Dellabee and Me

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Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Getting It Right

I have a history of getting things wrong.

A former boyfriend used to refer to it as “Jennifer’s Social Follies,” this tendency of mine to miss an important detail, say the wrong thing, or otherwise be inappropriate. For example, I once left a voicemail joking about the recipient being “off clubbing seals” at the number of someone’s girlfriend who was actually an Inuit indian – I did not know it was her number.

I have shown up at birthday parties on the wrong day, or without gifts at parties that expressly stated “no gifts” just to be the only one who didn’t actually bring a gift. I arrived at  my son’s orchestra recital at 6:10, believing it started at 6:30, and walked into the auditorium to find his fellow violinists had been playing on-stage since 6:00.

I attended the Mother’s Day Tea at Ella’s school wearing khaki capri pants and flip-flops only to see every.other.mother. in crisp linen pants and hats, wearing chunky jewelry and freshly blown-out hair.

I swear too loudly. I wear the wrong shoes. I say “jesus” in exasperation over and over again in front of highly religious people. I say things that are accidentally offensive. I let secrets slip. I have had friendships terminated on the other end without knowing what I did. I am witty, but also impulsive – not a good combination.

I get it wrong alot.

It’s funny, sure, but it is also frustrating. Embarrassing. I often feel like I am in the wrong place, like a coffee mug stuck in with the wine glasses, or a dancer just a few beats out of step and always, ALWAYS trying to catch up.

As I sat on the stage at Listen to Your Mother, trying not to freak out because my girdle was folding over onto itself, the lights warmed my face and my castmates’ voices strummed a gentle rhythm in my brain, and I knew that I was exactly where I wanted to be for the first time in a very long time. When it was my turn to read to the audience, I moved to the microphone like it was something I’d done hundreds of times before. Everything was just the way it should have been – the laughter, the people, the mood.

Turns out, it is possible to drink wine from a coffee mug – and some actually prefer it.

It was truly an amazing evening.

Thanks, LTYM-RDU for helping me to finally, FINALLY get it right.



I really, really like to swear. When I was 5 I heard “peckerhead” for the first time and that was it – true love. Although, now that I think about it, I was confused because I thought it had something to do with Woody Woodpecker. But I digress.

When I was around 7, a boy with a very messy over-bite named Eddie would sometimes walk home from school with me and he knew all sorts of curse words. He didn’t know what they meant, but he could say them with such expression. He’d wrinkle his freckled forehead and all sorts of obscenities flew out of mouth, along with copious amounts of saliva. Good times.

As we all know, swearing after having children takes on a whole new level of illicitness. When the oldest was an infant, I tried to reign in the cussing because I felt like it was gross to drop an F bomb while holding the most perfect infant on the planet. But that was hard. And as he got older, mistakes that warranted a “shit!” occurred with much more frequency.

I really didn’t want the kids to swear. I blame it on modern parenting, really. We use our words and our inside voices, there really is no room in there for calling that guy who cuts you off in traffic an asshole. Plus, well, let’s be honest here – my career had been built upon working with scores of badly behaved children and they ALL swore.

I needed a solution that would work for everyone – my need to sputter profanity and the kids’ need to avoid it. In a moment of genius-like inspiration, I recalled a game I used to play with an old boyfriend in which we would jokingly call each other curse words but only by their first letter (I’m sure you can understand why that relationship worked so well, and why it ended).

That is what I started doing. Doug started doing it too. At last, I could express my true feelings in a sem-safe way. In the car – you mother effer. In the kitchen – ahhh, that b is hot. In the bathroom – what the eff?

I can’t lie – I smugly thought I had bucked the system. Ha, stupid other parents didn’t know anything – I had figured out how to swear in front of my kids and they didn’t even know it.

Then came the day when the 4 year-old, quite appropriately, said “F.O. kitty. Go away.”

I laughed about it but felt uneasy. I thought I had gotten around this? He should not be mimicking my fake swearing. WTF?

The next week, I picked him up from preschool and chatted softly with the teacher while Ella dozed in my arms. A foster child had recently been placed with us – at this point we were doing therapeutic foster care and this was our first child. Desi’s teacher, like most people, was really interested in our fostering experience, and when I mentioned the older age of this child the teacher nodded.

“I thought maybe you had an older one now, because Desi said the funniest thing…”

Oh s, I thought.

Well, every week the kids learned a new letter and one of the activities they did was create a list of words beginning with that week’s letter. They continued the list throughout the week, so that by Friday it was quite long.

This week’s letter? F.

Desi had his own word for F. He had said “I have one. F.O.”

His teachers were puzzled, and asked him what he meant. He replied,

“You know, you say it when someone is annoying you. ‘F.O.'”

I felt my cheeks redden as Ella suddenly weighed 1000 pounds and sweat broke out on my forehead. I laughed a little and agreed that this was definitely – OBVIOUSLY – related to the new foster child and not at all in any way related to my parenting choices whatsoever.

Then I got the F out of there.

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