The Cult of Parties: Staying Focussed When Planning Children’s Birthdays

26 Mar

When I turned six we went to Showbiz Pizza and there exists only a simple Polaroid picture of me wearing a crown.  For my fifth birthday I remember getting a tricycle that was tall and red.  For my fourth birthday my mother made me a strawberry pie and I got a peacock-blue paper parasol.

There were no big party stores selling aisle after aisle of themed paper products back in the early ’80s.  There were no goodie bags handed out as guests left the celebration.  And we all know there was no Pinterest and Instagram. (If you’re like me, then you are particularly irked that you had to plan an entire wedding without a virtual pinboard and had to haul around a scrap-book.)

These days parties are color-coordinated creations full of photo-ops and party favors.  Starting with the very first birthday, they include an elaborate spread where all the food, cakes, plates, and straws match each other.  Striped straws, to be exact, preferably in little glass milk-bottles filled with the perfectly colored beverage (sans food-coloring, naturally).  We create backdrops, not only for this optimal display of edibles, but also for pictures of all the gorgeous, exceptional children attending.  For more flare, we even use photo props as well, like a little gold-glittered bow-tie on a stick to hold in front of a toddler (he will lick it). We have hand-crafted party games complete with costumes and take-home gifts.  The cakes are covered in fondant and the pictures of the darling Little eating that cake?  (It’s called a “smash cake”, by the way). They were taken two weeks ago in an antique high-chair in the middle of a pasture, bathed in golden sunlight.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Interuptions

18 Mar

From where I’m sitting I can see a tipped toy basket, hemorrhaging plastic replicas of machines and weapons.

I can see the dishwasher half-open, with the top rack pulled out and half empty.  The counter is piled first with dirty dishes, then with clean, and next with more toys.

Nearer to me is the cabinet by my desk, standing open and on the floor are pieces of a day-old tortilla now brittle and crumbling.

Chunks of cheese are cupped in an upturned Darth Vader helmet.

This is just what I can see from my desk, but around the corner is more, and more up the stairs, in the bathroom, down the hall, in the guest room, and everywhere else.

I assure you each night when I retire, every room is tidy.  The kitchen is clean and often the floors are swept.  All it takes is one solid bout of imaginary play from my four-year-old with the help of his younger brother who’s recently begun walking.  All it takes is one hour in which I attempt to tackle some significant task, like laundry or balancing our budget, for the two of them to entertain themselves into a frenzy of homemaking’s undoing.  Sometimes I think, “a play room would be great!  One room to contain the chaos.” But that’s fantasy parenting at its finest!

My children want to play near me, always near me.  They have a bedroom, and more toys in our guest-room, but they carry everything to wherever I am, and grace me with their enthusiastic pretend-play.  Today alone my son has discussed being the King Kong of ninjas, told me he doesn’t belong here because he belongs to the future, and explained how he works for a restaurant called “Charlie’s Pizza” that is all out of pistachios.  The reason my kitchen is half dirty and half clean is because of all this participation involved.

I know it only takes five minutes to empty the dishwasher!

But I haven’t enjoyed an uninterrupted five minutes unless my children are soundly sleeping. Often the HD will come home to a scatter of projects throughout the house: laundry in different stages of completion, a half-vacuumed room, a partially-prepped meal, and so on.  Someday they won’t be near me, I know, and I’ll have more complete thoughts and conversations with myself than will be healthy.  I know one day I’ll have to urge them to sit in the same room with me, at the same table with me, ride in the same car with me.  Right now the size-6 jeans are home to the largest lap my sons know, one big enough for the two of them.

Welp! This entry will be interrupted, too: I have to sprint my garbage can to the curb for pick up.

 

 

Taking Time to Make the Time

28 Oct

We have resigned the Army.  We broke away and came (what feels in some ways like) full-circle.  In some ways it feels like completely uncharted territory — full-circle isn’t supposed to feel so unknown, is it?

When HD returned from Afghanistan I was overwhelmed with how similar the Army is to being in an abusive relationship, and like a bad boyfriend the Army made itself tough to leave.  My HD and I are practical planners, so as we searched the world for a new home and work, the Army kept whispering in our ear he’d make things so much easier if we’d just stay.  We wouldn’t have to try to figure out so many answers; the answers would all be given to us.  We wouldn’t have to figure out anything! Just relax and let him take care of it. ::insert creepy shoulder massage from behind so only an onlooker can see the wicked grin on his face::

Continue reading

Junkyard Blues

22 Oct

I know what I want out of life, but I’m permanently plagued by the question of how to get “there” from “here”.  Part of my problem is that my desires in life are largely abstract, (i.e., I want a sense of community where I live), but the other part is that I honestly believe I could be happy doing many, many things.  I want to write, teach writing, counsel, do pottery, sell crocheted goods, open a restaurant, teach cooking, edit, volunteer full-time, and be a mama.  When it’s time for me to buckle down and devote myself to one thing — so that I can become really good at it — I am soon distracted by another heart’s desire.  

Elliott Smith sang, “I’m a junkyard full of false-starts” and of the many lyrics I’ve related to in my life, (queue seventeen-year-old me reaching through the speakers to hug Stevie Nicks as I hear, “players only looove you when they’re playin’.“) I can relate to being a junkyard the most.  The lyric is beautifully descriptive; you can visualize the broken ideas and abandoned projects becoming decayed with rust and neglect.  

“Here’s the corroded pile of ideas for starting my own line of stationery.”

That idea failed because I don’t know computer-based design well enough.  I didn’t have a good printer.  I didn’t have a screen-printer, for sure.  I would really have loved a letterpress machine… I wanted to make something from nothing, and without investing anything, either.  

It turns out there are very few risk-free hobbies, except for writing, but even that requires an enormous installment of time.  

I know I keep writing about wanting to kickstart my life into creativity, but please bear with me.  Every time I sit at the keyboard and write I’m feeding the right desire.  

So, if sitting at the keyboard and bemoaning my inertia isn’t getting me “there”, what will?  How did you get to where you are?

Aside

Pie Mystique

16 Oct

This time of year always makes me feel like baking  pies.  I don’t necessarily care for eating copious amounts (slices) of pie, but I’m drawn to them.  They look so beautiful in their plates, or tins, with buttery crusts and flaking edges, bubbling filling and wafting fragrances.  Pies require a tactile intimacy while you make them — rolling, folding, cutting, stirring, spooning.  A delicate filling protected in a perhaps more-delicate crust which when cooked just right becomes firm enough to stand up a perfect cubic triangle on a desert plate.

That’s what I need! Desert plates! I have salad plates but they aren’t the same.  That’s nothing, though.  You wouldn’t believe I also don’t have a pie server.

For the sake of brevity I won’t list here now all the things I also don’t have.

I’ve written about pie before, and at this same time of year.  I guess it’s all the magazine covers and pumpkins everywhere. Springtime makes me get all antsy about custard pies, too.  I bet if I baked them I could find someone to eat them for me.  Does pie have a certain mystique for you, too?

Most of the Talents Are Ones I Don’t Have

9 Oct

I have always wanted to play the piano. That’s not true — not always — but since being a teenager I have. I wanted to be at the bench, pounding away while singing into a microphone and making people want to dance (more Jerry Lee Lewis and less Tori Amos). Every time I hear Elton John, I see myself gingerly bringing “Honky Cat” to life. Exploiting all the jangly glory of those keys. On the softer side I hear Chopin and envision myself swaying passionately from side to side in a sweeping movement while being intertwined in the melody of “Fantasie Impromptu: Opus #66”. It’s closely related and only marginally tailed by my other dream of dancing. Without really thinking about it, my imagination’s eye starts rolling film of me — all bendy and powerful — dancing in the fashion of the 80’s “Fame” movie. It’s intense in my heart. Like the feeling you get when you start to really think about your favorite desert: it’s so good and so real you can almost taste it, but outside your power to create, or recreate.

My dancing career began and ended when I was six, though, on account of the high cost of lessons, and the work of taking me to a class (I also think my propensity for booty-shaking versus more ballet-type moves made my mother less motivated for me).

But the piano was always in the house. We always had our lovely, antique upright with a bench full of music. I spent a good deal of time playing around on it, and even had a lesson or two, but I backed slowly away. My sister was a masterful, self-trained pianist (still plays keys professionally), who could recreate Beethoven melodies on her own. In my elementary years I came under the impression that my instructor preferred teaching my sister (at this age I can’t recall if I “heard” her say that, or if I misinterpreted something else that was said), and I requested to no longer take lessons. I had such difficulty with my practice, that it seemed very plausible to me that I was equally difficult to teach. It seemed to disambiguate and simplify everyone’s life for me to definitively claim that I was not musically inclined, so I did, and so I’ve been.

It’s my nature to back away from other people’s passionate interests, or their lime-light. That’s not to say that I don’t eagerly leap into any unoccupied lime-light, but I find no pleasure in stealing another person’s thunder, as they say. I enjoy attention and recognition, but I don’t enjoy competition. The best way to avoid competition is to find my own — my very own — interests. Also, competing with my sister was paramount to competing with Beethoven himself, in my child’s mind: certain defeat.

As an adult, though, I just can’t deny that I love the piano. Maybe I’ll never get around to mastering that Chopin piece, but I believe I could learn enough to bring me satisfaction. I believe I could be good enough to sing along to. I’m not sure where to start…

With so many things I have this burning desire to “become…” but I just can’t see the first step. I’m tired of riding on the waves of life (like a flag tossed about by every wind), and only impulsively finding new adventures. I want to get There from Here, intentionally.

As for the dancing dream, I just need an empty warehouse and some awesome song blasting from the tape deck of my nearby VW.

Powered by Plinky

Aside

Skip This Post; I’m Just Exercising

7 Oct

The temperature became warmer as we traveled into the evening.  From the Cumberland Valley into the Shenandoah the temperature increased ten degrees, even though it was four hours later in the day, and into the evening.  The warmth seemed to beckon me and say, “welcome home; have a little extra summer”.  I drove in my VW with the baby, and the HD drove behind me with Young G.  The trip took two days (potty breaks and a nursing baby) until we ended up in Charleston.

Image

Continue reading