Miss Attitude

Miss Attitude

One of the stated reasons that I choose to home educate my children is so that they will be free to follow their dreams so it seems odd in retrospect that I have been shooting down a dream. I only meant to be realistic but it seems that the universe might be trying to tell me something.

My daughter, like nearly every other little girl, wants to be a movie star or a model. I have always told her that it will never happen. She lives in Missouri, not Hollywood. Her daddy is not Billy Ray Cyrus. She is upper-lower class to lower-middle class with no friends in high places. She is pretty, but not drop dead gorgeous.

And I am not, not, not one of those moms. I cringe when I see little girls all dressed up with more make-up on than I own being dragged to ridiculous pageants. I admit that I judge those mothers harshly. I believe they are trying to live their own dream through their little girls.

But it just keeps coming up.

She was asked to help a university student with a research project. They came to our house with television cameras and interviewed her in her room surrounded by her things. She was only four. I asked why they wanted her when they had kids of their own they could have used. Because she would do a better job on camera, I was told. She’s bubbly. Out-going. Not shy.

Then Lexie was asked to model for the Springfield Ballet. She had an hours long photo shoot. She was in several of their advertising campaigns and brochures. She did a fantastic job. They approached us.

Then she was asked to model for the Discovery Center. She had an impromptu photo shoot in the science lab there. I never saw the flier or ad that came of it, but again, they approached us.

And now, tomorrow, Lexie is going to go shoot a commercial. I deliver her at 3:00 looking nice but natural. She will be on KY3. I got the phone call this afternoon. I don’t have any idea why she’s being asked to do this. I’m still shaking my head.

Meanwhile, I’m afraid I’ve been a bad mommy. I’m afraid I denied her a chance to follow her dream by telling her it was stupid and unrealistic. But her dream didn’t give up.

I feel like maybe I should have been dragging myself to ridiculous pageants all these years instead of insisting on science and history and reading. I feel like I should have sent her off to be on Kid Nation when she begged me to. I feel like I should have taken her to that audition in Branson to work in a show all summer even though I didn’t want her to work all summer long. I feel like I should have taken her when the Oscar Mayer Wiener people were in town looking for the star of their next commercial. And so on…

Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe I can say, “All right. We’ll do this thing.” But I don’t know where to start. Where does one sign up to be in a ridiculous pageant?

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Last night we went through a drive-thru for a late dinner. I handed my son in the back seat his meal. I sat my husband’s double cheeseburger in my lap so he could reach it. I left my single cheeseburger in the bag because I planned to eat my fries first.

Soon a voice from the back seat said, “It has pickles on it!”

I said, “Just throw the pickles out the window and eat your burger.” So Eric threw his pickles out the window.

I then said, “I better check to see if there are pickles on my burger too.” I unwrapped the burger in my lap and began flinging pickles out the window. After all the pickles were gone, I noted that there were also onions on the burger so I threw them out the window too. I sent as much of the ketchup as I could with the pickles and onions.

After that I mashed the burger as flat as I could. I always mash hamburgers before eating them. A flattened burger is easier to fit into one’s mouth. My kids mash their burgers too.

Then I took a big bite out of it.

That was when my husband said, “Where did my sandwich go?”

And I realized that it was his burger in my hand, stripped of vegetables, smashed, and with a bite out of it. I shrugged, handed it to him, and said, “Well, it will still eat.” And I will never hear the end of it.

Today I borrowed my husband’s car to go to the bookstore. When I got out of the car, I noticed that my son’s pickles were stuck to the car, embedded in dried ketchup. I guess he didn’t throw them hard enough.

I imagine this was funnier if you were in the car and saw the look on Shannon’s face when I handed him his burger but I had to tell the tale anyway.

My apologies to the author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

If you give a kid an African Violet, she’s going to need to repot it.

So you buy a cheap clay flowerpot and tell her she can paint it. You get out the acrylic paints and brushes and she paints the flowerpot. The flowerpot is left to dry and the paints don’t get put away.

That night you stay up too late and since your son is gone visiting Grandma this week, you sleep til noon the next day.

When you get up you find that the kid has emptied eighteen tubes of acrylic paint onto a serving platter since her pallet wasn’t big enough for all of them.

She has painted a wedding gift for her aunt on which she used exactly four of the eighteen colors.

She has also painted a picture on 20# bond printer paper that she wants to enter in the fair. It’s a good picture but she can’t enter it because it isn’t on a canvas. It’s on printer paper. You try to remember where you put the canvases you bought last summer for the fair but realize you have to buy more paint now and groan because those little tubes of acrylics are so expensive. So are the canvases but you bought a dozen of them last year expecting lots of do-overs and she only ended up using two of them.

She has ruined a total of four kitchen towels and her clothes. If there is anything that takes acrylic paint out of cloth you don’t know what it is.

But you don’t complain about any of it. You don’t want to squelch her creativity. And anyway, it’s your fault for sleeping late when you should have been supervising.

So, if you give a kid an African Violet, you’re going to need new paint, new towels, and new clothes. And you’re going to realize that it is time to start stressing about fair entries for this year.

And the violet still hasn’t been repotted.

A funny thing happened today and somewhere in Springfield, there may be an octogenarian writing about it too. If only he knew the rest of the story.

I went to Wal-Mart. My usual greeter was working. I picked up a few items: deodorant, mouthwash, toothpaste, dryer sheets, and ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

I went to the express lane and began to unload my cart. My usual check-out lady was working. I wonder if my greeter or check-out lady are in fact robots because they are always working, no matter what day or time I go to Wal-Mart.

As I was unloading my cart, an elderly man got in line behind me. He said, “Are you sure you don’t have 21 items?”

I looked at him. I looked at my cart. I stuttered, “Um, I don’t really know. I didn’t count them. I’m pretty sure there couldn’t be that many…”

He burst out laughing. “I was just funning with you.”

I noticed he only had one item, a ream of printer paper, and I suggested that he go on ahead of me since he only had one item. He said it didn’t matter because he had to wait for his wife anyway. He went on to explain that he liked to pay for his paper on a separate order because he could deduct it on his taxes. Then he further explained that he could deduct the paper because he writes for money. He’s been writing for a living for 63 years. He told me about the magazines he’s written for that have ceased operations and the magazine he’s writing for now. He told me about the first story he ever had published. He told me about stories he’s written about people that later became famous. He talked and talked. We were holding up the express line.

I finally paid and told him it had been nice talking to him and hurried to my car with my ice cream.

As I drove home it occurred to me that I was fated somehow to meet this man whose name I had not even gotten. I regretted not getting his name. I hurried on home, left the car running in the driveway, handed my husband the ice cream and said, “I’ve got to hurry back to Wal-Mart. I have to catch an 80 year old man.”

I sped away leaving my bewildered husband on the front porch holding a bag of ice cream. As I hurried back to Wal-Mart I tried to figure out what I was going to say. I thought there was a pretty good chance the man would still be sitting there on a bench waiting patiently for his wife talking someone else’s ear off. I parked the car and ran back in. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t on the bench by the door. He wasn’t in the parking lot.

I called home and said, “I can’t find the old coot.”

My husband asked, “Why are you chasing some old man around Wal-Mart?”

I still think there is a reason I ran into that man today. There must be something I’m supposed to learn from him. I’m going to find him tomorrow. I know what magazine he writes for and they can’t have very many octogenarians in navy blue suits with retired Navy pins on their jackets working for them.

Won’t he be surprised when the crazy lady with the ice cream from Wal-Mart tracks him down and says, “You know, I forgot to mention that I want to write too when you were telling me about your writing. So here I am. You seem like a friendly sort…”

Pile up debit and credit card receipts on the computer desk next to the monitor for two months. Don’t worry about this because it’s tax season and you’re busy. Besides, you got your refund in January and it can’t be all gone yet.

When tax season finally ends, put off the mess further because Gather has done an upgrade and it’s ruined your life. Besides you have to go out of town to take your mother to lunch for her birthday.

Remember to check the snail mail box on Friday. Find a bank notice in there that looks suspiciously like an overdraft notice. You don’t get paper statements any more, so any news from the bank is probably bad news. Uh oh. Hide the incriminating mail from your husband who counts on you to stay on top of these things.

On Saturday, get a call from AT&T who is turning off your cell phones if you don’t pay your bill. Now.

Decide that today might be a good day to get the checkbook balanced and the bills paid no matter that the weather is beautiful and you’d rather be planting your tomatoes.

Open Microshaft Money 2007. Enter receipts in the appropriate accounts for several hours. See lots of red numbers. Cuss. Wonder why you went out to eat so much when you’ve clearly bought enough groceries to feed a small 3rd world country. Cuss some more.

Log on at the bank. Cuss because your password has disappeared out of auto-complete and you don’t remember what it is. Begin checking little boxes to mark items cleared. Make a list of things that cleared that you have no receipt for. Send husband on receipt hunt in cars, on dressers, and in the dumpster. Cuss. Find direct deposits from Amazon, Google, and Linkshare. Think that at least one good thing has happened.

Finish balancing checking account. Take some pride in the fact that you have done this against overwhelming odds and without using the Adjust button in Money. Thank Charles for overdraft protection.

Fight with Gmail which hasn’t been working right for days. Finally get it open. Start digging through 2853 emails in your inbox looking for the utility bill which hasn’t come via snail mail for years. Find it. Open it. Cuss. Tell your husband that we’re all going to die and the world is ending. Cuss. Gripe at the kids for leaving stuff on all the time. Cuss.

Dig through 2852 emails looking for the cable bill. Find it. Cuss some more. Tell your husband that we really need to consider DSL.

Dig through 2851 emails looking for the phone bill. Give up. Tell husband to dial *PAY before they shut you off.

Open mail from the mortgage company. Find a bill for escrow shortage. Cuss. Discover house payment is going up. Cuss.

Still, it can’t be that bad since you set up all your credit cards on auto-pay through your bank. Right? I mean at least there won’t be any $39 late fees.

Wrong. You set Sam’s Club up to pay $100 per month. Meanwhile, you ran it over the limit and the minimum payment went up to over the $100 you had set up to go out automatically. It’s now too late to pay the extra amount on time. Repeat this basic scenario for two more cards.

Cuss. Change all your automatic payments to send more next time. Blame yourself for not opening any of those credit card statements for two months and for using the credit cards you had sworn to never use again. But, hey, you were depressed and it was cheaper to go buy new stuff than it was to go to the mental health care provider. Besides, your tax rebate is coming soon.

Go to your blog and whine about it.

There is an ugly computer taking up space on my kitchen counter.

We went to Joplin on Wednesday to take my mother to lunch for her birthday and spend some time with her. Her long-time boyfriend had an old computer in his van that had belonged to his daughter. He said it works but it’s slow. He thought I could fix it up for my mother since she’s been wanting a computer and internet for years now.

Of course, with it sitting there in a van, I’ve really no idea if I can fix it up or not. It may just need a defrag and maybe a Ram chip. Or it may be running Windows 3.1 and not be worth fixing. I’ll have to take it home and hook it up to find out.

My mother starts shouting, “John, I don’t want it! It’s ugly. I don’t want an ugly computer.”

He continues to load the ugly computer into the trunk of my car. She continues to protest.

“Andrea, don’t even bother. It’s ugly. I’m telling you I don’t want the ugly thing.”

This from the woman that insists that your baby wipes container match your bathroom decor. I’m not surprised. I just wonder how she will find a computer, new or old, that fits in with her decor. I don’t think Martha Stewart has a computer line.

So here it is. It is ugly. It belonged to a teenager and it’s covered with graffiti. I’m thinking about spray-painting it. Kris M. suggested last night that I put an attractive scarf around it. I haven’t hooked it up and plugged it in yet because I don’t want to waste my time fixing it up if she doesn’t want it.

I was going to Freecycle it today but I’m starting to feel bad for it. It’s homeless, ugly, and unwanted. I collect cats and dogs that fit that description. Why not computers?

There are already four computers in this house. With only four people in the house, I’m not sure what to do with a number five. I guess I could put it in the laundry room on top of the dryer for when I hide from the kids in there.

I went shopping for Mother’s Day cards and was surprised at how many random thoughts it inspired. I spent so much time in the card aisle that I’m surprised security didn’t come check on me.

I tried to avoid seeing the cards for grandmothers but I couldn’t. It was hard to shake the sadness that I no longer have anyone to give them to. It was also hard to shake the guilt over all the years that I still had someone to send them to, but did not.

As I chose a card for my stepmother I hoped that I would not forget to send one to my dad on Father’s Day like I often do. Some years I’ve forgotten to get Mother’s Day cards mailed and some years I’ve forgotten to get Father’s Day cards mailed. I hate it when that happens. I’m always afraid one of them will feel slighted, unloved and unappreciated. Forgotten. I also remembered the year that I found all the Christmas cards addressed, stamped, and under a car seat still not mailed. In February. I don’t forget people. I forget the post office. Really.

I thought about my Aunt Jean who has no children and how I’d like to send her a Mother’s Day card anyway because she has meant a lot to me in my life, and like my grandmothers will not always be there to send a card to. When I was a child, she sent cards and postcards all the time. If there is an Aunt’s Day, I am not aware of it. I opted not to buy one for her but I think I may go back and get one.

Which reminds me of my friend Rachael in Florida, who I have never met in person, and probably never will. Rachael will send me a Mother’s Day card this year. My own kids probably won’t. My husband probably won’t. But Rachael will. I can count on it. I can also count on her to send my kids birthday cards, Easter cards, Halloween cards, and little surprise gifts in the mail. She even made my daughter some jewelry and mailed it. I appreciate Rachael and her thoughtfulness and wish I were half as good a friend as she is. I’ve remembered to mail her son something once. Maybe twice.

I met Rachael on an MSN Group. I’m not very active there any more. I should be, but I’m not. I need to change that but there are only so many hours in a day. My excuse is that I really want to write seriously this year and Gather is the better place to practice that. But my excuse sounds empty. These women are my friends and I have neglected them. So I will send them Mother’s Day cards this year. I wish I could buy them by the box like Christmas cards.

Other friends from that MSN Group come to mind. Karel. I hope she knows how much I value her. I wish she were here. She writes short stories and they are good. She is here, but like Rachael, only to occasionally read my stuff. She isn’t here in the same way that I’m here.

Stephanie. She died on Mother’s Day. She was 29 years old. She had four little boys. One of them was still breastfeeding when she died. There will never be another Mother’s Day when I don’t think of her and wonder how her boys are. She was the kind of mother that I wish I was but never will be.

Then there are my Gather friends. Unlike MSN, I don’t have very many snail mail addresses. I worry that if I send a card to Friend A and not to Friend B, just because I have one address and not the other, if Friend B will find out and feel slighted. I wonder if Friend C should get a card even though she doesn’t have any kids just because I love her just as much as Friend A and have her address.

Thankfully, in the midst of all this worry, I remember not to forget my own mother. I don’t buy mushy, sentimental cards for my mother. It just doesn’t work. I grew up laughing and learned my sarcasm from the best. Flowery cards full of poetry seem like something we’d have made fun of back in the day. Feelings by Hallmark seem somehow cheap and insincere. Better to buy a funny card and tell her I love her in my own words than to buy words written by someone else. But what if I’m wrong and she’s spent her whole life waiting to get a mushy, sentimental card? I certainly can’t write that fluff myself.

I buy cards for my sisters. One sister I talk to almost every day. The other sister I see about once every other year. I don’t buy them the same card.

I wonder if I should buy a card for my mother-in-law or if I should expect her son, my husband, to do it. He will probably forget or wait until they are so picked over that we have to make our own. I better go back and buy her one.

This afternoon I was in the kitchen washing dishes while my daughter was watching Animal Planet.

She came in, as she often does, talking and waving her arms around, telling me all about the mating and reproduction methods of anglerfish. It went something like this:

“The female is ten times bigger than the male and when they mate, the male bites into the female and sucks blood from the female. Each day she absorbs more of him and eventually gets pregnant. Then after she has the babies he is just a lump and he stays there forever. And they stay that way for life. For life, Mom! Then he dies but he’s still there on her back for all eternity and she has to go get a new one.”

“Now, how would you like that, Mom?”

I am somewhat disturbed that my daughter seems to have some idea that reproduction is supposed to be enjoyable for the parties involved.

I just Googled anglerfish and found her account to be mostly true. From Wikipedia:

Some anglerfishes of the superfamily Ceratiidae employ an unusual mating method. Since individuals are presumably locally rare and encounters doubly so, finding a mate is problematic. When scientists first started capturing ceratioid anglerfish, they noticed that all of the specimens were females. These individuals were a few inches in size and almost all of them had what appeared to be parasites attached to them. It turned out that these “parasites” were the remains of male ceratioids.

At birth, male ceratioids are already equipped with extremely well developed olfactory organs that detect scents in the water. When it is mature, the male’s digestive system degenerates, making him incapable of feeding independently, which necessitates his quickly finding a female anglerfish or else dying. The sensitive olfactory organs help the male to detect the pheromones that signal the proximity of a female anglerfish. When he finds a female, he bites into her skin, and releases an enzyme that digests the skin of his mouth and her body, fusing the pair down to the blood-vessel level. The male then atrophies into nothing more than a pair of gonads, which release sperm in response to hormones in the female’s bloodstream indicating egg release. This extreme sexual dimorphism ensures that, when the female is ready to spawn, she has a mate immediately available.

With a title like that I bet you’re expecting some kind of deep, philosophical, serious article. You aren’t going to get it. This is another one of my kid stories.

On Easter my daughter came out of her room with a gift for the young man she has a crush on. The envelope was sealed and had hearts drawn all over it. A package of candy was taped to the outside of the envelope.

Every day she asked me several times a day when we were going to deliver her gift so I figured it must be something special. I hoped it wasn’t something she was going to be embarrassed about later, but I decided not to pry so I did not ask her what was inside.

A few days later I saw my friend, Ellynn, who happens to be the mother of my daughter’s crush. I gave her the envelope to pass on. The next day Ellynn called to tell me what was inside the envelope.

It was a picture of the Grim Reaper. My daughter had drawn the picture. I’m told it was an accurate depiction with the robe, hood, and scythe.

We don’t know what to think. I’m sure the recipient doesn’t know what to think either. I did tell her the Christian story of Easter so perhaps this was a religious sentiment, “The Grim Reaper took Jesus!”

That’s all I’ve got.

At 8:30 tonight we realized that we hadn’t had dinner. It was too late to cook and we were too tired anyway. We decided to go to the Golden Corral. I know buffets are gross but I had my reasons. It’s close, a five or ten minute drive. It’s a buffet so the kids can always find something they like to eat. There’s no waiting, and the kids were pretty hungry.

After we ate some real food, I took my son to the dessert bar. He was looking at everything to decide what he wanted. There was this awful pan full of green jello. I wish that I had taken the camera because I can’t describe this vomitous bilge accurately. It was the most awful mess of nasty stuff I’ve ever seen.

My son says, loudly, “What is that gross stuff, Mom?” I took one look at it and busted out laughing. I told him that I though it was ogre snot. We were still laughing about it when we got back to the table, so my daughter had to know what we were laughing about. She made a special trip to the dessert bar just to see it. My husband refused to go look at the jello. Sometimes he can be a real fuddy-duddy.

My daughter then mentioned that they had gummy bears for ice cream topping and that was pretty gross too. I told her that the gummy bears weren’t for the ice cream; they were for the green jello. This started a whole new round of laughter.

Our poor server was in close proximity cleaning tables and doing whatever they do when they are getting ready to close and was hearing every bit of this and trying to keep from laughing.

I took my son back to the dessert bar to get another brownie and decided to fix my fuddy-duddy husband some dessert. I got an ice cream bowl and put gummy bears in the bottom. Then I buried them with the green jello. Of course my son and I were laughing so hard about this that we got the employees behind the dessert bar to laughing too.

We went back to the table and sat the bowl in front of him. Then he did the unthinkable:  He picked up the bowl and slurped the jello and gummy bears down. Me and the kids almost got sick while he sat there laughing at us.

A little later when the server by to take our plates, my husband told her she earned a good tip for putting up with us. I said, “We weren’t that bad. All we did was make fun of the green jello.”

She said that it was green because it is March. I said, “Oh, for St. Patrick’s Day?” She agreed.

Then my husband, without missing a beat, says, “Oh my God! It’s been there that long?!”

I was so proud of him that when I stuck my fork in my apple pie I somehow flipped it into the air and it went flying.

We decided to leave.

The preceding has been a first and only draft, rife with grammar problems. I’m tired. Deal with it.