Thursday, February 28, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Transportation

All the great superheroes have great transportation. The Batmobile. The USS Enterprise. The Millenium Falcon. Guess Iron Man counts as transportation in and of himself. The Blackbird. Spiderman had a Spider-Dune-Buggy until he crashed it, which is just as well. Web-shooters, organic or man-made, are a way cooler way to get around New York. Do I even need to mention teleporters? Time machines; both Delorean-housed and the more straightforward H.G. Wells construction. Oh course, some people like their time machines in the shape of police boxes. Jets are popular; the Avengers use one of Tony Stark's, Wonder Woman has her invisible one, and Green Lantern just makes one with his magic ring. Oh, hold on, Readers. What's that, Awkward Dad? Oh, really? OK, correction: Green Lantern uses his "power ring," which is sustained solely with his imagination and willpower, to create virtual shape-shifting by generating a hard-light holographic disguise, to create a personal force field, or to merely fly himself. Well, here at Awkward Manor we don't have magical rings that do everything, but we do have a beige 2005 Toyota Sienna. The Awkward Mobile!

Which currently smells like onion rings. OK, well, see what happens is that I have to make a quick trip to Target and Super Toddler isn't having it. At all. He is currently clinging to the underside of the cart and screaming "No, no! Stop stealing me, strange lady!" So, I do what any other mom does when pushed to the wall; I tell him that if he stops pretending to be kidnapped, he can have 1 thing from the $1 section of Target. Anything he wants. Have you not met the $1 section of Target, Readers? Oh, you poor things. It is glorious; about 3 short aisles of brightly colored junk that will keep your children occupied forever. Enough glow bracelets to throw a rave! Cheap toy cars probably laden with lead paint! Wrapping paper! Greeting cards! Seasonal stamps! Baskets! Shower poofs! Stickers by the millions! St. Patrick's Day crap, dripping with glitter! Grow your own Basil kits, complete with dirt! Slinkys! All for you and all right there in the doorway of Target, no need to make a separate trip to the $1 store. So, I pry him out from under the cart and let him loose. I smugly smile to myself, as I meander over to pick out some greeting cards (I am not immune to the lure of the $1 section); he'll return with a slinky or toy car, per usual, and we will be on our way.
But my smug smile turns sour when he comes bounding back to our cart with a bag of onion rings. Oh nuts, I seem to have forgotten that there is a food section of the $1 section, the dark underbelly of this product playground. Target's food $1 section is like the $1 section's shameful cousin that you really hope won't make it to the wedding. Or under the boardwalk at Coney Island; oh sure the song is catchy and all, but you wanna know what is really under the boardwalk at Coney Island? No, neither do I. Probably graffiti and condom wrappers, just to start with. The $1 food section is awash with stale cotton candy, gummy ropes, and, apparently, bags of onions rings. Who buys a bag of onion rings? A bag? Onion rings belong in their natural habitat; a greasy paper cup at the State Fair. Perhaps on the side of your Cheeseburger at the diner. Or maybe in a tower at Red Robin; even then, you are pushing it. But they, unequivocally, do not belong in a bag, at Target, in my cart, next to discounted shaving cream and cat litter. And they certainly do not belong in the Awkward Mobile, but sadly, that is where they end up. And, even more sadly, that is where they are opened.
See that shiny picture up there? Yeah, that was taken the day we bought the Awkward Mobile. These days she is covered in snow, which is hardly anyone's fault, expect maybe Michigan's. But she is also covered in Cheerios, Goldfish, and that dirt cloud that used to follow Pig Pen around on the Peanuts, and I lay the blame for that squarely on three little shoulders. I think you might know them. Let's take a tour!
OK, let's start in the front seat, which usually looks like this:

Super Toddler loves many things, but there are three things that rank above all others:
Monster Trucks, Transformers, and Pretending to Drive the Van.
Or really any car, he isn't too picky.
And since Super Toddler just figured out how to undo his own seat belt, the front seat looks more and more like this. Other than random toddlers, it also contains; 3 books we need to return to the library, an assortment of change, 1 button, Duct Tape, a package of diaper wipes, some gum, a garage door opener to our old house in Illinois, a air freshener that was fresh 6 months ago, a pretty consistent film of gray snow, a broken glove box that is taped shut with Duct Tape, and a Birthday Card for Awkward Mom that Awkward Dad forgot to sign or bring in the house.   
The middle seat contains 2 car seats, a cup holder full of Good n' Plenty's, 3 empty baby food pouches, a 2007 Atlas, Super Baby, 2 winter hats, an empty bottle of apple juice, 1 glove, a empty bag of onion rings, whichever Super Boy won today's Toddler-Shotgun, an Advent Wreath that Super Preschooler made, and acres and acres of Cheerios. There is also part of a pickle stuck to the passenger side sliding door window that Super Preschooler threw there on our last road trip to see the Awkward Grandparents.
The back seat is where toys go to die. There are 25 of them currently in the car, 5 of which are from McDonald's. 8 are toy dinosaurs in various sizes. There are also transformers, wands, books, crayons, an etch-a-sketch, travel bingo, numerous toy cars, the table to Super Preschooler's toy castle, a water gun, and 1 dress-up shoe. The back seat has 2 car seats; booster and regular. There is a microscopic space next to these where Awkward Mom is expected to sit anytime we travel with an extra adult. Currently an old diaper box sits there to collect the car toys. It is empty. There are 4 cup holders back there, they are all sticky and one of them might have something growing in it. I don't know, I am too afraid to look closely. The floor has the aforementioned Cheerios and Goldfish, plus 2 granola bars wrappers, a Cracker Jack bag, a leathery cheese stick, and banana peel. The ceiling is peppered with brown dots from that time Awkward Dad thought it wise to give Super Toddler a lidless chocolate shake.
The truck is the cleanest place in the van, with 1 blue tub, a bottle of water, a car scraper, this chair cover that I have to return to Ikea, a backpack with extra clothes for the children, and 2 sand toys. And yes, it is possible for a grown adult to fit comfortably back there, just ask Awkward Uncle.
So, she isn't invisible, able to time travel, or made out of a magic ring powered with willpower, but she is ours. (Completely ours; we got her in one of our better car deals ever.) The Awkward Mobile joined us right before Super Baby did, as I did not fancy stuffing three children into the back of a Toyota Corolla, which can be done, by the way:

Surprise, surprise, we decided to get the Awkward Mobile instead, and there hasn't been one day that I have regretted that decision. She is a mini-van worthy of a Superhero Family much less awkward then ours, but I am glad she sticks around with us anyway.
Messy, fragrant with onion rings and a diaper that can wait until we get home, we adore our Awkward Mobile. She is roomy and reliable and ready to road-trip at a moment's notice. But of all of us, I think Super Toddler might love her the best.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Chinese food

Before we begin, we just want to let you all know how Awkward Mom's presentation went in writing class last night; relatively well. The Supers were a hit, especially Super Baby, as Awkward Mom decided on Awkward Mom vs. First Birthday (sans cake, that is). Most liked it, but there was this one lady who found it boring. However, that is just fine because it lights a fire under Awkward Mom and gears her up for her next presentation in March. We'll be seeking your advice on what piece to bring to really wow her, and the rest of the class. We are confident in Awkward Mom's ability to win her over. Parenting is many things, awkward as all get out for example, but it is never boring. Speaking of never boring....

OK, so what happens is this: about 10 months ago, Awkward Dad gets barred from his favorite Chinese take-out. That really is overstating it; it is really more of a self-imposed exile. He gets into a ridiculous phone fight with the proprietress about what constitutes a dinner size vs. a lunch size. Here is something you should know about Awkward Dad. He has the patience of a saint; how else do you expect him to put up with the antics of a young superhero family, medical residency, and living in a state where winter is about half the year? He does it beautifully, with limited complaining and hardly any binge drinking. But, as with any saint, all that holiness is bound to spill over once in awhile in some honest to goodness get-behind-me-Satan moments. When Awkward Dad blows his top, it is truly volcanic. And not like some volcano in the middle of the ocean that is always blowing its lid, making new islands like so many old hats. No. Awkward Dad is like Pompeii-level, both in unexpectedness and damage. And like Pompeii, it is usually brought on by exhaustion and hunger. (I have no historical evidence to support that, but I like to think that Mount Vesuvius was just looking for a little snack.)

Anywho, Awkward Dad is shouting on the phone with China King's owner over what amounts to $7. (Names have totally been changed, mostly so Awkward Dad doesn't truly get banned this time.). The owner says he is crazy, he says she is cheating him. He says she didn't take the order correctly, she says he didn't give it correctly. It goes on and on, but the end result is him announcing that he is never ordering from them again, her saying good, and him trying to slam down a cell phone. It is less than effective, but I do notice a stronger than usual poke at the end call button. OK, all well and good. I couldn't care less, as I don't particularly like Chinese food unless I am pregnant and craving the entire world's great bounty of food choices. We eat out too much anyway, this could be a good thing for us.

Fast forward to yesterday: Awkward Dad is tired, way behind on his work, frazzled, and rumbling like it is 79 AD. Uh oh. I have been at writing class, leaving him alone with all three Supers at the end of a significantly rough day on all counts, so by the time I walk in the door, his ears look like they are smoking slightly. You see, I was nervous about presenting at class and didn't exactly make any dinner before I left. I may have pointed to some carrots and chicken nuggets on my way out the door. Suffice to say, things have reached a critical window by the time I return and lava is imminent. I manage to get the Supers in bed in under 15 minutes, which is no mean feat by the way, and then this happens:

Me: Pizza?

Awkward Dad: (Giant sigh) If you want.

Me: Subs?

Awkward Dad: (Even bigger sigh) I suppose.

Me: Chinese?

Awkward Dad: Why do you hate me?

Me: Aren't there any other Chinese restaurants you like?

Awkward Dad: We have been through this a million times. General Tso's chicken needs a precise balance of spicy and sweet; one does not just slap that together. It is an art, not a syrup concoction, like at Emperor China. Ugh. Or that horrible neon sauce from China Prince. Don't even get me started on China Baron....(Long and unnecessary shudder)

Me: Honey, maybe it is time to just call China King again. I mean, we have moved since then, maybe they won't know it is us....

Awkward Dad: It is the principle of the thing. I said I would never go back. I am a man of my word.

Me: when you told Super Preschooler that you took your iPad to work but you really hid it in the kitchen cabinet?

Awkward Dad: That was for his own good and not the same thing.

Me: Or that time you told him that dragons lived under the bed so that he would leave and you didn't have to share your chocolate?

Awkward Dad: Again, that was for his own good and totally not the same thing.

Me: Or how about the time you threatened to cancel Super Toddler's birthday party if he didn't get in the car in 5 minutes?

Awkward Dad: That was you! And you didn't follow through at all!

Me: My point exactly! Sometimes you need to know when to back down, not all battles are ones that you need to win.

Awkward Dad: This battle is over. We are in cold war territory now.

Me: Well, Mr. Gorbachev, it is time to tear down this wall!

Awkward Dad: You might be right, where is the phone?

Me: Here.

Awkward Dad: That's your Reagan? It sounds more like a psychotic Dirty Harry.

Me: Shut up. Don't you need to look up the number?

Awkward Dad: No, I still have it memorized.

Me: Oh, but I'm psychotic?

Awkward Dad: OK, wait. What voice should I use?

Me: Huh?

Awkward Dad: Which voice? I have to change my voice, I can't let them know it is me. How about British? My good man, might I trouble you for a spot of Crab Rangoon? Pip, pip!

Me: You are not serious.

Awkward Dad: OK, how about like an angry biker dude voice?

Me: Ummm, first of all, your lack of tattoos makes that impossible, I think it is an auditory fact. And secondly, the goal is to clandestinely get food, not really get banned from China King.

Awkward Dad: What about; "Euh, dzees General Zao's, how you say?"

Me: Le no.

Awkward Dad: How about this, "I say, I say, how about some white rice with a number 12, my good man?"

Me: You know that is Foghorn Leghorn, right?

Awkward Dad: (Mumbles incoherently)

Me: What was that?

Awkward Dad: My Bob Dylan.

Me: OK, well, try that one and be surprised with what they bring you then.

Awkward Dad: How about you order for me?

Me: Oh no, nuh uh. You got yourself into this, you get yourself out.

Awkward Dad: OK, OK, here goes. (Sudden, strangely over-enunciated voice) "Um, hi? Is this China King? I ask because I have never ordered from here before. Oh, great. Yes, got your name out of the phone book at random. Well, let's see. What do you have over there? Chinese food? Imagine that! Ah, yes, I see. Well, I say, I say, how about a number 12 with a side of white rice and a spring roll, the dinner size, please. Merci!" Well, how was that?

Me: Unbelievable.

Awkward Dad: You are going to answer the door though, right? Because if you aren't, I am gonna need a mask of some sort....

We repeat, never boring around here.

Super Preschooler's birthday party had the more fun type of volcanoes. That post is on its way and will prove to be epic. Of course, it really can't help itself with a inspiration like this:
Yes, that is Super Preschooler's secret identity emblazoned on that festive fairy cake. When one's first name is number 3 on the list of the most popular boys' names, one's mother can afford to be a slightly lax with online security. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Choices

Now that you have all finished tabulating your Oscar pools, we have one other item for you to vote on. Awkward Mom is workshopping in writing class tomorrow and she has narrowed it down to 3 selections. All potential posts have been edited for time and length and, mostly, striped of pictures and pithy pre- and post- narration. We don't want to hit our fellow writers with the full force of Awkward Mom's arsenal of awkwardness at once. Let's ease in, shall we? Help us pick the one to completely and utterly wow them. Well, OK, that might be aiming a bit high. Help us pick the least embarrassing one. The nominees are:

(which is combined into 1 and rant-free for class purposes)
(which still relies on that adorable W.C. Fields picture of Super Baby to end strong)
(which is cake and picture free for class purposes, don't want anyone getting hungry mid-read)

Don't like to rush you guys, but class is tomorrow at 6:30. Which one shall we pick to avoid this reaction:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Fairy Cakes

Not these. Those Awkward Mom would assuredly beat.

Super Preschooler's birthday party is on Saturday. 15 little boys and girls are going to meet us at the local children's museum to celebrate Super Preschooler, make volcanoes, and basically run amok. Oh, and eat cake. Duh. Can't forget the cake for an Awkward party. So, naturally, we have to go order a cake. Make it? Oh, that's cute. Are you new here? You might be looking for Perfect Mom's blog. I am not sure about the link, as she won't give it to me, but you could always start here.

So, we head over to Meijer to pick out a cake. No judging; they are cheap and they have never done me wrong yet. Super Toddler's Transformers cake was the thing legends are made of. We sidle up the cake case and all the Supers are suddenly quiet. They know hallowed ground when they are near it. We are standing in a tidy silent row before all those delicious choices, when an impossibly young man pops his head over the case; could this child actually be the high priest of this scrumptious shrine?

Cake youth: Can I help you?

Me: hmmmm.... (I am still trying to figure out if Meijer is violating some child labor law.)

Super Toddler: Cake!

Cake youth: Hey, would you guys like some cookies?

Super Preschooler shoots him a dubious look; is that a question that even needs to be asked? Super Baby opens up her arms and reaches toward him, like she is coming home at last, and Super Toddler just says, "Yep." The dessert genie suddenly disappears and then, just as quickly, pops back up with 3 sugar cookies, nestled in a shiny piece of wax paper. He hands them to me and waits patiently while I am mobbed by my children. When I am finally able to come up for air, we start again.

Cake youth: So, what can I help you with?

Me: I need a birthday cake. (I have now pegged his age at somewhere between 16 and 25; the combo acne/goatee-attempt is jamming my age radar.)

Super Preschooler: Forty.

Me: Who's forty?

Super Preschooler: Forty! (This is accompanied by a slight crumb-spewing laugh.)

Cake youth: I think he might be saying "for me." Are you the birthday boy?

Super Preschooler nods and continues to rain cookie crumbs down on the pristine glass case.

Cake youth: Well, what kind of cake would you like? Sports? Spiderman? We have an awesome Transformers cake!

Super Preschooler pauses and takes a huge swallow; he must be gearing up for something big. And he is. "I want a Fairy Cake!"

Now, here's a little back story you might need: Super Preschooler was originally going to have a Space Birthday to ring in year 5. However, when I called the Natural History Museum to schedule it, they told me that they would be happy to, but that their planetarium would not be available that day for a star show. I still am not entirely sure what a space party is without a planetarium show, but, needless to say, I politely declined. I asked Super Preschooler for his backup plan and he announced that he wanted a Fairy party and he wanted to troop around downtown Ann Arbor looking for fairy doors. What are fairy doors? Oh, read here. Basically, Super Preschooler wanted to lead a fairy scavenger hunt, which is adorable and all that, if one's birthday isn't in a Michigan February. When faced with the reality of the weather, Super Preschooler settled for the Children's Museum and Volcanoes, but it appears that he never quite let go of the fairies.

I am never sure how people are going to take Super Preschooler's enthusiastic and absolute disregard for traditional gender stipulations. Children his age typically don't notice. Older children might laugh or ask him why he is doing "unboy" things. Either way, they deal directly with Super Preschooler and he, being his little self-confident self, wins them over and has cast them in some play of his before I have time to worry. Adults are another matter altogether. Adults typically vacillate between slight horror and overcompensating attempts to be cool with it. "Oh, gosh, I would never let my son wear a dress, how are you coping with it?" to "How brave and accepting are you; what a wonderful way to demonstrate tolerance!" I hate both. Here's why:

1. My son isn't wearing a dress. My son is wearing a dress-up Cinderella mock tulle and faux lace A-line ballgown with an asymmetrically draped bodice. Let's be accurate here, people.

2. The fact that he is wearing said dress to play pretend in a play sanctioned location with other children who are playing pretend doesn't seem to demonstrate any particularly rebellious behaviors on his part that I need to be worried about or cope with.

3. Yes, there are occasions when Super Preschooler accessorizes in public with a necklace (or 20), a couple hats, 12 scarves, and more bracelets than an 80s Madonna video. He looks no more bizarre than any frat boy on South Beach come Spring Break, and if accessories are the sole property of the female gender, someone really ought to tell the Catholic Church, Steven Tyler, and the entire male population of New Jersey.

4. He is 4 years old. OK, OK, he is 1 week away from being 5 years old. (Don't rush me; it goes too fast as it is!) He is in no more danger of running off and joining a cross dressing burlesque show than I am. Mostly because I can't walk in those heels. Seriously, have you seen those things? Super Preschooler says it best; "I am not pretending to be a girl. I am pretending to be a princess. Now, out of my way, I have a village to save from a dragon and a ball to plan."

5. Stick around and watch. Within the same play period, he is going to be an astronaut, a tree, an ogre, a really bossy director, and Iron Man. If I believed that everything he plays and is interested in right now is somehow reflective of what he is going to do as an adult, I would spend my life in a constant state of worry and constantly on the phone with NASA, finding out exactly how safe those suits really are.

6. Furthermore, we all know that he is going to surpass any and all fantasies that I have for him anyway, so it is pointless to try and figure out what and who he will be someday. He will be amazing, that much is sure.

7. I am not being particularly tolerant because there is nothing to be tolerant of. He is playing a game. He isn't making a political statement. He isn't coming out. He isn't identifying a sexual orientation. He is playing a game. Because he is 4 years old. OK, 5 years old.

8. If and when he decides to do any of the things in point 7, I will still have no need to be tolerant because there will still be nothing for me to be tolerant of. Tolerate means to accept or endure something that you don't particularly like. Now, there are plenty of things to endure about raising children. Like when I ask him to get me something and he rolls his eyes and says "yes, your Highness." Or he won't brush his teeth. Or when he yells at me or fights with his brother and sister. Or when he is sassy or crabby or won't eat or says he hates me. There will be plenty of things to endure when he grows up. Like when he breaks curfew the first time. Or dates someone I don't like. Or crashes his car. Or goes to college 8 states away. Or doesn't call me often enough. Or isn't there next to me by the Meijer cake case, being almost 5, eating a sugar cookie and getting crumbs everywhere, wearing 8 Mardi Gras necklaces and a Cubs hat, while smiling up at me and announcing that he wants a fairy cake. He is my son and I love him completely and unconditionally; dresses never even come into it.

So, completely fiery and intense tangent that totally happened in my head behind us, I hold my breath and look up at this cake youth to see what kind of reaction he will have to Super Preschooler's request. 16-25 isn't quite child and it isn't quite adult, so all bets are off here. He pauses and thinks for a minute before disappearing again behind his magical cake case. He emerges laden with an immense book that looks like it ought to be chained to a table somewhere in a Medieval monastery. He beams as he holds it out to Super Preschooler.

Cake youth:  Here, check these out. We have 4 different fairy cakes; this one has Tinkerbell coming out of an actual plastic flower. Awesome, huh?

Super Preschooler: Yes, awesome!

Totally awesome.

Except it wasn't awesome. The Tinkerbell flower one. It looked like some obscene Disney-fied Birth of Venus. Luckily, Super Preschooler agreed with me and picked one where Tinkerbell and 2 fairy buddies are hanging out in the middle of the cake in frosting. Much less creepy. Super Preschooler's birthday is going to be volcanic fairy magic. 

And you, cookie dispensing cake youth. You are officially going on my list of fairy godpeople. Love you. And as I love you, let me tell you the truth; that goatee is not working, my friend. Not in the slightest. 

I didn't think we were going to beat last year's cake, but Super Preschooler and the Cake Youth might have done it.
What's that? Yes, you in the back. No, I didn't make this one either. Why are you still here? I thought I sent you to Perfect Mom's ages ago! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Movies -rematch

IMDB. We'll say it again. IMDB. OK, OK, be lazy. Here it is.

Nearly 5 years ago and I am watching the 80th Oscars and calling my mother at every commercial, per usual. (She has particularly awesome things to say about Tilda Swinton's speech and dress; someday I am gonna write a book of my mother's Oscar witticisms. Or her witticisms in general. The woman is a modern day Dorothy Parker, but, you know, less drunk.) It is the "dark Oscars," the year of murderous oilmen and the scariest pageboy in creation. When the funnest thing in your arsenal is teen pregnancy, Hollywood, let's put down the cocaine and relax a little, eh? Totally kidding, Hollywood! Snort away because it is a great year for movies; the year my mother falls in love with Javier (despite his hair), Jon Stewart is really funny, and the writer's strike has just ended. Hope reigns supreme and I am riveted to the screen. Well, to be honest, I am actually watching it out of the corner of my eye because I am pacing the room and debating drinking Tabasco, while I frantically try to induce labor. Super Preschooler is 10 days late and I feel like an Iceberg floating toward an unsuspecting Titanic. (Oh, I haven't even begun, Readers. Fasten your seatbelt, it is gonna be a bumpy post. Whee, another one!)

Now, a word about Super Preschooler as Super Fetus. The child is still pretty sloth-like, but in utero, if he moved once a day, I was lucky. I treasured those rare kicks and burned with envy at my fellow gestaters who rhapsodized about midnight gymnastics and playing little games of tag with their fetuses (feti?). Nope, Super Preschooler rationed out his movements and I hadn't had one all day. I was starting to think that I was losing my mind (one of the best ways to win an Oscar, incidentally; play crazy) and having an hysterical pregnancy. Anyone who has seen me eat can easily figure out where the weight gain came from. So, I am whirling around the room in flannel pjs that won't fully close, mumbling about Castor oil and dragging a throw blanket behind me like a crazy queen, and that is when an actual queen stalks onto the Oscar stage. OK, so it is really Helen Mirren to present the Best Actor award, but come on, she is totally regal. I finally sit down on the coffee table to watch her announce Daniel Day-Lewis as Best Actor, and Super Preschooler goes insane. Now, I mean insane for him, which is maybe 3 kicks and a poke to the ribs, but it feels wonderful and I take it as a sign that he is finally coming to meet us. I am about 2 days, 16 hours of active labor, and an emergency C-section off, but I am right that it is a sign. It is a sign that our Best Actor in a Leading Role has arrived and would like to thank the Academy.

In 84 Academy Awards, there have been 85 best actor awards given to 76 different men. I am pretty sure that Super Preschooler could out-act all of them if it meant that he could get out of going to bed. No one needs that many drinks of water.... While Super Toddler is a born character actor and Super Baby just wants to direct, Super Preschooler is the star of the show. That the show is something that he and Awesome Preschooler threw together with some glitter and 3 my Little Ponies, and then presented from the top of the stairs with an audience of me, Awesome Mom, 5 stuffed animals, and a sleeping Super Toddler takes nothing away from it. Super Preschooler's shows are epics to rival Lawrence of Arabia. (Now, you can't really say that Peter O'Toole was robbed in 1962 considering that he lost out of Gregory Peck, playing Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Don't really get more best than that.)

Of course, if you were going to get more best (simmer down, Grammar police) than that, it might look like this:

This is how Super Preschooler looks most of the time, and yes, that includes the frosting goatee. Want a more recent picture? Here ya go:

I took this one last week. To truly understand the leading man power and ego of Super Preschooler, let me flesh out this photo a little for you. According to him, he is dressed as "Rosetta, Fairy Warrior" and he is wielding a "magical rose that has to power to turn all to stone." We are hosting a playdate with a boy that has clashed with Super Preschooler before on dress-up issues. Said boy informs Super Preschooler than he should not be wearing a dress, as he is a boy. Super Preschooler fixes him with a gaze that is equal parts contempt and pity and way older than his nearly 5 years, and then he calmly states that "I can pretend to be anything. Poof, you are stone now!"

Emil Jannings won the first Oscar for a Lead Actor, and, since stuff was totally done differently in the 1920s, he won his award for 2 different roles, a bank clerk and a grand duke. Over his brief film catalog (the advent of sound and his thick German accent killed his career), one finds Henry VIII, some czars, Othello, numerous professors, and, naturally, the Devil. Not many could go toe-to-toe with Emil in versatility, but I bet you that Super P. could. Whose middle name is, incidentally, Emil. Super Preschooler's recent show (and I mean, he is doing it right now in the living room while I type this) involves Iron Man rescuing some fairies from an evil plot that an octopus and Darth Vadar have hatched from their lair, the train table. He appears to be letting his brother play Darth Vadar, but all other roles are his to emote with. And emote he does; Emil would be proud.

The 1930s bring us a treasure trove of leading men; Lionel Barrymore plays an alcoholic lawyer, Clark Cable single-handedly ruins the undershirt industry, Paul Muni revitalizes medicine, and Spencer Tracy wins both his Oscars, though he will go on to be nominated 7 more times. Frederic March and Wallace Beery tie in 1932, the only time that this will ever happen in the history of the Oscars. A word about Frederic March; he is my favorite actor of all time. This post is already long and supposed to be about Super Preschooler. Call me if you want to know more; he is an under-appreciated gem. Super P. would have been all over this decade; monsters, screwball comedies, biopics, and Ronald Donat acting so hard that it actually made British people cry.

Yes, she is doing every decade. Take breaks and stay hydrated, it's the only way to complete an Awkward Mom movie marathon alive and sane. 

The 1940s include such cinematic luminaries as James Stewart, Gary Cooper, James Cagney, Bing Crosby, and Laurence Oliver. Fredric March wins again, this time for The Best Years of Our Lives, which may be the best movie about war veterans every made. Or I might be slightly biased. Who cares; you just need to check him out! The leading men of the 40s are honored for their ability to portray alcoholics, soldiers, artists, journalists, and politicians; roles that we, with our modern arrogance, often glance at with misguided sophistication and pronounce quaint. They aren't; they are unflinchingly honest and complex portrayals that colorfully defy their black and white film reels. They are no more quaint that Super Preschooler and his surprisingly astute tales of warrior princesses and sympathetic dragons.

We shift to the 1950s and immediately enjoy Jose Ferrer as Cyrano, Humphrey Bogart as Charlie Allnut, and Gary Cooper in High Noon. Holy Cats, is there no end to this magnificent movie mastery? Nope, because here comes William Holden. And then we have Marlen Brando in On the Waterfront and Earnest Borgnine in Marty, which are two of my favorite movies of all time. Yul Brynner dances with Deborah Kerr, Alec Guinness blows up a bridge, and David Niven sits at Separate Tables, but basically plays himself. Ah, David Niven; wit, charm, and a natty dresser. (Did you know that Ian Flemming had him in mind to play James Bond?) Super Preschooler is well on his way to David Niven territory, pity that we couldn't give him a British edge, but he'll get here. Super Preschooler can pull off a successful David Niven, given (tee-hee) that he got Awkward Grandma's wit and a style that no one in our family tree can claim. Seriously. He is currently wearing a dinosaur shirt, jeans, 8 bracelets, a cape, and devil horns, while telling me that he is desperate need of some more rings. The 1950s end with a win for Charlton Heston, proving that even the Oscar voters are human and vulnerable to err on occasion.

Go get a snack, Readers, we are heading into the 1960s! Burt Lancaster hosts a revival, there are Nazis, Rex Harrison deals with the rain in Spain, and Lee Marvin plays 2 characters in the same movie, each funnier than the next. Gregory Peck makes life harder for men in general as he sets the bar ridiculously high and Sidney Poitier breaks down boundaries beautifully. But I want to talk about Paul Scofield in A Man for all Seasons. When don't I want to talk about A Man for all Seasons is the real question. This stunningly tender portrayal of Sir Thomas Moore is probably in the top 10 reasons why I have any faith at all. More like top 5. It is a life-changing film to watch and it reminds me of Super Preschooler. Not that he is in danger of dying because Henry the VIII is shooting blanks and needs a new wife. No, but Super Preschooler is incredibly principled and faithful. Rules are rules, games are to be fair, and God help you if you told him 5 minutes when you really meant I'm-gonna-say-in-5-minutes-so-he-will-go-away-and-let-me-surf-Facebook-in-peace. Super Preschooler will call you on it. Not in a mean way, mind. But in a Paul-Scofield-gently-disappointed way that will haunt you far longer than any fit.

George C. Scoot marches us into the 1970s and Dustin Hoffman divorces us at the end. (See what I did there? Oh, clever Awkward Mom!) In between, Gene Hackman drives all crazy, Richard Dreyfuss has art imitate life, and Jack Lemmon is quite depressing. Like really depressing; be careful with this one and have some chocolate on hand. Peter Finch and Jack Nicholson both win for playing crazy (told you), and Marlon Brando declines to accept his award for the Godfather for political reasons. George C. Scott actually does the same thing because it is the 70s, Readers. Peace, pot, and protest central. I often think that little flower child Super Preschooler would have fit in quite nicely in the 70s. He just floated in here and told me a story that involved some misunderstood ogres. "Mom, they aren't really mean. I am pretty sure they are actually hungry." Speaking of, be right back!

Man, I love cake. What? Oh, hi there. OK, where was I? Ah, the 1980s. Wow, OK. Robert De Niro beats people up, Henry Fonda becomes the oldest Lead Actor winner ever, and Ben Kingsley plays Gandhi, although I doubt there was much playing involved. Looked pretty hard actually; I have never wanted to feed another human being more. Micheal Douglas teaches us that greed is good, and Dustin Hoffman wins again, this time for counting cards and dancing with Tom Cruise. I would give him an award for dancing with Tom Cruise alone. Robert Duvall, F. Murray Abraham, William Hurt, Paul Newman; my goodness. And yet, I see Super Preschooler all over the place here. Big meaty roles with more than a little scenery chewing. It's OK guys; after all, it was the 80s.

Here's the thing: Super Preschooler is very small for his age and I worry about him constantly; the world is full of big bullies. However, I must remind myself that his little body contains one of the biggest personalities ever housed. For when I worry, stuff like this happens:

Random girl at a church play group: Hey, you can't wear a princess dress! You are so weird.
Super Preschooler: Nope, I am Cinderella, wanna come to my ball? I've got lots of necklaces over here.
Random Girl: hmmmm....OK. Cool, a purple one!

Super Preschooler has got the confidence to be a leading man in any era, even the 80s, which is closed out by a tour de force performance by an up and coming actor named Daniel Day-Lewis. Wonder what ever happened to him?

Ah, the 1990s. Where did I put those Doc Martens and that floral dress? Must be with my flannel shirts and mix tapes. Jeremy Irons and Anthony Hopkins freak us all out, Nicholas Cage and Kevin Spacey depress us all, and Geoffrey Rush shines. (Man, I love wordplay.) Tom Hanks wins back to back Oscars, an honor he shares with Spencer Tracy; they also won both when they were exactly the same age. I smell the Illuminati at work here... Roberto Benigni wins, walks on top of Stephen Spielberg's chair, and gives a speech about making love to the audience. My mother has a field day with that Oscars; it is epic. Just because, here is a picture of my mom and Super Preschooler doing what they do best: hanging window clings and being fabulous:

This was after they hung a light up ghost in window, rags from the curtains, and strategically placed no less than 3 glitter pumpkins all over the house. They share a brain; why do when you can overdo?

The aughts begin with Russell gladiating (what? It can be a verb.), Denzel training, and Adrien playing the piano and kissing Halle Berry. He won the award for the piano playing, but he easily could have won for that kiss. Wow. Jamie Foxx, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Forrest Whitaker, and Sean Penn win for playing real people. Harvey Milk, Truman Capote, Ray Charles, and Idi Amen. Who can match them up? Do it right and I will give you some of this cake I have been eating while writing this. You might want to hurry though.... Daniel Day-Lewis wins his second of three Oscars (if my mother has anything to do with it), Jeff Bridges has a Crazy Heart, and Sean Penn gives another annoyingly political acceptance speech. Sean buddy, run for office already or get off the stage, I am trying to figure out Tilda Swinton's dress and you are blocking my eye line. The aughts are an award-winning decade in the Awkward household too, as they bring us Super Preschooler and the long awaited graduation of Dr. Awkward Dad. Where is my Oscar? I have some folks I would like to thank.

The 2010 Oscars gave Colin Firth the lead actor award for stuttering, and the 2011 Oscars gave Jean Dujardin the lead actor award for not talking at all. 2010 gave Super Preschooler a brother, 2011 gave him a sister, our move to Ann Arbor gave him some good friends willing to act in his opuses (opi?), and now he is ready for his close-ups, Mr. DeMille. There is no other leading actor that I want to share my stage/screen/home with. Super Preschooler is the best kind of lead actor; generous, vivacious, brimming with energy and creativity. Playing with him only enhances your own abilities, only serves to make you a better actor/person/mother. Is he a bit of a drama king with a tendency to chew the scenery and poof you with stone roses? Yes, but so is Al Pacino. Go watch Scent of a Woman and try to refute me. You'll have to trust me on the stone roses. Nothing wrong with a little drama, and Super Preschooler adds plenty to our life here at Awkward Manor. He also adds more than his share of glitter, sequins, and accessories, but there is nothing wrong with a little fabulous overdoing either. And know this, whenever Super Preschooler wins his award (and he will win one, that is totally a foregone conclusion), I will be proudly beaming and probably crying when he thanks me. Oh, he'll thank me. They always thank the mother.

Trust her on that one too, the woman watches enough award shows to know the script. Also, much love and thanks to Awesome Mom, who has arranged it so that Awkward Mom and Awkward Grandma will be watching the 85th Academy Awards in the same room. This hasn't happened in over 10 years and shall be amazingly snarky and delicious on so many levels. Clam dip level, for starters. Fasten your seatbelts, Readers. Oh, you know the rest....

How Awkward Mom usually looks Oscar night; dolled up and on the phone with her mom. This year, we are considering a Lincoln theme, complete with hoop skirts and stovetop hats, or we might just raid Super P.'s jewelry box instead. We'll let ya know after Sunday!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Writing Class Assignment 1

Well, this week's assignment was to write a "I am from" poem, and you know what that means. Yes indeedy, Awkward Mom is gonna make you read it. How long is this class again....

I am from a snow so powerful that it actually shut down Lake Shore Drive, but a labor long enough for my father to go watch basketball with the doctor.

I am from construction paper and sticker books. The Muppets and riding bikes without helmets. Scratchy couches, cushions perfect only to throw on the floor for games of lava.

I am from too many books, as if that was actually possible. And endless afternoons when my mom made spaghetti and danced barefoot in the kitchen, while the Clancy Brothers sang songs I didn’t understand.

I am from composition notebooks and number 2 pencils. Agate collecting summers and lake effect snow days.

I am from plaid skirts we inched higher with scotch tape and secrets we were afraid the priests would not understand.

I am from midnight philosophy lectures and set construction and joining the socialists just to impress a boy. Impossibly earnest autumn walks, when the poetry was as abundant as the wind.

I am from decidedly not Sex in the City. Rather one amazing blind date. Wedding snow and living on love behind the Kraft plant, by the tracks.

I am from student loans, so many movies, and playing house, which is much harder to win then Scrabble or Solitaire.

I am from a late February sleet, an early January fog, and a bitterly cold mid-November rain. But what can you expect from the children of a blizzard baby?

Now, I am from endless afternoons when I make spaghetti and dance barefoot in the kitchen, while Pandora streams Disney, Sesame Street, and, on occasion, the Clancy Brothers.  
It wasn't the best poem in the class by a long shot. Second half of writing class is workshop time and Awkward Mom's turn is next week. She is thinking of bringing an Awkward Mom post, probably one of the less nerdy ones with no Wikipedia links and limited pictures. Any suggestions which one she should take?
Well Mom, it is no "I Can Read About DC Super Heroes" but it wasn't bad.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Strep Throat

So, we are all battling strep throat here at Awkward Manor. The past couple days are a blur of hoarse whispers and strawberry flavored antibiotics. All activities are cancelled until future notice. It is too soon to truly document this battle and Awkward Mom just coughed all over the keyboard, which is extra gross, so here are a bunch of Super pictures from Fat Tuesday. We like beads.


As soon as we finish our battle with Strep, and it has potential to be epic on the stir-crazy front alone, we shall return to regale you with our adventures once more!
See ya on the flip side!

By the way, Super Baby knows how you got those beads.
She does not approve.
Not one bit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Awkward Mom and the Wandering Glutton

Oh come on, we all know that it was only a matter of time before she added a food blog to her team of allies.

Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. Jean Gray and Cyclops. Batman and....well, let's be honest, Batman hasn't had the best luck with partners. Maybe he does better with wards? Nope, not really. Guess Batman is destined to be alone; that is OK, he rocks the brooding loner look like a champ. Batman aside, there are many a married superhero duo out there in comic land, saving the day together and then enjoying dinner together. Crafty Mom and the Wandering Glutton are such a duo.

Mild mannered librarians by day, these two slip into nearby phone booths and become mastermind marvels who secretly save the world from boredom, one craft and plate at a time! I really have no idea if they actually change their clothes while they do these things, but I would like to think that quick changes are involved. Makes me happy.

I know that I have introduced you to Crafty Mom before and her artistic awesomeness can not be denied. Like often seeks like and the Wandering Glutton is just as awesome. His food blog is a combination of food he cooks himself and meals he has out, but don't look for any instagramed snapshots of towering burgers here. While he certainly includes photos of his own cooking process on occasion, the Wandering Glutton believes in the power of words to truly convey the delighting deliciousness of food. I could not agree more; his words are truly powerful and food is delicious. Duh. Why are you still here? Go check him out. You will sleep better at night knowing that this amazing duo is on the scene!

And yes, it did not escape our notice that this is a truly ironic ally to acquire on Ash Wednesday....

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Writing Class

Who are writers? How does one enter this exclusive club? Are dues involved? Duties? Awkward Mom is pretty broke and nearly always lazy.

The first time I take a writing class is the summer before 8th grade. It is amazing. I am amazing. For some odd reason and for several glorious weeks, I am not awkward. Well, I probably still am, but location is everything. Me and a bunch of nerd boys read sci-fi and then write an adventure novel about a boy and a girl finding a map and heading off to glory. Basically, we shamelessly steal the plot from Goonies. We also bind our book together, and no, I don't know where it is. Which sucks; that thing was epic. For just finding and enrolling me in such a class, my parents should win a prize; chocolate for life or something good, not just a lame plaque. I still remember the looks of approval and respect when I write the girl character as a slob, rebel, and total tomboy. And we all know that nerd boys don't just hand out approval like oh so many Mardi Gras beads. That summer is a good summer, a life-changing summer. That summer is the first time that I think I might like to be a writer.

A thought that gets completely beaten out of me the next time I take a writing class. This writing class is taking place when I am 19 and in college. Writing is no longer about cute adventure tales. No, writing is serious business that belongs to the likes of Steinbeck and Kerouac. Sylvia Plath and Gertrude Stein. Upon reflection, I may be in some undiagnosed hipster/goth phase. But what I am certainly not in is a writing phase. The problem (other than my placing "writer" on an unattainable pedestal up there with President of the US, astronaut, and Wonder Woman) is that I am currently dating a self-described "writer," and everyone knows that in a relationship between two 19-year-olds there can only be one creative one. It is like Highlander or calling shotgun on the front seat. So, I resign myself to providing support and encouragement and calling vomit-inducing metaphors "really deep," because that is what you do when you are sitting in the back. And not even window-seat back, Readers; I am on the hump.

One might ask why I am even taking a writing class if I am on the hump. Well, we are in the stupid young love time when you think you have to do everything together, so I join him for his writing class. That is what I am there for; support, cheerleading, non-writer stuff. However, my official status is as one enrolled in the class, so I have no choice. I write like the rest of them. And I secretly love it. The creative flow, the wordplay. Entering into a magical place where anything is possible and your imagination is experiencing a combo snow day/field trip/that day in class when you watched a movie. What is not to love? And there is no pressure to be Kerouac or Plath because I am not a writer. I'm just hanging out here in the backseat. Suddenly, I am 11 again and soaring on the power of my own words, it is fabulous. But like Icarus, I fly a little too close to the sun and come crashing down pretty fast.

Now, I am sure that some of the verbal beatings that I endure are related to bad poetry about the "naked winter branches of longing" or other ridiculous 19-year-old nonsense, but most of it is not. Most of it is because I failed to yell shotgun fast enough. The teacher is totally kind, it isn't him, but have you ever tried to teach college writers? There is little he can do. Adolescents (which is what college kids are, ability to vote or not) are completely self-involved and desperate for attention. Snark reigns supreme; the fastest way to distract from one's own fragile ego is to hurl a couple rocks through the exposed ego over there. Hey, everybody, what's that noise? Oh, some dreams dying; let's go stare! And like sharks, the other students smell my bloody backseatness.  I am ripped apart in our workshop time, and yes, I still remember it. "Nothing happens in your writing, Erin. It doesn't pop." "It is boring, like something my mom would write." "Women don't talk like that." "You are nice, but you can't write." My boyfriend is no help. He is sorry for my hurt feelings, but this is merely proof to his point. He is the writer, not me. I retreat to sporadic journaling and literary self-loathing for most of my 20s; good times.

I turn 30 in the safety of a solid marriage and the joyful confusion of a new baby. This keeps me busy until we move for residency, and suddenly I am all alone in a new city with 2 children and no friends. So, I do what any other not-so-sensible person does; I attempt mom dating at the local park and children's museum. Despite one total score with Excellent Mom, I am thwarted in my search for friends. Like majorly thwarted, in immensely awkward ways. I write about this on Facebook and to my friends back home. They offer limited support as they laugh their heads off. "Erin, write this stuff down, it is hilarious!" I hesitate. Blogging is a form of writing, isn't it? And since I am not a writer, I can't possibly blog. I give in. Oh what the heck, it isn't like anyone is going to read it anyway!

This all leads to yesterday, as I walk into the Liberal Arts building at the local community college for the third writing class of my life. Knowing that it probably won't be like the first one and praying that it won't be like the second one, I trepidatiously enter a room that is clearly used as a science lab during the day. I sit myself in the circle of tables and fix my carefully crafted blase gaze at the periodic table near the clock, as I work my mom-peripheral-vision like a maniac. I am trying to get a read on my fellow wannabe writers. Only four are present; all silver foxes and robust renaissance women in funky cat glasses. Hmmm...okay. Well, I am sure the goth Emily Dickinsons and the hipster Kurt Vonneguts will be fashionably late, I better brace myself. I brace myself, but those relics from college never darken the door (although, it appears my dramatic 19-year-old prose is making a come-back). Senior after senior pops through the door with more energy than a dozen toddlers, and in outfits just as eclectic. Nothing is the property of youth here, and I start to get a little worried. I am having trouble believing that I am going to be welcomed in this cocoon of wisdom and wealth. (Yes, that cocoon reference was totally on purpose.) We start going around the room, introducing ourselves and the richness of experience is intimidating to say the least. We are supposed to say why are are here tonight, what we write, what we want to write, our favorite books, and so on. I am starting to freak out, but I decide to go big or go home.

"Hi, my name is Erin, and I have a husband in medical residency, a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old. I came here tonight to get out of the house."

The laugh I get is huge, loving, and incredibly satisfying. Like nerd-boy-approval satisfying. They do say that the third time is the charm; Readers, I think I might actually be on my way to becoming a writer.

As we sit here and watch Super Preschooler make valentines, we are reminded that anyone who uses language in a written form is technically a writer. People who are published, with their books on shelves at Barnes and Noble or for sale on Amazon. People who are not, with their novels and poems stacked hopefully next to their computers. Journalists, bloggers. Folks who compile recipes and family histories. Those who write the descriptions in catalogs. The good people at Hallmark. Screenwriters, playwrights, and whoever made the program. Those who journal, daily or not. Letter writers. Postcard users. Tweeters or Facebookers. Lovers who leave pithy post-its sticking to the bathroom mirror. And Super Toddler, who wrote his name for the first time this past weekend. It might be easier to make a list of who isn't a writer. 1. Super Baby. 2. Other babies. End of list.

Show me these college ego breakers, Mommy.
I've got enough confidence for the both of us.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Philosophy

What is it about Sundays that bring out the serious in her? At least it is short….

When a person talks to you, like really talks to you, like opens herself up and hands you a piece of her heart and mind, there is no real question about what to do. She doesn’t have to share this thought with you. He could have flung something mean at you out a car window. She could have recited some bland and polite talking point near you at a party. He could have talked about the rain last night; she could have bemoaned the snow. But instead, this person has taken the time to trust you with an opinion, a thought, a wisp of soul from deep within a social protection bubble. When this happens, you do not ignore it. You do not merely wait for a pause in the conversation long enough for you to pontificate. You carefully catch this gift, this treasure. Don’t throw it away. Look at it. Study it. See more than what you don’t like about it. Look up and see the person who entrusted this to you. Then, respond. Say “thank you for this thought.” And then, only then, open yourself up and hand her one of your own. It is only fair. Don’t hurl it at her, don’t drop it his feet. Don’t shout it over her head to some people you know.  Share it with him. He shared with you. Share. That is the sole purpose of words, their only purpose. For us to share them with each other.

If you do this enough, you make a conversation. Not noise. Not simultaneous monologues. A conversation. Conversations which turns into communities. Which turn into friendships. Which turn into families.  

 And when we are all families, we can shout as much as we want and still love each other. Win, win.
Wanna be family with these people?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Mini Battle 4

"Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven." Yeah, you just let Henry Ward Beecher keep telling you that, Awkward Mom.

Wednesday was not a good day. After a rough outing to my church small group, I made it home to collapse on the couch and watch helplessly as madness descended. Winter does this to children, makes them all a tad stir-crazy. But this took off in a whole other direction. Yes, you guessed it, a Lord of the Flies direction. Not feeling like playing Piggy today, I momentarily left them to their, oh let's be generous, play, and called Awesome Mom. Since she is awesome, she said she would be right over with a pot pie, so at least I won't have to make dinner in my current helpless state.

Awesome Mom shows up and says, "What? This isn't that bad." Super Preschooler and Super Toddler pop out of the bedroom like a pair of wraiths bent on proving her wrong.

Super Toddler: Ms Awesome, Ms Awesome, come, come!

Super Preschooler: Yes, come take a tour of our factory!

They drag her bodily into the bedroom, where they have thrown all the pillows to the floor. A box of strawberries is placed dead center in the middle of the bed, on the quilt that I adore. They grin like 2 mad scientist and then proceed to jump on the bed, bouncing and smashing the strawberries with a wild abandon that I have only ever seen before in the wine making scene in Fantasia.

Super Toddler: Chocolate! I need chocolate!

Super Preschooler: We are pretending to make chocolate covered strawberries, want one?

He digs one out from under his foot and proudly hands it to her. She smiles broadly and gently says, "Oh no, you will need plenty for later. They look delicious though. Save them for your Daddy." No novice mom here. They are delighted and go back to stomping the strawberries in their factory of fear.

We back away slowly and Awesome Mom guides me out of the bedroom. At the front door, she leans in and whispers, "Try to hang in there. I'll be back just as soon as I buy you some rum."

“When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.” Oh Erma, you totally get us. When the supers finished with their bedroom factory, they decided to color. On the couch. With the strawberries. We are off to Ikea for a new couch cover. We are leaning toward red. Catch ya later!

To answer the obvious question, yes, Super Toddler pulled a Pete Townshend immediately after taking this photo.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Positive Radar

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." I agree, Readers; Mahatma Gandhi is a little highbrow for this blog, but let's see where she is going, shall we? I am sure it will still be mostly awkward.

When one becomes a mom, one is automatically gifted 2 superpowers. Everyone has their own unique and amazing superpowers on top of this, but we all share the same basic 2. Don't ask me why, I don't make the parenting rules and, despite their assumptions, neither does Baby Center. These superpowers are James-Bond-peripheral-vision and mom radar. For ages, these 2 mighty powers have allowed mothers the world over to know what their children are up to and still go to the bathroom, sleep, and manage to sneak the occasion chocolate. They created "the eyes in the back of the head" lore. Attributing eyes in the back of the head to a regular (i.e. not mutant mom) is akin to saying that Cyclops has lasers that fire out of his eyes. He actually produces optic blasts. Or assuming that Wolverine is immortal, when he actually has a healing factor that slows down his aging process. Neither is offensive, just slightly inaccurate.

The first time I held Super Preschooler, I could actually see the room in a whole new way. Everything became sorta heightened and brighter. I may have still been feeling my epidural, but I like to think that my eyes were turning into James Bond's eyes. 3 children later, I can almost see the entire park/museum/playgroup at once, and it slows down ever so slightly when we first walk in (a la hot Sherlock Holmes); so I can assess potential dangers and look for lurking lead paint. It's a pretty awesome superpower and one that new moms have a hard time recognizing in themselves. This leads to the whole helicopter mom phenomenon, which in turn leads to the "Whose Child is this? Lost child! Lost Child!" when they see my child more than 2 feet away from a parent. But I must be patient, they will learn. They just haven't grown into their new eyes yet.

Mom Radar is a little harder to explain, but it is essentially an invisible rope that ties you to your child. Vibrations are constantly riding up and down this rope because, let's be honest, children are never still. If the vibrations get too crazy or, even worse, slow down for any reason, you immediately find your child and see what is wrong. Quiet vibrations are the worst kind. Mom Radar is not fool-proof, or we would have completely avoided Super Toddler's wall-art phase, but it is a solid weapon in the parent arsenal. Mom Radar is also a multi-faceted superpower; it actually functions outward into the world. Your radar functions on most objects or people. Try it. That rusty pick-up truck at the highway rest stop? Just ugly or housing a potential kidnapper; your radar will give you a clue. That overly friendly mom at the playgroup? Trying to trick you onto the school board or just being her awkward self? Trust your radar, it knows. It always knows.

However, this post isn't about the basic mom superpowers, although, I have to admit, they are pretty cool to talk about. This post is about the downside to them. As a mom, you are used to scanning the room for asbestos and potential babysnatchers and you can forget that the world is a lovely and beautiful place. (Yikes, Pollyanna alert!) It's true that that's pretty cheesy, but it is also actually true. The world is magical and wonderful, which is something I very often forget. You see, I am an awkward mom and getting through the day can often feel like a battle; there is a reason that most of my blog posts titles include a vs. Life can be hard and lonely, but it can also be easy and full. There are just as many fairy godpeople out there in the world as there are villains. Want a list? I love lists! Here we go...

List of the fairy Godpeople that I have encountered just this month:

1. The man at the recycling center who was recycling glass and had one aluminum can, so he gave it to us so Super Toddler could put it in the machine.

2. The grandma at the bank who wasn't remotely phased by Super Baby's melt-down and even commented that she has "seen much worse."

3. The 14 people, this week alone, who have held the door open for us.

4. The Target checker who took every one of my coupons with a smile, even though it was the end of her shift and she had a line. And much love to the woman behind me who didn't sigh once and even applauded for me when she found out my savings.

5. The mailman who cheerfully waves at us every day, despite my semi-shovelled walk and half-naked children pushing in the window to get a better look at him.

6. Most of the loving volunteers at the Humane Society, who let Excellent Mom and myself drag a troop of noisy children through there to pet kitties and feed dogs on a snowy afternoon. The glaring volunteer knows who she is and I wish her some happiness and peace because she looks like she needs some, badly.

7.  The 4 moms that haven't shot me the stink eye when I can't help but make faces at their babies. Special love to the one who said, "Oh, that's a good one, you must be a mom."

8. The UPS man. We might be a little addicted to AmazonPrime, and he never mentions it.

9. Everyone who tells me that my children are adorable and well-behaved, which is reaching the upper hundreds this week and completely undeserved. But welcome.

10. The random Target lady with the paper towels in her cart who told me and Awesome Mom how to get to the paper goods because the store is being remodeled and we were pretty lost, despite both shopping there several times a week. Her directions were spot-on and there was no judgment.

11. The comic-lover on ebay who gave me nice feed-back.

12. The 4 bankers who helped me roll my coins and were endlessly kind about it, even though it was only $36.43.

13. The man from Illinois who answered every tax question I had and even told me that the entire state missed us. He also heard Super Baby cooing through the phone and then proceeded to tell me about his twins and how much fun 12-year-old boys are.

14. The man at Meijer who told me that I was "doing God's work." I have no idea what that means but I am gonna assume it is the more forgiving/loving aspect and less of the smiting/raining down locusts part. He smiled, patted Super Preschooler's head, and seemed to mean it in a good way.

15. The salesman at the shoe store, who told Super Toddler that he has "wonderful taste," even though the taste that Super Toddler was sporting was in the form of 4-inch silver-sequin-covered slingbacks.

16. Every single one of you, dear Readers. Thanks for being awesome and tolerant of my rambling ways.

What powerful and relevant quote is she going to end with? "Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth." And with Erma Bomback, we're back to normal around here.

Here are some pictures of the Supers with shoes. Just because.

Rock on, little fashionistas. Rock on.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Language

"-Uck words! I just love -uck words!" We are still waiting for Red to say this on PBS.

What happened to Super Toddler? Not 6 months ago, his entire vocabulary seemed to consist of cake, more, and now. These days, this little Hemingway has morphed into a veritable James Joyce! (What? I have to use that liberal arts education somewhere.) However, quantity is not always quality, and some words are still kinda hard to make out. Especially the -uck words. I don't know if it is that charming combination of consonants or if I just have a dirty mind, but every -uck word Super Toddler says sounds like the bad -uck word that he isn't supposed to say. The one that no one, with the exception of those currently acting in a Quentin Tarantino movie, is supposed to say. You know the one, and no, I am not going to spell it out for you. If you are reading something on the internet, then I am sure you have encountered this particular word. Today.

Well, the other day, I am sitting here dorking around on Facebook. Wait, I mean, I am cruising Baby Center for potty training tips and Valentine's Day crafting ideas, when I hear Super Baby's someone-is-kidnapping-me scream. I go tearing into the living room to be confronted with this:

Super Baby: AHHHHHHH!!!

Super Preschooler: Rule 3, Super Toddler! Rule 3!

Super Toddler: I don't give F@$%!

Super Preschooler: Mom!

Super Baby: AHHHHHHHH!!!

Super Toddler: No F@$%! No F@#$!

Me: Ummm...what's going on?

Super Toddler: She know that I no give F$@#s. Why she mad when I no give F@%$s?

Super Baby: AHHHHHHHH!!!

Super Preschooler: That is totally against Rule 3, Super Toddler. Mommy, he should be in a time out.

Me: Yes, thank you, Super P. I'll handle this. Super Toddler, what is wrong?

Super Toddler: I no give Super Baby F@$%s. She too young to have F@#$s. My F@$#s.

Super Preschooler: That is so wrong, Super Toddler. We are loving in this family. We are sharers in this family. We are....

Me: Yes, thank you, Super P. I have got this.


Super Toddler: Mommy, I just don't give a F@#$.

Readers, I am dead serious. He said that. I will never forget it because:

1. He totally slowed it down and dramatically paused between each word.

2. Super Toddler absolutely never uses articles in his speech. I suppose that is how important this was to him; that F@#$ warranted an "a" in front of it.

3. Yes, I know that he is really talking about not wanting to share a truck with his sister, but it totally sounds like he is saying that he just doesn't give a "bad -uck word." And it kinda fits, considering that Super Toddler normally looks like this:

He is pretty much the type not to give a -uck.
Cake. More. Now. 

Rule 3? Oh, there are 10 rules in Awkward Manor. Super Preschooler was instrumental in developing them. They are:

1. Always listen to Mommy and Daddy. Be respectful to others. 
2. No kicking, throwing things, or hitting. 
3. Share. 
4. No lions are allowed in the bed.
5. There is no rule 5. 
6. Ducks quack.
7. They also fly. 
8. Don't let monkeys drive your van.
9. Always help clean up. 
10. Dragons are not to be trusted. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Church readings

Awkward Mom has been asked to read something at church. Not a chance in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks this goes down without some awkwardness. Pigs will fly first. That's right, not a snowball's chance get the point.

I belong to a small group at my church. We meet weekly in the church nursery with our children and attempt to be prayerful and insightful while being beaned in the head with legos. It's a good time. The coordinator of all the small groups called me about a week ago and asked me to give a tiny (1-2 minute) talk at the end of mass about what being in a small group means to me, how great they are, and why everyone should join one for Lent. I was all set to beg off, but this wily woman called me on my birthday. The day that I make my goals for my new year. The day that I decided goal 6 was going to be "reach outside my comfort zone and try new things." Sigh. Never underestimate a Catholic woman's ability to guilt people into doing things, especially if the person she is trying to guilt is herself. Needless to say, I agreed to give the talk.

Like most sane people, I have a healthy fear of speaking in front of other people. I happily hang out here in the back of the class/internet, joking around, assisted by my spell check, my editing ability, and Wikipedia open in another window. That is how I like to pontificate and nosily share my opinions with the world. Or at least the part of the world that decides to pit-stop here on their way to Pinterest or Facebook. A captive audience at the end of an already long mass, because there is a baptism in the middle of it, is not my idea of folks I want to win over. In fact, I don't want to have to win over anyone. I like my audiences already loving and rooting for me from the get-go. Doesn't everyone?

A little back story: In college, I was quite involved in our campus church. I was kinda like Figaro; you know, here, there, up, down. (Oh holy cats, if she is gonna make opera references, she is gonna have to start winning people over.) OK. OK. Sorry. I was very involved. I was taking up the collection. I was passing out communion. I was helping the priest out on the altar. But mostly, I was reading. I was 19-years-old and a theater major, I didn't know yet to be afraid of reading in public. And like most 19-year-olds, I thought that I was good at everything. That is until I meet someone who really was.

You know Perfect Mom, right? Well, Perfect Moms don't pop into the world fully formed with their 2.5 children combed and posed next to them. Well, most don't; I do have this theory about Perfect Mom clones that I will share with you one day. Conspiracy theories aside, most Perfect Moms were once Perfect Babies, who grow to Perfect Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Kids, before they turn into Perfect Coeds and make Awkward Coeds' lives miserable. My college nemesis was a Perfect Coed and she was also Figaro-esque. She was pre-med (duh), an actress, tall, pretty, sweet, friendly, president of her sorority, and also very involved at church. We were often reading together; I would do one and then she would do one. Then we would let the priest read for awhile; wouldn't want him to feel left out, you know? It was fine. I didn't like it, but it was fine. And then, there was the day that it wasn't fine at all.

It is a winter day somewhere in the late 90s and I am assigned the first reading and Perfect Coed has the second reading. My reading is not an easy reading. First readings rarely are, being Old Testament and full of begets, whale antics, and all those Leviticus laws. But I have been practicing and I am ready to make the best of a tough situation. (Please remember that I am 19.) I make it up to the lectern in my Doc Martens and floral skirt combo, confidently beam at the congregation, lock eyes with my current crush, and then proceed to completely stumble through a reading stuffed with references to war, fortified cities, and gearing up for some mega battle. There is a lot of the Lord crushing things, and the line "but do you gird your loins." I remember this quite specifically. It is pretty hard to forget having to say anything about loins and girding them in the presence of tons of people, a priest, Perfect Coed, and one's crush. Especially when one is 19-years-old and awkward. Girding one's loins happens in the second line of the reading. I flush, fumble, and fall apart for the rest of it. I totally forget "This is the Word of the Lord" and just book it back to my place next to Perfect Coed, where I pretend to sing the Responsorial Psalm and actively pray for the floor to open up and swallow me. This would all be bad enough, but then Perfect Coed gets up there, in her adorable suit and matching heels. She brushes her Marcia Brady hair out of her face, calmly gazes across the church, and launches into "Love is Patient, Love is Kind." That's right, she has the Saint Paul reading that everyone adores and uses for their wedding. She reads it like she is making it up as she goes along and everyone in the church (including my crush) stares at her in amazement and wonder. It is like an angel has come down from on high to share her wisdom with us. I am pretty sure the sun comes out from behind a cloud, just to hear the pearls dripping from Perfect Coed's lips, which illuminates the stained glass behind her and bathes her in beautiful blue and red light. It is a nightmare.

Is it just me or does she glance at me and then enunciate the bejesus out of "The Word of the Lord?" Must just be me. She then floats back to our seats and I spend the rest of mass glaring at her and then feeling guilty for glaring at her. So, we are walking back up the aisle after mass, when she leans over and says "that was a really good try, Awkward Coed. It was a hard reading." Her pity makes me want to punch her. She walks ahead of me, and then my crush makes his way toward me. Oh my God, is he actually going to talk to me? Maybe this day isn't the worst day of my life after all.

"Hey, Awkward Coed."

"Hey." I am shooting for nonchalance. Pretty sure that doesn't happen.

"I was wondering....Well, that is, if you wouldn't mind....Well, this is kinda hard to ask, but..."

I am totally freaking out but trying to remain calm. He is asking me out. He is actually asking me out!

"Yes? What is it that you want to ask me?"

"Well, do you think you could introduce me to Perfect Coed?"

I would like to say that the floor did open up and swallow me, but it didn't. I introduce them and then slink away to cry in my dorm room. They don't end up together or anything that romantic-comedy, and I go on to have many other crushes in college. And I mean every definition of crush there. This isn't even the last time that I read at mass with Perfect Coed. We actually read together at the Baccalaureate Mass on the day we graduate from college, where she shows me up yet again. Although not quite as spectacularly as that cold winter Sunday that is etched in my mind forever.

I am now 35-years-old with a healthy fear of reading in front of people. However, I am reaching outside my comfort zone and trying new things, so I dutifully type up a 1-2 minutes speech and make plans to attend the 12:15pm mass to read it. Awkward Dad takes all the kids home after our regular mass and I am all alone in the pew. You would think this would help matters, but it makes it so much worse. I can't be the only mother in the world who now feels totally naked when I don't have a child next to me, you know,  to blame my distractability on. I take a few deep breaths and try to get into some sort of prayerful place. The first reader climbs up to the lectern and starts to read;

"The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you...."

Oh, there's more, but I stop listening and this starts going on in my head:

"Ha ha. Very funny, God."

"Oh, Awkward Mom. I just couldn't help it. You were so nervous and looking so silly, it was just the perfect set-up."

"Are you serious? I was nervous before. Now I am terrified. No one is here with me. No one is going to smile reassuringly at me. It is like Perfect Coed all over again. Literally now, so thanks."

"I am smiling at you."

"OK, yes, but..."

"No buts. You are fine. You got through it with Perfect Coed and you are gonna get through it today. Do you like being in a small group?"

"Yes, but..."

"No buts! Do you want to share that with these people so maybe they can find that kind of community and warmth?"

"Yes, but..."

"No buts! hee-hee butts..."

"Umm, God? You are starting to sound a little like Super Preschooler here."

"Well, Super Preschooler is not a bad one to sound like, I gave him an excellent sense of humor. The same one that I gave you, I might add. Just get up there and wow 'em. You are gonna do great, and P.S. you look great. No offense, Sweetie, but I am really glad you decided against the Doc Martens."

"Wow 'em? But... Sorry, no buts. I mean, I am not Perfect Coed."

"I know you aren't. I am so glad you aren't. You are you. You are competent, smart, funny, eloquent, passionate, and full of grace. Just like I made you. Now, go wow them. Well, at least try. Most of them are already thinking about the Super Bowl and totally tuned out."

Not sure if she wowed them, but she did try: "Hi, I’m Erin, and I am here to talk about small groups. Very briefly, I promise. My family joined St. Francis about 2 and a half years ago. That fall was when I first joined a small group. It was a truly positive and faith enriching experience, and I have been involved in small groups since then. The small group that I attend is the one for parents of small children, that meets right here in the church nursery. It is a clear example of praising God in the here and now, in the chaos of daily life. As we pray and discuss together, we often have rousing games of tag or hide and seek circling the table. It is quite fun, as well as welcoming and spiritually nourishing. I would encourage you to consider joining a small group this Lent. The groups are listed in the bulletin and you can sign up on the church web-site. If you happen to be a parent of a small child, please consider joining our group. There is always room for more in a good game of hide and seek. Thank you."

She only got 1 laugh, but as Awkward Dad says, "Awkward Mom is usually firing at a 10, but Church Awkward Mom needs to be dialed down to about a 3. Faith is fun, not frivolous."

What? I'm just over here wowing 'em.