Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Meet my dog, Boner.

Meet, my dog Boner.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Boner.  I’m strategically placing the “e” in there, because, frankly it makes it easier for me to read.

This is the beloved name of my three year old daughter’s imaginary dog.  Not Cupcake. Or Snowflake or even Spot.   No, his name is, Boner.

Now, because I am her mother and speak her  slightly linguistically awkward syntax, I understand that “Boner” is her cutie-version of Bone…which is related to dog…which is not related to cat….it’s a cumbersome set of rules.  But, I get it. Bones go with dogs.  Little dogs are cute…so a puppy should be called, Bone-r.  Or Bone-y. 

Either way, I cringe a little each time she tells me about Boner’s day.  

Standing there on the driveway, blond rings of hair framing her little face, she earnestly shares Boner’s daily habits and personality attributes.

Boner is happy today…. Yes, I bet he is.

Boner likes to play ball....Um-hm. That’s what I hear.

Boner needs a bath…Ummm.

Boner likes to be petted……Gag.

Boner likes to lick me….. Too far.

Or course, I have tried to suggest other acceptable puppy names. 

“Looks like your dog likes to run fast… maybe he should be called Cheetah?”

Response:  No, Boner is just excited.

 “Hmm…he likes snacks, what about Scooby?”

Response:  Yup, Boner sure gets hungry.  


At just three, she has many similar traits of a German nanny:  Suspect. Tough. Unwavering.  

And I know I should accept defeat.  Boner it is and Boner it will remain. 

I assume this is just another, though slightly disturbing, tactic of the emotional warfare launched last summer for the “puppy campaign”.

Apparently, the existing pets or playhouse, or pool that currently distract, ahem…I mean entertain us are no comparison to a dog.  It has become the SUPREME WISH of the household....with my exception. Every birthday wish.  Every Christmas list.  You know those cute little interviews that they fill out in preschool…What is your greatest wish?  ….to have a mom that will let us get a dog (interesting it wasn’t just for the dog itself….).

I am losing the battle. But I won’t go down without a fight.

We have four kids. Honestly, I kind of feel like I could stop right there.  Four kids in seven years…and I am just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I really thought I was ready to take off the whole potty-training hat (except for my own increasing need to run to bathrooms…).  You want to talk responsibility?  How about putting your nasty muddy socks in the laundry instead of on the kitchen table?  And a puppy needs to be fed.  No, not go-gurt leftovers.  And, they eat Every day.  They don’t have a 2-4 day window like the Beta fish so graciously agrees to (so far…).

And yet, in my heart of hearts, I know it would be loved. It would be fawned over.  Brushed and cuddled. Cried on.  Dressed up in hats and wheeled around in baby carriages. Pushed through home-made obstacle courses and taught to jump off the diving board. It would highlight my own.  Their own strengths and weaknesses and it would add to their joy.

 And selfishly, what in the world is better than to witness your own children fall in love?  To watch them connect with another spirit in this world.  A friend to greet them, a companion to be still with, an opportunity to teach and lead, a vacuum for my floors….

 I admit, the campaign is compelling.

I mean, just look at Boner.  He hasn’t caused too much trouble yet.  



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Free Range

Everybody loves something about their home.  And there is a lot to fall in love with here in Stillwater.  Old Victorians with charming front porches line our street.  Vaulted ceilings.  Woodwork. River views. Hundred year old alcoves with little fountains and fish ponds. Seven years ago when we told our friends we were moving here, no doubt they pictured the quaint multi-colored turrets that poke up into our skyline. It is a magic little place to live; where stories of pioneer days and prohibition aren't too hard to envision in our very own backyard.  Yes, its true, I fell in love with the romanticism alive in this little valley and I dragged my beau out of the city and onto the North Hill. 

But not for the reasons you might think.

No Victorian.  No charming circus paint scheme.  No turrets or window seats.

Old?  Yes.

Charming? With years of work....maybe.

View?  Nope. And this was a good thing.

The six foot privacy fence all the way around the house meant FREEDOM. And I have to admit, we have savored the taste. Perhaps a little too much freedom, in retrospect. 

Because, this spring the fence came down and I'm pretty sure I'm on a county watchlist for child endangerment.

Its amazing the things that we let our kids do when we don't think anyone is looking.

Can I pee outside?  Yes.

Can I set up a homemade zip-line?  Yes

Bodypaint?  Why not?

But, can I eat, drink, slip and slide, hula hoop, play tag, dodge Nerf bullets, pitch baseballs, ride bikes....Naked? 

Yes. By all means....just stay inside the fence. 

Magic. A lot of sunscreen.  But Magic.

Like a little bubble of safety.  A visible break between the independent curiousity that accompanies all childhood and the expectations of a watching society. You can make mistakes here and it will be OK. No doubt it will be dirty and messy and LOUD, but OK.

Of course, this all started with I only had 2 little boys.  Toddlers with bright round tummies and bleached blond hair.  Digging in the mud and making waterslides for their Hotwheels out of old gutters.  Why get swimsuits?  Naked was easy.  A lot easier than those damn Swimmers.  And...we had the fence.

But, of course, they grow up.  Now there are 4 little blond heads ( well, one is pretty strawberry...) running around the same yard.  And this spring more than most, we are all ready to throw caution to the wind and get dirty out in the sunshine. Bring on the mud.  Bring on the sunscreen and water balloons. Limitless Band-aids and Icees. We have put in our time this MN winter, and we are eager to PLAY hard.

But, whoa there cowboy...... keep your pants on, literally. You are ten. And eight. And that's weird for our neighbors.  You know, the people that live in the houses next door to us?  I know that you have been trained for years to just strip off the mud and enjoy a nice air dry, but we don't want an officer to visit us this afternoon.

So mama hen says, : Go ahead, chickadees.  You still have free range of the exact same yard.  Go play and peck around in they mud.  Go scratch for treasures hiding in the bushes. Go eat your soggy Goldfish crackers in the shade of the willow.

But no.  They stay on the deck. Like I've cinched them into a tight jacket and its just not worth the effort to squirm free. Like I've clipped their little wings.

Adverse to any real physical labor, the boys would typically put up a good fight if assigned the "wheelbarrow bitch" or "raking monkey" of woodchips and leftover fence debris.  But, I'll tell you what, there's a little fire burning to get things done.  Like to build a new fence.

I'm thinking naked Frisbee isn't that far away. 

And all this time I thought they didn't understand boundaries.... 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Accidental Nudist

"Don't stare...", I say to my five year old in the locker room.

But I know there really isn't another choice. Naked strangers are casually managing their locker scenario and despite our near constant nudity at home, naked strangers are well.... unsettling.

It always amazes me how comfortable other people are in locker rooms.

Women standing in front of mirrors blow drying their hair. Naked.

One woman has managed to bend over for near five minutes to put on socks and tie high top shoes.  Naked. Really?  Gonna pull your shorts on over your high-tops?  I'm going to have to turn around for that display.

Another has been desperately searching under benches and in wet bathroom stalls for her lost mascara. Naked. Its a special kind of girl that will lay down on a wet bathroom floor buck naked. Getting up is less attractive.  I'm just sayin'.....

I am not this girl.

No, I am the "create a make-shift tent out of a wet towel and pull my up my under wire until it cracks" in 4 seconds flat" girl.  I search out the corner lockers. I don't make conversation with others.

I used to be better at this modesty thing.  If nothing else, I used to be more efficient. I could shove my pieces into a forgiving pair of leggings and a sweatshirt before you can get your locker key unpinned from swim skirt.  This was long ago in my past life when I only had to care for my own naked body.  Now, of course, there are so many other little bodies to manage.

Enter the "family locker room".  Purposely set up for the three ring circus that accompanies changing multiple children and wobbly mothers into swim gear.  Or so I thought.

I hear myself say all sorts of ugly mother comments: "Don't sit on the floor you can get plantar warts on your butt.  Don't lick the mirror. You can't wear underwear under your swimsuit.  Don't squirt your go-gurt in the swimsuit spinner".

And this is just my own pack.

Other mamas are head first into giant bags of towels, stripping off soggy swim diapers and swearing into lockers full of their own squirrely kiddos.  Babies are crying. A young boy pees openly in the tile drain in the middle of the floor.  Somebody is always missing a flip flop.

Enough of modesty.  I just want out before we end of with stitches or Hepatitis.

I bravely remove my clothes (swearing at myself for not changing into a suit at home...) and hear the shriek of my three year old.

Her hand is stuck in the paper towel dispenser. 

And I have once again morphed into the lady I NEVER wanted to be.  The naked lady walking around the locker room.  Did I say walking?  No, more of a trot.  And naked trotting was certainly not on my bucket list.

In the moment I don't care.  The shrieks sound similar to a child about to become and amputee, so I fall into the role of mother bear and claw my way forward.

Its the walk back to our home locker that shames.  Children pressed back against the wall, mother's shielding little one's eyes, an older boy uncomfortably tying his swim trunks.  

A forty something year old man standing in the shower hallway?

What the f*#%k?

Quickly, I look around for reassurance.  Family dressing room, right?

Moms with beach bags. Check.

Half naked children. Check.

Other changing women......other changing women? For Christ's sake, give me a stranger's boob, please!!!

No.  Suddenly I feel like the college girl who took the "lets go skinny-dipping" comment WAY to seriously. A little too eager to rip off her shirt.  A little lonely on the edge of the lake.....

I'm really am so slow to put the pieces together.  Family Dressing room.   This sounds so wholesome. So thoughtful. So helpful.  Like there might be Kumbaya playing on the speakers and graham crackers and milk on the way out.....maybe a cocktail?

But I'm definitely not getting the family friendly vibe.  These are scary faces looking at me.  Scary stranger faces.  I just want my wet towel tent. My corner locker....where is it??!?! 

Its right here....past these dressing rooms on the right.

Good Lord. 

Dressing rooms. 

For people to take their clothes off in private.  For FAMILIES to take their clothes off in private.  Families ...like with Dads. 

Private. Like not waving your chicken patties around while you trot through the locker room, private.

I duck into a dressing room and sit down on a nasty bench.  I don't even care if I get plantar warts on my butt.  I deserve plantar wart ass.

A little part of me waits to see if security is coming to escort me out.  What have I done?  I probably just ruined any chance of that young boy enjoying  his eventual prom night.....

My five year old daughter starts to giggle. " Mommy, everyone saw you naked!!  I can see your butt".

And I have to laugh.  After all the years I have winced in ladies locker rooms, hidden behind my wet towel tent, I have become the spectacle. Somebody will go home tonight and tell their WIFE about the inappropriate, brazen behavior of a mad-woman who ran naked through the family locker room.  I have become an uncomfortable moment for some kids.

Honestly, it would have been better to sit down and paint my toe nails in the ladies locker room buck naked than to take a jog through the Family locker room.

And this is how it goes.  Kids still want to swim. I have to suck it up and in and stuff it into a swimsuit and walk out into the waterpark.  Which I do. As soon as I feel like a good amount of time has passed without a security knock....

I am reminded of how hard it is to fight for control.  How hard I sometimes try to keep my world contained.  Covered. Wrapped up. Safe.

I have been searching for a corner to carve out and claim, without distraction.  A piece of life that won't be interfered with or disturbed by strangers. Strangers who challenge me to let go and be secure without guard. To be comfortable in my own skin (sorry...had to :)

But, there is safety in my wet towel tent. Safety from judgement and added responsibility. I can fool myself into thinking that when I'm in control of my world at any given time, I am succeeding. But, of course, this isn't safety or success. This is living in fear.

And thankfully, there are moments in our life, when we are given the chance (though sometimes unwittingly...) to be brave.  Moments that we never would have chosen. Circumstances we never would have planned. But, nonetheless, an opportunity to let down our guards, and grow.

A chance to see that we don't have to hold on so tightly to keep it all together. We can make mistakes and be forgiven. We can lose things and they will be found.  It can be unplanned and still successful.

It can be raw, plain, naked, and still beautiful. Maybe more beautiful.

We can be in the moment and it can be enough.

So, next time, I think we'll forgo the Family Locker room.  I mean, really, what's the point?  I might as well enter the ranks of the casually naked than try to weave and stuff and shuffle through the alternative.  These ladies don't care if I look like I've been mauled by a bear, they have their own stretch marks to moisturize and exfoliate in the buff. And my toenails could use a fresh coat.

That wet towel was just getting too damn heavy anyway.