In the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it was like being poor. Over the years, I’ve heard Mama say several times that she wishes she knew then what she knows now–that nowadays she’d be a lot better at poverty. I think I would be, too. Continue reading “How we do cheap”
I’m spent today, y’all. So without further ado and for your viewing pleasure, I here present a shit-ton of images I captured this summer on my beloved iPhone. Most are from the Myrtle Beach trip in July, but there are some others from Hubby and I’s trip to Minnesota (to see A Prairie Home Companion) from around the house (kitties!), and from the gorgeous Midwestern sky out here on the prairie. Much affection to you and yours during this back-to-school week, but I have GOT to get back to this pointless book. ❤ Continue reading “Scenes from a summer well summered”
First of all, I love you. You need to know that. You need to see it written down and really take it to heart and believe it, because I don’t say it very often and you tend not to hear schmaltz (You are 13, after all.) I also think that you are reluctant to admit that you share my feelings of affection, most likely owing to the very existence of your biological mother. Please know that — contrary to what you probably believe — I understand that you feel pressure to love your mother…both from her and from the universe at large. I also understand that you’re a teenager, and therefore you automatically want to do that which will annoy your father and me. You think loving your mother will accomplish that, but it’s not true. She’s your mother and of course you love her. What you don’t know yet is that some people don’t get the best moms, and they spend their whole lives wishing they could un-love their mother and undo all the damage she did to them. I’m so afraid that’s where you’ll end up. Please believe me when I say that this is my only feeling on the subject. If you could love her without danger to yourself, all I would have to say is “that’s terrific!” (and to be honest, there are times I could use a break from all your teenageryness). But you choose to love her up close, to spend more time with her than you should, and in so doing, to put yourself repeatedly and needlessly in harm’s way. When you come home from there — after several days of bar food, not sleeping at night, and only seeing her drunk if at all — you’re a total shit to us. I’m sure this is because you imagine yourself greatly inconvenienced to be back again in a house where you are actually looked after and parented. Regardless of how misunderstood you might feel at these moments, your father and I understand a lot more than we let on. We try not to pick up the horrible things you say to us, or even all the ways you act out. We make these allowances (for a little while) because we figure this behavior won’t last forever. Also because we love you. Both of us, not just the one you’re cloned from.
Have you got it? Great.
Now that the serious stuff is out of the way, here’s one of the many reasons I’m writing: Your Axe products are slowly killing me. Yes, I breathe better now that I quit smoking, but I also breathe better now that I quit smoking, if you see what I mean. Where I used to only react to about half of the smells in my environment, I am now subject to all of them, at full potency. When you take a shower and a bath a day and use far more than the required amount of product for both, it makes me think you want me dead and you’ve grown tired of waiting for nature to take its course (or the cat to take his revenge). In retaliation for this everyday attempt to end my life, I have started to rather passive/aggressively do a few things I never did before where you are concerned. First, I no longer go looking for the missing socks and underwear that are not in your laundry basket. This means you run out of both items a few days earlier than usual, and you are forced to make that pouty face because you can’t change two or three times a day. I am secretly amused by this to such an extent that I find it extremely difficult not to laugh like Renfield and wallow joyfully in your misfortune like Kitty Boy in catnip. In addition to vowing never again to search for your missing laundry, I have also gleefully stopped making tea. Admittedly, this used to bother you a lot more than it does now. But be on your guard, kid; I’m looking for something new and innovative with which to torture you as we speak.
Second, I know you don’t share my opinion on this, but Jesus, Spaghettios stink. Granted, this is another one of those smells that I notice more because of the non-smoking thing, but they reeked even when my sense of smell was compromised. But the actuality of the stench is not why I’m bringing this up; please, for the love of god PLEASE, stop making Spaghettios at 3AM. They wake me up out of a dead sleep, and I have to fight the dry heaves. The same goes for eggs, although I love those — when you’re sleeping, happily cocooned inside a fluffy cloud of blankets that smell good, anything being cooked is undesirable. Stop it. Eat when we eat. Sleep when we sleep. You are not a vampire or a drunk, you’re not on mood or behavior altering drugs, and there’s no reason for you to be awake and eating at that time of day.
Third, stop distracting me with stupid YouTube videos. More to the point, stop distracting me with endless and pointless chatter about stupid YouTube videos. There’s nothing for me to learn there, and engaging in “conversations” with you about something that took ten seconds to watch and was virtually incomprehensible does not make me feel as though I’m spending quality time with you. Remarkably, I also don’t find the endless videos of commentary about video games at all interesting. In fact, I’m not particularly interested in the video games themselves. Unless you’re talking to me about Final Fantasy or old school Mario Bros., count on getting nothing but a blank look back from me. Now, if you want to talk to me about the books you read in school or even about South Park and American Dad, I’m there. Unfortunately, it seems like you stopped watching quality, inappropriate television shows a couple years ago, and the truth is, I am still kind of reeling from the loss of my favorite kid’s perspective on the subject. Come back. At least sit on the couch with me for the Trump Show (formerly known as the news) and help me yell obscenities at the screen. I miss you.
Fourth: boy, I will cut you if you don’t start lifting the lid and hitting the bowl. Please note that this is a two-part statement. Both pieces are necessary to prevent my screaming my head off when I enter the bathroom after you. Now, I understand (from my brief time living in the house with your older brother) that this is some kind of a natural teenage boy thing, but come on. I knew you two years ago, and at that time, you were perfectly capable of putting your bodily fluids where they belong. If anything, my presence in your life has made you more civilized, so I seriously don’t understand this recent turn of events. You are not living in a barnyard, boy. Get it together. Otherwise, cleaning the bathroom will become a daily chore that moves over to your list. Heh….you think it’s hard to get your allowance now.
Fifth: if you’re trying to irritate me with your love of sub-par rap music (when I can barely stomach the really good stuff), you’ve succeeded. But you should know that if I keep hearing it playing on a loop at a steady and monotonous drone while you’re otherwise engaged with playing a game and chatting online, then I cannot be responsible for my actions. Your phone (from which the music streams) might just up and disappear. My little brother needs an iPhone, and I know for certain that I can trust him to use it to play decent music.
Finally, please PLEASE make an effort to be the boy I know you can be this year. Last year, you lied to us about homework, you didn’t study until you had nearly flunked out, and you hung around with the only thug in our corn-fed, miniscule town. I know you’re smart. I’ve talked to you. I’ve nearly fallen out of my chair a hundred times from laughing at some hilarious and undeniably smart thing you’ve said or done. I damn near have a master’s degree, I’ve read a shit-ton of books, and I have more life experience than I can stomach; you couldn’t possibly crack me up like you do if you weren’t above average. Please, show your teachers that side of yourself this year. You’re handsome and you’re charming, and nothing in the world could stop you if you stopped trying to stop yourself.
I love you, step-son. Get your shit together.
There are times — few and much too far between — when Step-son, Step-daughter, and I are on our own all day and we actually enjoy one another’s company the whole time. In the months before I married their dad (when they’d been without a mom for a startlingly long stretch), those days seemed to occur more often; now, I’m lucky if I get two or three a year. Last night, I had one.
I’ve been spending a ludicrous amount of time on the computer lately, and they’ve both been undeniably teenager-y. Plus, it’s summer, and it’s been kind of a stretch to get us all in one place at the same time. But last night was nice. I made a real supper, and we sat around the table visiting while we ate it. Step-son just returned from a trip upstate working with his grandpa, and he brought back a healthy sum of money for a kid; we were looking forward to making a nighttime trip to the local Wal-Mart so he could spend some of it.
I remember fondly that oh-my-god-we-have-a-shit-ton-of-money giddiness when I was a kid. I think I’ve written about it here before. But it’s almost as much fun, almost as awesome and hopeful and huge — to be party to it as an adult. Of course, our little family isn’t poor, and we’re a two parent household, even if one of us is only here by marriage. But in the past, the kids have seen some shitty days, and I’m sure they’re a lot like every other person on the planet who’s lived through crap: whether you want to or not, you carry some of it around with you for the rest of your life. If you’re lucky, the bad days behind you only serve to make you appreciate the good ones more.
More than anything, I hope one day that’s how they feel about their lives.
So we’re not in dire financial straits at the moment, but they remember pretty clearly what that was like. And despite their ages, I think they also have enough of the little kid mentality remaining that they see a small amount of money and imagine a thousand amazing things that it could buy. Frankly, I’m pretty surprised we didn’t head straight for the candy aisle (or the ice cream), but the kids went in with a mission. We took our time wandering around and dreaming a bit while we shopped, but we left with an entirely reasonable haul.
After we spent a little of our money on shoes, school supplies, bananas, and the 750th fidget spinner of the summer, we got in the car to head for home. I was just beginning to wonder about a possible trip to Dairy Queen, when Step-daughter spotted the bright pink remains of the sunset half-hiding behind Wal-Mart. I hurriedly turned right out of the parking lot instead of left and whipped the car behind the building. We pulled over and all of us leaped out with our cell phones, each determined to get the best picture. (We do that sometimes — it’s all about the bragging rights.)
Step-son managed to get the most contrast-y and hot pink tones with his camera, but I’d like to think I got more variety. Regardless, as we drove home, they were both resetting their phone’s wallpapers, talking about editing tools, and enjoying the company.
No one even mentioned it when we drove past the ten stinky cow and pig farms on our way back to the house. I’d like to believe that it was a night so perfect they didn’t even notice.
I am, admittedly, awfully new to the parenting game, but man I gotta tell you, this shit is hard. It’s a huge learning curve; every new situation, every meal, every everything is first and foremost me trying to figure out where the booby traps are, what the words are that might set off the next chain of exploding land mines. The kids were in this family before me, and there are so many days when I would tell you myself that they run this joint–no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
They, of course, do not feel the same way. Though I am usually decent and amusing company for them, there are more than a few moments when they look around for their father, likely hoping that he’ll notice how his wife is once again trying to rule with an iron fist when they’d be much happier to have her sucking up and asking for their approval. These looks do not go over well with me, and I’m beginning to notice that my ire is compounding over time. The more I don’t respond, the more I want to and the more likely it becomes that I’m eventually going to. Every day, for example, I struggle to resist the urge to plan and legislate every second of their time at home. I am oh-so-tired of cleaning up after them, of saying “please don’t eat pineapple fruit cups on the couch” and then having to clean a sticky mess off the cushions when they get up. I am so done saying “don’t carry soda cans into your bedroom” and then having to buy ant poison for the subsequent and inevitable infestation. If they had chore lists and set punishments for their dumbassery, maybe I’d get a break from the relentless movement and the neverending urge to scream at the top of my lungs in frustration.
But as the parent who is the most present in their lives (my sweet husband works a lot), I am most often consumed with worry rather than anger. I’m 43 years old, and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that there’s some scary, dangerous stuff out there. I’ve also been around the block enough times to know that most of the time, it’s our own bad choices that bring the shitstorm down on our heads. I would very much like to save them from either of those truths whenever possible. I am therefore seriously considering a mandate from my high position as step-mother:
HENCEFORTH AND FORTHWITH, ALL HUMANS UNDER THE AGE OF 39 WHO LIVE IN THIS HOUSE WILL IMMEDIATELY (AND WITHOUT HOPE OF SUCCESSFUL APPEAL) RELINQUISH THE EQUIPMENT REFERRED TO AS CELL PHONES AND THEN TRAVEL BACK IN TIME, POST HASTE, TO THE RENAISSANCE ERA, WHERE THEY WILL START READING ACTUAL LITERATURE AND DRINKING TEA AND NEVER AGAIN UTTER THE WORDS “YOU TUBE” OR PERFORM THE MANEUVER “DAB” EVER, EVER, EVER AGAIN. ALSO, THEY WILL WEAR VICTORIAN CLOTHES AND SPEAK AS THOUGH THEY HAVE SOME SENSE AND A DECENT EDUCATION.
I don’t know…maybe it sounds a little extreme, but it’s beginning to feel like desperate times call for desperate measures. I mean, I was about 18 when I started learning about computers and building my first, scary-looking websites, but the integration with technology nowadays is freakin’ scary. It’s more than just wanting to play on your phone when you’re bored; people (including children) today are so addicted to their phones that cell phone addiction has actually become a thing. It adversely effects concentration, test taking, and even sleep. Consequently, what formerly was an occasional flight of fancy about taking the phones away from the kids and returning to board games, books, and actual eye contact has now become an almost zealous belief in the inherent evil of cell phones and a determination that next time some shit goes down and punishment is imminent, removing the phones (and all other access to social media) might well be the first (joyous) step.
Aside from the scary addiction factor, I’m also worried by the extent to which cell phones are causing our kids to grow up much earlier than they should. And I know that wouldn’t be possible if we were monitoring our kids’ phone usage as closely as our parents once monitored our internet usage, but for the most part, for whatever reason, we aren’t looking. Ironically, I think we were in far less danger than are the kids and teens of this generation. I mean, suicides are happening because of Facebook and Snapchat, y’all. I wouldn’t want to have to tell people that’s what happened to my kid, especially since the mere idea of a death caused by something so intangible is still pretty much unfathomable even to people my age, who were in the first high school level computer classes as teenagers.
How does something so small get so big and important in the lives of children?
I think my sister (in-law) has it right, as usual, and we should be seriously limiting screen time and snatching the phones at random–right out of the hands of the children we love–to see what the hell is actually going on in their lives, what information and everyday horror they’re being presented with in a place that is so very obvious and easily accessible, and yet WE NEVER FREAKIN’ LOOK. I mean, I had to do some serious plotting to read my first smut book at 15, and dammit, I don’t think my step-kids should have it any easier. Also, if they want to know how to build a bomb or start a cult, I really think they should have to perform a little exercise and walk their crazy little asses down to the library, but hey, maybe that’s just me getting a bit drunk on all that new step-mother power.
But I’m serious, y’all…I’m worried. I’m going to try to pay more attention, but I have a feeling that it’s only going to take a feather to push me over the edge of reason on this subject, and I’m taking all the cell phones with me on the trip down.