Getting Naked

A one-time lover once told me that I have “a fetish for metaphors and symbolism”. Although his comment took me by surprise, I ultimately had to agree with him.

Getting ready to shower at my girlfriend’s house (where I’m currently staying and working) I giggled thinking about the previous night. After helping with bath time for her 4-year-old, he proudly informed me that sometimes he peed down the drain of the shower I was about to get into, then very matter-of-factly asked if I did too.

Since I prefer showers at a temperature that turns my skin pink, I just let the water run a little longer before getting in- thinking I’ve cleaned up worse in my stint as a mom-type even if it’s a title I don’t get to keep.

Breaking up with 4 people instead of one (which sounds like some kind of weird Mormon, polyamorous or cult relationship as I type it) didn’t feel like when my marriage split up- or any other relationship I’ve been in for that matter. It was better and worse for very different reasons and has not been easy.

Returning to single life means that all 5 of us have to start the process over of getting naked with new people- metaphorically for the kids and both metaphorically and literally for the adults.

It seems to me there are two distinct ways we ‘get naked’ with each other in our culture. There’s dozens of people on Craigslist saying they want to get naked (some have pics to demonstrating just how ready they are for naked time) and they specify exactly what kind of naked they’re looking for with all kinds of acronyms- some of which I’m afraid to ask what they mean… oh god there’s a picture nevermind!

The Craigslist/Friends-with-benefits type of physically getting naked has a bit of a crowbar-separation-ten-foot-wall between it and the “how was your day?” conversations that open the doors to a different kind of naked. Once one party starts doing asking those questions, you’ve moved past just getting physically naked in front of the other person and hoping for acceptance into a whole different kind of being naked while seeking the same acceptance.

For whatever reason, it seems to have become easier to get physically naked with other adults- I had a scratch to itch, it didn’t mean anything, I’ve even heard “sometimes you just want to get your dick wet” all used as justifications for a one nighter where the acceptance and the getting naked were not only very temporary but also probably encouraged by alcohol.

I’m not going to throw stones I would be very hypocritical if I did. But I think that acceptance that comes with getting naked with someone over a longer period of time is what changed in this break up- the kids and I dropped our defenses searching for acceptance too. I asked them about their day and snuggled in bed watching movies with them. I’ve seen them cry. They’ve seen me cry. We’ve seen each other be snot-filled-unbathed messes of human beings as well as laughed until one of them peed themselves.

Metaphor or no, in that relationship I saw not one other person but 4 of them in all those vulnerable states asking the unspoken question “will you accept me?” and I asked the same of them.

Often when we ask the question about acceptance, there are limitations on which that acceptance is granted by the other party that we may not like the answer to- the employer who turns you down for a promotion but says they want to keep you on in your current role or the lover who responds to the “how was your day?” questions by putting on their clothes and heading for the door. Even a best friend that calls you out on a line you crossed or something you shouldn’t have done establishes a limit of how naked you can get with them.

Those kinds of responses to nakedness usually lead to the realization of “OH GOD, I’M NAKED!” and a mad panic to try to make being naked (and rejected) okay again- which almost always fails. Most people falling somewhere on the bell curve that spans overcompensation and completely giving up- jumping into the next relationship trying to get someone else to accept you to replace the rejection, staring in the mirror (literally or figuratively) for hours tracing out every possible physical flaw flaw wallowing in the thought that no one in their right mind would accept you this naked respectively.

Despite not wanting to the limitations on our acceptance of each other (the kids and me) to hinge on the relationship I had with their dad, it did, does and kind of has to. I can’t fulfill the same space in their lives because the parameters have completely changed. When there is a new potential wicked step-mother they will all start the process over again with someone else and hopefully it will work out.

Although I know I will eventually have to start over again ‘getting naked’ in job interviews and future relationships, but for now I’m sticking with avoiding mirrors.

Best stay-cation EVER

It’s 4pm. The kids are gone. Eric is gone.

I haven’t eaten lunch… what to eat… what to eat… I went to Wal-Mart earlier and bought some fresh fruit and veg- although I think I look the same as I always have when I look in the mirror, my waist measurements say otherwise.

I open the fridge and see a bottle of champagne on the middle shelf, and right below it- strawberries. Standing there with the fridge open, my mind does a Bill Cosby-style analysis. Strawberries are healthy, what goes into champagne? Grapes- Grapes are healthy too!

Shaking my head trying to clear out the chocolate cake logic, strawberries and champagne, isn’t dinner… it can’t be… can it?

With no one else here and nowhere else I have to be tonight… why not?

Dinner

Dinner

But it’s not just the ostentatious dinner that makes the use of vacation days for a staycation awesome; I ran a dozen errands within 5 hours than had been lingering on my to-do list for ages.

Little things that irritated me but I hadn’t dedicated any time to- like the fact that despite several attempts to plant flowers in the front of the house, the seemingly endless rain turned my potting soil and seeds into a primordial soup which is hardly the look I was going for. I bought some ready-to-plant flowers and additional potting soil and turned mudpies into what I hope looks like welcoming landscaping.

In addition to that, I wound up the jumper cables and put them back in their case and back under the freshly vacuumed driver’s seat of my just washed car, which I will attack with the scratch remover stuff I bought after I finish my dinner.

I returned a malfitting bra for two that actually fit, and returned some of the flooring samples that were lying around the house from Eric’s previous home. Recycled an ink cartridge and laptop battery, and donated 6 coats and 4 garbage bags of clothes to 2 charity shops.

If only I felt this productive all the time or actually was this productive all the time I may actually change the world or something!

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to stay overnight at my Grandparent’s house. I would watch movies like Goonies or Candleshoe, get out my auntie Shelly’s makeup and my great great aunt’s costume jewelry and hair brushes. I would style (I use that term extremely loosely) grandma’s hair and paint (more accurate than ‘make up’) her face and decorate her with bangles and baubles of many colors and sizes.

She’d fall asleep in the process, probably believing that it was a small price to pay for my silence and total immersion in an activity for 2 hours.

After watching several seasons of America’s Next Top Model, my styling efforts may not have been as bad as I once thought.

I loved it though, every moment. Even though it was more than likely a self-sacrificing gesture to shut me up and get me to play quietly, there was a certain level of trust and intimacy there that is hard to replicate with others.

Saturday night, Eric decided to head out with friends so it was just me and youngest child having a girly night. She got a Monster High hair coloring kit for Christmas which, although totally gimmicky and it certainly tinted my fingers better than it tinted her hair, it was a chance to do something that required more physical contact than what we normally have.

The kit also came with beads and a threading tool that allowed you to take the tinted hair and string beads through it, tying it off with plastic elastic bands.

I did a few strands of hers and then helped her do one of mine. Exhausted from a night out with the very same aunt who would let me test out my cosmetician skills on her, I was about ready to fall asleep when I asked if youngest child wanted to do more beads on herself or on me.

“On you,” she said and began braiding another piece of my hair. As her little fingers worked I felt completely content. Not just because I love having my hair played with but because of the memories I have of doing the same things as a child.

I figured that it was a once off and that the novelty wore off after the one bout of beauty parlor, but on Saturday youngest child had a sleep over and when she and her friend asked if they could make me up I tried hard to be enthusiastic but not overly enthusiastic.

I settled into the couch and found Candleshoe for rental on Amazon Prime. The girls had found mood nail polish, my powder, mascara and lip stain (a horrible product that I do not recommend and am going to throw away so it can never be used again). I shut my eyes and let them take turns painting my face.

Sadly the sleep over ended around 10:00 p.m. when I had fallen asleep in the living room and youngest child’s friend decided that she didn’t want to be so far from family during the middle of the night and asked to go home.

Although the night may have ended in tears, (and a couch and floor covered in powder) I think it was very fun and enjoyable.

It may sound weird to some, but this is exactly what I wanted for myself some day out of the whole parenting thing. I wanted the opportunity to share in things that made me happy as a kid that would hopefully in turn make another kid happy. Although neither of my little beauticians are my own DNA, it was yet another thing that makes the whole adventure worth it.

Dress up

The war on crack rages on

I live in a crack house. I don’t know if it’s an addiction per-se, but despite many interventions I’ve seen more miles of crack than miles of road it seems. I’ve tried to break the addiction with belts, tighter waistlines on trousers and even offered my Great Grandpa Orlin’s home remedy (suspenders), but the crack addiction just cannot be broken.

I can already see Eric’s dismay and beet red face at the subject matter and he will feel, dare I use the pun, exposed? But it’s not just him and his lack of junk in the trunk that’s the problem. In our home we also have the butt crack gymnast; when she’s not in a leotard and still doing dance and tumbling moves manages to wriggle out of the top of her bottoms and put on display more than her skills.

I found the cutest picture of oldest child with her “best friend” in preschool, where you can only see the pair from the back while they’re seated reading a book and even then there’s the tiniest little dimple showing above the waistline of her little person jeans. Thankfully, oldest child appears to have grown out of (or into) her pants and keeps a vigilant eye on her bottom line and takes a stance with me in just saying no to crack.

Young man unfortunately, is the most frequent offender. He always has some level of crack going on. I’ve seen everything from a half moon (with the cuffs of his legs acting as a second pair of socks) to his standard inch and a half where no underwear, pants or belt could hold the breeches from spilling out.

Of all of the things that I emerge from my mouth on a daily basis, “Why are your dirty socks here? To who left the front door open?” the one thing I never thought I would say on such a consistent basis was “Pull up your pants!”

I’ve thought of more subtle ways of addressing the issue that would also convey the desired message- a tee shirt that says “Just say no to crack!” Fridge magnets with those 1950’s cartoons that has the message “Bending at the knees and not the waist, saves backs and eyes!”

Eric’s main argument against trying suspenders is he is afraid it will look stupid… I think when it comes to the affairs of the derriere, Forrest Gump was right on the money “stupid is as stupid does,” to me, if you’re trying to NOT look stupid and end up looking stupid at least you made the effort. At very least attempting to say no should count for something in the war against crack, shouldn’t it? I think so.

There’s a chihuahua in my lap snoring. It’s equal parts humorous, annoying and typical of my experience with our family. Eric snores, the kids snore, why wouldn’t the dog snore?

Unlike the other Paulsons, I have a love hate relationship with the dogs. At times I have wanted them gone due to their house training issues. But I also feel terrible if we leave them in their kennel too long while we’re away and I’ve had nightmares where the dogs were picked up by predatory birds since they’re roughly the size of jack rabbits.

Recently, Vinnie started scratching and dragging his butt on the carpet more than usual. Then the scratching turned into scabs and bloody fur. Of course the children’s response to blood is absolute horror. While I can explain it to them like when they scratch their mosquito bites until they’re scabby messes, while they understood the parity every day was “Vinnie is bleeding,” and “when is their vet appointment?”

I never realized how unsettling it was for children to nag adults the way we nag them until I joined this family and for the first time had kids. I know I used to do the same to my parents and other adults in my life as a kid not realizing that my priorities were different than adults. I didn’t care about my socks on the floor and toys laying around the house, but I did care about schedules and my pets and things that I thought my parents needed reminding of.

I try to appreciate and coach without coming down too hard on the kids, but it does get old.

At their vet appointment this morning a tiny fraction of the $400 bill was an Elizabeth collar for Vinnie. That’s right, he has one of those alien looking cones around his head. I didn’t think the poor little dog could look more pitiful or miserable but I was wrong, he looks absolutely despondent. To make matters worse, it’s a fabric one so he trips on it when he walks and managed to stick one leg thorough the neck hole.

The brilliant thing about the kids is that they’re so willing to help care for the puppies if it’s a medical issue (walking them we are still working on). “We need to make soft food “meatballs” with the dog’s pills in them but I need you to do it (Eric) the smell makes me want to puke and stays on your hands despite several washes.”

Middle child, “Why don’t you use a ziploc to scrunch the food into balls?”

My response, “That’s so smart!”

Me to middle child, “You need to help daddy use the puppies special shampoo to give them a bath.”

Middle child’s response, “Okay.”

Vinnie’s leg in the neck hole of the collar, middle child’s response “I’m not a doctor but we need to get this off.” He took off and re-tied the collar on Vinnie’s neck.

It’s wonderful to see the kids showing so much care for the dogs it would be great if it was a bit more consistent since walking the dogs after school is still a debate (and putting away the leashes takes a prompt or two to be completed).

I don’t know if it’s that they’re puppies or if this kind of activity would also apply to other younger children but based on their interactions with their youngest half sister, I think that the kids have a kindness within them that runs deep and that they display naturally without prompting if properly motivated.

If they every do get additional fur-less siblings I’m very encouraged by how they treat the puppies that they would be good older brother and sisters displaying lots of concern, love and nurturing when it’s most needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Fur babies

Mom like

Knock knock knock.

It’s Friday morning 6 a.m. and I sleepily say “Yes?” Eric doesn’t generally answer the kids because he could sleep through a freight train derailment, yet I can’t sleep through the sound of a spider fart. 

“Would you help me tie a knot in my necklace?” Youngest child says in a very soft voice.

“Yep,” I’ll be right there, why don’t you get yourself some breakfast while you’re waiting for me.

I REALLY don’t want to be up since I only went to bed six hours ago, and normally my response to projects that they leave to the last possible minute is to tell them that if they don’t have enough time to finish their (homework, project, video game) then they need to start earlier in the future and prioritize better. Friday morning is different; how can you turn down a kid that needs your help finishing a Mother’s Day present?

Both middle and youngest child are making necklaces between bites of breakfast. Youngest child has gone for an all pink with metallic flowers theme while young man has gone for blue and greens with lettered beads spelling out “Best Mom” in the center. 

When he started the necklace on Thursday night and announced what the message would be, I could just see Eric’s brow wrinkle with concern and that we would talk about it later. He is constantly worried about my feelings getting hurt despite my reassurances that I knew exactly what I was likely to be getting myself into and how I would feel in the kid’s position.

Friday afternoon, I have Ken Burns documentaries playing in the background while I am working. I hear the narrator explain that Thomas Jefferson promised his wife Martha on her death bed to never marry again. That one stung. 

I would hope it’s not common practice to go into marriage or a relationship anticipating its end, but it’s kind of practical when you think about it. Being appreciative yet prepared should something happen that life for everyone else goes on from, my perspective, is healthy. It’s disheartening to hear that the prospect of a step parent or another person in your life and you’re children’s lives would be so terrible.

I think about the ripple effects of that commitment and how awful they were for so many. He had affairs but in that time, if the affair wasn’t going to lead to marriage and a guarantee of stability, it ended quickly.

Jefferson allegedly fathered several children with Sally Hemings, who despite Jefferson’s  inclination to free them from slavery, couldn’t because of the political and financial implications. The children that he had with his wife ended up with an sizable debt that they tried to pay off with the sale of most of the furnishings from his Monticello home.

Maybe part of the reason that I don’t worry about playing second fiddle is that maybe someday someone else will have the gig. That’s not a statement about our relationship status it’s that you never know what’s coming tomorrow. If I died tomorrow, (although that would suck) I would want Eric to be strong enough to keep himself and his family ticking along. I would also want them to be able to find someone who they could love and appreciate and who would love and appreciate them.

It’s pretty awesome to be mom like (as the card I got from the kids says) but I wouldn’t even have the opportunity if the post wasn’t available to be filled.

How, Why, Wha?

By far and away, my least favorite game is How, Why, Wha? All parents have played it, they just may have a different name for it; it’s kind of like iSpy, a scavenger hunt and trivia all in one. Sometimes its a multiplayer game where the whole family plays and other times you start out playing by yourself when no one else is there to play. 

This is how the game works: first you find something wildly out of place or completely unexpected and ask “How did that get there?” Then you shake your head realizing that is a stupid question because you know exactly how one of youngest child’s socks got into the vacuum cleaner canister. 

It was laying on the floor and you left it there for her to pick up, she didn’t and someone who was ‘being helpful’ ran the vacuum over it. It would be just plain silly for someone to pick it up, open the canister and manually put the sock in there. 

So you enter phase 2 of the game and ask “Why is it in there?” usually this is asked aloud. It’s also the stage where you add players if you had been playing on your own. “Why is there gravel in the garbage disposal?!” 

If there are other players, they usually will claim no knowledge of what you’re talking about and make you show the evidence of the crazy thing you found. 

This is where the game can get complex, skilled players will have to try and identify which one of the other players is the one who has knowledge of the why the item is where it shouldn’t be. “Your brother doesn’t ware hair ties or sparkly barrettes, and neither does your sister and your dad would have to glue them to his head to wear them,” the process of elimination can be done verbally or mentally or both, sometimes it’s automatic.

The third and final stage of the game is a bit more varied, it’s a what? question to the other player. “What were you doing putting kleenex down the sink in your bathroom?” 

“What did you think would happens when you left your bike behind the back tire of Heather’s car?”

“What were you doing in other rooms with paint on your hands without washing them; leaving marks on the entertainment center, kitchen table and chairs, couch, AND the hall way?”

Sometimes the other player may cry at this point, sometimes there are further rounds of Why and Wha?

Expert players play the last round very carefully, they ensure that their response is a very careful what question, like “What are you going to do in the future?”

Novice and casual players often make the fatal mistake of giving the other player the advantage with their what question, because if the other player plays “I don’t know,” trump card, the parent player joins the ranks of the contestants of Who wants to be a millionaire? who get a really easy question wrong right away; leaving the game hanging their head in shame because of a stupid question they should have known the answer to.