I don’t consider myself a snob of any incarnation. I enjoy food which has been passed to me through windows, music made from eclectic assortments of household implements, and clothing meant for someone decidedly not my size, age, gender or biological classification. Because if I can find a sweater in just the right colour, what does it matter if it was meant for a dog? Sew up the extra arm holes, or keep them for easy bathroom access. It’s all good is what I am saying.
But when it comes to potluck parties or communal gatherings where other people bring in food, I get a bit nervous. And by “bit” I mean “crazy levels of a lot.” I get a bit “bring what I can fill-up on and/or eat before we go” nervous. Once there I’ll only eat those foods which I am able to identify. A potluck is no time for surprises. Surprises are bad. No surprises ever, please, especially those involving Grandma’s famous grape jelly and brown sugar. Even if the first identification test is passed there are a few other potluck criteria which must be met.
Do I know who made this?
If the answer is “no,” then that food is immediately out of the question for consumption and I don’t care if it’s rolled in hundred-dollar bills and dusted with crushed diamonds.
Do I like the person who made the food?
No? Then no. Also, why am I even here? Get the kids out of the sandbox; we have better shit to do.
Have I ever been in this person’s house or seen their kitchen?
This is crucial, and can only be overlooked if you have one of those really strong good gut feelings about the person. If you don’t you’ll probably soon have gut feelings of an ungood sort. For all you know they could running a salmonella cat-shit lab in there. Did you know some people let their cats on their kitchen counters? CATS POOP IN BOXES AND THIS IS NOT NATURAL.
Does the chef have clean fingernails?
It can be tricky to get a good look. Try “admiring” a ring or asking about the bar fight that led to a particular knuckle scar. I hope the search comes up clear, because fingernails are a petri-dish of possible death scenarios.
Do they talk about how funny it was that time their kid sneezed in the frosting they helped make before offering you a cupcake?
Hahaha! Your kid is so funny and also disgusting, so NO. Here; have some of my famous dog-hair pancakes.
Does the food contain mayonnaise or have chunks of stuff submerged or suspended in other stuff?
You lost me at “may-. ” Not doing it.
Does the bowl “the stuff” is presented in look like something found in a dumpster?
All signs point to “Let’s go home now.”
I know what goes on in my own kitchen and sometimes it’s not pretty. I understand the “5 second rule” and I like to push limits so understand that if you eat something I’ve prepared. Things happen. I have children. No court would convict me.
People ask if I eat at restaurants and yes, I do. And yes, I know that what happens there is probably way, way worse than anything you could even imagine happening in a suburban home. I get it. It’s like my fear of flying in that you cannot fight an irrational fear with rationality. Don’t even try because my idiosyncrasies are pretty strong and carry weapons. You can’t win.
So forgive me if I give your concoction the side-eye and pass it by if I overhear you in the bathroom line complaining about how you got “hot covered main dish” and that bitch Joanne got veggie side again, and how she just “dumped three goddamn cans of peas into a buttered bowl.” I’m well enough acquainted with spite to understand how that probably played out in your house the day you had to assemble a fourteen layer casserole for people you don’t particularly care for.
We all have our “thing” and when it comes to potluck, I’m happy to wear the badge.
I have two children. They’re…well, they’re many things but the point of my post today is my son. He’s nine and has a name with letters in it and the word means something in Greek or Italian or Latin I’m not sure which but boy did we pick the right one for him. Other suitable name choices would have been “JustGiveMeFiveMinutesPLEASE,” “OhferChrist’sSake” or “IAmBeggingYouAtThisPointToGoToBed!” Anything in that family. He is a conventionally beautiful child. This is meant to trick you. He will have you with his pretty hair and his pretty eyes and his full lips and he will hug you with his lean, dry arms and he will squeeze every goddamn ounce of your energy and then he will make you thank him for the honour.
Today he needed socks. He needs socks every day because for some reason he puts holes into every piece of clothing his body touches. New winter coat? BAM! Sleeves ripped in a week. Fresh shirt? KAZAM! Caught it on a chain-link fence. Clean socks, right from the dryer? PRESTO! His feet shoot laser beam points of concentrated light, firing holes into the deep pocket of the formerly snuggly toe compartment.
Why can’t he find socks today? All the laundry is done. Every single piece of his clothing not currently on his back is washed, pressed (haha; just shitting you; I “press” nothing but my luck) and are tidily folded squares in his drawers and look like the small colourful flags on the front page of an atlas. His sock drawer right this very minute contains no less than 12 pairs of sweet-smelling boy socks. They are tiny and dwarfed next to even my lady socks. But all of these socks in his drawer are new, because as I said, he goes through socks like Charlie Sheen does girlfriends on a weekend bender.
“I don’t have any socks,” he reports methodically. I know this tone.
“You have many socks. They are all in your drawer.”
“But these are all new. I can’t wear these.”
“Then wear the ones you already have on,” I reply, pointing to his already swathed foot.
There’s a hole in the toe (OF COURSE THERE IS) but Jeni? Jeni no give a shit anymore. I keep his hair tidy, his teeth clean, his belly full of food, I provide social experiences and homework help and pleasurable outings and gifts and extra-curricular opportunities and a soft place to fall and a bosom to cry into and a lap on which to cuddle and hands to hold and I am tired. Hole-y socks no longer register on my parenting-rage meter. They don’t even move the needle past “Meh.” I. Simply. Do. Not. Give. A. Shit. If you ever see my ragged-footed son and think “What of his parents?” know this: I am a good mother but I have my limits.
But uh, oh. So does he, and these horrible, too-new socks are it.
“I can’t wear these ones because my toe pokes out too far. You threw away all the perfect holed socks and the rest in here are brand new!” So, too holey socks aren’t any good, nor are good new socks. He explains all of this in a voice normally reserved for those in the drunk tank or the alarmingly obtuse (Of which I am currently neither.) He says that “new” socks feel weird because they are too new and don’t sit right. The heel isn’t broken in and the toes are too tight and the cuff is stringy and there’s a weird thing in the bottom and…
I listen. I understand and I am sympathetic. I’m sensitive about some things and we all have our quirks, but after having one child who would wear, do, eat, say, or participate in anything I merely gestured at, it is with great surprise that I find myself – at 40 years 10 months and 20 days old – standing over a washing machine in an attempt to “break in” a load of tiny striped sweat socks for a pint-sized oligarch.
This post contains words but says little and is written primarily out of guilt, much like a birthday card from a distant relative
But I do like tradition. A few days ago it was my most favourite day of the entire Holiday Season. It was the day when I fling my Christmas tree onto the front lawn and yell, “Toodle-loo, MOTHAFUCKA!”
I love Christmas, but no longer wish to impale my feet on pine needles trying to turn on the television, and having my house smell like a cinnamon stick factory next to a pine forest was getting old.
A few days ago, my friend Katja asked me if I was writing a New Year’s post on my blog. At first I was like, “I have a blog? Oh, crap! My blog!” and then I ran here to make sure it was still alive. Really, this thing needs more attention than a naked toddler near a basket of clean laundry. I haven’t posted since before Christmas and the break was lovely. Not that I don’t enjoy writing – I do, almost more than anything else I do.*
*I don’t do much.
So Katja and some other Internet friends (not the kind who size you up for making blazers from your skin..I think) have been busy coming up with their words for the year. They range from serious to funny and everything in between. These are the words they will focus on and remember in their endeavors in the coming 12 months. While I’m not quite sure what word I will use for 2013, I do happen to have a list of words for the departing 2012.
- Hey, 2012! Go &%$# yourself!
- Excuse me? 2012? Eat $%(* and die.
- (Holds 2012 in a choke hold.)
- Hahaha SPITE
I let you know when I’m ready with my 2013, so I guess for now it’s just “WAIT.”
What’s your word?
Normally today I’d put up a “Tip Thursday” post, but there’s been a bit of drama around here and I can’t stop thinking about the problem at hand. Or rather, the problem at face.
This morning I found a hair on my cheek. Rather, IN my cheek.
A freaking cheek hair.
A cheek hair.
IN MY CHEEK.
I’ll take “Two words that shouldn’t ever go together when referring to women,” Alex.
I know that everyone has a little fuzz on their faces, and that there are bigger problems in the world to spend time discussing. I understand that children go to bed hungry, and blahblahblah I DON’T GIVE A SHIT I’VE GOT HAIR ON MAI FACE.
I am neither a man nor a beast, so why is this happening to me?
I spotted the hair this morning and brushed it away, thinking it was an errant lock from my head. Sadly, this was not the case. It was gray (because OF COURSE IT WAS) and it was glittery. It was at least 3 inches long, and I may save it to use as tinsel on the Christmas tree, if I stop crying in time to buy a tree.
How did it grow so long? Is it possible that it’s been there for many days, or weeks? OH MY GOD IT’S BEEN THERE FOR MONTHS, HASN’T IT? It took three tries to pull it out and the root was long. It still hurts and there’s a bit of a hole marking the spot of the struggle.
Do I have a horrible disease wherein I start sprouting facial hair while the hair on my head thins and grays? Are my vital organs suffering at the hands of this nutrient-life-force-sucking cheek hair? Is this my “Welcome to 40, Biotch” warm-up? I’ve got 2 months left in 39 and I’d like to spend them facial-hair free, if possible.
I mean, I love a bearded man, so maybe my prayers were misinterpreted somehow?
Is this a precursor of what’s to come? What can I expect next?
Give it to me straight, friends. I’ll be back to check in a few hours. Until then, I’ll be upstairs.
Updated: Uh oh, you guys. It gets worse. Apparently, MUCH worse. Let my friend Sharon tell you:
There’s a certain degree of freedom that comes with posting the day after a major storm event. Many people are without power and unable to read this, so we can basically say anything we want about them, because hey, it’s not like what you say on the internet is forever, right?
Grab some coffee; let’s get started. How about your sister-in-law? She’s a real piece of work, eh?
We didn’t see any major damage from the storm in my area of Ontario last night, although a woman in Toronto was killed by flying debris. I hope she died instantly.
Wow. You know things are bad when an instant death is the best you have to offer in the way of comfort.
The damage to some areas in the east is just heartbreaking. It seems like such a simple thing, but if we lost our maple tree I would be heartbroken. That’s where my son learned to climb.
It’s also where he learned that squirrels are territorial, and not at all the friendly woodland creatures their storybook representation implies.
Luckily we escaped power outages here last night. The power flickered, but didn’t go out for any length of time and at the first interruption I heard my son hightail it downstairs for the protection his sister’s company offered. I was in the bath, having decided that no one would help us should we need it if I greeted them in a three-days unshowered state.
Before I got in the bath I instructed the kids to stay away from the windows and showed them how to bypass the child safety on the BBQ lighter. I also brewed some coffee in case we had no power in the morning. It’s all about preparation, friends.
But it was hard to relax listening to the wind blowing through our backyard. It made a terrifying screaming sound as it pushed through the collection of broken toys and errant pieces of lawn furniture hidden in the wet grass. I had spent most of the day outside trying to get the yard storm ready and to prevent Tonka Trucks from becoming yellow missiles hell-bent on killing my neighbours as they took frightened dogs out to pee in the storm. The canvas gazebo roof proved to be a bit of a challenge to get down all by myself, but as the old adage goes, “Give a determined woman a broom handle and a broken ladder and there’s no telling what she’ll accomplish,” or something like that. (Bonus: I invented several new swear words. I’m work-shopping them this week and will get back to you if they get the go-ahead.)
I found Twitter great for keeping on top of breaking storm news, at least until the idiots with photoshop came a tweetin’. I’ll admit I almost bought the skyline ones, but you lost me at Godzilla in the New York Harbour. I had been following CNN, but not for long because I find it hard to watch now that they’ve changed their primary target demographic to “toddlers with access to the liquor cabinet.” I had been tuned in for only five minutes when the anchor informed me that “hurricanes bring lots of rain and big winds.” Well, thank you, CNN! I had been blaming the heavy rain on Republicans until your in-depth weather system analysis!
I did feel bad for CNN’s Ali Velshi, though. He had to stand outside in the rain and floodwaters all day, which must have sucked. Although being able to pee in your pants unnoticed on national television would probably be fun.
Wherever you are today, I hope that you are warm and safe and dry.
Or at the very least that you were able to get some coffee.
Today’s “Tip Thursday” is about laundry. I hate laundry with the passion of a woman who’s been scorned, is drunk on Shiraz, and with access to your private cell phone number. I hate it they way dogs hate cats, snow hates sunshine, and Republicans hate women.
I HATE IT AND EVERYTHING IT STANDS FOR. If it were a person, I’d punch it in its dirty, rotten face.
It never ends, and there are too many steps to its completion. One of the things I love about humid Ontario summers is wearing wet clothes right from the washing machine. You get a custom “to your body” fit and built-in cooling-mechanism. Plus, no drying or folding.
So, this week, in efforts to reduce our laundry load, I turned to my son for help. He doesn’t like parting with his worked-in (read: filthy) clothing for washing, and I’m sick of having philosophical discussions about “What is dirt, anyway?” with an ornery 8 year-old while playing tug-of-war with a disgusting crusty pair of tiny blue jeans.
If I follow his recommendations, I won’t need to do almost any laundry ever again. This should cut down on my household workload by almost 37% after you account for my daughter’s 432 Aeropostale t-shirts. So, if clothing or linens do not meet his “dirt” qualifications, I’m not washing them.
However, he can’t really tell me what dirt is, but he can tell me what it isn’t.
It’s not dirt if:
- It’s not dirt if it came from your own body. I’m not giving specifics here. Let’s just say if it came from an opening somewhere on your body, it apparently doesn’t count as dirt because “You said our bodies are beautiful, Mom.”
- It’s not dirt if it makes a mark smaller than a quarter. In essence, you can wear a shirt with 138 patches of mud on it, so long as their individual size does not exceed that of a .25 piece.
- It’s not dirt if it’s fresher than 24 hours. Fresh and dirt cannot co-exist.
- It’s not dirt if it was garnered in the act of performing a task requested by an adult. Chore dirt displays lack of autonomy and is therefore exempt from punishment by washing.
- It’s not dirt if it is food-derived. BBQ sauce, eggs yolk, jam, or roast beef juices are delicious snacks for later.
- It’s not dirt if someone else put it there. Sidewalk chalk up and down your back that you are not aware of because your sister was trying to make you look like a skunk because you never wash your clothes is exempt. It is also a good example of what I refer to as “the laundry wormhole.”
- It’s not dirt if you can’t see it from the front. All dirt on the back of your clothing is exempt.
- It’s not dirt if it doesn’t smell bad. (See #3 – “freshness” criteria.)
- It’s not dirt if there is an inkling of creative merit involved. Markers, paint, glitter, 6 pompoms and a Popsicle stick inadvertently glued to a sleeve must remain intact to preserve artistic integrity and to prevent accusations of censorship.
- (There may have been a tenth qualification; if there was I didn’t hear it. The smell of his laundry basket was too much for me to take, and I had to leave the room. If you have any ideas, leave it in the comments.)
These rules can be extended beyond laundry as well, and work equally well when applied to bathing or hair washing. And while I look forward to the day my son becomes a fully independent and responsible member of adult society, someone please point me towards this post if I ever consider eating dinner at his house.
I’m a budget savvy gal – more from necessity than choice, but all the same, I like to do things as cheaply as possible. While certain things are easy to cut back on, like fresh vegetables or dental care, others are harder to eliminate from a modern lifestyle. Hair colouring, for instance.
My natural hair colour falls between “deer mouse” and “dish water” on the colour scale, and once you add in some grey at the roots, and it’s a bit of a horror show. I haven’t bought make-up in months, and still use a roll-on deodorant, but I will fight gray hair with the strength and conviction of an army from someplace that has a really strong and convinced army.
Legal salons run by qualified staff can charge upwards of $100 for a good hair colour. If you’re like me, and instead think of all the Pearl Jam iTunes downloads you could buy with $100, then home hair colouring is for you.
But if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right. So use my experience, and take my advice. The public will thank you.
- First, put the booze away. Failed wine pairing? Cabernet Sauvignon and home hair colour.
- Don’t pick a shade after a breakup or other major life change. You’ll be tempted to go Midnight Black when you’re a natural blonde, or vice versa. If you must make a big decision to mark this new phase in your life, choose something without consequence, like quitting your job or adopting a baby.
- Pick a colour that sounds like something you’d either eat or sleep with. If possible, try for both. Example: Rich Chocolate Mousse? Check! Dark Mystery? Check! Yellow Puddles? Nooo.
- Don’t forget to do the back. Hey, it happens.
- Wear appropriate clothing, because you are going to drip. I like to wear the dress from my first wedding. If you’re happily married and love your wedding dress, wear it anyway. You’ll be extra careful because of the obstacle and probably won’t spill a drop.
- Plan ahead and buy a funky hat. Or a pretty hat. Or a crocheted beer can hat. You’ve saved at least $100 colouring your hair at home, so go on; treat yourself!
- Do not buy your hair colour from the drug store discount rack or a garage sale. Anyone who has 14 boxes of Clairol “Big Red” 344 on a folding table in their driveway had less than appropriate plans for it and you don’t need that karma on your head. Literally.
- If possible, colour your hair in natural light. I prefer the front porch. This also allows me to yell at neighbourhood children, and garner colour opinions from passerby. That’s called “multi-tasking” and that’s why I am awesome at giving tips. You’re welcome.
- Like any fun at-home activity, rubber gloves and Vaseline are a must.
- Double check that your timer works. I had to live with bright orange hair for a weekend once when I accidentally pressed “Side of Beef” instead of “Popcorn” on the microwave timer.
- Rinse your hair well. A fast food restaurant Pokémon cup and the kitchen tap aren’t going to cut it here. Let your kids use the garden hose; if you’re following my advice you’re already outside anyway.
Now go show off your new colour to the world! If you’ve observed my tips then you’re wearing a pretty dress and have a new beer can hat, so you’re pretty much set for any occasion.
I have a son. He’s eight.
He likes dirt bikes, welding, fire, olives, figs, coffee, things that blow up, making things blow up, watching things blow up, and talking about making and watching things that blow up.
He doesn’t like being told what to do, having baths, going to bed, or changing his clothes.
He is a creature of habit with a fierce, determined spirit that I need to be crush immediately.
Here is an excerpt of my life with this wonderful, frustrating, beautiful, stubborn, loving child:
Son, I did laundry today, and as you know, we are handling laundry differently in order to save some money. I have been trying to wash our clothes in cold water, but it isn’t working for your bundles ‘o stank. (We’re slang folk.) But hey; that’s okay. I understand that you’re going to get dirty, what with your important work of chasing your friends at school, filling your pockets with sand, and run amuck rabble-rousing. (See: slang.)
But I’ve noticed lately an alarming lack of underwear in your laundry basket. I checked under your bed, and in your drawers, and even behind the furnace. I used to hide things there when I was a teenag…well, that’s a story for another day.
When I couldn’t find them anywhere, I looked again in your top drawer and there they were!
Smelling of Snuggle “Blue Sparkle” fabric softener.
Sponge Bob and Patrick smiled up at me from their brightly coloured nut-pouches. I couldn’t believe that all of your underwear – every single pair, save for one, which I hope you are wearing now - were clean. But that can’t be possible because that would mean that you never change your…ohmygodyou…
Son, you need to change your clothes at least once every 24 hours. Ultimately yes, it is what’s on the inside of a person that counts, but if you have access to soap and water, then you should use it. Clean bodies are a sign of respect to yourself, and to others.
BUT MOSTLY TO YOUR MOTHER.
Because if I’m going to be held prisoner in your bed every night, I’m going to insist on some freshness happening under that blanket, okay? If I have to lie in an Ikea bunk bed like a prisoner in Cell Block Stinky-Shorts, and carry out Vampire Watch duty until you fall asleep, the very least you could do is attempt to make it pleasant for me, scent-wise.
Besides, God forbid you ever get taken to the hospital or suffer a public pants-ing, you’ll thank me for teaching you this.
So, I hope you understand, and now realize that keeping yourself clean is a priority.”
He looked at me, and I think he got it.
I’ve heard that “echoing” is an effective teaching tool, so I asked him, “Okay. So how often should you be changing your clothes, and most importantly, your underwear?
“I KNOW, Mommy. At least once every week.”
I wish he’d take a lesson from his 13 year-old sister, who showers twice daily and always smells like ripe strawberries and bad attitude.
To say good-bye to summer, we headed out on one last day trip.
I like day trips that include proximity to clean bathrooms, staying dry, and not floating in other people’s urine. Since these requirements are so rarely met at home, we were all on board. I voted for a quiet day at the air-conditioned library, checking out the latest in contemporary feminist Canadian fiction, but I was over-ruled. It was a record temp’s summer for Ontario, the kids were hot and sticky, and they were not taking it anymore.
Not even for a good plot, multi-dimensional characters, and controversial themes.
Due to a partial water ban in our area, we had to improvise most of our water fun this year. I tried spitting water from a bottle up into the air and onto the kids, but once the neighbourhood moms found out, they made our house a no-fly zone, and my kids were left to suffer.
Damn those helicopter moms; they ruin it for everyone.
So we needed to step it up a little. We don’t have a pool, and my kids haven’t agreed to a bath together since their cumulative ages were 6. My daughter suggested a water park. At least I think that’s what she said. What I heard was “Let’s go to a bacteria convention and lick hospital doorknobs!”
I can think of several ways I’d rather spend the last warm days of summer, one of which includes a major dental extraction. But in effort to take one for the team, I agreed to the water park. Both kids are good swimmers, and thanks to a combination of acting as though bread and pasta are lethal poisons and trying this crazy thing called “loving your body,” I was finally at a point where I wasn’t completely insecure about wearing a bathing suit in public. I consulted some cookbooks and Google to see what kind of picnic lunch best compliments water-borne Hepatitis and floating band-aids, and we were off.
But the day was not as relaxing as I had hoped. My first mistake was thinking that a 55lb 8 year-old boy with zero percent body fat could handle a hurricane-grade wave pool. The child is built from bone and muscle and as it turns out those elements do not float well. I spent the entire afternoon frantic, trying to spot his brown-haired head from a throng of other brown-haired heads.
It was terrifying, and every moment I lost sight of him I’d go through the torturous mental exercise of how I’d explain to his father that I’d lost his son “at sea.”
They should rename the “ride” “Kill Your Mom from the Inside!”
My throat was getting hoarse from screaming “DON’T DRINK THE WATER!” but I knew it was time to leave when the kids told me I had to try the park’s zip-line, a horrible looking contraption called “Face Drop.”
I’ve been on that goddamn ride since I was 32.
School starts this coming Wednesday and I think we are ready: new clothes have been bought, the backpacks are packed, HB#2 pencils are sharpened, and healthy lunch ingredients wait in the fridge.
All we need now is a good night’s sleep and a shower.
But therein lies the rub. Or rather, the rub-a-dub-dub, because one of my children doesn’t like to bathe.
I have three days left to reintroduce this child to warm soapy water. Soap has not touched his skin since the last week of June and that was because he accidentally grabbed a bar thinking it was white chocolate.
I’ve drawn a battle line in the dirt on his back and told him he’d have to bathe or shower the night before school starts.
Until now, he simply would not do it. Thankfully he’s had a lot of creek play and swimming pool time this summer. While those activities have kept his skin looking mostly dirt-free, I shudder to think what a microscope would reveal. I’ve tried all the usual bath tricks, including bubbles, coloured water, free rein with my beauty supplies for “making potions,” but he will not get in.
I cannot remember the last time he showered or bathed indoors and that can’t be right (or legal?) Maybe it was last Monday? Nope. We were out that night. Wednesday? No. No; on Wednesday we had baseball and were home too late for a bath. Thursday was laundry day so there were no towels, and Friday…well, on a Friday what’s the point of a bath if he’s going be making mud forts in the sandbox all weekend?
Is it possible that he hasn’t had a bath all month? All summer?
I’ve decided to not going to worry about it. We swim a lot, and chlorine is a disinfectant. Plus, he likes to roll in dirt, and I know in nature some animals clean themselves that way and I am all about nature. (I’m not actually; but I am great at self-justification.)
He weighs 2 pounds more than he did when school ended, and it’s not like he’s increased his food intake, because during the summer he subsists on peaches, snap peas, and frozen waffles. By the end of August he’s encased in a protective cocoon of sunscreen, bug spray and dirt. I’m glad that at eight years old his body doesn’t actually stink yet; I’ve spent time with older boys and they all smell like A&W onion rings.
I really, really don’t want him to smell like deep-fried fast food.
I also don’t want him to ever grow body hair, move far away, say something he thinks is innocuous but hurts someone forever, or marry a partner without a twisted sense of humour.
Today I stopped him in the hallway and sniffed his head. It smelled exactly how a boy’s head should: like garden hose water and popsicles.
If a bath takes that smell away, then I’m against them, too.