My irritation at that moment was the culmination of weeks of concern over Simon and his grandma's McDonald's dates. It's not as if I feed my kid all-organic, sprouted-grain soy smoothies all the time. I feel like I'm fairly relaxed about the food he eats, trying to balance healthy choices with perennial toddler favorites. But let's face it, that shit is not good for you. It's toxic and it's addictive, as evidenced by Simon's desperate demands in the car Saturday.
So here is my dilemma: Do I say something about it? Do I suggest that perhaps Simon and Grandma try taking their business somewhere else? Maybe to a place where his tiny arteries will return home filled with slightly less sludge? Also, maybe somewhere a little less aggressive with the branding campaign? For God's sake, we can't even turn on Sesame Street without a not-so-subtle appearance from the Golden Arches first.
My current standing on the situation is just to leave it be. I love this grandmother more than I hate the thought of my son devouring McNuggets, and the prospect of offending her is not worth the risk.
I have another speak-up-or-shut-up quandary thrown at me from time to time. It involves another grandmother. After Simon has spent any time alone with her, without fail he will come home singing religious children's songs. He tends to sing them under his breath and will sometimes jumble them with other ditties, but I always recognize them because I sang the same songs as a child. I've heard him singing, to the tune of BINGO, "and Jesus was his name-o... and God was his name-o.... and Bingo was his name-o" (that's the jumbling I was talking about). Also, there is a tricky song with a lot of spelling that I've heard him attempt. He doesn't get all the letters right, but once he learns it, this is what he'll sing:
"I am a C
I am a C-H
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N
and I have C-H-R-I-S-T
in my H-E-A-R-T
and I will L-I-V-E E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y!"
I don't think I've written much about religion here, though it is a common topic in our home. I will give you just a little background, and you can fill in the holes with your imagination, or maybe I'll write about it some other time. For today, let me say this: I grew up as an evangelical Christian. My family members are all conservative, literal-Bible-believing Christians. I used to be a fervent evangelical along with them, but I'm not anymore.
When I got pregnant with Simon my whole world changed. I began to shift from my conservative beliefs into a more progressive model of Christianity, and now I find myself rather ambivalent toward faith in general. My family knows about this change, but I don't think they know the extent. They know that I believe God is genderless and that being gay isn't a sin. I'm pretty sure they would say I have "gone astray," and they might even believe I'm hell-bound. They definitely fear that fate for Nate and my boys, unless they get saved.
Enter the constant 'childrens' worship' music they play for Simon. Every single time Simon comes home from a visit with my family, he returns singing "praise ye the Lord, hallelujah." It seems like they use every opportunity they get to shower him with the glorious TRUTH of the Gospel. The other day he went to my brother's place and was there for an hour, hour and a half, tops. No need to wonder how they spent their time together... Simon hummed the Veggie Tales theme throughout the next day. I can't help but feel like this constant barrage of Christian entertainment is an affront to me and what I believe (or don't believe) now. But I'm sure they don't see it that way. I know they feel they are doing the right thing for his young soul. They'd probably play the same music for any child, heathen parents or no, as it's their mission here on earth to save as many folks as possible from the fiery lakes. I'm not being sarcastic.
This matter is more delicate than the McDonald's situation. How could I possibly approach my family with this complaint? "Hey, will you please stop trying to save my son from eternally damnation?" Bringing up the music would open up the whole wormy can of religious discussions that we all try to avoid. And my mom would be shocked and dismayed if she knew how far away from her path I have turned... that not only do I believe God loves queers, but I'm not sure if I believe in sin and salvation, or even in the deity of Jesus. She would be deeply saddened, and, despite some tension in our relationship, I love her and don't want to hurt her in that way.
The McDonald's and the "Jesus was his name-o" problems both test my skills as a diplomatic family member. Would I like these situations to change? Yes, of course. But right now the bigger goal is to let Simon spend time with his grandparents, allowing them to flourish in their mutual love for one another, and to maintain peaceful relations. That's why I'm choosing to stay mute in both instances. There may be a time when Nate and I deem it necessary to speak up. That time is not yet here.
I think all this also points to parents' impossible task of letting go of their children. I spend every day with this kid, pouring my heart into raising him to be a capable, happy, free person. It's so hard to accept that many, many other things and people will influence the person he becomes. Also, it can be hard to remember that the risk of raising a free individual is that they are free to choose things that you wouldn't choose for them. Like a diet consisting of all fast food, Supersize Me style. Or fundamental Christianity.
It begs the question: would I love my son if he were an obese, spinach-shunning, Bible-thumping, other-religion-condemning born-again believer? Yeah, I think I could and I would. Absolutely.
I don't know if I could take it laying down, though. I might have to teach his kids to swear and slip soyburgers into his Big Mac buns. Then he could lament how his mother is trying to sway his suggestible children with her wacky ideas. I wonder if he would say anything.
Not long after we moved to this new place, we discovered that we had some neighbors across the street who were noisy. Very noisy. We started referring to them as "the lovers of all things loud." I think I once mentioned their demolition derby car, which they liked to bang on with a large sledgehammer. In addition to the car-pounding, one of their sons had a business setting up bumping car stereos, and this same dude enjoyed playing with an extraordinarily loud remote control car on the side walk. I tried not to be too bothered by these noise-loving neighbors... sure, I had visions of my baby waking up screaming from his naps, disturbed by a thumping bass test or a whining toy car. And, yes, just thinking about their stupid demolition derby preparations waking up my baby was enough to raise my blood pressure and make my cheeks flush in anger. But there was nothing I could do to change the situation. Best just to try to forget about it.
About a week ago we noticed them loading up a pick-up truck. It appeared they might be moving. Could our luck be so good? Throughout the week they continued to slowly empty out the house. After about the 7th load went into the truck, we were convinced: they were really leaving!
The last time they were at the house, they left this massive pile of garbage in the yard. The view from our north-facing windows featured this tableau all week, until this morning when the city took care of the mess.
It took 5 husky gentlemen, a tractor, and a dump truck to clean it up. Thanks, guys. That's much better. We're going to enjoy our relative peace and quiet.
-And it came to pass that in her 25th year, Laura discovered curry. And, lo, it was good.
I have no idea how I missed out on this for so long. I am now a woman obsessed with curry. It can't be too spicy right now, because I am a walking milk jug, you know. But a mild curry is just as delicious as a spicy one. So easy, too. Mmmmm.
-I used to feel some embarrassment over the fact that all I ever read anymore are parenting books. But I've gotten over that. My favorite history professor might shake his head in dismay, but parenting books are what I need right now. And the advice found in this particular gem is getting me through each day. When I am focused on my parenting, every day goes so much smoother. Little battles turn into little experiments, in which I test my new tricks of the trade. I've come to the conclusion that, as a mother, love is not enough; you need tools and skills. And me? Well, thanks to this book, I got mad skillz.
I guess this is a short list. Also, it's almost Thursday now.
I shall away to bed, where I will dream of moving to Spain.
And I will. Really, I will. Right after I tell you this story.
So tonight Nate and I are sitting on the couch watching our downloaded, commercial-free version of last night's Veronica Mars episode. Just as Veronica is about to spout some witty quip, Nate says, rather nonchalantly, "There's a bird in our house."
Then, with more appropriate emphasis, "THERE'S A FUCKING BIRD IN OUR HOUSE."
We sit there for a few seconds watching this thing fly around our living and dining rooms. It suddenly hits me, it's not a bird. "IT'S A BAT!!!" The situation instantly becomes three times as tense, wild, alarming.
We instinctively move away from the bat and end up huddled in the hallway, cowering under a jacket. We peek out every so often to catch sight of this domestic terrorist and yell, "Oh shit!" "Oh my God! Why is there a fucking BAT in our house?!" "Ahhh! How did it get in here?! Ahhh! Fucking hell!" "What should we do?!"
After a few minutes of freaking out completely, we rally ourselves to our feet. Nate opens the front door and tells me to shut the door that leads upstairs. I think, 'good idea... protect the children.' Then I grab my phone, throw on the jacket we were hiding under moments ago, and go out onto the porch. As I dial my sister's number, I am hopping, trying to keep on my toes in case I have to duck as the thing comes careening out of the door. I call my sister because she has had bats in her basement before. There is a famous family story in which she shoots a bat with a bb gun and the blood splatters, ketchup-like, all over the ceiling. Eww. Anyway, I ask my sister what to do. She suggests a net. We don't have a net. But, wait, maybe it's all over. I can see Nate through the window. He's in the kitchen, bashing the floor with a broom. Repeatedly, and with moxie!
He comes out to say that the bat is dead. I feel terrible all of a sudden. We killed this little creature, and why? It was so small, and probably harmless. Why were we so scared? Plus, it's illegal to kill a bat. And I'm no lawbreaker. Now, Nate, on the other hand..... he was the one wielding the broom, if you'll recall.
Thankfully, Simon was in bed. To witness his parents cowering in fear from one of God's smallest creations would have surely traumatized him for life. Either that, or he would've lost all respect for us.
Hours later, my stomach is still in knots. It was freaky, that's all there is to it. God, I hope we never see another one.
What about you guys? Any bat-encounter stories?
Tried a new recipe for dinner tonight. Curried Quinoa with Peas and Cashews. It will appear in the 4th annual Christmas cookbook, of course. If not for the fact that my grandma will receive a copy, the caption would be, "Fucking delicious." Buy this book. Then turn to page 534 and cook this shit.
We have made some new friends in our neighborhood, and, even though I still miss Logan Square enormously, it is a small mercy to make connections here. My friend's name is Rufina, and she is sweet. Seriously sweet. So sweet that I suspect she might have maple syrup running through her veins. Her daughter Elizabeth is nearly 3 years old, and she, not surprisingly, is also very sweet. She and Simon have had two successful playdates so far.
Simon is apparently beginning to notice racial differences in the people he sees. Or perhaps he has noticed for a while and is just now beginning to voice these observations. So far, strangely, he only has one description for any person of color he sees: "black man." One day I asked him what he did at school and he said he played with a black man. I wasn't sure what to make of this, as there are no black males in his class. There is one multiracial girl, and, after a bit of questioning, I concluded he must be taking about her.
Then yesterday, as we walked to our friends' house, he asked, "Is Elizabeth a black man?" I said, "Well, Elizabeth is a girl." He responded, "Is she a black girl?" I explained that she has brown skin because her mommy is from the faraway country of Mexico. Persistent in his quest for understanding, he asked again, "Is she black?" I gave him a couple terms to describe his friend: hispanic or latina.
It is interesting to watch his awareness of this matter develop. I don't know if I am saying the right things, or if there are right things to say. What I want to know is, where did he hear the words, "black man"? Here begins the stage in parenting when your children spout phrases and you have no idea where they came from. Fascinating and a little scary. His world is opening up, and it no longer consists of just mommy and daddy.
Yesterday I accompanied Simon's preschool class on their first field trip. We went to Kroger and then to Godfather's Pizza. The secrets of Godfather's pizza were revealed to us. We had a guided tour through the kitchen, dishwashing room, and cooler. Favorite moment: stepping into the cooler and seeing the kid's faced simultaneously change as they noticed the cold. Simon yelled, "Brrrrr!" and they all started giggling. Yeah, that's my kid.
Finally, on a sentimental note, we really miss you guys. Nate and I have experienced the move to Bloomington very differently. We have a hard time understanding one another sometimes. I'm crying because I miss Chicago; he's out taking scenic photos of our new town. I spend the day pissed about having to unpack/organize/decorate our second home in two years; he is happy to be driving a fork lift in a warehouse instead of doing the electronic equivalent of yelling "buy! sell! buy! sell!" all day. The one thing we can agree on about this move is how much we miss our friends. I don't know what our future will bring... we may live here for the rest of our lives, and it may begin to feel like home to both of us. Whatever happens, I know we will always reminisce about our years in Chicago, living in an amazing city, surrounded by great friends. Hope you're all well.
You're the points queen.
If you were a dog, you'd be a pointer.
If you were a basketball player, you'd be the point-guard.
If you were an artist, you'd be a pointillist. And you'd be experimenting with point of view.
Later that evening, he left to fulfill a requirement for Simon's preschool. There is a large, not-for-profit haunted house in town, and participation in said haunted house is the single biggest (and the only mandatory) fundraiser for the school. This being his first time, I thought he might work the ticket booth or flip light switches or something else totally behind the scenes.
Instead, he came home looking like this:
The crazy thing is, with all the work that appears to have gone into this makeup, he said the part he played was minimal. Next time he wants to volunteer for a more extensive acting role. Stay tuned next week for pictures possibly even more terrifying than these.