Andrea a.k.a AGoto
Andrea Goto writes The Culinary Coward, a monthly humor column for PaulaDeen.com about her struggle to become a domestic goddess, or more simply, to cook an edible meal. She writes her own Blog, Mom Without Makeup, which discusses the messy art of modern mothering. Andrea lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia, with her 5-year old daughter (who thinks she's a superhero), her husband (who is a superhero) and one geriatric cat. Andrea Goto www.andreagoto.com
AGoto Author Alias
There was a time when I’d wake up the day after Thanksgiving at 5 AM to drive 90 miles to Seattle to shop. But two things were different then: I didn’t have a child (and thus, complete respect for sleep), and the sales began "early" at 7 AM.
My parents left yesterday after a two and half week visit. Mom cooked Thanksgiving dinner (and all the other dinners in between) and set up my Christmas tree. Dad fixed everything around the house that was broken, and what he broke while here (I swear my toilet automatically shuts down when it hears my father’s voice).
Every day, while our elementary-school children are still in the throes of gluing macaroni to paper and counting dried beans, cars stack up in two-by-two formation outside, waiting in the "Car-Riders" line as early as 55 minutes before the last bell rings.
My sister taught me how to read. Sure, there were a long line of teacher lessons, flash cards and episodes of “Sesame Street” that primed me for the big moment, but those memories are vague and faded - mere baby steps on the grand journey to literacy.
A couple of days ago, Ava and I went searching for a Mother’s Day gift to send to my mom.
Last night I stayed up late watching A&E’s “Hoarders” with my mother-in-law.
So this sealed envelope was sent home from Ava’s school the other day.
“Who’d you play with today?”
I don’t take good pictures. I’ve always been told that I have a nice smile, but as soon as I sense a camera pointed in my direction, I turn all robotic. My mouth tenses, my eyes bug out and I end up looking as if I’m being poked in the butt. I’ve tried all the tricks, like tilting my head, turning my chin down, applying Vaseline to my teeth. Nothing works.
Bumper stickers are like tattoos for cars - they seem like a good idea at first, but are never as cool the next day. Decorating your car with slogans and images is a lot like decorating your middle school locker. It’s not a reflection of who you are as much as it is a reflection of who you wish you were.
Over the years I’ve learned a number of lessons when it comes to making new friends: my first impression of people is usually wrong and my husband’s is usually right, avoid drama queens at all cost and don’t trust a woman who doesn’t have old friends. If you’ve gone through life making and breaking friendships, there’s probably something deeply wrong with you. I’m not exactly sure what that thing may be. Maybe you get clingy and chase them off. Maybe you borrow their designer shoes and return them with scuffs. Maybe you cut off their head and hide their body under the stairs. Whatever it is, I don’t plan on waiting around to find out.
A few days after Valentine’s Day, I told Ava about my childhood valentine. I imagine every girl must remember her first - that moment when the holiday evolved from the pleasure of eating stale, molar-cracking SweetTarts to something closer to love.
It’s hard to watch the news when you have kids.
I stopped “growing up” years ago. Now I’m in the process of shrinking toward my 40's. However, I still remember growing pains. Not the emotional pain of growing up - the BFFs who barely lasted a week or the boy who didn’t like you back because you were too tall.
Come January, most people I know make fitness resolutions and vow to hit the gym. My husband has his gym code taped to the fridge “just in case” he gets the urge. It has hung there like an albatross around his neck for six years.
The day after Christmas, I was reading my daughter a bedtime story. It was Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth, a book about three siblings who each learn a Zen principle in an encounter with a giant panda named Stillwater.
“Mommy! Mommy!” Ava yelled from the bathroom. “I have a wrinkle!”
This is about hair. My hair. But allow me to begin with a parable. I was going through my husband’s closet not too long ago and found his beloved USA pullover hanging there, awaiting the moment when 1995 would become retro-chic.
People run for two reasons: they’re either running for something or running away from something. But sometimes it’s a combination of the two. I’m running to train for the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. I’m in the last few weeks of my training program and so far so good. Well, mostly good. I’ve been experiencing bouts of the “runner’s trots” around mile six.
My parents belonged to my elementary school’s PTA. Them and about five others. I don’t what they actually did at the PTA meetings because they were held behind the closed doors of the faculty lounge that reeked of stale coffee, cigarettes and boredom.
Ava has spent the last six months assuring me that she will hate kindergarten. I’ve spent just as long trying to convince her otherwise. “You’ll have a new playground!” “I’ll get hurt.” “You’ll meet new friends!” “I hate new friends.” “You’ll have so much fun.”
Something’s up with my stomach. It’s bloated. Not just post-Thanksgiving dinner bloated; this is more serious. I have to tuck my stomach into my jeans, and when I went swimming with my daughter, I couldn’t even go underwater. Instead, I bobbed on the surface like a beach ball with legs.
“A little girl and her family are coming to stay with the neighbors,” my mother-in-law announced to Ava. “She’s from another country and doesn’t speak English.”
Parents with kids who eat anything that’s served to them pat themselves on the back for teaching their kids to be “good eaters.” I, however, find myself constantly apologizing for my “bad eater"--a child with very specific culinary tastes.
Over the past week, I’ve been reflecting on the Fourth of July. Ava seems to enjoy the celebration more and more with each passing year. This year, I tried to explain what all the hoopla was about... and subsequently realized that I need a refresher in American history. “The holiday celebrates the birth of our country,” I said.
Not too long ago, one of Ava’s little friends shared a secret with me, “My mommy says that Ava gets whatever she wants.” Some parents may take offense to this, but it’s not exactly untrue.
I can do bruises and bile. But I can’t do dismemberment, which is how I regard baby teeth when they fall from a child’s head.
Whenever I come home to visit my parents, Mom wants me to help her unload the stuff she’s managed to collect in the 37 years they’ve lived in their house--stuff that she “may need one day.” Last Christmas, we tackled her five closets of clothes. It was a cacophony of “timeless pieces” that Mom couldn’t part with; most items Mom would defend by saying, “But I never even wore it!” “That doesn ...
I understand the concern surrounding the soft play at the mall. Any place that breeds a virus called “hand, foot and mouth disease” is no place for children. The soft play is alarmingly similar to a public restroom: it’s free, smells, and gets cleaned once a day (though whoever sees that happen?). But kids “wash” with hand sanitizer, run barefoot, zip down slides with squishy soiled diapers, and inevitably lick the 3-foot tall apple--just to see.
My baby girl just graduated from preschool. I know, it’s not Berkley or Columbia, but it is the first step. Admittedly, I didn’t get all worked up as we counted down to the big day. I did, however, dress nice for the occasion, bring my camera and make sure my husband had flowers in hand (because God forbid someone got a bouquet and she didn’t).
My dad is old school. Growing up, the division of labor in our household was gendered. Mom sewed, did the dishes and laundry, cooked and cleaned. Dad worked at a paper mill and maintained the structural integrity of the house (though sometimes his shortcuts--often involving duct tape--did more to compromise it).
I should’ve known how Mother’s Day was going to go based on how it began. “You have to do everything I say because it’s Mother’s Day,” I told my husband as I crawled out of bed. “Why? You’re not my mother.”
Before I had my daughter, I remember cringing every time I heard a parent say the word “playdate.” Like “silent birth” and “attachment parenting,” it sounded a little too new-wave and high maintenance. When I was growing up, silent births happened when a woman screamed so loudly she lost her voice, and attachment parenting was more aptly named “you can’t say ‘No’ to your child.” Likewise, we never had playdates. When the neighbor kids knocked on the door, Mom didn’t offer them handmade cupcakes on coordinating napkins. In fact, they weren’t even allowed inside.
This week I returned to work after a 5-year hiatus.
I have a skewed perception of aging. My dad didn’t start working out until he was 65. He got his ear pierced around the same time--about 20 years after ear piercing fell out of fashion. Then he bought a Harley-Davidson.
We have a new addition to the family. Her name is Goldilocks. She is not blond nor does she have hair. In fact, she is not even a “she”--I know this because her plastic container was labeled “male.” But whatever. It’s a fish. On the food chain it’s one step up from a potato bug. And that’s only because it’s kind of pretty.
“In your FACE!” my 5-year-old daughter yelled at me from the back seat of the car.
My sister, Jessica, sent my daughter Ava a set of paints for her 5th Birthday. She called to make sure the gift arrived. “Did Ava paint me a picture yet?” she asked. “Yeah, but it wasn’t that great,” I explained. “I’ll wait until she does a good one.” Silence.
I don’t like to be wrong. Especially when it comes to parenting. I’m okay with life’s little mishaps, like thinking people are admiring my designer jeans only to realize later that I have a Barbie sticker stuck to my butt. But parenting mistakes carry real consequences for our children: therapy, addiction, a life in food service …
“Don’t talk with your mouthful, Mommy,” my 5-year-old daughter says over dinner. “Whummppt?” I ask as a broccoli floret tumbles from my mouth.
When I was growing up, my mom would crawl out of bed in the morning with her hair going one way and her nightgown the other. Then, hunched over and searching, she’d feel her way into the kitchen, her arms outstretched and guiding. She was cute. Her squishy skin all creased from the sheets and her eyes swollen shut. She’d smile sweetly when she heard my sister and me at the table, giggling over our cereal.
I went to kindergarten at Sunnyland Elementary, a mere two blocks from my parents’ house. I’m not aware of any famous Sunnyland alumnae who have walked on the moon or starred in their own reality show, but nonetheless it was a good school that did its best to produce decent citizens. Half of my teachers were exceptional, some dialed it in, and a few had one foot in the grave, including the school nurse, aptly named Mrs. Cross.
I never put a lot of stock in the idea that Barbie dolls promote negative body images for young girls. To think that adoring Barbie is going to cause my child to grow up expecting a size-0 waist and DD’s is as ridiculous as thinking that she’s one day going to expect her elbows to fuse into an “L” shape and that her head could pop off at will. Besides, Barbie isn’t such a bad role model. She’s impeccably clean, fashionable and her makeup is always just right.
We’re already over a week into 2011 and I’m feeling bad about not having made my New Year’s resolutions. Guess I’ll have to save “live without regrets” and “stop procrastinating” for next year. I’ve never been a fan of resolutions. Probably because I’ve never kept a single one. Plus, I really like my life. I’m happy, healthy and loved. What’s to change? Of course, there are a few things on my wish list.
I lack an entrepreneurial spirit. I depend on others to come up with ways to make my life easier. But I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I were cashing in on inventions, especially when it comes to updating gadgets for kids. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said, “I wish they had that when my daughter was born!” I started saying it when she was one-month old and I’ve been saying it ever since.
My family doesn’t watch much TV together. And hardly ever at night. I’m usually racing to get our daughter bathed and in bed so I have enough time for what I call Dora Déjà vu.
Two days before Christmas, I woke to the feeling of being trampled by 8 not-so-tiny reindeer. Every hair follicle on my body ached. My stomach cramped, heaved and lurched. I tried to stand up three times, but I was dizzier than Grandma with a double-shot eggnog. I don’t have time to be sick, I thought. I wasn’t worried about infecting my relatives or yakking in the Jell-O salad. I had to get toast tongs.
When my daughter was born, two major things happened. My body became an alien spacecraft, brought to the edge of destruction and back again (with some collateral damage, of course). But more importantly, I uncovered a limitless supply of patience that even Gandhi would admire.
As I hauled our luggage out of the attic last week, I glanced at the boxes labeled “Christmas” with a black Sharpie. Those three boxes contain my entire collection of Christmas decorations. By most standards, it’s a meager collection—a couple of mangy stuffed snowmen holding dusty brooms, a few chipped Santa-head mugs, and one artificial tree that’s probably infested with mites.
I don’t like airplanes. You can lecture me on vertical velocity all you want, but it just doesn’t make sense. Balloons float. A 200,000-pound hunk of metal falls.
Yesterday I was talking on the phone with my sister, asking how my little nephew has been. “We’re totally in the Terrible Twos,” she sighed, her voice barely audible over the high-pitch wailing in the background that sounded like the cat was stuck in the pepper grinder. “He’s mad because I put him in timeout for stabbing the dog with a fork.
Lately, we’ve been on the birthday circuit. Today was a 2-year-old’s Thomas-the-Train celebration, tomorrow is a 3-year-old pony riding extravaganza, and next weekend 6-year-old twins are celebrating with a gymnastics party. I love birthday parties. When Ava gets invited, it reassures me that she is popular and I can look forward to eating the piece of cake she decapitates by furiously licking away the frosting. Everyone wins. With all these parties on our calendar, I have to take a list with me to Target just to remind me of the presents I need to buy that month. But a $15 Barbie is a small price to pay for popularity and it beats the cost of child therapy, which I imagine is the sad lot of the uninvited.
On Monday I walked my daughter, Ava, to her Pre-K classroom as usual. Together we hung up her backpack, said “hello” to Gus the classroom guinea pig and kissed goodbye. On the way out, I realized that one of the two teachers was missing. “Where is Miss Kristie?” I asked Miss Megan (it’s taken me 10 years to grow accustomed to this southern “Miss” (insert first name) thing, and now that I have, I can’t shake it).
My daughter Ava and I have started a new tradition: every once in a while, we like to visit the kitties at the Humane Society. My girlfriends think I’m crazy. “Doesn’t it break your heart?” they ask. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it doesn’t. I see the cats lounging in their semi-private studio apartments with wall-to-wall blanketing. Sure, they’re imprisoned, but this is hardly San Quentin. Bleeding hearts ask how I can resist bringing one home.
I grew up going to Sunday school. I enjoyed decorating the classroom windows with brightly colored tissue paper—a trailer park version of stained glass. I liked the apple juice and butter cookies at snack time. The rest—going into the big church to listen to the sermon and take communion—I merely tolerated. Then Mom made the mistake of signing me up for a Bible Study summer camp. The instructors had us discuss “familiar” stories from The Bible—stories that I’d never heard of because I was too concerned with my butter cookie to pay attention. I tried to fake it. But mostly I prayed to God to get me out of there so I could go play on the Slip ‘n Slide before the entire summer was buried under the heavy weight of theology.
My girlfriend Amber and I were in the mad clutches of a GAP Kids sale. As the mother of triplet boys, Amber had three good reasons to buy scores of discounted clothing. I, on the other hand, was merely feeding my consumer habit when I snatched a $7 sequined rainbow hoodie for my daughter. Then, a clerk informed us that the sale applied to the women’s section, as well. We looked longingly—mournfully—at the other side of the store decorated with life-size posters of girls 10 years and 6 sizes our junior, posing their spidery-thin legs and barely there butts. I sighed. “We really should buy something for ourselves for a change,” Amber said. “But it’s so much work,” I whined.
I call it my “naked weight”—those annoying extra pounds that most people can’t see, but I know better because I see them when I’m naked. They are the 7 pounds that I’ve been trying lose my entire adult life. But they’re really attached to me, or my midsection, to be exact.
This past summer, I was enjoying lunch with my mother-in-law and her co-worker, a sweet Asian woman in her mid-40s, when the conversation turned to kids, which quickly brought us to the inevitable question: “When are you going to have more?” My mother-in-law stopped asking some time ago, suggesting that she has lost hope. But she nonetheless perked up when her co-worker posed the question, hoping the answer would be different this time.
My daughter Ava is only 4 ½ years old. My cat is three times her age; I’m embarrassed to say that my underwear outdates her by 5 years. I have a bag of peas in my freezer older than her. But lately, 4 ½ looks and sounds more mature that I could have imagined—and a little premenstrual.
When I was visiting my hometown last month, I ran into my friend Kelli, whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. We were catching up on all that has happened since we last got together when the conversation quickly turned to divorce. “Has it started happening to you?” she asked. “Has what started happening?” I asked. “The divorce epidemic,” she replied. Kelli and her husband are perfectly matched and have two handsome boys. But she noticed that as she neared her 40s, divorces among her friends were popping up like teenage acne.
I am a closet hoarder. No, really. I hoard things in my closet. When I finally admitted this to my husband, his response was “Ya think?” I’m not a messy person. I can’t think in a cluttered room and dust bunnies make me dry-heave. After giving birth to my daughter, I began taking Zoloft to prevent an unmade bed or a dirty dish from sending me into a postpartum tailspin. But take one look in any drawer, closet, cupboard or attic in my house, and you’ll see a different side. That is, if the rubble doesn’t topple on you first.
When I pulled up to my mom’s house the other day, I noticed a minivan parked on the side of the road. Our neighbors were having a garage sale, so I assumed that the owner of the car was just popping in to see the sale. But then I noticed that the car was idling, so I took a closer look through the tinted windows. That’s when I discovered that an infant was inside, buckled into a car seat, while a toddler bounced freely around the back seat. Alone. “Mom, there are two kids in that car and it’s running,” I said as she came out to greet me. We looked around. The sale was inside a garage about 50-yards away. There was no one in sight.