Thursday, March 11, 2010


As much as I intended to remain staunchly anonymous, well...vanity, vanity, all is vanity. This post is an anecdote about my adorable 3-year-old, whose name is, obviously, Ella. And I really thought myself clever with the title, so...there you have it.

This past weekend was one of "my" weekends with the kids - and, as Lemmy can certainly attest, I'm a different person at those times. Like many of us, I fall prey to periods of bluesy melancholy, and sometimes even succumb to out-and-out depression; but when my kids are with me, I'm animated and happy, very much in my element, and I cannot help but think about the times past when - I'll admit it - my kids sometimes felt...cumbersome. If only, if only. Not to mention, I've heard many a person complain about their kids - and it's not like I wasn't sometimes one of them - and I think, I'd give a pinky finger to have what I had...and lost. Or, if I'm being perfectly frank, what I gave away.

So, to the point. This past Saturday morning, my daughter and I were playing with her many, many babies. As an aside, there is a disorder called, I believe, Reactive...something, that stems entirely from a child's inadequate maternal bonding during their first year of life. As I've mentioned previously, I spent six months in what is euphemistically called an "alternative" facility - actually, a community-based correctional facility that is, strictly speaking, a very low-security jail, but is conducted more along the lines of a rehabilitation center. By "rehabilitation" I am, of course, referring in part to substance abuse; however, it's a far more holistic approach than that and I honestly know of almost no one who couldn't benefit from what they do there. In fact, my sister, in pursuit of a master's degree, was required to take a course that almost perfectly mimicked some of the "courses" I was required to take during my stay. At any rate, the disorder to which I previously referred manifests itself at around 5 years of age and is marked by violent tendencies and outbursts. It doesn't stop there, though, and considering that my husband and I divorced RIGHT before Ella's first birthday, well...just add this to the list of damages about which I was worried. It has been to my GREAT relief that she is extremely maternal...and I do mean extremely. She fusses ceaselessly over any life-form that's even a minute younger or a tad smaller than her, and the baby-doll play is among her favorite. I am "Gammy", the dolls' grandmother, and, thankfully, I factor hugely into these activities.

Saturday morning, as I sat with a lapful of dolls, she fussed about, feeding everyone their bottles and checking diapers (I have sacrificed many a paper towel to make dolly diapers, and double-sided tape functions amazingly well as a fastener - it works almost like real diaper-tabs). She then told me that she was going to feed everyone baby food, and proceeded to pretend to be taking something down from an imaginary cupboard, opening "jars", pouring "food" into "bowls", and mixing everything with "spoons". I said, "So, what are you feeding your babies? Applesauce? Peaches? Squash? Peas?" With great solemnity she said, "No. I'm giving them strange mangoes." Well...she was so serious, I didn't have the heart to laugh out loud, but I did ask her about this. "El? Don't you mean...strained mangoes?" No, she adamantly replied. Strange mangoes.

And I think I like it better her way. It also sounds like an awesome name for a band...or maybe for the hopefully-some-day book. Because, to be perfectly honest, sometimes life is, well, like a bowlful of strange mangoes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Murder by Numbers

Yes, once again...a small aeon between posts.

I have long joked that the "math-gene" must skip a generation. The father of my children is an immensely intelligent man, with an undergraduate degree in engineering. I am making (this semester, at least) every effort to blow my attempts to wrap up a mechanical engineering degree (well, a 2-year, at least). As everyone obviously knows, if you're not good at/don't like math, DON'T go down the engineering path.

My 10-year old doesn't seem to have much in the way of math skills. As I've written before on this blog, he has oodles of other strengths, some of which are so special and uncommon that they easily supersede this shortfall. However, no one gets through fifth grade by achieving high marks in "intuition" or "sensitivity", so I do share his father's sentiments about his rather lackadaisical approach to the subjects which do not hold his interest, and I can relate to my ex-husband's frustration with some of the grades he's earned lately.

The similarities between us - at least on this subject - end there, however.

I do not consider myself an eminently patient woman. Where my kids are concerned, though, I've surprised myself many times. Likewise, I'm NOT creative but, once again, for them, I can be many things I cannot be for myself alone.

As to the differences between my ex and I: Under NO circumstances do I feel that it's appropriate to tell your middle-school-aged child that - just as a for-instance - he would benefit for a special tutor for retarded people. And, believe me: I know his wrath firsthand. Several years ago, I was having some difficulty with a physics course [I ended up dropping out of school during this semester; I was having a horrible time, and was almost constantly sick. I thought the culprit was stress, but it turned out that I was pregnant. For the eighth time in 6 years. Expecting another miscarriage, I left school - and was branded a "quitter" by my then-husband - but I'm glad I did. Several months later (and 5 weeks early) our healthy, amazingly un-preemie-like daughter was born], and he was merciless. This was calculus-bases physics, and I had gotten straight As in calculus. I was having difficulty setting up the problems, and I don't think I'll soon forget being asked, in the most sardonic, taunting tone, if I had taken "retard" calculus. So...I can relate to my son.

My ex-husband, despite his often vocal denigration of my approach to many things (in case I failed to mention this, he comes from a LONG line of perpetually negative people), asked me to step in and see what I could do. I came up with...Mama's Magic Math Methods. While I won't bore anyone with the details, this is nothing more than some little tricks I developed as a child to
enable me to do math in my head - and I still use them, and so far they seem to be helping.

What I really, really wanted to say to my husband is this: Unfortunately, math has not been kind to our son. For instance, he knows the following equations:

Mommy + Daddy + 2 kids = Happy Family of Four
(Family of four) + Mommy fucking up = Divorce and Loneliness

And he's certainly gotten a tremendous amount of exposure to the concept of diminishing returns, because (Him)/(Daddy's Thoughtless Cruelty) = ZERO. As in, zero self-esteem. And quite possibly (Him)/ in feeling like (1/2)(person).