Pinterish: Kinda Sorta Making Something You Saw on the Web

I once tried to fix the sole of a saddle shoe using nothing but Superglue. Just eight years old, I figured how hard could it be?  I ended up conjoining two of my fingers and gluing the shoe to the kitchen floor. With a great deal of tugging on my part, the shoe eventually did lift from the floor but so also did the white tile—a couple of quarter-sized pieces at least. My mom arrived home just in time to see me crying hysterically while trying to cover up the bald spots. Out, out, damn spots! I was using white watercolor and a tiny watercolor brush.

Fast forward 30 years, and I am still not a quality do-it-yourselfer. I wish I were, but I don’t have the patience. This is an actual board I keep on Pinterest:

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See that teepee to the right? See that bleeping teepee? Well, I don’t know who the hell I think I am, but I tried to make that thing today. I can’t explain why, but something came over me in bed this morning when realized I had a whole day with my 5-year-old to myself. (Normally my mom has him for a few hours on Mondays.) It was windy outside, and I thought, “We should have a kite.” My next thought was, “I could totally make a kite.” But once I got onto Pinterest, my ambition somehow morphed from cutting out a paper-bag square to building a mother-loving TEEPEE.

The crafter who designed this project had me convinced that she made it out of random fabric remnants already somewhere in her house, and that she just had to buy six 1x2x8 planks, tie them together with some jute, and glue-gun a bunch of fabric pieces to the frame. She didn’t spend even $10 on the whole thing! Someone else on Pinterest actually had the gall to refer to this nightmare as a “fun DIY gift idea!”

Let me tell you, I worked my ass off making this ridiculous teepee today. Do you know what happens when a dwelling is designed by a crafter rather than an engineer? It looks great on Pinterest but has the stability of a drunk snow crab. Also, I don’t know how the hell this crafty person defines collapsible and easy to store, but I think she was smoking something. Well, actually the teepee was extremely collapsible until I went rogue with her design, yelled GODDAMNIT in front of my kids, and tied the thing my own way.

While I was trying to put together this hot mess of a teepee, the only way the kids could really help was by cutting some strips of fabric. Once that was done, I was on my own. It took me three freaking hours and so many hot-glue gun burns to my fingertips and wrists to make this unholy mess:

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It looks fine. I realize that. But if I had seen a picture of MY teepee on Pinterest this morning, coupled with an honest description, I never would have done it. I’d have made a paper-bag kite. “This overwrought reading nook will cost you only $60, too many hours, and much of the respect your kids had for you before you started it!”

I yelled a lot today, for example when my 5-year-old randomly peed his pants for the first time in probably two years while honoring my request that he find something to do other than beg to reload my hot-glue gun. He did find something to do, in the upstairs bathroom:

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Not sure what you’re looking at? I’ll zoom in:

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Still not sure? Me neither. Whatever it was, he couldn’t bring himself to leave it for long enough to sit on the toilet RIGHT NEXT TO IT when he needed to pee. And was he ever pissed off when he later discovered I’d drained that sink. He said I’d killed his “little glue man.” What? I don’t even know what. All I could think to say was, “OH. MY. GOD. DID YOU USE MY LAST HOT GLUE STICK!?” I said this as if he’d eaten the last tin of smoked fish on an Arctic expedition, leaving me no other option for my next meal but human flesh.

The sad part is that I was just trying to do something fun with the kids today and had it backfire in the worst way. Instead of making memories, I made a scene. Instead of making dinner or making time to read or making my son put on actual pants instead of his pajama pants with the hole in the crotch, or just anything normal like that, I made a mess. My son and I actually had Home Depot hot dogs for lunch because I was more concerned with building this teepee than making something to eat. Which wouldn’t have seemed stupid at all if this teepee had been as awesome as advertised–not just to look at but to make. As it was, I worked on it all the way until my husband walked in the door from work, late, at which point I said, “Go look in the basement, then in the bathroom. Don’t ask me questions until after bedtime. I haven’t showered. The kids are having frozen pizza. We’re ordering Thai.”

When he came up from seeing the teepee, he couldn’t resist asking just one question, with the slightest hint of annoyance in his tone:

“Is that thing collapsible?”

No, honey. No, it isn’t. But I sure as hell am.

Posted in crafts, humor, motherhood, speed-posts | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Answering Life’s Big Questions

(The following was originally published in 2009.)

My daughter is getting to that stage where she’s starting to ask the Big Questions. Actually, she hit the stage some months ago, around the time I became pregnant again. I’m a fan of Dr. Spock’s advice on these matters, which is to offer no more information than a child is requesting.

At first, the questions about how babies are made were answered with things like, “From a mom and dad’s love.” Oddly enough, she seemed satisfied with that type of Helen Steiner Rice drivel. I might as well have told her that babies are three parts magic, two parts wonder, and just a pinch of heaven.

When the questions got more specific, my answers got more concrete. “Babies are made from an egg that lives in the mom’s body,” I’d explain, “and a teeny little seed that the daddy gives to her.” (She probably imagined my husband handing over a little Burpee’s seed packet to me.)

This explanation only lasted so long. She eventually became concerned about how a baby in my tummy could already have an egg in its tummy, which would in turn also have an egg in its tummy, and on and on down the line. This notion of some sort of infinite set of Russian nesting dolls was torturing her sense of logic, so I finally got down to brass tacks.

Well, hello there, great-great granddaughter!

Well, hello there, great-great granddaughter!

“You know whenever we see grasshoppers on top of each other, or frogs or ducks or any animal, and I tell you they’re making a baby?” I explained. “Well, that’s how it is with pretty much all living creatures, people included.”

I waited for her to process this new information. That took exactly three seconds, judging by the way her expression changed from curious to horrified. I had no idea that I, personally, could disgust her so much.

“Nooooo,” she said with a question mark in her eyes. “You and Daddy don’t get on top of each other, do you?”

Technically, no. No, we don’t. I mean, two people can’t be on top of each other at the same time, right? I’ve been getting by on such technicalities in my explanations for a long time now. And I could have dodged the truth just this one more time. Instead, it finally occurred to me that I don’t have to answer every single question she asks exactly when she asks it. So, this time? This time I said, “Who wants to play My Little Pony!?” And to my surprise, it worked.

Posted in daughters, death, mood issues, motherhood, preschoolers, sexuality | 1 Comment

A Mother’s Day Even Anne Lamott Could Love

Every year my Facebook feed is fed with a piece of writing from Anne Lamott about Mother’s Day and why she hates it. The essay, uncharacteristically bitter, was  originally published in Salon in 2010. I’m a fan of Lamott and always read the piece when it turns up, even though she sounds like Lewis Black instead of herself. In truth, I agree with most of the essay, but her vitriol is off-putting, and I disagree passionately with parts. By the end, I feel like I’ve been served what might have been a lovely soup were it not peppered with flies. It almost makes me want to throw out my dog-eared copy of her wonderful book Bird by Bird. 

How can I explain? Let me try an anecdote. When I was in high school, I was nominated to be homecoming queen. (Please don’t hold this against me. That was nearly 25 years ago, and this will be the first and last you hear of it.) Anyway, when I ended up “winning,” for lack of a better word, I didn’t think I was better than everyone, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good. The first thing my boyfriend at the time said to me when I walked off the football field was, “You can take that crown off your head now.” He looked disgusted.

That boyfriend made me feel foolish. I’m sure that was precisely the intent, to knock me off my high horse even though I wasn’t trying to ride one. Anne Lamott’s essay has that same feel. Don’t get me wrong: That’s not the only thing that bugs me about it. There’s something very modern-age playground about her message that rubs me wrong, too. I see an aspiration of equality that borders on dystopia.

And yet…

I can’t NOT read the piece every year when I see it. I love giant chunks of it, enough that I want to overlook the rest. Why throw out the baby with the bathwater? Here is the part that reads like gospel to me:

“I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure. The non-mothers must sit in their churches, temples, mosques, recovery rooms and pretend to feel good about the day while they are excluded from a holiday that benefits no one but Hallmark and See’s. There is no refuge — not at the horse races, movies, malls, museums. Even the turn-off-your-cellphone announcer is going to open by saying, ‘Happy Mother’s Day!’ You could always hide in a nice seedy bar, I suppose. Or an ER.”

Sing it, sister. Amen.

The thing is, I don’t believe that the answer is to lay waste to Mother’s Day. Trust me, I’m not just saying this because I can’t let go of a designated day to be woken up extra early by elated kids stomping on my full bladder, bearing undercooked scrambled eggs and wildly inflated expectations for all the fun I’m going to have with them from dawn to dusk. Nor is it because I enjoy figuring out the logistics of both having and being a mother that day. It’s because of precisely what Lamott says: It CAN be done a better way. Why not try?

Motherhood is big, complex, and many-tentacled. It comes in many shapes. It does have dark sides. It can cause grief. But in honoring those who have experienced that darkness and grief, I don’t think we need to diminish anyone else’s light and joy.

This all leads me to the show I’ll be participating in this Mother’s Day. The Listen to Your Mother Show bills itself as “giving motherhood a microphone.” Reading Lamott’s piece, I wonder what preconceived notions people might have about this show. Will they be surprised that at least two of the thirteen cast members don’t have kids? How could they anticipate the anything-but-sappy piece about one cast member’s complex and disconnected relationship with her mother? Lord knows I never anticipated so much of what I heard when I sat in the audience in the past, stories of miscarriage, infidelity, sexuality, faith, travel, hilarity, and all sorts of things that don’t neatly fit into any category or onto a Hallmark greeting card.

I’m happy to be part of such an inclusive Mother’s Day experience. I think it at least begins to answer Lamott’s call for a different way to do this thing (in ways that I agree have merit): It does not pretend motherhood is all one way or another. It does not pretend that those with kids are more important than those without. It shines light on the great mess of paths leading into and out of this THING that is so tangled up in our identities. I don’t know how anyone could feel left out. And that’s the kind of Mother’s Day I can be proud to celebrate.

Posted in motherhood | 3 Comments