I flourish when I’m busy. I work well under pressure. But everyone has a saturation point.

Imagine this: the day after Thanksgiving; that fateful Black Friday that I’ve been all too delighted to avoid, the boys are still asleep. I awake early to shower, get dressed, put on a pot of coffee and start cleaning and organizing my “lived-in” home after two weeks of neglect. Marley & Me is on in the background and I compare similarities in my life-as-stay-at-home-mom-with-crazy-dog to the more than realistic illustration in the film. The dishes are being cleaned to a blinding shine in the dishwasher; the rug is vacuumed; our Black Lab, Pete, is outside, most likely howling at squirrels; and inside, a place for everything and everything in its place.

I light a candle to fill the home with the delicious artificial scents of the holiday season, slump into the couch with my favorite Country Living magazine, and wait for my guests to arrive.

In the real world, the candle is about the only thing that went right…

Michael wakes up at 7:30. OK, I’ll put off a shower and get him settled.

“Mooommmy!” Steve is up. Michael down, but now to make oatmeal. Instant, of course.

“Mommy, oatmeal and eggs?” OK, here come scrambies. I start to heat up the skillet. I lit the candle in the living room just in case my house did smell terrible (you can never tell if your own house has a ‘smell’) and my guests would at least have a pleasant fragrance when I opened the door.

I go to change clothes so as not to answer the door in pjs. BEEP! Oatmeal is ready. Oh yeah, the eggs. I crack two eggs, add some milk, start to scram– “Mommy, milk please!” ok, milk is on the way.

Up to change clothes…What’s that smell? Oh yeah, the skillet. I go back downstairs to the kitchen to finish the eggs.

“Mommy, can I open the door?” “No, stay inside.” But he’s pointing to the microwave. I forgot the oatmeal in the micro. OK, done. Steve has oatmeal, eggs and I’m on my way up to…

DING DONG.

Crap.

I’m organizing a massive Christmas program at church, complete with holiday bazaar. Back in September and October, before the baby came, I called out to everyone I knew for craft show help and donations. My friend put me in touch with her friend, who was more than willing to donate a few knit scarf creations. I was soon to find out she’s a professional knitter and even teaches classes at JoAnn’s!

Now, a week before the show, she was in the neighborhood, returning from Thanksgiving with her family, and was coming to drop off the items she had made for the show.

I wanted to invite her in, have a seat on the sofa, offer some coffee, chitchat, visit, get to know this fantastic crochet artist, give a big thank you and continue with my delightfully organized day…

I open the door. Pete nearly tramples the talented knitter and her husband before they even enter the house. Welcome! Wow! Thank you!

Introductions pass (I’m thinking, OMG I’m still in my pajamas…pretend like everything is OK).

The scarves look fantastic, BTW.

Pete starts sniffing out the new visitors. (I’m thinking, GREAT. I should have taken him outside.) They say they have bunnies… he must smell the bunnies.

Just when I’m about to offer a seat and coffee, I hear, “Omigosh, he’s peeing!”

(Omigosh, I’m dying inside. How did I lose control of this situation?!)

Steve is now standing in his chair, oatmeal and scrambies in his hair, “Mommy, Pete spilled.”

And he’s still peeing. On the rug near the sofa, “Pete no!” then all along his mad and shameful dash into the kitchen, and piddly zigzag line seeping into my unpolished wood floor. But it didn’t stop there. Oh no, he continued to leave steaming puddles all over the kitchen.

As I bury my head in my hands, trying to convince myself this isn’t happening, nervous laughter trying to cover my embarrassment, I hear another gasp from my guests.

Yes, Peter came back to drink what he spilled. He began licking his trail of my worst nightmare.

I tried to force some pleasant conversation but our little visit was violently severed by my zoo of a home. As they left laughing about the situation, I plopped into the couch, Steve still alerting me of the catastrophe, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Pete spilled!”

I needed just a few moments to myself to let reality sink in. Marley & Me was a sign. It was a window into my morning and the madness that was to pass. I took Pete outside and considered renaming him “Marley, World’s Worst Dog.”

Finally, its official: Black Friday morning 2009 has taken its place as my No. 1 Most Embarrassing Moment.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

It’s official. I’ve become MOM. Yep, not just a twentysomething mom, but an all out MOM. It’s been a long time since I’ve written about life in the world of young parenthood, but now’s the time to start up again. In the past few months, I’ve left my Great American corporate job-with-benefits to stay home and spend time with the children.

What, you say? ChildREN? Yessir. More than one. We welcomed baby boy #2 into the world in October, the day after my birthday. Happy Birthday to us!

But why the sudden reality check of mothering? Because, my friends, Black Friday is tomorrow and I’ve actually SERIOUSLY considered participating.

Considered, and cringed. Am I really a Black Friday shopper? Not yet… but probably next year. The thought of lining up outside Khol’s or JC Penny at 4am is not my cup of tea. The madness, the competition, but Oh, the great deals!

Black Friday makes so much sense…cents? Gifts, wants and necessities, all a mere fraction of the regular price. So much money to be saved! And then to think about all the holiday shopping getting done in one fell swoop… oh, what a dream.

It seems like it’s just the best way to save and splurge all at once. Even Canadians look forward to a Black Friday. I learned this evening from a friend from up north that Canadian Boxing Day is just like our Black Friday… get it? BOXing Day. Where you pack everything up in BOXes. I always thought it was something about the sport of boxing. As a child, whenever I saw “Boxing Day (Canada)” on my calendar, an image of Joe Luis popped in my head.

But I digress…

I’m also slowly but surely shopping for a new family vehicle. How nice to have a brand new crossover, I think to myself. The new station wagons are oh so hot and sleek and trendy and not at all like the soccer mom minivan.

But now that I’m home all the time, a Reverend’s budget for a family of four doesn’t allow for such luxuries. So I look to used cars… and what do I find in searches for our budget, taking into consideration two car seats, a massive dog, and at times, a cello all riding in the same vehicle? You got it: a minivan.

GAG. Am I REALLY a minivan driver? I mean, they are beyond affordable, spacious and safe. They make SO much sense!…just like Black Friday. See where I’m going?

 The minivan is a great invention for the middle American family. But me? With sliding doors? Sliding doors?!

Then it dawned on me. OMG. Will that be me next year? In line at Khol’s at 3:30am drinking coffee in the warmth of my Freestar as I prepare to stock it full of Black Friday spoils for my childREN?

Yes, my friends. And surprisingly, I’m ok with it. Mostly. I can’t keep running from the truth. I’m just a few short years away from being a full-fledged soccer mom. In in those years, I’ll enjoy the journey of adding to the stereotype piece-by-piece. What comes after a minivan and Black Friday shopping?

Probably getting a crock pot and organizing craft shows…(check, and check!)

 

 

MichaelJacksonMillen_sm

Ok, so complete shock in the King of Pop’s passing. I think the rest of the world feels the same, as almost every cable news station is streaming coverage of this untimely passing. We’ll also miss Farrah, but I feel bad that, while a star in her own right, she’s being almost completely overshadowed by the bigger star here.

 

It seems the best actor to play Michael in the story of his life would  be Johnny Depp in a dark show directed by Tim Burton. Depp would be ideal as the pale-faced hollow shell of a human that was at some point recognizable as an AfricanAmerican male. From what we know of his life, he struggled and knew nothing but performing. A fragile boy-man who never had a chance to grow up in a normal social environment; trying, trying, trying, and failing to become what he saw as normal, beautiful, and accepted by his community; ultimately withdrawing into himself and his own world to be a private artist in his loneliness…

 

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I’m in such shock — I always thought MJ was going to live forever…not just immortal through his music, but I thought he was destined for a kind of “Bicentennial Man” fate. I was SURE he was going to be the first “living” human with all artificial parts, ultimately lasting a few hundred years. Through the decades, he got scarier and scarier, but DIE? Michael, you were supposed to last! No expiration date!!

 robin_williams_bicentennial_man_001Michael_Jackson-History-Frontal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fine. Michael had issues.  It seems like if you could interpret his life through comic books, he was less flesh and blood, and instead pure performance energy. Like that episode of Spider Man with Electro – not so much human; all energy. All he knew was performing, which he did phenomenally – but just being a living human… he could have used some coaching. I’m sorrowful for the pain with which he seemed to be plagued, and which seemed to hold him back from an intimate human relationship with the public. I hope his children saw a side of him the public has never seen. I hope he was a great father to his flesh legacies. I believe MJ survived this long through the redeeming joy of entertaining his fans, which fueled his existence.

Moving forward with his memorial, I will continue to do the dance to Thriller and Beat It at every wedding I attend… and pretty much everywhere I hear these musical gems, I’ll drop what I’m doing and break into dance… and I vow to never let my “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller” VHS whither with time.

 Love you MJ. You will be missed. Be at peace.

My prayers go to his family and all the world of his fans.

Ok, as a mother, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I absolutely love the new Burger King commercial featuring the quasi-creepy, quasi-hilarious King showing his club floor rhythm to the tune of a remixed Baby Got  Back. Why the King, you ask?? Well, he’s promoting SpongeBob’s return to the BK kid’s meal… emphasizing SB’s very angular backside. The first time I saw the commercial, I indulged in my DVR to the point of watching it almost five times in a row. I couldn’t get enough of the wit of it.

However, in response to my facebook post of this video, a friend alerted me to the story on Shine by Joanna:

Burger King is selling kids’ meals with a SpongeBob related remix of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” In the latest commercial from their bizarre ad campaign, the King sings about his love for square butts, and his desire to “get with” SpongeBob while ladies shake their booties.

Here’s the kicker: the ad was made in partnership with the children’s television station, Nickelodeon.

Susan Linn, the director of the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood said: “It’s bad enough when companies use a beloved media character like SpongeBob to promote junk food to children, but it’s utterly reprehensible when that character simultaneously promotes objectified, sexualized images of women.”

 

FANTASTIC! Let’s discuss.

When Sir Mix-a-Lot’s bootylicious jam was released, I was banned from watching the video or listening to it on the radio [THANKS FOR MAKING ME A SOCIAL OUTCAST, MOM!!] It was such a huge part of culture at the time, I was jealous of my friends — who all knew all the words — while I had never even listened to the whole song! It was probably high school– when the song had become a classic seven years over — by the time I was attending school dances and could finally rock out (in an awkward “of course I know all the words to this but not really” sort of way) to the jam that I spent the entire length of the tune laughing and giggling to the silliness of the whole thing. It was a riot. I mean honestly, who sings about butts like that? It wasn’t long before I knew all the words too and realized my mom was just protecting me from pop songs about butts, virgins “being touched for the very first time,” and that really dirty one by the Divinyls (Funny story – I was in kindergarten and was singing the “Touch Myself” song as loud as I could in the back seat. Mom says, “what are you saying??” I was like, I dunno its just how the song goes and I love it!! So after that it was only classical music and oldies until I was about sixteen. haha thanks, Mom! Now I know every pop song released between 1948 and 1978. Anyway…).

Not only was it delightfully comical, but it was the link that validated me in my white-saturated environments. This was one of those pioneer raps that carved its way into white culture, where I resided as the only black girl. Finally, someone was praising the curvy female figure (ahem)! I always felt ugly because I was the only girl I knew who fit that BACK profile. I loved that my classmates referenced red beans and rice and were enlightened that having a bulbous bump could be beautiful and not weird.

Of course… there’s something universally disrespectful about the portrayal of a woman as purely a sexual object. In my youth, I chose to ignore that image and instead delight in the silliness of the whole thing.

STILL, do I want my young son watching this commercial?

Indeed it is a riot to me and the generation that knew the original Baby Got Back, but would my son get it? Probably not. He’d probably just hear a beat and start spinning around in circles and if he payed any attention at all, he would just laugh at the King’s giant head… or run screaming…

Anyway, I suppose the commercial is a little inappropriate considering the original intended sexual content, and the gyrating “phone book in pants,” BUT this commercial seems geared towards the children of the eighties and nineties who are parents now and will take their children to Burger King just because of that bobble-headed King’s luscious moves and the thrill that Sir Mix-a-Lot is matched with SpongeBob in the glory of a kid’s meal.

Oh goodness… such a tough issue, but such a funny commercial! DANG THOSE PANTS ARE SQUARE! haaaaaaaaaaha.

When I was a child, my mom would play music and language records for my brother and me as we played. We were learning to say good morning and goodnight in four languages before we even knew what was going on.

In the same way that music is so important for the development of babies’ brains, the first three years of life is also critical for developing language acquisition skills. My mom and I have been looking for the best language CDs and programs for infants, and after a few trial and errors, we’ve found the perfect one:

Baby’s First Words by Linving Language

Although my mom sent me the CD and book months ago, I didn’t use it right away because I was so disappointed with the others I had tried. Others had horribly cheesy songs and rhymes, and the speakers used in the recordings and terrible accents. If my son grows up to never speak French or have a perfect French accent, I won’t be disappointed, but I refuse to start out teaching him incorrectly.

So I pop in the CD, and I was TOTALLY IMPRESSED. Five years ago, I was completely fluent in French and have since fallen out of practice and a few of the rhymes had me looking up the words in the book! The French was flawless and my son responded immediately.

Before playing the CD, I had been speaking to him in French a bit, not expecting him to pick anything up. But one day, I said “Shall we eat?” and he said, “MOOGE!” I was floored that he had said, “mange” (in his own way) and not only remembered the word without me saying it, but knew what it meant.

After ONE DAY of playing only a few tracks on the CD, he began rattling off other phrases I had taught him although he had never said them before – he was recognizing the sound, pattern and rhythm of French and is imitating the sounds.

As a linguist and a language teacher, I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend the Baby’s First Words series by Living Language for teaching new languages to small children.

LOVE LOVE LOVE IT.

What can I say? The child loves to brush his teeth.

We’ve been using a training toothbrush for almost a year now, helping plant seeds of good hygiene. When he says “toothbrush” it comes out sounding more like “Jesus” or “teach us” or “teacher.” I love how all three of the other things fit while none of them have anything to do with the brushing of teeth… unless we link our teeth to our soul in which case Jesus cleanses our soul and scrubs away sin ….or gingivitis.

Anyway

My son is incredibly smart and likes to venture into his own and play independently. I love playing with him, but I also like to give him his space and let him explore whatever he is drawn to. Well, I act like it’s my own decision, but he has fits if I don’t give him a chance to do things on his own! So I usually just supervise and he’ll ask for help when he needs it.

One day, the one-going-on-twelve-year-old squealed, “JESUS!!” with excitement and went into the bathroom and closed the door. I knew he wanted to brush his teeth, and although he knew where toothbrushes are kept, he couldn’t reach them without help. So I thought, eh, how bad could it be to let him feel independent for a few minutes? He’ll come and get me when he needs me to get the brush and put toothpaste on it.

Well, it got a little too quiet in there.

I opened the door. “Hey, what’r you–”

“Mama!! Jesus!”  He held up his trophy toothbrush and showed me how proud he was to brush his teeth all by himself. But, oh dear…oh my…

He had climbed on the toilet and onto the sink to get Jesus out of the cabinet.

Since he couldn’t turn on the sink or the tub faucet, he used the next source of water. Yes. You know where I’m going.

Out of the sink and off the toilet, he lifted the seat and I walked in just as he was dipping Jesus into the toilet. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if my husband hadn’t forgotten to flush (OK, in his defense, he was about to take a shower and didn’t flush to save water pressure, then just forgot to do so when he got out).

But indeed, it wasn’t just crisp and cool toilet water…

I kind of panicked and thought I should disinfect his mouth somehow, but then I thought…people have been known to drink certain things when there’s no water, right? I mean… how much could he have ingested from an infant-sized toothbrush, right?? RIGHT???

Solution:

I don’t even know…lock the bathroom? Keep toothbrush out of reach? Flush the toilet??

Eh, we learn as we go…

My son has been avoiding nap time at all costs lately. BUT as mother knows, he can be irritable and gets easily frustrated when he does not take his daily nap. Small children need their naps to recharge their hyper active bodies and calm their super powered brains, which are working as hard as they ever will to absorb everything they can.

However, since we upgraded the young jedi to toddler bed status about three or four months ago, he has had the ultimate free will of laying down for a nap or getting up and playing…

or peeking out the door

or sneaking downstairs to the playroom

or coaxing machines to play videos and DVDs – or magnets (that’s another lesson)

or climbing onto the kitchen counter to fix himself a snack

…and he had been chosing to nap. Until lately.

His recent refusal to rest and decision to venture out can be frightening, especially if mother is sound asleep for her own naptime and has no idea anything else is going on. GREAT.

[insert catastrophe here]

One particular day, the almost-two-year-old had escaped nap time for the fourth time in fifteen minutes, ventured into the spare bedroom and promptly spilled diffuser oil EVERYWHERE, much to the terror of exhausted stressed-out, still-suffering-from-first-trimester-blues mom, who gave a big “No, you should be in your bed!” which sent the young one running into his bed and under the covers.

Now, I normally don’t yell. I try to laugh at most situations and in others, I laugh on the inside but try to give the you’re-gonna-get-it look on the outside. But, wow… yelling works? Perfect.

He’s in the bed. I shut the door. Return to my own much needed nap.

Then a thud wakes me up… hmm…. what’s that?

I call the toddler out of his room thinking twenty minutes of rest — whether he actually fell asleep or not — should be enough to recharge both our batteries. At first I didn’t even recognize the small human that emerged from the room… pant-less and covered in baby powder. “Mama? Poo poo.”

Ah ha.

I smile and beckon him closer. We hug, chat about nap time and why I got upset…

Then I say, let’s go up and change that diaper. OK. The little ghost climbs the stairs, and I stop dead in my tracks when I looked into his room.

The only scene that could have made sense was if there were a housefly buzzing frantically around his room and he decided puffs of baby powder in the thing’s general direction(s) were the only way to exterminate the pest. Well, that or it had snowed corn startch.

Turns out the bed was a little too close to his dresser/changing table. While I thought my little angel had finally given in to the truth that he needed a nap, he had actually decided that he would just PLAY ME and go ape with what he had. He climbed from the bed onto the dresser, then scoured the changing table basket for his tool of choice. Baby powder has it. Naturally, I never close the bottle because no one uses it but me and diaper time goes so much faster when I can grab and puff instead of grab, twist, puff, twist…In the few cases when I have closed the bottle, the baby is already off the table and out the door by the end of the first twist. So with the unlocked grenade of freshness, he squeezed and shook that powder everwhere he could. I can imagine his look of pure bliss as he watched his red curtains turn white and drew pictures in the powder piles he left on the window sill. I think one was a dog.

As defeated as I was, I had to laugh.

Solution:

 1. All the furniture is at least 18 inches apart.

2. I close the powder bottle now.

3. The crib side goes up for nap time.

Over the past week with the crib side up, he has been more calm and I rarely see evidence that the “terrible two’s” exist. He hasn’t protested the familiar arrangement of crib containment and cashes out almost immediately since he has been stripped of the option of napping or playing.

Perhaps in a few week’s we’ll try nap time free will again.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW.

Seriously. I quit my job two months ago to spend more time with my son. I didn’t realize I was trading family time – no, not family time – chasing-toddler-time for EVERYTHING ELSE THAT I’VE EVER KNOWN IN MY WHOLE LIFE. Honestly, I think this is the second time I’ve been online in more than two months.

Not kidding. Naturally, just as I sat down to compose this, the bedroom door opened and out came Steve “Mamaaa!” “Cracker?”

Well….. he won’t let me type for long so this is just to say I’ll be back with….

“Lessons Learned: Never turn your back on a toddler.

Tips for becoming a stay at home mom”

When my beautiful son was born and they placed his fresh white – well, more like transparent – body in my arms, I felt flush with love and amazement. My awe at the miracle of life didn’t last very long when I heard sirens and saw the flashing police car lights as I realized the inevitable scene of our departure: I was sure authorities were going to be called at the sight of a white baby being whisked away in the arms of a young black woman.

How are they ever going to let me leave here with my child? They’ll think I’m stealing this little Dutch boy! No, please officer, look –we have matching wrist bands! I promise he’s mine!

Well, when a friend forwarded me this article from Newsweek, “Beyond Just Black and White” by Raina Kelley, I was refreshed to realize I’m not alone! I’m not the only black mother of a mixed child who expected a little more coffee in the cream.

When I took my newly born son from the nurse’s arms, I did the expected counting of his fingers and toes. I checked under his cap for hair and flexed his little limbs. Once confident he was whole and healthy, I began to wonder how dark his skin would get. As a black woman married to one of the world’s fairest men, I worried that our son would be so light-skinned as to appear Caucasian, and I wanted him to look black. After we all came home from the hospital this past June, I Googled newborn eye color to reassure myself that Gabriel’s eyes wouldn’t change from my shade of brown to my husband’s green. I brushed up on my genetics, and though I discovered that curly hair is a dominant trait, Gabe has straight brown locks that stick up in a cowlick just like his dad’s—not the wild curls I struggle to keep under control. Undaunted by these failures to find Gabe’s blackness, I inspected my son’s skin daily for the Mongolian spots common in African-American babies, but his skin was as smooth as … alabaster.

I think we need a support group. I can see it now: The Women of Color who Gave Birth to a White Child Club.

We would discuss the issue of helping our child identify with both – or all – races, although they might only look like one. On the reverse side, its fascinating to me that our wonderful President Barack Obama is repeatedly labeled our first black president. But isn’t he also our next white president?

What a fantastic week! And by fantastic I mean slightly insane. How insane you ask? Well, let’s just set the bar at noticing my son walking funny as we approached WalMart this morning and realizing I had put his shoes on the wrong feet…

Last night my dear friend invited me to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to see Lulu. OMG. I have never seen a longer – or more powerful – opera in my life. It was SO GOOD. And also very random. Written by Alban Berg and sort of a work-in-progress for about 50 years, it embraces the best and worst characteristics of the life of the elite and art-loving world in 1920’s Austria.

Lulu‘s beautifully intricate musicality seemed dwarfed by the magnificence of the multimedia masterpiece. Not only does this opera include choreography, poetry and orchestral pieces, but Berg also writes a score to accompany a movie that is shown in Act II. It was incredible! The film, which it seems, should be produced by the performing cast – because it was last night – is made like an early 1900’s silent film illustrating some of the details that occur between scenes.

One of my favorite random sections of the piece is at the end – when the Countess who has fallen madly in love with Lulu, now a prostitute, gives up on Lulu’s new reckless and destructive life and within two minutes of worshipping her, rebukes her then declares, “I know! I’m going to enroll in the university and become an advocate for women’s rights by studying law.” (Wha??) Immediately after her revelation, she hears Lulu’s screams, sees her stumbling to her death by stabbing and is also murdered by Lulu’s last customer, a psychotic knife-wielding, dark-coated man… ((Wha??)) I guess Berg didn’t really know how to end this one. Whatever. It was a fantastic performance and opera. Just wonderful.

I think I loved it so much because I love everything art nouveau and I imagine I would have really loved to see the movement and all that went with it in Paris and Vienna in the 20’s

OK, so that was Tuesday.

Tonight, I’ll head over to the shelter and help serve and celebrate Thanksgiving with hundreds of homeless men, women and children. Should be a great time.

Tomorrow, I’m hosting my family’s Thanksgiving! It grew from three of us to about eight… what did I get myself into? I’m still really excited. I love entertaining! Of course I have to admit I’m cheating. My mother is coming in town and she loves to cook – I think she misses having family to cook for – so she’s doing all the cooking, and I’m just making sure the house is clean, the table is set (and the socks match and the shoes are on the right feet). Now to Michael’s for my centerpiece.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

-O

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