Saturday, April 30, 2011

What a Difference 30 Years Makes

I was 9 years old in the summer of 1981. I remember it clearly. This was before my love of Duran Duran took hold and I think I still had posters of Ralph Macchio and Lief Garrett on my walls but when you're 9 and you get to watch someone become a princess, you pay attention.

On July 29 I set my alarm so I could get up bright and early to watch a wedding that was happening later in the day in a place I'd never been. If I remember correctly, I was the only one in my house that got up, but a lot of my girlfriends did as well. I can't put my finger on why it was so important to see someone I'd never met get married, but it was so I just left it at that. I made a scrapbook with the photos from the wedding and of the renderings of the dress. I thought it was the coolest thing as a 9 year old who still thought there was a possibility of a prince sweeping me off my feet. Ohhh, that made me laugh just thinking of that, for many reasons! Funny the things you believe when you're a child. I was raised by a single mother so how I believed that for even a second is beyond me.

I watched for hours while Lady Diana readied herself and stepped out of the carriage with her father, wearing a dress that can only be described as a confection and walked down the isle to a life that was cut short. No one could have guessed that day that she only had 16 years to live but we got to watch her do a lot of things in 16 years that were fun to watch for a girl growing up, always keeping her eyes on a princess.

At the age of 9 I didn't understand things like a 19 year old virgin or marrying someone you don't love because it is your duty. I didn't understand having your mistress attend your wedding and having her sit in full view of the bride and I didn't understand a Queen so out of touch that she sat back and watched it all happen figuring keeping a 19 year old under your thumb would be simple. I get that backwards way of thinking now that I'm 40 but that kind of shit wasn't even on my radar screen in 1981.

I was two months shy of turning 12 when Prince William was born in 1982 and even in the throws of my Duran Duran haze I remember watching the news coverage and collecting photos (which I still have) and thinking what a wonderful thing it must be to be born into such a wonderful family (hey, I was 12!) with such a loving mother. I remember the way she always doted on him and sat back and laughed when he ran around being goofy as most toddlers will. It wasn't something that wasn't expected from the royals so it was extra fun to watch her be so hands on with her son and then again with his brother when he came along in 1984.

I remember all too clearly the day she died. It was 1997 and I was working as a restaurant manager and heard the news on the radio as I drove home from my shift smelling like a mixture of turned remoulade and toasted ass. It's been proven over time that no one comes back from "grave" condition so when I heard that I knew she wasn't going to make the night. Truth is, she was probably already dead. I think they waited to release the information of her death until her sons got to the hospital. I stayed up all night watching CNN knowing that at any minute the ticker at the bottom of the screen would change from "Princess Diana in grave condition" to "Princess Diana is dead" and it did, but not until early morning. I cried. I remember being so upset. Not 9/11 upset but just saddened that she died so young and left her boys behind when she seemed to be coming into her own after the divorce.

The day of her funeral, I took off work. I sat in my apartment alone and recorded the majority of the day on VHS. No idea why I did that but I made myself sick watching that whole thing and teared up again when her sons chose to walk behind her casket with her brother, The Duke of Edinburgh and their father, who really didn't have to do it. The day of her funeral is also the day I stopped hating Prince Charles. Camilla Parker Bowles I'm still working on. No matter how hard I try, I just can't get the tampon phone call out of my head.

I collected newspapers and magazines for weeks and made scrapbooks of all of the clippings, just like I'd done when she was married. I was saddened that I'd followed her entire public life and boom, she was dead. It had been very upsetting for me. Even more so now as a mother who can't imagine leaving her babies, I wonder if in her last moments she was tormented knowing she had to do just that.

So, I've followed the princes in a "Oh, look how they're doing" kinda way over the years. I've seen them do incredibly stupid things like dressing up as Hitler for a party and wonderful things like the volunteer work and keeping up with the charities their mother thought important. I knew William was dating Kate Middleton for years but I'm not the type to buy magazines just to watch someone do their shopping or other mundane daily activities. I just think that's creepy but when I heard that after 8 years of dating that they were getting married, I got really excited and knew immediately that I'd be getting up really early in the morning to watch it.

In the end, I ended up doing much more than that. I got in my car at 1:15 in the morning and drove 15 hours in terrible weather, tornado traffic and other odd accidents to get to Nashville to get up at 4 AM to watch it with a friend who seemed to love it as much as I did. She's roughly the same age so it didn't really surprise me but it's nice to have others love what you do even if they can't really explain why either.

We watched the whole thing from start to finish. I'll be honest, I had Princess Diana on my mind the entire time. How could I not? I've always loved Prince William and watching his wedding is different because now I'm doing it as a mother and I can't help but think of how proud she would have been of him on this day and how although they're both royal weddings, how totally different they are. I remember waiting and waiting for Diana to get out of that car with her father and when she stepped out, her confection of a dress followed. It was beautiful and she looked beautiful but it was a lot of dress. Were as when Kate Middleton stepped from her car the dress was a completely different animal. She stepped from the car and the dress said exactly what she wanted it to. Her dress said, "I know what you're thinking of today, but I am NOT Princess Diana!" It worked. I don't think I thought much about that for the rest of the ceremony.

The dresses couldn't have been more different and neither was the day. Diana's wedding day wasn't really about her. She was a child marrying blindly into a business. Kate Middleton planned everything down to her dress which was more Grace Kelly that anything else. She looked beautiful but not in the way that most people expected which is nice. She certainly stood out on her day even in front of her sister who looked amazing and an Abby filled with some of the worst hats I've ever seen.

I mean the only way that hat was a success was if she was trying to draw attention away from her big choppers and HUGE eyeballs. It looked even worse from the back.

So, I had a good trip down memory lane that I enjoyed both with the wedding and visiting friends and places like my old high school in my hometown. I love seeing anyone succeed at something and I think getting what you want in the end after losing your mother at such a young age is a wonderful thing. I feel like we're all their mothers. I don't want to know his or Harry's personal business, I just like knowing that they're doing well and I think they are.

My husband doesn't understand my love of Princess Diana and her sons and why would he? He's 5 years too young and he has a penis. A boy can never understand a 9 year old girl longing to be a princess. Today my two year old while wearing a tutu, wings and carrying a wand turned to me and said (for the first time) "Momma, I'm a princess!" I was thrown off by it because this wedding aside, I'm not the princess type, unless princess's wear a lot of black and have terrible potty mouths. I never thought my daughter would be the type to love all things fluffy and hopefully she won't think someone is coming to save her because I don't want anyone leaving my house allowing someone to do everything for them or waiting for someone to save them from anything but maybe for now, that's OK. Maybe it's OK for her to wish for a Prince to give her a glass slipper. Maybe it's OK to long for a land of make believe where all dreams come true. She'll be hit with the realities of life soon enough. For now it's OK to dream of the fairy tale. Sometimes they come true, don't they?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Paper Mama's Photo Challenge ~ B&W

Because even with the absence of colour, she's still stunning.

The Paper Mama

Black & White Wednesday

Once a year we hop a train and take the kids into DC to see the cherry blossoms. Usually it's with my friends but scheduling and weather didn't work out this year so I went with the family and other friends on a Saturday. We ended up fighting two hailstorms and hiding under trees from the rains but it was beautiful and we got moments of very bright sun from an occasional cloud break. It's worth the trip every year.

I also love that I'm comfortable using photos I haven't taken with my Nikons but with an entirely new retro cell phone! Who knew those things would ever have 8 mp!

the long road

Body Image

I'm heavy. I've always been heavy or at least I can't remember a time when I didn't think I was. That isn't some fat girl cry for help, it's true. I wasn't down on myself, no more than the average teen growing up but I always felt fat, even if looking back I can't see that I was. My two friends below were really thin and while I wasn't I remember feeling so much bigger than them but I look at this photo and I don't see it. I was 14.

I remember in the 5th grade for some ungodly reason we had to weigh ourselves in class. I remember feeling sick to my stomach that I had to do that at school. Why you would weigh kids in class is beyond me! Clearly that would be an issue for some so what benefit you were trying to achieve was clearly outweighed (get it) by the fact that I skipped school that day. Well, the joke was on me because when I returned the following day, it had been rescheduled because the teacher at that shit hole of a middle school had been absent as well. So I had no where to run. Well played teacher whose name I can't recall, well played!

I was pissed!

In an attempt at privacy (I guess) they called each kid one at a time into a separate part of the room to weigh us individually and then sent us back to our seats where of course all of the other kids asked, "How much did you weigh?" Calling us out from our peers only to immediately return us to their demon souls and nosey questions made about as much sense as pulling all the girls into a "health" seminar to watch a reel to reel on our bodies and sexual needs. Then being sent into the hallways with a small brown paper bag like no one was going to know there was a big diaper like sanitary pad in there! Jr. High boys aren't THAT stupid! Uggghhhh....

Horrible 80s clothes aside, and that stupid Andy Taylor button I wore because I thought he didn't get enough love, this is me in 7th grade (I think). I pinned that damn thing to my shirt, jacket or purse for years until we had a falling out over a phony light sensitivity and a lawsuit. I wasn't all that fat here, but my friend Anna was tiny so I'm sure that made me feel bigger. I can't even think about my weight because all I see is turquoise. Who is that person? The following photo is even worse. I needed a personal stylist or an intervention or something. Geez.....

The point I'm getting at is not all women, fat or not, have self esteem issues but I guess it's more prevalent in the chunky chicks. Luckily I didn't have any of that post baby body conscious crap going on in my head. Yay! Let's hear it for already being fat!!!

The guestion I have is with the way I talk about weight, like it's a reality as opposed to some secret I'm trying to keep under wraps like my ass doesn't tell the story, is how do I teach my daughter about weight? She is super tiny and long, so my hopes of her having the body of a super model (minus the cocaine) haven't been dashed yet, but she eats like she just got out of prison so we will have to have a talk about it at some point if she continues.

She's tiny now but she'll pack on the potatoes and it will start to show in middle school, leading her into the world of family issues that I don't want to pass onto her. I'm a lot less concerned about her appearance than I am about her chances for high blood pressure and diabetes.

Ignore the hair (as if it were possible) and this is me in Jr high. Again, not huge but carrying a few extra pounds. Still, NOT how I remember it at all.

This was 10th grade and possibly my favorite photo of me ever because it's just so ridiculous but clearly I wasn't fat. Heavier than I should be, but not fat. The one after is 11th grade and while I don't like remembering myself wearing pink, I still don't see the fat I remember.

Photos fall off after high school up until I stated buying real cameras again but my concern for River is that she'll hear how I talk about weight and form weird issues about her own thinking that the word "FAT" is a bad word. I certainly don't call her "piggy" "chunky cheeks" or any of those other things it is OK to call a tiny baby but I do use the word fat as a realistic word and not a criticism. I think that's a good thing but I understand not all see it that way. I don't care how others see it but I worry that River could take my words and put them on herself.

I don't want to see my 4th grader on a diet for no other reason than poor body image. I don't want her to think that in order to be liked she has to fit into a mold that Vogue magazine created for her. Genetically she and her brother are screwed so I have to find other ways to make them see eating differently than I did when I was growing up. I don't want my kids to think that all meals come with fries and a soda. I don't want them thinking that hot dogs and chips are a regular lunch, but it's more than that.

Cover girls aren't real, they're created in a world of PhotoShop and airbrushed so if you compare yourself to that, you'll always lose. My goal is to teach River that while eating healthy is the way to go, she needs to see herself as perfect whatever size she is. I think you can be a size 0 and still think you're fat so why teach her that a smaller size is the goal? Why not teach her that self acceptance is the goal? Won't she be better off in the long run with a love of self as opposed to a fight for smaller size?

I have no idea where young girls get their screwed up body image! At least girls these days are being fired from fashion shows for being too thin because this is ridiculous! Do clothes really look better on this chick than they do someone who eats? I certainly don't want this to be a goal for my daughter! I think I'd rather be fat.
Thin may be in but I'll take my self assured kickass, in your face beautiful daughter over a scary thin girl any day, but balance is good. We're a work in progress....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I registered my son for school yesterday. My husband took an hour or so off and when I say he took it off, I mean he worked from home before driving our son to school and then going into work. My friend came over with her kids and hung out with River while I loitered at the school waiting for registration to begin.

I got there pretty early. That seemed like the thing to do. I was 7th in line which felt like a good place to be. This one school accepts registration for two school so while my son wouldn't (hopefully) go here, it was super fun to stand in front as the kids gathered to go in and listen to the way kids talk to one another. I'm shocked the "Did you get your jeans from Walmart" line is still in use after all these years. One chunky girl kept asking me if she could see my phone. Ummm, no.

I was thankfully able to specify which school out of the two I would like him to go to. It doesn't mean that he'll go to that one or even that he'll be accepted into either. Our public school system is such a cluster fuck that I wouldn't be shocked if I got a letter telling me he was accepted into the University of Mars.

As much trouble as I've had with the county school in the last few weeks, registration was pretty simple. As I said I was the 7th person in line but ended up being the first to register because I had all my paperwork and I spoke clear English. It must suck when doing something like this to not be able to understand what you're reading or being asked. All of the people in line before me who were registering their kids were doing so because it was need based. I could tell because they had a ton of paperwork to prove WIC, food stamps and annual income. Need based kids get in before those with an IEP (learning disability) and I for one think this is total bullshit. I don't need anyone to tell me what it's like to be in need and I believe those kids clearly have a right to schooling but you show me a parent who would rather be rich and have a kid with a learning disability as opposed to being poor and have a regularly developing four year old and I'll show you a shitty parent. My kid is in need, just not financially. It's a shitty system and I challenge anyone to tell me different. It's a revolving door of federal money, test scores and the rest of that shit but none of that means anything to me unless it benefits my son and this song and dance does nothing for him. I'm still on the fence as to if I'd send him there if he even got in. I could keep him out of public schools for one more year if I chose to. That's one more year before he starts getting beaten down by the system and shaped into a mold of their choosing. One more year before I put on my boxing gloves to demand he get the things he needs to succeed. We're still mulling it over. Hopefully with some distance from school visits that never happened, phone calls that weren't returned and some of the dumbest answers to questions that I've ever heard, I will be able to see some benefit to public schools again. I need breathing room from the Anne Arundle County Public School System and time to remember the excellent teachers he's had and has now to remember that they aren't all as worthless as I encountered in the last couple of weeks.

After registration and waiting out the monsoon that waited for me outside, I drove over to the school I want him to return to next year which is the same one I was registering him in this morning and was able to observe a Pre-K class. You'd think that's a no brainer but because of the discrimination against kids coming into Pre-K with an IEP, I've only been allowed to observe one other Pre-K out of the 5 I called so it was nice to be accepted as opposed to pushed aside because schools think your kid is stupid and is not worthy of their time. Refreshing actually and I can tell you this, schools that have nothing to hide are generally the ones with excellent teachers. The teachers I observed clearly liked children and had a level of respect for them that I think is essential. The schools that refused to let me visit are the ones that had the Pre-K teacher call me and offered no info other than the fact that they have "a basic run of the mill square classroom." Can I see a show of fucking hands, who went to school in a round classroom? Oval? Oblong? Pentagon? Anyone?

Sure some of the schools have better test scores but do you ever wonder how they do that? THEY DO IT BY DISCRIMINATING AGAINST CHILDREN THEY THINK WON'T DO WELL ON THOSE TESTS BY KEEPING THEM OUT OF THEIR SCHOOL!!!!! So, think about that the next time you praise yourself for having your kid in the best school and then bend over and kiss your own ass that your kid is a regularly developing kid, cause not all are and some parents have to fight for their kid just to be able to learn. From now on when I hear that a school has excellent test scores I am going to envision all the horrible discriminatory things they did to get those scores and then I will question your sanity for believing otherwise.

Ahhhhh, America, where all men are created equal...unless you have a learning disability, are born with a deformity, are gay, or an immigrant (legal or not), have a speech impediment, are a boy with long hair..... One thing America doesn't do well is accept things that are different. Such an arrogant country.

Now we wait until August to find out if he even got in, another downside to the shitty system.

If Pre-K is this bad, how much ass am I going to have to kick when he's in high school? I shudder to think but I have one thing going for me, I don't give two shits if the people at his school hate me. I love my kid enough to be totally at peace with people running when they see me coming. I was always told that it's good when people like you but if everyone likes you , you're doing something wrong. So surely it must be OK if some people like me while I have a few haters. Sounds like I'm ahead of the game, right?

It seems like just yesterday I was worried about burp cloths and sippy cups. Now I'm fighting for my baby to get the education every kid deserves. My how the times have changed....