It has been a rough Saturday morning — full of children bickering, children complaining, and children generally pissing me off.
Mgazi and Zaffron were downstairs, supposedly watching tv, when I heard a thud, what I swear was a battle cry, then a crash.
I hit my limit.
Me: GIRLS! <– yelling
the Girls: Yes, Mommy? <– sweetly, in unison
Me: Get upstairs! Now!
I’d like to say that they came upstairs, hanging their heads, abashed and guilty in the knowledge that had once again driven their mother to the brink of a breakdown. But no, they came up reluctantly, and loudly protesting the interruption of their television time with stomping feet and exaggerated sighs.
They stood in front of me as I ticked off the reasons I had had enough.
Me: I have had enough. I’m done with all the name-calling. I’m done with all the whining. With the yelling and arguing. I’ve had enough of all the hitting and all the biting and –
Zaffron: But, Mom! I only bit Mgazi one time! You can’t have had enough with all the biting if I only bit her once!
Recommendedwine: Did you know that wine may rot your teeth? I guess whites do more damage than reds because of acidity. Riesling is the worst offender. Lucky for me, I think Rieslings suck. So, I’m going to recommend a red today. Something very un-Riesling. I love love love Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir. Yum.
So, a few weeks ago I accidentally crushed an innocent snail and caused irreparable damage to my children. That was nothing. Last night I killed a centipede. A 5-inch centipede that I found in my tub. I had no choice. It was threatening my children (both physically and verbally)!
I feel awful. I try to avoid killing things at almost any cost. But centipedes are tough. They are scary and their bite is fierce. I’ve seen a grown man cry after getting bitten by a centipede at a campfire. He was in so much pain that he couldn’t eat his toasted marshmallow. (It turned out okay… that was s’more for me!)
Here’s how it went down. Got home from work. Children driving me crazy. I went into the bathroom to pee (and for some peace and quiet). A dark blob in the tub caught my eye as I walked by. A 10-inch centipede was curled up underneath the bathmat in the shape of an “S.”. I could see him because our bathmat is semi-clear. It used to be perfectly clear, but the plastic is old and mildewed and it’s discolored over the years. (Don’t judge me!)
Anyway, I called out to the kids, “Hey, kids! Come see what I found!” They came running and peeked into the tub. Zaffron, who is seven, decided that the insanity that was sure to follow was definitely not in her best interest and retreated to the living room to read some Junie B. Jones.
Mgazi, who is five, was intrigued. She smelled money.
“Hey, Gaz. Wanna earn a dollar?”
“Yes, I do,” she said.
I needed time to think. So I grabbed a tupperware container. This is my go-to tool when I have a creature to capture, be it cockroach, spider or gecko, tupperware buys you time.
I poked at the bathmat and the centipede didn’t move so I figured he was dead. Imagine my surprise (you won’t have to, I’m gonna tell you all about it) when Mgazi peeled away the bathmat and the centipede darted — no sprinted — no SHOT across the tub. I shrieked. Mgazi shrieked. And I dropped the tupperware, which bounced off the side of the tub, hit Mgazi in the forehead, ricocheted off the faucet and landed squarely on top of the centipede, effectively trapping him like I had originally intended.
All was going as planned.
Which meant I could pee. As I sat on the toilet, deep in thought, carefully crafting my next move, Mgazi interrupted. “So,” she said, looming over me with a hand on her hip. “What are you going to do about this?”
“I don’t know yet, Gaz. I don’t want to kill him.”
“Just use your super powers.”
“Honey, I don’t have super pow–”
“WHAT? YOU HAVE BEEN LYING TO ME? YOU SAID THAT YOU HAVE –”
“OH! Those super powers! Yeah, yeah, those super powers don’t work unless I’ve had a healthy breakfast and you know we were running late this morning and…” I trailed off. “I think we need to call Daddy.”
Russell was no help at all.
“Honey! Can you come home? There is a 14-inch centipede in our tub!”
“Kill it,” he said.
“I can’t kill it! I want to capture it and release it into the wild.”
“Our backyard is not ‘the wild.’ You need to kill it. Grab one of my boots and just get it over with.”
“Honey, I really don’t want to –”
“But, I –”
“Okay then… super fun chat. See you when you get home!”
I turned to find Mgazi gazing up at me. In one hand, she held a single, somewhat mangled and definitely damp kleenex tissue. Her other hand was upturned, fully expecting cash payment. ”Look,” she said. “I’ll take care of this, but you gotta give me five paper monies or I’m not doing it.”
“Oh, sweetheart. It’s so sweet of you offer. But Daddy told me I’m not allowed to put you in charge this time. Can we think of another way for you to earn money later?”
I realized I had to kill the centipede which by now had toured his 17-inch body all over of my tupperware… tupperware which I could never use again because of the ick factor.
Mgazi and I agreed she would be my back-up for 50 cents (to be paid in four dimes and five pennies – SCORE!). She held a wad of paper towels in one hand (for what, I don’t know) and a paper bag in the other (for me to hyperventilate in, should the need arise) and stood behind me at the ready.
I lifted the corner of the bathmat until about half was in the air and half was still connected to the tub. I carefully slid the tupperware imprisoning all 20-inches of the centipede to the middle of the tub, just under the center of the upturned mat. On the count of 23, one count for every inch of centipede, I lifted the tupperware container and dropped the mat.
Then I scrambled into the tub and stomped on the mat like a madwoman yelling the name of a different man that had wronged me each time my 3-inch heel hit the rubber. It was the most disgusting, heartbreaking thing I’ve done all week.
After I caught my breath, and shed a tear or two, I looked at what I had done. Thirty inches of centipede was smeared across my tub under my yellowed bathmat… which would never be used again.
Mgazi patted me on the shoulder in a consoling way. “Look,” she said. “If you want me to clean that up, you need give me a lot more money.”
Recommended wine: Did I have a glass of wine after that episode? You bet your butt I did! Manage a Trois – a California Red. Has nothing to do with the subject of my post. Just what I had in the cupboard.
P.S. I lied to you just now. I didn’t have a glass of wine after killing the 4-foot long centipede. I had two.
The 53 stairs leading up to my house are a minefield of slimy, disgusting slugs. Every morning, without fail, I have to dodge, hop, skip, and weave my way down the stairs in an attempt to not step on one of the suckers. I always make sure I have some extra change on hand, though, just in case. If I squish a slug, I can assure you I will not be the one who scrapes it off the bottom of my Cole Haan’s. Mgazi will do it. She’ll do almost anything for a quarter.
So far, in the ten years that I have lived in this house, in the thousands of times I have trekked up and down those incredibly annoying stairs, I have never ever stepped on a slug.
I did, however, manage to step on a snail.
Damn! Did I just make it down to the bottom of the stairs, all FIFTY-THREE stairs, violence-free, only to hear (and feel) the dainty shell of a snail crunch under my sneaker?
Please say it isn’t so.
Oh, it’s so. The children saw it all and they made sure I understood the full impact of my actions.
Zaffron: Mommy! What did you do?
Me: What? Nothing! Get in the car.
Mgazi [bending at the waist, inspecting the sidewalk]: Oh no, Zaffy. She is lying to you. Mommy killed a snail.
Tears immediately spring into Zaffy’s eyes. She’s by the car, with me. She can’t even see what Mgazi is looking at.
Zaffron: Mommy! How could you do that? He was just a baby!
Me: Oh for heaven’s sake… I just –I didn’t — for God’s sake, just get in the car. The snail is fine. He’s going to have to crawl away and find a new shell.
Mgazi [still peering at the glob on the concrete]: Nuh uh, Mommy. He’s killed. You killed him.
Me: Gazi, get in the car. Zaffy, you too.
Everyone climbs into the car and I think the episode is over because there is a short stretch of silence (if you don’t count Zaffy’s whimpering.) What was I thinking? There are never stretches of silence in my car. Short or otherwise.
Mgazi: Zaffy, you know that snail that Mommy killed? (Like Zaffy could have forgotten in the last two minutes.) He was crying too.
Me: I’m sorry! I am so sorry. It was a total accident. I feel awful, Zaffy. Mgazi, you didn’t see the snail crying. Stop trying to rile your sister.
Mgazi: I did. I saw his eyes. And there were tears coming out of them.
Zaffy: WHY MOMMMMY? WHY?
Me: Mgazi, seriously. You need to stop talking. I’m not joking. Not another word.
And we returned to silence… except, of course, for the sound of my oldest child’s sniffling grief.
Recommended wine: Do you know what goes great with snails? A chablis — chalky, crisp, and flinty, with a hint of earthiness. Try the 2007 Christian Moreau Chablis. You should be able to get it for around $30.
Okay. Not exactly true. I don’t love my flabby arms. But I’m trying not to hate my flabby arms and that should count for something. But my June “Big Thing” didn’t start out being about arm fat, so let me take a step back.
I didn’t do a lot of planning ahead for any of these big things. They just came to me. And I expected they would continue to do so throughout the year. So, I was quite surprised on June 20th when I realized that there were only ten days left of June and I didn’t have a “big thing” waiting and ready.
I wrote a quick note to Vincent Kellsey, the life and business coach who helped me become a firewalker, asking him for ideas on what my next big thing should be. He wrote back:
My first question to you would be: How many things do you need to do to prove to yourself ( or anyone else) that you can do whatever you set your mind to do?
When will you decide that it is enough?
He wrote a bunch more. Lovely stuff. Caring stuff. Intelligent stuff. But I got stuck on the first part. Why am I doing this? To prove something, as he said? When would enough be enough? It gave me a stomach ache to think about it, so, I did what I always do when I don’t want to think about something. I filed the email away in the “La La La” drawer.
Since Vincent was giving me the answer I needed rather than the answer I wanted, I moved to plan B. I took some girlfriends out for drinks for “big thing” brainstorming. And it only took three drinks (one for each of us, thank you very much), some fried calamari and a martini glass full of raw fish to come up with this:
Oh, ziplining scares the bejesus out of me. It was a good idea. A fear. A first. Something I have avoided in the past but actually would like to do if it weren’t so damn scary! (Don’t tell Russell. Back in 2010 he wanted to vacation in Costa Rica at an eco-lodge that had ziplining and white water rafting. I strategically steered him to Belize and an eco-lodge with canoes and tapirs.)
I could just picture it: whizzing through canopies of leafy trees, with the ocean on my left and picturesque mountains towering over my right. Problem was, Oahu has only one ziplining course and it’s over the Bay View Mini-Putt Golf Course.
Nuts. It would have to do because I was out of time. And you know what? It was a lot of fun! Check it out!
Fun, yeah? But really short and not as dramatic as I had hoped. While I was scared at the top the whole event didn’t feel “big” enough for a “big thing.”
Russell asked me how I liked it afterward and I answered, “It was fun, it was harder when I was putting my arms out, it was scarier. But then, halfway through, I just pretended I was flying.”
Even if it only lasted twelve seconds, it was an accomplishment of sorts. Maybe I could count it as half a big thing? I wasn’t sure and I was mulling it over later that night when Russell and I decided to review the video he had shot.
He did a admirable job keeping me in frame as I was zipping over the fake lake and paper mache mountains of the mini putt golf course. I was pleased with the footage and decided immediately that it was suitable for a blog post. Then we turned to the interview portion of the video… where he asked me what I thought of the ride. I looked happy in the video. Maybe even a little elated. I could use this for the blog too, I thought…
I noticed something awful. When I threw my arms wide to imitate flying, the skin on the back of my arms flapped in the wind like laundry hanging out to dry!
What the fuck was that?
“Did you see that?” I asked Russell, who stood there stupified, staring at the tiny screen.
I rewound. Yes! The skin on the back of each arm seemed separate from the rest of the arm as though it had a mind of its own. It didn’t move at the same rate as the rest of my arm did. If my arm moved forward, the skin below it hung back. As my arm moved backward, the skin below flew to the front like reverse inertia. The two parts of my body, that should have been one, were always at odds with each other. One going one way, the other going another.
Russell actually took a step away from the video camera and said, “Oh…,” followed by a slightly lower-toned “ohhhhhhhhh.”
It was horrifying! It was an affront to all the hard work I’d been putting in at the YMCA. (Damn YMCA.) This video was definitely not going to go on the blog!
I know I’m supposed to love my body and all, but geesh, that’s a lot to ask of anybody. If I put this video online I would not only be acknowledging my flaws, I’d be highlighting them! What would people think?
As the second half of my June “Big Thing” I present to you, my droopy triceps snapping in the breeze like Tibetan prayer flags on Mount Everest!
Nice, huh? You can see now why I slowed way down at the end of the zipline. My arm fat was acting as a sort of parachute. *smile*
Recommendedwine: Today I’m going to suggest you try the 2010 Windsock White Viognier by Fly High Vineyards in Jacksonville, Oregon. It’s bold and full-bodied, just like my arm flab.
So, I’m driving the kids home after school. Mgazi announces that she doesn’t want to have babies. (There is no context to this proclamation. The previous discussion had centered around Zaffron’s snack bar strategy at school. “Mom, I know I’m only allowed to go to snack bar once a week. That’s why I went twice this week. Next week I’m planning to take some time off!”)
Sooooo… Gazi doesn’t want to have babies.
Zaffy: I can help you with that.
Mgazi: You can’t help me, Zaffy.
Zaffy: I can. Just don’t let your husband, you know the one you marry, don’t let him put his penis anywhere near your vulva.
Me: It’s vagina, Zaff. But vulva will work too in this case.
Mgazi: Vagina, Zaffy. Not vulva. (She sighs like she can’t believe her sister doesn’t know the difference.)
Zaffy: That’s what I said. Don’t let a penis go near your vagina and you won’t get pregnant and you won’t have babies.
Silence. Seventy-seven seconds of it. I know this because I keep track. Silence in the car is precious to me and I savor every second of it. And usually about 50 seconds is the threshold that must be crossed in order for me to determine that a conversation is over. Fifty seconds and they’ve lost interest. But apparently this particular conversation has staying power.
Zaffy: But what if it sneaks in?
Me: What if what sneaks in?
Zaffy: What if my husband’s penis sneaks into my vulva?
I take a peak in the rearview mirror to see if she is serious. (I have a healthy suspicion that she messes with me sometimes, purely for the entertainment value.) A little crinkle has formed between her eyebrows. She is genuinely worried.
Me: I can’t imagine how that would happen, honey.
Zaffy: What if we’re in bed sleeping and it sneaks in and I don’t know it?
Me: You’ll know, babe. If it tries to sneak in you’ll wake up. I promise.
Zaffy considers this.
Mgazi: I’m going to adopt.
Recommended wine: No wine recommendation today. Too much wine and a sneaky penis can surprise your vulva — and we know what happens then!
You too can have conversations like this! Be it in the car or at the beach!
Enroll your child in OWL (Our Whole Lives), a series of sexuality education curricula for six age groups: grades K-1, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, grades 10-12, young adults, and adults. (Second and third graders are on their own.)
Mgazi has ballet class at her school every Wednesday afternoon. Every Tuesday night, I put her leotard and ballet slippers into her backpack in preparation for the next day’s class. To be honest, I’m successful at this only about 50% the time. The other half of the time I forget completely. This results in Mgazi having to take class wearing her school clothes and socks — something I know she doesn’t appreciate because she complains bitterly. Apparently it’s not easy to plié in jeans.
So, I had the brilliant idea of putting the ballet supplies in her backpack and instructing her to leave them there all week long. That way, they’d always be handy and I wouldn’t forget to pack them the night before class. I reasoned that she only wears the leotard for 25 minutes at a time anyway. She could wear it each and every class and I probably still wouldn’t have to wash it! Should I wash it? Of course! But do I HAVE to? It’s a judgment call. I chose to be kind to the environment and do as the hotels do — only launder what was left for me balled up on the bathroom floor.
My approach seemed to be working. Mgazi stopped complaining. I promptly forgot there was ever an issue.
Last week, I got a note from the ballet instructor informing me that Mgazi’s class would be giving an end-of-year “informal performance” at the school the following Wednesday. I’d been to these performances before. The parents gather in a hot room and proceed to ooh, aah, and sweat as their children skip, hop, run, and gallop, much like they do in their own backyard (without the aid of paid instruction). But in ballet they do it while pointing their toes.
I googled the definition of performance. It is an act of staging or presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment. What I was going to endure the following week can in no way be considered a performance.
A token for the 4-year old’s efforts
Furthermore, the ballet instructor suggested that parents bring a flower or token of support for each child. I’m sorry, can someone please explain? A token for what exactly? According to the note: for the children’s efforts! I’d seen other parents bring their children (and the other children in the class) flowers or leis or candy in previous years. I’d never done it. Because I considered it unnecessary. My child is only doing what she does each and every Wednesday afternoon from 3 o’clock until 3:25. The only difference is that I’m there to witness it in all its informal glory while sweat drips down the crack of my ass. This performance isn’t something she’s been working toward. It’s not something she’s excited about. There is no accomplishment to celebrate. Essentially, I’m giving my five-year old accolades for participating in a class that she asked to attend and I agreed to overpay for. “Good for you, Gazi! You attended class! You deserve a flower!”
Resentful that I would now have to purchase tokens for the entire class, I did what I usually do in these situations — I filed the note under “things to deal with at the last minute” and went about my day.
Tuesday night rolled around and I decided it was time to wash Mgazi’s leotard. I opened her backpack and found it filled to the brim with, as my mom would say, everything but the kitchen sink. I found head bands, shredded paper, three markers (and only one cap, not attached to a marker, of course), a squished banana, two unmatched and dirty socks (one of which was Russell’s), and last but not least, one single ballet slipper. There was no sign of her leotard or the slipper’s mate.
“Mgazi, where is your ballet stuff?”
“I don’t know.”
We turned the house upside down. Searched every little nook and cranny. We found the second slipper in a drawer – how long had it been there? We didn’t find her leotard. Evidently, it walked off on its own accord – probably out of protest of some sort.
“Mgazi, how long has your leotard been missing?”
“A long time.”
“Child, did it not occur to you to say something to me?”
It was too late to buy another leotard that night. I would have to leave work early the next day, buy her a new one, and drop it off at school before her class.
Argh in a bucket.
The next day, performance day, I rushed to the store and bought Mgazi a black leotard, switching it up from the usual pink. The note from the ballet instructor failed to mention how many children were actually in the class so I took an educated guess and purchased fifteen flowers.
I arrived at school early, some parents milling about, clutching roses and candy leis. I couldn’t help but announce how I resented buying their kids Gerber daisies simply for attending ballet class. Of course, I followed this quickly with a second announcement: they shouldn’t have to buy my kid anything either. A nearby father started laughing and couldn’t stop, which only encouraged me to rant more. His wife smiled but tried to hide it. A woman next to her was horrified by my brazen distaste for the whole business and shot me a glance full of brazen distaste for me. A third mom, whose daughter is in the same class as Zaffy, held her hands out toward me, Price-is-Right style and exclaimed, “Ladies and Gentleman, I introduce to you, Room 1-10’s Class Parent!” With an embarrassed bow — I’m a pretty lame Class Parent — I excused myself to deliver the leotard to Mgazi, tags still attached.
Mgazi’s teacher was surprised to see me enter their classroom. I quickly explained that I had realized yesterday that Mgazi had been attending ballet without the proper attire. She replied, “Yes, it’s been that way for a couple of months now.”
Ummmm. “Teacher, did it not occur to you to say something to me?”
She didn’t respond… probably because I only said it in my head.
Mgazi accepted the leotard without so much as a smile and asked, “Can I quit going to ballet?”
“No, you may NOT quit ballet,” I told her (out loud) and popped her on the head with the Gerber daisies before realizing that might not be my smartest move with the teacher still in the room. Shamed, I took my leave.
Russell met me at the performance space. No stage… just a dojo with no air conditioning and windows so high off the ground that any feeble breeze that manages to enter the room only floats around uselessly above our heads. After ten minutes of idle chitchat with the other parents (on Russell’s part) and energetic complaining to the other parents (on my part), sixteen children entered the dojo prepared to dazzle us with their dancing skills.
What followed was ten minutes of nothing that resembled ballet. But the children had fun. Especially when they found themselves showered with flowers and candy for doing little more than roaming aimlessly about the room pointing their toes.
Oh. I forgot to mention, fifteen of the children were wearing pink leotards with frilly skirts and matching pink ballet slippers. The sixteenth child, my own, the one who would NOT be getting a Gerber daisy from her mother, wore a black leotard that was two sizes too small and was so tight it strained to cover her bottom. I can’t help but wonder how many of the adults in attendance think Room 1-10′s Class Parent sent her child to ballet class wearing a thong.
Recommended wine: Today I’m going to recommend Ballet of Angels, a favorite wine of folks in New England. According to its website it is a bright, crisp, and semi-dry white wine with an impressive floral bouquet. I have yet to try it, but I find no reason to doubt the good folks of New England. I can imagine that a glass or two of Ballet of Angels will help ease my guilt at having contributed so heavily to my child’s growing sense of entitlement. I’m going to have to find a way to get my hands on a bottle. You can orded it from Suburban Wines & Spirits but I can’t stomach the $35 shipping fee to Hawaii!
P.S. I want to be very clear. I do not intend to insult or otherwise disrespect Mgazi’s ballet instructor. She obviously loves children, is extremely talented, and extraordinarily patient. I bow down to her.
The total is four. It’s the official and final body count – although none of the bodies have been recovered. I’ve investigated Mgazi’s head row by row, inch by inch, individual lock by individual lock. I’m proud to report I did not once give in to the persistent urge to scream while doing it.
Two: the number of dreadlocks that she cut in half. They now stick straight out of her head, like antennae.
One: the number of locks she attempted to cut out but failed. I guess she couldn’t get the angle right. Or maybe her fingers were getting tired. Regardless, she managed to cut through most of the lock but not all of it. The lock is now dangling perilously by 6 or 7 individual hairs. It’s only a matter of time before it gets caught on a button or zipper as she’s undressing and gets yanked out. At which time, in case you are wondering, I will have NO SYMPATHY!
Recommended wine: I’ve heard that omega-3 fatty acids can help fight depression. Mussels are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Know what goes great with mussels? Sauvignon Blanc! If your child ever cuts off her hair, be it her bangs or the dreadlocks that took you NINE WEEKS to put in, I suggest the 2006 Ferrari-Carano Sauvignon Blanc. You can learn more about this lovely wine out of Sonoma County at the Ferrari-Carano website.
So, I want to do one “big” thing each month this year. I want to make 2012 the year that I don’t let anything stop me. And when I look back at my 12 “big” things, I want to feel pride and accomplishment and joy. (January’s “big” thing was running my first ever 5K — and not coming in last!)
So, for February, I did three “big” things all in one exceptional night.
I walked on freshly broken glass — barefoot.
I broke an arrow with my throat – yeah, you heard me, with my throat!
I walked on fire – twice.
Many thanks to Vincent J Kellsey for being an incredible leader during this workshop that helped me see how fear can be turned into power.
Recommended wine: What? Are you crazy? Do you really think I’m going to recommend drinking alcohol when you are walking on jagged glass, breaking arrows with your throat, and walking barefoot over hot burning coals? No, my friends, no wine recommendation from me today.
Work colleagues came over for a little christmas party last night. The last group of folks left, laughing and chatting as they walked down our 53 steps to the road below. Mgazi and Zaffron were calling their goodbyes out our window.
Zaffy yelled, “Byeeee!”
Mgazi shouted, “Don’t forget your grandparents are dead!”
Of course, the coworkers that experienced this particular piece of advice being yelled down at them from heaven above fell silent for a few moments. Then they erupted in laughter and my friend Lisa said, “I think I just wet my pants.”
Zaffy called down to her in reassurance. “Don’t worry! It happens to me all the time!”
Recommended wine: I don’t have one. Anything will do really. I was so out of ideas (we were drinking SoCo and lime at this party) that I googled “best wine for a funeral.” Guess what? There is a funeral home called Drinkwine Family Mortuary. I kid you not. And guess what else? There’s a place called Goodwine Funeral Homes in Flat Rock. I don’t know where that is. But I do know where Buffalo, NY is. That’s where I grew up. And there was a funeral home near us that was called Amigone Funeral Home and Cremation. I can’t make this stuff up.