She’s No Nadia

Posted: April 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, Friends and Strangers, Milestones, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Walking | 2 Comments »

I’m a lousy telemarker. And that’s no typo, Jeff. I do mean telemarker, not telemarketer. I’ve never actually done telemarketing (thank GOD). Even so, I bet I’d be pretty good at bringing that phone script to life.

Yeah so telemarking, for the luckily uninitiated, is a kind of skiing. It’s like downhill skiing, but on cross-country skis where your heel isn’t clamped into the binding. When you turn you bend one knee down towards the ski, while keeping the other one bent out in front of you. So as you come down the mountain it looks like you’re popping into position to propose every time you turn.

There’s also a thing called ‘jump telemarking’ or ‘jump tele’ where you add a little hop to that scenario. That’s for real show-offs.

Anyway, I suck at telemark skiing. Suck. Suck. Suuuuuck.

I know this because many many years ago—back in the Dark Ages before your parents were probably even born—I was dating a ski-obsessed fellow. He thought it’d be fun for us to take a weekend telemarking clinic.

Now, you might think the term ‘clinic’ is an odd one to pair with a recreational activity. ‘Clinic’ brings to mind images of nothing even remotely fun. Instead one conjures a cold, undesirable environment where you’re often in a great deal of pain.

It turns out that clinic was the perfect term for this ski weekend after all.

I’ll lay the groundwork by stating that I was pretty much a newbie to even downhill skiing at the time. The Brunos did not ski when we were young. We did not take road trips. We did not go camping. Everything about my childhood left me utterly unprepared for adult life in California—but that’s another story. There may even be a book in there somewhere.

Anywho, everyone else at this clinic was wearing faded Boston Marathon t-shirts. Trading war stories from their last IronMan. Making plans to swim to Alcatraz together upon our return to SF.

Me? I was unfamiliar with the PowerBars the teachers handed out during our first break. “Power Bar?!” I balked, as I sunk my teeth into the pale tan gummy thing. “More like a flat, undelicious Tootsie Roll.”

It turned out the other kids were familiar with this new-to-me foodstuff. They not only didn’t get my joke, they looked at me horrified, as if I’d spat out their Italian Nana’s pasta sauce.

But what really set me apart from these people was my utter incompetence on telemark skis. Throughout the weekend our teachers commanded us to get into “the telemark position”—that about-to-propose stance. By Monday morning I was scanning phone books to find someone who could erase that traumatic term from my mind.

My body seemed unwilling to bend that way, turn the skis, and move downhill across slippery snow. And when the kindly teachers offered extra help, their instructions baffled me. “Make your top thigh parallel to the ground!” they’d call out. “Wait… Aren’t I doing that?” I’d think to myself.

It was then that I discovered the gaping disconnect in my mind-body link. I understood intellectually how I should position my body, and I felt certain I was doing just that. In reality I was doing something closer to the Walk Like an Egyptian dance.

What killed me about all this wasn’t the brutal muscle burn that radiated from my legs for days after. It wasn’t having to wear the light gray rental telemark boots—stinky square-toed numbers that had less fashion merit than nursing shoes. It wasn’t even taking a perfectly good weekend to drive to Lake Tahoe with a group of people who—aside from my beau—I’d never see again. Nor was it the mortification of popping my PowerBar cherry in front of a group of die-hard devotees.

What tore me up about the whole experience was my persistent and thorough inability to get it. That weekend rocked my world for a while after, and I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about telemark skiing, and was actually thrilled at the prospect of never doing it again. But I was deeply shaken by being pulled that far out of my comfort zone.

I realized that in school, or at work, or in social situations—wherever there’s something to grasp or learn or pick up on—I’m used to catching on. At least eventually.

Drunken bidding at preschool auctions, now that’s in my sweet spot. And that’s exactly what recently landed Kate and Paige into new gymnastics classes.

They’ve gone two times thus far. The classes are held in a huge warehouse-like space, and several coaches conduct classes for various age groups at the same time.

Paigey and I are in the toddler class, which requires parental involvement. Kate on the other hand rocks her class solo. And every once and a while—generally when Paige catches a glimpse of Kate and runs screaming after her—I’ll look up to see Kate in purple flowered Spandex, arms extended out from her sides, walking along the balance beam with impressive grace and ease. It’s amazing what she’s picked up so quickly. She’s ravenous for more more more hot gymnastics fun, and starts whining from the moment we leave the place, “When is gymnastics class next?”

Paigey, on the other hand, is no future Nadia Comaneci. When the instruction is to bunny hop down the long trampoline, Paige opts to walk, wobbly-legged, curls bouncing. When the other kids climb up on the ladder-bars of a dome-shaped thing, Paige just touches her hand to it, then turns and wanders away. On the low kiddie-level balance beam she takes a couple steps then bellows, “Down, Mama! DOOOWN!” It’s only the hot dog roll that she performs with the same finesse as her classmates. (The thing I knew as a log roll when I was a kid. But that’s back when play structures were called jungle gyms. So what do I know?)

Kate’s got Coach Jordan, some young dude who all the parents gush over. Various maternal informants insisted he was THE teacher to get. But Paige’s coach is the one whose class took place at the same time as Kate’s. And when I first saw her blue hair, multi-pierced face, and neck and arm tattoos, well, what can I say? I judged her.

She was no Coach Jordan. No Coach Jordan indeed.

But towards the end of the first class, with Paige able to really do so few things, I felt obliged to ask Tattooed Lady whether Paigey Wigs might be in the wrong class.

“She was a late walker,” I offered up.

“Oh,” she said, unimpressed.

“Yeah, like she didn’t walk until she was 21 months old,” I persisted. “Like REALLY late.”

This is me in confessional mode. Get me anywhere close to a topic I don’t want to talk about, or I think you might call me on, and I respond by telling all. “Let me beat you to the punch,” my pysche says. Before you ask me a question I don’t want to answer, I’m just going to lob the information right at you.

I’d be a terrible spy.

And I couldn’t stop once started. “She’s in physical therapy!”I blurted out. “She’s really still mastering going down stairs! Sometimes her breath is really bad in the morning!”

Okay, so I wasn’t that revealing. But I did find I was suddenly throwing myself at the mercy of She With The Large Spider Tramp Stamp. Beseeching her for advice with every last drop of my Mama being.

“Should I put her in a lower class? There are lower levels aren’t there? Would she do better there? Get the hang of it? Get more out of it?” I was panting at this point. Yelping. Nearly pawing at her like a chihuahua, small frenzied legs raking away furiously.

We looked up as a line of toddlers forward rolled. Paige squealed with excitement, lost her balance, and fell on her ass. Then she got up to follow the crew to the foam pit.

“You know what?” Coach Nose Ring said, chewing on a lock of blue hair. “She’s not doing everything, but it’s good for her to have the challenge. She’ll learn from watching the other kids. And look at her,” she said, nodding towards Paige who was gleefully watching her classmates crawl through the foam pit. “She’s having a blast.”

And the thing was—as utterly mystifying it was to me—she actually was.

So Paige is staying in gymnastics class. And I’m training my mind to not start thinking that the other parents meet in the parking lot after class to discuss that curly-haired girl who’s just not catching on. I’m trying to repress my urges to apologize for Paigey’s hot dog rolls, when what’s called for is a blast off. And I’ve given up on trying to coerce her back onto the balance beam.

Someday she’ll learn how to jump and somersault and even cartwheel. In the meantime I’m hoping that I’ll learn that you don’t have to be at the head of the class to have a good time.


Help me make the country a whole lot greener

Posted: December 14th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Misc Neuroses | 2 Comments »

Several years ago Mark prohibited me from ever using Evite again.

Back then we were in our stupidly fabulous Noe Valley flat (which we took no credit for the chic-ness of, it was all the gay owners), and we were throwing a party for some reason or other. And bucking old school tradition and everything I was ever raised to know, we used an online invitation.

It was a new age, and I was trying to embrace this whole internet craze.

My painstaking efforts to ensure the invitation was as witty and clever as possible and that I’d selected the cutest of all the design templates, turned instantly into an obsession over checking the status of responses once I hit Send and the invitation went out.

The thing is, it’s amazing how much time you can spend sitting in front of your computer hitting Refresh to see who all has responded. Or, as I was looking at it, seeing who your real friends were. These Evite things even tell you the date people first look at the invitation–all great information for building your case against your perspective guests.

“This is insane!” I’d call to Mark where he was lying under the car changing the oil. “Kevin saw the invitation four days ago and still hasn’t RSVPed. What’s he doing? Waiting for a better offer?!”

And through the shower curtain I reported, “The Vaheys are a “yes with bells on,” the Surhs regret that they’ll be in Tahoe, and Ellen, Heather, and Tim and Kara still haven’t even seen it. Do you think I should call them to make sure they got it?”

Mark, pulling back the curtain to reveal a shampoo-foam covered head says, “Kristen, you have Got. To. Stop.”

Well, here I am today, a recovering Evite sender thanks to quitting cold turkey at Mark’s ultimatum-like urging, and he–my very own “sponsor” as it were–has unwittingly provided me with yet another outlet for obsessive monitoring. What’s that you ask?

Google Analytics.

This brilliant web-based tool–available to me at all hours of day and night–informs me of nearly everything I want to know about the people–you, as it were–who come to this very blog. I can see how many people visit, how long they stay, how they got here, and even what state they live in. The only information I’m lacking is my readers’ favorite type of tea, and rabid Decaf Earl Grey lover that I am, I don’t discount this as non-critical information.

But the where readers live thing. It’s that which brings me to my most recent little hobby, perusing the map graphic to see if I’m filling in the states–flushing out the map with readers in every port, as it were. How the map works is the concentration of readers is expressed by the darkness of the color green. So, my great state of Cali, where my largest readership hails, is the darkest forest green. Vermont, on the other hand, where motherload mania hasn’t kicked in quite yet, is but a pale chartreuse. Godforsaken reader-free states like Louisiana are a pale piss yellow.

Late at night when I’m having my everyone’s-asleep-and-I-should-be-too Me Time, is when I do my most fervid blog reading, blog posting, and crazy lady blog analytics reviewing. Wielding the mighty power of the information Google so enchantingly provides me makes me feel at times like part of CNN’s crack political team. You know how over the past year they were always interacting with some overly hi-tech absurd map to illustrate something like how Clinton was faring against Obama (I know. So old school to think of that now!)? It’s like I’m a not-as-smart-as but I’d boldly venture to say cuter version of Candy Crowley.

Wielding the data, yo.

Knowing all this state stuff has also allowed me to determine that the almighty bloggess Dooce, who I wittily emailed several weeks ago to entreat her to glance at my lowly mortal blog, has not in fact dropped by. Her home state of Utah is still that maddening, taunting, yellow.

I should point out that it’s not even like I’m hell-bent on building a motherload empire or anything. In fact, when this whole blog thang started a few years ago, more than anything it was an outlet for this suddenly-staying-home mama to use my Big Girl voice (and words). And aside from the nursing and diaper changing and constant cell-phone use, it was simply something to do. I didn’t expect for a minute that there’d be any readers other than Mark, my father, and my friend Julie, all of whom I was paying at the time.

But now years later, being handed the god-like power to assess who stops by unpaid, my Achiever self kicked in in that empty place where my workaholic corporate self used to reside, and I suddenly wanted nothing more than to see all those states lit up bright green like a, well, Christmas tree. In this year of economic-slump low-budg Christmas gifting, what better token could be bestowed upon me? Aside from a black (and a brown) pair of boots, tickets to some first-class child-free Caribbean resort, and personalized Crane’s stationery, I can think of no better present.

In all, there are eleven states I’m lacking. Though I’ve already gotten friends working on Indiana and Maine. (Thanks, Julie and Mary!)

So then, if you’d like to get swept up in the unbridled joy of this Very Special Christmas Project, here’s how you can help. Reach out to your former college roommate who’s now living in Iowa, and ask her to check this blog out. Or that cousin in West Virginia who you secretly, naughtily always harbored a crush on. Or what about that old friend from the summer camp with the long Indian name that you went to year after year and eventually was a counselor at? The woman you recently got back in touch with on Facebook. Isn’t she living in Delaware now? And if someone knows somebody in Wyoming–though I can’t imagine how anyone could–just think how their cold dark winter days would be brightened by a little dose of motherload!

I’ve also got Montana, Vermont, and Tennessee up for the taking. What folks in those states need more than ever is, no doubt, this very blog.

And hey, have your friend post an identifying comment like, “Hoosiers in the house, yo!”, to receive extra credit points and my eternal adoration.

For a quick review, here are the eleven states (in no particular order) that I need readers in:

  1. Montana
  2. Wyoming
  3. Utah
  4. Iowa
  5. Indiana
  6. Tennessee
  7. Louisiana
  8. West Virginia
  9. Delaware
  10. Vermont
  11. Maine

Just imagine the happy scene on Christmas morning when the McCluskys are gathered under the Christmas tree with Paige clapping with glee on her first Noel, Kate tearing through her stocking, Mark capturing it all in pictures, and me, laptop balanced on crossed legs, checking the daily Google Analytics report to discover that it’s all green green green! No better gift could be given, not only to me, but to my neglected husband and children.

I’d love to see it at least once before Mark dismantles the program in a New Year’s effort to preserve both his sanity and mine.