Monday, December 22, 2008

bitterness before breakfast

I think I'm starting to become suspicious and weary of people without children. I remember pre-offspring I would be sitting, for example, in the college pub after class with a classmate and they'd have to leave after only one beer to go pick up their toddler from daycare and I'd feel sorry for them. 'Awww, poor person,' I'd think, 'having kids is such a drag, man.' And the other person would rather charitably let me believe that they would actually rather be sitting around discussing obscure social theorists and their convoluted ideas about consumsuption and the modern individual with me rather than snuggling with their sweet smelling, cuddly babe while reading 'pajama time' for the 200th time.

Now I know better.

Bam, what a difference a few years can make. Now I think of adults without children as not really fully grown yet. They have an innocence about them. They carry life lightly on their shoulders, amusing unaware of the superficiality of their problems, of how irrelevant all of life is compared the bottomless responsibility and sense of forboding that having a few bambinos running around brings. Love is gruesome. It is a heavy, heavy thing.

Remember those 1970s or so little cartoons of naked people with sickly sweet little "Love is..." sayings. I've never quite gotten them, perhaps I was too young to really get it, and the fact that they never wore clothes kind of distracted me (don't they get cold? They don't live around here, I know that.) But now, here I am older and more tired, I know for certain that those nudies were totally out to lunch. The one I remember best is the the 'Love means never having to say sorry.' What the? In my experience, love means having to say sorry all the time. Over things that couldn't possibility be my fault, like the weather and socks that don't match (okay, maybe my fault, but, dude, I got better things to feel sorry about).

Love is spending years nursing, cuddling, feeding, dressing, sacrificing in a thousand ways to please, sooth, and nourish a child and then have that child pass you over for someone who keeps whacking them with a plastic light saber and pushes them down the stairs.

Love is carrying a collective 60 pounds of screaming raging children through the darkened house after a very long day, stepping in cat upchuck along the way, and still reading one child her chapter before bedtime, nursing and singing the other to sleep and making sure the cat gets a good scratch behind the ears before dragging your own exhausted body off to bed.

Love is not having enough time to trim your toe nails for five months.

Love is taking years off your life by only sleeping in 15 minute stints for years at a time.

Love is poop, pee, vomit and applying salve to strange rashes in places only highly paid doctors or prostitutes will venture.

Love is not hauling off and smacking the brat who wakes you up an hour and half before you need to and then going back to sleep half an hour later, leaving you to deal with the now completely awake baby, who then falls asleep 30 minutes before you must start work, leaving you just enough time to finally trim your toe nails and blog out a whine about the whole love and children thing.

For so many years there has been no such thing as calling in sick, of walking while swinging my arms, of using the bathroom alone. Love is the only thing that would motivate someone to tolerate these barbarous conditions, and to make a person insane enough to actually enjoy it along the way.

Friday, December 19, 2008

rambling rant

The big deal lately for us is the colonization of the Disney Princesses of our house and our daughter's heart. I hate the Disney Princesses. I have violent fantasies about a big princess dismemberment and stewing party. Which makes me a little bit sad, because when I was little I thought Sleeping Beauty was about as great of a film as there could be. It's up there with Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Annie, and The Best Little Whore House in Texas for me. I even seriously considered naming Smootch 'Aurora', that film had such an influence on me. And as far as it goes, Aladdin is a great, Mulan is fabulous (though problematic politically, I know, but cross dressing is always a winner in my mind), and Cinderella, well, everybody can identify with Cinderella. I grew up with these movies and I love them (except Snow White - never could abide with Snowy's 'Someday My Prince will Come' *shutter*). These movies are not exactly a feminist ideal, they are a far cry away from the Grimm's fairy tales, but they've got something that I like anyway. Humor. Irony. Dragons.

But the princesses all together are now The Princesses, and they are a force to be reckoned with. The Disney Princesses are whores for an imperialistic marketing scheme. Their images are slapped loose and fancy free across everything imaginable without feeling moored to any logical connection between image and product: bed sheets, crayons, kitchen ware, toothpaste, wallpaper, sandwich bags, clothing, books, and on and on and on. The 'princesses', which are simply heroines of disney films, actually being royality is not a prerequiste, are pictured as a group, an uber princess, and their individuality is reduced to slight quirky preferences for certain colours, hair style, and pets. The princess personality (which I have extrapolated from my extensive research watching Smootch watch the Princess sing-a-long videos borrowed from the library) is mainly concerned with men and partying.

So, where am I going with this? I don't know (it's getting pretty late). I was thinking I was going to write about my revelation that I do not need to fight this silliness, because that is what it is. It is marketing, and the last time I checked, I am still not required to actually buy this crap. True, I resent the hell that shopping for the few things I do actually have to buy is about a faux-choice between this brand or that, having no trademark-less thing avaliable in my local shops (have you tried to buy a child's toothbrush without a cartoon character on it lately?), but it is not the only influence in my child's life. Of course, Smootch completely lacks the critical thinking necessary to defend herself from advertising and that Disney is horrifically predatory when it comes to imbedding their brand into the consciousness of young minds in an effort to create lifelong consumers, but, hey, such is modern life, right? Still, with two of her classmates actually going to Disneyland in the past month, and being asked continually about the Princesses, and what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas (she has already discovered that replying "playing with mom alone all day long" (poor Birdie was not invited) is not an acceptable response - that was poo pooed by a stranger on the bus today who refused to believe that Smootch's innermost desires had nothing to do with bubble wrapped plastic), and then having our video store carry at least half of their children's selection produced by Disney (the other half Nickelodeon), and nothing of any damn value, well, it's enough to make a mom rant.


So, when I was a girl, I had toys. Some were character toys, though Branding as a marketing scheme was still in its infancy. I remember it being a bit of a scandal that they were selling toys related to Gremlins before the movie actually was released. Though with He-Man and GI Joe, cartoons created exclusively to support a line of toys, we were no trademark virgins. Still, it was a mere sideshow of influence, compared to the whole earthquake level of advertising now. What I would consider to be the most important influence on my own childhood play to be is the fact that every couple of weeks or so I would find myself out at an isolated rural acerage for an entire weekend, with virtually no toys at all. This is the time otherwise known as parental visitation with my father. My 'fun' resources were my brother, the land such as it offered for exploration (and amazing land it was!), and a few grown up games my father kept out such as Risk, Monolopy, and chess pieces. Yes, folks, I had to make my own fun and I'm sure I'm a better person for it (though I occasionally failed and could spend an entire day staring up at a slowly moving ceiling fan missing my nintendo, but I'm going to believe that was some sort of mind enhancing zen experience and not a complete lack of character and creativity).

One of my favorite play items was a set of chess pieces painted by my mother before I was born. They are little masterpieces of dedication and intricacy. I have them today and Smootch has grown to love them also.

I spent hundred of hours playing with these little figures, though, truth be known, never actually played chess with them. You can create almost any story you want with 32 pieces in two colours. I'm sure most of us have similar recollections of creating complicated plots and intriques with just a few raw materials. Good times, being bored on those weekends.

Now, back to marketing. I was thinking about this today while watching Smootch play with my chess pieces and a Dora the Explorer game set she received for her birthday. Now Dora is as insidious as The Princesses and her image has been slapped on everything under the sun and more. Dora isn't a friend of mine either, but Smootch's Dora game chest has been pretty good to us because we like games and the game chest contains classics like Old Maid, dominios, and checkers that have been modified slightly to be understandable to the preschooler set. Smootch has learnt to play checkers with the Dora and Swiper characters, and it is the game of checkers she likes, with the licensed characters being a bit of a bonus for her. So, there is some redeemable value there (though decapitating the Dora characters has come to mind...)
Back to it: this morning watching Smootch play (actually, I was playing with her, but she thinks that my part in the action is usually as spectator to the Great Smootch Show - but that's another story). Smootch had out her Dora game board, the Dora characters for checkers, and my chess pieces. She spent a good 15 minutes setting up the board, which went like this:Those are dominios, btw, with Dora characters on them. The set up was very deliberate and technical, with Smootch using whatever internal logic she had going on, followed by fussing, minor adjustments, and viewing the arrangements from multiple angles before she was ready to get on with the game.Which made me realize that Dora (and the Princesses) may be prominent in my daughter's material life, but they do not necessarily rule her imaginative life. This insight was compounded when Smootch, finally was ready to start the play after the hemming and hawing of the arranging, proceeded in a way that was wholly unexpected. With the final arrangement reminding me of some sort of Celtic ritual taking place by some holy ruins, perhaps they were trying to appease the gods?, along came The Baby. Baby the Destroyer.
Then a couple of survivors picked themselves up from the rubble and decided to get married (the marriage ceremony, btw, is a part of the play I'm allowed to speak in since Smootch can never remember exactly how wedding vows go).
Of course, the wedding took some time to set up. More arranging and fussing.
I do my slick as a justice of the peace, and then Smootch follows with the truly important part:
The ceremony ended with a scuffle between the bride and groom's families, with much drama, and whisper shouting, falsetto voices, and eventually a sword battle over how to set up the lemonade stand for the reception. (I laid back for this part and got comfy - Smootch's play brawls tend to go on for awhile.)
The lemonade stand was in the closet. Perhaps because of the differences of opinions between the families, it took a whole 20 minutes to set up.However, after a couple of lemonades, the guests all loosened up and the party turned out to be a great success with only a few broken tables.

Which brings me to my thoughts after spending this very entertaining morning with Smootch. Disney may be marketing evil geniuses, same with the crew of Dora, or the teletubbies or lazytown or whatever is the flavor of the week, but Smootch will, just as I did, make her own fun if she is allowed the time and space to do her own thing. The danger is not the Disney Princess stuff per se, it is failing to provide the head space she needs to create her own plots and dramas. Smootch needs time to develop her own style, to learn about her mind and body, and quiet in order to hear her own thoughts and recognize what is truly hers versus what has been suggested by others. Instead of fighting against the marketers, I need to focus on getting Smootch her time to play without distractions of commerical culture. Or without me or even other children sometimes. My job as a parent is to provide the raw materials and then get out of the way. Something to keep in mind, anyway.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

happy wednesday

If my kids were musical genres, Birdie would be reggae. And Smootch would be rock n roll.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

holiday blues

Is it me, or does the holidays seem like a really bad idea this year. I'm suffering terribly from the Christmas season. I hate shopping. I hate it so much I don't actually do it anymore. The shops are filled with things I don't need and at prices I can't afford. And increasingly I do not want. With The Man's great experiment, I am starting to see the shop shelves as filled with items that are only six months away from the landfill. In addition, it's hard to ignore that we pay only a fraction of the cost of any particular consumable. The price is much higher than what the tag says. Things not calculated on the sales bill is the cost to the earth's resources (trees, ore, oil), the cost to the people and governments (procuring, protecting and fighting over resources), the cost to our health (pollution, toxic byproducts like dioxin), the cost to human lives (low paid labourers working in unsafe, unclean factories), and the cost to my time (seeking, working for money to buy, buying, hauling, cleaning, and finally disposing).

A handmade Christmas is a lovely idea, but, honestly, I'm not sure that it gets at the root of the problem here for me. I am making the gifts I am giving, and am pleased to be able to make them. Especially nice is actually thinking about the person the whole time I make the gift. But, Christmas is not about the gifts. And because I feel strongly about this, damnit, I'm going to say it again: Christmas is NOT about the gifts. We know this, we say this, but our actions tell a different story. How many times does a child get asked what they hope Santa will bring them for Christmas before they think that the presents are the actual point of the whole shebang? Why do we pace our lives according to shopping days 'til Christmas? Why does every person I meet during the month of December ask me if I have my shopping done yet?

Okay, enough rant. Those receiving gifts from me this year are going to looking at them sideways, wondering what kind of negative energy I've infused them with. Just know this, I want Christmas. I want the family, the visiting, the food (oh, yes, the food!), the decorations, even the Christmas jingles. But I do not want material gifts. I feel grateful for all I already have and to be a part of your lives. No more is needed.

I'm not just a total bummer lately. I've been soothing my Christmas Rage (I'm not the only one who has it) by noticing how thrilled our children are with the simple things. Watching the kids play with a cardboard box is more than a reminder, it's a blueprint for life around here. Here are a few pictures of some of the things we enjoy around here.
The cardboard box play house. Which, just to prove me wrong, actually does contain one of last year's Christmas presents to Smootch, which Birdie loves to chew on.

What? You never seen a baby in a box chewing on a donkey before?

Smootch learning to sew. Watching her brings a phenomenal feeling for me.

Can't. Stop. Eating. Homemade. Carmel. Popcorn.
And more arrived in the mail yesterday :0

Dancing, twirling, booty dances. I think that this perfect dance floor in our living room actually appeared magically for Smootch to dance on. I can't imagine who we would be without dancing together.

Staring into each other's eyes. How beautiful and wonderous these children are! So, please, don't give us a bunch of stuff to distract us from each other. The gifts are just a side attraction, spending time with friends and family is the main event. Let's not get sidetracked!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Birdie is on his way to having a full blown personality.

His quirks and isms have been a bit slower to emerge than his sisters. However, it may be that he simply can not compete with the monkey master.
Yet. We shall see what the future brings.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

my own personal gong show

Boy: three teeth have broke through his gums in the past two days. That makes six this month. He has taken to grinding his teeth. And not sleeping.

Girl: is unnaturally cold, cranky, and having a tough time adjusting to the 'sharing mama with every bloody urchin that comes through the door, it's bad enough that that baby showed up 7 months ago, but now there are all these kids around all the time and I can't seem to get mom's attention, and further more...' Blowing major wobblers.

The Man: has developed a serious passion for wallowing in waste. Can not sustain a conversation unrelated to garbage.

Me: I had spaghetti in my hair at lunch today. It stayed there for an hour before I found the time to de-pasta my head. Enough said about that.

Let's move over to happy photos now.

Awwww, lookit the cute baby!

It's my weekend now. That means I do my other job sewing for fun and profit (otherwise known as my third shift). Hope you all have a good weekend (and G, damnit, get well!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

books: not just for eating

Birdie is getting to the stage where books are something a little more to just taste or bang on his head. He spent a few minutes the other day stroking the cover of this book in a ridiculously loving manner. Every once in awhile he would look up at me and give me a wonderous smile that said, 'hey, lady, why didn't you tell me before that there is more to these things than indigestion?'
I tried to tell you, Birdie, but we all must find out for ourselves. Welcome to the world of books! It's going to be an amazing adventure.