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  • Can I Volunteer To Not Volunteer?

    There are not that many things that make me feel old. The fact that I smoked my first cigarette 23 years ago, used the dewy decimal system to research papers in college, and still think Casio watches are cool… none of that makes me feel decrepit. Yet having a child who is in school, where I have to be a parent and do parent-like things for that school – that makes me feel old as fuck.

    The Munch goes to a Waldorf school where there is a lot of expected parent participation. This gives me so much angst for a variety of reasons. For one, I am selfish with my time. For two, I get social anxiety around groups of people. For three I am selfish with my time.

    It is not that I don’t think it is important. I want to be part of the community of my child’s school. Friends have such a huge impact on socialization and personal growth – knowing the parents your kid interacts with is meaningful. Besides, I want to support the teachers that are now a part of raising my child. I just don’t want to do anything or have anything expected of me.

    The Munch’s school, Cobb Meadow, was planning a fundraiser at a local venue where they host a “make your own pizza” night. People bring their toppings, and the bakery provides the dough, sauce, and cheese. The deal is that Cobb Meadow helps with all the set up and clean up, and then the school got to keep the profits. Great idea! Love it. The parents were supposed to help for this event and there was a sign up sheet for different responsibilities.

    My friend Sierra, who I LOVE, signed up for ice cream duty. Okay cool! I will do that with her. Then there was an email that came out from the Super Mom who organizes all parent participation activities, which stated they needed a clean up crew. Sierra signed up for that as well, and since I do everything Sierra does, so did I.

    I figured if I did two things, it would make up for my lame participation record of the past. I also assumed “cleaning up” meant I would cruise around at the end of the night and maybe pick up trash for 20 minutes. Fine. I can do that!

    The pizza night was a great success and Sierra and I started the clean up process. At first, it all seemed reasonable. Throwing away plates here, picking up cans there, rinsing off a cup here. All good. I brought a bin of pizza stones into the kitchen and assumed my duties were done. It was then that I realized that not only were we expected to wash the stones, but also all the bins, all the trays, and EVERY SINGLE DISH THAT WAS INVOVLED FOR THE KITCHEN TO MAKE THESE GOD FOR SAKEN PIZZAS AND SERVE THEM TO 150 PEOPLE!!!!

    Now, it is not like I couldn’t wash dishes for 2 hours… I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it. If I had known, at least I would have been ready for it. But then again, if I had known, I NEVER WOULD HAVE SIGNED UP TO HELP BECAUSE I AM SELFISH!

    We got started doing the dishes, and immediately the heat in the kitchen was oppressive. The only relief was when the backwash from dirty dishes would spray flour-coated water on you. This was where my complaining began.

    Toni: What the dick! It is as hot as Satan’s scrotum up in here.

    At first it was just Sierra and I in the kitchen, but 40 minutes go by, and hardly a dent was made. We needed reinforcements if we were going to finish by dawn. Munch’s teacher came to help, as well as the Super Mom who organized everything. Now let me be honest. I wanted to impress Munch’s teacher and Super Mom with my work ethic because I feel slightly inadequate about my track record. BUT… I could not stop freaking the fuck out either because the piles of dishes were ETERNAL.

    Sierra wasn’t bothered, because she decided it was a Zen practice. Super Mom is SUPER FUCKING MOM, so she too was totally chill. Munch’s teacher is a FUCKING WALDORF TEACHER who sings through chores and has the cheery disposition of a FUCKING WALDORF PRE SCHOOL TEACHER. Then there was me. WHO WAS LOSING MY FUCKING MIND!

    Despite the fact that I WANTED to come off like a normal person who goes with the flow, is helpful, and pleasant to be around – I physically could not contain myself from bitching every 6 seconds about what was happening. While everyone else was calmly washing dishes and humming I was grumbling “Holy fucking mother of Christ there is more! Son of a cunt! Fucking shit cock!”

    Yeah… so pretty sure I didn’t exactly improve my reputation.
    pizza-night-blog-(i)

    July 31, 2014 • Adventures, Education, Mommyhood, Parenting • Views: 7

  • So That Was A Total Fail…

    It is hard to figure out how to motivate someone to improve. What is the best strategy to encourage behaviors you would like to see more of? Do you tell people all the stuff they are doing wrong, and hope they change out of shame/guilt? Do you give them incentives, or bribes? Or do you try and manipulate by telling stories, and comparing them to others?

    The other day my friend Gita was visiting a friend of hers, who has a little daughter slightly older than Munch. I asked Gita how her time was with this little cherub. I was then informed that this girl had not only NEVER watched ANYTHING EVER on a SCREEN, but also just had her first “sweet treat” in the six years she has been alive on planet earth. It was a piece of organic dark chocolate, and it was rejected for being “too sweet.”

    Yeah, I had those plans when I first became a parent. My child was never going to be exposed to the evils of screen media, only play with wooden spoons, speak Mandarin, and exclusively eat green vegetables bathed under the moonlight of the 7th solstice. But I failed. None of that worked out at all. The Munch LOVES eating treats, and if she had her way she would watch the Little Mermaid for 19 straight hours without moving – except to ask for more ice cream.

    I showed The Munch a picture of said perfect little angel from the planet of purity, and explained that Auntie Gita was on vacation with her.

    Toni: Doesn’t that little girl look nice?
    Munch: Yeah… she does.
    Toni: Maybe you will be friends with her one day?
    Munch: Yeah! That would be fun!
    Toni: Do you want to know what Auntie Gita told me?
    Munch: What?
    Toni: She told me that little girl has never watched anything ever. No movies, no shows, no nothing?
    Munch: Not even Frozen?
    Toni: No. And you know what else Gita told me? That she has never eaten any treats!
    Munch: Mom. That is the saddest thing I have ever heard. We should send her some of our treats. Like we should send them on the plane today.

    vivienne-blog-(i)

  • Death On The Farm

    One of the unique advantages of growing up in certain pockets of America is that you have very little exposure to death. For millions of people in the US, the first time they witness mortality is the loss of a grandparent, or maybe a beloved pet. Unlike many parts of the world (and areas ravaged by poverty / violence here) where murder, bombs, war, famine, rampant disease, or starvation are part of a daily existence – there are those in this country who are sheltered from the brutality of untimely death.

    I wonder what it is like for all the children of the planet who have experienced or witnessed multiple violent deaths by the time most American children still can’t wipe their own ass. Does that instill upon them a greater appreciation for life? Or would so much pain make them jaded and discouraged – left wondering what is the point? Does sheltering our children from the anguish of mortality only make death more tragic when they do experience it?

    Living in the country gives The Munch a very quaint childhood. She doesn’t see homelessness, extreme scarcity, or the frayed bodies of dead humans obliterated by drone attacks. Everything around her is seemingly idyllic. As far as The Munch perceives, the world is a benevolent place filled with peace and harmony. Existence is nothing but kittens cuddling on a bed of pussy willows drinking hot chocolate through a vanilla bean straw while humming show tunes and licking clean the eyelids of sleeping babies. She has no concept of the true and brutal reality for most of humanity.

    Although as a parent you want to preserve the innocence of your child, I would be very concerned about the naivety of The Munch’s existence if we didn’t live on a farm. Yet because we are surrounded by wildlife, we witness the viciousness of nature almost every day.

    Just this summer alone, a fox murdered all 16 of our chickens. Didn’t eat them, but tore them apart and left pieces of their physiques littered throughout the lawn. The Munch would turn to me and say, “Look Mom, a chicken feather.” I would turn to see what she was talking about, and Munch would be holding an entire chicken butt – like the whole ass of a chicken – as if it were no thing.

    A week later – a fisher cat eviscerated one of our guinea hens. The Munch and I saw a pile of plumage on the grass, and The Munch’s reaction was “oh dear, one of the guinea hens got killed. Look at all the beautiful feathers.”

    When the baby turkeys come to harvest for the winter holiday season, The Munch will hold them in her hands lovingly while discussing how when they get bigger, her babysitter Lilliana along with her husband Farmer John, will cut all their heads off for Thanksgiving. For Munch all this death is natural and normal. Our cat Omega is like the American Psycho of felines, and most mornings we wake up to a half chewed mouse, or a bird with no head. Munch is totally unfazed and rationalizes this as, “Omega is so silly – she loves eating mice even though we have food for her.”

    I think because we live amongst the cycles of mother Gaia, The Munch is at least accepting of the idea of death. The other day she said she wanted a parrot, and I said we probably couldn’t get one right now because Omega would eat it, or Mona our dog would chase it.

    Munch: Okay. We will wait until Omega and Mona die – then we will get a parrot. I love my cat and dog sooooo much, but they are really old.

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    death-farm-blog-(i)

  • Perfect in Your Imperfections

    When you see a picture of yourself, what is the first thing you notice? If you see a video of you just acting like you, what do you see when staring at your own moving image? Do you think to yourself – “wow, look at that special person, way to go me!” Or do your eyes immediately gravitate to all your imperfections?

    I remember back in the day when there used to be answering machines, the sound of my own voice was more irritating than puking kittens sliding down a chalk board while a tea kettle whistled in the background and a car alarm went off. I couldn’t stand how I sounded, and it was really hard to believe that anyone could tolerate that horrendous auditory assault that came out of my face hole.

    Nowadays, it is too easy to document everything, and see exactly what people see when they look at you all day. So many pictures of myself make me think “holy fuck – that is what I look like when I am not paying attention and staring off into the cosmos? I need to shut my damn mouth and work on that weak chin of mine!” It is hard to remember that people probably aren’t as critical of you as you are of yourself because everyone is too busy thinking of themselves. But still… it is really humbling to come face to face with all the fucked up faces you make throughout any given day.

    I envy the days when it took half a lifetime of sanding sand just to make a mirror. The human mind is designed to pick a part the good and sift out negativity. We are critical by nature, and often our own harshest critics. That is probably why we envy the naivety of children so much. They live in this blissful state of not noticing or caring about the little flaws that seem so detrimental to us. A small child won’t think your tummy is pudgy, but rather see your paunch as comfy pillow. I remember loving the feeling of lying on my dad’s stomach because it was soft, and not rock hard abs jutting into my cheekbone.

    Kids are really oblivious to their own imperfections as well. They run around with chocolate on their face, their hair all fucked up, and not caring that their clothes are covered in snot stains. There is innocence to their lack of awareness. So it has been really challenging to watch how The Munch has to encounter the reality of her flaws because of her wandering eye. Everyday now Munch has to wear her eye patch, so she is forced to remember that something isn’t right about her.

    Munch: Mom I don’t want to wear the eye patch. I HATE wearing the eye patch.
    Toni: I know it isn’t easy. But you have to wear it so you don’t get surgery and the doctor doesn’t have to poke your eye.
    Munch: Will the doctor take my eyeball out?
    Toni: Uhhhh I don’t really know how it works, but it doesn’t look fun.
    Munch: I don’t want the doctor to take my eyeball out.
    Toni: Well, they would put it back in. But that is why you are wearing the patch. So your eye gets strong, and you don’t have to.
    Munch: But why do I have a lazy eye?
    Toni: Because nobody is perfect, and we all have problems.

    Sigh. Even though I know this to be true, it is just hard that she has to be aware so young. I am hoping that this means she will have a higher tolerance and acceptance of herself in the future.

    (Here is mom rocking the patch to make Munch feel better)

    imperfectios-blog-(i)

  • Music Is My Boyfriend

    When I think back to my childhood and teen years, the majority of my time was spent in my room, with the door closed, listening to music. I would sing, dance, and play songs that made my cry so I could look in the mirror and watch myself cry and then cry some more because of the sight of my own tears makes me cry. It was all very tragic and emotionally fulfilling.

    Music has served as the mood regulator of my life. It is like Prozac for my soul. I can be in the most pissy state of mind – ready to slap an innocent old lady in the face with my tit – and then I get in my car, pump up the jam, and suddenly I feel amazing. Music transports me into another dimension, and relieves me from the chaos of my mind. Most cases my misery is self-induced, and a driving beat reminds me that life is a ride so I might and well shimmy my shoulders to the rhythm.

    I always have music playing in the background, and I guess this compulsion has passed on to The Munch. She now wants to spend hours a day listening to her songs. Currently we don’t exactly have the same taste, but it is still something we can do together. Munch is really into the soundtracks of The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Frozen. Wait… I take that back… we actually do have the same taste because those records are fucking awesome.

    I am sure she will eventually broaden her horizons from Disney movies, but right now she is committed to memorizing every word of every song of every film they ever made. There is a pretty good possibility I will be committed to a mad house before this is accomplished, so pray for me that she transitions to 90’s hip hop soon.

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  • A Culture of Consequences

    How do you motivate people to get them to do what you want? Do you give them an incentive? “Hey, come help me move and I will give you pizza, beer, and make your genitals orgasm.” Do you threaten them? “If you don’t help me move then I am going to shit in your mouth while you are sleeping.” Or do you expect them to do things because it is the “right” thing to do? “Come help me move because you are my friend and I need your assistance.”

    Philosophically we should be kind, thoughtful, and selfless all the time. We shouldn’t do things because we are seduced or emotionally manipulated – but rather out of righteousness and nobility. I want to do good things for goodness sake. Being good should be all the provocation we need to do good.

    Yeah… but people don’t always operate that way. We are all busy, or at least feel busy, and sometimes need prodding.  There is nothing like a jab in the ass to get your attention am I right?

    Theoretically I want to raise my child where she is completely driven by rationality and kindness.  I don’t want to always rely on, yelling, bribing, or arguing to get Munch to do things.  I want there to be some reasonable conversations that lead to making a collective decision about what is best.  I try to plant seeds to remind The Munch that there are consequences she should be aware of – and I am often looking out for her best interests. If you eat too much sugar, your tummy will hurt. If you don’t go to bed, you will be tired and cranky. If you don’t wash your hands after the bathroom, you will get fecal matter on them that will eventually get in your mouth. Although The Munch has an understanding that there are costs to certain actions, that doesn’t mean she always gives a shit.

    Not every request you make with your child can be a 30-minute debate. Sometimes you just want them to do something – like say brush their fucking teeth – and you don’t want to dispute why holes in your teeth is not desirable for the 400th time. There are days when I have the energy to appeal to her rational side, and there are days where I take a short cut and create a consequence if she doesn’t listen.

    Kids are not stupid and they pick up on your strategies. Even though The Munch will comply if I say “If you don’t turn off The Little Mermaid and come take a bath then I won’t let you watch the Little Mermaid anymore” that doesn’t mean she isn’t taking notes.

    Now she is starting to throw this culture of consequences back in my face. When she wants to do something and I say “no” she then creates a consequence to motivate me. Although I have to say, her threats are way more twisted and demented than mine have ever been.

    “Mom, if you don’t let me have a treat then I will rip your face off.”
    “Mom, if you don’t let me watch a movie then I will take your computer and throw it outside in the rain.”
    “Mom, if you don’t let me stay up I will stomp on your toes with my high heel shoes.”
    “Mom, if you don’t bring my baby upstairs then I will take all your clothes, put them in the toilet, and flush it.”
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  • Vanity and Beauty In The One Eyed Beholder

    We are living in an age of vanity. There are too many technological gadgets to document ourselves, and too many outlets to broadcast our glory. I mean, is there any point in looking cute if someone doesn’t capture your image for a new profile pic?

    I don’t think that technology is making us vain as much as it allows this pre-existing condition we often fall victim too. The difference is the ease to which we can connect to our vanity, and the instant gratification of people encouraging it with likes, thumbs up, and comments. It is almost impossible not to be somewhat seduced by it all.  When you are looking your best you kind of want the world to notice – or at least acknowledge a perfect hair day.

    Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to look good. Physicality does play a role in attracting people to you. If you are super smelly, look disheveled, and have plaque on your teeth coated in rotting meat residue – no one is going to want to spark up a conversation. We of course want to be somewhat presentable to instigate relationships. The problem is that if you are going to excessively care when people think you are hot, you are also going to care when they think your not. I am not just talking about having an off day wearing cargo shorts and Tevas.

    I sometimes worry about The Munch and the challenges of raising a daughter in a culture obsessed with female beauty.  Of course, The Munch isn’t exactly helping the situation with her mania towards fashion, and penchant towards all things ultra fancy and princess like. I really can’t tell where the Disney seduction ends and the awareness of prettiness begins…

    Soooooo… The Munch has a wandering eye – which although is exciting to have that kind of spirit in an organ, it is still something I have to address. I have been taking her to get cranial sacral work for about a year to try to avoid surgery. It has helped, but her eye is still like a deadbeat dad who keeps trying to take off when things get difficult. The next option is to have her wear a patch on the strong eye so she is forced to use the weaker one. To be honest I have been not only been dreading, but also avoiding this option. The Munch is SOOOOO particular about what she wears, I didn’t know if it was going to become this major battle of the wills. I can’t even get her to wear socks she doesn’t like – let alone a fucking eye patch on her face.

    I found the coolest, sparkliest, shiniest eye patches on the market – The Munch would for sure scoff at a flesh colored Band-Aid with zero pizzazz. Luckily there were some options that had a little swagger to them. I was nervous about how it would be received so I brought Munch to the chiropractor who has been helping her, and we put it on her ceremoniously.

    She actually took it pretty well. The only thing she complains about so far is his her eye getting hot and sweaty.  She doesn’t seem evenly slightly concerned about looking like a princess pirate.

    The Munch really reminded me that you don’t have to let physical “imperfections” limit your confidence, especially when you have style.

    eye-patch-blog-(i)

    July 14, 2014 • 1st time for everything, Musings • Views: 276

  • The Internal Battle Of Borrowing

    If you have a vagina, you have probably at one point in your life experienced the joy and drama of borrowing clothes from your friends. The amazing part of the lending process is when you are on the receiving end. The more challenging portion of the exchange is when you are on the giving end, because the second your friend puts on your clothes you immediately want them back.

    It is such a classic case of you don’t know what you got until it’s gone. Just the fact that someone is interested in something on the bottom of your closet floor makes it more appealing. Yet if you have already borrowed stuff from your friend, you can’t be a dick and say “Ummm actually no you can’t have that – because now I want it just because you wanted it so… sorry.” You have to suck it up and let them wear what you are now totally seduced by.

    Despite the internal chaos of the borrowing practice, it is part of the intimacy of female relationships. Now that The Munch is 4 and has a best friend, she has been initiated into this ritual. Munch and her best friend both really like princess dresses and princess gear. Hazel has very kindly let Munch borrow quite a few princess dresses, so in exchange Munch let Hazel borrow her coveted Cinderella glass slipper high heel shoes.

    Yet once Munch got home, the reality of not having her favorite shoes dawned on her. Suddenly the sorrow of loss overtook her tiny body, and she began to weep the tears of a broken doll. As much as I felt the anguish of her loss, she also had to learn that it is all part of the borrowing ceremony.

    Here we are talking about the tragedy of wanting to borrow stuff, but regretting lending the things you love.

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  • So Much Forgiveness

    People suck. They can be selfish, entitled, thoughtless, rude and the more you are around them, the greater the chance they will piss you off. In adult relationships there are many options on how to deal with asshole behavior. You can avoid the person, write a snarly text message, confront them after a few drinks when feeling belligerent, pee on their lawn, or simply resentment the person and never talk to them again. When dealing with a young child, you don’t have these options because they don’t have a yard, can’t read, and it’s frowned upon to get wasted with them. You actually have to be the mature one and lead by example.

    Children are moody daughters of dicks. (Why does that not have the same ring to it as sons of bitches?) Their emotions fluctuate like climate change induced storms and it’s hard to anticipate when they are going to fly into a fit of fury. And as quickly as kids shit in your mouth with their emotional bile, they turn around and are as sweet as cancer-causing aspartame.

    This afternoon started out with The Munch acting like a gentle creature, similar to a friendly giant on pot brownies. She was considerate, wanted to help making a sandwich, and was generally in a dreamy state of lovingness. Until she wasn’t.

    I sat down on the couch to tell Munch a story, but she wanted to be where I was sitting, and for me to sit across from her on this wooden chair.

    Munch: Mamma, move over so I and sit here and you can sit there.
    Toni: Dude, I don’t want to move over. I am already sitting here.
    Munch: But I want to sit there!! I want you to sit across from me so I can look at you!
    Toni: Well then you sit on the wooden chair. I am comfy on the couch.
    Munch: No Mamma… you sit on that chair and I want to sit on the couch!
    Toni: No way.
    Munch: Okay fine. I will put these pillows on the chair and now you can sit on it.
    Toni: I want to sit here… you can sit there.
    Munch: NO MAMMA NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAHHHHAHHHAHHHAAAAAAHHHAAA!!! You sit there!

    Munch then cried like she was going for the Oscar, while I wondered why my kid was such a little twerp. Her whole logic was so egocentric. Did she really want me to be uncomfortable so she could live her OCD moment and frame the perfect shot for story time?

    Then I sat on the stupid wooden chair because I am a weak.

    Munch of course immediately stopped weeping and happily wanted me to tell her a story – but I was bitter at that point. Even though I could have stood my ground, I acquiesced and then begrudged her for it. Despite the fact that I wanted to pout, I couldn’t sulk because it was my own damn fault for catering to her demands. I put my big girl pants on, let it go, and moved on.

    Then later we got into an argument over treats because as you may know, I am living with a sugar addict.

    Munch: Mamma, can I have a treat. I had healthy stuff for lunch remember?
    Toni: Sure, what do you want?
    Munch: A chocolate popsicle.
    Toni: Ummmm we don’t have that. So you want a mango popsicle?
    Munch: No. A chocolate popsicle.
    Toni: I just told you we don’t have that. But I can give you some pieces of a special chocolate bar?
    Munch: Okay.
    Toni: Here you go. Four pieces because you are four years old.
    Munch: I actually want a big bar of chocolate.
    Toni: But you are already eating the pieces I gave you.
    Munch: Yeah, but I want just one big piece of chocolate bar. Not little pieces.
    Toni: Dude, you just ate all the pieces I gave you. You stuffed them in your mouth the whole time you were demanding more?
    Munch: I want a mango popsicle now.
    Toni: No way. I just gave you a delicious special treat because you didn’t want the mango popsicle.
    Munch: Waahhhhaaaa!!!!!!!!!! I WANT A MANGO POPSICLE!!

    She cried for ten minutes, threw her headband across the room, and stomped her feet while staring me in the face. This time I didn’t comply to her desires because that would be insane. The Munch had to play out her rebellion, while I managed her snarky comments.

    Munch: Mamma, if you don’t give me a treat I am going to throw you outside.
    Toni: I would like to see you try.
    Munch: Fine, then I will just spit in your face.
    Toni: Go ahead and see what happens.
    Munch: Fine. Just give me a treat then and I won’t do any of those things.
    Toni: Dude, there is no way.

    She continued to cry until she finally accepted she had lost the battle.

    Munch: Mamma, I love you so much. I’m so lucky.

    There is no way you can stay angry with someone after a proposition like that.

    Parents have these dynamics with their kids everyday, and forgiveness is an hourly affair. You both have to forgive each other constantly because there is so much tension and conflict when raising children. They want what they want because they are tyrants and parents have to keep them in check so they don’t stay that way.

    Most relationships and our larger society could benefit from this level of fluidity. If we admit we are basically are all just big babies trying to make it in this cruel world, we’ll remember that we are all always growing and evolving.

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