Perfectly Imperfect

In sixth grade my locker was right next to Donna’s.  She was (and I’m sure still is) a very nice girl.  She was blond and had a good group of friends and never did anything weird or goofy that could have earned her a link to an urban myth or any unfortunate nicknames (which really is key to middle school survival).  Yet, despite her successfully unremarkable charter through the rocky tween years, I will likely never forget her.

That is because almost every single day, while I was simultaneously praying that I might finally get my boobies and remember my locker combination (36-24-36…for both), she would tell me that I was perfect.  Perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect.  

Gag me with a spoon.

I was defensive and I never knew how to respond  to that.  Just like everyone else, I knew I was far from perfect.  I had goofy braces and glasses and an unruly cowlick and my Jordache jeans were waaaaaay too tight (damn the thighs, even back then).  I was fighting with my mom, my little sisters were a pain in my butt, my dad was always at work, and my extended family was the stuff that they make reality shows about before they even had reality shows.  I liked a boy who didn’t like me back, and the one who did like me was called “Booger.”  I was growing too tall, too quickly and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay on the gymnastics team much longer.  Algebra was getting hard for me to follow without a lot of effort.  I certainly felt flawed.  But when I told Donna that she was wrong, she would not listen.

Fast forward thirty years.

I was at our neighborhood pool on Sunday with Kids D and E.  They were starting to drive me bonkers in the house, so I decided – for their safety and my sanity – we should get out.  It was a beautiful, hot day, but not many people were in the water.  The boys had fun swimming.  I had fun catching up with friends.  I chatted with my next-door neighbor for a bit.  A little later on, the football house mom (“If You Have to Poop, Go Home,” posted on April 27, 2011) came down with her son.  We were discussing our kids and I was complaining about mine and you can guess what she said to me.

“Hmmm.  I always thought your kids were perfect.”  Perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect.

Gag me with a spoon and call me Criss Angel.

I guess I am still defensive, but now I know what to say.  My kids are far from perfect.  I am far from perfect.  And my life is definitely not perfect.

Sheepdog was gone way more than he was home this summer, and single-parenting five kids is the pits.  I resented him a whole bunch this summer.  And I was passive-aggressive about it.

Kid A has apparently reached the highest level of enlightenment and is not stingy in sharing her extensive knowledge, especially with regard to mistakes I make while parenting.  She even wrote me a note about it.  I was very happy when she left for two weeks of camp.

Kid B had a texting relationship with a boy that, when subjected to an impromptu spot-check by mom, went from “OK, innocent-enough” to “Reading-this-is-gonna-make-me-blow-chunks-right-here-on-the-boardwalk.”  I have subsequently given her the title of My Kid Most Likely to Sext in hopes that it deters her.  Also, she can no longer send or receive photos on her phone (just in case).

Kid C continues to live life on a completely different planet, leaving behind a trail of glitter and other scraps from her latest craft projects.  And sometimes just one shoe.  Oh yeah, and it takes her no less than two whole hours to shave her legs in the shower; our water bill is going to be astronomical.

Kid D has now added martial arts to his sports obsessions.  Just from watching a new TV show he has decided that he can successfully karate chop a block of wood.  In fact, he can not.  He also still can not tie his sneakers.  Do they even make velcro shoes for adults?

Kid E was allowed to watch “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and now he walks around saying things like, “You better red-neck-ognize!” and “Mamma might eat Glitzy.  She done ett ’bout e’ery thang else!” in a perfect southern drawl.  I threatened to send him back to speech therapy if he did not stop.

As for me, I am hormonal and cynical and I have very poor fashion sense and I continue to curse way too much.  Sometimes I pee a little when I cough really hard.  I occasionally yell at my family like a complete psycho.  I get mad at Sheepdog when he is gone and then again when he comes home.  I am making up every excuse in the book as to why we can not have Kid E’s birthday at the jumping place like he really wants because I absolutely hate that place.  I alienated a carpool mom by saying she was late.  Oh, and I have on at least one occasion pretended to have my period for a few days longer that I really did so I didn’t have to have sex.  Really, I am thankful for a husband who finds me attractive, but who wants to have sex every flipping day?

It still surprises me when people call me perfect, but it no longer makes me feel weird.  It no longer makes me micro-examine my flaws or overcompensate for my imperfections.  I am comfortable in my skin and I know that I am trying my best.  I’m making it up as I go along, day by day… just like you and just like everybody else.  I try to learn new things and grow as a person and to do things better the next time around, but I realize that I will never get everything right no matter how long I may live.

No, we are not perfect.  Not me, not my husband, not my kids.  I guess we are closer to perfection than some, farther away than many others, and about the same as most.  But I like to think we are pretty happy despite all of our imperfections.

And that’s why the tagline to this blog has always been, “a front row seat to my perfectly imperfect life.”  Sorry, Donna.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

NIPs and Fudge-inas

Last night at the dinner table it was just Sheepdog, Kid C, Kid D, Kid E, and me.  The Olympics may be over, but… Let the Games Begin!  School, sports and activities are already in full swing.  Kid A was at ballet and Kid B was at soccer.  I was excited because it was the first test of the effectiveness and executability of my New and Improved Plan (NIP) to address school night meals that get all screwed up by the craziness.  Mine and the world’s in general, but mostly mine.

This year I am going to feed them all homemade (well, made in my home), healthy meals during the week!

This year no one will come home from a practice and have to eat a bowl of cereal or a Happy Meal because I forgot to save them dinner!

This year I will plan ahead!  This year I will have all the ingredients I need on hand!  This year I will take things out of the freezer in time for them to thaw!

I get so excited about the lamest things!

Let me explain this NIP… the beauty is in its simplicity.  On Sunday morning I print out a schedule for the upcoming week.  The family collaborated on a list of favorite meals, which I keep pinned to my bulletin board.  On the schedule I write down specific meals from the list for each night, Sunday through Thursday (and maybe even Friday if I’m feeling especially ambitious, but Saturday is my night off, bitches).  From that schedule I then create a grocery list of standard and meal-specific things I will need to prepare meals for the whole week.  Then I go to the store and start checking things off the list.  When I get back from the store, I post the schedule on a bulletin board inside my pantry (because I will most likely forget what I planned to make and when), where I will see it every morning and remember to take out or prepare what I need for that day.

With this kind of organization and service of regular, healthy meals, I can even get away with occasionally (or always) using cheaters and shortcut ingredients like organic frozen vegetables, prepared sauces and marinades, or meatballs not made from scratch.

My Slice-O-Matic sat, unused, in its original box for like 10 years until I finally sold it for 50 cents at a yard sale.

Last night during dinner I was patting myself on the back in reference to my NIP awesomeness.  Then Kid D rained on my parade by announcing that he would not be able to eat the “sweet potatoes” (which he hates) on his stir fry plate.  I clarified that they were actually carrots (which he loves) and he should gobble them right up.  He presumed I was lying to get him to eat something good for him, but I swore a courtroom promise.   Kid D still wasn’t convinced, so Sheepdog explained that their unfamiliar shape was due to the carrots being cut up julienne – style.  And while I embraced the parental back-up and the notion of a man who knows his way around the kitchen (or at least the Food Network), I immediately shot Sheepdog a look that silently implied, “Why do you even know that word and did you have to trade away your man parts when you were given such information?”

Kid D just said, “Well, that puts the fudge in fudge-ina!” as he finished his dinner.  I don’t really know what that means, or even if I should punish you for saying it, but I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The REAL Real Housewives

I have told you all before that I am a viewer of some of the better (read: trashier and more outrageous) reality shows on television.  Over the years I have watched cooks, bakers, chefs, survivors, racers, singers, dancers, models, designers, personal trainers, apprentices, people and things getting make-overs, home buyers, home sellers, house flippers, motorcycle builders, gun makers, pregnant teenagers, teenage mothers, self-involved twenty- and thirty-somethings, bachelors and bachelorettes, people getting married, people having babies, parents of eight, parents of eighteen and then nineteen, table flippers, screamers, and fighters… just to name a few.

Man,  I watch a lot of television.  But that’s not really the point here.

I remember when MTV first aired “The Real World” in 1992.  I could not get enough of that show.  At 21, I thought that what those kids were doing was what I wanted to be doing… living with strangers in a loft in So-Ho, trying to make it as a model or a dancer or a rapper, having interesting life experiences, and fighting the good fight about politics or racism or sexual orientation.  Well, not really, but something like that.

Then I got married and watched “A Baby Story,” and I decided that I wanted to try a peaceful water birth in my living room, or at least have a professional TV cameraman getting the money shot of my baby coming into this world.  Well, not really, but something like that.

Next I saw “Flipping Out” and wanted to be Jeff’s loyal assistant, who commiserated with him about all of the idiots in the world and how hard it is to find reliable help, all while I was the one who kept his businesses running smoothly and successfully.  And then that Bethenny Frankel inspired me to always approach life from a place of “Yes.”  But mostly she makes me want to drink margaritas.  Again, not really, but (you know the drill), especially since I am the devil’s advocate and I prefer wine.

Then I discovered the “Real Housewives” series.  My favorites are New Jersey and Atlanta, for obvious reasons.  I grew up in Jersey (even though I must clarify that North Jersey is a completely different beast than South Jersey), and recognize so many of the places and Jersey-isms on the show.  Atlanta’s Kim lives just doors down from my parent’s townhouse.  Her daughter went to my daughter’s middle school.  My column gets published in NeNe’s neighborhood magazine.  I entertained the thought of buying something from Kandi’s toy line (Sheepdog can thank 50 Shades for that thought process, although I didn’t buy anything… so get your panties out of a twist, Kids A&B).  These shows made me want to be like these women.  Well…

I am being as sarcastic as the show title when I say that.  I do not want to be anything like most of these women.  I already am a real housewife and I love my life.  Here I do dishes and laundry and Swiffer the floors all day.  I drive my kids to lessons and practices and playdates.  I go to Kroger and Publix and Target and Walgreens.  I make dinners and pack lunches and I pick up pizza and chinese food.  And I do it all in exercise clothes (earlier this year I wore workout clothes every single day for well over a month and I never got around to exercising even once –  oh well, at least I burned some calories getting those sports bras on and off).  How about they make a show about me?  Well, not really, but something like that.

Sister B and her goofball neighborhood friends made this video while I suppose their unsuspecting husbands did the chores and watched the kids.  It’s no “Bumpin in the Burbs” by the Notorious D-A-D, but it may make you giggle.  Especially the pine straw chick.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Poems of Procrastination

In homage to those like Keats, Wordsworth and Shelley (and because my kids are all out of my house and off to the first day of school and I’m kind of bored and putting off my workout and other various and sundry chores), I have decided to write a poem.

“An Ode to Summer”
by Stacy Swiger
O! glorious season of unencumbered trotters and limbs – 
How my soul thunders at your sweet smells and irradiated hours.
Why, thou art bursting with vivid comestibles and waterlogged reverie!
The waning of your days is forever married with my ebbing enthuse.
What splendor dreamt by deities in sculpting your essence.

Well, that didn’t take nearly long enough, despite the constant thesaurus look-ups.  Maybe I’ll go a little less formal with a haiku.

“A Haiku Poem About Summer”
by Stacy Swiger
Bare… feet, legs, iCal
Summer is wet, bright and free.
Fall is too leafy.
“And Another”
by Stacy Swiger
Haiku.  “Gesundheit”
Must be the freshly mowed grass.
Where’s the ice cream man?

Kid A = 11th grade, Kid B = 8th grade, Kid C = 6th grade, Kid D = 2nd grade, and Kid E = Georgia pre-K. Mom = sad that summer is over.

I am always bummed that summer is essentially over for us when school starts, even though it is still August.  But I can say that I am happy to get back to writing more regularly.  And I know that the kids could certainly use some time apart from each other.

Just the other day, I listened from my office as I heard Kid E driving his siblings absolutely batty.  He went from one to the next, just nudging and annoying them with his, “Play with me” and “Get this for me”  and “Will someone wipe me?”  Finally I heard that he was left alone in the upstairs hallway, as everyone else had retreated to their rooms for some much-needed alone time.  Never to be discouraged, Kid E knocked on someone’s bedroom door.

Knock, knock.

“Who is it?”

(In his own, undisguised voice) “It is NOT me.  He he he he he he he he.”

Whatever.  It got them to open the door.

Happy First Day of School, my southern peeps.  And to those of you that still get to go to the beaches and the pools and sleep in for a few weeks longer, I hope you appreciate how good you’ve got it.  Enjoy your vivid comestibles and waterlogged reverie.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…