December 31, 2010

Bad Mommy: Entry 1

Brian has his Bad Daddy series off and running, and I am afraid I triggered a "Bad Mommy" moment that's just funny enough to share (unless you're 4 1/2 - in which case you'd better stop reading so you can avoid therapy).

James, my oldest (we call him Jimmy) has been going to preschool a few days a week since he was 2. When we were in St. Louis, church offered a "Parents' Day Out" program, so he went one morning a week to socialize with other children, listen to stories, do some art projects. Back in those days, we were absolutely meticulous with our care of what he brought home from school. Every piece of art was catalogued, tagged, and preserved for when he's famous. Well, actually, what we did was photograph and chuck the originals unless they were really special. Jimmy being two, well, he wasn't really sure what art was.

Fast forward to now. He's now in preschool half time - 2 full days and a morning. We're no longer all that good with the art (which is usually full-fisted scribbles with non-matching crayon colors). If something's noteworthy, I will keep it, but gone are the camera-capturing-all-things days. Gone.

In other news and from another angle, I'm an avid recycler. Old paper with a free side? It gets used for scribble/scratch paper when I'm working. Unusable paper? It goes in the recycle bin in the garage just outside the door and to the right - easily visible to a four year-old who's leaving the premises.

You saw it coming, right? Jimmy. Saw. Artwork. In. Recycle. Bin.


I didn't learn of my transgression until all of us were in the car and driving to fit Jimmy for karate uniforms. Then I got from my eldest son the "I'm affecting a hurt disposition to give you a lecture" tone: "That was MY artwork. It's not YOURS. It's MINE." Something to that effect with the key words emphasized. Brian probably has the exact words down better than I do. But he kept repeating it, and then I realized what he was talking about.

We also have Jack in the car, age two. Jack functions as a Greek chorus, repeating the important nouns and verbs that Jimmy articles with punctuation. So echoing, we hear "JIMMY'S ARTWORK." "NOT YOURS" from Jack.

I am a Bad Mommy because...

1) Brian had to cover for me - explained that the artwork was mistakenly recycled (probably it wasn't - so a bit of a fib if I were to utter it)

2) When the Greek chorus sounded, I actually laughed. I stifled most of it, but Jack just functions in that echo sort of way to really punctuate the situation.

3) I'll probably do it again (but shred it first).

The appropriate response therefore is to be contrite and ask everyone else how you handle the artwork. If we were to keep it all, we'd be awash in paper. I sy this is I'm looking to the left at a picture of the sun he made with yellow tissue paper stuck to the predrawn sun.



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December 30, 2010

Please, Thank You, and You're Welcome

Since when did "No Problem" become the stock response for Thank You? I ask you this. If you're my generation or the one ahead, you may have thought this through yourself.

We're at a restaurant last night - whole family - Italian. It's busy. I'm a pretty courteous person, so I proffer a lot of "thank you" mentions to our waitress as she keeps us stocked with water, milk, bread (lots and lots of bread for those growing boys), napkins, what-have-you. Every response is a gleaming-teethed (albeit enthusiastic), "no problem!"

Well, yippee. Glad my family and I are not a problem. But that response is the equivalent of "I don't disagree" instead of "I agree." Or perhaps a proclamation at dinner, "That's PRETTY good" (instead of good). It's a step down the ladder in friendliness - same number of syllables as "you're welcome," but the "no problem" is glib and puts the emphasis on the sayer instead of the receiver. And I'm not sure when it overtook the more friendly "you're welcome." But this isn't by any means the first time I've noticed it.

So I looked it up. It's not just me noticing this:

1) Yahoo! syndicated content from Nancy Tracy in 2008. She echoes the same idea.
2) The Boston Globe - Erin McKean - 2009.

There's more of the same out there, but those two are the first I saw.

I'm old; I'm my own problem, and I have a communication degree. :)


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December 29, 2010

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Brian and I have been discussing lately that no one writes letters anymore. This is somewhat funny because we've been getting tons of Christmas cards, and many of them are stuffed with the annual "here's what we've been doing/experiencing" letter. But really, other than that, who in our generation or the one behind writes letters?

This summer I read Karen Kingsbury's Baxter series, and the mother writes letters to the children and her husband over time. After she dies (yeah, I spoiled that one, didn't I?), these letters become precious to the family members and are even plot devices to move along the story. But, anyway...letters.

I'm spoiled. My hand cramps up when I write more than a couple of scribbled sentences. I type somewhere between 100 and 120 wpm, and writing seems both forced and ugly. I read in the Wall Street Journal, though, that it's very good for the brain - at least learning how to write is. So, while I'm glad I learned to write, I never got very good at it, preferring other modes of communication. Every year after birthdays and Christmas there were the obligatory thank-you's to be sent (hey, I had better do that this week), and I always struggled with trying to get the pen to anywhere near keep up with my brain. Fail!

Still, for posterity's sake, we're back to the discussion of letter writing. I believe there are some programs that'll sample your handwriting and make a font. I should invest in that - a bit of virtual mom/friend to share that's a little less impersonal than Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman. Here's one, btw.

There's something fairly egocentric about writing a letter - almost like...blogging! I mean, who really wants to read that I sit around the house all day avoiding doing work with occasional breaks with the family. I sometimes write about what I can see through my window (margially better and more interesting). In any event, unless the letter is a short query to the other person with the "how are you," it's mostly about some aspect of the letter writer's life or perhaps some shared initimacy with the recipient. I suppose those are the best.

So, letter writing. I need to do more of it. The only letters I've really written in the past couple of years have been to the Editor!


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December 28, 2010

Somebody Else's Dirt

You know, there's something about moving into a "used" house. Most houses are used, so one really must get used to it, but I've always preferred a new house, new construction being crap aside.

The previous house in what Brian likes to call "Old Trees" (Webster Groves, MO) was a wonderful compromise for us. Brian likes a house with character, which is sure to come with some dirt alongside it.

We bought it in early 2006 in anticipation of Baby James' timely arrival and shortening Brian's commute to downtown St. Louis. We had previously lived in Maryland Heights, and the house really wasn't ideal for having children (or at least the way we lived in it wasn't - we would have had to move pretty much everything to get the nursery on the same floor), so we started looking. After dragging Brian's aunt and uncle - our realtors - all over tarnation (again, Webster Groves and the surrounding area), we finally found it.

The house was a nice mix of character and cleanliness. The character stemmed from the fact that the house was 80 something (perhaps 90 something) years old. The cleanliness: it had just been completely rehabbed.

So I got my new house with all new appliances, and Brian got his old house with character. It was heaven sans closets.

We have since moved - in September of 2009, we moved to my hometown to be closer to my mother. Our jobs made that opportunity easy, so we seized it. We have a lovely home, but I didn't get my new house. What I got was...other people's dirt.

There's character to it, I guess. I can certainly abide my own dirt or rust spots, but reviewing the mold in the caulk that someone else lived through makes me a bit...uneasy. I don't have those stories of how time passed and it grew there, and I can't seem to get it clean short of replacing it, and every night when I commence the dinner cooking routine, I have to stare at it, and it reminds me that I didn't put it there. A bit unsettling.

The same thing happens when I review the worn wood moulding/baseboards, and I miss some aspects of my new/old house that looked new. Strange quirk, maybe. Uneasy nostalgia unknown.

The Webster Groves house is still ours, unfortunately, and it's due to be showcased at some point on the HouseHunters program by HGTV. Brian believes that will be sometime in January - he regularly watches the website for programming previews. I miss the house and the fact that I found it easy to clean. My dirt always is.


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