Hello, dormant blog. Hello, friendly WordPress rectangle inviting me to jot some thoughts, spill my beans, weave a word blanket.
I’ve been missing this little outlet lately. I wasn’t sure it would still be here when I came back, like so many other things I set down. But here she is, Sassenfrassen.com, patiently awaiting my return.
Much has happened since I typed here last time. The children have grown and I have a new job. We gained and lost a dog, then gained another one. We went to Paris, and then to London (in other words, a dream came true). We kicked soccer balls and bad attitudes. Ellie came down with a bad case of The Diabetes. We stayed up when we should’ve been sleeping and slept when there were dishes to be done. We laughed a lot and ate our vegetables.
First of all, I need to say this: The fact that it’s spelled “forty” instead of “fourty” has always annoyed me. It doesn’t make sense that sixty, seventy, eighty, and ninety get to have their regularly spelled numbers plus –ty, but all the other multiples of 10 have to put up with inexplicable name changes.
Anyway, that’s just one of the petty, irritable thoughts I’ve had leading up to the BIG BIRTHDAY. I thought it wouldn’t be anything that weighed heavily on my mind; after all, I had no problem turning 30. And up until a couple of months ago, I was feeling fairly blasé about it:
Birthday minus 90 days (let’s call it B-90): What’s the big deal? Ho-hum, turning 40. Why should I get all worked up about it? Why do people get so upset? It’s just a day like any other day. For Pete’s sake. Bring on the clichés, like “Age is just a number,” or “You’re only as old as you feel.” I feel great! There’s no way I’ll give in to this vapid midlife crisis crap.
B-75: In a sudden turn of events, my occasional annoying hip pain turns into all-the-time hip pain. After some x-rays, etc., the doctor says I can do physical therapy, but in the end, I’ll likely need surgery. Moments before, I was more “40-is-the-new-30” and now, suddenly, I’m all “40-is-the-new-90.” Someone bring me a big tube of Ben Gay and reschedule my weekly Bridge game.
B-60: Is that a new crease under my eye? What IS that? Did I sleep on my face, maybe? Because those sleeping pillowface lines that used to go away in 10 minutes now take 5 or 6 hours to disappear. Thanks for nothing, COLLAGEN.
B-45: I still don’t care. Do you hear me, 40? This is me, not caring! Also, I read another one of those simpering interviews with a movie star who recently turned 40 and oh-so-predictably, she said what they always say: “I finally feel comfortable in my own skin.” What does that even mean? Before you turned 40, your skin just didn’t fit right? It was itchy? Too needy? Felt like someone else’s skin? Perhaps before, she was walking around thinking, “Gosh, I just wish my innards were stuffed inside a different skin-bag. This one is just so ICKY.” And then she turned 40, and suddenly the offensive skin holding her body together felt just so very much better. Comfy, even. Magical!
(I know it’s not meant to be taken so literally, but I can’t help it – it bugs me. But I’m FINE! I don’t even care about 40! Numbers mean nothing to me. Obviously.)
B-30: The Daddy asks me if I want to have a party. He’s so sweet – but really, it’s not a big deal, so why do we need to behave as though it is with some expensive gathering commemorating something that’s actually nothing? It’s just a regular day, as far as I’m concerned. Bah humbug.
B-15: Someone asks me how old I am, and I say I’ll be 40 in a few weeks. They kindly exclaim about how that’s impossible, that I look sooooo much younger! And then it strikes me that this is how things will go now – that if I happen to look good on a particular day, it’ll be despite my advanced age.
B-7: Whatever. I don’t care. People who care are shallow and youth-obsessed. Plus, my face broke out today in three places, which doesn’t happen to OLD people. (DOES it?)
B-1: It occurs to me that this is the last day I can say I’m in my 30s. This thought inspires a ridiculously overwrought emotional breakdown. Even the dog thought I was being dumb. Spent the whole day/evening feeling glum and grumpy. Glumpy.
B-day: Feeling pretty silly that I allowed myself to get sucked into a mini midlife crisis. But why shouldn’t I be anything but average and predictable? Simply human, once again. When I turn 50 I’m sure I’ll look back and snicker at what an idiot I was when I turned 40, which is what I did when I was turning 30 and reflecting on age 20. Will that happen forever? When I turn 70, will I think, “Gosh, when I was 60, I was such a know-nothing ass!”
A friend and I were recently laughing about holiday form letters. Don’t get me wrong. I love to get them – especially yours. Most people do a really good job of summarizing the activities of the year without being boastful or obnoxious. And then there are the other people who write the other kinds of letters, the ones designed to make you feel that your own family’s achievements are sooooo lowbrow.
We celebrate all types of accomplishments in the SassenFrassen family, especially the lowbrow ones. If I were to memorialize our achievements in a holiday letter this year, they would look something like this:
The WHOLE family got out of bed on time for five consecutive days in April!
Benjamin finally learned to consistently cough into his sleeve instead of his hand.
We moved in July. Everyone survived, and only one of us required prescription tranquilizers.
I cooked dinner SO MANY TIMES.
Ellie is potty trained, sort of! Well…not really. But she might be soon!
We bathed regularly, all year long. Huzzah!
Not one of us was hospitalized for anything.
We cut down on our television viewing by .07%!!!
That’s the kind of letter I would write to you. Here’s one for those other sorts of people:
Dear Family and Friends,
So far, the holiday season has been positively dreamy! Every night, we sit serenely in front of the fire and share our deepest wishes with one another. Last night, for example, Benjamin said that he doesn’t want any presents at all on Christmas – instead, he wants to spend the whole day writing letters to all of the world’s leaders, promoting humility and loving-kindness as the way to everlasting peace. Ellie’s ideas were slightly less grand, but my heart nearly exploded when she said that she just wants to help “all the babies who don’t have their mammas.” So selfless, for a girl of only 3. I regularly shed tears of joy when I think about how much my children already love the world and its people. I think the fact that we don’t let them watch TV and feed them only a chemical-free vegan diet has really kept them in touch with a higher spiritual plane.
The rest of our year was equally outstanding. The Daddy and I are still steeped in wide-eyed amazement by what we saw on our philanthropic bicycle tour of India in February. For every mile we rode, we earned $50 for charity; when all was said and done, our 250 miles each raised $25,000 for the homeless, hungry people of the world. I wrote a book about our experiences, and Oprah Winfrey has agreed to do a 30 minute special on the OWN TV network promoting it. As I mentioned, we don’t believe in television, but we feel that if it provides the vehicle to get our story out to more people who would like to help, then it’s totally worth it. I can just feel the love from here!
Many of you know that we moved over the summer. It was a peaceful, meditative experience that brought us closer as a family. Instead of being stressed out and snappish with one another, we chose to use the time to joyfully transition into our new home, severing our invisible bonds to unnecessary material possessions. Benjamin and Ellie were so eager to share the toys and books they’d outgrown with less fortunate children that I had to physically stop them from giving away literally EVERYTHING!
This fall, Benjamin started kindergarten and is doing extremely well. His teacher says that, based on his superior social skills and genius-level intellectual capacity, he could easily move up to the 4th grade, maybe even high school! He’ll surely be doing college level work by the age of 8. She pointed out, though, that if he abandoned his classmates, they’d be the ones left suffering the lack of his inspiring leadership. Therefore, he has agreed to stay on in his current classroom in order to set the standard for the others. He is such a selfless young man!
Ellie will turn 3 at the end of this month. While she doesn’t share Benjamin’s intellectual gifts, she has plenty of wonderful qualities all her own. Her love of babies seems to be her main motivation in life. All on her own, she learned to crochet last month and has already produced 15 hats to donate to the preemies at the hospital. Crocheting at 3! Can you imagine? I just don’t know how we got so lucky that the universe chose us as her parents.
Not to boast, but The Daddy and I did fairly well professionally this year. No one was more surprised than we were when BOTH of us were promoted to CEO of our respective companies! Sure, the hours are longer, but we are so enamored with what we do that it hardly seems like an effort. We almost feel guilty collecting a paycheck!
That’s all for now…I’m busily stringing cranberries that we picked by hand into garlands for our organic live Christmas tree. I hope that you, too, had an absolutely breathtaking year full of luck, love, and laughter. Here’s to 2012 – I can’t wait to see what the new year brings!
6:15 a.m. My eyes haven’t even opened yet. I can sense daylight through my eyelids, but I am not yet remotely interested in what time it is. Benjamin is lying next to me. I’m pretty sure he’s sleeping, but then he says,
“Mama, Grandma told me that saying ‘What the…?‘ is fine. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
Here we go again. Keeping my eyes closed, I say,
“Grandma probably doesn’t know the end of that sentence, so she would think it’s fine. But it’s not okay for you to say, because plenty of people DO know how to finish that sentence, and you’re too little to be saying it.”
“I’m listening to Grandma because she’s right.”
“No, I’d like you to listen to me because I’m your mother and I said so.”
I’d type out the rest of the conversation, but it’s irritating and redundant.
Notably, not even an hour later, Ellie peers into her cereal bowl and says, “What the…?”
8:30 a.m. Benjamin and I are in the car, idling in the drive-through line at Tim Horton’s. He’s playing with his show-and-tell item, a skeleton of a Quetzalcoatlus, and is right in the middle of explaining why he needs a chocolate chip cookie. At that moment, out of nowhere, BAM! The lady behind us slams into my rear bumper.
Benjamin probably said, “What the…?” but I didn’t hear it. I pull into a parking space and exit the car. The perpetrator does the same, meeting me between the vehicles to inspect the damage.
I throw my hands up in the air, incredulous. “What was that?” I ask.
She looks at me sadly. “I’m so sorry,” she says. “I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know how it happened.”
My heart rate slows. Who really does know why, when they do something like that? It wasn’t like she did it on purpose. I look at her car and notice a little boy, much like my own, sitting in the back seat. I look for damage and there is very little. “Well, I’ve done plenty of things I can’t explain too.” She smiles. I reach out, give her arm a little squeeze, and suggest we just get back in our cars and get some coffee.
I slide back into my seat. Benjamin says, “Why did she do that to us?”
“She says she doesn’t know.”
“Oh. Well, she almost broke my Quetzalcoatlus skeleton.”
“Boy, that would’ve really stunk.”
“You’re right, Mama, it really would’ve.”
He said I was right about something!
8:40 a.m. I finally make it to the window at Tim Horton’s. Everything about my order is correct, except the part where they downsized my coffee, ensuring that I won’t attain the appropriate caffeine dosage required to fully start the engine on my higher-level brain functions.
I mention this to the drive-through lady, and she is plainly uninterested in correcting the problem. “Oh,” she says, “that’s the size they charged you for. Sorry!” Then she adds, “Figures. Goes right along with how the rest of my morning is going!”
8:55 a.m. Benjamin and I arrive at his preschool. He hands me his Quetzalcoatlus skeleton model and says, “Here, Mama. Hide this behind your back so I can surprise my friends with it. My back isn’t big enough to hide it behind because I’m only little.”
(In case you’re wondering by now, a Quetzalcoatlus is a type of flying dinosaur. And I would be remiss if I didn’t explain that flying dinosaurs are actually called Pterosaurs, as Benjamin announces to anyone who will listen.)
I take the skeleton as he’s climbing out of the car. When I move my arm behind my back to hide it, I feel one of its wings catch on my shirt and then OMG the whole thing just collapses into a million pieces, spread out all over the parking space next to us. OK, so maybe it was only 10-ish pieces, but still, we’d been through so much already this morning, and now THIS.
Benjamin starts to panic. “Mama, all the pieces! They’re all over! We have to pick them up and put it back together! Hurry! Mama! Mama! Mama, mama, mama!”
We scramble to pick up all the pieces before another car comes to park in the space. The problem is, I don’t know how many pieces we should have, because I didn’t put the wretched thing splendid specimen together.
I dump what we’ve got into his booster seat and set about recreating it. After a few false starts, it goes together pretty easily. Benjamin thinks I’m a heroic genius.
“Thanks Mama! You did it! I can’t wait to show it to my friends!”
I tell him I’m not going to try to hide it behind my back again, and he sees the wisdom. We walk into his school, and as soon as his friends see the skeleton, they go bananas. He beams from ear to ear.
On my way out, one of the little girls in his class stops me to say,
“Hey, Benjamin’s Mama, you look really pretty today!”
I smile at her, thank her, and give her all the cash in my purse. No, I didn’t. But who could’ve blamed me?
When I was 15, my best friend talked me into joining the swim team. “You need to do something,” she said, “to prove you have school spirit.”
The truth was, I didn’t have much school spirit, nor did joining the swim team provide even a teaspoon more. I liked school, probably more than most, but the school spirit thing eluded me. It seemed to be nothing more than a lemming-like belief that our school was better than anyone else’s school, which was just plain hard to accept. It was a good school, sure, but I’d been in other schools and they all seemed much the same. There were kids and teachers and lockers, and reportedly the same lunchroom popularity contests resulting in priority seating for cheerleaders and jocks. I never ate in the lunchroom because I just couldn’t bear to witness it.
(The one time I went into the lunchroom, there was the obnoxious fun table, and then the tables containing everyone else. Most heads were bowed silently over peanut butter sandwiches and Pringles, praying not to be noticed. I never went back.)
So I did eventually join the swim team, and I learned the following things: how to get up at 5:00 a.m. (didn’t care for it), how to leap purposefully off of a starting block (really fun with careful aim), how to breathe efficiently (less is more) and how to force yourself into ridiculously cold water when you’d rather just go back to bed. The answer to that one is: Stop thinking – just jump right in.
I thought about how I would write this very first blog post, and then I thought about it some more. And then a little more. Then it struck me that the continual thinking was much like teenaged me, the sulking sleepy procrastinator…sitting on the side of the pool, waiting for a reason to force myself to move.
(I’d love to be able to say that the reason I eventually jumped in each morning was an innate drive to perform and succeed, but actually it was Coach Hal’s harrassing threats.)
In summary, welcome to SassenFrassen, written by a woman who has no school spirit, who hates lunchrooms and frigid early morning swims, and who performs only in response to harrassment and threats. *waves* This is going to be fun!