Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate

Orlando, Florida, the South, Trader Joe's and Hipsters

Aveline is in swim class now. This means, for 30 minutes every other day, I sit on a plastic chair pool-side,  and sweat buckets of water. It still a mystery to me how a human body physically can produce beads of sweat when the air around said body is already 100% saturated with water. Given the excessive humidity, it’s something of a physiological miracle. I’m not to dangle any appendages in the pool, because I’m not a resident of Exclusive Subdivision, and therefore unclean. So, I sit, sweat, and squint in the sun’s general direction, trying to suppress my motherly instincts and my own fear of treading water while Aveline sinks like a rock and the teacher (bless her heart) patiently shows her again how to do All the Things You’re Supposed to do to Avoid Looking Like a Penguin Attempting to Dog Paddle.

I live in the same zip code as Exclusive Subdivision. Well, it’s not actually called Exclusive Subdivision. People around here call it Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate. It’s about 2 blocks from Lakes of the Large Stoic Aquatic Bird, next to Excellence in Everything School, which is just across the boulevard from where I live, Grassy Plains of the Imaginary National Monument (press two for English).

Neighborhoods here are funny. Even at the public parks, the official man on the golf cart can kick you out if you don’t live nearby. No, wait. That statement might be confused with something that actually makes a modicum of sense. The official man on the golf cart can kick you out if you’re not carrying a paper card, issued by the community office, which duplicates the address already printed on your driver’s license. These fanc-eh paper cards have a clip-art image of a crested tropical bird, and are only available at the town hall and the grocery store, next to the cigarettes and the whooping cough vaccines.

This spring, when I tried to sign Aveline up for Pee-Wee-Super-Tiny-Bordering-on-Ridiculous Soccer  (the soccer balls used vary between the size of large spring peas and large tomatoes), the soccer organization told me they weren’t permitted to run a soccer team in my neighborhood. The neighborhood association was concerned, they said. Kids without clip-art cards might try to join.

I’ve managed to live here for a few years now without getting a biodegradable ID card, but I do kind of have to duck and run whenever the official man on the golf cart starts trawdling* in my direction. [*not actually a word.]

The ironic thing is, this community isn’t actually high-brow. (I say this with a smidge of authority, since I’ve lived in approximately 4,028 different neighborhoods in my three decades on earth.) In fact, the newspapers here have been buzzing about the latest terror sweeping the streets: Trader Joe’s is coming to town. Being a Californian and interested in such things, I tried reading the news stories about the impending Grand Opening this month. I only got as far as (and I quote), “it’s a hellscape of scarf-wrapped hipsters.”

Apparently nothing strikes fear into the hearts of Patriotic Eagle Hawk-Birds who Invisibly yet Condescendingly Guard the Gate residents like chocolate-covered almonds and seaweed snacks.

Well, I know what I’m noshing on during Aveline’s next swim class.

I’ll leave the scarf at home, though.

Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Parenting Magazines vs. Reality

Study says parents spend 21 hours per week actively parenting their children. This blogger says, HA HA HA HA

We receive a big stack of magazines every month, and of those, a large percentage are free subscriptions. I’ve never needed an excuse to read a magazine, although I don’t always fork over the cash for them. Once, when my mother-in-law was trying to describe me to an employee at a library we both frequented, the disappointed librarian exclaimed, “Oh yes! She checks out…magazines.”

Some magazines, like Martha Stewart Living, Dwell, and Inc., I love. Others — like Parents — I find myself reading just because the content baffles me so much.

For instance, a few months ago, Parents ran a Venn diagram of stay-at-home moms vs. outside-the-home working moms. The word “exhausted” was conspicuously absent from the stay-at-home mom’s circle. I rubbed my eyes and looked again, thinking perhaps my sleep-deprived orbs deceived me. But I showed the magazine to two or three well-rested friends, and they saw the same thing. Outside job or not, I think any woman who has brought forth another human from her own body will agree “exhausting” is a mild and kind descriptor.

This month, one of the feature articles in Parents is about hyperparenting. I have no idea what hyperparenting is; but admittedly, I’m still getting used to the idea of the word “parenting” being tossed around as a verb. My Oxford dictionary tells me  n., a father or a mother; but then again, there’s probably a word for people who still own multiple copies of physical dictionaries, too.

I’ve been reading the article in snippets, in between explaining to a small bouncing kangaroo the difference between the clothes in the laundry basket and the clothes in her dresser. (“I not Aveline today, mummy. I just a little kangaroo.”) The author, Gail O’Connor, cites a 1995 University of California, San Diego study which apparently found that “mothers spent an average of about 12 hours weekly actively attending to their children”. The author goes on to say that “by 2007, that number had risen to 21 hours.”

Certainly the author meant 210 hours? Because, in any given 168-hour week, I would say about 210 of those 168 hours are spent actively attending to my child — er, kangaroo.

I started a load of wash, first stopping to gather up Hello Kitty unders from various points throughout the house while once more expounding upon the virtues of the laundry hamper to my bouncy offspring. I then stepped on a Lego, removed a My Little Pony comb from my screeching kangaroo’s flowing locks, and spent the next fifteen minutes explaining that I could not, in fact, miraculously refill the squeeze bottle of Elmer’s despite the pile of farkly [sparkly] beads just begging to to be glued into the coloring book pages.

I turned back toward the coffee pot. I could see the fluorescent light glinting off the stainless steel of the French Press. The miraculous vision blinded me, and I tripped over the magazine. Twenty-one hours per week, it said.

Cold coffee in hand, I moved a pirate and a Lego flower and sat down again to ponder this. Last Wednesday was 24 hours long, five of which I slept, except for the two occasions at 4 AM and 5 AM when I was, in fact, not asleep and instead in my kangaroo’s room bouncing her. (Ah, how the tides have turned.) According to my highly-calibrated mathulator, I logged 21+ hours of “actively attending to a child” on Wednesday alone.

Staring blankly into the bottom of my coffee mug, I suddenly remembered where we had an extra bottle of Elmer’s glue. “Aveline!” I called, holding out the magazine. “Do you still want to glue beads?”