Getting grateful

So I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself lately. Waah waah, things are tough with Peeta’s school. Waah waah, Bucket hasn’t gotten a raise from his stupid company since before the dawn of time. Waah waah, I am having a hard time trying to raise money and children at the same time. Waah waah, no one at work appreciates me. Waah waah, the contractor fixing our basement threw out his back and started work a whole week later. No One’s Life Is As Hard As Mine.

It’s hard trying to teach kids to be grateful when you are being an ungrateful wretch yourself. But nonetheless, I try. And not just those frigging Facebook lists every day in November. At dinner every night, we say something we’re grateful for. It can be anything from having a nice dinner to being glad you didn’t die from Peeta’s toxic farts. You can find gratitude anywhere, and I’m trying to teach the kids that it’s not just about the big things. The problem is, I’ve been having a tough time finding it myself.

The other day in the car, Noodle was listing off all the billion things she wants for Christmas and I was talking to her about being grateful for the important things and not just toys. We started listing things: we have a lot of love, we’re healthy, we’re happy, we have good food, we have good schools, our house is warm.

The next day the furnace died.

So this weekend, our house was frigid. Bucket spent all day yesterday picking apart the furnace and vacuuming it and cleaning it with a toothbrush. And it still had an error light. The plumber came today with all kinds of gadgets and figured out that it was a $65 broken part. He will fix it and hopefully it will stay fixed and we won’t have to spend a zillion dollars on a new one.

My friend Sharon (of the first playdate fame) just posted this on her blog as I was getting dinner ready. It was just what I needed to read to stop feeling so fucking sorry for myself. And I realized that I was sitting in my warm house on a frigid day, thanks to my gainfully employed and clever engineer husband who fixed the heat, cooking my kids a goddamn organic baked rigatoni for dinner and marinating in self-pity. What an asshole.

Even before this happened, I was talking to the kids about which charities we will donate to this year. Each kid gets to pick one, and it’s a tough call because there are so many people in need. And my kids know about need. They have seen kids begging in the streets. They have seen true, awful, heartbreaking poverty. One has lived it. We talk about hardship a lot. It’s going to be difficult to just choose two.

As for me, I am going to start really being grateful for my life and the things I have and even for the shit that accompanies it, because that shit is way better than so many other people’s. I am going to keep talking to my kids about gratitude and try to remember to be grateful myself. And I am going to donate to these guys this week.

Go read Sharon’s post, because she is far more eloquent than I (I know, right? What a surprise!), and she lists some other people who could use donations. And if you can’t donate, being truly grateful is enough. It really is.

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There’s a reason I got married

I hate playdates. There. I said it.

I have been with Bucket for 15 years, which means I haven’t dated since I was 21. SWEET ACTION! Imagine how delighted I was when I discovered that I would have to start dating OTHER PARENTS at age 32. I mean, for real. I never considered how children would make friends, and how I would have to accompany them as they made said friends, and I would have to spend hours with strangers and their kids. Why can’t they just ride off into the wilderness on their bikes the way I did when I was a kid in 1400? Stupid modern urban setting.

I remember Peeta’s first playdate. It was with his friend W, and it was at W’s house. W’s mother is my friend Sharon, who scared the hell out of me. She is very beautiful and very well dressed and NEVER came to school looking like she was still wearing her PJs. I remember going to her house thinking, what am I going to say to this woman? What if she’s boring? Am I wearing the right clothes? How long do we stay? How do we get out of there if it’s awful? WHAT IF IT’S A TRAP? How long should Bucket wait for us to come home before he calls the police?

For the record, it was not awful. She did not kill us. And W. is now Peeta’s best friend, and Sharon is one of mine. She even managed to forgive the fact that I dress like an unwashed pubescent boy and my house is a disaster. WE LUCKED OUT.

Fortunately, I figured out the system: find parents you like and then force your kids to play together. This has worked, for the most part. I have a rotation of about five awesome friends and we get together and the kids run amok. Sometimes there is alcohol. My friend Lisa and I even invented a new drink called the Pineapple Playdate. It was a great day.

Sometimes it does not work out. Sometimes I have had to spend awkward hours with people I don’t like so that our kids can play. Even worse, sometimes parents I like make me take care of their kids, whom I do not like. I stopped doing that pretty quickly.

I thought I had separated the wheat from the chaff on the playdate front. I forgot about Noodle, who now wants to make her own friends instead of always playing with Peeta’s. Kids are SO selfish. So now I am dating again. And Noodle is popular, goddamn it, so lots of people are asking to get together. Why coudn’t I have just had a big nerd!?!

It’s 45 degrees today. It’s raining. And we had a playdate scheduled with a kid whose mom has been trying to get together for weeks. I won’t lie: I didn’t want to go. I don’t like making small talk and trying to be witty and well-dressed. I want to be with people who aren’t offended when I swear like a sailor and complain about everything that ever happened in the history of time. I want to be with people who invent new drinks to make playdates fun for the parents. (Note: if you have had repeated playdates with me and my kids in the past five years, you should feel pretty fucking special because it probably means I love you. I would have weeded you out far before now if I didn’t.)

So here I was, dreading this afternoon and trying to think of reasons we could leave early because I AM ALREADY MARRIED AND I DID IT SO I WOULDN’T HAVE TO DATE ANYMORE, and I was sitting down at my computer to bitch about it on Facebook, and the woman cancelled! There is a god!

I’m off the hook for today. Meanwhile, there is a gang of little girls at Noodle’s school and playdates are being requested.

Someone get me a Pineapple Playdate.

Sex: not just naked kissing

Despite the fact that Peeta is 8 1/2 and has a baby sister, he has never shown a great interest in how babies are made. He is, however, very interested in science and anatomy and disease and all that crap. So I really should have seen it coming when, last night, after the kids and I got our flu shots and we took them out to dinner to celebrate their supreme bravery (neither one made a peep) and I had two beers to celebrate my supreme bravery (that sucker hurt, yo!), Peeta pulled out his My Body book (which, incidentally, says nothing about sex or babies).

I read it, and at the end, he asked me something about babies coming from a seed. No, Bud, I said. Remember? The sperm swims up to the egg and fertilizes the egg and that makes the baby. Yes, but Mama, how does the sperm get into the mom?

Oh, shit. Really, kid? Right now, when I am sleepy from my two beers and my arm hurts and it’s already too late for you to be going to bed? Okay. Here we go.

Me: Okay, I can tell you, but you might think it’s gross. Remember how we talked about sex and how it’s naked kissing?

Him: Fine, fine. Yeah, yeah. But how does it happen? Do the sperms just jump out of the dad’s mouth or something?

Me: (collapsing into hysterical laughter for five minutes and then recovering and blah blah penis vagina)

Him: (horrified) Ew!! You and Abbat did THAT!?

Me: Uh, yeah. It’s how we got Noodle.

Him: You were NAKED!? EVEN YOUR SHIRT?

Me: Yes.

Him: Does Sissy [my mother] know?

Me: (hoping that he’s not asking if my mother knows how to have sex) Does Sissy know what?

Him: Does Sissy know you did The Sex?

Me: I’m pretty sure she does, Bud. After all, I did have a baby.

Him: That is SO GROSS. I can’t believe you did that.

Me: Bud, all mammals have sex. It’s something that people do when they’re in love, but all mammals do it to make babies.

Him: Wait a minute. YOU DID THIS MORE THAN ONCE?

Me: Yeah, buddy. You don’t believe it now, but one day even you will want to have sex.

Him: (rolling around on the bed in horror and disgust) THAT IS DEE-SGUSTING! I can’t believe you did sex a million times! I thought it was just once!

Me: (thinking that Bucket wishes we did it a million times) I know, Bud. It’s horrifying. You’ll get over it, though. And you know you can ask me or Abbat anything you want about it, but you shouldn’t talk to your friends about it right now because I don’t know what they’re supposed to know.

Him: GROSS, MAMA! I don’t ever want to talk to my friends about that, ever!

Him: Okay, you can go now. Please don’t talk about this ever again.

Me: No problem, kiddo.

That’s my girl

Noodle, in the back seat of the car, to no one in particular: I’m the queen of Ethiopia and Peeta is the king!!

Peeta, a little annoyed that Noodle is always claiming to be Ethiopian: Why aren’t you the queen of England? Daddy is English, you know.

Noodle, thrilled with this prospect: I am the queen of England! And the queen of Ethiopia! I AM THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING!!

Yup, she’s definitely mine.