......finding a new home for lutefisk lovers.

(ok we don't love it. or even like it. but we're supposed to.)

26 June 2011

An Anniversary Re-post: "Hi. I'm the Paranoid Mom"

Yesterday, Liam started day camp at his new school. Today, the campers are going on an all-day field trip to Water Country!; a water park with giant tube slides and wave pools and assumingly kajillions of children and I can't believe no one ever drowns at these places. How do you keep track of multiple campers in that sea of children? Many of whom are stuck in tubes? Why did I put Liam in navy blue swim trunks??? This is the time for blaze orange swim trunks! And maybe one of those tall bike flags attached to his back!

Last night, after Liam goes to bed, Mike confesses that he is also nervous about Water Country!. How do children stay alive in there? With only high school kids to protect them? When we were in high school, our idea of responsibility was having the least intoxicated person drive. I decide I need to ask some questions of the counselors to get a firmer grip on reality. I've used this technique before to quell my fears when I feel like no one else has fears to quell. It's always comforting to find out that I'm a little bit crazy instead of finding out that my kid is in real danger.

So I don't act like "concerned mom" or "very thorough mom" or even "control freak mom." I just call a spade a spade and hope that they feel sorry for me so they'll take extra good care of my child. I find the homecoming queen who seems to be the teenager in charge and I say "Hi. I'm the paranoid mom. We just moved here a week ago and Liam just started camp yesterday and he doesn't know anyone and I don't know anything about Water Country! and I'm freaking out a little bit. Liam looks like a really good swimmer when he's under water but he can't breathe under there and when he comes up for air he sinks like a stone. And then he'll look like a really good swimmer again but remember he can't breathe under there. How a person can be such a good swimmer AND unable to tread water is a mystery to me. If he could just tread water my life would change forever. So anyway, I just need a little information about what Water Country! is and how you supervise the campers while you're there so I don't follow the bus and waste my precious free day peering through the gates scanning the crowd for a small boy with blaze orange trunks and a flag attached to his back."

And, bless her teenage heart, she made me feel so much better. She got her clipboards and her binders (that's how I knew she was in charge) and she showed me how they divided the kids by age and ability, she explained the counselor to camper ratios and how Water Country! has no deep water except in the wave pool area (which they avoid because it's too dangerous and difficult to supervise. Big points, sister, BIG POINTS!). Now I can breathe.

Liam returned from Water Country! unscathed if not a little pink and a little unsure of himself. He's very aware of being the new kid and his friendmaking software doesn't seem to be fully operational right now. But it has only been two days. And the kid is homeless. So I'm going to lower all of my expectations for a while and let him watch tv and eat fig newtons in my bed. Being homeless can render a kid (and his parents) a little wonky and I think a little pampering might be the best thing for all of us.


EPILOGUE:

When I read this today, I can see that Water Country! was my scapegoat. I was one big frayed nerve ending and I needed to freak out about something; this came along at the perfect time and posed no threat to the decision we had made to relocate. It was an inconsequential thing to freak out about.

That being said, it sums up the gargantuan task of moving when a child is involved. YOUR child. Your one and only beloved child. Moving is a fact of life; this is what people do. It's not tragic in any way considering the horrors that many families face. If it were just Mike and me, we'd pack our milk crates and hit the road with a fresh mixtape in the tape deck. But instead, we have this precious cargo that changes everything.

If things don't go well for him, my life is sad. And that's just all there is to it.

Today, looking back through this post, I can see the worry about his happiness bubbling up and exploding all over Water Country!.

21 June 2011

The Anniversary: Days 4 & 5, 471 miles - Niagara Falls, ON

A roadtrip like this is a parenting milestone. And before I start the cynical diatribe, I'll forewarn you that this story does have a happy ending. Because I don't want to be one of those bloggers who specializes in cynical diatribes (although I do count as my personal mission to bring a voice to the unseemly side of parenthood so that other women don't think they're crazy and end up eating peanut M&M's in the closet).
The cross-country roadtrip is a rite of passage. We all have fond memories of our family roadtrips but I bet you also have memories of your dad threatening to pull over and (insert exaggerated form of punishment here). You can't have one without the other. And in each of these moments we have something to learn about our children and our parenting. Today I learned that if I walk several paces ahead of my family - in silence - I could keep from telling my child to SHUT......THE F#@*&..........UP! Very important lesson. For a while, I was wondering how I would keep that inside and even did a quick cost/benefit analysis of the situation. Benefit: Mama would feel soooooo much better. Cost: I would not be allowed to join the PTA. And my child would find out that parents use the #1 swear word. And he might cry.........and then I wouldn't feel better anymore.
Let's back up. We arrived in Niagara Falls today after a short 2 hour drive. Liam is big into superlatives; biggest, tallest, fastest, grossest, deepest, strongest, etc. (I know - it doesn't sound like a very specific area of interest but it is). So he knows all about Niagara Falls and was excited to see it. As we're waiting to check in to our hotel, he says he doesn't want to go to Niagara Falls. He wants to stay in the room. Get room service. Swim in the pool. No falls. Well, I simply don't believe him; he's been talking about this for days. But he doesn't let up. No falls. Go swimming. I'm getting irritated and start to launch into the "why do you think we're here?" speech.
Luckily, our room isn't ready and we have to kill some time - during which he catches a glimpse of the falls and buys into it again! Let's do it! All of it! Now! We oooh and aaah, we take pictures, we make our way to the classic Niagara Falls experience: The Maid of the Mist. The boat ride that takes you up close and personal to the roaring falls and drenches the crowd in the process (hence the famous rain ponchos).
Suddenly, he's indifferent toward the boat ride. I try to ignore. Then he's excited! Let's go! Let's get our rain ponchos! I don't wanna put on my rain poncho. When will we leave? When can we go swimming? When can we leave? (won't pose for iconic rain poncho photo) This is fun!!!! Laughing and screaming!!! Can we go back now? I wanna go inside. I'm gonna go inside. When will we be done?
As we hike back to our hotel, he tells us his feet hurt 5,946,765 times. We walk by the Rainforest Cafe, the Spongebob 4D Thrill Ride, Galaxy Golf and someplace called Sugar Mountain (what is it? who cares? it's called sugar mountain!!!). The entire experience is an introvert's worst nightmare. We say no and keep walking but he drags his feet and whines about how we never get to do anything fun (as we're walking away from Niagara Falls??????!!!!!). This is the part where Mike says "Mom's going to walk in front of us."
There were moments of incredible fun in there. And perhaps that is what he'll remember. But I will remember walking several paces in front of my family trying not to scream the #1 swear word at my child in front of thousands of tourists.
Back at the hotel, we re-assess our evening plans. No more Niagara Falls. Instead, we go to the pool. We watch a movie in our room. And we get room service. And it's great. Really, really great. If you ask your mom why she threatened to leave you by the side of the road, she'll probably say it had something to do with the pool. You wouldn't get out of the car to see Mount Rushmore because you wanted to go to the pool. It's all about the pool.
We adults have to get out of our heads and make some decisions based on our child's values instead of our more evolved, more experienced values (you can swim at home, the hot tub is gross, that's a waste of money, room service is a rip off). Because your kids don't care about any of that NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY...........and they WILL remember the hotel pool and the time they got room service. Well, maybe not as much as the time their mom said the f word.
It's up to you.



EPILOGUE:



Look at this picture. Sheesh.


I look at this picture today and I feel like a completely clueless moron. Of course he was a turd at Niagara Falls - look at how sad he is! That is a sad, sad boy. And even the biggest waterfall in North America cannot make that kind of sad go away. Perhaps having fun is not the best antidote to sadness; perhaps the comforts of a nice hotel room with room service and in-room movies is a lot more effective.

Comfort. Not excitement. Good to know.

17 June 2011

An Anniversary Approaches

As we approach a year in our new home, I can't help but think "My, how time..........moves at an alarmingly slow pace."

In that the wound/anticipation is still as fresh as it was 51 weeks ago. I'm still painting and re-arranging my house and I'm still comforting my homesick but happy child. I may not get lost quite as much as I used to but I am still the proverbial fish out of water. I have not yet learned how to breathe out of water. And my guess is that, to a certain degree, that may be a permanent condition. I have no hope of ever being anything but a midwesterner on the east coast; I may not be able to change that any more than I can change my height or that sunburn I got in 1987.

I'm becoming accustomed to my observer status. I'm an anthropologist on an unexpected mission, filling my notebooks with discoveries I would never find in the Midwest. And I've learned many things on my sabbatical. Including:

1) Don't out yourself as an outsider by knocking on people's front doors. Find a side door or go in the garage.

2) Actually, don't knock on people's doors at all. Let them come to you. Or call first.

3) No, don't call. Just let them come to you. And smile.

4) Don't close your garage door if you want people to knock on your door. Closed door means not at home and people will leave without knocking.

5) DON'T leave your garage door open when you order pizza (stay with me here) - unless you want pizza delivered via the stinky car place.

6) Don't piss off the school secretary. FOLLOW THE RULES and do as she says.

7) It takes 36 weeks of regular, weekly volunteer gigs to get a "Hello" with eye contact from said school secretary.

8) When it snows, school will be canceled. Arrange a playdate or go to a movie.

9) And the beach, like Lake Harriet, never gets old.


I remember the day I hung my giant write-on/wipe-off calendar in my new house, still scribbled with appointments and dates and arrangements from our life in Minneapolis. I paused before erasing it because it seemed all too symbolic. (Insert "starting fresh" cliche here). But more than starting fresh, it felt like erasing something that was really really really great and everything I wanted. It felt like erasing friends; "Lunch with Kathy," or "Train museum with Carson." Even erasing the doctor and dentist appointments was hard - because I loved my doctor and dentist! It took me years to find a doctor I like! And everyone, I mean EVERYONE knows that Dr. Anderson is the nicest dentist on the planet. No, really. When I say nicest I mean nice-est. As in nicer than anyone you have ever met.

And then the year progresses, and we adjust to a new house, new school, new everything - little by little. But in retrospect, that adjustment is so miniscule it hardly amounts to anything yet. Months later, in the throes of your new life, you bring your winter coat up from the basement, a coat last worn in another place. And you wear that coat just like you did in that other place. And one day, you reach in the pocket and you feel something papery and rectangular and your first thought is "Please don't let this be a reminder of someplace I miss. Please no receipt for a Patina shopping spree or Rice Paper take-out. Please no groceries from Byerly's or Lund's or Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or the Linden Hills Co-op."

Luckily, it's not. And I get in the car and go to my new, much more regular grocery store. And continue to adjust.

As the anniversary of our departure from Minneapolis approaches, I'll re-post some stories from our first few weeks as travelers, homeless people and then newcomers. Perhaps adding some enlightenment that comes from hindsight. I'd love to say we've come a long way, but the baby steps come from a baby with unusually tiny feet.........even for a baby.

14 June 2011

The Photo Acclimation Project: The Donkey Show




These are the donkeys in my neighborhood. Do you have donkeys in your neighborhood? Donkeys are funny. Should I play the Marky Mark SNL skit again? It goes like this: "Hey, Donkey. How you doin'? You live in a barn, right?"

And that is what I say to each and every one of these donkeys. Because when you see a donkey, you have to stop and say hi. Just try to walk on by - it's not possible. You could also say "Nice ass." Which is Mike's standard response. And I laugh every time. Every. Time.

Did you know that donkies actually do all those funny things you see in cartoons?

Like this:


They peel their lips back to show you their teeth. But I don't think it's a nice gesture like "see my teeth?" I think it's an insult. This picture is a little off-center because I started to run away.

Or this:



This is actually a poorly timed shot of a donkey kick. They really do donkey kicks! Seriously. This donkey is just standing there watching traffic and then, quick as a cricket, his back legs shoot up in the air. Then he goes back to watching traffic.

They also wag their heads back and forth like they're saying no no no no no no no. And their giant ears go flop flop flop flop flop flop flop. Then they rest their chin on their neighbor's back.
See the photo in collage above? Just resting my chin on your back.



Oops. This is a donkey show of another kind. This is an urban donkey show (called "The Donkey Show") involving nearly nude men bedazzled in glitter and dancing to the Village People.

I really needed this Donkey Show. Sometimes you need a dose of alternative culture dressed in sparkles to feel like you're a part of the world again. I don't necessarily need to let my freak flag fly - but I do need to see other people's freak flags. This Donkey Show was the antidote to rural living.

There was an actual show. But I'm not sure what it was about. Something about Shakespeare? And there was cross-dressing. Lots and lots of cross-dressing. And at the glittery climax of the show (feel free to interpret - you'd be right either way), I danced with Mike under the disco ball. His version of dancing being standing still and holding a beer. Sometimes he'd snap a picture of me dancing by myself. It's ok - I'm used to it. As long as he stays out of my way, no one gets hurt. Long ago, I accepted this life of dancing by myself so I make it my mission to dance enough for both of us.

In my heaven, there will be a disco ball.
And glittery gay men who will dance with me.

But if you choose this life........
.......don't put the glitter near your eyes because I heard it can scratch your corneas.

10 June 2011

Husband Material




Today I woke up feeling under the weather. Punk. Peaky. A scratchy throat and a headache and general physical malaise. Surely the start of something nasty. I will take a sick day. Which is when I call in to nowhere and tell no one that I won't be coming in to the nothing today.


But truly, I am gifted at this. Just because you don't have an office to go to doesn't mean you cant take a sick day. And you must call it a sick day or you might sneak in a load of laundry. Okay that's silly - I don't even do laundry when I'm feeling good. That was just so you would think I'm industrious.


So I read a little, I try to nap, I talk on the phone too much and laugh too loudly which gives me a bigger headache. It had something to do with me using the word "anal" in a very unintended way. Seriously, I meant that we have a tendency to pay attention to detail. From now on, I will just say that - we have a tendency to pay attention to detail.


When Liam gets home from school, he asks how I'm feeling. Which is so grown up. I say I'm only ok. Still sick.


And then he asks for my phone. And I'm like "seriously, can't you talk to me for 5 minutes without your precious angry birds?" But he says, "no, I have to make a phone call."


"What? What are you talking about? Since when do you make phone calls? Do you even know how to dial a phone? Do you know what "dial" means? Who are you calling?"


"I can't tell you."


"Is it Max?"


"No."


"Is it Daddy?"


"Yes. I need some privacy, please."


Oh........ok. So I slip around the corner to eavesdrop.


And I hear him tell Mike that Mom isn't feeling well and she needs a coke from the drive-thru. Could he please bring home a coke from the drive-thru?


Sigh.


Love.


Especially because my coke addiction (and by that I mean my coke from the drive thru addiction. Damn these double meanings!) has recently been officially outed. By a 2nd grader, no less. And the 2nd grader has shamed me into ordering water in restaurants and sneaking shots of Pepsi when no one is looking.


But still, the 2nd grader knows when a girl needs a friend. Even if it's full of high fructose corn syrup and carbonation and phosphoric acid and sweet sweet caffeine. Liam knows what I need WITHOUT BEING ASKED and takes the initiative to get it for me. Most 43 year old men can't do this, even if they've been sleeping next to this woman for 21 years. I'm not talking about anyone in particular - just, you know, in general.


And, for the first time, it occurs to me: Liam is some serious husband material. Seriously good. If he shows this kind of emotional intelligence when he's in 2nd grade, his wife can count on some amazing treatment when he's 43.



And then, I can see my future - I don't have to worry about dying alone in a substandard care facility! This, friends, is why we have children! So that someone will bring us cokes from the drive thru when we're in the home! A really nice home that Liam picked out for its above average amenities.


Damn, if that doesn't perk me up.

07 June 2011

A Conversation with Liam




Liam sees the AT&T logo on the screen of my iphone.

"That's a bad company," he says.

"Oh really? Why is it bad?"

"Because it's on TV. They say they have the largest PG network but it's a lie. If I had to choose a phone company I would choose Verizon Wireless."

"Why is that?"


"Because their commercials are shorter. If you have long commercials that means you're a bigger company which means you have more money. And money is made out of paper. So it's bad for trees."



I guess I just never thought about it like that.

03 June 2011

A Visit to the Nurse



Mrs. Teacher called yesterday.

She wanted to fill me in on an incident that happened in the classroom. After Writer's Workshop, Liam came to her, looking peaky and out-of-sorts, and said, "I'm sick. I need to go to the nurse."

Concerned, Mrs. Teacher said, "What's wrong? What kind of sick?"

And Liam answered, "I'm homesick."


We left Minneapolis on June 23rd of last year, just under a year ago, and still this little boy's feelings about his home are so strong that he feels physically ill. This in the midst of re-establishing himself with flying colors.......with plenty of friends and a dreamy teacher and a "sweet new air rifle" that Daddy never would have gotten if we still lived in the city.

Mrs. Teacher validated his feelings, like good teachers do, and assured him that it was perfectly natural to feel sad when you have left something you love. She questioned him further to see if she could identify a trigger for this sudden bout of homesickness. And what she found is pictured above..............

In Writer's Workshop, the children were reviewing some their work from the beginning of the year. Liam's story was called "My Road Trip" - which began the day we drove away from 4041. The first page reads:

"I,m going to mis the plas."

And "Ther was a for sal sine in the frot yard."

It almost looks like he started to color in the outline of our old house but couldn't bear to finish it. And that's when he felt the need to go to the nurse.


As we approach the first anniversary of our move, it may be a good idea to look back and see how far we've come. Or, more importantly, how we did it. It's not a linear progression from bad to better to adjusted; it's far more schizophrenic than that. And, if you're reading this, you've had a front row seat on the rollercoaster of our psyches. One day is a dream come true and the next you're going to the nurse with a case of homesickness. It's testament to our ability to carry on even in the midst of a tantrum. That life can and will find a groove even if it's not your favorite song. Like Top 40 radio - you have to sit thru a lot of songs before you hear one you really like. But we still keep listening, don't we?

And when that song does come on, you turn it up loud and you drive too fast and, for just a few minutes, you forget about all the other songs before it.