Irreverent Mama

Friday, March 31, 2006

Becca hums a ditty as she constructs a castle from a kit.

"Argh!" I look up, expecting to see frustration over a piece that isn't going where it belongs, but no. "It's this song," she explains. "I've got the Charmin Ultra song running round and round and round my head."

I grin and offer commiseration. She muses over the phenomena as she nestles on piece into another. "They make the song so catchy so that it will stick in your head. Then when you go to the grocery store and you see a gazillion brands of toilet paper there, you'll see the Charmin and pick it, and you won't even know why, but it's because of that song, humming in the back of your mind."

This wouldn't be too bad an explanation, I'm thinking.

"It only costs five times as much as the 'regular brand' that's in the song, but you're going to go ahead and buy it if you don't think about it. Which is silly, really. The regular brand might be a little scratchier, but it's only for wiping poo, anyway."

The girl has such a good head on her shoulders. I'm so proud.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

There's a difference between fathers and mothers, and it isn't just in the hardware... Well, there are dozens, of course, but today I am stumbling through the hours in a vague and muddle-headed, itchy-eyed fog of exhaustion because of one of them.

Eldest Stepdaughter (16) was out last night. Supposed to be home by midnight, or call if she's unavoidably later, like her ride was delayed. (Note the child involved: STEP-daughter. Not even any direct biology involved here.)

I am sound asleep by 10:30. At fifteen minutes past midnight, I wake up. What woke me? I still have blankets over me, no door has opened or closed, the cat is sleeping in another room. No, it's the momma clock, telling me that midnight has passed and I need to make sure of the child. A quick check reveals the girl is not yet home. Damn.

Okay, I say, so she's delayed a little. No biggie. I fall into an uneasy sleep, only to pop wide awake at 1:30 a.m. Another wander to the front hall to check for shoes and jacket. She's still not home, unless she came home barefoot. Back to bed. Do I wake husband, sleeping the sleep of the Father?

I decide, oh, she's just decided to make it a sleepover, and has forgotten to call. Completely and totally within normal communication patterns for this girl. Makes it hard to know when to worry - or, rather, easy to worry unnessarily. I bury my unease and try to sleep. At 2:15, I am jolted awake by an alarming realization: She wasn't at a friend's! Well, yes she was, but earlier. Then she was going to a dance.

Where the hell is she? I wander downstairs and consider calling the friend's cell phone. Did the friend go to the dance with her? Or is the friend sleeping sound in her own bed? I churn with anxiety for another half hour.

At 2:45 I poke the husband. "She still isn't home yet."

He stirs and his voice comes muffled from under the covers. "She's having a sleepover at the friend's house."

Oh. Right. I knew that.

But you know? Even if he was expecting her home at midnight, he wouldn't have woken at fifteen minutes past. He does not have that momma clock that says, "WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING?? ONE OF THE BABIES ISN'T IN THE NEST YET!!!"

Stupid momma clock.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Just got back from seeing Beowulf. A great retelling of the original tale, which, yes, I have read. In the original Old English. I am so cultured. (It took me about two weeks, with the help of a very large glossary.) Then there was the "sexy-witch" (Canada's own Sarah Polley, terrific as ever) thread thrown in to give background and a reason for compassion - said compassion being wholly lacking from the original saga. The Old English didn't "do" compassion to one's enemies.

Anyway. A good movie - if you don't mind a lot of gore. I knew this going in. I've read the book, remember? No way you can tell this story without gore. A savage tale from savage times. Except I'm not really a savage. So I had my eyes closed quite a bit. Too bad severing limbs makes such a distinctive squelching noise...

And speaking of noises, what's with the fucking VOLUME in movie theatres? Do they think we're all deaf? Have they forgotten movie theatres now hold 23 people, not 400?

Next time I bring ear plugs.

Why is it...

that a child who expects you to do all manner of his jobs (pick up his clothes, wash his dishes, remind him of everything he needs to remember)

will suddenly have a burst of activity and decide to do one of your jobs

and wake his happily sleeping sisters TWO HOURS before necessary???


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Devious Mama, I am... :-)

It is March Break, the schools are off, and the stepkids are here for half the week. They arrived Saturday morning, and will leave Wednesday at noon.

I used to really grate against all the ways that the stepkids, product of a very different family in which they spend the bulk of their time, just didn't mesh with this household and how things are done here. I tried to let it go, take a breath and let it goooo, but some of their quirks make for A LOT more work for me, which goes beyond tolerable. Some things I have let go - their much later bedtime than my own childrens' bedtime, for example. Other things, I've found ways to get my way without conflict.

Take the Example of The Towels.

There are five of them, and four shower daily. (One, a 14 year-old girl, never showers unless told to. I mean this literally. I have never, the past ten years, seen her decide to take a shower. No matter how filthy or odiferous. Not once. However, in our small and overpopulated house with its ONE small bathroom, a child who does not shower can be a blessing! We direct her there once a week and apart from that and overpowering odiferousness, we leave it lie. Good enough...)

Our household habit regarding bath towels is that every person has one, in a colour of their choosing so they don't get confused, hung on a peg in their room. After a shower, it is returned to the peg, and is washed only after three or so showers. If it's hung promptly, it doesn't get musty. Often in the summer, they are hung on the line out back to dry: lovely and fresh!

I provided the five stepkids with towels of their own, and pegs, and explained the system. It never stuck. It's been years, and the towels are still mostly left lying in moldering heaps in the bathroom or on bedroom floors. Gah. For years this has irked me. Years.

Why have I allowed it to go on so long? I am a child organizer extraodinaire. Those TV nannies - whom I have never watched - have nothing on me. So why can't I instill this habit in these children? Because I am ambivalent. Mixed feelings inhibit the consistency necessary to teach new patterns. I remind them some days but not others. There are no consequences for forgetting. This is my doing, born of my ambivalence.

Why am I ambivalent? I feel badly for them. Their alternate weekends with us are abberations in their lives in which there are already so many things that are different for them. Their mother and father are such different people. Their two homes are night and day different in style and expectations. As a result, those poor kids already make innumerable adjustments every time they're with us as it is, probably more adjustments than I am aware of, and I'm aware there are lots of little things. I hate to be the nagging evil stepmother demanding still more. I feel sorry for them, and I recoil from being "the crank at dad's house", even while they sometimes exasperate me.

This year I got smart. I don't always have to be direct. I don't always have to tell, remind, nudge, nag. So now? I find a towel on the floor, I hang it to dry. The next day, I take it, fold it neatly, and put it back in the bin in the linen closet. The kids go to the closet, and grab yesterday's towel! Is it not brilliant? Devious, but a satisfactory result. Yes, it means they are possibly reusing someone else's towel, but nobody knows but me. They get laundered when necessary, but this is not daily.

I do a fair number of things like that. Things that protect my sanity and don't increase my work load 150%. If this makes me an evil, devious stepmom, that's fine with me. Better than being the evil, nagging stepmom.

Pragmatism - and compassion - rules.

My beloved's sighs and moans fill my ears as my lips and tongue work magic for him. And what fills my mind as I do this? Thoughts of my next blog post. Hmmm...

Ah, well. It's better than mentally re-organizing the kitchen cupboards.

I think.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cute Girl, again.

Becca and I went shopping yesterday, buying her much-needed jeans and bras. The girl does keep on growing. Today we realised we'd forgotten the shoes. Now that it's spring - well, almost! - she needs runners. So off we go and get those, too.

She runs by just now, on her way from watching The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants with her stepsisters downstairs. Now they're all on their way upstairs to bed.

She stops in the front hall at the base of the stairs. Stops dramatically, flings her hands to her face as her mouth forms a perfect O, like some silent movie star, then says in tones of greatest wonderment,

"OH! Look at those COOL SHOES!!" She looks over to make sure I'm catching this, then her wonderment turns to surprised delight. "And, OH!! They're MIIIIINNNE!!"

Then barrels on upstairs, laughing. What a ham.

She's so cute.

You Are Somewhat Machiavellian

You're not going to mow over everyone to get ahead...
But you're also powerful enough to make things happen for yourself.
You understand how the world works, even when it's an ugly place.
You just don't get ugly yourself - unless you have to!

This isn't too far off, really!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lordy, but that's a dreary streetscape! Why would she publish that??

If those are your thoughts, you live in milder climes than mine. This, my friend, is what the beginning of Spring looks like here in my bit of Canada.

It's four degrees out there (Celcius, that is; 38F or so for the old school among you). Four degrees at nine in the morning! It's only going to get warmer!! This is balmy. This is sweater weather. I can head out, completely equipped for the weather in waterproof footwear and a down vest over my sweater. The fur-lined coat will languish in the closet today, because it's Spring out there!

It won't last, I know. There will be one or two good snowfalls between here and mid-April -- but it's started! Winter is on its way out!

This picture was taken yesterday, when the damp hung visibly, wet sheets of air. Today it is radiantly sunny. Water pools and forms on the ice, trickles run off onto the bits of street now bare. Water puddles at the curb, runs into the gutter. Water, water, water!

Yesterday, I heard it, and my spirit lifted. The most distinctive sound of spring. Not splashing, not car tires hissing through puddles, not the squelch of mud under your boots. A haunting sound, lonely, wild, windswept, pulsing and echoing in the sky. A sound that causes me yearning and joy in equal measure. Look up, look up. See them?

The geese are back!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Becca is so cute these days! I love spending time with her. A delightful child, absolutely delightful. The youngest of my three, momma's still her best friend, she's still happy to spend time with me. Her friends are becoming more important, but they have not yet - as they inevitably will - superceded her family.

The other day we were talking about her brother's music collection. One of the many reasons I like the boy is that, while he listens to top-40 stuff, his tastes are not dictated by his friends and the charts. When I pull one of the ever-present headphones away from his ear, I am as likely to be greeted by Duke Ellington, or U2, or Miles Davis, or even Mozart as I am some cacophonous screechers whose name means nothing to me. (Yes, I am un-hip. Why spoil my teens' sense of cultural superiority by keeping up with all the fleeting figures who will be an embarrassment to them in another ten years?) I'm with Sherlock Holmes: fill my brain with too many non-essentials, and I won't retain the important stuff. Like where I put the income tax installment form that I need to take to the bank next week...

So, Bekah. We're talking about Daniel's music. She pauses in the conversation to ask a question.

"Mama, you say 'eclectic' like it's a good thing, but then you use it for the crazy ladies on the street."

I pause in momentary puzzlement, then understanding dawns and with it comes laughter.

"Oh, sweetie. That's 'eccentric'!"

And she laughs with me. Twelve is a wonderful age.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Along with all the schlock I read - books and books every week - I try to have something that will stir a few brain cells on the go as well. This month's selection has been this book. (Go! Check out the link. Read the description of the book. Isn't that interesting??!?)

What a lot of good things I have learned from this book! What a lot of bad science there is out there! And how many dozens and dozens of oblivious men, who are also scientists, and even, this shocks me, a few women.

I've learned what "adaptive"* means. I've learned that not every trait in a species is adaptive. I didn't know that before, which shows you how much I didn't know.

But what I really learned is just how blind supposedly intelligent and uber-rational scientist folk can be to their own biases. Quite, quite mind-boggling.

So here's the crux of the weirdness, for me. Scientists have, for the entire 20th century, tried to demonstrate/explain how the female orgasm is adaptive. How it helps with procreation.

Okay, so initially you'd think it obvious that orgasm has something to do with procreation. But think again. The male orgasm does, very clearly, because the male orgasm is essentially a sperm-delivery system. (I think Ms. Lloyd uses that term in the book.) But the female orgasm? How could it possibly be adaptive when only 25 - 40% of women routinely get one with procreational sex? If there is nothing done to ensure it for her, no manual or oral play, only a minority of women will achieve orgasm through straight penetrative sex. How adaptive can a trait be if it exists in only a minority?

Given that unalterable and well-documented fact, how could decades of scientists continue in the assumption that the female orgasm occurred regularly with straight, unembellished sex? Were their wives and girlfriends all faking it every time? Were the women who didn't "get there" with nothing but their glorious penis dismissed as abberations? And what about the female scientists: surely they'd know better?

I know that, with the exception of one partner, it's never happened routinely that way. For me, and other women I've discussed this with, an orgasm is one thing, and sex another. Not mutually exclusive, by any means, but not synonymous, either. This is a leap for the male mind, for whom, by virtue of their biology, sex and orgasm are almost 100% congruent, but for women, well, they're not one and the same. This is not a problem. It's just what it is, and that's fine.

But no, through study after study, the female orgasm is almost never considered as a discrete event, but only as a byproduct of penetrative, heterosexual sex.


* Adaptive: a trait that positively influences evolutionary success. That is, if it helps you survive and make babies, it's adaptive.

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