Me and My Big Mouth

21 05 2009

This is just like the time when I first laid eyes on the man who would become my husband. I told my friends that I was gonna marry that drunk guy with the mean pool shot, the beautiful green eyes and the drug-dealeresque Motorola pager, someday. Or the time when, on the way to my first ultrasound appointment, I suggested to my Mr. that it would be a real hoot to call my mom and tell her I was pregnant with twins. Only to discover that I was, in fact, pregnant with twins. So, it comes as no surprise that when I said ‘ You know, as soon as I start blogging again, I’m gonna get swamped with a writhing heap of actual writing work, and I won’t even have time to wipe my own arse,” I was right on the money.

But here I am. A little behind on the updates, but here I am. And that is all that matters. So, in the interest of getting caught up, here are the highlights of the last week or so in the life of the Blister Family:

2 out of 3 ain’t bad

With two cups of coffee chugged, three different doctors observing, six different forms with somewhere in the realm of  341 questions answered, and  4.5 hours at the hospital for the assessment, Neener was finally officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. That brings the official Blister Family Kids on the Autism Spectrum count to 2, as there probably won’t be any official word on Squiggles for at least a year, although she is still considered “high risk” and autistic-ish enough to warrant our participation in a pilot study dealing with parent training for early intervention.  So, what does this all mean? Not much. Except that I was right. And that we’re now re-evaluating some of our methods of dealing with Neener. And that I now officially have license to ask any buttinski who offers up unsolicited parenting advice or comments on the behaviour of any of my children,  how many kids with autism they have. And if the answer is anything less than one, I can now officially smile politely and tell them to shove their astute observations and their well-meaning advice directly up their Pinworm Maternity Wards.

The Pinworm Maternity Ward

11:30 p.m, the night before Neener and Roo’s Big Birthday Extravaganza, just as Mr. and I were finally making some progress in the gargantuan task of morphing our house from a disaster zone to a party zone, we hear Neener howling. Howling that her bum is itchy. Quite literally hooowwwling. As a former dirt-eating country bumpkin kid, I immediately knew what was going on with my dirt-eating city bumpkin kid: worms. Sure, I could do as the half dozen websites I quickly consulted suggested, and stick a piece of tape over her anus and peel it off in the morning to see if I could catch any mama worms who’d poked their little worm heads out to lay their little worm babies. Or I could coax her back to bed, then fire up the flashlight in the middle of the night to inspect her butt as she slept, to confirm my suspicions. But I’m pretty sure that’s the stuff that resurfaces as alien abduction/anal probe “memories” decades later. So, I did what any dirt-eating country bumpkin mother with dirt-eating city kids would have done: established what will now be a semi-annual family-wide worm medicine dosing, whether we need it or not. Half an hour later, three out of five of us had bellies’ full of carmel flavoured Combantrin, and the Pinworm Maternity Ward was unceremoniously shut down. At least until the next afternoon Neener decides to “help” me in the garden by simultaneously making cat poop infested mud sculptures and eating watermelon.

Neener & Roo’s Big Birthday Extravaganza

My baby girls turned 6. To mark this auspicious event, we invited 19 of their closest fellow children over to dump paint all over the carpet, eat all our blueberries, and bring a bunch of new stuff to replace the bunch of old stuff that got turfed in the process of turning the house from a disaster zone  to a party zone. And I don’t know about the rest of the little weirdos – who turned their noses up at the hummus and veggie plate, had no idea how to dance to The Beatles’  Octopus’ Garden, and acted like they’d never been asked to paint flowerpots at a birthday party before – but Neener and Roo had a blast. Nobody ate too much cake or paint, and nobody barfed. Nobody had a meltdown because the cups and utensils weren’t pink. And nobody gave them any Bratz Dollz, so nobody had to take a can of lighter fluid and a match out into the yard in the middle of the night and torch any obnoxious birthday presents.

Oh, and then there’s this…

May 2009 114

Look Ma! No hands! Yes, that’s Squiggles walking. No, she’s not exactly “running all over the place” or even doing it remotely steadily and predictably, but she’s doing it, dammit. At nearly 18 months old, my baby girl is finally on her pegs. Whew. After six whole months of it, I was starting to get really sick of plastering a cheery smile on my face and optimistically chirping “No, not yet, but probably soon. ” everytime someone asked if she’d started walking. Especially when what I really wanted to do was plaster on a smug little smirk and sneer,  ” No, but she can sing every word of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, count to ten, and recognize a bunch of letters. And by the way, how many kids with autism do you have, and do you think you’d have any room in your Pinworm Maternity Ward for the advice I can tell you’re just about to offer me?” But I didn’t. Not even once. Instead, I grinned back at their mildly surprised and faintly sympathetic smiles, and patiently listened to their reassuring stories about how their niece’s daughter’s friend and their best friend’s grandson’s cousin didn’t walk until they were almost two, and nodded at the advice to not worry about it because every child is different. No shit, Sherlock.

Ahhh, but I digress. But before I delve into the mountain of pay-the-bills work that has so happily come my way, let me envision a little something here: Sure, this summer I am going to be so busy with work that I will not have time to wipe my own arse, or the arses of my children. However, I will be making money. And so will my Mr. And we’ll be able to afford to hire someone else to wipe the arses of the children. And we’ll be able to afford to have my office chair outfitted with a snazzy little toilet/bidet attachment, so that I will not, in fact, even have to wipe my own arse. Then, I can focus on building a lovely little empire for me and my family. Yay for me and my big mouth!


Making a comeback takes balls…

7 05 2009

You have Meg Hickling to thank for this blogging comeback. Meg Hickling, and of course, my own uncanny ability to make a rational decision based on the most logical, well-thought-out list of pros and cons…and then decide that the road to crazyville is, in fact,  paved with rational decisions and pros and cons lists, and that I’d be better off  reversing my rational, well-thought-out decision, even at the risk of looking like a flip flopper. Personally, I’m a fan of the flip-flop. It’s a sign of flexibility. Of an ability to appropriately analyze and react to the assorted ebbs and flows of life. Any knuckle head can make a decision and  stick by it. It takes real brains and real cajones to know when to pull a complete 180. So here I am, frantically 180-ing away at my keyboard, with Squiggles parked in front of the tube demonstrating her uncanny ability to repeat an entire episode of Bear in the Big Blue House, word for word.

Ohhhhhh yes. Domestic Blister is back.

In the weeks since I shattered all your poor little reader hearts with the abrupt throwing in of my perpetually un-laundered blog towel, I’ve had plenty of time to just sit back and observe my family and my life without the pressure of turning the Blister family’s every foible into some sort of heart warming life lesson and/or smart-assed social commentary and/or barf-laced cautionary tale. And I realized something: I can’t not write this blog. Not because  I have any particular wisdom to impart. And certainly not because there’s a shortage of narcissistic brain farting on the internet. You, my readers, and the blogosphere in general, might not need this blog. But I do.  I need this quasi-public outlet for my writing and my experiences. I need a place to dump out all the sad and hilarious and furious and fuzzy thoughts that constantly mill around in my mind. I need to put my words out there, and see what happens. And I don’t care if the work I do on this – and make no mistake, this is work – never makes me a penny. And I don’t care if my writing or my mothering or my life doesn’t live up to any expectations other than my own. And I don’t care if I have to start mainlining Red Bull just to stay up past 10 pm; or feeding my family microwaved chicken legs basted in no-name shame sauce, served atop a pile of Mr. Noodles once a week; or letting Squiggles use the laptop so she can transcribe episodes of Bear in the Big Blue House, just to keep her out of my hair long enough to hack out a post. What ever it takes to put out these stories of my life, I’ll do. I need to write this blog.

And here is why: Apart from the fact that I have always been compelled- possibly by forces beyond my control – to blab about myself,  I have also been blessed with a weirdo family, who are, quite frankly, a lot of fun to blab about too. And here is where Meg Hickling comes in to play. Here is the story that forced me back to blogging. The story that I just could not not share:

***WARNING*** The following anecdote contains  cute shit my kid said, graphic descriptions of human reproductive organs, and Domestic Blister’s trademark storytelling style, which may induce urine leakage in those with compromised kegel muscles. Clench ’em if you’ve got, folks…

So, quite some time ago, I bought Neener and Roo the book Boys, Girls and Body Science, by Meg Hickling. It kicked around on our bookshelf largely unnoticed for well over a year. Until recently. In the book,  a cartoon Meg – who is a sexual health educator with a scientific approach- visits a cartoon classroom to explain and answer cartoon kids’ questions about cartoon bodies and cartoon boobies and cartoon baby making. It’s a great little book. Friendly, frank and factual. And funny. At least, it was when Roo read it.

It took me a minute to figure out what she was reading on that fatefully Saturday afternoon, when she discovered Boys, Girls and Body Science on the bookshelf. At first, all I heard was laughing. Then, with steadily increasing volume, and skyrocketing enthusiasm I heard her repeat one word: “BALLS!”  Over and over and over again. Until she was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. At which point, Neener arrived on the scene and picked up right where Roo left off: The cry of  ” BALLS! BALLS! BALLS!” rang out through the Blisterdome until Neener and Roo were reduced to crumpled heaps of hysterical giggles. See, in the book’s bit about male reproductive organs, Meg asks the class what they know about boy’s body parts. In an attempt to illustrate the importance of not using slang words, Meg responds by offering up the correct terminology when one of the kids eagerly shouts out the word balls. Which then leads to a conversation about using scientific words, and a little explanation about testicles being little ball-shaped parts of a boy’s body, and they are held in a wrinkly sack known as the scrotum. But what do my kids learn from Hickling’s rational, well-thought-out little story? Why, to shout out the word “BALLS!” at the top of their lungs, of course! So I tried to get the “BALLS!”  under control. I sat with them on the couch and read the book with them, carefully trying to de-emphasize the part where the kid shouts the word balls. And it went well. They got it. They learned a lot. And they stopped yelling “BALLS!” at least temporarily. Probably because they got so distracted by the word urethra. When we finished reading, I told them that if they had any questions, I was here for the asking. Nope, no questions, they said. Whew. So, we put the book back on the shelf and went to the kitchen to have a snack, as I patted myself on the back for not only ending the “BALLS!” fest, but for helping Neener and Roo really get a handle on some anatomical and biological fundamentals.

Then, Roo mused out loud:

” So, are there balls AND skipping ropes in a scrotum?”

At which point, I’m pretty sure some urine escaped from my urethra. And I hope some just did from yours too. Because that, my friends, is what this blog is all about.

Post # 100, in which the blog becomes aware of itself…

10 03 2009

That’s right, this is Domestic Blister’s 100th post. And to commemorate this momentous milestone, I’d like to take a moment to thank you, my dear readers, for supporting this ego maniacal rant-fest. For hanging on my every swear word. For putting up with all my bitching and blustering and talk about the barfies. For being just as confused as I have been at times, not knowing whether to laugh or cry at the experiences that have shaped the Blister family. Thank you. I am a better writer and a better mother because of you.

That’s why I started this blog in the first place. I did not want this to be a shiny happy mommy blog about the cute shit my kids say, and how perfect my life is, although there are shades of that here. I also did not want it to be a snide, cynical pity party about how hard it is to walk in my shoes with such big, clumsy, blister prone feet. But there are shades of that here too. Really, I just wanted a place to blab about nothing. Or something. Or everything. I honestly didn’t even think anybody would actually read this, let alone keep reading it for nearly a year. But I’m glad you did.

Now, here’s the part where I take my readers ever so gently by the hand, lead them to a beautiful, flower-filled meadow whilst whispering soothing words of love and gratitude in their ears, and then turn around and thwack them in the heads with a ten-pound bag of yukon gold potatoes that I’ve been hiding behind my back the entire time: I’m afraid that this, the 100th post on Domestic Blister, will be the last. You saw that coming, right? You’ve all seen how slack I’ve been lately. And with good reason. I’ve been rolling the thought of quitting this blog around in my mind for quite some time, but I just wasn’t sure how or when or why to do it. Rest assured, dear reader, it’s not you. It’s me. Like I said, I started this blog to challenge myself. To become a better mother and a better writer. I think I’ve done that. God knows I’ve felt challenged by the emptiness of my screen and the fullness of my mind every single time I sat down to hack out a post. But over the last few months,  I feel like I’ve been losing ground. I’ve been writing just for the sake of getting something, anything,  up on this blog. And those are hours that I now feel like I should be spending with my kids. Or, quite frankly, if I’m going to be glued to the computer for three hours at a time, I should be writing something that pays the bills. A writer can not live on love alone.

I’m not ruling out the possibility that I’ll pick this thing up again someday. That this may not be good-bye, but rather a see-ya-later. I don’t know. I’ll ask my tarot cards, since they seem to be so goddamn smart these days. But I do know that for now, my heart and my head and my efforts  need to be more focused on other things in my life. Things that will help establish me as a writer, and put some money in my pocket. Things that need help learning to walk.  Things that want to learn to bake fancy cheesecakes. Things that say cute shit like “Damn, we haven’t had pickles for a snack in a long time!”

Again, thank you for reading and responding and relating to my life and my family. It’s been a slice. May you all find your own personal path to bliss, domestic or otherwise. May you travel that road with a wellspring of strength, and a weakness for laughter. And may you always, always have a band-aid handy. Just in case you get blisters.

Reptile Rage-O-Rama

28 02 2009

The vivid red, yellow and black bands of a Coral snake warn predators that this serpent means business. Deadly, venomous, fuck-with-me-and-I’ll-pump-you-full-of-neurotoxin-and-paralyze-your-lungs type business. I know this because of the little write-ups on the tags that came with the not one, but two,  Coral snakes we now own. The creatively named Venom and Coral. Venom and Coral came all the way from some cheap plastic crap factory in China, to the merchandise table at the moderately priced family fun-o-rama known as Little Ray’s Traveling Reptile Show. Which just happened to be traveling near us this weekend. So, after a week’s worth of dangling the flyer for Little Ray’s Reptile Show in front of Neener and Roo whenever it was time to clear the table, or get ready for school, or stop a “You’re a Boy!/No I’m not! Yes you are! No I’m not!” argument , Mr and I made good on our promise this morning. Because apparently, we are sadists.

I could write about how we showed up right at nine o’clock because Neener and Roo were desperate to get the as-advertised “Free Chomper Toy for the first 100 kids.” Then I could write about how Neener and Roo had absolutely no idea what a Chomper Toy actually was, and how that didn’t matter because it had the words Free and Chomper and Toy in bold print on the flyer.  And how within minutes of receiving the Free Chomper Toys, the novelty wore off, and the Free Chomper Toys became More Stuff for Mom and Dad to Carry. I could also write about Mr.’s unsung act of heroism. How he saved the crowd of drenched parents and screaming children from spending even longer in the howling wind and driving icy rain, by insisting that the khaki-clad kids collecting the cash let the frozen families line up inside the building instead of out. And how the crowd repaid Mr.’s use of his common sense for their common good by butting in front of us, to make sure that their two-year olds got a chance to not care about seeing an alligator. I could write about Neener darting around the big, busy room like a hummingbird that fed from a can of Red Bull, and how she used her Chomper toy to collect wood chips from the tortoise display. Or Roo’s desperate attempts to get her hands on the long, carrot coloured braided hair of the Iguana handler, and her fascination with the Taiwan Beauty snake. Or Squiggle’s mysterious conversation with the Great Horned Owl. Or how Mr. and I experienced the surrealism of eight feathery tarantula toes dancing across our hands. But those are the pleasant little details that, while cute and amusing, would make me yawn after a while if that was all I had to write about. Me, I’m all about the drama. And God knows that the Blister family can not set foot in a place like Little Ray’s Traveling Reptile Show without some sort of drama.february09-141

Which brings us back to the Coral snakes. Venom and Coral. Fifty-one minutes and twenty-three bucks later, we were all more than ready to get the hell out of Little Ray’s Reptile Fun-O-Rama. The crowd had doubled in volume, tripled in pushiness, and our collective patience had been slashed in half and divided by five. And that’s when Neener and Roo discovered the merchandise table, crawling with stuffed frogs and iguana puppets and toy tarantulas and rubber snakes. So I cut a deal with them: I would loan them the money to buy something but they’d have to pay me back from their piggy banks when they got home.  Sure, they said, no problem. Roo, having already thoroughly mauled every item on the table, settled on a Coral snake. And when Roo decides  she wants something, that’s it. That snake will be her best friend until some other carefully chosen object is deemed worthy of her long meandering narratives. Neener, on the other hand, is more subject to impulse. To making decisions without thinking them through. To wanting for the sake of getting. To doing things that she regrets moments later. And so was the case with her Coral snake.

As Mr. went to get the van, the girls and I waited inside. It was then that Neener decide that she did not want the Coral snake after all. That it was boring. That this would be a good time to have an all out meltdown. All the way into the van and out of the parking lot, she screamed, she stomped, she yelled. We tried speaking to her in calm controlled voices. We tried speaking to her in not-so-calm, not-so-controlled voices. We distracted, we threatened, we guilted, we reasoned. Nothing could bring Neener back to rational. So, we did something that goes against all logic in such a situation. We stopped at Tim Hortons. And we did what is known in the behaviour management business as “Precipitating a Crisis.” Coffees for Mr and I , and a powdered jelly donut for Roo. And nothing for Neener. Which resulted in a sharp escalation of screaming and yelling, and the almost-amusing addition of  Neener whacking herself in the forehead, and snarling, gnashing, and clawing at the air like a very, very pissed off tiger. Which continued more or less unabated until we got home, at which point she was sent directly to her room, where she could be heard wailing ” But I’m gonna starve to death!” and “Nobody cares about me!” and “Everybody in the whole world gets all the treats and I don’t get anything except bossed around and told to go to your rooooooom!” And once the screaming died down to sobbing, I went upstairs with a banana and a glass of water to seize this teachable moment. We talked about everything Neener could have done differently at many points, from thinking more carefully about what she wanted to buy, to positive self-talk, to ways of calming down after freaking out, to the futility of whacking one’s self in the head. And when I say we talked, I mean that we talked. Not that I talked and she listened. That approach doesn’t work now that Neener knows what the word lecture means, and is not afraid to point out when a lecture is in progress. And I think that by going the non-lecture route, and by going downstairs and writing down some of the things we figured out, she might get it. She might be able to put the experience to use in her often tumultuous daily life. If not, I’ll have to consider precipitating the crisis even further next time something similar happens. And instead of hiding in my office to eat the donut we got for her just in case she pulled herself together enough to deserve it, maybe I’ll eat it right in front of her. The vivid powdered sugar and lemon jelly bands around Mommy’s donut-filled mouth tell fit-throwing children that their mother means business. Serious, dragon mama, throw-a-fit-at-me-and-I’ll-eat-your-donut-and-lecture-you-until-your-ears-fall-off-like-lizard-tails type business.

Now, Venom and Coral and the Free Chomper Toys have been lovingly pitched into the junk pile in the basement. Neener’s freak-out is as good as forgiven and forgotten, but I’d like to think a lesson will stick with her beyond today. We have some cool pictures of our morning at Little Ray’s Reptile Racket. And I have a new appreciation for this morning’s little details: tarantula feet, rubber Coral snakes, donuts-as-a-crisis-precipitation tool, and the improvisational parenting of my never-boring children.

Squiggles’ Prayer

17 02 2009

february09-001“Our father, who art in the kitchen, Daddy be they name. Thy bottle come. My will be done. Right now because I’m a baby. Give me right now, my freakin’ baba, and don’t forget to change my diaper. Lead me not to my crib, but deliver me from my sisters. For mine is this living room. The power and the glory. Forever and ever. A-baby.”

UU and Us

11 02 2009

The Blister family has done something completely outrageous. Something so totally out of character that frankly, I’m a little shocked, even though it was my idea in the first place. We’ve started going to church. That’s right, all of us except the fish and the cat, who are staunch atheists. And church. As in getting brushed and washed and dressed every Sunday morning to go listen to a choir sing hymns, and a reverend deliver a sermon while the kids go upstairs to the Sunday school room for stories and songs and snacks. But this is not just any church. It’s the Universalist Unitarian Church.  A.k.a the UUC. It’s the only church we could really picture ourselves having any involvement in because the UUs are pretty much dogma-free, and very much interested in celebrating the human spirit and improving the human condition. It embraces social justice, social advocacy, science, philosophy, spirituality, and intelligent debate about God and mankind and the existence of both. It’s also the only church that might have us because they are all about tolerance and acceptance. And trust me, if there’s any family who can test a church crowd’s capacity for tolerance and acceptance, it’s us.

Any new foray into public is an intensely nerve-wracking experience for all of us. Especially me. And any new forays into public  that require all three of our children to  a) sit semi-still and listen quasi-quietly, b) interact with a bunch of strangers in a busy, unfamiliar place without looking in anyone’s purse, grabbing anyone’s boobs, or asking every single person what their name is and how old they are, and c) keep the nose picking, road salt eating, microphone grabbing, random-word-yelling, crying, screaming and explosive pooping to a minimum is an exercise in insanity-provoking futility. For all of us. Especially me. So why the hell would we voluntarily subject ourselves to just such a situation on a weekly basis? Because we all need it. Simple as that. Neener and Roo need the practice. Practice in the give-and-take-of conversation, in listening and speaking politely. Practice controlling their impulses. Practice being part of a group. They need the type of education that the UU Sunday school provides. The month of February is devoted to learning about earth-centred religions. They’ve heard the Mi’kMaq story of how our continent was born. They’ve sung songs about respecting and loving Mother Earth and all creatures great and small. And later this month they’re going to learn about Pagan celebrations and Wiccan traditions. Squiggles needs to see other babies, and to stack new blocks, and to chew on new toys every now and then.  Mr. and I need a place to explore our own ideas about spirituality, morality, mortality. To think about and talk about what we believe and why. Our whole family needs a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a sense of who we are and what we can do and be in the world. But none of that will come easily to us.

This Sunday was our second trip to church.  Mr. stayed downstairs for the church services – an enlightening, eclectic mix of music and sermon and conversations on everything from the dark side of our souls to Darwinism to the parallels between the human brain and the galaxy. Meanwhile, I escorted the kids to the Sunday school class, and subsequently spent that time fighting back tears, trying not to look like I was embarrassed out of my skull, wanting nothing more than to run away from that room full of pleasant strangers and back to the solitary, predictable sanctuary of our home. Back to a place where it doesn’t matter if  Neener freaks out because someone misspelled her name or because the apple juice is a different brand than she’s used to. Where it doesn’t matter if Roo doesn’t speak when spoken to, or can’t resist playing the piano during story time. Where Squiggles is the only baby, so I don’t notice how different she is from other babies her age. Back to a place where I don’t have to explain twins, or autism, or CP, or anxiety, or hyperlexia, or gross motor delays to strangers who , no matter how pleasant,  probably can’t help but think: bad, lazy, rude, inattentive kids come from bad, lazy, rude, inattentive parents. But running and hiding and crying won’t do a lick of good. Instead, if we are to get what we need from this whole church experiment, I’ve got to start conversations with these pleasant strangers. Get to know them, and let them get to know us. And in that process, explain. About autism. And CP, anxiety, hyperlexia, gross motor delays. About Neener and Roo and Squiggles. About us. All in the hopes that we will be met with understanding. Tolerance. Acceptance. Maybe even love.

Such conversations are not easy to have. Especially when every moment spent in the company of new people in a new place requires running near-constant damage control. Roo, get away from the piano. Neener, it’s ok, the apple juice will taste pretty much the same. Squiggles, sshhhh. Roo, don’t touch, Neener stop interrupting, Squiggles, sshhhh. Roo-get-that-out-of-you-mouth-Neener-calm-down-Squiggles-stop-yelling-cat!-cat!-cat!-there-are-no-cats-in-here-and-can’t-you-see-I’m-trying-to-have-a-conversation-with-these-strangers-to-explain-that-I’m-not-somekinda-hyper-vigilant-stressed-out-freakazoid-mother! It’s a slow process. But, I managed to mention Roo’s autism about mid-way through our first morning there. Had to get that one out of the way early for the sake of the  Sunday school teacher. And luckily, she had pretty much recognized it before I even opened my mouth. Which was a huge relief. And with that knowledge, on our second day, she welcomed Roo with open arms, but without the expectations of typical behaviour and communication, and the judgment that so often follows when those expectations are not met. But then, the older gentleman who came to talk to the kids about the beliefs of the Natives, approached me after the Sunday school class. I was panic stricken when I saw him walking toward me. Neener had interrupted his story several times and couldn’t keep her hands off his feather collection and turtle shell. Roo kept trying to play the drum he brought, and rolled all over the sacred ceremonial blanket. With her boots on. Meanwhile, I frantically bounced around the room trying to keep Squiggles from crying, and alternated giving Neener the I’m Warning You face, and hissing the word behave in her ear, with giving Roo the Oh Jesus Not Again face, and hissing the words stop it at her. I was ashamed of my own behaviour as much as my kids, and I was ready for my dreams of acceptance and tolerance and love to come to an unceremonious end with whatever this guy was about to say. But instead, he smiled kindly, and said simply and sincerely, “Your children are filled with such a wonderful curiosity. It was really great to see that.” Which was exactly what I needed to hear – and see – too. Suddenly, I felt a surge in my own capacity for acceptance, tolerence and love – not only toward the pleasant UU strangers, but for my own weird, complex family as well.

This whole going-to-church idea is so crazy, it just might work. So brace yourselves, UU s. We’ll be back.

Dirty Dancing, Elementary School Style

7 02 2009

I can’t remember the last time I went to a dance. Much less, a school dance. Much, much less a school dance at which I was stone-cold sober. But hey, I’m open to new experiences. So, resisting the siren song of a bottle of blueberry wine, I slapped on some lipstick and some sparkly earrings and went to a dance last night. A school dance. An elementary school dance. An elementary school Family Dance. With the whole Blister family.
We arrived fashionably late and fashionably dressed. And by fashionably dressed, I mean clothes that didn’t have big holes, paint, grease, smushed peas, marker stains or cat barf on them. And by fashionably late, I mean half an hour late, because that is how long it took to find five complete outfits that did not have big holes, paint, grease, smushed peas, marker stains or cat barf on them. In my infinite coolness, I even hauled out the coloured hairspray left over from Halloween and gave Roo some pink-tinged piggy tails, and Neener some pink streaked bangs. I did not, however, give them real platinum blond streaks in their hair. Or gobs of turquoise eye shadow. Or airbrushed-on belly tattoos. Which apparently makes me infinitely less cool than the parents of some of the other little girls in Neener and Roo’s class.

Now, here’s how I really know I’m getting old: upon entering the gym, it took me two whole seconds to decide that the music was way too loud. Ridiculously loud. Like I said, I can’t remember the last time I went to a dance, and maybe my kids’ auditory sensitivities are rubbing off on me, but since this was supposed to be a family dance, I figured the music would be at least a little shy of deafening. No-sir-ee-bob. Despite the fact that the crowd ranged from grey-haired grannies to bald-headed babies, the music volume seemed more geared toward glassy-eyed club goers whose senses have been sufficiently dulled by jello-shooters and doobies. Still, I decided to be a good sport. So, while Mr. stayed a safe distance away from the speakers with Squiggles securely  strapped to his chest, Neener and Roo and I ventured on to the dance floor to get our groove on.february09-009

I desperately hoped that “DJ Jeff” would skip the Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers kid music crap, and give us brave parental souls a chance to kick it old school. Maybe a little U Can’t Touch This.  Or some Maestro Fresh Wes, since I’m pretty sure I can still let my backbone slide without herniating a disc. Or, in my wildest fantasies, a little somethin’ somethin’ that would allow us tragically hip Gen X ‘rents to show those young whipper snappers what a mosh pit was all about. A safe, controlled, adult supervised mosh pit, of course. I could even get into The Chicken Dance, if nothing else. And indeed, DJ Jeff did skip the Hannah Montanna, the Jonas Brothers, and all that kid music crap. Instead, he went right to the obnoxious, hiphoppish dance music with highly sexualized and utterly inappropriate-for-my-five-year-old-daughters’-ears lyrics. From the booming speakers in the school gym, the Pussy Cat Dolls breathlessly sneered, “Dontcha wish you’re girlfriend was hot like me? Dontcha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me? Doncha wish your girlfriend was wrong like me? Dontcha?”  Then Akon – and a cluster of Grade three and four girls – crooned “I Wanna Make Love Right Now.” And then, the non-Madagascar version of “I Like to Move It” implored “All the girls to move ya body. And when ya move it, move it nice and sweet and sexy!” Yes, let the gyrating begin! Who doesn’t love to see elementary school girls moving their bodies nice and sweet and sexy! How else can they prove that they are hot wrong freaks who want to make love right now! Suddenly, I found myself praying for a little bit of the Jonas Brothers’ Disney-manufactured-purity-ring-wearin’-homeschooled-Jesus-worshippin’-family-friendly goodness.

Then, before I could get myself too twisted up about the evening’s soundtrack, some sadistic bonehead masquerading as a responsible adult organizer of this “Family Dance” started the one thing more dangerous to a crowd of little kids than a mosh pit: a stampede. Yes, someone thought it would be fun to toss a few giant beach balls out into the crowd and on to the dance floor. Which resulted in a swarm of twenty or thirty kids running and charging and quickly shifting directions as they chased the beach balls that bounced and bobbed above their heads. By the grace of my lightening quick kid-picking-up reflexes, Roo was saved from being trampled when a wave of people knocked her down. And by the grace of the dirty looks several parents who’d been hit in the face with beach balls shot at whoever’s stupid idea it was, the fiasco came to an abrupt halt before anyone got hurt. But by then, we’d had enough. Neener, Roo and Squiggles had had just enough fun, and were now teetering on the verge of over-tired meltdowns. And Mr. and I wanted to get out of there before they started passing out jello-shooters and playing that sick pedophiliacal Nickelback song about the innocent-looking, pink-thong wearing, thumb-sucking girl teasing all the sugar daddies on the dance floor. The last thing we needed was to hear that hairy old creep singing the line “You look so much cuter with something in your mouth.”

Now, the last time I checked, I was not a prude. Although admittedly, I have not done a thorough check on my prude status since late 2004. Still, we let our kids listen to some pretty grown up music. They love Garbage and Weezer and Radiohead and R.E.M. And they know all the words – even the ‘curse words’ – to the Joan Jett song Bad Reputation, and they sing it with glee. And they totally dig Motorhead and Ozzy Osborne. But I don’t let my five year old daughters listen to songs about having sex. And I don’t let them wear makeup. And I don’t encourage them to have little “boyfriends”, or to make being pretty or sexy or cute their biggest goals in life. But pop culture sure does. So, the whole family dance experience made me feel like a big gigantic prude. Again. Especially because the only parents there who looked even remotely shocked were Mr. and I. Everyone else just seemed to smile – perhaps slightly uncomfortably – and accept that that’s just the way it is for kids today. It might be the way it is, but I can not bring myself to believe that it is ok. Or that I shouldn’t somehow try to fight against it for the sake of my daughters.

So I’m not sure what to do. Do we boycott the school’s family dances from now on, even though the kids had a pretty good time? Do I join the school association that is responsible for planning the dances, and risk coming off like a puritanical neo-con prude when I suggest that some elements of the last one were rather inappropriate? Or do I just show up at the next Family Dance and politely point out to DJ Jeff that the music is too damn loud and too damn dirty for a bunch of little kids and their parents? Ask him if he’s got any MC Hammer? Or how ’bout some Joan Jett? Or Weezer? Or Ozzy? Yeah, DJ Jeff, play some good ol’ wholesome Ozzy Osbourne. I can show the kids how to rock out to Crazy Train. But I might need a glass of blueberry wine or two first.