Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Life in Mix Tapes

I have only one cassette-playing device left. It is a boom box that my mom won in a raffle in the early 90s, and right now it is playing a fantastic compilation entitled Sunshine & Happiness: Spring Break '91. I had to rewind it first and was surprised at how warmly familiar the whirr of Rewind and the ka-thunk of Stop sounded. I'm shocked by the semi-decent sound quality and can only credit the CD collection and stereo system of a roommate, as I wouldn't own a CD or player for more than two years after Spring Break '91.

I once owned well over one hundred cassettes, many of them pirated from friends. When I finally decided to trash them, I couldn't bear to part with the mix tapes, which got their own special box and shelf space in my closet. I had to bring in my kids' bathroom step stool to reach them down today.

The mix tapes were saved from the landfill and will remain on my shelf long after the boom box goes kaput because the mix tapes are memories. If I'm dying to hear The Best of OMD, I probably can download it from iTunes or snag a CD somewhere. The mix tapes, however, are personal; designed by me or someone important to me, played over and over again and intertwined with intense memories of feeling and friendship.

From browsing the contents of this box and my memory, I see that sophomore year of college was a big year for the mix tape. My friend Kerry had a great stereo system (with speakers we blew out several times, each time to "Pour Some Sugar on Me") and, perhaps more importantly, the entire Time/Life Sounds of the 70s series on CD. Hot Tower Babes refers to the 5th floor clock tower in House G, where six of us resided in three rooms. A very cool place to live. A 501 Compilation is made entirely from Kerry's fantastic CD collection, which was housed in the triple in Room 501. Michelle's Mellow Mix is the brainchild of the occupant of the 5th Floor single, and Time to Get Mellow was my answer to her compilation. I made Sunshine & Happiness for our spring break drive from Duke to Amelia Island, where we were so determined to sunbathe that we dug and lay in sand pits on the beach to protect us from the cold wind. By the time I made To Be Named Later..., I'd obviously exhausted my creativity.

The best mix tapes were those made by a friend or significant other. How do kids today date without the mix tape? Do they make iTunes playlists instead? If so, do they burn them to CD?  I hope so, because otherwise they have no opportunity for hand labeling their work. Looking in this box gives me the warm fuzzies because I recognize the handiwork of some special people in my life.

My collection contains one mix tape made by my best friend from growing up and is merely titled Cynthia's Tape, subtitled on the spine Here's to the Former Graduates of '89 and '90 (an homage to the high school morning announcements when our principal would refer to alumni as "former graduates," a nonsensical redundancy if we'd ever heard one). If I recall correctly, that mix tape has her voice interspersed with the songs, both those we truly loved as well as those we mercilessly mocked others for liking.

Of course, no mix tape collection would be complete without those made by old flames. My collection contains two from one boy who really mattered and one from a blip of a boy (but an important blip in my personal timeline). The blip is important in part because he arose during the one-year hiatus my now-husband and I took, but more so because he solidified my love of country music. The tape is a good one, so I save it for the music more than the memories.

The two tapes made by the boy who mattered are Margarita Montage Vol. II:  The Best of J. Buffett (I have no idea what happened to volume I) and E.C. Hello Old Friend Mix. The boy was, and to the best of my knowledge still is, a huge Buffet and Clapton fan, and what I love of those artists I learned from him. The first is merely a self-made "best of" compilation, but the latter is what you think of when you think of former boyfriends and mix tapes. He mailed that one to me in college, many months after a bad break-up and no further communication. To this day, I can't hear "Promises" without thinking of him and getting a pang. "We made a vow we'd always be friends; how could we know that promises end?"  Ouch. Painful at the time and painful in recollection. It worked though; we got back together for a while after that tape and I'm pleased to say we are still friends, Eric Clapton be damned.

Perhaps I'll give my kids a dose of history and share an old mix tape with them when they get home from school (but spare them the stories that go with it). I'm not certain they know how a cassette operates, and sadly, no one will ever make a mix tape for them. I feel sorry that kids today are missing out on the experience  Who is going to pull up an iTunes play list made by a former boyfriend twenty-plus years later? No one. However, I can hold in my hand the plastic-encased time, effort and emotional angst of 1991. Can you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Just a Tad Taller

Now she can reach all the pool toys on the very bottom of the deck box herself, if not in a very lady-like manner.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Little Sailor

I'm thinking that I might have to tighten up the cursing policy I articulated here.  The little one is working her way up to the 5-year-old equivalent of cursing like a sailor.  I thought it was limited to your basic potty words--poop being chief among them--until the other night at dinner, when Big Brother tattled, "She said the F-word."

My enlightened response was, "Which F word?"  Not that I don't know what that usually means.  I'm quite well-versed.  However, I do keep that one in my head when the children are around, and I didn't know she knew it.  Unlike many people, I am not a fan of fart (it made me twitch just to type it, let alone say it), so I though perhaps the latter word that also starts with F was the word in question.  In response to my inquiry, they stared blankly at me.

I continued, "Which F word?  Spell it."

Big Brother asked, "Will I get in trouble?", at which point I was pretty sure which word we all were talking about.

I convinced him that this was an exception to the general rule, since I inquired specifically, and wouldn't you know that my eight-year-old gleefully spells F-U-C-K as the word Little Sister has spoken.  I emphasized with the firmest, most serious Mom voice I could muster that, unlike certain words (see previous post), the F one was strictly off limits at all times.  I then inquired where she had heard the word, to which she happily reported that her brother had taught it to her.

At least she didn't say she learned it from Mommy.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Angels and Demons

In our house, the best behavior from either child arises when his or her sibling is behaving very very badly.  The more demonic one child becomes, the more angelic the other becomes.  The good behavior is not intentionally smarmy-sweet, but involves genuine good listening and helpfulness.  I am nearly certain that it is not conscious behavior, and it happens to each of my kids when the other is in full meltdown.

I have yet to determine whether this subconscious mommy-pleasing is caused by:

(i)   fear ("Mommy is really really mad, so I'd better not push her further over the edge.");

(ii)  kindness ("Mommy looks like she might lose it at any minute, so I'm going to cut her some slack."); or

(iii) opportunism ("This is my moment to shine and show Mommy why she should love me best.").

I find this recurring scenario completely fascinating and amusing, and I have to admit that I like the outcome.  Whatever the driver is, exemplary behavior by one kid does keep me from falling over the edge of insanity and into the abyss. Those of you who have a sibling or sibling offspring, does this sound familiar to you?  This is another one of those freaky sibling things that fascinates this only child.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bad Words

When my daughter was barely two years old, she dropped a favored toy in the kitchen and muttered an exasperated "dammit!" under her breath.  It was dead-on perfect delivery--appropriate to the situation and not too loud.  It may have sounded exactly like a certain other female in our house sounds when she drops stuff in the kitchen.

I never said a word to her about it then or any other time I've heard her do it.  For one thing, I didn't want to make it seem exciting and forbidden.  Mostly, I let it go because she was using it in an appropriate way.  I never heard a sing-song "dammit dammit dammit" nor heard her shouting it for fun.  I haven't been told she's used it at school, so for now I'm still in the clear.

See, not all curse words are created equal. To me, a shit or dammit muttered under your breath in frustration is really not the end of the world.  It feels good.  It's satisfying.  I even read that cursing in response to pain has been proven to lessen pain.  Those are not dirty words. They do not refer to body parts, they do not demean anyone, they are not delivered toward another in anger.  Most of the really bad ones do one or more of those things.  When the same little girl now loses her temper and screams dammit at me, that's a whole different ball of wax and cause for immediate room imprisonment, but if I hear her screw up or drop something, a quiet dammit is just fine.

I'm a country music fan, and my daughter and I have been on a Zac Brown Brand kick lately.  For one entire weekend, I heard her singing that she wanted to have her toes in the water, her ass in the sand and a cold beer in her hand.  I was amused, not concerned.  In that context, ass is ok with me too.  Frankly, I discourage my children's use of butt , and ass falls into pretty much the same category for me.  However, when I heard my kids saying ass while on the swing set the other day, clearly just to be able to say a bad word, or even if I hear them singing a song just to say the word (the giggles give them away), then I stop it.  It's all about context, and shouting bad words for all the neighbors to hear is not the context we're going for.

I don't listen to pop music on the radio, so the kids aren't exposed to much new music.  When we were visiting friends recently, some older kids played "Sexy and I Know It."  I confess I've probably never heard the song and don't know the lyrics, but I refused my kids' request to download the song (and claimed ignorance as to the meaning of LMFAO).  They had already spent two weeks tossing around sexy and I didn't feel the need to further encourage it.  I do not see the need to introduce anything remotely sexualized.  It's certainly going to happen soon enough, and I do not need to be the one bringing it into their lives.  To me, that is vastly more a concern than a few bad words.

I'm not sure what kind of mother it makes me that I'll let my kids curse within certain restricted boundaries but won't let them listen to top pop songs, but that's who I am.  Cursing is just bad words.  Sexy is about sex and trying to look a certain way so others value you in that way, and that is much worse for young kids in my opinion.  So, in case you're confused, a review:

cursing to yourself in pain or frustration
cursing along with Mommy's redneck music

Not acceptable
cursing at people in anger, especially Mommy
vulgar body part names
cursing just to get away with something
sexual stuff
the f-bomb

Any questions?