Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone. Get ready because tonight marks the beginning of a year long onslaught of news stories, articles and TV programs devoted to the coming apocalypse. By next December you'll be so sick of hearing about it that you'll wish the world was ending, which it isn't by the way.

New Year's Eve is one of those days for me, like stinking Valentine's, that always disappoints because it's so heavy with expectation that the night can never live up to what you think it ought to be, or what it looks like in movies, or other people's lives. I'm kind of a New Year's Scrooge and I plan on staying that way. I'm so damned tired that I know I won't last 'til midnight and I'm having dinner with my parents tonight. It's kind of like when we were growing up. My parents never went out back then and they'd have champagne while we had soda and everyone would share a platter of Ritz crackers, pepperoni and longhorn cheese while we watched Dick Clark. It was great.


I'm making a big resolution this year. A few piddly ones too, but one big one. Wait, two. Resolution One is to finish the book, but I think I've got that under control for the most part.


2012 will be the year of NO GOSSIP.


A few awful things have happened this year to people I cared about and I watched as they became the fodder for gossip and I was close enough to the situations at times that people came to me for information and I could tell it wasn't because they genuinely cared about the people involved. It was because they wanted juicy bits. Sometimes it's for entertainment. Other times it's out of jealousy or spite. Schadenfreude. When people feel badly about themselves they love to hear stories about others who seemed to have it all and then got knocked down a few rungs and that is a shitty way to be. 


I began to feel, I mean really feel, gossip's negative energy and how damaging and rotten it is to talk about people behind their backs. Gossips always say they were just curious or they care about the people but if you care about someone, don't talk about them behind their backs. Go directly to them and ask them yourself. Ask if you can help, let them vent, whatever, but don't talk about them when they aren't around and speculate and offer theories and say what you'd do in that situation or act like these people are another reality show with drama contrived just to entertain your sorry ass.


Our society is drama driven and we're totally desensitized to the suffering and emotions of others. Think about it. We watch other people's personal lives for fun now. We watch shows in which producers, for ratings, put people in situations that mess with their emotions so that we can gasp in horror and laugh at them. We're riveted by this crap and don't think that your obsession with the Kardashians or Teen Mom won't spill over into your real life until the lives of your friends and family and people around you become as meaningless to you as the lives of strangers on screen.


I'm guilty of it. Being a writer, I have always had a problem with this due to my love of a good story but I need to mindful about this tendency.


Gossip is a monster. People who thrive on it are beasts. Don't fuel them. Don't give them information. Don't let them talk about others to you. Call them out on it. Don't feed the monster.


Last, I saw this article that a reader posted on facebook and I read it in the middle of the night. It is so simply brilliant that I want you all to read it. Please. Here it is. It's about twelve stupid things to never do again. I'm a comparer. I need to stop.


Happy New Year all. Behave yourselves. Stay safe and don't forget your collards and black eyed peas tomorrow.
Thursday, December 29, 2011

Parenting is Not a Career

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing two men make ignorant and insensitive remarks to their wives regarding their parenting responsibilities and the more I think about it, the madder I get.

The first man, whose wife was pregnant, was asked by a friend if he was ready for the sleepless nights that come with a newborn (and forever if you're me) and the man replied that he would be sleeping just fine because he wouldn't get up with the baby. He was the one with the job, you see, and his wife wouldn't be working. Her job was to take care of the baby. Since he worked all day ,when he got home, baby duty wasn't happening and his life would carry on just like before.

The second man didn't care to relieve his clearly exhausted wife of baby wrangling so that she could enjoy a moment of peace on Christmas. When asked, her husband also replied that her job was to take care of the baby because she didn't work and he had to go to the office every day to support them, therefore he shouldn't have to watch the baby during his time off.

There's a lot I'd like to say to these guys, but I'll refrain from cussing them out, and if I hadn't heard this sentiment reiterated numerous other times I'd probably not bother writing this, but dammit, parenting is not a career. You cannot equate it with having a job. It is work yes, but it is not employment. Being a nanny is a career. Being a parent is something else entirely.

Let me make it clearer for these guys, who have clearly been watching too much Mad Men and have somehow trapped their worldviews in the 1950s.

First, thank you for working to support your family. This is a wonderful thing and we stay at home moms are grateful, HOWEVER, you can't act like the only reason you're working is because you must support this burden of wife and child. You had a job before you got married and before you had a kid. If your family didn't exist, you'd still have to work.


You work for a set period of time each day. It's different for different jobs, but most dads are out of the house for ten hours, give or take, counting their commutes. Parents aren't parents for forty hours a week. They have to continue to take care of their children all day, every day, no matter what.


Laws require that workers get a break. Most people get a nice hour long lunch. You can relax at your desk, chill out in the break room or enjoy a meal in peace in a restaurant during this hour. This hour is yours to do as you please. During this hour you don't have a screaming child pulling on your leg as you try to heat a microwave meal, which you eat standing up as you simultaneously try to keep said child from pulling ant poison out from under the kitchen sink because your child has figured out how to disengage the child safety latches on the cabinets.


When you're at work if you have to go to the bathroom you can just get up and go. When you're home taking care of a child, you have to find a way to restrain the child, who then screams bloody murder while you try to express poop and nearly give yourself a hemorrhoid. You could also bring the child into the bathroom with you, but only if you feel like having the contents of your cabinets thrown haphazardly into the bathtub and your toilet paper roll completely unspooled while the baby chews on the toilet brush.


If you need to run an important errand during work or if you need to go to the doctor, in most cases, arrangements can easily be made. Stay at home parents not so much. Elaborate plans must be configured and babysitters must be found and paid. Simple tasks become arduous and complicated. Wow, it must be nice to be able to stop in for a latte at Starbucks on the way to the office without a wiggling little one strapped into a Bjorn, which is absolutely killing your back, and without then having to prevent the baby from grabbing everything in sight, including your scalding coffee. I know you complain about the commute and the traffic but I'd love to be able to sit in the car without my ears being pierced by bloodcurdling shrieks coming from the backseat because the baby can't handle the car seat and finds it totally unacceptable that you have to stop at red lights.


You may have a very demanding boss. Your boss might be a complete asshole, but I can guarantee you that no matter how awful your boss is, that he or she isn't calling you and hollering into your ear and demanding that you get your butt to work every two hours all night long every night while you wish desperately that you could just get some sleep. Your boss doesn't come mess up your house and then prevent you from cleaning it. Your boss would certainly allow you to get dressed without throwing a fit and I hope, that your supervisor doesn't demand that you pick him or her up and carry him or her around all day long. It is not your responsibility to keep your boss alive.

Let's not even discuss taking showers. Showers are a luxury for stay at home parents. For me, getting to take an uninterrupted shower, with listening to a sad baby, who you'd swear had just been abandoned to a wilderness wolf pack, whimper and whine in her jail of a crib, is akin to a full on spa day. I daydream about showers. You, with your jobs, can take as many showers as you want. You actually get to get up in the morning and take a shower every single day. I can't even imagine such a thing anymore.


When you have a job, you get days off. You get holidays. If you really hate your job, you can quit and get a new one. Parents don't have these options. Ever.


Supporting your family is a good good thing and I'm not saying that after a long day at work that you can't decompress or relax a little. I'm not even saying that you need to split parenting duties 50/50. I'm just saying that you need to show a little sensitivity and a little good sense. Stop equating staying at home with the kids to having a job and give your spouse some much needed assistance and relief whenever you can.


And let the poor woman take a shower for God's sakes. Look how greasy her hair is.
Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful holiday everyone. All I can tell you is that right before Thanksgiving I had the idea for my next book - a collection of essays about my family's long history of over the top holiday disasters called "O Holy Shit." The Christmas we've had this year has provided me one more essay and I've decided to take it as a sign that I absolutely must write this next book once the current one is done, which it almost is.

Last night we had a water main break in our city that shut off water to a quarter of a million people. We were on about fish five of the seven and were left with a gigantic mess and no water to clean it up and the best part of the night was when my mother accused my dad of not paying the water bill. It only got better from there, but the water's back on now. We can't drink it without boiling it, but hey, what are a few amoebas? I could use some dysentery to drop a couple of the holiday pounds I've put on. No, I'm just kidding. I do not want dysentery Universe. I was kidding. Do not give me dysentery.

The other great debate this season was what to have for Christmas dinner and no one could decide and we went through several options before my dad took over and decided to make a prime rib, which nearly sent my mom into convulsions because she must have turkey, but both would have been too much so she's making turkey tomorrow, meaning we get two days of Christmas dinners. I can live with that. I like it all.

I'm going to brunch with my husband and Baby Lawns here shortly so I can relax and enjoy my day and in spite of all the crap I've dealt with this past week, and some of it has been awful let me tell you, this has turned out to be a really great Christmas after all. May yours be even better.
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas - Frosted Almond Shortbreads

As a Christmas gift to you, I'm posting the recipe for the best cookies I have ever eaten. They are so good that they caused an honest to God fight. Make these and watch people beat the hell out of one another.

Frosted Almond Shortbreads

1/4 cup of sugar
2 sticks of butter
2 Cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 Cup finely chopped almonds

Cream together sugar and butter. Beat in flour, salt and vanilla. Stir in the nuts. Roll dough into small balls and press down in the center to form a thumbprint indentation. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 300 for 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool and ice. to make the frosting combine a cup of powdered sugar with 1/2 tsp. almond extract and enough water to make a paste. You can color half of it red and half green to be festive or just leave it white. Place a drop of frosting in the indentation of the cookies. Let it harden and let the fighting begin.

* I'm on the lookout for some Nasty-Assed cookie recipes. I've seen a couple involving cake mix and weird ingredients and things smashed up and mixed with cream cheese that sound pretty questionable. Please send me the nastiest cookie recipes you can find. Email them to me at widelawns@gmail.com.

Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don't Forget Your Mail Carrier

I love my mailman. His name is Brian and he comes every day at four. I hear him singing and it always brightens my day. I look forward to him coming up my walkway, earbuds in and singing away to whatever is playing on his iPod. If I'm outside, he'll always stop to talk. One day I ran into him in Chipotle. He was out of uniform and hanging out with some friends and he recognized me and we stopped to chat which was kind of funny because I guess you never expect that your mailman is a real person with a life outside of letters and packages. It's like I half expected him to wear nothing but his uniform and to even sleep in the post office. I pictured all the mail people in there in a special room lined with cots, all of them wearing cute mailman pjs with eagles on them.

You'd think I'd have better sense than that being that my grandfather was a mailman for over forty years. No, they don't get to drive the truck home. My grandfather rode a motorcycle anyway. He was cool like that. I remember waiting for the sound of its engine coming up our street every night. He'd come in, take his uniform off and dress in street clothes again and sit in his easy chair with a beer to watch MASH reruns and play with me. My grandfather was a wonderful man.

The people along his mail route thought so too and I remember that on Christmas he always got a lot of presents. Candy, cookies, odds and ends and a number of cards with money. He preferred the money and I'm sure most of it went towards my presents.

Even though I remembered people giving him gifts, I never did this for my own mail carriers. I never knew them. In many of the places where I lived I had a different person delivering mail each day anyway, but now its different.

Brian makes me happy. He's a young black guy, younger than me, but his spirit and work ethic remind  me so much of my Pop that I wanted to honor that. This year I gave Brian a card with money. It wasn't a lot. I can't afford a lot, but I thought if everyone gave him a little, it would add up. He was really happy to have it and said times are tough at the post office and he worries about his job a lot.

This Christmas, for me, to honor my grandfather and the people who work so hard to deliver our mail each day, try to do something for your mail carrier. Give him or her a little something or other, even if it's just a sincere thank you or a small bag of cookies. Remember that they're real human beings, not letter carrying robots.

And thank you to all of the men and women who work for the US Postal Service! Happy Holidays.
Friday, December 16, 2011

The Playground Scene

Only in South Florida can the playground be a "scene." I swear to God. It's ridiculous.

I thought I'd take my little one to the park to run around a little. They have bucket swings, which she likes and lots of slides, which she really really likes although she's too little to go down by herself and I have to hold her on my lap and slide down myself. I have as good a time as she does with that.

We have a really nice park pretty close to our house and I feel extremely lucky to be so near it. Baby Lawns loves it there and I like playing with her, but oh my lands, the people.

While I have lived in South Florida for over a decade now, I still haven't been able to come to terms with the people who live here. Where else on the planet do women wear heels to a playground? I'm not talking harried working mom still in suit and pumps. I'm talking women, and lots of them, who dress like they're going out for a night in South Beach in skin tight jeans, studded rhinestoned tees and four-inch platform wedges, not to mention freshly flat-ironed extensions and full faces of makeup. TO A PLAYGROUND. It is insanity.

I wear shorts and tee shirts and sneakers.

At least the mothers are taking the kids to the playground themselves right? At least they're spending time with their children. Sort of. If you can count standing on the edge of the play structures endlessly texting on their iPhones spending time.

And then they'll suddenly realize that oh yeah, they have kids, that they are at the park and they'll jam the phone back into their Louis purses and begin the awful hovering and micromanaging of play again, alternating smothering and ignoring their children.

Besides that, a lot of these moms are highly critical of their kids. I saw one mother, who had to at some point in her life danced exotically if you know what I mean, trying to play catch with her son who was about six. All she did was bitch about his pitch. His throw was off, this was wrong, that was wrong. I wanted the ball to bust her in her rhinoplasty. It was like she was coaching him to play in the big leagues already. I felt so sorry for this child.

Friday evenings the playground really gets hopping. Around five they all show up in a parade of flashy SUVs. The parking lot looks like a Range Rover dealership and out come the mommies in their high shoes and tight pants. A few, the skinniest ones, emerge in yoga gear but still fully made-up and baring their abs in half shirts that have pictures of lotuses and say things like "Namaste." Everyone has Starbucks - nonfat, Splenda, extra shots.

The kids are decked out in Janie & Jack and they proceed to run wild while the mommies pull out the phones and start thumb typing. They gossip with the other mommies. They talk about people out of earshot or not present. They complain about preschools, teachers etc. They compare notes on whose kid has achieved which milestone the soonest. Then they descend on their kids to interrupt their play with demands, directions and criticism. If a child comes to them while they're gossiping or texting, the child's mouth will promptly be plugged with a juice box or a yogurt cup.

I've never seen a single mom play with her child. I'm the only one. They look at me like I'm insane. I must be. I'm wearing Keds.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Fail at Mommy Group

I think that I am a very good and capable mother to Baby Lawns, but I am a terrible "Mommy" and by "Mommy" I mean that I am just not one of those women who can identify themselves wholly as "Mommies." Like Mommy Bloggers. Mommy is who they are. These women all dress alike, drive SUVs and aren't seen without Starbucks in hand. It's very important which preschool their baby gets into because that means a good elementary, and even better high school (private) and naturally Ivy Leagues will follow. So if you're kid doesn't go to the "right" preschool then pretty much his or her life is over and count on having a pole dancer or a car thief in eighteen years. And I can't. I just can't do it.

I joined a Mommy group because I was lonely and wanted to meet other women and I wanted Baby Lawns to play with other children because she so loves that, but these women are neurotic as hell and they get on my nerves.

Here are things I've learned in the mommy group:

1. That other people are obsessed with shoving snacks in their children's mouths. Oh my God people let your children play without stuffing them constantly. What the hell? We have a rule that there is no eating outside of the high chair. This saves lots of mess and prevents bad eating habits. These women think it's ok for children to eat all over the place and all the time. I have no idea why. One women spoons yogurt into her baby the whole time the child plays to the point where it actually prevents the baby from playing. Drives me nuts.

2. I've learned that I am apparently extremely lax in my parenting because I allow Baby Lawns to play and explore as she wishes without constantly standing over her telling her what to do and how to play. Cheese and Rice people, leave your kids alone. I don't mean that literally. I never have Baby Lawns out of my sight, but I'm saying stop interfering. Only get involved if there's danger. These women are on top of their kids in such an overbearing, stifling way. "Here honey, play with this." "Don't put blocks in the basketball hoop. That's for balls only." "Why don't you play with the kitchen set instead of the ball pit?" It's a never ending barrage of orders to the very small children and they never allow the kids to play and develop their love of exploring and learning things for themselves. It sucks. I never do that to Baby Lawns.

3. That rich white women have no qualms whatsoever about leaving their babies for weeks at a time with nannies and in one case their husbands' secretaries to go on cruises. I know it's not PC to judge other mothers, but I'm judging. We're talking about babies. Five year olds fine. Maybe. But one year olds? I can't even imagine. When you have a baby you give up certain freedoms for a little while until the children are bigger and ignoring your kids and leaving them constantly so you can go have fun will cause them to end up as drug addicts a lot faster than attending the wrong preschool will. And what would be so bad about taking your child on vacation with you? I've done it three times now and we've had wonderful trips each time. And if you don't believe me about how these kids end up, ask my sister who went to a foofy private school here in town which was filled with messed up children ignored by their busy and uninvolved parents. The valedictorian of her class, a beautiful girl with a Masters from Boston College, died of an Oxycontin overdose a couple years ago.


I get that there's a contradiction here. One one hand I said the mothers are overbearing and won't leave their kids alone and on the other hand I said they ignore them. It's a weird dynamic that's going on and yes, these two things can co-exist. You just have to see it. One mother actually complained that she has a nanny and a housekeeper and still can't find time for herself. She doesn't work either. What the hell is the matter with these people?


Inappropriate Things That Have Happened at Mommy Group


1. Vagina Exposure. This should never happen. One of the mothers wears skirts and no underwear and sits cross legged. God help her. At least we see she's kept up with her Brazilian waxes post-baby.


2. Hard-Core Gangsta Rap. We meet up at this local place where they have open play in a big safe room full of wonderful toys. It's a great place. I love it. One day we were all sitting there, kids playing when all of a sudden we realized we weren't listening to "The Wheels on the Bus" anymore. Something about Niggazz, Bitches and Hos was booming out of the stereo and Eminem was cussing about something and "Fuck this" and "Fuck that" in a duet with I think Jay-Z maybe, and good Lord we had no idea where it was coming from. It was like the cd player revolted and decided it couldn't take The Wiggles anymore. The mommies were appalled. I thought it was hilarious.


3. My child beat another child over the head with a frying pan and gave him a black eye because he tried to take a wooden pepper away from her. Bless her heart. She's all mine.


4. Baby Lawns and her cousin both like to deep throat the plastic cucumbers from the play grocery set. It is extremely obscene looking and does not bode well for their futures, but I'm sure they'll be quite popular with the boys.


What I Wish The Other Mothers Would Learn


1. That "Share" is not a command. That children this little don't understand what you're talking about when you demand they share. That its ok to be upset if someone takes something from you that you were playing with and being upset about it doesn't mean you aren't sharing. If you want your children to grow up as generous, sharing individuals you have to demonstrate sharing yourself. You have to show them that sharing with others feels good and is fun because you don't want your kids to share just because you told them to, do yo? You want them to share out of the natural kindness of their hearts. I hope so at least.


One mother snatches things from her one year old and says "Mommy's turn. SHARE!" I think this is vicious and hateful. It upset me profoundly. That's never going to teach her baby to share. Depending on the child's temperament, it's going to do one of two things. The child will either become timid and turn into a doormat or she will learn to go aggressively snatch things from other people and demand that they "share" with her.


2. That children will work out disputes on their own for the most part and that you should only intervene if things get ugly, such as when my child beat the boy over the head with the frying pan. Let them learn to solve problems on their own. They will and they'll be better socialized people for it.


Next post - the assholes at the playground. You'll love this.

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