Monthly Archives: March 2013

Life As A Parent (As Told By A Babysitter)

Last weekend I watched four children under the age of 10 from early Friday morning until Sunday evening. All by myself. It has taken nearly a week to find the right words to articulate this experience. Not really. That was just a dramatic set-up to excuse not writing this on Monday and also, if I can portray a scenario that earns me a few “How do you do it! I couldn’t do it!” sentiments from my peers, I tend to do so. It seems to be my nature. I imagine this is a result of being an out of work former assistant with a theatre background who has been told countless times “Look how well you talk in front of an audience! People admire that! Companies need that!”, when in reality what companies need is someone who can create a budget using Excel without having to Google “how to add numbers when they’re all in a row.” So yeah, sometimes it’s nice to think that while many people are a few steps/miles ahead of me in the career race, I have the upper hand in a few small life areas. What I know is kids. And one day when we all have them I can be like, “Oh, you’ve never done this before? See, the key to getting four children out of a locker room efficiently after swimming lessons is to make the two who were not swimming that morning sit on a bench stewing in their own misery and ignore their pleas to wander around the gym alone, while turning a blind eye to the other two standing in the showers peeing on each other so you can get swimsuits dried in those weird little machines, bags packed, and out the door in no less than 2o minutes.” It’s not experience I relish, but experience I have nonetheless. And while my nearly 15 years of experience as a babysitter I imagine qualifies me for some kind of adult Girl Scout child rearing badge, I am here to tell you that, holy shit, kids are a nightmare.

At this point, I have spent more hours taking care of children than I have on all other professional ventures combined and honestly it amazes me sometimes that so many young people (myself included) look at our wonderfully simple, independent lives, where every dollar we earn can be spent on ourselves and think, “Yep, I’d like to add a bunch of kids to this situation.”

“But it’s different when they’re your own!” Blah, blah, blah. Whatever, you guys. Yes, motherhood and fatherhood and parenting in general are very special experiences and your heart walks outside your body, and you learn what it is to love something more than yourself, and if a car fell on top of your crying baby, you would suddenly develop super human strength and lift that car up to save your most precious cargo’s life and when Oprah asks how you did it you’d say, “I don’t know, I’m just a mom.” But you know what? Ten years later you are going to ask that car baby what he has for homework and he is going to say, “UGH WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO ASK ME THAT! IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!” and you will have to call on patience you didn’t even know you had to prevent yourself from flipping that kid the bird and leaving the house for a week. My weekend as sole caregiver to these kids, twin nine year olds, an eight year old, and a four year old to be exact, was basically a 60 hour seminar in how to talk nicely to one another. And everyone failed. Do you know what it feels like to tell a kid to stop calling his brother a jerk and then out of the corner of your eye you see him MOUTH IT? Oh my God. Never.

I’ve known this family for six years, which means I have known the four year old since conception. I distinctly remember unloading the dishwasher in the summer of 2008 and thinking it had been weeks since I put a wine glass away and then realizing, “Oh God. Another one. It’s coming.” I remember all of them at that adorable age when they still couldn’t lift the milk out of the fridge. Now I find them with ten pieces of gum in their mouth and when I make a dinner suggestion I get, “No I don’t want SOUP. I’ll make my own dinner.” (For the record, I also think soup sounds like the worst dinner suggestion I’ve ever heard, but I know how to communicate that sentiment politely.) As kids get older they start becoming more confident with what they know about the world and more confident that everything they know, you don’t. I actually really enjoy talking to kids about what they’re learning in school or having thoughtful conversations with them about stories they’ve heard in the news. At dinner on Friday night I heard a really exciting interpretation of Hurricane Katrina. On our drive home from swimming lessons on Saturday morning, it was explained to me that none of them would attend a Justin Bieber concert because “he is not a good person” and “wears his pants too low.” I love hearing how kids respond to the adult world, how pop culture influences their preferences, what commonalities may lie between us. What I am less fond of is this: “Catherine why are you going this way? Why are you turning? That’s not the way to the movie theater! You were supposed to park back there!” Oh really?! Well let me turn around, drop you back off at that parking garage that leads to Von Maur and you can go ask the lady at the Clinique counter where the 1:45 pm showing of The Croods is! I am the adult! You know nothing! Maybe this is karma for when I was 14 and told my dad he was wrong, there was a middle seatbelt in the Honda Prelude, and so can you please now drive all of my friends over to some boy’s house. You know who turned out to be wrong in that story? I shiver at the memory. Either way, there is nothing quite like being bossed around by kids whose only area of expertise that might best your own is in multiplying fractions because they learned it, like, on Thursday. In every other situation you know more and you know better, and yet, to convey this simple truth to a child is next to impossible.

Also, teeth brushing! You mean to tell me that I arrived at the second floor approximately 20 seconds after you did and you managed to get your pajamas on, brush your teeth, and climb into bed? Yeah the fuck right. Why do kids lie about brushing their teeth? In a kid’s world, teeth brushing is probably the easiest thing they are asked to do in their daily routine, maybe only second to, “Here, eat this food I cooked for you.” I know that explaining in a wary tone that if they don’t brush their teeth, their teeth will rot and they’ll spend the rest of their lives eating apple sauce with their gums is the kind of long term consequence children can’t really wrap their heads around. So when it comes time to actually doing it, all they see is this wench lady standing before them, suddenly mandating a chore. Let me go get my violin, kid. I think I left it in the laundry room where I’m washing the eight different shirts you decided to wear today.

To quickly summarize, my weekend went something like this: “Talk nicely. Can you ask nicely? Don’t talk to each other like that. Did you hear me? Can you say ‘Yes, Catherine I heard you.’ Can you say, ‘Thank you Catherine for the movie?’ Can you say, ‘Thank you Catherine for lunch?’ How about a thank you? Please put Candy Land away. You can dribble that ball in the basement or outside. Where’s your sock? Do you need help zipping your coat? Finish your milk. Why is Candy Land still out? Sit up. Because I asked you to. Have three more bites. No you cannot have candy before breakfast. Buckle your seat belt. Why is the car moving and your seat belt is not on? Put a coat on. It’s 35 degrees outside, you cannot wear flip flops. If he says no you need to stop. Be patient. Be nice. Go outside! Talk nicely! Seat belts!”

Is it sometimes fun? Of course it is. If you’re up for enjoying the company of a kid, you probably will because they love you and they are just happy to have your attention and hear that the origami frog they made at school is the coolest fucking thing you have ever seen. What I take from my experience with children is an important reminder for young women that there should be absolutely no rush to get any of these life goals checked off our to-do list quite so quickly. Marriage. Buying a house. The perfect career. Kids. At this age, we see it happening to so many around us and confuse those gains in someone else’s life as a loss in ours. For anyone to feel behind or envious of their friends who appear to be a few steps ahead is wasting energy when there is so much fun to be had with what we’re given. Do you know what I did last night? I sat around my living room with three of my favorite girlfriends, drank lots of red wine, at one point my hair got curled, and then I went to bed at 2 am and now it’s 11 am on Saturday morning and I think I’m going to nap soon. That’s my life. And it’s so perfect. Do you know what the parents of those children probably did last night? Scrubbed a macaroni and cheese pot clean, watched an hour or two of basketball and went to bed at 11 pm because it all starts again at 6 am. No, as a 26 year old, I cannot say I am envious. In a hundred years (I don’t like to pressure myself with a timeline), kids may very well be a part of the equation and I will love them more than anything on this enormous planet and it will be so great. But that’s for later. For now, I am perfectly content dating guys who aren’t looking for a commitment, working in a theater company for the love not the money, embarrassing myself at an exercise class, and learning how to make better scrambled eggs. It’s the exact kind of life experience I need right now.

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Ten Pop Culture Events That We Missed While TFA Was On Hiatus

This is not a post of the top ten moments in pop culture of the last seven months. Just a list I created in my head, while lying in bed thinking about ways I could spend my afternoon that avoided looking for a job, but didn’t make me feel like a slothy loser. Poking fun at Amanda Bynes it is! Enjoy.

1. Kim Kardashian is pregnant with Kanye West’s baby.

This I care very little about. I don’t much care for him (although the first 15 seconds of “Jesus Walks” still gets my blood pumping and inspires some embarrassing interpretations of hip-hop dancing when I am in private) and she is, well, you know, just like a thing we think about sometimes and an easy punch line for comedians who are talking about shapely bottoms/work ethic. I stand neither with the “She’s a millionaire for doing nothing! Shame!” haters or the “She’s the best example of the American Dream! Creating something out of nothing and creating an empire!” lovers. What Kim Kardashian provides for me is an excellent program to watch when I feel like napping off a hangover or painting my nails. But I will tell you this, if I announced that I was pregnant and the feedback I received was, “OH GOD THE END OF THE WORLD REALLY IS COMING!@$!!!$@!#!!%!!”, that would hurt my feelings. So I felt bad for her. Especially when Kate Middleton announced she was expecting around the same time and everyone’s reaction to that was, “You are a goddess and in an incarnation of God’s most perfect maternal creation. Tell me what you’re thinking for maternity wear. No don’t—I want to be surprised. You’re perfect.” Kim will have that baby and the  jokes will return, and maybe she will deserve them because she will dress that baby in Louis Vuitton onesies and booties adorned with Swarovski crystals that everyone else understands to be a choking hazard, but for now, let’s just be happy for her.

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2. The Beyonce documentary.

My friend Lara and I were determined to have a Beyonce documentary premiere party the night this first aired, back in February. I ended up having something mandatory that night and she found something better to do and the plan to watch it together never real came up again. So when I was asked to babysit on a Saturday night a few weeks back, I indulged in my HBO OnDemand options, and gave it a chance. First of all, the ratio of footage of random trees to footage aboard Jay-Z’s yacht was like 50:1. Terrible. Second, Beyonce has a lot of thoughts on her career and the various stressors that come with it, but the only way she knows how to express them is by taping herself on her laptop so you can only see very specific angles of her face. Lord knows she’s gorgeous and she can work any angle and if you filmed me that close right after I got out of the shower, my face would look more like something film artists use as a tool on which to build prosthetic noses, but after so many of these shots it just began to feel a little MySpace confessional.

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My ears perked up when she mentioned to her computer diary that she needed to go make love to her husband, but then it cut to her in an elevator and I was bored again. The documentary was about an hour and a half long and as much as she wanted to believe that it provided all this deep insight into her life and psyche, I feel like I learned more about the super private Adele in her ten minute 60 Minutes interview. There was a sweet moment when she and Jay-Z serenaded each other in Belize or somewhere with Coldplay’s “Yellow” and she changed the lyrics to “Jay Jay I love you so” which was adorable. And then of course this happened and I forgave her for everything:

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3. Miley Cyrus cut her hair short.

I still don’t understand why anyone has ever forgiven her for the way she talks, so this haircut did not strike me as anything I needed to be that concerned about. Here are two things I think: 1. If you can pull off short hair, then girl, do it. Every time I see a woman with short hair and she looks amazing I am jealous. I know if I cut my hair short I would look like Tina Fey in a 30 Rock flashback sequence. So good for you, Miley. Change up your look. You just made yourself ten times more interesting. But still, please do not open your mouth or share with me anything about your life. Miley Cyrus becoming ten times more interesting to me makes her about as interesting as a hair model in one of those books you thumb through while waiting at a salon. I’ve never wondered about their boyfriends. 2. I’m no psychologist (just ask my Acting degree), but we all know Miss Cyrus has a history of negative attention-seeking. As someone who sought a great deal of attention as a child (one time I wrote my sister a note telling her I was running away because she was so mean and held the note under the sink so water would drip on the ink and she would confuse it for tears), my parents handled this problem by simply ignoring me. Have we ever thought what would happen if when a celebrity does something “extreme” like cutting seven inches off their hair, we just said “Cool look, Miley.” and let that be the end of it, and then we would hear from her less?

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4. Blake Lively married Ryan Reynolds. 

No one cares about this.

5. Anne Hathaway

Yes, you are correct, I am among those who absolutely cannot stand Anne Hathaway. This isn’t blind, mob mentality loathing I am expressing. I feel like I have spent an adequate amount of time experiencing her personality these past three months, and what I have taken away is that she is one who shows no awareness or understanding for why we the public find her choices/personality so grating, and I find that infuriating. This problem is not celebrity-specific. We see it all the time. Moms who casually mention how surprised they are that their four year old has already mastered the clarinet, friends who post pictures of  delivered bouquets on Facebook with the caption “I’m a lucky girl ;)” (For once I wish someone would caption that picture “Someone’s getting a hard bang tonight” just to keep it real), brides who talk about only eating egg whites for the next ninety days. This is Anne Hathaway. The woman you don’t even know how to be happy for because she is already so goddamned pleased with herself. At some point during the Anne Hathaway hate-a-thon that was this awards season, I saw more and more articles coming out trying to explain or nail down the root cause for all this loathing. I don’t know what was so confusing about it. This is what she said when she won the Golden Globe: “Thank you for this blunt object that I will forever more use as a weapon against self-doubt.” The problem here isn’t just the totally gag-me-with-a-spoon-faux-poetics, it’s that she is soliciting our sympathy when she is at the top of her career. You cannot have the odds and be the underdog, Anne. When Michael Phelps won eight gold medals he wasn’t like, “Oh gosh, I’m just a boy with ADHD and a dream.” No. He was like, “Bring on the shoe deal that doesn’t even make sense for my career, bitch.” And then he smoked pot and we forgave him because he is arrogant, and owns it, and makes America look good in front of China. When we finally arrived at the Oscars, Anne won and she came to the stage and my worst nightmare, well, you saw. It came true.

Relax.

6. Sean The Bachelor chose Catherine to be his wife. Also, he’s a virgin?

At one point in this blog’s history, I provided a weekly recap of The Bachelor for our readers. This was super generous of me because I really do find that show incredibly painful to watch. Not in a feminist “Get a backbone, ladies!” way, but in a “Oh my good God, must it take 15 minutes to hand out three roses?” kind of way. It’s a super tedious show. So I decided to use my seven month long blog abandonment as an excuse to also not watch this season with Sean. I did catch a few snippets here and there while my roommate watched. I know there was a great deal of fuss over “Tiara” and her “eyebrow.” I also noticed ABC finally entertained the idea of having some women of color contend for the bachelor’s heart for longer than the first episode. That felt pretty progressive. And then I heard that Sean is a virgin. Let me clarify: a man who spent many years having sex but decided he wants to be a virgin again. So he just is? Sure. In the end he chose Catherine for his wife, who, in the little time I spent with her, seemed like someone you discover gets more and more annoying the more you get to know her. I do like hearing my own name on television, though. I don’t know why. It’s like finding your name on a mini license plate in a Florida gift shop. It’s just nice to be acknowledged.

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Also, Sean is my brother’s name. So hearing the names Catherine and Sean paired together as a couple is not like, something I feel great about. Do you think they call each other Tawn Tawn and Caffer or is that just my mom?

7.  Amanda Bynes lost. her. shit.

Ahh! Face pierce! What happened, Amanda? You look like a contender on The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search For The Next Doll who gets kicked off after episode three for hair pulling. Get it together. You were so great in She’s The Man. Seriously I LOL’d like six times. You can do this.

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8. Kristen Stewart cheated on Rob Something with that director who had a smokin hot wife.

I swear on my mother I am not trying to be funny or above the fray here. I am honestly sitting up in bed racking my brain to remember Rob’s last name but the only names coming to mind are “Reiner” and “Kardashian.” and “Stewart.” Can’t be Stewart. Thinking of Rod Stewart. Did they have one of those morph names Hollywood press use to save themselves a syllable? Was it Robstew? That’s not helping. Anyway, I’ll check the Internets in a moment to confirm. (Ed. Note: I started this post on Thursday afternoon. It is now Friday afternoon. Still can’t think of it.) What I found most fascinating was that this young actress who is normally so pouty and “get out of my life!” about her career in the spotlight, made such a fast and public apology. Were the pictures even that damning? I remember lots of hugging on balconies. Maybe a kiss? I’m around actors a lot and they love to touch each other. It’s there way of showing how liberal and loving they are as a community by greeting each other with a kiss right on the mouth while standing beside their respective spouses. Free love. I mean obviously Kristen and director left the balcony shortly after  the weirdo photographer hiding in the bushes got his shot and proceeded to have lots of sex. I’m not a naive child. I’m just saying maybe let your PR people do a little spin for you and see what you can get away with. The best thing I got out of this event was an introduction to Liberty Ross (the previously mentioned smokin hot wife of the director) who is awesome and does edgy editorials with Kate Moss. She is the only one I wanted to know anything about during this entire escapade.

Work.

Work.

9. Amy Poehler and Will Arnett announced their divorce.

While preparing this post, I g-chated the already mentioned Lara and asked her to freshen my memory on a major celebrity divorce that occurred in the last seven months and she said “Probably still Kim Kardashian” which happened in 2011. So I searched the Internet for celebrity divorces of 2012 and scrolled through the slideshow Us Weekly had created on the subject (the poor intern who’s job that was–don’t forget Chris Harrison or Richie Sambora and Denise Richards! Again!). And then I fell upon Amy Poehler and Will Arnett’s photograph and I remembered and re-saddened. I choose not to be shocked by most things related to celebrity relationships, but I had just recently read Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns, and in her chapter on marriage she shares a story about being at a party with Will and Amy and how they just seemed to be on the same team. Teammates. So I was rooting for them. Because when two smart, funny people get together, I want that to be enough to keep them together. When it’s not, reality sets in, and we realize that marriage is infinitely complicated and none of this is any of our business and I still love them both.

10. I watched the entire series Rescue Me in approximately two months.

This is not a pop culture event, but more a recommendation for the next series you tackle on Netflix Watch Instantly. I spent a lot of time alone in my old office in the last few months I was there and also just dedicated a great deal of evening and weekend time to this show. There was one Saturday where I genuinely had a full day of social activities—lunch with a friend, a trip to the grocery store, tidied up the apartment, etc.—and still managed to watch eight episodes. It is such a well-written, well-acted show that is hilarious and heartbreaking and ladies, if ever you are looking for some level of insight into the male experience, particularly regarding sex and relationships, Rescue Me would be the show for you. If you are wondering what kind of insight a terribly written, terribly acted show provides, you can borrow the first four seasons of Entourage from me and then never return them.

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That’s all for now! Please share with me anything I missed, if you are so inclined. Enjoy your weekends. Be safe out there celebrating St. Patrick’s Day! I’ll share with you my adventures next week if I can even remember them. That’s hilarious. I’m too old to still enjoy this.

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Catherine vs. The Internet: An Education

Last night my girlfriends and I went out to celebrate one of us completing the Bar Exam this week. It was not me. No, my week was dedicated to the relaunch of Thanks For Asking (yay!) and cursing the names of every Chicago homeowner who did not shovel their sidewalk. It was exactly the kind of food/drink fest someone needs after dedicating the better portion of the new year to studying law so complex and boring, it’s a miracle we humans even have the brain capacity to ingest this material for longer than thirty seconds. As her roommate, she would occasionally share a practice question with me and as she read it I would just lower my head and shake it in sympathy. The last time I took a legitimate test was probably high school considering my college education was basically a four year long venture into how I was feeling about my feelings. Even in high school the questions were like, “Does this flask help you make carbon?” And you just said yes or no. I don’t know. I don’t remember Chemistry that well. So out of the great respect I have for her and what she just went through, I drank my face off by her side. The night ended at a lovely local tourist trap, filled with men dressed like my father and women dancing like Oprah had just promised them a trip to the Four Seasons for a high class bikini wax. They were so happy. The Redhead Piano Bar is a great place to learn where I will be in my life in thirty years because I absolutely know it will be in that bar drinking vodka sodas until I forget about my wretched children who won’t even look up from the television when I come home from work. Other than that small insight, the place was gross and carpeted and I saw at least one man slip his ringed finger into his pocket while talking to my friend.

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I did find myself longing to be in the position of the lounge singer, belting out classics from “Come To My Window” to “I Will Survive.” (Those are actually the only two songs I remember her singing.) For someone who spent the better half of the summer of 2001 singing along–loudly–to the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack and generally loses too many hours in the day pretending to be the featured artist at a major concert venue, I just think I could be really happy up there at the piano, taking requests, winking at all the men in light denim.

Before arriving at The Redhead Piano Bar, we enjoyed a nice dinner at Quartino, the perfect place for women to unleash their enormous appetites that are otherwise suppressed when googling recipes for brussels sprouts salads. We divided the bill by six and when the waiter came back with a hundred receipts for each of us, I explained to the table that everyone’s total should be $35 in order for our server to receive the proper tip. This confused some of us (one of us) which led to this receipt disaster:

Lara Receipt

At the time I thought this was the funniest thing I had ever seen (it’s not, really) and deemed it worthy of a pic uploaded onto Instagram. Which brings me to my point. 555 words later. I have recently added Instagram to my list of things that I would like to become better at. Also on that list is not ending sentences with prepositions. My reasons are two fold. 1. I am supremely jealous of people who photo-document their life because it naturally makes them look like they are having more fun than me and that gives me low self-esteem. 2. Instagram, like Twitter, is one of those of-the-moment phenomena that I’m sure if I were some kind of pop culture professor extraordinaire, I could better articulate its significance to our culture/generation. All I know is that I want in. I can’t have my grandchildren come to me in a hundred years, inquiring into the trends of early 21st century America, and reply, “I don’t know, guys. I never really figured that one out myself.”

The major problem here is that I have absolutely no idea how to use it. It wasn’t until a trip to San Francisco when I was looking over my sister’s shoulder, breathing on her neck, and saw that she was actually scrolling through her Instagram app that I even realized there was something to look at on there. I honestly thought it was just a place to take a photo and make it look like it was taken in the 1970s and you just smiled at it, content that it looked a little bit different than you’re regular boring photographs. I didn’t know you shared photos, and liked other people’s photos, and scrolled through this newsfeed of photographs after you were sufficiently bored with the nothing Facebook has to offer. I was so intrigued! When I got back to Chicago, I spent ten minutes trying to remember my username before successfully logging in and then froze in horror at what I had unknowingly shared so far. Among the photos in this limited/pathetic collection was a picture of my friend Daniel in the dark looking high on meth with the caption “Danny” and a picture of a polar bear with the caption “Polar bear!” There was one picture of my feet on my old work desk that I think I originally wanted to accompany with some sarcastic caption about not being at the beach on that summer day? My brow is furrowed in embarrassment as I type this. I deleted the foot picture because I just can’t have that be my legacy. The largest problem is that my pictures are so few and far between it’s the equivalent of your dad being on Facebook and the only update you have ever see on his profile is”Dad has joined Facebook.”

So I am a work in progress. I am taking note from my sister who among her top skills is an excellent photo-documenter. Much like the time she came over and taught me how to use Pinterest and I yelled at her until I found a recipe for something called Twix brownies, she is showing me by example how I can become a better Instagramer. I need to talk to her about hashtags because I don’t really get those either and hers are funny like “#slurpslurpslurp” under a picture of her boyfriend slurping noodles at a restaurant called Slurpies. But other people take pictures of stop signs and have hashtags like “#red #octagon #sign” so I’m not sure how literal or funny I’m supposed to be.

Feel free to look at my atrocious collection of 11 photographs, username catherineja. If you feel encouraged by this post’s promise of a greater presence with this app? site? tool? what do we call it? feel free to follow me as well. This morning I almost took a picture of my breakfast but I get the sense that the food shots are supposed to be more exciting than a bowl of Cheerios with bananas on top.

2013. It’s gonna be somethin’. And I’ll have the pictures to prove it.

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