Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sleeping with the Offspring

I'm writing tonight from the Holiday Inn Express in Mystic, Connecticut, a half-step up from the Best Western around the block, where we had been staying for the last couple times we'd come down to visit the aquarium here. This year, after a weekend trip to my beloved western Massachusetts, I made a solemn vow: no more staying at the absolute cheapest (decent) place in town, if only because that's where kids' sports teams and the like end up. Plenty of people my age have long since sworn off mediocre hotels. I was late to adopt the policy myself, as it seemed needlessly overindulgent. However, one night at the Comfort Inn in Hadley, MA, besieged by preteen boys with lacrosse sticks and not an adult to be seen, is all it took to solidify my resolution. Never again. I still can't justify staying at the Hilton, but two stars is no longer enough.

So here I sit, with wine and wifi; life is good. The rest of my lovely family is asleep behind me, but I'm not ready to hit the hay myself. I'm going to stay up sipping red wine till I'm bound to sleep heavily enough not to be bothered by the Bean's knees in my back, or her elbow in my gut, or whatever it turns out to be tonight. You wouldn't think it'd be such a challenge, sharing a double bed with someone not yet 50 lbs heavy and only yay tall. You'd be wrong. The Peanut is even worse... she sleeps on her back with her limbs splayed like a giant capital X. Plus she talks in her sleep -- alarming, senseless little declarations that leave you uncertain what might come next. Oh sure, she looks all kinds of cute and snuggly, with her little blankie and whatever stuffed animal is currently in highest favor. What could go wrong? Ha. I've let her share my king-sized bed at home, when Mr. Sandyshoes is traveling. Somehow I always end up cowering crosswise across the bottom of the bed, barely out of reach of her cute little feet, while visions of whatever dance in her cute little head up where mine is supposed to be.

Anyway. The girls were really hard to settle down last night... the first night of a weekend trip always seems to be a tough one... and we had to threaten them with turning around and coming right back home. That Bean just wouldn't go to sleep. This morning, the Peanut wouldn't *stay* asleep. Another thing I've learned about staying in hotels: you should always bring one of those enormous binder clips along, in case the light-blocking curtains don't completely close on their own. It's surprising how often this is a problem, what with hotel rooms being intended specifically for sleeping in. Our present room is big enough and has most of the things we need, but there's a five-foot gap between where the heavy drapes end. That's plenty of space to allow the entire bright insult of early daylight to fill the room, adding to the injury of hours spent next to one of the offspring. Naturally Mr. Sandyshoes has rigged up something ingenious to correct the curtain problem, but I'm thinking for future reference, one of those binder clips would save a lot of rigging.

Our most successful hotel sleeping strategy has been to split the girls up. They don't share a room at home, and it doesn't seem to help them settle down if they're set up right next to each other in a hotel room. So we get a room with two double beds, divide and conquer. We stack pillows so they can't look over at each other, then we say goodnight and retreat with a book to whatever space is left us in the nook between the door and the bathroom, until we're ready to go to bed ourselves. Tonight's room has quite a bit of space, so that's nice. Sometimes there isn't anywhere to go... which is why I ended up reading Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell* in the bathroom of our room at the Comfort Inn in Hadley, which actually seems sort of appropriate in retrospect.

I should sleep. More on the aquarium etc. in another post. In the meantime, what hotel chains have you found are best for staying with your kids? Any hints (besides "get a suite") for making it more restful? How about hints (besides "drug them") for settling excited kiddos?

*If even half the things Tucker Max says about himself are true, he is a genuine asshole, but a sometimes-funny one. My college roommate said she read this book and thought of me. I don't know what to make of that. I'm assuming she thought "sandy shoes will laugh at this book," not "this asshole reminds me of sandy shoes in earlier days," but I am afraid to ask.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I'm a little disconnected from Memorial Day this year. I just got home from a few days away, which were so good for the soul. There is meal planning and grocery shopping to do. I need to feed my friends' cats while they're away, and decide how best to suggest to my mother that she please not ever cut my daughter's hair again. It is laundry day, and I have to mow the lawn. There are preparations to make for a friend coming to visit this week.

Haircut aside, it's all good. I feel great.

I know, too, that my happy busy-ness and disconnection from the meaning of this day are a luxury. Many families today are remembering loved ones lost in battles. "Happy Memorial Day!" seems like a strange thing to say to someone, frankly.

As I type this, one daughter has been sent to her room for punching the other one. Like so many parents, we teach our children not to use physical violence out of frustration, or to get what they want. It seems a lesson worth imparting.

Somewhere along the line they, like most adults, will probably become disconnected from that idea. No, they won't go around punching people on subways or in grocery stores, but they might see some justifications for violence against other people, other nations. When the numbers are big, the personal stories anonymous and hard to understand, the problems complex and overlapping, maybe it doesn't seem like simple common sense anymore, not to hurt or kill other people.

I don't know. I feel disconnected from the premise, even as I lay a mental wreath for those fallen, and do, truly, appreciate their sacrifice.

To our veterans and current military: Thank you for the risks you took, and take, to life, limb, and peace of mind, in service of our country.

To all who lost loved ones in military service: thank you, and, I'm sorry.

I'm sorry we humans, for all our greatness, still haven't figured out a better way to solve our problems than to maim and kill each other over them.

Let's keep working on it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lunch with the first grade.

Because Mr. Sandyshoes works at home on Tuesdays, I can sometimes go to the Bean's school to have lunch with her. This is a mixed blessing. On one hand, as long as it's allowed for parents to join their kids for lunch, and as long as the Bean wants me to, I'm glad that I can. On the other... it's lunch in the cafeteria with the whole first grade, and all the noise and mayhem that entails. Take your Advil before you get there so it's kicking in in plenty of time. Still, once a week, I can hack it. The Bean is a nice kid with nice friends, so overall, it's cool to hang with them for a bit. Her class is used to seeing me around; that's cool too. It's definitely a different perspective than seeing them in the classroom.

One day I looked up from talking with the Bean and her friend and noticed that the boy sitting across the table from me was trembling, and his bottom lip was quivering, and he was having a hard time holding it together. "Ted? Are you hurt?" I asked, and he just lost it. He told me he was upset because he hadn't finished some of his work so he'd had to have "time off" his recess.

Now, their teacher is very clear about the rules of the classroom, and the consequences for choosing to do other than follow them. One consequence of not finishing what you're supposed to finish is that you miss some recess to get it done. I don't know if he didn't finish because he was goofing around, or because the work was too hard or too much for him, or because he didn't listen, or because he forgot. I do know that he was stressed to the point of tears because of it, and his friends were starting to notice. Just what every kid wants: to be the bawling center of attention at lunchtime.

Fortunately he was sitting next to Marcus, a kid I've come to really like. Without skipping a beat, he took the spotlight, even while throwing a comforting arm around Ted's shoulders. "OH WOW," he said. "I'VE had to stay in TONS of times!" (Marcus talks in all caps, blue eyes wide as if he can't even believe it himself.) I nudged the Bean to tell about when she didn't finish and had to miss recess. She nodded, and Marcus remembered that day too: "YEAH! EVEN THE BEAN!" They all started talking about the times they got "time off recess." Ted forgot his tears, listening to his pals spin their tales of woe. Marcus had commanded a whole audience to another story of his own, by that point. The whole thing was just a moment, and the moment passed, and very soon it was time to pretend it never happened. I went back to talking with the Bean. From across the table I heard Ted mumble something to Marcus, and his reply, "no, it's not bad. You just look like you were running around. MY face gets REALLY red when I cry..." I peeked up at them, heads bent together, in damage control mode.

What a good kid. Sometimes, they are really all right. I felt happy to be there that day, to get that little glimpse of the kind people some of them are growing up to be.

It almost made up for all the times I've had to tell them to please not empty the last of their chocolate milk on each other's shirts.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

One kind of liberation.

The other night I had dinner out with two friends -- like me, mothers of young children, though we knew each other Before All That -- who live a couple of towns away. Family schedules can make it tough to find an evening we're all available, but we make it happen every couple of months. This time we met at Bopha's Stir Crazy, a Cambodian restaurant which, Cape Cod/southeastern Massachusetts readers, you should absolutely visit if you haven't. (Note to self: remember this place when next lamenting the relative lack of really good, fairly casual, not-American-pub-food restaurants on the Cape, as compared to the Pioneer Valley from whence I moved, which has a giddy and delicious abundance thereof and which I sometimes heartily miss.) (Another note to self: who the hell uses "from whence" and "thereof" in casual writing?)


Anyway one of my friends arrived a few minutes late. Sitting down, she said she'd just come from the garden center, where she'd had to exchange one kind of hose for another, and that it had taken much longer than she'd thought it would because the cashier didn't know how to conduct the transaction, got the register all muddled up, had to call a manager over, etc., etc. Evidently the cashier behaved very rudely, as well. My mild-mannered, good-natured friend eventually said to her, "hey, there's no need to be that way with me. I didn't mess up the register," and that the cashier, while still gritting her teeth, at least knocked off the overt snippiness.

We all agreed that ten years ago -- even five -- none of us would've likely said anything, however justified. There's something about... what, turning 40? being somebody's mother? ... that has kicked in, and we just don't put up with stuff like that any more.

Looking at the menu, we thought about getting three different entrees to share. "Actually, I'd like to have that to myself," my friend said. Fair enough. If a mommy gets a night out with her friends, the last thing she should have is someone taking unwelcome bites of her dinner. Another thing we're not going to feel sheepish about. There are lots of things like this. I won't share popcorn at the movies. I never liked to, but I won't fake it any more. I want it all myself, and I want to eat it with my tongue, like a frog, if frogs ate popcorn. It's a small thing, but it makes me happy.

So we're feeling changes in our sense of self as we move into middle adulthood. But it's not just about rude strangers and popcorn. Although I still worry about it sometimes, if I'm perfectly honest I have to say I care less and less about whether people in general like me or not. I've realized that the things people might not like about me are really unlikely to change, at this stage of the game. I am who I am. There are six billion people on the planet to choose your friends from... don't choose me, if you don't want to. It's okay. We're both better off. Peace.

(My inner puppy would like to interject at this point that none of this means I'm not a likeable person or a good friend, and that you'd probably like me if we met. OK, puppy. Back in your crate now.)

However, I must not be all grown up yet because I'm still taking crap from people in doctors' offices. For example, take my recent annual ob-gyn appointments. The medical assistant who does the initial stuff -- weight, blood pressure, asking if anything's changed since last time, saying "you can get undressed, the doctor will be with you shortly" -- has become pointedly unfriendly to me. She didn't smile, didn't respond when spoken to, didn't look at me or call me by name. It is weird and unpleasant, and I was really taken aback by it. I have been a patient of this practice (is that the dumbest home page ever? No links!) for ten years now, through two pregnancies and various other bumps in the road that I won't bore you with (you're welcome). That assistant has been there for many of those years, herself, and she hasn't always been such a sourpuss. Something has distinctly changed. I have to wonder, and I'm tempted to ask her, "did I do something to piss you off? or is there just something uncomfortable up your ass?" -- because I don't deserve that.

But I haven't, and I probably won't, because 1) I would probably word it just like that, and become Part of the Problem; and 2) it's very hard to find a new doctor, and I'd hate to burn that bridge. There are only a few places to storm out of in high dudgeon (!) before I'd be out of local options altogether. Doctors around here have really got patients over a barrel. Still, basic civility doesn't seem like it should be too much to ask.

At any rate, this knowing who you are, and not feeling apologetic about it must be what people mean, in part, when they talk about how aging is "liberating." I suppose there's a fine line between "What you think won't hurt me because I'm OK with who I am" and "I don't care what you think because I'm kind of an asshole that way." Here's to achieving the former without coming off as the latter.

Movie Night: Appaloosa

Shown in the Sandy Shoes home theater last night: Appaloosa.

I don't usually dig Westerns, but did mostly like this one. Ed Harris (who also directs) and Viggo Mortensen star as Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, two hired guns who sign on to police a small New Mexico town being terrorized by a powerful rancher (Jeremy Irons) and his men. Enter Renee Zellweger (can someone please tell me what's appealing about her? Is it the piggy little eyes? The faux whisper?) as a widow of uncertain motives, and things get complicated.

Good: pace, performances, dialogue, overall cool factor.

Bad: I just don't love Renee Zellweger as much as most people do. That aside, her character is problematic... not because she complicates things, but because there's a "this would all be going fine if it weren't for the dang woman" flavor to the whole thing, which is a cheap, cheesy cop-out of a plot device.

I haven't made up my mind about Viggo Mortensen. History of Violence (also Mortensen and Harris) was sooo bad, and his performance in this wasn't much different; just, the Everett Hitch character was perfectly suited to it. I can't remember seeing him in much else; Hidalgo didn't make any impression whatsoever, and I never saw the Lord of the Rings movies.

Anyway, Appaloosa is worth seeing. For those keeping track at home, Mr. Sandyshoes liked it too :).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Heh heh. Let's pee in it. Heh.

It appears Beavis and Butt-head are alive and well and living in Wyoming.

And as much as it pains me to admit it, I thought that was pretty funny.

Though it would have served 'em right if the timing of their antics had been off. Old Faithful blasts thousands of gallons of scalding water 150 feet into the air every hour and a half...-ish.

Ah well. These two will have to get their Darwin Awards by some other inglorious route.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Mommy Survey

This was going around several weeks ago; I just got around to posting mine.

1) What is something that your Mommy always says to you?

Peanut: She loves me.

Bean: I love you.

2) What makes your Mommy happy?

Peanut: Please and thank you.

Bean: Me.

3) What makes your Mommy sad?

Peanut: I don't know.

Bean: When I don’t listen.

4) How does your Mommy make you laugh?

Peanut: By saying "Peanut, why are you so sad?"

Bean: Tickling me.

5) What was your Mommy like as a child?

Peanut: Me.

Bean: You hated skirts.

6) How old is your Mommy?

Peanut: I keep forgetting.

Bean: 42.

7) How tall is your Mommy?

Peanut: I know you're not small.

Bean: almost six feet

(I’m 5’ 4” – ed. )

8) What is her favorite thing to do?

Peanut: I think you like to listen to the news.

Bean: Love me.

9) What does your Mommy do when you aren't around?

Peanut: I don't know.

Bean: Play with Peanut.

10) If your Mommy became famous, what would she be famous for?

Peanut: Maybe flowers that you really like!

Bean: Being President.

11) What is your Mommy really good at?

Peanut: Loving me.

Bean: Writing.

12) What is your Mommy not very good at?

Peanut: I don't know.

Bean: Hm. Climbing trees?

13) What does your Mommy do for her job?

Peanut: Take care of me and Bean.

Bean: Take care of us.

14) What is your Mommy's favorite food?

Peanut: There's a squirrel in our yard. Egg salad?

Bean: Things that you cook.

15) What makes you proud of your Mommy?

Peanut: When we go places that me and Bean really like.

Bean: Cooking something that you never did before, like the tofu.

16) If Mommy was a cartoon character, which would she be?

Peanut: Serabe.

Bean: Kermit.

17) What do you and your Mommy do together?

Peanut: Read books and walk to the bus.

Bean: Go to the bookstore.

18) How are you and your Mommy the same?

Peanut: We both love each other.

Bean: We’re in the same family.

19) How are you and your Mommy different?

Peanut: We don't have the same shirts.

Bean: We’re different sizes.

20) How do you know your Mommy loves you?

Peanut: You say you love me.

Bean: You say it a lot.

21) Where is your Mommy's favorite place to go?

Peanut: I don't know.

Bean: The beach.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day recap

Sunday morning Mr. Sandyshoes said to me that... um, er, he didn't plan anything for Mother's Day... because we don't do that kind of holiday, right?

And he's right, we don't, at least not the way most everyone else does. So, while most everyone else was stuck taking/being taken by their families out to eat at crowded restaurants, I happily abandoned my lovely offspring in the care of their lovely father and ran off to the movies. W00t!

And:I am happy to report that everything good that's being said about Star Trek is true.

It. Is. Awesome. I just wanted to sit there and watch it again.

Also, I got a rock. Peanut painted a rock at preschool, glued a clothespin to it, and voila, I have a paperweight/clip thingy. Bean presented me with a lovely yellow flower, which she had planted at school and brought home. Like an idiot, I lifted it gently out of its cup to see if there was drainage or I should repot it... I should've just asked her, because she knew how it was supposed to drain, and I would've saved her from bursting into tears at all the potting soil I inadvertently dumped on the floor. Sigh.

Yeah whatever. That is a damn good movie. It hit all the right notes -- just campy enough.

Go. See. Report.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

R.I.P. Dom Deluise

I just read that Dom Deluise died in his sleep yesterday, at 75.

He was terrifically funny in many things of course, but I'll remember him best for this:

I have a special love for funny people who performed with the Muppets in the Jim Henson days. Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Deluise. Merdlidop!

Monday, May 04, 2009

(I'm so sorry, but:)

It has come to my attention that today is Star Wars Day.

May the Fourth be with you.

3PO: "I think she might think that's even a little bit funny."
R2: (sad whistle)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Because I know you're wondering and just don't know how to ask...

...the new lawn mower works great. The self-propelled part takes some adjusting to -- it *really* wants to go forward. Even without that feature engaged, there's more resistance to backing up than there was in the old one. My previous lawn mowing strategy involved a lot of dragging it backwards instead of turning around. So it's faster, it's easier, it STARTS, hurray! -- but it'll take some getting used to as well.