Monday, October 24, 2011

New Clothes Can Save the World

This past weekend, I had the joy of visiting my cousins and their lovely families, two groups of people that I don't get to spend nearly enough time with. The reason I went, however, was not a pleasant one. My cousin's wife, a beautiful, strong mother and all around cool lady, has cancer, and the outlook is not great. And really, I'm not getting into that, because really, it is between them: my cousin, his wife, and their kids. It is not a good situation, but they are all pretty amazing people who are dealing with it with more grace and love than I could even muster in my finest moments.

But here's the thing that no one realizes: when a person gets sick, things suck, yes. But shit keeps on happening. Your bills are still due, you still have to eat a dinner that can't wholly consist of cookies and ranch dip, the kids don't stop their growing until the drama subsides. So when we arrived at my cousin's house on Saturday, one thing that needed to be done was for us to go to the nearest mall and buy my cousin's kids some clothes. Money was not an issue, none of that. My cousin just had not had time to turn around, much less go to the mall and buy jeans for a pre-teen girl. And let me tell you folks who don't have preteen girls: buying jeans for them is kind of like buying jeans for a baby elephant. Nothing you are going to find will fit on the first try. I refuse to believe that there is a preteen girl alive who fits in the standard size--this is where you get into slim sizes and half sizes and moving up to juniors and all of that. And the baby elephant that you are trying to dress? It is going to continue getting surlier and surlier the more jeans you have to try on it. You are going to spend a good long time trying to placate the baby elephant while finding it jeans, caving and also purchasing a feather headband and then drowning your sorrows at Cold Stone Creamery. So THAT's the battle my cousin was facing, and he was coming into that battle war wounded and without a gun.

I had my daughter with me, in fact, one of the very reasons we had traversed across the state was so that Gabby could spend some time with her cousin. So, with two preteens in tow, my mom and I set out for the mall. We fought the baby elephant, and we got it into new jeans, four pairs even (!) along with sweaters and t-shirts and camisoles and what have you. And we had a jolly, wonderful good time on top of it all. For the hours we were out, my daughter and her cousin were just two girls in a mall, having a wonderful time, with no worries or sickness or strife to bring them down. We came home laden with packages and headbands and bags and stories about an unfortunate lunch lady affectionately named "One Tooth Wonder". And when we got back, both of her parents had smiles on their faces. Their minds were at peace on this one tiny detail, able to put that small bit of minutiae behind them.

I'm not going to lie and say we made it all better. We didn't. This whole thing is a wound that can't be tidily covered with a bandage, forgotten with retail therapy. And driving home yesterday, I struggled with it a little bit. Would it have been better to leave the daughter at home, to ride out more time with her mom before there is no time left? Why are clothes so important? Was this just me forcing my own little bit of crazy on my unsuspecting cousin and his daughter?

But here's the thing. First off, he asked us to do it. Second off, clothes help. In a mad, mad world, full of crazy and pain and things that just should never happen to anyone ever, the clothes you put on can give you a bit of control. In the small act of getting dressed in the morning, you control how the world sees you. And the right clothes give you a bit more, an armor almost. Bad stuff will still happen to you, yes. Things that suck will hit you like a barrage. But the right jeans can help. It is one less thing to worry about, one more thing to have in your arsenal, one more line of defense in a world that refuses to be understood or contained.

The coming days and weeks and months and years will be hard for my cousin, for all of us as a family for we are a close knit group. My cousin's daughter is one of my own daughter's best friends and they text each other daily, along with trips and family events they plan and drag their hapless parents along with. I hope that I can help in some small way. My cousin has been there for me--it was his face that I so happily saw standing outside the hospital room when my son was laying in the in the pediatric ICU, taking Gabby to his house so that I wouldn't have to worry about her, he and his wife who showed up after Gabby was born to goo and gah appropriately when I felt sad and like a total fuck up. I'd do anything for him. And if that means shopping, if that is the little gift I can give to him in thanks, then by all means, I'm thrilled to do it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Raising a Girly Girl and Sundries on Facebook (in no particular order)

Yeah, yeah, it's been a while.


Yup. I went there. Felt good, didn't it?

Today is a wet and gross and altogether horrid day. I hate it. It can die in a fire. Nothing particularly awful has happened to me or anything. I just find myself staring out the window and thinking of random things. Give me some precipitation and I become a picture of non-productivity. So what better time to update one's forgotten blog?

I also feel I should post because I just want to write about Alice. Having multiple children is such a trip because of how different they are. And yes, I know this is obvious. No one seriously thinks that they are going to have three little clones, gorgeous in their similarity. But when I had a daughter, I imagined her baby and toddler years would be a lot like my oldest's.

ERNK. Sorry, try again.

Gabby never was that girly. Yeah, she went through a pink phase, and a Hello Kitty phase (where it got all kinds of Mariah Carey up in my grill) but at her core, she's always been a bit strong, a bit more "steel" than "magnolia." I like that about her. She's also a bit aloof, as if any kind of label (like "girly" or "tomboyish") would be offputting on a child such as her. Gabby has been a product of two kids in college, in grad school, reading a bunch of theory. And it suits her amazingly well. But Alice, woah, Alice. Alice's feet hit the floor in the morning, and she's wanting me to do her make-up. She comes into the bathroom where I usually am when she wakes, still rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, her legs still toasty warm from the blanket. And she's reaching for the blush brush. Yes, my daughter wears Nars Orgasm blush nearly everyday. No, I'm not kidding. No, I'm not from Texas, nor was I ever on an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras.

I'm surprisingly fine with this. Yes, I am still the mother that bristles and complains when Matt calls her "my princess." She's not a princess. But she is a human being who enjoys the feeling of a natural hair brush over her cheekbones, likes the allure of "sparkles" (her word for make-up). To her, it is fun. And I agree. I think it is fun too--have since I was 13 years old and started wearing make-up, only not wearing it on days when inflicted with SEVERE stomach viruses. So I indulge her, and we do it together in the morning. Nothing strong, nothing I feel would cause a reaction with her skin. She puts on barely enough to even see. And we talk, about how we are beautiful without our make-up on. We talk about being strong girls.

Alice is girly in other facets of her life as well. She loves clothes and accessories--necklaces especially. I think this is a shared family trait because at just a little younger than her, Sam was obsessed with having things around his neck (his favorites were a big pink boa and a men's necktie that had a picture of the Eiffel tower on it). She tends toward the pink in life--she has a pink dump truck that she loves and at night when I put her down to bed, we look up at the ceiling and imagine that we are seeing a beautiful night sky. Sometimes she says she sees a plane, or a bird, or a light. But every night the moon is always pink in her little mind's eye (somtimes the stars are black, which seems to be her other favorite color, interestingly, and yes, I've dissected that like the good English major I am).

But conversely, she ADORES her big brother. And even more, his room. She goes in there and picks up cars and action figures and brings them back into her toys. The other day I found a Star Trek figure sitting in her Little People Doll House. She has become obsessed with a Batman Batcave of his and will retrieve it anytime anyone has the fool idea to put it back in Sam's room.

And then, last night, I was folding some towels. I usually watch TV while I do this, but in this case, I had the TV off. Alice came toddling in and said, "Mama, we watch baseball?" I went over to the TV happily, looking for the pregame to last night's world series. As soon as CJ Wilson's face came up, stats all around, she said, "I like watchy baseball wit you." She said it while wearing these absurd baby headbands around her neck (they are her necklaces, she says), a psychadelic patterned summer tank top she wanted to sleep in (with purple diaper and Minnie Mouse pj pants, mind you) and holding a tube of Benefit That Gal highlighter in her chubby little paw.

Yup, that one's mine.

So during the time that I'm not raising the most awesome child in existence (aside from my other two of course), I spend some time on Facebook. Don't we all? And here's the thing. I think we all have our beefs with this particular little piece of social media, but how do you resolve them? I am asking for your input on these, gentle reader. Fire away.

a) Can you defriend a family member if that family member has posted something so strange and rather off-putting (nothing political or religious, mind you) that you can't think of this person without a little uneasy giggle? Will they ever notice? What will Christmas be like if you did?

b) How wrong is it to just be friends with someone for the sheer fact they make you feel better about your own life?

and lastly:
c) What do you people spread on your pictures before scanning them? I know this one lady, who I could swear spreads about an inch worth of baby oil on each and every picture of her children and then scans it on a scanner she bought back when her screensaver was a flying toaster. And I'm sitting there wondering what in the immortal fuck I'm looking at, and people are commenting like crazy with "Lovely picture!" and "He is so cute!" Cute? That three headed beaver is cute?!?! Oh, that's her son. Nevermind. Perhaps I should pull out some old baby pictures of myself, get a bucket of vaseline and scan them up. Perhaps you will think I am cute then.

And let me just say this: when I call you, I don't want to hear music. I WANT TO HEAR RINGING, NOT YOUR FUCKING RING BACK TONE. The Beethoven you picked for Verizon to play for me does not make you seem smarter, nor does the country song about needing some rest make me think anything other than that you are an evil dumbass and that I prefer the sound of the freaking phone ringing. Because it is a phone. I'm calling you, probably for something you don't want to be called for. You don't have to entertain me. I have this thing called the internet for that.

I feel much better now.