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!
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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.**

Stay Together For the Kids

Theme parks really bring out the worst in people. Half the people are wandering around clueless and lost and the other half are running you over to get to the front of the line. For those of us in the middle of these two groups, it’s a bit of a war zone. We spent Easter week at Disney and most of that week we spent either dodging people staring at their phones while running through the park, or tripping over people as they stopped to figure out where they were. I was almost flattened by multiple scooters as Grandma let little Bobby try to steer his way through a crowd at 12 miles per hour while eating an ice cream cone. I love Disney, but that week was a little traumatizing.

One of the enduring themes throughout our stay was watching people attempt to get on rides that were full. We watched a group of teenage boys climb on to an overly full safari jeep and literally sit on each others laps while forcing small children over the rails on the other side. One older couple ended up completely surrounded by sweaty teen boys yelling at each other to scoot over and make room. If they had waited their turn, they would have ended up occupying the two rows ahead of us, so I was happy to see them go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if grandma never made it past the giraffe crossing. Another woman tried to climb onto a two seat roller coaster behind me and drag her daughter along. She just looked at me for a minute before realizing that she had to wait for the next train to arrive. I’m not sure how this happens since they have numbers in each ride queue and they always stack people two loads deep. My rule of thumb is if you don’t know the person in front of you, don’t follow them on a ride and try to sit on their lap. It leads to discomfort for all parties involved. 

The rides with younger kids were the most problematic. We watched a little girl dressed as a princess with a birthday sash force her family to change seats on three separate rides. She was climbing over seats and attempting to get her 300 pound grandfather to do the same. One of the cast members finally told her to pick a seat and stay in it after she had a tantrum about not being close enough to the front. I had to laugh a few minutes later when she got soaked, unaware that the front of that ride was probably not the best seat in the house. Two little boys followed my daughter and me on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and tried to get on the ride with us in a two seat car. When they realized they didn’t fit, they tried to turn around and one got squished in the door. I watched as their parents stood on the other side completely oblivious that one of their kids almost just lost an arm. That was probably my favorite episode of Kids Gone Wild at Disney.

I think what prompts people to behave this way is they want to have the best experience they can and are impatient to have their experience. They don’t stop to think that cramming themselves into an overly full truck or climbing over other people to get to the best seat is not going to do it. I watched the birthday girl spend her time looking at all of the other kids to see if they were looking at her rather than enjoying the ride. They weren’t looking at her, and the ones who were (like my kid) were mostly commenting on what a brat she was. I heard three different dads get reprimanded by cast members for putting their kids in danger. While on the safari a man had to be told that the animals around us were real and dangerous as he held his baby in the air near the alligator pit. I’m sure he was making sure she had the best possible view since babies are really into alligators and all. Another man had to be told that his child needed to sit multiple times on the Jungle Cruise. It took an entire boat of people staring at him for him to finally comply.

We are fortunate that our kid is past the age of caring about the characters so we didn’t have to stop for any photo ops. I saw some of them, and it was similar to the fourth circle of hell. It doesn’t help that only about half of the characters are making appearances. We spent enough time waiting in line for our little foodie to taste frushi, seared scallops and avocado toast. Although we didn’t encounter many hangry little monsters in these lines, there were a couple bitchy bros with man buns. Disney really does provide entertainment for everyone, even if that entertainment is being a judgmental asshole. By the end of the vacation, my kid was already talking about visiting Universal instead next time. I see many more trips to theme parks in the future, with rides for bigger kids and trading in pushy princesses for sweaty teenagers. Somehow I know this is going to be a grass is greener situation the first time a stoned 15 year old barfs near my shoes. 

**Since theme parks are a bit like a pit, I had to listen to some good old fashioned hardcore while writing this piece.

Too Cool for School

I just went to parent/teacher conferences and was reminded just how much my kid and I are alike. She has been talking for weeks about her Latin teacher and how cool he is. When I met him, I couldn’t help but notice he was a lot like her dad, both in looks and sense of humor. Within five minutes he told a story about how he described an ancient poet as “punk rock” to a group of eighth graders. When they asked what that meant he explained how punk was an attitude. He went on to say that he does a presentation where he teaches the differences in poetic styles by playing music. He gives his high school classes a taste of epic poetry through the Who with their seven minute rock operas and the Sex Pistols with their ninety second in your face anthems. I warned him not to refer to anything as “punk rock” around my kid unless he wants to hear her twenty minute monologue on the subject. The good news is he will most likely be her Humanities teacher next year combining one of her favorite subjects with one of her favorite teachers.

My child has always brought her big personality into the classroom with her. In third grade she gave a rock a nose ring and mohawk and named it “Punk” for a science project. In fourth grade she persuaded her music teacher to include a music history lesson on the roots of punk rock music and helped pick songs that were appropriate for a group of Catholic school kids. And now, in fifth grade she has a Latin teacher who talks about the philosophy of punk. I’m expecting by next year she’ll be writing a paper on why “Get In the Van” is one of the most important pieces of American literature. I’m glad she has the freedom to do this, because I certainly didn’t when I was her age. Granted, there weren’t a lot of nuns and 70 year old teachers who had great taste in music, and the punk genre hadn’t even been around that long, but I can’t remember a single young, cool teacher that I connected with. Luckily I get to live through this self-expression with her. I show up to help once a week in her art/design class where she is making a skateboard from scratch. A bunch of fifth graders are using saws and power tools to build their own skateboards from gluing the layers of board together to screwing on the trucks and wheels. They are even using a CAD device to laser cut designs into their boards if they choose a logo that’s too intricate to hand sketch. I’m hoping I get to tag along when these girls bring their boards out for their maiden voyages.

Seven years ago my husband and I researched pre-schools like our life depended on it, and we ended up right where I started school in second grade. Within a few years we realized that we created a mess of anxiety in those preceding years for nothing. By kindergarten my daughter was being taught music by the wife of the studio owner where all of my bands recorded. Her after school activities were led by a retired musician who reminisced about the best and worst venues with me and dubbed my kid “Rockin’ Riley” after she jumped behind a drum kit like she owned it. Somehow a bunch of amazing, artistic people made their way to the same school under the direction of one of the wisest, most loving headmistresses in the country. It’s a small world for sure. Sometimes I still get side eye when I show up at a lacrosse game wearing glow in the dark skull Vans and a Pennywise hoodie, but I think I can safely say that would happen anywhere my kid ended up. It’s hard not to look twice at the middle aged mom dressed like a teenage boy. At least the teachers can match the kid to parent when my daughter shows up the next non-uniform day in a Distillers t-shirt and camo joggers. If anything, they are thanking their lucky stars she hasn’t developed my mouth just yet. Never fear, there is still plenty of time.

**I wrote this blog while thinking about my formative years and listening to my favorites from my middle school years – GBH**

Rebel Girl

My child has taken up roller skating. This is an unexpected turn of events since she went to a roller skating party once in the second grade and hated every second of it. She had not tried it again until a few weeks ago when a friend asked her to go skating. Apparently she loved it because since then that’s all she has wanted to do. So much that we had to run all over town finding her a pair of skates so she would be ready next time.

Next time ended up being yesterday and it was with Mom and Dad. I hadn’t skated in at least 20 years, probably even longer, but I agreed to lace up and skate with her. After about three minutes I felt horrible about having sent her skating with her friend who had to endure hours of holding my kid’s hand while she tried to simultaneously hold the railing and make her way around the rink twice while barely moving her feet. This child was so afraid of falling that she barely let go of the hand rail. When we skated up behind someone standing at the rail or moving even slower than us (hard to imagine), she stopped behind them and waited. I finally started grabbing her hand and pulling her along with me. I tried a few times to pull her away from the rail and you would have thought I was trying to drown her watching her arms flail.

I have to say that walking into that place brought me right back to being a teenage girl. I’m not sure how they manage to stop time but there are a lot of 60 year old women looking for whatever magic lives between those four walls. Time has actually not progressed in almost 40 years at this rink. Even the carpet is exactly how I remembered it. All of a sudden I had the urge to smoke a cigarette and rat my hair. Walking past the bathroom on the way in brought me right back to the time a girl threw a slushie at me because her boyfriend asked me to couples skate on a Friday night. And lacing up the rental skates brought me right back to lacing up my speed skates, getting ready to win whatever crappy ribbon and free snack bar treat was waiting at the finish line.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to be on wheels again. It had been a long time and lets be honest, breaking a hip after a fall would not be all that unlikely for me. I have made it through 5 years without a stupidity-inflicted injury, but it’s only a matter of time before I trip, slip or fall. But apparently skating is a lot like riding a bike because once I was on the rink, it was like I had never taken off skates. Within a few minutes I was skating backwards and spinning in circles. I even got a little gutsy and sped around the rink a few times only wobbling a bit while trying to do a crossover on a turn.

I refrained from getting back on the rink when they called an adults only skate and opted to watch the crazy old black guy who kept waving and fist bumping people as he made his rounds. I am always up for embarrassing my kid, but not to the extent that she’ll never leave the house again. A bunch of boys from our neighborhood were there who would have tortured her relentlessly if I made an ass out of myself. Plus, if there was a time for me to fall and break a hip, it would have been in that moment. I try not to temp fate, especially with the kind of karma I have earned. I saw that old black guy’s wife as well, and she looked like she had thrown a slushie or two in her lifetime. 

I have to say, I never thought I would be hanging out with my kid at the same place I used to flirt with boys and smoke cigarettes. But here we are, and I honestly couldn’t ask for much more. Well, maybe that my legs didn’t feel like I ran six marathons the next day.

*Spending the day in a time warp had me listening to some music from my youth – Violent Femmes.

 

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