Monthly Archives: May 2009

Because Colored People Don’t Play With Balls

Did some de-junking, spring cleaning, etc, the last few evenings. Several rooms in my house now echo. My children got a bit cavalier about filling the trash can. 

"Mom, can I throw Dora away?"
"No! That's my culturally diverse toy."
"You have to have culturally diverse toys?"
"Yes. The inspector asks if I have culturally diverse toys and I show her Dora, and she puts a little check in the box."
My oldest gives me an incredulous look.
"And . . . the firetruck speaks Spanish, okay?" I tell her.
"Where are your white toys?"
She has a point. The State doesn't really care if I have a white baby doll. Or toys that speak English. As long as we have Dora the Explorer and a fire truck that can squawk "Violeta, Rojo, Blanco!"
"What, like balls and Hotwheels are white people toys?" she asks.
The debate goes around a few times and finally we decide that the NASCAR is about as white trash as you can get; I'll bet I can pick up something cheap on Craigslist. A Jeff Gordon action figure or a blanket maybe.  We will be truly multicultural.
Does it bother you that every government form I fill out asks for the race of the child? Forms that have nothing to do with race. Not like a registration form that presumably the police might look through should we all be abducted as a group and nobody is left to tell them what we look like and so they could use my roster to put out a Missing Persons report for a middle aged white male and female, three caucasian children, four mixed blood Hispanics and a Nordic looking American Indian infant. Why does the USDA food program need to pinpoint the race of the children I'm feeding?
Just wondering. 
When I was growing up, we said things like, "That Indian kid. That Chinese girl." to identify a unique individual we'd seen on the bus, say. We also said "the tall kid, the blond kid, the fat kid." But I think we did notice the minorities as being, well, fewer in number.  I guess I assumed most American schools were similar. But after getting a Spanish answering machine upon calling the school one day, I asked my daughter what percentage of kids at her school were minority races. She gave me a funny look. "Uh, we're probably . . . about forty percent. Unless you count the Russians as Caucasian, then we might break even."
Huh? "First of all, whites are the minority at your school? And second, since when are Russians not Caucasian?"
Turns out the Russians here don't consider themselves Caucasian. They hurl the epithet "white boy" like an insult, apparently. Who knew. I know I'm confused.
But for the most part, I think my generation and the ones that preceded us are far more uptight about racial divisions than the rising one. When my children come home and tell me their tales of woe, it isn't "This Russian kid on the bus stole my ear buds!" Or, "This group of Mexican girls threatened to kill me for looking at their little brother!" They use their names. It's Vladimir this, or Selena and Mercedes did that. 
They don't understand what the big deal is about Obama being president. I don't think they really see in color the way we did, and I don't know that I want to change that. I know I resent the constant reminders from well-meaning organizations and individuals who keep insisting that we label people and toys and books as belonging to one race and not another in order to somehow protect them. From who? From themselves? The "minorities" at my children's schools seem to be the ones perpetuating the stereotypes and the discriminating behaviors.
The thing is, I would never go into a public place and notice, let alone complain, that there were no fair-skinned baby dolls represented on the toy shelf. I didn't notice the absence in my own house! Maybe I live in a diverse enough community that I don't see in color so much any more either. Maybe I just see toys as something to be disinfected and children as individuals that need feeding and people on the street as fellow citizens. Since when is that a problem?

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Because God Didn’t Include An Owner’s Manual

Not that as mothers we "own" our children. But we are stewards. And as such, that sixth sense you've heard mothers possess? Here's to that. And all the angels, round about, who bear us up. 

We were on our way to play basketball at my in-law's last week, and my six year old had been at my sister's all afternoon. I called and asked her to send him across the street to Grandma's. 

You have to understand that Aunt Nena lives on a cliff. To cross the street to Grandma's basketball court, you go down some steep rock steps, then cross the road that winds around the cliff; Grandma's driveway is directly across the road. 
Some residents and visitors to our street like to treat this winding road like a race track–they speed up, I swear, and fly down the hill and around the corner. Never mind that there are people frequently backing out of the driveway there. And small children. 
So I tell Nena–"Hey, send Winslow down to Grandma's for me. Wait. No, don't. He'll probably walk out in front of a car. Tell him to wait on the steps for me."
But deep down, that mother voice–that "sixth sense" tells me the kid is not going to wait. He's going to hit the bottom step, see Grandma's in all its trampoline/double slide/swingset glory, and race down the hill. So I hurry. I get everyone in the van, and we drive four houses down the road. 
We see him coming down the steps. He almost pauses, but then he sees us. He starts running. From our vantage point we can see a white Suburban flying down the hill. At its velocity and his, they won't see each other until they meet.  I'm gesturing madly at the oncoming driver. We're screaming at our son to stop.
He does. Just barely.
Huuuaaaaah. Big exhale. 
The Suburban continues on, full speed, unaware. My son's eyes are the size of the basketballs in his brothers' hands.
"I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." 

"God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power," it says in Timothy, "and of love and of a sound mind." This is the power of motherhood. That God loves us and puts enough love in our hearts for our children that we can hear those quiet whisperings in the sound foundations of our minds and hearts, loud enough that we act on them. And when our actions are not enough; when we see 6000 pounds of metal hurtling towards the little tow head and he is hopelessly out of our reach, we know he is never out of God's reach. 
Thank the God of heaven and mothers and little blue eyed boys; we are never alone.

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Disembowelment 101

Stopped feeding the "stray" cat this weekend. Not so much because I begrudged the 12 dollars for cat food, but because the darn thing, rather than teach its babies to hunt, was teaching them to beg at my door. To beg and to lurk about out of sight, waiting for the barest hint of an opening door, then streak in and hide behind the pantry where I can't reach them. I only let the cat stick around because this is rodent central, what with the fields and orchards around.

In the past twenty four hours she's caught twelve mice and/or moles–twelve that I've seen with my own eyes–and brought them home. The kittens learned the art of disemboweling a rodent quickly. They eat all but the intestines, then go back and eat that a few minutes later. 
They eat like toddlers. Food–blood in this case–everywhere; granted, unlike toddlers, they do clean up their own mess. But still. I can hear them crunching the bones up, even with the door shut. It's disgusting. I'm sure it's good for the rodent population and I'm sure I don't miss the mole hills this year, but eww! Do they really have to do it on my front porch? 
Kitten, anyone? They are seriously cute. I promise–this coming from me–and if you know me, you know I'm not an animal lover in any sense of the word. But cute they are, I must admit. And the bloodlust! If you have a rodent population, have I got a deal for you.

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Of Cars and Kittens

I've got this two year old who has an obsession with organizing his toy cars. The rules seem to be that all cars must face the same direction, and they have to be on a narrow ledge of some sort. Which is a great thing when he's the only child here; I give him a can of fifty-odd little metal cars and he will spend an hour very carefully lining them up. When other children come along, he gets a little disturbed. Back away from the cars! You're throwing the universe out of alignment! 


He's also picked up this great habit from my husband–chewing ice. We've had him since he was tiny, and so I can honestly blame this on Dad (as he calls him). He gets a cup and instructs me very sternly–and at the top of his very large voice: "I want ahhhhs! I want ahhhs!" until I get him a big cup of crushed ice. Filled just so. It's obnoxious when I'm busy, and he drips all over the house, but he's happy. Cars and ice.  Change his behind, refuel his belly and throw him a ball every once in a while and he's happy. 

We have him late into the evenings and on weekends, and so he's become one of the family. We take him everywhere we go, and my boys get ego boosts from his hero worship and general amusement from tricking him into thinking their hair is on fire or their thumbs are detachable.

I love this kid. I really do. It happens without my consent, but it happens, every time; usually right before the family decides to relocate to another country or some state really far away. Anyway. For now, he's here, and he's at that age where personality really starts to shine through and I love that I get to make his acquaintance. 
So today everyone else has gone home; the sun is at that point in the sky that makes you stay out a few minutes longer watching the shadows even though dinner is half made and baths are waiting. I'm sitting there feeling the sun and watching this lone kid play with the kittens, and I'm trying to figure out what he's doing. 
He's serious; very determined. He keeps picking them up and putting them down and going back for more kittens and what is this kid doing? When they get up he pushes their little rear ends down very firmly and talks gibberish. 
They get up, run away, climb over one another, but one by one, they just lay down and go to sleep. Pretty soon, he sits back with a satisfied look on his face, and I finally get it–he's got them all lined up on the threshold of the patio door; facing the same direction, on a narrow ledge. The universe has been aligned, and all is well. 

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Sigh

Got a phone call the other morning from my cousin. She's my mother's cousin, I guess, so her children are my second cousins. I lived with them during my engagement to be married and they are family proper in every sense of the word. She called to let me know her mother (my great aunt?) had passed away. We knew she was failing and her passing was a blessing, and we talked about this, but as I hung up, I realized I never actually uttered any sympathetic words. 

I thought, several times, that I should–but what do you say? Am I sorry for her loss? I think I should be, I know they were all praying for the end but that of course it is sad to lose a parent. But I didn't know what to say and so I asked for funeral details instead and if there was anything I could do. This is my way, I guess. 
Later that day, I got a mass email from this cousin, stating that her mother had passed away at 8:05 that morning. The time listed stopped me short. Wasn't that when she called me? I checked my caller ID. 8:08am. She'd called me at 8:08. Was I the first person she'd talked to since she'd received the call telling her the news? And what kind of response did she get? 
Sometimes I'm a bit thick.

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No, I’m not expecting–and you?

About a month ago I got on the scale. I spent thirty some odd dollars on the thing and it was getting dusty, so I thought I'd, I don't know, use it? 

Dang. 

I knew my clothes were getting tight. I haven't weighed this much since I was nine months pregnant with my first child and retaining seriously gallons of water in really inconvenient places. I'd walk across campus and my feet would jiggle out over the tops of my shoes. I could feel the fluid vibrating, clear up to my knees, and if I pressed my fingers into the flesh of my ankles, the imprint would last for a good half hour. I wore my husband's clothing and cut the waistbands of my pants. I felt enormous.

That's how much I weigh, right now. 

I was telling my sister this. Reminiscing about being pregnant and fat. "Oh, but you were huge when you were pregnant," she said. 

"Uh, yeah. That's what I'm telling you. I weigh that much. RIGHT NOW." 
 

I said I thought I might be more inclined to get up and go walking if I had an mp3 player with songs or something I liked on it, but I'd never buy one because I didn't want to figure it out. 


Now, Nena likes being "the pretty sister." She reminds me of this frequently, but even she took pity on my poor bloated self. She brought over an old iPod (She has three–who has three old iPods?) and even preloaded it with lots of excellent songs, speeches and books on tape. (Go ahead, snicker. I know. I called them books on tape. Whatever.) 

I did get online that day and figure out how to turn the darn thing on, but I haven't had the time to pick up any earbuds yet. And my teens would probably die if I borrowed theirs for ten minutes, so there it sits. Said teens have listened to all the beast contains and the battery is dead. I don't even know what's on it, and I might like it, but I dread the thought of trying to put my own media choices on the thing. (What are you doing, Kimber? What are those things in your ears? Can I try? No, let me try!

My dismal technological skill set got me thinking about literacy, again.


The definition currently held by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientfic and Cultural Organization) states: "'Literacy' is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society."

Hmmmm. 

By that definition, do you feel literate? Do you feel you have reached that point in your learning that enables you to achieve your goals and full potential?  Can you turn on an iPod let alone operate it? It could be the greatest tool ever known to man to access the written and spoken word at any time in any place, and I don't know how to use it. Not that if I did I would necessarily get out of the house and go walking… but I think it points to an entirely new way of measuring literacy.

I'm imagining these people hundreds of years ago who only needed to sign their name to be considered literate. 
They couldn't read and write and talk to someone on the other side of the globe, but they were literate as far as that era demanded. Independent and unsupervised reading was not only uncommon, but considered a sinful waste of time, at best, or dangerous and subversive at worst.  Makes a person wonder–as the definition of literacy evolves, what skills will become essential that my generation currently considers frivolous?

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