Reading Lessons

The Big Shop is a long, drawn-out process that entails buying items up and down every aisle of the grocery store because you are down to one can of garbanzos and some frozen rhubarb at home. The Big Shop with a five-year old involves time, patience, a positive attitude and a baggie full of snacks.

Today I was upbeat and headache-free, so the Big Shop was moving along successfully. As we debated whether or not to splurge on a luxury cheese, I glanced over at the deli and saw a young Goth guy wearing a black t-shirt with red blood dripping letters that read: “F**K THE WORLD AND F**K YOU TOO”. Except on his shirt, the asterisks weren’t there.  

Really? F**k ME too? Nice. And the afternoon had been so pleasant. Now THIS guy is mad at me, and all I wanted was a little queso manchego.

Now I’m fairly liberal when it comes to freedom of speech. And there have been days, okay, maybe a good year or so in my life when I would have worn that t-shirt myself with a snarl on my face. I used to wear all black when I was angry at the world too. Little extra eyeliner, ooh, that’ll show ‘em. I could never pull off the Goth look completely though, because my underlying perky interior would eventually seep through even the thickest layers of sulk. Despite my failed attempts at living on the fringe, I always secretly found these dark and foreboding characters to be somewhat intriguing.

But today the attire of this angst-ridden youth just pissed me off. Not because I’m shocked by the F-word, I use it all the time. I just don’t use it around my kid. Today, my opinion of angry slogans advertised on t-shirts has changed. Because today, I am also the parent of a kid who is learning to read.

This is a really cool thing to watch unfold, Quinn learning to read. He’s putting in a solid effort and I can almost hear the synapses firing as he sounds out a word. When he does so successfully, his whole face lights up. He’s so proud of himself.

I don’t want him to learn the F-word.

I don’t want him to learn to read, “F**K YOU TOO”, on a stranger’s shirt. That pseudo-anger against the world shouldn’t include my son. 

But someday he will. I did. So I can’t control that. I can’t control that someone else’s kid will decide to throw that t-shirt on so he can stick it to the man during his Thursday afternoon jaunt to the grocery store.

I would like to think that my little guy won’t grow up wanting to f**k the world. Who knows, someday I may find myself desperately trying to talk him out of buying an equally angry t-shirt.

But you can be damn sure that it will meet with an unfortunate laundering accident before our next Big Shop.       

Eat, Pray, Whine

 My husband and I just returned from a couple’s mini-version of Eat, Pray, Love. We had cashed in on a couple of gift certificates we received this Christmas, and took a much-needed reprieve from parenthood and the hell that has been this winter. We rested well knowing Little Man was spending the weekend with our most trustworthy babysitters, Grandma and Grandpa C.

The weekend was bliss. We caught up with some wonderful friends in their new home and discussed paint swatches, art, Buddhism, sex, real estate, and Sarah Silverman episodes. I browsed in boutiques for hours without uttering the words, “Don’t touch!” We took a long walk to the beach, yes, the beach (it was a downright balmy 30 degrees) of Lake Michigan where I proved to my winter-weary New Mexican husband that Wisconsin CAN be pretty in February. We had massages, meditation, and delicious meals, one at this restaurant that borderlined on a sexual experience. Yes, it was a weekend where the shoulders finally drop away from the ears, all of the senses get some play time, and the left and right brain are in balance. Surely this retreat would get me through the rest of winter.

It didn’t even get me through 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, which found us in my mother’s living room staring blankly while our extremely loud son shook Grandpa’s bald head back and forth like a cat toy. By 11:00, my shoulders had crept up to my earlobes and I was crabby as hell. Why couldn’t those fleeting hours of serenity transfer into my daily routine, thus creating Zen Mom for at least two days this week? 

They say it takes at least 48 hours of vacation for us to significantly relax. By the time we were getting used to that foreign feeling, we were back on duty. I didn’t even get a chance to miss my son. So I sulked. We didn’t gently ease back into reality, it was thrown back in our faces like a cream pie.

This Monday morning started at 3:00 a.m. with my son whining to come into our bed. I was initially tender, but after hearing him drone, “Mo-ooom” in fifteen minute intervals from 3:15 until 4:30, I bristled hard. I plucked him out of his bed, put him into ours with a “There, are you happy?” and stomped out to make coffee. My solace in thinking that I would now have a couple of quiet hours to write and breathe was completely shattered at 5:00 when I saw his little duck fuzz head poke upstairs, ready to start the day. Sigh.

The next hour of the morning was spent trying to outpout my husband, because whoever is the crabbiest usually gets temporary amnesty from parenting. Jeff is getting sick and is facing yet another ass-clenching drive in newly promised snow. He accused me of spending the morning blogging angrily about my family. And what’s the use of a relaxing weekend if I’m only going to focus on the negative of returning home? He won, because in observing his foul mood, I was no longer irritable with mine.  

I am not angry with my family. Anger, for me, is based on intelligent observation of injustice or wrongdoing and can last a long, long time. I am crabby. Crabbiness is based on the scientific fact that I’m being a big baby and this usually runs its course in 24 hours. I wanted one more day, dammit, okay, maybe two. No fair. But that’s not reality, so after I take a few more moments to whine, those mental epiphanies I had this weekend WILL start to seep into my daily routine. One of those being that I AM happy to return to the home I have. And yes, writing a blog will actually help, as its proving to be a most effective form of short-term therapy for me.

See, I do love my job, more than any other occupation I’ve had. I am grateful that I can keep this job. But I need breaks. And like any job, when I’m in a bad mood, my co-workers are affected. Unfortunately, in this work place they take my moods a little more personally. ‘Cause when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So there’s a lot of pressure to shake off those cranky moods fast. And I don’t get the 45-minute commute to do it, I hit the ground running, crabby or not. Like anyone, I should be allowed a few miserable Monday mornings, especially after an idyllic weekend.

The weekend away was truly worth the bumpy transition home. If I didn’t have my occasional escapes, I wouldn’t be a healthy wife or mother. But if I weren’t a wife or mother, my escapes wouldn’t be very healthy. I need both to fully enjoy what the other has to offer. 

How’s that for balanced thought on a Monday morning? Thank God those Advil kicked in.               

sweet dreams

The nightlight glows under his junior loft. He is tucked in between Seal and Happy Lion, snuggling deep into the purple sleeping bag….

“I love you more than anything in the world….” I whisper tenderly.

“Mom?” (bolts straight up)


” Do you think I could spin my head completely around?”


“But robots can.”

“Yes, but you’re not a robot…”

“Oh…yeah, right” (lays back down)

 “Sweet dreams, buddy”

“Sweet dreams Mom..”