Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Drinks Are On Me

My mother once taught me that when you give a gift, you should imagine the person happy and give them the thing that would make it so. For my last birthday, she gave me this. Sometimes, it's like she peeks into my soul.

I'm not exactly what you'd call a big spender. And my slack code of ethics has plenty of built in wiggle room. Not only am I comfortable sneaking snacks into the movies, I actually kind of get off on it. I teach Pre-K for Chrissake; I take my thrills where I can find them. And to me, making it past the ticket guy toting a full buffet and open bar is a tiny adventure.

I know, I know, they have rent to pay. But I refuse to feel (very) guilty if they're going to charge twenty bucks for a watered down Coke and Crisco-coated popcorn. Besides, you know that stuff will give you a heart attack. I'd rather invest my money filling my breasts with a nice Red Zinfandel. For my health. I have a child to think about.

I wish I'd had the courage to just sashay right in, jiggling my new jugs for all to see. God knows it would have been a first. I wasn't so much blessed with jugs as jiggers. But I'd never worn the Rack before and I wasn't entirely confident that I wouldn't slosh or leak. Imagine the guy's face if just as he handed me my ticket red liquid started oozing down my chest, like a victim in a Quentin Tarantino film. So I kept the girls under wraps until the lights dimmed. Turns out, I worried for nothing. It worked like a charm. There was a brief learning curve, sitting in the darkened theater trying to figure out if the thing worked on gravity or pressure. But at the very moment I was trying to initiate wine flow by vigorously squeezing my pretend breasts, Penélope Cruz was generously revealing her real ones. I'm pretty sure nobody noticed me.

If you're ever in the mood for some PG-13 quality naughtiness and a movie that's already gone to video, I'm your girl. Just stick a baguette down your britches and some brie in your bra and meet me at the dollar theater. I'll be the one with huge, gently sloshing rack.

. .

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hair like Jesus wore it

As a Pre-K teacher, I am intimately, passionately aware of the need for rules and procedures. A classroom absent rules and procedures is filled instead with chaos, confusion and high blood pressure. Rules and procedures are our friends. But as with real friends, quality trumps quantity. Particularly with the younger set, the fewer rules you attempt to establish the better: Don't hurt each other, keep it to a dull roar, and if you really must play with your wiener, please go do it in the bathroom. I went to a workshop once that suggested boiling it down even further, to just one succinct rule: You can do anything you want, as long as it doesn't cause trouble. I thought of this today, when I heard about Taylor Pugh and his terribly troublesome hair.

Taylor Pugh's hair has earned him several weeks of in-school suspension. As you can plainly see, Taylor's hair has been very, very bad. It is not following the rules. That's because where Taylor goes to school, just outside Dallas in a place called 1947, students are expected "to adhere to the code of conduct." And his hair is not adhering. The district categorizes Taylor's hair as "distracting" and therefore disruptive to the learning environment. I am not making this up.

I couldn't agree more that hair can be distracting, disruptive and downright annoying. Several of my little girls wear so many beads and barrettes that my room sounds like Tito Puente's percussion section. I also have a little girl with flowing blond hair so enchanting that some of my boys will stroke it during class or tug it in line. And you should see the ruckus when the boy who normally wears tiny plaits shows up with his hair loose, which turns out to be a fabulously fluffy fro. Even I can't keep my hands out of that! I'm 45 and hair even distracts me. So I suppose we should just borrow some hair nets from the lunch ladies and get back to work. We can't have these four-year-olds distracted from the rigorous academics of Pre-K.

A school board member asked if Taylor's "parents value his education more than they value a 4-year-old’s decision to make his own grooming choices?” If you ask me, they do. It's just that their definition of education, like their son, doesn't fit inside a tidy prefab box. It appears they include radical concepts like thinking for oneself and challenging antiquated ideas that don't make sense. They also seem to be including the lesson of generosity and love, since Taylor plans to eventually donate his long locks to a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients.

Meanwhile, what is this school teaching Taylor?

PS, Hey Taylor, I like your hair. It's pretty, and I bet it's really quiet, too.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Game On

Little Rock has done something most unexpected this week—it's become winter. Some idiot tipped it off that January is supposed to be cold and it's decided to play along. Today, although the sun was dutifully holding up its end of the deal, we just couldn't seem to get on the right side of freezing. And I am not amused. My six-year-old, on the other hand, is having a ball. He's been merrily running around the neighborhood for the past two hours with his open coat flapping in the frigid breeze. He refuses to zip it, though, because then the neighbors couldn't see what's underneath—his new jersey.

Last Christmas, we went to see my nephew tear up the court at his high school basketball game. Alex is the best player on his team and watching him play lit a fire in my son. He came home eat up with the game, wanting to play it whenever and wherever he could . . . including inside our house. Clearly, a change of venue was in order. We got one today.

Upward is sports with a stiff God chaser. It's three parts team spirit and one part Holy Spirit. At least that's the blend we're hoping for. It's not that we're anti-God by any means, we're just not fans of proselytizing. We're even, to be honest, a bit cynical of organized religion. We've already planned our evacuation route the first time they bring a snake on the court or start speaking in tongues. But so far, the message has been positive and benign. The focus is on sportsmanship, fundamental skills and having fun.

They don't even keep score so everyone can be a winner. Although, clearly some kids have a bit more winner in them than others. Take our kid, for instance. From the initial evaluations a few months ago, it was evident that the child has talent. He dipped into his father's DNA and pulled out a heaping helping of grace, coordination and athletic ability. There was no doubt he'd do well when actual games began. So today, when they called his name and he joined the rest of the starting line up, I was proud, but not surprised.

The surprised part came about three minutes later. Turns out, he didn't escape the womb without a dollop of his mother's DNA. This became apparent right around the time he darted off the court, mid-game, to exchange high fives with a classmate he suddenly noticed sitting on the sidelines. And again when he drifted off for long minutes at a time to gaze at the cheerleaders. And certainly when he ran most earnestly into the middle of another game in progress on the next court over, completely oblivious to the fact that none of the players were on his team. It was a good five minutes before we could corral him and return him, at least in body, to his own game.

Okay, so he sucks. But he couldn't be more adorable while he's sucking.

Can I get an Amen?

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Full Mommy

When I first moved from New York to Arkansas, I felt compelled to travel back home four times a year. There was a lot of me left behind, and it took that many trips to scrape together the pieces. Each visit was packed with an extensive itinerary of people and places I thought I needed. But as my life in Arkansas filled out, my requirements from New York were conversely whittled. By now, it's pretty much down to family, a few lifelong friends, and Helmbold's hot dogs. Not necessarily in that order.

Diane is one of those cherished friends who always makes sure to see me when I'm in town. We grew up together and now, in bits and pieces, we get to watch our children grow up together. She and I share history not only because we lived in the same town, but also because we lived through a similar experience. We both have wanted children forever, and it seemed to take us that long to finally get them. And like that first bite of chocolate after a Lenten fast, going without for an extended period does wonders for one's appreciation. I've never seen a mom more committed to making her children happy. Which works out really well for my kid when we hang out with them.

Past visits with Diane have included trips to the amusement park, swimming in the lake near her house and playing in the indoor Disneyland that is her home. (There is a trampoline and swing set in the play room. I am not making this up.) This trip did not disappoint. In fact, it was interesting right from the get go: "Did you pack swimsuits?" No, no swimsuits. Snow pants, but no swimsuits. But that little detail didn't stop her from taking us here:

Ciccotti Family Recreation Center, Albany, New York

My six-year-old was raring to go in his SpongeBob boxers, which passed adorably as a swimsuit.

My middle-aged, out-of-shape, unprepared self, however, needed a bit of priming. The first hurdle was getting comfortable with the idea of purposely getting wet when it's ten degrees outside. That just ain't right. Since I never imagined for a minute that my brain might talk my body into it, I didn't waste any time at all getting it prepared. And believe me, in the middle of winter, it needed some prep. I don't know about you, but I'm not on speaking terms with my bikini wax come December. Or my razor. Or my pedicure set. Or, apparently, my pride. Those are all affectations for summer. Winter was made for binging and burrowing in forgiving layers. And I had no intention of shedding a one.

But then . . . there's Diane. How could I disappoint her when she so consistently shows us a good time? So I shoved my ego in a locker and accepted the black camisole and spandex bike shorts she thoughtfully provided me. Diane, as I have suggested, has a very big heart. A heart almost as big as her enormous, magnificent knockers. (Did I mention I was wearing her camisole?) Which was hardly an issue at all. Except for that small period of time, somewhere between three seconds and eternity, when one of those randomly timed dumping buckets of water released its contents on my head, suddenly ripping the camisole several inches below my navel. Which was good, really, because having my teeny tiny B cups involuntarily exposed to a roomful of strangers instantly put a little embarrassing leg hair right into perspective.

That list of places I need to go when I visit New York just got whittled again.