Friday, March 26, 2010

One Two Three Four Five Six!

Six years ago today, I was in the hospital having surgery. My granola dreams of having a water birth were thwarted by my baby’s insistence on remaining upright. She has been consistently strong-willed ever since.

She was born with a “stork bite” on her nose, upper lip, and back of the neck, but miraculously, these have faded on their own over time. She has been a healthy, happy baby all these years. I am truly blessed.

In the immortal words of Dirty Harry, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

I have successfully avoided having hoards of screaming children in my home for the past 5 birthdays, courtesy of my daughter’s amazing preschool, who allowed me to give her parties there.

Now that M is in kindergarten, things are very different. Tomorrow’s birthday party extravaganza will be at our local Jungle Quest! The school has some strict rules (that I am in agreement with) that made it a little more challenging to get the invitations out. Not being able to see a roster, plus the unreliable nature of the information you can glean from a five year old, I don’t know the names of all of the kids we’ve invited. But I managed by hovering just outside the classroom and handing an invitation to each little girl as she exited the school. It broke my heart to see the boys look at me with confusion and sadness that they weren’t included, but at $16 bucks a pop, we could only invite the girls.
It is sad how fallen-by-the-wayside things like RSVPing have become. Just saying.
I am almost as excited as my daughter at the idea of a bunch of little kids zip-lining across the room tomorrow. I will be doing my best to take lots of pictures.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ides of March

This is a turbulent time of year in these parts. Just a week ago, the lakes and ponds nearby were still frozen over. Today, walking through the greenbelt in 60 degree weather, they were thawed. Last Sunday, it snowed all day. Today I’m in short sleeves –green short sleeves – but the forecast for Friday is snow. It will be like this for another month. All around, the green shoots are coming up and the landscape has a greenish cast over the dull pale brown of winter.

I have still not heard the decision on the contract that would mean a job. I am not a patient person when it comes to waiting for news. I also have an interview scheduled for Friday for a job that would be interesting but not as ideal. Tomorrow, I have a consultation with a specialist that I am dreading.

I worked for over 15 years in dentistry, and saw it all. Before that, I had a great deal of orthodontia done on my teeth, some of it experimental. I had appliances cemented into my mouth while I was still in elementary school, and by junior high I had endured both neck gear and head gear – separately – which didn’t do a whole lot for my self esteem. (Think Joan Cusak in My Bodyguard.) As an unintended result, I have sensitive teeth that chip and crack easily. I was lucky enough to have a fabulous dentist as a kid who greatly impressed upon me the importance of good home care, and I’m sure that the time spent in his office had a lot to do with my entering school at 17 to become a dental assistant. I’ve always taken good care of what I have, and am blessed with good health, but old fillings have to be replaced eventually, and after I turned 40 one of my ancient fillings had to be transitioned into a crown. I was pretty sure that was the most comprehensive treatment I would ever need.

When I was in Northern California the past few years, living three hours north of where I had grown up, I found out that the dentist I had Interned with when I was just starting out had also moved to the same area. She took great care of me and my daughter, and it was wonderful to be in such capable hands. Last year, one of my molars not only had an old filling in need of replacement, but also had developed a crack. She replaced the filling and we hoped for the best.

Last week, my dentist here in Colorado took a look at the tooth and we discovered that the crack had caused a problem in the bone next to the tooth. Damn! Of all the dental specialists, a periodontist is the one that I thought I would never need. And of course, this has developed just when I am out of work and have no insurance. That is really the kind of luck I have. I am not even that surprised, just really unhappy at facing a painful and expensive procedure right now. And when the periodontist is finished with me, I’ll have to go back to my dentist for a crown on that tooth. Tomorrow is the consultation where I get the details.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that bad. I also know that as far as bad luck goes, I can handle this and it will pass. But I’m still bummed. This puts off other – much more fun things – that I had in mind for my funds. I planned carefully for this unsettled year, and have been careful with my money, but even though I knew there might be unforeseen emergencies, this really sucks. It skews my financial spreadsheet something awful.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Boogie Night

Besides growing up as the oldest girl in my family, I used to babysit for a long list of families for years, and even worked for an agency when I first moved to Colorado all those years ago. When I am around kids, I kind of fall into a natural troop-leader role without thinking about it too much.

Friday night, my daughter’s elementary school had a fundraiser event called the Black & White Boogie. She and her other kindergarten friends were excited, and planning their outfits was a BIG DEAL. There was to be pizza and soda for sale for dinner, and discounts were offered for advance tickets. Friday night she dressed in her black velvet dress, complemented with costume pearls, white tights, and black Mary Janes.

I’ve got black in my wardrobe in abundance, thank goodness. We drove over to the school – a quick five minute car ride – and walked into the lobby where they had set up a “Will Call” booth. One of M’s classmates was in line right in front of us. It was a good start.

The gymnasium’s stage had been exposed to accommodate a DJ, and the lights had been dimmed, a disco ball and colored beams of light created a pretty decent party atmosphere. The music was late 70s / early 80s stuff – right up my alley – except when they broke out the Electric Slide and similar “group dance” songs, and I stood back to watch in amazement as the entire floor was filled with rows of synchronized children dancing. It was quite a sight. The DJ had made a sincere plea to the kids to not race around and to enjoy themselves in a responsible manner. There were a lot of parents there, but I saw that most of them had a kind of deer in the headlights look about them. Probably flashing back on their own school dance memories. I followed my daughter around at a distance, saw that some of the running kids were knocking down the littler ones, and so now and then I stepped in their path and did my Stern Mom impression and slowed them down a little. I also amused myself by dancing and chatting with the adults as I roamed, and was having a pretty good time.

M was a little overwhelmed by the noise level and the crowd, so about halfway through the two-hour dance we made our way to the cafeteria to claim our 2 slices of lukewarm cheese pizza and tepid diet pepsi. The picnic-style tables were filled with tired looking parents and animated children. The noise level from all the chatter rivaled the dance floor. I love to people watch, and so I entertained myself observing the crowd. I was interested to see how many parents had put little effort into their attire, since “black and white” seemed pretty do-able to me, and noticed the kids who had obviously tried hard to “dress up” with no help from their families. My heart always goes out to those kids. I want to scoop them all up and take them shopping.

On our way back to the gym, M dashed ahead of me as I got stuck behind slower moving traffic. Off to my right, by the drinking fountain, a tussle broke out between a couple of boys. The milling crowd seemed uncertain what to do. I looked over at them and in my best Babysitter Voice, said “uh uh, uh uh, uh uh” and shook my head. Being maybe all of eight or nine, and it not being a serious fight – yet – they broke apart and their audience dispersed. As one of the diminutive combatants passed me in the hall, he looked up at me and in a curious tone said “Who are you?”
I gave him my wolfish raised eyebrow smile and replied “Taller than you, that’s who I am.” He laughed in understanding, and I liked him. I followed the crowd back into the gym.

My daughter danced and hopped around for another hour, until suddenly she turned to me and said “I want to go home.” Poor thing had just petered out. And she sighed the lament of generations of girls at the end of a dance: “my feet hurt!” She had had a great time at her first school dance, and happily we went home.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Gang in our Hood

We live in a complex of townhouses behind a gate. That makes the street pretty safe for little kids riding bikes. Unfortunately, it has also nurtured the formation of a gang of girls who ride their bikes in a group and their (loud) electric toy cars together while their parents cluster together and gossip. We haven’t seen them all winter, but the returning Spring and the few nice days we’ve had have brought them back out, and unfortunately, they are not nice people. One of the mothers of this tribe lives two doors down, and she’s a queen bee, so they often clump right out front. The fathers are the kind of guys who aren’t that bad individually but as a group they bring out their worst traits. I met them all when we moved in last summer, and quickly recognized their tiered social arrangement. It is very high school, and after I met them I had no use for them, and don’t try to hang out with them but say hi and am friendly when we see each other. Sadly, my daughter very much wants to be included by the girls, and they aren’t having it.

Add to this mix is a little girl who lives across the street who has already been trouble. She lives with her parents (I’ve met them) and yet they don’t seem to have any rules. (The mother told me recently “she doesn’t listen to me like your daughter listens to you.”) They rarely know where she is, but don’t seem to be concerned about it. The little girl has fuzzy ideas about what belongs to her, and has been known to show up at dinner time wanting to know if my daughter can play. I have allowed this child into my home, but I’ve learned the hard way that she needs to be watched, and I particularly don’t like the way she is already sly and dishonest and is only in kindergarten. These kids all go to the same school but fortunately, none of them are in her class.

A couple of days ago, my daughter and I came home from the store and the tiny terrorists were out in front of our building. Immediately, my daughter was desperate to join them on her bike. My heart sank, knowing how this would probably go down, but I helped her put on her helmet and she rode toward them all excited. Not soon after, I heard a blood curdling scream and came out to see what was going on. Of course, all the children were fine, and one of the fathers, in his long baggy shorts, reverse baseball cap and sunglasses, laughs and says “that one is mine,” kind of proudly. I have had this conversation with him before, along the lines of Calling Wolf, and how decidedly uncharming that kind of screaming is, especially from a 7-8 year old girl seeking attention. So this time I just made a joke about duct tape, gave him a look, and went back inside.

The kids had been taking turns driving the motorized cars, and my daughter had finally asked if she could have a turn. The parents must have made them let her, because she did get to drive the car, but when they reluctantly gave her a turn they also decided – enmasse – to abandon the cars and go do something else. Leaving my daughter alone in the street surrounded by bikes and a couple of toddlers too young to leave the adults.

The girl who lives across the street is just as desperate to belong to the gang, and so when my daughter saw her leaving too, she asked her where they were going and the child told my daughter she didn’t want to be her friend any more. In front of everyone.

That night as I was tucking her in bed, she started to cry, telling me about the way the girls had treated her, and she cried for a long time. I held her and soothed her and listened to her cry, and I thought about how hard it is to be on the outside. This was unlike the common give and take bickering that little kids often engage in; I’d heard M and her little friends squabble and reconnect hundreds of times, and this was different. It was mean. I spent plenty of time on the outside as a kid, and I remember how much it hurt to be deliberately snubbed by the popular crowd, and how long it takes sometimes to learn how to negotiate those shark filled waters. I had hoped she would be spared this somehow, but here we are.

I was actually surprised when the doorbell rang last night. M was upstairs in her room when I answered the door. It was the kid from across the street, asking if M could play. I looked at her for a moment. Finally, I said to her calmly “I thought you told M that you didn’t want to be friends anymore?” I just had to hear what she would say. She said she’d had time to feel bad about it at school and had changed her mind. I just gave her a look that said I wasn’t buying it, and said it was too late for playing; it was dinnertime. M came down the stairs just in time to hear this, and she stood on the stairs and seemed satisfied with my answer. The little girl saw her and said bye, and my daughter said bye, and I shut the door.

This has all happened right as I am planning M’s birthday party. I am glad I had already decided to just invite the girls in her class. There are several nice girls that I’d love for M to get to know better. I’ve talked to a couple of their moms and we’ve discussed getting the kids together, but haven’t yet. M has mostly spent time with the kids of my friends when we are out on the weekends and we don’t really have anyone close by. I realize I have to make more of an effort; I’m hoping that her party will help with that.