Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Craft Bug

I call this piece my "don't quit your day job" wreath. The girls and I went out to get a 44" high Christmas tree. That is the limit to what our living room can handle. To accommodate us, the Christmas tree guy had to cut a foot off of our tree. Waste not, want not! I had to make something from the off-cut boughs. The kids went into model-magic-ornament production, so we had a few to spare for my wreath. They produced about 100 ornaments on the first day. They woke up early and all three of them were hard at work at 6:30 am on day 2. Steel seems especially afflicted by the craft bug.

I've been on my own in New York City for a week attempting to sell pottery at a pop-up store in uber-hip Chelsea Market. It's right by the Highline; it's got great food. There's a fancy kitchen store and an Anthropologie. Google and some other trendy places have office space upstairs. It all seemed like a good idea, and it would have been, had I only brought large bowls and vases.

Years ago, a New York gallery came to my booth at my wholesale show. He said in his loud New York voice, "I LOVE your pottery, but you CAN'T sell pottery in New York!" and turned on his heel and left. I finally understand how pottery doesn't fit into the lives of New Yorkers. Most of them have tiny kitchens filled with cocktail glassware. They eat out or order in. Colin, my fabulous host got take-out the first night. He bundled the substantial mound of left-overs up in a bag and had a guest throw them in the trash on his way out. The horrified New Englander in me gasped, "You don't eat leftovers?!" "Yes, I do!" he replied, "That is why they are going in the trash!" Colin spends more money on skin care than I do on child care, incidentally.

Meanwhile, Toby chose last night to get the flu. On top of his usual insane schedule made more insane by his winning an RFP for a 126-unit project, Tim has been dealing with school lunches, school parties, figuring out what is and isn't nanny time, playdates and cavity bugs. Now he gets to do all of that on 3 hours of sleep while doing a couple loads of vomit-covered laundry. Meanwhile I'm walking the Highline, going out for Ramen and cocktails, and sleeping late.

Trying to have conversations with people and not talk about my children has been agony. People say they like hearing stories about kids, but they don't. I see eyes and minds wandering as I regale them with the story of Toby raiding the baby Jesus from Nanny's nativity scene and walking around all weekend holding baby Jesus to her ear and saying, "SHHHHH! Nanny! I'm talking to BABY JESUS!" Maybe this is why I like blogging. I don't have to see your minds wandering. My favorite story, thus far, from the "Daddy-cation" happened the first morning. I was still in bed, and I got a text from Tim: "Is it true that Steel doesn't have school today?" Tim, she's 4. You're 47, and she's already able to con you?????? What the hell is going to happen when she's a teenager?

I have another theory about why my New York trip hasn't been as successful as I'd hoped. I always think that good things happen to good people, and I revealed my inner crappiness recently. Right before I left, I did a craft show at a bar in Philly on a rainy Wednesday night. I drove the tiny little electric zap car. Visibility isn't great; it has a leak, so the inside of the windshield steams up, and the one windshield wiper on the outside works poorly. It's harrowing, careening down the road, revving the tiny electric engine, and peering out of a clear space in the windshield as big as my palm. I had parked a block away from the craft show, so to load my stuff after the show, I backed the truck across the street (as only a Massachusetts driver would) and into the spot in front of the bar. I was wearing cowboy boots, and I had gladly accepted both free drinks that were offered me that night. Somehow my big boot did not manage to make the transition from the accelerator to the brake, so I slammed into the front bumper of the car behind me.

Like a terrified teenager, I pulled away from the damaged car and fled into the bar from the rain. It took 3 trips to load my stuff. By trip #2, the damaged car had disappeared. I hadn't left a note or told the bar manager. I drove home and immediately confessed my sins to Tim. I couldn't sleep all night agonizing over the new knowledge that an irresponsible teenager is still alive and well in this 42-year-old shell.

The next afternoon, I answered the phone in my studio. The entire incident was ON TAPE! Of course it was; that's how I roll! I was strangely relieved and elated as I gave my insurance information to the poor guy who owns the car I hit. I didn't think it could get any more humiliating until he said, "Onion Flats???? (the car is insured by the company) Isn't that the McDonald brothers???? I'm friends with Johnny, and my wife is Tim McDonald's biggest fan!!!!"

I can hear them now at a cocktail party, "That Tim McDonald is SO TALENTED; too bad he married such a morally bankrupt potter!" My friend Karen tried to comfort me. She said, "You've got GREAT karma!!! You're generous with EVERYONE; this time you just took out a tiny withdrawal from your karma bank!" Is it my bad karma that is causing New Yorkers to be blind to the genius of my cups? Perhaps the $4 cup sale at Anthropologie has something to do with it.

I attribute Steel's long face to her knowledge that she has the 'craft bug' and will for the rest of her life, compulsively make things with her hands that people may or may not want. Aunt Lisa gave each of my children an entire tub of frosting and un-refereed access to bowls of candy. They behaved surprisingly well. I can only assume that they thought they were on tape and would have to account for their behavior later...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Smoking Gun

You know it's that time of year when you plug in the diaper wipe warmer. I got a gleeful giggle from little Toby when I used the first warmed wipe. It's nice to be appreciated.

It's also the time of year when I'm trying to get a lot of pottery made, glazed and shipped in time for Christmas. My excema is going wild. I normally have it on my hands, but for a while now, I've had it on my face. I keep wanting to scratch my eyebrows off. At a Halloween party I was complaining about my skin and all of the rest of my annoying health issues. My friend suggested that I might have a thyroid problem. Apparently, thyroid problems can be responsible for: skin issues, eyebrows fading, hair falling out, soreness, weight gain, exhaustion, depression, and fertility issues, but they are super-easy to cure. I walked into my doctor's office praying for a thyroid problem.

Sadly I'm healthy as a horse, so all of that stuff is just because I'm getting old. My kids have been telling me that my butt is jiggling which is great to hear first thing in the morning. Every time I see a Groupon for some sort of cosmetic procedure I stop and think for a few minutes whether that might be the answer, and then the phrase, "Why paint a wreck?" comes back to my head.

I guess I've slacked off a bit on my health/beauty regimen. My New Year's resolution of 2011 was to be more proactive about maintaining my dye job, but right now my roots make Brittney Spear's look good. I go to this amazing colorist. He's really precise about it, and he takes pride in his work-a virgo. That sounds glamorous, but the reality is that I bought 9 boxes of my difficult-to-find haircolor on ebay, and Tim is the colorist. After the drama of his daily life, it pains me to ask him to don the too-small gloves made of saran wrap to do my hair. What does he get in return besides a wife with a passable head of hair? I flush out the wax build-up in his ears.

It started when we were in Costa Rica in 2005. Tim’s ears were so plugged with a yearlong construction project’s residue of wax and funk. The water from snorkeling and surfing on top of it rendered him deaf. Rumors about the stuff that comes out of people’s ears had always intrigued me-a pea size ball of wax? I have a sick interest in that sort of thing. We traipsed off to the doctor’s office to sort him out. The doctor was a 34-year-old Costa Rican comedian in a surfer town. The bulk of his clientele come in to get their ears cleaned, so he’s pretty good at it.

He let me be his nurse/Vanna White. I got to look through the ear light thing; I got to take Tim’s blood pressure, and I got to hold the bermuda green u-shaped tray under Tim's ear as the doctor squirted the syringe of water in. The gunk all came out in one chunk after one shot, and it was the size, shape and color of a cigarette butt. I screamed in terror/glee as the doctor blew on the top of his syringe as if it were the tip of a smoking gun.

Speaking of a smoking gun, we had another epic journey in the RV last weekend. Tim needed to go to Syracuse to receive his "Leed Platinum" certificate for the house he designed for a low budget house competition. (He won the competition. :) We figured we could stop in Syracuse on our way to help out my mom in Massachusetts. It didn't dawn on us until we were arriving late to the ceremony that we'd gone woefully out of our way. We screeched up to the tent in Sunflower (the male RV is named Sunflower Rose McDonald which always makes me think of the surly tomcat next door named Muffin) Tim jumped out to make a little speech and receive his plaque. One of the other speakers did refer to Tim as the only architect he knew that drives a vehicle bigger than the houses he designs, but it went well. The owner of the house let us go through it. The kids ate a bunch of sweets, and then we got into the RV at 5 pm to head northeast for 7 hours. On our way out, Ted, an architect who works with Tim, suggested we put some air in the back left tire. It was not looking good.

We got onto 90 with a couple gallons of gas and a flat tire only to be told by the toll taker that the nearest gas was 15 miles the wrong direction or 33 the right direction. We limped along for 15 miles and opted to get off 90 to fill up. It took 2 gas stations for us to figure out that no gas station was going to have an air pump strong enough to pump up the massive RV tire. We pulled off in Utica to go to a Walmart tire center. It didn't service RV's. We went to BJ's, in the same massive stucco shopping jungle, and the tire center had closed an hour before, early for Veteran's day. Tim went in and convinced the kid who normally works the tire place to open for us-YAY! The tire was, in fact, completely flat, but the kid had no way to get it off.

Good thing we have RV coverage on AAA! Nope...the state of New York AAA doesn't have RV coverage, and there was a sleet storm, so everything was backed up. They said they would try to find an RV person and send them, so Tim sat waiting in Sunflower, and I took the 3 kids into BJ's to look at the toy aisle and the sleepy suit aisle. An hour with 3 kids in BJ's telling them they can't have anything after 5 hours of minding them in an RV had rendered my patience level low.

There was more AAA drama, so we resigned ourselves to eating dinner at Applebees where there was a wait to be seated. That was depressing on so many levels. My phone was about to die, and AAA only had my number. There were no outlets to be found on the floor at Applebees, and Steel needed to poop. Tim took Steel to poop, and I suggested he take my phone because there's always an outlet in the bathroom. There was some sort of wiping mishap at the exact moment AAA called to say that they will send someone, but it will cost $300. That left Tim covered in shit, screaming into the phone in the Applebees bathroom while I was trying to figure out how to order a vegetable off of the menu. Toby wass screaming because the guy behind us was eating dessert, and Jack Peter was drawing. Drawing sounds benign, but when Steel returned he'd commandeered all of the drawing paraphernalia, so a massive battle ensued.

The phone rang again, and Tim said, "OK! I'll be there!" He hung up and said to me, "They've got someone who can do it under the AAA policy, and they'll be there in 20! I'll go meet them at the RV." I insisted that I go meet the RV guy. My almost dead phone and I trudged the 1/4 mile across the 3 parking lots to get to Sunflower. The guy came, but he didn't have what he needed to get the tire off. He said he'd check the tractor supply store and come back. He returned and said he needed to give someone a tow, and then he'd go back to his garage to get what he needed, and he'd be back. It was becoming clear that our home for the night was going to be the BJ's parking lot, and we hadn't packed any bedding, and it was sleeting. I went to BJ's and spent $156 on bedding, made up the beds and went to help Tim bring the kids back. I grabbed a shopping cart and caught them 200 yd. away from Applebees. Tim looked awful, but I was rejuvenated by my shopping spree and cuddly bed making. I said, "You go to WALMART, relax, buy some beer. I've got the kids." I threw them and their balloons all into the cart and careened through the sleet to Sunflower.

The cart ride, the new cuddly blankets, and milk sorted all of them out as did the excitement of putting on clothes and sleepy suits at the same time. (I was terrified they'd freeze to death in the night) They went to sleep, and Tim and I drank beers and ate pretzels and naughty cheese until the AAA guy came back which he, incredibly, did. Tim went out to help. The next thing I knew the engine was up, and we were driving.

What the????

I was drunkenly gabbing on the phone to Sweet, so I chose not to worry about it until I'd told the whole story to Sweet.
said, "You're going WHERE?????"
"To the AAA guy's garage, so he can use a compressor to get the f-ing tire off!" I replied. "WHAT??? Turn around! He's going to kill you all! You can't trust an AAA guy in Utica, New York!"

No smoking gun-we're all still here, and we had a lovely night sleeping outside the guy's garage in our cozy Sunflower. It probably worked out better for my mom to have the chaos for 1 night, anyway.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why do so many moms hate me?

Notice the 2 different color legs. I wanted to tell her she could grab the 2 Barbie legs that are in our utensil drawer left over from the doll cake, but Steel is still bitter that I not only used her Barbie without asking but also it was never returned...

I have an update on our friend, Josephine whose 2 moms won't let her have a Barbie. Phine went to art camp over the summer and trash-picked enough pieces to make her own Barbie with a little tape. The moms had to reward her ingenuity by letting her keep it. She carries Barbie everywhere, and she did not take to my naming her "Purple Duct Tape Barbie." I don't think she'd like White Trash Stinky Snatch Barbie II either.

I've mentioned before that October is the cruelest month: 2 daughters' birthdays, our anniversary and the tyranny of Halloween. If I were a good sister and aunt I could also count my brother's and two of his kids' birthdays, but I don't ever do anything for them, so I can't. Using that logic I can't claim my anniversary as cruel either. This year Tim gave me a new booth for my craft shows. He'd had it fabricated entirely out of steel. The shelves mount with magnets. It's pretty cool. He set it up in the middle of my studio to show it to me. I'm thrilled, but I was put out by a 10x10 steel box in the middle of my space. I don't know how I became such an ingrate.

My father called to wish us a happy anniversary. "What is it, deah, (dear) the asphalt anniversary? Youwah muthah (your mother) and I made it to the yeah (year) of the radioactive fall-out." His call was strange as I wasn't sure he knew my phone number, let alone my anniversary date. He prompted me to look online to see what material I'm supposed to give Tim. It's wood for your 5th. I wanted to get him cool wooden glasses frames, but it turned out to be fragile and expensive, so I settled for the wooden cufflinks on etsy. I also painted a pair of his work boots copper. I couldn't resist. I was painting the tails on the girls' mermaid costumes, and I ended up painting my clogs and my belt pearlescent,emerald green. I was so enthralled by the result that I needed to share it with my dear husband. He said, "Are these for my Halloween costume?" I replied, "No, they're for your life!"

Tim recently heard the story of a bad divorce. The estranged female half went into the new abode of the male half with a shop vac filled with glitter and reversed the vacuum to spew it all over his apartment. No matter how hard he tries, for the next 40 years, he's going to look like he's recently purchased a lap dance at a strip club because there will always be a few bits of glitter on his person. I've always loved glitter. There was a period when my roommate, Sharon, and I wouldn't leave the house without a little bit of glitter on our faces. That was during the same time period I helped my friend, Sweet, paint his room silver. While the paint was still tacky we took handfuls of holographic glitter and gently blew it onto the wet paint. On top of rent control, his landlord has that to deal with??? (WOW! I guess I'm starting to see things from another point of view...Republican party, here I come!)

My mom keeps reminding me that my middle daughter is exactly like me. I'm starting to get it. Steel rejected the mermaid costume I'd spent hours on because, "The boobs weren't glittery enough!" She also had a knock-down fight with her friend, Ruby over glitter. Ruby brought her glitter-filled make-up kit to Steel's birthday party and refused to let Steel play with it insisting that she do Steel's maquillage for her.

I pepped it up a little
Steel's party was the usual chaos. She wouldn't let anyone take 1 of the 50 balloons. Bobbing for apples was eschewed. I had Tim make a really great red sauce, so they'd eat pasta and cucumbers before all of the sweets. (He must really love me because picturing 25 kids eating pasta with red sauce and grated Parmesan in his house must've been giving his Virgo self hives...) The high point was when the second kid in line downed the pinata (as always precariously attached to a ceiling fan) and they all descended upon it like the Libyans on Gaddafi.

By mistake Ruby left the make-up kit, so Steel had her way with it/me the next morning. Ruby's family got their revenge. Their middle child not only left a piece of chocolate cake in Steel's bed, but he also puked down the back stairs. On top of that, he must've been making out with Toby before vomiting, so she's been puking for 2 days. Ruby's mom ignored the "no gifts necessary" and gave Steel a not-very-hearty breed of fish. Obviously she hates me. We were at their house when Bear shattered the shell of one of their turtles, and I'm sure I said, "That's why we don't have pets..."

The mom at the last party put whistles in the goody-bags; clearly she hates me too.

The "no gifts necessary" backfired entirely. Only 1 family didn't bring a gift. Steel noticed and has been insisting, "SUGAR AND SAILOR SHOULD HAVE LEFT THE PARTY!!! They DIDN'T have a GIFT for me!" I've been trying to explain that Sugar and Sailor were the only ones who followed the rules, but it's fallen on deaf ears. I've been a wreck that Steel has been confronting them about it at school. Should I consider it a coincidence that Steel came home with a thank-you card written by another girl intended for Sugar and Sailor?
Dear Sugar and Sailor,
Thank you for coming to my birthday party! Thank you for the AWESOME rock band bracelet kit!!! I love you,

It's one thing to not bring a gift to a "gifts optional" party. It's quite another to let the birthday girl know what she missed. I want an awesome rock band bracelet kit! Knowingly or not, my daughter, the glitter-obsessed ingrate, is being punished by yet another mother. (who must hate me)

The best present I could have given to mini-me was the cake (which is good because it's the only present I gave her.) I allowed her to design and decorate it. Everyone knows I take birthday cakes pretty seriously. Steel insisted on fresh raspberries in the butter cream frosting, and then I had to let her and Jack Peter cover the entire cake with gum balls. I forgot that a cake covered with gum balls means a house covered with gum. During my post-party cleaning rampage I had to peel a wad of gum, the exact volume of a golf ball, off of Toby's bare back. She was screaming because it had dried onto all of her little peachy hairs. The 3 of them had pooled their gum while I was dealing with the guest bathroom and stuck it onto her. They were all laughing because it was almost the exact color of her flesh, so it looked like some fancy special effects wound.

I was cleaning so manically not only because our house was disgusting, but especially because Tim was going to fetch his friend, Tomoko, at JFK airport. The thought of a Japanese house guest after a raging 4-year-old birthday party was such a motivator. Is it true that Japanese people are all clean? All of my roommates have been; I've had 3 Japanese roommates. If she were from Australia would I have just strewn some straw around??? The New York marathon was happening, so Tim couldn't cross any of the Manhattan bridges. I ended up having 7 hours to clean and scream at the kids for uncleaning. It was a fabulous Sunday.

Jack Peter kept asking me to help him do the little origami figures that were in the new origami book Steel had received (from another mother who must hate me) I actually made a 3rd cup of coffee and sat down to try one. I toiled for 3.5 minutes, and then I said, "Jack Peter, I can't do this! You're going to have to get Tomoko to help you!" I suppose it must be confusing for him...why can I take a bowl and a piece of foam and turn it into R2D2 when I can't take a piece of paper, follow explicit instructions, and turn it into a dolphin?

So Tim and I have figured out the answer to October's cruelty. This year he apologized profusely for desperately wanting to go to a passive house conference to geek-out over insulation and energy recovery ventilators during our anniversary. This meant that we went out the Wednesday before and he missed the week-long sewing, painting, gluing-till-3 am-every-morning, Halloween costume marathon. I envy the women who can go to Walmart and spend $25 to buy the princess and super hero costumes their kids adore. I have to go to 3 different craft stores, Home Depot and God-knows-where, spend $100, turn into a monster for a week to create costumes that my children must then endure. We've decided that Tim should go away every year for our anniversary to avoid seeing this part of me, and our marriage will stay on track.

If I were not aware that I'm turning into my own mother, Halloween might make me admit some similarities. I heard myself bark, "ONLY ONE!!!!" and then "WHAT DO YOU SAY?????" at every stoop as I watched my unbelievably cute little mermaids snatch all the candy they could. They would stiffen at the sound of my bark, and return all but one to the endless trick-or-treat bowls. Toby would hand the treat up to me and say, "Open this Mama!" It all had to be eaten immediately. She's smart; those bags were relinquished at the end of the night so I can judiciously dole out the candy until Easter. Then I can throw away the dregs because we'll get a new batch.

It's almost sad that I've peaked so early in my Halloween-costume-making career. That R2D2 was the ultimate revenge on all of those moms who hate me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the settlers

It's always hard to cook in your mom's kitchen. Last visit, she was making the meatloaf. (1/2 ground pork, 1/2 high-fat ground beef with bacon on top....YUM) I was in charge of mashed potatoes. I was in her way, digging around for a bowl to mash in, and she handed me the one in which she'd just mixed the meat, raw eggs, etc. "This one is pretty clean!" she announced. Raw pork, beef, and eggs?

The next meal was pasta. She proudly showed me her newly-rehabbed cheese grater. It had been rusting, so she sprayed it with Rustoleum and then with silver spray paint. "It looks GREAT, mom, but no cheese, thanks. I'm on a dairy-free diet; WE ALL ARE!" (My friend, Karen, just beat this. Her mom brought cheese that had expired a year previous to the visit. Karen suggested that they pitch it to which her mom replied, "I didn't think cheese expired!")

It's absurd for me to talk about hygiene and toxins. The above picture is my daughter, Toby's, naked ass on her 2nd birthday next to her potty cake-complete with brownie poops in it, and I still stir my heavy-metal-laden glazes with my hands, pregnant or not. Last week we were at my aunt's funeral. It was in the Thousand Lakes area in upstate New York. All of my cousins were there with their families. My kids would drop food on the floor and some concerned cousin would pick it up and throw it away only to hear a horrified scream, "Cousin Anne just THREW the Fruit Loop AWAY!!!!! (Fruit Loops are an uber-luxury; no sugar cereal here on Laurel street.)

"Ummmm.....Anne we let them eat off of the floor."
"Oh, the 5 seconds rule?"
"It's more like 5 days, but yes...."

Food is on my mind. I've just spent a good part of the evening stripping the meat off of 2 chicken carcasses and making stock with the bones. I can't believe people skim the fat off of their stock and gravy. Soup and gravy are socially acceptable vehicles for animal fat, as far as I'm concerned. I was downtown recently, desperate for a bowl of soup. It was one of the first chilly autumn days, and I was on my bike with too little clothing. I went into a place called, Le Pain Quotidienne. It's a chain:

What he wanted was so simple: bread, hearty and wholesome, with a firm slice and a good crust. Alain Coumont learned about bread as a small child, standing on a chair every Sunday watching his grandmother bake bread. As a young chef in Brussels, Alain could not find the right bread for his restaurant. Passionate about quality, he returned to his roots and opened a small bakery where he could knead flour, salt and water into the rustic loaves of his childhood.

The website has a tab entitled, About the Name

Yes, it's tricky. (It was so simple in Belgium!)
It sounds like this: luh paN koh-ti-dyaN and it means "the daily bread."
(No, it sounds like ALAIN is a PAIN)

I normally hate places like this, but I figured for $6.95 I'd get a good cup of soup. (For all of you Californians or New Yorkers, in Philly $6.95 is still 2 beers) I wanted something brothy, but I settled for their only offering, corn chowder. Chowder=pig fat and cream in my mind. I got my soup and it tasted like an oddly-textured liquid made from the inside of a mattress. I figured salt might help as a small shaker of their salt retailed for $11.95. Nothing happened. I went up to the coffee people and said, "Can I have some cream? I don't know what to do with this soup!" She gave me the cream and said in the soup's defense, "It's vegan...."

Then it's not f-ing chowder now is it????? Shouldn't there be some sort of disclosure on vegan things? This has no animal products in it and will, therefore, taste crappy unless it's a salad or something involving lesgumes. would suffice. I felt like someone had given me an O'Doul's when I'd ordered a 10% alcohol Belgian beer. It also reminded me that I'd made a "cognac infused harvest onion soup" for a bunch of Muslims. AND it made me wonder whether I'd made Nana's amazing clam chowder for the sort-of-kosher-keeping parents who HATED me of one of my Jewish boyfriends. (I think he's gay now....wouldn't they be glad to have me back?!)

Strangely, I didn't demand my money back. I dumped in a bunch of 1/2 and 1/2 and $12 salt, and I ate it. My daughter, incensed, that she wasn't going to be able to have her naked way with the potty cake also settled for the paltry piece she was given.

She had fabulous new animal-print leggings and some powder pink fur-lined crocs from nanny to ease her pain. I had nothing of the sort...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I heard a quiet scratchy scratch sound in my pillowcase the other night. In a single motion I jumped out of bed, turned out my pillow and deposited a big bug into the toilet. I was sure it was a massive bed bug and that the whole house was infested. A befuddled Tim got up to inspect. He and I silently watched the bug swimming around gracefully in the urine-filled toilet, Tim muttering, "I promise you; it's a water bug!" Because he loves me, he googled "bed bugs." Bed bugs have transparent heads and are the size of a grain of rice. This thing was an inch long. Doesn't the world know that I'm too high strung for bugs in my pillow case?

Sleep has been an issue. Jack Peter started kindergarten on September 13. He has Mrs. O'Brien, and he loves every minute of it, but the mornings are insane because he has to be there by 8:25. My food obsession has been in check for a while because everyone's been eating. I'm back to force-feeding him breakfast like a foie-gras-goose and obsessing about his untouched lunch boxes.
They give him chocolate milk every day; they don't even have real milk. How can I compete with chocolate milk? I'd have to come in with mussels or lamb chops, and that's not going to happen.

He's about 7 inches shorter than most of the boys in his class. "You HAVE to eat!!! Don't you want to be as big as Caspar, Rex, Jerrod and Ty Hiem???" I ask.
He could care less. The first week of school he was his table captain and the boys line leader, so his Napoleon complex was in full force. He'd come home in the evenings with a full assessment of who had cried and for how long, who got time-outs, and who got "caught being good" slips. I asked him who are his new friends, picking out random names: "What about Jeremiah or Ty Hiem?"

"I'M NOT FRIENDS WITH TY-HIEM!!!! He can't READ!!!! He and Jada just MAKE UP WORDS!!!" Obviously Jack Peter has inherited the Kinder family inability to suffer fools gene. I'm not sure that's going to serve him well on the playground at an inner city school when he's 7 inches shorter and 20 lb lighter than most of the other kids. I can't figure out whether he's truly that
hierarchical about the world or whether he can't imagine that the kids can't read and is thinking that they're being disrespectful to his beloved Mrs. O'Brien. We'll see...

On "open house night" for the school, most people didn't bring their kids. Jack Peter was enjoying being
Mrs. O'Brien's little parrot as she went over bathroom procedure, etc. She was discussing the classroom jobs, when Jack Peter said out loud to me, "Mama, she gave the line leader job to SOMEONE ELSE!!!" Before I could think I responded loudly, "You mean you were FIRED????" I'm not sure that was appropriate.

I'm already feeling on thin ice with Mrs. O'Brien. We took him out of school last Friday to take an RV trip to show our niece, Britt, some Boston schools and to visit my mom. On Sunday I frantically realized that not only had we dropped the ball on a week of kindergarten homework, but also Jack Peter's first BIG PROJECT was due on Tuesday.

He missed 2 books a day on his log for all of last week in his 100 Book Challenge. Jack Peter can read rings around most people, so I'm not all that concerned, but I do want to look like a good, proactive mother. I put a few entries in just off of the top of my head from what we'd read last week. The project, however, involved a shoe box. 10 pm Sunday night Tim and I were trolling around Northern Liberties for shoe boxes by madly texting our neighbors. One of them came up with a gorgeous black box, and Aunt Tiff had recently given us a bag of craft supplies that included some pretty special, glittery, squishy, sticky-backed foam, so I felt prepared for a kindergarten project.

Monday evening was busy so I planned to pull him out of after care to do it;
I've changed my schedule so Mondays I get Toby to myself. We go to the pool, to "mommy and me yoga" or to playgroup, we grocery shop, have a nice lunch, and she is then supposed to nap for 3 hours. I spent Monday afternoon listening to Toby not nap in her crib "MAMA, I'M NOT NAPPING; I WANT TO COME UPSTAIRS!!!" Meanwhile, I gabbed on the phone and cut things out of foam.

I've been a little down lately, and a couple friends have noticed.
Martha said, "You should do something nice for yourself today."
I replied, "Are you kidding?" I've cut out a glue stick, 4 markers, 2 sharpies, a pencil, 6 Bakugans, the letters to comprise 'JACK PETER'S SCHOOL TOOLS BOX' and an amazing pair of scissors from iridescent, sparkly foam; I can't imagine doing anything nicer for myself..."
"That sounds like heaven." She said.

As you can see we got the project finished, and we are now chugging along with the rest of his homework. This evening I was going through his back pack stuff. In addition to a crumpled up Spanish song we're supposed to be singing together 3 times a day, I got a grumpy post-it about absentee protocol, and a QUESTION MARK over one of my 100 Book Challenge entries. OK, so I had put on a date that hadn't happened yet...

I wrote on the log, "Sometimes we read in the mornings; I'm not great with the date"
I wrote on the absentee slip, "We were taking our niece to visit HARVARD AND MIT last Friday." This Mrs. O'Brien needs to know who she's dealing with....

Not only is our niece looking at Harvard and MIT...I cut out all of that crap with THESE!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Carbohydrates

We were unscathed by Hurricane Irene except that we ate crap all weekend. I took a cursory glance at one of the Hurricane preparation websites. Non-perishable food stuck in my head which translated into my writing "cheeseballs" on a grocery list. I cooked 2 lb of pasta and 12 ears of corn. Tim cooked a pound of bacon and a chocolate cake. A friend brought over a case of beer, and I bought 3 pints of naughty ice cream.

Once I commit to crappy food, I go for it. We went out, and I ate an entire mediocre Italian Hoagie. All I could think was that I should have thrown it directly into the toilet and skipped the middle man. Even the kids were glad to get back to our normal food. Last night Toby refused anything but 3 servings of broccoli. I baked 12 corn muffins (because no one wanted the corn, when they had fists full of cheeseballs) and they've been ignored. Jack Peter didn't even eat the chocolate cake in his lunch box. Maybe I'll force feed them crap every now and again.

All of this pales in comparison to my favorite Hurricane preparation story. My friend's mom lives in North Jersey. Her garden tomatoes are all perfect right now. She was not going to let Irene keep her from her tomato sandwiches. I'm going to remind you that mayo is extremely important to my family; remember dad's epitaph: This is where Peter Kinder ended his days from slathering on too much Hellman's Mayonnaise. In preparation for Irene, mayo-loving mom went to Burger King and ordered a single $.99 hamburger that she didn't want. She was there for the mayo packets. She was afraid the power would go out, and her Hellman's would spoil.

Clearly she hasn't been to a Burger King since the 90's as she was expecting the packets to be out in the open. Flummoxed, she had to ask the kid for the mayo.
"How many?" he said.
"Eight," she replied.
"They're not for me; they're for my mom. She's very ill..."

She should have gone to a rest stop on the turnpike. Last time I was there I served the kids dinner from the condiments bar. Sadly she did lose power and woke up Sunday morning to find her washer and dryer floating in her basement as her sump pump was no longer working. At least she was able to enjoy a tomato sandwich before calling the mold remediation guy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I want ice cream!

I couldn't help myself when I was packing and shipping this bowl out...

Yesterday it was apparent, early on, that 2/3 of my "to do" list wasn't going to happen. I was grumpy. Responding to an e-mail from a woman asking me the dimensions of a bowl on my pottery blog, I wrote, It's a little warped, so the diameter in one direction is 7" and in another is 7.25. She wrote back, Does it look round? I laughed for about 10 minutes. "Square candies that look round" are one of Willie Wonka's best inventions. They are square candies with little faces on them that look around. I've accepted the incessant children's books on CD as a part of my life, as they sometimes render my children speechless. This was the first collateral benefit I have reaped from the tedium.

Part of my grumpiness could be sleep-deprivation. We went on "vacation" to California August 3-10. The amount of head space the logistics of such a trip occupy 2 weeks prior puts my already-handicapped mind at a near standstill. This mental ineptitude coincides with my feeling I need to get a lot of work done to justify the "vacation," so I'm in a constant state of self-loathing irritation. I chose to start this "vacation" by taking 3 kids on a red-eye flight across the country. The flight could have been worse, but there were moments Toby reminded me of the little girl in The Exorcist, and Tim reminded me of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. She spent the first 3 hours of the flight refusing to stay in her seat or sleep-choosing instead to poke anyone who was asleep and scream, "HE'S SLEEPING!" Tim finally pinned her to the seat for 20 minutes while she gurgled with rage until she succumbed to slumber. A client told me I should be cannonized for taking 3 kids on a plane across the country. Most of the flight was thinking crucified.

In general Toby has become a handful. She's out of the bullying phase and into the "NO!" phase. Julie (sa-nanny-ty) said she was walking through Target with a tyrannical Toby saying every aisle, loud enough for people to hear, "SHE'S NOT MINE!" Where the hell does that leave me?????? Toby is no longer willing to share Julie on Wednesdays. The big kids look forward to "Julie Day" all week; they don't go to daycare, and Julie does something fabulous with all 3. Toby has taken to stomping around all day on Julie day shrieking, "MY JULIE!!"

One of my parenting pet peeves is pigeon-hole-ing kids. Parents create negative expectations and manifest their kids' living down to these expectations. Sadly, I've started doing it. "Steel is overly dramatic" so she gets yelled at whether she's been wronged or not which makes her feel wronged and dramatic. "Jack Peter dawdles", so he gets hell for any time-related hold-up which causes him to have a fit-holding us up that much longer. "Toby is possessive," so she gets ignored.

We were coming home from the Y right before the vacation. The kids were hungry and tired. It had just started to downpour. Steel complained that she was getting wet. I thought I was being super-efficient mommy as I miraculously pushed the right button to close her window that last centimeter; it's the one and only time I've gotten the right button on the first try. She was sticking her fingers out the window, so they got crushed. She wrestled them out but was shrieking in pain. I was trying to drive while reaching back to cuddle her and shouting, "Bend and straighten! Shake them out! Keep moving them! Chicks are TOUGH!!!" If I could see her frantically moving them, then I didn't need to go straight to the hospital. Amidst all of this, Toby starts up. Steel was actually hurt enough this time to warrant her insane screams. I ignored Toby and comforted Steel assuming that Toby was just trying to steal the show. Toby was even repeating what Steel had said initially to get attention, "MOM I'M GETTING WET!"

We pulled into the driveway. Steel's sobs had subsided. Toby was quietly moaning to herself with her hands covering her face. Toby's window had been all the way down the entire ride home; she was drenched.

Not only have I been a crappy mom, I've been an annoying friend, as well. I got into a dumb argument with my best friend since I was 3 months old. I was such a pill that her 12-year-old son, my godson, told me off. My other friend, Heather was talking about this cookbook that helps moms disguise vegetables. It recommends squash in pancakes and spinach in brownies. I actually went into a monologue about how my parenting food philosophy is based on helping my kids like vegetables and not hiding them. I was being that annoying person while wolfing down 5 of her delicious spinach brownies.

Come to think of it, I've been a crappy wife, too. I bet Tim an hour-long massage that I knew the names of his cousins who had just come to visit and he didn't. Usually names are my domain, but I lost. I've been too lazy to give him the massage, so I finally scheduled one for him. I left the address on his computer bag an left work to have pizza in the park with Heather and her posse. One of Tim's pet peeves is that I don't answer my phone. I expected to come home to a relaxed, massaged husband. I came home to an irritated husband who had gotten locked out of the office so he couldn't find the massage place, get his car keys or his computer. In the time he was frantically calling me, he had to field a call from my mom who was also calling me to tell me that my Aunt had suddenly passed away.

I'm going to miss you, Aunt Dutch.

With a rack like that, I guess he's willing to put up with some crap...

Jack Peter's written protests are his solution to our unjust parenting. "Dada is u payn!" narrates a graphic picture of Tim snatching a toy away from a weeping Jack Peter. The sign below greeted us at dinner because we'd rushed him out in the morning without letting him pick a book to take to school. In general, he revels in language; he always has. One of his first sentences took me 2 weeks to figure out. He would say it as we walked up our bright yellow stairs together. It was "How many many many feet you meet!" from Dr. Seuss. His world was a lot of feet back then; he was really little. Steel and I were arguing about whether her bathing suit was a bikini or a tankini. (Yes, we argue about such things) Jack Peter screamed, "It's a zucchini!"

To Mama and Dada, I am sad because you didn't let me bring a book (to school)
From Jack Peter

We can't be all that bad. How many parents let their kids run around a glitter-filled apartment in San Francisco with fake boobs on screaming for ice cream????
(Sweet and Danny, thank you for putting up with us. We love you!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In search of the gulf stream

ransacking the bags and playing dress-up makes the time go faster....

mouth farts are always fun...

One of the great mysteries of parenting is whether the nose picking is more disgusting because they eat it or less because they don't wipe it on their car seats. We've been in the car a lot lately as we are every summer. Tim has had it. We drove 2 hours yesterday to go check out an RV in North Jersey. It was 104 degrees, so the kids lasted 14 seconds inside the vehicle.

During the test drive I was left lingering in the immaculate McMansion of the RV owner with all 3 children who invited themselves in. I'd tried to keep them outside playing in the yard, but it was 104 out. Toby demanded some pizza from the family and then had a tantrum when I wouldn't let her walk around the house with it. The other two disappeared into a massive leather "L" shaped couch unit with embedded cup holders and went into a TV coma. I know I'm turning into my mom. I just wish it was happening quick enough for me to have asked to use the pool. The kids would have had a blast, and we had our suits. I just couldn't bring myself to ask. Susie would've had us playing Marco Polo in 14 seconds.

I thought the whole trip to Jersey in 104 degree weather to see an RV was ill-planned before I found out that Tim had gotten hit by a car on the test drive. The RV had been on blocks, so the first stop was a gas station. At the station, the owner was complaining about the wasps nest under the carriage. "I can take care of that for you!" says my princely husband. He wacked the nest off and leapt away from the 200,000 wasps angrily protesting their eviction. A passing car clipped his little, freckled ankle as he retreated. After the test, as they arrived back at the house, the RV died right before they got it in the driveway. Toby was screaming at the window, "IT'S DADA" for 20 minutes as they hemmed and hawed about getting it out of the street.

I figured out why the house was so immaculate. One of the de-cluttering tactics of the super-clean mom of 6 is to serve all meals on paper plates with styrofoam cups for dirty dishes for Joanne! Coming from a world in which my mom re-uses straws until they have visible black mildew inside, I was horrified. I've been out of straws for months, so I've been cutting the ones I've stolen from rest stops in half. I've also resigned myself to the mildew on my swim cap, so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Just think of the pottery she's NOT buying!

Human consumption has been on my mind. Last weekend we went to Pittsburgh for a 1 year old birthday party. Pittsburgh doesn't recycle. The party was about 60-80 people. Every person brought a massive bag of clothes and toys. There were 12 contractor bags of trash by the end of the weekend. That's a single 1 year old. Our gift was a paper bag of 15-year-old clothes from my mother-in-law's massive purge. You can't beat those vintage pink Cheryl Tiegs-Charlie's Angels shorts.

Tim didn't complain about his ankle until the day after. Why are men so crazy about their bodies? We've just entered our healthy time when everything we eat comes from Tim's bountiful garden. The bowel movement ramifications of the first beet salad gets me every summer. Tim was off early that morning to a meeting. I had to text him, "That first beet poop is always a shocker, isn't it?" His response, "AH that's what it was?? I was freaking out" So he assumed he was dying for a second and then carried on with his day-forgetting about it completely. Meanwhile I can tell when I haven't had enough arugula, and I know the exact day in my cycle when an enormous pre-menstrual zit will arrive. This month it appeared on my ass. It was a difficult few days of sitting at my potter's wheel.

Speaking of men forgetting about everything, I have a new sister in law. Brian, the widower of Tim's sister just remarried Justina. Every year there is a family memorial golf outing. It's a fundraiser for the foundation in the name of Jack McDonald, Tim's Dad. Brian has a pool, and he lives on the way to the golf course. For the past 2 years I've sent my kids to play at his house with a sitter. This year it was the plan for my 3 kids, Mikes 2, my friend, Lisa, and her daughter, Hope. My mother-in-law queried, "Have you asked Brian????" I hadn't, so I texted him, and he said, "SURE!"

I arrived with 5 children the morning of the outing, and Justina says, as I'm unloading bags from the car and storing stuff in her fridge, "What are you guys doing here????" "Ummmmm.....Brian didn't tell you?" To her credit, her only comment was, "I'm glad I stocked the freezer with ice cream!"

I was trying to butter her up as I was unloading more and more crap. The week before we'd been to the shore house. Brian and Justina are avid fishers. They stock the freezer with little dated freezer bags of striped bass and flounder. It drives my mother in law berserk, because freezer real estate is precious, so I do my part by eating as much of it as possible. I gushed to Justina, "We had fish 2 nights last week at the shore, and it was amazing, thank you!" She replied sadly, "You ate the fish?"

"Welcome to the McDonald family, Justina!!! Maybe my kids will pick all of the nasturtiums you've planted while you're gone, and I'll have a hat trick!"

Tim and the new love of his life....not the one that died on the test drive. This is the one that died in the alley behind our house when he arrived home with it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Unconditional Love

Jack Peter's signage continues...
He greeted two of our just-out-of-bed houseguests with this sign. We had coffee, but somehow he knew that no coffee would have really sucked for that particular couple. "Happy Malrs Day, love pleyn" was my airplane-bedecked mother's day card. Water fountains are a favorite visual motif for him. WODRFAWTN FILDWITHWODR is the title of one drawing and WOD R FAOTIN is another. BUDRFLOY, DRAGIN, DOLFIN, BRD, EGWONA, RADLSNACK narrate the menagerie flying above one of his urban landscapes. It's all fun, cute, and fascinating until you're on a car trip, and the following sticky missive gets handed up from the back,

Jack Peter and Steel used to say to me as I left their room at night,
"Mama, we love you even when you burp and when you fart...we love you all the time." According to the above sign, that unconditional love has been recinded. Does unconditional love exist?

We were at my mom's for the 4th of July. My mom lets the kids watch PBS kids in the morning when they wake. They get to cuddle in her bed and she gives me an extra hour of sleep. (We don't have TV, and they actually still believe that PBS kids only exists at her house) Tim has an addiction to the screen. I think Tim NEEDS it. It's the only time he unwinds. He deserves it. Jack Peter shares his dad's addiction. The phonetic writing is impressive given that nobody takes the time to help him, but his life isn't all that stressful, so I'm not at the point where I'm thinking he NEEDS it...

The first morning he woke up at Grandma Susie's at 5 am demanding to watch the TV. It got ugly. I put him in his room and told him that he couldn't come out until the "5" on the digital clock turned into a "7." 20 minutes later he came running into my room shaking and screaming, "IT'S NOT WORKING!!!!! IT'S NOT TURNING TO 7!!!! I NEED TO WATCH PBS KIDS!!!!!" I looked at him with the wisdom of 3.5 hours of sleep and said, "NO" His crazy bedhead and his desperation made me think of a Jack Peter 15 years from now wanting money for crack. I love him so much, but what would I do in that situation?????

Speaking of crack...I was loitering in Fishtown with Toby one day last month. We were returning from playgroup, and she'd demanded to get out of the stroller. I rarely have only 1 child and time on my hands, but my sananity was off that week, so I indulged Toby. She was climbing up and down the stairs of every stoop. She sat on one stoop watching a cranky line of traffic wind down the narrow Fishtown street behind a backhoe that was arduously moving at about 12 mph. I was checking my e-mail or writing a grocery list on my phone when Toby started saying repeatedly, "Uncle Johnny, backhoe."

It flummoxed me when Jack Peter said the word, "backhoe" every 17 seconds for 4 months straight. It scared the crap out of me when it was one of Steel's first 10 words. (We were in the car, and Jack Peter corrected her and said, "No, Steel, that's an EXCAVATOR") With Toby, I just assume it's normal that an 18-month-old girl is properly identifying construction equipment. The "Uncle Johnny" part was just wishful thinking; it's Uncle Pat who's at the helm of a backhoe. I continued texting, but she was right.

I looked up just in time to see Johnny's face light up through the dirty window. He stopped the backhoe (nevermind the 12 apoplectic drivers behind him) jumped out, and gave his favorite niece a big snuggle. She talked about that hug for the rest of the day. I never got to meet my father in law, the legendery Jack McDonald, but I know I got a glimpse of him at that moment. I texted Johnny's wife of 6 months to tell her the story. Their relationship is notorious for its one Achilles heel. She travels for business and is completely ruled by punctuality. He has his own clock. Those who know him, even casually, refer to "Johnny time." She texted back, "That's why I love him!" to which I responded, "Even if you were waiting for him at the house and were already an hour late for a dinner party?????" Why is it that what we love about someone can so easily turn into what we hate?

Another friend was in a relationship that I never witnessed. The relationship has flowered in a cinematic part of my brain. Helena Bonham Carter plays the female lead. She and her husband married every year in a different state. They did it 7 times. Sadly, the downs were as bad as the ups were good, and she left him for her current, serene boyfriend, one of the husband's friends. She's spent the past 4 years in bank-account-less, formal address-less anonymity fearing that her enraged ex would come seeking retribution. She's been waiting for requisite amount of time to pass for her to independently file a "no contest" divorce. The ex finally located her via facebook. He has terminal throat cancer and wanted to divorce her so that she not be saddled with his medical bills. She was so thrown by his selflessness that she was considering leaving her current life to be at his side for the last 3 months of his life. The serene boyfriend was OK with this....the only question was, "Did they have to file for divorce in the multiple states in which they were married?" In some crazy way, there's a lot of love there (or maybe just an anarchic hatred for our heathcare system that trumps the hatred of a wayward lover and friend)

Speaking of love, another bride and groom have registered for "liz kinder pottery." The groom is my friend. He and his wife registered for pottery without conferring with me. That was refreshing considering the exhaustive conversations I have with some couples, but anxiety-producing at the same time. Hoping to sort it all out, on a recent trip to Philly, I made him come to the studio to look at possibilities. "I love it ALL!" he said. Grooms are useless. I've not met the fiancee, but I had to contact her. She gave me a concise list.

Apparently it's more fun to buy ceramics from a crazy potter/blogger than it is to buy ceramics from Heath pottery. The list has been bought except for a $400 lamp. The last caller was going to order vases. I told her that the bride didn't need/want anymore stuff from me and to PLEASE get them the registry stuff from Heath pottery; It's beautiful!!!!! The woman refused, and I ended up going in with her on the lamp. Bridal registries are intense for me. I feel complicit in the success of the marriage. There's another weird part of it: I was actually worried about my vases. I didn't want them to go to a home that didn't want them. My unconditional love is for my pottery? Of course it's an extension of me, but that's still f-ing crazy.

Thank God Grandma Susie's unconditional love falls upon my brilliant and tactless daughter. Am I to expect a zinger from Steel every summer? Last summer she told a shirtless male friend, "My mom has boobs too..." (She's being lack of boobs has become so appalling that I've taken to saying to random people, "Everyone thinks my boobs are fake!" just to see their uncomfortable reaction) This summer Steel asked my mom, "You're my mama's mama, right?" My mom replied, "Yes, I am!" thinking they were going to get into a nostalgic conversation about a cherished time in my mom's life when she was raising my brother and me. Steel said, "Then why is your belly still so big????" (ie, COME ON, Grandma Susie, you've had enough time to lose the baby weight!) Susie merrily said something about too much naughty food.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

the beer garden

It's starting to dawn on me that I might be the source of the chaos...

Tim and I made a spontaneous decision to pick the kids up from school and head right to the beer garden for an early dinner. It's a new Steven Starr restaurant in our neighborhood. Taking 3 kids to a restaurant is challenging enough, but on our way out of daycare, I saw John, a father of another 3, so I invited him to come. The kids were excited, although less so when they discovered that the only thing that grows in the garden is beer.

Just-5-Jack Peter was the oldest of the 6 kids. Toby immediately climbed onto a table with a pint of lemonade and fell onto the concrete floor on her head. I shoo-ed away the guy who came to clean it up because Toby happily played with the ice on the floor for the next 30 minutes. (brain damage?) On one of many trips to the potty, 4 kids had a 10-minute screaming contest. The guy coming out of the men's room was rattled, so imagine how I felt. I am proud that they recognized the superior accoustics of the all-concrete bathroom. Returning to our camp, the big kids showered the tables on our way with handfuls of gravel while I was minding one of the little ones.

For the first hour of our relaxing night out, 2 out of 3 of John's kids had stinky diapers. They were ignored until mom/Tanya came to join us. We used the window ledge onto the street as a changing table-musing that Steven Starr thinks of everything. (We only lost Jack Peter out the window during the entire evening which was a coup considering that 4 of them were performing on the ledge for most of the night) The first diaper change was uneventful except that the kid had on a cloth diaper that had to be saved. Saving a poopy diaper in a restaurant feels a little naughty, but hats off to them. I gave up cloth diapers after #2. The second disposable dirty diaper and soiled wipes were stowed under a bench during the re-dressing of the now-clean child. Some disaster goes without saying that the shitty diaper got stuck to Tanya's sandal as she sprinted from the "changing area" to save another kid from death. The flip-flop catapulted used wipes into the air like popcorn while she dragged the diaper along. Mercifully it stayed folded.

Tanya was reading our palms at the end of the evening telling us that we will definitely have a 4th. We spent hours there drinking beers as big as our heads. Misery loves company, and we were doing a good deed. I'm sure every one of those beer-drinking hipsters took extra precautions that night with their birth control.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bieber, bacon and bullies

First cook six lb. of bacon, slice some cucumbers and put some juice boxes on ice. Give twenty 3, 4 and 5 year olds 36" inflatable light sabers. Watch a frenzied, testosterone-laced mosh pit of Star Wars-induced brawling for as long as you can handle it. To calm things down, give them a bat so they can whack away and an impenetrable Justin Bieber pinata hanging precariously from a ceiling fan. To the pinata candy, churning in their tummies, throw in a Darth Vader cake mortared together with 3 pounds of butter cream frosting dyed black. Watch clothing, tongues and teeth turn black. (Apparently you're supposed to start with chocolate icing when you're trying to make a black cake.) During all of this try to have conversations with traumatized parents while drinking 3 cases of beer and attempting to control your unbelievably aggressive 18 month old...

Now that's a PARTY!

None of this was supposed to happen in my house, but of course it rained on Jack Peter's 5th birthday. It was astonishing how smoothly it went. The only tears involved Steel and the girl with 2 moms who's not allowed to play with Barbies over some Barbie clothes. Catherine, the 3-year-old girl who Toby mercilessly assaulted didn't let it get to her. She knows what to expect of the McDonald ladies; Steel bit her when she was 6 months old. Toby, the subtle one, chose to stick out her chest and bulldoze Catherine into a wall, while looking at me and chanting, "TOBY NO PUSHING!"

Is it not pushing if arms aren't involved? Toby and Jack Peter are always looking for the loop holes. Steel is more into flagrant defiance. How do we cope with a bully? Last week, I returned from a relaxing swim at the Y to retrieve my children from the Child Watch. Miss Kim, the monitor, was shaking her head and muttering, "She's just so FAST!"

I had wondered why I saw a little Toby flash by the windows of the pool as I was swimming. She'd been banished from the child watch room for bashing an infant on the head with a xylophone 10 seconds after she'd been chastised for pushing her down.

I've been looking back at photos of Toby, and I should have seen it coming. Our Christmas card showed her true nature. She comes from a long line of tough women, but she's particularly relentless. My niece was called "FANG" at her daycare; she was a biter. It was one of those day cares that writes up incidents. Both the aggressor's and victim's parents have to sheepishly retrieve and unfold the tell-tale pink slips sticking out of their kids' cubby. The Gillian bit someone notes were such a daily occurrence that my brother made a scene when he finally received a victim notice. He whooped out loud and high-5'ed the kid who'd stood up to Gillian.

I'm sure the daycare staff weren't sad to see my brother and his posse graduate. It's in northern Florida where there are a lot of religious people. He'd picked the day care because they had assured him that the kids would not be practicing any sort of religion. One evening, Gillian started to say grace at dinner time, and Curt lost it. He stomped into the day care the next day shouting, "I WILL NOT BE HAVING MY CHILDREN BEGGING FOR THEIR FOOD! I get them their damn food, so if they want to thank someone for it, they can thank ME!!!!"

Tim and I had to clean the entire house after the party. Our threshold for stepping on wads of play dough and omelets is high, but marble cake, hummus, bacon and black butter cream were more than we could stand. As I scrubbed I had the thought, "I'm going to treat myself." I knelt down under the sink, dug around the 200 plastic bags and pulled out a brand new sponge...

Didn't a treat used to be a pedicure or a massage?
Who would pick on a ceramic angel eating a cupcake? Toby at 1 was screaming gleefully while hitting her on the head and throwing dirt at her. ( The angel is the grave marker I made for my sister in law's grave.)

in vitro?

1. Steel in Henry's shirt. It takes her 4 seconds to enter a house, disrobe, and steal an outfit from her host. 2. Jack Peter's bed head 3. Toby, always fashion forward, in black knee high boots and a froggie sleepy suit (photo credit: Jack Peter)

Nothing says "Happy Mother's Day!" like a trip to the gynecologist.

I was madly cycling down 2nd street late for my annual gynecological appointment as my friend, Heather, was breezing down 2nd street in her Lexus to pick up her son from Catholic school. She took the opportunity to heckle me for 6 blocks. "Off the bike seat and onto a speculum! Nothing like showing up for your pelvic exam late and sweaty!!!"

I was on time. I should have gone to check out Catholic school with Heather as an escort; I waited for 50 minutes. I inevitably get asked if an intern can practice on me. I always say yes; it's not the best policy. The intern went for one of the specula, and the doctor said, "No, get the other one; when they've had a few children things inside are a little more...collapsed; you need that one, OOPS...try not to fold her labia in the metal; it might pinch."
Might? Collapsed?
Just because I'm lying here with my legs spread doesn't mean I can't HEAR you.

The doctor told me that perhaps the time has come for me to get more aggressive about pregnancy. Bewildered in my peach cover-up, I stared, wondering if Tim had contacted her about his "sex every day till positive test" plan. She proceeded to tell me that I should get in vitro fertilization because I can shoot myself up with something 6 times a day that will cause me to go into egg-producing hyper-drive, then they'll extract and fertilize the eggs, test them for chromosomal diseases (because clearly that's what's been my problem) and then pick the best 2 fertilized eggs to implant into my artificially-readied uterus.

My response of: "You know I already have 3 children." did not show the enthusiasm she was anticipating, so she countered, "If you want to do it, you need to do it now because you turn 42 this year, and we won't be able to use your eggs anymore. No one does in vitro with 42-year-old eggs!!!" I shakily replied that I'd discuss it with my husband but that my gut was telling me that we'd probably just stick to the old-fashioned way. "Why spend $10,000 when you can spend $10 on a bottle of wine?" was my friend, Karen's question.

After taking another look at my "collapsed" self, the doctor asked me if I have trouble with "involuntary urination." I said, "Once, when I was bent over the sink washing my face, my son made me laugh, and I sneezed at the same time. I peed a little, but I don't think I need Depends just yet." Was this a new tack in her in vitro plans? Making me feel like I'm 80 did lower my confidence in my fertility.

She gave me a sheet of paper with a number to call and a passcode to get my pelvic exam results. "Call in 3 weeks; don't assume that no news is good news." What? I hurriedly put a reminder in my cell phone.

I was then berated for a second time in 30 minutes for not having had a mammogram. I explained (again) that I've been either pregnant or breast-feeding since I turned 40. The doctor proceeded to make a big deal about my making a mammogram appointment and then canceling it if I turn out to be pregnant this month.
"I'll just go and write your mammogram prescription; you can get dressed."
"Aren't you going to check my breasts?"
"Oh right....I get off my schedule when I have an intern...there's really no point in breast self-exams. They've found that only a professional exam or a mammogram really works."

I guess all of those little things hanging on shower heads telling one how to examine ones breasts have been for naught.

Finally, I was dressing and wondering about this "don't ask...don't tell" policy on lab results. I went to her for the mammogram prescription and said, "I need to get this straight. You're waiting for people to call to tell them they have an STD? Don't you know there are a whole bunch of teenagers coming to you to get put on birth control pills, specifically to have unsafe sex. You're expecting them to remember to call you in 3 weeks to tell them they have chlamydia????"

"Well, no, we call if something is abnormal..."
"So the "No news isn't good news isn't the case?"
"I'm just saying, don't assume that no news is good news; you need to call to get your results."
"Are you telling me that your "no news isn't good news" policy is based on human error?"
"I'm just saying call for your results."
"I'm just telling you that NO NEWS IS NOT NECESSARILY GOOD NEWS!!!"

At least the nurse's assistant, Shane, slid me a free pregnancy test. I felt like I was looking a gift horse in the mouth when I told her you can get them online for less than a dollar. ( She brightened when I added, "It's one of my favorite wedding gifts: 10 pregnancy tests fanned out in the shape of a flower..."

I really wish I'd asked the doctor, "Lady, do you get a trip to Bermuda if you sell 50 people on in vitro fertilization?" or perhaps, "Is immaculate conception still on the table?"
Was that whole story created to protect the reputations of both Mary and Joseph? Have Christians been worshipping a slut?

Maybe Catholic school isn't an option for our kids.

I've written a country song about my desire to have another kid. My thought was to make tim play guitar and make it sound really good, but honestly, who's got the time?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

inherited genes

An extremely exciting development in my life is that Steel has inherited my purge gene. She'll get rid of anything if she can. Her brother has trouble parting with a used kleenex or a headless plastic hammer, but she'll send every playdate away with a pile of clothes and toys.

It was a little awkward yesterday because we had Josephine over. Phine has 2 moms. She's a vegetarian. She's not allowed any Disney because of the bizarre way those films insist on killing moms off. (It is weird when you think about it. Bambi, Peter Pan, Finding Nemo....the list goes on. They took the single mom in Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs and turned her into a single dad.) Phine comes over and goes straight for the princess stuff. Her moms are hoping for an instant playgroup at our house, and she sits by herself playing with Steel's barbies, the forbidden fruit of a feminist existence. Steel was trying to pack them all up for Phine, and could not grasp the concept that Barbies are politically unacceptable in Phine's household. Tim and I are bonded by our hatred of musicals and Jack Peter is obviously headed for Broadway. I can only imagine that Phine will be on t.v. wearing a tiara, heels and a bathing suit vying for the "Miss Pennsylvania" title 10 years from now.

Apparently I was difficult to dress when I was little. Steel has also inherited that gene. She refuses to wear anything but her black candy corn pants and an orange shirt with a black cat on it. Her birthday is on Halloween, and she's a kid who loves candy, but it's still uncanny.

Steel's first "Halloween" was the August before she turned 2. We were at a massive family reunion in Canada; Tim's dad was one of 14, and most are still alive and have reproduced. Everyone camps lakeside on the grounds of a bed and breakfast owned by one of the Aunties. Apparently there was some mention of a Halloween celebration in the pre-reunion literature. All of the Canadian kids had costumes. I wrapped JP in toilet paper and told him he was a mummy. Steel was little and had just eaten a chocolate ice cream cone, so she was sticky and horrible enough to call it a costume. We went to the first tent with a posse of kids. Cousin Lawrence handed out a pile of chocolates to each kid. Steel refused to leave his tent. You guys can leave; I'm staying right here with this guy.... No one had ever handed her a pile of candy and told her to have as much as she wanted.

We also did a tai chi class at the reunion. There were about 25 of us following along. Jack Peter hopped up onto a play structure in front of the class and started shouting to everyone. My dad does that. If a flock of birds lands in front of him at the beach, he'll bellow, Thank you all for coming....I've gathered you all here for an important announcement! I guess Jack Peter got the Kinder pontificating gene.

As you can see from photos, Toby has inherited my obsession-with-underwear gene.

I seem to have inherited somebody's forgetful gene. I often forget about Toby. Last week I gave the big kids milk, and we went out somewhere, the 4 of us. Toby looked up at me and said plaintively, Toby's baba? I don't think I could have felt like a worse mom....until Sunday

Sunday, I forgot about a playdate with one of the cutest, most well-behaved kids at school. He and his dad rang and rang the bell. We were out, and I was phone-less, so they had to turn around and go back home. We rescheduled for Tuesday. His mom made sure to text me beforehand. She's a person who makes me feel like a self-absorbed disaster....She teaches yoga to old people and does social work. She started school research WAY before I had and flummoxed me with her knowledge and has since decided that none of the free options will do and is sending her kid to quaker school. She took a breastfeeding class to brush up for her second kid. Her first kid is extremely well-behaved and hates dessert. Dessert is the only thing that connects my children to good behavior.

The long-awaited playdate was a little chaotic. I picked up the date, Steel, and Jack Peter from school and brought them home to a fragile Toby. I let the big kids go down to play with the "Lightening McQueen who changes color when he goes from hot to cold," my gift to the date for standing him up. I could hear tub noises. I went down and all of the cars had been dumped into the tub. The date was naked. It was stinky. I figured it had been a while since he had taken a bath, so I let them tub. I picked up his clothes from the floor and put them in the dryer assuming that they had gotten damp from the process of putting Lightening McQueen back and forth from hot to cold water.

I went back upstairs to start dinner and give Toby a little attention until Steel screamed something about POOP ON THE FLOOR!!! I strapped Toby into her chair and sprinted back down. All 3 looked at me and said, "It's all cleaned up!" I clorox wiped things and made everyone wash hands and bums and went back upstairs to make dinner and assuage screaming Toby. I also checked my phone and read the following text from playdate's mom: FYI he can always use a reminder to go potty especially when focused on play...Yep, I'd solidified excrement onto his clothing and onto the interior of my dryer with my sophisticated hot treatment. The poor kid had done his best to clean up after himself and not tell me, and that's how I repay him????

Any doubts I'd had about the etiquette of giving gifts to both the date and his mom were disspelled. She got a bouquet of my tulips. I grew the most astonishing tulips this year. I planted them in our garden plot, and they are truly remarkable. Do they compensate for a crestfallen Sunday and a kid returned in clothes that were a little too small for him, I don't know. At least the date does not share Steel's passion for specific clothing. Meanwhile Jack Peter was a little traumatized to see the date leaving in his he always complains about because they fall off, but nonetheless his clothing.