Monday, October 30, 2006

Proving Them Right

Sure, I know that stereotypes are harmful and hurtful, and some are even outright ludicrous. And I’m also aware that even “positive” stereotypes – i.e. mixed people are so beautiful - are wrong and can be insulting.

But what to do when you find yourself inadvertently living out a stereotype?

Case in point, I got my haircut on Friday. I spent more money than any part-time working person should spend on a hairdo. Not only did I do this on Friday, but I insist on doing it every eight weeks. (Stereotype: Black woman overly concerned about her hair).

As I come home with brand-new cut, I say to SRH - who happens to be celebrating his 2nd Blogaversary today! -

“What do you think about the new haircut? He took at least 3 inches off parts of it.”

It is at this point that SRH begins to look truly frightened and a little confused as he says, “Wow! Um…it looks really good.”

Me, “You don’t think it looks any different do you? SRH, he put layers all over my head. It’s a TOTALLY different cut.”

To this, SRH responds, “Sorry, honey. It doesn’t look that different.” (Stereotype: Oblivious husband.)

And before I could get faux-huffy, I had the following thought, Well, really. I should wait until tomorrow after I’ve pulled my hair back to see if he’s notices a difference. (Stereotype: Mother of a young child who, 9 days out of 10, wears her hair in a ponytail because it’s just easier.)

Eh, I guess these aren’t the worst stereotypes to validate.

What stereotypes do you fulfill?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Benefits of Fish Oil

Once a month, I gather with a few women who are in senior level positions where I work. I did nothing to deserve the invitation to these small gatherings; I get to go simply as a function of my position.

(Some people get to go to Sweden on business trips or eat at fancy restaurants on their company; I get to regularly hang out with really fabulous women. One adjusts.)

While I feel a wee bit intimidated by the august and dignified personages who attend the gathering with me, I’m also aware that they are also just really nice women who, incidentally, have managed to achieve A LOT in their careers.

And although I am at least 20 years younger than every other woman in the group, they are also unequivocally kind and welcoming to me. Which is why I was mortified to hear the following come out of my mouth last evening:

Yes, but you have to get the kind that doesn’t cause fish burps.

Some people can truly find their niche in any discourse and make advantageous connections while engaging others in pleasant conversation. Me, not so much.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Spa is Open!

I would like to make an announcement: The hot tub on my back porch is now officially open for the season. So if you have back pain, sore muscles, or just want to hang out – come on over! (This also counts for those of you who live out of state; however, I’m only offering a soak in the tub, not a place to stay.)

Perhaps you are wondering what it takes to make the tub “open for the season”.

Well, a few conditions must be met:

It must be The Season, i.e. it must be less than 60 degrees outside during the day for over two weeks. In other words, we must be into the fall. Because hanging out in a hot tub in the middle of July is just plain uncomfortable. There is nothing relaxing about lounging around sweating in hot water.

(Someone told me yesterday that they always put their kids in the hot tub with the temperature turned down during the summer. It becomes like a little pool. Hmmm, so that’s a fabulous idea that neither SRH nor I smurfed out before now. I will just say in our defense that Zane has only been with us for three years, and it took us five years of marriage to figure out that I will indeed have to throw away every piece of garbage that accumulates in our house. SRH simply isn’t up to it.)

Chemicals must be added. I imagine this is much like prepping a pool during the spring but a lot less work. Theoretically, one is supposed to “chemical up” the tub once a week. In the summer, we do it more like once a month. Today we caught ourselves – and the tub – up. There are enough chemicals in there right now to cause scaring of the lungs should one breathe in too deeply, but that should dissipate by tomorrow.

(Just to be sure, I will dip Zane’s toothbrush in the tub anon. If it melts, you’ll have to wait to come over for a few days.)

My house must be clean enough for me to allow company over.

And now perhaps you are wondering, Hey those jokers aren’t loaded, how come they have a hot tub?

And maybe you’re not wondering this, but if you grew up poor like I did, this is a legitimate question. The only people I knew who had hot tubs…well, actually hot tubs on the back deck weren’t big in the trailer park, so I didn’t know anyone until high school. But they were RICH.

The truth is that the hot tub came with the house. Well, not this hot tub. A really old one. One that was made out of wood and avocado green plastic and had about 3 jets. So, soon after we moved in, it was struck by lightening, and the homeowner’s insurance bought us a new one. Which was a somewhat lengthy process, because they kept trying to get the hot tub place to provide us with a comparable tub to the old one, which was impossible to do. There isn’t much of a market for vintage spas.

And now you may be thinking, This sounds too good to be true. There must be a catch.

No catch, I simply ask that you abide by two simple rules:

Rule One: Bring libations. It is a universal truth that a hot tub is way more fun if you bring wine or margaritas. I am not opposed to the occasional non-alcoholic drink (shout out to my peeps in rehab!), but it’s really preferable to bring something with a kick.

Rule Two: Know Yourself. If hot tubs make you and your partner feel frisky, please develop an appropriate “do it somewhere else” plan so that I can be assured that there are no heinous emissions happening in the tub. As a caveat, “somewhere else” does not mean on my deck, on my lawn, or in my house.

(Do you remember those signs that people used to hang by their pools that said, Don’t pee in my pool. I don’t swim in your toilet? As a child, I found that to be about the cleverest saying. Really. I thought it was witty, profound, and truthful. I guess my rule is similarly amusing: Don’t get naked in my hot tub. I don’t want you to.)

Anyway, we’ve got this free hot tub just waiting for folks to come over and use it.

And oh yeah, no peeing in the hot tub. I don’t swim in your toilet.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Power of Speech

Interlude One

Yesterday, I had one of those parenting moments where you stand outside your body a little bit and think, Really? This is what my life is? Wow, I wouldn’t have called that ten years ago.

It happened right around 8:25am and, of course, it happened around the potty. Zane was throwing the perfect 3 year old tantrum at the perfect time – 5 minutes before we had to leave for preschool. These were the words that defused the situation:

It’s okay, Zaney. The potty won’t hurt you. I promise. Mama won’t let the potty hurt you. (less sniffles)

Do you want to potty like papa? (small nod) Okay buddy, go ahead and stand up. Mama will help point your pee-pee.

Tantrum over.

(Is the offer to hold a penis a universal way to stop a tantrum in the male of our species?)

Interlude Two
I have mentioned before that I have, at times, not been taken seriously at work by colleagues outside of my immediate office.
I attribute it to a number of things: I look young. I’m pretty short, and I’m a woman of color. I know - who would take anyone of that particular combination seriously? I mean, really.

But in an effort to publicly support me, my boss will occasionally ask me to do some high profile speeches. I hate it when this happens. Hate it with the fire of a thousand suns.

So I pretty much hated yesterday.

To be fair, I only had to do an introduction, not a full speech. But it was in front of hundreds of people, including the top two women at the university. And my boss. And several colleagues that I highly respect.

So I did it – and it went okay. And as I was making my way back to my seat, I said under my breath,

Well, at least I didn’t puke.

And while my boss didn’t hear me, the Very Important Person sitting to my right did. And while she was WAY too dignified to fall out of her chair, she did get quite a chuckle at my expense.

Interlude Three
Zane’s talking, and talking, and talking does have some benefits.
He has recently starting responding to terms of endearment and asking for kisses. So sweet.

But today, he stunned me when he said – completely unsolicited -

I love you, mama.

This may be the highlight of my life.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I Really Do Like My Child

There are times I am just on a collision course with my child. Times when no matter what I do, Zane and I are destined to work each other’s last nerve. Those times usually come when we have just spent a long period of time together without a break, one of us is sick, and an outside stressor is present.

Well, check, check, and check. Zane and I just spent almost 12 days straight together with little interference from the outside world - i.e. we didn’t leave the house much. We were both sick for the majority of the time, and I got a phone call today from the folks who provide his childcare that Oops, they won’t return to town until Thursday, so we’ll have to find back up childcare tomorrow and Wednesday. Great.

Our current conflict – although Zane apparently has no idea that we’re engaged in a full-scale battle – involves talking. Zane’s incessant talking to be exact. His complete inability to be quiet for even one second of the day. His unwillingness to give his poor mother one moment of peace without asking questions or narrating every, single, thing happening around him.

Oh sure, I’m the same mama who has been concerned about her boy’s speech and who has (in the past) described him as a “late talker.” But preschool changed all that. Dramatically. Possibly irrevocably.

And I know that many, many parents are annoyed by the constant chatter of their 3 year olds, but – being me – I can’t let it rest at that. You know, the philosophy that it’s completely normal for a parent to want to gag their child after being cooped up with them in one space for almost two weeks with illnesses raging and ceaseless rambling by said child.

I don’t buy that. It must be something more. So I went exploring – what would explain this fundamental incompatibility between me and my child?

Astrological Signs
Zane is a Leo.
I am a Taurus. Apparently, this could be the cause of the unrest at our house. Completely taken out of context, here are two quotes that describe how our astrological signs may interact:

Relationships between Taurus girls and Leo boys rarely work out in the long run.

Leo can be very loud and melodramatic at times, which upsets Taurus who wants, above all else, peace and serenity at home.

So, there’s one explanation. Zane’s big mouth upsets my desire for harmony.

Doshic Types
According to this ancient Indian medicinal system, I am a Pitta-Vata.
All signs indicate that Zane is a Vata-Pitta. (If you want to know what you are, here’s a fun test and here’s a more tedious one).

Okay, my take on this is that we are too much alike and this causes conflict. Could be.

Chinese Zodiac
I was born in the year of the Tiger. Zane was born in the year of the Goat.
Interestingly enough, many sources say that this is an inadvisable pairing.

According to this source, Zane and I make a “poor combination”.
And according to this one, “It would be better for both if they spent more personal time away from each other.”

Wow.…I guess I’ve felt a little annoyed, but this feels like it’s overstating it a bit.

Western Self-Help Philosophy
I have mentioned before that I am a highly sensitive person.
In fact, when I take the Highly Sensitive Person Test, I manage to answer “yes” to a whopping 21 out of 26 questions. So I thought I’d take the children’s test on behalf of Zane to see if perhaps we were just two overly-sensitive souls who happen to have had a hard week and are (within normal limits) causing each other some moments of irritation.

No such luck. Zane was only a “yes” on 7 out of 23 questions – and that was stretching it a bit. So that theory doesn’t explain it.

An unclear conclusion…

So I’m not sure what this all means. It seems clear that there is no single explanation for the recent discord between Zane and me. Unless the explanation is that unceasing chatter by a little boy will drive any mama crazy after a while.

I’m sure it will be better tomorrow. After all, the preschool teachers will be his audience!

(Editors Note: I’m sure there is no need to say this, but this post is entirely facetious. I adore my son – and his rambling, incessant chatter. It is the delight of - most of - my days.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My New Favorite Quote

A teacher as she dismisses her class:
And please take your leftover lunches with you. My husband is tired of me coming home smelling like salami.
--From Stuart Little 2, which I have seen way too much of in the past five days since Zane’s been sick

What are some of your favorite movie quotes?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sick Day Time Line

I’m beginning to believe that this Fall may go down in our family annals as The Autumn that Zany Mama Caught Every Virus, Bug, and/or Infection that was present in Central Ohio. Seriously, I have been sick more in the past six weeks than in the past three years combined.

Case in point, I was really sick - and Zane was mildly sick – yesterday. Having little other blog fodder, I thought it might be sort of fun to give an overview of the ridiculous day we spent together. (Disclaimer: This post was conceptualized in my fevered brain yesterday and may contain many tangents, irrelevancies, and outright lies.)

Zane wakes me up by hovering over my face and saying “Good morning, Mama!” with his freshest morning breath.
It’s at this moment that I realize we have a problem. My sore throat from the night before has progressed to a screaming pain throughout my nose, throat, and ears and it was accompanied by body aches that have even my toes hurting.

I convince Zane to go back to sleep in my arms for a while so that I can get a few more minutes of sleep.

Sleeping party is over.
Zane wants to get up for the day NOW, NOW, NOW. I unhappily oblige.

On top of the soreness, my throat feels like it’s coated in peanut butter and jelly – a goober if you will. Although it’s highly unlikely that anything resembling peanut butter and jelly has been in my gullet for the past three years because 1) Zane is violently allergic to peanuts, so we don’t have any peanut products in the house and 2) I haven’t been able to find a good jelly in forever.

(I am, unsurprisingly, quite picky when it comes to jellies. I only really like cherry jelly or jam – I’m not a big fan of preserves or marmalades – and it’s hard to find one that isn’t overly sweet. The moment I find one that is satisfactory, the company stops making it. My attention is the death knell for all good cherry jellies everywhere).

My brilliant partner, SRH, finds a stash of Hall’s Cough Drops for me.

The aforementioned brilliant partner leaves for work.
I have a moment of panic as I realize that my barely conscious self is responsible for the care of a sick preschooler for the rest of the day.

(This is not unlike the panic I felt when we brought Zane home from the hospital. I just couldn’t believe that they thought we were nearly responsible enough to have the care and upkeep of an obviously vulnerable young child. Today, however, I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of keeping us both alive. Have I mentioned that I felt like dying at this point?)

Zane realizes that he has misplaced the “coal” that goes in one of the freight cars on his train.
I look for it everywhere amidst cries of, Where coal? Where coal? He’s crying, and I’m about to cry as I drag my poor body all over the house looking for a 1x3 inch piece of black plastic. (After looking off and on all day, I never do find it.)

I settle onto a heating pad to combat the chills and body aches.
Soft, defeated cries of Where Coal continue in the background for the next 54 minutes.

It occurs to me that perhaps the extreme pain in my joints is akin to having been tortured on the rack. I mean, I really don’t know having never uttered such heresies as the earth revolves around the sun or other such nonsense in the presence of English clerics, but I think the pain might be similar.

Second breakfast:
Zane sits on my tummy and eats cold Wendy’s chili.

I call my mother to beg for relief.
I believe I actually said on her machine, I think I’m dying. That is, if a sore throat and body aches can kill you. Because if it can, I’m definitely dying. Can you come over for lunch please?

Mom calls me back and says that she’ll be over at lunch to help me out.

(As I was very sick as a young child – with a condition which was remedied by surgery when I was 3- my mother is a bit over-the-top when I’m even slightly ill. I can hear the anxiety in her voice and I retract my comments about being on death’s door. It’s cool to be dramatic, but you don’t want to worry your mother unnecessarily.)

Mom promises to be at the house with lunch for Zane at 11:30. I start counting the minutes until she gets here.

Mom shows up – apparently, she’s not as worried about me as I’d hoped…um…I mean…thought.

I take a shower in water at the hottest level I can tolerate. It does help the body aches and chills, but I keep bumping up against the shower curtain which feels like cold pitchforks against my skin in my fevered state.

(At this point, I’m wishing that I’d thought to bring a stool in with me so that I can sit down for a while. This, of course, reminds me of when I came home after Zane was born and I couldn’t walk – yes, I know that old story again. But what I was really referring to was how SRH would turn over a bucket and put a towel on it so that I could sit down in the shower so that he wouldn’t have to go in with me and hold me up. A few weeks later we graduated to a Rubbermaid stool – which was ever so much more dignified.)

I’m done.
Mom watches Zane as I head to bed for a nap.

Zane joins me for a nap as my mom heads back to work.

Zane wakes up.
I longingly remember the 2-3 hour naps of days gone by. I beg, plead, and cajole, but Zane’s not interested in watching a video in bed so that I can sleep some more, so we head downstairs.

Zane is interested in watching a video now.
I can’t take back my offer, and truthfully, I’m inordinately grateful to the TV for taking the heat off me for a few minutes. (Shameful, I know. But what is a blog, if not a place for unabashed self-confession?)

I’m strangely disappointed when Zane decides to turn off Stuart Little 2 before the big airplane finale.
Cue up more train videos.

I call SRH and try to keep the desperation out of my voice as I request that he be home as close to 5pm as possible.

Hey, what do you know?
I can actually sit up now for 5 minutes at a time without horrific pain in my hips and back. I begin to believe that I might actually make it out to the other side of this illness.

SRH gets home – what a dear, dear man.

I go to take another blazing hot shower. This time, I am not proud.
I ask SRH to bring me the stool – which has inexplicably disappeared from our bathroom. He can’t find it either, so he pinch hits with this:

I’m a little uneasy because I seem to remember that there is a weight limit of 90 pounds for this particular chair. And while I’m not a big person, I don’t think I’ve been that weight since the 6th grade. But hey, I haven’t eaten anything all day – which means I’m closer to 90 pounds than I was yesterday – plus my judgment is clearly clouded by fatigue and discomfort, so I go ahead and sit down.

Thankfully, no drama results.

I head to bed for the night.

(I do manage to get up for about an hour around 9:30pm – you know, to make sure things are set for the next day and to check my blog and stuff. I have priorities.)

So there it is – my thrilling sick day. More information about someone else's day of illness than you ever wanted to know.

For the record, I’m feeling much better today. but Zane seems to be feeling a little worse – probably due to the abject neglect he experienced yesterday.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Apparently I Can Write Quite A Bit About Nothing

Do you know that feeling when you feel like you should blog, but don’t really have anything to say? Like your life is okay and good, but nothing really exciting- or even interesting- is happening? Like you have nothing funny or even mildly engaging to say?

But then you bought this new laptop, and now you just want to try it out. You’re dying to actually see yourself post from your couch and not have to go up to the old ball and chain desktop to do your computing. ‘Cause you’re so over that old computer, and you’ve got a new toy?

And you can’t believe it, because you are so not a techy kind of person. In fact that’s one of the things you love about your partner – his whole geek, tech factor - even though you always used to go after those bad boys who could dance like they were made for lovin’. And you never imagined that you would adore someone who could actually build their own computer out of component parts he bought from Alabama because they’re cheaper there. On top of all that you actually want to spend the rest of your life with that person because it’s kind of an opposites attract situation: You never have to think about computer or tech issues because your partner has got your back on that, and in return, you take care of all the social scheduling and money handling because that’s what you’re good at.

Except now it’s you who’s all jazzed up about the silver glow of a widescreen monitor because you have a BRAND NEW laptop, and you’re squirming with glee on a Saturday night as you take it from the couch to the loveseat and finally to the futon in the office next to the PC so that you can write a post about nothing, just so long as you get to do it on your new whiz bang notebook?

Yep, that’s where I am tonight.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

High School Days

I'm horribly derivative today, but SRH's recent post on high school got me thinking about my high school days, and Nancy's recent post gave me the link to a quiz re: high schoool, and voila this post was made.

All American Kid

Popular but not plastic. Athletic but not a jock. Smart but not a brain.

You were well rounded and well liked in high school.

While I think the title, "All American Kid" is pretty accurate, and I was popular but not plastic - I hope! - I'm not sure about the rest. I was a competitive gymnast until I blew out my knee, and then I was a cheerleader. (Much to SRH's chagrin). And really, I was pretty smart - or at least I got all A's, which may not be the same thing.

What type of kid were you in high school?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Stinky to Stellar

I had an interesting weekend – was very busy – but nothing really happened that lends itself to full post, so I thought I’d write up some of this weekends events on the “stinky to stellar” continuum.

Let’s start with the stinky, shall we?

I had to work all weekend long – both days.
I haven’t had to work a weekend in forever, and boy did I resent it. (Geez, give a girl a cushy three-days-a-week job for one year, and she goes all mental when she is actually asked to work a Saturday). In an effort to have fairness in reporting, I should add that this meant that I only had to work two days last week and that I will only be working two days during this upcoming week, but it also meant that I saw very little of SRH and Zane this weekend. I happen to like both of those characters very much, so it kind of stunk up the place.

Kinda Stinky
At my all day meeting on Saturday, there was a woman – a work colleague - who doesn’t like me.
And I don’t mean “sort of” doesn’t like me. I mean, she has trouble looking at me without a sneer on her face doesn’t like me. And here’s the thing: I am quite sure that I must remind her of someone - Maybe the girl who got her spot on the cheerleading squad in 7th grade? - because I honestly have never had a conversation of more than 5 sentences with her. I just could not have said/done anything that would deserve the clear enmity with which she looks at me – or doesn’t look at me, as the case may be.

Because we’ve formed a sort of agreement, she and I. As long as I don’t make her acknowledge my presence, by greeting her for example, she doesn’t have to put a fake smile over her pained expression and pretend to everyone else that she can tolerate me. So it works out like this: She just pretends to NEVER see me, even when we’re in the same room for an ENTIRE day.

It only rates as “kind of” stinky, because although it’s uncomfortable, I somehow think that it bothers her way more than it bothers me.

Neither Stinky Nor Stellar
I met a bunch of new people during the day-long meeting on Saturday – several of whom have only been names on emails up to this point. So I’m meeting one such person, and she says to me,

Oh, Zany Mama, yeah. I know your name. I applied for your job, actually. But you got it instead.

Hmmm…wow…I don’t really know what to say to that. So I think I just said something about “better luck next time slugger” or some other such nonsense and made a quick exit.

Kinda Stellar
Sunday I spent all day with women students of a leadership program that my office is collaborating on.
I think the students are all really remarkable women – way more together than I was at 20 and 21- but I’m always really aware of how much older I am when I spend time with them. I haven’t been in undergrad for 10 years. (Yikes!) But as I’m talking to one of the course instructors, she says,

Zany Mama, do you mind if I ask you how old you are? I mean, I figure you must be almost my age since you got some of my references earlier. (She had referred to a Jem Doll, and I was the only person in the very young group who got it).

I should add that the woman who asked me was 25 years old. When she found out that I was 32 she just couldn’t believe it. In the sweetest way, she said,

But you just look so youthful!

Oh dear one, even though that is kind of a backwards compliment, I’ll take it. If you think I look under 25, I don’t care if you think that age 32 is old. I just don’t care -any affirmation of my continuing vitality is welcome and appreciated.

We took the students to one of those adventure recreation/team building type of camps –and it was fabulous!
I have only done something like that one other time in my life, and it was fun, but this time was just spectacular.

I really got to know the girls better, and I really pushed myself physically to do some of the challenges. As some of you may recall, I was quite injured during my labor with Zane - as discussed in this post - so climbing up rock walls and belaying for girls who are heavier and bigger than me was just a really physically empowering experience.

But the best part was the “Pamper Pole”. Although I’d never heard of it before, the pamper pole is a telephone pole that a person climbs using staples for foot and hand holds. Once you’re about 30 feet in the air, you maneuver yourself to standing on top of the pole – without any hand grips. Then you have to turn your body 180 degrees before jumping off to a trapeze about 8 feet away. It is just really challenging emotionally to make yourself stand up in the middle of a pole with nothing around you. (Again for purposes of full disclosure, you are wearing a harness. So you most likely will not plummet to your death should you fall, but it’s still really hard to jump out into the air with only four virtual strangers belaying you).

It was both terrifying and exhilarating – and I did it! I didn’t catch the trapeze when I jumped, but I made myself climb the pole, stand up, and jump out into nothingness!

It was a truly fabulous experience.

Overall, the weekend was more stellar than stinky, so I'm trying not to be too sour grapes that I didn't get much time with my boys.