Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Getting My Shit Together

Today marks the first day of "Get Your Shit Together."

I need to get my shit together.

When some folks say that, they may be referring to their physical condition, maybe they need to exercise more, finally get in shape, eat healthier. Others may say it in reference to their career. Maybe they are stuck in a dead end job, making far less than they deserve. While an entirely different set of individuals may use that phrase to describe the stage of life they are in, finally stop being a kid and grow up stage. Not me. I mean it in the most literal sense. Well, maybe not quite literal, I'm not trying to organize feces or anything, just the four years of shit I've accumulated since Alice was born. Memorabilia, if you will.

I am not a neat freak. I have no qualms with a minimal amount of clutter. Given the choice between playing games with Alice or cleaning, I'll always choose the game. The dirt will still be here day in day out for the rest of my life, four year old Alice will not. I am, however, organized. I always know where everything is. Hatta loses countless things every week. Not only does this not happen to me, I can usually locate the lost item for him. Now, I'll be the first to admit it doesn't appear that I have a grand organizational system, but clearly I must. I don't lose things. I don't misplace items. On the rare occasion that it happens, sadly, I am merely human, I berate myself to no end. I do not enjoy "pulling a Hatta."

When it was just my shit I was keeping track of, it was easy breezy. Enter Alice and the gawd alfuwl responsibility of preserving her childhood so one day thirty years from now she doesn't criticize me for not saving every freakin memento of her past. I speak from experience. I chastised my mother countless times about my baby book, or lack there of. I know what it felt like to see my older sisters' baby books and know that mine ended well before kindergarten.

So, I've been saving it all. Every birthday card. Every potty sticker chart. Every height/weight card from the pediatrician. Every letter from the Easter Bunny. If it could be saved, I did. Then there's the artwork. I've saved a lot. More than a lot. Samples of her drawing at each stage of her life. Collages, paintings, handprints...saved them all. I tried to remember to date the back, but to be honest I wasn't always successful. Not knowing what to do with all of this shit, I've been creating stacks of it here, paper bags of it there. Four years of Alice's life is starting to take a toll on my sanity. It's always been my crux. In the back of my mind I've tortured myself with the stacks of cards and drawings, the incomplete baby book, all signs of my failure as a mother. Now, I'm smart enough to know a baby book does not measure a mother, nevertheless, it still haunts my thoughts.

Today I started. I began separating and categorizing, organizing and purging. I've simplified my original grand plans to a much more managing filing system. The end outcome will be the same. Alice with have tokens of her childhood to look back on when she's older. She will know I cared.

And to you dear Alice, when you look back on the memorabilia and you come across the photos of you sitting in Santa's lap and you feel a picture is missing and your initial reaction is to blame your mother for losing your two year old Santa picture, think again missy may. I did no such thing. I took you to see Santa. I placed you in his lap. You screamed bloodly murder. Three years in a row. They actually used your one year old crying picture in their advertising. I refused to buy another photo of you crying. We tried on two separate occasions to convince you he wasn't the second coming of Satan. You had your own opinions and now you have a blip in your Santa photo saga.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Addicted to a Certain Kind of Sadness

Bless me followers, for I have strayed. It has been seven days since my last post.

I haven't been able to write. Well, that's not entirely accurate...I haven't been able to write anything nice and as the saying goes, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.

Over the weekend, I drove to Hershey, Pa to attend the sold out Farm Aid. The line up was stacked with well known artists, young and old. It was an amaaazing festival, a great cause and mostly great music. One act, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, stood out from the rest.

Dave Matthews is a brilliant musician, I don't think anyone can dispute it. I will go above and beyond and say he's far more. He's a captivating storyteller and one hell of a performer. I watched him bare his soul again and again, song after song. Don't misunderstand, I'm not claiming Dave Matthews is all feelings, he has silly songs of fluff just like every artist. But, I found myself mesmerized by his uninhibited emotion as he sang lyrics that clearly meant something to him. And at that moment I realized maybe the saying should be changed.

If you have nothing nice to say, make sure you say it brilliantly.

Life has been hard for me lately. Eh, maybe it's been a little longer than lately. I feel as if the dominating thoughts in my mind are not nice, pleasant, peaches and cream kinds of thoughts. I'm swimming in the heavy, heart crushing ones. I've shared a few with you fine readers, but frankly I'm very concious of drowning my sorrows in my blog. No one enjoys reading a sad, woeful mess day after day.

I have no crystal ball and I haven't met with a physic; I have no knowledge of when my life will flip. But it has to happen. Eventually something has to give. Right? There's a lyric in Gotye's now famous song that concerns me. "You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness." I think there is validity in that thought. I do not enjoy turmoil and drama in my life. I am, without a doubt, sure of this. It is fact. However, when you live something for too long it can become you. I experienced this with my mother's illness and as a new mom, it took a lot for me to pull myself out. As life tries to spin out of control, I do my best to mantain equilibrium staying focused on my sun and my moon. All my daily efforts working towards remaining grounded on her. When I embrace it, Alice can brighten the dreariest of days and I count my lucky stars she's in my life.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

She's a Cutter

Alice is a cutter. No paper is spared. I shit you not, from sun up to sun down my daughter cuts.

If it wasn't so damn annoying, it would be cute. Her current favorite pastime is coloring people in coloring books and then cutting them out. She says she's making her own paper dolls. Cute, huh? Which brings me to the so damn annoying part.

These "paper dolls" are everyfreakingwhere!! She takes them in the car. She takes them to nap. She leaves them on the coffe table. I find them under couch pillows and under tables. I'm up to my ears in "paper dolls." So...I did what any good mom would do. I forced her to purge. She was able to keep ten and the rest would go to other kids who aren't fortunate enough to have their own paper dolls. Hehehe. While she was away at school, ahh school, I recycled the scraps. She arrived home that day, shocked the give away pile was gone, I simply explained what happened. "While you were at school, I saw a few kids walking by and I asked them if they would enjoy playing with the paper dolls. They said yes, so I gave them away." Alice bought it. She actually seemed pleased in herself, like she was helping make mankind better. Let me inform you it lasted a day or two at most.

"So Mama. If the paper dolls are on the couch, you can't give those away. And if you find them on this table, you can't give those away either."

An hour later.

"Mama. These paper dolls that I'm putting here on this shelf, these you can't give away. These are for me to keep. And those over there, I'm keeping too. You can't give any of these away."


My world is full of paper barbies and paper princesses. Paper wings cut from paper fairies and glued to paper mermaids.

Do you know what all of this paper cutting leads to? Little shreds and scraps and strips of paper all over the freakin place. There are so many little pieces of paper on every surface and littering the floor, I hardly see them anymore. No, I still see them. I soo see them. They drive me mad. I wanna scream, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! PICK UP YOUR TRASH, CHILD!!" But I don't, something about stiffing her creativity or something. I encourage her to clean up after herself, knowing she's four and I'm likely to be doing the majority of it myself. As I'm on all fours pinching bits and pieces, I remind myself, this too shall pass. It's just a phase, an adorable, irritating phase in the creative life of Alice.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Daughter Will Not Be the Dirty Kid at School

Alice is well into her second week of school and things are going swimmingly. She's an ungodly early riser by nature; the transition of getting out of bed for school is a nonissue. She's been rather pleasant and cooperative in regards to the morning procedures of breakfast and dressing. Matter of fact, we've arrived on time all six days. You're clapping for me, right? We really seem to be getting into the swing of things...most things. There is one issue I'm struggling with.


You see, it's considered bad parenting to send your child off into the world dirty. Before preschool was a part of our lives, bath was not a common occurrence in our house. Basically, if she hadn't been swimming in chlorine or coated in sunscreen bath was not on the agenda. I'm a busy woman, there aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish it all...don't judge me. In the winter months when swimming and sweating wasn't a daily concern I bathed Alice twice a week. As I sit here, I'm a teeny bit embarrassed to admit it. Let me reemphasize there aren't enough hours in the day. Given the choice of putting Alice to bed at an appropriate time or bathing her, I don't think it's even a close call. I would always choose bed, knowing I could pull her dreadlocked hair into a ponytail and the rest of the world would be non the wiser.

Enter Miss Sharon, Miss Kelly, and the rest of the kids in the 5 day 4's Sprout class at Alice's preschool. I feel it's my job to give my daughter every advantage I can. And if that's a regular bath I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and get a little wet. The last thing I need is for the teachers to notice the paint on Alice's toes from yesterday is still there today. God forbid her pony tail comes loose and they have to help, tugging and yanking on her tangled mats. As for the other kids, nicknames stick. Look at Pigpen from the Peanuts.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fading Dreams

I've been struggling lately with the notion of dreams and failures and what should have been and what could have been but wasn't. Years ago, when I was younger and full of hope, I imagined my life would turn out a certain way. I dreamed the white picket fence dream.

"Our house is a very, very, very fine house. With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard. Everything is easy now 'cause of you."

I've been chasing my dream for over ten years. Every decision I've made since college has been working toward the goal, that white picket fence and everything it meant to me. Somewhere between then and now, I felt the dream slipping.

"Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing is gonna be alright."

I continued on in the quest for my ideal life, ignoring the feeling that it was trickling through my grasp like grains of sand. I was so close to fulfilling my dream, if I just persevered I could make it happen. I couldn't admit defeat. This is my dream, after all. If I stop seeking it now...then what?

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run."

Is now the time? Is today the day my dream changes? We're supposed to play the hand we're dealt. Maybe I haven't been dealt the white picket fence. Maybe the dream I've been working so hard for isn't intended for me. And if I walk away from my dream, what takes its place?

So...I struggle. It's hard. I see my hand, I know I should fold, but I'm still playing the game. I don't want to give up on my desires. I don't even know how. I've wanted it so long, I simply can't imagine saying "Oh we'll. C'lest la vie," and moving on. Maybe moving on, formulating a new dream is some of the fear. I can't possibly let go of one dream unless I have another waiting in the wing. I can't wander around through life dreamless, an empty hole in my heart where hope used to reside.

I have no idea what's next for me. I have no profound enlightenment. Instead, I have more lyrics...from Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) a band I've enjoyed listening to since my dream formulation days.

"And in this life we're free to dream whatever we want to
But that doesn't mean that your dreams are gonna come true
Instead as a way of getting us to move
Life dangles your dreams in front of you
And unable to resist the temptation, we continue

And it's clear to me that this life is gonna be
All about the dangling possibilities that keep turning in and turning out
Yes it's clear to me that this life is gonna be
All about the dangling possibilities

The road is long and windy
Full of twists and turns
But before you can rise from the ashes
You've got to burn baby burn

Welcome to your barbeque
Where we roast all the dreams
That never came true
Welcome to your barbeque
Pig out and dream a new"

So...maybe one day soon I will officially invite you, fine friends to a kick ass barbeque. A dream roasting hootenanny!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Initiation Into "the real world"

"How was school? Did you have fun?" I asked Alice.

"Yes. I did the tire swing."

"By yourself or with other kids? Did you swing with Maya again?"

"With Maya and another girl. Not the girl with the ponytail but anther one. I forgot to ask her name...Mama?"


"I don't want to go to school tomorrow," Alice said with a very serious tone.

"Why not? It seems like you have fun playing."

"I do. School should be all playing. I don't like having to do all the stuff Miss Sharon tells me to do."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Not Torture, an Educated Parenting Decision

Monday night I wrote this post. And then I had this twitter conversation.

After that, I proceeded to spend hours lying in bed, not sleeping, second guessing my decision to take Alice to the butterfly conservatory. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was, in fact, torturing Alice.

Don't worry, even in my sleep deprived state I returned to my senses. I was making an educated parenting decision to follow through with my butterfly conservatory plan. I appreciated the opinions of well-meaning friends, but in this instance I had to go against them.

Let me be clear, when I tell my stories of life and parenting Alice, I do so with a humorous slant. The meat of the stories are true, but I find life easier to handle with a sense of humor. The humor, to some, may have been lost on my most recent post. Please know in everything I do, I absolultely have Alice's best interest at heart.

Case in point, the hours I spent lying awake contemplating why I was taking Alice into a situation I knew full well could have a bad outcome. It's very simple. Alice doesn't just fear butterflies, she fears all insects. This affects her daily life. It's debilitating. In case you hadn't noticed, bugs are everywhere. In the ballet room, in gymnastics, in her house, on the porch, in her playhouse, et cetera, et cetera. If I allowed Alice to succumb to the fear then I would be enabling her. Instead, Hatta and I (and the extended family) take the approach that insects are a part of our life and certainly nothing to be frightened about. And see, the thing is, Alice doesn't enjoy being afraid of bugs. It gets in her way of playing, she's wise enough to realize that. She wants to overcome her phobia. She wants to believe us when we tell her that the majority of the bugs are not looking to harm her. So, I provide Alice with opportunities to test out her insect threshold. In the garden, she's by my side, curious about the worms and the roly polies. Not interested in touching them, she keeps her distance to test the theory.

I saw the butterfly conservatory as merely another step towards Alice's freedom. It was a controlled environment with beautiful, fascinating insects that do not bite. My job was to support Alice and reassure her she would not be harmed. The only way for the experience to be a success was to go. To stay home would be giving into the fear. That was something I was not okay with. I do not think living your life around fear is healthy.

I asked Alice, the morning of the adventure, if she wanted to go.

"Yes. But I might be afraid if they want to land on my head," she replied.

"Well, that's okay. I won't let them land on you."

"Even if they don't, I still might be a little bit scared," she told me.

She wanted to face her fear. And, my friends, it paid off. We entered the greenhouse with her in my arms and we just stood there. I allowed her a few moments to take it all in before we moved. She was hesitant when I knelt down to observe a nearby butterfly and to place her on the ground. But, just like that, her curiosity took over. She didn't want to be unhappy. She trusted me to keep her safe and that allowed her the freedom to check her fear at the door...well, mostly. There was one instance when a butterfly attempted to land on her head and sent her into freak out mode. I quickly handled the situation and she didn't let it ruin her experience.

All in all, the butterfly effect was a success. She's still afraid of bugs...this morning she wouldn't sit still on our front steps for first day of preschool pictures because bugs were flying about. But, I believe each positive insect experience helps her to be one step closer to overcoming her phobia for good.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Man Eating Butterflies

Tomorrow, after preschool orientation, I'm taking Alice on a very special outing. "Where to?" you ask.

Wait for it........wait.......keep waiting.....

The Butterfly Conservatory! Ah hah haha!!

To the average fairy loving, little girl this would be a treat. As you've come to learn, my Alice is anything but average. She's petrified of butterflies. Terrified. Butterflies, spiders, houseflies, mosquitos, fruitflies, bees, ladybugs, wasps, moths, gnats, ants, cockroaches, beetles...the list is endless, my girl's scared of all of them. Bat-shit crazy scared. This is not an aversion, it's a full blown entomophobia!

I took her to the conservatory last year and it was beautiful. The butterflies were stunning and vibrant and everywhere. I had no idea she was going to freak out. I don't know why I didn't expect it, but I was caught off guard. I spent the entire time trying to convince her the butterflies were harmless, when clearly they were MAN EATING BUTTERFLIES! For the love of all things good why was I torturing her! I was persistent if nothing else. After she cried and sobbed, swatted and screamed for the first 30 minutes, the ENTIRE 30 FREAKING MINUTES, we took as break for lunch. Re-energized with a full tummy, I was convinced butterfly hell round 2 would go much smoother. I was wrong. It was every bit as horrendous. My only goal was to capture one moment where she was not visibly panic stricken. Camera shot after shot of Alice with a pained expression.

A well intentioned lady spoke up, "Are these really the pictures you want to have of your little darling? Is this how you really want to remember it?"

Right lady, as if I had some other choice. I was documenting the experience. If I had settled for only capturing smiles, I would have left with a blank memory card. Those fearful shots tell the best story ever!

So, tomorrow I embark on this butterfly adventure. I'm armed with no new tactics. No brilliant advice to help my baby overcome her fear. I am much wiser, though. I know what to expect. I'm not kidding myself into thinking she's going to love it. She's going to hate every freaking moment of it. In my head I will laugh. A lot. Carrying my dear girl, because walking in a butterfly paradise would be too treacherous, I will giggle inside at her rediculous unexplained fear. I can't say I will take pleasure in torturing my daughter, because that's not socially acceptable to say, but come on, it's butterflies! I'm not redecorating her room with clowns or forcing her to have pet snakes.