Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cheetah Moms

Mama Grizzlies have NOTHING on Cheetah Moms.  

I learned this while watching Animal Planet with Middle Monkey one evening. Nestled snug in my bed in the glow of the TV we watched a show about Cheetahs and survival in the Serengeti. 

Middle-Monkey watched with wide-eyed fascination at the speed and sprightliness with which the Cheetah would hunt and chase her prey.  He gasped in horror as the Cheetah brought down the "cantaloupe" which would be dinner for her starving cubs.  And he railed with indignation as the pack of opportunistic Hyena's crept up on the Cheetah and stole her dinner. 

"Where is the Daddy Cheetah?" Middle-Monkey demanded.  "Why didn't he help the Mommy keep her cantaloupe from those bad dogs?" 

As I shuffled my thoughts to answer this line of questioning, the narrator jumped in and answered for me.
"Cheetah Moms are single mothers."  The narrator said in a velvety voice. "After giving birth to four to six Cheetah cubs, mother Cheetahs usually spend up to two years teaching their kids how to avoid predators and hunt for food.  The male Cheetach plays no part in the upbringing of  cubs."

With eyes as wide as dinner plates he looks up at me inquisitively.  "Why would the Daddys leave?"

Middle-Monkey can hardly be blamed for his limited knowledge of different kinds of family units.  His own father is the central core of our family.  He is ever present, always available and completely committed to his children. 

I took this opportunity to try to explain that families come in all shapes and sizes.  I told him that sometimes Daddys can't be there for their kids because they have to work, or because they get sick or in trouble. 

He sat solemnly and allowed this information to be processed. 

"So, the Cheetah Mommy does everything?  Wow.  That's a lot."

This kid is wise beyond his years.  

The documentary launched into facts and figures about Cheetahs speed and body structure which could not hold his attention as well as the exciting chase scene and therefore he was off to find something more exciting to do. 

Left alone I contemplated on the life of a "Cheetah Mom."    Going it alone with no partner, no person to turn it over to.  Nobody to say, "You had a rough day defending the burrow, I'll get dinner tonight?"  All of the worries, the concerns, the responsibility resting squarely on one set of lean muscular shoulders. 

Cheetah Moms have to "pound the pavement" or in this case the dusty expanses grassland in search of food and water for her cubs.  She will push herself to the brink of death in the chase to secure a meal and then expend what little energy remains to drag the carcass, twice her size, back to her children.  The Cheetach Mom, unlike her Lioness cousin will offer her cubs the first food.  Eating only once the cubs have had their fill.  Once the cubs are satisfied they will snuggle up to their Mommy to nurse and drift off into sleep.  Cheetah Moms on the other hand will sleep lightly, waking frequently to monitor for signs of danger to her babies. 

I thought about the Cheetah Moms that I know, whether by choice, chance or circumstance.  The brave single moms who go it alone.  They do it all, without complaint, without remark.  They just keep going because they have to.  
My hat is off.  My jaw is dropped.  I am humbled by their heroic actions. 

I am in awe of the Cheetah Mom. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oh! The Places You'll Go

Parenting will take you to many strange places.

Like to your knees. 

First, in the early days when you would leave your little lump with a toothless crackhead if she would guarantee you five uninterrupted hours of sleep.

And then later, in the crowded waiting room of a doctors office when you are nose to nose with a three-year old in the thick of a tantrum, delivering death threats through gritted teeth and a plastic smile.  

And of course, when you hit your knees in prayers of thanks for these amazing, perfect little people you've created.  Hoping to the heavens above that you don't screw them up.

And to stranger places still. 

Like last night, when I found myself in my garage with one wide-eyed Monster-Monkey.  We were squared off. Him, clad only in his football girdle and socks and me, engaged in the best three-point stance that eight months of pregnancy will allow.   My purpose?  To demonstrate the singular purpose of a nose guard, to absorb multiple blockers and knock people on their ass, not to put to fine a point on it. 

Am I so dedicated to the game of football that I felt it necessary to conduct a post-practice technique seminar in our stuffy, stagnant garage? No.

But after watching our Monkey meander about mindlessly during a live scrimmage, giving a half-assed effort where full steam ahead was warranted, I knew instinctively that he was over thinking the game.  As I watched my Monster I could actually see the wheels in his head turning, trying to make sense of the pile of players as they converged on the line of scrimmage. 

In the car on the way home I saw one fast talking Monkey-Maker growing more and more frustrated as his overly intelligent Monster-Monkey tried to process and parse the movements of all 22 guys on the field. 

An intervention was needed.

So there in the garage, down at eye level with my little lineman I explained that he could give his brain a break.  That on his 9th day of practice nobody expected him to know "everything,"  he only needed to know one thing, that at the end of every play we just wanted to see evidence that he had worked hard.  We wanted to see him "knock people on their ass." 

A small smile slid across his tearful face as he digested the directive.  The moment hung heavy in the humid air.  Mommy, distributor of discipline and supplier of snuggles, was handing out athletic advice?   There was something unorthodox that made it click.

He scurried up to hit the shower and I collapsed on the couch next to the Monkey-Maker.

Parenting is hard. 

Wonder where we'll go next.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Trouble with Being Too Reliable

Sitting in my bed at 8:34am having just woken up from a Benadryl  induced sleep coma I picked up my phone and made the two phone calls that start each and everyday, the Monkey-Maker and then my mom. 

The Monkey-Maker, as usual, answered on the third ring and after inquiring briefly about the status of all Monkeys asked if he could call me back.  I happily obliged and returned to recently dialed calls on my cell to phone my mother.

If you look at my recently dialed calls it would seem that I can't brush my teeth without phoning the woman.  Judging by the 26 calls, both dialed and received, that were exchanged the previous day, that might just be the case. 

I digress...

I phone my mom and got no answer, nothing out of the ordinary as she generally requires more than the standard four rings to free her hands of mess from other activities such as of cantaloupe cutting or highlighting someones hair.  So while it isn't unusual to have a call ring through to her sunny voicemail greeting, it is quite out of the ordinary to not have her ring back within a matter of moments.

I sat cuddled in my chenille cocoon and waited for her return call, mindlessly checking e-mail, new blog posts and listening to the Monkey's plans to unveil their latest homemade amusement park, a la, Phineas and Ferb.  My thoughts were scattered, still fuzzy from the last remnants of sleep.  I tried to give order to the events of my day, I would have to get milk, trip to mom's for a fun-filled pool day, and I should probably shower.

Many minutes later the phone finally rang, "Oh good," I thought as I grabbed my cell.  She can tell me what time to be there for swimming play date and I can set up my schedule around that..

I noticed, with a quick glance, that the small screen on my phone read  "Dad Cell" - - That's weird. 

"Hey kid, sorry to bother you but have you heard from mom?"  He said, sounding a little higher pitched than usual. 

"No, I called her and was waiting for her to call me back.  Why?" 

"Well, she left here for her dentist appointment but they just called and said she didn't show up. I'm starting to get a little worried.  She's not answering her phone." 

My blood ran cold. It really did. 

My mind went to war with itself.  My panicky side saw crime scene tape and Today show interviews.  Candlelight vigils and the ruins of our life without her.  My rational side, bolstered by Lexapro, barked at the other to take a seat.  She is fine.  There is a logical explanation for this.  Maybe she...

Got lost, on the three mile trip from home to dentist?   Stopped at her sisters, unable to wait to see her latest pair of NYDJ carpi's?  Popped into Turkey Hill for a quick iced coffee on the way to her teeth cleaning? 

None of these options seemed plausible but I forced myself to stay calm. 

I hung up with my father, assuring him that I would "take care of it."  Whatever that meant....and called the Monkey-Maker. 

"My mom is missing." It sounded laughable as I said it out loud. 

"What?!?!" He exclaimed. 

"She left for her dentist appointment but never showed up.  What should I do?"

"Get in the car and drive by her regular spots. Call me back."

I assembled the Monkey's - no shoes required, everyone in the car, we are going for a drive. 

They obliged without question, perhaps sensing the tension in my voice. 

So there we were, three pajama clad Monkey's and one frazzled Monkey-Momma wearing what could only loosely be categorized as "pants," driving towards local haunts of my mother. 

What was I even looking for?  I didn't want to go there.  Her car in a ditch, the scene of an accident?  I gripped the steering wheel and focused on the road.

I only made it a few miles before my father called to tell me that the "ding-dong" had scheduled herself for two simultaneous appointments, dentist and doctor, and was safely in the examination room at the medical center. 

I breathed a sigh of relief and then laughed out loud.

If it were me, nobody would have given the same circumstances a second thought.  As a person who routinely loses cell phones and car keys, can occasionally remember appointment dates but rarely has the directional ability to drive to the location, perpetually late, forever flustered,  it wouldn't faze anyone if I didn't show up.  But my mom....well that is another story. 

A story about the trouble with being too reliable. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Two Tickets to Paradise

As a result of a lead foot condition that I developed back in high school, I had the honor and privilege to interact with recently with an esteemed member of local law enforcement.  Please allow me to preface this post by saying that I have always had nothing but the utmost respect for officers of the law, however that respect came to a screeching halt after my encounter with a certain officer of the Upper Allen Township Police Department otherwise known by me as Officer Dick Face.

Now I won't sit here and pretend that there is a legitimate excuse for speeding....but...well  the fact that I am perpetually late and subsequently speeding is an excuse that works for me.
So....I was late to my OB-GYN appointment.  An appointment that had been scheduled and rescheduled 46 times as a result of our car shortage.  As a temporary fix to our transportation situation my parents had been kind enough to loan to us their second vehicle, a 1999 Chrysler Town & Country.  For their sacrifice I was extremely grateful but honestly, to say that the van had seen better days was, well...and understatement.

There I was, 30 weeks pregnant on the side of the road, pimping a forest green mini-van, sans seats that did not belong to me.  The falling fabric roof liner fluttered wildly as hot summer air gusted in through the open window with the passing of each motorist SPEEDING by.

As I watched the officer approach in the side mirror I guessed his age at 16, maybe 17 tops.  I glanced at my own reflection and sighed knowing that there would be NO "cute girl" sympathy going on here. 

He mechanically requested my license and registration which I presented to him post-haste, and launched into an explanation of why I was driving a car that did not belong to me. 

He cut me short and asked if I was aware of the posted speed in the area.  I said, "65 MPH?" with my most winning smile. 

He sort of rolled his eyes and said, "The posted speed is 55 MPH, Ma'am, and I clocked you going 71."

He threw the "ma'am" in there to remind me that to him I am in fact a middle-aged pregnant lady who can not afford a car of her own. I cursed myself silently for not leaving earlier, not exercising more, and for not getting my drivers license renewed, in no particular order.

By his reaction it was plain to see that he assessed me that day as a person who had made a lot of wrong choices in her life, driving her parents mini-van, wearing no wedding ring, no make up and a tank top with a giant spaghetti stain.   Sadly no amount of  eyelash batting would help me now.
He gave my license a double take, surely looking to see if the train wreck of a woman in the beat up old van was truly the same as the adorable girl with the expensive haircut smiling back from the DMV photo. 

"Are you aware that your license expired at the end of June, ma'am?"

Again, with the ma'am, Jesus, I get it, I'm old, your an embryo...move on!

"No!" I lied.  "I had no idea!  Things have been so hectic lately..." I started, and again he cut me off.  Clearly not interested in lies of what he now had identified as an unwed pregnant crackhead who speeds recklessly and does not stay abreast of civic responsibilities such as license renewal. 

"I'll be back shortly with your citations."

Did he just say citation (S)  PLURAL?  As in TWO?!?! No...I must have misunderstood his fetus mouth.  He could NEVER be issuing me TWO citations.  My license was only a few days, okay 29 days expired.  Come on...

And furthermore I fumed, he didn't even ask me why I was speeding!  For all he knows I could be in labor.  I could be crowning while he sits back in his little power trip mobile and writes me multiple moving violations. 

The longer I sat there, and it was at least 15 minutes, the angrier I got.

When he finally arrived back at my vehicle to bestow upon my my TWO tickets, I no longer held back my disapproval.

"You wrote me a ticket for the license????" I exclaimed!  "You couldn't just give me a warning?"

"Not for a license that is 30 days out of expiration."  he replied flatly.
"29 days."  I corrected him.

"Excuse me?" He snapped.

I said more clearly and with more volume, "TWENTY-NINE DAYS, not 30."

"Regardless, your license was still expired. So sign here and here." With that he handed me my two tickets clipped to his board and a pen.

"You are something else."  I mumbled as I signed my tickets. 

"Excuse me?"  He snapped again, this time more aggressively. 

"You are,"  I repeated with disdain, "something else." 

For anyone that knows me, I am THE LAST person that you would ever expect to get mouthy with any person of authority, let alone an officer of the law.  But on this particular day that is exactly what happened. 

I copped quite a 'tude with this childlike constabulary.   After verbal battle about the fairness of randomly selecting and subsequently penalizing one vehicle in a line of cars, all of whom are moving at the same rate of speed  he seemed to remember that he was the one with the badge. 

He raised his voice a notch and said in his best "dad" voice, "I'm not going to argue with you.  If you pull out into traffic and drive after this stop I will pull you over again and issue another citation for driving without a valid license." 

Oh, no he didn't....

I snatched my TWO tickets off the clipboard and brazenly said, "You just do what you have to do." 

I watched him return to his car and brazenly pulled out onto the road.

Flashes of my mug shots appeared in my head.  I could picture the Cops footage, the haggard pregnant lady being hauled away in handcuffs.  I called the Monkey-Maker and unleashed a string of obscenities that would shame a sailor. 

"He's f---ing following me!" I sobbed and brought him up to speed on the situation. 

"Just pullover and I'll come and get you."  he said calmly.

"Nooooo!"  I wailed, "then he will win!"

"Well," said the Monkey-Maker, "he might win if he arrests you too."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Defense of Family Act

Tonight I am one proud Momma. 

Earlier this evening Monster-Monkey squared off with a 13 year-old bully and came out on top. 

While we watched. 

Our Monkeys were among the dozens of kiddos that swarmed the old-fashioned cook out/ bonfire.  They ran breathless through the huge yard that backed up to acres of land, lost immediately in game of war.  I did my best to keep a visual on both boys as they darted in and out of groves of trees. 

I had just gotten Mini-Monkey situated with a hot dog and "juicy" when I stood up to see Monster-Monkey shoot in a double-leg take down on a kid twice his size.  The bigger kid buckled in half and started to retaliate and the rumble quickly became a street-style brawl. 

The boys rolled and flipped around while I watched from a distance as my 6 year-old son expertly performed textbook wrestling moves, ultimately pinning the 13 year-old who lay still and accepted defeat. 

With that my Monster stood up, retrieved his make-shift stick gun and scampered off to catch up with the rest of the army boys. 

I looked up and met the eyes of the Monkey-Maker who was beaming and grinning from ear to ear. 

It was a proud moment indeed. 

You see, in recent days we have had to have a few conversations with the Monster about bullying and how to handle it.  It seems that although he is "enormous" he is not immune to teasing.
The Monkey-Maker was EXTREMELY concerned that while the Monster had inherited his own size and athletic prowess he got MY sensitive side and tendency to shy away from confrontation as well. 

In order to combat this we both have been schooling the Monster on how to handle "bullying" situations, assuring him over and over that as long as he is defending himself or someone else, we will NOT punish him for getting physical in order to deliver the message, Don't Mess With Me. 

As it turns out, the circumstances that preempted tonight's beat down were in fact rooted in Monster-Monkey's attempt to defend his brother from the bigger boy.  Apparently the older kid had been choking Middle-Monkey.  In the big kid's defense, Middle-Monkey was likely refusing to pick up his toys or doing something else that could make any rational person want to choke him...., but I didn't ask for details.

The moral of this Momma's story is that my Monkey's look out for each other and are not afraid to throw down in defense of family.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Anatomy of a Kiss

The Monkey-Maker is not a fan of public displays of affection.  Ever. 

Even after eight years and 3.5 children I still have to remind him that a high five is NOT an acceptable way to greet your spouse. 

This being said he will occasionally plant one on me when I least expect it, as was the case when he came home from work to find me emptying the dishwasher in our kitchen that I had cleaned and disinfected.  It really flips his switch when I show my "domestic" side. 

Anyway, he embraced me quite dramatically and kissed me passionately.  It was lovely. 

That is until, one very inquisitive, slightly jealous Mini-Monkey pulled over a stool and jumped up to our level to investigate. 

She closed in on our faces and cocked her head to the side curiously. 

Kill the mood much, kid? 

Obviously, the spell had been broken. The Monkey-Maker stopped the steamy smooch and exited stage left with a fist-bump and a smile.  And that was that.

Or so we thought.

And then a few days later Mini-Monkey planted a "french-style" kiss on the side of my face. 

"What was that?!??!!" I exclaimed jumping back in surprise.

"I kisseded you."  She said simply and continued on her merry way. 

I sat for a moment in disbelief and tried to figure out the best way to handle this "situation."  I knew that I couldn't let it slide and so I followed her to her room and sat as she went about serving tea to her "friends." 

I approached the topic delicately and explained casually that little girls should only kiss people "nicely," and then demonstrated a quick kiss on a nearby stuffed turtle as he enjoyed a spot of tea. 

She giggled and we practiced "nice kisses" for a few minutes and that was that...

Problem solved, crisis averted.

Monkey-Maker and I congratulated ourselves on a parenting job well done and carried on with our day. 

After hours and hours of family friendly activities, we finally collapsed on the sofa and settled in to enjoy some well deserved "tube time." 

We flipped on the TV just in time to catch one of our favorite re-run sitcoms.  Perfect.  We vegged for approximately 33 seconds before one character embraced another in a FULL on FRENCH FEST.  I barely had time to register what was happening before glancing to my right to see Mini-Monkey "engaged" with a Dora book, giving it a passionate kiss. 

Oh shit.

Flip the channel.  Have the talk.  Try again.

We were just about to breathe a sigh of relief during a commercial break when a movie trailer took a romantic turn and showed yet another lustful lip lock, this time featuring two ladies. 


We can never watch TV again. 

Mini-Monkey looked up at me expectantly, waiting for the explanation that she KNEW was coming.  I could read her mind.  "Why can those 'gulls' kiss like that but I can't?" 

I could see the logic unfolding in her mind.  I remember struggling with the concept myself one hundred years ago in my own youth.  If you use a kiss to show a person that you love them, then wouldn't a BIG KISS show a person that you love them so much more? 

I took a deep breath and launched into an kid-friendly explanation of why grown ups "french kiss."  I added some politically correct side notes about the gay rights agenda and closed with a "do you have any questions?" 

"Can I have some fruit snacks?" 

Yes.  Yes, for the LOVE OF GOD, you may.

And then I set parental locks on every TV in my house.

I am not naive enough to think that this is the last time we will address this issue but I am hopeful that it is the last time I will address it today.