Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Evil, thy name is Party City

The other day I went to Party City to purchase some party favors for Emma's upcoming butterfly-themed birthday party. I hate Party City. It was a last resort place to go after GPS led me to some stranger's house instead of my original destination, the Family Dollar Store. Then I attempted to find party favors at Michaels (I may need to join a Michaels-anonymous group soon), then Under 10 or 10 and Under or whatever that place is called, then JoAnn's (basically Michaels with fabric). I found lots of cute stuff at those places, but none of it fit my $2/per kid requirement for goody bags. That's when I headed to the dreaded Party City.

Party City had this crazy music playing, which I guess was supposed to be Halloween music. It was the same seven notes played over and over again in a minor key. I think it was supposed to be reminiscent of a pivotal scene in a cheesy horror movie. I couldn't have chosen more appropriate Party City music. That place is nothing if not cheesy and creepy.

At this time of year Party City also sounds like your garden-variety insane asylum. Every now and then, someone would walk by one of the talking Halloween decorations and cause it to shout mean, scary things or just laugh maniacally.
After passing by several aisles dedicated to Halloween costumes, mostly of the slutty variety (this year for Halloween you can be a slutty kitten, a slutty witch, a slutty fairy, a slutty ladybug, even a slutty pumpkin), I finally found the birthday party stuff. I weeded through all the High School Musical, Diego/Dora, SpongeBob and Backyardigans paraphernalia (I'm surprised there's not a "Nick Jr." party theme), and found some butterfly/nature things.

It's really tempting to just go crazy buying stuff for goody bags. Or at least it's tempting to me. I had to fight the urge to go nuts and just start throwing butterfly bubble necklaces, butterfly hair clips, and butterfly yo-yos into my cart willy nilly. I did restrain myself and thought long and hard about all this junk and where it was probably made and the poor little trained monkeys who are probably working in a sweatshop to make stuff for Party City, their slutty bumble-bee costumes chafing their delicate monkey skin. That's when I thought of the Party City Golden Rule.

Party City Golden Rule: Do not put anything in a goody bag that you would want to set fire to or throw out the window if your kid came home with it in a goody bag.

So, with this rule in mind, I chose some butterfly/nature notepads, pens, stickers and candy rings. Everything is recyclable/practical or you suck on it until it disappears. No major landfill damage done in the name of my child's birthday celebration.

I wish we didn't have to have places like Party City and I also wish I didn't just give them $3o of my money. For a place called Party City, the place was completely devoid of joy or party atmosphere. The store seems to distill parties down to their worst, basest elements. If an alien landed from outer space and went to Party City, he or she would have to assume that our parties are all about celebrating TV shows and sluttiness and consuming plastic junk and candy by the pinata-ful.

Would it be so terrible not to give kids goody bags at all? Are they really so important? Sometimes I like to make mix CDs of music that goes with the theme. Like for Charlie's last party, I made a Space Jams CD, which I've been known to listen to when the kids aren't around. I guess you have to send the kids home with some token party favor. You don't want word to get out that you throw lame parties. But I do think it's a good thing to be mindful of what you're buying and why. Maybe if we all stopped buying what Party City is selling, there would be no need for Party City anymore? A mom can dream...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Okay, so maybe this isn't just a writing blog

Carole had some good points in her comment on my last blog post (see comments). Thank you, Carole, for giving me some good food for thought. Maybe she's right. Maybe I shouldn't limit myself to writing about writing (as thrilling as that topic sounds). Even if I wanted to, I'm sure I won't be able to restrain myself from writing about my kids and our grocery store adventures. So, rest assured there will still be lots of kid/mommy musings on this blog.

I guess I wanted to narrow the focus of the blog a little because I'm just aching to write about what I'm currently struggling with. I have kind of settled into the whole mom routine. I haven't mastered it by any means, but I have resigned myself to the laundry and the puking and the sippy cup valves being welded to the bottom of the dishwasher. Those things aren't so compelling to me anymore. Not that I don't enjoy reading about others' kid-related drama, because I do; I just don't feel the compulsion to run to the computer each time something like that happens and write about it. What I do struggle with lately is how to take this mom person who has become so at home behind the wheel of a minivan, and reconcile her with this writer person who still lives inside of me.

Anyone relate to that? I have a feeling I'm not unique. Maybe you don't want to be a novelist, but you probably have other ambitions that you are pursuing or wish you could pursue that don't involve stain removal or breastfeeding.

I read this essay recently and it is haunting me. It's about a mom of four small children who is accepted to medical school (to her dream school). She writes about what it's like to hack away at a cadaver all day and then come home to a very lively household. Wow. If she can do that, I should be getting way more accomplished than I do. It is a beautifully written piece. Read it if you get a chance.

And here's something I read that made me cry. I was really at a low point this summer when I read it, feeling like there would never be time to pursue my own work, that three toilet-trained kids would be my magnum opus in life. But then I came across this essay and it felt like the writer had written a letter to me, reminding me that I am exactly where I need to be, doing the most important work I can possibly be doing, and that writing while the kids are asleep is enough and is infinitely better than an imagined alternative: no children sleeping in their beds, no messes to clean up at the end of the day, no baby food stains to wash out. The food stains and the laundry are not the point; they are by-products of a life lived with children, in other words, a life surrounded by wonder, imagination, raw emotion and immeasurable love.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This is supposed to be a writing blog

I intended for this blog to morph into a blog about writing and motherhood. That's why I now have a picture of a cool typewriter at the top, not that I use a typewriter. My mom asked what was wrong with my blog lately. "It says 'work in progress' at the top. Does that mean it's still loading?" No, that was my (failed) attempt at a cool tag line for my blog...I am a work in progress, the book I'm writing is a work in progress, my kids are a work in progress, this blog is a work in progress, etc. Note to self: lose cool tag line.

As part of my blog makeover, I started categorizing old blog posts, thinking most of them would fall into either the "writing" category or "motherhood" category. So far most of the posts have fallen into the "food" category. Maybe this is a blog about food? If that is true then I really need to lose the typewriter because that's just confusing.

No, I really don't want it to be about food. Even though I love food (obviously). I don't have any trouble eating, though. I don't really need encouragement when it comes to food. I do however need all kinds of help/encouragement/accountability/ideas in the writing department. So, this is a blog about writing and being a mom. And it is a work in progress. And there will probably be some food.

Here's my writing exercise for the day. Feel free to join in or not. If you do join in, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Tell me about a school lunch you had once. (See, I told you there'd be food.) Don't forget the details. Write for fifteen minutes.

P.S. Anyone can do this. You don't have to be a "writer."

P.P.S. Look at the links on the right for other blogs that might be of interest to moms who write.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Today we said goodbye to our little preschooler

And hello to our big kindergartner

She is at school as I write this. I'm tempted to drive by the school in my car and play her favorite VBS songs really loud in my minivan with the windows down. Maybe she'll hear the music, drop her chunky pencil and come running outside and into my arms?

I keep looking at pictures of her. She's really cute. I wonder if she's thinking about me? I miss her. Charlie just went out on the balcony to see if he could see her school bus that's not due to arrive for another three hours.

I almost started crying in the kindergarten hallway when the reality of it all hit me like a big yellow school bus. We will be doing this for eleven more years. Only eleven. And then we'll say goodbye to her again when we drop her off at college. We'll see her at Christmas and during the summer. Again, lots of opportunities for goodbyes. This whole goodbye business is just beginning, isn't it?

It doesn't feel so much like the beginning of something as it does the end of something. True, I have complained ad nauseam on this blog about the trials of being at home all day with preschoolers. It's not like I want to sign on for a life sentence of being a mommy to very young children. But still, I really never thought it would end so suddenly.

After we dropped off Emma at school, we went to a "boo-hoo breakfast" (coffee and donuts in the library). I didn't feel like boo-hooing then. I still had too much adrenaline coursing through my veins. We had not had to be anywhere with clothes on that early in a long, long time, so it took a lot out of me to get everyone dressed, fed, lunch and backpack packed, and out of the house on time. Now, I feel like boo-hooing big time. I know I will make it through this just fine, but right now it feels a little like I'm in mourning. I wasn't expecting to feel anything but joy, so this is catching me by surprise.

A friend was telling me that we could borrow her butterfly cage for Emma's upcoming butterfly-themed birthday party. She said I would have to excuse all the blood stains though. Apparently, when caterpillars become butterflies, it's sort of a violent process and a little butterfly blood gets shed as they are transforming. Who would've thought that something so natural and beautiful could be so painful?