Growing up

It’s true; I am one of those foolish human beings who has no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

First, I was going to be a vet. I spent many afternoons dissecting frogs in the basement and volunteering at the local vet’s office, where the tyrant head volunteer made me clean filthy animal cages all day long. Still, I was all down for vet science until I took chemistry, which I only passed because I had a very cute tutor and a very kind teacher, both of whom let a lot slide. Chemistry, I curse you!

After that, I was going to be a high school English teacher. I majored in English and was going to talk about books all day. What could be better than that, right? (I know, a lot of things, but go with me here.) Somehow, in college, the goal transitioned from teaching high school to teaching college, and I decided I wanted to get a PhD in English. Hooray! I could study the commonly read 20th century Irish poets, and get my PhD in Ireland, where I was destined to be all along. I would also get myself an Irish husband and maybe just stay in Ireland forever. But noooo. The Irish universities rejected me because my English university messed up my transfer, and I was left with only one option: to study Shakespeare in England. Don’t get me wrong, I dig Shakespeare, but it wasn’t my first choice. As I did my master’s, I realized that academia is two things: 1. boring and 2. really competitive. I had one lovely, sweet friend on my course, and the rest were a bunch of drips. We all went to see Shakespeare in Love, and they spent hours afterwards dissecting every inaccuracy in the movie. To them, I say: IT WAS A FRIGGING MOVIE. GET OVER IT!

Given that academia was so competitive, I decided to enter a far less aggressive field: journalism. Pardon me while I fall on the floor laughing. Not only is journalism cutthroat, but OHMIGOD are writers a huge bunch of bitches. I had no idea the cattiness that could occur after junior high. First, I worked at a trade magazine about audiovisual systems for a hipster girl from Minnesota who only ate white food and only talked to men. That was fun. Then, after I did my second master’s in journalism, I worked at a magazine for a while. I took the job because no one in my class at j-school was being offered work, and despite the fact that it was a business mag and I knew and cared nothing about business, my professors (and parents) told me to take the job or I would die starving and hypothermic in Central Park. I took the job, stayed for 15 months, and still have nightmares about working there. Good times!

I freelanced for a long time, which was great, because I had regular work for nice people and I didn’t have to take the subway, or later, when we lived in Australia, leave the house. (I spent a lot of time watching and quoting Oprah, which Bucket loved.) But then, publishing dried up and my editors all left their jobs and I had children who sucked away all my spare interviewing/writing/editing time.

After we adopted Peeta, I started a nonprofit, which was not something I thought I would ever do, but was always something I secretly fancied. Oh, the glamorous life of the nonprofit worker, I thought! Serving humanity and going interesting places! Not so much. More along the lines of serving humanity and slowly losing my mind. But, I stuck with it because I love my partner and the kids he works with and I’m pretty sure it’s going to get me into heaven.

As the multiple master’s may have implied, my life’s goal is really to be a perpetual student, but my Mean and Crusty Husband has expressly forbidden me from doing any more degrees, just because we would go bankrupt paying for them. DREAM KILLER! So, I started this blog to keep writing until Noodle goes to school and I can have more real writing time, and I run the nonprofit and beg people for money every day of my life. I thought again about teaching high school, but I am afraid of Youths. I literally see large groups of teens, yell, “Youths!” and run away. So high school is probably out.

But here’s the thing: I love immigrants. In Australia, I volunteered with asylum seekers and with immigrant teens (who are the exception to the Scary Youth rule, because they are generally very well behaved and polite and not scary). They had given up so much to come to Australia, and fought so hard to stay. I started thinking about teaching ESL to adults, which I thought would be a good idea because they would be grownups and therefore really committed to learning (unlike Youths), but also until they mastered the language, they might not find me totally obnoxious (or if they did, their commitment would surely outweigh my personality).

Generally speaking, you have to have a TEFL qualification to teach ESL. I don’t have one, but just before Christmas, Groupon was offering a wicked sketchy deal on an online TEFL course. Bucket okay’d it because it was less than $100, so I bought it.

All of this is a VERY long way of telling you that I am now studying to become an ESL teacher, which will hopefully provide me with some income and maybe enough experience to qualify me to teach at an international school…oh, I don’t know, in Cape Town. Not that I have a plan or anything.

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Today: A Recap

Things that happened today:

1. Had a battle of wills with Noodle over her attire for playgroup. She wanted to wear nothing but a leotard to school in 20-degree weather. I said no; pants, sweater and socks are mandatory. We compromised with her wearing the “costume” with a sweatshirt zipped down as far as it could go, Italian man-style, sans gold chain and magnificent chest hair.

2. Ishy spent the day running up and down the stairs for no apparent reason except sheer excitement that we had finally installed runners so he wouldn’t slip and slide all over the place.

3. After school, I let Noodle stay up to get Peeta from the bus because we were running late and I didn’t have time to put her down for her nap. After the bus came, the kids were playing with their friends and Noodle took a huge digger off her bike: face first onto the sidewalk. Blood squirted everywhere, but fortunately she had just bitten through her lip. Even more fortunate was the fact that our friend Nurse Lisa was there, who immediately got her some paper towels and frozen strawberries to suck on as she recounted the incident 67,000 times.

4. As we were watching the kids play (and bleed), the dumbass who just moved in down the road came flying past the house at about 45mph, while the kids were standing on the sidewalk. Lisa and I screamed at him and then ratted him out to the cop who lives across the street, who happened to come out in his uniform about five minutes later. We were still standing with Policeman Neighbor when Dale Earnhardt returned, crawling down the street at a snail’s pace, turning just before my house, where Lisa and I stood, pointing at his car. I’m pretty sure he thinks we called the cops on his ass, and I’m okay with that.

5. Despite the fact that it’s supposed to snow 4-8 inches tonight, I could no longer stand the leaves in our yard, so I spent an hour raking. Raking is one of my least favorite activities (after changing diapers and doing math), and now I remember why: I got a blister on my thumb. My hand will surely have to be amputated by morning.

6. Noodle took a late nap and came downstairs in her diaper (which she is only allowed to wear while sleeping). I was cleaning the kitchen and making dinner, so I didn’t put her back in her knickers. (Rookie mistake.) Halfway through dinner, a terrible stench started to emanate from her general vicinity, and sure enough, she proudly proclaimed that she pooped. Cut to five minutes later, when she is sitting in Bucket’s lap and he notices she has shit smeared all down her leg, on her precious leotard and her favorite Oscar the Grouch socks. Fortunately, we had finished eating.

7. After Bucket scrubbed her down, I put her in the bath. While she and Peeta were bathing, I went into my room, where I saw something weird above my side of the bed. I have no confirmation, but I’m 99% sure it was dried up bloody snot. Peeta slept with me last night, and I think he left it on the wall as a special gift. I’m not sure why he left it on my side of the bed, but I’m sure it’s just because he loves me so much more than Bucket.

And on that note, goodnight.

Cape Town or bust

I thought I was a genius when I was planning our trip to England and I realized that we could squeeze in a trip to visit our friends in Cape Town for only a few hundred dollars more. A genius, I tell you! Our friends Daisy and Ed had just moved there and would only be there for nine months, so we Had To Go Now. Obviously. Cape Town is only a little further than Ethiopia, and the kids made it to Botswana last year! Let’s do this!

I was a genius until about three days before we were going to leave, when my friend Rob posted something on Facebook about snow on the day we were going to leave. Snow. Lots of snow. FEET OF FRIGGING SNOW. The biggest snowstorm in years! Maybe ever! Snowcalpyse! You get the picture. So, I called Virgin on Thursday, the day before we were going to leave, to find out what I should do. The highly charming Irishman on the other end told me that all their flights were scheduled as normal. Given that he was so charming, I believed him. (I am prone to doing that with Irish people. It’s a problem, trust me.) Two hours later, I got an email saying that my flight was cancelled.

I called Virgin immediately. I spent hours listening to Pachelbel’s Canon, over and over and over again. I finally got someone, who kept putting me on hold and then coming back. She could get us out on Saturday night. Um, no. She could get us on Trans Aero Airlines. What the fuck is Trans Aero Airlines? Hell no! Finally, at 4, after two hours on the phone, she tells me she can get us on the 7:50 flight to London.

Nothing in the house is packed, except Peeta’s bag, which I had casually been throwing clothes into as I waited on hold. I called Bucket, told him to meet us at the airport from work, and I turned into a hurricane of packing fury. Almost everything we owned went into our bags (South Africa in summer and England in winter, people). I am a maniac. I end up with two huge bags, which sickens me (we are generally very minimalist in our packing), but I Just Don’t Care. I have five minutes to take a shower, and I use it.

And then the cab is late. Ten minutes late, which is not ideal when you are trying to haul ass to the airport and you only had 90 minutes to pack for more than two weeks for four people. Guy shows up, and tells us all about the Very Bad Traffic and tells me it will be $50 to the airport. Sure, dude. Just drive. I cling to Noodle in the back seat as we almost get in a crash AT THE END OF OUR STREET. We weave through the back streets of Cambridge, with Noodle yelling, I love this taxi! And Peeta asking, Where are we GOING? We make it to the airport 45 minutes later (usually it takes 15-20), and Bucket greets us. He had arranged for a taxi that takes cards, and surprise! Shady driver does not! He throws $50 at him and we sprint inside.

We make it onto the plane. Four seats in the middle, kids in between. Children sleep. I do not, knowing it is going to be disastrous, but I am still high on adrenaline and they keep serving drinks. And I like drinks. And I like movies. And I like when the children are quiet.

We get to Heathrow, and go to the desk as instructed, to see if we can get a hotel for the night before our flight out on Saturday. Woman behind the desk is a total frigid bitch. I am standing there, exhausted, with two children squirming, and she coldly looks at us and says no. There is no note in our file. I tell her that the people on the phone told us to check if we could get a hotel. She says no. She calls someone on the phone, sighing loudly and talking intentionally so I can hear her, saying, They want a hotel, because they’ve got KIDS. No. She can put us on a flight through Jo’burg tonight that will arrive tomorrow, but we can’t get on the direct flight to Cape Town and if we want to wait for our original flight, we can pay for our own hotel. Out of the kindness of her heart, she will put a hold on our seats while we try to reach Daisy.

I glare at her and tell her we don’t have Daisy’s phone number (this always happens when we travel and I don’t know why we never learn) and we will have to email her. She glares back and tells me there are computers upstairs. We trudge upstairs, and these are the things I say: I Hate This Country! This is why I moved from this godforsaken hellhole! Fucking England! If I had a knife, I would cut a bitch! God forbid anyone in this miserable pocket of the earth tries to be helpful ever! We should have left you to the Nazis! (I didn’t actually say that one, but I wish I had, because English people hate that shit.)

Most of these things are said quietly, so the children do not hear. Many are not.

We get upstairs, and of course the stone aged computers cost something like two pounds a minute and we have no change. Bucket goes to get change while I contemplate going back down and pulling the woman’s eyeballs out with my bare hands. He gets back, and I get online. By online,  I mean that the computer turned on. I do not mean that the internet worked at any kind of remotely reasonable speed, which cued more comments about British inefficiency (which is one of my favorite topics) and how England is like a third world country, with nasty, evil crones in charge, and why the FUCK does everything cost so much? I may have kicked things.

At this point, the children are withering before my eyes, Bucket is ready to strangle me, and we still haven’t reached the hotel we booked before our travel to see if we can switch our daylet room. We reach them after 47 phone calls (that each costs about a pound each) and yes, they can switch our reservation to today so we can rest before our flight tonight. I love the Holiday Inn. The woman tells me which bus to take, and we go back downstairs to The Bitch.

The Bitch is busy, so we have to deal with another, younger Bitch. Clearly, this one has done very well in her training, because she is as bad as the first, despite being 30 years younger. At one point, Original Bitch leans over to Bitch 2.0 and says loudly (without looking at me), They want a hotel, BUT WE AREN’T GOING TO GIVE THEM ONE. I consider leaping over the desk and kicking them each in the head, but I am too tired from the flight. Bitch 2.0 gives us our tickets and we walk to the bus.

The bus we are told to get is driven by a hideous, greasy man with long hair and the foulest, most disgusting teeth I have ever seen. He looks like the love child of Mr. Burns and a Roald Dahl villain. He immediately gets right in my face when I tell him we are going to the Holiday Inn. Which one? he keeps yelling, and I tell him the Heathrow Holiday Inn (which, by the way, is the official name of the fucking hotel). There are four Heafrow Holiday Inns! he yells back at me. I tell him the woman told me that we needed to get his bus, at which point he starts pointing his filthy, long-nailed finger in my face. At this point, I walk away. I can no longer deal with anyone at Heathrow, which is quite obviously The Worst Airport In the World, even worse than the ones we’ve been to in India and Africa. It is possible I make comments about British dental hygiene and politeness. Bucket takes over, and we get on the bus. Our hotel is the last stop, on the street I told him it would be, and is called (guess what?) THE HEATHROW HOLIDAY INN.

We walk into the hotel, and I immediately ask the beautiful desk clerk if she has our reservation. She does. I almost kiss her. She gets us our room immediately, and then looks at Peeta and asks where he’s from. Ethiopia, I tell her. She is Eritrean. She is happy we have adopted Peeta. She tells us God will bless us. I think that God has already blessed us by getting us out of that hellhole airport and into this wonderful hotel, where kind and lovely Eritreans help us without shaking fingers in our face or exposing us to their horrifying teeth and nails.

The room is clean and has two beds. We sleep from 10 to 2. We get up and watch TV and eat snacks. We reach Daisy, who tells us to come. Life is good again. We get the bus back to Heathrow, and it is driven by a clean, young man who has seen a toothbrush. We check in. We go through security. I am chosen for a random security check. A stranger puts her hands down my pants. I laugh. Heathrow is funny now. We buy the kids chips and candy and get ready for the flight. We are in seats of two, which have more leg room. Despite the leg room, I still take the opportunity to complain about the Fucking Useless Desk Women Can’t Even Put Us Together and How This Used To Be A Good Airline and If I Ever Meet Richard Branson, I Will Slap His Face. And then, we fly.

I don’t remember the flight, which means it must have been okay. Or else I blocked it. What? No! I didn’t drink so much that I blacked out. I wish! (Wait! I remember! I drugged us all! No, I am not joking.) We arrive in Jo’burg and have to go re-check our bags. We wait in an interminable line with a bazillion people until we finally reach the desk. Children are floppy at this point, and suddenly Peeta turns green and starts covering his mouth. Of course. He is going to spew. I pick him up and run through the people to the bathroom, where he pukes. Because hey! Why not? We take him and feed him some leftover candy and Coke and he perks up.

We get on the flight to Cape Town. I share a row with Peeta, Bucket with Noodle. I fall asleep for a while. Saturday at 2pm, 37 hours after we left Boston, we arrive in Cape Town and poor Daisy has been waiting for ages because the braindead whores at Heathrow gave us the wrong arrival time. Despite my guilt at making Daisy wait, I have never been so happy to arrive anywhere. It’s raining in Cape Town for the first time in months, but I don’t care.

We get back to Daisy’s and her kids have put out all kinds of snacks for us. The sun has come out, and Ed makes us tea. We sit and talk for ages while the kids run around, and then they take us to the cafe down the road for dinner. I eat a salad with green things in it and we sit outside and life is glorious.

I love South Africa already.

The apple fell miles from the tree

So the ladies at my local nail salon have become used to me. When I came in today, the manager pointed at me and said, “Eyebrow wax!” Now that I think about it, it could have been a recommendation rather than an identification.

They are all very beautiful, glamorous Korean ladies. Joy, the lady who treated me today, was telling me that she has gained 20 pounds, which means she must have been about 70 to begin with. They wax my brows, and sometimes, if I have enough money, they give me the industrial strength pedicure (which basically means they get rid of my calloused right [only the right, strangely enough] foot with a chainsaw. I’m hot; what can I say?). I generally come in dressed like a ponytailed 13-year-old boy, with hair that may or may not be clean and usually hasn’t been cut in months.

So I came in today, all jubilant because my hairy brows have earned me a free manicure. They offer me a free brow wax instead (possibly another recommendation), but I tell them no. I want a manicure. My broken, brittle nails and shredded cuticles will never get any attention unless it’s free.

Free manicure it is. I get a backrub (which was the real motivation for getting the manicure. I won’t lie), two hand massages and a paraffin wax. I almost look like a real lady (ignoring the reddened eyebrows, the greasy ponytail, and the glamorous purple sweatshirt/jeans combo).

The owner of the spa is in love with Noodle. She keeps coming over and talking to her. Then, she offers to paint her nails. This happened the one other time I came for a manicure, almost a year ago. Noodle practically catapults out of the seat to get to the polish.

Obviously, I got a very light shade of pink that is hardly visible to the human eye. My daughter, who shares 50% of my genes, went for a bright, BRIGHT, shiny red. The ladies in the salon almost peed themselves laughing.

What can I say? She gets it from her father.

Oh, and in an hour, I have already chipped almost every single nail.

Who wants a lollipop?

I know, I know. I haven’t written in a million years. I am trying to summon the energy to write about our trip to South Africa. I will do it, really.

But in the meantime, here’s a little update from the Half-Assed household.

Children are being super bad. Children are making my brain bleed.

I say to said children, “You guys, cut it out. I only bought one bottle of wine.”

Bucket adds, “Yeah. Don’t make me go to the liquor store tonight.”

If you are a regular reader, you already know that the children love few places more than the liquor store, and as such, they begin to chant, “LIQUOR STORE! LIQUOR STORE!”

After a few chants, Peeta looks at Noodle and says, “We should call it the Lick It Store. Because they give us lollipops.”

LICK IT STORE! LICK IT STORE!

I think I am going to need more wine.