Sunday, October 3, 2010

--...-.-.-Anybody Out There?..-.-

Crabmommy is tap-tapping...in Morse code...I have been trapped...for exactly O-N-E- Y-E-A-R in a cage on an island. And this is why I have not blogged. Why I became a not-blogger.

Yes it's true. I was kidnapped. Mom-napped actually. The PPP (Positive Parenting Police) conspired with the (West Coast NV [Non-Vaccinators] Collective) and decided they'd had enough of me badmouthing their scene to exactly 12 readers. Even 12 was too many! So they got me at the park, in broad daylight, stuck me in the back of a Prius under an organic hemp baby blanket and drove me away. At first, all I knew was darkness...But I could smell the ocean. They kept me in a cage, and let me out once a day for exercise. I tried to send you all messages via Morse code, but I guess none came through.

Mercifully, I managed to escape and now here I am safely stashed in my Portland apartment. Exactly one year later to the very day.

Whew!

My 12 fans, I cannot promise a return to mom-blogging. The mom-napping experience has left me raw and feeble, my words hesitant, my resolve crumbled into a tiny pile of...crumbled resolve. But I do hope at least to say HI and WOSSUP! And SORRY for the extreme silence and lack of explanations. I definitely thought of all of you as I sat in my cage on that nasty island off the Oregon coast, which looked like this.


Photo by Matt Niebuhr. Used with permission - All rights Reserved - Matt Niebuhr. www.mattniebuhr.com

How did I escape? LONG STORY. I think all that matters it that I'm home, safe, and sound.

You?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Piu Tardo

My friends,

As you can see, the Crabmom just hasn't been able to crab at you properly the past months, and when I have it's been a little too serious and a lot unfunny. No doubt I have worn out the patience of my regulars who can see I'm just not the old Crabmommy they know and love (or love to hate). So I am taking myself on sabbatical. I will return; I don't know when exactly or for how long, but I will be back...This isn't goodbye forever, just a gathering of self away from blog, an attempt to attend fully to pressing matters in the so-called real world. I do have more to say (absurdly enough) on the subject of motherhood, but it will have to wait.

If you're feeling unspeakably blue about my imminent absence from the web, vivify yourselves by turning to other lifestyle gurus: may I recommend reading the latest installment of GOOP, whereby Gwyneth P. conscripts her money people—including a "wealth management" adviser, whatever that is—to offer financial advice to the "layman" (her word, not mine)... [No, I'm not sick of reading GOOP yet.]

Hoping you are all finding yourselves full of the bounty of fall's goodness...or at least, hanging in and on, by a thread, a rope, a satin ribbon. I don't either know what any of that means but it comes with all my

Very best wishes
Crabmom
p.s. I do hope to see you here again. Check back in a month...or two.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Feeling Crabby

I come out of my crabhole to mention this piece, which many of you have surely seen. It concerns the cocoon of neurosis and hysteria that continues to bind our collective parenting circle in this country...and no doubt in other countries too by now, countries in which real danger isn't imminent in the lives of middle class children and so parents fixate on hypothetical ones. This article--on whether children should be allowed to walk alone to school--is a timely one. Because after the reappearance of kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard, many parents are rethinking their decision to allow their kids to walk to the school bus...or home from a friend's. Because what if some insane lunatic chooses your child, at that moment, on that day...?

I understand what if. Duh. Becoming a parent is the ultimate what if act, one long series of what-ifs every single day and night. No doubt about it, motherhood is the most fearful enterprise of my life, and trust me, I am a feeble coward in all matters, but becoming a mother has brought out the total crabcoward in me: I continually scuttle into the darkness of my scared mommy-mind, debating the what-ifs...You moms and dads know what I'm talking about. I need hardly list for you the many hideous things that pop into a parent's mind daily, when it comes to children's safety. And it doesn't even have to be all that hideous to prompt us to spring into Safe Mommy mode, leaping to spot a tot on the monkey bars or gallumphing stupidly after a preschooler on her scooter, just in case she should happen to fall. No generation prior to ours has perfected the art of preempting a what-if before it even happens: we are masters at it, springing into action in advance of any danger....just in case...because, you know, it could happen.

And so one goes through the toddler and preschooler years reaching to stop something from happening before it even has a chance. And maybe along the way we relax a bit, deal with the scraped knee and the bump on the head. Or the broken arm, even. Because we realize these kids need to learn how to ride a bike or do the monkey bars or climb a tree. But then there comes a moment when a parent has to let a kid leave the house without him or her. And that's when, apparently, many of us draw the line, deciding that, in fact, our kids don't have to learn how to walk to school/ the bus stop/ wherever on their own. Because this time, it's not worth the risk.

But to model one's parenting style on fear-based thinking is surely just as sinister if not more so than actually dealing with fear itself, with the random, baseless, uncontrollable what-ifs of life. If we never let our kids walk to the bus stop/ ride a bike to a friends without Mom tailing him in her car/ take an airplane to see grandparents, alone/ play on the front lawn without being watched...our children will not grow up to be independent, able to take and assess risks, able to navigate through the world around them. If we teach our kids that they are a bunch of wussies and that they should be wussies because the world is a scary place, then we'll get fearful, nervous, freaked out, high-maintenance co-dependent children. We will get followers, not leaders, needy little twerps who break down at the slightest hint of hardship, adults who can't enjoy their lives properly because they don't know how to take control of their fears and insecurities...

All obvious...right? Less obvious, though, is where one draws the line as parents. At what point does the chance of a random Jaycee Dugard possibility trump the chance of teaching a child a measure of freedom? What risks are worth taking at what age? Nobody will give you the same answer with this one, and of course reasonable risk differs from place to place, child to child, age to age...there are too many variables to make a catch-all statement about this one. All I can say, for sure, is that it's extremely hard not to create total wussies in America today because few people are really assessing the risks properly: few people measure the what ifs of a pedophile/ kidnapper/ car accident with the what-ifs of over-coddling children, seeing the former danger as vastly outstripping the latter in every single case. Even though most readers of this blog and that NYT piece live in the safest possible neighborhoods, we still seem fixated on safety above all else. And yes, it's important to be vigilant and smart and careful. But it's not everything.

To my mind, weighing the other what-if is just as important as weighing up the real physical risks attached with any measure of freedom a child will need, want, and require. What if I don't give her any freedom? What if I don't let her walk to the bus stop (when she's 8 or 9 or whatever age seems right at the time)? What if I don't let her have adventures on her bicycle with her little friends? What happens to her then? And what happens to me as a mom if I wander around compelled to invoke the specter of Jaycee Dugard and Etan Patz every time I consider allowing my kid some independence in her safe, safe, super-safe American life?

As we all know, overprotective hyperfreaked parenting is all-pervasive in our Nation of Wimps. And it is all too easy to become such a parent. It's an impulse I have to fight in myself all the time; sometimes I get wussy, but I strive to buck the heck up. Because the primary goal of parenting is to foster independence. That's our number one job as parents: to teach our children to live in the world. It's a crappy world in many ways, but we haven't colonized any other planets yet so we need to give our kids the chops to deal with where they are, and they aren't going to get those chops if they don't see them modeled by the adults around them.

I am heartened by moms such as Lenore Skenazy (who let her kid ride the subway alone because he was ready) and the mom in this Times piece who lets her second-grader walk to the (very close by) bus stop even though people around her constant undermine her decision and invoke what-ifs as though, in fact, they are probabilities and not wildly exceptionally unlikely possibilities. She calls her daughter's walk to the bus, "a political act," and indeed, it seems to be: not only does one have to be brave in the face of what-ifs when it comes to allowing the kids independence, but now apparently we have to be brave in the face of disapproving communities.

I'll try to think of these moms when it comes time for Crabkid (now almost 5) to take some steps out of the door without Mom and Dad. I'll have to think of these moms, because I don't see a lot of freedom around me. Not in my 'hood anyway. I never ever see 9-year-olds biking or skateboarding on our sidewalks without a mother or father in tow. My neighbors don't allow their son onto the front lawn by himself, even though he's in the 4th grade. I think that's scary. Don't you?

What independent moves beyond the house do you let your kids take? And at what age?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Natural Mommy

Hi, splendid people!

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I know this has become a lame recurring line. But I've been hiding something from you, something very big and very wild and very exhilarating, something you might not have expected from me:

I'VE HAD ANOTHER BABY!


!!!!!!


!!!!!!!!!


Got you there, didn't I?

No, no more babies here. Thank the Pope. But actually wild, exhilarating, un-Crabmommyish things have been afoot. People, the shocking news is as follows:

I HAVE BEEN STAYING IN A YURT.

I never thought I'd utter the word "yurt." It's a very un-Crabmommylike word. Like the word "staycation", "yurt" just isn't a word with which I typically associate myself. (Don't know what a yurt is? I forgive you! Go here for a gander.)

But, see, while I don't believe in sacrificing one's mental health and comfort and right to laziness as a parent, I've also got a healthy dose of guiltmommy in me, enough of a dose at least to ensure that we force ourselves into the great outdoors every summer. This is a promise I made myself. Because as a citymom with a minuscule pad, I am attuned to the fact that my tot doesn't get as much outdoorsyness as a mother might like her to have. And aside from enjoying a frolic in nature, our children will turn into mega-wimps if they don't partake of the bracing pleasures of wilderness life.

And that is why I forced Crabhubby to take us camping last year, as some of you will recall. And he actually enjoyed it. And Crabkid adored it. And I still got to boss everyone around, so I adored it too. And so this year, again we have been camping. Subsequently followed by a trip to a yurt. In a state park. This one. And it rocked. And don't you dare book it in August next year. There are only 8 of these particular puppies in this here park, and if one of you books the last one before I get to it, I will find out, and I will hunt you down and beat you senseless with a foam noodle.

The best thing about our yurt? The DVD player.

Oh dear, this nature campaign isn't going very well. Let me start over, because tongue out of cheek for a moment, connecting to the great outdoors does actually mean something to me as a parent. And so when the Forest Service asked me to pass on this cool link I accepted their request with great pleasure. Where The Other You Lives is a US Forest Service and Ad Council Public Service Announcement to get folks off their collective booty and into our splendiferous state parks. And even a crabby mommy like me is all for it.

Did you know U.S. children spend 50% less time outdoors than 20 years ago? That's dang lame, man! Does it mean in another 20 years, American childhood will be a wholly indoor venture? Yeesh!

Clearly we all know the benefits of getting our tots and tweens and teens out into nature, but few of us apparently get out and do it. So if you haven't done a camping/yurting/daytripping activity into a state park near you this year, and you are feeling guilty, go with the guilt! And nip out quickly before school starts! Or play hooky the first week. Seriously, little Champiqua will be just fine if she misses her one-on-one with the teacher and all the nonsense of the first week: she'll be far better off shaking her sillies out in a sand dune or on a river or up a redwood tree.

And did you know that if your teen knows how to use a compass, you will automatically receive a full semester of tuition from the Ivy League college of your choice? Talk about incentive!

Got you again!

Ah, but indeed, nature's bounty will only stimulate young Worthington's neural cortex in all the right ways, making it ever so much easier for him to concentrate on both his chess game and his Advanced Peace Studies curriculum in that seventh grade of prep school. Research has proven this abundantly. Plus being out there is just plain fun. The state parks are ridiculously amazing in this country, and this comes from a skeptical, cynical, meanspirited moaner.

Don't know where to go? DON'T BE SO STUPID. I mean, ahem, The Forest Service's new website has loads of choice info and excellent resources. And you don't have to pussy out of it and stay in a yurt. You can stay in a tent too. We did that earlier in our summer. At this absurdly heavenly state park. It was swell, but rain on day three encouraged us to take advantage of Oregon's hippie side and reserve a night in a yurt for a subsequent foray (two nature sojourns in one summer! As you can see, I am becoming an outdoorswoman). The yurt was bloody excellent. Dora the Explorer is so much more fun to watch when you are actually exploring. Ahem, I mean, the sounds of nature and the bonhomie of family time was a thrill even for this jadedmommy.

So go here and learn more. And props to the Forest Service for putting this together. And props to the Forest Service for having one of my family in its corps: Crabkid's Uncle Dave is a smokejumper with the Forest Service. This is a seriously crazy job involving parachuting into forest fires. Shweesh!

I close this message with 2 pics, not of the yurt, but of a ghostly, spooky landscape in Oregon stumbled upon while we were out in the wild. The gray beach sky meshed with the gray sand. We staggered around as though in a dream. It was creepy and magical and astonishing. Even I was humbled, and as you all know it takes a lot to humble the Crabmommy.

So, go camping, go yurting [did I actually say "go yurting?"], but whatever you do get outside and take the whiny ones with you. They will pipe down when you threaten them with tales of brown bears being drawn to human wailing.

Camp on, dear friends, but here's my personal public service announcement, familiar to those who have heard it before: Please, for the love of Joseph Smith, don't wear a head lamp. I repeat: do not wear a dorky head lamp. It is just going wayyyy too far. And I will never forgive you for it.

Ultimately, here's the thing about camping: even if you don't enjoy camping, you will thank yourself for having camped. And, the little ones—they will thank you for it.

Any camping trips afoot, y'all?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Confusing, Dang It! It Dang Confusing!

Greetings, strangers:

Yes, you be strangers. Strangers be you, yes. Because: Absent Crabmmomy am I. I am Crabmommy, absent.

Okay, enough piffly feeble attempts to write what I once called a palindrome. In my previous post, that is. Entitled "Hot Dang It, It Dang Hot!" And I called it a palindrome. And someone corrected me in the comments and pointed out that nay, a palindrome must incorporate not mere words mirrored back and forth in a phrase, but actual letters. Like "Hannah." Or "Lisa Bonet ate no basil."

And so I mea culpa'd. And blamed it all on heat stroke. Which seemed fair enough at the time, it being 106 degrees here in Portland, which is a typically anemic sort of place when it comes to hotness. or heat. Or whatever they call it. See? The woman who once dared called herself Grammarmama has gone mushy in the head. The warmth has penetrated the soggy tissues of my brain and cooked them up.

Thankfully my good friend Fall From Grace corrected my anonymous correcting poster, who corrected my use of "palindrome" and suggested instead that what I did with that dang title was an anagram. Which of course it wasn't. Or isn't.

But the question, my chums, regarding the previous post's title is, IS IT, while not (obviously) an anagram, a palindrome of any sort? At first glance, one would say, NO. Because the back and forth patterning isn't of letters, but of whole words. Which is sort of cheating, innit? But still, fun.

The question of whether I can actually get away with calling this half-baked mirroring a palindrome or not has been peeping away at the back of my mind all through the day, as I set upon my mighty intellectual tasks of packing small people's lunches, frolicking in public swimming pools (which they CLEARED, because of a purported sighting of a TURD, I might add).

Anyhoo. Back to the topic at hand: I went and did what any graduate of literature and language from a top-notch university would do. I went to Wikipedia. And this is what it says:

A palindrome is a word, phrase, number or other sequence of units that can be read the same way in either direction (the adjustment of punctuation and spaces between words is generally permitted). Composing literature in palindromes is an example of constrained writing.
And I deduced from this esteemed Wikipedian writer (and we all know these Wiki-writers need no pedigrees nor lofty graduate degrees, but anyway): my phrase isn't a palindrome...or is it?

Let's take another look. Because there is this nugget lodged in the Wiki entry that makes me feel justified in calling anything I do a palindrome. Check it:
The word "palindrome" was coined from Greek roots palin (πάλιν; "back") and dromos (δρóμος; "way, direction") by English writer Ben Jonson in the 1600s. The actual Greek phrase to describe the phenomenon is karkinikê epigrafê (καρκινική επιγραφή; crab inscription), or simply karkiniêoi (καρκινιήοι; crabs), alluding to the backward movement of crabs, like an inscription which can be read backwards.
In case my bolding was not enough for you, the point of the entry is to state, unequivocally, that the Crabmommy can use the dang word "palindrome" whenever she dang feels like it. Because whatever I do on this blog is, quite literally "the backward movement of crabs," given that everything I write is a reflection on time spent, a rumination, crabby in more ways than one.

And as for the actual back-and-forth of phrases, unless someone comes up with a real figure of speech for it, I will coin one myself: the "Crabmommy Palindrome" is any phrase that reads forwards and backwards in whole word parts, because the writer is too dim to conceive of an actual letter-for-letter palindrome, but wants to show off anyway.

Does that satisfy you all, my discerning literate readership?

Back to the turd in the pool: Seriously, when one has paid one's public pool fare to frolic with one's tot of a hot day, one does not appreciate being kicked out of said pool after only an hour and all because of some purported turd, which they combed the pool for with a net...and even the second pool (our one, the deeper one) was closed on account of this chimeric, supposed, probably-hearsay turd in the shallow pool. Could Americans be more serious? You should have seen the faces of the lifeguards as they shut the pool down! They even had special purple turd-catching gloves. TURD AHOY! Me, I say, meh. A storm in a teacup. Or, more accurately, a drop(ping) in the [heavily chlorinated] ocean, if you will. If it were really out there, it would have floated to the top. Then you catch it, dispense with it, and let the kids back in. Don't you? That's my personal preference. Mind, I am the mom who took her tot swimming in a sewage stream.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hot Dang It, It Dang Hot!

I thought it high time I used a palindrome in my post title.

And hot dang it, we've been sweltering here. Hence my inability to type. Heat, coupled with extreme laziness, has a profound effect on my blogging finger (I never learned to type properly so my pointer digit figures prominently in the formation of words from my keyboard). Poor blogging finger. It does not like 107 degrees in Oregon. I had to bathe it in ice and set in on the A/C for days at a time. As one of few people I know in Portland whose apartment blessedly possesses aircon—central aircon no less—the Crabhome became of late the locus of much neighborly cocktail activity, all and sundry from our street crowding into our pad to cool down. It was quite fun.

In other similarly earthshaking Crabby news, Crabgrandma has been here for two weeks attending to the small one, who at almost 5 is going through one of those stages of insisting on wearing winter clothes in summer, in a heat wave, no less. She digs them out from the basement, saying, "I think these [corduroy] pants are right for today" and "Please can you button this [thick wool sweater]." And Crabgrandma deals with the tedium of challenging and changing and generally engaging the tot in all her contrariness.

Me, I lie on the floor plotting future vacations to Sicily, or sit beneath our one shady tree with a gin and tonic, pondering the plural of gin and tonic. That's gins and tonic.

I'm having a dang good summer. You?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Lousy Job?

I've been trying to think creatively about work. What jobs really are recession-proof? And more important, what jobs is this writer-mom qualified to go into to pull an income in troubled times? I have some writing work right now (more on that later) but I'm looking for something enduring and hourly, something I can do on a flex sched, 'cause my blogging butt has become extremely used to working on my own time in an ugly robe, looking like crap, and conducting a business life that involves zero co-workers. So what to do? Ladies, I think I've found it.

Nit-picking. Professional nit-picking. That's right; it is a real job. As the Times reports, unsqueamish ladies are making a tidy hourly rate "laboriously picking through people’s hair for lice and nits, or eggs — for a fee, of course."

I am heartened to learn that if you don't mind combine critters off the scalps of other people's tykes, you will find yourself a ready clientele, since "services as a professional nitpicker are more in demand as the tiny pests are showing up on schoolchildren’s heads with continuing regularity."

Since Americans tend to be a tad more freaked by bugs than most, it is only fitting that pro nitpickers have come to be, and as a wannabe-nitpicker I'm hoping even the recession hasn't caused American moms to do their own dirty work in this regard. Crabkid hasn't yet had lice, but I'm sure she will soon enough and I'm equally sure her curls will prove both a cozy home for lice and a challenge to the nitpicker to unsnarl. But it doesn't faze me. I'm not too bugged by little bugs.

What does faze me, though, is the notion of wearing a shower cap while at work. And you'd have to, right? Otherwise the lice would hop onto your scalp as an occupational hazard. Shower caps. Hmm. That's worse than a head lamp, surely. But hey, every job has its cons.

What do you think? Would you send your kid to a nitpicker if you could or would you save the $40 and DIY?