Monday, January 12, 2009

The Halloween fairy

My son came home from a party the other day, excited with a piece of news one of his friends had passed on:

"Did you know there's such a thing as the Halloween fairy?"

"No, can't say I did."

"Yeah. And if you leave out all your leftover Halloween candy, she'll bring you a dollar for each piece. My friend got, like, $100 for hers!"

Okay. Let's go at this in a calm manner before I go throttle the mother who thought to teach her child about this so-called Halloween fairy.

Owen is 9. He doesn't believe in the tooth fairy; she only brings you a buck a tooth. He doesn't believe in Santa; you get the presents regardless of whether you sit on his lap or not. He doesn't believe in the Easter Bunny. Again: you keep getting the jellybeans and Peeps long after you've given up on the idea of a giant rabbit bouncing into your home while you sleep and filling your basket with plastic grass and future dentist visits. (Although I welcome "Harvey"'s pookah anytime.)

But a Halloween fairy? You mean I get to go trick-or-treating, load up on more sugar than is decent or even morally right, eat until I keck, and then sell the leftovers for a buck a piece? I get all the crap I can literally stomach AND I get a $100 bonus at the end?

Perhaps this mother had a good reason for buying her kid's candy. It's January 12, and I still have several pounds of chocolate hidden in the cupboards, which I'll use for cookies at some point. I threw away the dwindled pile of lollipops weeks ago (again with the morality of this holiday!), and the other hard candy never even made it to daylight. (Who gives kids hard candy for Halloween. Stop that! First of all, kids don't like it that much. Second of all, I'm not a huge fan of seeing my kids choke. If all you can find is an old bag of Jolly Ranchers, then turn your lights out and don't answer the door.)

So she should have just bought it! She should have said, "Tell you what, child-without-a-name-so-no-one-reading-a-blog-about-you-will-judge-me, hand over the KitKats and the Reese's cups and I'll give you $100." Heck, the kid probably would have handed it over for $75 or $50.

But noooo... you had to create a fairy who does this, thereby putting the burden on all other parents of kids your kid knows to now either (a) allow the Halloween fairy into their house, (b) tell their child the Halloween fairy doesn't love them as much as she loves your child, or (c) tell their child this particular fairy doesn't exist . . . but Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy do.

Sure, like I said, Owen doesn't believe in this particular trinity anymore (don't get me started on the religious side of all of this, okay? I'm SO not in the mood and will beat you down with that bag of Hershey's bars I'm holding onto.), but he has two younger siblings who do.

And has this incident made me think about the morality of teaching my children to believe in SC, EB, and TF but rejecting the HF? A little. But at least SC is a fantasy that's all about hope and joy and anonymous do-gooding that makes us all believe in the unseen spirit of love.

But looking for a way to get the candy out of your kids' hands? When you're the one that let her go out for 5 hours of begging in the first place? (Yes, I said 5 hours. FIVE. That's how long our neighborhood has trick-or-treating.) Next time please PLEASE . . . just give her a sandwich bag instead of a pillowcase and be done with it.

And let me continue to choose which fantasies (not lies!) to perpetuate in my house.

Or be prepared for me to be verrrry generous with your daughter next Halloween, and to perhaps even allow my kids to give her their leftovers in return for a cut of the earnings.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm it

This is my 50th blog post. Sure, not a huge number, especially considering the fact that I started over a year ago. But at least I'm hanging in there, sticking to it, showing I have determination and can follow things through. Or at least can talk a fair amount.

So my friend Shankar tagged me. And here are the rules:

(1) Share 6 non- (though not necessarily un-) important things about yourself on your blog.
(2) Tag 6 blogging friends to then do the same.
(3) Let each person know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
(4) Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

1. I love bluegrass music. Love it. I'd capitalize all four letters of that verb, but I don't want you to think I'm yelling at you. I love it so much that I took a bluegrass harmony class about 4 years back. Twice. And, yes, bluegrass harmony is different from other harmonies. I'd offer you a lengthy explanation, but if you aren't a fan, you probably won't care. If you're a fan or simply curious, however, go here for more information. What I love most about bluegrass, I think, is the honesty and earnestness, the purity of the lyrics as well as the voices. Some of the singers have phenomenal voices that just make you ache with their sincerity; others have average voices that simply say what you're feeling. When my father passed away in '04, my sister and I sang "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" in 2-part bluegrass harmony. It's an old hymn, but we sang the bluegrass tune. Miraculously, I made it through without crying until the very last verse. Here is the Carter-Cash family singing it with their lyrics. Like I said: these aren't beautiful voices, but they mean every word.

2. I totally lack any sense of direction. Ron says I've put up my own roadblock here and that I could have a better one if I weren't convinced I can't. But he's wrong. I took Owen to the doctor earlier this week and didn't realize until we were on our way that Ron had taken my GPS out of the car. I had the directions written down, so I figured I could get there and then would just reverse those directions to get home. Yet I went west instead of east at a crucial point and kept going. I knew I was heading in the wrong direction on the right street, but I got so flustered I had to pull over to look at a map and calm down for a few minutes. Looking at the map was useless because I still couldn't figure out where the heck I was on that street. Any normal person would have simply turned around 15 minutes earlier, but I was afraid that maybe I really heading in the right direction and would eventually hit home. Or Iowa. What should have been a 15-minute ride home turned into almost an hour. And I blame Ron for taking out that GPS. Yes, that's right. It's his fault, not mine, that I don't know east from west.

3. I spent a summer in college working at a vegetarian cafe on Kauai and during the three months I was there, I ended up at the beach no more than 5 times. I may as well have been on the mainland, but I adored (most of) the customers and all of the people I worked with, so the experience was still amazing. My favorite fellow employee was a talented artist who washed dishes and was a descendant of Ponce de Leon. My least favorite customer was a man who owned a sushi bar a few doors down and propositioned me for $1500 after throwing me up against a wall. When I said no, he threatened to make things "unpleasant" for me if I ever told anyone. His name was Brad and if I knew his last name I'd tell you that, too. The worst part of that experience, however, was having my boyfriend's father ask what I'd done to lead him on. Nice.

4. I tend to have a hard time letting things go from my past. But I rarely actually get angry at or hurt by people anymore. Anger and hurt are wasted emotions, and my energies are better spent on taking care of myself and the people I love.

5. When I was 3, I had a pair of shiny red vinyl boots that I wore everywhere. I came across a picture of myself in them a couple of days ago and was surpised at how young I was. I had always thought I was 6 or 7 when I owned them because I remember them so vividly: the way they felt on me, the way they smelled, the sound they made when I walked. In the picture, I'm pushing my baby brother, Sean, around in a doll carriage. Sean was born at home--a planned home birth because the doctor said it was cheaper than going to the hospital. And since Mom had already had 6 of us before him, she kind of had the hang of the delivery thing. But then the doctor charged her an exorbitant amount for the housecall and my parents didn't save a penny in the end. After he was born, my dad brought me into the room to meet Sean. I left to go get a photo album and then proceeded to show my parents pictures of myself. Apparently, I wasn't fond of being upstaged.

6. I tend to ramble on.

Tag time:

1.Rachel K.
3. David S.
4. Nathaniel
5. Jenny P.
6. Sherry

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Losing her head

For Christmas this year, all my 6-year-old daughter wanted was an American Girl doll. Before I actually purchased the (ridiculously expensive) doll, I must have asked Emma 100 times if she was sure she wanted the doll. She has never been a doll kind of girl--a product, perhaps, of being the only sister of three very boy-like brothers. Yes, she loves clothes and makeup (no, I don't let her wear it) and gymnastics and flitting around in glittery shoes several sizes too large, but the nurturer in her has been sorely lacking since birth.

Apparently residency in the Chicago area requires all little girls to have at least one of these (ridiculously expensive) dolls and to even have tea with her occasionally. So when a friend of mine came to visit several weeks before Christmas, her own AG-loving daughter in tow, I pulled Emma out of school (makeup: no; truancy: yes) and made the brief trek to downtown Chicago to the AG store. I had no intention of buying her a doll while we were there, as I had already purchased one, now safely tucked away in my closet, online. But Emma fell in love with Emily, an auburn-haired WWII-era doll. And I relented. I at first tried to tell her she couldn't have her until Christmas but then "had to" give in again or be the only mother in that store making her daughter cry (makeup: no; truancy: yes; peer pressure: yes).

Emily has been with us for more than a month now, and the bloom remains on the rose. Emma loves her, sleeps with her, dresses her in the several outfits she ended up with as Christmas gifts, and puts her hair up in less-than-flattering 'dos (refusing to brush her hair as obstinately as she refuses to brush her own). The purchase was a successful one, and Emma's not going to tire of the (ridiculously expensive) doll in the near future.

Then last night, Ivan struck. I was in the kitchen when I heard Emma screaming. And it was the kind of scream that, being a mother, told me exactly what had happened before she even got to the top of the basement steps. Her 3-year-old brother had just hurt Emily--severely.

To see Emma running toward me with Emily's head in one hand and her body in the other was disturbing on a couple of different levels. One, severed heads are never pleasant to me, even those belonging (or that previously belonged) to dolls. And two, the look of utter misery on Emma's face and her agonizing wails were heartbreaking. I understood at that moment that Emma loves this doll more than she has ever loved anything in her little life. Anything, not anyone. I have no doubt she would be more upset about something happening to her brothers, her father, or me than she was by this, but still I can see she's learning to be a nurturer now.

Or perhaps I'm just projecting onto her my own fears as a mother. I was completely ill equipped to be a mom when I got pregnant with my oldest. He was a surprise, and although I was excited eventually, my first reaction to the news was to break down in tears: "I can't be a mom!" I told Ron. "I don't know how to be one." He laughed and hugged me, but I was completely serious. Yes, I had always wanted to be a mother--in theory. But when that pregnancy test turned up positive in reality, I was scared out of my mind. And for the first year of his life, I went around in a sort of daze, unsure how to remain myself while giving that self so completely over to this squirmy, squiggly thing that couldn't even have a conversation with me.

I was not born a nurturer. I never had pets, never really wanted them. I had a younger brother and sister I did a fine job ignoring for most of my childhood. And I, too, never played with dolls, tending more toward tree forts and Sasquatch hunts. But I've learned how to at least feel like one over the last 12 years.

Emily's head is back on now. She's doing fine, recovering nicely. Emma's fine again as well, although she did wake me early this morning after a nightmare. I didn't ask what it was about. Some things don't bear repeating. But if her nightmares are anything like mine, they have to do with loving something so much that you go a little crazy with fear. Yes, being a mother is all about losing your head.