Friday, April 30, 2010

Copy for Downy Fabric Softener


It's 3pm, and I've had an ideal day. Ideal given the parameters of my current existence....it's not like I slept late, had sex, and ate eggs Benedict outside on a patio with a view, a mimosa and a great book. I woke up dreading the fact that there was no coffee thinking I had all 3 kids on my own, but my husband's leaving was not to go to work it was to go get coffee. His 9 am meeting was late, so we had a rare 20 minute window of family hanging out. I didn't nag him about taking out the trash, and he did it on his own, in time.

I got all teeth brushed including mine and against all odds, took all 3 of my children shopping at
BJ's. They didn't have 1/2 and 1/2, so I got to buy cream instead. I remembered everything on my list, and my children sat in the cart and amused themselves with the garlic and broccoli. Last time they played with raw meat, cheesy puffs and cherry tomatoes. We left a trail of Botulism and cheesy gazpacho, and I kept losing Jack Peter. I'd find him sitting on the concrete in front of an infomercial surrounded by an ever-growing crowd of worried people who were wondering out loud why I don't let him watch TV at home.

Now 2 out of 3 are sleeping, and I can barely hear the howls of the one who isn't because she sleeps in our master bathroom which is far enough away from me. (Can you imagine the stories she'll tell her kids?
I didn't have a bedroom; they stuck me next to the toilet...) I've recently discovered that the YMCA has free childcare so when they wake we'll all traipse over there, and I'll get a teeny tiny workout. Barring any unforeseen bad behavior, tonight is movie night, so my whole day could be a tantrum-less piece of cake.

On my way home from
BJ's, I made a lunch/play date with an at-home dad, so he carried in all of my shopping while I made lunches. If I were my mom I would have unselfconsciously orchestrated that, but I didn't. It was actually a little intimate, letting someone take in the groceries. Big box shopping is already shameful, and it's not in bags, so it was all out there for him to see. I had organic milk but cheap meat. I get huge things of Starbuck's coffee; everyone hates them, but the beans are so good. In a rare moment of listening to my kids advice, I'd bought some prepared baby food and worse, little snack packs of pretzels, mandarin oranges and fruit cup. This is unlike me because:
1. I'm cheap
2. I hate excessive packaging

3. I'm not wild about high fructose corn syrup and all that other crap

4. I know my husband will eat most of them in front of the t.v. probably because he coveted his friends' lunch boxes when he was little.

Perhaps the most shameful item was the Downy fabric softener. I'm sure that stuff is horrible for the environment, but every time my kids go to their nanny's house, they come back smelling so...
loved. I used to have a big, spoiled, sweaty 25-year-old guy working for me. His mom would pack his lunches and do his laundry. He'd be loading the kiln in 90 degree weather apologizing to me for smelling bad, but he always smelled like Downy. As I'm writing this I'm scrunching up my brow thinking, Do you want them to feel so loved that you're still doing their laundry and packing their lunches at 25? Maybe I'll give the Downy to nanny...

Monday, April 26, 2010

craft lockdown

(Steel age 2 drawing of a horse)
Here are a few things about which I'm conflicted:
1. The craft materials: paints, markers, crayons, paper, play dough, stickers are under lock and key in our house.

2. I rarely take my kids to my studio to do clay with them.

3. When friends told us they scan every piece of artwork that comes home from daycare and bind the images in hardback for the grandparents at the end of the year, I sternly mouthed "NO!" to Tim.

4. I'm seriously considering a school with no art for my children.


My Dad was always self-employed, but it makes him crazy that I don't work for anyone and neither does my husband. I find it patronizing that he thinks we can't do something he did. However, I was recently asked to help someone make a decision about going int
o a medical career or a "creative" one. She'd been doing restaurant/nanny work for the past 2 years, and I hadn't seen anything creative going on. I said, "If you're going the creative route, you're going to be competing against people who spend every waking, breathing moment making things." How patronizing is that?

(JP age 3 drawing of a penguin)

One of Tim's exes is not a shipwreck. (reference to previous blog) She's an artist; she and her musician husband have 2 sons in Manhattan. We stayed at their uber-glam Tribeca live/work space for a weekend. There is no adult seating in their living area. It is a 20x20 space of solid toys complete with a train set zooming around its perimeter. There were no apologies about, "the mess." I came away from that weekend feeling, at the very least like a boring control freak, at worst, like a bad mother. I still don't understand why I put away the toys every night or why I scream at JP and Steel to do it. I
need to see the puked-on Marshall's Home Goods rug in my living room at the end of every day.

I used to treat our coryan white counter like a gesso-ed canvas for our kids. They'd go wild with the washable markers, but we had a very close call with a Sharpie and some generic non-crayola markers didn't come off with soft scrub. The party was over. I could blame my husband for the tight reigns on art supplies, but I get crazy when the red and black playdough are mixed. (I'm ok with the yellow and green.)


Another artist couple
who allow the chaos is comprised of my childhood friends, Helen and Frank, who are now married. We visited and there were so many toys to distract my children, they didn't notice the vat of glitter in the middle of an art table in the middle of the living room. If we had unprotected glitter on the premises people would think Tim was getting lap dances every night. There'd be glitter in our ears. When the nurse came to visit Helen and Frank a week after the birth of their second child, she said, "I had no idea you were running a daycare!" They replied, bewildered, "We don't..."

When people say, "Your kids are going to be SO CREATIVE!" I usually reply, "No, they're going to sell insurance..." Is that what I w
ant?

Monday, April 19, 2010

fashion

I'm the one on the left, obviously.
Wow...Johnny Carson looked great with hair and sideburns. I'm glad that look has come back. (I just saw an old Nixon-era Johnny Carson) The cyclical nature of fashion is starting to unhinge me, though.

I have tenants living above my studio who are in their early 20's. I feel like I'm about their age, but to them, I'm ancient. I snuck back to the studio this evening to turn a kiln on, cover pots and tweak some canister lids. Apparently it was girl's night upstairs. James Brown and Earth Wind & Fire were BLASTING....Flashback to San Francisco 15 years ago and you'd find me with a bunch of women eating lettuce and chocolate, drinking way too much red wine and flailing around to that soundtrack. Has every girl in her early 20's been dancing to that stuff or is it just another trend that hit me and is now hitting Katie? The males who live with her returned appropriately during the song, "Let's Hear it for the Boy." They were talking about the latest Apple technology as they trudged upstairs.

My first spin on the fashion wheel was a ridiculously huge pair of hoops. I wore them in college. 10 years later I was still wearing them, but I wasn't alone; they'd come BACK in style. It was harrowing. Now I assume, if I'm smart I'll just stick to the fashion era that looks best on me and forget about what's in or out. But am I going to humiliate my children wearing white straight-legged pants and long tank tops in 2020? My friend, Helen always wears expensive, thick, dark purple eye shadow and Carly Simon/Farrah hair. She's been wearing that for the 20 years I've known her, and Carly Simon won her first Grammy in 1971, so that's almost 40 years. Who cares? She still looks fabulous.

At least I don't have a tramp stamp. That's that tattoo that girls get on their backs right above their asses. What a nightmare; it's like getting cargo pants put on permanently. Christ! What if I'm still making pottery with swirls on it in 20 years? I doubt that will change. Those swirls have survived through postmodernism to minimalism.

Fashion sense in children is baffling. Jack Peter's was easy until the dresses and skirts started appearing on a regular basis. I could count on his wanting construction vehicles or Lightening McQueen on things. I had to hide the backhoe shirt. It was a sleeveless t-shirt. I was already having trouble with the sleeveless thing, (Philly borders New Jersey) but when it became a crop-top; I had to draw the line. His favorite skirts and dresses have fish on them, so they could be an extension of his passion for
Finding Nemo, however....he has quite a few fish-themed male clothes that aren't getting worn. I keep wondering if someone is going to give him a hard time, but he seems to handle it: "Mama, Rex doesn't like dresses on boys; I told him 'I do!'" His teacher gushed, "I love a guy in a dress with a good manicure..." (He often gets manicures from our nanny, Julie.) I can't argue with it; he's got the nicest legs in the family. Why not show them off?

I can't figure out Steel's fashion sense either. I think it's comfort-based, but then she'll wear the too-big ruby slippers on the wrong feet for 4 hours. It's mostly stretch pants and too big shirts. She favors black, but I put a new pair of black stretch pants on her this morning, and she went ballistic. These ones didn't have the cute flair at the bottom, but did she notice that? She'll wear tights, but refuses to wear a skirt or dress over them. I put a skirt on over Toby's leggings today. She was thrilled. She could grab it, pull it up to her face and gnaw on it, the little strumpet...I just noticed a picture of myself at Steel's age. I too insisted on dressing myself. My mom obviously hadn't learned to hide things.
Those sneakers are NEVER going out of style.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

unwarranted sexiness


The theme song to Terry Gross' "Fresh Air" is one of the sexiest parts of my day. Terry Gross took the podium at a clay conference last week, and all of my San Francisco clay friends were appalled. Her sexy voice and throaty laugh had them all expecting a bombshell.

The movie "Ghost" has burdened potters with a similar, unwarranted sexiness. There is nothing sexy about being dirty, hunched, and poor with a bad manicure. Pulling handles might be construed as sexy; it's a similar motion to a hand job. An ex-boyfriend picked me up at my old studio one day. While my friend was pulling a bunch of handles for cups, the 3 of us chatted. "What the HELL was SHE doing?" he whispered, all hot and bothered, on our way out. I'll admit that handle pulling was always a fun class as I was usually teaching pottery to a bunch of gay guys.

Poor Toby is scarred already from being called a strumpet every day. She can't help it if she's happiest when naked on her back kicking her fat legs furiously with a wicked smile on her face. It doesn't help that every time we see someone new we yank down her pants to show off her incredibly meaty thighs. It might be why she's identified Terry Gross so soon as her personal hero...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

peas

If nothing else, Owen, my brother's gorgeous son will always be able to fall back on being a Nazi extra in WWII films...

I'm starting to feel like we're a walking advertisement for birth control.
Planned Parenthood could use my blog somehow. A woman told my mom that reading it has affirmed her decision to have only 1 child.

Meals are the worst. I made a popsicle-worthy portion-delineation on my daughter's plastic plate the other night, and she threw a carrot at me. I didn't think anyone threw lunch at me today, but I just ran my fingers through a knot in my hair and unleashed the smell of salmon.

Did I ever throw anything at my mom? NO, I get scared even considering it. My mom writes e-mails with the subject heading, "your blog." My stomach always lurches. Usually she's telling me about a comma splice or that I've chosen an undecipherable for anyone over 40 color, but no questions asked, I change whatever she says. I've been militantly hydrocortisoning Steel's little bum since mom/Susie saw the little pimples in the Easter blog and rode me the riot act
.

We had Karen and Michael, the couple who introduced us, over for 2 nights. Their kids are 7, 7, and 10. Am I ever going to get to that level of parenting? As I'm writing this Steel is sitting in a jigsaw puzzle box,
having dumped all of the pieces for the 3rd time today, shouting at me and Tim, "You guys aren't COMING TO MY BIRTHDAY!" In front of Karen/super-mom, I resorted to taking Steel half-dressed to the car and strapping her into the carseat to complete dressing her and brushing her teeth. I left her there screaming in the driveway while I got her brother ready for school. I was relieved but skeptical when Karen said she'd been through it too. Her son, when asked, "Why don't you put some of the pesto on your bread?" responded, "Mama, pesto isn't my favorite."...He didn't scream "I DON'T LIKE IT!!!!" and throw it at her.

I'd happily hear "I DON'T LIKE IT!" a thousand times before the phrase coming from my husband's lips, "WHY did you put a pea up your nose?" I was on my way downstairs to shower before one of our rare date nights. I retraced my steps when I heard Tim's shouting at JP, "Stop crying and BLOW!" Steel turned to me with a scared look on her face and wailed, "I have one too!" Tim said, "No, she doesn't; just go down, babe!" Seeing her brother get such quality one-on-one time might elicit a fib, but I saw an unfamiliar shadow up by the bridge of her nose. Optimistically I stood her up on the counter to peer into her nostril; the pea was way beyond my site. My only option was to plug up the other nostril and mimic Tim, "BLOW!" The pea made a comical un-suctioning sound and thwapped me on the sternum. One would think I was anxious about the kids' health the whole time, but I was really lamenting the imminent loss of my date night and the heinous visit to the ER.


At least now I have a triumph in the "who is the better child" competition with my brother. I've mentioned before that his son eats what he's told, reads at 3 years old, is ridiculously handsome and sweet, but his pea had to be surgically removed for $500 after first attempting a course of antibiotics.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

marketing

We're not church goers, but it was a guaranteed hour during which my kids wouldn't be eating chocolate or jelly beans, so I was in. Jack Peter demanded that we go when he saw a family off to Palm Sunday the week before. He likes singing. His first sentence in life was the command, "Sass SING!" (Sass was his beloved first nanny, Alissa) I'm pretty sure my mother in law was panicked that I'd start breast feeding the baby in the front pew. My modesty is on a par with Brittney Spears. She kept referring to the "kid room." I did wander back there to feed Toby; Steel took the opportunity to prance down the aisle with her dress above her head waving at everyone. A pimply butt in Dora-the-explorer underwear is just what that service needed.

Easter is such a tyranny for the health conscious, stingy mom. What do I do with peeps now? Penne pasta with peep sauce? Can I make rice crispy treats out of them? What is the acceptable time period during which I can bribe my kids with Easter candy? My parenting strategy is based entirely on bribery. Should I throw away the Halloween stuff I've been using? It's so hard for me to throw food away especially when it's been so powerful.

I was given a ray of hope for my daughter's future ability to edit her sweet intake. I'm not being sexist by worrying only about my daughter's sweet tooth. My son will clutch 1 skittle in his fist for an hour. Steel can only be given sweets in a finite form: A lollipop, A popsicle. Knowing that a bag of skittles is unfinished and being withheld is too painful for her. After a day of making bunny cakes and eating cookies, she actually said to my mother in law as she scrambled up into her Mickey Mouse highchair, "Nanny I want REAL FOOD"

I'm such a hypocrite. I've eaten half a white chocolate egg that's as big as my head in the time it's taken me to upload the image of my forcing my children to eat their veggies and fruits...
Besides how much of it I consume, another thing that bugs me about Easter candy is that the chocolate eggs aren't egg-shaped. I used to call them chocolate footballs when I was little. I had no idea they were attempting to be eggs. That true egg shape is so appealing. Even the early Christians were onto it. They just grabbed the pagan images of fertility: eggs and bunnies and whacked them onto the dead-guy-on-the-cross packaging. So many people bought it! It's like the "pet rock."

Tim had a huge marketing coup last week. Our current beloved nanny who is normally a phenomenal cook made a piece of leather. It had bananas and oatmeal and chocolate chips, but it was only marginally sweet. She probably tries to make the sweets healthy because of all of my food rants, but I like naughty sweets with all the real stuff: eggs, butter, sugar, white flour. I feel the same way about juice. You're only supposed to give your kids 3 oz. of juice a day. We do "juicy water." Everyone does it, but it tastes wretched. Why not give them the 3 oz. straight up and water for the rest of the day? I'm the same in my pottery...if it's bright, it's bright; earthy earthy; am I a purist?

I bet Tim 1.5 hour massage he wouldn't get the kids to eat the hide. He started his campaign as soon as they hopped into bed with us. "You guys are going to have a super special breakfast treat!" He cut each kid a bottle-nosed dolphin out of it and put whipped cream on. They each ate the requisite 2 bites, and Jack Peter went on to eat almost his whole dolphin. Every time Tim said something about his super special breakfast treat, Jack Peter would suspiciously take his bite and mid-chew he'd say, "Yeah, but Dada, what IS it?"

Friday, April 2, 2010

Ignorance is bliss

Yesterday started with a Steel McDonald fashion meltdown. She ended up in jeans for a child 6 months younger, a purple shirt for a child 2 years older, socks from her infant sister, and shoes from the "next summer" box. During the night she had attempted getting into our bed 8 times from 3-5 am, so none of us had slept enough. "I want to DRUG her!" Tim grunted in desperation.

The coffee I'd put on top of the car fell over as I hit a pothole enroute to school and streamed down the windows. I stopped in the middle of the road risking the lives of 3 children to rescue the cup-absurd in any case but more so considering I have an unlimited supply of cups.
"Heidi Hybrid NEEDS A CARWASH!" serenaded me the rest of the trip. There was an attempted mutiny: refusal to get out of their seats until Heidi was clean. Steel's "skinny jeans" were met with skeptical applause at school. Hard-to-remove pants are not ideal for a newly potty-trained toddler. I believe the word was "ambitious."

I reversed to get out of my parking place, looked into the side mirror, attempted to dart into the traffic, forgot to put Heidi into drive and nearly rear ended the car behind me.
I arrived at my crack-ghetto pottery studio with my now-screaming infant in time to see a pick-up truck filled with stained, torn mattresses and box springs systematically dumping them one-at-a-time onto people's trash piles, mine included. When I'm making my film about life in Philly, I'll splice that little snippet next to the one of me, 9 months pregnant with 2 children in the enormous double stroller, on my way to my ob/gyn appointment, sprint-waddling across the street to catch the always-smelling-like-piss handicapped elevator to the subway. 2 able-bodied people cut me off, jumped into the elevator and looked down at their feet as they let the doors shut. At the appointment Steel chewed out the nurse practitioner for not listening to the baby in HER belly. Why go to those ob/gyn appointments anyway? I was often told something stressful that turned out to be wrong. Toby was "too small and going to come late;" she's enormous and came 6 days early.

I stuffed a chicken last night. Because of a 2-second conversation with someone who knew someone who watched something in which some sort of infra-red imaging showed the salmonella traces all over the place after stuffing a chicken, I'm a wreck. I use my elbows throughout the process to turn the water on and off. After the chicken is safely in the oven I do a preliminary clean using a cloth that goes immediately into the laundry, and I finish the job with a Lysol wipe. Finally I wash my hands for the requisite 20 seconds and debate whether or not to pitch the remaining onion as my mom just sent an e-mail about how left-over onion will kill me because they absorb bacteria.

This onion thing is coming from the woman who would grab the little me running through the kitchen, cradle the back of my head in one hand an use the other to mash a sponge across my mouth and nose. She wouldn't replace that kitchen sponge until she accidentally put it down the garbage disposal, so it was usually 8 months old, a nondescript grayish color with a mucus-like film on it. She wouldn't think twice about wiping up chicken blood with that same sponge.

I'm still here.


I know clay dust is toxic; I know heavy metals aren’t good, but how crazy do I have to be about it? Should I wear a respirator every day? Am I a terrible parent because I have a baby in a clay studio all day? Are the fumes from the kilns going to kill me? I’m hoping that stressing about it is the worse thing. I’ll just carry on happily, try to be as clean as possible and think about my chain-smoking, in-her-late-70’s pottery teacher who was a slob and never once wore a respirator and is still going strong.

I'm keeping those jeans for Steel until she's 20. We ended the day at an art opening. The venue was an urban mosaic "garden" consisting of shards of glass, ceramic, mirror and other sharp found objects. The kids were running wild, narrowly avoiding serious injury with every turn. I didn't think it could get more stressful until Steel announced she wanted to be naked. She couldn't get those pants off for the life of her...