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Minnie was the kind of person who liked to yell at the TV when she watched costume dramas. Often she had a glass of wine by her side, but not always, because having wine every night would mean she was a drunk. And she was many things — middle-aged, paunchy, prone to outbursts — but she was definitely not a drunk, at least not in her own book. And if someone did think she was a drunk, well, that was their problem, not hers, right?


Vinnie considered it a sort of manly honor to rake the leaves, but he drew the line at picking up the 12 million gumballs that goddamn tree dropped every year. Some of them naturally came up with the leaves, but many were left behind, and that’s where his son came in. Not that he was happy about helping — but he did, and with only minor prodding from his father. And without mentioning The Event, which was actually very kind of him.


Timmy wondered when he’d ever be able to reach the light switch. Everything would be so much better if only he could get up there. But how? Stack the blocks, or drag the chair over, or… no.


Fluffy pushed herself up from her fleece-lined perch, stretched, yawned, and lay back down again. “So many mice, so little time,” she drawled. She was only trying to impress the new cat, though — she had never so much as chased a mouse. No, why waste her time on mice when she much preferred dragons?


Buffy looked around the room, scanning the mostly unfriendly faces, and then the question entered her mind, unbidden: “What would Don Draper do?” Not that he would ever have been faced with a roomful of vampires, but still, it was interesting to think about. Also: handsome to think about, no harm no foul. But anyway, back to the question: what would that Mad Man do?


The mice considered their options carefully, knowing their next move could cost them everything. Was it worth the risk? Only one way to find out. Pick a path, move forward.


The table felt neglected. It had been days since the family had used it for a meal, and it was heaped with papers, toys, electronics, you name it. The way they were treating it, it felt more like a closet, or one of those awful plastic bins. Nobody even knew what was in those anymore until they went digging for something they only needed once a year.


Out in the shed, the empty flowerpots were stacked neatly, waiting for spring. Inside, Mathilde settled down with a mug of Darjeeling and a stack of seed and plant catalogs. It was her favorite time of year, the sitting and plotting season. She picked up the stack and flipped through, scanning the titles — Burpee of course, and a couple of heirloom seed companies, but also the one she liked best: Gifted Gardener.


Every so often, the thought entered her mind, but she usually shoved it away and went back to whichever of the thousand daily tasks she was in the middle of. It just didn’t seem wise to dwell on it, and she was pretty sure it was illegal anyway. And it wasn’t like she knew the right sort of person to ask. Not anymore.


“Can I ask you something, Ron?” Hermione called from the kitchen. “It’ll only take a minute.”

“It better,” he said, shuffling in with a vacant yet annoyed expression, “Quidditch is on.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, even though she knew Ron could see. “Just look.”

She held up one finger, paused until she knew Ron was following along, and pointed out the window.

Minnie was the kind of person who liked to yell at the TV when she watched costume dramas. Often she had a glass of wine by her side, but not always, because having wine every night would mean she was a drunk. And she was many things — middle-aged, paunchy, prone to outbursts — but she was definitely not a drunk, at least not in her own book.


Vinnie considered it a sort of manly honor to rake the leaves, but he drew the line at picking up the 12 million gumballs that goddamn tree dropped every year. Some of them naturally came up with the leaves, but many were left behind, and that’s where his son came in. Not that he was happy about helping — but he did, and with only minor prodding from his father.


Timmy wondered when he’d ever be able to reach the light switch. Everything would be so much better if only he could get up there. But how?


Fluffy pushed herself up from her fleece-lined perch, stretched, yawned, and lay back down again. “So many mice, so little time,” she drawled. She was only trying to impress the new cat, though — she had never so much as chased a mouse.


Buffy looked around the room, scanning the mostly unfriendly faces, and then the question entered her mind, unbidden: “What would Don Draper do?” Not that he would ever have been faced with a roomful of vampires, but still, it was interesting to think about. Also: handsome to think about, no harm no foul.


The mice considered their options carefully, knowing their next move could cost them everything. Was it worth the risk? Only one way to find out.


The table felt neglected. It had been days since the family had used it for a meal, and it was heaped with papers, toys, electronics, you name it. The way they were treating it, it felt more like a closet, or one of those awful plastic bins.


Out in the shed, the empty flowerpots were stacked neatly, waiting for spring. Inside, Mathilde settled down with a mug of Darjeeling and a stack of seed and plant catalogs. It was her favorite time of year, the sitting and plotting season.


Every so often, the thought entered her mind, but she usually shoved it away and went back to whichever of the thousand daily tasks she was in the middle of. It just didn’t seem wise to dwell on it, and she was pretty sure it was illegal anyway. And it wasn’t like she knew the right sort of person to ask.


“Can I ask you something, Ron?” Hermione called from the kitchen. “It’ll only take a minute.”

“It better,” he said, shuffling in with a vacant yet annoyed expression, “Quidditch is on.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, even though she knew Ron could see. “Just look.”

Day 14: Let’s Continue

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Minnie was the kind of person who liked to yell at the TV when she watched costume dramas. Often she had a glass of wine by her side, but not always, because having wine every night would mean she was a drunk.


Vinnie considered it a sort of manly honor to rake the leaves, but he drew the line at picking up the 12 million gumballs that goddamn tree dropped every year. Some of them naturally came up with the leaves, but many were left behind, and that’s where his son came in.


Timmy wondered when he’d ever be able to reach the light switch. Everything would be so much better if only he could get up there.


Fluffy pushed herself up from her fleece-lined perch, stretched, yawned, and lay back down again. “So many mice, so little time,” she drawled.


Buffy looked around the room, scanning the mostly unfriendly faces, and then the question entered her mind, unbidden: “What would Don Draper do?” Not that he would ever have been faced with a roomful of vampires, but still, it was interesting to think about.


The mice considered their options carefully, knowing their next move could cost them everything. Was it worth the risk?


The table felt neglected. It had been days since the family had used it for a meal, and it was heaped with papers, toys, electronics, you name it.


Out in the shed, the empty flowerpots were stacked neatly, waiting for spring. Inside, Mathilde settled down with a mug of Darjeeling and a stack of seed and plant catalogs.


Every so often, the thought entered her mind, but she usually shoved it away and went back to whichever of the thousand daily tasks she was in the middle of. It just didn’t seem wise to dwell on it, and she was pretty sure it was illegal anyway.


“Can I ask you something, Ron?” Hermione called from the kitchen. “It’ll only take a minute.”

“It better,” he said, shuffling in with a vacant yet annoyed expression, “Quidditch is on.”

Day 13: Let’s Begin

Minnie was the kind of person who liked to yell at the TV when she watched costume dramas.

Vinnie considered it a sort of manly honor to rake the leaves, but he drew the line at picking up the 12 million gumballs that goddamn tree dropped every year.

Timmy wondered when he’d ever be able to reach the light switch.

Fluffy pushed herself up from her fleece-lined perch, stretched, yawned, and lay back down again.

Buffy looked around the room, scanning the mostly unfriendly faces, and then the question entered her mind, unbidden: “What would Don Draper do?”

The mice considered their options carefully, knowing their next move could cost them everything.

The table felt neglected.

Out in the shed, the empty flowerpots were stacked neatly, waiting for spring.

Every so often, the thought entered her mind, but she usually shoved it away and went back to whichever of the thousand daily tasks she was in the middle of.

“Can I ask you something, Ron?” Hermione called from the kitchen. “It’ll only take a minute.”

Day 12: Chores

I have two brothers, one slightly older and one much younger. My parents got divorced (a good thing, believe me) as I entered my tween years, and my mom worked several jobs and rented out rooms to keep us in the same house and schools while my dad moved several times, got remarried, and bought tons of cool stuff for himself and his new family instead of paying child support. Why, divorced dads? Why?

Anyway. The slightly older brother and I were responsible for basic chores: vacuuming, mopping, dishes, bathrooms, etc. I don’t remember dusting but I think we did our own laundry because I definitely remember the creepy, damp, spidery basement. With dirt floors in some areas. I think. Memories are tricky.

Anyway. I don’t remember who decided on a chore chart to keep things fair, but my money’s on mom. She told me, when I was in college, that she used managerial techniques on us all the time because she figured they would work just as well at home as in the office. In other words, she raised us like a boss.

Anyway. Chores. There was a chart. A handwritten chart that was redrawn once a month or so, probably by me, “the creative one.” We each had a mix of easy and crappy jobs and we switched once a week so that nobody was stuck doing the same things forever. In theory, it was a perfect plan. In practice, though, it did not work, especially for me, because my older brother, lovely grownup though he is, liked to make up his own rules. He did it when we played Monopoly (which is why I stopped playing with him) and he did it with the damn chore chart. He didn’t have to be clever about it, though: he just didn’t do his chores. It was the perfect plan, really.

Because I kind of like cleaning.

It happens, not every day, but often enough that it doesn’t bug me and I’ve come to expect it: “Are you his grandma?” “Your grandson is so cute!” Sometimes it’s a kid making the assumption, but not always.

I don’t dye my hair, so it’s pretty obvious that I’m not in my 30s. I only know one mom of a kid my son’s age who is older than me. It may be weird from an outsider’s perspective, but it’s normal to me, and I think there are advantages. I’m a fully-formed adult — I can’t imagine being a mom in my late 20s or early 30s when I was still figuring myself out. I know what I will and won’t put up with, from my kid and the adults I interact with as part of being a parent.

There are disadvantages too, of course. I’m not as physically robust as I would like to be, and that sometimes limits what I can do with my six-year-old. But mostly, I worry about not being around when my kid is older. I want to see his whole life, or at least settled in his own family or community, and unlike younger parents, I can’t assume I’ll be around for all of that. Not that anyone can — death isn’t inextricably linked to age.

Not according to the Boo — he’s convinced that everyone dies when they’re 100, though he’s fuzzy on the mechanics of exactly how that happens. He sometimes calculates how old he’ll be when my time is up. It’s charming and sad, and it gives us an opportunity to talk about death.

Yes, an opportunity. As a culture, we don’t talk about death enough, and I want my son to be aware of it so he’s better prepared to face it.

Just one of the many fun tasks of parenting.

For most of last year, the Boo refused to ride the bus, so I dropped him off and picked him up at school. Every day. And because his school has outgrown its footprint, it’s a time-sucking cluster of an experience that gives me hives.

So when he decided, pretty much on his own, that he wanted to ride the bus back in February, I was elated. I got a bunch of time back, and it seemed he was becoming more independent, which struck me as a good and natural thing. He developed friendships with a few kids he rode with, and playdates ensued. Heaven on earth.

And yet, as good as I feel about this developmental milestone, sometimes he tells me stories about the bus that give me pause. Such as, one day a kid squirted water on him for no apparent reason. Another time, a kid made fun of him for being sad because he missed me. When he tells me these things, I wonder: Is this normal bus “stuff”? What really happens during that ride with all those kids, and a driver whose job is to keep them safe (at which she does a great job, by the way), and several video cameras?

Yes, video cameras. Plural. On school buses. I’ll just leave that right there.

When the Boo tells me about something odd/upsetting that happened on the bus, I counsel him as best I can: Stand up for yourself. Sit with a buddy. Speak up for anyone who’s being bothered. But I don’t offer to start driving him to school again. We believe it’s important for him to learn how to deal with all kinds of people, and the bus seems to be an excellent teaching ground for that. And so far, there doesn’t seem to be anything alarming happening during his ten-minute rides. But I figured it couldn’t hurt to do a little digging, so I went down to the basement and found a subject matter expert: The Boo. He was slightly reluctant to participate but was won over by the promise of doing a bit of typing.

Q: What happens on the bus?

A: Well there are stops and they um you can either get dropped off or picked up.

Q: What do kids do on the bus?

A: Well some kids play, some kids sit around.

Q: How do kids behave on the bus?

A: Some behave bad and some behave good.

Q: What kinds of things do the bad behaving kids do?

A: Pfft. Switch seats. Crawl under the seats.

Q: That seems dangerous. Does the bus driver know?

A: Yes! Sometimes.

Q: What does she do about it?

A: She either tells them to stop a hundred times or makes assigned seats.

Q: That seems like a great idea. On a scale of 1 to 10,

A: Make it 100! Please?

Q: Okay, on a scale of 1 to 100, how much do you like riding the bus?

A: 20.

Q: 20. Why only 20?

A: I don’t have an answer for that.

Q: Last question. What’s your favorite thing about riding the bus?

A: Nothing.

Q: Nothing?!

A: I can’t pick anything. Everything’s so good and I don’t want to give it away. It’s my secret business.

I'm over 40. I'm raising a first grader. Hear me roar.

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