Saturday, December 29, 2007

Caution: Risky Reading Ahead

Yes, it's appalling I haven't posted in so long but I've been dealing with some very intimidating moms here on my travels in South Africa: Indeed, there are these moms here that remind me of the worst Crabtown ubermoms— aloof, hyper-athletic, territorial when new moms come along...

So we've been bashing along through the bush, removing ourselves from civilization and even from Crabtot for a few lovely remote days on safari. Bliss! I absolutely adore looking at moms and babes in the wild and then, you know, just MOVING ON to a station where a good cocktail may be imbibed. They do these weird little fabulous things for you on these luxe-safaris, where you trundle along in your jeep scanning the veld for warthogs and whatnot, and then just when you're about to think of a nice alcoholic libation, you arrive at a spot in the road and there before you is a little table sporting ostrich kabobs and gin and tonic! A bit silly really, but who am I to look down upon local (read, tourist) tradition?

Unfortunately we've had a rather tittish mom and son duo on our game drives, meaning we all pack into one jeep for intimate bush excursions 3 x a day. Mom is one of my worst kind of expat South Africans; namely a colonial circa 1950, who left Africa at 17 and now makes regular voyages in style, whereupon she insists she is one with the people, a real insider/local even as she adores giving commands to anyone of color. Her name is Bridget, which somehow has always annoyed me, in that I never really knew a very fabulous Bridget, mostly just those whiny, painfully thin vegetarian sorts of Bridgets....But our Bridge is not painfully thin; on the contrary, she is a squat handsome imperious woman, monopolizes the game ranger, knows "loads" about the bush, yadda yadda, yawn. Son is a total wash, doesn't say a word, fully grown, a real mom's boy who takes all his holidays with his mummy. I used to think there was something a tad charming about mommy's boys; but when they are 40 and wearing mom-and-son matching safari gear, shweeesh! Tweaks my vibe!

Annnnyhoo! Nothing like whining about luxury travel, eh? Truly I think I am perhaps not made for loafing. Telling Crabhub and I to sit and relax in nature for three days is like asking two hornets to get a massage. Sadly I always yearn for vacays but when on them, I long to be on another, different vacay, a vacay of the future in which I am already planning an amended, better, more relaxing itinerary than the present one.

Luckily Her Petite Crabbishness is having a ball. While we fretted over treacherous unfenceable swimming pool scenarios at Crabgrandma's, as well as a lack of small children for Crabtot to play with in the family, etc etc., she seems to have slotted in very well to South African life. I might also add that while I can't call myself the world's most chilled out holidaygoer, my American Mommy fear factor (the helicopter parenting thing, the neurotic-momming) has gone down considerably since arriving here. I think it may have to do with the fact that in South Africa there are so many bigger things to worry about than scary infant cold meds and how many harness points you need in your carseats, that in the end, one can have a much more relaxing mom-time out here. So I guess what I'm saying is that when you live in a country of frequent carjacking and murder, you really don't sweat the lead paint in the toy piano!

I don't plan to pontificate deeply on the state of South Africa in this blog; nor, as a native of the country but one who has lived in the USA for 14 years, am I perhaps the best person to comment on how things really are down here, politically and so on. But while a lot of things aren't obvious about SA, what seems obvious to me is that it's a country of extremes: terrible and magnificent, fabulous and foul, sometimes all at once and in the same moment. Case in point:

We went a beach I know from childhood and enjoy a lovely afternoon frolicking in the waves. We also frolic in a warm brownish river running down the dunes and into the sea. I remember this river from childhood...but it is only after we have all splashed and played in it that we see signs cautioning us not to dip even one crabtoe in it. Because apparently, duh, Crabmommy, a few things have changed since you were a kid on this beach. And now looking up across the dunes at a major slum that has developed over the last decade, one can see that the inviting mountain stream has in fact morphed into a river of sewage. The brown water is not the rust-tinted loveliness of the mountain streams of yon, but is more shall we say excremental in origin.

Naturally we freak out when we figure this out and rush back home to disinfect the entire Crabfam in a boiling bath. Poor C-tot is practically peeled and bleached twelve times by her terrified parents...I race to the computer to try and figure out what might befall her after sloshing through that inviting brown mire, but Dr. Sears doesn't have a section on what to watch out for when you take your tot swimming in sewage. Later in the evening I ran into a parent-pal I hadn't seen in years at the supermarket, and felt compelled to relate the story in my customary guilt-needs-confession sort of way. But this pal was completely unimpressed by our drama and just shrugged. "Ja, that stream's a bit dodgy now," he agreed. "But so long as she had a nice bath..." Says he, jiggling his own tot on his shoulders!

So I guess the moral of the story is if you're as freaked out about toddler safety as we are in the so-called fancy first-world, just take your tot for a nice sewage-y swim! Believe me, there's nothing quite like a fecal frolic to ensure that you'll never again worry about the vaccine wars or whether the Teletubbies are sending subliminal homosexual messages to your tyke. So take the plunge, have a bath, and then if you're all still smiling, you know you're invincible!

Why is this post so long? I have no idea. Lawd. If you want still more, there will be more this week and next at the bloglet.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Water Can Move?

By way of explanation:

The reason for the blog-silence is not misery, lassitude, or sudden bingeing on substances. I am not laid up with a virus, hungover, tweaked by bad mommy-vibes, or irritated, for once. Because I am on vacation. And hence I have nothing to crab about. Yet. And as you all know, I don't like to post unless I have something to complain about or someone to embarrass or call out. To post otherwise goes against my blog-religion.

Yes, we are in Cape Town at last. Somehow we managed to get Crabtot from the northern to the southern hemisphere (for more on the odyssey, check the bloglet), to South Africa land of sun, sea, sand, and poor internet connections. A real vacation then. And not a moment too soon. Just before leaving Crabtown, I remarked to a woman in the blasted library that her two year old looked older (the kid was tall). Mom responded with a classic, "Yes, she's tall and also she's very verbal for her age." Ah yes, THAT WOULD EXPLAIN IT. Time to skip the hometown routines for a while, then. Indeed I am glad to leave Crabtot to auntly and grandmotherly entertainments instead of hitting the library. How lovely to have her sort through Crabgrandma's semi-precious stone collection instead of exchanging banter with the verbally advanced.

I will soon be reporting more regularly and, I hope, with some humor and drama. For now I remain in my bathrobe looking at the clouds drowning out Table Mountain and wondering if we should go to the beach, the lovely lead-paint playgrounds (and I seriously mean they are lovely, the paint on the jungle gyms warm and satisfying to peel off in long strips...), or if we should just hang by Crabgrandma's pool. The view from my computer:
I think this is the first post in which I haven't attempted to be interesting or irritated or tried to amuse. I apologize for the dull narrative; just to say please don't desert me. I will return. I am sure I will soon be back to my crotchety self. Meantime visit the bloglet if you want to see a half-assed Christmas Craftacular involving treetop angels and human devils.

As for the title of this post, it's Crabtot's first reponse to a dip in the ocean.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cleaning Up That Potty Mouth!

Parental advisory: Parents, if you are faint-hearted about discipline, do not read this post. If you are positive, controlled, and kind to your children, please go elsewhere. If your children respond well to non-violent parenting, best you hot-click out of here.

Whatever you do, please don't post any negative feedback regarding how I am "crossing the line" with the forthcoming tale of Crabtot crime and punishment. As with the sometime spanking, I do some things that some readers don't like. I know I'm not nice. That's the whole bloody point of this blahg. And as you will see, Crabtot can take it. But if you can't please do buzz off rather than leave me the sort of comment that you know is going to tweak my vibe. Remember, I never promised you a rose garden. I promised you a crabby mommy and those are two very different things, roses and crabmommies.

If you prefer to feel cozy, go elsewhere. Like, to Babble.com where they discuss their top 5 baby blankets of all time. Maybe you will find it cozier than I did. Their favorite blankie? Dwellbaby's cashmere offering at $137 per lovey. Talk about predisposing your kid to the finer things in life! Not to mention how sad Mom would be if she lost that dang Bangy. Forget baby's tears, if it were me I'd be gnashing my teeth at that $137 lying somewhere out there...Jay-sus. Honestly. Bloody. Ridiculous.

So. Thank you for staying, you hale and hearty moms and dads, and for accepting me though I may be a little less cuddly than some. Cheap and mean mommy-o? Why, thank you for saying so!

Okay enough prattle. To the point: Crabtot has of late become demonstrably more impossible by the second and has taken not only to delivering constant streams of wiseass-ery, but also to delivering very articulate and highly detailed accounts of what she plans to do with her parents for being, well, her parents (put you in the garbage, in the toilet, gonna poop on your head, blah blah blah). Three is indeed a little different from two and in our case a tad tougher, right now at any rate. Anyhoo, Crabtot has learned quite a few sassy words and is also enjoying the pleasures of parental name-calling (Poophead, Stupidhead).

We all know this is normal and maybe even funny to those with undeveloped senses of humor, but it is also utterly tedious to listen to and downright irksome for the fiftieth time in a day. We have tried it all: punishment, bribery, reward, spank, no spank, positive talking, careful explanations of feelings, shouting, blithely ignoring, etc. etc. And then we tried something new yesterday.

Tot and I were having a tricky morning and so, out of the blue, I just suddenly said "Let's share a donut at Albertson's today." Now, I am never the mom who lets the kid have the bloody donut at the grocery store. I am a Fruit Leather kind of gal. So this was big. I was just so tired of the miserable Mom-Tot kvetching and carping and crabbing! I thought maybe I would mess with her mind and lighten the mood by offering something as insane and delicious and just plain out of place in our day as a big, fat, trans-fatty, totally-yummy donut.

Response: [whiny voice] "I don't want a donut. Donuts are stupid." Followed by some name-calling and potty talk. I tell her if she wants to talk about poops and so forth that she can do it in the bathroom. I tell her if she calls me one more name one more time then we are going to wash that dirty little mouth out with soap (something I have threatened before, but never done). Then we go to Albertson's.

At the supermarket she behaves very well. And while I had decided not to purchase proposed donut on account of rude reception to the idea, I decided for once that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and since she was behaving, and I wanted a donut, I decided to just get the damn donut. So we had it. And it was good.

On the way home, the name-calling began. And the hobgoblin in me said that it would be plain wrong not to follow-through on the long-threatened soaping of the mouth. And so, summoning my inner cruelmom (not hard, trust me), I followed through.

Going into the house she began to cry in anticipation and I told her that Mom felt sad and awful about it too, but that we had to clean up that potty mouth. We went into the bathroom. She stood on her stool. I lathered my hands and asked her to open her mouth. I lathered her tongue and cheeks. The tears suddenly disappeared and she smiled and smacked her gums. I waited, hoping the soap would sting or make her cry again. Idle dreams, people, idle dreams. She smiled. I waited. Added a bit more soap. She rinsed. She left the bathroom happy as a clam. "I've got a nice clean mouth now," she said.

Yeah, right. Poopyhead.

(New post today at the bloglet. Puhleeze come over. You know you want to.)