Monday, December 10, 2012

$27,000 Concussion

A lot of my friends/family have dealt with concussions in their kids.  I remember having one of my own.  What cannot be conveyed is the ensuing desire to bubble wrap your child.  I've been fantasizing about making cool bubble wrap balaclava's for all three for Christmas.  Toby fell down a spiral staircase at a friends' house the other night.  She lay on the floor with her arms in an odd position, her head hunched into her neck like the Barbie we have who's head won't stay on unless it's pushed way down.  Toby's eyes were wide open, and she was neither breathing nor crying.  She finally worked up to a dull moan.  It was, to date, the worst moment of my life.  (Or, at least, it rivaled getting the phone call last month, "Tim is in an ambulance; he's fallen off of a roof; we don't know any more.")  I was sure she was paralyzed.

We spent 2 days in the hospital.  The doctors/nurses are as professional as can be, but one cannot escape the feeling that her heath was not the reason for the prolonged stay.  Was it that we have private insurance? Was it liability?  We were told from the first morning that "she'll be getting discharged soon," and yet it didn't happen for another day and a half.  Since she's been home, she's been asleep 80% of the time.  Is she recuperating from the concussion or from the hospital stay?

At least I don't have to worry as much about Jack Peter.  He was born risk-averse.  I'll never forget driving by a playground when he was about 2.5.  Steel had suffered an egg-allergy episode, our only other ER visit with a kid.  Allergic was a big word around our house.  At that point Steel had tackled slides and other playground equipment that Jack Peter, 17-months-older, still shied away from.  He said quietly, from the back of the car, "Mom, I'm allergic to slides."

Just last week we were going over his EXTENSIVE Christmas list.  A Hubble Telescope is on there amidst every over-$200 lego product on Earth.  We were looking at pictures of space, and asked him if he wanted to be an astronaut.  "NO WAY!"  Tim and I looked at each other both thinking, "Dude, You're 6, what could be better than an astronaut?"  Eyebrows up Jack Peter looked at us and said, "There can be A LOT of problems with lift-off!"  He then went on to tell us about The Challenger.

Steel, meanwhile has no interest in Santa Claus.  Does she not want to be beholden to a big guy in a red suit?  She's not good at telling me what she wants, in general.  Her forte is telling me what she DOESN'T want.  It just occurred to me that my ordering instructions on my website are, "tell me what you DON'T like."  I suppose I'm wanting them to tell me what they don't like before I make them a cup they don't like.  Steel waits until afterwards to tell me that she didn't want what I put in her lunch.  She asked me for a Ken doll this morning.  I told her Santa might get her one.  She, said, "NO!  I want US to buy it."  My brother makes sure that Santa only gets the mediocre toys for his kids.  Mom and dad need the credit for the big ones.  Who should I say got Ken?

Speaking of mediocre, we got our first report card from JP's new school.  Jack Peter is reading with the fluency of a 6th grader in 1st grade.  I wasn't thrilled to see less-than-stellar grades from him.  We've had a parent/teacher conference about it.  Apparently he just can't sit still and pay attention.  We now greet him with, "How many times did you raise your hand today?" when he comes home from school.  She has given him a little sheet on his desk.  It has a grid, and there are two teams, "team Jack Peter" and "team not paying attention"  He fills out the squares throughout the day when one of the teams prevails.  There were quite a few contenders for the opposing team name: Team talking in class, Team going and getting a book while Mrs. Murphy is teaching, Team standing up and leaving your desk.  Who knows if it's working?  I'm a little concerned because he's been wanting one of those grids to fill out.  He was jealous of the kids who had them.  He had the same feeling last year about the kids who got pulled out for speech class.  I know one kid has to fight against "team putting your fingers in your mouth" and another kid battles "team calling out."  At least Jack Peter's not fighting "team eating your own boogers."

Team NPA won the night we weren't watching as Toby fell down the stairs.  We do have health care, but the bill for that lapse in attention was over $27,000...unbelievable.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Halloween 2012

I don't often admit to having married a facsimile of my father, but Tim is not yet willing to turn on the heat.  Does it have to be December?  I don't know.  It's been below freezing for a few nights in a row.  I have to bribe Jack Peter to get out of bed by putting his school uniform in the dryer to tempt him with warmth.  My father used to keep the house at 62 degrees during the day, but just before bed I'd catch him poised in front of the thermostat.  His glasses would be tilted forward on his nose so he could peer over the tops to discern the numbers.  He'd whistle quietly as he turned the dial down making the sound of a bomb plummeting from the clouds punctuating the desired mid 50's number with the explosion sound straight off of the Road Runner/Wiley Coyote sound track.

Speaking of cartoons, Steel just looked at the image of the Disney store Dory costume and said, rightly, "She looks like a duck."  What she meant to say was, "Mom, the Disney store can kiss your ass!"  Is my Halloween costume intensity purely motivated by a competitive spirit?  Is it directed at the Disney store or the world at large?  I like making stuff, but I am always keen to share my creations with everyone.  I was raised to be ashamed of my competitive spirit. I love it when people are unabashedly competitive.  My friend, Safeena was going to a "paint your own pottery" bridal shower.  She called me in for a pre-party consultation.  "Liz, I want mine to be the best.  How do I do it?"  I told her to make an asymmetrical bold pattern go off of the edge of the plate.  "Liz, I CRUSHED it!  Mine was definitely the best!"  That bridal shower didn't know what hit it.

People always say to me, "You're not a potter; you're an artist!"  I insist that I am a potter.  Maybe I'll just start saying, I'm a potter now, but I aspire to be a foam and duct tape artist.  My Halloween insanity often inspires exclamations from other moms, "You make me feel so BAD!  I just went to Walmart for Halloween costumes!" you bought your kids the costume they really wanted and then you had a month to pay attention to them rather than sequestering yourself with a bunch of foam and spray paint while screaming at them, "DON'T TOUCH THAT!!!"   You're the bad parent????  .

I wonder if it's going to be annoying for Steel or fun to have her birthday fall on Halloween.  She does get extra candy when she tells people it's her birthday, but what good is that going to do her?  We dump it all into a bowl and put it high up on a shelf.  It usually lasts till Easter.  This year it seems to be dwindling faster.  Tim and I are doing most of the damage after they go to sleep while we watch dumb things on Netflix.  Our morning routine is so ridiculous and yet, we still can't pry ourselves away from each other, the Halloween candy, alcohol and bad films to get over 7 hours of sleep.

A friend of mine is reading an historical novel about Elizabeth I.  She was pleased to read that mothers of 500 years ago also relished their wine after a day of taking care of their children.  Was alcohol created to deal with children or was it created to create children?  It's one of those chicken and egg questions.  Which came first the children or the booze?  All I can say is that I definitely needed a drink after taking them trick-or-treating.  Toby refused to wear her Dory costume and wanted me to carry it and her for most of the night.  It was freezing out.  She should have wanted to wear it for the warmth alone, but she's been inured to the cold by her obsessed-with-passive-house architect father.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I made the poor decision to put tooth #2 in a bowl on a high shelf.  The jealous girls climbed up and it has since disappeared

I'm always shocked by the way the world makes decisions for you.  When I was in my 20's, I had no idea what to do with my life.  It occurred to me that I should be a flight attendant.  I'd travel for free, work a 4-day week, and then I'd get a ton of time to be in the studio making pottery.  This was before I knew that flight attendants are poorly paid, constipated and get varicose veins.  I successfully attended a flight attendant cattle call and was given an interview date and time in Chicago.  I was especially thrilled about that because I'd be able to visit a guy I'd dated in college on whom I still had a massive crush.  Then I heard about the mandatory drug test.  I was a 20-something potter living in San Francisco; smoking pot was mandatory as far as I was concerned.  I went to a health food store; they gave me dandelion tea, cranberry, psyllium, and other horrid herbs to get the pot out of my system.  I adhered to the regime marveling at its affects on my bowels until I got the most heinous urinary tract infection of my life.  I was WAY too sick to get on a plane, and I certainly wasn't going to enjoy visiting the guy.  I was bummed-out until I discovered that seniority at that airline was based on the last 4 digits of your social security number.  Mine would have put my on a puddle-jumping plane for years.

I'm doing another craft fair this weekend in Wilmington.  I made the questionable decision to have kale in my smoothie.  So now I'm trying to sell pottery with green stuff in my teeth.  Normally when I have a kale smoothie, I spend the rest of the day ALONE.  That isn't going to be the case today.  I am reminded of one of my flight attendant friends.  She and the other flight attendants called walking down the aisle of the plane while farting, "crop dusting"  I don't have any crop dusting options.  I wonder if my breakfast decision is going to affect today's sales?

We were reading a book the other night called "Dave the potter"  It's about a slave who made massive 60 lb. pots.  Steel wanted to know about slaves.  I told her that nobody cared about them as people.  They were separated from their families; they could get hurt and still no one cared.  Steel said, "Mama, do you care?"  "Yes, I do; most people care about these things now."  Toby looked at me earnestly and said, "Mama, Do I care?"  "Ummm...Toby, that's something you're going to have to decide for yourself.

I got a horrible call at work on Monday.  Tim had fallen off a roof; the ambulance was coming; no one knew anything else.  They were delivering 3 modules from Pottsdown to Philly.  Someone at the modular company had made the last-minute decision to change the route.  All 3 of the modules got massive gashes in the tops because they'd gone on a too-short bridge.  By the time they arrived in Philly, it had started to rain.  Everyone was on the roofs trying to spread tarps to avoid water damage when Tim fell off.  I panicked and called him.  He was in the ambulance bellowing at me, "I'M FINE!"  He wasn't fine.  He spent that night in the hospital.  The next evening at dinner the kids and I discovered that he was going to have to spend another night in the hospital.  I watched a rumor start in front of my eyes.  "2 nights? 2 nights in the hospital????  Do you think he'll come home with a baby?"  "Mama came home with a baby!"  "Yes, she definitely had a baby after 2 nights!"  "We're getting a baby?"  "Yes, Dada is bringing home a baby!"  They almost had me convinced.  Why else would someone spend 2 nights in the hospital?
If Dada did, in fact, come home with a baby...
We're READY!

He had missed the kids so much that despite being on crutches, in a neck brace, foot boot cast, and a wrist brace, he decided to pick the girls up at daycare.  Usually all of the kids run to him and jump on him-not just our girls.  This time they all looked at him, screamed and ran the other way.  Toby wouldn't let him touch her.  He had to convince them all that he was just trying out his Halloween costume on them.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

paint names

My mother's boyfriend, Dick, succumbed to ALS on September 2.  I'm pretty sure he finally let go because Tim made a surprise visit for Labor Day weekend.  All summer I'd come alone with the kids.  Dick was such a gentleman; he waited until there was a man in the house to allow himself to die.  Mom referred to my kids as "little ghouls" for the remainder of the visit.  They kept asking if they could go up and see Dick's lifeless body on the bedroom floor.  We relegated  them to the back porch when the hearse came, but Steel and Jack Peter perched on the edge of the railing craning their necks around the hibiscus plant to watch.

Dick adored yellow.  Every year at Christmas I would give him yellow boxers, a yellow hoodie or yellow track pants.  I was always surprised to see them in the laundry when I was folding.  He wore all of them.  Six of the "Best Dressed Stars at the Emmy's" wore yellow this year.  I thought it was a nice tribute.  Fashion people were calling it "French's Mustard" yellow.  It was clearly "Unabsorbed Vitamin Pill in Urine" yellow.  I hate it when my pee is that crazy yellow because I know I've endured vile, vitamin-pill burps for nothing, but that color in the toilet is such a thrill.

I want to get a job naming paint colors.  I did a craft show the weekend after Dick's death.  It was an outdoor show.  My booth looked great; the natural light and the steel shelves made the pottery look amazing.  On Saturday a couple came in.  They had a massive, pure white, well-manicured standard poodle.  As the woman talked to me about the work, the man was aggressively scratching behind the ears of the dog.  At a lull in our conversation, I looked down to see that the white poodle, dominating the center of my booth, had an enormous pink erection.  The threesome stayed for over 10 minutes.  Was it the ear cuddles or the fabulous pottery?  I'll never forget that shade of pink.  Who wouldn't want a "Horny Poodle Pink"  bathroom?

Steel was beading the other day and wanted some shiny silver string.  I said I didn't know where we'd find shiny silver string.  She looked at me with that teenager-esque, eye-rolling, impatient look. "MOM!!!!!, just go to "SHINY STRING DOT COM!!"  I'm just picturing an interior decorator trying to decide between two metallics: "shiny string dot com" or the more rustic, "upside down tin foil"

I've been doing a lot of backstroke lately in the pool.  Backstroke is my "ignorance is bliss" way of dealing with flotsam.  It gets pretty dirty with YMCA campers in there all summer long.  When I have the goggles on for breast stroke I see bandaids, entire clumps of hair, fake fingernails, etc, and the pool seems hazier.  I call that color "chlorinated stupor"  It'd be great for a 1950's kitchen.  While we're in the kitchen, I want to put something out there.  I don't know if any of you likes the country kitsch appeal of baking something in a black, cast-iron fry pan.  I've done pot pies and corn bread.  It looks cute in a Martha Stewart way.  Without fail, I take it out of the oven with a pot holder but later grab the handle while it's still 325 degrees.  My friend, Jen, just blistered her entire hand in that exact same scenario, so I'm using this blog as a petite public health forum.  I'll call that almost-black, satin trim color "Fuck! that's hot!"

Digressing for one more kitchen story, I spent 10 minutes in the kitchen of Tim's most recent project talking about microwave placement with  Jana.  The microwave was up high, and she didn't like it.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because the kids can't get to it."
Her kids, my niece and nephews, microwave their own food.
"OK OK Now they do, but wasn't it a nightmare when they were little???"
"No.  Why would it have been a nightmare?" kids have played a game since Jack Peter was 3 called "I RELISH RELISH!"  They open the microwave door; scream that at the tops of their lungs, and then slam the door shut.  Toby has put multiple things into the microwave and turned it on.  Annie, Toby's beloved doll went in there with a tiny Dora metal lunchbox.  That sunset purple color in the strip of paint samples will be called called, "Annie on fire"
(I now know that my niece and nephews are not normal, and my kids are.  Miles, Toby's playdate, just turned the empty microwave on the chicken defrost setting AS I WAS WRITING THIS!)

So we all wore yellow to the Chapel on the day we had Dick's memorial service.  It was a beautiful fall day in Massachusetts.  As we waited for everyone to arrive, the girls picked flowers in the cemetery for Dick's bereft middle daughter.  My mom created a beautiful service.  We sang, there were thought-provoking readings and, Laura, my brother, and I spoke.  My aunt played the piano for all of the hymns.  The only thing missing was the brass band and Louis Armstrong for the recessional, "Oh When the Saints."  Laura shook visibly as she read a heart-wrenching poem to her father.  She was the only one in black.  I'd never noticed that her eyes are the most extraordinary peridot/emerald green color which I will name "the grief in Laura's eyes"

After Laura, my brother  admitted to being an engineer who needs to quantify things.  He quantified Dick's devotion to my mother in hours and miles quipping that EZ pass had to cancel the Christmas party this year due to an unexplained dip in revenues.  

I, too, spoke of Dick's devotion to my mom.  The night before Dick died, I arrived at 1030 pm.  I'd driven Tim's Mini Cooper up ON MY OWN.  Tim had taken the kids in the mini van the night before.  I have this weird vignette in my head about my, unbelievably-cautious-behind-the-wheel father getting a traffic ticket because he's driven too fast while listening to the powder milk biscuit song on "A Prairie Home Companion"  That could have been me listening to my Saturday NPR alone.  After I arrived, I went up to give Dick a little massage and to settle him in bed.  He asked about my trip, and I admitted that I'd enjoyed every kidless minute.  Dick drove from Binghamton NY to Manchester MA every weekend for 15 years to see my mom.  (and to complete the MASSIVE 'to do' list she'd compiled in his absence) The rumor was that he was going to retire at 70 and move in permanently.  He did, but he'd been diagnosed with ALS.  I hated thinking that he'd lived that horrid existence for 15 years and then died right when things were going to get good.  As I massaged him and told him about my joy ride, he said, "I loved the drive"  What????  "Dick, would you have retired had you not gotten sick?" I asked.  "NAH!" he snorted.  It made his death the following morning a little easier knowing that he wasn't the subject of an Alanis Morissette song or Harry Chapin's "The cat's in the cradle."

For some reason I wore my only high heels to the service, and we went to mom's and Dick's cool, hippy yacht club for food afterwards.  I was in the bathroom for 20 minutes listening to Toby sing on the toilet while she procrastinated pooping because she was getting some quality mom time.  Steel came in with a friend of mom's.  The woman said she'd found Steel alone and distraught.  Steel's response to, "Who is your mommy?  What is she wearing?" was "HIGH HEELS!"

We took Dick's ashes out in a boat to throw them into the bay.  The kids repeatedly and unabashedly plunged their hands into the urn for more of the ashes.  It was fun because as the ashes descended, they sparkled in the sun.  The particles trailed down in uniform, iridescent tubes.  They looked like something sprouting from the bottom and ascending to the top rather than something descending to the bottom.  I'll call that color, "ascending to the depths" 

Incidentally Tim and I had a recent date night that ended in disaster.  I only think of it because I'd worn my heels.  The night ended with Tim's shouting at me (with good reason) on the southwest corner of Washington Square.  I blame the dinner.  We went to Talulah's garden.  I thought my meal plan was complete genius.  We got all of the veggie side dishes.  I was sure everything was going to be picked-at-perfection-perfect.  The food was, but it was served on beige pottery.  Apparently "Tupperware top taupe"  puts me in a bad mood.  I was regaling Johnny with the details of the fight, and he interrupted to say, "Pottery?  is that what you guys talk about on date night?"  All I know is that warm brown color that people use in entrance ways and halls will be called, "huarache heels worn in vain."

Monday, August 27, 2012

mommy porn

This is my punishment for posting hideous poison ivy pictures of Tim in my last blog.  I've had hives for 2 weeks.  I think it was a perfect storm situation.  I got a sudden lobster allergy.  My brother got his lobster allergy 4 years ago, and we are 4 years apart.  He still eats 3 lobsters at a sitting.  He just takes Benadryl beforehand.  We grew up eating a lot of lobster and still consider it our birthright because my dad had a 20-pot license.  I then got stung by a bee, and I got multiple sunburns.  Finally, I found out that school starts a week later than I thought.  I have loved being a full-time mom, but I did find myself making sculptures out of vegetables at 2 am recently.  Hanging out ALONE for 8 hours a day playing with clay is looking pretty good right now.  

I also succumbed to mommy porn; I sneaked a few peeks at my friend's copy of 50 Shades of Grey.  Actually, I ignored my screaming kids and read 200 pages.  I'm going to write a real-life mommy porn.  The first difference between my heroine and the usual romance novel heroine is that mine is going to be an eater.  Why do they all have trouble getting food down?  Are women fantasizing about being unable to eat?
It was a sweltering day.  She'd had two dixie cups of coffee while shopping at Trader Joe's and two servings of the free sample of the day: macaroni and cheese with mild salsa stirred into it.  The caffeine-induced sticky feeling she'd had during check-out burgeoned into massive armpit stains on her maxi dress when she left the air conditioning to load up the Honda Odyssey.  She cursed the extra cup size she'd bloomed after having the kids.  In the heat, where her breasts fold over her torso, they create, yet another armpit-like patch of sweaty funk.
She was in the driveway schlepping her 4th load of groceries when he pulled up in the silver Ford Taurus.  In one graceful motion, he loosened his tie as he hoisted himself out of the bucket seat.  She could see the bulge in his pleated Dockers as he strode by and growled,  "Grab my coffee cup and gym bag from the car and put Toy Story on for the kids.  Meet me in the basement; I know you skipped zumba today.  You need to be punished."  
How did he know about zumba?, she thought as she put the DVD in the player.  Her knees felt weak as she both dreaded and giddily anticipated what awaited her.  
...sated from yet another charged interlude, he ordered her to get him some pretzels and easy cheese and to put on the next episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix.
There are lots of disturbing things about the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey a trifling one is the heroine's name: Anastasia Steele.  She calls herself, Steele, in annoying, italicized inner conversations.  My daughter's name is Elizabeth Steel (McDonald.)  She goes by Steel.  I'm going to be pissed if "Steele" reaches the top of the baby name list for 2013.  "Honey, let's name her after that perpetually skinny, virgin, submissive girl  in 50 Shades of Grey!"

Steel is a force.  (Maybe "Steel" will make the top Baby names of 2035 when my Steel is someone famous) In the beginning of the summer we were at a street fair.  Friends of ours were sitting against a building in the shade.  We stopped to chat, and a bug wandered by.  All of the kids noticed, so the other hippy mom, Anne, tried to have a "teaching moment."  We were examining the bug and talking about its physical attributes when Steel broke the circle and crushed it with her shoe.  Anne was a little shocked.  A chorus of, "Steel!  You KILLED him!!!!" arose; Jack Peter went in to examine the remains.  "Nope!" he exclaimed triumphantly.  Anne and I looked at each other wondering whether we were going to have to have a conversation about death or spend another half hour pretending to resuscitate the bug while it writhed.  "What do you mean, Jack Peter?"  She said carefully.  "It wasn't a 'him!' It was a 'her!'" He then quoted something about bugs' antennae from the 6th grade science text book he sleeps with. 

Death doesn't phase them yet.  We went to another wake in the beginning of the summer.  (2 years ago on the way to the last one we listened to Jack Peter explain to Steel in the back seat that we'd only be seeing the body-not the head)  Our new sister-in-law's mother lost her battle with cancer.  All 5 of us walked by the casket, said "good-bye," and went to sit in the pews.  I tried to read from the Bible thinking that the garden of Eden would grab them.  It didn't.  We weren't sure whether there was going to be a service or not, so we sat there awkwardly trying to keep quiet.  A young woman went to the casket to pay her respects.  She wept as she lay her own hand on Justina's mom's folded hands.  On seeing this, the kids exclaimed, "I didn't know you could TOUCH her!!!!  I want to go again!!!"  They clamored out of the pew to make another pass.  We took that as a cue to leave, missing the service that started 5 minutes later.  

Steel's been making amazing drawings of people lately.  I'm considering getting a few of them tattooed onto my ass.  I'm not kidding.  Our friend is a tattoo artist and has been bugging me to get a tattoo. I don't think he really cares, but I tend to rise to challenges.  I hate most tattoos.  I actually suggested to all of the McDonald brothers and their spouses/girlfriends that we put some money into a pot.  It will go to our niece, Brittney, if she gets to 30 without a tattoo.  Brittney just started her freshman year at MIT and will probably make more money than all of us combined in the end, so money won't be a huge incentive, but boy do I love seeing her young, strong, beautiful, perky, tattoo-less body.  It's rare these days.  Despite that, I was thinking about getting a floral pattern on the bottom of my foot like the henna tattoos on Indian brides.  Apparently feet don't take tattoos well.  I suggested my ass, and Shawn, the tattoo artist said, "your husband will be the only person to ever see them, and I guess me too"  I can't believe he thinks my thong-to-the-beach days are over! 

I used to be a big proponent of thongs.  My motto was, "If it's going to end up there anyway; it might as well be small!"  The "french cut" underwear of the 80's and 90's must've been the problem.  Ever since the low-rise undies appeared, a thong hasn't graced my knicker drawer.  Steel missed my thong days and was perplexed at her first thong encounter.  The Ermilios and the McDonalds had all gone swimming at the YMCA and were getting dressed in the ladies locker room.  Usually the 4 big kids are running around naked locking the little ones into lockers and screaming at the top of their lungs under the disapproving eyes of the big black grandmothers who are better at disciplining their kids and grandkids and are horrified that we have our sons naked in the ladies locker room.  Steel was silently pensive as she circled Heather.  Finally, Steel said, "Heather, did you put your underwear on sideways?"  It was a legitimate question.  Sideways underwear is common in our house; Toby insists on dressing herself.  Heather replied, "Shhhhh....don't tell anyone.  I'll change it when I get home!"

Sadly, my thong-to-the-beach days are over.  We spent a fair bit of time in the south this summer.  Southern women seem to care more about their appearance.  I'll never forget a comment from my friend, Phoebe Platt.  We both worked at a law firm in San Francisco.  I complimented her on her flawless skin, and she responded in her Kentucky drawl, "HAVEN'T YOU YANKEES EVER HEARD OF FOUNDATION?!"  It's true.  I have no idea how to put on make-up.  My mom always matched her eye shadow to her shoes; that's been my only tip.  

In Richmond, Virginia my friend Karen and I spent some time at her gym.  There are multiple pools, an amazing child watch, and a ridiculously fun Zumba class taught by Marcela (who could be the subject of a mommy porn or at least, a romance novel.  There are extra muscles in her ass that move up and down at the same time she's doing a pelvic tilt.)  Anyway, our 6 children could be amused for hours leaving us to feel naughty drinking diet pepsi and gossiping.

It's biologically impossible for me to let a 40-year-old woman with an absurd tan, fake boobs and a six pack tummy walk by without turning to (from Jersey) Karen and rolling my eyes.  It's even worse when you hear them talking about what they ate that day.  60% of the reasoning behind my leaving California was that people found it appropriate to talk about what they ate.  There'd be 10 people at the pottery wheels in my co-op studio discussing the merits of a gluten-free diet for HOURS.  It's like reading Eat, Pray, Love ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.  (I know this blog is self-indulgent crap, but I'm not really expecting anyone to read it.)

These women do, in fact, look great.  But then you gaze at the posse of teenage girls lounging on the beach chairs covered with baby oil and Sun-in, eating grilled cheese and Doritos.  I wanted to get on the loudspeaker and say, "Women over 40!!!  LISTEN! Live your life, be heathy, be happy, but it's OVER; stand aside; they win-NO CONTEST!"  Incidentally, Karen and her husband Michael introduced me to Tim.  They are another potter/architect couple.  Karen's sister has recently lost 50 pounds.  Karen texted me that fact along with the aside: that's 2 bags of clay!!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I'm finally on my mommy-cation.  I completed 6 months of pottery orders in 3, and my body almost gave out.  I'm a full-time mom now.  I'm still having weird hip, knee, ankle problems; my left wrist is out of whack.  I'm also having withdrawals from NPR.  Working in the studio for 15 hours a day meant 15 hours a day of NPR.  I actually have a case of NPR PTSD.  The fund drive in April was so traumatic for me that 2 months later when there's a pause in programming, I think that someone is going to come on and start bantering about how I need to become a member and how insightful Marty Moss-Coane is.  My stomach jumps in fear; it's ridiculous.

Another ridiculous thing is that my hips were hurting so much that the 10 block drive home was painful for me because I'd have to keep my right foot on the gas pedal; cycling was agony.   It took me 20 years to think to switch the pedal on my wheel from the right to the left side.  What other obvious solutions are out there in my life that I'm ignoring?

I have to be careful describing anything as agony.  Spending time at my mom's is great although watching both my mom and Dick deal with his disease (ALS) is upsetting.  Curt's kids, Toby and Jack Peter handle Dick's illness blithely.  Steel does not.  She peers at his breathing machines with her worried little face.  She and I were in mom and Dick's bathroom, and she said quietly, "Mom, are those ALL Grandpa Dick's medicines?"  I said, "Yes they all are."  She paused and said, "Why aren't they working?"  It broke my heart.

My kids love the house I grew up in.  There's outdoor space; it's lush and green, and there are animals.  Jack Peter was walking around the expansive porch the morning after our arrival on our Memorial Day visit.  He came running in to my mom at the breakfast table shouting, "Grandma Susie!  GREAT NEWS!!!! Misty (the cat) has killed something and left it on the porch!"  It was a dead bunny.  Susie dealt with that as Dick came down.  I went to make him an omelette and stepped on a suspiciously damp braided rug by the stove.  Holly, Dick's dog is angry that he's not been well, so she indiscriminately pees and shits in my mom's house because it's obviously Susie's fault.  Susie is so overwhelmed; peed-on rugs are low on the priority list.  I took the rug outside to hose it down and stepped on a dead mouse as I flopped it over the railing.  I'm not sure which I prefer: human feces in the ghetto or dead mice in the country-at least in the ghetto I wouldn't think of walking around barefoot.

We later trekked across the woods to the neighbors' house to say, "hello."  As we walked in, I said to a  butt-wiggling, potty-training Toby, "Toby, do you need to pee in the potty?"  Penny, our beloved neighbor shouted, "I JUST HAD THE CARPETS CLEANED!  DON'T LET HER PEE ON ANY OF THEM!"  It's an extremely unbalanced world on Spy Rock Hill Road when some people have pee on their carpets and are willing to ignore it and others have the potential for a few drips, and they go berserk.

An important part of any trip to my mom's is going to Captain Dusty's ice cream parlor.  Keeping 3 kiddie cones from dripping over little fat hands is actually challenging.  They hand me their "on the edge of disaster" cone and expect it back in round perfection within a matter of seconds.  If I ever need a job, I think I'll put proficient at tidying up to 3 ice cream cones in a timely manner at the bottom of my resume where people put random things about themselves.  My friend, Sarah, put fluent in fake Chinese on the bottom of hers.

Another important part of my pilgrimages home is my drinking a little too much at one or all of the evening meals.  I think it's a stress-release for me because I've been attempting all day to get my kids to act with some decorum in front of my mom and Dick.  Drunkenly entertaining the kids while eating dinner, I was using a bean to act out,

You must pay the rent (bean as mustache)
I can't pay the rent (bean as bow on the head)
You must (mustache)
I can't! (bow)
I'll pay the rent! (bean as bow tie)
My HERO! (bean as bow)

The My Hero! line was so upsetting to the latent feminist in me, I changed it to, I'll pay my OWN rent, you STUPID JERK!  Great Job, Liz!  My kids spent the rest of the weekend running around the house screaming, "I'll pay my own rent, you stupid jerk!" at the top of their little lungs.

I get my thrifty New England ways from my mom.  If the kids were truly annoying her over the weekend, she got her revenge.  She'd been storing a bag of bubble wrap for me for months knowing that I use it to pack and ship pottery.  The kids shrieked with joy as they saw the bag going into the car.  I'd gladly rebirth all three again than listen to them popping bubble wrap and fighting over the size of their sheets for the first hour of the trip.

Speaking of the car, Heidi Hybrid has gone to Toyota heaven.  In May, Tim's mom and her 3 friends went to Brussels.  At short notice, Heidi Hybrid was enlisted to take them all to the airport.    The kid car seats were dumped into the yard and off she went driven by Pat's girlfriend, Chelsea.  The state of Heidi's interior underneath the absent car seats was so revolting to the traveling foursome that they lined all of the upholstery with beach towels, so they didn't have to spend a trans-atlantic flight picking dried cranberries off of their asses.  Heidi, despite her tender age of 6, was ready to move on, and she hooked me up with a whole bunch of beach towels before she went.  I'm just annoyed that I totaled her right after filling her tank with gas.  (At least I 'd procrastinated getting the new set of tires Tim had urged me to get.) 

The sad thing is that I also totaled my friend Karen's Honda Odyssey.  We were driving in tandem to an old estate in Richmond, Virginia.  She had also just filled her tank with gas and was thinking to herself that she'd finally met a more grandmotherly driver than  I followed her everywhere for a week as no vehicle would fit both of us and our 7 kids.  Invariably I would leave too much room in between our two cars, and someone would cut in.  On accident day, a car stopped dead in front of her and made a quick left turn and took off.  She stopped dead to miss the car.  Despite the 5 car-lengths I left between her car and mine, I stopped dead (probably after turning to yell at the kids about something) and didn't miss her car.  The airbags went.  My first trauma was seeing the round, head-shaped indent in the shattered windshield.  Hope, my god daughter was in the passenger seat.  I stared at her, trying to figure out how she seemed OK while her head had smashed the windshield.  It was the air bag that had made the shattered dent.  The kids were hysterical.  5 cops came on motorcycles.  Green pink and yellow stuff was flowing out of the car.  The cops started to sing and dance to entertain the kids while I was on the phone with AAA.  It was all relatively fine until I told the kids to say good-bye to Heidi as she was strapped onto the tow truck.  They wept hysterically for 30 minutes after that comment.  oops...

Not only did Tim have to deal with all of the insurance crap, but also he had to deal with the knowledge that we were going to have to replace Heidi with a dreaded minivan.  Considering the probability that I will be driving my kids and their friends and I'm still clinging to the possibility of a 4th child, a minivan is our only option.  Karen swore by her Odyssey.  Accepting her endorsement is far preferable to doing my own research, so we traipsed off to the dealer to get a 2007 red one.  Tim spotted the 2011 on the lot, and all of a sudden the idea of a minivan wasn't so bad.  The dealer wasn't willing to give us a deal, so Tim spent the next 2 days online searching for deals on 2011 Odysseys.  A man named Ketan Rewal in North Jersey was willing to part with his for $30,000 to facilitate his return to India at the end of July.  

In a flurry I packed for 2 weeks at my mom's in 20 minutes, Tim left the worksite, we loaded the kids into the pick up truck to go.  After I'd gotten a bank check, we had 2 hours to make the 1 hour 45 minute drive.  The plan was to get the car, and get temporary NJ plates from DMV before they closed, and I would merrily drive the new mini van to New England, and Tim would drive the truck back to Philly. 

The 1 hour 45 minute drive took 4 hours.  We were behind a crane for 30 miles.  There was an accident.  It was comical.  I was driving, and Tim was screaming on the phone at the various contractors on the work site.  We met Ketan, and he wasn't willing to accept my bank check from a little-known bank in Philly that wasn't answering their phone.  Tim had the president of the bank call him.  The machinations of making the deal were painfully slow.  We were driving in tandem with the new Odyssey, the red truck, and Ketan's other car from notaries to fed ex stores, to UPS stores.  All of these trips involved sweeping miles of New Jersey turnabout loop-dee-loops just to get half a block from the original destination.  It felt like purgatory.  It was 830 pm, and I was still 5 hours away from my mom's, and there was no way the deal was final enough for me to take the new minivan to Massachusetts.  

A month ago, after spending a day with me in the studio happily doing all of the busywork jobs that I hate, my friend, Jen, volunteered to watch all 3 of my kids and her own daughter so I could stay at the studio and fire a kiln and Tim could go to a zoning meeting.  I ordered pizza for them, gave her the cash, and wished her luck.  She arrived to utter chaos.  The pizza guy called at the same time her daughter was freaking out.  Simultaneously there was some issue with the parking space out back, and to top it off, all 3 of my kids needed to shit at the same time.  I came home at 10 to Jen's quivering outside in the rain smoking.  "How do you DO it all the time?!" she wailed.

Back in Jersey, exhausted and resigned to driving a pick-up truck for the next 5+ hours to Massachusetts, we were about to leave the cheap Chinese restaurant where my family had attacked a plate of beef with broccoli and moo shoo vegetables.  Once again, all 3 of my children needed to shit at the same time.  I happily facilitated and got the cute Chinese waiters to clean and fill 3 sippy cups.  Until then, Tim and I hadn't had a break all day.  I felt completely invincible getting on 287 with 3 kids with empty bowels and full sippy cups.  My luck stretched further as my kids fell asleep almost immediately with the first love song dedication on Delilah's radio show.  I rode  a "scorpio chariot" all the way to Manchester-by-the-Sea.  By that, I mean I spent an hour talking to scorpio Karen about how much I'm going to love my Honda Odyssy, and then, my Scorpio friend, Sweet, stayed with me for the rest of the trip gabbing to keep me awake.

It turns out that Karen is the only woman who likes a minivan.  I've discovered it's the men who all covet the car.  Tim is mad for Schloka.  (We named the car after Ketan Rawal's son, Schloka.)  He is trying to figure out how to justify taking it to the worksite and leaving me with the kids and the truck.  Our friends Marc and Megan bought a mini van the same week we got Schloka.  Megan wouldn't succumb to Marc's pleas for a mini van, so he bought one for himself.  A cook, he drives it to and from his restaurants ALL BY HIMSELF.  I was talking to 2 other husbands at the beach; they'd seen my minivan parked.  They were asking me to tell them about it.  I didn't have much to say, but they kept prompting me.  "Can you control the sliding doors remotely?"  "Are they on both sides?"  I started to feel like a phone sex operator.  With every random piece of information, I'd get lusty groans from both of them: 
"The headsets in the back are all wireless"  uuugh!
"I could definitely fit the stroller and luggage for 2 weeks in the cargo area"  mmmmmph
"It has leather interior and LOTS of cup holders"  Oh yeah!!!!....
Tim caught one of the neighbor husbands lasciviously circling around Schloka in the driveway.  His wife is very cool and, for that reason alone, refuses to drive a minivan.  He wants one desperately.  I feel like I should gain 20 lb, get a really bad highlighted mommy haircut, and sprinkle some doritos on my shirt every time I drive it, but I do love those sliding doors.  

Being a full-time mom is great, but it does exacerbate some of my control-freak, mommy tendencies.  My brother's family was there too, and Jana, my sister-in-law, stepped aside to let me have my way with meals.  Their family calls me "the vegetable queen."  I also had to get all of the kids out of the house EVERY day for at least 5 hours to give Dick and Susie a break.  That was a little onerous at times.  I got a casual invite from a woman whose husband manages a little country club.  She said we should go to the pool, so I arrived with 7 kids.  The poor husband did not expect 8 people, especially when his wife and her sister didn't end up coming.  As I awkwardly thanked him for his unintended largesse, Toby was squatting and watching herself pee through the material of her bathing suit onto the hot concrete.  How is she supposed to differentiate between the beach and a pool?

Tim arrived in Schloka for the last 2 days of the trip.  His kidless life had been, by no means a picnic.  He'd definitely gotten a lot of work done, and gotten to eat out a lot, but he'd also spread poison ivy to his eyeball precipitating a 7-hour visit to the ER at Will's Eye Hospital.  When it came time to leave my mom's, he said, "Now YOU get to drive Schloka!"  "Are you kidding???" I replied....
"I'll  be taking the truck BY MYSELF, and YOU will take the mini van with all of the kids."  His love for Schloka had blinded him.  He actually thought he was being generous offering to let me drive it.  I'm pretty sure his vision cleared up after what turned into an 8 hour drive home with 4 kids in the car.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Breakfast Haiku

Usually Tim doesn't wake me when he leaves at 5, but he did this morning.  Instead of going back to sleep I was lying there thinking up a Haiku to prepare myself for Monday morning breakfast. 

Sour cherry pie
will get my kids out of bed
naughty fun breakfast

They didn't love the pie, but the novelty of it got them dressed.  I've always wanted to give kids pie for breakfast.  When I was little I read on the back of my cereal box that kids in New England eat apple pie for breakfast.  I looked down at my sugar free cereal and screamed "MOM! I'm supposed to be eating apple pie for breakfast!"  It got me nowhere, but it's been on my mind for 30 years.

My favorite Haiku story involves two of my roommates from college.  They'd just moved to New York City together and were going to a classmates' birthday party.  Sarah was writing a Haiku on the card.  She read the first 2 lines out loud to Colin:
A New York birthday
should be so very heavy
Without missing a beat he shouted from the bathroom,
The birthday girl did always have unusually stocky legs-not unlike Hillary Clinton's.

I've got quite a few tricks in my Tim-less school day morning arsenal.  I discovered two weeks into it that shouting doesn't work.  I recently asked Jack Peter nicely 5 or 6 times to finish his breakfast and go get dressed with no response.  I finally dumped a 1/2 pint of water on him.  It was, by far, my most effective parenting to date.  Drenched, he ran right down and got dressed after a short, indignant session of weeping.

Jack Peter is 6 now.  I think I'm entitled to expect a little more from him.  As usual, his birthday did not pass un-noticed.  He expects a wedding-size party every year for his birthday because we had an inadvertent rager for his 3rd birthday which set a bad precedent.  This year, I got a "groupon" for a bounce house this year.  You get what you pay for.  The netting on the wall of the right side was perforated with kid-size holes.  The guys came drunk at 9 am to the park to set it up.  I called them to tell them things were winding down at 2-ish.  They arrived at 6:30 to break it down.  Poor napless Toby passed out on her face in the middle of it for part of the afternoon.  I did not pass out face down despite sitting there with the dads drinking the entire time while every kid in the park had his/her way with the bounce house.  It wasn't a bad way to spend a day, and all of the dads took pity on my Tim-less self and helped me clean everything up.

We decided to have it catered by our friend, John.  He cooked for 80; 40 came.  I invited all of JP's kindergarten, and 10% RSVP'd, so I had no idea.  I was slightly self-conscious about the absurd amount of food, people and the bounce house-not to mention the 5 cases of beer I'd bought.  JP's school is 80% below the poverty line.  Apparently, my discomfort was unwarranted.  Jack Peter's friend, Ny Brie's grandmother said to me, "I like what you've done here; it's simple.  The kids can just grab food and run around!  Black people don't do it like this, they make everything so COMPLICATED!  First they'd close off the block, and then the RIBS and the COLLARD GREENS; this is nice, and I like this beer!"  Ny Brie's grandmother also pulled me aside to tell me quite graphically how handsome one of the husbands was.  She cracked me up.  I was telling the couple after the party thinking they'd get a kick out of it.  Unphased, they said, "Oh yeah...Rob can't go anywhere without a black woman hitting on him.  He even gets everything free at Home Depot if there's a black woman at the register."  Who knew?

We made capes for everyone that had the logo of GPFFJ on the back.  GPFFJ is the "secret agent website" that Jack Peter and his best friend, Caspar "work" for.  GPFFJ stands for nothing.  The cape idea didn't really take off at the party, but watching my kids "fly" around the driveway when I'd completed the first 3 prototypes was priceless.  Jack Peter wore his cape to school one day and came home telling me that Mrs. O'Brien was really jealous of his cape.  Luckily we had a blue roll of vinyl disposable tablecloth.  Vinyl disposable tablecloths are the raw material for DIY capes, and the black produces a decidedly trash-bag-ish effect that I didn't want for Mrs. O'Brien.  Jack Peter made her a "ST" medallion for the back (super-teacher)  He presented it to her the following day.

We didn't hear anything about the super teacher cape until Jack Peter's kindergarten "graduation".  It was  a ceremony at 10:30 am on a weekday.  I'd miscalculated everything.  The girls were starving.  I had to work at noon.  I kissed Jack Peter after a half an hour and headed out before the ceremony was over because the girls were ticking time bombs.  The assistant teacher ran after me to tell me I had to stay for one last part of the ceremony.  We traipsed back in, and Mrs. O'Brien announced that she'd received the best gift ever this year from one of her students.  She donned her cape saying she'd ALWAYS wanted a super teacher cape.  

I think it's safe to say that Jack Peter was one of Mrs. O'Brien's favorites.  I used to think she was too hard on one of his classmates, but after spending a full day with this kid, I had to say to her, "Mrs O'Brien, I've always had a lot of respect for you, but after spending a day with John, my respect for you has tripled."  She replied, "MULTIPLY THAT TIMES 170!"  For some reason Jack Peter had $2 from Mrs. O'Brien in his pocket when we went to a Kentucky Derby party.  Hoping for a life lesson, I asked him if he wanted to bet on a horse.  Being Jack Peter, he did, and then his horse came in second, so his $2 magically turned into $29.  Steel went so ballistic at his luck that the host of the party gave her $4.  Great, Jack Peter learned that gambling does pay, and Steel learned, yet again, that pitching a fit does get you what you want.

I guess it's fair to say that disciplining my kids and discouraging bad behavior has been challenging.  We hit an all-time low when they were mimicking me as I was trying to tell them to eat dinner.  "Eat your broccoli, Steel! Ha Ha Ha!"  All I could think was, "What the hell are they going to do when they're teenagers???"  I took away a toy from Jack Peter, and they all stood up for him and told me they were going to throw all of my stuff away and then they were going to draw on my clothes with a sharpie.  

I give them pie for breakfast justifying it to myself by writing a Haiku at 5 am, and this is how they repay me?  I want to kill them, and then I'll hear them casually humming Loretta Lynn to themselves as they open the toy chest to play.  There's not much cuter than their little voices singing, "One needs a spankin'; one needs a huggin' and ONE'S ON THE WAY!"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I rock the chubs

"I rock the chubs!"

The cleanse mentioned in a previous blog has created another way for me to fail.  Now I avoid weighing myself because I know the scale will show me a number far above the elusive 136 I hit at the end of the cleanse. I do like it that Tim is now starting his days with weird, green smoothies. As I type, I'm admiring the stalks of the broccoli he put in the blender for tomorrow morning. It's hard to push the stalks on the kids, and I wouldn't ever throw them away. Now they get whipped up into a frothy, chia seed , coconut water surprise. Another benefit, for the cheap New Englander in me, to the healthy living  is that I've kicked my 1/2 and 1/2 addiction. That's one less thing on the grocery list, AND I get to make use of the remaining milk left in the kids' sippy cups in the morning. It sounds gross, but I dump in so much milk to make it creamy; the coffee goes tepid.  I have to microwave it anyway; I might as well use every drop of that organic milk I hate paying for.

Perhaps I'm good at maintaining my swimming routine because going to the YMCA makes me feel tiny. I was swimming today during a water aerobics class. It was well-attended this morning by 15 women whose aggregate weight is well over a ton. They hold foam "weights" and jump around. Under water I watch the quietly undulating flab on their legs.  It's oddly beautiful and calming reminding me of the way fish and plants on a coral reef move back and forth rhythmically with the waves. Above the water is another story. I was listening to NPR yesterday. The last remaining knuckleball pitcher was interviewed on Fresh Air. Apparently a good knuckleball pitch is like a "butterfly in a typhoon." I feel like a butterfly in a typhoon in that pool.

It is hard to believe that the American weight problem, especially among African American women in Philly, is entirely about poor diet, education and food deserts. I was wondering, as I swam, whether maintaining such an enormous size empowers people who are traditionally disempowered. Initially all of the lap lanes were full, so I was trying to swim close to the perimeter of the 3rd lane in the "free swim" area of the pool. The ladies were doing the walkabout section of their class where they maraud around the pool with their "weights." I thought I could stick close to the lap line, and I wouldn't bother anyone. I might have been imagining it, but I felt as if they were intentionally blocking my path. They were wielding their heft with such purpose.

My friend, Sweet, always jokes about Toby's delicious chubbiness. He mimics her voice as she reaches for another pretzel saying, "You think I roll out of bed looking like this? It's about hard work and maintenance!" The Pellis family dedicated a song to Toby when she was about a year old. We sing it to this day. It's called, I rock the chubs. Those pool ladies are definitely rocking the chubs. Perhaps Michelle Obama has more to contend with in her "get healthy" initiatives than educating people about good food choices.

Speaking of rocks, now my house is filled with rocks and sticks. There are rocks in every pocket of Jack Peter's jackets and in the side pockets of his book bag and his lunch pack. There are rocks and sticks in his bed. It's frustrating. The conversations go like this:
"Jack Peter what is this?"
"It's a GPFFJ gadget."
"What's GPFFJ?"
"It's the secret agent website we work for."

This is what was under Jack Peter's blanket this morning.  Under the books were more rocks.  The glowing orange thing is silly puddy adhered permanently to the fitted sheet.   Yes, that is a broken brick in the middle of the pile.

Jack Peter had to draw himself enjoying a rainy day and to write about it as part of his homework last week.  He wrote, "On a rainy day I like jumping in puddles."  To me he went into detail about the fact that his umbrella was a secret agent gadget that turns into a propeller, and takes him flying away.  I told him to write about that.  He looked right and left and said furtively, "NO! it's a secret agent umbrella!  I can't write about it!"  Clearly he has more integrity at 5 than I do.  Secret Agent Jack Stalwart books are the root of the obsession. I should be happy he reads so well, but instead I'm bitching about the rock dust in his bed. His cousin, Owen, has been reading since he was three. My sister in law, Jana, was probably cursing his literacy too when he and his sister were in the shower asking for shampoo. Jana said, "We're out of kid shampoo; just use mine." Owen examined the bottle and shrieked in horror, "Mom! This is for dry and damaged hair!!!!" What do you say to that? especially when the kid has the most gorgeous curly blond hair.

Jack Peter's fellow secret agent, Caspar, came over for one of the days of spring break. Caspar is great because he's nice to the girls. Let me rephrase that: he doesn't fight back as hard as other boys do. I took the 4 kids to the Please Touch Museum. I can handle my 3 kids because the big kids are slightly OCD and controlling: they stick to a game in a single spot for an hour so they can rule; I only have to worry about the wandering of Toby. More importantly, I can bribe and threaten my own kids. 4 kids at the Please Touch was a disaster. They scattered before I'd negotiated the annoying issue with our membership at the front desk. The mock grocery store is always the worst. The kids fight other toddlers for the limited grocery carts.  They fill up the carts and then fight over the cash registers at check-out after which I spend 25 minutes trying to cajole them into returning everything to the proper shelf while another weeping child is following, desperate for the soon-to-be-empty cart. I abandoned four full grocery carts. There will probably be a poster of me in the entranceway when I go next, but I had no choice.

Heather and her mom had come with Heather's 2 girls to meet us, and we hadn't crossed paths until I spotted them on their way to lunch. My adult/child ratio improved drastically as they helped me corral the 4 kids, so I left the carts. My 4 were the only kids in the lunch area who climbed from the lunch table, onto a radiator to eat on a 6-foot-high window ledge.  I had succumbed to the dietary needs of Caspar and made only pbj, watermelon slices, and juice boxes, so they didn't have to climb to get away from the broccoli and asparagus I normally put in the lunch box.  Perhaps they were putting on a show, so Heather's mom could witness my lack of control.

Ever the optimist, I was hoping after the 4th permutation of groups going to the bathroom that the worst part of my day was over.  Heather and her mom left, so I told Caspar to pick the last place we would visit before going home. He picked the Alice in Wonderland section. I didn't give it a lot of thought until we got there...a maze and a labyrinth complete with faux doors and lots of mirrors. I can't imagine that Abu Ghraib was worse than trying to keep track of all of them and dealing with the security guard who kept telling me they aren't supposed to climb on the maze.

I did make it home and got the girls down for a nap. Caspar and Jack Peter played quietly, and I thought I'd recuperated. We went to the park when everyone woke up.  They were all climbing in a cherry tree.  Steel started screaming at the top of her lungs from the tree.  I ignored it.  Finally she came down sobbing and holding up her hand.  Caspar's shoe tread was embedded into her index finger.  "He was stepping on my finger for a LONG TIME, and HE WOULDN'T GET OFF!!!!"  "Well, Steelie, do you know why he wouldn't get off?"  "Why?" she sniffed.  "Because you scream at the top of your lungs and cry so often that he didn't know anything was truly wrong!"

Toby, like her sister, is fond of drama.  Her favorite part of the Please Touch Museum is the toddler-sized stretcher in the little ambulance...

Aside from the cherry tree incident, everything was fine for over an hour until Caspar started complaining to me, "IT WASN'T FAIR! YOU DIDN'T GET ME CHOCOLATE MILK AT THE PLEASE TOUCH!!!" Caspar is a head taller than Jack Peter and outweighs him by 20 lb. He eats nothing but peanut butter and jelly, Fruitables (juice boxes,) candy, and chocolate milk. I bellowed at him, "You want to know what isn't fair, Caspar????? It's not fair that I spend half of my life shoving healthy food down Jack Peter's throat-making lamb chops for his lunch box and shelling edamame, while you eat nothing good for you, and YOU'RE HUGE!!! That's not fair, OK?!"

Maybe I was still a little pissed about the Alice in Wonderland thing...

Sanity Assessments

GODDAMNIT!  I got passed over again this year for the "People Magazine 100 Most Beautiful Women" list.  Can you believe that???  This is a glamour shot of me in my studio from a couple of weeks ago.  I'd just spent the weekend with Karen and her family.  She told me a harrowing story about a mom friend who wacked her head on the hatchback door when she was unloading the groceries.  The friend hasn't been the same since, to the point that she can't drive.  I got into my studio Monday evening to fire my kiln all night.  Something was caught in one of the burners, so I bent over to dislodge it.  My head hit the side of the kiln.  I immediately got the egg, and it was bleeding.  Because of Karen's story, I completely freaked out.  I texted this image to Tim and told him to call me before he went to sleep to make sure I was lucid.  As if he'd be able to go to sleep after that...  The problem is that my mom doesn't have a smart phone.  Had I sent this image to her, she'd have responded, "It's not fatal! You'll be fine!  Just keep putting ice on it!"

My sister-in-law, Jana,  aspires to what she calls, Susie's "laissez faire parenting methods."  Jana was proud that she waited 2 days for the cheaper non-weekend x-ray window to take my niece in with her most recent arm injury.  Like my mom, I don't think I'd go to the doctor unless a child lost the arm.  Smart phone healthcare is my method.  I text our pediatrician images of the kids' goopy pinkeyes or write descriptions of their ailments, and he invariably writes back "bring them in at the end of the week if they have a prolonged fever..."

The really crappy thing is that my mom's partner, Dick, IS dying.  After 6 months of her saying, "It's not fatal; it's allergies!" or "You just need to get back into shape!" They got a horrid diagnosis of ALS.  My mom's and Dick's ability to switch gears and accept that has been an inspiration.  I didn't inherit the "coping with things that suck but are out of my control" gene.  I think about it while I'm throwing pots and start crying.  I had a ridiculous moment of solace the other day.  Terry Gross was interviewing Hugh Laurie, the man who plays Doctor House.  Dick absolutely adores House.  They were discussing the fact that the series is about to end, and all I could think was, "Thank God!  Dick won't miss any House episodes."

I know I regularly put my craziness on display in this blog and in my everyday conversation.  I think I'm doing it with a detached irony that lets people know that I really am sane, but it's not working.  I got a call from a gallery the other day.  The first message was cryptic, "Liz, I need to talk to you about the special order from last week."    The second message was, "Liz, we really need to talk about what you sent to the store."  I'd taken a special order for a serving bowl, but I'd sent a vase for a previous order.  I laughed when I got ahold of him.  "Steve!  I didn't confuse the special order!  I haven't made it yet.  That vase was from an order you made in March."  He responded, "OH!  Wow, I had a speech all prepared about how you might be taking too much on."  I told him to save the speech.  He might need it later on.  I did spend the rest of the afternoon wondering exactly how crazy he thinks I am.

I had another recent brush with someone else's assessment of my sanity.  I had a disastrous night out with Lisa and Heather.  I was going to take them out for their birthdays.  Lisa who is a wedding planner at Loew's Hotel said, "Just come here; I can comp dinner."  Stingy as I am, I accepted.  Unfortunately, Heather had been out for a spa day with her friend Fiona.  Heather's mother in law had given Fiona a credit card and told her and Heather to make a day of it.  A lot of wine was involved, so they arrived at Loew's, 2 barely-standing puddles.  Lisa and I tried to shove carbs into them during dinner, but that didn't stop Fiona from hitting on the waiters (Lisa's co-workers) and throwing a drink over her shoulder onto the floor.  The birthday night turned into a group therapy session for Fiona whose marriage is not so great and who is, apparently, harrowed by apparitions of dead people.

One would think that Lisa and I would see the bad effects of alcohol on the girls and drink accordingly.  Our coping mechanism, instead, was to join them.  After tipping the waiters magnanimously to ensure that they not discuss Lisa's disastrous dinner guests with the Loew's higher ups, we headed off to another bar.  Finally, at Fiona's insistence on a "boogie,"  we ended up at Woody's, a gay dance club.  Lisa and I have been friends since she was born and I was 3 months old.  We are not, normally, ones to go to a club for a boogie, but dancing with Lisa and a bunch of gay guys (Tanner Kok included) was a BLAST.  We shook the visions of dead people and bad engineer husbands right off until we were retrieved by a door man to deal with an apoplectic Fiona.  Heather had fallen off of a chair and been kicked out of the club.  Unable to find Fiona, she had left with all of Fiona's belongings.

Fiona was so livid about her bag that she almost sobered up as she screamed about Heather's lack of loyalty.  I took control and told Lisa to get Fiona to our neighborhood on the train.  I'd ride my bike to Heather's house to get the bag and meet them at the station.  Fiona's husband had been expecting her home at about 3 that afternoon.  He had been in conversation all night with Heather's husband, Rene, who had held similar expectations for Heather's arrival home.  The last time I had a girls' night with Heather, she woke in the middle of the night, fell, and hit her head on a coffee table.  According to Rene, when I breathlessly arrived at his door for Fiona's bag, that was my fault as was Heather's getting kicked out of Woody's.  I was incredulous.  I screamed something about all I had done that night for his drunken wife and her drunken friend.  As I ran out with the bag to go to the train station, I sent him a succinct text for emphasis, "YOU SUCK"

When I was in boarding school and ran into some discipline problems, my mom blamed them on Jennie Engstrom.  That was as ridiculous as Rene's blaming Heather's behavior on me.  My favorite Jennie story is that she moved to Vail after college.  For years she was a ski bum.  She dated a guy from Mississippi named Gil Fancher.  Gil, too, was a ski bum.  Every time I'd go visit, they'd take care of me and all my friends.  Ski equipment and ski passes would magically appear.  Gil Fancher was the mayor of the mountain.  After they married, Gil got a little more serious about getting a real career and went into real estate.  (Their wedding was fabulous.  Jennie's super-preppy sister had all of us bridesmaids in wacky Lilly Pullitzer ensembles.  Jennie's blue blood parents, William and Mary partied down with Gil's parents, Butch and Cookie at a ranch.)  Gil Fancher was not cut out for a desk job.  One afternoon, he couldn't take it anymore.  He left his empty real estate office to go ski. On the chair lift he introduced himself to a man who was there to buy a ranch.  I believe the man ended up buying not one, but 2 multi-million dollar ranches using Gil as his realtor.  I envy Gil his immunity to the Puritan work ethic that plagues me and Tim.  His role is the Mayor of the mountain, and his job is to schmooz.

These roles are set at birth.  Steel is the craftsperson (Although she didn't get into the "week after Easter dying eggs because all of the Easter stuff at SuperFresh was on sale" project.  Tim came home to me, by myself, in the yard tie-dying Easter eggs a week after Easter Sunday.  The kids had all left me for the neighbors house because they get to play with an iPad over there.)  Toby's role has always been the Homecoming Queen waving from her float.  Last week, she came to our bed in the middle of the night and slept with us.  I woke up pissed because she lay horizontally in between Tim and me.  I thought I'd gotten the short end of that stick because she kicked me in the face all night long.  She'd been slamming her skull into Tim's head, so I actually made out well.   I lay there with Toby as she awakened.  She was waving her little outstretched fat hand muttering, "HI!  Good morning!"   I asked her who she was waving to, and she said, "The birds!"  Of course all of the birds in the back yard were there to see her!

My role has never been the bad influence friend.  I'm the hard working one parents assumed would keep things above board.  Rene has apologized twice for his accusations, but the idea that his brain chose ME as the problem is so shocking.  I joked to him when I walked in the door about his never letting his wife go out with me, and he took that ball and ran with it.  Clearly I'm no longer in a position to joke about such things.