Archive | April, 2012

Snoop Dogg Got Nothin’ On Me

30 Apr

I always thought it would be cool to be a spy and will admit to opening a few medicine cabinets in friends’ houses. Unfortunately, no one ever had anything like microchip plans or other valuables to sell. So, teaching and writing for me. Speaking of writing, here’s the link to my parenting column:

This week’s topic is covert operations in the familial sphere. In other words, spying on your kids.

Does Motherhood Suck? Depends!

26 Apr

When I had younger kids, I read a lot of parenting books. I stopped reading them when I realized the only helpful advice I’d gleaned was that children meltdown when they are with you because they feel safe. Knowing my excellent parenting skills led to behavior my kids wouldn’t inflict on strangers was cold comfort. So I started reading vampire books. Somehow, it just felt right to read about being literally sucked dry at a time when my children were figuratively sucking me dry.

It wasn’t until recently that I started reading parenting books again. Ok, it was yesterday. I’ve been noodling with the idea of writing a parenting book so decided to check out the competition. I wasn’t able to check out all of the most recent tomes; I had to put Bringing Up Bébé on hold. But I grabbed I Was A Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

I thought I’d start with I Was A Really Good Mom. Brief synopsis: Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile, two new moms, discovered that mothering is really hard. They decided that no one was talking about how hard mothering is so they took it upon themselves to “talk to more than 100 mothers” about how hard mothering is.

And what did those moms say? That they were shocked to learn how hard mothering is. One said, “I thought having a baby would be like having a pet—oh, this will be cute. We’ll be this happy little family.” I’ll wait while you say, “Oh, my god! You’re freaking kidding me.”

Done? Ok, now it’s pretty obvious to me that that mom never had a pet because anyone who has ever had a pet knows they can be as challenging as children. Of course, you don’t have to send your dog to college, but your child will eventually learn to stop peeing in the wrong places.

“Babies are just human pets” was not the most unbelievable thing I read in I Was A Really Good Mom. The most unbelievable thing I read was the mom who allowed herself to be quoted saying, “…there are some days I don’t even have time to pee . . .so I wear Depends.” The woman wears Depends so she doesn’t have to stop running around like a maniac. Now, I don’t know about you, but the minute I started thinking that Depends would make my life easier, my ass would be in therapy not a diaper.

As astoundingly unbelievable as Depends Mom is, is the fact that Trisha and Amy thought no one was talking about how hard mothering is. Really? Not one person saw their pregnant bodies and said, “Just wait ‘til that little one pops out!” No one rubbed Amy’s tummy uninvited and said “Well, little mommy, life’s about to change for you!” I’m betting Trisha and Amy were so surprised that motherhood is hard not because no one talks about it, but because they weren’t listening.

Motherhood is freaking hard. Sometimes it’s grindingly boring, sometimes it’s physically grueling, sometimes it’s emotionally draining. Any one with half an ounce of hubris would look at the mothers around them and conclude motherhood is not for the faint. But somehow, Amy and Trish and their interviewees came to the conclusion that their MBAs, former executive positions and generally take-charge personalities would make mincemeat of an undertaking that has laid low many a woman before them.

I think Amy and Trisha should re-title their book I Was A Really Good Mom When I Was Childless And Self-Absorbed. Then the utter amazement with which they discuss the challenges of modern motherhood—should I hire a soccer tutor? Should we potty-train at two or three—might make sense. And while I agree wholeheartedly with their prescription for a more manageable motherhood, I don’t for a minute believe that someone who wears Depends so she can get more done in a day is really going to chill out and lower her expectations.

Maybe I’m forgetting my own anxieties over motherhood, but I don’t really think so. Sure, I feel like a failure a lot of the time. My son gets hugely horrible grades in subjects he doesn’t like. My daughter, who weighs 53 pounds at age nine, thinks her legs are fat. My house looks like the Blue Angels did a low fly-by through the living room. My yard has more weeds than, well, than any other lawn on the block. I got involved in the PTA and I’d rather swallow Drano than do it again.

Just as the times I kick myself are many, the times I pat myself on the back are too few. I’m working, writing, helping take care of my dying father and still managing to keep my children safe and healthy and my husband (mostly) happy. Despite all that, I calmly and successfully handled a teen crisis. I even get out to run at least twice a week.

Yes, mothering is a fabulous experience and nothing compares to holding a warm, sleepy child in your arms. But a lot of mothering just plain sucks and when it does, a wise mother just sucks it up.

Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen: Who’s raising their own kids?

23 Apr

Nothing like grinding an axe, particularly when two of them–politics and adoption–come together so neatly. I just know you were waiting for me to weigh in on the Ann Romney/Hilary Rosen mess. So, here it is:

Death Becomes Dad

19 Apr

It’s the middle of the night. My dad is up from his bed, again. He does this every night, getting out of the bed for any of a number of reasons. Sometimes he just needs to pee. Sometimes something about his bed is bothering him.

“What’s going on, Dad?” I’ll ask. “Nothing,” he says. “I just have to get away from that bad environment.” I have no idea what it is about his bed that makes it a bad environment. It adjusts to make him as comfortable as possible. He can sleep with his head elevated. He can sleep with his feet elevated. He can sleep with his head and feel elevated so much that he’s almost in a fetal position.

Tonight, though, is different. Tonight, he’s not getting away from something. Tonight, he’s getting ready to go somewhere. He walks into the bathroom and washes his face then carefully combs his hair, the things he does every morning. But it’s 2 a.m., about four hours before he usually does these things. So, I ask, “What’s going on, Dad?”

“I’m getting ready,” he says.

“What are you getting ready for, Dad?”

“A meeting. I’ve got a big meeting with an architect.”

“Where are you meeting an architect, Dad?”

“Downtown,” he says, clearly agitated. Of course, the meeting is downtown. He went downtown to his office everyday for years. I should know this, he seems to be saying as he glowers at me. In his world, I’m the delusional one.

“There’s a meeting tomorrow, Dad. But it’s with your doctor. It’s Sunday, Dad.”

“Okay,” he says in a tone that indicates what I’ve said is clearly not ok. He throws his hands up in frustration.

Fast-forward two months. Dad’s in a nursing home now. His cancer is in remission. The medical kick in the teeth, though, is that he’s dying. Somehow, the chemo, the radiation, the nights my sibs and I spent tending him weren’t enough. He has dementia, pneumonia, urinary retention, leaking heart valves. He might as well have the cancer back.

I know my dad is dying because someone told me. I couldn’t figure this out on my own. That makes me feel stupid. Dying is huge; how can I have missed this? But I am a rational human. When the palliative care professionals tell us that Dad is not likely to get better than he is right now, I believe them.  At least, I believe them enough to tell them I believe them. Then I go home and do what I always do: I google “dying.”

Of course, the Kubler Ross stuff came up, but that’s not what I needed to know. Anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. I know where the anger is going: straight to my husband who gets to deal with me railing against whatever I am railing against at the moment. It’s never that my dad is dying. People die. Getting mad about Dad dying seems ridiculous; getting mad because my son did something bone-headed and my husband let him get away with it makes perfect sense.

I’m down with the denial, too. Dad’s not dying; he’s got pneumonia and he’ll get better. He’s got dementia but at least he thinks I’m my cousin, who has a vague resemblance to me even with that New Jersey accent. His cancer is in remission. It’s a beautiful day. Nobody dies on beautiful spring days, never mind that Mom died on a beautiful summer day.

Bargaining? Does promising myself to call more often count? Does taking the kids out of school to visit Grandpa count?

Acceptance? Getting there . . . and part of getting there is getting to know what it is I’m accepting. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I would mysteriously become paralyzingly depressed. Then, just as mysteriously, I would feel better. A lot better. Then, out of the blue, I’d be blue. A diagnosis isn’t a cure, but at least I know what I’m dealing with now. I’m not making it up when I can’t get out of bed. I’m not a stress monkey when I can’t get to sleep. The cycles make sense and the medication makes it easier.

Getting to know death—at least what constitutes dying—has me ticking off the items on the Diagnosis: Death checklist.  Eating less. Check. Sleeping more. Check. Seeing friends and family who aren’t there. Check. Pneumonia. Check. Getting ready to go somewhere important. Check.

I’ve read that many dying people believe there is something very important they must do. Not like, “Oh, I have to apologize to the neighbor for calling him a son of a bitch for years.” Not that kind of thing. Here is how Ulla Mentzel, of A Good Dying, describes it:

A man who loves to sail might ask us to get the map. The all important map. Don’t you know? It’s in the drawer over there.

A soccer player might draw a playing field with an arrow pointing outside the field. Getting ready to leave the playing field.

A farmer might tell you that she has to take the cows into a different field. The one over the hill. It is very important to take them. Soon.

I’ve said more than once that I’d rather be shot in the head than live the way my father is now. “If I can’t walk, can’t remember who you are, drool, wet my pants, poop in my pants, forget to put on my pants,” I said, “put me out of my misery.”

I realize I am a coward and I should have known it. I call myself a Buddhist but I don’t meditate regularly and I am frequently not in the moment. Still, I know that dying is part of living. I place flowers on an altar every week or so. They bloom, they fragrance the house. I leave them in the vase. Their petals droop, then fall until there is nothing on the stem but a flower head. I leave them on the altar. Finally, when they are dry, I take them out of the vase. The cleaning lady admires them when they are fresh, then advocates their removal when they die. But I know, now, that they were dying all along.

Desperately Seeking Search Terms

12 Apr

Photo courtesy Lucy

A while back, I had what I thought was an amazing and original idea. Ok, I’ve had a lot of what I think are amazing and original ideas. Have ‘em all the time, usually when I’m in the shower. Something about massaging my head with fluffy fragrant bubbles gets my brain going. But I am thinking about a particular amazing and original idea.

I had the idea to write a blog post about the search terms people type into Google that then lead them to my blog. See, WordPress, the service I use to host my blog, keeps track of the search terms that are bringing people to Snide Reply. Obviously, they do this for everyone who has a blog on WordPress, though it would be really cool if they did it just for me, wouldn’t it? Every day, I can look through a list of what people were looking for that brought them to my corner of the Web. Turns out the idea is not particularly original. Lots of bloggers do posts on the humorous, disturbing, and confounding terms inquiring minds want to know more about. One blogging friend did a particularly fine job with her terms, devising a search term test. It’s fun. I recommend you try it.

My friend gets some funny search term hits, like “the most beautiful chickens.” I wondered who might be searching for the most beautiful chickens and then I recalled that Martha Stewart seems to have an unnatural fondness for chickens. She has devoted entire spreads in her magazine to close up portraits of chickens. I know Martha also likes to surf the web. (Ok, I admit it. I have an unnatural fondness for Martha. This is how I know about the chickens and the web surfing.) So, clearly, Martha Stewart has visited my friend’s blog.

I’m afraid Martha won’t be dropping by Snide Reply anytime soon, unless she’s traumatized by a view of her dad’s penis. Since her dad is dead, (I said my fondness was unnatural) I’m pretty sure that’s not likely to happen. A heck of a lot of people are coming to me after catching a gander at dad’s ‘nads. In fact, that’s the number one search term for Snide Reply. Never mind that I’ve written about everything from childish parents to stupid songs. If you’ve been brain-scarred by an eyeful of Pop’s penis, then I’m the place to come for virtual bonding, since I wrote an entire post on my adventures in parental genital awareness.

That same post covered discovering my son in the act of self-abuse, though my son probably found nothing at all abusive about it. When it happened, he screamed, I screamed, then I slammed his door shut and we pretended nothing had ever happened. Apparently, that’s not enough for some people. Seen your son spanking the monkey? Trot on over to Snide Reply and see how one mom dealt with it!

It never occurred to me that I should turn to anonymous sources on the Internet when I encountered my dad’s and son’s genitalia. My “pretend it isn’t happening” strategy worked just fine. I save my searches for truly confounding issues, like where to find a running vest for less than $80 because I gave away the one I had with the Susan G. Komen logo on it.

On a lark, I decided to try one of the searches that have been used to find me. A lot of people come to me looking for advice on dealing with their sons’ monkey spanking habits. Since I think there is nothing unnatural about a boy’s fondness for said activity, I’m not a particularly useful source. So, I searched on one of the more disgusting masturbation-related terms used to find me. My post doesn’t appear until the bottom of the second page of results. But the first result is a doozy! At, someone wants to know how to “stop my son from masterbating at inappropraite times.” Apparently, the boy’s sister walked in on him holding a Barbie in one hand and his wiener in the other. I always tell my daughter that she needs to put her special toys away if she doesn’t want others to play with them. If she doesn’t, she’ll just have to shut the door and pretend nothing happened.

Naked Barbies featured in a post that brings lots of people to my blog looking for what to do about naked neighbors. The neighbors I wrote about were the best ones ever and the worst ones ever. We’ve had all kinds of issues with the worst neighbor, but his being naked has never been a problem. Mostly, our neighbors are a pretty well-clothed bunch, except for the pasty, paunchy guy who likes to mow his lawn shirtless. My “only Zac Efron should run shirtless” rule is hereby amended to include “only Zac Efron should mow the lawn shirtless.” Oh! And people find me by looking for Zac Efron shirtless. I blush when I think that people assume they’ll find a half-naked Zac Efron hanging out with me. Ok, I don’t blush. Let’s just say things get a little warmer around here.

Some people who find me aren’t looking for advice related to masturbation, genitals or nakedness in any way. I’m pleased to report I’m a source for advice on good songs to run to as well as Thich Nhat Hahn and the Naperville Library. People find me looking for Journey lyrics, family sayings and bad dad jokes. Someone even turned to me wondering if “you have to wear thongs with yoga pants,” to which I’d have to say, “Search me!”

All I Ever Wanted

5 Apr

Photo from LA Times. Click it for an interesting article about Passover charity.

Passover starts tomorrow evening. This means that I am in the midst of being too far behind in preparations. For those who don’t know, Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrating the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt. There is a service that is conducted at home. There is a meal that is eaten as part of the service. There is a booklet that is written and printed out with one copy for each participant. Obviously, there is a lot to get done. Oh, and I really should clean the house.

So, I’m taking a vacation from blogging today. But I have a lot on my mind and am sorting through what to write about first. The U.S. Supreme Court sucks. Rush Limbaugh sucks. Being bipolar sucks. Shall I write about all of those things sucking in one blog post or give each suckiness its own time to shine? Then there are the things that don’t suck. My dad is in remission. My son is over his dysfunctional romantic entanglements and back to being obscenely hilarious. He appears to have even learned a lesson or two. I am no longer spending weekends with dad and don’t have three jobs anymore. My daughter is glad Mom’s around. My husband? Well, he’s still tired and worried, so that’s normal.

Happy Passover to you if you celebrate it. Happy Easter to you if you celebrate that. Happy weekend to everyone else. Oh, hell, happy weekend to everyone. Why discriminate?

Say you want some evolution?

2 Apr

I thought the idea of evolution was pretty much established as the way species work in our world. But, that’s not what I found when I looked into the subject. Here in the United States, you just can’t tell if your kids are getting the proper foundation in this foundational concept in modern science.

Here’s the link to my Naperville Patch column on the subject.

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