Say ‘What?’ Again

Tonight I’m pondering one of my favorite scenes from one of my dearly loved pre-mom movies, Samuel L. Jackson’s rant in “Pulp Fiction” right before poor Brett meets his bloody doom.

What he said.

What he said.

I used to watch movies like that all the time. I think I saw that particular flick nine times in the theater. It’s still an epic film, but I haven’t seen it in the last decade. I’m shocked to see the movie is 20 years old this year, because that makes me old as hell.

Still, I clearly remember that scene because I know exactly how Jules feels as he dares a stammering white kid caught in a crime to “Say ‘What?’ again!” and other much more colorful suggestions.

Any time my children look at me with blank expressions and utter the w-word as I bust them, I want to strike down upon them with great vengeance and furious anger straight from my own fake Bible verse (McGinziel 2:16).

It’s even worse when Honey Bunny and Pumpkin team up on a heist. Like Jules in that restaurant booth, I want to help. I want to talk them out of their bad decisions, retrieve my wallet (mine just says “BAD MOTHER” on it) and deal with the dead body in my trunk while they run off together for more wacky hijinks.

Tonight they each managed to separately invoke the wrath of each parent, which is unusual. My husband is the more mellow, Vincentesque of the two of us, but I just heard the Wee Man ascend the stairs at a bawl. The Roo got her marching orders from me earlier tonight.

I try to keep us from ever getting to that point. I made a nice meal tonight, to include homemade semi-healthy, gluten-free brownies with hidden beets. No, not the delicious, soul- and body-killing stuff my mom would’ve made, but it was still my attempt at a good evening and a little extra love.

It didn’t quite go the way I planned, but it wasn’t a total loss. I got a hit of my drug of choice — the beet treats are nothing if not VERY chocolatey (Now that is a TASTY brownie!). I’m about to step away from this computer and head upstairs to chat with each of them about what happened and how to feel better before they go to sleep.

I used to bend over backwards to keep the peace. It’s a self-imposed duty like Butch’s determination to retrieve his father’s gold watch. But I’ve realized it’s not my job to make people happy — that’s impossible. I can’t make anyone feel anything. If I could, I’d make my kids feel like they’d consumed another plant-based brownie all the time so they’d be far less inclined to fight or kill my own sugar high.

But conflict isn’t inherently bad. It’s an impetus for growth. Anger isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes it’s even justified. And if I deal with my anger in a healthy way, my kids learn a lot from that, too.

So I’ll take a deep breath, listen to their outraged victim stories and gently remind them what they did to end up in their rooms. I’ll suggest ways to make amends and avoid similar trouble in the future. I’ll remind them they’re exactly who they should be and encourage them to be who they are. I’ll tell them how thankful I am to be their mom, how much I love them and wish them a good night.

And then I’ll come downstairs, hit the brownies again and decide this wasn’t such a bad night after all.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/hoyvinmayvin/5104399796/”>Profound Whatever</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Church Chat

I try to not project my insecurities, prejudices and general psychoses on my children. I really do. But I often fail.

So when the Roo asked if we could go to church, I sent a quick SOS heavenward.

“Why do you want to go?” I asked.

“Because all my friends do,” she replied.

So I wasn’t thrilled that the request was prompted by pack mentality, but at least it wasn’t because she’d realized what sinners we are and we must immediately go cleanse our souls before Tio Diablo shows up to call us home. And the more we talked, the more I realized she has a genuine curiosity about that aspect of her friends’ lives rather than a compulsion to follow the herd.

I have a Protestant hangover that won’t quit. I attended a private church school throughout elementary. My family did the church thing while we were younger, then it faded to the background. In high school I usually attended on my own, often with real hangovers. While there were good times in the light of the stained glass windows, church rarely moved my soul or inspired me to new spiritual heights.

As an adult, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with organized religion because so many seem to use it as a weapon or reason to deny love to others. I want my kids to ask their own questions and make up their own minds about the bigger picture. I don’t want that to be programmed into their impressionable young minds. As the Roo once so eloquently told her devout Catholic friend’s entire family, “We don’t go to church because we don’t like people telling us what to think.”

Is there an echo in here?

So I had a very quick, intense chat with myself before wrapping up our talk.

Me to myself: Oh crap. This is what happens when you live so close to Focus on the Family. She’s been infected with the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in Her Heart. How do I keep her from going crazy cracker Christian on me?

Myself to me: Easy there, St. Prejudicia. Don’t teach your kid to discriminate against people who don’t think the same way you do. You and Jesus still love each other very much, you’ve just agreed to see other people. Fortunately he’s secure enough to not feel threatened by your attraction to Buddha.

Me to myself: But what if she likes it? What if she wants to go every Sunday and I have to give up my time in the Church of the Open Saddle?

Myself to me: If she likes it, that means she’s happy. Isn’t that our entire reason for being? And you’ll find other ways to sneak out to the barn and get your equine therapy. You may even like it, too.

So I took a deep breath and told her we’d hit the pew on Sunday. As a compromise to myself, we visited the local gay church. They were kind, welcoming and put on a pretty good show. The singers were amazing, the piano player was FAB-u-lous and the drummer was way too much.

Riley loved it.

bible boa

As for me, myself and I, it was a bit too traditional for our taste. I was a little disappointed that nobody stepped up to the mic with a feather boa and a Bible. But I’m willing to give it another try. And if somebody knows where I can get the sheet music to the gospel version of “It’s Raining Men,” please post a link in the comments section.

Smile, Goddammit!

This is my family photo. I’m the one who looks pissed.

Misery loves company. Way to set the tone, Dad.

I somehow stumbled across the Weekly Writing Challenge  from WordPress. I don’t know if I was surfing tweets, sifting through LinkedIn people I should know or deleting Farmville 2 invitations on Facebook, but I’m glad I found it.

I have no idea who these people actually are, but their sour faces are certainly familiar. The assignment for the challenge is to write a story about this picture — any story. The tale at the top of my mind is last night’s chat with The Roo about how we need to get along better.

Not that we’re cat-dog fighting, but I often feel frustrated with her at a faster pace and with less provocation than I do with her younger brother. I’m sure my therapist has a file full of good stuff to fill in the blanks on why, but I think it boils down to the fact that she is my blonde, 7-year-old clone. So we naturally butt heads.

I hate that. I want us to enjoy each other for the hilarious chicks we really are. But all too often, tempers and nostrils flare simultaneously. It’s like an estrogen smack-down around here over trivial things — far too often, I can’t even recall the trigger.

Earlier this week in a rare flash of genius, I came up with a new rule: If you can make me laugh, you’re not in trouble.

Anger is infectious. But so is laughter. If one of us manages to turn the mood around, we all feel better. And it’s my job to look for reasons to feel good about my kids so they feel good about themselves.

A few years ago, the elementary school my siblings and I attended asked my mom for  school photos of my brother, sister and me to feature in an ad. She couldn’t find a single one in which any of us were smiling.

At least we don’t have that problem.

Here’s our real family photo. This is what happens when you ask Wee Man to smile for the camera.

Hopefully the new rule will keep us camera-ready and out of trouble.

Happy Trails

Hi, my name is Kerry. I’m a horseaholic.

My earliest memories are of wanting to ride horses. It’s a passion that’s hardwired into my mainframe. It’s one I try to not push on my kids, but they do happen to take riding lessons and seem to enjoy it immensely.

Thank God. I’d hate to have to go all “Toddlers & Tiaras” on my little Honey Boo Boos.

To make myself even stranger, my very favorite flavor of equine is the Peruvian, a rare breed with a super-smooth gait. They’re not known for their cattle work, their jumping ability or their rodeo tricks. They’re known for going tirelessly over all kinds of terrain with nary a bounce.

There are only about 20,000 in the United States, compared to about 2.5 million quarter horses. So kid-sized Peruvian gear is hard to come by. For the past year, I’ve been searching for a saddle that would fit Things 1 and 2 with no luck. I finally found a friend who was willing to part with hers, and it arrived today.

The kids are thrilled with their new saddle. They started dancing when they opened the box.

On top of it being in perfect condition, this saddle has history. It was brought to the U.S. to fit the narrow rear of a dear friend’s daughter, who’s now well out of college. It then went to another fabulous friend whose granddaughters learned to ride in it.

Now it’s made another lap in the circle of friends to land in McGinleyville and help my kids steal my favorite horse from me. I can’t wait to slip it on Wonder Pony’s back and hoist up this next generation of riders.

Do Not Desterv

It was a rough day before a long trip out of town. I was not at my best. The kids were not at their best. We’d run around all day trying to get last-minute things done. I forgot more than I actually accomplished. By the time we got home after 5, I was ready to huff, puff and blow the house down.

So I asked the kids to give me a few minutes by myself. While I was curled up in the fetal position rocking and moaning, The Roo got back to her normal sweet self. To ensure privacy during my mental meltdown, she posted a sign on my bedroom door:

This picture is worth a thousand misspelled words.

I love the spelling, despite my hyper-editing proclivities that often drive me to lectures on the difference between “further” and “farther” or explain to friends that their holiday letters are not from the Smith’s but the Smiths. I love that she used a paper towel, red marker and x.

But most of all, I love that she tried to help her poor crazy mom rebound from a meltdown.  I hope I can remember to do the same the next time she’s feeling desterved.

 

 

 

Pr0n-igal Son

It’s what parents says in every news story where they screw up and something horrible happens to a child:

“I just turned my back for five minutes.”

Jesus is watching (and plotting his revenge for all those jokes I make about him), so I’ll fess up that it was actually more like 15 or 20. I was in the next room on a phone interview for Thursday’s deadline. I was doing that thing I do where I suck as a mother so I can rub a couple of  coins together. To give myself credit, I’m not nearly as nuts with the freelance as I was when The Roo was a baby. At one point in her infancy, I found myself talking on a headset (another phone interview) and typing on the laptop as I bounced on an exercise ball to keep her quiet while I nursed her in a sling.

True story.

Yes, my very next call was to a therapist. Thanks.

But yesterday’s Joan Crawford Award moment resulted in a 4-year-old downloading an adult movie because Mom wasn’t there to get another on-demand Dora rolling. I’d asked him to not interrupt me while I was talking to my “work friend,” so he did his best to figure out the remote on his own to comply with my request.

But I hadn’t considered how hard that can be when you can’t read. And he just assumes that if you push enough buttons, Nick Jr. comes back.

But what he got was more along the lines of “Dora Does Dallas.” Thankfully, I got there at the beginning and it wasn’t anything too creepy, but it was yet another wakeup call that I need to focus more on him and less on deadlines.

And call the cable company to ask them to credit us that $9.99.

When Dear John got home, he asked the important questions:

“Is it still there, and can I still watch it?”

Time for me to turn my back for another five minutes.

Dog Days of Summer

This is a good week. My sister has moved to Colorado, and this makes me very, very happy.

But with her came a plus-1, the dog who can’t move into her new apartment with her. Because I have a back yard and no landlord, the dog is temporarily here.

This makes me much less happy. I am not a dog person.

This is Mel, our temporary house guest. It’s not that I don’t like her as a dog — she’s very cute and sweet. I just don’t like her as a creature that repays our hospitality with holes in our backyard and barking all night.

I’m first and foremost a horse woman.

This is Lilly. She is horse, therefore I love her.

We also love ponies — clearly.

And just behind equines are felines.

No, that nice lady is not strangling this kitten. We don’t do that, because we love them. Unlike dogs. Not that I’ve strangled the dog — yet

It’s not that I hate dogs. I just find them too needy, too much work and too much trouble. It’s like having another kid. Or husband. I’m maxed out on all those.

But now I have two problems. My kids love the dog.

The Roo is having way too much fun with this dog for my taste. So is the Wee Man.

 

 

 

 

My other problem is I love my sister, despite her dog. So the dog can stay here as long as she needs to.

It’s not all bad. I’m definitely banking considerable babysitting hours from Aunt Kimi, which are accruing at about 10 times the hourly rate of my dog sitting.

I should probably let her know that. Maybe that will help Mel find a new home in a timely manner.

Till then, I’m planning a trip to Peru since Kimi’s already pretty deep in the hole. ¿Qué divertido, no?