Thursday, March 26, 2009

It Ain't Easy

I do not fantasize about having an Easy Kid, because I believe God has given me the perfect kids for me, but I surely know that Easy Kids exist. I’ve seen them. Easy Kids can make it through a birthday party, someone else’s or their own, without curling up in the fetal position weeping or yelling about the injustice of piñatas or relay races. And I don’t mean when they are 3. Think older, much older.

Easy kids join sports teams for the love of the game. They joke with their fellow players, want to go to practice, and are coachable. They don’t consider every practice to be a personal assault on their coveted private time. They don’t blame the sun, the wind, the coach, their teammates, or cruel, cruel fate whenever they miss a play. They shake things off; they move on. They don’t act surprised-- nay shocked and outraged—when it’s time to go to church on Sunday, even though they have gone every single week for their entire lives.

Easy Kids pick up social cues and care more about fitting in than always being right, justified, or morally superior. This makes Easy Kids pleasant to be around.

I know I usually have the right responses to the not so easy child in my midst. I am sensitive to this child who “feels things deeply,” as I like to put it. I know about adequate rest, over-stimulation, introversion, extroversion, God-given temperament, and special needs.

I understand that my child has strengths and weaknesses, and I try to be accepting. Goodness knows I have my own, probably more weaknesses than strengths. It’s just that as a people pleaser, it’s hard for me to relate to someone who isn’t out to please. I would have died if I knew I irritated my teachers with fidgety, erratic, or goofy behavior, but a not so easy kid doesn’t seem to care.

Sometimes it gets old being the mom of the adorable kid who doesn’t always act adorable. Sometimes I feel fed up. I want to say just ride the damn rollercoaster, eat the damn chicken, hit the damn piñata, and play on the damn team. See the bright side, run errands, give a wedgie, pig out, suck it up.

Sometimes my child does all of these things and it is a relief and a surprise, and I feel guilty being surprised, as I let out a big breath and life seems easy for a moment.

It’s not just about being labeled the mom with the basket-case kid, although at times it has been hard to admit that things aren’t perfect over here. Things aren't black and white. They are gray.

It’s more that as the mom of the not so easy kid, I see all of this kid’s wonderful parts, and I want the rest of the world to have a chance to see them too: the smarts beyond smart, the playful sense of humor, the complete honesty, the consideration for other’s feelings, the facility with language, the incredible generosity, the snuggles, the kind heart.

I know that although my growing up years were pretty darn easy, they didn’t seem so at the time. I spent several years feeling left out and miserable, while on the surface I looked like I had it made. Looking back at my report cards, I had stellar grades, with lower marks in self control. I cried easily and loudly. I wanted life to be fair. I preferred the company of adults to children. I dug in my heels.

Hmmm. One could just say it’s the apple not falling far from the tree, but what for me amounted to a few miserable years, primarily around puberty, for this one, for this little one, life seems so much more difficult.

For this one, for whom life seems to be challenge after challenge, quirk after quirk, will the road be that much rougher than it was for me? For I was an extrovert, and generally a pleaser, and those things helped bit by bit, year by year.

I wonder, what can I be doing differently to make the journey easier for my child? My friends who have kids with diagnosed disorders know which social worker, therapist and OT to call, or which medication to use. I feel torn between intervening and accepting or embracing. How much do I try to “fix” and how much do I just let be? My parents didn't try to fix me. They sighed, gave me a wry smile, and let me spin myself into a tizzy, time and time again.

How much is just personality and how much is my being too kind, too sympathetic, too tolerant of certain behaviors?

How can I affirm who my child is, and how my child has been since birth, while also helping to navigate this fickle world, a world I know to be harsh? What do I do to help my child blossom later while not affixing labels today that could be really hard to peel off?

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."—Ps 139:14

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The See House Hits the Big-time

I am so excited! I just found out that my favorite decorating blog, YoungHouseLove, has my family room featured on it today! Yes, the very same family room that Shadow peed in last night. Please check it out. The blog, not the pee.

Dear Shadow

Dear Shadow,

I want to thank you for peeing on my new off-white shag area rug. The way your urea sailed right through it within a matter of seconds, hitting the new hardwood floor like a tsunami and buckling the edges of the boards, just shows what incredible peeing intensity you possess.

More remarkable still was the fact that you squatted within feet of me here on my computer and opened the floodgates. Other dogs might have indicated a need to go outside, perhaps by a whine, a bark, or even by standing next to the door. That’s simply not your style.

Thanks, girl. You’re a real bitch.

Not Love,


Friday, March 20, 2009

Someone in My House Gained 11 Pounds in 2 Months!

...and it wasn't me!

I guess that goes to show you what happens when your mom goes back to work, the long walks cease, and you feel compelled to break into the neighbor's pantry for some emotional eating.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cut it Out!

Do you think someone will call social services on me if my son’s toenails have grown so long they curl under his toes? They’re not quite like this picture yet (ewwww!), but they are on the way. I had no clue until he took off his socks tonight and said, “Mom, when you see these nails you are going to scream.”

It’s just that Jake turned 10 today and I’m trying to figure out what is his domain and what’s mine. When we snuggle in bed and he caresses my face with hands that, frankly, smell like ass, I consider it my domain to tell him to get up and wash them.

He brushes and flosses like clockwork, and even uses an hourglass to time himself. His bed is made every day with hospital corners, while mine is thrown together and all of Molly’s covers just stay on the floor. He practices his recorder and piano every day without being asked.

But what of bathing? Does a kid ever say, “I’m dirty and I need a shower,” or will I be setting this schedule from here into the foreseeable future? And the nail clipping? I guess I should have shown him how to do it himself before now. I mean girls his age have breast buds and are about to enter puberty, but it never occurred to me that my own spawn would ever be old enough to use nail clippers.

It’s kind of like the phone. My friends who have had jobs outside the home their kids’ whole lives, have kids who can speed dial them at work, text, manage call waiting, and likely order from Dominoes.

On Jake’s birthday today, as the well-wishers started calling, I became painfully aware that he doesn’t even know how to use the phone. Sure, he has known our number since he was tiny and we did all that McGruff the Crime Dog stuff, but the actual physical process of using the phone? Not really.

When I tried to give it to him to accept birthday phone calls, he shrunk back as if I were trying to hand him an electric eel. We ended up having it on speaker so he could talk to his relatives without actually touching the feared apparatus.

Playdates? Both of my kids would rather die than call a friend. They either beg me to do it or wait for someone to call them. Meanwhile, I have a little Alex P. Keaton next door with stellar phone skills who calls, properly identifies himself, inquires about the entire family’s whereabouts, and sets up multiple social activities.

I think the complete lack of phone know-how comes from the fact that for 9.5 years, the kids were with me nearly constantly. No real reason to call anyone when the provider of every need is right there with you.

I guess the toenail and the phone thing make me realize that while these kids are learning all of the state capitals, square roots, and what a stalactite is, perhaps they are a little lacking in the life skills category.

It’s as if the scales have fallen away from my eyes and I can now see that I share my home with 2 feral cats. I used to think we had all the time in the world to address these matters, but now that my guy has reached DOUBLE DIGITS, I guess I’d better get cracking.

Or get him clipping, I suppose.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Express Yourself!

So today I was putting on my dark denim jeans. I noticed that for some reason they had gotten quite a bit more snug since the last time I wore them. I’m sure this had nothing to do with Girl Scout Cookies and everything to do with a malfunctioning dryer. Anyway, they still felt fine because of their generous stretch.

I had a flashback to 9th grade. Puberty was in full bloom and curves were popping up on me everywhere. I pulled on my tight Gloria Vanderbilt “designer jeans” with the dark blue denim and bright yellow stitching. I may have had to get down on the floor to zip them. My older sister, still built like a string bean, and whose legs started where my neck stopped, walked into the room and said,

“Just because the label says stretch, doesn’t mean you should wear them.”

We’re just 18 months apart and my sister is my best friend and my biggest fan. We’ve gone through some heavy crap together, most of which we would not have survived without each other. She is my constant cheerleader even when I don’t deserve it, and she takes the prize for being one of my lone blog readers for quite a while.

My sister puts up with my moodiness and my bites her tongue when I’m being a judgmental loser, lashing out at the nearest target—her.

However, despite having gained almost angelic status now, my sister spent the first 15 or so years of my life being somewhat harsh to me.

While I’m thinking of it, I’ll share a couple of other zingers she threw my way during that lovely, angst-filled period of adolescence and early teens.

Anna: (applying makeup)

Sister: (looking Anna up and down)

“Yeah. Don’t ever wear brown eyeliner again.”

(leaves room)

Anna: ….

Or my favorite:

Sister: (breezing in)

“Anna, do you ever think that God just tacked on that potato sack of a butt of yours as an afterthought?”


Happy Early Birthday, Sis! You know I love you.

p.s. I’ve never worn brown eyeliner again.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Big Money

Do you and your significant other have the same spending style? For the most part, Tom and I do. This helps avoid a lot of stress in our relationship.

Neither of us goes for fancy things. I’m not saying I don’t drool when I see a granite countertop or my neighbor’s new windows that actually open and close, but aside from an obsession with “house stuff,” I’m not a big spender. You know about my thrift store jaunts and dumpster diving. And when it comes to clothes, I’d rather wait 6 months and wear a knock-off than be on the cutting edge.

Our charitable giving is also aligned. We love to give money away. Oops, I bet there is some Internet troll-like thing that scours the Net for the words, “We love to give money away.” Before my in box starts filling up with messages about somebody’s poor uncle Jed or Mrs. Mary Williams in Africa let me just say we already have designated charities we support.

However, when it comes to two areas we differ. Electronics and Legos. I would be content to use my TV/VCR combo, while Tom has jumped on the crazy and possibly fleeting bandwagon of DVD’s, HDTV, DV-R and goodness knows what else! You can read about his hilarious encounter with his Blackberry here. Okay, so maybe it’s not a bandwagon, but you saw what happened to Beta and 8-track tapes. I’d just hate to jump into anything too soon.

We also differ when it comes to Legos. You may hear that girls are more expensive than boys, but in our house that isn’t true. For Molly’s birthday, we can barely figure out what to get her. Her room is already filled with tchochkes, and her idea of a good time is to line up little slips of paper and play school with her stuffed animals.

Her tastes are not expensive, b/c she doesn’t discriminate between Swarovski Crystal and a cotton ball rich in sentimental value. Her wallet is full (although I do borrow from it from time to time), and her Wal-Mart and Target gift cards sit unused, taunting me from the pile of rubble that is her room.

Jake, however, is always plotting his next Lego purchase. Birthdays are a Lego explosion around here. When I wonder aloud to Tom if there is such a thing as Too Many Legos, he gives me a blank stare. I guess it’s the equivalent of asking him if one could have too many baseball cards.

When I point out that our latest acquisition of Lego Café Corner, retail $139.99, could buy 1.5 pregnant goats through The Heifer Project or enough mosquito netting for a small village, I am looked at as a spoilsport.

Yet, if we journey back two Christmases ago, let’s see who was spoiling the sport….

We had purchased Molly an American Girl Doll named Samantha. The week before Christmas we got a call from our local toy store that out of 1,400 entries, I had WON another American Girl doll! Talk about a girl’s Christmas dreams coming true (Molly’s, not mine…really).

The first thing Tom asked me was, “You’re going to return the first doll, right?” Hell, no. Let’s not penalize the girl for my good fortune! I stood my ground, we ended up keeping both dolls, and of course Molly is now back to playing with cotton balls and q-tips.

So I’m wondering, in these days of belt-tightening and reprioritizing, which are just nice ways of saying the crappy economy, how do you spend, how do you save? If you are married, how do you and your spouse deal with different spending styles?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Old Am I?

Just wondering, because I bought a SWIM DRESS from my favorite THRIFT SHOP and I was waiting there THE MOMENT IT OPENED.

While you think about that, I need to finish my glass of Metamucil. Don’t want to miss the big Mahjong play-off in the clubhouse at 4.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mortification Monday

I’m stealing my title from Marinka at Motherhood in NYC, on of the funniest bloggers around.

When I taught high school in my early 20's, I was also the sponsor of the yearbook. That meant lots of Hawaiian pizza, stress, and late nights when we would “hit the wall” and giddiness would ensue.

One of the prime motivators I used with my female editorial staff was the promise of an embarrassing story about myself every time they made a major deadline. Lucky for them, yet unluckily for me, I had a lot of material. The stories had to be interesting enough to keep 17 year old girls interested at midnight, but they couldn't be more than PG-13.

Sooooo, today I’ll share with you one of those embarrassing stories. Not sure if it will somehow motivate you in any way on this Monday, but we’ll see.

I was in college. It was an early spring day like today, when the weather was unseasonably warm. Back from class early, I entered my empty suite, proceeded to my room, and decided to change into some cooler clothes.

As I stood in front of my cheap full-length mirror glued to my closet door, I decided to survey the estate, including the back 40. You see, my freshman 15 pounds had morphed into a sophomore 20, and so on, and swimsuit season was a mere 8 weeks away (also kind of like today!).

I stood in my bra and underwear and started to wiggle, then jiggle in front of the mirror. The flesh was swaying; the room was rocking.

I looked up. There, in the open doorway of my room, stood a relatively new acquaintance, mouth agape, backpack dangling to the ground. He looked stricken. I screamed and dove under my covers, the flesh still a-flapping.

This poor young man had a few days before asked me to attend a dance with him. He must have found the outer door to the suite ajar when he stopped by to discuss minor details of the date. He got more than he bargained for.

You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal, Anna?” Well, before marriage and kids Anna See was a demure young lady, certainly not prone to jiggling her naked flesh in mixed company.

Remember, these were simpler times. This was before “Girls Gone Wild” videos were introduced, and before 8th grade girls started “sexting” boys by sending nudie pics of themselves to any mildly interested parties.


A few minutes later I got a phone call from the young man. He did not mention the incident, but merely said, “When I was in 10th grade English class, I farted big-time during Silent Reading. Everyone knew it was me.” Click.

What a class act! That was just what I needed to see that I would recover from this, and ultimately go on to have many more embarrassing moments. I appreciated his graciousness and, looking back, I'm even more grateful that thongs weren't big yet on my campus.


To read the incredible story of how this young man’s life and mine intersected almost 15 years later, check out one of my favorite posts.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Part Where I Lysol My Mouth

You know you’ve been around too many Girl Scout Cookies lately when you see something on the counter and assume it’s a smidge of Do-Si-Do filling, but after putting it in your mouth you find out it’s the scunge your daughter has just cleaned out of the dog’s chew toy.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Latest In-Stall-Ment

My new job and I have excellent bathroom compatibility. Mine is the only office on one level of the building. There is a large well-lit bathroom in the main hall. I don’t use that one. I prefer the one down a secluded hallway that I like to pretend is all mine. It has two stalls. Number of encounters with another person in “my” bathroom over the last five months? Zero.

This is much better than at my old job teaching high school. That bathroom was carved out of a corner of the teachers’ lounge. Picture this: 8-10 people pulled up around an old cafeteria table, using their whopping 20 minute break to munch away on PB& J and discuss Mark Twain or Toni Morrison or Monica Lewinsky. Dusty textbooks lined the walls, and 3 feet away? A unisex bathroom. The creepiest part? The door was one of those slatty panels. Not sound proof. Not odor proof.

You can imagine how weird it was to be eating my mug of Progresso soup around a full table while mere feet away one of my colleagues was using the facilities. Don’t even get me started on how gross the concept of having magazines in there was.

The alternative was to use the student bathrooms. I was lucky to have one directly across the hall from my classroom. I liked the shocked looks on students’ faces when I’d stand up and they would see a teacher’s head rise above the 4 foot high stall walls. I could almost see their brains going back over whatever urgent, inane, and perhaps illicit matters they had just been chatting about. Drawbacks? Occasional cigarette smoke, the F –Bomb scrawled on the wall, and the lack of soap and paper towels. Your tax dollars at work.

I avoided this bathroom for the most part until my last year teaching. Pregnancy and block scheduling (1 hour 50 min classes) meant that I would frequently need to run across the hall in mid sentence and get back in the classroom before the students knew what was going on.

My most recent gig, 9.5 years at home with the kids, gave me comfortable bathrooms, lots of soap and fluffy towels, and an utter lack of privacy. When the kids finally got old enough to leave me alone in there, which took a while because as toddlers they appeared to be budding gynecologists, we adopted the dog. She does not like to be alone. She can open doors. Call me crazy, but I do not enjoy having her all up in my business while I’m in the bathroom.

So, we may hear a lot about the benefits and drawback of certain jobs. I make 1/3 of what I made when I was a teacher. Yep. You can read that line twice. But I do have a pleasant place to potty in peace.

I’m thinking of adding a throw rug and some potpourri.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

For Everything Else...

Telling the workman who helped hang your pocket doors, “No thanks. We will paint them ourselves. We’re handy that way and besides, we want it done immediately.”

Savings: $75.00

Calling the same workman exactly one year later to see if he will please paint the doors that you and your husband were too lame to get to.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

No Worries

I find it extremely annoying in a store or restaurant when I say “Thank you” and the worker responds with “No problem” or even “No worries” instead of “You’re welcome.” It grates, my how it grates!

I don’t like the implication, no matter how far-fetched, that my patronage could potentially cause any problems or worries. After all, I am the customer. Am I over-thinking this?

I never correct these folks, even though I come from a long line of Grammar Police. I have a well-worn copy of the book "Frequently Misspelled Words" that used to sit on my grandfather’s desk when he was a college administrator. He was a tough old character who would not hesitate to correct grammar or usage errors.

My own dear mom also corrected people, albeit in a kind, homey way. While going in for an MRI just days before she died, she took it upon herself to instruct the MRI tech on the difference between lay and lie. “Honey, I’m sure you have to say this many times every day, so I thought you would like to know that objects lay and people lie.”

I do not correct grammar or usage unless I am inside an English classroom or if I am speaking to the fruit of my loins. After all, I make plenty of grammatical errors myself, and I also have a painful memory burned into my mind that keeps me from crossing this line.

It was the late 80’s and I was 18. My mother had died suddenly, and I found myself home from college for the summer, trying to establish a new reality for myself. Three days after the funeral, I found a job at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. I was a crappy hostess, a deplorable waitress, and an even worse bartender. I did have big hair, a denim miniskirt, a ready smile, and a good attitude.

The other employees knew of my great loss and were kind to me, understanding, I hope, that my smiles and chatty conversation didn’t mean I didn’t love my mom, and that when I would tear up over a spilled glass of water or a botched order, I wasn’t really crying about work.

One night I was working the register when a young dad paid by credit card. Handing him the slip, I said, “Okay, sir, I just need you to write your name here.”

Young Dad: “Write my name? Write my name? What you are asking for is my SIG-NA-TURE not my name."

Me: “Sure, okay.”

Young Dad: “No. It is not OKAY. In life, you must learn to speak WELL not to speak GOOD.”

What I wanted to say was, “Look, A-hole, I know you may be looking for your own little Pygmalion moment, but you've got the wrong girl. I am not Eliza Doolittle, and I don’t need any of your personal instruction. You may see me merely as the hired help, but there’s a lot more going on with me than you know. By the way, I’m sure my SAT scores and college GPA would blow yours out of the water.”

Instead, I flushed, teared up, and said nothing.

More than 20 years later, I still remember how crappy it felt to be spoken to so condescendingly. Isn’t it amazing how the bad stuff sticks to us, while the good stuff rolls off?

So, when I hear a friend say, “Could you give it to Kim or I?” or a salesperson say, “No problem” in response to a simple thank you, I just keep it in perspective and tell myself that sometimes it is better to do good than to just do things well.