Yearning for learning

April 16, 2014 | Posted in Education, Family, Parenting, School, University, Writing | By

College lecture hall

I miss school. The learning part mostly, but the thermos of lemonade and Wagon Wheels were pretty cool too.

I’ve missed it for a while, but I knew things were serious when I started reading my daughter’s high school Geography textbook and bribed her into a “chat” about igneous rock formations and soil erosion. I was halfway through making a set of flash cards for conjugating my son’s grade four level French verbs when the kids staged an intervention and told me enough was enough. They’re smart kids and for the most part they get things on their own. As it is they rarely need my help with homework and my absconding with their textbooks is one of the only ways I can get my hands on “real” school materials.

More university  courses would be lovely, and I could go back to take a course for kicks, but it’s too expensive a hobby for now. I’ve tried book clubs for literary discussion, but almost no one wants to make flow charts about overlapping Gothic themes in contemporary literature and my “Come dressed like your favourite ‘Satanic Verses’ character” idea was shot down in flames, almost literally.

I just want to know more stuff! Knowing stuff is all I have! I love knowing stuff because stuff is super interesting and you never know when you’re going to need stuff. I am an information hoarder, where instead of cat fur and empty tuna cans, I want to know what comprised the basis of an ancient Roman’s diet and why does every episode of Frasier resemble a Shakespearean comedy and how the feudal system literally changed the landscape and what the hell does HTML stand for? These are some of the questions that run on loop in my head almost constantly, and as soon as one question is answered another takes its place. Reading is great and I do a lot of that, but there’s something very appealing – intimate even – that comes from listening to someone lecture on a topic they’re passionate about. One of my favourite classes in University was  “Rural Sociology” seminar. I took it because it fulfilled a requirement and honestly I had no idea what the syllabus would include. It turned out to be far and away one of the more fascinating courses I took because although at first glance the learning material looked dry – forestry, fishing, and farming practices in Canada – the Professor was so passionate about the material that when I scanned the room at the bored teenage faces listening, I wanted to tie all of their shoelaces together.

Apparently there are some intriguing and informative University lectures available on iTunes and through mail-order catalogs and I’ve also been thinking of doing a “Documentary a Day” self-challenge. This morning I caught the tail end of one on motorcycle gang culture in Winnipeg and it was giddy-with-the-learnin’-bug-goosebumps awesome. If you’ve seen a good documentary or read an interesting non-fiction book lately – no matter how obscure – I’d love to hear about it.

(Fires up the popcorn machine.)

*image courtesy of WikiCommons

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Unpaid Internships and Work for “Exposure” are the New Barrel Suit

April 8, 2014 | Posted in Education, Family, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, School, University, Writing | By

girl in a barrel

I am looking for work. When I am looking for work, looking for work is my work. I send the kids to school, fire up the computer, and then I go online in search of employment suitable for my experience and educational background. I don’t have high expectations. I would like a short commute or a work-from-home position; I expect a reasonable amount of courtesy in communication; and I would like to be challenged and given room to expand my skill-set. Oh, and I would like to be paid.

It is this last point – the “paid” part – where I generally run into trouble. I am a recent University graduate from a well-respected school and I have a decent portfolio and references who will tell you you’re a fool not to hire me. I am professional, I work hard, and frankly, I am a fucking joy to be around. I usually find several jobs per day for which I could apply. So why don’t I? Because they are unpaid. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Yep; they are “Thanks for everything; here’s your nothing” jobs. Great! I’ll use my non-existent pay cheque  to buy invisible kids shoes and some ghost groceries.

I can’t count all the ways these types of job postings state they are “sadly, unpaid at this time.” It’s actually funny in a lot of cases, because the responsibilities and qualifications are laid out and described exactly like a paying job – sometimes even resembling pretty intense, high-level responsibility jobs. The slam comes below the fold, after you’re hooked because this one sounds like the one, you guys! I’m not against internships of all stripes. I think internships can be a great way to learn about an industry, and time spent interning can be a great addition to a resume which also includes paid experience, and appropriate educational background. Networking and showcasing your talent is a good thing, but hey, why not pay people something for it? Even a pittance. Something.

If unpaid internships are offered as part of an educational program – say, a University degree, or college diploma program they are useful and often act as a springboard for a career in that field. Auto mechanics, welders, and other tradespeople often work between bouts of schooling, and they are almost always paid for their labour. Their wages may not be commensurate with their responsibilities at that particular point in their career evolution, but they can look forward to fair wages (hopefully) once they receive a trade ticket. If a company is willing to pay an intern “at some point in the future” for the same work they are doing now “provided they meet our (subjective?) standard” then PAY THEM NOW, JERK.

Summer internships and those specifically for students are sometimes unpaid. Okay; if they’re not full time then a student can generally work also, or perhaps they are also receiving student loans, etc. Because I am a writer, I have been searching the editorial/creative field for work and I am shocked – SHOCKED I TELL YOU – at the amount of work  I’ve seen which is to be compensated solely in “experience” and “exposure.” This no-pay structure comes through internships or because those seeking the material or content do not wish to pay anything. I was married to a business owner. I know how difficult and costly it can be to get a business up and running. I know that business owners often do not take a salary themselves until a profit has been turned. But I also know that not one single utility company, fuel provider, tax accountant, restaurant, cleaning person, maintenance company, delivery service, dog walker or liquor store will provide you with services and/or products free of charge for promise of “giving them a platform upon which their work will be exposed to hundreds of people.” If that were the case, I’d be chugging Chilean Merlot in a strip mall parking lot and yelling into car windows how this stuff is the best goddamn wine I’ve ever tasted so Shop at Bob’s Liq-R-Mart!

By comparison, I am “old” in a vast sea of debt-riddled new graduates. But the young ones can’t afford to work for free either. In fact, it may be worse for them because life hasn’t yet sanded smooth the edges of their hopefulness and they are still sickeningly full of optimism.  I have some equity and it is likely I won’t starve to death if I cannot find full-time work soon. Job-searching is soul-crushing at the best of times and I honestly don’t know how young graduates – kids! – pay their rent. I understand why so many have to move back in with parents and I really hope the climate changes by the time my kids graduate, although my daughter is headed for a science/math degree and no one wants an unpaid engineer building their bridges so she’ll likely find work. I don’t want to regret my English/History degree because it shaped my thinking and I call upon the analytical skills it enforced every single day. But when I am being brutally honest with myself I admit I’m tempted to visit every University Fair within a 50 mile radius and tell all prospective Liberal Arts students to “RUN FOR YOUR FUCKING LIVES!”

I am a decent writer. I have even been told that I am sometimes a pretty good one, and I believe it. That’s not hubris. There are a lot of things I don’t do well and that list is much longer than the one of things I can do. I would never apply to nursing school. I would never try to get a job as a school bus driver, or a server in a bar, because I wouldn’t do those things well and my exit would likely be marked by lots of flames and probably a lawsuit. I write, I edit, I social media-lize. I don’t posture myself as a Nora Ephron, or an Anne Lamott. I am Jeni Marinucci, and I would like to be paid.

___________________________________________________________________________________

*Disclaimer: I do have some recurrent writing jobs, so please, no panicked email from family members. I would also like to say that any work I post links to (or otherwise promote, be it through buttons on my blog, etc.)  I have been paid for or otherwise compensated fairly. I continue to be grateful to all those who give me a platform, and a pay cheque. I have – in the past, on occasion – provided second-run and re-print article free to various websites.

**Photo courtesy of WikiCommons

 

 

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How Not To Be A Terrible Parent

January 21, 2014 | Posted in Childhood, cooking, Education, Family, Health, humor, MamaPop, Parenting, School, Writing | By

Raising Happy Kids

Parenting is hard, and as I am finding out fifteen years in, it only gets harder the longer you do it. If you’re the parent of a newborn baby, may I first say “Congratulations!” But then this:  I am sorry to tell you that the days of being up all night for feedings and rocking will soon seem like a day at Super-Duper Supremeo Fun World Extravaganza Good Time Park compared to teenager problems. I’ll give it to you straight – you will love that baby always, but you won’t always like them. But that’s parenting – and why these tips may be useful – because doing the right thing for someone you may not even like is good form when you have kids. So hahaha, sucker;  it’s not about you anymore, and it will almost never be 100% about you ever again.

I make no claims to be an expert in the parenting field, and although my children are good, responsible people, I cannot take all the credit for this. There is something to be said for nature/nurture, and sometimes nature wins. I’ve spent 98.3% of my time thinking about my kids in one way or another since I found out they were coming, because they permeate every decision I make in some way. I’ve made mistakes; some big ones. I’ve even made “Walmart-underwear-aisle-blow-out-screaming-match-hope-the-video-camera-didn’t-catch-that” ones, but I’m also bold enough to say I’ve done what I think is a fairly good job ensuring my kids won’t be communicating with loved ones through a phone attached to safety glass any time soon. There are other”rules” too – like allowing time for active play, showing an interest in their schooling, and others, but the suggestions here are my basic, beginner-level ones, because if there’s anything I do exceptionally well, it’s meeting bare minimum standards.

Throw Them A Goddamn Birthday Party, You Lazy Ass

Kids deserve to be honored for one day a year. I don’t care if you hate all kids besides your own, chances are your child doesn’t. So haul your ass down to the bakery or mix some sugar and eggs together and make sure there’s a cake. WITH ICING. Hang some streamers, get yourself some ear plugs and go forth to Chuck E. Cheese or a bowling alley for two hours. Two hours. You can’t do that? You make me sick. If nothing else, it’ll be good blog fodder.

Teach Them To Cook So They’re Not Doomed To Life In A Take-Out Jungle

Knowing all the fast-food window staff by name isn’t cute at age 3, and it’s not any cuter at 40. You don’t need to enroll at Cordon Bleu or take a class at the local rec center, either. Open a cookbook. Watch the Food Network. Just make sure that by the time your bird leaves the nest they know a lime reamer isn’t for “adult play” and that a garlic press does more than make awesome Play-Doh hair. A couple of basic dishes will do it: a roast chicken, a pasta dish, eggs any way, and something on the grill. Bonus points for a traditional  native dish. Keep your culture alive, ya jerk.

Put Them To Bed Early. Like “Yesterday” Early

Children today are chronically sleep-deprived. Tired kids are cranky and irritable and not much fun to be around, so fix it. Take whatever time you think your child should be going to bed, and then knock it back a half hour or more. Sure, we all have good intentions of 8:30 bedtimes, but once you factor in teeth brushing, the seventh glass of water and all the existential questions sleepy kids ask, you’re looking at 10pm, minimum. Because kids aren’t stupid. They’re trying to wear you down so they can stay up later. They think all sorts of fun shit is going on after they’re in bed. It’s balloon animals and cotton candy spinning clowns as far as they’re concerned. They have no idea we’re just watching Big Rich Texas and dodging sexual promises we made earlier in ill-conceived “If you do the dishes, I’ll…” schemes. Pro-tip: Change the clocks. Knock ‘em back a half hour, and then make it a “no media” night. Then you can say, “Would you just LOOK  at the time!” and not be the bad guy. I do this all the time. My kids think today is October 17, 1976 – I’m that good at it.

Make Sure They’re Disappointed (This Won’t Be Hard)

Don’t fix everything for your kids. They need to handle some bad stuff if they’re going to develop coping skills. Let them feel disappointment and responsibility occasionally. You’re going to have to try very hard to not crumble yourself when this happens, because they’re going to cry and it will be tough. It’s hard to watch guilt tears because they are the very worst kind of all the tears your child will shed. My only tip to you here is make sure your bedroom has a box of tissues. Also, vodka.

Let Them Believe In Stupid Stuff Even If Hipster Friends Taunt You

Let them have fantasies and magic in their life, even if you think the things are stupid or pointless, like the Tooth Fairy or a poster of fluffy kittens in a basket. “Real life” is waiting on the other side of your front door, and it’s going to chew your kids up and spit them out. Then Life will use its own dental bridge to pick its last remaining rotten tooth – because Real Life is a fucking asshole. 

Keep Your House Clean aka Don’t Be Disgusting

I’m not saying you can’t raise lovely, well-rounded, confident children in a disgusting dirty house. Wait; I am. It’s pretty simple actually. Your house need not be pristine, or “Go ahead and lick the doorknobs” sterile, just pick up your shit and maybe don’t make them pee into plastic bags because they can’t get into the bathroom what for the dog hair collection you’re saving in there for “sentimental” reasons. No one wants a slovenly partner in life and if you’re setting the bar somewhere between “Hobo shanty town” and “Tonight on a very special episode of Hoarders,” you’re not doing your kids any favors. Respect.

Make Them Spend Time Alone, But Maybe Not In A Locked Closet

I don’t suggest locking them in a closet under the stairs, but make sure your kids spend some downtime by themselves. If you never let your kids be alone or with their friends without you, you are in for a huge nightmare when you’re just trying to get some work don…Get, out! I’m writing an essay, can’t yo…Sorry, where was I? Oh, right. Time alone. Yes, you need to mak…I SAID ASK YOUR SISTER! Sorry. If you don’t let your kid get use…Oh, for Christ’s sake! I’ll be back in a minute.

Show Them Someone Cares About Their Health Before It’s Too Late

I don’t care if you’re into natural remedies, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, or witch doctors. Maybe you prefer every modern interventionist technique available, whatever. Just take your kids to a health professional regularly. Get their teeth cleaned. Have a garage sale for a braces fund if they need the tracks. Go to the eye doctor, so they can see properly. Make your kid’s health a priority because no one else will ever care as much about them as you do, and if you don’t care, they’re fucked right out of the gate. Feed them the best food you can reasonably afford, prepare it the best way time will allow, and sit down to eat together as often as possible. Look, I’m realistic. My son once ate directly out of the crock pot while we we’re in the car. Life is busy, and health care is expensive, and taking kids to get dental fillings is horrible, but you do it anyway because you’re not an asshole, right?

 

So there you have it. Follow these suggestions as closely as you are able and at the very least you will raise caring, functional members of society who both seek and offer moments of joy to others. Maybe. Sometimes. Or not. Because that’s the thing about parenting – just when you think you’re doing everything right, -everything the way you’ve been told to and maybe even read a book or two with a friendly looking lady in a doctor’s coat on the cover – even then your kid will come to you and ask for money for a Creed concert.

 

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So long, Summer. When does your jerk brother arrive?

September 16, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Family, Parenting, School, Writing | By

We are squeezing hard the last of the warm weather in 2013 here. Where we live it’s often parkas and boots from October to April and most of the kid’s daylight hours are spent under florescent lights in a classroom like hydroponic produce. It’s dark and foggy and smells like dead worms and wet leaves and…for six months a year we live like mushrooms is what I’m saying. My son will play outside in the cold and snow, but some things are harder to accomplish in the gloom that is November in Ontario, and the glow from an iPod screen is as hard to resist as a siren’s song. I know iPods are great for some kids, and my kids use them too, but I hate them and I love them and I hate that I sometimes love them. It’s all very complicated and I’m pretty sure I’m over-thinking it but I paid good money for a liberal arts degree and so that’s kinda what I do now.

Last week I tweeted this, and people agreed:

Jeni Marinucci TwitterI was thinking of my son and how he looks after coming off his bike. We have a great “super secret” BMX bike spot here in town he rides almost daily. I don’t have the heart to tell him that his “secret spot” had been clearly been used for years; the trails are worn smooth and dirt hills built for the purpose of jumping are shiny from use. There are ramps and ridges built from scavenged or stolen press-board and someone’s old rose-coloured  rec-room carpet lines a particularly difficult jump. He and a friend “discovered” the spot during a regular bike ride and I’d tell you where it is but then I’d have to kill you.

I bought him the bike a few weeks ago for his birthday. His birthday was months ago but it took him that long to find the perfect bike and me that long to decide I could part with that much money for something that didn’t require food and a toilet. But when I did the math it didn’t make sense not to pay the same amount for a bike that I had for a brain-softening, spirit-crushing iPod. The bike is all black, right down to the rims and pedals, but he insisted on purple hand grips to up the cool factor, and four bike shops and three cities later, I was able to find them. Indulgent perhaps, but I’m a sucker for a wavy haired brown-eyed boy, and besides, more love for the bike means more time on the bike means more time outside. There will be snow on the ground here shortly and the bike will soon be living in the garden shed with a family of very territorial raccoons, so let the kids play, I say.

Kids BMX Bike

The Fun Maker

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Summer Mother

June 30, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Education, Family, Holidays, humor, kids art work, Parenting, School, Weekly Round-up, Writing | By

20130630-091515.jpg
It’s Sunday and I’m laying in bed next to my nine year-old son. We’ve just finished a serious discussion about him picking up some additional responsibilities around the house now that summer is here. First up, mastering the Keurig and bringing me coffee in bed.

One of my favourite things about the end of school is sorting through the pile of school work these kids bring home for our annual “Lunchbox/Knapsack/School Work Bonfire Extravaganza.” I sort through it because there are always some pieces I like to keep for our memory boxes. Except the math sheets my 14 year-old daughter brings home. Those look like schematics for the International Space Station, and I can’t look at them long; they make my head spin and they burn first.

I especially love reading their writing journals. My son hasn’t fully developed his “filter” so I often need to assure his teachers that I am not the world most negligent mother. And believe me, he didn’t make it easy this year. When asked by his teacher what his plans were for his birthday, he told her that his mother was “just gonna make me watch her baseball game and then she’ll probably take me to the bar.”

I assured her that our beer-league baseball games are most delightful to watch and the chicken wings at the bar are one of my son’s favourites.

But I’m hoping this note I found in his journal reassured her that I’m not entirely horrible at motherin’:

20130630-092654.jpg

Here are some other things I wrote this month at MamaPop

How Not To Be A Sucky Parent

Why 40 Being The New 30 Is Bad For Women

And this post by Kira about “single” parenting really resonated with me:

Am I a Single Mom?

I hope you have a lovely long weekend, with all the “brought to you in bed coffee” you can drink.

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73 Things My 14 Year-Old Daughter Thinks Are Bull$hit

June 7, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Education, Family, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, School, Television, Writing | By

Bullshit detectorI have a 14 year-old daughter. I am going to pause here for dramatic effect, and although I know you can’t see me, take this time to visualize me hanging my head and practicing deep breathing techniques. She’s a great kid (I have to say that, but she is really…) and while she doesn’t do anything “bad” in the way I did when I was her age, she. is. exhausting. FULL STOP.

Teenage girls aren’t exhausting in the same way nine year-old boys are exhausting. Nine year-old boys may require a parent to have stealth, cunning, and an unlimited grocery budget, but fourteen year-old girls require you to have a sympathetic friend with a similarly aged child who gets in her car when you text “ERMAHGERD LIQR STORE.”

To my 14 year-old daughter, many, many things all of the things are bullshit. This girl has an alarmingly low tolerance for bullshit of any kind,and while I understand that this trait will serve her well in her adult life, it does make living peacefully with her nearly impossible. And as you can see here, you may be best serve to avoid her on particularly grouchy days. Especially if you’re a sexist jogger with hairy knuckles who can’t divide fractions and enjoys guacamole. So here you go: (Note: I complied this list according to her comments during the short period between waking up in the morning and her crappy toast with crust and natural peanut butter breakfast.)

Things my daughter thinks are bullshit

  1. People who don’t understand math
  2. Book reports
  3. Reports of any kind
  4. Patriarchy
  5. Old toothbrushes
  6. Pantyhose
  7. People who don’t refill the milk
  8. Bras
  9. Rules
  10. Hair conditioner bottles that hold less than a gallon
  11. Stupid people
  12. Clumpy mascara
  13. Locked doors
  14. Dress codes
  15. Uniforms
  16. Fake pockets
  17. Telemarketers
  18. Slippery hair pins
  19. Patronizing tone of voice
  20. Snow
  21. Rain
  22. Anything that falls from the sky, really
  23. Toast crusts, bread crusts, DON’T GET ME STARTED ON CRUSTY ROLLS
  24. Heat
  25. Sweat
  26. Sun in your eyes
  27. Standing in line
  28. Homework
  29. Periods
  30. Boobs
  31. Knuckle hair
  32. Pimples
  33. Armpits
  34. The whole body; it’s gross, really
  35. Exercise
  36. Plain yogurt
  37. Whole wheat products of any kind
  38. Chores
  39. Sexism
  40. When the TV remote control is all the way over there
  41. Racism
  42. People in general
  43. Inconsiderate cyclists
  44. Rudeness
  45. Ignorance
  46. Toe socks, actually no; wait, I love those, I just hate them in theory
  47. The stupid TV show “Dog with a Blog”
  48. Pit bull (the singer not the pet)
  49. Not having a pet
  50. Seriously, when are we getting a goddamn dog?
  51. Pomegranate or grapefruit – wait; which one is the tangy one? JUST WRITE “BOTH”
  52. Slow scribes
  53. Unsweetened drinks
  54. *Guacamole (*who is this person?)
  55. Green foods except jello, and yes, it is a food.
  56. Chunks in salsa
  57. Overprotective parents
  58. Lying liars who LIE
  59. Excuses
  60. Arrogance
  61. Natural peanut butter
  62. Quick showers
  63. Pulp
  64. Early bedtimes
  65. Daily vitamins
  66. Lint
  67. Dust
  68. Putting away laundry
  69. Emptying the dishwasher
  70. Joggers
  71. Practice of any sort
  72. Short battery life
  73. I’m going to be late for the bus, MOTHER.

* Lest you think I am cruel or dismissive, I have posted this list with complete approval from my daughter. I asked if I could put her “beefs” on my blog and she responded thus: “Whatever. I don’t care if you put it on your blog. Blogs are bullshit.”

Have any to add?

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Twenty Four Days

June 5, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Family, Holidays, humor, I'm a horrible person, Irritation Level: High, Parenting, School, Writing | By

20130605-193754.jpg

I’m in the bath (don’t bother trying to visualize; it’s not attractive and my grout is cracked). I’m trying to relax after a sugar binge over the weekend has me coping with a three day headache. But it’s increasingly hard to “go to my happy place” with the heavy hammering and sawing noises coming from the living room.

We’re not under construction. I have not hired workmen. There is nary a DIY project in sight. This is alarming then, no? I should probably get out and see what’s going on but strawberry bubbles.

My 14 year-old daughter is home, but she is in her room, exhausted from a day of eye-rolling and the tiring work of judging a mother who seeks only to love her. She’s probably planning her third – yes, third – shower since yesterday. If this girl farts she changes her clothes and burns her bedding. So unless she’s sawing an escape hatch, it’s likely not her. I’ll check though, just to be sure.

The noise can mean only one of two things: a) a neighbour – no longer able to stand the sight of battered recycling bins dotting the edge of my driveway two days post pick-up – is building me a shed; or b) my nine year-old son has returned from his friend’s house and is doing, you know, “Nothing, Mom!”

There are 24 days until school lets out here. I have 24 days until I am eye-rolled and sighed into insanity. Twenty four days to find hiding spots for my hammers, saws, drills, staple guns, and all other items I refer to with a numerical system from 1 to 5 based on their injury risk; ie. Saw – 1 (Band-aid) Drill – 2 (Stitches) and finally Hammer and Nails 5 – (Get Comfy In This Sticky Germ-Crusted Hospital Waiting Room Chair.)

That leaves me just over three weeks to figure out how I’m going to continue to work from home in relative peace. I should probably start practicing how to maintain a calm and measured voice while still relaying urgency in the message “THAT’S A LOAD BEARING WALL!

Twenty four days.

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Vehicle

May 28, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Family, Parenting, School, Writing | By

SmileyBoyThey load into the car, and just like that it no longer smells like lavender air-freshener, but rather boy sweat and damp running shoes. I explain we only have a hour, so to save time I will order their lunch and they can go directly to the Bacteria Zone until the food is ready. But I want their orders now.

I…I…I…

One at a time, please.

Hamburger! Hamburger! Cheeseburger! That’s what I meant, too! But not baby ones! No ketchup wait I mean no mustard WAIT I MEAN ONLY MUSTARD Two hamburgers no one. No two. How big are they I can so eat two I want two but NO PICKLES.I only want ketchup. I only want mustard. And pickles. No. No pickles. Just mustard. And not the baby ones!

I am going to stop the car, let them out with my debit card, point to the Golden Arches and leave.

Can I have fries? I want big fries. I want fries, too!

You can all have fries. So three fries, then?

I don’t want fries.

Okay. Two fries. Drinks?

Root beer Root beer Root be…Juice.

So root beer, root beer, juice?

I changed my mind. I want root beer. Me too!

I know.

Me too now!

Three root beers?

Yes.

Three root beer, three fries…

I SAID I DON’T WANT FRIES.

Three root beer, thr…two fries, two hamburgers no pickles, one cheeseburger ketchup only, one cheeseburger mustard only.

I want fries now.

Thank Christ. We’re here.

Go play. I will come and get you when the food is ready and when I say it’s time to leave I MEAN IT.

Food ordered, verified, checked and re-checked. Napkins fanned, ketchup squirted, straws unwrapped and placed in root beer, root beer, juic…root beer.

They come and sit. They eat their lunches quickly, not from hunger but for greed of time, this brief reprieve from the school day. Sweaty little faces and pink cheeks. Soft jaw lines slowly hardening into the faces of young men. I am just the vehicle by which they get here:  I pay for lunch, enforce hand washing, supply napkins for spills they can clean on their own. Fart jokes, Minecraft arguments, Lego wishes. A small hill of wax wrappers from “not baby burgers” rises from the sticky self-serve tray.

My voice is not wanted or needed in their conversation, and at the sound of it they disappear like birds after a shot.

One comes back to drop a hoodie on the bench.

Aren’t you gonna eat?

I turn from him. I can’t meet his face, this crazy lady with wet eyes in a harshly lit fast food restaurant. No, I say. I’m not hungry.

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Choking on her dust

January 17, 2013 | Posted in Childhood, Education, Family, Health, humor, Parenting, School, Writing | By

car burnout, burn rubber, eat my dust

My daughter starts high school next September. Her grade eight teacher tells me she should be placed in the Advanced Program at high school – that my daughter is a hard worker, a fast learner, and that she retains information.

I hope they offer “Emptying the Dishwasher 101,” and “General Laundry Folding Techniques” next semester.

She does indeed have excellent study habits, and refuses to miss school  for almost any reason. I say this not to brag, but in the same way that I would tell you my son once buried our compost bin in 3 feet of mud and that I am 39 years old and need compression stockings and blood pressure medication– because it’s true.

Last night her future high school hosted an orientation for grade eight students and their parents. Bubbly high school seniors in black polo shirts with popped collars gave the kids warm cookies and a tour of the school while telling them what to expect in terms of uniforms, dances and clubs, and delicious hot cafeteria lunches. They told them all about study abroad possibilities and travel opportunities and how they could earn credits by building schools in the Dominion Republic!

At the same time, parents were corralled into the freezing audigymnateria where school officials in suits and ties told us how much we had to pay for uniforms, how much we had to pay for dances and clubs and lunches, and also how to begin the organ donation process so that we could afford to have our kids build schools in the Dominion Republic.

When the parent presentation was over, the parents of these intelligent, quick-learning studious children in the Advancement Placement program were invited to another room for further discussion.

I was almost late getting there, to that Advanced Placement meeting.

My finger was stuck in my purse zipper.

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Semantics

December 18, 2012 | Posted in Childhood, Family, Parenting, School, Television, Writing | By

Daddy's Home Comic StripI settled in the single bed next to my son. There’s a hollow in the mattress in the shape of my body, and when I leave the bed, he will roll into my spot and sleep cradled even in my absence. But I won’t leave until he’s sleeping.

I’ve been on “vampire watch” for months, as I have been every night since he saw a scary movie commercial on television. (Thanks again, Cartoon Network!)

Tonight his face seemed smaller somehow, younger and softer than his eight years. Lately I’ve seen glimpses of an older boy, but since last Friday both my children appear again as babies before me. I search for dimples in their knuckles.

I look until I find them.

On this night my son looked sad. I asked him if he was upset. He knows nothing about Sandy Hook, nothing about what happened there. He knows nothing about the 20 children who were killed – the 20 children who quite possibly slept with their parents still. He knows nothing about the 20 sets of parents who would do anything to further imprint the outline of their own bodies in the mattresses of their small children.

The flags at my children’s school fly at half-mast this week in memory of the dead. I thought maybe my son had overheard me talking with my 13 year-old daughter about the events last week. (If I keep referring to “it” as “the events last week” does it soften it? I don’t think so. But still, this is what I am doing.)

I’ve kept the television off and I speak to my daughter about it only when he is not around. Still, I’m sure he wondered why suddenly I wasn’t complaining about going to sleep in a bunk bed fort anymore and even suggested that my daughter join us.

I asked him if he was okay. Was there anything he wanted to talk about? Something he was upset about or had overheard and wanted to ask me?

He looked at me for a few seconds and said yes. He was worried about something.

“I’m worried that when I wake up I will forget that I wanted to put the mop head under my Santa hat and pretend to be Santa Claus at school tomorrow.”

It is not lost on me how lucky I am that I have a boy for whom this is the biggest fear in the world.

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