Newtown

I don’t have a lot to say about Newtown, and I’m sure I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said. I don’t tend to be very insightful about these sorts of things. And also, I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

The day it happened, I was exhausted (damn gluten!). I was getting into bed to take a nap when I got a New York Times news alert saying there was a school shooting. My thought was not “Sweet Jesus! How could this have happened? I must read about it immediately!” It was “Oh, fuck. Not another one. I don’t have the energy to read about this now.” And so I went to bed. And when I woke up, my friend Lisa was on my porch, looking traumatized. She told me what happened, and I went inside and got on the Internet. I spent the afternoon with my iPad, under a blanket, intermittently crying. Peeta just thought I was crying from my gluten stabbing, so he didn’t question anything, fortunately. Noodle kept coming over to pat me on the arm and then run away.

The whole thing, like any mass shooting, was disturbing on every level. For me, the thing that was almost the most disturbing was my own reaction to the news update. In any normal country, this would be horrifying, breaking news (which it was here, to be sure), but it was so commonplace that I wasn’t even surprised. Yup, another day, another shooting. Time for my nap. Maybe that says more about me than it does about America, but I still maintain that it’s fucked up that a school shooting doesn’t even elicit surprise anymore. I lived in England during Columbine and it was shocking and horrific and awful, but I was in another country and I didn’t connect with it all personally.

But now, I have a 7-year-old and a 2-year-old. My son goes to a public school. The thought of a gunman coming into his school is almost too much to bear. We ended up telling him about it because friends of ours told their son, who is a close friend of his, and we didn’t want him to hear it from someone else. He was surprisingly practical about it all. We told him not to worry, that his teachers would take care of him and the doors at his school are locked. “Mama,” he said, “if someone has a gun, it doesn’t matter if the doors are locked.” Yes, my son. You are correct.

I don’t know why it happened, and that is the most terrifying part. Maybe it was his mother’s fault. Maybe it was his father’s fault. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe he was evil. Maybe he played violent video games. Maybe it was a horrific combination of all of it. What I do know is that it shouldn’t have been that easy for him to get those guns. And God, oh God, those kids. And those parents. And those teachers. And that principal. And God oh God oh God.

It’s been more than a month now and all sorts of people are buying shitloads of guns and the NRA wants people to carry guns because the Secret Service has them and everything’s gone crazy. I told Peeta that maybe the good thing–the only good thing–to come of this will that it will be harder for people to get guns.

Meanwhile, Peeta had his first practice lockdown at school today. A FUCKING PRACTICE LOCKDOWN. Because that’s the world we live in now, folks. My second grader has to practice hiding in a closet and being quiet in case some murderous lunatic comes to his school with a gun. And I have nothing to say about that.

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Out the window

There are days when your child behaves beautifully in public. When people compliment you on your child’s behavior and you nod, bashfully, as if you don’t already know your child is frigging awesome. When the child acts his or her age or even older. When they look waitresses in the eye and ask for food saying, “May I please have…” and thanking them profusely. When you’re walking down the street and he or she yells to the guys shoveling the street, “Good job, guys!” and the guys are delighted.

And then there are days when your daughter’s teacher calls you the night before school to say that school is cancelled because all the other kids are sick (F you, flu!) and you have an appointment with a pulmonologist to discuss your ongoing hacking cough. It’s too late to cancel, so you bring her to the appointment, praying that she will behave.

And she does, at first. She is sweet and charming and so articulate that the doctor doesn’t believe you that she is only two. And you start to become the bashful proud parent,when the doctor curses you. You are talking about how huge she was at birth, and how she’s only 8th percentile for weight now, and the doctor says, “She’s not eighth percentile where it counts.”

And then (of course),  she starts to misbehave. Small things, at first. She is squirming around in your lap and she refuses to sit in the chair and play with the iPod like a good 21st century child. Then she takes off her socks and boots. Then she wriggles down to the ground and starts to run around barefoot. Then she gets into the trash can. Then she climbs back up and when you try to get her to put her boots back on, she throws them across the room instead. And you are simultaneously sad and glad that you are in a windowless room, because you would have thrown her out without a second thought.

Through it all, the doctor remains gracious and kind, which almost makes it worse. You make a joke about how your other child is adopted and much better behaved because he didn’t inherit these bad genes (which obviously come from your husband). He laughs. She opens the top of the trash can again and tries to climb in. You are unable to scream at her, because you don’t want to seem like an abusive parent and be reported to DSS. And so instead, you just look incompetent and kind of stupid, like one of those obnoxious free range parents who lets their kid do whatever the hell they want with no repercussions at all. And you just keep saying, “Noodle, no! No treats for you after this!” and hoping that the doctor doesn’t pity you. Which, of course, he does.

And then it’s time for him to leave (thankfully), and he says to you with a wink, “I’m going to close the door for you,” and without thinking, you say, “So I can beat her in private?” And fortunately, he laughs. And when the door is closed, you tell your evil, monstrous child that she is not getting her treat for good behavior because that was very bad behavior. And then, the screaming begins and you are eternally grateful that the doctor closed the door. She screams for a few minutes, but you do not cave, mostly because you are so pissed that she was such a turd and there are no rewards for bad behavior.

The nurse has fled her desk outside the door when you leave the room with your child (who is now exclaiming loudly that “I’m good now!” in a last ditch effort for treats, because she clearly sees you as an idiot), but you see her on the way out. She looks at your daughter and says, “You had a lot going on in there, didn’t you?”

And you say, “She’s lucky she didn’t get thrown out the window.” And everybody in the waiting room laughs.

Except that you weren’t joking.

You win some, you lose some

Today I was driving with the kids and we were having a conversation about when Noodle would be able to drink coffee. Peeta said when she was five, but I pointed out that he is only allowed to drink it because he is Ethiopian, and we probably wouldn’t let Noodle drink it that early (yes, we are that mean). Peeta asked when he would allowed to drink it on a regular basis, and I said maybe in high school.

I pointed out that if he drank a lot of it, it would turn his teeth brown and give him terrible, stinky breath.

“Oh, I KNOW,” he said. “Sometimes, when I’m sitting next to you, you have coffee breath and it smells so bad, I want to throw up!”

I asked him if Bucket’s breath was super bad too.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t sit next to him very much.”

Why don’t you tell me when my breath stinks? “Mama! I don’t want to hurt your feelings!” (Because telling me that my breath makes you want to puke and then letting me walk around like that is SO much better.)

He then informed me that he likes to sleep with me more than Bucket, because when he sleeps next to me at night, he can face me and I don’t smell bad, but Bucket’s breath smells like DEATH. YES! I WIN! (Assuming you can call yourself a winner when your breath makes people want to vom.)

Intolerance

So I recently discovered that I am intolerant.

Duh, you’re thinking. We already knew you’re intolerant to: racists, homophobes, hipsters, green beans, excessive rain, dudes with a perfectly-manicured 5 o’clock shadow, faux Euros, many many Republicans, some Democrats, Tim Allen, tenured teachers with no business in the classroom, John Mayer, Yankees fans, anyone driving a BMW or a Prius in the Boston area, Harvard grads who won’t EVER take off their class rings, people who claim to be intellectuals with appalling grammar, papayas, people who drive the speed limit in the passing lane, people who drive the speed limit at all, Times Square, people who never get over high school/college, wife and/or child abusers, aggressive Evangelicals, people who hate dogs, Kate Hudson, people who have never left America but who know without a doubt that it is the best place on earth, foreigners who call you the C word when they find out you’re American (yup, actually happened), suicidal bike riders who don’t wear helmets, subway thieves and molesters, regular molesters, rapists, pedophiles, anyone with an arsenal in their home, anyone who claims they “need” a semi-automatic/automatic weapon, fascist vegans, people who refer to my daughter as my “real”  or “own” child (because, as we all know, my son is a figment of my imagination), anyone with a Dixie flag, bullies, people who start running and lose a ton of weight and then can talk about nothing but running….oh, wait. You thought the list would end?

Okay. I’ll get to the point. Part of the reason I haven’t been blogging much is not just because of my deep and profound laziness, or because of Newtown (which I will get to later), but because I was sick from Thanksgiving until Christmas. Sick, yo. I couldn’t get off the couch. I was exhausted. I had these terrible stabbing pains in my stomach that came and went without reason. I felt like shit.

So I started Googling my symptoms (I know, I know…) and suddenly, it hit me. Gluten. It turns out, gluten hates me. I had an allergy test done years ago that said I had a mild/moderate gluten sensitivity, and I did this liver cleansing diet thing for two months and then I started eating bread again. Why? Bread is good, people! I heart bread!

But now, bread and I have to break up. Because bread was beating me. Bread was kicking my ass. Three weeks ago, I stopped eating gluten. Christmas was not pretty, when I was at my parents’ houses and there was nothing to eat. I had a full-blown total mental breakdown the weekend before New Year’s when the $7 gluten-free bread I ordered at the bakery came in, but they had closed when Bucket went to pick it up. Lost my shit. It weren’t pretty.

Now I am at home and have started cooking all kinds of interesting things, and the stabbing pains have gone. Glutinous bread is a distant, beautiful memory. Now, I am eating roasted cauliflower with tahini  and smoothies and all kinds of hippie crap. I am ordering sandwiches without the bread. I have turned into Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally. But, my skin looks uh-mazing and I have lost five pounds, so there’s that.

I am keeping it in the back of my mind that I will be able to have a beautiful reunion with gluten. Violin music will be playing in the background, and there will be a giant crescendo just as I bite into some delicious sandwich. But in the back of my mind, I remember the stabbing. The terrible, terrible stabbing. And I’m not sure if I’m ready to forgive and forget so easily. So I may have to stay Sally Albright for eternity.

Don’t worry, though. I am not going to turn into one of those maniacs who can only talk about my gluten-free life and how everyone should give up gluten. Bread and pasta are delicious. If you can eat them, you should. Do it for me, as I sit in the corner, eating my expensive, bland, cardboardy bread and my roasted cauliflower.

At least I still have cheese.