Category Archives: Kids

What I learned from some blue jays

imagesYVV4JR9TA few weeks before Christmas, I saw three blue jays in our backyard. Three blue jays lined up on a white picket fence, their painted crowns poking into the morning sky.

I knew there was some meaning in my sighting. I went to my computer and looked up the blue jay as an animal totem.

“If you have a Blue Jay totem, you must learn to use your personal power properly. Be careful not to become a bully. The word ‘jay’ comes from the Latin word ‘Gaea’ which is Mother Earth. A Blue Jay totem links you directly with the power of the Earth itself. It can link the heavens and the Earth and give you access to universal energies and power.”

I try to remember to be a partner and a parent and not a bully. Sometimes the line is blurred, especially because I am a person who admires strength as both a physical and mental quality.

I watched the oldest child do his second load of laundry. Ever. I wanted to yell at him to go through his pockets first.

This is the kid who carries around lighters and pocket knives, paperclips and disassembled pen parts, and other shiny detritus he finds on the ground.

But then I see him sifting through his blue jean pockets without my nagging.

The middle child always tells me what I want to hear. He has figured out that this is one way to get me off his back.

“Did you bring your dishes downstairs?” I ask.

“Yes,” he tells me.

I find his dirty dishes in his dresser drawer.

“You know that drawer doesn’t actually wash the dishes,” I say.

“Oh, I didn’t know,” he replies.

We laugh.

Laughter is a better sound than yelling.

After all, they are just dishes. Discs made out of clay.

We are made out of clay, too.

We can cut each other with our words.

Or build each other up so that we are so tall our heads poke into the clouds.

* * *

I saw another blue jay on Christmas Eve.

imagesBKLFD6HVOn the day after Christmas, I saw a red fox.

“Since the fox lives ‘between times’ — on the edge of land, visible as dusk and dawn, and can guide the way to the Faerie Realm. A fox can teach you to control your aura so that you can be more in harmony with others and the world.

If you have a fox totem, learning to be invisible is very important in your life. Imagine yourself blending in with your surroundings, becoming part of the background. Be very still and quiet. Through practice you can be unnoticed even at a party or in a crowd.

A fox totem also teaches good eating habits; the fox eats small amounts frequently which medicine is now telling us is better for our health.”

* * *

What about you? What are your animal totems?

The information on each animal totem comes from Lin’s Domain.

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Cat sandwich

Cat

My son says our cat Magic is purebred.

W says she’s inbred.

The butch and the bat

We had a lot of excitement here last night.

It was about 1:30 a.m. and W and I were sound asleep when one of the children yelled something about a bat in the house.

We both put on our glasses and got out of bed.

There were shouts of “bat!” and “where?”

And that’s when we saw it.  A bat in the second-floor hallway.

This next part is fuzzy.  There was screaming.  Mine.  And running.  Me.

After venturing into the hallway, I spotted the bat flying back and forth in the enclosed space.  I ran back into our bedroom with my hands covering my head.  Because what bat wouldn’t try to get all tangled up in this butch’s perfect hairdo?

W says my arms were flailing, but really it was a windmill move purposefully designed to ward off bats.  Get all up in this space motherfucker, and I will cut you, I communicated with my wildly swinging hands that were now weapons.  Bat cutting weapons.

xx

It’s wings were THIS big.

Seriously, this sucker was huge.  It had a Brittney Griner wingspan.  For realz.

When the bat appeared to disappear, we determined it had made its way to the third floor.

“Good luck!” we yelled to the kid who sleeps on the third floor.

At this point, it was every man for himself.

I secured the door at the bottom of the steps leading up to the third floor.  W went to the bathroom because of excitement! and bladder!  The child who had first spotted the bat was in his room with the door closed.

And then I heard it.  A skree skree.  Or I will kill you when I get the chance or at least get tangled up in that butch hair you love so much.

And then I saw it.  The bat squeezing out the bottom of the door that I was holding shut.  I swear that bat folded itself up like some kind of origami project gone horribly wrong and slid under the door as if it was passing itself as a note.  A terrible black furry note with pointy teeth and possibly rabies.

xx

Me.

I screamed.  Again.  That tiny girl part somewhere deep inside me screamed.  It was loud and shrill.  I couldn’t control it.  I was that kid in Home Alone.  If that kid was a little girl.

All the doors on the second floor were closed.  The bat was on the loose again in the hallway.

I ran downstairs.  To plot my next move.  Or sit on the couch.  I can’t be sure.  I was in an adrenaline-fueled fog.

xx

Stunned and captured.

I could hear W upstairs.  Apparently, the bat was now in our bedroom circling the room.  Our cat Magic was on our bed jumping at the circling bat.  W says Magic looked at her and nodded her feline head as if to say “I’ve got this.” Magic knocked the bat down and stunned the creature, and W was able to capture it by putting a waste can on top of it.

I could hear W getting all MacGyver.  Yelling out instructions for some makeshift bat catch-and-release kit.  Something thin, something sturdy.  Now!

In the end, she slid a piece of cardboard under the waste can, carried the can outside and released the bat into the night.

I tried to gather all of my butch dignity as I made my way upstairs and into bed.

 

Summertime butch blues

I.  Hate.  Summer.

I’m not really sure if this is true or not.

But once school starts wrapping up with class trips and end of the year ceremonies, I start getting a funny feeling in my stomach.

At first, I’m certain that it’s food poisoning.  Or appendicitis.  Or consumption.

I've fainted and I can't get up.

I’ve fainted and I can’t get up.

I quickly write up a food diary, jump up and down on my right leg and then my left just to be sure, and read several Victorian novels in which fainting spells are prominently featured.

I eliminate food poisoning, appendicitis, consumption.

And then I realize that it’s June.

There are a few things that I like about summer: Farm stands.  BLTs made with the season’s first local tomatoes.  Ice cream cones.  Sno cones.  The All-Star Game.  The church carnival down the street.

xx

This Grinch doesn’t dig the summer.

But what I detest, said the Grinch in her Grinchy-Grinch voice, is the fact that my schedule gets turned upside down.

For nine months out of twelve, everyone leaves in the morning and comes home later in the day.  But for those other three months, the young ones just stay.  They sit in their PJs.  They play on their games.  They want food for lunch.  They want to be entertained.

At least they are older and can fend for themselves.  But when you are rigid like this butch and thrive on routine, any little abnormality feels like it’s times three.

And don’t get me started about the beach and the pool.  They don’t make swim clothes for this old butch fool.

Girl suits are too girly.  And boy suits don’t cover up enough.

One day, I’ll deal with my body dysphoria but right now it all feels like too much.

* * *

What about you? Do you like summer? What are your favorite summer things?

The reluctant adventurer

This is not the post that I had planned for today. But stuff happens. This is me being spontaneous. Can you see the steam coming from my ears? That means my brain is on fire.

We didn’t have anything planned for today. But I could tell that W wanted to do something. Her brown eyes were extra sparkly this morning.

This is me.

This is me.

Turns out, she wanted all of us to go out for breakfast and then run a few errands. She thought it was a very good idea. Like, perhaps, Pooh or Christopher Robinson would. I thought it was an awful, terrible idea. Like, perhaps, Eeyore or The Grinch would.

When we talked about it, W said she works all week and spends so much time away from me that she just wants to be near me on the weekends.

How could I say no to that? I couldn’t, that’s how. My teeny, tiny undersized heart fluttered like a hummingbird heart for a few seconds.

So, the five of us loaded into the Honda Pilot and went to Bob Evan’s for breakfast. And then to Wegman’s to buy a birthday gift and groceries.

This cheered me up.

This cheered me up.

My head didn’t explode (even at breakfast when the kids crafted insulting haikus about my party pooper nature). And there was hot chocolate with whipped cream.  Bonus.

Here’s the thing about W and me. We’re very different. Like butches and femmes. Lily Munster and Morticia Adams. Melissa Etheridge and Melissa McCarthy.

On our first date, W bounded through the front doors of the bookstore where we were meeting. I had planted myself near the magazine rack where I could see the front doors. I don’t like surprises. You can read about our first date here.

I knew from the way that she bounded into the bookstore confidently and with a big grin on her face that she was feisty and full of energy. I knew that if I stuck close to her there would always be adventure and excitement. You might not believe that such things are possible — falling in love with someone by the way she walks into a bookstore — but I can tell you that they are.

Rainbow

This is what it’s like to be near W.

I love W for a lot of reasons. But I fell in love with her because of this zest for life that she had that spilled over into everything that she did. She couldn’t help it. It was like she could never keep it all bottled up inside or under her hat so it leaked out like a stream of rainbow.

We are all the beneficiaries. She plans things for us to do — like yard sales and concerts, festivals and fairs. There are always impromptu stops at places of interest like flea markets and farmer’s markets and dairies that sell ice cream cones.

I hate that I am like a fourth child. The cranky teenager who never wants to leave home. I hate that I am like a hundred tiny weights that hold her down.

I like staying home, staying in, staying back. I can’t stand it when we’re out and the kids fight. It makes me feel all jangly inside like I’ve swallowed a handful of pins. Besides, there’s always laundry that needs done and work to do and I wanted to finish that blog post that has been percolating in my head.

I know that W likes (at least a tiny bit) the fact that I’m a big old boring brown rock. I keep her grounded. She tells me that.

But this post is about her. And how she makes me believe that anything is possible. That I can climb mountains and move mountains and yodel from the mountaintops like a badass Maria in The Sound of Music.

She makes me feel like this dude.

She makes me feel like this dude.

And that we can all go out to breakfast on a Sunday morning and have a nice time. Note: I was thrilled that the kids knew how to write haikus.

I know that I shouldn’t drag my feet so much or protest so loudly. It’s just how I am.

If I wasn’t so stubborn and grumpy, I’d thank W for getting me out of the house every once in a while, even when I don’t need aired out.

I’d thank her for planning fun things for us to do, even when I’ve already filled my fun quotient for the day by reading a book or watching the latest episode of Total Divas.

I’d thank her for sprinkling me with just enough “c’mon, it’ll be fun dust” to get me off my duff and into the car.

I’d thank her for letting me play co-pilot on her planned road trips and spur-of-the-moment adventures.

I’d thank her for dreaming and continuing to dream even after I’ve dumped a whole bucket of bah humbug on top of her head.

Mostly, I’d thank her for sharing her life with me. Her big, spirited, adventurous, boisterous, loud, lovely life.

Hot for teacher

schoolOn Wednesday, I went to a back-to-school night for child #3.  W has a foot injury, and we decided that it would be best if she stayed home.

I entered the school building, schedule in hand, in search of home room #308, one of the Spanish classrooms.

I found the room and sat down at an empty desk.

And that’s when I noticed that child #3’s teacher is smoking hot.

I came home and gave a summary of back-to-school night to W.

Me: So, first there was home room …

W: Yeah, #3 says home room is going to be his hardest class because he has to learn the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.

Me: Shit, I would have had it memorized by now.  You should have seen his home room teacher.  She is totally hot.

W: Really?

Me: Si.  So, anyway, about back to school night.  There was home room.  And that was good.  (shuffles through papers)  There really isn’t anything else to report.  Just home room.  Oh, his Social Studies teacher was weird.

W: All 8th-grade Social Studies teachers are weird.

Me: I think you’re right.  Mine was a real weirdo.

long pause

Me: So, you want to hear about the home room teacher?

W: Sure.

Me: Okay.  She has dark eyes and dark hair.  She was wearing these tight black pants … you know the stretchy kind that really accent a woman’s curves?  And high heels.  But you should have seen her from the back.  There were pockets on the back of her pants, and she filled them out in just the right way.

W listened politely.  She knows that sometimes I can’t help myself.  Besides, I don’t want the Spanish teacher.  I want her.  I always want her.  She’s much more understanding than I am when it comes to admiring other women.  I have a jealous streak that’s about a mile wide.

* * *

Today, the Spanish teacher randomly popped up in conversation.

Dora the ExplorerMe: The only Spanish I know is from Dora the Explorer.  I’m pretty sure that won’t impress her.

W: You could always say: El gato es muy contento.

Me: The cat is very happy?  I don’t think that would be appropriate.

W: Yeah, probably not.

A boy and a turtle

One reason that I get sad sometimes is because my son is 14.

Fourteen and too big and grown for a mother, or at least that’s what he tells me these days.

I see him once a week if I’m lucky.

“Mom, can we skip this week? I’m really busy,” he informs me.

I usually say it’s okay because I don’t want to ruffle his feathers anymore than they already are. These days he’s like a peacock having a really bad hair day.

I get him every other weekend, but that too is subject to the whims of a 14-year-old boy.

When he was 13, he went to live with his father. I agreed to this new arrangement, knowing that if I held onto him too hard I would lose him for good.

Turtle crossing roadHe came home this weekend. One of the highlights occurred when we spotted a turtle in the middle of the road.

“Mom, pull over!” he shouted. “I have to save him.”

It had been a long time since I had seen him this excited.

I pulled to the side of the road and put on my hazards.

“Be careful crossing the street,” I said, unable to silence my inner mother.

He was. He was 14 after all. He picked up the turtle by the shell, carried it back to the car and placed it inside an orange bucket.

I have been carrying this just-in-case bucket in the trunk of my car ever since he was a little boy. There have always been frogs and toads and turtles and other creatures that have unexpectantly come into his life. The bucket has come in handy more times than I can enumerate.

I believe in animal totems among other things and tried to explain to my son how the turtle carried a message for him, for us.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

“Mom, we’ve lost you,” he said in a sarcastic voice that only a 14-year-old can master.

I knew not to protest. Not to try to explain the turtle sighting anymore.

But I also knew in my heart that the turtle was my sign to proceed cautiously and slowly and to have faith that in the end both of us would get to where we need to go.

* * *

From my writer’s group session today. Prompt: One reason that I get sad sometimes is because ________________.

Ah, summer, we hardly knew ye

Wow, summer is almost over.  I was in the grocery store yesterday and overheard a group of rabid moms chanting, “One more day, one more day!”  Kids here go back to school on Monday.  Nothing like overworked, overtired mothers throwing their kids under the school bus.

It’s been a weird and wacky  summer.  Our oldest was away at camp for six weeks.  The middle one was home for about half the summer but is now back living at his dad’s house.  The youngest spends long stretches of time in his room.  So, Middle-age butch had lots of time to herself.

xx

I had planned on being this version of Wonder Woman.  Nothing beats a classic.

I had planned on being super productive this summer: Cooking healthy and tasteful meals using fresh produce purchased from our local farm stand, writing ten chapters for my memoir, cleaning up the yard, building a brick “pad” for under my bird feeder, organizing the house, romancing W, saving the world and blogging about everything in my downtime.

Turns out that I did the opposite of that, which pretty much means that I did nothing.  I have learned that I am irresponsible when it comes to idle time and work much better under the pressure of a deadline.  Must be the writer in me.

The summer wasn’t a total loss, though.  Here are some highlights:

  • Finished a few memoir chapters.  Perhaps, more importantly, I got back to getting down and dirty and writing about the things that really matter, even though they are the hardest to write about.
    • This was us ... well, if we were dogs instead of lesbians.
    • This was us … well, if we were dogs instead of lesbians.

    Strengthened my relationship with W.  We had a lot of alone time this summer.  We even had a romantic dinner at a nice Italian place that had live music.  It was just like Lady and the Tramp, except that we’re lesbians and not dogs.  Although I have been called a dog more than once.  We’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into improving our relationship and our communication, and it’s been paying off.

  • Went to P-Town, just me and W.  Saw a whale, a drag show (I will never look at Katy Perry the same way) and a whole lot of gay boys in very short shorts.
  • Fed and pet a pair of giraffes.  I love giraffes.  So gentle, so graceful, so beautiful.  We have a small zoo near us that currently has two males on loan from other zoos.  W got pictures of me feeding them.  I’m even smiling.
  • Went to the Jersey Shore.  Found shells on the beach.  Ate pizza and french fries and drank lemonade.
  • Discovered a writer named Ivan Coyote, who has blown my butch mind wide open.  Ivan, I hope to grow up to be just like you.
    • xx
    • If I could, I would eat everything in miniature plastic batting helmets.

    Went to a ball game.  Not a major league game but a minor league game.  Drank beer.  Ate ice cream out of a plastic baseball helmet.  Note: This is the all-time best way to eat ice cream.  Kept score.  Admired the green, green grass.  Loved every single minute of it.

  • Made multiple batches of rustic tomato sauce with farm-fresh tomatoes and homegrown basil.  And, BLTs with beautiful, ripe, red tomatoes.
  • Saw a lot of movies.  Favorite: The Way, Way Back.
  • Celebrated my one-year anniversary with WordPress.

So, with summer wrapping up, I’m looking forward to getting back to normal, to daily to-do lists and kids at school, to cooler days and a more industrious frame of mind.

Some goals:

  • Work on my memoir and other creative writing.
  • Blog, focusing on quality and not quantity.
  • Romance the socks off of W (even though she rarely wears socks).
  • Organize, fix up, clean up the house.
  • Live healthier.
  • Spend more quality time with the kids.
  • Continue to move forward and reveal more of who I am.

It’s interesting.  My life has been filled with so many transitions.  I came out later in life, identified as a lesbian, then called myself a “soft” butch because it seemed less offensive.  Now, it’s just “butch.”  It’s all been an evolution, and I find that I’m not done changing, growing, learning.

A writer friend of mine said that when all that we want to do is lounge around in our elastic-waisted sweatpants and watch TV, there’s a reason for it.  We should allow ourselves to do so, taking note of what we’re watching and how that might be exactly what we need at the moment.

I think it’s good advice to not be so hard on ourselves and to feel deserving of our down time.

So, folks, your favorite butch is rested, relaxed and ready for just about anything.  Bring it on, world.

* * *

What about you?  How was your summer?  Any highlights?

Me want woman

This week, I won’t have to shuttle any kids to or from camp.

But, I thought I would share a camp memory from last week.

Kid #3 was enrolled in a film class.  The drop-off instructions said to  enter through the front doors of the school on the first day of camp and meet the instructor in the lobby at 8:45.

So, on the first day of camp, we parked the car, entered the school through the main entrance and looked around for someone to help us.

A man in a suit greeted us.  “Can I help you?” he asked politely.

“We’re looking for the film class,” I said.

“Oh, I’ll escort you to the front office,” he replied.  “I apologize for all of the commotion.  We’re having a principals’ meeting today.”  He made a sweeping gesture with his hand.

As he spoke, I became aware of all of the principals walking through the front lobby and gathering in a large conference room.  The men were wearing collars.  The women, long, starched habits.

AnimalI suddenly became self-conscious of my clothing choice.  After rolling out of bed, I had chosen to wear a pair of camo cargo shorts and a Muppets T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Animal and the words “Want Woman!”  Standard butch attire.  I folded my arms in front of me and tried to look casual and maternal.

I told W about my adventure later that night.

“You owe me big time,” I said.

“Did you not notice the words ‘Pope John Paul II’ in the name of the school?” she asked.

The lesbians and the land beaver

I thought I’d back up and explain that whole groundhog thing yesterday.

It all started last Friday.  I was walking down the steps to the basement when I saw him.  He was about as big as a football and walking in a nonchalant manner across the middle of the basement floor.

“Oh, hello,” I imagined him saying in a voice quite like Winnie the Pooh.  “Pleasant day, isn’t it?”

Holy shit.

I rounded up the kids to act as my human shield share in the adventure and learn something about animals and nature.  Further inspection revealed that the groundhog — also known as a woodchuck, whistle-pig or land beaver — was living in a mass of insulation wedged under our oil heater.  We heard rustling in this “nest” but were unable to see the critter, even though the kids shined the  flashlights at the nest and then into each other’s eyes.

Translation: There’s a land beaver inside our house!

I called W at work.  When she didn’t answer, I texted three letters: OMG.  Because texting “there’s a land beaver in our basement” seemed too weird and where was the surprise in that?  I like to keep that woman on her toes.

I finally got in touch with W and told her about the groundhog.

She e-mailed contact information for a wild animal removal company.  After a quick phone call, I learned that it would cost $295 to have someone come out to the house and set a trap.  Each additional trip back to check the trap would cost $95.

When W got home, she made some additional calls.  Our options were:

1. Live with the groundhog (Yes, someone actually suggested this.  As if having a groundhog roommate was a sensible idea.  Really, he’s very polite and quiet, even though he might have rabies, eats a lot of salad and poops in a very random manner.)

2. Hire an exterminator.

3. Buy a humane trap.

We eventually decided on #3, although I was leaning toward #1.  I mean, it would make a great book and all — The Lesbians and the Land Beaver — and we already sleep with a bunch of cats in our bed.  Let me tell you, this little guy would have looked adorable in a striped nightcap.

W went out to buy a trap.

I should probably add here that I apparently told W to handle this.  I didn’t mean it in a I-take-care-of-everything-around-here kind of way so small, rabies-carrying mammals trapped inside the house are your purview.  I just had a full plate that day and was delegating household responsibilities.

W wondered out loud why her big, strong butch couldn’t handle one wayward land beaver.

Anyway, W bought a trap for $34.99.  It even came with a free trap for chipmunks and other small creatures.  Bonus.  I mean, who doesn’t love a good BOGO sale?

We baited the trap with apple slices and waited.  And waited.

The weekend came and went, and there was no sign of the groundhog.  Nothing on Monday or Tuesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was working at my desk when I heard scratching on the inside of the French doors that we use to close off our front room.  I had assumed that one of the cats was trapped inside.  As I walked toward the doors, I saw that it wasn’t a cat trapped in the room but the groundhog.

I called the youngest kid to go into the room with a broom, a bucket and a bed sheet help me trap the critter.  By this time, the groundhog had scurried under furniture in the room.

The child wanted to know why I was the only person to see the groundhog.

I started to wonder that myself.  Was there really a groundhog trapped inside our house?  Was I going crazy?  Or maybe I was the only person who could see this land beaver (sort of like the Sixth Sense only with groundhogs instead of dead people).  Maybe I was the land beaver whisperer.  It was all so strange and confusing.

I called W at work.  “I can’t come home now to take care of it,” she said, as if I had designated her  house groundhog wrangler for life.

“I know, I’ll take care of it,” I said.

I sent our youngest inside the room to place the trap.

“Don’t worry, I’ll close the door behind you and hold it closed so that the groundhog can’t get out,” I assured him.

After the trap was set, we barricaded the door.  Just in case the groundhog decided to go all Ninja on us.

And then we waited.  I went back to typing at my computer to maintain an air of normalcy.

In a bit, I heard some noise, and there was the groundhog trying to get the bait from the wrong end of the trap.  This little guy needed GPS.

I sent the youngest back in the room to leave a trail of lettuce and snow peas leading to the entrance of the trap.  I was hoping the the critter wasn’t familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel

“Don’t worry, I’ll close the door behind you and hold it closed so that the groundhog can’t get out,” I assured the child once again.

Again, he wanted to know why I was the only person to see the groundhog.

About 20 minutes later, I heard a loud snap.  There sat the groundhog inside the cage.  I had captured the elusive land beaver.  I was a hero.  A land beaver tamer.  I felt very brave and very butch.

The elusive land beaver

* * *

Lesson learned:

A land beaver in hand is worth two in the bush.