The A Team

My daughter’s last day of kindergarten was last week. After she picked up her prize for “her excellent French skills and for always being an active participant during class”, I picked up her report card. I was happy to see that she had mastered all of the skills expected by the end of kindergarten and had already begun working on her first grade skills. She was actually pretty far ahead in reading, which we were already aware of. She reads “chapter books” to us nightly. One of her teachers had also mentioned to me what a good reader she is. I had inwardly patted myself on the back for reading to her in utero – I take my wins wherever I can!

I’m Not a Loser

I love when you walk into a space and find your people. I do it a lot at punk shows, church basements and a little book store that sells mental health books. My kid did it last night at a restaurant in town. We sat down at our table and our waitress immediately asked her about a shirt she was wearing and then started speaking a language that my therapist/mom brain could not comprehend. It was apparently Japanese because they were talking about 7,000 anime shows and manga graphic novels that they were both familiar with. Every time the waitress came back to our table she stopped and chatted with my daughter for a few minutes.

During the dinner my daughter mentioned what a great waitress she was and when she stopped back my mother-in-law made her stay with us for a few more minutes so my daughter could tell her what a fantastic server she was and how enjoyable she made our dinner. You would have to know my mother-in-law to understand just how common it is for her to strike up a conversation with a server or cashier, but she is a people person and she makes friends everywhere she goes. If there was an extra chair at the table she probably would have asked the waitress to sit down and she would have finished her shift while she chatted with my kiddo. I actually would have found this very entertaining to watch my socially awkward husband try to manage that interaction. As it turns out, the waitress also has social anxiety and she told us this after she received the compliment about her serving skills. She also showed my daughter photos of her in multiple cosplay costumes which about sent my daughter over the edge since my daughter spends much of her time cosplaying and making videos in her bedroom.

When the waitress showed her a photo of herself dressed as Velma from Scooby Doo at a cosplay convention I thought I was going to have to clean out the guest room for this young woman to move in. My daughter dressed like Velma for a full year between the ages of 3 and 4, including the glasses. She wouldn’t answer to anything but her stage name and chose a Christmas ornament with the name Velma that still hangs on our tree 8 years later. I guess I should have seen this whole cosplay thing coming way back then. While other girls dressed as princesses, my child wanted to be the nerdy girls and villains. By the time she was 5, she was wearing her Hogwarts uniform to the grocery store and casting spells on shoppers in the produce department.

When you are the cosplaying, artsy punk rock kid it’s not easy to find your people at school. Especially when you attend a small Catholic girls school. She has a friend in 10th grade that cosplays and the two occasionally go to the local roller rink where they are treated like royalty for being their freaky little selves, but I hear about how this older friend is literally tortured by half of the school for her individuality, including girls much younger than her. A few weeks ago a couple of 8th grade bullies had the poor girl in tears while they ridiculed her and a group of the girls in my daughter’s class chased her down the hall videotaping her for “fun”. These are the same girls who keep walking up to my kid asking her to show them some dance that she did in a cosplay video. I told her she needed to tell them to watch her YouTube video if they wanted to see it again and when she did she got the satisfaction of watching their jaws hit the floor while they questioned how she had 17,000 views on a video. It’s kind of ironic that the same girls are begging people to like their photos and videos and my kid doesn’t want kids from school to even see her photos, but they all follow her. She likes what she likes, and she does what she wants without much thought about what other people think. She blows my mind with her DIY spirit. I think we have a new punk rock queen in the house.

**In honor of my little riottt girl, I listened to Bikini Kill.

Face To Face

Way back in November 2022, I won an overnight stay at a waterpark and promptly forgot about it because it was Christmas. When I found the envelope again I remembered that I had just assumed that it would be a trip for me, my husband, my kid and my parents because it was an overnight stay for a family and 5 waterpark passes, and we have been there together already. Plus, I’m a little co-dependent and bring my parents everywhere, like every normal 50 year old woman does, right? I think my parents probably assumed the same thing because my Mom seemed a little surprised when I told her I was going to take my daughter and two of her friends for a girls weekend after my husband prompted me to do so. It was a fun time and I got to see how three tween girls interact with each other when being partially supervised by the mom who was trying to hop on the floating lily pads with nobody noticing and going down the slides first to make sure they were “safe” for the girls. Nobody drowned, nobody got sick, and we were not asked to leave after I let the girls fly an airplane through the lobby, so I chalked up the trip as a success. I also need to send thank you notes to the girls’ moms who actually entrusted their kids to me for a weekend, because they have in fact spent time with me, and know what a risk that was.

Within 24 hours of our return, my parents informed me that their basement was flooded. I’m fairly certain they were trying to make their own water park to get the girls to come play at their house. Or maybe the universe was just trying to make sure I keep taking my parents with me everywhere I go, like every other normal 50 year old woman. Either way, it was a mess that needed my attention (co-dependency and all). I promptly pulled my husband out of his office to run over and help (unprepared and overdressed), and as usual he asked questions like “have you contacted the insurance company?” and “have you taken photos and called a restoration service?” while I took off my shoes and headed for the Beatles albums on the lower bookshelves. My Dad was of course MIA throughout this process picking up supplies at the other house where flooding occurs regularly, since it’s on a lake. He called a plumber to fix the sump pump and went straight for the power tools for the inevitable clean-up. Within an hour my husband had helped my Mom make phone calls, I had soaked my socks and pants while determining that a drain was not working and we had 3 shop vacs ready to pick up whatever water the plumbers couldn’t remove. 

It’s now a full week later and the basement is mostly dry, the carpet is gone and the Old Man has cut out half of the walls after returning with a carload of power tools from the lake house. What I have found most interesting about the whole thing is that my Mom’s first text to me included “I guess God is telling me something” in reference to her tendency to save things. I would have expected her to be more upset, and apparently she knows even God is like “hey, lady, do you really need to save the program from your daughter’s 4th grade play?!?”  I have for years made fun of my mother and called her a hoarder, but I have to say, going through some of the old things in the basement has been enlightening. My parents had an entire rubbermade storage bin full of photo slides from the 70s and what appears to be a bin stolen from the Post Office full of empty binders. Of the 27 plastic storage totes full of holiday décor, they only lost one, and it was for Thanksgiving which was fine since nobody has time to notice if there are turkey shaped dishes holding my Mom’s once a year greatest ever stuffing in the universe. 

As my parents worked their way from corner to corner of the basement, they have rediscovered items I’m sure they haven’t thought of for years. And some of these items have made their way back to my house. I’m fairly certain that my child has the hoarder gene after she returned home with a poly mailer full of my high school papers and a grocery bag of beanie babies. But the best item was a picture of me at the age of two. The Old Man discovered it while cutting paneling out from around a built in bookcase full of an encyclopedia set from 1982 and bobbleheads of the Russian Five. Apparently in the seventies and eighties, artists just hung out at malls selling portraits, and my dad was the guy that stopped to have me sit for them, on a fairly regular basis, because they have a few of these framed masterpieces in their collection from various ages. The weird thing is the face on the child in this portrait is not even me, it’s so clearly my daughter at the age of two. I have a picture that her father took for her two year photo-shoot with the exact same face sitting on the bookcase in my bedroom.

I’m not sure if it was worth the thousands of dollars in damage for my daughter to see, but when I saw the portrait of myself and my daughter’s face appeared, I cried like either one of those two year olds would if you grabbed their favorite stuffed animal. I was looking at the little girl that was so well-loved that her parents stopped in the middle of a mall for an hour to capture her face every chance they got and seeing the face of another little girl with half of her bedroom on the living room floor after her parents tried for an hour to get a smile while cutting teeth. I’m grateful that my Dad always made the effort to capture those moments on film and canvas the same way my husband does now, and I’m grateful that my mom saves it all, even if it takes multiple houses to store the memories. I haven’t opened the poly mailer from high school and I don’t know if I want to at this point. I might just sneak it into one of the color coded plastic storage totes I keep by year of my daughter’s steps through life for her to find years down the line when she comes to rescue me when my basement floods. I just have to make sure to keep it away from my practical husband who brings the industrial sized fan to dry out the carpet because he is the guy who keeps asking me why I am saving the proof that she at some point thought I was superwoman, as evidenced by a first grade art project. Just when I was convinced I am turning into my Dad, the universe comes along and shows me I might just turn into my Mom too.

**I would like to say I wrote this while listening to the Beatles, but I am a riot girl at heart…. please read while listening to the one and only Bikini Kill

Punk Rock Jock

I promised my Dad I wouldn’t write about him anymore. But here’s the thing – he is the star of most of my life stories, and I’m a liar. He can’t even really be mad because he’s the one who taught me to lie. He taught me to tell a good story, and sometimes that means the truth is a little fluid. So sorry Old Man, but the readers love you, and when you have been raised by Peter Pan, there are no rules. I will stick to the good stuff though and not talk about you almost dying four months ago. That’s totally off limits (for now!!)…

My kid is an athlete. This is kind of weird for my husband and myself because we have never been particularly gifted in this area. I played lacrosse and field hockey as a kid only because I had to at school and in the 7th grade I was politely asked to leave the team after I walloped one of my own teammates with a lacrosse stick. I’m not going to say this was a good move, but she had it coming. From there I moved to sports with wheels, picking up speed skating at the roller rink and then skateboarding.

Me not being an All-American was by no means due to lack of trying on my dad’s part. I vividly recall the Old Man dragging me out of bed at the butt crack of dawn on Saturdays in the 4th or 5th grade to go play basketball with some professional basketball player who was running clinics because his kid was in school with me. I hated those Saturdays. I think my dad was disappointed because he was an athlete, and basketball was one of the man games he knew well. He had also been shooting hockey pucks at me since I could stand up on my own and I had my first football as a teething toy while I was still in a baby walker. The man wanted an athlete to pass his skills onto and I was just never going to fill his cleats.

The Old Man gets his do-over with my mini-me who is a stelar athlete. She’s focused, smart on the field or court and accurate as hell. The only thing she lacks as an athlete is aggression, which is a little ironic since I birthed her. She plays lacrosse, field hockey, and the Old Man’s favorite basketball. At the end of field hockey season the buzz at school was there were no basketball coaches. Last year all of the middle school teams were coached by a college team. This was great except all of the games and practices revolved around the coaches’ games and the schedule was a hot mess. I think the parents were a little annoyed with this lack of consistency. Two weeks before the start of the season, there was one coach for three teams. That is until I got a call from the Old Man asking if the position was still open. Somehow at 75 years old he is ready to become Phil Jackson. I contacted the athletic director who said they would love to have my dad coach. He started a week later, which was about the time I began to lose my mind.

Here are the highlights of the coaching experience….

  • My Dad doesn’t have an e-mail address so he uses my mom’s which she checks once a week and is full of coupons and spam. I had to direct all of his e-mails to one of my e-mail addresses so he didn’t miss anything.
  • The Old Man had to complete a bunch of trainings on CPR, allergies, concussions, etc… which means I also learned all of these skills while I sat with Mr. Technology while he talked to the computer like it was Alexa. That is 10 hours of my life I’ll never get back…
  • The girls all learned that their cores are not nearly as strong as they thought while they watched a 75 year old lie on the floor doing leg raises and scissor kicks.
  • The Old Man is almost deaf and couldn’t remember names so he fairly consistently called the players by the wrong name and then couldn’t hear them when they corrected him. He told all of the girls to correct him when he called them by the wrong name, but I don’t know how well it worked, nor does he since he couldn’t hear a word they said. 
  • Sarcasm is a language we speak in my family. My Dad speaks it fluently. Unfortunately, only about 5 of his players understood him when he said things like “you’re a point guard, not a a linebacker” or “you can defend her, but you can’t mug her”. 
  • The Old Man knows that learning by failing is the best way to learn so he set the girls up to fail in practice a lot. He gave them a play and watched while they all tried to play the game solo and work themselves into a corner and then made them do it over and over again until they followed his direction. The team actually played like a team by the middle of the season which is the first time I had seen these girls do that in three years.

The girls didn’t win a single game. It was not for lack of skill or effort, they somehow ended up playing teams that were two years older than them and a foot taller. They did learn a lot, not only about technique, but about playing hard, not taking themselves too seriously, and never giving up, even if they have to restart your heart three times at the free throw line.  

I wrote this while listening to some good old fashioned punk rock shamrocks…

Punk Rock Kitty Cat

Our not-so-little furball is two years old today. We actually are not sure about his real birthday since he was a rescue, but the vet picked early August as an approximate time and he was given this day to celebrate. I bought him a new harness and longer tether so he could roam the yard. Within three minutes he had choked himself twice and wiggled out of the harness, going completely free-range. This cat is an escape artist. He can open every door in our house, including the front door where he proceeds to let himself out for a walk every now and then. It was locked last week and he somehow barged his way through the bottom of the storm door and pranced out onto the front porch. We have taken to keeping the garage closed since he can open the inside door which swings inward. My husband watched as the cat pulled the handle down with his front paws and pushed his back legs off the wall, pulling the door inward. You would think we torture him by how badly he wants to get free.

We are no strangers to quirky cats. Our last kitty, Mommy’s Little Monster was downright insane. She was the type of cat that would let you pet her for a minutes, nuzzle up like she loved you and then rip your face off. She was always getting into things like the Christmas tree, lit candles, behind the refrigerator, and the basement ceiling. She once got herself caught in a plastic shopping bag and literally scared the shit out of herself. She then proceeded to run all over the house with her entire body stuck in a giant bag of feces. I had to corner her in the basement and cut the bag off her in the washtub. I thought that cat prepared us for anything, but alas, she did not.

Brody is a totally different kind of neurotic. He has separation anxiety and meows at length when anyone leaves the house. He literally stands at the door and cries when I drive my daughter to school in the morning. He also cries when we go to bed without him, standing at the bottom of the stairs like a little orphan crying for his lost family. He has a kind-of imaginary friend to help with his attachment issues, which is a stuffed cat who we believe is a little like the Velveteen Rabbit. Brody carries this toy around the house like a security blanket and plays with it for ages while screaming loudly. He does this every single night without fail. I think he’s lonely and needs another cat to keep him company. My husband thinks he’s spoiled and thinks getting a pet for our pet sounds like something a crazy person would do. I’m wondering if he has been paying attention for the last eighteen years because that sounds exactly like something I would do. He winning this battle for now, especially since I know you can never know what to expect with an animal. I’ll just keep telling Brody the same thing I told my kid as a toddler, he’s not mature enough for a pet, and maybe next year…

Running Up That Hill

My daughter started watching Stranger Things last month and has become completely obsessed with it. I can’t say I’m mad about this, as I usually get pretty stoked about her liking the same things I do. The scary part, however, is realizing that she is closer to being a teenager than I thought. When she was first introduced to the bad boy of season two she declared him her favorite character. Every time he came on screen her eyes got big and she became riveted to the TV. She giggled uncontrollably when his shirt came off at the pool. I can’t say that I didn’t have a similar reaction when I saw his car, but watching my tween drool over a teenage boy was a little unsettling. My husband, horrified by her interest in Mr. Danger had to point out that she may have a thing for bad boys like her mother. This was further reinforced when she met the dungeons and dragons freak making his third attempt at senior year in season 4. She was instantly smitten. It could have been worse, she could have named the stoner pizza boy as her number one crush, and I would have planned the intervention right then and there.

I am happy to see that her taste has improved since last year. On more than one occasion she told me that she only liked bald guys with hair growing out of their ears. I was a little concerned that she had a very specific type, one that might lock her in his basement or a box in the woods, and then I realized she was talking about her grandpa. I often forget that every man is measured against him. This either sets the bar really high or really low, depending on how you look at it. He is kind of a superman in some respects but he also ate a piece of plastic off the floor last week because he thought it was cheese. So my daughter is going to hold off on dating until she finds a guy who will let her paint his face and nails and eat floor cheese. Great! 

Luckily my kid still felt awkward watching any of the affection between the teenage characters during the first few seasons. Even more lucky that I remembered where these scenes were so I could fast forward through the parts that made us both squirm. Somehow in our house watching a demon dog rip a man’s intestines out makes us less squeamish than a couple of fourteen year olds making out with the door cracked three inches. I had already been traumatized during the first season when my kid asked what a douchebag was after hearing it 100 times in the first three episodes. I told her it was a feminine hygiene product and was the equivalent of calling someone a tampon. I’m happy to say she accepted that explanation with no further questions.

She also didn’t ask me what it meant anytime someone said “bang”, “nail” or “screw” and when the creepy middle-aged man asked the teenage boy how the pull-out was, she didn’t question if he meant the couch or something else. I have recognized that she is at an age that I can no longer make sex jokes with her Dad and get away without a look, but when they fly out in the middle of a movie, I am usually caught speechless, which is an unusual place for me. I did get to explain to my kid how valuable both a bike and a walkman were to a kid in the 80s and spent what felt like an eternity in a second hand music store digging through cassette tapes so she could have the full experience. Apparently my generation’s version of walking uphill both ways to and from school in a blizzard is having to rewind a cassette tape to get to right part. Who knew we had it so good.

**Feeing a little 80s so I listened to my favorite band in the 80s. The Clash of course!

Catholic School Girls Rule

Catholic school girl sittingMy daughter has been out of school for a few weeks now and I am already thinking back to the good old days when I learned all kinds of interesting things in the car. I count myself lucky that my kid tends to lean into the oversharing category while strapped into the passenger seat. I’m preparing to drive her around the neighborhood just so she’ll tell me some fun stories (or talk to me at all). Some of my favorite conversations from the last half of the school year went a little like this:

Religion Class: One morning my daughter told me they were watching a scary movie in religion class. I know some of those biblical stories can be a little brutal but the scary parts to me as a kid were more about getting stoned to death or wandering the desert for a lifetime. Jokingly I asked “is it the Exorcist?” She responded with a look of disgust and “of course not! They wouldn’t show us that in school! It was a movie about a woman who was possessed by a demon or something…” So, basically, the story of the Exorcist. After a few more questions I learned that nobody’s head spun around, there was no projectile vomit and no talk about unspeakable acts by “your mother”. At least it sounded better than the stock films we saw in middle school.

Language Arts: The girls were allowed to choose songs for a play list of music during class. Most of the music I play on a daily basis in my car is offensive and inappropriate for children, so my kid knew better than to suggest random songs she likes. I gave her a list of a few songs that I thought would pass the listening test and her teacher was offended by all of them. I found out later that the only songs that made the cut were Disney songs and vapid pop. Apparently young women singing about how important it is to be pretty and popular is less offensive than young women singing about standing up for justice and equality. My daughter gave up after two rounds of rejection and sat through more Taylor Swift and BTS songs than she could count, but I was glad to know she is turning into a fine little music snob.

Science: Near the end of the year I learned that my daughter would be starting science lessons on the body, and that part of that discussion would cover puberty, human development and reproduction. Apparently a few of the girls in class asked a lot of questions and more than one question was about sex. A classmate noted that her mother had five biological children all roughly a year apart in age. She asked if that meant that her parents had sex five times. Upon hearing this, I bit the inside of my mouth so hard I almost cried. My only thought was that this girl’s dad couldn’t keep his hands off his wife for at least five years if she was perpetually knocked up. My kid then turned to me and asked…. “So does that mean you and Dad had sex once?” I just nodded my head and said “…so what are these cup things they’re talking about for your period?”

**In honor of offensive music in the classroom, I’m listening to some good old fashioned political commentary by Run the Jewels.**