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February 26th, 2005

More education stories in the paper today, about how the state has more money than they thought. No, not really, cuz there is even less money now for schools. (Well, which is it?) More teachers will need to be fired. The school year will be shorter. But the district is hiring seven people to do PR and “communicate.” So they apparently have the money for that. I cannot communicate well about any of this. I guess I wouldn’t deserve one of their $100,000 + a year jobs, since i am unable to communicate about this subject that is so near to my heart.


Advice for Neurotic Mothers and Others

February 25th, 2005

Thus begins the weekly Friday Advice Column for Neurotic Mothers and Others. Wacky Mommy is willing to answer any and all of your questions, and call in the experts if necessary. So fire away!

A disclaimer: This service is not meant to replace regular care and maintenance of your automobile, and is not intended… oh, wait. That’s from the letter my auto club sent me weekly when I had my Dodge Dart. What I meant was: This column is not written by a medical expert, or, to be brutally honest, an expert in much of anything. Yet people insist on asking for my advice! So, what’s a girl to do but attempt to help, however lamely she can? And not hold it against them when they don’t take my advice anyway! You don’t want my advice, dammit, don’t ask!


What I meant was: This column is not meant to take the place of medical attention from a doctor, witch doctor, or mental health professional. Whew!

Our first question:

“Hi, yeah, I have a kind of neurotic mother question. My son’s birthday party is this Saturday at the kids’ museum. Some of the people haven’t called to RSVP. Quite a few of them, actually. Is it OK to call them? And if they can’t come, invite other people? Even though it’s kind of late in the game? Is that tacky? Thank you.”

I heard from this mommy on Thursday evening, which in my book is planning ahead. I mean, two days til the big event! Dang, good job being so organized, baby! To her I say:

Hell, yes, get on the horn. Cuz you’re paying by the head at the museum, correct? And you want to make sure that at least a couple of his pals show up, otherwise it could traumatize the little guy for life, years of therapy, a twitch in his eye, etc.

What I have done in the past is call people and say something like “I know you guys probably have been swamped and haven’t had a chance to RSVP, but I’m wondering if you all are going to be able to make it to Woogum’s party on Saturday? It’s fine if you have other plans, I’m just trying to get a headcount for the museum! Thank you! Call as soon as you have a chance!”

Hopefully you get them on the line and don’t have to wait for a callback. If they hem and haw, for the love of God give them an out. Because we all know that for most of us, kids’ birthday parties can give us headaches, ruin friendships, send us running for numerous vodka lemonades, then you get called a drunk by your so-called friends, “It’s only 2 o’clock and you’ve already had two vodka lemonades? Jesus, woman, get a grip!” words are exchanged, etc. So be gracious. Then re-do your count and call a couple of more people, if the numbers match up, and say something like:

“Would you guys like to come to Woogum’s party? It’s this Saturday (details on location, time, gift exchange or not, etc.) and I totally understand if you guys already have plans.” Then… here’s the tricky part — let’s say Family One calls you back. “We CAN make it after all!” Well, then you’re screwed. Not really. You’ll just need to pay for the extra admissions. Or you could lie, and say “Sorry, the room is limited to 10 people and we just found out my husband’s cousins are in town. Want to get together next weekend at the park instead?”

More suggestions:

* If you’re inviting his class, invite the whole class OR just one or two of the kids, tops (by private invite, through the mail). If you
invite half the class then that can be very hurtful to the rest of the kids, cuz they’re going to hear about the Big Fun they missed.

* A gift exchange of toys or books (in lieu of gifts for the birthday kid) can be nice. $5 max, and make sure to stash a few extra presents in the trunk of your car in case some of the parents forget. Another nice idea is to ask for donations to the Humane Society, local homeless shelter for women and kids, or another favorite charity.

* Limit the soiree to two hours, tops, for younger kids or Bad Things Can Happen. I know. And..

* No spin the bottle til they’re 12!

Kisses to the birthday boy!

Life is a Carnival (believe it or not)

February 24th, 2005

I never finished up this topic, sorry. Got too busy railing.

School carnivals take a heck of a lot of planning but man, are they ever worth it! (And I think we might even have made a little money, which is always nice.) We had two huge bounce-arounds (these are spendy, but the kids love them), a rootsy-folksy band that appealed to the crowd, a magician, a bunch of games (ping-pong ball toss into iced tea glasses, sports booth, cakewalk, all of those), face painting, and a Cajun feast with rice and beans, jambalaya, cornbread and Moon Pies.

The photo badge booth, where the kids could get their pictures taken and put their sweet little mugs on a button, was a hit, as was the arts & crafts room. It gave people a nice quiet space to mellow out. They made “shoebox floats” (for the parade) that they decorated with paper and glitter, and they could make Mardi Gras masks, too. We also sold a ton of feathery Mardi Gras masks and glow necklaces, for a dollar apiece. (You can get a lot of materials online, for cheap. And sometimes party stores will give you a school discount.) We raffled a bunch of stuff off and had door prizes, too. There was a big parade through the halls
at the end.

I came home and passed out, and so did the rest of the Wacky Family. Also I completely went into a sugar coma from the cake Wacky Girl and Boy won in the cakewalk, and the large box of peanut butter cups I devoured with almost no help from other family members. This sugar binge was followed by gin and tonic binge with the in-laws while they were here — damn, no wonder my head is fuzzy. Whew.

Some tips:

* If your in-laws are coming for a visit, make sure they arrive the night of the carnival, not the next day. Otherwise they miss all the fun! Plus you can rope an extra volunteer or two this way. (Wait, maybe this
was intentional on their part?)

* Start planning way in advance — at least three months. A lot of the bigger stores avoid charity donations by requiring at least 30 days notice — some even want six to eight weeks. Well, I understand they need time to get signatures on forms and to dither around calling “corporate” and all that crap, but it also lets them off the hook because they know that all of us Wacky Mommies and Daddies are running around at the eleventh hour trying to pull it together. Dithering, as it were.

* Get a letter from the principal as soon as you’ve set a date, so you can photocopy two bazillion copies and take them around to everyone. People you would never expect to cough up will totally surprise you, and people you think are sure bets will let you down. Gift certificates, donated items, cash money — all are gratefully appreciated. Baked goods are adored.

* Expect the unexpected — one of our “for sure” donors completely flaked out, and one of our donors who we didn’t think was even going to donate a day-old cake for the cakewalk came through with a carload of muffins, pastries, cakes and about 100 of those yummy little mini-fruit pies (which we sold with dinners).

It was fun. I’m already planning next year’s! Go for it at your school, if you’re hesitating. The kids will be happy, even if it’s not perfect, and the grown-ups will like it, too.

Bonbons on a Sunny Afternoon

February 23rd, 2005

I’m a housewife, which means I pretty much sit around all day on my
voluptuous ass, eating bonbons and watching soaps (“General Hospital”
and “Desperate Housewives” on tape) while the kids turn the living room
into a golf course using their toy clubs, plastic cups and, for golf
balls, uncooked eggs.

I’m a stay-at-home mom, which means I spend every minute of every day
zooming around to Mommy and Me yoga, music, and swimming, and no time
for naps! We’re on busy-busy schedule. Maybe a car nap in the mini-van
if we’re lucky. We have healthy, nutritious snacks like Pirate Booty
and organic soy milk and then it’s zoom-zoom at the park. Then off to
ballet, where the other mothers and I critically eye each other’s spawn
and tell ourselves, “My daughter is so much more coordinated than hers.”

No, I’m an anxious mom, cuz we’re always sick, we always cancel
playdates, we have Hoof-and-Mouth, chickenpox, rotovirus. We throw up a
lot. We break out in random rashes. We break other people’s toys when
we do make it for a playdate. We’re not potty-trained in a timely
fashion, we talk back to grown-ups, we throw fits and we never ever
have dinner on the table when dad gets home.

Really, I’m a woman. A voter. A laundress. I’m worthy. I’m not worthy.
I’m a Domestic Goddess. I’ve been called “vitriolic,” “tramp,” “snatch”
and “bitch.” I will claim the last label but not the first three. I am The Bitch. I’m a writer and editor and lover. I’m a gardener and a hiker and an ice
skater. I love to sleep. I love to read. I like TV. I’m a wife and a
mom and a housewife and a worker and a lot like you, maybe.

North Portland is red hot!

February 20th, 2005

It’s red hot over here cuz I’m pissed off. Again.

(An aside — the carnival ROCKED! The kids had a blast and the grown-ups did, too  — more on that tomorrow…)

I just read a dorky story by Stephen Beaven (he says it’s pronounced “Bevin” like Evan, not “Beaven” like “Beaver” note to SB —
change your byline, dude) and Amy Hsuan in today’s Oregonian. Headline was “Neighborhoods hot; schools not” and was all about how North/Northeast Portland families are sending their kids elsewhere to school. (The westside, for instance, or private.)

Hello? Rilly???

Why is the story dorky? Cuz they don’t get to the g.d. point: Race is an issue. Education is political. N/NE
(my part of town, where i was born, raised and schooled, thank you, yes I’m an eastside rat) has been about as “diverse” as white Portland gets, ie — there are black and white and brown and yellow and red people here. That’s why I like it here.

You hear more languages here than just English. And more and more white people are moving in to what they cleverly call “the ‘hood” and displacing the families who have lived here for decades. And the new transplants are refusing to attend the schools in the neighborhood because why? There are still black people here. (And brown; white, make that “poor white” not “classy white,” like the transplants believe themselves to be, argh; yellow and red people…) It makes the transplants uncomfortable.

Last year, three white PTA moms told me their kids couldn’t attend the neighborhood schools because (direct quote) “We’d be in the minority!” (Technically, they wouldn’t. But the mix at some of the schools in the neighborhood — don’t ever say ‘hood, okay? It pisses me off — is approximately 1/3 black, 1/3 white, 1/3 Hispanic, small percentage Native American, Pacific Islander, and Asian. So if you’re thinking “us” (whites) against “them” (anyone who’s not white) yeah, then white is the minority. What’s the problem, petunia?)

Stephen and Amy quote a North Portland mom who “did her homework” (her words) and decided to send her kid to a westside school, cuz the North Portland school in their neighborhood “didn’t have the resources to educate the students.” And Ainsworth, where her young’un is now going to school, has a Spanish immersion program. Baby, you didn’t do your homework, cuz Beach
Elementary, right up the street from you, has a Spanish Immersion program! Did they bother to mention this in the story?


Did this family bother to try Beach, to see if they liked it?


Did the story mention race issues? Economics? Snobbery? One of the moms was bragging that she would never have her kid attend King, her neighborhood school, but she got such a good deal on her house, she can afford private school tuition! Well, you rock, baby! Good for you!

Who will your kid play with, when she’s not in school? Will she know her neighbors’ names? Will you?

Carnival Day

February 18th, 2005

“Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)

I’m not saying that throwing a carnival for the kiddies is making life easy for them — it’s making life more fun for them, for sure. But
damn, I’ve put less hours into major projects at work than I have for this carnival. We’re organized, no doubt about it. There are four of us on the committee, plus a couple of auxiliary members. We’ve rounded up a bunch of volunteers, wrangled donations, planned out games, bought bags of toys (the whoopee cushions, I’ve heard, are especially popular), made up a schedule, gathered bag after bag of empty shoeboxes. (It’s a Mardi Gras theme — YES I KNOW IT’S LENT NOW, sorry!! — so the kids can make miniature “floats” out of shoeboxes that they’ve decorated with tissue paper and glitter.) They can also make or buy masks, and they get free tickets if they come in costume.

Wacky Boy is going as a bumblebee (thank you, A! I love the little plastic stinger on the butt), and Wacky Girl is going as a princess, or a witch. (She takes after mommy, awwwww…)

Wacky Daddy took the day off! Hot dog! He’s out now picking up cakes & doughnuts for the much-vaunted Cakewalk. Mama Em and one of her baby monkeys are doing the modern version of “hunting and gathering” for the same stuff in a different part of town. (You’re familiar with the Cakewalk concept, yes? I’ve explained the game to about ten adults and kids in the last week. Poor things, never having done the Cakewalk before! Numbers on the floor, kinda like musical chairs. The band plays, everyone walks, then the band stops and if you’re on the Lucky Number you get to pick out the cake — or pie, which A and I like
better — of your choice.)

(Carnival tip: Make friends with the bakery managers at your local grocery stores. If they won’t give it to you for free — many of them will, though — at least they’ll save you a shopping cart or two of day-old half-priced stuff. Carnival tip #2: Kids and adults, too, go completely bonkers for a carnival. Surly, drunken parents you never thought would volunteer for anything are suddenly sunny and smiley and telling you they’d love nothing more than to work the beverages table.

“We’re having iced tea AND lemonade? Coooool!”

We’re having a Cajun dinner (gumbo, dirty rice and beans, sausages, Moon Pies, the works), Cajun music, games, door prizes, a raffle, and a parade at the end. I think we’ve got about forty cakes, pies, and various forms of packaged sugar for the cakewalk, plus we’re ordering a huge sheet cake, decorated in Mardi Gras colors, to serve with the dinners.

Crazy? You bet.

Zen housework

February 16th, 2005

Somedays the whole zen thing is not working for me. Breathe… breathe… breathe… focus on the calming effect of the sudsy dishwater as I scrub the same damn pan over and over and OVER?&!@$*! no, breathe… breathe…

how much compost can one family of four create???

No, wait, focus on the swish-a, swish-a of the washing machine, the sunlight coming through the front windows, onto the floor… the buckling floor, where the sagging beams below are sinking, it’s like a g.d. rollercoaster in here. Must call contractor, goddammit, how much is this going to cost? Re-fi house. Again.

when am i supposed to clean the unpaid-for house? The in-laws are getting here Saturday. But not ’til dinnertime. Saturday morning? After we’ve been up late the night before at the school carnival? In between music class (10-11 a.m.) and dance (noon-1 p.m.)? What happened to easy-going Saturdays? Sleeping in, going for a walk. Must walk the dog so he doesn’t chew up furniture. Goofyass anxious obsessive-compulsive dog. Too bad he doesn’t clean, it’d give him a place to throw all that manic energy. Put him outside, he chews the exterior of the house. Leave him inside, he chews up the woodwork. Chewing up the scenery like a bad actor.

No, wait — look at the bright yellow, neatly-aligned recycling bins out front… ah, breathe, breathe.

Today is cool, but yesterday — tough. Too much PTA stuff, back breaking, kids screaming. Most people get a wake-up call (at their hotel, or from the alarm clock) at 6:30 a.m. Mine arrived at 6:30 p.m., when my daughter walked into the office, where I was trying to wrap up my end of the loose ends for the carnival. She was munching on a half-empty container of mac and cheese.

She announced: “So. I guess I’ll eat this for dinner!”

Mommy guilt. But she wasn’t mad, or starving to death. Just making a statement. And feeding herself. Wait! This is the first time she’s ever done this. It’s kinda cool, that she’s getting self-reliant. And she’ll love the carnival, it’ll be a blast.

My husband made some soup and Texas burgers (have u had them? very good. They taste like genuine barbecue, sans meat) when he got home, I wrapped up my loose ends, everyone had dinner together (a little late, but whatever) and all was well. Peaceful, really.

And all that “zen” carried over to… right now.

birthday parties

February 15th, 2005

Any ideas on throwing a fun, low-stress party (ha!) for three 3-year-olds? (We’re thinking of having one big party rather than… three big parties. And we’re thinking we don’t want to have it at one of our houses, or at Chuck E. Cheese… please.

Wacky Mommy is here….

February 14th, 2005

“Put your toothbrush
on your mouth
put your toothbrush
on your mouth
Ask yourself
‘Why is my Mommy so wacky?
Why is my Mommy so wacky?’…”

“Wacky Mommy,” the first song my daughter ever wrote (age 2)

Yes, she was 2 at the time, the child is gifted! What can I say? It’s because of moi. And her dad. My motto for parenthood (and I think you should adopt this one, too):

“All the credit, none of the guilt.”

Because when your kids are acting like neurotic little brats, whose fault is it? That’s right — yours. Cuz you spoil them, freak out when they get injured, let them sleep in your bed, etc. But when they make a good joke, or look adorable, or are obviously Smart and Brilliant, then that has nothing to do with you.

Maybe they’re wearing clothes that match, and haven’t stepped in dog shit that day… then it’s all “Oh, honey, look how cute you are in that little red jacket! You are adorable!” It’s never “You look just like your mommy! I can tell she really spent a lot of time cleaning up your grubby lil face while you wailed!”

I am refusing from here on out to take responsibility for the bullshit my kids pull. This bullshit includes but is not limited to: random nose picking, tantrums at the store, and stating loudly “I’m bored!” when the PTA president is talking during a meeting.

My little darling girl is five, and still a monkey genius. Her brother is the 2-year-old in the house. I am… a writer. A mother. Wife to a hockey player. Living in the Pacific Northwest. Helping plan the school carnival. And dammit, my back is killing me!

This blog will be about mothering, endless PTA meetings, how to handle school politics, re-la-tion-ships (husbands, friends and family), gossip “The spice of life!” as my friend M calls it, and whatever else I feel like. Questions and comments are welcome. I’ll keep it anonymous, to protect the innocent (and guilty).

Happy Valentine’s Day. Off to get more Motrin, and I’ll post tomorrow.