Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankfully, Thankful Thanksgiving is Coming to a Close

Is anyone else’s Facebook page filled with their friends’ daily posts about what they’re thankful for? Apparently it’s become an annual “Thanksgiving Challenge” that lasts the entire month of November. And at this stage in the game, even the most determinedly Blessed are straining to rise to the challenge. This morning a local acquaintance, a relentlessly cheerful Southern gal who has the most amazing ability to talk for minute after minute without coming up for air, posted that she was “thankful for the fact that both boys have their drawers full of socks and underwear.” Glory Be and Praise Jesus! Last week she was grateful for her dog groomer working in an “emergency groom” for Muffin, and before that she has been grateful for laundry detergent and rotisserie chicken.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Felonious Punk

What’s more fun than a Monday morning? Why, a Monday morning standing in a courtroom before a judge, dontcha know. I started off this holiday week with a trip to the Splendaville Courthouse, clutching a small pink piece of paper which I hoped would reinstate me as a law-abiding citizen.

A couple of weeks ago, I was actually not speeding, and therefore quite surprised to be pulled over by a Splendaville deputy. Officer Krupke had noticed my vehicle inspection sticker was expired (boy was it), and handed me a court summons so I could explain myself to the judge. I agreed wholeheartedly, delighted that he hadn’t noticed the (unopened) bottle of alcohol on the floor of the front passenger seat, which I was on my way to give to my friend in thanks for feeding us dinner. Meanwhile Phartacus and Slappy were full of eager questions in the backseat, asking if I was a bad person and if I was going to jail.

The next morning was cold and rainy as I hustled over to the garage which does our vehicle inspections.  I couldn’t believe I had managed to drive around for so long without noticing the expired date on the windshield. I blame The Mister entirely; how could he miss what was right before my eyes for months?  Apparently I had projected last year’s inspection onto this year, and between the license plate renewal and the oil changes and the tire pressure whatnot, I thought I was all over the vehicle maintenance thing like a duck on a junebug. Anyway, my karmic penance was to discover that the inspection place’s waiting area was an open air shed with a leaky roof. I had not noticed this feature during my annual summertime inspections, but I was pretty aware of it now. $16 and 10 blue fingers later, I had my proof of vehicular responsibility.

So this morning I turn up at the courthouse, wondering if Splendaville is progressive enough to have naked scanners that will record a souvenir of this fine moment and if it will notice the rubber band pant-waistband-extender contraption I have rigged up under my shirt. Thankfully it’s still backwards around here and there is only a walk-through metal detector and some grandfatherly deputies standing around. (I did have to take my cell phone back to the car for some reason. In case I felt like recording the fun?) The deputies have me write my name and the name of the officer who had nabbed me, and the guys all agree that this is “Officer Krupke’s Day”. I go down the hall and there it is, a real live courtroom with wood paneling and the state seal and the whole enchilada. I sit down on an empty bench and wait.  I don’t get a good look at any of my fellow scofflaws, as we are all hanging our heads in shame, but I do notice that the other perps all have companions. Not sure if they’re co-conspirators or just moral support, but The Mister -- who I’m still blaming for this whole scenario on account of he has a Y chromosome and should notice these things -– had to take Slappy to preschool for me.

After a while, the judge comes in and a deputy says “All Rise” just like they do on TV. (Sweet!) We sit down, and the judge says we’ll start with the rows on his left and make a line up the aisle. This is not like they do on TV as far as I recall, but I can’t say I’m disappointed to forego a solo gig up front in this instance. So my inspection slip and I are third in line. First up are two shifty little potheads whose neighbor narc’d them out to Krupke. There’s some back and forth while Otis and Cletus admit that they did have marijuana but something something (couldn’t hear that bit, dammit) and decide whether they want their drivers licenses revoked entirely for six months, or get a provisional license so they can drive to work but be on probation for a year and take classes and do community service. Without hesitation they opt for six months cold turkey, and they’re sent to get some paperwork that will allow them to drive home. And presumably, stay there and get stoned for six months.

The next guy ran a stop sign, and he wants to point out that he thought it was a yield scenario and couldn’t see the stop sign due to some other signs. Then he wants to know if he can go to traffic school but the judge says “nope”, just like that, because he went to traffic school LAST year and doesn’t he know that it’s supposed to improve his driving skills? So he gets a fine and a couple of points off his record… or on his record. Pretty sure it's whichever one you don’t want.

So now it’s my turn, and I’ve been running over what I might say in my head, reminding myself that less is more. I step forward, the deputy takes my pink inspection receipt and hands it to the judge, who states that I got the car inspected the very next day (I was hoping he’d notice that part) and that he’s sure I was polite and cooperative with Officer Krupke, so I’m dismissed. Dismissed! I didn’t even get to approach the bench or object to anything. And you don’t think I object to that, do you? Hell no. I couldn’t wait to be clear of that room full of yardbirds. So long, suckers!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shirley Show-Off and Miss Popularity Runner Up

Yesterday I stopped into the Porkly Workly for a couple of necessities on my way home from a little sacrilegious Sunday shopping. I ran into another former member of Mother's Milk who, unlike Braggy Bridget of the U10 Hand-Picked Undefeated Soccer Team, would probably have hidden behind an aisle like I wanted to, had we not had an abrupt head-on encounter. I would have avoided her because I find her somewhat odd and off-putting; she might have liked to avoid me for the very same reason, for all I know. But I suspect that a part of her behavior towards me is due to feeling self-conscious or -- gulp -- intimidated. I squirm a little every time I think about this. She joined Mother's Milk at a time when I was behaving in a way I never had before and never will again. My first year in Splendaville had been extremely lonely and difficult, and when I finally broke down and joined Mother's Milk, it had felt like a lifeline. I was desperate for friendship and something to do with little Phartacus, and I threw myself into the whole rigmarole with gusto. I quickly made friends with a woman who, by her own admission, loved high school for the social aspect. (Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!)  She was fun and irreverent, loved being popular and being in on all the gossip, and I eagerly followed her lead. At 16 I had been smart enough and confident enough to avoid this sort of scene, but as a full-grown woman and desperate mother all I could see was someone to laugh with and confide in.

You can never know how other people see you, for which I am endlessly grateful. I would NEVER want my super power to be mind reading. What I suspect is bad enough!  But I'm fairly sure anyone who met me at that stage thought I was one of those popular girls they remembered from high school. Ugh.

Anyway, I think that partially explains the look on this woman's face whenever she is around me: slightly widened eyes and a perpetual half-smirk. I try to be charitable and chalk it up to nerves, but as she chattered away I had to wonder if some of the smirking wasn't just the thrill of recounting what a prodigy she had birthed. I tried to look sympathetic amongst the Jell-O pudding cartons as she detailed the difficulties of having a daughter so brilliant that she had been called into a teacher conference and told her little Einsteina would have to slow down in math because soon there would be no one at the school qualified to teach her. That little third-grade Einsteina had tested at a high school reading level and even the gifted program couldn't address her needs. Poor Shirley Show-Off indignantly related the story of being told that she was doing Einsteina a disservice by not letting her have summers off school, when all they were doing was one hour of work a day... some math, reading, a couple of simple science experiments, a little Old Norse Icelandic literature, ancient Greek...

I get that moms are proud and want to share their children's accomplishments. I try to confine my brags to grandparents, and spare friends and acquaintances all the eye-glazing details unless they specifically ask. (Is your child a genius? Why, YES, since you ask...) Yet as Shirley Show-Off went on, it became harder to keep my mouth shut, until I eventually interjected that Phartacus was cruising through the dreaded third grade with ease. Why did I feel the need to say this? I know my children's strengths and talents (and also that things can change in the blink of an eye. What you brag about today may vanish tomorrow.) -- why did I need Shirley Show-Off to know it too?  I think of myself as someone who dislikes competitiveness in friendship, and I have distanced myself from women whose conversation reminds me of an endless holiday letter. So why did I have to chime in?

Is it because I don't like competitiveness, or because I fear I don't measure up?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All Hallows Eve

After a mere two months, it seems clear that my schedule this year has mostly sucked any interesting and/or insightful thoughts out of my head. I make two to three approximately hour-long trips to school daily, work part time from home, and have to make up lesson plans for the class I got drafted into teaching for free at Phartacus' and Slappy's school. Plus the usual homework and extra-curricular mom stuff that goes on. None of this is revolutionary in terms of what many moms do, but it has left me with virtually no time or brain power for reflection. Hence, blogging dearth. Expect this to continue through June.

But now it's Saturday night and my only goals are to eat pizza, watch questionable television, and catch up online. Last weekend was a different story. Sometime in early September, the idea of hosting a Halloween party for the boys sounded like a far-off seasonal delight. As October progressed, I spent days unearthing decorations, looking for green punch recipes, hanging paper spiders, downloading theme music, and so on. Last Friday was spent carving jack-o-lanterns, prepping food, stretching out spider webs, etc. Saturday was a whirl of scrubbing toilets, hiding papers, and all the fun things that go on around here when people are coming over. At dusk, the party room filled with Phartacus' and Slappy's chosen few, who bobbed for apples and carried on while the adults huddled in the kitchen for chili and beer.

Halloween party: check.

The next day I actually had to go through Halloween, which seemed somehow unfair. But I have to admit that I was curious to see how Phartacus' costume would go down.

Every year, Phartacus requires a costume that cannot be purchased in stores. While Slappy craves Walmart's finest polyester ensembles, Phartacus has a Charlie Brown mentality that I, in my foolishness, cannot resist, and so every October finds me hot gluing tarantula legs or sewing bat wings or figuring out how to make sure the eyeholes on ghost sheets stay put. This year, only a devil would do. You can find devil masks in stores or costumes online, but they are gruesome lumpy affairs, and Phartacus was to be an old-school dapper devil, the kind I remember from my own childhood Halloweens.

As dusk slowly gathered (I feel certain that the government officials who decided to push Daylight Saving Time past Halloween are child-hating sadists), I watched a stream of cars leave the neighborhood. A few might have been off to celebrate in other, more desirable neighborhoods, but I know for a fact that quite a few were the folk who believe Halloween is the devil's birthday and must be safely ensconced in church. So it was a pity that they missed Phartacus' birthday get-up, complete with red vest and tie, white dress shirt, black slacks, and plastic pitchfork, mostly courtesy of Walmart's dressy lads' section.

In recent years our neighborhood has seemed to be dying a Halloween death, with maybe five or six batches of trick-or-treaters, the rest presumably trunk-or-treating in some church parking lot, which is NOTHING LIKE HALLOWEEN because you are dressed in costumes, going from car to car asking for candy from sanctified trunks where they have definitely not been slaughtering puppies in pentagrams before handing out the Oh Henrys.

But this year there was a seven o'clock rush, which happened just after I returned home with polyester Slappy, who had the most ill-timed case of the shits I have yet to witness. Imagine only having cramps and the trots for the two hours during trick-or-treating. The injustice. Anyway, I brought him home, plopped him in the tub, and sent The Mister off to accompany Phartacus, at which point the doorbell started ringing. And kept ringing. Luckily, Slappy is five and unlikely to tip over in the bath, but he did need some help in the toilet and general sympathy departments, so I worked off a few fun-size Kit Kats running back and forth between the bathroom and the front door. I can't say I was unhappy about it, since I was pleased that business was booming, and it definitely livened things up from the previous Halloween when I stood out in the empty street fruitlessly hawking Skittles.

By the time Phartacus and The Mister returned, both the trick-or treaters and the bathroom fun had subsided, and a restored Slappy joined his brother in that time-honored tradition of candy counting and haggling. Phartacus didn't even receive any religious tracts, fruit, or Charlie Brown rocks. Score.