The Adventures of Dork Mommy

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

All Bugged Out

One thing I find really fascinating about being a parent is that it makes me braver.

The first time I noticed this was when Noah had just turned three. We were at a hot air balloon festival at a private, local airport. He wanted to go up in a single engine plane. My few experiences in airplanes had mostly involved very large planes in which I wrote my last will and testament - as well as final words to former lovers - while visualizing the fiery wreck that would be my final resting place. But I had actually been doing some work at that airport and some of the pilots had told me how safe the smaller planes were, so I hopped in with one of these acqaintances, strapped Noah in and watched him have the time of his life.

Someone once told me that his fondest memories of childhood were when he knew that the people around him were having fun. That if his mother were stressed or angry, that it made the event less enjoyable. I never thought of that until he put it into words, but it's true. If you've ever traveled with a bad travel buddy, you know exactly what I mean. You could be staring at the pyramids in Egypt and be pissy.

So it is with kids. With fear, I think it's amplified. If you're scared, they'll be scared - about 10 times more.

My latest thing is bugs. Noah has taken to picking them up. Well, let's rewind - that's my fault. I got him this bug catcher thing from CVS. The net doesn't work very well, so he's become brave. He started with ants (notoriously hard to pick up, actually) and rollie pollies. Then he graduated to worms and caterpillars, and now, finally, he is actually picking up daddy longlegs (What's the plural of daddy longlegs? Daddys longlegs?) and spiders. (The two aren't the same thing, if you didn't know. Daddy longlegs aren't spiders. I'm so smart.)

When he first started with all this a couple of months ago, he was really squeamish. We have these scientific bug flashcards, and we were actually able to separate them into three categories: those that bite, those that sting, and those that excrete something that smells nasty when threatened. So, of course, when it got warm enough to go outside, he naturally thought that everything he saw either bit, stung, or excreted something that smelled nasty when threatened. The graduation from bug to bug has been over the course of many weeks. Weeks when I told him there was nothing to worry about, that things weren't going to bite him, that he was scarier than they were.

And he believed me.

This is good, I know, but it's thrown me into a whole other world - a world where I am not (supposed to be) scared of bugs. He doesn't know I was bluffing. He's a boy, for god's sake: he can't be scared of bugs! I was doing it to build him up. And now, I am forced to help him corral them, to pull them off his shirt when they crawl too far up his arm, to brush them off his toes when they go in his sandals.

Yesterday, I got in my car and went to turn on the radio. There was a cocoon - A FUCKING COCOON - of something suspended in some spider-web looking stuff on the dashboard next to my radio. It must have crawled in through the window or been released into the car by Noah. I thought for a moment of him, how excited he'd be about a cocoon, how he'd wonder what was in it. I thought of the thing inside and wondered how long the bug would need to live there before it came out, what it would be. And then I thought maybe it was actually spiders or something.

All those thoughts passed through my brain in about 3 seconds. And three seconds was all I needed to get the most major case of heebie-jeebies I'd ever had in my life. I grabbed a LOT of paper towels, mustered the biggest surge of girlie-girl-courage I could, and got that fucking thing out of there. Noah will never know.

I mean, a woman's got to have her limits.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Life is Brilliant

It appears that there is some kind of quota out there regarding the number of times James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" must play on the radio in any given hour. Like, 3 times per station. Normally, I wouldn't be listening to these kinds of stations, but in an amazing display of laziness, I have not replaced the antenna that broke off of my car two years ago, so I am forced to listen to the three popular music stations that come in on my radio.

I've heard that the song is about an ex-love of his or something, but I don't think that's true. The first time I heard it, I recalled a really nice memory of mine, and I'm sure they are somehow related.

I was in college in Boston at the time - maybe 19 or 20 years old. I was waiting at the Boylston Street T-stop for the subway train. One pulled in, but it was for the wrong line, so I had to wait. I leaned back against a bright green column to the side of the train. Looking up through the window of the car, I noticed a man looking at me. Pretending to ignore him, I got out my lipstick and my compact from my purse, deliberately. I reapplied my near-perfect lipstick while he watched. As the train pulled away, I looked right at him. He broke into a big smile, admonishing me with his eyes. He probably even shook his head. I, too, couldn't help smiling, caught at my trampy little trick.

And then he was gone.

That is an awesome memory. I think that's what that song means. A random, wonderful connection with a stranger. I wonder if he remembers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A New Chapter?

Some members of my family have a way of thinking Noah is much older than his 4-1/2 years. His mother, in particular, is always trying to buy things for him made for ages 8 and up, including video games. (As punishment, I make them stay at her house for their visit time, so she can be the one listening to his cries of frustration.) I believe that toys, LeapPad games, and books have age levels on them because there's only so much you can reasonably expect a child to do before she or he gets discouraged. I don't want to turn Noah off from learning by setting expectations he probably won't be able to reach. (Note: this doesn't mean he shouldn't be challenged, just that he shouldn't be expected to identify words by sight when he's just learning letters.)

My father did it about 6 months ago when he bought Noah a children's version of Treasure Island - complete with very few pictures and *gasp* chapters. Noah wanted me to read it to him when we first got it, but quickly lost interest, which I thought he might. You can imagine my surprise Monday night when he wanted it again - and liked it so much he was disappointed we could only read three chapters before bedtime. He's been bugging me the past two days to read more of it. I actually sent it to daycare with him today and his teacher agreed to read it to him during nap time, since he's given up his nap recently.

I can't believe he's into a chapter book! I'm psyched, simply because I'm a big reader myself. We read three books nearly every night before bedtime. I'm not one of those parents who wishes that her child were a genius - I just want him to be normal and happy. But I have to say this thrills me. And maybe he'll go back to Dr. Suess before the week is out. I just think it's cool he's interested in something so beyond him.

Now I'm thinking maybe I will revisit the stuff we have that's labeled for children a little older...and do it together. Who knows? Maybe he'll love it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Will Work for Sex

I am tired and I have a headache, and I am dying from lack of sex. I think that must also qualify as an affliction. It's been almost a year now. I've had chances, for sure, but I've passed them up because I'm looking more for a relationship. But man, a year. That's a long time.

The problem is that I don't get out much. I don't have very many friends to go out with. I'm working on that. It's also harder to get out when you need to have a babysitter, and sometimes it doesn't seem worth the trouble. Bed or bar? Bed or bar? Mmmmm...comfy bed and Netflix or call around to see if someone wants to go out to a noisy bar where a man may or may not flirt with me? Then there's the mother math: "Hmmm...if I go to sleep at midnight and Noah gets me up at 7:30, that's enough sleep...But I'd have to leave the bar by 11:30..." Not to mention I don't actually have a babysitter: it's called my little sister (other aunt) or my mother.

Also, casual sex is harder. I mean, he can't come to my place, and I hesitate to go to the home of someone I hardly know (read: possible psychopath), so it kind of precludes anything but a relationship, or at least a few dates. And most guys I date come from the internet (refer back to "I don't get out much"), and usually don't last more than one date. I usually don't find much chemistry in these dates. I'd rather see someone across a crowded know?

It's frustrating on a couple of levels. First, just physically, of course. Second, I feel like I've finally come to a really good place in my life, and I wish there were someone to share it with. Third, I wonder if I really will find someone who wants to be with a single parent. I mean, I'm not a single parent with ex baggage, since Noah is my nephew. But then again I have strange "Noah's parents" baggage. Eh. At least I don't have stretch marks.

I have to tell myself I'm still attractive and compelling and date-worthy - and that having a child is not a liability. I also have to tell myself not to lower my standards. I just need to get out and give it a shot more often.

And until then, sex toys. Lots of sex toys. :)

Friday, May 19, 2006

(Lack of) Memory

I will be the first to admit that I don't have a very good memory. I will start to tell people about a movie I saw in the theater and forget that it was them I went with to see it. I will realize a week late that I didn't pay a credit card bill. I will only remember the night before a holiday that I have the next day off.

Those things are certainly forgiveable. It seems less forgiveable to not remember things about Noah. I mean, I remember functional things, like his sizes, his weight, his last dentist appointment. I remember events, like his fourth birthday party and how he kept soiling himself because he didn't want to stop playing (that's going to be one to save for the future wife). I remember things that he loves (peanut butter, walks, Hot Wheels, bubble gum flavored medicine, trains) and things that he hates (bees, leaving the playground, raisins, the little green flecks in pasta). I know that I always need to comb his hair slowly, that the way to get him to shampoo well is to have him turn down his ears, and that he always wakes up faster if I put on a movie. (Among a million other things.)

Last night I looked at him. He'll be 5 at the end of the summer. I looked at him and I couldn't picture the child he had been when he had first come to live with me two and a half years ago. I couldn't remember what it was like to hold a boy less than 45 pounds. I couldn't remember how I tucked him into a crib instead of a bed. I couldn't remember what we played or did, how he was.

I remember how he cried the first few night he lived with me. How he wanted to go "home." How much I worked to get him to trust me. How small his clothes were. His booster seat. Sippy cups. I was so devastated. So full of love and at the same time so lost. Is that why I can't remember so much? I wonder if I was in a fog all that time. Or is there just too much to remember? Do they grow too quickly? Do parents keep their children's clothes to help them remember how small they once were? Maybe I shouldn't give them away.

The other night I had to buy him all new shoes - size 12! - because he had outgrown the ones he had. I tell him jokingly to stop growing, but sometimes I wonder how I will keep from crying all the time when he is 15, remembering what it was like to carry him sleeping when he was 4. But will I remember? Maybe it's better not to have a good memory about your children. Maybe the love you have for them in the moment is too overwhelming already.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Nature vs. What the Hell it is I'm Doing

When I was a teenager, I came up with a concept that I'm sure has been considered before. It relies on some kind of spiritual belief, which is usually not my thing, but I kind of like the idea in a literary way. That before we are born, we are given choices about ourselves - difficult ones, somewhat akin to those nasty little question books that were popular 10 years ago. Like, would you rather be very short but have an astounding intellect? Would you rather be born to abusive parents but have an inventive mind that could lead you to success? Would you rather be born with a simple mind but have a satisfying life filled with love?

Partially from being a parent, part from being older, I know that idea is b.s. Some of the things we are are uncontrollable - like who your parents are. Some of the things we are take shape because of the circumstances of our birth. Would the abused child become inventive if he weren't trying to escape? Would people have treated the simple child more harshly if he were not?

But I find comfort sometimes in this idea that somewhere, sometime, all this was planned. I am simply following a path. I can relax, because I wanted it this way.

Which is true. Every decision I have made has led me here. It's just that sometimes, my life is just exhausting. I forget things. I make mistakes. I go in the wrong direction. There are days I don't want to make one fucking decision.

When did everything start having such weight? When I started thinking that, in a way, I'm the determiner of Noah's life. The rules he lives by, the behavior limits I set, the discipline I give, the rewards I give, the activities I encourage him to do, the movies he sees...everything influences him. Will he be smart? Will he be sporty? Will he be rebellious? Will he be successful? I have to tell myself not to put so much significance on day to day life. It could drive a person crazy, and it would certainly drive Noah crazy.

Last week was focused on Mother's Day at the daycare, and the kids did projects related to the "women who love them". Nowadays, it's not always the mother who is the significant female, and I'm glad their activity was so inclusive. Well, Noah drew this amazing picture of me - complete with hair that looks like I just stuck my finger in a light socket, which I guess says something about my hair. It says, "My auntie gives me hugs a lot."

And at the end of the day - the long hard day busting my ass trying to make a good life for us, to be a good person and to help him to become a good person - I'm glad that my love, more than anything else, is what he thinks of when he thinks of me.

Friday, May 12, 2006


The other day, a coworker of mine (we'll call her Accountant Amy) and I were commiserating. We were both stuck on the same project, and we needed to do some serious venting. She asked if I wanted to come over with Noah and have a beer with her after work. She's got three boys herself. Since Noah doesn't often get the opportunity to hang out with friends outside of daycare - and since I really needed that drink - I gladly accepted.

I've done this once before with a parent. She grew up as my youngest sister's best friend, but we've actually gotten to know each other much better the last 6 months because her 5 year old son and Noah are friends. Rather than arrange playdates through my sister, I started calling her directly. But this is the first time I actually did it on my own.

It's a strange, awkward, and wonderful thing to sit down with a woman who also has a boy your boy's age. I think the ability to make new friends slowly decreases from high school onward, so by the time you hit 28, like me, you hardly know what constitutes friendship anymore. People who you thought were friends don't call, and people who you hardly call pull through for you in tough situations. Being friends with another parent is almost a surprise - an instant connection. You've already got something in common to talk about.

Now, whether that parent is your kind of parent is another thing. I'm getting the feeling that there are parent cliques - at least that's what Parenting Magazine said this month (I just got a subscription out of sheer desperation for feeling like part of a group). Like, I love Accountant Amy because she's not a coddling parent, she encourages her kids to play and get dirty, and she doesn't hesitate to tell them when to just shut their mouths. I like that. It seems honest. Also, she lets things slide - she doesn't blow her top - which is something I need to learn how to do.

When I'm standing in my kitchen, alone, frazzled, with food cooking on the stove, Noah in "time out", and the cats meowing at my feet, I look around and wonder if I'm doing this okay. Being around other parents makes me feel good about my instincts and gives me ideas for doing things better.

It also gives me an ear, and a shoulder, and sometimes pizza and beer. So whose playdate was it? I don't know, but I want more of them. For both of us.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Talking about it.

Last night I went out to a club - a rare occasion. A friend of mine (read: ex-boyfriend from 3 years ago) was djing locally - also a rare occasion, as he lives far away in Boston. He and I broke up because we were going in different directions: he wanted to be a starving artist, frustrated with the world, and felt uncomfortable even with the idea of us moving in together after 3 years; I wanted to at least sometimes appreciate the wonderful things in life and to have a family someday (this was before Noah).

He's one of those people who always seems to have a name for kids that isn't "kids" and calls parents "breeders". I know, I know, how could I have ever left him?

I don't have a lot of friends who are parents. Okay, I have one. Actually, I have two, but the other for some strange reason never talks about her son unless directly asked, and then in very brief answers, like she's talking about a project at work or something. I don't understand that, and, honestly, I avoid her because of it. Like she's uncomfortable having a child.

I, like many non-parents, once wondered how it was that all parents seemed to talk about was their kids. Didn't they have interests? Didn't they have a life of their own? Now, years later and oh-so-enlightened, I know that being a parent is one of the greatest challenges of a person's life, if not the greatest. And I always thought that was b.s., but it's not. Every day is a lesson in creativity, patience, understanding, love, philosophy and intelligence (you try answering a 4 year old's questions about the universe some time). And at the end of the day, the most wonderful moment of my day is more likely going to be about the joke Noah made up rather than the project I finished at work. My projects don't hug me and love me and need me.

So last night, DJ Ex was at my apartment while I was getting ready to go out. He kept eyeing Noah suspiciously and wryly commenting on Noah's sense of humor (uncontrollable laughter ensued after the speaking of the not-bad word "buttocks", the making of farting noises by blowing on his arm, and running around the apartment and into things). I'm sure Ex would be surprised to know his behavior seemed so disdainful. Why is he acting like that? he asked. Because he's a 4 year old boy, I responded, laughing.

Later that night, I found myself talking to an old acquaintance of mine - a single, childless acquaintance. He hadn't known about my taking in Noah and becoming a parent 2 years ago. I started talking to him about it and found myself perplexed. Here I was, at a club, dressed up and made up like I used to be before I became a single parent and my social life disappeared. Was I going to risk boring this cutie with kid talk?

I'd like to say I didn't hesitate to just talk all night about Noah, but I did a little. I'd say I talked enough. Enough to show how much I love him, but not so much that it was all I talked about. I guess it's like talking to someone about any interest of yours that they don't have. It just seems so wrong to qualify a child as an "interest." I prefer talking to parents so much more. I'm never self-conscious when I talk to another parent.

Maybe it's different for me because Noah came to live with me when he was 2-1/2, so I haven't always been his parent, but I find that I'm still getting used to some things. One of them is just the comfort level of having a child. Knowing that Friendly's is a good restaurant to go to because the other patrons will not shoot evil glances your way if your child so much as raises his voice. Knowing that I am not the first person to leave a shopping cart in the middle of the grocery store to remove my child from the store because of a temper tantrum. Knowing that I can and should talk about Noah, because he's the coolest thing in my life, and always will be. And that doesn't make me lame. It would be lame if I didn't.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


This morning, like yesterday morning, Noah* asked me to put two coats on him: one the right way, and one backward. That way, he could hide his face, and "remember my dream about Shark Boy and Lava Girl!" In fact that's what he was doing, since I accidentally interrupted him reminiscing and got to see his dejected face. He'd had a dream last night that he had been the ally of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, helping them fight the bad guys. If he wanted to relive his glory days, that was fine with me.

At one point, he pulled the hood off of his face and told me that the boys at daycare had made fun of him because yesterday when he pulled off his hood his hair was sticking up in the back. I brought him to the bathroom and wet down his unruly hair, telling him that those boys were just jealous of his beautiful hair. I also told him that if that happened, he could go to the bathroom and wet his hair, just like I was doing.

Noah's been able to call my bluff on a lot of things in the past, but lately, I think he wants to believe. He wants to believe I can put magic on the doors and windows so bad guys can't get in. He wants to believe that I can tell his stuffed animals to come alive at night to take care of him. Maybe it's the age...I guess at 4 years old, they start to get more scared of things. But I think it's easier to be scared of ghosts than to be scared of the boys at daycare. The ghosts never show.

Maybe he can believe they are jealous of his hair. Or maybe that's just some stupid lame-mom encouragement. Because at some point he may realize how false it is, like the Easter Bunny. Kids are harsh, and cruel. They're making fun of him because they can. It's a childhood power trip. Does this really begin at 4? I remember being worried about teasing in my childhood, but I don't remember it starting so young.

I do believe in my mommy magic. I do believe that if I am confident that my love will protect him, that he will believe in me too. And I believe that if I tell him his hair is beautiful that he will have the confidence to believe in himself too. And a kid who believes in himself (I hope) is no fun for a bully.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent

Monday, May 08, 2006

Shoes and Other Things

Today I am wearing sandals. Sandals that smell. Shoes that smell should, by standard female guidelines, immediately be thrown out. However, my shoes seem to have a longer life outside of the spaghetti sauce-covered tall kitchen trash can than the shoes of other women. Why?

I have a suspicion it is somehow directly related to why I have not replaced the glasses frames that I have worn for about 6 years now; why I feel that I can go just another day without shaving my legs even though I'm wearing a skirt, why $20 is somehow just too much to get my underarms waxed anymore, why I eat fruit snacks with my dinner, and why I have not gotten my hair cut and dyed in 6 months. In fact, it's directly related to why I need so much more desperately to dye my hair now more than ever to cover the excessive grey roots: I am a parent.

To be more specific, I am a single parent, the adoptive parent of my nephew, former city girl now forced to make nice in the suburbs where I grew up. Wow, that must really be hard, you say... Well, you ain't just whistlin' dixie.

I used to know so much. I knew things. I am now currently lost in parentland, in which maps are strictly forbidden, your gut instincts (of which I have few) are embraced, everything your parents did with you is frowned upon, and you barely have time to get your bearings enough each morning to keep moving forward.

I love parenthood, and I want to run screaming from it at the same time. I've been assured this is normal. How does an aunt who is a mom, an intellectual forced to watch The Country Bears, a sexy woman with no time for dating and less prospects, survive in this place?

I guess that's what this blog is for.