So Glad That’s Over

Snert had his sort-of first day of school today. It was just an hour, and the parents got to stay and fill out forms while the kids colored pictures and learned a song, and Snert informed everyone that he can write “Mom” and “Dad”, and that “Peregrine Falcons can go 200 miles per hour.” He said a whole lot of other things, too, because I forgot to give him the Only Child Talk, in which I break the news that he doesn’t get to be listened to whenever he wants. Oh well, that’s the teacher’s problem now.

A couple of kids got teary, and one little boy lost a tooth right in the middle of picture-sharing time (luckyyyyy), but Snert held up ok. Moms gave each other relieved looks and said things like “I’m so glad it’s finally here.” I can’t even pretend to understand what they’re talking about. I’m thinking maybe it’s not too late to home-school Snert. We could spend hours a day at the dining room table – laughing and learning and chuckling and chortling, and having snacks every fifteen minutes. We will be Best Friends Forever until one day he can’t take it (me) any more and runs off to get angry tattoos and join a jug band. I’ll sit at the dining room table well in to my senile years (which started yesterday) giving confused lessons on mitosis and pushing snacks across to his empty place.

My main goal for “school” starting was to Not Be a Freak, so I think I can call that a loss.

Anyway, now that we’re home and Snert has changed out of the vile clothes I made him wear (shorts and a polo shirt) and into something more fashionable (shorts, zipped-up-sweatshirt-with-hood, black socks and holey shoes), I can look at the situation dispassionately and say that kindergarten is awesome and I wish I could go. Everything is small, there are pictures of Jesus and Mary everywhere, and the teachers are much nicer people than I am. They talk low and slow, and say too-mor-row in three whole syllables. They say things like “Being kind to people is goooood,” and “What a lovely rainbow you drew!”

I would like to take a nap in the play house.

Happy Monday! I’m going to take Snert and his cousins to the pool because my sister is pretending to be sick. Happy Monday!

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You Are My Sunshine

How do people send their little children off to school? I mean how? I’ve held it together as the days ticked down towards kindergarten. I haven’t cried, and I’ve done minimal (for me) complaining and worrying. I’ve tried to make the most of the Summer. But in just a few days he’ll be gone every afternoon, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I mean, I’ll figure out things to do – probably clean a lot, and hopefully write a lot more and maybe take naps sometimes when all the pondering has been pondered, but what on earth am I going to do?

Yeah fine, that sounds melodramatic, but Snert’s been my constant companion for five and a half years. He’s my best buddy, the one who forgives, the one who looks at me like I matter. He’s the joker, singer, pretender, costumer, eater, weapons-master, snacker, and laugher in my days. He matters. He freaking rocks, and I already miss him so badly.

I just really really like him is all. And I wasted a lot of our time together, and I’ve never regretted anything like I regret that.

My heart is going to plop into his dirty pocket next week.

He’s so dirty.

He’s going to love it.

And it is not about me.

And I am grateful he’s healthy and here.

It is only half-day kindergarten.

I’m still sad for me.

How It Began

A couple of my aunts were infertile, and I almost didn’t realize it until one day I was, too. I suppose it might have crossed my mind once or twice that “Aunt Ethel doesn’t have any kids, and isn’t that too bad?” but for the most part I didn’t think about it. We never talked about it, and I never once heard anyone mention how difficult Mothers’ Day must be, or we’re praying for you, or I’m so sorry. Hopefully they did, but I bet it wasn’t often.

In my teens, not being able to have kids was my biggest fear after acne, but I didn’t dwell on it because the thought of it happening to me was absurd. I’m one of seven children, with scores of cousins on both sides. We have babies. Things got more real when I had an ovary removed at twenty because of advanced endometriosis. Cisco and I had been dating about a year at the time, and out of nowhere we saw our biggest, unlikeliest fear coming true. Just out of major surgery, I lay in a fog of morphine while my doctor told us that he didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to get pregnant. “Try sooner rather than later,” he said.

I don’t know why Cisco stayed. I told him that there would be no hard feelings, and I meant it. I cried when he went home for the night, and imagined what a bad nun I’d be. If a convent wouldn’t take me I could be a stage actress, and coldly turn suitors away without an explanation. They’d stagger blindly into the night, never knowing what I’d spared them, and I would sit alone in my dingy dressing room doing something noble like knitting houses for homeless cats. Vicodin is potent stuff.

Cisco thought and smoked, and smoked and paced. He came back the next morning, and proposed a couple of months later. We got through a long-distance engagement, and married each other two weeks after I graduated. I was terribly happy.

We tried to be realistic about our chances of conception, and we tried to be positive, too. Mostly, I just felt like I was staring down the barrel of a gun, and if it turned out that I really was infertile there was a good chance I’d go apeshit. It was almost too easy, though – Snert enthused himself into existence at the first possible moment. He was born at our tiny apartment the next Spring and the Good Lord, who knew it would be my only childbirth, gifted me with a near-perfect experience. It was my fiercest, proudest moment. “It’s a boy!” someone shouted. “Of course he is,” I thought. “I know him.”

I think I was born that day, too.

We’re still working on the meat of our story, and quite often I can’t see the forest for the trees, but I’m so grateful for that beginning. I have hope for the end.

I’m sometimes up and sometimes down,

Coming for to carry me home.

But still my soul Feels Heavenly bound,

Coming for to carry me home. 

(Wallis Willis, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”)

P.S. I can’t write about Snert’s all-gift, totally surprising existence without saying that I know I don’t deserve it. I am grateful every day, and I’m so sorry for those of you who have lost, or are unable to have children, and those whose children are sick. You are often in my thoughts and prayers. You deserve to be thought of, sorrowed with, and prayed over. You are Those-Who-Mourn, and you have my heart.

Is It Too Late For Quick Takes?!?!

1. I wrote quick takes last night to be posted today, but woke up and decided that they weren’t sufficiently “genuine” (whatever that means) and, in a fit of high moral fiber, deleted them. This is especially sad because I had laboriously linked to about twelve of my favorite songs on youtube, and now you never get to hear them ever.

2. So, while Cisco reads Little House on Some Kind of Landscape to Snert, I’m going to bang these out because Quick Takes have kind of grown on me and I feel left out. Speaking of Snert, I’m really hoping he doesn’t do tonight what he did last night. He spent close to an hour standing right next to my head in the middle of the night flopping and sighing, and quieting down just long enough for me to doze back off before whispering “Moooommmm, can I just sleep in your bed?”

To which I responded “Go to bed. One, twooooooooo…” in my sternest whisper, because what can I say? Motherlove comes naturally to me.

3. My sister-in-law gave me an adorable little bowl and a sassy pair of earrings as a belated birthday gift today. I like big earrings. They feel all exotic and more-fun-than-I-really-am. When I was little my mom had a pair of clip-ons (she still wears clip-ons to this day, despite the fact that they hurt like a “B”) that were really really big Pepto Bismol-pink maple leaves. They were so awesome. I remember sitting on the bunk bed at my cousin’s lake house, a pile of my mom’s earrings between us, bargaining fiercely for those maple leaves. So beautiful.

4. Not really, they were way eighties and pretty ugly. But apparently nobody caught on to the inherent awfulness of the eighties until after the fact. If you ever want to feel good about your current wardrobe, no matter how dire, just think for a while about yoke-waisted purple corduroys and flowered mock-turtlenecks. And stirrup pants and scrunchies, and all of those totally cliche looks that we sometimes forget ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Don’t you feel better now?

5. Happy day-late birthday to my four-year-old, always rosy nephew. You are sweet and smiley and I love the way you talk like a very earnest cave man and roll your big eyes around in your head, and smile all the time, and put your shoes on the wrong feet and always have saggy pants. You are a peach and I love you.

6. Snert loves you too, but at the moment he’s carried away with jealousy over all your birthday presents. He told me despondently before bed, “Mom, can I get all new toys? I just don’t like to play with mine anymore.”

To which I responded “Go to bed. One, twooooo….” because, see number 2.

7. Ha ha last one! I did it. I feel like I’ve just been very genuine, which translates to “no content”.  As a parting gift, please check out Pomplamoose. They are funny and weird, and their old videos are addictive. You probably already know them from whatever car commercials they were in, but you should know that I liked them way before that. Don’t they make you want to get all artsy and play a tiny piano in your attic?

In Which Basements Are Slandered

Today Cisco figured out how to fit the behemoth bookcase and both desks into the office, thereby saving me from certain death by dementors. For a dicey twenty-four hours the plan was to move my desk down to the bowels of the basement, and while that might have worked wonders for creative writing, it wouldn’t have been so good for my sanity. Cisco is wired to feel most at home in dark, cavelike spaces, I am wired to go down there only under Nobody Has Clean Underpants duress. Maybe someday we’ll have a house with an upstairs laundry room, but in order for that to happen here I’d have to put the washing machine on top of the toilet and use the dryer as a nightstand. It would be warm in the Winter though…

Basements have always given me the creeps, starting with my parents’. Theirs is a twisting, dark, spidery sort of basement with rooms off of rooms, all full of who-knows-what. Bats, probably. When my oldest sister was little she was convinced it was filled with flesh-eating white monkeys. Yeah, you think about that for a minute.

My own fears weren’t quite so specific. They were more of the run-up-the-stairs-as-fast-as-you-can-because-something-is-about-to-grab-your-ankle variety, but oh, were they intense. The annual expedition to retrieve the Christmas ornaments, way way off in the deepest, darkest, no-one-can-hear-you-scream corner of the basement was a festive kind of horror.

I guess, compared to that, our basement isn’t so bad. It’s much smaller, and a good part of it is more or less finished, so that’s nice. It’s a great spot to send kids when they’re feeling tribal, and it’s cool in the Summer. Cisco has a “workroom”, tools hung lovingly on pegboard. (He would want me to tell you that he fixes stuff, too. He fixes stuff, too.) And I have the laundry room, littered with empty detergent bottles. They give it a homey feel.

I’m grateful to have a laundry room – don’t think that’s lost on me. I’m just more grateful that that’s the only reason I have to go down there, ever ever ever.

Another Pointless List

Well, the weather finally broke last week, and we’ve been enjoying the most gloriously cool string of days. You can’t not think of Fall and pencils and new shoes and school in weather like this, even if you’re like me and you wish you didn’t quite like Fall so much because it’s a little bit over rated, and over way too fast, and comes right before Winter. We’ve been making the most of these gorgeous days with long walks, late dinners outside, candles, sweaters and friends. Except that none of that is true but the sweaters. In any case, it’s got me thikin’ and plannin’ and wishin’ and hopin’ and la la la la la, so here are some of my goals for the next month:

1. Finally have dinners under the pergola with the Italian lights, like I’ve been wanting to do all Summer, but haven’t done because it’s been so hot.

2. Put Italian lights on the pergola.

3. Collect a dozen or so fantastic soup recipes to be used throughout the Fall and Winter. Cheap and delicious are the goals. Oh, and no dairy, which eliminates cream-of-anything, in case you’re in the mood to feel sorry for me. I can hear your tiny fiddles tuning up now.

4. Finally take the plunge and buy some (horrifying) skinny jeans, but only so I can wear the boots I got for $12 on clearance a couple of years ago.

5. Take a moment every day to mourn the fact that all my resolutions revolve around food and clothes.

6. Learn the ukulele. To be more specific, learn three songs, and practice every day. Teach at least one song to Snert, who loves to sing, but only knows songs that he makes up, which usually go something like “Rock Star! Rock Star! Rock star rock star rock star! Bam Bam Bam, Pew pew pew exploding sounds!”

Oh, no, I forgot that he does know Yankee Doodle. “Mind the business and the stuff, and with the girls be handy!”

7. Start running with Cisco. First do some positive thinking exercises in order to get myself on board emotionally (stop being a weenie, stop being a weenie, stop being a weenie).

8. Take many walks with Snert and Co. through the forest preserves, so as to get in touch with Nature Parts. Pretend we live in the country and not in the suburbs, where a chipmunk is a novelty.

And now, on with the day! There is much to be done, including finding an appropriate place to put a huge Ikea bookshelf that we bought AND  assembled without measuring, because we are the smartest. Honestly, I don’t know how it happened. It would be more than characteristic for me to do something like that, but not for Cisco. Dude seemed really shaken last night. Am thinking that either his mind was temporarily hijacked by aliens, or I finally made him crack last week by insisting that he have an opinion about my wedding apparel. “Does this dress look ok? How about this one? What about this other black one? What about the first one with these shoes? Which is your favorite? Do you want to see the third one again? Is this appropriate for an evening wedding? Are you sure? Is this one too light? Is this one too black? Are you sure? Would it be simpler if I just poked both of your eyes out for you so you don’t have to do this? In that case, which material feels best?”

So, um, what are your plans for the next month? And what about soup?

I’m Giving Myself Seven Minutes

To do these quick takes. Whew. Should be easy because I have nothing to say for myself.

1. We are going to a wedding tomorrow. And then another one in a month. I have not a thing to wear, and no acceptable shoes. This is what happens when you indulge a love of espadrilles over functional shoes, and lose a few pounds because you’ve recently started a “low inflammation” (read: from the devil) diet.

2. Oh, you want to hear about the diet? Well, too bad. I got all my whining out on my sister and my husband. All I’ve been doing really is cutting out dairy, wheat and sugar-but-n0t-wine. So, I more or less eat like a squirrel. Nuts and nuts, with carrots sometimes. It’s such a relief not to have to eat cheeseburgers and milkshakes any more.

Doesn’t that look nasty?

3. I gave Cisco a hairc121.3ut this morning, which is not remarkable because he needs one every three weeks, so I’ve given him approximately  121.333333333infiniti haircuts. By my calculations he’s saved close to $1,500 so far, and I’m prepared to be paid.

4. We’re trying to buy a new (used) car. There is the Functional Car, and the Car We Both Love Because It’s Cooler. We’re super smart consumers, so we’ll probably buy the cool one. Then we can take all those camping trips to the mountains that Cisco’s always talking about.

5. Speaking of camping, it seems like the world is in a camping revolution at the moment. Everyone is talking about it. Why? Are we that out of touch with nature (yes) these days? And is that such a bad thing? Nature’s pretty and stuff, but it also stings and scrapes and gets in your cracks. Just something for you to think about…

6. My seven minutes are up and this has been a complete waste of everyone’s time. Go me. I should be showering instead, but my shampoo has been making my hair real weird, so there’s no point, right? What’s a super awesome salon-quality shampoo that is also free?

7. The ukulele! It’s so cute and small! I play it so badly! Go get one right now and strum it and pretend you’re on a Hawaiian beach in the sunset wearing a grass skirt and coconut shells. That’s what ALL Hawaiians do, right? US AMericans…

Have a super weekend! Exclamation. Go read the rest of the quick takes at Conversion Diary!

What Snert Said

Snert is five, and he says a lot of awesome things. I’ve recently begun a full self-makeover entitled “Stop Being An Idiot”, and writing them down is one of the many things I want to do better. Here are some recent favorites:

*Awesome photo is my sister’s. Isn’t she talented?

The other day Cisco asked me if all the stained wood furniture in the house bothered me, and whether I just needed to paint it all (yes). I told him no, I like natural wood, I’m just not a fan of cherry or orangey stains.

“Or ketchup stains, or mustard stains,” Snert said, shaking his head. “We just have stains all over this house.”

One morning recently he asked me every .125 minutes if he could watch PBS kids cartoons. I threatened seizure of his bow and arrow if he didn’t stop nagging, so he made a genuine effort to get himself under control, and we went about our day. A while later, feeling motherly, I got right in his face and stared in to his eyes.  He leaned in close and we stared, nose to nose, for a good fifteen seconds. I went all soup inside, I was so damn happy. Then he whispered tenderly, “All I can see is PBS in your eyes.”

At mass today Snert, noticing the priest preparing the gifts, whispered to his dad, “Is this the part where he’s making God?” Cisco quietly re-explained the consecration, and Snert seemed satisfied. Then he whispered, almost to himself, “Maybe that’s why mass is so special.”

For my birthday, Snert and Cisco adorned me with old flower leis they found in the basement. Then they gave me homemade cards and a ukulele (I’m so excited and so bad at it yay!). Every time I’ve picked up the ukulele since, Snert offers me a lei. Today he sat back to admire his handiwork and, overcome by the beauty of it all, burst out with “That just looks so FANCY! With the green shirt and the blue skirt, and the brown hair and the Big Head!”

I love him ’til it hurts.

Gets No Title Because I’m Pretending It Never Happened

I’m the last person I would ever advise to host a monthly Rosary, but I do, and somehow it works. I’ve never been a Rosary pro, so I like saying it with a bunch of women who are much better people than I am. Hopefully some day they will rub off on me through some kind of Magical Prayer Osmosis.

Today was Rosary day, and the head-count was somewhere around 35. I started a movie for the kids in the basement while my sister gave people coffee, and things got off to a good start. Then, somewhere around The Descent of the Holy Spirit Upon the Apostles, we had a Descent of Cat Poop Upon The Children.

While Snert most fittingly watches a cartoon about “digestion congestion” (?!?!?), let me tell you about it:

We have these neighbors two doors down. Two very nice gents. I see them snow-blowing our other neighbor’s sidewalk in the Winter, and taking his garbage bin out every week (he just turned 90). I see them walk their dogs past my house and cast worried looks at my molting gold be-chunked door. Sometimes we chat.

When we first moved in almost three years ago, one of these fellas opened the conversation by telling us that he’s a member of Peta (“I’m a member of PET.A. A member of PE.TA! I’m a member of PET.A.”) He went on to tell us that there are some wild cats who live around here, and that he very mercifully feeds them and takes them in for shots and pays $200 a month to space-heat his garage in the winter because “somebody’s got to take care of them, you know?”

I do not.

Stank, Rank and Hank (the cats) sleep and eat in his garage, but won’t go in his yard or near his house because of his dogs. So where do they hang out? In my (fenced) yard. And where do they poo-ip? You are so smart.

At some point this morning the kids (who still don’t realize it’s 100 billion degrees out) went outside to play, and the rest is shitstory. My saintly sister-in-law washed everybody’s hands (because it was on their hands?!) while I flapped my Rosary around helpfully. Another saintly lady washed the stairs when it was discovered that one of the kids had unknowingly tracked poop all over the house. Yeah, baby. That poor kid (the poop-tracker) cried for a good twenty minutes and vowed that he would “shoot the cats.” It was like the scene in Gone With The Wind when Scarlett chows a dirty carrot and swears she’ll never go hungry again, except that in my nephew’s case it was yogurt-covered pretzels. Deeply moving.

I hear it can get dicey making threats on the internet, but what with the poop, another broken glass, a baby getting her finger slammed in a door, and my Lady Hormones From Hell, I might just let him go for it. What do you think?