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.