Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On Gratitude with an Attitude

Once again, it’s time to pay official homage to all that is good in our lives and ignore all that other stuff that isn’t perfect. As my mother used to say, “no matter how bad you have it, there’s always someone else out there worse off than you.” The truth is I am thankful. I am particularly thankful that the lovely people at Peekaboo allow me to raid multiple inches of precious magazine space for my monthly drivel, and conversely for those readers who generously indulge me with fifteen minutes they’ll never get back. I’m also thankful for the classic things, like the fact that both my parents are healthy and still around to drive me crazy. I’m thankful that I’ve got food on the table and a roof over my head. And I’m ever-so-thankful for the friends who join me for daily “amateur hour” therapy sessions and confirm that I’m not alone at the “asylum.”

This Thanksgiving marks the near end of my fortieth year and in my requisite analysis of too many years gone by and the untold number of mistakes I’ve made, it’s also occurred to me that I’m thankful for a whole array of things that aren’t appropriate for the traditional Thanksgiving table. And even though my Thanksgiving table looks less like Martha’s and more like Snoopy’s with bowls of popcorn and stacks of buttered toast, traditions still apply. Eventually, everyone will start dishing out thank you lists suitable for collective consumption, but this year, I think I’ll just silently noodle over a list of another variety:

I’m thankful…

1. that by some miracle I avoided getting slapped with a $1000 fine during the two months prior to me discovering that Cameron had been tossing random toys, food and necessities out the car window during our long commute to school. Things were always missing, but it didn’t strike me as odd until we arrived at his Mom’s Day Out program and he was suddenly missing his socks. Said suspect folded like a cheap suit and made a full confession. The little rascal was even smiling until he realized that his window privileges had been permanently revoked.

2. that my husband appears to have retained the very same rose-colored glasses he had on when we met fifteen years ago.

3. that video telephones never caught on.

4. for baseball caps, dark glasses and elastic waistbands.

5. for the most reliable nanny I’ve ever had: she’s available on a dime, highly entertaining and requires nothing in return. I like to call her: “Tel-eh-veez-e-own.” Giving her an exotic name makes me feel better.

6. for drive-thru-windows.

7. that I happened to be running an errand when my husband discovered Cameron’s latest, and heretofore legendary diaper blowout. But mostly that I couldn’t be recruited for the Haz-Mat clean-up crew.

8. for the fact that child abandonment laws are stringent enough to motivate me to stick around during those moments when I feel completely insane, just long enough to stay for those other moments I can’t imagine life without my boys.

9. that some very smart people published an official report stating that it’s healthy for me to have at least one glass of red of wine a day.

10. that my husband and children can’t read the inner dialogue bubble above my head.

11. for plastic surgery. Not that I can afford it or have dallied there, but somehow it makes me feel better knowing that my battle-weary “girls” have something to aspire to - nobody’s going to feel better unless they can climb back onto the top shelf where they belong.

And there are a million more – not least of which is the fact that I can’t get fired from this crazy job called motherhood regardless of whether or not I’m meeting expectations, getting through my to-do list or cooking my own meals. The downside, of course, is that the salary won’t buy Mama a new pair of shoes. But the bonus is that I’ll likely have enough fodder to write stories for the rest of my life. I guess I’ll just have to feast on that.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

On Halloween, The Sequel

If, in fact, there is anyone out there besides my mother who has been reading my column for a full year, at least one other person knows I’m not a big fan of Halloween. Tiny people in equally tiny costumes: darling. Various pronunciations of “twick o tweet:” not to be missed. It’s just one of those holidays that requires entirely too much work. Besides, all those clever people who embrace Halloween full throttle put me in last place before my toe has ever skulked over the starting line.

Growing up, I discovered early that there was a “sweet spot” in the art of costume selection. Throughout the Halloweens of my childhood, I honed my skills at choosing a costume that was neither too clever nor too difficult to pull off. My outfit always fell somewhere north of stupid and a good ways south of best costume. I was never going to be MVP, but at least I could suit up with the rest of the cool kids on the team and still end up smiling with my pillowcase full of candy.

I have no idea why, but as I approached my first Halloween as a mom, I had this sudden urge to win prizes and take names. For me, Halloween reached the same anxiety provoking heights as choosing the perfect baby announcement. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t take up papier-maché, but I did scour the Internet and pore over every catalog available to become utterly neurotic about finding the perfect costume. Year one, Jack was a crawling court jester. Year two, he was an “early years” Elvis. Year three, he insisted on being a fireman instead of the darling pirate I’d chosen, so I left no stone unturned and found the best darn fireman costume I’d ever seen. When he insisted on being a fireman again the following year, I was dejected.

I should have been happy about the money I was about to save alone, but instead I found myself lamenting to a friend. She immediately scoffed at my predicament and assured me, since Cameron had been born by this time, that I could easily breathe new life into that old fireman costume by making Cameron a Dalmatian. I was stunned. Until that very moment I had never thought of my children as a “set,” but there was my friend, talking a mile a minute about how she had been able to up the Halloween costume ante, even when her oldest daughter had insisted on being a princess three years in a row. The second year, her son had arrived, so he turned into a frog. By the third, he’d graduated to prince. Impressive, no?

I’m not sure if the Halloween bigwigs overheard our conversation that fateful day, but ever since, the industry has seemed to embrace the concept full boar. Peruse any catalog worth its salt and not only will you find related costumes for siblings of all ages, but you’ll even find new ways to humiliate the dog. If your son has chosen to be Harry Potter, you can accessorize him with a sibling dressed as Hedwig his trusty owl companion. If there’s a budding magician in your family, a little sister can easily be tormented as his requisite rabbit-in-a-hat. If your daughter wants to be Lil’ Bo Peep, find that girl some sheep. And what's a pirate without his obligatory parrot? Your children will kill you later, but while you still have the reins, I say go ahead and have a little fun.

Last year when Jack begged to be Jango Fett from Star Wars, Cameron was a shoo-in as his mini-Yoda. In the sequel, Jack’s still obsessed with Star Wars, but has moved on to Commander Cody. Since Cameron already rocked his Yoda outfit last year, I’ve had my eye on the toddler Princess Leia costume, complete with headpiece and signature side buns. My husband is resistant, of course, but when I talk of the future fun and bribery material we’ll have on him, he admits it sounds tempting.

Unfortunately, our six-year-old has embraced the themed “set” concept to such a degree that he’d like my husband and I to dress up as Star Wars characters too - my worst nightmare to say the least. My husband wants to be George Lucas, the creator of the multi-billion dollar franchise. He figures it’s the least taxing costume to put together -- slap on a silver wig, quirky mustache and beard, and carry around a wad of cash. I guess that leaves me as the ex-wife. While I may be taking some creative liberties here, I think I’ll play her as someone who has let herself go but doesn’t care since she still gets alimony. I'm thinking I could rock that outfit.

If you want to embrace the themed costume approach, do it while the kids are young and naïve because the strategy has an inevitably short life span. In the meantime, I’ll be relieved when Halloween 2009 finally comes to a close. We can pack away the costumes and Jack can spend the rest of the year dressed up as the favorite pair of jeans I’ll likely never fit into again and Cameron as the incisional hernia from our C-section together—talk about a couple of characters.