Thursday, March 19, 2015


In most cities, there are waiting lists and strategies to get into the "best" kindergarten, which- of course- leads to the cherub getting into "THE" prep school before graduating from Harvard, Yale, or Ivy this 'n that and winning a Nobel Peace Prize. The parents can finally breath easy that they successfully lived vicariously through their children. 

Kindergarten is serious business.

When we lived in DC, more than one mother on the park bench talked to me about my one year old and that we were already behind the eight ball when it came to enrolling Leenie. I discovered that even preschools had a waiting list for the waiting list. There were people who were paid to help families write successful applications and train four year old children on the art of the interview.

Alpha parenting is intense.

Down South, here in Hometown, where skeeters and heat waves play with our nerves, and Alpha Parenting involves more monograms and bigger bows- we don't worry about getting into the "best" kindergarten when a positive pregnancy test reveals that life continues, rather we worry about Social partners and picking the best one for our child.


Oh- you must not be from around here. Social is something that goes back generations in Hometown teaching seventh, eighth, and ninth graders ballroom dancing. In tenth and eleventh grade our children have the opportunity to be in Cotillion and teach the next crop about the polka, waltz, and foxtrot. 

This is something my father did, my brother did, I did, and our children will do. Zealously. 

Social is where the Alpha Parents come to play. The monogrammed oversized bows are out and the gloves go on. White kid gloves, that is.

I thought mothers lined up partners a year before Social began with a quick phone call to a friend. Clearly I lack oversized bows and meeting the monogram quota. These things are discussed while strolling strollers. Betrothals are made. Dowries are laid down. Promises are kept. 

Fates are sealed. 

There are rules about the partner- the most important being that the son and the daughter go to the same school and be in the same grade. This is easier said than done sometimes. How can you lock down a First Round Draft Pick if you don't know who these kids are or are going to be? This is kindergarten.

This is kindergarten and half the class already has been paired up with their partner that they will need seven years from now. That's serious Alpha Parenting. Kindergarten is only five years away from conception. Stick it, Big City. We take Alpha Parenting to a new level. Now we are competing against competition. 

It's a commitment, too. What if this kid betrothed to your child turns into a bad seed? Or the girl outgrows the boy and she is two heads taller? Too late- you have committed to this person to learn to dance with your child. 

Polka is important. To be perfectly honest, it's actually a really fun dance. But, in seventh grade- it is important. In kindergarten, it is important, too. No man left behind. Or girl learning to curtsy. 

I have to admit, I stare wide-eyed at mothers as they talk about their child's social partner and wonder how they do it. Of course, when I was pregnant with Leenie- my social partner's wife was pregnant with their son and we joked that they would be future social partners. I mean, that's different- the parents were partners, so it only makes sense for the children to be partners, too. That's not Alpha Parenting- that is just good practice for tradition. 

Sadly, what was to be her future social partner will be in a grade below her. It really screws up our plans, but fortunately- my social partner and his wife are good people and we got our dowry back. He is now squared away with a partner- someone other than us- and that is okay, I guess... 

Please note the present tense of the term "social partner" -- we have not been paired in almost twenty years. But his picture is on my mantle and I am on his parent's fridge. Social partners are liked lemas, they partner for life. 

It is important too that you like the parents. Because the Spring Formal is long and the time to see your child dance is short. What happens if you have nothing in common? Or they are just different from you and your husband? Because don't think for a second that the dads are in on this partner business. They have no idea what goes into this or when it starts. 

Heaven forbid they work for XYZ pyramid scheme and spend the four hours of Spring Formal explaining the benefits of the miracle tea they hock out of their trunk. If it pays the Social tuition, I cannot argue with the success. But, what does Emily Post say about purchasing said Miracle Tea from the parent of the Social partner? Can you politely decline? Feign an allergy? Is it possible to feign an allergy when the ingredients are not listed? 

As I said, I stare wide-eyed at mothers as they plan for Social, but internally- I panic. Short, shallow breaths as I do not want my children to be left behind. Who do we ask? WHO DO WE ASK?! Why aren't we first draft picks? Why in the world am I panicking about this? I won't panic once we have a partner lined up.

You? You look nice. 

What about you? Leenie sits next to you as you learn to write your numbers and it seems that they are mostly shaped appropriately. You seem smart. But, do you have rhythm? 

Your dad can dance, but can you? Did you get your mother's rhythm? I went to college with your mother and she could not dance. She could drink, but dancing was not her strong suit. She could do other things, but- well, you'll never know about that.

You look like you come from tall stock. Perhaps you'll be taller than my daughter that comes from the short stock of her parents. What the Cagles lack in height, we make up in personality. 

Your parents seem like they are fun, but will I think so in six years after I really know them? What if they end up selling Miracle Tea?

Perhaps, you? Your parents are not from here, so they -hopefully- won't know about this business of squaring away partners before the child's name is dry on the birth certificate. But you are whiny. Will you be whiny in seven years? 

In the meantime, I like your parents- Nick. You're rowdy, but so is Bennie. I'm going to talk to your mom. We joke about arranging a Social partnership, but while I was laughing; I was, in fact dead serious. DEAD SERIOUS. Bennie will not be left hanging. You just thought we were joking. Nick's dad might be a lawyer, but I watch The Good Wife and know that a verbal contract is good in most states. 

Fuzzy is but seven weeks old and we have already laid the ground work for his dance partner being four days his senior. Men like cougars. Figuring I don't need to worry about his partner just yet, we laugh at those other Alpha Moms and know that both kids have an ace in the hole. 

But then, last night- I get a phone call from a friend asking me if Fuzzy has a dance partner. 

"Yes, yes he does."

I have my youngest two squared away- now, to get on the ball with the kid who "actually" needs a partner. 

Is this like a cattle sale? Do I need to present her pros to potential partners? Do I need to wait for someone to approach us? 

Perhaps potential partners should submit essays. 500 words as to why you -- who am I kidding... 750 words as to why your son and you as parents would make an excellent Social partner for my first born. Please submit the betrothal request in 12 point Times New Roman via electronic mail to me. Submissions put in after May 1 will not be accepted. An optional bottle of wine in recommended with the submission, but not required. Applications without wine will not win.

Whoever you are, Future Social Partner- let me tell you something. You and your family are getting a heck of a good partner in Leenie. She might not be the best ballroom dancer, but you don't want the best; you want the girl who is fun. You want the girl who is laid back. You want the girl who likes music and makes friends easily. You want the girl who is not bossy and won't hit you when you mess up the steps. You want a girl who is not going to be too tall and remembers to wear her gloves. You want my kid. Trust me. 

I have taken Social. I know these things.... now.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Riding in the Parade

There are funny things I wanted to remember over the past few days and tell you about them. But, well, those funny things compounded into other funny things and I got distracted with the things that make up my day.

Eight days later, I am sitting in Fuzzy's room as he sleeps. Bennie and Leenie are at school and Husband is getting ready for work. It's a nice, quiet morning following a hectic and playful St. Patrick's Day.

Leenie and I had a traditional Irish breakfast at Waffle House before heading over to the bank to make a $.48 deposit.

forty eight cents.

She got her report card last week and everything was great- the only thing we needed to work on was coin recognition. Over waffles, I pull out the change in my wallet and we talk about the differences, names, and values of each one. After getting them in line, I asked her if she wanted to deposit them.


To the bank we go!

I ask for a deposit slip and pen and show Leenie how to fill it out. We count our coins again and stand in line. She hands the teller her slip and coins before receiving her receipt. The people in line behind us thought we were nuts. I thought we were teaching a valuable lesson. She worked on addition, coin recognition, and fiscal responsibility.

After the bank, we headed downtown for the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Leenie wanted to ride on the Parochial float and toss candy. Fuzzy and I walked along beside her. One piece at a time, she picked it up and threw it at whomever or whatever was in her rhythm. The man on the corner got a piece, the car parked on the side of the road got a piece, those two little kids got a piece... She was so excited to throw candy and for every one she threw, she ate one herself.

At one point, she asked me to throw a piece. Obliging my sweet girl, I picked up a piece of hard candy. It was a sucker, I think. Those are hard, right?


Wait, first off- I have no aim. This is why I don't throw things. Simple enough- there is a crowd of people and all I have to do is lob it at them. So, that's what I do.

The wind must have picked up the sails of the lollipop or I must not know my own strength, or whatever because I pelted a poor kid squarely on the forehead. I nailed her. Did I mention that it was squarely on the forehead? She cried. I stared in horror as the float drove away. She ran into her grandmother's arms and held her goose egg. The float turned the corner and I felt awful. (Yes, I hollered an apology. No, they didn't hear it.)

No one saw. I saw. But, still. I hit a kid with candy. Who does that?!

Leenie asked me to throw more candy. I politely declined and said it would be more for her to throw. 3/4 of the way into the parade, she asked me to puh-lease throw some for her; her arm was tired. How can I refuse that?

I pick up a Tootsie Roll. Tootsie Rolls are soft and I can't do the same dumb thing twice, right?


The old man in the wheel chair on Broad? Yeah.

I stopped throwing candy and told her that it was her job to throw it. At least when she threw it, it barely makes it out of the float and into the arms of those cherubs.

More later- Fuzzy is crying.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Time gets away

I missed my mid day pumping and I feel it as I sit in carline. After spending two hours with Brother at the Apple store, reminding him not to be grumpy, we headed to Mexican for lunch. His treat. My mom dropped off Bennie and after I took Brother back to the office- I realized that it was not enough time to go home and too much time to head to the carpool line.

It dawned on me that poor, poor Fuzzy had not had his diaper changed in quite a few hours. He needs new diapers, having been the first Cagle baby to outgrow newborn diapers before three months of age. Killing two birds with one stone, I head to Buy Buy Baby for both a purchase of new diapers and that very necessary diaper change.

Sweet baby and Precious Bennie are loaded up in the buggy and we head directly to the back for diapers. Bennie is under the cart, pulling items off the bottom shelf as we walk and tossing them under the cart in order to make room for the next. Stepping over Claritin, the snot sucker, and some purple stuff that must be related to snake oil, we left a trail of breadcrumbs should we get lost and have to crawl our way out to the front door.

Fortunate for us, the bathroom was empty. Unfortunate for us, Fuzzy needed a serious diaper change. His Feltman Brothers outfit was shucked and promptly tossed in the diaper bag.

No change of clothes.

I pull the diaper off and toss it.

There's stuff everywhere. I start grabbing wipes and forget to pay attention to Bennie because she is hemmed in in the bathroom.

That bathroom that has all kinds of toys for her to discover.

Like the toilet seat. It makes a huge clatter when lifted and slammed shut. Fuzzy screams.
It was when I heard the paper bags from those darn little silver trash squares mounted on the wall did I finally scream at her to come out of the bathroom.

She comes out carrying a wax paper bag.

I scream. She hands me a present.

Thank the sweet Lord that the wax paper bag was empty.

Looking up at me with doe eyes, she spies a stool and moves it to the sink.

Fuzzy continues to scream in all his naked glory. An employee opens the door to make sure that no one has come within an inch of their life. I smile. More wipes get tossed in the trashcan. Bennie discovers how to throw water.

That child. She is spirited.

Fuzzy baptizes the changing station, which is fine, because Bennie has started throwing water on the changing table. Good job, Bennie. Thank you for killing two birds with one stone. Bennie is occupied. Fuzzy gets a bath. The changing table gets clean. It's a win-win-win.

Drying off Fuzzy with paper towels and distracting Bennie with a shiny thing, I start to place him back in his carseat.

Whoops. That's gotta get clean.

More wipes in the trash can. More screams for Fuzzy, who is... after all.. naked. Bennie breaks free and runs for the handicap bathroom. How'd she learn to lock the door? It's barely within her reach.

The infant insert is removed and tossed in the diaper bag with the clothes. The blanket he was wrapped in is somehow saved.

Bennie discovers how to unlock the door before I have to shimmy underneath it.

Motherhood is awesome.

On the way out, I stand in line with two screaming children waiting to purchase my opened pack of diapers. The lady rings me up at $21.98 and decides that now will be a perfect time to inform me of the new return policy that will take place in mid-April. Really? Now's a good time? Bennie is standing up in the buggy screaming. Fuzzy has kicked off his blanket, revealing his nakedness and I have soiled items in my diaper bag. Please, please tell me about the new return policy for the opened diapers.

Apparently, the only thing that changed is that... I have no idea. I wasn't listening. Must have something to do with opened packages before purchase.

Friday, March 6, 2015

In just a flash

As I changed Fuzzy's diaper, I thwacked his head on the faucet. Stellar. Turning around, Bennie has put an umbrella in the toilet. Awesome.

Not just any umbrella, mind you. No, this was Leenie's Thomas the Train umbrella that used to be Nephew's. It's a prized possession that stays in her closet.

Fuzzy can't stop crying, I lead Bennie out of the way with my foot and sit down with Fuzzy to let him cry out the tears I caused. He puked.

He puked all over my lovely new cashmere sweater that Husband gave me.

How do you clean cashmere? I've never owned cashmere and am starting to understand why.

Bennie is dripping all down the hallway with her opened umbrella, jumping in the puddles. Leenie sees her coveted treasure and screams. She grabs it from Bennie. Bennie screams. I scream that they are arguing over an umbrella that is soaked with toilet water.

Thank the Lord that Leenie flushed.

Fuzzy gets dropped in a bucket along the way. Not a real bucket, but a bassinet. The girls have dropped the umbrella and moved on to the kitchen. Bennie is standing on the table, jumping and clapping. I don't know where Leenie is. Another bucket (bassinet) is next to the table and I can see what Bennie has on her mind before she does it. I can do nothing to stop her from leaping from the table and landing in the middle of the bassinet on wheels, sending her skittering around the kitchen.

She claps. Leenie appears and laughs. Bennie tries to do it again. I stop her.

On the ground she goes, Leenie right behind her. I find Fuzzy and place him a little higher off the ground for his safety as much as for my sanity. A few minutes later, Leenie appears with a wet piece of construction paper. She proudly displays the whale she made from the water in the bathroom.

Not the toilet water, rather the sink water.

Bennie comes up front, too. She's not carrying a picture made from water on construction paper. Rather, she is carrying nail polish.

No lie- I had to tell her, "Bennie- don't eat nail polish."

As I sit and type, Bennie and Leenie are eating supper (it's 4:46). A supper of cheese pizza, fruit, and yogurt. Husband is on call this weekend. They are utter angels, with nary a reference to the flash of chaos we had but moments before. Sans the puddles, you'd never know.