Parenting Lows: a nice way to spend an evening

Yesterday, as my daughter and I were beginning a mini-marathon viewing of Once Upon a Time (season 1, disc 1) my husband, who had just left to pick up friends from the airport texted me with, “Lots of people at the school, something going on?”

I replied, “No idea.”  Then I looked up my daughter’s school’s website, and learned that the Meet the Teacher’s event was 15 minutes from ending.

I texted him back, but the message didn’t go through.  That often happens in the basement, but  I didn’t bother to go upstairs to resend.  We were trying to watch as many episodes as possible before our friends arrived.  Priorities!

So, for the first time ever (ever being three years), we missed a chance to meet our daughter’s teachers.  I had a pang of guilt.  I homeschooled for 15 years, and now I’m such a slacker that I don’t even bother to meet the six people who are teaching my daughter!  For shame!

Then I realized I’d missed something, asked my daughter to explain it, set my computer aside, forgot I was a slacker, and resumed viewing.  We were both super excited that a flight delay allowed us to finish the disk.

When we put the dvd back in its envelope, came out of our fairy tale fog, and remembered that Wednesday was garbage night, I realized that my daughter and I had just spent a very pleasant evenings together.  We were actually engaged in the same thing, at the same time, and not on each other’s nerves.  Considering she’d stomped up the stairs away from me less than five minutes after arriving home from school that afternoon, this was A Spectacular Evening.  Way better than it would have been if she had had to introduce her dad and I to her teachers.

Does this make us TV-aholics?  We don’t have cable, satellite, or even an antenna, just netflix.  We do tend to obsess over shows we like, even if it is a show that everyone else was watching last year.  (No spoilers for me, please!)


Does this state make me look fat?

I live in the thinnest state in America, or rather, the least obese state, according the CDC.  Curious?  Go ahead and look up your state.  I’ll wait.


Don’t feel bad.  Your state might be fatter because all the thin people moved here.  Not the ones who look like supermodels, the ones you suspect are anorexic.  They probably moved to NY or LA.  The ones who moved here are muscular and fit and burn so many calories that they feel no shame in downing super sized meals that I have never once eaten.  Competitive athleticism is a major draw for the area.  There are triathlons for preschoolers, and 5ks are the most popular fundraisers.

I’m not thin.  I’m not obese, either.  I’m overweight:  above my ideal, but not considered a medical problem.   However, living where I do, I feel huge.  Most places I go, I am the largest woman present.

In contrast, in my home state, with a 27% obesity rate, I look about like most of the other women my age:  flappy arms, a bit of a belly, and a sagging neck.  There, I don’t stand out.  Here, I feel like an eyesore.

Ironically, I gained a good part of my chub since moving here, because, thin state or not, I hit middle age.  Or it hit me.  Hard.  When I was young, I could skip lunch for a few days and drop five pounds.  Now, my metabolism shuts down if I even think of skipping a meal.  Or if I don’t.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s not what it used to be.

Not gaining feels like a win at this stage.  Eating less, exercising more, and neither losing nor gaining is about as good as it gets these days.

I see articles and books which promise I can dress to look thin, but when you are surrounded by people whose idea of fun is eight hours biking up a mountain or training for a marathon, vertical lines and dark colours are not enough.   I’ll still look (and be) bigger than the 30something who spends two hours a day in the gym and wears yoga pants everywhere to make sure everyone sees the results.

Next time, I’m moving to a fat state.

Where is the word between friend and acquaintance?

Last night I was at a friend’s birthday party.  I knew most of the guests there, but only one other guest was someone I’d call a friend.  The rest ranged from stranger to fill-in-the-blank.  It’s this missing word in the English language.  Maybe that word used to be acquaintance, like we all sing about every New Year’s Eve, but today, that doesn’t sound right.  It sounds auld.  You wouldn’t introduce someone saying, “This is my acquaintance Nancy,” would you?  Neither would I.  So we say friend, even if we don’t feel like Nancy is our friend.  She is just someone we know.  We probably like her, and will happily talk to her at a party about what her kids are up to, how her recent vacation was, or whether she got that new job, but we wouldn’t phone her to ask about any of those things.  We wouldn’t even text her.

Sometimes it’s easier.  We have roommates, schoolmates, teammates, but, at least here in the USA, we don’t call people plain old mates.  I wouldn’t introduce Nancy to you as, “This is my mate Nancy.”  Those terms all need a frame of reference, and often, there isn’t a handy term available.  (If we can’t have a word that falls someplace between friend and acquaintance, could churchmate come into common usage?  I have a lot of churchmates.)

If I’m talking to my sister, or my husband, I have used the awkward phrase “friendly acquaintance.”  They know I don’t really have hordes of friends, and this saves them the bother of wondering which of my five friends I am not naming.  If you’re wondering how this sounds in conversation, it goes like this:  “A friendly acquaintance told me last week that a hawk was circling over her yard, stalking her chihuahua.”  As I said, awkward phrasing, but if I said friend, they’d ask which of my friends got a chihuahua.  If I said Nancy told me…” they’d ask who Nancy was, wondering if I had made a new friend.  Then we would be talking about my lack of a social life instead of the abundance of predatory birds in the area and the danger to small, but loved, animals.

So, we, or at least I, need a new word.  Any ideas?  Nominations?

Has your dog ever eaten your panties?

Have you seen Some of the entries make me laugh til I cry. Dogs are so bad (my own included), and the owners are even worse (myself included).

Still, I cannot help but wonder about the panty-eating dogs. Or, more accurately, their owners. Do these people not own laundry hampers? How many pairs of panties get eaten before you start putting them somewhere the dog can’t get them?  Do they not worry about their dogs suffering from bowel blockages?

I’ve lived with a panty eater. We adopted Pepper from a shelter when I was eleven, and he lived to see me become a mom. A twelve pound rat terrier, we never bothered to try to train him. He had all kinds of bad habits, like running away (which is how he ended up at the dog pound) and nipping our ankles when we ran, but the only trait I did not find endearing was the panty snatching and eating of feminine hygiene products.

Those two were gross. Worse for a painfully shy teen, they were embarrassing, because he would bring my panties downstairs when visitors appeared. Increase the embarrassment factor by ten because most of the time the visitors were the friends of my teenaged brother.

Slob though I was, it only took a couple occasions of seeing Pepper trotting into the living room carrying my panties to learn that lesson. Jeans and t-shirts could be,  and were, safely left littering the bedroom floor, but dirty panties had to be stashed out of his reach. And he was a high jumper.  Blood soaked pads had to be wrapped in bags, then put in the trash, which I moved under the sink. At least by me. The rest of the family never embraced the trash under the sink concept, but I have stuck with it to this day.

Goodness but I loved that bad dog.

It’s dorm move-in day.

My son, my baby boy, is moving on campus today. For the past two years, he has lived thousands of miles from me, but with relatives of one sort and another. No animosity. He just grew up and wanted to move away. I don’t blame him; I want to move, too. So I’m not sad, the way some moms are when their child goes off to college. Mostly, I’m excited for him. I love fresh starts, and this is a big one. He’s entering as a junior, having finished his AA at a community college while he waited for residency status. He’s planning a double major, in history and education, planning to teach. He is a great kid.

I am still a mom, though, so I’m worried.

My son’s room will never be this tidy.

What if his roommates are mean?
What if they are alcoholics?
What if they are loud, mean alcoholics?

Okay, that is all I could think of, so maybe I’m not as worried as I thought I was. He’s moving into an on-campus apartment, so he will have his own teeny tiny bedroom. Even if his roommates are awful, he can always close the door.

But will he? He is my most sociable child, but he has a bad track record with friends, ie he chooses to befriend people who in no way act like his friends. He chooses manipulative users and gets hurt.

Because I am his mom – I blame myself. I must have failed to teach him some vital friend-recognizing skill. Right? Could my sons have a fault that was not caused by me or their dad? Is it my bad genes or my lackluster parenting that caused him to become the most gullible person on earth? Pick one. I do.

I read a book about dealing with manipulative people recently, and I was thinking of sending him a copy. I’m not sure he’d read it, though. Maybe I should summarize it in a youtube video set to music. He might watch that. Would that be overbearing?

I wish I was there. I wish I was making his bed one last time; reminding him to work hard, eat right, get plenty of sleep; organizing his closet; giving him a great big hug because this day is huge. But I’m not there. So I’ll text him and cry a little and pray that his roommates are quiet, kind, teetotallers.

Generation Spanx?

That was the first name I considered for this blog. It seems to describe my stage of life. I decided against it because I’m pretty sure the people at Spanx want in no way to be associated with me. They might even voice their objections, causing me to have to think of another name. So why not just avoid what might turn into a lawsuit? (Besides, I almost never wear Spanx, even though they do work a neat trick.)

This is Karen Gillan, a tall, redheaded actress. Other than height and hair, we look nothing alike. Not even when I was young was I so beautiful.

So here I am, A Faded Ginger. That is true. My hair faded to nondescript not-quite-brown after I had my sons, which was over twenty years ago. Over twenty years ago. I had to repeat that so it could sink in. I am a mom, but not a mommyblogger. Not in the sense of talking about the antics of adorable children. No, my youngest, my only girl, is fourteen. My mantra is, “Nobody is at their best at fourteen.” Last year my mantra was, “Nobody is at their best at thirteen. My sons are in their twenties. Any stories I might will share about them will be more about my ineptitude than their adorability.

Back to my hair. I am like someone who, because she was blonde as a child, thinks of herself as blonde for the rest of their life. Miss Clairol might help. I’m like that, but a redhead who does not dye her hair. Yet. The fact that employees at the DMV argue with me when I list my hair as red means nothing. The lighting is horrible in those places. I’m still a ginger, albeit a faded one.

I am trying not to fade away in other aspects of my life, though. I’m trying to embrace this new stage of my life, and enjoy it as much as I did the last. I don’t find myself all that interesting, but I hope you do. I hope that someone, somewhere, reads this and thinks, “See! It’s not just me!” That is why I’m writing – to you, for me – about being middle aged, full of faults, and happy.