Monday, April 30, 2007

The week-ends, where do they go?

Tomorrow is May 1. Over the week-end, during one of the only free moments I had, I took down my huge, hideously tacky, Norman Rockwell-esque calendar that my mother got me "so Flipper can see the pictures of the changing seasons to be in tune with nature." Or, she could just look out the window. Since the yard provides a pretty accurate gauge of the seasons. Plus, she not even four yet...time is pretty meaningless. Anything more than about 15 minutes she just doesn't get. Lucky Flipper! Anyway, I started writing down all our little social engagements and commitments for the next month, and I realized that we are all booked up. Every week-end day now has something written in the white square, birthday parties and school picnics, overnight trips to see my closest friend, and the list goes on. Part of me is very very happy, I feel popular and sassy and fun, and, by extension, my child as well, and part of me is overwhelmed. One of Waldorf's big things is not rushing childhood, and letting your child, particularly one as young as Flipper, just BE. No classes, few playdates, just long chunks of simple time to do whatever, unguided and undirected by me, or another adult. When she started in the fall, this was one of the main things I changed, not rushing hither and yon every day to the playground, to a friend's house, wherever. She can play by herself for very long stretches of time (thank god, I have People magazine to read, after all), and doesn't really get bored or lonely. What is it about the month of May that is so demented? My ideal week-end would be filled with sloth: me, alone in a magically immaculate house, no dogs, no kid, laying in bed, with it raining outside so I don't feel guilty at not being outside, and a huge stack of magazines and trashy novels beside me. ALso, a phone and ice water (my favorite drink) and and special, no-calorie salt and vinegar potato chips and donuts, the cinnamon kind. Sounds like heaven, doesn't it? Lazy as fuck, but heavenly as well. Oh, and blessed silence, uninterrupted except for the whisper of turning pages, and the occasional crunch of another chip. Here is what we are doing for the next few week-ends: Flipper's hippie school's May Faire, most of the day Saturday. Bynum playdate Sunday. Yard work Sunday. Glenn's birthday party. Mother's Day class picnic. Overnight visit to Jessica, then rush to plant-dying workshop with potluck following on Saturday, then baby Seamus's birthday the day after. Then Flipper's birthday, (which I am losing motivation and enthusiasm for), and then her dance recital, school out, Kathryn home...the list goes on. Must wedge in family brithday gathering/cook-out within a few weeks of her birthday as well. I remind myself of the winter I was newly singled, every Saturday and Sunday stretching in front of me painfully, as she was 18 months old, a little young for playdates, I had less friends then, playgrounds required too much supervision and it was too cold...and any friends I did have tended to have "family days" on the week-ends, which meant the dad would get involved. No one seemed lonely but me, no one else was driven stark raving mad by their toddler but me. It sucked. So I'll jump into May with both feet, enjoying it and knowing, when it feels frantic, that the alternative is much much worse. I would rather be with her than without her, even if it means no day of bed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Inexorable and inevitable

No, the title to this post isn't referring to the will of the Flipper, and although her will can be at times formidable she is incredibly adaptable and flexible. I worry (at times) that she will be the passive little go-along friend, succumbing to peer pressure and sleeping with her boyfriend when she is, like, 11.
Actually, I am referring to yesterday's weather, 88 degrees. It was the first hint of the brutal summer nipping on the very heels of spring. Rose loves hot weather. My father loves hot weather. Flipper is young and so impervious to hot OR cold weather. But me? I hate it with a passion. Make no mistake: it gets very very hot here. I have been in slightly hotter places before, when I lived in south south Georgia on the coast, and when I went to college in the middle of nowhere, North Carolina. Both of those locations, however, were on water. Here I am landlocked, with lots of concrete to make everything even more boiling. Nothing makes me miss the mountains more than living in a place where it is soon to be 92 and higher for, oh, about 3 straight months. There will come a point in late July/early August when it will be 100 or a little higher every day, when the pools are lukewarm and totally unrefreshing. Last year I made a promise not to complain about the heat. It drove most people crazy. But, like all complaining, made me feel better on the inside. I will be upholding my vow again this summer as well, although you, little blog, will bear the brunt. Blessedly, it is supposed to cool off this week-end, be only 75 or so. But those days will become fewer and fewer, and the 90 degree days more and more often until they all run together into JuneJulyAugust and my favorite season, fall is upon us once more. Thankfully, we belong to a pool and go almost every day. I relive much of my growing up with Flipper, and we were true pool rats. There daily, all day, swim lessons, swim team, lifeguarding...this summer will be her first for real lessons. I can't wait for her to be able to really swim...she can't wait to wear her "pink makini."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Crime Against Nature

The joint birthday dinner at the semi-in-laws Saturday night committed many, many crimes. I will quickly add this disclaimer before I descend into real bitchiness: they are great, treat the Flipper unbelievably well, and I always really really enjoy myself when we go. Plus, I get to talk to my Dr in-law, who is so cool and such a good dr and so interesting to talk to that I always learn something new. But I digress. Now, in no order of importance, here are some things criminal, at least in my little world:
1) It is criminal to combine raw broccoli with mayonnaise, raisins and bacon and pass it off as some sort of salad. Actually, it is criminal to pass it off as edible. Or as food.
2) It is physically painful to my ears to hear salmon pronounced "sall-mon." How can anyone not know the correct way to say it? The way in which the "L" is SILENT?!?!?!? However, I restrained myself admirably, and DID NOT correct him. Shocking for me, really.
3) Flipper is quite the sugar addict. Full-blown, thus proving that she and I are totally related. But the boxed cake mix cake was one of the only desserts I have ever seen her refuse. Her dad's mother makes one every year for the joint dinner, because "it is the boys' favorite." Which is probably true...when they were 10. But now they are grown, and, blessedly, their taste buds have grown with them. Those boxed mix cakes always taste like sugary chemicals to me, like an ant's last meal (at least in my house) and not like a cake at all. Flipper wouldn't eat any of it.

The last point is a sticking point for me, because I fancy myself quite the little home baker. I make birthday cakes for my friends children, they taste incredible, etc etc. My offers to provide a cake for this annual dinner is always spurned. You know, because the boys have to have their favorite cake. It is maddening.
I have always been fascinated by that frightful post-war baby boomer food, so much so that for a time I actually collected cookbooks from this era, and pored over them for hours in a mix of fascination and horror. It is shocking that anyone would put anything in aspic, or just plain Jell-O for that matter. I even had one cook-book entitled, "The How to Keep Him Once You've Caught Him Cookbook." I kid you not. The recipes were so incredibly high fat, high salt, high sugar that I think it should have been retitled, "How To Kill Him Once You Start To Hate Him." I was convinced that this style of eating passed away with the death of pillbox hats and Miltowns. Then I met, or re-met, Keith. And after my first meal at his mother's house, I realized that the food of the 50's was alive and well. Outside of one of my old cook-books, I had never witnessed a ham with pineapple rings anchored with lurid red cherries and cloves before. It was a revelation. Nor had I seen someone cut chunks of Velveeta into hot noodels for quick and easy macaroni and cheese. I quit going there for Thanksgiving 2 years ago. Now Flipper and I attend a huge potluck-style feast at Deanie's house. Keith was very annoyed with this decision, saying angrily "So, what? It's all about the food with you?!?" Why, yes. On Thanksgiving, it certainly is. Plus he smokes enough pot before the dinners that he would be happy eating sawdust. As long as there were seconds.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Future Hope

Every now and then, someone asks me what I hope for Flipper, which is another way of asking what I want her to become. I skip all the usual platitudes, "I just want her to be happy" or "I want her to be OK with who she is" and usually tell the truth: I just want her to outlive me. I just want her to stay alive. Not die. Not of cancer, not in a car wreck, and not shot and killed while at college. Perhaps I should have a bit more ambition for Flipper, but quite frankly I don't. While I loved college, yet didn't really deserve to go (people with 1.7 high school GPA's aren't really setting the world on fire, are they?) I don't care if she doesn't go. I only care that she stays alive, that she can wake up every morning and get out of bed. Things have happened to friends and family members that make me very very grateful just for basic health. Basic intelligence. Just being a regular kid. Zippo concern for "giftedness" or raising a baby genius. I pray, in my own atheistic way, that we survive adolesence, which means I pray she isn't like me, and that she makes decent choices, while recognizing that learning about good choices often means making some bad ones along the way. My family has been extremely lucky: both my parents are still alive, in good health. My sister is alive. We are all making it, every day. I have never been touched by sudden death of someone close to me, and I hope it is delayed even more, even though I know it will happen to everyone sooner or later. But anyone but my little girl. Not now, and not in college, sitting in class.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Cold. Very very cold.

Flipper and I left the land of blooming dogwoods and exploding azaleas and trekked just 3 hours from our humble home to Blowing Rock, and the mountain house of a distant (geographically) friend. It was cold when we got there, with no evidence at all of spring. None. Bare branches, no tiny green leaves, nothing to make it seem April. It looked like January. It was amazing how radically different it was from our yard, just 3 short hours away. At any rate, it was my birthday, and my friend spoiled me quite dreadfully. Her 5.5 year old boy was happy to see Flipper; I think he was just thrilled to be around another kid for the first time in a week. The kids went to bed, we ate a late dinner...and it started to snow. No accumulation was expected, but when we woke up the next morning, there was 4-5" on the ground. And, it was 10 degrees. By 3 that afternoon, it was 12 degrees. Flipper was beside herself with joy and happiness. Were she channeling an animal spirit, it would have been a Labrador beside a huge lake. She loves snow and ice so much, and seems strangely impervious to the cold. It was cold even to me, who generally likes cold weather and dealt with 4 years of high-altitude Colorado winters. Bitter, bitter cold. The kids were in and out all day, and we took Flipper for a long walk/hike in the late afternoon. She was great until the last part, whereupon her feet turned into tiny cubes of painful ice and she cried all the way back. She was so so good!! She is always on her best behaviour when we travel; other parents love her, but it can be a little wearing, I think, on their own children. The other little boy was no exception: his dad took a shine to Flipper, praised her vocabulary, her brains, how cute she was etc, but unfortunately in front of his son. (What are people thinking??) As the day wore on, her behavior got more and more angelic, and his more and more irritating and annoying, until he was in time-out, and she was roasting marshmallows with his dad. For the first time, I felt for the other kid. Normally, other kids drive me a bit bonkers, and he is no exception. But I actually had a twinge of sympathy for him: younger child getting his dad's precious time and praise, he feels like he can't compete with her and so starts acting out...kind of sad. And Flipper feeds the fire by acting better adn better, more and more polite, priggish little teacher's pet. I would hate her too. Except that she's mine, and I am so so proud of ability to share, to accept "no" as a final answer, clean up, etc. It impresses almost any parent that has the pleasuer of having her around. BUT...and this is a big but-she simply doesn't act half so wonderfully at home. No, at home when it is just the two of us, it is whining and wheedling, foot-stamping and dramatic tears, endless refusals to even walk to the damn dinner table when food is there waiting and she's starving...I wanted to grab the other little boy and say, "No, you don't get it. This is all an ACT!!!" Poor kid. If I had to choose, though, I would prefer she be an angel away from home and Satan's Little Sister at home.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Perfection, in a day.

Last Saturday may go down in my memory, short as it is these days, as a Perfect Day. It started by a trip to Duke Gardens with Rose and Baby Seamus, the Gardens in full spring bloom, a nice sophisticated picnic of Wellspring-purchased foods, and two very happy children frolicking in the grassy lawn, the pond, climbing the huge magnolia tree, tossing coins into the fountains...it was gorgeous. Broke out the old film camera, and realized how much I miss it. Must buy digital Rebel ASAP. Great shots of kids. They look like siblings, which I find oddly comforting in light of her only child status. Then home for rest, quiet time, broken up by a slog through the tick-infested fields with the damn dogs, then more play with Rose and Baby Seamus. A tasty shared dinner of huge salads, chips and homemade guac, quesadillas for the kids. Topped it all off with our first (of many) trips to the new Chapel Hill Loco Pops. Mexican chocolate pops for us. Kids made huge messes on their faces and shirts. Sat on brick wall, watched people walking by...then home. It was wonderful. When Rose's husband is out of town we often make dinner together. It is really nice for both of us, and the kids like it too. The only jarring note to the day was the strange reactions/glances/muttered comments I caught in regards to my shirtless child at the Gardens. Mind you, it was pushing 88 degrees, she isn't even 4 years old yet, and while we did receive some sweet, indulgant glances, other people acted as though she was in college auditioning for some sort of Girls Gone Wild video. The irony was that there was Baby Seamus, also shirtless, and if she hadn't been wearing a lavendar skirt, youwould not have been able to tell them apart. Their chests are identical. He receievd no glances, no comments. It was funny and sad all at the same time.