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!"