Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Dad in the Making

My son is on the floor, busy with an art project while Jevo and I sit on the couch, reading. It's Friday night, which for us is reserved as a time to unwind and relax. We usually order pizza, watch a bit of TV and overall keep it low-key.

The project Max is working on is a present for my dad for Father's Day. These projects of his are pretty much the same: he takes a large scrapbook page and writes a message on the blank side, then proceeds to cover it with stickers. He's found some stickers he didn't know he had and is pasting the hell out of my father's sheet. Soon enough, you can barely see the "I love you papi" he'd written on it. I tell him the piece looks complete, but he wants to continue creating. I suggest he think of someone else he wants to make something special for, and I see his eyes drift toward Jevo.

I go up to him and ask if he wants help finding more paper. As we rummage through the supplies, he whispers that he wants to make something for Jevo. I help him find the right sheet and as I do so, he whispers that he has some great superhero stickers that he wants to give him and will use those. "I'm going to give him all of them, mommy," he tells me.

He's stumped though, by what to write him. He whispers to me that Jevo is not his dad, so he can't write "Happy Father's Day." I nod, wondering how to address this, when he continues: "but if you marry him, he'll be my other dad." I acknowledge that he's right and he asks, "so when are you going to marry him?" This is heading somewhere pretty complicated for a relaxing Friday night, so I side-step the question and say, "You know, he helps take care of you. Remember how tomorrow it's just you guys in the morning? He'll play with you and be here with you and probably take you on an adventure."

He settles down to his work and calls me over once again. He knows what he wants to say but needs my help spelling it all out. I write what he whispers on a piece of scrap paper and leave him to it. During all this, Jevo is buried in his newspaper, and I have no clue if he's aware of what's going on.

He finishes and doesn't want to wait till Sunday to give it to him. He hurtles toward Jevo and shoves his project at him, kinda yelling at him to look look look. It's another sheet covered in stickers, this time the huge superhero ones he was so excited to find earlier. In-between the stickers he's written "thank you for taking care of me." He's proud of himself and Jevo, it seems, is moved.

Bedtime comes along, and a very tired Max becomes a total pain in the ass. He's whiny, stalling, uncooperative. Worse, I'm frustrated by this seemingly from nowhere change and have zero patience for it. He wants to fight and I just want him to get in bed. Jevo knows it's been a rough couple of days on that front, with Max challenging every. single. thing. I. say. This meltdown is about to implode with my very own meltdown, when Jevo calls him over. He takes Max onto his lap and very quietly speaks to him. I catch some of what he says, that it's bedtime, that he needs to listen to mommy, that tomorrow will be lots of fun but only if he gets to bed, that he's so excited about all the fun things they'll be doing together. Max promptly settles down and gets in bed without another peep or fuss.

The next morning, I'm off on a couple of appointments and errands and it's just the two of them for a while. This is about the third or fourth time that they have one-on-one time. Jevo takes Max skating around the block. They pay my parents a visit, and then head back home, where Max tries to weasel a sugary snack that Jevo pronounces a no-go: he can have fruit, but no sweets. I return home a couple of hours later to find them alive, in one piece and doing a-o.k.

Later on, at a friend's pool party, I notice a seamlessness to how they interact. They play, Jevo warns for safety's sake, Max listens, they play again. They're each hesitating less around the other.

Jevo is well aware of the challenges I face as Max's mom. He's seen this kid at his worst and he's seen my embarrassment, my sense of not knowing what the hell to do. He knows I get extra tense and anxious in public, that I get less and less patient and more and more irritated when Max has a spate of challenging days and it seems like it'll never end.

And the thing is, he is unfazed by it, all of it, it seems. He is patient where I am not, calming when both Max and I need it, fun and active when Max's energy exceeds my own. He has insight into my son and never fails to offer me a perspective I can't conjure up on my own. Above all, he is kind. He is always unfailingly kind to my son.

It's been a while now since I feel like we're on trial, like he's watching the train wreck and any minute now will make the call - yeah, these two are insane - and book it out of here. Somewhere along the way, he became a part of us. It all hit me this weekend because all of it was so... normal.

So it's true: he's not a dad. But little by little, in subtle, simple ways, he is becoming one. And he's a pretty darn excellent dad in the making.

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Posted by Tere @ 6/19/2011   | | | links to this post

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If You "Like" Me, I Promise Not to Think You Actually LIKE Me

I don’t like amassing *friends* on Facebook. I reserve my FB profile for people I know in real life, the exception being some friends that I’ve met through blogging (as contributors to the same site), whom I *know* through our works and through emailing, but I don’t know know. You know?

Anyway. My FB is personal and private and that's that. Still, I’ve been thinking for a while about how I’d like a way to connect with folks who visit this site, and about how I sometimes want to have more immediate interaction with readers but this blog format is not suited for that.

It finally occurred to me (I know, like, 3,000 years too late) that the answer might lie in a FB page for this site. I have no idea if I’m on to something here or if this is a dumb idea, but whatev. I just created the page (no really, just created it as in, just right now) and am sharing the link here so that you, if you’re so inclined, may click and “like” and hopefully enjoy whatever it is I’ll be doing there.

Look at me, I’m on Facebook!

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Posted by Tere @ 6/16/2011   | | | links to this post

Friday, June 10, 2011

Forever 21 Wants Me to Die from the Horrible Stench of Their Clothes

Seems like bad smells will be the death of me this year.

After talking to folks at my local store and scouring teh interwebz for useful info and finding none, I'm here to see if anyone out there can solve this mystery for me: why do the clothes I order from Forever 21 smell like they were soaked in a vat of chemicals for approximately one month before being wrapped and sent to me?

My guess: because they are.

I know that clothing manufacturers treat clothes with chemicals (formaldehyde?) for various reasons, mainly to prevent mildew (if it's made of natural fibers and being shipped from far away, namely, Asia) and so they don't wrinkle and stay looking good. I habitually wash all new clothes before wearing them.

But man, the clothes from F21 beat everything - the smell is SO strong and terrible, unlike any I've smelled on any clothing, ever. I can't even identify it - petroleum? A pesticide? Acid? I have no clue. I've never noticed the smell in the stores, though I've read some blog posts where people have said they have. My problem is with the items I order online that arrive in plastic bags. I've had about three items arrive over the last year with this stench. This last order I placed last month contained one item (it's not even everything in the order) that's been by far the worst. It was sickening. I can't even describe what it felt like to touch that thing (the smell stayed on my hands for a few hours after touching it for a couple of minutes), much less smell it. Horror. Pure horror.

Oh, we should pause here. Because it just occurred to me that I should address something: why the hell am I buying clothes from Forever 21?!

Because some of their stuff is cute and cheap and trendy. And I'm a clotheswhore. That's pretty much it.

I should have returned it. Because oh yeah, I kept it. (What the hell is wrong with me?) I was going to return it, but the truth is, it's such a pretty shirt. That's dumb of me, right? To cling to the stinkerific shirt because it's so darn cute? I'm just so powerless in the face of cute cheap clothes...

But I did, I kept it. I devoted a whole 15 minutes to my dilemma - keep it or send it back - and was leaning toward "send it back," when my perverse, masochistic side kicked in, and I thought: I can beat this. I can find a way to get rid of this stench and enjoy my cute-ass sheer floral $17 shirt. I will conquer this poisonous smell and win!

I basically hung the shirt up and put it in the garage, far from human contact, to air out. Two weeks later, you can barely notice the smell! See? I'm winning! Forever 21 won't kill me yet!

Next up: a few dozen rounds in the washer.

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Posted by Tere @ 6/10/2011   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Damned Cats

She is a nice lady. I feel obligated to state that because she is. She is friendly and chatty but not overly so, not knocking on my door or monopolizing my time when we're both outside and chat. She asks permission before entering my backyard to retrieve her grandson's ball, and she's repeatedly offered us use of her above-the-ground pool.

That said, she's driving me insane with her cats. Seriously, I'm about to lose it.

Before she moved in next door, there was no cat problem around here. There were a couple of strays that hung out toward the back of the yard, on the wall that borders another property, and it was no big deal. They kept to themselves and left my yard alone.

And then she moved in, and the problem began. All of a sudden, I noticed five, six cats, loitering in my back yard. Then, a terrible, sickening stench began to permeate through my front yard, and then the back. Cat poop. And then, on my porch - my porch! - cat pee. The smell of each of these is disgusting enough to make anyone want to vomit, and now they were seeping out of my property.

And then one day, chatting over the fence, she drops this gem: "I already have four cats inside the house, so I can't let these in, too. Besides, they're strays. I used to feed them at my old house, and when I left, I couldn't leave them behind. Who would feed them?"

This crazy-ass lady picked up the stray cats from her old neighborhood and set them loose in mine. She picked up a bunch of stray cats and moved them with her.

I was so shocked when she said that I was speechless. It took me a whole day to process that - did she really say she brought the stray cats with her? - so in the moment, I was just dumbstruck. Who the hell moves and brings the stray cats with them?! Don't people think about the nuisance they're unleashing on others? These cats have turned my yard into their toilet, and it's disgusting and frustrating! I've spread all kinds of concoctions - pepper, orange rinds, used coffee grounds - and nothing works. I bought the putrid spray that "guarantees" to drive them out, and it did not! Nothing drives them away! And with this heat, the stench of the crap is unbearable, and coupled with knowing that we can't freely enjoy the yard because a pile can be anywhere, I'm about to go nuts here. Oh, and one of the females has given birth - twice - in my yard, and another one might be pregnant. W.T.F.

I'm seriously at my wits' end with these damn cats. And I'm so mad at my otherwise-nice neighbor for bringing them here. It's so thoughtless; I can't wrap my mind around how a person could do something like this, let loose a bunch of filthy creatures so they become someone else's problem. Because she was worried over who would feed them? They're strays, they'll figure it out!

Meanwhile, I have a big, revolting problem on my hands, and I don't know what to do about it. I don't want to harm them, of course, but I really want them gone. GONE. I want my yard back! I want the stench gone!

Damn. these. friggin. cats.

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Posted by Tere @ 6/08/2011   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Season of the Sticky Sweet

I see from the corner of my eye something shimmery at my shoulder. Turning, I see the shimmer move and multiply.


My hair lately is all but coated in mango sap. Discovering random sap beads throughout the day is a constant reminder that this time of the year, I am a slave to my mango tree.

She is the centerpiece of my yard, a tree that's (at the very least) 25 years old, large, sturdy, with branches reaching up and out, way out. Her shade is perfect for the hammock, and many are the days, afternoons and evenings I've spent lying there, staring through her leaves and savoring the breeze. Sometimes, my son joins me and we cuddle, talking about the tree, the sky, mangoes, and anything else that crosses our minds.

I love this tree. I love her for how beautiful she is, for the fruit she bears (my favorite), for that shade that's a godsend during the hot, stifling summer.

I am indeed its slave now, spending my mornings and early evenings picking up the fallen fruit, checking and rechecking her from every angle to see if any mango needs to be picked so that it doesn't fall and is ruined while I'm away. If I'm not quick enough at doing the daily rounds, the ones highest up may fall and smash too much to be saved, or worse, they fall and the snails and beetles get to them before I do. The tree is big enough that the fruit falls over a wide surface, about half the yard, and so it takes some time to carefully comb through the grass and underbrush to make sure I haven't missed any.

The mangoes this year are perfect, round and meaty and so sweet and juicy it brings tears to my eyes to eat them. The sap is plentiful and sticky, beaded on the fruits when I pick them off the ground or flowing, flowing, when I pick them off the tree, and sticking to my fingers, the pick-up bucket, my hair. And, as if to make up for last year's terrible crop, it's borne such an abundance of fruit that it's overwhelming.

I say that in both the bad and good way. This week it's felt impossible to keep up with the tree, my stove, kitchen counter and fridge crammed with mangoes so that nothing fits anywhere, and I can see I have another two or three weeks to go (and I'm in week three right now), but at the same time, it's beautiful. It's beautiful to look at the tree, to contemplate its power, to feel those perfect mangoes in my hands and know the joy they contain.

I'm your slave, tree, but I'm a happy one.

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Posted by Tere @ 6/01/2011   | | | links to this post