A very middle class…

…sort of afternoon.

Let me start by saying that I have an extreme disdain for A Southern Season on the weekend.  For the years that I worked at the hospital, I was able to skitter over to A Southern Season during lunch, snap up what was necessary and get the fuck out without having to deal with the doddering, old people trawling for free samples.  I was able to avoid overhearing the annoying conversations between Bitsy and Tweety about their quilted handbags and their grandchildren.  I didn’t have to dig down deep within myself to find the restraint necessary to avoid grabbing a Wüsthof knife and driving it through the heart of a Junior League member lamenting about how hard it is to find good help these days.  Also, I didn’t have to play dodge the portable oxygen tank.  As I have said previously, that is the must have accessory for a majority of the clientele.

I have long maintained that there should be certain hours set aside for those of us who need to shop for actual groceries so we can get in and out without any irritation.  Call me bougie all you want but there are certain food stuffs that I can only get there or I can pay 50 trillion dollars in shipping to some weird internet shop specializing in French salami and Kalles kaviar (not that I would dare eat that shit).  Also, blame my father for this.  He was the one who foisted this upon me.  I was perfectly fine with a diet of Pop-Tarts and scorched meat (my stepfather, my lovely, learned stepfather…my wonderful stepfather who should not be permitted to touch meat at all) until I moved in with my father.  Then my life turned into “eat like a proper European and like it or starve.”  Also, have some wine with dinner…even if you’re only 9 (ok…even if you’re only 17).

On Christmas, I made a horrible discovery.  We had one jar of lingonsylt (lingon berries) remaining.  There is an Ikea in Charlotte but it’s an Ikea…in Charlotte.  People go there as a tourist destination.  Anyone who needs to get in, get lingonsylt and get the fuck out does not have the time to waste driving two hours only to deal with drop-jawed morons stumbling and bumbling through a low grade furniture store, massacring the names of Scandinavian towns.  Also, there are no meetings for work scheduled in Charlotte in the near future so I have no actual reason to go to Charlotte.  Further complicating my life is the obliteration of Ericsson’s footprint in RTP (thank goodness I left Ericsson for the current job).  Finding Swedish anything at the regular grocery store is no longer a possibility.  No more Ballerina cookies.  No more Felix anything.  My choices for acquiring Swedish foods are now limited to Ikea, the internet, begging for parcels from my friends or going to A Southern Season (or ASS as my husband calls it).  I make köttbullar (Swedish meatballs or shitballs, if you’re my husband) often enough that we must have a reasonable inventory of lingonsylt.  Köttbullar without lingonsylt is like college without beer – why bother?

So, I break the news that Milkface is going to have to run a marginally uninteresting errand with Mommy today.  He was in his fort in the living room and stayed silent in hope that I would forget that I had a child.  I lured him out with the promise of a handsome reward/threat of death.  It never ceases to amaze me that the child who is never tired always seems to come down with chronic fatigue syndrome whenever it’s time to get dressed to run an errand.  I manage to get his limp body into clothes, bundle him up and stuff him in the car.  Then he forces me to listen to Avril Latrine (yeah…Avril Latrine.  When you have to listen to Avril Lavigne over and over and over again until your ears bleed, she becomes Avril Latrine.  And believe me, this is one time I find myself wishing my hearing impairment is way worse than it actually is, too.) ½ way up I-40.  The child, he’s good.  He’s already mastered the art of manipulation from his conniving, scheming and evil mother.

We get to ASS, walk through the doors and Milky inhales.  He immediately recognizes the smell of happiness.  The smell that brings much joy and harmony to the house.  The smell that represents comfort, sanity and security because Mommy isn’t losing her shit over something inconsequential:  coffee.  Milky is intrigued.  Milky is comforted.  Milky is willing to push the cart and cooperate.  We head over to the jam aisle and start our search for lingonsylt.  There were four jars.  We scooped up three.  I always feel guilty taking the entire stock of whatever in the event that there is someone else who is having an emergency.  I would hate to be the asshole that caused distress because I took everything (see, I am considerate!).  Then I noticed the rows and rows of French jams Dock and I fell in love with while on one of our trench hiking holidays so I placed a few of those in the cart.  After that – marmalade because my father loves marmalade.  Examining the cart, I’m thinking we have the equivalent of Milky’s freshman year of college tuition in jam and decide it’s time to move along.  But where to next?  We satisfied the need:  lingonsylt.  We obtained the want:  jam.  Oooooh…bread!  Must have bread for all this glorious jam.  To the bakery, we go.  And now, my ambivalent sloth of a child is getting into the experience.  After a brief discussion, we decide brioche would be better than several croissant so we get a loaf of that.  I think that may have cost more than my boots.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Milky drifting towards the left to the case with the desserts.  Of course.  There are two King cakes in the case and Milky loves anything that is sparkly and purple.  The whining begins in earnest.  Lower lip protrudes, eyes well with crocodile tears but I manage to convince him to hold off for a minute.  What Milky doesn’t realize is that ASS has a candy section that is something to behold.  And this is where things get a little weird and where I fail to understand how the brain of a five year old functions at times because five year olds glom on to some really weird shit.

On our way to candy land, we cruise by my mother’s concept of heaven:  cookware and cutlery.  Rows upon rows of knives (which she may or may not wield when I arrive home with another tattoo; not unlike the first time I came home with a tattoo when she waved a chef’s knife at me and was certainly not smiling) twinkling beneath the lights strategically placed to showcase the wares.  Shelf upon shelf of Le Creuset cookware and bakeware.  Milkface notes the lack of purple cookware and wonders if Bubbe can do anything about that (note to mom:  I’m totally serious).  A table display of Scanpans are taunting me.  Then my weird kid fixates on a pie bird.  Of course he reaches for it (what five year old wouldn’t grab something fragile) and demands to know what it is, what it does and, of course, can he have it.  I explain why pie birds are used and that Mommy isn’t big on baking pies but this is irrelevant.  Milky now wants a pie bird.  Oh…and the pie bird should be made by Le Creuset (properly pronounced) and preferably red or purple (because purple is his favorite color and red is the favorite color of his bestie).  Somehow, I’m now finding myself in a lamentation reserved for an Op/Ed piece in The Guardian about Middle Class Shame.  This is all very confusing.  Especially given the fact that I look like something that has been pulled out of a shower drain and dressed in a Ponyville Public Library shirt, jeans and ratty cowgirl boots.

I finally manage to lure the child to the candy section and watch what every parent dreams of, even if they’re unwilling to admit it, a face awash in joy at the sight of endless candy and impending tooth decay.  As is Milky’s wont, he stands still and processes all that he sees before diving in.  Then the “May I have…” begins.  At first, I restrain him much to his chagrin.  I don’t want him loading up the cart with the first thing he sees or stuff he can get anywhere (supply chain toady represent – we do not buy M&Ms at an exorbitant markup).  I want him to explore a bit.  I want him to have the full kid-in-the-candy-store experience.  We cruise the aisles looking at all the things.  He recognizes the goodies Uncle Magnus brings him from Sweden.  He sees lollipops with insects in them.  Then he finds the good stuff…the stuff of infinite possibilities…the bulk candy:  jelly beans, chocolate of endless varieties, gummy this and gummy that, licorice, gumballs, jawbreakers.  Then it’s time to really blow his mind, I put on one of those non-latex gloves, grab a handful of empty bags and tell him he can have whatever he wants.  Who has two thumbs and is mom of the year?  This train wreck.  And load up the bags we did.  The staff smiled.  The other patrons sneered.  Let them.  My kid and I were having a moment, dammit.

Even after we had cleaned out a good bit of the gummy inventory, Milky still had his mind on the bakery and the pie bird.  And, because I have done a stellar job of spoiling the child rotten, I suspected that there was going to be an addition to what was already in the cart.  I managed to distract Milkface from the pie bird by taunting him with stinky cheese.  Then we negotiated a deal – there would be no King cake coming home (it was large, it’s not yet Mardi Gras and I don’t care for holiday creep as it is) but Milky could have petit fours or an individual cake.  He chose sponge cake with strawberry mousse.  And somewhere, the bougie brigade agreed to overlook the fromage foul, grant me a pass on the pile of gummy goodness in the cart and allow me to keep my tastefully muted membership card granting me access to the most exclusive of food and beverage markets provided Milkface partake of ethically sourced foie gras by the end of February.

Once that was all said and done, we left ASS and walked through the remaining shops of University Mall (all four of them – maybe five?) where Milky was additionally rewarded with his first pieces of art glass because a cultured lad is never young enough to start building his own collection.  He selected a plane, a turtle, a heart and an octopus (or maybe I chose that for myself?).

And as I sit here, with Scooby Doo (might I say – I really dislike Scooby Doo) in the background, I’m having a hard time figuring out if today is 2015 and Milky’s childhood or if it’s 1976 and my childhood.  My parents saw nothing wrong with taking me to a gourmet grocery store and feeding me food that grown-ups eat.  They didn’t see anything wrong with allowing an outrageous indulgence now and then.  If there was something random and weird that I wanted and I was well behaved, I could, conceivably, have been rewarded with the random and weird object.  Today, it appears that I gave Milky a little of what was given to me – a little bit of the weird, magical, offbeat childhood that I had that a lot of kids didn’t necessarily experience.  While I may make fun of myself for the excess, I’m also quite proud to pass along the some of the kookiness.  And, maybe there will come a day when Milky is flying solo with a kid of his own, doing the same nonsensical, silly things while thinking about the day that his goofball of a mom did the same with him.  Parenting may feel like a series of really long and really frustrating days but the reality of the situation is that it is a very narrow allocation of time.  The ultimate goal is to raise kids to be self-sufficient and self-actualized adults.  But…who is to say that the process can’t be fun, too?

…parenting ruins everything

I did make an unrealistic promise to myself when I started writing again.  I promised my bad self that I wouldn’t make this a mommy blog.  I find myself unable to keep that promise so I can only say that I will limit the mommy jabber as best as possible.

Early this morning, my FecesBook feed was filled with comments about a little girl named Skylar who lives in my old stomping grounds.  Within less than a day, the little girl went from playing outside to being abducted and murdered.  As a rule, I would find this incredibly upsetting.  Being a parent only magnifies the horror and pain.

One of the more peculiar aspects of parenting that I have found is how dramatically your frame of reference is altered and how much more profoundly you feel things.  It’s as if the little baby takes all of your ambivalence with him/her when he/she leaves the womb.  You’re left with nothing but a bundle of raw nerves and feelings.

I have always been an extreme worrier – so much so that I end up physically ill.  It has been said that I’m Worst Case Scenario girl.  I will envision the absolute worst outcome of any situation and plan backwards to prevent it from happening.  It’s a great talent and wonderful ability, if you’re my employer.  It’s tedious and exhausting if you have to live with me.

My propensity for constant worrying has been changed since Milkface was born.  There are certain things that I can flippantly dismiss with the wave of a hand – things which I would agonize over before Milky.  Then there are new issues which are so considerably troubling that I become paralyzed with fear.

I could very well say the same about sadness.  That which would reduce me to tears in my previous life seems mostly irrelevant.  Show me a child that has been mistreated, a parent who is grieving or the impact of illness on a family and I’m a blubbering, non-functioning mess.  Outside of the terrible two-tantrum, watching my own child cry is something I cannot bear.  I consider myself very fortunate that our experiences, thus far, have been easily solved by a snuggle, hug and a kiss.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, parenting has brought me joy unlike anything I have ever experienced.  There is no better sound in the world than the genuine belly laugh of a pleased toddler.  No psychotropic medication can elevate your spirits quite like the smile of a child.  Nothing makes you feel as if your troubles have melted away quite like a hug and drooly kiss.

For someone who has spent the past eleven or so years carefully analyzing every emotion, every response – the dramatic shift in outlook is mindboggling.  I had long thought that I was hypersensitive.  I had long tried to manage that.  Now that I’m a parent, I realize it’s all go-with-the-flow.  If you’re blessed with a child, the intensity of feelings defies description.  You shift from pessimist to optimist at the drop of a hat.  You fear things you previously thought impossible.  You fall in love a million times a day.

…sharing is good

or maybe not.

The director of Milkface’s school dropped her eldest daughter off at a Girl Scouts meeting across the street.  We ran into each other outside and it would be painfully rude (and entirely un-Southern) of me if I did not invite her and her youngest daughter, also a classmate of Milky’s, into our home.

Milky’s face filled with joy as he saw one of his most favorite adults standing in the foyer. We released the hounds (children) in the living room for some quick play time.  Milky’s classmate spies his drum and immediately zeros in on it, much to Milky’s chagrin.  Milky let out a loud howl, grabbed the drum and chastised his friend with a stern “MINE!” Lovely.

Granted, Milky has never had a toddler his own age over to the house for a playdate so the concept of sharing his toys, as opposed to school toys, is entirely foreign to him.  That said – what horrible manners this feral toddler has!

All of this brings me to today’s internet funny.  Clearly I have a few more years of “MINE” howling to contend with.

The guilt of the working mom

I’m sitting in the hospital waiting room and The Today Show is playing on one of the TVs.  The ladies are discussing the “guilt of the working mom,” whatever the hell that means.  Maybe it’s because I’m a guy, but I don’t understand why women would feel guilty about working and not staying home with their children.  I don’t mind dropping the boys off and heading to work.  In fact I could drop them off permanently and come back when they are fully-developed adults.  Okay so that’s a bit extreme even for me.
Still, I don’t think anybody should feel guilty about providing for their children’s future.  But perhaps it’s different for some people, they feel like they will miss some major milestone in their child’s development or something: their baby’s first step, spoken word, ad nauseum; if they are not in their child’s life every nanosecond.  I did get to experience both those things and I can honestly say they are overrated.  Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember what my firstborn said.  Luckily moms remember those kinds of things.

I don’t really have anything against these people, I just feel like women in general need to give themselves a break and know that they are good mothers and that leaving their children for a few hours is okay.  These ladies talking about guilt are not doing anybody any favors and might even make women feel worse about themselves.  Just my 2 cents…