Sunday, December 26, 2010

off-gassing

Of course I lost my mind this Christmas. I got a $76 parking ticket while running into "Lush" to get bath bombs for my kids. I bought paints and forgot yellow. I spent 5.5 hours putting together a play kitchen I'd bought for $25 from a woman in my Northern Liberties mommy group.

I didn't know the woman, but I'd remembered a post she'd made looking for a nanny. She had specified that she'd prefer a Jewish nanny. This was on my mind when I went to pick up the play kitchen. Also on my mind was the Ikea play kitchen I'd bought for $99 before I'd thought to see if anyone had an old one they didn't want anymore. The Ikea one was wood. I was buying a plastic one. The woman and her husband had bought it a year ago. Upon discovering that it had 227 plastic parts that had to be extricated from their webbing and joined to each other, they had wisely deposited the box in their basement. They don't have 5.5 hours to put a toy together because they actually play with their children rather than build toys that enable them to neglect their children. When I saw the box wide open, I exclaimed, "Oh, Thank God it's been off-gassing in YOUR house for the past year..." I then thought to myself, Liz, you just told an extremely Jewish person that you were glad THEY were being gassed...

Speaking of gassed. I went to a yoga class last week. It was a level II class. I'm more of a level I person because I'm not at all flexible. I am also in the early stages of pregnancy, so I don't want to over-do. My yoga teacher is aware of this and kept saying things like, "Liz, YOU don't do this; do this instead" There were only 3 of us in the class, so I felt a little outed and exposed. In every Iyengar class someone gets strapped up and hangs from the wall or the ceiling. I'd never tried it, but it's always looked relaxing. She suggested I try it. I got up, and she told me to open my knees and put my feet together. This created what I can only refer to as vaginal bellows. I quickly got down because it was not relaxing. I had to spend the rest of the class expelling the garbage bag full of air that had rushed into my womanly parts. So now I'm that pregnant new girl who can't do anything with the really bad gas. "Oh no, those aren't FARTS, they're VARTS!" Apparently QUEEF is a 'during sex' vart. If I were English, I could say "fanny fart" and feel sort of cute, but I'm not.

So I'm that person who does and says things regularly that make herself and others uncomfortable. Am I a married-with-children Bridgette Jones? I know I'm a terrible gossip. I was recently punished for gossiping. Heather and I were swimming laps at the YMCA. Both of us were doing side stroke, so we could talk about my brother-in-law's bachelor party. Her husband had punched out my other brother-in-law. We swam and talked for at least 20 minutes about the incident. I showered, got dressed and went to the store to find someone had relieved my wallet of all of its cash during my shameless gossip session.

I got a text this morning from a friend asking me if my silverware drawer is still a jumble. I responded with the above image. This friend was last in my home 4 years ago, so for him to ask me about it a week after I broke down and ordered 12 matching teaspoons and 12 matching forks is strange. I'm still waiting for the flatware. It's on back order. I was sick of hunting for the one teaspoon I had stolen from the Loew's hotel when we went to the AIA dinner. I ordered 12 of them. Maybe if I go back and return the spoon to the hotel, all will be right in the world, and I'll stop varting, getting parking tickets and saying stupid things. Then again, Loew's chose not to hire my friend as their senior catering manager after stringing her along for a month. Perhaps all will be right in the world when my silverware drawer is a little more organized.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cause of Death: head in volcano

It was late afternoon last week when I took the kids on an errand in the stroller. If you must know, we were going to the beer distributor. They look so great on the way home, each of them precariously perched on a case of beer. The moon was out early, so we were chanting that Mother Goose poem together, I see the moon and the moon sees me. God Bless the moon and God bless me! I said, "You guys, who is God?" Steel said, "I am."

I'm so glad to know that God wears stripey tights.

Steel said to our niece in the middle of a fairy tale, (Someone had died.)
"How did he die; did someone shoot him?"
Britt said, "No"
Steel said, "Oh, then someone must've put his head in a volcano...."

I think of Jack Peter as past the fabulous one-liner phase, but a few weeks ago, he was walking with me and he said,
"Mom, when you were a little girl, how old were you?"
"I was 4; just like you!" I replied.

Why bother ruining a nice walk trying to explain time to someone who repeatedly asks,
"Is it tomorrow yet?" It made me think fondly about my mom starting numerous stories with the line, "When I was a boy..."

That must be Virgo humor. My Virgo husband loves to get the kids all riled up by slipping in an untruth. I came home late one night to all of them howling in the living room.

Mama, you have to hear the Steely song!

Tim started strumming and singing in his most heartfelt voice,

I love my Steely
I love her big blue eyes
I love my Steely
even when she cries
I love my Steely
I love her boy-cut hair
I love my Steely
I love her skin so fair
but what I really love about Steely...

IS

HER

BUTT!

I actually can't call that an untruth. No matter how much horrible stuff comes out of them, we do love their butts.

hoagie smell


There are some fringe benefits to being a potter. I was wrangling the 3 kids from the childwatch at the YMCA, and Miss Kim, the afternoon baby sitter said, "Is that all from swimming once a week?" I looked at her strangely, and she said, "Your arms look like Michelle Obamas!" How great is it that when someone tells you your arms look like the first lady's, it's a compliment? Miss Kim nodded when I said, "I'm a potter," but I could see from her expression that my response wasn't sufficient. Telling people I'm a potter is like telling them I'm an hermaphrodite. People have heard of hermaphrodites, but they still aren't sure they actually exist.

My husband's office is in the same building as my clay studio. His office is a hive of activity. Bankers, architects, developers, realtors are always coming in for meetings. Tim and his brother, Johnny, love to parade the visitors through my studio. I'm usually there in my Proctor & Gamble coveralls looking dirty. The visitors look at me like a zoo animal and at Johnny or Tim with surprise that they've gone to such lengths to recreate and maintain my natural habitat.

At times, the Philadelphia Museum of Art craft show had a similar feel. I know it's common for high society people to have fundraisers at the zoo or the aquarium. They walk around in black tie, eating canapes paying $1500/ticket to do so in the presence of rhinos. Apparently Chicago calls their event "Zoodio 54" which is brilliant. So someone on the board of the PMA suggested to revolve a fundraising event around real, live craftspeople. The opening night of the show is a posh event. The ticket prices are tiered by the hour, so to get in and see fresh craftspeople at 4 pm you pay $1500, or you can see rumpled craftspeople at 7 for $400.

I was annoyed that I hadn't read my literature, so I didn't know there was going to be great food at the event. I made the mistake of having a late lunch hoagie with everything on it. By chance I smelled my hands on my way back to my 10'x10' booth and realized they were pungent enough to fill the entire space with old luncheon meat, onion, pickle, oregano smell. Maybe a stench would have added to my authenticity as an exhibit, but I opted to run through the perfume floor of Macy's and let a gleeful homosexual with a British accent and pointy cowboy boots douse me thoroughly in a Guess perfume, Seductive.

My booth wasn't particularly seductive that evening. My pots are all displayed on cardboard boxes mounted to the wall. On the front of each box is an image of the aerial view of the pot that is on the box. If you're on your 3rd martini and you've not yet indulged in the mash potato bar it might look a little precarious and/or confusing. People would wobble outside of the booth and stare. One woman ventured in and grabbed a cup. "I love this one," she said, "but I don't like this one at all!" pointing to a sweet little ice cream bowl. "What a coincidence!" I said cheerfully. "I love your shoes, but I really hate your dress!" In the end, the show went surprisingly well, and it reminded me that I prefer to have other people sell my pottery for me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

'to do' lists


My nanny sent me this image last week with the following text: "I have to remind myself to wear knickers too."

I often leave 'to do' lists around. Julie, because she's an angel-not a prying person, reads them to see if there's anything she can do for me. In this case I was on my own. I don't remember what the "Toby" line was about. "Don't leave Toby in stroller to be pushed down stairs and into the wall...." would be an appropriate line for me these days. I go shopping with all 3 of them in a double stroller. I belt Toby in; the others pile on. My fear is that I'm going to let the big two hop out and I'll just "put it away." Putting it away is pushing it down 3 stairs so it will rest tilted against the wall-somewhat out of the rain.

Tim proposed to me on a 'to do' list. It was one of those 5-year-plan lists. He had "marry liz" "have first kid" "have second kid" on there. I found it lying around. It was very romantic. Our actual wedding was inspired by a lack of inspiration. We couldn't figure out what to wear to Pat's big Halloween party, so we decided to get married and go as a married couple. Jack Peter was our best man. We scurried around getting our dress and suit together. I up-ended everything to find our social security cards. During that search, I found the diamond engagement ring he'd given to a girl before me. It seemed a shame to keep it in a box for the rest of its life, so we had a bit of it cut out, so it would fit on my pinky next to my engagement ring, and it became part of my wedding ring.

We ran around town with our photographer friend, Andrew, and had a day-long photo shoot that culminated in our getting married on the roof of my building in the hood. The pictures are so great, and everyone saw us at the party, (until I passed out breast feeding the best man) so they all feel like they were at our wedding.

My family doesn't do weddings. Both sets of grand parents eloped as did my parents and my brother and I. When I was a kid I remember wondering where that fancy picture of my mom in a big white dress was. The McDonald family does weddings. The youngest McDonald, Johnny, married my new sister in law, Tiffany this weekend. (Tiffany and I have been dating on and off, so I'm thrilled) I NEVER do anything on the weekends; I have three kids. They chose the one weekend that I had a major craft fair. I missed everything but the actual wedding, and I had to show up at that after a day of sitting in a booth at the convention center convincing people they really do need a coffee cup as big as their heads.

It was beautiful. We cried, ate, drank, danced...Their kids are going to look at the pictures of their mom in the beautiful white dress with the sparkly belt and think that she was a princess and that their dad was a handsome prince.




Sunday, November 7, 2010

April?








No, October is the cruelest month. We have 2 birthdays, actually a third, the daycare takes Ghandi's off; and there's Halloween. It's also the last month for a potter to get her shit together for Christmas. It's been bad; I've been running around flushing all of the toilets in the house and then checking off the clean house box on my to do list.

One of the sources of strife in my and Tim's relationship is time management. It's my issue; I complain that Tim can't do things half-assed like the rest of us. If he's planting a garden we'll have pesto for 50...every week. I won't even go into the tomatoes. If Tim is doing 3 out-of-town lectures in a month, he has to prepare a different one for each venue. Who the hell is going to go to Providence, Chattanooga and DC to rat him out? Our neighbor is filing numerous frivolous lawsuits against him, his brothers and their partners. It's not enough for Tim to fight the suits as they come. He starts methodically building a case to get the guy, an attorney, disbarred. (I'm not complaining; he's succeeding, but it's taken a LOT of time.)

This Halloween I took a thrift shop purple bathrobe, a pair of cords, a bath matt, and a 4 year old and created an octopus in a mere 11 hours. He would have gladly traded it for a store-bought Buzz Lightyear. I also spent 2 hours trying to carve a pumpkin to look like Marilyn Monroe. I've lost a lot of ground in the you're wasting time you could be spending with me and the kids argument. Tim shaved his head and beard, donned his wire-rimmed glasses and a sheet and became Ghandi. Toby should have been a mini-Ghandi with a sheet too, but she had her heart set on being a ballerina Terry Gross.

Steel is Andy, the little boy from Toy Story, every day. A red cowboy hat ordered online brought her Andy ensemble to an adequate Halloween level although she had a last-minute princess panic, so I'm glad I didn't spend 11 hours on Andy. Steel was the inspiration for my costume. She asked me one morning last week, "Mama, why don't you wear your Tweety bird nightshirt ALL the time?" I blacked out some teeth, had bad hair and make-up, leggings, fur-lined Eagles crocs, and the nightshirt, and I was a Fishtown mom. As I was putting on my bad make-up I started having second thoughts. I didn't want to expose my kids to snooty elitism. "I'm a white trash mommy, honey!" It was too late for me to change, but I needn't have worried. I walked out and Jack Peter shouted, "Mama! You're a 5 year old!" Turning 5 and having their teeth fall out is IT for my kids. I'm glad they're setting attainable goals for themselves.

Speaking of teeth falling out...I just found out that my friend (extreme mom) Heather is letting her kids have their Halloween candy whenever they want. She said that they self-regulate and that they usually ask her if they want a piece. I just can't figure out why she'd give up that many opportunities for extortion.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Honk if you love Jesus


Steel and her brother were bickering over watching Toy Story or Finding Nemo on movie night. It got heated, so I said, "Sunshine is coming over; we'll let her pick." I was expecting flack, but Steel looked at me with a confident smile and said, "Yes, we'll let Sunshine pick, and she will pick Toy Story." Sunshine came to the door. Steel greeted her with a Woody doll in her arms and said, "Sunshine! Do you want to watch Toy Story????" Even Jack Peter got swept up in the enthusiasm.

After she's done a good marketing campaign for my pottery business, I need to hire Steel's PR firm to spin the YMCA. The first problem is that I feel guilty about it. On Mondays I pick them up from one daycare only to dump them in another so I can swim. The drop-off is always chaos. Toby now cries as soon as we walk into the room, so I have to cuddle her while filling out the sign-in sheet and explaining to a rightfully skeptical Miss Kim, that cheese-its are fine for my infant. As I leave, I extricate all of the big-kid bribes from my swim bag and wrestle the last remaining car key from Toby's mouth. (We've lost all but 1) I sneak out as she screams indignantly. I noticed last time mid-cuddle that Toby's leg was inside my pants. It's not easy to concentrate on paperwork when your brain is saying to your child, "Girl, What is your foot doing in my Va jay jay?" so on top of my usual graceless exit I had to choreograph pulling up the fly on my huge, clay-covered man pants.

I'm wondering when we're going to have to confront the Christianity issue. I don't see too many Bible thumpers at the Y, but mocking Christians has been a family tradition, and it might not go over well. My dad used to shout across the woods, "PRAY FOR ME, EVAN!" every Sunday morning as the neighbors piled into the station wagon on their way to church.

Last weekend my mom revived a Kinder family favorite. I have always had fall allergies. I heard my husband admitting to a friend that my nose blowing would be a deal breaker if he didn't love me as much as he does. Regardless, I blew my nose in the kitchen while the kids were eating cereal, and my mom bellowed, as she and my dad did throughout my childhood, "HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS!!" Jack Peter has embraced it. He has also started to shriek, "DAMN!" and "JESUS!" periodically, usually with an impish grin on his face.

I'm trying to convince him to say, "JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL!" instead. I wish I'd screamed that instead of what came out last Wednesday night. Steel had gone for a bed wetting hat-trick that day. She'd soaked all but the guest room mattress, and Toby had taken the most shocking poop in the tub. At dinner the 3 had mounted their first successful coup d'etat. Tim was teaching at Penn, and I had lost all control. They were refusing to eat and swinging from their chairs. I'd finally gotten them into their beds and was about to start singing, "The cowboy song" (Sweet baby James) when the neat freak in me lunged out of the rocker to pick up one last toy. Our now former friend Shawn had left his pit bull, Maud here while he'd gone to help Tim with his class. Poor Maud had taken a dump on the rug in the kids' bedroom, and I slid through the shit on my way to pick up snoopy. Tim had just returned. His response to my panic was,

"BABE, from now on, I DEAL WITH POOP! My dad was a plumber; I can handle it. You FREAK OUT!"

Maybe Jesus did take the wheel.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

discipline


Some people are into extreme sports. My friend, Heather, is into extreme parenting. She, too, has 3 kids, but somehow her house is immaculate, and she's put together-for real. Jack Peter once picked up an "US" magazine and said, "Look, Mama, it's Aunt Heather!" He was pointing to a picture of Angelina Jolie. The resemblance was uncanny. I'm proud of myself if I maintain some sort of hair removal routine which means I shave every 2 weeks; I do my eyebrows every month or two, and I might Nair my bikini area during the summer, so I don't scare the kids on the beach. Because we have no privacy, my kids have witnessed all of these rituals which makes me feel like a groovy open-minded mom. Heather took all three of her kids with her to the salon to get her bikini wax. She probably brought them all to the dentist afterward on her way to T-ball and ballet lessons.

Her oldest just started Kindergarten at Catholic school. The tyranny of looking into and applying to schools is starting for us, and we're trying to embrace only public school options. I'm partial to the military-style charter school in our neighborhood that consistently tests all of the kids at a 10 out of 10. It goes for an extra hour every day, there is no recess, they take French and Spanish every year including Kindergarten, and there is absolute silence in the halls when the kids are lining up to go to class. Jack Peter would be the only white kid there. Very few people in our social group consider the school as an option. I hear the phrase, "teaching to the test," delivered with an air of disdain. A failure to incorporate "learning modalities" was brought up as another drawback. There's always someone who tells me that kids need to "learn through play." I nod and try to look interested, but there's a nagging feeling that those are the people who are going to be spending a lot of money on expensive tutors down the road, and I have the echo of my father's voice bellowing, "F-that! Those kids need to sit there, listen, learn, and BUCKLE DOWN!"

Tim's dad, Jack, had those 5 kids buckling down. They worked every weekend. They chopped wood, dug holes, built houses, learned plumbing. Discipline was the only option in the McDonald house from what I gather. Susie, my mom, had us on a tight leash, and we went to the "best schools." In comparison, our home life is pretty loosy-goosy. My big issue is diet; not eating properly is not an option. Tim is strict around bedtime/naptime structure, and we don't allow any T.V, but there's a lot of cereal dumping, yard demolishing, head smashing, toy snatching, wall-stickering, water spraying, whining and general mayhem that slides by unpunished or worse, with mirth.

Tim and I have profited so much from our ability to be disciplined. Both of us work for ourselves doing what we love. An anaesthesiologist for the Navy periodically comes to my studio to buy work. After wandering around molesting pottery and chatting, he mused, "I've never done any drugs, but your work makes me feel like I'm on something...the COLORS!" It was a nice complement coming from someone so straight-laced. It must seem to him that I flounce around with a paintbrush like some sort of psychedelic pottery fairy-which I do. However, a pottery business is difficult both physically and mentally. I'm thankful I have the stamina to do it because it gives me so much pleasure, and, let's be honest, I'm not qualified to do anything else for money.

If I send my kids to the school where there is silence in the halls, will their creativity, curiosity and fire be squelched? Will they no longer say things like, "Mama, Alligators don't have chins."
Speaking of alligators, I STILL haven't taken any of my kids to the dentist.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Black eggs


I rarely answer my phone when I'm glazing, but a call came from the kids' daycare today. With a knot in my stomach, I rushed to pick it up. It was Jane. "Jack Peter let the lid of the toilet fall down on his penis, and it's pretty bruised. I think it might be uncomfortable for him to pee; Ivan did it last week, but it just hit the side. Those boys have to be macho and stand up to pee, so it happens from time to time. The whole tip of Jack Peter's penis is purple. We're putting ice on it, but maybe you should call his doctor to see if there's something else we should do. "

"Is he still crying? I think you're the first person who's ever used the word 'macho' to describe Jack Peter." I didn't mean anything by it, but I think she thought I was calling him a pansy. "Well sure he's macho on the days he's not wearing a dress! It's all in the clothes. Steel's pretty macho too!" No kidding...she wore boy clothes and would only respond to 'Andy' this morning.

I texted Hans, our pediatrician. He suggested that ice on the penis might not be a good idea, but he wasn't worried about it unless Jack Peter couldn't pee. I called the school back to relay this, and I got Chris, another teacher. "Hi Chris, it's Liz, Jack Peter's mom, I'm calling about his penis." "His what?" Jack Peter is not one to suffer in silence, so knowing that his shrieks of agony hadn't reached every ear at the daycare was a good sign. In the meantime I alerted Tim of the catastrophe, and he responded with a gleeful swagger in front of his staff, "Of course it hit him; it couldn't miss!"

Final text to Hans:
"Purple penis is fully functional and a source of pride, so all is well..."

Will a time come when Jack Peter will be embarrassed that he offered to show our neighbor his purple penis in the middle of the sidewalk? Will we not be able to fart in the kitchen and blame it on the ducks in our butts? Farting is our family's main source of humor. It's not a Philly thing because I know a married couple here who have been together for 12 years, and they still don't fart in front of each other.

I understand that impulse. There are times when I'm in the studio and I'm so glad I work alone. Did I become a potter, so I don't have to fart in front of anyone? 'Black eggs' are the term a friend used for his wife's dreadful pregnancy farts. I think about that more often than I'd care to admit. Driving back from Virginia yesterday, Tim offered me a mint in the car. I mumbled, "Can I put it in my ass?" Someone should come up with ass mints. Maybe I would have become a surgeon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I don't LIKE potstickers!

I was riding my bike to the studio last Friday underneath the elevated train, and another cyclist was coming toward me with an enormous boom box on his bike playing doo wop music. Normally I get passed by a car blasting R&B, Puerto Rican pop, or Arabic top 40, and I'm pissed off because the base makes me feel like it's going to throw me off of my bike, but the doo wop made my day.

I turned the corner to discover that the Philadelphia anti-graffiti league had painted over the mural on my wall. I paid a guy named Nunzio to paint it, and it had this great plumbob on it. Plumbob is the name of Tim's architecture firm. I was told if a reputable graffiti artist does a piece and allows the neighborhood artists to put their marks on it, the building won't get tagged. It worked for 2 years, but then it got a tag or two, so the league took it upon themselves to cover up the whole thing. The league uses a different color of grey paint every time they come by, and they do a sloppy job around door handles, etc, so they don't improve anything. It's baffling.

Tim tried to call and fight the anti-graffiti league, but that campaign fizzled. He'd already spent 2 days away from work last week researching and convincing a friend to go into rehab for alcohol, and I had another miscarriage. In the face of Ken's shaking hands and self-loathing, my problem seemed much more manageable. I'm taking the oven metaphor. My oven went into "self-cleaning" mode. So, I was not meant to have an Aries child; it's the second one that's gone down the tubes. Maybe I'll produce a Leo or a Sagittarius to get the last of the 4 elements in my brood, or maybe 3 will suffice. In the end, I'm choosing to see the miscarriage as an indication that my body is a good editor. My writing could stand such aggressive editing.

Ironically, our shaking friend happens to be a great father to 4 amazing kids. Meanwhile, Tim and I have been on the wagon for over a month now. Tim was rhapsodizing about how easy it's been to get alcohol out of our routine and how much better we feel. I know he was trying to make it seem easier, but I half expected Ken to say, "I don't know why you're having a hard time having this 4th kid; it was really easy for us!"

We all wanted to relax, so we suggested a movie. Without too much thought we settled on Half Nelson. I was planning to go to bed, but Tina, one of my best friends from Andover played Ryan Gosling's girlfriend, so I was sucked in. Ryan Gosling is also one of those actors who is stunning, but he's not stunning in every frame, so you're on the edge of your seat waiting for another glimpse of his gorgeous side. It was a slow moving film. Ryan's character was a high school history teacher in an urban high school who turned out to be addicted to crack. None of us could stop watching, but it could not have been more awkward.

Maybe a Madmen episode would have been nice. What am I talking about? A drink is poured every 30 seconds in Madmen, and there's always the chain-smoking, martini drinking pregnant ladies to contend with.

My Aries best friend sent me those flowers to cheer me up. Hot pink, orange, fuchsia and plum definitely did the trick. Steel did her part. The tantrum she pitched over the pot stickers I made for dinner made me wonder why on Earth I'd want another baby.

neon babyfood

A selection of this morning's manic blendings;
green beans don't go chartreuse the way peas and edamame do...


Before we went to Montana I had 1.5 hours to get everything together while the kids were napping. I panicked when I looked into the fridge. We'd just harvested stuff from the garden. I couldn't let it go to waste. In lieu of packing I started cooking baby food which, like my pottery, is gaudy. I added 1 beet to a bunch of sweet potatoes and carrots to make them the color of Heinz ketchup. (Tim always plants the carrots too close together, so they're x-rated. They have hips, 2 long skinny legs, and some sort of mad genitalia-ish thing going on in between) I made magenta pork, beet, eggplant surprise. Brocolli, snow pea, edamame, and cucumber juice went uber- chartreuse. The roasted plantains, corn, summer squash, chicken stock combo was mixed in the ketchupy blender, so it came out a nice rusty orange. I had them all stacked up in take-out Indian pint containers; the fridge was empty, and I felt good.

The kids had to weather the 40 degree nights in Montana with no warm clothes or socks because I forgot to pack them, but we survived, and neon babyfood makes the drudgery of changing diapers almost exciting. In the same manic "I must use every vegetable in my fridge" way, I make huge salads for me and Tim to have at lunch. I know he looks forward to Fridays when I'm at home with the kids so he can have hideous Chinese food or pizza for lunch. Mr. Pan's is the Chinese place next to the office. My employee ate there every day until he started seeing blood in his stool.

In addition to having to eat the healthy lunch, the chaos of the kitchen in the morning between salad stuff, kid lunches, cheerios and neon babyfood puts my Tim over the edge. Is it worth it? I just spilled beet juice all over my first big-girl wallet while transporting our lunch to work on my bike. For the past 8 months I've had this beautiful Bermuda blue/green Hobo wallet. Johnny's fiancee bought it for me for Christmas because I said I felt ashamed going out to dinner with her. The check came, and her manicured hands opened this glamorous, organized wallet as I dug my sticky, pink and green velcro "hello kitty" one out. Now my fancy wallet is another colorful reminder that I have no business owning anything nice.

Speaking of purple and turquoise, I took back a bunch of garish pottery from a shop in Philly. They feature me in their holiday show, and they're the hub of Philly's clay scene. They've always been snooty, but they've been selling my work well for the past 6 years, so I put up with the attitude. I went in the other day and found no sign of my work in the shop. They had piles of pottery on display. It was looking "car boot sale-ish," (Scottish expression for flea markety) so being a part of the display wouldn't have done my reputation any favors, but I'm behind on orders. Finding out I have work sitting in a closet on 2nd street bothered me. It reminded me that they'd pissed me off last summer too. They are a non-profit, so they have a fundraiser every year. Everyone donates crappy pottery, and they sell it cheap. Last year I decided to give them some nice-ish work. I left the 2 kids in the car and waddled my 9 month pregnant self up to the door with my donations. The not-so-lean woman at the desk looked at me and said cattily, "Donations go up to the 3rd floor." I said, "I think you can take them up for me." and left. What I meant to say was, "A big girl like you should be clamoring for an excuse to get your ass out from behind that desk to climb some stairs!" When you're pregnant fat, you're less likely to take lip from someone who's avoidably fat especially when they are in their 20's.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

consumer advocacy

I couldn't find one of Ralph in a serape, but this is pretty good.

My brother, mother and I take consumer rights pretty seriously. Once we've laid down cash for a product, it should be replaced continuously by the seller, for free, until eternity. I'll never forget when the VCR died. Lechmere wouldn't take it back (probably because it was 8 years old) so my mom bought a new one, put the broken one in the box and returned it. My brother is a calm, reasonable individual. When he gets pissed off, he has a list of corporations that have over charged him or taken advantage in some way. Instead of yelling at his kids, coworkers or wife, he calls one of the paid customer service drones to absorb his fury.

I'm the opposite. I pretend the customer service reps are my best friends. Of course I'm getting a new Sonicare in the mail this week. I told the woman I give people his/hers Sonicares for wedding gifts instead of pottery. My dad always said in his thick Boston accent, "NEVER tell people things are going well. ALWAYS find something to bitch about. They'll love you. I was the most popular guy in Manchester when your mom divorced me...." With this in mind, I started complaining that the second I turned 40 I became unable to read the small print in response to her request for the serial number of my toothbrush. I continued, "It's a good thing there's so much mildew down there; I can see the letters perfectly..." It almost back-fired. She paused and said with some trepidation, "Is that what's wrong with your toothbrush?"

Ralph Nader would applaud our tenacity. My dad went to Harvard Law with Ralph. Apparently the two of them developed some sort of test/note sharing that was bordering on cheating, plagiarism or fraud. My father, Ralph, and 2 other guys were summoned into the Dean's office. The 3 stood there in their identical Brooks Brothers suits, white shirts and horn-rimmed glasses mumbling that Mr. Nader would explain everything. "Where is Mr Nader?" demanded the imperious Dean having just threatened expulsion. All eyes turned to the quad. I can hear my dad telling the story, "Like an apparition Ralph Nader was loping along the path engulfed in a streaming Mexican serape!" My father says words like serape, yarmulke, taco, manicurist, and leotard with a conspiratorial emphasis as if they can't possibly truly exist and you too must see their humor. I sometimes catch him saying hand-made pottery in that same tone.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ohmmmm.....


I can't believe I forgot to mention that my kids found a Smith and Wesson pistol to play with when we went to Montana. We were staying at the home of my Aunt's orthopedic surgeon, and he keeps a pistol in a fun-looking plastic case by the bed. According to Tim the gun was locked, and they couldn't have fired it, but I almost vomited. And here I am worried about raising my kids in the city. Meanwhile, my future sister-in-law is worried about my brother-in-law's inability to be on time. She's imagining herself at home with the kids all day desperate for a 6:45 yoga class, and he rolls in at 7:15. Yoga is going to be the least of your worries...

I wrote this a year ago when I only had 2 kids:

Next time you’re in the bathroom alone, appreciate it. I got a 10 minute shower this morning by myself. I felt like I’d been to a spa for a week because I got to shave, condition my hair, and put on lotion. I'm at my mom's house. It's a new parenting ballgame for me because my kids have figured out how to get out of the house via the dog door, and my mom lives on a cliff. Luckily I’m pregnant, so it’s rare that I have to poop, but it does happen, and I can’t just quietly go do it when I have to closely watch 2 kids. (No one told you pregnant ladies are constipated? Now you know.)

So the kids followed me into the bathroom as they normally do, but this time they spotted the ceramic toilet brush holder and toilet brush. Only a potter would give her mom ceramic toilet brush holders. My friend, Paola made them. They have stylized toilets painted on them, and they say, "Made by Italian hands" on the bottom. Who doesn't need one of those? Our toilet brush at home is hidden above the washing machine. I really look forward to the day that we can have toilet brushes near the toilets as we have these super-green, low-flow toilets that seem unable to remove ALL of what goes in them.

I panicked as they grabbed the brush envisioning Steel using it to brush Jack Peter’s teeth. In the scuffle the holder smashed and cut my hand open, so there I am spraying blood from my hand with two kids running around with a toilet brush. Don’t forget, I’m still on the toilet. My mom is a mini-tornado in general, but when someone is bleeding she really puts it into high gear. Blood is all over the yellow bath matt, my pants, the toilet, towels, wash cloths, children. Pregnant ladies have way more blood than normal people, so they really bleed. This is the bathroom that my mom sponge painted after taking a faux-finishing and decoupage class. “It looks just like Monet’s water lilies!!” she gushed. Despite the impression that one is in a French garden, the bathroom is not big enough for 4 people and a fountain of blood. I’m trying to get to the sink with my pants around my ankles, my mom is trying to open band-aids and screaming at her boyfriend to get peroxide. At that, I am frantically gesticulating to the cupboard where I know there is peroxide: gesticulating because I am unable to be heard above the wails of my children and mother, frantically because I was desperate to avoid his coming in also.

Meanwhile every band aid mom gets onto my finger becomes so saturated with blood it won’t stick. Her hands are becoming too bloody to negotiate the subsequent band aid wrapper, and both of my kids are screaming at the top of their lungs, “I WANT A BAND AID!!!!!” All of my mother’s maternal instincts have kicked in, and my kids are merely an impediment to her helping HER baby, so she’s screaming at them to wait their turns, and I’m fully expecting her to kick one of them.

A possible disruption of your yoga practice? My whole life is a disruption of my yoga practice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

lollies in the hood

I've always been good at doing what I've been told to do. The word "coachable" was common in my athletic reports. I've noticed it lately because I'm so used to the beep of my Sonicare toothbrush when I've completed the 2 minutes; yesterday I manually brushed my teeth for 6 minutes waiting for the brush's permission to stop. Am I coachable in my ceramic work? One of my professors told me my cups aren't pleasant to drink from because they go in at the top. "They aren't inviting." It bothered me for years. I can't tell you how happy I was when a friend cuddled his cup and said, "I love that it goes in slightly. I never spill when I go up the stairs!" Thanks Rene...

People constantly coach me to leave the city. (for the kids!) I worry about it sometimes. Over the summer the body of the 19-year-old hostess at our local burger joint was found naked and strangled 4 blocks away. I was enormously pregnant the previous summer when the place opened, so we were there a lot. Burgers and pregnancy go well together. I'd always stared at the girl, Sabina, because she had a really interesting shape, and something about her reminded me of my grandmother. I still keep thinking I see her every couple of days. She was raped and killed for the bicycle someone had lent her to get 4 blocks home from a party.

We went to Sabina's memorial; the kids danced and had fun. We didn't explain anything to them, but we had to go to a wake a few weeks later, so they are now death-obsessed. I can't blame the city for that. Jojo was in her 80's. En route to the viewing I told the kids, "We are going to say good-bye to Jojo. Her body will be lying down in a pretty dress looking asleep, but she's not going to wake up. She's up in the sky with Grandpa Jack and Aunt Erin." Moments later I heard Jack Peter say to Steel in the back seat, "It's just going to be her body...NOT HER HEAD!" By mistake we'd taken them to a open-air screening of a Twilight vampire movie. Jack Peter's little body jolted when a vampire lost his head. "What happened?" he asked, perplexed, but not upset. I said, "He was beheaded." thinking a new word would further flummox him and it would all go to the "does not compute" part of his brain. Our sa-nanny-ty said the next day, "Why does he keep talking about
beheading?"

Steel was apparently shocked to see Jojo's head still there. She stood back from the coffin waving "good-bye" with an uncertain look on her face as Jack Peter ran right up to Jojo's face and started chatting away. Steel went through the receiving line asking every other person, "Why is she dead?" None of the answers was acceptable. I was just mad that I'd not gotten around to glazing the sugar bowl I'd made for Jojo.

I did have a pang about kids in the city recently. We went to a family wedding in Big Sky Montana 2 weeks ago, and everyone there is so fit. The Sweet Pea Parade in Bozeman began with a kids' 1 mile race. There were thousands of them younger than my kids running a mile. I came back inspired wanting to bring country clean living to my little urban family. I instigated a run on Sunday. After 45 minutes of fighting over running shoes they each ran about 14 steps. Steel demanded to be carried, and Jack Peter said it was time for a rest. It was a multi-tasking run. We were going to pick up high-fat yogurt at the Jerusalem shop to keep Toby at her fighting weight.

It's an Halal meat shop run by soccer-watching Egyptians who often give my kids blow pops. Ages ago I took my mom there to buy a leg of lamb. There were 3 flayed lambs on the counter and a lone head on a table. The woman in front of us said in a thick accent, "I want the head." Unflappable lollipop guy started to wrap up the head, and she shouted, "NOT THAT ONE; I WANT THAT ONE!" pointing to the middle dead lamb. He refused. She berated him for 10 minutes, and when it was clear that he wasn't going to budge, my mom said, "I just want a leg." He merrily went about hacking the leg off of one of the lambs. The woman went apoplectic and ran out screaming "WHY SHE GET THE LEG?"

So our "run" turned into a lollipop-in-the-ghetto fashion shoot. I didn't realize the lollies were going to look like cigarettes.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

clicker nicker




I sent an e-mail out to 10 people last week demanding to know the whereabouts of a garage door clicker. The clicker nicker turned out to be one of my new tenants, the intended recipient of the clicker. At one point I had 4 clickers. I doled them out labeled "Tim" "Pat" "Stroller" "Car" so blame could be appropriately allocated. "Stroller" is the only one that remains which means that our 19-year-old former nanny and my 22-year-old former tenants are the only ones in the group with their shit together. Who am I to worry about entrusting it to the 23-year-old new tenant?

The first day the new tenants moved in I went up there to lecture them about smoking marijuana during office hours. "Please go to the bathroom on the east side of the loft to get high during office hours and blow it out the window. If a group of bankers is coming in to my husband's office and the place smells like pot, it's not going to look good." I felt like Miss Drew, my dormitory counselor at boarding school. She seemed relentlessly uncool. We attributed our constant escapes from discipline to her being too lame to know we were breaking rules. In hindsight, she was probably too cool to want to deal with a bunch of remorseful, weeping 15 year olds and their possibly-retribution-seeking, pissed-off parents. The encounter was especially humiliating because I tracked clay dust throughout the loft, my Dansko clog footprints self-consciously meandering all over the dark wood floors.


On a cool spectrum I thought I was doing OK. I'm a potter. I have an edgy loft/studio in a ghetto. My husband is a design/build architect. (Love it that he's not too white collar to do some plumbing; check out the clump of hair-muck he pulled from the tenants' drain.) My children do funny things like get on a plane and stand on their seats to get in the faces of an entire row of women behind us and demand, "Are you FAT?" (One of the women looked at me and huffed, "Her seat is back. She needs to pull it forward for take-off.") or they make up dinosaur names like Predatorknockeroverkiller without previous knowledge of those homophobic dinosaur names that went around in the 90's: Lickalotopuss and Igotasoreass.
If I'm e-mailing about garage door clickers and lecturing people I don't know about smoking pot during business hours, my cool rating is plummeting...not to mention that I'm typing this still wearing high-water mustard, chocolate and brown striped pants purchased in the early 90's despite the fact that they have a big clump of banana baby vomit on them, and I just poured a nonalcoholic drink for me and my husband and got really excited about using up 3 different bottles of liquid a day before recycling, and I'm currently freaking out because my Sonicare toothbrush won't go out of massage mode. Shit. I could spend the rest of the night giving examples of how uncool I am.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

chromophobic


My tenants are moving out of the loft we lived in for 3 years. They are leaving 8 months early with 2 weeks notice, so it's been a flurry of activity. In showing the space I noticed that they had painted the upright piano that stays in the apartment. Who paints a piano? More importantly, if you're going to paint a piano why paint it MasterCard yellow?

Color is a touchy subject. I remember when I'd picked the colors for our new place, and one of Tim's architect friends referred to it as "Candyland." I felt ashamed even though I love most of the colors. When I went to London for 3 years, I made a whole new line of light whitish pottery. People were treating me like I was some whore on Jerry Springer because I like hot pink, so I had to see what I could do with pastels. Begrudgingly I'll have to admit that it's my most popular line when it comes to full-set orders. I still don't understand who said, "Food looks TERRIBLE on blue!" If you put a lobster on one of my mom's blue plates, and there's a dish of butter next to it that's a lighter blue, it doesn't look bad, I promise.

The tenants had published a little blurb about their space on a trendy apartment site. They wrote, "One of the biggest problems we had was picking the right colors to paint the non-wood walls. Originally the kitchen was dark royal blue and olive green while the living room and bedrooms were maroon — all of which made the open floor plan feel small and crowded. We wanted to brighten up the space with light, modern colors that would offset our eclectic belongings and help us appreciate the bare 12 foot ceilings." It turns out that "modern" means white. I can't say I ever liked the blue, either, but taking the only thing in the earth-toned apartment that isn't all that nice (I hate drywall) and painting it white? yuck...

It's so great when I meet a fellow color-obsessed person. I had the following e-mail exchange with a genius who was ordering a set of tableware from me:

Think chocolate brown-
Michelle Obama's skin- citrus/acid yellow, marine blue/turquoise accented by black. I saw that in India one time and decided it was one of the greatest color combinations I'd ever seen. Now I've just seen Michelle wearing acid/citrus yellow and Caribbean blue with a black belt. Of course, she looks fabulous. Ergo: may I humbly request at least one dinner plate, salad plate and one bowl in that combination, please? Another combination that always stuns me is when Matisse combines tomato red with olive green. As you know, that invites pink, chocolate brown, Dijon mustard yellow, black accents, dark plum/maroon, possibly scarlet....

to which I responded:

hmmmm......that sounds great. I've stayed away from lemon yellow, and now you want citrus yellow; are those different colors to you? What I've decided to do is make a bunch of bread plates first. I'll photograph them and you can tell me what you like from there. I'm a big red and green fan myself. I have trouble with red..I only like it with green and maybe a harvesty kind of tan...and pink, but that's so flamenco...with black it looks 80's, with yellow it looks McDonald's, with blue it looks patriotic, (Although I do sort of like it with a slate blue in a "New England blue house red door" kind of way.) With purple it makes me feel dirty, orange...nah, brown-same as purple, white-candy cane. Red is Jack Peter's favorite color. It's so weird.

My favorite thing about the exchange is Adrian's writing, "As you know" It sounds as if we're talking about some objective science in which we both have advanced degrees. I also like the fact that he'd been thinking about a color combination he saw in India for 20 years.

chro·mes·the·sia
(krōˌmĕs-thēˈzhə) n. A condition in which another sensation, such as taste or smell, is stimulated by the perception of color.

I do sense a mild sulfur taste every time I see yellow and brown together. I could never work for UPS. I could have been saved from some very grating dates if I'd known about my chromesthesia..."I'm sorry, we can't go out tonight unless you change. That kelly green shirt is really setting me off." I think some people have chromophobia..a fear of color. Although bright colors have gotten a tacky wrap or a hippy dippy one in certain communities. Maybe it's not so much fear of color as fear of what people might think of you if you choose a bold color.

When I was first moving into places in my 20's. I couldn't BEAR any tacky furniture, bad colors, or heaven forbid, carpeting. I'd haughtily repaint, strip and remove. Things weren't acceptable unless they were trash-picked and re-habbed or antiques. Way-out-of-reach high design might be acceptable, but I could justify not affording it from some sort of hippy green perspective.

It occurred to me in the middle of giving a tour of the loft that 3 out of 4 closets were nowhere to be seen as well as the 2 little chests of drawers. They were all from Ikea. It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing decision to put those in, but it solved the problem of creating some storage in an open plan. The tenants thought they were doing us a favor by getting rid of all of them. I can hear my own 20-something self saying, "Ugh! those are awful! They have to go right now!" How much of the horror was about the stuff itself and how much was from the worry that their hipster posse might think that they'd bought it.

It's not that I like ugly things now. I've just built up a tolerance because kid crap is so hideous, and anything nice gets immediately trashed by kids. I suppose you do have to consider what people are thinking; we are all horrible and judgemental. As the 20-something couple was telling me they were breaking their lease I was unable to focus on their words. I was thinking, "My God, she is so pretty. Why the hell is she wearing those jeans?"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gimpy Philly





I'm starting to feel old and crotchety in the studio. 5 years ago I would wedge clay for 3 hours every morning, throw pots all day and then teach 10-person classes at night. A week ago I had my godson and his sister come into the studio to play on the wheels for an hour or so. I was leaning over to help them out, and I could barely stand afterwards. It's also been 98+ degrees. I'm too cheap for AC. I work in Peugeot coveralls that have polyester in them. I don't normally have breasts, but because I'm still breastfeeding the sweat collects in that fold and dribbles down my belly.

Clearly I'm destined to be a hunched-over gimp. Tim describes Philly as the City of Gimps, so I'll have company. There certainly are an inordinate number of handicapped parking spaces here. My sa-nanny-ty's boyfriend, James, walks with a cane. The kids adore him, so a cane is a glamorous accessory in their minds. As observant as they are, handicaps escape them. We were out last night and I had to sprint to the bathroom with both big kids. They do everything together, and they are about the same size and weight. Precise little machines that they are, they need to poop at the exact same instant. I was terrified to see the "out of order" sign on the second stall, but Steel waited patiently. While they're on the toilet, they have me captive, poised with a wad of toilet paper in my hand. They enjoy it, so they prolong things. A little line was forming. Undaunted, they include everyone in their conversation as they sit there, knickers and pants on the floor. I felt bad enough that they each took 20 minutes...who sent in the patient, but obviously uncomfortable, 1-legged woman in short shorts on crutches? Neither of them noticed.

Tim's 1-armed friend, Mike was visiting a while ago. He brings groups of architecture students to Philly from Canada. I was making breakfast and forbade Steel to go in and wake him up because they tend to go out at night. I got distracted and she disappeared. She returned saying, "Mike has no eyes!" Her little head had been 3 inches away from him staring at his sleeping face for the past 10 minutes. I said without thinking, "He has eyes; he's missing an arm, and you shouldn't have been in there!" When I first met Mike I was setting up a show. He kept offering to help, and finally I had to say, "MIKE! the boxes are 16x16x16, and YOU ONLY HAVE ONE ARM!" One night he returned late and uncharacteristically exploded into a tirade..."Do you know how hard it is to deal with cling wrap when you only have one arm????" I sent him one of those boxes of Saran Wrap that has the little zip cutter. It made me so happy.

Babies are fabulous gimps. Toby's starting to get frustrated about her inability to walk. We appease her with bones. Now that I live in Philly I forget that vegans even exist. I brought lamb chops to a play date the other day because the kids are always sprinting around and not eating; it's good 'on the run' food. Heather had to do some fancy PR work to get her kids to try them: "It's steak on a stick!" she said jubilantly. Ciela, in a tinkerbell dress was the first to scream hysterically, "I want steak on a stick!" Toby gets the half-finished chops. She gnaws on them for hours, eyes wide with a harrowing look of intensity, grease shining on her fat forearms and hands. It keeps her from wobbling around, losing balance and banging her head on the floor, and I get to chat and drink too much wine.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

sa-nanny-ty






Taking pictures of myself with my phone and handing it back for the kids to see made 20 minutes of a 7-hour car ride bearable...until they started screaming at each other about who had the phone longer. We resorted to playing Earth Wind & Fire really loud for the next 2 hours.

My parents had a hideous divorce in 1996. My mom went back to her high school sweetheart, my dad refused to work for 5 years prior to the divorce to whittle down his assets. It got ugly, but that was almost 15 years ago. This year my brother's posse and mine all went to my mom's in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA for the 4th of July to the house in which we grew up. I was feeling bad about not calling my dad who lives 2.5 hours away, but 9 of us going to meet him at the Cracker Barrel 1.25 hours away just didn't seem feasible. On the morning of the 4th my mom sent Dick, the sweetheart, out to get the paper at 7:45 am. He came back with Peter, my Dad. Peter bellowed as he sauntered into the kitchen, "SUSIE! I'M BACK!!!" We had a civilized day. Dick served breakfast. Peter murmured something about how great the service was and how he needed to come up with a tip. Dick retorted, "Don't worry about it; I'm getting your car towed off of the lawn as we speak." The only acknowledgment of the historical ill will was in jest. I was proud of all 3 of them.

Meanwhile, the spouse of my best friend next door was accused of being an alcoholic by his in laws because he had a beer at lunch. I told him to respond next time, "I know, but it's really helping with my heroin problem!" Another friend who has an at-home flower business was talking about a new client, and her childhood friend said to her, "Which relative has hired you now?" The "friend" went on to discuss how stay-at-home moms are robbing their children of the opportunity to see a strong, happy, successful mother. What does a "trying to stay at home as much as she can" mom say to that? "Yeah, you're right and the woman you're paying to raise your kids is probably doing a much better job than you would..."

What is wrong with people?

People can be nice. I hear constantly, "How do you do it? You have a pottery business, AND 3 kids..." It's nice to hear, but I can't really pat myself on the back too hard. The women I've found to pay to raise my kids have been amazing. Our first nanny was Alissa. She became Sass. I would say objectifying things like, "Everyone needs a Sass!" Sass abandoned us for Texas although she's still part of the family. Our new one is Julie. A Julie just isn't as fun to say, so when I go to objectify her I've come up with, "Julie is my sa-nanny-ty."

We had 13 house guests last weekend. On Monday morning 2 out of 3 kids had wet their beds, (Steel told me it rained in her bed) and I hadn't coped with it. I admitted this to Julie as she walked in; she said, "GREAT! I was planning on stripping their beds today because I knew I'd be doing a lot of laundry to get the house back together!" On top of taking on my houseguest laundry...who responds to having to change 2 urine-soaked beds with GREAT!? She's a lot like me, so she'd probably done some quick mental algorithm about the statistics of both kids' wetting the bed on bed linen laundry day, and it was like winning the stingy New England housewife lotto. (I'm way too lazy/cheap to launder bed linens until something vile has happened) Julie was raised by Mormons in Utah; she refers to herself as a U-tard. Maybe Mormons are the lost tribe of New England.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I feel lucky that my family and people who aren't even my family have my back. When I look around it seems rare. Although next time my dad or my aunt berates me for trying to have 4 kids, I think I'll happily chirp, "You wouldn't believe the money I'm saving on tampons!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

the whippersnapper complex

Every year the McDonalds put on a golf outing in Tim's Dad's honor. The proceeds benefit the John D. McDonald foundation which funds kids in Havertown. In the 5 years I've been a part of the family I haven't golfed. I'd babysit kids and wait for a bunch of drunk, sun burnt Canadians to come back in need of a swim at my mother in law's house. Jack McDonald was born and raised in Canada...1 of 14. Initially I enjoyed holding down the fort, but since the kids I was sitting became my own, I've been bitter about being left while everyone has a good time. I've only golfed once in my life in Idaho. My then boyfriend and I were escorted off of the course for bad behavior. This year I chose to golf in a 4-some of chicks, the girlfriends of Tim's 3 partners: 2 are his brothers and 1 his best friend from high school.

Emlyn, the latter's girlfriend came to my studio a month ago-the day I found a massive roach in one of my bowls. I showed it to her, and she said, "Can I take it home for my kids?" She emptied the contents of an Altoid container into her pocket and nestled the roach in there. She then forgot about it until she was at a picnic and a baby bird fell out of a tree. Someone yelled, "does anyone have an insect to feed the bird?" Can you imagine the stir when Emlyn produced a sewer bug as big as my thumb from her purse and cut it into baby bird bite-sized pieces?

That was off-topic, but I had to put it in there. The outing was a blast. Golfing is fine. Chatting with 3 great women and whizzing around the great outdoors in a cart full of beer, not a child in sight, is even better.
One of our posse, Chelsea, had some tutoring from "the new guy" in Tim's office. Ryan golfed in college, and, unlike me, college was recent for him, so he's still really good. Chelsea is a gorgeous cross between Sigourney Weaver and the brooding vampire girl in the Twilight series. She's also a brainy academic type, and she just had deviated septum surgery. She's been floating around for a week on codeine periodically resorting to wearing an elastic supported trough-like bandage under her nose and around her head. (The day she emerged from her post-surgery stupor, Steel, of course, demanded she remove the trough) Watching her lurch up to the tee and repeatedly deliver a resonant, sailing drive straight down the fairway was mesmerizing for all of us, including her.

Ryan's group from the office chose not to go for the beef and beer after golf. It was revealed that Ryan was disappointed by his performance. The McDonald brothers had made a big deal out of Ryan's being a great golfer, but I'm sure everyone was too drunk to notice or care how he'd performed.


A childhood friend and I called that feeling, the whippersnapper complex. She had blown off her senior year and ended up at
UMASS for a year. My godmother asked after her, saying to me, "Whatever happened to that Eliza Minot? She was always such a whippersnapper!" I relayed the question to Eliza, and she rolled her eyes as she guiltily exhaled her cigarette. (She's a successful author and a mother of 4, so it's all gone just fine, Aunt Maryanne)

In the office, I made a patronizing clucking sound as I was saying, "Oh that makes me sad! Ryan shouldn't feel bad!" After that conversation, I threw some pots and shipped an order musing to myself that I'd forgotten how it feels to have high expectations for oneself. I was in denial. I don't feel too bad about playing a bad game of pool, but I'd be lying if I said I'd outgrown the whippersnapper complex.

I recently made 24 cups for a cafe in my neighborhood. I had to get them done in a short time. I can make a cup in 5 minutes, so I wasn't too worried, but they came out craptastic. Haven't I been making pottery too long to have stuff look that bad? I shamefully delivered them for opening day and then brooded all weekend until I came upon the crazy, novel idea of re-making them. I couldn't bear continuing to define myself as a maker of gorgeous cups knowing 5 blocks away there's proof to the contrary.

It's the self-definition part that brings on the angst. I also define myself as someone who has babies easily, happily, and with little physical repercussions. A baby ago, however, I had a horrible miscarriage. Tim and I had cockily been telling everyone early in the pregnancy, and I lost the baby. Nothing has undermined my confidence, faith and optimism more profoundly than that loss. In my mind EVERYTHING from that day forward was going to fail. The mental floodgates were open to disease, bankruptcy, death and all of the horrible things that happened to other people.

Meanwhile Ryan, being 21, probably forwent the beef and beer for a shower and a date. After 4 hours in 90 degree weather drinking with a bunch of Canadians, who's going to want to stick around for another 4 hours? The Canadians are known for long toasts, drunken singing of partial songs and weepy hugs...my kind of party.

Monday, June 21, 2010

transitions and torture

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Toby and the trampstamp...
They tell you, "Transitions are hard" when your kids are little. You're supposed to warn kids. "We'll be leaving in 5 minutes..." 2 minutes later, "You need to start cleaning up..." I never remember to warn them, and I feel like a bad mom when I have to throw them into their car seats screaming in front of all the composed moms and children. Who are we trying to kid? Anyone worth their salt hates transitions. I text my husband 5 minutes before we have to leave our work and go pick up the kids. He's 6 feet away on the other side of a door, but I don't want to see him do the adult version of a melt down, so I resort to the phone.

To be good at pottery you have to manage, if not embrace, transitions. You can't rush anything or else it cracks, warps, bubbles or looks shitty. If you're compulsive, the only way to avoid rushing something is to start something else. So you throw 20 cups, wedge the pieces for the handles, wax the bottoms of a bunch of bowls, glaze their insides, load a kiln, feed your baby and THEN you make and put the handles on the 20 cups. Of course I want to weep when I can't finish glazing those bowls...

Last May my mother in law told us that if we were planning to use the shore house, we should be prepared to clean it. Tim hates the shore. He thinks the beach is barbaric because it's hot, sandy and because IT LACKS BOUNDARIES...I love the beach because I don't have to scream "NO!" to my kids as often as normal. I was pregnant with #3, and I volunteered to go clean, leaving Tim home with #1 and #2. When Carol says clean, she means it. We were dusting the insides of bureau drawers, bathing venetian blinds in the tub, and hoovering mattresses and box springs. It's embarrassing, but I was in heaven; it was so satisfying to start and complete a task in one go. Am I saying I'd rather be using Tilex on some grout than parent? Maybe...

The transition issue is why parenting is torture. You have to do something for a kid or keep him/her from dying before you can finish anything. I've never understood putting dishes in the sink. Why not just put them in the dishwasher? Now I get it. I don't have the time or attention span to get them all in the dishwasher, so I spend a 1/2 hour majoring in parenting with a minor in getting dirty dishes close to the dishwasher. The next 1/2 hour will be parenting with an emphasis on getting dirty laundry near the washing machine. Nap time arrives and I get an orgasmic 2 hours of task completion.

Speaking of torture...Why do people torture each other? One of my employees used to leave sandwich baggies filled with cookies around the studio when I was pregnant and worried about gaining weight. He'd wait until I ate them and tell me he was making side money betting his friends how many minutes it would take for me to locate and consume 3 Oreos in a 1200 sq. ft. clay studio. My children spend most of their concentration power anticipating the next toy move of a sibling. They then grab the desired toy and sprint away from the grab-ee, screaming.

I'm not sure my brother and I tortured each other so intently, but we were living with parents who routinely tortured each other. Peter's favorite was to see Susie in a short mood, sashay up to the Steinway and daintily start playing Chopin's "Minute Waltz." He'd crescendo to an appalling B instead of a B flat in the 9th stanza. It drove her mad: a. because she can't deal with anything off key and b. because she was probably trying to get stuff done, and it annoyed her that he was at liberty to waltz up to the piano instead of Windexing the storm windows or putting the coffee grounds into the compost...

We spent the weekend at the Shore with another vengeful Peter and his entourage. Peter is a second cousin of my husband-as if there aren't enough first cousins to deal with; Tim's dad was one of 14. Peter is the 6-years-later-mistake after a family of 4 Irish twins. (Tim's family has one of those...Johnny.) Peter's siblings have all bred, and he's footloose and 37. Rather than give his nieces and nephews a bunch of crap for gifts, he takes them on annual trips. This time his sister, Jackie had to chaperon the "Historical Pennsylvania" trip with 3 tweener nieces. (Jackie won my heart when she read a group text she received on Sunday morning, Ladies, I don't mean to brag, but I just fit into earrings I wore in high school.)

Apparently Jackie's conservative husband, Bob, was the main balker at Peter's discretion. In response, Peter tortured her and anyone who would listen with references to intercourse with his nieces (Intercourse, PA was one of their stops....where the Amish live) Jackie created a mutiny in which she and all 3 nieces demanded to go to the Jersey shore with us instead of seeing the Liberty Bell, putting the kibosh on another day of PA history. Peter lives in Miami; the crappy beaches of the Jersey Shore were not his pick, and being 2nd in command was definitely not on his agenda. Peter's revenge: going to the boardwalk and convincing each girl to get a semi-permanent henna tattoo (semi permanent meaning 5 weeks...all summer) that read some version of, "Uncle Peter ROCKS!"

Bob and Jackie's daughter got hers as a tramp stamp on her lower back....Peter's only request as they parted ways, "Please film Bob's face during the unveiling."