Tag Archives: parenting

La La La La Lasik…


Mr. Magoo

I don’t know how many people out there recall the lovable Saturday-morning cartoon gentleman Mr. Magoo, but for those of you not as addicted to YouTube YouTube as I am, his gimmick is that he’s blind as a bat.

(For those of you who’d LIKE to get to know the old codger better, here he is in an old black-and-white beer commercial. You know, back in the good old days when kids’ cartoon characters were deemed perfectly suitable for, you know, beer.)

ANYWAY: While navigating some really ridiculously stupid outdoor steps the other day – put together, I swear, by someone who REALLY either wants a lawsuit, or wants NO visitors, ever – they’re unlit, and all different sizes – it’s like they’re booby-trapped or something – my oldest daughter runs up to me, as I’m slowly navigating down the perilous path.

What are you doing?” I say, a little irritably, as she gently takes my elbow, as if I’m elderly or something, and she’s helping me across the street.

Er, well, I dunno,” she says, non-plussed. “You ARE a little hard of seeing, you know.

Hard of seeing. Hmm.

Never quite thought of it that way.

I’m Ms. Magoo.

Elizabeth Williams Bushey with multiple=That’s when I thought to myself – not for the first time – or the hundredth – or the hundredth thousandth – wouldn’t it be nice to actually SEE out these eyes of mine?

Not just CONTACTS, which are a drag, really, sticking your finger in your eye, and not being able to fall asleep on the couch watching television, or reading a book in bed. Do that, and wake up with holes in your cornea, or at the very least, your eyes stuck shut.

But rather, really open up your eyes and SEE, when the dawn breaks, you throw off the blankets and stretch into the day.

I’ve never experienced that feeling.

You know: waking up and being able to actually SEE past my hand. Or even actually SEEING my hand. Clearly, I mean. I wonder what that would be like?

Maybe I need that LASIK surgery.

screen shot from Six Million Dollar Man: bionic eyeYou know: the one where they actually slice up your eyeballs? Make them better, stronger, etc? (Insert intro from 1970s hit TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man)

I used to be afraid of it – and I used to be right – because the whole trick of it was to find a doc with experience, otherwise you could end up worse off than you started.

But all the way in California (of course, now that I’m here in California, wouldn’t you know?) I just heard about some docs in New York who are pretty darn skippy good at it. At the Stahl Eye Center, with locations in Manhattan and Long Island, N.Y., they have doctors are graduates from top universities such as UCLA, John Hopkins and Yale. Their 35-year record is pretty good, too: they meet or exceed the norm for the surgery – and it’s independently verified, which is cool.

And, being in quite enough pain, thank you, having been literally run over by a truck on November 28, it’s nice to know the procedure is (a) virtually painless, and (b) the recovery is in a couple of hours, with most patients seeing clearly in a day or so.

Makes a girl want to fly back east, is what it does.

SEE what I mean?

(Little joke there. Very little.)

Because it’s not about vanity.

It’s about booby-trapped stairs, and independence, and not having to worry about losing glasses, and most of all? Not having to worry about worrying daughters.

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Embarrassment? I’m Bulletproof.


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Elizabeth Williams Bushey in concertI’m a grownup. That means I can eat frosting right out of the can if I want to. (Yes, I said the CAN. Is there anyone who still makes homemade frosting? Okay, then, you probably aren’t a parent with a job. And if you ARE a parent with a job, and you still make homemade frosting, and get everything else done you’re supposed to do, then you must be my very nice, but gobmackingly perfect sister. Please forward a package of your frosting in one of your gazillion extra organizing tubs.)

I have a vehicle. I can drive to the mall anytime I please. I’ve got a cell phone, too, complete with a butterfly charm from the Icing at the Galleria. How cool am I? I have a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, and I rock with it. I even perform onstage. With a real wireless headset mike. (Testing. 1, 2, 3…) I am SOOOO AWESOME.

Oh, wait, I forgot – I’m the Dork of the Universe.

I’m someone’s mom.

Please do NOT TALK TO MY FRIENDS, MOM.

Please do NOT KISS ME, MOM.

Please DO NOT EMBARRASS ME, MOM.

Now: I, my own self, am nearly impossible to embarrass, being a rather outspoken, outgoing sort. (Anyone who sings in public doesn’t exactly have a low embarrassment threshold.) But one does have to remember what it’s like to NOT be a grownup.

We were in McDonald’s, happily enjoying our happy meals.

“Mom!” Urgency crept into my daughters’ voices – an alarm so deep I wondered for a moment if an armed gunman had entered the establishment.

I bent my head, the better to hear their agonized whispers.

“Ourfriendfromschooljustwalkedin. PLEASE DON’T EMBARRASS US.”

Okay. I don’t mind being considered a dork by my kids, even though in reality, I’m fairly cool. They’re supposed to think I’m a dork. I’m the one teaching them right from wrong, sending them to bed, etc. If they DID think I was cool, I’d be messing up.

But there I was, sitting quietly in McDonalds – a restaurant I don’t even like all that much – minding my business, not doing any of the things they generally hate, like talking to their teachers, or their friends’ parents, or performing.

I’ll admit my baser instincts got the better of me. C’mon, we all – a little bit – hate it that our kids don’t know how cool we really are, don’t we? Don’t we all wish, deep down in our black hearts, that our kids could have seen just how awesome we really are?

“You would have WANTED to be my friend when I was your age!”

Isn’t that sometimes what you want to shout? “You would have thought I was cool THEN!”

So, more than a little peeved about accusations before actions, I stood up.

“You mean, embarrass you by doing something like… dancing to no music at all?”

I began to dance. Slowly, deliberately… embarrassingly.

“Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, Mom, pleasepleaseplease sit down, I’m begging you!”

“Something like this? Is THIS what you’re afraid I might do? Or maybe…”

“MOM!”

I sat down with a smirk. “Eat your dinner. She didn’t see.” She didn’t. Naturally I was watching. I DO take care not to embarrass them. Whenever possible.

I do recall that feeling when you’re a kid. Grownups realize everyone else in the universe is so wrapped up in themselves that they’re not paying anywhere NEAR the amount of attention you once thought they were. But kids are still the center of their own universes – the heroes of their own movies, and everyone else is a cameo player.

Extreme self-consciousness is so vivid, so much a part of your life, that any hair out of place, any fold in the cloth of your shirt, any label that’s not up-to-the-minute current makes you feel like a pariah.

You know you’re a real grownup when you realize the “pariahs” – the ones who dance to their own music – are who make the world so very, very interesting.

Kids love McDonald’s because it’s predictable; it’s always exactly the same chicken nuggets, precisely four, precisely cookie-cuttered into the same eerie, unnatural shape.

We grow when we peek beyond the predictable, to investigate: who that is dancing around the corner?

Look: no, really. Look.

(photo credit: © 2006 Tom Bushey)

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Crime and Punishment. Not.


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CandyMy oldest daughter asked me: How come we don’t get punished?

I answered honestly. “Consequences make a lot more sense. Spill the milk; clean it up. You’re fresh-mouthed and bratty? You’re tired. Early bedtime.”

Now, I confess to stretching the bedtime thing a bit thin.

“Problem with chores? You must be tired. Get some rest.”

“Can’t seem to find your manners? Look for them under your bed. Good night.”

“You don’t like my cooking? Good night.”

Okay, maybe not that last. But seriously, it makes more sense to me to sit down with them and figure out where they went wrong than it does to send them to their room and let them stew, hating me and feeling persecuted.

We have a dog, Tucker. Great dog. I’m very attached to him, in fact, and he’s attached to me. As in, at the hip. Literally. He’s a German Shepherd Dog mix, which means he’s smart, obedient, and sort of a one-woman-man type of creature. Devoted. But still a dog, meaning that he tends to forget he occupies space.

Therefore other creatures in the universe who might want to get close to me – for instance, creatures to whom I gave birth – often find themselves needing to wrestle their way around a seventy-pound lump of fur who thinks he’s a twelve-pound lap cat.

My youngest started behaving weirdly. Ordinarily a very good kid, she was now Trouble. As in, Setting the Kitchen Table on Fire, Trouble. (This is true: I have the seven-inch burn mark to prove it.)

One day I heard whimpering.

“Who locked Tucker in the other bedroom?” I asked when I came downstairs. Tucker, of course, being, as I mentioned, a dog, was already licking her face.

Tucker Dog’s thought processes go something like this:

What a narrow escape! I am SO glad to be out of that room and back with everybody else. I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you!

The youngest’s stony, I-can’t-hear-you, I-feel-horrible, why-won’t-this-dog-stop-forgiving-me stare gave her away.

“You know, darling,” I said, sitting down quietly next to her, “if the house was on fire, and I had a choice between saving you or Tucker, you know what I would do?”

“Yeah,” she said sullenly.

“I would save YOU,” I said.

“You would?” She was clearly surprised.

“Sure. I love Tucker a lot. He’s a great dog. But there are a zillion dogs out there, and I can always get another dog. I can never, ever get another you.”

She threw her arms around me. That was it, all right. Trouble was over. I’d have to do this again, and again, I knew. But this was it.

“Listen, though, kiddo. Next time you’re mad at me, be mad at ME. Don’t take it out on innocent Tuck. That’s a bad road to go down, if you know what I mean. I don’t want to have to go back to the shelter and have to find one of those dogs with a spiked collar that will swallow you in one bite, you know.”

She got a little stony again.

“It’s a JOKE.”

She relaxed.

“Two bites, at least.”

Tuck sealed it with even more forgiving slobber.

That’s what it’s really all about: dealing with the crime, not meting out the punishment. After all, what’s our goal, anyway? If they stray or stumble, help them up off their knees, and guide them the few baby steps they’ve taken back to the right road, before they get too far into the dark woods.

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Dog Turd Pudding.


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My Chrysler Town & Country VanConstant Reader, if you haven’t caught on by now to my offbeat but — so far — highly effective method of parenting (two daughters, nine and 11, smart, healthy, independent thinkers, funny, and … okay, in therapy, but let’s just say I’m giving them a running start), then here’s a little vignette to give you some insight.

First: yes, I drive a mini-van.

(I caved because my Fender Stratocaster, (search “Classic Series, metallic teal green for mine), the Ovation (acoustic w/pickup), the Fender passport sound system, the mikes, the props, etc. were getting too big for the old, beat up but extremely cool black-with-black-tinted-windows Chevy Blazer SUV the girls and I used to tool around in. So Peter talked us into a — I know, GOLD, would you EVER have THOUGHT? — Chrysler Town & Country, of all things, but d’y’know, it’s GREAT? EGAD.)

SO.

We’re driving home from this:

It’s Spring Break. We’re broke. So we get up early to visit Peter, then on to a client meeting, which is awesome cool, because it’s at a Rita’s Ices and Shakes. This means chocolate Mistos! Then we’re free for the rest of the afternoon, which sounds like fun, until we realize that we are

(a) out of money, and (b) out of gas.

But look: no, really, look: it’s okay, because

(c) it turns out the cash card has magically sprung a money leak after all.

So we can afford eggs and butter at the 7-11. And gasoline for the van, which is a greedy little bugger.

So we arrive at aforementioned 7-11, and splurge on Snickers, because they are seventy-five cents, (an awesome Spring Break deal). Besides, Peter just taught us an extremely cool version of Crazy Eights, which we are anxious to resume.

Plus, we are all curious about what, exactly, will be for dinner. Mom is not famous for her reliability about dinner on an every-night basis.

The girls start chanting: “Five – foot – long. Five- foot – long…” Which, it seems, is the TV jingle for SubWay.

Which, it seems, is a suggestion for dinner – and which, it seems, costs only five dollars. But, it seems, I have eggs and butter nestled cozily in my passenger seat, already paid for, making five dollars seem exorbitant, having, unbeknownst to them, settled nearly seventy dollars into my gas tank.

(You, Constant Reader, at this point might be wondering, perhaps, if there was a sale on commas while we were out? No. Apparently I have developed an unfortunate fondness for them today. Hmm.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – or actually, the van – the question of dinner remains unanswered. What is a mother (who herself isn’t hungry; Snickers really DOES satisfy) to do?

Head for the Dollar Store!

We love the Dollar Store. No, really. We love the Dollar Store. We do holiday shopping there, even. Today, for example: We bought two brooms, which we needed because we literally lost two this week. (Don’t ask.) Where else can you buy a broom for a dollar? And, if you need it – in the very same store – bins, binoculars, toilet paper, toys… it’s mind-bogglingly beautiful.

We love it there.

My nine-year-old bought Chinese Finger Traps. (And brooms. Like I said…)

The ride home:

Youngest daughter: I’m stuck.

Me: (Appalled. This is supposed to be the brainy one, who explained to the older one how Australia – again, with the Australia – is a continent AND a country) You got YOURSELF stuck?

Oldest daughter: You push your fingers IN to get them OUT.

Youngest:
I did. Now they’re too close together.

Me: So I guess they really work, huh?

Youngest:
(grunting)

Me: So, how do they work, anyway? Not like bear traps, right? You don’t cover them up with leaves and just hope someone sticks their fingers in, do you?

Youngest: Ah! I did it! No – you play a joke on someone, and get them to put their fingers in.

Me: Is there ANYONE left in the world who doesn’t know that it’s a trap, though?

Oldest:
(dismissively) You can always tear them apart if you get stuck enough.

Youngest: I know what I’m gonna do as soon as I see Dad.

Oldest and Youngest:
So what’s for dinner?

Me: (to the youngest, who happens to be brilliant at entertaining herself) Is there ANYTHING you can’t have fun with?

Youngest: (completely serious) Dog turds.

Me: (laughing hysterically, hardly able to drive.)

Oldest and Youngest): What? What’s so funny?

Me: Dog turds are just… funny. It’s a funny phrase. Like the word “pudding” is a funny word. (I then break out into even more hysterical peals of laughter.) Like “dog turd pudding.” Now: THAT’S what’s for dinner, guys.

Oldest: (who has discovered my blog, and in general, thinks I’m a tad silly) Are you SURE you’re not on crack?*

Me: (pulling the van into the driveway, and hustling the kids into the house with the eggs and butter under my arm) Hurry up inside, girls. Your dog turd pudding’s getting cold.

* Earlier post, where my mother – incorrectly – suspects that I am on crack, but will not admit it to my face. Note, Constant Reader: I actually READ that post out loud TO my mother this morning. She laughed – a lot, but her response: “I love you. Good luck today.”

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The Wondrous Vulva Puppet.


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The Wondrous Vulva PuppetThis is The Wondrous Vulva Puppet, brought to my attention by — of all people — my 11-year-old, Heaven help us all.

My first thought: now I’ve seen everything.

My immediate second thought? I haven’t. This tomfoolery is, in all likelihood, merely the tip of a mammoth iceberg of absurdity. I am but a hapless explorer, beginning a trek into a world of goofiness, a cartographer mapping out a journey to the center of silliness.

Armageddon rapidly recedes into the far distant future. Who would rain hellfire onto a universe festooned with such buffoonery?

Daughter: Mom?

Me: (busy, only half-listening): Um?

Daughter: In my Seventeen and my CosmoGirl magazines, they both have sections about … Australia.

Me: (still deeply involved in making the Internet safe for satire) Um-hmm.

Daughter: You know what I mean when I say “Australia,” right?

Me: (still attempting to phone in this conversation) A country inhabited by very outdoorsy, enthusiastic people with charming but difficult-to-mimic-accurately accents?

Daughter: (clearing throat) I mean “down there,” Ma.

Me: (whipping my swivel chair around way too quickly to achieve the cool, casual effect I’m striving for) Really? That’s, um…

Daughter: Anyway, I wanted to show you this page.

Me: (swiveling back to be handed the page you see on the left, and to be flabbergasted into speechlessness.)

Daughter: Are you mad?

Me: No! Of course not. No! Of course not. No! It’s… well… it’s SORT of natural… (Flapping around for the right thing to say, I reach for Old Reliable.) How do YOU feel about it?

Daughter: (who is by far the more mature and calm of this pair in just about all matters) I find it informative, but graphic and disturbing.

(Keen, accurate and precise. All those “omit needless words” I keep writing on her papers are paying off.)

I’m wondering, except for the part of me that would make my mother (but not my grandmother) blush, why exactly this thing has to be a puppet? I mean, as a puppeteer myself, I’m curious about the mechanics of the contraption. Do you stick your hand in, and make the lips move so The Wondrous VP can say things?

To whom?

What would it say?

Would it thank your hormones, as Seventeen Magazine suggests in the May 2008 issue, and I quote: “Dear Estrogen: Thanks for girly hips and breasts, plus strong bones, clear skin, and a better mood.”

Or this missive: “Dear Progesterone: Thanks for keeping periods coming, so I know I’m healthy and maturing into a woman.”

If I were going to write a letter to my hormones, it would read more like this:

“Thanks for turning me into a fried-chocolate eating, temper-tantrum-throwing, moody psychotic as often as Lon Chaney the werewolf has to strap himself into a chair, avoiding the curse of the full moon. REALLY appreciate that. OH: plus, I love that I’m out of the pool on all those 400-degree days. That’s terrific. Almost as fabulous as the bloating, the cramping and the headaches. But one more thing, in all earnestness – I do seriously appreciate you keeping my butt out of unflattering white pants.”

Although I probably should add that I truly am grateful that I don’t have man-hair on my face, or burly arms, or some hormonal disorder (although that thyroid thing that makes you super-thin would be tough to turn down. Wait: is thyroid hormones, or endocrine-something? Or are they the same? I forget. I’m a writer, not a doctor, Captain.)

At any rate, should you, Constant Reader, wish to own a Wondrous Vulva Puppet your very own self, you can! (Seventeen is VERY big on the bang – the exclamation point, my most hated of all punctuation marks!)

WARNING: ADULT CONTENT (the link, anyway):
For only $125, not including shipping and handling, you can have your choice of seven – count ’em seven – colors, featuring Classy Claret (that’s CLASSY Claret, mind you), and your choice of Ravishing Red or Regal Red, in case one red isn’t enough. There’s even one in Gorgeous Gold. And one with silver lips. Oooh, fancy. It’s at a site called Yoni.com (in their “Healing Gifts” section), but be warned: it’s an adult site, with DEFINITELY adult content.

END: ADULT CONTENT

So now you’ve been introduced to The Wondrous Vulva Puppet, and now, like me, you’ll be tormented with the phrase for days: like a song you can’t get out of your head, you’ll be repeating the phrase over and over in your mind: Wondrous Vulva Puppet, Wondrous Vulva Puppet…

Pass it on. Or not.

(photo: Page from Seventeen Magazine, May 2008 )

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Bees, babies, and independent thinkers.


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Child in bee costume and big fat smile Well THIS kid seems okay, at least. Seems to be happy, right? That, ladies and gentlemen, is your paycheck for parenting, and the odd thing is, you wouldn’t actually trade it for actual money.

Would you ever have guessed that in a zillion years? Not me, for sure. I’da said: “Nah, money might work for me.”

When you get handed a kid after you do the touchdown dance at the long, sweaty end of labor, your brain is buzzing with many things. You may, for instance, still be under the delusion that your future will be full of soft-focus, slow-motion perfection.

That your kid, for instance, might actually OBEY you when you ask that kid to do something, like: “Please pick your underwear up off the dining room floor,” or “Please don’t leave that pudding cup upside down on the coffee table,” or even: “Please get me the remote, since I’m bleeding from the ears and eyeballs right now, but Law & Order is on?”

(But I said PLEASE…)

The selective hearing my own parents yammered on about is stunningly true. You can literally speak directly into their eardrums, using the cardboard inside of a paper towel roll for amplification, and if you are saying something they don’t want to hear, or if they are watching “Drake and Josh,” or “iCarly,” they SIMPLY CANNOT HEAR YOU. They don’t even have to go “LA LA LA LA LA…” like men sometimes have to when you ask them to take out the garbage. (Or put a new bag in.)

Kids will also disappear. Look everywhere, you can’t find them. Yikes. Where have they gone?

Pick up the phone, to call the police? BOOM. There they are, so close to you that you start feeling that creepy invasion-of-personal-space feeling, because now YOU ARE ON THE PHONE. “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.”

It’s a sure-fire trick. Try it.

What else, what else?

OH: the questions. Prepare yourself as much as you wish. It matters not. I have a stack of very dusty parenting books; they’re all completely useless. None of the questions I’ve actually been asked are in them.

Here’s one from just this week alone:

My 11-year-old, surfing the Net (for homework, or, quite possibly, her Gothic Pixie blog) opposite me, in my office, on the other laptop: Mom?

Me: Yes, darling? (I really call them “darling.” I think it’s nice, and besides, once upon a time I met a sad old copy editor in my old newspaper who lamented he was never anyone’s “darling.” I decided then and there I would always call any kids I might have “darling.”)

Daughter: Mom, my teacher Mrs. W. has bees in her classroom. I hate bees. They come right in and scare me. What should I do?

Me: (completely stymied) Um….

Daughter: What should I do, Mom? I’m afraid to talk to her, I’ll sound like a total baby.

Me: Umm… I have to pee.

Me: (returning, taking the stylus from my own computer’s graphic tablet and holding it up) Ok. How about you take this to school, tell Ms. W that it’s an epipen, and that you’re allergic to bees? That way, you can leave the classroom without seeming like a dork? In fact, they’ll all feel sorry for you and do something about the bees at the same time.

Daughter: (shocked, just SHOCKED, putting me in mind of the major in Casablanca when he discovered there was gambling in Rick’s joint) MOM! I can’t LIE!

Me; (hovering between annoyed and heartwarmed that my daughter is so honest.) Um…

Daughter: You are NO help AT ALL.

Me; Um…

I think back to that little bundle, the first day I got her handed to me.

Isn’t there some sort of qualifying test, I thought? A licensing exam? Are you REALLY leaving her with ME?

They really did. Okay… I thought.

The last argument I had with my daughter, she gave me this retort, to which I had no answer:

“That’s what you get, Mom, for raising independent thinkers.”

Me: Um…

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