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?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

BPA, B.S.

It's been a while since Ive managed to make fun of GOOP, Gwynnie Paltz' lifestyle schmagazine. Sadly, Gwyn has developed a touch of sensitivity as regards being perceived to be a spoiled, patronizing tit; either that, or she's simply hired a publicist to help squelch the damage. The resulting GOOPy letters are filled with bonhomie towards the plebs and innocent content involving detox regimens that even plebs can afford, or sweet little cookie recipes that can make a mom on unemployment pretend she is Gwynnie for a day.

It's disappointing, from a satirical perspective, to see the vanilla flavor of Gwyn's newsletters. But in a recent eco-fabulous-themed newsletter filed under the subtly themed GET section of GOOP, Gwynnz dissed the BPA bottle, proffering some sort of water bottle called a "KOR hydration vessel" that is made without those terrible toxins. And of course is slender, minimalistically mod and design-y, and costs a pretty penny.

All of which reminded me that I have yet to rant against the BPA b.s. that has filled the mommy airwaves over the years. (So many rants! So little time!) Sure, none of us like to have our wee tots drinking from the noxiously perfumed plastic water bottles that come with their Hello Kitty lunchboxes direct from Guangdong, China. I too have bought into the pricey SIGG bottle scene. But equally, new info shows it won't kill our little muffins to drink out of something aside from a (very pricey) SIGG water bottle, or schmantzy baby bottle, for those of you with infants. As a mother who has newly invested in a $22 SIGG water bottle for Crabkid's summer camp, only to have the dang thing go missing in a week, it is heartening for me to learn that this whole BPA brouhaha is just a storm in a teacup.

Or at least, from one perspective.

Read this and also, this, a far chunkier essay. Both links came to me courtesy of George Mason University's STATS, a marvelous entity devoted to dispelling spurious scientific claims. Of course anyone speaking out against the BPA freakout gets an onslaught of attack, so the author of the second article has also written up a quite interesting Q&A.

And on the subject of junk science and the culture of parental fearmongering, I was most impressed by this breathtaking piece by Shannon Des Rochas Rosa at BlogHer, on autism cults. This comes from someone who experienced it from the inside. It's great to see more moms speaking out against cult websites like Generation Rescue, who profess to doing good but do so much harm. Vaccinate your children, you bunch of crazy culties.

Rant over. The monkey bars call (or rather, a certain someone is calling for Mom to take her to them).

This is the part where I ask you what you think of non-vaccinating or BPAs....but it's actually unnecessary b/c of course if you have a strong opinion, you will share it with me in the comments, as well you should, my lovelies!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Grace in Small Things

Some of you may recall one of the highly anomalous Crabmom post in which I, a crab-hearted being, attempted to write about gratitude. Sure, I'm grateful for many things. But I usually prefer to write about being ungrateful. Yes, when not chortling at bloody marvelous Christian music videos, or at Bret Michaels' reusable totes, or at reduxes of "Total Eclipse of the Heart," I like me some big ole' heaps of conflict and kvetching in my blog, in case you haven't noticed. Grumpaciousness inspires me.

But indeedy, there is stuff that warms my crustaceous heart. Here is a random sampling of things that make me smile: cacti in interesting pots; bison; tiny Japanese notebooks; nieghbors who give you things they've grown; nougat and assorted almond-based foodstuffs; miniature Mexican dioramas; sad music; fresh mint; stale Gummi bears...

Oh, and also the cute things my people sometimes get up to. I especially enjoy an accidental moment of sweetness. Such as when you download pictures from a camera, and you haven't downloaded from the camera in ages, and you find this:It could only have been taken by one human, of 4 and three-quarters, though perhaps a little younger than that when she took it. Maybe she meant to snap the shot of her toes; more likely it was just a mistake. And it's my favorite thing today.

What's yours?

*Less schmaltz, more substance coming back soon to Crabmommy. Empty promises, you think, but I'll be back.*

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Total Eclipse

You are thinking that's what's happening here at Crabmommy. The moon has been shrouded in darkness. The writing is obscured. Nothing to be seen at all.

But you are wrong. Out of the darkness and into the light, with this:

Some of you have seen this, no doubt. but some of us haven't. How genius is it? It renders me speechless. At least for a little while longer.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bret Michaels Makes Reusable Bags!

OK. So my long-term fans are wondering WHAT GIVES with Crabmommy's blog. It has lately been very slim on the child-rearing stories and meaty on the random video weirdness, with Christians moondancing and personal trainers power-exercising on stainless steel kitchen appliances.

Don't you know the first thing about successful blogging by now, Crabmom? Don't you know it's important to stick to a consistent topic and audience and not confuse them with all this crapola?

Apparently not. because now I want to tell you that Bret Michaels, of Poison, of Rock of Love is selling reusable shopping bags on his website. With the words GOING GREEN ROCKS!

You may be asking yourself, why is Crabmommy visiting Bret Michaels' website? And the answer is HELL, I DON'T KNOW. Get your face out of my Google history. Sheesh. Can't I have any privacy here? Seriously, I don't know. I don't know what compelled me to go to Bret Michaels' website at 11 pm on a Saturday night. No, I do not have a thing for the man in the bandanna, ice-blue eyes notwithstanding.

But the more important question to ponder is how Bret Michaels and his peeps came up with the idea of selling reusable shopping bags with his brand on them. I mean, who is the market here?I have no answers. I can only say that truly, Bret Michaels is proffering said bags for $6.00 a pop. As his site says:

Celebrate Earth Day every day with Bret Michaels Going Green Rocks T-Shirts and Reusable Bags! They are available at a special price for a limited time!
Plastic bags leave a harmful impact on planet Earth, our reusable bags are an easy way to do a small thing that over time will have a big impact. Reusable bags are the ultimate multi-taskers, too. They are great for all kinds of shopping and make great travel totes in the car for snacks, books, toys, necessities and more. Our Going Green Rocks bags are a roomy 12-inches tall by 16-inches wide by 6-inches deep and can hold two gallons of milk and still have room for more.
Two gallons of...milk? Whaa? Truly is the internet priceless. Sometimes I forget that. I am so glad I remembered it tonight. Thanks for making me think, Bret. And for exposing me to fonts I never dreamed were possible.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It's Been a While...

...since I made fun of religion.

No additional words necessary:

Thanks to Libba for this priceless link.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tone Your Glutes on Your Oven!

I think we all agree that Mary Campbell should be the winner of this *random* giveaway. So she is. Mary, contact me to get your yoga mat! Whoo hoo!

Hello, my charming friends,

Yes it's been a wee spell since I last posted. AND WHAT OF IT [insert defensive tone from blogger]! But while there is much to be sad about in the present economy, and in the news in general today, I can at least bring you a small bit of humor, a stainless steel kitchen upgrade, and the potential to use your kitchen to tone your tush here at Crabmommy. Courtesy of GE.

Indeedy, until July 6, 2009 you fine readers who still have a spot of cashola in your pockets can splash out and turn your kitchen stainless for the same price as the regular ho-hum finishes you plebby folk usually opt for.

More important, you can also use your new kitchen as a home gym, without any need of costly home workout equipment. It's a win-win. Check it, yo:
I think it's quite fun. And since I am married to an architect, it is certainly my moral duty to keep the building and reno profession in business. My husband may not have a job, but maybe you and yours do and thus perhaps you would like to do us all a favor and get yourself a spanking new kitchen appliance or three, pronto!

Please do peruse GE's products and discount info here.

Sadly GE isn't offering me a new kitchen for running this promo, but they are offering me a yoga mat. And since I already have two and this blobby blogging bod has no interest in either, I instead am offering said yoga mat and handy carrying case to a lucky reader, through this week. Sometime towards the weekend, or whenever I dang feel like it, I will pick at random a winner from the comments and soon your new yoga mat will be winging its way to you just in time for summer, when, as we all know, you most need to diminish that jiggly underarm flap and transform that squashy foamcore midsection from a mom-tum into a set of washboard abs.

I am also soliciting email for a new upcoming Crabmommy mini-series: Hire That Mommy! Or Hire That Daddy! For this I ask you to send me your resume, or your spouse's resume or your sister's or whoever in your family/friendship circle is presently unemployed. I will then post the chosen ones to my blog with a little intro about the advertised worker, and see if we can spread the word to all seven of my readers and thus, through the magic of the Information Super Highway, also knows as The Worldwide Web, get said person to perhaps find some new contacts and—you never know—maybe even a job.

Please send me interesting resumes only. Sex workers preferred, but all will be considered. Even Mormons.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alms for Architects

As the Crabhubby nears his final hours as an employed architect, I beseech you to think of him and those like him as you pass out your own remaining coppers. Here follows a few words from Crabhub coworker Jege, good friend and frequent visitor here at Crabmommy:
And you and yours? How's everyone faring in their chosen careers these days? Please, no happy "we're hanging in there" people or your happy comments will be removed by my site administrator. Complaints only.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Crabmommy Returns

Seattle is swell. Crabhub and I popped up from Portland by train for a few days and our visit coincided with that of a major celebrity: the sun. Yes, the sun deigned to shine upon us for at least a quarter of each day in Seattle. (Seattle-ites, don't get uppity about my sun-swipe: I live in Portland, so I'm clearly not a big sun-worshipper. We can either now argue over which has more gray or simply agree that neither is exactly the shiniest place on earth. Which is all FINE. We know it's fine. Keeps everyone else in Cali, right? But let's not do a whole Seattle-really-is-very-sunny thing right now in the comments...k?)

Ahem. Lost my thread there. Ah, right. Seattle! It's really a quite lovely city to visit. I like the way they do things over there: for example the toilet stalls all seem to have very low doors so you can select your preferred toilet bowl without having to go into the stall to survey it.

Seattle has many splendid things about it. The Central Downtown Library, designed by famed architect Rem Koohaas, is not one of them. Seriously, for all three architecty types who happen to read this blog, I must just let you know that I don't doubt that the otherwise highly attractive and intelligent city of Seattle paid an extraordinary amount of money for an architectural embarrassment to define its skyline. No that the outside of the building is so awful. It's the inside: so completely awful it is, full of stupid Deconstructivist high-concept-theory-crap angles that...fulfill what purpose, exactly? To make you feel ill? Claustrophobic. Frightened. Why? Is this a holocaust memorial? No. It is a library. Or at least I thought it was until I went to the restroom: up one of those scary steep highlighter-pen-colored escalators and emerged in a creepy tunnel bathed deep abortion-red, pulsing with the shadows of homeless people. No, I am not against homeless people. I am almost sure I will soon be one of them. But I think a person has the right to go to the restroom in a public library without physically brushing up against transient humanity-at-large. Impossible not to as one fumbles through a long dark clubby-red corridor. Wait! I think I get it now--the architect's vision is to bring uptight people into contact with downtown transience. Mission accomplished, Mr. Koolhaas!

Okay, archi-rant over. Sorry, I'm married to an architect. My marital lingo nowadays went from the early-days sweet nothings to chitchat involving words like "spandrel" and "cornice." Sigh. I guess everything must evolve. But at least we are still here, together, and occasionally dining like grownups in such places as Seattle's Boat Street Kitchen. What a nugget of a restaurant! Such crabcakes!! Go there.

I hope y'all had a good Mother's Day. My child cried on the phone to me during mine, telling me she missed me. My heart broke briefly; it's true. But I chose to take the episode as a straight-up example of how long overdue Crabkid's Special Time with Grandma is and how right we were to leave. Time with grandparents alone is important for all children and their parents and grandparents--or at least that's my ideal. And I feel lucky that my mom-in-law was so willing to fly in from Utah to provide us all with what we needed.

Plus Crabkid was so cuddly on return. It's so delicious to go away, miss your child, and then capture them for a smothering love festival on return.

You? How goes it?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shhh! Mommy's Reading!

If you've ever asked yourself if you're a bad mother or second-guessed your maternal instincts even slightly, or if you get a tiny frisson of pleasure from discussing the bad judgments /lazy-assed performance/ not-so-hot mothering skills of the moms in your orbit, then Ayelet Waldman's new memoir is for you. Aren't you glad I didn't use the word "momoir"? So am I.

Ayelet's name has crossed my lips before on this blog here and here. She's the author of the Mommy Track mysteries, of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, of Daughter's Keeper, has four children, and still manages to look tremendously adorable. And so I deeply dislike admire her greatly. In fact I really do. She is brave and compelling and I am sure every one of you out there will agree that whether you subscribe to all Ayelet's ideas of familial love hierarchy or not, we mothers are all served well by those among us who are willing to engage the tricky parts of motherhood with bluntness and intelligence, instead of clogging the world of mommy media with yet more safe, peppy, rah-rah motherhood claptrap.

Ayelet's memoir Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace is just out. See her read from it here:

For those of you in California, Ayelet is doing readings all around the state the next couple of months. Check here for a sched.

Also just out is True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real. Culled from her fabulous website, True Mom Confessions, where moms come to anonymously rant and confess crimes real or imagined, author Romi Lassally reminds us that we all say/feel/think shocking unmommy-ish, unwifely sentiments all the time. All of us. None of us are perfect and trying to be can make you even worse and witchier and crazier and guiltier and more miserable and therefore less available to our families. So cut yourself some slack, y'allz! And while you're at it, cut that other mom some too. That bad mom you were just talking about. The one brought Kool Aid to the picnic. (And can you believe she lets her kids watch that show? I agree, it really is inappropriate...)

See more on True Mom Confessions and Romi's readings and interviews here.

Off to Seattle to be childless on Mother's day, I am. What a bad mommy!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spoil That Mommy!

Hi Chums,

As Mom's Day rolls around again I think back to last year's. It was just perfect.I got exactly what I wanted: a day to my crabby self, prowling the streets of my city toute seule.

I've never been a big one for all that MD gimmickry but now that I'm a crabmommy I'll take all the appreciation and worship I can get. This year promises to be a goodie since my mother-in-law is graciously flying in to watch Crabkid for three days while Crabhubby and I take a train to Seattle. I have never been to Seattle but it just a few hours from Crabcity, that being Portland, OR. I am most excited to travel by train; trains are so much more dignified than cars. Although you can't argue as much in them so that is definitely a con.

Anyhoo. In anticipation of MoDay, I have guest-posted a series of my ideal presents over at Etsy. Because it is not enough to be childless and carefree for a few days of Seattle. It is not enough to have my mother-in-law go out of her way to ensure this break for the Crabparents. I want more. Always.

Do stop by and help these great vendors of vintage and handmade fabulosity. Its just astonishing how gorgeous Etsy's loot continually proves to be. Mothers, treat yourself or your mom or grandma to a dear little pair of vintage earrings or a cactus in a vintage lusterware pot or whatever your mommy soul desires. Or send your spouses and boyfriends and polyamorous partners over to the site in support of you, O wondrous selfless mommy-creature, you!

The only sucky thing about guesting at Etsy is that I get all bitter and annoyed that I cannot have it all, every last bit of it. My face gets all pinchy and sour as I pick out the products and then it turns pink with covetousness and then green with envy as I picture those who can actually buy any trinket they wish off Etsy, any day of the week. Then my face turns purple with rage. Just sharing!

Enjoy, my dear mom-friends. And do tell me, what do you want most of all for Mother's Day? Please don't answer "hugs and kisses." Those kinds of answers are not welcome on this blog and will be removed by my site administrator.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Help! There's a pirate on my blog!

Friends,

One of the very best things that has come out of my having a momblog these past few years is the reg'lar readers with whom I have forged new and surprising friendships. In the spirit of this happy event, I have asked one of my dearest and most unlikely readers to guest-post this week. Tony Park, whom some of you may know as "tonypark," also as "childless man from Australia" also as "tp" (thought that does not in this case refer to "toilet paper") is one such online treasure that I have had the pleasure of gabbing with online. Tony is indeed a childless man from Australia who somehow enjoys the Crabmommy musings. Tony is also a writer, of many books, thrillers set in Africa where he and his wife, Nicola, spend half the year, driving around in a land rover, drinking too much, bathing too little, and finding material for Tony's novels, such as Zambezi, Silent Predator and soon-to-be-publighed Ivory.

Ivory is a racy yarn about pirates off the coast of Africa, and I think it's very clever of Tony to have lately orchestrated an actual piratic (or is that piractic?) event for American readers, off the coast of Somalia, to coincide with the publication of his novel.

Following on from the recent comments of my last post, involving piracy, I asked TP, my resident expert, to post on the matter. And so I entreat you to read on, comment, and to visit Tony's website where you can buy his books and see a picture of him. He is very tall. He is also a major in the Australian Reserve. I am 5'2" in thickly soled Skecher sneakers. I am not at present involved in any military undertakings. As you can see we have a lot in common. Okay, take it away, Tony...

Avast, mommies and daddies… there be no talk of cute kids, Bristol Palin, baby showers or Gwyneth Paltrow on the good ship Crabmommy today. For this blog has been boarded (temporarily), by pirates!

Aye, the Crab has scuttled away across the floors of silent seas and I, Tony Park, have come here seeking answers (from what I’m assuming is a mostly female demographic).

My question for ye is, what is it about pirates?

In the comments on the Crabmommy’s last post, Ravi raised the whole idea of what kids–and adults–think about pirates. Simply put, it seems that fictional pirates are OK, but real pirates are bad. I’m good with all that, totally, but I want to know why.

My latest pot-boiler, “Ivory” (due for release in August), is about modern day pirates off the coast of Africa. No fewer than five of my female friends insisted, at corkscrew point, that I use their names as characters in the book and all were adamant that they wanted to keep company with the lead pirate (two added the further rider that their fictional alter egos must have exceptionally good legs).

Three more women paid significant amounts of money at charity auctions I spoke at last year to buy their way into the book. I later approached one of the successful bidders and offered her the choice of the last two unnamed female characters in the book.

“Would you like to be the PA to the managing director of a shipping company, or the pirate hero’s old girlfriend?” I asked, adding: “The ex-girlfriend is married, with two kids, but the pirate king has a one night stand with her anyway.”

“Duh,” replied the woman by email. “What do you think?”

I put the question of what it is that women find attractive about pirates to a twenty-year-old I know. Her take was that pirates reminded her of rock stars. “They drink, they sing, they wear leather and they, like, completely trash whatever place they land in.”

Interesting. Like some gender blender rock stars I could name, pirates don’t tend to conform to the more mainstream stereotypical definitions of manliness. Pirates wear pantaloons, puffy shirts and knee-high roll-top boots. Johnny Depp’s much-beloved (by chicks, at least) Captain Jack Sparrow further sports guy-liner and Whoopie Goldberg hair.

Taking on board the notion that someone like, say, Bruce Willis, will probably never be cast as pirate king, I wanted to give my leading seaman a sensitive side. He’s actually been forced into piracy by the current economic climate and is hijacking ships to help fulfil his life’s dream of renovating an abandoned hotel on an island off the coast of Mozambique. He steals paint and building materials and flat screen televisions, and has an eye for soft furnishings. He plots hotel room renovations in between raids on unarmed merchantmen.

Of course, as Ravi and Crabmommy mentioned in their recent comments, the fascination with pirates begins for most people at a very early age. As you parents may be aware, the Australian children’s music group, The Wiggles, has a pirate character called Captain Feathersword.

If using a feather as a sword isn’t a precursor to wearing eye makeup, then I don’t know what is, yet I have a mate whose son wouldn’t leave the house for two years unless he was dressed as the aforementioned Cap’n. (To the lad’s credit, he also carried a small plastic version of an earthenware jug, which he told me contained ‘grog’. “All pirates drink grog,” he assured me.)

Predictably, my fictional nest of pirates also includes one or two bad eggs, to remind readers that piracy is actually bad, and that not all pirates are like Johnny Depp and Errol Flynn.

In fact, let’s be honest about this. The good pirate is up there with the hooker-with-the heart-of-gold and John Grisham’s principled lawyers. Pirates always have and always will rob and kill and rape and pillage, so why do people dress their children as buccaneers and why do I have a book full of pirate wenches with names like Jane, Lesley, Sue, Lisa, and Kim?

Can someone please tell me what it is about pirates? Do you encourage piracy in the home?

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Heartbreaking Anecdote Revealing Staggering Genius

Since this is a mom blog, I like to indulge myself every so often with little snippets of the darnedest thing my tot does and says, as they are all wont to do.

Scenario:

Crabkid (age 4.5) climbs out of the bath. As always, I dry between her little toes and tell her that if we don't, "mushrooms will grow between them." Then I pretend to spot one and eat it. It is pink and delicious! But Crabkid appears to be outgrowing this sort of nonsense:

"That's not real," she says, full of scorn. "You always tell me things that aren't real."

"So what do you believe in?" I'm genuinely curious to hear the answer. Crabkid has always seemed skeptical about the usual fantastical things of childhood, politely listening to tales of Easter bunnies and Santa Claus but never really seeming to be swept away by the magic. "You believe in Santa Claus, right?" I test her. "And fairies?"

She shrugs, noncommittal.

"Tell me, what do you believe in?" I ask again.

"Chicken nuggets." And then she adds, "and people."

Isn't she a nugget of delight?

Why, thank you. I agree.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

GOOP OFF! Gwynnie's ticked off with me!

It is a sad thing when the world commands so much of one's attention that one can't make good on one's promises: I had promised you I'd dissect every single GOOP newsletter that Gwynnie-pops Paltrow ever sent me, but I'm several newsletters behind.

But at least I used the pronoun "one" in the above paragraph, which gives one a certain a propos British tone, when one is speaking of a certain transplanted member of the Commonwealth. A certain member who sends out monthly GOOPy newsletters in order to share with the world her "incredible" and "very lucky, very unique life."

Anyhoo, in the latest installment of GOOP. I really feel Gwynz hit the nail on the head. Finally, she is actually talking to me, not above me or down to me, but to me.

Me, personally. Because this week's newsletter focuses on people who enjoy taking others down. It involves a very big, very German word, that Gwyneth wants one to rid oneself of: schadenfreude. This week, Gwyneth asks a bunch of her sages how we can stop being such bitchrocks, crabmommies and generally mean-o people who delight in the dressing down of others:

I’m curious about the spiritual concept of “evil tongue” (speaking evil of others) and its pervasiveness in our culture. Why do people become energized when they say or read something negative about someone else? What does it say about where that person is? What are the consequences of perpetuating negativity or feeling schadenfreude?
And I totally know she is talking about Crabmommy. Because Gwyn recently spoke the evil tongue in the media, jabbing back at those of those of us who have been speaking the evil tongue about GOOP:
F--k the haters! I saw this blog of people writing horrible things about me and for a second your ego is so wounded. How could people hate me, my intentions or what I’m trying to do? I’m a good person and I’m trying to put good things into the world.
Gawd, do you think it could really be me she's talking to? I am so totally hoping so! But there are a few of us who have GOOPed off on the lass, so I can't be sure she was talking to the Crabmom. No matter, either way this hit of pure schadenfreude I just received—in knowing that Gwyn has been made to feel like a toss (albeit only for a wounded second) about this pretentious, condescending new empire of hers—
is wonderfully energizing. Almost like a trip to the gym! Thanks, Gwyn!

But hey, in all seriousness, when the laughter has died down we haters need to look deep within ourselves and see the negative energy we shoot at others for the pernicious awfulness that it is.
Yes, I know there are people out there who think it's time I stopped dissing on the Gwyn. Including Gwyn herself. And lawd knows her Zen and Kabbalist sages wouldn't approve of my childish scoffing!!

The problem is I happen to think raining on smug people's parades is something of a social service. And it feels so good!

That was the devil speaking in evil tongues on my shoulder just there! Sorry! I really am trying to take the sages' advice to heart. Let me try again. Hmmm...let me see...can I hear the good voice deep within my inner aspect... the nourishing voice? The inner, nicer Crabmommy? Yes, I can....here she is:

"Hi, guys! I'm Crabmom's inner nourishing angel. I don't get out much, so excuse me if I sound a little shy and unsure of myself. Um, Crabmommy? Leave Gwyneth alone! Ignore her newsletter if you don't want it, and stop trashing something simply designed to be helpful, something designed to put good things into the world, something that comes from
Gwyn's innermost aspect! OK?"

Me: "You mean the aspect that motivates her to share her 'very unique life' [sic.]
?"

Angel: "What does 'sic' mean?"

Me: "It means there's no such thing as 'very unique.' We are all unique, each person on the planet as important and unique as the next. That's Zen 101, Gwynnie!"

Angel: "Hey! If you can't say anything nice, why don't you just say nothing at all! F--k you, hater!"

SPLAT!

Yes, that was the sound of me killing my inner angel. Once and for all.

I think it's fair to say I'm going a bit loopy and goopy over here. Enough nonsense! Here's the thing: I can't and won't stop reading my GOOP! For I don't keep reading that GOOP I will not be able to reap, albeit secondhand, the rewards that come from reading the words of someone privileged enough to tap the very greatest sages on earth in order to go very deeply and organically into her very nourishing inner aspect even if outwardly she sounds like a patronizing prig. Quite simply, if I don't got GOOP, I can't pick out my next sailor-striped tee, much less my next kitchen sink:
I have this incredible, blessed, sometimes difficult, very lucky, very unique life, and I've gotten to travel all over the place and to work and live in different cities. … I go on tour with my husband and go to cities I would never necessarily go to. So I started accruing all of this information. I am the person my friends call when they want to know: "I am redoing this bathroom, and I want a sink that looks midcentury, but a contemporary version of a midcentury. Where should I go?"
Gwyneth Paltrow

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mother's Day In: Rejected Essay #1

This is the first of a new mini-series, Rejected Essays. I wrote it many years ago back when I was a new arrival in Crabtown. I tried to sell it in various forms to the usual venues—Babble (they said they were too urban to pub an essay by a ruralmom! I told them urban is a state of mind and my essay was all about that very thing, but they nixed it anyway, the smug urban twits); also sent it to Brain, Child (I guess it wasn't brainy enough); Cookie (no room for first-person essays of this sort) and blah-di-blah. Having just read an interview with Cheryl Hines (the actress playing one of the moms in the new TV comedy In the Motherhood) at Cookiemag.com, my erstwhile home, I decided it was high time I published this essay. The actress mentions a similar anecdote to the one I describe here. I guess they are filming it for In the Motherhood.

Incidentally, I am boycotting In the Motherhood b/c they had the cheek to send their PRs to my and other momblog websites asking us to share our stories with their show producer in some sort of exciting phone call. I told them the Crabmommy's idea of an exciting phone call with their producer begins and ends with a discussion of money and credit. Wankers. Seriously, PR, read my bloody blog. I'm not here to help you with your TV show.

Anyhoo, Hines reminded me of a funny story I myself tried to tell many years ago, but couldn't get anyone to run. The beauty of a blog? You can just run your own dang rejects yourself. Hopefully you will enjoy, my dears! And Crabtown readers, there's a little poetic license taken here and there; I hope you will humor it. Okay, enough chit-chat. Rejected Essay Part Uno...

Mother's Day In

After our baby was born, we did the unthinkable. We did exactly what we had always scoffed at, what we swore we would never do, what no real New Yorkers–no truly urbane parents–ever resort to, no matter how challenging the life of cramped apartment and schlepping stroller into subway. We left.

We nixed suburbs (we’d both read Revolutionary Road), but when my husband got offered a job in a remote and famously charming mountain Rocky Mountain resort, leaving seemed better than staying. Because when you get knocked up and have to move so deep into Brooklyn it feels like the end of the world, switching city for town doesn’t sound, well, like the end of the world anymore. And so there comes a day when you look at each other and agree that having a baby in the city with no bucks absolutely blows, and let’s just finally, after all this talking about and conjecturing about life in other places–let’s just stun ourselves and our friends and get out of here.

But the decision was made in the full thrust of summer. To stroll gently upon alpine meadows containing bashful deer, or to stay in steamy Kensington, Brooklyn, mashed against the narrow corner-store grocery aisles by forceful Ukrainian matriarchs?

Problem is, summer’s gone now. And, I think I might have made a mistake. Certainly all this time, space, and distance is making me obsess over what I’ve abandoned, all those things I’d always taken for granted in New York, things you don’t even think about until you’ve left. For instance, one of the best things about living in New York City is that no one ever invites you on a hike. In winter. With your baby in a backpack and tennis rackets on your feet. In a big city, such activities can be avoided. In our new town, this sort of thing unfortunately happens all the time.

Here, winter lasts forever–longer if you’re lazy and have an infant. And Patagonia-clad moms’ groups deal with winter by getting into it, in snowshoes, scampering up ice-shellacked buttes, offspring stashed dorsally in high-performance carriers. But not me, not mine. No thanks. Having had no choice but to Bjorn my hefty daughter for the first nine months of her life, on foot from subway to bus and Brooklyn to Manhattan, why would I choose to pick her up and put her on my back when I finally have a car?

Except there aren’t many places to drive to with a tot when the playgrounds are frozen for most of the year. And without playgrounds we can’t make any friends, hence no playdates. No matter, we shall hunker down at home, the baby and I, and I shall entertain her with a hip-mom technology-shunning program involving books, wooden toys, and fetching felt finger-puppets.
That was the plan. But it does not go well. The all-day one-on-one mom-baby time is a clear and unremitting hell. I ditch the wooden toy mandate fast–show me a tot who actually likes a Haba spinning top!–and it’s on to television, preferably all day, though to my great disappointment Teletubbies don’t mesmerize a baby half as much as people caution.

The months move glacially. I revisit the options: what’s worse, staying home where baby and I are both crazed with boredom and isolation, or backpacking with a moms’ group into some nasty dark canyon, me huffing in the altitude while my poor chilly mite snots up the back of my puffy jacket, ice wind chapping her delicate cheeks…? To be sure, neither of us is digging it at home but still I can’t bring myself to climb a mountain instead, nor can I bear to exchange my MacLaren XT for a winterized jogging-type stroller adapted with snow tires for walks across the elk-inhabited tundra downtown.

But judging by the other mothers I see leaping, jogging, shushing through ice and snow, I am entirely alone in my distaste for activity, and I miss the sensible girls I once knew, for whom competitive knitting is about as aerobic as it gets.

We do break out for Storytime at the library on Thursday mornings; nonetheless I feel trapped and glum. Other mothers seem happier, but in a town where people seem hell-bent on teaching their infants–and yours–how to high-five, maybe happiness, like stay-at-home motherhood and living in a snowy hamlet, isn’t really for me after all.

“I go to the rec center,” one mom, my neighbor says. She’s the only mom I’ve met here who complains about motherhood. (Another thing to miss about city life–all the abundant complaining!) “The rec center is great,” she says. “You dump your kid off in the daycare and then go swim. It’s the only way I stay sane. I practically live there.” Makes sense–she’s Amazonian, superfit, like everyone else here. “Besides,” she adds, “the daycare is only two dollars an hour.”
Two dollars? It sounds impossible, but having never set foot in anything resembling a rec center, how would I know? I heard something about these sports center thingies in NYC that came complete with daycare, but they always required a hefty membership fee. Besides, baby-toting was more than enough workout for me: I never had the slightest desire to re-firm my abs or deal with my wibbly thighs post-enfant. All I ever wanted was to rest, something entirely too costly for my budget.

But two dollars. That I could manage.

“So long as you’re a member and you remain on the premises, you can do the Kiddie Klub from nine to noon” a rec center employee, Bryce, verifies when I drive over to check things out. Bryce is both girly and butch, with a skimpy voice and huge lats. He takes me over to a gigantic tot-and-toy-infested gym room. “Kids love it here.” I feign concerned parental interest as he details the abilities of the Klub staff and how no child ever cries with so-and-so but my mind is on the money and the numbers make me giddy. “It’s a very fun and safe environment,” Bryce concludes. Fun? Who cares? It’s two dollars an hour! Safe? What’s the worst that can happen in a room lined with gym mats and life-size plush pandas? I mean, is an adult really even necessary? Hell, if they shaved a buck off the fee, I might forgo the warm body and take my chances, do two hours for the price of one…

Bryce keeps chit-chatting but all I hear is two bucks this and two bucks that. I can palm my child off for less than a cup of coffee! Less than a Nuk pacifier! It’s music to my desperate ears because, town for city notwithstanding, we’re still poor and any sort of paid childcare has been out of the question. Until now.

I pay the absurdly cheap Rec Center annual membership fee on the spot. There’s only one small problem: Now I have to swim. Or otherwise exert myself. I take a look at the bulletin board. Morning schedule lists lap pool and cardio-something in the only other gym room. I walk around. Two pools. A damp small lounge area opposite the front desk. Is swimming worse than playing with tot or better? Swimming worse than hiking or hiking worse than swimming? Why does it always come back to exercise? The rec center now feels like a rebuke, part of this town’s ploy to get a mother off her ample postnatal nether-cheeks and make her work out. Apparently if I want even a shred of time to myself, I’ll have to swim for it.

Or will I?

Would anyone check to see if I was actually swimming? The front desk, the daycare gym room, the pool, none are in view of the others. What if I just pretend to go swimming, pass through the swinging doors with a sports bag as though on my way to the pool and then just sort of…lurk. Under the radar and in a stairwell. Doing nothing. For a whole hour, maybe even two, if nobody caught on. I could read. Make phone calls. Or I could just stretch out on the floor of the capacious handicapped toilet. Bliss!

Day one. 10 am. Bryce signs me in, I hand tot over to daycare staffer, a teen whose golden looks, easy cradling of an infant, and blank expression made her seem a likely Mormon and therefore far more qualified to serenely look after an entire fleet of bleating toddlers than I am to mind my own single child. Bryce scans my ID. “Well,” I say, making a big show of throwing a towel over my shoulder and heading for the locker room, “If you need me, you know where to find me.”

Not exactly, Bryce. For I slip away, down the hall, dodge the locker room, pass the pool. I come to rest at cul-de-sac near the rear exit, spend some quiet time wedged discreetly in a nook between the snack machine and a water fountain. I see no one. No one sees me.

“Good workout?” the Mormon asks when I return after a phenomenal hour spent playing playing Minehunt on my Palm Pilot. “Great,” I reply and hug my daughter. “We’ll be back tomorrow!” And I shall bring my computer this time in my sports bag, hit the ladies’ locker room, and power up behind a punching bag. Read the Times online. Return emails. Maybe even paint my nails.

I’d like to say all of the above really happened. But the truth of it is, I lost my nerve right after signing the baby into the Kiddie Klub and signing myself in for swimming. This is what really happened:

Bryce scans my ID. “Well,” I say, making a big show of throwing a towel over my shoulder and heading for the locker room, “If you need me, you know where to find me.” But as I head for the ladies locker room I notice it’s busy today: brawny moms are filing in and I’m getting nervous. What if someone spots me and asks me what I’m doing? What am I doing? Whatever it is, it no longer feels so fun, so recreational. In fact being in this rec center is winding me up even more than trying to wrestle an Ajax-laced sponge from my child’s bleached gums. Such strenuous avoidance of exercise–it’s completely exhausting!

I turn around, return to the front desk. Bryce is picking his thumb. “Look,” I say. “What if I come here, put the baby in the daycare but I just lie on that couch over there.” “Lie on the couch,” he repeats. “What if I pay not to swim,” I plead. “Like, three dollars an hour?” “Why?” Bryce is not the brightest bulb. Or maybe it’s just that in this place where the word “accessory” denotes the yellow Lance Armstrong bracelet, no other mother has ever suggested such a thing. “I just want to relax,” I confess. “I’m tired.”

“Oh, honey.” Bryce smiles. “That’s no problem. So long as you pay your two dollars and stay on the premises we don’t care what you do.”

No judgment, just compassion. Were it not for the men in Speedos, one might think one were in a Buddhist temple and I am duly humbled. Having had no experience with rec centers before, I had no way of knowing, but I had been pretty sure the staff of a sports center, in a town obsessed with physical fitness, would get peppery with some cheapo parent’s taking advantage of the daycare pricing so she could do absolutely bloody nothing at all. I was wrong.

“Go ahead, Mom,” Bryce says. “Put your feet up.”

I lie on the couch. It is brown and orange. Ancient, granular bits of protein bar fleck the creases. From here through glass doors I can see–but, joy of joys, not hear–my little moppet playing in the Kiddie Klub, happy with her new friends while capable two-dollar-per-hour Mormons look on. I breathe in the rich, mossy athlete’s-foot-and-chlorine aroma of the rec center. Ambrosia. Outside snow falls, but inside it’s heaven. I could live here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

So That Dental College Job...

As I mentioned in my last post, I attempted to beat out the masses for a job teaching English at a dental college. I tried every other institution of higher learning in my town in the last year, looking for supplemental income, and so I thought I'd go to the institutions of lower learning this year, after the death of my Cookie magazine blog, also known as "the bloglet."

Some of you may recall that Crabmommy has done a fair bit of teaching when not occupied by blogs and such. And I must say, for some reason I thought the dental college gig would be mine without question and that finally my Ivy league grad school would step up to the plate and bat for me! I even fantasized that I could march right into that dental school with "Dude Where's My Comma?"--the class I created to teach grammar to Crabtown high schoolers (remember that one, old faithfuls?)--and just regurgitate my own prior coursework onto this new crop of dentally inclined people. Alas, someone screwed me over!! Someone snatched my dream away from me! Someone else was chosen over me! I don't know who, but the gig was "very competitive," so HR told me when I huffily inquired as to the status of my app. I am seriously ticked off. Who beat me?

I think it was Jonathan Franzen.

Seriously, it probably was. This is a city of unemployed writers. We are all begging to teach writing in the context of dental hygiene. I am pretty sure I saw Chuck Palahniuk interviewing for a job at Trader Joe's!

Depressing stuff. We had a sweetly pre-summer day here in the Pacific Northwest, but I feel old today. And melancholic. It is the end of an era. Last year seems so long ago. We all had it so good, people! The world seemed so full of promise back when I complained for a living! What a happy time that was! But now Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin have broken up and soon Jonathan Franzen will be teaching hygienists-in-training how to differentiate between "its" and "it's" for tooth chart purposes. Talk about a Corrections.

And y'all? And y'all's kids?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Soy Sauce in My Coffee

That's what Crabkid did to me as an April Fool's joke. And while Dad was in the shower, we put toothpaste in the bottom of his sock! She was hysterical with joy as he described the feeling of minty squishiness between his toes. She loved that he had to go and wash his foot again! Dad really got into the spirit of the day and offered me a sherry last night that was in fact apple cider vinegar. As Crabkid would say, de-scrumptious.

And you all? Any tricks to report?

For those new readers who have come here from Cookie, welcome! No, that wasn't an April Fool's joke: I have really been laid off. And yes, it's okay. They were very good to me and I had lots of fun with that blog and made money out of it and ticked quite a few people all off. All good. But on the positive side of being laid off, I can't make fun of Mormons as freely over there as I can here. And when I said whackjob Octomom's kids should be taken away from her, they did ask me to "soften the message." Thankfully here I can be completely unfiltered...and I plan to get back to that so stay tuned, non-vaccinators, religious people, and people who have too many children: Crabmommy is coming for you!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Not Dead, Just Hibernating

"You should have given me a nicer punishment!" Crabkid crabbed at me last night when I beat her with a stick or whatever it was I did as negative reinforcement for impishness.

That's the only parenting-related line I can think of that is worth sharing with you today, my friends. It certainly gave me a chuckle.

I've never taken a 3-week hiatus from this blog before. Nor have I written the kind of post I'm writing today. Which basically has no content. Nor much in the way of juicy phrases. Nor pithy anecdotes, whiny musings, nor sage/sassy pronouncements on parenting of any sort.

Y'alls, I'm just finished in my head. The head is empty. There is nothing there. Plus we was away. See? I can't even conjugate verbs anymore! We was at my sister's wedding. Crabkid got to wear gold shoes and attend ski school, which she tells me she will never attend again. A day of ski school absorbed the last of Crabhubby's 401K fund. Oh, well.

If you're looking for a less mentally flaccid Crabmommy, I will, for the penultimate time in my life, direct you to the bloglet where you can hear about my swimming in a community pool en famille. I got a way-intense wedgie up my left butt-cheek on account of swirling around in a furious whirpool. Yes, this is the second-to-last time I will direct you to the bloglet, for I have been downsized and after this week there will be no more bloglet, no more second blog at Cookie.

We can't say we didn't see it coming. Perhaps it was long overdue. Still, it will be hard to replace that gig so I'm fretting. It will be hard to fight over a secretarial job at a dental school with the rest of the city. We will all beat each other about the ears with our transcripts from Ivy league grad schools. But I have a foreign accent! And if that doesn't work, I can make a strange chicken sound from the back of my throat which I have honed since childhood and which I have been told is most unusual and impressive.

And how goes it wit' you?

Monday, March 9, 2009

One fish, Two Fish, Red Fish--Dead Fish!

In which we discuss the dead fish.

You may recall the Crabfamily acquired three guppies recently, yes? And I did not like their home, a hot-pink aquarium complete with bulbous lid and garish purple gravel. Still, I am not so cruel as to punish them for what they have no control over. So I dutifully fed them, chlorinated the water, massaged their tiny fins...in other words, what were meant to be my daughter's first stab at having a pet instantly became my new charges.

If you want to hear the full saga of the red-tailed guppy's demise, go here. Here at Blogger I'll try to summarize. After a week of feeling sick and at first enjoying and wallowing in it, then growing annoyed with it, I spent what felt like my entire weekend engaging in: watching a guppy languish and then expire before my very eyes; getting into a passive-aggressive battle with Crabhubby over who, exactly, was to blame for the dead guppy; secretly buying a replacement guppy; driving all over town in search of the right fish and fishy accoutrements; and scrubbing purple gravel to rid it of fish-flake fungal blobbiness and assorted nitrites, or whatever the heck they're called.

It was exhausting.

The good thing about my weekend: I met Ed the Aquarium Man. Ed is the fish expert at my local Petco. He looks the way a fish expert should: slick, gingery ponytail, barrel chest. Somehow that seems right for a fish expert. Ed told me loads of not uninteresting factoids about guppies. Did you know their tummies are tinier than their tiny eyeballs? You do now.

I promise this will be my last post on fish, but since it is my last post I'm going to let myself go a little and muse upon the significance of this moment: I can safely say it's a lot of work keeping guppies alive. They may look easy but they challenge you in ways you never imagined. They require more of you than you signed up for. They also cost more in both time and money, as I discovered when had to call all over town for a miniature aquarium heater, which I found at a fish store called The Wet Spot. Gag! the Wet Spot was fairly busting with people and buzzing with fishy assistants in blue coats, sporting multiple piercings in the nose, lip, and eyebrow. In a recession it seems everyone heads for the fish store and buys up entire schools of guppies and squids and exotic whatnots. I guess in tough times, in lieu of a trip to Hawaii people just get themselves a tropical fish and be done with it.

In conclusion: I am pleased to report that we now have three healthy guppies. If my single-child only decision ever wavers at the sight of a melty-cute newborn, I will remind myself that even a guppy is too hard on my wallet, conscience, schedule, marriage, and brain power. Even a guppy is too taxing for the Crabfamily. Even a guppy can barely be kept alive in this house. Even a guppy is cause for resentment, stress, strife, martyrdom, and all in all is way more work than I bargained for.

So if you ever hear me say something mushy about babies (perhaps unlikely for the Crabmommy but I do have my mushy moments) just say these three words: remember the guppy!

Your turn: how was your w/e?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sick Mommy, Lucky Mommy!

One of the trickiest things about being sick as a married person is trying to remember if you displayed enough empathy the last time your spouse was sick, to ensure that you will be brought cups of lemon water with honey, discharged from all parenting and domestic duties, and otherwise be encouraged to wallow in your misery, aided, abetted and generously supported by the other grownup in the house.

Unfortunately for Crabmommy, sympathy for grownups with flu is not part of my genetic makeup. When Crabhubby starts telling me about a scratchy throat or that "something's coming on" or that he doesn't feel "at my best," I can actually feel this little sympathy center deep within—the amygdala?—shrivel up into a raisin. Instead of immediately thinking of the spouse, I immediately think of myself. Because when the other parent is out of commission it is you who will have to take on the job of looking after both a real child and an infantilized, incapacitated adult.

And so the game goes. This weekend it was I who had to utter the lines that are meant to elicit sympathy from another. Lines like "my hands feel clammy" or "I think I'm getting a fever" or "my head hurts" or "I feel weak." These lines work in two ways, in the double-speak of marriage: they are as much intended to describe the symptoms as to warn the spouse that they need to get their act together because soon you will be totally out of commission. And Crabhubby has been appropriately sympathetic. He has duly taken on all household duties and left me in my bed with a copy of Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, who is in my view the much funnier Amis. And I think it is on account of the Amis that I speaking rather formally and grandly to you here from my perch in my bed, laptop atop my knees.

So when I told Crabhubby that I felt weird and that I had a strange taste in my mouth, I was confident that he would react with the sought-after sympathy. Because I was in credit. I had points stored up. You see, while I do not have the genetic disposition to feel sorry for flu-stricken adults (I inherited an impatience for illness from my mother), I have learned the hard way that one must feign tremendous interest in and pay attention to the spousal illnesses, especially in winter, because you need to save up points so that you you, yourself, will receive similarly tender loving care when it's your turn. And usually it's your turn right after theirs.

Since Crabhubby had only last week been gently ministered to by me, and I had pretended extreme interest in the various subtleties of his virus, I have managed to earn myself the same loving care in return. The whole thing is a perfect metaphor for marriage. You give them what they want and they will do unto you the same.

I wasn't always so forward-thinking on this subject. I used to react snappishly when Crabhub came down with something and I would huff about like a martyr, making a big production out of mixing Theraflu. But I'm glad to say that I have learned from my mistakes. Which is why I am having such a nice time right now. With points in credit I'm actually loving being sick. My flu virus is just one of those where you feel weak and achy and have a cough. Nothing too revolting. And I get to lie in bed and watch the sun slide around the room. I get to read my book in the daytime and not feel guilty. The door is closed and small people are ushered gently but firmly away from Mommy's bedside.

I am helpless, unable to attend to any duties in the outside world, nor any duties within the home. I am encouraged by others to sleep and "take it easy." I have only one job: to convalesce and recharge my batteries. In other words, I'm on vacation.

Best I end it there, people. I need to conserve my strength. All this blogging has tired me out, set me back at least two days. Oh dear. Poor Crabhubby. Lucky me.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Recess Redux

Damn that last post of mine was somber! I think Crabmommy is officially LOSING HER MIND, my peeps. Maybe it's the endless chill of the Pac-NW; maybe it's the stress of our almost-about-to-be-maybe-probably-lost incomes-that-are-already-paltry to begin with...but the Crabmom clearly needs some major time on the tire swing. Seriously, when did I get to be so serious?

Don't know. Let's hope it doesn't last.

Thanks those of you who commented on the play deprivation/role of recess post. Elsewhere on the web where the thoughts of the Crabmom appear, I had a teacher remind me that the No Child Left Behind Act has put loads of pressure on teachers to get kids performing their little tushies off...and in many cases this has forced a shortening of recess. So sad, so counterproductive. Another teacher also mentioned that it can be hard to come up with alternative punishments that work to get troublesome kids to behave. In her experience nothing was more effective than depriving kids of recess because she said she had tried everything she could think of, and plum nothing else worked.

And I thought about this teacher and tried to put myself in her shoes. I imagine it must be quite tricky to discipline kids in the classroom these days, especially as even when kids' parents ARE involved and interested, few of these kids are properly disciplined by their indulgent "pussyfoot-around-my-darling's-self-esteem" parents. Really, how do you run a classroom effectively when few kids are taught any sort of real respect for their elders? So let's just say you're presented with a naughty, impish grade-school tyke who is really hampering your ability to teach. I guess if you're going to be PC and fit into our culture in mainstream America, you as the teacher must beg the child to behave (using lots of pleases and thank yous, as we do to kids nowadays) and offer positive incentives for every negative behavior. But what if the little troll is still awful and rude and won't listen even after you've dangled prizes and packs of smiley face stickers in his face? What then?

Really, what are teachers to do to effectively discipline kids who don't behave properly? Add more homework? Keep kids after school? (Most stay after school anyway, don't they?) I think we need to put our heads together and figure out alternative punishment systems for kids who would otherwise be denied recess.

Here are mine:

  • force girls to wear an Amish bonnet during recess (thereby humiliating them around their friends while still preserving all-important playtime)
  • force boys to play clapping games with the girls during recess (see above)
  • force macho boys to build a Waldorf-y fairy nest using twigs and acorns (ditto)
  • force girly girls to engage in extensive pirate battles complete with rambunctious stabbing noises and duels with sticks (you get it)
  • force boys and girls to do hard, manual, outside work during recess--weeding of school garden, scrubbing of walls, mowing of school lawn (that's if the free play punishments don't work)
That's all I could come up with so far. But I'm quite pleased with my list. It includes what I think are primary and effective tactics for disciplining children: the use of humiliation and child labor. And recess with its all-important outdoor, rambunctious, free-range possibilities remains intact! Somebody just hire me already.

What do you think teachers should do to punish kids for bad behavior? Any teachers out there? What really works for you? Positive reinforcement stuff or punitive stuff?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Play Deprivation: it's wigging me out!

I know it's low to constantly point you to the bloglet, but today I wrote such a long essay over there that my blogging finger has gone into spasm. Warning: the piece is Crabmommy at her most grave, gabbing on about stuff we are seeing an awful lot of in the media these days: about play-deprived children, about the value of recess for our school-age children, and how the scientific community accords an ever-growing health-related significance to recess, in direct contrast to the diminishing attention educators place upon it. Playtime is serious stuff, all right.

I touched on this a while back on this blog, when interviewing Nation of Wimps author and Psychology Today editor Hara Marano, who talked to us about play-deprived kids. And last month Scientific American also published an article stressing that when kiddies aren't given time to goof off, their brains and bodies wig out. Then they either become serial killers, too-compliant drones of society who can't do or think anything on their own, or at the very least, "socially maladjusted adults."

"Play deprivation" is clearly the latest buzzword(s). I hesitate to add fuel to the alarmist fires out there, which blaze brightly whenever it comes to matters of parenting and how we aren't doing it right--and how we need to freak out over something new, even if it's freaking out over freaking out, or hyper-parenting through educating ourselves on the latest research on hyper-parenting, in true hyper-parenting fashion.

Certainly there's something ironic that happens when you get super-serious about kiddie playtime. But this is a subject that, like vaccinations (see my new pro-vax button on this blog!) I feel strongly about and which I think concerns all of us, as a society of parents not just as individual parents. And it's not always so easy to access the simple things of childhood--like time and space to chill out and play like a kid should. Numerous factors conspire to make it hard for kids to get enough of it. I know. I've been there. It's not always as easy to access a simple an unstructured childhood for your children. Especially if you work. And if your kids go to traditional public schools.

Yesterday's piece in the NY Times brings the subject of free play to the forefront with the question of recess, and what it means to children's development. We whose kids are at public schools must be vigilant and take action to prevent recess from ever being denied our children for any reason whatsoever. It's up to us to stay on it with regard to our rather strangely backward education system, which somehow still has in place the sorts of teachers who think that denying recess to kids as a punishment is going to achieve some good. Seriously, I never thought I'd say this, but the longer I'm a parent the more I get why people opt to take their kids out of conventional schools. There's just so much turgid, stodgy thinking still going on in the education system.

I think I'm going to homeschool Crabkid from now on.

Bwa-ha-ha! Ri-ight. Like either of us would survive a single day in such a scenario.

Please do check out my essay or skip it and tell me if you've ever found yourself concerned about the amount of free play time your kids have in their days, both at childcare/school facilities and at home. For me it's the number one battle of my mom-life right now: finding time/space for Crabkid to play for a decent chunk of time, preferably outside, on a regular basis.

Seriously, after 4 years of daycare and school (both very structured as they tend to be), 4 years of apartment building living with no yard space and tricky climates preventing us from getting out much anyway, I'm almost ready to pull a full-on steamy Southern eternal sunshine suburban move, trade my fabby Crabhubby for an unattractive dullard with a pile of cash so I wouldn't need to work and could instead look fondly on Crabkid roams freely around our capacious garden, engaging friends real and imaginary, finding squirrels' nests in hollow trees and tended to by lovely Nanny who happily makes snacks and cleans the mud tracks when Tot comes back in. Ohhhh, life is golden and free, blissful and creative for little Crabkid, tranquil and serene for her erstwhile Crabmommy...but wait. What's that I hear? Oh, the sound of the door! Yucky new Hubby is home for the evening and I have to converse with him and look at his portly physique. So much for my fantasy. Feh!

Yowzer, Crabmommy! Another essay just came out of that poor blogging finger! And it's pretty much a paraphrase of the first. Yeesh! Enough!

Right. Over to you: What's your feeling on "play deprivation"? Sound silly or are you taking it seriously too?