25 March 2010

Trucks, Dogs and Green Houses

This post has nothing to do with country music. Instead, my subject is, again, my three year old daughter.

Tallulah loves trucks. She especially loves garbage trucks, but lately has been exhibiting just as much passion for tanker trucks, tow trucks, 18-wheelers of any variety, and delivery trucks. Next time you are on a freeway, take a minute to notice how many trucks you see. Then, imagine that every truck is greeted with a shriek of excitement bordering on ecstasy by a maniacal three year old in the backseat.

Lately, she has also been shrieking at all dogs -- because her truck obsession is mirrored by her dog obsession -- and all green houses -- because green is my favorite color and she sweetly wants to point out all green houses for my benefit. If I miss a dog or a green house, the tearful pleading sets in: "Go back, mama, go back; you missed the doggie, mama, go back! You have to see the doggie, mama!" (For some reason, she lets the trucks go, maybe because she realizes they are driving? I like to pretend there is a method to her madness.)

So now, when I am driving, I keep my eyes out for dogs, trucks, and green houses, because if I don't, I am unprepared for the sound waves produced by her screams that slam into the back of my head and make driving less than safe.

I'm thinking of developing a driving course for parents. I would include things like: How to reach a sippy cup rolling around in the back seat without taking your eyes off the road; How to appear to be engaged in a conversation with a rambling toddler while actually listening to Talk of the Nation; and How to drive safely while being assaulted by screaming children.

Anyone want to pre-register?

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24 March 2010

Impressive, Really

I spent most of my day taking advantage of a unique opportunity to see our court system in action. Translation: I had to go to court to take care of some traffic violations. Yes, "some." Apparently, there was this little matter of a roll through a stop sign THREE YEARS AGO that I never properly took care of. (In my feeble defense, I thought I had.)

Then there was the matter of the two fix-it tickets I got recently, which I also neglected to take care of until uncomfortably late. Apparently, ignoring those perforated envelopes that come from traffic court is a costly little mistake. Yes, I am the last person in the country to realize this.

I will not bore you, or fascinate you, as the case may be, with the gory details or the gorier fines I must now pay. I will just say this: I am an idiot.

But then, exhaustion and overwhelm are the stuff idiots are born of, and I experience both in spades. The fact that I manage to have a day here and there in which I do NOT exhibit idiot tendencies is, I think, cause for celebration. So I was taking the whole day in stride, or trying to. I was armed with a notebook (for writing my next blog entry, which did not happen), a recent New Yorker (which had some laugh out loud funny cartoons), and a bottle of water (which, it turns out, I could not drink in court).

* * *

Also as it turns out, I need not have brought along anything at all to pass the time. The best part of the day was watching and listening to the judge assigned to traffic court. What an amazing guy: his instrutions to us were clear and he was personable. He was funny on occasion, and he was respectful and courteous to every single person there. He was efficient and he was engaged in his job. He made it actually very interesting to watch the process of traffic court unfold.

There was a large contingent of Spanish-speaking folks there, and the translator did a fantastic job. There was one man there whose first language was French; without a French translator at the ready, the judge quickly assigned the man a new date, about a month away, and promised him an interpreter would be there for him. And whenever the judge was doing something, like arranging for an interpreter, he would give us an explanation of what he was doing and why, and how the laws of California mandate that he do such and so, like making a translator available to anyone, in any language, who needs one.

Before going to court at 11am, I had to track down a police officer to sign off on my fix-it tickets; I found a 35-year veteran of the local police force, who gleefully told me that I was probably going to be his last sign off before he retired and started traveling the world. He was also personable, professional and engaging.

So I am feeling rather proud of our civil servants today, which is good because I started out feeling rather un-proud of the neglect which led me to court in the first place. If a person is going to screw up royally, it's awful nice to have good people around to help manage the situation with dignity.

Thank you Richmond police and traffic court, for restoring my faith in civil society and for reducing at least one of my fines. I sure do appreciate what you do every day.

And I promise to try real hard to outwit my own exhaustion and overwhelm so that I do not again have the opportunity to see you in action.

22 March 2010

O. M. G.

My three year old is soaking up the language and mannerisms of her older siblings.

The other day, she and I spent most of the day around the house, working in the yard and whatnot; I wore my usual work around the house clothes: jeans and a big bulky sweatshirt.

When it came time to go get the kids from school, we headed to the van, where I realized it was really quite warm out. I peeled off my sweatshirt. Underneath, I was wearing a black t-shirt with three-quarter sleeves and a rather dramatic v-neck. Not a fancy shirt, you understand, but certainly more attractive than a hoodie.

The three year old actually did a doubletake. And I'll try to get the timing right, in my punctuation and structure here. She took a step backward, put her hands out at her sides, flat and slighty raised, and said:

"O.

M.

G.

You.

are SO.

PRETTY!"

Score one for the grungy moms of the world! This little affirmation moment came at a good time (but then again, don't they all?), as I was in the midst of one of my episodes of existential angst, sturm und drang, if you will, and her little cartoon-character voice just pulled me right out.

And this will serve as my reminder: there is very little wrong in life that a v-neck t-shirt cannot make right.

* * *

And to swing the pendulum all the way back in the other direction for a moment, I also heard a child say this today, to describe why he wasn't feeling well: "It's like a bunch of tiny hammers all banging around in my head at the same time." That's my boy, the one who thinks "too much" and worries about people and wants everyone to be so, so happy. My boy who tells me a little white lie, and then can't stop feeling bad about it, long after I've forgotten it completely. My boy who is searching already for the meaning of life and isn't always very happy with the answers the world shows him. My boy who loves to talk, a trait that will forever make me both grateful and crazed. My boy, who couldn't sleep tonight and couldn't even watch the season opener of Dancing With the Stars because he was so distracted and full of thought.

I remember when I was a little girl, nothing soothed me more, or made me feel more relaxed than having someone play with my hair, trace my face, or rub my back. He's also my boy in this respect: I know I can help him, can soothe him, if we lie down and talk, and I play with his hair and rub his back. You know what I love about him? Reason #673? That in one moment he'll say that he just can't explain what he's thinking or how he's feeling, and in the next moment, words are pouring out of him in poetry and plenty. Give him just a pinch of space and time, and you'll hear everything you need to know. That's a good quality to have in someone on the brink of the teenage years.

Tonight was no exception. And no wonder he felt like hammers were pinging around in his head: he had a lot to say about his day and his life and his surroundings tonight. If only we all had that time and space to talk until we were all talked out. He's sleeping like a baby now.

Talk and touch: two things we all need. And in my case, a v-neck t-shirt doesn't hurt either.

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16 March 2010

Don't Be a Butt

The other day, my son noticed a sign posted near a flower box: Please, no cigarette butts.

In one of those beautiful and telling misinterpretations of childhood, he took this to mean: No idiots who smoke may be near these pretty flowers. We had a great laugh over that and decided his take on it was much more accurate -- and entertaining -- than the intended meaning.

We turned a corner and about 20 feet in front of us stood a guy taking a smoking break from a nearby restaurant. "Look mom, it's a Cigarette Butt!"

So fun. I think he's brilliant.

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12 March 2010

I Venture Back With a Question

It's been too long, dear blog.

But, I am working again today (no deadline, though, just everything that got neglected for my deadline), so I haven't much time to write. I would, however, like to pose a multi-part question.

Why do other people's clean and shiny wood floors seem like evidence of my personal character flaws? Why, when I look at these beautiful floors in other people's houses, do I hear a mean little voice saying "What the hell is wrong with you, why can't you keep your floors clean like this Uber-Capable-Mom?" Why is it that we can know something with our heads and yet feel every fiber of our being reacting in an entirely opposite fashion?

I know a clean floor does not--cannot--chastise me. And yet, I feel chastised.

And finally, is there anyone out there who would like to come and, for a fee, shine my dingy floors? I do believe that money would be just as well spent as any therapy costs I could otherwise incur.

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