31 July 2009

I Hate You for Making Me Say This

I hate saying stupid things. I count as "stupid" the silly things we now have to say to purchase various items or use certain services. It has always struck me as mildly manipulative, for example, that a McDonald's patron has to say "I'd like to super size that, please." Because really, all you are doing is repeating what some advertising executive came up with as a way to brand McDonald's and grab more market share.

OK, call me cynical.

But there are other things I feel silly saying just because. I hate saying "Grande" or "Vente" when I order at Starbucks, especially the latter. I suspect that my reluctance to say those two words is the real reason behind my regular order of a Tall Non-Fat Latte. "Tall" is a normal word. I can say "tall." (Never mind that what that actually means is "I'll have the small size, please." So now, tall = small. Interesting.)

I have always claimed that I order the "tall" because the other sizes are just too big for me. I can support this claim by pointing out my almost mythic inability to finish an entire cup of coffee. I always leave some to linger and get cold in the bottom of the cup. It drives the spouse nuts, which is just an added bonus.

But it's possible that real reason I don't order those bigger sizes is actually that I do not want to say Grande or Vente.

I also hate saying the words "Food Court." It sounds so made up, so Disneyland, so artificial. I was at Costco with the kids the other day, and the cashier referred to the Food Court. This is a dingy counter with two or three very small windows that you have to crouch down into in order to talk to the poor unfortunate "food service provider" on the other side.

A "court" it is not. It's a food counter, and that's it. My saying the words "food court" does not dress it up, nor make the food taste better, nor make me believe I am eating somewhere with character or atmosphere. It kind of actually makes me feel ridiculous, which I resent.

Ditto for any "just say PICKLE PARTY to receive a 10% discount!" That's just an example, but you've seen these promotions. Come on people, just give me the discount and don't make me jump through your pickle hoops. I am not a trained seal -- I am a potential customer and would like a little respect.

Language matters. Don't you think?

* * *

20 July 2009

Do I Have What it Takes for Garbage Day?

My two-year old daughter loves garbage trucks. She gets excited when we see them in our travels around town, but nothing compares to garbage day at our house, when these magnificent machines come barreling down the street.

This is cute, right?

We live on a corner, which means there are four different garbage truck routes. And since there are two trucks per house -- garbage trucks and the alternating green waste and recycling trucks -- no less than eight times a day, each and every Monday, a garbage truck goes by and must be honored with her adoration and fervor.

She is not satisfied by merely running to the window and looking at them. We have a little routine. She hears the trucks down the street, comes running to me screaming "GARGH CHUCK, GARGH CHUCK" with arms outstretched, and I must grab her in my arms, run to the front door and out onto the sidewalk so that she can wave madly at the driver. As the truck drives away, she says "BYE BYE CHUCK!" She is ridiculously happy when we do this.

Still cute, no?

OK, it's cute, but EIGHT TIMES A DAY??? It gets tedious, this dropping everything and running out the front door. God forbid we are a couple seconds late, and she cannot wave like a crazed groupie. I can't hide during a truck's passing; I've tried, but it gets ugly and the price is just too high. I have been known to get out of the house early, to get those errands done and skip the whole experience. But that doesn't work during summer, with a house full of sleeping kids.

So here it is, Monday morning, and I am thinking about putting on some really loud music to drown out the local celebrity trucks. That would have to be some pretty loud music, and I'd have to keep it on for hours. Hmmmm. A possibility.

I know I'll miss this when she outgrows it. For now? Just getting myself prepared for the gleeful mayhem that is garbage day at the Alatorre house.

* * *

16 July 2009

Why Bookstores are Dangerous

My 10-year old walked past an interesting book today at Barnes and Noble. He just came downstairs from being in bed to ask us about it. The title?

5 People Who Died During Sex, and Other Terribly Tasteless Lists

Woo-hoo! Talk about freakin' the kids out!?!? That's almost as good as the priest telling the new 7-year old communicants about St. Whatsername, who died of esctasy at the moment she first took Holy Communion. (Really happened at our 2nd child's First Communion Mass; thankfully, my kid was focusing on his shoelaces at the time and missed the entire story.)

Nothing like being afraid of the Eucharist AND sex.

Kids, the lesson here is to stay the hell away from bookstores. (I might be sneaking back to buy that book, but shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! don't tell the kiddies...)

* * *

15 July 2009

Can You Say DIVA?

photo credit: Auntie Debra

I love this kid. She is such a great combo: pink dresses and black sambas, fashionista shades and dirty fingernails. She even has a Dirt Diva hat. (Want one? Click the link and you too can garden in style.) Perfect. Love it.

She also seems to be developing an interesting habit. I first noticed this last soccer season, when she spent the better part of every Rockets game chasing, pummeling, and harassing a certain 9 year old boy, an older brother to one of our Rockets players.

Then, at the Summer Concert event we went to last Friday, I spied her full on chasing a boy she met that very evening. She runs like a beast, and she was totally after him.

Then, last night we were at the park with some friends and again, there she is, chasing a boy she just met, and being chased in return.

Hmmm.

Interesting.

What am I going to do with her when the real chasing begins? I don't think I did much boy chasing when I was her age, certainly not when I was in high school. I suppose, as has been my experience with all of my kids, she will teach me how to be a mom in those moments.

* * *

13 July 2009

Thank God for Naughty Children

Thank you, 4- and 2-year old. Thank you for disobeying me, for dumping untold cups of water on the bathroom floor while bathing. Thank you for tossing said water on your 7-year old sister, as she tried to use the toilet, soaking her completely while she screamed and peed. Thank you for dousing the toilet paper roll I had just replaced. Thank you for pouring so much water on the floor that it seeped out into the hallway and destroyed a wayward book.

Thank you for breaking the "no water outside the bathtub" rule for the umpteenth time. You know better.

And so, you have been sent to bed early, and my house is quiet.

No bed time struggles for me this evening; you are already asleep! Your three older siblings go to bed relatively easily; it's you two who make my evenings tortuous. But not tonight: and for this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Note to self: think of ways to get the wee ones to break rules at 7pm.

* * *

12 July 2009

Things We Say

We took the kids to a local Summer Concert Series on Friday evening; the weather was lovely, the music was good, and the kids had a blast. They ran around with a pack of insta-friends, the kind only kids seem to be able to make.

At one point, I noticed both of my girls doing the "gotta go" dance while trying desperately to keep on playing. So off to the bathroom at the pizza place.

Once inside, my four year old decided she didn't have to go after all. This has got to be one of the most frustrating bits of parenting: getting a kid to pee when you know she has to and when she chooses that moment to assert a little pre-K control.

So what brilliant words of wisdom did I pull from my arsenal to get what I wanted? For your edification, I present what NOT to say in this situation: "Fine, Elizabeth. I know you have to go, and I'm not bringing you back here in 10 minutes when you realize how badly you have really have to go."

Yeah, that'll show her. Cause I'm sure when she's back to the gotta go dance, I'll just let her pee down her legs and leave her standing in a puddle, just to make my point. She'll learn her lesson then, won't she?

What compels a person to say something so ridiculous? Because really, all it will do is make me look less credible in the future, for issuing empty threats and inventing unenforceable consequences.

Sure enough, 10 minutes later, I was back in the bathroom with Elizabeth. She won.

It doesn't seem like it should be so hard to keep one's mouth shut when one is in danger of saying something extremely stupid. Apparently it is.

* * *

In other news, the girls and I made cookies yesterday. When I cracked the egg into the bowl, Lola announced to her sisters that a raw egg is really a baby chick. I was a little concerned that this would be upsetting to them, especially since right after this piece of news, I turned on the electric mixer and the little baby chick got all mixed up. These girls are hearty: they immediately got these bright smiles on their faces, waved at the bowl, and said: "Bye-bye, baby chick! Bye-bye!"

Not one to abandon a small defenseless animal, Elizabeth announced that after we ate our cookies, we could rub our bellies and thereby take good care of the little baby chick.

A little weird, but compassionate none-the-less!

* * *

06 July 2009

Maybe Ward and June Had the Right Idea

This is not a political post.

This is not about feminism, or equality, or glass ceilings.

This is about my family. And my family is living a common enough reality, with two working parents and still not enough money and children who just want to enjoy childhood.

And so, I find myself wishing that we could go back to the 50's, when one parent (mama) stayed home and worked as the family's CEO and one parent (dad) went out into the world of commerce (or wherever) and made enough money for everyone else to live on.

Who doesn't think this made all kinds of freakin' sense? Families -- children -- need someone around all the time, and families -- children -- need a CEO who can devote 100% of her or his attention to...wait for it...the family.

OK, I understand what I'm saying here. Here's what I'm NOT saying:

I'm NOT saying that women should abandon their career dreams and get back in the kitchen.

I'm NOT saying that the 50's were overall better for women.

I'm NOT saying that I would enjoy turning back the clock on the changes that have happened for women over the last 60 years.

What I am saying is that I wish I could give 100% of my attention to my children, or that I could go do some very gratifying and financially rewarding-enough work so that Rick could give 100% of his attention to our children.

But then again, who am I kidding? I am severly attached to these kids who came barreling out of me, who are flesh of my flesh, and I just plain want it to be me who gets to be with them. I want to be the Home Boss.

But I can't. We don't have that kind of life. Or rather, I have to be part Home Boss and part a bunch of other people, and so does Rick. We both have to work. We both have very flexible working lives, so that helps, but it's still incredibly hard on every member of our family that both of us have to divide our time and energy into so many different pieces of pie.

I think sometimes of the various ways in which Western Civilization seems to be falling apart. Ya' know, what with all the body piercings in out-of-the-way places, all the multi-cultural senstivity trainings, all the elevator music (complete with impassioned arpeggios) that passes for idol-worthy talent. But one of the biggest ways I see this world -- our world -- falling apart, is the pressure that families live under in the modern age. We are working more, supervising more, involved more, coaching more, volunteering more, expecting more, having more expected of us, than parents before us were subjected to, and I for one, in my own family, feel the toll acutely.

I wish for a simpler life, for fewer demands on our time. I wish I didn't have to work to keep up with life in the Bay Area. I wish we weren't busy too many nights in the week.

I also have other aspirations, besides my desire to be the primary caregiver to five astounding human beings; so I guess it really is as complicated as it seems. How do I balance what I want and need, with what they want and need, with what the real world is foisting upon us?

I fairly ache when I read or hear stories about people who have devoted themselves single-heartedly to one thing: to a sport...a cause...a skill...a mission. I am a woman divided by causes and responsibilties, seeking wholeness anyway, seeking one direction among the many things pulling me this way and that.

I may not ever want to bake cupcakes or sew clothing for my children (while admiring those who do); but I will forever wish that I could do one thing, and do it well: raise these kids until I can go on to my life's work, which of course, I still need to discover as I continue to grow up.

Maybe June Cleaver went on to become a great artist after the kids left the house. Maybe she started a non-profit in town, or volunteered for a local community organization. If she got to go on and do something in addition to raising her children, something she found fulfilling and gratifying, then yup: June Cleaver had it all. Where can I get me some of that???

* * *

An Old-Fashioned Family Fourth of July

Grandma Lola, behold your gift in all its glory:



Is she ready for July Fourth, or what? She definitely was the best dressed kid in the family. The others were lucky to have matching socks. Oh, and Tallulah wore her finest shade of flushed red, as she spent the day with a fever, so home with Rick away from the festivities.

The rest of us went to a Fourth of July Festival, home for quick burgers, and back out for fireworks. Sounds lovely, yes? Well, it was about as lovely as overly heightened family events tend to be. Too much sugar, too many people, too much stimulation, culminating in too many tears and too many tired children. Oh, and my personal favorite, too much yelling from mommy.

It was fabulous. Can't wait till next year.

But the well dressed kid up there? Truly lovely, so thank you, Grandma Lola!

* * *