Category Archives for "Kids"
This past Wednesday was Immigration Day for the fifth grade class. The lunch room was transformed into a miniature Ellis Island and at first, I feared that the administration had gone overboard with realism because the stench wafting from a cramped steerage compartment of a ship whose passengers who hadn’t bathed in a month could quite easily be replicated by the scent of an elementary school cafeteria but my fears, much like my weekly intentions to scrub the grout in our shower, were unrealized. I’m fairly certain the ship that carried my mother here from Greece before the start of WWII didn’t smell of Lysol and chicken nuggets.
Kids were dressed up in their best imitation of wretched refuse from teeming shores and parent volunteers manned stations such as currency exchange, interviews, mental assessments, physicals and citizenship tests. At each station, the immigrants were put through a battery of tests, none of which they were prepared for and most of which they failed, as was a regular occurrence at Ellis Island. For instance, the parent volunteers conducting the interviews spoke only in foreign languages. The confusion on the kids’ faces as they tried in vain to provide answers in English to questions posed in Italian was priceless. Also priceless? The volunteer supervising the physicals whose job entailed asking all the female immigrants if any were pregnant and who managed to keep a straight face as 60+ shocked, giggly and somewhat horrified ten-year-old faces peeking out of babushkas slowly paraded by her.
As representatives of the U.S. government commissioned with the task of herding the tired, poor, huddled masses through the smelly, crowded, foreign and hostile environment of Ellis Island, we were instructed to be neither happy nor smiley as we cherry-picked the best and brightest future of America. So as to provide the most realistic experience for a brand, spankin’ new immigrant whose very life depended on whether or not someone had peed in an official’s Cheerios that particular morning, even though Cheerios hadn’t yet been invented, we were told to be terse, abrupt, brusque, cranky and overflowing with PMS.
I just threw that last one in there. I like to put my own personal touch on these things and in my opinion, the bitchiness that PMS brought to the table added a certain oomph to the authenticity of the whole event and as we know, I am all about bitchy oomph, baby! And even though Helena could have stayed home with me on any given morning and experienced all these things up close and personal, she really wanted to dress up in the immigrant clothes she had borrowed from Granny Sue for the occasion.
Is it bad that when Helena asked Mom, how can I look like a immigrant? I immediately thought of my mother-in-law? In my defense, I knew Granny Sue was likely to have era-appropriate clothing from her own granny so turning to her for help was not at all a reflection of her taste in clothing. Now, had Helena asked Mom, how can I look like a homeless, refugee, bag lady? I’d have flung her into my own closest with an enthusiastic HAVE AT IT, KID without a second thought.
The immigrants filed into the cafeteria like cattle and lucky for them, I was stationed at the Final Inspection table with two other volunteers and as is the case with anything I’m tasked to do, I gave it my all which equates to 193.67% and OH MY GOD, THE POWER. It’s entirely possible I got drunk on it.
Me: You. Yes, you! Over here. Paperwork?
Young boy (hurrying over and politely handing me his paperwork): Hi!
Me (perusing his citizenship test): Hmph. You only scored a 70 on your citizenship test. That’s deplorable.
*trying to arch one of my eyebrows*
Young boy (looking sheepish): Yes ma’am.
Me: We only want smart people in America, you know.
*still trying to arch an eyebrow*
*not feeling very smart*
Young Boy (earnest): I know! But I am smart! I promise! Ummm, is your face OK?
Me (aghast): Excuse me? Are you questioning my face?
Young boy: Sorry ma’am.
Me (peering at him closely): What’s that?
Young boy (glancing down at the black patch on his shirt): Ummm, it’s from the physicals. They stuck it on me.
Me (jabbing my pen in the air near his shoulder): Why does it say “E”?
Young boy (points to face): Ummm, they said there’s something wrong with my eye.
Me (apoplectic): ARE YOU TELLING ME YOU’RE NOT SMART *AND* YOU HAVE GLAUCOMA?
Young boy (nervous): Uh, glau … what?
Me (feigning great irritation): Just give me your passport! What’s your name and where are you from?
Young boy (pounds on chest): I Giovanni. I from Italy!
Me: We like verbs in America.
Young boy: I … oh. OK. Uh … verbs?
Me (ignoring him): Are you married?
Young boy (proudly): Oh! I know this one! Nope. I’m not married.
Me (demanding): Why not?
Young boy (hesitating): Umm … I don’t know?
*big awkward pause while I continue to stare at him*
Young boy (looking up at the ceiling): Ummmm … I … uhhhh … well? Umm … I haven’t met the right girl yet?
Me (suspicious): Hmmm. Interesting answer.
Young boy (relieved): Thanks!
Me: I said it was interesting, not right.
Young boy (apologetic): Sorry.
Me: What are you going to do in America?
Young boy (pounds on chest again): I make pizza! Lots of pizza!
Me: Pizza? Are you going to make me pizza?
Young boy (excited): I’ll make you all the pizza you want!
Me: You know it’s illegal to bribe an immigration official?
Young boy (flustered): Oh! Sorry! I won’t make you pizza. Can you just forget I said that?
Me: I don’t forget anything. What’s your name again?
Young boy (not getting it): Ummm, Giovanni?
Me: So! Now you won’t make me pizza?
Young boy (confused): Wait! What? No! I’ll make you pizza! Unless you don’t want me to? But I’ll make you pay for it.
Me: Are you threatening me, young man?
Young boy (discombobulated): No ma’am! No! I meant money! I changed my mind. I want to be a banker. Can I be a banker?
Me (staring at him, squinting and thinking really hard): Hmmmmmmmm.
*big dramatic pause*
Me (grabbing a certificate and signing my name with a flourish): Congratulations. Welcome to America. Go stand over there. NEXT!
Meet Thea Alstrom.
She’s a twenty-five year old immigrant from Sweden. Her husband and child were waiting for her in America. She wanted to be a teacher. She barely passed her citizenship test. And during her psychological assessment, she was diagnosed with mental deficiencies. There was a joke in there somewhere but I was too nice to find it. Oh, and she was a wee bit sassy during her final review.
Final status: DETAINED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE PENDING REVIEW. REPORT TO DETENTION AREA IMMEDIATELY.
She was fortunate. Her best friend, twenty-five year old Clare Abercrombie, was also diagnosed with mental deficiencies but was denied entrance entirely and instructed to report to the departure area post haste for a return trip to Ireland.
(Disclaimer: there were no feelings hurt in the Ellis Island simulation on behalf of any immigrants. No detained or rejected immigrants were traumatized or required therapy. The same cannot be said for certain hormonal, uptight, high-strung, guilt-ridden volunteers who should not be placed in positions of power again until they complete a twelve step program.)
Two things happened yesterday which made me feel like someone picked me up, twirled me around, threw me down on my head and went all Benjamin Button on me, in reverse, at 95 m.p.h.
First, I picked Helena up from school. I watched her tall frame stroll down the hallway toward me, in skinny jeans and layered tees and new winter coat, with her backpack casually flung over one shoulder and hair billowing out over the other. Well, except for that one stubborn lock that hangs in front of her face just to spite me. She was waving to me and I caught my breath. I didn’t see a fifth grader excited about getting picked up early by her mom so much as I saw a high school senior sauntering out to her car, excited to head over to Wegmans to work her shift so she could go out with her boyfriend later that night. And ultimately make curfew.
Second, Helena and I headed over to the high school where we met Zoe and then the three of us sat through a preliminary meeting about the high school senior trip to Boston this coming November. As I sat there listening to the company’s representative prattle on and on about Fenway Park and duck tours and down payments with parents interrupting to ask about chaperones, chaperones and whether or not they insured against pregnancy, I glanced at Zoe and no longer saw an almost-seventeen year old junior texting her friend about HOW FREAKING AWESOME THIS TRIP IS GOING TO BE, WE ARE SO GOING TO BE ROOMMATES but rather, a thirty-something swiping on the iPad-gadget-of-the-moment, checking her schedule to see if she and her husband could get time off of work as bio-chemical engineers to go visit her parents. And bring them dinner. With her parents’ adorable, potty-trained, smarty-smart grandchildren in tow.
My girls are growing up so damn fast and I just want to stamp my foot and yell that it’s just not fair. IT’S NOT FAIR.
Helena no longer permits me to refer to her get-togethers with friends as “playdates.” Instead, I am required to describe the time she spends with her friends as “hanging-out.” She can just about wear my shoes. She’s almost as tall as I am. It’s her last year in elementary school. Middle school doesn’t have little desks or colorful alphabet designs on windows or cubbies with hooks.
I’m finding out how much our insurance is going to sky-rocket when Zoe gets her license. She’s preparing for the SAT and narrowing down her college choices. I now have to mark the tags in my clothes with a big DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT in black permanent marker because she steals them out of the dryer.
I only have a limited amount of time in which to make their lunches, help with their homework, sign their permission slips and catch endearing moments such as these for posterity. For only a short time longer will I have the opportunity to embarrass one by volunteering in her class and absent-mindedly referring to her as Peanut or Poopers in front of her friends and embarrass the other by leaving BJ’s Wholesale Club and bumping into her boyfriend because every sixteen year old girl wants her mom to make small talk with her boyfriend while clutching a jumbo twin package of Always Ultra Thin Super Long Pads With Wings and Leak Guard Protection.
I miss my babies.
I don’t miss the diapers whose stench could peel the paint off a wall, or hearing that first 3:17 a.m., squawk that could tense my body quicker than being dunked into a vat of liquid nitrogen, or fighting with a car seat and losing, or catching a mouthful of puke because I invented kids with freakishly good aim.
I miss being called Mommy. And getting big, fat, open-mouthed kisses on my cheek for no reason. And toothless smiles that peek out of a snowsuit. And neck snuggles. And rocking chair naps at noon for two. And almost being knocked to the ground by a running hug to my knees that came out of nowhere. And the powdery smell of a freshly washed and diapered human in footie jammies. And little fists curled around my fingers. And Christmas ornaments made out of fruit loops, glitter and pipe cleaners. And tucking little humans back into bed because they had bad dreams and needed some huggy squeezes and kisses. And being asked to sing Silent Night at bedtime in June. And having my shoes pilfered from my closet with cries of LOOKIT MOMMY! LOOKIT! I’M ALL GROWED UP!
They growed up so damn fast.
The other night, as I was tucking my ten year old Helena into bed, she got all silly and flustered and then she took a deep breath and without warning, blurted out that shesortofkindofpossiblymaybehasacrushonaboywhohasniceeyes.
And then she stared at me, waiting for me to do something other than choke on my tongue and search in vain for my jaw which had fallen to the floor and rolled under her bed.
This was my baby who, up until that minute, thought boys were made up of equal parts of gross, ick and blech and put on this earth just to annoy her.
The one who, over the summer, yelled to the boy down the street who was simply standing in his own driveway, minding his own business, Owen! Stop being disgusting long enough to tell me who you have for a teacher next year!
The one who likes karate because, among other things, she gets to punch boys in the gut.
My baby has a crush.
I’m not quite sure what to do with this information.
I leave you with a post I wrote last year about the sex talk I had with Helena. Now I’m thinking of taking another stab at it and this time, I’ll be smart and simply tell her that BOYS STUNT YOUR GROWTH, CAUSE YOUR BOOBS TO GROW BACKWARDS AND MAKE YOU BREAK OUT IN ZITS IF YOU HAVE SEX WITH THEM BEFORE YOU’RE THIRTY.
My house is now a no-fly zone for the birds and bees, thank you very much
(originally posted on September 28, 2009)
It was the same old, same old at the Chamberlain household this weekend. Hauling laundry up and down the couch, losing grocery lists, searching for all three cordless phones, hiding from responsibility, avoiding housework and … let’s see … oh yes, the sex talk with my youngest.
Helena’s only nine so I delayed The Talk as long as possible but that’s hard to do when she’s got a fifteen year old sibling around who insists on being a teenager and having her teenager friends over and doing teenager-y things like watching PG-13 movies (HELENA, THAT IS INAPPROPRIATE, GO FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO) and updating their Facebook status (HELENA, THAT IS INAPPROPRIATE, GO FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO) and talking about hottie boys (HELENA, THAT IS INAPPROPRIATE, GO FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO) and getting their periods (NO, YOU CAN’T HAVE ONE. GO FIND SOMETHING ELSE DO TO.)
Unfortunately, Helena ran out of things to do. Despite having a Wii and a closet full of games and craft supplies and a bedroom full of toys and a computer all to herself as well as 2,439 playdates.
So, sex talk it was. Seeing as how she just started using deodorant and just started wearing what passes as a bra but what is really the top half of a blinged out undershirt, I knew it was just a matter of time, so I was ready.
The Talk is a huge step, a milestone, a right of passage, if you will. There might be a lot of nervousness and anxiety and EWWWWS and YUCKS and shouts of disgust and maybe even some vomiting but as long as your kid doesn’t see it, you’ll be fine.
Having been through this twice now with my girls, I thought I’d share my tips to make it as smooth of a nervous breakdown as possible.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
And then, just make sure you cover the basics, including but certainly not limited to the following:
Helena took the entire conversation in stride, listening quietly, asking pertinent questions (I was an egg? I’m going to get hair where? Daddy did what? With his what? And you let him?) giggling and laughing and squealing and, when it was over, running downstairs to meet Zoe at the door with a gleeful shout of GUESS WHAT? I HAD THE SEX TALK! I’M JUST LIKE YOU! and then running over to her daddy with a plea of CAN I GET A FACEBOOK ACCOUNT NOW?
My baby is growing up. That brick I put on top of her head is failing miserably.
Last week, I happened to mention to a friend how grateful I was that Zoe had managed to make it all the way to her junior year of high school without becoming immersed in the depraved, psychotic, pus-filled staph infection that is teenaged girl drama. It had been relatively smooth sailing within her group of friends and I was *this* close to exhaling.
Know what happened next?
If you guessed “someone spiked the air with laxatives and then two tons of runny shit hit the fan and sprayed all over your optimism?” DING DING DING DING DING! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
By the way, since when is a chicken dinner a coveted prize? And if it is, then why isn’t my family a little more grateful five days out of the week?
It’s kind of like the time I emailed another friend “Oliver’s gone a week without pooping in the house! Woot!” And not five minutes later, Oliver flipped me the bird by excreting a reasonable facsimile of the Rocky Mountains behind the couch.
Or the time I posted on my blog that we were all healthy and happy and not ten hours later, we were all Welcome to the Barfiarreah! PULL UP A TOILET AND STAY AWHILE.
When will I learn to not tempt fate? And how come when I say stuff like “I’ll never see my abs again without an X-ray or an autopsy,” fate ignores me?
I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of the drama. Suffice it to say that it was a whole bunch of “she said/she said/she said that she said” crap transmitted via touch screens or QWERTY keyboards because God forbid these kids today use their cell phones to actually speak to one another. Why bother using a larynx to share some vitriolic screed when it’s so much faster to use your thumbs? Back in the day, it took us a few minutes to spread miscommunication and misunderstanding, depending on whether we had a rotary or push button phone with a cord that reached into our bedroom for privacy. Today, it can be done in nanoseconds from the couch while watching Big Bang Theory, delivered in short, abbreviated phrases peppered with an appalling lack of punctuation and grammar and an overabundance of acronyms that I either have to Google or tweet with a hashtag of #whatthehelldoesthismean?
It’s all over now and the dust has settled upon new alliances and the carcasses of friendships gone by the wayside. High school is once again a simmering nine month stint on Survivor but without the exotic locale and diet. Unless a cafeteria and fiestada pizza can considered exotic?
Zoe only has a little over one and a half years to go before she’s off to college and with any luck, beyond this rite of passage which, as far as rites go, sucks big, fat, orangutan scrotum. But Helena is only in fifth grade which means I don’t even need to use binoculars to see another round of it coming down the pipe and honestly, I’d rather experience my first period or breaking my hymen or maybe even back labor again than have to deal with more of this kind of petty, hormonal, estrogen-infused angst.
But that’s not likely to happen so right after I write this, I’m off to practice holding my breath for another seven years.