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.