loose verbal ethics and a pretty bad attitude. I play with language. I love language. I love messing with it. I do little mini acrobatics with my words, because I like to. (I also end sentences in prepositions, but that’s because I’m a REBEL). These little word games sometimes result in stretches of the truth, but, as Ms. Dickinson suggests “tell the truth, but tell it slant.”
  9. I like one-liners. The whole toothbrush thing was a one-liner. And it was funny.
  10. Speaking of funny one-liners, I use them for the sake of using them, because they’re funny, even if they are untrue, exaggerating, offensive, rude, politically incorrect, morally corrupt, shocking, ridiculous and/or make me look like a parent unconcerned with my kid’s rotting teeth.
  11. When in doubt, assume I’m joking.
  12. If offended, or if you feel compelled to call Child Protective Services, assume I’m joking and Google “scrap booking mama blog.” Then follow the first link you find. You’ll be happier there.

But if you already know these things, and you’re sticking around any way, welcome, friend. It’s damn good to have you.

And that was not sarcastic.



yay for sarcasm!

you’ve come a long way, baby

by renegademama

So we were driving home from San Francisco today (why were we in San Francisco, you ask? Because we were getting my daughter a passport. And why would a 9-year-old need a passport? Because she’s going to Europe with her grandmother for 2 weeks. And why pray tell is she doing that? Because she has a cooler life than I do. Already. At age 9. Thanks for asking).

And…now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s return to the story.

So we pass this one spot on hwy 80 and I’m feeling nostalgic, so I say “Hey Mac. Look. There’s the spot where I inadvertently lit that futon on fire with my cigarette.” He laughed familiarly, having already known about that futon, since we slept on it for a few months when we first met, affectionately naming it “the flaming futon.”

And how exactly does one light a futon on fire with a cigarette you ask?

Well it’s actually quite simple. I was driving home to Davis in my 1986 BMW (in the year 2000) after picking up a futon in Berkeley at my mom’s house, which was now rigged up in the trunk, sticking out the back, wrapped up in blankets to serve as cushions between it and the trunk hood. I believe there were bungee cords involved. Anyway, after smoking a refreshing cigarette, I chucked it out the window as I always did, without any particular thought as I recall. A few minutes passed and I noticed these idiots driving by waving and freaking out and pointing to the rear of my vehicle. At first I thought they were just smitten by my general coolness (being 21 and all), but when it continued I thought I’d glance in my rear view mirror just in case, at which time I noticed something rising above my trunk, looking oddly similar to smoke and flames. So I pulled over and jumped up and down, looking blond and young and cute until somebody stopped and dealt with it for me. I’m pretty sure they just removed the blanket from the contraption and let it burn out, but I’m not totally sure. The futon had some burn marks but was still usable, so I got back in my car and drove home, smoking another cigarette of course, due to the stress.

As I recalled this story I realized that this whole futon-on-fire scenario is really something that only happens to a person when they’re 21. I mean at this age, while I may not be able to envision the exact threat, I would at least suspect vaguely that chucking a lit cigarette out the window while driving with blankets hanging out your trunk is a bad plan. I actually know now that chucking anything out of the car whilst driving (whether lit or not) is a bad plan, but I’ve come a long way so it’s not really fair to compare.

And as I kept thinking about it and we talked about the ‘old days’ it struck me that while I absolutely totally and wholly miss the pert little bottom and flat belly I had at 21, I really do not miss being a complete dipshit. Yeah, I know. Not all 21-year-olds are dipshits. But I WAS a dipshit in every sense of the word and I don’t fully miss it. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I continue to reach new pinnacles of idiocy and erroneous decision-making, but there’s a certain type of ignorance, of naivete, of pure unbridled jackass-ness mixed with childish conceit that thrived when I was 21 or so, walking around all hot (as kids that age do) but accidentally lighting bed frames on fire with cigarettes (ha! nice pun)…then thinking it was all very cute, making up cute names for the cute burned futon with my cute new boyfriend. I don’t miss that.

You know what isn’t cute? Turning 32, which I’Il be doing next week. And since I’m slightly devastated about the whole thing (not turning 32. I’m still weeping about turning 30), I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some of the reasons I am delighted I am no longer 21, in attempt to make myself feel better. So here you go.

Things I don’t miss about being 21.

1. First dates. Awkward silences that accompany them.

2.Second dates and the uncomfortable realization that this guy bites the big one but will probably try to get some any way and I’ll have to weasel out and avoid, which will require at least 6 more drinks (to grow the pair necessary to tell him to kick rocks) and the subsequent hangover.

3.Third dates. Oh wait, no. I never got that far.

4. Hangovers. I’m not sure, but I think I spent approximately 349 days of my 21st year with an outrageous unforgiving hangover. It was like the year of vomit and headaches and dehydration. As soon as I’d recover I was on my way to the next one. It was a giant conspiracy I tell you.

3. The walk of shame. If you don’t know what that is I’m not telling you.

4. The walk of shame again. Because it sucked that bad.

5. The inability to pass as a grown up even when I really wanted to and I was sure I was being mature and profound and real but those damn aunts and parents and professors and other such old people (30 years and over) would just laugh at me, seeing something in me that I didn’t see but really see now, which is, of course, unspecified dipshit syndrome.

6. Frequent interactions with 21-year-old males. Always a let down.

7. House parties. Kegs, slutty outfits, avoiding frat boys with their tribal arm band tattoos, looking cool smoking cigarettes, trying to ignore the little voice in my head, whispering the truth, confirming my suspicion that we really are just a bunch of silly drunk kids trying to pass as adults, not really cool at all, playing out numbers 1-6 over and over and over again until, well, we move on and look back at it all nostalgically but so freaking glad it’s over (mainly because of the walk of shame. Okay, FINE. If you don’t know what this is I’ll tell you. It’s waking up somewhere still in your going out clothes (and usually hungover), having to walk the humiliating morning journey past strangers or peers (who obviously know what you’ve been up to) back to your home/car/friend’s house. And if you haven’t done this you’re a bigger person than I but I tell you it will drive you straight to sobriety. Unless you’re me. Oops. Different blog post.).

8. Caring about being cool. Never being cool enough. Wondering whether I’d ever be cool. Or ever feel okay at all, in my skin, about me being me and just me with all my uncoolness, which I disguise and run from with my slutty outfits and conceit and overall cuteness.

9. No money, bad checks and making that call to Dad: “just cover this one bill, please? just this month and I SWEAR I’ll pay you back.” Oh shit. I may still do that.

10. Waiting for life to start. Waiting for my soul mate to arrive. Waiting waiting waiting for that thing to happen. That thing that’s going to make me whole and complete and grown up and that woman I was meant to be – the one those old people see and are patiently waiting for. Wondering when she’ll come.

So now I’m 32 and that thing hasn’t happened yet and maybe it will never happen but I love that woman who has come and is coming still – though she’s uncool and silly and lost and not exactly what I envisioned at 21 – because she’s whole and just right, right now, and lucky as hell to come through it all with nothing worse than a burned futon and a battered memory of former dipshit status. Damn it. I’m even kinda proud of her.

So bring it, universe. I’m ready.

here we are now...me, mac, ava, rocket & georgia, and my maternal grandparents