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Happy Anniversary To Me

26 Sep

“Dear husband,” I said, “it’s been a year.”

“No!” he answered. “Really?”

“Yes. A whole year at the end of this month,” I said.

“But what about that time our daughter had a sleep over and our son didn’t come out of his cave for hours?”

“Oh. My. God,” I said. “It hasn’t been a year for THAT! And don’t tell me it feels like it!”

“Well, then I’m at a loss,” he said.

Normally, I’m the one who forgets anniversaries, particularly my wedding anniversary. I got married on either the 16th or 17th of October. Never can remember which. So, whenever anyone asks me when I got married, I say, “Saturday. It was a Saturday.” My husband has the PhD in History. He remembers the date and rolls his eyes when I don’t.

It has been a year since I started writing and publishing Snide Reply. At the risk of sounding like a Holiday Letter, I thought I’d go through some of my old posts and update you on some of the more popular. For those who jumped on the Snide wagon later in its run, I’m including links to the original posts.

I started running just a couple of months before I started blogging. At that time, I could run about 3 miles. I am writing this having run 9 miles this afternoon. Of course, I can barely get out of my chair to hobble to the kitchen and refill my teacup.

I still don’t have an attractive website. I have a really cool domain name and I have a website. The two shall not meet in my lifetime. See, the website is totally lame. I built it myself when I had no idea where my life was going. That happens when you make plans and life does that mice and men thing with them.

I have a better idea where my life is going these days so maybe it’s time to re-tackle the website. To my endless stupefaction and glee, I am now a parent columnist. Me! The self-admitted queen of parental immaturity. Ok, so it’s only been a couple of weeks, but a girl has to start somewhere. Look at Jenny McCarthy! Her parenting qualifications are . . .what?  Oh, yeah, she posed naked and had a baby. Do you think T. Berry Brazelton ever posed naked?

The worst I’ve done is go commando thought the pharmacist who knows has moved on to Wal-Mart. Actually, I may be going commando again soon. And my husband had to skip the briefs at least once. Laundry used to be his responsibility and lawn mowing was mine. We tried to get our son to do the lawn-mowing thing because he hated doing the litter box thing. He wanted nothing to do with the lawn because it was, as he said, “outside.”

“Look,” I said. “you either mow the lawn or you do the laundry.” Ha! I thought, now I have him.

“Cool!” he said. “I love laundry! Laundry smells awesome!”

So, now my husband mows the lawn and my son does the laundry. We have realized, though, that having a teenage boy with ADHD responsible for keeping us in clean undies was probably not our best parenting move. Many is the time a load made it into the washer and stayed there . . .and stayed there . . .and stayed there. Our son has learned that laundry only smells awesome if it makes it from the washer to the dryer in fewer than 24 hours.

The portal to hell is still outside our front door. The dog is still insane. The cat is on a diet. So far, so good. He hasn’t broken anything out of spite. He may have taken a nibble or two out of the fish, though, which is looking rather ragged of late. The end is likely near, as evidenced by his tendency to swim sideways. I predict he’ll go to the great toilet bowl in the sky before the end of the year.

I’m still a pretty bad Buddhist, according to my kids. My son pointed out to me just a few days ago that a good Buddhist probably wouldn’t call the driver who cut her off a “freaking idiot.” I’m better about the cyclists who fly past me on the prairie trail. I no longer mumble obscenities at them. I am saving my obscenities for the people who are treating the prairie as their personal cutting garden these days. My daughter suggested I try out a nearby trail that runs through an equestrian center. I’m pretty sure even Buddha couldn’t keep his cool running behind horses, but then again, it would definitely keep me mindful and aware.

As my episodes on the prairie illustrate, I still have anger issues. I still hate liver, read crap and get jealous, too. But, I haven’t taken a serious trip to Funky Town in a while. My son is ok with “Spithead” and no one has puked around here lately. My kids are still pikers when it comes to sibling rivalry.

I am overjoyed to report that the shed never went up. The cosmos aligned in a gigantic “I told you so,” when my neighbor hired someone to survey the property line. I left the hot pink flagging tape which proved the line did, indeed, fall exactly where I said it did as long as possible. We found, in fact, that we have a lot more property than we thought we did. My neighbor and I have entered a sort of cold war, though. He no longer speaks to me and his children run like rabbits whenever I come out of the house. I’m thinking it just needs a little more time and a lot more of me being the nicest, most cheerful person I know how to be. Stop laughing; I can be very cheerful.

I’ve made lots of people laugh in the past year. I think I’ve made some cry. I know I’ve hurt feelings, unintentionally of course. Still, I’m more careful about what I write and how I phrase things. There are certain things I’ll never write, at least not here and not as non-fiction. But I’ll keep writing and I hope you’ll keep reading.

Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for a truly wonderful year.

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Siblings With Rivalry

29 Aug

I am mean.

Ask my children. They will tell you how mean I am. My daughter thinks I’m mean for any of a number of reasons. I’m mean when I won’t let her crash the neighbor’s family fire pit gathering. I’m mean when I won’t let her eat cookies for breakfast. I’m mean when I won’t let her spend her entire allowance on those stupid little Japanese erasers.

My son doesn’t tell me I’m mean anymore. Now, he uses more profane words, but I get the drift.

Maybe my kids are hung up on one parenting move I made, but it was for their own good. I swear!

We used to go to the pool a lot, almost every day, in fact. In Naperville, the big community pool is called Centennial Beach because they’ve dumped half a desert worth of sand at the shallow end. I would insist my children shower and change before getting themselves, and their sand, in the car.

My children continually forgot to put their beach bags in the car. Prior to leaving the house, I would remind them, very nicely of course, to put their bags in the car. Eventually, reminding them very nicely got old. They could remember their darned bags, I thought. I told them, “You are old enough to remember your bags. From now on, Mommy will not remind you about your bags.”

The first day of “get your own darned bags,” they forgot their bags. Two wet sandy children stood next to my car and expected me to allow them to ride home in it. I said, “No.” I found an old towel and a blanket in the trunk of the car and allowed them to wrap those around themselves.

The second day of “get your own darned bags,” they forgot their bags. Two wet sandy children stood next to my car and expected me to allow them to ride home in it. I said, “No.” They wanted me to get them the old towel and blanket. I said, “The towel and blanket are no longer in the trunk. They are in the laundry now because you needed them yesterday. You will have to go home naked.” They thought I was kidding. They were wrong.

All the way home, my son glowered at me, his hands strategically cupped over his naked boy bits. My daughter was still in a car seat, so had a little more coverage. She pouted, nonetheless. And me? I was doing my damnedest to keep from laughing out loud, all the while thinking, “I am bad ass! I am the MOM!!!”

My kids are nowhere near as good at being mean as I am. Siblings are supposed to be mean to each other, of course, and my kids have their moments. There was the time my son told his sister “I’m gonna kick your ass.” She replied, “I gonna kick you in da cwotch.” We all thought that was funny, even her brother. Probably not the proper response, but she was really cute acting all ninja-y.

A friend of mine says that her brother would wait until she was asleep, come into her room, grab her by the ankles and drag her out of bed all the way down the hall. We didn’t have much brother/sister antagonism in my house, other than my sister and me calling our little brother nasty names. He’s taller than both of us by at least nine inches, so we just call him by his own name these days.

The sibling warfare when I was growing up was mostly between my sister and me. We shared a room, probably a recipe for disaster. She was a neat freak; I was normally messy for a child. Ok, I was more than normally messy. I was a pig. Drove my mom and my sister nuts. Maybe that’s why my sister thought it would be ok to stick me with a pin. Or why, when we were in high school and had lockers next to each other, she looked at my outfit for the day, said, “You’re wearing that?” slammed her locker shut and left. I got back at her. One day I tickled her until she wet her pants, despite her screams that she was going to wet her pants.

My parents eased the situation between my sister and me by fixing up a downstairs room as a bedroom for her. With her own bathroom right next door, I thought it was really cool and was, of course, jealous. She felt like she was being exiled to the basement.

My husband and his sister went at it when they were young. One day, she was playing ball in the yard when my husband and his friends happened upon her. They grabbed the ball and played keep away from her. This was hardly fair, as they were four years older than her and she was only six at the time. She evened the odds by grabbing a big knife from the kitchen and chasing her brother down the street yelling, “Give me back my ball!”

The most creatively mean siblings I know, though, are my sister’s kids. They regularly insult each other, in a mostly affectionate way, of course. Primarily, it is my oldest nephew and niece who pick on their younger brother, calling him everything from an idiot to a diaper.

He gives back as good as he gets for the most part and specific instances are generally forgotten. He won’t forget, though, that when he was a little boy, his brother and sister had him convinced that he was from Mars and he was made of pooh.

He’s a young man now and most decidedly not a Martian made of doody. In fact, he’s quite handsome. Think Taylor Lautner, only better looking. That’s revenge enough, though his sibs continue to call him silly, insulting names.

I read somewhere that our siblings are far more influential on how we turn out than even our parents are. I like to think that the teasing, name-calling, pin-poking and knife-chasing are part of learning how to get along in a world that isn’t always kind. It’s Mom’s and Dad’s job to make home a safe, loving refuge. It’s our sibs’ place to ensure we’re tough enough to handle life outside that womb.

Puh-leeeeze Read My Post About Whining

14 Mar

I like to watch brain surgery. Really. I’m not being sarcastic. I am leading up to something, but, seriously, I like to watch brain surgery. My favorite brain surgery to watch is the kind where the top of the patient’s head has been taken off and the surgeon is rummaging around in the brain looking for a particular section that will elicit a particular response from the patient. The surgeon calls for the patient to be wakened. Then he (OK, or she) prods the identified brain section with his brain prodding thingy and the patient starts talking about some long forgotten incident. I’ve seen it lots of times and I still think, “Cool!”

I want a brain surgeon to open my head and look for a particular spot and then sever its neural pathways. The one I want him to find is the one that causes my entire body to convulse when triggered by that parental nightmare: the whine.

Whining slices straight through me. My entire body contracts, my eyes squinch, my brain crackles. I will do anything to make the noise cease. Some people can’t stand fingernails on a chalkboard. Some can’t stand ringing telephones. I can’t stand to hear the sound of whining children. This is a problem. I have children.

I don’t recall whining being a huge problem with my son. He wasn’t a particularly whiny kid but all kids have something they do that is completely and utterly obnoxious. My son’s obnoxiousness was physical. He liked to hang on people. Literally. We knew it was annoying, but we never tried to stop him. The then-current parenting fad was logical consequences. The logical consequence of our son hanging on people was that they would be annoyed with him and tell him so. They did. He didn’t care. The logical consequence of our attempts at logical parenting was that lots of people thought we were indulgent parents afraid to discipline our child. Who? Us?

Our daughter is the one who makes me want a lobotomy. Like many an eight-year-old, she is a charming child. She is beautiful and delicate. She is bashful around strangers. Her teachers report that she is popular, helpful, considerate and kind.

These people have never denied her a thing. I know the monster that lurks within her. I have told her, “No.” I know the keening banshee that lies beneath her placid exterior, the one who comes out to play when the Empress is thwarted.

A typical exchange might happen at breakfast. My daughter will say, “I know you’re going to say ‘no’, but can I have sugar cookies?” I will ask, “Have you had something healthy?” “No,” she will say, “but you said I could have them yesterday and I didn’t eat them then.” I will remind her that yesterday she asked to eat the cookies after she had eaten something healthy.

“You can have the cookies after you eat your bagel and cream cheese.”

“But I don’t want the bagel and cream cheese.”

“You asked for a bagel and cream cheese. You will have to get your own breakfast if you don’t want what I made you.”

“Ok. I’ll eat the cookies.”

“No, you may not eat the cookies until you’ve eaten the bagel and cream cheese.” By now, the pre-whine tone has entered her voice. I can feel the tension building in my toes.

“But I don’t want the bagel and cream cheese.”

“Then get your self something else that’s healthy.”

“You’re supposed to make my breakfast! I’m just a little girl!” She is now in full-on whine. I am resolved to remain tough. She is my little Zen master and I will not rise to her call to chaos.

“You know the rule. If you don’t eat what Mommy makes, you make your own breakfast.”

“Fine! I’m having the coo. . .” Before she can say “. . .kies,” I say, “No, we talked about this. You may not have the cookies. You must eat something healthy first.” I can feel myself slipping. The knife-edge of her whine has sliced my brain in two.

“You interruuuuuuuuuuupted MEEEEEEEEEEE,” she wails. “I’m trying to talk and you interrupted meeeeeeee!  You always do that! I’m trying and trying to explain to you and you interuuuuupt meeeeeee!”

And she has me. I cave.

“Fine! Eat the cookies!” I say, thinking I would probably let her eat glass at this point if she would just stop whining.

I don’t always cave in. Sometimes I hang tough. I remember that she is acting, that she can turn the tantrum off at will and that I have proof.

Our children do nothing together but bicker. We spend lots of money on therapy so that they will learn how to do something other than bicker. After two years, they are able to tolerate playing video games together for about 20 minutes, in the therapist’s office. Progress.

One night at dinner, our son was lobbying hard for some electronic or musical hundred-dollar-plus gizmo. Probably a Les Paul, but maybe a 40,000-gigabyte iPod Touch. Whatever it was, he was pushing with all his considerable negotiating talent. His father and I were resisting mightily. We were winning. Then, our daughter started whining. The whine turned to a wail. She was sobbing, tears were falling down her cheeks. All conversation stopped. We turned to her. “Sweetie,” her father said. “What’s wrong?” When she had all of our attention, she abruptly stopped wailing, looked at us and said, “Now will you give him what he wants?”

We did not give him what he wants. But, while condemning her methods, we applauded her solidarity with her brother.

There’s not much evidence that our daughter will leave the League of Fine Whiners any time soon. Why would she? It’s the most effective weapon in her arsenal. She may even be recruiting her brother. He has begun using whining as a tool to achieve his desires. So far, he does it playfully and it’s really rather amusing to see him smoosh his very teen-aged, semi-bearded face into childish pleading. He even holds his hands clasped together and gives me puppy dog eyes, while saying, “Pweeze, Mommy.” It’s ridiculously endearing. The first sign of serious whinery, though and I’m headed for the nearest neurosurgeon.

Green Eyed Lady

24 Jan

I wasn’t particularly well liked as a child. I was a geek. While other children were outside playing, I was inside reading the encyclopedia. I particularly liked the entries on dogs and flowers, but I read just about every page. I didn’t leave it at that though. I assumed all of the children were reading the encyclopedia when they weren’t outside. I actually told other children that I read the encyclopedia and then I told them what I had learned. I quickly discovered that the other children were not reading the encyclopedia. Every time I cried on my mother’s shoulder about the other children’s derision, my mother would say the same thing. “Oh, honey. They’re just jealous.” Jealous? Of me? The encyclopedia-reading know-it-all? “Could it possibly be true?” I thought.

Well, of course it wasn’t true. The children were unkind to me because I was an insufferable know-it-all. By the time I was a tween, I had learned how to pretend to like frosted lip gloss and Carly Simon songs, but the jealousy seed was sewn. Other girls took to bell-bottoms and blush like ducklings to water. I never managed to feel as comfortable in the teen uniform of my time as I did sitting in the family room, reading the encyclopedia, imagining all of the other girls jealous of my set of World Books.

Perhaps my parents’ insistence on treating each of their children equally fed the jealous monster within me. Every year at Christmas, my mother would carefully add up how much money she had spent on each of us, then would buy more presents for whoever had been slighted. When she was sure she had spent equal amounts of money on each of us, she would lay the booty out and make sure that the equality was evident. If it looked like one of us was getting more than the others, the present parity process would begin anew.

We became accustomed to things being equal at our house. If one of us got something, all of us got something. This extended to privileges, too. It started to breakdown as we got older though. I remember my sister being incensed when I was allowed to wear pantyhose in fifth grade. Technically, the hose in question were sheer pale-pink tights, but my sister saw “pantyhose.” Since she wasn’t allowed to wear hose in fifth grade, she was not going to put up with me wearing hose in fifth grade.

Many years later, as an adult, I recall asking for a Cuisinart for Christmas and being told that it was too expensive. Just months later, my parents bought my sister and her husband a dishwasher for their new home. I was not gracious. I believe I yelled something like, “She gets a dishwasher? I can’t have a Cuisinart and she gets a dishwasher?” in the middle of the Polk Brothers sales floor. I got a Cuisinart for Christmas the following year. I still have it and it still works and I’m still kind of ashamed of how I got it.

Though I’m older, I have retained my jealous ways. It’s a good thing, then, that my best friend claims not to envy others. She says she is truly happy for other people when good fortune smiles upon them. Of course, I hate her for it. She knows I hate her for having a lake cottage, too. When she and her husband bought the cottage, I said something like, “Wow, that’s so great!” but I was thinking, “Where’s my lake cottage? Why does she get a lake cottage?” I realize that I should have been thinking, “Cool! My best friend owns a lake cottage! That’s so great for her,” immediately followed by “Maybe I can stay there for free some day!”

I think my friend sometimes pretends she’s jealous of me so that I won’t feel so bad. When we moved to Naperville, we knew only one other family here. She would call me and, if she got the answering machine, accuse me of being out having fun with my new best friends. When I tell her that my son has called me a really nasty name and I have taken away his wireless mouse for a month, she’ll tell me that her daughter has called her a really nasty name and she has taken away her laptop for a month. She’s a good friend.

There is some evidence that I may be getting better at handling my jealous nature. I used to be so jealous of some celebrity that I couldn’t stand to look at her. I can’t remember who it was now. My sister, I recall though, can’t stand Demi Moore. I understand her animosity. You’ve had three kids, Demi, and you want me to believe you haven’t had any work done? Honey, you’ve had more work done than a Chicago tollway in the summer.

Lots of people hate Angelina Jolie because she’s beautiful, she has a beautiful lover, they adopted beautiful kids and made some beautiful ones, too. I can’t hate her, though. Look at me, people! I married an older man. I have a gorgeous daughter adopted from China. My husband and I made a beautiful boy together. Ok, so I’m not the most beautiful woman in the world and my husband isn’t Brad Pitt. Still, Angie and I have a lot in common. She hates Jennifer Aniston, too.

Throughout my life, jealousy has been my constant companion. Sometimes, she’s just hanging around the edges and I’ll get a little wistful over someone’s good fortune. Other times, she’s pulled up a rocking chair and is goading me into a great green funk. I’ve come to accept it.

Things have been pretty quiet on the Green Line of my life lately, but I see a storm on the horizon. Just the other day, a friend chatted me up on Facebook and let it drop that she was typing on her laptop poolside in Mexico. I’m shivering in Chicago and she’s lapping up the sunshine south of the border. The last emerald straw just may be the email I got from my best friend the same day, though. “Do you hate me?” it was titled. What, I thought, could she have done to make me hate her? The message was signed, “sent from my iPad.”

Mendacity

8 Nov

When my son was eight, he and I were cuddled up in bed reading or watching TV or something. I don’t remember exactly what we were doing, but I’ll never forget the conversation.

“Mom,” he said. “Will you tell me the truth about something?”

“Well, yes,” I said, hoping he didn’t ask a question I would have to lie to answer.

“Even if you think it will hurt my feelings?”

“Yes, of course,” I said, crossing my fingers.

“Mom,” he said, “is there a Santa Claus or do you and Dad buy the presents?”

Whew, I thought. Nothing about sex.

“Are you sure you want to know?” I asked.

“Yes, just tell me.”

I swallowed hard.

“Dad and I do the presents.” He stayed still in my arms, head tucked against the soft spot just under my shoulder. He sighed.

“That’s what I thought.” We cuddled for a little while longer.

That September, we went to China. We came home with a little girl. Not too long afterward, I started preparing for Christmas.

“Pretty soon,” I said to my daughter, “it will be Christmas. Santa Claus is going to come to our house to bring you toys. Won’t that be fun?”

My son happened to be passing through the room. He stopped, looked at me and said, “So, you’re going to lie to her, too?” We lied to her for seven years.

This year, my daughter turned eight. She wanted the truth.

“Mom, is there a Santa Claus?”

“Why do you want to know,” I said, expecting her to tell me she’d had it with the years of lying and deceit. “Did someone tell you there isn’t?” Like your brother, I thought.

“Oh, some of the boys in school said that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus and that their moms and dads buy the presents. Do you buy the presents?”

“Yes, we do.”

She didn’t need any cuddling, just went back to whatever she’d been doing.

My husband used to lie to me all the time. Here’s how it would go:

“Will you give our daughter a bath?” I’d ask.

“Yes, right away,” he would say.

Ten minutes later, I would find that our daughter was still dirty and he was still playing card games on his computer.

“I thought you were going to give our daughter a bath,” I would say.

“Yes, I’ll do it right away. As soon as I finish this game,” he would respond. My brain would then explode trying to figure out if our daughter would get her bath immediately or when he finished his game.

Turns out, “right away” does not mean immediately. Silly me, I thought it did. In my world, right away meant that my husband was that very minute standing up, pushing his chair away from his desk, looking for our daughter and marshalling her upstairs for her bath. In my husband’s world, right away means, “in about five or ten minutes.” So, my husband was not lying when he told me that he would give her a bath right away. And I was not lying when I told him he was full of crap. He no longer tells me he will do something “right away.”

I don’t lie very much. It’s not that I’m not good at it. I’m a fairly convincing liar, but I was raised Catholic. When I lie, I do it well because I was told to always put forth my best effort. But then, the lie eats away at me. Even though I haven’t called myself a Catholic since I was 14 years old, I squirm and sweat, convinced I will be discovered and I will burn in a hell I don’t believe in for all eternity.

The range of lies I tell and squirm over is wide. I have lied about the beauty of everything from babies to bridesmaids’ dresses. “Yes, of course, I would love to wear a teal lace riding hat for your wedding. I’m sure I’ll wear it again and again.” I have lied about interior decorating, hair color, any number of peoples’ cooking and macaroni necklaces.

I will lie to the March of Dimes next year when they ask me to be their Mothers’ March volunteer. I accepted the task this year after copious amounts of pressure on their part. The volunteer kit came. It sat on my counter. I vowed to do it. I never did. I felt terrible. Next year, I will lie and tell them that I just don’t have the time. Someone else will volunteer, I know they will.

I have a friend who, like me, was raised by a Southern woman. We were taught never to say anything impolite or unkind. My friend is adept at finding something truthful to say in even the most horrendous circumstances. At a friend’s (terrible) movie premiere, she said, “What an exciting night this must be for you?” This is a woman to be admired and feared.

The lies I tell most convincingly are those I tell myself. Recently, I’ve been trying to write fiction. It goes slowly. Still, I enjoy it. I allow my husband to read it. He reads it. He responds favorably. I feel good about his responses. Then, my lying brain gets to work. I convince myself that he can’t possibly be telling me the truth, that every thing I write is terrible drivel and I am, in general, a talentless hunk of female flesh. When I tell my husband this, he rolls his eyes. He can’t win. He goes back to his card game. I go back to beating myself for thinking that I am a talentless hunk of flesh.

I told my kids that I was sad that Santa wouldn’t be coming to our house any more. They looked at me and said, together, “Why?”

After recovering from the shock of them doing anything together, I said, “Neither of you believe in him. I’ll wrap your presents and I won’t have to stay up ‘til midnight waiting for you to go to sleep so I can put the presents under the tree.”

“But I still want the presents under the tree,” my daughter said, pouting and looking extremely sincere. My son did his equivalent of pouting, which comes out something like, “Meh.”

So, we’ll pretend that we believe in Santa. I’ll stay up until midnight waiting for my kids to fall asleep so I can put their presents under the tree. I’ll enjoy it and that’s the truth.

Copywrite 2010 by Janice M. Lindegard. All rights reserved.

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